Zechariah 11 Commentary
Zechariah 11:1 – Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars!
The question is whether this is showing us a past historical event (the Babylonian invasion) or a future prophecy. Based on the rest of this book, I would venture that this is a future prophecy that is predicting the Roman moves against Judea.
The area of the mountain passes between Lebanon and Israel are called the “doors of Lebanon.”
This chapter is setting up the events that will lead to God’s people rejecting the Messiah when He does come.
Zechariah 11:2 – Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled!
Lebanon’s strength was in her cedars. Throughout the Bible we see the strength of the “cedars of Lebanon.” They were a sought after commodity. This could be talking about an economic crash. If the strong cedars, which were a top trading commodity were ruined, how much more will the lesser commodities be ruined.
But I think this goes a beyond that in that the cedars show the strength of Lebanon. This is showing that strength being destroyed.
Zechariah 11:3 – The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!
This is a powerful verse that describes the leaders of God’s people being brought down. The wail of the shepherds means that the Jewish leaders will be ruined. Their glory will be ruined. Look at Mark 13:1, as the disciples are talking to Christ and they say that the stones and buildings are beautiful. Jesus tells His disciples that those stones will be destroyed.
Everyone will mourn because of the rejection of the Christ.
Zechariah 11:4 – Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.
Zechariah moves into the explanation of how this destruction is to come about.
Different translations have different words for what the shepherd is to do to the flock. Some say to pasture them. Others say to feed them. Some say to take care of them. Others simply say to shepherd them. Feeding, or caring for the sheep who are doomed to slaughter, is to provide them God’s Word. This means that they have no excuse of ignorance when the Messiah does come.
Acts 20:28 shows this specifically.
The more we go through this prophecy, the more we will see that Zechariah seems like he is acting this prophecy out. I don’t believe he is simply reciting it. I believe there are actions that go along with it.
Zechariah 11:5 – Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them.
Some translations of this verse say “hold themselves not guilty” instead of “go unpunished.” The adversaries of God’s people don’t feel guilt in the destruction of them. And God allowed this to happen.
As for “those who sell them,” God is talking about the rulers of Judah. Their selfishness basically sold their people to Rome. Look at verses such as John 11:48-50.
God even addresses those who sold His sheep to Rome and became rich. Look at Luke 16:14. The Pharisees missed the Messiah because they were lovers of money. The leaders have no pity on them.
Zechariah 11:6 – For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the Lord. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.”
God is removing is pity on His people, which means he is going to deliver them into the hands of the Romans. This is a little bit of a foreshadowing of things to come when the Roman rulers, such as Vespasian.
Zechariah 11:7 – So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep.
A shepherd in ancient Israel would use two staves to lead their flock. One staff would be used to protect the sheep from danger while the other would be used to direct the flock. The names are Favor and Union (in some translations, “Beauty and Bands”). Beauty is God’s favor on His people while Bands is the reunification of Israel and Judah (see verse 14 later)
The flock doomed to be slaughtered are those whom Jesus came for (see Matthew 11:5). Some translations go so far as to say “the poor of the flock.”
Zechariah 11:8 – In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me.
This is a pretty hard passage to understand. Who are the “three shepherds?” This is definitely in a prophetic voice, so I would have to think that there is something much more than shepherds being named aside the Good Shepherd.
I tend to like Dr. James Boice’s view that the three shepherds are most likely the roles of prophet, priest and king, which were taken away after the Roman conquest. These roles have never been restored as they are now fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Zechariah 11:9 – So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.”
In chapter 7 we saw that God would not listen to His people. This was a pretty intense form of punishment. Now, God is telling them He will not be their shepherd.
They rejected the Good Shepherd and ended up in occupation and famine.
Zechariah 11:10 – And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples.
God is setting aside His providential care for His people. The covenant that He is speaking of here is from Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This paved the way for Rome to invade and conquer.
Zechariah 11:11 – So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.
God’s people knew the covenant had been annulled. God has defended His people, but now they were about to become food for, as the Bible calls, the “wild beasts” of the Gentile world.
Zechariah 11:12 – Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.
Thirty pieces of silver is used a lot in Scripture. In the book of Exodus, it is the price given to a master whose slave was gored by oxen. A good slave was worth twice that amount. This meant that the final slap in the face would be that Jesus’ life was worth thirty pieces of silver, making Jesus worth no more than a common slave.
Zechariah 11:13 – Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.
The thirty pieces of silver was thrown into the house of the Lord. This is a prophecy that was fulfilled when Judas, filled with the guilt of condemning Jesus, threw the silver on the floor of the temple and the priests used it to purchase a field from a potter.
Zechariah 11:14 – Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
The breaking of the first staff in verse 10 symbolizes the rejection of God’s people by the Good Shepherd. The breaking of this staff is showing the breakup of Israel and Judah, most likely under Roman rule.
In reading Roman historian Josephus, he said that things got so bad after the Romans conquered that Jew fought against Jew as severely as the Romans had beaten them.
Zechariah 11:15 – Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd.
It is at this point that Zechariah is to play the role of a “foolish shepherd.” This entire chapter is filled with dramatic moments that seemed to be acted out by Zechariah.
Zechariah 11:16 – For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.
These last few verses show both the first century choices and the final choice of the Antichrist. This shepherd uses his staff to beat the sheep.
God is allowing this shepherd to rise up because of the rejection by His people for the Good Shepherd. If we look at some prophetic verses, we see that this is exactly what the Antichrist will do.
Check out both Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15-22.
Another interesting thing to note is that God is raising this leader up. Many times in history we hear about a country who believes that God has sent a leader to them. He may very well have done so, but just not in the manner in which the country believes. The leader that God may be raising up could be a leader that will be a foolish shepherd instead of one who points us to the Good Shepherd.
Zechariah 11:17 – “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!”
This verse is filled with verses from all around Scripture. From Daniel 7-8 and 24 to 2 Thessalonians 2 to Revelation 19-20, we see that the worthless shepherd will have his arm and right eye taken away from him. The arm is seen as a symbol of power while the eye is a symbol of intelligence.
Revelation 13 tells us that the Antichrist will survive a severe hit.
Revelation 13:12-14 – It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.