Read verses 1-6
Observation: Just as each word needs to be studied in the context of its verse, and each verse with the other verses in its paragraphs, and the paragraphs with the paragraphs around it, we need to also consider entire chapters in the context of the chapter before and after. In this case, it may be important to note how in chapter 33 God first lays down the requirement for repentance BEFORE He goes on to explain in this chapter how He’ll deal with false shepherds and false sheep.
Q: What kind of leader – in other words, which specific office – would Old Testament readers of Ezekiel’s time most likely associate with being a shepherd and why?
A: Most likely it would be the national rulers because of the example established through David, a shepherd anointed to be king by whose standard God compared every successive king. When David is finally accepted as king, it’s the role of shepherd which is emphasized in his calling
“Previously, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel.’”
— 2 Samuel 5:2
Point: The choice of a shepherd projected leaders as guarding and providing for God’s people entrusted to their care, just as Jesus’ selection of fishermen reminded them of their spiritual office to catch men for the kingdom. Most importantly, David was a type – a prefiguring – of the Messiah to come as the ultimate Shepherd.
Q: Are there any other kinds of leader to which this may be referring?
A: Time and again in both Testaments spiritual leaders are analogized to shepherds.
Q: What are the actions taken which precisely define someone as a bad shepherd according to v.1-3?
- “...feeding themselves” (v.2)
- “...clothe yourselves...” (v.3)
- Not “feeding the flock...” (v.3)
In other words, they are greedy and self-centered, thinking only of themselves.
Q: According to v.4, who specifically have the false shepherds let down?
- “Those who are sickly...”
- “...the broken...”
- “...the scattered...”
- “...the lost...”
God proves their failure to love, follow, and worship Him by their failure to love and take care of others. Their treatment of others is God’s measurement of what kind of shepherd they are.
Q: According to v.4, what actions did the false shepherds undertake against the flock?
- “...you have not strengthened...”
- “...you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.”
- “...you have not healed...”
- “...you have not bound up...”
- “...you have not brought back...”
- “...nor have you sought the lost..”
- “...with force and with severity you have dominated them.”
Q: What was the overall affect on the flock according to v.5-6?
- “They were scattered...”
- “...they became food for every beast...”
Point: False shepherds induce spiritual division and isolation.
Q: How is the overall situation summarized by God in v.6?
A: “...there was no one to search or seek for them.”
Point: Being a shepherd of God is all about the care and feeding of His sheep and pursuing them when they stray. It’s much more than merely leading them, and requires constant living out among the sheep to do a good job – not requiring the sheep to come to them (as many ministries are modeled these days).
“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
— Matthew 18:12