The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (6)
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
The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented
and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
In the first eleven chapters of Ezekiel's prophecy the note which is sounded is that punishment of the nation for its sins was a certainty. Such is the gist of each separate oracle. In chapters 12-19 the necessity for bringing this punishment is emphasized.
As the people listened to the prophecies from time to time, there doubtless arose, in the minds of many, thoughts and considerations which caused them to doubt the fulfillment of prophecy. Thus these predictions were, as far as they were concerned, invalidated.
Jeremiah in Palestine and Ezekiel in the Exile constantly hurled their philippics of warnings against the nation as they foretold further disasters. Because the predictions were not fulfilled immediately but seemed to be delayed, the people ceased to take the warnings seriously. It was a case similar to that of the boy who cried “wolf, wolf!” — so far as the people were concerned. Thus they doubtless came to the conclusion that, since these prophets had shouted “wolf, wolf!” so very many times and the danger had not materialized, they therefore were not to be terrified by such predictions.
Another consideration must be examined in this connection. There were the true prophets who spoke from the mouth of God. They made revelations of what would be. There were others who spoke out of their own minds and hearts, not having received any disclosures from the Lord. This latter class of prophets are spoken of as prophesying falsely in God's name. They had Moses and the Prophets and could study them. They made their own deductions from what these former prophets had said. These men thought that they had a right to speak upon the basis of former revelations and their deductions therefrom. In other words, these prophets who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord were like many ministers and preachers of the Word today. They study the Bible and draw certain general vague deductions from their investigation of the Sacred Word. They look at the present-day situation and tell the people what they are confident will be. There are others who study the Word and then tell us that, according to the Word of God, a great, rosy, and beautiful future lies out before us; the church is making wonderful progress; and we are just on the verge of a great change and a new era for which the world is yearning and longing. They see on the political and spiritual horizon nothing that is of an ominous nature. Moreover, they conclude that we, who believe the word of prophecy, who are confident that the prophetic word means exactly what it says and says what it means and that it foretells the perilous times which are immediately before us, are alarmists and calamity howlers. Thus they warn the people against the study of prophecy or the listening to any messages based upon prophecy. These men believe that we who thus see the great dangers that confront us and the fulfillment of prophecy in our day are traditionalists — narrow-minded and bigoted. On the other hand, however, they feel that they are abreast of the times, that they have a clear perception of the present and can see certainly the dim outlines at least of the future. Many of these men of course are sincere and believe that they are interpreting correctly the times in which we are living.
This class of ministers certainly do not interpret the Word correctly, even though they are sincere. They misrepresent God. They are giving forth a vision of their own hearts and not the correct message from God. They are thus speaking falsely in the name of God and misrepresent the teaching of the Word. They are in our society today what those who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord were in the days of the prophets. These men in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel stoutly and bitterly opposed those two prophets and influenced the people against them.
There is, however, a difference between those who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and those who are misinterpreting the Scriptures and are seeing only advancement and progress in our civilization of today. The false prophets of Ezekiel's day reached their conclusions from the study of the Word and from the conditions which existed. But they appeared before the people and declared that what they were giving forth was what they had received at the mouth of God — in the same way as the true prophets received revelations from God. In making these statements they spoke falsely. The false prophets today — and every minister who studies the Word and claims to be preaching the revelation of God is a prophet in one of the biblical senses of that word — do not deliver their messages and claim that they have received what they are presenting directly by means of a special revelation from God. Nevertheless, they present their messages as ultimately having come from God to them through the Word. But they mislead the people and cause them to believe error.
There is always a margin for the exercise of faith or of doubt. For example, when Moses appeared before Pharaoh and performed miracles by the power of God, the magicians of Egypt likewise appeared with their enchantments, being backed up by the power of Satan, and duplicated some of the miracles which Moses wrought. Finally, however, they confessed that they were not able to duplicate certain ones of the miracles which Moses had wrought. In this situation there was a margin for the exercise of faith and of doubt on the part of the people. The same situation existed in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and all the prophets. The true prophets received visions from God and communications from the Almighty and delivered these faithfully. On the other hand, there were those who were in no sense inspired as were the true prophets; but they learned some general principles from the study of the Word. They began to rationalize and to philosophize concerning the present and the immediate future. Then with oracular dignity they made their pronouncements as bona-fide revelations from God. Of course, what they said was always misleading and false. But there was under those conditions the opportunity for the people to believe or to disbelieve. A like situation exists today. When some faithful servant of God has studied honestly, conscientiously, and thoroughly the Word from cover to cover, he sees and understands by the illumination of the Spirit of God what the Lord has revealed. He therefore gives forth his messages. There are others who hold a different attitude toward the Word, who do not believe that the Bible is a unique and absolutely inspired revelation of God, but who rationalize trends and events today and promise to the people a glorious new era in the immediate future. Thus the people have an opportunity of exercising faith or doubt.
In this connection we should likewise see another consideration which seemed to break the force of the predictions of the prophets. The Hebrew people were chosen of God for a special mission. God called them His people. The idea gripped the nation. The people therefore thought that it was impossible for the Lord to cast them off — even though He had threatened to do this. Was not the Temple in their midst? Was it not Jehovah's Temple? Was it not inviolate? Certainly they were the people of God and the calamities which the true prophets foretold would never materialize.
The Lord spoke to Ezekiel saying: “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of the rebellious house, that have eyes to see, and see not, that have ears to hear, and hear not; for they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 12:2). The Lord declared regarding the people among whom the prophet was living that they had eyes to see, but that they did not see. Likewise they had ears to hear, but they did not hear. There was nothing imperfect or faulty with their eyes or with their ears. It is with our physical eyes and ears that we can look and see what is around about us and hear, if there are any sounds or noises. Our eyes and our ears are so constructed as to give us a truthful and faithful account of things and conditions which are around about us. So there is no need of our not being cognizant of our immediate environment. The philosophers are all wrong when they say that there is a maladjustment between our organs of sense and the world external to us. Ezekiel makes this affirmation. On the contrary, there is the proper adjustment between our organs of sense perception and our environment when they are normal. We can thus get a correct idea of the situation in which we find ourselves.
But in his saying that the people had eyes to see but did not see, and ears to hear, but did not hear, he was affirming that they had spiritual eyes and intellectual ears to comprehend, to weigh, and to evaluate the situation in which they lived. But instead of using these God-given faculties in order that they might know their situation, they would not use them. They did not want truth and facts. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Prejudice — judging ahead of time — always befogs every issue involved. It biases the mind and causes the one thus influenced to fail to see things in the proper light.
Concerning Ezekiel's associates God said that they did not use their eyes and ears for the proper purpose “for they are a rebellious house.” These people did not know the will of God. Neither did they want it. They were set and determined to go their own way. Hence they closed their eyes and stopped their ears and refused to receive facts as they were. They remind one of the people of Isaiah's day concerning whom we read in Isaiah 6:9,10:
And he said, Go, and tell this people. Hear ye indeed, but understand not and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed.”
I. The Symbolic Act by Ezekiel of Removing His Household Goods
The prophets very frequently were instructed to perform certain acts to which a symbolic meaning was attached. Possibly Ezekiel performed more of such acts than any other of the Old Testament prophets.
According to verses 3-6 the Lord instructed the prophet to prepare his household belongings for removing and to carry this out by day in the sight of the people. Within their view he was to remove his stuff from his place to another. In giving him these instructions the Lord said, “It may be they will consider, though they are a rebellious house.” God does everything possible in order to reach the hearts and the souls of men; that is, He does all things within the proper limits under His moral government.
He was again instructed to remove his goods and go forth at evening time “as when men go forth into exile,” enacting this role in the sight of the people. Evidently he dressed as if he were going into exile and acted in the same manner. Then he was instructed to dig through the wall in their sight and carry out his belongings through the breach. This may have been the city wall, or some wall which was in the vicinity. Moreover, he was to carry out his goods upon his shoulder and do it in the dark. At the same time he was to cover his face that he might not see the land or anything connected therewith.
The Lord thus gave him these instructions, informing him, “For I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel” (vs. 6). Isaiah and his family were for signs unto the house of Israel, in a manner similar to this (Isaiah 8:16,17).
According to the seventh verse of this chapter the prophet did exactly as he was told. The emphasis is placed, upon his strict obedience to the divine instructions. This reminds one of the note that is sounded throughout the Scriptures. For instance, Noah was given positive instructions as to how he was to construct the ark. Then we are told that Noah did as Jehovah commanded him. The same thing is true with reference to Moses. It is also true with reference to others of the servants of God. Their doing this reminds us of the repeated statement of our blessed Lord, who emphasized the fact that He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him. He felt that He had to do the work of Him who sent Him while it was day, because the night for Him was coming in which He could not work. Oh, that the people of God could realize the necessity of following the Lord implicitly, doing His works while it is day; for the night is coming in which none of us will be able to work. We shall be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body — not in the spirit world. Let us be faithful to the Lord in all things while we have time and opportunity!
On the following morning “came the word of Jehovah” to the prophet, asking him if any of the people had inquired as to what was the significance of his actions of the day before. Then he was instructed to say to them, “This burden concerneth the prince (the prince, of course, was Zedekiah) in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel among whom they are” (vs. 10). He was to declare the following oracle to the people:
Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them; they shall go into exile, into captivity. 12 And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth; they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, because he shall not see the land with his eyes. 15 My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare; and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.” (Ezekiel 12:11-13)
What the prophet did was a little miniature enactment of the prince's attempt to escape out of the hands of the Babylonians and of his being caught by the enemy. The covering which Ezekiel put over his face as he was going out through the breach of the wall made by him was to signify that the prince would not be able to see the land to which he was being carried into exile.
The Lord, in verse 13, said that he would spread his net upon Zedekiah and take him to Babylon but that he would not see it, though he was to die there. In Jeremiah 39:7 and 52:11 we see that Zedekiah was taken to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah. After slaying his sons in his sight, Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah's eyes put out. Then he was carried in fetters to Babylon, where he remained until the day of his death.
In verses 14-16 is the prediction that the Lord would scatter those men who were around about Zedekiah to help him “toward every wind”; and that He would “draw out the sword after them.” They would, according to verse 15, be dispersed among the nations and scattered throughout all countries. There would, however, be left a few of them from the sword, the famine, and from the pestilence, that they might declare “all their abominations among the nations whither they come”; and that they might come to know Jehovah himself personally.
In verses 17-20 the prophet was commanded to perform another symbolic act by eating his bread and drinking his water trembling with tearfulness. Thus he was to go through these motions while he experienced these emotions within. And he was to declare to the people:
They shall eat their bread with fearfulness, and drink their water in dismay, that her land may be desolate, and despoiled of all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. 20 And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be a desolation; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 12:19b,20)
II. The Attitude of the People Toward Prophecy
As said in the introductory discussion of this lesson, many of the people had come to the conclusion that, since the judgment threatened was not executed immediately, prophecy therefore was not to be depended upon; because the visions which the prophet had seen before had not, as they thought, materialized. Thus the people formed a proverb and repeated it constantly: “The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth.” Because of this attitude, the Lord commanded the prophet to speak to the people and say: “I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the fulfillment of every vision” (vs. 23). The judgment was to fall upon the nation. There would be no occasion for anyone's seeing any false visions or flattering divinations within the house of Israel regarding the fall of the nation. In order to emphasize the certainty of the vision, God said, “For I am Jehovah; I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall be performed; it shall be no more deferred: for in your days, 0 rebellious house, will I speak the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord Jehovah” (vss. 24,25). On the other hand, there were those who declared that the visions which Ezekiel had seen were not for their own time but were for the distant future. In reply to this attitude, therefore, the Lord said: “There shall none of my words be deferred any more, but the word which I shall speak shall be performed, saith the Lord Jehovah” (vs. 28). “We have the word of prophecy made more sure,” declared Peter, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19). That is the message regarding the word of prophecy for us today. Every word from God is backed up by the power of the Almighty. He will fulfill every promise and carry out every threat.