Zechariah 11:17
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.
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Zechariah 11:17. Wo to the idol shepherd — Or the shepherd of nothing, or of no value, as רעי האלילshould be translated; he who calls himself the shepherd, ruler, or teacher of the people, but is in reality nothing less. So רפאי אליל, Job 13:4, signifies physicians of no value. That leaveth the flock — Who taketh no care of the flock, and minds nothing but making his own profit out of them. Such a shepherd is no better than an idol, that is profitable for nothing, (Isaiah 44:10,) and hath only the outward form and appearance of a shepherd. The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye — As he has abused his power and his understanding, signified by his arm and his right eye, God shall in his just judgment, deprive him of the use of both those faculties. The sword is put for any instrument of the divine vengeance. As the word חרבhere rendered sword, also means desolation, Blayney renders the clause, Because of his arm is desolation, and because of his right eye: observing, “The purport of the passage is, that since, through the misapplication of his power, and through his negligence in watching over the flock, they are subjected to desolation or the sword; therefore, as of strict justice, he shall be punished with a deprivation at least of those faculties which he so fatally misused.” Some think the right arm and right eye of the people are intended, and observe, that the arm of the Jews was dried up from that time when they were no longer able to bear arms, or to defend themselves; as their right eye has been darkened to the true knowledge of the Scriptures, which they read as with a veil before them.

11:15-17 God, having showed the misery of this people in their being justly left by the Good Shepherd, shows their further misery in being abused by foolish shepherds. The description suits the character Christ gives of the scribes and Pharisees. They never do any thing to support the weak, or comfort the feeble-minded; but seek their own ease, while they are barbarous to the flock. The idol shepherd has the garb and appearance of a shepherd, receives submission, and is supported at much expense; but he leaves the flock to perish through neglect, or leads them to ruin by his example. This suits many in different churches and nations, but the warning had an awful fulfilment in the Jewish teachers. And while such deceive others to their ruin, they will themselves have the deepest condemnation.Woe to the idol shepherd - (A shepherd of nothingness, one who hath no quality of a shepherd ;) "who leaveth the flock." The condemnation of the evil shepherd is complete in the abandonment of the sheep; as our Lord says, "He that is an hireling and not the Shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep" John 10:12-13.

Or it may equally be, "Shepherd, thou idol," including the original meaning of nothingness, such as antichrist will be, (Jerome), "while he calleth himself God, and willeth to be worshiped." Jerome: "This shepherd shall therefore arise in Israel, because the true Shepherd had said, 'I will not feed you.' He is prophesied of by another name in Daniel the prophet Daniel 9, and in the Gospel Mark 13, and in the Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 2, as 'the abomination of desolation,' who shall sit in the temple of the Lord, and make himself as God. He cometh not to heal but to destroy the flock of Israel. This shepherd the Jews shall receive, whom the 'Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth; and destroy with the brightness of His coming?"'

The sword shall be upon - (against) his arm and right eye His boast shall be of intelligence, and might. The punishment and destruction shall be directed against the instrument of each, the eye and the arm. Jerome: "The eye, whereby he shall boast to behold acutely the mysteries of God, and to see more than all prophets heretofore, so that he shall call himself son of God. But the word of the Lord shall be upon his arm and upon his right eye, so that his strength and all his boast of might shall be dried up, and the knowledge which he promised himself falsely, shall be obscured in everlasting darkness." (Dionysius: "Above and against the power of antichrist, shall be the virtue and vengeance and sentence of Christ, who shall 'slay' him 'with the breath of His mouth.' The right arm, the symbol of might, and the right eye which was to direct its aim, should fail together, through the judgment of God against him. He, lately boastful and persecuting shall become blind and powerless, bereit alike of wisdom and strength.

The "right" in Holy Scripture being so often a symbol of what is good, the left of what is evil, it may be also imagined, that (Osorius), "the left eye, that is, the acumen and cunning to devise deadly frauds, will remain uninjured: while the 'right eye,' that is, counsel to guard against evil, will be sunk in thick darkness. And so, the more he employs his ability to evil, the more frantically will he bring to bear destruction upon himself:"

17. the idol—The Hebrew expresses both vanity and an idol. Compare Isa 14:13; Da 11:36; 2Th 2:4; Re 13:5, 6, as to the idolatrous and blasphemous claims of Antichrist. The "idol shepherd that leaveth the flock" cannot apply to Rome, but to some ruler among the Jews themselves, at first cajoling, then "leaving" them, nay, destroying them (Da 9:27; 11:30-38). God's sword shall descend on his "arm," the instrument of his tyranny towards the sheep (2Th 2:8); and on his "right eye," wherewith he ought to have watched the sheep (Joh 10:12, 13). However, Antichrist shall destroy, rather than "leave the flock." Perhaps, therefore, the reference is to the shepherds who left the flock to Antichrist's rapacity, and who, in just retribution, shall feel his "sword" on their "arm," which ought to have protected the flock but did not, and on their "eye," which had failed duly to watch the sheep from hurt. The blinding of "the right eye" has attached to it the notion of ignominy (1Sa 11:2). Woe to the idol shepherd! to every one of them that are but the images of shepherds, worthless and useless.

That leaveth, casts off the care of,

the flock, Jeremiah 23:1 Ezekiel 34:2.

The sword, of the enemy, shall be upon his arm, to break his strength, and upon his right eye; blind and befool his counsels.

His arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened; power and policy shall fail him: such shall be their governors.

Woe to the idol shepherd,.... Or, "the shepherd of nothing" (w); that is, no true shepherd, that is good for nothing, for an idol is nothing in the world, 1 Corinthians 8:4 and who is an idol himself, sits in the temple of God, and is worshipped as if he was God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and is an encourager and defender of idolatry:

that leaveth the flock; has no regard to its spiritual concerns; does not feed it, but fleece it, and leaves it to the cruelty and avarice of his creatures under him:

the sword shall be upon his arm; with which he should feed the flock:

and upon his right eye; with which he should watch over it:

his arm shall be clean dried up; his power shall be taken away from him; the antichristian states, which supported him, shall withdraw from him; the ten kings shall hate the whore, strip her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire, Revelation 17:16,

and his right eye shall be utterly darkened; not only given up to judicial blindness, which has been always his case; but his kingdom shall be full of darkness, Revelation 16:10 his hidden things of darkness shall be exposed; all his crafty schemes will be confounded; and all his wit, cunning, and subtlety, will cease; and everything desirable to him will be taken away from him. His "arm" may denote his secular power, which shall be taken away from him: and his "right eye" his knowledge of the Scriptures, judgment in controversies, and infallibility pretended to by him, which wilt cease, even in the opinion of men. Ben Melech interprets it the eye of his heart or mind; and so Aben Ezra.

(w) "pastori nihili", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, So R. So. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 4. 2.

Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his {t} arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be wholly dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.

(t) By the arm he signifies strength, as he does wisdom and judgments by the eye: that is, the plague of God will take away both your strength and judgment.

17. idol shepherd] Rather, worthless shepherd: lit. shepherd of nothingness, or worthlessness. Comp. “physicians of no value,” Job 13:4.

leaveth the flock] Comp. John 10:12.

the sword] To be taken perhaps metaphorically of punishment or visitation: “per gladium quamlibet speciem pœnæ designat.” Calv. The particular kind of punishment then follows, in the withering of the arm and blinding of the eye.

The Second Burden. Chaps. 12–14. Like the First Burden of the Word of Jehovah, this Second extends over three chapters and contains two chief sections or prophecies. Of these the first reaches from Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6; the second is comprised in the remainder of the Book.

The First Section contains three subdivisions, viz. Jehovah’s protection of His people from their enemies, Zechariah 12:1-9; their penitent sorrow for sin, Zechariah 12:10-14; their worthy fruits of repentance, Zechariah 13:1-6.

Verse 17. - Woe to the idol shepherd! rather, woe to the worthless shepherd! literally, shepherd of vanity, or nothingness, as Job 13:4, "physicians of no value." The LXX., recognizing that no special shepherd is signified, renders, Ω οἱ ποιμαίνοντες τὰ μάταια, "Alas for those who tend vanities!" St. Jerome, expounding the verse of antichrist, "O pastor, et idolum!" That leaveth the flock. Thus Christ speaks of the hireling (John 10:12). The sword shall be upon his arm, etc. The punishment denounced is in accordance with the neglect of the shepherd's duties. The sword represents the instrument of punishment, whatever it he; the right eye, the severity of the retribution (1 Samuel 11:2). The arm that ought to have defended the flock shall be withered up as by catalepsy; the eye that should have watched for their safety shall be blinded. This is the judgment on the foolish shepherd. Ewald thinks that the passage Zechariah 13:7-9 is out of place there, and belonged originally to the end of the, present chapter.

Zechariah 11:17The 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.
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