Zechariah's Shepherds


The shepherd is one of the most pervasive and significant of all of the pictures used within the prophecy of Zechariah. Zechariah is replete with graphic and evocative symbolism. It has the four horses, the two olive trees, the woman in the ephah, the measuring line, the priest covered in excrement and of course the flying scroll. Yet these pictures come and go from Zechariah's narrative; graphic tools used to illustrate a particular point. The shepherd metaphor arrives in chapter 10, dominates chapter 11 and then resurfaces in chapter 13 as part of a vital messianic prophecy.

Another key feature of the shepherd in Zechariah is that the metaphor is used in at least three and arguably four different contexts. This is very different from the lamb or the beast of Revelation or the little horn of Daniel. The shepherd metaphor is not simply a label of a prevalent character; instead it forms the glue that allows three or four different characters to be compared and contrasted. Therefore we must study the actual metaphor itself and not simply use it as a label for independent characters.

Whilst studying the shepherd metaphor in Zechariah we must also be aware that the Lord used this picture for 16 verses[1] of extended commentary. In particular the suggested rule of thumb that a metaphor can only have one point of similarity does not apply in this case. The Lord Himself drew out at least half a dozen different features from the way that shepherds interact with their sheep. It is therefore necessary to investigate those features of the shepherd that scripture emphasizes to see if and how they apply to Zechariah's shepherds.

Another point related to the preceding is that the Good Shepherd is not just a metaphor but it is actually a title that the Lord attributed to Himself. Therefore as we see shadows of the Good Shepherd in the Old Testament we are not simply seeing a useful picture. Instead we must view it as a stage in divine revelation. In fact I believe we will see that the Good Shepherd was, or should have been, an expectation of the Jews to rival the expectation of the Messiah Himself[2].

Because of these considerations this paper is going to take a ground up approach to the interpretation of the Shepherds of Zechariah. First it will consider the literal and physical references to shepherd in scripture. Then it will investigate the use of the shepherd as a metaphor for leadership. Next the emergence of the 'Good Shepherd' in prophecy will be considered. Following this groundwork the four shepherds of Zechariah will be studied in sequence in some depth and an attempt will be made to 'map' them to their fulfillment or expansion in the New Testament.

Literal Shepherding

Shepherding is the second profession mentioned in scripture[3]. Adam did not need a profession before the fall and became a tiller of the ground as part of a curse[4]. His eldest son followed in his footsteps[5]. Abel was a keeper of sheep and by offering one of his first borne sheep he recorded the first sacrifice that God found acceptable[6]. This rapidly led to him becoming the first murder victim[7]. It has been pointed out[8] that whilst we are not explicitly told why Cain murdered Abel we are told why the Good Shepherd was killed in Mark 15:10; it was envy. This would appear as a very plausible reason for Abel's death too.

Shepherding then became a characteristic feature of the patriarchs. This started in a somewhat ignominious manner. On two separate occasions Abram essentially sold his wife and received sheep[9] in return. We know too that Isaac kept a flock of sheep[10]. However our first significant introduction to the role of a shepherd occurs with the story of Jacob and Rachel. The latter is introduced to the biblical narrative with the label of shepherdess and it is probable[11] that her name actually means sheep or ewe and denotes her affinity for these animals.

Genesis 30 then affords us a detailed treatise on the management of a sheep herd with a particular emphasis upon selective breeding. This is a passage that is often skipped over as the critics have largely convinced us that it is based upon an ancient superstition of prenatal influence[12]. However the Bible does not state that the rods caused the speckling; it actually makes clear it was the genetic composition of the male sheep that determined color[13]. What we are told is that the rods were to ensure that the animals conceived[14] while they drank.

We are not told explicitly how the rods worked; although we are told that they did. It is possibly significant that Jacob took three different types of tree[15] to create his rods, that he peeled the bark and that he placed them in the water the sheep was drinking. It is quite possible that Jacob was producing a fertility cocktail. Another possibility is that Jacob was creating a safer feeling environment for the sheep that altered their manner of conception. We know from human beings that diet and environment can alter the ratio of male to female offspring. Is it not possible that a third generation shepherd with at least fourteen years or personal experience shepherding actually knew the little things that altered how sheep reproduced?

The Bible also affords us some detail regarding the tools of a shepherd. One of these was the rod. This would most readily be recognized today as a club. It was used for fending off wild animals. It also had a role in enumerating the sheep. The herd was caused to pass through a narrow opening and was then counted as the sheep passed under the rod[16]. It is believed that the tithe was chosen by dipping the rod into a colored solution and then tapping every tenth sheep that went past[17].

Another tool made famous by David was the shepherds' sling. This was a soft piece of leather bound by two thongs. A stone could be placed in the middle and then by rotating the sling above the head and releasing one of the thongs the stone would fly as a projectile towards its' intended target. This could be used 'alert' straying sheep as well as acting as a longer distance method of dissuading predators.

Finally is the staff, seen today as the shepherds crook. This was longer and thinner than a club and was used both as a walking stick for the shepherd but also as a reaching device to handle sheep. Very often the rod and staff are mentioned together the former picturing judgment or protection the latter indicating care and handling.

Shepherding as a picture of leadership

The story of Jacob, Rachel and Laban actually teaches us another subtler message about shepherding that is re-enforced later. From the worldly or human perspective it was considered to be a lowly and insignificant task. Laban had assigned the task to his youngest daughter. Moses' future father-in-law had assigned the task to his daughters[18]. Even Jesse had assigned the task of shepherding to his youngest son[19]; a role which left him open to the derision of his older brothers[20]. Amongst the Egyptians shepherding was an abomination[21]. This is significant given that Egypt is a type of the world and the Egyptians are viewed as antithetical to the people of God and something from which the Jews had to escape.

From God's perspective however shepherding was obviously a good introduction to leadership. Even Moses who was raised where shepherding was an anathema was given an opportunity to shepherd prior to leadership[22]. However the most famous shepherd-leader of the Israelites was undoubtedly David. Not only was shepherding his proving ground[23] through which he developed his faith in God[24] but it was also the 'soft spot' within his character that allowed Nathan to challenge him[25]. However in the scripture that we have looked at so far the shepherding may have been a training ground for leadership but it has not been intimately connected.

The first direct suggestion we get that a shepherd character and Godly leadership are connected comes from Moses in Nu 27:17. Here anticipating his death Moses pleads for a man to be set over the congregation so that they should not be sheep without a shepherd. Devoid of the remainder of scripture this particular reference could be dismissed as the homely ramblings of an old man reminiscing upon his relative youth. However the exact same thought is replicated in 1Ki 22:17, 2Ch 18:16, Eze 34:5,8, Zec 10:2 and Mat 9:36. These passages highlight two key features of being shepherd-less: the propensity to scatter and the vulnerability to predation. These are of course the two things that the staff and rod respectively defend against.

The picture of a Jewish leader as the shepherd over sheep is reinforced more directly by David. The scene is a very striking one. David had asked for his people to be counted[26]. This was considered to be a great sin; although we are not really told why[27]. However I believe the flow of the chapter may give us a clue. First we are told that David's heart was moved against the people. Then he numbered them. And then the punishment was a plague that fell upon the people. Could it not be that the sin that David committed was to lose sight of the individuals that served him but instead to view them simply as a mass.

The test that David was thus given by God was to see if David's heart still felt for the people he was leading. I believe 2Sa 24:17 shows very clearly it was a test David passed. At the point the angel of the Lord was ready to strike Jerusalem David stepped in and asked for the punishment to fall on him. That is also the exact point that David describes the children of Israel as sheep. Of course Moses too was willing to lose his life for the people he was leading; but David was the first to directly view himself as a shepherd of the people.

The Emerging Good Shepherd

The Bible also shows us that the centrality of the shepherd theme and the fact that it forms a basis of leadership is not an arbitrary decision; it is based upon the nature of God Himself. As the pages of scripture unfold we slowly see the Lord being described in terms befitting a shepherd.

The first reference to God as a shepherd appears in Gen 49:24. It is not the clearest verse to comprehend. It is describing Joseph and the manner in which he was persecuted and states that he remained strong and was made strong by the God of Jacob that is a shepherd and a stone of Israel. It is perhaps a tribute to the strength of the shepherd metaphor that no other comment was needed. The readers would have been well aware of the relationship of sheep to their shepherd and that fact that God was acting as a shepherd was sufficient to convey the intended message.

The Psalms then begin to expand upon the concept of God as shepherd. The most famous of these references is of course Ps 23:1 where we learn that God as shepherd provides for His people; guides them to food and water and can even restore the soul. In Psalm 80:1 God is given the title 'Shepherd of Israel' and we learn that He protects His flock[28] and allows them to feed in His pastures[29] and even feeds them by hand[30]. We also see the converse side of the metaphor filled in: God is the Shepherd and Israel is the sheep and have the same tendency to stray[31]. In fact this wayward tendency provokes the discipline side of the shepherd[32] and that he will scatter[33] rather than protect[34] when required.

Isaiah and Jeremiah build upon this foundation in different ways. Isaiah looks forward to a time when the Lord will gather his scattered flock, carry it and guide it[35]. He also sees the shepherding of God as happening through under-shepherds such as Cyrus[36] and Moses[37]. Jeremiah has a disparate picture. He enforces again and again that Israel is the flock of God[38] yet they are seen as distant from God and being driven by others[39]. Even within Jeremiah however God does state that one day in the future He will regather His flock[40] and set up new shepherds that will feed the flock and not be scared to protect them[41].

However it is really the prophecy of Ezekiel that forms the basis of the shepherd pictures of Zechariah. The majority of Ezekiel's shepherd references are in his 34th chapter. The brutal denouncement of Israel's leadership will be tackled in the next chapter. However Ezekiel's expands upon the previous narratives and makes some crucial extensions to the existing concept of God as shepherd. Firstly he underscores Jeremiah's statement that God will search out His sheep[42] and will place them back in Israel where He will feed them. He also underlines that He will find them good pasture and give them a secure place to stay where they will find rest[43].

Eze 34:15 then introduces a slightly new concept: that of judgment and compulsion. The Lord will feed His flock and will make them lie down. Verse 16 goes on that He will bind the broken and heal the sick; but the fat and the strong will be destroyed. Verse 17 then baldly states that there will be a separating between the individuals of the flock. Israel had been a flock prone to wandering; this was no longer going to be tolerated. Further the errant sheep were going to be dealt with. Eze 34:18-21 then gives a graphic illustration of life within Israel. Certainly there had been poor shepherding but there were also a number of large, brutish and uncontrolled sheep. When the Lord Himself took the flock back over then the flock was not going to be vulnerable to internal or external predation[44].

It is Ezekiel 34:23 however that makes the vital next step. The Lord declares that He will set up one shepherd over them that shall feed them and be their shepherd: David. This key statement is reiterated and slightly expanded in Ezekiel 37:24-25. The question then becomes: 'Who is David?' There are two possible answers: either a resurrected David from Israel's history or the Messiah Himself as the 'true' David. The vast bulk of the commentators settle upon the Messiah. The strongest argument is that the shepherd is twice referred to as the one shepherd; and if you are going to refer to a shepherd as the 'only one' then surely it has to be the Chief Shepherd Himself[45].

The Missing Shepherds

Zechariah's first use of the shepherd metaphor is brief but revealing. In Zec 10:2 we read of a population that is being duped by idols, diviners and false comforters. The result of this is that the population wanders around as sheep without a shepherd. In fact the verse goes a little further and states that they are in trouble because of this lack of a shepherd. The picture is very reminiscent of Judges that frequently laments that anarchy existed because of the lack of a king.

Zec 10:3 then appears to contradict the previous verse. Having stated that Israel had no shepherd, God proceeds to state that His anger is kindled against the shepherds and against the he-goats. The commentators differ in how they interpret these two symbols. Dr Unger applies both pictures to foreign leaders[46] that came and attacked Israel. His argument is that the preceding verse has stated that Israel had no shepherds and that the word rendered 'he-goats' is shown by Is 14:9 to refer to the rulers and princes of the earth. I believe however that Dr Unger has the wrong interpretation and that the key to these verses of Zechariah lies in the first 8 verses of Ezekiel 34.

The first thing to note in Eze 34:2 is that God was addressing the shepherds of Israel and that he addresses their behavior prior to them being scattered[47]. He records that whilst these shepherds were shepherds with regard to the benefit they received from the flock[48] they did not fulfill the duties of a shepherd[49] and went further and treated the sheep with cruelty. He then concludes that section by noting that Israel had no shepherd! Eze 34:8 then brings this contraction into even sharper focus by addressing the shepherds, claiming that the flock were predated because they had no shepherd and that whilst that was happening the shepherds did nothing to help but feed further upon the flock.

I think this apparent contradiction is solved by noting that a shepherd should have a symbiotic relationship with his sheep. He gives them care, guidance and attention and receives substance in return. In Eze 34:1-8 and Zec 10:2-3 we have one sided shepherds. Israel had people that were prepared to derive value from them; but it had no-one willing or able to give it the care and attention it needed. Thus from one perspective it had an ample number of shepherds; from the other it had none whatsoever.

Ezekiel 34 also gives us the information we need to understand the distinction between the shepherds and the he-goats. In Eze 34:17 we find that after God has gathered His flock together he will then separate out the cattle and the rams from the he-goats. This clearly tells us that the he-goats are part of the flock itself. They must also be a genuine part of it because it is God that gathered the flock. The word he-goat actually comes from a root for 'prepared' or 'fully grown'. It is therefore quite possible that the he-goats are the natural leaders within the flock; the bellwethers. This could be all the male head of houses or perhaps those with a greater role. The fact that the he-goats of Zech 10:3 are definitely Israelite also increases the likelihood that the shepherds referred to are as well.

Having identified who the sheep and shepherds are it remains to be seen what is actually happening to them. Again Eze 34 expands upon the account in Zechariah. The Lord states that the flock is going to be taken away from the shepherds[50] and that God is going to take over direct shepherding of them Himself[51]. I believe therefore that these two verses of Zech 10 are essentially a summary of the expanded treatment in Eze 34 and that the conclusion of that chapter is that the human shepherding experiment[52] has essentially come to an end and that from now on God is going to deal with His people directly.

Zechariah's Illustration

The most startling feature of Zechariah's lengthy excursus upon the 'Good Shepherd' is that His primary activity is one of decimating the flock. He even describes Israel as the flock for slaughter. Were this picture to appear in Jeremiah it would not be so startling; the idea that Israel was about to be butchered was the characteristic theme of that prophecy. But Zechariah is a post exilic prophet; the faithful remnant has returned from Babylon and after a bit of prodding by Haggai is now faithfully laboring to rebuild the tabernacle. Zechariah himself has encouraged them that the priesthood has been reinstated and that Zerubbabel will rebuild the house. Yet suddenly God announces that He is taking over control and is about to obliterate the flock.

The suddenness of this switch has caused some commentators to question when this illustration really applies. Did it apply before the exile? Is it perhaps something that maps forward into the tribulation? I think the text itself carefully brackets the timing for us. In Zec 13:6 the Lord states that He will pity the flock no more. This clearly points that the occurrence was either contemporary with Zechariah who was enacting the vision or yet future. Then Zec 13:12 contains a very direct Messianic prophecy which we know was fulfilled immediately prior to the Lord's death[53]. We thus have the events of Zec 13:6-12 happening somewhere between 520BC and 32AD.

In the interpretation of Zech 13:6-14 one is faced with the dilemma of how literal one wishes to be. I believe the correct approach is to accept that there is a totally literal fulfillment during which Zechariah enacted the scene that we see here described. However I believe this literal occurrence was a 'show' designed to teach Messianic truth and that as such it must be treated somewhat allegorically[54]. We are given indicators of this such as the naming of the staffs[55] and the later explanation that their breakage has symbolic significance[56]. The application of the shepherd's wages to the money given to Judas is clearly allegoric unless we wish to claim that Judas himself was the shepherd receiving the wages.

Given the time period over which we know these evens occurred, and given we know that Zec 13:12 refers to the price paid to betray the Lord I believe it is entirely compelling that we should assume the shepherd pictured by Zechariah was the Lord Jesus Himself. Bearing this in mind I believe that Zech 13:7 equates to the incarnation. Note that verses 5&6 have been largely negative expressing a lack of pity for the flock. Yet in verse seven the shepherd is sent to feed that flock. Zechariah is seen as picking up his implements of service and feeding the flock. This corresponds to the Lord going around and healing and providing for the nation. In passing I would note that I consider the shepherd's implements to be indicative of the covenant and basis of union that under girded Israel; I do not believe the Lord walked around carrying a club and a hook.

Zechariah 13:8 is then open to many and varied specific interpretations. I believe the correct approach is to notice that the shepherds were leaders of Israel and therefore the three which were cut off were Jewish nationals. There are thus four reasonable ways of interpreting these three shepherds:

  1. As representing the monarchy, prophets and priesthood.
  2. As representing the priests, teachers and civil magistrates (or rulers as termed in the KJV).
  3. As representing the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.
  4. Three particular leaders within one of the preceding three groups.

Of these I think that the first is unlikely as the monarchy was insignificant at the time the Lord walked the earth. The fourth fails in that there is no clear indication in the gospels as to who the three would be unless you include gentiles which are excluded on the basis that the shepherds were Jewish. The third option is initially appealing as the Lord's denouncements of these groups are famous. However it has a couple of weaknesses. Firstly it ignores the Herodians which are another Jewish group the Lord battled[57]. Secondly it ignores that fact that the Pharisees & Sadducees are actually mentioned much less frequently than either the scribes or priests. I suggest therefore that the second interpretation is the correct one.

One should not allow the difficultly of interpretation to distract from the strength of the statements made in Zec 11:8. It pictures a complete and under hatred and loathing between the Good Shepherd in the person of the Lord Jesus and the shepherds that were over the flock of Israel. This is not just professional rivalry; it is a complete antithesis of purpose and position. This is significant as it is the motivator behind the two verses that follow which essentially show the Good Shepherd turning upon the flock; or more accurately allowing the flock to turn upon itself.

Zec 11:9-10 illustrate two significant events; the refusal of the shepherd to feed the flock any further and the breaking of the covenant between God and Israel. I am not sure there is a single point in the gospels that can be tied to this event. Some may choose to view it as the crucifixion but that interpretation is at odds with the fact that the money was given to Judas prior to the Lord's death. An alternative point is given by Matthew 12 which is often held up as the time when the offer of the immediate kingdom of God was removed and the Lord progressed onto unveiling the mystery of the church.

It is possible that Zec 11:11 throws some light upon this interpretation. It is stated that some of the poor of the flock that waited upon (or watched NKJV) the Lord knew that it was the Word of God immediately after the covenant was broken. This may well refer to an additional period of time during the Lord's ministry when he taught them some of the truths of the church to come.

Irrespective of the exact timing of this event the breaking of the first staff is very expressive in view of the shepherd metaphor that is being employed. Remember that the crook was used to guide and provide for the sheep; the rod or club was used to protect against external foes. The destruction of the first staff is thus symbolic of the shepherd removing His provision for the sheep. The breaking of the second staff or rod symbolizes the end of His protection of the sheep.

Finally in this section it should be noted that the second staff, Bands (or Bonds NKJV) is only broken after the shepherd leaves his employ. Therefore this bond being broken could occur any time from His betrayal onwards. It signifies a breakdown in the unity of the Israeli people. Essentially Israel was going to be destroyed by internal factions. Whilst this is true even today it was the siege of Jerusalem in AD70 which most graphically highlighted the extent to which this had already occurred. When exactly that particular staff was broken I am not sure. It would however suitably mirror the picture of the incarnation in Zec 11:7 if the Lord broke the second staff prior to His ascension immediately following His resurrection[58].

The Foolish Shepherd

The identification and timing of the foolish shepherd is even more controversial than that of the Good Shepherd. The four candidates usually put forward are[59]:

  1. Herod
  2. The Roman Rulers
  3. The whole body of native rulers
  4. The Beast of Dan 7:8

The first thing to note is that the Lord is making a new statement that Zechariah is about to illustrate. We should therefore assume that at least something is being conveyed by that which Zechariah says. Bad shepherds had already pervaded Judaism for hundreds of years and had been denounced as such by previous prophets. Therefore we have to assume that the shepherd to come was more distinct or pernicious than those that have gone before. In particular we should look for a fulfillment that is clear and not too general.

We should also note that this shepherd is to be raised up in the land. This would appear to preclude Romans or Edomites from being the intended fulfillment. It also seems to preclude the 'Beast from the Sea'[60] who is a gentile.  It would also be particularly strange for God to state so emphatically that He is raising the shepherd from the land if the beast from the sea was the correct fulfillment.

The timing is clearly a key issue to be decided upon. Unfortunately there are two perfectly reasonable ways of interpreting the English text of Zec 11:15. If it is taken to introduce a second prophecy unrelated to the previous then the Lord's statement that he will raise up a shepherd could refer to any period of time from 520BC forwards. If however verse fifteen is considered to introduce a second phase of the same prophecy then the raising of the foolish shepherd has to take place subsequent to the death of the Lord and scattering of the sheep.

However, Dr Unger points out an interesting feature of the Hebrew which is supported by the Young's literal translation. Zechariah is told to take the instruments of the shepherd again. In fact the KJV rendering 'Take unto thee yet' supports the same notion although does not emphasize it so clearly. Assuming these gentlemen have translated correctly then we discover that this is indeed the second half of the same prophecy. Therefore a fulfillment should be looked for that is subsequent to the death of the Lord. This rules out Herod and his contemporaries from consideration.

The lack of clear historic fulfillment prior to AD70 and the fact that the flock will not be fully re-gathered until a point still future leads me to suggest that the fulfillment of the foolish shepherd is also still future. Further given that the shepherd has to have particular concern for the Jew and that he is to be raised from the land leads me to suggest that it is the beast from the land of Revelation 13:11 that is in view here as the foolish shepherd. For those who object that the false prophet is really just a mouthpiece I would point out that we are told that the beast from the land has all of the power of the beast of the sea[61] and that it is the beast from the land that leads the persecution of those that refuse to worship the beast of the sea[62] and that insists upon the infamous marking of 666.

There are some other points in Zechariah 11 that possibly give us some insight into the relationship of the false prophet to the people of Israel. Zec 11:16 gives a stirring account of the extent of his neglect and indeed abuse of the flock. He doesn't seek the dying, the young, and the injured or even attempt to help those that are easy to help. Instead he eats the flesh and is so determined to get everything he can that he will even part the hooves to remove every last morsel of meat.

It is Zec 11:17 however that gives us an interesting detail: he leaves the flock. This would suggest that the foolish shepherd had for some period of time, at least ostensibly, shepherded Israel. We are not explicitly told but it would appear to me as reasonable that the foolish shepherd probably shepherds Israel during the period when the Beast from the Sea has a contract with them. Then during the mid-point of the tribulation when the contract is broken[63] I suspect that the foolish shepherd switches sides and begins the persecution. It is particularly interesting that the demise of the false shepherd is both military (the sword) and medical (the withered arm and blindness). As suspect this dual attack upon him is due to his dual role in both the religious and governmental spheres.

The Smiting of the Shepherd

Dr Unger has described Zec 13:7 as one of the most important verses in the Old Testament[64]. This is because it brings forward two separate facts. First it states that the shepherd is going to be smitten. The second is that it refers to the shepherd as God's fellow (or companion in the NKJV). Reading either of these in modern English does not do justice to the meaning. Today 'fellow' is a slightly effected term for 'bloke' or 'guy'. In more formal English the fellows of an organization were the partnership of equals that founded and governed the organization. Therefore this verse is a direct Old Testament statement of the Lord's deity.

There should[65] also be very little doubt regarding the correct interpretation of the smiting of the shepherd documented in Zec 13:7 as it is given by the Lord Himself in Mt 26:31 and Mark 14:27. Christ is the shepherd that was smitten and the sheep that were scattered were his believers and it occurred when the Lord was taken and crucified. The more interesting discussion thus centers upon the effect of that interpretation upon the meaning of those verses in Zechariah 12-14 that surround this key verse.

Zechariah 12 describes in overview a circling of foes around Jerusalem and details that the Lord will fight for it. But more importantly it records the Jewish people looking upon the Lord; he whom they pierced, and then weeping. The extent of the weeping and mourning is then expanded upon at length. Interestingly Zechariah 14 starts by discussing the same invasion of Jerusalem and the same result of the Lord going to do battle; but the scene is much more graphic and it continues into the millennial kingdom.

Zechariah 13 containing the smitten shepherd is sandwiched between these to parallel accounts. The first five verses undoubtedly refer to a complete obliteration of idolatry and false prophets from within Israel. This is significant as it is these that cause the flock to be troubled in Zechariah 10. The last two verses of Zechariah 13 refer to a future time when two thirds of the flock shall be destroyed; but the remaining third be a remnant which is refined and then will call upon the Lord and become His people. This is clearly a return to the Good Shepherd acting as a loving tender of His sheep again.

There is some question as to whether Zec 13:6 is messianic. It refers to a person that is asked why his hands are wounded; he replies that he was hurt in the house of his friends. The explanations of this are:

  1. That the speaker is the false prophet of verse 5 and that he is trying to explain away occultist cuttings on his flesh by stating it was some form of accident.
  2. That the speaker is the false prophet of verse 5 and he is admitting these markings are occultist but was claiming his friends made him do it.
  3. That the speaker is the Lord; that this verse logically joins Zech 12:10 to Zec 13:7 and that the intervening had essentially been an ellipsis.

For me the pierced hands of Zech 13:6 being referenced so shortly after the incredible Zec 12:10 and immediately prior to the equally incredible Zech 13:7 suggest that this verse is almost certainly messianic.

The question then becomes; why does the Lord suddenly interrupt this beautiful narrative with a decision to smite His shepherd? I believe the answer is simply that the glory described at the end of Zec 12 and 14 could only be achieved by the death of the Good Shepherd[66]. It was precisely the recounting of the end result that inspired the resolve to continue with the divine plan. It should be noted too that in the divine view the smiting of the shepherd was intimately tied to the decimation of the Jewish population. The Lord declared that subsequent to the death of the Messiah that He would turn His hand upon the flock.


We have seen that the shepherds' of Zechariah show in microcosm the history of the Jewish people from the viewpoint of God's relationship with his people. We have seen the shepherding is a caring and protective profession that has often been associated with the people of God. We saw that the Bible developed the notion of the leader as the shepherd of his people. We then saw that the Bible developed the notion that God was the ultimate shepherd of the Jew. Zechariah then summarizes that human shepherding of humans has failed because of the quality of the shepherds. God's direct shepherd of the flock was ultimately unsuccessful as the flock rejected their Good Shepherd. Because of that other false shepherds but specifically one ultimate false shepherd is going to be brought against them during the tribulation. But then we saw that God's ultimate plan was that a remnant would be saved to Himself and that this was to be achieved by the smiting of the Good Shepherd the fellow of God.






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