Ezekiel 34


The prophet is commanded to declare the dreadful judgments of

God against the covetous shepherds of Israel, who feed

themselves, and not their flocks; by which emblem the priests

and Levites are intended, who in Ezekiel's time were very

corrupt, and the chief cause of Israel's apostasy and ruin,


From this gloomy subject the prophet passes to the blessedness

of the true Israel of God under the reign of DAVID, the Great

Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ being named after

this prince by a figure exceedingly frequent in the sacred

oracles, of putting the type for the antitype, 11-31.


Verse 2. Prophesy against the shepherds of Israel] The shepherds

include, first, the priests and Levites; secondly, the kings,

princes, and magistrates. The flock means the whole of the

people. The fat and the wool, the tithes and offerings,

the taxes and imposts. The reprehensible feeding and clothing

with these, as to the priests and Levites, the using these tithes

and offerings, not to enable them the better to fulfil the work of

the ministry, but to pamper their own bodies, and support them in

an idle voluptuous life; and in reference to the state, the

employing the taxes and imposts, not for the support and

administration of justice and good government, but to subsidize

heathen powers, and maintain their own luxury and idolatrous


Verse 3. Ye eat the fat] I think hacheleb should be

translated the milk; and so most of the Versions understand it. Or

they lived on the fat sheep, and took the wool of all.

"The priests," says Calmet, "ate the tithes, the first-fruits,

and the offerings of the people; the princes received the tributes

and imposts; and instead of instructing and protecting them, the

latter took away their lives by the cruelties they practiced

against them: the former destroyed their souls by the poison of

their doctrine, and by their bad example. The fat sheep point out

the rich, to whom these pastors often disguised the truth, by a

cruel condescension and complaisance."

Verse 4. The diseased have ye not strengthened] No person is fit

for the office of a shepherd, who does not well understand the

diseases to which sheep are incident, and the mode of cure. And

is any man fit for the pastoral office, or to be a shepherd of

souls, who is not well acquainted with the disease of sin in all

its varieties, and the remedy for this disease, and the proper

mode of administering it, in those various cases? He who does not

know Jesus Christ as his own Saviour, never can recommend him to

others. He who is not saved, will not save.

Neither have ye healed that which was sick] The prophet first

speaks of the general disease; next, of the different kinds of

spiritual infirmity.

Neither have ye bound up that which was broken] If a sheep have

broken a leg, a proper shepherd knows how to set the bones, and

splint and bind it till the bones knit and become strong. And the

skilful spiritual pastor knows, if one of the flock be overtaken

in a fault, how to restore such. Those sudden falls, where there

was not a strong propensity to sin, are, to the soul, as a broken

bone to the body.

Neither have ye brought again] A proper shepherd loves his

sheep: he feels interested for their welfare; he acquaints himself

with them all, so that he knows and can distinguish each. He knows

also their number, and frequently counts to see that none is

missing; if one be lost or strayed, he goes immediately and seeks

it; and as he is constantly on the watch, it cannot have strayed

far before he is apprised of its absence from the flock; and the

less it has strayed, the sooner it is found and brought back to

the fold.

The shepherds of Israel knew nothing about their flock; they

might have been diseased, infirm, bruised, maimed, their limbs

broken, strayed, and lost; for they watched not over them. When

they got fat sheep and wool for their table and their clothing,

they regarded nothing else; as they considered the flock given

them for their own use, and scarcely ever supposed that they were

to give any thing in return for the milk and the wool.

But with force and with cruelty] Exacting tithes and dues by the

strong arm of the law, with the most ungodly feeling; and with a

cruelty of disposition that proved it was the fat and the wool

they sought, and not the safety or comfort of the flock.

Verse 5. And they were scattered] There was no discipline kept

up; and the flock, the Church, became disorganized, and separated

from each other, both in affection and fellowship. And the

consequence was, the grievous wolves, false and worldly interested

teachers, seized on and made a prey of them. Of the communion of

saints such shepherds know nothing, farther than that it makes a

part of the common creed.

Verse 6. My sheep wandered through all the mountains] They all

became idolaters, and lost the knowledge of the true God. And

could it be otherwise while they had such pastors?

"Himself a wanderer from the narrow way;

His silly sheep, no wonder that they stray!"

Reader, if thou be a minister, a preacher, or a person in holy

orders, or pretended holy orders, or art one pretending to holy

orders, look at the qualifications of a good shepherd as laid down

by the prophet.

1. He professes to be a shepherd, and to be qualified for the


2. In consequence he undertakes the care of a flock. This

supposes that he believes the great Bishop of souls has called him

to the pastoral office; and that office implies that he is to give

all diligence to save the souls of them that hear him.


1. He is skilful; he knows the disease of sin and its

consequences; for the Eternal Spirit, by whom he is called, has

convinced him of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

2. He knows well the great remedy for this disease, the passion

and sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. He is skilful, and knows how to apply this remedy.

4. The flock over which he watches is, in its individuals,

either,-1. Healthy and sound. 2. Or, in a state of

convalescence, returning to health. 3. Or, still under the

whole power of the general disease. 4. Or, some are dying in a

state of spiritual weakness. 5. Or, some are fallen into sin, and

sorely bruised and broken in their souls by that fall. 6. Or, some

have been driven away by some sore temptation or cruel usage. 7.

Or, some have wandered from the flock, are got into strange

pastures, and are perverted by erroneous doctrines. Or, 8. Some

wolf has got among them, and scattered the whole flock. Now, the

true shepherd, the pastor of God's choosing, knows-

1. How to keep the healthy in health; and cause them to grow in

grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

2. How to nourish, feed, and care for the convalescent, that

they may be brought into a state of spiritual soundness.

3. How to reprove, instruct, and awaken those who are still

under the full power of the disease of sin.

4. How to find out and remove the cause of all that spiritual

weakness of which he sees some slowly dying.

5. How to deal with those who have fallen into some scandalous

sin, and restore them from their fall.

6. How to find out and turn aside the sore temptation or cruel

usage by which some have been driven away.

7. How to seek and bring back to the fold those who have strayed

into strange pastures, and have had their souls perverted by

erroneous doctrines; and knows also how, by a godly discipline,

to preserve him in the flock, and keep the flock honourably


8. How to oppose, confound, and expel the grievous wolf, who

has got among the flock, and is scattering them from each other,

and from God. He knows how to preach, explain, and defend the

truth. He is well acquainted with the weapons he is to use, and

the spirit in which he is to employ them.

In a word, the true shepherd gives up his life to the sheep;

spends and is spent for the glory of God; and gives up his life

for the sheep, in defence of them, and in labouring for their

welfare. And while he is thus employed, it is the duty of the

flock to feed and clothe him; and see that neither he nor his

family lack the necessaries and conveniencies of life. The

labourer is worthy of his meat. He who does not labour, or,

because of his ignorance of God and salvation, cannot labour, in

the word and doctrine, deserves neither meat nor drink; and if he

exact that by law, which he has not honestly earned by a proper

discharge of the pastoral function, let him read this chapter, and

learn from it what a fearful account he shall have to give to the

chief Shepherd at the great day; and what a dreadful punishment

shall be inflicted on him, when the blood of the souls lost

through his neglect or inefficiency is visited upon him!

See Clarke on Eze 3:17, &c.

Verse 7. Therefore, ye shepherds, (ye bad and wicked shepherds,)

hear the word of the Lord] In the preceding character of the good

shepherd the reader will find, by reversing the particulars, the

character of a bad shepherd; and therefore I may be excused from

entering into farther detail.

Verse 10. I will-cause them to cease from feeding the flock]

God, in this country, unpriested a whole hierarchy who fed not the

flock, but ruled them with force and cruelty; and he raised up a

new set of shepherds better qualified, both by sound doctrine and

learning, to feed the flock. Let these be faithful, lest God cause

them to cease, and raise up other feeders.

Verse 12. Cloudy and dark day.] Times of general distress and

persecution; in such times the shepherd should be especially


Verse 13. I will-feed them upon the mountains] When I bring

back the people from their captivity, I will raise up to them a

holy and diligent priesthood, who shall in all places give them

sound instruction. But this, and some of the following promises,

belong to the Christian Church, as we shall find below.

Verse 16. I will destroy the fat and the strong] I will destroy

those cruel and imperious shepherds who abuse their authority, and

tyrannize over the flock.

Verse 17. And as for you, O my flock] After having spoken to the

shepherds, he now addresses the flock.

I judge between cattle and cattle] Between false and true

professors; between them that have only the form and them that

have the power of godliness; between the backslider in heart and

the upright man.

Verse 18. Have eaten up the good pasture] Arrogate to yourselves

all the promises of God, and will hardly permit the simple

believer to claim or possess any token of God's favour.

Ye must foul the residue with your feet?] Ye abuse God's

mercies; you consume much upon yourselves, and ye spoil more, on

which the poor would have been glad to feed. There are some who

would rather give food to their sporting dogs than to the poor

around them, who are ready to starve, and who would be glad of the

crumbs that fall from the table of those masters!

Verse 20. I will judge between the fat cattle and between the

lean cattle.] Between the rich and the poor; those who fare

sumptuously every day and those who have not the necessaries of


Verse 23. I will set up one Shepherd-my servant David] DAVID,

king of Israel, had been dead upwards of four hundred years; and

from that time till now there never was a ruler of any kind,

either in the Jewish Church or state, of the name of David.

This, then, must be some typical person; and from the texts marked

in the margin we understand that Jesus Christ alone is meant, as

both Old and New TESTAMENTS agree in this. And from this one

Shepherd all Christian ministers must derive their authority to

teach, and their grace to teach effectually.

By the kind providence of God it appears that he has not

permitted any apostolic succession to be preserved, lest the

members of his Church should seek that in an uninterrupted

succession which must be found in the HEAD alone. The papists or

Roman Catholics, who boast of an uninterrupted succession, which

is a mere fable that never was and never can be proved, have

raised up another head, the POPE. And I appeal to themselves, in

the fear of God, whether they do not in heart and in speech trace

up all their authority to him, and only compliment Christ as

having appointed Peter to be the first bishop of Rome, (which is

an utter falsity, for he was never appointed to such an office

there, nor ever held such an office in that city, nor, in their

sense, any where else;) and they hold also that the popes of Rome

are not so much Peter's successors as God's vicars; and thus both

God and Peter are nearly lost sight of in their papal

enumerations. With them the authority of the Church is all in

all; the authority of Christ is seldom mentioned.

Verse 24. I the Lord will be their God, and my Servant David a

Prince] Here we find God and his Christ are all in all in his

Church, and Jesus is still PRINCE among them; and to him the call

and qualifications of all genuine pastors belong, and from him

they must be derived. And he has blotted out what is called

uninterrupted succession, that every Christian minister may seek

and receive credentials from himself. Here is the grand reason why

the uninterrupted succession cannot be made out. And here is the

proof also that the Church that pretends to it, and builds upon

it, must be a false Church; for it is founded on a falsity; an

uninterrupted succession which does not exist either in history

or in fact.

Verse 25. I will make with them a covenant of peace] The

original is emphatic: \@vecharatti lahem berith

shalom\@, "And I will cut with them the peace covenant;" that is, a

covenant sacrifice, procuring and establishing peace between God

and man, and between man and his fellows. I need not tell the

reader that the cutting refers to the ancient mode of making

covenants. The blood was poured out; the animal was divided from

mouth to tail, exactly in two; the divisions placed opposite to

each other; the contracting parties entered into the space, going

in at each end, and met in the middle, and there took the covenant

oath. He is the Prince of peace, and through him come glory to God

in the highest, and peace and good will to men upon earth.

And will cause the evil beasts to cease] These false and

ravenous pastors. Christ purges them out of his Church, and

destroys that power by which they lorded it over God's heritage.

Verse 26. The shower to come down] The Holy Spirit's influence.

There shall be showers of blessing.] Light, life, joy, peace,

and power shall be manifest in all the assemblies of Christ's


Verse 29. I will raise up-a plant of renown] matta

leshem, "a plantation to the name;" to the name of CHRIST. A

Christian Church composed of men who are Christians, who have

the spirit of Christ in them, and do not bear his name in vain. I

believe the words might be applied to the Christian Church; but

that Christ may be called a plant or plantation here,-as he is

elsewhere called a branch and a rod, Isa 4:2; 11:1; so

Jer 23:5; 35:15,-is most probable. He is the Person of

name, leshem, JESUS; the Saviour, CHRIST; the Anointer,

long spoken of before he was manifested in the flesh, and since

the daily theme in the Church militant. It is he who hath loved

us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, no other name

being given under heaven among men by which we can be saved; he

who has a name above every name, and at whose name every knee

shall bow; through whose name, by faith in his name, the diseased

are healed; and in whose name all our prayers and supplications

must be presented to God to make them acceptable. This is the

Person of NAME!

They shall be no more consumed with hunger] For this glorious

plant of name is the Bread of life; and this is broken in all

the assemblies of his people where his name is properly


Verse 31. And ye my flock] That is, under the allegory of a

flock of sheep, I point out men; under that of a pasture, my

Church, and under that of a shepherd, the Messiah, through whom

I am become your God. And he who is your God is Adonai

Jehovah, the self-existent Being; the Governor and Director, as

well as the Saviour and Judge of men.

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