The Latter Major Prophets – Ezekiel 33-35

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head.  Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head.  If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.  But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
“Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them.  How then can we live?”’  Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, people of Israel?’
“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing.  And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation.  The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’  If I tell a righteous person that they will surely live, but then they trust in their righteousness and do evil, none of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered; they will die for the evil they have done.  And if I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right — if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die.  None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely live.
“Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But it is their way that is not just.  If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, they will die for it.  And if a wicked person turns away from their wickedness and does what is just and right, they will live by doing so.  Yet you Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’  But I will judge each of you according to your own ways.”
In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has fallen!”  Now the evening before the man arrived, the hand of the Lord was on me, and he opened my mouth before the man came to me in the morning.  So my mouth was opened and I was no longer silent.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’  Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land?  You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife.  Should you then possess the land?’
“Say this to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague.  I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them.  Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.’
“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’  My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice.  Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.  Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.
“When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

  • Ezekiel 33:1-33

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.  You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.  You have ruled them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.  My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill.  They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.  I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves.  I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land.  There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.  I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.  I will shepherd the flock with justice.
“‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.  Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture?  Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet?  Is it not enough for you to drink clear water?  Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?  Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.  Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.  I will judge between one sheep and another.  I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them.  I the Lord have spoken.
“‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety.  I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.  I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.  The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land.  They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.  They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.  I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations.  Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord.  You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

  • Ezekiel 34:1-31

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir; prophesy against it and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you and make you a desolate waste.  I will turn your towns into ruins and you will be desolate.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.
“‘Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you.  Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.  I will make Mount Seir a desolate waste and cut off from it all who come and go.  I will fill your mountains with the slain; those killed by the sword will fall on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines.  I will make you desolate forever; your towns will not be inhabited.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.
“‘Because you have said, “These two nations and countries will be ours and we will take possession of them,” even though I the Lord was there, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them and I will make myself known among them when I judge you.  Then you will know that I the Lord have heard all the contemptible things you have said against the mountains of Israel.  You said, “They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour.”  You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it.  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate.  Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you.  You will be desolate, Mount Seir, you and all of Edom.  Then they will know that I am the Lord.’”

  • Ezekiel 35:1-15

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Ezekiel 33 ‘introduction’: “In my Bible, I’ve drawn two solid lines between the last verse of Ezekiel 32 and the first verse of Ezekiel 33.  This is a visual aid that excites me!  We are about to embark on the study of the rest of the book of Ezekiel which will be about the future of Israel.  And the future of Israel is glorious! …
“The Lord inspired Ezekiel to put his book together in an easy-to-follow, logical format.  That doesn’t mean that everything is easy to understand, but the flow of thought and divisions of the book make sense.  In Ezekiel 33, after seven chapters of judgment prophesied against Israel’s neighboring nations, the Lord speaks personally to Ezekiel again.  He says some things that He has said before.  It seems to me that the Lord thought it was a good time for a review.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 33‘Israel’s National Repentance’: “The final division of Ezekiel, chapters 33-48, contains prophecies of hope for the exilic community and the nation of Israel thereafter.  The same righteous God who executed judgment will also mercifully grant restoration.  The end of the divine purpose is to glorify His sovereign grace by acting for His own name’s sake (Ezekiel 20:9, 14, 22; 36:21-23, 32) to regather, regenerate, restore, and finally rule over Israel according to His prophetic promise.  In these chapters it will be seen that the course of divine judgment during human history will come to a close with Israel’s repentance (chapter 33).  God will destroy all the nations who threaten Israel as a prelude to the final regathering of His people from the nations, (chapters 35, 38-39).  Then the Messiah, Israel’s true Shepherd (chapter 34), will return, regather and reunite His people as a nation, dwell in their midst in the land of Israel and sanctify (chapters 36 and 37) so they can mediate the laws of the New Covenant to the nations during the kingdom age as a kingdom of priests at the messianic temple (chapters 40-48).
“Ezekiel had first been appointed by God as a ‘watchman’ to warn the rebellious house of Israel of the certainty of coming judgment (3:16-27).  Now the prophet is reminded of his watchman role (33:I-3,7) which requires personal accountability from each person who hears the warning if deliverance is to be realized (verses 4-6).  The action required of each Israelite was repentance (verses 8-20).  In verse 21 the announcement of the conquest of Jerusalem was received by the prophet ‘in the twelfth year of [the] exile, on the fifth of the tenth month’ (January 9, 585 B.C.), some six months after the city’s fall to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 39:2).  This announcement marked a turning point in the prophetic career of Ezekiel, removing his prior condition of speechlessness (Ezekiel 33:22) and inaugurating his new message of consolation regarding Israel’s restoration (verse 23).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 33:5 ‘make it of personal interest’: “In all worldly things men are always awake enough to understand their own interests.  Scarcely a merchant who reads the paper does not read it in some way or other with a view to his own personal concerns.  If he finds that by the rise or fall of the markets he will be either a gainer or a loser, that part of the day’s news will be the most important to him.  In politics—in fact in everything that concerns temporal affairs—personal interest usually leads the van.  People will always be looking out for themselves, and personal and home interests will generally engross the major part of their thoughts.  But in religion it is otherwise.  In religion people love abstract doctrines and to talk of general truths rather than the searching inquiries that examine their own personal interest in it.  Many people admire the preacher who deals in generalities; but when he comes to press home searching questions, they are offended.  If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinfulness of mankind or the need of a Savior, they will give an assent to our doctrine; and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse because it has not affected them.  But how often will our audience gnash their teeth and go away in a rage because, like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive concerning a faithful minister that he spoke of them?  And yet how foolish this is!  If in all other matters we ask how this affects us, how much more should we do so in religion?  For surely every man must give an account for himself at the day of judgment.  We must die alone.  We must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God.  Each one must either have said to him, as an individual, ‘Come you blessed,’ or else he must be appalled with the thundering sentence, ‘Depart you cursed.’  If there were such a thing as national salvation — if it could be possible that we could be saved in the gross and in the bulk so that like the sheaves of corn the few weeds that may grow with the stubble would be gathered in for the sake of the wheat – then indeed, it might not be so foolish for us to neglect our own personal interests.  But if each sheep must pass under the hand of him who counts them, if every man must stand in his own person before God to be tried for his own acts, by everything that is rational, by everything that conscience would dictate and self-interest would command, let us each look to ourselves that we are not deceived and that we do not find ourselves in the end miserably cast away.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Ezekiel 33:11 ‘God speaks, but what impels us to listen?’: “It is a token of the great mercy of God that he is earnest in his pleading with men to turn from their sins that he may not be compelled to punish them as he must do if they go on in their iniquities.  A cruel governor is glad of an opportunity to show his severity and, therefore, not especially anxious to prevent offenses.  But a kind, tenderhearted monarch he must be who leaves his throne and comes down among the rebels and, with tears in his eyes, cries to them, ‘Oh, do not do this wicked thing I hate!  Do not offend me!  Do not compel me to take the sword out of its scabbard!  Do not force me to say that I will have no mercy on you, but turn, turn from those evil courses that will certainly bring you harm!’
“We would seek to give to all and every Scripture the genuine meaning it contains.  But solemnly penetrating and heart-searching as his exhortation is, and given as it is by God himself, if someone rejects it, he thereby adds to his sin.  God calls to the sinner to turn, but he never will unless there is something more than the call.  By the public ministry, by sickness, by the Bible, by conscience—yes, and by the common and universal operations of the Holy Spirit, God calls to people.  But they seem determined to die; and, therefore, they go over hedge and ditch to destruction—and this against all the warnings and rebukes of the Most High.
“So they will continue in their sins and aggravate them by the rejection of the exhortation that was meant to deliver them from sin, and so they make themselves even more guilty before God by turning against his Word that was meant to have a blessing for them.  If I say, ‘Repent, repent of your evil ways!  Why will you die?’ one may take no notice of it.  But if the Holy Spirit will come and say this, then he will certainly be obedient to it; for he has the key of the heart, and he knows how, without violating the free agency of man, to make man willing in the day of his power.  So that when he says, ‘Repent, repent,’ they do repent, and when he says, ‘Why will you die?’ they begin to reason with themselves, and they see it is an ill thing that they should perish, and, therefore, they turn to God.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Ezekiel 33:11 ‘no pleasure in punishment’: “God takes pleasure in the pleasure of His friends and He suffers along with these friends.  He takes no pleasure in the suffering of His enemies.  ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, l have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’  God never looks down and rejoices to see somebody squirm.  If God has to punish, God is not pleased with Himself for punishing.  ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.’”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God I

Ezekiel 33:12-20 ‘judgment according to personal faith’: “One of the basic principles of God’s dealing with His people is presented here: judgment is according to personal faith and conduct.  The discussion is not about eternal salvation and eternal death, but physical death as judgment far sin which, for believers, could not in eternal death.  The righteous behavior in verse 15 could only characterize a true believer, who was faithful from the heart.  There is no distinction made in the matter of who is a true believer in God.  There is only a discussion of the issue of behavior as a factor in physical death.  For those who were apostate idolaters, physical death would lead to eternal death.  For believers who were lovers of the true God, their sin would lead only to physical punishment (cf. 1 Cor. 11:28-31; 1 John 5:16, 17).  Righteous and wicked are terms describing behavior, not a person’s position before God.  It is not the ‘righteousness of God’ imputed as illustrated in the case of Abraham (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3-5), but rather one’s deeds that are in view (vv. 15-19).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 33:17, 20 ‘not fair’: “They blamed God for their calamities, when actually they were being judged for their sins.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 33:21-22 ‘hope in despair’: “The Israelites in exile heard the news that what they never thought would happen had happened.  They had not believed that Ezekiel’s warnings were true.  At this point in their lives they became more distraught and depressed than they ever had been before.  And it was at this point in their lives that the Lord began to offer them hope in Him and what He would do for them.  It was time for a change of heart.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 33:23-33 ‘more punishment to come with no repentance’: “There is no date attached to the prophecies from 33:23-39:29, but the first message after the fall of Jerusalem was a rebuke of Israel’s carnal confidence. This prophecy was against the remnant of Judah who remained in the land of promise after the fall of Jerusalem.  Ezekiel warns the survivors that more judgment will come on them if they do not obey God.  By some strange reasoning, they thought that if God had given the land to Abraham when he was alone, it would be more securely theirs because they were many in number — a claim based on quantity rather than quality (V. 24).  But judgment will come, if they turn and reject God again (vv. 25—29).
“Here was a message to exiles, who had no intention of obeying the prophet’s messages.  They liked to listen, but not apply the prophet’s words.  They finally knew by bitter experience that he had spoken the truth of God.  The people appreciated the eloquence of Ezekiel, but not the realty of his message.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 33 ‘summary’: “Nebuchadnezzar and his armies had come through as agents of divine demolition and had burned, torn down, and destroyed everything in Jerusalem.  Anything valuable they carried away as spoils of war.  The promised land was no longer a beautiful sight; instead it was not much more than a trash heap.  Yet there were still some Israelites scavenging through the ruins.  With grit and tenacity, with stubbornness and self-preservation in mind, they seemed to say: ‘We can do it. We will take back our land.’
“’Then they shall know that I am the Lord.’  T hat’s the wonderful truth to learn from brokenness.  The Israelites in the land weren’t the only ones who needed an attitude adjustment.  The exiles had finally heard the news that Jerusalem had been destroyed, which should have made them understand that Ezekiel really did have a direct connection with the Lord.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 34 ‘introduction’: “Ezekiel 34 is about shepherds and sheep.  There is a cute little nursery rhyme that is about the same subjects.  Do you remember Little Bo Peep?
      “Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
      And can ’t tell where to find them
      Leave them alone,
      And they’ll came home
      Wagging their tails behind them!
“The shepherds … in Ezekiel 34 were the previous political rulers in Israel, and they were as irresponsible as Bo Peep.  It was time for a change and the Lord is about to make an announcement about His plans.  This chapter is one of contrast and comparison, and one of past mistakes and future blessings.  The best way to take it all in … it is to help you grasp the incredible love of the Lord for His people, the sheep of His pasture.  One commentator has stated that ‘it would be difficult indeed to find a more important chapter in the entire Old Testament than this one,
’[James B. Coffman]  so please take your time and enjoy God’s Word!”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 34 ‘Israel’s Shepherd’: “The prophecy of Israel’s shepherds, coming at the commencement of the restoration prophecies, reproves Israel’s kings (shepherds) who had, as God warned through the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 8:11-18), been false to Israel’s needs while feeding their own.  The purpose of this chapter is to provide God’s indictment of Israel’s false shepherds (rulers) before promising to become their true Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:1-16) and regather them (“My flock,” the remnant) under the rule of King Messiah (verses I7-31).  As such, it corrects the abuses of leadership that had led Israel into exile and clarifies the attitude of divine leadership that will lead the nation to restoration and sustain it through the millennial kingdom.  Since real restoration can come only when theocratic rule is restored, and such rule will accompany the advent of the messianic King, this chapter establishes that the whole of the restoration prophecy in this last division of the book is intended for the eschatological period.  Therefore, Ezekiel 34 forms a foundation upon which the rest of the prophecy is built, revealing that until the unrighteous rule of man is removed, the righteous rule of Messiah will not arrive.  This order again confirms the divine pattern of the overthrow of Antichrist’s kingdom (Daniel 2:44; 7:23-26) before the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah (Daniel 2:44; 7:27).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 34:2-4 ‘no ambitious leaders’: “I believe that it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader.  The Church of the Firstborn is no place for the demagogue or the petty religious dictator.  The true leader will have no wish to lord it over God’s heritage but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing, and altogether as ready to follow as to lead when the Spirit makes it plain to him that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.
“It is undoubtedly true, as I have said so often, that the church is languishing not for leaders but for the right kind of leaders; for the wrong kind is worse than none at all.  Better to stand still than to follow a blind man over a precipice.  History will show that the church has prospered most when blessed with strong leaders and suffered the greatest decline when her leaders were weak and time serving.  The sheep rarely go much farther than the Shepherd.
“That is why unqualified democracy is not good for a church unless every voting member is full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  To put the work of the church in the hands of the group is to exchange one leader for many; and if the group is composed of carnal professors it is to exchange one weak leader for a number of bad ones.  One hundred blind men cannot see any better than one.

  • A. W. Tozer, The Warfare of the Spirit

Ezekiel 34:15 ‘A shepherd tends His flock’: “A flock cannot be fed until it is in existence.  It cannot be fed, as a flock, until all the scattered sheep will have been brought together.  We find the Lord declaring that he will search out his sheep and seek them.  One of the Lord’s sheep—a woman who had forsaken the paths of virtue—had had five husbands and was then living with one who was not her husband.  Yet he must go through Samaria to meet with her.  He must—such was the divine necessity that this sheep, which had wandered as far as it well could, should be brought back (Jn 4:4-26).”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Ezekiel 34:16 ‘’: “It is a great mercy that God never leaves his church.  He has not made a church as a watchmaker constructs a watch, which, after being wound up, is left to depend on the strength and fitness of the machinery.  But he has made a church that, though fitted with the best of machinery, needs his hand every moment to keep it in motion.  He has lighted the lamps, but he walks among the golden candlesticks.  He has fixed the pillars of the temple, but his own almighty shoulders are the actual support of it.  He has not left the church to his ministers, but he himself is the great bishop and shepherd of souls.  Even if, as some affirm, there were no immediate divine interventions in the works of providence, we know such interventions are constantly in the works of grace.
“We have direct experimental evidence of God’s ever-watchful care over his church.  He does not deal with his people only through instruments, but he himself takes the church in his own hands.  This is his own declaration, ‘I am the LORD, who watches over it to water it regularly.  So that no one disturbs it, I watch over it night and day’ (Is 27:3).  Thus he speaks of his vineyard.  So, too, in this chapter, for a while the shepherds had domineered over the flock.  Evil shepherds had crept into the office and fed themselves but not the sheep.  It would have been an ill day for the church if divine intervention were not the rule of his government.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Ezekiel 34:17-22 ‘judge between’: “Once He has judged the leaders, God will also judge the abusive members of the flock as to their true spiritual state.  This passage anticipates the judgment of the people given by Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:31-46.  The ungodly are known because they trample the poor.  The Lord alone is able to sort out the true from the false (cf. Christ’s parables of Matt. 13), and will do so in the final kingdom.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 34 ‘summary’: “This chapter is the threshold for the rest of the book; in it, we encounter prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled.  There were a few short verses prior to this chapter that hinted at hope for Israel, but now the rest of the book will expound on those promises.  The Lord paints a rainbow of hope in the skies that have been dark and cloudy with judgment.
“If we journeyed back in time to the day that Ezekiel 34 was spoken to the people, we would arrive at 585 BC.  Jerusalem had been destroyed, only a few poor and lowly Israelites were in the land, the kings of Israel had been killed or captured, and the people of Israel were scattered.  To the human eye, the nation of Israel was no more.  But the Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel!  And the Lord promised to deliver His people from their captivity, to make them dwell safely in their own land to establish One Shepherd among them, and He promised that they would be His people, and He would be with them and be their God.  Then they would know that He is the Lord!  For Israel, the best is yet to come.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 35 ‘Edom’s future destruction’: “Mount Seir, the subject of the prophet’s pronouncement of judgment in Ezekiel 35, is in the region inhabited by the Edomites, who are the descendants of Esau, who lost his birthright to his brother Jacob (Genesis 27:1-36).  As a result Esau‘s descendants were given a less fertile land (the wadi, Arabah south of the Dead Sea) than the descendants of ]Jacob received (Genesis 27:39-40; Malachi 1:3), and Edom maintained a vendetta against Israel because of this ancient dispossession.  In Psalm 83:3—6, Edom is mentioned first in the list of nations who formed a conspiracy to wipe out Israel.  Edom’s judgment is repeated in a number of prophetic texts (Isaiah 34:5-8; 63:1-4; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Lamentations 4:21; Amos 1:11-12; Obadiah),and Ezekiel 35:6 describes this judgment with a word play illustrating retributive judgment (judgment in kind).  This is seen in the use of the word blood (Hebrew ‘adom), which sounds like Edom (‘red one’) and underscores that as Edom has shed blood, so it will be given over to bloodshed.
“The Edomites were violently driven from their territory by the Nabataeans and disappeared from history with the Roman conquest of Idumea.  This brought a partial fulfillment of the judgment promised in Ezekiel 35:3-4.  However, the area later became reinhabited by Bedouin tribes (perhaps descendants of the Edomites) and today is part of the Bedouin Hashemite dynastic territory known as Jordan.  Indeed, Edom had boasted, (‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins” (Malachi 1:4).  The placement of the message in Ezekiel 35 within the eschatological division of the book of Ezekiel and the mention in verse 14 of the universal recognition of Edom’s destruction, along with statements in other oracles that make the time of Edom’s ultimate desolation ‘the day of the Lord)’ (Obadiah 15) and similar to the ‘overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 49:18; cf. Isaiah 34:9-15), indicates a yet future and final judgment.  The Edomite territory of Bozrah is predicted as the place to which the Messiah will come during the Tribulation (Isaiah 63:1-6) and the site of divine judgment in the campaigns of Armageddon (Isaiah 34:4-6).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 35:1-15 ‘Edom’: “It may strike the reader as odd that Ezekiel would include an oracle against Edom at this point because: (1) Ezekiel has already addressed Edom (25:12-14); (2) the section of oracles to the nations is earlier (25—32); and (3) the section now under discussion (33-39) is one given over to hope and promise for Israel’s future.
“There is a good reason, however, for the inclusion of chapter 35 at this particular point.  As we read through the chapter we discover that Edom has visions and intentions of taking over the land of Israel.  The two nations/countries (v. 10) are, of course, northern Israel and Judah.  Once Israel has been destroyed, a vacuum will be created, a no man’s land, and Edom will be more than delighted to incorporate that acreage into her own holdings.
“The concern of chapters 33-39 is the restoration of Israel to her own land.  But Israel cannot return to her land if that land has been possessed by another.  The function of chapter 35 is to demonstrate that no would-be usurpers of Israel’s land will succeed in that enterprise. God will see to that.
“Far from extending her borders by the annexation of Israel, Edom will in fact fall under divine doom.  Mount Seir is the chief mountain range of the kingdom of Edom, situated to the southeast of Judah, between the southern tip of the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  The mount stands for the kingdom.  Because she delivered Israel to the sword she herself will be delivered to the sword, to bloodshed.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 35:2, 3, 4 ‘against Mount Seir’: “Cf. Isaiah 21:11, 12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Amos 1:11, 12; Obadiah.  This is another name for Edom (cf. v. 15; Gen. 32:3; 38:6), also threatened with judgment in 25:12-14.  Edom, Israel’s most inveterate and bitter enemy (cf. Ps. 137:7; Mal. 1:2-5), was located east of the Arabah from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqabah.  The main cities were Teman and Petra, now in ruins.
“This prediction (cf. vv. 6-9) came to pass literally, first by Nebuchadnezzar and later in 126 B.C. by John Hyrcanus.  There is no trace of the Edomites now, though their desolate cities can be identified as predicted by Obadiah (Obad. 18) and Jeremiah (Jer. 49:13).  Cf. verses 6-9.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 35:10 ‘’: “Herein lay the special security of the chosen land.  The Edomites saw the whole country of Israel and Judah left desolate; Babylonians and Chaldeans had carried away the people and ravaged the land.  Therefore, the proud inhabitants of the city in the rock said, ‘These two nations and two lands will be mine, and we will possess them”(Ezk 35:10).  The dukes of Edom counted on an easy conquest, and such, indeed, the Holy Land would have proved, had there not been one great difficulty — unknown to them — ‘The Lord was there.’  Jehovah himself  was still in possession, even though his rebellious people had been carried into captivity.  He would never allow that the Idumean should hold Jehovah’s land in possession and, with despiteful hearts, cast it out for a prey, From this one incident we gather that whatever may be the machinations and devices of the enemies of God’s people though there is nothing else to thwart them, there is this as an effectual barrier – the saints are God’s heritage, and the Lord was there to guard and hold his own.  The book of Ezekiel concludes with these blessed words, as the name of the great city of the latter days.  When all conflicts will be ended, when the scattered will be gathered, when the tabernacle of the Lord will be among them, then this, which is Zion’s bulwark today, will be her everlasting glory.  Jehovah Shammah. ‘The Lord Is There.’”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

My Thoughts

As Elizabeth Ficken suggests, God does a little review in Ezekiel 33, but God makes it a bit more personal.  The wicked will die for their own sins, but the watchman dies when he does not warn the people.  It is not up to the watchman to ensure that the people heed the warning.

This reminds me of the hurricane and flood warnings of today.  The local officials can demand a mandatory evacuation, but does everyone evacuate?  I know of no situation where everyone has heeded the warning and then it becomes the local official’s responsibility to risk their lives in order to save those who ignored the mandatory evacuation.  Something seems wrong with that.  In God’s plan, the watchman, once the alarm is given, would be off the hook. But the media would be ravenous if someone’s grandmother was washed away in a flood and the first responders had done nothing because they had warned the old lady.

Yet, let us bring the watchman idea forward from a spiritual sense.  Do we warn our neighbors that the end is near, and they need to repent?  Are we shy, unable to speak?  Are we afraid of angry retorts or even physical violence?  God stated to Ezekiel that the message must go through.  God did not equivocate about circumstances.  We can be prudent when the circumstances become deadly, but …

And Ezekiel 33:11 is discussed above by both Rev. Spurgeon and Rev. Tozer.  A. W. Tozer looks at one aspect, taking pleasure in punishment.  God mentions here and elsewhere that He does not wish to punish, but God is holy, and He cannot abide sin.  The old cliché is that it hurts me more than it does you, but I am not always sure that is correct.  I know a person who rarely ever raised a hand against her children, but she sat back and watched with glee upon her face when the punishment was administered.  Some people enjoy it, but there is something twisted within them.  If God finds no pleasure in it, we should not either.  Yet, it is wise to discipline your child, by whatever means is prudent and effective.

In Ezekiel 14:21, God speaks of swords, wild animals, and plagues.  In Ezekiel 33:27, this is explained.  In the city, the people will die of the sword, but if you escape to the countryside, wild animals will devour you, but then, what about hiding in a cave as protection from the wild animals?  That’s when the plague comes.  This is saying total destruction, but still a remnant will remain.

In Ezekiel 34, there are many shepherds in the two thirds of the chapter, evil shepherds who take advantage of the flock.  It sounded like many politicians around the world today.  But starting in Ezekiel 34:20, God promises a shepherd, “David” who will be a good shepherd.  Jesus is that good shepherd, in the family line of David.  The description of Israel is not what they have now.  Israel today is again surrounded by enemies.  The last third of Ezekiel 34 is talking about the millennial reign of Jesus.

And again we return, just for a moment, to the total destruction of Edom.  The ruins of her cities are tourist attractions today.  The epitaph: You did not hate bloodshed, thus you will die by bloodshed.

But in Obadiah and Malachi, it talks about the two brothers.  In Romans 9 it says that Esau was hated, while Jacob was loved.  Isaac loved Esau.  Esau may have been careless and disrespectful in giving away his birthright, but Isaac loved him and was tricked into blessing Jacob.  But Esau married local women and started worshipping local gods early on.  It only got worse.  While Esau had no enmity toward his brother when Jacob returned, that message was quickly lost in the following generations and the enmity grew and grew.  Yet, placing this chapter at this location puts a direct connection between the former neighbors and the promise that in the future, there will be no unsafe borders for the nation of Israel, a continuation of the promises at the end of Ezekiel 34.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. The word ‘gospel’ literally means ‘good news.’  What bad news is part of the good news?  Why do people need to hear the bad news?  Are you generally a ‘good newscaster’ or a ‘bad newscaster’?
“2. People often get discouraged when they really understand the bad news.  Do you get discouraged when you fail the Lord?  Does God want you to punish yourself or to do something else?  What does 2 Co 7:10 say about your attitudes and actions in response to sin?
“3. ls God calling every Christian to be a watchman like Ezekiel?  What are you watching for?  Will he hold you accountable for not warning your people?
“4. What concerns you most about the current scene in this country?  What are you doing about it?  ls there any project the group could work on to help?
“1. Are you, like the Israelites ever tempted to think you can get God’s blessing without obeying his commands?  Does God require obedience?
“2. The exiles liked to listen to Ezekiel but didn’t do what he said.  What does Jesus say about such people (see Mt 7:24-27)?  How would you describe yourself: (a) All listen but no action? (b) Easier said than done? (c) A procrastinating doer? (d) Not even a listener?
“1. In this parable, what do you learn about the mission of Jesus?
“2. What kind of sheep are you: Weak? Sick? Injured? Lost?  Does it feel like God is taking care of you?
“3. The word ‘pastor’ literally means a shepherd.  Are you getting good shepherding?  Do you follow where your shepherd leads you or are you always running away?  Are you growing in your ability to shepherd others?
“4. What sorts of sheep come to your small group: Tramplers? Drinkers? Muddy? Fat? Lean? Horny?  How can you to treat each other better?
“5. Do you feel sufficiently herded or does it seem you do all the herding?  How can the small group help?
“1. Why do you think it was wrong for Edom to rejoice when God punished Israel?  When has someone laughed when you were crying?
“2. What is your attitude when you see nasty people get their come-uppence?  What should it be?
“3. Once again, two different groups of people will know the Lord in two different ways.  What kind of person do you need to be to know the Lord in the good sense?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There are four sets of questions, one for each chapter, but a second set for Ezekiel 33.

Questions 4 and 5 of the third set, pertaining to Ezekiel 34, speak of a small group.  Apply them to yourself personally and/or to a church group that you are part of.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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