The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Zechariah 11

Zec 11:1

Zec 11: The rejection of the true king: Zec 9; 10 present pictures of blessing and prosperity, but Zec 11 paints a scene of sin and punishment.

"Preceding the fulfillment of the prophecies of blessing are the apostasy of Israel and their rejection of the Good Shepherd, their Messiah, with the consequent visitation of God upon them in dire punishment" (Feinberg).

"The prophecy of Zechariah now portrays the Shepherd qualities of the leadership Yahweh gave to His people. But the people discarded Yahweh's Shepherd, and selected their own shepherds. Thus the chapter reveals the true shepherd (v 4) as Zechariah, and the Lord Jesus; the false shepherd (v 5), Israel in the past; and the worthless shepherd (v 17), the Gentile overlords. It is a dramatic prophecy showing that the Good Shepherd would be rejected, and the flock scattered. We must wait until the next chapter to see the return of the Shepherd. Because the people did not heed the voice of Yahweh's prophets, Zechariah declared that (1) The Jewish State would be overthrown (as in AD 70): vv 1-4. (2) The cause of the calamity demonstrated: vv 5,6. (3) Zechariah enacts the parable of the Good Shepherd: vv 7-14. (4) The worthless Shepherd: vv 15-17.

"It is without doubt a remarkable prophecy. Notice Zechariah refers to Yahweh as 'my' God (v 4). The Deity was not 'their' God, as they sought Him not. It was this prophecy that came alive at the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, and the betrayal by Judas for the miserable 'thirty pieces of silver' (v 12). It was ironically called 'a goodly price' (v 13), as it was certainly not of the true value of the sacrifice. Peter more correctly declared the 'blood of redemption' was 'precious' (1Pe 1:19), beyond whatever man might offer" (GEM).

OPEN YOUR DOORS, O LEBANON, SO THAT FIRE MAY DEVOUR YOUR CEDARS!: The prophet announced in vigorous poetic language that Lebanon's famous cedars would perish. The Israelites referred to the royal palace in Jerusalem as "Lebanon" because it contained so much cedar from Lebanon (Jer 22:23; cp 1Ki 7:2; cp also Isa 10:34). The Talmud spoke of the second temple as Lebanon for the same reason. The cedar also became a symbol of the royal house of Judah (Eze 17:3,4,12,13), esp the leaders of the nation (Isa 37:21-24; Eze 17:22-24).

Zec 11:2

WAIL, O PINE TREE, FOR THE CEDAR HAS FALLEN; THE STATELY TREES ARE RUINED! WAIL, OAKS OF BASHAN; THE DENSE FOREST HAS BEEN CUT DOWN!: Generally, trees often sym royalty (Jdg 9:7-15; Isa 10:33,34; Eze 31:3-18; Dan 4:10,23). Bashan was famous for its oak forests (cp Isa 2:13; Eze 27:6). Earlier Zechariah combined Lebanon and Bashan to indicate the whole land (Zec 10:10). All these trees suggest the people of the land as well as the land itself. A judgment that would affect the whole land of Palestine and all its people, including its rulers, is in view.

"When in the forest there is heard the crash of a falling oak, it is a sign that the woodman is abroad, and every tree in the whole company may tremble lest to-morrow the sharp edge of the axe should find it out. We are all like trees marked for the axe, and the fall of one should remind us that for every one, whether great as the cedar, or humble as the fir, the appointed hour is stealing on apace" (CHS).

Zec 11:3

LISTEN TO THE WAIL OF THE SHEPHERDS; THEIR RICH PASTURES ARE DESTROYED! LISTEN TO THE ROAR OF THE LIONS; THE LUSH THICKET OF THE JORDAN IS RUINED!: The shepherds and lions (the rulers and leaders of Israel, cp Jer 25:34-38) would wail because a coming destruction would leave no pasture for their flocks and no lairs or food for beasts.

In view of what follows in vv 4-14, vv 1-3 seem to be a description of the devastation of Palestine due to the rejection of the Messiah. This prediction had an initial fulfillment in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews in 70 AD. Its complete fulfillment, however, lies in the future, specifically the destruction that will overtake the land and its people in the last great tribulation period.

LUSH THICKET: Lit, the "splendor" (AV). The great expanse of greenery along the upper Jordan was considered its splendor.

Zec 11:4

Vv 4-14: The reason for the devastation of the people and the land just described now becomes apparent. It is the people's rejection of the messianic Shepherd-King (cp Isa 42; 49; 50; 53). The LORD would graciously give His people another good leader (vv 4-6), but they would reject the good shepherd that He would provide for them (vv 7-14).

PASTURE THE FLOCK MARKED FOR SLAUGHTER: Zechariah seems to be acting out, as instructed, the role of shepherd over the flock of Israel. Why were they "marked out for slaughter"? Either: (1) marked out by God because of their rejection of Him, or His Son, or (2) marked out by the wicked "shepherds" for their own pleasure, greed, etc.

Zec 11:5

THE BUYERS SLAUGHTER THEM: Poss the "buyers" (and "slayers") represent the foreign rulers who took over the Israelites, persecuted them, and had not paid the full penalty for their abusive treatment of them (Gen 12:3; cp Jer 50:7).

THOSE WHO SELL THEM: Those who sold the sheep were Israel's former rulers and leaders who, by their sins, had set the people up for divine judgment by foreigners.

PRAISE THE LORD, I AM RICH: These "sellers" benefited by making merchandise of their "flocks", and by handing them over into the hands of their Gentile oppressors (cp the words of Caiaphas in John 11:49,50).

Zec 11:6

I WILL HAND EVERYONE OVER TO HIS NEIGHBOR AND HIS KING: In the first instance, to the Babylonians. And in NT times, to Rome (cp John 19:15).

Zec 11:7

Zechariah proceeded to carry out his assignment from the LORD (v 4). He spoke as a shepherd of the sheep doomed to slaughter, the afflicted sheep, and so represented Israel's Shepherd, Messiah. The two shepherd's staffs that he named "Favor" ("Beauty": AV; Heb "noam" = pleasantness) and "Union" ("Bands": AV; Heb "hobhelim" = binding, unity) represented God's provisions for the flock (cp Eze 37:15-28).

STAFFS: "The Eastern shepherd carried a rod or stout club hewed from a tree to beat away wild beasts attacking the sheep and a crooked staff for retrieving the sheep from difficult places [cp Psa 23:4]" (Unger).

FAVOR: "Beauty" in AV: "Jesus was full of grace in every way. We are told that his hearers 'wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth.' In this respect he was like the Father that sent him, for God is the God of all grace, the Gracious God. His grace will yet be revealed in connection with the House of God to be built as the house of prayer for all nations; and for this David prays, when he says: 'One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple' (Psa 27:4). Moses appears to equate Beauty and Glory in Psalm 90: 'Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children; and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us' " (PAE 120).

Zec 11:8

IN ONE MONTH I GOT RID OF THE THREE SHEPHERDS: Zechariah, as God's representative, did away with three shepherds that had been leading his flock within the first month that he took charge of the sheep. These appear to have been real shepherds and a real month.

Zechariah's action prefigured that of Messiah in taking over the leadership of His flock from other leaders of Israel who did not appreciate his leadership.

Prob the three shepherds refer to three classes of leaders, Israel's elders, chief priests, and scribes (cp Luke 9:22 -- where Jesus specifically names these three groups who will reject him). In this case, the "one month" might refer to the final portion of Christ's ministry -- when all the antagonisms of the previous times came to a head, and resulted in his crucifixion.

THE FLOCK DETESTED ME, AND I GREW WEARY OF THEM: The pronouns are uncertain here. The AV has: "My soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me" -- expressing the mutual loathing and antagonism between Christ and the wicked leaders of Israel.

Zec 11:9

Zechariah, as God's representative, turned "them" over to their fate though that meant that some of them would die, suffer annihilation, and devour one another. The Jews did eat one another during the siege of Jerusalem in the first century AD (Josephus, Wars of Jews 6:3:3,4), and they will evidently do so again during the Tribulation.

Zec 11:10

Zechariah then chopped his staff "Favor" or "Beauty" into pieces -- picturing the end of the favorable pastoral care that he had provided. Thus he demonstrated that God was revoking the covenant promise that He would care for His people, because they had ceased to care for Him!

Zec 11:11

AND SO THE AFFLICTED OF THE FLOCK WHO WERE WATCHING ME KNEW IT WAS THE WORD OF THE LORD: The rejection of the Lord Jesus by the nation of Israel led, directly and inexorably and quickly, to the breaking and dissolution of their nation, and to their being scattered. And those who in faith observed these things knew that -- although the people of God were suffering -- yet God was at work still!

Zec 11:12

GIVE ME MY PAY, BUT IF NOT, KEEP IT: Since Zechariah was terminating his protection of the flock, he asked the sheep (or their "owners") to pay him his wages or, if they refused, to keep what they owed him.

SO THEY PAID ME THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER: And so he was weighed out 30 shekels of silver as his pay. This was the price of a slave in the ancient Near East (Exo 21:32) and, though a substantial amount, was a pittance in view of all that the Shepherd had done for the sheep.

Their act was as shamelessly insulting as their general reaction to His ministry as a whole had been. To offer him this wage was the equivalent of telling the Shepherd that they could buy a common slave who would be as useful to them as He had been. This response shows how unworthy the people were of His solicitude.

(NT) This was, of course, the price paid to Judas for betraying Jesus (Mat 27:3). Though quite insulting, too, it was also appropriate -- since Jesus acted throughout as the true "slave" -- or Suffering Servant (esp Isa 53) of Yahweh!

Zec 11:13

SO I TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER AND THREW THEM INTO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD: A clear parallel with the actions of Judas when he realized the enormity of his sin (Mat 27:3-12). Evidently the setting of Zechariah's visionary allegory was the temple courtyard.

TO THE POTTER: Throwing something to the potter was evidently a proverbial way of expressing disdain for it since potters were typically poor and lowly craftsmen.

THE HANDSOME PRICE AT WHICH THEY PRICED ME!: This is obviously ironical. "What! Is that ALL I'm worth!?"

"The fulfillment of this prophecy in Mat 27:3-10 is proof enough that the money was flung down in the temple and immediately taken up by the priests to purchase a field of a potter for a burying ground for the poor" (Unger).

Matthew attributed this prophecy to Jeremiah (Mat 27:9,10). Probably Matthew was referring to Jer 19:1-13, which he condensed using mainly the phraseology of Zec 11:12,13 because of its similarity to Judas' situation. Joining two quotations from two OT books and assigning them to one prophet follows the custom of mentioning the more notable prophet. Cp Mark 1:2,3, in which Isa 40:3 and Mal 3:1 are quoted but are assigned to Isaiah.

Zec 11:14

Zechariah then symbolically broke his second staff, "Union," indicating the end of the unity that bound the Jews together. Just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD the Jews broke up into parties that were very hostile to one another. This condition accelerated their destruction by the Romans. Evidently fighting among the Jews will also be common in the Tribulation. The order of events is significant, and it was historical: the breaking of God's favor on His people, their rejection of the Shepherd, and the breaking of their unity. We know that this destruction would not be permanent, however, because of other promises that God would reunite and restore His people and that He would not cast them off permanently (eg, Rom 11).

"Responsibility for human chaos lies squarely on human shoulders. God has offered men His shepherd, but they have rejected Him, to their own irreparable loss" (Baldwin).

Zec 11:15

Vv 15-17: The appearance of the bad shepherd: "The full fate of Israel is not recounted in the rejection of the good Shepherd God raised up to tend them. The complete tale of woe centers in their acceptance of the bad shepherd God will raise up to destroy them. The one dark episode centers in the events of Messiah's first advent and death, followed by the dissolution of the Jewish state (Zec 11:1-14). The other tragic experience will occur in the events connected with Messiah's second advent and glory, and deals with the nation's final time of unparalleled trouble (Zec 11:15-17) previous to her entrance into kingdom blessing" (Unger).

V 15: The LORD next directed Zechariah to present himself as a bad shepherd (foolish, or worthless, v 17, ie, morally deficient, cp Pro 1:7) -- since His flock had rejected the Good Shepherd (cp Eze 34:3,4).

Generally, cp the "false prophet" of Rev 16:13, and the "wicked one" of 2Th 2:3-8.

Zec 11:16

FOR I AM GOING TO RAISE UP A SHEPHERD OVER THE LAND WHO WILL NOT CARE FOR THE LOST, OR SEEK THE YOUNG, OR HEAL THE INJURED, OR FEED THE HEALTHY, BUT WILL EAT THE MEAT OF THE CHOICE SHEEP, TEARING OFF THEIR HOOFS: In his new role Zechariah represented one who would fail to do for the sheep all that a good shepherd would do. Instead he would be self-serving. Israel's preference for Barabbas over Jesus showed her willingness in the past to accept a bad individual in place of a good one.

"When one removes 'not' from the sentence, he has an enlightening description of a truly effective pastoral ministry in the church today. (1) 'care for the lost...' or 'care for those in the process of being ruined or destroyed'; (2) 'seek the young... [or] 'the scattered'; (3) 'heal the injured,' and (4) 'feed the healthy' " (EBC).

TEARING OFF THEIR HOOFS: The avaricious shepherd is pictured as tearing apart the bodies of the sheep -- searching for the last edible morsel that he can extract from his charges.

Zec 11:17


HIS ARM: That is, right arm: as in Mat 18:7-14. In the context, shepherds!

HIS RIGHT EYE: So Christ counsels the gouging out of the right eye "if it offends" (Mat 5:29; 18:9).

Lesson: Avoid the sins of which Christ spoke, or else you will become "worthless shepherds"!

"With this climactic scene the first prophetic burden describing the first advent and rejection of Messiah, the Shepherd-King (Zec 9 -- 11) comes to a close. The way is thus opened for the second burden and the second advent and acceptance of Messiah, the King (Zec 12 -- 14)" (Unger).

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