Judgment Because the True Shepherd of Israel is Rejected and a False Shepherd Accepted
This chapter is all prophetic, dealing chiefly with the suffering of Israel because of their rejection of Christ, which eventually results in their tragic acceptance of the antichrist, who will be judged in God's time.
"Open your doors, O Lebanon, that fire may devour your cedars" (v. 1). Lebanon has been a constant victim of invasion from the north and has for years suffered through various foreign nations maintaining a standing army within its borders. But Lebanon has not yet seen the worst. Unwilling though it may be, it will have to open its doors to allow the northern army, the King of the North and his satellites, to pass through to attack Israel at the time when Israel has set up "the abomination of desolation" in the holy place. This will be at the middle of Daniel's 70th week (Daniel 9:27), the beginning of the 3 1/2 years of "great tribulation." While Israel is the object of attack, yet Lebanon will have great trouble too. The fire devouring her cedars may be literal, but its figurative significance is more serious, for the cedars speak of men of high dignity. The fir tree (v. 2) implies the prosperous, the oaks of Bashan, the strong. All of this will be brought low, including "the forest of the vintage." The mass of common people (the forest) will no longer provide a "vintage" or valuable proceeds for the strong and mighty.
The attack of the King of the North proceeds rapidly southward. Not only are the high and mighty in Lebanon brought low, but the King of the North, "like a whirlwind" (Daniel 11:40) comes against Israel and her "worthless shepherd," the antichrist. The shepherds (of verse 3) who howl are primarily Israel's leaders, because "their glory" is spoiled. This appears to refer to the temple, which God would protect if Israel had been faithful to Him, but at that time the nation will be dreadfully defiled by idolatry. Therefore, He allows the temple to fall into the hands of the enemy. The King of the North and his armies (being evidently Moslem) will take pleasure in desecrating it, as is prophesied in Psalms 79:1.
The roaring of the young lions is in contrast to the howling of the shepherds, while both are occasioned by the same attack. The lions are the fighters, and it appears that "the pride of Jordan" is Israel's boast in military strength. This will quickly be reduced to nothing.
Verse 4 goes back to consider the Word of the Lord previously spoken to the shepherds: "Feed the flock of slaughter." The Lord was concerned for His people who were virtually destined for slaughter, as it is said also concerning Christians today, "For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8:36). This is quoted from Psalms 44:22, which applies directly to Israel. God's thoughts toward them were not those of slaughter, but of concern that they should be fed. But their possessors (or captors) considered it proper to kill them, thinking that Israel deserved such ill treatment. Therefore, they considered themselves not guilty in making Israel suffer. They were increasing their wealth by exploiting Israel and thanking the Lord that He had guided them to do this! Such is the perversity of men's hearts. Further, "their shepherds do not pity them" (v. 5). These are the authorities in Israel, responsible to care for the sheep, but they were scornful men, greedy of gain, just as will be the case at the time of the end (Isaiah 28:14-18). Sadly, the people will willingly accept such rulers, and must suffer the consequences.
The Lord says He will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land. Judgment would solemnly fall, with men being delivered up to their neighboring enemies and into the hand of the King of the North, as we have already seen in this chapter. They would desolate the land without any intervention by God: He would not deliver Israel. Later the Lord Himself will come to deliver them from the King of the North, but this will be only when He has accomplished His full work with His own people by means of the sufferings of the tribulation.
THE TRUE SHEPHERD
"So I fed the flock of slaughter" (v. 7). Zechariah is looked at as picturing the Lord Jesus. Though judgment was impending for Israel, this true Shepherd would spare no effort in seeking their restoration, and would feed them as long as they would receive His ministrations. His history on earth during His first coming shows this beautifully. He continued to diligently seek Israel's blessing until they rejected and crucified Him. The leaders determined His crucifixion, and the crowd followed them. Those who were true ("the poor of the flock") were glad to receive the spiritual food He gave them, but this was a very small minority.
The two shepherd's staves that Zechariah takes are called Beauty and Bands. The first speaks of Israel's relationship to God, which is beautiful when there is willing submission to Him. It will be fully true when Israel is restored to the Lord for millennial blessing, as Psalms 90:17 indicates, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." God had proposed such beauty for Israel on the basis of their obedience under law (Deuteronomy 7:12-15). "Bands" symbolizes the unity of Israel in relationship to one another. If their relationship to God had been right, then their relationship to one another also would have remained stable.
Verse 8 shows that the true Shepherd cares so perfectly for His sheep that He says, "Three shepherds also I cut off in one month." These are evil men, taking the place of shepherds, but spoiling the flock. He says, "my soul was vexed (or grieved) with them, and their soul also loathed me" (JND). There have been many speculations as to who these three are, for there is no record in Israel's history of such a thing. Therefore it must be prophetic. I know of no other case of three prominent enemies of the Lord Jesus being cut off in so short a time, other than the beast, the false prophet and the King of the North. The Roman beast and the false prophet (the antichrist) will be taken together at Armageddon by the Lord Jesus appearing on the white horse (Revelation 19:11-20), and they are cast alive into the Lake of Fire.
Immediately after this, the Lord appears in Jerusalem when the city is surrounded by the armies of the King of the North. The Jews will break down in deep repentance when they look on Him whom they had pierced (Zechariah 12:9-14). He will then go forth at the head of Israel's armies to fight against the besieging army (Zechariah 14:3; Zechariah 14:14). The King of the North will haughtily "rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means" (Daniel 8:25). This man will evidently share the same fate as the beast and the false prophet in being cast into the Lake of Fire (Isaiah 30:31-33). The King of the North and the Assyrian are the same person. All three of these will consider themselves to be shepherds of the people, concerned for the prosperity of their own respective nations, but all will be cut off in the space of a literal month. I do not speak dogmatically as to this verse applying to them, but I do not know of another three who fit the description. These three will cause Israel her greatest trouble at the time of the end.
Verse 9 shows that, in spite of the Lord's true care for Israel, they had rebelled against Him, for it is because of their rebellion that He said, "I will not feed you." He leaves them for the time being to suffer the results of their folly: He will not intervene to prevent the death and cutting off of those who were suffering these results. "Let it die." "Let it be cut off." More than this, He says, "Let the rest eat every one the flesh of another." This literally has taken place in some of Israel's ordeals when besieged (2 Kings 6:26-29) and no doubt will take place in the tribulation. Spiritually speaking, the bitter animosity between neighbors results in people biting and devouring one another. Such things result from ignoring God.
Zechariah then took the first staff, Beauty, and cut it in pieces (v. 10). This symbolizes that the relationship between Israel and God had been broken. The covenant of law was conditional upon Israel's obedience. When Israel rebelled, God was perfectly right in breaking that covenant, for Israel had first broken it. That beautiful relationship was therefore totally broken off. "All the peoples" (or tribes) of the nation of Israel were included in this cleavage between themselves and the Lord.
However, there were some in the nation, "the poor of the flock" (v. 11) - the godly remnant - who waited upon God, having attentive hearts to recognize His dealings. They discerned that the word of the Lord was operative in God giving up Israel to the painful consequences of their guilt. But most were callous and undiscerning, giving God no credit for being in control of things by the authority of His Word.
The language of verses 10 and 11 is veiled, for we know from Matthew 27:3-10 that this prophecy was fulfilled in the sad history of Judas betraying the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, then in remorse returning to the chief priests with the money and throwing it down in the temple. With this money they bought the potter's field for a place to bury strangers.
Why is the Lord represented in Zechariah as asking, "If ye think good, give me my price?" Is it not because He was presented to Israel, giving them the choice as to what to do to Him? He did not fight against being delivered up. They decided it was worth thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave being gored to death by an ox (Exodus 21:32), to have Him murdered. Then in verse 13 God's sovereign word speaks, "Throw it to the potter." While the chief priests are seen in Matthew as making the decision, it was really God who sovereignly worked in them to bring them to this decision. How good to know that God is in perfect control!
As to the thirty pieces of silver, Zechariah says, "I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter." While it was Judas who actually threw the money down in the house of the Lord, the matter is spoken of in this way to show the humble acceptance of the Lord Jesus in His being rejected, and also to emphasize the enormity of Israel's guilt in the blood money being displayed in the temple, the place so holy to Israel! The potter is one who has power over the clay to make one vessel to honor, another to dishonor (Romans 9:21), a reminder of God's sovereign working with "the poor of the flock" or with people like Judas, the chief priests or Pilate, who, in spite of their stubborn determination to do their own will, were only tools in the hand of a sovereign God
The Messiah being rejected, it follows that the second staff, Bands must be cut in pieces (v. 14), signifying the breaking of the unity of Judah and Israel. Since their relationship to God has been severed by the cutting of Beauty, their relationship to one another will quickly suffer similarly. They will be left in a state of discord and misery. This ends the subject of the true Messiah and His rejection by His people, with the ensuing consequences.
THE WORTHLESS SHEPHERD
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany