posted on Apr, 13 2018 @ 05:03 PM
Ezekiel is the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
In the early chapters of the book, his main purpose was to impress upon his people the fact that the siege and exile would be coming, and the city
would be destroyed.
As the crisis gets closer, the urgency of Ezekiel’s prophecy becomes more intense.
We are now coming to the last warnings that will be received before the final Babylonian siege takes effect. The first batch are dominated by the
The prophet is told to set his face against “the south” (ch20 v45).
This means Israel’s land as a whole, which they regard as “the south” in relation to the great aggressive powers based in Mesopotamia, which are
This usage derives from the geography of the Fertile Crescent, which determines how people can travel. The route between Babylon and Jerusalem was an
arc with its apex in the north, so anyone travelling that route in either direction would be going south at the end of the journey.
The message for “the south” is that the Lord is about to kindle a fire which will engulf their forest.
This is a metaphor about the general destruction which is approaching.
At this point Ezekiel makes a mild protest about the effect that this style of message has on his reputation; “Then I said ‘Ah Lord God, they are
saying of me; Is he not a maker of allegories?’”
There was no help for it, though.
Allegories and acting out were the modes of prophecy which God had chosen for him, and his audience should be taking them more seriously.
Then the Lord explains what he meant.
Ezekiel is to set his face against Jerusalem and its holy places and the rest of the land of Israel.
The message is that the Lord is about to “draw the sword” against them, cutting off the whole population, the righteous together with the wicked
Ezekiel is to mourn bitterly, in a very ostentatious way.
Knowing him to be a prophet, the people will naturally ask why he is sighing.
The answer should be “Because of the tidings”. His mourning anticipates the deep grief which everyone will feel when the dread news finally
Then another word of the Lord provides an almost manic diatribe on the theme of “the sword”.
We are told that the sword has been sharpened and polished for slaughter.
Do the people think that God is joking, are they refusing to take him seriously? (Not all commentators can make any sense out of this line)
No, the sword is most certainly going to be given into the hands of the slayer.
Ezekiel is to accompany his word with action, turning it into what must have been quite a dramatic presentation. He is to cry and wail, because God
intends to deliver up the princes of the land along with the rest of the people.
He is to smite upon his thigh, as a gesture of despair, because the people will be put under heavy trial.
He is to clap his hands, and “let the sword come down twice, yea thrice” (which implies that he is wielding a sword as part of the act). He is to
do this to show that there will be a great slaughter.
“Cut sharply to right and left where your edge is directed.
I also will clap my hands and I will satisfy my fury; I the Lord have spoken.”
In a fresh prophecy, Ezekiel is told to “mark two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon” (vv18-23).
I take this to mean that he is to mark along the ground a line which divides into two lines at some point.
This indicates the fact that the king of Babylon faces a choice. He can turn his path in the direction of Rabbah of the Ammonites, or he can go on to
It’s possible that events have now caught up with prophecy; that the army of Babylon is already on the road, and that the king is making this choice
almost at the same time that Ezekiel is describing it.
“The king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way”, where he has the option of taking his army straight into Israel or taking the more
eastward route into the Transjordan. He would be obliged to make this decision once he got as far as Damascus.
The choice will be made by divination, to discover the will of the gods, and the king will do that himself. He consults the images he has brought with
him. He makes a sacrifice, and inspects the liver of the sacrificed animal looking for clues concerning good and bad omens.
He marks arrows for each of his options and shakes them in a vessel. Then his right hand pulls out the arrow for Jerusalem, which means that he will
go straight there and undertake an immediate siege. (But another commentator thinks he finds the omen on the right side of the liver)
The people of Jerusalem will regard this as a false divination; that is, they believe he has made a choice which will not prosper. They trust in the
solemn oaths they have sworn, perhaps the promises they have made to their God, or perhaps an alliance with Egypt.
However, they will find that the king of Babylon has arrived to judge them for their transgressions, which have been “brought to remembrance”, and
he will be allowed to take them into captivity.
The message includes words for Zedekiah, the wicked prince of Israel. He is wicked, we learned in an earlier chapter, because he has broken his
covenant with the king of Babylon, and thus broken covenant with God.
He is now to give up his crown and the other accoutrements of royalty. God is going to abase what is high in the world, while preparing to exalt what
“Things shall not remain as they are”; the royal power will no longer belong to his line.
Nothing will remain of that royal power until “he comes whose right it is, and to him I will give it”.
That could be a reference to Nebuchadnezzar as the appointed judge of Jerusalem, and the anarchy that will take hold there before he achieves his
But Christians believe that they understand the meaning of this obscure promise.
There is also a word for the Ammonites, who have been reprieved by the king’s decision to approach Jerusalem first. “A sword is drawn for
slaughter”, which will in due course “be laid upon the necks of the unhallowed wicked”. The passage is obscure, but appears to mean that the
Ammonites will not escape the wrath of Babylon indefinitely (vv28-29).
The final word is addressed to the sword itself, referring to the power of Babylon (vv30-32).
When the work of judgement is finished, the sword must return to its sheath.
Then it will be judged “in the place where you were created, in the land of your origin”
It will feel the wrath and indignation of God, and will be delivered into the hands of brutal and destructive men.
After which, “You shall be no more remembered”.
Nebuchadnezzar thinks this war is about establishing his own authority in the region.
But the real purpose will be to confirm the sovereignty of the God of Israel.