Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down. There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled. Thus saith the Lord my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;(Zechariah 11:1-4)
We have seen Zechariah’s prophetic preview of the coming centuries, in which Jahweh would fulfill the “good and comfortable words” which Zechariah had been given to the remnant which had returned to rebuild ruined Jerusalem after the captivity.
The Gentile powers would be defeated, especially those “horns” which would rule and oppress Israel in her exile, and would be found guilty of ‘furthering the affliction” which God had laid upon his people.
Furthermore Jahweh himself would come unto the chastised nation of Israel, as a lowly King, riding not upon a battle steed, but on a colt, the foal of an ass, and bearing salvation. He would throw out the treacherous Shepherds, those abusive, faithless leaders who had led Israel into the pit of apostasy and judgment. The LORD would come as the good Shepherd for his purpose was to rebuild and restore the Holy people. Under his leadership Israel would be transformed, a regathered nation of mighty warriors, trampling down their enemies, and glorifying God!
All of this would come to pass under the restorative ministry of the Shepherd himself, who is the LORD of the covenant, the one who had come to them as a lowly King.
But what if Israel and Judah were to reject Him at his coming? What if the nation failed to receive Him, and refused to follow him, favoring their own Shepherds? Zechariah 11 is the vision of just such a circumstance, and the consequences of such for the nation .
An invasion is seen in vs 1-3, coming as always from the north, Lebanon is opened up to the conquerors, as also the Golan Heighths, (Oaks of Bashan). The forests are burned, the wood is stripped , (presumably for siege engines), even the heavy thickets along the Jordan River are removed!
There is a deeper , spiritual understanding to this prophecy as well, as is often the case in Biblical prophecy.
Prophetically, “Lebanon” is a reference to the Holy Temple of the LORD, since it was built of Cedar Planking from Lebanon. “Open thy doors Oh Lebanon…the fire devours your Cedars”. The Temple would again be destroyed, in the judgment coming.
What Zechariah predicted, the destruction and burning of the Temple, literally happened in 70 AD, and on the same date as in 536 BC, Tisha Ba’Av!
The trees here in Zechariah’s vision, could just as well represent also the various classes of the people of Israel, the lofty ruling “Cedars” of the temple apparatus, the common “Oaks” and the lowly people of the land, the “thicket”. The entire nation is slated for destruction, a Judgment which is all encompassing draws nigh.
How did this people become designated as “the flock of slaughter” ? What happened to bring this upon them?
Thus saith the Lord my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter; Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.(Zechariah 11:4-6)
The “possessors” of verse 5 , refer to the Gentile buyers and sellers of the Jewish people, those powers into whose hands the nation has fallen, and at whose mercy or the lack thereof the nation seems to be bound. These rulers feel free to do as they wish to Israel and have no sense of guilt in doing so, whether they be Greek, Seleucid, Roman, Ottoman, English, Sunni Muslim or whoever.
“Their own Shepherds pity them not…”, the people of the flock are doubly oppressed, for not only do the Gentiles rule them callously, but even their own civil/religious rulers, who ought to have fed and comforted them in their affliction, leave them weak, sick scattered and vulnerable as they exploit them to whatever extent possible after the Gentile exploitation.
We cannot but think of the situation 5 centuries after this prophecy, in which at the time of the coming of the Messiah to the people, Caesar, Pilate and the odious Herod family were the “Shepherds” who had charge of the flock, and were aided by the Annas/ Caiphas high priestly cabal, and the Zaducaic apostate Priesthood, which held the “common people” of Israel in utter contempt.
Judgment did come in the first century, when after long patience, and even specific Divine intervention such as had never occurred before in history, the people of Israel for the most part, persisted in unbelief and deep apostasy.
Therefore Zechariah predicted, God would give the nation over to civil war, For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbor’s hand.
Furthermore, Zechariah predicts that they would disavow God as their King. “I will deliver every man..into the hands of his King”, notice God referred to “delivering every man to His King” . Evidently He saw that the nation had chosen another King.
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.(John 19:14-15)
It was the High Priest himself , who in his official capacity as representative of all of Israel, denied God as King. He being the very embodiment of the nation, means that the nation itself disowned the Kingship of her God.
Israel died that day, and ultimately was dismantled, scattered across the globe, but kept in state for all of the world to see.
In fulfillment of prophecy, she is currently being re composed, as Zechariah and all of the prophets assured us that she would; first the bones, then the flesh and finally the Spirit of God coming back into the nation, bringing the long awaited resurrection.
Zechariah predicted it, they would be turned over to “their King…” for him to do with Her as He pleased.The worst calamity for Israel to date occurred in 70 ad, but forty years previous to it, God sent His own Son to plead with the people, and to attempt to Shepherd them.
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..(.Zechariah 11:7)
But in mercy, as a last measure, the LORD himself came to his own, to be a Shepherd unto any who would allow it among the apostate nation.
There certainly was a remnant, for Zechariah saw a little flock, the “poor of the flock” who followed the Shepherd, listened to Him and who “Knew the Word of the LORD ” when they saw it happen.For a brief time, the Shepherd fed all of the doomed flock, but out of the larger flock emerged a little congregation of true followers, “the poor of the flock”.
The Shepherd of Zechariah’s vision carried two staffs; the one He called “Favor” and the other,”Unity”, for in God’s grace Israel lived and remained as one nation in spite of her many sins.
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me. (Zechariah 11:8)
The ministry of the Shepherd would be marked by opposition, between himself and the three false Shepherds. The civil authorities in the first century were Roman, and Edomite(Herod and Pilate), the religious authorities were the corrupted establishment of Caiaphas and Annias and the Zadducees. The teaching “shepherds” were the scribes and Pharisees. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry there was a mutual loathing among these, the true Shepherd versus the false ones.
All of these offices are going to be fully realized in the person of the Messiah, He would be Israel’s teacher, and their Priest and King! Had they received him, they would remain in Favor and Unity, but as it is, the staffs were broken, and within forty years of rejecting Him, the nation fell apart, never to be seen again, until 1948 ad, in a very diminished form.
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. 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. 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.(Zechariah 11:9-11)
Zechariah saw that there would come a decisive break, the people would reject the Shepherd decisively, the Shepherd would be stricken and the sheep scattered, and as a result all of the horrors of 70 ad,(siege,cannibalism,captivity and death) would come to pass.He would have saved them from it, but they wouldn’t have it.
The only ones among the nation who knew what was really happening, were ‘the poor of the flock’. They knew it was the Word of the LORD.