|MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED, Chapter 15||
MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED
THE second half of Zechariah's prophecy (chapters 9-14) might be compared to an ellipse with its two focal points, one of which (chapters 9-11) centers in "the judgment through which Gentile world-power over Israel is finally destroyed, and Israel is endowed with strength to overcome all their enemies." The point of interest of the second prediction (chapters 12-14) consists of "the judgment through which Israel itself is sifted and purged in the final great conflict with the nations and transformed into the holy nation of the Lord."
With the eagle-eye of prophetic interpretation Zechariah foresaw the victorious, sweeping conquest of western Asia by Alexander the Great and the Lord's protection of His holy temple in Jerusalem during that period of unprecedented events. The picture of this monarch's conquest blends imperceptibly in 9:8 with the final invasion of Palestine by the world power in the end time and of the Lord's appearing upon the scene and delivering Israel from that titanic conflict.
This deliverance by implication suggested the Redeemer; hence, the prophet, acting upon the principle of the law of recurrence, was led by the Spirit to foretell the first coming of Messiah to Zion when He rides upon an ass in a lowly and humble manner. Then suddenly the picture of this first appearance begins to blend into that of His triumphant coming which will be when Israel accepts Him. At his return to Jerusalem He will deliver the nation from all oppressors (vs. 10).
In the paragraph
the prophet explains the basis of the redemption of Jerusalem and the Hebrew
race and the manner of the Lord's first appearance in the city for her
deliverance. For instance, the efficient cause of Israel's release from
age-long, worldwide bondage and deliverance at Messiah's second coming is "the
blood of thy covenant" (vs. 11). What is the significance of the expression
"the blood of thy covenant"? Certainly not the blood of bulls and goats that
were slain on the altar in ancient times. The correct answer to this question
can be found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. From this passage it is evident that the
blood of Messiah is the
efficient cause of Israel's final release and redemption.
In Zechariah 9:12-17 appears a very vivid description of how the Lord will appear personally then in Zion to deliver Israel. In verse 16 appears the prediction that the Lord will be the shepherd of His flock.
The central thought of chapter 10:1-7 is found in verse 4:
"From him (Judah) shall come forth the cornerstone, from him the nail, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler together."
gathers up in small compass three principal figures under which Messiah and
His work for Israel
are by the former prophets set forth. In Isaiah 28 and Psalm 118 He is
represented as the cornerstone and the head of the corner. In Isaiah 22,
verses 22-24, appears the figure of the nail driven in the wall.*
In the national anthem of Israel, sung by Moses (Deuteronomy 32:41-43), the Lord represents King Messiah as His sword with which He will slay the nations and deliver Israel. In Psalm 45:3-5 He is presented as a brave warrior who shoots His arrows at His enemies, and who at the end of the conflict stands victorious upon the battlefield. Isaiah (49:2) compared Him to a polished shaft, but Zechariah in our verse (10:4) changed the figure a little and compared Him to a battle bow. In the last phrase of this verse, "from him every ruler (or, exactor) together," the prophet gathered up all the remaining figures used of Messiah in the former prophets and applied them to Him, Zechariah, therefore, brought together in this verse all of the figures used by the prophets in setting forth Messiah in His final conquest of the nations and deliverance of Israel.
In verse 8 of
this chapter appears a beautiful prediction of the final regathering of Israel.
Here the prophet compares God to the shepherd who with his reed sounds his
note, and all of the flock of Israel
come, gathering around Him. This final regathering of Israel presupposes the
world-wide dispersion; hence in verse 9 the prophet foretells Israel's being
sown among the nations. In verses 10-12 the prophet reverts to the thought of
her being regathered and describes it in most glowing terms. From this fore
1. THE DEVASTATING STORM
"Open thy doors,
that the fire may devour thy cedars. Wail, 0 fir-tree, for the cedar is
fallen, because the goodly ones are destroyed: wail, 0 ye oaks of Bashan, for
the strong forest is come down. A voice of the wailing of the shepherds! for
their glory is destroyed: a voice of the roaring of young lions! for the pride
of the Jordan is laid waste" (11:1-3).
There has been much discussion as to whether or not these verses are to be taken literally or symbolically. The rule by which we are to be governed in our interpretation of all language is that we must take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the context indicates otherwise. A departure from this simple common-sense rule always leads into vagaries and uncertainties. An excellent statement of the literal interpretation of this passage is found in the following quotation:
"Lebanon is bidden to open its doors; that is, its steep mountain paths, in order that the fire of the enemy might consume its cedars. The firs, or cypresses, are called upon to howl or lament because the cedars are fallen; for if the more excellent and valuable trees were felled without mercy, the poor firs and cypresses must needs expect a similar fate.
"From the heights of Lebanon the destructive storm
sweeps down on the land of Bashan, and the Oaks-the pride of the land (with
their kindly shade from the burning heat) -are likewise felled by the enemy to
meet the wants of the invading army, and to construct his means of offence and
defence. Thus, the wood hitherto practically inaccessible is brought low. The
desolating storm sweeps from the high lands to the low lands. The very
shepherds are forced to howl, because their splendour is laid waste; namely,
the pasture lands in which they were wont to feed and tend their flocks in the
day of peace and quiet. The conflagration extends even to the south of the
land. Judah is wrapped in flames. The close thickets which fringed the Jordan
river, as it ran along through the territory of the southern kingdom, are
consumed by the fire. The thickets which shut in that stream so closely that
its waters could not be seen ti11 the traveler was close on its banks, which
were wont to be the abode of lions and other beasts of prey in those days, are
likewise described as destroyed. 'The pride of Jordan' is rendered desolate,
and hence the voice of the roaring of lions is heard wailing over the general
ruin.-"The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah, by David Baron, p. 377.
The author whom I have just quoted has clearly stated the literal common-sense interpretation of this wonderful prediction. The prophet saw the country invaded by a foreign foe who left wreckage and desolation in his wake. About this position I do not think there can be any question. At the same time, however, the general impression of the passage is that while it is to be taken literally, it goes beyond the plain sense.
B. Symbolic Interpretation
Many interpreters have ignored the literal meaning and have seen a figurative significance only in this wonderful prediction.
"Thus, the 'cedars' are taken to mean the highest and noblest in the land, while the 'cypresses,' or 'firs,' represent the common people, who are commanded to 'howl,' because since the 'cedars' have fallen there is no hope of their being spared."-Baron.
True that in Ezekiel 17:3 the family of David is represented by a lofty cedar and in Isaiah 14: 8 and Jeremiah 22:6, 7 lofty cedars are "the emblems of the glory of the Jewish state." The oracle following, in verses 4-14, favors a symbolic or allegorical interpretation of the first three verses, in addition to the literal meaning of the words. The transition from the literal to the symbolic or allegorical is very easy in this instance and is accomplished by what we might properly call a play on words. This fact becomes evident when we remember that the lumber which was used in the construction of the temple, the royal palace, and public buildings was procured from the mountains of Lebanon. The prophet in vision sees an approaching army entering the defiles of the Lebanon mountains, speaks to them as if animate, and urges them to open their gates to this invader who will destroy, not only the country of Lebanon, but also Bashan and the Jordan valley. Seeing the plunderer entering Palestine, his mind easily grasped the whole situation which would effect the complete destruction of the Jewish state. Having spoken of the cedars of Lebanon and knowing that the timbers used in the construction of the temple and public buildings had been procured from that region, he referred to these edifices in terms of the forests of Lebanon and Bashan. Thus, when the prediction is understood in the light of these facts, it becomes evident that the first three verses foretell the invasion of Palestine by some foreign foe and the complete collapse of the Jewish nation. In order to make the connection between the literal fulfillment of this invasion and the overthrow of the Jewish nation by this conqueror unmistakable, I will again resort to the use of one of my
C. The Calamity Foretold
There has existed much confusion as to what event in history is here foretold in these verses. The so-called modern or rationalistic theologian sometimes applies it to the devastation wrought by the Assyrian conquerors. This position is taken because the critic has already assumed, upon arbitrary grounds, that the latter half of Zechariah is pre-exilic. The incorrectness of this general position has been very forcefully shown by various conservative scholars. For instance, David Baron, in his excellent work, The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah, has exposed the error.
interpretation is set forth by the Jewish commentator, Abarbanel.* Hear him,
purpose,' he asks, 'should God show the prophet past events, which he had seen
with his own eyes and with the eyes of his father; and what necessity was
there to make known to him the captivity of the tribes and the desolation of
the first house, which had occurred but a short time before; and (above all)
to do this in parables, which are only employed in reference to the future, to
make events known before they happen? But with regard to the past, information
is not conveyed in parables. It is not possible to suppose that God would
communicate a plain matter of recent history in obscure symbols, and,
therefore, the symbolical representation cannot refer to the past, and must
predict what was to happen during the time of the Second Temple.' "
"'The howling of
the shepherds-their glory.'-Their strength, and might and their glory. The
interpretation of the verse is according to the Targum. But our rabbis, of
blessed memory, have interpreted this chapter of the desolation of the second
temple, and Lebanon is the holy temple.
They say, that
forty years before the destruction of the temple, the doors of the sanctuary
opened of themselves. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai reproved them, and said, '0
sanctuary, sanctuary! how long wilt thou terrify thyself? I know that thine
end is to be left desolate, for Zechariah has prophesied against thee long
since, Open thy doors, 0 Lebanon."'*
"For my own part,
I believe that the more carefully we look into this solemn scripture, the more
manifest it becomes that the state of things which it prophetically depicts
answers exactly to the condition of the Jewish nation immediately preceding
the final catastrophe at the destruction of the Second Temple, and the
dissolution of the Jewish polity by the Romans, and does not correspond to
their condition and experience during the whole, or even greater part, of
their history after the partial restoration from Babylon."
II. THE PROPHET'S IMPERSONATIONS (Vss. 4-17)
In the heading of
this section I use the word impersonation. Let us recognize that this passage
is very dramatic. The action and reaction are indeed realistic.
the prophet to perform a real action, and in a waking state, which action was
to be an intimation and a sign of that which was to happen in God's dealings
with Israel," and adds: "By attending to the affairs of the prophets thou
mayest know that God, blessed be He, sometimes commanded them to perform real
actions, and in a waking state, and afterwards explained to them the reason of
the command according to the sign that was in them.*
But sometimes the blessed God commanded the prophets to do things foreign to their character, and unnecessary for them to do; which things were also to be a sign and a type of coming events, and did not expound the meaning, because He knew that the thing itself could be understood" (as, for instance Isa. viii.1-2; Ezek. iv.1-2, v. 1). But, as has been observed, the narrative in this chapter differs in some respects from the symbolical actions of the prophets and from Zechariah's own visions.
actions of the prophets are actions of their own: this involves acts which it
would be impossible to represent, except as a sort of drama. Such are the very
central points, the feeding of the flock, which yet are intelligent men who
understand God's doings: the cutting off of the three shepherds; the asking
for the price; the unworthy price offered; the casting it aside. It differs
from Zechariah's own visions, in that they are for the most part exhibited to
the eye, and Zechariah's own part is simply to inquire their meaning and to
learn it, and to receive further revelation. In one case only (chap. iii. 5)
he himself interposes in the action of the vision; but this, too, as asking
that it might be done, not as himself doing it. Here (in chap. xi) he is
himself the actor, yet as representing Another, Who alone could cut off
shepherds, abandon the people to mutual destruction, annulling the covenant
which He had made."
Maimonides took the opposite view and interpreted the passage as simply a vision presented to the prophet's mind:
"This, 'I fed the
flock of the slaughter,' to the end of the narrative, where he is said to have
asked for his hire, to have received it, and to have cast it into the Temple,
to the treasurer-all this Zechariah saw in prophetic vision. For the command
which he received, and the act which he is said to have done, took place in
prophetic vision or dream. 'This,' he adds, 'is beyond controversy, as all
know who are able to distinguish the possible from the impossible.' "
It is altogether possible that he may be correct, but his explanation of this symbolic act is not at all the only possible one.
In view of the fact that this is a controversial point and excellent scholars are divided in their opinions relative to it, I shall not be dogmatic. I will say, however, that I am inclined to favor the position that the prophet actually took staves, went to the temple, and, before its authorities, impersonated the shepherd of Israel.
The late David Baron has done well to call our attention to an observation of an old writer concerning the actions of the prophet. On this point he states,
"The actions of the prophets are not always to be understood as actions, but as predictions-as, for instance, when God commands Isaiah to 'make the heart of the people fat and their ears heavy'; or when He says that He appointed Jeremiah over the nations, 'to root out, and to break down, and to destroy, and to overthrow, and to build, and to plant'; or when He commanded the same prophet to cause the nations to drink the cup whereby they should be bereft of their senses (Jeremiah 1: 10; Isaiah vi: 10; Jeremiah 25:15-27)."
That the oracle contained in verses 4-14 is explanatory of the vision found in the first three is evident when one notes what is said in verse 3 concerning the wailing of the shepherds, comparing it with the statements in verse 5 relative to the same persons.
Furthermore, the vision of verses 1-3 is that of the complete overthrow of the nation. Corresponding to this prediction are the statements in the oracle concerning the breaking of the staff called Beauty (verse 10) and that named Bands (verse 14). For these and other considerations that might be mentioned I am thoroughly convinced that this oracle is explanatory of the devastating calamity foretold in the vision (vss. 1-3).
1. THE PROPHET'S COMMISSION (VSS. 4-6)
In verse 4 the prophet is commanded to feed the flock of slaughter. What does this expression mean? Israel is called the flock of the Lord. (See Psalm 100.) He constantly spoke of Himself as her Shepherd and the Chosen People as His flock. In view of these facts the audience naturally would understand by "the flock of slaughter" that reference was made to them.
Israel throughout the centuries has been persecuted more or less. Even in Zechariah's day he could say, "the teraphim have spoken
"whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty; and they that sell them say, Blessed be Jehovah, for I am rich; and their own shepherds pity them not" (vs. 5).
God always uses the wicked Gentile nations to punish Israel when she is disobedient and out of fellowship with Himself (d. Jeremiah 50:6, 7):
"My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting-place. All that found them have devoured them; and their adversaries said, We are not guilty, because they have sinned against Jehovah, the habitation of righteousness, even Jehovah the hope of their fathers."
Though He uses wicked men and nations to accomplish His plans and purposes, He always punishes them for their sins and transgressions when they have completed the task He has assigned them. This thought is shown in Jeremiah 50:17, 18:
"Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away; first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria."
In the past the Lord has punished the nations who have afflicted Israel unnecessarily, and He will yet chastise those in the future that attempt to harm His Chosen People.
Jewish history through the centuries has been written in blood. An impartial statement of the case demands such a pronouncement. After having seen that Israel has been considered and treated as the flock of slaughter for centuries we ask, Is this the thing about which Zechariah was speaking? This question must be answered in the negative. The prophet did not have in mind her age-long suffering, but rather a calamity that would overtake her and would destroy her nationality.
b. The Possessors of the Flock
Who are these
possessors of Israel? Evidently those into whose hands their' shepherds
deliver them. In the next subdivision we shall learn who these shepherds are.
Zechariah, who was one of the leading spirits in the restoration movement, looked forward and saw a time when Israel would be under the control of those whom he termed possessors, and who would slaughter them considering themselves not guilty. A glance at history shows that the Romans were the ones of whom he was speaking. It was that nation which got possession of Palestine, and which finally destroyed and slaughtered the nation. At the conclusion of the catastrophe of 70 C.E. the victors dispersed them throughout the world.
The religious leaders especially of Israel were called shepherds. Sometimes this term, however, embraced also the political rulers. Jeremiah, in 23:1-4, used the word shepherd with this signification. Ezekiel (34:1-10) also gave it this meaning. It is certain from this context that Zechariah thus referred to both the political and religious leaders as such. These, according to this prophecy, had no concern for the people. For mercenary reasons they delivered them over into the hands of the Gentile conquerors. Seeing the miserable condition of the people, they had no pity upon them. For the officials of a people, political or ecclesiastical, to lose sight of the interest of all concerned and to betray them into the hands of foreigners is treason of the highest order. God pity such an unfortunate nation. Such was Israel's lot. Her leaders, because of rivalry and jealousy, delivered the helpless people into the hands of the Romans, who eventually overthrew the government, crushed multitudes, despoiled them of their possessions and dispersed them among the nations.
"For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith Jehovah; but, 10, I will deliver the men everyone into his neighbor's hand."
was Israel's lot in this condition. Her own shepherds had proved to be
unfaithful in their duties and were callous to the highest interests of the
masses; the Gentile world-power, into whose hands the people of Israel were
betrayed, dealt with them as though they were chattel; and the Lord their God,
on account of their iniquity, as we shall learn a little later, ceased to pity
them. Thus this verse foretold the miserable lot of the people of Israel when
they would be abandoned of both men and God.
According to verse 6, Israel, when abandoned both of God and of men, is delivered into the hand of "his king." After the restoration, she had no king-during the period of the Second Temple. Nevertheless, the prophet, looking out into the future, spoke of her being delivered into the hand of her king. Even in his pictures of the future there is but one king spoken of by Zechariah, who is King Immanuel. It is impossible for this verse to refer to Him, because it speaks of God's having no pity upon the nation and of delivering the people into the hand of "his king," Israel's king. Who then is this king? History will have to answer. During the Hasmonean troubles the contending political rivals invited the Romans to adjust the difficulties. They came: but, instead of settling the controversy in the interests of righteousness and truth, they took possession of Palestine, and the Roman Caesar became the king of the country. In the light of the historical facts, therefore, we must conclude that the king here referred to was the Roman Emperor, whom Israel eventually accepted complacently as her king.
Of this king and his forces it is said in this prediction that "they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them." This prediction was literally fulfilled by the Roman occupation of Palestine.
2. THE PROPHET'S OBEYING ORDERS (vss. 7-14)
Obedience of His people is the thing for which the Lord has a yearning desire. To rebellious Saul He through Samuel asked, "Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (I Samuel 15:22). No gifts and offerings can ever become a substitute for obedience to the revealed will of God. Let each of us bear this fact in mind.
Above I spoke of Zechariah's impersonating the Messiah. In the discussion of verses 4-6 I have shown that the prophet was commissioned and instructed to enact the role of King Messiah. It is now proper to study his dramatic action. That verses 7-14 present the prophet's impersonation of Messiah is evident from certain expressions which he used, and which could not possibly apply to himself: for instance, "I cut off three shepherds in one month"; "I break my covenant"; "the goodly price that I was prized at by them.”
The prophet in no wise cut off three shepherds in one month. He had no covenant with the nation of Israel that he could break. On the contrary, the Lord spoke the statement, "the goodly price that I was prized at by them." These facts show that Zechariah was enacting the role of a shepherd, and that the one impersonated was none other than the Lord Himself.
The section (vss. 7-14), being a report of his obeying the Lord, was written after the prophet had completed his dramatic performance before the authorities in the temple; hence he here spoke in the past tense of what he had done.
For him to appear before the temple authorities as a rustic shepherd and to play such a role was indeed not surprising to them, for the Lord had on different. occasions announced that He Himself would become the Shepherd of Israel. Asaph in Psalm 80, which Israel will yet use especially in the time of her great distress, prayed that the Shepherd of Israel who sits enthroned above the cherubim will shine forth and come to the rescue and deliverance of His Chosen People. This inspired utterance, relating to the future, shows that this Shepherd of Israel is now in glory and that He will in answer to the earnest petition of the entire nation "shine forth" and come to deliver His people from their distress. Isaiah 40:9-11 informs us that. those who will yet tell the glad tidings to Zion will proclaim to the cities of Judah, "Behold, your God! Behold, the Lord Jehovah will come as a mighty one. . . . He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead those that have their young." Ezekiel, during the time of the exile by the Spirit of God, pronounced a woe upon "the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! . . . Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill the fatlings ; but ye feed not the sheep .. . "
The reader is urged to study Ezekiel 34:1-10 very carefully. In verse 10 the Lord declared that He was against such unfaithful shepherds and would hold each personally responsible for his conduct toward the helpless sheep. Then, in verse 11, the Lord made the glorious revelation:
"For thus saith
the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will
seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among
his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and r will
deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy
and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from
the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and r will feed them
upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited
places of the country I will feed them with good pasture;
The prophet was commissioned to feed the flock of slaughter. The proverbial saying is always true-"One may lead a horse to water but he cannot make him drink." No one can create in another a desire for spiritual things unless the latter is willing to pay attention and take heed to the message. When the prophet began his impersonation, doubtless all present understood the significance of the passage; but only the poor and the afflicted had receptive hearts and accepted the message. God blinds the minds of those who will not receive truth (Isa. 66:3, 4; Ezek. 14). On the other hand, the leaders and those who were not pressed with the burdens of life, being unwilling to be disturbed by a further reve1atian and being content in pleasure and worldliness, became enraged by this dramatization.
When Zechariah saw the reaction of the official heads, he declared: "I will not feed you: that which dieth, let it die; and that which is too be cut off, let it be cut off; and let them that are left eat every one the flesh of another." When men harden their hearts and refuse too accept the will of God, the Lord, in turn, judicially hardens their hearts and abandons them to the fate that is merited by their stubbornness and rebellion.
In order to
impersonate the Lord, the Shepherd, the prophet had to procure the shepherd's
staff and crook. This he did. On one he engraved the word, chobheliym, Bands,
and an the other, noam, Beauty. The staff Beauty signified graciousness or
God's compassionate love far Israel; the other symbolized His protection over
the nation and
e. The Shepherd (vs. 8)
In playing the role of the. Shepherd the prophet by his action "cut off three shepherds in one month." His auditors were familiar with the way a shepherd would separate certain sheep from the flock. Who are these three shepherds? Many opinions have been advanced but most of them are unsatisfactory. To me the one which considers them as three classes of people rather than individuals seems the most plausible. Without entering into the merits of the various positions taken, may I say that in my judgment the civil authorities (the rulers), the priests, and the prophets (false) are the three classes referred to here? Others, however, have interpreted these three classes as those constituting the Jewish Sanhedrin in the time of the Second Temple; namely, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people. This suggestion, however, is not bad.
When by their expression and action the prophet saw that the heads of the nation rejected his message, he broke his staff Beauty, grace. According to verse 8, these leaders loathed the Shepherd. Since they knew that he was impersonating the Lord who promised to come and to shepherd the nation, this reaction was toward God. Of course, the people did not realize the significance of such an attitude. Evidently their hearts and their souls were not right; hence a revelation that went counter to their own lives naturally stirred up hatred toward the will of God, that is inborn in the human heart. At this new revelation which condemned them, they became infuriated. Frequently conditions reach a stage when patience on the part of God ceases to be a virtue. Such was the fact in this case. Hence the Lord said that He was weary of them.
By breaking his
staff Beauty, Zechariah indicated that the Lord, on account of their attitude,
would break His covenant with all nations. To what pact is reference here
made? Did God enter into an agreement with all the nations as He did with
Israel? No; no such transaction is recorded in the Sacred Oracles. God entered
into a covenant with Israel to protect her and preserve her from the attacks
of the nations in the event that she was faithful to Him. (See chapter 26 of
Leviticus.) When Israel was in accord with the will of God and obedient to
Him, He, figuratively speaking, held and restrained the nations, preventing
them from making encroachments upon the borders of Israel.
When she became disobedient, He removed the barriers preventing their afflicting His Chosen People. Of course, His protecting them was due too His graciousness too them. The prophet spoke of it in terms of a covenant. When, however, Israel rejected the Lord as her shepherd (as in this case), He removed His grace and permitted the nations too harass His people.
"And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that r was prized at by them. And r took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the house of Jehovah."
Having played the role of the Shepherd, the prophet then turned to the leaders of the nation and said: "If ye think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear." His asking for his hire indicated that the dramatization was brought to a close. Speaking in modern terms, one would say that Zechariah played the dramatic performance voluntarily without solicitation or consent on the part of the leaders of the people; hence they were under no obligation to give him anything. On the contrary, realizing the significance of his performance and being enraged by the revelation which he made, they weighed thirty pieces of silver-the price of a dead slave. By selecting this price they showed their contempt, not simply for the prophet himself, but especially for the One whom he had been impersonating. In calm moments, of course, when they realized the full significance of what had gone on before their eyes, they would not show such great contempt for Gad their Shepherd as is here set forth; but, as has been noted before, men whose hearts are not right with God, in the heat of passion and under the excitement and stimulus of the moment, commit irrational acts; yes, unbelievable things.
"Then I cut
asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that r might break the brotherhood
and Israel." When the authorities of the temple showed their utter contempt
for the real Shepherd of Israel and flung such insa1ence into His face, the
prophet broke his second staff, namely, Bands, which act symbolized the
breaking of the brotherhood among Judah and Israel. In the original text the
word which is translated "between"
has that as its primary meaning, but it is also used to signify "among," as is seen in Isaiah 44:4. It undoubtedly has this secondary signification here. The prophet's ha1ding his staff Bands and not destroying it when he brake the staff Beauty seemed to indicate God's unwillingness too bring about the complete destruction of the nation. His love held On to His people just as long as possible. He broke the second staff only when it was morally impossible for him too desist.
What is meant by the breaking of the brotherhood among Judah and Israel? Does it signify another rent similar to that which occurred in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and which divided the twelve tribes into the two rival kingdoms of Judah and Israel? It is hardly probable in this connection, for, according to the prediction presented in the vision, verses 1-3, the nation is swept away in the flames of a destructive judgment. One writer has interpreted it as the "terrible calamity of civil strife and destructive feuds among themselves, which is symbolized by the breaking of the staff called Bands." This interpretation, I think, is probably correct.
It is immaterial whether we conceive of the prophet's dramatization as occurring only in a vision or as actually enacted by him in the temple and in the presence of the authorities. The lesson is the same. As suggested above, I am inclined to believe that he actually went to the temple and in the presence of the leaders and the congregation performed this dramatic action. Dr. C. H. H. Wright, interpreting the prediction, forcefully and graphically presented the case in the following words which are quoted by Baron:
"The Temple was the place where the people of the covenant were wont to assemble to present themselves before the Lord. In that holy place the awful repudiation on the part of the nation of Him, who was the Shepherd of Israel, was to be publicly made known. The base transaction (however done in a corner) was to be proclaimed upon the housetops. In the place where the solemn covenant between Jehovah and His people had so often been ratified by sacrifices, the fearful separation between the people of Israel and Himself was to be declared. What was done in the Temple was done in the presence of both parties to the covenant: in the presence of Jehovah, in whose honour the Temple had been erected, and in the presence of the nation, who, by its erection of that Temple, had accepted Jehovah as their Lord and God. In the presence of both parties the rejection of the Lord as the Shepherd of Israel was to be announced, and the dissolution of the covenant made by Jehovah to be publicly proclaimed by the act of His representative."
From this whole discussion we gather several salient facts which are beyond dispute in this prediction. Another has summarized its outstanding features as follows:
"(2) That only 'the poor of the flock' would attend to His word; but the rest, both leaders and people, would reject and abhor Him.
"(3) That the Good Shepherd should be valued at the price of a common slave.
"( 4) That the people would in consequence be given over to be the prey of the Gentile powers from without, and to civil feuds within."-Baron.
Without question, this prediction shows that the Lord who promised to come and to perform the functions of a shepherd would appear in that role before the national life became extinct. Since He permitted the Romans to destroy every vestige of the Jewish state and to scatter the nation too the four corners of the earth, the inevitable conclusion is that He, the Messiah, according to this schedule, appeared before that event.
Another conclusion that forces itself upon the mind of the earnest truth-seeker is that the destruction. of the Jewish state by the Romans, which occurred in 70 C.E., was the immediate consequence of the rejection of the Lord as Israel's Shepherd when He came. Not until after the leaders rejected the prophet as shepherd in this dramatic performance, did the latter break both staves. By their action and attitude he was driven to do this. Then he interpreted the symbolic significance of this act of breaking them.
The entire dramatic action of Zechariah, therefore, was to portray vividly to the leaders and people of his time that God would appear in person as Israel's Shepherd and Messiah, that the leaders of the race would reject Him and hurl contempt at Him, considering Him nothing more than a dead slave, and that the consequences of their attitude and action would be the destruction of the nation. As has been noted, since the destruction here foretold occurred in the year 70 C.E., we know absolutely and positively that Messiah made His appearance prior to that event.
Israel, therefore, is making a serious mistake too expect Messiah's first appearance to be yet in the future. He has already come one time-in fulfillment of those many predictions which show that He was to come, entering the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth. Since we know positively that He made His appearance before 70 C.E., it is now for the earnest truth-seeker in Israel too scan the pages of Jewish history to see when He appeared, under what human name He lived, and what He accomplished for Israel and the world. Then it is for each one to accept Him with a whole heart, not only as Shepherd and Messiah of Israel, but as the Saviour of the soul.
B. Impersonation of the False Shepherd (vss.15-17)
"And Jehovah said unto me, Take unto thee yet again the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, who will not visit those that are cut off, neither will seek those that are scattered, nor heal that which is broken, nor feed that which is sound: but he will eat the flesh of the fat sheep, and will tear their hoofs in pieces."
When Israel rejected the prophet who was impersonating the true Shepherd of Israel, then the Lord called upon him to get the instruments of the false shepherd, a desperado, and to impersonate another character, namely, a false shepherd.
According to the prophet Daniel there will be a willful king who will come in the end time, will gain the confidence of the people, and then will prove too be a tyrant, subjecting Israel and the nations to the greatest indignities possible and controlling the nations with a rod of iron without any mercy or consideration whatsoever (Dan. 11:36-45). This same false shepherd or willful king is mentioned in other passages of the prophets.
In verse 17 his doom is foretold.
Under the galling yoke and the severe bondage of this false shepherd, which Israel as a nation will yet accept, she will learn as never before the serious blunder that she made in rejecting her true Shepherd when He came prior to the year 70 C.E. The condition of the Chosen People continues to grow worse and worse under the reign of this false king until the whole nation will turn to God and will cry out in the language of Psalm 80 for the true Shepherd, the Messiah, who is now seated on high or enthroned above the praises of Israel, to shine forth, to come, and to deliver her. Never until she thus prays will this faithful Shepherd have mercy upon His straying sheep and come for their deliverance. Eventually, however, they will cry out as the psalmist declares:
"Give ear, 0
Shepherd of Israel. Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; Thou that sittest
above the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manassah,
stir up thy might, And come to save us. "Turn us again, 0 God; And cause thy
face to shine, and we shall be saved" (Ps. 80:1-3). When they turn to their
Shepherd and cry for Him He will return. May that day of glorious deliverance
speedily come is my cry.
Questions and comments are always welcome
©Ron Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com.
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