John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO ZECHARIAH 11
This chapter contains a prophecy of the destruction of the Jews, and shows the causes and reasons of it; and is concluded with a prediction concerning antichrist. The destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of it, is signified by figurative expressions, Zechariah 11:1 which occasions an howling among the shepherds or rulers of Israel, on account of whose cruelty and covetousness the wrath of God came upon them without mercy, Zechariah 11:3 but inasmuch as there were a remnant according to the election of grace among them, named the flock of the slaughter, Christ is called upon to feed them; who undertakes it, and prepares for it, Zechariah 11:4 but being abhorred by the shepherds, whom he therefore loathed and cut off, he determines to leave the people to utter ruin and destruction, Zechariah 11:8 and, as a token of it, breaks the two staves asunder he had took to feed them with, Zechariah 11:10 and, as an instance of their ingratitude to him, and which is a justification of his conduct towards them, notice is taken of his being valued at and sold for thirty pieces of silver, Zechariah 11:12 but, in the place of these shepherds cut off, it is suggested that another should arise, who is described by his folly, negligence, and cruelty, Zechariah 11:15 to whom a woe is denounced, Zechariah 11:17.
Open thy doors, O Lebanon,.... By which may be meant, either the temple of Jerusalem, which was built of the cedars of Lebanon;
"the gates of which are said
So Lebanon, in Zechariah 10:10, is interpreted of the sanctuary, both by the Targum and by Jarchi; or else it may be understood of Jerusalem, and of the whole land of Judea, because it was situated by it; it was the border of it on the north side.
That the fire may devour thy cedars; of which the temple was built, and the houses of Jerusalem, which were consumed by fire; unless the fortresses of the land are meant. So the Targum paraphrases it,
"and the fire shall consume your fortresses.'
Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen,.... By which are designed the princes, nobles, and magistrates of the land: so the Targum interprets them of kings and princes; see Nahum 2:3,
because all the mighty are spoiled; which is an explanation of the figurative expressions in the former clause, and in the following; and designs rich men, as the Targum paraphrases it, who at this time would be spoiled of their wealth and substance.
Howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; which the Targum interprets of governors of provinces; and men of power and authority are doubtless intended; see Isaiah 2:13,
for the forest of the vintage is come down; or rather, "the fortified forest"; meaning the city of Jerusalem, which was a fortified place, and like a forest full of trees, for number of inhabitants, but now cut down and destroyed; see Isaiah 10:16.
There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds,.... Which may be understood either of the civil rulers among the Jews, who now lose their honour and their riches; and so the Targum, Jarchi, and Aben Ezra, interpret it of kings; or of the ecclesiastical rulers, the elders of the people, the Scribes and Pharisees:
for their glory is spoiled; their power and authority; their riches and wealth; their places of honour and profit; their offices, posts, and employments, whether in civil or religious matters, are taken from them, and they are deprived of them:
a voice of the roaring of young lions; of princes, comparable to them for their power, tyranny, and cruelty: the Targum is,
"their roaring is as the roaring of young lions:'
for the pride of Jordan is spoiled; a place where lions and their young ones resorted, as Jarchi observes; See Gill on Jeremiah 49:19. Jordan is here put for the whole land of Judea now wasted, and so its pride and glory gone; as if the waters of Jordan were dried up, the pride and glory of that, and which it showed when its waters swelled and overflowed; hence called by Pliny
Thus saith the Lord my God,.... The Syriac version adds, "to me"; not the Prophet Zechariah, but the Messiah, who calls the Lord his God, as he was man and Mediator, John 20:17 for what follow are the words of God the Father to him, calling upon him, and giving him a commission to
Feed the flock of the slaughter; meaning the people of the Jews in general, to whom Christ was sent as a prophet, to teach and instruct them by the ministry of the word; so "feeding" is interpreted of prophesying, by the Targum and Jarchi: and these are called "the flock of slaughter", because of the cruel usage they met with from their shepherds and owners, mentioned in the next verse Zechariah 11:5; and because they were appointed and given up to ruin and destruction of God, on account of their sins and transgressions; though there was a remnant among them, a little flock, afterwards in this chapter called the poor of the flock Zechariah 11:7, who were the special care of Christ, and were fed by him in a spiritual manner; and may go by this name, because exposed to the cruelties of men, and are accounted as sheep for the slaughter, Romans 8:36 these Christ was called upon by his Father in the council of peace to take care of, which he did; and in the everlasting covenant of grace he agreed to feed them; and in the fulness of time he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who were as sheep without a shepherd; and he fed them with knowledge and with understanding.
Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty,.... Not the Romans after Christ came, into whose hands they were delivered, and by whom they were slain in great numbers, not accounting it any sin to put them to death; but the priests, Scribes, Pharisees, and doctors, among the Jews, who ruined and destroyed their souls, by feeding them with poisonous doctrines; teaching them the commandments of men, and to observe the traditions of the elders; and to seek for life and salvation by the works of the law, which was a ministration of condemnation and death to them; and yet thought they did God and the souls of men good service:
and they that sell them; as false teachers make merchandise of the souls of men:
say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich; having devoured widows' houses and substances, under a pretence of long prayers; and enriched themselves through tithes of everything, and by other methods; as the Scribes and Pharisees did:
and their own shepherds pity them not; those who should have been concerned for the welfare of their souls had no compassion on them. Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, interpret this of God, the Shepherd of Israel; the verb being singular, though the noun is plural: so God is called Makers, Creators, Psalm 149:2 and this sense agrees with the following words.
For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord,.... Or spare them; but cause his wrath to come upon them to the uttermost, as it did at the time of Jerusalem's destruction by the Romans;
but, lo, I will deliver the men everyone into his neighbour's hand; this seems to refer to the factions and divisions among themselves during the siege of Jerusalem, when multitudes fell into the hands of the zealots, and heads of parties, and perished by them:
and into the hand of his king; Vespasian the Roman emperor; the Jews having declared, long before this time, that they had no king but Caesar, John 19:15 and now into his hands they were delivered up:
and they shall smite the land; that is, the Romans shall lay waste the land of Judea:
and out of their hand I will not deliver them; as formerly out of the hands of their neighbours, the Philistines, Ammonites, &c. and out of the captivity of Babylon. It denotes that their destruction would be an utter one; nor have they been delivered yet, though it has been over 1900 years ago.
And I will feed the flock of slaughter,.... According to the call and commission he had from his divine Father, Zechariah 11:4 he determines to do as it was enjoined him, and as he had undertook:
even you, O poor of the flock; besides the people of the Jews in general, to whom Christ was sent, and he came to feed, there were a small remnant, according to the election of grace, he had a special regard for; and whom he fed by the word and ordinances with himself, the bread of life; and with the discoveries of his love, and with the covenant of grace, its blessings and promises, the sure mercies of David. These are called "the poor of the flock", because they were the poor of this world, as were the disciples and followers of Christ; "the poor have the Gospel preached unto them"; Matthew 11:5 and because they were spiritually poor, or poor in spirit, Matthew 5:3 who saw their spiritual poverty, and owned it; who bewailed it, and were humbled under a sense of it; and sought after the true riches; and acknowledged that all they had were owing to the grace of God: and who, as to the frame of their mind, are the meek and humble ones; or, as to their outward state and condition, afflicted ones, as the word
And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; Jarchi, agreeably to the Targum, interprets this of the division of the kingdom of Israel into two parts, in the times of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Some think persons are meant. In the Talmud
and I fed the flock; with the said staves, as he had determined; which includes the doing of the whole office of a shepherd; taking an exact account of his sheep, that none be lost; going before them, and setting them an example in the exercise of grace and discharge of duty; leading them to the still waters of his Father's love; to the fountains and fulness of his own grace; to the rich provisions of his house, and the green pastures of Gospel ordinances; feeding them himself, and with himself, the bread of life, the hidden and heavenly manna; appointing shepherds under him, whom he qualifies to be pastors, gives them to his churches as such, and who receive from him the doctrines of the Gospel to feed them with; and protecting them from all their enemies, the roaring lion, Satan, wolves in sheep's clothing, false teachers, and the world's goats, who thrust with side and shoulder, and push with their horns of power; as well as by seeking that which is lost; bringing back that which is driven, or drawn away; binding up that which is broken; strengthening the weak; healing the sick; and watching over the whole flock night and day, lest any hurt them.
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month,.... Not Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, as is suggested in the Talmud
and my soul loathed them; because they did not perform the duties of their office; the civil magistrate did not govern according to the laws of God; the prophets did not teach sound doctrine; and the priests did not do their service aright, nor teach the people the use and end of sacrifices, and in them direct to the Messiah, as they should have done: wherefore Christ expressed his dislike of them by words in his ministry, particularly in Matthew chapter twenty three, Matthew 23:1 and by deeds, causing vengeance to come upon them to the entire removal of them: or, "my soul was shortened", or "contracted in them", or "towards them"
and their soul also abhorred me; which is the reason of the former; and so the Targum paraphrases it,
"and my Word cast them away, because their soul abhorred my worship;'
all ranks and orders of men among the Jews had Christ in abhorrence; they abhorred his person, his name, his miracles, his doctrines, his ordinances, and his people; this they did because of his mean appearance; and because of his inveighing against their traditions, superstitions, and immoralities; and this appeared by their contemptuous rejection of him as the Messiah; by their crucifixion of him; and by persecuting his disciples and followers.
Then said I, I will not feed you,.... That is, any longer; either personally, or by his apostles; he fed them himself, during his public ministry; and afterwards by his apostles, whom he ordered to preach the Gospel to the Jews first; but that being contradicted, blasphemed, and despised by them, they were ordered to turn away from them, and go to the Gentiles: this shows that not the shepherds only, but the body of the people, abhorred Christ and his Gospel: and therefore it was taken away from them:
that that dieth, let it die; literally, by the pestilence, that going by the name of death in Scripture; and spiritually, they that are dead in sin, let them continue so; let them die through famine of the word they have despised; let them die in their sins, and die the second death, they justly deserve:
and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; literally, by the sword; spiritually, the meaning is, that whereas some were in righteous judgment appointed to ruin, vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; let them be left to themselves, to a judicial blindness, and hardness of heart, and be cut off as unfruitful branches, and be no more in a church state here, and hereafter cast into everlasting burnings:
and let the rest eat everyone the flesh of another; through famine; or destroy each other in their internal divisions, which was the case of the Jews, when Jerusalem was besieged; see Galatians 5:15.
And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder,.... Signifying that he dropped his pastoral care of them: the Gospel indeed, which is meant by the staff "Beauty", cannot be made void; it will have its designed effect; it is the everlasting Gospel, and will endure; its blessings, promises, doctrines, ordinances, and ministers, shall continue, till all the elect are gathered in, even unto the second coming of Christ: but then it may be removed from one place to another; it may be taken from one people, and given to another; and which is generally owing to contempt of it, unfruitfulness under it, and indifference to it; and this is the case here, it designs the taking away of the Gospel from the Jews, who despised it, and the carrying of it into the Gentile world; see Matthew 21:43,
that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people; not the covenant of works, that was made with all mankind in Adam; that was broke, not by the Lord, but by man; and was broke before the Gospel was published; nor the covenant of grace, for this was not made with all the people, nor can it be broken; but the Mosaic economy, the Sinai covenant, called the old covenant, which gradually vanished away: it was of right abolished at the death of Christ; when the Gospel was entirely removed, it more appeared to be so; and this was thoroughly done at the destruction of the city and temple. The last clause may be rendered, "which" covenant "I have made with all the people"; the Gentiles, having promised and given orders to send the Gospel unto them, which was accordingly done.
And it was broken in that day,.... In right, the day Christ died; apparently, when the Gospel, the substance of it, was removed; and, in fact, at the time of Jerusalem's destruction:
and so the poor of the flock; See Gill on Zechariah 11:7,
that waited upon me; as servants on their masters; as clients on their patron; as beggars at the door for alms; as attendants on the worship of God, for the manifestations of himself, for the performance of promises, and for answers of prayer: or "observed me"
knew that it was the word of the Lord; either that Christ the Shepherd was the essential Word of the Lord; or that the prophecies concerning the destruction of the Jews, their civil and ecclesiastical state, were the word and decree of God now fulfilled; or that the Gospel taken from them is the word of the Lord, which he is the author of; his grace is the matter and substance of; and which he speaks by his ministers; and may be known by the matter and efficacy of it; by the refreshment and comfort it gives; by its leading souls to Christ; and by the harmony, agreement, and uniformity of its doctrines.
And I said unto them, If ye think good,.... Not to the poor of the flock that waited on him, and knew the word of the Lord, and valued it; but to the other Jews that despised Christ and his Gospel:
give me my price; or, "give my price"
and if not, forbear; unless all is done freely, willingly, and cheerfully; see Ezekiel 2:5 or, if worth nothing, give nothing:
So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver; the price a servant was valued at, Exodus 21:32 see the fulfilment of this prophecy in Matthew 26:15. The Jews own
And the Lord said unto me,.... The Prophet Zechariah, in a visionary way representing the sanhedrim of the Jews, the chief priests, scribes, and elders:
Cast it unto the potter; for the purchase of his field, in order to make a burying ground of it for strangers:
a goodly price that I was prised at of them; this is sarcastically said; meaning that it was a very poor price; and showed that they had no notion of the worth and value of Christ, the Pearl of great price:
and I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord; it is a question with some what these pieces of silver were; they are commonly understood of silver shekels. So the Targum, in Genesis 20:16 renders pieces of silver by shekels of silver; and Eusebius
"under the hand of the treasurer;'
and so others
Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands,.... By which is meant, either the removal of the form of civil government from the Jews; or the abrogation of the Mosaic law, and the carnal ordinances of the Jews, in which judaizing Christians joined them, until the destruction of Jerusalem; or rather the ordinances of the Gospel, which, upon taking that away, ceased:
that l might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel; the Gospel and Gospel ordinances being removed from the Jews, there was no more work of conversion among them; their church state came to nothing, and an entire disagreement between them and the Gentiles ensued: and so it is when God takes away his word and ordinances from a people, they are unchurched and their brotherhood is broken, those being the bands which keep them together; and therefore, when loosed, their unity and society cease. There seems to be an allusion to the case of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and of the ten tribes; the former are often signified by Judah only; and the latter by Israel or Ephraim: the division between them was made in the times of Rehoboam, which continued unto their respective captivities; after the Jews' return from the Babylonish captivity, there was some show of an union between them; some of the ten tribes returning with the Jews, and coalescing in one state; and moreover, at their certain stated feasts, they came from different parts of the world, and joined together in religious service; see Acts 2:1 but, upon the dissolution of their civil and church state, this friendly correspondence was broken off, and their communion with each other ceased: and as for the Jews, after the Christians were called out from among them at Jerusalem, and removed to Pella, they fell into internal divisions and quarrels among themselves, which lasted during the siege of that city; and when it was taken and destroyed, their brotherhood and union among themselves were broken to such a degree, that they were scattered one from another; and now know not of what kingdom and tribe they are, whether of Judah or Israel, or of what tribe in either.
And the Lord said unto me,.... The Prophet Zechariah:
Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd; the meaning is, that the prophet should put on the habit of a shepherd, and take a scrip and staff in his hands, and represent a foolish shepherd, hereafter described.
For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land,.... Not in the land of Judea, but in the Roman empire; and so not Herod, nor King Agrippa, as Kimchi; nor Antiochus Epiphanes, as others; nor those wicked priests and princes, who governed after the times of Zechariah; nor the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's times, though they are often called fools by him, and were truly foolish shepherds; nor even Titus Vespasian, who destroyed the city and temple; nor Bar Cozba, who set up for the Messiah, and was a false one; or any other of that sort. Calmet
which shall not visit those that be cut off; not that cut off themselves, or are cut off by the church; but such that go astray, wander from the fold, and are in danger of being lost; אובדות, that are perishing, as Jarchi explains the word; these he looks not after, nor has he any regard to their spiritual and eternal welfare:
neither shall seek the young one; the lamb, the tender of the flock; he will not do as the good shepherd does, carry the lambs in his arms, Isaiah 40:11 or, "that which wanders"
nor heal that that is broken; that is of a broken and of a contrite spirit; or whose bones are broken, and consciences wounded, through falls into sin:
nor feed that that standeth still; that can not move from its place to get fresh pasture, but is obliged to stay where it is, and needs supply and support there:
but he shall eat the flesh of the fat; that is, as the Targum well explains it,
"shall spoil the substance of the rich;'
see Revelation 18:3,
and tear their claws in pieces; take all their power and privileges from them; all which well agrees with the pope of Rome.
Woe to the idol shepherd,.... Or, "the shepherd of nothing"
that leaveth the flock; has no regard to its spiritual concerns; does not feed it, but fleece it, and leaves it to the cruelty and avarice of his creatures under him:
the sword shall be upon his arm; with which he should feed the flock:
and upon his right eye; with which he should watch over it:
his arm shall be clean dried up; his power shall be taken away from him; the antichristian states, which supported him, shall withdraw from him; the ten kings shall hate the whore, strip her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire, Revelation 17:16,
and his right eye shall be utterly darkened; not only given up to judicial blindness, which has been always his case; but his kingdom shall be full of darkness, Revelation 16:10 his hidden things of darkness shall be exposed; all his crafty schemes will be confounded; and all his wit, cunning, and subtlety, will cease; and everything desirable to him will be taken away from him. His "arm" may denote his secular power, which shall be taken away from him: and his "right eye" his knowledge of the Scriptures, judgment in controversies, and infallibility pretended to by him, which wilt cease, even in the opinion of men. Ben Melech interprets it the eye of his heart or mind; and so Aben Ezra.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25