Zechariah 11 - Outline of Zechariah (MENU page)
III. Prophetic Burdens (ch. 9-14)
  1. The Burden of the Shepherd for His wayward flock - Israel's Messiah: Redeeming, Rejected (ch. 9-11)
    1. The flock of God delivered (ch. 9)...
    2. The flock of God refreshed & strengthened (ch. 10)...
    3. The flock of slaughter suffering (ch. 11)...
      • judgment upon vain shepherds (11:1-6)
      • rejection of the true Shepherd (11:7-14)
      • tribulation under the idol shepherd (antichrist) (11:15-17)
1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
2 Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled:
howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.
3 [There is] a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled:
a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.
Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars...-
The previous two chapters provided a double preview of Israel's future deliverance, regathering and prosperity under her Messiah, their King and Shepherd (eg. Zech 9:16,17; 10:8,10,12). Now, with expectations high, suddenly, the hope of the long anticipated time of rejoicing comes crashing down with great sorrow.
    Lebanon and Bashan (another name for Gilead) which were to have been part of Israel's expanded territory (Zech 10:10) are destroyed. However, the destruction is not merely of the nation's periphery, but at its heart. Much of Jerusalem, including the Temple, was constructed of the cedars of Lebanon. A portion of Solomon's palace was referred to as the "house of the forest of Lebanon" (1Kin 5:1-7; 7:1,2). Similar materials were used in the reconstruction of the city and the second Temple, in the day of Zechariah and Haggai (Hag 1:8).
...the forest of the vintage {or, 'of fortification'} is come down.-
The fall of mighty trees (fir... cedar... oak...) illustrates the collapse of the nation's strength, one city after another. The fall of the 'fortified forest' depicts the fall of Jerusalem. Since Zechariah was writing during the restoration that followed the first destruction of the city and Temple, this is a foreview of a destruction that would overtake the rebuilt city and the second Temple. (Compare a similar prophecy of the first fall of Jerusalem, in Jer 22:6,7.)
...a voice of the howling shepherds... the roaring of young lions...-
Jerusalem's spiritual leaders (shepherds) and political princes (young lions) cry out in agony at the spoiling of "their glory" (ie., the Temple) and their "pride" (ie., Jerusalem, the great city above the Jordan valley). Who would have imagined this devastation? Why has it come upon them? About 40 years before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the tragic event was predicted and explained by Jesus (Mat 24:1,2; Luk 19:41-44). They knew not the time of their "visitation" (cp. Zech 10:3,4).
4. Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;
5 Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty:
and they that sell them say, Blessed [be] the LORD; for I am rich:
and their own shepherds pity them not.
6 For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD:
but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour's hand, and into the hand of his king:
and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver [them].
Feed {ie., tend} the flock of the slaughter...-
God's people, the flock upon whom the good Shepherd had compassion (Zech 9:16; 10:3; Mat 9:35,36; Joh 10:11,14), having been led away from Him by their spiritual leaders ('their own shepherds,' ie., those of their choosing, cp. Jer 5:31), will be slaughtered when Jerusalem falls. The shepherds, caring more for themselves than for God's flock, have led them to their destruction (Jer 23:1,2; Eze 34:2,3; Mat 23:13).
I will deliver every one into...
...his neighbor's hand...-
ie., In the confusion of the coming calamity, every man will fend for himself (cp. Isa 3:5; 9:19,20; Mat 24:10).
...the hand of his king...-
Having rejected their King, they would fall into the hands of the king of their choosing (Joh 19:15). The Romans destroyed Jerusalem, in 70 AD.
they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.- cp. Mic 3:1-4; Heb 2:3
7 And I will feed the flock of slaughter, [even] you, O poor of the flock.
And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands;
and I fed the flock.
8 Three shepherds also I cut off in one month;
and my soul lothed
{ie., loathed} them, and their soul also abhorred me.
9 Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die;
and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off;
and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.
I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor {ie., afflicted, needy, weak} of the flock.-
The 'poor of the flock' are the believing remnant, who recognized the Messiah, and their need of Him, at His first coming. Like Him, they also were rejected by their people. Yet, the LORD promised to care for His own, even though they too would be caught up in the slaughter which would befall their nation.
... I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.-
Shepherds commonly carried two staves, one with a hooked end for drawing a sheep out of danger, the other (the 'rod' or club) for protection against wild animals (Psa 23:4). With his staff, the shepherd drew the wayward sheep to himself. With his rod, he guarded against beasts that would take the sheep away from him. The good Shepherd would tend His believing flock with 'Beauty' (ie., favor, delight, grace; cp. Isa 61:1; Eph 2:8,9) and 'Bands' (ie., union; cp. Joh 10:16; 17:21-23; Eph 2:14-18; 1Joh 1:3-7).
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month... my soul lothed them... their soul abhorred me.-
The identity of the 'three shepherds' is uncertain. The reference may be to:
  • Three categories of Israel's leaders: eg., Prophets, Priests and Kings (However, Israel has had no king since the first fall of Jerusalem), or perhaps: Scribes, Pharisees and Lawyers (Luk 11:44-52), or Priests, Scribes, and Elders (Mat 26:3).
  • Three individual leaders, who were particularly involved in the injustice committed against the good Shepherd. If so, we are unable to identify who they were or how and when God cut them off. The word for 'cut off' (HB=kachad, to hide, conceal, make desolate) could refer to their deaths, or to their dismissal from office. Individuals, whom the Scriptures name as having critical roles in the crucifixion of Jesus, include the high priests Annas and Caiaphas (and other family members, Joh 18:13,24; Acts 4:6), Pontius Pilate, and Herod Antipas (Luke 23:1-24). According to Flavius-Josephus, in 36 AD, Caiaphas and Pilate were both dismissed by the Roman governor Vitellius, who also had a role in Herod's succession. However, the dates and details provided by Josephus are too imprecise to isolate these events 'to one month.'
  • The cutting off of the Messiah, in His threefold role as Prophet, Priest and King (Deu 18:15; Acts 3:22; Psa 110:4; Isa 9:6,7). Because the nation and its false shepherds had despised Him, they would forfeit the benefit of His leadership. Not only would the Shepherd be 'cut-off' in death, but also the blessings of His tender care would be 'hidden' from them for a time (cp. Dan 9:26; Luk 19:42).
I will not feed you...-
The Grace and Union, which the good Shepherd provides to His flock, does not benefit those who hate him and who will not have Him to rule over them (see Luk 19:11-14; 20:9-19).
10 And I took my staff, [even] Beauty, and cut it asunder,
that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.
11 And it was broken in that day:
and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it [was] the word of the LORD.
12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give [me] my price; and if not, forbear.
So they weighed for my price thirty [pieces] of silver.
13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter:
a goodly price that I was prised at
{prized, or appraised} of them.
And I took the thirty [pieces] of silver,
and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
I took my staff... Beauty, and cut it asunder...-
The Grace which the LORD extended toward Israel, at the first coming of their King and Shepherd (eg. Zech 9:17; 10:6) was broken off because they rejected Him.
...that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.-
What covenant is in view here? The scriptures record both conditional and unconditional covenants.
  • Unconditional covenants cannot be broken because they rest entirely upon the LORD and His faithfulness to His unbreakable Word. The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are unconditional (Abrahamic: Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-21; Jer 31:35-37; Davidic: 2Sam 7:8-16; Jer 33:20,21).
  • Conditional covenants require the faithfulness of both parties. A conditional covenant becomes broken, if either party fails to keep his part of the agreement. The conditions of such covenants are often stated with an "if... then..." formula. Examples:
    • The LORD's promise of blessing or cursing upon Israel (Deu 28:1f,15f).
    • The LORD's promise to Solomon, at the dedication of the first Temple, regarding the future status of the Temple and the kingdom (1Kin 9:1-9).
    • The LORD's promise to bless the remnant that returned from Babylon to build the second Temple. He reminded them of the cause of the prior captivity (Zech 7:9-14) and conditioned His blessing upon their behavior (8:14-17). Under the leadership of Ezra, the people formally covenanted to obey God's Word (see Neh ch. 8-10; note 9:38 and 10:29). This was the conditional covenant that was in effect from the time of Zechariah, while the second Temple stood.
it was broken in that day...-
Israel's failure to "speak... the truth..." and to "execute the judgment of truth and peace..." (Zech 8:14-17) reached the breaking point when they condemned the Just One to death. The spiritual and political leaders "imagine[d] evil in [their] hearts..." and brought a "false oath" against Him. (See Mat 26:1-5; 26:57-68; Acts 2:22,23; 3:14,15)
...and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD...-
The disciples were confused as these events were taking place. But afterwards, they understood as they reflected upon the scriptures and upon what Jesus had foretold. Luk 18:31-34; 24:6-8,25,45; Joh 12:16; 16:4
I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price {ie., my hire, my wage}; and if not, forbear...-
Was "the Holy One and the Just" of any worth whatsoever to these rulers? The LORD asked them to: 'Pay what you think I am worth, if you want to.'
so they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.-
The priests paid out the price of an injured slave (Ex 21:32), for Judas to deliver Him into their hands (Mat 26:14-16).
cast it to the potter... in the house of the LORD.- See Mat 27:3-10
14 Then I cut asunder mine other staff, [even] Bands,
that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
...the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.-
Historically, the civil war, which followed Solomon's reign, divided the nation into a northern kingdom (Israel) and a southern kingdom (Judah). The relationship between these related tribes became even less brotherly through the dispersion of the captivities. Though the tribes of Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were prominent in the northern kingdom, they struggled against each other, even while they were both against Judah (Isa 9:19-21). Prophetically, the whole nation will be harmoniously reunited in their Messiah's Kingdom (Isa 11:10-13; Eze 37:16-22). The promise of this re-union of Judah and Ephraim, under their Shepherd / King, was previewed in the context of His first coming in the two preceding chapters (Zech 9:10,13; 10:6-8). With the rejection of their King, that hope was broken {or, frustrated}, until a more distant time.
15. And the LORD said unto me,
Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.
16 For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land,
[which] shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one,
nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still:
but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws
{ie., hoofs} in pieces.
17 Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock!
the sword [shall be] upon his arm, and upon his right eye:
his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
Take unto thee yet {ie., moreover, beside what has been said} the instruments of a foolish shepherd.-
In addition to suffering destruction and dispersion following their rejection of the true Shepherd, the 'flock of slaughter' will suffer under a false shepherd who will arise at a later time.
    It is possible that Zechariah was to act out this portion of the prophecy to make the point more vivid (similar to the dramatized prophecies of Ezekiel, eg. Eze 12:1f). If so, he would have selected 'instruments' which were totally inappropriate to the work of a shepherd. The word for 'instruments' is a non-specific general term, which is often translated 'things' or 'stuff.' The characteristics of such objects are uncertain. Their purpose and worth are determined in the context of the user. What are the things that pertain to a foolish shepherd? The rod and staff in the hands of the Good Shepherd are solid and dependable (v.7). The sheep can safely trust in Him. In contrast, the foolish shepherd's promises are weak and empty, for he is completely unprepared to fulfill them.
For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land...-
Having rejected the good Shepherd as their King, Israel will receive a false shepherd as though he was their Messiah (Joh 5:43; Dan 9:27; Rev 13:4-8). They will place their trust in him to protect and deliver them from their enemies, and to ensure lasting peace and prosperity. They will soon discover that their chosen king does not have their best interests at heart.
Woe to the idol shepherd...-
Notice that this foolish shepherd is not merely 'idle' (not doing his job) but 'idol' {HB=eleel', a word used of false gods, meaning: worthless, a thing of naught}. Though he presents himself as the savior of the world, in reality the antichrist, like Israel's previous false shepherds, is powerless to save and blind to lead to safety (cp. Jer 23:1,32; Eze 13:3; 34:2; Mat 23:16). When he is judged by the One who is able, the antichrist's 'right eye' and 'arm' {ie., the best of his understanding and strength, cp. Mat 5:29,30} will be revealed as they are in truth (ie., without light: Isa 8:20; Jer 8:9; Mat 6:23; Rom 1:22; without strength: 2The 2:8-12; Rev 19:19-21; Isa 14:12-19).
    The remainder of Zechariah's book previews the true Shepherd's return, to execute 'woe' upon the idol shepherd and to take His rightful place as Israel's King.

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