The Book of Zechariah is one of twelve Minor Prophets canonized in the Bible and is positioned as the penultimate book in the Christian Old Testament. The book is commonly divided into two units, often referred to as First Zechariah (Zechariah 1:1-8:23) and Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9:1-14:21). Second Zechariah is comprised of two poetic oracles (Zechariah 9:1-11:17, 12:1-14:21).
Second Zechariah begins by predicting doom for Israel’s enemies (Zechariah 9:1-8). The prophecy then transitions to describing the coming of a triumphant king who ushers in the dawning of a new age (Zechariah 9:9-17).
Marvin A. Sweeney (b. 1953) discusses:
Although the material in Zechariah 9-14 is generally considered to be much later additions to Zechariah 1-8...they appear to outline the fulfillment of the promises articulated in the present oracles concerning Zerubbabel. Throughout Zechariah 9-14, reference is made to the future Davidic monarchy. Zechariah 9:9-10 calls for the people to rejoice because the king will come to them riding upon a donkey and establishing his dominion from sea to sea. (Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets, Volume 2 (Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry), 611)The Messianic king arrives riding a donkey amid a liturgical procession (Zechariah 9:9).
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (b. 1933) situates:
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 NASB)
At the heart of Zechariah 9 stands one of the most famous predictions about the coming messianic king. Whether it should be treated separately...or linked with Zechariah 9:1-8 or with Zechariah 9:11-17...is a difficult question. On the one hand, it does continue in the poetic form of Zechariah 9:1-8, and it does describe both the Messiah and the way He will govern the kingdom of God announced in both Zechariah 9:1-8 and Zechariah 9:11-17. On the other hand, it is distinctive in nature and functions as a pivotal point for both Zechariah 9:1-8 and Zechariah 9:11-17, and these factors persuade us that it is best to treat Zechariah 9:9-10 as a distinctive oracle that enlarges on the messianic teaching of Zechariah 3:8 and Zechariah 6:9-15. (Kaiser, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Mastering the Old Testament), 370)The figure mounted on the donkey is the Messiah. Barry G. Webb (b. 1945) identifies:
Zechariah 9:9 is undoubtedly the best-known verse in Zechariah, and one of the better-known verses in the entire Old Testament. The key issue for the interpretation of the passage is the identity of the king who is seen here riding into Jerusalem on a donkey amid shouts of rejoicing...It is God who has been on the move in Zechariah 9:1-8, and his progress has been towards Jerusalem. So it is God himself whom we are expecting to arrive there at this point. But the picture of God himself riding on a donkey is incongruous, to say the least. Furthermore, God is clearly distinguished from the king. God is the speaker (the ‘I’ of Zechariah 9:10) who announces the arrival of the king and speaks of him in the third person...So the king is a man, a human being–but a man who is closely associated with God...The book of Zechariah has already given us the key to the identity of this king. In its context in Zechariah, this king can be none other than the one whose coming was promised in chapter 3 [Zechariah 3:1-10], and symbolized in the crowing of Joshua the high priest in chapter 6 [Zechariah 6:1-15]...The king is God’s Messiah. (Webb, The Message of Zechariah: Your Kingdom Come (Bible Speaks Today), 131)The picture Zechariah paints is a unique and consequently redefines the notion of king. David L. Petersen (b. 1943) deliberates:
The author of Zechariah 9:9 is presenting a highly nuanced form of political expectation. This is no standard royal or messianic expectation, namely, the return of a real or ideal Davidide. This expectation has little in common with the hope for a prince (Ezekiel 40:1-48:35), a crowned Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:23); a Davidide à la the oracles of Zechariah (Zechariah 4:6-10). Instead, the poet focuses on collectivities, addressed through the technique of personification. (Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 59)George L. Klein (b. 1955) concurs:
In Zechariah 9...the royal role of the Messiah appears in unique form. In Zechariah 9:9 the Messiah enters the scene riding a beast of burden, not a steed associated with military might. Riding on a lowly donkey, the Messiah will reign over a kingdom that he will administer peacefully through the strength of compelling righteousness, not brute force as other kings must exert. In addition to the peaceful connotation of the beast on which the coming King will ride, this Monarch will arrive “righteous and having salvation, gentle” (Zechariah 9:9). (Klein, Zechariah (New American Commentary), 71)The king that the prophet presents is an idealized version. David L. Petersen (b. 1943) characterizes:
Zechariah 9:9 depict[s], in surprising order, the manner in which the king will arrive, as well as his attributes. We might expect the poet to write “Humble, riding upon a donkey” immediately after the report that the king is coming. Instead, the poet offers two adjectives to define the salient features of the king. He, like other idealized earthly kings, will be righteous (so II Samuel 23:3) and victorious. The king shares these attributes with the deity. The imagery of just ruler and military savior are pivotal to the author’s understanding of the king. (Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 58)One of the striking features of the king is that he enters upon a “donkey” (CEV, ESV, HCSB, MSG, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV) or “ass” (ASV, KJV, RSV) (Zechariah 9:9).
The word hămôr, “ass,” indicating the king’s mount, is the first of three animal terms used in this passage. Its commonplace usage in the Bible signifies a beast of burden (e.g., Genesis 42:26, 44:13, 45:23; I Samuel 16:20; II Samuel 16:1; etc.). However, cognate terms in Ugarit and Mari were used for animals that a deity rides or that draw a chariot in a ritual festival. In contrast to the horse, the mule was evidently a symbol of peace (Wilhelm Theodor In der Smitten 1980:466, 469). Although a lowly beast (Genesis 49:14ff.), it could signify royalty. The story of Saul retrieving asses may be an allusion to his future office [I Samuel 9:3-10], and the succession story of Solomon has him on a mule rather than a horse (although the word there is pered rather than hămôr [I Kings 1:33, 38]). The range of images attached to hămôr is striking, and they may all contribute to the message of this passage—that the king represents peace, that his humble beast is suitable for his role in submitting to divine power while exerting his own royal dominion, and that he is a legitimate monarch. The use of a lowly animal is one of the ways in which a royal figure partakes of the life-style of the people he dominates. In this way he bridges the structural gap between those in power and those subjugated and thereby helps to win the cooperation of people dominated by the royal elite. (Meyers and Meyers, Zechariah 9-14 (Anchor Bible), 130)Mark Allen Hahlen (b. 1959) and Clay Alan Ham (b. 1962) add:
The extended description of the donkey (חמור, hămôr) as a colt, the foal of a donkey [Zechariah 9:10] more narrowly describes the king’s mount in both the premonarchical periods (Judges 5:10, 10:4, 12:14; II Samuel 16:1-2; I Kings 1:33). Evidence from Ur and Mari indicates the donkey is the royal mount par excellence in ancient Near East from the second millennium B.C. The association of the donkey with the promised ruler from Judah (Genesis 49:11) and with David (II Samuel 16:1-2) suggests it as an appropriate image for the legitimate Davidic heir. The choice of a donkey rather than a horse to portray the coming of the king also subverts militaristic notions. The horses and chariots that belong to Israel, Persia, or any other nation cannot secure for them the kingdom of Yahweh. This truth resonates with the earlier affirmation that the success of Joshua and Zerubbabel comes not from human power or might (Zechariah 4:6). (Hahlen and Ham, Minor Prophets, Volune 2: Nahum–Malachi (College Press NIV Commentary), 431)As noted, there is precedence for ancient monarchs enlisting similar transportation. David L. Petersen (b. 1943) informs:
Just as the...previous poem used surprisingly vivid imagery to describe Yahweh’s presence in Jerusalem, namely, camping at his house [Zechariah 9:8], so too...this second poem uses vivid language to depict the king’s arrival in Jerusalem. To think of a king riding on a donkey may strike one as farfetched. However, we know that human kings in the Ancient Near East, particularly as attested in second millennium B.C.E. texts, rode donkeys. Genesis 49:10-11 also clearly demonstrates that these animals are mentioned in references to royalty (cf. II Samuel 16:2). The sole exception to this pervasive royal imagery is the term “humble,” which is used here to redefine the character of the divine king. (Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 58)Carol L. Meyers (b. 1942) and Eric M. Meyers (b. 1940) discuss:
The image of a royal figure mounted on an ass rather than a horse derives from a rather well-established Near Eastern practice of royalty in procession on a mule (Samuel Feigin [1893-1950] 1944; Jack M. Sasson [b. 1941] 1976:72-73). The description here is perhaps a reapplication of the text of Genesis 49:10ff., where in Jacob’s blessing of Judah and the dynastic promise is related to an action involving donkeys (Michael A. Fishbane [b. 1943 1980:355 and 1985:501-02). Fishbane suggests that the postexilic setting of Zechariah 9 is propitious for reworking an older text that forces a future that has not been realized since the Exile. An ancient blessing is reworked into a striking oracle, giving authority to what it envisions. (Meyers and Meyers, Zechariah 9-14 (Anchor Bible), 129)Jewish texts especially emphasize the image of a king riding a donkey. George L. Klein (b. 1955) chronicles:
The biblical story of the coming messianic King likely begins with Genesis 49:10-11: “The scepter will not depart from Judah...He will tether his donkey to a vine.” The Judaic commentary, Genesis Rabbah, also connects the donkey tied to the vine in Genesis 49 to messianic interpretation. Zechariah’s Messiah represents the culmination of the Lord’s promise to David of a Davidic King who would reign perpetually: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (II Samuel 7:16). (Klein, Zechariah (New American Commentary), 271)Pamela J. Scalise (b. 1950) supplements:
The king’s procession to Zion, riding on a donkey, follows an indigenous monarchic tradition found in Judges 5:10, 10:4, 12:14 and II Samuel 16:2. David’s return to Jerusalem after putting down Absalom’s revolt provides the background for this picture. He had left the city almost as a fugitive, reviled by his enemies and humbled by the treachery of his favorite son. He returned, having been saved in battle. The picture of the donkey-mounted monarch also interprets this promised king as ruler in Genesis 49:8-12, who tethers “his donkey to a vine,/his colt to the choicest branch.” Here in Zechariah 9:9, as in Genesis 49:11, the colt in the second line specifies the kind of “donkey,” purebred and not previously ridden. It does not name a second animal. The ruler from the tribe of Judah will hold “the obedience of the nations” (Genesis 49:10). A blessing once fulfilled in the Davidic monarchy is here renewed as an eschatological promise. (John Goldingay [b. 1942] and Scalise, Minor Prophets II (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series), 274)While the motif of the king atop a donkey is present, the parallels between Genesis 49:10-11 and Zechariah 9:9-10 are imprecise. Mark J. Boda (b. 1962) observes:
This verse [Zechariah 9:9] appears to assume the royal tradition of Genesis 49:10-11, in which Judah will produce a king for Israel who will ride on a “donkey...colt.”...One should not, however, miss elements of contrast between Genesis 49 and Zechariah 9:9, as Iain M. Duguid [b. 1960] has pointed out. Rather than a figure hailing from the warlike tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8), whose garments drip with blood from battle (Genesis 49:11), Zechariah 9 presents a humble king. “The warlike language is still present in Zechariah 9 but it has been transferred from the royal figure to the Lord himself.” (Boda, Haggai, Zechariah (NIV Application Commentary))David L. Petersen (b. 1943) theorizes:
Though there seems to be a tradition of the king—in Israel, David—riding on a donkey, I do not think the poet is quoting another biblical text, contra Klaus Seybold [1936-2011], “Späetprophetische Hoffnungen auf die Wiederkunft des Davidischen Zeitalters in Sach 9-14,” Judaica 29 (1973): 104-5. Though there is clear allusion to royal traditions, I do not think that Zechariah 9:9-10 presents a specific allusion to a Vorbild in the Davidic period. (Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 58)Given this connection between animal and monarch, it is not surprising that many have taken the donkey as indicative of its rider’s royalty. Katrina J.A. Larkin classifies:
חמוד — another tone-setting word, this time kingly (George M.A. Hanfmann [1911-1986] (1985) traces the tradition of the ‘donkey’ as royal mount back to eighteenth century Mari); and possibly David (Klaus Seybold [1936-2011] 1973;103). (Larkin, The Eschatology of Second Zechariah: A Study of the Formation of a Mantological Wisdom Anthology, 63)Kenneth G. Hoglund (b. 1954) counters:
Though the literature does not always do so, we must distinguish between a donkey (referred to in this passage), and a mule (hybrid between horse and donkey). The mule (Hebrew pered) is preferred over the donkey as an official royal mount. The evidence for a donkey as a royal mount in antiquity is meager. In Akkadian there is an occasional passing reference to a donkey for the king to ride. A Hittite narrative, The Queen of Qanesh and the Tale of Zalpa, has the thirty royal sons driving a donkey, but does not specify that they ride them. In Ugaritical literature, the goddess Athiratu rides on a donkey in one text, thus indicating it a regal mount if not royal...In biblical texts elites occasionally ride on an ‘ayir (the second word used in this text...see Judges 10:4, 12:13) or on an ’ātōn (the third term, foal of a “donkey,” and Balaam’s mount in Numbers 22:21-33). Consequently, evidence is lacking to suggest that the king in this verse is being provided with royal trappings. (John H. Walton [b. 1952], The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary), 220-21)Others have seen the donkey as evidence of the monarch’s inherent humility. Thomas Edward McComiskey (1928-1996) construes:
The donkey appears to express humility in this context, because Zechariah 9:10 states that the Lord will cut off the horse from his people, ending their misplaced trust in implements of war. Since Zion’s king establishes peace among the nations (Zechariah 9:10), it would be anomalous for him to ride an animal that symbolizes war. The donkey, on the other hand, stands out in this text as a deliberate rejection of this symbol of arrogant trust in human might, expressing subservience to the sovereignty of God. We must view Israel’s king in contrast to Alexander the Great [356-323 BCE] and the other proud conquerors of history. The reference to his riding a beast of burden, not a white charger, underscores this sense of the word ‘āni. Jerusalem’s king is of humble mien, yet victorious, and so it has always been that the church does not effectively spread the gospel by sword or by arrogance, but by mirroring the humble spirit of its king and savior. (McComiskey, The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, 1166)Carol L. Meyers (b. 1942) and Eric M. Meyers (b. 1940) concur:
What does the “ass” imagery represent, in light of the frequent emphasis on kings in relation to horses and chariots in the Bible, especially in First Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8, 6:2, 3, 6, cf. Haggai 2:22)? Horses and chariots represent the military, or power aspects of political domination. “Riding on an ass” is a royal image that does not partake of that dimension in dynastic authority. Karl Elliger [1901-1977] (1975:149), in pointing to numerous ancient rituals for kings on mules, may be correct in emphasizing the present setting, by signaling a postvictory scene, is intended to repudiate warfare of any kind. By substituting nonmilitary animals for horses, the prophet is reversing the power imagery associated with a king’s rule. In the eschatological future, the restoration of the Davidic monarchy will radically alter the notion of kingship—the future will not exert exploitative domination or foster socioeconomic elitism...Indeed the beginning of Zechariah 9:10 (wěhikratti), “I will cut off,” makes it clear that the future king will not need to depend on force in the eschatological future...It is difficult to determine whether this altered perspective of the royal figure can be related to the political realities in Yehud in the time of Second Zechariah, by which time any realistic expectation of full political power being restored to Yehud would have dissipated. The presence of First Zechariah of God’s spirit, rather than political force, as the theme for the future may have been based on political pragmatism. Such may also be the case here, with the Near Eastern ideology of stability and world order accompanying a new ruler involved to further strengthen the eschatological imagery of a restored Davidide...In any case it would be overburdening the text to see it as a reflection of conflicting royal ideologies (as Paul D. Hanson [b. 1939] 1973:43-44 and Rex A. Mason [b. 1926] 1976: 237). (Meyers and Meyers, Zechariah 9-14 (Anchor Bible), 129-30)A people who do not have a king are told by the prophet that they can expect one (Zechariah 9:9-17). He will be unique. As is indicated by his mount, he will be both royal and humble. He will be as no king has been before. And this is cause for hope.
What words would you use to describe the ideal monarch? What means of transportation would you expect a ruler to use? Why does Israel’s Messiah sit atop a lowly donkey? Is it a sign of humility, royalty, or both? How improbable is this prophecy? Has the prophecy been fulfilled?
The passage is perhaps the most famous in the book of Zechariah due to its association with Jesus (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) commends:
Few Messianic prophecies are better known than this, chiefly because of its quotation in Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15 as being fulfilled by the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on what we traditionally call Palm Sunday. (Boice, The Minor Prophets, Volume 2: Micah – Malachi, 194)The donkey is a staple in the gospel stories of Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. Mike Butterworth (b. 1941) documents:
It is...recorded in all four gospels that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-18. Matthew and John have an explicit quotation of Zechariah 9:9. (Butterworth, Structure and the Book of Zechariah (Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies), 180)
Zechariah’s prophecies impacted the New Testament. George L. Klein (b. 1955) explains:
The book of Zechariah exerted a profound influence over the New Testament, particularly in the realm of Messianic passages—a point long noted by New Testament scholars. Several important themes from the book figure prominently in the New Testament. One of the most important of these is the shepherd-king. From Zechariah 9:9 the King who rode into Jerusalem on a “donkey” reemerges in Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15). C.H. Dodd [1884-1973] even suggests that Zechariah provided the Gospel writers with material of equal importance to the very testimonia of Christ’s ministry. (Klein, Zechariah (New American Commentary), 61-62)Zechariah 9:9-10 is of particular interest to New Testament scholars. Mike Butterworth (b. 1941) comments:
Zechariah 9:9-10 is probably the best known and most discussed passage in Zechariah 9-14. Christian tradition has affirmed that Christ fulfilled this prophecy when he rode into Jerusalem jut before his arrest and death. Jesus himself seems deliberately to have acted out this prophecy. Since he also referred other passages from Deutero-Zechariah to himself there is considerable interest in the relation that these have each other. Paul Lamarche [1923-2004] connected them by means of his elaborate chiastic structure and argued that together they make up a coherent picture of a shepherd-king messiah. (Butterworth, Structure and the Book of Zechariah (Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies), 180)The passage’s pervasive influence is somewhat perplexing. Richard Coggins (b. 1929) and Jin H. Han deliberate:
This is the first of the passages in Zechariah 9-14 which are taken up in the Gospels as prefiguring the ministry, and particularly the passion, of Jesus (F.F. Bruce [1910-1991]1961 remains the clearest discussion of the material as a whole.) There is still no agreement as to why this section should have been so influential. The passages might all have been incorporated into a collection of Testimonia, but that only raises the difficulty again at one remove: why should this apparently very obscure collection of material have been so widely used? Clearly the New Testament writers regarded it as in some sense “messianic,” but there are no obvious internal grounds for seeing that characteristic as more obvious here than in many other prophetic passages. In general terms this usage may remind us that the New Testament Gospel-writers will have regarded the testimony of God-given Scripture as more reliable than uncertain and sometimes conflicting human memories. (Coggins and Han, Six Minor Prophets Through the Centuries: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi)Matthew seems to have taken the prophecy especially literally. Charlene McAfee Moss reports:
Where Luke 19:30 follows Mark 11:2 with respect to Jesus’ instruction to his disciples...the parallel passage in Matthew 21:2 describes two animals–they will find an ass tied and her colt with her...Mark and Luke contain no reference to fulfillment of Scripture in this part of their narratives, however, an echo of Genesis 49:11a may be discerned in the expression, “a colt tied” (Moss, The Zechariah Tradition and the Gospel of Matthew, 80)Richard Coggins (b. 1929) and Jin H. Han expound:
Matthew 21:4 has brought it into the Gospel’s own characteristic structure, using the same formula as is found frequently there, specifically referring to this as a word “spoken through the prophet.” It is argued that the form of the text used by Matthew already prepared the way for such a reading (Max Wilcox 1988:199-201), and this might tie in with the existence of a collection of Testimonia...Matthew’s reading has been criticized by Jewish scholars on the grounds that he is interpreting poetry as literal fact (Jon D. Levenson [b. 1949] 1993:8). Certainly it seems likely that what was poetic parallelism in the original...has been understood by Matthew as a reference to two animals, on both of which Jesus is to be envisaged as riding into Jerusalem! (Coggins and Han, Six Minor Prophets Through the Centuries: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi)Though not explicitly cited, Zechariah 9:9 likely influenced Mark’s gospel as well. Henk Jan de Jonge (b. 1943) suspects:
According to Mark 11:7-11, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt. Matthew, in his reworking of this passage (Matthew 21:4), adds the comment that ‘this took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’ This is a quotation from Zechariah 9:9, which does not yet occur in Mark. Yet many interpreters of Mark are of the opinion...that Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem alludes to Zechariah 9:9, even if Mark avoids quoting Zechariah explicitly at this point. Not only in Matthew, but also in Mark, is the colt riding the animal mentioned in Zechariah 9:9. (Christopher Tuckett [b. 1948], “The Cleansing of the Temple in Mark 11:15 and Zechariah 14:21”, The Book of Zechariah and Its Influence, 87)The Christian connection to Jesus has monopolized the interpretation of this Jewish text. Richard Coggins (b. 1929) and Jin H. Han acknowledge:
Largely Christian interpretation has dominated the understanding of a somewhat obscure passage. Jewish writers recognized that there had been a Christian “take-over,” but no concerted alternative interpretation emerged...Joyce G. Baldwin [1921-1995] is perhaps optimistic when she says that “most commentators agree that the Messianic king is foreshadowed here” (Baldwin 1972:163), but it is certainly true that a “messianic” understanding has been widely proposed. One approach which combines a “messianic” type of understanding and has been acceptable to later Judaism has been to see here a reference to Judas Maccabaeus, never a king, but treated, at least by the author of I Maccabees, in quasi-royal terms. Certainly one strand of later Jewish tradition, exemplified by Ibn Ezra [1089-1167], saw in the figure depicted here a reference to Judas Maccabaeus. More generally, it may be that our passage was interpreted by the author of I Maccabees as referring to the exploits of the Hasmoneans, and in particular Jonathan (I Maccabees 11:60-74, 12:1-38, 13:6-11) (Andrew Chester [b. 1948] 1988:152). There is also a possible reference of this kind among the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QM 12:12). (Coggins and Han, Six Minor Prophets Through the Centuries: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi)The New Testament’s usage of the text does ring true to Zechariah’s original intent. Carol L. Meyers (b. 1942) and Eric M. Meyers (b. 1940) affirm:
The New Testament (Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15) is quite comfortable with the imagery of the passage; in adhering to its peaceful tone, it remains faithful to the original intent of Zechariah. (Meyers and Meyers, Zechariah 9-14 (Anchor Bible), 129)Given this tradition, Jesus’ conscription of the donkey would likely have evoked messianic hopes in the spectators. Paul R. Eddy (b. 1959) discerns:
With Zechariah (among others) supplying the prophetic script, Jesus’ entry into the city on a donkey and his subsequent temple action (whatever else it signifies) would have consciously evoked messianic expectations. (Carey C. Newman [b. 1959], “The (W)Right Jesus: Eschatological Prophet, Israel’s Messiah, Yahweh Embodied”, Jesus & the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright [b. 1948]’s Jesus and the Victory of God, 51)Jesus is intentional about entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-3; Mark 11:1-3; Luke 19:29-31). In doing so, he plays upon Jewish tradition to inform the initiated that he is the long awaited messiah, “humble, and mounted on a donkey”.
Who does this prophecy most benefit? Do its words apply only to Jesus or has it been fulfilled in other ways? Does the prophecy’s existence lead to its fulfillment; is this art reflecting life or life reflecting art? Would Jesus have utilized the donkey had Zechariah not made his prophecy? Did the prophets guide Jesus’ ministry? How much of his identity did Jesus glean from tradition?
“Persistent prophecy is a familiar way of assuring the event.” - George Gissing (1857-1903), “An Author at Grass: Extracts from the Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft”, The Fortnightly Review, Volume LXXII: July to December 1902, p. 337