The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (5)
Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
- Some Preliminary Observations
- The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
- The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
- The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
- Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
- The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
- Prophecy and Idolatry
- Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
- The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
- God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
- The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
- Israel's Past and Future Experiences
- The Sword of Jehovah
- Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
- The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
- The Boiling Caldron
- Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
- The Oracle Concerning Tyre
- The Oracles Concerning Egypt
- The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
- The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
- The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
- The Judgment upon Edom
- The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
- Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
- The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
- The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
- The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
- The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
- The Millennial Jerusalem
- The Millennial Temple
- The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
- The Land of Israel in the Millennium
Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall (Part One)
Ezekiel received his call to the ministry on the fifth day of the fourth month of Jehoiachin's captivity. A year and two months later, on the fifth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the same captivity, Ezekiel received a second communication from the Lord in the form of a vision. This oracle is found in chapters 8-11. They therefore must be studied as a single unit.
From Ezekiel 8:1 we learn that the elders of Israel had come to the prophet's house and were sitting before him. During the interview the prophet fell into a trance and was caught up in the visions of God and taken to Jerusalem, where he saw the actual conditions that existed there. To him was revealed also the punishment of God that would come upon the evildoers.
The question immediately arises as to why God made this revelation concerning the conditions in Jerusalem to the prophet among the exiles in Babylon. As one studies the Book of Ezekiel, he must likewise study the supplemental data which is found in the Book of Jeremiah. From this latter prophet we learn that there were prophets in Babylon who were speaking falsely in the name of the Lord, promising the people that, within a very short time, the exiles would be permitted to return to the land of their fathers. Believing the false predictions of these unworthy prophets, the exiles were constantly kept in a state of uncertainty, hoping all the time to hear the good news that they would be able to return. The exiles believed the false messages of these untrue prophets and discredited absolutely the divine revelation which had been made through Jeremiah concerning the duration of the captivity and its being seventy years. Jeremiah therefore wrote a letter, which is now chapter 25 of his book, to the exiles telling them to settle down into a well-ordered life and to become obedient to the laws of the country in which they lived. He, however, assured them that, at the expiration of the period of exile, they would be permitted to return to the land of their fathers in fulfillment of the prediction. Thus these exiles were on the tiptoes of expectation, hoping to hear some good news concerning the return to the homeland. It was quite likely that the elders of the people came to Ezekiel to discuss this question and to receive a message from God relative to the same.
On the other hand, the people who had been left in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel had misunderstood the situation. They concluded that the exiles were out of fellowship with God, and that they had lost all share in the homeland. Moreover, they thought that they themselves were still in the favor of God by virtue of the fact that they had not been deported with the other two groups of captives who had already gone into exile. Thus these who remained in the land assumed an attitude of superiority toward their exiled brethren. They went so far as to speak out against them and to say that the land was theirs in possession and that they were secure.
Instead of their being the favored ones who, in the eyes of the Lord, were the better of the two classes, the Lord made a revelation through Jeremiah to the effect that those who had been taken into exile were like good figs in a basket, while those who were left in the land were like rotten figs (Jeremiah chapter 24). In view of the two interpretations upon the national situation placed there by the two groups of Israelites, the Lord made to Ezekiel the revelation found in chapters 8-11.
I. A Second Theophany
And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord Jehovah fell there upon me. 2 Then I beheld, and, lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his loins and downward, fire; and from his loins and upward, as the appearance of brightness, as it were glowing metal. 3 And he put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the gate of the inner court that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. 4 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the appearance that I saw in the plain.” (Ezekiel 8:1-4)
In Ezekiel, chapter 1, we have the theophany which was granted to the prophet at the time of his call. The second theophany is recorded as having taken place a year and two months later and is the one which we have for consideration at the present time. It pertains, as we shall see, to the overthrow of the city of Jerusalem. As we know from subsequent history, the siege ofthe city by the Babylonians began only four years later, in the tenth year of Jehoiachin's captivity which was the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign. The final collapse of Jewish resistance occurred in the eleventh of Zedekiah's reign. The third theophany occurred in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, which was fourteen years after the downfall of Jerusalem in the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign. In this final theophany God revealed to the prophet the conditions which will exist in Israel and Jerusalem during the great millennial reign of our Lord.
In verse 1 of the quotation above we are told that “the hand of the Lord Jehovah” was upon Ezekiel. This is a phrase which we see frequently occurring in the Old Testament Scriptures. What is its significance? On this point we gather information from I Kings 18:45,46: “... And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel: 46 and the hand of Jehovah was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” From this verse we see that the hand of the Lord was upon Elijah, and that he was thereby enabled to outrun Ahab's chariot in going from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, a distance of something like ten or fifteen miles. Thus the hand of the Lord imparted strength and superhuman power which enabled the prophet to outrun the horses. In II Kings 3:15 we have language to this effect: "But now bring me [Elisha] a minstrel. And it came to pass that when the minstrel played, that the hand of Jehovah came upon him.“ Here it is quite evident that the result of the hand of Jehovah's being upon Elisha was that he was enabled to see a vision which portrayed the results of the coming of the present conflict between Judah and Moab. A glance at Ezekiel, chapters 40-48, shows that the significance of the hand of Jehovah's being upon the prophet was that he was granted a vision to foretell the future restoration of Israel to favor with God and to millennial blessing.
As the prophet sat in his house before the elders of Israel, the hand of the Lord Jehovah fell upon him and, lo, in the visions of God he saw the appearance of the throne-chariot which he had seen at the time of his call, when he was with the captives by the river Chebar. That this throne-chariot was identical with that which he had seen in the former vision is asserted in verse 4: “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the appearance that I saw in the plain.” If the vision is not clear to the reader's mind at the present, he should turn back and read Ezekiel, chapter 1. There he will see a description of this theophany. Cherubim were supporting a pavement above them, upon which was located a throne. On it in regal majesty sat one like unto a Son of man, whose presence was draped and veiled with the out-shining of glory.
Ezekiel says that, when this vision appeared to him, the one who sat upon the throne reached forth His hand, took him by the locks of his head, and transported him in the visions of God to Jerusalem. The prophet is very careful to note the fact that this was in the visions of God. This fact shows that it was not an actual transportation of the prophet to Jerusalem, but that only in the vision was he transported to the land of his nativity. In this connection, let me say that we must not confound his being transported in the visions of God to Jerusalem with the account of his being taken by the Spirit of God from the place where God first called him to Tel-abib, preparatory to his delivering his first message to the exiles. As we saw when we studied this portion of the Word, this was a literal transportation of the prophet from one place to another location and is similar to the case of Philip, who was taken by the Spirit of the Lord from the place where he baptized the eunuch to Azotus, probably a distance of about fifty miles (Acts. 8:39,40).
II. The Idolatrous Condition of Jerusalem
One would think that Israel, who had enjoyed such unparalleled opportunities and advantages to learn the truth concerning the true and living God would never have lapsed into idolatry. But human nature is very strange and does the unexpected. Even when Israel was in the land of Egypt, she worshipped idols. After she had been miraculously brought forth out of Egyptian bondage and had seen the various manifestations of God's presence at Mount Sinai, she made the golden calf to worship (Exodus, chapter 32). During the period of the Judges the history of the Chosen People ran in cycles of apostasy from God, being delivered over to foreign domination, servitude, and repentance and calling upon God for deliverance. Even during the Monarchical Period the nation lapsed into idolatry. Then a king, faithful to God, arose and instituted reforms. The four great reformers in Israel were Kings Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. All of these men did a marvelous piece of work for God against idolatry.
Never did the nation sink so low into idolatry as she did in the days of King Manasseh, who reigned over Judah for fifty-five years. The reader should stop here and read the account of his reign in II Kings 21:1-18 and II Chronicles 33:1-17. Amon, the son of Manasseh, continued the idolatrous policy of his father. But young King Josiah reversed the national policy and instituted the most thoroughgoing reforms throughout the nation of all the great men of Israel.
History, we are told, repeats itself. Notwithstanding the marvelous work of restoration to God during the reign of Josiah, the nation plunged into idolatry under Zedekiah, the last king who sat upon the throne of Judah. The extent of this turning to idolatry is set forth in the eighth chapter of Ezekiel's prophecy, to which we now turn for a further study.
In verses 5 and 6 of this chapter the prophet records his being taken in vision to the Temple at Jerusalem. Upon his arrival he was told to lift up his eyes toward the north. When he did so, he saw north of the gate of the altar the “image of jealousy in the entry.” From all of the data given, it appears that this image was in the outer court Just north of the gate through which one passed from this outer court to the inner one. This gate was due north from the brazen altar of sacrifice. One standing in the gate and looking northward from the inner court could see this image.
What is the significance of its being called “the image of jealousy”? Various answers have been given, most of which are very unsatisfactory. Some have thought that it was the Phoenician goddess Astarte, the consort of the male god, Baal, of that nation. Others have surmised that it was Adonis of the Greek pantheon. There is some plausibility to the arguments advanced for these identifications. Others, on the contrary, have thought that this word, jealousy, is an echo of Deuteronomy 32:21, which passage foretells Israel's provoking the Lord to jealousy by idols — her giving to idols the worship and reverence that was due to His holy name.
Having seen this idol which the people of Jerusalem were worshiping, the prophet was brought to the door of the court. This door probably was the door of the gate, near which this image of jealousy stood. On either side of the passageway through this gate were chambers, for priests and for various purposes. Ezekiel was told, “... dig now in the wall,” which thing he did. He found a door that had been plastered over and upon opening it, saw the gross idolatries into which the nation had plunged. Painted on the walls were pictures of all creeping things, abominable beasts and all the idols of the house of Israel.
Before these pictures there stood seventy of the elders of Israel, who were engaging in the worship of these icons. Among these men as their leader was Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. All of these men had their censers and were offering incense to the icons — as we call them in the Greek Catholic Church today. This Jaazaniah must be distinguished from the man of that name mentioned in Ezekiel 11:1. Jaazaniah, the leader of the seventy elders, was the son of Shaphan, as already noted, whereas the Jaazaniah of 11:1 was the son of Azzur.
Let us, as we think of the prophets digging into the wall and discovering a door and opening it, remember that Ezekiel saw this in vision. It was not an actual digging into the wall. But what he saw in vision was the reality that was literally being carried on by the men in Jerusalem as they in actuality were worshiping heathen, foreign gods.
From the place and the chamber where these men were worshiping idols, the prophet was taken to “the gate of Jehovah's house which was toward the north.” This door of Jehovah's house is understood by the best scholars to be the gate in the north wall of the sacred enclosure which opened into the city north of the Temple area. Upon being brought here, the prophet saw the women of Jerusalem worshiping the Babylonian god, Tammuz.
From this place Ezekiel was brought to the inner court of the Temple and was in a position between the brazen altar and the door of the Temple proper. Here he saw twenty-five men with their backs toward the Temple and faces toward the east, worshiping the sun, the queen of heaven. The Babylonians, especially, worshiped the sun. Many other nations have likewise worshiped it, because they have realized that life upon earth would not be possible if it were not for its shining, giving forth its life-giving rays.
Thus the prophet was shown some of the many abominations of Israel.
Though Israel was cleansed from gross idolatry by the Babylonian siege and the fall of Jerusalem under the sledge hammer blows of Nebuchadnezzar and has never until this day fallen into idolatry, the time will come when she with all nations will take a plunge into the grossest idolatry of all the ages. This turning from the living God, the Creator of all, to the creature and worshiping it is set forth in various passages of Scripture. For instance, in Isaiah's message to Damascus we get a picture of the Tribulation Period and learn that men throughout the world will revert to worshiping idols. The gospel will be preached and then vast hosts will turn from their idols to their Maker and serve Him. We learn the same truths in Revelation 9:20,21:
And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk: 21 and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”
The inhabitants of Jerusalem had gone so very far in apostasy from God that judgment was inevitable: “Therefore will I also deal in wrath; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ezekiel 8:18; cf. II Chronicles 36:11-16).
Since in this article Ezekiel, chapters 9,10, and 11 are studied, the reader is requested to turn to his Bible and read them. By his doing so before examining this article, he will be better prepared to understand what is being said. It is always a good practice to read a certain portion of Scripture before listening to or reading an exposition of the same. Let the Word of God have the opportunity to make its own impression upon the heart. — D.L.C.
Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall (Part Two)
As we saw in our study last month, Ezekiel, chapters 8-11, constitutes one vision, which was granted to the prophet in the sixth month of the sixth year of Jehoiachin's captivity. We studied the idolatrous condition of Jerusalem as set forth in the eighth chapter. We shall now give special attention to the remaining chapters which record this vision.
I. The Sealing of the Faithful in the City
The seal is the sign of ownership. To illustrate, the seal of the United States Government indicates that anything that is thus put under it is the property of the Government and is under its protection. This conclusion is confirmed by a study of various passages of the Word in which we read of the sealing of certain ones.
According to 9:1 the one who was escorting the prophet around on his tour of inspection of the city (in his vision) cried in his ears when he issued a command, “Cause ye them that have charge over the city to draw near, every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.” Certain ones are called forth who are represented as having charge over the city of Jerusalem. When we read the Scriptures, we are impressed with the thought that the angels are ministering spirits who are sent forth to do service for the sake of those who shall inherit salvation. Moreover, from the Book of Daniel we see that Michael, who is an archangel, has charge of the Jewish nation. In the Book of Revelation we see that certain angels are assigned positions of responsibility and trust with reference to various things. For instance, there is the angel who has charge of the waters. Another has control of fire. Thus when we study the Scriptures, we come to the conclusion that these celestial beings are God's lieutenants who carry out His orders with reference to nations, cities, and individuals.
When the order was issued, “six men came from the way of the upper gate ... every man with his slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side.” These seven came and took their stand near the brazen altar of the Temple. In the light of what has just been said, we conclude that these were angelic beings, to whom special authority had been delegated with reference to the city of Jerusalem.
Again we see the vision of the “glory of the God of Israel.” Doubtless this is the same vision as the one which he had just beheld in the beginning of the vision. It was like the one which he saw when he received his call (chapter 1). The God of glory was seated upon the throne which was located upon a pavement placed above the heads of the cherubim. On this occasion the one thus seated upon this throne went up from his seat and called to the man with the writer's inkhorn. He immediately instructed him to go through the midst of the city, even through Jerusalem, and to set a mark upon the forehead of every man who sighed and wept over the conditions that existed in the city at that time. Then turning to the six others, the Lord told them to follow the man who was putting his mark on the innocent God-fearing ones. These were to have no pity upon anyone, but they were to slay the old and the young, male and female alike, who had not been marked by the one with the writers inkhorn. God knows the heart. Man may justify his actions and put forth certain claims as to his loyalty to the Lord and his innocency in regard to various matters. The Lord sees and knows the motives that prompt every action. It is therefore impossible to deceive the Lord.
This angel was to begin his work at the sanctuary and so were those six who were to destroy the wicked to begin at the same place. Judgment always begins at the house of God (I Peter 4:17).
These destroying angels were commanded to defile the house of God by filling its courts with the corpses of the slain. A dead body in Israel always defiled the land or anyone who touched it. Thus these messengers of death went forth and smote the city. As the prophet saw, in vision, the slaughter, his heart was moved to intercession in behalf of the remnant of the nation (vs. 8). In answer to the prophet's prayer in behalf of this remnant, the Lord declared, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of wresting of judgment: for they say, Jehovah hath forsaken the land, and Jehovah seeth not. 10 And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will bring their way upon their head” (vss. 9,10). After completing his mission, the man with the inkhorn returned to the side of the Lord and reported that he had done what had been commanded of him.
The innocent people of this vision were marked by the man with the inkhorn. This mark protected them, for those angels with the weapons of destruction passed them by. This mark was what we might call a seal, denoting ownership by the Lord. This incident reminds one of the sealing of the believers in the New Testament — though of a different kind and character. All believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13,14). This sealing denotes ownership, protection, and security. Everyone who has been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise belongs to the Lord and is certain of his eternal salvation.
Again, one is reminded of the sealing of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will conduct the world-wide revival in the Tribulation Period. These future evangelists will be sealed by the Lord and will thus be protected from all harm and danger and from the judgments of the Tribulation. Thus they go forth and proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ to the entire world during that period of judgment. The results of their labors will be an untold number of people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and language who wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Of course, the true church of Jesus Christ is taken out of the world prior to the Tribulation; hence this epochal event is prior to the sealing of these 144,000 Jewish evangelists.
II. The Destruction of the City of Jerusalem
In chapter 10 we again get a full description of Jehovah who appeared to the prophet in his vision, as He sat upon His portable throne. The information which we receive in chapter 10 supplements that which is given in chapter 1. Hence it should be read along with chapter 1. Over the heads of the cherubim was a firmament which was “as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.” The sapphire stone reminds one of the vision which was granted to Moses, Aaron, and seventy elders of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11). The reader should also look at Revelation, chapter 5, in this connection, as he thinks of this sapphire stone upon which the throne of God is placed.
The one seated upon the throne, according to Ezekiel 10:2, spoke to the man clothed in linen and gave him instructions to go among the cherubim who were supporting the firmament upon which the throne was placed. He was to enter among the whirling wheels and go under the cherub, fill his hands with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city. “And he spake unto the man clothed in linen, and said, Go in between the whirling wheels, even under the cherub, and fill both thy hands with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city. And he went in my sight” (10:2).
According to this verse the man clothed in linen was to go among or between the cherubim supporting the throne and at the same time he was to go under the cherub. When we notice the cherub of this verse and then look at the cherub of 9:3 and consider these two verses in the light of Psalm 18:10ff, we come to the probable conclusion that the cherub here referred to assumes the form of a throne, or it is he who immediately and directly supports the throne upon which Jehovah is seated in majesty.
The man in linen was to get the coals of fire from between the cherubim and to scatter them over the city. This of course was a symbolic act which signified the agency by which the city would be destroyed. This part of the vision was literally carried out by the destruction of the city when it fell under the blows of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
When the man clothed in linen went in between the cherubim, the cherub stretched forth its hand, took coals of fire, and placed them in his hands. He therefore took them, went forth, and did as he was commanded.
The fact that fire was used in this symbolic action signified that the judgment here portrayed would be one that would cleanse and purge the nation of evil. Fire is always used to signify some agent that cleanses or purges. In this connection one is reminded of coals of fire taken from the altar and placed upon the lips of the prophet Isaiah as seen in Isaiah, chapter 6. This symbolic act signified the cleansing of the prophet and his being forgiven.
In Ezekiel 10:9-22 we get another clear vision of the living creatures which supported the throne of Jehovah who appeared to the prophet. In chapter 1 they are called “living creatures.” In this passage they are termed cherubim. These creatures seem to be a very high order of angelic beings. The word cherub is singular; cherubim is plural. A Hebrew word brought directly over from the original into the English which closes with im is always a plural noun in the masculine gender, with a few exceptions.
In verse 15 is a statement with reference to the cherubim, which in this instance signifies the four living creatures, supporting the pavement upon which the throne of God was located. In the verse we see this statement: “This is the living creature that I saw by the river Chebar.” The same type of language is used in verse 20. Some have concluded that, though the word, cherubim, is plural and indicates more than one, yet because of the use of the term, the living creature, a living creature such as the one here designated consists of four cherubs. Those taking this position reason this way: The prophet speaks of cherubim and then calls them a living creature. As I view things, such a being would be a monstrosity. Each cherub has his own personality and individuality. Four separate and distinct personalities could not be joined by any method whatsoever so as to constitute one living creature. Such a conception, to my way of thinking, is confusion. But what is the significance, then, of the term, living creature? My answer is this: As the prophet stood near this portable throne of Jehovah, he was nearer one of the cherubs supporting it than he was to the others. The cherubim were all of the same nature and essence. To see one was to see the others. Thus he focused his attention upon the cherub that was nearest him and spoke of it, not as a compound unity, but as a representative of the class to which it belonged. This usage I might illustrate by a quotation from Psalm 33:17:
A horse is a vain thing for safety;
neither doth he deliver any by his great power.”
Here horse is used in the singular number. But, when we look at the entire context, we know that the sacred writer was not thinking of a single horse, but had in mind soldiers mounted on war horses, who were in ancient days one of the most efficient types of soldiers. Thus the writer, though he used the word, horse, in the singular number, was speaking of a great army of horses and horsemen. In a manner analogous to this usage the prophet employs the word, living creature, in his referring to the various cherubs who supported the throne.
The cherubs seen in the Book of Ezekiel had four wings each. Those seen in chapter 1 had four faces each. The cherubs, however, appearing in Ezekiel 41:18,19 had only two faces. Why the difference? I do not know. The explanation lying back behind this unusual phenomenon may be this: God makes His angels and His ministers assume the forms of fire and winds, whenever the mission upon which they are sent demands their taking these forms (Hebrews 1:7). Since this is true and since, in one instance, they have four faces and on another occasion have two, we may assume that the conditions in each demand their appearing thus.
When Isaiah was called to the ministry he “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple,” the millennial Temple. There were also seraphim present, who were praising the Triune God. Each of these creatures had six wings. In Revelation, chapter 4, we see living creatures who likewise have six wings and who are praising God in the same manner. We conclude, therefore, that both Isaiah and John saw the same angelic beings.
Whether or not these who are called seraphim are of the same order and rank as the cherubim, one may not be positive in asserting. The evidence is too meager to warrant dogmatism on this point.
But we may be absolutely certain that these cherubim and seraphim are a very high order or rank of celestial beings, who stand close in the counsels of the Almighty, and who perform mighty acts and carry out important missions. As proof of this position, one need only to turn to Revelation, chapter 6. It is one of the seraphim, or living creatures, who issues the order for the coming forth of each of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse — as they are called in theological terms. When each of these issues his orders, the great hosts of angels who are in charge of earthly affairs immediately carry them out. Thus in the Book of Revelation we see that not only the seraphim are carrying out the commands of Jehovah the Almighty, but the lesser angels likewise execute His decrees.
III. The Conclusion of the Vision
According to Ezekiel 11:1-4 the prophet was brought to the east gate of Jehovah's house. There he beheld twenty-five men who were under the leadership of Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, the princes of the people. These men seem to have been the leaders of the people during that great crisis. They were the ones who were devising iniquity and giving wicked counsel. By reading the historical portions of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, together with Jeremiah and Ezekiel, one comes to the conclusion that there was a pro-Egyptian party as well as a pro-Babylonian clique in Jerusalem. The former group was in favor of calling upon the Egyptians for aid and assistance in the crisis. The second group was in favor of placating the Babylonians, by the doing of which they hoped to avert a clash with Babylon. When Zedekiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, he swore fealty to him. Notwithstanding his oath, Zedekiah was sponsoring the formation of a group of small nations in Western Asia, that would come together in an alliance for the purpose of revolting against Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian kingdom. This is seen in Jeremiah 27:1-11. That Zedekiah had sought assistance from Egypt is evident from Jeremiah 27:6,7. Thus King Zedekiah was in a very embarrassing position within the city and was face to face with a national crisis.
The group in Jerusalem led by the two princes, mentioned above, gave evil counsel by saying that it was not the time to build houses. They, by their propaganda, were hindering all daily commerce and trade. On the other hand, they were declaring that war was inevitable and that all energies must be expended for the purpose of preparing for the war. In other words, they were the war party. Doubtless these encouraged Zedekiah to enter into this alliance of aggression against Babylon. In setting forth their political doctrine, they declared, “This city is the caldron, and we are the flesh.” It is altogether possible that this figure was borrowed from that which was employed by the Lord in the call of Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry (Jeremiah 1:13ff).
These warmongers compared the city of Jerusalem to a caldron and its inhabitants to the flesh. Thus they declared that war was inevitable, and that everyone must make the best of the situation and bend all energies toward the prosecution of the war.
This group was opposed, as we learn from Jeremiah, by others who were led by this prophet, and who insisted that Israel should turn from her wickedness and sins and should observe the law of God which had been given to her by Moses.
Jeremiah pleaded with the king and the people to observe strictly the law of God and look to Him for deliverance. He likewise promised that God would bring the deliverance if only the people would turn back to Him. Had the people followed the preaching and advice of Jeremiah, the war with Babylon would have been averted and there would have been no Babylonian Exile. But the warmongers of the time were stirring up the people and engendering war. Hence they were said to be devising iniquity and giving evil counsel in the city.
When the prophet was in the presence of these men, the Spirit of God came upon him and he, in speaking for Jehovah, declared to the people:
for I know the things that come into your mind. 6 Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain. 7 Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron; but ye shall be brought forth out of the midst of it. 8 Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring the sword upon you, saith the Lord Jehovah. 9 And I will bring you forth out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you. 10 Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. 11 This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; I will judge you in the border of Israel; 12 and ye shall know that I am Jehovah: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither have ye executed mine ordinances, but have done after the ordinances of the nations that are round about you.” (Ezekiel 11:6-12)
From this quotation it is evident that the war party had already been the cause of the slaying of various ones in the city. The prophet therefore, speaking in terms of the figures which they had used, said that the corpses of the people whom they had already slain were the flesh in the caldron. The city of course was the caldron. But according to the prophet those who had been sponsoring the war were not to be slaughtered in the city and thus become flesh in the caldron. On the contrary, they were to be taken out of it and to be destroyed within the borders of Israel. Thus a holy and a righteous God, according to this prediction, would execute vengeance upon them because of their wickedness. The Lord always knows whom to punish and whom to spare.
At this point of the vision Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Of course, his death was the result of the stroke of the judgment of God. Then the prophet thereupon fell upon his face and cried to the Lord, “Ah Lord Jehovah! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” It is to be remembered in this connection that this is what the prophet saw in vision. Of course that which was set forth in this communication was actually carried out in reality.
As we have already seen, certain of the people of the land, the leaders, were taken to Babylon in the third year of King Jehoiakim when Nebuchadnezzar fought against Jerusalem. Still others were carried away into captivity when Jehoiachin was dethroned and carried to Babylon.
The people who had been left in Jerusalem especially and those within the borders of Judah came to the conclusion that God had sent their kinsmen into Babylon because of their wickedness and their sins, but that He had spared them and allowed them to remain in the land of their fathers because of their goodness. They therefore spoke arrogantly against the exiles and boasted of their favored position. Jeremiah, however, inspired by the Spirit of God, took a different view of the situation. He compared those who had been taken into captivity to a basket of good figs, whereas those that were left in the land were thought of as a basket of bad figs, that were so very bad they could not be eaten. But those who were left in the land after the first two deputations of captives took the attitude, expressed in the following words, toward the exiles: “Get you far from Jehovah; unto us is this land given for a possession” (Ezekiel 11:14,15). In verses 16-21, however, God spoke about those who had been deported from the land and who had been scattered among the nations as those whom He would gather back eventually from their dispersion among the nations and would establish them in their own land. At the time of the regathering He would give them a new heart and place a new spirit within them, and they, as a result, would walk in His ways and please Him. That the prophet was not talking about the return under Zerubbabel at the end of the seventy years of Babylonian captivity is evident from the fact that the promises of this passage were not fulfilled in them and to them. But we know from other passages of Scripture that every promise contained in this passage will be literally and completely fulfilled when the Lord gathers His people from all nations and restores them to their land when they acknowledge their national sin and plead for the Messiah to return. This prophecy will be fulfilled at the end of the Tribulation.
The vision presented in chapters 8-11 comes to a conclusion in 11:22-25. Jehovah on His chariot throne was lifted up from the prophet, going forth from the midst of the city and stood on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem. Thus Jehovah departed from His people. Then said the prophet, “The Spirit lifted me up, and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. 25 Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that Jehovah had showed me.”