It is no surprise that the Bible remains to be one of the top selling books around the world. The Bible is filled with remarkable tales of epic heroes, wisdom, and poetry. The entire book is quite astonishing because of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the fulfillment of those prophecies in the New Testament. For example, in Ezekiel 34: 23, the prophet Ezekiel foreshadows the Messiah to come. ‘I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd’. It can be inferred that this shepherd will be named David because he will be loved by God and humanity. The coming Messiah will come from the line of David and establish the Kingdom of God through this lineage. This is seen in the book of John in the New Testament. In this essay, I will show how the analogy of feeding the sheep indicates that the Lord himself will become low like man in order to serve man and rescue him from sin and eternal separation from God, particularly through the analysis of Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-21.
In the Gospel of John, one can observe the fulfillment of the Lord as the savior of the world from the line of David and the true shepherd, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’ ‘Good’ indicates that which is just, noble, and admirable. Christ is the Good Shepherd because he fulfills the human heart by guiding, loving, and sacrificing for it through the work of the Holy Spirit. Aquinas would agree with this by conveying that the good life is the fulfilling life because that which makes man the happiest is the beatific vision of God. This can be seen in his statement, ‘only by living a fully human life, a life of reason with virtues, do we truly reflect God’s good and share in it, for then do we ourselves become good.’
Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-25 contain a variety of prophecies and fulfillments. In order to discover these fascinating similarities, one must dive into each book and observe their historical context, vocabulary, and theological themes.
The book of Ezekiel was composed throughout the duration of the exile of Judah in Babylon. According to Jeffery Audirsch, ‘Following the death of King Josiah at Megiddo, the nation of Judah began to regress back to her pagan ways’. This may be an inclination as to why God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to besiege the holy city of Jerusalem and majority of its distinguished citizens, including the relatives of Ezekiel. It was a consequence for Israel’s actions. Having been exiled to Babylon, Ezekiel received his calling to become a prophet. His goal was to reinforce the Monotheism of the Lord Yahweh. During the exile, the people of Israel started to witness practices of other religions and this served as a religious temptation. After being notified that that Jerusalem had turned to sin, Ezekiel received the Lord’s reassurance of deliverance and restoration for his beloved people. In due time, God’s people would engage in redirection towards God and revival.
The vocabulary of Ezekiel 34 is quite captivating and reassuring to the reader. There are numerous occurrences in which God himself indicates his desire to be involved in the lives of his children. For example, in verses 11-31 there are uses of singular first person proclamations. ‘For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness.’ By reading such passages, one can infer and recognize that God truly desires for all of his children to be saved and have a personal relationship with him. The use of the word ‘I’ is to indicate that God himself is reaching out to his people through the use of the prophetic instrument of communication, which is the man Ezekiel. God desires for his people to be united with him and the use of imagery in this book depicts that. For example, the term ‘scattered’ may indicate the nation being lost. The phrase ‘on the day of clouds and judgment’ may indicate the Lord’s return, in which he will judge all of humanity according to their actions.
The theological notions and themes of Ezekiel 34 are unique in their aspect of freedom from sin and redirection towards God. There are three main important theological notions in this book: Judgment, oracles, and salvation. Ezekiel judges the so-called ‘shepherds’ of the time. ‘There are ‘shepherds’ who are entrusted to with the duty of guarding the flock.’ ‘Shepherds’ were to be strong leaders that cared and looked after their sheep, guarding and guiding the nation. The ‘flock’ was the depiction of the children of God. Oracles in the book of Ezekiel were used by the prophet to warn God’s children to forsake their evil practices and wicked ways. In this book, there were oracles of the present leaders of Israel, who were the shepherds. They were reprimanded for their selfishness and lack of concern for God’s children. Ezekiel’s purpose was to warn the nation of Israel of the consequences of their sin and to convey to them that they need to take responsibility for their actions or face judgment. The reader gets a glimpse of salvation with the use of the name David, which is to be symbolic and not taken literally as the David seen in the book of Kings. The purpose of using the name of David is to convey that the new leader will have characteristics just like David-a man who the Lord was pleased with and who was victorious against the enemies of the nation.
The book of John is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy and explains as to who the true shepherd is. Its historical context pertains to the persecution of Christians during the reign of Emperor Nero in Rome. Christians were facing trials and tribulations because of their conversion to Christianity. They were rejected by society and even by some of their own family members. Due to these trials, there were individuals who converted back to their old faith while others remained faithful to God and endured hardships till death. The purpose of the book of John was to give hope to humanity and to convey that Christianity was the path to follow in this life.
The vocabulary of the book of John is unique in its reference to Jesus as the divine son of God. Throughout this book, the vocabulary also aids in showing the revelation of Jesus. John 10:1-21, in particular, contains the use of the word ‘I’. For example, ‘I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be saved: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture.’ This is to show that Jesus is the way to receive salvation for all of humanity, regardless of race, gender, or social status. The vocabulary depicts the love of Christ for his people and that this love is a sacrificial love, one that is selfless as seen in John 10:15. ‘Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for my sheep.’ The vocabulary also uses heavy imagery and symbolism to depict the nature of the Lord Christ and Satan. Christ is depicted as a ‘shepherd’ who will give up all for the safety of his flock while Satan is a ‘thief’, who seeks to destroy the lives of believers in Christ. These opposite personalities show the reader the nature of good and evil and why Christ is to be followed if one desires to be with him and live virtuously.
The theological notion and theme of John 10:1-21 is an emphasis on the personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who he truly is. ‘The person coming to the people of God through the Gate is a person who comes to them with one great message-The Lord Jesus Christ and his gracious relation with the world.’ John clearly points out that Christ is not a mere human man, but the divine son of God that humans should have a deep relationship with. He is the way to live a victorious life by obeying his commands and reflecting upon his sacrifice on Calvary. By being the Son of God, humanity can put their faith, hope, and trust in him. By trusting in him, the world is able to understand God’s love and live according to his statures. Jesus represents the divine gift and sacrifice sent by God himself to rid humanity of their sins.
Both Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-21 share the historical context of periods of tribulation in a variety of ways: physically, mentally, and spiritually. In the Old Testament of Ezekiel, the ‘Shepherds’ were not leading the nation correctly and this served as a period of tribulation because the nation was being led astray, thus causing them to be more inclined to sin than obey God’s commandments. In the New Testament of John, persecution occurred and had harsh effects, such as rejection and death. Due to these harsh conditions, many Christians struggled to keep their faith due to a lack of a strong foundation in the faith. If they did not obey God on a regular basis and were not being properly led to righteousness, they may have been more inclined to sin and abandon the faith, as seen later in Ezekiel 34:5: ‘For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the wild animals; they have been scattered.
Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-21 share similar vocabulary styles through the use of repetition and echoing. For example, in Ezekiel 34:13: ‘I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in the inhabited parts of the country.’ There is an echoing of God’s desire to bring back the people of Israel to their home; however, the phrases ‘bring them back’ and ‘gather them’ are different in words, but similar in meaning. Their purpose is for the people of Israel to return to serving God. Another example of echoing a notion, but using different words is Ezekiel’s use of titles pertaining to the leaders of Israel. He switches from calling them ‘prophets of Israel’ to ‘shepherds of Israel.’ Although they differ in title, they still mean the same thing, those in charge of teaching and guiding the people of Israel. An example of repetition can be seen in John 10:1 and John 10:7. Both verses have the phrase ‘In all truth I tell you” Jesus uses this phrase to emphasize and put importance to the notion that he is the person to be followed to live a good and virtuous life, because this indicates that no other way or person can lead humanity like he can. The vocabulary of both books also emphasizes the word ‘I’ to indicate that the Lord in Ezekiel is the same Lord in John, a divine figure who is in authority over all of humanity.
The theological notions of John 10:1-21 and Ezekiel 34 are similar in their emphasis on judgment, salvation, and personal relationship with God. Both in Ezekiel 34 and John 10 discusses the nature of the ‘shepherds’ and their failure to lead the flock to righteousness. God is angry with the shepherds because they are indulging in sin and not leading his people closer to him; rather the people of Israel are going astray due to a lack of strong teaching and guidance. This can be seen in John 10:13: ‘He runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.’ The shepherds are being egoistic and are concerned with their future, rather than the future of Israel. They neglected their duty to lead the nation and the consequence of that is the nation has gone through a period of tribulation and suffering due to their lack of guidance.
This can also be seen in Ezekiel 34: 2-3:
‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘Shepherds, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Are not shepherds meant to feed a flock’?
In regards to salvation, both books discuss that God desires for His people to be united with him in heaven one day because he wants the people of Israel to turn from their sinful ways of living and be more inclined towards him. God also uses the word ‘I’ to emphasize that he himself will come down and rescue his people from the dangers of sin and the enemies of the nation. Lastly, by desiring for his children to forsake their wicked ways, God shows his love for them by desiring them to have a personal relationship. One can observe this in Ezekiel 34 in the prophecy of a new shepherd who will lead the way and the fulfillment of that in John 10:1-25, by Jesus being that very shepherd. This shows that God always keeps his promises and remains faithful even when his people remain unfaithful.
In conclusion, both Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-25 are somewhat parallel to each other. Ezekiel foretells the coming of the Messiah the Old Testament and Jesus comes to fulfill that role in John 10:15 of the New Testament. It can be inferred that Ezekiel 34 is the prophecy of John 10. These two books are only a glimpse of the many books in the Bible that contain the prophecy and fulfillment of Christ as the Messiah and True Shepherd.