Zechariah 11:5
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.
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11:4-14 Christ came into this world for judgment to the Jewish church and nation, which were wretchedly corrupt and degenerate. Those have their minds wofully blinded, who do ill, and justify themselves in it; but God will not hold those guiltless who hold themselves so. How can we go to God to beg a blessing on unlawful methods of getting wealth, or to return thanks for success in them? There was a general decay of religion among them, and they regarded it not. The Good Shepherd would feed his flock, but his attention would chiefly be directed to the poor. As an emblem, the prophet seems to have taken two staves; Beauty, denoted the privileges of the Jewish nation, in their national covenant; the other he called Bands, denoting the harmony which hitherto united them as the flock of God. But they chose to cleave to false teachers. The carnal mind and the friendship of the world are enmity to God; and God hates all the workers of iniquity: it is easy to foresee what this will end in. The prophet demanded wages, or a reward, and received thirty pieces of silver. By Divine direction he cast it to the potter, as in disdain for the smallness of the sum. This shadowed forth the bargain of Judas to betray Christ, and the final method of applying it. Nothing ruins a people so certainly, as weakening the brotherhood among them. This follows the dissolving of the covenant between God and them: when sin abounds, love waxes cold, and civil contests follow. No wonder if those fall out among themselves, who have provoked God to fall out with them. Wilful contempt of Christ is the great cause of men's ruin. And if professors rightly valued Christ, they would not contend about little matters.Whose possessors - (buyers) slay them and hold themselves not guilty, rather, are not guilty either in their own eyes, or in the sight of God, since He gave them up and would no more avenge them. They contract no guilt. Aforetime God said; "Israel was holiness to the Lord, the first-fruits of His increase; all that devour him shall be guilty: evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord" Jeremiah 2:3. Now God reversed this, as He said by the same prophet, "My people hath been lost sheep; their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; all that found them have devoured them; and their adversaries say, We are not guilty, because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice, yea, the hope of their fathers, the Lord" Jeremiah 50:6-7. The offence of injuring Israel was that they were God's people: when He cast them forth, they who chastened them were His servants Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10, His instruments, and offended only when through pride they knew not in whose hands they themselves were Isaiah 10:7; Habakkuk 1:11, or through cruelty exceeded their office Isaiah 47:6; Zechariah 1:18, and so they became guilty.

And they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich - Even Sennacherib felt himself in part, or thought best to own himself, to be an instrument in God's hand Isaiah 36:10. But Titus when he "entered Jerusalem, marveled at the strength of the city and its towers, which 'he tyrants' in phrensy abandoned. When then he had beheld their solid strength and the greatness of each rock, and how accurately they were fitted in, and how great their length and breadth, he said 'By the help of God we have warred: and God it was who brought down the Jews from those bulwarks: for what avail the hands of man or his engines against such towers?' Much of this sort he said to his friends." The Jews also were "sold" in this war, as they had not been in former captures; and that, not by chance, but because the Roman policy was different from all, known by "experience" in the time of Zechariah. Into Babylon they had been carried captive, as a whole, because it was the will of God, after the "seventy years" to restore them. In this war, it was His will to destroy or disperse them; and so those above 17 were sent to Egypt to the works; those below 17 were sold. : "The whole number taken prisoners during the wars were 1,100,000," beside those who perished elsewhere. Jerome: "Read we the ancient histories and the traditions of the mourning Jews, that at the Tabernaculum Abrahae (where now is a very thronged mart every year) after the last destruction, which they endured from Adrian, many thousands were sold, and what could not be sold were removed into Egypt, and destroyed by shipwreck or famine and slaughter by the people. No displeasure came upon the Romans for the utter destruction, as there had upon the Assyrians and Chaldaeans."

And their own shepherds - (In contrast to those who "bought" and "sold" them, who accordingly were not their own, temporal or spiritual) they to whom God had assigned them, who should have fed them with the word of God, strengthened the diseased, healed the sick, bound up the broken, and sought the lost, "pity them not" Ezekiel 34:4. He says what they should have done, in blaming them for what they did not do. They owed them a tender compassionate love; they laid aside all mercy, and became wolves, as Paul says; "After my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" Acts 20:29-30. They who owed them all love, shall have none. Jerome: "No marvel then, he says, if enemies shall use the right of conquest, when their very shepherds and teachers spared them not, and, through their fault, the flock was given over to the wolves." All were corrupted, high priest, priests, scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees. No one had pity on them.

5. possessors—The buyers [Maurer], their Roman oppressors, contrasted with "they that sell men." The instruments of God's righteous judgment, and therefore "not holding themselves guilty" (Jer 50:7). It is meant that they might use this plea, not that they actually used it. Judah's adversaries felt no compunction in destroying them; and God in righteous wrath against Judah allowed it.

they that sell them—(Compare Zec 11:12). The rulers of Judah, who by their avaricious rapacity and selfishness (Joh 11:48, 50) virtually sold their country to Rome. Their covetousness brought on Judea God's visitation by Rome. The climax of this was the sale of the innocent Messiah for thirty pieces of silver. They thought that Jesus was thus sold and their selfish interest secured by the delivery of Him to the Romans for crucifixion; but it was themselves and their country that they thus sold to the Roman possessors."

I am rich—by selling the sheep (De 29:19; Ho 12:8). In short-sighted selfishness they thought they had gained their object, covetous self-aggrandizement (Lu 16:14), and hypocritically "thanked" God for their wicked gain (compare Lu 18:11).

say … pity—In Hebrew it is singular: that is, each of those that sell them saith: Not one of their own shepherds pitieth them. An emphatical mode of expression by which each individual is represented as doing, or not doing, the action of the verb [Henderson]. Hengstenberg refers the singular verbs to Jehovah, the true actor; the wicked shepherds being His unconscious instruments. Compare Zec 11:6, For I will no more pity, with the Hebrew "pitieth not" here.

Whose possessors slay them; either their own governors, or the Romans who in right of conquerors are their possessors; which way soever they got them into their hands, they ruined them, destroyed them both in body and estate.

And hold themselves not guilty; think they do not sin in doing this; so low thoughts they had of this people, such extravagant thoughts they had of their own power and authority.

They that sell them; betray their persons, or liberty, or estate for profit, or sell them for slaves to foreigners; say,

Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich; with profane, ungodly hearts do give God thanks that they thrive by the most barbarous methods of cruelty and oppression, by bloody murders, as if these were ways of his appointing to gain wealth as if he blessed them.

Their own shepherds pity them not; who by birth, call, and office were their proper shepherds, the governors of this poor people, the princes, the priests, had no pity on them in their slavery or blood; looked on as unconcerned, it may be glad, that either they got a booty, or were rid of a disaffected subject. Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty,.... Not the Romans after Christ came, into whose hands they were delivered, and by whom they were slain in great numbers, not accounting it any sin to put them to death; but the priests, Scribes, Pharisees, and doctors, among the Jews, who ruined and destroyed their souls, by feeding them with poisonous doctrines; teaching them the commandments of men, and to observe the traditions of the elders; and to seek for life and salvation by the works of the law, which was a ministration of condemnation and death to them; and yet thought they did God and the souls of men good service:

and they that sell them; as false teachers make merchandise of the souls of men:

say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich; having devoured widows' houses and substances, under a pretence of long prayers; and enriched themselves through tithes of everything, and by other methods; as the Scribes and Pharisees did:

and their own shepherds pity them not; those who should have been concerned for the welfare of their souls had no compassion on them. Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, interpret this of God, the Shepherd of Israel; the verb being singular, though the noun is plural: so God is called Makers, Creators, Psalm 149:2 and this sense agrees with the following words.

Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves {f} not guilty: and they that sell them say, {g} Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.

(f) Their governors destroy them without any remorse of conscience, or yet thinking that they do evil.

(g) He notes the hypocrites, who always have the name of God in their mouths, though in their life and doings they deny God, attributing their gain to God's blessings, which comes from the wealth of their brethren.

5. possessors] Rather, buyers. The flock of which the prophet was commanded to take charge had been bought and slain without compunction, and sold for gain, with a complacent “bless the Lord” at the good price they fetched.Verse 5. - Possessors; or, buyers. Those who claimed to be owners by right of purchase. Hold themselves not guilty. They are so blinded by self-interest that they see no sin in thus treating the flock. But the expression is better rendered, bear no blame, i.e. suffer no penalty, commit this wickedness with impunity. Septuagint, "repent not;" Vulgate, non dolebant, which Jerome explains, "did not suffer for it." Blessed be the Lord. So little compunction do they feel that they actually thank God for their ill-gotten gains. The prophet is speaking of chiefs and rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, who played into the enemies' hands, and thought of nothing but how to make a gain of the subject people. Our Lord denounces such untrustworthy shepherds (John 10:11-13). Doubtless, too, the expressions in the text refer to the foreign powers which had oppressed the Jews at various times, Egypt, Assyria, etc. Amid all such distresses, from whatever cause, God still had tender care for his people, and punished and will punish their enemies. In this verse the offenders against Israel are of three classes - buyers, sellers, shepherds (see ver. 8). "Shepherd" appears sometimes in the Assyrian inscriptions as a synonym for "prince" (see Schrader, 'Keilinschr.,' p. 453) : A reason for the warning not to resist the words of the Lord, like the fathers, is given in Zechariah 1:5, Zechariah 1:6, by an allusion to the fate which they brought upon themselves through their disobedience. Zechariah 1:5. "Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, can they live for ever? Zechariah 1:6. Nevertheless my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers, so that they turned and said, As Jehovah purposed to do to us according to our ways and our actions, so has He done to us?" The two questions in Zechariah 1:5 are meant as denials, and are intended to anticipate the objection which the people might have raised to the admonitions in Zechariah 1:4, to the effect that not only the fathers, but also the earlier prophets, had died long ago; and therefore an allusion to things that had long since passed by could have no force at all for the present generation. Zechariah neutralizes this objection by saying: Your fathers have indeed been long dead, and even the prophets do not, or cannot, live for ever; but notwithstanding this, the words of the earlier prophets were fulfilled in the case of the fathers. The words and decrees of God uttered by the prophets did reach the fathers, so that they were obliged to confess that God had really done to them what He threatened, i.e., had carried out the threatened punishment. אך, only, in the sense of a limitation of the thing stated: yet, nevertheless (cf. Ewald, 105, d). דּברי and חקּי are not the words of Zechariah 1:4, which call to repentance, but the threats and judicial decrees which the earlier prophets announced in case of impenitence. דּברי as in Ezekiel 12:28; Jeremiah 39:16. חקּי, the judicial decrees of God, like chōq in Zephaniah 2:2. Hissı̄g, to reach, applied to the threatened punishments which pursue the sinner, like messengers sent after him, and overtake him (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15, Deuteronomy 28:45). Biblical proofs that even the fathers themselves did acknowledge that the Lord had fulfilled His threatenings in their experience, are to be found in the mournful psalms written in captivity (though not exactly in Psalm 126:1-6 and Psalm 137:1-9, as Koehler supposes), in Lamentations 2:17 (עשׂה יהוה אשׁר זמם, upon which Zechariah seems to play), and in the penitential prayers of Daniel (Daniel 9:4.) and of Ezra (Ezra 9:6.), so far as they express the feeling which prevailed in the congregation.
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