4 Thus says the Lord my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, 5 whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them.
Verses 4-14 are very enigmatic and difficult to interpret. These verses give the reason for Israel’s destruction. This section is a Messianic passage in which God predicts Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. Israel’s leaders will be corrupt, and the Israelites will need to correct that problem. God will not intervene until the people repent on behalf of their leaders. These verses show the details of rejecting the Messiah, which is the reason for desolation on the land.
The picture beginning at verse 4 is that of the shepherd, a prophet who represents God’s message. God commanded Zechariah to play the role of the true shepherd.
Thus says the Lord my God,
God here commanded Zechariah to play the role of a true shepherd, a leader of a national entity, and a type of the Messiah. In this entire scene, the prophet acted out what will happen in the future when the Messiah comes.
“Feed [pasture] the flock [Israel] for slaughter,
In this verse, Zechariah symbolically portrayed the coming of the Messiah. The prophet acted out a similitude to emphasize prophetic truth. The flock represents the nation of Israel.
Israel will be like a flock of sheep doomed to be butchered. Israel’s rejection of her Messiah at the coming of Christ marked them for destruction. The idea of “feed” involves more than feeding; it is also about directing the sheep and defending them against wild animals.
whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt;
Verses 5 and 6 show the result of rejecting the Messiah. History demonstrates that the conditions of these verses took place after Israel rejected her Anointed One, the Messiah.
The nation of Israel will be like sheep led to butcher by shepherds (leaders) who will have no compassion on the death of the sheep.
those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich’;
Israel’s leaders failed to protect the nation from false prophets. They claimed that they had prosperity, but they were spiritually impoverished. The nation’s very own leaders sold their people into slavery to other countries and beliefs.
and their shepherds do not pity them.
The leaders of Israel would have no empathy for the destruction of Israel. The reference here is to the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians (Mt 12). One and one-half million Jews died by the Roman army, and the Romans did not feel a sense of guilt by killing Jews.
The historical facts bear out the conclusion that Israel’s leaders will betray their people.
When Jesus came, Israel’s leaders rejected the Messiah. John says, “He came unto His own [things], but His own [people] received Him not” (Jn 1:11). These people loved avarice over the promised Messiah—”I am rich.”