Rejection of the Good ShepherdZechariah 11:1-17Theme: Unbelief.This week’s lessons remind us of the danger of denying the Savior. LessonThe second portion of Zechariah 11 is so difficult that we would find it almost impossible to interpret except for the acknowledged fulfillment in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Verses 4-6 explain what Zechariah was to do. He was to “pasture the flock marked for slaughter.” This would not have a fortunate outcome. His work was to be symbolic of God’s last approach to the people through his own rejection – which is stated later but presupposed here. God says that he “will no longer have pity on the people of the land… I will hand everyone over to his neighbor and his kind. They will oppress the land [as in the opening three verses], and I will not rescue them from their hands.”
In verses 7-14 Zechariah tells how he carried out these instructions. He did pasture the flock, using two staffs to which he gave the symbolic names “Favor” and “Union.” He does not elaborate upon these staffs except to say later that he broke them. He does not need to. “Favor” symbolizes the favored status of Israel as the chosen people of God. “Union” symbolizes the internal harmony of the people, which was lost at the time of the siege of Jerusalem.
What does Zechariah mean when he says that “in one month I got rid of the three shepherds?” Presumably, the need to get rid of these shepherds betrays opposition to his work and symbolizes opposition to the future work of Jesus. But it is still hard to place these three “shepherds” specifically. One commentator lists forty different solutions to the problem. The best explanation is probably the oldest, which sees the three shepherds not as three individuals but as three classes of individuals, namely: the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel. Thomas V. Moore says: “The obscurity of this phrase would have been more easily removed by interpreters, if the threefold nature of Christ’s work had been recollected, and its relation to the Jewish polity. He was the great antetype, of which that polity was the complex type. Now he, as our Redeemer, appeared as Prophet, Priest, and King, and thus fulfilled all the significance of these three orders in the old dispensation. He was the promised prophet, the one and only priest, and the king in Zion, and hence his appearing brought these respective orders in the theocracy to an end, since they were only designed to foreshadow his advent and kingdom. This was done in judicial anger also; they were deposed because of their unfaithfulness in the discharge of their duties.1
If this is not the proper explanation of this verse, it is nevertheless significant that the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices did cease following the Jewish rejection of Christ and the overthrow of Jerusalem. According to Jesus, John the Baptist was the last of the prophets. The priesthood ceased with the destruction of the temple where alone the sacrifices were permitted to be performed. Again, after this terribly destructive period, no king has ever ruled over a Jewish state.
1 Thomas V. Moore, A Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), p. 262. Original edition 1856.
What two symbolic names were given to Israel and what did they mean?
What is the most reliable explanation of the three shepherds?
Who was the last prophet, according to Jesus?
ReflectionHow should you approach passages in Scripture that you don’t understand?