More Information
ISBN: 9781783689965
Imprint: Langham Academic
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 18
Publication Date: 14/12/2013
Pages: 330
Series: Studies in Old Testament
Language: English

A Theological Examination of Symbolism in Ezekiel with Emphasis on the Shepherd Metaphor


This book addresses one of the ever-aching problems of human society – failed leadership in secular and sacred domains. It points out, from Ezekiel’s use of symbolism and shepherd motif, what society stands to suffer and or lose under a bad human leadership structure and bad governance. This plays out in the book’s x-ray of the characteristics of sheep needing a shepherd. Dr. Biwul contends that Ezekiel used symbolic sign-acts to indict both Israel’s bad and imperfect human shepherds as well as the Babylonian exiles as being responsible for their plight for not upholding the norms of Deuteronomic theology. Particularly, he argues forcefully from Ezekiel’s shepherd motif that a major factor responsible for the exile of Israel as a covenant community is the massive failure of its bad and imperfect human shepherds who did not possess the requisite shepherding qualities inherent in Yahweh as chief shepherd of Israel. Biwul therefore draws particular attention to the reality of Ezekiel’s use of the recognition formula when Yahweh acts at last to restore his people. This is rooted in the theological-eschatological motif which would come to its full reality in the anticipated eschatological community when Yahweh would shepherd his people.

Author Bios

Joel K. T. Biwul

REV. DR. JOEL KAMSEN TIHITSHAK BIWUL is an ordained minister with The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), serving as Head of Pastoral Department of Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS), Jos, Nigeria, where he lectures in Old Testament and Pastoral Theology. He holds a Masters of Divinity in pastoral theology and PhD in Old Testament both from JETS, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. He is former Dean of Students Affairs and former Acting Registrar of JETS, and is married to Rifkatu with three children – Dorcas Andih, Seth Ahmetmu, and Grayom Aputgurum.


This study of the shepherd metaphor in Ezekiel 34 constitutes a stimulating challenge to everyone who reflects on one of the most important problems facing believing communities across Africa: the theological-ethical agenda of leadership.The challenging conclusion is that Ezekiel 34 juxtaposes the failed Israelite leadership with a theological and eschatological use of the shepherd metaphor that points towards Yahweh as the Shepherd of his people – despite the fact that they are in exile!

Prof. Hendrik L Bosman
Old and New Testament
Stellenbosch University

Biwul’s theological examination of symbolism in Ezekiel is a thought provoking work. The writer is keenly aware that what is lacking within his immediate and wider contexts is the near absence of transparent and accountable leadership. The author clearly points out in his treatment of the shepherd motif the fact that both the shepherd and the flock have divine responsibilities, which if not addressed would lead to the structural dislocation of society. This work is a piece of literature, which possess both the power and capacity to catch the attention of its reader, no matter how well placed or grossly disadvantaged.

Rev. Jotham Maza Kangdim
Associate Professor of Old Testament,
University of Jos, Nigeria

Table of Contents

  1. List of Abbreviations
  2. Abstract
  3. Acknowledgements
    1. Introduction
      1. 1.1 Introduction to the Study
      2. 1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
      3. 1.3 The Problem with Ezekiel
      4. 1.4 Purpose and Significance of the Study
      5. 1.5 Research Methodology and Procedure
      6. 1.6 Ezekiel in the Prophetic Tradition
      7. 1.7 Definition of Terms and Concepts
      8. 1.8 Conclusion
    1. Ezekiel’s Use of Symbolism and the Shepherd Metaphor
      1. 2.1 Introduction
      2. 2.2 The Context for Ezekiel’s Use of Symbolism
        1. 2.2.1 The Reasons for Ezekiel’s Use of Symbolism
        2. 2.2.2 The Categories and Meaning of Ezekiel’s Symbolism
      3. 2.3 Ezekiel’s Use of the Shepherd Metaphor
        1. 2.3.1 Reasons for His Use of the Shepherd Metaphor
        2. 2.3.2 His Methodology in Using the Shepherd Metaphor
      4. 2.4 The Etymology and Semantics of the Shepherd Metaphor
        1. 2.4.1 Its Etymology
        2. 2.4.2 Its Semantic Domains
      5. 2.5 Conclusion
    1. The Historical and Literary Contexts for the Shepherd Metaphor in Ezekiel 34
      1. 3.1 Introduction
      2. 3.2 The Historical Context for the Use of the Shepherd Metaphor in Ezekiel
        1. 3.2.1 The Shepherd Metaphor in Ancient Nomadic Life
        2. 3.2.2 Ancient Near Eastern Usage of the Shepherd Metaphor
      3. 3.3 The Literary Context for the Shepherd Metaphor in Ezekiel
      4. 3.4 The Shepherd Metaphor in Pre-Classical Prophetic Texts
        1. 3.4.1 Its Treatment in Isaiah’s and Micah’s Texts
        2. 3.4.2 Its Treatment in Jeremiah’s Text
      5. 3.5 Conclusion
    1. Ezekiel’s Shepherd Metaphor and the Norms of Deuteronomic Theology
      1. 4.1 Introduction
      2. 4.2 The Significance of Deuteronomic Theology to Israel
        1. 4.2.1 Israel as a Nation Characterised by the Covenant Motif
        2. 4.2.2 Israel as a Nation Characterised by the Blessing Motif
      3. 4.3 The Implications of Deuteronomic Theology for Exilic Israel
        1. 4.3.1 Exile Questions the Reality of Yahweh’s Covenant
        2. 4.3.2 Exile Questions the Reality of Yahweh’s Status
        3. 4.3.3 Exile Questions the Traditional Belief in Israel’s Existence
      4. 4.4 Ezekiel’s Eschatological Response to the Exiles
        1. 4.4.1 Exile Has a Punitive Purpose Preparatory for Eschatological Shepherding
        2. 4.4.2 Exile Has a Preservative Purpose to Achieve Eschatological Shepherding
        3. 4.4.3 Exile Has a Restorative Motif to Achieve Eschatological Worship
      5. 4.5 Ezekiel Critiques Judah Against the Norms of Deuteronomic Theology
        1. 4.5.1 The People Critiqued for False Reliance on Zion Theology
        2. 4.5.2 Royal Leadership Critiqued for Official Abuses
        3. 4.5.3 Religious Leadership Critiqued for Incompetence
        4. 4.5.4 Ezekiel’s Watchman Motif as a Model for True Shepherding
      6. 4.6 Conclusion
    1. A Case for Eschatological Shepherding in Ezekiel 34
      1. 5.1 Introduction
      2. 5.2 The Literary and Structural Context for Ezekiel 34
        1. 5.2.1 Ezekiel Chapters 13, 17 and 19 as a Literary Context for the Shepherd Metaphor
        2. 5.2.2 The Literary Structure of Ezekiel 34
      3. 5.3 Indictment of Imperfect Human Shepherds, vv. 1-16
        1. 5.3.1 “Woe” Oracle Indicting Israel’s Bad Shepherd’s, vv. 1-6
        2. 5.3.2 Judgement Oracle Against Israel’s Bad Shepherds, vv. 7-10
        3. 5.3.3 Oracle of Yahweh’s Eschatological Rescue Mission, vv. 11-16
      4. 5.4 Indictment and Sifting of Israel’s Imperfect Flock, vv. 17-22
        1. 5.4.1 Yahweh’s Indictment and Judgement of the Evil Sheep, vv. 17-21
        2. 5.4.2 Yahweh’s Justice for the Helpless Sheep, v. 22
      5. 5.5 The Declaration of a Perfect Eschatological Society for Shepherding, vv. 23-31
        1. 5.5.1 An Eschatological Experience of a Davidic Tradition of Shepherding, vv. 23-24
        2. 5.5.2 Yahweh’s Covenant of a Tranquil Society for Eschatological Shepherding, vv. 25-31
      6. 5.6 The Eschatological Role of Ezekiel’s Recognition Formula
      7. 5.7 Conclusion
    1. Ezekiel’s Theology of an Eschatological Shepherd and the New Society
      1. 6.1 Introduction
      2. 6.2 Ezekiel’s Theology of Eschatological Shepherding Is Yahwistic in Outlook
        1. 6.2.1 His Shepherding Theology Has a Visionary Undertone
        2. 6.2.2 Yahweh’s Shepherding Exhibits His Covenant Fidelity
      3. 6.3 Eschatological Shepherding Requires a Return to Yahweh
        1. 6.3.1 Eschatological Shepherding Demonstrates Yahweh’s Grace
        2. 6.3.2 Eschatological Shepherding Demands Honour for Yahweh’s Name
      4. 6.4 Ezekiel’s Theological Basis for Disqualifying Israel’s Shepherds from Eschatological Shepherding
        1. 6.4.1 A Contrast of Yahweh’s Shepherding Attributes with Israel’s Imperfect Human Shepherds
        2. 6.4.2 Theological Indictment of Israel’s Worthless Shepherds
      5. 6.5 Ezekiel’s Theology of “I AM YAHWEH” for Eschatological Shepherding
      6. 6.6 Conclusion
    1. Summary and Conclusions
      1. 7.1 Summary of the Study
      2. 7.2 Some Observations from the Study
        1. 7.2.1 Its Implications for Contemporary Ecclesiastical Leadership
        2. 7.2.2 Its Implications for Contemporary Political Leadership
      3. 7.3 Recommendations for Further Research
  11. Bibliography