Zechariah 11 (The good shepherds)
(11:1-3) Some interpreters understand this to figuratively refer to the destruction of the second Temple in AD 70, because it was built the wood that came from Lebanon. Even the rabbinical interpreters of the Talmud held this view.
However, this seems like a fairly straightforward description of specific lands: Lebanon, Bashan, and the Jordan. Zechariah personifies the destruction of these trees in a coming judgment (“Wail, O cypress…”).
The rejection of the Good Shepherd
Why did judgment come on the land of Israel? (vv.1-3) The rest of this chapter explains that it was because the people rejected their messianic Shepherd.
(11:4-5) Zechariah is told to act out the role of the Shepherd. Even before he does anything, God tells him that the Israelites will not listen (“doomed to slaughter”). Consequently, they are either enslaved or slaughtered.
(11:6) God will allow individual kings to overpower the Israelites. This was true through the intertestamental period and into the Roman era.
(11:7) We wonder what it looked like for Zechariah to act out this divine drama.
“Favor” represents God’s protection of the people (v.11; cf. Ezek. 37:15-28).
“Union” represents the northern and southern nations (v.14)
(11:8) Barker states that there are at least 40 interpretations of this verse (!!). Here is his tentative view:
“…in one month…” This could refer to a literal month, a short period of time, or a generally long period of time.
“I annihilated the three shepherds…” These could be the:
(1) Three leaders of the zealots who fought in the Jewish War of AD 66 (Eleazar, John, and Simon).
(2) Three Seleucid kings (Seleucus IV, Heliodorus, and Demetrius Soter).
(3) Three high priests (Jason, Menelaus, and Alcimus).
(4) Three general functions of leaders: priest, prophet, and king.
Regardless of our view, the point is clear that the Shepherd will do away with bad leaders (“for my soul was impatient with them”).
(11:9) The Shepherd withdrew and gave them over to their fate. In the Jewish War of AD 66, the people were under siege for so long that they resorted to cannibalism (Josephus Jewish Wars 6.193-213) and eventually 1.1 million died.
(11:10-11) The Shepherd removed his protection from the people. This is symbolized by breaking the staffs (v.7). The Romans overwhelmed the nation in AD 70, destroying the city and the Temple.
(11:12) By giving the Shepherd his pay, they were terminating their relationship. “Thirty shekels” was the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32).
(11:13) Yahweh tells Zechariah to give this to the “potter,” and he describes this as the nation’s value of Him—not Zechariah (“…which I was valued by them…”). Here, we learn that this Shepherd is God himself, and he will be sold by the people for the price of a slave. This is fulfilled in the NT by the betrayal of Jesus (Mt. 26:14-15; 27:3-10).
(11:14) It’s interesting to note that the nation was destroyed first (v.11), and they were scattered second.
The foolish shepherd
(11:15) This shepherd is “foolish” in the sense of being immoral (cf. Prov. 1:7).
(11:16) If we remove the word “not” from the sentence, this shepherd sounds pretty good! But he is the opposite of the Good Shepherd, taking everything he can from the sheep (people).
(11:17) Who is this “worthless shepherd”? Barker believes that this could be partially fulfilled in Bar Kokba—the failed messianic leader in AD 132-135, but it is ultimately fulfilled in the Antichrist. The maiming of his arm and eye implies that he will be unable to do any more harm in battle.
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