Saturday, July 3, 2010

Zechariah 11

Punishment upon Jerusalem (vs. 1-3)—This is an exceedingly difficult chapter, but many commentators see this as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because of the rejection of the Messiah, Who is mentioned in this chapter. If we accept this interpretation—and it’s not a bad one, though I won’t be dogmatic about it and will follow it until I find something better—then the first three verses, in general, predict that destruction. “Lebanon” (v. 1) refers to the temple (“Open your doors”); the famous cedars of Lebanon were used to construct the temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. So there is wailing in all parts of Judea, from Bashan (v. 2) to the Jordan (v. 3). “There is the sound of wailing shepherds! For their glory is in ruins” (v. 3). This is perhaps a reference to the Jewish leaders who based so much of their power and authority on their attachment to a temple that would eventually lie in ruins.

The cause of the destruction just foretold (vs. 4-17)—And it is because of the rejection of the Messiah, of course. Jesus will explain this thoroughly, and clearly, in Matthew 24. Zechariah is a little more obscure. The Jewish “flock” will be fed “for slaughter” by the Roman armies (v. 4). The owners (religious leaders) didn’t care and “feel no guilt” (v. 5); they were rich and had no pity (v. 5). The Lord would have no pity, either, on “the inhabitants of the land” (v. 6). They would be given over to internal feuds and eventually the Roman armies.

Perhaps Zechariah (“I fed the flock for slaughter”) here enacts some of what the Lord is saying here (v. 7). He took two staffs, one called Beauty, representing the Jews’ peculiar excellency above the other nations (at least it was so intended by God), and the other called Bands, implying a bond of brotherhood among the Jewish people. The three shepherds who were “cut off (dismissed, NKJV)…in one month” (v. 8) are impossible to identify; the commentators are all over the lot on it, and I won’t speculate. Bottom line is, the Jewish leaders would no longer be the shepherds. Destruction is vividly portrayed (v. 9), and the staff, Beauty, was broken in two (v. 10), “that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples (Jews).” “It was broken on that day” (v. 11). If this chapter does refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, then this statement implies that God did allow a 40-year “probationary” period for the Jews after the death of Christ, the event which effectively ended the Law of Moses. Yet, until the gospel had been preached “in all the world” (Matt. 24:14, follow this link for an explanation: Matt. 24:14), the Jews were allowed some liberties to continue practicing their law. This would explain Paul’s actions in Acts 21. I only speculate here, for, once again, Zechariah is quite murky in his material. Verse 11 tells us, too, that “the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.” The Jewish Christian remnant understood what the destruction of Jerusalem was all about. Verse 12 and 13 refer to the Messiah and His betrayal—“give me my wages,” i.e., honor Me as the Messiah, or “if not, refrain.” He was betrayed, of course, for thirty pieces of silver which eventually went to purchase a potter’s field, as Zechariah here predicts. Then the other staff, Bands, was broken, destroying—or perhaps a better word would be “scattering”—Judah and Israel, something that indeed did happen after the Roman destruction.

Zechariah is then commanded (v. 15) to take up “the implements of a foolish shepherd,” whatever they might be. This represents 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” (v. 16). The identity of this fellow is anybody’s guess. Some see the “Antichrist” here, but that’s ridiculous. If we follow the “destruction by Rome in 70 A.D.” theory, then we could look at the Jewish leadership as a whole as perhaps being meant. They were certainly “worthless” (v. 17) and severely wounded.

Again, I counsel extreme caution in these latter chapters of Zechariah. There is doubtless Messianic material here, but putting it all together concisely and coherently is far from easy. I do believe the above is the best explanation for this chapter. However, I reserve the right to amend upon future study.

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