Zechariah 13:7-9 Shepherd struck, sheep scattered; Jerusalem judged

7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” says the LORD of hosts.  “Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. 8 in the whole land, says the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.  9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” 

The Hebrew has four words that are translated as man.  These names indicate the anomalies of our condition.  The man who stands next to me, or my fellow, means to have the same substance.  This is not adam the man who’s substance is of the adamah or earth, or ish husband, but it is geverman, a mighty man.

  • Adam is not just a personal name but is often translated as “man” or “mankind”. It comes from the Hebrew word for earth “adamah”.  As this is the substance from which we were made.  It represent our mortality and weaknesses.  It is kind of like calling someone dirt.
  •  Ish is translated as man or husband. Where woman or wife is Ishah. It has the idea of immaterial and/or personal existence.

Then the man (adam) said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (Ishah), because she was taken out of Man ( Ish).” Gen. 2:23 

  •  Enosh is mankind as an insignificant or inferior being; it roots from the word anush, to be incurably sick .

I will make men (enosh) more rare than fine gold, and mankind (adam) than the gold of Ophir. Is. 13:12

Thus says the LORD:  “Cursed is the man (gibor) who trusts in man (adam) and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD. Jer. 17:5 

  •  Gever / Gibor is mighty man or mighty.  Both Nimrod and Balaam are gibor [Gen. 6:4; Num. 24:3, 15), David and his mighty men [1 Sam. 16:18; 2 Sam. 23:1].

O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man (gever) who takes refuge in him! Psa. 34:8 

The one who “stands next” to me, in Hebrew is  “anit” meaning my brother, neighbor, fellow,  or more precisely to have the same substance.  The rabbis are uncomfortable with the implications of this verse, for they teach that Messiah will be a human.  The idea that He is deity sounds a lot like Christianity to them.  Yet here it is, very clearly.  He is of the same material as God, and is therefore deity.

. . . and he [Stephen]said,  “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Col. 3:1 

The LORD of hosts pronounces that a sword (or what can be translated as spear) will come to be used, this time “against” my shepherd.  This is another prophetic part of the picture of the Messiah’s death which included a spear thrust into his side and what the scriptures says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.”

34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  35 He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth — that you also may believe.  36 For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled,  “Not a bone of him shall be broken.”  37 And again another scripture says,  “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.” John 19:34-37

The shepherd will be struck, so that the sheep will be scattered. The Lord makes this statement to his disciples in Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed. He told them that they will all “fall away” to their own homes, leaving the Lord on his own. Except the Father is with him, always.  And, that is what happened when the chief priests and the elders arrested Him and his disciples fled into the night [Matt 26: 36-56].

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Matt. 26:31

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.  Matt 26:55

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  John 16:32

Turning his hand against the “little ones” appears to tell us about the death that would fall upon Jerusalem’s children during the siege of the Romans in 70 AD.  Extreme famine during the 3 1/2 years of siege made many turn to cannibalizing of their own offspring.  See Also: Roasted Child

Zechariah does not tell us that an army is coming against Israel, apparently they are not the central issue of this prophecy. The clear implication from the description of the shepherd being struck to the one third left tells us that this is the Roman siege against Jerusalem which occurred in 70 AD.

The LORD says that Israel, most likely the whole land, will be divided into thirds. Two thirds will die and one third will live. The one third left alive will be put into a fire, or made pure as one would refine silver to remove the dross.  To test for the purity of gold, one would make certain it was a metal that would yield and was pliable; the easiest metal to work with. This fire is also a metaphor for testing.

The Diaspora, or scattering of the Jews, began 40 years after the Jews rejected Messiah.  They were given one generation [Matt 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32] just as they had been at Kadesh-barnea when they refused to go into the land [Num 13-14 c.f. Judge  14:7]. Only this time, they continued in their rejection.  So according to Josephus, the people who were left in Jerusalem after the siege  were divided into three groups: (1) some to the mines in Egypt, which is a death sentence similar to being sent to Siberia under the old U.S.S.R., (2) some sent through out the empire as slaves, the best looking sent to Rome itself, and (3) some left to starve in the land.

70 AD.

“And now, since his soldiers were already quite tired with killing men, and yet there appeared to be a vast multitude still remaining alive, Caesar gave orders that they should kill none but those that were in arms, and opposed them, but should take the rest alive.  But, together with those whom they had orders to slay, they slew the aged and the infirm; but for those that were in their flourishing age, and who might be useful to them, they drove them together into the temple, and shut them up within the walls of the court of the women; over which Caesar set one of his freedmen, as also Fronto, one of his own friends; which last was to determine every one’s fate, according to his merits.  So this Fronto slew all those that had been seditious and robbers, who were impeached one by another; but of the young men, he chose out the tallest and most beautiful, and reserved them for the triumph; and as for the rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old, he put them into bonds, and sent them to the Egyptian mines.  Titus also sent a great number into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theatres, by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves.  Now during the days wherein Fronto was distinguishing these men, there perished, for want of food, eleven thousand; some of whom did not taste any food, through the hatred their guards bore to them; and others would not take in any when it was given them.  The multitude also was so very great, that they were in want even of corn for their sustenance.” War, book 6; chap 9; sec 2by Josephus

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…. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” Zech 13:9 

The similar phrase “they are my people”, are from the prophecies of Hosea.  Hosea’s wife is cast as Israel and her story is about her unfaithfulness and the return to faith of the ten northern tribes of Israel.   They were deported to what is now Iran by the Assyrian Empire; and as far as anyone knows they are still there.

. . . and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Not pitied, and I will say to Not my people,  ‘You are my people’; and he shall say ‘Thou art my God.’” Hos. 2:23

Hosea’s wife was bought back from slavery; similarly, the one third of the passage goes into slavery. The implication is that the LORD will buy them back too.

When Zechariah began this Oracle in 12:1 it was addressed to Israel, not Judah. The Ten Northern Tribes that were removed to Persia by the Assyrian Empire.  But this oracle has presented only the Southern Tribe of Judah.  It is about Jerusalem, a Judahite city, David a Judahite, Levites, and Judah itself.  This makes this passage somewhat mysterious.

The Book of Hosea was written to the Ten Northern Tribes.  It is a metaphor for God relationship with those tribes.  Zechariah is almost quoting Hosea.

Say to your brother, “My people,” and to your sister, “She has obtained pity.” Hos. 2:1

Hosea says that these scattered Northern Tribes will be regathered:

  • they shall return
  • to heal their faithlessness
  • the land to produce abundance
  • they will be under the protection of the LORD

 4 I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.  5 I will be as the dew to Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, he shall strike root as the poplar; 6 his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.  7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Hosea 14:4-7

Zechariah tells us that “they will call on my name, and I will answer them”. This also occurs in a reference Jesus makes. After pronouncing that “your house is forsaken and desolate”, Jesus tells ‘Jerusalem’ they will see him again: “For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord’” [Matt. 23:37-39].

So it seems to be indicating that these Ten Tribes will return before the war of chapter 14.

3 thoughts on “Zechariah 13:7-9 Shepherd struck, sheep scattered; Jerusalem judged

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