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The theme of this chapter is the assurance of covenant relationship that will come through God’s removal of bad leadership and his provision of good leadership for his people.
Context - chp 34 in the structure of the book
This chapter is not matched by anything in the first part of the book; there is no ‘shepherd passage’ in chs. 1–24. However, there are passages which are critical of the kings of the late pre-exilic period (cf. 19:1-14 where the indictment is general, and 21:25 where Zedekiah in particular appears to be on view). Chapter 34 must be understood against the background of these earlier passages. It is the shepherd metaphor which is new in the second half of the book, not the indictment of kings as such. If the role of Ezekiel as watchman in ch.33 is essentially pastoral (see previous notes), then there is a natural progression from there to ch.34, where what is primarily on view is the failure of Israel’s kings/leaders to exercise proper pastoral care of the flock. There is a further connection in the reference to the sheep being required at the shepherd’s hands (v. 10). In a sense the kings of the past had been watchmen who failed. Looking forward, chapter 34 anticipates ch.37, where the promise of a new David and a new covenant is restated more fully (37:24-27). The reference to the mountains of Israel in 34:14 anticipates the fuller treatment of the repopulating of Israel’s mountains in ch.36. So ch.34 is clearly linked into its context, and it could be that chs 33–37 are a major compositional unit comparable to, say, chs 8–11 or chs 40–48. This will require further examination as we proceed. It seems that v.10 presupposes that the monarchy is still in existence and that therefore at least the first oracle in this chapter is chronologically out of place after ch.33 (in which the fall of Jerusalem has been reported). 144 If so, we must conclude that thematic considerations have sometimes taken precedence over chronological ordering of the material. In any case, the focus on restoration would account for the positioning of this material within the overall structure of the book.
This oracle (concerning the shepherds and the sheep), may be divided into two major sections: vv.1-16 (with the spotlight on the shepherds) and vv.17-31 (with the spotlight on the sheep), 145 which form parallel panels until the last subsection (vv.25-31)—the climax of the oracle. Hence:
A The oracle concerning the shepherds (vv.1-16) (i) Indictment of bad shepherds (vv.1-6) (ii) Judgement of bad shepherds (vv.7-10) (iii) Provision of a good shepherd— Yahweh himself (vv.11-16) B.The oracle concerning the sheep (vv.17-31) (i) Indictment of bad sheep (vv.17-19) (ii) Judgement of bad sheep (vv.20-22) (iii) Provision of a good shepherd — ‘my servant, David’ (vv.23-24) (iv) Climax: Establishment of a covenant of peace (vv.25-31)
The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: shepherds of Israel yourselves! Ah, who have been feeding
Should not shepherds feed the
sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. Ezek. 34:7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and sheep at their hand and feeding the sheep. No I will require my longer shall the put a stop to their I will rescue my
shepherds feed themselves. food for them. Ezek. 34:11
sheep from their mouths, that they may not be
“For thus says the Lord GOD:
Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they
have been scattered on thick darkness. from the peoples
a day of clouds and
13 And I will bring them out and gather them from the
countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
Ezek. 34:17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? Ezek. 34:20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord
GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he
shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. LORD; I have spoken. Ezek. 34:25 so that “I will make with them a covenant may dwell securely in the I am the
of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, they wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no nor shall the They shall more be a prey to the nations,
beasts of the land devour them.
dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be 30 consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”
The Jeremiah Connection Ezekiel 34 seems to be largely modelled on Jer 10:21 and 23:16. See comment by Allen (p.161; also Block, pp.275-77).
The NT Allusions
Allen suggests the following: Luke 19:10; John 10 (esp. v.16); Rev 7:17; Matt 25:32-46; Jude 12, but it is not hard to think of others (e.g. Matt 9:36; 18:12; Luke 15:4; 1 Pet 2:25). Thus the identity of the Davidic Shepherd anticipated by Ezekiel is left in no doubt. As Duguid observes, however, while the ‘good Shepherd’ anticipated in Ezek 34 is obviously Jesus, the biblical-theological application of this chapter extends beyond Jesus to those who are his under-shepherds today (cf. 1 Pet 5:2-4; Acts 20:28-29).
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