What do you make of this tour of the Mediterranean coast? If those prosperous maritime nations fall like Judah and Jerusalem did, and Israel had, what kind of peaceable kingdom does the humble one on a donkey offer, ‘from sea to sea’, in a phrase claimed by Canadian settlers? Donald Creighton associated it with a Red Tory movement!
Relish the poetry, without chasing the scholars down the rabbit-holes about the 600’s, 500’s, 400’s, or 200’s BCE, in places we don’t know. Here we have ‘prisoners of hope’, returning to Jerusalem from their diaspora or exile, in migration not justified by material conditions in any of those centuries, but only by a vision beyond the facts.
What Greeks are threatened, and which young men eating grain, and young women drinking wine, embody the promise of the prophet? God knows, and hasn’t told me – but we’ve been invited for millennia to imaginative participation in the text, inspired to dream of the ‘arrow of God’ flying over us, as Chinua Achebe wrote it in Nigeria.
‘When he cometh’ we sang as children. Our grandparents imagined the souls of children lost in infant mortality, gathered to God. Perhaps the jewels making up God’s crown are more like the economic migrants gathered to make something greater together in restoration and return from exile and diaspora.
Zechariah 9 (NRSV)
1 An Oracle. The word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach and will rest upon Damascus. For to the LORD belongs the capital* of Aram,* as do all the tribes of Israel;
2 Hamath also, which borders on it, Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
3 Tyre has built itself a rampart, and heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets.
4 But now, the Lord will strip it of its possessions and hurl its wealth into the sea, and it shall be devoured by fire.
5 Ashkelon shall see it and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are withered. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ashkelon shall be uninhabited;
6 a mongrel people shall settle in Ashdod, and I will make an end of the pride of Philistia.
7 I will take away its blood from its mouth, and its abominations from between its teeth; it too shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.
8 Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that no one shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again overrun them, for now I have seen with my own eyes.
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 He* will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem; and the battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
13 For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will arouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
14 Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.
15 The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour and tread down the slingers;* they shall drink their blood* like wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.
16 On that day the LORD their God will save them, for they are the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.
17 For what goodness and beauty are his! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.