Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 34 The former selfish shepherds of the flock, and the future good shepherd
The past history of the people and their future is presented under the common allegory of a flock. The shepherds are the rulers.
(1) Ezekiel 34:1-10. The evil shepherds of Israel fed themselves and not the flock. And thus the sheep were scattered over all the earth. The Lord will rid his sheep out of the hand of these shepherds.
(2) Ezekiel 34:11-16. Jehovah himself will undertake the care of his sheep. He will seek them out and gather them from all the nations, and will bring them again to the mountains of Israel, where they shall feed in plentiful pasture.
(3) Ezekiel 34:17-22. He will judge also between sheep and sheep, between the strong and the weak. The strong shall no more push with the horn and thrust with the shoulder; neither shall they alone eat the good pasture and drink the clear water. These pushing rams and he-goats are the magnates, whose oppression of the common people is so common a theme in the early prophets.
(4) Ezekiel 34:23-31. The Lord will raise up a good shepherd to rule his flock, even his servant David. And in those days to come the earth shall be transfigured: showers shall bless the land and the earth shall yield her increase. And the peace of the people shall be perpetual: they shall no more fear the heathen abroad, and no more suffer from scarcity at home.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
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?2. the shepherds] i.e. the rulers. The term is chiefly used in later writings (Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 3:15); it occurs, however, in Zechariah 9-11, the date of which is disputed. On Zedekiah cf. ch. 17, and on his immediate predecessors, Jeremiah 22:10-30. In general, Jeremiah 23, Jeremiah 25:32 seq.
unto the shepherds] Possibly this is a marginal heading which has crept into the text, cf. Jeremiah 23:9, and the reading may be, thus saith the Lord God, Woe be to … For flocks, flock.
Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.3. Ye eat the fat] LXX. the milk (the consonants are the same). Cf. Isaiah 7:22; Zechariah 11:16.
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.4. Five classes are here mentioned, in Ezekiel 34:16 only four, the “diseased” being wanting, and “strengthen” used here of the diseased is said there of the sick. The “broken” is the hurt or bruised; the “lost” that which has wandered away of itself, in distinction from that “driven away” by violence.
And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.5. The allegory is simple enough. Owing to the evil and selfish government of the rulers the people became the prey of all the nations round about them. The figure of the flock indicates, however, the affection of Jehovah for his people and his compassion over their sufferings.
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.
Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
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;
Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
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.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.11. search my sheep] i.e. search for, or, search out.
11–16. Jehovah himself will undertake the care of his flock
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.
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.13. Read peoples as usual.
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.14. Jehovah first seeks out his sheep (Ezekiel 34:11), then he delivers them out of the places where they are scattered (Ezekiel 34:12), then he leads them into their own land (Ezekiel 34:13), where he feeds them upon the mountain heights of Israel (Ezekiel 34:14-15).
I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.
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.16. The Lord’s treatment of his flock will be in all things the reverse of the treatment given them by the evil shepherds.
with judgment] i.e. just judgment; in rectitude and justice. Cf. such demands as those in Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 5:8; Micah 2:1-2; Micah 3:1-4.
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.17. Not only shall the cruel shepherds be removed and the flock delivered out of their hands and fed by the Lord himself, the injuries inflicted by members of the flock on each other shall no more prevail. The strong shall no more push the weak or drive them from the good pasture.
between cattle and cattle] between sheep and sheep, even the rams and the he-goats. The “rams” and “he-goats” explain the second word “sheep.” Jehovah will judge between one class (the poor and weak) and another (the rams). Cf. Ezekiel 22:27; Ezekiel 22:29; Amos 2:7; Amos 3:9; Amos 4:1.
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?18. The words are addressed to the rams and he-goats—the magnates and ruling classes.
deep waters] clear (lit. settled) waters, cf. Ezekiel 32:14.
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.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;
Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.
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.23. my servant David] The meaning cannot be that David would in person revive and reappear. It is more doubtful whether the prophet means that the line or family of David would again occupy the throne or that a single person would be king. It is possible that this question was not strictly before his mind; it is the character of the ruler that he thinks of. The oriental mind hardly distinguishes between an ancient personage and one who appears in his power and spirit; when it compares it identifies. The new prince over the people will be David, the servant of the Lord. Both the person and the reign of David were idealized. He was not in general terms but in truth the man after God’s own heart. His rule was not merely extensive, it was universal. He gave the people victory and secured them peace—he was a leader and commander of the peoples (Isaiah 55:4; Psalm 18:43). Such shall be the king of the restored community when Jehovah is indeed the God of Israel. For it is to be noted that in Messianic prophecy it is Jehovah who saves the people (Ezekiel 34:22 and preceding verses); then he appoints a shepherd over the restored community, who feeds them in righteousness and peace. The Messiah is the king of the saved community, whom he rules in the fear of the Lord with all royal and godly qualities; and the virtues of his character, fruit of the spirit of the Lord, communicate themselves to those whom he rules (Isaiah 11). It is possible that the phrase “one shepherd” is to be interpreted as in Ezekiel 37:24, with the meaning that the two kingdoms shall be one, and that this is part of the meaning of the term “David,” cf. Hosea 1:11; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11. See more fully ch. 37.
23–28. Instead of the many worthless shepherds of old there shall in the future be one good shepherd, even David, and Jehovah shall in truth be God of Israel.
And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.24. I the Lord … their God] This is the goal towards which all movements strive; when this is reached perfection is attained and the covenant with its aims fully realized, cf. Ezekiel 37:27; Jeremiah 31:31; Exodus 29:45. The meaning of the words is very profound, implying closer fellowship and deeper feelings accompanying it than can well be expressed.
David a prince] David is here called “prince”; in Ezekiel 37:22; Ezekiel 37:24 he is named “king” (though LXX. avoids the term). The term “prince” is common in Ezek., and does not imply a dignity inferior to that of royalty.
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.25. a covenant of peace] a covenant securing everlasting peace and therefore implying the removal of all that would injure or disturb them. In Hosea 2:20 the sense is somewhat different: Jehovah makes a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, that they shall not hurt. In Hos. “beasts” is used literally (cf. Isaiah 11:6), here figuratively, meaning foes, heathen assailants, though the figure of the flock is still maintained (Leviticus 26:6). The “wilderness” is the uncultivated pasture land as distinguished from that under tillage, covered with crops or fruit-trees (Carmel). Even in the “woods,” the parts covered with bush, the haunts of wild beasts, the flock shall sleep safely.
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.26. make them … a blessing] i.e. altogether blessed, Genesis 12:2; Isaiah 19:24, as the last words of the verse imply. Cf. construction Ezekiel 16:38, Ezekiel 27:36, Ezekiel 28:19, Ezekiel 33:28. The language of the clause is not very natural; LXX. reads: and I will set them round about my hill (the word “blessing” wanting).
showers of blessing] i.e. bringing blessing, not, composed of blessing, Ezekiel 34:27, Joel 2:23-27; Leviticus 26:4.
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, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.27. hands of their yoke] i.e. the yoke bound upon them, Leviticus 26:13; Jeremiah 2:20, where read “thou hast broken.”
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.
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.29. a plant of renown] a plantation of renown, lit. for a name, i.e. a plantation which shall be (or, so as to be) renowned; cf. for the phrase Ezekiel 39:13; Isaiah 55:13. The ref. is not to the person of the Messiah, but to the luxuriant fertility and vegetation of the earth in the Messianic age. Comp. Psalms 67, Psalm 72:16; Amos 9:13; Hosea 2:21; Joel 2:23 seq. The land of Israel was subject to droughts and famine (Ezekiel 36:15; Ezekiel 36:30; 1 Kings 17 seq.; Jeremiah 14:1-6; Jeremiah 14:18; Joel 1). In the regeneration this reproach shall no more fall on it, ch. Ezekiel 36:3; Ezekiel 36:6; Ezekiel 36:15.
Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD.30. am with them] LXX. omits with them, reading: that I the Lord am their God, and they … my people—the usual antithesis. The people’s consciousness of salvation shall be, so to speak, a double one, that Jehovah is their God and that they are his people. The two things might seem identical, but the second suggests a feeling regarding themselves which belongs to the perfect enjoyment of salvation.
And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.31. ye my flock … are men] Omit “are men” with LXX. and read: and ye are my flock … pasture, and I am your God.