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Rup.: “‘All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth,’ saith the Psalmist Psalms 25:11, and, ‘I will sing to Thee of mercy and judgment’ Psalms 101:1. So is this prophecy divided. Above , almost all were promises of mercy, which are now fulfilled in deed; and from this, “Open, O Lebanon, thy doors” , all are terrible edicts of truth and tokens of just judgment. How much sweetness and softness and pleasantness is therein, “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion: shout, O daughter of Jerusalem;” what bitterness and acerbity and calamity to those, to whom he says, “Open, O Lebanon, thy doors, that the fire may devour thy cedars; howl, O fir tree; howl, O ye oaks of Basan.” As then, before, we beheld His mercy in those who believed and believe; so now let us contemplate His just judgment on those who believed not.” Gilead and Lebanon Zechariah 10:10 had been named as the restored home of Ephraim; but there remained a dark side of the picture, which the prophet suddenly presents, with the names of those self-same lands, “Open thy doors, O Lebanon; howl, O ye oaks of Basan” Zechariah 11:1-2.
Open thy doors, O Lebanon - Lebanon, whose cedars had stood, its glory, for centuries, yet could offer no resistance to him who felled them and were carried off to adorn the palaces of its conquerors (see above at Zephaniah 2:14, and note 2. p. 276), was in Isaiah Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 37:24 and Jeremiah Jeremiah 22:6-7 the emblem of the glory of the Jewish state; and in Ezekiel, of Jerusalem, as the prophet himself explains it Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:12; glorious, beauteous, inaccessible, so long as it was defended by God; a ready prey, when abandoned by Him. The center and source of her strength was the worship of God; and so Lebanon has of old been understood to be the temple, which was built with cedars of Lebanon, towering aloft upon a strong. summit; the spiritual glory and the eminence of Jerusalem, as Lebanon was of the whole country, and , “to strangers who came to it, it appeared from afar like a mountain full of snow; for, where it was not gilded, it was exceeding white, being built of marble.” But at the time of destruction it was “a den of thieves” Matthew 21:13, as Lebanon, amidst its beauty, was of wild beasts.
Rup.: “I suppose Lebanon itself, that is, “the temple,” felt the command of the prophet’s words, since, as its destruction approached, its doors opened without the hand of man. Josephus relates how , “at the passover, the eastern gate of the inner temple, being of brass and very firm, and with difficulty shut at eventide by twenty men; moreover with bars strengthened with iron, and having very deep bolts, which went down into the threshold, itself of one stone, was seen at six o’clock at night to open of its own accord. The guards of the temple running told it to the officer, and he, going up, with difficulty closed it. This the uninstructed thought a very favorable sign, that God opened to them the gate of all goods. But those taught in the divine words, understood that the safety of the temple was removed of itself, and that the gate opened.”
A saying of this sort is still exstant. : “Our fathers have handed down, forty years before the destruction of the house, the lot of the Lord did not come up on the right hand, and the tongue of splendor did not become white, nor did the light from the evening burn, and the doors of the temple opened of their own accord, until Rabbi Johanan ben Zaccai rebuked them, and said, ‘O temple, why dost thou affright thyself? I know of thee that thy end is to be destroyed, and of this Zechariah prophesied, “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and let the fire devour thy cedars.’” The “forty years” mentioned in this tradition carry back the event exactly to the Death of Christ, the temple having been burned 73 a.d. . Josephus adds that they opened at the passover, the season of His Crucifixion. On the other hand, the shutting of the gates of the temple, when they had “seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple” Acts 21:30, seems miraculous and significant, that, having thus violently refused the preaching of the Gospel, and cast Paul out, they themselves were also shut out, denoting that an entrance was afterward to be refused them.
And let afire devour thy cedars - Jerusalem, or the temple, were, after those times, burned by the Romans only. The destruction of pride, opposed to Christ, was prophesied by Isaiah in connection with His Coming Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 11:1.
Howl, O cypress, for the cedar is fallen - Jerusalem or the temple having been likened to Lebanon and its cedars, the prophet carries on the image, speaking of the priests princes and people, under the title of firs, cypresses and oaks, trees inferior, but magnificent. He shows that it is imagery, by ascribing to them the feelings of people. The more glorious and stately, “the cedars,” were destroyed. Woe then to the rest, “the cypress;” as our Lord says, “If they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done, in the dry?” Luke 23:31, and Peter, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:18.
For the defensed forest is come down - That which was closed and inaccessible to the enemy. All which was high and lifted up was brought low, “came down,” even to the ground .
A voice of the howling of the shepherds, for their glory is spoiled - It echoes on from Jeremiah before the captivity, “Howl, ye shepherds - A voice of the cry of the shepherds. and an howling of the principal of the flock; for the Lord hath spoiled their pasture” Jeremiah 25:34, Jeremiah 25:36. There is one chorus of desolation, the mighty and the lowly; the shepherds and the young lions; what is at other times opposed is joined in one wailing. “The pride of Jordan” are the stately oaks on its banks, which shroud it from sight, until you reach its edges, and which, after the captivity of the ten tribes, became the haunt of lions and their chief abode in Palestine, “on account of the burning heat, and the nearness of the desert, and the breadth of the vast solitude and jungles” (Jerome). See Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44; 2 Kings 17:25. The lion lingered there even to the close of the 12th cent. Phocas in Reland Palaest. i. 274. Cyril says in the present, “there are very many lions there, roaring horribly and striking fear into the inhabitants”).
Thus saith the Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter - The fulfillment of the whole prophecy shows, that the person addressed is the prophet, not in, or for himself, but (as belongs to symbolic prophecy) as representing Another, our Lord. It is addressed, in the first instance, to Zechariah. For Zechariah is bidden, “take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd” Zechariah 11:15, in words addressed to himself, personally; “And the Lord said unto me.” But he who was to represent the foolish shepherd, had represented the True Shepherd, since it is said to him, “Take unto thee yet.” But He, the Shepherd addressed, who does the acts commanded, speaks with the authority of God. He says, “I cut off three shepherds in one month” Zechariah 11:8; “I broke My covenant which I had made with all the peoples” Zechariah 11:10; “the poor of the flock waited upon Me” Zechariah 11:11; “I cut asunder Mine other staff, Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” Zechariah 11:14. But in Zechariah’s time, no three shepherds were cut off, the covenant made by God was not broken on His part, there was no such visible distinction between those who waited on God, and those who, outwardly too, rejected Him.
Feed the flock of the slaughter - Those who were, even before the end, slain by their evil shepherds whom they followed, and who in the end would be given to the slaughter, as the Psalmist says, “we are counted as sheep for the slaughter” Psalms 44:22, because they would not hear the voice of the True Shepherd, and were not His sheep. They were already, by God’s judgment, a prey to evil shepherds; and would be so yet more hereafter. As a whole then, they were “sheep of the slaughter.” It is a last Charge given to feed them. As our Lord says, “Last of all, He sent unto them His Son, saying, They will reverence My Son” Matthew 21:37. This failing, nothing remained but that the flock would be given up, as they themselves say, “He will miserably destroy those wicked people, and will let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons” Matthew 21:41, that is, our Lord explains it, “The kingdom of heaven shall be taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. Yet a remnant should be saved” Matthew 21:43, for whose sake the larger flock was still to be fed: and, as our Lord, as Man, wept over Jerusalem, whose sentence He pronounced, so He still feeds those who would not turn to Him that they might be saved, and who would in the end be “a flock of slaughter,” “Death their shepherd” Psalms 49:14, since they chose death rather than Life.
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.
For I will no more pity - Therefore were they a “flock of the slaughter,” because God would “have no pity” on those who went after shepherds “who had no Pity” upon them, but corrupted them; who “entered not in themselves, and those who were entering in, they hindered” Luke 11:52.
The inhabitants of the land - “That land, of which he had been speaking,” Judaea. “And lo.” God, by this word, “lo,” always commands heed to His great doings with man; I, I, Myself, visibly interposing, “will deliver man,” the whole race of inhabitants, “every one into his neighbor’s hand,” by confusion and strife and hatred within, “and into the hand of his king,” him whom they chose and took as their own king, when they rejected Christ as their King, repudiating the title which Pilate gave Him, to move their pity. Whereas He, their Lord and God, was their King, they formally “denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go; they denied the Holy One and the Just” Acts 3:13-14, and said, “We have no king but Caesar” John 19:15.
And they - The king without and the wild savages within, “shall smite,” bruise, crush in pieces, like a broken vessel, “the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver” them. Their captivity shall be without remedy or end. Holy Scripture often says, “there is no deliverer Judges 18:28; 2 Samuel 14:6; Job 5:4; Psalms 7:3; Psalms 50:22; Psalms 71:11; Isaiah 5:29; Isaiah 42:22; Hosea 5:14, Micah 5:7-8, or “none can deliver out of My hand” Deuteronomy 32:39; Job 10:7; Psalms 50:22; Psalms 71:11; Isaiah 43:13; Daniel 8:4, Daniel 8:7, or, since God delighteth in doing good, I Exo 6:6; 2 Kings 20:6; Jeremiah 15:21; Jeremiah 39:17; Ezekiel 34:27, He 1 Samuel 7:3; Psalms 18:15; Psalms 72:12; 2 Kings 17:39; Isaiah 19:20; Isaiah 31:5; Job 5:19, will deliver, or delivered Exodus 18:10; Joshua 24:10; Judges 6:9; 1 Samuel 10:18; 1Sa 14:10; 2 Samuel 22:1; Psalms 34:5, Psalms 34:18; 54:9; Ezra 8:31; Jeremiah 20:13 from the hands of the enemy, or their slavery, or their own fears, or afflictions, or the like. God nowhere else says absolutely as here, “I will not deliver” . “Hear, O Jew,” says Jerome, “who holdest out to thyself hopes most vain, and hearest not the Lord strongly asserting, “I will not deliver them out of their hands,” that thy captivity among the Romans shall have no end.” In the threatened captivity before they were carried to Babylon, the prophet foretold the restoration: here only it is said of Judah, as Hosea had said of lsrael, that there should be no deliverer out of the hand of the king whom they had chosen.
The prophetic narrative which follows, differs in its form, in some respects, from the symbolical actions of the prophets and from Zechariah’s own visions. The symbolical actions of the prophets are actions of their own: this involves acts, which it would be impossible to represent, except as a sort of drama. Such are the very central points, the feeding of the flock, which are still intelligent people who understand God’s doings: the cutting off of the three shepherds; the asking for the price; the unworthy price offered; the casting it aside. It differs from Zechariah’s own visions, in that they are for the most part exhibited to the eye, and Zechariah’s own part is simply to enquire their meaning and to learn it, and to receive further revelation. In one case only, he himself interposes in the action of the vision Zec 3:1-10 :15; but this too, as asking that it might be done, not, as himself doing it. Here, he is himself the actor, yet as representing Another, who alone could cut off shepherds, abandon the people to mutual destruction, annulling the covenant which He had made. Maimonides, then, seems to say rightly; : “This, “I fed the flock of the slaughter,” to the end of the narrative, where he is said to have asked for his hire, to have received it, and to have cast it into the temple, to the treasurer, all this Zechariah saw in prophetic vision. For the command which he received, and the act which he is said to have done, took place in prophetic vision or dream.” “This,” he adds, “is beyond controversy, as all know, who are able to distinguish the possible from the impossible.”
Osorius: “The actions, presented to the prophets are not always to be understood as actions but as predictions. As when God commands Isaiah, to make the heart of the people dull Isaiah 6:10 that is, to denounce to the people their future blindness, through which they would, with obstinate mind, reject the mercies of Christ. Or when He says, that He appointed Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:10 to destroy and to build; to root out and to plant. Or when He commanded the same prophet to cause the nations to drink the cup, whereby they should be bereft of their senses (Jeremiah 25:15 ff), Jeremiah did nothing of all this, but asserted that it would be. So here.”
And I will feed the flock of the slaughter - Rather And (our, so) “I fed.” The prophet declares, in the name of our Lord, that He did what the Father commanded Him. He fed the flock, committed to His care by the Father, who, through their own obstinacy, became “the flock of slaughter.” What could be done, He did for them; so that all might see that they perished by their own fault. The symbol of our Lord, as the Good Shepherd, had been made prominent by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, “Behold the Lord will come, as a Mighty One - He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom: He shall gently lead those that are with young” Isaiah 40:10-11. And Jeremiah, having declared God’s judgments on the then shepherds Jeremiah 23:2, “I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their fold; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them. Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper - and this is the name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness” Jeremiah 23:3-6. And Ezekiel with the like context Ezekiel 34:1-21; “Therefore will I save My flock and they shall be no more a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set One Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them: My servant David, He shall feed them; and He shall be their Shepherd” Ezekiel 34:22-23; and, uniting both offices, “David, My servant, shall be king over them, and they shall all have One Shepherd” Ezekiel 37:24. It was apparent then beforehand, who this Shepherd was to be, to whom God gave the feeding of the flock.
“Even ‘you,’ or ‘for you, ye poor of the flock;’ or, ‘therefore,’ being thus commanded, (fed I) the poor of the flock”. The whole flock was committed to Him to feed. He had to seek out all “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24. Dionysius: “He fed, for the time, the Jews destined to death, until their time should come;” the fruit of His labor was in the “little flock” Luke 12:32, “the faithful Jews who believed in Him, out of the people of the flock aforesaid, or the synagogue, who in the primitive Church despised all earthly things, leading a most pure life.” So He says, “I will feed My flock and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God: I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong, I will feed them with judgment” Ezekiel 34:15-16.
The elect are the end of all God’s dispensations. He fed all; yet the fruit of His feeding, His toils, His death, the travail of His soul, was in those only who are saved. So Paul says, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” 2 Timothy 2:10. He fed all; but the “poor of the flock” alone, those who were despised of men, because they would not follow the pride of the high priests and scribes and Pharisees, believed on Him, as they themselves say, “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on Him?” John 12:48, and Paul says, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.
And I took unto Me two - (shepherd’s) staves as David says, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” Psalms 23:4. “The one I called Beauty or Loveliness” , as the Psalmist longs to “behold the beauty or loveliness” of God in His temple Psalms 27:4, and says; let “the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” Psalms 90:17.
And the other I called Bands - Literally, “Binders” . The one staff represents the full favor and loving-kindness of God; when this was broken, there yet remained the other, by which they were held together as a people in covenant with God. “And I fed the flock.” This was the use of his staves; He tended them with both, ever putting in exercise toward them the loving beauty and grace of God, and binding them together and with Himself.
And I cut off three shepherds in one month - Jerome: “I have read in some one’s commentary, that the shepherds, cut off in the indignation of the Lord, are to be understood of priests and false prophets and kings of the Jews, who, after the passion of Christ, were all cut off in one time, of whom Jeremiah speaketh, “The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew Me not; the pastors also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things which do not profit” Jeremiah 2:8, and again, “As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests and their prophets” Jeremiah 2:26; and “they said, Come, let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet” Jeremiah 18:18.
Theodoret: “He speaks of the kings of the Jews, and prophets and priests; for by the three orders they were shepherded.” Cyril: “The true and good Shepherd having been already pointed out, it was right and necessary that the hirelings and false shepherds should be removed, the guides of the Jews in the law. The three shepherds were, I deem, those who exercised the legal priesthood, and those appointed judges of the people, and the interpreters of Scripture, that is, the lawyers. For these too fed Israel. Those who had the glory of the priesthood were of the tribe of Levi only; and of them Malachi says, “The priest’s lips shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth” Malachi 2:7. But those who received authority to judge were also selected, yet were appointed out of every tribe. In like way the lawyers, who were ever assessors to the judges, and adduced the words of the law in proof of every matter.
But we shall find that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself expressly pronounced woe on the Pharisees and scribes and lawyers. For He said, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees” Luke 11:44. And when one of the lawyers hereupon answered Him saying, “Master, so saying Thou reproachest us also,” He said, “Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers” Luke 11:45-46. These “three Shepherds” then, priests and judges and lawyers o, who remained in their own orders and places, until the coming of Christ, were very justly taken away “in one month.” For since “they killed the Prince of life” Acts 3:15, thereby also are they mown down, and that in the month of the first fruits, in which Emmanuel endured to be slain for us. They remained indeed administering Israel, even after the Saviour’s Cross, through the long-suffering and compassion of Almighty God calling them to repentance; but, in the sentence passed by God, they were taken away, at that time, when they delivered to the Cross the Saviour and Redeemer of all. They were taken away then in one mouth;” Nisan. a.d. 33. The three offices, King, Divine Teacher, Priest, were to be united in Christ: they might have been held under Him: those who rejected them in Him, forfeited them themselves. These then He made to disappear, effaced them from the earth.
And My soul was straightened - For them o. It is used of the divine grief at the misery of His people. “And their soul abhorred Me, nauseated Me” o. Kimchi: “When it is said, “Their soul also abhorreth Me,” the meaning is, ‘My soul did not loathe them first, but their soul first despised Me, therefore My Soul abhorred them.’” The soul which drives away God’s good Spirit, comes at last to loathe Him and the thought and mention of Him.
And I said, I will not feed you - God, at last, leaves the rebellious soul or people to itself, as He says by Moses, “Then My anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and will hide My Face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall find them” Deuteronomy 31:17 : and our Lord tells the captious Jews; “I go My way, and ye shall seek Me and shall die in your sins” John 8:21.
That which dieth, let it die - Zechariah seems to condense, but to repeat the abandonment in Jeremiah; “Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. And it shall be, if they shall say unto thee, Where shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord, Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity” o. First, God gives over to death without violence, by famine or pestilence, those whose lot it should be; another portion to violent death by the sword; “that which is cut off shall be cut off; and the rest,” the flock of slaughter, would be turned into wolves; and, as in the awful and horrible siege of Jerusalem, those who had escaped these deaths, “the left-over, shall eat every one of the flesh of his neighbor,” every law of humanity and of nature broken. Osorius: “So should they understand at last, how evil and bitter a thing it is for all who lived by My help to be despoiled of that help?”
And I took my staff Beauty, and cut it asunder - Not, as aforetime, did He chasten His people, retaining His relation to them: for such chastening is an austere form of love. By breaking the staff of His tender love, He signified that this relation was at an end.
That I might dissolve My covenant which I had made with all the people - Rather, “with all the peoples,” that is, with all nations. Often as it is said of Israel, that they brake the covenant of God Leviticus 26:15; Deuteronomy 31:16, Deuteronomy 31:20; Isaiah 24:5; Jeremiah 11:10; Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:59; Ezekiel 44:7, it is spoken of God, only to deny that He would break it (Leviticus 26:44; Judges 2:1, and, strongly, Jeremiah 33:20-21), or in prayer that He would not Jeremiah 14:21. Here it is not absolutely the covenant with His whole people, which He brake; it is rather, so to speak, a covenant with the nations in favor of Israel, allowing thus much and forbidding more, with regard to His people. So God had said of the times of Christ; “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of the heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground” (Hosea 2:18, (20, Hebrew)); and, “I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land” Ezekiel 34:25; and in Job “thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of’ the field shall be at peace with thee” Job 5:23. This covenant He willed to annihilate. He would no more interpose, as He had before said, “I will not deliver from their hand” Zechariah 11:6. whoever would might do, what they would, as the Romans first, and well nigh all nations since, have inflicted on the Jews, what they willed; and Mohammedans too have requited to them their contumely to Jesus.
And so the poor of the flock that waited upon Me knew - The rest were blinded; those who listened to God’s word, observed His prophet, waited on Him and observed His words, knew from the fulfillment of the beginning, that the whole was God’s word. Every darkening cloud around the devoted city was an earnest, that the storm, which should destroy it, was gathering upon it. So our Lord warned, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart” Luke 21:20-21. The “little flock which waited upon” the Good Shepherd, obeyed the warning, and, fleeing to Pella, escaped the horrible judgment which fell on those who remained. Osorius: “They remembered that it had been predicted many centuries before, and that the Lord, by whose Spirit the prophet spake, foretold that in that city “one stone should not be left upon another” Matthew 24:2.
And I said unto them, If ye think good, give Me My price - God asks of us a return, not having any proportion to His gifts of nature or of grace, but such as we can render. He took the Jews out of the whole human race, made them His own, “a peculiar people,” freed them from “the bondage and the iron furnace of Egypt,” gave them “the land flowing with milk and honey,” fed and guarded them by His Providence, taught them by His prophets. He, the Lord and Creator of all, was willing to have them alone for His inheritance, and, in return, asked them to love Him with their whole heart, and to do what He commanded them. “He sent His servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of the vineyard; and the husbandmen took His servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Last of all, He sent unto them His Son” Matthew 21:34-37, to ask for those fruits, the return for all His bounteous care and His unwearied acts of power and love. o “Give Me,” He would say, “some fruits of piety, and tokens of faith.”
Osorius: “What? Does He speak of a price? Did the Lord of all let out His toil? Did He bargain with those, for whom he expended it for a certain price? He did. He condescended to serve day and night for our salvation and dignity; and as one hired, in view of the reward which He set before Him, to give all His care to adorn and sustain our condition. So He complains by Isaiah, that He had undergone great toil to do away our sins. But what reward did He require? Faith and the will of a faithful heart, that thereby we might attain the gift of righteousness, and might in holy works pant after everlasting glory. For He needeth not our goods; but He so bestoweth on us all things, as to esteem His labor amply paid, if He see us enjoy His gifts. But tie so asketh for this as a reward, as to leave us free, either by faith and the love due, to embrace His benefits, or faithlessly to reject it. This is His meaning, when He saith,”
And if not, forbear - God does not force our free-will, or constrain our service. He places life and death before us, and bids us choose life. By His grace alone we can choose Him; but we can refuse His grace and Himself. “Thou shalt say unto them,” He says to Ezekiel, “Thus saith the Lord God, He that heareth, let him hear, and he that forbeareth, let him forbear” (Ezekiel 3:27; add Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 2:7; Ezekiel 3:11). This was said to them, as a people, the last offer of grace. It gathered into one all the past. As Elijah had said, “If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him” 1 Kings 18:21; so He bids them, at last to choose openly, whose they would be, to whom they would give their service; and if they would refuse in heart, to refuse in act also. “Forbear,” cease, leave off, abandon; and that forever.
So they weighed for My price thirty pieces of silver - The price of a slave, gored to death by an ox Exodus 21:32. Whence one of themselves says, o, “you will find that a freeman is valued, more or less, at 60 shekels, but a slave at thirty.” He then, whom the prophet represented, was to be valued at “thirty pieces of silver.” It was but an increase of the contumely, that this contemptuous price was given, not to Him, but for Him, the Price of His Blood. It was matter of bargain. “Judas said, What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?” Matthew 26:15. The high priest, knowingly or unknowingly, fixed on the price, named by Zechariah. As they took into their mouths willingly the blasphemy mentioned in the Psalm; “they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted in the Lord, that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, seeing that He delighted in Him” Psalms 22:7-8; so perhaps they fixed on the “thirty pieces of silver,” because Zechariah had named them as a sum offered in contumely to him, who offered to be a shepherd and asked for his reward.
And the Lord said unto me, Cast it - As a thing vile and rejected, as torn flesh was to be cast to dogs Exodus 22:31, or a corpse was cast unburied Isaiah 14:19; Isaiah 34:3; Jeremiah 14:16; Jeremiah 22:19; Jeremiah 26:23; Jeremiah 36:30, or the dead body of Absalom was cast into the pit 2 Samuel 18:17, or the dust of the idolaltars into the brook Kedron by Josiah 2 Kings 23:12, or the idols to the moles and the bats (Isaiah 2:20, add Ezekiel 20:8); or Judah and Israel from the face of God 2 Kings 13:23; 2 Kings 17:20; 24:21; Jeremiah 52:3 into a strange land (Deuteronomy 29:27, (28 English); Coniah and his seed, a vessel in which is no pleasure, Jeremiah 22:28, into a land which they knew not; or the rebels against God, said, “let us cast away their cards from us” Psalms 2:3; or wickedness was cast into the Ephah Zec 5:1-11 :18; once it is added, “for loathing” Ezekiel 16:5.
Unto the potter - The words exactly correspond with the event, that the “thirty pieces of silver” were “cast” or flung away o; that their ultimate destination was the potter, whose field was bought with them; but that they were not cast directly to him, (which were a contemptuous act, such as would not be used whether for a gift or a purchase), but were cast to him “in the house of the Lord.” They were “flung away” by the remorse of Judas, and, in God’s Providence, came to the potter. Whether any portion of this was a direct symbolic action of the prophet, or whether it was a prophetic vision, in which Zechariah himself was an actor, and saw himself in the character which he described, doing what he relates, cannot now be said certainly, since God has not told us. It seems to me more probable, that these actions belonged to the vision, because in other symbolic actions of the prophets, no other actors take part; and it is to the last degree unlikely, that Zechariah, at whose preaching. Zerubbabel and Joshua and all the people set themselves earnestly to rebuild the temple, should have had so worthless a price offered to him; and the casting a price, which God condemned, into the house of God, at the command of God, and so implying His acceptance of it, were inconsistent. It was fulfilled, in act consistently, in Judas’ remorse; in that he “flung away the pieces of silver,” which had stained his soul with innocent blood, “in the temple,” perhaps remembering the words of Zechariah; perhaps wishing to give to pious uses, too late, money which was the price of his soul; whereas God, even through the chief priests, rejected it, and so it came to the potter, its ultimate destination in the Providence of God. Osorius: “He saith, “cast it unto the potter,” that they might understand that they would be broken as a potter’s vessel.”
A goodly price, that I was prized at of them - Literally, “the magnificence of the value, at which I was valued of them!” The strong irony is carried on by the, “at which I was valued of them,” as in the idiom, “thou wert precious in my sight” 1 Samuel 26:21; Psalms 72:14; 2 Kings 1:13-14; Isaiah 43:4. Precious the thought of God to David Psalms 139:17; precious the redemption of the soul of man Psalms 49:9; and precious was the Shepherd who came to them; precious was the value, whereat He was valued by them o. And yet He, who was so valued, was Almighty God. For so it stands: “Thus saith the Lord God, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at of them.” The name, “the potter,” connects the prophecy with that former prophecy of Jeremiah Jeremiah 19:1-15, denouncing the judgment of God for the shedding of innocent blood, whereby they had defiled “the valley of the son of Hinnom, which was at the entry of the gate of the pottery, o, and which, through the vengeance of God there, should be called “the valley of slaughter” Jeremiah 19:6.
The price of this innocent Blood, by the shedding of which the iniquities of their fathers were filled up, should rest on that same place, for whose sake God said, “I will break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again” Jeremiah 19:11. So then Matthew may have quoted this prophecy as Jeremiah’s, to signify how the woes, denounced on the sins committed in this same place, should be brought upon it through this last crowning sin, and “all the righteous blood which had been shed, should come upon that generation” o
None of the other cases of mixed quotation come up to this. Mark quotes two prophecies, of Malachi and of Isaiah as Isaiah’s Mark 1:2-3. Matthew blends in one, words of Isaiah Isaiah 62:1 and Zechariah Zechariah 9:9 as “the prophet” Matthew 21:4-5. Our Lord unites Isaiah 56:7, and Jeremiah 7:11, with the words,” It is written.”
Of earlier fathers “Tertullian” simply quotes the prophecy as Jeremiah’s (adv. Marc. iv. 40). “Origen” says, “Jeremiah is not said to have prophesied this anywhere in his books, either what are read in the Churches, or reported (referuntur) among the Jews. I suspect that it is an error of writing, or that it is some secret writing of Jeremiah wherein it is written.” (in Matt. p. 916.) “Euscbius” says, “Consider since this, is not in the prophet Jeremiah, whether we must think that it was removed from it by some wickedness, or whether it was a clericai error of those who made the copies of the Gospels carelessly.” Dem. Ev. x. p. 481).
And I cut asunder mine other staff, Bands, to dissolve the brotherhood between Judah and Israel - Hitherto prophecy had spoken of the healing of the great breach between Israel and Judah, in Christ. “The Lord,” Isaiah said, “shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” Isaiah 11:12-13; and Hosea, “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together and shall appoint themselves one Head” Hosea 1:11; and Jeremiah, “In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel.” Jeremiah 3:18. And Ezekiel, in the midst of the captivity, in a symbolic action the counterpart of this, is bidden, “Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel his companions, and join them one to another into one stick, and they shall become one in thy hand” Ezekiel 37:16-17; and, when asked the meaning of this act, he was to say, “Thus saith the Lord God, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and will make them one stick, and they shall be one in Mine hand” Ezekiel 37:19.
And dropping the symbol; “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the pagan, whither they be gone - and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel: and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all - I will cleanse them, and they shall be My people and I will be their God, and David My servant shall be king over them, and they all shall have one Shepherd” Ezekiel 37:21-24. Such should be the unity of those who would be gathered under the One Shepherd. And so it was, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” Acts 4:32; and long afterward it was a proverb among the pagan, o, “See how these Christians love one another.” Zechariah is here speaking of those who had rejected the Good Shepherd, the Israel and Judah after the flesh, who shut themselves out from the promises of God. This had its first fulfillment in the terrible dissolution of every band of “brotherhood” and of our common nature, which made the siege of Jerusalem a proverb for horror, and precipitated its destruction. o “Having thus separated the believing from the unbelieving, He bared the rest of His care. And what we now see bears witness to the prophecy. For the Jews, being deprived, of prophets and priests and kings and temple and ark and altar and mercy-seat and candlestick and table and the rest, through which the legal worship was performed, have come to be deprived also of the guardianship from above; and, scattered, exiled, removed, serve against their will those who preach Christ: denying Him as Lord, they yield service to His servants. The prophet having foretold these things of Christ, our God and Saviour, and reproved the obstinacy of the Jews, naturally turns his prophecy straight to the God-opposed christ whom they expect, as they say. So said the Lord in the holy Gospels to them, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not; another will come in his own name, and him ye will receive” John 5:43. This the blessed Paul also prophesied of them, “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that all might be damned, who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. The like does the blessed Zechariah prophesy, having received the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Take to thee yet the instrument - o
Of a foolish shepherd - Osorius: “Yet He had enacted one tragedy, in which he clearly set forth the future guilt of Judas; now another is set forth, the accumulated scoffing through antichrist. For as Paul said, because they receive not the Spirit of truth, the Allrighteous Judge shall send them a spirit of “delusion, that they should believe a lie” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11. He calls him a foolish shepherd, for since the extremest folly consists in the extremest wickedness, he will be the most foolish, who reached the highest impiety, and this he will do by arrogating to himself divinity and claiming divine honors 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
This is the only action, which the prophet had to enact or to relate. If it was a visible act, the instrument might be a staff which should bruise, an instrument which should bear a semblance to that of the good shepherd, but which should be perncious. Cyril: “Good shepherds, who understood their business, had slight staves, that, if there should be occasion to strike, the stricken sheep might not be bruised; but one who understandeth not, beats them with thicker clubs.” Or it may mean also, whatever he would use for the hurtful treatment of the sheep, such as he proceeds to speak of. He is spoken of as, in fact, foolishly sinful: for sin is the only real folly, and all real folly has sin mingled in it. The short-lived wisdom of the foolish shepherd for his own ends should also be his destruction.
I will raise up - God supplies the strength or wisdom which people abuse to sin. He, in His Providence, disposeth the circumstances, of which the ambitious avail themselves. antichrist, whom the Jews look for, will be as much an instrument of God for the perfecting the elect, as the Chaldees Habakkuk 1:6 or the Assyrians Amos 6:14 whom God raised up, for the chastisement of His former people, or the Medes against Babylon Isaiah 13:17.
Which shall not visit them that be cut off - Zechariah uses the imagery, yet not the exact words of Jeremiah Jeremiah 23:1-2 and Ezekiel Ezekiel 34:3-4. Neglect of every duty of a shepherd to his flock, to the sick, the broken, the sound; direct injury of them, preying upon them, make up the picture.
Which shall not visit - Or tend, “that which is cut off:” fulfilling God’s judgment, “that which is to be cut off let it be cut off” Zechariah 11:9.
Neither shall seek the young one - Better, “the scattered , dispersed,” as the Good Shepherd “came to seek and to save that which was lost” Luke 19:10; Matthew 18:11. “Nor heal that which is broken; bound not,” Ezekiel says Ezekiel 34:4. : “The broken legs of sheep are healed no otherwise than those of people; rolled in wool impregnated with oil and wine, and then bound up with splinters placed round about it.”
Nor feed that which standeth still - Better, “the whole” Yet Jonathan renders as English), as the word always means, “in its good estate,” like our prayer, “that Thou wouldest strengthen those who do stand.”
Woe to the idol shepherd - (A shepherd of nothingness, one who hath no quality of a shepherd ;) “who leaveth the flock.” The condemnation of the evil shepherd is complete in the abandonment of the sheep; as our Lord says, “He that is an hireling and not the Shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep” John 10:12-13.
Or it may equally be, “Shepherd, thou idol,” including the original meaning of nothingness, such as antichrist will be, (Jerome), “while he calleth himself God, and willeth to be worshiped.” Jerome: “This shepherd shall therefore arise in Israel, because the true Shepherd had said, ‘I will not feed you.’ He is prophesied of by another name in Daniel the prophet Daniel 9:0, and in the Gospel Mark 13:0, and in the Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 2:0, as ‘the abomination of desolation,’ who shall sit in the temple of the Lord, and make himself as God. He cometh not to heal but to destroy the flock of Israel. This shepherd the Jews shall receive, whom the ‘Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth; and destroy with the brightness of His coming?”’
The sword shall be upon - (against) his arm and right eye His boast shall be of intelligence, and might. The punishment and destruction shall be directed against the instrument of each, the eye and the arm. Jerome: “The eye, whereby he shall boast to behold acutely the mysteries of God, and to see more than all prophets heretofore, so that he shall call himself son of God. But the word of the Lord shall be upon his arm and upon his right eye, so that his strength and all his boast of might shall be dried up, and the knowledge which he promised himself falsely, shall be obscured in everlasting darkness.” (Dionysius: “Above and against the power of antichrist, shall be the virtue and vengeance and sentence of Christ, who shall ‘slay’ him ‘with the breath of His mouth.’ The right arm, the symbol of might, and the right eye which was to direct its aim, should fail together, through the judgment of God against him. He, lately boastful and persecuting shall become blind and powerless, bereit alike of wisdom and strength.
The “right” in Holy Scripture being so often a symbol of what is good, the left of what is evil, it may be also imagined, that (Osorius), “the left eye, that is, the acumen and cunning to devise deadly frauds, will remain uninjured: while the ‘right eye,’ that is, counsel to guard against evil, will be sunk in thick darkness. And so, the more he employs his ability to evil, the more frantically will he bring to bear destruction upon himself:”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25