Ezekiel 34:17
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Between cattle and cattle.—In other words, between one and another of the flock. They are not all alike to be saved and blessed, but only those who turn in penitence and submission to God, their Shepherd. The same contrast is again expressed in Ezekiel 34:20; Ezekiel 34:22. It is not between “the cattle” on the one side, and “the rams and the he-goats” on the other, but between the cattle themselves, and also between the rams and he-goats themselves; all the evil, of whatever class, are to be rejected. Ezekiel 34:18-19 are addressed to those who will be rejected.

Ezekiel 34:17; Ezekiel 34:19. As for you, O my flock — The prophet, having finished what he had to say to the shepherds, now delivers God’s message to the flock. God had before ordered him to speak tenderly to them, and to assure them of the mercy which he had in store for them. But now he is ordered to make a difference between some and others of them, to separate between the precious and the vile, and then to give them a promise of the Messiah, by whom this distinction would be effectually made; partly at his first coming, when for judgment he should come into this world, John 9:39; but completely at his second coming, when he shall, as it is here said, judge between cattle as a shepherd divides between the sheep and the goats, and shall set the sheep on his right hand and the goals on his left, Matthew 25:32-33. Between the rams and the he-goats — The Hebrew, it seems, may be better rendered, Between the small cattle, and the cattle of rams and of he-goats, between the weak and the strong cattle; that is, between the rich and the poor, as the Chaldee Paraphrase explains the sense upon Ezekiel 34:20. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture? &c. — This reproof may be fitly applied to those of the rich and great, who take no care that the poor may enjoy the benefit of their superfluities, but will rather let them be thrown away and lost, than they will take the trouble of seeing them disposed of for the relief of those that stand in need. As for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden, &c. — They are compelled to live upon the relics of what you have spoiled and destroyed.

34:17-31 The whole nation seemed to be the Lord's flock, yet they were very different characters; but he knew how to distinguish between them. By good pastures and deep waters, are meant the pure word of God and the dispensing of justice. The latter verses, 23-31, prophesy of Christ, and of the most glorious times of his church on earth. Under Him, as the good Shepherd, the church would be a blessing to all around. Christ, though excellent in himself, was as a tender plant out of a dry ground. Being the Tree of life, bearing all the fruits of salvation, he yields spiritual food to the souls of his people. Our constant desire and prayer should be, that there may be showers of blessings in every place where the truth of Christ is preached; and that all who profess the gospel may be filled with fruits of righteousness.With judgment - It is characteristic of Yahweh as a shepherd that He judges between sheep and sheep, rejecting the proud and accepting the penitent and broken-hearted. 17. you, … my flock—passing from the rulers to the people.

cattle and cattle—rather, "sheep and sheep"; Margin, "small cattle," or "flocks of lambs and kids," that is, I judge between one class of citizens and another, so as to award what is right to each. He then defines the class about to be punitively "judged," namely, "the rams and he-goats," or "great he-goats" (compare Isa 14:9, Margin; Zec 10:3; Mt 25:32, 33). They answer to "the fat and strong," as opposed to the "sick" (Eze 34:16). The rich and ungodly of the people are meant, who imitated the bad rulers in oppressing their poorer brethren, as if it enhanced their own joys to trample on others' rights (Eze 34:18).

I judge between cattle and cattle; make a different estimate and judgment between men and men, between the smaller and weaker that need more tenderness, and the greater and stronger whose violence is to be restrained; and as becomes me, and their different state requires, I will do.

Rams; the hieroglyphic of rulers in their authority, humours, and carriage towards their subjects, who are also observed and shall be dealt with accordingly, when God makes good all this his word.

And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord God,.... Having done with the shepherds, and the complaint against them, the Lord proceeds to take notice of the flock, or the people themselves, and the evils that were among them; for in the Lord's own flock, in the nation and church of Israel, as now in the visible congregated churches of Christ, there were two sorts of persons, some good, others bad; some that behaved well, and others ill; some were sheep, and others goats:

behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats: between the smaller and weaker cattle, the sheep and the lambs; and the larger and stronger cattle, the rams and he goats; by which latter may he meant persons of superior power and authority, of greater wealth and riches, and of more wisdom and knowledge, at least in their own conceits; and who were oppressive and injurious to the poor and common people, and less knowing, at least as they thought; who may be intended by the former: now, the Lord, as he observed a difference between them, he would make this manifest, and take the part of the one against the other; even the part of the weaker against the stronger. The Targum is,

"behold, judge between man and man, sinners and the ungodly.''

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.

Verse 17. - Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle. It may be worth while to note, as modern English usage tends to limit the range of the word, that it is commonly used in the Old Testament of sheep rather than of kine (Genesis 30:34-42; Genesis 31:8-12). In Genesis 30:32 we have the same Hebrew word as that which Ezekiel uses. Between the rams and the he-goats. The words, at first, seem to point to a division like that of Matthew 25:32, and may, perhaps, have suggested it. Here, however, the contrast lies, not between the sheep and goats as such, but between the strong and the weak of each class. The "rams" are as much the object of the shepherd's discipline of judgment as the "he-goats." Both stand as the representative of the rapacious self-seeking classes who oppressed the poor and needy, and, not content with being the first to feed on the pastures and to drink of the waters, trampled on the former and defiled the latter. So in the next verse the contrast lies between the "fat cattle," whether sheep or goats, and the "lean." Ezekiel 34:17Jehovah Himself will seek His flock, gather it together from the dispersion, lead it to good pasture, and sift it by the destruction of the bad sheep. - Ezekiel 34:11. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I myself, I will inquire after my flock, and take charge thereof. Ezekiel 34:12. As a shepherd taketh charge of his flock in the day when he is in the midst of his scattered sheep, so will I take charge of my flock, and deliver them out of all the places whither they have been scattered in the day of cloud and cloudy night. Ezekiel 34:13. And I will bring them out from the nations, and gather them together out of the lands, and bring them into their land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel, in the valleys, and in all the dwelling-places of the land. Ezekiel 34:14. I will feed them in a good pasture, and on the high mountains of Israel will their pasture-ground be: there shall they lie down in a good pasture-ground, and have fat pasture on the mountains of Israel. Ezekiel 34:15. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 34:16. That which is lost will I seek, and that which is driven away will I bring back; that which is wounded will I bind up, and that which is sick will I:strengthen: but that which is fat and strong will I destroy, and feed them according to justice. Ezekiel 34:17. And you, my sheep, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will judge between sheep and sheep, and the rams and the he-goats. Ezekiel 34:18. Is it too little for you, that ye eat up the good pasture, and what remains of your pasture ye tread down with your feet? and the clear water ye drink, and render muddy what remains with your feet? Ezekiel 34:19. And are my sheep to have for food that which is trodden down by your feet, and to drink that which is made muddy by your feet? Ezekiel 34:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah to them, Behold, I, I will judge between fat sheep and lean. Ezekiel 34:21. Because ye press with side and shoulder, and thrust all the weak with your horns, till ye have driven them out; Ezekiel 34:22. I will help my sheep, so that they shall no more become a prey; and will judge between sheep and sheep. - All that the Lord will do for His flock is summed up in Ezekiel 34:11, in the words דּרשׁתּי את־צאני וּבקּרתּים, which stand in obvious antithesis to 'ואין דּורשׁ וגו in Ezekiel 34:6 - an antithesis sharply accentuated by the emphatic הנני אני, which stands at the head in an absolute form. The fuller explanation is given in the verses which follow, from Ezekiel 34:12 onwards. Observe here that biqeer is substituted for בּקּשׁ. בּקּר, to seek and examine minutely, involves the idea of taking affectionate charge. What the Lord does for His people is compared in Ezekiel 34:12 to the care which a shepherd who deserves the name manifests towards sheep when they are scattered (נפרשׁות without the article is connected with צאנו in the form of apposition); and in Ezekiel 34:12 it is still more particularly explained. In the first place, He will gather them from all the places to which they have been scattered. הצּיל implies that in their dispersion they have fallen into a state of oppression and bondage among the nations (cf. Exodus 6:6). בּיום belongs to the relative clause: whither they have been scattered. The circumstance that these words are taken from Joel 2:2 does not compel us to take them in connection with the principal clause, as Hitzig and Kliefoth propose, and to understand them as relating to the time when God will hold His judgment of the heathen world. The notion that the words in Joel signify "God's day of judgment upon all the heathen" (Kliefoth), is quite erroneous; and even Hitzig does not derive this meaning from Joel 2:2, but from the combination of our verse with Ezekiel 30:3 and Ezekiel 29:21. The deliverance of the sheep out of the places to which they have been scattered, consists in the gathering together of Israel out of the nations, and their restoration to their own land, and their feeding upon the mountains and all the dwelling-places of the land (מושׁב, a place suitable for settlement), and that in good and fat pasture (Ezekiel 34:14); and lastly, in the fact that Jehovah bestows the necessary care upon the sheep, strengthens and heals the weak and sick (Ezekiel 34:15 and Ezekiel 34:16) - that is to say, does just what the bad shepherds have omitted (Ezekiel 34:4) - and destroys the fat and strong. In this last clause another side is shown of the pastoral fidelity of Jehovah. אשׁמיד has been changed by the lxx, Syr., and Vulg. into ,אשׁמורφυλάχω; and Luther has followed them in his rendering, "I will watch over them." But this is evidently a mistake, as it fails to harmonize with ארענּה במשׁפּט. The fat and strong sheep are characterized in Ezekiel 34:18 and Ezekiel 34:19 as those which spoil the food and water of the others. The allusion, therefore, is to the rich and strong ones of the nation, who oppress the humble and poor, and treat them with severity. The destruction of these oppressors shows that the loving care of the Lord is associated with righteousness - that He feeds the flock בּמשׁפּט.

This thought is carried out still further in Ezekiel 34:17-21, the sheep themselves being directly addressed, and the Lord assuring them that He will judge between sheep and sheep, and put an end to the oppressive conduct of the fat sheep and the strong. בּין שׂה לשׂה: between the one sheep and the other. לשׂה is extended in the apposition, "the rams and he-goats," which must not be rendered, "with regard to the rams and he-goats," as it has been by Kliefoth. The thought is not that Jehovah will divide the rams and he-goats from the sheep, as some have explained it, from an inappropriate comparison with Matthew 25:32; but the division is to be effected in such a manner that sheep will be separated from sheep, the fat sheep being placed on one side with the rams and he-goats, and kept apart from the lean (רזה, Ezekiel 34:20) and the sickly sheep (נהלות, Matthew 25:21). It is to the last-named sheep, rams, and he-goats that Matthew 25:18 and Matthew 25:19 are addressed. With regard to the charge brought against them, that they eat up the pasture and tread down the remainder with their feet, etc., Bochart has already correctly observed, that "if the words are not quite applicable to actual sheep, they are perfectly appropriate to the mystical sheep intended here, i.e., to the Israelites, among whom many of the rich, after enjoying an abundant harvest and vintage, grudged the poor their gleaning in either one or the other." משׁקע, a substantive formation, like מרמס, literally, precipitation of the water, i.e., the water purified by precipitation; for שׁקע, to sink, is the opposite of רפשׂ, to stir up or render muddy by treading with the feet (compare Ezekiel 32:14 and Ezekiel 32:2). בּריה, Ezekiel 34:20 equals בּראה or בּריּה. Ezekiel 34:22 brings to a close the description of the manner in which God will deliver His flock, and feed it with righteousness. והושׁעתּי points back to והצּלתּי in Ezekiel 34:12, and ושׁפטתּי to ארענּה במשׁפּט in Ezekiel 34:16. - To this there is appended in Ezekiel 34:23. a new train of thought, describing how God will still further display to His people His pastoral fidelity.

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