Old Testament Scriptural Selections and Commentary
Ezekiel, Selections from chapters in the Teacher's Manual
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #43
The Shepherds of Israel - Ezekiel 34:2
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 201-6
"God will strengthen. A priest of the family of Zadok, and one of the captives carried away by Nebuchadnezzar [Babylonian king] along with [Israel's King] Jehoiachin. He settled at Tel Abib on the Chebar [a canal or waterway off of the Euphrates River, Bible Dictionary] and prophesied during a period of 22 years, 592–570 B.C.
"[Chapters] 33–39, [are] prophecies of restoration [including 34, The Shepherds of Israel]. Among the notable teachings of Ezekiel are Ezek. 3 and 18, which show the significance of a prophet’s warning and the individual responsibility of every person for the consequences of his own behavior; Ezek. 37, which depicts the valley of dry bones, each bone coming together, bone to his bone, in the Resurrection, the restoration of Israel, and the uniting of the stick (record) of Ephraim with the stick of Judah; and Ezek. 47–48, the description of the latter-day temple in Jerusalem (see Lesson #44), the river running from the temple into the Dead Sea to heal it, and the building of a city “foursquare.” Ezekiel was a man of many visions and spoke much about the future restoration of Israel and the glory of the millennial reign of the Lord. The authenticity of his writings is specifically confirmed by latter-day revelation, as in D&C 29:21 (lds.org, Scriptures, Study Helps, Bible Dictionary, Ezekiel).
The true shepherd - quote by Ezra Taft Benson from the Teacher's Manual:
"In Jesus’ time, the Palestinian shepherd was noted for his protection of his sheep. Unlike modern sheepherders, the shepherd always walked ahead of his flock. He led them. The shepherd knew each of the sheep and usually had a name for each. The sheep knew his voice and trusted him and would not follow a stranger. Thus, when called, the sheep would come to him. (See John 10:14, 16.)
“At night shepherds would bring their sheep to a corral called a sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of these walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over.
“Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening them. Such a situation separated the true shepherd—one who loved his sheep—from the hireling—one who worked only for pay and duty.
“The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in amongst the sheep and fight for their welfare. The hireling, on the other hand, valued his own personal safety above the sheep and would usually flee from the danger" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 61; or Ensign, May 1983, 43).
In this lesson, "Ezekiel’s teachings help us understand how much the Savior loves and cares for each of us. He is our Shepherd. He is eager to forgive. He made it possible for us to be resurrected. He is directing the latter-day gathering of Israel. And he brought forth the Book of Mormon as another witness of him" (from the Teacher's Manual).
Ezekiel Chapter 34 - The shepherds of Israel
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds [religious leaders]; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them (34:2-4)."
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety (salvation) of his sheep” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 710; quoted in Teacher's Manual).
"And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field [their enemies], when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them" (34:5-6).
"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I [the true shepherd], will both search my sheep, and seek them out [gather Israel] . 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land [see Abrahamic Covenant], and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.…15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. 16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat [wicked] and the strong; I will feed them with judgment [justice, what they have earned]" (34:11-13, 15-16).
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “We call on you to extend yourselves with renewed dedication. … We want you to watch, to feed, to tend, and to care for the flock and, in the event that some are temporarily lost, we challenge you to find them” (Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 64; or Ensign, May 1983, 45; quoted in Teacher's Manual).
John 10:11-15 - "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Ezekiel Chapter 18 - Repentance and forgiveness
"But if the wicked will turn [repent] from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions [sins] that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live" (18:21-22).
"Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive" (18:27).
"Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit [be spiritually reborn]: for why will ye die [spiritual death], O house of Israel?" (18:31).
The Teacher's Manual asks: " Why is it important to understand that repentance includes both turning away from sin and having a change of heart? How can we experience this change of heart?
Alma 5:13–14 - "And behold, he [Abinadi] preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved. 14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"
Mosiah 27:25 - "And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters."
Now, Ezekiel teaches about those who turn away from righteousness:
"But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die [remain] (18:24).
The Lord has "no pleasure" in those who refuse to repent and die in their sins (18:23, 32) but will show justice and mercy to those who repent. "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin" (18:30).
Chapter 37:1-14 - Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones
From the Teacher's Manual: "…Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones symbolizes both the Resurrection and the restoration of the children of Israel to their promised land."
In Ezekiel's vision from the Lord, he is carried in spirit to a valley of dry bones (37:1). "And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest" (37:3). And the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy upon the bones that they will hear the words of the Lord (37:4). As he prophesied according to what the Lord told him, the bones came together bone upon bone, then sinews came and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them (37:7-8). Then the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the four winds that breath would come to them and they would live. And a great army stood up upon their feet (37:9-10). The Lord tells Ezekiel these bones are "the whole house of Israel" whose hope is lost. But, the Lord promises that they will "come up out of [their] graves" and he will return them to their land, Israel (37:12-14). "Although Israel’s hope may be as dead as the 'great army' of bones that Ezekiel saw, the Savior can bring it back to vitality and life" [through the resurrection] (Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual).
Moroni 7:41 - "And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise."
Ezekiel 37:15-25 - The stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph
"The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, 16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick [wooden writing tablet, footnote 16a], and write upon it, For Judah [the Bible], and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph [The Book of Mormon], the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: 17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand" (37:15-17).
Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “The stick or record of Judah—the Old Testament and the New Testament—and the stick or record of Ephraim—the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ—are now woven together in such a way that as you pore over one you are drawn to the other; as you learn from one you are enlightened by the other. They are indeed one in our hands. Ezekiel’s prophecy now stands fulfilled” (Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53; quoted in The Teacher's Manual).
Ezekiel prophesied the following "would occur after the two sticks are put together"
(from The Teachers Manual):
1. The children of Israel would be gathered together and united into one kingdom with the Savior as King (Ezekiel 37:21–22).
2. The people would be cleansed and purified (Ezekiel 37:23).
3. The people would observe the Lord’s statutes (Ezekiel 37:24).
4. The people would dwell in a promised land (Ezekiel 37:25)
In Ezekiel 37:26-28, the Lord promises to bless the returned children of Israel with an everlasting "covenant of peace" and the restoration of the Lord's "sanctuary" [Temple]. This will be discussed in The Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, Lesson #44.
Ezekiel Supplemental Study
Learning to be a good shepherd
This is a story told by Elder James E. Faust quoted in the Teacher's Manual. See also Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 62–63; or Ensign, May 1995, p. 46.
Watchmen to raise a warning voice
"In Ezekiel’s day, a watchman on a tower would warn the people of impending danger from enemy armies. Ezekiel warned his people about enemies that would endanger them spiritually" (3:17-21).
Elder Boyd K. Packer tells the story of the collapse of the Teton Dam in Idaho in 1976. The saving miracle happened because the 7,800 people in the path of the floodwaters listened to the warnings and speedily warned their neighbors. It is believed that five of the six people who died did not listen to the warnings. (See Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 201-6.)