The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (14)
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
Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
Jerusalem was the capital of the kingdom of Judah. Of course it was the principal city of the kingdom. All vices gravitated toward this spiritual center, as they always do with reference to any leading city of any nation, regardless of the time. All the prophets denounced the nation, as well as the city, for its corrupt living. At the same time they acknowledged any excellencies that obtained at any time.
Jerusalem the Wicked Bloody, and Idolatrous City
Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2 And thou, son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? then cause her to know all her abominations. 5 And thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: A city that sheddeth blood in the midst of her, that her time may come, and that maketh idols against herself to defile her! 4 Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed, and art defiled in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the nations, and a mocking to all the countries. 5 Those that are near, and those that are far from thee, shall mock thee, thou infamous one and full of tumult.” (Ezekiel 22:1-5)
According to verse 2 the Lord asked Ezekiel to judge the “bloody city.” In doing this, he was to cause her to know all of her “abominations.” The word abominations has not only the idea of that which is abhorrent, but it has a specific technical meaning in the Old Testament in referring to an idol. It is quite likely that it has both of these significations in this place, because the city had been given over to idolatry and the people at the same time were engaging in abominable practices, things despicable to God. That it does have the technical meaning of being the name of an idol is immediately apparent from verse 3 where Jerusalem is called the city that sheds blood and that makes herself defiled with idols. The prophet was to inform the people that the city's time had come, that is, the time for the Judgment of God to fall upon it. The oracle in chapter 20 was spoken in the seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity, which was the sixth year of Zedekiah's reign. Three years later the Babylonians drew up their forces in besieging the city and overrunning the country. Thus practically the time had arrived for the judgment of Almighty God to fall upon the city.
Israel by her conduct had brought all of these things upon herself. She had acted in such a way in the presence of the surrounding nations that they simply mocked at her. Not only those that were near, but those that were afar off who would hear of the conditions in Palestine made a laughingstock of her.
Behold, the princes of Israel, every one according to his power, have been in thee to shed blood. 7 In thee have they set light by father and mother; in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the sojourner; in thee have they wronged the fatherless and the widow. 8 Thou hast despised, my holy things, and hast profaned my sabbaths. 9 Slanderous men have been in thee to shed blood; and in thee they have eaten upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they have committed lewdness. 10 In thee have they uncovered their fathers' nakedness; in thee have they humbled her that was unclean in her impurity. 11 And one hath committed abomination with his neighbor's wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father's daughter. 12 In thee have they taken bribes to shed blood; thou hast taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by oppression, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord Jehovah” (Ezekiel 22:6-12)
According to verse 6 the princes and the political leaders in the nation did that which was in their power, even to the shedding of blood. From verse 7 we see that the children had no respect for the parents — a sign of a decadent age. We also see that the inhabitants of the city took advantage of the sojourner and oppressed him. They had little regard for the fatherless and the widow. This is a terrible sin in the sight of God and one for which God will call everyone thus practicing it to a strict account.
From verse 8 we learn that the inhabitants of Jerusalem had little regard for holy and sacred things. Moreover they profaned the sabbath. They simply observed that sacred day because they were by custom forced to do so. They were always eager for it to pass so that they could begin their commercial transactions again and thus make money.
In verse 9 we see that men with little regard for the truth would slander others and were swift to shed blood. They would eat upon the mountains. This statement possibly refers to the practice of engaging in idolatrous worship, which was conducted upon the high places. In connection with heathen services and pagan rites they would eat with idolaters and thus become defiled. The verse concludes with a statement that they also committed lewdness in the midst of the city where the sacred Temple of God stood.
Continuing his enumeration of prevalent sins, the prophet in verse 10 declared that a man would uncover his father's nakedness and would humble the woman who was unclean in her impurity. The morals were so very low that, according to verse 11, one would commit abomination with his neighbor's wife; another lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law. There were those who humbled their sisters. Such sins of immorality were being practiced there as were common among the Gentiles who did not have the light that the Israelites had.
Bribery was the order of the day. Men and women did not refuse to take bribes to shed innocent blood. They took interest and increase from the poor, which thing the Lord positively prohibited. The bulk were grafters and sought gain from their neighbors by oppression. They did these things because they had forgotten the Lord God. These verses at which we have first looked paint one of the darkest immoral pictures ever depicted by the prophets of Israel. A holy God cannot tolerate such wickedness. A day of reckoning must always surely come.
Behold, therefore, I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. 14 Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and will do it. 15 And I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I will consume thy filthiness out of thee. 16 And thou shalt be profaned in thyself, m the sight of the nations; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah” (Ezekiel 22:13-16)
Speaking for God, the prophet declared: “I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gain which thou has made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee.” As a person who is indignant at the practices of certain ones slaps his hands together in a most determined gesture against the evil, thus the prophet did in order to express God's great disapproval of the actions and the lives of the people to whom he was speaking.
From verse 14 we learn that the prophet asked the people whether or not their hands would be strong in the day that God would deal with them. God will certainly deal with everyone. There is no such thing as our escaping His dealing with us, whether our deeds be righteous or unrighteous.
The threat of the punishment which the Lord would administer to Israel for her sins is expressed in verse 15 in these words: “And I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I will consume thy filthiness out of thee.” Moses and all the prophets warned the people that God would not tolerate their wickedness and sin but would on account of their persistent evil and wickedness scatter them among the nations of earth. He allowed the Assyrians to take some of the northern tribes into captivity. Judah, notwithstanding this stroke of judgment, persisted in her sin. The Lord therefore brought Nebuchadnezzar into Palestine and caused him to overthrow the government and carry many of the leaders into exile. It is true that, at the expiration of the seventy years of Babylonian captivity, the Lord brought back those who were willing to follow and serve Him. But when those in the land and those who lived dispersed among the nations rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as the Hebrew Messiah, the Lord used the Romans in scattering Israel among the nations and destroying every vestige of her national life and activity. Thus Israel has been scattered among the nations for practically nineteen hundred years. Since she has been scattered throughout the world, God has made her profane in the eyes of die nations. Anti-Semitism is rife on every hand. The Jew is a hiss, a curse, a proverb, and a byword upon the lips of all nations. God will, however, punish every anti-Semite and all those who abuse or mistreat the Jews. To Abraham He said that He would bless those who would bless him and his seed, and that He would curse those who curse the Jews. No nation can mistreat the Jews and escape severe punishment from God. At the same time the Lord punishes His Chosen People because of their sins and their having rejected their Lord, Saviour, and Messiah.
May the Lord hasten the day when Israel will see her mistake, will repudiate the national sin, and will plead for the Messiah to return. When she does, that will be a great, grand, and glorious day.
Jerusalem's Punishment and Purification
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 18 Son of man, the house of Israel is become dross unto me: all of them are brass and tin and iron and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are the dross of silver. 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye are all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my wrath, and I will lay you there, and melt you. 21 Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you with the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. 22 As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have poured out my wrath upon you” (Ezekiel 22:17-22)
In verse 18 Ezekiel speaks of the little kingdom of Judah as “the house of Israel.” From the historical records we know that certain ones of the northern kingdom gravitated toward the southern kingdom and became absorbed in it. Jeremiah and Ezekiel use the terms, house of Israel and house of Judah, interchangeably. So do the prophets of the post-Exilic Period and the writers in the New Testament.
According to verse 18 Ezekiel declared that Israel had become dross, brass, tin, iron, and lead that are in the midst of the furnace. They were simply the dross of silver. In the verses first quoted the Lord compares Jerusalem to a furnace into which He puts the ore that contains the silver, the brass, the iron, the lead, and the tin. Having put the ore in, He declared that He would blow His fire upon it and melt it. Thus He spoke of the purging out of the dross from among His people in terms of the smelting process, of removing the dross from the silver and the gold.
According to verse 20 He does this in His anger and in His wrath. The same thought is repeated in verse 21, when all of the dross has been removed, the nation will know that Jehovah is God and that He has thus dealt with her as He has.
A Supplemental List of the Sins of Jerusalem and The Nation
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 24 Son of man, say unto her, Thou are a land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. 25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey: they have devoured souls; they take treasure and precious things; they have made her widows many in the midst thereof. 26 Her priests have done violence to my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they caused men to discern between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, that they may get dishonest gain. 28 And her prophets have daubed for them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, when Jehovah hath not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery; yea; they have vexed the poor and needy, and have oppressed the sojourner wrongfully. 30 And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. 31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I brought upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah” (Ezekiel 22:23-31)
On account of the uncleanness of the land the Lord declared that He would withhold the rain in the day of His indignation, in the time of His punishing the nation for its sins.
As we see in verse 25, there was a conspiracy of the prophets in the midst of the land. Ezekiel compared these prophets to roaring lions that were ravening the prey. Their prey was not that of animals, but of human souls. They by all means took every treasure and precious thing from the people and made many widows in the midst of the land.
The priests were no better, as we see in verse 26. They did violence to the law of God. They profaned the holy things in considering them as non-sacred matters. In other words, they did not take their services seriously. They were void or a conscience. They made no distinction between that which had been dedicated and was holy to God, and that which was for common consumption.
Moreover, they did not cause people to distinguish between that which was unclean and the clean. Certain things were recognized as clean and lawful others were unclean and prohibitive. It was the priest's duty to call the people's attention to these distinctions which were set forth in the law of God. Furthermore, they did not have any regard for the sabbath day, and we may judge from other statements that they had little regard for the regular set feasts of die Lord.
The princes, the ruling class, are in verse 27 compared to ravening wolves. They shed blood and carried on traffic in men's souls. To get gain was their motto, regardless of how they procured it. In verse 28 Ezekiel returned to the discussion of the prophets of the land, who are compared to masons building a wall, that budded with untempered mortar. Of course, structures thus built would tumble and fall. These prophets saw false visions and divined lies to the people, declaring that God was speaking through them. Unfortunately there are successors to these prophets in our modem pulpits today. Of course all of them are not of this character, but there are far too many who have never been called of God into the ministry, but who are simply making a profession of the ministry of the Word. They are not interested in men's souls and in speaking the revelation of God to the people.
Like priest, like people. We see in verse 29 that the people of the land used oppression and robbed the public. They vexed the poor and the needy and oppressed the sojourner wrongly.
Ezekiel, speaking for the Lord, declared that He had searched for a man who should build up the ruins and stand in the gap between Him (the Lord) and the land, that it might not be destroyed; but he found none. This calls to mind what Moses did. Israel complained continually against God's treatment of her. She sinned and rebelled against the Almighty. A crisis arrived. Moses threw himself in the breach and pleaded for the nation. Because of this marvelous petition of supplication, Israel was spared. On this point note what the Lord said: “Therefore he said that he would destroy them, Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach. To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them” (Psalm 106:23). Jeremiah went through the streets of Jerusalem looking for a man who was seeking justice and truth, but he found not a one (Jeremiah 5:1). The person for whom he was looking doubtless was a man of the highest type of character who would be an intercessor pleading for Israel.
In our thinking of intercessors and of the great results which have flowed from the prayers of such men of God, one immediately thinks of the Lord Jesus Christ who stepped in the breach and whose intercession and sacrifice in behalf of the human family have rescued countless millions from a never-ending hell. What the world needs to-day is consecrated, surrendered Christians who are living the victorious life to engage in the ministry of prayer. Prayer changes things. Prayer brings victory.
The eyes of the Lord are running to and fro throughout the earth to find those whose hearts are perfect toward God in order that He might show Himself strong in their behalf (II Chronicles 16:9). God is looking for men and women whom He can use, especially in intercessory prayer, in order that calamities and catastrophes might be averted. When there are no such ones to fall into the breach, the stroke of judgment must inevitably fall.
Since there was none to stand in the breach as Ezekiel says, God was forced to pour out His indignation upon the people and to consume them with the fire of His jealousy. God rewards each one according to his own works. That is the principle upon which He deals with men and will continue to do so.
While Christians are saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be rewarded according to their works and their deeds. The Lord punishes His people here for their misdeeds. The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God, declared the Apostle Peter. When we come before the Judgment seat of Christ, He will try our works whether they be good or bad and will reward us accordingly. May we, dear friends, who know the Lord be sincere and urgent about our Fathers business, glorifying Him by godly, consecrated lives.