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LIST OF JERUSALEM'S CURRENT SINS
Whereas the previous chapter gave a record of the historical apostasies of the nation of Israel, this one focuses upon the sins that Jerusalem was then in the act of committing when Ezekiel delivered this chapter, the tremendous implication being that there could no longer be any hope of God's sparing the "bloody city."
Also, the specific enumeration of so many transgressions, "Gives us a true picture of what Ezekiel means by `sins'."
The chapter naturally falls into three divisions, presenting three oracles, each of which begins with the solemn words: "The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man ..." (Ezekiel 22:1,17 and Ezekiel 22:23). Only the first of these is directed against Jerusalem, in the words, `the bloody city,'; and Keil objected to applying the last two oracles to Jerusalem only, because they appear to be addressed against "the house of Israel." Nevertheless, Jerusalem as the capital and final remainder of the whole house of Israel would seem to have been the principal addressee of the whole chapter.
"Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, And thou, son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? then cause her to know all her abominations. And thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: A city that sheddeth blood in the midst of her, that her time may come, and that maketh idols against herself to defile her. Thou hast become guilty in the blood that thou hast shed, and art defiled in the idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach among the nations, and a mocking to all the countries. Those that are near, and those that are far from thee, shall mock thee, thou infamous one, and full of tumult."
"Wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge ...?" (Ezekiel 22:2). The repetition indicates the strong emphasis of the command. The word "judge" here is a reference to an arraignment with a statement of the charges, as in the case of a prosecutor in a law suit. God only, in the strictest sense, is the "judge" of all men.
"The bloody city ..." (Ezekiel 22:2). "This epithet applied here to Jerusalem equates the capital of the Once Chosen People with Nineveh, that infamous whore, the savage lion's den, and corrupt center of heathen abominations," which God also designated with this same eloquent word of shameful guilt (Nahum 3:1), "the bloody city." Note that Jerusalem has already forfeited all of her glorious names, such as "faithful city, and beloved city."
"That her time may come ..." (Ezekiel 22:3). "This means the time of her retribution, the time when God will judge and punish her." God did not punish either individuals or nations until their "iniquity was full," The meaning of this seems to be that, as long as there was hope of a change, God was always willing to spare the punishment a while longer.
"Thou hast caused thy days to come near, and art come even unto thy years . ..." (Ezekiel 22:4). "Thy days" is a reference to the days of Jerusalem's punishment, and "thy years,' speaks of the years of her captivity.
"I have made thee a reproach among the nations ..." (Ezekiel 22:5). This is a prophecy of what will soon happen, as indicated in the future tense used in the next verse, "Those that are near, and those that are far from thee, shall mock thee."
"Thou infamous one, and full of tumult ..." (Ezekiel 22:5). When any civilization reaches the condition in which the whole land is "full of tumult," "violence," and wholesale bloodshed, the end of it cannot be long delayed. It will be remembered that prior to the Great Deluge, the universal bloodshed and violence were cited as the reason for the destruction of the world in the flood. "And God said, The end of all flesh is before me; for the earth is filled with violence." (Genesis 6:13). The near-universal violence of our own times should be a reason for the most acute concern and apprehension on the part of the leaders of our world. Only God, of course, could know at what point the land "is filled" with violence; but when that point is reached, who can doubt that God will terminate it?
Jerusalem had certainly reached such a point, as indicated here. "Manasseh had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood (2 Kings 21:2-15)."
"Behold the princes of Israel, every one according to his power, have been in thee to shed blood. In thee have they set light by father and mother; in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the sojourner; in thee have they wronged the fatherless and the widow. Thou hast despised my holy things, and hast profaned my sabbaths. Slanderous men have been in thee to shed blood; and in thee have they eaten upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they have committed lewdness. In thee have they uncovered their fathers' nakedness; in thee have they humbled her that was unclean in her impurity. And one hath committed abominations with his neighbor's wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father's daughter. In thee have they taken bribes to shed blood; thou hast taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by oppression, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord Jehovah."
"Some of the sins listed here relate to violations of the Decalogue, but the most of them relate to chapters 17-26 of the Book of Leviticus, where is recorded the so-called `Holiness Code.'" We appreciate the exceedingly significant observation of McFadyen here: "Although most of the evils listed here are social wrongs, it is significant that the low morality is traced to false religion." Amen! The false notion that the prophets of God were concerned only with social wrongs has made many of the comments of radical critics worthless, because, "All sin, in the final analysis, is nothing but a failure on the part of men to maintain the correct relation with the Heavenly Father." "The First and Great Commandment is to love God" (Mark 12:48).
The student is referred to our commentaries on the Pentateuch and upon the Minor Prophets for a discussion of the sacred laws violated by these various sins. Despite the "princes of Israel" being cited here as the perpetrators of such atrocious evils, it may not be doubted that all of the people were equally as sinful. It is amazing that "even the princes" were the notoriously guilty ones. Naboth was murdered and his vineyard confiscated by Jezebel the Queen, Tamar was raped and dishonored by her brother Amnon, a prince of Israel, indeed, the first son of king David by Ahinoam. Reuben, one of the Twelve patriarchs "uncovered his father's nakednesss" by his adultery with one of Jacob's concubines.
It is of interest that this latter sin does not seem to have been very unusual, because of the plural "fathers" in 5:10. In the New Testament, it is stated that the taking of one's step-mother was an evil, "found not even among the Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 5:1).
The disobedience and despising of father and mother always accompany the ruin of any culture. In the final hardening of Israel, in the times of Christ, the religious leaders of Israel, namely the Pharisees, taught that children, under pretense of respect to the Corban, had the right to despise and neglect their parents; and Our Lord specifically condemned them for their teaching. Their old evils of the times of Ezekiel were still practiced in the days shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
"They have eaten upon the mountains ..." (Ezekiel 22:9). This refers to the widespread worship indulged by the Israelites in their participation in the licentious orgies of the "high places," where the ancient Canaanite gods of fertility were shamelessly worshipped by Israel.
"Slanderous men have been in thee to shed blood ..." (Ezekiel 22:9) Cooke tells us that, "It was a common practice of those times to get rid of persons obnoxious to those in power by the device of false accusations." Plumptre agreed, citing the case of, "Naboth in 1 Kings 21:10," as an example.
"They have forgotten me, saith Jehovah ..." (Ezekiel 22:12). "Social morality always depends upon the remembrance of God." In the last analysis, all correct human behavior is derived from the recognition of Almighty God as the giver of life and the only legitimate regulator of human actions. Why is it wrong to kill? This is true only because man is created in God's image, and God has forbidden it. Apart from the knowledge of God, it is not a sin to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, or to do any other deed that pleases the doer. Apart from the knowledge and remembrance of God, there is no such thing as either "right" or "wrong." It must indeed be feared that in our culture today, this fundamental criterion for determining what is right or wrong has been obscured by the increasing unbelief of our times.
"Behold, therefore, I have smitten my hand, at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I, Jehovah, have spoken, and will do it. And I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I will consume thy filthiness out of thee. And thou shalt be profaned in thyself, in the sight of the nations; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah."
"I have smitten my hands at thy dishonest gain ..." (Ezekiel 22:13). "This figuratively describes God's indignation" at the crooked dealings of Israel.
"Can thy heart endure ..." (Ezekiel 22:14)? No matter how bold and daring wicked men may pretend to be, when God's judgment falls upon them, all of their alleged courage evaporates! It will be true especially upon the final day of judgment depicted in Revelation 6:14-17.
"I will consume thy filthiness out of thee ..." (Ezekiel 22:15). This will be accomplished by the total destruction of all of the wicked sinners in Jerusalem, who are, themselves, the "filthiness" of the city.
"And thou shalt be profaned in thyself, in the sight of the nations ..." (Ezekiel 22:16). This is admittedly a difficult expression. "The meaning appears to be that `Thou shalt be inwardly conscious of thy polluted condition, and shall loathe thyself on account of thy sins.'" It should be remembered here, that, "Although God allowed his people to be profaned for a time, and allowed the nations to mock them, concluding that God was powerless to save them; nevertheless, the scattering of His people was remedial in God's intention; and, in God's own time, `The holiness of God's name' would yet be vindicated (Ezekiel 36:23)."
"And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house of Israel is become dross unto me: all of them are brass and fin and iron and lead, in the midst of the silver; they are the dross of the silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye are all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my wrath, and I will lay you there, and melt you."
Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you with the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have poured out my wrath upon you.
The figure of this illustration is that of a smelter or furnace in which dross is separated from silver; "But this is no `refining' operation which we have here, because Israel is all dross, every one, high and low alike."
"I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem ..." (Ezekiel 22:19). Keil thought that this reference to Jerusalem, "Is somewhat out of place, inasmuch as the preceding Word of God referred not to the city, but to `The House of Israel' (Ezekiel 22:18)." Keil failed to take into consideration that God here promised to "gather" the House of Israel into Jerusalem for the purpose of making a smelting furnace of the whole city; thus, the reference to Jerusalem is absolutely correct. (see Ezekiel 22:19).
When the siege of Jerusalem began by the king of Babylon, the whole population of Palestine, encompassing all of `the House of Israel' that remained, poured into Jerusalem for protection. This is a prophecy that, "Under the stress of the siege, Jerusalem would become a furnace in which they all shall be melted by the fierce heat of the Divine anger."
"And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto her, Thou art a land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion, ravening the prey: they have devoured souls; they take treasure and precious things; they have made her widows many in the midst thereof. Her priests have done violence to my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they caused men to discern between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, that they may get dishonest gain. And her prophets have daubed for them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Jehovah, when Jehovah hath not spoken. The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery; yea, they have vexed the poor and needy, and have oppressed the sojourner wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should build on the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I brought upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah."
This reveals the utter corruption of the prophets, and the priests, and the princes of Israel. There remained not a single one of them who was true to the obligations of his holy office. They were best described as a pack of wild animals, devouring men as wantonly as a wolf or a lion would tear the body of an animal they were eating. The language here reminds us of Zephaniah. Her princes in the midst of her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they leave nothing until the morrow. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons; her priests have profaned the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law! (Zephaniah 3:3-4).
The charges made against Israel here by Ezekiel have been made so frequently, and have been commented upon already numerous times in our series of commentaries, that it is unnecessary at this point to elaborate any further the gross sins and corruptions of the Chosen People. Their apostasy was complete; they had already sustained the judicial hardening of God Himself; and the hour of the nation's terminal punishment was at hand.
Special attention should be given the magnificent prophecy in the last verse here. The verbs in this verse are the "prophetic present." They speak of what God "will do," not about what has already been done. Alexander properly understood this: "God concluded this message (Ezekiel 22:31) with a judgment, that he would consume (future tense) the people with fire from his mouth, and that the people themselves were responsible for the judgment coming (future tense) upon them."
Of course, no radical scholar can allow such a prophecy, due to their incorrect and ridiculous rule that there are no "predictive prophecies" in the Bible, Based on that false rule, Cooke stated that, "In any case Ezekiel 22:30-31 were written after 586 B.C. (that is, after the fall of Jerusalem)." Did Cooke offer any proof of this? Indeed no! There is no proof or evidence whatever of the truth of such a canard. Such a statement is without any doubt whatever incorrect.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 22". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent