The sheep in view, God clarified, were people, not real sheep. He was describing His relationship to them as people in the figure of a shepherd and sheep. [source][source][source]
There are basically three views concerning the meaning of literal interpretation that may be helpful to clarify as we proceed in the eschatological portions of Ezekiel (chs34-48). First, some who claim to interpret the text literally do so but deny the existence of many figures of speech. In Ezekiel 34 , for example, they might not recognize "shepherd" as a figure of speech but might conclude that God was speaking of the literal shepherds of literal sheep in Israel. Obviously there are few who deny all figures of speech, but interpreters of this persuasion do not recognize as figures of speech many that other interpreters do. This is "wooden literalism," "letterism," or "literalistic" interpretation that seeks "a straightforward reading of the text." Most interpreters of this type are premillennial in their understanding of the future. [source][source][source]
A second group of interpreters who consider themselves literal try to recognize figures of speech where they occur in the text, the understanding of the original readers, historical perspective, contextual clues, the progress of Revelation , the analogy of faith, etc. They seek to discover what the original readers understood when they read the text as a basis for understanding how we should understand it. The interpretations that I have advocated above in my comments on Ezekiel 34and elsewhere in these notes illustrate this approach. Many interpreters in this group like to use the term "normal" to describe their hermeneutics (principles of interpretation). Most of these interpreters are also premillennial. [source][source][source]
A third group interprets most portions of the text literally but believes prophetic material is mainly symbolic and figurative, not to be interpreted in a normal, straightforward manner. They depend heavily on the New Testament to understand the meaning of the Old Testament and read New Testament revelation back into the Old Testament as the Old Testament meaning. They understand, for example, some of the references to God blessing Israel in the future in Ezekiel 34as fulfilled in His blessing the church. They do not look for an eschatological fulfillment of these promises in the Jews. For example, the promises of God regathering Israel to her land are not taken to mean that God will eventually Revelation -gather the Jews to the Promised Land. Rather He will gather His people (i.e, all the redeemed) to heaven, the land that He has prepared for us. Thus they "spiritualize" the Old Testament prophecies while taking the rest of the Old Testament more or less literally. Most interpreters of this type end up with an amillennial or postmillennial understanding of the future. [source][source][source]
Most interpreters who hold the first and third hermeneutical positions also claim to hold the second one and sometimes argue that those who hold the other positions do not. [source][source][source]
"Various facets of chapters33-48 may be used as analogies, illustrations, and object lessons in the NT but such does not demand that the NT is necessarily giving a "fulfillment" of these chapters." [source]
Ezekiel 34:17-31 - "showers Of Blessing"
Though God now often seems to make no difference between the oppressors and the oppressed, the time is fast coming when He will make momentous and lasting distinctions, Matthew 25:32-33. No wrong shall then be unredressed. Note the designation of our Lord as "the One Shepherd," peerless and matchless in dignity and authority. Once He died to save His flock from the wolf, but He is destined to reign forever as their Great Shepherd in the midst of them, Ezekiel 34:24. They shall be everlastingly exempted from hunger, harm, and reproach. Jesus has been raised up from the dead to be our plant of renown. Planted in the grave of death, He has become with His faithful people a Vine, whose shadow covers the hills, and enriches the hearts and lives of men with luscious fruit. And because He lives, we shall live also. His resurrection implies and guarantees our own. [source]
Chapter Summary: Ezekiel 34
1A reproof of the shepherds 7God's judgment against them 11His providence over his flock 20The kingdom of Christ
What do the individual words in Ezekiel 34:31 mean?
And You [are]My flockthe flockof My pasturemenyou [are][and] I [am]your Godsaysthe LordGOD-