Holy Week: The Chiastic Parallels within Zechariah 9

Zechariah 9 unfolds around a chiastic structure that showcases a striking interplay of judgment and salvation, war and peace, desolation and flourishing — themes that twist and turn upon the central axis of Zechariah 9:9, a verse announcing God’s coming as a humble King. His arrival heralds a transition from the cycle of oppression and judgment to a new era of redemption and peace — a transformation that resonates with themes of liberation, renewal, protection, and abounding joy as God comes to dwell among His people in a profoundly new way.

At first glance, the message of Zechariah 9 might appear disordered, but it begins to make sense when we follow how its themes develop across its corresponding sections, delineated through God’s alternating use of the first and third person. Let us examine these by reflecting on the parallel units one at a time.

Third Person
A1   (First Section)A2   (Last section)
1 The pronouncement of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach, with Damascus as its resting place (for the eyes of mankind, especially of all the tribes of Israel, are toward the Lord),And Hamath also, which borders on it;
Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
For Tyre built herself a fortress,
And piled up silver like dust,
And gold like the mud of the streets.
Behold, the Lord will dispossess her
And throw her wealth into the sea;
And she will be consumed with fire.
Ashkelon will see it and be afraid.
Gaza too will writhe in great pain;
Also Ekron, because her hope has been ruined.
Moreover, the king will perish from Gaza,
And Ashkelon will not be inhabited.
And a people of mixed origins will live in Ashdod,
14 Then the Lord will appear over them,
And His arrow will go forth like lightning;
And the Lord God will blow the trumpet,
And march in the storm winds of the south.
15 The Lord of armies will protect them.
And they will devour and trample on the slingstones;
And they will drink and be boisterous as with wine;
And they will be filled like a sacrificial basin,
Drenched like the corners of the altar.
16 And the Lord their God will save them on that day
As the flock of His people;
For they are like the precious stones of a crown,
Sparkling on His land.
17 For how great will their loveliness and beauty be!
Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the virgins.

In Zechariah 9, units A1 and A2 paint a stark contrast between judgment and salvation. In a grand reversal, hostile cities known for their wealth and self-reliance face destruction and desolation (A1), while God’s people come to enjoy His salvation and blessing (A2). To our surprise, in A1 we discover fear and hopelessness afflicting those in a “fortress,” while in A2 victory and joy await a vulnerable “flock” (which currently lives among fierce predators, see verse 7). Although the judged nations in A1 “piled up silver like dust, and gold like the mud of the streets,” God casts their futile wealth into the sea and “dispossesses” of them as worthless. In contrast, God likens His people in A2 to “the precious stones of a crown, sparkling on His land,” cherishing how great their loveliness and beauty will be. 

First Person
B1 (Second Section)B2 (Second from Last)
[6] And I will eliminate the pride of the Philistines.
And I will remove their blood from their mouth
And their detestable things from between their teeth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to the stronghold, you prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you. 13 For I will bend Judah as My bow, I will fill the bow with Ephraim. And I will stir up your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece; And I will make you like a warrior’s sword.

Section B presents a stark contrast between the purging of pride from the Philistines in B1 (either through judgment as implied by the preceding verses [9:1-6], or possibly redemption since this becomes the focus of what follows it in verse 7) and the liberation of God’s people from their state of desolation as depicted by the “waterless pit” in B2 (a condition brought about because of their sin). While B1 associates “blood” with the violence and unclean practices of the Philistines, B2 refers to “the blood of My covenant,” signifying the life-giving and redemptive relationship between God and His people. And, although the violence of the Philistines is removed in B1, God’s people are empowered to be His weapons of war in B2. 

Third Person
C1 (Third Section)C2  (Third from Last)
[7] Then they [the nations] also will be a remnant for our God, And be like a clan in Judah, And Ekron will be like a Jebusite.[10] And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

While the A and B sections (which encompass one cycle of “He” and “Me”) dealt with themes of violence and war, the C and D sections (the next cycle of “He” and “Me”) both focus on peace and the inclusion of the nations into the people of God. 

When we turn to the C sections, we find that both parts incorporate geographical references, with C1 focusing on the inclusion of neighboring nations and C2 expanding its scope to the ends of the earth. In C1, the inclusion is specific—Ekron, previously an enemy city, will be like the Jebusites who were integrated into the Israelite community after David conquered Jerusalem. In C2, the transformation is broadened: the divine King will speak peace to all nations, extending from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth.

First Person
D1 (Fourth Section)D2  (Fourth from Last)
8 But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes.10 And I will eliminate the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be eliminated.

The D sections continue the theme of peace, focusing on a time when God’s protective presence is so pervasive that the tools of war are rendered obsolete. In D1, the Lord promises to “camp around My house,” indicating his protective presence around the temple and the security of His people under His watchful eye.  He promises that no oppressor will pass over them anymore. In D2, we see that God’s protection will result in such a total security and peace that all instruments of war will be eliminated from Ephraim and Jerusalem (symbolic of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel – i.e., all of God’s people). As with C, section D also presents an element of expansion, with D1 focusing on God’s encampment around the temple and D2 expanding it to depict the totality of the promised land dwelling securely under God’s protection.

Third Person
E (Central Unit)
9 Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Section E stands at the heart of the chapter, crystallizing its themes into the person and arrival of the divine King. Surprisingly, the King’s global dominion in these verses will not be established through war. Instead, the reigning Victor enters the scene humbly, extending peace through His own “affliction” (a nuance included in the Hebrew word for “humble” and one Zechariah often focuses on in his use of term elsewhere). Because of the blood of His covenant, He will set prisoners free from the waterless pit. His humility, righteousness, peaceful arrival on a donkey, and the mention of Him “being saved” (often translated “endowed with salvation”) contrasts the displays of violence, wealth, self-reliance, and pride found among the nations. This King’s coming, and the grand reversal He brings with Him, causes His people to rejoice greatly. In Him is their liberation, restoration, and protection. In Him, a remnant from the nations will have their hearts transformed and their citizenship transferred. He is the King whose dominion will extend to the ends of the earth. 

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