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3. Preparation of the Promised Land 35:1-36:15
"Each of the next four speeches elaborates an aspect of the peace covenant. Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 36:15 describes how the foreign plundering nations would be removed and judged in preparation for Israel’s return to her own land. The message in Ezekiel 36:16 to Ezekiel 37:14 provides a beautiful and descriptive account of God’s restoration of Israel to her land. Ezekiel 37:15-28 stresses the full reunion of the nation and the fulfillment of her covenants when this peace covenant is established. Finally, Ezekiel 38-39 develops the concept of Israel’s permanent and complete security in the Lord, for he would thwart the final attempt by a foreign power (Gog) to possess Israel’s land and to plunder God’s people." [Note: Ibid., p. 914.]
Yahweh commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains of Israel (in contrast to Mount Seir, cf. Ezekiel 6:1-14). The reason was threefold. First, Israel’s enemy had spoken against her (cursed her, cf. Genesis 12:3) by rejoicing that the everlasting heights (mountains) of the land had come into their possession (cf. Ezekiel 6:3; Ezekiel 20:29). The Hebrew word bamoth, usually translated "high places," the places where pagan altars stood in Israel, more generally, and here, refers to the mountains themselves. Second, the enemy of Israel had destroyed her for good reason, namely, her sinfulness. Third, now she was the possession of the nations of the world and the subject of their scorn (cf. Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 24:9). They talked publicly and privately about her fate. This prophecy concerns the land of Israel primarily, not the people of Israel.
The establishment of Israel in the land 36:1-15
This part of the prophecy of the preparation of the Promised Land sets forth what God would do for Israel. It contains the opposite of the curses against Israel warned of in chapter 6, and it contrasts Israel’s glorious destiny with the terrible fate of Edom in chapter 35.
"The chapter contains the most comprehensive enunciation of the plan of redemption to be found in this book, setting forth all the factors that comprise God’s plan of salvation." [Note: Ibid., p. 205.]
"Ezekiel 36 parallels the New Covenant God promised to Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 31. This covenant includes at least three specific elements: (a) restoration to the land (Ezekiel 36:24; Jeremiah 31:27-29), (b) forgiveness of sin (Ezekiel 36:25; Jeremiah 31:34), and (c) the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33)." [Note: Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 690.]
"The future of Israel [in chapters 36 and 37] can be summarized in four words: restoration, regeneration, resurrection, and reunion." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 227.]
Therefore the sovereign Lord had something to say to the whole land that had fallen prey to Israel’s neighbor nations. Because Edom and the other nations had taken over the Lord’s land joyfully and had scorned the Israelites, He would pronounce judgment on them in his hot jealousy. The Promised Land was the Lord’s land in the same sense that the Sabbath was His day and the tithe was His possession. These parts were not just segments of their wholes over which God claimed ownership, but they represented and illustrated His ownership of all lands, all days, and all possessions. Israel’s enemies had dealt with her in their anger and envy (Ezekiel 35:11), but now Yahweh would deal with them in His fierce jealousy over Israel’s welfare.
Ezekiel was to announce to the whole Promised Land that Yahweh had spoken in His jealousy and wrath because Israel had suffered the insults of the nations (cf. Genesis 12:3). The nations round about Israel would surely have to endure the consequences of their insults against Israel.
Ezekiel 36:8-15 contain four promises concerning the land. First, the land would become productive because the Israelites would soon come back into the land. Yahweh assured the land that He was for it, He would bless it, and it would become cultivated again instead of desolate and uninhabited. Formerly the Lord had said that He was against Mount Seir (Ezekiel 35:3).
Second, the Lord promised to fill all the land with Israelites, to enable them to live in their cities and rebuild the places that had become ruins (cf. Ezekiel 6:3; Ezekiel 6:5-7). Earlier the Lord promised to desolate all the land of Edom (Ezekiel 35:15) and to lay waste her cities (Ezekiel 35:4). The mountains of Israel would again become populated with people and animals that would become fruitful and multiply. The Lord would bless them more greatly than ever before. Then His people would know that He is God.
Third, the Lord would cause the people of Israel to take possession of these mountains as their inheritance and never leave them again (cf. Genesis 12:7). The Edomites had formerly determined to possess these mountains (Ezekiel 35:10).
The nations had accused the Promised Land of devouring its inhabitants (cf. Numbers 13:32), but Yahweh would see that it no longer did that. Fourth, He would not allow the Israelites to hear insults from their neighbors any longer, to bear disgrace any longer, or to stumble in their affairs any longer. He would restore them to their prestigious position as His Chosen People (cf. Deuteronomy 28:13; Zechariah 8:13; Zechariah 8:20-23).
All the connections between how God would deal with Israel relative to the nations illustrate the retributive justice of God. He would deal with the enemies of His people as they had dealt with Israel, and He would bless Israel in the very ways the nations sought to humiliate Israel.
A typical covenant theology interpretation follows.
"From the perspective of the New Testament, these promises all apply to the church as the new Israel. How could such seemingly materialistic images have relevance for God’s people who are not a single earthly nation farming in a single part of the world? The answer is that they apply literally but not literalistically. The church may take great comfort in the fulfillment of the sort of greatness, confidence, certainty of success, and ultimate victory over all its foes that such a compound oracle (i.e., Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 36:15) guarantees. . . . We may instead rejoice that God has had in mind for us things that the eye had not seen nor the ear heard (1 Corinthians 2:9)-things that the present description of the abundance of the mountains of Israel is intended only to symbolize." [Note: Stuart, p. 333.]
4. Restoration to the Promised Land 36:16-37:14
Having prepared the land for the Israelites (Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 36:15), the Lord would bring them back into it. This prophecy consists of four parts (Ezekiel 36:16-38, and Ezekiel 37:1-14).
The Lord told Ezekiel that when the Israelites had lived in the Promised Land they had defiled it by the way they lived. They resembled a woman during her menstrual period who defiled everything she touched (cf. Leviticus 15:19-23; Isaiah 64:6).
The reason for Israel’s scattering 36:16-21
Yahweh had poured out His wrath on them because of their bloodshed and idolatry. He had judged them for their deeds by scattering them among the nations (cf. Deuteronomy 29:1 to Deuteronomy 30:10).
Their dispersion made Yahweh look impotent since the nations concluded that He could not keep them safe in His land. The Lord had risked His reputation by driving Israel out of the land, but He cared about His reputation, which the Israelites had made common. We need to remember that how Christians represent God by our words and deeds likewise concerns Him (cf. Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2).
"Israel was guilty of two great sins, the first of which was polluting God’s land (Ezekiel 36:16-19).
"Their second sin was that of profaning God’s name before the Gentiles (Ezekiel 36:20-23)." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 228.]
Ezekiel was to tell the Israelites that it was in spite of them that He would act for them; He would deliver them for the sake of His own reputation that they had profaned (cf. Ezekiel 20:39). He would vindicate His reputation as being a holy (unique) God when He proved Himself such in the sight of the nations (cf. Exodus 5:2; Exodus 9:16; Exodus 32:11-18; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 22:31-33; Numbers 14:13-19; Deuteronomy 29:1 to Deuteronomy 30:10).
The method of Israel’s restoration 36:22-32
"The next verses in the chapter are among the most glorious in the entire range of revealed truth on the subject of Israel’s restoration to the Lord and national conversion." [Note: Feinberg, p. 209.]
The Lord promised, first, to take the Israelites from all the nations, to re-gather them, and to bring them back into their land (cf. Ezekiel 11:16-17; Ezekiel 20:34; Ezekiel 34:13; Ezekiel 37:21). He would then, second, purify His people and cleanse them from all their former uncleanness (cf. Ezekiel 36:17; Ezekiel 11:18; Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4-7; Psalms 51:7; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Justification, not sanctification, is in view. [Note: Ibid.]
"The new exodus motif occurs ten times in Ezekiel, but it gains increasing prominence in the restoration oracles." [Note: Block, The Book . . . 48, p. 353. Cf. 11:17; 20:34-35; 20:41-42; 28:25; 29:13; 34:13; 36:24; 37:12, 21; 39:27.]
He would, third, give them a new heart and spirit and would remove their hardness of heart and give them soft hearts (i.e., regenerate them; cf. Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 18:31; 2 Corinthians 3:3-6). Perhaps this passage was in the Lord Jesus’ mind when He spoke to Nicodemus about the new birth. [Note: Cf. Kaiser, p. 242.] The heart stands for the whole person-mind, will, and emotions (cf. Ezekiel 2:4; Ezekiel 3:7)-and the spirit describes the motivation that drives thought and conduct.
"The temptation to find the fulfillment of the ’new heart’ and ’new spirit’ of Ezekiel 36:25-27 exclusively in Christian conversion in this age should be resisted. New Testament conversion is only a preview of the massive spiritual revival God has in store for all of true Israel and Gentiles who believe." [Note: Cooper, p. 317.]
God would, fourth, also put His Spirit within the Israelites and cause them to obey His commands carefully (cf. Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 37:14; Ezekiel 39:29; Jeremiah 31:31; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18; Romans 7:7 to Romans 8:4; 2 Corinthians 3:6-18; Hebrews 8:6 to Hebrews 10:39). This is a coming of the Holy Spirit on Israel in the future, not His coming on the church at Pentecost.
They would, fifth, live in the Promised Land and enjoy a permanent, intimate relationship with God (cf. Jeremiah 31:33). He would also deliver them from their uncleanness (Ezekiel 36:25) and, sixth, give them abundant harvests constantly so they would never experience famine (cf. Ezekiel 34:29). In other words, He would bless them with consistent fertility and fruitfulness (cf. Ezekiel 34:29).
Then the Israelites would, seventh, remember their former sins and loathe themselves (cf. Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 20:43). Again, the Lord would not accomplish this regathering for the sake of His people, but for the sake of His reputation among the rest of the world’s population (cf. Ezekiel 36:22). This present announcement of God’s gracious dealings with His people should shame them and bring them to their knees in repentance.
"This context and that of similar accounts of God’s restoration of Israel to her land, along with the historical perspective, make it clear that the return mentioned in this passage does not refer to the return to Canaan under Zerubbabel but to a final and complete restoration under the Messiah in the end times. The details of Israel’s reestablishment on her land set forth above simply did not occur in the returns under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah." [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 922.]
This new covenant passage in Ezekiel 36:22-32 has much in common with the new covenant passage in Jeremiah 31:31-34. A significant difference is that Jeremiah put more emphasis on the role of God’s Word in Israel’s transformation whereas Ezekiel put more emphasis on the role of God’s Spirit. Both His Word and His Spirit will be crucial in Israel’s future restoration.
Future cleansing from sin and restoration of the Jews to the land and restoration of the land to fruitfulness would all occur at the same time. This shows that the Jews’ present occupation of the Promised Land does not fulfill these promises; they have not yet experienced God’s cleansing for their sins, which comes with regeneration (cf. Romans 11:26-27).
The results of Israel’s return 36:33-38
People would marvel at the lushness of the formerly desolate land and at the strength of the formerly ruined cities of Israel (cf. Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 51:3; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-15; Romans 8:19-22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4; Revelation 21:23-27). The other nations of the world would recognize that Israel’s God was responsible for this transformation.
The Lord also promised to respond to the prayers of the Israelites to increase their population.
"For the first time in the book he permits himself to be entreated by the house of Israel." [Note: Block, The Book . . . 48, p. 364.]
The Jews would fill the cities like the sheep used to fill Jerusalem during the feasts when the people offered large numbers of them as sacrifices to the Lord. These would not be sheep for slaughter but living sacrifices in God’s service. This increase in the population in the Promised Land would also convince people of Yahweh’s unique deity.
"In analyzing Ezekiel’s doctrine of the salvation of Israel, the salient factors are as follows: (1) The preeminent motive in their redemption is the glory of God (Ezekiel 36:22; Ezekiel 36:32). (2) Israel will know ultimately that their God is the Lord (Ezekiel 36:38). (3) There will be an abhorrence of their sins (Ezekiel 36:31-32). (4) Forgiveness of their sins will be realized (Ezekiel 36:25). (5) Regeneration will be effected (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26-27). (6) The gift of the Holy Spirit will be granted (Ezekiel 36:27; Ezekiel 37:14). No prophet before him assigns the ministry of the Holy Spirit in regeneration such a precise place as Ezekiel does. (7) Included is obedience to God’s laws (Ezekiel 36:27; Ezekiel 11:20)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 205.]
By faith in Jesus Christ, Gentiles as well as Jews presently experience many of the same blessings that God promised here to bring to the entire nation of Israel in the future. But this should not lead us to conclude that these promises have no future fulfillment with Israel but are only fulfilled spiritually in the church. One writer pointed out that God added blessings to this covenant as He revealed it progressively through history before its ratification at the Cross. [Note: Rodney J. Decker, "The Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:6-7 (July-September 1995):290-305.] Ezekiel added some revelation that Jeremiah did not give, for example.
"It should be clear that the realization of these promises did not come to fruition in the postexilic period, nor have they been fulfilled today. Israel as a nation is not regathered and has not experienced spiritual regeneration, and the land of Palestine is not characterized by the supernatural fecundity described in Ezekiel 36:22-38." [Note: Mark F. Rooker, "Evidence from Ezekiel," in A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus, p. 127.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 36". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26