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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 11

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-3

CRITICAL NOTES.] In this chapter we have a contrast to the former. It was necessary to promise blessings, to encourage, and to warn, lest many should presume by vain confidence in the promises. We have the destruction of the second temple and of the Jewish polity for the rejection of Christ. Lebanon] i.e. the temple, lofty and magnificent as the mountain. “The picture is a dramatic one. Instead of the devastation of Lebanon being announced, it is summoned to open its gates that the fire may be able to enter in and devour its cedars. The cypresses, which hold the second place among the celebrated woods of Lebanon, are then called upon to howl over the fall of the cedars, not so much from sympathy as because the same fate awaits them” [Keil].

Zechariah 11:2. Forest] Lit. the fortified or inaccessible forest, Jerusalem, with houses numerous, and built close together, and round which was a wall (cf. Micah 3:12).

Zechariah 11:3. Shepherds] In reference to office, and young lions] in disposition. Jordan] with its thickets and decorated banks, which furnished lairs for lions. Jewish leaders are represented as despairing at the destruction of their polity.



Applied to the temple, the city, or the people, these words indicate the destruction of everything great in the Jewish nation. Formerly they had been visited and recovered; now there is a final judgment. All is ripe for destruction. God’s anger is kindled; the conflagration sweeps through the land, devours mountain, forests, and lowland pastures, and creates lamentation in man and beast.

I. The nation’s glory is spoiled. “Their glory is spoiled.” The temple and the city, the boast and excellency of the nation, were besieged and sacked. Their honour and power were brought low; the wealth and luxury acquired by the abuse of power became a prey to the enemy. God can take away the results of our labour, and the monuments of our skill. We may think our resources to be secure, and our fortifications impregnable, but the doors will open to the Divinely-appointed agency.

II. The nation’s nobility are out down. “The mighty are spoiled.” The leaders of the people—men of superior and inferior ranks—are taken away. “The cedars,” the pre-eminent in rank and office; the fir-trees, rulers of lower grade; the “oaks of Bashan,” men of strength and sturdy power—the highest and the lowest are involved in fearful destruction, and howl in agony together. Whatever be the estimation in which nobility are held, Divine wrath may consume them like fire. “Worship your heroes from afar; contact withers them” [Madame Necker].

III. The nation is filled with despair. “Howl, fir-tree.” If doors open of their own accord, what use are defences? If the highest fall, what can the lowest do? When chief men, in civil or religious position, are fallen from their station, horror and anguish may well fill the community.

1. Despair most sad. “Howl.” The cedar, the fir-tree, the oak, alike suffer, “for the forest of vintage is come down.”

2. Despair universal. All have cause for alarm and lamentation. The fire sweeps through Lebanon and Bashan, the entire land is seized, mountain and plain, forests and fields, are laid waste; men and beasts cry out in terror, and universal despair indicates the awful ruin. If God’s favoured nation were thus punished, let the wicked beware and the godly be warned. “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed (rewarded or chastened) in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner (shall not go unpunished)” (Proverbs 11:31).


The Bible abounds with comparison, is an ancient book, and in proportion as you go back in history, you will find the language poetic. The warm imagination of the Easterns never suffered them to speak without figures. Men are called trees. Three things in the text—

I. The differences there are among men. Where are sameness and equality to be found? God is always producing variety. All flesh is not the same flesh (1 Corinthians 15:39). What wonder, then, that differences should exist among men? Some are superior to others in family, rank, and station; in corporeal qualities, in stature, in beauty, in strength, gracefulness, and speed; in mental qualities, in acquired knowledge, in usefulness. Think of the Luthers, the Whitfields, and the Hills. Some cedars and others fir-trees.

II. Their fall, however, distinguished.

1. There is a moral fall to which we are exposed while in flesh and blood; indeed a man is never secure as long as he is in the world.

2. There is a mortal fall by death, accident, disease, infirmity, or age. Great men die often—not always—before others. Here the cedar falls, while the fir-tree survives.

III. The sorrow caused by their removal.

1. Sympathetic sorrow. Sympathy, a word the more we consider the less we can explain. We only know the fact that God has put something within us which reciprocates the feeling which we find in another. A mother hears her child cry, and darts to its relief. You see a man drowning in water; you sink as he sinks, rise as he rises, and are equally glad when he comes to shore.

2. Rational sorrow. All men die. Princes and soldiers that defend us, merchants that supply us, and husbandmen that till our ground and fill our barns. Can we see the nation stript of these, like a tree dropping its leaves in autumn, and not feel? Can we see the country robbed of its members, its ornaments, and not sorrow?

3. Pious sorrow. We are told of St. Ambrose that when he heard of the death of a minister of Christ he burst into tears. (a) The death of a good man is a public loss. We lose their examples, which are important and beneficial. (b) As benefactors, they are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. (c) As intercessors, they pray for others as well as themselves. (d) As the defence of the earth, they are better than navies and armies. Ten righteous men would have saved Sodom.

4. Unlawful sorrow. We sorrow, not as those without hope. (a) Your mourning would not be proper if accompanied with murmuring; (b) if ungrateful; (c) if it called you away from present things. Every day has its duties [The Preacher’s Treasury].


Zechariah 11:1-3. Open. Josephus relates, that “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 favourable 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.”

Zechariah 11:2. Fir-tree. The world cannot do without great men, but great men are very troublesome to the world [Goethe]. The highest and most lofty trees have the most reason to dread the thunder [Rollin].

Verses 4-6


Zechariah 11:4.] The cause of the ruin. Feed] The prophet to act the part of a good shepherd. Flock] Jewish nation.

Zechariah 11:5. Possessors] Lit buyers, who think they can sell or slay for their own advantage.

Zechariah 11:6. I] Divine pity would not be shown to them; they would be left to civil discord and foreign rule. King] Roman emperor (John 19:15).

THE FLOCK OF SLAUGHTER.—Zechariah 11:4-6

The prophet here performs in vision the acts enjoined, and becomes a representative of the Messiah, who feeds those willing to be fed, and punishes those who reject him. But by obstinate wickedness, instead of becoming “the sheep of his pasture,” they become “the flock of slaughter,” doomed to destruction.

I. The shepherds of the flock were worthless. Not merely negligent, but very wicked.

1. They had no compassion. “Their own shepherds pity them not.” Sad when ministers have no benevolent feeling for their flocks—when rulers in every department under their control are devoid of conscience.

2. They were avaricious. They bought and sold, to make gain of the flock. They sought only to gratify self and covetous desires. “All other love is extinguished by self love; beneficence, humanity, justice, philosophy sink under it” [Epicurus].

3. They were cruel. “Whose possessors slay them.” In ruthless cruelty “they ate the fat, and clothed themselves with the wool, and killed them that were fed.” “Yea, they are greedy dogs, which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”

4. They are hypocritical. They say, “Blessed be the Lord.” They are cruel and oppressive, yet profess to be religious! They succeed in ways which God abhors and reprobates, and then thank God for their riches! Sin is most daring when committed and defended under the pretence of piety, and claiming the approval of God in success. Sanctimonious hypocrisy is often displayed in covetousness and self-aggrandizement. “Hypocrites do the devil’s drudgery in Christ’s livery,” says one.

II. The flock itself is given up to destruction.

1. Divine pity was withdrawn. God had often displayed compassionate forbearance towards them, but now he “will no more pity the inhabitants of the land.”

2. Evil discord rent them asunder. The zealots and factious Jews expelled and slew one another in the siege of Jerusalem. “I will deliver the men, every one into his neighbour’s hand.”

3. The land was smitten by the foe. “They shall smite the land.” The people generally and individually were delivered into the hands of the Roman emperor. With indignant voice they rejected their own lawful ruler, and cried, “We have no king but Cœsar!” They were dispossessed of their trust, and their precious inheritance was given to others. Those who should have been protectors became oppressors. Without friends or helpers, they were destroyed as a nation, “and live only to perpetuate the memory of their past history, and teach more vividly its great lessons of sin and retribution.” “Out of their hand I will not deliver them.”


Zechariah 11:4.

1. The wrerched flock. Forsaken and flayed by the shepherds, counted all day for the slaughter.

2. The tender compassion of Jehovah. “Feed them,” foster and preserve them with affectionate care. “O the goodness of God to a nation so shamelessly, so lawlessly wicked. He himself, the Shepherd of Israel, neglected no good office in seeking and feeding them; was careful to raise up shepherds for them (Micah 5:5), till at length he sent the Man, Christ Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, who came to look up the lost sheep of the house of Israel, whom (to move compassion and affection) he here calleth the sheep of slaughter, until the time prefixed for their total dispersion, by reason of ingratitude” [Trapp].

Zechariah 11:5.

1. Wickedness declared to be innocent. “They slay them, and hold themselves not guilty.” They thought there was no wrong in it, and would not be called to account for it. “All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:6-7).

2. Wickedness claiming God as its associate. “Blessed be the Lord.” Can anything be more offensive to God than to thank him for the gains of oppression and fraud! “To what point does not art reach? Some learn even to weep with grace” [Ovid].

3. Wickedness justified by success. “I am rich.” I have succeeded in business, prospered in family and estate, therefore I must be right. God has blessed me, I may thank him! “Success consecrates the foulest crimes [Seneca]. Thus while “through covetousness they with feigned words made merchandise of men,” they at the same time sought to impose upon the omniscient God, and to put him off with words and forms, in which there was no heart and no moral or spiritual obedience. There could not be a juster description of the leading features in the character of the Pharisees. These were avarice and hypocrisy: their hypocrisy being, as is the wont of religious dissemblers, accompanied with a large amount of ostentation and parade. Mark the manner in which our Lord speaks of them (Matthew 23:14; Matthew 23:23-25).

Zechariah 11:6. No more pity.

1. God’s pity is very great. Had been displayed in wonderful ways to his people, and is to us.

2. But this pity is limited. “No more.” Forbearance will reach its limit, and heavy woes will fall upon those who despise it. Observe the evils threatened—(a) Deadly feuds; (b) Foreign yoke; (c) Dispossession of land; and (d) Helpless misery. “They shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.”

“Mercy to him that shows it is the rule” [Cowper].


Zechariah 11:5. Rich. It is success that colours all in life; success makes fools admired, makes villains honest [Thomson]. Let them call it mischief: when it is past and prospered, it will be virtue [Ben Jonson].

Zechariah 11:6. Deliver. Such was the fury of contending factions, that all parts of the city and the very temple itself were filled with slaughter. In their mutual frenzy, they burned the very granaries of corn which should have sustained them, and destroyed the magazines of arms which should have defended them. And such was the pressure of the famine, that parents and children, husbands and wives, tore the food from each other’s mouths, scanty and bad as it was, and, as a subsequent verse hints, fed on the very bodies of the dead, envying them the mean while the cessation of their sufferings [Wardlaw].

Verses 7-8


Zechariah 11:7. I] The prophet executed the task committed to him by shepherding a sad (poor) flock. Two staves] “to set forth the kind of double salvation bestowed upon the nation through the care of the Good Shepherd” [Keil]. Beauty] Loveliness or favour (Psalms 27:4; Psalms 90:17); which Jehovah will give them in protecting them from foes. Bands] Internal union and friendship. Easterns tied a cord or band as a symbol of confederacy (cf. Psalms 119:61, marg,).

Zechariah 11:8.] First act of shepherd. Cut off] Lit. cause to disappear, destroy, or annihilate (Exodus 23:23). Three] orders—civil authorities, priests, and prophets (cf. Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 2:18); others, three rulers of Asmonean line—who died by violent death in a short space of time—Hircanus, Alexander, and Antigonus. Loathed] Was straitened for them: “the Divine grief at the misery of his people” [Pusey]. Abhorred] “Nauseated me.”



The two staves are differently explained, indicating, according to some, the double care of Christ for his flock. Henderson takes them as symbols of “the two modes of treatment” which the Jews had experienced “under the guidance and protection of God.” Beauty has been rendered grace or favour. Taken in its connection (Zechariah 11:10), it means the covenant of God, with all its blessings and special favours. Bands signify unity or brotherhood, which binds men together (Zechariah 11:14).

I. The staff Beauty. “The one I called Beauty.” This symbolizes—

1. God’s gifts to men. The gifts of pastors, the wisdom of senators, and the power of princes come from God.

2. God’s presence with men. Purity of worship and principle in the nation—holiness in character and usefulness in the Church—are beauties which attract and adorn. The image of God, the beauties of holiness, are most desirable. “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.”

3. God’s defence of men. God’s covenant was a pledge of defence to them as long as they kept it. Thus God’s favour is better than armies and fleets, wealth and valour, in the protection of a people. This alone beautifies and strengthens. “For God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.”

II. The staff Bands. “The other I called Bands.” Binders symbolize the unity or brotherhood among men.

1. This alone is the gift of God. In the gospel we have a basis of brotherhood, and motives to cement it. The bands of friendship and marriage, the contracts of business, and the treaties of nations may be broken. But in Christ we have a living, universal, and everlasting brotherhood of humanity.

2. How strong art men when thus bound together. Foes without cannot destroy unity within. “Union gives strength and firmness to the humblest aids.”

3. How weak are men when not thus bound together. Factions and civil discords in the nation, divisions in the Church, and discords in the family, will bring ruin. Nothing can beautify or defend a broken people. “Men’s hearts,” says Carlyle, “ought not to be set against one another, but set with one another, and all against the evil thing only.” If you wish to retain strength and beauty, co-operate together, in obedience to the Great Shepherd, and under the rule of Beauty and Bands. “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

THE SHEPHERD PROPHET.—Zechariah 11:7-8

I. The charge. The command was given, “Feed the sheep” (Zechariah 11:4). Eagerly does the prophet undertake the duty, and become a type of Christ. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O my God.” But notice the condition of the flock.

1. A helpless flock. In the hands of cruel shepherds; bought and sold by strangers, oppressed by native rulers.

2. A miserable flock. “Poor of the flock,” lit. truly miserable sheep. Men may be poor without being miserable. But the Jewish people were reduced to a most unhappy condition. As in the days of Christ, they were harassed and worried (Matthew 9:36); lost sheep (Matthew 10:36). The poor are not despised, the lost are sought out, and the wounded are healed by the gospel. “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.”

II. The method of executing the charge. “And I fed the flock” (Zechariah 11:7). He performed, like Christ, the work of a good shepherd to the Jewish nation.

1. He furnished himself with staves. “I took unto me two staves.” He did all he could to bind them together in unity and obedience, and direct them to the grace and favour of God.

2. He destroyed the oppressors of the flock. “I cut off three shepherds.” “These,” says a critic, “were the persons of influence by whom the affairs of the nation were conducted, and to whose wickedness, which reached its culminating point when they crucified the Lord of glory the destruction of the state is to be ascribed.”

3. He was grieved in soul at the condition of the flock. “My soul loathed them.” He witnessed the fearful wickedness of rulers and teachers, He was deeply pained, “vexed from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” This was the feeling of Christ, and will be the feeling of all true shepherds. Sad the wickedness which creates tears of the Saviour! If “every human feeling is greater and larger than the exciting cause,” as Coleridge says, what must be the loathing of him who sees the hearts of all men! “He knew what was in man.”


Zechariah 11:7. I fed the flock. Christ the King of men. The poor in spirit are chosen to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom. “Jehovah in Christ did the work of a Good Shepherd to the Jewish nation during the whole of his earthly ministry (cf. John 10:11-14; John 14:6; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25)” [Wordsworth].

Zechariah 11:8. My soul loathed them.

1. Divine compassion. “Loathed,” lit was straitened, the opposite of enlarged towards them, in love and tender compassion (2 Corinthians 6:11-12). “His soul was grieved (shortened) for the misery of Israel” (Judges 10:16).

2. Human abhorrence. “Their soul also abhorred me.” “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 [Pusey]. No room was left by them for the grace of God, and his favours were rejected [Calvin]. Learn that unbelief creates a mutual distaste between God and the sinner. “Their soul nauseated me” is the real meaning—that alienation from God will lead to God’s withdrawal from men. “I will not feed them” (Zechariah 11:9).

3. The impenitent flock and the grieved Shepherd. God is infinitely happy and incapable of grief, yet acts as if he felt the sins and miseries of men. “The Good Shepherd lost patience with their perverse impenitence, and they, on the other hand, loathed him for his spirituality and holiness” [Lange]. Christ cannot be rejected with impunity. Even the Jews, who “did it ignorantly in unbelief,” paid a terrible penalty for their crime; how much more terrible will be the punishment of those who have all their unbelief without any of their ignorance [Id.].


Zechariah 11:7 (10 and 14). The prophetic narrative which follows differs in its form, in some respects, from the symbolic actions of the prophets, and from Zechariah’s own visions. The symbolic 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 central points, the feeding of the flock, which yet are intelligent men 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 inquire their meaning and learn it, and receive further information. Here he himself is the actor, yet representing Another, who alone could cut off shepherds, abandon the people to mutual destruction, annulling the covenant which he had made [Pusey].

Verses 9-11


Zechariah 11:9. Let it] Perish those who are doomed to perish. All kindly control is withdrawn, and the flock is left to the consequences of its fatal rejection of deliverance. The fulfilment in the history of Jerusalem.

Zechariah 11:10. Break] Symbolic action of taking away the good received by the flock in form of covenant. “That is to say, the covenant which God has made with all nations is to be repealed or destroyed” [Keil].

Zechariah 11:11. Broken] The covenant annulled as the staff was broken. This not observed by the flock at large, only by the poor] who recognized the fulfilment of a Divine word (Jeremiah 32:8).



The treatment which the Shepherd received leads him to give up feeding the flock, and leave it to its fate. Israel rejected Jehovah, and was in turn rejected. The staves were broken, and the miserable flock have experienced the weight of the words, “Woe unto them when I depart from them!” Learn—

I. That God may withdraw himself from men on account of their sins. “Then said I, I will not feed you.” God woos and awes men; instructs and chastises them; loads them with benefits and corrects them in evil; uses all possible means to keep them in his ways: but they despise his long-suffering, and provoke his wrath. The greatest favours of God often draw forth the worst manifestation of conduct. Men persist in rebellion, refuse when God calls, and are ultimately left to their folly. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.”

II. That when God withdraws himself from men fearful punishment falls upon them for their sins. How awful the picture given here.

1. Destruction most effectual. “It was broken in that day.” If not suddenly, the Jewish nation suffered eventually. God has power to execute judgments, and nothing escapes his notice.

2. Destruction in manifold ways.

(1) By pestilence. “That that dieth, let it die.”

(2) By the sword. “And that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off.”

(3) By famine. “Let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.”

(4) By intestine feuds. God withdrew, and ceased to be “a wall of fire round about them.” The staff Beauty, the covenant, was broken, and fearful was the fulfilment. When the Romans forced admission into their city, famine and pestilence, feuds and mutual hatred, had done their work. Josephus tells us that every law of nature and humanity was broken; that even the very letter was fulfilled: “The left over shall eat every one of the flesh of his neighbour.”

THE OBSERVANT FEW.—Zechariah 11:11

When the staff was broken, and calamities were threatened, this was not observed by all. Only a small number gave heed to Jehovah, and recognized the fulfilment of the Divine word. Their character, attitude, and experience are described.

I. Their character is described. “The poor of the flock.” Poor in condition and poor in spirit. The nation was gone astray, but God had “a seed to serve him.” The people were doomed, but Jesus had a “little flock.” However low the condition of the world, God has always a “remnant according to the election of grace.”

II. Their attitude is described. They “waited upon me.” They prayed to God for mercy; observed God in the warnings and actions of the prophet. They discerned the hand of God in the signs of the times, just as the disciples saw coming judgments in the siege of Jerusalem, and fled to Pella. “Whoso readeth, let him understand (mark, consider, 2 Timothy 2:7) it” (Matthew 24:15).

III. Their experience is described. They knew that it was “the word of the Lord.” They understood the word of God, however perplexing it was to others; were sensible of God’s displeasure, and cherished a humble spirit. Events which are common occurrences, chances of war to some, are warnings of God to others. Let faithful pastors be encouraged from these words. Prophets before them have shared their lot—ministered to a flock, despised by the world, but distinguished by the mark that they know the Lord. Jesus himself thought it not beneath him to shepherd “a little flock,” whom he will own at the great day.


Zechariah 11:9. I will not. God’s decrees are not the result of deliberation, or the Almighty’s debating matters within himself, reasoning in his own mind about the expediency of things, as creatures do; nor are they merely ideas of things future, but settled determinations founded on his sovereign will and pleasure [Buck].

Zechariah 11:10. Beauty.

“In his favour life is found,

All bliss beside—a shadow or a sound” [Cowper].

Verses 12-14


Zechariah 11:12. Good] “He served them, not for wages, but in obedience to the Divine will.” Wages, however, were due; the price of a slave offered.

Zechariah 11:13.] It was contemptuously rejected. Jehovah regards the wages offered to himself. Goodly] Noble price, ironical. Potter] As worthless.

Zechariah 11:14.] Worse evil threatened than the former. Second, utter breaking up of the nation, and loss of fraternal unity.

THE SHEPHERD’S PRICE.—Zechariah 11:12-14

The prophet, representing Jehovah, demands the price for his services. The Jews were God’s peculiar people, blessed above all others, and should have made grateful return. But they offered forms for sincerity, added injury to insult, and sold the Messiah for thirty pieces of silver.

I. A price of their own rating. “If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear.” As their servant, he sought their love and obedience. He will not force, but leave it to free-will. If men withhold what is due, God will not constrain them to give. His goodness should bind us to love him. “Love sought is good, but given unsought is better” [Shakespeare].

II. A price most contemptible. “They weighed, for my price, thirty pieces of silver.” They gave him the price of a bond-servant, half the value of a free-man—the compensation for a slave that had been killed (Exodus 21:32; Matthew 26:15). “A goodly price”—a splendid value that has been set upon me! Good men are not half valued in the world. What wonder when Christ, the Son of God, was sold so cheaply!

III. A price rejected by the Shepherd. “Cast it unto the potter.” The most suitable person to whom to cast the despicable sum, who plies his trade in the valley of polluted clay (2 Kings 23:10). An action significant of the mind of God, and the doom of the people. God values our smallest service if offered in sincerity, but contempt of his Son will meet with death.

IV. A price which brought Jehovah’s displeasure upon them. “Then I cut asunder mine other Staff” (Zechariah 11:14). The shameful payment by the people leads to the abandonment to their fate. Fraternal unity is dissolved, and the nation is broken up into self-destroying parties. When schisms rend the Church, and factions break the peace of a people, we may see the withdrawal of the Shepherd’s care, and the presage of the nation’s doom. “When the staff of Beauty is broken the staff of Bands will not hold long. An unchurched people will soon be an undone people.”


Zechariah 11:12. If ye think good. The demand an appeal to men, to give them opportunity of reasoning, explaining their conduct, and appreciating God’s kindness.

1. God lays men under great obligation by his love; makes them indebted to him.
2. Men should make some return to God. Not because they enrich God, but as proof of their affection.
3. God seeks return. “Give me my price.” He will not enforce it, but leave the consequences with men.

“Thus saith the Lord God, He that heareth let him hear, and he that forbeareth let him forbear.”

Zechariah 11:13 (cf. Matthew 27:3-10). There are points of diversity between the two transactions—that in the Prophet, and that in the Evangelist. There are points, too, of similarity; and in these the allusive type is to be considered as lying. The “price”—reward or hire—given to the prophet, in the vision, represented the slight value set upon his person and official services. So did the same price, put upon the head of a greater than Zechariah or any of the prophets, testify the low value they set upon him and his Divinely-attested ministrations and work. The identity of “the price;” the principle, or want of principle, shown in its pitiful diminutiveness; and the giving of each to “the potter,” are the chief points of resemblance, in which the treatment of the prophet was a prophetic prefiguration of the treatment of him “of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.” However indirect and obscure the prefiguration might be, we are not to regard the reference by Matthew as a mere accommodation. There was in what befell the prophet a designed foreshadowing of what in the future should befall the prophet’s Lord [Wardlaw].

House. They are his most guilty adversaries who, like the Jews in Jesus’ days on earth, and like apostate Christians in our days, are so “in the house of the Lord” [Fausset].

Zechariah 11:14. Cut. God seems to say that he will now no more govern this people in mildness and clemency, nor yet exercise his shepherdly severity in saving corrections and visitations, as formerly he had done; but utterly reject and disject them [Trapp].


Zechariah 11:12-13. Price. The influence of money on a man will be according to the man’s state of mind; according to the condition of his heart and affections, his estimate and plan of life [Binney].

Zechariah 11:14. Brotherhood. Let us keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Let this soft and silken knot of love tie our hearts together: though our heads and apprehensions cannot meet, as indeed they never will, but always stand at some distance off from one another [Cadworth].

Verses 15-17


Zechariah 11:15.] Since the Good Shepherd was rejected a very different class would shepherd them. Take] again. Instruments] A crook, bag, pipe, and knife, &c. Foolish] Bad shepherd (Psalms 14:1).

Zechariah 11:16.] Conduct of this ruler described; not mere neglect, but destroys (cf. Ezekiel 34:3-4). Enumeration of particulars complete. Claws] Tearing off hoofs, disabling them from seeking pasture, expressive of ferocious greed. Even extremities rent rather than lose a shred of flesh.

Zechariah 11:17. Woe] These merciless rulers meet with retribution. Leaveth] Instead of guarding the flock. Arm] Instrument of tyranny. Right eye] The organ of vigilance (John 10:12-13). The former withered, and the latter blinded. “The doom imprecated is truly awful—an utter deprivation of power and intelligence” [Henderson].



Israel rejected the Good Shepherd, and must now be ruled by shepherds of a different class. In one more symbolic act the prophet represents the truth. “Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.” Notice—

I. The character of the shepherds. These pretended shepherds are described—

1. They were worthless. “Woe to the idol shepherd.” An idol expresses vanity, a thing of nought. “A shepherd of nothingness, one who hath no quality of a shepherd.” Destitute of spiritual life, no care for themselves or their flock, mere forms or images before God.

2. They are foolish. Foolish is synonymous with wicked (Psalms 14:1). Not mere ignorant and unqualified, but unprincipled and ungodly shepherds; vain, passionate, and cruel.

II. The rule of the shepherds. This is described in the figure, not the exact words of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-2) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34:3-4).

1. They are negligent. “Who shall not visit.” The flock is sick, wounded, or lost; and the shepherd is unfaithful and negligent.

2. They are selfish. They think only of gratification and self-indulgence. “He shall eat the flesh of the fat.”

3. They are cruel. They not only neglect, but seriously injure the sheep. They have neither sympathy for the young nor regard for the lost. They seize and devour the flock, and tear in pieces the claws of the sheep.

Attend. “This holy fox

Or wolf, or both,—for he is equal ravenous
As he is subtle, and as prone to mischief
As able to perform ’t [Shakespeare].

III. The punishment of the shepherds. “Woe to the idol shepherd” (Zechariah 11:17).

1. Judicial blindness. “His right eye,” which should have been vigilant, ever looking out to guide the flock, “shall be utterly darkened.” Visited with blindness, “he shall grope in the noon-day as in the night.”

2. Withered strength. “The sword shall be upon his arm,” by which he should have defended the flock. His boasted light shall be obscured, and his might dried, shrivelled up to nothing. He is bereft alike of wisdom and strength. Awful warning to faithless ministers. “If such woe,” says Wardlaw, “hung over negligent, unfaithful, unfeeling, selfish shepherds, under the old economy, how weightily ought they to feel their responsibility, to whom, under the new, Christ says, “Feed my sheep: feed my lambs”!


Zechariah 11:15. Instruments of a foolish shepherd. Exalted rank and sacred power; the weakness of human nature, and all the means to support their ambitious designs.

Zechariah 11:16.

1. The condition of the flock. Some are cut off. Having wandered, they are left to perish. Others are “broken, i.e. injured through the fracture of a limb. The opposite of that which stands upon its feet, and is still strong” [Keil]. Some stand still through faintness or weakness. “Better the whole (as the word always means, ‘in its good estate;’ like our prayer, ‘that thou wouldest strengthen those who do stand’). Which was set firm, or set himself firm, as in Psalms 39:6, ‘Every man in his firm estate is all vanity.’ Id quod stat (S. Jer.)” [Pusey]. All require special care. But notice—2 The wickedness of the shepherd. He should sustain and furnish every one with provisions. “If taken as pointing to an individual king, there is none to whom it will more aptly apply than to Herod, who was totally regardless of the real interests of the Jews, and whose reign was marked by the perpetration of the most shameful and barbarous cruelties” [Hends.].

The whole chapter sets forth—

1. The conduct of the Good Shepherd (Zechariah 11:4-14) who laid down his life for the sheep.

2. The conduct of the bad shepherds (Zechariah 11:15-17). The foolish, cruel, and worthless rulers, who devoured the flock and destroyed the nation.


Zechariah 11:15-17. Shepherd. O miserable is that Church wherein are hirelings instead of the Good Shepherd; more miserable where are wolves in place of hirelings, and most miserable where devils in place of wolves [Bishop Jewell]. Eat the flesh. Not keeping but clipping the flock; as if having now got a cure, they might bid adieu to care [Bernard].

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/zechariah-11.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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