37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
ESV - 37 I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.
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My understanding is that "pass under the rod" in the cited verse does not have a connotation of the infliction of punishment (similar to the way in which the term "rod" is used in other Bible passages). Instead, it is an expression borrowed from shepherding, in which the shepherd holds out his rod, and guides the sheep to pass sequentially under it for purposes of counting them, and separating out sheep that are not part of his flock from those that are (as further indicated in the next verse (Ezekiel 20:38)). Those that are part of the flock will then, by virtue of their obedience, be part of the covenant relationship between God and His people
Why would the house of Israel pass under the rod? (Ezekiel 20:37) Shepherds used their staffs (or rods) to count their sheep, frequently for the purpose of separating a specific number from the flock. By means of the judgment of the exile, the Lord would remove the rebels from his flock. They would not return to the land or be a part of the new covenant community. Charles Ryrie, whom I had for theology, adds an interesting note as to the origin of the expression PASS UNDER THE ROD, "One-tenth of the... flocks had to be given to the Lord as His tithe. "Passes under the rod" refers to [this] custom of making the animals pass by in single file and marking each tenth one with a rod dipped with a colored substance." (Ryrie's note at Leviticus 27:32.) The colored one would be separated (and go to the Lord.)
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