THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Part II: God's Judgment of the Covenant People
Chapters 10:1-11:25 ~ The Conclusion of Ezekiel's Vision-Journey to the Jerusalem Temple
Chapter 12 ~ Symbolic Acts Concerning the Exile
Lord of Justice and Mercy,
When we hold our hands in prayer, Lord, we place our right thumb over our left in a petition for Your greater mercy over the justice we deserve. We know, as You told Moses, that You "forgive fault, crime, and sin, and yet let nothing go unchecked." May we always come to You, Lord, while there is still time, with a humbled spirit, seeking Your mercy as we confess our faults and sins. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of the words and works of the Prophet Ezekiel, Your prophet in exile. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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Zedekiah] became stubborn, and obstinately refused to return to Yahweh, God
of Israel. Furthermore, all the leaders of Judah, the priests and the people
too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the
nations and defiling the Temple of Yahweh which he himself had consecrated in
Jerusalem. Yahweh, God of their ancestors, continuously sent them word through
his messengers because he felt sorry for his people and his dwelling, but they
ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his
prophets, until Yahweh's wrath with his people became so fierce that there was no
2 Chronicles 36:13-16
Ezekiel's vision-journey to Jerusalem took place in August/September of 592 BC, a year and two months after his call. The spirit of God transported him, in ecstasy (not physically), to and from Jerusalem (8:3b-11:24). Chapters 8-11 record his experience:
The Babylonians took Ezekiel into exile in 598 BC, five years before his call to a prophetic ministry in 593 BC. He was probably about twenty-five years old. It was the age when a descendant of Aaron destined to become a chief priest began his training. It was an opportunity he did not have, and therefore, he was probably not exposed to the secret sins of the elders of Judah and the Temple leadership that must have continued to increase in the six years since he left the city.
Question: In Ezekiel's second visionary
experience, why was it necessary for him to witness the idolatry and other abominations
taking place within Yahweh's sacred Temple?
Answer: He may have had no idea of the kinds of abominations taking place in the Temple in the six years since he left Jerusalem. He needed to witness the abominations and the total disregard for the covenant with Yahweh demonstrated by the religious leaders and the people to understand why God's divine judgment against them was necessary.
In 9:8, witnessing the horror of the future destruction of Jerusalem in his vision, Ezekiel attempted to intercede with Yahweh like Moses (see Ex 32:1-14; Num 14:13-19) and other prophets (Jer 8:18-19). He will attempt to intercede a second time in Ezekiel 11:13. However, Yahweh explains that the sins of the people are so great that He cannot ignore them any longer. Nor can He ignore their challenge that He is incapable of bringing divine judgment against them. If He doesn't punish them as they deserve, how will they ever again come to know Him in a covenant relationship and complete Ezekiel's mission for them to "know that I am Yahweh" (9:9-10; 7:27).
Then in 9:11, the "man dressed
in linen with the scribe's ink-horn in his belt" returned to Yahweh's
chariot-throne (called the Merkaba in Hebrew) to report that he had
carried out his orders.
Question: What orders did he carry out? See Ez 9:3-7.
Answer: Before destroying the wicked of Jerusalem, he marked a cross on the foreheads of all the righteous, sparing them in the destruction of the city.
The preservation of the righteous marked by the sign of the cross recalls another of St. John's visions in the Book of Revelation associated with the Last Judgment and the seven angels of the seven trumpet judgments: Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven onto the earth, and the angel was given the key to the shaft leading down to the Abyss. When he unlocked the shaft of the Abyss, smoke rose out of the Abyss like the smoke from a huge furnace so that the sun and the sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss, and out of the smoke dropped locusts onto the earth: they were given the powers that scorpions have on the earth: they were forbidden to harm any fields or crops or trees, and told to attack only those people who were without God's seal on their foreheads (Rev 9:1-4).
Ezekiel's Vision Continued: The Jerusalem Temple Defiled and Abandoned
the upright and the wicked, the lover of violence he detests. He will rain
down red-hot coals, fire and Sulphur on the wicked, a scorching wind will be
their lot. For Yahweh is upright and loves uprightness, the honest will ever
see his face.
Ezekiel 10:1-6 ~ The Man
Dressed in Linen Prepares to Carry Out His Orders
1 Then, in vision I saw that above the solid surface over the heads of the winged creatures [cherubim] there was above them something like sapphire, which seemed to be like a throne. 2 He then said to the man dressed in linen, "Go in between the wheels below the winged creatures [cherubim]; take a handful of burning coal from between the winged creatures and scatter it over the city." He went in as I watched. 3 The winged creatures [cherubim] were on the right of the Temple as the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. 4 The glory of Yahweh rose from above the winged creatures [cherub], towards the threshold of the Temple; the Temple was filled by the cloud and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of Yahweh. 5 The noise of the winged creatures' [cherubim] wings could be heard even in the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. 6 When he had given the order to the man dressed in linen, "Take the fire from between the wheels, between the winged creatures" [cherubim], the man went in and stood by one of the wheels. [...] = literal Hebrew, IBHE, vol. III, page 1916-17.
Chapter 10 continues after Ezekiel's vision of the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the destruction of the city. He witnesses the return of the winged creatures he first saw in 1:26 that he identifies as cherubim (plural): 20 This was the winged creature I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the River Chebar; I knew that they were cherubim [Hebrew translation]. He now knew they were cherubim because he heard God call them "cherubim" in verse 2
In 10:1-11:13, Ezekiel's vision reveals Yahweh's Divine Presence departing from the Temple. Yahweh's glory departs in the same way he first took possession of the Temple (1 Kng 8:6-13; 2 Chr 5:3-6:2). Once God leaves, the city is no longer protected by His Divine Presence and opened to foreign invasion and destruction. God's chariot-throne will not return until Ezekiel's vision in 43:1-12 when he sees the purified new Jerusalem and rebuilt Temple of St. John's vision of the heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation (Rev Chapter 21).
Then, in vision I saw that above the solid surface over the heads
of the winged creatures [cherubim] there was above them something like
sapphire, which seemed to be like a throne.
The expanse over the heads of the cherubim is a blue surface, resembling the blue of the sky (Gen 1:6-8) and the pavement under God's throne as witnessed by Moses, Aaron and the other members of the delegation of Israel partaking in a sacred communion meal in God's presence at the covenant ratification at Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:9-11). St. John also mentions a blue/sapphire pavement in Revelation 4:3.
He then said to the man dressed in linen, "Go in between the
wheels below the winged creatures [cherubim]; take a handful of burning coal
from between the winged creatures and scatter it over the city."
The priestly garment worn by the "man" clothed in linen evidently qualifies him to enter among the cherubim and handle the heavenly fire blazing among them (see 1:13). As in 1:15, this verse suggests the wheels extended lower than the cherubim and therefore the space among the wheels was beneath as well as among them. That he is to scatter the burning coals over the city means the wicked are enveloped in a rain of fiery judgment from Heaven (as in Ps 11:6; 140:11).
Question: A rain of
fiery judgment fell on what other cities in the Old Testament because of the
sins of the inhabitants? See Gen 19:24; Lk 17:29; 2 Pt 2:6. What was their
sin that was an abomination to God and caused His divine judgment in their
destruction? See Gen 19:4-5; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Jude 7.
Answer: The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the plain near the Dead Sea, were destroyed by heavenly fire for their sins of sexual immorality.
God also used fire to destroy the illicit altar at Bethel and placed the false priests under a death sentence, carried out by King Josiah (2 Kng 23:15-16; foretold in 1 Kng 13:1-3). There could only be one altar of sacrifice, and that was the altar in Yahweh's Temple.
Jesus will use the example of the judgment and destruction of Sodom in Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12. Also see Revelation 8:5 and 20:10 concerning judgment by fire in the Last Judgment.
Verses 3-4 locate the chariot-throne to the right side (the south side coming from the Sanctuary and facing east) of the Temple and removed from the abomination of the idol at the northern end (8:5-6). The radiance of the glory-cloud signifies God's Presence (Ex 19:9; 1 Kng 8:10-11), as His glory departs the Temple, moving across the threshold of the Sanctuary's Holy Place (moving from west to east; the Holy of Holies is in the far west end of the Sanctuary). The noise of the wings in verse 5 suggests the cherubim are preparing to take off (see verse 19) to remove Yahweh's Divine Presence from the Temple. In verse 6, God commands the man in linen to take heavenly fire from between the wheels of the chariot-throne.
Question: Where else does
Scripture describe a vision of burning coals in the presence of Yahweh and His
angels? In addition to judgment, how else is this holy fire used? See Is 6:6-7;
1 Cor 3:12-15, and CCC 1030-32.
Answer: In Isaiah's vision of the heavenly throne room, an angel uses holy fire from the altar to purify Isaiah in preparation for his mission by placing a burning coal on his mouth. Those destined for Heaven but still in need of purification will experience God's fiery love in Purgatory.
Ezekiel 10:7-17 ~ Ezekiel's
Second Vision of the Chariot-Throne and the Winged Creatures
7 One of the winged creatures [cherub] then reached his hand out towards the fire between the winged creatures [cherubim], took some of it and put it into the hands of the man dressed in linen, who took it and came out again. 8 There appeared to be what looked like a human hand under the winged creatures' [cherubim] wings. 9 And I looked, and there were four wheels beside the winged creatures [cherubim], one wheel beside each winged creature [cherub], and the appearance of the wheels was like the sparkle of chrysolite. 10 In appearance, all four looked alike, as though each wheel had another wheel inside it. 11 In whichever of the four directions they moved, they did not need to turn as they moved, but whichever way the head was facing there they followed; they did not turn as they moved, 12 and their entire bodies, their backs, their hands, their wings, as well as the wheels, had eyes all the way round (the wheels of all four). 13 In my hearing, these wheels were called galgal'. 14 Each had four faces; the first was a winged creature's [cherub] face, the second a human face, the third a lion's face and the fourth an eagle's face. 15 The winged creatures [cherubim] rose; this was the being [living creature] I had seen by the River Chebar. 16 When the winged creatures [cherubim] moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the winged creatures [cherubim] raised their wings to leave the ground, the wheels did not turn beside them. 17 When the former halted the latter halted; when the former rose, the latter rose with them, since they shared the same living spirit. [...] = literal Hebrew, IBHE, vol. III, page 1917-18.
As the man in linen stops beside the wheels, the cherub fills his hands with the burning coals (verse 7). Verses 8-17 give another description of the cherubim and the chariot-throne similar to but not exactly like the description in Chapter 1. Perhaps the differences can be accounted for by the fact that Ezekiel is used to divine visions now and can give a better account of what he sees.
Question: What does he write about the faces of
the cherubim that differ from his description in Chapter 1?
Answer: He writes that one of the four faces of each of the cherubim is the face of a cherub instead of the face of a bull.
Perhaps this additional detail suggests Ezekiel thought the cherubs with single faces had bull-like faces like some Mesopotamian iconography.
13 In my
hearing, these wheels were called galgal'.
He heard the divine voice use the term "galgal" in association with the wheels of the chariot-throne. The meaning of the Hebrew word "galgal" is uncertain, but it apparently has to do with something that whirls or revolves. The same word is in verses 2 and 6 as a collective noun for "wheels;" also see 23:24; 26:10; Isaiah 28:28; and in the plural with the same meaning in Isaiah 5:28 and Jeremiah 47:3 (Greenberg, page 182). The remaining verses repeat Ezekiel's description of the wheels of the chariot-throne from Chapter 1.
Ezekiel 10:18-22 ~ The Glory of Yahweh Comes Out of the Temple
18 The glory of Yahweh then came out over the Temple threshold and paused over the winged creatures. 19 These raised their wings and rose from the ground as I watched, and the wheels were beside them. They paused at the entrance to the east gate of the Temple of Yahweh, with the glory of the God of Israel over them, above. 20 This was the winged creature I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the River Chebar; I knew that they were winged creatures [cherubim]. 21 Each had four faces and four wings and what seemed to be human hands under their wings. 22 Their faces were like those I had seen by the River Chebar. Each one moved straight forward. [...] = literal Hebrew, IBHE, vol. III, page 1918.
The threshold of the Temple faced toward the east while the Holy of Holies, where God's Divine Presence dwelt among His people, was in the westernmost part of the Sanctuary (Ps 24:7-9; 118:19-20). God's glory passed from the west to the east through the Temple complex. In verse 20, Ezekiel says that for the first time he realized that the living creatures are cherubim because he heard God call them cherubim in verse 2 when God addressed the man dressed in linen, saying "Go in between the wheels below the winged creatures [cherubim]."
Ezekiel 11:1-12 ~ Judgment for the Sins of Jerusalem
and Ezekiel's Question
1 The spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the Temple of Yahweh, the gate that looks eastwards. There at the entrance to the gate stood twenty-five men, among whom I saw Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people. 2 He said to me, "Son of man, these are the wicked schemers who are spreading their bad advice through this city. 3 They say, There will be no house-building yet awhile. The city is the cooking pot and we are the meat.' 4 So prophesy against them, prophesy, son of man!" 5 The spirit of Yahweh fell on me, and he said to me, "Say, Yahweh says this: I know what you are saying, House of Israel, I know how insolent you are. 6 You have filled this city with more and more of your victims; you have strewn its streets with victims. 7 And so the Lord Yahweh says this: Your victims, whom you have put in it, are the meat, and the city is the cooking pot; but I shall take you out of it. 8 You are afraid of the sword and I shall bring the sword down on you, declares the Lord Yahweh; 9 and I shall take you out of it and hand you over to foreigners and bring you to justice. 10 You will fall by the sword on the soil of Israel; I shall execute justice on you, and you will know that I am Yahweh. 11 This city will be no cooking pot for you, nor will you be the meat inside; I shall execute justice on you on the soil of Israel; 12 and you will know that I am Yahweh, whose laws you have not obeyed and whose judgements you have not kept; instead, you have adopted the customs of the nations round you.'"
In 11:1-13, Ezekiel continues to receive a message of God's judgment that uses the image of sacrifice for the people's destruction. The spirit of God transports Ezekiel to the east gate of the Temple where he now sees the faces of the twenty-five leaders in 8:16 from the front. Previously his view was from the back as he stood behind them and they looked to the east worshipping the rising sun. Again, he recognizes men he knew before his exile, identifying Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people.
Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah,
leaders of the people.
Jaazaniah son of Azzur is not the same man identified as Jaazaniah son of Shaphan in 8:11. The first Jaazaniah was a member of the Shaphan family and one of the seventy elders of Judah while this man is the son of Azzur and one of the group of twenty-five men mentioned as sun worshippers in 8:16.
Question: Who is Jaazaniah's brother? What happened to him? See Jer 28:1-4,
Answer: His brother is Hananiah, a false prophet from Gibeon who opposed Jeremiah and was denounced by him. Jeremiah denounced Hananiah son of Azzur who died two months later.
2 He said to me, "Son of man, these are the wicked schemers who are spreading their bad advice through this city. 3 They say, There will be no house-building yet awhile. The city is the cooking pot and we are the meat.'
Question: In what three ways does God describe the
Answer: Yahweh faults the leaders in three ways:
There are two interpretations of the "bad advice" of the leaders concerning houses:
The city is the cooking pot and we are the meat.
The leaders see themselves as the choicest "meat" of the city over which they believe they rule. They believe since they have escaped the two previous exiles in 605 and 598 BC that they are the "chosen people" of Yahweh and the entire inheritance of the land and blessings of the covenant belongs to them. They are in a fire-proof pot that can protect them from the flames of disaster; probably referring to what they believe is Jerusalem's impregnable walls. In 11:7 and 24:3-14, Yahweh also describes Jerusalem as a cooking pot and says in Chapter 24 that it is time to "Put the pot on the fire" in the siege and destruction of the city, miming the claim to impregnability claimed in 11:3.
4 So prophesy
against them, prophesy, son of man!"5 The
spirit of Yahweh fell on me, and he said to me, "Say, Yahweh says this: I know
what you are saying, House of Israel, I know how insolent you are. 6 You have filled this city with more and more
of your victims; you have strewn its streets with victims. 7 And so the Lord Yahweh says this: Your
victims, whom you have put in it, are the meat, and the city is the cooking
pot; but I shall take you out of it.
Yahweh adds two additional accusations against the leaders:
The contents of the "pot" are equal to the speakers themselves. They have filled the city with the blood of anyone who opposed them (verse 6), even trying to kill Jeremiah (Jer 38:4-6). God responds that they are in fact offal to be cast out of the pot (verse 7) in which their victims and not them are the choices morsels. The boasting of the leaders and God's response is similar to Malachi's prophecy a century later in a period of a crisis of faith after the return from exile among the leaders of Judah: Yahweh says this, "Let them build, but I shall pull down! They will be known as Land of Wickedness and Nation-with-which-Yahweh-is-angry-forever. You will see this yourselves and you will say: Yahweh is mighty beyond the borders of Israel" (Mal 1:4b-5; also see Ez 19:3, 6; 22:6, 25).
In verses 8-12, Yahweh announces that He will deliver His justice (repeated three times in verses 9, 10, and 11) in the coming judgment on these men and justice for their victims.
Ezekiel 11:13-21 ~ Yahweh Answers Ezekiel with a New
Covenant Promised to the Exiles
13 Now as I was prophesying, Pelatiah son of Benaiah dropped dead. I fell to the ground and cried out, "Ah, Lord Yahweh, are you going to annihilate the remnant of Israel?" 14 The word of Yahweh was then addressed to me as follows, 15 "Son of man, to your brothers one and all, to your kinsfolk [your brothers, the redemption-men] and to the whole House of Israel, the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Keep well away from Yahweh. This country has now been made over to us!' 16 So say, The Lord Yahweh says this: Yes, I have sent them far away among the nations and I have dispersed them to foreign countries; and for a while I have been a sanctuary for them in the country to which they have gone.' 17 So say, The Lord Yahweh says this: I shall gather you back from the peoples, I shall collect you in from the countries where you have been scattered and give you the land of Israel. 18 When they come back, they will purge it of all its horrors and loathsome practices. 19 I shall give them a single heart [new heart*] and I shall put a new spirit in them; I shall remove the heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, 20 so that they can keep my laws and respect my judgements and put them into practice. Then they will be my people and I shall be their God. 21 But those whose hearts are set on their horrors and loathsome practices I shall repay for their conduct-declares the Lord Yahweh.'" [...] = literal translation IBHE, vol. III, page 1920; The Jewish Study Bible, page 1061. * some manuscripts read "new heart."
As Ezekiel witnesses the events unfolding in his vision, he sees the death of Pelatiah, bringing home to him that what he sees and hears will take place. In verse 13, like Moses and other prophets before him (Ex 32:11-14; Num 14:13-19), he cries out to God on behalf of his condemned people a second time (see 9:8), asking if Yahweh will fail to leave a remnant of the covenant people.
11:14-21 contains the first oracle concerning the restoration of Israel in Ezekiel's book. It is the first of a series such oracles associated with Ezekiel's vision of the departure of God's Divine Presence from Jerusalem and the anticipation of the future restoration of Israel once the judgment is complete. The purpose of God's message is to point to the exercise of His divine mercy as the desired outcome of the process of His divine judgment.
Question: What is Yahweh's positive response to
his distraught prophet concerning the preservation of a remnant of the covenant
people? Why did He send them into exile, and what are His promises to the
Answer: The leadership in Jerusalem tried to separate the people from Yahweh; therefore:
God's promise that the exiles will redeem the land of Israel once the term of their exile is complete is an application of the "laws of redemption" whereby a family member became a "kinsman redeemer" who could redeem land sold to pay a debt in the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:23-55; Ruth 2:20). The reference to "your brothers one and all, to your kinsfolk in verse 15, more accurately translated: "your brothers, the redemption-men" or "men of your redemption..." supports this view. See the chart on the qualifications for a "Kinsman Redeemer" in the Old Testament and Christ's fulfillment of those qualifications in the New Covenant: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Christ%20our%20Kinsman%20Redeemer.htm. It is evidently God's intent that the Judahites exiled from the Promised Land of Israel will redeem the land following the destruction of those who defiled it, with the land's temporary loss to the Babylonians as the payment of their kinsmen's sin-debt. The promise of a new heart and spirit that is the foundation of a renewed covenant relationship is one of several Old Testament prophecies pointing to a new covenant brought about through the Redeemer-Messiah.(2)
15b ...the inhabitants
of Jerusalem have said, Keep well away from Yahweh. This country has now been
made over to us!'
Question: Ironically, in 15b, what claim do the wicked that remain in the land make against the exiles?
Answer: They claim that the exiles must keep far away from Yahweh because they are no longer entitled to worship Yahweh or to possess the land.
As mentioned earlier, the people of Jerusalem who escaped the first two deportations in 605 and 598 BC considered themselves the "chosen ones" of the nation. In actuality, Yahweh has selected the exiles as His "chosen ones" of His holy remnant (Ez 11:16-17). Jeremiah attacks their false assumption in Jeremiah Chapter 24.
Most ancient pagan peoples believed that their gods were tied to the land. However, in Scripture, Yahweh has always maintained that His dominion and sovereignty is universal. In verse 16, God promises that He will be a "sanctuary" for the exiles, giving them His protection. Then, in verses 17-20, Yahweh gives Ezekiel His assurance of the survival of the remnant of Israel.
those whose hearts are set on their horrors and loathsome practices I shall
repay for their conduct-declares the Lord Yahweh.
God's message of consolation to Ezekiel ends in a judgment warning for the wicked.
Ezekiel 11:22-25 ~ The Glory of Yahweh Leaves
Jerusalem and Ezekiel's Vision Ends
22 The winged creatures then raised their wings and the wheels moved with them, with the glory of the God of Israel over them, above. 23 And the glory of Yahweh rose from the center of the city and halted on the mountain to the east of the city. 24 Then the spirit lifted me up and took me, in vision, in the spirit of God, to the exiles in Chaldaea, and the vision which I had seen faded. 25 I then told the exiles everything that Yahweh had shown me.
The glory of Yahweh departed the Temple and Jerusalem
through the eastern Temple Gate and stopped on the mountain east of the city.
Question: What is the mount directly to the east of the city? Consult a map of Jerusalem; also see Zec 14:4 and Acts 1:12.
Answer: The Mount of Olives.
Question: What are some significant events
associated with the Mount of Olives in the New Testament Gospels and Acts of
Apostles? How does it figure in the Second Advent? See Mt 21:1-11; 26:30-31,
47-57; Acts 1:12 and Zec 14:4-5.
24 Then the
spirit lifted me up and took me, in vision, in the spirit of God, to the exiles
in Chaldaea, and the vision which I had seen faded. 25 I then told the exiles everything
that Yahweh had shown me.
In his vision, God's spirit returns Ezekiel to his village, and he then told the exiles everything that Yahweh had shown me.
Chapter 12: Two Symbolic Acts and Two Proverbs
In Chapter 12, God requires Ezekiel to perform two symbolic acts/object lessons that depict the people trying to escape the city of Jerusalem. Most commentators interpret the act as directed to the attempted escape of his fellow exiles then in captivity. However, it is more likely that the symbolic act depicts those who will be sent into exile after the fall of Jerusalem (see 12:10). The description of the nighttime escape of "the prince" of the people follows Jeremiah's description of the escape of King Zedekiah when the city was about to fall to the Babylonians (see Jer 39:4-7 and compare with Ez 12:12-13). Like Ezekiel's other oracles after his vision-journey, this oracle begins with the formula, The word of Yahweh was addressed [came] to me...
Ezekiel 12:1-7 ~ Ezekiel's Next Symbolic Act
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, you are living among a tribe of rebels who have eyes and never see, they have ears and never hear, because they are a tribe of rebels. 3 So, son of man, pack an exile's bundle and set off for exile by daylight while they watch. You will leave your home and go somewhere else while they watch. Then perhaps they will see that they are a tribe of rebels. 4 You will pack your baggage like an exile's bundle, by daylight, while they watch, and leave like an exile in the evening, while they watch. 5 While they watch, make a hole in the wall, and go out through it. 6 While they watch, you will shoulder your pack and go out into the dark; you will cover your face so that you cannot see the ground, since I have made you an omen for the House of Israel." 7 I did as I had been told. I packed my baggage like an exile's bundle, by daylight; and in the evening I made a hole through the wall with my hands; then I went out into the dark and shouldered my pack while they watched. (Underlining is added for emphasis).
The exiles are apparently refusing to believe Ezekiel's prophecies in the same way the people of Jerusalem are dismissing Jeremiah's prophecies. Therefore, verse 1 repeats that these proud-hearted rebels never see or hear and therefore never understand the word of Yahweh. It is the same message God gave to Isaiah in the 8th century BC and Ezekiel's contemporary, Jeremiah (Is 6:9-10; Jer 5:21). Jesus makes the same statement in Matthew 13:13.
3 So, son of man,
pack an exile's bundle and set off for exile by daylight while they watch [to
their eyes]. You will leave your home and go somewhere else while they watch.
Then perhaps they will see that they are a tribe of rebels.
God commands Ezekiel to act out escaping from the doomed city of Jerusalem in sight of his fellow exiles.
Question: The words while they watch, literally
"to their eyes" in Hebrew, is repeated how many times and for what reason?
Answer: The words are repeated seven times in verses 3-7. The purpose of the act is for Ezekiel's fellow exiles to view his actions and to ask about its symbolic meaning.
Question: How is he to proceed in acting out the
The covering of his face seems odd if he is acting out his escape in the nighttime, but there may be another reason other than as an act of mourning or grief in leaving the Promised Land (verse 12). In Jeremiah's description of King Zedekiah's escape, he left under the cover of darkness through an opening in a wall (2 Kng 25:2-4; Jer 39:4-5). He also probably covered his face to keep from being recognized.
Ezekiel 12:8-16 ~ Ezekiel Performs the Symbolic Act of
Leaving in Exile
8 Next morning the word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 9 "Son of man, did not the House of Israel, did not that tribe of rebels, ask you, What are you doing?' 10 Say, The Lord Yahweh says this: This prophecy concerns Jerusalem and the whole House of Israel who live there.' 11 Say, I am an omen for you; as I have done, so will be done to them; they will be deported into exile. 12 Their prince will shoulder his pack in the dark and go out through the wall; a hole will be made to let him out; he will cover his face, so that he cannot see the country. 13 I shall throw my net over him and catch him in my mesh; I shall take him to Babylon, to the land of the Chaldaeans, though he will not see it; and there he will die. 14 And all those in attendance on him, his army and all his troops, I shall scatter to all the winds and unsheathe the sword behind them. 15 Then they will know that I am Yahweh, when I scatter them throughout the nations and disperse them in foreign countries. 16 But I shall let a few of them escape the sword, famine and plague, to describe all their loathsome practices to the peoples among whom they will go, so that these too may know that I am Yahweh.'"
Ezekiel is to tell his fellow exiles that his symbolic act is an omen or sign of what is to come for those still living in the land of Israel. "Their prince" is the way Ezekiel refers to King Zedekiah (see the note on 7:27 in the last lesson) since he only considers him a prince of the House of David and not the legitimate king. Yahweh's oracle describes what will happen to Zedekiah when he tries to escape only to be captured by the Babylonians.
13b I shall take
him to Babylon, to the land of the Chaldaeans, though he will not see it; and
there he will die.
Question: Why will Zedekiah never see Babylon even though he will spend the rest of his life there? See Jer 39:4-7; 52:9-11.
Answer: After the Babylonians captured King Zedekiah, they put out his eyes so he never saw the land of his captivity.
15 Then they will
know that I am Yahweh, when I scatter them throughout the nations and disperse
them in foreign countries. 16 But I
shall let a few of them escape the sword, famine and plague, to describe all
their loathsome practices to the peoples among whom they will go, so that these
too may know that I am Yahweh.
Notice the paring of the destiny of a king and his people, in blessings and in judgment. They are equal partners in their destiny since the human king serves as the Divine King's representative to His covenant people. The rebellious people will share the fate of their rebellious king, living in the misery of exile.
Ezekiel 12:17-20 ~ Ezekiel's Third Symbolic Act
17 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 18 "Son of man, you are to tremble as you eat your food and shudder apprehensively as you drink your water, 19 and you are to say to the people of the country, The Lord Yahweh says this to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They will shudder apprehensively as they eat their food, and drink their water in fear, so that the country and its population may be freed from the violence of its inhabitants. 20 When the populous cities have been destroyed and the country has been reduced to desert, then you will know that I am Yahweh.'"
In the next oracle, Yahweh commands Ezekiel to eat his meals trembling in fear to dramatize the realities of exile. Apparently, Ezekiel's countrymen and women are now regularly visiting him to observe his actions and to hear his prophetic words. This newest symbolic act should encourage the exiles to remember their fearful journey into exile and to contrast that experience with their ancestors' exile journey out of Egypt when God fed them and gave them His divine protection on their journey.
Ezekiel 12:21-28 ~ Ezekiel Uses Two Proverbs
21 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 22 "Son of man, what do you understand by the saying pronounced over the land of Israel, Days go by and visions fade'? 23 "Very well, tell them, The Lord Yahweh says this: I shall put an end to this saying; it will never be used in Israel again.' Instead, tell them: The days are coming when every vision will come true, 24 for there will be no more futile visions or deceptive prophecy in the House of Israel, 25 since I, Yahweh, shall speak. And what I shall say will come true without delay; for what I shall say, I shall perform in your own lifetime, you tribe of rebels-declares the Lord Yahweh.'" 26 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 27 "Son of man, the House of Israel is now saying, The vision that this man sees concerns the distant future; he is prophesying for times far ahead.' 28 Very well, tell them, The Lord Yahweh says this: There will be no further delay in the fulfilling of any of my words. What I have said shall be done now-declares the Lord Yahweh.'"
In this oracle, God asks Ezekiel to interpret the proverb Days go by and visions fade in association with the land of Israel. A proverb was a common saying, and this one was apparently well-known in Ezekiel's time. The meaning was as time passes visions have less meaning as they fail to come true. Yahweh's response is an attack against false prophets whose visions are not fulfilled. Yahweh says that every one of Ezekiel's visions and pronouncements and those of Yahweh's other prophets will come true.
26 The word of
Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 27 "Son
of man, the House of Israel is now saying, The vision that this man sees
concerns the distant future; he is prophesying for times far ahead.' 28 Very well, tell them, The Lord Yahweh says
this: There will be no further delay in the fulfilling of any of my words. What
I have said shall be done now-declares the Lord Yahweh.'"
In another oracle, Yahweh asks Ezekiel to interpret a second proverb: The vision that this man sees concerns the distant future; he is prophesying for times far ahead. This proverb says that all visions concern the distant future. This second oracle concerns the imminent fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. It is a response to the charge of his countrymen that his visions are only going to be fulfilled in the distant future. Instead, God warns that Ezekiel's vision is about to be realized within their lifetimes.
Questions for discussion or reflection:
Ezekiel witnessed the activities taking place in the Temple that were an abomination to Yahweh in breaking the first of the Ten Commandments (idol worship) and the violations of covenant fidelity in the liturgy of worship. Couldn't the Temple leadership offer the excuse that they were "tolerant" of the religions practiced by their neighbors, and they were trying to be "inclusive" and obliging in their exercise of religion and non-judgmental of the practices of others? How have the words "tolerance" and "inclusive" been used against the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church along with the admonishment that to judge the behavior of others is "unchristian"? What did Jesus teach about sins within the community in Matthew 18:15-18.
1 For other references to the formula statement, "they will be my people, and I shall be their God," which characterizes the covenant between God and His people, see Ez 14:11; 36:28; 37:23; Jer 7:23; 31:33; 32:38; Hosea 2:21-23/19-21; Zec 8:8.
2 The promise of a new heart and spirit takes up the theme of a future new and eternal covenant for a spiritually renewed covenant people. See Jer 31:31-34; 32:39; 50:5; Ez 16:59-63; 18:31; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Joel 3:1-5; St. Peter's homily in Acts 2:17-21 and CCC 715.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2017 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):