Ezekiel 34 – Of Shepherds and Sheep
A. God’s word to the shepherds of His people.
1. (1-2) The accusation against the unfaithful shepherds of Israel.
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
a. Prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: The idea of the shepherd in the ancient Near East often meant a king or a prince. Joshua is an example of a civil leader called a shepherd (Numbers 27:17), as well as King David (2 Samuel 5:2). Here the idea includes that, but also includes the idea of those who are spiritual leaders among God’s people. Jeremiah is an example of a spiritual leader who was called a shepherd (Jeremiah 17:16).
i. The New Testament will later make this idea perfectly clear. When Peter wrote, Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly (1 Peter 5:2), he meant spiritual shepherds. Peter wrote this keeping in mind that Jesus is always the ultimate Shepherd among God’s people (1 Peter 2:25).
ii. The idea of the LORD and His Messiah as the perfect Shepherd of God’s people goes all the way back to Genesis 49:24, and is of course reflected in passages such as Psalm 23.
iii. “The ‘shepherd’ as an image of political rulers goes back to the Sumerian royal tradition (4th millennium B.C.E.). The motif became widespread throughout the ancient Near East.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
b. Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves: Regarding both civil and spiritual leaders, God rebuked and warned those shepherds who were concerned about feeding themselves, and not their flock. The obvious question was asked: Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Godly shepherds must serve more for the benefit of the flock than their own benefit.
i. “This may be acceptable in real life, where shepherds are justifiably motivated by self-interest, but when the image is used metaphorically of humans tending humans, the shepherd holds office for the sake of the ruled.” (Block)
ii. In His great teaching on the Good Shepherd in John 10, Jesus explained this principle. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Peter later wrote of this same idea (1 Peter 5:2). Faithful shepherds care for the flock, sometimes at significant self-sacrifice.
2. (3-4) The greed of the unfaithful shepherds of Israel.
You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.
a. You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool: The unfaithful leaders of Israel (both civil and spiritual) exploited their flocks without caring for them in return (but you do not feed the flock). It wasn’t wrong for the shepherd to make his living from the flock, but it was wrong to do it in a way that neglected love for the flock and the needs of the sheep.
i. The New Testament clearly teaches that those who serve God’s people have the right to be supported by those they serve (1 Corinthians 9:7-14, 1 Timothy 5:17-18). Yet that is a right that can and should be set aside when it is better for the kingdom of God to do so (Acts 20:33-35).
ii. Yet Ezekiel’s principle is always valid. If the shepherd does receive his livelihood from the sheep, he must appropriately care for the sheep with his heart and work. If he does not feed and care for the sheep, he is an unfaithful and unworthy shepherd.
iii. “The bill of particulars was presented in verse 3, with the forms of the verbs in the Hebrew original indicating that the faithless shepherds were continually doing these acts. The emphasis was that the shepherds had but one objective in mind, namely, their own enjoyment and pleasure.” (Feinberg)
iv. “Ezekiel’s figure assumes the forceful removal of wool, making it look like the sheep are left naked before the elements.” (Block)
b. You do not feed the flock: As this idea is developed in the Scriptures, we understand that the main way that a godly shepherd feeds God’s sheep is by faithfully teaching God’s word to them (Isaiah 55:1-2, Jeremiah 3:15, John 21:15-17, 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:2). We are nourished in the words of faith (1 Timothy 4:6). Every word of God is like bread to us (Matthew 4:4).
c. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick: The unfaithful shepherd does not care for the evident needs among God’s people. Perhaps there will always be some hidden problems in the flock, but what is revealed must be cared for.
d. Strengthened…healed…bound up…brought back…sought: These words describe the actions of the faithful, godly shepherd. Many of these ideas are included in the concepts of equipping and edifying described in Ephesians 4:11-12. The variety of terms suggests that the godly shepherd will have something of the wisdom of a good doctor, able to diagnose the condition of the sheep.
· Where there is weakness, he looks for the sheep to strengthened.
· Where there is illness, he looks for the sheep to be healed.
· Where there are wounds or brokenness, he looks for them to be bound up.
· Where the sheep are disobedient, he looks for them to be brought back.
· Where the sheep are lost, he wants for them to be sought.
i. “No person is fit for the office of a shepherd, who does not well understand the diseases to which sheep are incident, and the mode of cure. And is any man fit for the pastoral office, or to be a shepherd of souls, who is not well acquainted with the disease of sin in all its varieties, and the remedy for this disease, and the proper mode of administering it, in those various cases? He who does not know Jesus Christ as his own Saviour, never can recommend him to others. He who is not saved, will not save.” (Clarke)
e. But with force and cruelty you have ruled them: Instead of the care, wisdom, and compassion that a faithful shepherd should have, these unfaithful shepherds used force and cruelty. This was their shameful crime and one reason they were objects of God’s rebuke and approaching judgment.
i. Jesus specifically spoke out against this kind of leadership in Matthew 20:25-28. He said that this kind of leadership was characteristic of the ungodly, and should not mark leaders among God’s people. Jesus certainly does not lead with force and cruelty.
ii. Leaders must make difficult choices and those choices will more than occasionally displease people. Ezekiel (or Jesus) never meant that faithful shepherds will please everyone. Yet it means that when difficult choices are made, they will be made and carried out with love and compassion. Godly shepherds will not lead with force, coercion, manipulation, threats, anger, or other forms of cruelty. This will be true of both their public leadership (such as with a congregation) and private leadership (such as with a staff or leadership team).
iii. Adam Clarke spoke of his own day, the early 1800s: “God, in this country, unpriested a whole hierarchy who fed not the flock, but ruled them with force and cruelty; and he raised up a new set of shepherds better qualified, both by sound doctrine and learning, to feed the flock. Let these be faithful, lest God cause them to cease, and raise up other feeders.”
3. (5-6) The result of the work of the unfaithful shepherds.
So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
a. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd: In both the civil and spiritual realms, when sheep have unfaithful shepherds sometimes they think the answer is no shepherds. They think that almost any kind of leadership among God’s people is unnecessary and that the flock can lead itself. Ezekiel specifically spoke against this kind of thinking. When there was no shepherd, it was no better for the sheep.
b. They became food for all the beasts of the field: This was the result of the scattering. Some of God’s flockbecame food for all the beasts of the field. The unfaithful shepherds soured the sheep on the principle of leadership among God’s people, and the flock ended up suffering greatly because of it.
c. My sheep… My flock: For emphasis, God twice stated that the flock belongs to Him. It’s always dangerous when civil or spiritual leaders begin to think that God’s people belong to them, that they in any sense own them. Peter repeated this idea in 1 Peter 5:2-3.
i. “But my flock is more than an expression of ownership; it is a term of endearment.” (Block)
ii. Godly shepherds should never use the phrase “my church” in any way other than indicating the church entrusted to them, the congregation they serve and are part of. “My church” should never be used in a possessive sense; the church always belongs to Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:18).
d. No one was seeking or searching for them: There is a sense of sadness in these words, sadness over the fact that there are so few godly shepherds. Even if the number of faithful shepherds is large by itself, it seems to be never enough to meet the need or adequately care for God’s flock.
i. “In short, the shepherds were both unfaithful and unconcerned.” (Smith)
4. (7-10) God promises to hold the unfaithful shepherds to account.
‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”
a. Therefore, you shepherds: God saw the unfaithful shepherds and would not be silent about their sins. These shepherds did not seem able to correct themselves, so God would correct them.
i. As I live: “The threat contained therein was certain to come to pass for it was sealed with a divine oath.” (Smith)
b. Because My flock became a prey: If the shepherds stopped paying attention to the flock and stopped caring about them, God did not stop. He noticed when His own flock became a prey, and He saw when His shepherds failed to search for the lost sheep.
c. The shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock: Not only did the shepherds neglect the flock so they became a prey, but they themselvesfed on the flock. They were more like the beasts that ate the sheep than true shepherds who should care for them.
d. I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand: God solemnly promised to hold the unfaithful, ungodly shepherds to account. In the eyes of the flock, they may seem to go unpunished; God promised to deal with them.
· God would do it by removing them from their position (cause them to cease feeding the sheep).
· God would do it stopping their abuse of the flock (the shepherds shall feed themselves no more).
· God would do it by removing His flock from them (I will deliver My flock from their mouths).
i. I am against the shepherds: “They have provoked me to displeasure to be their enemy, and I will appear and act so. They are enemies to my sheep, yet pretended to be shepherds, I will be an open enemy to them.” (Poole)
ii. I will require: “It expresses the legal disposition of calling an evildoer to account, in this case holding the criminal shepherds accountable for the fate of the flock.” (Block)
5. (11-16) God promises to do the work the unfaithful shepherds would not do.
‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
a. I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out: Out of love for His sheep, God promised to do the work that the unfaithful shepherds would not do. The LORD would deal with the ungodly shepherds (Ezekiel 34:7-10), but He would also seek out the lost sheep neglected by the bad shepherds.
i. Indeed I Myself: “The construction is emphatical in the Hebrew and well expressed here; I, the Owner, the Lover, the Maker, the great Shepherd, even I.” (Poole)
ii. “The picture of the shepherd searching out the wanderer, in verse 12, is a remarkable foreshadowing of the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4ff.), which our Lord doubtless based on this passage in Ezekiel.” (Taylor)
iii. There is a subtle but clear testimony here to the deity of Jesus Christ. Without doubt, Ezekiel 34 presents Yahweh as the good and perfect shepherd of Israel. Without ambiguity, Jesus took that title to Himself (most clearly in John 10:1-18), demonstrating that He is God.
iv. I will seek out: “Who is this that says, ‘I will’? When a man says, ‘I will,’ it is often braggart impudence; but when God says, ‘I will’ and ‘you shall,’ such words are expressive alike of sovereign determination and irresistible power.” (Spurgeon)
b. He is among his scattered sheep: God promised to come down among His own scattered sheep to seek them and care for them. In the greatest sense, this was wonderfully fulfilled in the work of Jesus Christ.
i. On a cloudy and dark day: “The reference to a day of clouds and thick darkness (12, RSV) has eschatological overtones (cf. Ps. 97:2; Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15) and suggests that this deliverance is to be the day of the Lord for Israel, that is to say, the day when the Lord acts in salvation and judgment to usher in a new age of his righteous rule on earth.” (Taylor)
c. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries: As promised in other places (Ezekiel 11:17, 36:24), God made promises associated with the New Covenant. These promises had a partial fulfillment in the return from exile but still await their true and perfect fulfillment.
i. “In beautiful and unforgettable words Ezekiel predicted a literal return and restoration of the people of Israel to their own land. Notice it will be a regathering from worldwide exile and dispersion.” (Feinberg)
ii. “In Ezekiel’s time, the Lord brought His people back from Babylon; but the picture here is certainly much broader than that, for the Lord spoke about ‘countries.’” (Wiersbe)
d. I will bring them to their own land: God promised to restore Israel to their own land. While there had always been the presence of a Jewish remnant in the land of Israel, this began to be fulfilled in a remarkable and significant way in the Zionist movement starting in the late 1800s. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was an important milestone in the fulfillment of this promise, though we would say that it is yet to be completely fulfilled.
i. “It is both unnecessary and impossible to spiritualize these promises. If the scattering were literal, and no one is foolhardy as to deny this, then the regathering must be equally so.” (Feinberg)
e. I will feed them in good pasture: The restoration God promised to Israel was not only geographical but also spiritual. The restoration of the land is much further along in its fulfillment than the spiritual restoration of Israel.
i. They shall lie down in a good fold: “When the Lord reveals to you that he has loved you with an everlasting love, is not that a good place to lie down in? When he tells you that having so loved you, he will never cast you away, is not that a good place to lie down in? When he tells you that your warfare is accomplished, and that your sin is pardoned, is not that a good place to lie down in?” (Spurgeon)
f. I will feed My flock… I will seek… bring back… bind up the broken… strengthen: What the unfaithful shepherds of Ezekiel 34:3-4 failed to do, God would ultimately do Himself. This doesn’t exclude the use of men and women in this work, but means that God will make sure that it happens.
i. “This message certainly must have brought hope to the exiles as they realized the Lord has not forsaken them but would care for them as a shepherd for his sheep.” (Wiersbe)
ii. “It illustrates as clearly as anything can do the tender, loving qualities of the God of the Old Testament, and strikes a death-blow at those who try to drive a wedge between Yahweh, God of Israel, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Taylor)
iii. Alexander on the words of Jesus in John 10: “It certainly appears that he had Ezekiel 34 in mind. He was declaring to those discerning Jews that he was the true and righteous Shepherd of whom Ezekiel spoke—the Messiah. He would lay down his life for the sheep, not exploit them.”
g. I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment: God promised to judge the proud among the sheep, those who were fat and strong, but not fed of the LORD. There would be a cleansing of judgment among God’s people, as described in the following verses.
i. Feed them in judgment: “It is an irony; I will feed them, but with wormwood and gall, my sore but just judgments and displeasure.” (Poole)
B. God’s word to His flock, His own people.
1. (17-19) Don’t trample the pasture and foul the water.
‘And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet? And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.”
a. As for you, O My flock: In Ezekiel 34:1-16 Yahweh gave a severe rebuke to the unfaithful shepherds of Israel. Now God spoke to the flock. The sins of the shepherds did not excuse the sins of the flock. They had their own accountability to God.
i. Modern western culture often divides the world into two categories: oppressors and victims. Great attention is given to the sins and crimes of the oppressors, and often rightly so. Yet we err when we think there are never circumstances when one thought to be a victim can also have responsibility for their own sins and failings before God.
b. I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: God recognized that all sheep are not the same, and He reserved the right to make such distinctions. When considering sheep abused by a shepherd, it may be that one sheep has no responsibility, another sheep has some responsibility, and a third sheep has great responsibility. These distinctions may be difficult for us to make, but God can and does make them perfectly.
i. “Some think Ezekiel turns here from the kings to lesser officials who had mistreated their fellow countrymen. God will judge between one class (the weak and the helpless) and another (the strong and the oppressive).” (Feinberg)
ii. “The flock will in fact be purified, not only of its bad leadership but also of its bad members.” (Taylor)
iii. “Don’t read into ‘rams and he-goats’ (v. 17) the New Testament image of ‘sheep and goats’ as found in Matthew 25:31–46, because in Bible times, it was customary for shepherds to have both sheep and goats in the flocks.” (Wiersbe)
c. Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture: God’s charge against these erring sheep was not that they ate up their own good pasture (indicating they had food enough). The charge against them was that they tread down the already eaten pasture, ruining it for the future. They did not care for their own pasture but trampled it down.
i. In acting as if the pasture belonged to them, these renegade sheep spoiled it for others. This shows that damage can be done to the flock not only by the shepherd, but also by sheep who are not considerate of other sheep, and who treat the pasture as if it were theirs to do with as they pleased.
ii. “They had abused their positions of strength and ‘bullied’ the other sheep, driving them away… there was no place for such irresponsible behavior among leaders.” (Alexander)
d. To have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet: They not only spoiled the pasture for the other sheep, they also fouled the clear waters. Again, they treated the clear waters as if they were their own and therefore spoiled the waters for the other sheep.
e. They eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet: This was the misery of God’s flock. They had to live in an unpleasant, unsustainable pasture because other sheep had abused it. They had to drink muddied waters because of the inconsiderate actions of renegade sheep among God’s flock.
i. They eat what you have trampled: “The poor, misled, and muzzled people are glad to eat such as they can catch. They are fed with traditions, legendary fables, indulgences, vowed pilgrimages, penances.” (Trapp)
2. (20-24) God will protect His flock against renegade sheep.
‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: “Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.
a. I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep: God promised to judge these renegade sheep, who in some way flattered themselves by thinking they were the “better ones” of the flock. They thought of themselves as the fat, mature, healthy sheep. God noted that the way they threw their weight around (you pushed with side and shoulder, butted the weak ones) actually abused the other sheep and made them leave the pasture (scattered them abroad).
i. It is a story told in many churches. Those who consider themselves to be mature, knowledgeable believers cause great trouble. In Ezekiel’s picture, they are the fat sheep that spoil the pasture and the waters for the other sheep. Their disruptions to the peace of God’s flock spoil the food for other sheep and even make them scatter.
ii. “It is not only the leaders who are at fault, but within the flock there are those who are concerned only with their own interests, and not content with this, are deliberately spoiling life for others.” (Wright)
iii. Pushed… butted: “It would be interesting to know whether Ezekiel had any specific examples of oppression in mind as he uttered these words. The shoddy treatment of the Hebrew slaves during the siege of Jerusalem was certainly an apt example of the truth of his allegations (Jeremiah 34:8–11).” (Taylor)
b. Therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep: God promised to rescue His precious flock, not only from the unfaithful shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-16) but also from the renegade sheep. Ironically, just as with the unfaithful shepherds, the renegade sheep made other sheep a prey. They scattered them out of their pasture where they were picked off by hungry beasts. Therefore, God promised to judge between sheep and sheep.
c. I will establish one shepherd over them: God now once again returned to the new covenant phrasing and perspective. He had in mind the ultimate, perfect gathering of Israel as part of the new covenant promises when He would even set David over them as their shepherd.
i. “What started out as an oracle of judgment ends as an oracle of salvation that speaks directly about Judah’s future.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
ii. “The full realization of the prediction of verse 22 must be in the future in Messiah’s reign. How much is to be accomplished in Messiah’s kingdom! Is it any wonder that the godly in Israel have always looked with longing and faith to that hour of blessed consummation?” (Feinberg)
d. I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them: This plain promise is most appropriately seen not as a strange and imprecise reference to Jesus the Messiah, but as part of the several promises that King David will once again rule over Israel in the Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 55:3-4, Jeremiah 30:8-9, Ezekiel 37:25, Hosea 3:5).
i. Most commentators believe that this reference to David is really a reference to the Messiah, the Son of David, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They would say the same of the many other passages (noted above) which speak of David’s future rule over Israel. Yet we can simply observe that if God did not intend David, He would not have said it. There is nothing in these texts themselves that demand that it is the Messiah and not David.
ii. My servant David a prince: In this particular passage, David is not even described as a king, but in a lesser office – prince. The idea is that this is when Jesus Messiah is King over all the earth, and David rules Israel as a prince under Him.
iii. “In Ezekiel 34:24 the prophet does not call him ‘king’ (melek) but ‘prince’ (nasi)…. He will not be a typical ancient Near Eastern monarch, but God’s ‘servant’ who presides over the kingdom that God rules. This David as God’s servant has a certain latitude in the fulfillment of his responsibilities.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
iv. “Significantly for our discussion, David’s divine election had earlier been described as a call from the ‘pasture’ (naweh), from following the flock, to be ‘ruler’ (nagid) of Yahweh’s people Israel.” (Block)
v. A prince among them: “The prophet emphasizes the ruler’s identification with the people by noting that he will be not only ‘prince over Israel’ (v. 23; cf. 19:1, etc.) but ‘prince in their midst.’” (Block)
3. (25-30) God’s promise to bring blessing and security to His flock.
“I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,” says the Lord GOD.’”
a. I will make a covenant of peace with them: Again, all this points towards the new covenant, especially in its perfection and culmination in the Millennial Kingdom. The promises of peace in the millennium are also found in passages such as Isaiah 2:4 and Jeremiah 23:5-6.
i. A covenant of peace: “The description offers one of the fullest explications of the Hebrew notion of shalom. The term obviously signifies much more than the absence of hostility or tension. It speaks of wholeness, harmony, fulfillment, humans at peace with their environment and with God.” (Block)
ii. “The original is emphatic: vecharatti lahem berith shalom, ‘And I will cut with them the peace covenant;’ that is, a covenant sacrifice, procuring and establishing peace between God and man, and between man and his fellows.” (Clarke)
b. They will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods: That this points to the Millennial Kingdom is also indicated by the promises of the transformation of the ecological order (cause wild beasts to cease from the land… there shall be showers of blessing) as is promised in other passages about the millennium (Isaiah 11:1-10, Isaiah 65:20-25).
i. “The context is the consummation of the present age and the opening of the new age. The scattered flock have been gathered to their own land in an eschatological act of deliverance, not without its element of judgment. United and purified, they now enter upon the supernatural golden age of peace and prosperity.” (Taylor)
ii. “The showers in their season refer to the former rains, which break the summer drought in late October and November, and the latter rain (gesem), which soaks the ground between December and March. On their regularity and copiousness depended the fertility of the whole land of Palestine.” (Taylor)
iii. There shall be showers of blessing: “The refreshings of the Spirit are often compared to a shower (see Isaiah 44:3). The literal is the primary concept with the corollary of spiritual elements. It is interesting to compare with the ‘showers of blessing’ the mention of ‘the times of refreshing’ of Acts 3:19-20. The curse will be lifted from the earth.” (Feinberg)
c. They shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid: God promised that in the completion and perfection of the new covenant, Israel would be restored and set safely in the land (as also in Jeremiah 23:6 and 30:8-9). God would provide all their needs, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land.
i. Garden of renown: “The meaning must be that God will provide for his people plantations which will bring them renown among the nations by reason of their abundant produce.” (Taylor)
ii. “The abundant fertility of the land, however, is paralleled in other golden-age prophecies, such as Hosea 2:22; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13f.; Zechariah 8:12, all of which see God’s future blessings in terms of agricultural prosperity.” (Taylor)
iii. No longer a prey for the nations: “They are still that today, but God says, ‘I will,’ and when He says that, He is going to do it, my friend.” (McGee)
d. Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them: God would use this preservation and exaltation of Israel to reveal and glorify Himself. He would take the shame of the Gentiles forever away from Israel, and bring glory to Himself.
i. “I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this. I imagine that you cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the children of Israel.” (Spurgeon)
4. (31) God’s assurance to His flock.
“You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,” says the Lord GOD.
a. You are…the flock of My pasture: This gave great assurance, even to the erring shepherds and renegade sheep. As long as they were within Yahweh’s pasture, they need only respond to the Chief Shepherd’s correction and instruction.
b. You are men, and I am your God: This wonderful reminder assured Israel that even though they were like sheep, they were much more than sheep. They were men, made in the image of God and capable of so much more than sheep. They needed to recognize their place as creatures (men) and God’s place as Creator (I am your God). This was both their glory and their responsibility before God.
i. Ezekiel’s phrasing here (you are men, and I am your God) acknowledged the great divide between humanity and deity. In Ezekiel’s day that divide had not yet been completely bridged by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, both God and man.