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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 9–11
Verses 9–11

That here begins a prophecy of the Messiah and his kingdom is plain from the literal accomplishment of the Zech. 9:9 in, and its express application to, Christ’s riding in triumph into Jerusalem, Matt. 21:5; John 12:15.

I. Here is notice given of the approach of the Messiah promised, as matter of great joy to the Old-Testament church: Behold, thy king cometh unto thee. Christ is a king, invested with regal powers and prerogatives, a sovereign prince, an absolute monarch, having all power both in heaven and on earth. He is Zion’s king. God has set him upon his holy hill of Zion, Ps. 2:6. In Zion his glory as a king shines; thence his law went forth, even the word of the Lord. In the gospel-church his spiritual kingdom is administered; it is by him that the ordinances of the church are instituted, and its officers commissioned; and it is taken under his protection; he fights the church’s battles and secures its interests, as its king. “This King has been long in coming, but now, behold, he cometh; he is at the door. There are but a few ages more to run out, and he that shall come will come. He cometh unto thee; the Word will shortly be made flesh, and dwell within thy borders; he will come to his own. And therefore rejoice, rejoice greatly, and shout for joy; look upon it as good news, and be assured it is true; please thyself to think that he is coming, that he is on his way towards thee; and be ready to go forth to meet him with acclamations of joy, as one not able to conceal it, it is so great, nor ashamed to own it, it is so just; cry Hosanna to him.” Christ’s approaches ought to be the church’s applauses.

II. Here is such a description of him as renders him very amiable in the eyes of all his loving subjects, and his coming to them very acceptable. 1. He is a righteous ruler; all his acts of government will be exactly according to the rules of equity, for he is just. 2. He is a powerful protector to all those that bear faith and true allegiance to him, for he has salvation; he has it in his power; he has it to bestow upon all his subjects. He is the God of salvation; treasures of salvation are in him. He is servatussaving himself (so some read it), rising out of the grave by his own power and so qualifying himself to be our Saviour. (3.) He is a meek, humble, tender Father to all his subjects as his children; he is lowly; he is poor and afflicted (so the word signifies), so it denotes the meanness of his condition; having emptied himself, he was despised and rejected of men. But the evangelist translates it so as to express the temper of his spirit: he is meek, not taking state upon him, nor resenting injuries, but humbling himself from first to last, condescending to the mean, compassionate to the miserable; this was a bright and excellent character of him as a prophet (Matt. 11:29; Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart), and no less so as a king. It was a proof of this that, when he made his public entry into his own city (and it was the only passage of his life that had any thing in it magnificent in the eye of the world), he chose to ride, not upon a stately horse, or in a chariot, as great men used to ride, but upon an ass, a beast of service indeed, but a poor silly and contemptible one, low and slow, and in those days ridden only by the meaner sort of people; nor was it an ass fitted for use, but an ass’s colt, a little foolish unmanageable thing, that would be more likely to disgrace his rider than be any credit to him; and that not his own neither, nor helped off, as sometimes a sorry horse is, by good furniture, for he had no saddle, no housings, no trappings, no equipage, but his disciples’ clothes thrown upon the colt;’ for he made himself of no reputation when he visited us in great humility.

III. His kingdom is here set forth in the glory of it. This king has, and will have, a kingdom, not of this world, but a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of heaven. 1. It shall not be set up and advanced by external force, by an arm of flesh or carnal weapons of warfare. No; he will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horses from Jerusalem (Zech. 9:10), for he shall have no occasion for them while he himself rides upon an ass. He will, in kindness to his people, cut off their horses and chariots, that they may not cut themselves off from God by putting that confidence in them which they should put in the power of God only. He will himself undertake their protection, will himself be a wall of fire about Jerusalem and give his angels charge concerning it (those chariots of fire and horses of fire), and then the chariots and horses they had in their service shall be discarded and cut off as altogether needless. 2. It shall be propagated and established by the preaching of the gospel, the speaking of peace to the heathen; for Christ came and preached peace to those that were afar off and to those that were nigh; and so established his kingdom by proclaiming on earth peace, and good-will towards men. 3. His kingdom, as far as it prevails in the minds of men and has the ascendant over them, will make them peaceable, and slay all enmities; it will cut off the battle-bow, and beat swords into plough-shares. It will not only command the peace, but will create the fruit of the lips, peace. 4. It shall extend itself to all parts of the world, in defiance of the opposition given to it. “The chariot and horse that come against Ephraim and Jerusalem, to oppose the progress of Zion’s King, shall be cut off; his gospel shall be preached to the world, and be received among the heathen, so that his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth, as was foretold by David,” Ps. 72:8. The preachers of the gospel shall carry it from one country, one island, to another, till some of the remotest corners of the world are enlightened and reduced by it.

IV. Here is an account of the great benefit procured for mankind by the Messiah, which is redemption from extreme misery, typified by the deliverance of the Jews out of their captivity in Babylon (Zech. 9:11): “As for thee also (thee, O daughter of Jerusalem! or thee, O Messiah the Prince!) by the blood of thy covenant, by force and virtue of the covenant made with Abraham, sealed with the blood of circumcision, and the covenant made with Israel at Mount Sinai, sealed with the blood of sacrifices, in pursuance and performance of that covenant, I have now of late sent forth thy prisoners, thy captives out of Babylon, which was to them a most uncomfortable place, as a pit in which was no water.” It was part of the covenant that, if in the land of their captivity, they sought the Lord, he would be found of them, Lev. 26:42, 44, 45; Deut. 30:4. It was by the blood of that covenant, typifying the blood of Christ, in whom all God’s covenants with man are yea and amen, that they were released out of captivity; and this was but a shadow of the great salvation wrought out by thy King, O daughter of Zion! Note, A sinful state is a state of bondage; it is a spiritual prison; it is a pit, or a dungeon, in which there is no water, no comfort at all to be had. We are all by nature prisoners in this pit; the scripture has concluded us all under sin, and bound us over to the justice of God. God is pleased to deal upon new terms with these prisoners, to enter into another covenant with them; the blood of Christ is the blood of that covenant, purchased it for us and all the benefits of it; by that blood of the covenant effectual provision is made for the sending forth of these prisoners upon easy and honourable terms, and proclamation made of liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those that were bound, like Cyrus’s proclamation to the Jews in Babylon, which all those whose spirits God stirs up will come and take the benefit of.