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.
In my first semester at Bible college I had to take a course on Old Testament Survey. I was expecting it to be boring and obscure. Up till that point I mostly thought the Old Testament was in the Bible to just provide some interesting stories for Sunday School until we got to “the more important stuff” in the New Testament. However, my professor for this class demonstrated from the very beginning his deep passionate enthrallment with the Hebrew Bible (in case you didn’t realize the “Hebrew Bible” is another way of referring to the Old Testament :-). His hair would begin combed neatly and by the end of class it would be completely disheveled because of his excited lectures and discussions…and his hands and sleeves would be covered in chalk from all his writing. He made the Old Testament come alive for me.
The next semester was my first real introduction to the Hebrew language (which was nothing more than learning the alphabet, some discussion of tenses and sentence structure, and how to use basic research resources for it). One of the things that most strikes me as I remember the professor who taught this class was when he wept while reading the apocryphal “Prayer of Manasseh” (which is not a part of the Protestant canon of the Old Testament, but is in the Catholic canon and still belongs to the overall genre of Old Testament studies). His passion for original languages was contagious and I had never seen anyone weep while reading from the scriptures (sorry…I don’t actually think of the “Prayer” as Scripture in the same sense–note the little “s”–, but it certainly is a wonderful piece of literature based upon other recognized Scriptures).
Then somewhat later in college I took an Intro to Hebrew with a brilliant professor of the Hebrew Bible (who had rather “interesting” ways of teaching…to say the least). More than anything else I took away from that class an appreciation biblical Hebrew culture (and a little modern Jewish culture mixed in). Playing dreidel (here’s a very brief description) for Hanukkah as we discussed the history of the game and various other aspects of Hebrew culture. FWIW…I won LOTS of candy that night. 🙂
Now nearing the end of my graduate studies where I’m trying to focus on Hebrew Bible (and hopefully some day earn a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible)…I’ve had opportunity to study with some very gifted Hebrew scholars who have continued to impress their love for the Book (but more importantly their love for the God of the Book) upon me.
I am truly grateful for the amazing men and women who have shared their passion with me over the years. Most of them will never know the impact they have made in my life. It has enriched my love for the LORD beyond measure and I only pray that I continue to pass on that same passionate love through my preaching, teaching and living. I look forward to as many days as the LORD may give me to draw deeply from the depths of this wonderful life-changing Book.
I just read a great article by Michael Reeves at Reformation21 titled “Adam and Eve”. He discusses (rather cogently I might say, but don’t take my word for it) why the historicity of Adam would seem to matter (it impacts the doctrines of Christ, the Trinity, and sin, among other practical biblical concerns). I’d be interested to hear others thoughts interacting with the article (whether positively or negatively–but that means the article should be read if you are thinking to comment on it ;-)…
15:1-8 – What use are the clippings of vines? How is Jerusalem like a clipping of a vine? (cf. Ps. 80:8-19) What do the references to fire have to do with Jerusalem? (cf. Eze. 5:2, 4; Rev. 17:16) What does the LORD promise Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to set his “face against” something or someone? Again, what was the stated point of the judgment? (Eze. 15:7) What charge did the LORD make against Jerusalem? The charge of unfaithfulness (and thereby uselessness)! (cf. John 15:1-2, 6)
16:1-5 – The LORD will “confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices”. Take note of the “detestable practices” mentioned throughout the chapter. What does it mean to be from the Canaanites and to have it said that “your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite”? (see Deut. 7:1-5) How was Jerusalem treated by her parents once born? How did the LORD treat her? The significance of this is noted as an adoptive function whereby the LORD makes claims upon Jerusalem. How should have the LORD’s treatment impacted her in light of abandonment by her parents?
16:6-7 – What was the LORD’s response to Jerusalem? Why does He say “Live!” and what happens once He does? What are the possible dangers of Jerusalem’s infantile and then matured (“your breasts were formed and your (pubic) hair grew”) nakedness?
16:8 – Why does the text say the LORD waited until Jerusalem was “old enough for love”? What does it mean for the LORD to “spread the corner of his garment over her”? (cf. Ruth 3:9; Num. 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12; and possibly Matt. 9:20-22) What type of covenant is referred to here? What does it mean for the nature of their relationship?
16:9-14 – What does the LORD claim to have done for Jerusalem? Verse nine possibly refers not to the acts of cleansing just after birth (16:4), but to some form of wedding bath (though otherwise unattested) following virginal bleeding (cf. Deut. 22:13-21). Note that the materials—for adornment and food—were those used for the tabernacle. What does all of this mean? What were the immediate results? (16:13-14)
16:15-19 – Using beauty and fame to whore? What was Jerusalem accused of doing? Also, what might be the connection between the many fine things given by the LORD and their use in prostitution? Who is Jerusalem engaged in prostitution with?
16:22-22 – Whose children were sacrificed to idols? What role should remembering beginnings play? “In her intoxication with her newfound beauty and her insatiable lusts, she suffered from a severe case of amnesia. Instead of remembering her desperate beginnings or celebrating the goodness of Yahweh in rescuing her, she trampled underfoot the grace of God” (Block NICOT 491).
16:23-29 – The “mound” and “lofty shrine”? How did Jerusalem degrade her “beauty”? She literally “spread her legs (Heb. pasaq raglayim) to every passerby” and engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians with the “enlarged flesh” (Heb. gidle basar; and see Block NICOT 466-7 for greater detail). Who all did she whore herself to and what was the result?
16:30-34 – What might this passage teach us about any notion of the freedom of the will? In what way was Jerusalem unlike a prostitute?
16:35-42 – What was the punishment and who would carry it out? What would satisfy the anger of the LORD? How does this account fit into one of God as faithfully merciful? (compare Hosea 2:2-3)
16:43-48 – What were the “other detestable practices” to which lewdness was added? In what way is the proverb true that is cited here? Who did the LORD declare to be the family of Jerusalem and why? (cf. John 8:39-47) Samaria as “older” (Heb. gedola) sister and Sodom as “younger” (Heb. qetanna) sister refers to size and not age (Duguid NIVAC 213; Block NICOT 507fn256). Jerusalem was “more depraved” than Sodom?
16:49-52 – What were the sins of Sodom according to Ezekiel? (cf. Gen. 18:16-19:30; esp. 18:20 and 19:30) What kinds of things did Samaria do (which aren’t listed until chapter 23) and how did this compare to Jerusalem? How wicked would one have to be to make Sodom and Samaria “appear righteous”?
16:53-58 – Was there any hope for redemption? Whose “fortunes” would be restored and what does it mean? Why must the punishment be public?
16:59-63 – Did Jerusalem deserve punishment? What role does the covenant play in judgment and mercy? (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) Who will atone for Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to “remember” His covenant and to what “eternal covenant” does this refer? Once again, what is the stated purpose of all of judgment?
14:1-5 – “Some of the elders”. This group represents the rest of the elders who seek the LORD outwardly but are inwardly idolaters. What does it mean when the LORD says He will answer such persons Himself? In what way is this not what the seekers desire? (see 14:8) “Answer Himself” refers to the fact that He will not answer their inquiry, but will instead answer their idolatry (see Block NICOT 427). Note that the LORD is not about having a people unless He also has their hearts.
14:6 – What does repentance entail in this context? Turning and renouncing.
14:7-8 – Who is included as outwardly belonging to the LORD and therefore needing to hold only to Him in adoration and worship? How might persons be separated from the LORD? Compare Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:38-39 and consider how these two teachings might belong together. What is the LORD’s judgment of the inward idolater who only outwardly seeks Him?
14:9-11 – What does it mean for a prophet to be “enticed to utter a prophecy”? (cf. Num. 22-25; 31:16; Deut. 23:4-5; 1 Kings 22:19-23; Jer. 20:7, 10) Who actually entices the prophets to lie? What is the result? Who bears the guilt? (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-12) Why would the LORD do such a thing? He does this so that His people will truly be His people: a people without sin and with God.
14:12-20 – What does it mean for another country to be “unfaithful” to the LORD? Why are Noah, Daniel and Job named as paragons of virtue? They are mentioned because they stood faithfully in the midst of much ridicule, rejection and wickedness (Gen. 6:9; Job 1:8; Dan. 1:8). Ezekiel is using them as ideal examples of those whose righteousness would not be sufficient to save anyone but themselves in the Day of Judgment. Dan Block (NICOT 449fn49) believes the “children” refers not to their children, but to children in general who would be thought worthy of being spared. The name “Danel” (which is noted as being the original spelling in Ezekiel – see also 28:3) is sometimes thought to refer to a Near Eastern legend of one Danel who was faithful to carry out justice despite his suffering (see Aqhat), but this seems unlikely. While Noah and Job were ancient examples, Daniel would be a contemporary one (and the Danel of the Aqhat legend was not considered faithful to the LORD, but to various other deities of the Ugaritic pantheon). It is more probable that this is simply a variant spelling of Daniel who was a contemporary of Ezekiel (Block NICOT 447-9; contra Duguid NIVAC 193-4). Daniel had been taken into exile in about 604BC and would have been in Babylon for over 15 years by this point and risen to some considerable level of notoriety among the exiles.
14:21-23 – Note the “four dreadful judgments” – sword (Lev. 26:25), famine (Lev. 26:26), wild beasts (Lev. 26:22) and plague (Lev. 26:25). (cf. Jer. 15:2-3; Rev. 6:8) Why do the animals suffer punishment as well? (cf. Jonah 4:11; and Yael Shemesh’s “‘And Many Beasts’ (Jonah 4:11): The Function and Status of Animals in the Book of Jonah,” JHS, Vol.10 Art.6, 2010). In the midst of judgment there is hope in “some survivors” not because they were more resilient or more righteous than the rest, but because the LORD wanted to show the exiles (who were perceived to have been the wicked and thus exiled already) that those left in Jerusalem and Judah were idolatrous and wicked. This was to demonstrate both the justice and mercy of the LORD.