Ezekiel 47-48 – The River And The Land

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47:1-6 – A trickle from the temple becomes a great river.  The location that Ezekiel is shown may indicate where the “sea” was once kept in Solomon’s temple, but there is no mention of such a thing in this temple (1 Kings 7:23-26).  While the directional descriptions are difficult it seems that the trickle flowed through the temple and out the eastern gate that was closed (Ezekiel even uses a Hebrew term that sounds like gurgling from a jug for it coming out the gate).  Again, the man has his measuring rods and begins taking notes.  At 1000 cubits (1500ft.) it was ankle deep, at 3000ft. it was knee-deep, 4500ft. it was waist-deep and at 6000ft from the temple it was already so deep that Ezekiel was forced to swim…and all of this without tributaries and from a trickle!
47:7-12 – The river from the temple brings miraculous life wherever it flows (cf. Gen.2:10-14; Ps.36:8-9; 46:4; Joel 3:17-18; Zech.14:5-11; John 7:38; Rev.22:1-2).  “The scene calls for a miraculous act, the converse of that experienced by the Israelites at the Red Sea.  Instead of creating a dry path through the sea, this holy stream produces a water course through the desert” (Block NICOT II:694).  On the banks are many trees whose leaves will not whither providing “healing” and whose seasons have become months because of the life they receive from the river (cf. Ps.1:1-3;  Rev.22:2).  The river will flow to the Arabah (or the Jordan valley) and into the Salt Sea (the aptly named “Dead” Sea because it sits at 1400 feet below sea level and cannot sustain life) where it will not only turn its waters to fresh water (cf. Exo.15:25; 2 Kings 2:19-22), but will cause its waters to have more life than even the Mediterranean (the Great) Sea.  In fact the whole (“from En Gedi to En Eglaim” refers to the western and eastern shores respectively) of the Sea will be changed to give life, with the exception that the low areas will still produce salt.  Why should they be left?  “It is necessary that salt should be available as an element of covenant consummation” (Duguid NIVAC 533).  It will also serve as a blessing to those who fish and those who harvest. 
47:13-23 – The boundaries of the land of Israel (cf. Num.34:1-15; Josh.15-21).  Why does Joseph get two portions?  Because there must still be twelve (this was also the counting of the tribes) and Levi receives his portion as a priestly portion and because Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh as his own (Gen.48:8-20).  Of particular significance are four things: first that they receive their portions as “inheritance” in the form of gift from a sovereign and not by right, and second that they “are to divide it equally among them”.  This is significant, because this had never been done before.  There was a greater equilibrium to be accomplished in Israel by this act.  As part of this they each had a portion that ran from the Mediterranean inland and was exactly the same distance north-to-south.  Third, all twelve of the tribes were to be reunited into one land again which had not been possible for several hundred years.  Fourth, their boundaries were to exceed anything in their previous history.  It is also notable that Ezekiel mentions the “aliens” (Heb. gēr) as being permitted to receive an inheritance if they settle and have children (cf. Lev.19:33-34; or the “foreigner” in Isa.56:3-8).  In other words, this was not only a promised blessing for ethnic Israel, but for all who would identify themselves with the covenant community.
48:1-29 – The tribal, princely, sacred and city allotments.  The tribes are largely rearranged from their earlier portions and there is no longer any mention of the territories possessed in the Trans-Jordan.  Dan Block notes that in the allotment Bilhah and Ziphah’s sons are furthest out with Benjamin and Judah on both sides of the sacred precinct (cf. Josh.18:28; 1 Sam.9; 2 Sam.5:5-6)—though Judah is on the north and Benjamin the south—and Rachel and Leah’s sons are closest with Ephraim and Manasseh by each other (NICOT II:723-724; for the matronage see Gen.35:22-26).  In the midst of verses 1-8 and 22-29 describing the tribal allotments is the focus of the chapter—the special allotment that is for the prince, the city and the sacred precincts.  We have previously discussed this area in chapter 45 (for more detail see the notes there).  Some of the new things emphasized here pertain to the workers that would be necessary for maintaining the city and the supply of food for all of the tribes as they take their turns in coming to the temple and the city.
48:30-35 – The exits of the city.  There are twelve gates to this city which is considerably more than any normal city not to mention that it would be exceptional that any city should be square to begin with which has sacred connotations.  The city is approximately one mile by one mile (contrast this to the New Jerusalem that is described as a cube-like structure approximately 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles! Rev.21:16).  Interestingly, Levi has a gate and so Joseph has a gate (which would be for both Ephraim and Manasseh). 

Ezekiel 45-46 – Sacred Land and Days

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By Clarence Larkin (click to enlarge)
45:1-6 – The sacred district.  The full sacred area would cover an area seven miles wide and seven miles long.  One section stretching seven miles long and three miles wide would be for the priests and would be for the “Most Holy Place”.  Another section stretching seven miles long and three miles wide would be for the Levites who serve on behalf of the people of Israel in the temple.  They would no longer have towns scattered among the tribes (as in Josh. 21), but would live with all of the rest of Israel focused upon the center: the temple as the presence of the LORD in the midst of His people.  The “city” would take up a section about one mile wide and seven miles long for the whole of Israel.
45:7-12 – The prince(s) of Israel.  No longer would the princes be allowed to abuse Israel as had occurred throughout Israel’s history, but would receive a portion of the land surrounding the sides of the sacred districts.  What is the importance of fair measurements? (cf. Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov.11:1; Amos 8:5-6; Hos.12:7)  One shekel would be approximately 4 oz. and therefore one minah about 24 oz.  The ephah (for dry measurements) and bath (for liquid measurements) would be about 5.8 gallons and so the homer would be about 58 gallons total.
45:13-20 – Offerings for atonement.  Why would the LORD be so specific about the offerings Israel was to offer?  The offerings made of wheat and barley were nearly 2% of the total, the oil 1% and the sheep .5%.  These sacrifices were specifically for atonement.  What need would Israel have for atonement?  Also, note that the prince plays a particular role in making provision for the sacrifices as well.  There was to be an atonement made on the first day of the year and the seventh (were these to be repeated?) for atonement of the temple.  Why would the temple need atonement?  What sorts of sins were said to be covered by this sacrifice?
45:21-25 – The feasts.  The requirements here are notably different than those found in the Torah concerning the Passover celebration (cf. Exo.12:1-28; Num.9:1-14; Deut.16:1-8).  However, it is also notable that whereas there was never a repetition of the smearing of blood on the doorposts after the exodus from Egypt, yet in verses 19-20 the posts of the temple were to be smeared in sacrificial blood prior to the actual celebration of Passover that would begin a week later.  The other feast day is unnamed but is said to occur at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (cf. Deut. 16:13).
46:1-12 – The Sabbath and New Moon feasts.  The eastern outer court gate was perpetually kept shut, but the inner courts eastern gate was opened every Sabbath and New Moon when the prince was to come and offer sacrifices and stand at the entrance of the gate giving worship to the LORD.  The people were also to worship the LORD at that gate.  The prince must come and go at the same gateway, but the people were to leave at the opposite (if they entered north they left south and vice-versa).  What is the point of the control at the gates?  The prince was to act as just another person and would not stay longer than the rest of the people though he was the only one permitted use of the eastern inner court gate which would be shut at evening after he had gone.  There was a marked difference between what Ezekiel was instructed and what had happened throughout Israel’s history in regard to the ruler’s relations to the temple.
46:13-15 – The command to make daily offerings.  Why might the language have shifted from the third person to the second person (“you”) for these few verses?  Was Ezekiel expected to participate in this?  Also, how does the nature of the sacrifices being a “lasting ordinance” relate to what is written in Hebrews 7:27; 9:25-10:18?
46:16-18 – The prince and his land.  What is the importance of the inheritance being kept within the prince’s family and of the prince not being able to take any property from the rest of the house of Israel?  (on acquisition of Israelite territories and inheritance issues see Deut.17:14-20; 2 Sam.9:7; 16:4; 24:24; 1 Kings 9:16; 16:24; 21:1-29)  Many have often confused the notion of this “prince” with the Messiah, but Iain Duguid astutely notes, “It is the temple that points us to Jesus, not the prince” (NIVAC 524).
46:19-24 – The importance of the kitchens.  Why should Ezekiel be shown the kitchens in the temple and why should these be mentioned for us?  It is significant because temples of the ancient Near East were places for the gods to feast, but not for the general population, but in the temple of the LORD He prepares a table before His people and shares it with them (cf. Ps. 23:5; Matt.
22:1-14; Rev.3:20; 19:9).

Ezekiel 43-44 – The Glory of the LORD and the Temple Torah

43:1-5 – The glory returns.  Why does the glory of the LORD approach from the east? (cf. Eze.11:23)  There is no ignoring the approaching glory which radiates the land and comes with a great tumult of sound.  This vision is likened to the appearing of the glory in chapters 8-11, but also to the appearing in the very beginning of the book.  Note that the reference is to the vision by the Kebar River when the glory had first come to destroy Jerusalem.  Ezekiel’s posture is as it was before when the glory appeared: prostrate.  And just as the Spirit had previously lifted Ezekiel up for action, here the same thing occurs.  Note what the glory of the LORD does. (cf. Isa.6:4)

43:6-12 – The temple torah is given.  Ezekiel hears an undisclosed person’s voice that gives him the temple instructions (torah).  Contrast the presence of the LORD in this temple to the one which Solomon built (1 Kings 8:48-49; Isa.66:1).  It was always the LORD’s design to live with His people Israel.  However, His continuing presence depends upon the holiness with which His people live.  The LORD promises that Israel and her kings will no longer do what they had done before in defiling the temple and rejecting Him.  In particular are the sins of the kings against the sanctity of the temple of the LORD when they set up idols for themselves (NIV’s “their high places” Heb. bāmôtām should likely read Heb. bemôtām “at their death”; see Duguid NIVAC 490fn5) and fornicated themselves.  It is notable that the glory of the God of Israel no longer is enthroned upon the ark of the covenant, but upon Jerusalem itself and His temple (Jer.3:16-17; Block NICOT II:581).  How might the plan of this temple cause Israel to feel shame for their sinfulness?  It would appear that the whole of this temple area is designed for guarding the holiness of the LORD.  The torah of Ezekiel and his function in the process of sanctifying the temple likens him to a second Moses (cf. Exo.29; Block NICOT II:606-7).
43:13-27 – The altars design and sanctifying.  Why might the dimensions of the altar be of significance to Ezekiel’s audience?  This altar area was approximately 1100 sq. ft. while the alter itself was nearly 600 sq. ft. and stood some 15 feet high.  The trench on the outside of the altar could handle nearly 3800 gallons! (see Block NICOT II:601).  This made it actually smaller than the one in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28-29; 8 ½H x 17W x 17L) and much smaller than the one in Herod’s temple (Josephus JW 5.5.6§§222-226; 15H x 50W x 50L).  The steps (against Mosaic instruction in Exo.20:26) to the altar notably face east when traditionally all of the altars had the officiating priest facing east.  The altar still needed dedication through purifying (Heb. hattā’t traditionally read as “sin offering”; see Duguid NIVAC 491fn10) sacrifices and burnt offerings that were supposed to last the course of a week for atonement and then on the eighth day the priests would begin making regular offerings upon it.  The animals were to be salted (cf. Lev.2:13; the “covenant of salt” in Num.18:19; 2 Chron.13:5; and see Mark 9:49-50) and their bodies disposed of outside the sanctity of the temple.  How will the LORD treat this sanctifying work and what will be His response?
44:1-4 – The eastern gate was shut permanently once the glory of the LORD had entered through it.  The prince (Heb. nāsî’) was the only one permitted into the gate to eat a fellowship offering before the LORD, but not through the gate.  While this would offer some special blessing to the prince, he was still excluded (as the rest of Israel) from entering the temple itself and could not enter through the gate which the LORD had entered.  Again, note Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of the LORD as the glory fills the temple.
44:5-9 – The entrances and exits of the temple.  It was not only the priests and the kings of Israel that were responsible for the defiling of the temple, but the whole of the house of Israel.  They were responsible for bringing foreigners into the temple (cf. 2 Kings 11:14-19) when the Levitical priests were supposed to have guarded the sanctity of it (Num.18:7, 21-23).  It was not that foreigners weren’t allowed, it was that these foreigners were not a part of the covenant people of God and had not purified themselves.
44:10-14 – The restoration of the Levites.  While the Levites had sinned they were promised to receive restoration as those responsible for the gates and certain of the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel.  However, their idolatry was not without repercussions.  They would not be given responsibility to actually approach the LORD, but instead would represent the people’s presence in the temple itself.
44:15-31 – The Zadokites priest’s blessings and responsibilities.  It was not because the Zadokites were sinless, but they were more faithful than the Levites in general (cf. 1 Sam.3:11-14; 1 Kings 1:5-8; 2:26-27, 35).  Therefore, they would be given the particular blessing and responsibility of serving directly before the LORD and making the necessary sacrifices.  Their clothing was regulated in order to avoid both contaminating it with sweat (i.e. body fluids; see Deut.23:11-13) and to not “consecrate” the people when they leave the inner court before the LORD.  On holiness as a dangerous contagion see Lev.10:1-3; Num.4:15; 1 Sam.6:19; 2 Sam.6:6-9.  Their hair was never to be either unkempt or shaved off (cf. Lev.21:5, 10; 19:27), they were never to have alcohol when ministering (Lev.10:9), nor were they to marry any woman that might allow for the common Israelites to share in their inheritance.  They were to teach the people, to serve as judges and to celebrate all that the LORD had commanded.  They were to be kept from that which was dead (Lev.21:1-3) and to receive their inheritance in the LORD (Num.18:20) enjoying the sacrifices given by Israel (Exo.22:31; Lev.22:8; Num.15:20-21; 18:8-20).

Ezekiel 35-36 – Two "Mountainous" Prophecies

35:1-9 – A prophecy against Mount SeirWhere is Mount Seir and what does it represent?  It is the primary site for the kingdom of Edom (house “father” was Esau) which lies to the southeast of Israel and Judah.  However, “Edom in Ezekiel 35 is merely one representative of the nations at large who oppose Israel and her God” because “Edom was the arch-type of the non elect the very paragon of a nation raging against the Lord and against his anointed” (Duguid NIVAC 406, 409; cf. Stuart 331).  This is a motif that began with the prophetic word concerning the twins, Jacob and Esau, which Rachel gave birth to (cf. Gen. 25:23). From the beginning there was animosity and this actually continued even to the days of Jesus when Herod, an Idumean (of Edom) tried to kill Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16-18) and the later Herod who actually shared complicity in the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 23:6-12).  What did the LORD promise to do to the Mountain of Seir and what was the end goal?  Why was Edom to be judged (cf. Ps. 137:7; Obadiah) and is there any hope for Edom (cf. Deut. 23:7-8)?  In what sense was this fulfilled or meant to be fulfilled?
35:10-15 – Why it matters what we say?  What did Edom say that the LORD would hold them accountable for?  Who are the “two nations” that Edom looked to take over as their own?  Note that though the LORD removed his people from Israel and Judah that it was still His land and He would not give up His claim to it.  “Yahweh may indeed have left the temple and the city, allowing Nebuchadrezzar, his agent of judgment on his own people, to raze Jerusalem; but this did not mean he had abandoned all interest in the place, nor did it authorize any other nation to seize his land” (Block NICOT II:319).  Also, note that the “mountains of Israel” (as opposed to the traditional term “land of Israel”) were rejoiced over for being made desolate, but the LORD would in fact make Mount Seir (and all it represented; cf. a similar use of “Babylon” in Rev. 17-18) desolate.
36:1-15 – A prophecy to the mountains of Israel.  What did the LORD promise to the mountains and all the desolated regions of Israel?  Why would the LORD promise judgment against those who slandered the land and savagely took possession of it?  Note that it has to do with the LORD’s zeal and jealousy.  What does this tell us about the LORD’s motivation for judgment?  Was it primarily for Israel’s benefit or His (with Israel to benefit as He does)?  What theological significance might be attributed to knowing that “I am concerned for you” reads literally “I will turn to you” (cf. Lev. 26:9) in Eze. 36:9?  Whose people are Israel?  Is the LORD concerned for the land?  Note the promises of fruitfulness in both agriculture and the people of Israel.  Has this prophecy been fulfilled? (see particularly verses 12-15)  What was said about the land concerning its ability to sustain or “devour” a population (cf. Num. 13:32) and how would this be changed?
36:16-23 – What led to the defilement of Israel and why would they be redeemed?  In what way should we understand Israel’s defilement to be like a woman with her monthly period? (cf. Lev. 15:19-24)  It seems to signify that Israel was to be separated from all things sacred and clean and therefore excluded from both the land and the people that have been set apart.  This would explain the LORD’s exiling of His people.  How was the LORD’s name profaned among the nations by the exile?  What role does the LORD’s “name” play in how He acts towards people, both in judgment and redemption?  For whose sake will the LORD return His people to the land and bless them?  Note the emphasis upon what is “holy”.  What significance does this make?
36:24-32 – The gathering of Israel.  Who will gather Israel from the nations? (cf. Deut. 30:4) What will the LORD do as a part of this gathering?  What does it mean for the LORD to “sprinkle clean water” on His people and to? (cf. Lev. 15)  What will the LORD do to redeem His people?  Is it enough to have them outwardly acting the way that they should or is there a necessary inward change? (cf. Deut. 30:6-8) Dan Block sees Jeremiah’s influence in this passage, but notes that what Jeremiah attributes to Torah Ezekiel attributes to “the infusion of the divine rûaḥ” (NICOT 356-7).  Note that the LORD promises the Spirit to redeemed Israel just as the believer in Christ is promised the Spirit.  Will there be any room for personal boasting after the people of Israel are redeemed?  What should and will their response be? 
36:33-36 – The promise of a resettled land.  What is the prerequisite for the resettlement?  Will the land simply be restored to its former state or will the state after redemption be better than the former?  The comparison “like the garden of Eden” is something that other prophets also mention (cf. Isa. 51:3; Joel 2:3) Why does the LORD say that He will do all of this?
36:37-38 – The “flocks” that are heard.  What does it mean for the LORD to finally “yield to the plea of the house of Israel”?  Note that earlier Ezekiel had been denied pleading with the LORD on behalf of Israel, but now the LORD will answer such cries.  Why are the people likened to sheep and what picture does this present?  What is the reason for all of this?
Extra Bibliography
Douglas Stuart, Ezekiel (Dallas, TX: Word 1988).

Ezekiel 33-34 – The Beginning of the Gospel According to Ezekiel

33:1-6 – The choosing of a watchman.  Who is the one who will bring “a sword”?  What are the duties of a watchman?  What are the consequences for the watchman and the people if the watchman gives warning?  What are the consequences if he fails to give warning?  What does it mean to be “taken away” because of sin?  What does it mean to be “accountable for his blood”?
33:7-9 – Who has been chosen as the watchman of Israel and who has chosen him?  What is Ezekiel’s responsibility toward those who are “wicked”?   On the “watchman” motif for the prophet who gives warning: see Isa. 21:6-9; Jer. 6:17; Eze. 3:16-21; Hab. 2:1.
33:10-11 – What were some of Israel saying while in captivity?  What is the basis upon which the LORD promises that they shall “live” though they feel the crushing burden of their sins weighing upon them?  Does the LORD take pleasure in the death of the wicked?  What is the call to the wicked?
33:12-16 – Are the wicked and righteous locked into their respective consequences?  What is necessary to live?  Is the promise of the LORD to the wicked that they “will surely die” a lie or a conditional promise?  In what practical ways can the wicked indeed to what is righteous and be guaranteed life?  Will sins committed be remembered if righteousness replaces wickedness?
33:17-20 – Are the ways of the LORD just?  What would it mean for us to be just and what does it mean for the LORD to be just?  According to what standard will the LORD judge Israel?
33:21-22 – The first survivor (Heb. pālît) of the destruction of Jerusalem arrives in Babylon as confirmation of the word of the LORD and of the prophet-hood of Ezekiel (cf. Eze. 24:25-27).  The date notice refers to January 8, 585 BC.  This places the following passage approximately five and a half months after the fall of Jerusalem (which is about the proper amount of time for travel between Babylon and Jerusalem).  Note that prior to the survivor’s arrival the “hand of the LORD” was on Ezekiel to open his mouth.  What does it mean that his mouth was opened after ten years?  It seems to mean that he was released from the prophetic silence and could actually cry out to the LORD on behalf of his people since the city and the temple were finally destroyed as prophesied.
33:23-33 – Those remaining in the ruined land of Israel still clung to the promise as if it did not matter how they responded to the covenant.  Were they safe to assume for themselves the promises to Abraham?  What does the LORD accuse them of?  What will be the actual consequences of their lifestyles?  What is the stated purpose of the LORD in further destroying the land and making it desolate?  Note that the LORD regularly says “your countrymen” to Ezekiel.  What is the significance of this?  Who (besides those actually still in Israel) are accused of practicing wickedness despite their outward attentiveness to the word of the LORD given by Ezekiel?  What does it mean that to those in captivity Ezekiel is “nothing more than one who sings love songs”?  What will be the vindication of the ministry of Ezekiel?
34:1-10 – A prophecy against the shepherds of Israel.  How did the shepherds fail to care for the flock?  Isn’t the shepherd allowed to eat from the produce of his flock and does not the flock exist for him?  What would be the reason for the LORD accusing the shepherds in this manner?  (cf. Gen. 31: 38-40; Job 5:23; Isa. 11:6-9; Jer. 23:1-6; Hos. 2:18-23; also concerning the “shepherds” of the Church see Acts 20:28-29; 1 Pet. 5:1-5) What is the consequence of their failures—both to the flock and to the shepherds?  Who are the “shepherds” of Israel?  Who is against the shepherds and who actually owns the flock?
34:11-24 – The LORD Himself promises to care for His sheep (cf. Ps. 23; Eze. 24:26; John 10:1-18; Rev. 7:17).  What does it mean for the LORD to gather His sheep?  In what manner does the LORD promise to shepherd His sheep and also what is the promise concerning the actual land of Israel?  Note that the LORD will judge among his flock and deal with those among them who have cared only for themselves and even troubled the lives of others.  Who are those among the flock that the LORD is referring to here as opposed to the shepherds that were accused earlier of selfish living?  Who will be placed over the LORD’s flock as a shepherd?  What does it mean for “David” to be chosen for this position (since David had been dead for several hundred years?  “God’s solution to a history of bad shepherds is not to replace shepherding with a better system, but to replace the bad shepherds with a good shepherd” (Duguid NIVAC 396; and Duguid Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel 47).
34:25-31 – The LORD will make a “covenant of peace” with His people.  What are the promises of this covenant of peace?  Security, fruitfulness, freedom, and intimate covenantal knowledge of the LORD are all part of the promise.  What does it mean for the LORD to be their God and them to be His people, the sheep of His pasture?  “What does it mean to be a shepherd?  It is a unique combination of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” (Duguid NIVAC 399).
Extra Bibliography
Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994).

Ezekiel 29-32 – A Message Against Egypt

29:1-6a – A prophecy against Pharaoh.  The date notice places this prophecy on January 7, 587 BC.  The prophecy against Pharaoh (king of Egypt) is also be connection a prophecy against all of Egypt.  Pharaoh Hophra (Greek—Aphries 589-570 BC; see Jer. 44:30; Her. Hist. 2.161; Jos. Ant. 10.7.3 §§108-110), a Saite of the Delta region, was the great “monster” (Jer. 51:34; Heb. hattannim “jackals” should read as Targ. and Syr. tnyn; cf.  “Rahab” in Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps. 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; and “Leviathon” in Job 41; Ps. 74:14; 89:10; Isa. 27:1) of the Nile (which may refer to a crocodile that is somewhat mythologized).  Though he thinks himself great the LORD will catch him from the streams of the Nile with all the fish and cast him out into the desert as food for others.  What is the point of this judgment?
29:6b-21 – Egypt: a staff of reed (2 Kings 18:21; Isa. 36:6).  Staffs are never made of read because they are both weak and will easily splinter.  Egypt proved to do nothing for the help of the House of Israel (Judah) other than to wound Israel; therefore the LORD promises desolating judgment upon Egypt (cf. Jer. 43-44; 46:13-24) for opposing His plan to judge Israel at the hands of the Babylonians.  The LORD would judge Egypt forty years for pride and opposing His purposes and send them into exile.  After the forty years Egypt would be restored, but not to their former glory and power.  If there was hope for Egypt it would seem to be because at least they (unlike Judah’s neighbors) offered assistance against the Babylonians even if this was against the will of the LORD.  The date notice (vs. 17) means April 26, 571 BC which was nearly 17 years after the previous prophecy.  The LORD would reward Babylon since they did not receive the rewards of conquering Tyre.  Does this mean that the prophecy against Tyre had failed (see Eze. 26-28)?  Is it possible that the lack of the fulfillment was the result of Tyre choosing to submit to Babylon after thirteen years of siege and therefore the LORD relented of the judgment that was promised (much as the judgment of Ninevah was promised by Jonah, but it was actually the LORD’s intention that Ninevah should repent and be spared)? 
30:1-19 – A Lament for Egypt.  Egypt would not only face the “day of the LORD” but also all those who were allied with Egypt.  All of Egypt’s most important cities and allies would be made desolate.  How was this fulfilled historically, by whom (vs. 10), and what was the LORD’s intention (Eze.30:8, 19)?  In 568 BC, Nebuchadnezzar marched against Egypt which had just finished with a civil war that left Hophra dead and Amasis (570-526 BC) as his successor (Block NICOT II:151).
30:20-26 – Pharaoh’s arms will be broken by the LORD.  The date notice places this prophecy on April 29, 587 BC.  The pharaohs as well as their gods were often referred to as the “strong arm/s of Egypt” (cf. the repeated references to the “arm” of the LORD in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt).  The LORD would make sure that there would be no strength left to Egypt and that Babylon instead would receive the strength of the LORD.
31:1-18 – Pharaoh is compared to Assyria (reading ’ šwr “Assyria” instead of t’šwr “Cypress” with MT in verse 3; see Block NICOT II:184-5) and likened to a great cedar.  The date notice refers to June 31, 587 BC which is just two months after the last prophecy.  The description of the tree (cf. Dan. 4:10-12) is splendid.  Its branches provide shelter for all the creatures and it reaches to the heavens.  It is sustained by the waters of the “deep” (Heb. tehom) and so finds no comparison even among the trees of Eden.  However, because of its pride it will be humbled by the LORD by being cut off from the waters of the deep, felled and cast into the “pit” (or the “grave”) along with all others that exalt themselves and were united with that great tree.  Who is the tree declared to be? (see 31:2, 18)
32:1-16 – A “lament” for Pharaoh (Heb. qinah; though once again the qinot of Ezekiel do not follow the typical 3:2 pattern).  The date notice points to March 3, 585 BC nearly two years after the former prophecy.  The Pharaoh is compared to a lion (which is another typical self-designation of the pharaohs as well as other kings of the ancient Near East) and once again a “monster” but this time in the “seas”.  This represents the Pharaoh as a terror to all others, but the LORD declares that he (and Egypt with him) will be captured and cast into the desert where his flesh will feed all the creatures and will be spread far and wide.  Also, there will be a darkening of the heavens in the judgment (cf. Ex. 10:21-23; Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Joel 2:31; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-13; 16:10).  At Egypt’s judgment the nations will be terrified.  The waters and land will no longer be troubled by Egypt but given a reprieve in order to bring Egypt to know the LORD (see Isa. 19:16-25 that speaks of Egypt and Assyria becoming the people of the LORD and being redeemed).
32:17-32 – The descent to the grave (“Sheol”).  The date notice suggests March 18(?), 585 BC which is just two weeks after the qinah prophecy.  Egypt will not be alone in being consigned to Sheol.  Egypt will be among all the “uncircumcised” (used theologically rather than naturally since several of the nations including Egypt were known to practice circumcision; see Duguid NIVAC 375fn.5).  Assyria, Elam, Meshach and Tubal, Edom, the princes of the north and the Sidonians will all be in Sheol in their respective places having been killed by the sword and being among the “uncircumcised” in judgment.  Pharaoh with his army will suffer the same fate.  Why would the LORD command Ezekiel to “wail” for the Egyptians in their judgment? 

Ezekiel 26-28 – A Prophecy Against Tyre

26:1-6 – The date given (while presenting textual difficulties) suggests Feb. 3, 585 BC (Block NICOT II:35).  This would place this prophecy at about the very time that Nebuchadnezzar began his thirteen year siege of Tyre and just one month after the notice of Jerusalem’s fall would have reached the Babylonian exiles.  What is the reason stated for the judgment of Tyre? (26:2) Note that the descriptions which follow of Tyre being in the midst of the sea (and also the metaphor of Tyre the merchandising ship that sinks) pictures the island capital that sat just off the coast of modern Lebanon.  It was an amazing island fortress that would not actually be taken by force until 332BC by Alexander the Great (and even then only by great cost and building a land-bridge to the island to conquer it).  Iaian Duguid notes the prophetic irony of Tyre’s self-seeking and self-promoting ways and their results when he writes, “Does Tyre hope to become the new meeting place for the nations?  The Lord will bring many nations against her (26:3).  Did Tyre rejoice to see Jerusalem’s doors shattered?  Her walls will be destroyed and her towers torn down (26:4).  Did Tyre expect to prosper?  She will become plunder for the nations (26:5)” (NIVAC 334).  What is the stated purpose for the judgment?
26:7-14 – The description of the destruction at the hands Nebuchadnezzar offers explanation for the analogy that was in the previous verses.  What effect does Nebuchadnezzar being called the “king of kings” have in relation to this prophecy?  What significance might be suggested by the silencing of the sounds of the city in verse 13?  How should we understand the absoluteness of the prophecy of Tyre’s destruction in verse 14?
26:15-18 – A brief statement about the reaction of the nations who had benefited from Tyre’s glory days.  The rulers will leave their thrones and royal garments in terror and trembling at the destruction and raise a lament (Heb. qinah).  Tyre seems to be the basis for the descriptions of “Babylon” in Rev. 17:1; 18:9, 12-13, 17.
26:19-21 – The end of Tyre will be destruction.  Tyre is described as descending to the “pit” (that is to death and the grave; on the “land” of the dead cf. Ps. 22:29; Isa. 26:19; Jonah 2:2, 6; Ugaritic texts: CTA 4.8.5-14; 10:2.24-25) where there will never be a recovery (cf. Eze. 27:36; 28:19).  How might this be fulfilled?
27:1-36 – A further lament over Tyre.  Tyre is described as “perfect in beauty” because of the great splendor she has been adorned by.  Ezekiel uses the metaphor of Tyre as a great mercantile vessel that was manufactured of exquisite materials and staffed by the finest of merchants and sailors.  A description of the many lands and wares of Tyre’s trading are laid out in great detail in order to emphasis the greatness of Tyre’s wealth and power.  The Mediterranean nations from furthest west, to the Anatolian, Levant, and Arabian kingdoms as well as Mesopotamian lands are named with all their particular wares.  The LORD declares though that the ship of Tyre will sink to rise no more.  The terror of Tyre’s “sinking” will strike all the nations that had traded with her.
28:1-10 – A prophecy against the ruler (Heb. nagid; and see also the “king”or melek in verse 12) of Tyre.  The ruler that was on the throne of Tyre at that time was Ethbaal III (591-573 BC).  The ruler declared himself to be “a god”, but the LORD reminds him that he is nothing more than “a man” despite his unparalleled wisdom and wealth (cf. the praise of Herod as “a god” by the Tyrians and Sidonians and his judgment in Acts 12:22).  The ruler had become arrogant and self-congratulatory instead of recognizing his dependency upon the LORD. 
28:11-19 – The king of Tyre (which appears to simply be another designation for the ruler mentioned in verses 1-11).  Who does this prophecy refer to?  It seems mistaken to make the metaphor of the king being a “guardian cherub” created in “perfection” (and on blameless in your ways” see Gen. 6:9; 17:1) adorned in many precious stones (which though lacking three specifically are those found in the Israelite High Priest’s chest-piece in Ex. 28:17-20; 39:10-13 though Daniel Block NICOT II:110-2 rejects the specific priestly connection) and living in “Eden” (which is later also applied to Pharaoh in Eze. 31:8-9) to be a reference to Satan.  Ezekiel is certainly using the language of Genesis 1-3, but it seems to be more for rhetorical effect to demonstrate the heights of glory and blessing that the king of Tyre has lost through pride and greed.  What will be the end of the king?
28:20-23 – A prophecy against Sidon.  Sidon (which is north of Tyre along the coast) and Tyre struggled for much of their history against one another and at varying times controlled one another.  “Sidon” was in fact the generic name for “Phoenicians” that was used throughout the Mediterranean region though in this case it would possibly refer to the actual city of Sidon.  There is no specific accusation made against Sidon, but only judgment promised.  What is the intention of the judgments?
28:24-26 – Hope for Israel.  The LORD promises to remove all of Israel’s troubling neighbors that are “painful briars and sharp thorns” (cf. Eze. 2:6).  The LORD Himself will gather His people from among the nations and return them to the land of His covenant with Jacob.  What relation do the people and the land share?  What is the intended goal of the restoration of Israel?

Ezekiel 24-25 – A Time To Mourn And A Time Not To Mourn

24:1-5 – The siege begins. The exact date (January 5, 587BC according to Daniel Block NICOT I:772-774) is given in order to verify that indeed the word of the LORD declared what happened before it could be verified. Note the emphasis on the date in the second verse. The siege would be finished within 18 months. The LORD addresses those in Jerusalem as “this rebellious house”, but who is Ezekiel speaking to when he proclaims this message? Why does the LORD give a “parable”? Jerusalem is the cooking pot and the inhabitants are the “choice pieces” of meat for cooking. This could actually have been initially taken in a positive way by Israel if not for the following explanation.

24:6-8 – The “choice” portions ruin the pot. It is the blood which has been shed and treated contemptibly that Israel is charged with ruinous judgment (note the commands about “blood” in Lev. 17:10-16 and the failure to “cover it” in Deut. 12:16, 24; 15:23; and Job 16:18).

24:9-14 – The explanation of the parable is that the LORD will cook (judge by the suffering through the siege by Babylon) the inhabitants of Jerusalem and they will be completely cleansed from the pot (city) because of their rebelliousness and lewdness. It is guaranteed to be accomplished by the LORD. Why would He not have pity or relent? Will He really have no pity or relent?

24:15-18 – The love of Ezekiel’s life is taken and he is not allowed to publicly mourn. Why would the LORD take the life of Ezekiel’s wife and what purpose might be served by refusing him the comfort of the normal public mourning process? (cf. 1 Cor. 7:29-31)

24:19-27 – The death and mourning of Ezekiel’s wife serves as a sign to Israel in exile. They will lose the love of their eyes (the LORD’s Temple and their children) and will not be allowed the normal rites of public mourning because all of this happens as a result of sin’s judgment. What is the intended result? When the news finally reaches the exiles that Jerusalem has fallen suddenly Ezekiel will be freed to speak (Eze. 3:26-27).

The oracles which follow in the next chapters until the thirty-third are against the nations surrounding Israel that persecuted and joyfully benefited from Israel’s judgment. Daniel Block (NICOT II:5) notes that the order of the nations mentioned (with the exception of the closing messages concerning Egypt): Bene-Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre and Sidon are listed in clockwise order from the north east of Israel to the north west. Iain Duguid succinctly writes concerning the shift to judgment of the surrounding nations that “Judgment may begin with the house of God, but it doesn’t end there” (NIVAC 325).

25:1-7 – The prophecy against Ammon. Who were the people of Ammon? (A son of Lot born by his daughter in Gen. 19:36-38; Deut. 2:19; Judges 10-12; 1 Sam. 11:10-11; 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:11-12; 10) Why was Ammon to be judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of their territories? What was the goal of the judgment of Ammon?

25:8-11 – The prophecy against Moab. Who were the people of Moab? (Another son of Lot born by his other daughter in Gen. 19:36-38; they enticed Israel to sin after several failed attempts to have Balaam curse Israel in Numbers 21-24; Judges 3:12-30; Ruth 1-4; 2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) Why was Moab to be judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Moab?

25:12-14 – The prophecy against Edom. Who were the people of Edom? (Gen. 25:30; 36:1-43; Num. 20:14-23; 1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:11-14; 1 Kings 11:14-16; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 8:20-22) Why was Edom judged? (cf. Obadiah) Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Edom?

25:15-17 – The prophecy against Philistia. Who were the people of Philistia? (Gen. 10:14; 21:34; 26:1-18; Judges 3:3-4, 31; 10:6-7; 13-16; and the continual struggles against them in 1-2 Samuel) Why were the Philistines judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Philistia?

Ezekiel 20:45-21:32 – The Sword of Judgment

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.

Ezekiel 19:1-20:44 – An Inevitable End?

19:1-9 – Singing the prophetic lament (or dirge). The Lion Lament. “What a lioness was your mother” should read, “What is your mother? A lioness!” (see Block NICOT 595; Duguid NIVAC 247). What does it mean? Who are the two lions, what are their characteristics and what is their end? The first lion seems to refer to Jehoahaz who was exiled to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco in 609BC (2 Kings 23:33-34), but the second lion possibly could be either Jehoiakin or Zedekiah. “He broke down their strongholds” (LXX and Targums) is read as “he knew his widows” (MT). Note the reference to the lion in Gen. 49:8-9 concerning the tribe of Judah.

19:10-14 – The Vine Lament (cf. Gen. 49:10-11). Who is the vine, where is it planted and how is it described? Note the reference to the “ruler’s scepter”. What is its demise (note the “east wind” which destroys it and see 17:10) and where is it finally planted? Why emphasis the “lament” aspect of this prophecy?

20:1-3 – The specific time reference marks off what follows as a distinct unit in Ezekiel and makes the date of the prophecy August 14, 591BC. The elders of Israel again go to “seek” (Heb. darash) the LORD (see Deut. 4:29; Block NICOT 619). However, the LORD will not allow their inquiry, but why? Compare and contrast what follows in this larger passage with Psalm 106 (Block NICOT 615-6).

20:4-9 – Israel leaving Egypt. Note the comparison/contrast of “the detestable practices of their fathers” with “of the nations” (Deut. 18:9-12; 1 Kings 14:23-24). The LORD swore by Himself to be bound to Israel and to give them a blessed land when He chose them. In what way did his choice of Israel require holiness and singular devotion? What is the significance of the refrain: “I am the LORD your God”? Was Israel free of idolatry during their deliverance from Egypt? What kept the LORD from completely destroying Israel in Egypt and what part of does His self-revelation play in all of this?

20:10-17 – First Generation Israel in the Desert. What did the LORD give to Israel in the desert and why? In what way is the continuing reference to “Sabbaths” a “sign” for Israel? Note that the plural “Sabbaths” (cf. Exo. 31:16-17) may refer to more than just the weekly Sabbath (Exo. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 56:2-6; Jer. 17:19-27; Block NICOT 632). How is the Sabbath defiled? (cf. Num.15:32-36) What stopped the LORD from completely destroying Israel in the desert?

20:18-26 – Second Generation Israel in the Desert. What did the LORD command this generation to do and to not do? In what way would this facilitate Israel knowing that He was the LORD their God? What does it mean for the “man who obeys [the laws of the LORD] will live by them”? Is this even possible or is the LORD holding out something that is impossible for Israel (or anyone for that matter)? Once more, what is the motivation for the LORD not utterly destroying Israel in their rebellion? In verse 25, what are the “statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by” which the LORD gave Israel (see Block NICOT 637-41)? Also, how were they defiled through the sacrifice of their firstborn? (see 2 Kings 17:17)

20:27-29 – The Generation that Lived in Canaan. Not only did Israel repeatedly sin against the LORD on the way to the Promised Land, but once in the Promised Land they worshipped other gods desecrating the whole land of promise.

20:30-38 – The Generation of Israel in Ezekiel’s Day. Did they continue in the sins of their fathers? Note how this demonstrates the justice of the LORD’s judgment against them for their own disobedience in light of chapter 18. Again, the LORD explains that they are not allowed to inquire of Him in their current state. “We want to be like the nations” (compare 1 Sam. 8:5-18) who “serve wood and stone” (Deut. 4:28)? What was the motivation? How will the LORD exert his ruler-ship over His people? He would punish them with the same might and power of His deliverance of them from Egypt (Exo. 6:6; Deut. 4:34; compare 1 Kings 8:42). They will meet with the LORD in the desert as judgment and purging of the wicked among them. What is the stated purpose?

20:39-44 – Why does the LORD tell Israel, “Go and serve your idols”? (cf. Jer. 44:25; Rev. 22:11) How will the LORD redeem His people and what does it mean for His name to not be “profaned”? When was (or will) the prophecy of the return from exile for Israel and the establishment of the LORD’s “holy mountain” fulfilled? Why is the LORD’s Name so essential and how is the promise of the Promised Land connected to His Name? Note that the righteous lives of returned Israel will result in recognition of self-loathing (contrasted to the modern notions of self-aggrandizing and self-loving). Has Israel (or anyone for that matter) been deserving of the goodness of the LORD? Even once they are accounted as righteous will they be deserving of the goodness of the LORD?