Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Israel under the Good Shepherd and the Foolish One - Zechariah 11
In the second half of the "burden" upon the world-power, which is contained in this chapter, the thought indicated in Zechariah 10:3 - namely, that the wrath of Jehovah is kindled over the shepherds when He visits His flock, the house of Judah - is more elaborately developed, and an announcement is made of the manner in which the Lord visits His people, and rescues it out of the hands of the world-powers who are seeking to destroy it, and then, because it repays His pastoral fidelity with ingratitude, gives it up into the hands of the foolish shepherd, who will destroy it, but who will also fall under judgment himself in consequence. The picture sketched in Zechariah 9:8-10, Zechariah 9:12, of the future of Israel is thus completed, and enlarged by the description of the judgment accompanying the salvation; and through this addition an abuse of the proclamation of salvation is prevented. But in order to bring out into greater prominence the obverse side of the salvation, there is appended to the announcement of salvation in Zechariah 10:1-12 the threat of judgment in Zechariah 11:1-3, without anything to explain the transition; and only after that is the attitude of the Lord towards His people and the heathen world, out of which the necessity for the judgment sprang, more fully described. Hence this chapter divides itself into three sections: viz., the threat of judgment (Zechariah 11:1-3); the description of the good shepherd (Zechariah 11:4-14); and the sketch of the foolish shepherd (Zechariah 11:15-17).
Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.The Devastation of the Holy Land. - Zechariah 11:1. "Open thy gates, O Lebanon, and let fire devour thy cedars! Zechariah 11:2. Howl, cypress; for the cedar is fallen, for the glory is laid waste! Howl, ye oaks of Bashan; for the inaccessible forest is laid low! Zechariah 11:3. A loud howling of the shepherds; for their glory is laid waste! A loud roaring of the young lions; for the splendour of Jordan is laid waste!" That these verses do not form the commencement of a new prophecy, having no connection with the previous one, but that they are simply a new turn given to that prophecy, is evident not only from the omission of any heading or of any indication whatever which could point to the commencement of a fresh word of God, but still more so from the fact that the allusion to Lebanon and Bashan and the thickets of Judah points back unmistakeably to the land of Gilead and of Lebanon (Zechariah 10:10), and shows a connection between ch. 11 and Zechariah 10:1-12, although this retrospect is not decided enough to lay a foundation for the view that Zechariah 11:1-3 form a conclusion to the prophecy in Zechariah 10:1-12, to which their contents by no means apply. For let us interpret the figurative description in these verses in what manner we will, so much at any rate is clear, that they are of a threatening character, and as a threat not only form an antithesis to the announcement of salvation in Zechariah 10:1-12, but are substantially connected with the destruction which will overtake the "flock of the slaughter," and therefore serve as a prelude, as it were, to the judgment announced in Zechariah 11:4-7.; The undeniable relation in which Lebanon, Bashan, and the Jordan stand to the districts of Gilead and Lebanon, also gives us a clue to the explanation; since it shows that Lebanon, the northern frontier of the holy land, and Bashan, the northern part of the territory of the Israelites to the east of the Jordan, are synecdochical terms, denoting the holy land itself regarded in its two halves, and therefore that the cedars, cypresses, and oaks in these portions of the land cannot be figurative representations of heathen rulers (Targ., Eph. Syr., Kimchi, etc.); but if powerful men and tyrants are to be understood at all by these terms, the allusion can only be to the rulers and great men of the nation of Israel (Hitzig, Maurer, Hengst., Ewald, etc.). But this allegorical interpretation of the cedars, cypresses, and oaks, however old and widely spread it may be, is not so indisputable as that we could say with Kliefoth: "The words themselves do not allow of our finding an announcement of the devastation of the holy land therein." For even if the words themselves affirm nothing more than "that the very existence of the cedars, oaks, shepherds, lions, is in danger; and that if these should fall, Lebanon will give way to the fire, the forest of Bashan will fall, the thicket of Jordan be laid waste;" yet through the destruction of the cedars, oaks, etc., the soil on which these trees grow is also devastated and laid waste. The picture is a dramatic one. Instead of the devastation of Lebanon being announced, it is summoned to open its gates, that the fire may be able to enter in and devour its cedars. The cypresses, which hold the second place among the celebrated woods of Lebanon, are then called upon to howl over the fall of the cedars, not so much from sympathy as because the same fate is awaiting them.
The words אשׁר אדּירם שׁדּדוּ contain a second explanatory clause. אשׁר is a conjunction (for, because), as in Genesis 30:18; Genesis 31:49. 'Addı̄rı̄m are not the glorious or lofty ones among the people (Hengst., Kliefoth), but the glorious ones among the things spoken of in the context, - namely, the noble trees, the cedars and cypresses. The oaks of Bashan are also called upon to howl, because they too will fall like "the inaccessible forest," i.e., the cedar forest of Lebanon. The keri habbâtsı̄r is a needless correction, because the article does not compel us to take the word as a substantive. If the adjective is really a participle, the article is generally attached to it alone, and omitted from the noun (cf. Ges. 111, 2, a). קול יללת, voice of howling, equivalent to a loud howling. The shepherds howl, because 'addartâm, their glory, is laid waste. We are not to understand by this their flock, but their pasture, as the parallel member גּאון היּרדּן and the parallel passage Jeremiah 25:26 show, where the shepherds howl, because their pasture is destroyed. What the pasture, i.e., the good pasture ground of the land of Bashan, is to the shepherds, that is the pride of Jordan to the young lions, - namely, the thicket and reeds which grew so luxuriantly on the banks of the Jordan, and afforded so safe and convenient a lair for lions (cf. Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 49:9; Jeremiah 50:44). Zechariah 11:3 announces in distinct terms a devastation of the soil or land. It follows from this that the cedars, cypresses, and oaks are not figures representing earthly rulers. No conclusive arguments can be adduced in support of such an allegory. It is true that in Isaiah 10:34 the powerful army of Assyria is compared to Lebanon; and in Jeremiah 22:6 the head of the cedar forest is a symbol of the royal house of Judah; and that in Jeremiah 22:23 it is used as a figurative term for Jerusalem (see at Habakkuk 2:17); but neither men generally, nor individual earthly rulers in particular, are represented as cedars or oaks. The cedars and cypresses of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan are simply figures denoting what is lofty, glorious, and powerful in the world of nature and humanity, and are only to be referred to persons so far as their lofty position in the state is concerned. Consequently we get the following as the thought of these verses: The land of Israel, with all its powerful and glorious creatures, is to become desolate. Now, inasmuch as the desolation of a land also involves the desolation of the people living in the land, and of its institutions, the destruction of the cedars, cypresses, etc., does include the destruction of everything lofty and exalted in the nation and kingdom; so that in this sense the devastation of Lebanon is a figurative representation of the destruction of the Israelitish kingdom, or of the dissolution of the political existence of the ancient covenant nation. This judgment was executed upon the land and people of Israel by the imperial power of Rome. This historical reference is evident from the description which follows of the facts by which this catastrophe is brought to pass.
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.
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.
Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;This section contains a symbolical act. By the command of Jehovah the prophet assumes the office of a shepherd over the flock, and feeds it, until he is compelled by its ingratitude to break his shepherd's staff, and give up the flock to destruction. This symbolical act is not a poetical fiction, but is to be regarded in strict accordance with the words, as an internal occurrence of a visionary character and of prophetical importance, through which the faithful care of the Lord for His people is symbolized and exhibited. Zechariah 11:4. "Thus said Jehovah my God: Feed the slaughtering-flock; Zechariah 11:5. whose purchasers slay them, and bear no blame, and their sellers say, Blessed be Jehovah! I am getting rich, and their shepherds spare them not. Zechariah 11:6. For I shall no more spare the inhabitants of the earth, is the saying of Jehovah; and behold I cause the men to fall into one another's hands, and into the king's hand; and they will smite the land, and I shall not deliver out of their hand." The person who receives the commission to feed the flock is the prophet. This is apparent, both from the expression "my God" (Zechariah 11:5, comp. with Zechariah 11:7.), and also from Zechariah 11:15, according to which he is to take the instruments of a foolish shepherd. This latter verse also shows clearly enough, that the prophet does not come forward here as performing these acts in his own person, but that he represents another, who does things in Zechariah 11:8, Zechariah 11:12, and Zechariah 11:13, which in truth neither Zechariah nor any other prophet ever did, but only God through His Son, and that in Zechariah 11:10 He is identified with God, inasmuch as here the person who breaks the staff is the prophet, and the person who has made the covenant with the nations is God. These statements are irreconcilable, both with Hofmann's assumption, that in this symbolical transaction Zechariah represents the prophetic office, and with that of Koehler, that he represents the mediatorial office. For apart from the fact that such abstract notions are foreign to the prophet's announcement, these assumptions are overthrown by the fact that neither the prophetic office nor the mediatorial office can be identified with God, and also that the work which the prophet carries out in what follows was not accomplished through the prophetic office. "The destruction of the three shepherds, or world-powers (Zechariah 11:8), is not effected through the prophetic word or office; and the fourth shepherd (Zechariah 11:15) is not instituted through the prophetic office and word" (Kliefoth). The shepherd depicted by the prophet can only be Jehovah Himself, or the angel of Jehovah, who is equal in nature to Himself, i.e., the Messiah. But since the angel of Jehovah, who appears in the visions, is not mentioned in our oracle, and as the coming of the Messiah is also announced elsewhere as the coming of Jehovah to His people, we shall have in this instance also to understand Jehovah Himself by the shepherd represented in the prophet. He visits His flock, as it is stated in Zechariah 10:3 and Ezekiel 34:11-12, and assumes the care of them. The distinction between the prophet and Jehovah cannot be adduced as an argument against this; for it really belongs to the symbolical representation of the matter, according to which God commissions the prophet to do what He Himself intends to do, and will surely accomplish. The more precise definition of what is here done depends upon the answer to be given to the question, Who are the slaughtering flock, which the prophet undertakes to feed? Does it denote the whole of the human race, as Hofmann supposes; or the nation of Israel, as is assumed by the majority of commentators? צאן ההרגה, flock of slaughtering, is an expression that may be applied either to a flock that is being slaughtered, or to one that is destined to be slaughtered in the future. In support of the latter sense, Kliefoth argues that so long as the sheep are being fed, they cannot have been already slaughtered, or be even in process of slaughtering, and that Ezekiel 34:6 expressly states, that the men who are intended by the flock of slaughtering will be slaughtered in future when the time of sparing is over, or be treated in the manner described in Ezekiel 34:5. But the first of these arguments proves nothing at all, inasmuch as, although feeding is of course not equivalent to slaughtering, a flock that is being slaughtered by its owners might be transferred to another shepherd to be fed, so as to rescue it from the caprice of its masters. The second argument rests upon the erroneous assumption that ישׁבי הארץ in Ezekiel 34:6 is identical with the slaughtering flock. The epithet צאן ההרגה, i.e., lit., flock of strangling - as hârag does not mean to slay, but to strangle - is explained in Ezekiel 34:5. The flock is so called, because its present masters are strangling it, without bearing guilt, to sell it for the purpose of enriching themselves, and its shepherds treat it in an unsparing manner; and Ezekiel 34:6 does not give the reason why the flock is called the flock of strangling or of slaughtering (as Kliefoth supposes), but the reason why it is given up by Jehovah to the prophet to feed. לא יאשׁמוּ does not affirm that those who are strangling it do not think themselves to blame - this is expressed in a different manner (cf. Jeremiah 50:7): nor that they do not actually incur guilt in consequence, or do not repent of it; for Jehovah transfers the flock to the prophet to feed, because He does not wish its possessors to go on strangling it, and אשׁם never has the meaning, to repent. לא יאשׁמוּ refers rather to the fact that these men have hitherto gone unpunished, that they still continue to prosper. So that 'âshēm means to bear or expiate the guilt, as in Hosea 5:15; Hosea 14:1 (Ges., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.).
What follows also agrees with this, - namely, that the sellers have only their own advantage in view, and thank God that they have thereby become rich. The singular יאמר is used distributively: every one of them says so. ואעשׁר, a syncopated form for ואעשׁר (Ewald, 73, b), and ו expressing the consequence, that I enrich myself (cf. Ewald, 235, b). רעיהם are the former shepherds. The imperfects are not futures, but express the manner in which the flock was accustomed to be treated at the time when the prophet undertook to feed it. Jehovah will put an end to this capricious treatment of the flock, by commanding the prophet to feed it. The reason for this He assigns in Zechariah 11:6 : For I shall not spare the inhabitants of the earth any longer. ישׁבי הארץ cannot be the inhabitants of the land, i.e., those who are described as the "flock of slaughtering" in Zechariah 11:4; for in that case "feeding" would be equivalent to slaughtering, or making ready for slaughtering. But although a flock is eventually destined for slaughtering, it is not fed for this purpose only, but generally to yield profit to its owner. Moreover, the figure of feeding is never used in the Scriptures in the sense of making ready for destruction, but always denotes fostering and affectionate care for the preservation of anything; and in the case before us, the shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him, by slaying the three bad shepherds; and it is not till the flock has become weary of his tending that he breaks the shepherd's staves, and lays down his pastoral office, to give them up to destruction. Consequently the ישׁבי הארץ are different from the צאן ההרגה, and are those in the midst of whom the flock is living, or in whose possession and power it is. They cannot be the inhabitants of a land, however, but since they have kings (in the plural), as the expression "every one into the hand of his king" clearly shows, the inhabitants of the earth, or the world-powers; from which it also follows that the "flock of slaughtering" is not the human race, but the people of Israel, as we may clearly see from what follows, especially from Zechariah 11:11-14. Israel was given up by Jehovah into the hands of the nations of the world, or the imperial powers, to punish it for its sin. But as these nations abused the power entrusted to them, and sought utterly to destroy the nation of God, which they ought only to have chastised, the Lord takes charge of His people as their shepherd, because He will no longer spare the nations of the world, i.e., will not any longer let them deal with His people at pleasure, without being punished. The termination of the sparing will show itself in the fact that God causes the nations to destroy themselves by civil wars, and to be smitten by tyrannical kings. המציא ביד ר, to cause to fall into the hand of another, i.e., to deliver up to his power (cf. 2 Samuel 3:8). האדם is the human race; and מלכּו, the king of each, is the king to whom each is subject. The subject of כּתּתוּ is רעהוּ and מלכּו, the men and the kings who tyrannize over the others. These smite them in pieces, i.e., devastate the earth by civil war and tyranny, without any interposition on the part of God to rescue the inhabitants of the earth, or nations beyond the limits of Israel, out of their hand, or to put any restraint upon tyranny and self-destruction.
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.
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.
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.From Zechariah 11:7 onwards the feeding of the flock is described. Zechariah 11:7. "And I fed the slaughtering flock, therewith the wretched ones of the sheep, and took to myself two staves: the one I called Favour, the other I called Bands; and so I fed the flock. Zechariah 11:8. And I destroyed three of the shepherds in one month." The difficult expression לכן, of which very different renderings have been given (lit., with the so-being), is evidently used here in the same sense as in Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 61:7; Jeremiah 2:33, etc., so as to introduce what occurred eo ipso along with the other event which took place. When the shepherd fed the slaughtering flock, he thereby, or at the same time, fed the wretched ones of the sheep. עניּי הצּאן, not the most wretched of the sheep, but the wretched ones among the sheep, like צעירי הצּאן in Jeremiah 49:20; Jeremiah 50:45, the small, weak sheep. עניּי הצּאן therefore form one portion of the צאן ההרגה, as Hofmann and Kliefoth have correctly explained; whereas, if they were identical, the whole of the appended clause would be very tautological, since the thought that the flock was in a miserable state was already expressed clearly enough in the predicate הרגה, and the explanation of it in Zechariah 11:5. This view is confirmed by Zechariah 11:11, where עניּי הצּאן is generally admitted to be simply one portion of the flock. To feed the flock, the prophet takes two shepherds' staves, to which he gives names, intended to point to the blessings which the flock receives through his pastoral activity. The fact that he takes two staves does not arise from the circumstance that the flock consists of two portions, and cannot be understood as signifying that he feeds one portion of the flock with the one staff, and the other portion with the other. According to Zechariah 11:7, he feeds the whole flock with the first staff; and the destruction to which, according to Zechariah 11:9, it is to be given up when he relinquishes his office, is only made fully apparent when the two staves are broken. The prophet takes two staves for the simple purpose of setting forth the double kind of salvation which is bestowed upon the nation through the care of the good shepherd. The first staff he calls נעם, i.e., loveliness, and also favour (cf. Psalm 90:17, נעם יהוה). It is in the latter sense that the word is used here; for the shepherd's staff shows what Jehovah will thereby bestow upon His people. The second staff he calls חובלים, which is in any case a kal participle of חבל fo elpic. Of the two certain meanings which this verb has in the kal, viz., to bind (hence chebhel, a cord or rope) and to ill-treat (cf. Job 34:31), the second, upon which the rendering staff-woe is founded, does not suit the explanation which is given in Zechariah 11:14 of the breaking of this staff. The first is the only suitable one, viz., the binding ones, equivalent to the bandage or connection. Through the staff nō‛am (Favour), the favour of God, which protects it from being injured by the heathen nations, is granted to the flock (Zechariah 11:10); and through the staff chōbhelı̄m the wretched sheep receive the blessing of fraternal unity or binding (Zechariah 11:14). The repetition of the words וארעה את־הצּאן (end of Zechariah 11:7) expresses the idea that the feeding is effected with both staves. The first thing which the shepherd appointed by God does for the flock is, according to Zechariah 11:8, to destroy three shepherds. הכחיד, the hiphil of כּחד, signifies ἀφανίζειν, to annihilate, to destroy (as in Exodus 23:23).
את־שׁלשׁת הרעים may be rendered, the three shepherds (τοὺς τρεῖς ποιμένας, lxx), or three of the shepherds, so that the article only refers to the genitive, as in Exodus 26:3, Exodus 26:9; Joshua 17:11; 1 Samuel 20:20; Isaiah 30:26, and as is also frequently the case when two nouns are connected together in the construct state (see Ges. 111, Anm.). We agree with Koehler in regarding the latter as the only admissible rendering here, because in what precedes shepherds only have been spoken of, and not any definite number of them. The shepherds, of whom three are destroyed, are those who strangled the flock according to Zechariah 11:5, and who are therefore destroyed in order to liberate the flock from their tyranny. But who are these three shepherds? It was a very widespread and ancient opinion, and one which we meet with in Theodoret, Cyril, and Jerome, that the three classes of Jewish rulers are intended, - namely, princes (or kings), priests, and prophets. But apart from the fact that in the times after the captivity, to which our prophecy refers, prophesying and the prophetic office were extinct, and that in the vision in Zechariah 4:14 Zechariah only mentions two classes in the covenant nation who were represented by the prince Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua; apart, I say, from this, such a view is irreconcilable with the words themselves, inasmuch as it requires us to dilute the destruction into a deposition from office, or, strictly speaking, into a counteraction of their influence upon the people; and this is quite sufficient to overthrow it. What Hengstenberg says in vindication of it - namely, that "an actual extermination cannot be intended, because the shepherds appear immediately afterwards as still in existence" - is founded upon a false interpretation of the second half of the verse. So much is unquestionably correct, that we have not to think of the extermination or slaying of three particular individuals,
(Note: The attempts of rationalistic commentators to prove that the three shepherds are three kings of the kingdom of the ten tribes, have completely broken down, inasmuch as of the kings Zechariah, Shallu, and Menahem (2 Kings 15:8-14), Shallum alone reigned an entire month, so that not even the ungrammatical explanation of Hitzig, to the effect that בּירח אחד refers to the reign of these kings, and not to their destruction, furnishes a sufficient loophole; whilst Maurer, Bleek, Ewald, and Bunsen felt driven to invent a third king or usurper, in order to carry out their view.)
and that not so much because it cannot be shown that three rulers or heads of the nation were ever destroyed in the space of a month, either in the times before the captivity or in those which followed, as because the persons occurring in this vision are not individuals, but classes of men. As the רעים mentioned in Zechariah 11:5 as not sparing the flock are to be understood as signifying heathen rulers, so here the three shepherds are heathen liege-lords of the covenant nation. Moreover, as it is unanimously acknowledged by modern commentators that the definite number does not stand for an indefinite plurality, it is natural to think of the three imperial rulers into whose power Israel fell, that is to say, not of three rulers of one empire, but of the rulers of the three empires. The statement as to time, "in one month," which does not affirm that the three were shepherds within one month, as Hitzig supposes, but that the three shepherds were destroyed in one month, may easily be reconciled with this, if we only observe that, in a symbolical transaction, even the distinctions of time are intended to be interpreted symbolically. There can be no doubt whatever that "a month" signifies a comparatively brief space of time. At the same time, it is equally impossible to deny that the assumption that "in a month" is but another way of saying in a very short time, is not satisfactory, inasmuch as it would have been better to say "in a week," if this had been the meaning; and, on the other hand, a year would not have been a long time for the extermination of three shepherds. Nor can Hofmann's view be sustained, - namely, that the one month ( equals 30 days) is to be interpreted on the basis of Daniel 9:24, as a prophetical period of 30 x 7 equals 120 years, and that this definition of the time refers to the fact that the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Macedonian empires were destroyed within a period of 210 years. For there is no tenable ground for calculating the days of a month according to sabbatical periods, since there is no connection between the yerach of this verse and the שׁבעים of Daniel, to say nothing of the fact that the time which intervened between the conquest of Babylon and the death of Alexander the Great was not 210 years, but 215. The only way in which the expression "in one month" can be interpreted symbolically is that proposed by Kliefoth and Koehler, - namely, by dividing the month as a period of thirty days into three times ten days according to the number of the shepherds, and taking each ten days as the time employed in the destruction of a shepherd. Ten is the number of the completion or the perfection of any earthly act or occurrence. If, therefore, each shepherd was destroyed in ten days, and the destruction of the three was executed in a month, i.e., within a space of three times ten days following one another, the fact is indicated, on the one hand, that the destruction of each of these shepherds followed directly upon that of the other; and, on the other hand, that this took place after the full time allotted for his rule had passed away. The reason why the prophet does not say three times ten days, nor even thirty days, but connects the thirty days together into a month, is that he wishes not only to indicate that the time allotted for the duration of the three imperial monarchies is a brief one, but also to exhibit the unwearied activity of the shepherd, which is done more clearly by the expression "one month" than by "thirty days."
The description of the shepherd's activity is followed, from Zechariah 11:8 onwards, by a description of the attitude which the flock assumed in relation to the service performed on its behalf. Zechariah 11:8. "And my soul became impatient over them, and their soul also became weary of me. Zechariah 11:9. Then I said, I will not feed you any more; what dieth may die, and what perisheth may perish; and those which remain may devour one another's flesh. Zechariah 11:10. And I took my staff Favour, and broke it in pieces, to destroy my covenant which I had made with all nations. Zechariah 11:11. And it was destroyed in that day; and so the wretched of the sheep, which gave heed to me, perceived that it was the word of Jehovah." The way in which Zechariah 11:8 and Zechariah 11:8 are connected in the Masoretic text, has led the earlier commentators, and even Hengstenberg, Ebrard, and Kliefoth, to take the statement in Zechariah 11:8 as also referring to the shepherds. But this is grammatically impossible, because the imperfect c. Vav. sonec. ותּקצר in this connection, in which the same verbal forms both before and after express the sequence both of time and thought, cannot be used in the sense of the pluperfect. And this is the sense in which it must be taken, if the words referred to the shepherds, because the prophet's becoming impatient with the shepherds, and the shepherds' dislike to the prophet, must of necessity have preceded the destruction of the shepherds. Again, it is evident from Zechariah 11:9, as even Hitzig admits, that the prophet "did not become disgusted with the three shepherds, but with his flock, which he resolved in his displeasure to leave to its fate." As the suffix אתכם in Zechariah 11:9 is taken by all the commentators (except Kliefoth) as referring to the flock, the suffixes בּהם and נפשׁם in Zechariah 11:8 must also point back to the flock (הצּאן, Zechariah 11:7). קצרה נפשׁ, to become impatient, as in Numbers 21:4. בּחך, which only occurs again in Proverbs 20:21 in the sense of the Arabic bchl, to be covetous, is used here in the sense of the Syriac, to experience vexation or disgust. In consequence of the experience which the shepherd of the Lord had had, according to Zechariah 11:8, he resolves to give up the feeding of the flock, and relinquish it to its fate, which is described in Zechariah 11:9 as that of perishing and destroying one another. The participles מתה, נכחדת, and נשׁארות are present participles, that which dies is destroyed (perishes) and remains; and the imperfects תּמוּת, תּכּחד, and תּאכלנה are not jussive, as the form תּמוּת clearly proves, but are expressive of that which can be or may happen (Ewald, 136, d, b).
As a sign of this, the shepherd breaks one staff in pieces, viz., the nō‛am, to intimate that the good which the flock has hitherto received through this staff will be henceforth withdrawn from it; that is to say, that the covenant which God has made with all nations is to be repealed or destroyed. This covenant is not the covenant made with Noah as the progenitor of all men after the flood (Kliefoth), nor a relation entered into by Jehovah with all the nationalities under which each nationality prospered, inasmuch as the shepherd continued again and again to remove its flock-destroying shepherds out of the way (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, p. 607). For in the covenant with Noah, although the continuance of this earth was promised, and the assurance given that there should be no repetition of a flood to destroy all living things, there was no guarantee of protection from death or destruction, or from civil wars; and history has no record of any covenant made by Jehovah with the nationalities, which secured to the nations prosperity on the one hand, or deliverance from oppressors on the other. The covenant made by God with all nations refers, according to the context of this passage, to a treaty made with them by God in favour of His flock the nation of Israel, and is analogous to the treaty made by God with the beasts, according to Hosea 2:20, that they should not injure His people, and the treaty made with the stones and the beasts of the field (Job 5:23, cf. Ezekiel 34:25). This covenant consisted in the fact that God imposed upon the nations of the earth the obligation not to hurt Israel or destroy it, and was one consequence of the favour of Jehovah towards His people. Through the abrogation of this covenant Israel is delivered up to the nations, that they may be able to deal with Israel again in the manner depicted in Zechariah 11:5. It is true that Israel is not thereby delivered up at once or immediately to that self-immolation which is threatened in Zechariah 11:9, nor is this threat carried into effect through the breaking in pieces of one staff, but is only to be fully realized when the second staff is broken, whereby the shepherd entirely relinquishes the feeding of the flock. So long as the shepherd continues to feed the flock with the other staff, so long will utter destruction be averted from it, although by the breaking of the staff Favour, protection against the nations of the world is withdrawn from it. Zechariah 11:11. From the abrogation of this covenant the wretched among the sheep perceived that this was Jehovah's word. כּן, so, i.e., in consequence of this. The wretched sheep are characterized as השּׁמרים אתי, "those which give heed to me." אתי refers to the prophet, who acts in the name of God, and therefore really to the act of God Himself, What is affirmed does not apply to one portion, but to all, עניּי הצּאן, and proves that we are to understand by these the members of the covenant nation who give heed to the word of God. What these godly men recognised as the word of Jehovah, is evident from the context, viz., not merely the threat expressed in Zechariah 11:9, and embodied in the breaking of the staff Favour, but generally speaking the whole of the prophet's symbolical actions, including both the feeding of the flock with the staves, and the breaking of the one staff. The two together were an embodied word of Jehovah; and the fact that it was so was discerned, i.e., discovered by the righteous, from the effect produced upon Israel by the breaking of the staff Favour, i.e., from the consequences of the removal of the obligation imposed upon the heathen nations to do no hurt to Israel.
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
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.
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.
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.
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.With the breaking of the staff Favour, the shepherd of the Lord has indeed withdrawn one side of his pastoral care from the flock that he had to feed, but his connection with it is not yet entirely dissolved. This takes place first of all in Zechariah 11:12-14, when the flock rewards him for his service with base ingratitude. Zechariah 11:12. "And I said to them, If it seem good to you, give me my wages; but if not, let it alone: and they weighed me as wages thirty silverlings. Zechariah 11:13. Then Jehovah said to me, Throw it to the potter, the splendid price at which I am valued by them; and so I took the thirty silverlings, and threw it into the house of Jehovah to the potter. Zechariah 11:14. And I broke my second staff Bands, to destroy the brotherhood between Judah and Israel." אליהם (to them), so far as the grammatical construction is concerned, might be addressed to the wretched among the sheep, inasmuch as they were mentioned last. But when we bear in mind that the shepherd began to feed not only the wretched of the sheep, but the whole flock, and that he did not give up any one portion of the flock by breaking the staff Favour, we are forced to the conclusion that the words are addressed to the whole flock, and that the demand for wages is only intended to give the flock an opportunity for explaining whether it is willing to acknowledge his feeding, and appreciate it rightly. The fact that the prophet asks for wages from the sheep may be explained very simply from the fact that the sheep represent men. The demand for wages is not to be understood as implying that the shepherd intended to lay down his office as soon as he had been paid for his service; for in that case he would have asked for the wages before breaking the first staff. But as he does not ask for it till afterwards, and leaves it to the sheep to say whether they are willing to give it or not ("if it seem good to you"), this demand cannot have any other object than to call upon the sheep to declare whether they acknowledge his service, and desire it to be continued. By the wages the commentators have very properly understood repentance and faith, or piety of heart, humble obedience, and heartfelt, grateful love. These are the only wages with which man can discharge his debt to God. They weighed him now as wages thirty shekels of silver (on the omission of sheqel or keseph, see Ges. 120, 4, Anm. 2). "Thirty," - not to reward him for the one month, or for thirty days - that is to say, to give him a shekel a day for his service (Hofm., Klief.): for, in the first place, it is not stated in Zechariah 11:8 that he did not feed them longer than a month; and secondly, a shekel was not such very small wages for a day's work, as the wages actually paid are represented as being in Zechariah 11:13. They rather pay him thirty shekels, with an allusion to the fact that this sum was the compensation for a slave that had been killed (Exodus 21:32), so that it was the price at which a bond-slave could be purchased (see at Hosea 3:2). By paying thirty shekels, they therefore give him to understand that they did not estimate his service higher than the labour of a purchased slave. To offer such wages was in fact "more offensive than a direct refusal" (Hengstenberg). Jehovah therefore describes the wages ironically as "a splendid value that has been set upon me."
As the prophet fed the flock in the name of Jehovah, Jehovah regards the wages paid to His shepherd as paid to Himself, as the value set upon His personal work on behalf of the nation, and commands the prophet to throw this miserable sum to the potter. But the verb hishlı̄kh (throw) and the contemptuous expression used in relation to the sum paid down, prove unmistakeably that the words "throw to the potter" denote the actual casting away of the money. And this alone is sufficient to show that the view founded upon the last clause of the verse, "I threw it into the house of Jehovah to the potter," viz., that hayyōtsēr signifies the temple treasury, and that yōtsēr is a secondary form or a copyist's error for אוצר, is simply a mistaken attempt to solve the real difficulty. God could not possibly say to the prophet, They wages paid for my service are indeed a miserable amount, yet put it in the temple treasury, for it is at any rate better than nothing. The phrase "throw to the potter" (for the use of hishlı̄kh with 'el pers. compare 1 Kings 19:19) is apparently a proverbial expression for contemptuous treatment ( equals to the knacker), although we have no means of tracing the origin of the phrase satisfactorily. Hengstenberg's assumption, that "to the potter" is the same as to an unclean place, is founded upon the assumption that the potter who worked for the temple had his workshop in the valley of Ben-hinnom, which, having been formerly the scene of the abominable worship of Moloch, was regarded with abhorrence as an unclean place after its defilement by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), and served as the slaughter-house for the city. But it by no means follows from Jeremiah 18:2 and Jeremiah 19:2, that this potter dwelt in the valley of Ben-hinnom; whereas Jeremiah 19:1, Jeremiah 19:2 lead rather to the opposite conclusion. If, for example, God there says to Jeremiah, "Go and buy a pitcher of the potter (Jeremiah 19:1), and go out into the valley of Ben-hinnom, which lies in front of the potter's gate" (Jeremiah 19:2), it follows pretty clearly from these words that the pottery itself stood within the city gate. But even if the potter had had his workshop in the valley of Ben-hinnom, which was regarded as unclean, he would not have become unclean himself in consequence, so that men could say "to the potter," just as we should say "zum Schinder" (to the knacker); and if he had been looked upon as unclean in this way, he could not possibly have worked for the temple, or supplied the cooking utensils for use in the service of God - namely, for boiling the holy sacrificial flesh. The attempts at an explanation made by Grotius and Hofmann are equally unsatisfactory. The former supposes that throwing anything before the potter was equivalent to throwing it upon the heap of potsherds; the latter, that it was equivalent to throwing it into the dirt. But the potter had not to do with potsherds only, and potter's clay is not street mire. The explanation given by Koehler is more satisfactory; namely, that the meaning is, "The amount is just large enough to pay a potter for the pitchers and pots that have been received from him, and which are thought of so little value, that men easily comfort themselves when one or the other is broken." But this does not do justice to hishlı̄kh involves the idea of contempt, and earthen pots were things of insignificant worth. The execution of the command, "I threw it ('ōthō, the wages paid me) into the house of Jehovah to the potter," cannot be understood as signifying "into the house of Jehovah, that it might be taken thence to the potter" (Hengstenberg). If this were the meaning, it should have been expressed more clearly. As the words read, they can only be understood as signifying that the potter was in the house of Jehovah when the money was thrown to him; that he had either some work to do there, or that he had come there to bring some earthenware for the temple kitchens (cf. Zechariah 14:20). This circumstance is not doubt a significant one; but the meaning is not merely to show that it was as the servant of the Lord, or in the name and by the command of Jehovah, that the prophet did this, instead of keeping the money (Koehler); for Zechariah could have expressed this in two or three words in a much simpler and clearer manner. The house of Jehovah came into consideration here rather as the place where the people appeared in the presence of their God, either to receive or to solicit the blessings of the covenant from Him. What took place in the temple, was done before the face of God, that God might call His people to account for it.
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.
Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.In consequence of this shameful payment for his service, the shepherd of the Lord breaks his second staff, as a sign that he will no longer feed the ungrateful nation, and but leave it to its fate. The breaking of this staff is interpreted, in accordance with its name, as breaking or destroying the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. With these words, which are chosen with reference to the former division of the nation into two hostile kingdoms, the dissolution of the fraternal unity of the nation is depicted, and the breaking up of the nation into parties opposing and destroying one another is represented as the result of a divine decree. Hofmann, Ebrard (Offenbarung Johannis), and Kliefoth have erroneously supposed that this relates to the division of the covenant nation into two parties, one of which, answering to the earlier Judah, would receive Christ, and remain the people of God; whilst the other, answering to the Ephraim or Israel of the times after Solomon, would reject Christ, and therefore be exposed to hardening and judgment. According to the evident meaning of the symbolical representation, the whole flock paid the good shepherd wages, which were tantamount to a rejection of his pastoral care, and was therefore given up by him; so that by falling into parties it destroyed itself, and, as the shepherd tells it in Zechariah 11:9, one devoured the flesh of the other. This is not at variance with the fact that by this self-destroying process they did not all perish, but that the miserable ones among the sheep who gave heed to the Lord, i.e., discerned their Saviour in the shepherd, and accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah, were saved. This is simply passed over in our description, which treats of the fate of the whole nation as such, as for example in Romans 9:31; Romans 11:11-15, because the number of these believers formed a vanishing minority in comparison with the whole nation. The breaking up of the nation into parties manifested itself, however, in a terrible manner soon after the rejection of Christ, and accelerated its ruin in the Roman war.
There is this difference, however, in the interpretation which has been given to this symbolical prophecy, so far as the historical allusion or fulfilment is concerned, by expositors who believe in revelation, and very properly understand it as referring to the times of the second temple: namely, that some regard it as setting forth the whole of the conduct of God towards the covenant nation under the second temple; whilst others take it to be merely a symbol of one single attempt to save the nation when on the verge of ruin, namely, that of the pastoral office of Christ. Hengstenberg, with many of the older commentators, has decided in favour of the latter view. But all that he adduces in proof of the exclusive correctness of this explanation does not touch the fact itself, but simply answers weak arguments by which the first view has been defended by its earlier supporters; whilst the main argument which he draws from Zechariah 11:8, to prove that the symbolical action of the prophet sets forth one single act of pastoral fidelity on the part of the Lord, to be accomplished in a comparatively brief space of time, rests upon a false interpretation of the verse in question. By the three shepherds, which the shepherd of Jehovah destroyed in a month, we are to understand, as we have shown at Zechariah 11:8, not the three classes of Jewish rulers, but the three imperial rulers, in whose power Israel continued from the times of the captivity to the time of Christ. But the supposition that this section refers exclusively to the work of Christ for the salvation of Israel during His life upon earth, is quite irreconcilable with this. We cannot therefore come to any other conclusion than that the first view, which has been defended by Calvin and others, and in the most recent times by Hofmann, Kliefoth, and Koehler, is the correct one, though we need not therefore assume with Calvin that the prophet "represents in his own person all the shepherds, by whose hand God ruled the people;" or discern, as Hofmann does, in the shepherd of the Lord merely a personification of the prophetic order; or, according to the form in which Koehler expresses the same view, a representation of the mediatorial work in the plan of salvation, of which Daniel was the first representative, and which was afterwards exhibited on the one hand by Haggai and Zechariah, and on the other hand by Zerubbabel and his successors, as the civil rulers of Israel, and by Joshua and those priests who resumed the duties of their office along with him. For the extermination or overthrow of the three imperial rulers or imperial powers was no more effected or carried out by the prophets named, than by the civil rulers and priesthood of Israel. The destruction was effected by Jehovah without the intervention of either the prophets, the priest, or the civil authorities of the Jews; and what Jehovah accomplished in this respect as the Shepherd of His people, was wrought by Him in that form of revelation by which He prepared the way for His coming to His people in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, namely as the Angel of Jehovah, although this form is not more precisely indicated in the symbolical action described in the chapter before us. In that action the shepherd, to whom thirty silverlings are weighed out as his wages, is of far from being regarded as distinct from Jehovah, that Jehovah Himself speaks of these wages as the price at which He was valued by the people; and it is only from the gospel history that we learn that it was not Jehovah the superterrestrial God, but the Son of God, who became incarnate in Christ, i.e., the Messiah, who was betrayed and sold for such a price as this.
What the Evangelist Matthew observes in relation to the fulfilment of Zechariah 11:12 and Zechariah 11:13, presents various difficulties. After describing in Matthew 26:1 the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the taking of Jesus, and His condemnation to death by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate at the instigation of the high priests and elders of the Jews; and having still further related that Judas, feeling remorse at the condemnation of Jesus, brought back to the high priests and elders the thirty silverlings paid to him for the betrayal, with the confession that he had betrayed innocent blood, and that having thrown down the money in the temple, he went and hanged himself, whereupon the high priests resolved to apply the money to the purchase of a potter's field as a burial-ground for pilgrims; he adds in Matthew 27:9, Matthew 27:10 : "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me." The smallest difficulty of all is occasioned by the fact that the thirty silverlings were weighed, according to the prophecy, as wages for the shepherd; whereas, according to the fulfilment, they were paid to Judas for the betrayal of Jesus. For, as soon as we trace back the form of the prophecy to its idea, the difference is resolved into harmony. The payment of the wages to the shepherd in the prophetical announcement is simply the symbolical form in which the nation manifests its ingratitude for the love and fidelity shown towards it by the shepherd, and the sign that it will no longer have him as its shepherd, and therefore a sign of the blackest ingratitude, and of hard-heartedness in return for the love displayed by the shepherd. The same ingratitude and the same hardness of heart are manifested in the resolution of the representatives of the Jewish nation, the high priests and elders, to put Jesus their Saviour to death, and to take Him prisoner by bribing the betrayer. The payment of thirty silverlings to the betrayer was in fact the wages with which the Jewish nation repaid Jesus for what He had done for the salvation of Israel; and the contemptible sum which they paid to the betrayer was an expression of the deep contempt which they felt for Jesus. There is also no great importance in this difference, that here the prophet throws the money into the house of Jehovah to the potter; whereas, according to Matthew's account, Judas threw the silverlings into the temple, and the high priests would not put the money into the divine treasury, because it was blood-money, but applied it to the purchase of a potter's field, which received the name of a field of blood. For by this very fact not only was the prophecy almost literally fulfilled; but, so far as the sense is concerned, it was so exactly fulfilled, that every one could see that the same God who had spoken through the prophet, had by the secret operation of His omnipotent power, which extends even to the ungodly, so arranged the matter that Judas threw the money into the temple, to bring it before the face of God as blood-money, and to call down the vengeance of God upon the nation, and that the high priest, by purchasing the potter's field for this money, which received the name of "field of blood" in consequence "unto this day" (Matthew 27:8), perpetuated the memorial of the sin committed against their Messiah. Matthew indicates this in the words "as the Lord commanded me," which correspond to ויּאמר יהוה אלי in Zechariah 11:13 of our prophecy; on which H. Aug. W. Meyer has correctly observed, "that the words 'as the Lord commanded me' express the fact, that the application of wages of treachery to the purchase of the potter's field took place 'in accordance with the purpose of God,' whose command the prophet had received. As God had directed the prophet (μοι) how to proceed with the thirty silverlings, so was it with the antitypical fulfilment of the prophecy by the high priests, and thus was the purpose of the divine will accomplished." The other points in which the quotation in Matthew differs from the original text (for the lxx have adopted a totally different rendering) may be explained from the fact that the passage is quoted memoriter, and that the allusion to the mode of fulfilment has exerted some influence upon the choice of words. This involuntary allusion shows itself in the reproduction of ואקחה וגו, "I took the thirty silverlings, and threw them to the potter," by "they took the thirty pieces of silver,... and gave them for the potter's field;" whilst "the price of him that was valued" is only a free rendering of אדר חיקר, and "of the children of Israel" an explanation of מעליהם.
The only real and important difficulty in the quotation is to be found in the fact that Matthew quotes the words of Zechariah as "that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet," whereas all that he quotes is taken simply and solely from the prophet Zechariah. The reading Ἱερεμίου in Matthew is critically unassailable; and the assumption that Matthew refers to some lost scripture, or to a saying of Jeremiah handed down by oral tradition, and others of a similar kind, are simply arbitrary loopholes, which cannot come into any further consideration at all. On the other hand, the attempts made to explain the introduction of Jeremiah's name in the place of that of Zechariah, on the ground that, so far as the principal features are concerned, our prophecy is simply a resumption of the prophecy in Jeremiah 19:1-15, and that Zechariah announces a second fulfilment of this prophecy (Hengstenberg), or that it rests upon the prophecy of Jeremiah 18, in which the potter is also introduced, and that its fulfilment goes beyond Zechariah's prophecy in those features which deviate from the words of Zechariah, so that Jeremiah 18-19 was fulfilled at the same time (Kliefoth), are deserving of serious consideration. Matthew, it is supposed, intended to point to this relation by mentioning Jeremiah instead of Zechariah. We would support this view without reserve, if the connection assumed to exist between our prophecy and the prophecies of Jeremiah 18 and Jeremiah 19:1-15 could only be shown to be a probable one. But the proof adduced by Hengstenberg that our prophecy rests upon Jeremiah 18 reduces itself to these two remarks: (1) That the potter, of whom Jeremiah purchased a pot (Jeremiah 19:1-15) to break it in the valley of Ben-hinnom, had his workshop in this valley, which was regarded with abhorrence, as being unclean; and (2) that Zechariah was to throw the bad wages into the valley of Ben-hinnom precisely at the spot where this potter's workshop was. This he supposes to have taken place with a distinct allusion to the prophecy in Jeremiah 19:1-15, and with the assumption that the readers would have this prophecy before their minds. But in our exposition of Zechariah 11:13 we have already shown that Jeremiah did not purchase his pot in the valley of Ben-hinnom, but of the potter who dwelt within the city gate; and also that the words of Zechariah, "I threw it into the house of Jehovah to the potter," do not affirm that the prophet threw the wages paid him into the valley of Ben-hinnom. But with these false assumptions, the view founded upon them - namely, that our prophecy is a resumption of that of Jeremiah - necessarily falls to the ground. The symbolical action enjoined upon Jeremiah, and carried out by him, viz., the breaking to pieces in the valley of Ben-hinnom of the pot purchased of the potter in the city, does not stand in any perceptible relation to the word of the Lord to Zechariah, to throw the wages paid to him into the house of Jehovah to the potter, so as to lead us to take this word as a resumption of that prophecy of Jeremiah. Kliefoth appears to have seen this also, inasmuch as he gives up the idea of finding the proof that our prophecy rests upon that of Jeremiah in the prophecy itself. He therefore bases this view upon the simple fact that Matthew (Matthew 27:9) does not quote our passage as a word of Zechariah, but as a word of Jeremiah, and therefore at any rate regarded it as such; and that our passage has nothing independent in its contents, but is rather to be completed or explained form Jeremiah, though not from Jeremiah 19:1-15, but from Jeremiah 18, where the potter who makes a pot, and breaks it in pieces because it is marred, represents God, who is doing just the same with Israel as the potter with the pot that is marred. Consequently even in Zechariah we are to understand by the potter, to whom the prophet throws the wages in the temple, Jehovah Himself, who dwells in the temple. But apart from the impossibility of understanding the words of God in Zechariah 11:13, "Throw the splendid price at which I have been valued by them to the potter," as meaning "Throw this splendid price to me," this view founders on the simple fact that it necessitates the giving up of the agreement between the prophecy and its historical fulfilment, inasmuch as in the fulfilment the price of the betrayal of Jesus is paid, not to the potter, Jehovah, but to a common potter for his field in the valley of Ben-hinnom. If, therefore, it is impossible to show any connection between our prophecy and the prophecies of Jeremiah, there is no other course left than to follow the example of Luther, - namely, either to attribute the introduction of Jeremiah's name in Matthew 27:9 in the place of that of Zechariah to a failure of memory, or to regard it as a very old copyist's error, of a more ancient date than any of the critical helps that have come down to us.
(Note: Luther says, in his Commentary on Zechariah, of the year 1528: "This chapter gives rise to the question, Why did Matthew attribute the text concerning the thirty pieces of silver to the prophet Jeremiah, whereas it stands here in Zechariah? This and other similar questions do not indeed trouble me very much, because they have but little bearing upon the matter; and Matthew does quite enough by quoting a certain scripture, although he is not quite correct about the name, inasmuch as he quotes prophetic sayings in other places, and yet does not even give the words as they stand in the Scripture. The same thing may occur now; and if it does not affect the sense that the words are not quoted exactly, what is to hinder his not having given the name quite correctly, since the words are of more importance than the name?")
And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.The Foolish Shepherd. - Zechariah 11:15. "And Jehovah said to me, Take to thee yet the implement of a foolish shepherd. Zechariah 11:16. For, behold, I raise up to myself a shepherd in the land: that which is perishing will he not observe, that which is scattered will he not seek, and that which is broken will he not heal; that which is standing will he not care for; and the flesh of the fat one will he eat, and tear their claws in pieces. Zechariah 11:17. Woe to the worthless shepherd, who forsakes the flock! sword over his arm, and over his right eye: his arm shall wither, and his right eye be extinguished." After Israel has compelled the good shepherd to lay down his shepherd's office, in consequence of its own sin, it is not to be left to itself, but to be given into the hand of a foolish shepherd, who will destroy it. This is the thought in the fresh symbolical nation. By עוד, "yet (again) take the instruments," etc., this action is connected with the previous one (Zechariah 11:4.); for עוד implies that the prophet had already taken a shepherd's instruments once before in his hand. The shepherd's instruments are the shepherd's staff, and taking it in his hand is a figurative representation of the feeding of a flock. This time he is to take the implement of a foolish shepherd, i.e., to set forth the action of a foolish shepherd. Whether the pastoral staff of the foolish shepherd was of a different kind from that of the good shepherd, is a matter of indifference, so far as the meaning of the symbol is concerned. Folly, according to the Old Testament view, is synonymous with ungodliness and sin (cf. Psalm 14:1.). The reason for the divine command is given in Zechariah 11:16 by a statement of the meaning of the new symbolical action. God will raise up a shepherd over the land, who will not tend, protect, and care for the flock, but will destroy it. That we are not to understand by this foolish shepherd all the evil native rulers of the Jewish people collectively, as Hengstenberg supposes, is as evident from the context as it possibly can be. If the good shepherd represented by the prophet in Zechariah 11:4-14 is no other than Jehovah in His rule over Israel, the foolish shepherd who is raised up over the land in the place of the good shepherd, who had been despised and rejection, can only be the possessor of the imperial power, into whose power the nation is given up after the rejection of the good shepherd sent to it in Christ, i.e., the Roman empire, which destroyed the Jewish state. The rule of the foolish shepherd is depicted not only as an utter neglect, but as a consuming of the flock, as in Ezekiel 34:3-4; Jeremiah 23:1-2. The perishing sheep he will not seek, i.e., will not take charge of them (cf. Jeremiah 23:9). הנּער cannot be the young or tender one; for not only is na‛ar, the boy, not used of animals, but even when used of men it has not the meaning tender or weak. The word is a substantive formation from nâ‛ar, to shake, piel to disperse, used in the sense of dispulsio, and the abstract being used for the concrete, the dispersed, the scattered, as the early translators rendered it. Hannishbereth, that which is broken, i.e., injured through the fracture of a limb. The opposite of nishbereth is הנּצּבה, that which stands upon its feet, and therefore is still strong. But not only will he neglect the flock: he will also seize upon it, and utterly consume it, not only devouring the flesh of the fat one, but even tearing in pieces the claws of the sheep. Not indeed by driving them along bad and stony roads (Tarn., Ewald, Hitzig), for this does no great harm to sheep, but so that when he consumes the sheep, he even splits or tears in pieces the claws, to seize upon the swallow the last morsel of flesh of fat. But this tyrant will also receive his punishment for doing so. The judgment which is to fall upon him is set forth in accordance with the figure of the shepherd, as punishment through the loss of the arm and of the right eye. These two members are mentioned, because with the arm he ought to have protected and provided for the flock, and with the eye to have watched over them. The Yod in רעי and עזבי is not the suffix of the first person, but the so-called Yod campaginis with the construct state (see at Hosea 10:11). האליל is a substantive, as in Job 13:4; it does not mean worthlessness, however, but nothingness. A worthless shepherd is one who is the opposite of what the shepherd should be, and will be: one who does not feed the flock, but leaves it to perish (עזבי הצּאן). The words from cherebh to yemı̄nō are a sentence in the form of a proclamation. The sword is called to come upon the arm and the right eye of the worthless shepherd, i.e., to hew off his arm, to smite his right eye. The further threat that the arm is to wither, the eye to become extinct, does not appear to harmonize with this. But the sword is simply mentioned as the instrument of punishment, and the connecting together of different kinds of punishment simply serves to exhibit the greatness and terrible nature of the punishment. With this threat, the threatening word concerning the imperial power of the world (ch. 9-11) is very appropriately brought to a close, inasmuch as the prophecy thereby returns to its starting-point.
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.
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.