The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday comes from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. The text is Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 and is one of the better-known chapters from this book. Chapter 34 begins with a strong admonition against the evil and wicked “Shepherds of Israel.” In these verses (1-10) the litany contains all the things the false shepherds do, or do not do, and how they bring harm to the sheep—the people of Israel. This is a frequently used text for ordinations/installations of pastors as it details what NOT to do! Now, the chapter moves immediately into our text, the pericope beginning at verse 11, as the LORD God declares He Himself will shepherd His sheep. He will seek them out. He will rescue them. He will save them. He will gather them in. In other words, the Good Shepherd will take care of His own sheep. It recalls Jesus looking out over the people and seeing them as sheep without a shepherd, and then His declaration that He is the Good Shepherd—a fulfillment of our text.
The final part of the pericope (vs. 20-24) speaks of the judging between sheep. This change of focus moves us from all the sheep being gathered/rescued (all of Israel) to the distinguishing between the fat and lean sheep (believers and unbelievers). Ezekiel provides language and context which is both Messianic and Eschatological. While the immediate fulfillment might be the return from exile for the people of Israel, the foreshadowing of the prophecy points us to both the first and second comings of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Special thanks to H. Hummel and his Ezekiel Commentary, vol. 2 in the Concordia Commentary Series.
The Good Shepherd will take care of His own sheep.
34:11 הִנְנִי־אָנִי (hin-ni A-ni) Literally: “Behold me! Even I (it is I)
וּבִקַּרְתִּים (u-vik-kar-Tim) root: בקר (baw-kar) Piel: “to seek; to look after”
*Note that the wicked/false shepherds are gone and only the LORD’s work is mentioned.
34:12 כְּבַקָּרַת (ke-vak-ka-Rat) from: בַּקָּרָה (bak-kaw-raw) “caring for; seeking after”
עֶדְרוֹ (ed-Ro) “herd; flock”
נִפְרָשׁוֹת (nif-ra-Shot) root: פרשׁ (paw-rash) Niphal: “to be scattered”
וַעֲרָפֶל (va-a-ra-Fel) “thick darkness; heavy cloud; cloud”
*Note the “Day of Clouds and Thick Darkness” is equated with the “Day of the LORD.”
34:13 וְהוֹצֵאתִים (ve-ho-tze-Tim) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Hiphil: “to cause to bring out”
בָּאֲפִיקִים (ba-a-fi-Kim) “stream-bed; deepest part of a valley”
מוֹשְֶׁבֵי (mo-she-Vei) “dwelling; dwelling place”
34:14 בְּמִרְעֶה (be-mir-eh) “pasture” with טּוֹב (tOv) “in good pastures” The positioning of this phrase at the beginning of the verse emphasizes the location more than the feeding.
וּבְהָרֵי מְרוֹם־יִשְֹרָאֵל (u-ve-ha-Rei me-rom Yis-ra-El) “the mountains of the height of Israel”
*Note the plural for mountain.
נְוֵהֶם (ne-ve-Hem) “grazing place; grazing land”
תִּרְבַּצְנָה (tir-Batz-nah) root: רבץ (raw-bats) Qal: “to lie down” (see the Hiphil form in verse 15 where the LORD causes the sheep to lie down)
34:16 הַנִּדַּחַת (han-nid-Da-chat) root: נדח (naw-dakh) Niphal: “to be scattered; to be dispersed; to be cast out”
אֶחֱבֹשׁ (e-che-Vosh) root: חבשׁ (khaw-bash) Qal: “to bind up”
הַחוֹלָה (ha-cho-Lah) root: חלה (khaw-law) Qal: “to fall sick; to be ill; to feel weak”
אַשְׁמִיד (ash-Mid) root: שׁמד (shaw-mad) Hiphil: “to annihilate; to destroy; to exterminate”
* All the actions of the Good Shepherd/the LORD are in direct contrast to the actions of the false shepherds in verses 1-10.
34:20 וְשָׁפַטְתִּי (ve-sha-fat-Ti) root: שׁפט (shaw-fat) Qal: “to judge”
*The LORD judges/separates between the fat and the lean sheep. This reminds us of Matthew 25:31-46 which has definite eschatological meaning. Instead of berating and punishing the false shepherds, the LORD is separating/purifying His flock.
34:21 תֶּהְדֹּפוּ (teh-Do-fu) root: הדף (haw-daf) Qal: “to push away; to thrust; to shove”
וּבְקַרְנֵיכֶם (u-ve-kar-nei-Chem) “with their horns”
תְּנַגְּחוּ (te-nag-ge-Chu) root: נגח (naw-gakh) Piel: “to gore; to push at; to thrust”
הַנַּחְלוֹת (han-nach-Lot) root: חלה (khaw-law) Niphal: “to be weak; to be diseased”
הֲפִיצוֹתֶם (ha-fi-tzo-Tem) root: פוץ (poots) Hiphil: “to cause to disperse; to cause to scatter”
34:23-24 Note the use of Davidic/Covenantal language, which of course is Messianic in nature. Hummel notes, “One could almost construct an Old Testament Christology,” from these two verses alone. This “New David” will manifest the power of the LORD and will not set Himself in opposition as did the false shepherds.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24.
Lectionary Podcast-Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24.