20:45-21:5 – What does the LORD mean by opposing “the south”? There was never a forest of the Negev (one of the three terms used for “south” here and so not to be taken as referring to the Negev region specifically). The “trees” of the south appear to actually refer to the leaders of Jerusalem. The explanation is given in verses 1-5 (English versification): the first “south” (Heb. teman) = Jerusalem, the second “south” (Heb. darom) = the sanctuary (Heb. miqdashim lit. “sanctuaries”), and the Negev (or third “south/land” in some translations) = the land of Israel. The unquenchable fire to be set is answered by the flashing of the unsheathed sword (cf. Gen. 3:24; Matt. 10:34; Luke 12:49). Whose fire is unquenched and sword unsheathed? The “green” and “dry” that are consumed refer to the righteous and wicked (LXX “unrighteous and lawless”) that will be cut off. This is best “seen as a deliberately offensive rhetorical device intended to shock, designed to awaken his audience out of their spiritual lethargy” (Block NICOT 670). Note the peculiar references “from south to north”. Why might this be phrased in this manner? Also, note the emphatic use of “all/every”. What is the significance of Ezekiel being called a teller of parables?
21:6-7 – How might we understand Ezekiel’s prophetic groaning? (comp. Rom. 8:22-27) What will be the reaction of those who hear the news of judgment? (cf. Eze. 7:17; 9:4)
21:8-17 – The Sword Song. (cf. Lev. 26:25, 33, 36-37) Why is the sword sharpened and polished? (see Eze. 21:10) Why would Judah think the sword a good omen and self-referentially be called “the scepter”? (cf. Gen. 49:9-10; 1 Sam. 7:14; Eze. 19:10-14; perhaps their hopes were based upon Jeremiah 50:35-38) What does it mean for the sword to “despise”? Note whose people are to be judged? Why might Ezekiel clap his hands? (see Eze. 6:11; 21:17) What kind of slaughter will it be and who will ultimately carry it out?
21:18-27 – The LORD’s sword has become the sword of Babylon. Why should Ezekiel make a signpost pointing the way to Jerusalem? Likely this was at Damascus where one might choose either the road leading down to Rabba of Ammon or to Jerusalem. Three omens would confirm the signpost (cf. Prov. 16:33). “The irony is that this use of pagan means of discerning the will of the gods is here an accurate discernment of the true God” (Duguid NIVAC 276). Verse 27 refers to the end of Zedekiah’s reign. “A ruin” reads literally “a twisting or bending” (Dan Block translates it as “topsy-turvy” NICOT 691). Who is the one to whom kingship/judgeship “rightfully belongs”? (cf. Gen. 49:10) Ezekiel’s usage of the patriarchal prophecy that pointed to a messianic figure of deliverance here is turned on its head through referring this promised one into the king of Babylon – Nebuchadnezzar (Block NICOT 692-3; Duguid NIVAC 279).
21:28-32 – A taunting sword song. Possibly Dan Block (NICOT 695-7) is correct in seeing verse 28 as a taunting song in the mouth of the people of Ammon. The “sword” (Babylon) would be finally sheathed in order to also be judged by the LORD. Babylon though the sword of the LORD was not beyond the severe judgment of the LORD and would be judged so harshly as to not be remembered any longer.