Bible Question:

Please explain "But I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment."

Bible Answer:

What does Ezekiel 34:16 mean? That is, what does “the fat and the strong I will destroy” mean? The full verse says,

I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment. Ezekiel 34:16 (NASB)

So, how should we understand the meaning of the last part of the verse?

The Fat and Strong

Context of Ezekiel 34:16

The context of Ezekiel 34:16 is about the nation of Israel. The context refers to the verses that occur before and after a verse or passage of scripture. Therefore, the context of this verse begins with verse 1. There God prophesied that He will search for “My sheep.” Verse 2 refers to shepherds and the sheep of Israel. Israel is mentioned again in verses 13 and 14. That helps us understand that sheep symbolize the people of the nation of Israel.

Verses 5, 8, and 10 reveal that the people of Israel were scattered around the world, and the rest of the people of the world are symbolized as “beasts of the field” who eat them. They hate the Israelites. Verse 6 says the Israelites are scattered all over the earth. In verse 11, God says,

“Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out”. Ezekiel 34:11 (NASB)

In verses 13-15, He adds,

“I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 34:13-15 (NASB)

God will gather the people of Israel from around the earth back to the land that they once occupied.

We have already read verse 16 in the introduction. Now we can understand that God is speaking. He says that He will “bring back the scattered.” That started to occur in 1948. Now let us examine the context after verse 16.

Verses 17 describes a time of judgment against the people of the world because of their abusive behavior against the Israelites. This is a brief description of the tribulation period. Verses 18-19 give the justification for God’s judgment. The nations of the world have abused and mistreated the nation of Israel. In verses 20-22, God declares that He will judge between the fat and lean sheep. Verses 17-22 describe the tribulation period.

But the ultimate fulfillment will occur in the millennial kingdom. Verses 23-24 help us understand that the Messiah, who is called My servant David, will be a prince. That is, the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ, will reign as king over the entire world. The “Lord” in verse 24 is God the Father. Verses 25-31 paint a wonderful picture of peace for Israel. This paints the picture of the millennial kingdom.

What does Ezekiel 34:16 mean?

So, what does Ezekiel 34:16 mean? There God declared that He will “bring back the scattered.” He will “bind up the broken” and “strengthen the sick” of “My sheep.” “My sheep” refers to the people of Israel (see earlier discussion). Then God says,

. . . but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment. Ezekiel 34:16 (NASB)

He will destroy the fat and the strong. Notice God will feed them judgment. They will be killed.

The Fat and the Strong

Now, we are ready to discover who are the “the fat and the strong” sheep? The answer is that “the fat and the strong” are the leaders and people of the world who have been abusing and persecuting the people of Israel down through the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25-26).  Notice that verses 20-22 give the justification for God’s judgment upon the nations of the earth.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them, “Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and with shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns until you have scattered them broad, therefore, I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey; and I will judge between one sheep and another. Ezekiel 34:20-22 (NASB)

The picture is of a world that hates the Jews. They act like sheep. They push and thrust against the weak nation of Israel (the lean sheep). They abuse the nation of the Jews. So, God will some day defend Israel. He will judge the rest of the world, the Gentile nations.  Israel will no longer be a prey. Christ will reign as their king and over the entire world.


Ezekiel 34:17-31 gives us a wonderful chronology of God’s future plans for the nation of Israel. He will return the Israelites to the land that He gave to them,  the promised land. He has already started bringing them back to the land. This passage also agrees with other Bible passages that teach the tribulation is the next major event in God’s timeline, to be followed by the millennial kingdom. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness to Israel, and that we can see the fulfillment of prophecy in our lifetime. Praise the Lord

Suggested Links:

What is the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 38-39?
Does the battle of Gog and Magog occur after the Second Coming of Christ? — Ezekiel 38-39
Will the battle of Gog and Magog occur before Armageddon? — Ezekiel 38-39
Why are the animal sacrifices resumed during the millennium?
Why do the sacrifices return in Ezekiel’s temple?
God’s Plan For The Future — What does the Bible say about the future?
God’s Timeline For The Future
The Judgment of the Nations — Sheep and Goat judgment