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Utley's You Can Understand the Bible Utley Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ubc/ ezekiel-21.html. 2021.
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/
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PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 21:1-7 1And the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2”Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, and speak against the sanctuaries and prophesy against the land of Israel; 3and say to the land of Israel, 'Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am against you; and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked. 4Because I will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked, therefore My sword will go forth from its sheath against all flesh from south to north. 5Thus all flesh will know that I, the LORD, have drawn My sword out of its sheath. It will not return to its sheath again.”' 6As for you, son of man, groan with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan in their sight. 7And when they say to you, 'Why do you groan?' you shall say, 'Because of the news that is coming; and every heart will melt, all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it comes and it will happen,' declares the Lord GOD.”
Ezekiel 21:1 The context starts in Ezekiel 20:45, which marks off a new vision (the MT starts chapter 21 here) by the characteristic phrase “the word of the LORD came to me saying” (cf. Ezekiel 3:16; Ezekiel 6:1; Ezekiel 7:1; Ezekiel 11:14; Ezekiel 12:1, Ezekiel 12:8, Ezekiel 12:17, Ezekiel 12:21, Ezekiel 12:26; Ezekiel 13:1; Ezekiel 14:2, Ezekiel 14:12; Ezekiel 15:1; Ezekiel 16:1; Ezekiel 17:1, Ezekiel 17:11; Ezekiel 18:1; Ezekiel 20:2, Ezekiel 20:45; Ezekiel 21:1, Ezekiel 21:8, Ezekiel 21:18; Ezekiel 22:1, Ezekiel 22:17, Ezekiel 22:23; Ezekiel 23:1; Ezekiel 24:1, Ezekiel 24:15, Ezekiel 24:20; Ezekiel 25:1; Ezekiel 26:1; Ezekiel 27:1; Ezekiel 28:1, Ezekiel 28:7; Ezekiel 30:1, Ezekiel 30:20; Ezekiel 31:1; Ezekiel 32:1, Ezekiel 32:17; Ezekiel 33:1, Ezekiel 33:23; Ezekiel 34:1; Ezekiel 35:1; Ezekiel 36:16; Ezekiel 38:1). Remember that the original manuscripts had no chapters, paragraphs, or verse divisions in the ancient Hebrew scrolls. This repeated phrase helped scroll readers find the place to begin reading. It also helped to show (1) new contexts and (2) related contexts.
▣ “saying” This VERB (BDB 55, KB 65) occurs twenty-two times in this chapter. YHWH wants His wayward people to hear Him clearly!
Ezekiel 21:2 “Son of man” See note at Ezekiel 2:1.
▣ “set your face toward Jerusalem” See note at Ezekiel 20:41.
▣ Notice the negative parallelism.
1. Set your face toward (BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE)
2. Speak against (lit. “preach,” BDB 642, KB 694, Hiphil IMPERATIVE)
3. Prophesy against (BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE)
This exactly matches Ezekiel 20:46. YHWH's judgment against His own disobedient people is described by the personification of His sharp (BDB 292) and polished (BDB 598) sword.
His sword will strike
1. the capital with its political leaders
2. the mountain/hilltop sanctuaries of Ba'al and Asherah
3. the entire Promised Land
Ezekiel 21:3 “sword” This is one of the most graphic chapters in all of the Bible on the judgment of God. YHWH's sword (BDB 352, cf. Ezekiel 21:3, Ezekiel 21:4, Ezekiel 21:5, Ezekiel 21:9, Ezekiel 21:12, Ezekiel 21:14, Ezekiel 21:15, Ezekiel 21:19) is personified and God's attitude of judgment is heightened. In Ezekiel 20:49 (Matthew 21:5) the leadership in exile said, “Don't speak to us in parables anymore,” so Ezekiel graphically described the judgment of God on Jerusalem and Judah (cf. Jeremiah 12:12).
Ezekiel 21:3-4 “cut off from you the righteous and the wicked” In Ezekiel 20:47 the same groups are described as green and dry trees. The Septuagint changes the term “righteous” to the term “unrighteous” because they think this verse violates the truth presented in Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 18:0:lff; 33:lff (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 315-316). Isaiah 57:1-2 struggles with this issue and gives an after-life answer.
Ezekiel 21:5 “Thus all flesh will know that I, the LORD” This “all flesh” (cf. Ezekiel 20:48; Ezekiel 21:4, Ezekiel 21:5) emphasis can be seen in two aspects.
1. all humans, Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16; Ezekiel 20:48 (i.e., Genesis 1:26-27)
2. Israel, Ezekiel 21:4, Ezekiel 21:5; Jeremiah 12:12
YHWH cares about His namesake among the nations (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38). Israel was YHWH's instrument to reach the nations (e.g., Isaiah, Jonah, Micah). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.
▣ “It will not return to its sheath again” This is an idiom for YHWH's judgment that cannot be stopped (cf. Jeremiah 23:20). It seems to contrast Ezekiel 21:30. This is literary hyperbole. Judgment was sure (cf. Ezekiel 21:7)! Those left in Jerusalem did not believe judgment was truly coming, not to Jerusalem, not to the temple, not to them! They misunderstood YHWH's longsuffering, patient endurance.
Ezekiel 21:6 “groan with breaking heart” This VERB (BDB 58, KB 70) is used twice.
1. Niphal IMPERATIVE (command)
2. Niphal IMPERFECT (continuing action)
This VERB denotes a deep distress caused by physical or emotional pain (i.e., Lamentations 1:8, Lamentations 1:22). In Ezekiel 9:4 it is used to describe the guilt feelings connected to true repentance (note Jeremiah 13:17).
“Heart” is literally “loins” (BDB 608). This was the seat of strength (i.e. the largest muscle in the body is the thigh). It is a Hebrew idiom (cf. Ezekiel 21:12; Job 40:16; Psalms 66:11; Isaiah 21:3; Nahum 2:10). Verse Ezekiel 21:6 describes another symbolic drama dictated by YHWH for the purpose of reaching exiled Judah.
Ezekiel 21:7 Note the reason for groaning was the arrival of YHWH's sword.
1. every hand will be feeble, Isaiah 13:7
2. all hands will be feeble, Isaiah 13:7
3. every spirit will faint
4. all knees will be weak as water
This description of utter fear and desperation is used to describe YHWH's judgment on the pagan nations.
1. Canaan, Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1
2. Babylon, Isaiah 13:7; Jeremiah 50:43
3. Egypt, Isaiah 19:1
4. Assyria, Nahum 2:10
5. Syria, Jeremiah 49:24
6. on the wicked, Ezekiel 7:17
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 21:8-13 8Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9”Son of man, prophesy and say, 'Thus says the LORD.' Say, 'A sword, a sword sharpened And also polished! 10Sharpened to make a slaughter, Polished to flash like lightning!' Or shall we rejoice, the rod of My son despising every tree? 11It is given to be polished, that it may be handled; the sword is sharpened and polished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. 12Cry out and wail, son of man; for it is against My people, it is against all the officials of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with My people, therefore strike your thigh. 13For there is a testing; and what if even the rod which despises will be no more?” declares the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel 21:9 The urgency of the message is stressed, as it was in Ezekiel 21:2. This verse has
1. two IMPERATIVES
a. “prophesy,” BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE
b. “say,” BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE
2. “say” repeated several times
a. “saying,” Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, Ezekiel 21:8
b. “say,” Qal PERFECT, Ezekiel 21:9
c. “say,” Qal PERFECT, Ezekiel 21:9
d. “say,” Qal IMPERATIVE, Ezekiel 21:9
Ezekiel 21:10 It is often hard to tell the difference between “elevated prose” and poetry.
1. NASB has Ezekiel 21:9-10a as poetry
2. NKJV has Ezekiel 21:9-11, Ezekiel 21:12, Ezekiel 21:13, Ezekiel 21:14-15, Ezekiel 21:16, Ezekiel 21:17, Ezekiel 21:26-27, Ezekiel 21:28-29, Ezekiel 21:30-32 as poetry
3. NRSV has Ezekiel 21:9-12, Ezekiel 21:14-17, Ezekiel 21:25-27, Ezekiel 21:28-32 as poetry
4. TEV has Ezekiel 21:9-13, Ezekiel 21:28b as poetry
▣ “polished to flash like lightening” This is a Hebrew idiom of both speed and turning many directions (i.e., Nahum 2:3-4).
NASB“Or shall we rejoice, the rod of My son despising every tree” NKJV“It despises the scepter of My son, as it does all wood” NRSV“How can we make merry? You have despised the rod, and all discipline” TEV“There can be no rejoicing, for my people have disregarded every warning and punishment” LXX“ready for slaughter, slay, set at naught, despise every tree” PESHITTA“and it is sharpened to cut off the family of my son; and to reject every other branch” REB“(Look, the rod is brandished, my son, to defy all wooden idols)” JPSOA“How can we rejoice? My son, it scorns the rod and every stick”
Obviously the Hebrew text is in disarray (note the differences in the translations, ancient and modern).
1. The mentioning of the word “rod” (BDB 986) in Ezekiel 21:10, Ezekiel 21:13 seems to be related in context to the word “Shiloh” mentioned in Ezekiel 21:27, which is an allusion to Genesis 49:10.
2. These verses are related in the people's concept that the ancient promises of God for a special leader (i.e., “My son”), presented in Genesis 49:10 (cf. Targums, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1267-8), would be fulfilled instead of judgment.
3. The phrase “every tree” somehow refers to the total judgment of Ezekiel 20:47.
4. In context it seems best to see the object of the FEMININE VERB “despise,”Ezekiel 21:10; Ezekiel 21:10, Ezekiel 21:13, to refer to “the sword” of YHWH. The Jerusalemites disregarded the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel's messages of judgment, but in reality the continuous Davidic line of kings from David (cf. 2 Samuel 7:0) would be stopped. Zedekiah would be the last. However, one would come in the future (cf. Ezekiel 21:26b; 27b).
God states that nothing at this point could stop His judgment from falling on Jerusalem, who had despised His prophetic messages.
Ezekiel 21:11 “the slayer” This term (BDB 246, KB 255, Qal PARTICIPLE) denotes the invading mercenary army of Babylon. It is used of the judgment on Tyre in Ezekiel 28:9. It is also used in Jeremiah's description of Judah's destruction (i.e., Jeremiah 4:27-31, esp. Ezekiel 21:31e).
Ezekiel 21:12 Three IMPERATIVES related to mourning are mentioned in this verse.
1. “Cry out,” BDB 277, KB 277, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Ezekiel 9:8; Ezekiel 11:13; Ezekiel 27:30; Isaiah 14:31; Jeremiah 25:34; Jeremiah 48:20
2. “Wail” or “howl,” BDB 410, KB 413, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Ezekiel 30:2; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 49:3; Jeremiah 25:34; Jeremiah 47:2; Jeremiah 48:20, Jeremiah 48:21; Hosea 7:14; Zechariah 11:2
3. “Strike,” BDB 706, KB 765, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Jeremiah 31:19
The theme of total slaughter continues as “against My people” is paralleled with “against the officials of Israel” (cf. Ezekiel 21:25; Ezekiel 22:6).
▣ “strike your thigh” The thigh (BDB 437) was the largest muscle in the body. To strike one's thigh was a metaphor for (1) incapacitation and (2) pain (cf. Jeremiah 31:19).
NASB“For there is a testing; and what if even the rod which despises will be no more” NKJV“Because it is a testing and what if the sword despises even the scepter” NRSV“For consider: What! If you despise the rod, will it not happen” TEV“I am testing my people, and if they refuse to repent, all these things will happen to them” NJB“for this will be an ordeal” LXX“and what if even the tribe be rejected” JPSOA“Consider: How shall it fail to happen, seeing that it even scorns the rod”
This may refer to the life and exile of King Zedekiah. He despised YHWH's leadership, now he is rejected as leader. But one of David's line will be king again in the future (Ezekiel 21:26b, Ezekiel 21:27b; 2 Samuel 7:0). This may parallel Ezekiel 21:10.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 21:14-17 14”You therefore, son of man, prophesy and clap your hands together; and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword for the slain. It is the sword for the great one slain, which surrounds them, 15that their hearts may melt, and many fall at all their gates. I have given the glittering sword. Ah! It is made for striking like lightning, it is wrapped up in readiness for slaughter. 16Show yourself sharp, go to the right; set yourself; go to the left, wherever your edge is appointed. 17I will also clap My hands together, and I will appease My wrath; I, the LORD, have spoken.”
Ezekiel 21:14 This verse also has several commands from YHWH to Ezekiel.
1. prophesy, BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE
2. “clap your hands,” BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil IMPERATIVE
3. “let the sword be doubled,” BDB 495, KB 493, Niphal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense. Doubled is metaphorical for a complete and total destruction.
▣ “clap your hands together” This physical gesture of clapping the hands denotes several different emotions.
1. affirmation, 2 Kings 11:12
2. anger, Numbers 24:10; Ezekiel 21:14
3. contempt/mockery, Job 27:23; Job 34:37 (possibly Ezekiel 36:18); Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 6:11; Ezekiel 25:3, Ezekiel 25:6
4. pledge/oath, Proverbs 11:21; Ezekiel 21:17
5. joy, Psalms 47:1; Psalms 98:8; Isaiah 55:12
If you look these up you will see there is some overlap in these categories and the exact emotion meant is often uncertain.
NASB“surrounds them” NKJV“enters their private chambers” NJB“threatening them from every side”
This VERB (BDB 293, KB 293, Qal PARTICIPLE) occurs only here in the OT. Its basic meaning in the cognate languages is (1) encompass or (2) room, chamber. In Serah 51:19 it means “to enter” (i.e., “a penetrating sword,” cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 28).
Ezekiel 21:15 This is the fulfillment of Ezekiel 21:7. See note there.
▣ “many fall at all their gates” The gates would be the key defensive positions. Resistance was futile!
Ezekiel 21:16 This is another personification of YHWH's sword. It is addressed in several IMPERATIVES.
1. “Show yourself sharp,” RSV, NEB, REB, BDB 292 (emendation), Hithpael IMPERATIVE (i.e., Targums) or “gather yourself, ASV, NASB margin, root אחד unknown
2. “Go to the right,” BDB 412, KB 415, Hiphil IMPERATIVE
3. “Set yourself,” BDB 962, KB 1321, Hiphil IMPERATIVE
4. “Go to the left,” BDB 970, KB 1332, Hiphil IMPERATIVE
Ezekiel 21:17 YHWH brings the deserved judgment and He also stops it at His discretion (cf. Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 16:42; Ezekiel 24:13)! Judah's fall and exile are not the result of the power of the invading army (cf. Ezekiel 21:19-27).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 21:18-23 18The word of the LORD came to me saying, 19”As for you, son of man, make two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them will go out of one land. And make a signpost; make it at the head of the way to the city. 20You shall mark a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, and to Judah into fortified Jerusalem. 21For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver. 22Into his right hand came the divination, 'Jerusalem,' to set battering rams, to open the mouth for slaughter, to lift up the voice with a battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up ramps, to build a siege wall. 23And it will be to them like a false divination in their eyes; they have sworn solemn oaths. But he brings iniquity to remembrance, that they may be seized.
Ezekiel 21:19-20 This is another acted-out parable at YHWH's command (BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE). Apparently Ezekiel drew a map (“mark,” “make,” “appoint,” BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE) in the ground. At the fork in the road, one sign (“cut down,” “cut out,” “inscribe,” “prepare a wooden sign” [BDB 388], BDB 135, KB 153, Piel INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE, twice; in other TENSES this is the term for YHWH creating in Genesis 1:0) pointed to Riblah, the capital of Ammon, and the other fork pointed to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. Ammon had also rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar II (cf. Jeremiah 27:1-3). Both of these capitals deserved and received judgment, Jerusalem first (Ezekiel 21:22)!
Ezekiel 21:21 This verse describes three Babylonian means of knowing the will of the gods by divination.
1. putting the names on arrows and drawing one out (or spinning the quiver until one fell out) of the quiver or throwing arrows on the ground and analyzing their patterns
2. consulting the household idols or ancestral spirits by prayer and incense (i.e., teraphim, cf. Genesis 31:19ff)
3. examining a sheep's liver for signs (i.e., color, shape, deformities)
God is asserting that even by means of pagan divination He will bring judgment on Jerusalem. God used this divination for His own purposes. He uses even evil to accomplish His purposes (i.e., the witch of Endor, 1 Samuel 28:0 and Balaam, Numbers 22-24)!
Ezekiel 21:22 This verse has a series of INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS that describes the Babylonian commander's (possibly Nebuchadnezzar himself) orders (fulfills Ezekiel 4:2)
1. to set battering rams
2. to open the mouth for slaughter (possibly, “war cry,” which would form a four-part chiasm with #1,2,3,4)
3. to lift up the voice with a battle cry
4. to set battering rams against the gates
5. to cast up mounds
6. to build a siege wall
For a good brief discussion of siege techniques see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 236-240.
Ezekiel 21:23 This describes the reaction of the people of Jerusalem (cf. TEV). They think they are safe because of their political alliances (i.e., with Babylon or, more probably, Egypt).
The “he” can refer to
1. Ezekiel speaking for YHWH
2. YHWH Himself
Jerusalem is being judged because of her continuing covenant disobedience. Their God is now fighting against them!
▣ “they have sworn solemn oaths” The Septuagint omits this phrase altogether. However, it may refer to a political alliance (cf. Ezekiel 17:13; 2 Chronicles 36:13).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 21:24-27 24”Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Because you have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear because you have come to remembrance, you will be seized with the hand. 25And you, O slain, wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day has come, in the time of the punishment of the end,' 26thus says the Lord GOD, 'Remove the turban and take off the crown; this will no longer be the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high. 27A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him.'“
Ezekiel 21:24 YHWH states that Judah's
1. iniquity (BDB 730) will be remembered (BDB 269, KB 269, HIphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)
2. transgressions (BDB 833) will be uncovered (BDB 162, KB 191, Niphal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)
3. sins (BDB 305) will appear (BDB 906, KB 1157, Niphal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)
4. people have come to remembrance (BDB 269, KB 269, Niphal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)
5. people will be sieged (BDB 1074, KB 1779, Niphal IMPERFECT)
The three words used to describe rebellion against YHWH (i.e., iniquity, transgressions, and sins) appear together in several texts (cf. Exodus 34:7; Leviticus 16:21; Job 13:23; Psalms 32:5; Isaiah 59:12; Daniel 9:24). They form a summary triad.
Ezekiel 21:25-26 Notice the different ways of referring to Zedekiah (Babylon's puppet king of Josiah's line).
1. O slain (NKJV, “O profane”)
2. wicked one
3. prince of Israel
Notice what will happen to him when his day (i.e., in the time of the iniquity of the end) has come.
1. remove the turban - BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil IMPERATIVE
2. take off the crown - BDB 926, KB 1202, Hiphil IMPERATIVE (Here “turban” and “crown” are parallel. This is surprising because in every other place the turban is for a priest. In many texts the office of king and High Priest are co-leaders [cf. Psalms 110:0; Zechariah 3:4; Zechariah 6:12-13; Hebrews 4:14-10; Hebrews 6:13-28]).
The Old Testament Parsing Guide by Beall, Banks, and Smith calls both #1 and #2 Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS from uncertain roots.
Ezekiel 21:26b, Ezekiel 21:27b These two concluding remarks seem Messianic (cf. E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, pp. 683-687). In context Ezekiel 21:26b refers to Babylon, but when Ezekiel 21:27b is brought in it appears to refer to Genesis 49:10 (i.e., Shiloh, see Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 107-108). These two taken together would describe Jesus as a humble one (cf. Zechariah 9:9) and of the line of David (cf. Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24, Ezekiel 37:25; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5).
It is surely possible that this refers to Nebuchadnezzar as YHWH's instrument of judgment, as Cyrus is later YHWH's instrument of release from exile and then restoration (cf. Isaiah 44:28-1). As a Christian I must be careful of my biases which desire to read the full New Testament revelation back into the Old Covenant in too many places (e.g., Christ in the tabernacle). He is surely in the OT, but not on every page. Here (1) the royal line is the issue and a prediction of a future restoration is possible and also (2) the repeated use of the phrase “whose day has come in the time of the punishment of the end” in Ezekiel 21:25 and 29 implies an eschatological setting.
Ezekiel 21:27 “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin” A threefold repetition is a Hebrew idiom expressing the superlative degree (cf. Isaiah 6:3; Jeremiah 7:4). It possibly links to Ezekiel 21:14. The interpretive issue is to whom or what does the FEMININE form refer?
1. the sword of the Lord
2. the turban, crown, symbol of Davidic reign
Does this verse refer to Nebuchadnezzar or to a future Davidic king? One must not be dogmatic here. The text and context are not determinative.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 21:28-32 28”And you, son of man, prophesy and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the sons of Ammon and concerning their reproach,' and say: 'A sword, a sword is drawn, polished for the slaughter, to cause it to consume, that it may be like lightning29while they see for you false visions, while they divine lies for youto place you on the necks of the wicked who are slain, whose day has come, in the time of the punishment of the end. 30Return it to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you. 31I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and I will give you into the hand of brutal men, skilled in destruction. 32You will be fuel for the fire; your blood will be in the midst of the land. You will not be remembered, for I, the LORD, have spoken.'“
Ezekiel 21:28-32 This prophecy (“prophesy,” BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE) is against the land of Ammon (cf. Ezekiel 21:20). It is for one of two possible reasons: (1) it possibly relates to Ammon taking advantage, possibly even some participation in the fall, of Judah (as Edom did in chapter 35) or (2) God's sure justice on the iniquity of Ammon.
The flow of thought could be outlined as follows:
1. Ammon, mentioned in Ezekiel 21:20, will also be destroyed, Ezekiel 21:28 (cf. Ezekiel 25:1-7).
2. This is happening because
a. of their reproach (cf. Ezekiel 36:15; Zephaniah 2:8-10)
b. of their false prophets' messages from their divinations, Ezekiel 21:29; Ezekiel 21:29 (i.e., Ezekiel 21:30a)
c. they are wicked murderers, Ezekiel 21:29
d. their time has come, Ezekiel 21:29
3. How YHWH will judge (Ezekiel 21:30) is specified in Ezekiel 21:31-32.
a. I shall pour out My indignation on you, Ezekiel 21:31
b. I shall blow on you with the fire of My wrath, Ezekiel 21:31
c. I shall give you into the hand of brutal men, skilled in destruction, Ezekiel 21:31
d. you will be fuel for the fire, Ezekiel 21:32
e. your blood will be in the midst of the land, Ezekiel 21:32
f. you will not be remembered, Ezekiel 21:32
Another possible way to interpret these last three verses is to see them as referring to Babylon (i.e., YHWH's sword), not Ammon (see Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1086). This would make sense of Ezekiel 21:30a, “return it to its sheath.” Babylon's judgment was in the future. YHWH used her to judge His people (and other surrounding nations), but in return they were responsible for their own sin. Cyrus would be YHWH's sword to destroy them (cf. Isaiah 44:28-1).