33:1-6 – The choosing of a watchman. Who is the one who will bring “a sword”? What are the duties of a watchman? What are the consequences for the watchman and the people if the watchman gives warning? What are the consequences if he fails to give warning? What does it mean to be “taken away” because of sin? What does it mean to be “accountable for his blood”?
33:7-9 – Who has been chosen as the watchman of Israel and who has chosen him? What is Ezekiel’s responsibility toward those who are “wicked”? On the “watchman” motif for the prophet who gives warning: see Isa. 21:6-9; Jer. 6:17; Eze. 3:16-21; Hab. 2:1.
33:10-11 – What were some of Israel saying while in captivity? What is the basis upon which the LORD promises that they shall “live” though they feel the crushing burden of their sins weighing upon them? Does the LORD take pleasure in the death of the wicked? What is the call to the wicked?
33:12-16 – Are the wicked and righteous locked into their respective consequences? What is necessary to live? Is the promise of the LORD to the wicked that they “will surely die” a lie or a conditional promise? In what practical ways can the wicked indeed to what is righteous and be guaranteed life? Will sins committed be remembered if righteousness replaces wickedness?
33:17-20 – Are the ways of the LORD just? What would it mean for us to be just and what does it mean for the LORD to be just? According to what standard will the LORD judge Israel?
33:21-22 – The first survivor (Heb. pālît) of the destruction of Jerusalem arrives in Babylon as confirmation of the word of the LORD and of the prophet-hood of Ezekiel (cf. Eze. 24:25-27). The date notice refers to January 8, 585 BC. This places the following passage approximately five and a half months after the fall of Jerusalem (which is about the proper amount of time for travel between Babylon and Jerusalem). Note that prior to the survivor’s arrival the “hand of the LORD” was on Ezekiel to open his mouth. What does it mean that his mouth was opened after ten years? It seems to mean that he was released from the prophetic silence and could actually cry out to the LORD on behalf of his people since the city and the temple were finally destroyed as prophesied.
33:23-33 – Those remaining in the ruined land of Israel still clung to the promise as if it did not matter how they responded to the covenant. Were they safe to assume for themselves the promises to Abraham? What does the LORD accuse them of? What will be the actual consequences of their lifestyles? What is the stated purpose of the LORD in further destroying the land and making it desolate? Note that the LORD regularly says “your countrymen” to Ezekiel. What is the significance of this? Who (besides those actually still in Israel) are accused of practicing wickedness despite their outward attentiveness to the word of the LORD given by Ezekiel? What does it mean that to those in captivity Ezekiel is “nothing more than one who sings love songs”? What will be the vindication of the ministry of Ezekiel?
34:1-10 – A prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. How did the shepherds fail to care for the flock? Isn’t the shepherd allowed to eat from the produce of his flock and does not the flock exist for him? What would be the reason for the LORD accusing the shepherds in this manner? (cf. Gen. 31: 38-40; Job 5:23; Isa. 11:6-9; Jer. 23:1-6; Hos. 2:18-23; also concerning the “shepherds” of the Church see Acts 20:28-29; 1 Pet. 5:1-5) What is the consequence of their failures—both to the flock and to the shepherds? Who are the “shepherds” of Israel? Who is against the shepherds and who actually owns the flock?
34:11-24 – The LORD Himself promises to care for His sheep (cf. Ps. 23; Eze. 24:26; John 10:1-18; Rev. 7:17). What does it mean for the LORD to gather His sheep? In what manner does the LORD promise to shepherd His sheep and also what is the promise concerning the actual land of Israel? Note that the LORD will judge among his flock and deal with those among them who have cared only for themselves and even troubled the lives of others. Who are those among the flock that the LORD is referring to here as opposed to the shepherds that were accused earlier of selfish living? Who will be placed over the LORD’s flock as a shepherd? What does it mean for “David” to be chosen for this position (since David had been dead for several hundred years? “God’s solution to a history of bad shepherds is not to replace shepherding with a better system, but to replace the bad shepherds with a good shepherd” (Duguid NIVAC 396; and Duguid Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel 47).
34:25-31 – The LORD will make a “covenant of peace” with His people. What are the promises of this covenant of peace? Security, fruitfulness, freedom, and intimate covenantal knowledge of the LORD are all part of the promise. What does it mean for the LORD to be their God and them to be His people, the sheep of His pasture? “What does it mean to be a shepherd? It is a unique combination of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” (Duguid NIVAC 399).
Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994).