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Lowell Brueckner

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To Despise the Messiah


I need to ask you again that you keep the Bible open and alongside, so that you can read each verse as it is mentioned throughout this article. That is how a Bible study works…

So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages…
That magnificent price at which I was valued by them!  Zechariah 11:12-13

An expository study of Zechariah, chapter 11
The Valley of Ge-hinnom

Verses 1-6  The allegory of the trees

Lebanon is a country situated to the north of Israel, from the Mediterranean Sea and extending inland to a mountainous region, where some of the peaks are covered with snow almost year around. Fires always threatened its countryside and the same danger exists today. In olden times, Lebanon had great forests of cedars and, to this day, the cedar is the national symbol of the nation.  To build his temple, Solomon brought cedars from Lebanon and Ezra also used its cedars to build the second temple (Ezra 3:7). The name Lebanon means white.                                                               
According to all the commentators that I have, what Zechariah has placed before us in these first three verses is an allegory. In Chapter 10, he prophesied of the Second Coming of the Messiah, in which the houses of Judah and Joseph “will be as though I had not rejected them” (10:6). In Chapter 11, he returns to the First Coming, when the Messiah was rejected and the allegory describes the results of that rejection. The doors of Lebanon to the north could not stop the Roman invasion into Israel by Titus in 70 A.D and the doors of the temple in Jerusalem did not prevail, when the Romans arrived at the city (v.1). The cedars of Lebanon symbolize the temple, constructed with cedar inside, and outside it shone white, on the mount, from white marble

There are two interesting incidents concerning these doors:  Josephus relates how, “at the Passover, the eastern gate of the inner temple, being of brass and very firm, and with difficulty shut at eventide by twenty men; moreover with bars strengthened with iron, and having very deep bolts, which went down into the threshold, itself of one stone, was seen at six o’clock at night to open of its own accord. The guards of the temple running told it to the officer, and he, going up, with difficulty closed it. This the uninstructed thought a very favorable sign, that God opened to them the gate of all goods.” Rabbi Johanan ben Zaccai rebuked them, and said, “O temple, why dost thou affright thyself? I know of thee that thy end is to be destroyed, and of this Zechariah prophesied, ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and let the fire devour thy cedars.’” Note that Josephus said that this supernatural event occurred at the Passover and a tradition marked it 40 years before the destruction of the temple… when Christ was crucified.

We find the other occurrence in the book of Acts 21:30: “Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.” Barnes thinks that possibly they shut by themselves:  “The shutting of the gates of the temple… seems miraculous and significant, that, having thus violently refused the preaching of the Gospel, and cast Paul out, they themselves were also shut out, denoting that an entrance was afterward to be refused them.”

Zechariah personalizes the trees with human sentiments and therefore we can see that they are symbols, representing people. The cedar is the most distinguished of the trees (as we considered, it is the pride and national symbol of Lebanon) and represents the temple itself; inferior trees, such as the cypress and oak, represent priests and princes. If the cedars were burnt and destroyed, what of the rest of the trees? (v.2).  

The shepherds and young lions, leaders of the people, lost their personal positions and riches, but more than that, they lost their glory, which was the temple (v.3). This word is prophetic and Zechariah has the Spirit of Christ. Christ is the One who pastures the flock, 2,600,000 of which were later killed by the Romans, because they would not listen to the voice of their Shepherd (v.4). The buyers, the Romans, and the shepherds, their own leaders, feel no pangs of conscience or any compassion for them (v.5). God permits their destruction and does not come to help them; Righteous judgment has fallen over them (v.6).    

Verses 7-12  The staff, Grace or Favor is broken

Many times, the prophets prophesied with their very lives, not only with words, to such an extent that the eunuch did not know if Isaiah was speaking of himself or of another man. David also identified with the sufferings of Christ (Psalm 22). Ezekiel lay on one side and the other (Ezek.4:4-9), representing all of Israel. They “ate” their prophesies, symbolizing the fact that the Word of God became one with their lives (Ezek.3:2), because of the value and authority that they placed in that Word. A true prophet does not only use his mouth to speak. In this passage, Zechariah represents the coming Messiah (v.7).   

There are different opinions about the three shepherds; one thing is sure and that is that there is no evidence that these were annihilated in the time of Zechariah. Certainly, the Romans annihilated completely the order of leadership in Israel, including the religious sects, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians (v.8). God abandoned them to the gravest curse; He removed His hand and let them perish alone, because they rejected Him, who would have saved them (v.9).

The breaking of the staff, Grace, meant the end of His covenant with them and “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it” (Mt.21:43). The remnant among the people recognized it. “The large crowd enjoyed listening to Him” (Mr.12:37). They were the poor in Spirit, a “remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Ro.11:5), the Jews who believed in Christ in His First Coming and through Him, received the Word of God.

“Give me the wages if you want. What am I worth to you?” (v.12). What is His care worth to them from the liberation from Egypt to the time of the Word made flesh? Here is what they return for Him, in the face of the love that gave His only begotten Son… thirty pieces of silver! The price He looked for was their love. Jesus, as Jacob, defrauded of his salary by Laban, leaves everything in God’s hands. This was the price of a slave; a free man was worth twice the amount (Ex.21:32; Mt.26:15).

Verses 13-17  The curse of the Potter’s Field

“Throw it to the potter!” (v.13), was a proverb, as we would say, “Throw it to the dogs!” In Matthew 27:3-10, we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Judas threw the money in the temple. Normally, it would be placed into the treasury, but in the case of Christ, that was illegal, because it was the price of blood. They bought the Potter’s Field. Because Jeremiah is the first book of the Book of the Prophets, for that reason Matthew gives him the credit to Jeremiah, although the prophesy was precisely from Zechariah. However, some prophecies of Jeremiah were related to this one and so there is reason to give him credit (Jer.19:2-11; 7:31). Jeremiah spoke of the east door, which is called The Potsherd Gate, which led to the Valley of Ben-hinnom or Tophet, where the potters formed their vessels to be used in the temple that was nearby. It was in the valley also that in olden times, idolaters burned their children, offering them to Baal. It was also called the Valley of Slaughter, but Jesus called it Gehenna, the Fire of Hell (Mt.5:22). In His time, garbage and the carcasses of dead animals, which were thrown outside the walls of Jerusalem, were burned there.

The staff, Union, was also broken (v.14). When contact with God is cut off, it will cause the breaking of brotherly unity. The true peacemaker, in the first place, is one who reconciles man with God, before any peace can be made among brethren. While the Romans were threatening at the doors of Jerusalem, different factions of Jewish were fighting within. From that time on, the twelve tribes were dispersed and have been separated and will remain separated until the reunion mentioned by Paul (Ro.11:15).

Finally, the prophesy refers to another evil shepherd with false staffs of covenant and unity. He is totally worthless for any kind of benefit to the people (v.15-16). It is none but the antichrist, raised up by the Lord as “a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged (condemned) who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thes.2:11-12). His intentions are fully egotistic and in his entire kingdom, he will only serve his own ambitions. “He takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God… whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” (v.17; 2 Thes.2:4,8).

Ahora la profecía refiere a otro pastor malvado con cayados, un pacto y una unión, falsos. Es totalmente inútil para cualquier obra beneficiosa para el pueblo (v.15-16). Es nada menos que el anticristo, levantado por el Señor como “un poder engañoso, para que crean la mentira, a fin de que sean condenados todos los que no creyeron a la verdad, sino que se complacieron en la injusticia” (2 Ts.2:11-12). Sus intenciones son totalmente egoístas, y en todo su reino, solamente servirá a sus propias ambiciones. “Se sienta en el santuario de Dios, proclamando que él mismo es Dios… a quien el Señor matará con el soplo de su boca, y destruirá con el resplandor de su venida” (v.17, 2 Ts.2:4,8).


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