Matthew 21:5
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
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(5) Tell ye the daughter of Sion.—The words seem to have been cited from memory, the Hebrew text of Zechariah 9:9 beginning, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem,” and inserting “just, and having salvation” in the description of the King. As the words stand in Zechariah (we need not here discuss the question as to the authorship or composition of that book) they paint the ideal King coming, not with “chariot” and “horse” and “battle bow,” like the conquerors of earthly kingdoms, but as a prince of peace, reviving the lowlier pageantry of the days of the Judges (Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14), and yet exercising a wider dominion than David or Solomon had done, “from sea to sea, and from the river (Euphrates) to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10). That ideal our Lord claimed to fulfil. Thus interpreted, His act was in part an apparent concession to the fevered expectations of His disciples and the multitude; in part also a protest, the meaning of which they would afterwards understand, against the character of those expectations and the self-seeking spirit which mingled with them. Here, as before, we trace the grave, sad accommodation to thoughts other than His own to which the Teacher of new truths must often have recourse when He finds Himself misinterpreted by those who stand altogether on a lower level. They wished Him to claim the kingdom, that they might sit on His right hand and on His left. Well, He would do so, but it would be a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36), utterly unlike all that they were looking for.

A colt the foal of an ass.—Literally, of a beast of burden, the word not being the same as that previously used. In the Hebrew of Zechariah the word reproduces the old poetic phraseology of Genesis 49:11.

21:1-11 This coming of Christ was described by the prophet Zechariah, Zec 9:9. When Christ would appear in his glory, it is in his meekness, not in his majesty, in mercy to work salvation. As meekness and outward poverty were fully seen in Zion's King, and marked his triumphal entrance to Jerusalem, how wrong covetousness, ambition, and the pride of life must be in Zion's citizens! They brought the ass, but Jesus did not use it without the owner's consent. The trappings were such as came to hand. We must not think the clothes on our backs too dear to part with for the service of Christ. The chief priests and the elders afterwards joined with the multitude that abused him upon the cross; but none of them joined the multitude that did him honour. Those that take Christ for their King, must lay their all under his feet. Hosanna signifies, Save now, we beseech thee! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! But of how little value is the applause of the people! The changing multitude join the cry of the day, whether it be Hosanna, or Crucify him. Multitudes often seem to approve the gospel, but few become consistent disciples. When Jesus was come into Jerusalem all the city was moved; some perhaps were moved with joy, who waited for the Consolation of Israel; others, of the Pharisees, were moved with envy. So various are the motions in the minds of men upon the approach of Christ's kingdom.All this was done ... - The prophecy here quoted is found in Zechariah 9:9. It was always, by the Jews, applied to the Messiah.

Daughter of Zion - That is, "Jerusalem." "Zion" was one of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built. On this stood the city of David and some strong fortresses. The names "daughter and virgin" were given to it often, in accordance with the Oriental figurative manner of expression. See the notes at Isaiah 1:8. Compare Amos 5:2; Psalm 45:13; Psalm 137:8; Isaiah 47:1. It was given to them as an expression of their beauty or comeliness.

Meek - See the notes at Matthew 5:5. The expression here rather denotes "peaceful, not warlike;" not with pomp, and state, and the ensigns of ambition. He came in the manner in which kings were accustomed to ride, but with none of their pride and ambitious feeling.

Sitting upon an ass ... - He rode on the colt (Mark and Luke). This expression in Matthew is one which is common with all writers. See Genesis 19:29; Judges 12:7.


Mt 21:1-9. Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the First Day of the Week. ( = Mr 11:1-11; Lu 19:29-40; Joh 12:12-19).

For the exposition of this majestic scene—recorded, as will be seen, by all the Evangelists—see on [1333]Lu 19:29-40.

Ver. 4,5. The words are, Zechariah 9:9, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. The evangelist quotes no more of them than served for his purpose. John, in the short account he giveth of this our Saviour’s entrance, quotes them shorter, John 12:15. The former part of the words are found Isaiah 62:11. The Jews agree this prophecy to respect the Messiah, though they were so blinded as not to see it was fulfilled in Christ. Tell ye the daughter of Zion, prophesy you to the Jews, to the citizens and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: thy spiritual King, having salvation, the King promised and foretold, that shall bring salvation, cometh, that is, shall shortly come to thee for thy profit and advantage. And you shall know him by this; he shall come ykp, poor, afflicted, meek, lowly, sitting upon an ass, an ass used to bear burdens, (so the word signifies), and a colt the foal of an ass: not upon both; they are exegetical of each other; the first denoted the species of the beast, the second its age. There was not any prophecy of Christ more plainly fulfilled than this. Asses were of old beasts that great persons used to ride on, Judges 10:4 12:14. But after Solomon’s time the Jews got a breed of horses; so as only poor people rode upon asses, mostly reserved for burdens. Whom could the Jews possibly expect to see coming riding into Jerusalem, under the notion of a King bringing them salvation, in so little state, upon the foal of an ass, but the person prophesied of by Zechariah, Zechariah 9:9, whom they themselves confess to be the Messiah? And had not there been a strange veil upon their hearts, Herod’s courtiers, and Pilate’s, might have understood his kingdom was not of this world, nor he such a King as threatened their grandeur.

Tell ye the daughter of Zion,.... These words seem to be taken out of Isaiah 62:11 where it is said, "say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold thy salvation cometh", or "thy Saviour cometh"; meaning, without doubt, the Messiah: by the daughter of Zion is meant, not the city of Jerusalem, but the inhabitants thereof, the Jewish synagogue; or as the Targum renders it, , "the congregation of Zion", the people of the Jews; particularly the elect of God among them, those that embraced the true Messiah, and believed in him:

behold, thy king cometh unto thee: this, and what follow, are cited from Zechariah 9:9 and to be understood of the king Messiah, who, in a little time after this prophecy was given out, was to come to Zion, and redeem Jacob from all his iniquities, and was now come. One of the Jewish commentators says (x), that interpreters are divided about the sense of this prophecy; but observes, that there are some that say this is the Messiah: and another (y) of them affirms, that it is impossible to explain it of any other than the king Messiah; and that it can be understood of no other, I have elsewhere (z) shown. "Meek"; in the prophecy of Zechariah it is, "poor", as the Messiah Jesus was, in a temporal sense; but the word, both by the Septuagint, and our evangelist, is rendered

meek; as it is by the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, who all explain it by "lowly, humble, or meek": and a character it is, that well agrees with Jesus, who, in the whole of his deportment, both in life and in death, was a pattern of meekness and lowliness of mind: and

sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass. This is applied to the Messiah by the Jews, both ancient (a) and modern (v), who consider this as an instance and evidence of his humility: they suppose, this ass to be a very uncommon one, having an hundred spots on it; and say, that it was the foal of that which was created on the eve of the sabbath (w); and is the same that Abraham and Moses rode upon: and they own, as before observed, that Jesus of Nazareth rode on one to Jerusalem, as is here related. Their ancient governors, patriarchs, princes, and judges, used to ride on asses, before the introduction and multiplication of horses in Solomon's time, forbidden by the law of God: wherefore, though this might seem mean and despicable at this present time, yet was suitable enough to Christ's character as a king, and as the son of David, and king of Israel; strictly observing the law given to the kings of Israel, and riding in such manner as they formerly did.

(x) Aben Ezra in Zech. ix. 9. (y) Jarchi in ib. (z) Prophecies of the Messiah literally fulfilled in Jesus, c. 9. p. 151, &c. (a) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 98. 1. & 99. 1. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 66. 2. & 85. 3. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 63. 2. Zohar in Gen. fol. 127. 3. & in Num. fol. 83. 4. & in Deut. fol. 117. 1. & 118. 3. Raya Mehimna in Zohar. in Lev. fol. 38. 3. & in Num. fol. 97. 2.((v) Jarchi in Isaiah 26 6. Baal Hatturim in Exod. fol. 88. 2. Abarbimel, Mashmia Jeshua, fol. 15. 4. (w) Pirke Eliezer, c. 31. Caphtor, fol. 81. 2.

Tell ye the {b} daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

(b) The city of Sion. This is a Hebrew idiom, common in the Lamentations of Jeremiah.

Matthew 21:5. he prophetic quotation, from Zechariah 9:9, prefaced by a phrase from Isaiah 62:11, with some words omitted, and with some alteration in expression as compared with Sept[114]

[114] Septuagint.

5. Tell ye the daughter of Sion, &c.] Zechariah 9:9. The prophet is predicting the triumph of Israel and the fall of the neighbouring nations. The prophecy contains three distinct Hebrew words for an “ass.” “Sitting upon an ass (chamâr, from a root meaning red) and a colt (air, ‘a young male ass’) the foal (lit. ‘the son’) of an ass (athôn = ‘a she-ass,’ from a root meaning ‘slow’).”

meek] See ch. Matthew 5:5.

Matthew 21:5. Εἴπατε, κ.τ.λ., tell ye, etc.) This passage is one of those which show that many things in the prophets ought to be received by us, not only as they were meant by them, but as they were destined to be meant by the apostles. This part occurs in Isaiah 62:11; the rest in Zechariah, whom St Matthew quotes, beginning at the more important part; for the word “rejoice” is thus supplied. At the time of its fulfilment it is to be told: joy then arises spontaneously.[904] In Zechariah 9:9, the LXX. have Χαῖρε σφόδρα θύγατερ Σιὼν, κήρυσσε θύγατερ Ἱερουσαλήμ· ἰδοὺ, ὁ Βασιλεὺς[905] ἔρχεταί σοι, δίκαιος καὶ σώζων Αὐτὸς·[906] πρᾳῢς καὶ ἐμβεβηκὼς ἐπὶ ὑποζύγιον καὶ πῶλον νέον,—Rejoice greatly, daughter of Sion; shout,[907] daughter of Jerusalem: behold the King cometh unto thee; He is just and having salvation:[908] meek, and riding on an ass, even a young colt.—τῇ θυγατρὶ Σιὼν, to the daughter of Sion) put synecdochically for Jerusalem.—Βασιλεύς σου, thy King) and also Bridegroom.—σαὶ, to, or for thee) sc. for thy sake or advantage.—πρᾳῢς καὶ, κ.τ.λ., meek and, etc.[909]) The same thing is frequently expressed in the same passage by literal and metaphorical words. The horse is a warlike steed, which the King of Peace did not make use of; see Zechariah 9:10. He will make use of it hereafter; see Revelation 19:11.—ὄνον, an ass) not a she ass. In Hebrew, חמור.—υἱὸν ὑποζυγίου, the male foal of an ass[910]) who, though the offspring of one that had borne the yoke, had not himself yet borne it. Our Lord rode upon the foal, but employed also the mother as a companion to the foal.

[904] Beng. seems to mean, the introductory words in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly,” etc., “Shout,” etc., are omitted here, on the occasion of the passage being quoted by St Matthew, because, at the time of the fulfilment of the prophecy, all that was needed was the telling (and therefore “Tell ye” is substituted from Isaiah 62:11, “Say ye”): the joy was sure to arise of its own accord.—ED.

[905] The Codex Alexandrinus reads βασιλεύς σου.—(I. B.)

[906] The Oxford Edition of 1848 has a comma after σώζων, and omits the colon after Αὐτὸς.—(I. B.)

[907] The word denotes, in the orig., the voice of a herald or a preacher.—(I. B.)

[908] Lit. “Himself saving.”—(I. B.)

[909] It is this very virtue that renders both her King, and the tidings as to the approach of her King, so delightful to the daughter of Sion.—V. g.

[910] Literally, the son of one who bears the yoke; rendered accurately by the Vulgate, which Bengel has followed here, filium subjugalis. He has not been equally exact in his German Version.—(I. B.)

Verse 5. - Tell ye the daughter of Zion. This is from Isaiah (comp. Zephaniah 3:14). The passage in Zechariah begins, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem." The "daughter of Zion" is Jerusalem herself, named from the chief of the hills on which the city was built. Of course, the term includes all the inhabitants. Behold; marking the suddenness and unexpected nature of the event. Thy King. A King of thine own race, no stranger, one predestined for thee, foretold by all the prophets, who was to occupy the throne of David and to reign forever. Unto thee. For thy special good, to make his abode with thee (comp. Isaiah 9:6). Meek. As Christ himself says, "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29), far removed from pomp and warlike greatness; and yet, according to his own Beatitude, the meek shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), win victories which material forces can never obtain, triumph through humiliation. The original in Zechariah gives other characteristics of Messiah: "He is just, and having salvation;" i.e. endowed with salvation, either as being protected by God, or victorious and so able to save his people. Sitting upon an ass. Coming as King, he could not walk undistinguished among the crowd; he must ride. But to mount a war horse would denote that he was leader of an army or a worldly potentate; so he rides upon an ass, an animal used by the judges of Israel, and chieftains on peaceful errands (Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4); one, too, greatly valued, and often of stately appearance in Palestine. And (καὶ) a colt the foal of an ass; such as she asses bear, and one not trained. It is questioned whether the conjunction here expresses addition, implying that Christ mounted both animals in succession, or is merely explanatory, equivalent to videlicet, an ass, yea, even the foal of an ass. It seems unlikely that, in accomplishing the short distance between Bethphage and Jerusalem (only a mile or two), our Lord should have changed from one beast to the other; and the other three evangelists say expressly that Christ rode the colt, omitting all mention of the mother. The she ass doubtless kept close to its foal, so the prophecy was exactly fulfilled, but the animal that bore the Saviour was the colt. If the two animals represent respectively the Jews and Gentiles (see on ver. 2), it seems hardly necessary for typical reasons that Jesus should thus symbolize his triumph over the disciplined Jews, while it is obvious that the lesson of his supremacy over the untaught Gentiles needed exemplification. The prophet certainly contemplates the two animals in the procession. "The old theocracy runs idly and instinctively by the side of the young Church, which has become the true bearer of the Divinity of Christ" (Lange). No king had ever thus come to Jerusalem; such a circumstance was predicted of Messiah alone, and Christ alone fulfilled it to the letter, showing of what nature his kingdom was. Matthew 21:5Daughter of Sion

Jerusalem. Compare daughter of Babylon for the city of Babylon (Psalm 137:8; Isaiah 47:1); daughter of Tyre for the city or people of Tyre (Psalm 45:12); daughter of my people (Isaiah 22:4).

Sitting (ὲπιβεβηκὼς)

Lit., having gone upon, or mounted. Rev., riding.

Foal of an ass (υἱὸν ὑποζυγίου)

Lit., son of a beast-of-burden. Ὑποζύγιον, from ὑπό, beneath, ζυγός, a yoke. Wyc., son of a beast-under-yoke. The phrase emphasizes the humble state of Jesus. He is mounted, not on a stately charger with embroidered and jewelled housings, nor even on an ass for the saddle, the Eastern ass being often of great beauty and spirit, and in demand for this purpose. He rides on a common beast-of-bur-den, furnished with the every-day garments of his disciples.

Garments (ἱμάτια)

Outer garments. See on Matthew 5:40.

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