The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. The Text is Ezekiel 34:11-24 and is perhaps one of the best known chapters in the Book of Ezekiel. The chapter begins with a strong admonition against the evil and wicked, “shepherds of Israel.” In verses 1-10 the litany is of all the things these false shepherds do, or fail to do, and how this brings harm to the sheep. Frequently this text is used for the ordination and installation services of pastors as it details what NOT to do.
The chapter moves immediately into our 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; He will gather them in—in other words, the Good Shepherd will take care of His own sheep.
The final part of the text (verses 17-24) speaks of 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 here which is both Messianic and Eschatological. While the immediate fulfillment might be the return from the Babylonian 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.
Thanks is due to H. Hummel and his excellent commentary on Ezekiel, volume two in the Concordia Commentary Series.
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, participle: “to look after; seek”
*Note how the wicked and false shepherds are gone and only the work of the LORD is mentioned.
34:12 כְּבַקָּרַת (ke-vak-ka-Rat) from: בקרה; (bak-kaw-raw) “caring for; seeking”
עֶדְרוֹ (ed-Ro) “flock; herd”
נִפְרָשׁוֹת (nif-ra-Shot) root: פרשׁ (paw-rash) Niphal: “to be scattered”
*Note how the “day of clouds and think darkness” is equated with the “Day of the LORD.”
34:13 וְהוֹצֵאתִים (ve-ho-tze-Tim) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Hiphil: “to bring out; to expel”
וְקִבַּצְתִּים (ve-kib-batz-Tim) root: קבצ (kaw-bats) Piel: “to gather”
בָּאֲפִיקִים (ba-a-fi-Kim) from: אפיק (aw-feek) “stream bed; deep part of valley flowing with water; channel; ravine”
34:14 בְּמִרְעֶה-טּוֹב (be-mir-eh tOv) “in good pastures” The positioning of this phrase at the beginning of the verse emphasizes the location more than the feeding.
וּבְהָרֵי מְרוֹם-יִשְׂרָאֵל (u-ve-ha-Rei mo-rom Yis-ra-El) “the mountains of the heights of Israel” *Note the plural for mountain.
נְוֵהֶם> (ne-ve-Hem) from: נוה (naw-veh) “grazing place; abode”
תִּרְבַּצְנָה (tir-Batz-nah) root: רבץ (raw-bats) Qal: “to lie down; to rest” See also 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, participle: “to be scattered; to be dispersed; to be outcast”
אֶחֱבֹשׁ (e-che-Vosh) root: חבשׁ (khaw-bash) Qal: “to bind up”
הַחוֹלָה; (ha-cho-Lah) root: חלה (khaw-law) Qal, participle: “to fall sick; to be ill; to feel/be weak”
אַשְׁמִיד (ash-Mid) root: שׁמד (shaw-mad) Hiphil: “to annihilate; to exterminate; to destroy”
*All the actions of the Good Shepherd/the LORD are in direct contrast to the actions of the false shepherds in vss. 1-10.
34:17 וְלָעַתּוּדִים (ve-la-at-tu-Dim) “male goat and sheep”
34:18 וְיֶתֶר> (ve-Ye-ter) “remnant; remainder; rest”
תִּרְמְסוּ (tir-me-Su) root: רמס (raw-mas) Qal: “to trample; to crush into pieces”
תִּרְפֹּשׂוּן (tir-po-Sun) root: רפשׂ (raw-fas) Qal: “to muddy up; to disturb with one’s feet”
34:19 וּמִרְפַּשׂ (u-mir-Pas) “muddied watering hole”
34:20 The LORD judges/separates between the fat and the lean sheep. This reminds us of the text from Matthew 25:31-46 which has definite eschatological meaning. Instead of berating and punishing the false shepherds, now the LORD is separating and purifying His flock.
34:21 תֶּהְדֹּפוּ (teh-Do-fu) root: הדף (haw-daf) Qal: “to push away; to thrust aside”
וּבְקַרְנֵיכֶם (u-ve-kar-nei-Chem) from: קרן< (keh-ren) “horn”
תְּנַגְּחוּ (te-nag-ge-Chu) root: נַגח (naw-gakh) Piel: “to gore; to push at; to thrust”
הַנַּחְלוֹת (han-nach-Lot) root: חְלה (khaw-law) Niphal, participle: “to be weak; diseased”
הֲפִיצוֹתֶם] (ha-fi-tzo-Tem) root: פוץ (poots) Hiphil: “to disperse; scatter”
34:23-24: Note the use of Davidic/Covenantal language, which is, of course, Messianic in
nature. Hummel notes how, “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 34:11-24.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Ezekiel 34:11-24.