New English Translation
20 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month,[a] some of the elders[b] of Israel came to seek[c] the Lord, and they sat down in front of me. 2 The Lord’s message came to me: 3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and tell them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Are you coming to seek me? As surely as I live, I will not allow you to seek me,[d] declares the Sovereign Lord.’ 4 Are you willing to pronounce judgment on them?[e] Are you willing to pronounce judgment, son of man? Then confront them with the abominable practices of their fathers, 5 and say to them:
“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I chose Israel I swore[f] to the descendants[g] of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore[h] to them, “I am the Lord your God.” 6 On that day I swore[i] to bring them out of the land of Egypt to a land that I had picked out[j] for them, a land flowing with milk and honey,[k] the most beautiful of all lands. 7 I said to them, “Each of you must get rid of the detestable idols you keep before you,[l] and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” 8 But they rebelled against me and refused to listen to me; no one got rid of their detestable idols,[m] nor did they abandon the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out[n] my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9 I acted for the sake of my reputation,[o] so that I would not be profaned before the nations among whom they lived,[p] before whom I revealed myself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt.[q]
10 “‘So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them to the wilderness. 11 I gave them my statutes[r] and revealed my regulations to them. The one[s] who carries[t] them out will live by them![u] 12 I also gave them my Sabbaths[v] as a reminder of our relationship,[w] so that they would know that I, the Lord, sanctify them.[x] 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not follow my statutes and they rejected my regulations (the one who obeys them will live by them), and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I decided to pour out[y] my rage on them in the wilderness and destroy them.[z] 14 I acted for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 15 I also swore[aa] to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them to the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. 16 I did this[ab] because they rejected my regulations, did not follow my statutes, and desecrated my Sabbaths; for their hearts followed their idols.[ac] 17 Yet I had pity on[ad] them and did not destroy them, so I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.
18 “‘But I said to their children[ae] in the wilderness, “Do not follow the practices of your fathers; do not observe their regulations,[af] nor defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God; follow my statutes, observe my regulations, and carry them out. 20 Treat my Sabbaths as holy[ag] and they will be a reminder of our relationship,[ah] and then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” 21 But the children[ai] rebelled against me, did not follow my statutes, did not observe my regulations by carrying them out (the one who obeys[aj] them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I decided to pour out[ak] my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I refrained from doing so[al] and acted instead for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 I also swore[am] to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the lands.[an] 24 I did this[ao] because they did not observe my regulations, they rejected my statutes, they desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on[ap] their fathers’ idols. 25 I also gave[aq] them decrees[ar] that were not good and regulations by which they could not live. 26 I declared them to be defiled because of their sacrifices[as]—they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire[at]—so that I might devastate them, so that they would know that I am the Lord.’[au]
27 “Therefore, speak to the house of Israel, son of man, and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In this way too your fathers blasphemed me when they were unfaithful to me. 28 I brought them to the land that I swore[av] to give them, but whenever they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices there and presented the offerings that provoked me to anger. They offered their soothing aroma there and poured out their drink offerings. 29 So I said to them, “What is this high place you go to?”’ (So it is called “High Place”[aw] to this day.)
30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will you defile yourselves like your fathers[ax] and engage in prostitution with detestable idols? 31 When you present your sacrifices[ay]—when you make your sons pass through the fire—you defile yourselves with all your idols to this very day. Will I allow you to seek me,[az] O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will not allow you to seek me![ba]
32 “‘What you plan[bb] will never happen. You say, “We will be[bc] like the nations, like the clans of the lands, who serve gods of wood and stone.”[bd] 33 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm[be] and with an outpouring of rage, I will be king over you. 34 I will bring you out from the nations and will gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm and with an outpouring of rage! 35 I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36 Just as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the Sovereign Lord. 37 I will make you pass under[bf] the shepherd’s staff,[bg] and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38 I will eliminate from among you the rebels and those who revolt[bh] against me. I will bring them out from the land where they have been residing, but they will not come to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
39 “‘As for you, O house of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Each of you go and serve your idols,[bi] if you will not listen to me.[bj] But my holy name will not be profaned[bk] again by your sacrifices[bl] and your idols. 40 For there on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, all the house of Israel will serve me, all of them[bm] in the land. I will accept them there, and there I will seek your contributions and your choice gifts, with all your holy things. 41 When I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, I will accept you along with your soothing aroma. I will display my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. 42 Then you will know that I am the Lord when I bring you to the land of Israel, to the land I swore[bn] to give to your fathers. 43 And there you will remember your conduct[bo] and all your deeds by which you defiled yourselves. You will despise yourselves[bp] because of all the evil deeds you have done. 44 Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for the sake of my reputation and not according to your wicked conduct and corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”
Prophecy Against the South
45 (21:1)[bq] The Lord’s message came to me: 46 “Son of man, turn toward[br] the south,[bs] and speak out against the south.[bt] Prophesy against the open scrub[bu] land of the Negev, 47 and say to the scrub land of the Negev, ‘Listen to the Lord’s message! This is what the Sovereign Lord has said: Look here,[bv] I am about to start a fire in you,[bw] and it will devour every green tree and every dry tree in you. The flaming fire will not be extinguished, and the whole surface of the ground from the Negev to the north will be scorched by it. 48 And everyone[bx] will see that I, the Lord, have burned it; it will not be extinguished.’”
49 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Does he not simply speak in eloquent figures of speech?’”
- Ezekiel 20:1 sn The date would be August 14th, 591 b.c. The seventh year is the seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile.
- Ezekiel 20:1 tn Heb “men from the elders.”
- Ezekiel 20:1 tn See the note at 14:3.
- Ezekiel 20:3 tn Or “I will not reveal myself to you.”
- Ezekiel 20:4 tn Heb “will you judge.” Here the imperfect form of the verb is probably used with a desiderative nuance. Addressed to the prophet, “judge” means to warn of or pronounce God’s impending judgment.
- Ezekiel 20:5 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”
- Ezekiel 20:5 tn Heb “seed.”
- Ezekiel 20:5 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”
- Ezekiel 20:6 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand to them.”
- Ezekiel 20:6 tn Or “searched out.” The Hebrew word is used to describe the activity of the spies in “spying out” the land of Canaan (Num 13-14); cf. KJV “I had espied for them.”
- Ezekiel 20:6 sn The phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey,” a figure of speech describing the land’s abundant fertility, occurs in v. 15 as well as Exod 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; Deut 6:3; 11:9; 26:9; 27:3; Josh 5:6; Jer 11:5; 32:23 (see also Deut 1:25; 8:7-9).
- Ezekiel 20:7 tn Heb “each one, the detestable things of his eyes, throw away.” The Pentateuch does not refer to the Israelites worshiping idols in Egypt, but Josh 24:14 appears to suggest that they did so.
- Ezekiel 20:8 tn Heb “each one, the detestable things of their eyes did not throw away.”
- Ezekiel 20:8 tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.”
- Ezekiel 20:9 tn Heb “for the sake of my name.”
- Ezekiel 20:9 tn Heb “before the eyes of the nations in whose midst they were.”
- Ezekiel 20:9 tn Heb “to whom I made myself known before their eyes to bring them out from the land of Egypt.” The translation understands the infinitive construct (“to bring them out”) as indicating manner. God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt was an act of self-revelation in that it displayed his power and his commitment to his promises.
- Ezekiel 20:11 sn The laws were given at Mount Sinai.
- Ezekiel 20:11 tn Heb “the man.”
- Ezekiel 20:11 tn Heb “does.”
- Ezekiel 20:11 tn The wording and the concept are contained in Lev 18:5 and Deut 30:15-19.
- Ezekiel 20:12 sn Ezekiel’s contemporary, Jeremiah, also stressed the importance of obedience to the Sabbath law (Jer 17).
- Ezekiel 20:12 tn Heb “to become a sign between me and them.”
- Ezekiel 20:12 tn Or “set them apart.” The last phrase of verse 12 appears to be a citation of Exod 31:13.
- Ezekiel 20:13 tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.”
- Ezekiel 20:13 tn Heb “to bring them to an end.”
- Ezekiel 20:15 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”
- Ezekiel 20:16 tn The words “I did this” are not in the Hebrew text but are supplied for stylistic reasons. Verses 15-16 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text. The translation divides this sentence into two for stylistic reasons.
- Ezekiel 20:16 tn Heb “for after their idols their heart was going.” The use of the active participle (“was going”) in the Hebrew text draws attention to the ongoing nature of their idolatrous behavior.
- Ezekiel 20:17 tn Heb “my eye pitied.”
- Ezekiel 20:18 tn Heb “sons,” reflecting the patriarchal idiom of the culture.
- Ezekiel 20:18 tn Or “standard of justice.” See Ezek 7:27.
- Ezekiel 20:20 tn Or “set apart my Sabbaths.”
- Ezekiel 20:20 tn Heb “and they will become a sign between me and you.”
- Ezekiel 20:21 tn Heb “sons.”
- Ezekiel 20:21 tn Or “carries them out.”
- Ezekiel 20:21 tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.”
- Ezekiel 20:22 tn Heb “drew my hand back.” This idiom also occurs in Lam 2:8 and Ps 74:11.
- Ezekiel 20:23 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”
- Ezekiel 20:23 sn Though the Pentateuch does not seem to know of this episode, Ps 106:26-27 may speak of God’s oath to exile the people before they had entered Canaan.
- Ezekiel 20:24 tn The words “I did this” are not in the Hebrew text but are supplied for stylistic reasons. Verses 23-24 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text. The translation divides this sentence into two for stylistic reasons.
- Ezekiel 20:24 tn Or “they worshiped” (NCV, TEV, CEV); Heb “their eyes were on” or “were after” (cf. v. 16).
- Ezekiel 20:25 tn Or “permitted.” sn The content of the verse is shocking: that God would “give” bad decrees. This probably does not refer to the Mosaic law but to the practices of the Canaanites who were left in the land in order to test Israel. See Judg 2:20-23, the note on “decrees” here in Ezek 20:25, and the note on “pass through the fire” in v. 26.
- Ezekiel 20:25 tn The Hebrew term חֻקּוֹת (khuqqot; translated “statutes” elsewhere in this chapter) is normally feminine. Here Ezekiel changes the form to masculine: חֻקִּים (khuqqim). Further, they are not called “my decrees” as vv. 11 and 13 refer to “my statutes.” The change is a signal that Ezekiel is not talking about the same statutes in vv. 11 and 13, which lead to life.
- Ezekiel 20:26 tn Or “gifts.”
- Ezekiel 20:26 sn This act is prohibited in Deut 12:29-31 and Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35. See also 2 Kgs 21:6; 23:10. This custom indicates that the laws the Israelites were following were the disastrous laws of pagan nations (see Ezek 16:20-21).
- Ezekiel 20:26 sn God sometimes punishes sin by inciting the sinner to sin even more, as the biblical examples of divine hardening and deceit make clear. See Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Divine Hardening in the Old Testament,” BSac 153 (1996): 410-34; idem, “Does God Deceive?” BSac 155 (1998): 11-28. For other instances where the Lord causes individuals to act unwisely or even sinfully as punishment for sin, see 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 17:14; 1 Kgs 12:15; 2 Chr 25:20.
- Ezekiel 20:28 tn Heb “that I lifted up my hand.”
- Ezekiel 20:29 tn The Hebrew word בָּמָה (bamah) means “high place.”
- Ezekiel 20:30 tn Heb “in the way of your fathers.”
- Ezekiel 20:31 tn Or “gifts.”
- Ezekiel 20:31 tn Or “Will I reveal myself to you?”
- Ezekiel 20:31 tn Or “I will not reveal myself to you.”
- Ezekiel 20:32 tn Heb “what comes upon your mind.”
- Ezekiel 20:32 tn The Hebrew could also read: “Let us be.”
- Ezekiel 20:32 tn Heb “serving wood and stone.” sn This verse echoes the content of 1 Sam 8:20.
- Ezekiel 20:33 sn This phrase occurs frequently in Deuteronomy (Deut 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8).
- Ezekiel 20:37 tn This is the same Hebrew verb used to describe the passing of the children through the fire.
- Ezekiel 20:37 sn The metaphor may be based in Lev 27:32 (see also Jer 33:13 and Matt 25:32-33). A shepherd would count his sheep as they passed beneath his staff.
- Ezekiel 20:38 tn See the note at 2:3.
- Ezekiel 20:39 sn Compare the irony here to Amos 4:4 and Jer 44:25.
- Ezekiel 20:39 tn Heb “and after, if you will not listen to me.” The translation leaves out “and after” for smoothness. The text is difficult. M. Greenberg (Ezekiel [AB], 1:374) suggests that it may mean “but afterwards, if you will not listen to me…” with an unspoken threat.
- Ezekiel 20:39 sn A similar concept may be found in Lev 18:21 and 20:3.
- Ezekiel 20:39 tn Or “gifts.”
- Ezekiel 20:40 tn Heb “all of it.”
- Ezekiel 20:42 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”
- Ezekiel 20:43 tn Heb “ways.”
- Ezekiel 20:43 tn Heb “loathe yourselves in your faces.”
- Ezekiel 20:45 sn Beginning with 20:45, the verse numbers through 21:32 in the English Bible differ by five from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 20:45 ET = 21:1 HT, 20:46 ET = 21:2 HT, 21:1 ET = 21:6 HT etc., through 21:32 ET = 21:37 HT. Beginning with 22:1 the verse numbers in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible are again the same.
- Ezekiel 20:46 tn Heb “set your face toward.” This expression occurs as well in Ezek 6:2 and 13:17.
- Ezekiel 20:46 tn Or “the way toward the south,” or “the way toward Teman.” Teman is in the south and may be a location or the direction.
- Ezekiel 20:46 tn Or “toward Darom.” Darom may mean the south or a region just north of the southern city of Beer Sheba. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 2:417-18.
- Ezekiel 20:46 tn The Hebrew term can also mean “forest,” but a meaning of uncultivated wasteland fits the Negev region far better. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 2:418.
- Ezekiel 20:47 tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb.
- Ezekiel 20:47 tn Fire also appears as a form of judgment in Ezek 15:4-7 and 19:12, 14.
- Ezekiel 20:48 tn Heb “all flesh.”