There is a voice. The Hebrew is more terse and forcible, "A voice of the howling of the shepherds!" or, "Hark! a howling," etc. ( Jeremiah 25:34 , etc.). The destruction spreads from the north southwards along the Jordan valley. Their glory. The noble trees in whose shadow they rejoiced. Young lions. Which had their lairs in the forests now laid waste ( Jeremiah 49:19 ). The pride of Jordan. The thickets that clothed the banks of Jordan are called its "pride" ( Jeremiah 12:5 ). The lion is not now found in Palestine, but must have been common in earlier times, especially in such places as the brushwood and reedy coverts which line the margin of the Jordan. The prophet introduces the inanimate and animate creation—trees, men, beasts—alike deploring the calamity. And the terms in which this is depicted point to some great disaster and ruin, and, as it seems, to the final catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the punishment of the rejection of Messiah. This reference becomes plainer as we proceed. It is inadmissible to refer the passage (as some do) to the Assyrian invasions mentioned in 2 Kings 15:29 and 1 Chronicles 5:26 . Holding the post-exilian origin of the prophecy, we are bound to interpret it in accordance with this view, which, indeed, presents fewer difficulties than the other.
A final warning.
"Open thy doors, O Lebanon," etc. The prophet, after having foretold ( Zechariah 10:6-12 ) the great future and final glory of the literal Israel, seems here, as it were, to "hark back" to a previous and very different scene, viz.—as most commentators, both Jewish and Christian, believe—to that which should happen in those evil days when Jerusalem should be destroyed. We noted a very similar transition at the beginning of ch, 9. (comp. also Luke 17:24 , Luke 17:25 ; Luke 19:11 , etc.; 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ). In the present case the destruction predicted seems to be of a threefold description. It was to be a destruction of the nation by being a destruction
I. OF THESE PALACES OR CONSPICUOUS PUBLIC BUILDINGS , in which they came afterwards to glory so much. To this interpretation of Zechariah 11:1 , Zechariah 11:2 we seem pointed by the peculiar word "doors;" as also by the fact that the "doors" of the Jewish temple, and almost all its inner linings as well, are said to have been made of cypress ("fir") and cedar (see 1 Kings 5:8 , 1 Kings 5:10 ); and, if so, we may notice:
1 . How thorough is the nature of the coming destruction. What the "fire" can "devour" will be utterly destroyed in that way. What the fire cannot devour will "come down," or be levelled. Even if the stones remain, that is, the buildings will perish (see Matthew 24:2 , end). Also:
2 . How wide its extent. All the buildings they gloried in would thus perish. They would perish thus,
II. OF THE PRIESTS . These are compared, in Zechariah 11:3 , to "shepherds" and "young lions," as showing, perhaps, on the one hand, what they ought to be to the commonalty of Israel, and, on the other band, what they ought to be to its foes (see Psalms 78:70-72 ; Genesis 49:9 , Genesis 49:10 ). We see:
1 . How complete their destruction. This evidenced
2 . How just their destruction, and that also in two separate ways, Namely,
III. OF THE PEOPLE AT LARGE — OF THE " FLOCK ." Of this destruction, note:
1 . How solemnly it was predetermined. The very appellation here given, viz. the "flock of slaughter," signifies as much. Almost all, also, that is said respecting the flock—"I will no more pity;" "I will deliver" to evil; "I will not deliver" therefrom—implies as much.
2 . How terribly it was accomplished. Whether
In conclusion, there are just two other points to observe and admire, viz.:
1 . How inexhaustible is God ' s mercy! In this awful scene of destruction, with all its aggravated guilt, shameless hypocrisy, and suicidal infatuation, the light of that mercy is yet not wholly extinguished. There are some in this "flock of slaughter" who are to be "fed" (verse 4). So, in the case of the Noachian Deluge, and in that of the destruction of Sodom, there were some to be saved. So it is said, also, that in the fearful, final destruction of Jerusalem—and the fact may possibly be referred to in the words now before us—the Christians were saved by their flight to Pella.
2 . How discriminating are God ' s Judgments! The people were guilty here as well as their leaders ( Jeremiah 5:30 , Jeremiah 5:31 ). Therefore the people are visited with anger as well as their leaders (see Isaiah 24:2 ; Hosea 4:9 ). The people, however, being less privileged and instructed, are also, in some measure, less guilty (see Jeremiah 5:4 , Jeremiah 5:5 ). The people, therefore, though punished as well, are not punished as much (see above, about some of these being "fed;" also below, in verse 7, about the "poor of the flock;" compare such passages as Matthew 11:20-24 ; Luke 11:29-32 ). The acknowledgment of David in Psalms 51:4 , end, will be the acknowledgment of all "in that day."
Bad men in high office.
"There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled." We have here two subjects of thought.
I. BAD MEN IN HIGH OFFICE . The men referred to here are called "shepherds," which is a designation of men in power, men who politically and ecclesiastically presided over the people—the leaders. Communities of men everywhere and in all times have had "shepherds," men who guided and ruled them. These "shepherds" have sometimes reached their position irrespectively of the will of the people, sometimes with the will of the people, sometimes against the will of the people. In this country we have a number of "shepherds," politically from the mayor to the queen, ecclesiastically from the assistant curate to the archbishop. The "shepherds" referred to in the text had unfortunately what, alas! the leaders of the people in all ages have too frequently had—an ambitious character. Hence they are here called, "young lions," "a voice of the roaring of young lions;" or, as Keil has it, a "loud roaring of the young lions." They were hungry, ravenous, and rapacious, fattening upon the people of their charge. Elsewhere they are represented as "ravening wolves." How often have men in high office, both in state and Church, been of this character! Such as they care nothing for the people, only so far as they can make use of them, feed and fatten on them. Observe:
1 . That a man in high office who has a bad character is of all men the most contemptible. A bad character in a pauper makes him contemptible; but a bad character in a king makes him ten times the more contemptible. When God commands us to honour our parents, and to honour the king, it implies that the parents and the king are honourworthy; if they are corrupt in character, they should be die, honoured and denounced.
2 . That it is the duty of all peoples to promote those alone to high office who have a high moral character. Alas! they have not done so; hence they have often had unworthy magistrates, judges, kings, bishops.
II. BAD MEN IN HIGH OFFICE GREATLY DISTRESSED . "There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled." "The glory of these shepherds being spoiled," says Wardlaw, "signifies the brining down of all their honour and power, and the wealth and luxury which, by the abuse of their power they had acquired, all becoming a prey to the sacking and pillaging besiegers. The pride of Jordan lay in it, s evergreens and brushwood with which its banks were enriched and adorned; and these being the covert and habitation of the young lions, the two parts of the figure are appropriate. As the lions howl and roar in dismay and fury when dislodged from their refuges and dwelling places, whether by the swelling flood sweeping over their lairs, or from the cutting down or the burning of their habitations, so should the priests and rulers of Jerusalem be alarmed and struck with desperation and rage, when they found their city, within whose walls they had counted themselves secure from the very possibility of hostile entrance, laid open to the outrage of an exasperated enemy, and all its resources given up to plunder and destruction—country as well as city thrown into confusion and desolation!" Such rulers may well be distressed. Let them howl:
1 . Because all the keen-sighted and honest men over whom they preside despise them. Though the hordes of miserable sycophants worship them on account of the glitter and pageantry of their elevated position, the Carlyles, the Thackerays, and the unsophisticated millions regard them with ineffable disdain.
2 . Because the righteous Governor of the world has denounced them. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess" ( Matthew 23:14 , etc.).—D.T.