Study Notes

Zechariah 11:1-14


Tonight, we will come close to finishing the first of the two burdens of the Word of the Lord that make up the final six chapters of Zechariah. At this point in the burden, the Lord has been speaking about the scattering of Israel, which Jesus proclaimed would take place because they had rejected Him (Luke 19:41-44).

11:1-2 Cedars Of Lebanon

The cedar trees that grew in Lebanon were world-famous for the strength and straightness of wood that they produced.

Solomon constructed the temple from only the best materials, regardless of expense. The wood used for the pillars and beams was from the cedars of Lebanon (1Kings 7:2). When the temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian Captivity, cedar wood from Lebanon was again used (Ezra 3:7).

Cedars from Lebanon became both a figure of speech generally and a symbol of Lebanon's power specifically. In the first sense, the psalmist wrote,

Ps. 92:12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

In the song of Solomon, the woman celebrates her man's appearance saying,

Song 5:15 "His legs are pillars of alabaster set on pedestals of pure gold; His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars."

Secondly, the cedars were also a symbol of Lebanon's strength. But God always reminds us that His power is greater than any human institution.

Ps. 29:5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

Also famous in the ancient world (Ezek. 27:6; Isa. 2:13), the oaks of Baw-SHAWN are used as a prophecy of judgment against Baw-SHAWN, which is east of the Jordan, in the area today called the Golan Heights, north of Ghil-AWD. (Note: I mis-spoke last week in saying that Ghil-AWD was the Golan Heights. It is actually further south than the Golan Heights, in the northern part of Jordan.)

It appears that this part of the burden is describing the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman army less than forty years after the Jewish leadership rejected Christ. This fits exactly the pattern of destruction that the Romans under Vespasian followed as they assaulted the Jews. Gathered in Anticoh, the Roman army and moved south down through Lebanon to Ptolemais and then to Galilee and into the Gadarenes, where Baw-SHAWN is. (The exact account can be read in Josephus' "Wars of the Jews," book three.)

11:3 Shepherds Wailing

In chapter ten, the flock was defined as the house of Judah. The shepherds were those who were supposed to lead them, yet instead had angered God (see notes on Zechariah 10:3).

Now, the shepherds are described as wailing, for their glory is ruined. It would come to pass even as was predicted. You remember in Mark 13,

Mark 13:1-2 He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down."

The leaders of Israel would wail, for their glory would be ruined.

Young Lion's Roar

Lions would hide in the thickets of the Jordan River (Jer 49:19; 50:44), lurking in hiding, waiting for prey (Ps. 17:12). When they came out, it was to attack. When lions were going after and tearing their prey, they would roar (Judg. 14:5; Ps. 104:21; Ezek. 22:25; Amos 3:4).

The poetic picture being painted here is that of God's judgment coming upon Israel by her enemies.

11:4-5 Pasture The Flock Doomed To Slaughter

Now God tells Zechariah to pasture, to feed, to shepherd the flock, the people of God. He is being called to be a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. He will be acting out the ministry that Jesus will have.

When Christ would come to shepherd the flock, those who were currently shepherding Israel would be having no pity on His sheep. They would be abusing them, enslaving them, and would be getting rich doing it. Amazingly, their hearts would be so hardened that they would actually be giving credit to God for making them rich!

Zech. 11:5 "...Blessed be the LORD, for I have become rich!"...

Surely this is one of the most frustrating sins I encounter on a regular basis. People who claim to be Christians, yet regularly sin, actually having the nerve to give glory to God for their worldly success. It is frustrating because I can't ever seem to help them understand that their praises are an abomination.

The prosperity preachers who use manipulation and false teaching to bilk God's people for millions of dollars actually have the nerve to pray and thank God for this great "harvest!"

The shepherds of the flock in Jesus' day were the same. Through the money changers and those selling animals, through the manipulation and abuse of religious power, the scribes, priests, and other leaders had become rich and powerful because they devoured God's little lambs. And yet they were always careful to give God all the credit for their "blessings!"

Frankly, there is some credit God doesn't want you to give to Him. He doesn't want the credit for a false prophet's dreams. He doesn't want the credit for success you've brought to yourself by your own abilities. And He doesn't want the credit for the riches that you've gained through sinful practices at others' expense.

11:6 No More Pity

God is saying, "The time is coming that I will no longer tolerate the sin of either the shepherds or the flock. When other nations and armies come in, I will offer you no protection, and you will be stricken and scattered."

11:7 Pasturing A Doomed Flock

In acting out his ministry of Christ, Zechariah was faithful to shepherd the flock, specifically those that were afflicted. This was Jesus' focus:

Mark 2:17 ..."It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Luke 4:18 "...He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden"

Favor And Union

Like many of the prophets, Zechariah illustrated the truth of God with physical props and actions. He demonstrated his shepherd's ministry with two staffs, one named "Favor" and the other, "Union." The reason for this will become known in a few verses.

11:8 Three Shepherds Annihilated

Zechariah, as the Good Shepherd, says that he cut off the three shepherds. This is a mystery that most commentators either avoid or arbitrarily choose three men in history. But I believe we have all the clues we need right here in this verse.

First of all, they are not just "three shepherds," but "THE three shepherds." This indicates a complete leadership.

Secondly, the Good Shepherd's soul was impatient with them.

Finally, their souls was weary of Him.

Who does this describe?

Ask yourself: Who were the three-fold leadership in the days of Christ? Who were the only ones that Jesus showed impatience with? Who were weary of Him? While I do not know of any other commentator who holds this view, this is my belief: Over a dozen places in the gospels, the "elders and the chief priests and the scribes" are mentioned together. I think that these are the three shepherds that Jesus was impatient with, and who were also weary of Him: the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes." They were all cut off in one month when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD.

11:9 Let It Die

When the Good Shepherd was rejected by the flock, the flock was rejected by the Good Shepherd. Their fate was sealed, and Christ would allow them to go to their own destruction.

Matt. 23:36-38 "Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!"

His prophecy of their destruction was fulfilled as Jerusalem was put under siege by the Romans. As the inhabitants began to die of starvation, Josephus' description of the people's actions are among the most troubling things you will ever read ("Wars of the Jews," book five). Some actually resorted to cannibalism, just as this verse indicates.

11:10-14 Favor And Union Cut In Pieces

Now we see the purpose of the staffs having names: Zechariah cut them in pieces to demonstrate that the Good Shepherd would break apart the conditional covenants and the brotherhood of Israel's union.

Thirty Shekels Of Silver

After being rejected by the flock, the Good Shepherd was still to be paid. But the wages measured out were an offense: thirty pieces of silver was the ransom price for a slave who was wrongfully killed. The Law of Moses stated,

Exod. 21:32 If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his {or her} master thirty shekels of silver...

The wages given to the rejected Good Shepherd was that of a slave who was killed. Verse 13 makes it clear that the Good Shepherd was really God:

Zech. 11:13 Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter, {that} magnificent price at which I was valued by them."...

The amount was to be thrown to the potter in the house of the Lord. This must surely be a mystery to those that have not recognized Jesus Christ as God Himself, the Good Shepherd who was rejected by the leaders of Israel.

The gospels tell us that one of Jesus' disciples was a thief. Judas Iscariot

John 12:6 ...had the money box, (and) he used to pilfer what was put into it.

When a woman poured out perfume from an alabaster vial that was worth almost a year's wages, Judas got upset. He complained, that this should have been sold instead and distributed to the poor. In reality, he was upset at the missed opportunity to steal from so much money going into the box.

And so Judas' existing plans for betraying Jesus (John 12:4) were put into overdrive. We read that he...

Matt. 26:15-16 ...said, "What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?" And they weighed out to him thirty pieces of silver. And from then on he {began} looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.

Judas found his opportunity the night of the "Last Supper." Judas left the dinner and led the multitude armed with swords and clubs to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was arrested and was handed over to the governor.

Matt. 27:3-10 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See {to that} yourself!" And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood." And they counseled together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER'S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME."

Zechariah's prophecy had been fulfilled exactly, in every detail.

Next week, we will finish the chapter and the burden as we see the antichrist - that worthless shepherd who will be raised up because Israel rejected her Good Shepherd.

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