6 For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,” says the Lord. “But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.” 7 So I fed the flock for slaughter, in particular the poor of the flock. I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds; and I fed the flock. 8 I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
Beginning in verse 6, the LORD counters Israel’s unfaithful leaders (vv. 4-5).
For I [Jehovah portrayed by Zechariah] will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,” says the Lord.
God would no longer pity Israel. He would withdraw His blessing on the nation and her leaders for rejecting their Messiah.
“But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king.
The “king” here is probably God’s judgment on the nation by the Romans. The Jews of Jesus’ day said that they had no king but Caesar (Jn 19:15). This sentence may be a reference to earlier kings such as the Hasmoneans, Herod the Great.
They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.”
God would allow the destruction of the nation Israel to be complete.
So I [Jehovah portrayed by Zechariah] fed the flock for slaughter, in particular [truly] the poor of the flock.
Zechariah, speaking for Jehovah, said he prepared Israel for slaughter after the nation rejected her Messiah at the First Advent. The Messiah would do everything to feed the nation, but only under the will of the Father, who would bring destruction upon Israel. The outcome is the Father’s will. The Maccabean, Herodian, and Roman rulers slaughtered over one million Jews.
I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty [favor, grace], and the other I called Bonds [union];
A “staff” is a shepherd’s long stick used to defend the sheep against the attack of wild animals. The two staffs indicate the role of the shepherd. The two staffs denote the mission of the Messiah. One was to protect Israel from outward danger from other nations, and the other was to protect Israel from strife within. Zechariah had two staffs, two symbols, one he called “Beauty” and the other “Bonds.” The term “Beauty” refers to favor, grace, or delight, referencing God’s blessing upon His people. The idea of “Bonds” is harmony or unity. Unity comes from God’s grace.
“Beauty” and “Bonds” were staffs that the shepherd used to bring Israel into fellowship with the Lord. The “Beauty” shepherd staff symbolized God’s grace upon the nation. The “Bonds” staff signified the breach between the Messiah and His people. The staffs were symbolic of the treatment they received under God’s providence.
and I fed the flock.
We can link the word “fed” to the word “feed” of verse 4. The shepherd obeyed the Lord. This statement is a repetition of the first sentence.
I dismissed [disowned] the three shepherds in one month.
This verse is one of the most difficult to interpret in the entire Old Testament. There are over 40 interpretations of this verse.
“The three shepherds” mean three rulers in the Jewish state. They possibly refer to Jewish prophets, priests, and kings. All three classifications failed Israel, and God disposed of each of them. The leaders may refer to three Seleucid kings such as Antiochus IV (175-164 BC), Antiochus V (164-161 BC), and Demetrius 11 (147-139 BC). The other option is that they refer to three classes of civil leaders given to administer the eternal theocratic kingdom (prophet, priest, and king).
The short time frame of “one month” indicates the swiftness of the Lord’s action on the leaders. Thus, the coming of the Messiah denied the need for their services for one month. Instead of welcoming the Messiah in His first coming, they betrayed and killed him (Mt 26:3-4).
My soul loathed [became impatient with] them, and their soul also abhorred [detested] me.
The Messiah became impatient with their unbelief. The three shepherds also mutually rejected the Messiah.
It is dangerous to exploit God’s flock.
God’s flock is just that—His flock. Pastors and church leaders are simply under-shepherds. The implication is that it is imperative to treat God’s flock carefully because it is His possession. To use His flock for personal advantage is very dangerous.
There are leaders in Christianity who do not care for the body of Christ. They use their flock for selfish gain and manipulate their people for their own ends. Many of these so-called leaders carry a cavalier attitude about their people; they care little about how they suffer and lack spiritual nourishment. Some treat their people wantonly.