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Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

Section 1. Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Sion

Zach. 9

1. CONNECTION OF THE PROPHECY WITH ITS CONTEXT.—In ch. 9 the prophet announces a judgment about to fall upon Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, and Sidon, and upon the chief cities of the Philistines in the south; a remnant of the latter is converted, and the Lord encamps near his sanctuary as its protector (vv. 1–8). Then follows the advent of the Messias as the king of peace (vv. 9, 10). The Israelites in captivity are restored to their own country, where the Lord, after having enabled them to contend successfully against their foes, further blesses and defends them (vv. 11–17).

2. DATE OF THE PROPHECY.—The arguments against the integrity of the Book of Zacharias and the earlier origin of ch. 9–14 have been summarized thus: a. Chapters 1–8 are written in a style different from that of ch. 9–14. But the difference of style between the two portions is not greater than the difference of their subjects leads us to expect. On the other hand, 7:14 should be compared with 9:8; 3:4 with 13:2; 2:10 with 9:9; 1:12, 19, 2:12, 8:13 with 9:13, 10:6, 11:14.

b. In the earlier parts certain modes of expression and certain accurate determinations of time constantly recur which are wholly lacking in ch. 9–14. But here again the difference of scope may be alleged as a sufficient motive for the different prophetic expressions. Besides, we have already noticed a number of expressions peculiar to both the first and the second portion of the prophet’s book.

c. The writer of ch. 1–8 occupies an historical standpoint different from that of the writer of ch. 9–14. But, on the other hand, the prophet’s mind in the earlier portion is fixed on the events of his own time, and on the great national work which he was sent to further; in the latter portion the prophet regards the distant future, and therefore does not so much insist on the temple at Jerusalem, nor does he determine the time of the various prophetic utterances with such precision. And different as the predictions of the first part are from those of the second, their general scope is the same; they have both their fulfilment in the Messianic times.

d. In ch. 1–8 there are historical allusions which cannot date from the time after the exile. The kingdom of the ten tribes appears to be still standing (9:10); Assyria and Egypt are mentioned side by side (10:10, 11), just as in Osee (7:11; 9:3; 11:11; 12:1); the teraphim and the diviners too (10:1 f.) point to an earlier date than the exile. But on the other hand, the prophecy also contains passages which point to a post-exilic date: 9:11 ff. and 10:6–9 presuppose the captivity at least of Ephraim; 9:13 mentions the Greeks, not as a distant and unimportant people, such as they were before the exile, but as a world-power and as Israel’s most formidable antagonists, the victory over whom inaugurates the Messianic times. If we add to this that in all ancient copies of the Hebrew text, as well as in all the ancient versions, the integrity of the book is taken for granted, and that those who maintain the pre-exilic date of ch. 9–14 are by no means agreed as to the exact period of the writing, some ascribing the six chapters to the same author, while others assign one author for ch. 9–11 and another for 12–14, referring the former to a date antecedent to the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, and the latter to a date subsequent to the death of Josias, and all this for reasons resembling those for which they distinguish between the author and the date of ch. 1–8 on the one hand and those of ch. 9–14 on the other; if we weigh all this we must conclude that there is, after all, very little reason for denying the integrity of the Book of Zacharias (cf. Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, art. on Zach.; Driver, Literature of the Old Testament, pp. 325 and 332; The Speaker’s Commentary, vi. p. 703 f.; Knabenbauer, Pusey, etc.).

3. MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY.—a. The prophecy cannot point to Zorobabel or any of the Jewish kings. Theodore of Mopsuestia defends the application of the prophecy to Zorobabel with many plausible reasons; he maintains that the prophecy must be understood like the prediction addressed to the patriarchs: In thee shall be blessed all the nations of the earth, which was fully and finally verified in Christ Jesus, but had an incipient fulfilment in several of the Jewish kings. Barhebræus, too, contends that the prophecy in its literal and material sense must be applied to Zorobabel, in its typical and spiritual meaning to the Messias. But the history of Zorobabel presented too few victories over his enemies, especially those mentioned in the prophecy, and lacks the peaceful and happy reign over the returning exiles in too marked a manner to be regarded as a literal fulfilment of the prophet’s words.

The same verdict must be given concerning another view expressed by Pressel, according to which the prophecy refers to Ezechias and his triumphal entry into the capital. For sacred history knows nothing concerning such a triumphal entry of the pious king; besides, this theory supposes that the prophecy was written at the time of Achaz, a view which we have seen to be untenable. Other Rationalistic writers, such as Hitzig, grant, therefore, that the prophet speaks of the ideal king of Israel, the Messias.

b. The prophecy regards the Messias. 1. The text and the context of the prediction render this explanation most probable. For the prophetic description of the king is not such as to befit a common earthly monarch: he is poor, just, and a saviour, riding upon an ass, and notwithstanding these uninviting qualities the daughter of Jerusalem is called upon to rejoice greatly, and to shout for joy at his reception; then, again, he is said to speak peace to the Gentiles, to reign from sea to sea and from the river even to the ends of the earth, all of which are properties which we have already seen to belong to the Messias (cf. 1 Kings 2:10; Ps. 2:8; 22:28; 58:11; 66:8; 71:8; 97:3, etc.). Moreover, the period of his entry into Jerusalem agrees with the period at which the prophets generally place the Messias’ advent, i.e., after the destruction of Israel’s enemies. (Cf. Is. 62:11; Zach. 2:10.) 2. The New Testament plainly asserts that the prophecy refers to the Messias: Matt. 21:5; John 12:15. 3. The patristic testimonies in favor of the Messianic interpretation of the prophecy are referred to in Kilber’s Analysis Biblica (ed. Tailhan, i. p. 519 f.; cf. Reinke, “Messianische Weissagungen,” pp. 115 ff.) 4. Finally, we must appeal to the early Jewish interpreters of the passage:

Verse 1. The name Chadrach is mystically separated into the two words “chad” (sharp) and “rach” (gentle), because the Messias shall be both—sharp to the Gentiles and gentle to the Jews (Siphre on Deut. p. 65a; Yalkut, i. p. 258 b). See Midrash on the Song of Solomon, 7:5.

Verse 9. This verse has several times been mentioned as having a Messianic meaning. It was owing to this interpretation of the verse that Ber. 56b, says that if any one sees an ass in his dreams he will see salvation. Sanhedrin, 98 a; Pirque de R. Eliezer, c. 31; and several Midrashin explain this passage Messianically.

Verse 10. In Tanchuma on Deut. 20:10 (par. 19, ed. Warsh. p. 114 b) the offer of peace to a hostile city is applied to the future behavior of the Messias to the Gentiles, in accordance with Zach. 9:10.


The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach and of Damascus the rest thereof; for the eye of man and of all the tribes of Israel is the Lord’s. Emath also, in the borders thereof, and Tyre and Sidon: for they have taken to themselves to be exceeding wise. And Tyre hath built herself a stronghold, and heaped together silver as earth, and gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord shall possess her, and shall strike her strength in the sea, and she shall be devoured with fire. Ascalon shall see it, and shall fear; Gaza also, and shall be very sorrowful; and Accaron, because her hope is confounded; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ascalon shall not be inhabited. And the divider shall sit in Azotus, and I will destroy the pride of the Philistines. And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth, and even he shall be left to our God, and he shall be as a governor in Juda, and Accaron as a Jebusite. And I will encompass my house with them that serve me in war, going and returning, and the oppressor shall no more pass through them, for now I have seen with my eyes. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy king will come to thee, the just and saviour; he is poor and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken; and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.

Thou also by the blood of thy testament hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water. Return to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope, I will render thee double as I declare to-day. Because I have bent Juda for me as a bow, I have filled Ephraim, and I will raise up thy sons, O Sion, above thy sons, O Greece; and I will make thee as the sword of the mighty. And the Lord God shall be seen over them, and his dart shall go forth as lightning; and the Lord God will sound the trumpet, and go in the whirlwind of the south. The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour and subdue with the stones of the sling; and drinking they shall be inebriated as it were with wine, and they shall be filled as bowls, and as the horns of the altar. And the Lord their God will save them in that day, as the flock of his people; for holy stones shall be lifted up over his land. For what is the good thing of him, and what is his beautiful thing, but the corn of the chosen ones, and wine which maketh virgins to spring forth?

1. These last words are applied to the effects of the Holy Eucharist only by way of accommodation (Knabenbauer in Proph. Min. ii. p. 330).

2. Christ’s solemn entrance into Jerusalem has fulfilled a part of the prophecy literally; before the event it might appear doubtful whether it was intended metaphorically or properly.

Section II. The Praise Out of the Mouth of Infants

PS. 8

1. STRUCTURE OF THE PSALM.—Ps. 8 consists of four stanzas, each of which numbers four verses. The first verse has twelve syllables, the second ten, the third eight, and the fourth six. Its movement is trochaic. The first stanza celebrates in general terms the greatness of God; the second exalts God’s goodness in his relation to man; the third describes in a general way the high position to which God has raised man; the fourth enumerates some particular instances of man’s exalted calling.

2. AUTHOR OF THE PSALM.—The title of the psalm, its language, sentiment, and the place it holds in the collection of psalms, point to David as its author. The most plausible argument against its Davidic origin is based on Heb. 2:6, where St. Paul says: “But one in a certain place hath testified, saying: What is man that thou art mindful of him …” St. Paul’s quotation, they argue, is evidently from Ps. 8:5, and still he cites the passage as coming from “one in a certain place.” All we can infer from this is that the Apostle did not remember the exact place where the words occurred, or remembering, did not see fit to give further detailed information to his readers. An inspired author need not remember every historical and literary detail concerning his narrative or the passages he quotes, nor must he always tell his readers all he knows about any historical or literary fact. If the argument proves anything, it proves also that the passage in question does not occur in Ps. 8, because the Apostle quotes it as taken from “one in a certain place.”

3. SUBJECT OF THE PSALM.—According to St. Matthew (21:16) Jesus applied the third verse of the eighth psalm to himself: “Jesus said to them: Yea; have you never read, Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” Again, St. Paul, in the above-cited Epistle to the Hebrews (2:6 ff.), applies vv. 5, 6, 7, 8 to Jesus Christ. The eighth verse is again applied to Christ in 1 Cor. 15:26 ff. The patristic testimonies confirming the Messianic character of the psalm may be found in Kilber’s Analysis Biblica (ed. Tailhan, ii. p. 13). Cf. Reinke, “Messianische Psalmen,” i. pp. 108 ff.

Supposing the Messianic character of the psalm, authors differ widely as to the way in which it is Messianic: 1. Some refer the literal sense of the psalm to mankind in general, while they apply its spiritual sense to Jesus Christ. 2. Others believe that the literal sense of the psalm refers to the exaltation of every man in particular, and therefore pre-eminently to Jesus Christ; in other words, the psalm’s literal sense is Messianic, but not exclusively (Patrizi). 3. Others, again, suppose that only certain verses of Ps. 8 literally refer to the Messias; the other parts refer to Christ in a spiritual meaning only. 4. The opinion that Jesus and St. Paul only accommodated certain verses of the psalm to the Messias without their actually having such a meaning hardly deserves mention.

4. OCCASION OF THE PSALM.—A statement of the opinions regarding the time of the psalm’s composition may facilitate its right interpretation: a. Solomon Kimchi mentions some who contend that the psalm was composed at night, since the psalmist mentions the moon and the starry heaven, and is wholly forgetful of the noonday sun. Other authors have endeavored to determine the time more accurately: Estius is of opinion that David composed the hymn when still a shepherd-boy, during one of his night watches. Thus he explains the mention of sheep and oxen (v. 8). An anonymous writer places the composition of the psalm on the night of Solomon’s birth, when, according to his opinion, king David remained on the roof of the palace. Thus he was induced to sing not only of the nocturnal brightness of the heavens, but also of the praises coming forth from the mouths of infants and sucklings. b. Others think that the psalm was occasioned by the victory of David over Goliath, the giant of Geth (1 Kings 17:4 ff.); this opinion rests on the word “gittith,” which in the Hebrew text stands in the title of the psalm. c. Other scholars have, for the same reason, placed the composition of the psalm in the time when the ark of the covenant was brought into the house of Obededom, the Gethite (1 Par. 13:12–14). d. Rudinger supposes that the psalm was composed shortly after the ark had been deposited on Mount Sion. What has been said sufficiently shows that in the present question we cannot advance beyond conjecture.

5. TITLE OF THE PSALM.—In our versions the title of Ps. 8 reads, “unto the end, for the presses; a psalm for David.” To begin with the last clause, we well know that the Hebrew preposition here rendered “for,” often denotes the author or possessor of a thing. Consequently we may render, “a psalm of David.”

Our phrase “unto the end” corresponds in the Hebrew text to the word “lamnaṣṣeach.” Symmachus, Aquila, and Theodotion find in the Hebrew word the idea of victory or of a conqueror. It is hardly probable that the LXX., who rendered the expression by “unto the end,” should have had the same reading which we now have. Their Hebrew text must have read “lannaṣeach.” If we study the Hebrew word in the light of a different grammatical form which occurs in other passages, especially in the books of Esdras and Paralipomenon, we must conclude that it signifies either “the leader of the choir” or a prominent member of it. Besides being the more common explanation, this opinion frees us also from the necessity of satisfactorily interpreting the phrase “unto the end” under which many of the Fathers have labored.

Finally, we read in the title “for the presses”; this phrase, too, is derived from the LXX. rendering, rather than from the Hebrew text. For the translation requires, in the Hebrew text, “ ‘al haggittoth” instead of the actual reading, “ ‘al haggittith.” Those authors who admit the existence of such a Hebrew text almost unanimously take the psalm for a hymn of thanksgiving, to be sung at the end of the grape-harvest, on the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. They point to Judg. 9:26 f. and Is. 16:10 as testifying to the joyous character of the vineyard feasts, and to the versions of Symmachus and St. Jerome as proofs for the alleged reading in the Hebrew text. The nature of the three psalms (8, 80, 83) which have the title “ ‘al haggittith” confirms the stated opinion. Scholars who adhere to the present Hebrew text as the correct one must translate “ ‘al gittith” by “in the Gethic style,” or “upon the harp of Geth,” or “over the choir of Geth.” For we may speak of a Gethic style or air of music, as we speak of a Lydian air. In the same manner may the denomination “Gethic” be applied to a special musical instrument, e.g., a harp. Or finally, since the women of Geth appear to have been famous for music, we may translate “to the leader of the choir of Gethites.” Cf. 2 Kings 1:20; 8:1; 15:18; 1 Par. 18:1.

PS. 8

O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth!

For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise,

Because of thy enemies, that thou mayest destroy the enemy and the avenger.

For I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers,

The moon and the stars which thou hast founded:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

Or the son of man that thou visitest him?

Thou hast made him a little lesser than the angels,

Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor,

And hast set him over the works of thy hands,

Thou hast subjected all things under his feet.

All sheep and oxen, moreover the beasts also of the field,

The birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, that pass

Through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable

Is thy name in all the earth.

The commentary shows how the various parts of the psalm may be applied to Jesus Christ, and how they have been verified in his sacred person and his public ministry. But whatever commentators may say about the various literal meanings of other portions of the psalm, it appears evident that the words quoted by Jesus himself on the occasion of his solemn entrance into Jerusalem cannot be considered as a mere accommodation of a victory-hymn composed for a past triumph over Israel’s enemies. The words of our Lord are argumentative, directed against his enemies, and must therefore have the full weight of an argument in their application. This they would have lacked had they not been fulfilled in Jesus, or had they not been expected to be fulfilled in him.

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