Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.CHAPTER 11
1. The judgment of the land, the temple and the slaughter of the flock (Zechariah 11:1-6)
2. The true shepherd set aside and rejected (Zechariah 11:7-14)
3. The foolish shepherd (Zechariah 11:15-17)
Zechariah 11:1-6. This chapter presents a dark prophetic picture. We have seen in the preceding chapters the blessings and mercies in store for the Israel of the future. The visions and prophecies have revealed their national and spiritual restoration, the overthrow of their enemies, the destruction of the world-powers, the establishment of the theocracy and the blessings of the kingdom. What precedes this coming glory is now more fully unfolded, and the rejection of the Shepherd of Israel is predicted. The first six verses concern the judgment as the result of that rejection. For a complete exposition see our “Studies in Zechariah,” where we also give the interesting Jewish comments on this passage. They apply it mostly to the destruction of the temple.
The correct interpretation is that it includes all the devastation of the land, the burning of the temple, the slaughter of the flock, the spoiling of the shepherds, the Jewish leaders and the complete overthrow of the land and of the people. How awful the fulfillment of the prophecy has been! The Lord’s voice, full of tears cried, long after Zechariah’s mournful vision, “If thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes! For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee, and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another.” The measure was full. After terrible wars amongst themselves, the fire advanced in the direction of Lebanon, in the form of the Roman army full of vengeance, spreading ruin and misery wherever they went, till after a long and dreadful siege Jerusalem fell, the temple was burnt, and over a million human beings were slain. Not one stone was left upon another. Up to now this judgment has been the most appalling, the tribulation then the greatest; but there is another tribulation coming of which the former destruction of Jerusalem is but a faint type, and that tribulation which is even now so close at hand will find a climax in the day of wrath, the day of vengeance of our God. The next Zechariah 11:1-17 :(4-6) speak of the flock of slaughter and the last attempt divine love made to save the doomed nation.
Zechariah 11:7-14. The prophet acts again symbolically in taking two staves, one called Beauty, the other Bands. Much has been written on this interesting but difficult passage. The first sentence speaks of divine love. The true Shepherd came, the Messiah, and He fed the flock of slaughter, the poor of the flock. He looked on the multitudes and was moved with compassion, for they were scattered, like sheep without a shepherd. The prophet as representing the true Shepherd has two staves. The one is named Beauty; or, as we read in the margin, graciousness. The second one is named Bands. The Shepherd carries a staff to protect and to guide His flock. God’s mercy and favor are clearly indicated in these two staves. The first one, Beauty, which is cut asunder first, and that before the wages of the Shepherd, the thirty pieces of silver, are given, stands no doubt for the gracious offer with which the King, preaching the kingdom, came among His people, to His own. He proclaimed that which prophets had spoken before, God’s mercy and love, long promised, now to be carried out. He Himself had come to redeem His people and deliver them from their mighty enemies as well as from the false leaders. But the offer, the kingdom preaching, is rejected, the staff, Beauty, is cut asunder, the covenant with the peoples (Amim in Hebrew), His own, is now broken. The kingdom is to be taken away and given to another nation. After the breaking of the staff, Beauty, there comes the giving of the wages, the thirty pieces of silver. The Shepherd who broke the staff is treated like a slave.
The second staff in His hands, Bands, speaks of union, binding together, bringing into fellowship. It typifies the priestly side of the good Shepherd who died for the flock. This staff is broken after the thirty pieces of silver were given for Him, and cast into the temple. They cried, Away with Him! we have no King save Caesar! Crucify Him! His blood be upon us and upon our children! The cross bears the superscription, This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, and from the lips of the rejected King and Shepherd there came the prayer for His people, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. The doom came not at once upon the nation. Once more the love of the Shepherd is preached to the miserable sheep, and the remission of sins offered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it ends in rejection too; no bringing together into One followed. The foolish shepherd appears next, and after him the good Shepherd will appear again with His two staves, Beauty and Bands, kingdom and mercy, bringing and binding together. He will then be a Priest upon His throne. This interpretation is the most satisfactory one, and in harmony with the entire scope of Zechariah’s visions and prophecies.
Who are the three shepherds to be cut off in one month by the Shepherd? The three shepherds are not persons, but they stand for the three classes of rulers which governed Israel, and were in that sense shepherds. We read of these shepherds inJeremiah 2:88, priests, rulers and prophets. The Lord likewise mentions them in Matthew 16:21, elders, chief priests and scribes. When He came He was indeed weary with them, and denounced their hypocrisies and wickedness. They in turn hated and abhorred Him, and conspired to put Him to death. The Lord Himself cut them off. He pronounced His woes and judgments upon them, but the judgment was not at once carried out. When Jerusalem was taken, their rule came to an end and they were cut off.
But there are mentioned the wretched of the flock that gave heed unto the Shepherd, and they knew that it was the word of Jehovah. These wretched ones are the faithful ones who followed the Shepherd, the small remnant (compare with Zechariah 13:7). The others who rejected the King and the Shepherd were indeed not fed, but were dying and cut off.
The wages of the good Shepherd, thirty pieces of silver, and these thrown into the house of Jehovah to the potter is to be considered next. Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave who had been killed. If the ox gore a manservant or a maidservant, the owner shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver Exodus 21:32. Oh, what unfathomable love! The Lord from heaven became like a slave. The love He looked for He found not. It was refused to Him, and instead He was insulted, mocked, and treated like a miserable slave. There was one of the twelve who was called Judas Iscariot. He went to the chief priests and said, What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? And they weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver Matthew 26:15. The money at the command of Jehovah is thrown away by the prophet with indignation into the house of Jehovah, to the potter. Perhaps the prophet never knew the real significance of his act, but we know it from the New Testament. “Then Judas which betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood. But they said, What is this to us? See thou to it. And he cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, and departed and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, it is not lawful to put them into the treasury since it is the price of blood. And they took counsel and bought with them the potters’ field to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called the field of blood unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah, the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price, and they gave them for the potters’ field, as the Lord appointed me” Matthew 27:3-66. How striking the fulfillment. However, here is a difficulty. In Matthew it is stated that Jeremiah spoke the prophecy, and Zechariah’s name is not mentioned at all. How can this be explained?
The prophecy certainly as it was fulfilled was not given by Jeremiah at all, but through Zechariah. There can be no doubt that his name should appear here instead of Jeremiah, but that Jeremiah’s name is quoted must have a meaning. Let us notice that it does not say in Matthew 27:1-66 that it was written by Jeremiah, but it is stated that it was spoken by Jeremiah. Is there anything in Jeremiah which can be linked with this prophecy? We have indeed in Jeremiah a similar action of the prophet, corresponding to Zechariah 11:13, and which is seen fulfilled in the gospel. Read Jeremiah 18:1-23; Jeremiah 19:1-15. The word “Tophet” used there means an unclean place, a burial ground. Jeremiah’s name appears in Matthew’s Gospel, to call attention to the fact that Jeremiah also spoke of the same event, the rejection of the true Shepherd.
Zechariah 11:15-17. The foolish shepherd is the false Messiah, the man of sin, the son of perdition. The prophet impersonates him likewise. He no longer holds the staves of Beauty and Bands, but has the instrument of the foolish shepherd to wound and to hurt. This false Christ is the opposite from the true Christ. The true Shepherd came to seek, to save, to feed, to heal, and to gather; the false shepherd does the opposite.
The True One rejected, the nation becomes the prey of the foolish shepherds. Poor, blinded Israel! How many wicked shepherds they have had, and how often the prey of wicked leaders. False Messiahs appeared among them again and again to find strong and numerous following. Still the foolish shepherd, the last one, the very embodiment of Satan himself, the accuser, has not yet come. Forerunners there have been many. Herod was one of them, but not that man of sin, the son of perdition who will appear and be worshipped as a God, right before the King of Kings and the true Shepherd of His flock appears to slay that wicked one with the breath of His mouth and the brightness of His coming 2Thessalonians 2:1-17. The Lord said, I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive John 5:43. That one who comes in his own name has not yet come, and when at last he is here, it will be for Israel the time of greatest trouble and tribulation for all them that inhabit the earth. During the war interpretation of prophecy went to seed with some who saw in the deluded German Kaiser a fulfillment of this passage, because he had a withered arm. Such foolish inventions are deplorable, for they bring the study of prophecy into disrepute. The third section of our chapter finds its complete fulfillment in the Antichrist, the false Messiah, the beast, the little horn, the leader of the enemy, the false prince of Israel; thus the foolish shepherd is called throughout the prophetic word. The dreadful punishment will be executed upon the foolish shepherd in the day of the Lord’s coming with His saints for the salvation of his people Israel.
The eleventh chapter in Zechariah is the darkest in Israel’s history. The night began with their apostasy and rejection of the Lord of Glory, their own brother, their loving Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. It ends in darkness greater still under the regime of the foolish shepherd. But the morning cometh after that dark night, and Israel’s sun will never set again.