Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
4. FURTHER BLESSINGS OF GOD’S PEOPLE
A. God sends Blessing, but the Idols Sorrow (Zech 10:1, 2). B. Blessings upon native Rulers (Zech 10:3–5). C. Former Mercies restored to Judah and Ephraim (Zech 10:6–9). D. Messianic Mercies (Zech 10:10–12)
1 Ask of Jehovah rain in the time of the latter rain;
Jehovah creates lightnings,
And showers of rain1 will He give them,
To every one grass in the field.
2 For the teraphim2 have spoken vanity,
And the diviners have seen a lie,
And speak dreams of deceit,
They comfort in vain;
Therefore they have wandered3 like a flock,
They are oppressed4 because there is no shepherd.
3 Against the shepherds my anger is kindled,
And the he-goats will I punish;5
For Jehovah of Hosts visits his flock, the house of Judah,
And makes them like his goodly horse in war.
4 From him the corner-stone, from him the nail,
From him the war-bow, from him will every ruler6 come forth together.
5 And they shall be like heroes treading down [i.e., foes]
Into the mire of the streets in the battle;
And they fight, for Jehovah is with them,
And the riders on horses are put to shame.7
6 And I will strengthen the house of Judah,
And the house of Joseph will save,
And will make them dwell,8 because I pity them,
And they shall be as if I had not cast them off,
For I am Jehovah their God, and will hear them.
7 And Ephraim9 shall become like a hero,
And their heart shall rejoice as with wine,
And their sons shall see and rejoice,
Their heart shall exult in Jehovah.
8 I will hiss to them and gather them,
For I have redeemed them,
And they shall increase as they did increase [before]
9 And I will sow10 them among the peoples11 And in far countries they shall remember me,
And with their children they shall live and return.
10 And I will bring them back from the land of Egypt,
And from Assyria will I gather them,
And to the land of Gilead and Lebanon will I bring them,
And room shall not be found for them.12
11 And He passes through the sea, the affliction,13
And He smites the waves in the sea,
And all the depths of the Nile are put to shame;
And the pride of Assyria is brought down,
And the sceptre of Egypt shall depart.
12 And I will strengthen them in Jehovah,
And in his name shall they walk,14 saith Jehovah.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
This chapter does not commence a fresh train of thought, but is rather an expansion of the foregoing prophecy. First, there is a promise of rain and fruitful seasons (ver.1); a reference to idolatry as cause of their afflictions (vers.2, 3 a); deliverance by God’s blessing upon native rulers (vers.3 b, 4, 5); restoration of ancient mercies (ver.6); special mention of Ephraim as participating in the growth and enlargement promised to the whole people (vers.7–9); farther promises to the nation couched in historic allusions to their former experience, and fulfilled only in the Messiah’s kingdom (vers.10–12). Some maintain that ver.1 belongs to the preceding chapter, and ought not to have been separated from it (Hengstenberg), while others affirm the same of ver.2 also (Hofmann, Köhler); but ver.2 is plainly as closely connected with ver.3 as it is with ver.1. The question is of no importance to the interpretation.
Ver.1. Ask of Jehovah. This summons to prayer is not a mere expression of God’s readiness to give (Hengstenberg), but, both from the force of the words and the connection, is to be literally understood. Rain stands as a representative for all blessings, temporal and spiritual. In the time of the latter rain, is merely a rhetorical amplification, for it cannot be shown that the latter rain was more necessary than the early rain for maturing the harvest. Cf. Deut. 11:13–15, from which the expressions here are taken. Lightnings are mentioned as precursors of rain. Cf. Jer. 10:13; Ps. 135:7, where, however, a different word (בְרָקִים) is used. Give them, i. e., every one who asks.
Ver.2. The call to prayer is sustained by a reference to the misery caused by their former dependence upon idols and soothsayers. Teraphim, a kind of household gods=Penates, who appear also to have been looked upon as oracles (Hos. 3:4), in which latter light they are regarded here. The etymology of the word is still unsettled. The prevalence of impostors, of the kinds here mentioned, just before the overthrow of Judah, is abundantly established. Jer. 27:9; 29:8; 23:9, 14, 32; Ezek. 21:34, 22:28. Therefore, the consequence was that they were compelled to wander away, and were without a ruler, i. e., one of their own Davidic line, — a state of things still in existence when Zechariah wrote.
Ver.3. Against the shepherds. Israel having lost its native rulers, fell under the power of heathen governors, here styled shepherds and he-goats, (Is. 14:9, Heb.). These are to be. punished, because Jehovah regards those whom they oppress as his flock, whom He visits and protects. House of Judah is mentioned not in distinction from Ephraim (see vers.6, 7), but as the central point and representative of the covenant people. A striking comparison indicates that the deliverance is effected by an actual military struggle. Just as in Zech 9:13, Jehovah called Judah and Ephraim his bow and arrow, so here He calls the former his goodly-horse, such a horse as for his extraordinary qualities is chosen, and splendidly equipped as the war-horse of the general. The House of Judah, therefore will be well prepared to meet its enemies.
Ver.4. From him the corner-stone. מִּמֶּנּוּ refers not to Jehovah (Hitzig, Kohler, Pressel), but to Judah, as appears from the connection and from the passage in Jer. (30:21) on which this one leans. Prom themselves was to come forth every one of their rulers, which is expressed in the former part of the verse by figures, namely, the corner-stone, cf. Ps. 118:22; the nail, the large ornamental pin, built into the wall of oriental houses for the purpose of suspending household utensils (Is. 22:23); the war-bow, which denotes military forces and weapons in general (9:10).
Ver.5. The consequence will be the annihilation of foes. And. … like heroes. Some explain the allusion as=they trample the mire of the streets, i. e, their foes considered as such (like the sling-stones in 9:15); so Hengstenberg, Keil, etc. But the verb in Kal is always elsewhere transitive, and the ב ought not to be overlooked. We should render, therefore, treading down (foes) in or into the mire (Fürst, Köhler). Riders on horses. Cavalry, the arm in which Israel was always weak, is mentioned in Dan. 11:40 as the principal strength of the Asiatic rulers (comp. also 1 Mate. 3:39, 4:1). Hence the force of the promise here.
Ver.6. And I will strengthen, etc. Judah and Joseph comprehend the entire people as a whole. Make them dwell, i. e., securely and happily as in the olden time, which is suggested also in the next clause but one (cf. Ezek. 36:11). And I will hear them, is a very comprehensive promise.
Ver.7. And Ephraim… wine. In this verse and the following, the prophet refers particularly to Ephraim (but not to the exclusion of Judah), for the reason that heretofore the ten tribes had not participated as largely as it was intended they should, in the return from exile. They and their sons shall share in the coming conflict, and equally with Judah prove themselves to be like a hero. Their exultation in Jehovah is expressed by a comparison which is applied by the Psalmist to the Lord Himself. Ps. 78:65.
Ver.8. I will hiss. … increase. The hissing or whistling is mentioned as a signal (cf. Is. 5:26, 7:18). It alludes to the ancient method of swarming bees. This verse explains how Israel, so large a part of whom were still in exile, should take part in the victorious struggle. The Lord would bring them back. The utter downfall of the northern kingdom, so long before that of Judah, had removed nearly every political reason for maintaining the old disruption, and all the circumstances of the time inclined the various tribes to coalesce again into one people. I have redeemed, pret. proph. to express Jehovah’s unalterable purpose. The last clause, like Zech 10:6 b, refers to Ezek. 36:11. The extraordinary multiplication of the Jews at and after this period is one of the most familiar facts of history. See Merivale, History of the Romans, Zech 39. “Josephus informs us that two hundred years after the time here referred to, Galilee was peopled to an amazing extent, studded with cities, towns, and villages; and adds that the villages were not what are usually called by that name, but contained, some of them, fifteen thousand inhabitants.” Henderson, in loc.
Ver.9. And I will sow. … . return. The word זָרַע never means scatter in the sense of banishing or destroying (Fürst, Henderson, Hitzig), but always has the sense of sowing (σπερῶ, LXX.; seminabo, Vulg.), and when applied to men, denotes increase (Hos. 2:24; Jer. 31:27). The passage means, then, that Israel while among the nations will repeat the experience of their ancestors in Egypt, “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Ex. 1:12). They shall live, is explained in Ezek. 37:14. The mention of the children with them implies that the blessing would not be transient, but abiding.
Ver.10. And I will bring … Egypt. Some expositors suppose that by Egypt and Assyria are meant the lands so named, and vainly attempt to show that many of the ten tribes were carried or escaped to Egypt. It is far better to adopt the opinion of Gesenius, that “Egypt and Assyria are mentioned here in place of the different countries into which the Jews were scattered.” Such a typical use of names is neither unnatural nor unusual. Egypt was the first oppressor of the covenant people, and Assyria was the final instrument of overthrowing the ten tribes, and the two terms might well be combined as a general statement of the lands of the dispersion. See this combination in a similar case in Is. 27:13, and cf. Is. 10:24, 11:11, 16, 19:23, 52:4; Hos. 11:11. Köhler’s objection that in this case Assyria must be taken in its most literal sense, is surely groundless, for the prophet could not have meant that the Ephraimites should be restored from certain regions and not from others. The general terms of the preceding verses forbid such a narrow view. Nor can Pressel claim the mention of Assyria as favoring the theory which dates the prophecy before the Captivity, because the subject of it is not Judah alone, but the whole nation, with special reference to Ephraim, and therefore Assyria was just the country which it suited the prophet to mention. The land of Gilead and Lebanon=northern Palestine on both sides of the Jordan, the former home of the ten tribes. Room… found, because of their increase. Merivale, in the place above cited, accounts for the manner in which the Jews in the centuries just before Christ, swarmed over the whole Roman world, “from the Tiber to the Euphrates, from the pines of the Caucasus to the spice groves of Arabia Felix,” by the insufficiency of their native land to support the immense population.
Ver.11. And he passes. The subject, of course, is Jehovah, the discourse passing from direct to indirect address, in accordance with the Hebrew usage allowing such rapid transitions. To make צרה the subject (Calvin, Cocceius, Syr.), is unnatural and frigid, besides connecting a feminine noun with a verb having a masculine suffix. This verse continues the figurative allusions of the preceding. Just as of old God gloriously vindicated his people in the passage over the Red Sea, so now He marches through the deep at the head of his chosen and smites down the roaring waves. The article in the sea points to the particular body of water through which Israel had once before been led,—the Arabian Gulf. יְאוֹר almost always=Nile. Here the term depths or floods is properly applied to its vast and regular inundations. In the last clause the characteristic feature of Assyria is well expressed by pride (Is. 10:7), and that of Egypt by the sceptre or rod of the taskmasters.
Ver.12. And I strengthen. The whole section is appropriately wound up with this emphatic promise. The entire strength, conduct, hope, and destiny of Israel lay in Jehovah. “The name of Jehovah is a comprehensive expression denoting his glory as manifested in history” (Hengstenberg). Trusting and serving the God thus revealed, they would find the past a pledge of the future, and see the divine perfections as gloriously illustrated in their behalf as at any former period.
This chapter, as has been said, continues and enlarges the promises of the preceding. After tracing the distresses of the people to their apostasy, it sets forth their deliverance as effected through actual conflicts, in which the might of Jehovah gives to the native leaders a force and courage which suffice to subdue foes otherwise far superior. This victory is followed by a large increase of population, not confined to Judah but also including Israel. Nor is there reason to doubt that the independence achieved by the Maccabees attracted very many of the exiles from the northern kingdom, who forgot the old causes of dissension, and united heartily in maintaining the reestablished national centre in Jerusalem. This fusion at home led to a similar fusion abroad; and wherever Jews were found who preserved their hereditary faith at all, they still remembered Jehovah as the one who had chosen Zion, and considered themselves as constituent parts of one covenant people. So far the predictions of the chapter were fulfilled historically in the period extending from the establishment of Jewish independence to the time of the advent. In the last three verses the Prophet describes a far greater because spiritual blessing in terms borrowed from the old experience of the people. The drying up of the sea, the humiliation of Assyria, the overthrow of Egypt simply set forth the removal of all possible obstacles in the way of a spiritual return to God. The Lord will reclaim and bless them by procedures as marvelous as any that ever occurred in their former history.
But before this great event takes place, before the Church of the Old Testament passes into the form and character of the Church of the New Testament, a sad and peculiar experience is to be gone through. This is set forth in the striking imagery of the next chapter.
THEOLOGICAL AND MORAL
1. In the opening verse of this chapter the Prophet comes into direct opposition many of the so-called Scientists of our day. They affirm that “without a disturbance of natural law quite as serious as the stoppage of an eclipse or the rolling the St. Lawrence up the Falls of Niagara, no act of humiliation, individual or national, could call one shower from heaven” (Tyndall). It follows, of course, that only those who believe that the miraculous is still active in nature can consistently join in prayers for fair weather and for rain. The Prophet, on the contrary, directs the people whenever the heavens withhold their moisture, to ask from the Lord what they need, and assures them that asking they shall obtain; and yet neither he nor his hearers supposed that this process involved a miracle in any proper sense of that term. It certainly implies the attainment of an end which without this means would not be accomplished. It is the combining and directing of natural forces so as to secure a certain result. This is what men are doing all the time, without dreaming that they are miracle-workers. Much more may God do it, who is not, like us, limited by second causes. In this very matter of rain, a scientific man announced some years ago at certain process by which an adequate rain-fall could at any time be secured. Whether his theory was valid or not, no one scouted it as impossible, or preposterous. Yet learned men deny to God what they allow to themselves. Creatures may compel the clouds, but the Creator may not. They may employ one and another natural law so as to achieve novel effects, but the Maker of the whole,
“Who sets the bright procession on its way,
And marshals all the order of the year,”
is shut up in the workmanship of his hands, and cannot possibly escape from the regular sequence of cause and effect. But this is simply the rejection, not merely of Christianity or of the Old Testament, but of all religion whatever. A God who has no control over nature is to all intents and purposes no God. Sentiments of reverence, gratitude, obligation, love, and dependence toward such a Being, are impossible. The doctrine of prayer, therefore, is a vital one. There never has been, there never can be a religion without communion with the object of worship. To deny the efficacy of prayer, even in such matters as the giving or withholding of rain, is to remand the human race into a state of practical atheism.
2. The question with man never is whether he will have a religion or not, but always whether he will have that which is true, or one that is false. Not only his intuitions, his moral convictions, but his dependent condition, his exposure to change, want, sorrow, and death, all compel him to look up to some superior invisible power, something nobler and better than himself. If this craving be not met by the truth, it surely will be by falsehood. A permanent state of atheistic unbelief is impossible. Such a state has never been seen in all the world’s history. In ancient Israel there was a constant oscillation between the worship of Jehovah and the service of idols, but never the abnegation of all worship. And this is the alternative which confronts every man and every age. They may reject the true God and the revealed religion; but the inevitable result is superstition in some form, more or less refined. Just as among the Jews whenever they apostatized, “diviners” came to the front. When Saul could get no answer from the Lord, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by Prophets, he went to the Witch of Endor.
Intelligence and culture are no guard against such a result. If men will not believe the rational and true, they will believe the absurd and the false Our own land at this day furnishes conspicuous examples. Table-turnings and spirit-rappings have led captive many who turned away in scorn from the teachings of Christ and his Apostles. The voice of God, uttered with every kind and degree of evidence in his Word, has been given up for the sake of the pretended disclosures of the spirits of the dead; and the necromancy of the nineteenth century before Christ has been revived in the nineteenth century after Christ. And the results have been what was to be expected. On one hand a degree of unnatural excitement of the feelings and the imagination which terminated in an eclipse of reason, and on the other, a lowering of the tone of morals which undermined the family constitution, and swept away the surest safeguards of human society. It is as criminal and as dangerous to consult diviners now as it ever was in the days of ancient Israel. “Should not a people seek unto their God? [Should they seek] for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is. 8:19, 20).
3. The prediction of the return of Ephraim in this chapter (ver.6) has been sometimes cited as evidence that the ten tribes are still somewhere existing as a separate community, and as such are yet to be restored to their own land. But this is an error. The words of the Prophet were fulfilled in the period to which he refers. Many of the transplanted Ephraimites fell away from the faith and became absorbed in the heathen by whom they were surrounded, but many who remained true to Jehovah, joined their fortunes with those of their brethren of Judah. Their common calamities softened and at last obliterated the old feelings of enmity toward each other. Jerusalem became again the central point of the whole nation, and while not a few actually shared in the restoration, others who remained in exile, yet adhered to the second temple, aided it by their gifts, and often attended the yearly festivals. Hence all the latter were comprehended under the term, the Diaspora (Jas 1:1). In the New Testament there are repeated allusions to the twelve tribes, conveying the distinct impression that the inhabitants of Palestine in our Lord’s day represented both parts of the nation. There is no reason, therefore, for the pains which have been taken to discover them in some remote or obscure part of the globe. And indeed the hopeless disagreement of those who seek a historical identification of these exiles shows the vanity of the attempt. The foot of the Himalayas, the coast of Malabar, the interior of China, the Nestorians of Persia, and the Indians of North America, have all been claimed as containing the veritable descendants of the Hebrews whom Sargon carried away. This whole subject is treated with ability and learning in an article in the Princeton Review for April, 1873, by the Rev. John H. Shedd. The conclusions to which Mr. Shedd comes are thus stated: —
1. That the apostate Israelites were lost among the idolaters of the Assyrian Empire at the time of their apostasy.
2. That the true Israelites under Persian rule became identified with the captivity of Judah, and the nationality of the Ten Tribes was extinct.
3. That these Jews, embracing, since the time of Cyrus, the faithful of both Judah and Israel, greatly increased in numbers, were reinforced by emigrants from Palestine, and have sent off colonies to all the East, throughout Persia, Tartary, and Thibet; but there is no Scriptural or historical basis for the idea that the “Ten Tribes” are living as a body in some obscure region or are found in any one nation.
4. That some at least of the communities of Jews still living in the land of their original exile, are lineal descendants of the Ten Tribes; and considering the history of those Jews, their present numbers of fifty or sixty thousand souls in Persia and Assyria, and several thousand more in Babylonia, they sufficiently solve the problem.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
MELVILL: Ask ye rain. Men seem practically to have but little remembrance that the mainspring of all the mechanism of second causes is in the hands of an invisible Creator; that it is not from what goes on in the hidden laboratories of what they call nature that season succeeds season, and shower and sunshine alternate with so much of beautiful and beneficent order, but that the whole arrangement is momentarily dependent upon the will and energy of that supreme Being who “sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers.”
CALVIN: Grass in the field. The Prophet no doubt includes here under one kind all things necessary for a happy life; for it is not the will of God to fill his faithful people in this world as though they were swine, but his design is to give them by means of earthly things, a taste of the spiritual life. I am Jehovah their God. He means by this that although he had for a time rejected the Jews, their adoption would not be void; for by calling Himself their God He reminds them of his covenant, as if He said that He had not in vain made a covenant with Abraham, and promised that his seed should be blessed. And 1 will sow them. This was an instance of the wonderful grace of God; for hence it happened that the knowledge of celestial truth shone everywhere; and at length when the Gospel was proclaimed, a freer access was had to the Gentiles, because Jews were dispersed through all lands. The first receptacles (hospitia) of the Gospel were the Synagogues. God thus scattered his seed here and there that it might in due time produce fruit beyond the expectation of all.
PRESSEL: Diviners have seek a lie. Unbelief has recourse to a crowd of superstitious devices, and by their folly and impotence is put to shame: Faith on the contrary turns to prayer and through it works wonders. Passes through the sea. For how many has Israel’s wonderful passage through the Red Sea been a pattern of a wonderful escape through straits and sorrows of every kind! The text is one of the oldest examples of this use of the deliverance, but new ones are constantly occurring.
JAY: I will strengthen them in the Lord. The very assurance our hearts want. Its fulfillment will keep us in our work, not cause us to cease. It will be seasonable and proportioned to our needs. “As thy days,” etc. It will come in God’s own way, that is, in the use of the means He has appointed. These we are to employ, especially when we are not in a proper or lively frame; as fire u most needful when we are cold.
Zech 10:1.—מְטַר־גֶשֶׁם lit rain of rain=copious rains. See Job 37:6, where the words are transposed.—The text of the E. V. gives a singularly inappropriate rendering of the previous noun חֲזִיזִים, for what consistency is there between “bright clouds” and heavy showers?
Zech 10:2. —·תְרָפִים As this word denotes a peculiar species of idolatrous image, it is best to transfer it.
Zech 10:2. —נסעוּ, lit, break up, as an encampment, h. to wander. They, i. e., the people.
Zech 10:2. —יַעֲנוּ oppressed, sorely afflicted. The troubled of the E. V. is too feeble. The tense is future, implying that the condition still exists.
Zech 10:3. —There is a play here upon the two meanings of the word פָקַד, the one to care for, the other to punish; or in general to visit, for good or for ill. Jehovah visits for evil, i. e., punishes, the goats; but visits for good, i. e., cares for, his flock. Keil, Henderson, and Cowles err in saying that the meaning to punish requires to be followed by עַל pers. See Job 31:14; Is. 26:14. Henderson (following the E. V.) makes the extraordinary mistake of rendering אֶפְקוֹד as a preterite, and claiming the vav before עַל as a vav convers. He also renders כִי=nevertheless, a meaning which it never has.
Zech 10:4.—נֹגשׂ=ruler, as in Is. 3:12, 60:17. Hengstenberg insists upon the original meaning, oppressor, but thinks the harshness implied is directed against foes.
Zech 10:5. —הֹבִישׁוּ. The Hiphil takes a passive sense, just as in 9:5.
Zech 10:6.— הוֹשְׁבוֹתִים. This anomalous form is best explained as the Hiphil of יָשַׁב for הוֹשַׁבְתִים. (Gesenius, Hengstenberg, Maurer). Ewald derives it from שׁוּב, and Kimchi explains it as a compound of both words uniting the senses of both, as in the E. V., “I will bring them again to place them.” But it is far better to interpret it like the similar form in Ezek. 36:11, than to adopt this Rabbinical refinement, which has no precedent elsewhere.
Zech 10:7. —וְחָיוּ. As Ephraim is a collective noun, there seems to be no reason for the periphrasis of the E. V., “they of Ephraim.”
Zech 10:9. —Henderson’s rendering, “Though I have scattered them,. … yet they shall,” etc., is grammatically impossible, is opposed to the true sense of זָרַע, and is not required by the context. His “distant regions” is no improvement upon the E. V.’s “far countries.”
Zech 10:9. —עַמִּים. Peoples. See on 8:20.
Zech 10:10.—לֹא יִמָּצֵא. cf. Josh. 17:16. (The necessary room) shall not be found for them.
Zech 10:11.—צַרָה is best taken as in apposition to the preceding noun. To make it a verb meaning to cleave, after an Aramaic analogy (Maurer, Henderson, et al.), is far-fetched and needless. As a noun, it serves to show that the previous noun does not mean a literal sea, but affliction represented under that figure.
Zech 10:12. —הִהְהַלָכוּ. The force of the Hithpael conjugation here is to express more distinctly than the Kal, the idea of continuous habitual action. For the sentiment, cf. Micah 4:5, where, however, Kal forms are used.
5. ISRAEL’S REJECTION OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
A. Poetical Introduction (Zech 11:1–3). B. The Flock of Slaughter (Zech 11:4–6). C. The Prophet tries to be their Shepherd (Zech 11:7, 8). D. He Fails (Zech 11:9–11). E. He is contemptuously Rejected (Zech 11:12, 13). F. The Result (Zech 11:14). G. A worthless Shepherd takes Charge (vats, 15, 16). H. This Shepherd Punished (Zech 11:17).
1 Open, O Lebanon, thy doors,
And let fire devour thy cedars.1
2 Howl, cypress, for the cedar has fallen,
For the lofty are laid waste;
Howl, ye oaks of Bashan,
For the high2 forest has gone down.
3 A sound of the howling of the shepherds!
For their glory is laid waste;
A sound of the roaring of young lions!
For the pride of Jordan is laid waste.
4 Thus saith Jehovah, my God,
Feed3 the flock of slaughter;4
5 Whose buyers slaughter them and are not guilty,
And their sellers say, Blessed be Jehovah, for I am getting rich,5
And their own shepherds spare them not.
6 For I will no more spare the inhabitants of the land, saith Jehovah,
And behold I give up the men,
Each into the hand of his neighbor and into the hand of his king,
And they lay waste6 the land,
And I will not deliver out of their hand.
7 And I fed7 the flock of slaughter, therefore8 the most miserable sheep,9 and I took to myself two staves; the one10 I called Beauty, the other I called Bands,8 and I fed the flock. And I cut off the three11 shepherds in one month, and my9 soul became impatient with them, and their soul also abhorred me. And I said,
I will not feed you,
The dying, let it die,
And the cut off, let it be cut off,
And the remaining, let them devour each the flesh of the other.
10And I took my staff Beauty and broke it asunder in order to destroy my covenant with all peoples.12 11And it was destroyed in that day, and thus13 the wretched of the flock, who gave heed to me, knew that this was the word of Jehovah. 12And I said to them, If it seem good to yon, give me my wages;14 and if not, forbear. 13 And they weighed as my wages thirty15 pieces of silver. And Jehovah said to me, Throw it to the potter, the noble price at which I am valued by them; and I took the thirty pieces of silver, and threw it into the house of Jehovah, to the potter. 14 And I broke my second staff, Bands, to destroy the brotherhood16 between Judah and Israel.
15 And Jehovah said to me, Take again the implements17 of a foolish shepherd,
16 For, behold, I raise up a shepherd in the land,
The perishing18 he will not visit,
The straying19 will he not seek for,
And the wounded he will not heal,
The strong20 will he not feed;
But the flesh of the fat one he will eat,
And their hoofs he will break off.
Wo to the worthless21 shepherd who forsakes22 the flock!
A sword upon his arm!
And upon his right eye!
His arm shall be utterly withered,
And his right eye utterly blinded.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
This chapter, on any view of its meaning, presents a marked contrast to the tenor of chaps. 9 and 10. The latter are full of encouragement. They speak much of conflict, but uniformly represent the covenant people as victorious, and paint a bright picture of increase, prosperity, and happiness. Here, on the contrary, is a sad scene of general overthrow caused by deliberate and persistent wickedness. The explanation is well given by Calvin: “These predictions appear to contradict one another. But it was necessary that the blessings of God should first of all be announced to the Jews in order that they might engage with greater alacrity in the work of building the temple, and feel assured that they were not wasting their time. It was now desirable to address them in a different style, lest, as was too generally the case, hypocrites should be hardened by their vain confidence in these promises. It was also requisite, in order that the faithful should take alarm in time, and earnestly draw near to God; since nothing is more destructive than false security; and whenever sin is committed without restraint, the judgment of God is close at hand.” Just then, as in the former part of the book, there is interjected, in the midst of a series of encouraging symbolical visions, a pair of representations (Zech 6.) setting forth the certainty and severity of the punishment of wickedness, so here, after exhibiting Judæa’s protection from Alexander, and also (with a passing glance at Zion’s future king, Messiah) the triumph of the Maccabees and the recovery of former strength and influence, the Prophet passes on to lift the veil from the final outcome of Jewish obduracy, and its terrible results.
The first three verses describe the ruin of the entire land, in words arranged with great rhetorical power, full of poetic imagery and lively dramatic movement. Then the cause of this widespread desolation is set forth, not by vision as in the earlier portion, but by symbolical action or process subjectively wrought. Israel is a flock doomed to perish by the divine judgment. The Prophet personating his Lord makes an effort to avert the threatened infliction. He therefore assumes the office of shepherd, equipped with staves fitted to secure success. He seeks to rid them of false leaders, and win them to ways of truth and right. But the attempt is vain, because of their obdurate wickedness, and the issue is a mutual recoil. He loathes them; they abhor him. Accordingly he significantly breaks his staves in token that all is over. But after breaking one, and before doing the same to the other, the shepherd asks a reward for his unavailing effort. He receives one, but it is so trifling that he had better have received none. They insult him with the offer of the price of a slave (Zech 11:4–14). Then the scene changes. Instead of a wise, kind shepherd, the Prophet personates one of an opposite character. The gentle crooks, Beauty and Bands, are replaced by knives and battle-axes. The flock, so far from being fed and guided and guarded, is torn and devoured, and then at last its misguided rulers are smitten and palsied, and so the curtain falls (Zech 11:15–17).
Zech 11:1–3 are a vivid poetical apostrophe, introductory to what follows in the rest of the chapter. A fierce conflagration sweeps over the land, devouring alike mountain forests, and lowland pastures; and a cry of despair is heard from man and beast.
Zech 11:1. Open, O Lebanon, etc. Instead of simply declaring that Lebanon shall be devastated, the Prophet summons the lofty mountain to open its doors for the consuming fire.
Zech 11:2. Howl, cypress, for the cedar, etc. Continuing his apostrophe, he calls on the less important trees to bewail the fall of the stately cedars as foreshadowing their own impending doom, for if the steep inaccessible forest on the mountain side is prostrated, much more must the cypresses and oaks be consumed. But the crashing ruin extends yet further.
Zech 11:3. A sound of the howling of the shepherds! The flames spread over the low grounds and pastures of the wilderness, and the Prophet hears the outcry of the shepherds over the destruction of what is their hope and dependence. With this is mingled the roaring of young lions, driven by the fiery blast from their favorite lair, the thickets on the river banks, known as the pride of the Jordan (Jer. 12:5; 49:19; 1:44), so called because the luxuriant bushes and reeds inclose the stream with a garland of fresh and beautiful verdure.
To what does this vivid and startling representation refer? (1.) Avery old Jewish interpretation makes it descriptive of the overthrow of the temple, which is here called Lebanon, because so much of the wood of that goodly mountain was used in its construction. So Eusebius, Jerome, Grotius, and Henderson. But this, as Calvin says, is frigid. Indeed, it gives no explanation of Bashan, or of Zech 11:3. (2.) Others applied it to Jerusalem, which is liable to the same objection. (3.) Most of the moderns refer it to the holy land, some supposing that the cedars, cypresses, etc., denote heathen rulers who are swept away by a general judgment (Hoffman, Umbreit, Kliefoth); others holding that these terms denote the chief men of Israel (Hitzig, Maurer, Hengstenberg, Ewald). But any such close pressing of a passage like this, the most vigorous and poetical in all the book, is both needless and unwise. Standing as a prelude to the fearful doom of the flock of slaughter, it is simply a highly figurative representation of the overthrow of all that is lofty and glorious and powerful in the nation and kingdom of the Jews. The choice of the local terms used (Lebanon, Bashan, etc.) may have been suggested by Zech 10:10; but even if not so, they may very well stand for the whole kingdom. A poet is not to be bound by the rules of a historiographer. Pressel, quite consistently with his general view of the second part of Zechariah, sees in this prelude only a literal description of the march of Tiglath Pileser, when he invaded Israel in the days of Pekah (2 Kings 15:29). But surely the Assyrian king did not set fire to the cedars of Lebanon or the reeds of the Jordan.
Zech 11:4–14. A justly celebrated section, of which Pressel says it “exhibits Isaiah’s power and beauty of language, as well as his fullness of Messianic thought.” By command of Jehovah the prophet assumes the office of a shepherd over his flock, and feeds it until he is compelled by its ingratitude to break his staves of office and give up the sheep to destruction.
Zech 11:4. Thus saith Jehovah. To whom does He speak? The earlier interpreters said, to the Angel of the Lord or Messiah. But this is disproved by the commission in Zech 11:15 given to the same person: Take again the implements of a foolish shepherd, seq.,—language which, as all admit, could not be addressed to the Messiah. Others say that the prophet in his individual capacity is addressed (Hitzig, Ewald, et al.), but the whole strain of the passage, the illustrative parallels in other prophets, the destroying of other shepherds (Zech 11:8), and the thirty pieces of silver, all show that Zechariah in person could not have been intended. It remains then to view him as addressed in his typical or representative capacity, not, however, as standing either for the prophetic order (Hoffman), or the mediatorial office (Köhler), for no human agency could possibly perform the works here recounted; but as personating the great Being who was predicted by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, under the form of the Good Shepherd. Flock of slaughter. Not the whole human race (Hoffman), but, as nearby all agree, the nation of Israel. Their condition is farther described in the next verse.
Zech 11:5. Whose buyers, etc. Not “possessors,” as E. V., but “buyers,” both because this is the primary signification of the word, and because the antithesis of “sellers” in the next clause requires it. These buyers and sellers are those who do just as they please with the covenant people, consulting only their own interests. The one class slaughter them and are not guilty, i. e., do not incur blame, so far, at least, as the mere act is concerned, since they only execute what is a righteous punishment from God. This statement is just the reverse of the one in Jer. 2:3, “Israel is holy to Jehovah … all who devour him become guilty, evil will come upon them,” where it appears that while Israel was holy, none could injure him without incurring guilt. Now, however, the case is different. Cf. Jer. 51:6 (in Hebrew), where the same word, אָשַׁם, is used. The other class say, Blessed be Jehovah, etc., i. e., they make merchandise of the people, and yet consider the gains thus made perfectly honest, such as they can properly thank God for bestowing. These buyers and sellers are heathen rulers and oppressors. The last clause completes the picture by setting forth their own shepherds, i. e., their domestic rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, as those who do not spare them,—a pregnant negative.
Zech 11:6. For I will no more … saith Jehovah. This verse assigns the reason for the direction given in Zech 11:4. Jehovah, being about to visit upon his people the just desert of their sins, will yet make one more effort to save them. If this fails, they will be given up to the worst evils, namely, inward discord and subjugation to a stranger. Thus apprehended, the land is the land of Israel, and its inhabitants=the flock of slaughter (Calvin, Hengstenberg). Others (Keil, Köhler) take the phrase as=the nations of the world, and suppose the sense to be that Jehovah will no longer suffer them to oppress his people with impunity. This is grammatically possible, but needlessly diverts the current of thought in the passage, which is the sins and sufferings of the chosen people. His king, i. e., foreign oppressor. Cf. Hos. 11:5. The last clause fitly completes the sad picture.
Zech 11:7. And I fed, etc. The prophet assumes the duty enjoined upon him. He undertakes to discharge the functions of a shepherd to a flock which is in a very sad condition,—so much so as to be already devoted to destruction. That is, dropping the figure, he proposes to guide and feed and defend a people so wicked and hardened that they are on the point of. being given over to the just retribution of their sinful ways. He begins by assuming the implements of office. I took … two staves, such as shepherds use. One of these he named נֹעַם which most expositors (Ewald, Umbreit, Keil, Henderson) render, Grace or Favor, but it is better to adhere to the primary: signification of the word, Beauty or Loveliness. (Hitzig, Hengstenberg, Maurer, Köhler), as in Ps. 27:4, 90:17, beauty of Jehovah=all that makes Him an object of affection or desire. Of course, the staff denotes the loveliness, not of the people (Bleek), but of God. The other staff he named תֹוֵלִם. This word the LXX. (σχοίνι̇σμα) and the Vulgate (funiculi) seem to have read as if pointed, תֲבָלִים for which there is no authority. As it stands, the word is masc. plural of Kal participle. Luther, and many others after him, render “destroyers,” but the verb never has this meaning in the Kal. Another class render it “the bound” or “the allied” (Hitzig, Hengstenberg, Maurer, Kliefoth), but this would require a passive participle. It only remains to adopt the legitimate, natural sense—“binders, or binding ones” (Marckius, Gesenius, Fürst, Keil). The plural may be explained as a plural of excellence, and the general sense is well enough expressed by the E. V., bands. (Gesenius says, Constringens poetice pro fune). And I fed the flock, i. e., with these two staves, one indicating God’s favor and protection from outward foes; the other, an internal union and fellowship. The next verse shows what he did in the discharge of this office.
Zech 11:8. And I cut off. … one day. Who are the three shepherds? Forty different answers have been given, which may thus be classified: (1.) Those who referred them to individuals, from Jerome’s Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, to Calmet’s Roman emperors, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. The impossibility of any agreement upon the point shows that three distinct persons cannot be intended. (2.) The “later criticism” maintains that the three shepherds are the three kings of Israel, Zechariah, Shallum, and Menahem; but these were not cut off in one month, and even if that designation of time were referred (as it cannot be) to the duration of their reigns, it would apply only to one of them, Shallum; 2 Kings 15:10–13. Nor was their cutting off an act of mercy even to Israel, which the cutting off in the text is evidently meant to be. (3.) Others suppose that the phrase points to the three imperial rulers who became liege-lords of the covenant nation, i. e., the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Macedonian dynasties (Ebrard, Kliefoth, Köhler, Keil). But it is not consistent with usage to call these shepherds; in no conceivable sense were they cut off in one month; when cut off they were succeeded by another, a fourth, quite as much an oppressor of God’s people as they were; and besides, Babylon was already destroyed at the time Zechariah wrote. (4.) It is better to fall back on the old opinion (Theodoret, Cyril), that the three shepherds are the three orders by which Israel was ruled,—the civil authorities, the priests, and the prophets. These three classes are mentioned together in Jer. 2:8, 18 as perverters of the nation and causers, of its destruction. And although in the future to which the passage refers, there were no longer prophets, yet there was a class, the Scribes or teachers of the law, who stood in the same relation to the people, and partly, at least, discharged the same functions. See the three classes mentioned by our Lord in Matt. 16:21. In one month=in a period which is long when compared with one day, but brief as contrasted with other periods of time. “It shows that the extermination of the three shepherds is not to be regarded as a single act like the expiation (3:9), but as a continuous act which occupies some time” (Hengstenberg). The plural suffix, בָהֶם in the next clause, My soul became impatient … abhorred me, by the earlier interpreters and by Hengstenberg, Kliefoth, et al., is referred to the shepherds, but it is certainly more natural to refer it to “the flock” in Zech 11:7, and consider the clause as furnishing the reason of the rejection stated in the next verse, which is evidently aimed at the Jewish nation as a whole. The Good Shepherd lost patience with their perverse impenitence, and they, on the other hand, loathed him for his spirituality and holiness.
Zech 11:9. And I said. … flesh of the other. The shepherd renounces his flock. I will not feed you, i. e., I will no longer be your shepherd. The futures in the second half of the verse are by some taken strictly as predictions, but it is more vivid and more natural, like the older versions, to render them optatively in the sense of surrender. All kindly control is withdrawn, and the flock is left to receive the appropriate consequences of its fatal rejection of the means of deliverance. The three forms of calamity mentioned are death by natural causes, plague or famine; violence, at the hand of foreign foe; and intestine discord. On the last clause, compare Is. 9:20, 21. The fulfillment of these words in the history of Jerusalem is well known.
Zech 11:10. And I took my staff. … nations. What is predicted in the foregoing verse is here exhibited in a symbolical action—the breaking of the staff, Beauty,—the explanation of which is immediately added. The Lord will remove the restraint which He had hitherto laid upon the enmity of foreign nations. See this restraint from violence expressed in the form of a covenant in Job 5:23; Hos. 2:18; Ezek. 34:25. עַמִּים has here its usual sense of peoples or nations, and not that of the tribes of Israel, as Calvin and some of the moderns affirm (cf. 12:6; Micah 4:5).
Zech 11:11. And it was destroyed … word of Jehovah. The covenant was annulled, just as the staff had been broken; the thing signified answered to the sign. This was not observed by the flock at large, but the wretched portion of it, the small company who gave heed to the Lord (cf. John 10:4, 5, 14, 15), recognized the fulfillment of a divine word (cf. Jer. 32:8). “In that day,” i. e., that in which the staff was broken.
Zech 11:12. And I said to them … pieces of silver. To them would at first sight refer to the wretched among the sheep just mentioned, but the connection, and the form of the inquiry, which aims simply to ascertain whether they are willing to acknowledge and appreciate his pastoral care, show that it must be addressed to the whole flock. His leaving the matter to their pleasure—“if it seem good,”—indicates that he served them not for wages, but in obedience to the Divine will (Köhler). The wages, however, were due. They are usually explained to mean repentance and faith or heartfelt piety. What they offered was thirty pieces of silver, the compensation for a slave who had been killed (Ex. 21:32), the price for which a female slave could be purchased (Hos. 3:2). Such an offer was “more offensive than a direct refusal” (Hengstenberg). Accordingly it was contemptuously rejected, as the next verse shows.
Zech 11:13. And Jehovah said … to the potter. As the prophet acted in the name of the Lord, the Lord regards the wages of the shepherd as offered to Himself, and therefore tells his representative what to do with the miserable sum. “The noble price at which I am valued” is, of course, an ironical expression,—one of the few instances in Scripture in which that form of speech occurs, This renders it exceedingly improbable that the Lord would direct such a sum to be put into the I treasury, as many interpret his words, “Throw to the potter,” to mean, either taking יוֹצֵר to be a copyist’s error for אוֹצָר=treasury or treasurer (Syr., Kimchi, et al.); or altering the last vowel: of the former, and making it synonymous with the latter (Jahn, Hitzig); or deriving the word from the intransitive יצר to be narrow, and rendering it “cleft in the treasure chest,” which Pressel claims as a well-grounded and simple explanation! There is no authority for altering the text, and יוֹצֵר always means an image-maker or potter. It seems clear that the phrase is a sort of proverb, and is used contemptuously, like our common saying, Throw it to the dogs. So much is evident, even if we reject the account which Hengstenberg gives of its origin. He argues from Jer. 18:2, 19:2, that there was a potter employed about the Temple, that his workshop was in the Valley of Hinnom, which from the time of Josiah had been fearfully polluted in every possible way, and that hence his pottery became an unclean spot. He insists that our passage contains an allusion to the act of Jeremiah (Zech 19) when, with several of the elders and priests he went to the Valley of Hinnom, and there broke a potter’s earthen vessel, and said, “Even so will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel that cannot be made whole again, and they shall bury them in Tophet because there is no more room … and I will make this city like Tophet.” Hengstenberg claims that the casting of the thirty pieces to the potter was simply a renewal of the old symbol and a fresh pledge of God’s purpose to punish. It is objected to this view with much force that the potter did not certainly dwell in Hinnom, and that if he did, this fact would not make him personally unclean. Köhler explains the phrase as meaning, “The sum is just large enough to pay a potter for the pitchers and pots which he furnishes, and which are thought of so little value that men are easily comforted for the breaking of any by the thought that others can readily be obtained in their stead.” This, however, does not account for the word “Throw,” which is emphatic. It is best to rest in the general conception of a contemptuous rejection of the offered wages. In the execution of the command the prophet threw the money in the house of Jehovah, which Hengstenberg explains as meaning that it was to be carried thence to the potter, in reply to which it is justly said that if that were the prophet’s meaning, he expresses himself very obscurely. The circumstance is, no doubt, significant, and may express either that the rejection of the wages was done in Jehovah’s name and by his authority, or that being done in the sanctuary where the people assembled for worship, it indicated that they would be held accountable for their course. This shameful payment by the people leads to another token of Jehovah’s displeasure.
Zech 11:14. And I broke … and Israel. The evil threatened here is worse than the former. It is the loss of all fraternal unity, represented under the figure of the old disruption of the nation in the time of Jeroboam. This verse is a sad difficulty in the way of those who refer the composition of the Second Part of Zechariah to a period prior to the Captivity, for to account for this verse they must put the period back to the days of Solomon, which is quite inconceivable. The breaking up of the nation into parties bitterly hostile to each other, was one of the most marked peculiarities of the later Jewish history, and greatly accelerated the ruin of the popular cause in the Roman war.
Zech 11:15–17. Since Israel rejected the good shepherd, they should be tended by shepherds of a very different class. This truth is represented by fresh symbolical action.
Zech 11:15. And Jehovah said … shepherd. Again points back to Zech 11:7, and shows that the present action is of the same symbolic character as the one there recorded. A crook, a bag, a pipe, a knife, etc., were the articles usually carried by shepherds. The nature of these other implements is not specified, but they were doubtless of a character fitted rather to injure than to benefit the flock. Foolish, with the usual Scriptural implication of wickedness. “The term directs attention to the fact that the rulers of the nation are so blinded by the judicial punishment inflicted by God, as to be unable to see that whilst their fury is directed against the nation they are undermining their own welfare” (Hengstenberg). Who is meant by this evil shepherd? The “later critics” say, Pekah, or Hosea, or Menahem. Others say, Herod (Henderson), the Romans (Hoffman, Köhler, Keil), or the whole body of native rulers (Hengstenberg). I prefer to combine the last two and understand the shepherd to represent the ruling power in whomsoever vested. The point of the prediction is that just they who ought to protect and aid the people would oppress and destroy them. They are presented in the form of an ideal unity in order to complete the antithesis to the one good shepherd. The next verse describes the conduct of this evil ruler.
Zech 11:16. For behold I raise … break off. He does the very opposite of what Christ is represented as doing in Is. 42:3. He not merely neglects, but destroys (cf Ezek. 34:3, 4). The perishing. The present rendering in the text is equally grammatical with the past adopted in E. V., and more consistent with the verb visit. The whole verse is striking in its complete enumeration of particulars, showing how far this evil ruler falls short of what is involved in the oriental conception of a shepherd. The history of Israel after the flesh furnishes for centuries one continuous commentary upon the fidelity of this delineation. The breaking off of hoofs expresses the ferocious greed of the shepherds who will rend even these extremities rather than lose a shred of the flesh. This is better than the view (Ewald, Hitzig) which makes it refer to injuries caused by driving the flock over rough and stony roads. But these merciless masters are to meet due retribution.
Zech 11:17. Woe to the worthless … blinded. The arm is the organ of strength, the right eye of vigilance. As these are the members which instead of guarding the flock as they should have done, shamefully abused it, they are specified as the objects of punishment. The apparent jumble of metaphorical expressions in threatening a sword upon the arm and the eye, and then declaring that the former shall be withered and the other blinded, has led some (Jahn, Bunsen, Pressel) to give to חֶרֶב the pointing חֹרֶב=dryness (as Vulgate. Arab, and Sam. have done in Deut. 28:22). But it is better to allow that the Prophet connects several punishments together in order to render prominent the greatness of the retribution. The sacred writers are not concerned about the requirements of an artificial rhetoric where the sense is abundantly plain (cf. Is. 62:5). A similar reason may have led Rosenmüller to follow the Chaldee in changing the verse from the liveliest poetry into the jejunest prose by rendering, “Woe to the shepherd who is like a butcher, whose knife is in his hand and whose eye is upon the sheep to slay them.”
THEOLOGICAL AND MORAL
1. The rejection of Israel after the flesh is the one sad subject of this chapter. The picture is wholly dark, unrelieved by a single ray of light. The impression made by the opening verses, the vivid startling prelude, is deepened all the way through to the end. A whirlwind of flame sweeps through the entire land, laying waste mountain and plain, forests and meadows, and drying up even streams and rivers. Men and beasts are overtaken together, and their cries of terror and despair indicate the completeness of the fiery ruin. It seems as if the Prophet, rising with the awful grandeur of his theme, had condensed into a few poetic lines the substance of the long chapters in which Moses of old had predicted the divine judgment upon an unfaithful people. The national Israel had enjoyed peculiar privileges, but such privileges always draw with them increased responsibility. As Jehovah said by the mouth of Amos (3:2), “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.” Repeatedly in the course of their previous history had God visited them with his rod, but there had always been a recovery. War, pestilence, or famine had executed his wrath; or they were sold into the hand of their enemies for a longer or shorter period; and once they had actually been transplanted into a foreign land where they remained for more than two generations. But in the end the rod was lifted off, and they resumed their former condition. Now, however, there was to be a final act of judgment, one summing up in itself all that had gone before, and expressing once for all the wrath of God upon obdurate impenitence. The unfaithful trustees should be dispossessed of their trust, their precious inheritance given to others, and themselves cast out to become a hissing and a by word. Foreign foes and civil discords would concur to work their destruction, and they who should be their protectors would become their oppressors. So without friends or helpers in heaven or on earth, they would pass away as an organized nation, and live only to perpetuate the memory of their past history, and teach more vividly its great lessons of sin and retribution.
2. But prior to the consummation of this great act of judgment, before the fire was yet kindled, the Lord determined to make one last effort to save the wretched people. This is set forth in the striking symbolism of the chapter, by a shepherd who offers to take charge of the flock notwithstanding its miserable condition. Instead of bearing a single crook, he is furnished with two staves. These have names, expressing in one case the divine favor which wards off all external foes; in the other, union or concord, which when it exists excludes the evils sure to be engendered by mutual distrust and alienation. But the diligence and affection of the shepherd produced no effect. The fore-doomed flock turned away from him with loathing. The kindly effort miserably failed. The passage bears a striking analogy to the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Matt. 21:33, 34; Mark 12:1–12). The lord of the vineyard had repeatedly sent messengers to receive of its fruits, but these were abused and injured as often as they were sent. “At last he sent his Son, saying, They will reverence my Son.” But even this means failed. The Son was no more regarded than the servants had been. On the contrary, he was cast out of the vineyard and slain. The contemporary Jews, when asked by our Lord what would be the fate of these wicked husbandmen, answered promptly that they would be miserably destroyed, and the vineyard let out to others who would render the fruits in their season. They thus pronounced their own sentence. For the Saviour, after reminding them of the stone which the builders rejected and which yet became the head of the corner, declared with great solemnity, “Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Nothing more was to be done. The last and crowning manifestation of the divine mercy had been made, and yet, so far from awakening and reclaiming the infatuated people, it only incensed them, and brought wrath and ill-doing upon the bearer of the message. Just so with the flock Zechariah describes. They had the services of Him who justly calls himself the Good Shepherd, under whom all may find protection and repose, green pastures, and running streams. But they would none of Him. He came unto his own, and his own received Him not. There was a deliberate and peremptory rejection of God’s unspeakable gift. When the furious crowd, gathered before the tribunal of Pilate, rent the air with shouts, “Away with Him, crucify Him,” the Roman governor asked in wonder, Shall I crucify your king f Instantly came the startling answer from the heads of the nation, “We have no king but Cassar” (John 19:15). These decisive words terminated the case. Pilate ceased to remonstrate, and gave sentence that it should be as they required. Then was filled the measure of Israel’s iniquity. “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now have they no cloke for their sin. … If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 15:22–24). Israel rejected the good shepherd, and was itself in turn rejected. The two staves were broken, and he who held them relinquished his office. Neither Beauty nor Bands any longer performed their grateful function. To break a shepherd’s crook is a very simple act, but as performed by one who represented the Good Shepherd, it expressed a most fearful truth—the final abandonment of the flock by the only being who could feed, guide, or defend it. Ever since, the miserable sheep have experienced the weight of Jehovah’s words: Woe unto them when I depart from them!
3. The consideration of the interesting critical and exegetical questions suggested by the quotation of Zech 11:12, 13, in Matthew 27:9, 10, properly belongs to the interpretation of that Gospel. See Lange in loc. Although the Evangelist attributes the language he cites to Jeremiah, there can scarcely be a doubt that he does in fact quote from Zechariah. The case then is one which illustrates very well the principle upon which such applications of the Old Testament are made. The substance of the thought contained in Zech 11:12, 13, is that the services of the good shepherd were contemptuously undervalued and rejected by the flock, and that this scornful rejection was indignantly rebuked by the Lord. Now this would have been fulfilled even had there been no sale by Judas for a precise sum of money, and no application of that money to a specific purpose. Just as in the corresponding case in 9:9, 10, the prediction respecting our Lord’s lowly and peaceful position and character would have been accomplished, had He not made his formal entry into Jerusalem riding upon an ass. But it pleased the Lord in that case and in this, not only to fulfill the general purport of the prediction, but even to bring about an exact correspondence in minor and unessential details. Thus in the prophecy, Israel depreciates the worth of the shepherd’s services, estimating them at thirty pieces of silver; in the narrative of the gospels it appears that this is the precise sum for which the Saviour was betrayed. In the prophecy, the sum paid for the possession of the shepherd was indignantly cast away by him; in the history it was so ordered by the Lord that the priests and elders did not dare to put in the treasury the price, of the Saviour’s blood, for they said, “it is not lawful.” In the prophecy the thirty pieces of silver are thrown to the potter, i. e., contemptuously spurned, yet this is done in the temple; in the history the money which the wretched traitor had received was brought back by him to those who had given it, and when they declined to take it, “he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple;” but the ecclesiastical authorities, unwilling to apply the coin to any sacred use, devoted it to the purchase of ground to be used as a burying place for strangers, and the land which they purchased was “the potter’s field,” a field which doubtless was selected because it was so broken and marred as to be unfit for agricultural purposes, but which yet in its very name contained a peculiar suggestiveness. Thus did divine providence bring about a striking correspondence between the symbolical treatment and action of the prophet and the actual course of events in the betrayal and rejection of our Saviour.
4. The choice of men never lies between a good shepherd and none at all, but between a good shepherd and a bad one. Israel of old rejected the gracious provision offered by the Lord Jesus, and the alternative was ruin. The language of the prophet is vigorous and incisive. He describes a shepherd who not only fails in every duty of his office, but does the exact opposite, wounding where he should heal, and devouring whom he should feed, until the flock is miserably destroyed. But even more forcible are the words of the Saviour (Luke 19:41), when he wept over Jerusalem, saying, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave one stone upon another, because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation.” The fulfillment of these fearful words is well known. The ruin of the place and people was overwhelming. Scarce any siege in the history of the world was attended with such cruelties and horrors as preceded and followed the fall of Jerusalem. There was a deliberate and energetic effort to exterminate the race. The whole power of the Roman Empire was brought to bear upon this one province, as Merivale says, “with a barbarity of which no other example occurs in the records of civilization.” And the subsequent history of the Jews for many centuries illustrated in the same manner the symbol of Zechariah. Their rulers were evil shepherds, mock shepherds. Giving nothing, they exacted everything. They taxed, they pillaged, they oppressed, they insulted, habitually and on principle. The Jew was an outcast without any rights, and when tolerated it was only as a sponge to be squeezed when it was full. The furious crowd in the judgment hall of Pilate said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” They were taken at their word, and the self-imposed malediction followed them from age to age and from country to country, and does not seem even yet to have been exhausted.
5. God often uses instruments which He afterwards destroys, scourging with a rod and then breaking the rod and casting it into the fire. The worthless shepherds who battened like vultures on the wretched flock of Judæa, the haughty Romans who inflicted the divine judgments upon the apostate and incorrigible nation, were themselves in turn exposed to a righteous retribution. The time came when there was a sword upon their arms and their eyes. She who had spoiled so many lands and peoples was herself spoiled, and the city which had gathered into her walls the precious things of all the earth became the prey of the barbarian. Her former inhabitants have disappeared from the face of the earth, and new races occupy their seats, while the Jew still lives, the lineal and indubitable descendant of the men among whom our Lord was born and by whom He was rejected. The arch of Titus commemorates in pictured stone the overthrow of Judæa and the plunder of its sacred vessels, but it likewise commemorates the overthrow of the conqueror and the utter ruin of that vast empire which survives only in these mute relies of its ancient grandeur.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
MOORE: Zech 11:6. Wicked rulers are a curse of God on a wicked nation. Now as religion tends to prevent such rulers, or at least prevent their choice, there is an obvious connection between politics and religion. Church and State may and ought to be separated; politics and religion ought not, for thus the State becomes exposed to the curse of God, and political evil follows in the train of moral evil.
Zech 11:7. Bands. Union of feeling in a people is a mark of the favor of God, and disunion a token of his wrath, and usually the beginning of a downfall.
Zech 11:8. Christ cannot be rejected with impunity. Even the Jews who “did it ignorantly in unbelief,” paid a terrible penalty for their crime; how much more terrible will be the punishment of those who have all their unbelief without any of their ignorance.
Zech 11:12. Men now sometimes reject Christ for a far less reward than thirty pieces of silver, and of course with far more guilt than Judas.
WORDSWORTH: Zech 11:10. Break my covenant with all peoples. “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel, for the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deut. 32:8, 9). This was God’s compact with all nations and with Israel. He assigned a special inheritance to Judah; and no people could deprive them of it as long as they were true to Him. But now that they have rejected Christ, He has broken that compact; Jerusalem is trodden down by the Gentiles, and the Jews are wanderers and outcasts in all lands.
Zech 11:15. A foolish Shepherd. Good shepherds, says Cyril, have a light pastoral staff by which they guide the sheep; but the evil shepherd maltreats and belabors the sheep with rude handling. So in spiritual things, the good Christian pastor deals gently, tenderly, and lovingly with his flock; but the bad pastor is impatient and rules them with roughness and violence; and does not bring back the sheep when astray, nor guard them against the wolf and the robber, nor heal those which are sick; and does not feed them with the wholesome food of sound doctrine, but with poisonous heresies.
Zech 11:17. The Idol Shepherd. It would not be easy to point out any other shepherd who makes himself to be an idol, except the Bishop of Rome. That he does make himself into an idol is certain. The first act that he performs after his election is to go into the Church of St. Peter, and there taking his seat upon the high altar to claim and receive adoration from the cardinals who kiss his feet. Among the medals struck in the Roman mint is one representing the cardinals kneeling before the Pope, with this inscription, Quem creant, adorant. Count Montalembert, in a letter written from his death-bed, February 28, 1870, protested against those votaries of the papacy who, as he says, “trample under foot all our liberties and principles, in order to immolate justice and truth, reason and history, as a sacrifice to the idol which they have set up for themselves in the Vatican.”
CALVIN. A Prayer: Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast hitherto so patiently endured, not only our sloth and folly but also our ingratitude and pcrverseness,—O grant, that we may hereafter render ourselves submissive and obedient to Thee; and as thou hast been pleased to set over us the best of Shepherds, even thine only begotten Son, cause us willingly to attend to. Him, and to suffer ourselves to be gently ruled by Him; and though thou mayest find in us what may justly provoke thy wrath, yet restrain extreme severity, and so correct what is sinful in us, as to continue our Shepherd until we shall at length under thy guidance reach thy heavenly kingdom; and thus keep us in thy fold and under thy pastoral staff, that at last, being separated from the goats, we may enjoy that blessed inheritance which has been ordained for us by the blood of thy beloved Son.—Amen.
Zech 11:1.—Perhaps it would be more exact to render, “devour among thy cedars.” Of. 2 Sam. 18:8 for the use of אֽכל with the preposition בְ.
Zech 11:2.—For בָצוֹר many MSS. and two early editions read בָצִיר which is also found in the Keri; but it is generally considered to be a needless attempt at correction. The Kethib is lit., cut off, h. inaccessible, which Dr. Riggs gives in his emendations.
Zech 11:4.—.רְעֵה Feed is a miserably inadequate version of this word It means to perform the whole work of a shepherd, of which feeding is but one part. Guiding, defending, and ruling are also included. The same is true of the Greek equivalent ποιμαινῶ but not of the Latin pasco.
Zech 11:4.—“Flock of Slaughter” Keil renders of strangling, and says that the cognate verb “does not mean to slay but to strangle” If it has this meaning in the cognate Arabic form, which I doubt, it is certainly lost in the Hebrew. See any of the Lexicons or Concordances, צאׄן הַהֲרֵגָה=צאׄן טִבְחָה (Ps. 44:23). The flock destined or accustomed to be slaughtered.
Zech 11:5.—וַאעְשׁר is merely a syncopated form of ואַעְשיר The vav expresses consequence, and is translated accordingly. The tenses are futures expressing continued action. The plural verbs are employed in a distributive sense; they, i. e., each of them, will say, etc.
Zech 11:6. —כִתּהוּ lit-, smite in pieces=lay waste.
Zech 11:7.—The E. V. “and I will feed,” although it follows the LXX. and Vulgate, is opposed alike to grammar and to sense. The full force of the vav conv. is, “And so I fed.” Exactly the same form is found in the last clause of the verse.
Zech 11:7.—לָכֵן has been very variously rendered. The LXX. read it and the following word, as one, and so made Canaanite of it, which Blayney adopts. The Vulgate, propter hoc=therefore, is the usual sense of the word but confessedly hard here. Some (Kimchi, Ewald, Henderson) make it a noun with a preposition=in respect to truth, i. e., truly, but there is no other instance of the kind. Others (Hitzig) render on account of you, which also lacks authority, In this conflict of opinion, it is better to adhere to usage and render therefore; but then this cannot give the reason for the Shepherd’s assumption of his office as Hengstenberg claims, for it is too far from the verb; but must assign the consequence of the flock’s description, thus, And so I fed the flock of slaughter, therefore (i. e., because so named), a most miserable flock.
Zech 11:7.—עֲניֵי דַצאׄן is an emphatic positive=superlative, the most miserable sheep.
Zech 11:7.—אחד. Köhler insists that this must be regarded as a true construct, depending upon מהם understood, but it is better to take it as construct used for the absolute, as elsewhere (Green, H. G., § 223 a.).
Zech 11:8.—“The three shepherds.” Pressel shows that Köhler has quite failed to overthrow Hitzig’s assertion, that את־שְׁלשֶׁת הָרֹעִים must be thus translated (cf. Zech 11:12, 13; Gen. 40:10, 12, 18).
Zech 11:10.—עַמִּים. Peoples. Cf. Text, and Gram, on 8:20.
Zech 11:11.—כן. Not truly, nor therefore, but thus.
Ver 12.—שׂכָרִי Not price (E. V.), but reward or wages. The word in the next verse, similarly but correctly rendered price in the E. V., is a totally different one, הַיְקָר.
Zech 11:12.—שֶׁקֶל as usual is omitted before רֶסֶף.
Zech 11:14.—אַחִַוָה—ἅπ. λεγ. Found in cognate languages and the Mishna. A token of post-exile composition.
Zech 11:15.—כְּלִי is a collective singular.
Zech 11:16.—הנִּכְ׳. The connection requires us to render the participle in the present, instead of the past, as E. V. “cut off.”
Ver 16.—נַעַר is with LXX., Vulg., and Syr. to be taken as formed from נער to shake, Piel, to disperser Arab ***=in fugam vertere (Gesenius, Fürst, et al.). Hengstenberg makes it the ordinary Hebrew word of the same radicals, but this is never applied to animals, and if it were, could not have the meaning which he claims, namely, tender.
Zech 11:16.—נִאָבָה. what stands upon its feet. i. e., is strong and healthy. Henderson derives it from an Arabic root =to be wearied, feeble, which he thinks required by the connection. But the picture is the more vivid when it shows all classes and conditions of the flock to be equally neglected. Dr. Riggs renders “the well (or sound).”
Zech 11:17.—אֱלִיל, not idol’s but worthless, or, as Köhler says, mock-shepherd. Dr. Riggs gives “Shepherd of vanity,” which itself needs interpretation.
Zech 11:17—רֹעִי ,עֹזְבִי paragogic vowel (Green, H. G., § 61, 6 a.), found chiefly in poetical passages.
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.