The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (22)

Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper


      1. Some Preliminary Observations
      2. The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
      3. The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
      4. The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
      5. Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
      6. The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
      7. Prophecy and Idolatry
      8. Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
      9. The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
      10. God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
      11. The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
      12. Israel's Past and Future Experiences
      13. The Sword of Jehovah
      14. Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
      15. The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
      16. The Boiling Caldron
      17. Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
      18. The Oracle Concerning Tyre
      19. The Oracles Concerning Egypt
      20. The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
      21. The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
      22. The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
      23. The Judgment upon Edom
      24. The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
      25. Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
      26. The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
      27. The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
      28. The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
      29. The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
      30. The Millennial Jerusalem
      31. The Millennial Temple
      32. The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
      33. The Land of Israel in the Millennium

The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd

In the last installment of this series we studied the first sixteen verses of Ezekiel, chapter 34. Here we saw that the leaders of Israel, both political and religious, are represented by shepherds who, not being interested in their flocks but more concerned about living in luxury, in ease, and in pleasure, use their high offices for their own special benefits.

But in verses 11-16 the Lord foretold that He himself would come and become the Shepherd of Israel to gather her who is scattered in the dark and cloudy day and to restore her to her own land and to fellowship with Himself. In verses 17-24 the prophet continues the same figure of representing Israel and its leaders, by the figure of a shepherd and his flock.

The Rams, The He-Goat and The Flock

In verse 17 the Lord showed that He intends to deal with the people individually and not simply collectively. He will therefore judge between sheep and sheep and the rams and he-goats. The rams and he-goats of course, in this extension of the figure, represent the leaders, both political and religious; whereas the sheep stand for the great masses of the people. In verse 14 the prophet spoke of these political leaders as feeding upon the very best of the pasture. It is always true that the leaders of any group usually have the best of the community. But Ezekiel reprimands these same leaders and tells them that they are not only getting the best portion of the pasture, but they go to watering troughs, there make the water muddy, and befoul it, but the sheep have no other place at which they go to drink. Thus they have to take what is left and accept the conditions that are created by the rams and the he-goats.

It is a well-known fact that the leaders of any group, race, or nation do create, as a rule, the conditions that prevail. They can either improve them or let the situation deteriorate. Then the people have to suffer for the misconduct and the misdemeanors of the leaders.

Happy and blest are the people who are guided by men of vision, men who are unselfish, who put the public interest first and foremost, and who make their own personal, private matters a secondary consideration. Isaiah spoke about the leaders of the people in his day and compared them to dumb dogs that bask in the sunlight and were too lazy to bark at the approach of danger. He spoke again and called them the shepherds of the flock and said that they were simply interested in the satisfaction of their own carnal fleshly desires and lusts: “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day, a day great beyond measure.” Judgment awaits people who are thus placed in positions of responsibility and leadership. God deals with everyone according to the advantages and opportunities which he has enjoyed, and the position which he occupies. Those, then, who are placed in the position of leadership, both in the state and in religious circles, will be held to a very strict account for the discharge of the functions and duties of the offices which they fill. This is especially applicable to the ministers of the Word, pastors, teachers, preachers, writers, editors, and officials in the denominations and in the local congregations. May God open our eyes and enable us to see the great responsibility that rests upon us to guide and to direct the thoughts and the lives of the people in accordance with the will of God. May He enable us who are teaching His Word to study it and to give it forth without fear or favor of anyone.

The True Shepherd of Israel

The promise found in verses 23 and 24 has given occasion to much controversy:

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. 24 And I, Jehovah, will be their God, and my servant David prince among them; I, Jehovah, have spoken it.” (Ezekiel 34:23,24)

Who is this one Shepherd whom God will place over His people Israel? Since this one is called David, many excellent Bible students see in this prediction a forecast that God will raise King David, bring him back to life, and will place him over Israel restored. It is therefore believed by these commentators that David will reign during the Millennial Age in Jerusalem over restored, converted Israel. It is furthermore believed by these expositors that Christ will reign in a Jerusalem that will be created, and that will be suspended in the air above the city. Thus these good brethren interpret the expression, “my servant David,” literally and apply it to King David, the father of Solomon. They should recall, however, that the word David is used also in an accommodated sense to refer to one of his descendants. In I Kings 12:16 we have this language: “... now see to thine own house, David.” King David had been dead forty years when this statement was made. From the context we see that the people were talking of Rehoboam, the grandson of David and his successor. Since the term, David, is used both literally and in the accommodated, figurative sense, of referring to a descendant and successor of David — the meaning to be determined by the facts of each context studied in the light of related passages — it becomes necessary for us to determine whether this name in Ezekiel 34:23,24 is used literally in referring to King David or to one of his descendants and successors. What do the facts of this context indicate? Let us remember that chapter 34 is one single oracle. In verse 11 the Lord, having condemned the faithless shepherds of Israel for their failure to perform their duties, declared saying, “Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep and will seek them out.” The ancient rabbis interpreted this passage as a prediction that God himself would come in the form of a man and perform the functions of the offices of both the political and religious leaders. With this thought in mind, that Jehovah himself would come and would play the part of a shepherd, in restoring Israel to her own land, we see that the promise in verses 23 and 24 concerning God's setting up one shepherd — in contrast to many — over His people, and that this shepherd should be David his servant, we come to the conclusion that the word, David, is used in the figurative sense of referring to a descendant and successor of David, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will wear the double crown — that of royalty and that of priesthood (Zechariah 6:12-14).

The New Covenant and its Privileges

Isaiah, foretold that God would make a new covenant with Israel, an everlasting covenant (Isa. 61:8). Jeremiah foretold the same thing (Jeremiah 31:31f). Ezekiel speaks of this new covenant as “a covenant of peace.” And that covenant is made with Israel in real peace. Freedom from all danger of every sort will be the order of the day. At that time the Lord will establish the mountain of Jehovah's house on the top of the mountains and will make all places connected with it a blessing. For there shall be showers of blessing (vs. 26).

At that time the curse will be lifted from the earth and all the plants and vegetation and trees will bear their full increase. The people of course will enjoy the finest of the wheat, as the psalmist sang.

Israel's day of sorrow will be passed. She will no longer become a prey to the nations, to be driven from one place to another and to be robbed.

At that time the land of Israel will be “a plantation for renown.” Never will there be any earthquakes, any calamities. There will be no tornadoes, no famine, nothing to blast fruits and vegetables, and nothing to plague man.

At that time Jehovah will be Israel's God in the true sense of the term. He has been and is her God now, but she will not let Him pour out the fullness of His blessings upon her. At that future time, she will. The same thing may be said of Christians today. But when this prophecy is fulfilled, Israel will be the sheep of God's pasture and Jehovah himself will be the true Shepherd, who will meet all of their needs.

Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.” (Psalm 23:1-6)

Next: The Judgment upon Edom