Zechariah 11:4. Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;
This is a deep prophecy. It may be interpreted concerning many events, but I think it primarily refers to the departure of the people of Israel from God, and their rejection of Christ. It has to do with the first coming of Christ, and the way in which they cast off the great Shepherd, and he cast them off, so that Israel was simply spoiled and scattered throughout the whole earth. The teachers of those days were false to their service.
Zechariah 11:5. 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.
They bound heavy burdens upon them, grievous to be borne, but they touched them not with one of their fingers. The Scribes and Pharisees were false shepherds, and had clean departed from God in the day of our Lord.
Zechariah 11:6. 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.
Christ gathered a few round him who were his true sheep, who knew his voice, and these he fed; they were the flock of the slaughter. They, most of them, died a martyr death, and they were the poor and despised among men.
Zechariah 11:7. 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.
The “Beauty” is the loving-kindness of the presence of God; “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” By “Bands” we understand binders, the unity of the flock; that which kept the people together. These are the two staves — the two staves with which the good shepherd blessed his flock when he is with them.
Zechariah 11:8. Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
There is a mutual loathing between God and ungodly men. They, to whom Christ came, were of this character; they loathed him. and he could not endure them. See how he cried to them, “Woe unto you, Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites; woe unto you teachers of the law.” There was a solemn division between them, and the people themselves called after their shepherds, and we are like them, so that they took up stones again to stone him, and he, with many tears, was forced to pronounce woe upon them.
Zechariah 11:9-11. 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.
The national covenant, as far as Israel was concerned, was broken, and they were cast off and driven from their land. Oh! the sufferings of Israel in those days! The stories were enough to melt the heart of a stone. The great sins of the ages, and, worst of all, the great sin of rejecting Christ, brought upon that people such a doom that we know not where to find its parallel in all the annals of mankind. Still, notice there was always a people that the great Shepherd looked after; “so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord.”
Zechariah 11:12-13. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and it 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 priced at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
You know how this came to pass, and literally came to pass in that day, when the betrayer cast down the price of his blood, and they bought therewith the potter’s field to bury strangers in. This is what Israel did with her great Shepherd — with the Messiah.
Zechariah 11:14. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
They became a scattered people henceforth.
Zechariah 11:15. And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.
Hard clubs and swords, and such like things, unfit for sheep.
Zechariah 11:16-17. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leave the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
These were the shepherds to which Israel was left when they rejected Christ. They did nothing for the people; they were a curse to them, and they themselves were blinded; their own power failed. Well now, what took place actually with regard to Israel takes place with regard to any church that casts off Christ and his teaching; it becomes an anti-Christ; and all has surely been fulfilled in the great anti-Christian system, which is not dead even yet, which destroys and injures; and this day its arm is clean dried up, and its right eye is utterly dimmed. We have a terrible description of what God will do to these who turn away from him.