God’s Dealings with Israel Rehearsed
20 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month [after the beginning of the exile in Babylon], certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord and sat down before me.(A) 2 Then came the word of the Lord to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Have you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” says the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you.”’ 4 Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? Then make them know [accurately] and understand fully the repulsive acts of their fathers;(B) 5 and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “On the day when I chose Israel and lifted up My hand and swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God, 6 on that day I swore to them to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had selected for them, [plentiful and] [a]flowing with milk and honey, [a land] which is an ornament and a glory to all lands. 7 Then I said to them, ‘Let every man throw away the detestable things on which he feasts his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.’ 8 But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not throw away the detestable things on which they feasted their eyes, nor did they [b]give up the idols of Egypt.
“Then I decided to pour out My wrath on them and finish My anger against them in the land of Egypt. 9 But I acted for My Name’s sake, that it would not be profaned in the sight of the [pagan] nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10 So I made them leave the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them My statutes and explained My ordinances to them, which, if a man keeps, he will live. 12 Also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord who sanctifies them (separates and sets them apart). 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes and they despised and rejected My ordinances, which, if a man keeps, he will live; and they greatly profaned My Sabbaths. Then I decided to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them. 14 But I acted for My Name’s sake, that it would not be profaned in the sight of the [pagan] nations in whose sight I had brought them out [of slavery]. 15 I also swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, [a land of plenty] [c]flowing with milk and honey, which is the ornament and glory of all lands, 16 because they rejected My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they did not walk in them; they even profaned My Sabbaths, for their heart continually went after their [worthless] idols. 17 Yet My eye [looked on them with compassion and] spared them instead of destroying them, and I did not annihilate them in the wilderness.
18 “But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers nor observe their ordinances nor defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and observe them. 20 Sanctify My Sabbaths and keep them holy; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord your God.’ 21 Yet the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, which, if a man keeps, he will live; they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I decided to pour out My wrath on them and finish My anger against them in the wilderness. 22 Yet I withdrew My hand and acted for My Name’s sake, that it would not be profaned in the sight of the [pagan] nations in whose sight I had brought them out [of slavery]. 23 Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the [Gentile] nations and disperse them among the countries, 24 because they had not observed My ordinances, but had [dishonored and] rejected My statutes and had profaned My Sabbaths, and set their eyes on the [man-made] idols of their fathers. 25 [Therefore] I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live;(C) 26 and I pronounced them unclean because of their offerings [to their idols], in that they made all their firstborn pass through the fire [as pagan sacrifices], so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord.”’(D)
27 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Again in this your fathers have blasphemed Me, in that they acted faithlessly and treacherously against Me. 28 For when I had brought them into the land which I swore to give to them, they saw every high hill and every dark and leafy tree [as a place for idol worship], and there they offered their sacrifices and there they presented their offering that provoked My anger; there also they made their sweet-smelling aroma and there poured out their drink offerings. 29 Then I said to them, ‘What is the high place to which you go?’ So the name of it is called Bamah (High Place) to this day.”’ 30 Therefore, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Will you [exiles] defile yourselves in the same manner as your fathers? And will you prostitute yourselves before their loathsome and heinous things? 31 When you offer your gifts, when you make your sons pass through the fire, you are defiling yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be asked by you [for an oracle], O house of Israel? As I live,” says the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you. 32 What comes into your mind will never happen, when you say, ‘We will be like the [pagan] nations, like the tribes of the [Gentile] countries, serving [idols made of] wood and stone.’
God Will Restore Israel to Her Land
33 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “most certainly with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be King over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and will gather you from the countries in which you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; 35 and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you and contend with you face to face. 36 As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment and contend with you,” says the Lord God.(E) 37 “I will make you pass under the rod [as the shepherd does with his sheep when he counts them, and I will count you as Mine and constrain you] and bring you into the bond of the covenant [to which you are permanently bound].(F) 38 And I will separate from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they temporarily live, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord.(G)
39 “As for you, O house of Israel,” thus says the Lord God, “Go, let everyone serve his idols; but later you shall most certainly listen to Me, and you shall no longer profane My holy name with your gifts and with your idols. 40 For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel (Zion),” says the Lord God, “there the whole house of Israel, all of them in the land, shall serve Me. There I will [graciously] accept them, and there I will seek (require) your offerings and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy and sacred things. 41 I will accept you [graciously] as a pleasant and soothing aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands in which you have been scattered; and I will prove Myself holy and manifest My holiness among you in the sight of the nations.(H) 42 And you will know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your fathers. 43 There you will remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all your evil deeds which you have done. 44 And you will know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord when I have dealt with you for My Name’s sake, not in accordance with your evil ways nor with your corrupt conduct, O house of Israel,” says the Lord God.’”
45 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 46 “Son of man, set your face toward Teman, and speak out against the south and prophesy against the forest land of the Negev (the South), 47 and say to the forest of the Negev, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it will devour every one of your green trees, as well as every one of your dry trees. The blazing flame will not be quenched and the whole surface from the south to the north will be burned by it. 48 All flesh will see that I the Lord have kindled it; it will not be quenched.”’” 49 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! They are saying of me, ‘Is he not [just] speaking in parables and making allegories?’”
Parable of the Sword of the Lord
21 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, and direct your [prophetic] word against the sanctuaries; prophesy against the land of Israel 3 and say to the land of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am against you and will draw My sword out of its sheath and I will cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked. 4 Because I will cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked, therefore My sword will go from its sheath against all flesh from south to north, 5 and all living will know [without any doubt] that I the Lord have drawn My sword out of its sheath; it will not be sheathed again.”’ 6 As for you, son of man, groan with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan in their sight. 7 And when they say to you, ‘Why do you sigh and groan?’ you shall answer, ‘Because of the news that is coming; and every heart will melt and all hands will be frail, and every spirit will faint and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it comes and it will happen,’ says the Lord God.”
8 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord.’ Say,
‘A sword, a sword [from Babylon] is sharpened
And also polished!
‘It is sharpened to make a slaughter,
Polished to flash and glimmer like lightning!’
Shall we then rejoice [when such a disaster approaches]? But it rejects and views with contempt the scepter of My son [Judah].(I) 11 The sword [of Babylon] is ready to be polished so that it may be handled and put to use; the sword is sharpened and polished to be put in the hand of the slayer (Nebuchadnezzar). 12 Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against My people; it is against all the princes of Israel. They are thrown to the sword along with My [terrified] people. Therefore strike your thigh and strike your chest [in grief]. 13 For this sword has been tested [on others]; and what if it views with contempt the scepter [of Judah]? The scepter shall be no more [but shall be swept away],” says the Lord God.
14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together; and let the sword be doubled the third time [in intensity], the sword for the slain. It is the sword for the great slaughter which surrounds them [so that no one can escape, even by hiding in their inner rooms], 15 so that hearts may melt, and many will fall at their gates. I have given the glittering sword. Ah! It is made [to flash] like lightning; it is pointed and sharpened for slaughter. 16 Turn O sword and cut right or cut left, whichever way your thirst for blood and your edge direct you. 17 I will also strike My hands together, and I will cause My wrath to rest. I the Lord have spoken.”
The Instrument of God’s Judgment
18 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 19 “As for you, son of man, mark out two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to come, both starting from the same land. And make a signpost; place it at the head of the way to the city. 20 You shall point out a way for the [Babylonian] sword to come to Rabbah [the capital] of the sons of Ammon, and to Judah into fortified Jerusalem. 21 For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the fork of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows, he consults the teraphim (household idols), he looks at the liver [of an animal for an omen]. 22 In his right hand is the lot marked for Jerusalem: to set battering rams, to open the mouth calling for destruction, to lift up the voice with a war cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to put up assault ramps, and to build siege walls. 23 It will seem like a false divination in their eyes, those who have sworn solemn oaths [of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar]. But he will remind them of their guilt [by rebelling and violating their oath], that they may be caught.(J)
24 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have caused your guilt to be remembered, in that your rebellion is uncovered, so that your sins appear in everything that you do—because you have come to mind, you will be seized with the hand [of the enemy]. 25 And you, O dishonored and wicked one [Zedekiah], the prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of final punishment is here,’ 26 thus says the Lord God, ‘Remove the turban and take off the crown; things shall not remain as they have been. Exalt that which is low and abase the high. 27 A ruin, a ruin, I will make it a ruin! It shall no longer exist until He comes whose right it is [to reign], and I will give it to Him.’(K)
28 “And you, son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God concerning the sons of Ammon and concerning their reproach (disgrace),’ and say: ‘A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter; it is sharpened and polished to put an end [to everything], and to flash like lightning, 29 while they (Ammonite prophets) see false visions [of peace] for you, while they divine lies [of escape] for you—to place you [of Ammon] on the headless bodies of the wicked who are slain, whose day has come, whose time of the final punishment is here. 30 Return the sword to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin (birth), I will judge you. 31 I will pour out My indignation on you [sons of Ammon]; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and I will place you in the hand of brutal men, skilled in destruction. 32 You will be fuel for the fire; your blood will be in the midst of the land. You will not be remembered, for I the Lord have spoken.’”(L)
- Ezekiel 20:6 This phrase referred to the abundant fertility of the land of Canaan. Milk (typically that of goats and sheep) was associated with abundance; “honey” referred mainly to syrups made from dates or grapes and was the epitome of sweetness. Bees’ honey was very rare and was considered the choicest of foods.
- Ezekiel 20:8 Lit forsake.
- Ezekiel 20:15 See note v 6.