Ezek 34:1-31 is a prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. These shepherds are rulers of Israel. Other references to shepherds of Israel include: 1 Ki 22:17, Micaiah’s prophecy to Ahab when he “saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd”; and Ps 80:1, Asaph’s psalm addressing the Lord as the “Shepherd of Israel”. Furthermore, in Ezek 34:23, the Lord says that he will set up David as the one shepherd over Israel. This will occur after Jesus returns.
Therefore, this prophecy against the shepherds of Israel is a prophecy against her rulers. Notice at the end of verse 4, Ezekiel says, “with cruelty have ye ruled them”. And since her rulers are likened to shepherds, the people they ruled are likened to a flock of sheep, Ezek 34:31.
The Rulers Weren’t Good Shepherds of Israel
v.2-3. The rulers didn’t care for the sheep the way a shepherd would care for his sheep. They fed themselves, v.2. They ate the fat. v.3 (mutton tallow is used for flavoring food and binding sausage). They clothed themselves with wool, v.3, as from sheep that have been shorn. And they killed fed sheep, v.3, like a butcher. But they didn’t feed the flock, v.3.
v.4. They didn’t strengthen the diseased, or heal the sick, or bind up the broken, or recover those driven away, or seek the lost, all of which shepherds do. Rather they ruled them with force (violence contrary to the law which inspires fear of pain, harm, or death) and cruelty.
v.5-6. The sheep were scattered upon mountains, high hills, and over the face of the earth. And they were devoured by beasts. A good shepherd always protects his sheep from predators and searches and seeks for them when they are scattered. The rulers didn’t do this. Israel was scattered to numerous countries.
Thus God Caused Them to Cease From Being Shepherds
v.7-10. Because the flock became a prey and the shepherds didn’t search for them, but rather fed themselves, God was against the shepherds. God caused them to cease. They would neither feed themselves nor feed the flock, because God delivered them from their mouth. This is a reference to the end of the rule of the kings following Nebuchadnezzars invasion.
The Lord Became Their Shepherd
v.11-12. Like a good shepherd, he would search his sheep and seek them out. Jesus did this when he came the first time. And he will do it again when he returns in “the cloudy and dark day”, a reference to the end of the Tribulation and the Second Coming.
v.13. He will gather them out of all the countries where they are scattered. And he will bring them into their own land, where he will feed them upon the mountains of Israel and all the inhabited places of the country.
v.14-15. They will feed in a good pasture and in a fat pasture and they shall lie down. The picture is the restoration of Israel during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, when Israel are gathered, safe, and in peace.
v.16. He will seek the lost, bring again those driven away, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick. But he will destroy the fat and strong. These are the ones that get rich off the poor and needy among the flock.
v.17-19. The Lord will judge between the cattle. The fat and strong ate up the good pasture and then trampled the residue, and drank the deep water but fouled the residue with their feet. The flock then had to eat the trodden pasture and drink foul water.
v.20-22. The Lord therefore will judge between the fat and the lean cattle. Because the fat cattle pushed the diseased and scattered them, therefore the Lord will save the lean so they won’t be a prey.
v.23-24. After the resurrection of Israel, in the millennial reign of Jesus, the Lord will set David up as their shepherd and he will feed them and the Lord will be their God.
v.25. God will make a covenant of peace with them and evil beasts will cease. The sheep will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.
v.26. The Lord will bless the land and cause showers of blessing to come down.
v.27-28. The tree of the field shall yield fruit and the earth her increase. Israel shall be safe in their land. The will know the Lord, Heb 8:8-13, and the yoke of those whom they served shall be broken. They will no longer be a prey but shall dwell safely. They won’t be afraid.
v.29. God will raise up for them a plant of renown (Jesus, Is 53:1,2; Jn 15:1) so they will neither be consumed with hunger nor bear the shame of the heathen.
v.30-31. God will be with them; he will be their God and they will be his people, the flock of his pasture. A good cross reference to this chapter is Isaiah 60.
To study the prior Sunday School lesson, see Ezekiel’s Mouth Opens.
To study the next Sunday School lesson, see Mount Seir.