Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
Zec 11:1-17. Destruction of the Second Temple and Jewish Polity for the Rejection of Messiah.
1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon—that is, the temple so called, as being constructed of cedars of Lebanon, or as being lofty and conspicuous like that mountain (compare Eze 17:3; Hab 2:17). Forty years before the destruction of the temple, the tract called "Massecheth Joma" states, its doors of their own accord opened, and Rabbi Johanan in alarm said, I know that thy desolation is impending according to Zechariah's prophecy. Calvin supposes Lebanon to refer to Judea, described by its north boundary: "Lebanon," the route by which the Romans, according to Josephus, gradually advanced towards Jerusalem. Moore, from Hengstenberg, refers the passage to the civil war which caused the calling in of the Romans, who, like a storm sweeping through the land from Lebanon, deprived Judea of its independence. Thus the passage forms a fit introduction to the prediction as to Messiah born when Judea became a Roman province. But the weight of authority is for the former view.
Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.
2. fir tree … cedar—if even the cedars (the highest in the state) are not spared, how much less the fir trees (the lowest)!
forest of … vintage—As the vines are stripped of their grapes in the vintage (compare Joe 3:13), so the forest of Lebanon "is come down," stripped of all its beauty. Rather, "the fortified" or "inaccessible forest" [Maurer]; that is, Jerusalem dense with houses as a thick forest is with trees, and "fortified" with a wall around. Compare Mic 3:12, where its desolate state is described as a forest.
There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.
3. shepherds—the Jewish rulers.
their glory—their wealth and magnificence; or that of the temple, "their glory" (Mr 13:1; Lu 21:5).
young lions—the princes, so described on account of their cruel rapacity.
pride of Jordan—its thickly wooded banks, the lair of "lions" (Jer 12:5; 49:19). Image for Judea "spoiled" of the magnificence of its rulers ("the young lions"). The valley of the Jordan forms a deeper gash than any on the earth. The land at Lake Merom is on a level with the Mediterranean Sea; at the Sea of Tiberias it falls six hundred fifty feet below that level, and to double that depression at the Dead Sea, that is, in all, 1950 feet below the Mediterranean; in twenty miles' interval there is a fall of from three thousand to four thousand feet.
Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;
4. The prophet here proceeds to show the cause of the destruction just foretold, namely, the rejection of Messiah.
flock of … slaughter—(Ps 44:22). God's people doomed to slaughter by the Romans. Zechariah here represents typically Messiah, and performs in vision the actions enjoined: hence the language is in part appropriate to him, but mainly to the Antitype, Messiah. A million and a half perished in the Jewish war, and one million one hundred thousand at the fall of Jerusalem. "Feed" implies that the Jews could not plead ignorance of God's will to execute their sin. Zechariah and the other prophets had by God's appointment "fed" them (Ac 20:28) with the word of God, teaching and warning them to escape from coming wrath by repentance: the type of Messiah, the chief Shepherd, who receives the commission of the Father, with whom He is one (Zec 11:4); and Himself says (Zec 11:7), "I will feed the flock of slaughter." Zechariah did not live to "feed" literally the "flock of slaughter"; Messiah alone "fed" those who, because of their rejection of Him, were condemned to slaughter. Jehovah-Messiah is the speaker. It is He who threatens to inflict the punishments (Zec 11:6, 8). The typical breaking of the staff, performed in vision by Zechariah (Zec 11:10), is fulfilled in His breaking the covenant with Judah. It is He who was sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zec 11:12, 13).
Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.
5. possessors—The buyers [Maurer], their Roman oppressors, contrasted with "they that sell men." The instruments of God's righteous judgment, and therefore "not holding themselves guilty" (Jer 50:7). It is meant that they might use this plea, not that they actually used it. Judah's adversaries felt no compunction in destroying them; and God in righteous wrath against Judah allowed it.
they that sell them—(Compare Zec 11:12). The rulers of Judah, who by their avaricious rapacity and selfishness (Joh 11:48, 50) virtually sold their country to Rome. Their covetousness brought on Judea God's visitation by Rome. The climax of this was the sale of the innocent Messiah for thirty pieces of silver. They thought that Jesus was thus sold and their selfish interest secured by the delivery of Him to the Romans for crucifixion; but it was themselves and their country that they thus sold to the Roman possessors."
I am rich—by selling the sheep (De 29:19; Ho 12:8). In short-sighted selfishness they thought they had gained their object, covetous self-aggrandizement (Lu 16:14), and hypocritically "thanked" God for their wicked gain (compare Lu 18:11).
say … pity—In Hebrew it is singular: that is, each of those that sell them saith: Not one of their own shepherds pitieth them. An emphatical mode of expression by which each individual is represented as doing, or not doing, the action of the verb [Henderson]. Hengstenberg refers the singular verbs to Jehovah, the true actor; the wicked shepherds being His unconscious instruments. Compare Zec 11:6, For I will no more pity, with the Hebrew "pitieth not" here.
For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour's hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.
6. Jehovah, in vengeance for their rejection of Messiah, gave them over to intestine feuds and Roman rule. The Zealots and other factious Jews expelled and slew one another by turns at the last invasion by Rome.
his king—Vespasian or Titus: they themselves (Joh 19:15) had said, unconsciously realizing Zechariah's words, identifying Rome's king with Judah's ("his") king, "We have no king but Cæsar." God took them at their word, and gave them the Roman king, who "smote (literally, 'dashed in pieces') their land," breaking up their polity, when they rejected their true King who would have saved them.
And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.
7. And—rather, "Accordingly": implying the motive cause which led Messiah to assume the office, namely, the will of the Father (Zec 11:4, 5), who pitied the sheep without any true shepherd.
I will feed—"I fed" [Calvin], which comes to the same thing, as the past tense must in Zechariah's time have referred to the event of Messiah's advent then future: the prophets often speaking of the future in vision as already present. It was not My fault, Jehovah implies, that these sheep were not fed; the fault rests solely with you, because ye rejected the grace of God [Calvin].
even you, O poor of the flock—rather, "in order that (I might feed, that is, save) the poor (humble; compare Zec 11:11; Zep 3:12; Mt 5:3) of the flock"; literally, not you, but, "therefore (I will feed)" [Moore]. See Margin, "Verily the poor." It is for the sake of the believing remnant that Messiah took charge of the flock, though He would have saved all, if they would have come to Him. They would not come; therefore, as a nation, they are "the flock of (that is, doomed to) slaughter."
I took … two staves—that is, shepherds' staves or rods (Ps 23:4). Symbolizing His assumption of the pastor's office.
Beauty—The Jews' peculiar excellency above other nations (De 4:7), God's special manifestation to them (Ps 147:19, 20), the glory of the temple ("the beauty of holiness," Ps 29:2; compare Ps 27:4; 90:17; 2Ch 20:21), the "pleasantness" of their land (Ge 49:15; Da 8:9; 11:16), "the glorious land."
Bands—implying the bond of "brotherhood" between Judah and Israel. "Bands," in Ps 119:61, Margin, is used for confederate companies: The Easterns in making a confederacy often tie a cord or band as a symbol of it, and untie it when they dissolve the confederacy [Ludovicus De Dieu]. Messiah would have joined Judah and Israel in the bonds of a common faith and common laws (Zec 11:14), but they would not; therefore in just retribution He broke "His covenant which He had made with all the people." Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, and Pompey were all kept from marring utterly the distinctive "beauty" and "brotherhood" of Judah and Israel, which subsisted more or less so long as the temple stood. But when Jehovah brake the staves, not even Titus could save the temple from his own Roman soldiery, nor was Jurian able to restore it.
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
8. Three shepherds … I cut off—literally, "to cause to disappear," to destroy so as not to leave a vestige of them. The three shepherds whom Messiah removes are John, Simon, and Eleazar, three leaders of factions in the Jewish war [Drusius]. Or, as Messiah, the Antitype, was at once prophet, priest, and king, so He by the destruction of the Jewish polity destroyed these three orders for the unbelief of both the rulers and people [Moore]. If they had accepted Messiah, they would have had all three combined in Him, and would have been themselves spiritually prophets, priests, and kings to God. Refusing Him, they lost all three, in every sense.
one month—a brief and fixed space of time (Ho 5:7). Probably alluding to the last period of the siege of Jerusalem, when all authority within the city was at an end [Henderson].
loathed them—literally, "was straitened" as to them; instead of being enlarged towards them in love (2Co 6:11, 12). The same Hebrew as in Nu 21:4, Margin. No room was left by them for the grace of God, as His favors were rejected [Calvin]. The mutual distaste that existed between the holy Messiah and the guilty Jews is implied.
Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.
9. Then said I—at last when all means of saving the nation had been used in vain (Joh 8:24).
I will not—that is, no more feed you. The last rejection of the Jews is foretold, of which the former under Nebuchadnezzar, similarly described, was the type (Jer 15:1-3; 34:17; 43:11; Eze 6:12). Perish those who are doomed to perish, since they reject Him who would have saved them! Let them rush on to their own ruin, since they will have it so.
eat … flesh of another—Let them madly perish by mutual discords. Josephus attests the fulfilment of this prophecy of threefold calamity: pestilence and famine ("dieth … die"), war ("cut off … cut off"), intestine discord ("eat … one … another").
And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.
10. covenant which I made with all the people—The covenant made with the whole nation is to hold good no more except to the elect remnant. This is the force of the clause, not as Maurer, and others translate. The covenant which I made with all the nations (not to hurt My elect people, Ho 2:18). But the Hebrew is the term for the elect people (Ammim), not that for the Gentile nations (Goiim). The Hebrew plural expresses the great numbers of the Israelite people formerly (1Ki 4:20). The article is, in the Hebrew, all the or those peoples. His cutting asunder the staff "Beauty," implies the setting aside of the outward symbols of the Jews distinguishing excellency above the Gentiles (see on Zec 11:7) as God's own people.
And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.
11. poor … knew—The humble, godly remnant knew by the event the truth of the prediction and of Messiah's mission. He had, thirty-seven years before the fall of Jerusalem, forewarned His disciples when they should see the city compassed with armies, to "flee unto the mountains." Accordingly, Cestius Gallus, when advancing on Jerusalem, unaccountably withdrew for a brief space, giving Christians the opportunity of obeying Christ's words by fleeing to Pella.
waited upon me—looked to the hand of God in all these calamities, not blindly shutting their eyes to the true cause of the visitation, as most of the nation still do, instead of referring it to their own rejection of Messiah. Isa 30:18-21 refers similarly to the Lord's return in mercy to the remnant that "wait for Him" and "cry" to Him (Zep 3:12, 13).
And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.
12. I said—The prophet here represents the person of Jehovah-Messiah.
If ye think good—literally, "If it be good in your eyes." Glancing at their self-sufficient pride in not deigning to give Him that return which His great love in coming down to them from heaven merited, namely, their love and obedience. "My price"; my reward for pastoral care, both during the whole of Israel's history from the Exodus, and especially the three and a half years of Messiah's ministry. He speaks as their "servant," which He was to them in order to fulfil the Father's will (Php 2:7).
if not, forbear—They withheld that which He sought as His only reward, their love; yet He will not force them, but leave His cause with God (Isa 49:4, 5). Compare the type Jacob cheated of his wages by Laban, but leaving his cause in the hands of God (Ge 31:41, 42).
So … thirty pieces of silver—thirty shekels. They not only refused Him His due, but added insult to injury by giving for Him the price of a gored bond-servant (Ex 21:32; Mt 26:15). A freeman was rated at twice that sum.
And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
13. Cast it unto the potter—proverbial: Throw it to the temple potter, the most suitable person to whom to cast the despicable sum, plying his trade as he did in the polluted valley (2Ki 23:10) of Hinnom, because it furnished him with the most suitable clay. This same valley, and the potter's shop, were made the scene of symbolic actions by Jeremiah (Jer 18:1-19:15) when prophesying of this very period of Jewish history. Zechariah connects his prophecy here with the older one of Jeremiah: showing the further application of the same divine threat against his unfaithful people in their destruction under Rome, as before in that under Nebuchadnezzar. Hence Mt 27:9, in English Version, and in the oldest authorities, quotes Zechariah's words as Jeremiah's, the latter being the original author from whom Zechariah derived the groundwork of the prophecy. Compare the parallel case of Mr 1:2, 3 in the oldest manuscripts (though not in English Version), quoting Malachi's words as those of "Isaiah," the original source of the prophecy. Compare my Introduction to Zechariah. The "potter" is significant of God's absolute power over the clay framed by His own hands (Isa 45:9; Jer 18:6; Ro 9:20, 21).
in the house of the Lord—The thirty pieces are thrown down in the temple, as the house of Jehovah, the fit place for the money of Jehovah-Messiah being deposited, in the treasury, and the very place accordingly where Judas "cast them down." The thirty pieces were cast "to the potter," because it was to him they were "appointed by the Lord" ultimately to go, as a worthless price (compare Mt 27:6, 7, 10). For "I took," "I threw," here Matthew has "they took," "they gave them"; because their (the Jews' and Judas') act was all His "appointment" (which Matthew also expresses), and therefore is here attributed to Him (compare Ac 2:23; 4:28). It is curious that some old translators translate, for "to the potter," "to the treasury" (so Maurer), agreeing with Mt 27:6. But English Version agrees better with Hebrew and Mt 27:10.
Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
14. The breaking of the bond of union between Judah and Israel's ten tribes under Rehoboam is here the image used to represent the fratricidal discord of factions which raged within Jerusalem on the eve of its fall, while the Romans were thundering at its gates without. See Josephus [Wars of the Jews]. Also the continued severance of the tribes till their coming reunion (Ro 11:15).
And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.
15. yet—"take again"; as in Zec 11:7 previously he had taken other implements.
instruments—the accoutrements, namely, the shepherd's crook and staff, wallet, &c. Assume the character of a bad ("foolish" in Scripture is synonymous with wicked, Ps 14:1) shepherd, as before thou assumedst that of a good shepherd. Since the Jews would not have Messiah, "the Good Shepherd" (Joh 10:11), they were given up to Rome, heathen and papal, both alike their persecutor, especially the latter, and shall be again to Antichrist, the "man of sin," the instrument of judgment by Christ's permission. Antichrist will first make a covenant with them as their ruler, but then will break it, and they shall feel the iron yoke of his tyranny as the false Messiah, because they rejected the light yoke of the true Messiah (Da 11:35-38; 12:1; 9:27; 2Th 2:3-12). But at last he is to perish utterly (Zec 11:17), and the elect remnant of Judah and Israel is to be saved gloriously.
For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.
16. in the land—Antichrist will probably he a Jew, or at least one in Judea.
not visit … neither … seek … heal … broken, nor feed … but … eat … flesh … tear—Compare similar language as to the unfaithful shepherds of Israel in Eze 34:2-4. This implies, they shall be paid in kind. Such a shepherd in the worst type shall "tear" them for a limited time.
those … cut off—"those perishing" [Septuagint], that is, those sick unto death, as if already cut off.
the young—The Hebrew is always used of human youths, who are really referred to under the image of the young of the flock. Ancient expositors [Chaldee Version, Jerome, &c.] translate, "the straying," "the dispersed"; so Gesenius.
standeth still—with faintness lagging behind.
tear … claws—expressing cruel voracity; tearing off the very hoofs (compare Ex 10:26), giving them excruciating pain, and disabling them from going in quest of pasture.
Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
17. the idol—The Hebrew expresses both vanity and an idol. Compare Isa 14:13; Da 11:36; 2Th 2:4; Re 13:5, 6, as to the idolatrous and blasphemous claims of Antichrist. The "idol shepherd that leaveth the flock" cannot apply to Rome, but to some ruler among the Jews themselves, at first cajoling, then "leaving" them, nay, destroying them (Da 9:27; 11:30-38). God's sword shall descend on his "arm," the instrument of his tyranny towards the sheep (2Th 2:8); and on his "right eye," wherewith he ought to have watched the sheep (Joh 10:12, 13). However, Antichrist shall destroy, rather than "leave the flock." Perhaps, therefore, the reference is to the shepherds who left the flock to Antichrist's rapacity, and who, in just retribution, shall feel his "sword" on their "arm," which ought to have protected the flock but did not, and on their "eye," which had failed duly to watch the sheep from hurt. The blinding of "the right eye" has attached to it the notion of ignominy (1Sa 11:2).