1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
7 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, "As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt," 8 but "As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them." Then they shall live in their own land. (NRSV)
Compared with Psalm 23, the shepherd and sheep metaphor takes on some new twists. The story starts out with multiple shepherds and a flock of sheep. In this case, the shepherds are the bad shepherds who not only do not search for lost sheep, they scatter them!
The bad shepherds are clearly Israel’s leaders. God announces he will remove those leaders and establish himself as the shepherd with under-shepherds. God will bring home the lost sheep that are far off. They will be returned home to their land where they will live in peace and prosperity. As we compare Jeremiah 23 with Psalm 23, we see the following similarities and changes in themes:
Psalm 23 / Jeremiah 23
- ??? / Bad Shepherds
- Lost sheep / Lost flock
- The problem: A sheep is lost / The problem: Shepherds destroy and scatter the flock
- Good Shepherd: God / Good Shepherd: God plus David
- Incarnation Implied / Incarnation promised
- Price Paid: Bring back / Price paid: Gather, bring back
- Repentance (shub): Return to God / Restoration (shub): Return to the land
- Celebration / ???
- The story ends in the house of God / The story ends in the land