The Meaning of the Triumphal Entry
© 04.18.11 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the April 21 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
After Alexander the Great defeated Darius III at the battle of Issus in 333 BC, he proceeded to overthrow Damascus and the territory of Syria as he advanced on the coast of the Levant. The siege of Tyre which followed came to a successful conclusion after seven months when Alexander built a 1000 meter causeway to the island, eventually razing the city to the ground. The Macedonian army then continued southward along the Mediterranean coast capturing Ashkelon, Ekron and Gaza in turn. Gaza, more heavily fortified then the other Philistine cities, withstood the Greeks for five months before falling. Enraged by this resistance, Alexander had the King of Gaza dragged to death behind a chariot. Afterward, he executed the entire male population of the city and sold the women and children into slavery. The warrior king then turned his eyes toward Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, “Jaddua the high priest, when he heard [Alexander was heading toward Jerusalem], was in ...terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased [at his earlier refusal to submit]. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them” (Titus Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XI:VIII:IV). After this time of sacrifice and fasting the high priest was informed in a dream to don his priestly robes, gather his cohorts and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and go to meet Alexander outside the walls in view of the city. Jaddua did so and upon meeting the Macedonian king, was astonished to find that he had likewise had a dream and “saw this very person [the High Priest], in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians” (Antiquities, XI:VIII:V). As a result, Alexander left Jerusalem unmolested on his way to Egypt and again when he returned to continue his conquest of the more eastern regions of the Persian Empire. Moreover, he granted the Jews a release from tribute every seventh year and generally favored the Jewish people - a factor in establishing Alexandria as a center of Jewish learning in the latter centuries before the Christian era.
The prophet Zechariah foresaw these events some 200 years before they took place, saying, the word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach and will rest upon Damascus— for the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD—and upon Hamath too, which borders on it, and upon Tyre and Sidon, though they are very skillful. Tyre has built herself a stronghold; she has heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets. But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire. Ashkelon will see it and fear; Gaza will writhe in agony, and Ekron too, for her hope will wither. Gaza will lose her king and Ashkelon will be deserted. Foreigners will occupy Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines (Zechariah 9:1-6).
The prophecy continues with a promise of protection with the purpose of bringing forth the humble king who will rule all of creation in peace. Thus Zechariah says, Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). This portion of the prophecy is well known but its full significance is lost apart from the context of the entire discourse.
Continued next week.