Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 11

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Zechariah 11:1 . Open thy doors, oh Lebanon. This is a word of delicacy for the temple, calling it by another name. Dr. Lightfoot quotes several striking comments on this text. “The east gate of the inner temple being of brass, and so heavy that it could scarcely be shut by twenty men, and was barred and bolted in the securest manner; yet it was seen at night to open without any visible power! This the weaker sort of people conjectured to be a sign of prosperity, an omen that God would send them good things. On the contrary, those of cooler mind and deeper thought, interpreted the phenomenon as an indication of the utter ruin of their power, and of their temple.” Josephus’s Wars of the Jews, book 6. chap. 31.

The learned rabbins agree with Josephus on this fact, that “forty years before the destruction of the city, the doors of the temple opened of their own accord.” Juchasin, f. 10. On occasion of which Rabban Ben Zaccai, [afterwards president of the sanhedrim] exclaimed, Open thy doors, oh Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.

Rabbi Solomon, in his comment on these words, “Open thy doors, oh Lebanon,” inferred the destruction of the temple, repeating the above testimony, that the doors had opened spontaneously. From the time that this phenomenon occurred, the sanhedrim removed their sittings from Gazith, a large chamber in the temple, and held them in other convenient places.

Zechariah 11:2 . Howl, firtree, for the cedar is fallen. Trees sometimes represent kings, as Daniel describes Nebuchadnezzar by a tall cedar. The figures in all this chapter are brief, and the objects obscure. We may err in comments; yet many things direct us to apply the whole scenery to the last age of the jewish nation. Therefore, as Paul speaks delicately of the Roman power, saying, “he that letteth, will let,” and as Peter names the church in Babylon, so Zechariah, on so tender a point, touches with a delicate pencil, the final fall of the jewish state. The subject here, and in the fourth chapter of Malachi, is apparently the same. Their sun is darkened, their moon wanes, their stars fall.

Zechariah 11:3 . There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds, of the priests and rulers, when they saw the Roman armies come against Jerusalem.

Zechariah 11:4 ; Zechariah 11:6 . Feed the flock of slaughter. The poor of the land, as in Zechariah 11:7. Feed the people of Judea with all the wisdom and knowledge of the gospel, and gather in the elect, ere the Romans raze the city, and bury a million of people in the grave. For I will no more pity the land, but will smite it with a curse. Malachi 4:6.

Zechariah 11:7 . I took two staves, the croziers of a shepherd. The one I called beauty, to denote the wisdom, virtue, and talents required of pastors. The other I called bands, to show how shepherds should defend their flocks against the wolves.

Zechariah 11:8 . Three shepherds also I cut off in one month. We may not know the precise meaning of these words; for when speaking of the fall of princes, delicacy is required. We know however that they were wicked shepherds, as were the three Herods. See Matthew 2:16. They might be three heathen rulers, or other great men, who oppressed the poor. Christ uses the staff of bands against his enemies. In the critics we find numerous speculations upon the subject, but to little purpose.

Zechariah 11:9 . That which is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another. A shocking but correct portrait of the horrors of the famine which prevailed in the rebel city, before the Romans stormed it.

Zechariah 11:10 . I took my staff, even beauty. By this the shepherd of Israel marked the sheep which were to escape the slaughter, and then cut it asunder, to show that the unbelieving jews were excluded from covenant protection. Then the poor of the flock, that escaped beyond the Jordan, knew that it was the word of the Lord: they saw it fulfilled to the letter.

Zechariah 11:12 . And I said, if ye think good, give me my price. The great and good shepherd, when he wept over Jerusalem, broke the staff of covenant blessings, saying, “now they are hid from thine eyes.” Christ is here the speaker; and he says, If ye think good, give me my price; give it to Judas. If otherwise, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver the price of HIM who gave his life a ransom for all, to be testified in due time! Blush, oh ye heavens, and tremble, thou earth.

Zechariah 11:13 . Cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord, to buy his field. It is the goodly price that I was valued at of them. Thus with wonderful minuteness did the scriptures of the prophets foretel the transactions of Judas with the chief priests and elders; the precise sum he was to receive for his treachery, and even the very circumstance of the traitor’s throwing down the thirty pieces of silver on the floor of the temple, unable to retain in his possession the price of innocent blood, or endure the agonies of a guilty conscience. Matthew 27:3-5.

Zechariah 11:14 . Then I cut asunder mine other staff, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. The two kingdoms, or the twelve tribes, have been so separated and dispersed as to forget their tribe and their kin. The jews cannot now make out their genealogy. But the new or peculiar people, whether jews or gentiles, have affinity in Christ with all the family of God.

Zechariah 11:15 . Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. This is a keen satire on the jewish rulers, who were shepherds without a staff, without scrip, without a flock shepherds without either hills or pastures.

Zechariah 11:16 . Lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land which shall eat the flesh and tear their claws. The Roman power, that great iron empire, is here symbolized, and its character should be the reverse of that of a good shepherd, a name that is here ironically given to it. He shall not visit and seek the dispersed, nor succour the weak and the young; nor shall he heal that which is torn by the dogs, nor feed that which is standing hungry in desolation; but he shall eat the fat, and tear the residue with his claws. Such is the fourth, the terrible beast which Daniel saw, and which Zechariah here describes.

Zechariah 11:17 . Woe to the idol shepherd, the jewish state and nation, who had left the fold of God to follow after idols, and to seek vanity. The sword of the Romans shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: blindness and infatuation shall seize their counsels. Their arm of national power shall be clean dried up. An utter obscuration of the Hebrew sun shall take place; and the veil of darkness shall remain upon them, till the nation return again to the Lord. Then the veil shall be taken away, and the gospel shall give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.


Surely no man can read this chapter, and compare the prophecies with the events, and doubt of divine inspiration. If the dubious philosophers of the age should write a catalogue of their required characteristics of divine revelation, could they either ask or receive clearer demonstrations, than heaven has already conceded in the history of the jews? It is a whole nation, a continuous chain of facts, ever speaking to the church.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/zechariah-11.html. 1835.
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