25 August 2012
Extracted from the prophet Ezekiel, Chapter 34:1-11
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them:
‘“Shepherds, the Lord says this: Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!
Shepherds ought to feed their flock, yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock.
You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the wounded ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost.
On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and violently. For lack of a shepherd they have scattered, to become the prey of any wild animal; they have scattered far. My flock is straying this way and that, on mountains and on high hills; my flock has been scattered all over the country; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.
‘“Well then, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. As I live, I swear it – it is the Lord who speaks – since my flock has been looted and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of any wild animal, since my shepherds have stopped bothering about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, in view of all this, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord.
The Lord says this: I am going to call the shepherds to account. I am going to take my flock back from them and I shall not allow them to feed my flock. In this way the shepherds will stop feeding themselves. I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths; they will not prey on them any more.”
‘For the Lord says this: “I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view.”’
Extracted from the prophet Ezekiel, Chapter 34:
12 As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness.
13 I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.
14 I shall feed them in good pasturage; the highest mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing grounds; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel.
15 I myself shall pasture my sheep, I myself shall give them rest - declares the Lord Yahweh.
16 I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the injured and make the sick strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.
17 "As for you, my sheep, the Lord Yahweh says this: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.
18 Not content to drink the clearest of the water, you foul the rest with your feet.
19 And my sheep must graze on what your feet have trampled and drink what your feet have fouled.
20 Very well, the Lord Yahweh says this: I myself shall judge between the fat sheep and the thin sheep.
21 Since you have jostled with flank and shoulder and butted all the ailing sheep with your horns, until you have scattered them outside,
22 I shall come and save my sheep and stop them from being victimised. I shall judge between sheep and sheep.
23 "I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd
24 I, Yahweh, shall be their God, and my servant David will be ruler among them. I, Yahweh, have spoken.
25 I shall make a covenant of peace with them; I shall rid the country of wild animals. They will be able to live secure in the desert and go to sleep in the woods.
26 I shall settle them round my hill; I shall send rain at the proper time; it will be a rain of blessings.
27 The trees of the countryside will yield their fruit and the soil will yield its produce; they will be secure on their soil. And they will know that I am Yahweh when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the clutches of their slave-masters.
28 No more will they be a prey to the nations, no more will the wild animals of the country devour them. They will live secure, with no one to frighten them.
29 I shall make splendid vegetation grow for them; no more will they suffer from famine in the country; no more will they have to bear the insults of other nations.
30 So they will know that I, their God, am with them and that they, the House of Israel, are my people - declares the Lord Yahweh.
31 And you, my sheep, are the flock of my human pasture, and I am your God - declares the Lord Yahweh." '
Interpretation extracted from Accredited Bible Commentary:
34:1-16 Parable of the shepherds.
In a composite oracle (notice that following the revelation formula in verse 1 there are three introductory formula in verses 2, 10, 11) against wicked shepherds (=rulers; see Psalm 78:71, Isaiah 44:28; 63:11; Jeremiah 2:8; 10:21; Zechariah 11: 4-17), God declares their end. Because the shepherds of the past have failed in their responsibilities to the sheep (verses 2-6), God is coming against them to punish them and to rescue the sheep.
God will take over the shepherd’s responsibilities (verses 11-16). God will be the good shepherd (compare Genesis 48:15, Psalm 23; Jeremiah 31:10; Mark 6:34; John 10:1-18), tending the sheep, rescuing the scattered of the flock, bringing them to rest in good pastures in their own land, where the lost will be sought out and those stray brought back, where the injured will be bound up and the sick healed.
34:17-31 Separation of the sheep.
Sayings related to the shepherd theme are grouped here, though the emphasis shifts from the shepherd who has failed the sheep to judgements against sheep who have misused their power. In verses 17-19, which open with an introductory formula, God addresses the sheep with words of judgements, saying that callous, self-interest will be punished.
Verses 20-22, which open with an introductory formula, continue the theme of strong versus the weak sheep.
In verses 23-24 there is an abrupt shift in content from the theme of sheep against sheep to the theme of the appointment of a messianic prince. A human shepherd is promised who will feed the sheep (verse 23, compare verses 2-10), where God was personally to fulfill this task). David, the great ancestor of the royal house in Jerusalem, is to be the future shepherd / prince, and the Lord will be God. Jesus Christ, the descendant of David is the Good Shepherd.
In verses 25-27, which end with a recognition formula, shepherd imagery is abandoned completely as the passage shifts to an elaboration of covenant of peace between God and the people.
Verses 28-30, which also end with a recognition formula, provide information about the security and prosperity the restored house of Israel will experience.
Verse 31 reintroduces the sheep imagery in a closing formula that emphasizes God’s desire for the salvation of the people.
The many seams in this section demonstrate the importance of the concept of God’s desire for the future salvation of the covenant people to both Ezekiel and his followers.
25 August 2012