• Consequences of Rejecting God’s Shepherd Ruler

    1. Why is it not strange that Jehovah should compare rulers lesser than Himself with shepherds?

    THE GREATEST Ruler of all repeatedly compared himself to a shepherd. Take, for example, this beautiful comparison that He makes when foretelling how tenderly he would lead his exiled people back to their homeland: “Look! The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself will come even as a strong one, and his arm will be ruling for him. Look! His reward is with him, and the wage he pays is before him. Like a shepherd he will shepherd his own drove. With his arm he will collect together the lambs; and in his bosom he will carry them. Those giving suck he will conduct with care.” (Isaiah 40:10, 11 ) It would not be strange, then, that he should compare lesser rulers on earth to shepherds.

    2. To what plants does Jehovah liken outstanding worldly rulers, and to what does he similarly liken the remnant liberated from Babylon?

    He also likened outstanding rulers to trees, tall in stature. The royal Pharaoh of ancient Egypt is thus compared to a stately tree. (Ezekiel 31:1-18 ) Even the exiled remnant whom Jehovah uses his Messiah or Anointed One to liberate and lead out of symbolic Babylon back to their God-given native land he compares to trees. He does so when he speaks of the assignment of work that He gives to his Messiah, namely: “To comfort all the mourning ones; to assign to those mourning over Zion, to give them a headdress instead of ashes, the oil of exultation instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the downhearted spirit; and they must be called big trees of righteousness, the

    planting of Jehovah, for him to be beautified.”​— Isaiah 61:1-3 .

    3, 4. (a) How does Zechariah draw a contrast between those “big trees of righteousness” and worldly “trees”? (b) According to Zechariah 11:1-3 , why is there to be a howling and roaring?

    Those symbolic “big trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah,” are referred to in the preceding tenth chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy, Zec 10 verses 3-12 . How great a contrast is now drawn between them and the symbolic trees on elevated levels of our oppressive world! In Zechariah’s day the majestic mountains of Lebanon were clothed with forests of its world-famous “cedars of Lebanon” and other fragrant evergreen trees. How sad to think of such forests being ravaged by an inextinguishable conflagration! It is enough to make one howl. A suchlike howling by the world must yet come, for, almost like a sequel to chapter ten of Zechariah’s prophecy, chapter eleven opens up with the divine command to give vent to such howling. We read:

    “Open up your doors, O Lebanon, that a fire may devour among your cedars. Howl, O juniper tree, for the cedar has fallen; because the majestic ones themselves have been despoiled! Howl, you massive trees of Bashan, for the impenetrable forest has come down! Listen! The howling of shepherds, for their majesty has been despoiled. Listen! The roaring of maned young lions, for the proud thickets along the Jordan have been despoiled.”​— Zechariah 11:1-3 .

    5. When must such plantations of symbolic trees burn down, causing whom to howl?

    No fire-prevention doors are provided for Lebanon. When Jehovah’s fixed time comes for his consuming fire to sweep through the majestic land, the doors of symbolic Lebanon must open up at His command to admit the fire. Even the tremendous cedars of Lebanon must fall before the divinely kindled flames, and that is why the associated juniper tree needs to howl. The massiveness of the tree does not make it fire resistant. That is why there must be a howling on the part of the impenetrable forests of massive trees on the highlands of Bashan to the east of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. These too must burn down in the world conflagration during the coming “great tribulation,” the tribulation of all tribulations for mankind. This will be a time of howling for shepherd rulers.

    6. Why will the shepherd rulers howl because of the consuming of symbolic “trees,” and also roar like lions of the Jordan thickets?

    If we listen in by faith to the clear-sounding message of Bible prophecy we can hear the howling of those worldly shepherd rulers. In the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at the battleground of Har–Magedon, they will be despoiled of their majesty of appearance and of office. ( Revelation 16:14-16 ) They themselves are pictured by those majestic trees of Lebanon and massive trees of Bashan. They are also, symbolically, the “maned young lions.” Just as the maned young lions roar because there has been a burning down of the proud thickets along the banks of the Jordan River, in which these lions used to lurk, so will these lionlike shepherd rulers roar in consternation as they find themselves deprived of lurking places from which they used to pounce upon their unwary victims, the public, the people.

    7. How does Malachi 4:1 refer to the same fiery day, and what will be the outcome of it to the shepherd rulers?

    The time of fiery consumption that will despoil these worldly shepherds of their imposing dignity, stature and powerful position was also foretold by the prophet Malachi, who came on the scene some decades after Zechariah. Likening the presumptuous and wicked ones to plants,

    Malachi (4:1 ) says: “‘Look! the day is coming that is burning like the furnace, and all the presumptuous ones and all those doing wickedness must become as stubble. And the day that is coming will certainly devour them,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘so that it will not leave to them either root or bough.’” These political shepherds have claimed to rule because, by means of a democratic election, they have received a “mandate from the people” or because they have been born into the line of descent of some royal family, or because the clergy of Christendom have assigned to them the “divine right of kings.” However, this does not make them theocratic shepherds, or rulers appointed by the Great Theocrat through his Messiah. Hence the coming fiery day for executing God’s judgment will devour all their false claims. Neither root nor bough of them will remain.


    8. How have the shepherd rulers sold the “sheep” to be killed or slaughtered, and who is it that can raise up an unselfish shepherd?

    Since the governmental rulers are compared to shepherds, then their subjects, the people, are compared to a flock of sheep. The shepherdlike rulers have treated the sheep as if they belonged to them and have been willing to sell them into the hands of those selfish persons who could exploit and misuse the sheeplike people. They have, in effect, delivered them over to be killed, slaughtered for the sake of ambitious men who pay the price to get control or the advantage of the people. More than that, the governmental shepherds have led the people in a course that will at last result in their being slaughtered in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at the world situation called Har–Magedon. (Revelation 16:14-16; 19:11-21 ) Is there, however, no real “shepherd” who really has the interests of all the people at heart, and who is willing to expend himself rather than to exploit the sheep? Who can raise up such a shepherd, so that the individual sheep can put themselves under his care and guidance and be spared from the terrible killing? It is Jehovah.

    9. In enacting a prophetic drama, what flock is Zechariah told to shepherd?

    To picture this fact, the prophet Zechariah was used in enacting an allegory or prophetic drama. The prophet Zechariah himself describes it, in these words: “This is what Jehovah my God has said, ‘Shepherd the flock meant for the killing, the buyers of which proceed to kill them although they are not held guilty. And those who are selling them say: “May Jehovah be blessed, while I shall gain riches.” And their own shepherds do not show any compassion upon them.’”​—

    Zechariah 11:4, 5 .

    10. Who are the symbolic “flock,” to whom does the ownership belong, and why was Zechariah appointed to be the shepherd of the “flock meant for the killing”?

    How pitiful the state of the “flock meant for the killing”! Back there this “flock” was the nation of Israel. The psalmist addressed the One who really owns this flock, saying: “O Shepherd of Israel, do give ear, you who are conducting Joseph just like a flock.” Acknowledging the ownership of that One, the psalmist said: “He is our God, and we are the people of his pasturage and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 80:1; 95:7 ) In view of His ownership, he had the right to appoint a faithful shepherd over them. This he did, by appointing the prophet Zechariah. This new earthly shepherd did not get a “mandate from the people,” democratically. He was theocratically appointed by the God Ruler, Jehovah. This heavenly Owner had in mind the saving of some individuals of this “flock meant for the killing.” He had already said: “Jehovah their God will certainly save them in that day like the flock of his people; for they will be as the stones of a diadem glittering over his soil.” (Zechariah 9:16 ) In furtherance of that purpose the Great Theocrat appointed Zechariah to shepherd the flock.

    11. In what way did the “shepherds”

    selling them show no compassion for the sheep, and how were they accomplices in the slaughter of them?

    Zechariah was unlike the shepherd rulers who felt authorized to sell Jehovah’s sheep for personal gain. By thus enriching themselves, they felt that God was making them rich. After the heartless sale, these traitorous shepherd rulers hypocritically said: “May Jehovah be blessed, while I shall gain riches.” By so doing the shepherds to whom the sheeplike people entrusted themselves did not “show any compassion upon them.” Those shepherds knew that the buyers to whom they sold the “sheep” would kill them off in pursuit of ambitious, self-seeking schemes. Worse still, these buyers would not be “held guilty” for such slaughter. At least the shepherds who did the selling would not hold the buyers guilty. They were in that way accomplices in the slaughter. To them the sheep were merely a “flock meant for the killing.”

    12. Whose sheep do people of Christendom claim to be, and are their earthly religious shepherds appointed theocratically?

    All this calls to mind a similar situation existing in Christendom in this twentieth century. The people, professing to be Christians, claim to be God’s sheep. They will apply to themselves Psalm 95:7 (quoted above) and recite in unison at church Psalm 23:1 (Authorized Version ): “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” But these church people also look to earthly “shepherds.” In a religious sense especially, the clergymen of Christendom claim to be the shepherds of these sheep, each one of the hundreds of religious sects having its own flock. However, these shepherds are not theocratically appointed like Zechariah, for they are ordained each one by the ruling group of his own sect or denomination, or by a bishop or other ranking church dignitary, or by a congregation. Do such clergymen imitate those shepherds of Zechariah’s day?

    13. How have such clergymen imitated the shepherds of Zechariah’s day in

    selling the “sheep” to be slaughtered?

    It has been courageously pointed out that the clergy of Christendom, with their hundreds of millions of church members under their spiritual control, could have prevented world war in the year 1914 C.E. But they did not do so. Without protest they surrendered their flocks to more than four years of the most brutal warfare till then in all human history. They, in fact, sold their flocks, in order that they might escape persecution for insisting on strict Christianity, and in order to gain favor with the military and the governmental shepherds. This was no less the case with World War II, which, like the first, started right in the heart of Christendom. The “killing” in this second world combat was still more horrible than that of the first one. Moreover, the religious clergy have catered to the commercial profiteers and to the politicians. They have meddled in politics and have sold their flocks to office-seekers who have no conscientious qualms about exploiting the people.

    14. Who do the “shepherds” claim has thus enriched them, and why do the buyers of the sheep have no conscientious qualms at exploiting the sheep or causing their slaughter?

    By gaining riches in this way, as far as material goods and popularity with the ruling class of this world is concerned, they feel that God has blessed them. And so they piously say: “Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich.” (Zechariah 11:5 , AV) Because the “buyers” of the poor sheep have the blessing of the religious clergy they have no sense of guilt at exploiting the sheep or even causing the violent, mass slaughter of the sheep. “They are not held guilty” by the clergy of Christendom, but continue to be retained as full church members in good standing. It is very manifest, therefore, that the “shepherds,” religious and governmental, “do not show any compassion” upon the “sheep” of Christendom.

    15. As to being exploited by traitorous shepherds, how do we know that the people have loved to have it that way?

    In spite of all that, it has been just as God said, in Jeremiah 5:31 : “The prophets themselves actually prophesy in falsehood; and as for the priests, they go subduing according to their powers. And my own people have loved it that way; and what will you men do in the finale of it?” And how do we know that those who profess to be God’s people “have loved it that way”? By observing that God’s professed people have not followed the leading of the faithful shepherd whom God has raised up, as pictured by the prophet Zechariah. They continue to let the traffickers in “sheep,” the buyers and the sellers, lead them on to the “killing.” Hence, when they have the consequences of their course come upon them, do they deserve any compassion?

    16. As to that question about compassion, what is the divine answer in

    Zechariah 11:6 ?

    The divine answer is given to the prophet Zechariah, the theocratic shepherd: “‘For I shall show compassion no more upon the inhabitants of the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘So here I am causing mankind to find themselves, each one in the hand of his companion and in the hand of his king; and they will certainly crush to pieces the land, and I shall do no delivering out of their hand.’”​—

    Zechariah 11:6 .

    17. To what self-seeking, loveless state will Jehovah let the “flock meant for the killing” come, and why will their calling out be in vain?

    So, too, with reference to modern-day Christendom. The time must come when Jehovah will cease to show compassion upon the “flock meant for the killing.” He will let the loveless sheeplike people prey upon one another, the shepherds (religious and governmental) upon the sheep, the king or royal shepherd upon the sheep, and the sheep upon one another. It will be a state of anarchy. What could result from this but a general state of collapse for organized human society? The system of things will no longer hold together, things not being done systematically any longer according to worldly wisdom. Symbolically speaking, the anarchistic, chaotic victimizers of one another will unavoidably “crush to pieces the land,” that is, their organized

    earthly estate. Call as loudly and as long as they then will, Jehovah will “do no delivering out of their hand.” Why should he? They had repeatedly refused to follow his own appointed shepherd.


    18. What kind of appointment was Zechariah’s appointment to shepherd the “flock” of Israel, and what question arises as to his services?

    To what extent do those who merely claim to be God’s people appreciate the spiritual “shepherd” whom he has raised up and sent to them? This is prophetically pictured for us in the experience of the prophet Zechariah. Not by a popular mandate, but by a theocratic appointment he was sent to “shepherd” the flock of Israel. How much was he appreciated? How highly were his services valued? He is very frank in telling us:

    19. How many staffs did Zechariah take, how many shepherds did he efface in one month, and how did he show that he was breaking his covenant with the people?

    “And I proceeded to shepherd the flock meant for the killing, in your behalf, O afflicted ones of the flock [or, possibly, ‘in behalf of the tradesmen of the flock,’

    margin ]. So I took for myself two staffs. The one I called Pleasantness, and the other I called Union [literally, Binders], and I went shepherding the flock. And I finally effaced three shepherds in one lunar month, as my soul gradually became impatient with them, and also their own soul felt a loathing toward me. At length I said: ‘I shall not keep shepherding you. The one that is dying, let her die. And the one that is being effaced, let her be effaced. And as for the ones left remaining, let them devour, each one the flesh of her companion.’ So I took my staff Pleasantness and cut it to pieces, in order to break my covenant that I had concluded with all the peoples. And it came to be broken in that day, and the afflicted ones of the flock who were watching me got to know in this way that it was the word of Jehovah.”​— Zechariah 11:7-11 .

    20. What was the use for the staffs, and what did Zechariah name the staffs respectively, and why?

    As a shepherd, Zechariah took as part of his equipment two staffs, the one for guiding the sheep and the other for protecting them. The former shepherd boy

    David makes reference to these in

    Psalm 23:1-4 , saying: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. . . . Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me; your rod and your staff are the things that comfort me.” The one staff, evidently the one for guiding the sheep, Zechariah called Pleasantness, this referring to the favor that was shown to the sheep. The other staff, evidently the rod for beating off attackers of the sheep, he called Union (literally, Binders, for keeping a unity). It was a favor from Zechariah’s God, Jehovah of armies, toward the sheep that Jehovah assigned Zechariah to act as shepherd of the sheep. So one staff was named Pleasantness.

    21. Of what kind of sheep was Zechariah made the shepherd, and of what nationalities were these made up, and whom did Zechariah represent as shepherd?

    However, Jehovah’s prophet was not made a shepherd over literal sheep. They were symbolic sheep, namely, the house of Israel, made up then of a remnant from the kingdom of Judah and a remnant made up of members from the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel, the principal tribe of which was Ephraim. Accordingly Zechariah was theocratically appointed to take a spiritual supervision over the remnant of all the house of Israel, like a ruler or governor. In this office he really represented Jehovah, the heavenly Shepherd.

    22. Was Zechariah obliged to do shepherding for nothing, why was his shepherding obligatory upon the Israelites, and what shows whether a contract was involved?

    The prophet Zechariah was not to do shepherding for nothing. For services rendered he was entitled to a wage. At the termination of his services he could rightly demand his pay. Inasmuch as he was the shepherd appointed by the Great Theocrat Jehovah, his shepherding was something obligatory upon the remnant of Israel to accept and to show appreciation for by the value that they placed upon it. Was there a specific contract or engagement made with the house of Israel that would allow for such shepherding? That there was such a contract or covenant is implied by what Zechariah tells us when explaining his resigning from the work, saying: “So I took my staff Pleasantness and cut it to pieces, in order to break my covenant that I had concluded with all the peoples.” (Zechariah 11:10 ) That is, with “all the peoples” of Israel.

    23. Whose contract with Israel was it that was here involved, and why so?

    Whose “covenant” or solemn contract was it, then? Seemingly, it was Zechariah’s personal covenant. But let us remember that it was Jehovah who said to him: “Shepherd the flock meant for the killing .” (Zechariah 11:4 ) This is what Jehovah did because the acting shepherds were selling for slaughter or killing the sheep of the flock that really belonged to Jehovah God. This meant that it was Jehovah’s covenant that was here involved; it was in the discharging of his covenant with Israel that he made this appointment of a prophet to be the nation’s shepherd. In harmony with this basic fact, the footnotes of Biblia Hebraica (Hebrew Bible ), by Rudolf Kittel, Stuttgart, West Germany, says that, instead of “my covenant that I had concluded,” we should probably read: “the covenant of Jehovah that Jehovah had concluded.” This is because here the pronominal endings in the Hebrew text that are generally translated as “my” and “I” are really abbreviations for the divine name Jehovah.​—See the footnotes on the

    New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 1971 edition.

    24. (a) How long did Zechariah shepherd the flock, and how do we know? (b) In whose behalf did he shepherd the flock?

    There were other shepherds working at the time. It appears that they resented the intrusion of Jehovah’s prophet into their field of activity. Zechariah worked as a shepherd for at least one month, for he tells us: “I finally effaced three shepherds in one lunar month, as my soul gradually became impatient with them, and also their own soul felt a loathing toward me.” (Zechariah 11:8 ) Just who these three shepherds were, we are not told. But because he had been appointed by the Most High God, Zechariah had the superior authority among them, so that he could dismiss the three of them. How much longer after effacing those three shepherds he continued shepherding, we do not know. Why he tended the flock at all, at Jehovah’s command, was just as he explained: “I proceeded to shepherd the flock meant for the killing, in your behalf, O afflicted ones of the flock.” (Zechariah 11:7 , NW; AV; Yg) This was more compassionate on Zechariah’s part than for him to “shepherd the flock meant for the killing in behalf of the tradesmen of the flock.” (NW, margin; JB; RS; AT; Ro) These sheep had in effect been abandoned to the tradesmen. (Mo ) How heartless!

    25. (a) What feeling developed between Zechariah and the three shepherds, and why? (b) At whose instance was the “covenant” with the flock broken, and how do we know?

    Zechariah did not become impatient with the flock of afflicted sheep. His “soul,” his whole being, became impatient with the three delinquent shepherds. Because he was faithful and compassionate in shepherding the flock, those shepherds loathed Zechariah. He did not work along with their schemes. It was only after effacing them as shepherds that, at Jehovah’s due time, Zechariah gave up his job. Thus the “covenant” that had been “concluded with all the peoples” of Israel was broken. That this came about, not at his own inclination, but according to the Great Shepherd’s own direction and decision, Zechariah indicates. For, after cutting to pieces his staff called Pleasantness as an act symbolic of breaking the covenant, he goes on to say: “And it came to be broken in that day, and the afflicted ones of the flock who were watching me got to know in this way that it was the word of Jehovah.”​— Zechariah 11:10, 11 .

    26. What did the breaking of the covenant mean for the flock of Israel as regards their welfare and unity?

    What did this breaking of the covenant mean for the flock of peoples of Israel? Just what Zechariah said on discontinuing his shepherding: “I shall not keep shepherding you. The one that is dying, let her die. And the one that is being effaced, let her be effaced. And as for the ones left remaining, let them devour, each one the flesh of her companion.” (Zechariah 11:9 ) When Jehovah’s appointed shepherd was ordered to withdraw, who, then, would take care of the flock? Those who sought to make capital of the flock would let the dying ones die off, the ones being effaced or disappearing go without attention in order to bring them out of their lost condition, and the ones left remaining fight among themselves, devouring one another by showing no love but by taking selfish advantage of one another.

    27. The covenant was broken due to a lack of further compassion on whose part, and what would be the result when the determination to break off compassion took effect?

    So, then, did the breaking of the covenant result from mercilessness on Zechariah’s part? No, but it resulted because Jehovah’s time for showing compassion had run to its limit and had come to its end. That is why Zechariah was previously told: “‘For I shall show compassion no more upon the inhabitants of the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘So here I am causing mankind to find themselves, each one in the hand of his companion and in the hand of his king; and they will certainly crush to pieces the land, and I shall do no delivering out of their hand.’” (Zechariah 11:6 ) Because of the peoples not heeding God’s appointed shepherd, whom he sent to them in his compassion, what anarchy was to result! What a clash of self-interests! What oppression! What insecurity! What ruin to the system of things under the crushing activities of the lawless, disorderly ones! What a terrible experience awaited the flock of Jehovah’s professed sheep when this divine determination went into effect!


    28. Whom did Zechariah here picture, and what kind of appointment did that one get, and what sign of it was given?

    Zechariah was enacting a prophetic picture or allegory. He pictured a greater shepherd in the fulfillment of the prophecy. This one was Jehovah’s Messiah, Jesus the descendant and permanent heir of King David. (Matthew 1:1-6 ) After this one had worked as a carpenter in Nazareth of Galilee until he was thirty years of age, he was sent to be a spiritual shepherd of the nation of Israel. The rulers of the land, political and religious, did not ask him to become such. His shepherd appointment was not by a “mandate from the people,” but it was a theocratic appointment and it ranked him higher than all man-made “shepherds.” At Nazareth itself, his hometown, he pointed to his being anointed with Jehovah’s spirit to be the Messiah and hence to act as shepherd of the flock of God’s people. The prophet, John the Baptist, saw this Jesus being anointed with the holy spirit by a visible manifestation. This happened right after John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River according to Jehovah’s will.​— John 1:19-36 .

    29. How did Jesus, in a parable, show how the sheep were turned over to him by a symbolic “doorkeeper”?

    John the Baptist, as the forerunner of the Messiah Jesus, acted as a “doorkeeper” to the sheepfold of Israel. Jesus Christ referred to this when he spoke in a parable and said: “Most truly I say to you, He that does not enter into the sheepfold through the door but climbs up some other place, that one is a thief and a plunderer. But he that enters through the door is shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens to this one, and the sheep listen to his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has got all his own out, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. A stranger they will by no means follow but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers. . . . The thief does not come unless it is to steal and slay and destroy. I have come that they might have life and might have it in abundance. I am the fine shepherd; the fine shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep.”​— John 10:1-11 .

    30. (a) To whom did Jesus confine his shepherding, and how did he indicate this? (b) How and when did Moses foretell this prophet?

    Confining his own efforts exclusively to the flock of Israel, he sent out his twelve apostles and said to them: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 10:5-7 ) Before he considered the request of a Phoenician woman to heal her badly demonized daughter, Jesus reminded her: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:22-24 ) This was in accord with the covenant of divine law that Jehovah God had made with the house of Israel through his mediator Moses at Mount Sinai in 1513 B.C.E. In counseling the Israelites to be obedient to that covenant by shunning demonism of all kinds, Moses said to the Israelites shortly before his death: “A prophet from your own midst, from your brothers, like me, is what Jehovah your God will raise up for you​—to him you people should listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15 ) That promised prophet greater than Moses was the Messiah, Jesus.​—

    Deuteronomy 18:16-19; Acts 3:22, 23 .

    31. How is it evident from the record that Jesus showed compassion on the sheep, but what about other shepherds?

    That Jesus had real compassion on the flock of Israel just as the true Messianic shepherd should have is evident from the account: “Jesus set out on a tour of all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity. On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35, 36 ) There is nothing else for us to conclude but that the others who should have been shepherds were failing in their duty.

    32. Whom did the “three shepherds” whom Zechariah dismissed picture in Jesus’ day?

    Who, then, in order to fulfill the prophetic picture, were the “three shepherds” whom Jesus Christ would efface, cut off, dismiss from their assumed positions? The record of Jesus’ life shows no three individual men as fulfilling the prophetic pattern. Evidently the three shepherds whom the prophet Zechariah discharged pictured three classes of men in Jesus’ time. Three classes do appear in the record, who had governmental as well as religious power in Israel. These were (1) the Pharisees and (2) the Sadducees, both of which classes were represented in the Jewish Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. That judicial body had governmental functions to some extent under the Roman governor as well as religious functions. Thus a certain Nicodemus, a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, was a “ruler of the Jews.” (John 3:1, 2; 7:50-52 ) Joseph, a rich man of Arimathea, was also a member of the Sanhedrin. (Matthew 27:57-60; Luke 23:50-53 ) The Sanhedrin was quite divided between Pharisees and Sadducees. (Acts 23:1-9 ) Besides such Jewish sectarians, there were also (3) the Herodians, the “party followers of Herod.”​—Mark 12:13 .

    33. How, as pictured in Zechariah’s case, did Jesus become “impatient” with those “three shepherds”?

    Similar to the feeling of the “three shepherds” toward Zechariah as a shepherd, these three groups quickly “felt a loathing” toward Jesus Christ as the Messianic shepherd. They plotted or cooperated together against Jesus to discredit him in the eyes of the flock of Israel. (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 3:6 ) Jesus did not efface, cut off or dismiss these three hostile groups “in one lunar month” literally. The literal “lunar month” in Zechariah’s case would picture a short period of time in Jesus’ case. (Zechariah 11:8 ) From the very start of his ministry Jesus refused to have anything to do with those self-seeking ruling groups, that is, as far as joining in with them is concerned. Finally, at the close of his ministry his soul did become “impatient” with them. On public occasions he put all three groups to silence as far as government and doctrine are concerned. (Matthew 22:15-45 ) The result was, as stated in Matthew 22:46 : “Nobody was able to say a word in reply to him, nor did anyone dare from that day [Tuesday, Nisan 11 of 33 C.E.] on to question him any further.”

    34. (a) What did Jesus say at the climax of his denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees? (b) As if breaking the staff called Pleasantness, what did he say to Jerusalem?

    Jesus Christ had just told them: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:23-43; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-44 ) Shortly after that declaration he openly denounced the scribes and the Pharisees as oppressive shepherds and religious hypocrites. Said he at the climax of his denunciation: “Therefore you are bearing witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Well, then, fill up the measure of your forefathers. Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of

    Gehenna?” (Matthew 23:1-33; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47 ) Then, as if cutting to pieces the shepherd’s staff called Pleasantness, he added: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,​—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”​— Matthew 23:37, 38 .

    35. By those words, what was Jesus announcing to the Jews concerning God’s Law Covenant with them, and what did the “afflicted ones” watching Jesus then know?

    When Jehovah God abandoned the Jewish temple of his worship at Jerusalem that meant that he was breaking the covenant of law that he had made with the nation of Israel through Moses. So Jesus, as the shepherd foreshadowed by Zechariah, was announcing that the covenant that Jehovah had concluded with the peoples of Israel was about to be broken. The “afflicted ones” of the flock of Israel who were watching Jesus and hearing his words “got to know in this way that it was the word of Jehovah.”​— Zechariah 11:11 .

    36. What did this mean regarding God’s pleasantness toward Israel, and finally what terrible consequences came for rejecting Jehovah’s Shepherd Ruler?

    This meant that Jehovah was no longer to show pleasantness toward his disobedient chosen people. He was about to “show compassion no more” upon the inhabitants of the “land of Judah.” That land was to suffer all the horrors of the invasion of Judea and the destruction of its cities and strongholds, including Jerusalem and its temple, in the cruel years of 70-73 C.E. Jesus Christ foretold this tragedy on that same day of Nisan 11 of 33 C.E., in his prophecy regarding the “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:1-22; Mark 13:1-20; Luke 21:5-24 ) This national calamity was, if nothing else, a painful indication that the Mosaic Law covenant between God and Israel had been broken. What terrible consequences for rejecting God’s Shepherd Ruler!

    37. How was the value that was placed on Zechariah’s shepherding shown, what did Jehovah then tell him to do, and what did he now cut in pieces?

    Just how highly was Jehovah’s appointed shepherd valued by the peoples of Israel? The prophet Zechariah illustrates it in his own experience and thereby foreshadows something of greater significance. He tells us: “Then I said to them: ‘If it is good in your eyes, give me my wages; but if not, refrain.’ And they proceeded to pay my wages, thirty pieces of silver. At that, Jehovah said to me: ‘Throw it to the treasury​—the majestic value with which I have been valued from their standpoint.’ Accordingly I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw it into the treasury at the house of Jehovah. Then I cut in pieces my second staff, the Union, in order to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”​—

    Zechariah 11:12-14 .

    38. What was the value of that pay given to Zechariah, and how did Jehovah refer to this pay?

    “Thirty pieces of silver”​—thirty silver shekels—​was the price of a slave according to the Mosaic Law covenant. (Exodus 21:32 ) Was the prophet Zechariah or the value of his shepherd services worth no more than a slave? And since Zechariah had been appointed by the Heavenly Shepherd Jehovah, the valuation placed upon his appointed representative Zechariah was the same as a valuation placed upon Jehovah as a Shepherd. Jehovah could speak of it as the “value with which I have been valued from their standpoint.” (Unless Zechariah were here making a parenthetical reference to himself!) True, Jehovah did speak of it as a “majestic value” instead of a slave’s value; but evidently this expression was used, not in satisfaction, but in sarcasm or in a cutting manner. It meant that the lack of appreciation was felt.

    39. What did Zechariah’s cutting of the staff Union (or, Binders) to pieces indicate respecting the twelve-tribe nation of Israel?

    At such devaluation of the shepherd who represented Jehovah the basis for unity in the flock of God’s professed people was taken away. There would not be a case of one shepherd, one flock. This would take away the protective power that unity raises up against attacks from outside. So it was with good timing that Zechariah cut to pieces the staff called Union (or, Binders) at this point. This was to illustrate that the foundation for “brotherhood” between those of the kingdom of Judah and those of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel was taken away. It was over the issue of having one Messianic king, one of the royal line of David, that the nation of twelve tribes was broken up into two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, after King Solomon’s death in 997 B.C.E. So the breaking of the Mosaic Law covenant meant, not only the end of Jehovah’s “pleasantness” or favor to his once chosen people, but also that divine care and protection for keeping the nation together as a harmonious whole had ended. The spiritual bonds that make for brotherhood had been taken away, and the mere fleshly bond would not be strong enough to hold them together as brothers.

    40. (a) Why was this undervaluing of Jehovah’s shepherd more serious in the case of the one pictured by Zechariah? (b) What should a shepherd ruler receive as pay from his subjects?

    The undervaluing of God’s provisions and the rejecting of them always lead to sad consequences. Great as was the undervaluing of Jehovah as the Great Shepherd in the case of the prophet Zechariah, it was far surpassed in the case of the Messianic Shepherd pictured by Zechariah. That one was nobody else but the Son of God, whom God sent from heaven to become the Fine Shepherd to surrender his soul or lay down his perfect human life in behalf of all sheeplike human creatures. ( John 10:14-18 ) Since the Messiah Jesus was acting as a shepherd in behalf of his heavenly Father, he could have exercised his right to ask for his wages in behalf of his Father. What wages or pay is it that a governmental shepherd asks of his subjects? It is that his subjects should render support to him and to his government whether in a material way or in loyal services rendered. The appointed officers under the governmental shepherd are the ones that should see to it that the shepherd gets such wages or pay from all his subjects. Just as Solomon, a theocratically appointed king, wrote: “My son, fear Jehovah and the king. With those who are for a change, do not intermeddle.”​—

    Proverbs 24:21 .

    41. (a) Did Zechariah force the people to pay him his shepherd wages? (b) When could the Jewish representatives have paid Jesus as shepherd, but when were they forced to place a value upon him?

    For almost three and a half years Jesus served faithfully as a spiritual shepherd over the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Toward the close of his shepherd work, during his last week of his life in human flesh on earth, he did not go directly to the shepherdlike representatives of Israel, as the prophet Zechariah did, and ask for his wages or pay. Zechariah told those in his day that if they did not want to pay they did not need to: “If it is good in your eyes, give me my wages; but if not, refrain.” (Zechariah 11:12 ) In Jesus’ case, when, in triumphal fashion, he rode on an ass’s colt into Jerusalem, the shepherdlike representatives of Israel could have paid him the wage of giving him their acceptance of him as the true Messiah sent and anointed by Jehovah. But they refrained from doing this. Nonetheless, they were forced, just three days later (Nisan 12, 33 C.E.), to place a money value on him as a spiritual shepherd. How? Let us read:

    42. What value was stipulated to Judas Iscariot for Jesus, and when?

    “Then one of the twelve, the one called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said: ‘What will you give me to betray him to you?’ They stipulated to him thirty silver pieces. So from then on [Nisan 12] he kept seeking a good opportunity to betray him. On the first day of the unfermented cakes [Nisan 14] the disciples came up to Jesus, saying: ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the passover?’”​— Matthew 26:14-17 .

    43. What was Jesus’ attitude toward the sale of him by his known betrayer, and when was the sale consummated?

    Those religious shepherds gave Judas Iscariot the thirty silver shekels. (Mark 14:10, 11; Luke 22:3-6 ) Jesus foreknew that he would be betrayed and that the betrayer was Judas Iscariot. (Matthew 17:22, 23; 20:17-19; 26:1, 2, 24, 25 ) Jesus did nothing to hinder the sale of him by betrayal. ( Matthew 26:45-57 ) In fact, he expedited the betrayal, that it might occur at God’s due time, for, at the Passover supper he identified Judas Iscariot and dismissed him with the words: “What you are doing get done more quickly.” The betrayer immediately went out to carry out his bargain with the religious shepherds. (John 13:21-30 ) Hours

    later that Passover night the betrayal took place and Judas Iscariot had earned his money. (John 18:1-14 ) The evaluating of Jesus the Messianic Shepherd had been consummated. At thirty silver shekels, the price of a slave according to the Mosaic Law covenant! A majestic value!

    44, 45. (a) What was done with the money at which Zechariah was priced? (b) What was done with the money that Judas Iscariot accepted for betraying Jesus?

    Judas Iscariot accepted this price. He had been the treasurer of the twelve apostles, but he did not put the money into their money box. He kept it for himself​—for a while! (John 12:4-6 ) In the ancient case of the prophet Zechariah, he did not keep the thirty silver shekels that had been paid to him as his wages. The money really belonged to his Master, Jehovah, and so Jehovah said to him: “Throw it to the treasury.” Zechariah did so. (Zechariah 11:12, 13 ) His action was a premonition of something. Not that Zechariah prefigured Judas Iscariot, but, just the same, like Zechariah, Judas did not keep his thirty silver shekels. What he did with them, or, rather, what resulted from his disposing of the betrayal money is reported to us:

    “When it had become morning, all the chief priests and the older men of the people held a consultation against Jesus so as to put him to death. And, after binding him, they led him off and handed him over to Pilate the governor. Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing he had been condemned, felt remorse and turned the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests and older men, saying: ‘I sinned when I betrayed righteous blood.’ They said: ‘What is that to us? You must see to that!’ So he threw the silver pieces into the temple and withdrew, and went off and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said: ‘It is not lawful to drop them into the sacred treasury, because they are the price of blood.’ After consulting together, they bought with them the potter’s field to bury strangers. Therefore that field has been called ‘Field of Blood’ to this very day. Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying: ‘And they took the thirty silver pieces, the price upon the man that was priced, the one on whom some of the sons of Israel set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, according to what Jehovah had commanded me.’”​— Matth,ew 27:1-10 .

    46. (a) How did the apostle Peter later speak about Judas Iscariot and the disposal of the thirty shekels? (b) What inconsistency did the priests show respecting the blood that those thirty shekels represented?

    Because the money used by the priests in the purchase of the potter’s field had been provided by Judas Iscariot, the apostle Peter speaks of Judas as having bought the field for the burial of Jews who died while visiting in Jerusalem or of proselytes. Peter said to the Christian congregation regarding Judas: “This very man, therefore, purchased a field with the wages for unrighteousness, and pitching head foremost [after hanging himself up high] he noisily burst in his midst and his intestines were poured out. It also became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that that field was called in their language A·kelʹda·ma, that is, Field of Blood.” (Acts 1:18, 19 ) The priests merely acted for Judas in taking the money out of the temple sanctuary where Judas had thrown the thirty silver shekels and conveyed it to the seller of the potter’s field. The priests saw the unfitness of dropping the “price of blood” into the temple treasury, but at the same time they thought themselves fit to serve in that temple in spite of their having caused that blood to be shed.

    47. (a) How could it be that the apostle Matthew could say Jeremiah and yet really mean Zechariah? (b) How does the Aramaic Version dispose of the difficulty?

    We notice that, in Matthew 27:9, 10 , the apostle Matthew says that it was the saying of the prophet Jeremiah that was fulfilled. If Matthew was referring to that section of the Hebrew Scriptures known as The Prophets and this section in Matthew’s day was headed by the prophecy of Jeremiah, then the name Jeremiah would include all the other prophetic books, including that of Zechariah. In such a case Matthew would really be meaning Zechariah although using the name Jeremiah. The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts

    (Peshitta ) omits the name and reads: “Then what was spoken by the prophet was fulfilled, namely, I took the thirty pieces of silver, the costly price which was bargained with the children of Israel, and I gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” (George M. Lamsa, 1957) The Syriac New Testament translated into English from the Peshitto Version, by James Murdock (copyrighted 1893), reads the same way, in omitting the prophet’s name.

    48. (a) How does Matthew’s loose translation of Zechariah’s prophecy show the disposal of the thirty shekels? (b) This fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy confirms that he pictured whom here?

    Since Matthew 27:9, 10 corresponds with Zechariah 11:13 and with nothing in the book of Jeremiah, Matthew’s quotation must have been a loose translation of Zechariah 11:13 . The way in which Matthew translated Zechariah 11:13 was evidently meant to show how the fulfillment of Zechariah 11:13 worked out, namely, that “they took,” the priestly representatives of Israel took, the thirty silver pieces from the floor of the temple, and “they [the priests, acting instead of the individual, Judas Iscariot] gave them for the potter’s field.” Zechariah 11:13 does not tell us how the thirty silver shekels that Zechariah threw into the treasury of Jehovah’s temple were particularly disposed of later. Matthew, however, does tell us how the fulfillment of the prophecy did dispose of the money, to fit the altered circumstances. This fulfillment would confirm that the shepherd Zechariah here pictured the betrayed and sold Messianic Shepherd, Jesus, so cheaply priced.

    49. The fulfillment of Zechariah’s breaking of the staff called “the Union” took place when, and with what consequences to the Jews?

    Just as Zechariah thereafter broke the second staff, called “the Union” or “Binders,” so the betrayal of Jesus for thirty silver shekels did lead to Jehovah’s canceling of the Mosaic Law covenant with Israel. When the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven and appeared in God’s presence and presented to Him the value of his perfect human sacrifice, then the Mosaic Law covenant was blotted out, and the promised new covenant was inaugurated with spiritual Israel, Christian Israel. (Ephesians 2:13-16; Colossians 2:14-17; Hebrews 9:24-28 ) This left the natural, circumcised Jews that refused the new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ exposed to the false Jewish Christs. It left them without a true theocratic bond of union, and their disunity into a number of religious sects worked out disastrously for them at the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 C.E.

    50. How has Christendom, in effect, placed a cheap price on the Messianic Shepherd Jesus Christ, how is she guilty of covenant breaking, and how will failure to have God’s Pleasantness affect her?

    Like ancient Israel, Christendom with her hundreds of sects has rejected the shepherdly care of the Messianic Shepherd, the heavenly Jesus Christ. How so? Not according to her pious professions, of course, but according to her acts. She has betrayed him by betraying his true disciples, whom she has persecuted, even to the death in many cases. She has refused the services of the spiritual shepherds whom the heavenly Messianic Shepherd has sent to her. What she has done to them, she has, in effect, done to him. (Matthew 25:40, 45; Mark 9:37; John 15:20, 21 ) Thus she has placed a cheap price on his shepherdly services, rejecting them. This reveals that she is not in harmony with the new covenant, which she claims applies to her; and so, by taking her at her word, she has broken that new covenant. So she does not enjoy the Pleasantness or favor of Jehovah God, and He does not protect her to keep her in unity. She too is exposed to all the false Christs. Her disunity will continue until the coming “great tribulation” that was pictured by Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E.​—

    Matthew 24:21, 22 .


    51. (a) Christendom’s rejection of the Messianic Shepherd leaves the people to the leadership of whom? (b) Instead of accepting the Messianic Shepherd whom Jehovah provided, Christendom has chosen what organization?

    When Jehovah’s Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and his true undershepherds are rejected by people who profess to worship the God of the Holy Bible, there is nothing left for such people but to come under the leadership of selfish, worldly-minded shepherds. (1 Peter 5:1-4 ) Jehovah denounced the self-seeking governmental shepherds and reassured the sheeplike people by saying: “I will raise up over them one shepherd, and he must feed them, even my servant David. He himself will feed them, and he himself will become their shepherd. And I myself, Jehovah, will become their God, and my servant David a chieftain in the midst of them. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken.” (Ezekiel 34:23, 24 ) Jesus Christ, the son of ancient King David, is that promised Shepherd. In the year 1919 C.E. Christendom discounted the value of his pastoral care and rejected him and his kingdom. Instead, she chose a man-made international organization for world peace and security, the League of Nations, the successor to which, the United Nations, has 132 member nations in 1972. She has reaped the consequences of this.

    52. What consequences has Christendom reaped from rejecting the Messianic Shepherd and his leadership?

    What consequences? A crop of ambitious, self-exalting governmental shepherds, together with their religious associates. Through the prophet Zechariah Jehovah God illustrated such consequences: worldly shepherds as prefigured by “a useless shepherd,” a foolish, incompetent, worthless class of leaders. After all these decades of experience with such leaders since 1919 C.E., we can see how they conform to the type of shepherd that Jehovah God prophetically described, as recorded by Zechariah, who writes:

    53. Whose implements was Zechariah told to take for himself, and how would the shepherd raised up carry on, and what would happen to him?

    “And Jehovah went on to say to me: ‘Take yet for yourself the implements of a useless shepherd. For here I am letting a shepherd rise up in the land. To the

    sheep being effaced he will give no attention. The young one he will not seek, and the broken sheep he will not heal. The one stationing herself he will not supply with food, and the flesh of the fat one he will eat, and the hoofs of the sheep he will tear off. Woe to my valueless shepherd, who is leaving the flock! A sword will be upon his arm and upon his right eye. His own arm will without fail dry up, and his own right eye will without fail grow dim.’”​— Zechariah 11:15-17 .

    54. The conditions in the nations today prove that the people have what kind of “shepherds,” and why have such leaders been allowed to rise up?

    Are not the people today, even those of Christendom, not to speak of those of heathendom, like sheep effaced or lost out of the picture, broken and unhealed, hungry or threatened with world famine, fed upon by corrupt, graft-taking, parasitical valueless shepherds, who devour them even to their “hoofs” or who lead them over ways so rough as to tear their “hoofs”? The conditions in the nations, both so-called Christian and pagan, give eloquent answer to that question. How much longer can the “sheep” keep going? But this is the consequence of refusing Jehovah’s Messianic Shepherd. Since they have chosen it that way, he has let a useless, valueless, hurtful shepherd class rise up in the land even of Christendom.

    55. Why did Zechariah, though taking for himself the implements of a useless shepherd, not suffer the woe that Jehovah pronounced against a valueless shepherd of that kind?

    The prophet Zechariah was told to illustrate the rising up of such a “useless shepherd” class in our time, as well as in the time of Jesus Christ and his apostles in the first century C.E. Zechariah did not himself become such a useless, foolish shepherd; he was merely told to take the implements or equipment of a shepherd and picture the presence and faulty conduct of such kind of shepherd. Consequently, Zechariah did not suffer the woe that Jehovah pronounced upon such a delinquent, valueless, heartless shepherd.

    56. How has a “sword” been upon the “arm” and the “right eye” of such a “valueless shepherd” class?

    The whole world of mankind may expect no relief or deliverance from such governmental shepherds of human choice and appointment. Jehovah’s executional sword of authority is against such shepherd rulers, who themselves have long borne the “sword” of executional power. ( Romans 13:4; Acts 12:1, 2 ) Because of not having Jehovah’s blessing in this their “time of the end,” their “arm” of power and ability is already withering up; their “right eye,” their best eye for discerning remedies and for governmental oversight, grows dimmer and dimmer. But in the world’s coming “great tribulation” Jehovah will destroy that “useless shepherd” class, eyes, arms and all.


    See The Bible Students Monthly,

    Volume VI, No. 7, which said under the title “Rabbi Wise Blames Churches for War,” the following: “‘Failure of the churches and synagogues to maintain leadership over the people was the cause of the present war,’ said Rabbi Stephen S. Wise at the Free Synagogue in Carnegie Hall yesterday. Rabbi Wise characterized the present attitude of the churches as ‘feeble, faltering, halting and timid.’ He said the State has conquered the church and that the latter has become a follower instead of a leader of public opinion.

    “‘They have enthroned a war devil,’ he said, ‘in the place of God. The churches do not take themselves seriously. They are satisfied to be a mere item of the social organization and to defend their countries and rulers​—just or unjust. The church is muzzled and throttled into submission. It is like a dumb dog, old and toothless, that can no longer bite.

    “‘Many of us expected the Socialist power to avert such a war as this, and were bitterly disappointed in the Socialists of Europe when they failed to do so. But we never looked to the churches, mosques and synagogues to prevent war. None of us expected such a thing from them, and we know what would happen to any leader of the Church of England who would dare raise his voice against his country’s part in the present strife.

    “‘Franz Josef goes through the empty form of washing the feet of a dozen pilgrims every Easter and the church is satisfied with him. The Czar is the head of his church on Sunday and the head of his army during the week.

    “‘And when the nations were preparing for this war they never consulted the churches because they knew that just as they relied upon their ambulance corps and their commissaries they could rely upon the churches to uphold them.

    “‘It would be better for missionaries to teach Christianity at home first.’

    “The rabbi concluded:

    “‘Our souls are wounded when we read of the destruction of cathedrals at Rheims and elsewhere, yet these cathedrals were destroyed long ago and it is only their outer walls that have now fallen.

    “‘War gods, money gods and power gods have been destroying these edifices century after century.’”​—New York

    American, October 12, 1914, page 4.

    The Syriac Version (Philoxenian Harkleian, a seventh-century revision) uses the name Zachariah, instead of Jeremiah.

    In Matthew 27:9, 10 the Sinaitic Manuscript of the fourth century C.E. reads “I” instead of “they.” So do the Syriac Versions, the Philoxenian Harkleian, the Peshitta, and the Sinaitic Codex. This agrees with Zechariah 11:13 , which says “I took.”

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