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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 34

Verses 1-10

Introduction

Israel’s sins and judgment are primarily due to a corrupt and selfish leadership. The first step toward the restoration of the people is to replace the worthless shepherds with the true Shepherd. This chapter deals with the situation of Israel after the fall of Jerusalem until the time the Lord Jesus returns. Thus, that situation also applies today (cf. Luke 21:24; Jeremiah 23:1-Ruth :).

‘Woe’ Over the False Shepherds

The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34:1). He is commanded to prophesy to the shepherds of Israel, that is, to predict judgment on them (Ezekiel 34:2). The shepherds are the leaders of the people. Over them he is to pronounce “woe” (cf. Matthew 23:13; Matthew 23:15Matthew 23:16; Matthew 23:23Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27Matthew 23:29). Without introduction, “the Lord GOD” gives the reason for His ‘woe’: these shepherds think only of themselves instead of the sheep. They should be there for the sheep, but they see the sheep as objects they can feast on.

In Ezekiel 34:3-Joshua : there follows a whole list of accusations showing that the sheep are not in any way their concern, but that they are exploiting those sheep. The tense form in which Ezekiel 34:3 appears shows that they do not do this only occasionally, but that they behave in this way constantly. The emphasis is on the fact that the shepherds are only after one thing and that is gain (cf. Ezekiel 33:31):
- “You eat the fat (i.e. the best, cf. Leviticus 3:3; Leviticus 3:14Leviticus 4:8; Leviticus 7:30Leviticus 7:31; Leviticus 8:25; 1 Samuel 2:15)
- and you clothe yourself with the wool (cf. Ezekiel 44:17);
- you slaughter the fat [sheep] (cf. Zechariah 11:16),
- without feeding the flock.”

In Ezekiel 34:4, six crimes are described. Five of them are crimes of negligence, things they don’t do when they should be expected to. It is deliberate, culpable negligence. The sixth crime is what they do, when they should not. Instead of caring for the vulnerable sheep, they exploit those sheep:
- “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened,
- the diseased you have not healed,
- the broken you have not bound up,
- the scattered you have not brought back,
- nor have you sought for the lost;
- but with force and with severity you have dominated them.”

In Ezekiel 34:5-Joshua : the LORD holds up the consequences of the unmerciful treatment of the sheep to the cruel, selfish shepherds:
- “They were scattered for lack of a shepherd,
- and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:5).
- “My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill;
- My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth,
- and there was no one to search
- or seek [for them]” (Ezekiel 34:6).

Instead of caring for the sheep, protecting them and keeping them together, the shepherds of Israel terrorize the sheep. Then they leave them to their own devices, making them prey for the predators, which are nations like Edom, Syria, Ammon, Moab, by whom they are scattered. All cohesion is gone. They are scattered sheep and therefore even more vulnerable. There is no one from the cruel leaders who pays any attention to them at all, let alone anyone who goes searching or seeking for them to help them.

These shepherds, the leaders of the people, are not shepherds, but wolves and are in everything the opposite of the Lord Jesus, Who is the good Shepherd. When He sees the crowds, He is moved with compassion for them, “because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He has given His life for the sheep, He seeks for them, He saves them, He protects them (John 10:11) and He makes them one flock. The good under-shepherds follow Him in this (1 Peter 5:1-Numbers :).

The heartless actions of the false shepherds call down God’s judgment on them (Ezekiel 34:7). The LORD calls them to listen to His judgment (Ezekiel 34:8). In saying, “as I live”, He implores that He will punish this evil. That is how seriously He takes their misconduct. The gravity of their sins concerns not only the sheep, but especially the fact that they are His sheep. Never does He give up the right to His sheep, even though He delegates the care of those sheep to under-shepherds. He blames the shepherds for making His sheep prey for themselves and also food for all the animals of the field.

What happens to the sheep is because there is no shepherd to care for them. And those shepherds are still “My shepherds”, as the LORD says. He has appointed them. But the shepherds have gone their own way, thinking only of themselves. They have fed only themselves and not the sheep of the LORD.

Once again the urgent call to the shepherds to listen to the word of the LORD is heard (Ezekiel 34:9). It shows the deep indignation of the LORD. He says He is against the shepherds, He will call those shepherds to account and judge them (Ezekiel 34:10). He will demand the sheep from them – because they are His sheep – and He will remove the shepherds from their function. Then for the shepherds it is over and done with feeding themselves. He will rescue His sheep from their mouth, so that the sheep will no longer be their food.

Verses 11-16

The LORD Himself Feeds His Sheep

The LORD Himself will take the place of the unfaithful shepherds who feed themselves and take care of His sheep (Ezekiel 34:11). We see in the actions described of Him in Ezekiel 34:11-1 Chronicles : how He is busy and working toward His goal: He searches, seeks, delivers, leads out, leads in and feeds. He will search for His sheep, to know where they are. Then He goes seeking them. When He finds them, He delivers them from the claws of the enemy and He leads them out of the hostile environment. Then He brings them to their land, where He feeds them by refreshing streams of water and makes them live safely. What a Shepherd He is!

He shows His interest in His sheep by Himself searching for them and seeking them. His interest is evident not only in His words, but also in His actions. He goes in search of His sheep, as a true shepherd does (Ezekiel 34:12; Luke 15:4-Judges :). He is committed to make His scattered sheep one flock again. For this purpose He delivers them from all the places “to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day”. Here we can think of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15).

Further, it applies to the time when the LORD will bring His sheep back from exile and scattering into their own land (Ezekiel 34:13). There they will find fertile soil and water and places to live. When He, as their true Shepherd, has brought them back, He will not leave them to their own devices either, but will care for them in His land and provide them with everything they need (Ezekiel 34:14-Ezra :). They will also be able to lie down safely, without fear of enemies. This situation did not occur at the return from the Babylonian exile, but refers to the time of the realm of peace.

The LORD points out that He will do what the false shepherds have failed to do (Ezekiel 34:16). He cares for the lost, strayed, broken and sick. He seeks the lost, He brings back the scattered, He binds up the broken and He strengthens the sick. His whole heart goes out to them and all His actions are beneficial.

In contrast, He will wipe out sheep that do not belong in His flock. “The fat and the strong” are the wicked among the people who have enriched themselves at the expense of their poor and weak peers. When He has destroyed them, He will take their place. He Himself will feed His sheep as it should be. He will not bend the law, as the false shepherds have done, but will deal with His sheep in a righteous way, as it should be expected of a good shepherd (John 10:10-Ezra :). He will do so as His Servant David (Ezekiel 34:23), the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, Who is Himself the LORD. He is the true Shepherd-King of His people. He is Shepherd first and in that capacity also King.

Verses 17-22

The LORD Judges

The LORD will also repay the injustice that has taken place in the midst of the sheep of His flock (Ezekiel 34:17). There is, on the one hand, the weak “sheep” and, on the other hand, there are the strong “rams” and “male goats”. The rams and the goats are those who helped the leaders oppress the sheep, their weak fellow sheep, the vulnerable. The LORD will judge the rams and the male goats. They deserve that judgment doubly because they are guilty in two respects with respect to the sheep. First, they themselves feed in the good pasture (Ezekiel 34:18). The weak sheep have to settle for second best.

However, it does not stop with the feeding in the good pastures. Whatever remains as second choice is trodden down by the rams and the male goats with their feet, so that it becomes corrupted and no longer to be consumed. This applies to both food and water (Ezekiel 34:19). Thus, the leaders and their followers are always working to benefit themselves at the expense of the weak and poor, while leaving nothing for them.

The LORD will stand up for the weak and poor (Ezekiel 34:20). The weak are pushed away from their safe environment by the strong (Ezekiel 34:21). In the flock, the law of the strongest applies. In addition to destroying what is edible, the strong also push the weak out of the flock. Any security and safety is taken away from them. They are prey to the wild beasts, which are the hostile nations (Ezekiel 34:22; Ezekiel 34:28).

But the LORD will put a stop to that behavior. He will stand up for His sheep and deliver them and protect them. He judges “between one sheep and another”, which means that He judges completely justly and indiscriminately. And only His judgment counts.

Verses 23-31

Promise of the One Shepherd

This last section describes the millennial realm of peace under the Messiah, Who is here called “My servant David” (Ezekiel 34:23). The LORD will raise up His Shepherd and entrust Him with His sheep. He is “the Chief Shepherd” Who is coming back (1 Peter 5:4). He will care for the sheep and lead them. The LORD and His Shepherd have an equal care for the sheep. They are also essentially the same Person. The LORD is their God and the Servant is their Prince (Ezekiel 34:24; cf. 2 Samuel 5:2). So it is, for the LORD has declared it.

The LORD confirms His verbal promise with a covenant (Ezekiel 34:25). This gives His sheep even more security. He makes with them “a covenant of peace”, a covenant that flows from the all-encompassing new covenant that characterizes the millennial realm of peace (Jeremiah 31:31-Nahum :). That covenant also ensures security. The wild animals, symbols of false leaders and hostile nations (Ezekiel 34:28), will be removed from the land by Him. Unconcerned they will live in the wilderness and undisturbed they will be able to sleep in the woods. Everything speaks of rest and peace, safety and security.

There is also an abundance of blessing that comes over His people and over the area where they live (Ezekiel 34:26). “My hill” is Mount Zion, and the places around it is Israel. Through the rain that He gives, the trees will give their fruit and the land will give its yield (Ezekiel 34:27; cf. Hosea 2:21-Song of Solomon :; Joel 2:23-Daniel :). Once again, the LORD speaks of them being secure on their land without care. They will have rest and also freedom, for the LORD has removed their oppressors from them. Thus they will know that He is the LORD.

Nor will there be any more change for the worse in that situation (Ezekiel 34:28). The enemies will no longer find prey in them; they will no longer be devoured. There will be no more fear. Safe, untroubled and fearless, they will enjoy all the blessings that the LORD gives them in rich measure. The guarantee of an unruffled peace lies in “a plant of renown” [Darby Translation] that is the Lord Jesus, their Messiah, whom the LORD will cause “to raise up” [Darby Translation] on their behalf (Ezekiel 34:29). The word “raise up” in this verse is the same word in Hebrew as “set over” in Ezekiel 34:23, which also talks about the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 60:1). He will drive out the hunger and the reproach.

When that situation has arrived, they will know that the LORD is with them (Ezekiel 34:30). Always the statement, that people will know that He is the LORD, has been a threatening statement because it has always been related to the judgment that He executes. Now this statement is in connection with blessing. Knowing that He is the LORD is the basis of blessing for His people. They will also know that they are His people. That connection is a strong assurance that no more calamity can strike them.

However, they, His sheep, the sheep of His pasture (Ezekiel 34:31; Psalms 100:3), will always need to have the consciousness that they are only men, weak and mortal, and that their salvation and blessing is only in Him, their God. With this powerful reminder, the description of future blessing concludes.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 34". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ezekiel-34.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.