Zechariah describes Antichrist's devastation of Lebanon and Gilead. He acts out the part of Jesus the Good Shepherd who is rejected by Israel in exchange for thirty pieces of silver, and prophesies the consequences Israel would face for such rejection. He also acts out the part of a foolish shepherd who may represent the Antichrist.
Verses 1 to 3 are a lament over the destruction of Lebanon and Gilead. Just a few verses before this in 10:10, Zechariah prophesied that God will bring the restored 'Ephraimites' to the lands of Gilead and Lebanon because there will not be enough room for them in the land of Israel. Jesus will liberate these lands from occupation by the Antichrist and his armies, but they will be in a state of ruin. Habakkuk 2:17 warns Antichrist, "For you will pay in full for your violent acts against Lebanon; terrifying judgment will come upon you because of the way you destroyed the wild animals living there. You have shed human blood and committed violent acts against lands, cities, and those who live in them". Because of his conquest of Lebanon, Antichrist is figuratively called 'The Ruler of Tyre' in Ezekiel 38. Describing the liberation of Lebanon by Jesus, Isaiah 10:34 says, "…Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one" (KJV). Here in verse 3, the statement "the thickets of the Jordan have been devastated" refers to the devastation of Gilead. Gilead was the region on the east side of the River Jordan that was given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh. Today it is part of Jordan.

In verses 4 to 6, Zechariah rebukes Israel's shepherds. Metaphorically, shepherds represent leaders of nations, and sheep represent the people they rule over. For example, in Ezekiel 34, God rebukes the 'shepherds' of Israel for feeding themselves rather than feeding their 'sheep'. As a result, Ezekiel prophesied that God will come and dismiss the shepherds, then himself gather the scattered sheep, and place a Davidic king over them as their shepherd. Zechariah makes similar accusations against Israel's shepherd rulers. They shepherd a flock set aside for slaughter, seeking only their own riches and having no compassion for their sheep (v4-5). Zechariah warns that this will end with the people being handed over, each to his 'neighbour' and 'king' who will devastate the land.

In verses 7 to 15, Zechariah prophetically acts out the part of a shepherd. In doing so, he acts the part of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

In verse 7, it seems he actually took employment as a shepherd of a flock of sheep that were destined for slaughter. He took two shepherd staffs, one which he named 'Pleasantness' or 'Favour', the other which he named 'Binders' or 'Union'. The first one seems to represent the declaration that Jesus makes at the start of his ministry concerning the 'year of the Lord's favour' (Luke 4:19 and Isaiah 61:2). Next, Zechariah dismisses three shepherds in one month. He runs out of patience with them, and they also detest him in return (v8). These three shepherds may represent the elders, chief priests and experts in the law, who together made up the Jewish Sanhedrin. In Luke 9:22 Jesus says, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised". The month to which Zechariah refers may represent the month leading up the Jesus' crucifixion. Matthew 12:14 describes a point when the Pharisees began plotting how they might kill Jesus, although it is not specified exactly how long this was before the crucifixion.

In verse 9, Zechariah declares that he will no longer shepherd the flock, but will let them die and be eradicated, and let the survivors eat each other's flesh. He then cuts the staff called 'Pleasantness' or 'Favour', annulling a covenant he has made with all the people. This seems to point to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD. The Jewish people had failed to take advantage of the 'year of the Lord's favour' that Jesus had announced. As a consequence, Jesus effectively annulled this covenant of favour with the Jewish nation. Instead they would experience a day of God's vengeance (Isaiah 61:2). Paul argues in Romans 11 that because the Jews rejected God's favour, it was made available to the Gentiles instead. On a global level, I believe we still live in this 'year of the Lord's favour', and the 'day of vengeance' awaits the second coming of Christ. But for the Jewish nation, a 'day of vengeance' came in 70 AD. While Jerusalem was under siege and the Jews were starving, some of them resorted to literal cannibalism as prophesied by Zechariah.

In verse 12, Zechariah quits his job as a shepherd, and asks his employers to pay him what seems appropriate. They pay him thirty pieces of silver. In Exodus 21:32, this was the prescribed compensation for a slave who was gored by a ox. God tells Zechariah, "Throw to the potter that exorbitant sum at which they valued me!" God sarcastically calls it an exhorbitant sum because it is really an insultingly small amount. "Me" is God in this statement, so it represents how much Israel valued God. Potters proverbially represented the poorest workers who were so poor they could not afford their own burial plot. Zechariah throws the money in the temple collection box assigned to the 'potters'. Matthew 27:3-10 describes the remorse felt by Judas Iscariot after he had betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He returned to the money to the chief priests and elders, who decided to use this money to buy a Potter's Field. Curiously, Matthew attributes Zechariah's prophecy to Jeremiah rather than to Zechariah.

In verse 14, Zechariah cuts in two the second staff called 'Binders' or 'Union', prophetically annulling the covenant of brotherhood between Judah and Israel. In chapter 10, Zechariah himself prophesied the end-time restoration of the Ephraimites (the northern tribe of Israel). Also, many other prophetic passages prophesy the restoration of the northern tribes and their reunification with Judah (e.g. Isaiah 11:10-16, Ezekiel 37:16-22). So Zechariah's prophetic annulment of the union between Judah and Israel must imply that Israel's rejection of Jesus caused a delay in God's planned reunification of Israel. But in the end times, it must still be fulfilled in accordance with all the other prophecies about it.

In verses 15 to 16, Zechariah is told to "Take up once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd". Having acted out the part of Jesus the Good Shepherd, Zechariah now has to act the part of a foolish shepherd. This shepherd will have no regard for the sheep, but instead will eat the meat of the fat sheep, even tearing off their hooves to get every last piece of meat. Zechariah proclaims a curse over this worthless shepherd (v17). It is not clear which ruler of Israel is in view here. Mike Bickle, in his notes on this chapter, identifies the foolish shepherd as the Antichrist. The Antichrist will invade Israel (Ezekiel 38 and Zechariah 14:2), and will set himself up in the temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Since he becomes Israel's oppressive occupying ruler, it is possible that he fits as an end-time shepherd of Israel. However, in context, this passage seems to refer more to events in the first century AD, and consequences of Israel's rejection of Jesus. It is possible the foolish shepherd represents Israel's leadership who rebelled against the Romans in 66 AD, leading ultimately to Jerusalem's destruction. Or it could refer to Simon Bar Khokhba who led the Bar Khochba revolt in 132 AD. The Bar Khochba revolt resulted in the Romans driving the Jewish remnant out of Israel completely (see Wikipedia's Jewish-Roman Wars).
Places: Lebanon, Gilead, Jordan, Israel
Symbols: Shepherds, Shepherd staff
Tags: Antichrist invades Lebanon, First and second comings, Consequences of Israel rejecting Jesus, Restoration of Israel and Judah, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, Antichrist as a foolish shepherd
The History and Future of Judah’s Wicked Kings
11 Open your gates, Lebanon, so that the fire may consume your cedars.
2 Howl, fir tree, because the cedar has fallen; the majestic trees have been destroyed. Howl, oaks of Bashan, because the impenetrable forest has fallen.
3 Listen to the howling of shepherds, because their magnificence has been destroyed. Listen to the roaring of young lions, because the thickets of the Jordan have been devastated.
4 The Lord my God says this: “Shepherd the flock set aside for slaughter. 5 Those who buy them slaughter them and are not held guilty; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich.’ Their own shepherds have no compassion for them.
6 Indeed, I will no longer have compassion on the people of the land,” says the Lord, “but instead I will turn every last person over to his neighbor and his king. They will devastate the land, and I will not deliver it from them.”
7 So I began to shepherd the flock destined for slaughter, the most afflicted of all the flock. Then I took two staffs, calling one “Pleasantness” and the other “Union,” and I tended the flock.
8 Next I eradicated the three shepherds in one month, for I ran out of patience with them and, indeed, they detested me as well.
9 I then said, “I will not shepherd you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be eradicated, let it be eradicated. As for those who survive, let them eat each other’s flesh!”
10 Then I took my staff “Pleasantness” and cut it in two to annul my covenant that I had made with all the people.
11 So it was annulled that very day, and then the most afflicted of the flock who kept faith with me knew that it was the Lord’s message.
12 Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, pay me my wages, but if not, forget it.” So they weighed out my payment – thirty pieces of silver.
13 The Lord then said to me, “Throw to the potter that exorbitant sum at which they valued me!” So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the temple of the Lord.
14 Then I cut the second staff “Union” in two in order to annul the covenant of brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
15 Again the Lord said to me, “Take up once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd.
16 Indeed, I am about to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not take heed to the sheep headed to slaughter, will not seek the scattered, and will not heal the injured. Moreover, he will not nourish the one that is healthy but instead will eat the meat of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves.
17 Woe to the worthless shepherd who abandons the flock! May a sword fall on his arm and his right eye! May his arm wither completely away, and his right eye become completely blind!”