Zechariah 11 Foolish Shepherds.
The northern kingdom of Israel was suffering judgment (vv. 1-2 Cf. Jer. 25:34-36; Is. 32:19), in part because their shepherds were unfaithful (vv. 3-5 Cf. Jer. 2:3; 50:7; Ezek. 34:2-3; Hos. 12:8). For this reason they would be turned over to their enemies (v. 6). The LORD had two staffs, ‘beauty’ or ‘grace’ and ‘bonds’ , by which He led the flock, and the shepherds were dismissed (vv. 7-8).* The flock would perish because they had broken the covenant which the LORD had with all peoples, which was intended to be one of beauty and grace (vv. 9-10).** The poor in spirit, those who had humbled themselves, the remnant, knew that this was the word of the LORD fulfilled (v. 11 Cf. Zeph. 3:12).
In asking for 30 shekels of silver, the prophet was asking for the payment for a slave who had been gored to death by an ox (v. 12 Cf. Ex. 21:32). Judas was paid this when he betrayed the Servant of the Lord. “The value of a slave’s life was less than that of a freeman and was the betrayal value of Jesus (Mt. 26:14-16)” (NGSB. p.125). Here in this passage, it was the “princely price” given to the potter in the house of the LORD (v. 13). Again, in the account of Judas we read “seeing he had been condemned” brought back to the Jewish leadership his 30 shekels and cast them into the temple, confessing that he had betrayed innocent blood (Mt. 27:3-4 Cf. Jer. 19:1-13).
The apostate leadership, who in their mind wanted to keep to the prescriptions of the law, knowing that this was blood money, reasoned that they could use the money to buy a potter’s field and bury Judas there (vv. 5-8). Matthew made clear that this event was in fulfillment of this passage in Zechariah and also of Jeremiah (32:6-9), so that in this matter of capital punishment, there were two witnesses (vv. 9-10 Cf. Dt. 19:15; Mt. 18:15; II Cor. 13:1). As the chief Potter, the Lord God is free to make vessels of honour and those of dishonour, “even the wicked for the day of doom” (Prov. 16:4 Cf. Rom. 9:21; II Tim. 2:20). The other staff signified the bond of unity between Israel and Judah, which was then also broken in two (v. 14).
The prophet is then commanded to take up the implements of a foolish shepherd, because these were their leaders (v. 15 Cf. Is. 56:11). The LORD would raise up a foolish shepherd “who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces” (v. 16 Cf. Ezek. 34:1-10). This shepherd, and those like him, are worthless, fit only to be destroyed (v. 17 Cf. Jer. 23:1). “The loss of ‘arm’ and ‘right eye’ indicates the loss of power and insight necessary for leadership (v. 17).*** In the next chapter the prophet will reveal the coming deliverance of the LORD’s people.
* The three shepherds may refer to the three anointed offices of leadership-prophet, priest, and king.
** The covenant “made with all peoples,” may refer to “the divinely imposed obligation on the nations not to injure God’s people Israel (cf. Ezek. 34:25; Hos. 2:18). With the removal of God’s favour toward Israel, the nations could afflict the flock of God” (NGSB. p.1480).
*** “Some suggest that this prophecy refers to the Jewish leaders who led the nation into disastrous rebellions against Rome after the death of Christ (A.D. 66-74, 132-135)” (Ibid. p.1480).