posted on May, 18 2018 @ 05:00 PM
In the ninth year of the reign of Zedekiah, on the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar formally began the final siege of
Jerusalem. He “invested” the city, as they say in military circles.
Ezekiel was given the information on the very same day, though he thought of it as the ninth year of Jehoiachin’s exile (ch24 vv1-2).
It’s not clear that he was expected to reveal this date to anybody else, though he was told to put it in writing for future reference.
He was certainly given a fresh allegory to be presented to the people.
First, a little verse about setting a pot on the fire, filling it with water and choice cuts of meat, and boiling up a good stew.
The people of Jerusalem were saying this about themselves in ch11; they were the good meat kept safe in the cauldron.
But this tempting image will be undermined by any close inspection of the cauldron that is being used.
The problem is that their pot is hopelessly corrupted with rust or scum, depending on the translation (the commentators point out that copper does not
rust). The contents are no longer “choice” portions of meat.
This corruption is a metaphor about another metaphor, namely that their environment is polluted with blood, as described in a previous chapter. Of
course blood cannot be consumed, by law, making the meat unusable.
Another point of law is the concealment of blood, hiding it from the sight of God.
The blood from sacrifice needs to be allowed to soak into the earth.
The blood of murdered men lies visible, metaphorically, appealing to God for vengeance.
Now the blood which the city has spilled remains in the midst of her. Instead of pouring it out on the ground to cover it with dust, she left it
clearly visible on the surface of the bare rock.
Therefore God is going to keep it there.
In other words, going beyond the metaphor, he is not going to forget or forgive the blood-spilling and other examples of injustice which were the
running theme of ch22.
The Lord is going to clear the pot altogether.
He will heap on the logs and build up the fire to the hottest possible point. Instead of picking out the choicest pieces, as they cook, he will boil
the contents to the point of consumption, empty out the broth on the ground, and burn the remaining bones.
Then the empty pot will be set on the fire again, to burn out all the contamination that remains.
They would not let him cleanse them from their rust “which is your filthy lewdness”, so they must be cleansed by his judgement.
The decision has been taken, and there will be no turning back.
After the allegory, another piece of acting out is imposed upon Ezekiel.
The Lord serves notice that he is about to take away Ezekiel’s wife, “the delight of your eyes”.
What is demanded of Ezekiel is that he will not mourn the event in any way.
“You must not mourn or weep or let your tears run down”.
He must not even sigh- or, at least, not sigh aloud,
He must not carry out any of the normal rituals of mourning, such as walking barefoot, leaving off his turban, covering his lips, or “eating the
bread of mourning”.
Ezekiel is a member of a society in which mourning is normally a public and ostentatious event.
When people see a known prophet accepting bereavement quietly, they will understand that a point is being made, and of course they will ask him what
Ezekiel is authorised to answer.
As in some of his other mimes (like “going into exile” in ch12), the prophet is fore-shadowing what the people themselves will or should be
The Lord is about to take away from them “the delight of your eyes, and the desire of your soul”.
This means that he will destroy and profane the sanctuary of Jerusalem, “the pride of your power”.
He will also be devastating the population of Jerusalem, their compatriots; “your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the
When they hear this news, they will be so stunned that they will be unable to make the effort of public mourning. They will have been reduced to
silence, grieving privately over their iniquities.
In this way, Ezekiel will have been a sign to them, once again.
“Then you will know that I am the Lord God”.
Of course it is hard on Ezekiel to be obliged to restrain his natural grief.
Indeed it is not clear whether God is making didactic use of what was going to happen anyway, or whether he takes away Ezekiel’s wife for the
specific purpose of teaching this lesson.
Nobody ever said that being a prophet was easy.
I’ve also seen an alternative explanation of the sign, that “You shall not mourn” is an instruction.
Instead of continuing to long after what God has brought to an end, they should be looking towards the new things that he is going to do.
Finally, the Lord gives Ezekiel a private warning about the way the event will be confirmed.
On the day when he takes “the delight of their eyes” away from the people, a fugitive from the city will arrive bearing the news. “On the same
day”, because the Temple is not taken away from them, psychologically, until they know it has been taken away.
Ezekiel’s mouth will be opened, and he will be able to speak to the messenger and others.
Ezekiel was made dumb at the beginning of his mission (ch3 v26).
However, this will not be the first time that his mouth has been re-opened, as demonstrated by the long sequence of spoken prophecy that fills the
Ezekiel’s dumbness was not continuous, but intermittent.
When the predicted event is described in ch33, it is clear that his mouth had been re-closed on the previous day – “Now the hand of the Lord had
been upon me the evening before the fugitive came… so my mouth was opened and I was no longer dumb”.
The period of silence would have
the effect of provoking curiosity and a sense of anticipation.
It is the equivalent of the modern institutional habit of pre-announcing the fact that an announcement is going to be made.
Ezekiel has been the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem, Once the fall of Jerusalem has arrived, his primary task is complete, and there will be no
further need for the dramatic device of dumbness.
So the event in ch33 has the probable significance of being the last time that his mouth will have to be opened.