The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 17
CHAPTER XVI A DARK EPISODE
THE REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD AND THE RULE OF THE FALSE
Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Wail, O fir-trees, for the cedar is fallen, because the goodly ones are destroyed : wail, O ye oaks of Bashan, for the strong forest is come down. A voice of the wailing of the shepherds ! for their glory is destroyed : a voice of the roaring of young lions ! for the pride of the Jordan is laid waste. Thus said Jehovah my God : Feed the flock of slaughter ; whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty ; and they that sell them say, Blessed be Jehovah, for I am rich : and their own shepherds pity them not. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith Jehovah : but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour s hand, and into the hand of his king : and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them. So I fed the flock of slaughter, verily the poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves : the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands, and I fed the flock. And I cut off the three shepherds in one month ; for my soul was weary of them, and their soul also loathed me. Then said I, I will not feed you ; that which dieth, let it die ; and that which is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let them that are left eat every one the flesh of another. And I took my staff Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. And it was broken in that day ; and thus the poor of the flock that gave heed unto me knew that it was the word of Jehovah. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire ; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prised at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the house of Jehovah. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. And Jehovah said unto me, Take unto thee yet again the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, who will not visit those that are cut off, neither will seek those that are scattered, nor heal that which is broken, nor feed that which is sound ; but he will eat the flesh of the fat sheep, and will tear their hoofs in pieces. Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock ! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye : his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
AHE iith chapter stands in the same relation to the verbal prophecies which make up the second part of Zechariah, as the $th does in relation to the first part of the visions.
" All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth" . . . And again, " / will sing of mercy and of judgment : unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing" x
These words of the inspired Psalmist may, as an old writer well observes, be written over the whole Book of Zechariah.
In the first part we have first a series of five visions which in various symbols set forth " the good and comfort able words " 2 of promise concerning restoration, enlarge ment, and temporal and spiritual blessing which God has yet in store for the land and the people of Israel. But to complete the prophetic forecast of the future, and also (to borrow an expression from another writer) " to prevent an abuse of the proclamation of salvation," the obverse side of the picture, which sets forth a yet future apostasy and judgment, had to be presented. This is done in the visions of the Flying Roll and the Ephah, in the first of which we hear God s great curse pronounced against sin ; and in the second we see its banishment from His own land and presence " to the land of Shinar " the original place of rebellion and apostasy against God where it shall meet with its final doom.
In the 6th chapter, however, we emerge again from the dark valley of sin and apostasy, and we are shown in the symbolical transaction there set forth how, in spite of it all, 1 Ps. xxv. 10, ci. i. 2 Chap. i. 13.
376 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
Israel s Messiah will yet be crowned, and sit and rule upon His throne, and be a Priest upon His throne ; and how, not only Israel, but " they that are far off," shall find a place in the glorious Temple which He shall build.
And thus it is also with the second part. First, we have a series of verbal prophecies, which are full of promise of future restoration and blessedness ; and then, in order to prevent a carnal misuse of the promises of salvation on the part of the godless majority in the nation, and also as a hint that the full realisation of the promises was, from the prophet s point of view, in the yet distant future we are suddenly in the I ith chapter brought to the precipice of a tremendous gulf of national apostasy and consequent judgment.
But even from this deep abyss we shall emerge again in the last three chapters, where Israel s national repentance and mourning over Him whom they have sold for thirty pieces of silver, and " pierced," are depicted for us in inspired language, which reads almost like history instead of prophecy. And the end and blessed issue of Israel s national conversion and reunion with their Messiah will be, that " Jehovah will be King over all the earth : in that day shall Jehovah be One, and His Name One." 1
The first brief section into which our chapter is divided, consisting of vers. 1-3, may be regarded as the prelude of what follows. In dramatic style the prophet announces the desolating judgment which will sweep over the whole land :
" Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
" Howl, O fir-tree, for the cedar is fallen, because the goodly ones are spoiled : howl, O ye oaks of Bashan, for the strong forest is come down.
" A voice of the howling of the shepherds ! for their glory is spoiled : a voice of the roaring of young lions ! for the pride of Jordan is spoiled .
There is a blending of the literal with the figurative in these verses. The primary reference is very probably to
1 Chap. xiv. 9.
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the physical desolation which is to befall the land in con sequence of its being invaded by an enemy. The progress of the devastating scourge which is here depicted has been graphically described by another:
" Lebanon is bidden to open its doors ; that is, its steep mountain paths, in order that the fire of the enemy imight consume its cedars. The firs, or cypresses, are called upon to howl or lament because the cedars are fallen ; for if the more excellent and valuable trees were felled without mercy, the poor firs and cypresses must needs expect a similar fate.
" From the heights of Lebanon the destructive storm sweeps down on the land of Bashan, and the oaks the pride of the land (with their kindly shade from the burning heat) are likewise felled by the enemy to meet the wants of the invading army, and to construct his means of offence and defence. Thus, the wood hitherto practically inaccess ible is brought low. The desolating storm sweeps from the high lands to the low lands. The very shepherds are forced to howl, because their splendour is laid waste ; namely, the pasture lands in which they were wont to feed and tend their flocks in the day of peace and quiet. The
f conflagration extends even to the south of the land. Judah is wrapped in flames. The close thickets which fringed the Jordan river, as it ran along through the territory of the
< southern kingdom, are consumed by the fire. The thickets which shut in that stream so closely that its waters could not be seen till the traveller was close on its banks, which were wont to be the abode of lions and other beasts of prey in those days, are likewise described as destroyed. The pride of Jordan is rendered desolate, and hence the voice of roaring of lions is heard wailing over the general ruin."
But while the physical desolation of the land is that which is primarily set forth in this brief opening section of the chapter, there is also contained in it, if not directly, at least indirectly, an announcement of a destructive judgment of the people, " inasmuch as the desolation of the land also involves the destruction of the people living in it."
378 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
Most interpreters, indeed, both Jewish and Christian regard the language as figurative. Thus, the " cedars " ar taken to mean the highest and noblest in the land, while the " cypresses," or " firs," represent the common people, who are commanded to " howl," because since the " cedars " have fallen there is no hope of their being spared. Certainly in Ezek. xvii. 3 the family of David is repre- sented by a lofty cedar, and in Isa. xiv. 8 and Jer. xxii. 6-7 the cedars of Lebanon stand as " the emblem of the glory of the Jewish State." But even though " the scientific expositor " may regard the allegorical interpretation of this particular passage as " fanciful," l and we ourselves would by no means wholly commit ourselves to it, it is none the less of interest that a very ancient Jewish interpretation identifies Lebanon here with the Temple " which was built with cedars from Lebanon, towering aloft upon a strong summit the spiritual glory and eminence of Jerusalem, as the Lebanon was of the whole country." Thus Kimchi, after explaining these verses as a prophecy of the destruction of the kings of the Gentile nations, in accordance with the interpretation of the Targum of Jonathan, who paraphrases, " A voice of the howling of the shepherds because their glory is spoiled" (ver. 3), as: "The voice of the crying of the kings because their provinces are desolated," he says : " This interpretation is according to the Targum, but our Rabbis of blessed memory have interpreted the chapter of the desolation of the Second Temple, and Lebanon is the Holy Temple." 2
1 Dr. Wright.
2 The remarkable tradition which Kimchi here quotes, is found in the Talm. Bab., Treatise Yoma (fol. 39, col. 2), and is as follows: "Our rabbis have handed down the tradition, that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the lot (for the goat that was to be sacrificed on the Day of Atonement) did not come out on the right side, neither did the scarlet tongue (that used to be fastened between the horns of the scapegoat) turn white (as, according to tradi tion, it used to do, to signify that the sins of the people were forgiven), neither did the western lamp burn ; the doors of the sanctuary also opened of their own accord, until R. Johanan, the son of Zacchai, reproved them. He said : O sanctuary, sanctuary! why dost thou trouble thyself? R. Isaac, the son of Tavlai, says : Why is the Temple called Lebanon (white mountain) ? Answer :
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But whether literal or figurative, the passage announces
- . judgment which would embrace, as already stated, the
and and the people, and not stop short of the holy city, >r sanctuary.
In the next and longest section of the chapter (vers. [ 1 4), the prophet proceeds to set forth the causes and the nanner of the judgment which in the first three verses had Deen announced in general terms.
Let us first take the briefest possible glimpse at the main contents of this paragraph : " Israel, prophetically viewed as given over to judgment, is called ""^"iLJL 1 i&& (tson ha-haregah), " sheep of slaughter," or, " of slaughtering."
As a manifestation of God s mercy, however, an effort is to be made to save them. The prophet, representing the Lord as the True Shepherd of Israel, is commanded to feed them, and he, in obedience to the command, takes upon himself the office of the shepherd and endeavours to rescue them from the wicked shepherds who are leading them to certain destruction. The obstinacy of the majority of those whom he seeks to save, however, compels him to give up the office and leave the flock to their utter misery and ruin. Then (in order to make manifest the ingratitude, as well as the wickedness, of those on whom such care had in vain been bestowed) the shepherd asks for his wages, and they in mockery offer him thirty pieces of silver the sum which, according to the law, was to be paid in compensa tion for a slave who had been killed (Ex. xxi. 22). This j money the prophet, by God s command, throws down con- i temptuously in the Temple, in the presence of all the people, " to the potter," after which he breaks the last emblem of his relation to them as shepherd.
This is the briefest outline which we shall endeavour to fill in when we come to the exposition, but before doing this one or two further preliminary remarks are still necessary.
Because it makes white the sins of Israel. Rav. Zutra, the son of Tobiah, says: Why is the Temple called " forest " (Zech. xi. 2)? Answer: Because it is written, The house of the forest of Lebanon (l Kings vii. 2), etc."
380 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
(i) As just stated, the prophet must be viewed a acting in this chapter not in his own person, but, in a verj special sense, as the representative of God. This is clea from such expressions as, " I cut off three shepherds in ont month " (ver. 8), " that I might break my covenant which have made with all the peoples " (ver. 10), etc. ; whicl neither Zechariah nor any other prophet did, or could do but the Lord only.
Hengstenberg, Pusey, and others think that the prophe acts here directly as the type, or representative, of the Ange of Jehovah or the Messiah ; but to this most modern com mentators object, on the ground that, while in the visions recorded in the first part of Zechariah the Angel of Jehovah is indeed spoken of as an actor, " no intimation whatever is given in this chapter that the Angel of Jehovah is to be regarded as the doer of the things which are here related and we have no right to assume that the prophecy is a continuation of the visions in the earlier part of this book."
But it practically comes to much the same thing whether we regard the prophet as representing in hi actions as shepherd, Jehovah, or more directly the Messiah for the coming of the Messiah is often spoken of in the Old Testament as the coming of Jehovah. In Ezek. xxxiv. for instance, Jehovah Himself is represented, in His cap> acity as the true Shepherd of Israel, as seeking, saving strengthening, healing, and satisfying His people ; but ? we read on in that chapter we become aware that it is nc Jehovah directly who is going to do all this, but mediate through the Messiah. " And I will set them up one shephe, over them, and He shall feed them, even My servant Davia > He shall feed them, and He shall be their shepherd" - namely, the true David, the Messiah, as the Jews themselv have always rightly interpreted this passage.
And so it is always : in all His relations and dealing , with men, both in mercy and in judgment, it is God Christ who acts. As a matter of fact, this prophecy (as i admitted by one who is not inclined to see many reference 1 to Christ in the Book of Zechariah) " is one of a peculiarl)
B - V: . liiid
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 381
vlessianic character, and (as we shall see more clearly arther on) what Jehovah is said here to perform was done n very deed by the Messiah."
(2) The second preliminary question to be settled is he time to which this prophecy, and more especially the ymbolical action described in vers. 7-14, is to be referred. Two or three Jewish commentators, who are influenced n their interpretations by their hostility to Christianity, and ome of the " modern " rationalistic Christian theologians, o whom Christ and the New Testament are non-existent, r of no account in their interpretations of the Old Testa- Clls ment, refer it to some event, or events, which they imagine occurred in the time of the First Temple before the Baby- ver Ionian Exile. 1
A full and lengthy refutation of this view is, however, supplied by another Jewish commentator, namely, Abar- banel. One argument of his is, of itself, quite sufficient.
" To what purpose," he asks, " should God show the "^ prophet past events, which he had seen with his own eyes " and with the eyes of his father; and what necessity was
- r there to make known to him the captivity of the tribes and
c !the desolation of the first house, which had occurred but a V short time before; and (above all) to do this in parables, ? ; which are only employed in reference to the future, to ? i make events known before they happen ? But with regard
>to the past, information is not conveyed in parables. It is
- not possible to suppose that God would communicate a
plain matter of recent history in obscure symbols, and,
- therefore, the symbolical representation cannot refer to the
past, and must predict what was to happen during the time
of the Second Temple." 2
1 I may quote as an instance, Professor Driver, who says that this scripture " is to be interpreted in all probability, not as a prediction, but as a symbolical 5 description of events which had happened recently when the prophet wrote." L a It is of interest to observe that as far as the "Jewish interpretation" is concerned, not only Abarbanel, but the Talmud (both the Jerusalem and the 1 Babylonian), Joseph Ben Gorion (Breithaupt s edition, p. 889), Aben Ezra, Abraham "the Levite," Alshech, and even R. Isaac of Troki in his polemical work against Christianity all agree with Christians in applying this prophecy to the time of the Second Temple.
382 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
But even among those who rightly apply this prophecy to the time of the Second Temple, there is still a difference of opinion. According to some, the whole of the dealings of God with Israel during the time of the Second Temple are alluded to. This is the view of most of the Jewish interpreters and of eminent Christian commentators. Thus, according to Calvin, " the Lord discharged the duties of a shepherd by means of all His faithful servants in the time of the Second Temple, but most perfectly of all by Christ " ; and Koehler sees in this scripture " a representa tion of the mediatorial work in the plan of salvation, of which Daniel was the first representative, and which was afterwards exhibited on the one hand by Haggai and Zechariah, and on the other hand by Zerubbabel and his successors as the civil rulers of Israel, and by Joshua and those priests who resumed the duties of their office along with him." But the ground on which this view is chiefly based namely, that because the prophecy in chaps, ix. and x. embraces the whole period of the Second Temple, from Alexander the Great to the coming of Christ, and even merging into the time of the end therefore, this one in chap. xi. must be equally comprehensive, and start from the same historical point of time, is, to say the least, a very uncertain one.
For my own part, I believe that the more carefully we look into this solemn scripture, the more manifest it becomes that the state of things which it prophetically depicts answers exactly to the condition of the Jewish nation immediately preceding the final catastrophe at the destruction of the Second Temple, and the dissolution of the Jewish polity by the Romans, and does not correspond to their condition and experience during the whole, or even greater part, of their history after the partial restora tion from Babylon.
For this, and other reasons which for lack of space I cannot enter here, I must confess myself on the side of those who view this 1 1 th chapter as restricted to the principal object of the preceding great prophecy (chaps, ix.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 383
and x.), namely, the prediction concerning the coming of the Messiah (ix. 910), which is in this iith chapter pre sented from another point of view, in order that the mean ing may be fully understood, and " not be so perverted by a one-sided and worldly interpretation as to become pernicious instead of salutary " ; 1 or, in other words, that this prophecy refers particularly to the office of shepherd which was to be filled by the Messiah, and to His blessed labours and experience in seeking to save the " lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Let us now examine the scripture itself. There is dis cussion among commentators whether the phrase njnnn JNtf, tson ha-haregah " sheep of slaughter," describes the Jewish nation as a flock which is already being slaughtered, or as one which is marked out for slaughter at a future time. There is no doubt that the condition of the people was deplorable enough in the time of the prophet, for already in the loth chapter he describes them as those who " go their way (or wander ) like sheep," and " are afflicted (or oppressed ) because there is no shepherd." 2
Already they were a prey to false shepherds, and sub ject to the abuse and oppression of their own unfaithful civil and religious rulers and foreign tyrants ; but, as may be gathered from the introductory remarks, I regard it as a special prophetic designation of the people during the time to which this prophecy has particular reference when it became more terribly and literally true.
The 5th verse illustrates the truth of the designation in the 4th verse. They may, indeed, be described as sheep of slaughter, for " their possessors (literally, buyers ) slay (or strangle ) them, and hold themselves not guilty ; and they that sell them say, Blessed be Jehovah, for I am rich"
The buyers and sellers are those into whose hands the nation is delivered, and who do with them as they please, namely, the Gentile powers. They are represented as thinking themselves " not guilty " in all their cruel actions in relation to the Jewish people. This reminds us of 1 Hengstenberg. - Chap. x. 2.
384 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
Jer. 1. 6-7, which was most probably before the mind of Zechariah. " My people hath been lost sheep : their shepherds have caused them to go astray : . . . all that found them have devoured tJiem : and their adversaries say we offend not (are not guilty *), because they have sinned against Jehovah, the habitation of justice, Jehovah, the hope of their fathers."
But, though it is true that Israel on account of their most terrible sins have been handed over by God as a righteous punishment into the hands of the Gentile world- powers, they are not held innocent for their cruel deeds towards them. This we see from the same 5oth chapter of Jeremiah, where God says : " Israel is a scattered sheep ; the lions (the Gentile world-powers who are likened to ferocious wild beasts} have driven him away : first, the king of Assyria hath devoured him ; and last this Nebuch adnezzar king of Babylon Jiath broken his bones. TJtere- fore thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel : Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria" 2
And what God did to Assyria and Babylon, He did also to Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, and still will do to nations and individuals whom He uses as a scourge against His own people, for His word in another part of Jeremiah still holds true : " Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured ; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity ; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil ; and all they that prey upon thee will I give for a prey" 3
But to return more directly to our scripture. Not only will they be thus abused and " slain " by Gentile oppressors, but " their own shepherds" by which we must understand their own civil and religious rulers, those who ought to have fed and defended them "pity them not" 4 thus proving themselves false shepherds, who only sought their own, and were the chief cause of the sheep becoming a prey.
1 o$>w K 1 ? the same verb as in Zech. xi. 5.
2 Jer. 1. 17, 18. -Jer. xxx. 16.
4 V nrr & -\r}K yo>nar lo-yadimol the verbs "sayeth" and "hath no pity" are singular an emphatic mode of expression, by which each individual is represented as doing or not doing the action of the verb.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 385
There is a sad gradation in the wretchedness of the people thus given over to judgment, as described in vers. 5-6. First, the Gentile nations pity them not, but buy and sell and slay them as " sheep of slaughter." Secondly, their own shepherds, from whom something different might have been expected, have no compassion for them ; and thirdly, and most terrible of all, " I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith Jehovah" for long-continued obduracy exhausts even the patience of Jehovah ; and there comes a time in the history of nations and of individuals when the long-suffering God has to say " there is no more remedy " (or " healing " 1 ), and His righteous anger has to manifest itself in judgment.
In the solemn words of the 6th verse we have a fore cast of what would take place after the rejection of the Good Shepherd, and the care and protection of God over His people would be withdrawn. God s anger will show itself, not only in a negative manner (" I will no more pity "), but also in a positive way.
"And, lo" (or "behold "), this is God s way of calling attention to something great which He is going to do either with nations or individuals " / will deliver the men every one into the hands of his neighbour, and into the hand of his king : and they shall smite (literally, break down, i.e., lay waste} the land" solemn and awful words which well describe in advance the confusion, captious strife, hatred, and mutual destruction, which followed soon after the rejection of our Lord Jesus, their true Messiah and Shepherd, the detailed accounts of which may be read in Josephus, and even in the Talmud.
A parallel passage is found in Jer. xix. 9, which was fulfilled in the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and the destruction of the First Temple: "And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend ,. in the siege and in the straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them " where
1 2 Chron. xxxvi. 16. 25
386 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
also a twofold cause of their ruin is given, namely, strife among themselves, which is heightened by sufferings and oppression inflicted by the foe without. Contention within, and the enemy without, are not only mentioned in the passage just quoted from Jeremiah, but they are linked together by Zechariah himself in chap. viii. 10, as the two chief methods of punishment employed by God for the chastisement of His people. " There was no peace to him that went out or came in because of the adversary, and I set all men every one against his neighbour " " which miserable state of things existed before the Babylonian Captivity and is represented in the 1 1 th chapter as returning with still greater force on account of the base ingratitude and relapse into apostasy on the part of the people." x
The phrase, " into the hand of his king" must be under stood as referring to the king of " his," i.e., Judah s own choice. That it is of a foreign oppressor, and not of a native ruler, that the prophecy speaks, is evident, among other things, from the fact that the Jews had no king at the time of Zechariah, and that this prophet never (either in the first or second half of the book), even in his descriptions of the future, speaks of any king, with the exception of the Messiah.
When, on that fateful eve of the Passover, Pilate brought Jesus out before the Jews, and half in mockery said, " Be hold your king," they cried, " Away with him, crucify him ! " and when he again appealed, " Shall I crucify your king ? " the chief priests, who constituted themselves the leaders of the people, answered : " We have no king but Caesar ! " and, having thus deliberately made this terrible choice, they were " delivered " into Caesar s hand ; and soon after the Roman armies, under Vespasian and Titus, laid waste the land and destroyed the people. How terrible was the retribution. " If we let this man thus alone," said the chief priests and Pharisees in council, " all men will believe on him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." So they decided to carry
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 387
out the wicked counsel of Caiaphas, who said : " It is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not," and handed Him over to the Romans. But the very thing they feared, and on account of which they decided on committing the great national crime of betraying their Kinsman-Redeemer into the hands of the Gentiles, came upon them, for these very Romans did come, " and take away both their place and their nation."
But, terrible as is the punishment which came upon the Jewish nation in consequence of their rejection of the Good Shepherd, we must beware of wrong conclusions, and of perverting Scripture by false interpretation. Thus, Hengstenberg, Pusey, and other commentators who are great literalists as far as the threatenings and curses are concerned in applying them to the Jewish people, but "spiritualise" and misapply all the promises lay great stress on the last words of the 6th verse : " I will not deliver them," in proof that the captivity of the Jewish nation brought about by the Romans " shall be without remedy or end." Pusey, for instance, quotes with great approval the words of Jerome : " Hear, O Jew, who holdest out to thyself hopes most vain, and hearest not the Lord strongly assert ing, / will not deliver them out of their hands, that thy captivity among the Romans shall have no end."
But this is a one-sided perversion of the truth. As far as the generation which is contemplated in this pro phecy is concerned, there was " no remedy," or " deliver ance," as was the case also with the generation of the time of the first Captivity and the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians, of which similar expressions are used ; and as is the case in every generation with those who prove themselves obdurate, and persistently harden their hearts and refuse God s gracious call : " Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways : for why will ye die, O house of Israel."
But, as far as the purpose of God with the Jewish nation is concerned, it ever abides unchanged and unalter able, for the unchangeable God remains true and faithful.
though all men prove liars. This same prophet, who in the iith chapter predicts Israel s rejection of the Good Shepherd, and their consequent rejection of God for a time, graphically describes in the last three chapters, which deal with the last events of this age, Israel s restoration and conversion when the spirit of grace and of supplication shall be poured upon them, and they shall bitterley lament and repent of their great national sin, and look upon Him whom they have pierced.
And this is in accord also with the clear statements of the New Testament, which tells us that " all Israel shall be saved, even as it is written : There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob ; for this is My covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins."
And even in the generation of which the terrible words are written, " I will not deliver them out of their hands," there were "the poor of the flock" (vers. 7, 11) who did " give heed " and " knew the word of Jehovah," who (as we shall see) are none other than the remnant, according to the election of grace, which, blessed be God ! has never been wanting even in the darkest period of Israel s history.
We proceed to what may be said to constitute the heart of this remarkable prophecy, namely, the actual " feeding," or shepherding, of the flock which, through their own obstinacy, became " the flock of slaughter."
" So I fed the flock of slaughter, verily the poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves : the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands, and I fed the flock. And I cut off the three shepherds in one month ; for my soul was weary of them, and their soul also loathed me. Then said I, I will not feed you : that that dieth, let it die ; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let them which are left eat every one the flesh of another. And I took my staff Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. And it was broken in that day ; and thus the poor of the flock that gave heed unto me knew that it was the word of the
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 389
Lord. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire ; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the house of the Lord. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel " (Zech. xi.
We may pause for a moment to ask whether the symbolical transaction which is here described was an inward or outward one. Most of the Jewish commentators take the latter view. Thus Abarbanel, for instance, says : " God commanded the prophet to perform a real action, and in a waking state, which action was to be an intima tion and a sign of that which was to happen in God s dealings with Israel," and adds : " By attending to the affairs of the prophets thou mayest know that God, blessed be He, sometimes commanded them to perform real actions, and in a waking state, and afterwards explained to them the reason of the command according to the sign that was in them. 1 . . . But sometimes the blessed God commanded the prophets to do things foreign to their character, and un necessary for them to do ; which things were also to be a sign and a type of coming events, and did not expound the meaning, because He knew that the thing itself could be understood" (as, for instance, Isa. viii. 1-2 ; Ezek. iv. 1-2, v. i). But, as has been observed, the narrative in this chapter differs in some respects from the symbolical actions of the prophets and from Zechariah s own visions.
" The symbolical actions of the prophets are actions of their own : this involves acts which it would be impossible to represent, except as a sort of drama. Such are the very central points, the feeding of the flock, which yet are intelligent men who understand God s doings : the cutting off of the three shepherds ; the asking for the price ; the unworthy price offered ; the casting it aside. It differs
1 He quotes Isa. xx. 2, viii. 4 ; Jer. xiii. I, etc., and Ezekiel as examples.
390 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
from Zechariah s own visions, in that they are for the most part exhibited to the eye, and Zechariah s own part is simply to inquire their meaning and to learn it, and to receive further revelation. In one case only (chap. iii. 5) he himself interposes in the action of the vision ; but this, too, as asking that it might be done, not as himself doing it. Here (in chap, xi.) he is himself the actor, yet as representing Another, Who alone could cut off shepherds, abandon the people to mutual destruction, annulling the covenant which He had made." 1 Maimonides, then, seems to say rightly : " This, I fed the flock of the slaughter, to the end of the narrative, where he is said to have asked for his hire, to have received it, and to have cast it into the Temple, to the treasurer all this Zechariah saw in prophetic vision. For the command which he received, and the act which he is said to have done, took place in prophetic vision or dream. This," he adds, " is beyond controversy, as all know who are able to distinguish the possible from the impossible."
Let us bear in mind also that, as has been well observed by an old writer, the actions of the prophets are not always to be understood as actions, but as predictions as, for instance, when God commands Isaiah to " make the heart of the people fat and their ears heavy " ; 2 or when He says that He appointed Jeremiah over the nations, to root out, and to break down, and to destroy, and to over throw, and to build, and to plant " ; 3 or when He com manded the same prophet to cause the nations to drink the cup whereby they should be bereft of their senses. 4 Neither Isaiah nor Jeremiah actually did this, but foretold in advance in this manner what would be. So it is here.
But to proceed to the exposition. And, first, I will deal with what I believe to be a parenthetical sentence in the 7th verse, which occurs again in the iith verse, and which has greatly puzzled the commentators, and of which all sorts of explanations have been given : " So I fed," we
1 Pusey. - isa. vi. IO.
a Jer. i. 10. < Jer. xxv. 15-27.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 391
read, " the sheep of slaughter " ; after which there follow the three Hebrew words, |NVn "3JJ 137, lachen aniyye hatson, which the Authorised Version has rendered, " Even you, O poor of the flock " ; and the Revised Version, " Verily, the poor of the flock " ; and the explanation usually given is that " the poor of the flock " is practically only another name for " the sheep of slaughter." But this is very unsatisfactory, for, first, the primary and natural meaning of the adverb i?^, lachen, is not " even " or " verily," but " therefore " ; and secondly, the designation " aniyye ha-am" " the poor of the people," or. as the word also means, " the needy," " the weak," " the afflicted," is almost invariably used in the Hebrew Bible of the pious or godly in the nation who are persecuted and oppressed by the godless of those whom the wicked in his pride " hotly pursue," or persecute, but who, knowing God to be their refuge, can look up to Him and say: " But I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me." 1
Certainly in the iith verse the "aniyye katson" who " observed " the prophet, and knew that it was the word of Jehovah, must refer to the God-fearing portion of the nation. In brief, I believe that the sentence should be rendered, " therefore (on this account) the poor of the flock," 2 and that in these three words in the Hebrew there is summed up the result, or blessed fruit of the labours of the Good Shepherd. Not altogether in vain, or fruitless, would His self-sacrificing effort to save the lost sheep of the House of Israel prove. The mass would indeed prove obstinate,
1 Compare Ps. x. 2-9, xiv. 6, liii. 6, xxxv. 10, xxxvii. 14, xl. 17, Ixx. 5, Ixxii. 4, Ixxxvi. I, cix. 16-22 ; Isa. x. 2, xiv. 32, xli. 17 ; and many other places where J^, ant, is used.
2 The LXX has evidently made a great blunder over these sentences, for in ver. 7 it has for |Niin :; J?^ eZs rr\v KavaaviTiv, "in the land of Chanaan" (or Canaan), leaving out the word for " sheep" or " flock" altogether ; and in ver. II it has got ol Xavavaioi the Canaanites, or "merchants." And yet some modern scholars adopt these evident misreadings as the basis of emendations of their own of the Hebrew text as, for instance, Sir George Adam Smith, who has translated the sentence in ver. 7 "for the sheep merchants," and in ver. II, " the dealers of the sheep." But the Hebrew text in this place needs no emendation or alteration when properly understood.
392 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
and by rejecting Him choose death rather than life, and thus experience the truth of the awful designation, tson ]ia-haregaJi, " sheep of slaughter " ; but, as has been the case even in the very darkest periods of Israel s history, God would leave in the midst of them " an afflicted and poor people," who would trust in the Name of Jehovah, 1 the remnant according to the election of grace, in and through whom the purposes of God would be carried for ward. The New Testament parallel and ultimate fulfilment is in John i. 1 1 : " He came unto His own, and they that were His received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right (or power ) to become children of God, even to them that believe in His Name"
" The elect are the end of all God s dispensations," observes another writer. " He fed all ; yet the fruit of His feeding, His toils, His death, the travail of His soul, was in those only who are saved. So also the apostle says : Therefore, I endure all things for the elects sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. He fed all ; but the poor of the flock alone, those who were despised of men because they would not follow the pride of the high priests and scribes and Pharisees, believed on Him."
On entering his office as shepherd, the prophet " took two staves." The Eastern shepherd, to quote from Dr. Thomson s The Land and the Book, " invariably carries a staff or rod with him when he goes forth to feed his flock. It is often bent, or hooked, at one end, which gave rise to the shepherd s crook in the hand of the Christian bishop. With this staff he rules and guides the flock to their green pastures, and defends them from their enemies. With it, also, he corrects them when disobedient, and brings them back when wandering. This staff is associated as in separably with the shepherd as the goad is with the ploughman."
That on certain occasions, at any rate, it was customary for the shepherd to have not only one but two staves one
1 Zeph. iii. 12.
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for keeping off wild beasts and thieves, and the other for feeding the flock is manifest from the reference so familiar to us in the 23rd Psalm: " Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me"
The names of the staves, like everything else in this symbolical transaction, were significant. One he called DV 3 , noam, which means " beauty," " pleasantness," " favour " and had reference, as we see from the loth verse, to the grace and loving-kindness of God in keeping off their enemies from destroying them ; and the other he called Dy3fy hobhlim, " bands," or literally " binders," and sym bolised, as we see from the I4th verse, that part of the shepherd s rule by which the sheep were kept united among themselves as one flock. " And so " (thus equipped), he says again at the end of the 7th verse, " I fed the flock."
There is, perhaps, not another scripture in the Old Testament which has been more variously interpreted than the first part of the 8th verse of this chapter: " And I cut off tJie three shepherds in one month Who are the three shepherds, and what are we to understand by the expression, " in one month " ?
The following are a few out of the many answers which have been given to these questions: (i) Von Hoffmann, Koehler, Keil, Dr. C. H. H. Wright, W. H. Lowe, and others understand by the three shepherds Gentile rulers, in whose power the Jews were, and who ought to have acted to them as " shepherds " ; but they differ as to who these rulers were, and also in their interpretation of the " one month." Thus, Von Hoffmann identifies the three shepherds with three empires, namely, the Babylonian, the Medo- Persian, and the Macedonian. According to him the " one month " signifies a prophetic period of thirty prophetic days, each of seven literal years duration. This would be equivalent to 2 i o years. The three empires named actually lasted 215 years, reckoning from the Babylonian Captivity to the death of Alexander the Great ; but the slight discrepancy of five years is considered of little consequence in reckoning sabbatic periods.
394 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
The chief objection to this interpretation is that it can not be shown that " a day " is ever used in the prophetic Scriptures to represent seven years. His reference to Dan. ix. 24, in support of his theory, does not apply, for there the " seventy weeks " (or " seventy sevens ") are seventy weeks of years, i.e., 490 years, and on that principle the " one month " could only signify thirty years. " Moreover," as Wright observes, " it is not in accordance with fact, or with Daniel s prophecy in chap, viii., to view the death of Alexander as the destruction of the Macedonian empire, which continued to exist, though no longer as a united empire, under the rule of the Diadochi, or successors of Alexander."
Koehler, Kliefoth, and Keil also identify the three shepherds with the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Mace donian empires ; but, according to them, the only way in which the expression " in one month " can be symbolically interpreted is by dividing the month as a period of thirty days into three times ten days, according to the number of the shepherds, and taking each ten days as the time employed in the destruction of a shepherd. " Ten is the number of the completion or the perfection of any earthly act or occurrence. If, therefore, each shepherd were destroyed in ten days, and the destruction of the three was executed in a month, i.e., within a space of three times ten days following one another, the fact is indicated, on the one hand, that the destruction of each of these shepherds followed directly upon that of the other ; and, on the other hand, that this took place after the full time allotted for his rule had passed away." I agree with another writer that this explanation as to what is meant by the " one month " appears highly artificial.
Dr. Wright explains the " one month " on the year-day principle (" each day for a year," Ezek. iv. 6), and identifies the thirty years with the period "between B.C. 172, when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple, and B.C. 141, when the three alien shepherds, Antiochus Epiphanes, Antiochus Eupator, and Demetrius I. were cut off, and the
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 395
last trace of Syrian supremacy was removed by the ex pulsion of the Syrian garrison from its fortress in Jerusalem."
But this is in accord with his general interpretation of the chapter (as is the case also with all the others who seek to identify the shepherds with Gentile rulers or kingdoms); by which also the "shepherds" in the 5th verse, and the solemn words of judgment in the 6th verse, are made to apply, not to the Jews, but to their Gentile oppressors a view which seems to me untenable ; for first, there is no mention or reference to the Gentiles in the announcement of the devastating judgment in the first three verses of the chapter, which I regard as the prelude to the whole prophecy, but only to the borders of the promised land from the north to the south.
Secondly, the awful condition of things depicted in the 6th verse is just that which, according to vers. g and 1 1, is to happen to " the sheep of slaughter " after their rejection of the Good Shepherd ; and thirdly, the very usage of the term " shepherds " precludes, it seems to me, the inter pretation which makes it to mean Gentile tyrants, or oppressors its almost exclusive application, when used in the Hebrew Bible in its figurative sense in relation to a flock of men, being to native Israelitish rulers or leaders, whether civil or religious, 1 most of whom, alas ! proved themselves to be only false shepherds without any heart for the sheep.
(2) Maurer, Hitzig, Ewald, Bleek, Bunsen, S. Davidson, and other writers have fastened upon this passage as con taining, according to them, " one of the clearest proofs " of the pre-exilic authorship of the second part of Zechariah, inasmuch as the " three shepherds " are supposed to refer to three kings of the northern or ten-tribed kingdom of Israel who were " cut off in one month " (which they take
1 The only exception is Isa. xliv. 28, where God says of Cyrus, " He is My shepherd " ; but there he is so called because he is raised up to play the r&le, not of an oppressor of Israel, but as performing God s pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem she shall be built, and to the Temple, "Thy foundations shall be laid."
396 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
in its literal significance), and, therefore, contend that this prophecy must have been written before the destruction of that kingdom by the Assyrians in 721 B.C., and not, as is generally accepted, before the restoration from Babylon.
The historical event, or events, to which our passage is made by these writers to refer, is 2 Kings xv. 814, where we read of the assassination of Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II., by Shallum, who very shortly was himself smitten by Menahem. But we need only look into this passage in 2 Kings to see the baselessness of this interpretation and of the theory based upon it. Shallum, who murdered Zechariah, himself reigned " a full month " before he was in turn murdered by Menahem, who was not killed at all, but reigned ten years, and was succeeded by his son Pekahiah. Maurer, Ewald, Bunsen, and S. Davidson, in support of this theory, have invented " a third unknown usurper," who succeeded Zechariah for a very brief period before Shallum actually reigned, or " possibly on the other side of the Jordan," and who also met with a violent end ; but such inventions, of which history knows nothing, and for which there is no place in the historical narrative in the Scriptures, are not worthy to be refuted. 1
(3) There remains one other explanation which, though not altogether free from difficulties, seems to me the correct one, namely, that the prophet is speaking, not of three individuals, but of three orders, or classes, of shepherds. But even among those holding this view there have been
1 I may mention a few other interpretations, or rather guesses and conjectures, respecting the three shepherds. Abarbanel explains them to mean the three Maccabees Judas, Jonathan, and Simon ; Kimchi refers them to Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah ; Jerome (following the Talmud), to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam ; Grotius, to David, Adonijah, and Joab ; Burger, to Eli and his two sons, or to Samuel and his two sons ; and Kalmet explains them of the three Roman emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Another theory contended for is that the three shepherds are John, Simon, and Eleazer, the three desperate leaders of the Jewish factions in the last struggle against Rome ; but, as a matter of fact, John of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora were taken alive to Rome, and Simon was slain in Rome during the triumphal procession of Vespasian and Titus about three years after the destruction of the Temple ; so that they certainly could not be the three shepherds who were to be "cut off in one month."
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 397
differences of opinion. Some, among them Lightfoot, thought the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes are referred to ; others have imagined that the civil, ecclesiastical, and military authorities are meant. But I agree with Hengsten- berg, that if it may be regarded as certain that the three shepherds represent the three classes of shepherds existing in the theocracy in other words, the leaders of the nation then " Zechariah could not possibly have thought of any others than the civil authorities (the rulers), the priests, and the prophets" who are frequently spoken of in the earlier scriptures as the " shepherds," or leaders of the people, and to whose misguidance is attributed the ruin of the nation. 1
" The only difficulty in connection with this view is to explain the fact that the prophetical order should be intro duced as one of the three, seeing that this had been extinct for a long time before the period of fulfilment. We reply that, in accordance with the essential character of prophecy, the prophet represents the future by means of the analogous circumstances of his own time. Just as the order of the civil shepherds continued to exist though the kings had ceased to reign, so did the order of prophets continue, so far as everything essential was concerned, even after the suspension of the gift of prophecy. The vocation of the prophet was to make known to the people the word and will of God (Jer. xviii. 1 8). Before the completion of the canon this was done by means of revelations under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and the application of the results to the peculiar circumstances of the age. The place of the prophets was occupied by the scribes, on whom, according to the Book of Ecclesiasticus (chap, xxxix.), the Lord richly bestowed the spirit of under standing, who studied the wisdom of the ancients, investi gated the prophets, delivered instruction and counsel, and who were noted for wise sayings. They stood in the same relation to the prophets of the Old Testament, as the enlightened teachers of the Christian Church to the prophets of the New. The three constituent elements of 1 Comp. Jer. ii. 8-26, xviii. 18.
398 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
the Jewish Sanhedrim answer to the three shepherds mentioned here, namely, the leading priests, the scribes, the elders, apxiepets, ypa(j,/j,aTel<;, 7rpeo-/3vTepoi (Matt. xxvi. 3)."
It is interesting to note that among Christian inter preters this is the oldest view. Thus, Theodoret 1 says : " He speaks of the kings of the Jews, and prophets, and priests ; for by the three orders they were shepherded " ; and Jerome, 2 who, himself following the Talmud, interprets the three shepherds of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, says : " I have read in some one s commentary that the shepherds cut off in the indignation of the Lord are to be understood of priests, and false prophets, and kings of the Jews, who, after the Passion of Christ, were all cut off in one time."
So also Cyril, 3 who says : " The three shepherds were, I deem, those who exercised the legal priesthood, and those appointed judges of the people, and the interpreters of Scripture, z>., lawyers " ; who, as shown above in the quotation from Hengstenberg, really took, at the time of Christ, the place of the prophets.
As will have been already inferred, I do not under stand the expression " in one month " in a literal sense, but as a period of time long, when compared with that which might be figuratively expressed by " one day," as in chap, iii. 9 ; but brief, as contrasted with other periods of time.
In short, it might be said to embrace the period during which our Lord Jesus " sought by repeated efforts, but without avail, to deliver the lost sheep of the house of Israel from the spiritual tyranny of its blind and corrupt guides."
Anyhow, this is an historic fact, that it was consequent on the rejection of the Messiah, the Good Shepherd, that the Jewish polity was broken up, and that since then, and now for " many days," the children of Israel have been not only without a king and without a prince, but also without a prophet and without a priest. On the other hand, these three offices were, on the testimony of the prophets, to be
1 Died in 420 A. D. 2 423-457 A. D. 3 Died 444 A. D.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 399
united in the person of the Messiah, and have always in the consciousness of the Church been associated with Christ. If Israel had received Him, they would have found in Hint their Prophet, Priest, and King ; they might even, as Pusey suggests, " have been held under Him " (i.e., by human representatives of Him) ; but having rejected Him, these three offices, which, originally appointed by God, were mediatorial in their character, and were held on earth by those who were meant to represent and foreshadow Him who is the " One Mediator between God and man " were " cut off," that is, abolished, as an outward sign that through their rejection of Christ their relations with God were broken off.
The second half of the 9th verse describes the rupture between the Good Shepherd and the people as a whole, including those who ought to have acted as shepherds, but only misled and devoured the flock. It also, it seems to me, indicates the reason why " the three shepherds " were cut off.
Commentators generally view the cutting off of the three shepherds " as an act of God s loving-kindness toward the sheep of His pasture," l and as part of the beneficent care of the Good Shepherd for the flock. So it might have been, if delivered from their false shepherds, the people as a whole had turned to Him Who was sent to them of God to seek and to save, and Who in His one person combined the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. But as not only the leaders, both civil and religious, but the people in general, took up more and more an attitude of opposition and hostility toward Him, the " cutting off" of the three " shepherds," or the abolition of the three mediatorial offices, which is the outward sign of the suspension of God s covenant relationship with them, must certainly be regarded also as an act of judgment on the nation as a whole.
And, if it be asked, what other expression of the beneficent activity of the Good Shepherd on behalf of the
400 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
sheep of slaughter do we find in this prophecy, if the cutting off of the shepherds is not to be regarded as an effort on His part for the deliverance of the flock, my answer is, that a full, though compressed, summary of the beneficent character of the activities of the Good Shepherd is given in the 8th verse. There we see the Shepherd fully equipped with the two staves of Beauty (or " Favour "), and "Bands" (or "Binders"), feeding the flock. "So I fed the flock" \ and in that blessed shepherding everything was included protection and deliverance from without, and safety, guidance, and provision within. Oh ! that my people had hearkened unto His voice, and that Israel had walked in His ways ! Then would it, indeed, have been well with them. Not only would He soon have subdued their enemies and turned His hand in judgment against their adversaries, but their peace should have been as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea.
But the frequent complaint of God of the attitude of His stiff-necked people in the time of the prophets, culminated in their spirit of opposition and hostility to Him, Who was the last and greatest of the prophets, and the very image of God. " My people hearkened not to My voice ; Israel would none of Me. So I let them go (or sent them forth ) after the stubbornness of their heart, that they might walk in their own counsels." l
This, in brief, is the meaning of vers. 8 and 9: "And my soul was wearied (lit., was shortened i.e., became impatient) 2 with them." Oh ! how much stubborn dis obedience on the part of the flock is presupposed in this complaint on the part of the shepherd, " And their soul also loathed fas, bachal a word expressive of intense disgust) me " : sad and solemn words which in their fulness were \fulfilled in the intense loathing which the leaders of the Jewish nation manifested to Jesus of Nazareth.
-The terrible consequence was, that even the long- \
i p s . lipcxi. 12-16 ; Isa. xlviii. 18.
11 The expression v$i rnxiJ is the same as in Num. xxi. 4, where it is rendered in the A.V., sThe soul of the people was much discouraged."
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 401
suffering of God as manifested in Christ was exhausted ; " Then said /, / will not feed you : that which dieth, let it die ; and that which perisheth (or is cut off }, let it perish ; and those that remain, let each one eat the flesh of another " all which became terribly and literally true when, after the rejection of the Good Shepherd, the terrible calamities of war, famine, pestilence, intestine strife, and mutual destruction overtook the poor deluded people.
The first outward visible sign of the rupture between the Shepherd and the sheep was the breaking of one of the staves: " And I took My staff Beauty (or Favour } and cut it asunder^ that I might break My covenant which I had made with all the peoples .
This staff was called DV3, noam " Beauty," or " Pleasantness," or " Favour " ; because, as already said above, it was the symbol of God s protection over them in keeping off the nations from attacking them from without.
The covenant which He says He will break is not the covenant which He made with the people. The word for people in the original is in the plural, and refers to the Gentile nations, and the covenant is that which God, so to say, made with the Gentile peoples on their behalf. When Israel was in God s favour and under His gracious protec tion, then He caused even their enemies to be at peace with them ; and when the Gentile nations gathered against them ready to devour, the Shepherd of Israel soon broke the arm of their strength and prevented them doing harm to His people. But when He ceased to be their defence, then they became a ready prey to the Gentile world-powers, which are well symbolised in the Bible by wild beasts " The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it."
Again, however, it is declared in the same word of prophecy that restored and converted Israel will be taken under the special protection of God, and a covenant will be made by Him on their behalf, not only with the nations, but with the beasts of the field. " In that day will I make a covenant for tJiem with the beasts of the field, and with the 26
fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground : and I will break tJie bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever ; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving- kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness : and thou shalt know that I am the Lord." *
We proceed to the iith verse: And it was broken (namely, the covenant ) in that day ; and thus tJie poor of t/te flock that watched Me (or gave heed unto Me ) knew that it was the word of JehovaJi"
The manifest proof that the covenant which the Shepherd of Israel had made with the nations on Israel s behalf was broken, served as a demonstration to the poor of the flock that what had been foretold was indeed the Word of God.
The point of time in the expression " in that day " is prophetic from the prophet s point of view, and refers to the time and events following the breaking off of the relations between the True Shepherd, whom the prophet represented, and the flock. It is true that he speaks of the breaking of the covenant with the nations on Israel s behalf as past, because in the vision which passed before his mind the things described had actually occurred. "If the prophecy," remarks Hengstenberg, " had been couched in literal terms, instead of being clothed in symbol, it would have run thus : When, therefore, My covenant, or treaty, with the nations is brought to an end, those who fear Me will discern in the fulfilment the divine character of this sentence of Mine upon Israel."
By the IKJn "W, aniyye hatson " the poor of the flock " we can understand (as already explained) nothing else than the believing remnant who were saved out of the " flock of slaughter." They are described as " HasJishomerim othi" rendered " that waited upon Me," in the Authorised Version ; and, " they that gave heed unto Me," in the Revised Version. Literally, it is those that " watched with
1 Hos. ii. 18-20.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 403
Me," or, " those that observed Me " that is, " kept their eyes constantly fixed on Me, ready to act according to My direction and will " a beautiful designation not only of the believing remnant of Israel, but of those from all nations who have learned in truth that what was spoken by prophets and apostles, and Christ Himself, was indeed the Word of the living God, and whose eyes are fixed upon Him with ready obedience to do His will.
We come now to vers. 12 and 13, which form perhaps the most difficult passage in the whole prophecy :
"And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire ; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver.
" And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the j house of the Lord"
As an indication that his service as shepherd was coming is to an end, he asks his wages. I need not again remind the reader that we have to do here with symbols and figures, ) and that the symbolical transaction in the vision in which ^ i the prophet was himself the chief actor was designed to set ie ! forth great spiritual truths.
That the prophet only represented Jehovah, the true is, Shepherd of Israel, who in fulness of time was especially to s: manifest Himself in this character in His only-begotten ns Son, the Messiah, comes out very clearly in these verses, he for the contemptible wages which they did offer, Jehovah on says (in ver. 1 3), ironically, is " the goodly price that I was prised at of them"
The wages ("9^, sakhar, " hire," or " reward "), which He actually sought from them for all His Shepherd care, was, as the commentators rightly understand, the spiritual fruit of His labours repentance, faith, true heart piety, humble obedience and grateful love. This is brought out clearly in the Lord s parable of the Vineyard, which is Israel, to whom He first sent His servants, and then His own Son, " that He might receive the fruits of it."
404 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
And although He has every right to demand this " hire," He leaves it to His professed people, upon whom such bounteous care and attention has been lavished by Him, to make a free return to Him of their love and gratitude in j \ order that the actual condition of their hearts towards Him may be thus tested. " Give me," He says, " my hire or reward/ for all that I have been and done for you, if you think well (lit., if it seem good in your eyes ), and if not, forbear . For, as has been well expressed by another writer, " God does not force our free will or constrain our service. He places life and death before us, and bids us choose life. By His grace alone we can choose Him ; but we can refuse His grace and Himself."
That which they did offer the prophet in return for His services is meant to express the black ingratitude of their hearts for the shepherd care of Jehovah. Instead of " wages," as Keil well expresses it, they offer Him an insult " so they weighed for My hire thirty pieces of silver" which was exactly the amount which, according to the law, was to be paid in compensation for a slave gored to death by an ox. 1 " And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it" (hishlikh " fling it " with contempt as a thing unclean 2 ) " unto the potter, the goodly price (or, the magnificence of the price ) that I was prised at of them : so I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them, in the Jwuse of Jehovah, unto the potter.
There are two or three important points in this passage which need explanation :
( i ) What is meant by casting to the potter ? Many different conjectures have been advanced in answer to this question. The most generally accepted explanation by evangelical writers is that given by Hengstenberg, namely, that it is equivalent to casting a thing into an unclean place. This explanation rests on the supposition that the
1 Ex. xxi. 32.
- The verb hishlikh is used for casting torn flesh to the dogs, Ex. xxii. 31 ; of u corpse which was cast unburied, Isa. xiv. 19 ; and in many other such connections ; and of idols " cast " to the moles and bats, Isa. ii. 20.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 405
potter who worked for the Temple had his workshop in the valley of Ben Hinnom, " which having been formerly the scene of the abominable worship of Moloch, was regarded with abhorrence as an unclean place after its defilement by Josiah, and served as the slaughter-house for the city. 1 But, as Keil observes with truth, " It by no means follows from Jer. xviii. 2 and xix. 2 (on which Hengstenberg bases his supposition), that this potter dwelt in the valley of Ben Hinnom."
On the contrary, the passages in Jeremiah which are referred to would rather lead us to the opposite conclusion, for when we read that God said to the prophet, " Go, and buy a potter s earthen bottle (or l pitcher ), and take of the elders of the people, and go forth unto the valley of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate Harsith " (or "pottery gate "), z it seems pretty clear that the pottery itself, where the pitcher was to be bought, stood inside the city gate, since he had to " go forth " from it toward the valley. But even if the potter had had his workshop in the valley of Hinnom, which was regarded as unclean, he would not necessarily have become unclean himself in consequence ; " And if he had been looked upon as unclean, he could not possibly have worked for the Temple, or supplied the cooking utensils for use in the service of God namely, for boiling the holy sacrificial flesh."
Without stopping to analyse here other unsatisfactory explanations, I would briefly state that the reason why the thirty pieces of silver which Jehovah ironically calls the " magnificence of the price " at which He was valued by them, were to be flung to the potter, was most probably because the potter was one of the lowest of the labouring classes, whose labour was estimated as of comparatively trifling value, and " whose productions, when marred by any trifling accident, could be easily replaced at an in significant expenditure." The phrase, " Throw to the potter," may perhaps have been " a proverbial expression for contemptuous treatment " ; but this also is only a con-
1 2 Kings xxiii. 10. 2 Jer. xix. I, 2.
406 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
jecture. That it is meant to express the valuelessness of a thing is pretty certain.
(2) In the command that the prophet should cast the ; ]* money to the potter, there is nothing said about his \v going to the Temple, but in the performance we read, jth " And I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them, J sn in the house of Jehovah, to the potter"
Hengstenberg understands this to mean that the money >. in was thrown there that it might be taken thence to the potter ; but I agree with another Bible student that, " as the words read they can only be understood as signifying that the potter was in the Temple when the money was thrown to him ; that he had either some work to do there, or that he had come to bring some earthenware for the Temple kitchen." * And the reason why the prophet went to the house of Jehovah was not merely to show that it was as the servant of the Lord and by His command that he was acting, but because " the Temple was the place where the people of the covenant were wont to assemble to present themselves before the Lord. In that holy place the awful repudiation on the part of the nation of Him, who was the Shepherd of Israel, was to be publicly made known. The base transaction (however done in a corner) was to be proclaimed upon the housetops. In the place where the solemn covenant between Jehovah and His people had so often been ratified by sacrifices, the fearful separation between the people of Israel and Himself was to be declared. What was done in the Temple was done in the presence of both parties to the covenant : in the presence of Jehovah, in whose honour the Temple had been erected, and in the presence of the nation, who, by its erection of that Temple, had accepted Jehovah as their Lord and God. In the presence of both parties the rejection of the Lord as the Shepherd of Israel was to be announced, and the dis solution of the covenant made by Jehovah to be publicly proclaimed by the act of His representative." 2
1 In chap. xiv. 20 there is a mention of earthenware "pots" as being used in the Temple. - Dr. C. H. H. Wright.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 407
We have now reached the place where we must refer more fully to the fulfilment of this prophecy in our Lord Jesus. As regards the solemn prediction of the chapter as a whole (when viewed in the light of other prophecies in the Old Testament), its chief points have been thus summarised :
(1) That before the destruction of Jerusalem, Jehovah, in the person of the Messiah, would appear as the Shepherd of Israel.
(2) That only " the poor of the flock " would attend to His word ; but the rest, both leaders and people, would reject and abhor Him.
(3) That the Good Shepherd should be valued at the price of a common slave.
(4) That the people would in consequence be given over to be the prey of the Gentile powers from without, and to civil feuds within. Now even the most superficial acquaintance with the Gospel narrative, and of the sub sequent history of the Jewish people, must lead one to see how strikingly all this has been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the events which took place in consequence of His rejection by His own nation.
If there had been no allusion at all in the New Testa ment to this prophecy, we should still, from the mere Gospel narrative, be led to see its true and full fulfilment in Christ. But the New Testament does cite vers. I 2 and i 3 as a direct prophecy of our Lord Jesus. After describ ing in chap. xxvi. the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, to whom the chief priests weighed thirty pieces of silver, and His condemnation to death by Pontius Pilate, at the instigation of the high priests and elders of the Jews, the evangelist Matthew proceeds :
" Then Judas, which betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us ? see thou to it. And he cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, and
408 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
departed ; and he went away and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver, and said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price ; and they gave them for the potter s field, as the Lord appointed me." l
It has been objected by Jews and others that there are certain discrepancies between the words of the prophecy and its fulfilment as recorded by Matthew. One of the alleged discrepancies is contained in the fact that " in the prophecy the thirty pieces of silver were weighed as wages for the shepherd," whereas in the Gospel narrative they are said to have been paid to Judas for the betrayal of Jesus.
" But, in truth, as soon as we trace back the form of the prophecy to its idea, the difference is resolved into harmony. The payment of the wages to the shepherd in the pro phetical announcement is simply the symbolical form in which the nation manifests its ingratitude for the love and fidelity shown towards it by the shepherd, and the sign that it will no longer have him as its shepherd, and therefore a sign of the blackest ingratitude and of hard-heartedness in return for the love displayed by the shepherd. The same ingratitude and the same hardness of heart are manifested in the resolution of the representatives of the Jewish nation, the high priests and elders, to put Jesus, their Saviour, to death, and to take Him prisoner by bribing the betrayer. The payment of thirty silverlings to the betrayer was, in fact, the wages with which the Jewish nation repaid Jesus for what He had done for the salvation of Israel ; and the contemptible sum which they paid to the betrayer was an expression of the deep contempt which they felt for Jesus.
" There is no great importance in this difference, that
1 Matt, xxvii. 3-10.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 409
here the prophet throws the money into the house of Jehovah to the potter; whereas, according to Matthew s account, Judas threw the silverlings into the Temple, and the high priests would not put the money into the Divine treasury, because it was blood-money, but applied it to the purchase of a potter s field, which received the name of a field of blood. For by this very fact not only was the prophecy almost literally fulfilled ; but, so far as the sense is concerned, it was so exactly fulfilled that every one could see that the same God who had spoken through the pro phet had, by the secret operation of His omnipotent power, which extends even to the ungodly, so arranged the matter that Judas threw the money into the Temple, to bring it before the face of God as blood-money, and to call down the vengeance of God upon the nation ; and that the high priest, by purchasing the potter s field for this money, which received the name of field of blood in consequence unto this day, perpetuated the memorial of the sin com mitted against their Messiah. Matthew indicates this in the words as the Lord commanded me, which correspond to and Jehovah said unto me, in ver. 1 3 of our pro phecy ; on which H. Aug. W. Meyer has correctly observed, That the words, " as the Lord commanded me," express the fact that the application of the wages of treachery to the purchase of the potter s field took place in accordance with the purpose of God, whose command the prophet had received. As God had directed the prophet how to proceed with the thirty silverlings, so was it with the antitypical ful filment of the prophecy by the high priests, and thus was the purpose of the Divine will accomplished. " l
There remains, however, one real difficulty in the citation of this prophecy by Matthew, namely, in the fact that Matthew quotes the words of Zechariah as that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet.
It was the attempt to justify the inerrancy of this quotation in Matthew, which, as I have shown in my " Introduction " to the second part of Zechariah, led the
410 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
earliest English critics, who were believing men, to the con clusion that these chapters in Zechariah were not attributed by the Jews to their right author, who, in truth, was not Zechariah, but Jeremiah. But, as I have tried to show, there is no basis in fact for this theory. A more elaborate attempt to justify the occurrence of Jeremiah s name in this passage in Matthew was first made by Grotius, and after wards developed by Hengstenberg. Stated in the briefest j form, the reason for the introduction of Jeremiah s name in i the place of that of Zechariah s is, according to these I writers explanation, " because, as far as the principal } features are concerned, Zechariah s prophecy in chap. xi. is | simply a renewal and repetition of the prophecy in Jer. xix. (or, according to others, of chaps, xviii. and xix.), and Zechariah announced a second fulfilment of that pro phecy." Or, to quote for the sake of elucidation a longer summary :
St. Matthew intentionally ascribed the words of Zechariah to Jeremiah, because he wished to impress upon his readers the fact that Zechariah s prediction was a reiteration of two fearful prophecies of Jeremiah (Jer. xviii., xix.), and should, like them, be accomplished in the rejection and destruction of the Jewish people. * He wished to remind them that " the field of blood," purchased with the money that testified the fulness of their guilt, was a part of that valley of the son of Hinnom which their fathers had made a " field of blood " before them, and where Jeremiah had twice by the symbol of a potter s vessel, announced their coming destruction. The words of the prophet, " Cast it to the potter," were in themselves sufficient to direct the attention of readers acquainted with the prophecies to those two chapters of Jeremiah ; but the manner in which St. Matthew introduces his quotation makes the allusion still more plain. He first relates the purchase of the potter s field, thereby pointing out the locality of Jeremiah s prophecy ; then he mentions the fact that it was called " the field of blood," thereby referring to a very similar expression in that prophet, " Behold the days
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 411
come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter " (Jer. xix. 6) ; and then cites the words of Zechariah, as spoken by Jeremiah, in order to make all mistake impossible. St. Matthew had, therefore, a direct purpose in introducing the name of Jeremiah ; it was to warn the Jews against the coming judgments. They fondly hoped that, as the chosen people of God, they were safe. St. Matthew points them to the potter s field, and thus reminds them of the calamities which had already come upon them for past sins, less heinous than that of which the potter s field now testifies. a
I have entered somewhat fully into this explanation because it has commended itself to many devout and scholarly Bible students ; but, at the same time, I must con fess that I myself do not feel at all positive of the connection between our passage in Zechariah and the particular pro phecy in Jeremiah to which reference has been made. The whole rests upon the presupposition (i) that the potter, of whom Jeremiah purchased the pot, had his workshop in the valley of Hinnom, which was regarded with abhorrence as an unclean place; (2) that Zechariah threw the thirty pieces of silver at the spot in that valley where the potter s workshop was, with evident and intentional allusion to Jeremiah s prophecy which the people are assumed to have had in their minds. But, as shown above, it is not at all proven that the potter in Jeremiah had his workshop in the
1 Dr. Alexander McCaul. This seems to be also the view of Dr. Alfred Edersheim. Speaking on " the potter s field," in the passage in Matthew, he says : " The very spot on which Jeremiah had been Divinely directed to prophesy
- against Jerusalem and against Israel, how was it now all fulfilled in the light of
the completed sin and apostasy of the people, as prophetically described by Zechariah ! This Tophet of Jeremiah, now that they had valued and sold at thirty shekels Israel s Messiah-Shepherd truly a Tophet and become a field of blood ! Surely, not an accidental coincidence this, that it should be the place of Jeremy s announcement of judgment : not accidental, but veritably a fulfilment of his prophecy ! And so St. Matthew, targuming this prophecy in form as in its spirit, and in true Jewish manner stringing to it the prophetic description furnished by Zechariah, sets the event before us as the fulfilment of Jeremy s prophecy." Edersheim, Life and 7 imes of Jesus the Messiah, vol. ii. p. 5?6-
valley of Hinnom, 1 and, as far as the words in Zechariah are concerned, the obvious sense of the words is that the money was thrown to the potter " in the house of Jehovah " or Temple.
Failing any other satisfactory explanation, we shall have to assume that the name of Jeremiah has crept into the passage in Matthew by error in one of the following ways : By a simple slip of memory, according to Augustine, Luther, Beza, Koehler, Keil, and almost all writers of the modern school ; or secondly, and to my mind much more probable, as a very old copyist s error more ancient than the date of any of the MSS which have come down to us. 2
The insult to the Shepherd of their offering Him for His hire nothing more than the price of a dead slave is fol lowed by the completion of the severance of the relations which existed between the Shepherd and flock, and the final giving over of the sheep to their own evil devices : " And I cut asunder Mine other (or second } staff, even Bands (or Binders ), to destroy the brotherhood between Judah and between Israeli
The retention by the Shepherd of this second staff for some time after the first had already been broken, is probably meant to indicate His reluctance to give up the flock which had been so dear to Him, and His waiting to the very end to be gracious to them if they had but turned from their evil ways. His very request for His "wages," or " hire," after the first staff was broken, was really, if they
1 It is clear, however, from Matt, xxvii. etc., that in our Lord s time there was a spot in that valley which was known as "the potter s field," probably because of the accumulation of potsherds and debris from potteries, or, as some suppose, because it furnished a sort of clay suitable for potters ware.
2 In connection with this two suggestions have been made, either of which is quite probable, (a) That in the original MS the name Zax^plov (Zechariah) stood in abbreviated form as Zpiov, which a very early copyist mistook for Ipiov (the abbreviation for Iepe/j.aiov Jeremiah), and thus the error was afterwards perpetuated ; (3) that in the original text of the evangelist there was no name at all, but simply "as was spoken by the prophet" 5t& rov -irpo^Tov a formula which Matthew uses again and again (see i. 22, ii. 5-15, xiii. 35, etc.) ; and that the early copyist made a double error of inserting a name which was not in the original, and that a wrong one.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 413
had only properly understood it, a call to repentance ; but instead of " fruit " as the result of His care and blessed labours, they brought Him forth the " wild grapes " of con tempt and black ingratitude. And thus reluctantly He had to give over " the dearly beloved of His soul," not only into the hands of their enemies without, which was symbolised by the breaking of the first staff called " Noam" but the still more terrible calamity of civil strife and destructive feuds among themselves, which is symbolised by the breaking of the staff called ffobhlim (" Bands " or " Binders ").
The ninx, ac/iavah, " brotherhood," which was to be de stroyed " between Judah and between Israel," is not to be understood in the sense " that the unity of the nation would be broken up again in a manner similar to that in the days of Rehoboam, and that two hostile nations would be formed out of one people," although the disruption of national unity which took in the days of Jeroboam may be referred to as an illustration of that which would occur again in a more serious form. " The schism of Jeroboam had a weakening and disintegrating effect on the nation of the twelve tribes, and the dissolution of the brotherhood here spoken of was to result in still greater evil and ruin ; for Israel, deprived of the Good Shepherd, was to fall into the power of the foolish, or evil, shepherd, who is depicted at the close of the prophecy."
The preposition P?, bein, which is twice repeated, has the meaning not only of" between" but also of " among" * and the formula, House of Judah and House of Israel, or simply, "Judah and Israel," is, as we have had again and again to notice, this prophet s inclusive designation of the whole ideally (and to a large extent already actually) reunited one people. I think, therefore, that we may rightly render the sentence " to destroy the brotherhood among Judah and among Israel " that is to say, among the entire nation. The consequence of it would be the fulfilment of the threat in the 9th verse : " Let them which are left eat every one the
1 See, e.g., Isa. xliv. 4.
414 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
flesh of another" solemn and awful words, which, as already shown above, had their first literal fulfilment in the party feuds and mutually destructive strife, and in the terrible " dissolution of every bond of brotherhood and of our common nature, which made the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans a proverb for horror, and precipitated its destruction."
There remains yet one act in this prophetic drama which sets forth the terrible fact that as a consequence of their rejection of the Good Shepherd they would be given over to the domination of one who would be the very opposite of Him Who came to seek and to save that which was lost.
" And Jehovah said unto me> Take unto thee yet again the instruments of a foolish shepherd"
The word liy, od (" yet again ") connects this action with the previous one (vers. 48), for it implies that the prophet had already acted in the capacity, and had had in his hands the emblems of the shepherd s office once before. The adjective y)X evili (the sound of which is very much like the English word evil) expresses more than the English rendering "foolish" given in this passage. It may almost be rendered " wicked." l " Folly and sin were almost identical terms in the eyes of the sacred writers," and the word is frequently used as the synonym for ungodliness? 1
What the instruments of the foolish shepherd were, and in what respects they differed from those of the Good Shepherd, are matters for speculation, since we are not told. Hengstenberg supposes that the " instruments of the foolish shepherd consisted of a strong stick mounted with iron, with which the sheep were hurt and wounded, whereas the Good Shepherd was wont to keep the sheep in order with a thin staff and gentle strokes " ; but this is only conjecture.
1 See Job v. 3, where the same word is used.
2 See Ps. xiv. I ; Prov. i. 7, etc.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 415
The interpretation of this symbolical act is given by God Himself: " For I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which sJiall not visit (or observe] or care for ) that which is cut off (ex perishing }, neither shall he seek those that be scattered?- nor heal that which is broken ; neitJier shall he feed that which is sound (lit., standethl i.e., the strong), but he sJiall eat the flesh of the fat, and shall tear their hoofs in pieces"
The heartlessness and cruelty of this evil shepherd is strikingly described first in a negative, and then in a positive, manner. Not only will he be utterly indifferent alike to the needs of those who are ready to perish as to those who are still sound, but he will positively devour the flock. He will even " tear their hoofs in pieces," not " by driving them along rough and stony roads," as Ewald and others explain, but " so that when he consumes the sheep he even splits or tears in pieces the claws to seize upon and swallow the last morsel of flesh or fat." 2
And the most solemn fact in this forecast is that God says, " / will raise up " such a shepherd in the land. Yes, He will raise him up in the same sense as He raised up the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans, i.e., as His scourge upon a godless generation.
And the readiness of the " sheep of slaughter " to follow such a shepherd will be but part of the punishment for their rejection of the Good Shepherd.
But who is meant by this foolish or wicked shepherd ?
Jewish commentators interpret it of Herod ; 3 some Christian interpreters, like Hengstenberg, apply it to " all the evil native Jewish rulers collectively," who, subsequent
1 The word is tyjn, hanaar, and means a youth or young man (rendered in the A. V. "the young one "), but it is never used of the young of animals.
Moreover, the mention of the young of the flock would not be suitable here, since there would be no need to seek them, "for lambs which feed beside their mothers do not generally go astray."
The R.V. and modern scholars generally have adopted the explanation of Gesenius, that na ar is an abstract substantive meaning " scattering," and used here for the concrete " that which is scattered."
- So, e.g., R. Abraham of Toledo, quoted by Kimchi.
416 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
to the rejection of Christ, oppressed and devoured the flock and ultimately brought about their own ruin ; others again identify him with the imperial Roman power. Thus, in the words of one of the advocates of this view, " the Jews rejected Christ, the King of Israel, and accepted the itheo Emperor of Rome. In the madness of their rage against ! Antk Jesus of Nazareth, they cried out : We have no king but sorro Caesar. They obtained their choice, and found it bitterness : ;reat in the latter end." "The description" (in ver. 16), the Ijth same writer proceeds, " is given in language suitable to the |M, character of an evil shepherd under which the Roman joarti; Empire is described. It is strikingly similar in meaning to jmi that given of the fourth, or Roman word-empire in the , Book of Daniel, as a wild beast more dreadful, terrible, and i^i strong than those beasts that were before it, furnished with L t great iron teeth and brazen claws, devouring, breaking in Ifak pieces, and stamping even the residue of its prey under its h^ feet (Dan. vii. 7, 19, 23).*
I have set forth this view at some length, because I p believe that a reference to Rome as the more immediate l^ scourge of God in the punishment of Israel after their j a ; r rejection of Christ is probably included in this prophecy, and this is in accordance with the explanation I have given of the words in the 6th verse, " I will deliver the men every one . . . into the hand of his king." But whatever partial reference to Imperial Rome there may be in this scripture, and however many evil and foolish shepherds there have already arisen since the words were uttered who have devoured the Jewish flock, the full and final fulfilment of this solemn prophecy will take place in the final phase of the development of the fourth great world-power (i.e., the Roman), when amid the ten horns, or kingdoms, there shall come up " a little horn " who shall be master of them all, and in whom all the beast-like qualities of apostate anti- Christian world-power shall be concentrated and reach their climax.
1 C. H. H. Wright.
2 See above the remarks on ver. 6.
REJECTION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD 417
For just as the Good Shepherd, whose part the prophet
cted in the first part of the chapter, is in the highest and
ruest sense none other than the Messiah, so the " foolish,"
r wicked, shepherd is in the last resort none other than
he one who is in every sense his opposite the personal
Antichrist, under whose brief reign all Israel s previous
orrows and sufferings shall reach their climax in the final
reat tribulation ; even though it may be granted that, as
n the case of the Christ, so of the Antichrist, there have
seen, so to say, shadowy precursors in whom a certain
artial historical fulfilment of the prophecy may be dis-
And he will indeed be the " foolish " shepherd ; for as he Messiah is sometimes spoken of as Wisdom personified, o the Antichrist, in spite of his being wise in all the wisdom which is from beneath, will be the very embodi ment of folly ; for (to quote from an old writer) " since the ^xtremest folly consists in the extremest wickedness, he l be the most foolish who reacheth the highest impiety, md this he will do by arrogating to himself divinity, and laiming divine honours."
But the career of this evil shepherd shall be short, and lis end will be sudden destruction " Woe to the idol (or worthless } shepherd" the prophecy ends, or, as some vould render, the shepherd of " nothingness? or " useless- less." * This is God s estimate and description of him, even vhile he exalts himself unto heaven and seeks to be wor- hipped as God " that leaveth (or forsaketh ) the flock "
tnd thus proves himself a false shepherd and hireling, 2 " the \word shall be upon his arm and his right eye" the The arm is the emblem of might and the eye of intel- gence the two things in which the one who will sum p in himself anti-Christian world-power will trust, and in hich he will boast himself. Very well, he shall be smitten
1 The word S Sx, eltl, is frequently used as an adjective to describe idols as ain and useless (see Lev. xix. 4, xxvi. I ; Ps. xcvi. 5, and other places). In the rophets it is often used also as a name for idols. The probable underlying tymological idea is that of vanity or nothingness. John x. 12, 13. 27
4 i 8 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
in these very parts "his arm (the emblem of strength) shall be utterly withered up, and his right eye (the symbol and instrument of intelligence) shall be utterly darkened? And this shall be the end of him who shall be slain with; the breath of Messiah s mouth, and be destroyed by the: brightness of His appearing.