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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 11

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The destruction of Jerusalem, Zechariah 11:1-3. Under the type of Zechariah is showed Christ’ s care for the flock, the Jews; and their rejection for ingratitude and light estimation of him, Zechariah 11:4-14. The type and curse of a foolish shepherd, Zechariah 11:15-17.

Verse 1

This chapter is minatory, and foretells the ruin of Jerusalem and the temple, this second temple, by the Romans, and the captivity of the Jews under them, for their rejecting of Christ; so the times of this chapter must be laid about the death of Christ and downwards.

Open thy doors, O Lebanon; either the temple, because built with cedars of Lebanon, so the temple is called, Ezekiel 17:3; Habakkuk 2:17; or Jerusalem, or Judea, whose boundary northward this mountain was: if all these do not fully suit with the text and context, perhaps this added may. Lebanon, a high and great mountain, boundary between Judea and its neighbours on the north, is here spoken to open its gates, its fortifications, raised to secure the passages, which through the hollownesses of the mountain, the deep and dismal straits, lead into Judea, and would be first attempted by the enemy that first invades the northern parts of Judea. These garrisons or fortresses are foretold like to be easily taken, as if they opened of themselves, and the Romans would have easy entrance by this means into Judea.

That the fire; either figuratively, the rage of the enemy, or the wrath of God; or literally, fire by the enemy kindled in the houses and buildings in Judea, and in Lebanon itself.

May devour thy cedars; palaces built with cedars, or else figuratively nobles, princes, and eminent men.

Verse 2

Howl, fir tree; either mean men, or houses and towns built with firs.

For the cedar is fallen; the greater and better escape not, much less shall the meaner and worse.

Because the mighty is spoiled; howl because the mighty men, cities, fortresses, and munitions are taken, sacked, and ruined; or else held by enemies, which is worse, and of defences and safety to us, are become our greatest annoyances and dangers.

Oaks of Bashan; oaks either literally, as they were used in that country, for building palaces, cities, towns, and fortresses; or else figuratively, the great men of that country, a land very fruitful and pleasant, of which Nahum 1:4.

The forest of the vintage; either all strong places which were for guarding and defending the vineyards; or Jerusalem itself, compared to a forest in regard of the many and tall houses in it; this best pleaseth most interpreters. In short, all are called to weep, and cry, and howl for the miseries that will come upon all sorts, high and low, on-them and theirs.

Is come down; is laid desolate.

Verse 3

There is; it is as certain as if present, as sure all these shall howl, as if the things for which they do howl were already acted.

A voice of the howling, a most bitter, loud, passionate, and dismal howling, of the shepherds: literally thus; The enemy having broken in hath driven away or eaten up their flocks of sheep, their herds; and they, undone, howl most bitterly on the mountains, where the echo more doubles the horror than the noise. Or figuratively, shepherds are governors, magistrates, and civil officers, together with priests and prophets, who are over the people as shepherds over the flocks.

For their glory is spoiled; what was their honour, their safety, their joy, is spoiled, taken from them and given to others.

A voice of the roaring, the dismal outcries, of young lions; of men in authority among the Jews, who should have been shepherds to defend, but were as lions to tear and devour, and which lurked in Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judea, wheresoever they could lie in wait to tear the poor and weak.

For the pride of Jordan is spoiled; the great forests on the banks of Jordan, called here the pride of Jordan, either because of the stately situation of them; or, because the prophet would keep the decorum of his allegory, he calls these

the pride of Jordan, for that the young lions were wont to walk proudly, to range over it without fear. So did these men-lions securely prey in Jerusalem and its fellow cities; but these are cut down, and now they must no more range through to seek a prey: so all from the north to the east of the land of Canaan is represented as made a spoil.

Verse 4

Thus saith the Lord my God; God the Father.

Feed; O Zechariah, feed, comfort, rule: but rather the Father speaks to Christ the Son, and appoints him who is the eternal Shepherd to feed his sheep.

The flock of the slaughter; appointed to the slaughter by different hands, and for different causes. It speaks of the people of the Jews, who were killed by many hands; during four hundred and fifty years they were a flock of slaughter to the Egyptians, Chaldeans, &c.; afterward to the Romans, who ruined their commonwealth, slew their citizens, and burnt their city.

Verse 5

Whose possessors slay them; either their own governors, or the Romans who in right of conquerors are their possessors; which way soever they got them into their hands, they ruined them, destroyed them both in body and estate.

And hold themselves not guilty; think they do not sin in doing this; so low thoughts they had of this people, such extravagant thoughts they had of their own power and authority.

They that sell them; betray their persons, or liberty, or estate for profit, or sell them for slaves to foreigners; say,

Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich; with profane, ungodly hearts do give God thanks that they thrive by the most barbarous methods of cruelty and oppression, by bloody murders, as if these were ways of his appointing to gain wealth as if he blessed them.

Their own shepherds pity them not; who by birth, call, and office were their proper shepherds, the governors of this poor people, the princes, the priests, had no pity on them in their slavery or blood; looked on as unconcerned, it may be glad, that either they got a booty, or were rid of a disaffected subject.

Verse 6

For I will no more pity: their great sins have turned away God’s compassions from them, and men show no mercy where God withdraws his.

The inhabitants; the generality of the nation, the body of this sinful people.

I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand; leave to a turbulent, cruel, seditious, and fraudulent temper one against another, to make parties against each other, to rob, imprison, banish, or kill each other, as in the latter times of their state it is known they did.

Into the hand of his king; the Roman Caesar, called here the Jews’ king, for that they had chosen him to be so. Or else the head of the faction.

They shall smite the land; their king and his armies shall destroy the land: it may point to Vespasian and Titus, who sacked Jerusalem, burnt the temple, captivated ninety-seven thousand persons, and slew six hundred thousand at least, though Josephus reckons eleven hundred thousand.

Out of their hand I will not deliver them; they shall never more be by my hand delivered, or I will cast them off for ever; and so their captivity under the Romans continueth to this day.

Verse 7

And, or But, as the Hebrew particle is sometimes read: As for the greatest part, they are so corrupt and obstinately disobedient, I will cast them off;

but I will feed, & c. O therefore, so then, because it is the will of God that the flock of slaughter should. be fed, I will feed, &c.: the French version seems this way inclined. Je me suis done mis a paitre les brebis exposes tuerie: I am sent then to feed the sheep that are exposed to slaughter.

The flock of slaughter; either by the violence of their enemies, or by the monstrous negligence of their shepherds.

O poor of the flock: this is explicatory of the former, and by the ingemination of it shows us that God doth in his charge to the prophet typically, and in his charge to Christ antitype, distinguish clearly between people and people among the Jews, between those that were poor and forlorn, and those that were tyrannical, proud, cruel, and made a prey of them; these are left out of the pastoral charge, the other are taken care of.

I took unto me two staves: thus he enters on the actual exercise of his office, and takes two staves to himself, at the meaning whereof we can but guess. Two, say some, to signify the twofold way of Christ’s governing his people, by lenity and severity. Or, say others, to note his singular care and diligence in his office; when other shepherds content themselves with one, Christ takes two. Or what if hereby Christ would be provided with one to guide the flock, with another to repel such as would slaughter them, to protect against violence and to direct such as are meek. Christ hath his golden sceptre for his loyal and obedient subjects, and his iron rod for refractory rebels and violent enemies.

The one I called Beauty; or pleasantness, sweetness, and loveliness; this lay in the holiness of his precepts, the excellency of his comforts, the glory of his reward. This is the first, and answers to the character of the ways of wisdom, Proverbs 3:17; they are pleasantness. The ordinances of God, and the enjoyment of them, are the beauty of the Lord, and our beholding it, as David, Psalms 27:4.

The other I called Bands; either alluding to the lines wherewith the portion of the Holy Land was meted out to every one according to their lot; or referring to the obligations Christ lays on men to hold together in peace and unity. The beauty of grace and glory, the bands of love and peace.

And I fed the flock; with these in hand the shepherd undertakes to feed and rule this flock.

Verse 8

Three, put for many, a definite for an indefinite number.

Shepherds, negligent or greatly faulty.

I cut off; put out of office, or, by discovering their faults, made them lie hid and conceal themselves. In one month; in a little time.

My soul loathed them; hated their treachery and idleness.

Their soul also abhorred me: disgraced and turned out, they hated him; in which these shepherds had too many of the Jews that sided with them, and that bore a hatred to the true Shepherd and to his impartial executing severity on the wicked shepherds.

Verse 9

Then; after that time of his patient and vigilant feeding the flock, and after his cutting off the three unfaithful shepherds, and after the ill resentment he met with for it; when he deserved love and thanks for it, he is repaid with disdain and hatred by the people, as well as by the shepherds; when he saw all this, then, &c. Thus they rejected Christ, the true Shepherd.

I will not feed you; next he rejecteth them, he will no more take care of them, or provide for them.

That that dieth, let it die; that which is ready to die, and will not be cured, but hath rejected the Shepherd’s love and skill, let it die; it is like that.

If ye believe not, ye shall die in your sins. That that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; either the same repeated, to confirm and affect them more, or else it intends to leave them naked and unguarded to their enemy, to cut them off by the sword or famine, &c.

Let the rest eat every one the flesh of another; either live to be besieged till hunger and famine make the living eat the dead, or cruelly kill that they may eat, as threatened, Deuteronomy 28:52-58; or else by seditions and bloody intestine quarrels destroy each other: all which happened to them in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans.

Verse 10

And I took my staff, even Beauty; which I gave that name to, which was the beauty and glory of them, the covenant of God with all the blessings of it, his presence with them, his love to them, and his protection of them, and his blessing on them.

That I might break my covenant; signify and declare that they had rejected God and his favour, and refused his covenant, and that now God would hold it for nulled, and not obligatory to him. This somewhat illustrates the staff Beauty, which while unbroken the covenant between God and the Jews was whole and unbroken; and it is to be noted, Christ calls it his covenant, for he was the Mediator of it, to bring us to God in duty and holy walking, and to reconcile God to us in mercy and grace, which is the most beautiful and sweetest object we can see.

Which I had made with all the people: here again

all the people, that is, the generality, in distinction to the poor and meek, the little remnant, with whom the covenant stood firm, though the body of the nation were rejected and cast off, for God nor Christ have either of them ever cast away his people whom he foreknew, Romans 11:1,Romans 11:2.

Verse 11

It was broken; the covenant was abrogated by the Jews’ obstinate refusal of it, and the Mediator of it.

In that day: it is not to be wondered it was done in one day at last, for the unthankful, unbelieving Jew had been through many generations breaking it: now a day doth it, when it came to that,

Not this man, but Barabbas; and, We have no king but Caesar; and, Crucify, crucify him. The poor of the flock that waited upon me; who knew the Messiah, believed in him, and obeyed him, observed his doctrine, miracles, and life.

Knew that it was the word of the Lord; saw and owned God in all this; that he had justly cast off the nation of the Jews for their sins, their bloody murder of the Lord of life, and refusing his government: they saw’ God would by the Roman power punish the Jews, and lay waste their land, city, and temple for this and their other sins; all which was both according to his wise counsel and express word: these understood what among others this prophet had four hundred and ninety years before written of these things.

Verse 12

And I said unto them; upon parting, Christ seems after the manner of men to mind them of his pains and care for them, and would have them reckon with him.

If ye think good: he puts it to them whether they thought he deserved aught at their hands, and what it was.

Give me my price; though I need not your money or pay, I deserve more than you will give, and therefore do in this as liketh you.

So they, the rulers of the Jews, the high priest, chief priests, and Pharisees,

weighed, which was the manner of paying money in those days,

thirty pieces of silver; which amounts to thirty-seven shillings and sixpence, the value of the life of a slave, Exodus 21:32; this was fulfilled when they paid Judas Iscariot so much to betray Christ, Matthew 26:15; Matthew 27:9.

Verse 13

The Lord, God the Father, with detestation of so vile an affront and undervalue of his Son, said unto me; to Zechariah, in this theatre personating Christ sometimes.

Cast it unto the potter; as being so little it would hardly purchase any thing but what was cheapest among them, a little earthenware.

A goodly price that I was prized at of them: in an irony God upbraids the shepherds of his people, who prized the great Shepherd no higher.

I took; Zechariah, who in this part now emblematically doth what Judas will with horror do when he hath sold innocent blood and betrayed it.

Cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord; or rather, east them into the house of the Lord for the potter, all which the Jewish rulers act over in their prosecuting Christ unto death.

Verse 14

Then; so soon as I saw what value they put upon me, or presently after the casting them off from the covenant, and unchurching them.

I; Christ did it really, the prophet did it in the type.

Cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands; took no further care to keep them in civil peace among themselves, but left them to their seditious humours and inhuman animosities. Religion, which is true, is the best bond of peace, friendship, and love; when the Jews cast off religion, and murdered their Lord, next they fall to murdering one another.

That I might break; declare it broken, leave them to show it was broken.

The brotherhood; that friendship which had been among them.

Between Judah, the two tribes, and Israel, the remnant of the ten tribes, which fell into most unnatural seditions after the death of Christ, till the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans.

Verse 15

Take unto thee, O Zechariah.

The instruments; put on the garb and personate once more a shepherd, quite different from him thou hast represented.

Of a foolish shepherd: this foolish people have rejected the wisest and best shepherd; let them see what one they will choose, in seeing what part thou now actest.

Verse 16

I will raise up a shepherd; as a just punishment of their sin in refusing Christ, the wise and good Shepherd; his government they would not accept to their salvation, that they choose shall be to their ruin.

Which shall not visit those that be cut off, or, that are hidden; it is a foolish shepherd who seeks not out those that are lost to bring them home.

Neither shall seek the young one; which are aptest to perish through weakness.

Nor heal that that is broken; but leaves it to die of its wounds.

Nor feed that that standeth still; either not able to go forward, or, hungry, stops to eat, but the shepherd will not wait while this is done.

But he shall eat the flesh of the fat, will feast on the fattest of the flock and tear their claws in pieces; and with cruelty extort all from them, tear off their skin to the very nails. In brief, a sluggish, negligent, covetous, riotous, oppressive, and cruel government, shadowed out by a foolish shepherd, is the punishment of the sins of the Jews.

Verse 17

Woe to the idol shepherd! to every one of them that are but the images of shepherds, worthless and useless.

That leaveth, casts off the care of,

the flock, Jeremiah 23:1; Ezekiel 34:2.

The sword, of the enemy, shall be upon his arm, to break his strength, and upon his right eye; blind and befool his counsels.

His arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened; power and policy shall fail him: such shall be their governors.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Zechariah 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/zechariah-11.html. 1685.
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