Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long wilt thou make us doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed me not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

But ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. – John 10:24-26

And I said unto them, If ye think it good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. 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 prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. – Zechariah 11:12 & 13

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

And the chief priests took the silver pieces…

And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. – Matt. 27:1,3-7

Zechariah 11 contains for us a complete picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and of His controversy with the Jews.

If you are unfamiliar with Zechariah 11, the chapter begins with a prediction of the burning of the forrests of Lebannon (Zech. 11:1 & 2) which event would occur approximately 35 years after Jesus was crucified when the Romans annihalated Israel.

The passage continues, speaking of the priests of Israel, using the analogy of the priests as shepherds, and with this analogy, the judgment of Israel upon the rejection of Messiah is further predicted:

Zechariah 11:3-6
There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds [the priests, or the Sanhedrin]; for their glory is spoiled [the land of Israel is laid waste by the Romans]: 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;

Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty [Zechariah, still speaking of the Sanhedrin, here. Just as Jesus would later condemn them for so treating the people, and holding themselves not guilty as Zecheriah here predicts (see Matt 23)]: 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.

There are a number of the Old Testament prophets which speak of this phenomenon – that is: the controversy that would come between the Messiah when He came and the religious ruling council of the Jews (the Sanhedrin; see also my series on the first five chapters of Isaiah), yet Zecheriah’s account contains not only of the judgment to follow Christ’s coming, but also the astounding and controversial prediction that Messiah will break the Old Covenant and the ties that bind the Jews to Himself as God’s chosen people. Think I’m crazy? (Or mistaken?) Read on.

In the very following verse, Zechariah begins to describe a prophetic drama (if you are unfamiliar with the term a prophetic drama is a form of prophecy in which the prophets ACTIONS play a vital role in the message that the Lord is conveying. Ezekiel, for example used a lot of prophetic drama.) The Lord had directed Zecheriah to take a job as a shepherd – specifically as a head shepherd.

The first thing that Zechariah does is to take to himself two staves, and as a prophetic message he names the staves. He names the first staff ‘Beauty’ and the second staff he names ‘Bands’ (or ‘bindings’). As we shall see, the staff named ‘Beauty’ signifies the Covenant of Abraham – the covenant God had made with the shepherds (those religious leaders of the Jews). The meaning of the staff called ‘Bands’ or ‘binders’ (again, as we shall see, for these types are expounded in this passage as it continues) is the connection that the Jews had under the Old Covenant (the Covenant of Abraham) as His people, for the Jews were BOUND to God under the Old Covenant dispensation.

Yet Zechariah immediately begins to speak of a controversy between himself, and the other hireling shepherds:

Zechariah 11:7 & 8
And I will feed the flock of the slaughter [that is to say: I will nourish the people who I know will reject my ministry, and be punished], even you, O poor of he flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.

Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.

As the head shepherd, Zechariah fired three of he hireling shepherds (see also post, Three Branches of Antichrist). Jesus spoke of the religious rulers (the Sanhedrin) when He spoke of the hireling shepherds in John 10 (see also post, One Fold, One Shepherd):

John 10:11-14
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for he sheep [just as Zechariah fed the flock ‘of the slaughter’ – the flock he knew would be destroyed].

But he hat is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth he sheep.

The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

In the context, Jesus is speaking of the Sanhedrin – the religious rulers of Israel of whom Zechariah is prophesying.

Just as Zechariah fired the three hireling shepherds, Jesus fired the Sanhedrin council, and its three branches (Pharisees [religious], Sadducees [secular], Herodians [political]): the three hireling shepherds. Matthew 23 contains the most thorough account of Christ’s declaration of judment upon the Sanhedrin, and Jerusalem. Begining his statement of judgment upon them with the words: ‘The scribes, and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:’ (Matt 23:2), the Lord is expressly judging the Sanhedrin council (He likewise pronounced judment upon them as seen in Mark 12:1-12 where He quotes the parable of Isaiah 5). Just as Zechariah fired the hireling shepherds, so also did Christ when He came.

Zechariah continues:

Zech. 11:9
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 every one eat he flesh of another.

Wow! How’s that for the good shepherd? But Zechariah is speaking of those who continue to follow the hireling shepherds which he had fired – those who would not follow Christ into the New Covenant because they had been decieved by the hireling shepherds (Matt. 23:13). These sheep want the hireling shepherds, and reject the Good Shepherd, so the Good Shepherd hands them over to judgment. This is actually a vitally important part, because we see that the Lord is not cutting off the Jews as a people, but the Sanhedrin: the priests and scribes which made up the ruling council of the Jews. Those who would follow the Messiah (even as Nicodemus, for example) were accepted by the Lord (John 6:37).

I point out here, again, that this prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when the Romans besieged the city after Christ’s ascention to heaven. The famine was so severe in the city that the people resorted to cannabalism as Zechariah here predicts.

Zech. 11:10
And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I made with all the people.

Here Zechariah, foreshadowing the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ declares that he will break the covenant which he made, quote: “with ALL the people.” Due to the language, and the context of the prophecy it is evident that this word speaks of THE Covenant with the Jews (the Covenant of Abraham), for firstly he is speaking of the Lord’s coming to the rulers of Israel whose ministry is based upon the Old Covenant, but also He declares specifically that it is the Covenant Messiah had made with ALL the people (the Jews), which covenant is the covenant circumcision, the covenant of Abraham.

Now, it is essential to note also – in respecting the Gospel Message – that this covenant was superceded by the superior Covenant of Jesus Christ. As the writer of the book of Hebtews notes:

Hebrews 8:6-8 & 13
6 But now hath he [Jesus] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Zechariah prophesies that the Lord at His coming would abolish the Old Covenant (not ‘suspended,’ nor ‘postponed,’ as though it may return but abolished). The New Testament account verifies that the covenant has been Superceded (i.e. destroyed the Old through its fully superior merits).

Zech. 11:11
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.

The poor of the flock that waited upon me, that is: the poor in spirit who followed the Messiah when He came – they, and they alone of all Israel would know that the abolishment of the Old Covenant was the Word of the Lord. And so they did, even as we have already seen quoted an Apostle of Christ from the book of Hebrews, so also we know that he early church had ruled that new Christians need not be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses (see Acts 15). Those who would not follow Messiah would not percieve that the destruction of the covenant was the Word of the Lord.

Zechariah 11:12 & 13
And I said unto them, If ye think it good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. 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 prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

Matthew 26:14, 15
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

And said unto them, What wilt thou give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Now as the Lord would fire the hireling shepherds – who rejected Messiah, and taught those they ruled to do so also – yet would the priesthood compensate the Good Shepherd for relieving them of the priesthood? When the Sanhedrin determined to kill Jesus, they were willing to pay exactly 30 pieces of silver to bribe Judas to betray Him. The Messiah’s worth was no greater than the cheap price of blood to the hireling shepherds.

As quoted previously, when Judas realized his error he cast the thirty pieces of silver into the temple – for the priests would not recieve their hire of blood from him (Matt. 27:4 & 5). Yet when he had cast the money into the temple (just as the Lord had commanded Zechariah to do in order to foretell this action of Judas (Zech. 11:13)), the priests purchased a field from the potter (Matt. 27:6-8), so the money – the price at which the hireling shepherds valued Messiah’s blood – was used exactly as foretold.

Zechariah 11:14
Then cut I asunder mine other staff, even ‘Bands’ that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

Now Zechariah prophesies another astounding thing: Messiah, who would obolish the Old Covenant through supercession would also break the bonds between Judah, and Israel. This is an interesting – seeming contradiction – to certain intepretations of Ezekiel 37, which declares that Messiah will come when Judah, and Israel are joined together (Ezekiel 37:15-28).

I actually wrote a post on Ezekiel 37, and Christ’s fulfilment of it, but I’ll give a quick contextual refresher, and quote part of it here. Ezekiel prophesied seventy+ years before Zechariah, prior to the Babylonian exile. Ezekiel clearly prophesies that after the exile God would return the people of Judah and Israel (which had been two seperate nations since the days of King Rehoboam – so, all of Ezekiel’s life), and make them into one nation in the land of Israel, and that Messiah would come and establish the eternal tabernacle there. Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Christ: the nation was unified in the land of Palestine when Christ came as Ezekiel foretold. Christ also established the eternal tabernacle by superceding the Old Covenant with the New.

Yet now, some seventy+ years AFTER Ezekiel’s prophecy, Zechariah prophesies that Messiah will actuall break the bond between Judah, and Israel which Ezekiel declared would be eternally established. Is Zechariah contradicting the former prophet?

Of course not, Ezekiel’s word was fulfilled exactly when Christ came, and so also was Zechariah’s. The fulfilment of both of these is spiritual, as Christ’s kingdom is spiritual. If we interpret them both to mean EARTHLY Israel, rather than spiritual Israel, then there IS a contradiction, wherefore interpretting Ezekiel 37 to mean that God will eternally establish earthly Jerusalem, and the Hebrew race as His people is an incompatible error.

As the apostle clearly establishes: ‘Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.’ (Hebrews 13:14) No earthly city [Jerusalem] is eternal; Christ established New Jerusalem [the Church] (Rev. 3:12) when He came, thus fulfilling both the prophecy of Ezekiel 37, and the prophecy of Zechariah 11.

Ezekiel prophesied the Jews would return after the exile, and the nation would be united, then Messiah would come and establish His eternal tabernacle in the earth (fulfilled – ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’ (1 Cor. 3:16) ‘What? know ye not hat your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?’ (1 Cor. 6:19)).

Zecheriah prophesied AFTER THE EXILE that when Messiah came, He would break the Old Covenant (fulfilled – Hebrews 8), and break the bonds that united Judah, and Israel.

Zechariah 11:14
Then cut I asunder mine other staff, even ‘Bands’ that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

This word actually means that Judah (the earthly people of God under the former covenant) would be seperated from Israel – the spiritual inheritance of God. The Jews would no longer be the spiritual fulfilment of Israel.

As the New Testament account declares the fulfilment of this prophecy:

Romans 9:6-8
Not as though the Word of God had taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel [i.e. one is not of True spiritual Israel simply because he is of earthly Israel]:

Neither because they are the seed of Abraham [geneological Jews], are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

That is, they which are the children of the flesh [geneological Jews] these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise [those who recieve the promised Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile] are counted for the seed.

So one may ask then if the Jews were replaced. No! A thousand times, no. God did not replace the Jews, but what He did do is supercede the Old, temporal Covenant with the New spiritual Covenant in Jesus blood. The Jews ARE NOT rejected under this Covenant, but they are no longer God’s people simply because of their geneology (as Paul explains above).

Rather, that the new and better covenant may be established with the eternal priesthood of the Good Shepherd, the old covenant was abolished. Those who continued to follow the hireling shepherds, and the abolished covenant could not see that it was the Word of the Lord (Zech. 11:11) therefore were the ties that bound them to Israel (being the people of God) were also broken because they followed the hirelings, and not the Good Shepherd.

The final verses of the chapter promise that following the Good Shepherd [Christ] there will come yet a foolish shepherd [Antichrist]. Zech. 11:15-17.