What Does Zechariah 11:17 Mean?

"Woe to the worthless shepherd Who leaves the flock! A sword will be on his arm And on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered And his right eye will be blind."

Zechariah 11:17(NASB)
Picture courtesy of Jan Brueghel

Verse Thoughts

This passage in Zechariah 11 is one of the most poignant sections in Scripture. It describes two shepherds - Jesus as the true Shepherd of Israel Who was betrayed for the price of a slave (30 pieces of silver) - and here in this verse, we read about the coming worthless shepherd who abandons the flock of God and justly deserves condemnation.

Israel rejected the good and gracious Shepherd Who was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel at His First Coming. He was despised and rejected by many. He was a Man of deep sorrow Who was acquainted with grief. His name is Jesus, and He came to His own, created world in His Father's name and was not accepted by His own people... and yet there is coming a false and idle shepherd who will come in another name, pretending that he is the Messiah, and he will be accepted - how tragic.

This is a prophecy which was partially fulfilled at Christ's First Coming when the true Shepherd of Israel was rejected and crucified. However, the worthless and idle shepherd who is the subject of this verse, is yet future. He is the one who will be revealed during the fast-approaching, 'Time of Jacob's Trouble' the 70th week of Daniel which is often identified as the great, seven-year Tribulation period.

He will deceive the people of Israel with lies and trickery, for he will abandon them and rob them. He will abuse them and slay them - but his treachery will finally be exposed.

Zechariah gives a description of this worthless shepherd. We read that, "a sword will be on his arm - and on his right eye! Also, his arm will be totally withered." Although it is more than likely that his physical appearance will mirror this description and he will have a wounded right eye and a crippled arm, the Bible often uses the word 'arm' to identify strength - or the lack of strength and Scripture often uses the word 'eye' to designate intelligence - or the lack of it.

In Revelation, we discover the identity of this worthless shepherd in the, yet future, Tribulation period. This shepherd is none other than the Antichrist. How sad that Israel rejected their true Shepherd, but will accept this worthless, counterfeit fellow. However, God is faithful to His people and we read that the strength of this idol shepherd will be terminated. His intellect will be found wanting and he will be destroyed by the glory of Christ's coming. On that day, God will graciously deliver His people, Israel - and will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

We as the Body of Christ, that is the Church, will not be on earth when the Antichrist is revealed. As Paul explains in 2 Thessalonians, the lawless one (the Antichrist) will be revealed after the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way. The Holy Spirit is working out His role as Restrainer through the Church, as He resides in us. This role of Holy Spirit as Restrainer, will come to an end at the Rapture of the Church when He is taken out of the way. He will still be working throughout the Tribulation, convicting people of their need of a Saviour, but He will not be restraining as before, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. Then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming."

How wonderful that God has told us the end from the beginning. How wonderful that Israel will be saved at Christ's Second Coming. And how wonderful that the Antichrist will be so easily defeated, by the breath of Jesus' mouth. Let us not fix our eyes on the Antichrist, but on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, our blessed Saviour, the true and faithful Shepherd of His sheep.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, what a gracious Saviour and good Shepherd You are, to both Israel and to the Church. Thank You for this peep into the future and the knowledge that despite all the terrible things that are to take place during the time of Jacob's Trouble, You remain faithful to Your people, and will restore to them the inheritance that You promised to Abraham and his seed, forever. I pray that while it is still 'today', many people, both Jew and Gentile, would come to a saving knowledge of Christ, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.

Picture courtesy of Jan Brueghel

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