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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
The prophet has yet to pronounce a judgment upon unfaithful rulers, whose punishment will further the good of those whom they have misguided. He shows what the rulers should have been, what they have been, and what in the coming times they shall be when the True King shall reign in the true kingdom. Hence, follows a description of Messiah's reign.
2Son 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?
Shepherds - Not priests or prophets, but rulers and kings (see the Jeremiah 2:8 note). The most ancient title for "ruler" is a monogram which occurs on the oldest monuments discovered in the cuneiform character. In the Assyrian language it became riu (compare Hebrew רעה râ‛âh equals shepherd). In the traditions of Berosus we find that Alorus, the first king in the world, received from the Divinity the title of Shepherd. The title, as well as the monogram, was preserved to the latest times of the Assyrian monarchy. While the distress and misery of the people daily in creased, the last kings of Judah exacted more and more from their subjects and lavished more and more on personal luxury and show.
3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
4The 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.
5And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
6My 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.
7Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
8As 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;
9Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
10Thus 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.
11For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
Yahweh is the shepherd of His people. He will do all which the shepherds should have done and did not. These promises - partially fulfilled in the return from Babylon, and in the subsequent prosperity under the Maccabees - point to the ingathering of all nations in the Church of Christ the Good Shepherd. Compare Matthew 18:11 : John 10:1-18; Romans 9:25-33.
12As 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.
The cloudy and dark day - Contrasted with the day in which the Lord will be among them like a shepherd to gather them together again.
13And 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.
14I 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.
15I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.
16I 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.
With judgment - It is characteristic of Yahweh as a shepherd that He judges between sheep and sheep, rejecting the proud and accepting the penitent and broken-hearted.
17And 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.
18Seemeth 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?
19And 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.
20Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
Yahweh having promised to be a Ruler of His people, the administration of the divine kingdom is now described, as carried on by One King, the representative of David, whose dominion should fulfill all the promises originally made to the man after God's own heart. Ezekiel does not so much add to, as explain and develope, the original promise; and as the complete fulfillment of the spiritual blessings, which the prophets were guided to proclaim, was manifestly never realized in any temporal prosperity of the Jews, and never could and never can be realized in any earthly kingdom, we recognize throughout the Sacred Volume the one subject of all prophecy - the Righteous King, the Anointed Prince, the Son and the Lord of David.
21Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;
22Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.
23And 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.
One shepherd - One, as ruling over an undivided people, the distinction between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah having been done away.
My servant David - David was a fit type of the True King because he was a true and faithful servant of Yahweh. That which David was partially and imperfectly, Christ is in full perfection (compare Matthew 12:18; John 5:30; Hebrews 10:7.)
24And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.
25And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.
26And 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.
The blessings here foretold are especially those of the old covenant. The wilderness (or, pasture-country) and the woods, the places most exposed to beasts and birds of prey, become places of security. Under the new covenant Sion and the hills around are representative of God's Church; and temporal blessings are typical of the blessings showered down upon Christ's Church by Him who has vanquished the powers of evil.
27And 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.
28And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.
29And 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 - Equivalent to the "Branch," under which name Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesy of the Messiah. The contrast in this verse to hunger seems to favor the idea that the "plant" was for food, i. e., spiritual food, and in this sense also, applicable to the Messiah (compare John 6:35.)
The shame of the pagan - The shameful reproaches with which the pagan assail them.
30Thus 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.
31And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.
Translate "Ye are my flock, the flock of my pasture (compare Jeremiah 23:1); ye are men, and I am your God."