Messiah’s First Appearance Was Prophecied
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (ASV 1901).
This text is one of the most Messianic and significant passages in the entire Bible. Both Jewish and Christian Bible students commonly apply it this way. Judaism sees in it a basis for a royal single messianic appearance, whereas the New Testament and Christianity see a prophecy of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). It is only from the whole counsel of God in view (both testaments) that we can clearly see this prophecy as pertaining to Christ’s First Advent.
After the discussion of the calamities of the aggressive conqueror Alexander, God moves to discuss Himself appearing as a very different conqueror. To be sure Alexander was used as a human conqueror to judge and chastise the nations near to Jerusalem who had brought much harm to the Jews. At the time of this prophecy in approximately 487 B.C., the Lords appearance in Jerusalem proclaimed as Israel’s king was approximately 519 years later (Cir. 32 AD). While Alexander’s swift and aggressive nature brought some measure of peace to the Jews it will not be until the Lord Jesus comes for the second time that there will be true peace on earth. The genuine King of Israel has strength, which is not dependent on chariots and horses (Psalm 20:7). He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. It is salvation that He brings, not only to Israel, but also to the goieem “the nations.”
The age of the Gospel of Jesus will mark the beginning of that time through the salvation that His death bought for all who believe. But the final fullness if you will, is the Second Advent when truly every knee will bow to the glory of God the Father. Moreover every tongue will confess that Jesus the Christ is Lord as Paul and Isaiah have related the message to us. Zechariah 8:20 which as a prelude to discussing these events uses the Hebrew phrase of od ashehr, which means, “It will come to pass.”
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (KJV).
23 I have sworn by myself, The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear (KJV).
During the Gospel time of Messiah’s First Advent one has the choice of whether or not to accept Him. Most will not as the Lord Jesus told us “strait is the gate and narrow is the way which Leadeth unto life and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14 KJV). At the First Advent He did not come as a human conqueror but a Divine Prince of Peace. He did not inspire physical fear and dread but uplifting joy. However at the time that our Messiah King sets up His earthly Kingdom all humans will be believers and all will bow the knee and confess with their mouths His kingship. He will come back to earth and fight the Campaign of Armageddon as a Divine conqueror overturning an entirely corrupt satanic one-world government and establishing a Messianic Theocracy where peace and righteousness will be the laws of the world. It is best to recognize His sovereignty now and avoid eternal punishment. For even in Hell will those bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10).
Many Jews until the time of Jesus First Advent did not clearly see the distinction between the First and Second Advents of the Messiah. They fixed their attention to the Second Advent and the Messianic Kingdom not fully understanding that there would be two advents. Most in Old Testament times regarded only one advent for the Messiah to deliver His people the Jews. While this verse clearly describes a humble Messianic King many thought it could refer to Zerubbabel, Judas Maccabeus or Nehemiah who was too poor to own a horse hence the use of a burrow. Rabbi Kimhi of the late twelfth century (Cir. 1190 AD) in Spain wrote that he believed that it refers to Messiah’s Advent when He would be humble because the whole world will be in His power. He too did not realize that there would be two advents. The ancient rabbinic authorities have applied this prophecy to the Messiah. Rashi another Medieval Rabbinic commentator from France said, “This cannot be explained except of King Messiah, for it is said of Him, ‘And His dominion shall be from sea to sea’; but we do not find that such a one ruled over Israel in the time of the Second Temple (516 B.C.-70 AD). ”Saadiah Gaon, commenting on the words in Daniel 7:13 “Behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven,” says, “This is the Messiah our righteousness. But is it not written of the Messiah, ‘Lowly, and riding upon an ass’? Yes, but this shows that He will come in humility, and not in pride upon horses.” It was not until He was ascending back to Heaven that it was clearly known there would be two advents of the Messiah. Jesus disciples thought He would initiate the Kingdom at His First Advent. For they asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6b-7 KJV). This verse clearly identifies the Christ at His First Advent. While many missed the nature and prophetic importance some were chosen by Jesus to receive an explanation. He did an Old Testament Bible study with some of His disciples (not apostles) on the road to Emmaus after His Resurrection. Clearly even with all the prophecies they did not fully understand until He explained it to them.
The Announcement of King Jesus
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee (ASV 1901).
This First Advent is heralded with exuberance by the use of words such as “rejoice greatly!” “Shout!” and “behold!” The phrase “the daughter of Zion” makes reference to the entire population as a place that is personified by a female. It comes from referring to a city or a country affectionately as “her.”
There is joyful animation expressed here as God Himself writes this through Zechariah declaring that He is coming to Jerusalem to fulfill all the prophecies regarding His first coming (Genesis 3:15, 49:10; Isaiah 7:14, 53:3; Deuteronomy 18:15; Daniel 9:26 etc.). Consider this wonderful comforting prophecy in light of the fear and trembling that Alexander’s armies gave the area of Israel before he met with the High Priest and they read to him from the book of Daniel. This is THE occasion of immense spiritual significance as the announcement of the long awaited Immanuel, which means God With Us!
He is given the name of King here in verse nine. When Jesus would perform a miracle or do some significant action He would slip away (Luke 4:30-40) so that the people could not declare Him Messiah the King (Hebrew Mashiach Nagid) (Daniel 9:25; I Samuel 13:14). In the Daniel passage Nagid gets translated as prince. In the I Samuel passage it is translated as king when David was crowned. It was only on Sunday before His crucifixion that He allowed the multitudes to praise Him as their King. The apostle Matthew affirms this as fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9.
4Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, 5Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass. 6And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them, 7and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon. 8And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way. 9And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (KJV).
The Character and Mission of Israel’s King and Savior
He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (ASV 1901).
From this passage we see four features of the Messiah.
- He is just or righteous
The righteousness of God is one of the most prominent attributes of Himself declared in Scripture. It is synonymous with His justice. It is used in the Bible as straight or morally right. When we say that God is just we are saying that God always does what is right. He does it consistently without partiality or prejudice. These two words are the same in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God’s actions are always fair and right. This righteousness is an expression of His holiness. He is infinitely pure and always opposed to sin. Since this is His nature we see that He IS just. It is one of His characteristics. It is not a characteristic that He applies to Himself. It is His way, His manner and simply the way He is. He consistently acts in accordance with His own character. He always does the same thing. He cannot be anything different than the way He is. There is no standard of righteousness or justice that can be applied to God as a measurement. He IS the standard. The Hebrew word tsaddeq is righteous and is applied to God (Job 10:15, 15:14, 22:3; 34:17; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 119:137, 129:4). Consider how Peter and James both characterize His consistency.
34And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (KJV).
 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons (KJV).
In other words His character is consistently applied to all mankind. Jeremiah declares that His name shall be called “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
- He Shows Himself a Savior
This characteristic of God and His Messiah is diametrically opposed to Alexander who was a conqueror and not a savior. He butchered and slaughtered thousands at Damascus, Tyre and Gaza. Then he sold thousands more into slavery. The Hebrew word translated as savior here is nosha. Of the various expressive grammar participles forms this is called a nifal. It further is categorized as reflexive in that something is shown or done by the object of the action. One might say John shaved himself, which is reflexive. In this case it is the Messiah is “showing Himself a Savior.”
Salvation is mentioned in the Bible in two different ways. One is physical salvation as from some impending catastrophe. The other means is spiritual salvation which is what is discussed here in Zechariah 9:9 as coming from the Messiah. He saves. This simply means that by the substitutionary atonement of His death He provided us the means to be connected to God and “saved” from the effects of our sins, which is eternal damnation. Eternal damnation is a permanent separation from God since He cannot be in the presence of sin as he is perfectly holy. That is the punishment, which a holy and just God must exact from those that do not accept the atonement He has provided. All are guilty since Adam and Eve of sin against God. Sin is carried out through our procreation to the next generation (Psalm 51:5). This sin needed to be broken so people could be reconnected to God. He provided it in Jesus, which was first announced in the Garden of Eden at the point that sin came into the world (Genesis 3:15). The Hebrew word for salvation is yeshu’ah given by the Lord in Isaiah 51:6. In the New Testament the Greek name of Jesus is based upon the Old Testament word for salvation. His name is Iesous, “Savior.” He was the servant who was to bring the Lord’s salvation to mankind (Acts 8:26–40). He is Himself that salvation (Luke 3:6; Romans 11:11) which the apostle Paul proclaims in Romans 10:13.
Many New Testament passages confirm this great Messianic prophecy.
56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (KJV)
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (KJV).
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (KJV).
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (KJV).
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (KJV).
- He is Lowly
Lowliness is translated here from humble (Psalm 18:27-28; II Samuel 22:28). Jesus came to the lowest members of the Jewish society. He did not court the governmental powers to gain access to the population. He started out lowly and humble and stayed that way during His First Advent. He had not position, title or possessions. He washed the feet of His apostles to demonstrate servant hood to them. He was beaten with a Roman scourge, which ripped the flesh from His body. They beat Him about the head and humiliated Him as they mocked Him. Finally Jesus suffered the humiliation of a crucifixion at the hands of ruthless men when they nailed Him naked to the cross. The Roman crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals to humiliate them as a deterrent to other criminals so they would not commit crimes against the state. Here was the God of the Universe who created it all entering a human body taking on a low state of a man and allowing Himself to be humiliated to the point of death on a cross for all mankind. This is what it means to be lowly.
- He is riding a colt of a donkey
Human kings after the time of King David (I Kings 10:25-29; II Kings 9:18-19) usually displayed their power and glory by riding on a war-horse (compare Esther 6:8; Jeremiah 22:4). Our Messiah showed his humility by riding a donkey, the ordinary person’s beast of burden. A colt is a young donkey (male in this case) and foal is another term for a young donkey, referring to an even younger animal hence the greater display of humility.
This Messianic passage displays our Lord’s prophecy of the manner in which he would display Himself one week prior to His crucifixion for us.