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The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (4)

Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper

Installments:

      1. Some Preliminary Observations
      2. The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
      3. The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
      4. The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
      5. Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
      6. The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
      7. Prophecy and Idolatry
      8. Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
      9. The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
      10. God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
      11. The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
      12. Israel's Past and Future Experiences
      13. The Sword of Jehovah
      14. Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
      15. The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
      16. The Boiling Caldron
      17. Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
      18. The Oracle Concerning Tyre
      19. The Oracles Concerning Egypt
      20. The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
      21. The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
      22. The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
      23. The Judgment upon Edom
      24. The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
      25. Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
      26. The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
      27. The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
      28. The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
      29. The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
      30. The Millennial Jerusalem
      31. The Millennial Temple
      32. The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
      33. The Land of Israel in the Millennium

The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege

This month's study in the Book of Ezekiel will consist of chapters 5, 6 and 7. These chapters are comparatively easy to understand and need very little interpretation or special notice. But, in order that the reader might get the most out of the explanation, I am asking each one to read these three chapters carefully. In doing this, one will be well repaid for the effort. — D.L.C.

We have already seen in Ezekiel 4:1-4 that the destruction of Jerusalem was portrayed by the prophet on a piece of tile. Following this graphic representation of the coming calamity were the symbolic acts of the prophet, who lay upon his left side for 390 days and upon his right side for forty days. In doing this, he was symbolically representing himself as bearing the iniquity of the northern kingdom and of the kingdom of Judah. Following these symbolic acts is a description of the horrible conditions that would exist during the final stages of the coming war against Judah. This last prophecy is found in 4:9-17. These symbolic acts are completed in the action of the prophet in having his head and his beard shaved as set forth in 5:1-4, to which we now turn our attention.

I. Message Regarding Jerusalem

The siege of Jerusalem, which occurred in the ninth year of Zedekiah and continued until the eleventh, is set forth graphically by the prophet's shaving his hair and his beard, by his taking the hair and dividing it into three equal parts, and then by his disposing of it as follows: One-third he burned in the city; the second third he smote with the sword round about the city; the final third he scattered to the winds and drew out a sword after it. But he was to take a part of that last third and to wrap it in his garment. Even a part of this small portion he was to cast into the midst of the fire and burn.

The third of the hair that was burned within the city was to represent the population that would be destroyed by famine and other events incident to the war; the second third was to set forth those that would be destroyed in the fighting round about the city; and the final third was to represent those that would survive and would be scattered among the nations, some of whom would be killed in various ways.

In verses 5-17 the prophet set forth in a most vivid, graphic manner this final siege of Jerusalem. He, however, prefaced his description by telling the cause and showing why God had to deal with His ancient people thus. In verse 5 the Lord declared: “This is Jerusalem: I have set her in the midst of the nations, and countries are round about her. 6 And she hath rebelled against mine ordinances in doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries that are round about her; for they have rejected mine ordinances, and as for my statutes, they have hot walked in them” (vs. 5,6). Palestine, as we learn from Ezekiel 38:12, is the center of the earth. God gave this strategic position of the nations to His Chosen People in order that they might hold aloft the torch of His revelation to the nations round about. When God dispersed the nations at Babel and directed by His invisible hand the people to those parts of the earth that were to be their future homes, He did this with reference to the children of Israel; that is, He gave the ancestors of the Chinese people that country which is now known as China. The ancestors of the Hindoos were directed by God's overruling providence to the country that is now known as India. What is true of these two nations is correct concerning all others. When God was thus allocating the earth to the various races and tribes, He did this with reference to the children of Israel; that is, He related all nations to the people of Israel; for it was, and continues to be, His plan to bless all nations in and through the Jew. The Lord's calling attention to Israel's being in the midst of the nations is an echo of the strategic position which she occupies in world history in the plan of God. Israel has been called the hub of the nations. All movements of the nations throughout the centuries have revolved around the Jewish people. They are doing the same thing today. Palestine and the Jew are foremost in the eyes of the people today and will continue to be more and more as the days pass.

With increased light come added responsibilities. God gives us advantages and opportunities and expects us to use them in the forwarding of His plans and His purposes. When, however, we do not measure up to these responsibilities, the punishment for delinquency is commensurate with the failure. The Lord spoke of Israel's being more turbulent than the nations round about her. In reality she did not do worse than they had done; but when we take into consideration the opportunities and advantages that the people of Israel had enjoyed, they actually had acted worse.

In Ezekiel 5:8 the Lord said: “Behold, I, even I, am against thee; and I will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.” It is an awful thing for anyone to be in such a position that God has to array Himself against him. But God, being a holy, moral Being who cannot countenance sin, must take this attitude whenever His people sin against light and refuse to live up to their advantages and opportunities.

According to 5:9,10 the Lord stated that He would do in Israel what He had never done in any nation. Here He declared that the fathers should eat the sons in the midst of the city and the sons should eat the fathers; that is, during the siege famine would stalk on every hand and, in the dire extremity to which the people would be brought, the populace would turn to cannibalism. Josephus tells us of things like this that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. But it is clear that Ezekiel was talking about the siege of Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came against Palestine. But we may be certain that history duplicates itself.

The reason that God would pour out His punishment upon Israel to such an extent is that she had defiled His sanctuary with her abominations — idols and idolatrous practices. According to the symbolic representations only one-third of the people of the city would survive the final collapse and would be taken into captivity. They would be followed by the sword because of their wickedness.

The Lord indicated to the people through Ezekiel that He would let His wrath and anger burn against them until His holiness should be satisfied and rest. He could not do otherwise. Holiness cannot tolerate sin. Every sin and transgression must receive a just recompense of reward.

In the latter part of chapter 5 the prophet declared that the city of Jerusalem should be destroyed, forsaken, and become a reproach, a hiss, and a by-word among the nations who lived round about. This prediction was literally fulfilled.

II. The Message to the Mountains of Israel

In chapter 6 we have another graphic illustration of a prediction that was made against the mountains of Israel, that is, the land of Palestine. The prediction found in 6:1-7 is very easily understood. The language is addressed to the mountains of Israel as if they were persons, that could understand a message from God. On the tops of the mountains, when Israel entered the land of Canaan, were the high places in which the idols of Canaan were worshiped. Israel was commanded by the Lord to destroy all of these places. She, however, disobeyed the Lord and went after idolatry as she had done in Egypt. The prophets constantly hurled their invectives against this paganism. During the great reforms of Kings Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah the high places were broken down, as a rule. In some of these campaigns, however, they were not. The reforms under Josiah were more thorough-going and systematic than those under his three predecessors in this fight against idolatry. The language of these seven verses shows that idolatry was to be swept from the land of Israel by the final collapse of the kingdom of Judah under the blows of the Babylonians. We are constantly told that Israel was cured of idolatry from the time of the Babylonian Exile until the present. This statement, roughly speaking, is correct. Yet Israel has not been purged entirely of idolatry in every shape, form, and fashion. A person can erect an idol of most anything and can worship it. There are certain systems of philosophy which men practically revere. Many worship at the shrine of education and scholarship. They give the devotion of their souls to these things just as Israel rendered her homage to pagan idols. We learn, however, from various predictions, especially those in Isaiah and in Revelation, that in the end time idolatry will spread all over the world; and the Israelites, as well as all other peoples, will fall down and worship the works of their own hands. This will occur, as we learn from various passages, in the time of the Tribulation. At that time, however, the great world-wide revival will take place. This campaign will be conducted by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, and multiplied hundreds of millions of people will turn from their idolatry to the true and living God. Then, and only then, will Israel, as well as all other nations, be purged from all idolatry.

In Ezekiel 6:8-10 the Lord, still speaking to the mountains of Israel, declared that there would be a remnant that would survive the sword and escape the trying ordeal of the siege. Moreover, this remnant that would survive would be scattered among the nations. By the dire experiences through which the nation would be caused to pass, the people would learn something of how God's heart had been broken by the lewd heart of His delinquent, disobedient people. This portion of the prophecy concludes with the prediction that she would be brought to the point where she would loathe herself in her own sight because of the evils which she had committed. Finally, Israel will learn the truth that Jehovah is God, and that He has not spoken in vain to His ancient people.

Finally, the last paragraph of chapter 6, consisting of verses 11-14, renews the threat against Israel because of her idolatrous practices. In order to emphasize the gravity of the situation, the prophet was commanded to smite with his hand and stamp with his foot and say:

Alas! because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel; for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. 12 He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my wrath upon them. 13 And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, on all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the places where they offered sweet savor to all their idols. 14 And I will stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land desolate and waste, from the wilderness toward Diblah, throughout all their habitations: and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 6:11-14)

III. Dirge Over the Downfall of The Kingdom of Judah

Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me saying, 2 And thou, son of man, thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto the land of Israel, An end: the end is come upon the four corners of the land. 3 Now is the end upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways; and I will bring upon thee all thine abominations. 4 And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity; but I will bring thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 7:1-4)

In these verses God announced that an end had come upon the four corners of the land. This judgment was due to the fact that Israel had sinned. The situation had developed to the extent that God declared that He would neither pity nor spare the nation, but would bring upon her the ways of her evil actions. A person or a nation may continue in the practice of sin until he or it reaches the point beyond which there is no possibility of escaping the severest judgments of God. The psalmist, in Psalm 119:126, declared: “It is time for Jehovah to work; For they have made void thy law.” This is exactly what had occurred in Israel. The Lord is long-suffering and is kind, refusing to deal drastically with any situation until He is actually forced to do so. As proof of this proposition I simply need to call attention to the statement found in Genesis 15:16: “And in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.” The Lord revealed to Abraham that his seed should sojourn in a land not their own and that his seed should serve the people of that land. They would have to remain there for four generations, until the Canaanites in the land of Palestine would have filled up the cup of their iniquity to overflowing. Although God had given the land of Palestine to Abraham and his descendants, He would not let Israel come forth out of Egypt to take possession of the country until after the original inhabitants of the land had gone so very far that they were beyond reach of the truth. When they did fill up their cup of iniquity to overflowing — when they had gone beyond all possibility of recovery — the Lord then brought Israel out of Egypt into the land and permitted her to destroy the people who had sunk so low into sin that nothing could reach them and bring them back to God.

Zedekiah and the nation of Judah had continued to sin against light and to plunge to the depth of rebellion against God until it was impossible to reach them. A summary statement of the condition of the nation is set forth in the following passage:

Moreover all the chiefs of the priests, and the people, trespassed very greatly after all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of Jehovah which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 15 And Jehovah, the God of their fathers, sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: 16 but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” (II Chronicles 36:14-16)

In Ezekiel 7:5-9 the Lord reiterates the thoughts that are presented in the first four verses. Following this paragraph, in verses 10-13, the prophet continued the same dirge over the nation:

Behold, the day, behold, it cometh: thy doom is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded. 11 Violence is risen up unto a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of their wealth: neither shall there be eminency among them. 12 The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn; for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. 13 For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they be yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, none shall return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.”

In verses 14-27 we have a picture of the dissolution of the state and of the terrible havoc that would be wrought in the final downfall and collapse of the nation. According to verse 14, when the enemy invades the country, the trumpet is sounded, but the people have no heart for the war. The reason for this apathy is stated in these words: “... for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.” In verse 15 the prophet portrays the siege of Jerusalem. Fighting is being carried on outside of the city of Jerusalem and pestilence and famine are raging within. Those living in the open country are killed with the sword, and those in the cities of the land die with pestilence and famine. The helpless and hopeless condition of the nation is set forth in verse 16. Those who are not killed by the famine and the sword are seen as doves of the valleys upon the mountains, who are lamenting and mourning the national situation. Then in verse 17 he describes the people as having hands that are feeble and knees that are weak as water. At this time the people gird themselves with sack-cloth in a half-hearted attitude of repentance. They stand dazed at the situation, being unable to analyze and to evaluate their situation before God. Being in the slough of despair, they lose all interest, even in material things. They cast their silver in the street and their gold is considered as an unclean thing. At times Israel had purchased immunity to invasion by giving large sums of money to an aggressor nation. For example, she paid ransom money to Assyria. But on this occasion they are not able to do this. Their silver and their gold, according to verse 19, shall not be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah's wrath. Neither their souls nor their stomachs, according to this prediction, will be satisfied with that which is available. Everything that has been considered of value and prized by the people is seized and destroyed. The people, instead of accepting God as their Sovereign and Lord, have made their images and abominable things and are worshiping them. On account of these things, God turns His face away from the nation and declares that “... they shall profane my secret place,” namely, the sanctuary.

In the final paragraph, verses 23-27, we seen an invincible conqueror, ruthless and cruel, being brought by the Lord against the nation. The people of the land are puffed up with pride, and bloody crimes are the order of the day. The condition of the people, spiritually and morally, has deteriorated to the very lowest level. The die is cast; the Rubicon crossed. Nothing can now avert the complete catastrophe. In their extremity the people seek for a vision from the prophet of God. But it is too late. The law has perished from the priest and council from the elders. The king and the royal family mourn over the desolate condition. The people of the country are troubled. National collapse and disintegration are inevitable. All of these catastrophes are the judgment of God upon the impenitent nation. After the collapse and fall the people in their sober moments, in reflecting over the national disaster, will recognize that Jehovah is God and that He is the one who has punished the nation for its evils.

Next: Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall

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