9 Then I said, “I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.” 10 And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.
Verse 9 introduces the shepherd’s reaction to Israel’s rejection of his leadership. He will relegate them to the consequences of their actions.
Then I [Zechariah representing the Messiah] said, “I will not feed [shepherd, tend] you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish.
The Messiah would not shepherd Israel because she rejected Him as their Messiah. He would leave them to their own devices and not providentially care for them. He would let the dying die and the perishing perish. Without the shepherd’s protecting care, the flock would be exposed to the enemy. Most of the nation rejected her Messiah. Instead of the natural care of the shepherd toward his sheep, he let them die. He left them to the fate of their enemies.
Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.”
The shepherd permitted the survivors of death to starve and turn to cannibalism. Those who would survive persecution would turn into cannibals. Those who did not die right away would experience the horror of cannibalism. This event happened during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, as attested by Josephus.
The result is the destruction of everyone who does not accept the Messiah during the Tribulation.
And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples [nations].
Zechariah symbolically broke the staff called “Beauty,” or God’s grace. This representation was a covenant God had made with all nations. The “covenant” here is a general covenant that protected the nation and not a particular biblical covenant. It was a general promise that He would restrain national entities from attacking Israel. The breaking of this staff symbolized the conclusion of God’s grace upon the nation and His protection of her. God could never break His unconditional covenants such as the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. He could, however, break a conditional covenant such as His covenant with the Gentile nations.
The breaking of the staff symbolizes the severing of relationships. The Messiah broke his staff called “Beauty.” This action broke His covenant with the nations for the protection of Israel.
So it [the covenant] was broken [annulled] on that day.
The very day that the shepherd broke the Beauty staff, the Lord withdrew His protective care from the nation Israel. It would be a short time until His people faced trouble from the nations of the world. “That day” implies a prophetic event, to an end-time fulfillment.
Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.
The “poor” flock was a remnant of Israel who embraced the Messiah. Israel knew that God had spoken to Zechariah. When they saw God’s grace withdrawn, they knew they were in trouble. When the Roman emperor Titus sieged Jerusalem in AD 70, national instability imploded. Both fratricide and insurrection resulted. The nation understood the prophetic significance of the breaking of the covenant.
After Israel rejected her Messiah, the Messiah rejected Israel.
The symbol of the two staffs shows the Lord removing His providential care over the nation Israel. God will one day remove the restraint of the nations upon Israel. In His providence, God previously made a covenant to protect the nation Israel. The Messiah broke off His providential care of Israel when she rejected her Messiah.