For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

34:1.  “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


34:2.  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”


The shepherds were the leaders of Israel, and because they had abused their privilege, God here commanded His servant to warn them that He Himself was about to deal with them as they deserved.  They had failed to feed those whom God had committed to their care: they had neglected  to instruct the people in the knowledge of God, so that they, knowing His will and doing it,  would be blessed.  The selfish greedy leaders had enriched themselves temporally, and had robbed the people of both temporal and spiritual blessing.


These things, however, are not written just to inform us of the past: they are meant to warn us against duplicating the folly of those Old Testament elders.  It is instructive to note Paul’s exhortation to the elders of the churches, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” Acts 20:28.  For the most part, however, the elders of the churches have been as guilty as were the elders of Israel.  They too, busy enriching themselves with this world’s goods, have failed to feed God’s sheep, i.e., to teach those whom God has committed to their care, with the result that those who constitute the true Church are spiritually malnourished, and are ravaged by Satan and his wolves, while the apostate travesty which calls itself the church, plunges on to eternal ruin, its untaught dupes oblivious of their true state, and ignorant of the terrible eternity to which they are rushing.


34:3.  “Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed (the fatlings): but ye feed not the flock.”


“... fat” here is literally milk; and continuing to speak of the people as sheep, God charges the leaders not only with having taken the milk and wool, but with having killed the fattest of the sheep, the latter reference perhaps being to the villainy of seizing the wealth of others, the “fat sheep,” by having them put to death on false charges and by the testimony of perjured witnesses, the crowning example of this wickedness being their use of such witnesses at the trial so-called of the Lord Jesus Christ.


“... but ye feed not the flock.”  They seized all, and gave nothing.


The same evil is duplicated in Christendom.  Consider, for example, the murderous persecution of true believers by the Roman Catholic “church” in what are well named “the dark ages.”  It is evilly significant that that same “church” is fabulously rich, yet the members of its congregations are never told what is done with their contributions.  Note, for example, the eighty-six million dollars hush money paid out by Rome in 2003 in connection with the sex scandals which have rocked it in recent years.


34:4.  “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”


Israel’s evil leaders had cared nothing about the weak, sick, or tired of the people over whom they took the place of rulers.  Nor had they bound up the broken, i.e., those who had made shipwreck of their lives through sin.  Note for example, their attitude towards Judas their dupe when he repented of the wicked service he had rendered them, “What is that to us? see thou to that,” Mt 27:4.


“... that which was driven away” is more accurately the strays or stragglers.  They represent those who, having been lured by the things of the world, had ceased to participate in the religious observances of Judaism.  The evil leaders had made no attempt to bring them back; nor had they made any effort to restore those who may have been led away by false religions.


“... force and cruelty” are also translated, “violence, harshness, ruthless severity.”  They were utterly merciless, as were also the religious leaders of Christ’s day.


34:5.  “And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.”


Without true shepherd care the people had sinned and thereby incurred Divine chastisement, which sometimes took the form of scattering, as for example the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.  Their becoming meat or prey to all the beasts of the field, means that they became the victims of the Gentiles, who hated the Jews.


34:6.  “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.”


Their wandering on the mountains and high hills undoubtedly refers to their idolatry, for it was on the mountains and hills that the idol shrines were located.  Since, however, mountains and hills are biblical symbols of governments, they may be used here as metaphors for the governments of the nations, the mountains representing the great; and the high hills, the smaller nations, the scattering then having reference to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, in the course of which the Jews were scattered, not only in these two lands, but in those of the nations allied with them in their incursions against Israel.


During those dispersions there was no one to seek their welfare except God Himself.


34:7.  “Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;”


34:8.  “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock:”


God here swears by Himself to avenge the negligence of the so-called shepherds that had caused His people to be, as rendered by other translations, “looted, pillaged, ravaged,” while the wolf-like false shepherds enriched themselves, and impoverished the people for whom they had no compassion.


“... beast of the field” is used here metaphorically to describe the nations who sought to plunder Israel.


34:9.  “Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;”


34:10.  “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”


The term “Lord God” declares the omnipotence of the One Whom the false shepherds had made their enemy.  He would destroy them, and take His people out from under their cruel tyranny.


34:11.  “For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.”


The section beginning here is clearly eschatological.  He Himself will search for His scattered sheep, seeking out every last one until He has recovered them all, and brought them into the blessings of His millennial kingdom.


34:12.  “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.”


As a shepherd seeks his sheep which have been scattered afar in all directions, so will God seek His lost sheep of the house of Israel, the dark and cloudy day being the day on which Israel (the ten tribes) had been carried captive to Assyria; and the later day when Judah and Benjamin had been carried away to Babylon, and the Diaspora which finds them still scattered among the nations, except for the remnant that has been returning to Palestine since 1948, that return being evidence of the imminence of the Tribulation and the succeeding Millennium.


34:13.  “And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.”


He would bring them back from the people and countries where they had been carried, or had fled, when their own land was invaded by Assyria and later by Babylon.  He Himself would settle them in their own land in lush pastures and beside unfailing streams.


This has had partial fulfillment in the past when He brought them back from Assyria and Babylon; but unquestionably the ultimate reference is to their settlement in millennial Canaan, for their return from Assyria and Babylon was followed by their world-wide scattering in AD 70, which has left them still dispersed, except for the remnant that has been returning to Palestine since 1948.


34:14.  “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.”


This continues to point to something far better than their two previous restorations to the land, for there can be little doubt that the description here is of millennial peace and abundance.


34:15.  “I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God.”


In that coming halcyon age, the blessing, so long forfeited by her disobedience, will be enjoyed by the repentant converted remnant, the new Israel that will emerge from the crucible of the Great Tribulation.


34:16.  “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.”


The Lord Himself will search for the lost, bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, and heal the sick; all of this continuing to point to millennial blessing.


Relative to the last two clauses of the verse, the KJ rendering describes judgmental destruction of “the fat and the strong,” i.e., the evil leaders; but some commentators understand it in a good sense, e.g., will watch: protect: tend: keep.  Since, however, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance renders “destroy” as desolate: destroy: bring to nought: overthrow: perish: pluck down utterly; and Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament renders it as to destroy: lay waste: cut off; and Young’s Analytical Concordance, as, to destroy: cut off: waste, I fail to see any reason to take it other than as referring to judgmental destruction.


34:17.  “And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats.”


“... cattle” in the present context means sheep, and the judgment mentioned has no bad connotation; but “the rams and he goats” represent the evil leaders, God’s judgment of them, in the present context, implying their destruction.


34:18.  “Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures?  and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?”


The “good pasture” may refer to temporal blessings, or to the spiritual riches available to them in the Scriptures, and certainly these false shepherds had been given an abundance of both; but they weren’t satisfied.  They wanted more temporal riches, and would deprive the poor of any opportunity to also enjoy them; and while they had no use for the spiritual riches available to them, they, by their false teaching and tyranny, robbed the poor also of even those riches.


Water is one of the symbols of God’s Word as that which is given for man’s cleansing and refreshment, and is here portrayed by the “deep waters.”  The evil leaders had those waters available to them, had drunk of them, i.e., knew them, but refused to believe them and live by them; and in addition had so muddied them by their false teaching, that they were of little use to the people who were dependent on the wicked leaders for teaching.


The spiritual significance of this will be understood only to the degree that we understand the obligation upon elders and teachers to study the Word, to rightly divide it, and to be faithful in teaching it to God’s people.  And only the spiritually blind will fail to see that the deplorable conditions rebuked here relative to Israel’s evil rulers, are duplicated today in Christendom by equally evil so-called elders and teachers.


34:19.  “And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.”


The only spiritual food available to the people was that which their wicked leaders had so corrupted as to make it the equivalent of trampled muddied pasture, and roiled water, unfit to eat or drink.  Many so-called elders and teachers today are guilty of the same wickedness.


34:20.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle (sheep) and between the lean cattle (sheep).”


The fat sheep were the evil rulers; and the lean sheep, the common people.  It is to be recognized, however, that their being called sheep doesn’t necessarily imply that all of them belonged to God, the Lord Himself making the distinction in John 10:26-28, “But ye believe not because ye are not my sheep ... My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”


Even on earth the Lord judged between those who were His sheep and those who weren’t, but the ultimate judgment of both will occur in eternity: that of believers being at the judgment seat of Christ, Ro 14:10; and that of unbelievers, at the great white throne, Rev 20:11-15.


34:21.  “Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;”


Metaphorically the evil rulers, like belligerent muscular rams,  with rump and shoulder had butted the common people aside, and gored them with their horns, so that they were scattered.  By misuse of their authority as leaders, they had tyrannized the people ruthlessly.  Their counterparts are the so-called elders who rule despotically, there being many an assembly languishing under such rule today.


34:22.  “Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle (sheep) and cattle (sheep).”


God had placed a limit upon the time He would permit the tyranny to continue, that testing time strengthening the faith of believers, and affording opportunity for the wicked rulers to repent and change their ways; but with the expiration of that period of grace He would execute judgment and deliver His oppressed people, His judging between sheep and sheep having reference to His separation of believers from unbelievers.


The ultimate fulfillment of this will be during Christ’s judgment of the nations at the end of the Great Tribulation, when the unbelievers will be cast bodily into hell, and the believers will be invited to enter into the enjoyment of the millennial kingdom, as it is written, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Mt 25:34.


34:23.  “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.”


34:24.  “And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.”


The inauguration of David was the partial fulfillment of this promise, but complete realization awaits the Millennium, when      a literal descendant of David will sit upon the throne in Jerusalem, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the true David, will reign over the earth from the heavenly Jerusalem.


Some take this to mean that David will be resurrected to reign in the Millennium, but there is nothing in Scripture to even hint that any resurrected saints will return to earth in that era or at any other time: their eternal abode is heaven.


34:25.  And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil (wild) beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.”


This continues to describe millennial conditions when wild beasts will cease to exist, not by their annihilation, but their transformation as described in Isa 11:6, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them....”  Peace and safety will be universal in that halcyon age.


34:26.  “And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.”


“... them” refers to millennial Israel; and “... my hill,” to the hill of Zion, the truth declared here in poetic language being that Israel will be chief amongst the nations, Jerusalem being the governmental center from which  blessing will be dispensed world-wide, “the places round about my hill” being the nations of the millennial earth.


There will be neither destructive storms nor desolating drought: God will give the needed rain in just the right amount, and at just the right time.  The showers will indeed be showers of blessing.


34:27.  “And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.”


The Divine Artist continues to add details to His picture of the millennial earth.  There will be phenomenal productivity as described also in Amos 9:13, “Behold, the days come saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt (flow with wine).”


“... those that served themselves of them” means those who had enslaved the Jews.  God will deliver His people, and as noted already, promote them to dominion over the millennial nations.


34:28.  “And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen (the Gentiles), neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.”


No nation will ever again have dominion over Israel; nor will any wild animal hurt them.  They will enjoy their God-given land in peace and safety.


34:29.  “And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.”


“... a plant of renown” is also rendered a soil renowned for fruitfulness: vegetation renowned for its growth: splendid vegetation.  They would never again suffer hunger, or be subjected to the ridicule and taunting of the other nations.


34:30.  “Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God.”


That generation of Israel that will pass out of the Great Tribulation into the Millennium will have the phenomenal transformation and abundance of the earth as the evidence of God’s power to do all that He promises, their transcendent blessings being the equally clear evidence that they are His people, and He their God.


34:31.  “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.”


They will then be God’s sheep, enjoying His abundant pastures; mere weak helpless men, but it is in such that His strength is made perfect, as it is written, “My strength is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Cor 12:9.  It is by admitting his utter weakness that man makes himself the recipient of the fulness of God’s blessing.  The man who has God has everything.

[Ezekiel 35]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough