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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 6

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezekiel 6:0


Idolatrous Worship DenouncedJudgment on Idolatrous IsraelOracle Against the MountainsThe LORD Condemns IdolatryAgainst the Mountains of Israel
Ezekiel 6:1-7Ezekiel 6:1-7Ezekiel 6:1-7Ezekiel 6:1-7Ezekiel 6:1-7
Ezekiel 6:8-10Ezekiel 6:8-10Ezekiel 6:8-10Ezekiel 6:8-10Ezekiel 6:8-10
The Sins of Israel
Ezekiel 6:11-14Ezekiel 6:11-14Ezekiel 6:11-14Ezekiel 6:11-14Ezekiel 6:11-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


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

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 6:1-7 1And the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2”Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them 3and say, 'Mountains of Israel, listen to the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the ravines and the valleys: “Behold, I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places. 4So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols. 5I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars. 6In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out. 7The slain will fall among you, and you will know that I am the LORD.'“

Ezekiel 6:1 These prophecies and symbolic actions were not from Ezekiel, but from YHWH. Ezekiel is but a mouthpiece for God (cf. Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:16; Ezekiel 7:1).

Ezekiel 6:2 “Son of man” This is a Hebrew idiom for “human person.” See full note at Ezekiel 2:1.

Ezekiel is to

1. “set his face towards the mountain,” BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE (a standard phrase of judgment oracles, cf. Ezekiel 13:17; Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 21:2; Ezekiel 25:2; Ezekiel 29:2; Ezekiel 35:2; Ezekiel 38:2)

2. “prophesy against them,” BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE

“the mountains” This had a multiple connotations.

1. the most permanent physical feature

2. part of God's promised land

3. a place of refuge

4. places of fertility worship (cf. Ezekiel 6:13)

In context #4 fits best. The mountains are personified and commanded to hear the word of the Lord through Ezekiel, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE. This phrase occurs only in Ezekiel (fifteen times) and is an idiom for the entire Promised Land.

Ezekiel 6:3 “listen to the word of the Lord GOD” The VERB (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE ) is often used in a legal sense of testimony in a trial. Israel is responsible for the words they hear! The prophets often used a court scene as a literary mechanism to communicate their message of covenant negation (i.e., divorce case).

“the Lord GOD” This is literally Adon YHWH. See the Special Topic: Names for Deity.

“I Myself” This is reminiscent of Ezekiel 5:13. It is God Himself who acts through the human instrumentality of Babylon. Later, God will call and use Cyrus (cf. Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1) to return Israel to Palestine. History is in YHWH's hands, for His purposes!

“your high places” This man-made, raised altar (the one at Megiddo was 6' tall by 24' x 30') was used for the worship of the Canaanite fertility gods (i.e., Ba'al and Asherah, cf. Ezekiel 6:13).

YHWH hates the false worship of idolatry (see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 284-288).

Ezekiel 6:4 “incense altars” This term (BDB 329) is uncertain. Here are the possibilities from Canaanite sites (cf. 2 Kings 16:4)

1. incense altar

2. sun-pillar (cf. 2 Chronicles 34:4 in ASV)

3. sanctuary of a foreign god (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 903)

The best option is #1 (cf. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 365, footnote 23).

“idols” This term (BDB 165) is uncertain in etymology. It is used often in Ezekiel to refer to Canaanite idols. It may come from the root, “dung” (gçl). Verses Ezekiel 6:4 and 6 have a series of six Niphal PERFECTS. YHWH's judgment on pagan worship sites and worshipers in Israel is shockingly graphic!

Ezekiel 6:6 “altars” Apparently these man-made worship platforms had several items.

1. raised stone (massebah, BDB 663) representing Ba'al

2. carved or live tree representing Asherah (BDB 81)

3. incense altar (cf. Leviticus 26:30; 2 Chronicles 14:3; 2 Chronicles 34:4, 2 Chronicles 34:7)

Ezekiel 6:7 “you will know that I am the LORD” This is a recurrent phrase in Ezekiel which denotes the personal judgment of YHWH (i.e., Ezekiel 6:10, Ezekiel 6:13, Ezekiel 6:14 and over 50 times in the book of Ezekiel).

The phrase first appears as a repeated refrain in Exodus (cf. Exodus 6:7; Exodus 7:5; Exodus 16:6; Exodus 29:46). YHWH acts on Israel's behalf so they will know (BDB 393,KB 390, in personal intimacy) Him, but in Ezekiel they will know Him in covenant justice. He will act according to His word!

YHWH will pollute idolatrous worship sites (cf. Leviticus 26:30) by

1. their physical destruction (cf. Ezekiel 6:6)

2. unburied bodies in their locale (cf. Ezekiel 6:7)

3. dead bodies in their locale (cf. Ezekiel 6:13)

Verses 8-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 6:8-10 8”However, I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries. 9Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations. 10Then they will know that I am the LORD; I have not said in vain that I would inflict this disaster on them.”

Ezekiel 6:8 “I shall leave a remnant” See note and Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses.

Ezekiel 6:9 There is hope! A remnant will repent and return to YHWH.

1. “will remember Me”

2. how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me (possibly “broken for Myself their hearts”)

3. by their eyes, which played the harlot after their idols

4. they will loathe themselves in their own sight (cf. Ezekiel 16:61, Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 36:31)

Notice the personal element of idolatrous sin. YHWH also felt a personal rejection. Sin is a personal violation of the grace of God! Biblical faith is a love relationship.

Ezekiel 6:10 Judgment is an act of love. Mankind's only permanent hope is a personal faith relationship with the one true God. The best way to view divine discipline is in the analogy of a human parent (cf. Hebrews 12:5-13).

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 6:11-14 11”Thus says the Lord GOD, 'Clap your hand, stamp your foot and say, “Alas, because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, which will fall by sword, famine and plague! 12He who is far off will die by the plague, and he who is near will fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged will die by the famine. Thus will I spend My wrath on them. 13Then you will know that I am the LORD, when their slain are among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the tops of the mountains, under every green tree and under every leafy oakthe places where they offered soothing aroma to all their idols. 14So throughout all their habitations I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land more desolate and waste than the wilderness toward Diblah; thus they will know that I am the LORD.”'“

Ezekiel 6:11 There are three symbolic acts of recognition

1. “clap your hands,” BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

2. “stamp your feet,” BDB 955, KB 1291, Qal IMPERATIVE (usually #1 and 2 refer to rejoicing, cf. Ezekiel 25:6)

3. “say, ‘Alas,'“ BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE (cf. Ezekiel 9:4, a sign of repentance)

It is difficult to be certain what these three taken together mean. They seem to be a recognition of the appropriateness of YHWH's judgment, but also the tragedy of it.

James M. Freeeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, notes five different meanings to clapping of the hands (p. 305).

1. sign of contempt, Job 27:33; Lamentations 2:15

2. sign of anger, Numbers 24:10; Ezekiel 21:14, Ezekiel 21:17; Ezekiel 22:13

3. sign of sorrow, Ezekiel 6:11

4. sign of triumph, Ezekiel 25:6; Nahum 3:19

5. sign of a pledge, Genesis 14:22 (if “lift the hand” is related to “clap the hands”); Proverbs 11:21 and possibly Ezekiel 21:14, Ezekiel 21:17

Ezekiel 6:12 “He who is far off” This phrasing (“those far off. . .those near. . .”) is often used in a positive sense (i.e., Psalms 145:18; Isaiah 55:6), but here it is just the opposite. Everyone will experience the judgment of YHWH.

“plague. . .sword. . .famine” These are the three triads of YHWH's judgment (cf. Ezekiel 14:12; Ezekiel 24:10; Ezekiel 27:8, Ezekiel 27:13; Ezekiel 29:17, Ezekiel 29:18). Ezekiel 14:21 adds the Levitical and Deuteronomic curse of “wild beasts.”

Ezekiel 6:13 “Then you will know that I am the LORD” The phrase is used in both a negative and positive sense, both of which relate to the disobedience or obedience to YHWH's revealed will (i.e., word).

1. negative, Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 7:27; Ezekiel 11:10; Ezekiel 12:16

2. positive, Ezekiel 34:27, Ezekiel 34:30; Ezekiel 37:13, Ezekiel 37:14, Ezekiel 37:28

In Jeremiah it is related to Israel's witness to the surrounding nations (cf. Jeremiah 22:8-9). This is reaffirmed in Ezekiel 37:28.

“on every high hill, on all the tops of the mountains, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak” These were the physical locations of Canaanite fertility altars (cf. Ezekiel 20:28; Deuteronomy 12:2; 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Chronicles 28:4; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 17:2; Hosea 4:13).

“the places where they offered soothing aroma to all their idols” The phrase “soothing aroma” (BDB 629) was an idiom for an acceptable animal sacrifice (cf. Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41; Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13, Leviticus 1:17). As the smoke of the sacrifice rose up, it symbolically left this physical realm and ascended to God. Ezekiel takes this sacrificial idiom and turns it on its head (another idiom) and uses it of pagan sacrifices offered by Jerusalemites and Judeans (cf. Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 20:28).

Ezekiel 6:14 “I shall stretch out My hand” See Special Topic: Anthropomorphic Language Used to Describe God at Ezekiel 1:3. This phrase is characteristic of the book of Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 14:9, Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 16:27; Ezekiel 25:7; Ezekiel 35:3), but is also found in Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 6:12; Jeremiah 15:6).

NASB, NKJV“Diblah” NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB“Riblah”

This is a city in the Negev, but “Riblah” (cf. 2 Kings 23:33; 2 Kings 25:6), is in northern Israel (cf. Numbers 34:11). The whole point of the phrase, which probably should be “the wilderness to Riblah,” is to denote the whole Promised Land from south to north.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 6". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-6.html. 2021.
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