Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Restoration of Israel, and Destruction of Gog and Magog - Ezekiel 34-39
The promise of the salvation, which is to blossom for the covenant nation after the judgment, commences with the announcement that the Lord will deliver Israel out of the hand of its evil shepherds, who only feed themselves and destroy the flock, and will take care of His own flock, gather them together, feed and tend them on a good meadow, protect the weak sheep against the strong, and through His servant David bring security and blessing to the whole of the flock (Ezekiel 34). This comprehensive promise is carried out still further in the following chapters in various phases. Because Edom cherishes perpetual enmity against the sons of Israel, and has sought to take possession of their land, in which Jehovah was, the mountains of Seir shall become a perpetual desert (Eze 35:1-15); whereas the devastated land of Israel shall be rebuilt, and sown once more, bear fruit, and be filled with man and beast (Eze 36:1-15). The Lord will do this for His holy name's sake, will cleanse His people from their sins, when gathered out of the nations, by sprinkling them with pure water, and renew them by His Spirit in heart and mind, that they may walk in His commandments, and multiply greatly in their land, when it has been glorified into a garden of God (Ezekiel 36:16-38). The house of Israel, which has been slain with the sword, and has become like a field full of dry bones of the dead, the Lord will awaken to new life, and bring in peace into the land of Israel (Eze 37:1-14); the two divided peoples and kingdoms of Israel He will unite into one people and kingdom, will liberate them from their sins, cause them to dwell in the land given to His servant Jacob under the sovereignty of His servant David, will make with them a covenant of peace for ever, and dwell above them as their God for ever in the sanctuary, which He will establish in the midst of them (Eze 37:15-28). And, finally, in the last time, when Israel is dwelling in its own land in security and peace, the Lord will bring Gog from the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, with a powerful army of numerous peoples, into the land that has been restored from the sword; but when he has come to plunder and prey, the Lord will destroy him with all his army, and by this judgment display His glory among the nations, and so have compassion upon the whole house of Israel, and because He has poured out His Spirit upon it, will hide His face from it no more (Ezekiel 38 and 39). - From this general survey it is evident that the words of God contained in Ezekiel 34-37 announce the restoration and exaltation of Israel to be the sanctified people of God, and Ezekiel 38 and 39 the lasting establishment of this salvation, through the extermination of those enemies who rise up against the restored people of God.
Deposition of the Bad Shepherds; Collecting and Tending of the Flock; and Appointment of the One Good Shepherd - Ezekiel 34
The shepherds, who have fed themselves and neglected the flock, so that it has been scattered and has become a prey to wild beasts, will be deprived by the Lord of their office of shepherd (Eze 34:1-10). And He will take charge of His own flock, gather it together from its dispersion in the lands, feed and tend it on good pasture in the land of Israel, and sift it by the extermination of the fat and violent ones (Eze 34:11-22). He will appoint His servant David shepherd over His flock, make a covenant of peace with His people, and bless the land with fruitfulness, so that Israel may dwell there in security, and no more be carried off either as booty for the nations or by famine, and may acknowledge Jehovah as its God (Eze 34:23-31).
This word of God is a repetition and further expansion of the short prophecy of Jeremiah in Jer 23:1-8. The threat against the bad shepherds simply forms the foil for the promise, that the flock, which has been plunged into misery by bad shepherds, shall be gathered and tended by the Lord and His servant David, whom Jehovah will appoint prince over His people, so that it is essentially a prophecy of salvation for Israel. - The question in dispute among the commentators, whether we are to understand by the shepherds, out of whose hand and tyranny the Lord will rescue Israel His flock, the priests ad kings (Ephr., Syr., and Theodoret), or the false prophets and false teachers of the people (Glass and others), or simply the kings (Hengst., Hהv., and others), or all those who, by reason of their office, were leaders of the people, rulers, priests, and prophets, "the whole body of official persons charged with the direction of the nation" (Kliefoth), may be settled by the simple conclusion, that only the rulers of the nation are intended. This is proved not only by the biblical idea of the shepherd generally, which (probably in distinction from the idea of the bell-wether) is everywhere employed to denote rulers alone, but more particularly by the primary passage already referred to (Jer 23:1-8), where we are to understand by the shepherds, kings and princes, to the exclusion of priests and prophets, against whom Jeremiah first prophesies from Eze 34:9 onwards; and, lastly, by the antithesis to the good shepherd, David, who is to feed the flock of Jehovah as prince (נשׂיא), and not as priest or prophet (Eze 34:23, Eze 34:24). Only we must not take the term rulers as applying to the kings alone, but must understand thereby all the persons entrusted with the government of the nation, or the whole body of the civil authorities of Israel, among whom priests and prophets come into consideration, not on account of their spiritual calling and rank, but only so far as they held magisterial offices. And apart from other grounds, we are not warranted in restricting the idea of shepherds to the kings alone; for the simple reason that our prophecy, which dates from the time succeeding the destruction of Jerusalem, does not apply to the former rulers only, i.e., the kings who had fallen along with the kingdom of Judah, but although treating of shepherds, who had scattered Israel among the nations, assumes that the rule of these shepherds is still continuing, and announces their removal, or the deliverance of the flock out of their hand, as something to be effected in the future (cf. Eze 34:8-10); so that it also refers to the civil rulers who governed Israel after the overthrow of the monarchy, and even after the captivity until the coming of the Messiah, the promised Prince of David.
Woe to the Bad Shepherds
Eze 34:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 34:2. Son of man, prophesy concerning the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, to the shepherds, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who fed themselves; should not the shepherds feed the flock? Eze 34:3. Ye eat the fat, and clothe yourselves whit the wool; ye slay the fattened; the flock ye do not feed. Eze 34:4. The weak ones ye do not strengthen, and that which is sick ye do not cure, the wounded one ye bind not up, the scattered ye bring not back, and the lost one ye do not seek; and ye rule over them with violence and with severity. Eze 34:5. Therefore they were scattered, because without shepherd, and became food to all the beasts of the field, and were scattered. Eze 34:6. My sheep wander about on all the mountains, and on every high hill; and over all the land have my sheep been scattered, and there is no one who asks for them, and no one who seeks them. Eze 34:7. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear ye the word of Jehovah: Eze 34:8. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, because my sheep become a prey, and my sheep become food to all the beasts of the field, because there is no shepherd, and my shepherds do not inquire after my sheep, and the shepherds feed themselves, but do not feed the sheep, Eze 34:9. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear ye the word of Jehovah, Eze 34:10. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with the shepherds, and will demand my sheep from their hand, and cause them to cease to feed my flock, that they may feed themselves no more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may be food to them no more. - In Eze 34:2 לרעים is an explanatory apposition to אליהם, and is not to be taken in connection with כּה אמר יי, in opposition to the constant use of this formula, as Kliefoth maintains. The reason for the woe pronounced is given in the apposition, who fed themselves, whereas they ought to have fed the flock; and the charge that they only care for themselves is still further explained by a description of their conduct (Eze 34:3 and Eze 34:4), and of the dispersion of the flock occasioned thereby (Eze 34:5 and Eze 34:6). Observe the periphrastic preterite היוּ רעים, they were feeding, which shows that the woe had relation chiefly to the former shepherds or rulers of the nation. אותם is reflective, se ipsos (cf. Gesen. 124. 1b). The disgracefulness of their feeding themselves is brought out by the question, "Ought not the shepherds to feed the flock?" Eze 34:3 shows how they fed themselves, and Eze 34:4 how they neglected the flock. חלב, the fat, which Bochart and Hitzig propose to alter into החלב, the milk, after the Septuagint and Vulgate, is not open to any objection. The fat, as the best portion of the flesh, which was laid upon the altar, for example, in the case of the sacrifices, as being the flower of all the flesh, is mentioned here as pars melior pro toto. Hvernick has very properly pointed, in vindication of the reading in the text, to Zac 11:16, where the two clauses, ye eat the fat, and slay the fattened, are joined together in the one clause, "the flesh of the fattened one will he eat." There is no force in the objection raised by Hitzig, that "the slaughtering of the fat beasts, which ought to be mentioned first, is not introduced till afterwards;" for this clause contains a heightening of the thought that they use the flock to feed themselves: they do not even kill the leaner beasts, but those that are well fattened; and it follows very suitably after the general statement, that they make use of both the flesh and the wool of the sheep for their own advantage. They care nothing for the wellbeing of the flock: this is stated in the last clause of Eze 34:3, which is explained in detail in Eze 34:4. נהלות is the Niphal participle of חלה, and is a contracted form of נחלות, like נחלה in Isa 17:11. The distinction between נהלות and חולה is determined by the respective predicates חזּק and רפא. According to these, נחלה signifies that which is weak in consequence of sickness, and חלה that which is weak in itself. נשׁבּרת, literally, that which is broken, an animal with a leg or some other member injured. נדּח, scattered, as in Deu 22:1.
In the last clause of Eze 34:4, the neglect of the flock is summed up in the positive expression, to rule over them with violence and severity. רדה בפרך is taken from Lev 25:43, Lev 25:46; but there as well as here it points back to Exo 1:13-14, where בפרך is applied to the tyrannical measures adopted by Pharaoh for the oppression of the Israelites. The result of this (Eze 34:5, Eze 34:6) was, that the sheep were scattered, and became food to the beasts of prey. מבּלי, on account of there not being a shepherd, i.e., because there was no shepherd worthy of the name. This took place when Israel was carried away into exile, where it became a prey to the heathen nations. When we find this mournful fate of the people described as brought about by the bad shepherds, and attributable to faults of theirs, we must not regard the words as applying merely to the mistaken policy of the kings with regard to external affairs (Hitzig); for this was in itself simply a consequence of their neglect of their theocratic calling, and of their falling away from the Lord into idolatry. It is true that the people had also made themselves guilty of this sin, so that it was obliged to atone not only for the sins of its shepherds, but for its own sin also; but this is passed by here, in accordance with the design of this prophecy. And it could very properly be kept out of sight, inasmuch as the rulers had also occasioned the idolatry of the people, partly by their neglect of their duty, and partly by their bad example. ותּפוּצינה is repeated with emphasis at the close of Eze 34:5; and the thought is still further expanded in Eze 34:6. The wandering upon all the mountains and hills must not be understood as signifying the straying of the people to the worship on high places, as Theodoret and Kliefoth suppose. The fallacy of this explanation is clearly shown by the passage on which this figurative description rests (Kg1 22:17), where the people are represented as scattered upon the mountains in consequence of the fall of the king in battle, like a flock that had no shepherd. The words in the next clause, corresponding to the mountains and hills, are כּל־פּני הארץ, the whole face of the land, not "of the earth" (Kliefoth). For although the dispersion of the flock actually consisted in the carrying away of the people into heathen lands, the actual meaning of the figure is kept in the background here, as is evident from the fact that Ezekiel constantly uses the expression הארצות (plural) when speaking of the dispersion among the heathen (cf. Ezekiel 13). The distinction between דּרשׁ and בּקּשׁ is, that דרשׁ taht , signifies rather to ask, inquire for a thing, to trouble oneself about it, whereas בקשׁ means to seek for that which has strayed or is lost. In Eze 34:7-10, the punishment for their unfaithfulness is announced to the shepherds themselves; but at the same time, as is constantly the case with Ezekiel, their guilt is once more recapitulated as an explanation of the threatening of punishment, and the earnest appeal to listen is repeated in Eze 34:9. The Lord will demand His sheep of them; and because sheep have been lost through their fault, He will dispose them from the office of shepherd, and so deliver the poor flock from their violence. If we compare with this Jer 23:2 : "Behold, I will visit upon you the wickedness of your doings," the threat in Ezekiel has a much milder sound. There is nothing said about the punishment of the shepherd, but simply that the task of keeping the sheep shall be taken from them, so that they shall feed themselves no more. This distinction is to be explained from the design of our prophecy, which is not so much to foretell the punishment of the shepherds, as the deliverance from destruction of the sheep that have been plunged into misery. The repetition of צאני, my flock (Eze 34:8 and Eze 34:10, as before in Eze 34:6), is also connected with this. The rescue of the sheep out of the hand of the bad shepherds had already commenced with the overthrow of the monarchy on the destruction of Jerusalem. If, then it is here described as only to take place in the future, justice is not done to these words by explaining them, as Hitzig does, as signifying that what has already actually taken place is now to be made final, and not to be reversed. For although this is implied, the words clearly affirm that the deliverance of the sheep out of the hand of the shepherds has not yet taken place, but still remains to be effected, so that the people are regarded as being at the time in the power of bad shepherds, and their rescue is predicted as still in the future. How and when it will be accomplished, by the removal of the bad shepherds, is shown in the announcement, commencing with Eze 34:11, of what the Lord will do for His flock.
Jehovah Himself will seek His flock, gather it together from the dispersion, lead it to good pasture, and sift it by the destruction of the bad sheep. - Eze 34:11. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I myself, I will inquire after my flock, and take charge thereof. Eze 34:12. As a shepherd taketh charge of his flock in the day when he is in the midst of his scattered sheep, so will I take charge of my flock, and deliver them out of all the places whither they have been scattered in the day of cloud and cloudy night. Eze 34:13. And I will bring them out from the nations, and gather them together out of the lands, and bring them into their land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel, in the valleys, and in all the dwelling-places of the land. Eze 34:14. I will feed them in a good pasture, and on the high mountains of Israel will their pasture-ground be: there shall they lie down in a good pasture-ground, and have fat pasture on the mountains of Israel. Eze 34:15. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 34:16. That which is lost will I seek, and that which is driven away will I bring back; that which is wounded will I bind up, and that which is sick will I strengthen: but that which is fat and strong will I destroy, and feed them according to justice. Eze 34:17. And you, my sheep, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will judge between sheep and sheep, and the rams and the he-goats. Eze 34:18. Is it too little for you, that ye eat up the good pasture, and what remains of your pasture ye tread down with your feet? and the clear water ye drink, and render muddy what remains with your feet? Eze 34:19. And are my sheep to have for food that which is trodden down by your feet, and to drink that which is made muddy by your feet? Eze 34:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah to them, Behold, I, I will judge between fat sheep and lean. Eze 34:21. Because ye press with side and shoulder, and thrust all the weak with your horns, till ye have driven them out; Eze 34:22. I will help my sheep, so that they shall no more become a prey; and will judge between sheep and sheep. - All that the Lord will do for His flock is summed up in Eze 34:11, in the words דּרשׁתּי את־צאני וּבקּרתּים, which stand in obvious antithesis to 'ואין דּורשׁ וגו in Eze 34:6 - an antithesis sharply accentuated by the emphatic הנני אני, which stands at the head in an absolute form. The fuller explanation is given in the verses which follow, from Eze 34:12 onwards. Observe here that biqeer is substituted for בּקּשׁ. בּקּר, to seek and examine minutely, involves the idea of taking affectionate charge. What the Lord does for His people is compared in Eze 34:12 to the care which a shepherd who deserves the name manifests towards sheep when they are scattered (נפרשׁות without the article is connected with צאנו in the form of apposition); and in Eze 34:12 it is still more particularly explained. In the first place, He will gather them from all the places to which they have been scattered. הצּיל implies that in their dispersion they have fallen into a state of oppression and bondage among the nations (cf. Exo 6:6). בּיום belongs to the relative clause: whither they have been scattered. The circumstance that these words are taken from Joe 2:2 does not compel us to take them in connection with the principal clause, as Hitzig and Kliefoth propose, and to understand them as relating to the time when God will hold His judgment of the heathen world. The notion that the words in Joel signify "God's day of judgment upon all the heathen" (Kliefoth), is quite erroneous; and even Hitzig does not derive this meaning from Joe 2:2, but from the combination of our verse with Eze 30:3 and Eze 29:21. The deliverance of the sheep out of the places to which they have been scattered, consists in the gathering together of Israel out of the nations, and their restoration to their own land, and their feeding upon the mountains and all the dwelling-places of the land (מושׁב, a place suitable for settlement), and that in good and fat pasture (Eze 34:14); and lastly, in the fact that Jehovah bestows the necessary care upon the sheep, strengthens and heals the weak and sick (Eze 34:15 and Eze 34:16) - that is to say, does just what the bad shepherds have omitted (Eze 34:4) - and destroys the fat and strong. In this last clause another side is shown of the pastoral fidelity of Jehovah. אשׁמיד has been changed by the lxx, Syr., and Vulg. into ,אשׁמורφυλάχω; and Luther has followed them in his rendering, "I will watch over them." But this is evidently a mistake, as it fails to harmonize with ארענּה במשׁפּט. The fat and strong sheep are characterized in Eze 34:18 and Eze 34:19 as those which spoil the food and water of the others. The allusion, therefore, is to the rich and strong ones of the nation, who oppress the humble and poor, and treat them with severity. The destruction of these oppressors shows that the loving care of the Lord is associated with righteousness - that He feeds the flock בּמשׁפּט.
This thought is carried out still further in Eze 34:17-21, the sheep themselves being directly addressed, and the Lord assuring them that He will judge between sheep and sheep, and put an end to the oppressive conduct of the fat sheep and the strong. בּין שׂה לשׂה: between the one sheep and the other. לשׂה is extended in the apposition, "the rams and he-goats," which must not be rendered, "with regard to the rams and he-goats," as it has been by Kliefoth. The thought is not that Jehovah will divide the rams and he-goats from the sheep, as some have explained it, from an inappropriate comparison with Mat 25:32; but the division is to be effected in such a manner that sheep will be separated from sheep, the fat sheep being placed on one side with the rams and he-goats, and kept apart from the lean (רזה, Eze 34:20) and the sickly sheep (נהלות, Mat 25:21). It is to the last-named sheep, rams, and he-goats that Mat 25:18 and Mat 25:19 are addressed. With regard to the charge brought against them, that they eat up the pasture and tread down the remainder with their feet, etc., Bochart has already correctly observed, that "if the words are not quite applicable to actual sheep, they are perfectly appropriate to the mystical sheep intended here, i.e., to the Israelites, among whom many of the rich, after enjoying an abundant harvest and vintage, grudged the poor their gleaning in either one or the other." משׁקע, a substantive formation, like מרמס, literally, precipitation of the water, i.e., the water purified by precipitation; for שׁקע, to sink, is the opposite of רפשׂ, to stir up or render muddy by treading with the feet (compare Eze 32:14 and Eze 32:2). בּריה, Eze 34:20 = בּראה or בּריּה. Eze 34:22 brings to a close the description of the manner in which God will deliver His flock, and feed it with righteousness. והושׁעתּי points back to והצּלתּי in Eze 34:12, and ושׁפטתּי to ארענּה במשׁפּט in Eze 34:16. - To this there is appended in Eze 34:23. a new train of thought, describing how God will still further display to His people His pastoral fidelity.
Appointment of David as Shepherd, and Blessing of the People
Eze 34:23. And I will raise up one shepherd over them, who shall feed them, my servant David; he will feed them, and he will be to them a shepherd. Eze 34:24. And I, Jehovah, will be God to them, and my servant David prince in the midst of them: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. Eze 34:25. And I will make a covenant of peace with them, and destroy the evil beasts out of the land, so that they will dwell safely in the desert and sleep in the forests. Eze 34:26. And I will make them and the places round my hill a blessing, and cause the rain to fall in its season: showers of blessing shall there be. Eze 34:27. The tree of the field will give its fruit, and the land will give its produce, and they will be safe in their land, and will know that I am Jehovah, when I break their yoke-bars in pieces, and deliver them out of the hand of those who made them servants. Eze 34:28. They will be no more a prey to the nations, and the wild beasts will not devour them; but they will dwell safely, and no one will terrify them. Eze 34:29. And I will raise up for them a plantation for a name, so that they will no more be swept away by famine in the land, and shall no longer bear the disgrace of the heathen nations. Eze 34:30. And they shall know that I, Jehovah, their God, am with them, and they are my people, the house of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 34:31. And ye are my sheep, the flock of my pasture; ye are men, I am your God, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - God will cause to stand up, raise up, one single shepherd over His flock. הקים, the standing expression for the rising up of a person in history through the interposition of God (cf. Deu 18:15; Sa2 7:12, and other passages). רעה, not unicus, singularis, a shepherd unique in his kind, but one shepherd, in contrast not only with the many bad shepherds, but with the former division of the people into two kingdoms, each with its own separate king. Compare Eze 37:24 with Jer 28:6, where it is expressly said that the David to be raised up is to feed Israel and Judah, the two peoples that had been divided before. "My servant David:" Jehovah calls him עבדּי, not merely with reference to the obedience rendered (Hvernick), but also with regard to his election (Isa 42:1; Hengstenberg). There is no necessity to refute the assertion of Hitzig, David Strauss, and others, that Ezekiel expected the former King David to be raised from the dead. The reference is to the sprout of David (Jer 23:5), already called simply David in Hos 3:5 and Jer 30:9. In Eze 34:24 the relation of Jehovah to this David is more precisely defined: Jehovah will then be God to His people, and David be prince in the midst of them. The last words point back to Sa2 7:8. Through the government of David, Jehovah will become in truth God of His people Israel; for David will feed the people in perfect unity with Jehovah, - will merely carry out the will of Jehovah, and not place himself in opposition to God, like the bad shepherds, because, as is therewith presupposed, he is connected with God by unity of nature.
In Eze 34:25. the thought is carried out still further, - how God will become God to His people, and prove Himself to be its covenant God through the pastoral fidelity of the future David. God will fully accomplish the covenant mercies promised to Israel. The making of the covenant of peace need not be restricted, in accordance with Hos 2:20 (18), to a covenant which God would make with the beasts in favour of His people. The thought is a more comprehensive one here, and, according to Lev 26:4-6, the passage which Ezekiel had in his mind involves all the salvation which God had included in His promises to His people: viz., (1) the extermination of everything that could injure Israel, of all the wild beasts, so that they would be able to sleep securely in the deserts and the forests (Eze 34:25, compare Lev 26:6); (2) the pouring out of an abundant rain, so that the field and land would yield rich produce (Eze 34:26, Eze 34:27; cf. Lev 26:4-5). "I make them, the Israelites, and the surroundings of my hill, a blessing." גּבעתי, the hill of Jehovah, is, according to Isa 31:4, Mount Zion, the temple-mountains, including the city of Jerusalem. The surroundings of this hill are the land of Israel, that lay around it. But Zion, with the land around, is not mentioned in the place of the inhabitants; and still less are we to understand by the surroundings of the hill the heathen nations, as Hengstenberg does, in opposition both to the context and the usage of the language. The thought is simply that the Lord will make both the people and the land a blessing (Hvernick, Kliefoth). בּרכה, a blessing, is stronger than "blessed" (cf. Gen 12:2). The blessing is brought by the rain in its season, which fertilizes the earth. This will take place when the Lord breaks the yokes laid upon His people. These words are from Lev 26:13, where they refer to the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt; and they are transferred by Ezekiel to the future redemption of Israel from the bondage of the heathen. For עבדים , compare Exo 1:14. This thought is carried out still further in Eze 34:28; and then, in Eze 34:29, all that has been said is summed up in the thoughts, "I raise up for them a plantation for a name," etc. מטּע, a plantation, as in Eze 17:7; not a land for planting (Hitzig). לשׁם, for a name, i.e., not for the glory of God (De Wette); but the plantation, which the Lord will cause to grow by pouring down showers of blessing (Eze 34:26), is to bring renown to the Israelites, namely, among the heathen, who will see from this that Israel is a people blessed by its God. This explanation of the words is supplied by the following clause: they shall no more be swept away by famine in the land, and no more bear the disgrace of the heathen, i.e., the disgrace which the heathen heaped upon Israel when in distress (compare Zep 3:19; Jer 13:11; and the primary passage, Deut. 26:29). From this blessing they will learn that Jehovah their God is with them, and Israel is His people. The promise concludes in Eze 34:31 with these words, which set a seal upon the whole: "Ye are my flock, the flock of my pasture (lit., my pasture-flock; צאן , Jer 23:1, the flock fed by God Himself); men are ye, I am your God." That these last words to not serve merely as an explanation of the figurative expression "flock," is a fact of which no proof is needed. The figure of a flock was intelligible to every one. The words "call attention to the depth and greatness of the divine condescension, and meet the objection of men of weak faith, that man, who is taken from the earth האדמה, and returns to it again, is incapable of so intimate a connection with God" (Hengstenberg).
If we take another survey, in conclusion, of the contents of our prophecy, the following are the three features of the salvation promised to the people of Israel: - (1) The Lord will liberate His people from the hand of the bad shepherds, and He Himself will feed it as His flock; (2) He will gather it together from its dispersion, bring it back to the land of Israel and feed it there, will take charge of the sheep in need of help, and destroy the fat and strong sheep by which the weak ones are oppressed; (3) He will raise up the future David for a shepherd, and under his care He will bestow upon His people the promised covenant blessings in richest measure. These saving acts of God for His people, however, are not depicted according to their several details and historical peculiarities, as Kliefoth has correctly observed, nor are they narrated in the chronological order in which they would follow one another in history; but they are grouped together according to their general design and character, and their essential features. If, then, we seek for the fulfilment, the Lord raised up His servant David as a shepherd to Israel, by sending Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luk 19:10; Mat 18:11), and who calls Himself the Good Shepherd with obvious reference to this and other prophetic declarations of a similar kind (Joh 10:11.). But the sending of Christ was preceded by the gathering of Israel out of the Babylonian exile, by which God had already taken charge of His flock, Yet, inasmuch as only a small portion of Israel received the Messiah, who appeared in Jesus, as its shepherd, there fell upon the unbelieving Israel a new judgment of dispersion among all nations, which continues still, so that a gathering together still awaits the people of Israel at some future time. No distinction is made in the prophecy before us between these two judgments of dispersion, which are associated with the twofold gathering of Israel; but they are grouped together as one, so that although their fulfilment commenced with the deliverance of Israel from the Babylonian captivity and the coming of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd of the family of David, it was only realized in that portion of Israel, numerically the smallest portion, which was willing to be gathered and fed by Jesus Christ, and the full realization will only be effected when that conversion of Israel shall take place, which the Apostle Paul foretells in Rom 11:25. - For further remarks on the ultimate fulfilment, we refer the reader to a later page.