Zechariah 11:4
Thus said the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;
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Zechariah 11:4-5. Feed the flock of the slaughter — That is, the people, who are so denominated, because they were devoted to ruin by the following mischievous counsels of their false teachers, and the oppressions of their rulers. This command seems to be addressed to Zechariah; but an insuperable objection lies against its being understood as given to him in his own person, because he did not live in such times as are here described; for Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high-priest, it appears, were men of extraordinary piety and virtue; and no doubt the rest of the princes or rulers of the people at this time were good men. We can, therefore, understand it in no other manner, as addressed to Zechariah, than as he typified Christ; and so God commanded him to do that which he had appointed Christ to do, namely, to gather and feed the lost sheep of Israel, which their shepherds scattered and destroyed. Whose possessors slay them — Whose governors and teachers are the cause of their destruction. Those are not improperly said to do a thing who are the cause of its being done. And hold themselves not guilty — Are not aware of the great guilt of their conduct; or, act as if they thought they might lawfully make merchandise of men’s bodies or souls, for their own lucre or advantage. See 2 Peter 2:3. And they that sell them — Who betray their persons, or liberty, or property, for profit; or sell them for slaves to foreigners; or, by their exactions and oppressions, reduce them to such poverty that they are obliged to sell themselves; say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich — That is, they hypocritically and impiously pretend to return God thanks for having put it in their power to acquire riches by such ungodly practices! And their own shepherds — That is, their chief priests, princes, and rulers, as above; pity them not — Destroy them without remorse. In Christ’s time, which seems to be here referred to, “the chief priests and the elders, who were the possessors of the flock, by their traditions, the commandments of men, and their impositions on the consciences of the people, were become perfect tyrants, devouring their houses, engrossing their wealth, and fleecing the flock instead of feeding it. The Sadducees, who were Deists, corrupted their judgments; the Pharisees, who were bigots for superstitious observances, corrupted their morals by making void the commandments of God, Matthew 15:6. Thus they slew the sheep of the flock; thus they sold them. They cared not what became of them, so they could but gain their own ends, and serve their own interests.” — Henry.11:4-14 Christ came into this world for judgment to the Jewish church and nation, which were wretchedly corrupt and degenerate. Those have their minds wofully blinded, who do ill, and justify themselves in it; but God will not hold those guiltless who hold themselves so. How can we go to God to beg a blessing on unlawful methods of getting wealth, or to return thanks for success in them? There was a general decay of religion among them, and they regarded it not. The Good Shepherd would feed his flock, but his attention would chiefly be directed to the poor. As an emblem, the prophet seems to have taken two staves; Beauty, denoted the privileges of the Jewish nation, in their national covenant; the other he called Bands, denoting the harmony which hitherto united them as the flock of God. But they chose to cleave to false teachers. The carnal mind and the friendship of the world are enmity to God; and God hates all the workers of iniquity: it is easy to foresee what this will end in. The prophet demanded wages, or a reward, and received thirty pieces of silver. By Divine direction he cast it to the potter, as in disdain for the smallness of the sum. This shadowed forth the bargain of Judas to betray Christ, and the final method of applying it. Nothing ruins a people so certainly, as weakening the brotherhood among them. This follows the dissolving of the covenant between God and them: when sin abounds, love waxes cold, and civil contests follow. No wonder if those fall out among themselves, who have provoked God to fall out with them. Wilful contempt of Christ is the great cause of men's ruin. And if professors rightly valued Christ, they would not contend about little matters.Thus saith the Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter - The fulfillment of the whole prophecy shows, that the person addressed is the prophet, not in, or for himself, but (as belongs to symbolic prophecy) as representing Another, our Lord. It is addressed, in the first instance, to Zechariah. For Zechariah is bidden, "take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd" Zechariah 11:15, in words addressed to himself, personally; "And the Lord said unto me." But he who was to represent the foolish shepherd, had represented the True Shepherd, since it is said to him, "Take unto thee yet." But He, the Shepherd addressed, who does the acts commanded, speaks with the authority of God. He says, "I cut off three shepherds in one month" Zechariah 11:8; "I broke My covenant which I had made with all the peoples" Zechariah 11:10; "the poor of the flock waited upon Me" Zechariah 11:11; "I cut asunder Mine other staff, Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel" Zechariah 11:14. But in Zechariah's time, no three shepherds were cut off, the covenant made by God was not broken on His part, there was no such visible distinction between those who waited on God, and those who, outwardly too, rejected Him.

Feed the flock of the slaughter - Those who were, even before the end, slain by their evil shepherds whom they followed, and who in the end would be given to the slaughter, as the Psalmist says, "we are counted as sheep for the slaughter" Psalm 44:22, because they would not hear the voice of the True Shepherd, and were not His sheep. They were already, by God's judgment, a prey to evil shepherds; and would be so yet more hereafter. As a whole then, they were "sheep of the slaughter." It is a last Charge given to feed them. As our Lord says, "Last of all, He sent unto them His Son, saying, They will reverence My Son" Matthew 21:37. This failing, nothing remained but that the flock would be given up, as they themselves say, "He will miserably destroy those wicked people, and will let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons" Matthew 21:41, that is, our Lord explains it, "The kingdom of heaven shall be taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. Yet a remnant should be saved" Matthew 21:43, for whose sake the larger flock was still to be fed: and, as our Lord, as Man, wept over Jerusalem, whose sentence He pronounced, so He still feeds those who would not turn to Him that they might be saved, and who would in the end be "a flock of slaughter," "Death their shepherd" Psalm 49:14, since they chose death rather than Life.

4. The prophet here proceeds to show the cause of the destruction just foretold, namely, the rejection of Messiah.

flock of … slaughter—(Ps 44:22). God's people doomed to slaughter by the Romans. Zechariah here represents typically Messiah, and performs in vision the actions enjoined: hence the language is in part appropriate to him, but mainly to the Antitype, Messiah. A million and a half perished in the Jewish war, and one million one hundred thousand at the fall of Jerusalem. "Feed" implies that the Jews could not plead ignorance of God's will to execute their sin. Zechariah and the other prophets had by God's appointment "fed" them (Ac 20:28) with the word of God, teaching and warning them to escape from coming wrath by repentance: the type of Messiah, the chief Shepherd, who receives the commission of the Father, with whom He is one (Zec 11:4); and Himself says (Zec 11:7), "I will feed the flock of slaughter." Zechariah did not live to "feed" literally the "flock of slaughter"; Messiah alone "fed" those who, because of their rejection of Him, were condemned to slaughter. Jehovah-Messiah is the speaker. It is He who threatens to inflict the punishments (Zec 11:6, 8). The typical breaking of the staff, performed in vision by Zechariah (Zec 11:10), is fulfilled in His breaking the covenant with Judah. It is He who was sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zec 11:12, 13).

Thus saith the Lord my God; God the Father.

Feed; O Zechariah, feed, comfort, rule: but rather the Father speaks to Christ the Son, and appoints him who is the eternal Shepherd to feed his sheep.

The flock of the slaughter; appointed to the slaughter by different hands, and for different causes. It speaks of the people of the Jews, who were killed by many hands; during four hundred and fifty years they were a flock of slaughter to the Egyptians, Chaldeans, &c.; afterward to the Romans, who ruined their commonwealth, slew their citizens, and burnt their city. Thus saith the Lord my God,.... The Syriac version adds, "to me"; not the Prophet Zechariah, but the Messiah, who calls the Lord his God, as he was man and Mediator, John 20:17 for what follow are the words of God the Father to him, calling upon him, and giving him a commission to

Feed the flock of the slaughter; meaning the people of the Jews in general, to whom Christ was sent as a prophet, to teach and instruct them by the ministry of the word; so "feeding" is interpreted of prophesying, by the Targum and Jarchi: and these are called "the flock of slaughter", because of the cruel usage they met with from their shepherds and owners, mentioned in the next verse Zechariah 11:5; and because they were appointed and given up to ruin and destruction of God, on account of their sins and transgressions; though there was a remnant among them, a little flock, afterwards in this chapter called the poor of the flock Zechariah 11:7, who were the special care of Christ, and were fed by him in a spiritual manner; and may go by this name, because exposed to the cruelties of men, and are accounted as sheep for the slaughter, Romans 8:36 these Christ was called upon by his Father in the council of peace to take care of, which he did; and in the everlasting covenant of grace he agreed to feed them; and in the fulness of time he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who were as sheep without a shepherd; and he fed them with knowledge and with understanding.

Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the {e} slaughter;

(e) Which being now destined to be slain, were delivered as out of the lion's mouth.

4. Feed] The person addressed is Zechariah. The passage is dramatic. The prophet is represented as personating, inclusively perhaps, as is so generally the case in O. T. prophecy, the long line of Jehovah’s true shepherds, but chiefly and ultimately the Good Shepherd of whom they all were types. Compare, as illustrating the rejection alike of the whole typical order and of the Antitype, St Stephen’s words: “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and the murderers.” Acts 7:52. “Hic autem non recitat propheta simpliciter quale mandatum ipse acceperit a Deo: sed in genere docet semper Deum officio boni et fidi pastoris defunctum fuisse erga Judæos. Suscipit igitur propheta in se personam omnium prophetarum.” Calv.

flock of the slaughter] Rather, of slaughter, R. V., i.e. exposed to slaughter, as Zechariah 11:5 explains. Comp. Psalm 44:22, where “sheep for the slaughter,” or “sheep appointed to be slain” (P. B. V.) is literally, “sheep of slaughter.”Verses 4-14. - § 9. The punishment falls upon the people of Israel because they reject the good Shepherd, personified by the prophet, who rules the flock and chastises evildoers in vain, and at last flings up his office in indignation at their contumacy. Verse 4. - Thus saith the Lord. The person addressed is Zechariah himself, who in a vision is commanded to assume the office of the good Shepherd (see ver. 15), and to tend the chosen people, the sheep of the Lord's pasture. God herein designs to show his care for his people from the earliest times amid the various trials which have beset them both from external enemies and from unworthy rulers at home. The flock of the slaughter; rather, the flock of slaughter - destined for, exposed to, destruction at the hands of their present shepherds (Psalm 44:22; Jeremiah 12:3; Romans 8:36). A reason for the warning not to resist the words of the Lord, like the fathers, is given in Zechariah 1:5, Zechariah 1:6, by an allusion to the fate which they brought upon themselves through their disobedience. Zechariah 1:5. "Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, can they live for ever? Zechariah 1:6. Nevertheless my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers, so that they turned and said, As Jehovah purposed to do to us according to our ways and our actions, so has He done to us?" The two questions in Zechariah 1:5 are meant as denials, and are intended to anticipate the objection which the people might have raised to the admonitions in Zechariah 1:4, to the effect that not only the fathers, but also the earlier prophets, had died long ago; and therefore an allusion to things that had long since passed by could have no force at all for the present generation. Zechariah neutralizes this objection by saying: Your fathers have indeed been long dead, and even the prophets do not, or cannot, live for ever; but notwithstanding this, the words of the earlier prophets were fulfilled in the case of the fathers. The words and decrees of God uttered by the prophets did reach the fathers, so that they were obliged to confess that God had really done to them what He threatened, i.e., had carried out the threatened punishment. אך, only, in the sense of a limitation of the thing stated: yet, nevertheless (cf. Ewald, 105, d). דּברי and חקּי are not the words of Zechariah 1:4, which call to repentance, but the threats and judicial decrees which the earlier prophets announced in case of impenitence. דּברי as in Ezekiel 12:28; Jeremiah 39:16. חקּי, the judicial decrees of God, like chōq in Zephaniah 2:2. Hissı̄g, to reach, applied to the threatened punishments which pursue the sinner, like messengers sent after him, and overtake him (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15, Deuteronomy 28:45). Biblical proofs that even the fathers themselves did acknowledge that the Lord had fulfilled His threatenings in their experience, are to be found in the mournful psalms written in captivity (though not exactly in Psalm 126:1-6 and Psalm 137:1-9, as Koehler supposes), in Lamentations 2:17 (עשׂה יהוה אשׁר זמם, upon which Zechariah seems to play), and in the penitential prayers of Daniel (Daniel 9:4.) and of Ezra (Ezra 9:6.), so far as they express the feeling which prevailed in the congregation.
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