E z e k i e l 1 3 - 2 4

A Devotional COMMENTARY BY Nate Wilson

Chapter 13

13:1-2 God has a bone to pick with the false prophets and prophetesses of Israel. He tells Ezekiel to prophecy against them.

13:3-7 What distinguishes a false prophet? Such a person "prophecies out if his own heart," and "wells out of his own spirit." They say "God says...," but God has not spoken. I have covered differences between false and true prophecy in depth elsewhere--true prophecy should make you uncomfortable, prod you to fuller obedience to God, etc.

13:5,10 But apparently these particular false prophets in Ezekiel’s day were out repairing the wall around Jerusalem and telling the people that they would be safe. Beware the prophet who says, "relax, it'll be O.K.!"

13:8-9 God is not neutral toward those who take His Name in vain, lie and lead people astray! God is actively AGAINST such people. He won't allow the memory of their names to endure, and they will not enter His rest. This, of course, applies today to Marxist-leaning bureaucrats who run our government, but also to those people within the church who either purposefully or accidentally (foolishly) misrepresent God's will and lead people to do what is wrong. Dear God, please guard my heart that I may never lead people astray in my family and in my work.

13:10-16 God's message to the people still in Jerusalem at that time was that He was about to destroy the city and its precious wall. (He did indeed raise up the Chaldeans again and they destroyed the walls of Jerusalem.) God is jealous of any object of our security and trust save Himself.

13:17ff Sounds like there is witchcraft going on in Jerusalem, too: sewing bands, long veils, hunting souls, false prophetesses. Perhaps the people are paying witches with food (barley and bread) to cast spells to kill others they dislike. These people are standing against God's will by trying to kill those who should not die (perhaps they were trying to curse Ezekiel, too), and "save alive" those who should die. God alone has the real power over life and death, and He hates those evil men who start arbitrarily plotting whom to kill and whom to leave alive. (This applies today not only to Voodoo practitioners in Haiti, but to abortionists, euthanasiasts, and other social planners in the USA.) God will show them who's Boss. He will destroy their witchcraft and false prophecies and deliver the souls of the captives.

13:19 Lying goes both ways: the liar and the people who listen to lies. Both are wrong.

Reading Rebecca Brown's He Came to Set The Captives Free book reminds me of the reality of what this passage is talking about. Witchcraft is very real and pervasive throughout the world and is a bondage with iron bonds. God can deliver, but God also decrees that those who practice witchcraft should be put to death. Yet God shows His power over satan by delivering some from his hand.

13:22 God will show His power over this witchcraft "because you have saddened the heart of the righteous with lies, and I have not made him sad; and have made the hands of the wicked strong so that he should not turn from his evil..." God cares about how the righteous feel. When we are discouraged because of the sin of other men, God will show His power. Thank you, Lord for Your care, even over my feelings. And I thank You that You deliver people from satanic bondage of every kind and that You will not allow the wicked to remain strong. You are a God of justice, and You have the almighty power to carry out Your righteous judgments.

Chapter 14

14:1-5 The elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to hear a prophecy, but God probably didn't give them what they wanted to hear. God says they have no business coming to Him because they have given themselves to idols.

14:3 Notice WHERE these men have set up idols: in their hearts. These idols may not have even been the carved images of primitive man, but the idolatrous desires, priorities, and activities of modern man. Things like the entertainment of sports, movies, sex, food, etc.--none of which are sinful in and of themselves, but if "set up" in the heart as more important than other things becomes idolatrous. It becomes a "stumbling block of sin" which cuts us off from communication with God. God is a jealous God; He will not tolerate competition.

14:5 God is fed up with the idolatry of these men who came to Ezekiel for a prophecy. Instead of helping these men, God says that He will purposefully use those idols to trap those Jews and lead them astray.

14:6 Yet God, ever merciful as He is, calls these rebellious, idolatrous men doomed for destruction yet once more to repent. "Turn and be turned from your idols." If you don't turn your faces away from those idols and take them down, I will "set My face against that man and make him desolate." And the punishment is not just to get that person, it is to be a "sign and for proverbs" so that other people may see it and perhaps repent, and "know that I am Jehovah." Thank you, God, that You are merciful. You give warnings and second chances out of Your mercy. Thank You that Your desire for grace and salvation is as great as Your desire for justice.

14:9 Can God lie? It says right here that if a prophet is deceived, it is God who has deceived him, because God wants to destroy him! I'm not sure what to make of this, except that God does elect whom He will save, so I suppose that the flip side is that He chooses not to elect others. I think of this as more a passive action than a proactive one. It's hard to imagine God searching out all the people He specifically doesn't want to elect; that would be a no-brainer because there is not a single soul worthy of His election. I rather think that He chooses His elect, and by default abandons the rest to deception. This deception is the proactive work of satan (the deceiver) allowed by God. Thus God can take responsibility for allowing the prophets to be deceived while not having actually lied Himself.

14:10-11 But on the other hand, there is some pro-active judgment by God, who holds leaders to a higher standard of accountability. A false prophet who is actively leading thousands of people away from God is more culpable than a simple-minded man deceived by that false prophet. Therefore God says that the sins of those led astray will be put on the head of the false prophet, and he will be punished for them. To destroy the source of the problem, God will knock out the false prophets so that there won't be leaders leading all the people astray. God still wants to be acknowledged as the Sovereign over the Israelites; He still wants them to be His people.

Dear God, please guard me from deception, that I may never lead Your people astray (and that I may not be judged severely by You for it!). Please don't abandon me to my own ways or to the deceiver; rule me by Your Spirit within me!

14:12 "When a land sins against me." So many Christians think that since Israel was a theocracy, it was uniquely bound to God and His laws--that God does not consider people of other nations as His people, so no other nation need be bound to follow the laws God gave to Israel. But if that is the case, why did God judge other nations for disobeying His laws? His law is good and universal; it is a blessing to any nation that will follow it. When ANY nation sins against God, as this verse says, God will punish them with famine and desolation.

The USA specifically identified with God and His laws at its beginning, but we are already seeing God begin to punish our nation for its sin by wasting diseases (such as AIDS), violent crime (such as abortion), and increasing poverty (such as inflation). There comes a point when God will not tolerate a nation for its sin. If Noah, Daniel, and Job lived there, God would still destroy that nation! I fear that we are reaching the point in the United States at which there is no hope but to be saved individually out of an incorrigible nation as were Noah, Daniel, and Job. The Biblical accounts of Daniel never record a sin committed by him, and although Noah and Job each had one recorded instance of error in judgment, neither of them are recorded as having actually sinned. Even their righteousness and steadfastness in the midst of evil cultures at 3 different points in history would not be enough to keep a nation from God's judgment any more than Abraham's petitions for Sodom and Gomorrah.

14:13-20 God speaks of his four judgments upon an evil nation: Famine (v.13-14), Sword (v.17-18), Evil Beasts (v.15-16), and Plague (v.19-20). We don't usually think of "beasts" as being a punishment of God. In fact, we don't think much about beasts at all in modern America because we seldom even see wild animals. I read an interesting interpretation of this in Dr. Rebecca Brown's book, He Came to Set the Captives Free, where she verifies the existence of wer-animals, such as werewolves. She says that occultism is on the rise in America and that satan makes "evil beasts" out of some of his people, making them powerful destroyers. Even if it isn't talking about werewolves, it's safer to live in an area that doesn't have mountain lions and bears roaming about!

14:21-23 These judgments are to fall upon Jerusalem, and that city will be left desolate. There will, however, be a few who escape from Jerusalem and make their way to, I suppose, the exiles in Babylon where Ezekiel lives. These refugees will comfort the exiles. How will the exiles be "comforted" by the "ways and doings" of refugees from the final destruction of Jerusalem? Perhaps those refugees will be broken from their pride and idolatry and will serve God wholeheartedly. In that case, God's judgment would not be in vain, because He would have brought people back to Himself and people would be comforted to see God worshipped again as He ought. Perhaps, on the other hand, this would simply prove that Ezekiel's prophecy was true. There would be some comfort that it was indeed God speaking through him and that God is still present and active. Perhaps even some exiles would find comfort in the fact that there is no option of going back to Jerusalem. That chapter is over for a time.

CHAPTER 15 Parable Of The Vine Tree

15:1-5 Here we have a little parable of a "vine tree." This tree is no good for any kind of lumber. You can't make boards out of it; you can't make pegs out of it...but it does make good firewood. (The phrase "burning the candle at both ends" may have come from v.4 "both ends burns the fire.") Once the ends have been burned and the middle is charred (The Hebrew word is actually pronounced "char" too), the vine tree is totally useless.

15:6-8 God feels the same way about the dwellers in Jerusalem. There is no reason to keep them there. There's no work they can do for Him there. They've become useless to Him. Therefore God will destroy them--burn them up. He'll set His face against them and make the land desolate.

Well, I may not be particularly beautiful wood to work with, but Lord, let me not be a vine-tree! Please guard me from treachery or uselessness and let me be useful to You in Your work!

CHAPTER 16 The Parable Of The Whore

16:1-2 Reading this chapter makes me sick; it's disgusting. God wanted Ezekiel to shock the Jews into realizing how great their sin was.

16:3-14 A parable follows in which the girl is Israel and the benefactor is God who finds this baby girl lying dirty, naked, abandoned on the ground. (Having just been through the birth of my 4th child three days ago, I can see it all vividly--washing the blood off, cutting the cord, bathing in salty herb water, and wrapping it up tightly in a blanket so Baby will be warm and comfortable.) But not so with the girl in this story. Her mother was a Hittite (Sarah?) and her Father was an Amorite (Abram?)--this in itself was probably insulting to the Jews who seemed to consider themselves a superior race. But God took special interest in the Jews and developed a nation and blessed them. God entered into a covenant with them--like marriage—saying, "I will be your God and you will be My people. If you worship Me and make My glory known among the nations, there will be no end to your blessing!" He clothed the girl, now a beautiful lady, as Jesus clothes us with His righteousness. Her beauty was "perfected by My splendor which I had set upon" her.

16:15 Instead of continuing to rely on her benefactor, she "trusted in her own beauty." Fatal. As soon as we trust ourselves and think about us rather than God, it's downhill from there. She turned to prostitution, lying with men just for the heck of it--not asking for pay, but paying them to come!

16:19 She took God's things--her clothes, gold, oil and incense--and gave them to other men. (God, all that I have--my clothes, money, food, music, computer, etc.--came from You; help me not to use them in anyone's service but Yours!)

16:20-21 Even the children we have are gifts from God and must be kept in His service, but the girl in this parable gave hers away to be sacrificed to idols, just as the Jews were doing in their idolatrous worship of Baal (and just as satanists do in America today).

16:26-29 The Jews, rather than being faithful to the God who created them and blessed them as a nation, adopted the idols of Egypt, Assyria, Canaan, Chaldea, and Philistia. And are we any better today in America? We have adopted the religions of Communist Russia, Hindu India, and Islam is now the fastest-growing religion in our borders! Not to mention the Pagan Roman idolatry of sports, wealth, and entertainment that the American church has whored after.

16:22 She did not "remember the days of [her] youth." I've been thinking of this in regard to our nation--why don't we remember how we started? Why have our history books been so perverted that people don't know their history accurately? Why don't we run our government according to our founding documents? We have forgotten the days of our youth. It is good to pause to reflect on our past so as to remember what our God has done!

"High places:" Generally the people worshipped idols on shrines built at the tops of hills. These idols are actually demons. The worship of Baal--perhaps satan himself--included burning children alive, and the worship of Asherah included sexual orgies held next to special poles placed in the ground. These sorts of things are still practiced today even in the United States.

16:35-43 God is understandably very unhappy with this "harlot" Israel and will punish her, bringing the armies of surrounding nations to kill and loot the people of Israel. God will do whatever it takes to stop this harlotry, idolatry, and wickedness. But there is an end to God's fury, and He will not be angry forever; there will come a point where He will not be angry anymore with them. God is always working to reconcile.

16:44-48 In a sense, the people of Israel were daughters and sisters of the nations around them, and some may have excused their idolatry by this fact--"The OTHERS around us are worshipping idols; that's where we came from, so why is God picking on US?" God's reply through Ezekiel is that Israel has been even more sinful than the nations around her.

16:51-52 appears to be saying that because Israel has sinned twice as much as Samaria, God considers them relatively just and is passing over punishing them!

16:49 Interesting this focus on the sins of Sodom. One might think God would mention sodomy in His list of sin, but no, He's concerned with the root causes: pride, wealth, idleness, and a lack of concern for the poor and needy. (Is that a description of the USA or what!)

16:53 Yet God promises to return the Jews and the people of the surrounding nations out of captivity back to their own land. This is so that Israel will "blush" with shame at her sin. God wants us to mourn sin and repent when we sin. Mourning, fasting, and wearing sackcloth and ashes seems extreme to our modern mindset, but it is pleasing to God because it shows our solidarity with His intense hatred of sin.

16:59-60 Even when we break covenant with God, He remembers. Even though we forget the days of our youth, he remembers. When God makes an agreement/covenant, it stands forever. When we break it, God is patient and wants to restore it. He wants to once again raise up His covenant with us after He has punished us and we have repented. He loves to restore.

CHAPTER 17: The Parable of the Eagle Tree

17:1-10 God gives Ezekiel a parable: An eagle plants a seedling in a great city and also plants a seed in a field by a river for His benefit. But instead of benefitting the first eagle, the sprout grows toward a second eagle to benefit him. Surely the first eagle will destroy that wayward tree and it will never grow back.

17:11-18 The first eagle is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who took the cream of the crop of the Jews to the great city of Babylon and made a covenant with the remnant in Jerusalem that as long as they serve Him they will be safe. But the Jews in Jerusalem broke this covenant and made a treaty with Egypt, hoping to ally against Nebuchadnezzar and become independent once again. (They had been allied with Egypt before all this trouble with the Babylonians: II Chron.36 & II Kings 25) So Ezekiel prophecies by this parable and its interpretation that the king of Babylon will surely destroy the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that they can't start any more independence movements again. It is also prophesied that Egypt will not be successful in holding off the Babylonians. History shows this prophecy to be true: The king of Babylon came back and took captive or killed everybody in Jerusalem, broke down its walls, and stripped the temple of all its valuables. He also defeated the Egyptians in battle further south. He left a few simple, peaceful farmers in Judea, but they would not start another independence movement!

Interesting how God harps on this oath made to the king of Babylon. It appears that He is displeased primarily because the governor of Jerusalem broke his oath to Nebuchadnezzar. God takes oaths seriously, even when they are not to Him and even when they are carelessly uttered (Lev.5:4; Eccl. 5:1-6). (It's possible, however, that this refers to Zedekiah, governor of Jerusalem whom Nebuchadnezzar made swear by God that he would be true to him.) According to Psalm 15, the righteous will keep his oath even though it hurts him.

17:19-21 God will proactively trap these deleterious Jews still in Jerusalem and see to it that they get carried off to Babylon. Most of the escapees will be killed on the run, but a few will get scattered all over the world. Again, this vengeance is not blind anger; it is purposeful to make these people realize who the true God is.

17:22-24 Next we have what sounds like a Messianic prophecy. v.23 sounds very much like Jesus' parable of the mustard seed (Matt. 13:32), and v.24 reminds me of Isaiah's prophecy in 53:2 about the Messiah coming up like a root out of dry ground. God promises to plant part of this tree (representing Israel) and make it flourish again. Perhaps the "top of the highest" means that Jesus will come from Mary and Joseph, who were both of the royal line of David. This will be a new kingdom which will grow and produce real fruit pleasing to God--as Christians in the kingdom of God. And "every bird of every wing shall live under it" so shall men from every tribe, tongue, and nation be gathered to the Name of Christ!

Another possible interpretation is that the "cream of the crop" which was taken to Babylon would return to rebuild the nation of Israel and it would flourish once again. Since prophecy is typically multifaceted in fulfillment, I don't see why this prophecy couldn't support both interpretations.

CHAPTER 18: The Soul That Sinneth It Shall Die

Sounds like a proverb was being passed around at this time that children would be punished for their father's sins. "No," God says, "They are ALL my souls." God has full authority to decide the fate of the righteous as well as the wicked, and He will reward each man according to his own actions. True, "the sins of the fathers are visited upon [succeeding generations]" (Deut. 5:9), but I think that is speaking of patterns of sin which the children inherit from their parents rather than of God's judgment being delayed to subsequent generations who don't deserve it. ("For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and will be called to account for every deed we have done, whether good or bad" II Cor. 5:10) Maybe these Jews thought that they were sinful, yet thought that they were not going to get punished because, for some reason, God would pass the punishment to their children. Perhaps they thought they were righteous and that God was punishing them for the sin of generations past; I don't know. In a sense, the latter is true, because God stated earlier that He was still sore about the sins of Manasseh (II Ki. 24:3). I also recall that God killed David's first son of Bathsheba because of their adultery. But God does not punish a righteous man as though He were unrighteous. This generation was quite wicked and fully deserving of God's wrath. God was merciful in not wiping out past generations that were wicked, but His patience was at an end and this generation was fully deserving of being wiped out. God has the authority to exercise mercy where punishment is due, but He does not always do that; He exercises justice.

18:5-9 The characteristics of the righteous:

·  not eaten on the mountains and not lifted eyes up to the idols ("no other gods before me")

·  not defiled neighbor's wife ("do not commit adultery")

·  not come near a menstruating woman ("abstain from blood" this is equated with adultery and oppression!)

·  not oppressed a man, returns his pledge to the debtor (doesn't take advantage of his power and wealth, generous to the poor man who leaves his coat as a pledge to pay back what he borrowed), not loaned on interest; not taken increase (taking interest on a loan is wrong!)

·  has not robbed ("do not steal")

·  has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing

·  kept his hand from injustice, having done true justice ("do not bear false witness")

·  has walked in God's statutes, keeping God's judgments (Obeys the O.T. law)

How do I measure up to these things? God promises that he who does these things shall live. Our works of obedience, while not saving us, can mean the difference between blessing and punishment from God, just as my sons good behavior doesn't determine whether or not he is my son, but it does determine how sore his bottom will be! Dear God, help me to do these things You are looking for in a just man!

18:10-20 Ezekiel goes on to make clear that if a son of a righteous man does NOT do these righteous things, he will be punished. You can't rest on your heritage. If he DOES do these things, he will live. Each man will be rewarded according to his own righteousness or unrighteousness in his own generation.

18:21-32 "No Pleasure in the Death of the Wicked"
Once again, we see God's grace and love at the end of His holiness and justice. God does not enjoy punishing wicked people; He does it because He has to, not because He gets a kick out of it. God longs to embrace the prodigal; God longs to see the wicked turn from ungodliness so that He can enjoy fellowship and worship from them. I've heard it commonly said, "God can't forgive me for that." No; God CAN forgive anything when we put Him in full lordship of our life. I've also heard it commonly said, "I've been mostly good, perhaps God will overlook that." No; God will punish a good man who does wrong. Our internal sense of what is right and wrong and whether or not God will forgive is skewed; we must rely on what the Bible teaches instead.

Oh God, please keep my feet from slipping! No matter how good a reputation I may have, I cannot rest on my laurels when it comes to spiritual things. If I should turn to wickedness now, You promise that I would die in my unrighteousness. Lord, keep me in You and help me persevere in Your righteous ways!

Is this FAIR? Of course! Everything God does is just. It is only WE who are unfair! And yet God is not entirely fair, because He weights His judgments in favor of MERCY. He hopes for, waits for, and works for salvation rather than simply condemning everybody as we deserve. We all DESERVE eternal damnation! Oh God, I thank You and praise You for Your mercy and grace!

18:30 God calls us to "turn and be made to turn" from our transgressions. That indicates not just a matter of willing ourselves to turn from sin, but coupling it with an outside force. That outside force that makes us "be made to turn" is God's own Spirit at work within His people. It could also be social structures--friends, family, church, perhaps even correctional programs... We can't crawl out of sin solo; it takes God's grace and God's people helping!


Chapter 19: Mourning For The Latter Kings

This is apparently a mourning song for the latter kings of Judah. Good king Josiah had a son named Jehoahaz. Jehoahaz did evil in the eyes of the Lord, according to II Kings 23: 29ff, and Pharoah-Neco came up from Egypt, bound him, and put his evil brother Jehoikim on the throne. So apparently Jehoahaz was the first cub spoken of, and it was recent history to those hearing this prophecy/parable/dirge. The second cub must be one of the latter kings--Jehoikim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah--all of which were evil, and all of which rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and were deported to Babylon.

According to Baker's commentaries, Jehoikim and Jehoichin were considered illegitimate kings because they weren't primary royal line (Pharaoh had installed them) and Jehoahaz still lived in Egypt. Baker asserts that Zedekiah is the second cub spoken of, because he was not of the line of the two puppet kings, but of Jehoahaz's line. He says that this is a prophecy of the future, as Ezekiel spoke this dirge before the final destruction of Jerusalem and capture of Zedekiah by the Chaldeans. In II Ki., mention is made of the prophets who warned Israel during those last days, and Ezekiel was certainly one of them, although only Jeremiah is mentioned by name in that passage. But the final destruction would come.

19:9-13 Although Israel has raised up many great rulers (scepters), it would be plucked up, dried out, burned, and replanted in the wilderness, "no longer to be heard on the mountains of Israel." Practically all the Jews--and certainly all the rulers were transplanted from Jerusalem to Babylon. This prophecy of Ezekiel was fulfilled in detail.

19:14 Perhaps the "fire" that has gone out from one of the branches, consumed her fruit and left the tree without a strong "rod" is Manasseh, and the branches/rods/scepters represent kings of Judah. Ever since Manasseh, there was not a strong, godly ruler (except for Josiah, whose foolishness nevertheless ended his life, too). The idolatry and wickedness of Manasseh and successive generations so weakened the stature of the nation and its leaders that it could not survive. Reminds me of another nation I know.


Chapter 20: Israel's History Recapped

20:1-4 God is fed up with the Israelites; He doesn't even want to SPEAK with them anymore. He says to Ezekiel, "YOU deal with them!"

20:5-7 God reminds Israel of its history, particularly focusing on the ebb and flow if its idolatry:

It started with Abraham, when God led him out to a land He had "searched out" for them. He gave a strong admonition to the people to put away the "filthy idols of [their] eyes" as well as the "idols of Egypt." What distinction is God making between the two idols? The "filthy idols" is also translated "abomination;" it has strong negative emotion, while the "idol" carries more the connotation of "wooden block" --a useless piece of carved wood people have the foolishness to worship, according to Spiros Zhodiates. I bet that the former has more to do with idols of the heart that we set up in our minds (eyes), loving these things more than God. Pride, lust, or idolatrous devotion to sports, food...whatever. The latter may have more to do with the carved images the Egyptians (and other nations) worshipped.

20:8 At any rate, the Israelites in Egypt did not heed this command to put away idolatry; they rebelled against God. This gave God a legal right to wipe them out.

Dear God, please help me not to be rebellious against you! Help me to put away the filthy idols of my eyes and love You wholeheartedly!

20:9 So why didn't God destroy rebellious Israel right then and there? "That His name would not be profaned among the nations." God was concerned about His reputation and that of His covenant people among the other nations. If God were to destroy His people, that would create problems in calling the rest of the nations to worship Him, too. Who wants a God who kills His own followers?

20:10 So God brings Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness and gives them His laws, "which, if a man does them, he will even live by them." God's laws were written down and codified for the first time in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, and they are beautiful laws that lead to prosperity and life!

Oh God, I long to return to Your law to rule my country rather than the whimsical, oppressive, humanistic law system that has evolved in the USA. Do I have to wait until heaven to live in a community that abides by Your law...?

20:12 Interesting that God chooses to highlight the Sabbath law to represent His law in Ezekiel's prophecy here. Observing a day of rest and worship on the 7th day of the week sets God's people apart from everyone else. It is life-giving in that it gives regular rest and refreshment and increases prosperity. The Sabbath system also included rests on the 7th month, the 7th year, and the 70th year. While we Christians in America tend to observe a rest on the 7th day of the week, we have ignored the other 3/4 of this law, so we cannot say we're any better than the rebellious Israelites were.

Is there any way I could observe the Sabbath year or year of jubilee for myself? I guess that the Thanksgiving-Christmas season is like the 7th month rests and celebrations of Israel. But no one was to even plough their field on the Sabbath year. How does that translate to non-agricultural business? Do you simply not advertise (plough the field), or do you close up shop for a year? I didn't do it on purpose, but I did spend about a year and a half last year not doing any fundraising, and You seem to have blessed that. Is that a pattern I should observe every 7 years? Should all debts be absolved on a certain year...?

20:13-17 But even right after the giving of the law, Israel rebelled again against God in the desert (cf Ex.32). God had given Moses the law, which Moses had relayed to the people, then God conferenced with Moses 40 days on how to build the place of worship and its utensils. The Israelites decided Moses was dead, built a golden calf idol and had an orgy. God wanted to destroy them right then and there, but Moses interceded for them, appealing to God's reputation among the Egyptians and the nations. So God decided not to destroy rebellious Israel so that His reputation would not be profaned among the nations. The surrounding nations, rather than seeing an angry God that destroys His chosen people, would see a patient, merciful God and desire to know this God. Although God did not destroy them, He still punished that generation by not allowing them to enter the land He had picked out for them.

Oh God, I praise You that You are patient and merciful. I thank You that You have chosen a place for me in Your promised heaven. I yearn for it and am weary of the wickedness of man on this earth. Why can't we return to Your laws...how could it be done here?

20:18-24 God gave up on the generation of Jews He had rescued from Egypt and began focusing on the younger generation. He told them not to act like their idolatrous parents, but to obey God. God singles out the Sabbath law five times in this chapter. "Statutes, judgments, and Sabbaths." The observance of rest and worship on the 7th day of the week and the 7th year means a lot to God. "But the sons rebelled against me..." God is, I believe, speaking of the generations of Jews who settled in Canaan. I think it was about 490 years of settlement there. Curiously enough, God made them captive 70 years--one year for each Sabbath year they lived in Canaan--I guess they did not do a good enough job of honoring the Sabbath years while there?

20:25-26 How does God deal with a rebellious people? He cannot destroy them for the sake of His reputation among the nations. Therefore He covers them with spiritual blindness so His justice is not violated. He gives them bad laws and unlivable circumstances. He lets them kill each other and worship idols. In their filthiness and desperation, they will perhaps repent, for even the blindness is "that they might know that I am Jehovah!"

20:27-31 So now God has recounted the history of Israel from His perspective to the elders of Israel gathered before Ezekiel. This is God's explanation why He is not blessing the nation anymore: The Israelites are following after the same idolatries as their forefathers. They are burning their firstborn sons on Molech idols and having orgies around Asherah poles on the mountains. God cannot tolerate this spiritual adultery--it's either Him or the idols, not both-and. They must forsake the idols before He will talk to them and bless them.

20:32-38 Because of Israel's history, it's now time for God to act in judgment. Just as He placed the nation in the Arabian desert after their time in Egypt, He promises to again exile the nation in the wilderness. God will forcibly purge the nation of its idolatry. He'll "cause [them] to pass under the rod and bring [them] into the bond of the covenant." Does this mean a rod for counting as in Lev. 27:32, or is it a rod for spanking as in Hab. 3:9? As I look at the Hebrew words, it's hard to tell--the word in Hab. is a different word, but this word appears to be used for just about everything including "scepter," "shepherd staff," "walking stick," "striking stick," and "family tree." Because the phrase "passes under the rod" is the same as the Lev. passage, dealing with evaluating your herd of sheep and determining a tithe on it, and this passage in Ez. appears to be speaking more of judging rather than actual retribution, I'd vouch for the former meaning.

20:37 God will bring the nation "into the bond of the covenant." God made a covenant with Abraham, and it is binding on the nation that came from Abraham. God is going to force this nation back to the terms of His covenant. "I will be your God; you will be My people; I will bless you if you obey Me; I will curse you if you disobey Me; and I want you to make My glory know among all the nations of the earth." (my paraphrase of the covenant)

20:38-43 And just as the generation snatched from Egypt was not allowed to enter Canaan, so this generation to be snatched from the Promised Land by the Babylonians "shall not enter into the land of Israel." It would be a 70-year exile in which God would raise up a new generation who will worship Him rightly (v.40), a generation He will find acceptable, a generation He will gather back together and re-establish in Jerusalem (v.41), a generation that will sanctify His name in the eyes of the nations around them, a generation who will know that Jehovah is God!

A distinguishing mark between the two generations will be that the former will not listen to God (his prophets) and will return to idolatry as a dog to its vomit (v.39), but the latter will be truly repentant and hate the evil they had done (v.43).

Oh God, help me to hate the evil I and my fathers have done and let me be part of an acceptable generation to You who worships You rightly and makes the nations know Your holiness. I don't know if You will establish a new earthly righteous nation or if I must wait for Your heavenly kingdom, but God, I long to be re-established among a people who love You. I guess this is fulfilled in part by your Church, but I long for its fullness!

20:45-49 Wow! What a grisly vision. An almost hysterical message of impending destruction of Jerusalem and of Ammon. The vision starts with a prophecy that God will kindle a fire to consume the forests of the Negev in the South. It is, I assume, a figure of the destruction of the Ammonites (detailed further in 20:19-20 and v.28ff.).


Chapter 21 A Prophecy Against Jerusalem

21:1-16 There will be a great slaughter, and God wants the Jews to know that He Himself is responsible for it (v.5). It is going to be bitter and terrible. This prophecy sounds very much like that of Habakkuk. It is God who has prepared the sword and handed it to the slayer (v.11). Ezekiel is to clap his hands and cry aloud that God is bringing the sword upon His people (v.12-14ff). Perhaps Ezekiel is to take a sword and run through the streets slashing all around him--I can't tell for sure from the text (v.14-16)--but this would be an illustration of what the Chaldeans were soon to do in the land.

21:17 And God also is venting His fury as this goes on--this slaughter will bring His fury to rest. So, even in our anger and the way we vent it until we don't feel angry any more, this is part of the image of God in us. Our sinful nature of course, twists this and we become angry for the wrong reasons and vent our anger in wrong ways. But there is place for just venting righteous anger! And rebellious Israel in Ezekiel's time was such a place.

21:18-24 Through Ezekiel, God informs the Israelites that it will be the King of Babylon who brings this "sword" of destruction upon them, and God even informs them of the route this king will take to approach Jerusalem! And not only Jerusalem, but also the city of Rabbah of the Ammonites. He'll go both ways. (Interesting that the divination the Babylonian king practices to decide which way to go is "empty" in God's sight.) This idolatrous king who has no regard for God will take over the city of the people of the true and living God! It is God's will to use this heathen man for His own purposes (v.23). And that purpose of God is to punish His people for their flagrant sin (v.24).

21:25-27 God seems particularly upset with the ruling prince/king at the time (Jehoiachin?). Leaders are always more culpable than the people when the nation sins, because it is the leaders who have the power to turn the people to a large extent toward sin or toward righteousness. The true kingly line was interrupted by decree from the king of Egypt, who placed Jehoiakim on the throne in Jerusalem. This prophecy may have been given in the reign of Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin, just before the true line is restored in the coronation of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.

21:28 Now the prophecy focuses on the Ammonites. (Who says God was only focused on the Jews in the O.T.? His concern was always and is still for ALL nations!) Just as with Jerusalem, so in Ammon, a sword is coming. Just as in Jerusalem, so in Ammon, there are false prophets. Just as in Jerusalem, so in Ammon, the time of punishment for sin is at fullness. God Himself will judge the Ammonites, too. Just as in Jonah's prophecy, I believe the point of this prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Ammon is to call the Ammonites to repentance. I doubt they repented as Nineveh did, but that doesn't mean God cared any less about them.

Chapter 22 The Sins of Jerusalem

God calls Ezekiel to speak a judgment over Jerusalem. This prophecy recounts the sins of the people and gives the punishment. The two biggest sins are: Idol worship (v.3-4) and the shedding of blood. (Notice that every idol made is made "against yourself.") The judgment shall be that the nation will come to an end and all the nations round about will mock them.

Yet more sins are listed:

  • The city rules have committed murder (v.6)
  • People have not honored their parents (v.7)
  • People have not shown kindness to aliens
  • The widows and orphans have been oppressed
  • They have despised God's holy things (v.8)
  • They have not kept the Sabbaths
  • Slander (v.9)
  • Wild partying
  • Mistreated women during their period (v.10)
  • Adultery (v.11)
  • Incest
  • Taking bribes (v.12)
  • Charging interest on loans (v.12)
  • Extortion
  • Forgetting God



22:13-16 The nation will be utterly destroyed and its people scattered all over the world. The whole world will hate them. God even taunts them (v.14), "Can your heart stand, or can your hands be strong in the days that I shall deal with you?" It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Almighty God!

And yet, is there anything on this list of Israel's sin not already rampant in the USA? God's people have forgotten that some of these things are even wrong--how many Christians charge interest, not even realizing this is sin? And the pagans in this nation not only practice, but glorify these sins, especially in the TV and movies. Murder, dishonoring parents, despising God's holy things, slander, partying, adultery--all are consistently held as ideals before the eyes of my people. Oh God, we deserve judgment just like Israel! What am I to do?? Will You not destroy the U.S?

22:17-22 God is no longer interested in continuing to work with these people because there is nothing good left--all the silver in the crucible has come out and there's nothing left but the waste by-products of refining. God, how do I know when my nation has reached this point? When it reaches this point, You throw the waste away, not with just a toss in the garbage heap, but with a blast of hot fury! It would seem, therefore, that there is a time for the righteous (in a wicked nation) to abandon that nation before the final blast. Or do we stick around as Jeremiah did? When Lot's wife stuck around, she was destroyed along with the rest of Gomorrah...

22:23-29 God gives Ezekiel another word along these same lines--the sin of Israel and the lack of righteousness:

  • The ROYAL LEADERS: Kill men in their own city in order to take their possessions. (v.25)
  • The RELIGIOUS LEADERS: Disobey the law, saying that parts of it don't matter anymore, break the Sabbath and don’t make distinctions between clean & unclean. (v.26)
  • The CIVIL OFFICIALS: Like the princes, they kill people in order to get unjust gain. (v.27)
  • The PROPHETS: Instead of exposing these sins, they help cover them up! They give false prophecies, saying they're from God, when they are not! (v.28)
  • The PEOPLE: They rob just like the officials do and are not considerate of the poor, needy, and displaced. (v.29)

22:30 God could not find among Israel anyone he could raise up to stand in the gap and build the wall, as an intercessor for the people with God. This must be key. Even when a nation is doing what is right in their own eyes and everyone has abandoned God, God can raise up a man, like He did many times throughout Judges, who is faithful to Him and whom He can use to turn the nation around. So, no matter how depraved the populous, it is only hopeless if there is no man in the nation fit for godly leadership. That is comforting because I believe there still exist such men today in America--men like Kevin Swanson, Doug Phillips, etc. Thank You, Lord, for that ray of hope, and please use me to stand in the gap for this nation also. That is certainly the vision You gave me back in high school. Please guard me from unfaithfulness in this. Please restore our nation to the godly republic it once was!

22:31 Every sin must be paid for, either by the blood of Jesus, or by your own blood, The unrepentant unrighteous must pay for their own sin by their own death. God will punish them in anger.


Chapter 23 Two Prostitutes

Boy, what a LEWD chapter! God portrays the Northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the Southern Kingdom of Israel (Jerusalem) as two prostitutes named Oholah and Oholobah. These women belonged to God, but they engaged in prostitution from their youth when they were in Egypt. The one representing Samaria lusted after the Assyrians and prostituted herself to them. God handed her over to them, and they robbed her and killed her. Only 5 verses are dedicated to Samaria, because Ezekiel's audience was the Jerusalem crowd, and Samaria's downfall was well-known history to them. The following 39 verses are dedicated to the one representing Jerusalem.

Oholah sounded awfully depraved, but Oholibah was worse, says Ezekiel. Not only did she defile herself in Egypt and later with the Assyrians, she also lusted after the Chaldeans/Babylonians, and invited them also to defile her. To be sure, there was probably literal adultery going on in Israel and Judea, but I think the sexual imagery in this chapter is symbolic of the spiritual reality of idolatry. Just as we are to marry one spouse and stay faithful sexually for all of our life, so it is spiritually that we are made the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ and should be spiritually faithful to Him for all our life. These prostitutes were representing Samaria's and Jerusalem's adoption of the gods/idols/demons of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. They were trying to worship both God and Baal, and God would not stand for that (I Jn. 2:15).

23:22ff As punishment for her affairs with the gods (and the people) of all the surrounding countries, God will bring the armies of these nations out to conquer Jerusalem. It is God's punishment against the Jews, but it will be done "according to [the] standards [of the armies of the surrounding nations]." God uses pagans to punish His people. The description in v. 25-26 and 46 sounds about like what is described in II Kings and Chronicles of people getting taken into exile, killed, cities totally destroyed and burned, all the valuables taken... (See also Psalm 137.) Through Ezekiel, God is trying to drive home the terror of the judgment He is about to bring upon Jerusalem as well as the justice of it.

23:27,48 At some point, God WILL put a stop to lewdness among His people. Every time I drive by an "adult" bookstore, I cry out to God, "Why do you allow such lewdness? Please destroy it!" So far I haven't seen thunderbolts fall out of the sky on those places, as I have wished. God hasn't seemed to respond to these prayers except to remind me of His grace even for the men and women mired in that industry. But one day the judgment WILL come, and it will be even more terrible than I can imagine. Maybe I want revival instead of judgment??

23:30 "Because you lusted after the nations.." This chapter is so lewd, it strikes a nice person as unthinkable, but really are we goodie-goodies any different? Do we not also lust after certain things that we wish we had? Higher income, nicer house, fancy appliances, higher educational degree, a bigger audience, more power, more physical strength, etc., etc., etc.? Oh God, please forgive our self-righteousness and help us to turn from our lustful ways to be fully contented in You!

23:35 "Since you have forgotten Me...you must bear the consequences of your lewdness..." God does not always give us the full punishment we deserve when we are repentant--for instance, He killed David and Bathsheba's newborn son instead of killing David for ordering the murder of Uriah and committing adultery with Bathsheba. David did not forget God, but repented of this sin. He had to deal with some heartbreaking consequences, but it wasn't the full punishment he deserved. But here in Ezekiel, God says He will mete out the full punishment to this people which has put God behind their backs and is unrepentant. Thank You, God, for the grace You show in not punishing us as we deserve, and please keep my heart soft toward You that I may always repent and keep You before me!

23:37 Because God is a covenantal operator, the children born to Christian parents are God's children, too, by virtue of their parents. When I have a child, it is "born to [God]." My kids are not my property nor are they the property of the state; they are GOD'S! Help me Lord, to live out what I believe here, treating my kids as Yours!

23:38 Again, God harps on the Sabbath as just as important to Him as the other laws against idol worship, adultery, and murder.

23:45 What do righteous (Godly) people do? They judge wickedness and punish for it! It is unrighteous and awful to tolerate violations to God's holy law. Obviously this has direct application to civil servants, but is there anything a layman like myself can do? I don't have authority to punish, do I? But I can at least judge whether things are good or bad and simply let violators know how they measure up to God's law. I'm not sure how that can be done appropriately. I guess the pro-life movement is one example.

23:49 Why must these Jews go through the suffering, punishment, and hardship of God's judgment? So that they "will know that I Am the sovereign Lord." You have to remind Your people that You are God when they turn their eyes from You and become absorbed in sin. Sad, but I'm glad, dear God, that You do not abandon us to our rebellion; You take the effort to "rattle our cage" and remind us of Who You Are!


Chapter 24 The Cooking Pot

24:1-14 In the 9th year of Zedekiah's reign, on the 10th day of the 10th month, God speaks to Ezekiel to say, "This is it." Little did Ezekiel know that II Kin. 25 would later record that very date as the day Nebuchadnezzar struck out with his army from Babylon to waste Jerusalem. What incredible precision God has to prophecy! What an encouragement to have this very specific fulfillment! What a terrible place to be in for Ezekiel: He knew the army was coming to wipe everything out, but what could he do about it? Reminds me of Habakkuk 3:16 "I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity, for the nation to come which will invade us..." So they're dead meat, as it were.

The parable of the cooking pot seems a little obscure, but it sounds like Jerusalem is likened to a pot of meat simmering over the fire. It's good choice meat with the bone in, and it's a roaring fire simmering this good food. But there's something wrong with the pot--it is encrusted with deposits; it is not a clean pot! So God will empty out the pot. What does it mean "without casting lots for [the pieces of meat]?" Perhaps undaintily--not taking care to serve the meat in a nice way--maybe even just dumping it on the ground. Then He will burn the empty pot on the fire until all its impurities have melted away.

This is a very figurative, poetic passage that probably could be interpreted multiple ways, but the story above appears to be the way the NIV is translating it. In this case, the pot is too dirty to simply be sanitized trough boiling water in it. So the city of Jerusalem is too permeated with sin to be fixed up in any way except to dump out the fine inhabitants and destroy the city. Yet it is not a story of destruction, but of refinement. It's ultimate destination is not the garbage dump but to be a gleaming pot in God's kitchen once it has been refined. God is not a God of destruction, but of goodness!

This sin of bloodshed is again brought up as a major cause of God's judgment (v.7). What's the big deal about the blood being poured out on the rocks instead of on the ground? Again, it is part of their abandonment of God's law. In Leviticus, God prescribes the way an animal is to be sacrificed to Him: It must be killed at the entrance to God's temple (not in the fields or on the mountains where idols were worshiped--the tops of mountains are generally more rocky) and the blood must not be eaten, but poured out on the ground at the base of the altar. If you are hunting and kill and animal, obviously this wouldn't be a temple sacrifice, but Lev. 17:13 says the blood must be drained out onto the ground and covered with dirt. Lev. 17:3-4 says that violation of this makes a person "guilty of bloodshed," the very charge God levels at the Jews in this chapter of Ezekiel. It is rebellion against God by not observing His Law!

24:15 Your wife has died, but you're denied the right to cry. (From Michael Card's song, "The Prophet")

God tells Ezekiel that the "desire of his eyes" shall be taken away, but he must not mourn. (Did he know it would be his own wife? Was she sick?)  Next day, Ezekiel goes out and speaks to the people and comes home to find his wife dead. Wow! What kind of relationship with God and prioritization of His kingdom it must have taken to accept this as God's doing and not mourn, using this as an object lesson for the people around him!

The people were curious and asked Ezekiel what was going on, so he told them: God is going to destroy the most valuable treasures they had--their temple and their children (through the final Chaldean invasion)--but they won't have time to mourn it. They'll have their travelling clothes on (turban and shoes) and be presumably too worried about saving their own skins.

Notice that God isn't capriciously killing their children; v.21 says the parents have already "forsaken" their children. I suppose this was done through offering them as sacrifices to idols and neglecting to teach them God's ways. As I write this today, Parsees throughout the world are having blood covenant rituals that hand their children over to satan. But are we any better? We send our children off for 7 hours a day to be trained by their peers and by ungodly school teachers and only catch one or two hours with them ourselves. The things I've heard about what is considered one of the finest public schools in Colorado are scary: young Christian kids I know are being sent there by their parents and have already been exposed to instruction on trances, lesbianism, and other abominations. Would God be any less disposed to go ahead and kill these kids?

24:26-27 When this judgment comes to pass, fugitives will escape from the carnage in Jerusalem and make their way to the Jews exiled in Babylon, where Ezekiel lives, and everyone will know that what Ezekiel prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem was true. Then perhaps Ezekiel can mourn openly, not holding back as God had at first instructed him to do.

Again, all this is being done by God, not out of ill-will or capriciousness, but with the purpose of reconciling His people to Himself, that they may know He is God.



To see commentary on chapters 25-36, click here

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