Zechariah 9 is an expression of identity and solidarity in the face of a foreign invasion. It is a meditation on the links between land, people, and divine presence invoked to protect both.
In 1970, a group of citizens occupied land under the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego, California. The land had been designated for a park, but when construction began on a government building on the land instead, members of the surrounding neighbourhood protested by blocking construction until the promise to build a park was kept. A year later, after much negotiation, Chicano Park was created—the name signifying the shared ethnic belonging of those who had protested for its creation.
A number of murals now decorate the space, including this one, which commemorates the ‘takeover’ of the land where the park now sits. The Takeover features scenes from the occupation of the site, including protesters surrounding the bulldozers, others planting and tilling the land, and images of triumph and strength. A later restoration of the mural corrected an error in the painting: the flag raised was the flag of Aztlan, not the flag of Mexico—a shared ethnic belonging rather than a modern national one—and so the latter was painted over the former (former shown here). The flag, like the park itself and this mural, is an expression of the pride of indigenous peoples, and a form of resistance against encroachment on lands and erasure of cultures that pre-existed the bulldozers and the city of San Diego for thousands of years. Another part of the mural depicts the first celebration of Earth Day in the United States in 1970, as a symbolic moment in which the degradation of green and open spaces began to meet resistance.
Zechariah 9 expresses similar fears about erasure and encroachment, and it exhibits a similar pride in belonging and the expression of identity. Faced with violence and incursion from outsiders, the prophet spoke oracles of hope and resistance, judgement and national unity. That same spirit animated the activists who took over the land under the bridge that is now Chicano Park.
Avalos, David. 2011. ‘“Chicano Park Takeover” A Complete Success, 26 August 2011’, www.laprensa-sandiego.org [accessed 23 September 2020]
Barrera, Mario. 2005. ‘Chicano Park, San Diego’, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States, ed by Suzanne Oboler and Deena J. González, 4 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
9 An Oracle
The word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach
and will rest upon Damascus.
For to the Lord belong the cities of Aram,
even as all the tribes of Israel;
2Hamath also, which borders thereon,
Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
3Tyre has built herself a rampart,
and heaped up silver like dust,
and gold like the mud of the streets.
4But lo, the Lord will strip her of her possessions
and hurl her wealth into the sea,
and she shall be devoured by fire.
5Ashʹkelon shall see it, and be afraid;
Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish;
Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded.
The king shall perish from Gaza;
Ashʹkelon shall be uninhabited;
6a mongrel people shall dwell in Ashdod;
and I will make an end of the pride of Philistia.
7I 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 Jebʹusites.
8Then I will encamp at my house as a guard,
so that none shall march to and fro;
no oppressor shall again overrun them,
for now I see with my own eyes.
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on an ass,
on a colt the foal of an ass.
10I will cut off the chariot from Eʹphraim
and the war horse 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.
11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your captives free from the waterless pit.
12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
13For I have bent Judah as my bow;
I have made Eʹphraim its arrow.
I will brandish your sons, O Zion,
over your sons, O Greece,
and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
14Then 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.
15The Lord of hosts will protect them,
and they shall devour and tread down the slingers;
and they shall drink their blood like wine,
and be full like a bowl,
drenched like the corners of the altar.
16On 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.
17Yea, how good and how fair it shall be!
Grain shall make the young men flourish,
and new wine the maidens.