Ezekiel 34:3
You eat the fat, and you clothe you with the wool, you kill them that are fed: but you feed not the flock.
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Ezekiel 34:3-4. Ye eat the fat — Or, the milk, as the LXX. render it. The Hebrew words chalab, milk, and cheleb, fat, differ only in their points, so that the ancient versions take them promiscuously one for the other. These shepherds of the Lord’s flock, these civil and ecclesiastical rulers of the people, used their power over them, and exercised their offices, merely for their temporal advantage and emolument. “They exacted their tribute and taxes, their tithes and perquisites, with great earnestness; and they oppressed, and even destroyed the people, to enrich themselves: but they bestowed no pains to provide for the welfare of the state, or of the souls of those intrusted to them.” — Scott. Ye kill them that are fed — Ye take away the lives of the wealthy and substantial by unjust means, in order to enrich yourselves with their estates. But ye feed not the flock — Ye take no care for their benefit, temporal or spiritual. Ye are so ignorant that ye know not how to feed them, and ye are so indolent that ye will not take any pains to do it, and ye are so treacherous and unfaithful that ye never desired or designed it. The diseased — The weak and languishing; have ye not strengthened — With your help, counsel, or countenance. Ye have not applied proper remedies to the wants and necessities of those committed to your charge. The magistrates have not taken care to relieve the needy and defend the oppressed. The priests and the prophets have not been diligent in giving the people proper instructions, in rectifying the mistakes of those that were in error, in warning the unruly, or comforting the disconsolate. Neither have ye bound up that which was broken — Ye have not given relief to the afflicted and miserable: a metaphor taken from surgeons binding up wounds in order to cure them. Neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, &c. — Or, which was gone astray, as the word נדחה is translated, Deuteronomy 22:1. Ye have not, by your instructions and exhortations, endeavoured to reduce those who had wandered from the way of truth, or to reclaim those who were ready to perish in their sins; but with force and cruelty have ye ruled them — Have endeavoured to reduce and govern them by the rough methods of compulsion and cruelty, and not by the gentle way of reason and argument, longsuffering, meekness, and love; and your government over them has been exercised by tyranny and oppression, instead of justice, kindness, and beneficence.34:1-6 The people became as sheep without a shepherd, were given up as a prey to their enemies, and the land was utterly desolated. No rank or office can exempt from the reproofs of God's word, men who neglect their duty, and abuse the trust reposed in them.Shepherds - Not priests or prophets, but rulers and kings (see the Jeremiah 2:8 note). The most ancient title for "ruler" is a monogram which occurs on the oldest monuments discovered in the cuneiform character. In the Assyrian language it became riu (compare Hebrew רעה râ‛âh equals shepherd). In the traditions of Berosus we find that Alorus, the first king in the world, received from the Divinity the title of Shepherd. The title, as well as the monogram, was preserved to the latest times of the Assyrian monarchy. While the distress and misery of the people daily in creased, the last kings of Judah exacted more and more from their subjects and lavished more and more on personal luxury and show. 3. fat—or, by differently pointing the Hebrew, "milk" [Septuagint]. Thus the repetition "fat" and "fed" is avoided: also the eating of "fat" would not probably be put before the "killing" of the sheep. The eating of sheep's or goats' milk as food (De 32:14; Pr 27:27) was unobjectionable, had not these shepherds milked them too often, and that without duly "feeding" them [Bochart], (Isa 56:11). The rulers levied exorbitant tributes.

kill … fed—kill the rich by false accusation so as to get possession of their property.

feed not … flock—take no care of the people (Joh 10:12).

The fat; rather the milk, which insatiably and without measure you devour; you exhaust their purses and weaken their estates by tributes, exacted by extortions: so the temporal rulers and the spiritual rulers had their methods and arts to milk them dry, these lived on the sins of the people.

With the wool; with best and finest, as best suiting with your pride and luxury, on which you force the people to bestow so much that they have not to clothe themselves and theirs; this was mighty oppression.

Ye kill them; contrive methods for a seeming legal course to forfeit first the life, and next the estate, of the well-fed, the rich, and wealthy, and then make merry and feast, as voluptuous, unfaithful shepherds feast on the fattest of the sheep in their masters’ fold. Ye feed not the flock; take no care to lead, protect, provide for, and watch over them, but, as idle shepherds feasted with the fattest, let the rest starve for any thing they care. Ye eat the fat,.... The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, render it, "the milk"; the words for fat and milk differ only in the points; and this was not unlawful, for

who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? 1 Corinthians 9:7, provided it was done with moderation, that they ate some, but not all; but these rulers milked their subjects too much, oppressed them with heavy taxes, and got their substance into their own hands. The Targum is,

"ye eat the good;''

they got possessed of the best of their substance; as did also their ecclesiastical rulers, who were greedy shepherds, that could never have enough; they looked for their gain from their quarter, and even devoured widows' houses, Isaiah 56:11,

ye clothe you with the wool: the pure wool, as the Targum, the finest of it; they fleeced the flock, and stripped the people of their riches; and minded nothing but their own backs and bellies:

ye kill them that are fed; or, that "are fat" (q); the richest of the people they brought accusations and charges against for capital crimes; and so put them to death under a colour of justice, that they, might get their estates into their hands:

but ye feed not the flock; did not govern the people well, by doing justice and judgment among men, as became civil magistrates; did not deliver out words of faith and sound doctrine, to feed the souls of men with, which is the duty of those that preside in the church of God.

(q) "quod pingue est", Vatablus, Bochartus; "pinguem", Cocceius, Starckius. So Ben Melech.

Ye eat the {b} fat, and ye clothe yourselves with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.

(b) You seek to enrich yourselves by their conveniences and to spoil their riches and substance.

3. Ye eat the fat] LXX. the milk (the consonants are the same). Cf. Isaiah 7:22; Zechariah 11:16.Verse 3. - Ye eat the fat. The LXX. and the Vulgate, following a different reading, give milk, and, as "killing" comes in the next clause, this is probably preferable (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:7; Isaiah 7:22). Sixth and last strophe. - Ezekiel 32:31. Pharaoh will see them, and comfort himself over all his multitude. Pharaoh and all his army are slain with the sword, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 32:32. For I caused him to spread terror in the land of the living, therefore is he laid in the midst of uncircumcised, those slain with the sword. Pharaoh and all his multitude, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - In these verses the application to Egypt follows. Pharaoh will see in the nether world all the greater and smaller heathen nations with their rulers; and when he sees them all given up to the judgment of death, he will comfort himself over the fate which has fallen upon himself and his army, as he will perceive that he could not expect any better lot than that of the other rulers of the world. נחם על, to comfort oneself, as in Ezekiel 31:16 and Ezekiel 14:22. Hitzig's assertion, that נחם never signifies to comfort oneself, is incorrect (see the comm. on Ezekiel 14:22). נתתּי את־חתּיתו, I have given terror of him, i.e., I have made him an instrument of terror. The Keri חתּיתי arose from a misunderstanding. The Chetib is confirmed by Ezekiel 32:24 and Ezekiel 32:26. In Ezekiel 32:32 the ode is brought to a close by returning even in expression to Ezekiel 32:19 and Ezekiel 32:20.

If, now, we close with a review of the whole of the contents of the words of God directed against Egypt, in all of them is the destruction of the might of Pharaoh and Egypt as a world-power foretold. And this prophecy has been completely fulfilled. As Kliefoth has most truly observed, "one only needs to enter the pyramids of Egypt and its catacombs to see that the glory of the Pharaohs has gone down into Sheol. And it is equally certain that this destruction of the glory of ancient Egypt dates from the times of the Babylonio-Persian empire. Moreover, this destruction was so thorough, that even to the New Egypt of the Ptolemies the character of the Old Egypt was a perfect enigma, a thing forgotten and incomprehensible." But if Ezekiel repeatedly speaks of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon as executing this judgment upon Egypt, we must bear in mind that here, as in the case of Tyre (see the comm. on Ezekiel 28:1-19), Ezekiel regards Nebuchadnezzar as the instrument of the righteous punishment of God in general, and discerns in what he accomplishes the sum of all that in the course of ages has been gradually fulfilling itself in history. At the same time, it is equally certain that this view of the prophet would have no foundation in truth unless Nebuchadnezzar really did conquer Egypt and lay it waste, and the might and glory of this ancient empire were so shattered thereby, that it never could recover its former greatness, but even after the turning of its captivity, i.e., after its recovery from the deadly wounds which the imperial monarchy of Babylonia and afterwards of Persia inflicted upon it, still remained a lowly kingdom, which could "no more rule over the nations" (Ezekiel 29:13-16). Volney, however, in his Recherch. nouv. sur l'hist. anc. (III pp. 151ff.), and Hitzig (Ezekiel p. 231), dispute the conquest and devastation of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, because the Greek historians, with Herodotus (ii. 161ff.) at their head, make no allusion whatever to an invasion of Egypt; and their statements are even opposed to such an occurrence. But the silence of Greek historians, especially of Herodotus, is a most "miserable" argument. The same historians do not say a word about the defeat of Necho by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish; and yet even Hitzig accepts this as an indisputable fact. Herodotus and his successors derived their accounts of Egypt from the communications of Egyptian priests, who suppressed everything that was humiliating to the pride of Egypt, and endeavoured to cover it up with their accounts of glorious deeds which the Pharaohs had performed. But Hitzig has by no means proved that the statements of the Greeks are at variance with the assumption of a Chaldean invasion of Egypt, whilst he has simply rejected but not refuted the attempts of Perizonius, Vitringa, Hvernick, and others, to reconcile the biblical narrative of the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar with the accounts given by Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and other Greeks, concerning the mighty feats of Necho, and his being slain by Amasis. The remark that, in the description given by Herodotus, Amasis appears as an independent king by the side of Cambyses, only less powerful than the Persian monarch, proves nothing more, even assuming the correctness of the fact, than that Amasis had made Egypt once more independent of Babylonia on the sudden overthrow of the Chaldean monarchy.

The conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, after the attitude which Pharaoh Necho assumed towards the Babylonian empire, and even attempted to maintain in the time of Zedekiah by sending an army to the relief of Jerusalem when besieged by the Chaldeans, is not only extremely probable in itself, but confirmed by testimony outside the Bible. Even if no great importance can be attached to the notice of Megasthenes, handed down by Strabo (xv. 1. 6) and Josephus (c. Ap. i. 20): "he says that he (Nebuchadnezzar) conquered the greater part of Libya and Iberia;" Josephus not only quotes from Berosus (l.c. i. 19) to the effect that "the Babylonian got possession of Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, Arabia," but, on the ground of such statements, relates the complete fulfilment of the prophecies of Scripture, saying, in Antt. x. 9. 7, with reference to Nebuchadnezzar, "he fell upon Egypt to conquer it. And the reigning king he slew; and having appointed another in his place, made those Jews prisoners who had hitherto resided there, and led them into Babylon." And even if Josephus does not give his authority in this case, the assertion that he gathered this from the prophecies of Jeremiah is untrue; because, immediately before the words we have quoted, he says that what Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 43:10 and Jeremiah 44) had thus come to pass; making a distinction, therefore, between prophecy and history. And suspicion is not to be cast upon this testimony by such objections as that Josephus does not mention the name of the Egyptian king, or state precisely the time when Egypt was conquered, but merely affirms in general terms that it was after the war with the Ammonites and Moabites.

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