For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

11:1.  “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.”

Having described in the previous chapter the deliverance of His earthly people in the now impending Tribulation, the Lord here goes back to reveal something of the terrible judgments they will undergo because of rebellion against Him in the long weary centuries that have passed since that day when the prophet addressed the remnant returned from Babylon. 

While certainly the literal language describes the devastation of the land by the Romans in AD 70, and possibly that which Rome revived will cause also in the Great Tribulation, the fact remains that the message embraces far more than the physical destruction of Palestine.

Lebanon is used here, not only literally, but also as a synonym for the whole nation; and the fire, for Divine judgment; while the cedars represent the leaders of the people.  Because they would continue to lead astray future generations, as they had those of the past, the leaders would be destroyed, along with those who have been willing to follow their evil example.

The immediate judgment portrayed here is clearly that which came upon them in AD 70 and the years immediately preceding it, when, according to Josephus, “A million and a half perished in the Jewish war, and one million one hundred thousand at the fall of Jerusalem.”  But there can be no question that the ultimate judgments in view are those of the Great Tribulation, those judgments bringing a remnant both of Israel and of the nations to repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but bringing destruction to every unbeliever, Gentile as well as Jew, when Christ will have concluded His judgment of the nations, and banished every unbeliever into hell.

11:2.  “Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.”

All the different strata of society appear to be represented here by the fir trees and the oaks: the fir speaking of what was fair in man’s view; and the oaks of Bashan, of what appeared to be enduring or permanent, but also only by man’s wrong estimate; and while “the forest of the vintage” may literally refer to the forests of the Jordan valley, or to an abundance of vines, it may speak here metaphorically of all that contributed to man’s pleasure, for wine, the product of the fruit of the vine, speaks of pleasure.  All would be swept away by the foreign destroyers whom God would yet use as His instruments of chastisement, Rome being His instrument in AD 70; and Rome revived and headed up by the Beast, His instrument in the Great Tribulation, the final three and a half years of the seven year Tribulation era.

It is to be noted, however, that the armies of the Beast will not be the only forces used in Israel’s chastisement at the end of the Tribulation, for Scripture makes it clear that there will be also assembled in Palestine at that time a Northern alliance; an Eastern coalition; and Egypt, the latter three opposing the forces of the Beast, but all four bringing devastation to the land and the people.

11:3.  “There is 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.”

This may refer to the literal lament of the shepherds for lost pasture lands; and the roaring of young lions for the spoilation of their habitat, but it seems clear that the language is also metaphoric.  The evil shepherds would howl in pain and terror in the destruction wrought by the Romans in AD 70, as will their successors in the coming Tribulation.  The spoiling of their glory points in both instances to their being toppled from their high positions of pride and power.  The young lions here represent pride and power in general, but the roaring will be that of distress and pain, rather than the arrogant boasting of the proud and powerful.

“The pride of Jordan” is literally the dense thickets or woods of the Jordan valley, and in the present context appears to represent the general population of Israel.

11:4.  “Thus saith the Lord my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;”

Some take this as an instruction to the prophet to teach the people truth, even though God knew that they would remain disobedient, and by that disobedience would be fattening themselves for slaughter in the coming judgment, first that of AD 70, and then that of the impending Tribulation.  The prophet’s ministry would leave them without excuse when the judgment came.

Others understand it to mean that even though they had made themselves the objects of Divine wrath, God wished his servant to continue proclaiming truth in the hope that they would repent.  There may be a measure of truth in this, but the former interpretation seems the more likely, since God foreknew that there would be no repentance.

Zechariah is clearly a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the ultimate application here is to the Lord’s literal ministry to Israel, not through a prophet, but in His Own Person at His first advent.

11:5.  “Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich: for their own shepherds pity them not.”

“... for their own shepherds pity them not” indicates that the “possessors” and “they that sell them” were foreign masters.  This, however, doesn’t exclude the fact that their own evil rulers also oppressed them and encouraged them by their own wicked example to do wrong and thus incur God’s judgment. 

The foreign rulers had no compunction about what they did, for they seem to have reasoned that since God had delivered into their hands those He had formerly protected, He must approve of what they did to Israel.

11:6.  “For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbor’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.”

“... neighbor’s hand” refers, not to the hand of another Israelite, but to the hand of one from a neighboring country, i.e., a foreigner, “his king” being also the king of that neighboring country, the reference being initially to Rome: “And they” the Romans “shall smite the land,” which they did in AD 70; nor did God come in to protect those whose sin had forfeited His protection.  Israel herself had rejected her rightful King, the Prince of Peace, delivering Him over to death, and declaring, “We have no king but Caesar,” John 19:15.  Little did she dream that day when she shouted, “His blood be on us, and on our children,” Mt 27:25, how dreadfully that imprecation would be fulfilled just 38 years later, when the one to whom she delivered her rightful King for execution, would be shedding her own blood.

The ultimate application, however, is to what will occur in the Great Tribulation.

11:7.  “And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O 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.”

Zechariah here declares his intention to obey God and feed (minister to) the people, described as “poor of the flock.”  Opinion is divided as to whether they were called poor because he knew that they would reject his teaching, and thus fit themselves for God’s judgment, thereby making themselves poor here on earth, but what is infinitely worse, impoverishing themselves eternally; or whether they were the small believing remnant within the apostate mass of the people.  The latter seems the more likely.

The two staves were shepherd’s staffs which may be used here to represent the two divisions of the people: Israel, the ten northern tribes; and Judah (Judah and Benjamin), the two southern tribes.  “Beauty” is also translated grace, good will; and “Bands,” union, cords, these names indicating what God had intended Israel to be, as well as the blessing He desired them to enjoy.  Beauty represents His desire to bless them; and Bands, His desire to unite them.  The staff called Beauty is understood by many to symbolize God’s unwritten covenant with the nations to keep them from harming Israel, so that the breaking of that staff signified the withdrawal of His protection.  The depth of His sorrow occasioned by their having made themselves the heirs of judgment rather than blessing, may be read in Christ’s tears when He surveyed Jerusalem soon to be destroyed, and lamented, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Mt 23:37.

“And I fed the flock.”  In the midst of an unfaithful people, the prophet remained true to God.  He continued to warn them of coming judgment, and undoubtedly lamented their persistence in evil, which he knew would result in their destruction.  None will have difficulty seeing in the faithful prophet a type of the Lord Jesus Christ at His first advent.

11:8.  “Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me.”

Many take the “three shepherds” to represent the civil authorities, the priests, and the prophets, the prophets being those who were false.  Others take them to be the magistrates, the priests, and the teachers.  Their being “cut off in one month” is understood by some to indicate the suddenness with which the judgment would fall; others take it as a reference to the brief time of the Lord’s public ministry during which He denounced the Jewish leaders.  The mutual loathing declares that they disliked Him as much as their rebellion had made Him abhor them and destroy them in AD 70, that judgment being but an adumbration of the yet more terrible one to come in the Great Tribulation.

11:9.  “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 the rest eat every one the flesh of another.”

Zechariah was a faithful obedient prophet, so it is to be inferred that his abandonment of them was not an arbitrary decision on his part, but rather the announcement of his obedience to an unrecorded command from God to now cease from warning the rebellious people.  Nor was he to mourn for them.  Their sin had been so great and so long continued that it had exhausted God’s patience and provoked Him to anger, the expressed indifference of the prophet declaring his complete acquiescence with the Divine will.  The type was partially fulfilled in AD 70, but will have its complete fulfillment in the Great Tribulation.

Some take this verse to mean that the destruction was to be through famine (I will not feed you); war (let it be cut off); and internecine strife (let the rest eat ... the flesh of another).

The latter part of this verse is taken by some to refer to cannibalism in Jerusalem during the Roman siege of AD 70.

11:10.  “And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.”

There is general agreement that here “people” is more correctly “peoples,” i.e., the nations.  His breaking in two the staff called Beauty signified the breaking of God’s unwritten covenant with the nations which restrained them from harming Israel.  But it went far beyond that: it announced that God Himself was about to cut Israel off in judgment, now using as His instruments the nations He had formerly restrained.  How great was Israel’s fall!  They who as a redeemed people, had once been beautiful in God’s sight, had now by their sin become defiled as described in Isa 1:4-6, “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.  Why should ye be stricken any more?  ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”

The type had a partial fulfillment in AD 70, but will have its ultimate realization in the Great Tribulation.

It is to be noted that connected with the Lord’s first advent was the offering of the long promised millennial kingdom which Israel could have had then had she but recognized Him and received Him as her Messiah come to gather her together for blessing.  But she didn’t recognize Him, and in rejecting Him, forfeited until a day now still future, the millennial kingdom.  Her tragic mistake, however, not only robbed her of millennial blessing, but the nations as well.  Her refusal to be gathered together for blessing made it impossible also for the Lord to gather the nations for the same blessed purpose, for they can’t be blessed apart from Israel, and that sad truth is included symbolically in the breaking of the staff Beauty.

11:11.  “And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord.”

“... that day” was the day when God permitted the Romans to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70; as He will permit Rome revived, plus the three alliances mentioned above, to attack Israel again in the Great Tribulation.

“... the poor of the flock” in the present context seems to represent the small believing remnant who had the spiritual discernment to realize what God was saying by means of the broken staff, and to appreciate the justice of His judgment.

11:12.  “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price, and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.”

11:13.  “And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was priced at of them.  And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.”

Having severed his relationship with them at God’s command, the prophet then asked for the wages due him for the service he had rendered them.  (It is clear that by God’s appointment the prophets were to be supported by those to whom they ministered, just as are His servants today).  “If ye think good” or “If you think it right,” indicates that he was leaving to them the decision both as to whether to pay him at all, and their estimate of the amount to give him.  The amount they gave was paltry: the value of a fatally gored slave, see Ex 21:32.

That this has a prophetic significance far beyond the matter of the prophet’s wages is declared by the fact that in Mt 27:9-10 relative to the sum for which Judas betrayed Christ, and which was later used by the priests to buy the potter’s field, we read, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”  (Relative to the ascription of these words to Jeremiah, it is to be noted that he did not actually utter them, but as Jer 18-19 make clear, it was in the valley of the potter that he uttered a detailed part of his prophecy of the coming doom of Israel, so that clearly he and Zechariah were but the mouthpieces of the Holy Spirit speaking of the same event, and since Jeremiah’s prophecy preceded, and is much more detailed than that of Zechariah, it is he to whom the Holy Spirit ascribes the words in Mt 27:9-10, it being unimportant which prophet wrote which part of the message.  Scofield explains this as follows, “There may be an allusion her to Jer. 18:1-14 and 19:1-3, but the reference is distinctly to Zech. 11:12-13.  A Talmudic tradition states that the prophetic writings were placed in the canon in this order: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, etc.  Many Hebrew manuscripts follow this order.  Thus Matthew cited the passage as from the roll of the prophets and by the name of the first book”).

We might note also that in the people’s rejection of Zechariah, and their mocking estimate of his worth, God intends us to see in the prophet, as in so many other OT individuals, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The exact fulfillment of the type confirms also the Divine authorship of Scripture, for no mere man could have thus predicted typologically the price for which the Lord would be sold, nor the fact that the traitor would cast it down in the Temple, nor the eventual use to which that money would eventually be put.

11:14.  “Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”

Though divided, there was nevertheless a bond of union between Judah and Israel, but Zechariah’s breaking the second staff Bands was the symbolic announcement that that bond would be broken, and the nation delivered over to destruction and scattering through  internal strife.  History confirms the fulfillment of this prediction which aided in the destruction of the nation by Rome in AD 70.

11:15.  “And the Lord said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.”

This instruction to Zechariah to return to a shepherding ministry to Israel, but this time as a false shepherd, passes over this present Church age, and takes us to the Tribulation era in which Israel will be given the false prophet, see Re 13:11-17; 16:13-14; 19:20, who as the agent of the Beast, will lead Israel and the nations astray, teaching them to worship the Beast.  Having rejected the “good Shepherd” Who died to save them, they will be given the false one who will lead them to destruction.

11:16.  “For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.”

Israel had many “foolish shepherds” in the period between Zechariah’s ministry and the Diaspora, but this goes beyond any of them, and describes the reign of the Beast in the Great Tribulation.  In his merciless cruelty he will physically destroy many of the small believing remnant because of their refusal to worship him, and he will accomplish the destruction of the apostate majority through their willingness to worship him, that idolatry guaranteeing their destruction at the hand of Christ when He returns in power and glory at the end of the Tribulation.

The terrible cruelty of the Beast is portrayed here under the figure of a rapacious animal, not only devouring the flesh of its prey, but even tearing off its feet or claws, parts which ordinary beasts of prey leave untouched.

11:17.  “Woe to the idol 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.”

God, however, is always in control, and no less so than in the Tribulation era when it will seem to the natural eye that He has lost control.  The Beast, like his evil spiritual master Satan, will reign only by God’s permission, and for God’s appointed time: in the case of the beast, seven years.  Then will be fulfilled what is here predicted.  The sword upon his right arm (the arm of power), and the withering of that arm, declare the truth that God will destroy him by casting him and the false prophet into the lake of fire, see Re 19:20.

The darkening of the Beast’s right eye (the biblical symbol of intelligence) is the symbolic announcement of the fact that God will deprive him of that spiritual enlightenment which reveals the sinner’s condemned state, and leads him to repentant faith in Christ.  By his foreknowledge - not by predestination - God knows who will and who will not repent and be saved, and here He is revealing that the names of the Beast and the false prophet are not in the Lamb’s book of life.  They will die unsaved, as will every man who refuses to repent and trust the Savior - in God’s time, the imperative of accepting Christ within that time frame being declared in the warning, “My spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3; “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1; “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Cor 6:2. 

It’s unlikely that any unbeliever will be reading this material, but if you are such a reader, take heed: tomorrow may be the day that you cross over that invisible line which separates God’s mercy from His wrath, hence His warning, “Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee,” Job 36:18.

[Zechariah 12]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough