His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.…
Dumb dogs; "Greedy dogs;" "Shepherds that cannot understand." The prophet's messages are in the main addressed to the pious and believing among the exiles. But he knows well how many of them were living in self-indulgence and sin, and were not in the least likely to heed his words, and prepare themselves for the coming deliverance. The evils were especially manifest in the leading people, who ought to have been leaders in goodness to the people. Instead of this, they were neglecting their duty, and presenting a debasing example of self-indulgence, and even of covetousness. The term "watchmen' is used for chief men, princes, priests, prophets. These were utterly unable to comprehend or to meet the spiritual wants of the nation at this time, when God was so near, for carrying out his redeeming purpose. "The language here employed strikingly depicts the feelings of the voluptuous in every age."
I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF THE LEADERS AND TEACHERS OF THAT AGE. Observe the blending of figures suitable to the shepherd and to the shepherd's dog. Such a blending of figures is common in poetry and in Scripture. Inefficiency and sinful neglect are suggested in the terms
(4) loving to slumber;
(6) void of understanding;
II. THE REAL SECRET OF THEIR HELPLESSNESS. They thought of self. They did not live for their charge, but for themselves. "They all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter." And this is the root of evil in all who are placed in positions of responsibility, authority, and influence - all who are in any sense leaders and teachers. They must serve others, not get for self. Therefore the Apostle Paul pleads, saying, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Compare the plea of the noble Samuel, on giving up his life-ministry, "Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?" (1 Samuel 12:3). In this way St. Paul counsels the young teacher Timothy, "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." And a bishop is thus described, "Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous" (1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 3:3). St. Paul complains of the teachers of his time, "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's" (Philippians 2:21). - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.