Sunday, June 4th, 2023
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ ezekiel-34.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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THE REPROOF OF THE FALSE SHEPHERDS AND A PROMISE OF THE GOOD AND TRUE SHEPHERD (Chap. 34)
EXPLANATORY NOTES.—Ezekiel 34:1. “Prophesy against the shepherds.” “The trouble which the prophet here encounters arises from the loss of civil government. The seeming loss, he contends, is a real gain, as the present government was so bad.”—Hengstenberg. Keil designates the turning against the bad shepherds as a foil for the ensuing promise.
Ezekiel 34:2. “Woe to the shepherds.” The rulers who sought in their government their own selfish ends, not the good of the people ruled. Kliefoth understands the entire body of officials who had committed to them the leadership of the people. The office, like that of a shepherd for his flock, is to guard and provide for his people.
Ezekiel 34:3. “Ye eat the fat, and clothe you with the wool.” Refers to the draining of the subjects. The rulers levied exorbitant tributes. “Ye kill them that are fed”—the culminating act denoting the murder of the subjects in order to seize on their goods.
Ezekiel 34:4. “That which was driven away.” “When Israel was not held together in the name of Jehovah through the theocratic offices, the scattering, the self-abandonment and surrender to the worldly powers was the natural necessary consequence.”—Lange. “With force and cruelty have ye ruled them.” As the Egyptians once did to the Israelites (Exodus 1:13-14)—the native shepherds are no better than the heathen despots were in the olden time (comp. Leviticus 25:43).
Ezekiel 34:5. “Because there was no shepherd”—none worthy of the name, though there were some called shepherds (1 Kings 22:17; Matthew 9:36). “Became meat to the beasts of the field”—the heathen nations, the wild stock. They became a prey to the Syrians, Ammon, Moab, and Assyria.
Ezekiel 34:6. “My sheep—My flock.” The repeated and emphasized “My flock” prepares for the resolutions of Jehovah that follow. “None did search or seek after them”—rather seek or search. “The former is the part of the superior rulers to enquire after; to search out is the duty of the subordinate rulers.”—Junius.
Ezekiel 34:10. “I am against the shepherds, and require My flock at their hand.” God had already begun to do so, having punished Zedekiah with the deprivation of eyesight, after having first caused his sons to be killed and then the other princes to be slain (Jeremiah 52:10).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 34:11. “Behold I, even
I.” This found its most glorious fulfilment in the appearance of Christ, as Ezekiel 34:23-24 expressly announce that God will execute His pastoral office specially by the Messiah. Yet, even before the appearance of Christ the pastoral care of God was active in the restoration from the exile and the other gracious gifts and benefits, which, however, all point forward to the true fulfilment and call forth the desire for it.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 34:12. “The cloudy and dark day”—the dark, afflictive time of the people of God, when dispersed by the heathen.
Ezekiel 34:14. “I will feed them—upon the high mountains of Israel”—in chaps Ezekiel 17:23, Ezekiel 20:40, the phrase is, “the mountain of the height of Israel,” in the singular number. “The reason of the differences is, there Ezekiel spoke of the central seat of the kingdom, where the people met for the worship of Jehovah, Mount Zion; here he speaks of the kingdom of Israel at large, all the parts of which are regarded as possessing a moral elevation.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 34:16. “I will feed them with judgment”—justice and equity, in contrast with the cruel rigour of the unfaithful rulers.
Ezekiel 34:17. “I judge between cattle and cattle.” “The officials are with Ezekiel 34:10 discharged and gone: the persons concerned can only come into consideration according to their personal qualities, not according to their official rank. I judge between one class of citizens and another, so as to award what is right to each.”—Lange, &c.
Ezekiel 34:18. “Ye must foul the residue with your feet.” Not content with appropriating to their own use the good of others, they, from mere wantonness, spoiled what they did not use, so as to be of no use to the owners. Grotius explains the image as referring to the usuries with which the rich ground the poor (chap. Ezekiel 22:12; Isaiah 24:2).
Ezekiel 34:22. “Therefore will I save My flock, and they shall be no more a prey.” “After the restoration from Babylon the Jews were delivered in some degree from the oppression, not only of foreigners, but also of their own great people, who had oppressed with bondage arising out of debts and mortgages (Nehemiah 5:1-19). The full and final fulfilment of this prophecy is future.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 34:23. “I will set up one Shepherd”—“the complex embodiment of shepherd watchfulness, as of all the duties of the shepherd office—the Divine realisation of the idea of all that is involved generally in the nature of the office, as service towards the community for the sake of God, as sacred service in behalf of God’s people.”—Lange. “With the unity is connected the glory of the king and his kingdom, as the decline was connected with the multiplicity of the shepherds. With the coming of that great Shepherd ceases not only the division of Israel, but also the separation between Israel and the heathen.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 34:24. “My servant David a prince”—“the true David, the Messiah, in whom the stem of David is to culminate. Not a resurrection of David, but a sending of a David who has not yet been present.”—Hengstenberg. The fittest person to wield the world-sceptre abused by all the world-kings (Daniel 2:34-35; Daniel 2:44-45).
Ezekiel 34:25. “I will make a covenant of peace”—“a security against hostile powers, of which the ‘ceasing of evil beasts’ symbolises the negative and the ‘dwelling safely’ the positive side. Through Christ the people of God are predominant. The heathen world is forced from the dominant place which it had hitherto taken and sinks to the servile.”—Hengstenberg, &c.
Ezekiel 34:26. “Showers of blessing.” “The Holy Spirit’s reviving influences are often compared to a refreshing shower (Isaiah 44:3). The literal fulfilment is, however, the primary one, though the spiritual also is designed. In correspondence with the settled reign of righteousness internally, all is to be prosperity externally, fertilising showers (according to the promise of the ancient covenant, Leviticus 26:4; Psalms 68:9; Malachi 3:10) and productive trees and lands.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 34:29. “I will raise up for them a plant of renown.” According to the old style of exposition—Messiah, the Rod, Branch, the Righteous Branch (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 33:5), who shall obtain for them renown. Hengstenberg, Fairbairn, and Geikie translate—“a plantation for a name;” the soil which is planted will be famous for its yield, through the showers of blessing (Ezekiel 34:26). By reason of this fertility Israel shall be renowned among the heathen as the people blessed of the Lord.
Ezekiel 34:31. “And ye My flock are men.” “What grace when the God of heaven condescends to men who are taken from the earth and return to it! Psalms 8:0; Psalms 36:8).”—Hengstenberg. “There is evidently an emphasis on men. Men are ye; remember your place, you are merely human; but remember at the same time that I am your God: so that without Me nothing, but with Me all.”—Lange.
A GRAVE IMPEACHMENT OF UNFAITHFUL RULERS
I. They abused their authority in ministering to their own selfish indulgence and personal aggrandisement. “The shepherds feed themselves. Ye eat the fat and clothe you with the wool” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). The ruler is raised to a lofty dignity and endowed with special resources in order to watch over and protect the interests of his people. The wants and even the luxuries of life are secured to him that he may be free to devote his powers to the general good. He is keenly alive to any act of treachery on the part of his people; but he is none the less treacherous when he abuses his high trust in seeking only his own advantage. He has basely abdicated the highest functions of his kinghood:—
“He’s a king,
A true, right king, that dare do aught save wrong;
Fears nothing mortal but to be unjust:
Who is not blown up with the flattering puffs
Of spongy sycophants; who stands unmoved,
Despite the jostling of opinion.”—Marston.
II. They neglected the plainest duties of their office.
1. They made no provision for the immediate wants of the people. “Ye feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:3). The first demand of nature is food: where this is denied to a people the result is riot or starvation. The ruler who is ignorant how to procure food for his people is incompetent; if he makes no effort to do so he is indolent; if he is indifferent about it he is cruel. The king should be a father to his people, providing for, watching over, and protecting them.
2. They had no sympathy with the afflicted and unfortunate. “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken” (Ezekiel 34:4). It is a severe strain on the loyalty of a people when their sufferings win no pity from their selfish ruler. It is a blot on the brilliant reign of Queen Elizabeth that the brave seamen who defeated the Spanish Armada were left to rot in their ships or die in the streets of the naval ports because there were no hospitals to receive the wounded. “It would grieve any man’s heart,” wrote Lord Howard, the High Admiral of that day, “to see men that have served so valiantly die so miserably.” Modern hospitals and infirmaries are the practical outcome of an enlightened Christian philanthropy.
3. They made no effort to restore the disaffected and the wandering. “Neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost” (Ezekiel 34:4). The monarch who is indifferent to the emigration and social discontent of his people helps to weaken the stability of his kingdom. Wealth is unsafe in the midst of rebellious poverty:—
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.”
The formal declaration of William II., Kaiser of Germany, in favour of the International Regulation of Labour, is one of the most remarkable events, proceeding direct from imperial authority, of modern times. The oppressed of one country have enriched other countries to which they fled in their despair.
4. They retained the name of an office which their conduct had robbed of all practical meaning. “Because there is no shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:5; Ezekiel 34:8). They professed to be shepherds—vigilant, faithful, kind; but they were unworthy of the name. They were frauds. The flock was worse off than if it had no shepherd. Better no shepherd than such shepherds. An honourable man would relinquish an office the duties of which he was incompetent or unwilling to fulfil.
III. Their rule was one of tyranny and violence. “With force and cruelty have ye ruled them, and they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:4-5). It was a cruel irony of the shepherd-character to deal in blows instead of food, and instead of tending with care to scatter with terror: the shepherd-garb disguised the fangs and savagery of the wolf. “It is ill with the patient when his physician is his worst disease.” It is the highest injustice when the ruler uses his great power to oppress and destroy his people.
IV. They shall be divested of the office they had degraded and called to account for their misdeeds. “I am against the shepherds, and will require My flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more” (Ezekiel 34:10). Tyranny and wrong cannot last for ever: the reckoning-day comes on apace. In all wickedness there is weakness that will soon or later be fatal to its reign. It is related of Lord Ampthill, British Ambassador to the Court of Berlin, that during his mission in Rome he possessed a huge boa-constrictor, and interested himself in watching its habits. One day the monster escaped from the box where he supposed it was asleep, quietly wound itself around his body, and began gradually to tighten its folds. His position became extremely perilous; but the consummate coolness and self-possession which had enabled him to win many a diplomatic triumph befriended him in this dangerous emergency. He remembered there was a bone in the throat of the serpent which, if he could find and break, he would save himself. He was aware that either he or the snake must perish. Not a moment must be lost in hesitation. He deliberately seized the head of the serpent, thrust his hand down its throat and snapped the vital bone. The coils were relaxed, the victim fell at his feet, and he was free. So one day the weak place in wrong-doing is sure to be smitten and it must succumb. Over the head of every tyrant there hangs the sword of retributive justice.
1. Treachery in government means suffering among the people.
2. A just ruler is above the vice of corruption.
3. The highest office cannot protect the wrong-doer from ultimate exposure and disgrace.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 34:1-2. “Corruption in the upper, the governing classes, those who give the tone and measure to society, carries along with it corruption among the whole people, and that not merely for a time, but for ever.—It is a very honourable title to be called a shepherd, but to be so is a heavy burden, with much trouble, care, and labour.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:2-23. “The removal of false rulers who have ruled for their own selfish aggrandisement, not for the glory of God or the real good of their subjects, is to precede the setting-up of the coming King, who is to rule in love and righteousness, Messiah the Good Shepherd. The Lord Jesus Christ provides for the eternal well-being of His own flock, both the elect remnant of the literal Israel and also the spiritual Israel, the Church, infinitely better than the best of earthly shepherds ever cared for his sheep. But the false shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s days cared only for themselves and for their own grovelling aims, selfish gain, and worldly preeminence, like Diotrephes in ages long subsequent (3 John 1:9).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 34:2-10. A Bad Shepherd—
1. Is selfish (Ezekiel 34:2).
2. A varicious (Ezekiel 34:3).
3. Heartless (Ezekiel 34:4).
4. Cruel (Ezekiel 34:4). A terror to the flock (Ezekiel 34:5-6). Shall not escape punishment (Ezekiel 34:7-10).
Ezekiel 34:2. “Good shepherds they should have been, but they were naught (Jeremiah 23:0), and naught would come of them for their maladministration. The sheep will follow the shepherd. The common people are like a flock of cranes—as the first fly, all follow.”—Trapp.
—“There is a woe to those who are in public trusts, but consult only their own private interests, and are more inquisitive about the benefice than about the office; what money is to be got than what good is to be done. It is an old complaint, all seek their own, and too many more than their own.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 34:3. “Ye eat the fat.” “This ye might do, if in measure, for the workman is worthy of his wages (1 Corinthians 9:7), but ye gorge yourselves with the best of the best. If the belly may be filled, the back fitted, that is all you take care for.”—Trapp.
—“Ye kill them.” “Contrive methods for a seeming legal course to forfeit first the life, and next the estate of the well-fed, rich, and wealthy, and then make merry and feast as voluptuous, unfaithful shepherds feast on the fattest of the sheep in their masters’ fold.”—Pool.
—“The priests ate the tithes, the first-fruits and the offerings of the people; the princes received the tributes and imposts; and instead of instructing and protecting them, the latter took away their lives by the cruelties they practised against them; the former destroyed their souls by the poison of their doctrine and by their bad example. The fat sheep point out the rich, to whom these pastors often disguised the truth by a cruel condescension and complaisance.”—Calmet.
Ezekiel 34:4-6. The Disastrous Effects of Sin.
1. Disease and suffering (Ezekiel 34:4).
2. Enslavement and oppression (Ezekiel 34:4).
3. Estrangement and dispersion (Ezekiel 34:5-6).
4. Abandonment to ruin (Ezekiel 34:5).
Ezekiel 34:4. “A timely spiritual reformation of the state by its rulers would have averted the judgments of God altogether, and even in Ezekiel’s time, when wrath from God had already descended, faithful conduct on their part would have been followed by a mitigation of this punishment and a restoration of the scattered exiles.”—Fausset.
—The obligations of the shepherd-office a mirror of human wretchedness.
—“No person is fit for the office of a shepherd who does not well understand the diseases to which sheep are incident and the mode of cure. And is any man fit for the pastoral office, to be a shepherd of souls, who is not well acquainted with the disease of sin in all its varieties, and the remedy for this disease and the proper mode of administering it in those various cases? He who does not know Jesus Christ as his own Saviour never can recommend Him to others. He who is not saved will not save.”—A. Clarke.
Ezekiel 34:5. “Not merely in the bodily but pre-eminently in the spiritual enemies of the people of God inheres the wolf-spirit, the devil.”—Schmieder
Ezekiel 34:6. The Qualifications of the True Shepherd. “
1. He knows the disease of sin and its consequences, for the Eternal Spirit, by whom he is called, has convinced him of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
2. He knows well the great remedy for this disease, the passion and sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. He is skilful and knows how to apply this remedy.
(1.) The healthy and sound he knows how to keep in health, and cause them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
(2.) Those in a state of convalescence he knows how to cherish, feed, and care for, that they may be brought into a state of spiritual soundness.
(3.) Those still under the whole power of the general disease, how to reprove, instruct, and awaken.
(4.) Those dying in a state of spiritual weakness, how to find out and remove the cause.
(5.) Those fallen into sin and sorely bruised and broken in their souls by that fall, how to restore.
(6.) Those driven away by temptation and cruel usage, how to find out and turn aside the temptation and cruel usage.
(7.) Those who have wandered from the flock, got into strange pastures, and are perverted by erroneous doctrines, how to seek and bring them back to the fold.
(8.) Those among whom the wolf has got and scattered the flock, how to oppose, confound, and expel the wolf. He knows how to preach, explain, and defend the truth. He is well acquainted with the weapons he has to use, and the spirit in which he has to employ them. In a word, the true shepherd gives up his life to the sheep, in their defence, and in labouring for their welfare. And while he is thus employed, it is the duty of the flock to feed and clothe him, and see that neither he nor his family lack the necessaries and conveniences of life.”—A. Clarke.
Ezekiel 34:7-10. The Divine Judgment on Unfaithful Ministers—
1. Is preceded by a clearly detailed indictment of offences (Ezekiel 34:8).
2. Is the expression of the righteous indignation of God against wrong-doing. “I am against the shepherds” (Ezekiel 34:10.)
3. Demands a strict account of the trust so grossly violated. “I will require My flock at their hand” (Ezekiel 34:10).
4. Deprives the offenders of all their power and emoluments. “I will cause them to cease from feeding the flock, neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more” (Ezekiel 34:10).
5. Is mingled with tender sympathy for those who have suffered from neglect and oppression “I will deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them” (Ezekiel 34:10).
—“The frightful judgment which is contained even in the beautiful name of the Shepherd.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:8. “God here seemeth to be in a great heat, in a perturbation of spirit, causing a kind of impediment in His speech—‘As I live: surely because’—so thoroughly was He moved against these lewd shepherds, whose faults He rippeth up again to make better way to their sentence.”—Trapp.
GOD’S CARE OVER HIS PEOPLE
The unfaithful shepherds, who have occupied so prominent a place in the prophet’s vision, now sink into the background. They have been arraigned, and judgment passed upon them. They are disposed of. And now, by one of those skilful dramatic changes so characteristic of the genius of Ezekiel, the space out of which the delinquents have vanished is filled with the presence of Jehovah, and, while we gaze, shade after shade of the Divine character is artistically developed with inimitable delicacy of touch, until we are enraptured with a picture of the unutterable tenderness and majesty of the God of Israel. The prophecy is full of consolation to the stricken nation, and is intended to inspire hope in the breasts of the disconsolate exiles. It is a sublime and graphic description of God’s care over His people, as we shall see in the following analysis.
I. He will gather together the dispersed.
1. He will seek for them with tender solicitude (Ezekiel 34:11-13). In contrast with the heartless rapacity of the rulers, who robbed and scattered His people, Jehovah will show that His concern for their welfare springs from unselfish though unrequited love. He seeks not His own advantage, but theirs. As the anxious shepherd plods over fell and moorland, through stony valleys and thorny brakes, in search of his wandering sheep, so the Lord will penetrate into all places where His affrighted people have sought temporary shelter “in the cloudy and dark day.” The loving heart is reckless of toil and undismayed by the most formidable difficulties.
2. He will make ample provision for their needs (Ezekiel 34:14-16). He finds them famished, dispirited, wounded; but He “will feed them in a good pasture, will bind up that which is broken, and strengthen that which is sick.” Though His providence has been abused and His counsel disregarded, their sufferings move His pity and their wants evoke His benevolence. Even our sins cannot stem the perennial outflow of the Divine goodness. But how inveterate and aggravated is sin committed in the presence of such unceasing kindness!
3. He will provide for them a place of safety. “There shall they lie in a good fold” (Ezekiel 34:14). Defended from the harassing exactions of false shepherds, and from the ravages of wolfish enemies, they shall forget the weariness and fear of their long, tedious wanderings in the restfulness and security with which they are now enfolded. It is not enough for God to seek and find the lost; His purpose is not accomplished until they are safely sheltered within the arms of His omnipotent love.
II. He will deal with them according to individual merit (Ezekiel 34:17-22). Even Divine love is strictly discriminative. Its affluence embraces all, but its personal realisation is regulated by the moral condition of the recipient. Love that is not governed by wisdom and justice loses strength and sanctity. “I judge between cattle and cattle”—between men and men. God has an infallible insight into character, and marks shades of distinction imperceptible to us. He sees elements of good where our purblind sense sees nothing but evil, and detects the presence of sin underneath the fairest show of virtue. He knows how to encourage the weak and timid, and how to restrain the strong and forward. He knows how to succour the oppressed, and to mete out justice to the oppressor. It is better to fall into the hands of God than be at the mercy of the most impartial earthly judge.
III. He will provide for them THE Good Shepherd.
1. A Ruler of singular and peerless worth. The One Shepherd, the Shepherd-King, as was David, His antitype (Ezekiel 34:23). Their many shepherds had been unfaithful, avaricious, heartless, cruel. They had oppressed and scattered the flock. The One Good Shepherd would be beyond the reach of corruption or intimidation. He will rule in equity. He will gently lead and bravely defend His people. He will sacrifice His life for the sheep. Others had destroyed: He will save.
2. The rule of the Good Shepherd will bring them into closer personal relationship to God. “I the Lord will be their God” (Ezekiel 34:24). The tyranny of the false shepherds had driven the people from God, and fostered in their distracted minds doubts as to His righteousness and goodness. But under the gracious regimen of the Good Shepherd all this will be changed. They shall learn that the covenant promise is unrevoked—Jehovah is still their God. The government of the Divine Prince is not merely legal and social, but intensely and supremely spiritual. It is the rule of God, for God, and leading to God. Such rule may be slow and gradual in its development, but it is ever bringing us nearer to God, and revealing His purposes and character.
“God’s plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold;
We must not tear the close, short leaves apart.
Time will reveal the calyxes of gold.”
IV. He will endow them with unprecedented blessings.
1. Peace (Ezekiel 34:25).
2. Prosperity (Ezekiel 34:26-27).
3. Safety (Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 34:28).
4. Imperishable renown (Ezekiel 34:29).
5. Union with the Divine (Ezekiel 34:30-31).
LESSONS.—The Divine care.
1. A source of comfort to the afflicted.
2.Of hope to the penitent.
3. Of strength and hope to the diligent.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 34:11-31. “The description throughout is of an ideal kind. The prophet foretells simply the nature of the coming future under the form of the old landmarks and well-known relations. The best of the past shall revive again; more than revive, it shall appear free from the defects that formerly intermingled with it, clothed with a perfection and completeness hitherto unknown. But while the substance should thus coincide in the new and the old, it is not obscurely intimated that the shell would materially differ; for certainly the literal David should not be the Prince in whom the promise was to stand, but One unspeakably greater than he. When the promised Shepherd was found to be the glorious and mighty Lord, to whom, as David in the spirit foresaw, the heritage, not of Canaan, but of all lands and all nations belonged, it behoved the Jews to conclude that all the rest must receive a corresponding enlargement; the region, the people, the inheritance of blessing, must severally be what the old but represented and typified. What Canaan would have been with its David restored again, and all its covenant blessings enjoyed in richest profusion, such, in the new and higher sphere of the Messiah’s Kingdom, shall the whole domain be over which He is the Lord, when this promise of good things to come attains to its full and final accomplishment. We see the word beginning to take effect, even before Messiah came, in the partial re-establishment of the Divine Kingdom within the ancient bounds, and, as far as was needed, for the higher purposes of the Kingdom. We see it advancing afterwards towards its riper fulfilment, when the great object of the prediction came and did the part of the Good Shepherd by avenging for ever the cause of His elect and laying the sure foundation of His everlasting inheritance. And we see it travelling on to its full and destined realisation in every conquest made by the truth of God over the darkness and corruption of the world.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 34:11-16. The Divine solicitude. Seen—
1. In active endeavours to restore the wandering (Ezekiel 34:11-13; Ezekiel 34:16).
2. In bountifully supplying the wants of the people (Ezekiel 34:13-15).
3. In affording security and rest (Ezekiel 34:14-15).
4. In the sympathetic treatment of the terrified and afflicted (Ezekiel 34:16).
Ezekiel 34:11. “Rather than the work shall be undone, I will do it myself, and then it is sure to be well done. Aristotle tells of a certain Persian who, being asked, ‘What did most of all feed the horse?’ answered, ‘The master’s eye;’ and of a certain African who, when it was demanded, ‘What was the best manure or soil for a field?’ answered ‘The owner’s footsteps’—that is, his presence and perambulation. Shepherds should reside with their flocks; the Arch-shepherd will not fail to do so.”—Trapp.
—“Though magistrates and ministers fail in doing their part for the good of the Church, God will not fail in doing His. He will take the flock into His own hand rather than the Church shall come short of any kindness He has designed for it. The under-shepherd may prove careless, but the Chief Shepherd neither slumbers nor sleeps. They may be false, but God abides faithful.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 34:12. “When things are at the worst God himself will set in: He reserveth His holy hand for a dead lift.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 34:13. “This prophecy primarily respected their restoration from captivity in Babylon, and was in part at least fulfilled when so many thousands of them returned to their own land under the conduct of Zerrubabel, Ezra, and others. It seems, however, to look still further, even to the general restoration of the whole Jewish nation from their present wide dispersion over the whole world, which restoration most of the prophets foretell shall be effected in the latter days. But there is no need to confine this promise wholly to the Jews. When those in any age or nation that have gone astray from God are brought back by repentance; when those that erred come to the acknowledgment of the truth; when God’s outcasts are gathered and restored, and religious assemblies that were dispersed are again collected and united upon the ceasing of persecution; and when the Churches have rest and liberty, then this prediction has a true accomplishment.”—Benson.
Ezekiel 34:13. “The Divine refreshments, images of the spiritual here, of the eternal hereafter.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:15. “Food and rest, the two great necessities of human life. Their rest will nourish them, and their nourishment will bring them new rest. Rest—true, eternal repose, is only to be had under the shepherd-staff of Christ.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:16-22. The Divine justice.
1. Will punish the wanton abuse of prosperity (Ezekiel 34:16).
2. Will discriminate between the rich and poor, the strong and weak, the oppressor and oppressed (Ezekiel 34:17-22).
3. Will deliver the abused captives (Ezekiel 34:21-22).
Ezekiel 34:16. The Lord’s inspection of the flock at the same time a call to self-examination.
—“The Lord feeds with judgment, that is, with befitting difference, since He dispenses to each what is proper to him. He performs to the weak no more than is good for them. The children he feeds with milk, and defends them. He acts mildly or severely, consoles, frightens, blames, caresses, as at any time is good for us. For the fearful He relaxes the reins, and those who place their confidence in Him He draws to Himself. If some are fat and corrupt the weak, He takes from their strength. Some are proud of the gifts lent to them, and despise the simplicity of others; for these it is good when they are humbled and are deprived of their gifts, so that they may obtain the salvation of Christ. Thus He accomplishes the judgment and the separation between sheep and sheep; and so each one should be concerned about himself, and not trouble himself respecting others. The separation is already going on here in secret, but at last it will become manifest and be seen to issue in a wide gulf. A stern judge is the Good Shepherd. Not merely the unscrupulous leaders of the flock, but even the sheep themselves, will be brought to account by Him.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:17. “ ‘I judge between cattle and cattle.’ Between false and true professors, between them that have only the form and them that have the power of godliness, between the backslider in heart and the upright man.”—A. Clarke.
Ezekiel 34:18. “Ye abuse God’s mercies, you consume much upon yourselves, and ye spoil more on which the poor would have been glad to feed. There are some who would rather give food to their sporting dogs than to the poor around them who are ready to starve, and would be glad of the crumbs that fall from the table of those masters.”—A. Clarke.
—“Would our so-called men of culture also but consider it, who only tread under foot the pure doctrine, or trouble it by their goat-like gambols.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:21. “The mischievous polemic in the Church. A theology that is quarrelsome and combative scatters the Churches in the world.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:23-31. The Good Shepherd.
1. The Divine Prince (Ezekiel 34:23).
2. Shall ensure peace, safety, prosperity, and victory (Ezekiel 34:25-28). Shall become pre-eminent in dignity and greatness by what He does for His people (Ezekiel 34:29-30).
4. Shall exalt His people into a Divinely-ennobled manhood (Ezekiel 34:31).
Ezekiel 34:23-24. “The One Shepherd, according to the promise in its fulfilment:
1. His official position through all times.
2. His shepherd-service in the flesh and in the spirit.
3. His personality in respect to God and as regards the flock.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:23. “Who indeed is the only Shepherd. Magistrates and ministers are shepherds; but Christ is the Good Shepherd (Jno. Ezekiel 10:11); the Great Shepherd and Bishop of Souls (1 Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20); the True Shepherd above all for skill, love, and power, above Jacob, above David, of whom He is descended, and by whose name He is here called (Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5; Ezekiel 37:24).”—Trapp.
—“Messiah, the True Shepherd, who hath given Himself this name both in the Prophets and in the Gospel, and who hath perfectly fulfilled all the duties, the characters whereof have been before described. He is called David because He sprung from David according to the flesh, because He possessed eminently and really all those qualities which the Scriptures give to David as the type of the Messiah, and because He was the person in whom all the promises made to David were fulfilled. Though this prophecy was in a great measure completed when Christ by the preaching of the Gospel gathered into one the children of God, among whom were many of the lost sheep of Israel, yet it will receive a further completion at the general conversion of the Jews.”—Calmet.
1. As to the name, His beloved (Matthew 3:17).
2. As to His birth in Bethlehem.
3. As to His humble state and littleness (Isaiah 53:3).
4. As to His shepherd-service.
5. As to His anointing.
6. As to His devotedness: David for the law, Christ for the flock.
7. As to His victories.”—Starke.
—“David, king of Israel, had been dead upwards of 400 years, and from that time till now there never was a ruler of any kind, either in the Jewish Church or state, of the name of David. This then must be some typical person, and from the texts marked in the margin we understand that Jesus Christ alone is meant, as both Old and New Testaments agree in this. And from this one Shepherd all Christian ministers must derive their authority to teach and their grace to teach effectually.”—A. Clarke. The ancient Jews allowed that the Messiah was meant in this place.
Ezekiel 34:24. “This is that beehive of heavenly honey we so oft meet with in the Old Testament, which therefore the sectaries have so little reason to reject.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 34:25. “ ‘I will make with them a covenant of peace’—I will cut with them the peace covenant; a covenant sacrifice, procuring and establishing peace between God and man; and between man and his fellows. The cutting refers to the ancient mode of making covenants. The blood was poured out, the animal was divided from mouth to tail, exactly in two, the divisions placed opposite to each other, the contracting parties entered into the space, going in at each end, and met in the middle, and there took the covenant oath. He is the Prince of Peace, and through Him come glory to God in the highest, and peace and good-will to men upon earth.”—A. Clarke.
—“The evil beasts in the land—spiritual false guides, worldly persecutors, plausible hypocrites.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:26. The Church a source of blessing.
1. As it is the dwelling-place of God. “My hill.”
2. As it is enriched with a plenitude of Divine grace. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season: there shall be showers of blessing.”
3. As it is faithful and active in diffusing its God-given benefits. “I will make them and the places round about a blessing.”
—There the Church is a blessing where there is the rain of the Holy Spirit. Without this rain nothing grows in the Kingdom of God: one cannot even say Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Ezekiel 34:28. Spiritual boldness. “
1. Over against the powers of the world.
2. Over against the wickedness of sin.
3. Over against the transitoriness and uncertainty of our earthly life.
4. Over against the solicitude of our own heart.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:29.“ ‘I will raise up a plant of renown’—a plantation to the name: to the name of Christ. The words might be applied to the Christian Church; but that Christ may be called a plant or plantation here—as He is elsewhere called a branch and a rod (Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 35:15)—is most probable. He is the person of name—Jesus; who has a name above every name, at whose name every knee shall bow; through whose name, by faith in His name, the diseased are healed; and in whose name all our prayers and supplications must be presented to God. This is the person of Name!”—Clarke.
—“Christ, the true tree of life. Or the Church, planted and rooted in Christ, and much renowned all the world over. Christ mystical is a vine covering the whole earth.”—Trapp.
—“The Kingdom of the Anointed a planting, inasmuch as the members of the Kingdom are—
1. Sown by the Word.
2. Reared, fostered by the Holy Spirit.
3. Grown in time for eternity, to the honour of God the Father.”—Lange.
—“Hungering after righteousness as the means and preservative against the eternal hunger and distress on account of sin; hunger against hunger, as the way to everlasting satisfaction.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:30-31.“All these promises belong long also to us, if we be true believers in Christ. Then we can say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’ When we were wandering on the mountains of error, Jesus sought us and brought us safely into the fold. He feeds us in the green pastures of His ordinances now. He leads us in paths of righteousness, and makes us to lie down at rest, reposing on His love; and will at last bring us to the heavenly land of promise, where we shall hunger no more and thirst no more, and our shame shall be turned into everlasting glory.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 34:30. “Only by the way do the pilgrims of God doubt; not at the beginning, and at the end not at all. At first they proceed in faith, at last they shall see face to face.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 34:31.“Under the more immediate interpretation of the similitude that men are meant, there is at the same time indicated the universality of grace; that not Israel alone but Adam, humanity, are named as the flock; and the greatness also of the grace is perceptible in this, that Israel is not designated by its honourable name, that which expresses its election of grace, but man, which calls to remembrance dust of the ground, sin, and death.”—Schmieder.
—“This is a chapter which both magistrates and rulers of the Church ought to meditate upon very seriously. The complaints that God here makes of false shepherds, and the curses He denounces against them, show that it is the duty of pastors, with their utmost diligence, to watch over the sheep with which they are entrusted, and to provide with care and readiness for all their wants, and that if they fail herein they must give a severe account to God for it. This too lays an obligation upon princes and magistrates to govern faithfully and justly the people committed to their trust. What befell the Jews, who for the unfaithfulness of their prophets and magistrates were utterly destroyed, shows that it is the greatest misfortune to a nation to have wicked rulers, and that all who were concerned for the glory of God and the happiness and edification of the Church have great reason to pray to God that He would always raise up to His people faithful and good pastors.”—Ostervald.