Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds of Israel

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

sheepfold

The thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel is about shepherds of Israel and judgement on His flock.

Shepherds of Israel

Ezek 34:1-6 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?

  • 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.

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.

God is mentioning 7 complaints against the shepherds of Israel.

Eating Fat

Lev 7:23 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat.

1Sam 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

Fat is prohibited by God for Israelites to eat. It is also symbolically compared with heeding to God, where to heed is better than the fat of rams. Many of today’s church leaders, instead of making the congregation follow Christ’s teachings, they make them follow themselves similar to eating the fat for themselves rather than burning them on the altar to God.

Clothing with Wool

Exod 28:39 “You shall skillfully weave the tunic of fine linen thread, you shall make the turban of fine linen, and you shall make the sash of woven work.

Ezek 44:17 “And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the house.

There are specific laws for priests on clothing which includes linen. Later in Ezekiel, we read about excluding wool. Linen is compared to righteousness (Rev 19:8) but wool is compared to sins that are forgiven or washed (Isa 1:18).  Symbolically, wool represents washed sins and such past sins must not mix with righteousness.

Wool can also simply be referred as garments (Hos 2:9), more specifically on winter for cold. Hence, the priests leave the flock to suffer in cold while they wear wool.

Slaughter the fatlings but not feeding the flock

Slaughter from the fatlings refers to eating or making a living from the flock or the people. The priests get their portion from the tithe, offerings etc what God commanded in the law. However, they don’t feed the flock.

John 21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Christ asked Peter to specifically feed His sheep. It means to teach them and guide them into the path of righteousness and holiness as God expects.

Ruled with cruelty and force

God gives a list of accusation against the priests. They have not not strengthened the weak, have not healed the sick, have not bound up the broken, have not brought back what was driven away, and have not sought what was lost. In other words, the priests least bother about the flock. In other words, the priests make a good life for themselves from the flock without feeding them and ruling them with cruelty and force.

Ezek 34:7-10 ‘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.

God is finally fed up with these priests of Israel and declares He will cease them from feeding the sheep and the cease the shepherds feeding themselves. This prophecy has significant meaning to it because it hints the end of Aaron priesthood.

Num 25:11-13 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ ”

The prophecy of Ezekiel not only mentions about a coming end to the everlasting priesthood of Aaron but also later in this chapter, God reveals that He Himself will come as a true Shepherd to seek out His sheep.

God, the true Shepherd

Ezek 34:11-12 ‘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.

Compare the above verses with what Jesus spoke:

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

Matt 18:11-14 “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The Word who was God and was with God, became flesh and came to seek and save which was lost. Christ is that Shepherd who God is referring to Himself.

Ezek 34:13-14 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.

Compare the above verses with what Jesus spoke:

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Acts 1:6-7 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

John 10:9,16 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. … And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

When God says that He will gather the children of Israel back to their own land, Christ however, informs that this task is in His Father’s authority. However, it is only through Him, and only those who enter by Him will go in and out and find pasture. Christ also reveals that this promise is for all who believe in Him which includes the other sheep referring to gentiles, not just Jews and they will be as one flock and He will be one Shepherd.

Ezek 34:15-16 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.”

Compare the above verses with what Jesus spoke:

Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Luke 4:18-21 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Again God is reiterating what He spoke earlier stressing the fact that He Himself will seek what was lost, bring back what was driven away,  bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick.

Judgment on His flock

Ezek 34:17-22 ‘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.” 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.

If you notice what God is saying in the book of Ezekiel, He never referred the sheep, goats and rams which trample the pasture as part of His flock. We know this because, in verse 19, God is differentiating His flock and those who trampled the pasture and fouled the drink with their feet. God even goes further and separates His flock within the sheep from the fat sheep. We know this because, in verse 20 and 21, God is differentiating His flock from the fat sheep which pushed all the weak ones with their horns, and scattered them abroad. Hence, God’s flock contains lean sheep which had been a prey to fat sheep, rams and goats.

Compare the above verses with what Jesus taught:

Matt 25:31-40 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for

  1. I was hungry and you gave Me food;
  2. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;
  3. I was a stranger and you took Me in;
  4. I was naked and you clothed Me;
  5. I was sick and you visited Me;
  6. I was in prison and you came to Me.

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Christ very clearly mentions about the righteous who belong to His flock. The sheep of His flock will not push all the weak ones with their horns but rather, help and take care of the other lean sheep. It is the goats who never take care of the sheep in God’s flock.

One Shepherd, David?

Ezek 34:23-24 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.

Just like John the Baptist is Elijah (Mal 4:5-6; Matt 11:13-14), if you are willing to receive it, Jesus Christ is King David in all the prophecies referring to King David returning back to rule Israel. This is explained in: Is David to rule Israel again?. Hence, Christ is that one Shepherd referred here in the prophecy as King David.

Future Blessings

Ezek 34:25-31 “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.’ ” You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,” says the Lord GOD.

We are living in the days witnessing the event which the Father had set in His own authority that the apostles desired to know (Acts 1:6-7) and in the days when Israel is safe in their own land. God reassures Israel that they are the flock of His pasture.

Compare this with what Christ taught:

John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

John 10:16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Christ also repeats the same stating the Jews who truly hear His voice and follow Him are His sheep. He then teaches that there are other sheep who will also hear His voice but not of this fold, referring to gentiles and Christ will also bring them to be one flock and He will be one Shepherd.