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Zechariah

Zechariah 11 Commentary Verses 1-11

Zechariah 11 Commentary Verses 1-11
Explaining the Book of Zechariah

 
 
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Zechariah 11 Commentary verses 1-11: Let’s turn our attention to Zechariah 11. We made it all the way through the 10th chapter of this book last time.

And yet in some ways I think that the chapter break at the end of Zechariah 10:12 is minorly unfortunate. Because it seems to me that the Lord is continuing to speak on the same topic into Zechariah 11 as he’d been speaking in chapter 10.

And you can see this from reading Zechariah 10:10. Let’s read that for a moment

KJV Zechariah 10:10 I will bring {them/the formerly exiled Jews at the end of the tribulation} again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; {So, that’s where God will rescue these Jews from at the end of the Tribulation. But where is he going to put them?}

and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; {Why?} {and/because} place shall not be found for them.

In other words, God will bring back Jewish people at the end of the Tribulation from various nations to which they will be driven once more even future to us. But there’s somewhat of a problem. When they come back, there will be so many of them that there won’t be room for them.

And that’s why the Lord says in Zechariah 10:10 that these Jews will be placed in territory that’s adjacent to Israel – to the north in Lebanon and to the east in Gilead.

Zechariah 11 Commentary verses 1-3

But the question in your mind should be – well, what about the people who will be in those places in the future at the end of the Tribulation? Where are they going to go? How will there be room for both the residents of those two areas plus the incoming Jews?

And that’s what Zechariah 11:1-3 help us understand. The Lord in those future times will clear those lands of their people in order to make room for his people the Jews.

So, let’s read Zechariah 11:1-11 right now in order to see the whole passage. And then we’ll try to see the details of the Lord clearing the land for his people.

{Read Zec 11:1-11…}

So, to begin with, the Lord predicts that he will clear out these two regions – the one to the north of Israel and the one to the east of it in verses 1 and 2.

KJV Zechariah 11:1 ¶ Open {thy doors/your gates}, O Lebanon, {that/so that} {the/a} fire may {devour/feed on/consume} thy cedars.

2 |Howl/Wail|, |fir tree/O cypress/O pine tree|; |for/because| the cedar |is/has| fallen; because the |mighty/glorious trees/majestic trees/stately trees| |are/have been| |spoiled/destroyed/ruined|:

|howl/Wail|, O ye oaks of Bashan; |for/because| the |forest of the vintage/impenetrable forest/dense forest| |is come down/has come down/has fallen/has been cut down|.

And so, we want to notice first that this language is highly poetic. Any time that you have God commanding trees to make noise you are immediately aware of the fact that God is not being literal here. We’re not to expect a time in the future in which trees literally have a voice and they wail.

So, the Lord is communicating in poetic fashion that the people of Lebanon and of Bashan will lament some future destruction that will clear the way for these Jews to return to this land. And by the way, Bashan was not mentioned in Zechariah 10:10, but it’s just north of Gilead. So, it’s very close in terms of proximity to Gilead. In fact, it’s possible that Gilead was considered the southern part of Bashan.

But anyway, these lands were known for their trees and forests. And so, God speaks of their mighty trees being cut down and he uses that to picture the destruction that’s going to clear the way for the Jews to take over that land at the end of the Tribulation.

So, the Lord spoke poetically of the trees of these two areas. And now in verse 3, the Lord will speak of these two territories as shepherds and lions.

3 |There is a/Listen to the| |voice of the howling/sound of the wail/howling/wail| of the shepherds;
|for their glory/because their magnificence/their rich pastures| |is spoiled/is ruined/has been destroyed|:

|a voice of/There is a sound of/Listen to| the roaring of young lions;
|for/because| the |pride/thickets/lush thicket| of |Jordan/the Jordan| |is spoiled/is ruined/has been devastated|.

So, just like the trees of these areas are commanded to howl and wail, now we’re told to listen – as if it were happening right now in our ears – the howling and wailing of these two groups.

The shepherds of Lebanon and Bashan are to lament because their pastures are ruined.

And the young lions – who would normally enjoy hiding in the brush surrounding the Jordan River – they’re lamenting because those tickets surrounding that river are destroyed. And of course, the Jordan River literally formed the western boundary for the land of Bashan.

So, with the end of verses 1-3 in this chapter I think that the Lord is done with his treatment of those matters. He was simply continuing his discussion of causing the exiled Jews to return to their land at the end of the Tribulation.

Zechariah 11 Commentary verses 4-17

So, with that, we enter into the larger part of chapter 11. And we’ll only be able to cover verses 4-11. And hopefully we’ll get verses 12-17 next time.

So, this section starts with the Lord seeming to give the prophet Zechariah a command in verse 4.

4 ¶ Thus saith the LORD my God;

{Feed/Pasture/Shepherd} the flock {of the/doomed to/set aside for/marked for} slaughter;

So, Zechariah is commanded to shepherd a flock. And this flock is apparently marked for slaughter. The plan for this flock of sheep is that they would be butchered and killed. That’s their doom.

Who is this flock? We don’t know yet, so let’s just keep trying to pick up clues that would help us identify who these sheep represent.

So, in verse 5 we’re told more about this flock. They’re slaughtered by others – even their own shepherds – and nobody cares.

5 {Whose possessors/Those who buy them} {slay/slaughter} them, and {hold themselves not guilty/go unpunished/are not held guilty}:

{and they that/those who} sell them say,

{Blessed be/Praise} the LORD; for I {am/have become} rich:

and their own shepherds {pity them not/have no pity on them/have no compassion for them/do not spare them}.

So, this flock is bought and sold. And those who buy them just slaughter them. The Lord mentions that they go unpunished for doing this, which would seem to indicate that these people should be punished and that what they’re doing to this flock is not right.

And then even more bizarre is that those buyers after slaughtering these sheep they bless and praise the Lord for becoming rich. Their slaughtering of these sheep makes them rich. And even though it seems that the Lord does not at all agree with what they’re going, yet these buyers mindlessly believe that it’s the Lord’s will to destroy this flock.

And then this flock has shepherds, but these shepherds have no interest in showing mercy and kindness to these sheep. Maybe that’s why they don’t mind selling them to these others folks who just end up slaughtering them. And maybe this is why the Lord commands Zechariah to assume their job from them and to shepherd this flock – because their own shepherds are so neglecting their duties.

So, the point seems to be that this flock has it hard. They are not protected. They’re not safe. The ones in charge of their protection and safety are cruel to them.

So, do we know yet who this flock is? Maybe not yet. So, let’s continue on into verse 6.

And this is where I think things become a great deal clearer. Because God in verse 6 is going to stop his talk about this flock and start speaking of the people of the land. That’s really who God is meaning when he talks about this flock.

6 {For/Indeed} I will no {more pity/longer have pity on/longer have compassion on} the {inhabitants/people} of the land, saith the LORD:

but, {lo/behold/instead}, I will {deliver the men every one/cause the men to fall/turn every last person over/hand everyone over} {into/to} {his neighbour’s hand/another’s power/his neighbor}, and into the {hand/power} of his king:

and they {shall smite/will devastate/will oppress} the land, and {out of their hand/from their power/from them} I will not deliver them.

So, God cuts from talking about a flock of sheep to a land full of people. And I think it’s safe to assume that God is speaking not just of any people or even of all people – but that he’s speaking of the people of his land – of Israel.

And he says that he won’t have compassion on them – just like the shepherds of the flock that was destined to slaughter in verses 4 and 5.

And instead, God says that he will give each of them over to the power of his neighbor and his king – just like the sheep of that flock that God was talking about will be bought by others for the intent of slaughtering them and becoming rich.

And in terms of the timing of this, I would again guess that God is talking about the Tribulation when he pours out his wrath on this world that is in total rebellion to him. And it’s not just the world that rebels against God. Israel does and has as well. And they will even in the Tribulation.

And so, God says that he will not have pity on them and he will not deliver them in that time. Though of course we know that he will at the end of the Tribulation when all Israel is saved in a day as they behold their Good Shepherd who was slain for them.

So, at this point, Zechariah starts reporting that he begins to act out the command that God had given him back in verse 4 – to shepherd this flock – which we now know to be symbolic of the people of the land – that is, Israel. But somehow Zechariah starts shepherding them in verse 7.

7 ¶ {And/So} I {will feed/pastured/began to shepherd} the flock {of/doomed to/destined for/marked for} slaughter, {even you, O poor/hence the afflicted/the most afflicted/particularly the oppressed} of {the/all the} flock.

So, that first part of the verse is a little confusing. Is it God speaking or Zechariah?

I tend to think it’s Zechariah. And in that case, he says that he started to shepherd this flock that God commanded him to shepherd – that afflicted flock, as we heard about in the previous verses.

So, the questions come – How does Zechariah shepherd this flock? Who is this flock? Are they sheep or people? And is he doing this in real life or in a vision?

My assumption is that Zechariah is shepherding literal sheep but is doing so in a vision.

And in that vision, he gets some shepherd staffs.

{And/Then} I {took unto me/took for myself/took} two {staves/staffs};

the one I called {Beauty/Favor/Pleasantness},

and the other I called {Bands/Union/Binders};

{and/so} I {fed/pastured/tended} the flock.

Every shepherd needs staffs. And so, as Zechariah shepherds this flock in this vision he picks up two staffs. With one being called Beauty and the other Bands or one Favor and the other Union or one Pleasantness and the other Binders.

It seems that the first staff – Beauty or Favor or Pleasantness – has to do with God’s covenant with the people or people or nations as we’ll see in verse 10.

And the second staff – Bands or Union or Binders – has to do with the brotherhood between the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel as we’ll see in verse 14.

So, Zechariah picks up these literal staffs that have some symbolic meanings tied to them in this vision.

Well, then it seems that in this vision Zechariah gets rid of three people in verse 8.

8 {Three shepherds also I cut off/Then I annihilated the three shepherds/Next I eradicated the three shepherds/I got rid of the three shepherds} in one month;

{and/for} {my soul lothed/my soul was impatient with/I ran out of patience with/I grew weary of} {them/the shepherds/the flock},

and {their soul/they} {also/indeed/as well} {abhorred/was weary of/detested} me.

Now, this word that Zechariah uses to describe what he did to these three shepherds in this vision of his can refer to hiding. But more often it refers to total destruction – wiping someone off this earth.

So, it seems like he’s saying that he killed these three shepherds in this vision. I don’t know who these shepherds are or whom they’re supposed to represent. Some people suggest that these are three of the kings from either Israel or Judah before the Babylonian Exile. And if that’s the case it still isn’t very helpful because we don’t know who they are anyway. They could be the last three kings of Judah or the last three of Israel or they could just be any progression of three kings at any time in the history of Israel.

I think that in terms of this vision, these three shepherds probably would have been in that group of shepherds who didn’t have any pity on the flock. So, Zechariah doesn’t care for these shepherds.

But actually, then in verse 9 Zechariah also expresses disdain for the sheep of the flock in his vision as well.

9 Then said I,

I will not {feed/pasture/shepherd} you:

{that that dieth/what is to die}, let {it/the dying} die;

and {that that/what} is to be {cut off/annihilated/eradicated}, let it be {cut off/annihilated/eradicated};

and let {the rest/those who are left/those who survive} eat {every one the flesh of another/each other’s flesh}.

So, Zechariah is addressing both the flock and the shepherds. If the shepherds are to be cut off or annihilated or eradicated, then that is exactly what will happen. If the sheep are to die from now being shepherded, then that will happen. And then of course the rest who don’t die and who aren’t cut off, then they are just going to be left to harm each other like God said he would allow Israel to do back in verse 6.

And it’s interesting that Zechariah says that he won’t shepherd this flock that God called him to shepherd after just one month in this vision. Is he disobeying God? I don’t think so.

Zechariah in a way is standing in the place of God in this vision. What God will do to his nation Israel in real life during the Tribulation, Zechariah is doing symbolically in this vision.

God will not have pity on his people Israel during that time. Likewise, Zechariah in this vision is refusing to shepherd this group of sheep of whom he is tired or leading – and they also are tired of his leading them.

And since Zechariah is quitting his job as shepherd in this vision, he won’t need one of those staffs that he picked up and started using.

10 {And I/Then I/I} took my staff, {even Beauty/Favor/“Pleasantness”/called Favor}, and {cut/broke it} it {asunder/in pieces/in two}, {that I might break/to break/to annul/revoking} my covenant which I had made with all the {people/people/nations}.

The word translated “people” here is not the word that tends to mean “nations” – as in non-Jews. So, this reference to the people and the covenant that God made with them is referring to a covenant he made with Israel.

I tend to think that this is the Mosaic Covenant. Some people think that that covenant is already broken. And certainly for those of us who are in Christ, we are not under the Mosaic Law. We are under the grace that Jesus Christ purchased for us in the New Covenant.

And yet, that New Covenant is not fully in effect because if you read the wording of that covenant in the Old Testament you see that it is applicable directly to the Jews, most of whom have not yet entered into that covenant. So, which covenant are people like that still under?

If unbelieving Jews are not yet in the New Covenant, what agreement are they under? I think that they’re still under the Old Covenant or the Mosaic Covenant. It’s a tutor that is intended to lead them to Christ and to the New Covenant. But most of them are not there yet.

And so, perhaps this passage is telling us that in the Tribulation – before all the Jews are brought into the New Covenant – that God is going to do a special work of breaking finally that Old Mosaic Covenant.

And so, we see in the last verse that we’re going to cover that the symbolic action of breaking that staff that symbolizes the Mosaic Covenant is reacted to by the flock in Zechariah’s vision.

11 {And it/So it/It} was {broken in/broken on/annulled/revoked on} that {day/very day}:

and {so/thus/then} the {poor/afflicted/most afflicted} of the flock {that waited upon/who were watching/who kept faith with} me {knew/realized} that it was the word of the LORD.

So, in Zechariah’s vision, these afflicted sheep in the flock – the ones who apparently kept fait with Zechariah or were watching him or waited on him – these sheep realized that it was the word of the Lord that was coming to Zechariah and which then Zechariah carried out in front of them in this vision.

Hopefully this consideration has made everything as clear as possible so far. But I really do think that visions like these are intentionally vague and obscured, so that in the end when the Lord brings about whatever he’s prophesying it will be totally clear and will bring maximum glory to God as really no one was ever until that time able to fully decipher his message.

Anyway, we’ll continue to try to decipher this message next time.

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