Zechariah, Chapter 11:7-14
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.
8. Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
14. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
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The incident is an enacted parable, as we may learn (1) from the general employment of the prophets as men of sign, of whom Zechariah was one, (Isa. 8:18, Ezek. 12:6, Zech. 3:8 – margin); and (2) from the surroundings of the particular case in question.
Zechariah receives a command to "feed the flock of slaughter" (verse 4), that is, the flock subject to slaughter; that is , Israel, whose possessors fattened by their destruction (verse 5).This was a command to act the part of a shepherd. He therefore takes two staves (verse 7), the implements of a shepherd, the crosier or shepherds staff to this day fossilized in the ritualism of a false church. Furnished with these, he acts a shepherd's part, at the finishing of which he is instructed to take other instruments: "Take thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd; for lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land which shall not" – act a fostering part, &c. The taking of the instruments of a foolish shepherd was the enacting of a prophecy of evil coming upon Israel. So the taking of the two staves in the first case was the enacting of a prophecy. What was this prophecy?
The introduction of Christ into it gives us the clue. He is introduced into it by the quotation of a verse of this chapter by Matthew as having reference to Christ. The verse is this "So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, cast it unto the potter a goodly price that I was prized at of them." This is quoted as a prophecy of Christ in Matt. 27:9 & 10. With this guidance, we may work out the prophecy of the two staves.
It had reference to the finishing of Israel's history in the land. Zechariah prophesied about 520 BC. There had yet to run about 600 years when the time God should no more pity the inhabitants of the land (verse 6), but break them up and cast them out, because of their iniquity. But before this catastrophe should come, God himself would do a kindly shepherd's work in their midst, which should be brought to bear upon the poor. "I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock," (verse 7). Yet a work which should end in failure, and which should be succeeded by a long sham shepherd work in which a professional shepherdism, of ostentatious mitre and crosier, instead of feeding the flock, (tending the young and healing the broken), should eat the fat and tear with ferocious claw, (verse 16 & 17).
The kindly shepherd work was by Christ in the land, the form of God in their midst. He is typified by Zechariah and his two staves –" the one called Beauty and the other called Bands" – that is excellence and union. Zechariah fed the flock: (verse7, last clause), but his work brought him into collision with the established shepherds, three of whom he cut off, mutual aversion strongly ensuing. The flock (that is the people), may be supposed to have sided with the professional
shepherds. Zechariah then throws up the work and leaves the people to all the evil consequences that would come: "Then I said I will not feed you; that that dieth, let it, &c. "Then he breaks the first staff to indicate the cessation of the effort. When he did so, "the poor of the flock that waited on him knew that it was the word of the Lord," though the rest did not. Then he offered to sell himself if the hostile part of the community chose to buy him. They consented to get him thus under their power, and handed over 30 pieces of silver. The Lord told him to hand it over to the city potter as a price at which he (Yehu) had been prized at them.
Zechariah would not understand the prophetic import of this, but we are enabled to understand it with the life of Christ in our hand, as written by the apostles. In him did the God of Israel visit his flock with the offer of peace and union. Only the poor of the flock listened to him.
"The common people heard him gladly." "To the poor was the gospelpreached." In the course of his good shepherd work, he was opposed by the bad shepherds, whom, with his tongue, he cut off in condemnation, saying that upon that generation would come the heaped-up wrath of God (Luke 11:47-51, Matt. 23:32-39). In three years and a half, he ceased his work and left Israel's house to desolation (Luke 13:35). He then virtually offered himself to death at their hands, refusing to exercise the power of escape that he possessed, and laying down his life which, as he said, so man took from him against his will. The price paid to get him was 30 pieces of silver – paid to Judas, at that time a member of Christ's body, and therefore, in a sense paid to himself. This was the price put upon the head of Israel's God in being put upon Jesus His Son, who said, "He that despiseth me despiseth Him that sent me."
It stands out clearly as the most extra ordinary transaction in the world's confirmed history, that God should have been valued at 30 pieces of silver –" the goodly price which I was prized at of them." It will stand out in the endless history of glory to come.
Zechariah would not discern the enigma: the direction to "cast the money to the potter. As a fact, the anti-typical purchase money would be denied admission to the treasury of the bad shepherds, and to be appropriated in a way to mark its extraordinary character. It was to be used in buying a field of death and dishonour – a place to bury the disowned of mankind – Aceldama, of which all the world has heard – and which is a household word in every town and city in Christendom to this day. A terrible type there was in this: the transaction, which the money represented, has purchased for Israel ages of blood and suffering and death in the land of strangers. The land of the Gentiles has been a land of burial for Israel to this day.
The Jews, as a nation, did not discern the nature of the things that happened to Christ in all these particulars but the "poor of the flock" – (the disciples whom Jesus addressed as "Blessed ye poor") knew that it was the word of the Lord. Then followed the breaking of all bands in Israel's house. Brotherhood between Israel and Judah implied their separate existence as political systems; for men must be men to be brothers; and nations must be nations to be brother nations. But since the calamity that befell Israel's race 40 years after the paying of the 30 pieces of silver, there has been no nationality for any section of them. The second staff has been broken, and the land has been under the jurisdiction, first, of the false and ferocious shepherd of Christendom, and then of the Destroyer from the Mohammedans Pit. But the days of darkness are near their end. The foolish shepherd's arm is about to be "clean dried up," and his "right eye utterly darkened." And Yehu's glory is about to appear in true and beneficent shepherd-manifestation. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom and shall gently lead those that are so young," (Isa. 40:10 & 11).
If none but the good fish came into the net, if none but faithful men and women responded to the call, things would be too sweet and smooth among believers. There would be no trial of the patience, which shows itself in the perseverance in duty under bitter circumstances.