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Zechariah 13:7-8

Context

13:7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,

against the man who is my associate,”

says the Lord who rules over all.

Strike the shepherd that the flock may be scattered; 1 

I will turn my hand against the insignificant ones.

13:8 It will happen in all the land, says the Lord,

that two-thirds of the people 2  in it will be cut off and die,

but one-third will be left in it. 3 

1 sn Despite the NT use of this text to speak of the scattering of the disciples following Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt 26:31; Mark 14:27), the immediate context of Zechariah suggests that unfaithful shepherds (kings) will be punished by the Lord precisely so their flocks (disobedient Israel) can be scattered (cf. Zech 11:6, 8, 9, 16). It is likely that Jesus drew on this passage merely to make the point that whenever shepherds are incapacitated, sheep will scatter. Thus he was not identifying himself with the shepherd in this text (the shepherd in the Zechariah text is a character who is portrayed negatively).

2 tn The words “of the people” are supplied in the translation for clarity (cf. NCV, TEV, NLT).

3 sn The fractions mentioned here call to mind the affliction of God’s people described by Ezekiel, though Ezekiel referred to his own times whereas Zechariah is looking forward to a future eschatological age. Ezekiel spoke of cutting his hair at God’s command (Ezek 5:1-4) and then of burning a third of it, striking a third with a sword, and scattering the rest. From this last third a few hairs would survive to become the nucleus of a new Israel. It is this “third” Zechariah speaks of (v. 9), the remnant who will be purified and reclaimed as God’s covenant people.



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