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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 11

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The destruction of Jerusalem. The faithful being cared for, the impenitent are rejected. The slaves of Beauty and Bands broken by the rejection of Christ. The type and curse of a foolish shepherd.

Before Christ 517.

THIS chapter contains a prophesy of a very different cast from the foregoing. The people would not always behave as they ought, and therefore would not always be prosperous. Before their final glorious restoration, an event of a most calamitous nature was doomed to take place, the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, which is plainly here foretold, and ascribed to its proper cause, punishment for notorious wickedness. The flock, meaning God's people, were under the guidance of corrupt and unprincipled pastors, who sacrificed them to their own lucrative and ambitious views. The Messiah, then, is represented as assuming for a while the direction of them, as the good shepherd. After this, the prophet is held forth as the type of a worthless shepherd, or a succession of evil governors, who, heedless of the flock, or seeking only to oppress it, at once ruin the flock and bring destruction on themselves.

Verse 1

Zechariah 11:1. Open thy doors, &c.— This manner of expression sufficiently shews, that Lebanon itself is not addressed, which had no doors, or gates; but the temple, built of the cedars of Lebanon. In the three preceding chapters, Zechariah spoke of the advantages and prosperities of Judah and Jerusalem, after the return from Babylon, both before and after the times of the Maccabees. Here he predicts the ruin of the temple, the rejection of the Jews, and their subjection to the Romans. He foretels at the same time a remarkable circumstance, in the passion of our Saviour, and marks out clearly the little flock of the church, and the care which the great Shepherd takes of it. See Calmet.

Verse 2

Zechariah 11:2. Howl, fir-tree O fir-tree; because the cedar is fallen, because, &c. Howl, O ye oaks of Bashan, because the defenced forest is overthrown. Houbigant. When any apologue or fable became celebrated for the art and beauty of its composition, or for some extraordinary efficacy in its application, it was soon converted and worn into a proverb. We have a fine instance of this in the message of Jehovah to Amaziah, 2Ki 14:9-10 where we see plainly that Jotham's satiric apologue of the thistle and cedar was then become a proverb. Of the like kind is this of the prophet, Howl, O fir-tree, &c. to denote the danger of the lower people, when their superiors cannot withstand the tempest. See Div. Leg. b. 4: sect. 4.

Verse 3

Zechariah 11:3. For the pride of Jordan is spoiled Because the waters of Jordan have overflowed, so that the lions can no more rest among its reeds, and on its banks; that is, no place in Judaea is safe whither the warriors and great men may betake themselves. Houbigant. Dr. Blayney observes, that by "the pride of Jordan," those woods and thickets are primarily intended, which rise proudly above the banks of that river, and greatly decorate the scene. But here, in a secondary and metaphorical sense, they are put for the residences of those princes and grandees, who too often like lions devour and oppress the people under them. In Jer 12:5 those thickets, the haunt of lions and wild beasts, consequently places of great alarm and danger, are aptly opposed to a land of peace and security.

Verse 4

Zechariah 11:4. Feed the flock of the slaughter Or the flock prepared for slaughter. That flock is so described in the next verse, as to make it evident that a flock not of sheep, but of men, is meant, and consequently an allegorical shepherd. Zechariah was not only of a priestly family, but one of the chief priests; supposing him to be, as it is most likely he was, the person mentioned Nehemiah 12:16. It belonged therefore to his station and office to take upon himself the guidance and instruction of the people. For, as his contemporary Malachi observes, ch. Zechariah 2:7. The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth. Compare Deuteronomy 30:10; Deuteronomy 33:10. Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 18:23. The people are denominated the flock of slaughter, because they were devoted to ruin by following the mischievous counsels of their false teachers.

Verse 5

Zechariah 11:5. And hold themselves not guilty And repent not, or are not ashamed. See Jeremiah 2:3; Jeremiah 50:7. Hosea 5:15. The Romans are here referred to, who, at the time of the coming of the great Shepherd of the sheep, the Messiah, had reduced the Jews under their power, whom they bought and sold as they pleased. By their own shepherds are meant the chief priests and rulers of the Jews, who shed, without remorse, the blood of their flock in their civil contests.

Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich That is, they hypocritically and impiously pretend to return God thanks for having put it in their power to acquire riches by such ungodly means.

Verse 6

Zechariah 11:6. For I will no more pity, &c.— It is a remark which deserves attention, that the prophets representing two persons, the Word, or the Messiah, and themselves, in the very same discourses, will sometimes speak of themselves, and at other times in the character that they are commanded to assume; of this numberless instances might be given: from the beginning of this verse, till the prophet takes his staff, he represents, and speaks in the person of, the Messiah, whose conduct is here figuratively described. Into his neighbour's hand, refers to the civil wars, and his king to the Roman emperor. These things happened together in the last siege of Jerusalem, when the Jews mutually destroyed and murdered each other, while the Romans besieged their city. See Sharpe's Second Argument, p. 351 and Houbigant.

Verse 7

Zechariah 11:7. And I will feed, &c.— In Eze 37:16-17 the prophet writes the names of the tribes upon two sticks, which, joined together, aptly express the union of all the tribes. But here the prophet takes the shepherd's crook, or staff, to shew the office and power of the Messiah; the Logos, or Word; for, to feed is to govern. In one hand he holds the staff, which he calls Beauty, to express the delight which the Lord has in governing his people, while they do what is pleasing in his sight, and strictly observe their part of the covenant subsisting between him and them. The other staff is properly called Binders, to express the union of Israel and Judah. See Dr. Sharpe as above. Bishop Chandler observes, that the prophets frequently employ metaphorical words, with intent, not to signify the thing which is obvious in the first sense of the words, but what is to be collected from another etymology or derivation thereof. Sometimes a double reference to different persons is included in the same word; again, the letters of a word are transposed to form a word that has no affinity in etymology or sense with the former. Thus our prophet calls one of his shepherd's staves נעם noam, or delight, so signify the pleasure which God had in his people, and the delight which the people took in God's worship. He calls his other staff חבלים chobelim, bands, in token that the people were become chobelim, corrupters of God's law,—and their souls did mutually בחלה bachalah, abhor each other. See his Defence, p. 226.

Two staves A staff, or crook, is the proper ensign of a shepherd. The shepherds of old time had two rods or staves: one turned round at the top, that it might not hurt the sheep; this was for counting them, and separating the sound from the diseased (see Leviticus 27:32.); the other had an iron hook at the end of it, to pull in the stray sheep, and hold them fast while the shepherd corrected them. The Psalmist mentions both there, Psalms 23:4. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. See Lowth.

Verse 8

Zechariah 11:8. Three shepherds also—in one month The great Shepherd, the Messiah, goes on to speak, agreeably to the ancient custom, of hiring shepherds for a month. The priests were frequently changed among the Jews during the latter part of their polity or commonwealth; whence the priesthood became venal, or was disposed of at the will of the Romans; and to such priests the latter part of the verse is justly applicable.

Verses 9-10

Zechariah 11:9-10. Then said I, &c.— These are the words of the Messiah to the priests of his time, whom he quickly forsook, and broke his staff of loveliness or delight, being no longer inclined to spare them, nor to restrain the people from oppressing the Jewish nation, as he had before restrained them by that covenant which he had made with the neighbouring nations. That decree of God, by which he had hindered the nations from oppressing and destroying the little commonwealth of the Jews, is here called God's covenant. See Houbigant. We may render that that dieth, Zec 11:9 that which is dying.

Verse 11

Zechariah 11:11. And it was broken, &c.— But when this was broken in that day, the poor or meek of the flock, as also those who watched with me, knew that this was the word of the Lord. The prophet calls those who followed the true Shepherd, the poor, or meek of the flock; but those who watched, priests and teachers of the law, whose business it was to watch over their religion: each of these, not long after the ascension of Christ, knew that this was the word of the Lord, that the staff was broken wherewith God had hitherto fed his people, and that the ruin both of the Jewish religion and polity was at hand. Houbigant.

Verses 12-13

Zechariah 11:12-13. And I said, &c.— Afterwards I said unto them, if this pleaseth you, give me my hire; if not, forbear: so, &c. Zechariah 11:13. And the Lord said unto me, cast it to the potter, [namely,] this very goodly valuation which they made of me. The Messiah speaks this to the chief-priests and rulers of the Jews, from whom he demands his hire, or, faith in his Gospel; for no other hire can be here understood. We have seen above, that Zechariah fed not the flock, and that the person of the Messiah is here exhibited, to whom alone it appertains to hold the staff of delight, and gentleness, and to make a covenant with the nations, that they should not destroy the Jewish people. There the Messiah only speaks, who expected no other hire or reward from the Jews than faith with all its blessed consequences. שׂכרי sekari, in the last clause, is more properly rendered price than hire, because the prophet prophesies ambiguously, and introduces the Messiah complaining to the following purpose: "I demanded my hire or reward from them: but they, so far from thinking to reward me, even weighed out the price or purchase-money for my life," So St. Matthew understood the place, who by his quotation teaches us; first, that שׂכרי sekari, here is not to be understood, as in the former part of the verse, for the reward or hire of a shepherd, but for the very price of the shepherd's life given to the traitor Judas: Secondly, that these words, A good price at which I was valued, in like manner denote the valuation, not of the shepherd's labour, but of his person [at which I was valued]; which estimation he calls goodly, in scorn, because it was a shameful thing for the murderers of the shepherd, however wicked, to purchase the facility of murdering him at so low a rate. The latter words could have no ambiguity in them: for, as nobody had seen Zechariah feed a flock, or demand his hire from any one, they could not doubt but that the prophet, when he said, I took and cast the thirty pieces of silver, &c. foretold that it should hereafter happen that thirty pieces of silver, &c. should be cast into the temple to or for the potter; though the other circumstances of this enigmatical prophesy could scarcely be explained or understood before the event itself. Such is Houbigant's explanation of this passage. Dr. Sharpe observes upon it, that after the dissolution of the covenant, mentioned Zec 11:10-11 between the Lord and the Jews, in consequence of their pride and other corruptions, they were delivered up to their enemies; notwithstanding the glorious promises made them on their return, and which they had forfeited by breaking the covenant first on their part. On this occasion, the fate even of the shepherd himself is related, as it happened not long after the time of these troubles, which extended to the reign of Herod. And I said unto them:—The prophet said unto them, the rulers of the people,—relating here what really happened, when one of the disciples of Jesus demanded the price of the Lord:—So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver; and the Lord said, &c. Zechariah 11:13. It is the Messiah, the governor, the good Shepherd, whom the Jews had rejected, and not the prophet Zechariah, who, as one dismissed, demands the lower price given to shepherds. This has manifestly a reference to what happened when the Messiah appeared in the flesh, and was again rejected by the Jews. The only difference in this account given by Zechariah is, that the prophet exhibits what was done by a third person, without introducing him into the relation. But this difference is such, as will not hinder a judicious and impartial man from believing the prophet, or the Word, to have had the future treatment of the same shepherd in view. And hence I take leave to remark, that it is a necessary key to the interpretation of the scriptures of the new covenant, that many things applied to our Lord in those writings are his own words, delivered under the character of the LORD, the Logos or Word; and therefore not to be considered merely as ACCOMODATIONS of phrases taken from the old scriptures, and applied to different purposes and persons in the new. See Dr. Sharpe's Second Argument, and Matthew 27:0.

The potter It is not likely that the potter was at work within the sacred precincts of the temple, as has been conjectured; because the potter's field, the place where his business was carried on, was, as we are told, Mat 27:7 afterwards bought to bury strangers in. But who can suppose that the Jews would have suffered such a defilement of the holy place? It must therefore have been a field adjacent to, but without the walls, which, the potters having by digging out the earth for their manufacture rendered it useless for any other purpose, was bought for a trifling sum, and appropriated as before mentioned.

Verse 14

Zechariah 11:14. Then I cut asunder, &c.— From the time that the people returned from Babylon, the Jews and Israelites had formed one society both of religion and polity, which society continued till the last destruction of Jerusalem, when, the Jewish kingdom being subverted, the bands were broken, and a disunion in religion was made; some of the Jews continuing attached to their ancient law as much as they could without the temple, and others professing the Christian faith. See Houbigant. Israel, says Calmet, denotes the unbelieving Jews, who rejected our Saviour; and Judah, the faithful ones who believed in him.

Verse 15

Zechariah 11:15. Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd The prophet follows the order of time, that he may foretel the madness and blindness of the shepherds, or of the priests and rulers of the Jewish nation, till the last destruction of Jerusalem; who not only disregarded religion, and the safety of the sheep, but even devoured such of them as were worth devouring; shepherds of nothing; Zec 11:17 for so idol-shepherds should be translated;—retaining nothing of the shepherd but the name. The arm of the Jews was dried up from that time when they were no longer able to bear arms, or to defend themselves; as their right eye is darkened to the true knowledge of the Scriptures, which they read as with a veil before them.

Verse 16

Zechariah 11:16. For, lo,—which shall not visit, &c.— For lo,—who will not look after those that are perishing, nor seek the wandering one, nor heal the broken, nor carry the restive or the weary; but will eat the flesh of the fat one, and pluck off their hoofs. The unwise and wicked shepherd, instead of being tender and gentle with his flock, is supposed to drag them about with his iron crook, or to overdrive them in rough and stony ground, so as to break their hoofs.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The destruction of the Jewish temple and nation is here foretold.

1. They are devoted to ruin. Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars; which may be understood of the temple; in building which, much cedar of Lebanon was employed; or of the gates of Jerusalem, both of them being forced open, and burnt by the Roman soldiers. The fir-tree and the cedar, the mighty men of war, the princes and rulers, are doomed to fall, and given up to the spoil; and this, being determined of God, is spoken of as already done. The oaks of Bashan, the mightiest, are now hewn down; and the forest of the vintage, or the fortified forest, Jerusalem, strong and filled with inhabitants, is destroyed; their glory is spoiled, their treasures plundered; the pride of Jordan is spoiled, the whole land of Judaea wasted; at which the lions, who infested the banks of this river, roar; the emblems of the princes and judges who oppressed and harassed the poor people.

2. This will make a howling among the shepherds, the great men of the nation, who will with bitterest grief behold these desolations, and be themselves terribly involved in them. They who roared over their prey, and were the terrors of others, have now in just judgment these terrors turned upon themselves. Note; In a day of recompence, wicked and careless shepherds, whether ministers or civil rulers, will meet the heaviest doom.

2nd, The people of the Jews are called the flock of the slaughter, as being so severely treated by their shepherds, or as devoted to the sword. The prophet, as the type or representative of Christ, is commanded to feed them, ministering his Gospel to them, that the penitent poor among them might be fed with the word of God, whilst others ripened for destruction. We have,

1. An account of their miserable condition. Their possessors, who, as good shepherds, civil or religious, should have taken all care of them, slay them; their priests, scribes, and Pharisees, by false doctrines destroyed their souls; and hold themselves not guilty, blinded by pride in their errors; and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich, making long prayers, though laden with the spoils of widows' houses, and valuing themselves on their external piety and goodness, when their burnt-offerings were robbery, and their hearts abominable; shewing no pity towards the souls of the people. And sad is that church's case, where such careless, selfish covetous pastors rule.

2. For this, God gives them up to destruction. I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, who were involved in the general guilt, and doomed to sink in one promiscuous ruin: their own intestine divisions will pave the way, and the Roman emperor, the king whom they chose, Joh 19:15 shall complete their desolations.

3. Before their judgment comes, Christ undertakes to feed the flock of slaughter, the poor of the flock, the faithful among them, chiefly poor people, who were made partakers of the Saviour's grace, and all the blessings of his Gospel; while the rulers and great men in general rejected the counsel of the Lord against their own souls, and thereby filled up the measure of their iniquities. To execute his pastoral office, the great Shepherd takes two slaves, the one he calls Beauty, the other Bands; concerning the meaning of which there is great diversity of opinions. But see the critical notes. Three shepherds also he cut off in one month; which may refer to the punishment of the wicked shepherds in general; or to the princes, priests, and prophets; or the three sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians; or perhaps it may relate to some singular judgment on three notorious offenders, of whom we have no record remaining.

4. For their obstinacy and impenitence the Jews in general are rejected. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me; they could not bear his high pretensions as the Messiah, nor endure his sharp rebukes: and while the sinner persists in his enmity against God, he must be an abomination in his sight. Then said I, I will not feed you; will take no more care of them, nor continue his Gospel any longer among them: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is cut off, let it be cut off: he devotes them to the ruin which they have provoked, and consigns them over to the pestilence and the sword: and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another, through the severity of famine, or the ran-cour of their mutual animosities. And in token of this utter rejection of them, I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, to signify the ceasing of his pastoral office, and his abandoning them to destruction, the peculiar national covenant being henceforth broken and abolished; and it was broken in that day, when Christ rejected them, (see Matthew 21:43.) or when he died; and this was evident when shortly after Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed: and the poor of the flock that waited upon me, the disciples of Christ, who attended his ministry, and were generally of the poorer sort, the kingdom of God being chiefly composed of such, knew that it was the word of the Lord, it being mixed with faith in their hearts, and they fully satisfied that every tittle would come to pass as Jesus had spoken.

5. We have a particular instance of their contempt of Christ. I said unto them, Give me my price; and if not, forbear; discharge me, if you like not my service; or if you think me worth nothing, pay me nothing. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver, the price of a servant, Exodus 21:32 a goodly price, saith he ironically, that I was prized at of them: with disdain, therefore, he calls it to the potter, in the house of the Lord. To what this refers we cannot be at a loss to discover; (see Matthew 27:9-10.) this being the price for which Judas sold his master; and with this sum, which in remorse the traitor had cast down in the temple, the chief priests bought the potter's field, a waste ground where clay had been dug, to bury strangers in.

6. Their whole civil state and polity are hereupon dissolved. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel, a spirit of dissension being sowed among them, which hastened their destruction; and when destroyed by the Romans, they were separated and dispersed as captives into all lands. Thus, when ungodliness abounds, the bonds of civil society are loosed, and such a wicked people hasten their own dissolution.

3rdly, Having rejected the good Shepherd Christ Jesus, the Jewish people are given up to wicked and foolish shepherds, whom the prophet is here commanded to personate, such as were the scribes and Pharisees, who deceived and deluded the people with false expositions and vain hopes, preying upon them instead of feeding them; and, far from seeking to save that which was lost, or healing the wounded, they neglected their charge, or made their proselytes sevenfold more the children of hell than they were before; for which, heavy curses are denounced upon them: and the character and woes belong to others besides them, who in the Christian church, pretending to feed the flock of the Lord, in reality betray and destroy them. We may read,
1. The character of every foolish idol shepherd. (1.) He leaveth the flock: he neglects the duty of his ministry, resides not among the people committed to his care, and for some poor pittance, gets a hireling to supply his place. (2.) He doth not visit those that be cut off, takes no pains to recover lost souls, nor ever goes round his parish or district to admonish and exhort the people. (3.) He doth not seek the young ones, by catechising and early instruction desiring to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (4.) He doth not heal that that is broken, but, if a poor sinner applies to him under conviction of sin, with a bleeding heart, he is a physician of no value; he knows not what advice to give, and wickedly and ignorantly heals the hurt slightly, crying peace, peace, where there is no peace; thus making the evil worse. (5.) He doth not feed that that standeth still, and through weakness and hunger is ready to faint; the famished flock look up and are not fed; the husks of dry morality, or the hemlock of false doctrines, such as man's natural dignity, justification by works, and self-sufficient endeavours, are laid before them to their ruin. (6.) He eats the flesh of the fat, and tears their claws in pieces: though he hates the work of the ministry, yet he is rapacious in exacting the wages of it; and in luxury and ease devours the flesh as well as the fleece of the poor flock.

2. The curse is sure and heavy upon him. His arm shall be dried up, and his right eye darkened; judicial blindness shall seal him up under wrath; his power to oppress the flock shall be destroyed, and the sword of wrath overtake him. Woe therefore to the idol shepherd!

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/zechariah-11.html. 1801-1803.
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