The latter part of the Book of Ezekiel, after the fulfilment of the great judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem, is consolatory in its character, and full of rich promises to the afflicted people of God. But as this necessarily involves denunciations of the oppressors and enemies of the people, it will aid in obtaining a clear view of the whole to make a brief summary of the contents of Ezekiel 34-39 in their literal interpretation. Ezekiel 34 announces that the Lord will deliver His people out of the hands of the selfish and wicked shepherds who have injured and oppressed them, and will Himself feed, protect, and bring blessings to them through His servant David. Ezekiel 35 : Because Edom has always hated Israel, and sought to possess itself of her land in the time of her distress, therefore its own land shall become a perpetual desolation. Ezekiel 36 : On the other hand, Israel’s land shall be restored to prosperity for the Lord’s own sake; His people, gathered from the nations, shall be cleansed from their sins, renewed in heart, and greatly multiplied, and their land made like a garden of God. Ezekiel 37 : The house of Israel, which has become like dry bones, shall be raised to new life, its two divided kingdoms re-united, and their sins forgiven; and God will make them dwell in their land, under the sovereignty of David, with a perpetual covenant of peace with Himself, and He will establish His sanctuary among them for ever. Ezekiel 38, 39 : Finally, although the Lord will bring their enemies against them with a powerful array, yet He will ultimately destroy these foes, have compassion on Israel, and hide His face from His people no more for ever. The meaning of these prophecies will be more fully discussed in its place.
Ezekiel 34 consists of three parts: in the first (Ezekiel 34:1-10) the unfaithful shepherds are denounced, and God promises to take His flock out of their hands; in the second (Ezekiel 34:11-22), He declares that He will Himself take charge of the flock, gather it together, feed it in good pastures in Israel, and root out the evil from it; while in the last part (Ezekiel 34:23-31) He promises to appoint David as His shepherd over it, to make with them a covenant of peace, and to bless the land with all fruitfulness, so that they shall recognise Him as their God, and that there shall be communion between them. The whole chapter may be looked upon as an amplification of the short prophecy in Jeremiah 23:1-8.
That do feed themselves.—This selfishness is characteristic of the unfaithful shepherd (comp. John 10:1-17), and is enlarged upon in Ezekiel 34:3-4. The history shows that for a long time it had been eminently true of the rulers, and especially of the kings of Israel.
In such a state of things, plainly the first act of mercy to the flock must be the removal of the unfaithful shepherds. This is promised (Ezekiel 34:7-10), but, after Ezekiel’s manner, with reiterated declaration of the unfaithfulness of the shepherds.
With judgment.—This does not mean, as the ambiguous sense of the English word might make it possible to suppose, with wisdom, but with righteousness and authority, as is plainly seen from the connection with the following verses.
My servant David.—The name of David is here put simply, as in Ezekiel 34:24, Ezekiel 37:24-25; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5, instead of the more usual designations of the Messiah as the Son, the Branch, the Offspring of David; but there can be no possible doubt of the meaning, any more than of who is meant by Elijah in Malachi 4:5, in view of our Lord’s own interpretation in Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:11-14. Yet it should be remembered, if any one should incline to understand this whole prophecy literally, that if one part is to be so understood the rest must be taken in the same way; if we are to think that the prophet here foretells the literal restoration of the two kingdoms of Israel to their own land, and their union under one governor, then that governor must be David himself. The absurdity of such a supposition is one important element in showing that the whole is to be understood of a promise of spiritual blessings, and of the gathering of God’s people into His Church as one flock under their Almighty Shepherd. (Comp. John 10:14-18.) David, as the head of the theocracy and the ancestor of our Lord after the flesh, constantly appears in the Scriptures as the type of the Messiah, and there can be no reasonable doubt that this prophecy must have been so understood, even at the time when it was uttered.