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Ezekiel 34

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Oracles of Restoration
(33:1-39:29)
   
Prophecy Against the Shepherds of Israel Irresponsible Shepherds The Shepherds of Israel The Shepherds of Israel The Shepherds of Israel
34:1-6 34:1-6 34:1-6 34:1-6 34:1-6
34:7-10 34:7-10 34:7-10 34:7-10 34:7-10
The Restoration of Israel God, the True Shepherd   The Good Shepherd  
34:11-16 34:11-16 34:11-16 34:11-15 34:11-16
      34:16  
34:17-19 34:17-19 34:17-19 34:17-19 34:17-22
34:20-22 34:20-24 34:20-22 34:20-25  
34:23-24   34:23-24   34:23-31
34:25-31 34:25-31 34:25-31    
      34:26-30  
      34:31  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:1-6
 1Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? 3You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. 4Those 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. 5They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. 6My 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."'"

34:1 This is literally a marker for a new revelation.

34:2 "Son of man" See note at 2:1.

▣ "prophesy" This term (BDB 612, KB 659) is first used in 4:7 (Niphal perfect, cf. 37:7), but it appears often as a Niphal imperative (cf. 6:2; 11:4[twice]; 13:2,17; 20:46; 21:2,9,14,28; 25:2; 28:21; 29:2; 30:2; 34:2[twice]; 35:2; 36:1,3,6; 37:9[twice],12; 38:2,14; 39:1). See Special Topic at 13:2.

▣ "the shepherds of Israel" "Shepherd" (BDB 944, KB 1258, Qal participle, cf. vv. 2[6 times], 3, 5,7,8[3 times],9,10,12,23[twice]) refers to the leaders, both political (i.e., II Sam. 7:7) and religious (i.e., priests, cf. Isa. 56:11; prophets, cf. Jer. 23:1-4; both Jer. 23:9-10; Zech. 11:17; and king, cf. Ezekiel 22). This verb also occurs in

1. Qal imperfect, vv. 2,3,8,10,14(twice),15,16,18,19,23(twice)

2. Qal perfect, vv. 8,12,13,23

3. Qal infinitive construct, v. 10

The origin of this concept comes (1) from the pastoral traditions of the Patriarchs (cf. Genesis 49:24); (2) Moses was a shepherd (cf. Exod. 3:1); or (3) from David's early life as a family herdsman (i.e., I Samuel 16:11; Psalm 78:70-71). Sheep are animals that need constant care and protection. Shepherding became a powerful metaphor for this.

Zechariah also uses the concept of true and evil shepherds in an eschatological, apocalyptic setting (cf. Zechariah 11-13).

34:3-4 These false shepherds think more of their own well-being than they do of the people of God (cf. Jer. 50:6).

1. feed (lit. pasturing) themselves, vv. 2,8,10

2. eat the fat of the sheep, vv. 3,10 (usually the fat is not eaten, cf. 39:19)

3. take the wool, v. 3

4. do not feed the flock, v. 3

5. do not help the sick, v. 4

6. do not bind the broken, v. 4

7. do not seek the scattered, v. 4

8. treat the flock violently, v. 4

 

34:4 "but with force and with severity you have dominated them" Note the three terms which denote the cruel treatment.

1. with force, BDB 306, cf. Jdgs. 4:3; 8:1; II Sam. 2:16

2. with severity, BDB 827, cf. Exod. 1:13,14; Lev. 25:43,46,53

3. dominated, BDB 921, KB 1109, Qal perfect, cf. Lev. 25:53; 26:17 (this is the same root used in Gen. 1:26,28)

 

34:5-6 As a result of the action, or lack of action, of leaders, the people of God

1. are scattered (cf. Jer. 23:1-2)

2. are preyed on (cf. vv. 8,23; 14:15,21)

3. wandered away and no one searched for them

Sheep usually stay together. For them to be scattered demonstrates a stressful, dangerous situation.

34:5 "they are scattered for lack of a shepherd" Also refer to Numbers 27:17; I Kings 22:17; and Matthew 9:36.

34:6 "there was no one to search or seek for them" The term "search" (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal participle) is used several times in this chapter.

1. Judah's leaders did not seek, v. 6

2. the shepherds did not seek (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal perfect), v. 8

3. YHWH will require (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal perfect) His sheep, v. 10

4. YHWH, Himself will search (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal perfect) for His sheep

The word "search" is parallel in this verse with "seek" (BDB 134, KB 152, Piel participle, cf. Jdgs. 6:29; I Chr. 16:11; II Chr. 20:3-4; Job 10:6; Ps. 24:6; 38:12; 105:4; Jer. 29:13)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:7-10
 7Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8"As I live," declares the Lord God, "surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; 9therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10'Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them."'"

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:11-16
 11For thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. 13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. 14I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment."

34:11-31 Notice the number of first person masculine singular statements! YHWH, Himself will act on behalf of His people. This is exactly the opposite of vv. 2-6.

1. I Myself will search for My sheep, v. 11

2. I Myself will seek them out, v. 11

3. I will care for My sheep, v. 12

4. I will deliver them, vv. 12,22

5. I will bring them out from the peoples, v. 13 (cf. 11:17; 20:41)

6. I will gather them, v. 13 (cf. 11:17; 20:34.41; 28:25; 36:24; 37:21; 38:8; 39:27)

7. I will feed them, vv. 13,14,15,18

8. I will lead them to rest (lit. "cause to lie down"), v. 15 (cf. Ps. 23:1,2)

9. I will seek the lost, v. 16

10. I will bring back the scattered, v. 16

11. I will bind up the broken, v. 16 (cf. Isa. 30:26)

12. I will strengthen the sick, v. 16 (cf. Ps. 147:3)

13. I will feed them judgment, v. 16

14. I will judge between one sheep and another, vv. 17,22

15. I will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep, v. 20 (cf. v. 16)

16. I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David

17. I will be their God, v. 24

18. I will make a covenant of peace with them, v. 25

19. I will eliminate harmful beasts, v. 25

20. I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing, v. 26

21. I will cause showers to come down in their season, v. 26

22. I have broken the bars of their yoke, v. 27

23. I have delivered them, v. 27

24. I will establish for them a renowned planting place, v. 29

Here God acts because of His faithless leaders, but in Ezek. 36:27-38 He acts because of His people's inability to be faithful and obedient to His Mosaic covenant. This default on the part of His people precipitates a new covenant based on God's actions and faithfulness (cf. Jer. 31:31-34)! Jesus is the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10; Heb. 13:20; I Pet. 2:25).

34:12 "when he is among the scattered sheep" As a shepherd was present with his flock, so God will be personally present (i.e., for blessing and protection) with His people.

▣ "on a cloudy and gloomy day" This is an idiom for judgment (cf. 30:3; Ps. 97:2; Joel 2:2; Jer. 13:16; Zeph. 1:15), in this case Israel and Judah's exile.

34:16

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, TEV,
JPSOA,
NAB"but the fat and strong I will destroy"
NJB"I shall watch over the fat and healthy"
LXX"I will guard the strong"
Peshitta"I will protect the fat and strong"

The MT has "I will destroy," BDB 1029, KB 1552, Hiphil imperfect first person singular (דמש), but the ancient versions (LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate) have "I will preserve," BDB 1036, KB 1581 (רמש). The context supports both.

1. "preserve" fits the immediate verse

2. "destroy" fits the larger context (cf. vv. 17-22) of the chapter better

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:17-19
 17"As for you, My flock, thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, I will judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats. 18Is it too slight a thing for you that you should feed in the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? Or that you should drink of the clear waters, that you must foul the rest with your feet? 19As for My flock, they must eat what you tread down with your feet and drink what you foul with your feet!'"

34:17 "As for you, My flock" Ezekiel is making a comparison between the future condition of

1. the current leadership

2. the people

 

▣ "I will judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats" This refers to a judgment between the strong and the weak, between the greedy shepherds and the true shepherds (cf. v. 22).

34:18 "Is it too slight a thing for you" This is an idiom of inappropriate actions (cf. 16:20; Num. 16:9,13; Josh. 22:17; II Sam. 7:19; Isa. 7:13).

Sheep do not like to feed in trampled pastures nor drink from muddied waters (cf. Psalm 23). The wealthy not only exploited the weak, poor, and socially ostracized, they made it such that they could not prosper and become free of their situation. This violates many passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy about how the covenant people should treat each other.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:20-22
 20Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them, "Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21Because you push with side and with shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns until you have scattered them abroad, 22therefore, I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey; and I will judge between one sheep and another.

34:21 The leaders are described as aggressive male rams and goats that push and shove the people away.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:23-24
 23"Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 24And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.

34:23 "one shepherd" This probably refers to a united Israel (i.e., the children of Jacob, seed of Abraham). There will no longer be a divided monarchy as occurred in 922 b.c. (i.e., Israel and Judah).

▣ "My servant" This is an honorific title used first of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cf. Deut. 9:27). It is used of Moses in Num. 12:7; Deut. 34:5; and Josh. 1:1,2,13,15; 8:31,33; 11:12,15; 12:6; 13:8; 14:7; 18:7; 22:2,4,5. It is also used of Joshua after his death (i.e., Josh. 24:29). In Isaiah it becomes a way of referring to Israel collectively, but also to the special coming son of David (cf. Isaiah 40-56). You can clearly see this interplay between the corporate and individual in Isaiah 42. Note that v. 1 is quoted in the NT as referring to the Messiah (cf. Matt. 12:18-21), but v. 19 obviously refers to the people of God (cf. 41:8-10; 44:21). This interplay occurs in several of the "Servant Songs" (cf. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12), which are unique to Isaiah.

▣ "David" David became the ideal king (cf. v. 24; 37:24; II Samuel 7; Ps. 18:50; 89; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; 16:5; 55:3-5; Jer. 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:15,17; Hosea 3:5; Micah 5:2-5). David was sinful (like all humans), but he had a heart for God. He became a way of referring to the special coming king of righteousness (see E. W. Hengstenber, Christology of the Old Testament, pp. 687-690).

34:24 "I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be a prince among them" These verses are (i.e., 23-24) parallels of 37:24-25. It is obviously Messianic. Note the typical covenant language! This is reunification of the covenant people under a Davidic monarch, as well as the fulfillment of God's covenant blessings (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-28). Also note the concluding phrase, which assures the fulfillment of this divine promise (cf. Amos 9:11-15).

The questions related to these verses are

1. when does it occur?

2. who does it refer to?

Some try to relate this to the return under Zerubbabel (a prince of Judah, cf. Ezra 1:8; the exact relationship between Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel is disputed). Others note the continuing problems of the post-exilic period (see Haggai and Malachi) and assert that these ideal conditions must refer to the future.

It seems best to me because of

1. the nature of prophecy (see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks)

2. the expansion of the NT into a universal gospel (i.e., Eph. 2:11-3:13)

3. the symbolic nature of chapters 34-39, 40-41, which relates this to God's plans for a restored Israel in the Persian period. All prophecy is conditional, even this one. God wanted to restore Israel and would have if only Israel wanted to and would have been obedient.

 Does the "everlasting covenant" of 16:60 and 37:26 (cf. Isa. 55:3; 61:8) refer to a realized OT community or the NT human family? My presuppositional theology pushes me to option #2. For me as a historical-grammatical interpreter, the OT must stand on its own as the word of God. I must interpret it in light of the original inspired author's intent. However, progressive revelation (i.e., Jesus' life, actions, and teaching, plus NT authors) refocuses the message from a Jewish setting in Palestine to a universal gospel for all peoples (cf. Acts), thus fulfilling the concept of monotheism and the universal promise of Gen. 3:15. These prophecies must be analyzed through two lenses (i.e., the OT and the NT). Christianity is only true if the NT is the fulfillment of the OT and Jesus is the promised Messiah. The hope is wider than Israel. Genesis 3:15 is a promise to all the sons and daughters of Adam, not just Jews. There were no Jews in Genesis 3.

▣ "I will be their God" The king of Israel was to be God's representative (cf. I Samuel 8). This represents the ideal picture of a society where God is the true King and the righteous leader is His visible representative!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:34:25-31
 25"I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing. 27Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28They will no longer be a prey to the nations, and the beasts of the earth will not devour them; but they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid. 29I will establish for them a renowned planting place, and they will not again be victims of famine in the land, and they will not endure the insults of the nations anymore. 30Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people," declares the Lord God. 31As for you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are men, and I am your God," declares the Lord God.

34:25 "I will make a covenant of peace" This term "peace" is the Hebrew Shalom (BDB 1022, cf. 37:24-28; 39:25-29; Lev. 26:6). It must be remembered that all covenants have obligations (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT at 16:8). Free creatures have options!

 Is this "covenant of peace" the same as "the new covenant" of Jer. 31:31-34? Ezekiel 36:22-38 (like these texts) describes a new way that YHWH will relate to His covenant people, a way characterized by (1) a new heart and a new mind and (2) YHWH's personal action on their behalf. A new covenant initially focuses on God's graciousness in redemption, still desires a righteous people to draw "the nations" to Himself!

▣ "eliminate harmful beasts from the land" As is so often the case, Ezekiel is influenced by Leviticus 26 (i.e., v. 22) and Deuteronomy (i.e., 32:24). The curses of disobedience are reversed into the blessing of covenant fidelity. The blessing was always YHWH's intent. He wanted to attract the nations to Himself by blessing Israel (see SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES at 12:16).

The prophecy of the new age is Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25, which includes animals and shows the original intent of Eden (i.e., a place of fellowship between God and humanity, and humanity and the animal kingdom). The Bible starts with an Edenic setting and also ends the same way (cf. Revelation 21-22). Heaven is depicted as a recreated Garden of Eden. Animals are part of this depiction!

▣ "so that they may live securely" This was part of the promises of Deuteronomy, which Ezekiel restates (cf. 28:26; 34:27,28; 38:8,11,14; 39:26; Jer. 33:16). Their security is because of the presence of God!

34:26 "My hill" This is a reference to Jerusalem and specifically the temple mount (cf. 20:40-49). God's hill is a contrast to the worship of the fertility gods of Canaan on the natural and manmade hills.

The prophecy, which is typical of the prophets, refers to a restored Jerusalem. Must this be taken literally? This is a central issue in dispensational theology. I have come to a different conclusion. Here are the introductory notes from my commentary on Revelation.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CRUCIAL INTRODUCTORY ARTICLE

▣ "I will cause showers" Moisture at the appropriate time and in expected amounts was part of the covenant blessings of Lev. 26:4 and Deut. 28:12. These were agricultural people living in an arid climate. Society was based on the regular and expected cycles of the seasons! God controls the cycle and the seasons (i.e., Lev. 25:21).

The phrase "showers of blessings" reflects the agricultural nature of God's promised blessings (cf. Deuteronomy 28).

34:27 "a tree of the field will yield its fruit" This refers to the covenant abundance (cf. Deuteronomy 27; Hosea 2:22; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13, 14; Zech. 8:12).

▣ "I have broken the bars of their yoke" This is an idiom of oppression first used in Lev. 26:13. So much of Ezekiel's vocabulary and theology comes from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-29.

34:28-29 The nations will no longer dominate God's people. This is the result of the original covenant coming into reality!

34:29

NASB"a renowned planting"
NKJV"a garden of renown"
NRSV, NJB"a splendid vegetation"
TEV"fertile fields"
JPSOA"a planting of renown"
NIV"a land of renown"
REB"their crops renowned"
Peshitta"a plantation of peace"
LXX"a plant of peace"

The word "planting" (BDB 642) can mean the plant itself or where it is planted. So the text is referring to (1) God's people's crops and herds being very productive (i.e., evidence covenant restored, which is the fruitfulness and safety described in vv. 25-27) or (2) God's people going back to Palestine (evidence covenant restored). The LXX and Peshitta reverse two consonants in the preposition plus the noun "renown/name" (BDB 1027) and change it to "peace" (BDB 1023) to link up with v. 25 (i.e., "I will make a covenant of peace").

This imagery goes back to 17:22-24 and the opposite of 19:10-14 (cf. Isa. 60:21; 61:3). One of the titles for the Messiah is "Branch" (cf. Isa. 4:2). There is a mixing of metaphors here.

1. the cosmic tree (i.e., Ezekiel 31)

2. Israel as a plant (or planting place, which is parallel to v. 26a)

3. the Messiah as a shoot or branch from a stump (cf. Isa. 11:2,10; 53:2; Rom. 15:12)

 

34:30 "I the Lord their God am with them" These are Covenant terms which show that the Covenant has been restored in the midst of the destruction of the temple! There is no more significant statement than "I am with them" (i.e., Emmanuel).

34:31 This covenant language about God as Shepherd (cf. John 10) and His people as sheep is also found in Psalm 23; 78:52; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 31:10). This is such a wonderful metaphor of personal presence, care, protection, and provision!

▣ "you are men, and I am your God" This is not meant to be an emphasis on transcendence, but on the special creation of humanity (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7-8). The LXX omits "you are men" and it is followed by RSV, REB, NAB. Because "men" are mentioned in parallel texts in this literary unit of Ezekiel (i.e., 36:37,38), it seems best to stay with the MT.