Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Eze 34:1-31. Reproof of the False Shepherds; Promise of the True and Good Shepherd.
Having in the thirty-third chapter laid down repentance as the necessary preliminary to happier times for the people, He now promises the removal of the false shepherds as preparatory to the raising up of the Good Shepherd.
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. Jer 23:1 and Zec 11:17 similarly make the removal of the false shepherds the preliminary to the interposition of Messiah the Good Shepherd in behalf of His people Israel. The "shepherds" are not prophets or priests, but rulers who sought in their government their own selfish ends, not the good of the people ruled. The term was appropriate, as David, the first king and the type of the true David (Eze 34:23, 24), was taken from being a shepherd (2Sa 5:2; Ps 78:70, 71); and the office, like that of a shepherd for his flock, is to guard and provide for his people. The choice of a shepherd for the first king was therefore designed to suggest this thought, just as Jesus' selection of fishermen for apostles was designed to remind them of their spiritual office of catching men (compare Isa 44:28; Jer 2:8; 3:15; 10:21; 23:1, 2).
Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
3. fat—or, by differently pointing the Hebrew, "milk" [Septuagint]. Thus the repetition "fat" and "fed" is avoided: also the eating of "fat" would not probably be put before the "killing" of the sheep. The eating of sheep's or goats' milk as food (De 32:14; Pr 27:27) was unobjectionable, had not these shepherds milked them too often, and that without duly "feeding" them [Bochart], (Isa 56:11). The rulers levied exorbitant tributes.
kill … fed—kill the rich by false accusation so as to get possession of their property.
feed not … flock—take no care of the people (Joh 10:12).
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. The diseased—rather, those weak from the effects of "disease," as "strengthened" (that is, with due nourishment) requires [Grotius].
broken—that is, fractures from wounds inflicted by the wolf.
brought again … driven away—(Ex 23:4). Those "driven away" by the enemy into foreign lands through God's judgments are meant (Jer 23:3). A spiritual reformation of the state by the rulers would have turned away God's wrath, and "brought again" the exiles. The rulers are censured as chiefly guilty (though the people, too, were guilty), because they, who ought to have been foremost in checking the evil, promoted it.
neither … sought … lost—Contrast the Good Shepherd's love (Lu 15:4).
with force … ruled—(Ex 1:13, 14). With an Egyptian bondage. The very thing forbidden by the law they did (Le 25:43; compare 1Pe 5:3).
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. scattered, because … no shepherd—that is, none worthy of the name, though there were some called shepherds (1Ki 22:17; Mt 9:36). Compare Mt 26:31, where the sheep were scattered when the true Shepherd was smitten. God calls them "My sheep"; for they were not, as the shepherds treated them, their patrimony whereby to "feed themselves."
meat to all … beasts—They became a prey to the Syrians, Ammon, Moab, and Assyria.
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.
6. every high hill—the scene of their idolatries sanctioned by the rulers.
search … seek—rather, "seek … search." The former is the part of the superior rulers to inquire after: to search out is the duty of the subordinate rulers [Junius].
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.
10. I will require my flock—(Heb 13:17), rather, "I require," &c., for God already had begun to do so, punishing Zedekiah and the other princes severely (Jer 52:10).
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
11. I … will … search—doing that which the so-called shepherds had failed to do, I being the rightful owner of the 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.
12. in the day that he is among—in the midst of (Hebrew) His sheep that had been scattered. Referring to Messiah's second advent, when He shall be "the glory in the midst of Israel" (Zec 2:5).
in the cloudy … day—the day of the nation's calamity (Joe 2:2).
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. And I will bring them out from the people, &c.—(Eze 28:25; 36:24; 37:21, 22; Isa 65:9, 10; Jer 23:3).
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. good pasture—(Ps 23:2).
high mountains of Israel—In Eze 17:23; 20:40, the phrase is "the mountain of the height of Israel" in the singular number. The reason for the difference is: there Ezekiel spoke of the central seat of the kingdom, Mount Zion, where the people met for the worship of Jehovah; here he speaks of the kingdom of Israel at large, all the parts of which are regarded as possessing a moral elevation.
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. In contrast to the unfaithful shepherds (Eze 34:4). The several duties neglected by them I will faithfully discharge.
fat … strong—that is, those rendered wanton by prosperity (De 32:15; Jer 5:28), who use their strength to oppress the weak. Compare Eze 34:20, "the fat cattle" (Isa 10:16). The image is from fat cattle that wax refractory.
with judgment—that is, justice and equity, as contrasted with the "force" and "cruelty" with which the unfaithful shepherds ruled the flock (Eze 34:4).
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. 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).
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, 19. Not content with appropriating to their own use the goods of others, they from mere wantonness spoiled what they did not use, so as to be of no use to the owners.
deep waters—that is, "limpid," as deep waters are generally clear. Grotius explains the image as referring to the usuries with which the rich ground the poor (Eze 22:12; Isa 24:2).
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.
19. they eat—scantily.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
20. fat … lean—the rich oppressors … the humble poor.
Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;
21. scattered them abroad—down to the time of the carrying away to Babylon [Grotius].
Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.
22. 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 (Ne 5:1-19). The full and final fulfilment of this prophecy is future.
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. set up—that is, raise up by divine appointment; alluding to the declaration of God to David, "I will set up thy seed after thee" (2Sa 7:12); and, "Yet have I set My king on My holy hill of Zion" (Ps 2:6; compare Ac 2:30; 13:23).
one shepherd—literally, "a Shepherd, one": singularly and pre-eminently one: the only one of His kind, to whom none is comparable (So 5:10). The Lord Jesus refers to this prophecy (Joh 10:14), "I am THE Good Shepherd." Also "one" as uniting in one the heretofore divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and also "gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on earth" (Eph 1:10); thus healing worse breaches than that between Israel and Judah (Col 1:20). "God by Him reconciling all things unto Himself, whether things in earth or in heaven."
David—the antitypical David, Messiah, of the seed of David, which no other king after the captivity was: who was fully, what David was only in a degree, "the man after God's own heart." Also, David means beloved: Messiah was truly God's beloved Son (Isa 42:1; Mt 3:17). Shepherd means King, rather than religious instructor; in this pre-eminently He was the true David, who was the Shepherd King (Lu 1:32, 33). Messiah is called "David" in Isa 55:3, 4; Jer 30:9; Ho 3:5.
And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.
24. my servant—implying fitness for ruling in the name of God, not pursuing a self-chosen course, as other kings, but acting as the faithful administrator of the will of God; Messiah realized fully this character (Ps 40:7, 8; Isa 42:1; 49:3, 6; 53:11; Php 2:7), which David typically and partially represented (Ac 13:36); so He is the fittest person to wield the world scepter, abused by all the world kings (Da 2:34, 35, 44, 45).
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. covenant of peace … evil beasts … to cease … dwell safely—The original promise of the law (Le 26:6) shall be realized for the first time fully under Messiah (Isa 11:6-9; 35:9; Ho 2:18).
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. them and the places round about my hill—The Jews, and Zion, God's hill (Ps 2:6), are to be sources of blessing, not merely to themselves, but to the surrounding heathen (Isa 19:24; 56:6, 7; 60:3; Mic 5:7; Zec 8:13). 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, fertilizing showers (according to the promise of the ancient covenant, Le 26:4; Ps 68:9; Mal 3:10), and productive trees and lands (Eze 34:27). Thus shall they realize the image of Eze 34:14; namely, a flock richly pastured by God Himself.
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. served themselves of them—availed themselves of their services, as if the Jews were their slaves (Jer 22:13; 25:14; compare Ge 15:13; Ex 1:14).
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.
28. dwell safely—(Jer 23:6).
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. plant of renown—Messiah, the "Rod" and "Branch" (Isa 11:1), the "righteous Branch" (Jer 23:5), who shall obtain for them "renown." Fairbairn less probably translates, "A plantation for a name," that is, a flourishing condition, represented as a garden (alluding to Eden, Ge 2:8-11, with its various trees, good for food and pleasant to the sight), the planting of the Lord (Isa 60:21; 61:3), and an object of "renown" among the heathen.
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.
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—not merely an explanation of the image, as Jerome represents. But as God had promised many things which mere "men" could not expect to realize, He shows that it is not from man's might their realization is to be looked for, but from God, who would perform them for His covenant-people, "His flock" [Rosenmuller]. When we realize most our weakness and God's power and faithfulness to His covenant, we are in the fittest state for receiving His blessings.