N.T. Wright on C.S. Lewis

Though several of the blogs that I personally follow have already linked to and mentioned an article in Touchstone Magazine, I thought I should put my own link to the wonderful article of N. T. Wright‘s interaction with and critique of C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”.  (Apparently to be a well-published author you just need two initials for your first name…perhaps its time to become R. L. Wadholm).  🙂  I found Wright’s critique to be pointed with regard to Lewis’s eschatology and Christology in particular.  To be quite honest, I actually enjoyed Lewis more than Wright’s “Simply Christian” (which was dubbed as the “Mere Christianity” for today…or some such thing).  Perhaps I’ll have to give them both another read in the near future (though it may need to wait until I’m finally out of school…which may be never… :-).

The Proverbs: Wisdom or Universal Principles?

Proverbs 26:4 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you yourself also be like him. Context (NET)
Proverbs 26:5 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own estimation. Context (NET)

These two proverbs which happen to be specifically placed alongside of one another are key to recognizing the nature of proverbs (and I believe the nature of Scripture). The first says “Do not answer a fool according to his folly…” while the second says “Answer a fool according to his folly…”. How should we understand this seemingly contradictory instruction? I believe that it is imperative to understand context and by “context” I do not simply mean the necessity to understand the biblical, religious, cultural, historical context of Scripture (as important as that is it is still only part of the context), but also our own personal context. This is where one must practice wisdom. Wisdom is not simply knowledge, but it is knowledge applied in the right time and the right way. This is the life lived in step with the Spirit.

The proverbs are not intended (at least most) as universal principles, but as teaching one to use discernment in all matters. One needs to recognize when it is the right time to help someone out financially (Prov. 3:28; 21:26; 25:21) and when and how to not help someone out financially (Prov. 6:1-3; 11:15; but contrasted in Prov. 20:16). One needs to know when it is the right time to confront a fool (Prov. 26:5; compare Matt. 23:17) and when not to confront a fool (Prov. 26:4; Matt. 7:6).

Reflecting on Scripture outside of Proverbs one needs still to know when they should be in mourning and repentance (James 4:8), and when to stand firm on the promise of their sure salvation (Heb. 6:11). One needs to know when it is the right time and manner to confront the hypocrites (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, etc.) and when it is the right time to “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5:39).

May I learn wisdom…may I learn to apply the truth of Scripture to my own circumstances in line with the leading of the Spirit of God…may I learn to not treat Scripture like a simple check-list where I go to know to do this-or-that, but where I encounter the living voice of the Living God and offer a living sacrifice of obedience.

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?

Why I'm Done With The Christian Life

Perhaps you may be wondering why I would say that I’m done with the Christian life (which is following suit after Dietrich Bonhoeffer who states as much in the final pages of his “Cost of Discipleship”). I’m a pastor after all and shouldn’t say such things…right? Before you start writing to me to compel me to not abandon the faith…please read on.

The reason I’m done with the Christian life is because I’ve determined not to live the Christian life any longer, but to have my life hidden in Christ. If I live the Christian life it means I have some ethic or guiding principle that seems to be culturally “Christian”, but this says nothing about its correlation to the very real life, death and resurrection of Christ. I will not let my life be judged by some “Christian” standard, but by the one who is Faithful and True…who alone bears the judgment of the world. I will not be conformed to Christianity, but to Christ who is the very Image of God. I will not live for Christianity, but for Christ who gave His life for the world and has taken it up again.

I pray that I may cease living a “Christian life” and truly take up the life of Christ crucified and risen. May my baptism be a baptism into Him. May the cup and the bread be his presence and power. May my prayers be taken up into His prayer. May the spirit that dwells in me be His Spirit. May I be found hidden in Christ and crucified to the world. And may I never be only a “Christian” again…

Ezekiel 22-23 – Jerusalem Under Judgment

22:1-5 – Jerusalem is named “city of bloodshed” (see the similar naming of Nineveh in Nahum 3:1).  The making of idols and shedding of blood were violations of the two-fold sense of the commandments: love the LORD your God with all heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jerusalem therefore faced judgment at the hands of the LORD and mockery before the other nations.
22:6-12 – The specific sins of the “princes” of Jerusalem.  “Treated father and mother with contempt” (Ex. 20:12; 21:17; Lv. 19:3; 20:9); “oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and widow” (Ex. 22:21-22; Dt. 14:29; 24:17, 19-21); “desecrated the Sabbaths” (Ex. 20:11; Lv. 25:1-7; Dt. 5:15); “slanderous” (Lv. 19:16); “eat at mountain shrines” (Lv. 19:26); “dishonor your father’s bed” (Lv. 18:7-8; 20:11); “violate women during their period” (Lv. 18:19; 20:18); “detestable offense with his neighbor’s wife” (Lv. 18:20; 20:10); “defiles his daughter-in-law” (Lv. 18:15); “violates his sister” (Lv. 18:9; 20:17); “accept bribes” (Ex. 18:21; Dt. 27:25); “take usury and excessive interest” (Lv. 25:36); “unjust gain” (Lv. 19:13).  All of these sins were indicative of the sin of having “forgotten” the LORD (Dt. 4:9, 23; 8:19). 
22:13-16 – Why would the LORD clap his hands against Jerusalem?  Who can stand in the day of God’s judgment?  What is the positive and negative significance of the LORD scattering Israel among the nations as judgment?  What is the LORD’s reason for doing this? (vs. 16)
22:17-22 – The process of silver-smithing as the metaphor for judgment here refers to those who remain in Jerusalem as nothing more than the dross of the process (cf. Prov. 25:4; for specifics of the process see A. Konkel, NIDOTTE “sig”).
22:23-31 – Note the various classes of Israel and their respective failures towards the covenant (cf. Mic. 3:5-12; Zeph. 3:3-4).  What is the significance of no rain? (Lv. 26:19-20; Dt. 28:23-24)  Also, note how the priests are censured here concerning their failure to distinguish between the holy/profane and clean/unclean (Lv. 10:10; 11-15).  “Those who pervert ‘Thy kingdom come’ to ‘my kingdom come’ invite the wrath of God” (Block NICOT 728).  Verse 30 declares that no one was found to be a righteous intermediary on behalf of the people and therefore Jerusalem would be judged.
23:1-4 – A tale of two sisters: Oholah and Oholibah.  Oholah (Samaria) means “her own tent” and Oholibah (Jerusalem) “my tent in her” though the possible reasoning for these names remains rather obscure, the point of the names is to identify the two as indeed sisters belonging to the same family (Block NICOT 735-6).  What might be the significance of the LORD taking two wives who are sisters (cf. Gen. 29; Lv. 18:18).
23:5-10 – What does the spirit of prostitution from Oholah’s days in Egypt refer to?  Her adultery with Assyria seems to refer at least to the alliance King Jehu made with Shalmaneser III of Assyria in 840BC (memorialized on the Black Stele).  What are the consequences of her adulterous seeking after the Assyrians?  Who is declared to suffer for her sins? (vs. 10)
23:11-21 – What was the difference between Oholah and Oholibah?  Notice that Oholibah not only saw what happened to Oholah, but committed the same adultery with Assyria and then still went after Babylon based off of pictures of them on a wall.  The adultery with Assyria seems to refer at least to the seeking of an alliance by King Ahaz with Tiglath-Pileser in 734BC (2 Kings 16:5-7); while the adultery with Babylon seems to refer at least to the attempts by King Hezekiah to allure Merodach-Baladan in 714BC (2 Kings 20:12-13).  Did Oholibah’s fornication lead to either fulfillment or satisfaction?  The lusting after the images of the Babylonians is similar to the idolatry committed by the elders of Jerusalem in the secret room of the wall of the Temple (Eze. 8:9-12).  Had Oholibah ever really been faithful or pure?  What kind of satisfaction was she seeking?
23:22-35 – Who will carry out the judgment?  In verse 23, Pekod means “punishment”; Shoa means “war cry”; Koa means “shriek”.  What sorts of things will Oholibah suffer?  What is the charge laid against her in verse 30?  The “cup” of the LORD’s wrath is described here as elsewhere (Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15-17; 49:12; Lam. 4:21; Matt. 20:22; 26:39; Rev. 14:10).  Again note the charge of having forgotten the LORD.
23:36-49 – The charge of adultery and murder.  How did these apply?  Notice that the children sacrificed were the LORD’s own, and it was His temple that was defiled and His Sabbaths that were violated.  What does the LORD call Oholah and Oholibah for their adulteries?  How did the LORD intend to cleanse the land?  Finally it is once again stated that when all this would be accomplished that they would know the LORD as sovereign.  How does judgment demonstrate this?

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?


I was absolutely elated yesterday to get my copy of the newly published “Letters and Papers from Prison” (Vol. 8 in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works).  This is the volume wherein Bonhoeffer (I believe) has been most misunderstood and misrepresented (though some would certainly disagree with my conclusions).  His notion of “religionless Christianity” deserves a careful consideration and not a knee-jerk reaction as is so often the case.  I would encourage anyone interested in (the later…more controversial) Bonhoeffer to find a copy and read it thoroughly.

Here are the links to the pdf files of the Introduction, the Prologue, the First Chapter, and the Table of Contents.  Happy reading!  🙂