Question: "Is Zechariah 11:12-13 a Messianic prophecy?"
Answer: Zechariah 11:12-13 offers an intriguing account regarding 30 silver coins, bringing to mind the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. The New Testament identifies this as a Messianic prophecy, which found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
The verses read, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.”
Earlier, Zechariah had been commanded to watch a flock of sheep doomed to slaughter (Zechariah 11:4). He obeyed, using two shepherd’s staffs that he named Favor and Union (verse 7). Within a month, Zechariah fired the three shepherds working under him (verse 8). Then Zechariah abandoned the flock and broke his staff named Favor. Observers realized these actions were “the word of the LORD” (verse 11). The Lord would remove His favor from His people, allowing them to be harried by their enemies (verse 6).
In verses 12-13 Zechariah tells his employers to pay him his wages if they saw fit to do so. They pay him 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32), as an insult to Zechariah. The prophet sarcastically calls it a “handsome price.” God then commands Zechariah to give the coins to the potter in the house (or temple) of the Lord.
The corresponding passage in the New Testament is in Matthew 27. Judas is filled with remorse for betraying the Lord, and he tries to return the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests (verse 3). When the elders refuse to accept the money, Judas throws the coins into the temple and leaves and hangs himself (verses 4-5). Not wanted to put “blood money” into the treasury, the priests use it to buy a potter’s field (verses 6-7). “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter's field, as the Lord commanded me’” (verses 9-10). Zechariah 11 is, therefore, a Messianic prophecy, because it is explicitly identified as such by Matthew.
A seeming difficulty is the fact that Matthew attributes the prophecy to Jeremiah, not Zechariah. The explanation is two-fold. First, Jeremiah also bought a field at the Lord’s command (Jeremiah 32:6-9). Second, the Hebrew Bible was divided into three sections: the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets. The Prophets began with Jeremiah, and it was common for people to refer to the whole section (which included Zechariah) as “the book of Jeremiah.”
Zechariah’s prophecy had a dual fulfillment: one in the prophet’s contemporary context, and one in the more distant future. The Jewish people of Zechariah’s day would be judged, as seen in the breaking of Favor, and the specific details regarding 30 pieces of silver and a potter’s field found a future fulfillment in the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot.