The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (13)
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 Sword of Jehovah
Ezekiel 20:45 - 21:32
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 46 Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the field in the South; 47 and say to the forest of the South, Hear the word of Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burnt thereby. 48 And all flesh shall see that I, Jehovah, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched. 49 Then said I, Ah Lord Jehovah! they say of me, Is he not a speaker of parables? (Ezekiel 20:45-49)
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the sanctuaries, and prophesy against the land of Israel; 3 and say to the land of Israel, Thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked. 4 Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of its sheath against all flesh from the south to the north: 5 and all flesh shall know that I, Jehovah, have drawn forth my sword out of its sheath; it shall not return any more. 6 Sigh therefore, thou son of man; with the breaking of thy loins and with bitterness shalt thou sigh before their eyes. 7 And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt say, Because of the tidings, for it cometh; and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and it shall be done, saith the Lord Jehovah. 8 And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 9 Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah: Say, A sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also furbished; 10 it is sharpened that it may make a slaughter; it is furbished that it may be as lightning: shall we then make mirth? the rod of my son, it contemneth every tree.
11 And it is given to be furbished, that it may be handled: the sword, it is sharpened, yea, it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. 12 Cry and wail, son of man; for it is upon my people, it is upon all the princes of Israel: they are delivered over to the sword with my people; smite therefore upon thy thigh. 13 For there is a trial; and what if even the rod that contemneth shall be no more? saith the Lord Jehovah. 14 Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thy hands together; and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the deadly wounded: it is the sword of the great one that is deadly wounded, which entereth into their chambers. 15 I have set the threatening sword against all their gates, that their heart may melt, and their stumblings be multiplied: ah! it is made as lightning, it is pointed for slaughter. 16 Gather thee together, go to the right, set thyself in array, go to the left, whithersoever thy face is set. 17 I will also smite my hands together, and I will cause my wrath to rest: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. 18 The word of Jehovah came unto me again, saying, 19 Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come; they twain shall come forth out of one land: and mark out a place, mark it out at the head of the way to the city. 20 Thou shalt appoint a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and to Judah in Jerusalem the fortified.
21 For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he shook the arrows to and fro, he consulted the teraphim, he looked in the liver. 22 In his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build forts. 23 And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, who have sworn oaths unto them; but he bringeth iniquity to remembrance, that they may be taken. 24 Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand. 25 And thou, O deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day is come, in the time of the iniquity of the end, 26 thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Remove the mitre, and take off the crown; this shall be no more the same; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high. 27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: this also shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him. 28 And thou, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah concerning the children of Ammon, and concerning their reproach; and say thou, A sword, a sword is drawn, for the slaughter it is furbished, to cause it to devour, that it may be as lightning; 29 while they see for thee false visions, while they divine lies unto thee, to lay thee upon the necks of the wicked that are deadly wounded, whose day is come in the time of the iniquity of the end. 30 Cause it to return into its sheath. In the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy birth, will I judge thee. 31 And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee; I will blow upon thee with the fire of my wrath; and I will deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, skilful to destroy. 32 Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I, Jehovah, have spoken it.” (Ezekiel 21:1-32)
I shall assume that each one has read the text in the Scriptures which constitutes the exposition of this department in the present issue. Each therefore will understand that 20:45-49 is the prophet's parabolic introduction to his oracle which is contained in chapter 21. It is unfortunate that in the English Bible chapter 21 did not begin with verse 45 of chapter 20. In the Hebrew Bible the chapter division is in its proper place. Thus in it this preparatory paragraph is not cut off from the oracle which it introduces.
In this preface to the prediction the prophet thought of Palestine as a forest and spoke of it as “the forest of the field in the South.” Since the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains run throughout Syria and Palestine, all of the eastern Mediterranean coast was thought of as a single country, Lebanon. Frequently the prophets thus spoke. The Lebanon Mountains were famous for their cedars, whereas Bashan, east of the Sea of Galilee, was noted for its great oaks. From history and archaeology we know that Palestine during the Hebrew occupation was well-wooded. Of course the valleys were well-tilled. Ezekiel, then, in referring to Palestine proper spoke of it as being the forest of the South — south of those countries which are now known as the Lebanonese Republic and Syria.
In vision the prophet saw a great destructive forest fire sweeping over the entire country, burning both the green and the dead trees alike. This fire could not be quenched. The entire country was to be burned. This conflagration was of such a kind and nature that all flesh would recognize that it was God who kindled it.
Representing the nation of Israel in her land as a great forest was the same imagery which Zechariah used in chapter 11:1-5. In this passage he described a fire as beginning in the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains, sweeping southward into Bashan, and then veering to the southwest and coming down through the Jordan Valley into the southern part of the country.
Ezekiel's hearers realized that be was speaking in a parable. Being unwilling to receive the message of God, they, figuratively speaking, shrugged their shoulders and waived the matter by saying, “Is he not a speaker of parables?” Thus in this light, flippant manner they dismissed the revelation which God made to them and cast it into the limbo of fiction and folklore. What they did is characteristic of people today who do not wish to receive the Word of God.
The word parable is of Greek origin and means literally to throw something down beside another object. In other words, the known is laid beside the unknown in order that, by simple reasoning, one can arrive at the unknown. The prophets and the Lord Jesus himself frequently used this method of teaching. It is one of the most powerful ways of imparting truth. The flippant method of dealing with the sacred and unchangeable Word of God employed by the prophet's hearers reminds one of another incident in the life of Ezekiel. He had a vision of the future and faithfully proclaimed it to the people. In order to break the force of the revelation, they declared that the vision was for the distant future and that it did not pertain to them whatsoever. Regardless of how men treat the Word of God and what interpretation they put upon it, the Lord's will is established in heaven forever (Psalm 119:89).
The Sword of Jehovah
In 21:1-7 the prophet frankly and fully explains what he meant by his parable. This reminds one of the parable of the sower, given by the Lord Jesus in Matthew, chapter 13. He spoke the parable and later interpreted it. Ezekiel used his parable and then interpreted it.
As one sees from verses 1 and 2, the oracle was especially directed against Jerusalem with its grand Temple and also against the land of Israel. In verse 3 the Lord spoke these awful words: “Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.” God uses these words “I am against thee,” in His oracle against Gog, a future ruler of Russia when he decides to invade Palestine without any provocation whatsoever (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39). For God to be against one or a nation is a terrible situation.
The Lord represents Himself as a warrior whose sword at His side is in its sheath. But He is determined to go into battle; He therefore draws His sword and rushes into the fray. Going into action against the nation, He declares that He will cut off both the righteous and the wicked from Dan to Beersheba. Everyone who is acquainted with military action knows that, as a rule, the innocent suffer along with the guilty, the righteous together with the unrighteous.
The terrible consequences of this fight are so very appalling that the prophet, seeing the reality in vision, sighed and wept. See verses 6 and 7. His heart was overwhelmed at the sight.
The Lord frequently compared Himself to a warrior who had His sword and who used it on various occasions. One should in this connection read carefully Deuteronomy 32:39-42, where Moses used the same imagery and phraseology. Isaiah adopted the same figure in 66:15,16.
Another Picture of Jehovah's Sword
A further description of this sword of Jehovah is found in verses 8-17. In this paragraph the prophet was urged to speak as follows before his audience: “A sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also furbished; 10 it is sharpened that it may make a slaughter; it is furbished that it may be as lightning: shall we then make mirth? the rod of my son, it contenmeth every tree. 11 And it is given to be furbished, that it may be handled: the sword, it is sharpened, yea, it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer.” Thus in this most dramatic manner the prophet was to point the people to the fact that a sword, one that has been sharpened, one that has been furbished, one that has been polished, in order that it might be used in slaughter, was ready to be used against the land and the nation of Israel. It was to be put into the hands of a slayer who would use it in fighting against Israel.
On account of its brevity and cryptic brief expression, the sentence, “The rod of my son, it contemneth every tree,” is most difficult to be understood. Another rendering is given, as a second translation, in the revised version which is “it contemneth, the rod of my son, as every tree.” A marginal reading of the English Revised Version is “It is the rod of my son, it despiseth every tree.” Many explanations have been given of this language. I shall not therefore be dogmatic in interpreting it.
In order to approach this problem, one must turn back to Genesis 49:9,10. Here Jacob, in leaving his blessing with his sons, in verses 9-12 spoke to Judah in part as follows: Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up ... The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the obedience of the people be ...“ In this passage Judah, the head and representative of the tribe which descended from him, is thought of as seated with scepter in hand. The scepter of course is the symbol of rule and authority. The one into whose hand the Lord places His sword (Ezekiel 21:11) looks with contempt upon the scepter of Judah in the hand of the king who is then upon the throne. Not only does he assume this attitude toward the ruling power in Judah, but he looks at all other scepters of the nations in the same manner and thus contemneth every tree. In verse 12 the prophet is urged to wail and to weep for the children of Israel and for her princes who are doomed to be delivered over unto this sword of Jehovah that is in the hand of an aggressor.
Verse 13 likewise gives great difficulty. The marginal reading of this verse is: “What if the sword contemn even the rod? It shall be no more.” If we accept this marginal reading, the prophet seems to say that there is going to be a trial through which the nation will be caused to pass. What will be the result if this sword makes a complete job and no longer contemns even the rod? If we take this interpretation, then it would imply that the throne would be swept aside and would not be occupied by any of David's descendants, at least for some time as we shall see when we investigate verse 27.
In verse 14 the prophet was commanded to smite his hands together and then double the sword the third time. This language likewise is rather vague. Some have thought that it meant that he was to cut in one direction with the sword and then back in the opposite direction. In this way he would be doubling or bending back the sword. He was to perform this act three times. This symbolic act was to indicate the ferocity and the vigor with which this sword of the Lord would be wielded by the aggressor. This would bring untold suffering and distress upon the nation. In verse 17 the Lord declared that the punishment will be sufficient and that His wrath will rest — that is, for the time being — when this aggressor will have thus wielded the sword against His people.
The King Of Babylon the Wielder of the Sword
In verses 18-23 we see that the king of Babylon, who was Nebuchadnezzar was the one into whose hands God placed His sword in order that he might fight against His Chosen People. In these verses the prophet sees in vision Nebuchadnezzar on the march. In order to carry out the divine decree, he comes to the parting of the ways. The right hand road is the one that leads to Jerusalem; the left hand to Rabbah of Ammon, the capital of the children of Ammon. Here Nebuchadnezzar halts at the parting of the ways. He is undecided as to which way he will take — which people he will attack first. He solves his quandary by making sacrifices to his gods and by means of divinations and the casting of lots. The heathen people would make sacrifices and those who were considered as experts in divination would look at the vital organs of the slain animal and would attempt to interpret the nervous reaction of the vitals of the animals and interpret this as indicative of the will of the gods. Moreover the color of these vital organs was considered as revealing or helping to reveal the will of the gods. After the proper sacrifices were made, the lots were cast. Such divination was common throughout the world in Ezekiel's day and time. When Nebuchadnezzar had thus performed his sacrifices, and his diviners had pronounced the will of the gods, the lots were cast. The lot fell upon Jerusalem. Of course all of this divination was heathen, anti-biblical. In verses 22 and 23 the prophet reveals that Nebuchadnezzar is led by his divination to come against Jerusalem in order to fight against it and to overthrow it.
Wishful thinking is not something that is of recent origin. The Jews of Jerusalem and Palestine were doing some wishful thinking according to verse 25. They interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's following his divination to come against Jerusalem as something false. But it was a reality. Of course the gods did not reveal their will — for they were nonentities — through divinations to Nebuchadnezzar. God was overruling in the case and was directing him, Nebuchadnezzar, though he did not realize this fact, against His ancient people to punish them for their sins. But according to the last clause of verse 23 God was bringing Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem because of the peoples' sins and to bring iniquity to remembrance.
The Prince of Israel in the End Time
Verses 24-27 contain a marvelous revelation. The passage is rather brief and concise and is, on this account, rather difficult of interpretation. But we shall endeavor to learn what we can about it. Verse 24 which speaks of God's overruling providence and His punishment of Israel for her wickedness is clear. But verses 25-27 are the difficult portion of the oracle.
Who is this “deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day is come, in the time of the iniquity of the end?” Is this a native Jew who will attempt to reign over Israel in the end time? Obviously the prophet in these verses was looking across the centuries and was addressing this prince of Israel of the end time. Is there to be, then, a prince who will rise over Israel? If so, will he be the world ruler or will he be one of the ten kings symbolized by the ten toes of Daniel's metallic image, chapter 2, and one of the ten horns of the wild beast of Daniel, chapter 7? When we read this prophecy in the light of Daniel, chapters 2 and 7, and Revelation, chapters 13 and 17, we come to the conclusion that he is either one of the ten horns on the beast or that he is the little horn that comes up after the ten and is in the midst of them.
When we study Daniel, chapter 7, carefully, we see that the world will be headed up into one great colossal government (Dan 7:23). That world government will collapse and fall into ten separate kingdoms, over each of which parts there will arise a dictator who seizes the power. After this development there will arise out of obscurity a man symbolized by the little horn who will ingratiate himself into the favor of these ten dictators, and who will eventually draw the power and authority from these ten and center it in himself. In the midst of the Tribulation he will put down three of these ten, but he will be supreme over the seven that remain.
It is altogether possible that this prince of Israel of the end time mentioned in Ezekiel 21:25 may be one of those ten kings, who will be reigning over the Jewish people. Or it is entirely possible that he might be the Antichrist himself who will be reigning over the entire world, including the Jewish people. Since, he will be reigning over the Jews as he reigns over the entire world, he could be called the prince of Israel in this passage. Such an interpretation is in accord with the general usage of language.
If we are inclined to this interpretation we might connect Ezekiel 21:25-27 with Revelation, chapters 13 and 17. In Revelation, chapter 13, we see the Antichrist going to Jerusalem, sitting in the Jewish Temple rebuilt in the end time presenting himself to the people as God, and opposing everything that is called God. About that time he receives a deadly stroke. In fact the Greek carries the idea that it is a death stroke. He descends to the nether world but is brought back by Satan and reigns with a hand of tyranny throughout the latter half of the Tribulation.
In Ezekiel 21:27 the deadly wounded wicked prince of Israel of the end time attempts to put on the crown and the mitre, the regal crown and the priestly mitre. God forbids his doing that and says that no one has any right to wear that crown “until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.” This one whose right it is to reign can be none other than the Hebrew Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who is to be a King and at the same time Priest upon the throne of Israel and reign over the entire world at His return (read Zechariah 6:9-15).
When we take all the facts into consideration that are set forth in the passages referred to, one is inclined to believe that this deadly wounded wicked one is the world ruler, the Antichrist, of the end time. If we accept this interpretation, does that force us to accept the proposition that the Antichrist will be a Jew? Not necessarily so. Herod the Great was part Jew and part Idumean, yet he was recognized as the king of Judea at the time when Jesus was born. In the same manner the Antichrist, who according to Daniel 9:26 is to be of Roman extraction, may be recognized as the prince of Israel. At the same time the Antichrist may be a Jew who comes to the throne of the world, and who goes to Jerusalem in the middle of the Tribulation and attempts to put upon his head a Jewish crown, in addition to the world crown, and also the priestly mitre. When he attempts to do this, God blocks the way; for such prerogatives and authority belong only to the Messiah of Israel.
The Oracle Against Ammon
In verses 28-32 appears the oracle concerning the children of Ammon. This same sword that was sharpened and furbished, and that was put into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar as he went against Jerusalem, was to be used against the children of Ammon, inveterate enemies of the Jews. Thus a fate similar to that which came upon the Jews is here foretold as coming upon the children of Ammon.