Study Notes

Zechariah 10:3-3


Chapter nine of the book of Zechariah began with an oracle, a burden of the word of the Lord. In this burden, we have seen prophecies of

- Alexander the Great's conquests of the nations

- Jerusalem's miraculous and divine protection from his army

- The promise of deliverance in the days of the Maccabees.

- Israel's king, Jesus Christ, was going to arrive - not on a majestic war horse, but on a donkey.

For the last two weeks, we have focused in on the first two verses of chapter ten. Those verses said to ask rain from the Lord, not from the idols. In fact, idols and all forms of divination were lies, no matter how convincing and comforting they might appear.

At the end of verse two, we saw that because the people trusted in divination rather than the Lord,

Zech. 10:2 ...Therefore the people wander like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd.

And continuing on through verse three...

10:3 Shepherds, Sheep, Goats, Flocks

Because verses two and three refer to the shepherds, people like sheep, the goats, and God's flock, this may be a good time to study this subject in some depth.

The People Wander Like Sheep

First, we should look at sheep. Before I began this study, I thought, "Now what could a city boy like me possibly have to share about sheep when there are so many in our midst raising livestock?" But when I began to study what the Scriptures had to say about sheep, my eyes were opened to see why people are so often referred to as sheep in the Scriptures!

You remember Jacob, that although he had shepherded the sheep of his father-in-law Laban (Gen. 30), he acknowledged that he himself was just a sheep when he said,

Gen. 48:15 ...God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day

Later, Moses was the first one to use this illustration of God's people. When God ended Moses' ministry, Moses prayed, saying,

Num. 27:16-17 "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep which have no shepherd."

God appointed Joshua to be the man in authority.

Even later, David interceded for the people of Israel, praying,

2Sam. 24:17 ..."Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done?..."

Why are people, specifically God's people, called sheep? Listen to what the Bible tells us about them.

Sheep have many different attributes in their appearance. They can be white, speckled, spotted, or black (Gen 30:32-35). They can be without visible defect (Lev. 14:10), or be abnormal in appearance (Lev. 22:23).

They make strange loud noises with their mouths (1Sam 15:14; Mic 2:12), and they breed to make more sheep (2Kings 3:4).

They can skip with joy (Psa 114:4-6), and be gentle (Jer. 11:19), beautiful (Jer 13:20), and loving (2Sam 12:3), but they can also have horns (Rev. 13:11) and get into conflict with other sheep, pushing them around and using their horns on the weak (Ezek. 34:21).

Now, sheep must be tended and cared for - watered and pastured (Gen 29:7). They suffer when there is no pasture for them (Joel 1:18). But when they are regularly watered, they will lay beside the location where they get that water (Gen 29:2).

Sheep have enemies. One of these enemies is the lion who tramples them and tears them (Mic. 5:8). Other enemies are the thieves. You see, sheep can be stolen (Exod. 22:1) and dragged off (Jer 12:3)

But sheep can also be separated from the flock by their own doing. They can stray away (Deut 22:1; Psalm 119:176; Isa. 53:6; 1Pet. 2:25) and become lost (Jer. 50:6). They can be left in the wilderness alone (1Sam 17:28). They get scattered when there is no shepherd (1Kings 22:17). They need a shepherd to gather them together (Isa. 13:14).

You can see why sheep make such a good example of God's people.

And you can also see why, when the people of Israel were being led by diviners telling false dreams and lying visions, they were wandering and afflicted like sheep with no shepherd.


Since they are figuratively called sheep, God's people need shepherds. Sometimes the men God called to shepherd His flock had been real shepherds themselves. Moses was a shepherd before He led God's people. This was also the case with David, when God told him,

2Sam. 7:8 ..."I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be ruler over My people Israel.

1Chr. 11:2 "...You shall shepherd My people Israel..."

But they weren't always shepherds. Simon Peter was a fisherman when Jesus commanded Him,

John 21:15 ..."Tend My lambs."

John 21:16 ..."Shepherd My sheep."

John 21:17 ..."Tend My sheep."

Peter later exhorted the church elders everywhere,

1Pet. 5:2 shepherd the flock of God among you...

Paul also warned the elders of Ephesus,

Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Shepherding The Sheep

God calls men to shepherd His people, to lead His flock. But how is that done? We must look at God Himself as the example, for He is called the...

Ps. 80:1 ...Shepherd of Israel...

John 10:14 ...the Good Shepherd...

Hebr. 13:20 ...the Great Shepherd...

1Pet. 5:4 ...the Chief Shepherd...


David wrote Psalm 23, which is a beautiful picture of God shepherding His flock. It begins,

Ps. 23:1-2 THE LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

As the Lord has set the example for the men He calls to shepherd His flock, we can see first that provision of food and water are essential. These speak of the teaching of the Word of God. The shepherd raised up by God is teaching. The Lord said through Jeremiah,

Jer. 3:15 "Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding."

Jesus did the same. Mark writes that...

Mark 6:34 ...when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

The godly shepherd teaches the Word of God to the sheep.

Protecting And Watching

Secondly, the shepherd is to protect and watch over the sheep. Paul told the Ephesian elders,

Acts 20:28-31 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert..."

The sheep should see the shepherd keeping watch and feel the protection. As Psalm 23 continues, it says,

Ps. 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me...

The Lord said,

Jer. 23:4 "I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD.

The godly shepherd keeps away the lions and the thieves by staying alert, keeping watch, and fighting off the enemies. Jesus said,

John 10:10-13 "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have {it} abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. "He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep."

The example that Jesus set is to put Himself between the wolves and the lambs. He showed that the godly shepherd must fight with everything that is in him to protect the sheep from harm. If he is to be blessed, he must continually be watching over the sheep. If you think about it for a moment, to whom did the angels appear and announce the birth of Christ?

Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were {some} shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

The faithful shepherds who were watching over them by night received this great blessing.


Thirdly, the godly shepherd must love the sheep. Isaiah wrote of the Lord,

Isa. 40:11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry {them} in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

You see, lambs can either be cared for or they can be killed. When the prophet Nathan came to David about the king's sin with Bathsheba, he told him this story:

2Sam. 12:1-4 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said, There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."

One man nourished and loved the lamb. The other butchered it and ate it. That's how you can identify the false shepherds: they are the ones butchering the sheep instead of loving them. God's rebuke against the false shepherds was brutal:

Ezek. 34:2-4 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat {sheep} without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them."

Shepherds dominating the sheep - ungodly and wrong. Peter said,

1Pet. 5:2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness

There are many who beat the sheep instead of feeding them. Who live off of the fat of the sheep, wearing their wool. Who do not love the sheep, but slaughter them. These false shepherds God will judge.


Fourth on the list, the godly shepherd guides the sheep. Psalm 23 says of the Lord,

Ps. 23:3 ...He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

An interesting detail about the holy city of Jerusalem was that there was a sheep gate. It was present throughout the city's history, from Nehemiah (3:32) to the days of Jesus (John 5:2). The sheep had to enter the holy city through that gate.

This is a spiritual truth for God's sheep as well. Jesus said,

Matt. 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."

John 10:7-9 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

The godly shepherd is leading the sheep on the path of righteousness, through the narrow gate, to Jesus, the only entrance into the holy city.

The Male Goats

God's oracle to Zechariah was,

Zech. 10:3 "My anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the male goats..."

We have seen why God's anger was against the shepherds. They had not fed them, protected them, loved them, or guided them on the right path.

But who are these male goats that will be punished?

This is almost a mystery. But I believe that the key to understanding this is found in Jeremiah 50, when we read...

Jer. 50:8 male goats at the head of the flock.

It seems that the male goats were the ones at the head of the flock. Not the shepherds, but leaders of the sheep. They were the ones setting the pace, the fellow flocks that the sheep followed.

Do you realize that you don't have to be called as a shepherd to be accountable for people following you? God raises up many leaders in the church that do not have titles or position. It is very possible that people are following your lead, imitating your example. The question is, "Does this please me or frighten me? If everyone in the church was the same kind of Christian that I am, would that be a good thing, or a bad thing?"

Food for thought as we go to the Lord in prayer this evening.

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