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In our study of Zechariah chapter eleven, we look at the contrast between the good and bad shepherds. The Hebrew word for shepherd is roeh and is made with three symbols. The first symbol (resh) is the ancient picture of the head of a man. The second is ayin which is related to seeing while the third is hey which is the symbol of divinity and the Spirit of God. We often think of shepherds as being meek and lowly but, as we see in the Hebrew, they were not thought of in that manner throughout the Bible. The biblical picture of a shepherd is of an all knowing, all powerful, defender of man and it ultimately speaks of Jesus Christ.
"Open your doors, Lebanon, so that fire may devour your cedars! Wail, you juniper, for the cedar has fallen; the stately trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan; the dense forest has been cut down! Listen to the wail of the shepherds; their rich pastures are destroyed! Listen to the roar of the lions; the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined!" NIV translation
In Judaism, trees represent man's connection to the physical world. Here, we see that the trees have been destroyed and the rich people of Israel are mourning. This speaks to the fact that the people of Israel were going to be judged and lose their material blessings.
"This is what the Lord my God says: 'Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter. Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, "Praise the Lord, I am rich!" Their own shepherds do not spare them. For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,' declares the Lord. 'I will give everyone into the hands of their neighbors and their king. They will devastate the land, and I will not rescue anyone from their hands.'" NIV translation
A shepherd is one who protects and defends the sheep. Here, Zechariah is told to take care of those that were "marked for slaughter". In Amos 2, we saw that Israel would be judged for their treatment of the poor. The rich were exploiting the poor and enslaving them but this passage speaks of the fact that God would provide for them.
"So I shepherded the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I shepherded the flock." NIV translation
Zechariah tried to protect the people by telling them about the things of God (feeding them the Word). His tools for doing this were the shepherd's crook (staff of favor or grace) and the rod (staff of binders or covenant of God). He assured the poor and lowly that God would remember them and provide for them.
"In one month I got rid of the three shepherds. The flock detested me and I grew weary of them and said, 'I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh.'" NIV translation
In the role of the good shepherd, Zechariah drove out three false prophets and we see that the people were unhappy with him. These bad shepherds were telling them what they wanted to hear while he was telling them the truth. Finally, he sees that they have rejected the truth and are doomed. The part about eating each other's flesh is reported (by Josephus) to have happened in the year A.D. 70 with the Roman siege of Jerusalem. We see that there were three shepherds that were sent by the bad shepherd (Satan) and are reminded that he tries to duplicate the things of God. In the last days, we will see a rise of the unholy trinity.
Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all nations. It was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord." NIV translation
God's grace was removed from the people that rejected Him. With the removal of grace also came the removal of God's protection and the nations were freed to attack Jerusalem.The same type of thing will occur during the last days. As the people reject God, He will remove His hand of protection and provision from the earth. God will also remove his restraint on evil and the world will become a very dark place.
"I told them, 'If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.' So they paid me thirty pieces of silver." NIV translation
Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave during this period of time. In paying this price, they showed contempt for the prophet and the things of God. This is the same thing that the Jewish leaders did as they paid Judas this amount to betray Jesus (see Matt. 26:14 & 15). In so doing, they bought the King of Kings for the price of a slave.
"And the Lord said to me, 'Throw it to the potter' - the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord." NIV translation
The Lord had Zechariah reject the insulting payment. He uses sarcasm as He describes the payment as a "handsome price". In the same way, Judas tried to return the payment but the religious leaders would not accept it. The payment was returned so that we might see that salvation is a gift from the Lord and cannot be bought at any price.
"Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel." NIV translation
The prophet broke his staff representing the fact that their would be division among the Jews. This is what happened when Jesus went to His people. The apostles were Jews but they were separated from the rest of the Jews and persecuted by the religious leaders. Even today, there is much division among the Jewish people. This will continue until the return of Jesus Christ as He will bring unity during the Millennial Reign.
"Then the Lord said to me, 'Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hooves. 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!'" NIV translation
h the rejection of the Good Shepherd (Jesus) comes the rise of the bad shepherd (the antichrist). We are reminded that it is God who allows him to rise in the land. This shepherd will speak of peace and prosperity but, as we see, this shepherd is characterized by his lack of compassion. We also see that he is cursed and the end is already set. His arm is withered representing his loss of strength or power and, on the final day, his armies will be destroyed in an instant.