Zechariah 10: 1 – 11:17
The purpose of this chapter is much the same as that of the 9th, the encouragement of the captives that had returned to their homeland. They have been under the rebukes of the Lord for their negligence in rebuilding the temple. Surrounded with enemies and dangers they were told why all the events that have occurred in the past were the acts of the Lord of hosts.
In this chapter, the Lord tells the people He will bless them and make them prosperous at home and victorious abroad. They will receive strength and success from the Lord in all their struggles with their enemies. All they need to do is ask the Lord for His help.
In the past years because of the unseasonable weather, there had been great scarcity of both. In the close of chapter nine Zechariah told the people there will be a great harvest of corn and the fruit of the vine. They are told to pray for rain.
Verse one – “Ask rain from the Lord at the time of the spring. The Lord who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man.”
They are not to pray to the clouds, nor the stars for rain as their neighbors did, but to the Lord “who makes the storm clouds.”
There were two important rainfalls. One occurred in the autumn during the planting of the seed and the second in the spring, between March and May. If either of these rains failed, there was a lack of food for both the people and their animals because from the end of May to September they never had any rain at all. When the rains did not come in the time, they normally occurred the people viewed this as a sign the Lord was displeased with His people. Zechariah told the people they must pray for rain. The people are to ask for rain in the time when the rains normally came. If they ask in the right time, the Lord will send the rain in great abundance.
In verse two, the people are told of their folly in calling on the gods of their neighbors as their fathers had done. The idols the fathers prayed to and consulted in their distress could not tell them when they could expect the rain to come so how could they command rain to fall from heaven. The diviners, the prophets of the gods, promised the people the gods would send them rain but it never came. The intent of the visions of the diviners and the promises was to mislead the people. The biggest problem in the promises of rain that never came, those who prayed to the false gods lost the favor of the true God. This is why they went into captivity, were troubled, and harassed, like scattered sheep, without shepherds. Why they had no king, no priest to intercede for them, none to take care of them and keep them together.
In verse three, the Lord told Zechariah, “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the male goats; for the Lord of hosts has visited His flock, the house of Judah, and I will make them like His majestic horse in battle.”
“The male goats” is a term used to describe the wicked magistrates. The shepherds are the priests who were not fulfilling their duties. The captivity in Babylon was a sign of the Lord’s anger against them. Though the body of the nation suffered in the captivity, yet it was only the political leaders (goats) and the religious leaders (shepherds) that the Lord was angry with, and that He punished. The afflictions of the body of the nation came from the love of God, and were but a fatherly chastisement, which to them came from His wrath, and was judicial punishment.
We need to remember in troubled times the innocence often suffer with the guilty. Our situations are for the most part our own doing. However, there are times when we suffer from the acts of the ungodly and unrighteous. When things began to change for the better, the Lord gave them the blessings. He visited His flock with favor and provided them with what He finds proper for them. He beautified them, took care of them, managed and made use of them, as a man does the horse he rides on. He made them valuable in themselves and formidable to those about them. From them will come a cornerstone and a tent peg.
Verses four and five – “From them will come the cornerstone, from them the tent peg, from them the bow of battle, from them every ruler, all of them together. They will be as mighty men, treading down the enemy in the mire of the streets in battle; and they will fight, for the Lord will be with them; and the riders on horses will be put to shame.”
Zechariah explained to the people all the power brought engaged against them was from the Lord. Out of the Lord came all the combined force of their enemies. Every oppressor did but what the Lord had decreed. Nor could they have had such power against them unless it came from above, likewise, all the power that benefited them came from the Lord. Out of Him came forth the power of magistrates, which keeps the several parts of the state together. Out of Him came the military power that defends the nation, and out of Him came every oppressor that had the civil power in his hand to oppress the people of God.
However, we must never forget, what the Lord gives to man that is not used to benefit all men will be taken from him.
In verses 5-12 there are promises made to the people of God, which look further than to the state of the Israel in the days of Zechariah. They pertain to events beyond the latter days of Israel’s history. They have reference to the Church and all true believers in Christ. The Israelites will have God’s favor and presence, and shall be owned and accepted of Him. This is the foundation of all the rest: He takes on their cause, takes their part, and is on their side. All their social standing and joy will be due to the Lord’s mercy.
Although cast off and could not pretend to merit anything from the Lord except His wrath and the curse they are promised, they shall be as though they had not been cast off. The Lord will be as perfectly reconciled to them as if He had never contended with them. They shall have such a full assurance of the Lord being reconciled to them they shall be reconciled to each other; this is the favor the Lord shows to all repenting sinners, who are by nature children of wrath. The fellowship and the freedom He gives them. Their covenant is the original covenant made with their fathers. The communion they have with the Lord is the same as their fathers had with the Lord. They can speak to the Lord and receive from Him an answer of peace, for as He never said before and never will, say to Jacob’s seed, “Seek you Me in vain.” They shall be victorious over their enemies that would draw them from their duty to the Lord or their comfort in the Lord. They shall be men that are both strong in body and bold in spirit, men of vigor. Those of Ephraim as well as those of Judah, shall be like mighty men. They will be men that will go about a difficult project and will be able to finish it. They shall be as mighty men and tread down their enemies in battle as the dirt thrown out of the houses and trodden with other dirt in the streets. They shall fight because the Lord is with them. Some will argue that they may sit still, and do nothing, because the Lord is with them but this is not the way the Lord works among His people. The Lord’s gracious presence with us is to help us help ourselves and we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. They shall fight with readiness and resolution because, if God is with them, they are sure to be conquerors.
The preachers of the gospel of Christ went forth to war. They charged bravely, because the Lord was with them; and those that opposed them were confounded for the Lord chose the weak and foolish things of the world to confound the wise and mighty. Where did they find all this might? Why were they so able, so active? It is in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
The Lord saves us by strengthening us, and works out our happiness by working in us so that we are able to do His calling. We are to use the strength the Lord gives us and when the battle is over the Lord must have the glory. The Lord is our strength, and becomes both our song and our salvation.
The Lord will gather those that have been scattered into one body. The Lord will bring them from other lands and place them in their own land. This will be a sign of their restoration to all their other ancient privileges. In order to this the Lord said, “I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be as numerous as they were before.”
The Lord will whistle for them as the shepherd with his pipe calls his sheep together and they gather around him. There are scholars who think Ptolemaeus Philadelphus king of Egypt fulfilled this promise when he sent 120,000 Jews out of his country into their own land. There are also scholars who believe the gathering of Israelites out of Assyria by Alexander the son of Antiochus Epiphanies fulfilled this promise. However, the promise has its spiritual accomplishment in the gathering of precious souls out of bondage worse than that in Egypt or Assyria, and the bringing of them into the glorious liberties of the children of God and their enjoyments, which are as the beautiful fruitful pastures in the land of Gilead and Lebanon.
All the land of promise is theirs, even Gilead, the utmost border of it eastward, and Lebanon, the utmost border northward. The question is, how shall this be, how shall a people separated by such a great distance from their own country be brought to it again? It is true the difficulties seem impossible but they shall be as easily, as effectual accomplished as those that lay in the way of their deliverance out of Egypt and their entrance into Canaan.
The chosen people of the Lord shall greatly multiply. They shall increase as they increased in Egypt and a great number added to their numbers, as in the days of David and Solomon. When the Lord gathers His redeemed ones to Himself they shall help to gather in others with them, and their moving homeward shall be like a snowball.
The scattering the Israelites shall be like the scattering of seed in the ground, not to bury it, but to increase it, that it may bring forth much fruit. It is a fact the Israelites were scattered into every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5) and it was the problems they faced in their homeland caused some of them to move into other nations. Others transplanted themselves into colonies because the land of Israel was too strait for them; and many were natives of other nations proselyte to the Jewish religion. This transplanting among the nations contributed to the spreading of the gospel. The Jews that came from all parts to worship at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost took the gospel message to their own countries, as those in Acts 2 and the eunuch in Acts 8. Their synagogues in the cities of the Gentiles were the first places the apostles and their preaching, where heard. Thus, the Lord sowed them among the nations that the Gentiles might not hurt them. He took care that they should remember Him and make mention of His name in far countries and, by keeping up the knowledge of God among them as He had revealed himself in the Old Testament, they would be the more ready to admit the knowledge of Christ as He has revealed Himself in the New Testament.
This shall last into future ages. The church shall not be a temporary thing in the world but a seed in it. Converts to Christ shall have their children whom they shall teach the knowledge of the Lord, and bring with them when they turn again to the Promised Land the way of holiness. Peter said to those to whom the gospel was first preached, “The promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:39). Christ’s family upon earth shall never be extinct, nor his purchased possession lost for want of heirs. The Lord, Himself will be both their strength and their song. In Him, they shall be comforted, and shall have abundant satisfaction. Their heart shall rejoice because of Christ’s love in their hearts.
How are they enabled and invigorated for their duty? Zechariah said the Lord said, “I the Lord will strengthen them” in other words in the Messiah. It is through Christ that we can do all things, and without Him, we can do nothing. If the Lord strengthens us, we must be active and busy in the work of the Lord. We must be industrious men and women, losing no time, and letting no opportunity slip through our fingers. Whatever we do in word or deed, we must do the name of our Lord Jesus.
The Rejection (11: 1 – 17):
In the previous chapters, Zechariah was an ambassador sent to promise peace. In this chapter, he is a herald sent to declare war. Israel will recover its prosperity, and shall flourish for a while. The people will be very happy looking forward to the coming of the long expected Messiah, in the preaching of His gospel, and in the setting up of His standard. But, when a remnant among them are united to Christ, the body of the nation, persisting in unbelief, will be utterly abandoned and given up to ruin, for rejecting Christ; and it is this that is foretold here in this chapter, the rejection of the Messiah and the wrath for that sin came upon them. The purpose of the prediction of the destruction that will come upon Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple is so that when it comes to pass the people cannot say they were not warned.
In the announcement of destruction, Zechariah uses figurative expressions, a normal practice in the predictions of things that are in the future. The people will not open the door to let their King in now they must open the door to let in destruction. There are scholars who believe the doors refer to doors of the temple because the builders of the temple used cedars and stones from Lebanon. The Romans burned it with fire, and its gates forced open by the fury of the soldiers.
Others believe it is Jerusalem, or the whole land of Canaan, to which Lebanon was a means of entering the land from the north. All land will be open to the invader, and the cedars, the mighty and eminent men destroyed and this will cause great alarm to the poor. If the cedars fall, how can the cypress escape?
The fall of the wise and good into sin, and the fall of the rich and great into trouble, are loud alarms to those that are in every way their inferiors.
The fallen cry and weep because of their grief and shame, and those who see the fallen cry and weep they cry and weep because they fear what is coming their way. However, the powerful men receive the alarm with the utmost confusion. These powerful men are the shepherds who cry and weep because they are tormented more than others are. They should have protected the Lord’s flock committed to their charge, but they were as young lions that terrorize the flock with their roaring and the flock is a prey. It is sad when people who should be as shepherds to the Lord’s flock are as young lions to them.
Why do the shepherds cry and weep. Their pastures, and the flocks which were the glory of the shepherds are laid waste.
The pride of Jordan was the thickets on the banks, in which the lions rested and when the river overflowed, the lions came up from them and they came up roaring. When those who have power proudly abuse their power, instead of being shepherds they are as young lions and the righteous God will humble their pride and break their power.
In verses 4-14 Zechariah is made a type of Christ, as the prophet Isaiah sometimes was; and the scope of these verses is to show that for judgment Christ came into this world (John 9:39), for judgment of Israel which was at the time of His coming wretchedly corrupted and degenerated by the worldliness and hypocrisy of their rulers. Christ would have healed them, but they rejected healing and are left desolate, and abandoned to ruin.
The Lord tells Zechariah, “Pasture the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slay them and go unpunished, and each of those who sell them says, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I have become rich!’ And their own shepherds have no pity on them.”
In the days of Zechariah, the people, under the tyranny of their own governors, in their own country, were as miserable as they were in their captivity in strange countries. In Christ’s time 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, became perfect tyrants, devoured their houses, engrossed their wealth, and fleeced the flock instead of feeding it. The Sadducees, who were deists, corrupted their judgments. The Pharisees, who were bigots corrupted their morals, by making void the commandments of God (Matthew 15:16). They slew the sheep of the flock or sold them. They did not care what became of them so they could gain their own ends and serve their own interests. They justified what they were doing. They could see no harm in what they were doing. They never thought the chief Shepherd, the Lord, would demand an accounting for what they were doing. They acted as if the power given to them was for destruction and their edification. They believed because they sat in Moses’ seat, they were not under the obligation of Moses’ law but might dispense it at their pleasure. Those who have their minds blinded will do evil in the sight of the Lord and justify themselves in doing it. However, God will not hold those guiltless who hold themselves guiltless. They added insult to injury by giving thanks to the Lord for what they gained in their oppression of their fellow man. They said, “Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich,” as if, because they prospered in their wickedness, the Lord had made Himself a part of their unjust practices and He had become an associate of their guilt.
What we get honestly we ought to give the Lord thanks for it, and bless Him whose blessing makes rich and adds no sorrow with it. However, under what pretence can we go to the Lord either to beg a blessing upon the unlawful methods of getting wealth or to thank Him for what we have gained through these unlawful methods? When these people did what they were doing. They mocked the Lord by making the gains of sin a gift of God. In this they put contempt upon the people of God and unworthy of compassion. Their own shepherds did not pity them. They made them miserable. The good Shepherd had compassion for the multitude because they fainted and were scattered abroad as if they had no shepherd. It is a sad thing when pastors have no tenderness, no compassion for precious souls, when they can look upon the foolish, the wicked, the weak, the poor without pity.
There was a general decay of religion among them, and they were doing nothing about it. Therefore, the Lord said, “I shall no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the land, declares the Lord, but behold, I shall cause the men to fall, each into another’s power and into the power of his king; and they will strike the land and I shall not deliver them from their power.”
God is telling the people, they have brought their own destruction upon themselves. The truly miserable are those whom the Lord of mercy Himself will no longer show them compassion. Those who are willing to have their consciences seared by those who teach the commandments of men as the Jews who were called the Rabbi did (Matthew 15:9; 23:7) are often punished by oppression in their civil interests, and justly so, for those who forfeit their own rights give up the Lord’s rights. The Jews did and who can pity them if they are ruled with rigor?
The Lord said, He would deliver them into the hand of the oppressors, every one into his neighbor’s hand, so that they shall use one another outrageously. There were several parties in Jerusalem that did this. The Zealots committed greater outrages than the common enemy did, as Josephus relates in his history of the wars of the Jews.
The Lord said, they should be delivered every one into the hands of his king, that is, the Roman emperor, whom they chose to submit to rather than to Christ, saying, “We have no king but Caesar.” They thought they could find favor in the sight of their lords and masters. It is for this reason the Lord brought the Romans upon them that He would not deliver them out of their hands. “They shall strike the land,” the whole land, and the Lord said, He would not deliver them from their hand. If the Lord does not help them, none else can, nor can they help themselves.
The Lord said, “So I pastured the flock doomed to slaughter, hence the afflicted of the flock. And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor and the other I called Union, so I pastured the flock.”
The two staffs symbolized the good intentions of Zechariah acting the part of a good shepherd; in bring “Favor” and “Union” to Israel and Judah, a foreshadow of Christ. The Lord had sent His servants, the prophets, to them in vain, but last of all He sent His Son to them, saying, “They will reverence My Son” (Matthew 21:37). Many prophets had spoken of God’s Son as the “Shepherd of Israel” (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23). Jesus told the Pharisees that He was the “Shepherd of the sheep” and those who pretended to be shepherds were “thieves and robbers (John 10:1-2, 11), apparently referring to this passage.
The charge Jesus received from His Father to try what might be done with this flock, “Thus says the Lord My God, Christ called His Father His God because He acted in compliance with His will and with an eye to His glory in everything He said and did.
The flock doomed to slaughter was the Israelites, the Lord’s flock their enemies had killed them all the daylong and considered them as sheep for slaughter. Their own rulers “slew them” and the Lord Himself had doomed them to the slaughter. Yet, He tells the good Shepherd to “feed them” by reproof and comfort them. Provide wholesome food for those who so long been fed the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus said He had other sheep that were not of this flock and must be brought into the flock. His acceptance of this charge and He did what He was told to do. Since it was the will of the Father, it was the will of the Son. Christ will not only care for these lost sheep, He will go among them teaching and healing the poor of the flock. The shepherds that made a prey of the flock did not regard the plight of the poor. However, Christ preached His gospel to the poor (Matthew 11:5). It was a sign of His humiliation that His ministry was mostly with the poor. His disciples were of the poor of the flock. The Lord furnishes Himself with tools proper for the charge He had undertaken, two staffs. Other shepherds have but one crook, but the good Shepherd has two, denoting the double care He took of His flock, and what He did both for the souls and for the bodies of men. David speaks of the Lord’s rod and staff (Psalm 23:4), a correcting rod and a supporting staff.
One of these staves, called “Favor” denotes the temple. The second staff called “Union” denotes their civil state. In the fulfillment of his duties as the chief Shepherd, he fed the flock and replaced the under-shepherds that were false to their trust.
Some scholars believe the three shepherds represent the offices of kings, priests, and scribes or prophets, who, when Christ had finished His work ended because of their unfaithfulness. Others believe they represent the three sects among the Jews, of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, all whom Christ silenced in the dispute recorded in Matthew 22 and soon after were cut off for all time.
Christ came to His own, the sheep of His own pasture so that there might be between them and Him the same affection that exists between the shepherd and his sheep. He intended them kindness, but could not do them the kindness He intended them because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58). He was disappointed in them, discouraged concerning them, grieved for them, not only for the shepherds whom He cut off, but for the people whom Christ often looked upon with grief in his heart and tears in his eyes. Their provocations even wore out his patience and He was weary of that faithless and perverse generation.
Whatever estrangement there is between God and man, it begins on man’s side. The Jewish shepherds rejected this chief Shepherd, as the Jewish builders rejected this chief corner stone. They were emotional displeased with Christ’s doctrine and miracles, and His interest in the people, to whom they did all they could to render Him detestable as they had made themselves detestable to Him.
There is a mutual enmity between God and wicked people; they are hateful to God and haters of God. Nothing speaks more the sinfulness and misery of an unregenerate state than this does. The carnal mind, the friendship of the world, are enmity to God, and God hates all the workers of iniquity; and it is easy to foresee what this will end in, if the quarrel is not ended in time (Isaiah 27:4-5).
The sentence of their rejection is found in verse nine.
The good Shepherd said He would no longer take care of the flock. They could go their own way. He will do nothing to save its forfeited life. That which will make itself a prey to the wolf, let it be a prey, and let the rest forget his or her own mild and gentle nature. Let them fight amongst themselves like dogs.
A sign of rejection is given in verses ten and eleven.
The breaking of this staff signified the breaking of God’s covenant that He had made with all the tribes of Israel, and all other people who, by being proselytes to their religion, incorporated into their nation. The Jewish religion was now stripped of all its glory; its crown was profaned and cast to the ground, and all its honor laid in the dust; for God departed from it, and would no more own it for His. When Christ told the people the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to another people the staff of Favor was broken (Matthew 21:43). It was broken in that day when Christ went to the cross, although Jerusalem, the temple and the nation lasted forty years longer, yet from that day we may reckon the staff of Favor broken. However, the great men did not, or would not; understand it as a divine sentence. The poor of the flock, the disciples understood with what authority Jesus spoke, and could distinguish the voice of their Shepherd from that of a stranger and trembled at it, and were confident that it should not fall to the ground.
The Shepherd comes to them for his wages. He tells them if they no longer want him to pasture the flock pay him for his service and he will move on. On the other hand, discharge him without paying him; it makes no difference to him. They paid him thirty shekels of silver. The silver being no way equal to his worth Zechariah gave it to the potter. Let him take it and buy clay with it or for any use that this small amount of money could buy. It may be enough for a potter to buy the clay he needs but it is not enough pay for a shepherd such as the one they were discharging. Zechariah did as the Lord told him.
The completing of the rejection of the people is the cutting asunder of the second staff.
The cutting into pieces of the first staff denoted the breaking of the covenant between God and the people. The cutting into pieces of the second staff denotes the breaking of the union of Judah and Israel, the reviving of animosities and contention among them, such as were of old between Judah and Israel. Nothing ruins a people more than the breaking of the staff of Union and the weakening of fellowship among a people. The breaking of the staff Union makes the nation an easy prey to the common enemy. When iniquity abounds love waxes cold. When the staff of Favor is broken, the staff of Union will also be broken.
Zechariah is told to play a second role. He is to take “the equipment of a foolish shepherd.”
The Lord having showed the misery of this people in their being abandoned by the good Shepherd, here shows their further misery in being shamefully abused by a foolish shepherd. Zechariah impersonates and represents this pretended shepherd. He is told take the equipment that a foolish shepherd would appear in; for such a shepherd shall be set over them. These people will be under the ministry of unfaithful ministers. Their scribes, priests, and doctors of their law, shall bind heavy burdens upon them, and with their traditions imposed, shall make the ceremonial law much more a yoke than God had made it.
The description of the foolish shepherd suits very well with the character Christ gives of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:2. They shall be under the tyranny of unmerciful princes that shall rule them with rigor, and make their own land as much a house of bondage to them as Egypt or Babylon was.
What a curse this foolish shepherd should be to the people, he will not do the duty of a shepherd. He will not visit those separated from the community, nor go after those that go astray, nor seek those that are missing, to find them and bring them home, as the good shepherd does in Matthew 18:12-13. He will not care for the young ones that need his care and are well worthy of it. He will not heal that which is broken, but let it die of its bruises, when a little healing ministry would have saved it. He will not feed those who through weakness are ready to faint, and cannot go forward. He will leave them behind. He will care only for his own well-being. His passions are as ill governed as their appetites.
In verse seventeen, we are told this foolish shepherd will bring upon himself a curse. “A sword will be on his arm and on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered and his right eye will be blind.” He will be like the idol-shepherd who like an idol, has eyes and sees not, who, like an idol, receives abundance of respect and homage from the people and the chief of their offerings, but neither can nor will do them any kindness. He leaves the flock when they most need his care. He leaves them destitute, and flees because he is a hireling. His doom is that the sword of the Lord’s justice shall be upon him. He will not help others when it was required he shall not know how to help himself. He will not be able discern the danger that his flock is in, nor know which way to look for relief. This was fulfilled when Christ said to the Pharisees, “I have come that those who see may be made blind (John 9:39). Those that have gifts that qualifies them to do well, if they do not do well with them, shall lose them. Those that should have been workers, but were slothful and would do nothing, will justly have their arm dried up and those that should have been watchmen, but were sleepy and would never look about them, will justly have their eye blinded.