Zec 11:1-17. Destruction of
the Second Temple and Jewish Polity for the Rejection of
1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon—that is,
the temple so called, as being constructed of cedars of Lebanon, or as
being lofty and conspicuous like that mountain (compare Eze 17:3; Hab
2:17). Forty years before the
destruction of the temple, the tract called "Massecheth Joma" states,
its doors of their own accord opened, and Rabbi Johanan in alarm said,
I know that thy desolation is impending according to Zechariah's
prophecy. Calvin supposes Lebanon to
refer to Judea, described by its north boundary: "Lebanon," the
route by which the Romans, according to Josephus, gradually advanced towards Jerusalem.
Moore, from Hengstenberg, refers the passage to the civil war
which caused the calling in of the Romans, who, like a storm sweeping
through the land from Lebanon, deprived Judea of its independence. Thus
the passage forms a fit introduction to the prediction as to Messiah
born when Judea became a Roman province. But the weight of authority is
for the former view.
2. fir tree … cedar—if even the
cedars (the highest in the state) are not spared, how much less
the fir trees (the lowest)!
forest of … vintage—As the vines
are stripped of their grapes in the vintage (compare Joe 3:13), so the forest of Lebanon "is come
down," stripped of all its beauty. Rather, "the fortified" or
"inaccessible forest" [Maurer];
that is, Jerusalem dense with houses as a thick forest is with trees,
and "fortified" with a wall around. Compare Mic 3:12, where its desolate state is described
as a forest.
3. shepherds—the Jewish rulers.
their glory—their wealth and
magnificence; or that of the temple, "their glory" (Mr 13:1; Lu
young lions—the princes, so described
on account of their cruel rapacity.
pride of Jordan—its thickly wooded
banks, the lair of "lions" (Jer 12:5; 49:19). Image for Judea "spoiled" of the
magnificence of its rulers ("the young lions"). The valley of the
Jordan forms a deeper gash than any on the earth. The land at Lake
Merom is on a level with the Mediterranean Sea; at the Sea of Tiberias
it falls six hundred fifty feet below that level, and to double that
depression at the Dead Sea, that is, in all, 1950 feet below the
Mediterranean; in twenty miles' interval there is a fall of from three
thousand to four thousand feet.
4. The prophet here proceeds to show the cause
of the destruction just foretold, namely, the rejection of Messiah.
flock of … slaughter—(Ps 44:22). God's people doomed to slaughter
by the Romans. Zechariah here represents typically Messiah, and
performs in vision the actions enjoined: hence the language is in part
appropriate to him, but mainly to the Antitype, Messiah. A million and
a half perished in the Jewish war, and one million one hundred thousand
at the fall of Jerusalem. "Feed" implies that the Jews could not plead
ignorance of God's will to execute their sin. Zechariah and the other
prophets had by God's appointment "fed" them (Ac 20:28) with the word of God, teaching and
warning them to escape from coming wrath by repentance: the type of
Messiah, the chief Shepherd, who receives the commission of the Father,
with whom He is one (Zec 11:4);
and Himself says (Zec 11:7),
"I will feed the flock of slaughter." Zechariah did not live to
"feed" literally the "flock of slaughter"; Messiah alone "fed" those
who, because of their rejection of Him, were condemned to slaughter.
Jehovah-Messiah is the speaker. It is He who threatens to inflict the
punishments (Zec 11:6, 8). The typical breaking of the staff,
performed in vision by Zechariah (Zec 11:10), is fulfilled in His breaking the
covenant with Judah. It is He who was sold for thirty pieces of silver
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
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.
6. Jehovah, in vengeance for their rejection
of Messiah, gave them over to intestine feuds and Roman rule. The
Zealots and other factious Jews expelled and slew one another by turns
at the last invasion by Rome.
his king—Vespasian or Titus: they
themselves (Joh 19:15)
had said, unconsciously realizing Zechariah's words, identifying Rome's
king with Judah's ("his") king, "We have no king but Cæsar." God
took them at their word, and gave them the Roman king, who "smote
(literally, 'dashed in pieces') their land," breaking up their polity,
when they rejected their true King who would have saved them.
7. And—rather, "Accordingly":
implying the motive cause which led Messiah to assume the office,
namely, the will of the Father (Zec 11:4, 5), who pitied the sheep without any true
I will feed—"I fed" [Calvin], which comes to the same thing, as the past
tense must in Zechariah's time have referred to the event of Messiah's
advent then future: the prophets often speaking of the future in vision
as already present. It was not My fault, Jehovah implies, that these
sheep were not fed; the fault rests solely with you, because ye
rejected the grace of God [Calvin].
even you, O poor of the flock—rather,
"in order that (I might feed, that is, save) the poor (humble; compare
Zec 11:11; Zep 3:12; Mt 5:3) of the flock"; literally, not
you, but, "therefore (I will feed)" [Moore]. See Margin, "Verily the poor."
It is for the sake of the believing remnant that Messiah took charge of
the flock, though He would have saved all, if they would have come to
Him. They would not come; therefore, as a nation, they are "the
flock of (that is, doomed to) slaughter."
I took … two staves—that is,
shepherds' staves or rods (Ps 23:4).
Symbolizing His assumption of the pastor's office.
Beauty—The Jews' peculiar
excellency above other nations (De 4:7), God's special manifestation to them
147:19, 20), the glory of the
temple ("the beauty of holiness," Ps 29:2; compare Ps 27:4; 90:17; 2Ch
20:21), the "pleasantness" of
their land (Ge 49:15; Da 8:9; 11:16), "the glorious land."
Bands—implying the bond of
"brotherhood" between Judah and Israel. "Bands," in Ps 119:61, Margin, is used for confederate
companies: The Easterns in making a confederacy often tie a cord
or band as a symbol of it, and untie it when they dissolve the
confederacy [Ludovicus De Dieu]. Messiah
would have joined Judah and Israel in the bonds of a common
faith and common laws (Zec 11:14),
but they would not; therefore in just retribution He broke "His
covenant which He had made with all the people." Alexander, Antiochus
Epiphanes, and Pompey were all kept from marring utterly the
distinctive "beauty" and "brotherhood" of Judah and Israel, which
subsisted more or less so long as the temple stood. But when Jehovah
brake the staves, not even Titus could save the temple from his own
Roman soldiery, nor was Jurian able to restore it.
8. Three shepherds … I cut
off—literally, "to cause to disappear," to destroy so as not
to leave a vestige of them. The three shepherds whom Messiah removes
are John, Simon, and Eleazar, three leaders of factions in the Jewish
war [Drusius]. Or, as Messiah, the
Antitype, was at once prophet, priest, and king, so He by the
destruction of the Jewish polity destroyed these three orders
for the unbelief of both the rulers and people [Moore]. If they had accepted Messiah, they would
have had all three combined in Him, and would have been themselves
spiritually prophets, priests, and kings to God. Refusing Him, they
lost all three, in every sense.
one month—a brief and fixed space of
5:7). Probably alluding to
the last period of the siege of Jerusalem, when all authority within
the city was at an end [Henderson].
loathed them—literally, "was
straitened" as to them; instead of being enlarged towards them
in love (2Co 6:11, 12). The same Hebrew as in Nu 21:4, Margin. No room was left
by them for the grace of God, as His favors were rejected [Calvin]. The mutual distaste that existed between
the holy Messiah and the guilty Jews is implied.
9. Then said I—at last when all means of
saving the nation had been used in vain (Joh 8:24).
I will not—that is, no more
feed you. The last rejection of the Jews is foretold, of which the
former under Nebuchadnezzar, similarly described, was the type (Jer 15:1-3; 34:17; 43:11; Eze 6:12). Perish those who are doomed to perish,
since they reject Him who would have saved them! Let them rush on to
their own ruin, since they will have it so.
eat … flesh of another—Let them
madly perish by mutual discords. Josephus attests the fulfilment of this prophecy of
threefold calamity: pestilence and famine ("dieth … die"),
war ("cut off … cut off"), intestine discord ("eat … one
10. covenant which I made with all the
people—The covenant made with the whole nation is to
hold good no more except to the elect remnant. This is the force of the
clause, not as Maurer, and others
translate. The covenant which I made with all the nations (not
to hurt My elect people, Ho 2:18). But
the Hebrew is the term for the elect people
(Ammim), not that for the Gentile nations (Goiim).
The Hebrew plural expresses the great numbers of the Israelite
people formerly (1Ki 4:20).
The article is, in the Hebrew, all the or those
peoples. His cutting asunder the staff "Beauty," implies the setting
aside of the outward symbols of the Jews distinguishing excellency
above the Gentiles (see on Zec 11:7) as God's
11. poor … knew—The humble, godly
remnant knew by the event the truth of the prediction and of Messiah's
mission. He had, thirty-seven years before the fall of Jerusalem,
forewarned His disciples when they should see the city compassed with
armies, to "flee unto the mountains." Accordingly, Cestius Gallus, when
advancing on Jerusalem, unaccountably withdrew for a brief space,
giving Christians the opportunity of obeying Christ's words by fleeing
waited upon me—looked to the hand of
God in all these calamities, not blindly shutting their eyes to the
true cause of the visitation, as most of the nation still do, instead
of referring it to their own rejection of Messiah. Isa 30:18-21 refers similarly to the Lord's
return in mercy to the remnant that "wait for Him" and "cry" to Him
12. I said—The prophet here represents
the person of Jehovah-Messiah.
If ye think good—literally, "If it be
good in your eyes." Glancing at their self-sufficient pride in not
deigning to give Him that return which His great love in coming
down to them from heaven merited, namely, their love and obedience. "My
price"; my reward for pastoral care, both during the whole of Israel's
history from the Exodus, and especially the three and a half years of
Messiah's ministry. He speaks as their "servant," which He was to them
in order to fulfil the Father's will (Php 2:7).
if not, forbear—They withheld that
which He sought as His only reward, their love; yet He will not force
them, but leave His cause with God (Isa 49:4, 5). Compare the type Jacob cheated of his
wages by Laban, but leaving his cause in the hands of God (Ge 31:41, 42).
So … thirty pieces of
silver—thirty shekels. They not only refused Him His
due, but added insult to injury by giving for Him the price of a gored
bond-servant (Ex 21:32; Mt 26:15). A freeman was rated at twice that
13. Cast it unto the potter—proverbial:
Throw it to the temple potter, the most suitable person to whom to cast
the despicable sum, plying his trade as he did in the polluted valley
23:10) of Hinnom, because it
furnished him with the most suitable clay. This same valley, and the
potter's shop, were made the scene of symbolic actions by Jeremiah
18:1-19:15) when prophesying
of this very period of Jewish history. Zechariah connects his prophecy
here with the older one of Jeremiah: showing the further application of
the same divine threat against his unfaithful people in their
destruction under Rome, as before in that under Nebuchadnezzar. Hence
Mt 27:9, in English Version, and in
the oldest authorities, quotes Zechariah's words as Jeremiah's,
the latter being the original author from whom Zechariah derived the
groundwork of the prophecy. Compare the parallel case of Mr 1:2, 3 in the oldest manuscripts (though not in
English Version), quoting Malachi's words as those of "Isaiah,"
the original source of the prophecy. Compare my Introduction to Zechariah. The "potter" is
significant of God's absolute power over the clay framed by His own
hands (Isa 45:9; Jer 18:6; Ro 9:20, 21).
in the house of the Lord—The thirty
pieces are thrown down in the temple, as the house of Jehovah,
the fit place for the money of Jehovah-Messiah being deposited, in the
treasury, and the very place accordingly where Judas "cast them down."
The thirty pieces were cast "to the potter," because it was to him they
were "appointed by the Lord" ultimately to go, as a worthless price
(compare Mt 27:6, 7, 10). For "I took," "I threw," here Matthew
has "they took," "they gave them"; because their (the
Jews' and Judas') act was all His "appointment" (which
Matthew also expresses), and therefore is here attributed to Him
(compare Ac 2:23; 4:28). It is curious that some old
translators translate, for "to the potter," "to the treasury"
(so Maurer), agreeing with Mt 27:6. But English Version agrees
better with Hebrew and Mt 27:10.
14. The breaking of the bond of union between
Judah and Israel's ten tribes under Rehoboam is here the image used to
represent the fratricidal discord of factions which raged within
Jerusalem on the eve of its fall, while the Romans were thundering at
its gates without. See Josephus [Wars
of the Jews]. Also the continued severance of the tribes
till their coming reunion (Ro 11:15).
15. yet—"take again"; as in Zec 11:7 previously he had taken other
instruments—the accoutrements, namely,
the shepherd's crook and staff, wallet, &c. Assume the character of
a bad ("foolish" in Scripture is synonymous with wicked, Ps 14:1) shepherd, as before thou
assumedst that of a good shepherd. Since the Jews would not have
Messiah, "the Good Shepherd" (Joh 10:11), they were given up to Rome, heathen
and papal, both alike their persecutor, especially the latter, and
shall be again to Antichrist, the "man of sin," the instrument of
judgment by Christ's permission. Antichrist will first make a covenant
with them as their ruler, but then will break it, and they shall feel
the iron yoke of his tyranny as the false Messiah, because they
rejected the light yoke of the true Messiah (Da 11:35-38; 12:1; 9:27; 2Th 2:3-12). But at last he is to perish utterly
11:17), and the elect remnant
of Judah and Israel is to be saved gloriously.
16. in the land—Antichrist will probably
he a Jew, or at least one in Judea.
not visit … neither … seek …
heal … broken, nor feed … but … eat … flesh
… tear—Compare similar language as to the unfaithful
shepherds of Israel in Eze 34:2-4.
This implies, they shall be paid in kind. Such a shepherd in the worst
type shall "tear" them for a limited time.
those … cut off—"those
perishing" [Septuagint], that is, those sick unto death, as if
already cut off.
the young—The Hebrew is always
used of human youths, who are really referred to under the image of the
young of the flock. Ancient expositors [Chaldee Version, Jerome, &c.] translate, "the
straying," "the dispersed"; so Gesenius.
standeth still—with faintness lagging
tear … claws—expressing cruel
voracity; tearing off the very hoofs (compare Ex 10:26), giving them excruciating pain, and
disabling them from going in quest of pasture.
17. the idol—The Hebrew expresses
both vanity and an idol. Compare Isa 14:13; Da 11:36; 2Th 2:4; Re 13:5, 6, as to the idolatrous and blasphemous
claims of Antichrist. The "idol shepherd that leaveth the flock"
cannot apply to Rome, but to some ruler among the Jews themselves, at
first cajoling, then "leaving" them, nay, destroying them (Da 9:27;
11:30-38). God's sword shall
descend on his "arm," the instrument of his tyranny towards the sheep
2:8); and on his "right eye,"
wherewith he ought to have watched the sheep (Joh 10:12, 13). However, Antichrist shall
destroy, rather than "leave the flock." Perhaps,
therefore, the reference is to the shepherds who left the flock
to Antichrist's rapacity, and who, in just retribution, shall feel his
"sword" on their "arm," which ought to have protected the flock but did
not, and on their "eye," which had failed duly to watch the sheep from
hurt. The blinding of "the right eye" has attached to it the
notion of ignominy (1Sa 11:2).