Zechariah 11 – Thirty Pieces of Silver
A. Judgment coming on God’s flock.
1. (1-3) Creation mourns because of coming judgment.
Open your doors, O Lebanon,
That fire may devour your cedars.
Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen,
Because the mighty trees are ruined.
Wail, O oaks of Bashan,
For the thick forest has come down.
There is the sound of wailing shepherds!
For their glory is in ruins.
There is the sound of roaring lions!
For the pride of the Jordan is in ruins.
a. Open your doors, O Lebanon, that fire may devour your cedars: This describes the coming of destructive armies of judgment from the north, through Lebanon. The doors of Lebanon are the mountain passes between Lebanon and Israel.
i. Boice comments on how this prophecy was fulfilled in the Roman campaign against Judea. “These verses might have described the Babylonian invasion if they had been written earlier; but that was past history by Zechariah’s time. There is nothing in the history of the people that a comprehensive destruction of the land can refer to prior to the terrible destruction ordered by Vespasian and his successor Titus.”
b. Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen: The cedar trees Illustrate Lebanon’s strength. Once they fall the lesser forests of cypress and oak will also be destroyed, so they also wail.
c. Wailing shepherds.… roaring lions: In addition to the trees, the shepherds and lions also mourn because of judgment on the land – coming because Israel has rejected their good shepherd.
2. (4-7) Zechariah acts out a prophecy of judgment.
Thus says the LORD my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them. For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,” says the LORD. “But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.” So I fed the flock for slaughter, in particular the poor of the flock. I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds; and I fed the flock.
a. Feed the flock for slaughter: Zechariah acted out this prophecy, feeding a literal flock of sheep that represented the people of God. As the shepherd, Zechariah represented the LORD who had appointed this flock for a season of judgment.
b. I took for myself two staffs: Zechariah’s two staffs were named “Beauty” (grace) and “Bonds” (unity). The staff was a common tool for a shepherd (Psalm 23:4).
i. “Favor [Beauty] symbolizes the favored status of Israel as the chosen people of God. Union symbolizes the internal harmony of the people that was lost at the time of the siege of Jerusalem.” (Boice)
3. (8-11) The covenant symbolically broken.
I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me. Then I said, “I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.” And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.
a. I dismissed the three shepherds in one month: We know that Zechariah was acting prophetically, but it is hard to identify these three shepherds whom Zechariah hated, and who hated him.
i. “The best explanation is probably the oldest, which sees the three shepherds not as three individuals but as three classes of individuals, namely: the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel” (Boice). The offices of prophet, priest, and king were taken away from Israel after the Roman conquest of Judea and have never been restored – because they are now fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
b. I will not feed you. Let what is dying die: In bringing judgment by letting the dying die, God merely took away His hand of protection. At one time God had a covenant with all the peoples, preventing them from attacking His people Israel. When God decided to break the covenant, His people would be attacked.
c. Let those who are left eat each other’s flesh: This really happened during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
d. The poor of the flock…knew that it was the word of the LORD: These were the faithful remnant who knew that even these hard words were from God.
4. (12-14) The shepherd is paid with contempt.
Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter. Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
a. Give me my wages: Zechariah was “play-acting” this prophecy, employing himself as a shepherd over a flock. Now he asked his employer for his wages, and they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
b. That princely price they set on me: Zechariah spoke sarcastically here. Thirty pieces of silver was not an insignificant amount, but it was the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32). It was the lowest they could pay, and it said that they regarded Zechariah as a slave.
i. This speaks prophetically of Jesus, who was contemptuously betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15 and 27:3) – the price of a slave.
ii. Matthew 27:9-10 says: Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.” This is a problem because clearly Zechariah records the passage mentioned in Matthew 27:9-10. There are generally three solutions offered for this problem:
· Some think it is an error but not by Matthew – an early copyist made a mistake. Perhaps Matthew wrote Zechariah, but an early copyist put Jeremiah instead.
· Some think that Jeremiah spoke this prophecy and Zechariah recorded it. This may be the word spoken by Jeremiah but recorded by Zechariah.
· Some think that Matthew refers to the scroll of Jeremiah, which included the book of Zechariah.
c. Threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter: Curiously, Zechariah said that the thirty pieces of silver were thrown into the house of the LORD but that they were also given to the potter. This is an exact fulfillment of what Judas did with his thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3-10).
i. The money to betray Jesus – His purchase price – went to buy a potter’s field (Matthew 27:7). A potter’s field was a piece of useless land where the potter threw his broken, damaged, and rejected pots. Jesus really did purchase the potter’s field – the place where broken, rejected, and useless people like us are scattered.
d. Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel: After the exchange of the thirty pieces of silver the staff of Bonds (unity) was broken. This was fulfilled when Israel was scattered by the Romans after their rejection of their Shepherd, Jesus.
B. A false shepherd to come.
1. (15-16) God will allow foolish shepherds to come to His people.
And the LORD said to me, “Next, take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd. For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.”
a. Take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd: Now Zechariah play-acted as a foolish shepherd who did not care for the sheep the way that a shepherd should.
· The foolish shepherd will not care for those who are cut off, but a wise and godly shepherd will seek the lost.
· The foolish shepherd will not seek the young, but a wise and godly shepherd knows that the young need to come to the LORD as much as older people do.
· The foolish shepherd will not heal those that are broken, but a wise and godly shepherd looks for broken hearts and lives and mends them with God’s love and word.
· The foolish shepherd will not feed those that still stand, but a wise and godly shepherd will faithfully feed the sheep.
· The foolish shepherd will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces, but a wise and godly shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).
b. I will raise up a shepherd in the land: This foolish shepherd was allowed and appointed by God as judgment because His people forsook the true shepherd. This was fulfilled in Israel’s rejection of Jesus. They rejected the good shepherd (John 10:1-18) but received another shepherd (John 5:43).
i. We often assume all that people need is the right leader. Here we see that even the ultimate leader may be rejected, and a worthless leader chosen. Democracy’s value is that it respects man’s fallen nature and spreads out power – yet the majority may be very, very wrong and prefer a foolish shepherd instead of the good shepherd.
ii. The foolish shepherd embraced by Israel was partially fulfilled in their choice of Barabbas (Matthew 27:20-22) but will be ultimately fulfilled in their embrace of the Antichrist and their covenant with him (Daniel 9:27).
2. (17) Judgment on the worthless shepherd.
“Woe to the worthless shepherd,
Who leaves the flock!
A sword shall be against his arm
And against his right eye;
His arm shall completely wither,
And his right eye shall be totally blinded.”
a. Woe to the worthless shepherd: Though God appointed the foolish shepherd in light of Israel’s rejection of the good shepherd, it does not mean that God approves of the foolish shepherd. God will judge that worthless shepherd who injured His flock.
b. A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye: The worthless shepherd feels the sword of God’s judgment against his arm and his right eye. The arm expresses strength and the eye expresses intelligence, so this will be a harsh blow against the worthless shepherd.
i. Revelation 13:3 and 13:12-14 tell us the Antichrist will suffer a severe wound yet survive. This confirms that the worthless shepherd is ultimately fulfilled in the Antichrist.