The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 19

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The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah by David Baron
The Smitten Shepherd and the Scattered Sheep



(CHAPTER xm. 7-9)

47 >

Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man that is My Fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts : smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered ; and I will turn My hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off and die ; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried : they shall call on My Name, and I will hear them : I will say, It is My people ; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God.



"T "T TITH the 7th verse begins a new section in this last yy great prophecy (chaps, xii. xiv.), which has for its main theme the judgment by means of which Israel will be finally purged and transformed into the holy people of Jehovah. It is in the first instance an expansion and enlarge ment of what has gone before. But, whereas the preceding section (xii. I xiii. 6) announces how the Lord will protect Israel and Jerusalem against the pressure of the world-powers, how He will smite their enemies, and not only endow His people with miraculous power which ensures their victory, but also by pouring out His spirit of grace and of supplica tions upon them, lead them to a knowledge of the guilt they have incurred by putting the Messiah to death, and to repentance and renovation of life ; the second half (xiii. 7 xiv. 21) depicts the judgment which will fall on Jerusalem itself, by means of which the ungodly shall be cut off, and the righteous remnant and the land itself be purified and made fit to be the centre of God s kingdom on the earth.

This second half is divided again into two parts, the former of which (chap. xiii. 7-9) gives a summary of the contents, whilst the latter (chap, xiv.) expands it into fuller detail. 1


From the false prophet " wounded in the house of his friends," or " lovers," upon whom his attention had been fixed in the verses immediately preceding, the Spirit of God abruptly turns the prophetic gaze of Zechariah on to

1 Condensed from the valuable remarks of Keil.



another and altogether different figure, who is now made to pass before his vision, and whose experience, if not fore shadowed, is at least suggested by the treatment which had been meted out to the false prophet. He was the true prophet, and much more than a prophet, but He also was " wounded," yea, " smitten " even unto death, in the house of His friends (i.e., " His own " nation), who in their blind and ungodly zeal even thought that they rendered God a service in slaying the Prince of Life ; because, having become alienated in their hearts from God, they did not recognise Him Who is the very " image of the invisible God," and charged Him with blasphemy, because He claimed to speak to them in the Name of God, as one who is " equal with God."

But this great national crime, which has occasioned them unparalleled sorrow and suffering, was nevertheless overruled of God to the greatest good for the world as a whole, and is the very ground of Israel s future national redemption. The slaying of the Messiah, therefore, which, in chap. xii. 1014, is viewed as being the act of the Jewish nation, of which they shall yet repent with such deep and godly sorrow, is in the passage now before us described as an act of God. "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man that is My Fellow." This aspect of Messiah s sufferings and death, namely, that they were inflicted upon Him by God in order to make His soul " an offering for sin," is set forth more fully in Isa. liii., where we read that " / / pleased Jehovah to bruise Him ; He fiath put Him to grief" etc. It was indeed by the hand of man that " He was led as a lamb to the slaughter " ; but, " human malice acting freely " could do no more than what " His hand and His counsel had fore ordained to come to pass." * Yes, " the envy and hatred of Satan, the blind fury of the chief priests, the contempt of Herod, the guilty cowardice of Pilate, freely accomplished that death which God had before decreed for the salvation of the world." 2

1 Acts iv. 28. " Pusey.


But let us look more carefully at this remarkable passage: "O sword, awake!" (Jierebh urt) the sword being addressed as a person, and called upon to rouse itself, as it were, from sleep in order to execute Divine justice. 1

But upon whom shall it fall ? Not, in this instance, upon the wicked and the ungodly, but, mystery of mysteries! upon Him who is not only absolutely innocent and holy, but who stands in the nearest and closest relation ship to Jehovah. This would be the most inexplicable thing in God s moral government of the universe were it not for the wonderful counsel of God in the salvation of man revealed in the Scriptures, according to which the Messiah willingly becomes the Lamb of God in order to save a lost world, and is " wounded (lit, pierced through ) for our transgressions, bruised (or crushed ) for our iniquities," and " pours out His soul unto death," in order that sinners might not only be saved from the penalty of their sin, but obtain eternal life.

" Against My Shepherd" Jehovah Himself is " the Shepherd of Israel," but He fulfils all that is implied in this relationship and office mediately, in and through the Messiah. This is fully set forth in Ezek. xxxiv., where, after announcing that He will Himself" seek" and "save," " heal " and " strengthen," " feed " and " satisfy," His now scattered flock, He says : " / will set up one shepherd over them, and He sliall feed them, even my servant David" (whom the Jewish commentators themselves identify with the Messiah, " David s greater Son "). " He shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd? God, therefore, calls Him " My Shepherd," for He is not only specially called and appointed by Him to this office, but because He is in the fullest sense His Representative, in and through whom the shepherd relationship between God and His people is realised.

1 Compare for a similar personification of the sword of Jehovah Jer. xlvii. 6, 7. As already explained in a note on chap. xii. 10, the sword is used in a general way as an emblem of death, or as a weapon used for killing, and is not intended to describe the manner of Messiah s death.


The unique and peculiar relationship between this " Shepherd " and Jehovah is fully brought out in the words which follow : "JVOJ? I?} f>y ( #/ gebher amithz) " the man that is my Fellow." The word JVOJ? (amit/i) is found else where in the Hebrew Bible only in Leviticus. It seems to be a substantive, and denotes " fellowship," " neighbour ship," in the abstract. But the only other place in the Hebrew Bible where this word is found, namely, in Leviti cus, it is used only as the synonym of HN (" brother "), in the concrete sense of the nearest one. 1 The two words gebher (" man ") and " amithi " (" my Fellow ") must there fore be regarded as apposites, and have been properly so rendered in the English Bible.

Some rationalistic writers have sought to identify the smitten Shepherd in this passage with " the foolish shepherd" in chap. xi. 1517, who is permitted to destroy the flock in punishment for their rejection of the Good Shepherd, and who is himself in the end smitten with a sword on his right arm and his right eye. 2 If the expression, " My Shepherd," stood alone, there might be some slight plausibility for this view, for the " foolish," or evil shepherd is, in a sense, also raised up of God as a scourge on the " sheep of slaughter " after their rejection of the Good Shepherd ; but the further description of the Shepherd in this passage as gebher amithi " the man who is my Fellow," or " my nearest one " implies much more than mere appointment to this office by Jehovah. More also than mere "unity or community of vocation," or that he is so styled because he had to feed the flock like Jehovah, and as His representative.

" No owner of a flock, or lord of a flock, would call a hired or purchased shepherd his amitk. And so God would not apply this epithet to any godly or ungodly man whom He might have appointed shepherd over a nation.

1 Comp. Lev. xxv. 15. It occurs altogether eleven times in Leviticus. Pusey observes : "It stands alone in the dialects, having probably been formed by Moses to express more than " neighbour " " our common nature," as we speak.

2 See the exposition of that passage, page 414 ff.


^ s The idea of nearest one (or fellow) involves not only ^ similarity in vocation, but community of physical or laa spiritual descent, according to which he whom God calls se - His neighbour cannot be a mere man, but can only be one m who participates in the Divine nature, or is essentially Cr - Divine. The Shepherd of Jehovah, whom the sword is to

ta smite, is therefore no other than the Messiah, who is also

& , identified with Jehovah in chap. xii. I o ; or the Good in , Shepherd, who says of Himself, I and My Father are one -- (John x. 30)."

No, the Shepherd of this passage is the Good Shepherd, who, in chap. xi. 4-14, is mysteriously identified with Jehovah, the same over whom the nation will mourn with a deep universal mourning in the day when the spirit of grace and of supplication is poured upon them, and their eyes are opened to perceive that in piercing Him they pierced Jehovah. 1

The Jews accused our Lord Jesus of blasphemy, because He claimed not only to have come from God, but that He was " equal with God " ; or because when speaking of Himself as " the Good Shepherd " who layeth down His life for the sheep, He said (with probable allusion to this very passage in Zechariah) : " / and My Father are one"

It was indeed a mystery passing mere human compre hension how this could be true of a man who stood in their midst. But this mystery faces us, not only in the pages of the New Testament, but in the inspired Scriptures of the prophets. There, too, the promised Redeemer is depicted as a babe born in Bethlehem, " whose goings forth are from everlasting," 2 " a child born " in the midst of the Jewish nation, whose name is " Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace," 3 a son of David, yet Jehovah Tzidkenu, 4 a " man," and yet Jehovah s " Fellow," or equal. This mystery, like others in the pages of the Old and New Testaments, can be solved only by faith in things which are revealed, to the knowledge of

1 Chap. xii. 10. - Mic. v. 2.

3 Isa. ix. 6. 4 Jer. xxiii. 6.


which man can never attain by a mere process of reason ing.

But when thus laid hold of with a pure heart and in childlike simplicity, we are brought also to understand that the doctrine of the twofold nature of the Messiah the fact that He is Man according to His human nature and, according to His Divine nature " God blessed for ever," is a necessary part in the Divine philosophy of Redemption unfolded in the Scriptures, for it is only a Divine Saviour who could redeem man from sin and death ; only one in whose person the human and the Divine meet who can be the true Mediator between God and man, in and through whom the broken fellowship between heaven and earth, between the Holy God and fallen man, can be fully restored. Only as man, and one who in all points was tempted even as we are, could He become the compassionate High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and able with a perfect human sympathy to enter into all our griefs and sorrows ; but only as the Holy One, who Himself was pure from sin the everlasting Son of the Father in whom dwelt " the fulness of the Godhead bodily," could He effectually succour and deliver us, and lift us out of our own innate wretchedness and sin.

Therefore, this doctrine of the twofold nature of the Messiah, which to the unbelieving is such an occasion of stumbling, is to the child of God a source of unspeakable comfort, and an occasion for unceasing praise.

But this is somewhat of a digression. To return to the passage immediately before us, it is interesting to observe that Jewish commentators themselves have admitted that the word " f amithi n ("my Fellow") implies equality with God ; " only since they own not Him who was God and Man they must interpret it of a false claim on the part of man," overlooking that it is God Himself who thus speaks of the shepherd of his text. 1

1 Aben Ezra (1088-1177) interprets it of the Gentile kings, who in their arro gance are styled Divine, and thus called themselves "God s fellows." Kimchi adopts the same interpretation, adding, "thinks himself my Fellow." Rabbi


The immediate consequence of the smiting of the Shepherd is that " tJie sheep shall be scattered" or, as the Hebrew verb more accurately expresses it, " that the sheep may be scattered" For, although the slaying of the Messiah is (as stated above) overruled of God to the eventual gathering and blessing, not only of the Jewish nation, but of those many millions of " other sheep " from among the Gentiles, who are, as the result of Messiah s death, brought into the one fold yet the fact of the removal by a violent death, as the direct consequence of national sin and rebellion against God, of Him who was appointed to be their Shepherd, could not but bring calamity on the flock. And this the consequent disaster which it would bring on the people is the primary thought associated with the slaying of the Messiah in this particular passage. It announces the fact that Jehovah will scatter the flock by smiting the shepherd : " That is to say, He will give it up to the misery and destruction to which a flock without a shepherd is exposed."

The flock which is to be thus " scattered " is neither the human race nor the Christian Church, as some commentators would have us think, but the Jewish nation, or those which the Good Shepherd was appointed to feed, according to chap. xi. 1-14, but who, because of their wilful obduracy, are designated " sheep of slaughter"

It was primarily fulfilled when, after the crucifixion of our Lord, " the people of the prince that shall come " x that is, the Romans destroyed the city and the sanctuary,

Izaak of Troki, in the Chizzuk Etnunah, interprets the whole of the King of Ishmael, "called also the King of Turkey," who in his pride and greatness of his heart "accounts himself like God." This is a modification and enlargement of the interpretation given by Abrabanel, who explains the words " My Shepherd " of Mohammed, and the words " the man my Fellow " of our Lord Jesus, in a bitter controversial spirit, thus: The words, "the Man my Fellow," are spoken of Jesus the Nazarene, for, according to the sentiment of the children of Edom (i.e., the Christians) and their faith, He was the Son of God, and of the same substance, and therefore He is called, according to their words, " the Man my Fellow," overlooking the fact pointed out above that it is not man but Jehovah Himself who calls Him " My Shepherd " and " My Fellow." 1 Dan. ix. 26.


and brought about the new and more universal phase of the dispersal of the Jewish people among all the nations of the earth, which is continued to this day.

But while this terrible judgment would fall on the nation, a little remnant would remain the object of His compassion and care. This is expressed in the words D njfon hy S T nia^ni (vehashibhothi yadi al hatsoarim} " I will turn My hand upon (or back upon ) the little (or small ones)."

The idiomatic phrase, " to turn (or bring back ) the hand over a person," is usually used in connection with the infliction of judgment ; as, for instance, in Amos i. 8, " I will turn My hand over (or against Ekron " ; or Ps. Ixxxi. 14: "I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned My hand over ( against ) their adversaries." But I agree with Keil, Hitzig, Dr. Wright, and others, that the phrase is used here in a good sense, namely, that God will turn His hand upon " the little ones," for salvation, though that salvation may be brought about by means of chastisement. It occurs in this sense in Isa. i. 25, "in relation to the grace which the Lord will manifest towards Jerusalem by purifying it from its dross " ; and it is used here in Zech. xiii., also in that same sense as vers. 8 and 9 clearly show, according to which the judgment which is to come upon Israel in consequence of the Shepherd being smitten, will only be the cause of ruin to the greater portion of the nation, whereas it will bring salvation to the remnant.

The particular form of the word translated " little ones " (tsoarim) does not occur elsewhere in the Hebrew- Bible. Its true signification is, " those who appear as little" " those who make themselves small, or," the patient, the humble ones. 1

They are to be identified with " the poor of the flock " of chap. xi. 7, namely, the poor and righteous in the nation who suffer oppression from the godless majority.

i is not equivalent to the adjective Q TJJ?. It is the active participial form of the verb iyy, and is found only in this passage.


The prophetic message, then, in the whole of the yth verse is briefly this : The Shepherd would be smitten on account of the sin of the people, who would in consequence be scattered, but Jehovah would remember in mercy a little remnant of the flock, namely, the poor in spirit, the humble ones who are little in their own eyes, and who give heed to the word of the Lord. 1

The prophecy finds its fulfilment in Christ : " The Shepherd was slain " ; as another writer truly observes : " When Jesus of Nazareth was crucified an act ascribed in the New Testament no less to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, on the one hand, than to the malice of men on the other." And there, in the same inspired narrative which tells of the smiting of the Shepherd, we read also of another fulfilment of the scattering of the flock, which is, so to say, additional to the primary mean ing of the prophecy, but is not altogether unconnected with the scattering of Israel and the saving of the remnant.

On the night of His betrayal, after He had partaken for the last time of the Paschal Supper, and transformed it to be henceforth the memorial supper of His death " till He come," our Lord Jesus said to His disciples : "All ye shall be offended in Me this night, for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee." 2

The reference is to this passage in Zechariah, though the quotation is a free one, and does not in every detail correspond with the words in the Hebrew. The meaning of the passage is, however, preserved intact. Where the words are slightly modified, it is (as is usually the case with free quotations from the Old Testament in the pages of the New) designedly so, with a view to throw a new, or additional, meaning on Old Testament prophecy in the light of the fuller unfolding of God s purpose brought about by the actual advent of the Messiah. Thus, the address to the sword to awake and smite, resolves itself in the quota-

1 Chap. xi. ii. 2 Matt. xxvi. 31, 32 ; Mark xiv. 27 (R.V.).



tion into its actual meaning, " / will smite" The offend ing of the disciples took place when Jesus was taken prisoner, and they all fled. This flight was a prelude to the dispersion of the flock at the death of the Shepherd. The closing words of our Lord, " I will go before you into Galilee," is, I think, rightly taken by Keil and others as a practical exposition of the words of the prophet, " / will turn My hand upon the little (or humble ) ones," inasmuch as it was a promise of their re-gathering to Him and of His care for them after His resurrection.

But, to repeat, this special fulfilment did not exhaust the meaning of the prophecy as some erroneously think. " The correct view," to quote again from an English writer, " appears to be that the desertion of Christ in the hour of trial by His most faithful followers, whereby they were scattered every man to his own, and left the Saviour alone x a desertion which added so much to the bitterness of that hour of darkness was indeed of importance in itself, but still more so as prefiguring the rejection of Christ by the Jewish nation, and the terrible scattering of the flock of Israel." 2

That the primary reference of the words, " the flock shall be scattered," etc., is to the Jewish nation, is placed beyond a doubt by the verses which follow, for the 8th verse sets forth the misery which the dispersion of the flock brings upon Israel, and the 9th verse shows how the words, " I will turn My hand upon (or, back upon ) the little ones," would be realised in the final deliverance and salva tion of the remnant : " And it shall come to pass that in all the land, saitli Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off, shall die, and the third part shall remain therein. And I will bring the third part through (lit., into ) the fire, and refine (or melt ) them as silver is refined"

The idiomatic expression DW ""S {pi sttnaynri] is found in Deut. xxi. 1 7 and 2 Kings ii. 9, and is primarily used of the " double portion " inherited by the first-born ; but here, in Zechariah, it means two-thirds, as is shown by the

1 John xvi. 32. 2 C. H. H. Wright.


use of the word hq shelishith (" the third part ") in the second half of the verse.

A parallel to this scripture is found in Ezek. v. 1 2, where the nation is also divided into three parts : " A third part of thee (shelishith} shall die with the pestilence, . . . and a third part shall fall by the sword, . . . and a third part 1 will scatter unto all the winds"

" The whole of the Jewish nation," observes Hengsten- berg, " is introduced here as an inheritance left by the Shepherd who has been put to death, which inheritance is divided into three parts: death claiming the privilege of the first-born, and so receiving two portions, and life one a division similar to that which David made in the case of the Moabites." * The literalness of this division must not, however, be pressed. Isaiah, for instance, 2 speaks of only a tenth part as escaping from the great purging judgment. Both expressions, as Dr. Wright properly observes, are to be regarded as emblematic for a comparatively small number, and not as describing the exact proportion of the remnant that should escape.

The emphatic word, aa (" therein "), or literally, " in it," which is twice repeated, refers to the land and not to the flock, as some interpreters explain : " In all the land . . . two-thirds in it shall be cut off, shall die" It seems to me, therefore, that, though the fulfilment may not be entirely limited to it, yet, that the reference is chiefly to the judg ments which would come on the people in the land, namely, immediately after the " smiting of the Shepherd," while they were yet recognised as a nation in Palestine, though no longer in a nationally independent condition ; and again after the restoration of a representative remnant in unbelief at the end of the long parenthetical period, when God s national dealings with them shall be resumed, and His long controversy with them as a nation on account of their great sin finally settled on the same soil where it origin ated.

And with what terrible literalness has this Divine fore-

1 2 Sam. vjii. 2. * Isa. vi. 13.


cast been verified! During the futile, but heroic, struggle with the great Roman power, which commenced so soon after the crucifixion of the Messiah, and lasted seven years, about one million and a half Jews perished in the land by the sword and by famine and pestilence. Great numbers of Jews were crucified by the Romans outside the walls of Jerusalem, while many thousands were taken in ships to Egypt and sold as slaves. Then, not to speak of the great numbers of Jews who were during the same time done to death in different parts of the Roman Empire, only some sixty years after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, a calamity of almost equal magnitude overtook the Jewish people " throughout all the land," consequent on their renewed rising under the false Messiah, Bar Cochba. 1

Then, after the " two-thirds" in the land were " cut off," the remainder of " the sheep of the flock " were " scattered " ; for a new stage the universal phase in the dispersion of the Jewish nation took place consequent on the culmination of Israel s apostasy in the rejection of their Messiah.

Throughout all these centuries the Jews have suffered as no other nation on earth. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, according to reliable computations, there were only about one million Jews left in the whole world after the centuries of oppression and unparalleled sufferings which they had had to endure, especially throughout the dark Middle Ages.

And there is yet a climax to all their sufferings to be reached in the "Day" of Jacob s final great "trouble," 2 when they are once again " in the land " and God s " fire " is kindled in Zion, and His " furnace " set up in Jerusalem 3

1 Five hundred and eighty thousand Jews are said, by Jewish historians, to have perished by the sword in the siege at the fall of Bithar, besides those who perished by famine and sickness. "Judea was almost wholly a wilderness." Fifty castles and two hundred and eighty-five villages were entirely destroyed. At the yearly market, by Abraham s Oak, at Hebron, Jewish slaves were sold at a nominal price ; a Jew was worth no more than a horse. See the summary of Jewish History since the Dispersion, in The Shepherd of Israel and His Scattered Flock.

2 Jer. xxx. 7. 3 Isa. xxxi. 9.


for the final purging of the nation. And yet in this very prophecy we see mercy blended with judgment.

Two-thirds may be "cut off" and die, but the nation can never be utterly destroyed. There is always " a third," or " a tenth," which forms the indestructible " holy seed," * which God takes care to preserve as the nucleus of the great and blessed nation through whom His holy will and His wonderful purposes in relation to this earth shall yet be realised. " I will make a full end," He says, " of all nations whither I have scattered thee, but I will not make a full end of thee."

Hence, no fires of tribulation, however hot, have been able utterly to consume them ; and no waters of affliction, however deep, to drown them.

And the end of the Lord in all the chastisements and judgments with which He has to visit His people on account of their great and manifold sins, is not their destruction, but that they may, by these very judgments, as well as by the abundant mercy which He will reveal to them " in that day," be brought as a nation fully, and for ever, to know Him, in all the Divine perfections of His glorious character, so as to be able to fulfil their fore ordained mission to show forth His praise, and to proclaim His glory among the nations.

Hence the " refining " and the " trying," or " testing," of even " the third part," or little remnant, as set forth in the 9th verse. This, I believe, refers more particularly to the remnant in the land at the time of the very end, immedi ately before their final glorious deliverance. Then, particularly, He will " refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried," for in the words of Malachi, " He will be like a refiner s fire, and like fullers sope." He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, " and shall purge and purify them that they may offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness." 2

But from the midst of this fiery furnace of tribulation " tJiey shall call on My Name and I will hear them : I will

1 Isa. vi. 13. 2 Mai. iii. 2-4. See also Ps. Ixvi. 10-12.


say, Ammi-hu. It is My people ; and they shall say, Yehovah Elohoi, Jehovah is my Godl

Blessed and most glorious consummation! The cove nant relationship between God and His people, so long interrupted though never broken, is restored again ; she that was, during the time of her wanderings from her God, Lo-ammi " not My people," is"Ammz" 2 "My people" again ; the national vow of Israel by which they avouched Jehovah to be their God, to walk in His ways, and ever to hearken to His voice, is now renewed, never to be broken again. 3 Well might the prophets contemplating the day when restored and converted Israel shall once again be, as it were, pressed to God s own heart, and in view of the glorious issues which shall result to the whole world from this restoration of covenant relations between God and " His own " people call upon the whole creation to join in a grand chorus of praise.

" Sing, O heavens ; and be joyful, O earth ; And break forth into singing, O mountains : For Jehovah hath comforted His people, And will have compassion upon His afflicted? 4

1 See Jer. xxxii. 38-42 ; Ezek. xxxvii. 23-28, and other places in the former prophets, of which this is an inspired echo and reiteration.

3 Hos. i. 9-11. * Deut. xxvi. 17-19. 4 Isa. xlix. 13.