Ezekiel 34 - Outline of Ezekiel (Book Notes menu page)
With his re-commissioning as the LORD's watchman (in ch. 33), Ezekiel's ministry begins to look toward Israel's future restoration, which is the theme of the remainder of his book (ch. 33-48). But before that restoration can come, the LORD must first judge and remove those things which stand in the way.
     In ch.33, He offered to remove sin's penalty from repentant hearts (Eze 33:11), and He pronounced judgment upon unbelieving Israelites, who claimed the land on the basis of God's promises to Abraham, even though they did not believe or heed God's Word (33:24-26). After news of the fall of Jerusalem confirmed Ezekiel's prophecies, the exiles in Babylon were keen to hear what he had to say. Yet to them, God's spokesman was entertaining, and not to be taken seriously (33:30-32). Such disrespect, for God's Word, was exemplified by the leaders whom they followed.
     In the chapter before us, the LORD declares that He will remove and replace the false shepherds of His people. He Himself will shepherd His people and bring them into the land and the Kingdom that He has purposed for them.
     In subsequent chapters, in prophecies about the establishment of the future Messianic Kingdom, He shows how He will deal with other nations whose agenda conflicts with His.
A. The False Shepherds - (34:1-10)
1. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy,
and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds;
Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!
should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed:
[but] ye feed not the flock.
4 The diseased have ye not strengthened,
neither have ye healed that which was sick,
neither have ye bound up [that which was] broken,
neither have ye brought again that which was driven away,
neither have ye sought that which was lost;
but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
5 And they were scattered, because [there is] no shepherd:
and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill:
yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth,
and none did search or seek [after them].
...woe... to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!
...should not the shepherds feed the flock? cp. Jer 23:1
The same word is used for 'shepherd' and 'feed' {HB=ra'ah, nourish, tend (in noun or verb form)}. This word is also translated as 'pastor.' The shepherd's work is to tend, nourish, and feed sheep.
     The shepherds of Israel were entrusted with the responsibility of caring for God's people (the whole flock of God, and His individual sheep). Those who watched over God's flock included Israel's kings, princes, priests and prophets. But they had been derelict in their duties. They were tending to themselves, while they not only neglected, but also abused the sheep. cp. Mic 3:1-3
...ye eat the fat... ye clothe you with wool...
...ye kill {ie., slay, sacrifice} them that are fed {ie., fatted, firm of flesh}...
...but ye feed not the flock.
Israel's shepherds had abused their powers, in order to live high, at the expense of God's people. cp. Eze 22:25-29; Jer 22:17
The rulers took the richest and best portions for themselves. They sheared the people with fraud, usury and excess taxation. They killed them with injustice.
...the diseased {ie., weak} have ye not strengthened... neither healed the sick...
...but with force and... cruelty {ie., rigour} have ye ruled them.
These shepherds were not at all concerned for the well-being of the sheep. Their concern was to maintain their own power.
Their way, of exercising authority, was in violation of the LORD's instructions. Lev 25:43; cp. 1Pet 5:1-4
...they were scattered, because there is no shepherd...
...they became meat to all the beasts... my sheep wandered...
The nation's spiritual and political leaders had neither led their people in the right way, nor protected them from enemies and dangers (Jer 23:2; 50:6,17). Therefore, for lack of a true shepherd (cp. Eze 22:30; Jer 23:21,22; Zech 10:2), the people of Israel had wandered far from God, and were now wandering like lost sheep, in dispersion among foreign nations (Eze 7:16).
     Although the nation had many 'shepherds,' they had all proven themselves false for the sheep, and unfaithful to the Owner of the flock. Their foolishness also foreshadowed the 'foolish shepherd' (the Antichrist) who will cause further harm to Israel, during the Time of Jacob's Trouble (Zech 11:15-17).
     The sight of God's sheep, without a godly shepherd, moved the heart of Jesus, during His earthly ministry (Mat 9:36). At that time, there were plenty of priests and rulers, but the Lord saw their hypocritical hearts and their neglect of the people.
7. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
8 [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey,
and my flock became meat to every beast of the field,
because [there was] no shepherd,
neither did my shepherds search for my flock,
but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
10 Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Behold, I [am] against the shepherds;
and I will require my flock at their hand,
and cause them to cease from feeding the flock;
neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more;
for I will deliver my flock from their mouth,
that they may not be meat for them.
{v.22; Psa 23:5; 72:12-14}
...I am against the shepherds...
...I will cause them to cease...
In the near term, this was accomplished with the fall of Jerusalem and its rulers and priests (eg., Jer 52:9-11,24-27).
...I will require my flock at their hand...
All who shepherd God's flock will be held responsible and accountable to Him, for His sheep (Heb 13:17). Woe be to the man, in such a role, who serves himself to the hurt of God's sheep. Eze 33:6-8; Acts 20:28-30; 2Pet 2:1-3; Jude 1:4
     No one should consider serving as a pastor {shepherd}, unless called by the Chief Shepherd, and constrained by love for Christ, to serve those whom Christ loves. Joh 21:15-17
     Obviously, most of the NT passages cited above relate to leaders of the church of Christ. However, in the context of Ezekiel, the Lord makes specific application to the care of His people, Israel.
B. The True Shepherd - (34:11-16)
11 For thus saith the Lord GOD;
Behold, I, [even] I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock
in the day that he is among his sheep [that are] scattered;
so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them
out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
13 And I will bring them out from the people,
and gather them from the countries,
and will bring them to their own land,
and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers,
and in all the inhabited places of the country.
14 I will feed them in a good pasture,
and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be:
there shall they lie in a good fold,
and [in] a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down,
saith the Lord GOD.
16 I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up [that which was] broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.
...thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
The LORD Himself is the True Shepherd of His people. eg., Psa 23:1
He Himself will search for His sheep (for the false shepherds failed to seek them, v.6-11).
But who are the people that He is shepherding, in this paragraph?
     They are the people of Israel who had been scattered and driven out from His land, for He is the Shepherd of Israel (Psa 80:1-4).
That work, of regathering Israel, is something that only the LORD can do... and it is a work that He will do.
At least twenty-five times, in this chapter, He says "I will..." (sometimes the pronoun is inferred).
...so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them... (v.12)
  • From where will they be delivered? "...out of all places where they have been scattered."
  • When were they scattered? "...in the dark and cloudy day."
    (ie., The historic judgments upon Jerusalem. Jer 13:16,17)
  • When will they be delivered?
    • "...in the dark and cloudy day." (This clause can apply to both 'scattered' and 'delivered'.)
      (The future judgment in the Day of the LORD. Joel 2:1-3; Zeph 1:14,15)
    • "...in the day that He is among His sheep that are scattered."
      1. At the Savior's first coming (Luk 19:10),
        when He presented Himself as the Good Shepherd (Joh 10:1-21).
        1. The Rightful Shepherd (in contrast to thieves and robbers), Joh 10:1-6
        2. The Door of the Sheep (the only entrance into His fold), Joh 10:7-10
        3. The Good Shepherd (who gave His life for the sheep), Joh 10:11-21
          Isa 53:6,7; Joh 1:29; 1Pet 2:24,25
        4. The Shepherd whose voice God's sheep know and follow, Joh 10:22-27
          Joh 6:37-45
        5. The Shepherd who is One with the Father, Joh 10:27-30; Eze 34:11-f
      2. At the Savior's second coming,
        when Israel will recognize and receive Him (Zech 12:10),
        then, He will deliver them from their sins and from their enemies. Zech 13:1; 14:1-4; Rom 11:26,27; Zeph 3:14-20
...I will bring them out from among the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land...
Eze 11:17; 20:41
...I will feed them in a good pasture... upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be...
Here again, the word 'feed' {HB=ra'ah} means to tend as a shepherd (Isa 40:9-11). The 'good pasture' and 'fold' in which He will tend His people, Israel, is the land of Israel.
     Jesus made a distinction between the 'fold' of Israel, and 'other sheep' who also would hear His voice (Joh 10:16). Through faith in Christ, Jew and Gentile are brought together into His one fold, the church (Eph 2:11-18).
     But this spiritual unity, in Christ, does not negate the earthly promises to Israel concerning their land and the Davidic kingdom. For in Him, all the promises of God will be fulfilled (2Cor 1:20). In Christ, salvation from sin is extended to both Jews and Gentiles (Isa 49:5-7). Yet, during His earthly Kingdom, believing Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to worship in the land of the believing Jews (Isa 56:6-8).
...I will feed my flock and cause them to lie down... (Psa 23:2,3)
Sheep stand while feeding. They lie down when their hunger has been satisfied.
...I will seek the lost... bind up...the broken... strengthen the sick... (cf. v.4)
Mat 18:11-14; Luk 15:4-7
...but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. (cf. v.2,3)
Jer 23:1-6
C. The False Sheep - (34:17-22)
17. And [as for] you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD;
Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats.
18 [Seemeth it] a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture,
but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures?
and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?
19 And [as for] my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet;
and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.
20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them;
Behold, I, [even] I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
21 Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder,
and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;
22 Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey;
and I will judge between cattle and cattle.
...as for you, O my flock... Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle {ie., between sheep and sheep}...
In the first portion of this chapter, the Lord addressed the false shepherds, declaring their reward of 'woe' for failing to tend the flock according to the desire and instruction of the true Shepherd.
     In the remainder of the chapter, He declares how He will care for "you, O my flock" {ie., the true sheep, who know and follow the true Shepherd}. Before Him, the false shepherds, who throw their weight around, are no greater than any of the other sheep. Yet, He is aware that some sheep are naturally more powerful than others. The strength of rams and he goats {lit., 'great he goats'} differs, but either might take advantage of lesser sheep.
     Here, the Lord assures His true sheep, that He not only discerns between His sheep and powerful impostors (v.17), but that He will also deliver His own from their ungodly rulers (v.22).
...[Is it] a small thing unto you to have eaten up... but ye must tread down... the residue of your pastures? (v.18)
Here, the Lord addresses the powerful leaders of the sheep, the selfish false shepherds. In the process of feeding themselves, they had so corrupted the food and water of God's Word, that the sheep were spiritually malnourished and misled, for their leaders had obscured the way to life everlasting. eg., Mat 15:1-9; 23:13; Luk 11:52
...Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and the lean cattle... (v.20; cp. v.10a,17)
...because ye have thrust with side and... shoulder... pushed... the diseased with your horns...
The powerful sheep were not only fat (due to their selfishness), but they were also violent, caring nothing for the harm they caused to their weaker brethren (cp. v.3-5).
...therefore, will I save my flock... they shall no more be a prey {ie., something to plunder}...
     cp. v.10b; Psa 72:12-14; Zech 11:7-9
The Lord would deliver His true flock, out from under the influence of selfish, violent powerful sheep (ie., the false shepherds, who were also false sheep, cp. Mat 7:15).
D. The True Sheep - (34:23-31)
23 And I will set up one shepherd over them,
and he shall feed them, [even] my servant David;
he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.
24 And I the LORD will be their God,
and my servant David a prince among them;
I the LORD have spoken [it].
25 And I will make with them a covenant of peace,
and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land:
and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. {Jer 33:16}
26 And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing;
and I will cause the shower to come down in his season;
there shall be showers of blessing.
27 And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase,
and they shall be safe in their land,
and shall know that I [am] the LORD,
{cf. Eze 33:29; 39:28,29}
when I have broken the bands of their yoke,
and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.
28 And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen,
neither shall the beast of the land devour them;
but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make [them] afraid.
     "Those that served themselves of them" {ie., kept them in servitude} included:
29 And I will raise up for them a plant of renown,
and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land,
neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.
{Jer 30:10,11}
30 Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God [am] with them,
{Eze 16:62}
and [that] they, [even] the house of Israel, [are] my people, saith the Lord GOD.
31 And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, [are] men,
[and] I [am] your God, saith the Lord GOD.
...I will set up one shepherd over them... my servant David...
...I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them...
At the time that this prophecy was written, king David had been in his grave for about 400 years. God had promised David that one of his sons (descendants) would rule forever from his throne. The Jews understood that this referred to the Messiah. Through the fulfillment of multiple prophecies, we know that this is Jesus Christ (eg., Mic 5:2; Luk 1:31-33).
     The lineage of Jesus, as a descendant of David, is clearly established in two genealogies, one through His step-father, Joseph (Mat 1:1-17) and the other through His mother, Mary (Luk 3:23-38, where Joseph is a 'son-in-law' of Heli).
     The name 'David' means 'Beloved.' Jesus is the uniquely beloved Son of God (Mat 3:17; 17:5; Eph 1:6,7).
     Although Jesus was born "the king of the Jews" (Mat 2:2), and presented Himself as such (Zech 9:9; Mat 21:4,5), He was rejected and crucified. However, He will soon return to reign over the world from Jerusalem (Psa 2:6; Isa 9:6,7; Jer 23:5,6).
     Early in His reign, the King will judge between 'the sheep and the goats' (Mat 25:31-33). This judgment of the nations will be according to the way in which they have dealt with His brethren, the Jewish people. However, unbelieving Jews will receive the same reward as unbelieving Gentiles.
     It is no accident that the Chief Shepherd and King is identified, here (v.22-24), at the point of division between the False Sheep (v.17-22) and the True Sheep (v.23-31).
...he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd...- cp. Joh 10:11-15; Heb 13:20,21; 1Pet 2:24,25
...I will make with them a covenant of peace...- Eze 37:26; Isa 55:3; Jer 31:31-33; Rom 5:1; Eph 2:14
In this chapter, the LORD repeatedly declares "I will..." It is He alone, who accomplishes all that is necessary for the salvation and restoration of His people, Israel.
     In v.25-31, His actions are stated alongside the resulting beneficial effect upon His people, as the LORD declares, "I will... they shall..." [In the Bible text above, "they shall..." points are indented.]
     Chief among His benefits to His people is that: "They shall dwell safely..." (This statement is emphasized by its threefold repetition. v.25,27,28) Those, who know and trust Him, enjoy perfect security, free from fear of all enemies, and full of joy in the Lord's Presence. Psa 23:4-6
     Like natural sheep, God's true sheep are totally dependent upon their Shepherd. They can neither protect nor provide for themselves. Only He can give them true rest {ie., peace, fulfillment} and eternal life (Mat 11:28-30; Joh 10:27,28).
     How wonderful He is! How wonderful to be near Him! It is no wonder that the true sheep listen for His voice and follow close to Him. Is He your Shepherd?
...and I will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land...
Wild beasts were part of the Lord's judgment upon Israel (Eze 5:17). But when the nation is restored under Christ their King, He will rid the land of such curses (eg., Lev 26:6; Isa 11:6-9).
     During the Time of Jacob's Trouble, Israel will be oppressed by evil beasts with human faces, including the Antichrist and his false prophet (Rev 13:1-2,11-12). These also will be removed, at the Lord's command (Rev 19:19-21; Rom 16:20).
...I will make them {ie., the believing remnant of Israel} and the places round about my hill a blessing...
The LORD's promised blessing of the nations, through Israel, will reach full fruition, in the Messianic Kindgom. Gen 12:2,3; Isa 2:1-4; 19:24,25; Zech 8:13,23
...I will cause the shower to come down in his season... the earth shall yield her increase.
With the lifting of the curse, the desolated land will be blessed with abundance.
There will be no more famine. Lev 26:4; Deu 28:12; Psa 107:31-37
The promise of physical bounty is also associated with a reversal of spiritual famine. cp. Amos 8:11; Isa 32:13-18; 44:3
...I will raise up for them a plant of renown {ie., fame}...
The "plant of renown" is their King, who is also "I the LORD their God... with them" (v.30).
cp. Isa 4:2; 7:14; 9:6,7; 11:1-5; 53:2; Psa 72:17; Mat 1:21-23
30 Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God [am] with them, {Psa 46:1-11}
and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD.
31 And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men,
{Psa 100:3}
and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.
     [Verses 30,31 are purposely repeated, here, in summary of the chapter.]
What a glorious day it will be, when the true sheep of "the house of Israel" come to know the true Shepherd. The LORD Himself will cause the coming of that day, through all that He has and will accomplish in their behalf.
     Yet, there is no need to wait, until that day, to know the Shepherd. Today, if you will hear and heed His call, you can know Him as your Shepherd (Joh 10:27-30; Rom 10:1-11; Heb 3:15; 1Pet 2:24,25).
     Those, who know Him, are assured of His continual, though unseen, Presence (eg., Mat 28:20; Heb 13:5,6; Psa 23:1-3).

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