Zechariah 11 Commentary

Two short plays about leadership (11:4-17)

After announcing God’s judgment on Israel’s bad leaders (see 11:1-3), Zechariah demonstrates that judgment in two short plays. In these plays he acts the part of a shepherd, representing the leaders of God’s people.

In the first play God told Zechariah to act the part of a good shepherd. Zechariah was to look after a people oppressed and exploited by bad shepherds, whose sole aim was to enrich themselves. They cared nothing for the flock. God showed Zechariah, however, that his efforts were doomed to failure. Leaders and common people alike were heading for a fitting punishment (4-6).

Nevertheless, Zechariah acted his short drama. With a shepherd’s stick called ‘grace’ (or ‘favour’) he tried to give the sheep the gracious and beneficial leadership that God desired for them. With another stick, called ‘union’, he tried to bind them closer to one another in national peace and harmony. He even destroyed the three bad shepherds. In return the people were angry with him. They were so far removed from the ways of God that they preferred the bad shepherds to the good shepherd (7-8).

Zechariah therefore broke his two sticks, to show the people that he would no longer be their shepherd (9-11; see also v. 14). When he suggested that they might pay him his wages, they gave him such a small amount that it was an insult. This was especially so since the wages really belonged to God, whom he served (12-13). He knew that the people preferred the sort of society where the greedy could get what they wanted by exploiting others. In the end such a society would destroy itself (14).


In the second play Zechariah played the part of a bad shepherd, which was the sort of shepherd Israel wanted. This cruel and selfish leadership was what the people deserved, and would be God’s means of punishing them (15-17).

There may have been events in Zechariah’s day or soon after that corresponded to the two plays he acted. Certainly, there was a striking correspondence with conditions among the Jews of Jesus’ day. The people rejected him, preferring the bad leadership of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, priests and elders (cf. John 10:7-13,26-31). They crucified the one whom God graciously gave to save them. They fought among themselves and with the Roman authorities who governed them, and finally brought upon themselves slaughter and destruction at the hands of Rome in AD 70.

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