Form of Ezekiel 34:11-16
Ezekiel 34: The message reception formula in verse 1 (i.e. “the word of Yahweh came to me, saying…”), which next occurs in 35:1, labels the chapter as a literary unit. The commission to prophesy in verse 2 (i.e. “thus says Yahweh”) introduces an oracle that seems to run to verse 16. It has an overall metaphorical theme of shepherding. In form, it has the elements of both an oracle of judgment and an oracle of salvation.
The two-part “oracle of judgment” (vv 1-10) introduces its first part of accusation with yoh “woe” statement that serves to identify the target of the oracle and to make a basic charge (v 2b) which continues till verse 6. The pronouncement of punishment begins with a consequential (“therefore”) summons to hear in verse 7 and the charges (v 8) which then proceeds to echo the earlier consequential summons and, with a formal messenger formula and a formula of encounter, threatens to deal with the “shepherds” (v 10a). Equally, however, Yahweh’s intervention would bring salvation to his “flock” (v 10b).
Structure of Ezekiel 34:11-16
This positive message of salvation is developed in a further, explanatory (“for”) section, after a messenger formula, by means of a series of promises (vv 11–16). This section has a grammatical peculiarity in that masculine suffixes are consistently used for the flock, while, as in vv 5–10, verbs with the flock as subject are feminine (vv 12, 14). The anomaly is probably to be explained in terms of looseness, which was not liable to misunderstanding, now that the shepherds were no longer in view.
Setting of Ezekiel 34:11-16
As to the setting of the various oracles, in their final arrangement they comprise a literary assurance to the Judean exiles that they are under Yahweh’s care and heirs of a positive destiny. The first oracle sends conflicting signals concerning its background. Based on Jer 23:1–2, it at first sight has a pre-exilic setting insofar as it attacks the Judean monarchy, presumably in the person of its last representative, Zedekiah. However, a post-587 BCE provenance is evident, probably in v 6 and certainly in v 12b. It is possible to envisage an original, pre-587 BCE oracle in vv 1–10, who reconstructs a poetic original and interprets v 6 in terms of Judean high places) or in vv 1–2, 9–10, or to reconstruct two interwoven oracles, one pre-exilic and the other post-exilic.
But the glance at the monarchy may well be a backward and rhetorical one; which serves as a powerful prelude to promises of return from exile. Possibly the second oracle; in vv 17–22, seesaws on 587/6 BCE in a similar way. Then the rams and male goats refer to the upper classes; who exploited their economic power at the expense of the poor; and were the moral cause of the exile (v 21b). It is more likely, however, that we are to relate the oracle to the still future judgment of 20:35–38; and to envisage dissension Amon.
Textual notes Ezekiel 34:11-16
a The word yn`d)a& ‘Lord’ is lacking in the LXX and BHS also supposes that it would be a later addition.
a-a BHS suggests to read hu#r)h* rQ@b^K= where both the noun and participle are masculine singular against the MT’s hu#r) tr~Q`b!K= in which the noun is feminine singular while the participle is masculine.
b BHS suggests to read (following some manuscripts and in comparison with the LXX) as toyj$; which lacks the verbal suffix as against the MT’s otoyj$; which is to be translated as “he happened to be him,” which is unlikely.
c BHS suggests to read this as tocr`p=n] which means in Niphal “to be scattered, spread out,” and BDB also suggest this. This may be acceptable and to be followed.
a BHS suggests to take the preposition la# ‘to, unto’ in an equivalent to lu^ ‘upon, over.’
a Two manuscripts and the LXX and Targum have singular instead of MT’s plural.
b A few manuscripts (so also the LXX and Vulgate) read hu#r+m!b=W ‘and on pasture’ adding preposition against MT’s reading without preposition. Though the preposition attached with the word for ‘habitation’ can be connected with this; but to supply preposition here will make the expression clearer and easy to understand.
c BHS suggests to take the preposition la# ‘to, unto’ in an equivalent to lu^ ‘upon, over.’
a A certain codex of the LXX adds kai gnwsontai oti egw eimi kurioj; ‘and they shall know that I am Yahweh.’
b The word yn`d)a& ‘Lord’ is lacking in the LXX and BHS also supposes that it may be a later addition.
a-a The word hn`m@V=h^-ta#w+ ‘and the fat’ is absent in the LXX; and BHS also supposes that it would be a later addition that it has to be deleted.
b The word dym!v=a^ ‘I will annihilate’ is missing in some manuscripts while two manuscripts read it as rym!v=a^ ‘I will keep/watch over’ (also Hiphil imperfect); The LXX (so also Syriac and Vulgate) has fulaxw ‘to keep, guard.’ In line with this, BHS also suggest to read it as rm)v=a# ‘I will keep/watch’ which is Qal imperfect.
c Instead of MT’s hN`u#r+a# ‘I will feed her’ (3rd feminine singular verbal suffix); LXX (and Targum also) has kai boskhsw auta ‘and I will feed them;’ inserting conjunction kai ‘and’ and then changing singular pronoun to plural. BHS also suggests to read it as /u@r+a#w+ ‘and I will feed them’; which adds conjunction and changes the singular pronominal suffix to plural.