Zechariah 11: A Preterist Commentary

Zechariah 11 Fulfilled!

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Fulfilled! Zechariah 11: A Preterist Commentary: Summary and Highlights

In the following commentary on Zechariah 11, Zechariah opens with a prediction that during the time of the end, Canaan will be burned and left desolate.  This prophecy was fulfilled during Israel’s war with Rome in the middle of the first century when the Roman army burned much of the province of Israel as part of its scorched earth policy.  Zechariah then goes on to warn that during this time, Israel will be oppressed by its rulers—a prophecy most notably fulfilled during the reign of Florus whose excessive oppression was the primary cause of the war.  In v. 9 Zechariah predicts that many will die and some who are left will “eat one another’s flesh.”   During the Jewish War, Rome besieged Jerusalem inducing famine in the closed quarters of the city.  And in fulfillment of v. 9, a woman is recorded to have killed her newborn child and eaten its flesh.[1]  After Rome conquered and destroyed Israel in the middle of the first century, Israel revolted once again shortly thereafter.  During this time, Zechariah predicts that another oppressive “shepherd” will arise.  This ruler is Simon Bar-Kokhba.  When Bar-Kokhba killed Eleazar before his stronghold at Bethar fell to the Romans, a heavenly voice was recorded in the Midrash to have bellowed Zechariah 11:17: “Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock!  The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye!  Thou hast paralyzed the arm of Israel and blinded their right eye; therefore shall thy arm wither and thy right eye grow dim!”[2]   For a detailed description of the fulfillment of this chapter see the following commentary.

The following may seem unbelievable.  However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable.  Sources listed at the end.

Zechariah 11 Fulfilled!

1Open your doors, O Lebanon, so that fire may devour your cedars!  2Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen; the stately trees are ruined!  Wail, oaks of Bashan; the dense forest has been cut down!  3Listen to the wail of shepherds; their rich pastures are destroyed!  Listen to the roar of the lions; the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

Jewish War Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

Roberts, David. The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 . 1850. Yeshiva University Museum, New York.


Zechariah 11:1-2 A Preterist Commentary: The Romans Burned Israel leaving it a Charred Wasteland.

Approximately thirty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, Israel revolted against Rome and the above verses found their literal fulfillment.  The Romans left the province of Israel charred and barren, and thousands upon thousands were killed and exiled.  In the following verses, Zechariah describes the events leading-up to this catastrophe:

4This is what the LORD my God says: “Pasture the flock marked for slaughter.  5Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished.  Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the LORD, I am rich!’  Their own shepherds do not spare them.  6For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,” declares the LORD.  “I will hand everyone over to his neighbor and his king.  They will oppress the land, and I will not rescue them from their hands.”  7So I pastured the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock.  Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I pastured the flock.

The Stoning of St. Stephen Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

Carracci, Annibale. The Stoning of St. Stephen. 1603-1604. Musée du Louvre.

Zechariah 11:5-7 A Preterist Commentary: Florus’ Oppressive Reign was the primary Cause of the War with Rome.

Here Zechariah is told to pasture a flock.  Zechariah’s actions as shepherd are an omen of events which seem to be ultimately fulfilled in the first century A.D.  Acts 8:1-3, 12:1-4 and 26:10 record the persecution the early church faced in Jerusalem soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In what seemed to be divine retribution for these crimes against the saints, the Romans attacked and destroyed the province of Israel during the Jewish War.  Largely responsible for inciting this war, Gessius Florus, the Roman procurator of Judea at the start of the Jewish rebellion, oppressed the Jewish population ultimately causing unrest in Jerusalem.  As punishment for this uprising, Florus dispatched soldiers to plunder the Upper Market in Jerusalem and kill everyone therein.  As a result 3,600 men, woman and children were killed.[3]  Florus’ harsh treatment of the Jewish population in Israel was largely responsible for triggering the Jewish War with Rome.  After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, 1,100,000 Jews were killed during the siege and 97,000 were captured many of whom were sold into slavery in fulfillment of v. 5: “Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished.  Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the LORD, I am rich!’”[4]

The Destruction of the Temple Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. by Nicolas Poussin. (Gemäldegalerie, 1638-1639) Kunsthistorisches Museum.

8In one month I got rid of three shepherds.

Zechariah 11:8 A Preterist Commentary: Are the Three Shepherds King Agrippa II, Queen Berenice and Florus?

Could these three shepherds be King Agrippa II, Queen Berenice, and the Roman Governor Florus?  King Agrippa II and his sister Queen Berenice were the client kings of Galilee, Perea and part of the tetrarchy of Philip.  Florus was the Roman governor of Samaria, Judea, Idumea and part of the tetrarchy of Philip.  All three rulers of Israel lost their authority at the start of the Jewish revolt in the spring of A.D. 66.[5]

queen berenice Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

The trail of the Apostle Paul before Herod Agrippa II and his presumed lover Queen Berenice. Bodarevsky, Nikolas Kornilievich. Trial of the Apostle Paul. 1875. Regional Art Museum, Uzhgorod, Ukraine.

Zechariah 11:8 A Preterist Commentary: Are the Three Shepherds Simon, John and Simon Bar-Kokhba?

It is also possible that this verse refers to the three oppressive and infamous leaders of the first and second Jewish revolts: Simon, John and Simon Bar-Kokhba.  The word translated “got rid of” in v. 8 literally means “to hide.”  In the month of Av, the Romans seized and destroyed the temple fortress in Jerusalem where John and Simon led the first Jewish rebellion against Rome.  After the Temple was destroyed, the two leaders of the Jewish resistance were forced into hiding.   One month later, in the month of Elul, Jerusalem fell to the Romans and these two tyrants fled to underground caves beneath the city.[6]  Like the temple in Jerusalem, Bethar, the last stronghold of the second Jewish rebellion, was also captured in the month of Av.  Simon Bar-Kokhba, the leader of the Jewish rebellion, was found dead on the 9th day of that month–the same day in which the first and second temples had been destroyed, first by the Babylonians and later by the Romans.[7]

burning of the temple Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

The burning of Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D. 70

The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them 9 and said, “I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.”

Zechariah 11:9 A Preterist Commentary: The Cannibal and the War with Rome . . .

In the above verses, Zechariah sees the Messiah grow weary of the people.  And as a result, the unbelieving Jews are given over to a war that they could not possibly win.  Rome laid siege to city after city throughout the province of Israel inducing famine in the closed quarters of these cities.  In fulfillment of v. 9, Josephus mentions a woman who had killed her newborn child in order to eat its flesh during the siege of Jerusalem fulfilling v. 9: “Let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.”[8]

10 Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 It was revoked on that day, and so the afflicted of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the LORD.  12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.  13 And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.

Zechariah 11:12-13 A Preterist Commentary: Judas betrayed Jesus for Thirty Pieces of Silver.  This Money was used to buy a Potter’s Field.

“[T]he afflicted of the flock” in v. 11 are the first century Jewish Christians who were persecuted by their Jewish brethren after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 8:1-3, 12:1-4, 26:10).  Jesus’ death is described in the following verses.  According to Matthew 26:14-15, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  After Jesus had been sentenced to death, the apostle filled with remorse threw the money into the Temple and hanged himself.  The priests of the Temple then used the money to buy a potter’s field (Matthew 27:1-11).

Cristo de San Plácido Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

Velázquez, Diego. Cristo de San Plácido. Museo del Prado.

Zechariah 11:10 A Preterist Commentary: The Covenant broken in v. 10 is the Covenant God made with the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. 

The destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 made it impossible to follow the Law of Moses in its entirety and is therefore a sign of the fulfillment of the covenant God made with the Israelites on Mt. Sinai.  Though this is true, this is not the only covenant that had been fulfilled at the time of the end.

Zechariah 11:10 A Preterist Commentary: The other Covenant broken at the Time of the End is God’s Covenant with King David.  Because God’s Covenant with Day and Night was Broken during the Crucifixion and again at the Second Coming, a Descendant of David would not Rule Corporally in Israel.  Instead, the Messiah Rules from a Heavenly Throne.

The other covenant broken at the time of the end in v. 10 is mentioned in Jeremiah 33:25-26 and Jeremiah 31:35-36.  See The Miraculous Fulfillment of Jeremiah 33:20-21 explains why Christ Rules from a Heavenly, Not Earthly, Throne.

Jesus at the right hand of the father Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

14 Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

Zechariah 11:14 A Preterist Commentary: At the Time of the End Family Members became Enemies and the Brotherhood of Israel was Broken.

The staff broken in this verse seems to be the stick mentioned in Ezekiel 37:19.  Here the prophet Ezekiel is instructed to take two sticks representing Judah and Ephraim and join them together.  This act represents the union the people of Israel and Judah.   After the decree of Cyrus, this mixture of people from the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah settled in the Promised Land enjoying fellowship with one another while Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, governed Judah.  In this verse, Zechariah is instructed to break the stick that Ezekiel joined together representing the brotherhood of Ephraim and Judah.  The breaking of this stick may represent the dissension and civil war that divided Israel just before and during Israel’s war with Rome.  This civil unrest between the Jews that transpired during the Jewish War is also foretold in Luke 12:51-53:

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled! , jewish war altar

The siege of Jerusalem.Hayez, Francesco. The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. 1867. Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Venice.

15 Then the LORD said to me, “Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16 For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs.

Zechariah 11:15-16 A Preterist Commentary: The Foolish Shepherd is Simon Bar-Kokhba.

The identity of the selfish shepherd of vs. 15-17 is open to debate.  It is possible that this shepherd is Florus whose exceptionally oppressive edicts and policies drove the Jews to revolt against Rome in A.D. 66.  I believe it is also possible that this foolish shepherd may be Simon Bar-Kokhba.

After the Jewish War, the people of Israel once again revolted against Rome in the second century A.D.  This rebellion was led by a vicious man named Simon Bar-Kokhba.  Bar-Kokhba is said to have severely persecuted Christians who “did not deny Jesus as the Messiah and blaspheme him.”[13]  Several letters written by Bar-Kokhba have been unearthed during recent archeological excavations.  The contents of these letters illustrate the tyrannical nature of a man who was not satisfied with just the oppression of the saints.  One letter fragment is translated to have read: “Concerning every man of Tekoa who will be found at your place—the houses in which they dwell will be burned and you will be punished.”[14]  A stern tone combined with threats of punishment is a recurring theme in Bar-Kokhba’s letters.  Another letter illustrating Bar-Kokhba’s lack of regard for his people reads, “The wheat and fruit should be confiscated and if anyone opposes you, send him to me and I shall punish him.”[15]  The wheat and fruit spoken of in this letter was likely taken from Jewish farmers against their will.

17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!  May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!  May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!”

Zechariah 11:17 A Preterist Commentary: When Bar-Kokhba killed Eleazar a Heavenly Voice was heard quoting this Verse.

Convinced that Eleazar, Bar-Kokhba’s right hand man, wanted to surrender Bethar, the city in which Bar-Kokhba put forth his last stand, Bar-Kokhba kicked the priest with his foot and killed him.  According to the Midrash, immediately thereafter in fulfillment of Leviticus 24:19-22, a heavenly voice is recorded to have been heard quoting Zechariah 11:17: “Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock!  The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye!  Thou hast paralyzed the arm of Israel and blinded their right eye; therefore shall thy arm wither and thy right eye grow dim!”[16]  The paralyzing of the arm of Israel mentioned above may be illustrated by the fact that Bar-Kokbha required the soldiers of his army to bite off their right fingers in order to prove their loyalty to him.[17]

Bethar was soon captured by the Romans and Bar-Kokhba was killed on the ninth day of Av–the very same day in which the first and second Jewish temples had been destroyed.  A Cuthean then brought Bar-Kokhba’s head to Hadrian.  Hadrian then ordered the man to bring him his body.  When the Cuthean returned, he found a serpent wrapped around Bar-Kokhba’s neck.  When the man relayed this story, Hadrian replied, “If his God had not slain him who could have overcome him?”[18]

Emperor Hadrian  Zechariah 11 A Preterist Commentary, Zechariah 11 fulfilled!

Emperor Hadrian

In Zechariah 12:1-9, Zechariah is given a vision of the Maccabean Revolt.  Then from v. 10 to the end of the chapter, the prophet sees the people of Judea mourning over “the one they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10).”  This vision of the death of the Messiah is carried over into Zechariah 13 where Zechariah’s vision of the end continues.


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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse?  It DID happen just like the Bible says!  If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!

Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.

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[1] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.3.4.

[2] Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 2.2§4.

[3] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.14.9.

[4] Ibid., 6.9.2-3.

[6] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.4, 7.2.1.  Perhaps John and Simon began hiding in these subterranean caves at the end of the month of Av, just before the Romans breached the walls of the upper city?

[7] Though many sources say the two temples fell on the same day, there is some disagreement.  For example, Josephus states that the first temple was burned by the Babylonians on the tenth day of Av. Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.5.

[8] Ibid., 6.3.4.

[13] Justin First Apology 31.5-6.

[14] Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (New York: Random House, 1971), 125.

[15] Ibid., 128.

[16] Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 2.2§4.

[17] Ibid. That being said, there is more to this verse than literal disfigurement.  Zechariah 11:17 allegorically hints to the death of the false Messiah and the destruction of his kingdom.  In order to enroll in Bar-Kokhba’s army, soldiers were required to be able to uproot a cedar.  The great arm strength displayed by these soldiers physically illustrates the might of Bar-Kokhba’s army numbering 200,000 strong.  So confident was Bar-Kokhba in his formidable military, he is said to have had his soldiers shout, “O God, neither help nor discourage us!” when charging into battle. (Ibid.)  The withering of the arm imagery may be a metaphor for the weakening and ultimate defeat of this general and his once powerful army.  The blinding of the right eye may be a symbol of either the death of Eleazar or the death of Bar-Kokhba himself.

[18] Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 2.2§4.

Zechariah 11: A Preterist Commentary: Conclusion

In the above commentary on Zechariah 11, Zechariah 11 is shown to have been fulfilled. 

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Zechariah 11: A Preterist Commentary


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