The Sheep Merchants of Zechariah 11 -- By: Thomas J. Finley

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 03:1 (Spring 1982)
Article: The Sheep Merchants of Zechariah 11
Author: Thomas J. Finley

The Sheep Merchants of Zechariah 11

Thomas J. Finley

The MT of Zech 11:7 has a phrase which has been translatedhence the afflicted of the flock (NASB). A nearly identical sequence of consonants occurs in v 11 and has been read,thus the afflicted of the flock.” A survey of the versions and various interpretations shows a great deal of confusion over what the Hebrew actually meant. Further analysis reveals that the grammatical structure of both passages is unique in Hebrew. Therefore, an examination is made of a variant in the LXX which points to the phrase,sheep merchants, in both passages. It is shown how the LXX gives the more difficult reading. Finally, analysis of the context shows that the LXX reading fits better than that of the MT.

* * *

Zechariah 11 is one of the more difficult passages of a some times enigmatic book. The chapter has been challenging to many because of its high demands on the interpreter’s abilities in hermeneutics, language skills, and command of other prophetic passages. Modern commentators have even found a knowledge of Sumerian literature helpful for a new insight on the familiar “thirty shekels of silver.”1

No less help has been found through the ancient versions. The debate still rages concerning the Greek and Syriac translations of the Hebrew term יצר,2 but a more far-reaching issue which involves the versions is the phrase לָן עֲנִיֵּי הַצּאֹן in v 7 and ן עֲנִיֵּי הַצּאֹן in v 11 .

There are two conflicting interpretations of these phrases which may be illustrated by the New American Standard Bible (NASB) rendition compared with that of the RSV:

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v 7

“hence the afflicted of the flock”

v 11

“thus the afflicted of the flock”