Ezekiel 20-21

Thursday Evening Bible Study

September 29, 2005

Ezekiel 20

:1-4 Elders Inquiring

:1 It came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

This prophecy comes on August 14, 591 BC, almost 11 months after the last date mentioned (back in Eze. 8:1).

Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet.  Part of his “job” or “ministry” was speaking to the people for God.

We aren’t told what question the elders ask.  And God isn’t going to answer their question either.

:2 Then the word of the LORD came 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 known to them the abominations of their fathers.


Dealing with loose ends

They have some unfinished business.
Before they are going to hear from God about the things they’re interested in, God is going to challenge them with some things they haven’t dealt with yet.

I have been trading e-mails with a gal that a friend has been witnessing to.  She is not a Christian and she admits it.  She has lots and lots of great questions.  I find it refreshing.  But there’s a sense in which she wants to know answers to some things that frankly I don’t think she needs to worry about.  She wants to know what kinds of things she’s going to need to give up if she becomes a Christian.  She’s worried about losing her old friends and worried she won’t find new ones.  She’s worried about how to help people in her life that are going through some trouble of their own.  You and I know that God will take care of those things in her life, and He will have some wonderful surprises for her.  But she needs to deal with the big issue first – giving her heart to Jesus.

For some of us, there are also some things that we need to deal with, lessons we need to learn.  It’s kind of like going to elementary school.  We hope that if we skip “second grade” that we can just move on into third grade without any problems.  I find that when a person wants to “skip a grade”, they still get sent back to repeat it until they learn it.
Learn the lessons in front of you.  Deal with unfinished business.

:5-31 History of Rebelling

:5 "Say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised My hand in an oath to them, saying, 'I am the LORD your God.'

:6 "On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, 'flowing with milk and honey,' the glory of all lands.

God made a promise to the people of Israel that He would do some wonderful things for them.  He asked them to do something for Him in return.

:7 "Then I said to them, 'Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'

God asked them to forsake their other “gods”.

:8 "But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, 'I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.'

They did not obey God.

:9 "But I acted for My name's sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

:10 "Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.

God was gracious and didn’t destroy them – He didn’t want His name profaned by the Egyptians.

:11 "And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them.'

God gave Moses His laws in the wilderness.

:12 "Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

The Sabbath laws are a “sign” for the nation of Israel.

:13 "Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them.

The people again did not obey God.

:14 "But I acted for My name's sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out.

:15 "So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, 'flowing with milk and honey,' the glory of all lands,

:16 "because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols.

:17 "Nevertheless My eye spared them from destruction. I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.

At first God wasn’t going to bring them into the Promised Land …

(Ezek 20:15 KJV)  Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;

Then God decided to be gracious once again…

:18 "But I said to their children in the wilderness, 'Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols.

:19 'I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them;

:20 'hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.'

Again God exhorts the people to follow His ways.

:21 "Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness.

But they again rejected God.

:22 "Nevertheless I withdrew My hand and acted for My name's sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out.

:23 "Also I raised My hand in an oath to those in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries,

:24 "because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers' idols.

God warned the people back in Moses’ time that if they did not obey Him, that He would scatter them among the Gentile nations.

(Lev 26:33 KJV)  And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

:25 "Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live;

God would turn them over to the statutes of the other nations and gods that they had turned towards (whose statutes were not good).

:26 "and I pronounced them unclean because of their ritual gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire, that I might make them desolate and that they might know that I am the LORD."'

These were some of the “statutes” that these pagan religions practiced.

:27 "Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "In this too your fathers have blasphemed Me, by being unfaithful to Me.

:28 "When I brought them into the land concerning which I had raised My hand in an oath to give them, and they saw all the high hills and all the thick trees, there they offered their sacrifices and provoked Me with their offerings. There they also sent up their sweet aroma and poured out their drink offerings.

:29 "Then I said to them, 'What is this high place to which you go?' So its name is called Bamah to this day."'

high placebamah – high place, ridge, height, bamah (technical name for cultic platform)

BamahBamah – “high place”

:30 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Are you defiling yourselves in the manner of your fathers, and committing harlotry according to their abominations?

:31 "For when you offer your gifts and make your sons pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols, even to this day. So shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live," says the Lord GOD, "I will not be inquired of by you.


God’s patience

We can get the idea that in the Old Testament God was full of wrath and judgment.
But think of how long this all took. 
Moses lived around the year 1400 BC.  The judgment came in 586 BC.  That’s 800 years.
Think of how many times the nation fell away from God.
When we read through the book of Judges it gets a little discouraging seeing how many times the people followed God, then fell away, then fell into bondage, then returned back to God.  Over and over again.
And then the same cycle repeats itself as one king after another rules over the nation.
God is very, very patient.
(2 Pet 3:9 NKJV)  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
We too ought to be patient with each other.
(1 Cor 13:4 NKJV)  Love suffers long and is kind…

It’s the same Greek word used in 2Pet. 3:9.

:32-44 Restoration Promised

:32 "What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, 'We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'


Like everyone else

We get ourselves into so much trouble when we try to hard to be like other people.
There are the harmless things – like clothes and fashion – who ever came up with the idea of plaid pants, paisley shirts, and platform shoes – for men?  Yet that’s what we wore in high school.   We like to tease one of my sons who wants to wear his hair a little longer than his brothers – but we don’t let him see any pictures of me in high school.
But sometimes we get into trouble with how we want to be like other people.
For God’s people, they wanted to worship other “gods”.
It makes me think of how we as a “Christian” nation have gone after other religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and all sorts of goofy things.
It’s not a bad thing to examine how we are influenced by others.

:33 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.

:34 "I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.


God dares to discipline

Though they wanted to be like every other nation, God would not let them (vs. 32 – “what you have in your mind shall never be …”)
Sometimes as parents we have a hard time saying “no” to our kids.
(Prov 13:24 NKJV)  He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
God cares enough about us to discipline us.
(Heb 12:5-11 NKJV)  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; {6} For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." {7} If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? {8} But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. {9} Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? {10} For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. {11} Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The hurricanes that have recently hit the United States – are they God’s judgment?  Maybe it would be better to look at them as God’s discipline – He loves us enough to chasten us to help us go the right direction.

:35 "And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.

:36 "Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you," says the Lord GOD.

:37 "I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;

pass under the rod – the method used by shepherds to count and inspect their flocks, separating his sheep from those of other flocks that have mingled with his sheep.  Only the shepherd’s sheep are allowed into the shepherd’s fold where he will protect them.

:38 "I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

The “rebels” wouldn’t be allowed back into the Promised Land.

:39 "As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord GOD: "Go, serve every one of you his idols; and hereafter; if you will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols.

(Ezek 20:39 NLT)  "As for you, O people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: If you insist, go right ahead and worship your idols, but then don't turn around and bring gifts to me. Such desecration of my holy name must stop!

If you are not going to obey God, go ahead, but just don’t pretend to be a God-follower while you’re doing it.

:40 "For on My holy mountain, on the mountain height of Israel," says the Lord GOD, "there all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, shall serve Me; there I will accept them, and there I will require your offerings and the firstfruits of your sacrifices, together with all your holy things.

:41 "I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles.

God wants to be treated as “holy” in front of the Gentiles.  He wants His people to show the world what He is like – that He is good.

(Mat 5:14-16 NKJV)  "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. {15} "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. {16} "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

:42 "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers.

:43 "And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed.

:44 "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel," says the Lord GOD.'"

Has this time of restoration occurred?

There is a sense in which the Jews that repopulated the land during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah were good Jews.  The Jews for the most part left their worship of their many idols.

But in the fullest sense, this has not yet happened.  It will happen after Jesus comes back and He sets up His kingdom on earth, ruling from Israel.

:45-49 Forest Fire in the South

:45 Furthermore the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

In the Hebrew Bible, this verse is actually the first verse of chapter 21 – they felt that it was better placed as an introduction to the prophecies in the next chapter.

:46 "Son of man, set your face toward the south; preach against the south and prophesy against the forest land, the South,

:47 "and say to the forest of the South, 'Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree and every dry tree in you; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be scorched by it.

A fire in the southland.  Sounds like California in September. 

But it’s really talking about the coming final Babylonian invasion.

Ezekiel uses three different words for “south” in verse 46.

The first word is “Teman” – which could refer to the city of Teman, of the land of Edom.
The second word is “Darom” is used 12 other times in Scripture, all to refer to the temple.
The third word is “Negev” which usually refers to the area of southern Judah where the cities of Arad, Kadesh Barnea, and Beersheba are.

:48 "All flesh shall see that I, the LORD, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched."' "

:49 Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! They say of me, 'Does he not speak parables?'"

Ezekiel seems to be commenting to God saying, “It seems they keep saying to me that I’m always speaking in riddles …”

Is Ezekiel speaking symbolically here?  It seems so.

Ezekiel 21

:1-7 Sword and Sighing

:1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

:2 "Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel;

:3 "and say to the land of Israel, 'Thus says the LORD: "Behold, I am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.

:4 "Because I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you, therefore My sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north,

:5 "that all flesh may know that I, the LORD, have drawn My sword out of its sheath; it shall not return anymore."'

:6 "Sigh therefore, son of man, with a breaking heart, and sigh with bitterness before their eyes.

Ezekiel’s ministry wasn’t just in the words he spoke.  He often delivered messages through his actions as well.

Such as when he cut his hair and some hair was burned, other hair was scattered to the wind, some hair was tucked into his belt, representing how the people in Jerusalem were going to be killed or scattered, while some remained hidden and protected by God.

Such as when he lay on his side for a certain number of days, representing the judgment coming on the nation.

:7 "And it shall be when they say to you, 'Why are you sighing?' that you shall answer, 'Because of the news; when it comes, every heart will melt, all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming and shall be brought to pass,' says the Lord GOD."

Even though the “sighing” was to be a picture of how the people would be responding to the news about Jerusalem’s destruction, it was important that Ezekiel portray the message correctly. The people would be “sighing”, not “laughing”.


Representing God correctly

You are a representative of God.
People will look at you and get a glimpse of how God works, what God thinks.
Do I represent God correctly?
Moses at Meribah.  Moses was ticked off at the people for constantly complaining about their situation.  When they complained about the lack of water, God said to “speak to the Rock” and water would be provided.  But Moses went beyond what God had said.  Moses earlier had struck the Rock to make water come out again, and since he was so frustrated with the people, he struck the Rock this second time.

I believe that God had been trying to paint a picture of Jesus with the Rock.  Jesus would be “struck” in that He died for our sins.  And after He died, all we need is to “speak” to Him in faith to receive help.  But Moses smeared the picture.

(Num 20:12 NKJV)  Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."

For those of us who are Christians, people will see us as God’s representatives.

:8-17 The Sword against Jerusalem

: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 is sharpened And also polished!

It will be a sharp sword (Babylon).

:10 Sharpened to make a dreadful slaughter, Polished to flash like lightning! Should we then make mirth? It despises the scepter of My Son, As it does all wood.

sceptershebet – rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, scepter tribe

Not an easy verse to understand.  There are lots of different ideas.

It might refer to God’s rod of discipline, that the people despised the discipline of the Lord.
It probably refers to the scepter of the kings – that the sword (Babylon) despised the kings (scepter) of Judah – this actually fits best with the context, verse 13.

:11 And He has given it to be polished, That it may be handled; This sword is sharpened, and it is polished To be given into the hand of the slayer.'

:12 "Cry and wail, son of man; For it will be against My people, Against all the princes of Israel. Terrors including the sword will be against My people; Therefore strike your thigh.

:13 "Because it is a testing, And what if the sword despises even the scepter? The scepter shall be no more," says the Lord GOD.

The sword of Babylon will be stronger than the scepter of Jerusalem.

:14 "You therefore, son of man, prophesy, And strike your hands together. The third time let the sword do double damage. It is the sword that slays, The sword that slays the great men, That enters their private chambers.

:15 I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, That the heart may melt and many may stumble. Ah! It is made bright; It is grasped for slaughter:

:16 "Swords at the ready! Thrust right! Set your blade! Thrust left; Wherever your edge is ordered!

:17 "I also will beat My fists together, And I will cause My fury to rest; I, the LORD, have spoken."

:18-27 To Jerusalem or Rabbah?

:18 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying:

:19 "And son of man, appoint for yourself two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to go; both of them shall go from the same land. Make a sign; put it at the head of the road to the city.

When Jerusalem rebelled against Babylon in 588 BC, it was actually one of three cities to rebel against Babylon:  Tyre, Riblah, and Jerusalem.  As Nebuchadnezzar was heading south from his main headquarters at Riblah, he could head west and take on the city of Tyre.  He could continue south and mouth towards the coast and attack Jerusalem, or he could stay inland and head down the Jordan valley to Riblah.  Tyre would be too difficult, though he would eventually come back and attack it.  So he heads south and has to decide which of the other two he would take on.

:20 "Appoint a road for the sword to go to Rabbah of the Ammonites, and to Judah, into fortified Jerusalem.

The Ammonites lived to the east of the nation of Judah, in modern Jordan.  The capital of Jordan is Amman (not a coincidence), which is also the same as the ancient capital city of the Ammonites, Rabbah.  The Ammonites were descendants of Lot through one of his daughters.  They were perennial enemies of the nation of Israel and Judah.

:21 "For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads, to use divination: he shakes the arrows, he consults the images, he looks at the liver.

Ezekiel is giving a blow-by-blow of the coming Babylonian invasion.  He’s supposed to show the people that Nebuchadnezzar is standing at a fork in the road.  Should he go to Jerusalem and wipe it out or should he choose Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites.

It sounds as if Nebuchadnezzar has no real plan as to how he will invade.  He resorts to “divination”, to ask help from the gods as to know which city to attack first.

Divination involves reading “signs”, like palm-reading or reading tea leaves.

Nebuchadnezzar’s divinations involve arrows – probably like drawing straws.  Two arrows would be placed in a quiver with the name of a city on each arrow.  Whichever fell out of the quiver would be the object of the attack.
The images – something to do with little statues – who knows what happened – maybe even contacting demonic spirits.
The liver – called hepatoscopy – an animal was sacrificed and it’s liver was examined by soothsayers.  By looking at the shape and markings on the liver, they could supposedly decide whether or not their choice was an acceptable one or not.



God does not approve the use of divination:
(Lev 19:26 NKJV)  …nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying.

Astrology, tarot cards, fortune tellers are all forms of this junk.

(Isa 8:19 NKJV)  And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?

God wants us to seek Him rather than “signs”.


God can get things done

Even though God does not approve these things, because Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan man, God will accommodate him by using these things and getting Nebuchadnezzar to attack Jerusalem.
I think that sometimes we worry about how God’s message or will is going to be heard or done.
Yet sometimes God will use the most amazing things to speak to people.
I’ve heard lots of stories about how God would use some secular TV show or movie to speak to people.  Does that mean that we should watch more TV or see more movies because God might speak through them?  No – but it means that God can use all sorts of things to get people’s attention.
God spoke to the prophet Balaam through a donkey.  Kind of interesting considering that he was supposed to be a prophet.  Yet God rebuked Balaam through the donkey.
This doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility to share with people.  But just keep in mind that God can use all sorts of things.

:22 "In his right hand is the divination for Jerusalem: to set up battering rams, to call for a slaughter, to lift the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to heap up a siege mound, and to build a wall.

:23 "And it will be to them like a false divination in the eyes of those who have sworn oaths with them; but he will bring their iniquity to remembrance, that they may be taken.

:24 "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because you have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your doings your sins appear; because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand.

:25 'Now to you, O profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end,

This is speaking of King Zedekiah.

:26 'thus says the Lord GOD: "Remove the turban, and take off the crown; Nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted.

:27 Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, Until He comes whose right it is, And I will give it to Him."'

:28-32 Ammonites to be destroyed too

:28 "And you, son of man, prophesy and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach,' and say: 'A sword, a sword is drawn, Polished for slaughter, For consuming, for flashing;

The Ammonites would think that they had escaped the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar when they saw him attacking Jerusalem.

:29 While they see false visions for you, While they divine a lie to you, To bring you on the necks of the wicked, the slain Whose day has come, Whose iniquity shall end.

:30 'Return it to its sheath. I will judge you In the place where you were created, In the land of your nativity.

:31 I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow against you with the fire of My wrath, And deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy.

:32 You shall be fuel for the fire; Your blood shall be in the midst of the land. You shall not be remembered, For I the LORD have spoken.'"

Ammonites would not escape judgment.