The parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18:12-18:13)

“What do you think?

A shepherd

Has a hundred sheep.

If one of them has gone astray,

Does he not leave

The ninety-nine

On the mountains?

He goes in search

Of the one that went astray.

If he finds it,

Truly!

I say to you!

He rejoices over it

More than over the ninety-nine

That never went astray.”

 

Ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός.

Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ; ἐὰν γένηταί τινι ἀνθρώπῳ ἑκατὸν πρόβατα καὶ πλανηθῇ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν, οὐχὶ ἀφήσει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον;

καὶ ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι χαίρει ἐπ’ αὐτῷ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα τοῖς μὴ πεπλανημένοις.

 

This parable of the lost sheep can also be found in Luke, chapter 15:3-6, with some minor changes.  In some Orthodox texts there is a line that the Son of Man had come to save those who were lost or destroyed (Ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός).  Jesus then asked them to think (Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ) about this parable, although he did not call it a parable like Luke did.  A person or shepherd had 100 sheep (ἐὰν γένηταί τινι ἀνθρώπῳ ἑκατὸν πρόβατα).  One of these sheep wandered away from the rest of them and was lost (καὶ πλανηθῇ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν).  Thus, would he not leave the other 99 sheep in the mountains (οὐχὶ ἀφήσει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη)?  He would then search for the lost sheep that had wandered astray (καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον).  Jesus then had a solemn pronouncement (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν).  If he found that one sheep (καὶ ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό) he would rejoice over that more than over the 99 sheep that had never wandered away (ὅτι χαίρει ἐπ’ αὐτῷ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα τοῖς μὴ πεπλανημένοις).  Every sheep was precious in the sight of this good shepherd.

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The returning Israelites (Ezek 39:26-39:27)

“They shall forget

Their shame.

They shall forget

All the treachery

That they have practiced

Against me.

They shall live securely

In their land

With no one

To make them afraid.

I have brought

Them back

From the various people.

I have gathered them

From their enemies’ lands.

I have vindicated

My holiness

Through them

In the sight

Of many nations.”

The Israelites were to forget their shame when they returned to Israel. They would forget their former treachery against Yahweh. They would live securely in their land, since there was no one to make them afraid. Yahweh would have brought them back from the various countries that they were in. He was going to gather them from the lands of their enemies. Yahweh would vindicate his holiness through them in the sight of many nations.

The scattering (Ezek 22:14-22:16)

“Can your courage

Endure?

Can your hands

Remain strong,

In the days

When I shall deal

With you?

I,

Yahweh,

Have spoken.

I will do it.

I will scatter you

Among the nations.

I will disperse you

Throughout the countries.

I will purge

Your filthiness

Out of you.

I shall be profaned

Through you                         

In the sight

Of the nations.

You shall know

That I am Yahweh.”

Yahweh was going to scatter the people of Jerusalem into many other countries. He wanted to know if they had enough courage to endure this. Were their hands strong enough? He was going to deal with them. Yahweh was clear about what he was going to do. He was going to scatter and disperse them among the various nations and countries. He was going to purge the filthiness out of Jerusalem. Yahweh would be embarrassed that this scattering would take place in the sight of these other nations. They would all know that he was Yahweh, their God.

The reaction of Yahweh to the rebellious children (Ezek 20:21-20:24)

“Then I thought

I would pour out

My wrath upon them.

I would spend

My anger

Against them

In the wilderness.

But I withheld

My hand.

I acted for the sake

Of my name.

Thus it should not be

Profaned

In the sight

Of the nations,

In whose sight

I had brought them out.

Moreover,

I swore to them

In the wilderness

That I would scatter them

Among the nations.

I would disperse them

Through the countries.

Because they had not

Executed

My ordinances.

They had rejected

My statutes.

They had profaned

My Sabbath.

Their eyes

Were set

On their ancestor’s idols.”

Yahweh’s reaction was pretty much the same as in the former rebellions. Yahweh immediately thought about destroying them in his anger. However, as earlier, he changed his mind for the sake of his name that he did not want profaned in the sight of all the other countries that had seen him bring them out of Egypt. Thus he swore to them in the wilderness that he would scatter them among the nations, instead of refusing to take them out of Egypt or refusing to take them to the Promise Land. This was a prediction of the exile that was due to their failure to keep his statutes, ordinances, and the Sabbath. They also still yearned for their ancestor’s idols.

For the sake of his name (Ezek 20:13-20:14)

“Then I thought

I would pour out

My wrath

Upon them

In the wilderness,

To make an end

Of them.

But I acted

For the sake

Of my name.

Thus it should not be

Profaned

In the sight

Of the nations.

In whose sight

I had brought them out.”

Once again, Yahweh was angry, like he had been in Egypt. This time he thought about putting an end to these Israelites in the wilderness. However, once again, he thought about his name. He did not want to profane the name of Yahweh in the sight of other countries. These other countries had seen him take the people of the house of Israel out of Egypt. Thus for the sake of his name, he spared them.

The physical punishment of Jerusalem (Ezek 16:40-16:42)

“They shall bring up

A mob

Against you.

They shall stone you.

They shall cut you

To pieces

With their swords.

They shall burn

Your houses.

They shall execute

Judgments on you

In the sight

Of many women.

I will stop you

From playing the whore.

You shall also make

No more payments.

So I will satisfy

My fury

On you.

My jealousy

Shall turn away

From you.

I will be calm.

I will be angry

No longer.”

Yahweh said that he was going to bring a mob against Jerusalem. They would follow the common practice of stoning an adulterous woman. They would cut her into pieces with their swords. They would burn down her houses. They were going to execute judgments on her in the sight of many women. Jerusalem would no longer play the whore. She would not give any gifts. Yahweh would satisfy this fury and jealousy. He would then become calm and not angry any longer.

Yahweh remembers the failures in Judah and Jerusalem (Jer 44:21-44:23)

“As for the offerings

That you made

In the towns of Judah,

In the streets of Jerusalem,

Did not Yahweh remember them?

That is you with

Your ancestors,

Your kings,

Your officials,

The people of the land,

Did it not come into his mind?

Yahweh could no longer

Bear the sight

Of your evil doings,

The abominations

That you committed.

Therefore your land

Became a desolation,

A waste,

A curse,

Without inhabitants,

As it is to this day.

It is

Because you burned offerings,

Because you sinned

Against Yahweh.

You did not obey

The voice of Yahweh.

You did not

Walk in his law,

Walk in his statutes,

Walk in his decrees.

Thus this disaster

Has befallen you,

As is still evident today.”

Jeremiah justifies the punishment that they have today, based on their idolatrous sacrifices that they, their ancestors, their kings, their officials, and all the people had made earlier in Judah and Jerusalem. Did they think that Yahweh, their God, would forget this? Yahweh could no longer bear the sight of these evil abominations, so that he made their land desolate, a waste, and cursed, without inhabitants until the present time. They had sinned by offering these burnt sacrifices. They did not obey Yahweh. They would not follow his laws, statutes, or decrees. Thus this disaster has come upon them until the present day. Jeremiah thought that these refugees were too defiant against Yahweh.