Chapter 11:11-17 (ESV) - So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.
“Woe to my worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!”
Question to consider: Who was it that fulfilled the illustration of the wages that were thrown to the potter?
Zechariah had purchased for himself a flock of sheep that was being sent to the slaughterhouse and shepherded them with a staff called Favor and another called Union. This image pointed to the Good shepherd whom the Lord would send for the lost sheep of Israel.
Zechariah would annul his covenant with the sheep traders who would know it was the Lord’s word for him to do so. Jesus would declare a new covenant with the people of God in which He would become the high priest and mediator. In doing so, He made the old obsolete and would be betrayed into the hands of the religious leaders by Judas for thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew (chapter 27) pointed to Judas’ betrayal as a fulfillment of this passage in Zechariah, for Judas tried to return the money to the religious leaders and threw it into the house of the Lord when they wouldn’t take it. It’s not that Judas desired to repent of his betrayal, but he realized that in being recognized as a betrayer, he had lost favor with the Jews. Ultimately, he despaired of any hope in regaining his reputation and took his own life. Since the silver was blood money, the religious leaders used it to buy the potter’s field rather than risk defiling their own reputation. Matthew attributed this to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah. Some think this was a copyist error and that the original text would have instead had Zechariah. Another explanation is that Matthew referred to the scroll of Jeremiah which also contained the book of Zechariah. Regardless, the apostle Matthew declared this passage was fulfilled by Judas.
The Lord then asked Zechariah to play the part of a foolish shepherd to show Israel that after they rejected the good shepherd, they would be led by one who did not care about their well being and would bring about their destruction. The high priest who presided over Israel at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a man named Phannias ben Samuel. He was a foolish man appointed by the casting of lots by the Zealots. Josephus said of him in The Jewish War, “He was a man not only unworthy of the high priesthood, but that did not well know what the high priesthood was, such a mere rustic was he!”
Dear heavenly father, thank You for using Zechariah to point us to the Good Shepherd, Christ Jesus, hundreds of years before He was born. We ask that You let this illustration by Zechariah serve as a warning to us in how we seek shepherds for our own families today and pray for faithful shepherds to rise up and lead Your church. Amen.