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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 22

Verses 1-31

Catalogue of Jerusalem’s Sins (22:1-31)

Jerusalem is called a "bloody city" because she "sheds blood in the midst of her" and "makes idols to defile herself (vs. 3). Doubtless the reference is to the kind of social oppression against which Amos had spoken so strongly and to the idolatry which had been a real problem within Hebrew life for generations. Oppression and idolatry have brought near God’s judgment, when people from far away will mock the infamous city which is so full of tumult.

"The princes of Israel" represent the leaders who remained in Jerusalem after the most prominent people of the land were carried captive in the surrender of 598 B.C. The sins of these leaders are catalogued. "Father and mother are treated with contempt" — a breach of commandment five (vs. 7). The sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow are mistreated — marking a significant departure from the tradition that one of the criteria for judgment of a society was the treatment of those who were defenseless. Holy things are despised and Sabbaths are broken. Slander, false worship, and various forms of immoral life darken the picture even more (vs. 9). Men "uncover their fathers’ nakedness" (forbidden among the Hebrews) and have intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period (vs. 10). All sense of moral purity in the relationship between sexes has broken down. Men take bribes to bear false witness and so "to shed blood" and use their possessions to practice extortion. Princes set an incredibly unrighteous example before their people; small wonder that the fabric of society is rotten.

Verses 13-16 make three important points. First, the Lord will punish those whose prime purposes are dishonest gain and shedding of blood. Economic and moral factors affect God’s relationship to men. The Lord will not support a nation whose god is gain and whose only moral law is license. The second implication is even more compelling: "Can your courage endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you?" The answer of experience is: No. Righteousness alone is the source of national strength; apart from it, social order is debilitated by sin and courage is diluted by immorality and duplicity. Finally, the Almighty makes clear that he cannot and will not be neutral under these circumstances, but will punish the culprits and destroy their "filthiness." His name will be profaned among the nations, yet even in the face of this unfortunate result he will send them into exile. Ordinarily Ezekiel explains much of God’s action on the supposition that the Almighty wishes at all costs to avoid profanation of his name; that is, misunderstanding of his Person and purpose.

Underlining the state of affairs in Jerusalem and Judah, the prophet employs the figure of silver, bronze, tin, iron, and lead in a crucible (vss. 17-22). Israel has become dross which must be separated and melted out. Jerusalem is the crucible into which the dross has been gathered for elimination. The nation and city shall be melted by the wrath of God and the dross will be destroyed. Whether there will be any remnant of pure metal remaining is not stated.

If any glimmer of hope or flicker of confidence remains, it is extinguished finally by an analysis of corruption in depth (Ezekiel 22:23-31). Without exception every responsible group in the social order has become irresponsible. Princes are not motivated by service, but are like "a roaring lion" with a voracious appetite, caring more for their possessions than for their subjects (vs. 25). Priests, whose function it was to study the Law and protect the holy vessels of God in the Temple, have done violence to the Law, disregarding the separation of the clean from the unclean, making no distinction between the common and the holy (vs. 26). Verse 27 repeats the earlier indictment of the princes. Prophets have seen false visions and performed lying divinations, and when the wall of Israel’s life was crumbling, they have daubed it with whitewash, pretending that weakness was strength (vs. 28; see Ezekiel 13:8-16). "The people of the land" have practiced extortion, committed robbery, and oppressed the poor, the needy, and the sojourner. When the roll call is finished, there is no group which is worthy; hence, there is no basis for the continuance of Judah’s existence, whose reason for being has been destroyed. The full force of the chapter’s meaning is summarized in verse 30, "And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none." Doubtless this statement, like Elijah’s "I, even I only, am left" (1 Kings 19:10), is an exaggeration, because there were good men in Jerusalem, including Jeremiah, but overstatement was the prophetic method of dramatizing a dangerous situation. Inevitably doom is the next step after a nation in rebellion loses its reason for being and ignores its commission from God.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 22". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-22.html.