GOD’S PROMISED IMMINENT AND COMPREHENSIVE JUDGMENT AGAINST JUDAH REPAYS SINFUL ABOMINATIONS WITH HORRIFIC AND INESCAPABLE ABOMINATIONS
The end has come, according to Ezekiel. There is no possibility of God relenting or showing pity. Any remaining false confidence and false hope on the part of the Jewish exiles should be destroyed by this account of the outpouring of God’s wrath on His elect people and chosen city and even His holy temple. The Jews must now come to grips with the reality of knowing God as their Smiter.
Feinberg: This chapter, actually in the form of a lamentation, concludes the first extended message of the book. The frequent repetitions, which have puzzled some interpreters and self-styled emenders of the text, are intentional and emphasize the certainty of the coming calamity. The sentences are filled with deep emotion, and a note of finality runs through the entire passage.
Ralph Alexander: Its first thirteen verses contain four brief, intensive prophetic speeches in poetic form that emphasize the imminency and comprehensiveness of the coming judgment on all Judah. . .
• The first prophetic speech in this message (vv. 1-4) emphasizes the extent – “the four corners of the land” (v. 2) – of the judgment and its basis. . .
• The second oracle in this chapter [vv. 5-9] emphasizes the horror and surprise of the judgment as well as the person of the judge. . .
• The third oracle [vv. 10-11] focuses on the imminency, comprehensiveness, and readiness of judgment. The five-line poem (v. 10) underscores the nearness of the judgment. . .
• The last oracle [vv. 12-13] emphasized the permanency and quickness of the judgment.
Taylor: The fact that the message needed so much reiteration can only be understood against the background of popular belief in the inviolability of Jerusalem. Its destruction was inconceivable to the Israelite mind. As long as God was God, God’s Temple and God’s city would stand. This had been the message of Isaiah when kings of Judah had feared for the city’s safety and were toying with the idea of turning to heathen armies for assistance. But now the situation was different. Isaiah’s confidence could no longer be justified after 150 years of increasing apostasy. The people were living in the past, but God was judging the present. His verdict was that the end was imminent.
Allen: This is a frightening chapter. It consists of a group of poetic oracles intended to convince Ezekiel’s fellow hostages in the Babylonian heartland that their hopes of returning soon to their homes and families in far-off Judah would not materialize.
Peter Pett: We must remember that when we read Ezekiel it is like reading a book of sermons. Sermons on the same theme may well be repetitive. But repetitiveness is a feature of ancient writings. Although having said all this we must remember that Ezekiel was not only preaching sermons he was bringing a revelation from God. The same theme continues. Jerusalem must be destroyed. Rather than being inviolate it would be made desolate. We must never presume on God. The message had to be repeated because they would not believe it. But the repetition was so that when it happened they would know that Yahweh Himself had determined it all along.
(:1) PRELUDE – ANNOUNCEMENT OF REVELATION
“Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
MacArthur: This lament (vv. 1-9) declared that the entire land of Israel was ripe for judgment. God’s patience had ended. The final destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar was in view (586 B.C .).
Constable: The Lord’s word came to Ezekiel again (cf. 6:1). This verse serves as a heading for the oracles that make up the rest of the chapter.
I. (:2-13) FOUR ORACLES OF IMMINENT, COMPREHENSIVE, HORRIFIC AND DESERVED JUDGMENT
A. (:2-4) Oracle #1 – Judgment is Near – Deserved Retribution for Abominations
1. (:2-3) Judgment is Coming Soon
a. (:2) Coming Soon to the Whole Land — Judgment is Comprehensive
“And you, son of man,
thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel,
‘An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land.’”
Matthew Henry: The ruin, as it shall be final, so it shall be total; no part of the land shall escape; no, not that which lies most remote. Such will the destruction of the world be; all these things shall be dissolved. Such will the destruction of sinners be; none can avoid it. Oh that the wickedness of the wicked might come to an end, before it bring them to an end!
b. (:3) Coming Soon Due to Abominations — Judgment is Appropriate
“Now the end is upon you,
and I shall send My anger against you;
I shall judge you according to your ways,
and I shall bring all your abominations upon you.”
Lamar Cooper: He spoke as though it already had happened. This device was a way of proclaiming the absolute certainty of a future event.
2. (:4a) Judgment is Unrelenting Because it is Deserved
“For My eye will have no pity on you, nor shall I spare you,
but I shall bring your ways upon you,
and your abominations will be among you;”
Ralph Alexander: The Lord would not have pity on anyone. He would not spare them. Though his long-suffering, forbearance, and compassion had withheld discipline, such restraint would no longer continue.
3. (:4b) Recognition Refrain
“then you will know that I am the LORD!”
B. (:5-9) Oracle #2 – Judgment is Horrific – the Outpouring of Deserved Wrath
1. (:5-7) Imminent Horror
a. (:5) A Unique Disaster
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘A disaster, unique disaster,
behold it is coming!’”
Lamar Cooper: This “unheard of” disaster was literally an “evil which is one” (Heb.), meaning a singular or unprecedented judgment. This was doubtless a reference to the destruction of the temple, which the Jews thought to be inviolable.
Daniel Block: vv. 5-9 — The second blast of the trumpet is even more piercing than the first. By means of a series of fragmentary exclamations the prophet works his audience to a frenzy. Six different terms are heaped up to identify the calamity: rāʿâ (disaster / evil), haqqēṣ (the end), haṣṣĕpîrâ (the leash), hāʿēt (the time), hayyôm (the day), mĕhûmâ (panic) instead of celebration on the mountains. Adding to the emotion is the sixfold repetition of the ominous bāʾ/bāʾâ, “It has arrived,” and the twofold insertion of hinnēh, “Look!”
b. (:6) A Great Awakening
“An end is coming; the end has come!
It has awakened against you; behold, it has come!”
Feinberg: Once more it was proclaimed that evil was definitely on the way. It was to be an unrelieved calamity, an unprecedented and unparalleled adversity, unique in character. In a beautiful play on words, impossible to reproduce in English, Ezekiel pictured the end as though it had been quiescent or asleep, but would be awakened and aroused to come against the people of the land of Israel.
c. (:7) A Tumult of Doom
“Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land.
The time has come, the day is near –
tumult rather than joyful shouting on the mountains.”
Wiersbe: In verses 7 and 10, the KJV has the phrase “the morning is come,” but both the NKJV and the NIV translate it “doom has come.” The Hebrew word means “to plait, to braid,” such as braiding a garland of flowers for the head, and it’s translated “diadem” in Isaiah 28:5. How do the translators get either “morning” or “doom” out of this word? Probably from the image of “that which comes around,” for a braided garland is the result of the weaving of flowers into a circle. “Morning” is that which comes around, day after day, and the doom of the Israelites had “come around.” They had “woven” their own shameful crown of sin when they could have worn a diadem of glory to the Lord.
2. (:8-9a) Imminent Wrath Due to Abominations
“Now I will shortly pour out My wrath on you,
and spend My anger against you,
judge you according to your ways,
and bring on you all your abominations.
And My eye will show no pity, nor will I spare.
I will repay you according to your ways,
while your abominations are in your midst;”
3. (:9b) Recognition Refrain
“then you will know that I, the LORD, do the smiting.”
What a different characterization of the Lord than what the covenant nation had known previously (e.g. “The Lord Who Provides”, etc.).
Peter Pett: ‘You will know that I am Yahweh the Smiter.’ Previously stress is laid on their ‘knowing Yahweh’. Now they will know Him as the One Who smites those who do evil, the righteous One, the Judge.
C. (:10-11) Oracle #3 – Judgment is the Fruit of Arrogance – Image of the Budding Rod
“Behold, the day! Behold, it is coming! Your doom has gone forth; the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed. 11 Violence has grown into a rod of wickedness. None of them shall remain, none of their multitude, none of their wealth, nor anything eminent among them.”
Wiersbe: In their pride, they had cultivated a false confidence that the Lord would never allow His people to be exiled or His temple destroyed, but their sin had now “matured” and both were now about to happen. . . the rod is Nebuchadnezzar and the “blossoming” means that the time was ripe for God to punish the people. Violence in the land had grown into a rod of wickedness, and the people’s sins would find them out.
Feinberg: So great would be the slaughter that no one would survive to lament the dead.
Constable: This pericope may be one or two oracles (vv. 10-11, 12-13). The first two verses stress the imminence, comprehensiveness, and readiness of the judgment, and the last two its permanence and suddenness.
Peter Pett: he picture here is full of irony and is taken from that of Aaron’s rod that budded which was ‘a token against the children of rebellion’ (Numbers 17:10). ‘The day’, the day of God’s anger, is coming and it will be like that. It will be like a crown of doom coming on them from God. In the days of Aaron the rods represented the leaders of the people (Numbers 17:2-3). They represented their authority. But they did not blossom. They were not God’s chosen one (Numbers 17:5). Now, however, their rod will blossom, God has chosen them, but He has chosen them for judgment. Their pride will produce its fruit. And that fruit will be violence, which will be a rod for the wicked, a rod which will destroy so that none of them remain, all the abundance of their possessions will be destroyed and their wealth will be taken away. Nothing will remain. They will no longer be eminent for eminency will no longer be among them. It will be the end of Judah as it is known, many will die and those who survive will have lost everything, possessions, wealth and status.
D. (:12-13) Oracle #4 – Judgment is the Economic Leveler — Image of the Business Transaction (cf. Year of Jubilee)
“The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller mourn; for wrath is against all their multitude. 13 Indeed, the seller will not regain what he sold as long as they both live; for the vision regarding all their multitude will not be averted, nor will any of them maintain his life by his iniquity.”
Wiersbe: With the Babylonian invasion imminent, the price of land would certainly drop and wealthy people could quickly increase their holdings, but there was no guarantee that they would hold what they purchased. Furthermore, the seller couldn’t be sure that he would get his land back when the Year of Jubilee arrived.
Lamar Cooper: Buying and selling, like rejoicing and grieving, suggest activities of normal business, social, and personal life. Ezekiel announced the cessation of those normal activities (v. 11). Divine wrath wiped away all the regular elements of human stability. There also are overtones of the law of the Sabbath Year (Deut 15:1–2) and the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:1–6) in the passage. In the Sabbatical Year all slaves were set free, and in the Jubilee Year all property was restored to its original owner. Land was a sacred trust from God that the Hebrews had received at the conquest under Joshua. Therefore property was sold only in cases of extreme need. Such sales were regarded as temporary and redeemable transactions (v. 12). In the day of judgment envisioned by Ezekiel the seller would not recover his land, and the individual judgment of the coming bondage of the exile would not be reversed (v. 13). Material things will be of no value in a time of divine judgment. Unbridled materialism and secularism that divorces God from human society tends only to intensify judgment.
II. (14-27) FINALITY OF THE JUDGMENT
A. (:14-18) Total Destruction
1. (:14) No Fighting Back
“They have blown the trumpet and made everything ready,
but no one is going to the battle;
for My wrath is against all their multitude.”
Constable: The last half of this chapter emphasizes the Judeans’ reactions to the coming judgment.
2. (:15) No Escape
“The sword is outside, and the plague and the famine are within.
He who is in the field will die by the sword;
famine and the plague will also consume those in the city.”
Wiersbe: (vv. 14-15) — God had made Ezekiel a watchman (3:17-21), and it was his responsibility to warn the people when danger was at hand. If an enemy army approached, the watchmen on the walls could blow their trumpets and summon the soldiers to man their posts and protect the city. But it was futile for the watchmen in Jerusalem to blow their trumpets because there was no Jewish army available and any resistance was futile. If the soldiers went outside the city into the country, they would be slain by the swords of the Babylonian army; and if the warriors stayed inside the city, they would die from famine and pestilence. Why risk your life in such a hopeless cause?
3. (:16-18) No Hope
“Even when their survivors escape, they will be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, each over his own iniquity. 17 All hands will hang limp, and all knees will become like water. 18 And they will gird themselves with sackcloth, and shuddering will overwhelm them; and shame will be on all faces, and baldness on all their heads.”
Daniel Block: In vv. 14–18 Ezekiel offers a picturesque description of the psychological impact of the day of Yahweh on the population. First, the people will be paralyzed emotionally. They have heard the sound of the watchman’s trumpet from the lookout tower, and they have responded by making the necessary preparations to defend the city; but when the moment for action arrives, they are immobilized. In the face of Yahweh’s vented anger they have no heart to defend themselves. . .
What the prophet seems to be envisaging is the total destruction of the towns and cities of Judah, forcing those who survive to seek refuge in the mountains. The sound of their mourning would resemble the plaintive cooing of ordinary pigeons.
Lamar Cooper: The people would respond like doves moaning in the valleys (v. 16). They also would seek remote hiding places to escape the invading armies. They would be overwhelmed with the terror, suffering, and shame brought upon them because of their inequities. “Limp” hands and “weak” knees describe a complete paralysis of strength and ability to resist the invading army (v. 17).
B. (:19-22) Total Futility
1. (:19) Futility of Materialism
“They shall fling their silver into the streets, and their gold shall become an abhorrent thing; their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD. They cannot satisfy their appetite, nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling.”
MacArthur: vv.17-22 – This section described the mourning of the helpless and frightened people. In distress, they recognized the uselessness of the things in which they trusted. Their wealth provided nothing. Their “silver and . . . gold” (v. 19), their “ornaments” (v. 20) were as useless as the idols they made with them.
Wiersbe: The refugees couldn’t carry their wealth as they fled from Jerusalem, so they treated it like garbage and threw it into the streets.
2. (:20-21) Futility of Idolatrous Worship
“And they transformed the beauty of His ornaments into pride, and they made the images of their abominations and their detestable things with it; therefore I will make it an abhorrent thing to them. And I shall give it into the hands of the foreigners as plunder and to the wicked of the earth as spoil, and they will profane it.”
Lamar Cooper: a reference to the use of gold and silver to decorate places of worship (v. 20). Personal jewelry that was once given to adorn the tabernacle and the temple was being used to beautify pagan shrines. This wealth would be given to foreigners, a reference to the invading army who would take it as spoils of war.
3. (:22) Futility of False Confidence in Covenant Relationship
“I shall also turn My face from them,
and they will profane My secret place;
then robbers will enter and profane it.”
Feinberg: Verse 20 has been variously interpreted. One position takes the ornament to mean the silver and gold of the people of which they made their idols, as just noted. The other and better view understands Ezekiel to be speaking of the temple of the Lord. The very place God meant to be beautified, they had polluted with multiplied abominations which are described in 8:3-17. Since Israel had already profaned the temple of God, He saw no further purpose in keeping it form the desecration of the enemy. Thus the temple with all its sacred appointments was given over to the invading army. But this act could never have transpired unless the Lord had deliberately removed His protection from His sanctuary. When the Lord turned His face away from Israel, the enemy was able to carry out its wicked devices. That which was profaned was not the temple treasure or the wealth of the land in general, but the holy of holies, the central and focal point of all Israel’s worship. God has no desire to keep mere outward worship in operation as long as such worship is accompanied with and encrusted over by idolatries that profane the very essence of that worship. Therefore, we read repeatedly that all would be profaned.
C. (:23-27a) Total Chaos as Jerusalem Falls
1. (:23) Chaos of Captivity and Violence
“Make the chain, for the land is full of bloody crimes,
and the city is full of violence.”
MacArthur: Ezekiel is to perform another emblematic act of captivity (c. Jer 27:2; Na 3:10).
2. (:24) Chaos of Foreign Occupation and Humiliation
“Therefore, I shall bring the worst of the nations,
and they will possess their houses.
I shall also make the pride of the strong ones cease,
and their holy places will be profaned.”
3. (:25) Chaos of Unmitigated Anguish
“When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none.”
4. (:26a) Chaos of Compounded Disaster and Uncertainty
“Disaster will come upon disaster, and rumor will be added to rumor;”
Peter Pett: ‘Mischief upon mischief.’ An endless chain of problems and suffering and misery and heartache. And to top it all constant rumours of worse to come, and of what was to happen to them. But they would have nowhere to turn. There would be no message from their religious or civic leaders, no vision from the prophet, no guidance from the priest, no counsel from the elders (see Amos 3:5-7 and contrast Jeremiah 18:18). This would be because these have nothing worthwhile to offer. They would have no solution (in contrast with Jeremiah and Ezekiel). They themselves would be equally totally bewildered and without explanation, and have no message from God. They had been too involved in the abomination of idolatry, in polluting the house of Yahweh (2 Chronicles 36:14).
5. (:26b) Chaos of Religious Disintegration
“then they will seek a vision from a prophet,
but the law will be lost from the priest and counsel from the elders.”
6. (:27a) Chaos of Political Disintegration
“The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with horror,
and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.”
Wiersbe: Not only would there be religious chaos, but the political system would fall apart.
Jamieson: Clothing is designed to keep off shame; but in this case shame shall be the clothing.
D. (:27b) Total Payback for Sinful Conduct
“According to their conduct I shall deal with them,
and by their judgments I shall judge them.”
Charles Dyer: God again said their punishment would be according to their conduct (a standard mentioned five times in chap. 7 [vv. 3-4, 8-9, 27]).
E. (:27c) Recognition Refrain
“And they will know that I am the LORD.”