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Zechariah 11:8-14

Context
11:8 Next I eradicated the three shepherds in one month, 1  for I ran out of patience with them and, indeed, they detested me as well. 11:9 I then said, “I will not shepherd you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be eradicated, let it be eradicated. As for those who survive, let them eat each other’s flesh!”

11:10 Then I took my staff “Pleasantness” and cut it in two to annul my covenant that I had made with all the people. 11:11 So it was annulled that very day, and then the most afflicted of the flock who kept faith with me knew that that was the word of the Lord.

11:12 Then I 2  said to them, “If it seems good to you, pay me my wages, but if not, forget it.” So they weighed out my payment – thirty pieces of silver. 3  11:13 The Lord then said to me, “Throw to the potter that exorbitant sum 4  at which they valued me!” So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter 5  at the temple 6  of the Lord. 11:14 Then I cut the second staff “Binders” in two in order to annul the covenant of brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

1 sn Zechariah is only dramatizing what God had done historically (see the note on the word “cedars” in 11:1). The “one month” probably means just any short period of time in which three kings ruled in succession. Likely candidates are Elah, Zimri, Tibni (1 Kgs 16:8-20); Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem (2 Kgs 15:8-16); or Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah (2 Kgs 24:125:7).

2 sn The speaker (Zechariah) represents the Lord, who here is asking what his service as faithful shepherd has been worth in the opinion of his people Israel.

3 sn If taken at face value, thirty pieces (shekels) of silver was worth about two and a half years’ wages for a common laborer. The Code of Hammurabi prescribes a monthly wage for a laborer of one shekel. If this were the case in Israel, 30 shekels would be the wages for 2 1/2 years (R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 76, 204-5). For other examples of “thirty shekels” as a conventional payment, see K. Luke, “The Thirty Pieces of Silver (Zech. 11:12f.), Ind TS 19 (1982): 26-30. Luke, on the basis of Sumerian analogues, suggests that “thirty” came to be a term meaning anything of little or no value (p. 30). In this he follows Erica Reiner, “Thirty Pieces of Silver,” in Essays in Memory of E. A. Speiser, AOS 53, ed. William W. Hallo (New Haven, Conn.: American Oriental Society, 1968), 186-90. Though the 30 shekels elsewhere in the OT may well be taken literally, the context of Zech. 11:12 may indeed support Reiner and Luke in seeing it as a pittance here, not worth considering (cf. Exod 21:32; Lev 27:4; Matt 26:15).

4 tn Heb “splendor of splendor” (אֶדֶר הַיְקָר, ’eder hayqar). This expression sarcastically draws attention to the incredibly low value placed upon the Lord’s redemptive grace by his very own people.

5 tn The Syriac presupposes הָאוֹצָר (haotsar, “treasury”) for the MT הַיּוֹצֵר (hayyotser, “potter”) perhaps because of the lack of evidence for a potter’s shop in the area of the temple. The Syriac reading is followed by NAB, NRSV, TEV. Matthew seems to favor this when he speaks of Judas having thrown the thirty shekels for which he betrayed Jesus into the temple treasury (27:5-6). However, careful reading of the whole gospel pericope makes it clear that the money actually was used to purchase a “potter’s field,” hence Zechariah’s reference to a potter. The MT reading is followed by most other English versions.

6 tn Heb “house” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).



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