But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd
That is, who is not the owner of the sheep, though he keeps them, yet only for reward: by whom are meant, not the faithful ministers of the word, who live upon the Gospel, as Christ has ordained, and who are worthy of their reward, and are not to be called hirelings by way of reproach; since they teach not for hire and reward, but for the good of souls, and the interest of the Redeemer; but such who seek only their gain, from their quarter, and mind their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ:
whose own the sheep are not;
who have neither a propriety in them, nor an hearty affection for them, and so care not what becomes of them: such an one "seeth the wolf coming"; by whom may be meant, either Satan; so the Jews compare Israel to a flock of sheep, and Satan, they say, (bazh awh) , "he is the wolf" F21; or any false prophet, or teacher, who are ravenous wolves; though sometimes in sheep's clothing; or any tyrant, oppressor, or persecutor of the saints:
and leaveth the sheep;
as the idol shepherd, against whom a woe is pronounced, ( Zechariah 11:17 ) .
not being willing to bear any reproach or persecution, for the sake of Christ; not such a keeper of the flock as David, who went after the lion and the bear, and when they rose up against him, did not flee, but caught them by the beard and slew them; nor like the Apostle Paul, who fought with beasts at Ephesus, and would turn his back on none, nor give place, no, not for an hour, that truth might continue;
and the wolf catcheth them;
some of them:
and scattereth the sheep;
the rest; so are the sheep of Christ and his churches sometimes scattered, by persecution raised against them; see ( Acts 8:1 Acts 8:4 ) . The Jews have a rule concerning such an hireling shepherd F23, which is this;
``a shepherd that feeds his flock, and leaves it, and goes to the city, and a wolf comes and ravines, and the lion comes and tears in pieces, he is free; but if he leaves by it his staff and his scrip, he is guilty.''Which Maimonides thus F24 expresses and explains;
``a shepherd who can deliver that which is torn, and that which is carried captive, with other shepherds, and with staves, and does not call the other shepherds, nor bring the staves to deliver them, he is guilty: one that keeps freely, and one that keeps for hire; he that keeps freely, calls the shepherds, and brings the staves freely; and if he does not find them, he is not guilty; but he that keeps for hire, is obliged to hire shepherds and staves, in order to deliver them.''