Ezekiel 34:17
And as for you, O my flock, thus said 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." As watchman over Israel, Ezekiel is to announce to those who are despairing of the mercy of God, that the Lord will preserve from destruction those who turn from their sin, and lead them into life. - Ezekiel 33:10. Thou then, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Ye rightly say, Our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and in them we vanish away; how, then, can we live? Ezekiel 33:11. Say to them, As truly as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner; but when the sinner turneth from his way, he shall live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways! for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 33:12. And thou, son of man, say to the sons of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and the sinner will not fall through his sin in the day that he turneth from his sin, and the righteous man will not be able to live thereby in the day that he sinneth. Ezekiel 33:13. If I say to the righteous man that he shall live, and he relies upon his righteousness and does wrong, all his righteousnesses will not be remembered; and for his wrong that he has done, he will die. Ezekiel 33:14. If I say to the sinner, Thou shalt die, and he turns from his sin, and does justice and righteousness, Ezekiel 33:15. So that the wicked returns the pledge, restores what has been robbed, walks in the statutes of life without doing wrong, he will live, not die. Ezekiel 33:16. All his sins which he has committed shall not be remembered against him; he has done justice and righteousness, he will live. Ezekiel 33:17. And the sons of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not right; but they - their way is not right. Ezekiel 33:18. If the righteous man turneth from his righteousness and doeth wrong, he shall die thereby; Ezekiel 33:19. But if the wicked man turneth from his wickedness and doeth right and righteousness, he will live thereby. Ezekiel 33:20. And yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not right. I will judge you every one according to his ways, O house of Israel. - In Ezekiel 33:10 and Ezekiel 33:11 the prophet's calling for the future is set before him, inasmuch as God instructs him to announce to those who are in despair on account of their sins the gracious will of the Lord. The threat contained in the law (Leviticus 26:39), ימּקּוּ בּעונם, of which Ezekiel had repeatedly reminded the people with warning, and, last of all, when predicting the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (compare Ezekiel 4:17 and Ezekiel 24:23), had pressed heavily upon their heart, when the threatened judgment took place, so that they quote the words, not "in self-defence," as Hvernick erroneously supposes, but in despair of any deliverance. Ezekiel is to meet this despair of little faith by the announcement that the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but desires his conversion and his life. Ezekiel had already set this word of grave before the people in Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32, accompanied with the summons to salvation for them to lay to heart: there, it was done to overthrow the delusion that the present generation had to atone for the sins of the fathers; but here, to lift up the hearts of those who were despairing of salvation; and for this reason it is accompanied with the asseveration (wanting in Ezekiel 18:23 and Ezekiel 18:32): "as truly as I live, saith the Lord," and with the urgent appeal to repent and turn. But in order to preclude the abuse of this word of consolation by making it a ground of false confidence in their own righteousness, Ezekiel repeats in Ezekiel 33:12-20 the principal thoughts contained in that announcement (Ezekiel 18:20-32) - namely, first of all, in Ezekiel 33:12-16, the thought that the righteousness of the righteous is of no avail to him if he gives himself up to the unrighteousness, and that the sinner will not perish on account of his sin if he turns from his wickedness and strives after righteousness (יכּשׁל , Ezekiel 33:12, as in Hosea 5:5; Jeremiah 6:15; compare Ezekiel 18:24-25, and Ezekiel 18:21, Ezekiel 18:22; and for Ezekiel 33:14 and Ezekiel 33:15, more especially Ezekiel 18:5 and Ezekiel 18:7); and then, secondly, in Ezekiel 33:17-20, the reproof of those who find fault with the way of the Lord (compare Ezekiel 18:25, Ezekiel 18:27, Ezekiel 18:29-30).
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