The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (8)
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
Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
In our study of the Book of Ezekiel we have come to chapters 15 and 16 which present the necessity for Israel's punishment. In chapter 15 Israel is represented as a vine that, at its best and unimpaired, is not good for material out of which to manufacture any articles. Much less is it of any value after it has been burned and charred greatly in the fire. In chapter 16 the prophet has changed his figure and has represented Jerusalem, the capital of the Israelitish nation, under the symbolism of an unfaithful, adulterous wife. Thus in these two graphic symbolic representations the prophet has shown the necessity for the punishing of Israel.
Israel, The Charred, Burnt Vine
In Psalm 80:8-16 the hymn writer represented Israel as a vine, which the Lord got in the land of Egypt, brought to Palestine, planted in a most fruitful hill, and prepared room before it. Under the most favorable conditions it “took deep root, and filled the land.” It sent out its roots “unto the sea, And its shoots unto the River” — to the Mediterranean on the west and the Euphrates River on the east. Finally God removed the hedge which He had placed about it and allowed the boar out of the forest and the wild beasts from the fields to come in and to tread it down and thus destroy this vine. There is a cause for everything which God does. When we read this passage in the light of others which have bearing upon the subject, we see that it is for the sins of Israel that she, the vine, is trodden down.
Again, Isaiah the prophet, in chapter 5, spoke of Israel and compared her to the Lord's vineyard, which He planted in a most fertile and prepared hill. He spared no efforts in order that it might be a fruitful and a productive vineyard. At the time of fruit the owner of the vineyard came, looking for fruit. Instead of finding large, luscious grapes of justice and righteousness, He found the wild bitter grapes of injustice and oppression. Thus He threatened that He would destroy this vineyard.
Again, in Matthew 21:33-46, the Lord represented Israel by a vineyard which the owner thereof let out to husbandmen. At the time of fruit he sent his messengers, but the husbandmen refused to turn over the fruit to them, but rather mistreated his servants. Finally the owner sent his only son, thinking that they would respect him. Instead of recognizing his authority, they slew him. Then the landlord said he would come and destroy those miserable servants and would let out the vineyard to those servants who would bring forth the fruit thereof.
All of these passages to which I have just referred present the same lesson under a similar symbolic representation as that which was employed by Ezekiel in chapter 15. Each of these messages sounds the note of Israel's sin and of her sure punishment.
The grapevine, when it is whole without having been injured in any way, is not good for the purpose of manufacturing any article; much less is it of use after it has been injured by being burnt in the fire. Israel was created for a special mission in the world — to be the repository of the truth of God and to give it forth to the world. She was to preserve the sacred forms of religion intact and deliver the message of divine love without modification — addition or subtraction. Her mission in the world is a spiritual one. It is not any of the regular tasks and vocations of life. God wished to make a holy priesthood out of her (Exod., chap. 19). But she would not be obedient to the calling of God. The time will come, however, when she will, and thus she will fit into her world mission eventually when the Lord returns, and she accepts Him as her long-rejected Messiah.
Israel, The Adulterous Wife
Hosea was one of the earliest writing prophets. He represented Israel as the wife of Jehovah. The Lord instructed this prophet to take to himself an adulteress for a wife and to rear a family, which thing he did. After their home had been blessed by the advent of three children, the prophet's wife went back to the old life from which she had been rescued when he married her. The Lord used Hosea, his wife, children, and their experiences to set forth the spiritual conditions that existed in Israel. In this presentation Gomer, Hosea's wife, represented Israel who proved to be unfaithful to Jehovah, her husband. Isaiah presented the same picture; however, not in such a graphic manner as did Hosea.
Throughout the messages of the prophets we see that Israel is represented as committing adultery. This term was used with reference to her going off into idolatry and joining herself to some foreign god. Since she was considered the wife of Jehovah, and since she turned from Jehovah, her true husband, to some foreign gods, she was said to commit adultery. We should always remember this representation as we read the messages of the prophets.
One should read very carefully Ezekiel, chapter 16, and then turn to Ezekiel, chapter 23. In the latter passage the prophet goes more into detail concerning the two cities, Jerusalem and Samaria. But in these two chapters the low spiritual condition of Israel is presented.
I. The Foundling Period of Israel
In the first seven verses of Ezekiel, chapter 16, God speaks of the origin of the city of Jerusalem and says that an Amorite was the father and a Hittite the mother of the Holy City. This statement might be understood as having an historical basis. Possibly the original founders of the city were Amorites and Hittites. The history of Jerusalem has been indeed a checkered one throughout the centuries.
The Lord represented Jerusalem as a newborn baby girl that was cast out at birth to perish as was the custom of the times among many heathen nations with reference to girl babies. For instance, the Romans did not care very much for the girls, but they took their pride and delight in the boys. Very frequently a girl baby was cast out to perish and die. Only by the mercy or providential overruling of God was such a child as that picked up and preserved. Thus God represented Jerusalem as a baby girl cast out to perish. He passed by, His heart was moved with compassion and love, and He took the child and cared for it.
II. The Wedding Time
In verses 8-14 we advance from the earliest period of Israel's history to the time of the Exodus. The little foundling baby girl has grown to womanhood and is ready to be married. The Lord passes by. He sees her. He falls in love with her and takes her to Himself. This is the time of love. The Lord therefore spreads His skirt over her. This was an ancient custom of betrothal and marriage. See Ruth 3:9. Thus at this time the Lord swears to her and enters into an oath with her that He will be her husband and that she, Israel, shall become His wife.
The time when the Lord entered into covenant relationship with Israel is none other than that when Moses went down into Egypt and by the mighty power of God brought Israel forth to Mount Sinai, where He entered into a covenant with her an gave her His law.
One should, if he is not altogether familiar with the historical facts, read carefully Exodus, chapters 1-24. In these historical chapters, one will see that Israel was in Egypt suffering terrific bondage. The Lord brought her forth to Mount Sinai and thus entered into the state of matrimony with her.
From that time and onwards Israel's husband, the Lord Jehovah, gave her everything that was necessary for her happiness and well-being. As a loving husband spares no pains or expense in providing everything that is calculated to make his bride happy, joyful, and contented, thus the Lord did for Israel. Hence, in verses 9-14, the Lord speaks of the spiritual blessings and like-wise the material ones which He bestowed upon her after they entered into covenant relation. She was so very highly favored and blessed that she prospered and advanced to royal estate. She became the queen of Jehovah.
III. Israel's Numerous Infidelities
It was not long after the marriage ceremony and festivities were over until Israel began to play the harlot. Historically she did it at Mount Sinai when Moses was in the mount and when she made the golden calf to worship. From that time and onward she began to flirt with other gods and to give them the loyalty of her heart. Thus we see in verses 15-34 a graphic representation of the lewdness of the chosen people. The prophet began this section by saying, “But thou didst trust in thy beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy whoredoms on every one that passed by; his it was.”
If anyone will read carefully verses 15-22, he will see that the prophet speaks of the idolatrous acts in which Israel engaged in relation to the nations of Canaan who were in the land of Palestine when she came out of Egypt and entered it.
But when we come to verse 23, we see that there is a change in the description. Instead of playing the harlot with the Canaanitish gods, she became tired of her early paramours and began to run after foreigners. Among those to whom she went are the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, or Chaldeans. In going after the gods of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon, Israel conducted herself in such a way as to make even the Philistines ashamed of her. Thus she uncovered her nakedness and committed abominations in the sight of God constantly.
Her playing the harlot with the gods of the Canaanites, the Amorites, and all of the nations of Canaan, is set forth in a clear picture in the Book of Judges and the early history of Israel as recorded in the Book of First Samuel. One may turn to the Books of Kings and Chronicles and there see Israel as she engaged in her idolatrous practices with foreign nations, the greater powers, who lay on the political horizon of the day.
In verses 30 and 31 the prophet exclaimed, “How weak is thy heart, saith the Lord Jehovah, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an impudent harlot; 31 in that thou buildest thy vaulted place at the head of every way, and makest thy lofty place in every street, and hast not been as a harlot, in that thou scornest hire.” Israel's heart was indeed weak. Otherwise she would have been faithful and true to God who manifested Himself to her in a signal and a marked way, in a way that was unmistakable. Israel therefore was without excuse. Only through the weakness of the heart could she have done what she did.
IV. The Punishment of the Adulterous Wife
In verses 35-43 we have a detailed prophecy concerning the punishment which God would bring upon Israel, His adulterous wife, who had played the harlot from the very beginning of her marriage to Him.
The Lord therefore said that He would bring her lovers with whom she had played the harlot, would gather them against her on every hand, and would uncover her nakedness unto them that they might see all of her nakedness. The Lord threatened to judge her as a woman that breaks wedlock. Moreover, He threatened to bring upon her the blood of wrath and of jealousy. God, her husband, was jealous because of what she had done and was doing. He therefore had a right to be wrathful and jealous toward her. He therefore threatened that He would bring upon her the wrath of blood and of jealousy. In verse 39 He spoke of her under the symbolism of an unfaithful woman and said that He would bring her into the land of her paramours, would throw down all of her high places, would strip her of all of her clothes, take her fair jewels, and leave her naked and bare. This is a prophecy concerning the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Finally, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldeans came and fought against Israel, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, threw it down, and took its population into exile. This prophecy of the siege under the Babylonians is continued in verses 40 and 41.
Because Israel had forgotten how God had taken her up, had blessed her, and had been merciful to her. He declared that He would punish her for all of her wicked ways and doings.
V. The Daughter Like the Mother
The familiar saying, “blood will tell,” is true every time. It is a wonderful thing to be well-born, to have good ancestry lying behind one. Those people who are thus well-born have much to praise and thank God for. But it is far better to be born the second time, which experience brings one into the great family of God and gives one a new nature, the divine nature.
God spoke in verses 44-52 of Israel and of her being like her mother and like her sisters. All too frequently good men have married girls of a low origin, whose mothers before them were harlots. Though they may be reared under good influences that are brought about by the father and may be shielded in a way under the paternal roof, when these good influences are removed the low character of the birth of these girls asserts itself and they go into harlotry. I have seen and known of numbers of instances like this. Of course, had these girls been born again they would have been lifted above such a life of sin and vice. But when they are not thus born again, the original bad blood will tell. As one noted evangelist shouted, “Blood will tell! blood will tell! blood will tell!” Thus the prophet, in verses 44-52 centered all of his remarks around that one thought. Jerusalem, the wife of Jehovah, unregenerated, continued to hobnob with her sisters, Samaria on the left and Sodom on the right. And she even exceeded them in sinfulness. When we judge sin, we must take into consideration the advantages and opportunities which a person has enjoyed. Thus Israel, after having had unparalleled advantages and opportunities which neither Samaria nor Sodom ever enjoyed yet surpassed them in her lewdness and in her departures from God. She therefore was far worse off than they.
VI. The Restoration and Punishment of Jerusalem, Samaria, and Sodom
In the next paragraph (Ezekiel 16:53-59) we see a promise that God will bring back the captivity of Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem. While the people who were actually in the city of Sodom when it was overthrown were destroyed, doubtless there were many of their inhabitants who were living abroad, just as there are Europeans who are residing in this country. Nevertheless they are citizens of their native land. So there were doubtless many of the Sodomites who were living in other lands when the stroke of judgment from God wiped out Sodom. These descendants will be restored to their native fatherland and Sodom will rise again in the end time, together with Samaria and Jerusalem. Each of these will bear the punishment of their sins. An inviolable law of God Almighty is that anyone reaps what he has sowed. He should not deceive himself. This law is universal. Thus these various cities must suffer the punishment for their sins after being restored.
VII. God's Remembering His Covenant with Israel
In verses 60-63 the prophet concluded his message concerning Israel and her lewdness in departing from the Lord. Notwithstanding what she has done in the past, the Lord declared, “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant” (vs. 60). As is well known by all Bible students, especially those who have given particular attention to the prophetic word, God entered into an unconditional covenant with Abraham and his seed. According to the promise the Lord will bless the world in and through Israel. No provisos were stated, nor were any conditions implied. By no unbiased study of the Scriptures can one read into this covenant any conditions. Off course when Israel was disobedient to God, she was unusable. The gifts and the callings of God are not repented of. Isaiah spoke of the Lord's entering into an everlasting covenant with Israel when He brings her back at the end of this age and restores her to fellowship with Himself. This is seen in Isaiah 61:8. Again, Ezekiel speaks of this everlasting covenant in 37:26. Jeremiah also foretold this covenant, as is set forth in Jeremiah 31:31ff. Great will be the day when Israel turns to her God and pleads for her Messiah to return, and He enters into this everlasting covenant with her.