Zechariah 11: Glance back - a reminder [?]
Comment: This chapter is difficult to apply
and commentators have been divided over it. Therefore what follows
is just one possible interpretation of it – see notes after v.3
and the notes that follow throughout the chapter.]
Signs of Strength and Power had fallen
your doors, Lebanon,
so that fire may devour your cedars!
you juniper, for the cedar has fallen;
the stately trees are ruined!
Wail, oaks of Bashan;
the dense forest has been cut down!
The removal of provision of what had been their land causes present
to the wail of the shepherds:
their rich pastures are destroyed!
Listen to the roar of the lions;
the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined!
For the returning exiles the might and beauty of the
north had been taken down by the invader before the Exile and
maybe that shadow of their past still remained in the backs of
their minds, as they had returned to a land that had been devastated
by those events seventy years back. Maybe a way to view most of
what is here, is to see it as God reminding them what had happened
back then, seventy years earlier. First of all, the land had fallen
to the invader in the north.]
What Jeremiah or Ezekiel had perhaps felt
is what the Lord my God says: ‘Shepherd the flock marked
buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say,
“Praise the Lord, I am rich!” Their own shepherds do not spare
I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,' declares
the Lord. ‘I will give everyone into the hands of their neighbours
and their king. They will devastate the land, and I will not rescue
anyone from their hands.'
Those two earlier prophets had been told to be there
for the nation that was rushing headlong towards destruction with
its leaders failing them, and the invaders callously approaching
their task of invasion.]
Despite a limited immediate future, God's heart was to bless His
I shepherded the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the
oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called
one Favour and the other Union,
and I shepherded the flock.
one month I got rid of the three shepherds.
Despite the fact that the nation was doomed to destruction,
the Lord's heart was to bless His people [favour], even bringing
unity [as He had allowed the remnant of the north to be returned
and the people to be seen as one again]. Yet the leadership of
ungodly kings, false prophets and unrighteous priests had had
to be removed.]
But Judah's unrepentant heart meant a parting of the ways had
flock detested me, and I grew weary of them
said, ‘I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the
perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh.'
I took my staff called Favour and broke it, revoking the covenant
I had made with all the nations.
was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who
were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.
told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not,
keep it.' So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
Verse 12 is well known as being applied to Judas [Mt
26:15, 27:3-10] but comes here as a derisory conclusion to the
failing relationship between the Lord and His people that had
resulted in Him giving up His people to destruction and exile.
Shepherds were paid by merchants to whom they took their sheep
eventually, but in this allegorical picture the price of a slave
[see Ex 21:32] or a woman [see Ex 27:4] is all that the Lord will
settle for as He gives up His people to the ‘merchants' [invaders]
for His sub-standard sheep!]
The desultory amount is thrown back at the treasury
And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter'– the
handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces
of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.
I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond
between Judah and Israel.
The potter's house was often near the Temple treasury,
their pots being constantly needed for priestly duties, and so
the instruction here is basically, give this blood money to these
lowly workers at the temple, for that's all it's worth. Interestingly,
when Judas returned his blood money to the priests, they felt
they couldn't hold on to it and so used it to buy a nearby that
had been used by the potter, now to be used to bury foreigners
– Mt 27:10. With this complete breakdown of the relationship,
also came a break between any ties of north and south [hence the
low view held of Samaria by the Jews of Jesus' day [see Jn 4:9]
that continued to exist until Jesus' new kingdom brought a new
unity – e.g. Acts 8:25]
For the years following exile, caring leadership in the land was
Then the Lord said to me, ‘Take again the equipment of
a foolish shepherd.
I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care
for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed
the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing
off their hooves.
to the worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
May his arm be completely withered,
his right eye totally blinded!'
The accounts in Jeremiah that reveal what happened after
the Babylonians left, shows very clearly there was no godly leadership
to care either for the people or the land. Such had been the state
of the people and the land following the destruction of Jerusalem
and the ensuing exile. A warning and reminder to the present returned
to Chapter 12