Zechariah Chapter 11: Flock of the Slaughter, Beauty and Bands

Oct 13th, 2009 | By | Category: Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name), Zechariah

Zechariah Chapter 11: Flock of the Slaughter, Beauty and Bands

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

Zech. 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.

Chapter 11 is perhaps the most difficult chapter to explain in the Book of Zechariah. We are not in a position to know all the details, but we will suggest clues that lead in the proper direction.

Notice that verse 2 is in the past tense. Verses 1 and 2 indicate the geography where this prophecy is centered. Lebanon became part of northern Israel under the reign of King Solomon. At that time, Israel extended to the north up to the Euphrates River, and a corner of northern Lebanon is bordered by the Euphrates. Therefore, as far as the Period of the Kings is concerned, Lebanon was part of Israel. Eventually, that land was taken away, and the borders of Israel were limited.

Verses 1 and 2 are saying that “fire,” symbolic of destruction, would be visited on Lebanon. That nation was renowned for its cedars. The cedars of Lebanon were noted in history for their extreme height. In fact, Hiram, king of Tyre, cut down trees of Lebanon and furnished them for the building of Solomon’s Temple.

In the Kingdom, the Land of Promise will definitely include Lebanon. When Moses viewed the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah just before his death, the northern extremity was to include Lebanon, with the river Euphrates as its northern boundary. However, the land of Israel will not follow the river all the way down on the right side because to do so would mean the inclusion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Only the northeastern corner of Israel will be bordered by the Euphrates for a little distance.

In summary, verses 1 and 2 indicate that a despoliation, a change, would occur in Lebanon. This nation, which was proud of its cedars, would be destroyed and become nonexistent. The climate is being set for what is to follow.

Comment: A note from a 1992 study says that Lebanon pictures the nominal Church.

Reply: That is true if chapter 11 is spiritualized along that line. However, the chapter also has a natural fulfillment. The “shepherds,” mentioned subsequently, can pertain to both nominal spiritual Israel and nominal fleshly Israel.

Zech. 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.

In olden times, the Jordan was sometimes noted for harboring lions because the territory in this area to the north was not habitable in the normal sense. The terrain is not conducive to habitation, but it has considerable verdure and trees. The cedars of Lebanon farther north were extremely large. An author who wrote a book about the river Jordan described the landscape as he rode down the river in a rubber raft. When the lions got hungry, they left their habitat and went into the civilized area of northern Israel, where they killed sheep and goats in the pastures. Sometimes even the people were threatened by the lions.

In the natural picture, verse 3 describes the habitat of young lions that were roaring for food, which the lioness brought. The mood introduction continues in connection with a wasting that took place in the past.

Zech. 11:4 Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;

“Feed the flock of the slaughter.” The flock was headed for slaughter. Instead of shepherding the flock, the leadership led the people to slaughter.

Zech. 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: and their own shepherds pity them not.

In the spiritual application, those who rise to leadership positions in the nominal Church exploit the congregation. Sometimes their demands are outrageous, and they feed themselves with the contributions and revenues they receive from the people, the poor of the flock. This wrong principle also applied to the spiritual leaders of natural Israel in Zechariah’s day.

Zech. 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 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.

Verse 6 has a future application in addition to an application to the king of Assyria, who despoiled the ten-tribe kingdom in the past.

Zech. 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.

“I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock.” In spite of the despoiling of the land, the leadership, and the people in general, a poor and humble element in Israel would be leaning on the Lord. In that dire situation, He would feed them, in spite of the confusion and destruction wherein the people devoured themselves with lust and greed. In time, an outside enemy came in and took the people into captivity. In addition to the fulfillment in the past, there will be a future fulfillment.

Comment: Song 4:8 mentions lions in that area: “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.”

Reply: Yes, there are two mountain ranges: Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, one being a little lower than the other. Both literally and figuratively, a despoiling was taking place. The natural picture provides a backdrop for what was happening; namely, there was corruption in the land itself. The land, the leadership, and the people were all involved except for a remnant that the Lord would sufficiently feed during this period of time. Just as Zechariah was instructed to figuratively feed the flock by giving this message to natural Israel, so he represented faithful shepherds who would properly feed the flock in the future. From time to time, God raised up, at a propitious moment, those who fed the flock lest the people perish for lack of food. That has been true spiritually during the Gospel Age, and it was true figuratively with natural Israel.

Now comes a strange picture about two “staves,” or staffs. “And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.” Zechariah had two staffs in his hand. The name of one staff was Beauty; the name of the other was Bands. The NIV calls them, respectively, Favor and Union.

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

Zech. 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.

Who were the “three shepherds”? With natural Israel, they were (1) Annas, the father-in-law and alternate high priest; (2) Caiaphas, the chief high priest; and (3) Pilate, the governor, the civil representative. When these three were “cut off in one month,” anarchy occurred, as shown in verse 9: “What is to die, let it die; what is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed; and let those that are left devour the flesh of one another” (RSV).

Another “shepherd” was Herod, a religious civil leader with a practical mind. From that standpoint, there were three segments: the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, who were sticklers for the Law.

At any rate, the three shepherds would disappear “in one month,” that is, in the 30 or 31 days of one month. With the principle of a day for a year, this 30-year time period began in AD 36, the end of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27, when the period of exclusive favor to Israel ceased, and it ended in AD 66, when the siege of Jerusalem began under Vespasian. Jerusalem was captured in AD 69, and the last fortress fell in AD 73. To all practical purposes, the backbone of the nation was broken in AD 69-70, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. Within that time period, there was anarchy with the Jews in disagreement among themselves. When the Romans besieged Jerusalem, the Jews could have held off for a much longer period of time if factionalism had not taken place. We see that characteristic in Jewry even today with the Intifada and economic turmoil. The Jews are so biased in their opinions that the nation does not understand the situation it is in. If the Arabs cut off their nose to spite their face, the Jews do the same thing, to a certain extent, in their factionalism.

“Let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.” In the siege of AD 69-70, the Jews ate the flesh of their children, as described in Leviticus 26:29. (This same extremity took place earlier, in the siege of 606 BC.)

Zech. 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.

Prior to the breaking, Beauty and Bands (Union) were both staffs of favor, each along a different line (see verse 14). “I [God] took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I  might break my [Law] covenant which I had made with all the people [of Israel].” When the staffs of favor were broken, there were consequences.

Zech. 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.

Zech. 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.

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

“And it [the staff called Beauty] was broken in that day [which was a little period of time].” To the believing Jew, the Law was nailed to the Cross, but the unbelieving Jew is still under the obligations of the Law Covenant. The covenant of favor to natural Israel was broken. God said of Israel in the period of favor, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). In AD 36, God turned His favor to the Gentiles, and from then through today, because of the Jews’ own doing and desire, Gentiles have comprised the bulk of the Church.

Comment: Scofield wrote, “The scene belongs to the first advent. Beauty and Bands—literally ‘graciousness and union’; the first signifying God’s attitude toward His people Israel, in sending His Son, the second, His purpose to reunite Judah and Ephraim. Christ, at His first advent came with grace to offer union and was sold for thirty pieces of silver. ‘Beauty’ (i.e. graciousness) was ‘cut in sunder,’ signifying that Judah was abandoned to the destruction foretold in Zechariah 11:1-6 and fulfilled A.D. 70. After the betrayal of the Lord for thirty pieces of silver, ‘Bands’ (i.e. union) was broken, signifying the abandonment, for the time, of the purpose to reunite Judah and Israel. The order of Zech. 11 is, (1) the wrath against the land, fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem after the rejection of Christ; (2) the cause of that wrath in the sale and rejection of Christ vs.; (3) the rise of the ‘idol shepherd,’ and the Beast and his destruction.”

Reply: Scofield based his comments on the clue in verses 12 and 13 with regard to the “thirty pieces of silver.” We would explain these verses in a somewhat similar fashion.

The setting of verses 7-14 is the First Advent. These verses are separate, being like a scene within a scene. During that time, Jesus was sold by Judas for 30 pieces of silver. When Judas saw that Jesus, a just man, had actually been apprehended and was about to be executed, he took the money back to the Temple area and tried to return it to the chief priests and elders, but they declined to take it. When Judas threw the money on the floor and left, they used the money to buy “potter’s field” (Matt. 27:3-8). Verses 7-14 show that the fulcrum of chapter 11, the focus of attention, was the time of our Lord’s First Advent. The application of this portion of the chapter can be more readily seen than some of the other parts.

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

What is the distinction between the breaking of the two staffs, Beauty and Bands? The breaking of Beauty was the breaking of the period of favor to the Jews. Jesus “came unto his own,” but “his own received him not” (John 1:11). As John the Baptist predicted, there came a baptism of “fire” on the nation (Luke 3:16). The baptism of the Holy Spirit came on the waiting disciples at Pentecost in AD 33, and the baptism of fire was fulfilled in the despoiling of the nation in AD 69-70, when the staff called Bands was broken. In other words, after the Crucifixion of Jesus in AD 33, the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel 9, there remained a period of 3 1/2 years, which ended in AD 36 with the termination of God’s exclusive favor to the Jews. At that time, God’s favor turned to the Gentiles.

Zech. 11:15 And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.

Zech. 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.

Zech. 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.

These three verses, a break in thought, are a prophecy. If verses 15-17 are considered from the standpoint of the First Advent, the “foolish shepherd” was Judas. He kept the money bag, dipped into the till, and tried to sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (John 12:6; Matt. 26:14-16). In addition, he thought Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with costly spikenard, which was worth a year’s salary, was a waste of money (John 12:3-5). He hypocritically professed to think of the poor, whereas he really wanted the money for himself. Many today think that money equals power, and both were the motivation of Judas. Evidently, Judas was brilliant, and he sat in one of the chief seats at the Last Supper. The fact that after his betrayal of Jesus, the Apostle Paul took his place indicates the latent talent and possibility that Judas inherently had.

Judas was both a “foolish shepherd” and an “idol shepherd” because he lost a right-hand position with Jesus. Acts 1:20 states, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another [Paul] take.”

Comment: Verse 17, where God is speaking of Judas, is strong in the NIV: “Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!

May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!” This is an example of “perfect hatred,” which David spoke of in Psalm 139:22.

The antitypical “foolish” or “idol” shepherd is Papacy, the false Church, the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:3). The people worshipped and revered the false system and not the risen Lord.

Comment: From one standpoint, chapter 11 began with a spiritual application of Lebanon’s being the nominal Church and a condemnation of false shepherds (plural)—the false religious leadership. This chapter also seems to end with a spiritual application, but now it singles out the chief of the false shepherds, which is Papacy. In between, information and prophecy about natural Israel are sandwiched in.

There is another way to view these three verses. At the end of the age, there will be a religious leader who is endorsed by and somehow related to Papacy. Verses 15-17 probably furnish clues regarding this individual. For example, the Herod who beheaded John the Baptist and abused Jesus just prior to his crucifixion died of a sudden cancer in one night. This horrible death was recognized as a judgment for his past sins.

A false “shepherd” will be connected with the deception at the end of the age. Nahum 1:11 reads, “There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.” With the lying signs and wonders, one individual may deceive the whole world.

There will be a prominent personality in connection with the Judas class, one personality involved in the deception of nominal Christians, and even possibly an individual who deceives Israel in a different sense. However, verses 15-17 apply particularly to the First Advent.

Back in the type in Zechariah’s day, a chief personality opposed the restoration of the Temple.

This one individual, who is mentioned by name and lasted up until Nehemiah’s day, was able to rally the force because he was in the priesthood.

As a sidelight, let us consider the following. Having personally consecrated our life to the Lord, we should ask ourselves, If Jesus were sitting next to us and explaining something, would we recognize him? Hopefully, we would. Many heard Jesus at the First Advent and got some benefit. They knew he was different—his elocution, knowledge, power, nobility of stature, etc.—but with regard to his message, they seized on a facet they liked but did not go on to consecrate. Think of the prophets, for example, Jeremiah. If he were living in the Gospel Age, wouldn’t he be likely to accept present truth? He would be a strong personality, and he would be opinionated because he was emotional. Just as Jeremiah’s temperament was along one line, and another prophet’s was along another line, so there is variety in the body of Christ. All Christians accept Jesus as the Messiah and all are trying to be as much like him as possible, but they each have different personality traits. It is hard for a bubbly, effervescent Christian to see a very serious Christian, and vice versa, but both are Christians who may be equally beloved by God. The bottom line is loyalty to God and obedience, so temperament is simply variety, or the outside of an individual, whereas God looks on the inside core of a person. He does not look on the outward appearance, which includes not only good looks but also personality. For instance, some with nice personalities do not have truth and can even be enemies of the truth, so the bottom line is obedience. Faith is obedience based on consecration to do God’s will.

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