|@September 24, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
- Prophecy Against the Shepherds of Israel
- The Lord God Will Seek Them Out
- The Lord’s Covenant of Peace
The chapter opens with a word that came to Ezekiel from God to prophesy against the shepherds. The shepherds of Israel is a figurative expression referring to political leaders, perhaps primarily the kings. Kings and other leaders were commonly called “shepherds”.
In Ezek. 34:2-6, God through Ezekiel confronts the shepherds for feeding themselves rather than the sheep. In Ezek. 34:4, God listed the qualities of weak shepherds as:
- Not strengthening the weakened
- Not healing the sick
- Not binding up the injured
- Not bringing back the strayed
- Not seeking the lost
- Ruling harshly
The failure of the shepherds led to God’s sheep being scattered, wandering “over all the mountains and on every high hill” and “over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them” (Ezek. 34:5-6).
In Ezek. 34:7-10, God tells the shepherds that because His sheep had become a prey, He would step in and remove them from their responsibility of leadership. The shepherds would no longer feed themselves and God will rescue His sheep “from their mouths” (Ezek. 34:10).
In Ezek. 34:11-16, God describes how He will search for His sheep, seek them out and rescue them from “all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Ezek. 34:12). While most exiles were sent to Babylon, this was not the only country that received displaced Israelites (Jer. 43:1-7). God will feed His people and will Himself be their Shepherd. He will assume and fulfill every obligation the earthly shepherds had failed to perform in Ezek. 34:4.
In Ezek. 34:17-19, God shifts focus to address the flock, condemning the internal iniquities within them. Not only are the leaders to blame for mismanagement, but the people themselves are to blame for the mistreatment of each other. They had fed on the good pasture but left what was trodden for the rest.
In Ezek. 34:20-24, God declares that He will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. It was because His sheep had been scattered that He would rescue His flock and they “shall no longer be a prey” (Ezek. 34:22). God’s true flock is a distinct, smaller part of the larger flock. He will recognize those who are His (see John 10:14). The role of shepherd will be returned to the Davidic Messiah, who will care for God’s sheep properly. Jesus fulfills that role and alludes to the imagery of Ezek. 34 in John 10:1-18 and Jer. 23:3-6.
In the remaining verses (Ezek. 34:25-31), God says that He will make a “covenant of peace” with His people (Ezek. 34:25). He will send down “showers in their season” and “they shall be showers of blessing” (Ezek. 34:26). This deliverance will lead to recognition of His Lordship as He breaks the bars of their yoke and delivers them “from the hand of those who enslaved them.” (Ezek. 34:27). God will bless and provide for His people and tells them, “you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God” (Ezek. 34:31).
Ezekiel is now told to rebuke the shepherds who had been feeding and caring for themselves rather than the flock. They would be removed from their role as shepherds and God Himself would become their Shepherd. God would gather and rescue His people from captivity, bring them back to their land and shower them with blessings. They would be His people and He would be their God.
While reading the shortcomings of the poor shepherds, an aspect of their inadequate provision struck a chord with me. In taking the best portion for themselves, the shepherds had thwarted their calling to self-sacrifice. They had pridefully abused their power, forgoing the responsibility they had been given to supply the needs of those under their care.
As men, whether formally or informally, we are called to be leaders. And as we proceed in this role, we are to look to Jesus as our model of good shepherding; to lay down our lives, shouldering burden for our families and churches. God has uniquely created us for this purpose and has given us all that we need in Himself to be successful. It is a calling of honor to step into obedience and embody the earthly reflection of our Lord’s sacrifice.
Scripture Journal Notes
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)