The Cry of Trees, Shepherds, and Lions

1Open your doors, Lebanon,

that fire may devour your cedars!

2Wail, cypress trees,

for the cedars are fallen,

the mighty are destroyed!

Wail, oaks of Bashan,

for the dense forest is cut down!

3Listen! the wailing of shepherds,

their glory has been destroyed.

Listen! the roaring of young lions,

the thickets of the Jordan are destroyed.

The Shepherd Narrative.* a 4Thus says the LORD, my God: Shepherd the flock to be slaughtered.b 5For they who buy them slay them and are not held accountable; while those who sell them say, “Blessed be the LORD, I have become rich!” Even their own shepherds will not pity them. 6For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the earth—oracle of the LORD.—Yes, I will deliver them into each other’s power, or into the power of their kings; they will crush the earth, and I will not deliver it out of their power.

7So I shepherded the flock to be slaughtered for the merchants of the flock. I took two staffs: one I called Delight, and the other Union. Thus I shepherded the flock. 8In a single month, I did away with the three shepherds, for I wearied of them, and they disdained me. 9“I will not shepherd you,” I said. “Whoever is to die shall die; whoever is to be done away with shall be done away with; and those who are left shall devour one another’s flesh.”

10Then I took my staff Delight and snapped it in two, breaking my covenant which I had made with all peoples. 11So it was broken on that day. The merchants of the flock, who were watching me, understood that this was the word of the LORD. 12Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, withhold them.”c And they counted out my wages,d thirty pieces of silver. 13Then the LORD said to me, Throw it in the treasury—the handsome price at which they valued me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD. 14Then I snapped in two my second staff, Union, breaking the kinship between Judah and Israel.

15The LORD said to me: This time take the gear of a foolish shepherd.e 16For I am raising up a shepherd in the land who will take no note of those that disappear, nor seek the strays, nor heal the injured,f nor feed the exhausted; but he will eat the flesh of the fat ones and tear off their hoofs!

Oracle to the Worthless Shepherd

17Ah! my worthless shepherd

who forsakes the flock!g

May the sword fall upon his arm

and upon his right eye;

His arm will surely wither,

and his right eye surely go blind!

* [11:417] This narrative has features of an allegory, a parable, and a commissioning narrative. The use of a symbolic action (vv. 7, 10, 14), however, places this text squarely in the tradition of classical prophecy. For example, the staff “Delight” signifies the Mosaic covenant, and the staff “Union” signifies the union of Israel and Judah. Breaking the staffs signifies the breaking of the Mosaic covenant (resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile) and the historical schism between north and south. In this narrative the prophet is the “shepherd” of God’s flock, which is to be slaughtered. The “three shepherds” of v. 8 represent either leaders responsible for the decay in Israelite society or false prophets (cf. vv. 15, 17 and 13:26). The service of the good shepherd is contemptuously valued at thirty pieces of silver, the legal indemnity for a gored slave (Ex 21:32). The prophet throws the money into the Temple treasury, showing how poorly God’s love is requited (cf. Mt 26:1416; 27:5). With great rhetorical irony, payment is rejected. The entire wage-payment scenario may be regarded as another symbolic action, embedded within the primary action.

a. [11:4] Ez 34:1.

b. [11:4] Jer 12:3.

c. [11:12] Mt 27:310.

d. [11:12] 2 Kgs 12:11; 22:4.

e. [11:15] Ez 34:110.

f. [11:16] Is 42:3; Mt 12:20.

g. [11:17] Jer 23:1; Jn 10:1213.

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