Zechariah continues on much in the spirit of that which has been building in the text, which has been developing to this point. God’s people have been judged for rebellion, but, those nations charged with a disciplinary role have overreached their task and become abusers (Zechariah 1). God will now deal with the abusers while rescuing Israel Himself. Just as Israel, embodied by prince Zerubbabel, lacked the needed resources to rebuild their country, Adonai Himself will squeeze the fresh oil of supply directly (Chapter 4).
First, God disposes of the arrogant neighbors who see their Israeli neighbors’ discomfiture as a wonderful opportunity to take their land and extend their own influence. God will force open their gates and burn their vaunted and famous forests of cedar and cypress. Wailing is heard from the oaks and shepherds, lost without clue as to how to remedy the situation. The oppressors of the eastern borders are also turned to flight and wailing, as well.
Then, in verse 4, the Lord turns His attention to the “flocks marked for slaughter”. Who had so marked them thus is unclear, but, what is clear is that the Lord changes their destiny from slaughter to safety. ”Their own shepherds do not spare them. ‘I will no longer have compassion on the inhabitants of the land’, declares Adonai”. ‘Behold, I will hand everyone over to his neighbor and his king. They will devastate the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand’. “God will deal with the abusive neighbors who had had opportunities to serve as caretakers of Israel’s heritage.
Next, the flock marked for slaughter is pastured. Two staves-named Noam (pleasant, such as from Naomi), and Chobalim (brotherhood or unity). God will shepherd His flock in the pleasantness and brotherhood He always had in mind for His people, taking them out of the hands of the evil shepherds.
He then disposes of the 3 faithless shepherds in one month. Though students of the prophecy vary as to the sense of this statement, my own view is the 3 major offices of covenantal leadership are judged for failure to care for the sheep of Israel-prophets (false ones), false priests, and evil kings. The exile to Babylon was as much to free Israel from apostate leadership as to punish idolatry. These 3 shepherds detested God-thus, they detested faithfully caring for His people. He breaks the staff of Pleasantness to let the people experience the rebuke of the Lord-the Lord Who disciplines whom He loves but never to the point of abuse.
Interestingly, the text turns attention to “30 pieces of silver”. Possibly, this refers to the Judas’ price of betrayal of Yeshua. 30 pieces of silver in the short term might be a nice sum, but, in the long run, would not last long. This points to the tendency of Man to think in the short term but never really coming to anything substantial in reckoning with God. 30 silver pieces turn out to be a very poor bargain.
Then, in God’s move toward the discipline of His people, where He will tear them away from every false shepherd, He breaks the 2nd shepherd’s staff-Union or Brotherhood. The people will be scattered and appear on the verge of desolation and destruction. Then comes chapter 12-next time!
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Adler
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is on the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.