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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 34

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-31

Ezekiel 34:2 . Woe to the shepherds of Israel. The character of the pastors which follow, distinguishes the industrious from the idle shepherds: the words apply to magistrates and ministers. A magistrate, says Plato in his republic, should regard himself as sustaining the office of a shepherd, who makes the care of the flock his chief profession, and not as a man who goes to a feast to indulge in appetite, or to a market for gain. From Eusebius. See on Isaiah 56:11.

Ezekiel 34:12 . As a shepherd seeketh out his flock, scattered and dispersed by the calamities of war, so will I seek out my sheep. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. The Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He extended his particular care to the captive jews. None of the conquered nations of western Asia, were restored with munificence like the jews. He calls them his people, his sheep, his children. In all their afflictions, he was himself afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them. Isaiah 63:9.

Ezekiel 34:15 . I will feed my flock. Augustine remarks here, ( Tract. de pastoribus, caput 2.) The Lord does not say, I will appoint over them other good shepherds, who shall do this, but I will feed my sheep, and never commit them to the care of others. Else what would become of those who have idle shepherds? Christ is the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls; and a shepherd who never slumbers, nor leaves his flock. The idle shepherds have trampled your pastures; they have scattered and slaughtered the sheep.

Ezekiel 34:22-23 . I will save my flock and will set up one shepherd over them, even Christ the good shepherd. The Mazoretic Jews contend that this means Zerubbabel; but rabbi David says that the ancient jews understood it of the Messiah, of whom Zerubbabel was only a figure. Such also is the sense of all the christian fathers. “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that shall burn as an oven, and all the bad shepherds, and all that do wickedly shall be as stubble.” Malachi 4:1. This shepherd must be Christ, because he lives with the flock throughout all ages.

Ezekiel 34:24 . My servant David, that is, beloved, or by a metonymy which puts one name for another, Jesus Christ the son of David, and of the seed of Abraham. The ancient jews allowed that the Messiah was meant in this place. Zerubbabel was a pastor and a prince, but he did not do for Israel what is here promised.

Ezekiel 34:25 . I will make with them a covenant of peace, comprising all the glorious things spoken of the city of God, in the latter day; even the everlasting covenant, confirmed both to jews and gentiles. Isaiah 54:4-5.

Ezekiel 34:29 . I will raise up for them a plant of renown. משׂע לשׁם matta leshem, “a plantation to the name:” so our unitarians read, for with them any construction is pure which obliterates the name of Christ from the Hebrew scriptures. But the LXX read, φυτον ειρηνης , a plant of peace, alluding to the Messiah’s title, the prince of peace. In Ezekiel 19:14, it is said, she hath “no strong rod (matta) to be a sceptre.” “Behold, I will smite with the rod (matta) that is in my hand.” Exodus 7:17. “Jonathan put forth the end of his rod (matta) and tasted the honey.” 1 Samuel 14:27. “Oh Assyrian, the staff (matta) of my indignation.” Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:24. In Job the word is applied, not to a plantation, but to a single tree, which “when cut down will bud from the root like a plant:” Job 14:9. These texts sufficiently prove that Messiah is the plant, whose name is above every name. He is the good shepherd of the flock, who bears the crozier in his hand, and is, like Moses and Jonathan, invested with the princely rod. He is the stem of Jesse, glorious among the converted gentiles. The flock flourishes in his green pastures, and reposes under his shadow. But alas, they droop and die when fed with unitarian philosophy.

Ezekiel 34:31 . The flock of my pasture are men; and I am your God. I beg leave to translate rabbi Abarbanel’s comment on this passage. “This prophecy was not fulfilled during the second house, [temple] but it shall be fulfilled in the future days of the Messiah. These things I will fully prove; first, because the Lord says, I will lead them from the nations, and will gather them from all parts of the earth. But during the second temple, none came, except from Babylon, and the rest of the people were not gathered from their dispersions in the earth.

“Secondly, I prove it from what is said; David my servant shall be a prince in the midst of them.

“Thirdly, from the words of the promise. I will plant them, or make with them a covenant of peace; and they shall no more be scattered among the nations, nor be any more a reproach among the heathen. But during the second temple, there were incessant wars, and no covenant of peace. Now they were under the Persians, now under the Greeks, now under the Romans; so that those promises were not fulfilled, I will break off their yoke, and deliver them from their hand; and from the servitude to which they had studiously been reduced. Then shall they afterwards be delivered from the Roman captivity, in which they have been made to suffer. All those events prove, that the prophecy regards the future, in which all these promises shall be accomplished.”


The idle and wicked shepherds, here denounced by the Lord, were collectively the magistrates, priests, and prophets of Judah. Against these Jeremiah was directed to level hard strokes, as we have before explained. Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 10:21. They took no care of the flock so solemnly committed to their charge; they suffered them to stray on all the mountains to worship idols, and afterwards to dance, drink, and plunge into all the mysteries of pagan impurity; but they wrung from them with an iron hand all the revenues of office.

We have the judgment denounced against the idle shepherds. As God required the life of the people at the hand of the slumbering watchmen, so he required the flock at the shepherds’ hands. He is Lord of the inheritance, and the higher servants must give a more particular account. Men must not only give an account for their own souls, but in a relative sense, for all the souls committed to their care. What then must be the hell of those unhappy shepherds! Let us imagine for a moment, that we see this noble and ignoble crowd go down alive to Tophet, reeking under the bloody sword of the Chaldeans; and let us ask what sort of looks would the poor make to those priests who had kept back the law, and whose consecrated hands had assisted to set up Venus in the house of God. What sort of reproaches would the horrors and anguish of hell inspire them to make; and what sort of torments would the desponding malice of their state urge them to inflict. What a portrait for all future magistrates and ministers to contemplate. What a sermon to the conscience, which says, oh man, be what thou oughtest, and faithfully discharge thy duty, or altogether renounce thy office and thy gain. After removing the idle shepherds, the Lord will place his flock in faithful hands. David his anointed, David his beloved Son, who laid down his life to deliver the lamb out of the teeth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, shall be their good shepherd for ever. Yea, and he shall have the sole nomination of all the helping shepherds, who shall feed his flock with knowledge and with understanding. All this began to be accomplished when Jesus went about doing good, and when he sent his servants into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.

The Lord also promises more fully to heal and to gather his scattered flock under the abundance of millennium glory. There shall then be no evil beasts in the land, for the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and no persecutor shall devour the flock. The earth shall then bring forth its original encrease, to nourish the people with bread; and Israel, the true Israel, shall no more be a prey to the heathen, either by the Babylonian captivity, or by the Roman dispersion. This must be the fair import of the promise; for all favourable periods to which it may be applied, were but as drops before the shower. See the general Reflections at the end of Isaiah.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/ezekiel-34.html. 1835.
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