Verses 15–17

God, having shown the misery of this people in their being justly abandoned by the good Shepherd, here shows their further misery in being shamefully abused by a foolish shepherd. The prophet is himself to personate and represent this pretended shepherd (Zech. 11:15): Take unto thee the instruments or accoutrements of a foolish shepherd, that are no way fit for the business, such a shepherd’s coat, and bag, and staff, as a foolish shepherd would appear in; for such a shepherd shall be set over them (Zech. 11:16), who, instead of protecting them, shall oppress them and do them mischief. 1. They shall be under the inspection of unfaithful ministers. Their scribes, and priests, and doctors of their law, shall bind heavy burdens upon them, and grievous to be borne, and, with their traditions imposed, shall make the ceremonial law much more a yoke than God had made it. The description here given of the foolish shepherd suits very well with the character Christ gives of the scribes and Pharisees, Matt. 23:2. They shall be under the tyranny of unmerciful princes, that shall rule them with rigour, and make their own land as much a house of bondage to them as ever Egypt or Babylon was. When they had rejected him by whom princes decree justice it was just that they should be turned over to those who decree unrighteous decrees. 3. They shall be imposed upon and deluded by false Christs and false prophets, as our Saviour foretold, Matt. 24:5. Many such there were, who by their seditious practices provoked the Romans, and hastened the ruin of the Jewish nation; but it is observable that they were never cheated by a counterfeit Messiah till they had refused and rejected the true Messiah. Now observe,

I. What a curse this foolish shepherd should be to the people, Zech. 11:16. God will, for their punishment, raise up a foolish shepherd, who will not do the duty of a shepherd; he will not visit those that are cut off, nor go after those that go astray, nor seek those that are missing, to find them out and bring them home, as the good shepherd does, Matt. 18:12, 13. Their shepherds take no care of the young ones, that need their care and are well worthy of it, as Christ does, Isa. 40:11. They do not heal that which was broken, which was worried and torn, but let it die of its bruises, when a little thing, in time, would have saved it. They do not feed those who, through weakness, stand still, and are ready to faint, and cannot get forward, but leave them behind, let who will take them up; they do not carry that which stands still (so some read it); they never do any thing to support the weak and comfort the feeble-minded; but, on the contrary, 1. They are luxurious themselves: They eat of the flesh of the fat; they will have of the best for themselves; and, like that wicked servant that said, My lord delays his coming, they eat and drink with the drunken, and serve their own bellies. 2. They are barbarous to the flock. Their passions are as ill-governed as their appetites, for, when they are in a rage against any of the flock, they tear their very claws in pieces by over-driving them; they beat their hoofs; they smite their fellow servants. Woe unto thee, O land! when thy king is such a child!

II. What a curse this foolish shepherd should bring upon himself (Zech. 11:17): Woe to the idol-shepherd, who, like an idol, has eyes and sees not, who, like an idol, receives abundance of respect and homage from the people and the chief of their offerings, but neither can nor will do them any kindness. He leaves the flock when they most need his care, leaves them destitute, and flees, because he is a hireling; his doom is that the sword of God’s justice shall be upon his arm and his right eye, so that he shall quite lose the use of both. His arm shall wither and be dried up, so that he who would not help his friends when it was required shall not know how to help himself; his right eye shall be utterly darkened, that he shall not discern the danger that his flock is in, nor know which way to look for relief. This was fulfilled when Christ said to the Pharisees, I have come that those who see may be made blind, John 9:39. Those that have gifts which qualify them to do good, if they do not do good with them, shall be deprived of them; those that should have been workmen, but were slothful and would do nothing, will justly have their arm dried up; and those that should have been watchmen, but were sleepy and would never look about them, will justly have their eye blinded.