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FRAMEWORKS: Zechariah 11: Glance back - a reminder [?]


[Preliminary 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.]



v.1,2 Signs of Strength and Power had fallen


v.1  Open your doors, Lebanon,
    so that fire may devour your cedars!
v.2  Wail, you juniper, for the cedar has fallen;
    the stately trees are ruined!
Wail, oaks of Bashan;
    the dense forest has been cut down!

v.3 The removal of provision of what had been their land causes present anxiety


v.3  Listen 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!


[Notes: 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.]


v.4-6 What Jeremiah or Ezekiel had perhaps felt


v.4  This is what the Lord my God says: ‘Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter.

v.5  Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, “Praise the Lord, I am rich!” Their own shepherds do not spare them.

v.6  For 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.'


[Notes: 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.]


v.7,8a Despite a limited immediate future, God's heart was to bless His people


v.7  So 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.

v.8  In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.


[Notes: 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.]


v.8b-12 But Judah's unrepentant heart meant a parting of the ways had to come


The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them

v.9  and 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.'

v.10  Then I took my staff called Favour and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations.

v.11  It was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.

v.12  I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.' So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.


[Notes: 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!]


v.13,14 The desultory amount is thrown back at the treasury


v.13   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.

v.14  Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel.


[Notes: 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]


v.15-17 For the years following exile, caring leadership in the land was absent


v.15   Then the Lord said to me, ‘Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd.

v.16  For 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.

v.17  ‘Woe 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!'


[Notes: 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 exiles.]



Continue to Chapter 12