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Chapter 7. Further Diatribes Against Israel.
We must remember that when we read Ezekiel it is like reading a book of sermons. Sermons on the same theme may well be repetitive. But repetitiveness is a feature of ancient writings. Although having said all this we must remember that Ezekiel was not only preaching sermons he was bringing a revelation from God. The same theme continues. Jerusalem must be destroyed. Rather than being inviolate it would be made desolate. We must never presume on God. The message had to be repeated because they would not believe it. But the repetition was so that when it happened they would know that Yahweh Himself had determined it all along.
‘Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me saying.’
Compare Ezekiel 6:1. These words introduce a new revelation from God. Each revelation may be separated by days, weeks, or even months. We do not know. But they are declaring that Yahweh has again given him words to speak in the midst of his silence.
“And you, son of man, thus says the Lord Yahweh to the land of Israel. ‘An end, the end has come on the four corners of the land. Now is the end on you, and I will send my anger on you, and will judge you according to your ways. And I will bring on you all your abominations. And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will bring your ways on you, and your abominations will be in the midst of you, and you will know that I am Yahweh.’ ”
Yahweh now confirmed that ‘the end’ had come, the end of Judah and Jerusalem, and of all Israel. The whole land was to be affected. Three times He stressed it, the number of certain completion, and each time it grew in intensity. ‘An end, the end, -- now is the end on you.’ His anger against their sinfulness would be revealed, His judgments would be revealed against their behaviour, and all the abominable things that they had done would be brought upon them. And once again this was so that they may know ‘that I am Yahweh’. God was determined to press home what He is.
Amos had declared the same thing on Israel before the destruction of Samaria and the northern kingdom, ‘the end is come upon My people Israel. I will not again pass by them any more’ (Ezekiel 8:2). And it had happened. Now the same was to happen to Judah. Judah was doomed.
‘The four corners of the land.’ Possibly north, south east and west, or perhaps north west and north east, south west and south east. They encompassed the whole land. The mountains of Israel had previously been addressed (Ezekiel 6:2), now it is the whole land of Israel. None must be left out.
‘And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will bring your ways on you, and your abominations will be in the midst of you, and you will know that I am Yahweh.’
He wanted them to know that this time there would be no turning back. They had become so set in sin and idolatry that there was no other way. This time His eye would not spare them. They would receive no pity. It had happened before that He had spared them but they had still continually failed. So this time it would not happen. What they have sown in their sin and abominations they must reap. Thus will they finally become aware that He really is Yahweh, the holy God of the covenant Who demands faithfulness and righteousness.
This continual stress should bring home to us the awfulness of sin. We can begin to treat it so lightly as they did. But it is no light thing.
‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh, “An evil, an only evil, behold it comes. An end is come, the end is come, it awakes against you, behold it comes. Your doom is come to you, O inhabitant of the land, the time is come, the day is near, a day of tumult and not of joyful shouting on the mountains. Now will I shortly pour out my fury on you, and accomplish my anger against you, and will judge you according to your ways, and I will bring on you all your abominations. And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. I will bring on you according to your ways, and your abominations will be in the midst of you. And you will know that I am Yahweh the smiter.” ’
This might almost be a description of the end days before the final restoration, but it is not. It is describing ‘the end days’ for Jerusalem and Judah at that time. Notice again the repetition and the stress on the fact that ‘it is coming’. ‘An evil, behold it comes -- an end is come -- the end is come -- it awakes against you, behold it comes -- your doom is come -- the time is come.’ Its import could not be mistaken. It was definitely and specifically ‘at hand’.
What was coming was not only an evil but ‘an only evil’, a singular, unique evil, unlike anything previously known (Ezekiel 5:9). Indeed it was ‘the end’ for Jerusalem and Judah that was coming, an end awakening as though out of sleep. It was ‘doom’ that was coming. For the time of His judgments was now here.
There is in this passage a further deliberate play on words. An ‘end’ is ‘qes’, ‘the end’ is ‘haqqes’, ‘awakes’ is ‘heqis’. The word for ‘doom’ is difficult. In Isaiah 28:5 it is used of Yahweh being ‘a diadem’ of beauty to the residue of His people. Thus it is something that comes on people to display what they are and here a crown of doom. The translation ‘morning’ in AV is based on an Aramaic word.
And that time, that day will be a day of tumult rather than of joyful shouting on the mountains. The mountain had known much joyful shouting as men sinned before their idols, and cavorted with the sacred prostitutes, and drank and made merry. But now that would become tumult as they were hunted down by their adversaries.
‘Now will I shortly pour out my fury on you, and accomplish my anger against you, and will judge you according to your ways, and I will bring on you all your abominations. And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. I will bring on you according to your ways, and your abominations will be in the midst of you. And you will know that I Yahweh do smite.’ The same warnings are given as before. The repetition is deliberate, to bring firmly home exactly what the coming events will indicate. It was important that Israel recognise why they were suffering, why these dreadful events would and had come on them.
They would be the signs of His fury against sin, of His anger at their behaviour. They would be the signs that He had judged them and found them wanting. And all their abominations would be poured out on them. His eye would miss nothing. None would be spared. He would have no pity. His judgment was inexorable. And they would know that it was Yahweh Who smote them. That the certain destruction of their holy city and of their temple was His doing.
‘You will know that I am Yahweh the Smiter.’ Previously stress is laid on their ‘knowing Yahweh’. Now they will know Him as the One Who smites those who do evil, the righteous One, the Judge.
“Behold the day, behold it comes. Your doom is gone forth. The rod has blossomed. Pride has budded. Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness, none of them will remain, nor of their abundance (multitude of possessions), nor of their wealth. Neither will there be eminency among them.”
Once again emphasis is laid on the coming of a ‘day’ of God, previously expressed in terms of the coming of ‘the end’, of evil coming, of doom coming, of ‘the time’ coming. The inevitability of it is made apparent. And it is the day of tumult not of joyful shouting (Ezekiel 7:7).
The picture here is full of irony and is taken from that of Aaron’s rod that budded which was ‘a token against the children of rebellion’ (Numbers 17:10). ‘The day’, the day of God’s anger, is coming and it will be like that. It will be like a crown of doom coming on them from God. In the days of Aaron the rods represented the leaders of the people (Numbers 17:2-3). They represented their authority. But they did not blossom. They were not God’s chosen one (Numbers 17:5). Now, however, their rod will blossom, God has chosen them, but He has chosen them for judgment. Their pride will produce its fruit. And that fruit will be violence, which will be a rod for the wicked, a rod which will destroy so that none of them remain, all the abundance of their possessions will be destroyed and their wealth will be taken away. Nothing will remain. They will no longer be eminent for eminency will no longer be among them. It will be the end of Judah as it is known, many will die and those who survive will have lost everything, possessions, wealth and status.
“The time is come, the day draws near. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn. For wrath is on all their abundance (‘the multitude’ of their possessions).”
Again it is emphasised that God’s time has now come. His day draws near. Jerusalem may be at present a busy market place but trade relations will cease. They will be no more. Buyers will no longer gloat over their bargains, sellers will no longer pretend to regret that they did not charge a higher price. For all that they possess will be under the wrath of God against sin. Note the continued emphasis on their abundance, ‘the multitude of their possessions’ (Ezekiel 7:11-12) (which becomes the multitude of people in Ezekiel 7:13-14). All they have lived for, all they care for, all their riches, will be taken away.
“For the seller will not return to what is sold, though their life be yet among the living, for the vision is concerning the whole multitude of them. None will return (turn back). Nor will any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.”
There is a play on words here. The word for multitude has previously meant the multitude of wealth, here it probably refers to the multitude of people. The seller will not return to goods that he can sell in the markets of Jerusalem, even if he survives, for the vision refers to the whole multitude of people, they will either be destroyed or removed far away. None of them will be able to turn back. Not one of them will return.
‘Nor will any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.’ This may refer to false trading (compare Amos 2:6-7). They will no longer be able to engage in false trading and so enrich themselves and strengthen their position. It would equally apply to all men’s sinful pleasures which boosted them up and made them feel good. All that will inevitably be over.
“They have blown the trumpet, and have made all ready. But none goes to battle. For my wrath is on all their multitude. The sword is outside, and the pestilence and the famine inside. He who is in the field will die with the sword, and he who is in the city famine and pestilence will devour him.”
The description of their grim fate goes on. They will have made their preparations, the rallying call will have gone out, the trumpet will have sounded. But none will go out to battle. For when they see the forces arrayed against them they will know that it is useless. Whether outside or in they will die. Perhaps there is also the thought that by the time this trumpet blew they were too weak to fight. Those on the outside will perish by the sword, those on the inside by famine and pestilence, by shortage of food and water, and resulting disease. Thus anyone out in the open country will die, slain by the sword of the invaders, anyone on the inside will be devoured by food shortage and disease. And why? Because God’s wrath is on the whole multitude, on all of them.
(There were, of course, always a few exceptions, including Jeremiah. But God was addressing the mass of people who were almost all in rebellion. He would in fact show mercy to the small remnant who returned to the land from exile, conditional on their not fleeing to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:8-12). But as usual they rebelled against Him. So the genuinely faithful were very few).
“But those of them who escape, will escape, and will be on the mountains like doves of the valley, all of them mourning, every one in his iniquity.”
Inevitably some will escape and flee to the mountains, but they will be little better off. The mountains will no longer be a place of rejoicing and exulting, of sexual encounters and of throwing off restraint in the name of religion (Ezekiel 6:7). Rather they will mourn like the doves of the valley. Doves are associated with mourning because of their doleful cry (Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 59:11), and they dwell in the rock and make their nest in the side of the hole’s mouth (Jeremiah 48:28). Thus will those who escape be perched on the rocks, living in holes, away from all the joys of life, with little to hope for but eking out a living.
“All hands will be feeble, and all knees will be as weak as water. They will also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror will cover them and shame will be on all their faces and baldness on all their heads.”
For all, both those who escape and those caught in the city, it will be a life of mourning. They will have no strength. They will live in terror They will put on sackcloth, and shave their heads as signs of distress, not because of past iniquity but because they are still in iniquity. They will be filled with ‘horror’, with fear and trembling (Job 21:6; Psalms 55:5; Isaiah 21:4). Ashes on their faces will demonstrate their shame.
“They will toss their silver in the streets, and their gold will be as an unclean thing. Their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of Yahweh. They will not satisfy themselves nor fill their bowels, because it has been the stumblingblock of their iniquity.”
Their wealth will be tossed away and be seen as detestable, ‘unclean’ like the menstrual flow of a woman (which was in those days looked on with something akin to disgust and horror by Israelite men). Silver and gold will be useless in the day of the wrath of Yahweh, for there will be nothing to buy. It will not provide the people with food, and satisfy them and fill their bowels, for there will be none. It will have no use. Perhaps there is also the thought that the people will not wish to appear rich, for they know that their captors will especially carry off the wealthy, reputable citizens. Thus wealth will no longer be desirable. Alternately the thought may be that with their silver and gold they had made their idols which will not be able to deliver them in ‘the day of the wrath of Yahweh’.
‘Because it has been the stumblingblock of their iniquity.’ And all this will be because it was their silver and gold that helped to lead them astray, either through greed or idolatry. It was that which had caused them to stumble.
“As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty. But they made the images of their abominations, and their detestable things in it. Therefore have I made it to them as an unclean thing. And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil, and they will profane it. My face also will I turn from them, and they will profane my secret place, and robbers will enter it and profane it.”
There are two ways of seeing this passage. One is to translate as above and see ‘the beauty of His ornament, set in majesty’, as the Temple or the Holy City (see Isaiah 52:1), and ‘My secret (or hidden) place’ as the inner room, the Holiest of All, where none may enter except in thought. The former were often thought of in terms of beauty. We can compare ‘our holy and our beautiful house’ (Isaiah 64:11; compare Haggai 2:3), ‘beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion’ (Psalms 48:2; compare Lamentations 2:15) and ‘Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone’ (Psalms 50:2). For the latter compare ‘the secret place of the Most High’ (Psalms 91:1) where the thought may well be of one who meditated on God on His throne above the Ark of the covenant in the Holiest of All, and thus ‘dwelt there’. See also Psalms 27:5, “For in the day of trouble He will keep me secretly in His pavilion, in the covert of His tabernacle will He hide me.’
We are told later of the detestable and abominable things that they set up or did in the Temple (Ezekiel 8:5-10; Ezekiel 8:14; Ezekiel 8:16). Thus God would be saying that His Temple (or His Holy City) was now an unclean thing. That is why He would give it into the hands of aliens as a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil for them to profane it, and His secret place too would be profaned and He would allow robbers to enter it and steal all that was there (see 2 Chronicles 36:18). This was the explanation of why He would not protect it. But later, in the restoration, He would call on it to again put on its beautiful garments (Isaiah 52:1).
Alternately we may translate as RSV, ‘their beautiful ornament they used for vainglory, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it, therefore will I make it an unclean thing to them. And I will give it into the hands of foreigners for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil, and they will profane it. I will turn my face from them, that they may profane my precious place. Robbers will enter and profane it, and make a desolation.’ This was the way that the LXX translators saw it, ‘As for their choice ornaments, they employed them for pride, and they made of them images of their abominations: therefore have I made them uncleanness to them.’
Here Ezekiel would be thinking of their taking their silver and gold (the beauty of their ornament) and using it to make idolatrous images and other paraphernalia, and that would explain why their silver and gold became unclean. Then he would be adding the thought that that too was why God allowed the profanation of the Temple, His ‘precious place’. So the thought is the same in the end, but with differing emphasis. However in our view the first translation fits more exactly the pattern of the context.
“Make the chain, for the land is full of the judgment of blood, and the city is full of violence.”
The command comes to ‘make the chain (that which binds)’. This was addressed to their captors who would use it. They would unknowingly be doing Yahweh’s will. This was probably referring to the chain used to restrain the captives as they were led off, for the next verse describes the coming of their conquerors. Because life had become violent, and men sought justice by personal revenge and murder, they could only deserve the end that is coming to them, to be enchained, to be exiled to a foreign land. They were not worthy of Jerusalem. It has become ‘a city of blood’ (Ezekiel 22:2; Ezekiel 24:6; Ezekiel 24:9).
“For this reason I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they will possess their houses. And I will also make the pride of the strong to cease, and their holy places will be profaned. Destruction comes and they will seek peace, and there will be none.”
Because of the behaviour of Israel ‘the worst of the heathen’ would come against them and take possession of all they had. The Assyrians were a fierce enemy, renowned for their cruelty, and it would be fully revealed in their actions towards Israel. The result is that those who prided themselves on their strength and position would cease to have cause for pride, for they would be humbled into the dust. Their ‘holy places’ is probably a reference to the high places which they saw as holy, these will be profaned. But it may signify that even the holy places of Yahweh will be profaned, that there will be nowhere at all to seek God. Either way what they relied on for ‘spiritual’ sustenance would have gone. Destruction would come and they would be unable to find peace anywhere. There would be no peace. It would no longer exist. They would be unable to avoid strife and violence.
“Mischief will come upon mischief, and rumour will be upon rumour, and they shall seek a vision of the prophet, and the law will perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders. The king will mourn and the prince will be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land will be troubled.”
‘Mischief upon mischief.’ An endless chain of problems and suffering and misery and heartache. And to top it all constant rumours of worse to come, and of what was to happen to them. But they would have nowhere to turn. There would be no message from their religious or civic leaders, no vision from the prophet, no guidance from the priest, no counsel from the elders (see Amos 3:5-7 and contrast Jeremiah 18:18). This would be because these have nothing worth while to offer. They would have no solution (in contrast with Jeremiah and Ezekiel). They themselves would be equally totally bewildered and without explanation, and have no message from God. They had been too involved in the abomination of idolatry, in polluting the house of Yahweh (2 Chronicles 36:14).
Thus the king will be in mourning, for he sees the trouble descending on them, but receives no prophetic word from God. The prince will be ‘clothed with desolation’, overwhelmed by it, because he is aware of the desolation that is coming, and does not receive guidance from the priest. And the hands of the people of the land will be troubled. They will be in great distress and yet there will be no counsel from the elders.
Not the careful parallelism. Prophet and priest are in the singular, as are the king and the prince. The elders are in the plural as are ‘the hands of the people of the land’. This suggests the particular application as above. But behind it all is the fact that the guidance of prophet by prophetic vision, priest through the teaching of the Law and elders through general wisdom, based on experience, which should be for all, king, prince (tribal leader) and people, would be noticeably absent. Thus all would be left with no one to help them, without guidance in the face of the worst thing that had ever happened to them.
It is interesting that ‘the king’ receives little mention in Ezekiel elsewhere. This may partly be due to the fact that Jehoiachin was still alive in exile and looked on by the people as the true king, so that he wanted to avoid too much reference to Zedekiah as king. But it was probably mainly because he did not want to divert the blame and guilt from the people. All were involved. Everyone would suffer for his own sin. However Ezekiel 17:12; Ezekiel 17:16 do refer to ‘the king and princes’, so the two were clearly distinguished, and he speaks there of the king as being made king by Nebuchadnezzar.
“I will do to them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them. And they will know that I am Yahweh.”
Here was the final reason for what was to come upon them. They have deserved it because of the path that they have chosen, they have been judged because of their behaviour. They had in effect turned their backs on Him and His covenant, seeking other protectors and following in their evil ways. But now they must recognise Who it is that they have spurned. That they have spurned the living ‘God Who is there’, Yahweh. And His final purpose was that they may once again know Him and serve Him.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 7". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20