A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments, by Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset and David Brown  at sacred-texts.com
zac 11:1DESTRUCTION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE AND JEWISH POLITY FOR THE REJECTION OF MESSIAH. (Zec. 11:1-17)
Open thy doors, O Lebanon--that is, the temple so called, as being constructed of cedars of Lebanon, or as being lofty and conspicuous like that mountain (compare Eze 17:3; Hab 2:17). Forty years before the destruction of the temple, the tract called "Massecheth Joma" states, its doors of their own accord opened, and Rabbi Johanan in alarm said, I know that thy desolation is impending according to Zechariah's prophecy. CALVIN supposes Lebanon to refer to Judea, described by its north boundary: "Lebanon," the route by which the Romans, according to JOSEPHUS, gradually advanced towards Jerusalem. MOORE, from HENGSTENBERG, refers the passage to the civil war which caused the calling in of the Romans, who, like a storm sweeping through the land from Lebanon, deprived Judea of its independence. Thus the passage forms a fit introduction to the prediction as to Messiah born when Judea became a Roman province. But the weight of authority is for the former view.
zac 11:2fir tree . . . cedar--if even the cedars (the highest in the state) are not spared, how much less the fir trees (the lowest)!
forest of . . . vintage--As the vines are stripped of their grapes in the vintage (compare Joe 3:13), so the forest of Lebanon "is come down," stripped of all its beauty. Rather, "the fortified" or "inaccessible forest" [MAURER]; that is, Jerusalem dense with houses as a thick forest is with trees, and "fortified" with a wall around. Compare Mic 3:12, where its desolate state is described as a forest.
zac 11:3shepherds--the Jewish rulers.
their glory--their wealth and magnificence; or that of the temple, "their glory" (Mar 13:1; Luk 21:5).
young lions--the princes, so described on account of their cruel rapacity.
pride of Jordan--its thickly wooded banks, the lair of "lions" (Jer 12:5; Jer 49:19). Image for Judea "spoiled" of the magnificence of its rulers ("the young lions"). The valley of the Jordan forms a deeper gash than any on the earth. The land at Lake Merom is on a level with the Mediterranean Sea; at the Sea of Tiberias it falls six hundred fifty feet below that level, and to double that depression at the Dead Sea, that is, in all, 1950 feet below the Mediterranean; in twenty miles' interval there is a fall of from three thousand to four thousand feet.
zac 11:4The prophet here proceeds to show the cause of the destruction just foretold, namely, the rejection of Messiah.
flock of . . . slaughter-- (Psa 44:22). God's people doomed to slaughter by the Romans. Zechariah here represents typically Messiah, and performs in vision the actions enjoined: hence the language is in part appropriate to him, but mainly to the Antitype, Messiah. A million and a half perished in the Jewish war, and one million one hundred thousand at the fall of Jerusalem. "Feed" implies that the Jews could not plead ignorance of God's will to execute their sin. Zechariah and the other prophets had by God's appointment "fed" them (Act 20:28) with the word of God, teaching and warning them to escape from coming wrath by repentance: the type of Messiah, the chief Shepherd, who receives the commission of the Father, with whom He is one (Zac 11:4); and Himself says (Zac 11:7), "I will feed the flock of slaughter." Zechariah did not live to "feed" literally the "flock of slaughter"; Messiah alone "fed" those who, because of their rejection of Him, were condemned to slaughter. Jehovah-Messiah is the speaker. It is He who threatens to inflict the punishments (Zac 11:6, Zac 11:8). The typical breaking of the staff, performed in vision by Zechariah (Zac 11:10), is fulfilled in His breaking the covenant with Judah. It is He who was sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zac 11:12-13).
zac 11:5possessors--The buyers [MAURER], their Roman oppressors, contrasted with "they that sell men." The instruments of God's righteous judgment, and therefore "not holding themselves guilty" (Jer 50:7). It is meant that they might use this plea, not that they actually used it. Judah's adversaries felt no compunction in destroying them; and God in righteous wrath against Judah allowed it.
they that sell them--(Compare Zac 11:12). The rulers of Judah, who by their avaricious rapacity and selfishness (Joh 11:48, Joh 11:50) virtually sold their country to Rome. Their covetousness brought on Judea God's visitation by Rome. The climax of this was the sale of the innocent Messiah for thirty pieces of silver. They thought that Jesus was thus sold and their selfish interest secured by the delivery of Him to the Romans for crucifixion; but it was themselves and their country that they thus sold to the Roman possessors."
I am rich--by selling the sheep (Deu 29:19; Hos 12:8). In short-sighted selfishness they thought they had gained their object, covetous self-aggrandizement (Luk 16:14), and hypocritically "thanked" God for their wicked gain (compare Luk 18:11).
say . . . pity--In Hebrew it is singular: that is, each of those that sell them saith: Not one of their own shepherds pitieth them. An emphatical mode of expression by which each individual is represented as doing, or not doing, the action of the verb [HENDERSON]. HENGSTENBERG refers the singular verbs to JEHOVAH, the true actor; the wicked shepherds being His unconscious instruments. Compare Zac 11:6, For I will no more pity, with the Hebrew "pitieth not" here.
zac 11:6Jehovah, in vengeance for their rejection of Messiah, gave them over to intestine feuds and Roman rule. The Zealots and other factious Jews expelled and slew one another by turns at the last invasion by Rome.
his king--Vespasian or Titus: they themselves (Joh 19:15) had said, unconsciously realizing Zechariah's words, identifying Rome's king with Judah's ("his") king, "We have no king but CÃ&brvbr;sar." God took them at their word, and gave them the Roman king, who "smote (literally, 'dashed in pieces') their land," breaking up their polity, when they rejected their true King who would have saved them.
zac 11:7And--rather, "Accordingly": implying the motive cause which led Messiah to assume the office, namely, the will of the Father (Zac 11:4-5), who pitied the sheep without any true shepherd.
I will feed--"I fed" [CALVIN], which comes to the same thing, as the past tense must in Zechariah's time have referred to the event of Messiah's advent then future: the prophets often speaking of the future in vision as already present. It was not My fault, Jehovah implies, that these sheep were not fed; the fault rests solely with you, because ye rejected the grace of God [CALVIN].
even you, O poor of the flock--rather, "in order that (I might feed, that is, save) the poor (humble; compare Zac 11:11; Zep 3:12; Mat 5:3) of the flock"; literally, not you, but, "therefore (I will feed)" [MOORE]. See Margin, "Verily the poor." It is for the sake of the believing remnant that Messiah took charge of the flock, though He would have saved all, if they would have come to Him. They would not come; therefore, as a nation, they are "the flock of (that is, doomed to) slaughter."
I took . . . two staves--that is, shepherds' staves or rods (Psa 23:4). Symbolizing His assumption of the pastor's office.
Beauty--The Jews' peculiar excellency above other nations (Deu 4:7), God's special manifestation to them (Psa 147:19-20), the glory of the temple ("the beauty of holiness," Psa 29:2; compare Psa 27:4; Psa 90:17; Ch2 20:21), the "pleasantness" of their land (Gen 49:15; Dan 8:9; Dan 11:16), "the glorious land."
Bands--implying the bond of "brotherhood" between Judah and Israel. "Bands," in Psa 119:61, Margin, is used for confederate companies: The Easterns in making a confederacy often tie a cord or band as a symbol of it, and untie it when they dissolve the confederacy [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. Messiah would have joined Judah and Israel in the bonds of a common faith and common laws (Zac 11:14), but they would not; therefore in just retribution He broke "His covenant which He had made with all the people." Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, and Pompey were all kept from marring utterly the distinctive "beauty" and "brotherhood" of Judah and Israel, which subsisted more or less so long as the temple stood. But when Jehovah brake the staves, not even Titus could save the temple from his own Roman soldiery, nor was Jurian able to restore it.
zac 11:8Three shepherds . . . I cut off--literally, "to cause to disappear," to destroy so as not to leave a vestige of them. The three shepherds whom Messiah removes are John, Simon, and Eleazar, three leaders of factions in the Jewish war [DRUSIUS]. Or, as Messiah, the Antitype, was at once prophet, priest, and king, so He by the destruction of the Jewish polity destroyed these three orders for the unbelief of both the rulers and people [MOORE]. If they had accepted Messiah, they would have had all three combined in Him, and would have been themselves spiritually prophets, priests, and kings to God. Refusing Him, they lost all three, in every sense.
one month--a brief and fixed space of time (Hos 5:7). Probably alluding to the last period of the siege of Jerusalem, when all authority within the city was at an end [HENDERSON].
loathed them--literally, "was straitened" as to them; instead of being enlarged towards them in love (Co2 6:11-12). The same Hebrew as in Num 21:4, Margin. No room was left by them for the grace of God, as His favors were rejected [CALVIN]. The mutual distaste that existed between the holy Messiah and the guilty Jews is implied.
zac 11:9Then said I--at last when all means of saving the nation had been used in vain (Joh 8:24).
I will not--that is, no more feed you. The last rejection of the Jews is foretold, of which the former under Nebuchadnezzar, similarly described, was the type (Jer 15:1-3; Jer 34:17; Jer 43:11; Eze 6:12). Perish those who are doomed to perish, since they reject Him who would have saved them! Let them rush on to their own ruin, since they will have it so.
eat . . . flesh of another--Let them madly perish by mutual discords. JOSEPHUS attests the fulfilment of this prophecy of threefold calamity: pestilence and famine ("dieth . . . die"), war ("cut off . . . cut off"), intestine discord ("eat . . . one . . . another").
zac 11:10covenant which I made with all the people--The covenant made with the whole nation is to hold good no more except to the elect remnant. This is the force of the clause, not as MAURER, and others translate. The covenant which I made with all the nations (not to hurt My elect people, Hos 2:18). But the Hebrew is the term for the elect people (Ammim), not that for the Gentile nations (Goiim). The Hebrew plural expresses the great numbers of the Israelite people formerly (Kg1 4:20). The article is, in the Hebrew, all the or those peoples. His cutting asunder the staff "Beauty," implies the setting aside of the outward symbols of the Jews distinguishing excellency above the Gentiles (see on Zac 11:7) as God's own people.
zac 11:11poor . . . knew--The humble, godly remnant knew by the event the truth of the prediction and of Messiah's mission. He had, thirty-seven years before the fall of Jerusalem, forewarned His disciples when they should see the city compassed with armies, to "flee unto the mountains." Accordingly, Cestius Gallus, when advancing on Jerusalem, unaccountably withdrew for a brief space, giving Christians the opportunity of obeying Christ's words by fleeing to Pella.
waited upon me--looked to the hand of God in all these calamities, not blindly shutting their eyes to the true cause of the visitation, as most of the nation still do, instead of referring it to their own rejection of Messiah. Isa 30:18-21 refers similarly to the Lord's return in mercy to the remnant that "wait for Him" and "cry" to Him (Zep 3:12-13).
zac 11:12I said--The prophet here represents the person of Jehovah-Messiah.
If ye think good--literally, "If it be good in your eyes." Glancing at their self-sufficient pride in not deigning to give Him that return which His great love in coming down to them from heaven merited, namely, their love and obedience. "My price"; my reward for pastoral care, both during the whole of Israel's history from the Exodus, and especially the three and a half years of Messiah's ministry. He speaks as their "servant," which He was to them in order to fulfil the Father's will (Phi 2:7).
if not, forbear--They withheld that which He sought as His only reward, their love; yet He will not force them, but leave His cause with God (Isa 49:4-5). Compare the type Jacob cheated of his wages by Laban, but leaving his cause in the hands of God (Gen 31:41-42).
So . . . thirty pieces of silver--thirty shekels. They not only refused Him His due, but added insult to injury by giving for Him the price of a gored bond-servant (Exo 21:32; Mat 26:15). A freeman was rated at twice that sum.
zac 11:13Cast it unto the potter--proverbial: Throw it to the temple potter, the most suitable person to whom to cast the despicable sum, plying his trade as he did in the polluted valley (Kg2 23:10) of Hinnom, because it furnished him with the most suitable clay. This same valley, and the potter's shop, were made the scene of symbolic actions by Jeremiah (Jer. 18:1-19:15) when prophesying of this very period of Jewish history. Zechariah connects his prophecy here with the older one of Jeremiah: showing the further application of the same divine threat against his unfaithful people in their destruction under Rome, as before in that under Nebuchadnezzar. Hence Mat 27:9, in English Version, and in the oldest authorities, quotes Zechariah's words as Jeremiah's, the latter being the original author from whom Zechariah derived the groundwork of the prophecy. Compare the parallel case of Mar 1:2-3 in the oldest manuscripts (though not in English Version), quoting Malachi's words as those of "Isaiah," the original source of the prophecy. Compare my Introduction to Zechariah. The "potter" is significant of God's absolute power over the clay framed by His own hands (Isa 45:9; Jer 18:6; Rom 9:20-21).
in the house of the Lord--The thirty pieces are thrown down in the temple, as the house of Jehovah, the fit place for the money of Jehovah-Messiah being deposited, in the treasury, and the very place accordingly where Judas "cast them down." The thirty pieces were cast "to the potter," because it was to him they were "appointed by the Lord" ultimately to go, as a worthless price (compare Mat 27:6-7, Mat 27:10). For "I took," "I threw," here Matthew has "they took," "they gave them"; because their (the Jews' and Judas') act was all His "appointment" (which Matthew also expresses), and therefore is here attributed to Him (compare Act 2:23; Act 4:28). It is curious that some old translators translate, for "to the potter," "to the treasury" (so MAURER), agreeing with Mat 27:6. But English Version agrees better with Hebrew and Mat 27:10.
zac 11:14The breaking of the bond of union between Judah and Israel's ten tribes under Rehoboam is here the image used to represent the fratricidal discord of factions which raged within Jerusalem on the eve of its fall, while the Romans were thundering at its gates without. See JOSEPHUS [Wars of the Jews]. Also the continued severance of the tribes till their coming reunion (Rom 11:15).
zac 11:15yet--"take again"; as in Zac 11:7 previously he had taken other implements.
instruments--the accoutrements, namely, the shepherd's crook and staff, wallet, &c. Assume the character of a bad ("foolish" in Scripture is synonymous with wicked, Psa 14:1) shepherd, as before thou assumedst that of a good shepherd. Since the Jews would not have Messiah, "the Good Shepherd" (Joh 10:11), they were given up to Rome, heathen and papal, both alike their persecutor, especially the latter, and shall be again to Antichrist, the "man of sin," the instrument of judgment by Christ's permission. Antichrist will first make a covenant with them as their ruler, but then will break it, and they shall feel the iron yoke of his tyranny as the false Messiah, because they rejected the light yoke of the true Messiah (Dan 11:35-38; Dan 12:1; Dan 9:27; Th2 2:3-12). But at last he is to perish utterly (Zac 11:17), and the elect remnant of Judah and Israel is to be saved gloriously.
zac 11:16in the land--Antichrist will probably he a Jew, or at least one in Judea.
not visit . . . neither . . . seek . . . heal . . . broken, nor feed . . . but . . . eat . . . flesh . . . tear--Compare similar language as to the unfaithful shepherds of Israel in Eze 34:2-4. This implies, they shall be paid in kind. Such a shepherd in the worst type shall "tear" them for a limited time.
those . . . cut off--"those perishing" [Septuagint], that is, those sick unto death, as if already cut off.
the young--The Hebrew is always used of human youths, who are really referred to under the image of the young of the flock. Ancient expositors [Chaldee Version, JEROME, &c.] translate, "the straying," "the dispersed"; so GESENIUS.
standeth still--with faintness lagging behind.
tear . . . claws--expressing cruel voracity; tearing off the very hoofs (compare Exo 10:26), giving them excruciating pain, and disabling them from going in quest of pasture.
zac 11:17the idol--The Hebrew expresses both vanity and an idol. Compare Isa 14:13; Dan 11:36; Th2 2:4; Rev 13:5-6, as to the idolatrous and blasphemous claims of Antichrist. The "idol shepherd that leaveth the flock" cannot apply to Rome, but to some ruler among the Jews themselves, at first cajoling, then "leaving" them, nay, destroying them (Dan 9:27; Dan 11:30-38). God's sword shall descend on his "arm," the instrument of his tyranny towards the sheep (Th2 2:8); and on his "right eye," wherewith he ought to have watched the sheep (Joh 10:12-13). However, Antichrist shall destroy, rather than "leave the flock." Perhaps, therefore, the reference is to the shepherds who left the flock to Antichrist's rapacity, and who, in just retribution, shall feel his "sword" on their "arm," which ought to have protected the flock but did not, and on their "eye," which had failed duly to watch the sheep from hurt. The blinding of "the right eye" has attached to it the notion of ignominy (Sa1 11:2).