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A reproof of the shepherds. God's judgment against them: his providence for his flock. The kingdom of Christ.
Before Christ 587.
Ezekiel 34:1. Came unto me— "It is probable that this prophesy immediately followed the preceding. At or before the arrival of the news that Jerusalem was conquered, the prophet was to speak of the tyranny and carelessness of the governors, and to promise the return of the people." Michaelis. Ezekiel still continues his prophetic cares and foresight toward those who survived the desolation of Jerusalem, both those who continued in Jerusalem and also the captives elsewhere. Of the former some false hopes seem to have been formed by the captive Jews, that this remnant would be still able to preserve the existence of the Jewish state in Palestine. C. Ezekiel 33:24.
The negligence of the governors being pointed out as a cause of the incredulity of the people, the transition here is natural, and the connexion close between this prophesy and the foregoing one; as also between the beginning of this prophesy and its conclusion. For, considering that in part the people suffered for the faults of their shepherds, mercy now urged the prophet to declare from God that he would judge between them—save the flock, and—set up one shepherd over them, who should feed them, even his servant David.
Ezekiel 34:2. Against the shepherds of Israel— Hereby are meant the priests, the Levites, and teachers of the law; the kings, princes, magistrates, and judges; the prophet gives them here excellent instructions; shewing them, under the parable of the shepherds, what was their duty, and wherein they had fallen short. The metaphorical expressions are all plain, and easily applicable to the shepherds of the people above-mentioned.
Ezekiel 34:3. The fat— The milk. Houbigant; with all the versions.
Ezekiel 34:4. Driven away— Gone astray: and so Ezekiel 34:16.
Ezekiel 34:5. Because there is no shepherd— For want of a shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:6. My sheep wandered, &c.— In following idols, and by making to themselves a religion after their own imagination, full of superstition and impiety. The priests and the princes of the people were so far from calling them back from these wanderings, that they were the first to follow them; nay, and even to go before, and set them the example. There was none to search after, or bring them back.
Ezekiel 34:10. And cause them to cease— And will discharge them.
Ezekiel 34:13. I will bring them out— "I will cause them to return from their captivity." In all that follows we may observe two senses; one which respects the Christian church, congregated by the Lord Jesus Christ from all quarters of the world; and the other, which respects the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. It is certain, that we cannot understand in the letter all this which is here predicted concerning the flock of the Lord, solely of the synagogue. The following verses evidently point out the office of the Messiah; and, we doubt not, have also respect to the final restoration of the Jews. See Calmet, and the note on Ezekiel 34:23.
Ezekiel 34:16. But I will destroy, &c.— Houbigant, after many of the versions, reads, I will preserve the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment: but the following verses, wherein a discrimination is made between the good and the bad, and the faults of the flock are reproved, seem to confirm our version.
Ezekiel 34:23. And I will set up one shepherd— That is, Jesus Christ, the true shepherd, who has given himself this name both in the Prophets and in the Gospel; and who has perfectly fulfilled all the duties, the characters whereof have been before described. He is called David, because our Saviour sprung from David according to the flesh; because he possessed eminently and really all those qualities which the Scripture gives to David as the type of the Messiah; and because he was the person in whom all the promises made to David were fulfilled. Though this prophesy was, in a great measure, completed, when Christ, by the preaching of the Gospel, gathered into one the children of God, among whom were many of the lost sheep of Israel; yet it will receive a farther completion at the general conversion of the Jews. See Calmet.
Ezekiel 34:25. I will make with them a covenant of peace— The Lord Jesus Christ has procured for us a perfect peace. He is the peace predicted by Micah, ch. Ezekiel 5:5. Peace to men was announced at his birth: his Gospel is the Gospel of peace: he himself is the God and King of peace: in short, he it is who pacifieth all things, and who reconciles us to his heavenly Father through his blood. By the evil beasts are meant the persecutors of the church, seducers and seduced; the impious and heretical. See Calmet.
Ezekiel 34:29. A plant of renown— That is to say, A celebrated posterity; meaning more particularly the Messiah, that branch from the root of David, so frequently foretold by the prophets.
Ezekiel 34:31. And ye, my flock, &c.— These words at the close of the chapter, explain the metaphor which runs through the whole: that which was said of a flock and its shepherd, is to be understood of men and their governors, and especially of God's people, whom he takes care of as a shepherd does of his flock. We may just observe, that the present is a chapter upon which both magistrates and the rulers of the church ought to meditate very seriously. The complaints which God here makes of false shepherds, and the terrible denunciations threatened against them, shew, that it is the business of pastors, with their utmost diligence, to watch over the sheep with which they are in-trusted, and to provide with care and readiness for all their necessities; and that if they fail herein, they must give a severe account to God. This too lays an obligation upon princes and magistrates to govern faithfully and justly the people committed to their trust. What befel the Jews, who for the unfaithfulness of their teachers and magistrates were utterly destroyed, shews that it is the greater misfortune to a nation to have wicked rulers; and that all who are in any degree concerned for the glory of God, and the edification of his church, have the utmost reason continually to beseech him, that he would always raise up to his people good and faithful pastors. See Ostervald.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. A woe denounced against the shepherds of Israel, the princes and magistrates, or the priests and Levites, who were the great authors of Israel's ruin; and though their station was so high, and their profession so respectable, yet neither would screen them from severe rebuke, nor exempt them from God's fearful wrath.
Negligent pastors are the most criminal of all transgressors, and may expect the heaviest judgment.
2. The sin charged upon them is, enriching themselves at the expence of their neglected flocks; indifferent what became of the people committed to their charge, they never thought of feeding them, but of fattening themselves. The magistrates took no pains to vindicate the oppressed, to relieve the poor, to suppress vice, or encourage religion: the ministers, intent only on their tithes and of offerings, took no pains to seek the lost, to instruct the ignorant, recover the erroneous, warn the unruly, or comfort the feeble-minded; the souls of men seemed in no wise their concern. With force and cruelty, both in church and state, they ruled; and used to the purposes of oppression the power committed to their trust for the protection and edification of God's people; so that they had really no shepherd; yea, worse than none: for those who usurped the office, were in fact ravening wolves. Woe to the poor people that are in such a case!
2nd, The careless shepherds are cited to God's bar. God will punish them, and graciously rescue the flock which they have abused.
1. He will punish the shepherds for their neglect and rapaciousness. God is against them, and his wrath who can abide? He will call them to a severe account for the loss of every sheep of his stock that perished through their negligence. Zedekiah, and the princes who rebelled shall bear the guilt of all the innocent blood which was shed in consequence thereof. And every lost soul shall cry for vengeance against the unfaithful minister who, unconcerned, suffered him to die in his iniquity. God will turn them out of their office, and suffer them no more to fatten on the spoil. The king and princes of Judah shall be hurled from their high estate, and cast into the depths of abject wretchedness, and those priests and Levites who abused their sacred office be degraded. Note; (1.) Ministers can never too often reflect upon the solemn account that they must one day make. (2.) God justly deprives oppressors of the power which they abuse.
2. God will himself take care of his believing people. Though their pastors are unfaithful, and neglect them, he will provide for them. Behold, I, even I the Lord, able and willing to save them; I will [1.] both search my sheep, and seek them out, all who stretch forth their hands unto him; all who mourn for his pardoning love; and all his distressed people, whether under persecution, oppression, temptation, or any other affliction. And this was fulfilled primarily in the restoration of the Jews from their captivity; and is spiritually still fulfilling day by day; while by his word and grace the Lord is gathering in all those precious souls who will receive the offers of his love, calling them out of darkness into his marvellous light; till he has accomplished his glorious plan of redemption, and his eternal kingdom come: may my soul in that day be the object of his care! [2.] He will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, and cause them to lie down in peace and safety, in a good fold, and a fat pasture. The Jews, on their return to their own land, enjoyed abundance of blessings, and particularly the privileges of the sanctuary and ordinances of God's worship. And in the church, the mount of God, do all believers find the rich pastures of grace, and the sweet waters of divine consolation: his saints are inclosed as in a fold, under the protection of their Almighty Shepherd, are safe from all the powers of evil, and rest under his shadow with great delight: happy the people that are in such a case! [3.] He will not only recover these penitent souls from their wanderings, but heal those of them that were hurt during their state of departure from him, and strengthen those that were sick. The awakened sinner feels his deadly wounds, his heart is broken with a sense of guilt, and weak he finds himself, and unable to resist his corruptions; but the Saviour who bought him with his own blood, pours in his precious balm to assuage his pains, and rescues him from his state of despair. By his Spirit he renews the minds of such, gives the medicine which heals their sickness, even his divine grace and pardoning love, which can save them from the bondage of corruption; and he strengthens their weakness, that they may be enabled to walk with him and please him.
3. We have a repetition of the determinations of God concerning the impenitent, to mark the certainty and terribleness of their destruction. I will destroy the fat and the strong; for he who glorifies his mercy in the salvation of the faithful will glorify his justice in the damnation of his and their enemies; feeding them with judgment, inflicting the righteous vengeance due to their iniquities.
3rdly, The prophet turns from the shepherds to the flock, for they were of different kinds. The church of professors ever consisted of a mixed multitude, good and bad; but there is a discerning Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, here spoken of, who will shortly separate the precious from the vile.
1. A heavy charge is brought against some of the flock; the fat, the rams and he-goats, the wealthy who oppressed their neighbours, and, not content with the gains of extortion, embittered by their ill usage the little which remained to the poor flock, as if they took a pleasure in their distresses. Nay, they not only trod down the pastures, and fouled the waters, but thrust with side and shoulder, and pushed the diseased with their horns, adding affliction to the afflicted. Many apply this to the scribes and Pharisees, who devoured the poor, fouled the waters of truth by their traditions, and oppressed with their anathemas the poor of the flock, who confessed the Lord Jesus: though it may be also generally applied to wicked men in every age, who have copied these destructive ways, and, though in profession the flock of Christ, have shewn themselves the most inveterate enemies of his pious people; but God will judge them, deliver his believing people from them now, and make an eternal separation shortly between the precious and the vile.
2. Rich consolation is spoken to the faithful few. God will save them, nor will he suffer them to become a prey to their enemies; particularly by raising up the promised Messiah, under whose protection his people should dwell in safety.
[1.] His character and office are described. I will set up one shepherd over them: both Jew and Gentile under him shall become one fold; and by the divine appointment he is constituted the head over all things to his church; and he shall feed them by his word, his Spirit, his ordinances, his ministers; even my servant, David, so called as being David's promised seed, and God's servant, as employed by him in the work of the salvation of lost souls: a plant of renown, most transcendently glorious in his person and offices, and exalted in the preaching of his Gospel.
[2.] For his sake God will make with them a covenant of peace. Man is by nature in a state of enmity with God, till Christ, our peace, brings us, who were far off, nigh unto God; then we become interested in the covenant of grace; God engages to be our God; and his servant David, the Lord Jesus, becomes our prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins, and to reign over and protect his faithful people, his Israel, all true believers; for there are his people, who love, serve, and enjoy him.
[3.] Inestimably great and precious are the privileges to which the flock of God—the faithful, become entitled, in virtue of this covenant of peace. While the Lord their God was with them, their deliverance was sure, and peace and plenty were now their happy portion. They shall be safe under the divine protection; their spiritual enemies, the evil beasts, subdued, and caused to cease out of the land: they shall be delivered from fear of evil; though in the midst of snares, and temptations, God will preserve them; and, having broken the oppressors' yoke, and rescued them from those who served themselves of them, he will make them know he is the Lord, by blessed experience of his almighty power, grace, and love. They shall want no manner of thing that is good; all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus shall surround them. I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; so eminently shall they be distinguished with his favours; and all who see them will call them blessed; yea, they shall themselves also be blessings to other. And I will cause the shower to come down in his season; the graces and consolations of his Spirit, which the Redeemer showers down upon the hearts of his believing people, according to their various necessities. There shall be showers of blessing; the greatest abundance of the richest gifts of God, pardon, adoption, holiness, freely bestowed upon the believing soul: and the tree of the field shall yield her fruit; the fruits of righteousness, which spring from these quickening showers of grace: and the earth shall yield her increase, in an abundance of converts raised up by the preaching of the Gospel. They shall be no more consumed with hunger, but be richly fed with that Bread which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world: neither shall they bear the shame of the heathen any more: God having appeared for them, and made it evident, by the dispensations of his providence and grace, that he is their God, their present portion, and exceeding great reward. The Jews, returned from captivity, enjoyed literally many of these blessings outwardly; but they are most eminently fulfilled to the Israel of God—the faithful, in every age, who in Christ Jesus are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 34". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany