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E. The execution of Jerusalem’s judgment ch. 24
Until now Ezekiel had predicted that judgment would fall on Jerusalem and Judah in the future. The day of that judgment finally arrived, and he proceeded to announce it with a parable and two acted signs or "action sermons."
"With these verses we come to the climax of all that Ezekiel has been trying to say in the previous twelve chapters." [Note: Taylor, p. 176.]
The background to the parable 24:1-3a
The Lord instructed Ezekiel to note permanently the day this revelation came to him because it was the very day that Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem. This day fell in January (cf. 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 39:1; Jeremiah 52:4). Block dated it as January 5, 587 B.C., [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 774.] but most scholars follow Parker and Duberstein and date it as January 15, 586 B.C. [Note: Parker and Dubberstein, p. 28; Cooper, p. 235; Taylor, p. 177; Zimmerli, p. 498; et al.] Ezekiel’s ability to announce the beginning of the siege from Babylon validated his ministry as a prophet. The Jews later memorialized this special day with an annual fast (Zechariah 8:19). The prophet was also to deliver a parable to the Jewish exiles the same day. They were part of the "rebellious house" of Israel, one of God’s favorite titles for His people Israel in this book.
1. The parable of the cooking pot 24:1-14
This parable represented the siege of Jerusalem, which began on the day that Ezekiel told this story.
The parable itself 24:3b-5
In this parable, the people were to put a bronze (Ezekiel 24:11) cooking pot (caldron, Heb. sir) on the fire and pour water into it. This large pot had two handles, a round base, and a large mouth. Then the people were to put various pieces of choice meat into the pot and were to build a strong fire under it so the water would boil and the meaty bones would cook. We might call Ezekiel 24:3-13 "the cooking pot song" since it is a poem similar to "the sword song" (Ezekiel 21:8-17) and "the cup song" (Ezekiel 23:32-34).
There is no indication that this was another of Ezekiel’s acted parables. Rather it seems to have been a message that the prophet spoke without dramatizing it by really boiling meat in a caldron.
Ezekiel was then to announce woe on the bloody city (no longer the holy city) of Jerusalem (cf. Nahum 3:1), which the pot represented (cf. Ezekiel 11:3; Ezekiel 11:7; Ezekiel 11:11; Jeremiah 1:13-14). The pot had rust (Heb. hel’ah) in it that evidently stood for the blood of the people slain there (cf. Ezekiel 22:1-16). Another view is that the pot was bronze (which does not rust), and the red in it was the blood of the meat. [Note: Block, The Book . . ., pp. 777-78.] Ezekiel was then to draw several pieces of meat out of the pot at random, perhaps signifying God rescuing a remnant from judgment.
The reasons for Jerusalem’s present judgment 24:6-8
Blood was in Jerusalem’s midst like the blood of a sacrifice that had not been drained out on the ground and covered up (atoned for) as the Law prescribed (Leviticus 17:13). Israel’s sins were open for all to see, like blood on a bare rock (cf. Isaiah 3:9). Not only was Jerusalem a city that had shed much innocent blood, but it was an unacceptable sacrifice to God because of the blood that was in it.
Therefore Yahweh was draining the blood out of Jerusalem by allowing the Babylonians to slay the Jews in it. The innocent blood that the Jerusalemites had shed had cried out to God for Him to take vengeance and to execute wrath on the murderers, as Abel’s blood had done (Genesis 4:10; cf. Isaiah 26:21). As the people of Jerusalem had shed blood openly, so the Lord would shed their blood openly, on the bare rock of Jerusalem.
"The severe judgment sent by God upon Judah should be ample warning to those today who share the same callous disregard for the value of human life, both the born and the unborn." [Note: Cooper, p. 237.]
The Lord pronounced woe on the bloody city of Jerusalem and promised to make the pile of bones of the slain inhabitants great (cf. Isaiah 30:33). Therefore Ezekiel was to kindle a strong fire, to boil the meat well, to mix in the spices normally used when meat was cooked this way, and to let the bones burn. All this symbolized the fierceness of the attack on Jerusalem and the many people that would die there.
The results of Jerusalem’s present judgment 24:9-13
This second oracle stresses not the boiling of meat in the pot but the cleansing of the pot by superheating, a second stage in God’s judgment process.
Then Ezekiel was to keep the empty caldron on the coals with the fire burning hotly under it so it would glow and all the impurities in it would burn up. This represented the continuing purification of Jerusalem after all the Jews had left it. It would remain empty, and that condition would free it from all sinful pollution for many years to come.
Jerusalem had wearied Yahweh as He toiled to scour its sin away in the past. The city would remain under judgment because its rust-like sin needed purging away (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-32).
Adultery in its many forms was part of Jerusalem’s filthiness. It clung to the city even though the Lord had sent many prophets to clean it up and had already deported many of the people (in 605 and 597 B.C.). Now it was time for a thorough purging of the pot by the fire of God’s wrath since cleansing with water had not been effective. Water and fire are two of God’s favorite instruments of judgment, according to Scripture (cf. 2 Peter 3:5-7).
The guarantee of Jerusalem’s present judgment 24:14
In conclusion, the Lord promised that this judgment would come as He had predicted. He would not change His mind or mitigate the punishment. He would thoroughly judge the people because of their conduct and actions. They would be the meat and He would provide the heat. This is the most emphatic affirmation of divine resolve in the book. [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 781.]
"God’s mercy prompts Him to withhold judgment as long as possible to enable people to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3:8-10), but He does not wait indefinitely. A time comes when God punishes wickedness." [Note: Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1274.]
The Lord told Ezekiel that He was about to take the life of his beloved wife. The English word "blow" (Ezekiel 24:16) implies a sudden, unexpected death. The Hebrew word, magephoh, does not demand a sudden death, but it sometimes describes such a death (cf. 1 Samuel 4:17; 2 Samuel 17:9; 2 Samuel 18:7). It could also mean death by plague or disease or anything that strikes a person down (cf. Exodus 9:14; Numbers 14:37; Numbers 16:44-50; Numbers 25:8-9). In any case, the prophet was not to mourn, weep, or shed any tears over this personal tragedy (cf. Jeremiah 16:5-13).
Such an announcement raises the question of whether God commits unprovoked acts of cruelty just to illustrate a point. In view of revelations of God’s character here and elsewhere, we should probably interpret this statement as meaning that God allowed Ezekiel’s wife to die at this precise time. He used her death, which He predicted to the prophet, to communicate a message to His people (cf. the unfaithfulness of Hosea’s wife). The text does not say that God put her to death as an object lesson. She could have been ill for some time before she died. Another similar situation involved God allowing the death of His innocent Son to occur at precisely the time God intended as another expression of His love and judgment.
The sign of the death of Ezekiel’s wife 24:15-24
2. Signs to the exiles 24:15-27
The preceding parable pictured the siege of Jerusalem itself. The symbolic acts that Ezekiel performed next, perhaps on the same day, represented how the exiles were to respond to the news of Jerusalem’s siege.
Ezekiel would have to sorrow inwardly; he was not to do so outwardly. It was customary for relatives of a dead loved one to wail long and loud with family, friends, and even paid mourners (cf. 2 Samuel 1:17; 2 Samuel 11:26; Micah 1:8). But Ezekiel was to observe none of the customary acts of mourning over the death of his loved one, which included throwing dust on his head, going barefoot, covering his mustache, and eating a modest meal after a day of fasting (cf. 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 3:35; Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4). [Note: See Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, pp. 59-61.] Mourning was not appropriate in cases of capital punishment.
In the morning of the next day, or perhaps a few days later, Ezekiel addressed the people, and that evening his wife died. The prophet faithfully did as the Lord had commanded him. His actions bewildered the exiles who asked him to explain why he was behaving so abnormally.
"Ezekiel’s entire life was a testimony to the exiles. Likewise, this should be the case with all who are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 862.]
The prophet replied that the Lord had said that He was about to destroy the temple and to slay the relatives of the exiles who remained in Jerusalem. The Jews loved the temple almost as much as Ezekiel loved his wife.
Ezekiel instructed the people to respond to their tragic loss as he had to his. The reason they were not to mourn publicly but only privately, though unstated, was that the judgment that God executed on Jerusalem was deserved.
"Ezekiel had a right to mourn his undeserved personal loss but did not. The Israelites had no right to mourn for their well-deserved national loss and could not . . ." [Note: Stuart, p. 243.]
"God is not the author of personal tragedy, but he does often use such experiences as unique opportunities and special windows through which people will come to ’know’ that he is the Lord." [Note: Cooper, p. 240. Cf. Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 682.]
Evidently Ezekiel was not to deliver any more prophetic messages to his fellow exiles after he made the explanation in Ezekiel 24:20-24 until he received word of the destruction of the temple and the capture of the remaining Judahites. This message reached him five months later (Ezekiel 33:21). His enforced dumbness must have been limited to prophecies concerning Israel, however, because Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 33:20 contains oracles against foreign nations some of which are dated during the siege of Jerusalem.
The sign of Ezekiel’s silence 24:25-27
When that news arrived, Ezekiel could resume speaking about Israel because the Lord would give him additional prophecies about Israel (cf. Ezekiel 33:21 to Ezekiel 48:35). His silence concerning Israel’s affairs during the siege of Jerusalem would have been further testimony to his sorrow.
"In Ezekiel 24:24 he is a sign of God’s judgment and its consequences; in Ezekiel 24:27 he is a sign of God’s grace and its consequences." [Note: R. W. Klein, Ezekiel, pp. 39-40.]
Ezekiel was to be a model for the exiles of how they should respond to the siege of Jerusalem. They should treat it as an unspeakable tragedy. Ezekiel’s example would teach the exilic community that Yahweh really was God.
"This is a pivotal chapter in the development of the book. Till now Ezekiel has variously proclaimed the Lord’s coming judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. He has systematically answered each argument against the impending judgment. Nothing remained except for the enactment of that discipline recorded in this chapter. The beginning of Babylonia’s siege of Jerusalem was described. Then Ezekiel prophesied against the foreign nations who had abused Judah and mocked her during her judgments (Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 33:20). These foreign nations would be judged for their wicked attitude and actions toward Judah. However, the hope of future restoration and blessing would be promised to Judah." [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 859.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26