The people of Israel are portrayed as sheep who have been scattered. God promises to become their shepherd and to gather and return them to the land of Israel. Jesus will rule over them as their shepherd king, and judge between them.
In this chapter, Israel's leaders are portrayed as shepherds, and the people of Israel as sheep. God accuses the shepherds of having failed to care properly for the sheep, and pronounces woe to them (v3). Instead of feeding the sheep, they sought only to feed themselves (v8). Because they neglected the sheep, they ended up being scattered among the nations and becoming prey to wild beasts. So in verses 11 to 16, God promises that he will become the shepherd of Israel. He will seek out and gather the Jews from all the nations and restore them to the land of Israel (v13), where they will be like sheep living in lush pasture. At that time, he will judge between the sheep and the goats (v17), and judge between each sheep, one from another (v21). God will place his servant David (Jesus) over them as their shepherd (v23). God will make a covenant of peace with them (v25) and they will live securely. Israel will recognise the Lord when he delivers them from those who oppressed them (v27). They will no longer need to fear other nations (v28). They will not suffer from famine, or have to bear the insults of the nations (v29). They will know that God is with them, and that they are his people (v30).

In John 10:11, when Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd, he clearly had this passage in mind, along with Jeremiah 23. Since this passage prophesies that God himself would become the Shepherd of Israel, Jesus' claim was clearly a claim to be God. His claim also identified the Pharisees and rulers of Israel in his day as the wicked shepherds whom God would judge. In Matthew 23, when Jesus pronounced seven woes to the teachers of the law and Pharisees, he likely also had this passage in mind.

The prophecies in this chapter of Israel's restoration have already started to be fulfilled. God has been restoring the Jews to the land of Israel since the late 19th century, leading to the restoration of the State of Israel in 1948, and God has been blessing them there. At the second coming, Jesus's position as their Davidic shepherd king will become visible to everyone (John 10:11), and he will judge between the sheep and the goats, those who love God and those who do not (Matthew 25:31-46). Israel will recognise Jesus as their Messiah (Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12), and they will accept the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33) that he established through his death and resurrection. Jesus will deliver Israel from all her enemies at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19).
Places: Israel
Symbols: Shepherds, Sheep gone astray, Sheep and goats, Yoke of oppression
Tags: Jesus as the Good Shepherd, Return of exiles to Israel, Jesus as the king of Israel, New covenant, Armageddon, Millennium, Earth and heavens destroyed
A Prophecy Against False Shepherds
1 The Lord’s message came to me:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them – to the shepherds: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock?
3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep!
4 You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them.
5 They were scattered because they had no shepherd, and they became food for every wild beast.
6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over the entire face of the earth with no one looking or searching for them.
7 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, listen to the Lord’s message:
8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, my sheep have become prey and have become food for all the wild beasts. There was no shepherd, and my shepherds did not search for my flock, but fed themselves and did not feed my sheep,
9 Therefore, you shepherds, listen to the Lord’s message:
10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand my sheep from their hand. I will no longer let them be shepherds; the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore. I will rescue my sheep from their mouth, so that they will no longer be food for them.
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day.
13 I will bring them out from among the peoples and gather them from foreign countries; I will bring them to their own land. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams and all the inhabited places of the land.
14 In a good pasture I will feed them; the mountain heights of Israel will be their pasture. There they will lie down in a lush pasture, and they will feed on rich grass on the mountains of Israel.
15 I myself will feed my sheep and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.
16 I will seek the lost and bring back the strays; I will bandage the injured and strengthen the sick, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them – with judgment!
17 “‘As for you, my sheep, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.
18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must trample the rest of your pastures with your feet? When you drink clean water, must you muddy the rest of the water by trampling it with your feet?
19 As for my sheep, they must eat what you trampled with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet!
20 “‘Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: Look, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
21 Because you push with your side and your shoulder, and thrust your horns at all the weak sheep until you scatter them abroad,
22 I will save my sheep; they will no longer be prey. I will judge between one sheep and another.
23 I will set one shepherd over them, and he will feed them – namely, my servant David. He will feed them and will be their shepherd.
24 I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken!
25 “‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and will rid the land of wild beasts, so that they can live securely in the wilderness and even sleep in the woods.
26 I will turn them and the regions around my hill into a blessing. I will make showers come down in their season; they will be showers that bring blessing.
27 The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the earth will yield its crops. They will live securely on their land; they will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hand of those who enslaved them.
28 They will no longer be prey for the nations and the wild beasts will not devour them. They will live securely and no one will make them afraid.
29 I will prepare for them a healthy planting. They will no longer be victims of famine in the land and will no longer bear the insults of the nations.
30 Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they are my people, the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.
31 And you, my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are my people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”