About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Two Shepherds (ch. 11:4 - 17)


In this chapter Zechariah is acting out a prophecy.  On certain occasions, in both the Old and New Testaments prophets have acted out prophecies instead of just speaking them.  You might remember Agabus in the book of Acts acting out a prophecy concerning Paul’s future chains and imprisonment.


In verse 4 God asks Zechariah to act as if he is a shepherd of a flock.  The flock represents God’s people, and in this case, that’s Israel.    


Verse 4 also tells us that this flock is “marked for slaughter.”  This should tell us something about Israel’s future.  They would at some point be slaughtered.  That has happened a few times during the history of Israel, but it happened in a major way in 70 A. D..


Verse 5 says that “their shepherds do not spare them.”   Because of this lack of attention by the shepherds, verse 5 says that their sellers, that’s the shepherds get rich by selling the flock.  Those who buy the flock simply kill the flock off and go unpunished for  what they’ve done.


The shepherds of Israel in Zechariah’s day and in the days ahead in time have not cared for God’s people as they should.  That was one of Jesus’ biggest complaints against the leaders of Israel.  In fact the Jewish leaders actions here is compared to a selling of the flock to men who would destroy them.  This is what happened in 70 A. D..  Jewish leadership failed to recognize Jesus as their Messiah.  Jesus pronounced judgment on Israel for this.  The judgment came in the form of Rome plundering Jerusalem and scattering the Jews.  This failure of the Jewish leadership was in fact the selling of the Jews to the Romans who in turn killed the flock and went unpunished, at least for the time being. 


For Prophetic Futurists, we should note that in the end, this selling of the Jews to Rome and their subsequent scattering and killing will be punished.  Rome crumbled in the next few centuries after 70 A. D. but will re-emerge at the end of this age, and at that point, Rome will be punished. 


Daniel’s vision of the man that represents the four last great empires fits in here.  The legs and the feet of iron and clay is thought to be the Roman Empire by most.  The other preceding empires were punished for their treatment of Israel by the empire that overthrew them.  Yet Rome did not get taken over by anyone.  It just crumbled apart of its own volition.  Yet the Roman Empire will emerge at the end of this age and be overthrown by Jesus.     


Verse 5 says that Israel’s shepherds say “I am rich”.  This arrogance is what Jesus faced while He was on earth.  The Jewish leadership was rich, while their flock struggled in life.  The proverb says that pride goes before destruction, and that’s certainly the case with first century Jewish leadership.


In verse 6 God tells Zechariah to say that He will no longer have pity on the people of the land.  The term “people of the land” refers to the Jews.  He also says He will hand them over to their neighbour and king.  This refers to the handing over of the Jews to the Gentile world, and in particular the Romans.  If you remember when Pilate asked the Jews if they would like their king released, they answered by saying that they had no king other than Caesar.  For a Jew, and especially a Jewish leader to say this, would be blasphemy in the eyes of God.  They were saying that a Gentile King was their leader and that is what they wanted.  This is an unbelievable confession on the part5 of the Jews.


God also says that “they”, meaning the Jews, “will be oppressed in the land.”   Before the final destruction of Israel in 70 A. D., the Jews were in their land, but they were oppressed, in subjection to different Gentile rules.  The last thing God says in verse 6 is that He will not rescue the flock, the Jews, from the hands of those who oppress them. This did happened.  From Zechariah’s day, until 70 A.D., for the most part, Israel was in the hands of their opposition until they were cast out of their land in 70 A. D..  They’ve never been the nation they once were under King David. Yet in these last days, Israel has re-emerged as a nation, yet the conflict over their land rages, and will do so until the end of this age comes.


In verse 7, Zechariah on behalf of God, says that he will punish the flock, even the oppressed, which was basically the whole flock, all of Israel, except for a few of its leaders.  The Jews were oppressed during the time of Jesus while He was on earth.  Their oppression continued until 70 A. D., and as a result of the Jews rejecting of Jesus, great punishment came at the hands of the Roman army.


Also in verse 7 we see that Zachariah took up two shepherd staffs in his hand.  One was named Favour, and the other named Union .  At this point we need to know that shepherds usually had two staffs, two sticks as they tended to their sheep in these days.  One stick was used in defense of the sheep in case of an attack from an outside source.  The other was used to guide the sheep in the direction they should go.  With these two staffs Zechariah would shepherd the flock.


At this point we should understand the sometimes historical events can be prophetic in themselves.  Prophecy comes in many ways. It can be spoken. It can be acted out as in this case. Yet historical events can be prophetic. I believe the demise of the first century Jews is one of these events.  What we’ve seen so far in this chapter had its first fulfillment in the first century.  But as is the case in prophecy, many times the prophecy has another fulfillment and therefore its first fulfillment is actually prophetic as well.  The secondary fulfillment of this prophecy takes place at the end of this age, and the bad shepherd here is compared to the anti-christ. 


The names of these two staffs are important.  One is called Favour, the other called Union.  This is significant as we look at the secondary fulfillment of this prophecy.  At the end of this age, God will have “favour’ on His people, and He will “unite” them as they were meant to be all along. 


Favour and Union also speaks to the covenant God made to bless Israel as we will see in verses 11 and 14.  He wanted them to be united, and He wanted to be gracious to them.  God’s covenant with Israel is based on His graciousness and His desire for them to be one with Him and one with each other.


In verse 8 Zechariah, acting in the place of God, says that “in one month he got rid of three shepherds.”  These were obviously false shepherds.  There is not much clarity among scholars to what this means.  Some suggest that this might be in reference to Rev. 13:1.  The beast of the sea has ten heads and seven horns.  Why only seven horns when there is ten heads.  Well three horns might have been destroyed as mentioned here in Zechariah.  That’s only one of many possible interpretations of this verse.  Other’s suggest that this might have some kind of fulfillment in Jesus’ day, due to the next verse.


The rest of verse 8 says that Zechariah, acting as the shepherd from God says that he is weary of being Israel’s shepherd.  You can sure see this in the life of Jesus and how He acted towards the Jewish leadership. 


In verse 9 God says that he will no longer be their shepherd.  Just let those who are dying die. Let those who are left, eat one another’s flesh.  That sounds pretty drastic, but that’s what happened when Jesus pronounced judgment on Israel when they rejected him.  It got so bad that when Rome advanced on Jerusalem from 67 to 70 A. D., Jews actually ate the flesh of their4 own children to survive.


In verse 10 Zechariah actually took the staff called Favour and broke it in half.  This signified the breaking of the covenant between Israel and their God.  Verse 11 says that the covenant was revoked on that day.  What day is being talked about here?  I believe the words of Jesus in Matt. 23:37and 38 answers this question for us.  The covenant was not upheld by the Jews, so Jesus Himself broke the covenant as seen in Matt. 23:37 and 38,  and Lu. 13:34 and 35.  But the story doesn’t end here.  Jesus also said that He would not see them again until the day came when they’d call out, “blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”   This event will take place at the end of this age, at the end of the seven year Great Tribulation, when Israel as a nation, finally falls to her knees in repentance. 


At this point we should note a difference among Bible teachers.  Some say that since the covenant was broken, and it was broken by God as in the breaking of the two staffs, that God is no longer associated with Israel as He once was, and that Israel is no different that any other nation. The church, or the New Testament people of God has replaced Israel.  These Bible teachers then go back into all the Old Testament passages and replace Israel with the church.  This is called “Replacement Theology.”   So every verse  that speaks of Israel is now interpreted as being directed to the church for these people.


I don’t believe this to be true.  There are many scriptures, and many right here in Zechariah that tell us that God will restore Israel, that He will re-instate the covenant once again at the end of the age Israel will repent and turn to their Messiah, and all the Old Testament passages that speaks about them is for them and no one else.        


One thing we should understand here is that God deals with humanity in two ways.  He deals with nations and He deals with individuals. In Matt. 34:37, God was dealing with Israel as a nation.  Jesus was not directing His words to individual Jews, but to the nation.  At that point, the covenant between Israel and their God was broken, but only for a time, because Jesus clearly says that they will at some future point return to Him and at the point the covenant will be re-instated. Now this does not mean that individual Jews cannot be saved, for they can.  This breaking of the covenant applies to the nation of Israel, not to individual Jews.  From this point on, until the end of this age, salvation would only be on an individual bases, but as Paul says in his Romans 9 through 11 discourse on the Jews, at the end, all Israel will be saved, that is, all of Israel who are left at the time of the end will be save.  This is national salvation.  This is the time when the covenant will once again be in effect for national Israel.


Evangelicals in the past have stressed individual salvation to such an extent that they’ve neglected to teach national salvation, that is, the national salvation of the Jews.  We’ve stressed how God deals with the individual so much that we’ve neglected to teach that God deals with nations as well.  Few evangelicals really understand this.  


All this being said concerning verse 10, there are differences among Bible teachers to what verse 10 really means.  Zechariah broke the staff of Favour which symbolized God “revoking the covenant He made with all the nations.”   Some have a hard time thinking that God would  break His covenant with the Jews, but I believe He did. The generation of Jews that were alive at the time of Jesus were cursed, just as the Law of Moses said they would be if they failed to obey it.  That generation of Jews were accountable before God for all the sins, from Abel to the present day when Jesus lived on earth.  The covenant with them in my thinking was revoked, but will be reinstated at the end of this age.


The problem is over two words in verse 10. They are the word “covenant” and the word “nations.”   What covenant is being spoken of here, and to whom was this covenant with?  The word “nations” seems to suggest that the covenant spoken of here is to the nations of the world, yet some translations don’t use the word “nations” here.   They use the word “people” or “peoples” instead.  So the question arises, what people is being spoken of here?   In verse 6 we see the word “people” being used for the Jews, some say the word “people” or “peoples” here refers to Gentiles, or the nations of the world.  If this is the case then we derive a whole different meaning to verse 10 than what I’ve just said. 


Many holding to this second viewpoint say the covenant spoken of here is the one where God said those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense  to me.  I believe that covenant was spoken to Israel, not Gentiles, even though Gentiles were mentioned in the covenant.


The staff that was broken here was a staff that was specifically for the sheep, that is, for Israel.  The staff is referred by Zechariah as the covenant.  So I think it’s clear that the covenant spoken of here is the covenant of the Jews.  God revoked that covenant when they rejected Jesus.  He will re-instate it at the end of this age.  I believe the word nation might well be a poor translation here.  I prefer the word “peoples.”    


Another thing to note about the word "nation" here.  The Hebrew word that is translated "nation" in the NIV (or "people" in the KJV) is not the same Hebrew word that is translated as "nations", as in, God will destroy the Gentile nations, that you read in the rest of Zechariah.  Actually, I believe the word "people" is a better translation and also reflects the meaning of the context.  God made covenant with the Jews, not with the Gentile  nations.             


Verse 12 is easy to figure out.  Someone says that if you think best to give me my pay, fine, if not, that’s fine too.  That’ s my paraphrase.  So they gave him thirty pieces of silver.  This clearly is a direct reference to Judas being paid thirty pieces of silver to hand Jesus over to the Jews.  There’s no debate over that.  Yet why is this verse stuck right here, right after the shepherd, that’s Jesus, says He will break the covenant with Israel.  Well, that’s easy to answer.  Judas was part of the whole event that surrounded the breaking of this covenant. It was the ultimate in the deal between the shepherds of Israel selling off their Messiah.


Verse 13 speaks of “the handsome price at which they price me.”   To both Judas and the Jewish leadership, Jesus was worth thirty pieces of silver.  This was the going rate for a second class, poor in health slave.  It wasn’t much.  They did not place a very high price on Jesus.


Verse 13 says throw the money to the potter in the temple, the house of God.  In the New Testament we see when Judas came to his senses and realized that he had done a very bad thing, he was sorry for what he did, so he took the money back to the Jewish leaders.  They could not legally take it for temple use because of their law.  They would not take it, so Judas threw it onto the floor before them.  How accurate of a prophecy can you get?  But where does the potter come in.  We know that sense the money couldn’t be spent on the operation of the temple, and the Jewish leaders did  not want to waste the money, they took the money and bout a field from a potter for the burial of people who had no other place to be buried.


In verse 14 we see that Zechariah took the other staff in his hand called Union and broke it as well.  This staff represented the union between Judah and the rest of Israel.  Here Judah represents the southern kingdom, while Israel represents the northern kingdom.  This speaks of Israel being divided and scattered once again. The northern ten tribes never recovered  from the time Assyria demolished them.  But in 70 A.D., Judah, the rest of Israel, would fall to the Romans. 


This is the second of the two staffs that were broken.  We saw the staff  called Favour broken in verse 10.  We also saw that these staffs represented the covenant God made with His people.  God took away His Favour from Israel, and He also took away the union that could only come from Him.  I believe the finality of the covenant being revoked, as it said in verse 10 came in 70 A. D. when Rome demolished Jerusalem and scattered the Jews.   Nevertheless, as we will see in the next chapter, God Himself gives the Jews a spirit of grace and supplication at the end of this age.  At that time, the covenant will be re-instated.     


In verses 15 and 16 God tells Zechariah to take up the tools of the foolish shepherd.  At this point Zechariah is to act out the deeds of this foolish shepherd who does not have the flocks interest in mind.  He is out for himself.  Futurists see this foolish shepherd as the anti-christ in the Great Tribulation.


In verse 17 we see how God feels about this false shepherd.  He says, “ woe, to the worthless shepherd who deserts the flock.”.  At this point we need to understand that Israel will view the anti-christ as their shepherd, as their Messiah, because he makes a covenant with them that is supposed to unite Israel , allow them to keep Jerusalem and their temple.  Israel may not think of the anti-christ in terms of being their Messiah/shepherd in a Biblical sense, but they will see him in terms of their leader, the one who saves them from their present trouble.  They may not call him Messiah, but in their minds he will do the work of a Messiah.  


God then says that may a sword strike this shepherds right eye and blind him, and also strike his arm and cause it to wither.  Some see the mentioning here of his right eye and arm as being symbolic of the anti-Christ’s power and authority he has over the Jews and the world.  Others see this as being a specific prophecy concerning the man’s right eye and arm.  In the book of Revelation we see that the anti-christ receives a mortal blow to his body and is resurrected.  Some see these words prophesying that event.

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