Charles H. Dyer with Eva Rydelnik


The message of Ezekiel was given after the first exiles had been taken captive from Judah to Babylon (597 BC, 2Kg 24:12–16) and continued to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (586 BC, cf. Ezk 33:21; Jr 39:1; 2Kg 25:1–12). While Ezekiel was proclaiming the word of the Lord to the captives in Babylon, Daniel was serving the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar, and Jeremiah was ministering in Jerusalem under siege. For further details of Judah’s history in Ezekiel’s time see the Introduction to Jeremiah.

Author. The author is "Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi" (1:3). Like Jeremiah (Jr 1:1) and Zechariah (Zch 1:1; Neh 12:4, 16), Ezekiel was also a priest. They were the only prophet-priests, and all three prophesied during the exilic or postexilic periods. Although he was from a priestly family and knowledgeable about priestly duties and temple details, nothing is recorded about his service as a priest.

The name Ezekiel means "God will strengthen" or "God will harden." His name indicates his character and task because when the Lord called him to be a prophet, He told Ezekiel the people would not heed His message. However, the Lord would give Ezekiel "a forehead harder than flint" in order to carry God’s word to a resistant people (3:4–11).

The internal evidence of Ezekiel’s authorship is strong. The autobiographical style of the book and the frequent first-person pronouns identify him as the writer. "I," "me," and "my" are in almost every chapter of the book (cf. 2:1–10).

Ezekiel’s ministry began "in the thirtieth year" (1:1), probably a reference to his age. Thus he was commissioned as a prophet at the same age he became qualified to enter the priesthood (cf. Nm 4:3). Based on this, he was born in 627 BC. He was deported to Babylon with King Jehoiachin (1:2; 33:21) in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar (597 BC; cf. 2Kg 24:14) and ministered to the exiles in Babylon before and after the fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel lived with a group of captives in the Babylonian city of Tel-abib on the Chebar River (3:15). The location of the settlement is unknown, but the Chebar River has been identified with the Grand Canal in Babylon, perhaps where the captives mourned for fallen Jerusalem (Ps 137:1).

In Babylon he lived in his own house (8:1) where the exiled elders of Israel came to speak with him (3:24; 8:1; 14:1; 20:1). Ezekiel had a beloved wife, but apparently no children. During his ministry, his wife died, but the Lord forbade him to mourn. Her death and his handling of grief were a sign to the exiles (24:15–17). Many events in the prophet’s life were object lessons to Israel from the Lord (e.g., 3:24–26; 4:12; 5:1; 24:27). He apparently died in Babylon among the captives, but no details are known.

Date. Ezekiel began prophesying in the "fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile" (593 BC; 1:2), with his last dated prophecy being "in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first of the month" (March 26, 571 BC; 29:17). So Ezekiel’s prophetic activity spanned at least 22 years (age 30 to 52; 593–571 BC). For the book’s many chronological notations see Introduction: Structure and Style.

Until the 20th century, few Bible scholars questioned the unity, authorship, or date of Ezekiel. Yet, when some critical scholars questioned the historicity of the Babylonian destruction of Judah, they dismissed Ezekiel entirely. Contemporary archaeology and biblical studies, however, have corroborated the events of Ezekiel.

Other critics suggest the book is postexilic, written about 400 BC by an unknown redactor. They deny Ezekiel’s authorship for three main reasons. First, they doubt a prophet would give such harsh messages of judgment along with words of comfort. However, most OT prophets spoke both judgment and comfort. Second, they allege that Ezekiel has an Israelite viewpoint, rather than a Babylonian perspective. This is not problematic because Ezekiel and his readers were Israelites in exile. Third, these critics suggest the message of Ezekiel is drawn from fictional accounts and fanciful stories. This rationalistic presupposition denies both the history of Babylon and the supernatural quality of God’s revelation (for more detailed responses to these critics, see Gleason L Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody, 1996], 410–413; and John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC, ed. D. J. Wiseman [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969], 13–20).

Ezekiel was consistently included in the Hebrew canon, although there was rabbinic controversy concerning the millennial sacrifices in Ezekiel in contrast to the Mosaic law (Nm 28:11; Ezk 46:6). The rabbis struggled with this issue (b. Sab. 13b) and decided that this controversy would await clarification until the days of the Messiah (Seder Olam 26; Rashi; Radak). In the Hebrew canon, Ezekiel follows Isaiah and Jeremiah among the Major Prophets. In the Greek canon, which the English arrangement follows, Ezekiel was placed after Lamentations, since that small book by Jeremiah, Ezekiel’s contemporary, shares a similar message.

Recipients. Ezekiel lived among the Jewish exiles in Babylon and proclaimed God’s message to them (2:3; 3:1). He warned the captives not to believe the false prophets who denied God’s coming judgment of Jerusalem and called them to repent and turn back to the Lord. His prophecies of judgment to the Gentile nations served as a message of hope for the Jewish people, reminding them of God’s faithfulness to avenge His people. His message of the millennial kingdom was a beacon of hope for captives, awaiting the King Messiah.

Structure and Style. The book of Ezekiel has several major structural and stylistic characteristics.

1. The book has a chronological arrangement, evident from the dates of the messages (1:2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 29:1, 17; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17; 33:21; 40:1). The "year of the exile" indicates the year that began with King Jehoiachin’s exile (597 BC, 2Kg 24:8). The majority of Ezekiel’s prophecies are arranged chronologically, starting with "the fifth year" of the exile, (592 BC, Ezk 1:2) and ending with "the twenty-fifth year of our exile," (40:1, 573 BC).

The only chronological exceptions are the prophecies introduced in 29:1, 17. These two variations may be explained because they are grouped topically as part of the prophecies against Egypt (chaps. 29–32). Ezekiel is the only Major Prophet with such a precise chronological arrangement, although the Minor Prophets Haggai and Zechariah have a similar arrangement.

2. Ezekiel also has structural balance, with a distinct order and harmony throughout. The book begins with Ezekiel’s call to ministry (chaps. 1–3). The first major section focuses on the judgment of Judah (chaps. 4–24), while the last section addresses the restoration of Judah (chaps. 33–48). These two extremely opposite perspectives are divided by a section dealing with God’s judgment on the nations for their treatment of Israel and Judah (chaps. 25–32).

3. The book uses several literary devices. Ezekiel used more symbols, allegories, and object lessons than any other prophet. He presented God’s messages in dramatic and forceful ways to compel Israel to respond. He used proverbs (12:22–23; 16:44; 18:2–3), visions (chaps. 1–3; 8–11; 37; 40–48), parables (chaps. 17; 24:1–14), symbolic actions (chaps. 4–5; 12; 24:15–27), and allegories (chaps. 16–17).

Themes. Glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is a major theme in the book, and it is presented in visions unique to Ezekiel. He focused on the glory and character of the Lord, beginning with the vision of God’s glory when he was commissioned, and continued to refer to the glory of the Lord throughout, concluding with "The Lord is there." (1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18–19; 11:22–23; 39:11, 21; 43:2–5; 44:4; 48:35). He showed the glory of the Lord departing from the temple in judgment (9:3; 10:4, 18–19; 11:22–25) and the return of His glory at the end of days in the millennial temple (43:1–5).

Son of Man. Ezekiel is called "son of man" 94 times by the Lord (e.g., 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 5). This expression indicated Ezekiel’s mission and status as a representative of humanity, and the distance between humanity and God. In Scripture "son" often goes beyond a physical descendant to denote association or identification. This title highlights Ezekiel’s role and task.

Ezekiel’s "son of man" is distinct from Daniel’s use, which is a messianic title (Dn 7:13; 8:17). The phrase "son of man" is used 85 times in the NT, primarily in the Gospels, almost always by Jesus referring to Himself (e.g., Mt 8:20; 11:19; 12:8; Rv 1:13) When Messiah Jesus used the title "Son of Man," He was referring to Daniel’s messianic use as prophecy of the One who would be "given dominion, Glory and a kingdom" (Dn 7:13–14; Mk 14:62; Rv 1:7).

For the sake of His name. The book also emphasizes the consistent character of the Lord, which caused God to act in judgment as He did. God declared 15 times that He had behaved "for the sake of His name" to keep His name from being profaned (e.g., 20:9, 14, 22, 39, 44; 36:20–23 [twice in 23]; 39:7 [twice], 25; 43:7–8).

Know that I am the Lord. Moreover, God said He had acted so that the people would "know that I am the Lord." This phrase is used over 60 times in the book (e.g., 6:7, 10, 13–14; 7:4; 39:22) to stress His identity as the covenant-keeping One. He always acts to make Himself known.

The Lord God. Ezekiel used the identification "the Lord GOD" (Adonai Yahweh) 217 times. Elsewhere in the OT the phrase occurs only 103 times. This name stresses both God’s sovereign authority and His covenant-keeping faithfulness (Otto Eissfeldt, " ‘adhon," Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. John T. Willis [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974], 1:62–63).

Judgment and hope. In light of God’s consistent character, the book includes the themes of both judgment and hope. Ezekiel was commissioned to deliver a message of judgment (chaps. 2–3) and declared judgment to those who lived in iniquity and continued in false hope (37:11). On the other hand, Ezekiel later was recommissioned to give a message of deliverance and hope, based on God’s faithfulness to His covenants and mercy to those who would turn to Him (chap. 33).

The messianic theme is not as prominent in Ezekiel as in Jeremiah or Isaiah. However, there are strong messianic aspects to the book. The Messiah is presented as (1) a sprig from the line of David (17:22); an allusion to Is 11:1; (2) the future rightful King (Ezk 21:26, 27; cf. Gn 49:10; Rv 5:5); (3) the horn the Lord will cause to sprout, an intertextual link to the Davidic promise in Ps 132:17; (4) the True Shepherd who will restore Israel (Ezk 34:11–31; cf. Jr 23:5–6; Jn 10:1–10); and (5) the King Messiah and Son of David who will reign over the messianic kingdom from Jerusalem (Ezk 37:15–28).

The book of Ezekiel begins with the prophet’s call to ministry, in which he has a vision of divine glory (chaps. 1–3). The first half of the book focuses on God’s coming judgment of Judah for their iniquity and call for repentance (chaps. 4–24). The next section is prophecies of God’s judgment of the Gentile nations for their treatment of the Jewish people (chaps. 25–32). The book closes with the regathering of the Jewish people to Israel, their rebirth, and details of the coming millennial kingdom and the messianic reign in a restored Jerusalem (chaps. 33–48).


I. Prophetic Call to Ministry (1:1–3:27)

A. Call from Priest to Prophet (1:1–3)

B. Visions of the Throne of the Lord (1:4–2:7)

1. Vision of the Four Living Beings (1:4–14)

2. The Vision of the Four Wheels (1:15–21)

3. The Vision of the Expanse (1:22–25)

4. The Vision of the Throne (1:26–28)

5. The Task for Ezekiel, the Son of Man (2:1–7)

C. Message for Ministry (2:8–3:11)

1. The Vision of the Scroll (2:8–3:3)

2. The Delivery of God’s Word to Rebellious Israel (3:4–11)

D. Motivation for Ministry (3:12–27)

1. Ezekiel Led by the Spirit (3:12–15)

2. Ezekiel Appointed as a Watchman for the House of Israel (3:16–21)

3. Ezekiel’s Physical Restraints by the Lord (3:22–27)

II. Exilic Judgment of Judah (4:1–24:27)

A. Necessity of Judah’s Judgment (4:1–11:25)

1. Four Signs of Coming Judgment on Jerusalem (4:1–5:17)

a. Sign of the Brick (4:1–3)

b. Sign of Ezekiel’s Lying on His Sides (4:4–8)

c. Sign of the Unclean Food (4:9–17)

d. Sign of Ezekiel’s Shaved Head and Divided Hair (5:1–17)

2. Messages of Coming Judgment (6:1–7:27)

a. Message: Idolatry, the Cause of Judgment (6:1–14)

b. Message on the Nature of Judgment (7:1–27)

3. Vision of Coming Judgment (8:1–11:25)

a. Vision of the Wickedness in the Temple (8:1–18)

b. Vision of the Slaughter in Jerusalem (9:1–11)

c. Vision of the Departure of God’s Glory from the Temple (10:1–22)

d. Judgment on Jerusalem’s Rulers (11:1–25)

B. Futility of Judah’s False Optimism (12:1–19:14)

1. Two Signs of Impending Captivity (12:1–20)

a. Sign of the Baggage and the Hole in the Wall (12:1–16)

b. Sign of Trembling While Eating and Drinking (12:17–20)

2. Five Messages on the Certainty of Judgment (12:21–14:23)

a. First Certainty of Judgment Message: Correcting the Proverb About Visions (12:21–25)

b. Second Certainty of Judgment Message: Correcting the Proverb About Delay (12:26–28)

c. Third Certainty of Judgment Message: Against False Prophets and Prophetesses (13:1–23)

d. Fourth Certainty of Judgment Message: Condemnation of Idolatry (14:1–11)

e. Fifth Certainty of Judgment Message: Unavailing Prayer of Noah, Daniel, and Job (14:12–23)

3. Three Parables on Judgment (15:1–17:24)

a. Parable of the Fruitless Vine (15:1–8)

b. Parables of Unfaithful Jerusalem (16:1–63)

(1) Parable of the Rescued Infant Who Became the Adulterous Wife (16:1–43)

(2) The Parable of the Sisters: Jerusalem, Sodom, and Samaria (16:44–59)

(3) The Faithfulness of God and the Everlasting Covenant (16:60–63)

c. Parable of the Two Eagles (17:1–24)

4. Message on Individual Responsibility (18:1–32)

5. Parable of Lamentation for Israel’s Final Kings (19:1–14)

C. History of Judah’s Iniquity (20:1–24:27)

1. Message of Israel’s Past Rebellion and Restoration (20:1–49)

a. Israel’s Past Rebellion (20:1–32)

b. Israel’s Future Restoration (20:33–44)

c. Parable of the Forest Fire (20:45–49)

2. Four Messages of the Sword (21:1–32)

a. The Sword Drawn (21:1–7)

b. The Sword Sharpened (21:8–17)

c. The Sword Directed Toward Jerusalem (21:18–27)

d. The Sword Directed Toward Ammon (21:28–32)

3. Three Messages on the Defilement and Judgment of Jerusalem (22:1–31)

a. Cause of Jerusalem’s Judgment (22:1–16)

b. Means of Judgment (22:17–22)

c. Recipients of Judgment (22:23–31)

4. Parable of the Two Adulterous Sisters: Oholah and Oholibah (23:1–49)

a. Infidelity of the Sisters: Oholah and Oholibah (23:1–21)

b. Punishment of the Sisters (23:22–35)

c. Conclusion of the Message to Oholah and Oholibah (23:36–49)

5. Parable of the Boiling Pot (24:1–14)

6. Sign of the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:15–27)

III. Ultimate Judgment on Gentile Nations (25:1–32:32)

A. Judgment on Ammon (25:1–7)

B. Judgment on Moab (25:8–11)

C. Judgment on Edom (25:12–14)

D. Judgment on Philistia (25:15–17)

E. Judgment on Tyre (26:1–28:19)

1. Destruction of Tyre: Oracle One (26:1–21)

2. Dirge Over Tyre: Oracle Two (27:1–36)

3. Downfall of Leader of Tyre: Oracle Three (28:1–10)

4. Downfall of Power behind King of Tyre: Oracle Four (28:11–19)

F. Judgment on Sidon (28:20–26)

G. Judgment on Egypt (29:1–32:32)

1. Sin of Egypt (29:1–16)

2. Defeat of Egypt by Babylon (29:17–21)

3. Destruction of Egypt and Her Allies (30:1–19)

4. Scattering of Egypt (30:20–26)

5. Allegory of Assyria and the Fall of Pharaoh King of Egypt (31:1–18)

a. Allegory of Assyria as a Cedar Tree (31:1–9)

b. Downfall of Assyria (31:10–14)

c. Descent of Assyria into the Grave (31:15–18)

6. Lament for Pharaoh (32:1–16)

7. Descent of Egypt into Sheol (32:17–32)

IV. Eschatological Blessings for Israel (33:1–48:35)

A. New Life for Israel (33:1–39:29)

1. Ezekiel Is Reappointed as a Watchman (33:1–33)

a. Ezekiel’s Duties as a Watchman (33:1–20)

b. The Opening of Ezekiel’s Mouth (33:21–33)

2. Present False Shepherds Contrasted with the Future True Shepherd of Israel (34:1–31)

a. Present False Shepherds of Israel (34:1–10)

b. Future True Shepherd of Israel (34:11–31)

3. Edom, the Enemy of Israel, Destroyed (35:1–15)

4. The People of Israel Blessed (36:1–38)

a. Israel’s Mountains Will Prosper (36:1–15)

b. Israel’s People to Be Regathered (36:16–38)

5. Nation of Israel Restored (37:1–28)

a. Vision of the Dry Bones (37:1–14)

b. Sign of the Two Sticks—Israel United (37:15–28)

6. Prophecy of Attack and Defeat of Gog (38:1–39:29)

a. Invasion of Israel by Gog (38:1–16)

b. Judgment of Gog by God (38:17–39:29)

(1) Defeat of Gog (38:17–39:8)

(2) Aftermath of the Defeat of Gog (39:9–20)

(3) Effects of the Lord’s Defeat of Gog on Israel (39:21–29)

B. New Order for Israel (40:1–48:35)

1. A New Temple (40:1–43:27)

a. Introduction to the Vision of the Temple (40:1–4)

b. Outer Court of the Temple (40:5–27)

c. Inner Court of the Temple (40:28–47)

d. The Temple Building (40:48–41:26)

e. Chambers in the Inner Court of the Temple (42:1–14)

f. Outer Walls of the Temple (42:15–20)

g. Return of the Lord’s Glory (43:1–12)

h. Altar of Burnt Offering (43:13–27)

2. A New Service of Worship (44:1–46:24)

a. The Temple Ministers (44:1–31)

b. Land Allotment for the Temple and Priests (45:1–8)

c. Warning to Jewish Leaders Living in Babylon (45:9–12)

d. Offerings in the Temple (45:13–46:24)

3. A New Land (47:1–48:35)

a. The River from the Temple (47:1–12)

b. Boundaries of the Land (47:13–23)

c. Division of the Land (48:1–29)

d. Gates of the City (48:30–35)


I. Prophetic Call to Ministry (1:1–3:27)

God’s commission of Ezekiel is the longest prophetic call in the Bible. Like Moses (Ex 3:1–10), Jeremiah (Jr 1:1–10), and Isaiah (Is 6:1–10), Ezekiel was called and prepared for his ministry by a supernatural encounter with the holiness of the Lord.

A. Call from Priest to Prophet (1:1–3)

1:1–2. Ezekiel was called as a prophet in the thirtieth year, probably a reference to his age. Ezekiel was a priest (cf. v. 3), and 30 was the age he would enter the Lord’s priestly service (Nm 4:3). The vision came On the fifth of the month in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile, (Tamuz 5/July 31, 593 BC, 2Kg 24:8–17).

Ezekiel had been taken into captivity with King Jehoiachin (March 597 BC, 2Kg 24:12–15), and settled among the exiles of Judah by the river Chebar, off the Euphrates River. There the heavens were opened and Ezekiel saw visions of God (cf. Ezk 1:4–2:7). God’s messages to Ezekiel were often in the form of visions (cf. 8:1; 9:1; 10:1; 11:24; 12:27; 37:1, 11; 40:1; 43:1–3).

1:3. That the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel indicates the exactness and seriousness of his call. Ezekiel was a priest, and was given the additional ministry of prophet. Ezekiel’s mandate for his ministry was by the hand of the Lord, signifying the powerful call of divine revelation, a phrase repeated six times in the book (3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1).

B. Visions of the Throne of the Lord (1:4–2:7)

This section describes Ezekiel’s vision of God’s holiness (1:4–28) in detail and his specific call (2:1–7).

1. Vision of the Four Living Beings (1:4–14)

1:4. This vision of God (cf. v. 1) was shown to Ezekiel first: As I looked, behold (cf. v. 5) a storm wind … a great cloud … with fire flashing … continually and bright light. This was a storm-like manifestation of the Lord. There was something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire, a word used only twice in the OT, both times describing God’s glowing splendor (cf. v. 27; 8:2).

1:5. The figures resembling four living beings are later identified as cherubim (cf. 10:1). Angels in this category have special access to God (cf. 28:14, 16) and serve as guardians of His holiness and His throne chariot (Gn 3:22–24). On the ark of the covenant, gold images of cherubim, with outstretched wings, guarded the mercy seat where the glory of the Lord was enthroned (Ex 25:17–22; Nm 7:89; 1Sm 4:4; 2Sm 6:2, Pss 80:1; 99:1; Is 37:16). Since the earthly tabernacle and temple were a copy of the heavenly reality (Heb 8:5), Ezekiel’s vision was a glimpse of the actual throne chariot of God borne by cherubim.

These figures had the appearance or likeness of human form. The terms "resembling" "appeared," and "were like" are used in Ezk 12 times to emphasize that the descriptions are impressionistic because the vision is so difficult to describe (cf. vv. 5, 10, 16, 22, 26; 2:8; 8:2; 10:1; 10:10, 21–22; 23:15).

1:6–7. The angelic beings had human form but should not be mistaken for mortals. Each of the four living beings had four faces and four wings, enabling them to move in all directions as needed. Their legs were straight, implying they were standing upright. Their feet were like a calf’s hoof, perhaps indicating agility (Ps 29:6; Mal 4:2), and were like burnished bronze, seeming highly polished and not like ordinary animal hooves.

1:8–9. They had wings on four sides, as well as human hands, giving them both supernatural and natural characteristics. Two of the four wings of each one were outstretched so that their wings touched one another, forming a connecting square. Having faces on four sides of their heads, they could simultaneously see in all directions. They were able to travel straight in any direction and could change direction but did not turn, indicating the supernatural movement.

1:10. The front of each cherub was the face of a man, and on the right side was the face of a lion. The left side was the face of a bull, and the face of an eagle was apparently in the back (cf. Rv 4:7). Perhaps these images represent intelligence, courage, strength, and speed.

1:11. Two of the four wings on each cherub were spread out above, and were touching a wing of a cherub on either side, forming a square with a cherub at each corner. The other two wings on each cherub were covering their bodies in reverence as they served the Lord in His holy presence (cf. 1:23; Is 6:1–3).

1:12. The cherubim always moved straight forward, so they could go in any direction without turning. Their movement was directed by the spirit (e.g., Gn 1:2; 6:3; Ex 31:3; Ps 139:7), a reference to the Holy Spirit of God’s guidance of these beings (cf. Ezk 1:20; Ex 13:21–22; Nm 9:15–23; Mt 4:1).

1:13–14. In the midst of the living beings was something … like burning coals of fire … like torches. This image of lightening … flashing from the fire and the urgency of the cherubim running to and fro like bolts of lightning indicate the power and urgency of God’s message.

2. The Vision of the Four Wheels (1:15–21)

Following the description of the living beings is the vision of the wheels, one of the most familiar, but enigmatic, images in Ezekiel. This is a description of the throne chariot (cf. v. 26) of God Almighty with its awesome wheels (vv. 15–18) and cherubim/living beings (vv. 19–21).

1:15–17. The second part of the vision, concerning the wheels, is introduced with I looked (cf. v. 4). On the earth beside each of the living beings was a wheel of sparkling beryl, a transparent golden green gemstone. One wheel was within another so they could move in four directions without turning as they moved (v. 7).

1:18. The rims of the wheels were lofty and awesome, tall, and terrifying in appearance (cf. v. 5). This majestic quality was intensified by the rims being full of eyes all around. This indicates the divine omniscience of the all-seeing Lord God, who rides on this throne chariot (cf. 2Ch 16:9; Pr 15:3).

1:19–21. The living beings and the wheels were connected in movement (cf. v. 12), because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. The wheels were an extension of the cherubim beneath the Almighty seated on His throne chariot. As He directed the cherubim, the wheels responded and the chariot would go in any direction.

3. The Vision of the Expanse (1:22–25)

1:2223. There was a covering over the heads of the living beings … something (cf. comments on v. 5) like an expanse, which separated the beings from the glory of the Lord (cf. Gn 1:6–7). The expanse had the awesome gleam of crystal, a shining brilliance John used to describe the throne of the Lord—as "clear as crystal" (Rv 4:6). The outstretched wings of the cherubim joined together, covering their bodies in reverence (cf. Ezk 1:11).

1:24–25. When the wings of the cherubim moved, the sound was like abundant waters, as intense as the voice of the Almighty (shaddai). It was the sound of tumult like … an army camp, with many soldiers marching in rank. This was similar to thunder, which sometimes is heard at God’s presence (cf. 43:2; Jb 37:4–5; 40:9; Pss 18:13; 104:7). When the cherubim stood still, they dropped their wings (vv. 24–25). The voice from above the expanse over the heads of the cherubim was the voice of the Lord (cf. v. 28).

4. The Vision of the Throne (1:26–28)

1:26. Above the expanse was something resembling (cf. comments on v. 5) a throne. It looked like lapis lazuli ("sapphire"), a costly azure-blue gemstone. Seated on this shining blue throne was a figure with the appearance of a man.

1:27–28. His body looked like glowing metal and something like fire, surrounded by a radiance, like the appearance of the rainbow. This dazzling image of the beauty of the Lord is described by the apostle John in his vision of God’s heavenly throne (Rv 4:3).

This figure is identified as having the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. Therefore, Ezekiel responded in worship and awe. He fell on his face (cf. Ezk 3:23; Gn 17:3) and heard a voice speaking. This should always be a believer’s attitude toward the Lord when considering His glory and majesty.

Ezekiel did not see the Lord God Himself (cf. Gn 16:13; Ex 3:6; 33:20; Jdg 13:22; Jn 1:18), but certain manifestations. It was an indescribable likeness of Him or a theophany (cf. comments on Ezk 1:5; 8:2), symbolically communicating the revelation of the glory, power, and majesty of the Lord (cf. Ex 40:34; Is 6:3). The Lord’s glory is a key idea in Ezekiel (see Introduction: Themes).

5. The Task for Ezekiel, the Son of Man (2:1–7)

As God spoke (1:28), He empowered Ezekiel (2:1–2), explained Ezekiel’s mission (2:3–5), and challenged him to be fearless, despite difficulty (2:6–7).

2:1–2. God called Ezekiel Son of man, (see Introduction: Themes). God told Ezekiel to stand so He could speak with him. Then the Holy Spirit empowered Ezekiel to obey. In the OT period, the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers as He does in the church age (Rm 8:9). Instead, He temporarily indwelt selected individuals for specific divine service (cf. Ezk 3:24; Ex 31:1–11; 1Sm 10:9–11; Ps 51:11).

2:3–4. Ezekiel needed supernatural power to carry God’s message to a resistant audience, the sons of Israel … a rebellious people who were stubborn and obstinate (cf. 3:7). "Rebellious" occurs eight times in chaps. 2 and 3 (2:2, 4, 6, 8; 3:9, 26, 27), and seven times elsewhere in Ezekiel (12:2, 3, 9, 25; 17:12; 24:3; 44:6). This description emphasizes that the Jewish people were determined in their disobedience to the Lord, but also that their God was determined in His faithfulness to them, sending His messenger to declare His word to them. The message from the Lord God (see Introduction: Themes) was to the Jewish people who had already gone into Babylonian exile.

2:5. Ezekiel had to deliver God’s message, whether they listen or not (cf. 2:5, 7; 3:11). Israel is called a rebellious house in Ezekiel 12 times (2:5–6, 8; 3:9; 26–27; 12:3, 9, 25; 17:12; 24:3) to underscore their defiance against God. Despite their attitude, by Ezekiel’s message they would know that a prophet has been among them.

2:6–7. The Lord told Ezekiel three times neither fear them nor fear their words. Ezekiel needed this encouragement because opposition was certain and the task was difficult. It would be like working among thistles and thorns and as dangerous as sitting on scorpions. Even so, Ezekiel was to neither fear their words nor their presence. God again commanded Ezekiel to speak My words … whether they listen or not (cf. 2:4, 3:11).

God’s encouragement to Ezekiel to be fearless in his task was a bridge between the vision when he was called to ministry (1:4–2:7) and the message of his ministry (2:8–3:11).

C. The Message for Ministry (2:8–3:11)

1. The Vision of the Scroll (2:8–3:3)

2:8. In contrast to Israel’s rebellious attitude toward God and His word (vv. 3, 5), Ezekiel was obedient to listen to what the Lord was speaking to him and to Open his mouth and eat what God was giving him. He was to internalize the word of the Lord and live by it (Dt 8:3; Mt 4:4).

2:9–10. A hand gave Ezekiel a scroll. The hand was possibly the hand of a cherub (cf. 1:8), but the One speaking was the Lord (cf. vv. 7–8). The scroll had writing on the front and back, unusual since most scrolls were written on only one side. Writing on both sides shows the intensity of warning and severity of judgment (cf. Zch 5:3; Rv 5:1). The double-sided message was of lamentations, mourning and woe. This summarizes the judgment messages of Ezekiel (Ezk 4–32).

3:1–3. God repeated the command to eat this scroll (cf. 2:8) and speak to the house of Israel. Ezekiel opened his mouth, and the Lord fed him the scroll. Although the message of judgment was woeful (cf. 2:10), the scroll tasted as sweet as honey because it was God’s word (cf. Ps 19:10; Jr 15:16; Rv 10:9–11).

2. The Delivery of God’s Word to Rebellious Israel (3:4–11)

3:4. Ezekiel was commanded to go to the house of Israel. The phrase house of Israel, or a variation, is used more than a hundred times to identify the Jewish people as a whole, both Israel and Judah, in the land of Israel or in exile (cf. 2:5; 6:11; 8:11–12). God said speak … My words to them.

3:5–6. Ezekiel was sent to a people who understood his language. There was no barrier for his message to the Jewish people in Babylonian exile who should listen to Ezekiel’s message.

3:7. Although there was no language or cultural barrier, yet the house of Israel would not … listen to Ezekiel because they were not willing to listen to the Lord. Their sin extended to the whole house of Israel. This does not imply that every Israelite rejected God, for Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were all ministering faithfully during these years. A faithful remnant of Israel heeded their message. This general description of stubborn and obstinate refers to all parts of Israel without distinction (from the priests and leaders to the common person) rather than every individual Israelite without exception.

3:8–9. The Lord prepared Ezekiel for his difficult task by making the prophet’s face as hard as their faces. The word for hard (hazaq) is the root of Ezekiel’s name (y’khezqel) and means "God will strengthen" or "God will harden." This is a play on words because the people were hardened in their obstinacy, but Ezekiel was made hard/strong for his prophetic mission. Ezekiel’s name was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and the source of his strength to meet the hardest opposition.

God would also make Ezekiel’s forehead … harder than flint (cf. Jos 5:2–3). The hard stone used to make knives and tools showed Ezekiel’s determination to deliver God’s message. God commanded Ezekiel not [to] be afraid of them or be dismayed before them (cf. Ezk 2:6–7; Jr 1:17). Though opposition was certain, Ezekiel had nothing to fear because God would enable him to meet the resistance of the rebellious house (cf. Ezk 2:5).

3:10–11. God commanded Ezekiel to take into your heart all—to listen carefully to all my words. Ezekiel was identified with the Jewish people in exile as the sons of your people. However, the prophet heard and obeyed God’s word, although the exiles did not. Ezekiel announced thus says the Lord God and was responsible to proclaim God’s word whether they [would] listen or not (cf. 2:5, 7).

D. The Motivation for Ministry (3:12–27)

Seeing the vision of God’s glory gave Ezekiel perspective for his task (1:4–2:7). God provided the message of His word (2:8–3:11), and the hand of the Lord empowered him for the ministry (1:3). This section shows Ezekiel being guided by the Spirit to his place of ministry (3:12–15) and appointed as God’s watchman to Israel (3:16–21), with certain restraints (3:22–27).

1. Ezekiel Led by the Spirit (3:12–15)

3:12–14a. The Spirit (cf. 2:2) lifted Ezekiel up, and he heard the rumbling sound (cf. 1:24) of the praise Blessed be the glory of the Lord in His place and the sound of the wings of the living beings (cf. 1:15). Several times the Holy Spirit transported Ezekiel in a vision, not physically, to give him instruction (cf. 8:3; 11:1; 24; 37:1; 43:5).

3:14b–15. As Ezekiel understood God by consuming His words (cf. 2:8–3:4) and seeing the vision of His presence (1:22–28; 3:12–13) he felt, as God did toward Israel’s sin, embittered in … rage.

Ezekiel was guided by the hand of the Lord … strong on him. This picture of God’s power and authority to direct appears in Ezekiel seven times (1:3; 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1), and about 90 times in the OT. This does not mean the Lord has actual hands, but it is a figure of speech for God’s guidance.

Ezekiel was directed by the Spirit to go to the exiles … at Tel-abib, the Jewish area in Babylon on the river Chebar (cf. 1:1). He sat there for seven days, but he did not deliver a message. His presence caused consternation, as the exiles wondered what he would say.

2. Ezekiel Appointed as a Watchman for the House of Israel (3:16–21)

3:16–17. After seven days of silence, the word of the Lord appointed Ezekiel a watchman to the house of Israel. Watchmen were stationed on city walls, hilltops, or watchtowers to warn of approaching enemies or any impending danger (e.g., 2Sm 18:24–25; 2Kgs 9:17; Is 62:6–7; Jr 4:5; 6:1). Watchman is often a term used for God’s prophets (e.g., Is 56:10; 62:6–7; Jr 6:17; Hs 9:8).

3:18. As God’s watchman, Ezekiel was responsible for sounding God’s warning of impending judgment to the house of Israel. He was to warn both the wicked (vv. 18–19) and "the righteous" (vv. 20–21).

3:19. A wicked person would surely die unless he turned from his wicked way. Those who refused to heed God’s warnings to repent would die in [their] iniquity. Ezekiel obeyed God by warning the wicked. Ezekiel was not responsible if they did not turn from [their] wickedness in response to his message.

3:20–21. A righteous man was required to continue faithfully in righteousness, heeding the prophet’s warnings, rather than slipping into sin. So he also needed to be warned to prevent his turning from his righteousness and committing iniquity, for which he would then die.

Ezekiel was not accountable for the response to his message but was only accountable to obey God by delivering His message. People who refused to heed his warning had only themselves to blame. If Ezekiel did not deliver the message: his blood I will require at your hand (vv. 18, 20); if he did deliver God’s word: you have delivered yourself (vv. 19, 21).

3. Ezekiel’s Physical Restraints by the Lord (3:22–27)

3:22–23. The hand of the Lord directed Ezekiel to the plain where God would speak to him. Here Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord (cf. 1:28) for the second time. Again he responded in reverence and fell on his face.

3:24. The Spirit again entered Ezekiel and made him stand up (cf. comments on 2:2), giving him instructions and strength for his ministry.

Along with his specific message from the Lord, Ezekiel was given specific restrictions in communicating God’s message. First, he was to shut himself up in his house. He should stay at home. He was not a prisoner, but his field of ministry was confined to his house, with limited contact with the community (cf. 5:2; 12:3). Instead of his going out, the leaders came to him at his house to receive God’s word (cf. 8:1; 14:1; 20:1).

3:25. Ezekiel had to stay at home for his own protection, or the people would put ropes on him and bind him. If he would go out among the people at this point, his message would be rejected and his opponents might attack him.

3:26. The second restriction concerned his ability to talk. God would make Ezekiel’s tongue stick to the roof of his mouth so that he would be mute and not speak rebukes to them. Ezekiel experienced temporary dumbness so that he could not speak to the people. This muteness, however, was not continuous (v. 27) or permanent (33:22). He would speak only when and what God directed.

3:27. There is no contradiction between Ezekiel’s commission as a watchman (vv. 16–21) and his prohibition against speaking to the people (v. 26). Ezekiel only spoke God’s message and at God’s time. God told him: But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth. When he was silent, it was because God had not spoken. When he spoke, it was because God had given him a message: Thus says the Lord God (cf. 2:4).

A person’s reception or rejection of Ezekiel’s message was a reflection of his openness to God (cf. Ex 16:8; 1Sm 8:7). The section closes, He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse. This is similar to Messiah Jesus’ words: "He who has ears, let him hear" (Mt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mk 4:9, 23; Lk 8:8; 14:35; Rv 2:7).

II. Exilic Judgment of Judah (4:1–24:27)

The book opens with Ezekiel’s dramatic call to ministry by the vision of God’s glory. He was given the task of watchman for Israel to proclaim God’s message of impending judgment to resistant Israel (chaps. 1–3). This first half of the book of Ezekiel is the prophet’s message of God’s coming judgment of Judah (chaps. 4–24). Ezekiel was to explain to the Jewish people already in Babylonian captivity the causes and details of God’s impending judgment on Jerusalem for her sin (chaps. 4–11), warn the exiles against false hope of victory over Babylon (chaps. 12–19), and review the history of Judah’s iniquity (chaps. 20–24).

A. Necessity of Judah’s Judgment (4:1–11:25)

As a watchmen Ezekiel had to confront Israel with her sin and warn her of impending judgment (cf. 3:17) He used dramatic signs (chaps. 4–5), sermons (chaps. 6–7), and visions (chaps. 8–11).

1. Four Signs of Coming Judgment on Jerusalem (4:1–5:17)

While confined to his home (cf. 3:24), Ezekiel delivered God’s message of the coming siege of Jerusalem, enacted in four dramatic signs.

a. Sign of the Brick (4:1–3)

4:1. For the first sign, Ezekiel was to get a brick and inscribe on it the familiar outline of Jerusalem. Soft clay tablets were commonly used in Babylon for writing, and bricks were common building materials.

4:2. After drawing the image of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was to lay siege against the Jerusalem image on the brick to demonstrate the city’s future. Ezekiel was to attack this Jerusalem image with a siege wall … a ramp … camps … battering rams. This depicted upcoming events during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem (cf. 2Kg 25:1; Jr 24:1; 52:4). Ezekiel was called to ministry in 593 BC (cf. 1:2), and these signs were probably enacted a short time afterward. If so, these warning signs were given about seven years prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

4:3. Finally, Ezekiel set … up against the Jerusalem image an iron plate … as an iron wall. The iron plate was the iron griddle commonly used for making bread. The description of it as an iron wall showed the inescapable Babylonian siege wall against Jerusalem. Ezekiel was commanded to set your face toward it (Jerusalem) to show God’s inescapable judgment. This phrase, set your face, is used of judgment 14 times by Ezekiel (4:3, 7; 6:2; 13:17; 14:8; 15:7 [twice]; 20:46; 21:2; 25:2; 28:21; 29:2; 35:2; 38:2). Jerusalem had no hope of escaping God’s judgment by defeating Babylon. Ezekiel’s role-play with the brick was for a sign to the house of Israel (cf. 12:6, 11; 24:24–27; Is 8:18; 20:3).

b. Sign of Ezekiel’s Lying on His Sides (4:4–8)

4:4–5. God used Ezekiel’s posture as a second sign. Ezekiel was to lie on his left side to emphasize the iniquity of the house of Israel, the northern kingdom (since Judah is mentioned separately, v. 6). His actions would not bear their iniquity but highlight the nation’s sin (taking the Hb. literally as "lift up" not bear). He was to lie there for three hundred and ninety days, corresponding to the years of their iniquity. The three hundred and ninety may refer to the years of golden calf worship initiated by Jeroboam in the northern kingdom, which continued until the fall of Jerusalem (975–586 BC; 1Kg 12:20–33).

4:6. After remaining on his left side, he was to lie down a second time, now on his right side, and lift up or highlight the iniquity of the house of Judah (the southern kingdom) for forty days. The forty likely refers to the years of Judah’s idol worship and iniquity during Manasseh’s wicked reign (697–643 BC; 1Kg 21:10–16; 22:26, 27).

Ezekiel did not remain in this position 24 hours a day, because the very next sign (Ezk 4:9–17) includes some other actions that required Ezekiel to move around. He probably remained in this position for a portion of each day as a sign of the sin of Israel and Judah.

4:7. Ezekiel was commanded set your face (cf. v. 3) toward the siege of Jerusalem. He was to have his arm bared, illustrating military readiness.

4:8. To symbolize the confinement the Jewish people would suffer during the Babylonian siege, God had Ezekiel put ropes on so he could not turn from one side to the other. Apparently Ezekiel was tied up only during the time each day when he lay on his side, but moved around at other times until he had completed the roleplay of the days of siege.

c. Sign of the Unclean Food (4:9–17)

4:9–10. The severity of the siege of Jerusalem is Ezekiel’s third role-play sign. He had to put wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt into one vessel and make them into bread. These are common food grains in Israel (cf. 2Sm 17:27–29) but would usually be cooked separately and not mixed together. However, food was so scarce during the siege that several grains had to be combined to have enough for one loaf. Ezekiel had to eat this bread during the three hundred and ninety days he was lying on his left side. He was to weigh out just twenty shekels (about eight ounces) of this bread to eat each day for his ration.

4:11. His daily water ration was only a sixth … of a hin (20 ounces). These meager rations predicted the famine conditions during the siege of Jerusalem (cf. vv. 16–17).

4:12–13. Most repulsive to Ezekiel was the command to bake this barley cake, which included the other grains as well (cf. v. 9), using human dung for fuel. The Mosaic law gave specific instructions for the disposal of human excrement, and using human excrement for any purpose is a violation of Torah (cf. Dt 23:12–14). However, siege conditions in Jerusalem would destroy most trees, camels, cattle, and donkeys, so there would be no wood or animal dung for cooking fuel. Ezekiel was to eat the barley cake (bread) … in their sight, as a sign that they would eat their bread unclean, in violation of God’s dietary laws, when the Lord would banish them among the nations (Gentiles).

4:14. Ezekiel begged God not to ask him to violate His law, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I have never been defiled … [or eaten] any unclean meat. As a devout Jew, Ezekiel had always kept God’s dietary and purity laws (cf. 1:3; Lv 22:8; Dt 14). Therefore, he begged for mercy not to be required to break God’s law.

4:15. God mercifully answered Ezekiel’s plea, saying, I will give you cow’s dung in place of human dung … to prepare your bread so he would not be defiled. Ezekiel was willing to face the rejection of his message without fear (2:1–7), the mental anguish of muteness without complaint (3:16–17), and suffer the physical pain of lying on his side for a year without lament (vv. 1–8), but he pled for mercy not to violate the God’s law.

4:16–17. God broke the staff of bread in Jerusalem, meaning He destroyed the food supply during the Babylonian siege, so the people would eat bread by weight and with anxiety (cf. 12:19; Lm 1:11; 2:11–12, 19) and drink water by measure and in horror (Lm 4:4–5, 9). Both food and water would be rationed, just as Ezekiel had modeled (cf. Ezk 4:10–11). Jerusalemites would waste away, or starve to death, (cf. Lm 4:8–9) because of their iniquity.

d. Sign of Ezekiel’s Shaved Head and Divided Hair (5:1–17)

5:1. God commanded Ezekiel to shave his head and beard with a sharp sword like a barber’s razor. Using a sword for a razor prefigured military assault. The book of Ezekiel uses sword 80 times to describe military attack (e.g., 6:11; 25:13). Moreover, shaving one’s head and beard was a sign of mourning (cf. 7:18; Jb 1, 20; Is 15:2–3; Jr 7:29; 48:37) and humiliation (2Sm 10:4–5; Is 7:20), emotions appropriate for defeat. He was to collect the hair, put it on scales for weighing, and divide the hair to be used as a sign.

5:2. God commanded Ezekiel to take one third of his hair to the center of the city to burn it there; one third he was to strike with the sword; and one third he was to scatter to the wind. These actions illustrated what would happen to the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the city would fall to Babylon: a third of the people would die by the sword; a third would perish when the city burned; and another third would be exiled.

5:3–4. A few strands of hair remained after the burning, striking, and scattering. Ezekiel was to bind these in the edges of his robes to represent God’s preservation of a remnant in the midst of judgment. Even the few hairs were not safe, however, because God commanded Ezekiel to toss some of them in the fire, depicting the suffering and death awaiting even the remnant. This judgment was for all the house of Israel.

5:5. The Lord highlighted the city He chose (Dt 12:5; 2Ch 6:6; Ps 132:13) and loves (Ps 87:2) above all others, saying, This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations (cf. Ezk 38:12). Jerusalem’s unique importance to God is not a simple geographic location, although in the Middle Ages both Rabbinic and Christian literature and maps oriented the whole world toward Jerusalem. The Lord was highlighting Jerusalem’s historical and redemptive position (cf. Is 2:1–4; Mc 4:1–3). Jerusalem was the recipient of God’s word, the dwelling place of His glory, and the object of His love (Ps 48:2; Neh 1:9; Zch 8:2; Mt 23:37).

5:6–7. Tragically, in spite of this exalted position, Israel rebelled (cf. 2:3) against God’s ordinances, acting more wickedly than the Gentile nations … which surround her.

5:8. Because the people of Jerusalem rejected God’s love and laws, He emphatically stated His decision: thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I, even I, am against you’ (cf. 13:8; 21:3; 26:3; 28:22; 29:3, 10; 30:22; 34:10; 35:3; 39:11). She would be judged in the sight of the nations. God’s judgment, the destruction of Jerusalem, would be a public event.

5:9–10. Because of all Jerusalem’s abominations (ritual uncleanness and moral impurity) something would happen that had never been done or would ever happen again in Israel. The famine would be so severe that fathers will eat their sons … and sons will eat their fathers. Because of the extreme famine conditions, some people would resort to cannibalism rather than starve. This horror had been predicted in the law prior to the conquest of the promised land and settlement of Jerusalem (Dt 28:53–57; Lv 26:29). During the siege some parents killed their healthy children for food (2Kg 6:28–29; Lm 2:20; 4:10). Apparently adults were consumed for food as well, however, it is not clear how they died (Jr 19:9). This abhorrent behavior added to their sin, and God would execute judgments on them and scatter them to every wind, meaning expel them from the land in every direction.

5:11–12. Because they had defiled My sanctuary the temple, with detestable idols and … abominations, the Lord would withdraw His presence from them (cf. chap. 10) and judge them without pity, using the full fury of the four judgments: plague, famine, sword, and scatter[ing] (cf. 7:15–16; 14:21; Lv 26:25–26; Dt 32:23–25; Jr 14:11, 22; 24:10). Jerusalem, the object of God’s unique favor, would soon become the object of His unique judgment.

5:13. God’s judgment would last until the fury of His wrath was appeased. The emphasis is on the divine source of each judgment: I, the Lord, have spoken … (vv. 13, 15, 17). God’s judgment would continue until He had poured out His wrath upon them.

5:14–15. God’s judgment on Jerusalem would be humiliating. She would be a desolation and a reproach among the nations (cf. Lm 2:15). Yet those ridiculing nations would be horrified at what was happening to Jerusalem, and the carnage in the city would be a warning to them.

5:16–17. When the divine judgment of deadly arrows of famine … wild beasts … plague, and the sword would (cf. vv. 11–12) fall, God declared that it would demonstrate that I, the Lord, have spoken.

2. Messages of Coming Judgment (6:1–7:27)

Following his four dramatic signs (chaps. 4–5), Ezekiel delivered two sermons, both beginning with the phrase "The word of the Lord came to me" (6:1, 7:1). The first message concerned the cause for judgment, Israel’s idolatry (chap. 6). The second message depicted the nature of Israel’s judgment (chap. 7).

a. Message: Idolatry, the Cause of Judgment (6:1–14)

6:1–3. God commanded Ezekiel to set his face (cf. 4:3) against the mountains of Israel … hills … ravines … and the valleys. This was judgment on the Jewish people, not the geography, for engaging in pagan worship at shrines throughout Israel (cf. 2Kg 21:2–6, 10–15; Jr 2:20–28; 17:1–3; 32:35). Instead of being faithful to worship the Lord in His temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people followed the pagan practices of the Gentiles and set up pagan shrines throughout the land. Consequently God would bring a sword of judgment (cf. Ezk 11:8; 14:17; 29:8; 33:2) to destroy Israel’s high places of pagan worship.

6:4–5. Both the false places of worship and the worshipers would be destroyed. God would make the slain worshipers fall in front of their idols.

6:6–7. God told Ezekiel that when the people saw the slain, then they would know that I am the Lord. This key phrase know that I am the Lord occurs more than 60 times in Ezekiel (e.g., vv. 7, 10, 13, 14; 7:4; 27; 11:10; 25:17; 39:22) and refers to God’s design in judgment. God intended Israel to see His predictions of judgment fulfilled so Israel would recognize the God who made them come to pass.

6:8. God would judge the wicked, but He would leave a remnant because of His faithfulness to His chosen people (cf. 5:3–5; 12:16; Gn 12:1–3; Jr 31:31–40). Not all the Jewish people would be destroyed. Some would escape the sword when Israel was scattered among the countries.

6:9–10. The Jewish people who escape and live among the nations will remember God’s character and how the Lord had been hurt by Israel’s adulterous hearts when they turned away from God. Adulterous hearts refers to the spiritual immorality of idol worship, an act of unfaithfulness parallel to marital infidelity. They would also remember God’s faithfulness and know … I am the Lord who always does what He promises, even inflict this disaster for judgment for disobedience. They would know God never speaks in vain.

6:11–12. Because of all the evil abominations Ezekiel is to clap his hands … stamp his foot, (cf. Jb 27:23; Lm 2:15; Ezk 21:14, 17; 22:13; 25:6; Nah 3:19) and say, Alas! in derision. Destruction would be by the sword, famine and plague—a summary of the judgment announced by Ezekiel’s fourth sign (cf. Ezk 5:11–12). Those in Jerusalem who escaped one calamity would only find another waiting to strike them as God fulfilled His wrath on them.

6:13. The message of judgment on the Jewish people who engaged in pagan worship (cf. vv. 1–7) is repeated in graphic summary. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when their slain are among their idols around their altars, on every high hill … under every green tree … every leafy oak. Often altars of the high places were built among stately trees, which represented growth, fertility, and the habitation of spirits (cf. Hs 4:13). God had given His people a land rich with natural resources, but the people defiled His land and used it to offer soothing aroma (incense) to all their idols.

6:14. God would strike their habitations with judgment, making them more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblah. Although the exact location is unknown, the point is clear: judgment on Israel’s idolatry would make the land a ruin. The result of judgment will be the acknowledgment of God’s supreme authority: thus they will know that I am the Lord (cf. vv. 7, 10, 14).

b. Message on the Nature of Judgment (7:1–27)

7:1–2. The emphasis on the word of the Lord (cf. 6:1) in this message is the culmination of judgment: An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land. The word end is used five times in this message (vv. 2 [twice], 3, 6 [twice]), predicting the judgment on the four corners of the land and indicating that no part of Israel or Judah would escape God’s judgment.

7:3–4. The emphasis is on the holiness and wrath of God. The people would realize that God, being righteous, would punish sin. God vowed to send My anger against Israel because of her abominations (cf. 5:8). God would judge according to your ways (cf. vv. 4, 8–9, 27) without pity. Being judged on the basis of ways/conduct is mentioned 41 times in Ezekiel (e.g., vv. 8, 9, 27; 9:10; 16:43; 22:31). God would hold them accountable for their wicked actions. Then Israel would know that I am the Lord (cf. 6:7).

7:5–6. The Lord God gave a shout of warning: A disaster, unique disaster … (twice for emphasis) behold it is coming. The Hebrew phrases are short, staccato, and emphatic. The words coming or has come occur six times in vv. 5–7. This is urgent news of immediate certainty.

7:7. Jerusalem’s coming doom was certain: the day is near. There would be tumult (confusion, panic) rather than the joyful shouting associated with pagan worship on the mountains (cf. 6:1–5).

7:8–9. God would pour out His wrath of judgment (9:8; 14:19; 20:8, 13, 21; 22:31; 30:15; 36:18). The destruction would come as predicted, so those affected will know that I, the Lord, had done the smiting. This is a variation of the other statements about knowing the Lord as a result of prophecies of judgment against Israel being fulfilled (cf. 6:7).

7:1011. Behold, the day! Judgment was imminent, for the rod (or branch) has budded, arrogance has blossomed. The almond tree is the first tree to bloom in Israel (Jr 1:1–12). Just as the budding of the almond branch indicated spring, so the sin of the people signaled God’s coming judgment. Israel’s violence had blossomed and grown into a rod of wickedness.

7:12–13. Judgment was imminent: The time has come, the day has arrived (cf. vv. 5–7, 10). God’s wrath was against all their multitude, and the nation’s economy would collapse. After Jerusalem fell, nothing of value would remain, so neither the buyer would rejoice nor the seller mourn over business deals. The judgment could not be averted by any means.

7:14. Even sounding the trumpet to make everything ready for war would be a useless defense against God’s wrath.

7:15–16. Israel would have no defense and no escape from the wrath of the Lord’s judgment by sword, plague, and famine (cf. 5:12). People who escape to the field would be hunted down and killed by the sword. Those who sought protection within the city walls faced plague and famine (cf. Jr 14:18). The few survivors will hide in the mountains … mourning … each over his own iniquity, recognizing their sin and God’s just judgment.

7:17–18. God’s judgment will cause everyone to become weak with fear. Their hands will hang limp and knees will become like water (cf. 21:7). They will act like mourners dressed in sackcloth … shuddering … overwhelmed with shame (for their sin) … cutting their hair in grief, causing baldness (Gn 37:34; 1Sm 3:21; Jb 16:15; Is 58:5; Jr 6:26).

7:19. They will fling their silver into the streets and their gold will become … abhorrent because it could not deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord, nor could it fill their stomachs. Their gold and silver idols (cf. Jr 10:1–10) were useless. They could not defend them against God’s judgment or stop the famine. The idols were thrown into the street because idolatry had become … abhorrent. The word abhorrent (niddah) is used of ceremonial impurity (Lv 15:19–33; Nm 19:13–21). The people would feel revulsion toward their idolatry, which was the cause of their iniquity and stumbling.

7:20. The Lord’s house, the beauty of His ornaments, had been transformed by the images of their abominations and … detestable things. Idolatry was rampant during the siege of Jerusalem. After the Babylonian captivity idolatry would become an abhorrent thing to them. Jewish history has shown that after the return from Babylon, idolatry was no longer practiced in Israel.

7:21–22. The Jewish people wrongly believed that, because the ark of the covenant was in the temple, Jerusalem was safe from destruction (cf. 1Sm 4–7). Yet God would give His temple into the hands of the foreigners as plunder to spoil and profane My secret place, the Holy of Holies (Jr 52:17–23). Israel’s sin was so serious that not even the temple would escape God’s judgment (Mc 3:12).

7:23–24. God’s command to Make the chain previews the people of Jerusalem being taken captive in chains by cruel Babylon, the worst of the nations, (cf. 28:7; Jr 6:23; Hab 1:5–11). God will bring Babylon to possess everything. Israel’s confidence (pride) in her strong ones, her soldiers, and pagan holy places would prove useless.

7:25–26. The people will respond to the disaster with anguish and a futile search for peace, but there will be none. No sooner would one catastrophe befall than rumor would come of another on the way. The people would seek a word from God, a vision from a prophet … priest, and elders, but He would not respond because they had rejected God’s word already given by His prophets.

7:27. Hearing the message of judgment, the king (Jehoiachin), who was already in Babylonian captivity (cf. 1:2), would mourn. The prince (Zedekiah, cf. comments on 12:8–11), would be clothed with horror, and the people … will tremble. There would be no direction from the Lord, or leadership from the monarchy, leaving the people terrified. The Lord would deal with them according to their conduct. The Lord is not random in His judgment, but after He gave repeated warning to repent, His wrath will fall based on the conduct of the people. This standard of judgment is mentioned five times in chap. 7 (vv. 3–4, 8–9, 27) and reiterated throughout the book (cf. 9:10; 11:21; 16:43; 18:30). The judgments were based on the behavior of the people and designed to make them know that I am the Lord (cf. 6:7).

3. Vision of Coming Judgment (8:1–11:25)

Since his call to ministry, Ezekiel had received a vision of God’s glory (chaps. 1–3), had acted out four signs (chaps. 4–5), and had given two messages on judgment (chaps. 6–7). Now he is given a vision, with four parts focusing on judgment: (1) the wickedness of the people in the temple, chap. 8; (2) the slaughter of the people of Jerusalem, chap. 9; (3) the departure of the glory of the Lord from the temple, chap. 10; (4) and judgment on evil rulers as the glory of the Lord departed, chap. 11.

As Ezekiel was transported in a vision to Jerusalem (cf. 3:14; 11:1, 24; 37:1; 43:5) his body remained in Babylon. The elders seated before him did not see the vision of God, which Ezekiel later described to them (11:24–25).

a. Vision of the Wickedness in the Temple (8:1–18)

8:1. The vision occurred in the sixth year (of Jehoiachin’s exile, cf. 1:2) in the sixth month on the fifth day (Elul 5/September 17, 592 BC). This was exactly 14 months after Ezekiel’s first vision (1:1–2).

Ezekiel was sitting in his house with the elders of Judah. Although Ezekiel’s ministry beyond his house was limited (cf. 3:24), the elders of the community could come to his house, where they received Ezekiel’s message. The expression the hand of the Lord GOD fell on him (cf. 1:3; 3:14, 22) indicates direction from God, not that He has a literal hand (cf. 8:3).

8:2. Ezekiel saw a likeness as the appearance of a man (lit., fire). The figure seems to be more than an angelic being, but rather like a manifestation of God (cf. 1:26). From His loins (waist) down He was like fire, and above his waist His appearance was as bright as glowing metal (cf. 1:4). Ezekiel did not say that he saw God, but described the likeness as the appearance of the supernatural being, which was "the glory of God" (v. 4; cf. comments on 1:5; 1:26–27).

8:3. The Spirit lifted Ezekiel up (cf. 3:14; 11:1, 24; 37:1; 43:5) between earth and heaven and transported him in visions to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court of the temple. Here he saw the seat of the idol of jealousy. This idol was an insult to God, who was righteously provoked to jealousy because of this pagan god receiving worship that was due Him alone (Ex 20:4; cf. Dt 4:23–24).

8:4–6. While Ezekiel was looking at the idol of jealousy, the glory of the God of Israel (cf. 1:28; see Introduction: Themes), which he had seen on the plain, (cf. 3:23) asked him a rhetorical question: Do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing … that will drive God far from My sanctuary? God will not share His glory with an idol (cf. Is 42:8). As horrible as was the idol of jealousy, Ezekiel would see still greater abominations (cf. Ezk 8:13, 15).

8:7–9. Then God brought Ezekiel to the entrance of the court of the temple, probably the inner court, where he saw a hole in the wall, and the entrance where he saw the wicked abominations being committed there.

8:10. Ezekiel entered and saw every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things … the idols of the house of Israel … carved on the wall. This is an unveiled presentation of God’s view of idolatry (Rm 1:21–23).

8:11. In the room stood seventy elders of the house of Israel. These were the leaders of Israel (cf. Nm 11:16–17) who should have prevented sin, not perpetuated paganism by offering incense in their censer to the idol of jealousy. The presence of Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan is noteworthy because everyone else in Shapan’s family had remained faithful to the Lord (cf. Jr 26:24; 39:14; 40:5).

8:12–13. God told Ezekiel these elders of the house of Israel sought to justify their sin by saying The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land. They thought the sins they were committing in the dark were unseen by God. They imagined God had abandoned them in time of trouble (cf. 9:9). They rationalized worshiping other gods for their protection.

The people’s progression of idolatry went from open worship on the mountains’ high places to idolatry in the temple. Yet this was not the full extent of Israel’s wickedness. Ezekiel would see still greater abominations (cf. vv. 6, 15).

8:14–15. God brought Ezekiel to the entrance of the [north] gate of the Lord’s house, the outer court of the temple, where he saw women … weeping for Tammuz. Worship of Tammuz, a Babylonian agricultural fertility god involved beseeching him for rain with weeping and gross acts of immorality. These women of Israel had replaced the worship of the Giver of rain (Lv 26:4; Dt 11:14) with debased paganism. Yet Ezekiel was to see still greater abominations (cf. vv. 6, 13).

8:16. Then God brought Ezekiel into the inner court of the Lord’s house … at the entrance to the temple … between the porch and the altar, the area near the bronze altar on which sacrifices were offered (cf. 1Kg 6:2–3). Here the priests of Israel should have offered sacrifices and cried out to God for mercy (cf. Jl 2:17). Instead, Ezekiel saw about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east … prostrating themselves … toward the sun. These men, probably priests since they were in the temple, had literally turned their backs on the Lord and were worshiping the sun (Dt 4:19).

8:17 The house of Judah had commit[ted] the abominations … which filled the land with violence—cruelty, corruption, mistreatment of widows and orphans, and immorality. These practices provoked God to anger and would bring His judgment (cf. Ex 22:21–22; Is 1:17; 10:1–2; Jr 5:26–29; 22:3).

The expression putting the twig to their nose is probably an idiom meaning "to sneer" at someone, or it could be part of ceremonial nature worship. Whichever, the gesture was a gross insult to God.

8:18. God’s response to these abominations was resolute: I indeed will deal [with them] in wrath and … have no pity nor … spare. God would not listen to a last-minute cry in My ears with a loud voice. Certainly, God hears all things. However, because of their abominable sin, He would not respond to their voice and spare them.

b. Vision of the Slaughter in Jerusalem (9:1–11)

The second part of this vision is the carrying out of God’s judgment on Jerusalem for the wickedness described in chap. 8.

9:1. The Lord cried out … with a loud voice (cf. 19:14, Ps 29:3–5), indicating urgency, and the opposite of the ineffectual plea of the people (cf. Ezk 8:18). Draw near, O executioners of the city, literally "those who punish."

9:2. Then six men came from the direction of the upper gate which faces north, (cf. 8:3) the direction from where the Babylonians would invade Jerusalem (cf. Jr 1:14). The area where the worship of the idol of jealousy had taken place. They each had his shattering weapon in his hand, probably a club or a battle-ax.

Distinct from the group was a seventh figure, a certain man who wore linen clothing, suggesting dignity and purity (cf. Dn 10:5; 12:6–7). His work of marking the righteous (those who shared God’s view of sin) for preservation (Ezk 9:4) suggests He was perhaps the "angel of the Lord," the pre-incarnate Messiah (e.g., Gn 16:7–14; 22:11–15; 31:11–13; Jd 2:1–3). He carried a writing case, literally, a "case for the scribe" that held reed pens and an inkhorn. He stood beside the bronze altar, the symbol of God’s righteousness requirement of sacrifice (Lv 1).

9:3–4. Now the glory of … God began to move away from the temple. From the threshold of the temple He gave instruction to the man clothed in linen. Go through … Jerusalem and mark, with the tools in the writing case, on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations … being committed. As in Elijah’s day, there was a faithful remnant in Judah who had "not bowed the knee to Baal" (cf. 1Kg 19:18). God knew those who had remained faithful to Him, and He would spare their lives when He judged the nation through the Babylonians. This is similar to applying blood to the doorposts at Passover to be spared from death (Ex 12:23) and the seal on the 144,000 faithful witnesses in the tribulations (cf. Rv 7:3–4).

9:5–7. The others, the six men, were commanded to go through the city … and strike those without the mark. But they were not to touch any man … who had the mark made by the man in linen. But everyone who did not have a mark from the scribe was to be destroyed without exception—do not … pity and do not spare. Judgment was to be started with the elders in the temple (cf. 1Pt 4:17) who had turned their backs on God (cf. Ezk 8:16) and had led the people astray. Their dead bodies would defile the temple, but the temple had already been defiled with their idolatrous practices of the wicked. The Babylonians did this exactly because they "had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm" (cf. 2Ch 36:17–20).

9:8. Grief stricken, Ezekiel fell on his face and cried, Alas, Lord God! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel? Like Abraham, Moses, and Amos, Ezekiel loved the Jewish people despite their sin (cf. 11:13; Gn 18:20–33; Ex 32:11–14; Am 7:1–9).

9:9–10. God explained the iniquity of … Israel and Judah was very, very great (doubled for emphasis) and filled with blood (cf. 8:17) and full of perversion. They wrongly thought, the Lord has forsaken them and does not see, (cf. 8:12). However, He corrected them: My eye does see and would have no pity on their wicked conduct, which would bring judgment upon their heads (cf. 7:4, 9; 8:18; 24:14).

9:11. The man clothed in linen … reported … I have done just as You have commanded me (cf. v. 4). He had marked the righteous for protection, because each person’s destiny is determined by his relationship with the Lord.

c. Vision of the Departure of God’s Glory from the Temple (10:1–22)

This vision continues the departure of the Lord from His temple, a process begun in 9:3. God is too holy to share His dwelling place with idolatry. The images of the Lord are similar to those in chap. 1.

10:1–2. The man clothed in linen is told to take … coals of fire (1:13, cf. Is 6:6) … and scatter them over the city. God would use the burning coals of judgment to purify Jerusalem (Neh 11:1; Is 52:1).

10:3–5. God’s departure from Jerusalem is in stages (cf. vv. 18–19). Now the glory of the Lord went up … to the threshold of the temple (cf. 9:3). The image of the cherubim is similar to the vision in chap. 1.

10:6–7. The man clothed in linen who had marked the righteous for protection now received fire from a cherubim … and went out to bring judgment on Jerusalem (e.g., Jr 4:4; 11:14–17; 15:14; 17:4; 21:12; 2Kg 25:8–9).

10:8–13. More detail is given about cherubim and the wheels (cf. 1:15–21): their whole body … backs … hands … wings and … wheels were full of eyes. This probably represents divine omniscience. They are like the four creatures John saw surrounding God’s throne and covered with eyes (Rv 4:8).

10:14. Here the faces of the beings are of a cherub … a man … a lion, and an eagle The face of the bull is replaced by a cherub (cf. 1:10), without further physical description. Some have suggested that this is a scribal error, copying "cherub" for "bull," but there is no textual support for this. More likely, the face of a bull was the normal understanding of the image of a cherub because in the ancient Mesopotamian empire of Akkadia the kuribu (cognate term for Hb. cherub) were portrayed as bulls.

10:15–17, 20–22. The description of the cherubim similar to that in chap. 1.

10:18–19. The departure of the glory of God is presented in stages. The Lord was resolved to depart from the temple, for He would not share His dwelling place with idols that had polluted His sanctuary. Then the cherubim rose up (v. 15). God moved from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the temple (cf. 9:3), while the cherubim remained on the "right side of the temple" (v. 3). The Lord went up and sat (figuratively, because the Lord God does not have a literal physical body) on the throne (10:4). Finally, the Lord with His throne chariot and the cherubim departed from the threshold of the temple. After they stood still at the entrance of the east gate (vv. 18–19) … the Glory of the God of Israel hovered before leaving (v. 19).

d. Judgment on Jerusalem’s Rulers (11:1–25)

The account of the "twenty-five" wicked "men" underscores the need for judgment (11:1–21).

11:1. While God’s glory hovered in departure, the Spirit lifted Ezekiel (cf. 3:8, 14; 11:24; 37:1; 43:5) and took him to the east gate of the Lord’s house facing the Mount of Olives. At the entrance to the gate were twenty-five men, probably not the same twenty-five who were worshiping the sun at the temple. They are at a different location, the east gate, not the inner court (8:16), and were not serving as priests. Furthermore, this was Jaazaniah son of Azzur, rather than the son of Shaphan (cf. 8:11).

11:2–4. Instead of being righteous leaders, these men would devise iniquity and give evil advice to Jerusalem. Using a proverb, Is not the time near to build houses? This city is the pot and we are the flesh, they encouraged the Jerusalemites to build houses, a sign of peace and safety (28:26), and forget the prophet’s predictions of the coming Babylonian invasion. They said Jerusalem was like a pot on the fire that would keep the meat (flesh) from burning, so the people were safe. God said this was evil advice. Because of this false optimism, and ignoring the word of the Lord concerning judgment, God told Ezekiel to prophesy against them (twice for emphasis).

11:5–7. The Lord knew their thoughts. He replied with an altered imagery of the meat and the pot to foretell judgment. The righteous men who had been slain in this city had been Jerusalem’s hope to turn the city back to the Lord. The city was the pot, but it was surrounded by the fires of judgment of the coming Babylonian attack.

11:8–12. They feared a sword (an attack), but for their evil God would bring His sword upon them in judgment (cf. 6:3). The people would be driven out of the … city, and God’s sword would begin at the border of Israel. This was fulfilled literally when the captives of Jerusalem were deported or killed at the border city of Riblah, Nebuchadnezzar’s siege headquarters near Syria (cf. 2Kg 25:18–21; Jr 52:8–11, 24–27). When this happened, then they would know that I am the Lord.

11:13. When Pelatiah, one of the 25 men who had given evil advice (cf. v. 1) died, it foreshadowed the judgment that would soon destroy all of Jerusalem and confirmed the prophet’s message. Again, Ezekiel cried out, … Alas, Lord God! a plea for God’s mercy not to bring the remnant of Israel to a complete end (cf. 9:8).

11:14–15. God’s response to Ezekiel was twofold, one of personal and then of national encouragement. It is the first promise of restoration in Ezekiel. Although natural disasters and military calamity would result in the death of the righteous along with the wicked, a righteous remnant would remain.

First, He showed Ezekiel that those already in exile in Babylon would be preserved. They were his brothers … relatives … fellow exiles, not just his physical relatives, but also the Jewish people.

Second, God reminded Ezekiel of Jerusalem’s need for judgment, and the justice of God. Those still in Jerusalem thought the people in exile (whom God had just said were the true remnant) were far from the Lord, just because they were outside the land of Israel. God had given Israel the land (Gn 12:7; 15:18; Dt 34:4), but He had also said He would remove them from it for disobedience (Dt 28:36, 64–68). Being outside Israel did not mean God had forgotten His promises. He would always preserve a remnant (Ezk 6:8; 12:16; Jr 31:35–37).

11:16. The faithful remnant in Babylon, although away from the temple in Jerusalem, (which would soon be destroyed) had the Lord for a sanctuary for them … in the countries where they had gone. The Lord was accessible to faithful Jews wherever they were geographically.

11:17. Even with judgment looming and the glory of the Lord departing from the temple, there was yet a future for Israel nationally. God promised, I will gather you from … the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. The remnant of Israel could look forward to a national restoration to the promised land. A partial restoration took place after the Babylonian captivity (cf. Ezra and Nehemiah), but there will be a greater restoration in the future. This promise goes beyond the return from Babylon. It points to the new covenant and a future gathering of Israel at the end of days (cf. 36:24–38; 37:11–28; Jr 16:14–16; Is 11:11). The events described here are kingdom events, e.g., purification from sin and perfect obedience, neither of which happened at the return from Babylon. Israel’s future return will be accompanied by spiritual renewal.

11:18–20. When the Jewish people come back to the land at the end of days, they will remove all its detestable things and all … abominations (cf. v. 21). The land will be purged of idolatry, and the people purified to the Lord. He will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them … and give them a heart of flesh. This is a picture of the new covenant described by Jeremiah (cf. comments on Jr 31:31–34), not anything that occurred at the return from Babylon. God’s purpose in giving Israel one heart and a new spirit is so they will walk in My statues and keep My ordinances.

The Jewish people are always His people, whether in faith or disbelief, obedient or in sin (cf. Rm 11:1, 27–28). Though Hosea described a time when God called Israel "not My people" (Hs 1:9), that is not to say God fully cast off Israel. As Hosea said, for "the Lord loves the sons of Israel though they turn to other gods" (Hs 3:1). For a fuller discussion of Israel’s status in unbelief, see Hs 3:1–5. When the Jewish people are faithful to the Lord, however, they will have a spiritual experience that matches their national relationship with the Lord and they will be My people, and I shall be their God (cf. Ezk 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Hs 2:23).

The new covenant (cf. Jr 31:31) was inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Messiah Jesus (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; Heb 8:6–13; 9:15; 10:14–16; 12:24). But the ultimate fulfillment of physical and spiritual blessings awaits Israel’s national recognition of her Messiah Jesus when they call upon Him at His return (cf. Zch 12:10). The Church today is participating in the spiritual aspects (not the physical or national benefits) of the new covenant, having been grafted into the new covenant (see comments at Rm 11:17–24). By faith in Jesus all who believe in Him are redeemed and indwelt by His Spirit (Rm 8:9), but these blessings to the Church (made up of both non-Jewish and Jewish believers in Messiah Jesus, Eph 2:11–22) have not superseded God’s promises to Israel (Rm 11:27–29).

11:21–22. After the confirmation of the hope of the new covenant, the focus is redirected to the glory of God departing from the temple. Those in Jerusalem whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations (cf. v. 18) would be judged for their conduct (cf. comments on 7:27). The abominable acts of Israel caused God’s spirit to depart (chaps. 8–11), beginning with the cherubim lift[ing] up their wings … and the glory of the God of Israel hover[ing] over them. Soon God’s glory would leave completely.

11:23. As the glory of the Lord (cf. 1:28) left Jerusalem it lingered and then went up from the midst the city and stood over the mountain … east of the city, the Mount of Olives. This departure signaled Jerusalem’s doom. The city would be devoid of God’s blessing, but Ezekiel predicted a return of the departed glory via the Mount of Olives (cf. 43:1–3). At His triumphal entry, Jesus retraced this route as if to indicate the glory of the Lord returning (Lk 19:29–40).

11:24–25. Ezekiel’s vision ended as it began as the Spirit lifted (cf. 3:14; 8:3; 11:1; 37:1; 43:5) him up and carried him back to the exiles in Chaldea. As the vision left him he told the exiles all the things that the Lord had shown him.

B. Futility of Judah’s False Optimism (12:1–19:14)

Although Ezekiel had shown through signs, sermons, and visions (chaps. 4–11) the necessity of Jerusalem’s judgment, the people refused to believe him. Therefore (in chaps. 12–19) the Lord gave Ezekiel a new series of 11 signs and messages to show Jerusalem it had no hope of escape from judgment.

The phrase, "The word of the Lord came to me," introduces 10 of the 11 messages in this section (12:1, 17, 21; 13:1; 14:2, 12; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1; 18:1). The phrase emphasizes the importance of the message. Only the final message, a lament (19:1), begins without this phrase, because it sums up the whole section.

1. Two Signs of Impending Captivity (12:1–20)

a. Sign of the Baggage and the Hole in the Wall (12:1–16)

The Babylonian takeover of Judah was progressive. The first deportation had occurred in 597 BC during the reign of Jehoiachin, when Ezekiel was carried into exile. Ezekiel gave his action signs to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, confirming the coming fall of Jerusalem. Following a long siege, Jerusalem fell in 586 BC. Ezekiel gave this message to his fellow exiles in Babylon to portray what would happen in Jerusalem.

12:1–2. Because of the people’s unbelief, Ezekiel gave two more action messages. He said, They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house (cf. 2:5–8; 12:2, 3, 9). Israel’s blindness and deafness were willful disobedience and disbelief (cf. Dt 29:1–4; Is 6:9–10; Jr 5:21; Mt 13:13–15; Ac 28:26–28). Even those already in captivity could not believe Jerusalem would fall.

12:3–4. The first sign had two aspects: baggage (vv. 3–4) and a hole and blindfold (vv. 5–7). Ezekiel, in Babylon, acted out a scene that would occur in Jerusalem. He packed his baggage for exile … in their sight. This phrase is repeated seven times in this section (vv. 3 [twice], 4 [twice], 5, 6, 7). God wanted them to see what He was going to do and to understand that Jerusalem would fall and everyone in the city would go into captivity. Ezekiel was to bring the baggage out by day … then go out at evening as a role-play "as a sign to the house of Israel" of people going into exile.

12:5–7. The second aspect predicting the coming exile included a hole and blindfold, which followed immediately, at evening in their sight (cf. v. 3). Ezekiel had to dig a hole through the wall and take his baggage on his shoulder … in the dark. Then he was to cover his face, blindfold himself, so that he could not see the land, as a sign to the house of Israel. The people would be carried to Babylon and never again see their land. The Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years, so few people who went into captivity lived to return to Israel (cf. Jr 25:8–11; 2Ch 36:20–21). Of course, by the time the book of Ezekiel was completed, the captivity had already begun. The original readers would see that Ezekiel had predicted their exile, though they had not believed him. They themselves, would never see their land again.

12:8–11. The Lord explained that this burden (message) concerned King Zedekiah, the prince in Jerusalem, as well as the whole house of Israel. Ezekiel often called the kings of Judah prince, meaning "leader," not the son of the king (cf. 7:27; 21:25; 34:24; 37:25). Ezekiel’s actions were a sign to the people already in captivity and the king that the nation would certainly go into exile, into captivity.

12:12–16. The sign of the hole in the wall (v. 5) previewed the prince[’s] (Zedekiah’s) attempted escape from Jerusalem in the dark … through the wall. He would be caught in God’s snare, and Nebuchadnezzar would bring him to Babylon, but he will not see it and he will die there. This was dramatically and precisely fulfilled in 586 BC. After a failed escape attempt from Jerusalem, Zedekiah was captured by Babylonian troops, his sons were killed before his eyes, then he was blinded by Nebuchadnezzar and carried off to Babylon where he eventually died in prison (cf. 2Kg 25:1–7; Jr 52:4–11).

Judah would fall to Babylon, but a few Jerusalemites (cf. Ezk 6:8) would be spared from the sword … famine and … pestilence to be scattered among the nations, so that they may know that I am the Lord.

b. Sign of Trembling While Eating and Drinking (12:17–20)

12:17–20. In this simple sign, Ezekiel was to eat … bread (his meals) with trembling and drink … water with quivering and anxiety. Ezekiel’s actions represented the daily terror the inhabitants of Jerusalem would experience in the siege and famine (cf. 4:16). God had stripped the land of its fullness, and His judgment fell because of their violence, cruelty, and injustice (cf. 7:23; 8:17). God’s purpose: so they would know that I am the Lord (cf. 6:7).

2. Five Messages on the Certainty of Judgment (12:21–14:23)

After his dramatic role-plays, Ezekiel gave a series of five messages (12:21–25; 12:26–28; 13; 14:1–11, 12–23) followed by two signs of exile and trembling (12:1–20). Judgment was certain, and there was no hope for rescue from the Babylonians.

a. First Certainty of Judgment Message: Correcting the Proverb About Visions (12:21–25)

12:21–23. The Lord asked Ezekiel about a popular proverb … concerning the land of Israel … the days are long and every vision fails. That is, time is going by (the days are long), but the message of the prophets (the vision) never comes true (fails). Instead, God would make this proverb cease. When they saw the judgment, they would say, The days draw near and the fulfillment of every vision has come about.

12:24–25. Every hopeful vision and flattering divination that said Jerusalem would never fall was the message of false prophets. They contradicted the judgment prophecies of God’s true messengers, in both Jerusalem (cf. Jr 28:1–4) and Babylon (cf. Jr 29:1, 8–9). Judgment was imminent; God would perform His word (cf. Ezk 12:28).

b. Second Certainty of Judgment Message: Correcting the Proverb About Delay (12:26–28)

12:26–28. The first proverb (vv. 21–25) doubted the fact of God’s judgment. This proverb said judgment was just not imminent: the vision that he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies of times far off. Even those Israelites who believed the message of the prophets thought the prophecies would not happen until the distant future. However God said, None of My words will be delayed any longer. The judgment spoken of by the prophets was about to happen. Certainly, whatever the Lord speaks, will be performed.

c. Third Certainty of Judgment Message: Against False Prophets and Prophetesses (13:1–23)

In his third message Ezekiel denounced the false prophets (vv. 1–16) and the prophetesses (see vv. 17–23) who were responsible for the people’s false hope, leading them away from God. Ezekiel first condemned their sin and then pronounced judgment.

13:1–3. The source of the message of the false prophets was their own inspiration (cf. v. 17), not from the Lord. God declared Woe to the foolish prophets who got their message from their own spirit, yet truly had seen nothing. Woe, in the Scriptures means "alas" or "how tragic."

13:4. Their message was not only false, it was also dangerous. The false prophets were like foxes among ruins. Instead of preventing destruction, they promoted disaster, toppling the stones and living as scavengers off the lies they told.

13:5. The false prophets had not gone up to build the breaks in the wall. Israel’s moral walls were ready to collapse, but the false prophets did not stand in the battle to defend the people.

13:6–9. Although the false prophets claimed to represent God, He had not sent them. In fact because of their false words and lying divination[s], He was against them.

The false prophets would be excluded from the community of Israel. First, they would have no place in the council of God’s people; they would no longer have a leadership role. Second, they would not be written down in the register of the house of Israel; they would be forgotten (cf. Ezr 2:62). Third, the false prophets would never again enter the land of Israel; they would die in captivity.

13:10–12. Judgment on the false prophets was definitely because they misled My people Israel saying, Peace! when there [was] no peace (cf. 13:16; Jr 6:14; 8:11; 23:17; Mc 3:5). Although the people were disobedient, God still identified them as My people (cf. 13:9, 10, 18, 19, 21, 23; 14:8, 9). God faithfully loves His chosen people, even in the midst of discipline. They are always beloved because of His faithful love and covenant with them (Rm 11:28).

The deceptive ministry of the false prophets was like a damaged wall covered with whitewash. Instead of calling Israel’s attention to the serious cracks in its moral foundation (cf. 13:5), these prophets were applying plaster to hide the cracks. The false prophets were compounding Israel’s difficulties by hiding problems that needed to be corrected. When flooding rain … hailstones … violent wind are sent by the Lord, He will tear down the wall … plastered over by the false prophets.

13:13–16. The violent wind of God’s wrath of rain and hailstones would lay bare the wall and its foundation (cf. v. 11) and the false prophets would be gone, for they said peace for her when there is no peace.

13:17–19. Ezekiel was told, set your face (cf. 4:3) against the false prophetesses, the daughters of your people who were prophesying from their own inspiration (cf. v. 2). True prophetesses ministered in both Old and New Testament times (Ex 15:20; Jdg 4:4–5; 2Kg 22:14; Ac 21:8–9). However, these false prophetesses were mediums or sorceresses.

The Lord said, Woe to the women [the false prophetesses], as He had to the false prophets (cf. v. 3). They would sew magic bands on all wrists and made veils to fit people of every stature to deceive the people. Scripture strictly forbids occult practices (cf. Lv 19:26, 31; Dt 18:10–14). By their occultism these false prophetesses would hunt down the lives of My people or preserve the lives of others for their own evil purpose. They used their evil practices in matters of life and death.

By their false teaching and occult practices these women ensnared people who were looking for powerful answers, but rejected the message of the Lord’s prophets. For handfuls of barley and fragments of bread, probably in payment for divination since food is better than gold in time of famine, these women profaned the Lord to His people. They sought to exercise diabolical power to put to death some … and to keep others alive who should not live. God was clear: these prophetesses were lying to My people (cf. v. 9).

13:20–21. God was against their magic bands, which they used to hunt lives (cf. vv. 18), preventing people from believing the Lord. He would tear off their magic bands … and tear off their veils and deliver His people from their hands. These women would be exposed as sorceresses, and people would no longer be entrapped (be in your hands). Instead they would know that I am the Lord (cf. 6:7).

13:22–23. The prophetesses had disheartened the righteous with their lies and encouraged the wicked not to turn from his wicked way. God would judge the prophetesses and deliver My people out of your hand. He would end false visions and divination (cf. Dt 18:10) from Israel and save His people from their terrible deception. Likewise, today followers of the Lord should never consult mediums or fortunetellers or dabble in the occult. These are sinful practices, and their answers are never from God.

d. Fourth Certainty of Judgment Message: Condemnation of Idolatry (14:1–11)

14:1–3. Though Ezekiel was still confined to his house (3:24) some elders of Israel went to see Ezekiel to seek a message from him (cf. 8:1).

God revealed to Ezekiel the spiritual condition of these elders. They had set up their idols in their hearts and put stumbling block[s] of their iniquity before their faces (cf. 7:19; 14:3–4, 7; 18:30; 44:12). They followed the teaching of the false prophets and prophetesses. The Lord did not want to be consulted, a technical term for seeking an oracle from a prophet (cf. 2Kg 1:6; 3:11; 8:8), by these hypocritical elders who had idols in their hearts. God knew they worshiped idols, and they did not sincerely want to hear from Him.

14:4–5. However, God would answer them because He wanted to lay hold of ("capture") the hearts of those who are estranged from Him because of their idols.

14:6. Therefore, His urgent message was Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. Before judgment fell, God called for repentance. God constantly calls sinners back to His love.

14:7–8. The warning against idolatry applied to the house of Israel (cf. vv. 3, 7) as well as to immigrants (ger, "alien"). The law of Moses required these non-Jews who stay[ed] in Israel to obey the laws of God, since they functioned as part of the community of Israel (cf. 47:22–23; Lv 16:29–30; 17:12–16; 18:26; Nm 15:13–16; Is 56:3–8).

If an Israelite or an immigrant who separates himself (apostatized), then dared to inquire of the Lord, He will … answer but not the way the apostate expected. God would respond in judgment and would set His face against that man (cf. 4:3). God would make him a sign and a proverb (cf. 23:10; Jb 17:6; 30:9; Ps 44:14; Jr 24:9; Jl 2:17), so people would know about him and use his name as a bad example (e.g., calling a person who commits treason "Benedict Arnold") and cut him off from among My people (cf. 13:9).

14:9–11. In the phrase but if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak, the word prevailed is better translated with a negative connotation such as "enticed" or "seduced." It probably refers to a false prophet who could be bribed into giving a message (cf. Ex 22:16; 2Sm 3:25; 1Kg 22:19–23; Jr 20:7).

Both the false prophet … and the inquirer will bear the punishment of their iniquity. The goal is for the house of Israel to no longer stray from Me and no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God (cf. comments on 11:20; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Hs 2:23).

e. Fifth Certainty of Judgment Message: Unavailing Prayer of Noah, Daniel, and Job (14:12–23)

14:12–20. If a country sins against God so He stretches out His hand against it, the judgment might come by famine (v. 13), beasts (v. 15), sword (v. 17), and/or plague (v. 21; cf. 5:17). Judgment is so certain that even though these righteous men Noah, Daniel and Job pray for it, they could deliver only themselves (cf. Jr 15:1; Gn 15:6). They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate.

These three men are strong examples of faith in the Scriptures (Gn 6–9; Jb 1; Dn 6:3). Ezekiel’s spelling of Daniel (in Hb.) differs slightly from the usual spelling of the prophet Daniel. Such a minor difference in name spelling is common (cf. "Azariah" = "Uzziah," 2Kg 15:1; 2Ch 26:1; "Jehoram" = "Joram," 2Kg 3:1; 8:16; "Coniah" = "Jechoniah" Jr 22:24; 24:1). The alternative spelling of his name is inconsequential.

14:21. With the general principle established, namely, that in a wicked society the prayers of righteous people will result only in their own deliverance and not that of the broader community, Ezekiel applied it to Jerusalem. If those righteous men, Daniel, Job, and Noah, could not save a wicked land, how could Jerusalem hope to escape without righteous leadership? God would send His four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague (cf. 5:17).

14:22–23. After the judgments, survivors of the siege of Jerusalem will be left and brought to Babylon. God’s justice would be vindicated, and Ezekiel will be comforted. Ezekiel had been brokenhearted over Jerusalem, but when he sees the wicked conduct and actions of these survivors it will confirm that God’s judgment of Jerusalem was not done in vain, whatever I did to it (cf. Gn 18:25).

3. Three Parables on Judgment (15:1–17:24)

After his two signs (12:1–20) and five messages (12:21–14:23) regarding impending judgment, Ezekiel gave three parables (chaps. 15–17) to show there was no possibility of deliverance.

a. Parable of the Fruitless Vine (15:1–8)

15:1–5. In this parable the grape vine illustrates Israel’s condition. Grape vines cannot be used to build anything, not even a peg to hang any vessel. Furthermore, even if the branches are used for fuel and the middle is charred, it cannot be made into anything. Israel is often pictured as a vine, but she had not produced the spiritual fruit God intended (cf. Ps 80:8–18; Is 5:1–7; Jr 2:21; Hs 10:1).

15:6. Just as the wood of the vine is used for fire for fuel, so God has given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

15:7–8. God’s judgment was certain: I will set My face against them (for emphasis twice; cf. 4:3). Jerusalem had surrendered to Babylon in 597 BC and escaped total destruction. However, God would bring Babylon back to finish the judgment in 586 BC. Although they had come out of the fire of 597 BC, the fire would yet … consume them in 586 BC. There was no cause for optimism. God would make the land desolate, because they acted unfaithfully to Him.

b. Parables of Unfaithful Jerusalem (16:1–63)

(1) Parable of the Rescued Infant Who Became the Adulterous Wife (16:1–43)

In this extended parable, Jerusalem is portrayed as an abandoned infant who is rescued by the Lord, betrothed to Him, but then becomes an unfaithful wife (cf. Hs 1–2; Jr 2; Is 1:21; 50:1). First her sin is described (vv. 3–34), then her punishment (vv. 35–53), and finally her restoration (vv. 53–63). The parable is spoken to Jerusalem as the representative of the Jewish people, and may also be understood as a chronological illustration of Israel’s history.

16:1–3. Jerusalem is depicted as an unwanted child from the land of the Canaanite, whose father was an Amorite and … mother a Hittite (cf. v. 45). The Amorites were a large tribal group living in Canaan prior to the conquest. Their name is sometimes a synonym with Canaanite (Gn 10:16; 48:22; Jos 5:1; 10:5; Jdg 1:34–36). The Hittites were another people living in Canaan prior to the conquest who had frequent interaction with Israel (cf. Gn 15:20; 23:10–20; Nm 13:29; Jdg 3:5; 1Sm 26:6; 1Kg 10:29). This is not the literal genealogy of Abraham or a specific individual from Jerusalem. Rather, it is a moral genealogy of the Jewish people. The pagan occupants of the land should have been driven out at the conquest to protect Israel from adopting their pagan worship. However, Israel failed to expel them and instead adopted their pagan abominations, behaving as if they were the spiritual children of Canaan (cf. Ex 23:23–24; Dt 12:30; Nm 33:55; 1Kg 11:1–8).

16:4–5. Jerusalem is represented as an abandoned infant. In biblical times, after the navel cord was cut, a newborn was then washed and rubbed with salt to clean and dry the skin. Then the infant was wrapped in cloth for warmth. But these things were not done for Jerusalem. No one looked on her with pity or had compassion. Instead the baby was thrown out into the open field, for she was abhorred. The cruel practice of infanticide was prevalent in the ancient world. It was a common pagan practice to leave unwanted children in fields or by the side of the road to die. It was less sophisticated than modern abortion, but it had the same result and wide social approval.

16:6–7. As the Lord passed by He saw the newborn, still unwashed from its birth, squirming in [her] blood. He did not leave her to die; He said Live! God’s basic desire for all people, proclaimed in one word, is Live! Historically, this parable mirrors God’s choice of Abraham (Gn 12:1–3; Dt 6:6–8).

The Lord made the child grow. She became numerous, literally "a myriad," which may refer to the patriarchal period when Israel increased from a few in number to a multitude who left Egypt (cf. Ex 12:37–38; Ac 7:14). She grew naturally like plants of the field (i.e., "grew like a weed"). When she grew up to the age of sexual maturity, the age for fine ornaments, her breasts … formed and … hair … grown, she was still naked and bare, in a destitute state, as Israel was in the wilderness.

16:8. God again passed by and noticed she was at the time for love, that is, of marriageable age. God then entered into a covenant of marriage with her. He spread His skirt over her and covered [her] nakedness. He swore to her and entered into a covenant, and she became Mine. The symbolic act of a man spreading his skirt (lower part of his garment) over a marriageable woman signified protection and betrothal (cf. Ru 3:9). God pledged His fidelity to the Jewish people, as represented by Jerusalem, and took her as His own. He chose her because He loved her, not because of any individual qualities that drew her to Him (Dt. 7:6–9). This could refer to the giving of Sinai covenant (cf. Jr 2:2; 3:1; Hs 2:2–23; Mal 2:14).

16:9–14. God bathed and anointed her with oil, then clothed her in splendor: embroidered dress, porpoise skin sandals, fine linen and silk, bracelets, a necklace, a ring, and a beautiful crown on her head. This passage describes in figurative fashion all of God’s provision for Israel when He chose her and made Jerusalem the nation’s capital.

Jerusalem also was given the choicest foods: fine flour, honey, and olive oil. Everything she could possibly need or want, her gracious, generous "Husband" lavished on her. She was exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty and became famous throughout the nations. Her beauty … was perfect because of the splendor of the Lord that he bestowed on her. Historically, this suggests that under God’s blessing during the reigns of David and Solomon Jerusalem became a magnificent city and Israel a powerful nation (cf. 1Kg 10:4–5).

16:15–16. Sadly, Jerusalem turned from the Lord to focus on herself, and she trusted in her beauty and played the harlot because of her fame. Jerusalem forgot the One who had rescued her and cared for her. She turned away from the Lord and worshiped other gods (cf. Dt 6:10–12; 8:11–20). Beginning in Solomon’s reign (1Kg 11:7–13, 970 BC) until Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar (586 BC), Israel and Judah constantly turned from God to idols. Despite brief times of revival, their direction was downward to iniquity.

16:17–19. The people of Jerusalem took every blessing God had given them and used them to play the harlot and worship the idols in high places. She took all the beautiful things given to her by God (vv. 9–14) and corrupted them with idol worship (vv. 17–22). She even used His gold and His silver to make pagan worship symbols—male images (phallic symbols). They took the incense and fine flour God gave them to offer before the idols.

16:20–21. Worst of all, they took the children borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols … you slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols. God called these innocent children His children. The abomination involved sacrificing sons and daughters alive, placing them in the red-hot altar to Molech, and burning them alive in the Kidron Valley (cf. 2Kg 21:6; Jr 7:30–32; 19:4–5; 32:35). The altars built to honor Molech were small or large iron stoves, ornamented with the hands and arms of Molech. When the altars were heated red hot, children would be placed in those hands and burned alive as an offering to Molech, an act called "passing through the fire" (cf. 23:26–39). Child sacrifice is so abhorrent to the Lord, it is specifically forbidden (Lv 18:21; 20:2–5; Dt 12:31; 18:10).

16:22. Jerusalem could fall into these wicked practices because she did not remember the Lord had rescued her in the days of [her] youth.

16:23–26. The Lord cried to Jerusalem for her wickedness: Woe, woe to you! (twice for emphasis, cf. 13:3, 18; 24:6, 9; 34:2). The people had built a shrine and … a high place in every square … at the top of every street (cf. v. 31), and it was filled with pagan altars. Her worship of idols is graphically portrayed as a once-beautiful woman, now a prostitute, who would spread [her] legs to every passer-by.

16:27. So God stretched out His hand against her and allowed her enemies who hate[d] her to diminish [her] rations, referring to the sacking of Jerusalem. Yet Jerusalem did not change her evil behavior. Even the pagan Philistines who plundered Israel (2Ch 21:16–17) were ashamed of Jerusalem’s lewd conduct.

16:28–29. Jerusalem’s harlotry included following the gods of the Egyptians (v. 26) … Assyrians (v. 28) … and Chaldea (Babylon, v. 29), but her lust (pagan worship) was not satisfied. Mentioning these nations implies not only Jerusalem’s worship of their gods, but also her depending on foreign military alliances instead of trusting the Lord.

16:30. The heart of the Jewish people was languishing (sick or weak), which motivated them to abandon God and multiply evil. Jerusalem behaved like a bold-faced (shameless) harlot.

16:31–34. Yet she did not behave like a typical harlot who took money for sexual acts. Jerusalem bribed her lovers to come to her for harlotries. Because you give money and no money is given to you, she was different (lit., "the reverse") from prostitutes to whom men give gifts—she gave gifts to all her lovers to bribe them. Her wickedness was worse than adultery and ordinary prostitution.

16:35–37. Jerusalem had degenerated from beautiful royalty (cf. v. 13) to a detestable harlot (vv. 35, 36). Her sins were summarized: detestable idols, sacrifice of sons … to idols, multiple lovers.

16:38–39. So God would judge her like women who commit adultery or shed blood. God would use her lovers (the pagan nations) to destroy her. They would tear down the shrines, strip her of her clothing … and … leave her … naked. This parallels the punishment prescribed for a woman caught in adultery (cf. Gn 38:24; Lv 20:10; Dt 22:21–24). Jerusalem would again be as defenseless before her enemies as she had been when she was an infant rescued by the Lord (cf. vv. 4–8).

16:40–41. God had said that if a city in Israel practiced idolatry its people were to be killed by the sword and the city was to be burned (cf. Dt 13:15–16). God would cause a sword to fall on Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians (cf. Ezk 23:47). After Jerusalem’s fall Babylon would burn her houses and execute the Lord’s judgments on it. God’s judgment on Jerusalem would finally stop her from playing the harlot.

16:42. After her destruction God would calm His fury. God’s jealous anger is not petty or vindictive. Instead it is an essential display of His absolute holiness (cf. Ex 20:1–3; Is 6:3; 42:8; 45:5–7)

16:43. The root of Jerusalem’s sin was her failure to remember the days of her youth (cf. vv. 22, 61, 63). All her beauty and success were from the Lord’s gracious favor. Turning from Him, she cut herself off from the source of blessing. Worse, she betrayed and angered the One who loved her and had raised her to greatness. He wanted only to bless her.

(2) Parable of the Sisters: Jerusalem, Sodom, and Samaria (16:44–59)

The first parable of Jerusalem is the story of Jerusalem as an adulterous wife (vv. 1–43). The second parable is an analogy of Jerusalem and the wicked sisters Samaria, and Sodom (vv. 44–59). If Jerusalem’s depraved sisters were judged for their sin, how could Jerusalem, who was even more wicked, hope to escape?

16:44–45. This proverb like mother, like daughter is applied to Jerusalem. Her actions (that of her citizens) were characteristic of her family heritage. Her mother had loathed her husband and her children. Ezekiel repeated the ancestral background of Jerusalem for emphasis. Jewish Jerusalem behaved just like the city’s past pagan residents (cf. comments on v. 3).

16:46–48. In this family story Samaria, to the north, and Sodom, to the south, are Jerusalem’s sisters. The daughters are residents of the cities. Both cities were known for their wickedness. Yet, Jerusalem acted more corruptly in all her conduct.

16:49–50. The guilt of Sodom was twofold. First, she had abundant food, but did not help the poor and needy. Second, the Sodomites committed abominations, referring, at least in part, to their sexual misbehavior before the Lord (cf. Gn 19:4–5; Lv 18:22–23; Rm 1:18–22). Thus Sodom is often mentioned as an example of depravity (e.g., Dt. 29:23; 32:32; Is 1:9–10; 3:9; Jr 23:4; Lm 4:6; Mt 10:15; 11:23–24). Therefore, God removed Sodom and her daughters (surrounding areas) in the famous judgment of fire and brimstone (cf. Gn 19:23–25).

16:51–52. The sin of Samaria was syncretistic worship after Solomon’s kingdom was divided (930 BC). Jeroboam set up gold calf altars in Dan and Bethel combining paganism and biblical worship (1Kg 12:25–33; Hs 8:5; Am 8:14). Yet, Samaria did not commit half of Jerusalem’s sins. Under God’s judgment, Assyria destroyed Samaria and the northern kingdom fell (721 BC, 2Kg 17). But Jerusalem’s sins were such a disgrace that she acted more abominably than they, so in comparison Sodom and Samaria would appear righteous.

16:53. Having announced judgment on Jerusalem for her sin, the Lord indicated there was yet hope. The Lord will restore the captivity of Sodom … Samaria … and Jerusalem. There will be a national restoration of these cities in the millennial kingdom, with Jerusalem in the forefront (cf. chaps. 33–48).

16:54–58. Jerusalem would feel ashamed of her sin. In the day of her pride, when Jerusalem was deep in sin, she would not let the word Sodom be heard from her lips. However, once Jerusalem’s wickedness was uncovered, she became the reproach of her pagan neighbors, Edom (cf. 2Kg 8:20–22; 2Ch 28:17; Ob) and the Philistines (Jos 13:2; Jdg 13:1; 1Sm 4:2; 14–17). Jerusalem would be restored, but she would first have to bear the penalty of her abominations.

16:59. God’s faithfulness to His covenants concludes the parable. Jerusalem had despised the oath by breaking the covenant with spiritual adultery (cf. vv. 15–43). This was the Mosaic covenant, the only covenant Israel entered into through an oath (cf. Ex 24:7–8; Dt 28:14–68; 29:10–21). The nation, represented by Jerusalem, had broken that covenant and would suffer the consequences of being dispersed from the land, exactly as described in the covenantal agreement (Dt 28).

(3) The Faithfulness of God and the Everlasting Covenant (16:60–63)

16:60. Despite Israel’s failure to be faithful to Him, nevertheless the Lord will faithfully remember His covenant He made with her in the days of [her] youth. This is the unconditional Abrahamic covenant (Gn 12:1–3; 17:7, 13, 19; 1Ch 16:17; Ps 105:10). Then He would establish the everlasting covenant, the new covenant (Jr 31:31–34; Ezk 11:18–20, 36:26–28, 37:26–28). The unfaithfulness of people does not change the faithfulness of God (cf. Lv 26:42–45; 2Tm 2:13; Rm 11:29).

16:61–63. When God establishes the new covenant Jerusalem will remember and be ashamed of her sinful past. Then Jerusalem will be restored and even the sisters Sodom and Samaria shall know that I am the Lord … when I have forgiven you for all that you have done.

c. Parable of the Two Eagles (17:1–24)

Chapter 16 presented the theological background for Jerusalem’s condition. Chapter 17 is a parable with a more political perspective. For the history of the events, see 2Kgs 24:8–20; 2Ch 36:9–13; Jr 37; 52:1–7.

17:1–2. God commanded Ezekiel to tell a riddle and parable to the house of Israel. A riddle in Hebrew is an enigmatic saying that teaches a lesson and often requires explanation (e.g., Jdg 14:12–19). A parable is a story that teaches a lesson. Here the story with explanation is presented in cycles (Ezk 17:3–10; 11–21), and concluded with an epilogue of hope (vv. 22–24).

17:3–4, 11–12. First, came the riddle of the eagle and the cedar. The eagle pictured the beauty and power of Babylon (v. 12), and Lebanon (v. 3) stood for Jerusalem (v. 12). The eagle had gone to Lebanon and plucked off the top of the cedar tree and replanted the bough in a land of merchants … city of traders (Babylon). Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and took its king (v. 12), the top shoot of the tree, and her princes and brought them to … Babylon and replanted the shoot there (cf. 2Kg 24:8–16). This referred to Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Jerusalem (597 BC) when he deposed King Jehoiachin and took him prisoner to Babylon (2Kg 23–24).

17:5–6, 13–14. Yet he (the eagle i.e., Nebuchadnezzar) did not destroy the land completely, but took some of the seed of the land and … planted it in fertile soil so that it sprouted (v. 6) into a spreading vine. Nebuchadnezzar weakened Jerusalem, but he did not destroy it at that time. Instead he set up Zedekiah as a vassal king (planted … in fertile soil). Jerusalem’s military might was gone, but as long as Israel was in subjection to Nebuchadnezzar, her people could continue to live in peace. The eagle took Zedekiah, a member of the royal family, and put him under oath (v. 13) to be loyal to Babylon. Though he took away into exile the mighty of the land (cf. 2Kg 24:14) and Judah was in subjection, she could continue as long as she kept her treaty/covenant with Nebuchadnezzar.

17:7–8, 15. This parable is of the second eagle and the vine. Another … eagle similar to the first, came along and the vine was encouraged toward him. This new eagle was Egypt (v. 15), which influenced Zedekiah to rebel against Babylon. Judah sent envoys to Egypt, seeking horses and troops from the Egyptians (v. 15). When Ezekiel spoke this prophecy (592–91 BC; 8:1; 20:1) Zedekiah’s final revolt had not yet happened (588 BC), so Ezekiel predicted Zedekiah’s revolt about three years before it happened.

17:9–10, 16–21. The consequences for Jerusalem, the vine (v. 8), would be disastrous. Babylon would pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, and Jerusalem would completely wither because Jerusalem despised the oath (cf. Jr 27). Zedekiah would die in Babylon because Pharaoh … will not help him in the war. God would spread His net and snare over Zedekiah to bring him to Babylon with his troops, and Jerusalem would fall by the sword, and the survivors would be scattered (cf. 2Kg 24).

17:22–23. The parable of the eagles ends with a Messianic promise, using similar imagery but in a new way. In the future, the Lord God will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and … plant it on a high … mountain of Israel. The Jewish people will not be destroyed because God will restore them to their land in the end times. The transplanting of the young twig a tender one has messianic implications (Ps 89; Is 11:1; Jr 23:5–6; 33:14–16; Zch 3:8; 6:12–13). The Messiah is called a shoot from the root of Jesse, King David’s father. This is the One whom God would establish as King over Israel. When He reigns as a stately cedar, He will meet all the needs of His kingdom (i.e., He will bear fruit) and provide protection for all. Birds (nations) of every kind will … nest in the shade of its branches (Mt 13:31–32), indicating that His reign will have a worldwide scope. The mountain of Israel refers to Mount Zion and the temple, where Messiah Jesus will reign as King (cf. Ezk 20:40; Ps 2:6; Mc 4:1–3). When the Messiah reigns from Mount Zion, all the trees of the field (the nations) will know that I am the Lord (cf. Is 56:7; Is 11:1–9).

17:24. God has a plan for all nations. The Lord has the right to bring down … and dry up world powers, but His plan for the nations will be fulfilled in the restoration of Israel under the reign of King Messiah. Then all the nations of the earth will know I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it.

This prophecy (vv. 22–24) was not fulfilled when the Jewish people returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity (cf. 11:17). The fulfillment awaits God’s establishment of Israel in the millennium under the Messiah Jesus. At that time God’s kingdom will encompass the entire world (cf. Dn 2:44–45; Zch 14:3–4, 16–17; Hab 2:14).

4. Message on Individual Responsibility (18:1–32)

Having shown the justice of God’s judgment on the nation in the three previous parables, Ezekiel next demonstrated that individuals in Judah are not victims of their parents’ bad behavior but that they share responsibility for judgment because of their own sins.

18:1–4. A familiar proverb is again used (cf. 12:21–28) to correct Israel’s wrong ideas: The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge (cf. Jr 31:29–30). This proverb replaces personal responsibility with blame, i.e., "What is happening to us is not our fault! We are suffering because someone else sinned." People were accusing God of punishing them unjustly (cf. v. 25).

This proverb may have arisen from a misunderstanding of the consequences of sin. The Lord visits "the iniquity of the father on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me" (cf. Ex 20:5; 34:7; Dt 5:9). The point is that the wicked behavior of one generation has ongoing consequences to the next. It does not mean one person is punished for the sin of another. Everyone is personally responsible to God for his or her sins. All souls are mine said God, and The soul who sins will die (cf. v. 20).

18:5–18. The example of three generations illustrates God’s point. First, God gave the example of the "righteous" father who "practices justice" (vv. 5–9); second, the "violent son" of that righteous father (vv. 10–13); and third, the righteous son of a violent father (vv. 14–18). Each case described the individual’s actions and God’s response.

18:5–9. In the example of the first generation was the righteous man who practices justice (toward his fellow man) and righteousness (toward God). He did not worship idols (cf. 8:12; 16:24–25, 31, 39; 18:15; 22:9). He kept himself morally pure; he did not defile his neighbor’s wife by committing adultery with her (Ex 20:14; Lv 20:10). He maintained personal purity by not having intercourse with his wife during her menstrual period (forbidden according to Lv 18:19). He did not oppress anyone. He was concerned for social justice (cf. Dt 24:13–15). He did not commit robbery (Ex 20:15) or even lend money on interest (Dt 23:19–20). He gave food to the hungry and clothing to the needy (Dt 15:7). He kept away from iniquity and executed true justice. He was a sterling example of righteousness, obeying the statutes and ordinances of the Lord. As a result, God announced that he is righteous and will surely live.

18:10–13. In the example of the second generation was the righteous man’s violent son who sheds blood. He was the wicked opposite of his father in every detail (defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, worships idols, lends money on interest). He will not live! He has committed all these abominations … his blood will be on his own head. Despite having a righteous father, the wicked son is responsible for his own behavior.

18:14–18. In the example of the third generation was the son of the violent man who has observed all his father’s sins but does not do likewise. Instead, this man followed in the righteous path of his grandfather (cf. vv. 6–9). He executes God’s ordinances and walks in His statutes; he will not die for his father’s inequity, he will surely live.

18:19–20. Each person is responsible for his own behavior. The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity (see comments at vv. 1–4). The righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. The proverb about the father’s eating sour grapes (v. 2) was completely false. When the people were judged it was not for someone in the past generation who sinned, but because the people in the present generation were sinful.

18:21–23. God called the nation to turn back to Him and escape judgment. If the wicked man turns from all his sins and keeps God’s decrees he shall … live (cf. 14:6; Pr 28:13). The phrase turns from means to "repent" (cf. Ezk 14:6). The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (v. 32; 33:11). He wants people to turn from their wicked ways and live.

18:24. But God does not simply excuse the sins of someone who has been walking in righteousness and then turns away to iniquity. He will die. None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Righteousness must be consistent, not random.

18:25–28. A person who once followed God’s law but who later turned to idolatry or immorality was no longer righteous. His past righteousness would not negate his present sins. But when this formerly righteous person, who became wicked, repents and turns away from his wickedness … and practices justice … he will save his life. God is willing to forgive and receive the repentant individual.

18:29–32. Israel charged God with unrighteousness, but God responded with a challenge: Is it not your ways that are not right? (cf. Jb 40:8). God reminded Israel of the responsibility of individual behavior: I will judge you … each according to his conduct. This is a call to repent and turn away from … transgressions. Then God would give them a new heart and a new spirit (cf. Ezk 11:19; 36:26; Jr 31:31–34) in right relationship with Him. He repeated, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezk 18:23; 33:11) and declared, Therefore, repent and live. Despite God’s compassion on the wicked and His call to repent, He also decrees the death of the wicked and holds those who fail to repent accountable. In this God is glorified as the Just Judge of all the earth.

5. Parable of Lamentation for Israel’s Final Kings (19:1–14)

The section on the futility of false optimism (spanning chaps. 12–19) concludes with a lament or funeral poem/song over Israel’s final kings. This is the first (19:1–14) of five laments in Ezekiel. Three others are for Tyre (cf. 26:17–18; 27:1–36; 28:12–19), and a fourth is for Egypt (32:1–16).

19:1–2. This was a lamentation for the princes of Israel, the last four kings reigning in Jerusalem (cf. comments on 7:27; 12:8–11). The dirge was not over one individual. It was sung for the "demise" of the Davidic dynasty just prior to the fall of Jerusalem. It opens with the image of lions, which are common representations of the Davidic dynasty and Jerusalem (e.g., Gn 49:9; 1Kg 10:19–20; Is 29:1; Rv 5:5). The mother lioness is the nation of Israel who reared her cubs (that is, from whom came these kings).

19:3–4. The first of the lion cubs was Jehoahaz, the wicked son of good king Josiah (2Kg 23:24–32, reigned 609 BC). He learned to tear his prey and devoured men, doing evil in the sight of the Lord. During his three-month reign, he made a reputation for cruelty, and nations heard about him. He was captured and deposed by Pharaoh Neco II, who brought him with hooks, probably literal hooks in his nose attached to a rope-leash, and paraded as a conquest trophy to Egypt, where he died in captivity (cf. 2Kg 23:31–34; Jr 22:11–12).

19:5. The next of her cubs who was king of Judah was Jehoiakim (reigned 609–598 BC). Judah’s hope was lost under his pro-Egyptian rule. He is not highlighted in this lament. The lioness then took another of her cubs and made him a young lion—a ruler. This was Jehoiachin (2Kg 24:8–17; 2Ch 36:8–10).

19:6–9. Jehoiachin’s wicked rule (598–597 BC) was cruel. He learned to tear his prey … and devoured men (cf. v. 3). He destroyed Judah’s fortified towers and laid waste Judah’s cities. His corrupt reign appalled his citizens. Then nations, Babylon and her allies, set against him and caught Jehoiachin. The captured king was brought to the king of Babylon … in hunting nets, a description which conjures the image of hunting animals by spreading nets over a pit. Parading prize captives as wild animals was a common practice. Jehoiachin was imprisoned for 37 years Although released by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Jehoiachin never returned to Judah, the land he had ravaged by his irresponsibility (2Kg 24:8–17; 25:27–30; Jr 52:31–34). So his voice would be heard no more … in Israel.

19:10–11. The lament changes from the image of lions to a vine, a frequent figure of Israel (cf. Is 5:1–7; Ezk 15; 17:5–10; Mt 21:33–41). Zedekiah, Israel’s final king (ruled 597–586 BC), is the prince addressed here. The mother, Israel, was like a vine. In her past glory, Israel was fruitful, prospering under the blessing of God by abundant waters (Dt 8:7–8). She was full of branches producing many rulers. Her branches were fit for scepters of rulers and raised above the clouds, showing the grandeur of the Davidic dynasty.

19:12. But now the vine was plucked up in fury and cast down. Its strong branch was torn off. An east wind (Babylon, from the east) decimated the vine, the land of Israel, and the Davidic kings. Its strong branch, the king, was torn off, so the nation withered and fire consumed it.

19:13–14. In judgment, God uprooted the nation, deporting her to Babylon: now it is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land. After Zedekiah was overthrown the Davidic line of kings ended, and there [was] not in it a strong branch, a scepter to rule in Judah. Zedekiah was the last king from the Davidic dynasty until Messiah Jesus came, just as the prophets foretold (Gn 49:10; Dn 9:26; Lk 1:30–33). Not until Jesus returns will a son of David sit on a throne in Jerusalem to reign as Israel’s king (cf. Dn 2:44; Is 52:1–10; Jr 23:3–8).

C. History of Judah’s Iniquity (20:1–24:27)

This review of Judah’s history of iniquity demonstrates Israel’s continuing pattern of sin. Chapter 19 showed that the end of the Davidic line was certain. What follows are further messages of judgment: a review of Israel’s history (chap. 20); the sword that would strike Jerusalem (chap. 21); prophecies of judgment on Jerusalem for specific sins (chap. 22); and a comparison of the northern kingdom (Oholah/Samaria) and the southern kingdom (Oholibah/Judah), highlighting Judah’s greater corruptions (chap. 23). It ends with the parable of the boiling pot and the example of Ezekiel’s grief over the fall of Jerusalem (chap. 24).

1. Message of Israel’s Past Rebellion and Restoration (20:1–49)

a. Israel’s Past Rebellion (20:1–32)

20:1–3. This is the third dated prophecy of Ezekiel (cf. 1:2; 8:1), about 11 months after the previous recorded date (cf. 8:1). The date emphasizes its importance: The seventh year, in the fifth month on the tenth day, in the seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile (10th of Av, August 14, 591 BC). The message was given when certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord (cf. 8:1; 14:1). This is a technical term for seeking an oracle from God, but He refused to respond to their request: I will not be inquired of by you (cf. comments on 14:3). The answer God gave was not a response to their question.

20:4. God asked Ezekiel, Will you judge them? (expressed twice for emphasis). In Hebrew it is not so much of a question as a command to "Arraign these people!" (cf. 22:2). God commanded Ezekiel to review Israel’s history to make them know the abominations of their fathers as the basis for making a judgment. Ezekiel was to act as the prosecuting attorney and judge (cf. 22:2b), and he presented the evidence of Israel’s sin in overview: (1) God’s choice of Israel and deliverance from Egypt (20:1–9); (2) the people’s movements from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh-barnea (20:10–17); (3) their wilderness wanderings (20:18–26); and (4) their idolatry after entering the land of Israel (20:27–31).

20:5–6. The history of Israel begins with the Abrahamic covenant: On the day God chose Israel to be His people (cf. Gn 12:1–3; 15; 17:1–8) and swore to the descendants of … Jacob (Gn. 26:2–5; 28:1–14).

God made Himself known to them in … Egypt to Moses at the burning bush: I am the Lord your God (cf. Ex 3:1–10). While in Egyptian slavery, God swore to bring them out from … Egypt into a land that I had selected for them … a land flowing with milk and honey, a fruitful land (cf. Ex 3:8; Lv 20:24; Nm 13:27; Jr 11:5), the glory of all lands. Israel is God’s chosen land for His chosen people (cf. Dt 7:6–11; 8:7–10; 12:5–11; Jr 3:19).

20:7–8. God loved them (cf. Dt 7:6–9) and asked Israel to cast away … the idols of Egypt. The book of Exodus did not detail Israel’s religious life in Egypt, but this verse indicates they had taken on the paganism of Egypt while living there 400 years. Even Moses failed to keep the most basic command to obey the Abrahamic covenant and circumcise his sons as commanded by God (cf. Gn 17:10–14; Ex 4:24–25).

But Israel rebelled against God’s command. They did not listen to Him or cast away the detestable things … or forsake the idols of Egypt (cf. Ezk 23:3; Jos 24:14). Even in Egypt Israel deserved judgment but was spared from God’s wrath and given an opportunity to believe and obey by His Passover deliverance (cf. Ex 12:13).

20:9. God’s faithfulness to Israel was, and is, based on His grace, mercy, and His zeal to safeguard His own reputation, for the sake of My name (cf. vv. 14, 22; 36:21; Dt 7:6–9; Is 37:35; 43:25). The name of God expresses His character; His reputation among the godless nations was at stake in His covenant faithfulness toward His people (cf. Ezk 36:20–23; Ps 23:3; Is 48:9–11). The Lord would not allow His name to be profaned (ridiculed, treated as less than holy) in the sight of the nations by failing to care for His people (cf. Nm 14:15–16), so He took them out of … Egypt.

20:10–12. When they left Egypt, God brought them into the wilderness where He gave them My statutes and … ordinances at Sinai (cf. Ex 19–34). God gave His sabbaths as the sign of the Mosaic covenant (cf. Ex 31:13–17). These elders listening to Ezekiel were reminded of the purpose of the statutes. First, if a man observes them, he will live (cf. Lv 18:4–5), that is, have a right relationship with the Lord. Second they would know, in an intimate, personal way that I am the Lord who sanctifies them (cf. Ex 31:13; Lv 20:8). This is not works righteousness. Obedience to the law must be motivated by faith (cf. Gn 15:6), not empty ritualism (cf. Is 1:11; Am 5:21–24).

20:13. Rather than keep God’s commandments, the house of Israel rebelled against Him even in the wilderness (cf. Nm 10:11–14:35) and continued in idolatry (Ezk 20:16). They did not walk in God’s statutes and they greatly profaned the sabbaths. Since the Sabbath was one of the primary signs of the Mosaic covenant (cf. Ex 31:13–17; Is 56:1–8), observance of the Sabbath was an outward sign of inward devotion to the Lord. Failure to keep the Sabbath was one of the causes of God’s judgment and the 70-year captivity (22:8, 26; 23:38; 44:24; 45:17; 46:3; Jr 17:19–27; 25:8–11; Neh 13:17–18).

20:14–17. For their disobedience in the wilderness, the people deserved to die, but for the sake of [His] name (vv. 9, 14, 22) God spared them. There was specific judgment against the generation who doubted God at Kadesh and believed the evil report of the 10 spies (Nm 13–14). They were not brought into the land of promise, but their children born in the wilderness entered the land along with Joshua and Caleb (Nm 14:30–31).

20:18–22. God repeated His offer of blessing and His call to their children in the wilderness to obey: Do not … defile yourselves with … idols. Instead He required them to recognize that I am the Lord your God (18:19, 20); walk in My statutes … sanctify My sabbaths. But the second generation rebelled as their parents did. Yet God preserved them, acting in mercy for the sake of My name (vv. 21b–22; cf. 20:9, 14).

20:23–24. God did not destroy them for their sin, but He swore to them (cf. Dt 28) that if they sinned, he would scatter them among the nations (Dt 28:64–68).

20:25–26. If they chose to disobey God He would abandon them to their sin and its consequences. He gave them (over to) statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. Some have suggested this is a reference to the Mosaic law being too hard to keep. However, this view should be rejected because it lowers the intrinsic quality of the Mosaic law as an expression of God’s righteousness found in Scripture. The NT declares that God’s law is "holy, righteous, and good" (Rm 7:12), and even sinners must "agree that the law is good" (Rm 7:16; 1Tm 1:8). Further, God said the one who keeps His law will live (cf. Ezk 20:11; Lv 18:4–5). It is better to see these statutes and ordinances as commandments of the pagan religions that Israel followed. Once the people rejected God’s law, they turned to pagan religions, and the Lord gave them over to those practices, until the time of judgment fell. They became unclean by observing the ordinances of paganism, such as the sacrifice of their firstborn (cf. Ezk 16:20). God’s giving over of the people to sin was His judicial act. Because they refused to follow His righteous ways, God would abandon them to the consequences of their actions (cf. Rm 1:24–28; 2Th 2:11–12).

20:27–29. When God brought the people into the land which I swore to give to them (cf. Gn 12:1–7; Ex 33:1–3; Dt 34:4), they still blasphemed Me by acting treacherously against Me. Sin is very personal to the Lord. They adopted Canaanite religion and offered … their sacrifices to idols on every high hill and under every leafy tree (6:14).

20:30–32. The house of Israel worshiped detestable things and defiled themselves after the manner of their ancestors, with idolatry and child sacrifice, causing their children to pass through the fire (cf. comments on 16:20). Therefore God would not be inquired of by these elders (v. 3). This review of Israel’s history proved Israel wanted to be like the nations … serving idols/gods of wood and stone.

b. Israel’s Future Restoration (20:33–44)

20:33–34. Despite their past failures, the Lord God would make Himself known to Israel with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and even with wrath poured out. This recalls God’s deliverance of Israel in the past (cf. Ex 6:6; 32:11; Dt 4:34–35; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; Ps 136:10–12). He would faithfully continue to be king over Israel (e.g., Ps 145:1; Is 32:22). God would bring the Jewish people out from all the lands where you [were] scattered. This likely refers not to the return from Babylon because of the universal scope of the return. Therefore it predicts the worldwide regathering of the Jewish people to Israel before the future tribulation.

20:35–36. After their return to the land of Israel, God will drive some of those who returned out to the wilderness, where God’s judgment would begin. This wilderness judgment refers specifically to the events in the period before the return of the Messiah, commonly called the tribulation. Revelation 12:14 describes the woman, Israel, fleeing to the wilderness in the second half of the tribulation. There will be a purging process as in the wilderness wanderings when Israel left Egypt.

20:37. God would discipline those who had rebelled, using His rod to correct His people. Through this process, the Shepherd of Israel (cf. Gn 48:15; Ps 23:1; 80:1; Mt 2:6; Heb 13:20) will bring you [Israel] into the bond of the covenant. This is not the Mosaic covenant, which Israel had broken and invalidated by her unbelief (cf. Ezk 16:59; Jr 31:31–32). This is the new covenant, an everlasting covenant, enacted to restore Israel to the Lord (cf. Ezk 16:60; Jr 31:31–33). The new covenant was inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Messiah Jesus (cf. Lk 22:20), but awaits its fulfillment when He returns and fulfills all the promises to faithful Israel. On the relationship of the new covenant to the other covenants, see comments on Jr 31:31–37.

20:38. At that future time, God will purge those rebels who do not belong to Him. Those who transgress against the Lord would not enter the land of Israel, just as the generation who left Egypt did not enter the promised land because of their disbelief (Nm 14:32–33). These events were not fulfilled in the Babylonian exile. Those who returned were not the purified nation that this passage describes. God’s process of purification means only those faithful to Him will enjoy the covenant of blessing.

20:39. Using irony, God said for now, Go serve … idols; this was Israel’s current spiritual condition. But later, at the end of days, the nation will surely listen to the Lord and honor My holy name (39:7; 43:7).

20:40–41. Then on the Lord’s holy mountain … the high mountain of Israel, the temple mount (Pss 2:6; 3:4; 15:1; Is 11:9; 56:7; 57:13; 65:11; Ob 16; Zph 3:11), the whole house of Israel will serve the Lord in the land of Israel. He will accept the people, and seek their contributions and … gifts (cf. 40:38–43) because they would be offered from a pure heart (cf. Ps 24:4–6). God will prove Himself holy among you in the sight of the nations.

Israel had profaned her God, turning away from Him to idolatry. In the future, however, the nation will set God apart so all the nations will sense God’s holiness (Is 56:1–8). This did not happen at the return from Babylon, and it is not happening now through the Church. These events are future, when Israel recognizes Jesus as Messiah (Zch 12:10), and all Israel will be saved (Rm 11:26–27).

20:42–44. God’s restoration of Israel has two key changes: First, there will be a true recognition of God. Israel will know that I am the Lord. The nation will know Him in a personal intimate way, as He revealed Himself by covenant to Abraham (Gn 15:1–18), to David (2Sm 7:8–24), and in the new covenant (Jr 31:31–34). The Lord will keep His word for My name’s sake to demonstrate His covenant loyalty in fulfilling His promises and for His honor (cf. Ezk 20:5–9; 36:21; Rm 11:27). Second, this knowledge of God is a result of repentance when Israel comes to the Lord. She will remember the ways she had defiled herself and will loathe herself for all the evil she has done (cf. Ezk 6:9; 16:61; Zch 12:10ff.). The shame Israel should have felt when she sinned in the past will finally be manifested when God restores her in the future.

That God will bring about these conditions in the future and is not producing them in the present era through the Church derives from His sovereign purposes for Israel the nation. God formed Israel to mediate His name to the world (Ex 19:6; Is 43:7; 44:23; 60:7, 13, 21; Ezk 39:13; Zch 2:5). Israel fulfills this mission almost exclusively as God reveals Himself to the world through her display of holiness (Dt 4:5–6; 26:18–19). He also reveals Himself through His historical acts with Israel as a nation, including judging the people (Dt 29:24–25; Ezk 5:8, 13; 6:14; 7:9; 12:15–17; 15:7; 21:5; 39:21–24) and rescuing and restoring them (Ex 6:7; 7:5; 14:4, 18; Jos 2:10; Pss 67:1–2, 7; 102:13–15; Is 49:26; 52:7–10; 55:3–5; Ezk 36:22–36; 39:27). Even Israel’s failure did not cancel this purpose, her failure being foreknown by God (Dt 29:4; Is 29:10; Ps 69:22–23; Is 42:16–19; 43:8–13, 22–28). But failure and judgment are not the end of Israel’s story. God also promised to restore the nation and cause her to fulfill His purpose for her (Lv 26:43–44; Is 11:11–12; 48:9; Jr 30:3, 10, 11; 31:8; Ezk 20:33–44; 34:11–16; Am 9:11–15), after which time she will radiate God’s glory to the world. Robert L. Saucy ("Is Christ the Fulfillment of National Israel’s Prophecies? Yes and No!" unpublished paper presented at the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting, November 2010, 17) writes:

These prophecies of Israel’s restoration and fulfillment of purpose refer to the same Israel who had a history of disobedience. It is the blind and deaf disobedient servant to which the spiritual transformation and restoration as a nation are promised again and again in Isaiah, not a new spiritual Israel [that is, the Church]. According to Ezekiel it is the Israel that God brought out of the land of Egypt and who had profaned the Lord’s name by their disobedience (20:9, 13, 16, 21–22) that is going to be renewed and restored through a new purging even as their fathers were judged in the wilderness (20:34–44).

It is Israel as a nation, and not … people gathered from all nations as is the church today. In connection with the promise of a new covenant, the Lord declared that only if the fixed orders of nature ceased would "the offspring of Israel also … cease from being a nation before Me forever" (Jer. 31:35–36, emphasis added). It is as a nation among nations that Israel will become a blessing to other nations that they might receive the same salvation and become God’s people alongside of it (see Is. 19:23–25).

The Church does not fulfill Israel’s promises related to the manifestation of the kingdom of God. Saucy argues, "As a spiritual community of God’s people, the church cannot manifest a paradigm of the kingdom of God before the nations as is prophesied through the theocracy of Israel, where all of the structures of human society are ruled by God and there is no Caesar governing the people along with Christ, as is true during this age of the church" (Saucy, 18). The prophecies regarding Israel’s restoration include an incomparable display of God’s power and glory, something not seen in the demonstration of the present manifestation of the kingdom in the Church. "Israel’s witness to the nations was to be primarily through God’s historical actions in restoring and blessing that nation before the eyes of the world. Freed from the persecution and oppression of the nations, the spiritually transformed Israel would live in their land in God’s peace and prosperity, exalted among the nations who look to the God of Israel for the same blessing" (Saucy, 19). But the Church witnesses through its suffering (Jn 15:18–21; Ac 9:15; 1Pt 4:12–19), and at the end of the age, the Church wanes in its influence (see Mt 24:10–12, 37–39) and evil becomes pervasive (2Th 2:3–12; Rv 19:17–19). These points illustrate that the Church is not the means whereby these purposes of God will be realized. The restoration of Israel in the future is what Ezekiel pictures.

c. Parable of the Forest Fire (20:45–49)

20:45–46. After an overview of Israel’s past and future, Ezekiel focused on the imminent judgment for sin. Ezekiel was told to set your face (cf. 4:3) in judgment against three areas. Teman, a poetic term for "south" as well as the proper name of a city in Edom, to Judah’s south (cf. Am 1:12; Jr 49:7). The south is the Negev, the southern region of Israel.

20:47. Although Babylon’s army could come from the north (cf. 9:1–2) and the focus of their attack was on Judah, their invasion would cover the whole land south to north (cf. 21:4). God was going to devastate Judah by fire, a phrase often used of judgment and invasion (cf. 15:7; Is 10:16–19; Jr 15:14; 17:4, 27; 21:14). No one would escape. It will consume every green tree … as well as every dry tree.

20:48–49. The people mocked Ezekiel, saying he was just speaking in parables, and they refused to understand them. But God said, all flesh will see that I, the Lord have kindled the fire and it shall not be quenched. The upcoming sword judgments (chap. 21) are inevitable.

2. Four Messages of the Sword (21:1–32)

Because the people mocked Ezekiel’s message about the fire (20:45–49), God gave him four specific messages of coming judgment by the sword, a term used 15 times in this chapter to emphasize the violent form His judgment would take against the people.

a. The Sword Drawn (21:1–7)

21:1–2. Ezekiel was to set his face (cf. 4:3) toward Jerusalem, speak against the sanctuaries (the temple), and prophesy against the land of Israel. God was against (cf. 5:8) His land, His Holy City, and His dwelling place. The Lord emphasized His relationship and ownership.

21:3–5. Although Babylon was the immediate instrument of judgment, God was clearly behind this judgment: I will draw My sword (vv. 3, 5) and I will cut off. In the course of war … both the righteous and the wicked would die. Just as a forest fire burns both the dry and the green trees, so judgment would be indiscriminate. War and natural disaster sweep away everyone in their path, the guilty as well as the innocent (cf. Lk 13:1–4). Scripture teaches that each individual is responsible for his own righteousness or wickedness before the Lord (cf. comments on chap. 18), but it does not promise that the righteous will supernaturally escape disaster. Ezekiel stressed the extent of the coming judgment, against all flesh from south to north (cf. 20:47). When judgment came, then the people would know that … the Lord had drawn My sword (cf. v. 3).

21:6–7. Ezekiel was brokenhearted about their sin and the coming judgment (cf. 9:8; 11:13). God commanded him to show his breaking heart and bitter grief by groaning in their sight—he was to "cry out and wail" (v. 12). So when the people ask Why do you groan? Ezekiel was to explain to them it was because of the news that the fall of Jerusalem was coming. The awful realization of their judgment would be devastating. Every spirit will faint (cf. 7:17). Yet there was no doubt: Behold, it comes and it will happen, declares the Lord God.

b. The Sword Sharpened (21:8–17)

21:8–10. God’s drawn sword was sharpened (vv. 9, 10, 11) and polished (vv. 9, 10) to move fast and flash like lightening (vv. 10, 15) ready for the slaughter of His judgment. This song to the sword of judgment shifts to the image of a rod that will fall in judgment on every tree (cf. comments on 20:47).

The term rod (shevet) simply means a stick. One use for it is the scepter of a king (cf. Gn 49:9–10), used like a shepherd’s rod to rule and direct his people. Thus, Ezekiel was saying that the people had rejected God’s rod of rulership, so now He would use the sword over them instead. But seeing the rod as a scepter and referring to God’s rulership seems foreign to this passage. Another usage of the word "rod" is a rod of discipline, in the way that a shepherd uses a rod to discipline the flock (cf. Ps 23:4; Pr 10:13, 13:24; 23:13). Hence, it frequently refers to God’s chastisement (2Sm 7:14, Jb 9:34; 21:9). This makes sense in context. Israel had despised God’s earlier attempts to use a rod to correct her, so God would now use a sword.

21:11–12. The polished sword is given to the slayer to execute judgment on God’s people and … against all the officials of Israel. Because of the number of slain, God told Ezekiel to Cry out and wail (cf. v. 6) and strike your thigh in grief. The leaders had rejected God’s leadership, and they would be removed from leadership.

21:13. This would be a time of testing. The rod (septer) which despises will be no more (cf. v. 10). This is somewhat obscure because the object of the statement is unclear. However it seems to point to the interruption of the Davidic line, which came because the officials had rejected living in righteousness under Davidic leadership. So it would be no more until the coming of Messiah (cf. Gn 49:10).

21:14–17. Here the work of the sword is stressed. Both Ezekiel, the son of man (20:14), and the Lord (20:17) would clap their hands in judgment, a phrase that bookends this section (vv. 14, 17; cf. 6:11; 22:13). The sword would strike repeatedly, which is the sense of the phrase let the sword be doubled the third time, so that the people’s hearts may melt (cf. v. 7) in fear. Swift judgment would come from the glittering, highly polished, sword … striking quickly like lightening (cf. 20:10) from all sides (to the right … to the left) as it relentlessly pursued the people. It would stop only when God would clap My hands together and appease My wrath.

c. The Sword Directed Toward Jerusalem (21:18–27)

21:18–19. Although unaware of it, Nebuchadnezzar was directed by the Lord to overthrow Jerusalem. God told Ezekiel to mark out two ways (routes) for the sword of the king of Babylon. Ezekiel was to make a signpost … at the … way to the city of Jerusalem. This seems to be a symbolic act, rather than posting a literal sign, or drawing the route Nebuchadnezzar would take regarding the attack on Jerusalem.

In 588 BC three vassal states were seeking independence from Babylon: Tyre (north of Israel along the Mediterranean coast), Ammon (east of the Dead Sea) and Judah. Nebuchadnezzar led his forces north and west from Babylon along the Euphrates River to quell the rebellions.

21:20–23. At Rabbah (north of Damascus) Nebuchadnezzar came to a parting of the way and had to decide which nation he would attack first to control the rebellion and which route to take. Nebuchadnezzar used common practices of Babylonian divination to determine his course of action: shakes the arrows, similar to drawing straws; consulting his household idols, the portable images (cf. Gn 31:19; Hs 3:4) of the family gods, and examining the liver of a sacrificed animals. By themselves these practices could do nothing, but God worked through them to accomplish His plan: into Nebuchadnezzar’s right hand would come the lot for Jerusalem. That would be the signpost (the route) they would take to set battering rams against the gates … to build a siege wall against Jerusalem.

21:24–26. Israel’s leaders had made the iniquity … transgressions … and sins of the nation to be remembered … uncovered … and appear, so they would be taken captive, seized with the hand. King Zedekiah, the wicked one, the prince of Israel (cf. 12:8–11), would be stripped of authority (his turban and crown symbolize royalty and will be removed). Nebuchadnezzar would take the king captive, abase that which is high, and exalt the low, leaving only the poorest people in the land (2Kg 25:4–12).

21:27. With the deportation of Zedekiah, Davidic kingship ended in Israel. The triple use of a ruin stressed that Israel’s throne was to be absolutely desolate. It will not be restored until He comes whose right it is, and the Lord will give it to Him. This prophecy of the restoration of the Davidic kingship is a deliberate reference to Gn 49:10. Although the NASB takes the word "Shiloh" in Gn 49:10 as a proper name, it is better understood as "He whose right it is" (HCSB; see comments on Gn 49:10 for the reasons that this is a preferable reading.) Ezekiel 21:27 uses the same words in Hebrew, the difference being that Gn 49:10 has them in a contracted form, while Ezkekiel has them in an expanded form. Regardless, Ezekiel is referring to the prediction of the Messiah in the Torah. Jerusalem would fall and Zedekiah would be taken away, but God has a faithful long-range plan. The line of David would be restored when Messiah, the righteous God-appointed King, came.

Between the time of Zedekiah and Jesus, Israel did not have a Davidic king. There were no valid claims to the throne until Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to present himself as Messiah King. Only after His resurrection did His faithful disciples recognize Him (cf. Zch 9:9; Mt 21:1–11; Rv 5:5; 19:11–16; 20:4). One day, the Messiah will return in victory, be recognized by the nation of Israel, and reign from His throne in a restored Jerusalem as King of Israel.

d. The Sword Directed Toward Ammon (21:28–32)

21:28. The judgment of Ammon concludes the sword oracles. Ammon, part of modern Jordan whose capital is named for this ancient kingdom, was a pagan nation whose deity was "the detestable Molech" (1Kg 11:7; Ezk 16:20–21), the god of child sacrifice (Lv 18:21). They were perpetual enemies of Israel (cf. Dt 23:3–4; Jdg 3:13, 10:6–11:28; 1Sm 11:1–11; 2Kg 24:1–2; 2Ch 20:1–23). Both Ammon and Judah became vassals to Babylon (Jr 27:1–7). When Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem, Ammon’s destruction was delayed (cf. Ezk 21:18–23). After Jerusalem’s fall, the Ammonites organized a coup that caused the death of Gedaliah, the Babylonian appointed Jewish governor of Judah (cf. Jr 40:13–41:10), hoping to keep Babylon’s army focused on Judah.

21:29–32. Despite Ammon’s false visions of security, her day of judgment has come … the time of the punishment of the end. God’s indignation against Ammon’s personal wickedness (cf. 1Kg 11:7) and their enmity toward Judah (cf. Am 1:13–15; Zph 2:8–11) would cause Him to hand Ammon over to brutal men, the Babylonians who were skilled in destruction. They would be fuel for the fire of God’s wrath in their own land. Ammon is at the head of the list of seven nations to be judged for their mistreatment of Israel (cf. 25:1–7).

3. Three Messages on the Defilement and Judgment of Jerusalem (22:1–31)

a. Cause of Jerusalem’s Judgment (22:1–16)

22:1–2. The opening of this section is another legal indictment against Jerusalem (see comments on 20:4).

22:3–5. There are two charges against Jerusalem: First, shedding blood (repeated seven times in this message, vv. 2–4, 6, 9, 12–13, 27) underscores Jerusalem’s sin of extreme violence (cf. 7:23; 8:17; 12:19). Second, is the defilement by worshiping idols, a frequent charge against Israel (e.g., 5:11; 8:10; 14:3). These two sins violated the Mosaic law concerning Israel’s relationship with man and God (cf. Dt 6:5–9; Lv 19:9–18). When judgment came, nations near and … far would mock Jerusalem, who had considered herself beyond the reach of judgment.

22:6–12. The rulers of Israel led the country into violating the Mosaic law (e.g., Ex 20:1–17) in many categories: disrespecting father and mother (Ezk 22:7); breaking My sabbaths and apostasy (vv. 8–9); sexual immorality/lewdness (vv. 10–11); coveting/financial corruption—injured your neighbors for gain by oppression (v. 12) The root cause: you have forgotten Me (cf. 23:35; Is 17:10).

22:13–14. Because of their dishonest gain and bloodshed, God would smite ("clap") His hand (cf. 6:11; 21:14, 17) in judgment. The question, Can your heart endure? demands a negative response. Jerusalem’s courage would fail.

22:15–16. God would scatter them among the nations for their disobedience, as the law demanded (cf. Lv 26:27–39; Dt 28:64–68). Israel did profane (defiled) God’s law (cf. Ezk 22:2–6), now she would profane herself in the sight of the nations (cf. v. 8). In exile, she would understand the character of the God she had scorned and forgotten: you will know that I am the Lord.

b. Means of Judgment (22:17–22)

22:17–18. The smelting furnace is the next image of judgment. Dross is the scum of impurity that forms on the surface of molten metal when it is refined. Israel had become like the dross of bronze … tin … iron and lead to the Lord. Because of her sin, Israel needed purification (cf. Ps 119:119; Pr 25:4–5; Is 48:9–11).

22:19–22. Just as metals are melted in a refiner’s furnace, God would gather the people in the midst of Jerusalem. The city became the crucible as the fire of God’s wrath melted her as silver (cf. Is 1:22, 25; 48:10; Jr 6:27–30). God’s judgment would force the people to acknowledge Him: and you will know that I, the Lord, have poured out My wrath on you.

c. The Recipients of Judgment (22:23–31)

Here the recipients of the judgment are divided into groups: "prophets" (22:25, 28), "priests" (23:26), "princes" (23:27), and "people of the land" (22:29).

22:23–24. The physical land literally suffered the consequences of the people’s sin. God promised the blessing of rain for obedience (cf. Dt 28:12), but the consequence of sin would be drought (cf. Dt 28:23–24). The land had not been cleansed, a term for ceremonial purification, or rained on because of God’s indignation.

22:25. The conspiracy of false teaching by prophets was like a roaring lion (cf. 19:1–14; 1Pt 5:8) that devoured lives, destroying the people with their corrupt teaching (cf. Ezk 13:18). They had taken treasure and precious things, a term Jeremiah used for temple articles (cf. Jr 20:5), for their own use, and they caused the deaths of many men, resulting in many widows in the community (Ezk 22:8; Ex 22:22; Dt 10:18; Is 10:1–2).

22:26–27. Judah’s priests did violence to My law and profaned My holy things (cf. v. 25; Zph 3:4). They made no distinction between the holy and the profane, the main duty of the priests (Ezk 44:23; Lv 10:10–22; 11:47; 20:25; Jr 2:8). They ignored God’s sabbaths (Ezk 20:16, 21, 24), the sign of the Mosaic covenant between God and Israel (Ex 31:13). Instead of lovingly shepherding the people (cf. Ezk 34:5), they were like wolves … shedding blood … destroying lives … for dishonest gain.

22:28. The prophets, who should teach God’s truth, instead taught false visions and covered their divining lies as whitewash covers a broken wall (cf. 13:8–16). They declared, Thus says the Lord God, when the Lord has not spoken.

22:29 Iniquity characterized the whole society from the civil and spiritual leadership down to the people of the land (am ha’aretz), a term meaning the common man. Virtually the entire populace was involved in oppression and robbery and they wronged the poor, needy and sojourner (cf. 21:6–12).

22:30–31. God wanted faithful followers. He searched for a man in the land, to build up the wall (cf. 13:5; Ps 106:23) and stand in the gap to obey Him and defend His honor. Yet He found no one (cf. Gn 18:23–33). Consequently, they would be consumed … with the fire of My wrath (cf. Ezk 21:31). Israel had brought judgment upon their heads, according to their sinful behavior (cf. 7:3).

4. Parable of the Two Adulterous Sisters: Oholah and Oholibah (23:1–49)

a. Infidelity of the Sisters: Oholah and Oholibah (23:1–21)

23:1–3. This is a parable similar to the story of Sodom and Samaria, the sisters of Jerusalem, (16:44–59). Here two women (sisters) shared the same moral degradation of being a harlot in Egypt from their youth. The emphasis in this parable is on the political alliances with pagan powers, while the earlier parable of the sisters (chap. 16) was about idolatry.

23:4. The older sister was Oholah, ("her tent"), who represented Samaria, and the northern kingdom of Israel; and the younger was Oholibah, ("my tent is in her") who represented Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah. The word "tent" was often used of the tabernacle, God’s sanctuary (cf. Ex 29:4, 10–11, 30). The name Oholah connotes that the sanctuary associated with this sister was of her own making, since corrupted worship of the Lord was established in the northern kingdom by Jeroboam when the kingdom divided in 931 BC. By contrast, the name Oholibah connotes that God’s true sanctuary was in her midst, in the temple in Jerusalem. Both kingdoms belonged to the Lord they became Mine and … had sons and daughters.

23:5. The sin of Oholah/Samaria was reliance on the Assyrians. Israel had a long relationship with Assyria. Jehu (841–814 BC) allied Israel with Assyria and submitted himself as a vassal (2Kg 10:32–34). Menahem (752–742 BC) paid tribute to Assyria (2Kg 15:19–20). The prophet Hosea (760–720 BC) rebuked Israel for her dependence on Assyria instead of on the Lord (cf. Hs 5:13–14; 7:11; 8:9; 12:1). Hoshea was on the throne when the northern kingdom fell to Assyria (2Kg 17:3–4) in 721 BC. Samaria did not trust the Lord for protection or stay faithful to Him but instead made an alliance ("played the harlot") with Assyria, leading to her downfall.

23:6–10. Oholah was attracted to the rich purple clothing and desirable appearance of the powerful Assyrian officials; she lusted after all their idols and defiled herself. God gave Israel, the northern kingdom, over to her lovers, the Assyrians, for whom she lusted, and Assyria took Israel’s sons and daughters captive to Assyria and killed many of the people with the sword (cf. 2Kg 17; 721 BC).

23:11–13. Jerusalem saw God’s judgment on Oholah (Samaria), and it should have been a warning, yet Oholibah was more corrupt than her sister. Even after Israel’s captivity to Assyria, Judah’s King Ahaz (2Kg 16:1–20, 735–716 BC) sought an alliance (lusted after) with the Assyrians, refusing Isaiah’s message (cf. Is 7:7–9).

23:14. When Judah became a vassal state to Egypt (2Kg 23:29–37) she wanted out of that political oppression. Instead of turning to the Lord, she increased her harlotries and made an alliance with the Chaldeans (Babylonians). She began worshiping Babylonian gods, which were often portrayed on a wall (cf. Jr 22:14; Ezk 8:10).

23:15–16. Jerusalem was attracted to their military might, their belts, and turbans. She lusted after the Babylonians for military protection, and sent messengers to them asking for aid.

23:17–18. When the Babylonians came they did not give the help Jerusalem expected. Instead they defiled her, and she became disgusted with them. In turn, God became disgusted with Jerusalem’s lustful behavior as He had with Samaria her sister.

23:19–21. Jerusalem multiplied her harlotries, remembering the pagan practices of the days of her youth … in … Egypt (vv. 3, 19, 21). Ezekiel presented a graphic picture of her lewdness to clearly portray their spiritual degradation. Judah lusted after them, for their political alliance (2Kg 24:1; 25:1; Jr 37:5–8) and followed their pagan religious practices.

b. Punishment of the Sisters (23:22–35)

Ezekiel gave four oracles of judgment against the sisters, beginning with the phrase, Thus says the Lord God (vv. 22, 28, 32, 35). The focus of the judgments is on Oholibah, Jerusalem.

23:22–26. First Oracle of Punishment: The Attack of the Lovers. God would arouse (to wake up, to incite) Jerusalem’s allies/lovers against her from every side. The combined army of the Babylonians and her allies Pekod, Shoa, and Koa (small Aramean tribes in eastern Babylonia), along with all the Assyrians, would come against Jerusalem. The highest command of governors … officials … men of renown … riding on horses would carry out an intense military campaign: weapons, chariots, war wagons, buckler, shield, and helmet to deliver the Lord’s judgment. His wrath would be delivered by the cruel hand of Babylonia’s gruesome customs: they would cut off your nose and … ears. Even survivors of battle would fall by the sword … or be consumed by the fire. Everything of beauty and value they would strip away.

23:27. The Babylonian captivity would cure Judah’s lewdness and … harlotry. She would no longer seek pagan idols or alliances or remember Egypt for help.

23:28–31. Second Oracle of Punishment: Given Into the Hand of Your Enemy. This oracle is similar to the first (cf. vv. 22–27), but adds: Babylon would deal with you in hatred and leave Jerusalem naked and bare. All this would be done to you because she played the harlot with the nations and you have defiled yourself with their idols (cf. 6:9).

23:32–34. Third Oracle of Punishment: The Cup of God’s Judgment. This is a poetic oracle of certain doom on Jerusalem. The symbol of a cup of judgment is frequently used in Scripture (e.g., Ps 75:8; Is 51:17–23; Jr 25:15–19; Hab 2:16). This cup is large, deep and wide … and contains much. The contents are sorrow, horror, and desolation. Jerusalem was certain to drink it and drain it, for her judgment would be extensive.

23:35. Fourth Oracle of Punishment: The Reasons for Judgment. This final oracle presents the main reason for the judgments. God said they had forgotten Me (cf. 22:12). The importance of remembering the Lord’s faithfulness is a key theme in Scripture (e.g., Ex 13:3; Dt. 4:9–10; 8:2; Ps 77:11). God reminded Jerusalem she had cast Me behind your back (cf. Jr 32:33) forgetting Him, so she must bear the punishment for her lewdness (cf. Ezk 23:8, 27, 44).

c. Conclusion of the Message to Oholah and Oholibah (23:36–49)

23:36–39. The conclusion is a summary of their abominations. The lowest point of their unfaithfulness to the Lord beyond their spiritual adultery and the blood … on their hands was sacrificing their sons, whom they bore to Me to the idols. The Lord considered their children His children. The altars built to honor Molech were little more than stoves that would be heated to red-hot temperatures. They also had carved in their lids the hands and arms of Molech. When the altars were heated, children would be placed in those hands and burned alive, an act called "passing through the fire" (cf. 16:20–21; Jr 7:31). Heartlessly, on the same day they slaughtered their children they would enter the temple and defile My sanctuary with their corrupt worship. Their wicked presence profaned My sabbaths.

23:40–41. Their failure to trust God in every area of life was expressed in spiritual adultery and political alliances with pagan nations: they have sent for men … from afar. Both sisters prepared themselves (bathed, painted their eyes, decorated themselves with ornaments) to entice foreign nations into alliances, which were forbidden by God (cf. Dt 17:14–20). They prepared a table that should have been used for God’s incense and His oil, but instead offered to their lovers.

23:42–44. This is a vivid picture of Oholah and Oholibah, the lewd women, (symbolizing Israel and Judah), preparing themselves for the men as they put on bracelets and crowns until they were worn out by adulteries.

23:45. The righteous men who would judge them were like Ezekiel, who would pronounce judgment on them. The judgment for adultery was death, usually by stoning (cf. Lv 20:10, 27). Adultery is not a casual, private sin. It has the serious consequences of shed blood because such a woman destroys lives and blood is on their hands (cf. Pr 6:24–26; 9:18; 23:27–28). Thus, Israel and Judah’s spiritual adultery from the Lord was reprehensible and would bring judgment.

23:46–47. They would be given over to terror and plunder … and be stoned with stones … cut … down with swords … their children killed … and their houses would be burned with fire. These events describe the plunder and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

23:48–49. God would make lewdness cease from the land (cf. v. 27) after they bore the penalty of worshiping … idols; thus you will know that I am the Lord God.

5. Parable of the Boiling Pot (24:1–14)

The third series of judgments on Judah (cf. chaps. 4–11; 12–19; 20–24) concludes in chap. 24 with two additional messages of the inevitability of God’s wrath.

24:1–2. The specific day of calamity was the ninth year … tenth month … tenth day since King Jehoiachin’s exile (10 Tevet/January 15, 588 BC). The king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem this very day. This was the exact day Ezekiel had been pointing to for over four years and is significantly mentioned elsewhere in Scriptures (2Kg 25:1; Jr 39:1; 52:4).

24:3–5. In this parable the rebellious house of Israel (cf. 3:9) is described as being inside a cooking pot. This was similar to Ezekiel’s earlier message to the leaders who thought they would be safe in the city (chap. 11). The people of Jerusalem who were spared the initial deportation to Babylon (2Kg 24) thought the worst was over and that they were safe in Jerusalem. However, even the choicest of the flock were not safe. The pot would boil vigorously and bones would seethe in it. All would be destroyed.

24:6. The parable was explained using two similar statements: Therefore, thus says the Lord God, Woe to the bloody city (vv. 6–8, 9–14), a statement of their sad future and of the cause for their judgment (cf. 22:1–16). In this parable, Jerusalem is like a rust-encrusted cooking pot, a reference to the iniquity of the people. The rust had not gone out of it, but surfaced during cooking. Her corruption could not be hidden.

People in Jerusalem had felt secure from Babylon’s onslaught inside the walled city. But when the city fell they would be taken out of it piece after piece, like removing every piece of meat from a pot without making a choice. That is, every inhabitant without exception would be removed from the city for exile.

24:7–8. Jerusalem would be judged, For her blood is in her midst. The city was guilty of bloodshed (cf. 22:1–6). The Lord said Jerusalem had shed innocent blood, and the evidence was in plain sight, openly displayed as she placed it on the bare rock. That blood was crying out, figuratively speaking, for vengeance. She did not pour it on the ground to cover it with dust (Gn 4:10; Lv 17:13–14; Jb 16:18; Is 26:21). Because Jerusalem had openly shed the blood of others, God’s wrath would come up to take vengeance, and He would openly shed her blood on the bare rock.

24:9–10. This statement of judgment begins: Woe to the bloody city! continuing the image of the pot around which God would make the pile (of wood for the fire) great. The flesh in the pot was to be cooked well and the bones to be burned. This forecast the burning of Jerusalem by Babylon.

24:11–12. Finally the pot would be empty, that is, Jerusalem would be without its inhabitants. It would be placed on the coals (suffer judgment) until its filthiness was melted and its rust burned away. The city would be destroyed and her citizens carried away to remove its iniquity.

24:13–14. God would have cleansed His people from their sin, but they refused to repent and obey. Therefore the people and the city would experience the purifying work of God’s wrath. He would act and not relent or have pity or be sorry. They would be judged according to your ways and … deeds. God’s mercy prompts Him to withhold judgment as long as possible to enable people to repent (Rm 2:4–5), but He does not wait indefinitely. God will eventually and inevitably punish wickedness: I will judge you.

6. Sign of the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:15–27)

24:15–19. Ezekiel’s personal sad experience was a lesson to the Israelites already in captivity who were watching the fate of Jerusalem (cf. 2Kg 24:1–5). Ezekiel was given the word of the Lord that the sign of the tragic death of his beloved wife, the desire of [his] eyes, would be an act of God and a sign to the nation. It would be natural to mourn, but God told Ezekiel not to mourn or weep. He was to groan silently and not follow the customary practices of mourning for the dead (cf. Jr 16:5–7). In the morning Ezekiel told the people what God said, and in the evening his wife died. The next day when his wife was buried, he obeyed as God commanded—not to mourn. The people were shocked at his lack of grief and asked what these things … mean.

24:20–21. Ezekiel explained to the house of Israel that the death of his wife symbolized the coming destruction of God’s sanctuary in Jerusalem, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes and the delight of your soul (cf. v. 25). Solomon’s temple was the most beautiful building in the ancient world, and the most sacred because the Spirit of the Lord dwelt in the Holy of Holies. The loss of this magnificent structure was incomprehensible for the Jewish people. Plus, the children who they thought were safe in Jerusalem would fall by the sword. This was crushing news.

24:22–24. Ezekiel commanded his fellow exiles in Babylon to do as I have done when my wife died. When they heard of the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel ordered them, You will not mourn and you will not weep. Not because they were not sad, but because the magnitude of the destruction would render grief inadequate. They would rot (or better "pine away" or "be left to waste away") in their iniquities and groan to one another when they understood that the consequence of their sin was the fall of Jerusalem. Finally they will know that I am the Lord God.

24:25–27. The catastrophic loss of Jerusalem, their stronghold, including the temple, which was the joy of their pride, the desire of their eyes (cf. v. 21), along with the slaughter of their heart’s delight, their sons and their daughters, would change Ezekiel’s ministry to the exiles. When the news of Jerusalem’s fall reached the exiles, on that day the prophet’s mouth would be opened. He would be mute no longer. Ezekiel had been commanded to remain silent before his fellow exiles, except to pronounce the prophecies God gave him (cf. 3:25–27). Now that his words against Jerusalem had been fulfilled, his selected muteness would end (cf. 33:21–22). He would have a ministry to those who escaped death, those who would be brought to Babylon after Jerusalem fell. He was a sign to them, and they will know that I am the Lord.

III. Ultimate Judgment on Gentile Nations (25:1–32:32)

The Lord’s judgment began with Israel (chaps. 4–24), but it would extend to seven nations surrounding Israel (chaps. 25–32). If God would not spare His own people because of their sin, He certainly would not spare the sinful pagan nations who had afflicted His chosen people. Each prophecy ends with "Thus you will know that I am the Lord."

The basis of God’s judgment on the nations is the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Gn 12:1–3). Those who bless the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham, will be blessed; and those who curse (abuse, mistreat, or rejoice over the calamity of) the Jewish people will be judged. God loves and cares for the Jewish people whether they are obedient or disobedient. The spiritual condition of the Jewish people is no excuse for anti-Semitism.

These first four prophecies (against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia) each cited the sin that prompted God’s judgment and then described that judgment. This follows the because-therefore pattern. Because these nations had sinned against God by vindictive jealousy and hatred toward God’s people, therefore God would punish them (25:3).

As Feinberg observes, the nations of the earth refused to learn that God meant every word of the Abrahamic covenant of Gn 12:1–3, 7. "No nation under heaven could touch Israel for ill without bringing down upon them the wrath of Almighty God. The pages of history are strewn with the wreckage of nations who, though great in the eyes and councils of the world, incurred the just wrath of an outraged God. While God reserved the right to judge His chosen people for their sins, He also reserved the right to judge those who spitefully treat the Jews, and thus bring reproach on the One who made an everlasting covenant with Israel" (Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord [Chicago: Moody, 1969], 146).

A. Judgment on Ammon (25:1–7)

25:1–2. The Lord commanded Ezekiel to set your face (cf. 4:3) toward … Ammon. Judgment had already been pronounced on Ammon and is reiterated here among the seven nations (see details about Ammon at 21:28–32).

25:3–6. Ammon was under judgment because she rejoiced over Judah’s fall to Babylon. Ammon mocked, saying, Aha! an exclamation of malicious joy (v. 3; cf. 26:2; 36:2; Ps 35:21–25) against My sanctuary … the land of Israel … against the house of Judah. When Jerusalem fell and Judah went into exile, Ammon gloated. The Ammonites clapped their hands and rejoiced with all the scorn of your soul against the land of Israel (v. 6). Ammon’s attitude about Israel and the fall of Jerusalem would cause God to give them to the sons of the east for a possession (v. 4). This nomadic people from the Transjordan would conquer Ammon and make Ammon’s capital, Rabbah, a pasture for camels and a resting place for flocks (v. 5). This is a phrase often used to describe destroyed cities (cf. Is 34:13–15; Zph 2:13–15).

25:7. Therefore Ammon’s hatred of Israel caused the Lord to stretch out His hand against Ammon, causing that nation to be spoil to the nations, cut … off from the peoples, and to perish from the lands. Ammon’s adversarial relationship to Israel prompted this response from God: I will destroy you. Thus you will know that I am the Lord.

B. Judgment on Moab (25:8–11)

25:8. The kingdom of Moab was east of the Dead Sea, in the southern region of modern Jordan. It was a perpetual enemy of Israel from the time of the exodus when Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel (cf. Nm 22–24). In the period of the Judges, Israel was oppressed by Eglon, king of Moab (Jdg 3:12–30), and Moab frequently attacked Israel throughout the monarchy (cf. 1Sm 14:47; 2Sm 8:2; 2Kgs 3:4–27; 13:20; 24:2; 2Ch 20:1–23). Seir, a mountain range on Edom’s border was a synonym for Edom (cf. 2Ch 20:10; Nm 20:14–21). Moab and Edom (cf. Ezk 25:12–14) shared the sin of envy and contempt for the people of God.

Moab’s greatest sin was failure to recognize Israel’s position in God’s plan. Because Moab mocked, Behold, the house of Judah is like all the nations it denied God’s promises to and His unique relationship with Israel. Moab repudiated Judah’s central position among nations, and thereby profaned God’s name. Moab’s sin was exemplified by Balak’s plan to hire Balaam to curse Israel (Nm 22:1–25:9) and led eventually to Moab’s gloating over the fall of Jerusalem (cf. Jr 48:27).

The sin of Moab is still prominent today. When nations, theologians, or people in general deny Israel’s uniqueness as God’s chosen people, and the nation of Israel as His unique land (cf. Lv 25:23; Pss 10:18; 78:54; Zch 9:16) they are guilty of this grievous sin of Moab. To say the Jewish people and the nation of Israel is like all the nations still denies God’s promises and plans for Israel—His covenant people and His holy land.

25:9. Since Moab treated Judah with contempt, therefore God would deprive the flank of Moab, their important defense cities and considered the glory of the land. Thus, Moab would be exposed to invasion and her key cities would fall. Mentioned are Beth-jeshimoth, which guarded the plains of Moab on the Jordan River, Baal-meon, and Kiriathaim, which protected Moab atop the Medeba Plateau.

These cities are also mentioned in the Mesha Stele or the Moabite Stone. This four-foot black basal memorial stone (c. 850 BC), a ninth-century BC memorial stone, was found in 1868. It chronicles the reign of King Mesha of Moab, including Moab’s battle with Israel (2Kg 3:4–17). The Moabite Stone is a significant archaeological find because it confirms OT events and geographic locations.

25:10–11. Like Ammon, Moab would be conquered by the sons of the east (cf. v. 4) and would not be remembered among the nations, losing its place of power and significance. God would cause Moab to know that I am the Lord.

C. Judgment on Edom (25:12–14)

25:12. This is Ezekiel’s first prophecy against Edom (cf. chap. 35). Edom was a kingdom east of the Dead Sea, south of Moab, extending to the Gulf of Aqaba in modern Jordan. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, a man who did not value the Lord (Gn 25:25–30; 36:1–8; Heb 12:16). Ezekiel was not the only prophet to denounce Edom (see Ezk 25:12–14; 35; Is 34; Jr 49). Obadiah did so as well. At the time of the exodus Edom initiated the hostility with Israel by refusing to allow Israel to cross her territory in peace (cf. Nm 20:14–21). Enmity continued throughout Israel’s history (cf. 1Sm 14:47; 2Sm 8:13–14; 1Kg 9:26–28; 11:14–18; 2Kg 14:7; Is 34:5–7; Jr 49:7–22; Am 1:11–12; Ob).

Judgment would fall because Edom [had] acted against the house of Judah. The phrase by taking vengeance, literally "revenge with revenge," means an unabated revenge. Edom bears grievous guilt because they avenged themselves on God’s people. When Judah revolted against Babylon (588 BC) Edom sided with Babylon, aided Nebuchadnezzar’s assaults on Judah, and rejoiced at Jerusalem’s fall. Furthermore, Edom refused to give refuge to the Jewish people who escaped the siege of Jerusalem (cf. Ps 137:7; Jr 49:7–22; Ob 9–14).

25:13–14. Because Edom had a perpetual hatred of Israel and had aided in Judah’s destruction (cf. 35:15; 36:5), therefore God would stretch out My hand against Edom … from Teman in the north … to Dedan in the south. God would lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel. The Lord personalized His participation in the judgment of Edom and assigned the Jewish people as agents of His wrath.

Edom was conquered by the Nabateans, the nomadic people who controlled the region from the Red Sea to the Euphrates River during the intertestamental period. Later, the Edomites, also known as the Idumeans, moved west to the Negev. Later (126 BC) they were forced to convert to Judaism by John Hyrcanus, a Jewish ruler, and descendant of Mattathias Hasmon, who initiated the Maccabean revolt (Josephus, Ant., 13.9). Although Edom lost its national identity and significance after the Roman period, the wrathful judgment described by Ezekiel does yet not seem to be fulfilled. But it will happen at the end of days when the Messiah will bring His judgment on the archenemy of the Jewish people (cf. Is 63:1–6). When God will "execute great vengeance … they will know that I am the Lord" (Ezk 25:17). The Edomites, presented here as the epitome of Israel’s enemies (cf. 35:5), are no longer a distinctive people today. Nevertheless, the people that occupy their territory continue to mistreat the people of Israel even as the original Edomites did. Hence, this end-of-days judgment will fall upon the people in Edom in that day. God knows who His enemies are and will ultimately defeat them.

D. Judgment on Philistia (25:15–17)

25:15. The Philistines were a prominent seafaring military people who inhabited Philistia, the southern Mediterranean seacoast west of Judah. From the time of the conquest, the Philistines were Israel’s enemies (Jdg 3:1–4, 31). They launched attacks from their five major cities: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. Goliath was their most famous warrior, but even after his defeat by David, the Philistines continued to battle Israel (cf. 1Sm 7:2–17; 13:1–14:23; 28:1–4; 29:1–2, 11; 31:1–3, 7–10; 2Sm 5:17–25; 8:1; 2Ch 21:16–17; 28:16–18).

Philistia was under God’s judgment because they had taken vengeance with scorn and tried to destroy God’s chosen people and dispossess Israel of their promised land.

25:16–17. Therefore God would destroy her. He would stretch out His hand against the Philistines, a powerful image of God’s judgment (cf. Ex 3:20; 7:4, 5). He would cut off the Cherethites (synonym for the Philistines, cf. 1Sm 30:14; 2Sm 8:18; Zph 2:5). The Philistines had planned to destroy God’s people, but He would destroy even their remnant along the seacoast. So the Lord will execute great vengeance on them.

By the intertestamental period, the Philistines were no longer a political entity. However, their name continued to be associated with the southern coast of Israel, and their five major cities continued to be significant. After the Roman conquest of Israel (AD 70–135), to humiliate the Jews and attempt to wipe Jewish identity off the map of history, the Romans changed the name of the land from Judea to Palaestina (in Latin, translated Palestine in English) after Israel’s ancient enemy, the Philistines. Palestine became so closely associated with the biblical land of Canaan, Israel, and Judah, that many Biblical resources, theologians, and maps still identify those regions as Palestine and go so far as to speak of "Abraham’s journey to Palestine" or "Palestine in the time of Jesus." The Bible never uses the word Palestine to identify Israel or Judah.

The fulfillment of the destruction of the Philistines will come at the end of days (cf. Is 11:14; Ob 19; Zph 2:4–7) when the Lord defeats all His enemies (cf. comments on Ezk 25:13–14). The Philistines are no longer a distinctive people today. However, the people that will occupy their territory at the end of days will continue the same hostility to the people of Israel that the original Philistines practiced. Hence, this end-of-days judgment will fall upon the people in the area of the Philistines in that day. This nation that had tried to destroy God’s people will understand God’s true character and they will know that I am the Lord (cf. vv. 7, 11) when I lay My vengeance on them.

E. Judgment on Tyre (26:1–28:19)

Ezekiel’s four short prophecies against the nations east and west of Israel (chap. 25) are followed by a long prophecy against Tyre. This ancient Phoenician city-state, on the shore of the Mediterranean north of Israel, was famous for its merchants and sea trade (cf. 27:3; Is 23). David formed a mercantile alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, who supplied materials and craftsmen for the temple (cf. 2Sm 5:11; 1Kgs 5:1; 7:13; 2Ch 2:3). Later Tyre became infamous for its idolatry (cf. Is 23:17; Mt 11:21–22).

There are four separate oracles against Tyre, each beginning with the phrase, "The word of the Lord came to me" (26:1; 27:1; 28:1, 11).

1. Destruction of Tyre: Oracle One (26:1–21)

26:1–2. This prophecy was given on the first of the month in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim’s exile (586/587 BC). Ezekiel did not state which month, since Jerusalem fell to Babylon July 18, 586 BC. Possibly Ezekiel’s prophecy against Tyre was prompted by Jerusalem’s impending fall.

The prophecy follows the because-therefore format (cf. 25:1–4, 6–7, 9–11, 12–13). Tyre’s judgment was because of her sin of greedy rejoicing concerning the fall of Jerusalem saying, Aha, the gateway … is broken; it has opened to me. I shall be filled. Jerusalem and Tyre had vied for the lucrative trade routes between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Tyre dominated the sea routes, while Jerusalem controlled the caravan routes. Without Jerusalem controlling the overland caravan routes, more products would be shipped by sea—to Tyre’s commercial advantage.

26:3–5. God said therefore … behold, I am against you, O Tyre. The Lord would bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. Tyre was wealthy because of her seagoing economy. So the image of a violent storm at sea describes God’s judgment. As waves crash, so God would destroy the walls and break down her towers. He would scrape her debris to make her a bare rock … a place for … spreading … nets. This major city of commerce would become a smooth, barren rock where fishermen laid out their nets to dry to prevent them from rotting. Her great wealth would be given as spoil for the nations.

26:6. The main city of Tyre was on the shore, but it included outlying areas of settlement further in on the mainland and a community on an island about a half-mile off the coast. These daughters, surrounding towns, would be slain by the sword, along with the citizens of the central city of Tyre.

26:7–11. The second thus says the Lord God identifies Nebuchadnezzar as Tyre’s attacker. After defeating Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre for 13 years with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army. Tyre withstood the blow of the battering rams of long siege because Tyre’s navy was able to supply the city. Ultimately, Babylon destroyed all settlements on the mainland: with the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets, but the island stronghold survived.

26:12–14. During the intertestamental period, Alexander the Great devastated the island settlement of Tyre when it refused to submit to him on his march to Egypt (332 BC). He built a one-and-one-half mile long causeway from the mainland to the island fortress. He used the stones, timbers, and debris from the rubble left from Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the old mainland city to do so, throwing them into the water (see Zch 9:3–4) just as Ezekiel prophesied here. Island Tyre ceased to be a trade city but did become a place for the spreading of nets. By NT times, Tyre recovered from Nebuchadnezzar’s and Alexander’s onslaughts (cf. Mt 15:21) but was no longer a major power on the Mediterranean. Modern Tyre in Lebanon is a medium-sized city near to, but smaller than, the ancient site. No city has been built over the ruins of ancient Tyre, in fulfillment of this prophecy.

26:15. Thus says the Lord God to Tyre begins the third section of this prophecy. Tyre’s neighbors, the coastlands, would shake … tremble … and be appalled when she fell. The destruction of the premier port in the ancient world would have economic repercussions throughout the region.

26:16–18. All the princes of the sea coast who had depended on Tyre’s commerce would clothe themselves in mourning (cf. Jb 2:11–13). Tyre’s allies sang a lamentation, a funeral lament (cf. 19:1), for the renowned city … mighty on the sea because they were terrified at your passing. If this could happen to Tyre, no one was safe.

26:19. Poetically, Tyre, the important seafaring merchant city, would sink like a great ship. Thus says the Lord God to Tyre when He makes the great seaport a desolate city, covere[d] over by great waters (cf. v. 3). Seafaring ancient Tyre would drown in the sea, and all traces of this city would be lost (cf. 27:26–35; see comments on vv. 12–14).

26:20–21. To go down to the pit is figurative for death and the grave (Pr 1:12; Is 14:15, 19; 38:18). Tyre’s dreadful end, like the ancient waste places, is contrasted to the glory in the land of the living. Life in the region would thrive after Tyre was forgotten. She would never be found again. For an in-depth discussion of the destruction of Tyre, see Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel, 147–48.

2. Dirge Over Tyre: Oracle Two (27:1–36)

Ezekiel’s second oracle ("the word of the Lord") against Tyre was an expanded lamentation over Tyre (cf. 26:17–18). The lament is in three stanzas: the first (vv. 1–9), in poetry, describes Tyre’s former glory as a beautiful ship; the second (vv. 10–25) gives Tyre’s many trading partners; the third (vv. 26–36) describes Tyre’s destruction as a catastrophic shipwreck.

27:1–7. The first stanza compares Tyre a merchant city at the entrance to the sea, to one of her ships. Tyre is perfect in beauty with planks made of costly fir from Senir (Mount Hermon) and the mast of cedar from Lebanon, prized for her tall, strong trees (1Kg 4:33; 5:6); oaks from Bashan (east of Galilee, famous for its oak forests, Is 2:13) made the oars; the deck was ornamented with ivory on expensive boxwood; the sail was of fine embroidered linen from Egypt; and its awning was of expensive blue and purple, the most expensive dyes in the ancient word. This was an accurate image of the ornate ships that were the hallmark of Tyre’s merchant fleet.

27:8–9. The crewmen of the ship were the best on the Phoenician coast from prominent Mediterranean ports of Sidon (an ancient city on the Mediterranean coast about 25 miles north of Tyre), Arvad (a small island city in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria and 200 miles north of Tyre), and Gebal (a city in Phoenicia on the Mediterranean coast, 70 miles north of Tyre). The earliest Phoenician ships each had 50 oarsmen and were swift. The later commercial ships were much longer and had a crew of up to 200 with two or three banks of oars on each side. There were wise men as pilots and for repairing your seams in the sails during the voyage. The ship of Tyre was prepared to deal in … merchandise without even having to put into port for repairs.

27:10–25. The second stanza describes the military and commercial activity of Tyre.

27:10–11. Soldiers hailed from Persia (modern Iran), Lud (north Africa), and Put (Libya) in Tyre’s mercenary army, along with soldiers from Arvad (a small Phoenician island-city in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria and 200 miles north of Tyre; cf. v. 8) and the Gammadim (lit., "valorous one"). These men of war protected the towers and walls and perfected Tyre’s beauty by their defense of the city and their own impressive appearance.

27:12–25. Tyre’s commercial network extended across the ancient world. Tyre’s customer[s] around the Mediterranean were: Tarshish (Spain), Javan and Vedan (Greece), Tubal and Meshech, Beth-togarmah (Eastern Turkey), Judah and Israel, Aram, Damascus, and Helbon (Syria). Her customers from Arabia included Dedan, Uzal (Yemen), Kedar, Sheba, and Raamah. Many cities from Mesopotamia also traded with her: Haran, Canneh, Eden, Asshur, and Chilmad. She traded an abundance of all kinds of goods: metals, precious jewels, expensive materials (vv. 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 22, 24), military supplies (vv. 14, 19, 20), livestock, and foodstuffs (vv. 17, 19, 21). If there was anything to be traded or transported, it was carried by the ships of Tyre’s commercial empire—filled and very glorious in the heart of the seas.

27:26–36. The lament concludes (vv. 26–36) with the image of the ship’s catastrophic wreck.

27:26–29 Tyre’s great ship is broken … in the heart of the seas (cf. v. 34). The east wind has the dual image of a storm wind sinking a ship and of the Babylonian invaders coming from the east (cf. 19:12).

27:30–32. Her seamen and her commercial partners would cry bitterly at the loss of Tyre. They would cast dust on their heads, roll in ashes, and observe all the mourning practices—wearing sackcloth, weeping, and asking, Who is like Tyre?

27:33–36. Tyre’s commercial empire had satisfied many peoples and enriched … kings. Her downfall would affect all the … coastlands. Her trading partners would be bankrupt, and kings would be horribly afraid. If the great city of Tyre could be destroyed by the Babylonians, they had no hope of escape. The merchants would hiss in shock at Tyre’s demise. They could not believe Tyre would cease to be forever.

3. Downfall of Leader of Tyre: Oracle Three (28:1–10)

28:1–5. The third message against Tyre is directed to the leader (or ruler) of Tyre. This proud king evaluated his skillful leadership and economic success and proclaimed I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the seas. The underlying sin of Tyre’s king was his claim to be divine (cf. vv. 6, 9). God confronted this blasphemous claim: yet you are a man and not God (cf. v. 9). The Lord presented a series of rhetorical statements, saying Behold you are wiser than Daniel, referring to the prophet Daniel (cf. 14:14, 20), who had a reputation for his wisdom and righteousness in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dn 1:19–20; 2:46–49). The king thought that there was no secret to match his great wisdom through which he thought he had increased his riches (cf. Ezk 28:4, 5). His heart was lifted up (had grown proud) because of his national success and his riches.

28:6–8. Because the king made his heart proud … Therefore God would bring strangers, that is, Babylon (cf. 26:7–11; Jr 27:1–3), the most ruthless of the nations (cf. Ezk 23:22–27; 30:11), to judge Tyre’s leader. Unimpressed with his wisdom, Babylon would defile his splendor and bring him down to the pit (cf. 26:20).

28:9–10. He would not be able to say I am a god in the presence of his slayer. He would not have a peaceful royal death, but would die in shame like a barbarian—die the death of the uncircumcised (cf. 32:30; 1Sm 17:26, 36). He claimed to be a god but would suffer an ignoble death as the lowest mortal by the hand of strangers.

4. Downfall of Power behind King of Tyre: Oracle Four (28:11–19)

The final prophecy against Tyre was a "lamentation" concerning the "king of Tyre." God rebuked the ruler for claiming to be a god though he was just a man (vv. 1–10). This "lamentation" over the "king of Tyre" shifts from addressing the actual king (vv. 1–10) to describing the power behind his throne (vv. 11–19). This is evident in that Ezekiel’s description uses terms that could not apply to the human ruler of Tyre or to any mortal man. For example he is said to have "the seal of perfection" (v. 12) and to have been "in Eden" (v. 13). He is called "the anointed cherub" (an angelic being) who was "on the holy mountain of God" and "walked in the midst of the stones of fire" (v. 14). He is also said to have been directly "created" by God (v. 15), and to have been "blameless" until "unrighteousness was found" in him. These descriptions cannot be explained as some kind of "Semitic" or "ancient Near Eastern hyperbole." Therefore, in this section, the prophet was not speaking to the literal king of Tyre but to the supernatural being who empowered the literal king, namely, Satan. This idea is supported by the book of Daniel, which also links angels and demons to the principalities they influence (Dn 10:12–14).

28:11–19. This king had the seal of perfection, was full of wisdom and perfect in beauty in the garden of Eden (v. 13), had been the anointed cherub (v. 14a), had possessed free access to the holy mountain of God (v. 14b), and had been blameless (sinless) from the time he was created (v. 15) until unrighteousness was found in you (v. 15). Finally he was overcome by pride (heart was lifted up) and corrupted so that God cast him … to the ground (v. 17; cf. Is 14:3–21).

This anointed cherub is best understood to be Satan, and this passage reveals events in Eden before the fall. Ezekiel described this being as God originally created him (Ezk 28:12–15a). Satan was in the garden of Eden (Gn 3:1–7). He had access to God’s presence (Ezk 28:14–15; Jb 1:6–12), and Satan’s chief sin was pride (1Tm 3:6), leading to his downfall (you will cease to be forever, Ezk 28:19).

Here Ezekiel presented an overview of the fall of Satan as a single act, but other passages reveal that it occurred in stages. Satan’s initial judgment was his expulsion from the position of God’s anointed cherub before His throne. God later expelled him from the mountain of God (heaven; cf. vv. 14, 16). Satan was cast from God’s presence in heaven (cf. Lk 10:18) but was still allowed access to God (cf. Jb 1:6–12; Zch 3:1–2). In the tribulation Satan will be cast from heaven and restricted to the earth (Rv 12:7–13). In the millennium he will be in the bottomless pit (Rv 20:1–3), and after his brief release at the end of the millennium (Rv 20:7–9) he will be cast into the lake of fire forever (Rv 20:10). Thus, all of Satan’s judgments are in view here, in compressed form.

F. Judgment on Sidon (28:20–26)

28:20–23. Ezekiel is told to Set your face (cf. 6:2) toward Sidon. This city-state, often associated with the more prominent Tyre, was located 25 miles north of Tyre on the Mediterranean (cf. Jr 25:22; 47:4; Jr 3:4; Zch 9:2; Lk 6:17; 10:13–14). God was against … Sidon. It would be judged with pestilence and sword.

28:24. Sidon was under judgment for her wicked influence on the house of Israel, which had been like the pain of a prickling brier or a … thorn (cf. 1Kg 18–19). The sin of Baal worship entered Israel through Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Sidon (1Kg 16:31), who married Israel’s King Ahab (874–853 BC) and corrupted Israel and Judah until the Babylonian captivity.

28:25–26. God will reveal His holiness by His faithfulness to Israel. God would manifest His holiness (cf. 20:41; 28:22, 25; 36:23; 38:16; 39:27) by gathering the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered. Israel would be judged for her sin, but God will never abandon her. She is unique among all nations because God had established His everlasting, unconditional covenant with her. God will execute judgments upon all nations who scorn Israel. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gn 13:14–17; 15:17–21; 17:21; 35:11–13) concerning blessing and the land of Israel have not been revoked. Israel will live in her own land, because God has given it to Jacob (cf. Ezk 37:25; Gn 28:10–13; 35:9–12; Pss 46:4–11; 105:8–11).

After the Babylonian captivity, many Jewish people returned to Israel (cf. Neh 1:3; 7:1–59). Although the walls and temple were rebuilt, the Jewish people did not live … securely. They were expelled from their homeland in AD 70 by the Romans. Since 1948 Israel has been a modern Jewish state, but the land is under constant threat of war. In the future, when she is restored to her land, Israel will enjoy God’s blessings, including security and prosperity, when God judges all the nations who scorn her. This promise, made through Ezekiel, awaits fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. When God finally punishes Israel’s enemies and blesses His chosen people, the nation will recognize Jesus as Messiah (Zch 12:10) and they will know that I am the Lord their God.

G. Judgment on Egypt (29:1–32:32)

Egypt is the focus of Ezekiel’s seventh and final prophecy against the nations. Like the message against Tyre, it is a series of seven oracles. While the judgment against Tyre is directed at its commercial identity, the judgment against Egypt focuses on its military power. Each of these messages against Egypt and its Pharaoh begins with the phrase, "The word of the Lord came to me" (29:1, 17; 30:1, 20; 31:1; 32:1, 17). Six of these oracles are dated (except 30:1) and only one (29:17) is out of chronological sequence, indicating the historical accuracy with which this prophecy was recorded. These were not mere random recollections, but a dated record of these oracles against Israel’s ancient foe.

Egypt and Israel have a long history, beginning with Abraham and the patriarchs (Gn 12:10–20; 46–50). After the exodus, Egypt was often in conflict with Israel (except for a short peace during Solomon’s reign). Israel sometimes made military alliances with Egypt, always with disastrous consequences (cf. 2Kg 18:21; Is 36:6; Jr 37:1–10).

1. Sin of Egypt (29:1–16)

The prophecy against the sin of Egypt has three sections, each closing with the phrase, used about 20 times in Ezekiel, "then they will know that I am the Lord" (vv. 6, 9, 16).

29:1–3a. This prophecy was given almost a year after the siege of Jerusalem began (cf. 24:1–2; 2Kg 25:1), in the tenth year (of Jehoiachin’s exile), in the tenth month on the twelfth of the month (12 Tevet/January 7, 587 BC), seven months before Jerusalem’s fall (2Kg 25:3–8).

The prophecy is against Pharaoh king of Egypt … against all Egypt. This was Pharaoh Hophra (589–570 BC; Jr 44:30) the grandson of Pharaoh Neco, who killed godly Josiah at Megiddo (cf. 2Ch 35:20–27). Pharaoh Hophra’s promise of military allegiance prompted Judah to rebel against Babylon, instigating Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem (cf. Jr 37:1–10).

29:3b–6a. Pharaoh is compared to a great monster (Hb. tannim) in the rivers (often translated "Nile"; cf. v. 3; 30:12; Gn. 41:1; Ex 2:3, 5; 4:9; 7:15) of Egypt. Tannim is translated to describe a variety of reptiles (Gn 1:21; Ex 7:9–10; Dt 32:33). The reference here is probably to the crocodile, which was abundant along the Nile. The Egyptian god Sobek was a crocodile, symbolizing Egypt’s strength, ferocity, and control of the Nile. Pharaoh was a god-king to the Egyptians and would be judged for his arrogance in saying, My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it (cf. Ezk 29:9).

God’s judgment on Egypt is presented with images of capturing a crocodile. He would put hooks in your jaws … and bring you up out of the midst of your rivers (the Nile), away from safety and protection. Pharaoh would be left in the wilderness … in the open field to be food to the beasts … and birds, despite Egypt’s great strength. Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the Lord.

29:6b–9a. The second section of this prophecy deals with Egypt’s sins of treachery against Israel. Depending on Egypt (cf. Jr 37:4–8) always brought disaster for Israel. It was like leaning on a staff made of reed to the house of Israel (2Kg 18:21; Is 36:6), which did not provide support but only broke and tore all their hands, leaving them weak with fear and making their loins quake.

Therefore, because of Egypt’s false promises of support for Israel, the Lord God would bring upon Egypt the sword of judgment (cf. 6:3), and the land of Egypt would become a desolation and waste. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

29:9b–13. Because of Egypt’s arrogance in saying The Nile is mine, and I have made it (cf. v. 3), therefore God was against her and her Nile (rivers, cf. v. 3). The extent of judgment was on all Egypt from Migdol (in the north) to Syene (in the south) and even to … Ethiopia in the east.

The devastation of Egypt would last for forty years. Egypt would be attacked by Babylon (vv. 17–21; cf. Jr 43:8–13; 46:1–25), and God would scatter Egypt among the nations. Although no archeological evidence has yet confirmed an Egyptian judgment as described here, it is unwise to dismiss a clear statement of Scripture on the basis of incomplete archaeological data. Perhaps it awaits future fulfillment.

29:14–16. When Egypt would return it would be the lowest of the kingdoms, nothing compared to its former greatness. Egypt would never again be the confidence of the house of Israel. Egypt’s political weakness would be a continual object lesson to Israel, bringing to mind, causing Israel to remember the sin of depending on Egypt instead of the Lord for safety. Then they will know that I am the Lord God.

2. Defeat of Egypt by Babylon (29:17–21)

29:17–18. This second prophecy against Egypt came in the twenty-seventh year, of Jehoiachin’s exile, the first month on the first day (1 Nissan/April 26, 571 BC). It is the latest dated prophecy in the book Ezekiel, but is recorded out of chronological sequence. It is probably recorded here to draw attention to the logical progression of Egypt’s judgment by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (vv. 1–16).

This prophecy begins with a review of Nebuchadnezzar’s 13-year siege of Tyre (585–572 BC). Every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare by the prolonged wearing of helmets and carrying materials for the siege works. Nebuchadnezzar had no wages from Tyre for the labor … he had performed against it. Evidently Tyre shipped off her wealth before she surrendered. Thus, Nebuchadnezzar found meager spoils of war for his long siege.

29:19–20. Therefore, the Lord was going to give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as a source of wealth and … spoil and … plunder as wages for his army. Prompted by economic necessity, as well as political expediency against a rival military power, Babylon attacked Egypt. Yet God was the force behind Babylon’s attack on Egypt: I have given him (Nebuchadnezzar) the land of Egypt for his labor which he performed, because they (the Babylonian army) acted for Me.

29:21. A promise to the exiles in Babylon concludes this prophecy against Egypt. On that day is an eschatological marker. In the future, God would make a horn sprout for the house of Israel. It looks to the future when the Lord will restore Israel to her land and judge the nations around her. The growth of a horn indicates a rise in power or strength (cf. 1Sm 2:1; 2Sm 22:3; 1Kg 22:11; Pss 18:2; 89:17; Jr 48:25). The idea was applied in an ultimate sense to the strength of the Messiah who would deliver Israel (cf. Ps 132:17; Lk 1:69). There would be a blessing on the nation of Israel after the judgment of Egypt, perhaps looking to the end times when Messiah will judge the nations, including Egypt, and restore Israel (Jl 3:19–21; Mc 7:7–20). At that time Egypt will come to know the Lord, and there will be a highway uniting Egypt, Assyria and Israel (cf. Is 19:19–25).

Although this broader section of Ezekiel has not had a messianic focus, the Messiah is a constant theme in Scripture. The prophets at times will insert a prophetic statement that depends upon and presupposes the concept of the Messiah. Moreover, the mixed metaphor of the words horn (keren) and sprout (tsemach) found here occur in only one other text, Ps 132:17. According to Daniel Block, this verse in which "Yahweh promises to ‘cause a horn to sprout for David’ … provides the basis for the long-standing messianic interpretation" of Ezk 29:21 (Daniel I. Block, "Bringing Back David: Ezekiel’s Messianic Hope," The Lord’s Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts, ed. Philip E. Satterthwaite, Richard S. Hess, and Gordon J. Wenham [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995], 169). This promise, then, is a direct messianic prediction of the future Davidic Messiah.

Now God said He would open Ezekiel’s mouth in their midst. This cannot refer to the ending of Ezekiel’s divine muteness (cf. 3:26). That had already ended in the 12th year of Jehoiachin’s exile (cf. 33:21–22; 585 BC), and this prophecy came in the 27th year (v. 17; 571 BC) 14 years later. Rather, when the exiles saw the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecies concerning Egypt’s fall to Babylon, his message would become clear to them. The exiles would recognize God’s character as He faithfully accomplished His promises of divine judgment, as well as the certainty of future hope and blessing for Israel. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

3. Destruction of Egypt and Her Allies (30:1–19)

This third prophecy is the only undated one of the seven oracles against Egypt, perhaps because it is a summary prophecy. Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned as the instrument of judgment (v. 10). It is subdivided into four sections, each beginning, "Thus says the Lord God" (vv. 2, 6, 10, 13).

30:1–4. The opening section is a lament over the destruction of Egypt: Wail, Alas for the day! Though judgment is certain, Ezekiel, like the other prophets (e.g., 6:11; 9:8; 11:13; Jr 30:7; Am 5:18), was not heartless, vindictive, or gleeful in his pronouncement. He viewed the days of reckoning with mourning.

This prophecy looks forward to the day! For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near. The day of the Lord (mentioned four times in vv. 2, 3) is frequently a reference to God’s eschatological judgment of the earth, when the nations will be judged and Israel fully restored (cf. Is 13:6–16, 9; 34:8; Jl 1:15; 2:1, 11; 3:14; Am 5:18, 20, Ob 15; Zph 1:7, 14; Zch 14:1, Mal 4:1–6; 1Th 5:2; 2Th 2:2; 2Pt 3:10). However, it can also refer to God’s temporal judgments (Lm 2:21–22), even as Judah and Israel had experienced God’s temporal judgment when punished for their sins (Ezk 7:1–14). This is the more likely case here with God’s day of judgment falling on Egypt with Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest. Nevertheless, this historical judgment foreshadows the future day of the Lord when God will judge the nations for the mistreatment of Israel (Gn 12:3).

It will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations, expanding the judgment beyond Egypt. Clouds when connected to the day of the Lord often pictured doom (cf. Ezk 30:18; 32:7–8; 34:12; Jl 2:2; Zph 1:14–15). The sword of judgment that had been drawn against Israel (cf. Ezk 21:1–17) will come upon Egypt. Egypt’s people would be slain, her wealth taken away, and the foundations of her society and power torn down.

30:5. Ethiopia, adjoining Egypt on the south, Put (Libya), Lud (northern Africa, cf. 27:10), and all Arabia were allies and mercenaries in Egypt’s army in league with them (Jr 46:8–9, 20–21). Thus, they will all fall … by the sword along with Egypt.

30:6–9. All those who support Egypt will fall … by the sword. Throughout the land, from Migdol to Syene (the northern and southern extremities of Egypt; cf. 29:10) the lands and cities would be desolate.

On that day, (cf. vv. 2, 3, 9), the Lord would set a fire in Egypt and send messengers … in ships to frighten … Ethiopia, and it would cause anguish for the certainty of the judgment: for behold it comes! Although these nations will not become followers of the one true God, they will know that I am the Lord (v. 8), and they will acknowledge that the God of Israel had predicted their destruction.

30:10–12. The hordes (multitude) of Egypt are mentioned repeatedly in chaps. 30–32, to emphasize Egypt’s political power (cf. vv. 10, 15; 31:2, 18; 32:12, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 31, 32). Egypt’s power would cease by the Lord’s judgment through the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and his ruthless army (cf. 23:24–27; 28:7; 32:12). Babylon’s attack is carefully explained as coming at the plan of the Lord: I will (three times in these two verses). Babylon was the tool God used to accomplish His judgment. The complex Nile canals irrigation system was a key to Egypt’s prosperity. It required constant upkeep. As a result of war the river would be neglected, dry up, and the land become desolate … by the hand of strangers (7:21; 11:9; 28:7, 10; 30:12).

30:13–19. No major city there would escape God’s wrath. He would destroy the idols and … the images … from Memphis (cf. v. 16), an important worship center with numerous temples (15 miles south of modern Cairo). He would judge Pathros in southern Egypt; Zoan (Rameses) in northeast Egypt (cf. Ex 1:11); Thebes, capital of Upper Egypt, present-day Luxor (cf. Jr 46:25); Sin (Pelusium), a fortress in the eastern Nile delta; On (Heliopolis) city of the sun, 6 miles from modern Cairo (cf. Jr 43:13); Pi-beseth near Goshen, 40 miles northeast of modern Cairo (cf. Gn 45:10); Tehaphnehes, the location of one of Pharaoh’s palaces (cf. Jr 2:16; 43:9; 43:7–8) on the Suez delta. God will break … the yoke bars, the oppressive power of Egypt, and make the pride of her power cease. A cloud of judgment will cover her (cf. Ezk 30:3; 32:7–8; 34:12; Jl 2:2; Zph 1:15). The people would go into captivity when God would execute judgments on Egypt. As before (vv. 18–19), they will know I am the Lord, meaning acknowledge His prediction of their destruction.

4. Scattering of Egypt (30:20–26)

30:20. The fourth of seven prophecies against Egypt was given in the eleventh year (of Jehoiachin’s exile) in the first month on the seventh day (7 Nissan/April 29, 587 BC), almost four months after Ezekiel’s first prophecy against Egypt (29:1). The first prophecy indicated the time when Egypt failed Israel as an ally against Babylon (cf. Jr 37:4–5). The fourth prophecy was recorded after God’s judgment of Egypt by the Babylonians: I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Possibly the time between the first and fourth prophecies against Egypt was approximately the length of time the siege on Jerusalem was lifted as Babylon repositioned its army against Egypt.

30:21–23. Here the image of Egypt shifts from a crocodile (cf. 29:3–7) to a person who was injured in combat. Nebuchadnezzar broke the arm of Egypt, so it was unable to defend itself. Egypt’s arm, its strength, was not even bound up for healing so that it could again be strong to hold the sword. God would break … both the strong and the (already) broken of Egypt’s arms, and the sword will fall from his hand. It would have no power to defend itself.

30:24–26. At the same time the Lord was destroying the power of Egypt, He would strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put My sword in his hand to be the agent to break the arms of Pharaoh, who would groan in defeat.

Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Egypt would succeed (cf. 29:1–20), then God would scatter the Egyptians among the nations (a fact stated twice for emphasis; vv. 23, 26; cf. 29:12). Egypt would follow Judah into exile. Then they will know that I am the Lord (cf. vv. 25, 26).

5. Allegory of Assyria and the Fall of Pharaoh King of Egypt (31:1–18)

a. Allegory of Assyria as a Cedar Tree (31:1–9)

31:1–2. The message, in allegorical form, was given to Pharaoh king of Egypt in the eleventh year (of Jehoiachin’s exile), in the third month, on the first day (1 Sevan/June 21, 587 BC), less than two months after the previous prophecy (30:20–26). Pharaoh Hophra was confident of Egypt’s power and thought there was no one compared to his greatness.

31:3–7. Egypt is challenged to Behold, Assyria and learn from that example. Assyria would have had great significance to Egypt for two reasons. First, Assyria had attacked Egypt and destroyed the capital of Thebes (633 BC; cf. Nah 3:8–10). Assyria could be compared with Egypt in military might. Second, Egypt would have been aware that Assyria had been destroyed by Babylon. Now using Assyria as an example, Ezekiel prophesied the same fate for Egypt.

Assyria is compared to a cedar in Lebanon, the stateliest tree in the region (cf. Jdg 9:15; 1Kg 4:33; 5:6, 8; 2Kg 14:9; Ezr 3:7; Ps 92:12; 104:16). At the apex of her power Assyria dominated the Middle East, towering like a cedar higher than all the trees of the field. The key cities of Assyria were situated at or near the Tigris River and the waters made the nation grow. All the birds of the heavens … and … all the beasts, that is all the surrounding nations, found protection (lived under its shade; cf. Ezk 30:6, 12, 17).

31:8–9. Using hyperbole, Ezekiel stressed Assyria’s grandeur: The cedars in God’s garden (Eden, cf. 28:13) could not compare with its beauty. All the trees of Eden … were jealous of it. The fall of Assyria was the perfect example to show Egypt the effects of God’s judgment.

b. Downfall of Assyria (31:10–14)

31:10–11. Because … its heart is haughty Assyria was judged for its pride, as were Judah (16:56), Tyre (27:3; 28:2), and Egypt (30:6). Therefore the Lord would give Assyria into the hand of a despot (lit., "mighty one") of the nations for its wickedness. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell to Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, in 612 BC. The rest of the Assyrian army was crushed by Nebuchadnezzar in 609 BC.

31:12. The alien tyrants of the nations, Babylon, (cf. 28:7, 30:11; 32:12) had cut … down the mighty tree of Assyria and its branches have fallen. Then those who had sought protection under Assyria’s shade (cf. vv. 6, 17), her allies, left her. The ruin of Assyria was an object lesson to other nations, especially Egypt.

31:13–14. Now Assyria is a ruin … they have all been given over to death, destined to go down to the pit (death and the grave; cf. 26:20–21). Assyria’s fall is as an object lesson to other nations (all the birds … all the beasts … all the trees), especially to Egypt.

c. Descent of Assyria into the Grave (31:15–18)

31:15–16. On the day of Assyria’s fall, when it went down to Sheol, the Lord caused lamentations, the nations mourned her destruction. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers were the heart of the Assyrian empire. God closed all the waters of Assyria, the deep (subterranean waters) and held back its rivers. Southwest of Assyria, Lebanon mourned, and all the trees of the field wilted (v. 15). The nations were alarmed (quake) that a power as strong and mighty as Assyria could ever fall (v. 16).

31:17–18. Egypt was Assyria’s chief ally prior to Assyria’s fall to Babylon. Ezekiel drove home the point of the Assyria story, rephrasing the opening question (cf. vv. 2, 18): Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in glory and greatness? Only mighty Assyria was similar to Egypt, and Assyria had fallen. Likewise, Egypt’s end would be one of shame like that of the uncircumcised (cf. 28:10; 32:19), who were slain by the sword and buried without proper respect. For emphasis Ezekiel repeated the point: So is Pharaoh and all his hordes (cf. 30:10).

6. Lament for Pharaoh (32:1–16)

32:1–2a. In the twelfth year (of Jehoiachin’s exile), in the twelfth month on the first day (1 Adar/March 3, 585 BC), the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, and he gave his sixth prophecy against Egypt. The fall of Egypt was now so certain that Ezekiel was told to take up a lamentation (funeral dirge) concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt. Ezekiel had already written laments for Judah (chap. 19), the city of Tyre (26:17–18; 27), and the king of Tyre (28:12–19). The lament for Egypt is in three parts (vv. 2b, 3–10, 11–16).

32:2b. Pharaoh Hophra had compared himself to both a young lion of the nations and the monster (large crocodile; cf. notes on 29:3) in the seas (cf. 29:2–5). The monster had muddied … and fouled up the placid water of the rivers (Nile). The political actions of Pharaoh were disturbing the international waters as he vied with Babylon for power.

32:3–5. Using the picture of the crocodile, Thus says the Lord God, Now I will spread my net over you. God would lead a company of many of Pharaoh’s enemies on a crocodile hunt, and they will lift you up in My net (cf. 29:3–5). Pharaoh would be trapped by his enemies and removed from power. God would cast Pharaoh on the open field (the surface of the ground, v. 4) where his body would be food for the birds and … the beasts (cf. 29:5–6).

32:6–8. The land would drink the discharge of your blood and God would extinguish him, snuff him out like a candle. Pharaoh was worshiped as the son of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, but the Lord would darken the heavenly lights over him and set darkness on Egypt (v. 8). The references to blood and darkness are allusions to God’s plague judgments of blood and darkness on Egypt at the time of the exodus (cf. Ex 7:19; 10:21–23).

32:9–10. The destruction of Egypt would trouble the hearts of many peoples (cf. 26:16–18; 27:35; 28:19). As God revealed His power in judgment on Egypt, kings would be horribly afraid when they saw God brandish My sword before them. Whenever major world powers fall, lesser nations tremble every moment for fear of their own future. If mighty Egypt could be destroyed, no one was safe.

32:11–12. This third section of the lament changes from the figurative language of the crocodile to a direct description of Egypt’s fall to Babylon. The sword of the king of Babylon will come upon Egypt. Pharaoh’s army, Egypt and all its hordes (cf. 30:10), would be crushed by the tyrants of the nations (cf. 29:17–21; 30:10–12, 24).

32:13. Judgment would strike both beasts and man. Figuratively, Pharaoh had muddied the waters with his international intrigue (cf. v. 2). Literally, the Nile was muddy through the daily activities of man and beasts.

32:14–16. After Egypt’s judgment, Then God would make the waters settle because there would be no activity to disturb the water. The rivers would run like oil, smooth and undisturbed, because the land would be destitute of inhabitants. When God made the land of Egypt a desolation … then they shall know that I am the Lord. This lamentation (vv. 12–16) would be a chant of the surrounding daughters of the nations … Over Egypt and over all her hordes (cf. 30:10, 15; 31:1; 32:18).

7. Descent of Egypt into Sheol (32:17–32)

32:17–18. This is the last of Ezekiel’s seven prophecies against Egypt, and his final oracle against a foreign nation. It came in the twelfth year (of Jehoiachin’s exile) on the fifteenth day of the month (Adar 15/March 17, 585 BC). The month was not named, but it is often assumed to be the same month as the previous prophecy (v. 1), exactly two weeks after the preceding message (cf. v. 1). Ezekiel is told to wail for the hordes of Egypt, who were assigned to Sheol, the nether world (cf. 31:15), with the daughters of the powerful nations surrounding Egypt, those who go down to the pit, Sheol (cf. 26:18–21). God’s word of judgment was so sure that Egypt’s appointment to the grave was already made.

32:19–21. This lament opens with the derisive question: Whom do you surpass in beauty? Despite Egypt’s beauty and power, it was told, Go down and make your bed with the uncircumcised. Egypt’s pride would be shattered when her people were destroyed. She would be forced to take her place in death with "the uncircumcised." This word uncircumcised is used 10 times in this chapter (cf. vv. 19, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32) to describe a pagan’s death of shame and defeat by the sword (cf. comments on 28:10). The language is poetic, and Ezekiel’s purpose was not to give a precise description of the afterlife. However, this passage confirms there is individual conscience existence and identity after death when the nations from the midst of Sheol taunt them.

32:22–23. In Sheol, Egypt would join Assyria (cf. chap. 31) and all her company. The descriptions of the nations in this section (vv. 22–32) are similar: All of them are slain, fallen by the sword (vv. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32), and lie with the uncircumcised (cf. v. 19).

32:24–25. Elam, the warlike nation east of Babylon (cf. Gn 14:1–17), had been subdued by Assyria and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Jr 49:34–39). They were already in the grave.

32:26–28. Meshech and Tubal (cf. 27:13) were probably in what is now northeastern Turkey. They were Gog’s allies (chaps. 38–39). They carried on a long battle with the Assyrians for control of the southern Black Sea region. These are especially wicked warriors who instilled their terror in the area. They would not even be buried beside the heroes (cf. 30:10) of the uncircumcised (cf. v. 19), but their iniquity rested on their bones.

32:29. Edom had already received notice of God’s judgment (cf. 25:12–14). Her kings and princes would be slain by the sword and, as with the uncircumcised, awaiting Egypt’s arrival.

32:30. The final group named included the chiefs of the north and all the Sidonians, (cf. 28:21) the Phoenician city-states. The mighty maritime powers would suffer the same disgrace. Their past exploits could not save them from the pit of death (cf. 26:20–21).

32:32. Although the Lord instilled a terror of Pharaoh in the land of the living, he did not learn to fear the Lord, and he and all his hordes (cf. 30:10) went down among the uncircumcised (cf. v. 19) separated for the Lord for eternity.

IV. Eschatological Blessings for Israel (33:1–48:35)

The restoration and blessing of Israel culminates the book of Ezekiel. After announcing judgment on Israel for her sins (chaps. 25–32) and judgment on the Gentile nations for their iniquity (chaps. 25–32), the book concludes by focusing on the promised restoration of Israel (chaps. 33–48). God is always faithful to His Word. He made a covenant with His chosen people Israel, and He will fulfill His promises to her. There will be new life for Israel under the leadership of her true Shepherd, the Messiah, and the final defeat of her enemies (chaps. 33–39), along with a new worship order for Israel in the messianic kingdom, at the messianic temple in the land of Israel (chaps. 40–48).

A. New Life for Israel (33:1–39:29)

Prior to the fall of Jerusalem, warnings of judgment dominated Ezekiel’s oracles, with glimmers of hope. After the fall the pattern is reversed, with Ezekiel’s messages focusing on the future hope, with a few judgment warnings. The only date in these chapters is the day the news of the fall of Jerusalem reached the exiles (33:21; 5 Sivan/January 9, 585 BC).

In the future, the false leaders will be replaced with a true Shepherd who will guide the people (chap. 34). The external enemies of Israel will be judged (chap. 35). The people will be restored both to the land and to their God (chaps. 36–37), and their security will be guaranteed by God Himself (chaps. 38–39).

1. Ezekiel Is Reappointed as a Watchman (33:1–33)

a. Ezekiel’s Duties as a Watchman (33:1–20)

33:1–3. Ezekiel was given a renewed call to speak to the sons of your people and function as a watchman (cf. 3:16–17). Before highlighting the message of hope, God reminded the prophet and the people of their responsibilities. When anyone sees the sword coming, if he blows on the trumpet and warns the people, he has carried out his responsibility.

33:4–5. If anyone hears … the trumpet and does not take the warning, he is responsible for the consequences, his blood will be on his own head. If he had take[n] the warning, he would have been delivered.

33:6–9. If a watchman saw the sword coming, but failed to blow the trumpet warning of danger, and the people were captured, then the blood of those killed would be required from the watchman’s hand by the Lord. The ineffective watchman would be held guilty. This message parallels the message about the question of responsibility and God’s justice in chap. 18 (see comments on chap. 18). God appointed Ezekiel as a watchman for the house of Israel.

33:10. Rather than blaming their fathers (18:2) or God (18:19, 25) for their situation, at last the exiles took responsibility for their iniquity: Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us. They realize their sins: we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive? (lit., "live").

33:11. God answered by reminding Israel of His character: I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live (cf. 18:23, 32). He gave a clear call for personal action, Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why … will you die, O house of Israel?

33:12–13. A person’s destiny is always decided on the basis of his faith, the legitimacy of which is expressed in his behavior (cf. Jms 2:14–26; Gn 15:6). A person who claims to be righteous, but commits iniquity has demonstrated his lack of righteousness and he will die.

33:14–16. But when a wicked person turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, his behavior has demonstrated a change of relationship with God and he shall surely live; he shall not die.

33:17–20. Ezekiel’s fellow citizens had no basis for accusing the Lord of not being right. There are no grounds for accusing the Lord of injustice: O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways. God’s judgment of an individual’s ways was reckoned on their obedience to Him, based on personal faith, not outward ritual (see comments on 20:10–12).

b. The Opening of Ezekiel’s Mouth (33:21–33)

33:21–22. Jerusalem fell, and the temple was burned on 9 Av/August 14, 586 BC (2Kg 25:8). It took several months to travel from Jerusalem to Babylon (Ezr 7:8–9), so in the twelfth year of our exile, on the fifth of the tenth month (5 Sivan/January 19, 585 BC, news reached the refugees from Jerusalem in Babylon, The city has been taken. In the evening, before the news arrived, the refugees came to speak with Ezekiel, and the Lord opened the prophet’s mouth. The selective muteness imposed by God for seven years, allowing Ezekiel to speak only God’s judgments, was now lifted (cf. 3:26–27; 24:27), and he was no longer speechless.

33:23–24. Two groups are addressed by the word of the Lord in the conclusion of this chapter: the Jewish people who remained in Israel (vv. 23–29) and the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile (vv. 30–33).

First were those Jewish people who had escaped death in Jerusalem and who live in those waste places in the land of Israel and who refused to acknowledge God’s judgment. They used God’s promise to Abraham (Gn 12:1–7) as their justification to remain in the land. If the one man, Abraham, had a right to the land, certainly, they reasoned, the many Israelites remaining there had a right to it.

33:25. Although the promises to Abraham were unconditional, God is righteous to judge His people for their sin, and the Babylonian exile was His judgment. This was explained in the conditions of the Mosaic covenant, made 800 years earlier (Dt 28). God gave the land to Abraham unconditionally (Gn 12:1–3; 15:15–21), however, the enjoyment of and security in the land was predicated on obedience. The people who were claiming their right to remain in the land based on the promise to Abraham failed to realize that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Gn 15:6), while they remained in unbelief and wickedness. They ate meat with the blood in it (cf. Lv 17:10–14), worshiped idols (Ex 20:4–6), and shed blood (cf. Ex 20:1–3). The right to possess the land depended on spiritual obedience, so the Lord twice asked: Should you then possess the land? (vv. 25, 26).

33:26–27. They were committing abominations while proclaiming their right to possess the land and would not be able to rely on their own sword for self-defense. Soon they would experience the pains of judgment. Those in Jerusalem’s ruins, waste places, would fall by the sword; those who fled to the open field would be eaten by wild beasts; and those who hid in strongholds and caves would die of pestilence.

33:28–29. Those were the same judgments the people of Jerusalem had experienced earlier (cf. 5:17; 14:21). Then they will know that I am the Lord when God’s judgment makes the land of Judah and Israel a desolation and a waste.

33:30. Ezekiel’s message to fellow citizens in Babylonian exile had a mixed reception. There were some who were faithful to the Lord and recognized Ezekiel as a prophet. But the majority of the exiles, although interested in Ezekiel, did not obey Ezekiel’s message. They would talk about Ezekiel by the walls and in the doorways and frequently gathered to hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord—without changing their behavior.

33:31–32. Although they would come and sit before Ezekiel to hear his words … they [did] not do them (cf. Jms 1:22–25). Instead they followed their own lustful desires. His message to these exiles was as attractive as a sensual song sung with a beautiful voice. They liked to hear [his] words but they [did] not practice them.

33:33. But a day would come when everything Ezekiel said comes to pass … then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst. When their day of accountability came, those who heard the word would be forced to acknowledge the truth of Ezekiel’s prophetic message.

2. Present False Shepherds Contrasted with the Future True Shepherd of Israel (34:1–31)

a. Present False Shepherds of Israel (34:1–10)

34:1–3. The Lord commanded Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. The prophets and priests of Israel were often called shepherds (cf. Ps 78:70–72; Is 44:28; 63:11; Jr 23:1–4; 25:34–38). Their job was to be strong, caring leaders who protected Israel as a shepherd guards his flock. This section itemizes the sins of the false shepherds (Ezk 34:1–6), followed by the pronouncement of judgment (vv. 7–10).

Their first sin was economic exploitation, putting their own interests above those of the people. Woe to the shepherds of Israel who had been feeding themselves, when they should have been feeding the flock. Israel’s corrupt leaders had committed "white collar crime," collecting money for themselves instead of properly using it to care for the people. To these false shepherds, the flock was a source of wealth to be exploited rather than a trust to be protected: You eat the fat and use the wool, you slaughtered the fat sheep without feeding the flock.

34:4. Their second sin was cruelty to the people. These false shepherds had not healed sheep who were diseased or injured (broken) nor brought back the scattered or sought for the lost sheep. They did not take care of the physical and spiritual needs of the people. Instead they treated the people with severity and dominated them. They ruled … harshly, brutally, and selfishly.

34:5–6. The third sin was their failure to protect the people from danger. The shepherds’ lack of care for the people caused them to be scattered (repeated three times in two verses) and become food for every beast (enemy). Israel’s leaders had allowed the nation to fall into sin. Consequently Israel was overtaken by the Assyrians (721 BC) and the Babylonians (586 BC), who had scattered Israel and Judah among the nations. Even worse, the spiritual leaders had become false prophets, so there was no one to search or seek for the flock and lead them back to the Lord.

34:7–8. These false shepherds are reminded, with an oath, as I live, the rightful owner of flock is the Lord God, who calls these sheep My flock or My sheep 13 times in vv. 7–31. God still called the Jewish people My sheep even though they were disobedient and even under His judgment. The Jewish people are always the apple of His eye and beloved for the sake of the forefathers (cf. Dt 7:6–9; 32:9–10; 33:27; Mc 7:18–20; Zch 2:8; Rm 11:28–29; see comments on 20:42–44 for God’s faithfulness to Israel and His purpose for providing a future restoration for her).

34:9–10. Because these shepherds had neglected their responsibility, the sheep were in danger, so God said I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them (cf. comments on vv. 7–8). The false shepherds would be judged for their actions. They would cease from feeding sheep … and not feed themselves anymore. Now God will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they (the people/sheep) will not be food for them (the false shepherds). Because the false shepherds had brought Israel to ruin, God Himself would intercede and rescue His people as the true Shepherd of Israel, as described in the next section (vv. 11–31).

b. Future True Shepherd of Israel (34:11–31)

In contrast to false shepherds, God would care for His flock (vv. 11–16), judge between His sheep (vv. 17–22), and set His Shepherd, the Messiah to care for them (vv. 23–31).

34:11–14. The Lord God Himself will search for My sheep and seek them out. The flock was scattered because of cruel, indifferent shepherds (vv. 2–6), but they would be rescued and restored by the Lord, the Great Shepherd. God would intervene personally on Israel’s behalf and care for My sheep, highlighting God as owner and loving caregiver of the flock of Israel.

God would rescue and deliver [Israel] from all the places … they were scattered … I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land. The regathering will be from worldwide dispersion back to their own land. God will provide a good pasture for them by streams … on the mountains of Israel (cf. Ps 23). This prophecy was not fulfilled when the Jewish exiles returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. They returned to Israel, but faced immediate opposition as they worked to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem, as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. Furthermore, the future return is from many countries, not just Babylon. Since AD 70, Jewish people have been scattered around the world, and the 1948 revival of the State of Israel brought Jewish people back from everywhere. Even so, that is not the return in peace and rest pictured here. This still awaits future fulfillment in the millennium.

34:15–16. God’s shepherding care is a dynamic contrast to the treatment by the false shepherds (cf. v. 10). He will lead them to rest … seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick. The false shepherds, now portrayed as the fat and the strong sheep who had abused the flock (cf. vv. 1–10, 22–20) would face judgment. This prophecy was not fulfilled with the return from Babylon because: (1) the return here is from worldwide dispersion; (2) when Israel returned after the exile they did not fully know the Lord as this passage describes; and (3) the returned exiles did not experience the peace and rest this passage describes.

34:17–19. God will care for His flock by judging between one sheep and another, between the rams (male sheep) and the male goats on the basis of their faith, as demonstrated by their behavior. The false leaders oppressed the people by using the good pasture for themselves, and destroying the rest (tread down). They would drink the clear waters, then foul them by trampling the stream.

34:20–22. These fat sheep, the wicked leaders, would be judged for brutalizing the lean sheep, the innocent weak people. So God would deliver My flock (cf. vv. 7–8) by judging between one sheep and another.

34:23–24. God will then set over His flock one shepherd (cf. Ec 12:11). The Lord God is identified as the Shepherd of Israel (cf. Gn 48:15; 49:24; Ps 23; Ec 12:11; Jr 31:10; Mt 2:6). He will set over Israel My servant David to care for Israel. Although some suggest this is the resurrected King David, My servant David is better understood as David’s greater Son, the Messiah. Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10:11–18). This Shepherd will be from the line of David, but will be fully divine (cf. Pss 2:1–6; 89:4, 20, 29; Jr 23:5–6; Lk 1:69), not a resurrected David. The term "Son of David" is used 20 times in the NT as a messianic title (e.g., Mt 1:1; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30–31; 21:9, 15; 22:42; Lk 1:32; 18:39; Rm 1:3; 2Tm 2:8). As Feinberg points out: "The verb ‘set up’ (v. 23) does not imply the resurrection of David himself, but the appointment of Another (cf. the language of 2 Sam. 7:12 for the same verb; see Jr. 23:5; 30:9; Hosea 3:5—in the last two referenced He is already called David)" (Feinberg, Prophecy of Ezekiel, 198).

34:24. This shepherd David will be the prince among them (34:24 [twice]; 37:25; 44:3). In Hebrew the word nasi, translated prince, is literally "ruler," and does not mean "the son of a king" as it is commonly understood in English. Nasi is often synonymous with melech, "king" (e.g., 1Sm 9:16; 2Sm 3:38; Ezk 12:10, 12; for an in-depth study cf. E. A. Speiser, "Background and Function of the Biblical Nasi," CBQ 25 [1963]: 111–17). In place of the false shepherds, God will install the Messiah as the King and true Shepherd to tend His sheep.

34:25–26. The Lord will make a covenant of peace with the Jewish people under the kingship of Messiah. The peace will be more than an absence of war or temporary armistice. The word shalom means whole or complete. Therefore, it refers to the nation coming into a whole or right relationship with the Lord and the realization of all the blessings of the new covenant (cf. Jr 31:31–34). The elimination of harmful beasts will be fulfilled in the messianic kingdom (cf. Is 11:6–9). God will make the places around My hill (Mount Zion, Pss 2:6; 48:1, 2) a blessing to surrounding nations (cf. Zch 8:13). The peace that Israel has always longed for, which the Lord has promised in the Messianic Age (Is 11:1–9), will be experienced when the land is blessed with showers in their season … showers of blessing, just as He promised to provide rain as a reward for obedience (cf. Dt 11:14; 28:12).

34:27–28. The land will be fruitful when the tree … will yield its fruit and the earthits increase (cf. Lv 26:5; Am 9:13). The Lord will remove every harmful element from the land, and they will be secure on their land (Is 32:18) from every threat and know that I am the Lord, recognizing God has delivered them. Israel will be delivered … from the hand of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be a prey to the nations who are described as the beasts of the earth (cf. Dn 7). The Jewish people will live securely in their land, and no one will make them afraid.

34:29. The Lord will establish for them a renowned planting place, a homeland of significance, peace, and security, characterized elsewhere as under the leadership of the Messiah (cf. Is 4:2; 60:21; 61:3). They will be safe from beasts and famine—such threats being typically associated with judgment and war (cf. Ezk 5:17; 14:21; Dt 32:24; Jr 16:4; Rv 6:8)—as well as safe from the insults of the nations. All false accusations, slander, mockery, and anti-Semitic remarks will be silenced.

34:30–31. In the millennial kingdom, under the leadership of the Good Shepherd, Son of David, peace at last will be a reality for Israel and the Jewish people, and they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people (vv. 27, 30, 31; Lv 26:11–12). God will restore Israel because of His faithful love for them and their unique relationship to Him. Israel will know they are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are men, and I am your God (cf. vv. 7–8; Ps 100:3).

3. Edom, the Enemy of Israel, Destroyed (35:1–15)

This is Ezekiel’s second prophecy (cf. comments on 25:12–14) against Edom. Here the nation is identified by its common synonym, Mount Seir, a mountain range south of the Dead Sea. Because of Edom’s long enmity toward Israel, it became the prototype of all Israel’s later foes. The judgment on Edom represents God’s judgment on all nations based on any nation’s treatment of Israel (cf. Gn 12:3). The prophecy against Edom is in three parts, each ending with Ezekiel’s hallmark expression, "Then you [they] will know that I am the Lord" (Ezk 35:4, 9, 15).

35:1–4. God proclaimed inescapable judgment on Mount Seir, saying, I am against you and would stretch out My hand against you (cf. 25:13; 35:3; Ex 3:20) and make Edom a desolation (cf. Ezk 35:3, 4, 7, 9, 14, 15) and a waste.

35:5–6. The judgment on Edom follows the because … therefore format (cf. 25:1–17; 35:10–11). Because of Edom’s everlasting enmity against Israel, therefore God swears by Himself (as I live) to underscore the certainty of Edom’s desolation (cf. comments on 25:12).

Because of this everlasting enmity, Edom had delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, when Babylon attacked Jerusalem. Edom was an ally of Nebuchadnezzar therefore, for this hatred and cruelty, Edom will be judged (cf. 25:12; 36:5; Ps 137:7; Ob 10, 14).

Edom’s judgment would parallel her iniquity. Because Edom had assisted in Israel’s bloodshed, God would give Edom over to bloodshed (four times in v. 6). The principle here is Edom will experience bloodshed because they had not hated bloodshed. The whole country—mountains … hills … valleys … and ravines—will be filled with those slain.

35:7–9. Mount Seir will become a waste place, filled with its slain. Edom will be an everlasting desolation. These images of battle await an end-time fulfillment when Messiah will judge the enemies of Israel (cf. Zch 14). However in the messianic kingdom, all nations will be brought under the dominion of Messiah, and even a remnant of Edom will be subject to the Lord (cf. vv. 14–15; Am 9:12).

35:10. Edom is under judgment because when Israel fell, Edom wanted to make the two lands, Israel and Judah, mine, and … possess them. Edom failed to realize the Lord was there in the land of Israel with His people Israel. Israel is uniquely the Lord’s land (Lv 25:23; Pss 10:16; 78:54; Ezk 25:8; 36:20; Zch 9:16). Although Israel and Judah were judged for their sin, God never abrogated the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants (cf. Gn. 12:1–7; 26:3–5; 35:11–12). Edom was trying to usurp Israel’s title deed to the land, which had been guaranteed by God to Israel forever. This is a good attitude-check for the 21st century as well—when we think of Israel, we should remember, "the Lord is there."

35:11. The judgment on Edom was based on Edom’s behavior toward Israel: therefore … I will deal with you according to your anger … envy … because of your hatred against the Jewish people. Through judgment, God would make Myself known among them (the Jewish people) when I judge you (Edom).

35:12–13. Edom had dared to plot against God’s chosen people, and God had heard all your revilings ("contempt," "blasphemy") spoken against the mountains of Israel. However, Edom was not showing contempt only for Israel. God said, you have spoken arrogantly against Me and have multiplied your words against Me; I have heard it. Whenever anyone speaks against, persecutes, plots evil against, or demeans Israel and the Jewish people, that person is actually speaking against the God of Israel (cf. Ps 83; Jr 48:26, 42). Even if these malicious statements are made against Israel when she is being disobedient to the Lord, it does not justify anti-Semitism. The proper attitude is to pray for the Jewish people to return to the Lord their God, but never to side with Israel’s enemies in attacking or castigating the nation. This is because the enemies of Israel are actually the enemies of the God of Israel (Ps 83). Followers of Jesus must never join the enemies of God in persecuting His people, nor stand idly by when observing the anti-Semitism of others. Rather, followers of Jesus must stand with the Lord in the defense of His beloved chosen people. It is up to the Lord to judge. His followers should be careful to leave any correction in His hands and never become arrogant toward Israel (cf. Rm 11:17–20).

35:14–15. The time when all the earth rejoices is in the millennial kingdom (cf. Is 44:23; 55:12), then Edom will be made a desolation as an object lesson for all nations. When God restores Israel in the future, He will judge the nations of the world and the individual within those nations, based on their treatment of Israel (cf. Mt 25:31–46). In her boast against God, Edom rejoiced when the house of Israel … was desolate. Likewise God will make a desolation of Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it. Edom’s treatment of Israel determined her fate: Then they will know that I am the Lord.

4. The People of Israel Blessed (36:1–38)

This section about blessing on Israel (35:12; 36:1), makes a dramatic contrast to the focus on judgment on Edom (chap. 35). The chapter is united by its images of mountains. The mountains of Israel represent the whole nation, just as Mount Seir represents Edom. When God intervenes on Israel’s behalf, the "mountains" of Israel’s enemies will be judged, but the "mountains of Israel" will be blessed.

The first section of the prophecy (vv. 1–15) uses the because-therefore format to compare the judgment on the nations for their treatment of Israel with Israel’s restoration. The second section of the prophecy (vv. 16–38) focuses specifically on the blessing on the people of Israel.

a. Israel’s Mountains Will Prosper (36:1–15)

36:1–2. The mountains of Israel represent the people not just the geography. Because the enemy of Israel had spoken against Israel, and claimed the everlasting heights of Israel, even Mount Zion, as their own, judgment was certain. The term everlasting heights points to Israel’s eternal land grant by God, and His future plans for His land (cf. v. 5; Gn 12:1–3; 17:8; 48:4). Some have challenged the eternal nature of the land grant, but see the comments on Jr 7:1–15, particularly 7:7, for support for the eternality of God’s gift of the land to Israel.

36:3–4. Therefore God promised to punish Israel’s enemies, the nations which are round about Israel, for their evil actions against her mountains, hills, ravines, and valleys: they had crushed, slandered with talk and whispering, and made Israel a prey and a derision, attacking and mocking her.

36:5–7. Their wicked behavior against Israel ignited God’s fire of My jealousy ([twice], vv. 5, 6) against all enemies of Israel, rest of the nations, and all Edom, who had appropriated My land for themselves with joy and scorn.

God’s concern for His people is seen in His jealousy for her. This is a reflection of God’s love, and generally refers to His exclusive covenant relationship with Israel (Ex 20:5; Ezk 36:6; 39:25; Nah 1:2; Zch 1:14; 8:2). The Lord is jealous for His Holy Name, His people, and His land, and will ultimately act in their defense (cf. Ezk 39:25; Nah 1:2; Zch 1:14–17; 8:2–3). The Lord was personally insulted by the derision of the nations against Israel, which He identified as My land (Ezk 36:5). Therefore God swore by keeping His covenant to Israel (cf. 20:5, 15, 23; 47:14) that the nations (v. 5, 7) who had insult[ed] Israel (v. 6) will also endure … insults, the consequences of God’s judgment.

36:8–11. An immediate contrast is presented between the judgment on Israel’s enemies and the restoration and blessing on Israel: But you, O mountains of Israel. In a reversal of the catastrophe that God had earlier called against the mountains of Israel in judgment for sin (6:1–7), the restored Israel will be productive, branches will bear … fruit, and fields will be cultivated. The population will multiply, cities will be inhabited, and waste places will be rebuilt.

36:12. There will be permanent peace for My people Israel, highlighting the Lord’s relationship with His people. They will experience the blessing of the land of Israel being their inheritance (cf. comments on vv. 1–2), and they will never again be bereaved of their children. God will restore the land so it can provide for the restored Jewish people. This will take place when Israel possesses her land during Messiah’s millennial reign.

36:13–15. Because of the past wars and famine in the land, Gentile nations said Israel was a devourer of men, often bereaved of her children. God would remove Israel’s reproach. The insults and disgrace Israel had suffered by the nations (vv. 3–6, 15) will cease when God judges Israel’s enemies and blesses her, so she will not stumble any longer. Israel will be given her position of blessing among the nations, recognized as God’s chosen people (cf. Dt 28:13; Zch 8:13, 20–23).

b. Israel’s People to Be Regathered (36:16–38)

Ezekiel reviewed Israel’s sinful past (vv. 16–21), then discussed the nation’s future restoration in three sections, each beginning "Thus says the Lord God" (vv. 22, 33, 37).

36:16–19. Before explaining Israel’s future cleansing, Ezekiel reminded the exiles when the house of Israel was living in their own land, their sin had led to God’s judgment. They defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their wicked behavior was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity, the menstrual cycle that made a woman ceremonially unclean (cf. Lv 15:19–23). Similarly, the land had been defiled by blood offered in sacrifice to idols (cf. Ezk 33:25).

Therefore God poured out His wrath on them and scattered and dispersed the Jewish people throughout the lands. His judgment was based on their ways and their deeds.

36:20–21. Where they lived in exile among the nations, Israel’s behavior profaned God’s reputation, and He had concern for [His] holy name (cf. comments on 20:9; 36:22–23). The Gentiles said, these are the people of the Lord, yet they have come out of His land (cf. v. 5). Gentile nations viewed the sovereign God through the actions of His people Israel, and His holy name had been profaned. They thought God had failed to keep His people in His land, so His name/reputation, was insulted.

36:22–23. Therefore the Lord said to the house of Israel He was going to take action, not for your sake … but for My holy name (cf. 20:9). Although Israel had no intrinsic merit that prompted God to act on her behalf, yet He would vindicate the holiness of [His] great name (cf. 20:9, 41–44; 28:22, 25; 38:16; 39:27). He would restore Israel to her own land because His character was at stake. God had shown His justice when He punished Israel for her sin. He will show His grace and faithfulness when He restores her and fulfills His covenant promises. Then the nations (Gentiles) will know that I am the Lord … when I prove Myself holy among you (Israel) in their sight.

36:24. God will prove Himself holy when He gathers Israel from … the lands of their dispersion and brings them back to their own land. He will first restore the nation physically and geographically (v. 24), and then spiritually (vv. 25–28). The vision of the dry bones (chap. 37) expands the sequence of restoration.

This return to the land goes beyond the return from Babylon because the future regathering will be not just from Babylon but also from all the lands where the Jewish people have been scattered.

36:25. God promised, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. This is reference to the Mosaic sprinkling or washing with water as part of the Levitical sacrifices. It indicates cleansing from ceremonial defilement (cf. Lv 15:21–22; Nm 19:17–19). Since Israel’s sin was like the ceremonial impurity of menstruation (Ezk 36:17) her cleansing was compared to the ceremonial act of purification. This purification will occur in the coming Messianic Age. God will purify Israel from her sins, and this cleansing will be followed by the impartation of new life.

36:26–28. God will give the purified Israel a new heart and … a new spirit. In place of a heart of stone He will give Israel a heart of flesh (cf. 11:19; 18:31), not hardened toward the Lord, but alive in Him. With God’s Spirit indwelling them (cf. 37:14), they will be motivated to walk in (obey) His statutes and observe (keep) His ordinances (cf. 37:24).

God’s restoration will not be simply an undoing of Israel’s sin to bring her to a state of neutrality. Rather it will be the implanting of a new nature in the Jewish people, making them righteous. This is an application of the new covenant introduced by Jeremiah (cf. Jr 31:31–33) and initiated by the Lord Jesus with Israel through His disciples (Mt 26:26–32; Lk 22:14–20). Since the initiation of the new covenant at the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, any individual who trusts Jesus as his or her Savior can experience the spiritual aspects of the new covenant. However, in the future all Israel (all the Jewish people living at the time of the tribulation), when they call upon the Lord to save them and recognize Jesus as He returns, (Zch 12:10) will be saved and become partakers of the new covenant (cf. Rm 11:26). Implanting God’s Spirit in believing Israelites will produce a new spiritual relationship between Israel and her God. The Lord established a unique relationship with the Jewish people as His chosen people at the call of Abraham, a relationship based on God’s faithfulness to them, regardless of Israel’s obedience and spiritual condition (cf. Gn 12:1–3; Dt 7:6–8). However, in the future all Israel will recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and their spiritual condition will match their national status: then you will be My people, and I will be your God (cf. Ezk 11:20; 14:11; 37:23, 27).

36:29–30. Moreover, in the kingdom, God will extend all His graciousness to His people to provide bountiful provision in the land, including grain … fruit, and crops of the field (cf. 34:27) without famine (cf. 34:29), so Israel will never again be a disgrace … among the nations.

36:31–32 In the midst of blessing, then Israel will remember her former evil ways and wicked deeds, and she will realize how gracious the Lord is to her. In fact she will loathe herself because of her iniquities and abominations and will understand that God was not doing this for your (Israel’s) sake, but to magnify His own name.

36:33–36. On the day when God will cleanse Israel from all her iniquities, the land will be transformed to become like the garden of Eden. Israel’s formerly ruined cities will be fortified and inhabited. Israel will become an object lesson of God’s grace to the world. Israel’s neighbors will be forced to acknowledge God’s sovereign power in restoring His people: they will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate. The restoration of Israel will be a testimony to God’s covenant-keeping character: I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.

36:37–38. God will increase the population of Israel like a flock, a sign of God’s blessing (cf. Gn 12:2; 15:1–6; 1Sm 1:5–6, 2:1–11; Zch 8:4–5). Ezekiel, a priest, compared Israel’s population growth to the numerous flocks for sacrifices gathered for Jerusalem[’s] … appointed feasts. Comparing the population to festival offerings suggested times of spiritual obedience and blessing. Then the formerly waste cities will be filled with flocks of men. At this time of great blessing, Then they will know that I am the Lord.

5. Nation of Israel Restored (37:1–28)

The Lord’s promise of restoration is dramatically depicted in this vision of the dry bones, perhaps the most familiar passage in Ezekiel. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jewish people were in despair (cf. v. 11), hopelessly bereft of their land, their king, and their temple, scattered in exile. At this point God gave this astonishing message concerning Israel’s future physical return to the land and spiritual restoration to the Lord (vv. 1–14), as well as the reunification of the divided kingdom (vv. 15–28).

a. Vision of the Dry Bones (37:1–14)

This prophecy emphasizes God’s sovereign power and ability to fulfill His promises of restoring His people to His land. The Lord gave this vision to Ezekiel (vv. 1–10), and then He interpreted it (vv. 11–14).

37:1–3. The hand of the Lord brought Ezekiel by the Spirit (cf. 3:14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5) to a valley … full of bones which were … very dry. These many human bones had been lying on the surface of the valley for so long they were dried out by the sun.

The Lord asked Ezekiel, Son of man, can these bones live? Ezekiel answered with reverence, deferring to the Lord’s knowledge: O Lord God, You know. Only God can give life to the dead.

37:4–8. God directed Ezekiel to prophesy over these bones. Then the bones came rattling together, forming skeletons. They were covered with sinews, flesh and skin, but were still lifeless bodies, because there was no breath in them. God gave life to the bones, but the restoration of life to the dry bones came in stages. As Ezekiel was giving this prophecy the "bones came together" (v. 7). The scattered bones become whole skeletons, but they were not yet alive.

37:9–10. God’s promised restoration, to the slain (scattered, hopeless lifeless) nation of Israel would come about when He would give them the breath of life. The Hebrew ruah is translated breath (v. 5 and 28 other places) as well as "Spirit of the Lord" (cf. 11:5) and "spirit" (cf. v. 14; Gn 1:2; 3:8; 6:3 and 70 other places) and could also be translated "wind" (cf. Ezk 1:4 and 90 other places). The meaning of this frequently used word, whether translated "breath," "wind," "spirit" or "Spirit" is determined by the context. Thus, in the vision, the dead come to life and are given "breath." Nevertheless, in this vision the dry bones coming to life represent Israel’s national resurrection, an event that could not occur apart from the work of the Spirit of God. Therefore, the breath is symbolic of the work of the Spirit (cf. v. 14).

The absence of breath in the bodies indicates that the Jewish people will be returned to their homeland in lifeless bodies, spiritually dead, prior to the nation coming to know the Messiah. This return seems to look beyond the return from Babylon to the end times. At that time the Jewish people will return to Israel from around the world (cf. 11:17; 17:22–24), yet the nation will be in unbelief in the land in the end times when all the nations declare war against Israel (cf. 20:33–38; 36:24–25; see comments at Zch 12:1–14; 14:2). At that desperate hour when the Jewish people recognize Messiah Jesus (Zch 12:10) He will rescue them from the hand of the nations (cf. Is 63:1–6; Zch 13:8–9; 14:3–11). Then, when Israel comes to know their Messiah, the Lord will cause breath to enter them, and they will come to life as an exceedingly great army, or strength, of people.

37:11–13. The Lord explained the vision: the bones are the whole house of Israel. The Jewish people in exile thought, Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off. The vision of the dry bones signified Israel’s future national and spiritual restoration. Israel’s new life depended on God’s power, not outward circumstances: I will open your graves. This is not about the literal resurrection of dead people, but of the restoration of the nation of Israel to their land and to their God when they felt all hope was dead. God identified the Jewish people, while in unbelief, as My people, whom He will bring … into the land of Israel. When Israel is returned to their land and rescued from their enemies at their most desperate hour (cf. Is 63:1–6; Zch 12:1–3; 13:8–9; 14:2–11; Jl 3:9–14), then they will turn to the Messiah Jesus (cf. Zch 12:10) and Then you will know that I am the Lord.

37:14. When God restores Israel nationally, He will subsequently renew them spiritually: I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life. This is the Holy Spirit, promised in Israel’s new covenant (cf. 36:24–28; Jr 31:31–34) and spoken of by Jesus to Nicodemus (cf. Jn 3:1–21). Today the vast majority of Jewish people do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah. They have not yet had the Spirit of God "blown into them." The reconnecting of the dry bones may find an initial fulfillment in the reconstitution of the modern state of Israel. Jewish people are being regathered from around the world to their ancient homeland. As yet, however, they are spiritually dead. But when the nation turns and recognizes Jesus as Messiah, they will come to life. Shortly thereafter Jesus will establish His messianic kingdom. Then Jews from around the world will come to Israel and live peacefully in their own land under the kingdom rule of Messiah (Jr 31:33, 33:14–16; Mt 24:30–31). See comments on Mt 23:37–39 and Ac 3:19–21 for an explanation of the salvation of Israel as a precursor to the millennial kingdom.

b. Sign of the Two Sticks—Israel United (37:15–28)

Following the vision of restoration of the dry bones is the second sign of hope of God’s reunification of the nation of Israel. First the sign was given (36:15–17), then explained (36:18–28).

37:15–17. This is Ezekiel’s last object lesson (cf. 4:1, 3, 9; 5:1). Here the Lord commanded him to take … one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and … the sons of Israel’ and a second stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim.’ Then Ezekiel was to join them … into one stick.

Under King David and Solomon, Israel was one nation, but after the death of Solomon (931 BC) the nation divided into the northern kingdom of Israel with ten tribes ruled by a non-Davidic king (1Kg 11:26; 12:25–33), and the southern kingdom of Judah consisting of two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) ruled by the descendants of David (cf. 1Kg 12:20–24). Ephraim, one of sons, had a large tribal land allotment in the north so the northern kingdom is sometimes identified by his name (e.g., Hs 5:3, 5, 11–14). About 200 years after the division of the kingdom, Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria (721 BC). Judah remained until it fell to Babylon (586 BC). Here the Lord gives hope of a restored, united Davidic kingdom.

37:18–21. The Lord explained the lesson. This would be a future event, when the sons of your people ask what you mean, God will give the answer. He emphasized His role in the restorations: I will take … I will put … they will be one in My hand. The Lord Himself will unite Ephraim and Judah into one in My hand. God will gather them from every side and bring them into to their own land.

37:22. God will make them one nation in the land with one king, and they will … no longer be divided into two kingdoms (cf. Hs 1:11). The uniting of the sticks pictured God’s restoring and reuniting His people in the land as a single nation.

37:23. At that time the nation will no longer defile themselves with their idols. They will be transformed because the Lord will deliver them from the places where they sinned and cleanse them, not just wash away dirt, but also make them morally pure (cf. 20:42–44). Then they will be My people, and I will be their God (cf. 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:27). This spiritual rejuvenation and reunification will occur in the millennial kingdom.

37:24. The reunited kingdom will be ruled over by My servant David as king over them (see comments on 34:23–24) and as their one shepherd (cf. 34:23).

37:25–28. The key idea of this passage is that the blessings will last forever. The Jewish people will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant (cf. 28:25). There are several aspects of the eternal quality of God’s blessing: the Jewish people will inhabit their land forever (v. 25); the kingship of Messiah, David’s Son is forever (v. 25); the covenant of peace (cf. 36:15; 34:25; Is 54:10; Jr 31:31–34) is everlasting (Ezk 37:26; cf. 16:60); God’s sanctuary will be in their midst forever (vv. 26, 28). This prophecy concludes with the promise of God’s presence: My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Israel’s restored relationship with their God and the literal structure of the sanctuary in their midst will be a testimony to the nations (the Gentiles) who will know (cf. 36:23; 38:16, 23; 39:7) that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel (cf. Lv 22:32). This sanctuary that will be in their midst forever is described in detail in Ezk 40–43.

6. Prophecy of Attack and Defeat of Gog (38:1–39:29)

After foretelling the regathering of the Jewish people to their land (chap. 36), Ezekiel told of yet a future, and final, attack on Israel from which they will be rescued by the returning messianic King (chaps. 38–39). This attack by Gog will occur after the Jewish people are resettled in their land (38:8b) and living in peace (38:8c), although not yet knowing the Messiah (since they will come to the Lord after He delivers them from attack). It culminates in the Lord’s victory over Israel’s enemy and Israel recognizing Jesus as their Messiah (39:22). Ultimately Gog will be judged.

a. Invasion of Israel by Gog (38:1–16)

38:1–3. The Lord told Ezekiel to set your face (v. 2; cf. 4:7, 6:2), a phrase of determined judgment, toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. The identification of Rosh is essential. This is a transliteration, not a translation, of the Hebrew word rosh which simply means "head" or "chief." It should not be taken as the proper name of a nation. Rosh never appears as a nation in any other biblical list of place names, while all the other names in chaps. 38–39 are well attested (cf. Gn 10:1–7; 1Ch 1:5–7; Ezk 27:13–24; 32:26). The clear evidence of Scripture is that the phrase translated by the NASB as the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal (nasi rosh meshach) should be translated as Gog the … "chief prince of Meshech and Tubal" (HCSB, NIV, KJV, ESV, JPS).

The land of Magog was probably the nation from which the Scythians descended. Meshech and Tubal and Gomer were in eastern Asia Minor. Gog is mentioned only here and in Rv 20:8 and is of/in Magog.

38:4. God will judge this pagan nation (vv. 1–3), but He will use Gog to accomplish His plans concerning Israel, just has the Lord had used Assyria and Babylon in the past. The Lord will turn Gog about to head in the direction He has determined. The Lord is completely in control of all world events, as indicated by His providence over these battles against His people Israel.

38:5–6. These nations were well known in the biblical period: Persia (Iran), Ethopia and Put (Libya), Beth-togarmah in modern Syria. Additionally, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Gomer were in areas that are now modern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. They were part of the former Soviet Union, but are now independent nations. Because of the similarity of the sounds of Rosh and Meshech to Russia and Moscow and Tubal to Tobolsk, some interpreters, especially during the Cold War period, inaccurately identified Israel’s attackers with the USSR. The interpretation was based more on headlines and hysterics than hermeneutics and history.

All of the countries mentioned here by Ezekiel are today Muslim countries. Assuming their spiritual allegiance does not change, the future invasion of Israel by these nations will not be a Russian invasion, but an Islamic invasion. The coordination of attack on Israel will not come from Moscow, but from the leadership of these Muslim governments.

38:7–9. The time of the attack is described in eschatological terms, after many days … in the latter years. This attack will occur in the end times. This attack will be against Israel, whose people will be gathered from many nations and will be living securely back in the land of Israel. Gog and his allies will go against Israel in massive strength, advancing like a storm and a cloud (cf. v. 16).

No past historical event or political alignment matches this prophecy. It is set in the latter years so it awaits a future fulfillment. Some think this attack on Israel should be identified with the attack of Gog and Magog at the end of the millennium (Rv 20:7–9), but this identification has several flaws. The first is a chronological consideration. Why would the people remain on earth after the battle to burn the weapons of war for seven years (Ezk 39:9–10) instead of entering immediately into eternity (Rv 21:1–4)? The results of Ezekiel’s battle do not coincide with the events following the battle in Rv 20. Why bury the dead for seven months after the battle (Ezk 39:12–13) when the next prophetic event is the resurrection of the unsaved dead (Rv 20:11–13)? The events after each battle are so different that two separate battles must be assumed, both involving Gog as Israel’s enemy.

The second flaw concerns the results of this battle. The effect on the people is different. In Ezekiel the battle is the catalyst God will use to draw Israel to Himself (cf. Ezk 39:7, 22–29) and to end Israel’s dispersion among the nations. In contrast, in Rv 20 the battle will occur after Israel has been faithful to her God and has enjoyed His blessings for a thousand years (Rv 20:1–7).

Others have suggested the battle of Ezk 38–39 is at the beginning of the millennium. This also seems extremely doubtful. Everyone who enters the millennium will have faith in Messiah Jesus. The surviving Jewish people will have recognized the Messiah at the end of the tribulation when they call on Him to return (Zch 12:10); and the Gentiles will have demonstrated their faith in Christ by protecting God’s chosen people during the tribulation (cf. Mt 25:31–46). So everyone who enters the millennial kingdom will be a believer in Jesus Messiah (Jn 3:3). Furthermore, at the beginning of the millennium all weapons of war will be destroyed (Mc 4:1–4). Thus it would be improbable for a war to occur when all unsaved warriors have been eliminated and all weapons destroyed.

Thus, it seems best to place Ezekiel’s battle of Gog in the tribulation period. The attack will come when the Jewish people are living at peace in the land of Israel (Ezk 38:8, 11). Although they are in the land, the Jewish people will not have yet recognized that Jesus is the Messiah (39:22, 29). This peace will be the result of the covenant with the antichrist made at the beginning of Daniel’s seventh week (Dn 9:27a). However, at the midpoint of the tribulation, that covenant will be broken by the antichrist. Then Israel will suffer tremendous persecution (see comments on Dn 9:27b; Mt 24:15–22).

So most likely the Islamic invasion, the battle described by Ezekiel, will begin just prior to the antichrist breaking his covenant with Israel. The defeat of these nations will free the future world ruler from maintaining a military alliance with Israel. If the battle occurs at this point, it will provide the time needed to bury the dead (Ezk 39:12–13) and to burn the weapons of war (Ezk 39:9–10)—namely, during the remainder of the great tribulation and perhaps into the initial months of the millennial kingdom following Jesus’ second coming. Ezekiel was describing a battle that will involve Israel’s surrounding neighbors, near and far, who sense their opportunity to attack when Israel feels secure and who have the false confidence of a covenant with the antichrist. Ezekiel first presented the invasion by Gog and his allies (vv. 1–16) and then described the judgment of Gog and his allies (38:17–39:29).

38:10–13. Gog will devise an evil plan, and … will say, I will go up against Israel who will be living in peace, securely with no bars or gates. The Jewish people will be back in their land, living as a political entity, gathered from the nations and at peace in the Middle East. Israel’s importance geographically, politically, and economically is described as the center of the world (cf. comments on 5:5). These events are focused around Israel (cf. Zch 12:1–3).

38:14–15. On that day … in the last days (vv. 14, 16, 18) are eschatological terms for the end times, and indicate the time of Gog’s attack is against My people Israel (vv. 14, 16) when they are living securely. Although at this point Israel is a nation without faith in Messiah Jesus, they are still designated by God as My people. Whether the Jewish people are living in disbelief and rebellion or in repentance and obedience, they are still beloved by God and remain His chosen people. Gog’s attack will come from all sides, the remote parts of the north, with his mighty army of allies.

38:16. They will advance against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land (cf. v. 9). Gog’s attack will be against My land. Israel is identified as belonging not simply to the Jewish people but to the Lord Himself (cf. 36:5; Is 14:25; Jr 2:7, 3:18). Gog’s powerful army will overrun Israel as completely as a cloud casts a shadow over the land below.

This attack will be another means of God’s displaying to the nations His holy character and sovereign power, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog (cf. Ezk 20:41; 28:22, 25; 36:23; 39:27). As a result of Gog’s unsuccessful attack, Israel will be delivered and God glorified.

b. Judgment of Gog by God (38:17–39:29)

(1) Defeat of Gog (38:17–39:8)

38:17. The Lord God will crush Gog’s attack. The question, Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel? is not a direct quote of any specific prophet. It is, however, a general reference to what earlier prophets said of the coming invasion of Israel in the last days (cf. Jl 3:9–14; Zph 3:15–20).

38:18–20. When the army comes against … Israel, God’s fury will mount up in … anger … zeal … and blazing wrath against them. He will cause a great earthquake in … Israel that will interrupt Gog’s invasion plans. This natural disaster will cause fish … birds … beasts … and all the men … to shake at God’s presence, and it will spread fear and disarray throughout the invading armies. God will call for a sword against Gog on all My mountains.

38:21. In the confusion every man’s sword will be against his brother. As in the days of Jehoshaphat, the enemies of Israel will destroy themselves (cf. 2Ch 20:22–25).

38:22–23. God will enter into judgment against the enemies of Israel with additional meteorological catastrophes, including torrential rain … hailstones … fire and brimstone. This is similar to the Lord’s actions on behalf of Israel in the days of Joshua (cf. Jos 10:7–11). Through these events, God will magnify … sanctify … and make Himself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.

39:1–4. Ezekiel is again told to prophesy against Gog (cf. 38:2). Deliver the message of the Lord God, that He is against … Gog, chief prince (cf. comments on 38:2) of Meshech and Tubal. God will disable their left … and right hand and strike them down on the mountains of Israel. This once-mighty army will then be food … to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field.

39:5–7. Not only will the enemy armies die on Israel’s open field in battle, God will also judge their homelands: I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands. Sending fire indicates destruction and military devastation (30:8, 14, 16; Hs 8:14; Am 1:4, 7, 10, 14; 2:2, 5). The nation that initiated the invasion will be destroyed. The coastlands, (cf. 26:15, 18; 27:3, 6–7, 15, 35) indicate the farthest reaches of the known world. Through all these events God will make known His holy name (twice for emphasis in v. 7) … in the midst of … Israel and the nations will see that that He is the Holy One in Israel.

39:8. All of these events are certain: "Behold, it is coming and it shall be done," declares the Lord God. Despite modern skepticism, mockery of the Scriptures, or disputed geopolitical current events, the Lord will fulfill His word: That is the day of which I have spoken.

(2) Aftermath of the Defeat of Gog (39:9–20)

39:9–10. At the end of the great battle, those who inhabit the cities of Israel will gather up the weapons and burn them. Those who will come to plunder Israel (38:12) will themselves be plundered. Israelites will use the weapons of the fallen army for fuel throughout the remainder of the tribulation period and into the beginning of the millennium, for seven years. Israel will burn those weapons for fuel and not cut down trees from the forests. The repetition of the number sevenseven years for burning the weapons and "seven months" for burying the dead (vv. 9, 12, 14)—signifies the finality of this great battle against God’s people and suggests the size of the invading armies (cf. comments regarding the time of this event on 38:7–9).

39:11–16. Gog will have a burial ground there in Israel. The burials will take place in the valley of those who pass by east of the sea, meaning the burial will be on the east side of the Dead Sea, what was Moab in Ezekiel’s day and Jordan today. Yet the burial will be reckoned as "in Israel" because Israel controlled that area during some periods of her history, and it was part of the land grant to Abraham. Israel will inhabit it in the future (cf. 2Sm 8:2; Ps 60:8; Gn 15:18). Even in the midst of post-war clean up, in these events the Lord says He will glorify Myself.

Some of the people of the land, the Jewish people, will be set apart to be sure all the bones are picked up and buried and the graves marked so the ground will be cleansed. They will make their search at the end of the seven months. The number of corpses will be so great it will block the way of travelers. The name of the valley will be changed to the valley of Hamon-gog, meaning "the Valley of the hordes of Gog," because of the enormous size of the graveyard of Gog.

39:17–20. Another result of Gog’s defeat will be a great sacrificial feast for the wild animals, introduced in v. 4. Every kind of bird and … beast was called to assemble … to the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. They were to eat slain men of war as if they were … rams, lambs, goats and bulls of … Bashan, the area east and northeast of the Sea of Galilee which was known for its fertile land and fat cows (cf. Am 4:1). God will reverse the roles of animals and people. Usually people slaughtered and ate sacrificed animals. Here, however, the men of Gog’s armies will be sacrifices to be eaten by animals. God identifies the slain of Gog as My sacrifice which I am going to sacrifice for you. The wild birds and animals will be glutted with Gog’s slain military horses, charioteers, and men of war.

(3) Effects of the Lord’s Defeat of Gog on Israel (39:21–29)

39:21. There are several results of this battle. First, God says He will set My glory among the nations. His honor and visible presence will be recognized when He delivers Israel by defeating Gog (cf. 1:28).

39:22–24. Second, Israel will turn back to her God and know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward (cf. v. 7). The Lord’s stunning defeat of Gog will force Israel to acknowledge His power forever and never again stray from Him (cf. 37:24–28).

39:25–27. Third, God will restore all Israel back to the land from her final dispersion. God will restore … Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel. Although God judged Israel for her sin, He always loves His people and has a heart of compassion for them (e.g., Ps 102:13; Is 14:1–2; 49:13–16). Many Jewish people will be living in their homeland of Israel when the events in these chapters occur, and some Jewish people will still be living around the world. Now God will bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies. God will be sanctified through them in the sight of many nations (cf. Ezk 20:41; 28:22, 25; 36:23; 38:16).

39:28–29. Fourth, the ultimate result of the battle with Gog will be Israel’s national repentance and spiritual restoration. At that time they will know that I am the Lord their God. Although God had scattered His people into exile in the past, He will gather them to their own land, and he will leave none of them outside the land of Israel any longer.

The Lord will not hide My face from them. Instead He will pour out His Spirit on the house of Israel when they recognize Jesus as Messiah (cf. 36:25–28; 37:14; Jr 31:31–34; Jl 2:28–32; Zch 12:10).

B. New Order for Israel (40:1–48:35)

When Messiah returns to rescue His people Israel and defeat her enemy, Gog (chap. 39), the Lord will establish a new order of worship in the restored Israel. A new temple will be built as a sign of God’s presence among His people (chaps. 40–43), and a new service of worship will be established so the people will have access to the Lord their God (chaps. 44–46), and a new division of the land will be made for the people (chaps. 47–48).

1. A New Temple (40:1–43:27)

God had promised to set His sanctuary in the midst of His people forever (37:26–28), and the plans for this new temple are given in detail. Three basic interpretations exist of chaps. 40–43. (1) Ezekiel predicted a rebuilding of Solomon’s temple immediately after the Babylonian captivity. (2) Ezekiel was speaking of the temple in a figurative sense, prophesying about the Church, and did not have a literal temple in mind. (3) Ezekiel spoke of a still-future literal temple to be built during the millennial kingdom.

The first view, of a Solomomic post-Babylonian captivity temple, must be eliminated. Ezekiel’s specifications do not coincide with Solomon’s temple, nor were they used by the remnant returning from Babylon. The temple built at the return from Babylon was not of Solomonic grandeur (Ezr 3:12–13; Hg 2:3). If this temple was built in the time of Ezra, Ezekiel would have been mistaken when he wrote; no prophet speaking under God’s authority ever uttered a false prediction (Dt 18:21–22; Mt 5:17–18).

The second view of the temple as an allegory representing the Church must also be discounted. Support for this interpretation is drawn from Jesus’ statements that He is the true temple (see Jn 2:18–21), and the Church with Him constitutes the temple in the present era (see 1Co 3:16; 6:19; 2Co 6:16–18; Eph 2:21–22; 1Pt 2:5; Rv 3:12; 11:1–2). Gregory K. Beale, a leading proponent of this view, observes that Ezk 11:16 indicates that the temple took on a less architectural sense during the exile, and this provides warrant for Paul to say that the Church is the fulfillment of the eschatological temple (Gregory K. Beale, "Eden, the Temple, and the Church’s Mission In the New Creation," JETS 48 [March 2005], 19–24; see also, in much more detail, Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, NSBT [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004]). Among other things, Beale maintains that a literal future temple would detract from Jesus being the ultimate temple.

In response, first, it is not inappropriate to say that the Church is the temple—the place where God intersects with the world—in the present era. Clearly it is. But this fact by itself does not inform regarding the possibility that there might also be a future literal kingdom. Regarding Jesus’ ultimate fulfillment of the features of the temple, this also does not preclude the possibility of a literal, eschatological temple. Robert L. Saucy notes that Jesus is the great Prophet (Heb 1:1–2), but He has given the gift of prophecy and prophets to the Church (1Co 12:10, 18; Eph 4:11), yet in a way that does not eclipse Him and His work. He is also the great High Priest (Heb 2:17; 4:14; 7:26–27; 9:24–28; 10:11–14), but the Church is a priesthood called to function as priests through Christ (1Pt 2:5, 9; Rm 15:16). Jesus is the great King (Lk 1:32–33; Rv 11:15; 19:16), but believers also function as kings (2Tm 2:12; Rv 1:6; 5:10; 20:4, 6 ("Is Christ the Fulfillment of National Israel’s Prophecies? Yes and No!" Unpublished paper presented at the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting in November, 2010, 9). What this suggests is that Jesus can assign a function He fulfills to other agents (in the case of the present discussion, the future temple) without in any manner overshadowing His accomplishments.

Second, the observation that Ezk 11:16 sets the stage for a non-architectural temple fails on the rebuilding of a literal temple by the Jewish people following the exile. That God could and did connect with the exiles in Babylon does not preclude the rebuilding of a physical temple following their return. What this suggests is that the Church could be the temple in a spiritual sense during the current era without eliminating the possibility of a literal temple in the future.

Third, some have pointed out that there are remarkable parallels between Ezekiel and Moses. Both received a call from God that they were reluctant to fulfill. Both had visionary experiences of God’s glory. And both mediated legislation regarding the place God would intersect with Israel (Moses for the tabernacle; Ezekiel for the future temple) and the sacrifices associated with them. If God gave Moses instructions about a literal tabernacle and then a temple that came to architectural fruition, it is possible that what Ezekiel was shown will have a similar literal fulfillment. This observation is bolstered by the mention of a future, millennial temple by other prophets along with Ezekiel (see Is 2:3; 60:13; Dn 9:24; Jl 3:18; Hg 2:7, 9).

Finally, it is admittedly tricky to build an argument on "what the original readers or hearers would have understood." Having said that, it is hard (not impossible) to believe that the original readers or hearers of this prophetic book would have understood the minute details associated with the dimensions and furnishings of this temple in a spiritual, non-physical way. If the temple’s features were intended symbolically, neither the prophet nor God gives any clues as to what they symbolized. Rather, there are parallels with the details of the design of the tabernacle and then the Solomonic and postexilic temples following it, and these were physical structures.

The view adopted for this commentary is that Ezekiel predicted a literal, physical, millennial temple. The detailed description of the millennial temple is important. First, the temple was the visible symbol of God’s presence among His people. The prelude to Israel’s judgment began when God’s glory departed from Solomon’s temple (Ezk 8–11). This was followed by Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of it. Although the temple was rebuilt, the presence of the Lord did not reside in the Holy of Holies. That temple was destroyed by the Romans, just as Messiah Jesus has predicted (Mt 24:2; Mk 13:2). A high point of Israel’s restoration as a nation will come when God’s glory reenters the new temple in Jerusalem (Ezk 43:1–5).

Second, the new temple will become the visible reminder of Israel’s relationship to God through His new covenant. Since God gave detailed instructions for building the tabernacle to accompany His inauguration of the Mosaic covenant (cf. Ex 25–40), it is not unusual that He would also supply detailed plans for His new center of worship, to accompany the full implementation of the new covenant. This temple will be the focal point for the visible manifestation of Israel’s new relationship with her God.

a. Introduction to the Vision of the Temple (40:1–4)

40:1–2. This final vision was given to Ezekiel in the twenty-fifth year of … exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, in the fall of Jerusalem. The Jewish religious calendar marked the beginning of the year as Nissan (April/May at Passover; Ex 12:1–2) or later using the civil or regnal year as Tishri (October/November). So the date would be 573 BC, either April 28 or October 22. God took Ezekiel back to the land of Israel in a vision (cf. Ezk 8:1–3) and brought him to a very high mountain … to the south there was a structure like a city. The mountain was probably Mount Zion (17:22; 20:40; Is 2:2; Mc 4:1; Zch 14:10), which is north of the city (cf. Ps 48:1–2).

40:3–4. In visions (cf. 1:1; 8:3; 40:2) Ezekiel was taken to the future temple by a man whose appearance was like … bronze, indicating this was an angelic being (cf. 8:2). He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, implements used by builders. The line of flax was a lightweight rope used for longer measurements and the rod, a wooden pole, for shorter measurements. Ezekiel was instructed by the man to give attention to all he was going to show him, so the prophet could Declare to the house of Israel all that he saw. This was a precise, important message specifically for the Jewish people.

b. Outer Court of the Temple (40:5–27)

40:5. There was a wall on the outside of the temple (bayit, lit., "house") all around, separating the sacred from the secular. The man measured it with a measuring rod of six cubits, … a cubit and a handbreath. A common cubit was about 18 inches long, but the one used by the angel was a long cubit, about 21 inches long. Ezekiel is specifically using the more ancient standards of cubic measurement (2Ch 3:3) for the new community. The length of the rod was six of the ancient cubits or about 10 feet long. The wall surrounding the temple was 10 feet thick and 10 feet high. Since the wall was not high enough to provide security from attack, its purpose was separation of the holy from the profane (cf. 42:20).

40:6–16 Ezekiel went into the outer court through the gate facing east, the most important gate (cf. comments on 44:1–3). It is described in detail, with exact measurements, its steps … threshold … guardrooms … porch … facing inward … pillars toward the temple … with palm tree ornaments along the projecting walls. Palm tree designs also decorated Solomon’s temple (1Kg 6:29, 32, 35).

40:17–19. The angelic being brought Ezekiel into the outer court, where he saw a pavement made for the court, and thirty chambers faced the pavement … all around the court. These rooms were probably spaced evenly along the north, east, and south walls of the temple (see sketch "The Millennial Temple" on p. 1266). They may have been used for the people celebrating the feasts (cf. Jr 35:2). The distance from the inside of the lower gate (i.e., the east gate) to the outside of the inner court (i.e., to the threshold of the gate leading to the inner court) was a hundred cubits (175 feet).

40:20–27. Ezekiel was then led to the north gate (vv. 20–23) and to the south gate (vv. 24–27). The design and dimensions of both gates were identical to those of the gate facing east, demonstrating the symmetry of the temple design. (vv. 6–19).

c. Inner Court of the Temple (40:28–47)

40:28–37. After measuring the outer court the angel measured the inner court, through the south gate. This gate had the same measurements as the other gates (vv. 28–31; 32–34; 35–37). The measurements were the same for the guardrooms … pillars … porches … windows … palm tree ornaments (41:18). However, the porches all around were reversed on these gates, allowing them also to face toward the outer court (see sketch "The Millennial Temple" on p. 1266).

40:38–43. A chamber was located by the side of the inner gates where the person offering sacrifice could rinse and prepare the burnt offering. Four tables were set on each side of the gate, eight tables in all, to prepare the slaughter for burnt offering and the sacrifice. Restored sacrifice is a key function of the millennial temple.

The institution of animal sacrifice in the millennial temple has raised questions because Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin (Heb 10:10). Some suggest the sacrifices in the millennial temple might be symbolic and not actual animal sacrifices. It is argued by objectors that since these sacrifices revert back to the Levitical sacrificial system they seem out of place after the sacrifice of Jesus.

An understanding of the proper function of these sacrifices clears up the confusion and objections. First, Levitical animal sacrifices never took away sin; only the sacrifice of Christ can do that (Heb 10:1–4, 10). Under the Levitical system, in OT times, Israelites were saved by grace through faith, as was Abraham (Gn 15:6). Each person had to offer the proper sacrifice as an expression of his genuine faith (Is 1:10–18), and the sacrifices served to restore a believer’s fellowship with God. Sacrifices offered without faith were useless (e.g., Is 1:11–17; Am 5:21–24). Second, even after the Church began, Jewish believers did not hesitate to take part in the temple worship (Ac 2:46; 3:1; 5:42) and even to offer sacrifices (Ac 21:26). They understood the new covenant had been instituted with the death and resurrection of Messiah and memorialized with the Lord’s Supper (cf. Lk 22:14–20; 24:13–35). Yet they continued to worship in the temple, fully aware of the final sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, until it was destroyed by the Romans (AD 70).

Before the coming of the Messiah, the Levitical sacrifices were central to Israel’s worship of God. After the death and resurrection of Messiah, the Church was born and a new economy or dispensation began. Gentiles no longer had to become part of the commonwealth of Israel to know the God of Israel (Eph 3:3–6; Rm 11:11–24; Ac 15). The Levitical sacrificial system, which foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of Christ (Heb 10:1–18), ended. During the present Church Age, the memorial Lord’s Supper is celebrated by followers of Messiah looking back to His death and resurrection and forward to His coming again (Lk 22:19; 1Co 11:23, 26; 2Tm 2:8).

At Messiah’s second coming, Israel will again assume her central role in God’s kingdom program. The Lord’s Supper will no longer be observed because Christ will have returned. As Ezekiel prophesied, animal sacrifices will be offered in the millennial temple as memorials or object lessons of the supreme sacrifice made by the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29; Rv 5:12). Several passages refer to a sacrificial system in the millennium (Is 56:7; 66:20–23; Jr 33:18; Zch 14:16–21; Mal 3:3–4). The sacrifice of these animals will be vivid and necessary reminders of the Messiah’s suffering and death, especially since death will be uncommon in the millennial kingdom (Is 11:6–10; 65:20).

Although there are some similarities between the millennial temple worship and the Levitical system, they are not identical. For example: in Ezekiel, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Pentecost) is not mentioned perhaps because it was fulfilled with the beginning of the Church (Ac 2). There is no ark of the covenant in Ezekiel’s temple because Messiah is the final offering for sin (1Jn 1:2), and there is no high priest mentioned, for Messiah is the great high priest (Heb 4:14).

The Millennial Temple

40:44–47. Not only will there be rooms to prepare the millennial sacrifices, there will also be chambers for the singers … and for the priests who keep charge of the temple … and keep charge of the altar (see sketch "The Millennial Temple" below). These priests will be sons of Zadok (cf. 43:19; 44:15; 48:11), continuing the priestly line from Solomon’s day (1Kg 1:26–27). Specifying the sons of Zadok links the prophecy to the ancient priestly family line.

d. The Temple Building (40:48–41:26)

40:48–41:4 From the inner court, Ezekiel was "brought" to the "porch of the temple to" describe it in detail (see sketch "The Millennial Temple" below). The measurements of the "porch of" the "temple," although similar to Solomon’s temple, were slightly larger (cf. 1Kg 6:3). A "stairway" led up to the portico and pillars and into the "nave," or great hall of the temple.

Each "doorway" is narrower than the one before it. Possibly this reflects God’s restricting people’s access into His holy presence. Ezekiel entered the outer sanctuary but not the "most holy place." Instead, the angel went into the "temple" to measure it. As a priest (Ezk 1:3), Ezekiel was allowed into the outer sanctuary, but was barred from the most holy place (cf. Lv 16; Heb 9:6–7).

41:5–11. Surrounding the temple were side chambers built three stories high, one above another … thirty rooms in each story. These rooms got wider with each successive story. These 90 rooms were probably storerooms for the temple equipment and storage chambers for the people’s tithes and offerings (cf. Mal 3:8–10). These rooms were similar to those in Solomon’s temple (cf. 1Kg 6:5–10).

41:12–15. Ezekiel recorded the overall dimensions of the temple building. It was a hundred cubits long, and the width of the front of the temple and adjoining courtyard was 100 cubits, about 175 feet (vv. 13–14). A cubit represented the length of a forearm, from elbow to fingertips. So it varied by person and among ancient civilizations, anywhere from 17.5 to 21 inches. While 18 inches is commonly used for conversions, the context of Ezekiel uses a long cubit, "a cubit and a handbreadth," or 21 inches (40:5; see comment there).

Immediately west of the temple was a structure described as the building that was in front of the separate area facing the temple courtyard on the west side (v. 12). It measured a width of seventy cubits (122.5 feet) and a length of ninety cubits (157.5 feet). The function of this building, however, is not explained.

41:16–20. The interior of the temple building was surrounded by latticed windows and paneled with wood. It was decorated with cherubim and palm trees carved into the wood. Each cherub had two faces … a man’s face … and a young lion’s face (cf. 1:10; 10:14). Perhaps cherubim represent the guardians of God’s dwelling place (cf. 1:4–28; 10), and the palm trees (40:16; 41:25–26; 1Kg 6:29) represent the fruitfulness and blessing provided by God.

41:21–22. The only furniture described in the temple is the altar of wood, three cubits by two cubits (5 1/4 feet by 3 feet), called the table that is before the Lord. There was a large altar outside the temple proper for sacrifice (cf. 43:13–17), and this smaller one just outside the most holy place. If it served the same purpose as the furnishing in Solomon’s temple it would hold the bread of the Presence (Ex 25:30; Lv 24:5–9) or perhaps be the altar of incense (cf. Ex 25:23; 30:1–2). However, Ezekiel does not indicate the purpose of this altar … of wood.

41:23–26. The main area of the temple, the nave and the sanctuary … each had a double door that led to the outer sanctuary of the temple and to the Holy of Holies. This was something like a bifold door, made of two swinging leaves. As with the temple, the doors to the outer sanctuary had cherubim and palm trees … carved on them (cf. vv. 16–20).

e. Chambers in the Inner Court of the Temple (42:1–14)

42:1–12. Then the angelic being brought Ezekiel to the outer court to see several chamber[s] for use by the priests opposite the separate area (cf. v. 2). This complex of rooms three stories high was connected with the inner court with entrances from the outer court. There were two buildings on the north side with a common corridor 10 cubits wide (17 feet). An identical group of rooms was on the temple’s south side. Similar rooms are not described in Solomon’s temple (1Kg 6).

42:13–14. The north and the south chambers were holy chambers. They were used by the priests who are near to the Lord as a room where they could eat the most holy things. According to the Mosaic law the priests received a portion of certain offerings (Lv 2:3; 6:16, 26–30; 7:7–10). This is a similar provision for the millennial priesthood. These chambers will also serve as dressing rooms and storage rooms for the holy … garments the priests wore. Mosaic law specified garments to be worn by the priests when ministering before the Lord (Ex 39:1–31; 40:12–16; Lv 8:1–13). This room will serve a similar purpose in the millennial temple.

f. Outer Walls of the Temple (42:15–20)

42:15–20. After the measuring of the inner house, the external dimensions of the temple were measured … all around. The complex was a square measuring 500 cubits (875 feet) on each side. The total area of this temple complex was 765,625 square feet—larger than 13 football fields. This is much larger than the area of Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s temples. Around the temple on all four sides will be a wall … to divide between the holy and the profane (cf. 40:5).

g. Return of the Lord’s Glory (43:1–12)

43:1–4. Earlier Ezekiel had seen the glory of the Lord departing (11:22–23). Now, he saw the glory of the God of Israel returning by the way of the gate facing … east, to dwell once again in His temple with His people. The temple had been prepared for the Lord’s return, and the real significance of the millennial age rests on His presence. His voice was like the sound of many waters (cf. Rv 1:15; 14:2) indicating His power and majesty.

43:5. Then the Spirit lifted Ezekiel up (cf. 3:14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 37:1) and brought him into the inner court in front of the temple and the glory of the Lord filled the house (the temple). Throughout the book it is clear the glory of the Lord was active (3:23; 9:3; 10:4, 18) but here the Lord is manifest specifically in the temple where He will reside during the millennial kingdom.

43:6–8. Now Ezekiel heard one speaking to [him] from the house (the temple). This speaker was distinct from Ezekiel’s angelic guide who was still standing beside [him]. The one speaking from the temple was the Lord Himself. He is identified by the personal pronouns: this is the place of My throne (cf. Is 6:1; Jr 3:17) and the place of the soles of My feet (cf. 1Ch 28:2; Pss 99:5; 132:7; Is 60:13), where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever (Ezk 43:7, 9; Ps 132:13–14). Using these anthropomorphic images, the Lord declared this temple to be His earthly dwelling place among His people, until the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth (cf. Rv 21:22). Israel would never again defile His holy name (cf. Ezk 20:39; 39:7) by the harlotry of idol worship, spiritual adultery, and religious prostitution in the temple (2Kg 23:4–20).

43:9. Israel will never again defile the temple area with graves of the corpses of their kings. Some of the royal sepulchers of the 14 kings of Judah were separated from the temple by only a wall (2Kg 23:30). Although the glory of the Lord had departed from the temple in Ezekiel’s day (cf. Ezk 10:18), God promised that in the future, I will dwell among them forever.

43:10–12. The angelic being (cf. 40:3) told Ezekiel to describe the temple to the house of Israel so Israel would be ashamed of their iniquities. A clear vision of God’s future plan would remind them of the sins that had led to the destruction of the temple by Babylon. Then they would be motivated to return to God and rebuild the temple—faithfully according to His exact measure, plan, and whole design.

The entire area on the top of the mountain … shall be most holy; the whole area of the temple was sacred (cf. 41:4; 45:3; 48:12). The law of the house, the temple, included all of the details of the design given in chaps. 40–42.

h. Altar of Burnt Offering (43:13–27)

Daily services will begin when the millennial temple is built and the glory of the Lord returns there. Just as the building had specific measurements, Ezekiel was given a specific description of the altar (vv. 13–17) and regulations for consecrating it (vv. 18–27).

43:13–17. The altar will be in front of the temple (40:47), and the measurements of the altar in long cubits (cf. 40:4) are larger (17 1/2 feet) than those of the altar in the Solomonic temple, which was about 15 feet using the standard cubit (2Ch 3:3; 4:1). The altar was to be twelve cubits square (about 21 feet) with four horns, which was typical of Israel’s altars (cf. Ex 29:12; Ps 118:27). It would be reached by a flight of steps that face the east. Although such steps were forbidden in the Levitical temple (Ex 20:26), they are required in the millennial altar because of the height of the altar. This altar is for animal sacrifice (cf. comments regarding millennial animal sacrifice on Ezk 40:38–43).

43:18–26. The consecration of this altar will take place in a ceremony lasting seven days, and must be performed by the Levitical priest from the family of Zadok (cf. 40:46; comments on 44:15–19). This consecration service will be similar in some ways to the services followed by Moses (Ex 40:10, 29) and Solomon (2Ch 7:8–9) to sanctify the tabernacle and the temple. There will be seven days of offering sacrificial animals without blemish—of bulls, goats, and rams as burnt offerings (Ex 29:18) and sin offerings (Lv 4) to make atonement for the altar and purify it, and thus consecrate it. The priests shall throw salt on them (Lv 2:13) as a sign of the covenant of God.

43:27. From the eighth day and onward the priests will present the people’s burnt offerings … and … peace offerings on the altar. This process will mark the full resumption of God’s fellowship with His people, as then God will accept them. These sacrifices will remind the Israelites of the atonement Messiah Jesus provided to give access to the Father (Heb 10:19–25).

Many questions arise related to the efficacy of these millennial sacrifices in the face of Jesus’ atoning death. Critics of the view espoused in this commentary argue that a return to such sacrifices would be needless or blasphemous, and would detract from the work of Christ (see comments introducing chaps. 40–48). Of the various offerings in chaps. 40–48 (the burnt offering, 45:15, 17, 20; the grain offering, 42:14; 44:29; the peace offering, 43:27; the sin offering, 40:39; 42:13; and the reparation offering, 40:39; 44:29), only the burnt offerings were said to atone for the sins of people (see 45:15, 20). The altar could be "atoned" for as well (vv. 20, 26), but there the sense of the verb "atone" carries the common nuance of "wiping" or "cleansing," and refers to the purification of the altar so it is fit for use before God. For the relationship between animal sacrifices in the law of Moses and salvation in the OT, see comments on Heb 10:1–18.

Some of those who assert that there will be a millennial temple maintain that the sacrifices that take place there will be largely commemorative of the perfect work of Jesus, much as the celebration of the Lord’s Table is today (see comments on 1Co 11:23–26; and for more on the efficacy of the millennial sacrifices, see comments on Ezk 43:13–17). The early Christians apparently had no problem with going to, worshiping in, and sacrificing at the temple for years following the death and resurrection of the Lord (see Lk 24:53; Ac 3:1; 21:26). They could hardly be accused of distracting or detracting from Jesus’ work. This view is possibly the correct one, but nowhere does Ezekiel make it explicit that the atoning sacrifices in Ezk 45:15 are memorial sacrifices. Instead it appears that they have some level of atoning significance (see 45:15).

Several observations may help in getting at Ezekiel’s meaning in its canonical context. The obvious differences between Ezekiel’s description and the Mosaic covenant indicate that this is not simply a return to the Mosaic covenant. Some of these differences include: The priests were to wear splendid clothes, including dyed cloth of some sort and fine linen with gold threads (Ex 28), while the priests in Ezekiel’s temple were to wear plain linen (Ezr 44:17–19). In the Mosaic covenant, the tabernacle (and later the temple) contained the ark of the covenant, the lampstand, the anointing oil, and the table of the bread of the Presence (see Ex 25), but all of these are missing from the future temple. According to Nm 28:11, the new moon offerings included two bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs, but the book of Ezekiel records one bull, six sheep, and one ram (Ezk 46:6–7). Plainly, Ezekiel is not recording a mere revival of the law of Moses.

Perhaps the best explanation of the sacrifices in chap. 45 is to be found in its parallels with the animal sacrifices for atonement in the law. There are several items to consider.

First, sacrifices, and any deed prescribed by the law, were repugnant to God without the proper attitude. These sacrifices did not save the individual, even if he or she were sincere, since the ceremonial aspects of the law saved no one (see Rm 3:20). But when one trusted in the God of Israel as Abraham did (Gn 15:6), that believer was counted righteous. The offerings of sacrifices were to flow from the life of one rightly related to God by faith, but were not the means of that saving relationship. God said that He would cleanse the believing offerer from his sin when he brought the required sacrifices. Yet, without the heart attitude of trust and repentance (see "humbling one’s soul"—or better "afflicting one’s soul"—in Lv 16:29, 31), the sacrifices meant nothing at best, and at worst were repugnant to God (see Pss 40:6–10; 51:10–18; Is 1:11–15; Mc 6:6–8). The one who offered the sacrifice did not thereby earn God’s favor.

Second, the saved OT believer needed periodic cleansing from sin, just as a NT believer does, and God determined in the OT that the means for this cleansing was through the believer making animal sacrifices. Those sacrifices offered by one who believed resulted in forgiveness by God (see Lv 1:4; 4:26–31; 16:20–22; 17:11; see also, for the general idea of forgiveness without the explicit mention of sacrifices, Pss 25, 32, 51, 103, 130; Is 1:18; Ezk 18:22).

Third, Heb 10 indicates that sacrifices "can never … make perfect" (Heb 10:1), do not cleanse from the consciousness of sin (Heb 10:2), and can never "take away sins" (Heb 10:4, 11). Only the sacrificial death of the Messiah can do this (Heb 10:10–12). Yet Lv 1:4; 4:26–31; 16:20–22, and other passages assign an "atoning" result to sacrifices. How can this be? The answer comes by recognizing that atonement functioned on two levels—the subjective human level and the objective divine level. The OT believer who offered sacrifices or celebrated the Day of Atonement had every reason to feel forgiven subjectively. His sins were "covered," but they were not exactly "expiated." However, on the objective, Godward side of it, full forgiveness was not objectively obtained until the death of Jesus.

Fourth, for the OT believer, the outworking of faith included the offering of sacrifices in reliance upon God, who said that the believing offerer would be forgiven. John S. Feinberg writes,

"Performing substitutionary and expiatory sacrifices seems to be more involved with cleansing the sin of a believer than with bringing a person to salvation. Job, when he offered a sacrifice for cleansing (Job 42:7–9), was obviously saved at the time he gave the sacrifice.… A comparison of sanctification in the Old and New Testaments would show that when the NT believer sins, in order to restore fellowship with the Lord [note, restore fellowship, not salvation] he must receive cleansing from the sin. In order to continue to grow, he must confess his sin in faith, believing that on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice God will cleanse him from sin (1Jn 1:9). The OT believer also confessed his sin, but in addition, he brought in faith a sacrifice, believing that God had revealed that sin would be handled in that way. Before Christ’s sacrifice, the public offering had to accompany the repentance of the believer. Once the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ had been made, the repentant believer need not give another sacrifice to have cleansing" (John S. Feinberger, "Salvation in the Old Testament," in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg [Chicago: Moody, 1981], 69–70).

Rather than the act of offering a sacrifice saving an OT believer, it functioned to impress upon him his profound need for something (or Someone) else to atone for his sin.

Fifth, another prominent feature of animal sacrifices in both the OT and NT was the ritual and physical purification they brought (see Heb 9:13, they "sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh," i.e., one’s body, not one’s fallen nature). Specifically, being cleansed by water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer would ceremonially cleanse one’s physical body if he had contacted a corpse (see Nm 19:13, 20). Otherwise the physical filth remained, one was excluded from the company of his fellow Jews and could not participate in worship, and its corrupting effect continued. But this was a ceremonial cleansing only, not a saving one (see Rm 3:20—no one is saved by the works of the law).

Finally, in attempting to apply this to Ezk 45:15, it would be difficult to assign a different meaning to the word "atonement" from what is implied in other OT uses (see Lv 1:4; 4:26–31; 16:20–22; 17:11) and in light of Heb 9:13 and 10:4, 11. Namely, for the Jewish believer alive during the millennial kingdom, salvation is by faith in the finished work of Christ. The sacrifices performed in faith at that time will provide a subjective experience of forgiveness for sins, a forgiveness ultimately purchased by the death of Christ, and will provide cleansing, whereby fellowship—not salvation—with God is restored, much as the OT sacrifices did for one who had the faith of Abraham.

2. A New Service of Worship (44:1–46:24)

Following the descriptions of the millennial temple and the altar, the Lord described the holy standards in Israel’s future worship and He challenged the people in exile to reevaluate their present worship practices (chap. 44). He described the millennial allotment of land (45:1–12) and gave details about the millennial offerings (45:13–46:24).

a. The Temple Ministers (44:1–31)

44:1–2. Ezekiel was led out of the inner court to the gate … which faces east; and it was shut. This outer gate of the sanctuary opened toward the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. Ezekiel had just seen the Lord enter it on His return to His temple from this direction (43:1–4). God’s presence had sanctified the gate. Therefore, This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut (declared twice for emphases). No one will be allowed to tread through the gate which God Himself had entered.

Some mystery and superstition have arisen from this passage. The "Golden Gate" of the present walls of Jerusalem has been identified as this gate. However, this sealed eastern gate is not Ezekiel’s gate because it is a much later gate. The current wall was built in the seventh century AD on ancient foundations and then repaired by the sultan, Suleiman (AD 1520–1566). Based on this Ezekiel text, there is a Jewish tradition that Messiah will enter Jerusalem via the eastern gate, so Suleiman sealed this gate and built a Muslim cemetery in front of it to keep Messiah out of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the dimensions of the present "Golden Gate" do not correspond with Ezekiel’s gate. This gate in Jerusalem’s ancient walls is a beautiful gate, and a good reminder that Messiah will return. It is just not the gate spoken of by Ezekiel.

44:3. Only the prince … shall sit in the gate and be allowed to enter by way of the porch of the gate and … go out … the same way. Although the gate will be shut, the area of the gate will be used by the prince (Hb. word nasi would be best translated "leader" cf. 34:23–24). This leader will sit in the gate, a place of rendering judgments or settling affairs (cf. Jos 20:4; Ru 4:1). Some suggest this prince is the Messiah. However, evidence is to the contrary. This prince/leader is not the Messiah because this leader made a sin offering for himself (cf. Ezk 45:22), an act that would be unnecessary for the sinless Messiah (cf. Heb 4:15). Further, this prince/leader has natural children (Ezk 46:16), another impossibility for the God-Man, Messiah Jesus. He will have a special portion of the land allotted to him (cf. 45:7–8; 46:18; 48:21–22), whereas all the land belongs to King Messiah. Although some have suggested this prince is a resurrected David, there is little in the text to corroborate this idea. More likely, this prince will be Messiah’s representative in a unique sense, and will have the privilege to eat bread before the Lord, possibly referring to the fellowship offerings that the worshipers will eat after offering them to the Lord (cf. Lv 7:15–21).

44:4–5. Ezekiel was brought back … by way of the north gate, the gate most often used by Ezekiel in this vision and the one designated for use by the priests who have charge of the temple (40:44–45), to the front of the house, the temple.

Here Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord as it filled the house of the Lord (cf. comments on 1:28) and his response was the response of everyone who sees the Lord: he fell on his face in worship and awe. The Lord said to Ezekiel to pay careful attention, mark well (lit., "set your heart on" used twice) His instruction concerning all (used three times) the statutes … laws … entrance … and exits of the sanctuary.

44:6. In the past Israel failed to take the worship and service of the Lord seriously. The Lord gave specific instructions to correct rebellious ones of the house of Israel (cf. 2:5–6, 8; 3:9, 26–27; 12:3, 9, 25; 17:12; 24:3). The Lord God (cf. comments on the significance 2:3–4) declared, Enough of all your abominations, thus highlighting the sins involving His temple, and demanded holiness from His people and respect for His sanctuary.

44:7–9. One of Israel’s sins regarding the temple was allowing pagans, foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh into My sanctuary. This does not mean non-Jews were excluded from sincerely worshiping the God of Israel with the people of Israel (Nm 9:14; 15:14–16; Is 56:7). Israel’s abominations included bringing pagans who did not worship the God of Israel into the temple and even giving them charge of the sanctuary. When the Jewish people returned from Babylonian captivity the leadership was vigilant not to allow pagans to participate in temple worship (cf. Ezr 4:1–3; Neh 13:1–9; Ac 21:27–32).

44:10. The Levites were the descendants of Levi, one of Jacob’s 12 sons (Gn 29:34). Moses and Aaron were Levites, (cf. Ex 2:1–4:14). After the exodus, the Levites were responsible for caring for, and service in, the sanctuary (Nm 3:1–28; 1Ch 23:24–32). Aaron and his sons were given the duty of priests (Ex 28:1). All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. During the monarchy, especially in the decades prior to the fall of Jerusalem, the Levites … went far from the Lord, went astray with Israel worshiping idols (e.g., 1Kg 18; Jr 2:8; 5:3; Ezk 22:26), and led the nation away from God. They deserved punishment for their iniquity.

44:11–14. The Levites should have been spiritual leaders for the house of Israel, but instead they became a stumbling block of iniquity. So in the future not all of them will serve as a priest … nor come near to any of God’s holy things. Yet, in the kingdom they will be allowed to serve as gatekeepers, to keep charge of the house, the temple buildings, and do all its service, such as slayers of the sacrifices, and assisting worshipers.

44:15–16. The Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, remained faithful to the Lord, when many of the Levites went astray. Zadok was appointed chief priest during Solomon’s reign (cf. 1Kg 1:32–35; 2:26–27, 35) and His sons became one branch of the Levitical priesthood. So in the kingdom, they are to offer sacrifices, and they alone shall enter My sanctuary, and minister there.

44:17–19. Several regulations and functions of the Zadokite priests were similar to the Mosaic laws governing the priests. The priestly garments were to be made of linen, the primary clothing of the priests (cf. Ex 28:39–41), rather than the more common fabric made of wool. Linen is lighter than wool, and the priests were not allowed to wear anything which makes them sweat. Before the priests could go out … into the outer court to the people, they needed to change from the garments they wore while ministering. The Levitical concept of transmitting holiness was that contact with holy objects temporarily set that person apart to be subject to its restriction and disqualified from the ordinary tasks of life (cf. Ex 29:37; 30:29; Lv 6:11, 27). However Haggai demonstrated that such holy objects only consecrate that which they have touched and nothing else (Hg 2:12). Thus holiness could be transferred to the third party (although defilement could be spread). The Zadokites’ clothing change demonstrated to the people the distinction between the holy and the ordinary (common or profane) and would keep the common people from the responsibilities of the priesthood.

44:20–23. Every aspect of life was specified for these priests. They must not shave their heads or let their locks grow long. Completely shaving one’s head or letting one’s hair go unkempt were signs of mourning (cf. Lv 10:6; 21:5, 10). They were not allowed to drink wine when they enter[ed] the inner court, that is, when ministering, lest they become drunk and not perform their duties properly (cf. Lv 10:8–9). Also restrictions were placed on whom they could marry (cf. Lv 21:7, 13–15). These restrictions and actions were designed to teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane … to discern between the unclean and the clean.

44:24. The priests were to settle a dispute and to judge it according to God’s ordinances (cf. 2Ch 19:8–11). They were to be examples in keeping God’s laws … statutes … and all of His appointed feasts and sanctify My sabbaths. In the Kingdom everyone who follows the Lord will keep these appointed feasts (Lv 23:2, 4, 44).

44:25–27. The priests were to avoid ritual defilement by not going near a dead person (cf. Lv 21:1–4), unless a close relative, but then the priest would have to wait seven days and then offer a sin offering for himself before reentering the temple service. Although death will be uncommon during the millennium (cf. Is 65:20), provision was made for those instances when it will occur.

44:28. The Lord Himself is the inheritance of the priests (cf. Nm 18:20; Dt 10:9), so they would not be given land in Israel except the allotment surrounding the temple (cf. Ezk 45:4). They would have no other possession in Israel—because the Lord is their possession (Jos 13:14, 33; 18:7).

44:29–31. God will take care of those who minister before Him (cf. Dt 18:1–5). Their food will come from the grain and meat from the sin and guilt offerings, along with the first fruits and dough offered by the people in temple sacrifice. This would be a provision for the priests who received it as their allotment, and a blessing for the people. The reasons they will be blessed are manifold: in giving, they are being obedient to the Lord, they are being sacrificial, and they are providing for those who minister to relieve the ministers of concern for earning their own food. This blessing of provision is available today as believers support those who serve the Lord vocationally.

b. Land Allotment for the Temple and Priests (45:1–8)

45:1–4. The Lord gave specific instruction about the division of the land in Israel. There is to be a land allotment to the Lord, a holy portion of the land. This sacred district is 25,000 cubits (about 8.3 miles) long and 20,000 cubits (about 6.6miles) wide (cf. 40:5 concerning cubits). Within this area will be the sanctuary (temple) complex described in chaps. 40–43.

This rectangle of land will be divided into two equal portions, each about 8.3 miles long and about 3.3 miles wide. The first portion will be allotted to the priests … for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary.

45:5–6. Another portion will be allotted to the Levites who serve in the temple as their possession cities to dwell in. Instead of being scattered throughout Israel, as they were in the biblical period of Joshua (Jos 21:1–42), the priests and Levites will reside near their place of ministry.

Jerusalem, the city, will be 5,000 cubits wide (about 1.7 miles) and 25,000 cubits long (about 8.5 miles), adjoining the holy portion. This area will include the urban area, grazing land, and farmland (cf. Ezk 48:15–18).

The entire square of land, about 8.5 miles on each side, will be located at the present site of Jerusalem. A band of land will extend from Jerusalem to the east and west. The holy city will be for the whole house of Israel, all the Jewish people, whether they live there or not. Although all Israel will not necessarily live there, Jerusalem will be their undisputed capital and their central area of worship.

45:7–8. The prince (cf. comments on 44:1–3) will have the land adjacent to the holy allotment and the property of the city. This strip of land will extend on the east to the Jordan River and on the west to the Mediterranean Sea, an area easily visualized in modern Israel. Thus, the prince will have easy access to the future sanctuary.

c. Warning to Jewish Leaders Living in Babylon (45:9–12)

45:9–12. This section shifts back to the Lord’s admonition to the captives living in Babylon. These princes (leaders, cf. 44:3) of Israel, living in Babylonian exile, were admonished to repent: Enough … put away violence and destruction (cf. 44:6). They must not disregard the rights of those they were to protect (cf. 19:1–9; 22:25; 34:1–10). They must practice justice and righteousness, as exemplified by interpersonal relationships and just commerce. The passage is a detailed description of accurate weights and measures: correct balances for weight, an accurate ephah (bushel) for dry goods, and bath (six gallons) for liquid measurements. From the standard of the large homer (fifty gallons or six bushels) down to the tiny gerahs (Israel’s smallest unit of weight, just sixteen barley grains), God always demands honesty at every level (Lv 19:35–37; Dt 25:13–16; Pr 11:1; 16:11; 20:10; Mc 6:10–12).

d. Offerings in the Temple (45:13–46:24)

After the admonishment of the Jewish leaders in Babylon to be honest in weights and measures, the focus returns to the millennial temple, where the future prince will use just weights to receive and offer gifts to God (45:13–17). This mention of offerings includes a brief description of the future sacrificial system (45:18–46:24), then a return to the subject of the division of the land.

45:13–17. The prescribed portion to be given for an offering is to be proportionate to each individual’s financial circumstance, as it was in the law (cf. Lv 5). They are each to give a sixth of an ephah from a homer of wheat … and barley, and a portion of (olive) oil (cf. vv. 9–12). They are also to offer one sheep from each flock of two hundred. The grains and animals were to be used for a grain offering, for a burnt offering and for peace offerings, to make atonement for them. This tithe or tax will be required of all the people for use by the prince in Israel (see comments on 44:1–3). As the people’s representative, he will collect their gifts and use them to maintain the temple sacrifices, including burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the drink offerings, at the feasts, on the new moons and on the sabbaths, at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel (cf. comments on 40:38–43).

45:18–25. There are several calendars of Israel’s annual festivals (Ex 23:14–17; 34:18–24; Lv 23:1–44; Nm 28:11–31; 29:1–39; Dt 16:1–17), however, Ezekiel’s list of festivals does not exactly parallel any of them. The millennial festivals will include sacrifices to cleanse the sanctuary on the first day of the first of the month (vv. 18–20), as well as sacrifices for the Passover, feast of … unleavened bread (vv. 21–24), and the seven days of the feast of Booths on the seventh month, on the fifteenth day (v. 25). If someone sins unintentionally, goes astray or is naive, a second purification will be offered on the seventh day of the month (v. 20). This offering and ceremonial cleansing possibly will replace the Day of Atonement on the seventh month (Lv 23:26–32). The prince will provide for himself and all the people … a bull for a sin offering, indicating he is an important person, but he is not the sinless Messiah (Ezk 45:22–24).

Ezekiel’s omission of Israel’s other national feasts, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement, is a puzzle. There are two possible explanations for the differences.

First, perhaps the omissions signaled a change in God’s program for Israel. The inauguration of the new covenant and the fulfillment of Israel’s kingdom promises may render those three feasts (Pentecost, Trumpets and Day of Atonement) unnecessary. Thus only three of the six annual feasts under the Levitical system (cf. Lv 23:4–44) will be followed, two feasts celebrating national redemption (Passover and Unleavened Bread combined as one feast, as was the custom by the NT period), which will point back to Messiah’s death, and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), which will symbolize the Lord dwelling with His people (see comments at Zch 14:16–19).

Second, and perhaps more likely, Ezekiel’s list is a merism, a literary structure that mentions the first and the last in a sequence to include everything in between. By naming the first of Israel’s appointed feasts (Passover and Unleavened Bread) and the last one (Booths), Ezekiel could be implying that all Israel’s feasts would be reinstituted.

46:1–11. The Lord gave specific directions about the daily worship as well. The gate of the inner court facing east will be closed the six working days of the week, but opened on the sabbath day and on the day of the new moon. The prince will be allowed to stand by the post of the gate during these days when the sacrifice he brought on behalf of the people will be offered (cf. 44:3). He will also provide the sacrifices for the people on the sabbaths and new moons as well as on the major feast days.

The worshipers at the temple are given instructions about how to assemble before the Lord at the appointed feasts. There is no entrance to the temple on the west, and the east gate will be permanently shut (cf. 44:1–2). To avoid turmoil, the worshipers will follow predesignated routes in the temple so that whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate, and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. God is a God of order, and He wants orderliness to prevail in worship.

46:12–15. When the prince (see comments on 44:1–3) makes a freewill offering to the Lord … the gate facing east is to be opened for him. The regulation concerning the closing of the east gate to the inner court (cf. 44:1–2) will be suspended for this special offering. But after the prince leaves, the gate shall be shut after he goes out. The morning sacrifice is mentioned, but the evening sacrifice (cf. Ex 29:38–41; Nm 28:3–4) is not mentioned. Ezekiel was giving only the highlights of the sacrificial system and assumed that his readers would apply the same regulations to the evening sacrifice, although no explanation of the omission is given.

46:16. The prince can give a gift out of his inheritance to any of his sons, and it will be their possession by inheritance. This is another confirmation that the prince is not the Messiah since he is a human being who fathers children, and not the divine Messiah Jesus (cf. comments on 44:1–3).

46:17. The year of liberty is probably a reference to the year of Jubilee on the Levitical calendar. Every 50 years property in Israel that had been sold or given outside the family was to revert to its original owners (see comments on Lv 25:8–15). A gift made to a servant will not be permanent to future generations of his family, but it shall be his until the year of liberty; then it shall return to the prince. His inheritance shall be only his sons. The land belongs to God and He will apportion it to Israel, by tribal units, as His stewards. This regulation assures that no one individual will gain permanent control of the land, nor will it be lost to its rightful owners.

46:18. The prince will not take any land outside his allotted inheritance from the people’s inheritance. In contrast with evil princes in Ezekiel’s day (45:8–9), the godly prince will not oppress the people or take their property, so that My people will not be scattered, anyone from his possession.

46:19–24. Next the angelic guide brought Ezekiel into holy chambers where the priests shall boil the guilt offering and the sin offering and … bake the grain offering. The food is to prepared within the temple area and not taken out … to transmit holiness to the people (cf. comments on Hg 2:12). This is the kitchen of the temple complex, the area that faced north … at the extreme rear toward the west, where the priests will prepare food from the sacrifices. When the people offer fellowship offerings to the Lord, they will be allowed to eat part of the sacrifice in a fellowship meal (cf. Lv 7:15–18). Evidently at these four corners of the court the priests will cook the food used in the sacrifices. Thus, activities in the temple will include fellowship meals as well as sacrificial worship.

3. A New Land (47:1–48:35)

a. The River from the Temple (47:1–12)

During the millennium there will be a change in the topography of Israel when the millennial temple will be the source of life-giving "water." There is nothing in the passage to suggest anything other than a literal river, even though many think this refers only symbolically to the blessings that flow from God’s presence. The inclusion of details such as the "fishermen" (v. 10) and the salty "swamps" and "marshes" (v. 11) indicate realism, not allegory. These details become meaningless if the passage is only symbolic of spiritual blessing. In the millennium this river will be another visible reminder of God’s presence and blessing, as the prophets foretold (cf. vv. 1–2; Jl 3:18; Zch 14:8).

47:1–2. Ezekiel was brought … back to the entrance of the door of the house (temple). There he saw water flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east. This stream, flowing out from God’s presence, went eastward and passed south of the altar. Ezekiel left the temple complex through the north gate and saw the water … trickling out of the temple on the south side into the Kidron Valley. According to Zechariah, the water flowing from Jerusalem will divide into two branches, with half flowing east toward the Dead Sea and half flowing west toward the Mediterranean (Zch 14:8). Ezekiel followed only the branch that went toward the east.

47:3–6. The angelic man went out toward the east and measured the water. He led Ezekiel through the water and measured it becoming deeper and deeper. After a thousand cubits (1,750 feet or 1/3 mile) the water … was ankle deep; in another thousand cubits the river was knee deep. The angel measured another thousand cubits (now a mile from the temple), and the water reached Ezekiel’s loins. A fourth measurement of a thousand cubits farther to the east revealed that the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in and so deep that it was too wide to cross, it could not be forded. The trickle that flowed from the temple had now become a powerful river.

47:7–8. On the bank of this river were very many trees on both sides. This river will begin at the temple and flow toward the eastern region, continuing into the Arabah … toward the (Dead) sea. The Arabah is the Jordan Valley running south from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea and ultimately to the Gulf of Aqaba at the far northern end of the Red Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest and saltiest body of water on earth, six times saltier than the oceans, and consequently cannot sustain life, but this will be changed in the millennium. As this river enters the Dead Sea, the salt waters will become fresh, truly a miracle of God. This now-lifeless body of water will then support life.

47:9–10. Plants and fish will thrive, so everything will live where the river goes. Now the salt and mineral content of the Dead Sea is so intense no fish can survive there, but in the future fishermen will stand on its shores from En Gedi to Eneglaim, oases areas near the Dead Sea (Jos 15:62; 1Sm 23:29; Sg 1:14), spreading their fishing nets. They will catch many kinds of fish, like the fish of the Great Sea (the Mediterranean).

47:11–12. Although the Dead Sea will become fresh, the swamps and marshes around it will not become fresh; they will be left for salt to supply this essential mineral for the needs of the people and the animals in Israel.

There will be all kinds of trees on the riverbanks of this freshwater sea. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit year-round. They will be watered from the sanctuary, so the trees will provide fruit for food, and their leaves will be medicinal, providing healing. It is likely they will have divinely supernatural medicinal qualities so that people will live long in the millennium (cf. Is 65:20).

b. Boundaries of the Land (47:13–23)

47:13–14. The land of Israel was given by God to Abraham and his descendants (Gn 13:14–17; 15:17–21). During the millennial kingdom the land will be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Nm 34; Jos 13). The Levites will not have a portion in the land, but instead be given territory in the sacred district (cf. Ezk 45:4), and Joseph shall have two portions, one for Ephraim and Manasseh (Gn 48:17–20; Ezk 48:4–5). It was given to the Jewish people as an unconditional covenant promise that will never be rescinded. Israel’s experience of blessing in the land was conditioned on her obedience to the law of Moses (Dt 28), and disobedience to the Lord had serious consequences. When Israel recognizes the Messiah and begins to experience the fullness of the blessings of the new covenant during the Messianic kingdom, she will be restored to her place of blessing in the land (cf. Ezk 36–37). For I swore to give it to your forefathers (cf. Gn 12:1; 15:9–21; 26:2–4; 28:13–15), and this land shall fall to you as an inheritance.

47:15–17. The boundary of the land on the north will run east from the Great Sea, the Mediterranean, starting somewhere north of Tyre and Sidon by the Hethlon road past Lebo-Hamath to Hazar-enan at the border of Damascus. So the northern border will stretch east from the Mediterranean Sea north to include what was then the northern border of Syria.

47:18. The east side of Israel will extend between Hauran and Damascus. The edge of Israel’s territory will arch back from Hazar-enan along the southern border of Syria till it reaches the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee. From there it will go along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel. The eastern border here shall be the Jordan river to the eastern sea, the Dead Sea. (See the map of "The Tribes of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom" on p. 1276).

47:19. The south side will extend from Tamar to the waters of Meribath-kadesh to the brook of Egypt (Wadi el-Arish, the wadi of Egypt, Nm 34:5) toward the Great Sea (Mediterranean Sea). Kadesh-barnea is the more familiar name of Meribath-kadesh, a district about 50 miles south of Beersheba. It is the area from which the 12 spies departed to investigate the promised land after the exodus. It was the border marker into the land of Israel at that point (Nm 13:25–26; 27:14; 34:4). The brook of Egypt is not the Nile river, because the Jewish people did not enter the promised land when they crossed the Nile at the exodus, but the spies crossed this brook when they went from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land. The brook of Egypt ("of Egypt" is not in the Hb. but has been erroneously supplied by translators) is the Wadi el-Arish, a deeply cut streambed on the northeast side of the Sinai Peninsula that flows toward the northwest into the Mediterranean. It is about 50 miles south of Gaza and marked the southernmost extremity of Solomon’s kingdom (1Kg 8:65).

The Tribes of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom

Adapted from The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Copyright 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.

47:20. The west side boundary will be the Great Sea from the south border to Lebo-hamath. The western border of Israel is the Mediterranean, from the shoreline of the Wadi el-Arish in the south to the point opposite Lebo-hamath in the north, an ancient city in Syria, beyond Damascus (cf. vv. 15–17).

47:21–23. The land will be divided among the tribes of Israel … by lot for an inheritance. There is also a stipulation for allotting land to resident aliens who want to associate with Israel. When these resident aliens have lived in the land, stayed in your midst, and had sons as part of the community, they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel and be given an inheritance within the tribe where they lived.

Though foreigners had always been allowed to live in Israel (cf. Lv 24:22; Nm 15:29), in the millennium they will be given other privileges previously limited to Israelites (cf. Is 56:3–8). Though the millennial age will be a time of blessing for Jewish followers of Messiah, Gentile followers of Messiah will also enjoy God’s blessing (cf. Is 9:2; Lk 2:32; Mt 25:31–46).

c. Division of the Land (48:1–29)

The division of the land is not exactly the same as in Joshua’s time (Jos 13–22). In the millennium the allotments will extend across the land in parallel tracts from east to west, and there will be no tribal allotment east of the Jordan. About a fifth of the whole land, in the center, is an allotment as a sacred area designated to Jerusalem, the sanctuary, and the prince. This allotment to the Lord will cause each tribe to have only about two-thirds of the territory given them under Joshua.

48:1–7. The division of the land into portions is described from the northern extremity to south, with the tribal allotment described from east to west: Dan … Asher … Naphtali … Manasseh … Ephraim … Reuben … Judah.

48:8–10. Next to the border of Judah, in the central part of the land, will be the allotment for the Lord. This holy allotment will have the sanctuary … in the middle and the land will be for the priests. The size (cf. comments on 45:1–8) is 25,000 cubits in length by 10,000 cubits in width. Since the sacred district area is given as 20,000 cubits wide in chap. 45, this may refer to a subdivision of the allotment for the sanctuary, or perhaps it is a scribal error; the LXX reads "20,000."

48:11–14. The priests, the sons of Zadok (cf. 44:15), and the Levites will have property in this holy district and must not sell or exchange any of it, … for it is holy to the Lord.

48:15–20. Surrounding Jerusalem will be open land for common use, an area of 4,500 cubits (7,875 feet, about 1 miles) on each side. There will be open spaces of land 250 cubits (437 feet) wide, and an area 10,000 cubits (3.3 miles) long that will serve as pasture and farmland to produce food for the city. These areas must be set apart alongside the holy allotment.

48:21–22. Some of the central area around the holy allotment of the land is for the prince (see comments on 44:1–3). The holy allotment and the sanctuary will be in the middle of the land (cf. vv. 8–10). There will be property of the Levites, and of Jerusalem (the city) but everything between … Judah and Benjamin will be for the prince.

48:23–29. The remainder of the land will be divided among the rest of the tribes continuing from north to south: Benjamin … Simeon … Issachar Zebulun … Gad.

d. Gates of the City (48:30–35)

48:30–31. After describing the city, the holy allotment and the land division, the book closes with a description of the gates, the exits of the city. Millennial Jerusalem will be enclosed with a wall and have 12 gates, three on each side, each one named for one of the 12 tribes of Israel, from the 12 sons of Jacob (cf. Gn 48). These names will also appear on the gates in the new Jerusalem (cf. Rv 21:10–12). The description confirms the significant role Jewish tribal identity will have in the kingdom. Each side of Jerusalem is 4,500 cubits long (7,875 feet, about 1 miles; Ezk 48:30, 32, 34) with three gates on each side.

The three gates toward the north are Reuben, Judah, and Levi (cf. Gn 29:31–35).

48:32. The three gates on the east side are Joseph (cf. Gn 48:1), Benjamin (cf. Gn 30:22–24; 35:16–18), and Dan (cf. Gn 30:4–6). In the division of the land under Joshua, Joseph was given tribal identity through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim (Jos 16:1–17:18). Because Levi has a gate, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim are represented by their father, Joseph.

48:33. The gates on the south side are Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun (cf. Gn 29:33; 30:17–20).

48:34. The gates on the west side are Gad, Asher (cf. Gn 30:9–13), and Naphtali (cf. Gn 30:7–8).

48:35. After describing the millennial Jerusalem and the new order of worship (chaps. 40–48), Ezekiel concluded with the most important aspect of the millennial city of Jerusalem, the glorious presence of the Lord. The glory of God had departed from Jerusalem as a prelude to its judgment (cf. chaps. 10–11). In the future, all Israel will recognize Jesus as their King Messiah (Zch 12:10; Rm 11:25–27) and will enjoy the Lord’s holy presence in the Messianic Age, worshiping Him forever. Jerusalem ("City of Peace," Gn 3:18) has many identifying names in the Scriptures (e.g., Pss 48:2; 87:2; Is 1:26; 60:14; 62:4; Jr 2:17; 33:16; Zch 8:3), but in the kingdom, it will have a new name. The Lord will return to dwell in Jerusalem with His people, and The name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there. The name "Yahweh-Shammah" is a Hebrew wordplay on Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The names sound similar, but "Yahweh-Shammah" represents the true character of Jerusalem’s restored relationship of the Lord with His people.

The book of Ezekiel opened with a dazzling vision of divine glory (chaps. 1–3). In light of the holiness of the Lord, Ezekiel prophesied the necessity of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem for their disobedience (chaps. 4–24). Then he announced the judgment on the Gentile nations for their moral corruption and international intrigues against God’s chosen people (chaps. 25–32). God’s faithfulness to His unconditional covenant with Abraham and the promise of the new covenant are brought into clear focus in Ezekiel’s message of the blessings and restoration of Israel (chaps. 33–39). Finally Ezekiel presented the glory and majesty of the Lord God’s sovereign rule and His absolute holiness in the details of the millennial kingdom, the temple, and new Jerusalem (chaps. 40–48).

The eschatological emphasis of the prophet anticipates God’s future work in world events and His faithfulness to His people Israel. Moreover, it challenges every person who loves the Lord to greater personal holiness and obedience to the King Messiah, who will one day rule from His throne in Jerusalem. The city will then be known as Adonai Shammah, "The Lord Is There!"


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Eichrodt, Walther. Ezekiel. The Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970.

Eisemann, Moshe. Yechezkel/Ezekiel. The Artscroll Tanach Series. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1988.

Feinberg, Charles Lee. The Prophecy of Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord. Chicago: Moody, 1969.

Fisch, S. Ezekiel. London: Soncino Press, 1950.

Freeman, Hobart E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Chicago: Moody, 1968.

Rooker, Mark F. Ezekiel. Holman Old Testament Commentary, vol. 17. Edited by Max Anders. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006.

Schmitt, John W. and J. Carl Laney Messiah’s Coming Temple: Ezekiel’s Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1997.

Taylor, John B. Ezekiel: An Introduction & Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Edited by D. J. Wiseman. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969.

Tuell, Steven. Ezekiel. New International Bible Commentary. Edited by Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. and Robert K. Johnston. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009.

Wevers, John W. Ezekiel. The Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969.


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