By Edward Dennett
In this confessedly difficult chapter great care is needed in attending to the exact language employed by the Spirit of God. It may aid the reader to remind him that it was "the Spirit of Christ" which was in the prophets of old, and "testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory [glories] that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11) This will explain the fact that often, as in this chapter, the prophet himself is taken up as a figure, as a personation of Christ, and is used to speak words which could only be true of Christ. (See vv. 7-14, especially (vv. 12, 13.)
The subject brought before us here is the rejection of the Messiah, together with some of the details connected with it, and "the circumstances of the last days in consequence of this rejection. It is the history of Israel in connection with Christ." The first three verses describe the condition of the land after some great public calamity, the effects perhaps of some invasion by the Gentiles. "Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree, for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage1 is come down. There is a voice of the howlings of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled." (vv. 1-3.) All this language is highly figurative though the meaning is easily apprehended. In the previous chapter Lebanon is named as indicating the part of the land on the west of the Jordan which Israel, when restored, will again inhabit; but here, we judge, it is not so much the actual devastation of the land or of the forest that is intended, as that the destruction of the cedars is employed as an emblem of the slaughter of the great ones of Israel. (Compare Ezekiel 17)2 This, indeed, is evident from the next verse, in which the "mighty" are placed between the fir, the cedar, and the oaks of Bashan.3 All these terms therefore, cedars, firs, oaks, and the defenced forest, represent the strength and glory of Israel, the sources of their natural confidence; and the prophet sets forth the fact that all these were swept away, destroyed, and consumed before the Gentile aggressor, who is sent of Jehovah as Nebuchadnezzar of old, to chastise His sinful and rebellious people. In the third verse, the shepherds, the rulers, are heard howling, bemoaning the calamities by which they have been overtaken (see Jer. 25:34-36), as also the young lions, because the pride of Jordan is spoiled. The young lions may be an emblem of princes (see Ezek. 19), who also sound out their grief because of the destruction of their pride and shelter.4
We pass now to a direct message from the Lord: "Thus saith the Lord my God — Feed the flock of the slaughter whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not." (vv. 4, 5,) The reader will notice the unusual form of words, "Thus saith the Lord my God," for undoubtedly Christ Himself, as personated by the prophet, is here brought in, that is to say, it is to Him the charge is given, "Feed the flock of the slaughter" - the flock devoted to slaughter by their oppressors. We give the following words of another, as explaining the character and scope of these verses: "Their (the flock of the slaughter) possessors (though I have doubted it), I apprehend, must be the Gentiles their own people, those that sell them to the Gentiles Herod for example, and the preceding chief priests and princes, or an such characters; some who owned Jehovah, but sold His people. The Lord does not think it necessary to say who they are, as He does not own them at all; they (the flock of the slaughter) are possessed by those who slay them, and sold by persons more or less owning the Lord's openly, but loving covetousness, anything but the Lord's care as to their present estate. This flock of the slaughter — their own shepherds (who they are there can be no doubt), their own leaders and rulers, pity them not. Verse 4 is the delivery of them, under these circumstances, into the Lord Christ's hands to feed, or to take charge of them."5 There are therefore three classes in this scene; first, the Gentile possessors, who seem to have the dominion over God's people (as they will indeed in the last days); then the leaders of the nation who will be in league and friendly alliance with their Gentile masters, and "the flock of the slaughter" — the true remnant of God's people, who cleave to Him and to their national hopes in spite of dominant evils and the oppression to which they are subjected, and who, on that very account, are exposed to the deadly enmity both of the chiefs of their own nation and of their Gentile rulers.
It is to be remarked, moreover, as showing the frightful wickedness of the leaders of the Jewish nation, and of the haters of God's people, that they use the forms of piety to cloak their evil covetousness in making gain by handing over the "flock of the slaughter" to the Gentiles. Receiving the wages of their iniquity, like the brethren of Joseph, when they sold him to the Ishmaelites, they say, "Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich." Their hearts were hardened, and thus it was that, while the true Israelites were killed all the day long, and were accounted as sheep for the slaughter (Ps. 46:22) their own shepherds, those who filled that place, pitied them not. But Jehovah saw and He pitied, and in His compassion He commissioned the Messiah to feed, to tend, to take care of, the flock of the slaughter. This is full of consolation for the persecuted saints of God at all times, even as the apostle points out when speaking of the unchangeable love of Christ. "Who shall separate us," he enquires, "from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day, long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." And then he tells us that "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us;" for, as he goes on to say, there is no power on earth or under the earth, whether present or future, that is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39.)
Jehovah's declaration follows, that He will give the godless nation up to judgment. "For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour's hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them." (v. 6.) "The inhabitants of the land" are the mass of the Jewish people, as distinguished from the believing remnant, those who identified themselves with their Gentile rulers; and "his king," inasmuch as these events are connected with the life of Christ in Israel, will probably be Caesar, he whom the chief priests, the religious heads of the nation, accepted, and indeed claimed as their king, when, in the madness of their enmity against Christ, they cried, "We have no king but Caesar." (John 19:15). Into his hands Jehovah did surrender the inhabitants of the land, and the Romans did smite the land, and Jehovah did not then deliver his people. Jehovah had been in their midst, and had sought to gather them together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and they would not; and, as a consequence of their refusal to listen to His pleading cry, strong, withering, and desolating judgments fell upon Jerusalem and the land, and their house was left unto them desolate. (Matt. 23:37-38.)
The results of this judgment visited upon them because of their rejection of Christ are now given with some detail. "And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands, and I led the flock. Three shepherds also I cut off in one month, and my soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me. Then said I, I will not lead you: that that dieth, let it die, and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another." (vv. 7-9.)
Attention may once more be called to the peculiarity of the language. It is Zechariah who speaks, but it is Zechariah, not only in the name of, but also as impersonating, Messiah, so that his words are those of Messiah. Whether Zechariah performed the symbolic actions, such as taking and afterwards breaking the two staves, is not mentioned, nor is it necessary to know, as the main thing is to perceive the connection of all with the life of Christ in the midst of the Jews. It will be noted moreover that it is Jehovah who is the Messiah, according to the word of the angel to Joseph, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus" (that is, Jehovah the Saviour); "for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21.)
Returning to our scripture, the Lord again distinguishes His little flock. Delivering up the nation, that which was publicly owned as such, to judgment, He says to those who had separated themselves from the ungodly nation, and had attached themselves to Him, "I will feed the flock of the slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock." Poor indeed they were in the estimation of their fellow-countrymen, and also despised, as well as marked out as the objects of their scorn and enmity, really accounted as sheep for the slaughter, and yet, in truth, because of all this, how precious to Christ! He called His own sheep by name, and led them out, found them pasture, and, as the Good Shepherd, He gave His life for the sheep, and also comforted their hearts by telling them that they should never perish, that none should ever pluck them out of His hand. (John 10) What a contrast between "the inhabitants of the land!" and the "poor of the flock!" And how blessed to belong to those who are under the shepherd-care of Christ!
Thereon Messiah took to Him two staves, the explanation of which will be seen afterwards. It will suffice here to say, that they are connected with His Messiahship in relation to Israel, and with His authority over the nations which he will wield through Israel, in virtue of which He will unite the nations, as well as bind together Judah and Israel as one people, under His sway. And then, having assumed His true place in Israel — a place, it is true, only to be morally discerned, but still really taken — He fed the flock, for all who entered in through Him went in and out and found pasture; so that every one of this flock of slaughter could say, "Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want." But if He thus cared for His own, He acted in judgment towards those who hated and rejected Him. "Three shepherds," He says, "I cut off in one month." The shepherds, as before seen, are the self-constituted heads or leaders of the Jewish people, or those that were publicly in that position; but who these shepherds were that were cut off is not revealed.6 It is quite probable — nay, it would be consistent with God's ways in government at that period — that these shepherds may have passed off the scene apparently in a natural way; but here it is revealed that they were cut off by the hand of Jehovah. "And," He proceeds, "my soul loathed7 them, and their soul also abhorred me," Who can wonder that the Messiah was weary of the unbelieving nation? He came unto His own, and they received Him not. They hated Him without a cause. His soul was burdened with their state and condition. Thus on one occasion, when they watched Him to see whether He would heal the man with the withered hand on the sabbath day, that they might accuse Him, He "looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." (Mark 3) They repaid His goodness with evil, and His love with enmity; and then He went to die for that nation. Well might He have felt the burden of their sin, and have been weary of their unbelief. "And their soul also," He says, "abhorred me." This they proved at every step of His journey through the whole course of His sojourn in their midst; and their hatred culminated in their choice of Barabbas, and in their demand that Jesus should be crucified. But their abhorrence of Christ brought down judgment upon them, for He declared that He would not feed them; and He gave them up to death, to destruction, and to mutual enmity.
In the Psalms this aspect of the suffering of Christ is very clearly distinguished. When the Messiah suffers under the hand of God, as in Psalm 22, nothing but grace flows out to all around; but when He is seen suffering from the hands of men, as in Psalm 69, the consequence is sure and certain judgment. Thus, for example, in this psalm He says, "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them." (Psalm 69:21-24.) This is easily explained. In the first case God, on the ground of the atoning work of Christ (and it must never be forgotten that atonement lies in what He suffered from the hands of God), is able, and delights to be able, righteously to assume the attitude of grace towards all, and to bless all that come to Him in the name of Christ. In the second case He acts according to the eternal principles of His government, and judges every man according to his works. Hence if any do not approach Him in and through Christ, they must receive the due reward of their deeds. So here — where we are entirely in the sphere of righteous government — judgment is pronounced upon those who "abhorred" the Messiah. But this in nowise intercepted the presentation of grace to them through the apostles, even after they had by wicked hands taken and crucified their Messiah; nay, this very presentation was secured for them by Him whom they had crucified, through his intercession for them, while on the cross — "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34.) But when they rejected the testimony of the Holy Ghost through the apostles and through Stephen, even as they had refused that of Christ on earth, they were left exposed to all the consequences of their sins, and especially to the stroke of this particular judgment here pronounced; and, as a matter of fact, this judgment literally fell upon them in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
Consequent then upon His rejection the Messiah, or the prophet in the name of Messiah, performs two symbolic actions with the staves He had taken. "And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people." (v. 10) "All the people" should read "all the peoples," in the sense of all the nations, for it is undoubtedly the Gentiles that are here in view. When Jacob uttered his prophetic blessing on his sons, he said, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." (Gen. 49:10) Here again it should be "peoples" instead of "people;" and in the light of this prediction may be perceived the meaning of the words in Zechariah. The promise then had been given, that when Messiah came the nations should be gathered unto Him, unto him in subjection, in the acknowledgement of His authority and power, even as Isaiah also writes, "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."8 (Isaiah 60:3.) But when Messiah came He was rejected; and hence the gathering of the peoples unto Him, though it will surely take place, is postponed — postponed until He comes the second time to Israel in power and glory. It is this which is indicated by the breaking of the staff Beauty. Messiah was there, and ready to perform the word spoken (the covenant He had made) concerning the nations; but inasmuch as He was refused by Israel, and it is through Israel that He will govern the nations on earth, He necessarily put off the assembling of the peoples under His sway and authority. Herein, as the apostle explains, is seen the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, because the sin of Israel in refusing the Messiah is made the occasion for the unfolding of His counsels concerning the Church. Well therefore may we cry with the apostle, "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33.)
The effect of breaking the staff upon the remnant is next described: "And it was broken in that day — and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord." (v. 11) The designation of the remnant is very beautiful. they are "the poor of the flock:" it reminds us of the Lord's own words, "Blessed be ye poor: for your's is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20) They were the poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3.), though mainly also composed of the poor of this world. If, however, they were poor they were yet rich (Rev. 2:9) in that they had found their treasure in the Messiah; for it was on Him they "waited;" they waited on Him to hear His word, yea, for all their need. (Compare Psalm 123:2.) They are those who attached themselves to Christ during His earthly sojourn, "the children" whom Jehovah had given Him, as Isaiah speaks 8:18), who were for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts. The rejection of their Messiah might, according to human thoughts, have proved a stumbling-block to His disciples; but, as we gather from this scripture, they recognised in it, together with its consequences, a fulfilment of the word of the Lord, through its correspondence, we judge, with what had been foretold by the prophets.
The next verses bring the nation again before us. "And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I look the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." (vv. 12, 13.) The fulfilment of this prophecy is known to all, but we give its record in order to have the subject fully before the reader. In Matthew we read, "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver." (Matt. 26:14-15.) In Zechariah it is "I said unto them," whereas in Matthew it is Judas who speaks to the chief priests (the representatives of the nation). This brings out a very interesting principle in the ways of God. It was Judas' sin that betrayed the Lord, but Jehovah used the sin of Judas to test the chief priests as to their estimate of Christ, and thus, passing by the intermediate instrumentality, he says, "I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price." They did "think good," and what was the price, the value at which they estimated Jesus, the Son of God, their Messiah? If we turn to the book of Exodus, we may read, "If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he" (that is, the owner) "shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned." (Ex. 21:32.) It was therefore the value of a slave; and this was the contemptuous price the Jewish leaders offered for the life of Him who was Jehovah and Immanuel. Who would have dared to think that man, and man in such a position, with such light as the word of God in his hand afforded, could have fallen so low? And who can fathom the unspeakable grace that led the only begotten of the Father, the Word Who had become flesh, Jehovah the Saviour, to submit Himself to such degradation? Ah! herein lies the revelation of man's heart, and of God's heart, and, together with it, the need — the need as displayed by the heart of man, and the secret — as disclosed by the heart of God in His ineffable grace — of redemption.
The reader will observe in verse 13 the striking words interposed between the command to "cast it unto the potter" and the execution of the thing commanded. The Lord (speaking in Zechariah) interjects, as it were, the words, "a goodly price that I was prised at of them" words which reveal how deeply He felt His contemptuous rejection by "His own," "Reproach," He says in Psalm 69, "hath broken my heart," and so here the knowledge of the goodly price at which He was "prised" wounded His soul. A goodly price indeed at which to value Him who redeemed them out of Egypt, and who had now come into their midst as Jehovah — the Saviour! Such is man; and it was by the presentation of Christ that the state of man was revealed.
The fulfilment of the second part of the prophecy is also found in Matthew: "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy9 the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me." (Matt. 27:3-10.) It will be observed again that the Lord passes over all the instrumentalities by which this prediction was accomplished. He says in Zechariah, "I" (either the Lord Himself or the prophet symbolically) "took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." In the gospel we find that it was Judas who cast down the pieces of silver in the temple (in the house of the Lord), and that it was the chief priests who bought with them the potter's field, but as both alike were but the instruments (even while acting according to the suggestions of their own evil hearts), in the Lord's hands, both actions are here connected with the prophet.
It is not the place to comment upon the wickedness of the chief priests, shown by their affectation of the forms of piety, and their distinction between what was lawful and unlawful in regard to the treasury, even while bribing a disciple to betray his Lord, further than to point out that it was the consummation of their enmity against Christ, and the expression of their determination to secure, at all costs, His death. It is on this account that it is accepted, in Zechariah, as their final rejection of the Messiah, and as constituting the breaking off for that time His relationships with the Jewish nation.
This is signified by His now sundering His remaining staff. "Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel." (v. 14.) Ever since the separation of the ten tribes under Jeroboam, on the succession of Rehoboam, from the house of David, there had been more or less enmity, with some occasional alliances, between the two kingdoms; and the prophets had continually spoken of the reunion of the two peoples under the Messiah. Isaiah had thus said, "The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim." (Isa. 11:13.) in Ezekiel also we find an action which is entirely explanatory of that in Zechariah. "Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: and join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand." And this symbolic action is explained as follows: "I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all." (Ezekiel 37:15-22.) When therefore Messiah returns and establishes His kingdom this promise will be fulfilled, and it would have been fulfilled when He first came had He been received by His people. Having been rejected, as we have seen, the reunion of Judah and Ephraim was necessarily, like the gathering of the nations, postponed; and this was set forth in our passage by the cutting asunder of the staff Bands. And thus the brotherhood between the two nations is irrevocably broken, and can never be re-established, even though both were found again in the land, until both are united under the sway of the true Son of David. Thus it was through the sin of man — of Judah in particular, although grace has abounded over the sin in bringing to light the eternal counsels of God — that the blessing of the nations, as dependent upon that of Israel under their Messiah, has been delayed, and will now be delayed, until the last of the co-heirs with Christ shall have been brought in to the glory of Him who has known how to make the wrath of man to praise Him, and also to bind the actings of Satan to the chariot-wheels of His purposes for the exaltation and glory of His beloved son.
When our blessed Lord was down here on the earth, He said to the Jews, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." (John 5:43.) This is the truth exhibited by the next symbolical action. "And the Lord said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces."10 (vv. 15, 16.) This passage brings antichrist before us as the foolish shepherd, the shepherd of "nought," whom the Jews will by-and-by receive. just as they chose Barabbas in preference to Christ, so, having refused Jehovah as their Shepherd, they will open their arms to welcome this shepherd of "nought." Zechariah was commanded to portray this in figure by assuming the instruments of a foolish shepherd. The next verse gives the character of this shepherd after their own, not after God's, heart — a character which cannot but recall Ezekiel's description of "the shepherds of Israel:" "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them." (Ezek. 34:2-4.) All these characteristics will be seen in their full development in this last false shepherd over God's people, who will exalt himself not only over them, but also against God and His Christ. (See 2 Thess. 2: and Rev. 13)
Having introduced the foolish shepherd in connection with the rejection of Christ, the prophet then pronounces his judgment — "Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened." (v. 17.) Jeremiah in like manner utters "woe," woe in judgment, from the mouth of God upon "the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep" of Jehovah's pasture. (Jer. 23:1: compare Ezek. 34) The iniquity of this shepherd of "nothingness" (for such is the force of the word "idol" here) lies in his leaving, forsaking the flock — a word which sums up the several descriptions of the preceding verse. He had abandoned all that needed the shepherd's care, and used the remainder for his own purposes. Like the thief in the parable, he only came to steal, to kill, and to destroy, and, like the hireling, "whose own the sheep are not," when he seeth the wolf coming, he "leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep." (John 10) Therefore he will incur the just judgment of God as expressed in this irrevocable woe — a woe which will bear its bitter fruit throughout eternity. Then the particular form of the judgment is given. "The sword shall be upon his arm and upon his right eye." The sword is the executor of the judgment, the mighty word of God, which, when uttered, accomplishes all His will. The effect is, that his arm shall be clean dried up, his power is entirely paralysed, and his right eye is utterly darkened; his perception, his intelligence is blinded. It is thus that God will deal with him who assumed the place of shepherd over his people, and the enemy of His Christ, reducing him to utter impotence under the withering stroke of His judgment. And if this shepherd is antichrist,11 as he doubtless is, the judgment here denounced is only preparatory to that other, which will be inflicted by Messiah Himself at His appearing; for He "shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked" [one]. (Isaiah 11:4.) And from the book of Revelation, where we are permitted to see still further, we learn that his final doom, together with the beast, is to be "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." (Rev. 19:20.) Such will be the awful end of this false shepherd, this antichrist, towards the development of which man is already hastening with such rapid strides.12
1) The margin renders "the defenced forest"; J. N. D.'s French version "la forêt inaccessible."
2) To take Lebanon as a figure of the temple, and then to apply it to the Church because of the words, "Open thy doors," etc., as some of the old expositors do, is puerile in the extreme. Nothing indeed is more pitiful than the straits to which those are reduced who seek to apply all the prophecies to the Church, and thus to "spiritualize" all these descriptions.
3) Bashan was on the east of the Jordan, and fell within the possessions of the two and a half tribes, and this again makes it more plain that it is an invasion of the northern kingdom, Ephraim, that is here indicated.
4) The exact meaning of the expression — the pride of Jordan — is not clear. An old writer, says, "'The pride of Jordan' are the stately oaks on its banks, which shroud it from sight, until you reach its edges, and which, after the captivity of the ten tribes, became the haunt of lions, and their chief abode in Palestine." If this be so the wailing of the young lions, the princes or rulers of Israel, would be on account of the destruction of that — whatever it may have been — which had been hitherto their shelter, their protection and refuge; and this is probably the true interpretation. The Jordan was also, it will be remembered, especially at certain seasons, a natural barrier to the incursions of the enemies of Israel.
5) The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, vol. ii. Expository, P. 368.
6) There has been endless speculation on the subject; but where God has not drawn back the curtain of concealment, it is impossible for man to penetrate into His secrets.
7) This word does not seem to express the force of the original. In the margin it is "straitened for them." The Revised Version translates "weary of them"; and the French version, cited in this book, gives, "Mon âme fut ennuyée d'eux;" while the Septuagint renders, "kai barunthesetai e psyche mon ep autous."
8) This is spoken of Jerusalem, as a matter of fact, only "thy light" is the presence of Messiah in His glory, so that the application is to Him.
9) The substitution of Jeremiah's name for that of Zechariah has never been satisfactorily explained. If not a simple error in the copyists, it may be that the name of Jeremiah, as some suggest, was on the roll — as commencing it — which contained the section of the prophets in which Zechariah was found. In this case, it would be naturally cited under the name of Jeremiah. No importance, however attaches to the explanation one way or the other.
10) The Revised Translation renders verse 16 as follows: "Which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek those that be scattered, nor heal that that is broken; neither shall he feed that which is sound, but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and shall tear their hoofs in pieces." The French version gives it thus: "Qui ne visitera pas ce qui va périr, qui ne cherchera pas ce qui est dispersé, qui ne pansera pas ce qui est blessé, qui ne nourrira pas ce qui est en bon état; mais il mangera la chair de ce qui est gras, et rompra la corne de leurs pieds."
11) It is quite possible that this idol shepherd is so described as to prefigure all the false shepherds that might be found amongst the Jews, all of whom in their turn foreshadowed this final one, in whom all their worst features will be concentrated and intensified.
12) The reader may peruse with great advantage a most valuable paper on this chapter in J. N. D.'s Collected Writings, vol. ii. Expository.