Zechariah 11


This chapter begins by presenting a picture of complete judgment and devastation of Jerusalem, the temple and the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel would come to an end when the Messiah died and rose again, Galatians 3:23-26, when the nation of Israel turned to Christ, then the Old Testament law was removed, Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Matthew 5:17-18 / Galatians 3:21-25.

Although Zechariah 10 was a prophecy of hope concerning the coming of the Messiah, this chapter is a picture of the total tragedy of those who would reject Jesus as their Messiah. The temple and Jerusalem were once again going to be destroyed, this at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70, Matthew 24:1-35.

‘Open your doors, Lebanon, so that fire may devour your cedars! Wail, you juniper, for the cedar has fallen; the stately trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan; the dense forest has been cut down! 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!’ Zechariah 11:1-3

The doors mentioned here are the doors of the Jewish temple which were made from the cedar trees of Lebanon, Matthew 27:51 / Zephaniah 2:14 / Isaiah 14:8 / Isaiah 37:24 / Jeremiah 22:6-7 / Ezekiel 17:3 / Ezekiel 17:12.

The cedars, juniper, and oaks are the false shepherds of Israel, who possessed the wealth and glory of Israel, Isaiah 10:34 / Isaiah 11:1 / Luke 16:19 / Matthew 21:13. The shepherds and the lions, which are usually opposed to each other will join together in the wailing, Jeremiah 25:34 / Jeremiah 25:36.

Two Shepherds

‘This is what the LORD my God says: ‘Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter. Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the LORD, I am rich!’ Their own shepherds do not spare them. For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will give everyone into the hands of their neighbours and their king. They will devastate the land, and I will not rescue anyone from their hands.’ Zechariah 11:4-6

It appears that some habits just keep on returning, before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C. there was a huge problem of God’s shepherds leading His people away from God, Ezekiel 34 / Mark 7:1-9. Once again, this was going to happen in the times of the Messiah.

Zechariah here speaks of the Good Shepherd who was to come, John 10:11, but he also speaks of other shepherds who would come and lead God’s people astray again, Jeremiah 23:1-8 / Ezekiel 34:1-31 / Ezekiel 37:24-28.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The prophet here is made a type of Christ, as Isaiah sometimes was; and these verses show that, ‘For judgment, Christ came into this world’, John 9:39, for judgment upon the Jewish nation, which were at that time hopelessly corrupted. He would have healed them, but they would not.’

The people described here thought because they were rich, they were justified in doing what they were doing. They were selling and killing God’s sheep, which they counted as their personal possessions, Hosea 12:7-8.

The people described here had the same attitude as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, in the days of Jesus. The scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day had little concern for the people, they had ‘no pity’, their only concern was power and prosperity, Micah 3:9-11 / Amos 4:1 / Amos 4:6-12 / Luke 16:18.

These were the leaders who were supposed lead people to the Good Shepherd, but instead, they led the people away from Him.

God says He will ‘not deliver them’, that is, He will not save these so-called leaders, from the hands of the Romans. God had delivered the captives out of their Babylonian captivity, but He won’t deliver those who reject the Messiah.

He would give them over to destruction because of their rejection of King Jesus, just as He had given Israel over to the Assyrians and Babylonians.

‘So I shepherded the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favour and the other Union, and I shepherded the flock. In one month I got rid of the three shepherds. The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them and said, ‘I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.’ Zechariah 11:7-9

Zechariah now pictures himself as the Lord, a shepherd, representing Jesus. God promises that the Good Shepherd, Jesus would feed His flock, Isaiah 40:10-11 / Ezekiel 34:22-23 / Ezekiel 37:24 / Luke 6:20.

All shepherds carried a staff with them to defend off predators, but here we see this Shepherd carrying two staffs. This speaks of Christ having double care for His flock, He looked after both the body and the soul of His people, Psalm 23:4.

The staff named ‘Favour’ or ‘Grace’, as some translations have it, symbolises the favour that God extended toward His people. The one named ‘Union’ symbolises the union between Judah and Israel, and so, they represent the whole house of Israel.

God got rid of three shepherds in one month because they began to lead God’s people astray once again Jeremiah 2:8 / Jeremiah 2:26. The labour and care of the shepherd wasn’t appreciated, Deuteronomy 31:17, and so, the flock must reap the consequences of rejecting all that God had done for His people by sending them the Saviour.

In other words, the nation of Israel was coming to en when the Romans destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Matthew 24:1-35.

Gill, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Here the prophet states his intention not to feed the flock but to let it die. This brings to mind two key passages. One in which Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because of her historic failure to heed the prophets, Luke 13:33-35, and the other one in which he predicted the destruction of the city, Luke 21:5-6.’

‘Then I took my staff called Favour and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. It was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the LORD. I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.’ Zechariah 11:10-12

The breaking of the staff of ‘Favour’ signified that the relationship was at an end, the covenant God had made with all the nations was now over. It was Jesus Himself, as the Messiah who came and fulfilled the law and the covenant, Matthew 5:17-18.

The Jews didn’t understand that God’s covenant with them pointed toward Christ and with the coming of Christ, the Old Testament covenant was abolished, Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Romans 7:1-4 / Colossians 2:14 / Hebrews 8:1-13.

In other words, favour for the preservation of the nation of Israel was terminated when favour for spiritual Israel was poured out through Jesus Christ, Titus 2:11.

It was the oppressed who received Jesus, as the Messiah, Matthew 5:3-11 / Mark 12:37, but those who were rebellious didn’t accept Him as the Messiah, John 1:11.

Notice Zechariah asks for His wages and they pay Him ‘thirty pieces of silver’, which is the price of an injured slave, Exodus 21:32. And, as we know, this was the price that Judas sold out Jesus for, Matthew 26:15 / Matthew 27:3.

‘And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the LORD. Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel.’ Zechariah 11:13-14

In the last few verses we saw Zechariah was the representative of the Lord, but here the Lord Himself speaks directly. Though Zechariah thought that the price of thirty pieces of silver was sufficient, the Lord said to throw it away to the potter. The miserly amount measured their value of the Lord’s shepherding of them as a flock.

This again is speaking of something which would happen when the Messiah came, especially concerning Judas’ body, Matthew 27:7 / Acts 1:17-19.

Coffman, in his commentary, gives us this useful summary of this prophecy.

‘This prophecy of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot for thirty pieces of silver is one of the most remarkable in the Bible. It is not a single prophecy, merely, but a whole constellation of prophecies.

1. The Good Shepherd himself shall be bought and sold. This is a unique reference to Christ and cannot be applied to any other.

2. The Shepherd himself makes the ‘deal’, which Jesus did in the person of his servant, Judas.

3. The amount of money was the price of a slave ‘gored to death’ by an ox, indicating that those who paid it considered the Lord to be already dead, as was the case, in their purpose.

4. The amount of money would be ‘weighed out’, a fact Matthew took pains to relate, Matthew 17:15.

5. The money would be cast unto the potter in the house of the Lord. This occurred when Judas, remorse stricken, flung the money at the feet of the High Priest in the temple.

6. That it would also be to the ‘potter’ was fulfilled when the evil shepherds, reluctant to put blood money in the treasury, bought a field from a potter, Acts 1:17-19.

7. Observe what was here revealed about that 30 pieces of silver.

The amount would be weighed, by Judas. He would throw it into the house of the Lord. Those hypocrites were unwilling to put it in the treasury. So they put it into the purchase of the potter’s field. There is not another example of tracing the exact money through four separate transactions in the entire history of the ancient Roman empire!

8. Note, also, that the evil shepherds, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, i.e., the Sanhedrin, by revealing their purpose of slaying Christ in the very purchase-price accepted, also sealed their own fate; for the ancient law legislated that a ‘slave gored by an ox’ could be redeemed for 30 pieces of silver, all right; but that THE OX WOULD HAVE TO BE STONED!

In addition to all of the above, which anyone can easily see and understand, we have the additional testimony of the sacred historians Matthew and Luke who affirm the truth of all of this, and who unhesitatingly applied the fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy exactly as we have here. We hold their testimony to be incontrovertible, true, inviolate, inspired and certain. It is a big order that the critics have accepted in their efforts to get Christ out of Zechariah 11.

Notice God took the staff of ‘Union’ and broke it, this is another reference to the end of the nation of Israel with the coming of Christ, Galatians 3:23-26 / Hebrews 11:32-40. We must remember that the church is now called the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, Matthew 19:28 / James 1:1 / Galatians 6:16 / Revelation. 7:4 / Revelation 21:12.

‘Then the LORD said to me, ‘Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 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 hooves. ‘Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!’ Zechariah 11:15-17

Zechariah now presents himself as a ‘foolish shepherd’ and notice, that he doesn’t care for his sheep, he doesn’t care about those sheep which are lost and he doesn’t go looking for the young sheep who desperately need their shepherd. He doesn’t heal those sheep which have been injured. He will eat the meat of the choice sheep and tear off their hooves.

His actions and attitude as a shepherd are totally opposite to what a good shepherd should be like. A Good Shepherd would lay done His life for His sheep, John 10:11. Zechariah had already played the part of the good shepherd, but here, he plays the part of a ‘foolish shepherd’. The shepherd’s responsibility is to watch over the flock.

To have a spirit of disinterest over the welfare one is entrusted with will by no means go unpunished. The sword will come to this man and the eye that should be watchful will be blinded.

This curse upon the worthless shepherd fell repeatedly upon the worthless shepherds who, in turn, exploited and destroyed the ancient covenant people, after their final rejection of their true King and their choice of Caesar as the leader they would follow.

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