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Babylon’s terrifying attack (20:45-21:17)
The usual way to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem was by a semi-circular route that avoided the Arabian desert by following the Euphrates River to the north-west then turning south towards Judah. (See map ‘Near East in the time of Jeremiah.) Ezekiel put himself in the position of the Babylonian army as it moved south into Judah, overrunning and destroying the country as an uncontrollable bushfire. None would escape its terror (45-48). But the people did not understand Ezekiel’s message (49).
Ezekiel therefore changed his symbol of God’s judgment from fire to a sword. This sword would bring slaughter, not just to Jerusalem but to the whole land of Judah (21:1-5). Ezekiel’s display of bitter grief showed his hearers how frightening this coming judgment would be (6-7).
To emphasize his message and illustrate its urgency, Ezekiel gave a dramatic demonstration of a swordsman cutting down his enemy. The Judeans had not heeded when God used a stick to discipline them. He would therefore use the sharpened sword of Babylon to slay them (8-13). While acting the part of a swordsman, Ezekiel also acted the part of the onlookers, by occasionally clapping his hands at the swordsman’s display. In this way he indicated God’s approval of Judah’s destruction (14-17).
No possibility of escape (21:18-32)
In another acted message, the prophet drew a map on the ground, showing a road out of Babylon that branched in two directions. One led to Jerusalem, the other to Rabbah, capital of Ammon. By means of markings on the map, Ezekiel indicated that the king of Babylon had arrived at the road junction and was trying to decide whether to go and attack Rabbah or go and besiege Jerusalem. The king used three superstitious methods to determine which way to go: drawing lots (using arrows for lots), consulting idols, and looking into the liver of a sacrificed animal (18-21).
The decision of the Babylonian king was to besiege Jerusalem (22). The Jerusalemites, however, were not worried by this news. They took no notice of what they considered to be Babylonian superstitions. They trusted instead in their treaty with Egypt. But it would make no difference to the outcome; Jerusalem would be captured (23).
Jerusalem was doomed because of its sin; so was Zedekiah, and for the same reason. The proud king would suffer the greatest humiliation. There would not be another king over Israel till the Messiah came, to whom the throne rightly belonged (24-27).
Meanwhile the Ammonites, having escaped the Babylonian attack, took the opportunity to join in crushing Jerusalem. They were encouraged in this by lying prophets who assured them they were doing God’s work. The true prophet Ezekiel told them they were only making certain their own punishment (28-29). The Ammonites were not God’s instrument for punishing Jerusalem. When they returned to their own country, God would punish them (by means of a Babylonian attack) for their unprovoked attack on his people (30-32).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany