The selling of the sheep (Zech 11:4-11:5)

“Thus said Yahweh my God.

‘Be a shepherd

For the flock doomed to slaughter!

Those who buy them,

Kill them.

They go unpunished.’

Those who sell them say.

‘Blessed be Yahweh!

I have become rich!’

Their own shepherds

Have no pity on them.’”

Yahweh, via Zechariah, seems to say that this flock of sheep was doomed to slaughter.  The people who bought the sheep, killed them, but they would go unpunished.  Meanwhile, the sellers of the sheep were praising Yahweh, because they had become rich.  The original shepherds had no pity on the sheep.  Sheep by their very nature would be killed for eating, but not before their wool was sheared.  This may be an allusion to the Ptolemaic rule (305-275 BCE) with their Israelite appointees.

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Jacob in Aram (Hos 12:12-12:12)

“Jacob fled

To the land of Aram.

There Israel served

For a wife.

He guarded sheep

For a wife.”

This incident about Jacob or Israel can be found in Genesis, chapter 29. Jacob went east and found his cousin Rachel, whom he wanted to marry. He was tricked into marring her sister Leah. However, he stayed on to take care of the sheep of his uncle Laban, so that he would have Rachel as his wife also.

These shepherds do not take care of their sheep (Ezek 34:3-34:4)

“You eat the fat.

You clothe yourselves

With wool.

You slaughter

The fatlings.

But you do not

Feed the sheep.

You have not strengthened

The weak ones.

You have not healed

The sick ones.

You have not bound up

The injured ones.

You have not brought back

The strayed ones.

You have not sought

The lost ones.

You have ruled them

With force.

You have ruled them

With harshness.”

Yahweh complained, via Ezekiel, to these shepherds that they ate the good fat things and clothed themselves with wool clothing. They slaughtered the fat livestock, but they did not feed the sheep. They did not strengthen the weak ones or heal the sick or injured sheep. They never brought back the straying or lost sheep. These shepherds ruled over the sheep with force and harshness.

The plan of Yahweh for Edom (Jer 49:19-49:20)

“Like a lion

Coming up

From the thickets

Of the Jordan River

Against a perennial pasture,

I will suddenly

Chase Edom

Away from it.

I will appoint over it

Whomever I choose.

Who is like me?

Who can summon me?

Who is the shepherd

That can stand before me?

Therefore hear the plan

That Yahweh has made

Against Edom!

Hear the purposes

That he has formed

Against the inhabitants

Of Teman!

Surely the little ones

Of the flock

Shall be dragged away.

Surely their fold

Shall be appalled

At their fate.”

Yahweh has a precise plan for Edom. These Edomites were like lions that come out of the thickets on the Jordan River to find a beautiful pasture land. Suddenly Yahweh would chase Edom away from this perennial green field. There is no one like Yahweh. Who could oppose him? The shepherds had no chance against Yahweh. He clearly wants to get rid of the town of Teman, the Edomite clan around the southern Edomite town of Petra. Even the little ones would be dragged away. The shepherds and the sheep would be appalled at what was happening. Clearly the power of Yahweh was apparent.

The bad shepherds (Jer 23:1-23:2)

“‘Woe to the shepherds

Who destroy

The sheep of my pasture!

Woe to the shepherds

Who scatter

The sheep of my pasture!’

Says Yahweh.

Therefore thus says Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

Concerning the shepherds

Who shepherd my people.

‘It is you

Who have scattered my flock.

You have driven them away.

You have not attended to them.

So I will attend to you

For your evil doings.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, condemns the bad shepherds or the bad leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. Yahweh blames them for destroying and scattering the sheep of his pasture, his people, the Israelites. There is no question in the mind of Yahweh that that it was these leaders who scattered and drove away his flock. They had not attended to them. Instead, they went on their evil ways. Now Yahweh will attend to their evil actions. This oracle of Yahweh is clearly pointing the blame on the leaders.

Job was kind to the needy (Job 31:16-31:23)

“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,

If I have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,

If I have eaten my morsel alone,

If I have not let the orphan eat from it,

From my youth,

I have reared the orphan like a father.

From my mother’s womb I have guided the widow.

If I have seen any one perish for lack of clothing,

If there was a poor man without covering,

If his loins have not blessed me,

If he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,

If I have raised my hand against the orphan,

Because I saw I had supporters at the gate.

Then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder!

Let my arm be broken from its socket!

I was in terror of calamity from God.

I could not have faced his majesty.”

Job maintained that that he had always helped the poor, the widows, and orphans. He shared his food. He treated the orphans as if they were like his children. From his childhood he had always been kind to widows. He gave away his clothing, sometimes direct from the sheep. He had helped the orphans in all that they did. If he had not done these things, then his shoulder blades should fall off and the socket of his arm should be broken. He had always feared God and his majesty.