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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 11

Verses 1-25

Denunciation and Hope (11:1-25)

After the vision of destruction and the withdrawal of God’s glory, the prophet returns in vision to visit in Jerusalem (vs. 1 ) . This is not to be taken as a continuation of the same visionary experience depicted in chapter 8 but must be understood as another occasion, grouped here with earlier material because of similarity of content.

Twenty-five men (not to be identified with the sun worshipers in chapter 8), including one Ja-azaniah (not the same as in Ezekiel 8:11) and Pelatiah, princes of the city, were talking among themselves about the future and were saying, "The time is not near to build houses; this city is the caldron, and we are the flesh." Their conversation reflected the hopeless pessimism which gripped the city. God orders the prophet to explain that it is those who have already been slain by the injustices of an unrighteous society who are the flesh in the city which is a caldron. But the guilty ones who still remain in the city God will bring forth and "will judge . . . at the border of Israel." Thus the explanation is completed, "This city shall not be your caldron, nor shall you be the flesh in the midst of it; I will judge you at the border of Israel" (vs. 11). This is possibly a reference to King Zedekiah and his entourage who were captured while seeking to escape to Riblah. The old refrain is then caught up again as the divine voice explains why such harsh judgment must fall on this people (vs. 12).

The incident of the death of Pelatiah (vs. 13) is one of the knottiest historical problems which the student of Ezekiel must face. While Ezekiel, still physically in Tel-abib, was making his prophecy to a company of men who were in Palestine, one of their number, Pelatiah, dropped dead. It is obvious from the prophet’s emotional reaction to the incident that he felt responsible for the death of Pelatiah. It appears that his word caused the unexpected demise. On this basis many interpreters have assigned Ezekiel to a Palestinian locale. Two things may be said. First, the prophecy as we have it was written toward the end of Ezekiel’s career and part of it was written after his death. It tends therefore to link cause and effect that were not originally connected. This was possibly the case with the Pelatiah incident. Second, it can be logically asked whether Pelatiah was actually in Palestine or in Tel-abib when he died suddenly. In the light of the prophet’s mixture of visionary experience with normal life, it is difficult to know where Pelatiah was. If he were a leader of the exiles, his death as a result of the impact of the prophecy would be unusual but understandable. In any case the death of Pelatiah was a foretaste of the much darker tragedy which was about to occur on history’s stage, the fall of Jerusalem.

The prophet now turns his attention from the people of Jerusalem to his "fellow exiles," in order to interpret their lot in the light of God’s activity (vss. 14-21). To them he offers a promise. The ones remaining in Palestine are saying of the exiles, "They have gone far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession." Jeremiah faced the same issue with audiences in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 24, 29). The Lord through his prophet explains that though he has brought some into exile away from the sanctuary, yet he has been "a sanctuary to them for a while" in the lands of their exile (vs. 16).

The Lord now promises that his people will return from exile and that restoration of the land will follow. Moreover, since a fundamental change in human nature is required before the future can be bright with hope, God declares that he will give to his people "a new heart, and ... a new spirit" (vs. 19, margin). The very essence of man’s being will be altered drastically by God, so that the Covenant relationship, reaching back in its origin to the Mosaic era, will be restored to its original terms: "They shall be my people, and I will be their God." But even in the brighter future those who do not have a new heart and a new spirit have no such hope.

This beautiful section doubtless belongs to Ezekiel but may have been put into its present literary setting after the fall of Jerusalem, when the various oracles were being collected. In the light of subsequent history and from the point of view of theology it belongs here, even though chronologically its composition must be placed later than the first part of the chapter.

The throne of God upon which his glory has dwelt is now removed from the midst of the city (vss. 22-25). The breach of Covenant by the people has caused God to withdraw his presence. This time "the glory of the Lord" went beyond the Temple environs to the mountains on the east side of the city, and there stopped as if to watch the destruction to follow. Verse 24 implies clearly that the Spirit, who had brought Ezekiel in vision to Jerusalem in the first instance, now returned him to the exiles in Chaldea.

Some interpreters hold that Ezekiel’s message was irrelevant for those living at Tel-abib, but this is surely not the case, as verse 25 indicates. In Tel-abib false hopes of a quick return were still treasured and Jerusalem was the visible symbol for undying optimism. Part of the prophetic task was to destroy false optimism by proclaiming that God’s abode was no longer in Jerusalem and that the city was doomed.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 11". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-11.html.