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Woe upon the Shepherds of Israel
v. 1. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
v. 2. Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, the spiritual leaders of the people, but especially their civil governors, the men responsible for their welfare, set to guard the interests and provide for the good of their subjects, prophesy and say unto them, in rebuking them for the selfishness with which they sought their own ends in all their dealings, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds, Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! looking out for their own interests only. Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? This emphasizes the reprehensible character of the shepherds' behavior, the fact that they do just the opposite of what is rightly expected of good magistrates.
v. 3. Ye eat the fat, taking the best part for themselves, and ye clothe you with the wool, in the sense in which the term "fleecing the flock" is used even in our days, ye kill them that are fed, the most excellent of the flock; but ye feed not the flock. The action of the rulers was thus to be condemned as in every way opposed to the attitude which might justly be expected of men of their position.
v. 4. The diseased have ye not strengthened, though they were weak with the effects of illness, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, such as were crippled by the fracture of some member, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, namely, by the harsh treatment accorded them, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them, with acts of oppression like those suffered by their ancestors during the Egyptian bondage. Cf Leviticus 25:43. The picture is that of a people living under the harsh treatment of severe task-masters and driven away from their country by punishments inflicted upon rulers an people alike.
v. 5. And they were scattered because there is no shepherd, none who really performed the true ruler's function in keeping his subjects together in peace and safety; and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered, the children of Israel being harassed and robbed by all the surrounding nations, even before they were taken away into exile.
v. 6. My sheep, as the Lord still desired to regard and treat them, wandered through all the mountains and upon every high hill, as their captors scattered them throughout the nations of the world; yea, My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them, no one being concerned about their welfare nor making any effort to find out about their condition. The rulers were, in short, altogether deficient in the sense of duty which should have characterized them in their relation to their people.
v. 7. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord, in His rebuke upon the unfaithfulness of these rulers,
v. 8. As I live, saith the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the world, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became meat to every beast of the field, as a result of the shepherds' neglect, because there was no shepherd, none who really performed the work of a true shepherd, neither did My shepherds, men who purported to hold this position, search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, concerned about their own welfare only, and fed not My flock,
v. 9. therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord, the sentence pronounced upon them by the supreme Ruler:
v. 10. Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, sternly opposed to them, and I will require My flock at their hand, demanding an accounting from them, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock, take away their position of rulers by which they had enriched themselves; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more, their source of unjust revenue being taken from them; for I will deliver My flock from their mouth that they may not be meat for them. We have here a picture of the manner in which the Lord often delivers such as are His children from the injustice and robbery of men who exploit them in their own interest.
Jehovah as Israel's true Shepherd
v. 11. For thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep and seek them out, giving them the solicitous attention which their condition demanded and which their earthly rulers failed to give them.
v. 12. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock, inspecting them with careful solicitude, in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, earnestly concerned about ways and means to bring them together again after a severe storm or after a raid by wild beasts, so will I seek out My sheep, going after them with His divine care, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day, at the time when Judah was led away into captivity.
v. 13. And I will bring them out from the people, from the nations into whose lands they had been deported, 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, in full abundance, and in all the inhabited places of the country, the land of Israel here representing the Spiritual country of the Church of God.
v. 14. I will feed them in a good pasture, Psalms 23:2, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be, where the rich meadows of the uplands offered food in luscious abundance; there shall they lie in a good fold, in safe dwelling-places, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel, where the Lord Himself provided the richest of food.
v. 15. I will feed My flock, taking charge of this important function himself, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God, so that they will be secure under His protection.
v. 16. I will, by way of contrast to the selfish behavior of the false shepherds, seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, crippled by some misfortune or accident, and will strengthen that which was sick, thereby faithfully discharging the several duties neglected by the rulers of Israel; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, the wealthy and mighty oppressors of the poor; I will feed them with judgment, with justice and equity instead of the arbitrary manner and cruel selfishness of the false shepherds.
v. 17. And as for you, O My flock, thus saith the Lord God, in announcing His policy over against the entire nation, Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, literally, "between sheep and sheep," or the small cattle, lamb and kids, between the rams and the he-goats, so that the fat sheep with the rams and he-goats would occupy a place for themselves, where the Lord could readily judge them.
v. 18. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, as the rich and powerful did in oppressing the poor, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? thereby preventing the poorer members of the nation from obtaining what the rich and mighty, for some cause or other, could not use at just that moment, and to have drunk of the deep waters, getting their fill, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? spoiling it so that others would have no benefit from its use.
v. 19. And as for My flock, consisting of the poor, weak, and helpless, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, being compelled to be satisfied with the food discarded and spoiled by the mighty; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet, for want of anything cleaner.
v. 20. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God unto them, Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle, between the powerful with their presumption and pride and the weak and oppressed, who were practically at the mercy of the former.
v. 21. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, like cattle fighting their way to the trough or feeding-rack, and pushed all the diseased with your horns till ye have scattered them abroad,
v. 22. therefore will I save My flock, delivering the poor and helpless from the power of the oppressors, and they shall no more be a prey, at the mercy of unscrupulous rulers, and I will judge between cattle and cattle, so that justice would be done. The Virgin Mary was right in saying that God hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. Luke 1:52.
The Messiah as the true Shepherd
v. 23. And I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, a singular and preeminent one, the Messiah, who claims this honor for himself, John 10:14, even My Servant David, the king who was often named as the antitype of Jesus Christ; He shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd, the one truly fit to be the Ruler and Protector of His people.
v. 24. And I, the Lord, will be their God, once more occupying this position over against them, and My Servant David, the great Son of David, a Prince among them, as a Ruler in the best sense of the word; I, the Lord, have spoken it.
v. 25. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, namely, by virtue of the atonement of the Savior, Romans 5:1, and will cause the evil beasts, the various enemies who tried to hinder the course of the Gospel, to cease out of the land; and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, secure in the very midst of the heathen world, as in the case of missionaries, and sleep in the woods, in places where they would ordinarily be in the greatest danger of their lives.
v. 26. And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing, literally, "I give them [the people of God] and the environments of My hill as a blessing"; for this is the function of the Church of God in all its congregations, the visible exponents of the invisible communion of saints; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season, there shall be showers of blessing, namely, through the Gospel-message proclaimed in the Church.
v. 27. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, the believers being rich in good works as the outgrowth of faith, and they shall be safe in their land, leading a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, and shall know that I am the Lord when I have broken the bands of their yoke, that of their spiritual oppression as He broke the yoke of Egypt, Leviticus 26:13, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them, the oppressors who exploited them, including the false teachers of all times.
v. 28. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, to the enemies of God everywhere, neither shall the beast of the land devour them, said of the various dangers threatening the existence of the Lord's Church; but they shall dwell safely, in the security afforded by God's almighty hand, and none shall make them afraid, causing trepidation and terror within the Church.
v. 29. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, literally, "a plantation for a name," the expression evidently including both the Messiah Himself, as the Branch of the Lord, Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:6, and the Church founded by him as a garden of the Lord, Isaiah 60:21, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, namely, with the spiritual hunger which can be satisfied only with the Gospel of God's grace and mercy, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more, for the mockery of the enemies would finally cease.
v. 30. Thus shall they know that I, the Lord, their God, am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, those who are Israelites in truth, by faith in the one Redeemer, are My people, saith the Lord God.
v. 31. And ye My flock, the flock of My pasture, who have derived all their spiritual food and strength from the Lord alone, are men, enrolled under His banner and standing up for the truth of His Gospel, and I am your God, saith the Lord God. This is the preliminary restoration of tile Garden of Eden, in the Church of Christ here on earth, the full consummation and glory being reserved for the Church Triumphant.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany