MISTREATMENT AND MALICE TOWARDS ISRAEL BY SURROUNDING PROUD PAGAN NATIONS WILL BE PUNISHED BY GOD
Here we see the beginning of the second main section of the Book of Ezekiel. The earlier chapters had dealt with the Fall of Jerusalem. Now the prophet turns his attention to external enemies. Judgment begins at the house of God, but it then extends beyond the borders of Israel. This should actually be a comfort to God’s people. The four foreign nations targeted in this first set of prophecies were either related by bloodlines to Judah or were bordering nations. They were all cited for their attitudes towards God’s chosen people (including pride, hatred, and revenge) that justified divine wrath. It is remarkable that chapters 25-32 fail to target Babylon for judgment; Babylon will end up conquering these other nations that are mentioned. Other prophets will have specific messages for Babylon.
Leslie Allen: The tradition of issuing oracles against foreign countries or cities is an ancient one in Israelite prophecy (cf. Clements, Prophecy and Tradition, 58–61). The tradition was well maintained in the prophetic books, each of the major books having a distinct and lengthy section devoted to this genre (cf. Amos 1–2). The present collection in chaps. 25–32 begins with a cluster of five short oracles directed against four of Judah’s neighbors, Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia. Form-critically they are all proof sayings developed from judgment oracles by the addition of the recognition formula. Each is introduced by the messenger formula and proceeds from reasoned accusation (יען “because”) to a logical verdict (לכן“therefore”) and the closing recognition formula. . .
The end of chap. 24 gave a hint that the tide of Yahweh’s dealings with his people was to turn. That hint is taken up in this chapter, the first part of a series of foreign oracles. Its role is to bring reassurance to the Judeans, in a roundabout way. The chapter virtually takes up a host of communal laments for Yahweh to intervene on his people’s behalf. Israel has been overwhelmed by crisis, and their enemies have taken advantage of the situation and derided them—and thereby done despite to Yahweh’s own concerns (cf. Pss 74:7, 10, 18, 22; 79:1, 4, 10, 12).
Iain Duguid: The nations around Judah are addressed in clockwise order, starting with Ammon in the Transjordan to the east of the northern kingdom of Israel, and moving south to the other Transjordanian foes, Moab and Edom. After that, the prophet turns his attention west to Philistia in the southern coastal plain and then north to the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.
Lamar Cooper: Those who oppose God and his people never gain by their opposition. The prophecies against foreign nations show both God’s concern for the redemption of all people and his determination to judge sin wherever and whenever the standards of his word are violated (25:1–32:32).
I. (:1-5) PROPHECY AGAINST AMMON
“And the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
A. (:2-3a) Authoritative Word of Prophetic Judgment
“Son of man, set your face toward the sons of Ammon, and prophesy against them, 3 and say to the sons of Ammon, ‘Hear the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God,’”
Douglas Stuart: The Ammonites are perhaps mentioned first in this section of oracles against foreign nations because the only previous such oracle was also about Ammon (21:28–32). At any rate, nothing we know about the Ammonites would suggest that they are mentioned first because of their prominence or the severity of their enmity to Israel or the like.
The Ammonites occupied the territory east of the Jabbok River, on the fringe of the Arabian desert. They had a long history of enmity to Israel, starting with their support for hiring the false prophet Balaam against Israel (Deut. 23:3–6). They were one of the oppressors in the days of the Judges (Judg. 3:13; 10:6–11:33) and Saul (1 Sam. 11). David fought them (2 Sam. 10, 12), and in the days of Jehoshaphat they attacked Judah (2 Chr. 20). Ammonite enmity against Israel continued through the days of Jehoiakim (609–598 b.c.; 2 Kin. 24:2), that is, into Ezekiel’s day.
Lamar Cooper: The Ammonites were known for their excesses in idolatries (1 Kgs 11:7, 33), cruelty (Amos 1:13), pride (Zeph 2:9–10), and opposition to God’s people (Deut 23:3–4; Judg 3:13; 1 Sam 11:1–3; 2 Sam 10:1–14; 2 Kgs 24:2; Neh 4:3, 7–8). They were among the bitterest enemies of Israel and Judah, a somber testimony to the ungodliness that Lot and his daughters brought with them when they left Sodom. The daughters thought there was no one to carry the family name. They did not look to God for a solution but instead made their father drunk, then had sexual relations with him and became pregnant by him (Gen 19:30–36). Their descendants became enemies of all that was good and godly (v. 2).
B. (:3b) Charge = Reason for Judgment = Indictment
“Because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned,
and against the land of Israel when it was made desolate,
and against the house of Judah when they went into exile,”
Douglas Stuart: After the typical introduction (v. 1), Ezekiel is told to “set” his “face against” (i.e., show clear opposition to) the Ammonites (v. 2) and to condemn their delight at the fall of Jerusalem (“My sanctuary”), the desolation of Judah (“the land”), and the exile of the Judeans (“the house of Judah”) in verse 3. Their “Aha!” (v. 3) was the virtual equivalent of our modern “Oh boy,” “Wow,” or “Hooray.” In verse 6, clapping and stamping are actions accompanying rejoicing over the misfortune of God’s people. The Ammonites, long enemies of Israel and Judah, were certainly taking pleasure in seeing Judah’s final downfall in 586 b.c.
Derek Thomas: The lesson is one of failure to appreciate that the fall of a neighbour is one that can befall us too, apart from the grace of God. Every time we see another fall into sin, even if he is our enemy, we should show no gleeful delight, but rather compassion and thankfulness: compassion, for we are to love even our enemies, and thankfulness that ‘There go I, but for the grace of God.’
C. (:4-5) Punishment = Description of Judgment = Sentence
“therefore, behold, I am going to give you to the sons of the east for a possession, and they will set their encampments among you and make their dwellings among you; they will eat your fruit and drink your milk.
And I shall make Rabbah a pasture for camels
and the sons of Ammon a resting place for flocks.”
Lamar Cooper: Ezekiel prophesied four coming judgments upon the Ammonites. First, they too would be taken captive. They would not escape unscathed the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar. Their land would be occupied by the desert tribes of Arabs who lived to the east of the Ammonites (v. 4). Second, their capital, Rabbah, would be destroyed. It would no longer be a great city but would become a habitation and pasture for camels (v. 5). The former capital, Ammon, would be desolate and overgrown after visitation of God’s judgment (see 21:25). The reason for this judgment is restated. Ammon gloated and rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem (v. 6).
D. (:5b) Recognition Refrain
“Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”
Leslie Allen: Hitherto punisher of a disobedient covenant people, Yahweh reveals himself as their patron, now that judgment has been carried out. The land was a third entity in the triangular covenant relationship and functioned as the gauge of its healthy or sorry state. Accordingly desolation of the land and expulsion from it featured in the punishment of his people. Now, with surprising grace, Yahweh proposes to leap to their defense. The oracle against Ammon clearly functions as an affirmation of support for the Judeans. The motifs of territorial desolation and deprivation were to boomerang into Ammon’s experience.
Iain Duguid: As a result of this judgment the Ammonites “will know that I am the Lord” (25:7). This recognition formula, which occurs over sixty times in Ezekiel as a whole, is a dominant theme in these foreign nation oracles. The nations will recognize the Lord’s sovereignty when he acts to judge not only his own people but them as well. In so doing, he will demonstrate that he is the only one with power to judge or to deliver; in the face of the Lord’s fury, their gods are impotent to save them.
II. (:6-7) PROPHECY AGAINST AMMON CONTINUED
“For thus says the Lord God,”
A. (:6) Charge
“Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet
and rejoiced with all the scorn of your soul against the land of Israel,”
Leslie Allen: The previous message is reinforced by another, supplementary one. It reflects more emotion in its description of Ammon’s insulting behavior: hand, foot and inner being had joined forces in a totality of opposition. In reprisal total extinction is threatened for the body politic. The harshness of the verdict corresponds to the depth of feeling aroused in the accusation.
B. (:7a) Punishment
“therefore, behold, I have stretched out My hand against you,
and I shall give you for spoil to the nations.
And I shall cut you off from the peoples
and make you perish from the lands;
I shall destroy you.”
Lamar Cooper: Third, Ammon would be plundered by the nations around them. They would become a spoil of war. Fourth, the country would disappear from the family of nations. Jeremiah predicted a return of the Ammonites (Jer 49:6), suggesting that perhaps his prophecy referred to an earlier occasion. The truth of Ezekiel’s prophecy is a matter of historical record. Ammon, as a nation, no longer existed after its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and plunder by Bedouins from the east (v. 7). The fate of Ammon confirmed the truth of the messages of judgment announced by his prophets.
C. (:7b) Recognition Refrain
“Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”
III. (:8-11) PROPHECY AGAINST MOAB
“Thus says the Lord God,”
A. (:8) Charge
“Because Moab and Seir say,
‘Behold, the house of Judah is like all the nations,’”
Douglas Stuart: Moab had been dominated politically and militarily by Israel and Judah throughout much of its history, and undoubtedly its people roared with approval at the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian armies. Thus they could exult that “Judah is like all the nations,” subject to Babylonian control, beaten, no longer in a position to give Moab any trouble (v. 8). Their sin is thus in arrogantly thinking that Yahweh was unable to deliver His people. As a result, their great cities will fall (v. 9), and they, like the Ammonites, will be invaded and occupied by desert Arabs (v. 10). The fate of Moab and Ammon, so long linked in Bible history (cf. Gen. 19:30–38) will once again be remarkably similar.
Iain Duguid: The oracle against Moab (25:8–11) charges them with saying, “Look, the house of Judah has become like all the other nations” (v. 8). The irony is that there was not a little truth in that statement: Judah had indeed in large measure become like the nations in the way she lived, giving herself over to idolatry (20:32). But it could never be true in the sense in which Moab had intended, so that this statement is nothing short of blasphemy on her lips. They meant, “Judah’s fall demonstrates that her claims to elect status by the Lord are worthless; she is a reject nation, thrown onto the scrap heap of history along with her god.” [Greenberg] Instead, it is Moab who will be utterly destroyed, along with Ammon. They are the ones who will be left unremembered on the stage of world history, along with their gods, thus demonstrating the reality and uniqueness of the Lord’s existence and sovereign power to act (25:10).
B. (:9-11a) Punishment
“therefore, behold, I am going to deprive the flank of Moab of its cities,
of its cities which are on its frontiers, the glory of the land,
Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon, and Kiriathaim,
and I will give it for a possession, along with the sons of Ammon,
to the sons of the east,
that the sons of Ammon may not be remembered among the nations.
Thus I will execute judgments on Moab,”
Lamar Cooper: Ezekiel prophesied that God would expose the flank or border of Moab to invading forces. Towns on the usually well-guarded frontier especially were vulnerable. If the Moabites could not protect their border, the whole country would be at risk (v. 9). The people of Moab were to suffer a similar fate as the Ammonites. They would be overtaken by the desert people to their east and would not be remembered in the family of nations (vv. 10–11). This prediction also was historically accurate. The Moabites like the Ammonites ceased to exist in the family of nations.
The judgment of God on Ammon and Moab is a commentary on the tragic consequences of wrong choices (vv. 1–11). Lot never dreamed that when he chose to live in Sodom that the choice would affect his descendants forever. His children born to him in an immoral union with his daughters became bitter enemies of God’s people and Abraham’s descendants (Gen 19:1–18). After such punishment, all will “know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 25:11). Both the Ammonites (v. 7) and the Moabites will finally realize that there is no god but the God of Judah.
Derek Thomas: The Moabites had failed to perceive that Judah’s downfall was an act of judgment. Rather, they had depicted it as a sign of weakness. They had failed to reckon on the power of God. They had assumed that Judah’s God was one they could safely ignore. Should he exist at all, he was of little significance to them. Countless numbers of people live in this way, in defiance of the reality of God. ‘It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb. 10:31), warns one New Testament writer; but it falls on deaf ears. . .
It has to be said that one of the reasons why Moab saw Judah as ‘like all the other nations’ was Judah’s own fault. Judah was suffering because she was experiencing the punishment of God due to her sin and waywardness. Her witness to the nations had been one of compromise and worldliness.
C. (:11b) Recognition Refrain
“and they will know that I am the LORD.”
IV. (:12-14) PROPHECY AGAINST EDOM
“Thus says the Lord God,”
A. (:12) Charge
“Because Edom has acted against the house of Judah by taking vengeance,
and has incurred grievous guilt, and avenged themselves upon them,”
Lamar Cooper: There was a natural enmity between Edomites, Esau’s descendants, and Israelites, Jacob’s descendants (v. 12). That enmity was perpetuated in successive generations by memory of the deception of Jacob that had cost Esau his birthright (Gen 25:29–34) and blessing (27:1–40). The Edomites would never forgive or forget what they had lost by Jacob’s treachery (Gen 27:41–46). Like the Moabites and Ammonites, they were a warring (Gen 27:40), idolatrous (2 Chr 25:14, 20), proud (Jer 49:16–17), cruel (Amos 1:11–12), and vengeful (Ezek 25:12–14) people.
B. (:13-14a) Punishment
“therefore, thus says the Lord God,
I will also stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it. And I will lay it waste; from Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword.
And I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel. Therefore, they will act in Edom according to My anger
and according to My wrath;”
MacArthur: Reference is to key Edomite towns. Teman was possibly 200 mi. E of the Dead Sea in the Arabian Desert in the northern expanse of Edom’s territory. Dedan was maybe located 100 mi. S of Teman, yet far E of the Red Sea.
Lamar Cooper: Ezekiel prophesied that the whole country would be laid waste (v. 13). Teman was the extreme northern district of Edom while Dedan was in the south; thus the mention of these two cities was a way of referring to the whole nation. Both Isaiah (34:5–17) and Jeremiah (49:7–22) have lengthy denunciations of Edom that describe the consequences of judgment as rendering it a desolate, empty place. The entire Book of Obadiah predicts the doom of Edom for conspiracy against the Hebrews, who were their kinsmen. So Ezekiel predicted that the Hebrews would be the “hand” by which God’s anger and wrath would be administered to Edom. The prophecy was fulfilled when Edom finally was defeated by the Maccabees and incorporated into the Jewish state (vv. 13–14).
Douglas Stuart: Edom, west and south of the Dead Sea, was a small nation that had steadily been Israel’s enemy since the time of the hostility between Jacob and Esau, from whom Israel and Edom were descended (Gen. 25). Verse 12 mentions Edom’s taking vengeance against Judah, the details of which are more precisely known from the Book of Obadiah. After the siege of Jerusalem began, Judah was no longer in a position to keep Edomite raiders from attacking southern Judean cities and towns. Edom quickly took advantage of the situation to annex Judean territory to itself. Moreover, Edomites attacked Judeans fleeing the Babylonians after the invasion of Judah in 588 b.c. (Obad. 14).
Edom’s punishment will be in line with that of Ammon and Moab: desolation, population decimation, and destruction of its major cities in war (v. 13). Particular stress is paid to the Lord’s vengeance against Edom in verse 14. This is not petty vengeance but the exercise of the Sovereign’s responsibility to take action against His vassal’s enemies (Hebrew, nāqam). In this case, what is predicted is a vengeance “by the hand of My people Israel,” in the manner also described in Obadiah (vv. 17–21). That is, Judah would in the future retake not only the territory it had lost to the Edomites in 588–586 b.c. but would in fact dominate all of Edom once again. Then Edom would know what God calls here “My anger…My fury…My vengeance.”
Iain Duguid: The Edomites (25:12–14) seem not merely to have gloated over the downfall of Judah but to have actively participated in it. The brief statement of verse 12 that “Edom took revenge on the house of Judah” is fleshed out in more detail in the book of Obadiah. There Edom is accused of aiding and abetting the Babylonians, seizing Judah’s wealth, cutting down the fugitives, and handing over the survivors (Obad. 11–14). Although they were from a biblical perspective close kin of the Israelites (Num. 20:14–15; Deut. 23:7–8), they had no compassion on their brothers. Moreover, instead of the Lord’s judgment on his people putting the fear of Israel’s God into their neighbors, they viewed it simply as an opportunity for personal gain and the settling of old scores. The result of their seeking revenge on Judah, however, will be God’s execution of vengeance on them, using his own people to do so (Ezek. 25:14).
C. (:14b) Alternative Recognition Refrain
“’thus they will know My vengeance,’ declares the Lord God.”
V. (:15-17) PROPHECY AGAINST THE PHILISTINES
“Thus says the Lord God,”
A. (:15) Charge
“Because the Philistines have acted in revenge and have taken vengeance with scorn of soul to destroy with everlasting enmity,”
B. (:16-17a) Punishment
“therefore, thus says the Lord God,
Behold, I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines,
even cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast.
And I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes;”
Lamar Cooper: So God promised to act for Israel and execute a “great vengeance” against Philistia (v. 17). That vengeance included cutting off the Kerethites (v. 16), one of two fierce fighting forces once employed by David (2 Sam 8:18) as his personal army. The other group also employed by David was called Pelethites. So God promised to cut off the best of the fighting forces of the Philistines and to destroy the remnant of the sea coast that was their homeland.
Douglas Stuart: The Philistines were a people originally from the Greek coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea who after a failed attempt to settle in Egypt concentrated their population along the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. They became Israel’s main enemy during the days of the Judges, and their military successes against Israel were so great that by the time Saul and Jonathan fell in battle against them (1 Sam. 31) they were threatening to take virtually all of Israel’s territory and become the new tenants of the Promised Land. David subdued them completely, but their hostility to Israel never abated, and they looked for any chance to break free from the subjugation they had endured so long. The Babylonian invasion of 588 b.c. provided just the moment for them to deal vengefully and take vengeance “with a spiteful heart” (v. 15).
Accordingly, God promises that He will simply cut them off from their former homeland (v. 16) and take “great vengeance” (“furious rebukes”) on Philistia. This prophecy, like all the others, certainly came true. We find virtually no record of Philistine civilization after the time of the Maccabees (the second century b.c.) in Palestine, even though it was the Philistines who gave their name to the region (Philistine = Palestine).
John Taylor: These inhabitants of the southern part of the coastal strip of Palestine were also inveterate foes of Israel during her early history, but they had no ties of kinship and were originally Mediterranean ‘sea peoples’ from the Aegean. David finally broke their military ascendancy but they continued to cause occasional trouble during the monarchy, though we have no record other than this oracle of their hostility at the time of Jerusalem’s fall. The Cherethites, who were regularly linked with them, may well be etymologically the same as the Cretans, as lxx translates. David employed them in his standing army of mercenaries, and it is likely that ‘the Pelethites’ who shared this duty with them were Philistines under a slightly different name. The punishment pronounced on them for their vengeful wrongs done against Jerusalem (doubtless they too sided with Babylon) is expressed in the form of a play on words: I will cut off (hikrattî) the Cherethites (’et kĕrētîm). After Maccabaean times, the Philistines completely vanished from sight as a people and only the names of their cities remained.
Derek Thomas: The Philistines had become war-mongers; revenge and retaliation characterized the way they lived. The trouble spots of the world today, together with nations whose history is ingrained with hatred for past wrongs, need to take note that the Lord of the nations knows and sees all. He will not tolerate it forever.
C. (:17b) Alternate Recognition Refrain
“and they will know that I am the LORD when I lay My vengeance on them.”