Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Zechariah 11:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Wo to the idol shepherd - האליל רעי roi haelil, "the worthless," or "good for nothing shepherd." The shepherd in name and office, but not performing the work of one. See John 10:11.

The sword shall be upon his arm - Punishment shall be executed upon the wicked Jews, and especially their wicked kings and priests. See Zechariah 11:16.

Arm - the secular power; right eye - the ecclesiastical state.

His arm shall be clean dried up - The secular power shall be broken, and become utterly inefficient.

His right eye shall be utterly darkened - Prophecy shall be restrained; and the whole state, ecclesiastical and civil, shall be so completely eclipsed, that none of their functions shall be performed. This may refer to the worthless and wicked governor mentioned in the preceding verse.

There are several things in this chapter that are very obscure, and we can hardly say what opinion is right; nor is it at all clear whether they refer to a very early or late period of the Jewish history.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Woe to the idol shepherd - (A shepherd of nothingness, one who hath no quality of a shepherd;) “who leaveth the flock.” The condemnation of the evil shepherd is complete in the abandonment of the sheep; as our Lord says, “He that is an hireling and not the Shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep” John 10:12-13.

Or it may equally be, “Shepherd, thou idol,” including the original meaning of nothingness, such as antichrist will be, (Jerome), “while he calleth himself God, and willeth to be worshiped.” Jerome: “This shepherd shall therefore arise in Israel, because the true Shepherd had said, ‹I will not feed you.‘ He is prophesied of by another name in Daniel the prophet Daniel 9, and in the Gospel Mark 13, and in the Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 2, as ‹the abomination of desolation,‘ who shall sit in the temple of the Lord, and make himself as God. He cometh not to heal but to destroy the flock of Israel. This shepherd the Jews shall receive, whom the ‹Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth; and destroy with the brightness of His coming?”‘

The sword shall be upon - (against) his arm and right eye His boast shall be of intelligence, and might. The punishment and destruction shall be directed against the instrument of each, the eye and the arm. Jerome: “The eye, whereby he shall boast to behold acutely the mysteries of God, and to see more than all prophets heretofore, so that he shall call himself son of God. But the word of the Lord shall be upon his arm and upon his right eye, so that his strength and all his boast of might shall be dried up, and the knowledge which he promised himself falsely, shall be obscured in everlasting darkness.” (Dionysius: “Above and against the power of antichrist, shall be the virtue and vengeance and sentence of Christ, who shall ‹slay‘ him ‹with the breath of His mouth.‘ The right arm, the symbol of might, and the right eye which was to direct its aim, should fail together, through the judgment of God against him. He, lately boastful and persecuting shall become blind and powerless, bereit alike of wisdom and strength.

The “right” in Holy Scripture being so often a symbol of what is good, the left of what is evil, it may be also imagined, that (Osorius), “the left eye, that is, the acumen and cunning to devise deadly frauds, will remain uninjured: while the ‹right eye,‘ that is, counsel to guard against evil, will be sunk in thick darkness. And so, the more he employs his ability to evil, the more frantically will he bring to bear destruction upon himself:”

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
God, having showed the misery of this people in their being justly left by the Good Shepherd, shows their further misery in being abused by foolish shepherds. The description suits the character Christ gives of the scribes and Pharisees. They never do any thing to support the weak, or comfort the feeble-minded; but seek their own ease, while they are barbarous to the flock. The idol shepherd has the garb and appearance of a shepherd, receives submission, and is supported at much expense; but he leaves the flock to perish through neglect, or leads them to ruin by his example. This suits many in different churches and nations, but the warning had an awful fulfilment in the Jewish teachers. And while such deceive others to their ruin, they will themselves have the deepest condemnation.