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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 34

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Introduction

Future Promise (34:1-37:28)

A series of unrelated oracles cluster together, united by a single magnetic hope. Chapter 35 is a denunciation of Edom with a prediction of doom, but this is only a prelude to a complete restoration of Judah and Israel.

Verses 1-31

Shepherds and a Shepherd (34:1-31)

The shepherd figure is dominant in the life and thought of the Hebrew people, who were essentially a shepherd people. David was a shepherd king, drawn from tending the flock to be king. Frequently the king is described as the shepherd of his people. The Lord is pictured in this manner on certain occasions (for example, Psalms 80:1). In time the Messiah is described as the Shepherd of God’s true people, as is the case in Ezekiel.

The chapter opens with a condemnation of the shepherds of Israel, the kings of the land who have been set over the flock by the direction of God. Indictment of these monarchs is severe. They feed themselves, not the sheep; they eat fat and clothe themselves with wool; they have neither helped the weak nor healed the sick; the strayed, the scattered, and the lost have not been brought back; and above all, the shepherds have not even sought their sheep (vss. 2-6). The same kind of denunciation is leveled against the kings by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-4) and also earlier by the prophet Micah (Micah 3:1-3; Micah 3:11). What disturbed the prophet and initiated the judgment of God was the fact that the kings of Israel and Judah, dedicated to the service of their people by the Lord’s anointing, had become little more than oriental potentates, living in luxury, caring nothing for their subjects.

In keeping with well-worked-out patterns, indictment is followed by judgment. Because of their selfish aggrandizement at the expense of a scattered and lost people, God is against the shepherds who have had no care for his people. They will no longer be shepherds, feeding themselves on the flock of God, because the Almighty will rescue his sheep out of their ravenous mouths (vss. 7-10).

God proclaims that he will be shepherd of his sheep (vss. 11-24; compare Psalms 23 and John 10:1-18). God will perform the office of shepherd for his people who have been forsaken by their kings, and he will rule over them in mercy. They will be gathered in from the far places and fed by his hand. In summary, the prophet says for God these unforgettable words: "I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down" (vss. 15-16). This promise of security to an uprooted people is more dramatic than we, from our vantage point, could know. The full ministry of God is described in these terms: "I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice" (vs. 16).

Reference to the fat and the strong reminds the writer of the differences that exist and persist within God’s own flock. God promises to judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats. Some sheep eat all they want, drink all they want, and then trample the grass and foul the water, so that none can eat or drink afterward (vss. 18-19). This apparently is a reference to the rulers who wasted the substance of tie land while others went in want.

God not only judges a flock; he determines the quality of life in the individual sheep. Corporate righteousness does not wipe out the individual guilt of those who are irresponsible and selfcentered in that corporate life. Those who are strong and who push with their shoulder will be judged. The flock as a whole, however, will be redeemed from external dangers and internal tensions. Over the renewed and restored flock there will be one Shepherd, "my servant David." This reference is doubtless Messianic in direction and implication. God, who earlier said he would himself be Shepherd, now appoints "David" to the task. There is no contradiction, however, since God remains their God and ultimately their Shepherd, whose shepherding care is to be exercised through the New David, his anointed, the Messiah (vs. 24).

It is not enough that the bad kings be banished and the Messiah established; the basic Covenant relationship must also be renewed on a permanent basis. God promises "a covenant of peace," which means both the absence of danger from marauding beasts and also security in a land of blessing and abundance (vss. 26-27). Blessings will come like showers; the yoke of slavery will be removed; they will no more experience hunger or be a reproach among all the nations.

In this blessed state of renewal and restoration the people so benefited will know that the Lord is truly God upon whom they can depend. The whole substance of the chapter is summed up in the closing verse: "And you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God . . ." The Covenant relationship between God and his people will be firmly reconstituted and the happy issue will be a transformed life and society.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 34". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-34.html.
 
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