Zechariah Chapter Eleven


Read Zechariah 11:1-2 – The Destruction of Jerusalem


v.1-2 “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.  2Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.”


            In the last three chapters of this prophecy we saw that God through his prophet has been uplifting Jerusalem, assuring them that he will guard and protect them.  Imbedded in these chapters we also found a number of prophecies concerning spiritual Jerusalem and the kingdom of Christ to come.  The prophet spoke and wrote about how God would raise up this everlasting kingdom and pledged to it his richest blessings and the protection of his Almighty hand.            Now He turns to a more sinister subject, the ultimate destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the removal of the balance of physical Israel.

            These two verses point to this destruction of Jerusalem and more specifically the temple.  All three of the temples of God were built, not only of carved stones but also of the great cedars of Lebanon, fir trees from other parts of the mountains and of the oaks of Bashan.  Who knows what area was called Bashan?  In the time of Christ it was just across the upper Jordan, east of Galilee.  It includes Mount Hermon, and what is today called the Golan Heights in modern Israel.  It was known for it’s oaks that, along with Lebanon’s cedars were prized for building beams.

            These building beams in the city of Jerusalem and the temple would eventually (AD 70) be destroyed completely by Roman armies.  This destruction had been prophesied before and we find similar language in:


Isaiah 2:12-13For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:  13And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,”


Read Zechariah 11:3-9 – Their Shepherds Condemned


v.3There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.”


            This entire paragraph is directed to the shepherds of Israel and their “YOUNG LIONS”; their leaders and their princes, representing their young leaders or future leaders.  There will be voices of howling and roaring, men crying out because of their punishment and destruction.  These warnings are brought in much the same language that Jeremiah used to warn Judah before their captivity:


Jeremiah 25:34-36Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel.  35And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape.  36A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the LORD hath spoiled their pasture.”


We can also draw a parallel here to the howling, weeping and gnashing of teeth by those who are in eternal punishment.


v.4-5Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;  5Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.”


            The flock of God, the remnant of Israel will be slaughtered like a flock of sheep brought to be butchered.  When their “PROCESSORS SLAY THEM” they will not be held guilty, why?  This is part of the answer to one of the questions we considered in a recent Wednesday night study.  God’s willingness to make war on certain people was driven by their sin; consequently those on whom God chose to execute his punishment were not held responsibile for the destruction they brought.


Jeremiah 50:7All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.”


            What was the condition of the rulers of Judah at the time the birth of Christ and the following 50 or 60 years?  The high priests were appointed by the Roman rulers. Many of the chief priests became wealthy through their associations with those rulers and through the oppression of their people as did others of what would be considered the “ruling class” of Judah.  They totally neglected their spiritual responsibilities and served only to rule the people in a manner as corrupt and oppressive as any of Judah’s enemies.  They had been warned by Ezekiel previous to Zechariah:


Ezekiel 34:2-3Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.”


Should not the shepherds of the “FLOCK OF GOD” hear and heed the same warning today?


v.6For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour's hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.”


            The time is coming that God will not only no longer protect the remnant of physical Israel but will deliver them into the hands of those who will literally wipe them from the earth.  At the time of Judah’s captivity God showed mercy to a remnant of his people in order to fulfill the promises to Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other down through the centuries regarding the coming of a Messiah.  But in the final destruction of Judah and Jerusalem God’s mercy will be removed.  Jerusalem was both rebellious and apostate in the years that followed the crucifixion of Christ.  She rebelled against God; she refused and killed his Son then slaughtered His followers.  She was ripe, overdue to be removed and the purpose for which she was preserved was now complete.  The Psalmist writes that:


Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.”  Psalms 106:43


But those days were no more, this time, just as Zechariah writes “OUT OF THEIR HAND I WILL NOT DELIVER THEM.”


v.7And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.”


            During the captivity in Babylon the poor of Judah were left behind to keep the land:


Jeremiah 39:10But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.”


But this will not be the case in the final destruction of Jerusalem.  Secular history tells us that Rome ran out of patience with this rebellious and obstinate people and removed them completely.  Scripture tells us that this was done not only with God’s approval, but by the providence of God, at his direction.

            There are several opinions among commentators regarding the meaning of the two staves.  In my own study it appears that they are a correlation with “ROD” and “STAFF” that we find in Psalms 23:4.  In the hands of a shepherd the rod was frequently tipped with iron and used to protect the flock and the staff is the shepherd’s hook and used to guide and direct the sheep.  In this context, as we will see as we study the rest of the chapter, they appear to correlate to the religious and civil branches of the law in the covenant of God with Israel.


v.8-9Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.  9Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.”


            In these two verses God relates that “THREE SHEPHERDS” he had or would cut off in one month.  His soul “LOTHED THEM”, and their soul’s “ABHORRED ME.”  This prophecy, like the rest of the chapter, refers to the time of Christ.  With this in mind who might these three shepherds be that represent the leaders of Judah?

Robert Taylor, Jr. in his commentary on Zechariah written for the “Power” lectureship in 1990 says: “but what three groups of supposed leaders did more destructive work in Palestine in the first century of Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians than scribes, elders and chief priests?”  Coffman in his commentary relates them to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians.  Either way they were unholy, impious hirelings who Jesus described in Matthew 23 as “HYPOCRITES”, “BLIND GUIDES”, “FOOLS”, WHITED SEPULCHRES”, “FULL OF DEAD BONES”, “SERPENTS”, “GENERATION OF VIPERS”, etc.  God would cut them off both spiritually and as leaders of his people, they would be completely destroyed by the hands of ruthless Roman soldiers led by Titus, the Roman general determined to end the existence of this obstinate and rebellious province called Judah.


Read Zechariah 11:10-14 – The Broken Staves


v.10  And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.”


            God cuts his staff that he called “BEAUTY” in pieces so that he might break his covenant “MADE WITH ALL THE PEOPLE.”  What covenant did he break?  The covenant made to Moses and replaced it with the covenant of Christ because it was faulty:


Hebrews 8:6-7  6But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.  7For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.”


v.11And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.”


            In “THAT DAY” the day of the Lord, the day of Christ, who was it that heard, recognized and believed that Jesus the Christ was indeed the one promised by God?  Was it the “shepherds” of Judah or was it the poor and downtrodden?  One example is that of a simple Galilean fisherman:


John 1:40-41One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  41He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.


Another is the Samaritan woman:


John 4:28-29The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”


What about today?  Is there a parallel?  I would submit that there is.  People are too richly blessed, too comfortable to turn to God.  Those who did during the past century and made the church the fastest growing religious organization in this country have let their prosperity spoil them.  They have become enamored with their own wisdom and the wisdom of men.  They have sent their evangelists and teachers to sup at the table of the denominations, have embraced what they learned there.  Consequently congregations by the thousands, all of “our” “Christian” colleges have many of the schools of preaching have abandoned God just like the Jews of Zechariah’s day.


v.12And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.”


            In scripture, what would thirty pieces of silver buy?  First of all it was the price of a slave or servant; under the Mosaic Covenant:


Exodus 21:32If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.”


Secondly it was the price that Judas sold our Savior for, and this is a direct prophecy of that event:


Matthew 26:15And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.”




v.13And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.”


            And directly following we have another prophecy that was fulfilled concerning the price paid for our Lord.  First of all the silver was cast down in the “HOUSE OF THE LORD”.  When Judas tried to return the money to the chief priests, they refused it:


And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:5  


They refused to put it into the temple treasury because they knew it was blood money; so they bought a “potter’s field” with it:


Matthew 27:7  And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.”


In Jewish tradition this was a place in the Valley of Hinnom that was a rich source of the type of clay that was best for making pots.  So it was literally a field used by a potter or potters to get the material needed for their craft.


v.14Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”


            The picture of God cutting both staves, both the “BEAUTY” and the “BANDS” with Judah represents the totality of God’s rejection of those of Israel that rejected his son and refused to enter into the new covenant of Christ.


Read Zechariah 11:15-17 – The Foolish Shepherd


v.15And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.”


            Well, what are the tools of a foolish shepherd?  First of all he is lazy, he has no compassion for his sheep in illness and want, he won’t make the effort to restore those that are lost and he treats them with cruelty.  He is only concerned about the profit that he can gain from them.  The prophet Ezekiel used these words:


Ezekiel 34:2-4Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.  4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”


v.16For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.”


            God will raise up a shepherd, a leader, that will not be concerned about those that will get cut off, he won’t seek the young lamb that gets lost, he won’t try to heal the one that is injured or broken nor feed the one that refuses to graze.  But he will take his hire from the flock, live off of their increase.  When I read the words of the prophet I think of the high priests Annas and Caiaphas who ruled at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus and afterward during the early preaching and teaching in Jerusalem.


v.17Woe to the idol [worthless, asv] 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.”


            The final verse is a curse, a condemnation to the “IDOL” or “worthless” shepherd.  God had declared this message to the Judean shepherds before the captivity:


Jeremiah 23:1Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.”


They were condemned again in the words of Zechariah and finally by the Messiah himself:


John 10:12-13But 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.  13The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”


And this warning stands today for those who take up the responsibility of being a shepherd to God’s people.


William L. Schwegler, Sunday Morning Adult, Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; November 1, 2009