Devotional Commentary on Zechariah 11


We should begin with an inspirational issue in this chapter. Did the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew and Zechariah 11? Scholars saw a difference and decided that Zechariah 9-14 was written by Jeremiah, not Zechariah.

Matthew 27:9 said that Jeremiah said the words that were actually spoken by Zechariah 11and Luther did not know what to make of it and said that we have to admit that there is a copyist error, a failure of the memory here.

Delitzch after a long discussion of the views of all his friends trying to defend the veracity of the Word of God and seeing it as not error, dismissed their views with counterarguments in a lengthy description.

Hengstenberg said that Matthew really had both Jeremiah 18-19 and Zechariah in mind here when he wrote about the incident with Judas Iscariot. Kliefoth saw problems with this view and suggested that he only had Jeremiah only in mind.

Delitzsch rejected this as not possible since the shekels were paid in the valley of Ben-Hinnom by Jeremiah but in Zechariah thrown in the temple to the potter. Delitzsch indicated that Jeremiah and Zechariah’s actions do not match completely and also that Matthew did not exactly cited Zechariah but must have used his memory [fading of course].

There were of course the Rationalists in their day suggesting that it is a proof of error and non-inspiration of the Bible.  

Hengstenberg may have something important here namely that Matthew had both Zechariah and Jeremiah in mind when he wrote his words and it may also be that the same Holy Spirit that inspired Jeremiah, knew also all typical and antitypical fulfillments of both Jeremiah and Zechariah and that it found a total space in the event with Judas Iscariot tragedy. Two Messianic prophecies by two prophets meant to point to the same event as fulfillment. Detail differences are not important. What is important is that there are more overlapping facts than differences.

The previous chapter is with events near the Second Coming of Christ and chapter 11 starts with a punishment of fire that will probably burn at the Hell event where Lebanon use to be. A hymn of destruction is sung:

“Open your doors, O Lebanon, and let the fire [of the Hell-event after the millennium] consume your cedars” (verse 1). The cypress needs to wail because the cedar has fallen “for the mighty ones have been spoiled”. (verse 2).

It is not only the Lebanon or Syria that is in mind here, it is a wider area which makes one think that the geographical references are just part of the whole, two selected areas but it is a global event then with the burning of the hell-fire.

Oaks of Bashan needs to also wail for the fortified forest has gone down.

Shepherds [of spiritual flocks], their glory has been spoiled. The pride of Jordan has been spoiled (verse 3). Are Gilead, Jordan and the area around Lebanon going to be problem areas for the End-Time so that they serve as signals of the end?

“And they shall crush the land, and I will not save from their hand” (verse 6). Evil will turn on evil in this future scenario of Zechariah.

Somehow I sense that preterism has no place for interpretation here and that the time of Zerubabel or Alexander the Great or the Maccabees or any other time does not fit the profile here.

The punishment is from the Lord for it is He that will not have any pity on the inhabitants of the earth (verse 6). The Hell-fire in biblical theology is the time when God eradicate evil forever so there is no space for conversion any more.

“And I [Christ] tended the flock of slaughter, indeed the poor of the flock” (verse 7). Christ came to Jerusalem to try to bring the faithful of Israel together like a hen her chickens, but they did not want.

Two staffs Christ took, one called pleasantness and the other one destroyer. With these two He tended His remnant flock.

“I will cut off the three shepherds in one month, I will not tolerate them, moreover they are too much for Me” (verse 8).

Scholars speculated immensely about this verse: Köhler had the idea that maybe each person had ten days before they were cut off so that three persons x 10 days equals 30 days.

Hoffmann had an interesting view on the basis of Daniel’s time periods. He suggested that one should use the year-day principle and that one day is one year and that the jubilee (7 years cycle) is in mind of thus 30 years x 7 [one jubilee] is the period between the beginning to the end of the cutting off action. A period of 210 days. He suggested that the three shepherds are three empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece and that between the beginning of the Babylonian Empire to the death of Alexander the Great are 210 years. Delitzsch contested that the actual years are 215 years, so he did not want to accept Hoffmann’s explanation (Delitzsch 1884: 364).

These friends of Delitzsch and himself had lots of millerism and Adventism in them although they were Lutherans! Hengestenberg is the one who said that the 2300 days prophecy of Daniel 8:14 is really 2300 years as did also Moses Maimonides in the 12th century. They operated with the year-day principle and Hoffmann also. Delitzsch knew about it and mentioned Hoffmann’s application for Zechariah in his commentary.

Phillip Samaan thought that the reference to the three shepherds is really the kings, priests and prophets functions. This is what Theodoret, Cyril and Jerome also suggested but Delitzsch did not accept it since in Zechariah 4:14 only the prince Zerubabel and the high-priest Joshua are mentioned (Delitzsch 1884: 362). Only two functions, not three. But is the office of Zechariah not implied here as the third one?

What can one say about the interpretation of this verse? The shepherds are bad shepherds so that the three prophets Daniel then Haggai, then Zechariah presented the meditorial work of salvation, as suggested by Köhler but rejected by Delitzsch, cannot be applied here.

Calvin felt that the prophet represents in his own personification all there Shepherds (so Delitzsch) which means Zechariah represents all three, and since Zechariah was not bad, this view cannot be sustained.

“I [Lord] could not tolerate them, moreover, they were too much for Me” (verse 8).

There are people who want to say that it is Zechariah speaking here but that is unlikely. “And I said: ‘I will not tend you. That which dies – let it die, and that which is cut off – let it be cut off” (verse 9). The reason Zechariah is not the “I” in these verses is in verse 10 where the Lord is nullifying His covenant. Thus, Zechariah is cancelled. Immediately. Thus, one has to reverse and reinterpret. Cancel Zechariah and put the Lord in.

By taking the staff “Pleasantness” the Christ cut off to nullify His covenant with all peoples (verse 10).

By dying on the cross, the covenant of the old sacrificial system pointing to Him Who will one day die instead of the lambs of the offerings, offering Himself, thereby nullifying it by being nailed on the cross in the nailing of Christ to the cross as Paul explained in Colossians 2.

One may argue that the sacrificial system of Israel was only with Israel and not with all peoples. Wrong. God wanted Israel to be merely the instrument to evangelize all peoples but they failed. They pulled their head in like a turtle and thus non-communicatively blocked God’s intentions. That is why Ruth the Moabite is there. Why Uriah the Hittite is a faithful person. Why God had a big heart for the converted Assryians much to the dismay of the narrow-minded prophet Jonah. Where are we?

“And the poor of the flock [remnant] that kept My Word knew this, that it was the Word of the Lord” (verse 11). The poor in spiritual life of the remnant that kept the formalities of His Word knew this that the sacrifices will be stopped one day when the Messiah will come. They knew it was the Word of God (verse 11) but they did not practice it and life it out. It was empty religious rehearsals without innate spiritual and relational quality in it. Plastic people with the souls somewhere else taking naps in church, looking at the watch when the sermon will end or flashing through the smartphone to see if someone twittered.

“And I [Christ] said to them [this same remnant that knows the Word of God]: ‘If it pleases you, give [Me] My hire, and if not, forbear.”

Rabbi Redak in the 12th century understood the phrase very well here: “Since I tend you, give Me My payment, that payment is repentance and good deeds”.

Rabbi Rashi before him also understood it very similar: “Fulfill My commandments, and that will be My payment for all the good that I have given you, as they give hire to a shepherd, I will return and tend you”.

Phillip Samaan also had the similar idea here: “The Good Shepherd asks for His wages because He wants the people's evaluation of His service. Their response reveals total contempt and ingratitude.” (see his 1989 Sabbath School Lessons on Zechariah).

The reaction to Christ work as His life for 33 years is interesting: “And they weighed out My hire: thirty pieces of silver”.

Rabbi Rashi was very honest: “But I do not know how to explain the expression here of thirty pieces of silver exactly…” The Rabbi will not know if He rejects Christ as the Messiah of the First Advent who was sold for 30 shekels of silver to His killers in Gethsemane to die on the cross in 31 CE. This is where Jeremiah, Zechariah and Matthew meet  each other in a line-up. Except the Rabbi did not have Matthew and thus did not know how to explain it. He is at least honest.

“And the Lord said to me: Cast it to the potter [so Delitzsch] to the stronghold of glory – that I stripped from them [more literal]. And I [Zechariah] took the thirty pieces of silver, and I cast it into the house of the Lord to the potter”.

The “keeper of the treasury” is a mistranslation by Rabbi Rashi in the 12th century who changed the Word of God by changing and emending the Word to God by changing the yod into an aleph. Yes. Vowel changes can change the meaning of a word but is that what the original author intended? Just because the Word looks better in Arabic of the time of Mo does not mean that we should align the Word of God to the Arabic and so much so, that we emend the consonants of the Lord with our own suggestions. The methodology is wrong here of Rashi.

Phillip Samaan mentioned this change in the Sabbath School Quarterly of 1989 page 85:

“A change of one letter in the Hebrew gives the reading ‘treasury’ instead of ‘potter’ (see RSV). 'Treasury' is also the reading of the Syriac.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1111.

The Syriac translation was made in 350 CE and further and nearly all manuscripts of the Syriac dates after the 9th to the 12th centuries so that they are contemporary to Rashi and their methodology overlaps his: use Arabic, the lingua franca of that time as convenient and short-cut solution to difficult words and their meanings. I would not do it. Do not touch the consonants of the Masoretic Text. They are the very Word of God. They were preserved in remarkable 99.9% precision tested in my field of study between Qumran on Daniel [140 BCE] and Daniel in Hebrew of Codex Aleppo in 1008 CE. Vowels are a late accessory in the 9th and 10 centuries CE. A different ball-game thus.

Symbolically the brotherhood between Judah and Israel was broken with the cutting off of the second staff, “Destroyers”.

Zechariah may do the cutting of the staff but the actions find an antitype in that of Yahweh.

Then Zechariah had to take to himself an instrument of a foolish shepherd (verse 15).

A bad shepherd will be set up on the earth (verse 16). Is this the Antichrist? Those who are cut off he shall not remember. The papacy was supposed to be the shepherd of the church in proper biblical fashion but they from their initial start did not cooperate with the biblical interpretation and with allegorization as interpreation and other influences like mysticism, Gnosticism, Greek philosophy, heathen practices, Roman legal habits, Arabic practices and philosophy of music and chanting, have changed them into false shepherds. They were careless of the true faithful ones or remnant.

“The lame he shall not heal, the one that can stand he shall not bear. And flesh of the fat one he shall eat, and their hoofs he shall break”. Throughout the Middle Ages the Holy Roman Empire were involved in persecution of the saints as was predicted by Daniel 7 that it would be for 1260 years, before Zechariah’s prophecy.

“Ho, worthless shepherd, who abandons the flock. A sword is on his arm and his right eye, his arm shall wither, and his right eye shall dim” (verse 17).

The deadly wound of Revelation 13 is in mind here that was executed by Napoleon’s general in 1798 and ironically Pope Pius VI himself said in a letter on November 10, 1798 that “between all the other wounds of the Church are these who mainly day and night afflict us and hold in anguish our spirit”. The Letter is titled as Constantiam vestram. It can be seen in the archive of the Vatican online in papal encyclicals. It is in Italian .


Dear Lord Faithfulness to Your Commandments is what You desire as payments for all Your goodness. We wish to render this for admittedly, our sins were part of the 30 shekels that Judas Iscariot paid. Forgive us for that. In Jesus Name. Amen.