1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month,#sn The date would be August 14th, 591 b.c. The seventh year is the seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile. some of the elders#tn Heb “men from the elders.” of Israel came to seek#tn See the note at 14:3. the Lord, and they sat down in front of me. 2 The word of the Lord 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,#tn Or “I will not reveal myself to you.” declares the sovereign Lord.’ 4 “Are you willing to pronounce judgment?#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. 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#tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.” to the descendants#tn Heb “seed.” of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore#tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.” to them, “I am the Lord your God.” 6 On that day I swore#tn Heb “I lifted up my hand to them.” to bring them out of the land of Egypt to a land which I had picked out#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.” for them, a land flowing with milk and honey,#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). 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,#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. 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,#tn Heb “each one, the detestable things of their eyes did not throw away.” nor did they abandon the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out#tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.” 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,#tn Heb “for the sake of my name.” so that I would not be profaned before the nations among whom they lived,#tn Heb “before the eyes of the nations in whose midst they were.” before whom I revealed myself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt.#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.
10 “‘So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them to the wilderness. 11 I gave them my statutes#sn The laws were given at Mount Sinai. and revealed my regulations to them. The one#tn Heb “the man.” who carries#tn Heb “does.” them out will live by them!#tn The wording and the concept is contained in Lev 18:5 and Deut 30:15-19. 12 I also gave them my Sabbaths#sn Ezekiel’s contemporary, Jeremiah, also stressed the importance of obedience to the Sabbath law (Jer 17). as a reminder of our relationship,#tn Heb “to become a sign between me and them.” so that they would know that I, the Lord, sanctify them.#tn Or “set them apart.” The last phrase of verse 12 appears to be a citation of Exod 31:13. 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#tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.” my rage on them in the wilderness and destroy them.#tn Heb “to bring them to an end.” 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#tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.” 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#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. because they rejected my regulations, did not follow my statutes, and desecrated my Sabbaths; for their hearts followed their idols.#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. 17 Yet I had pity on#tn Heb “my eye pitied.” 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#tn Heb “sons,” reflecting the patriarchal idiom of the culture. in the wilderness, “Do not follow the practices of your fathers; do not observe their regulations,#tn Or “standard of justice.” See Ezek 7:27. 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#tn Or “set apart my Sabbaths.” and they will be a reminder of our relationship,#tn Heb “and they will become a sign between me and you.” and then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” 21 “‘But the children#tn Heb “sons.” rebelled against me, did not follow my statutes, did not observe my regulations by carrying them out (the one who obeys#tn Or “carries them out.” them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I decided to pour out#tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.” my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I refrained from doing so,#tn Heb “drew my hand back.” This idiom also occurs in Lam 2:8 and Ps 74:11. 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#tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.” to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the lands.#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. 24 I did this#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. because they did not observe my regulations, they rejected my statutes, they desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on#tn Or “they worshiped” (NCV, TEV, CEV); Heb “their eyes were on” or “were after” (cf. v. 16). their fathers’ idols. 25 I also gave#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” in v. 25, and the note on “pass through the fire” in v. 26. them decrees#tn The Hebrew term חֻקּוֹת (khuqot; translated “statutes” elsewhere in this chapter) is normally feminine. Here Ezekiel changes the form to masculine: חֻקִּים (khuqim). 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. which were not good and regulations by which they could not live. 26 I declared them to be defiled because of their sacrifices#tn Or “gifts.” – they caused all their first born to pass through the fire#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). – so that I would devastate them, so that they will know that I am the Lord.’#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.
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 which I swore#tn Heb “which I lifted up my hand.” to give them, but whenever they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices there and presented the offerings that provoke 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”#tn The Hebrew word (“Bamah”) means “high place.” 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#tn Heb “in the way of your fathers.” and engage in prostitution with detestable idols? 31 When you present your sacrifices#tn Or “gifts.” – 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,#tn Or “Will I reveal myself to you?” O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I will not allow you to seek me!#tn Or “I will not reveal myself to you.”
32 “‘What you plan#tn Heb “what comes upon your mind.” will never happen. You say, “We will be#tn The Hebrew could also read: “Let us be.” like the nations, like the clans of the lands, who serve gods of wood and stone.”#tn Heb “serving wood and stone.” sn This verse echoes the content of 1 Sam 8:20. 33 As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm,#sn This phrase occurs frequently in Deuteronomy (Deut 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8). 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#tn This is the same Hebrew verb used to describe the passing of the children through the fire. the shepherd’s staff,#sn The metaphor may be based in Lev 27:32 (see also Jer 33:13; Matt 25:32-33). A shepherd would count his sheep as they passed beneath his staff. and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38 I will eliminate from among you the rebels and those who revolt#tn See the note at 2:3. 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,#sn Compare the irony here to Amos 4:4 and Jer 44:25. if you will not listen to me.#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. But my holy name will not be profaned#sn A similar concept may be found in Lev 18:21; 20:3. again by your sacrifices#tn Or “gifts.” 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#tn Heb “all of it.” 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#tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.” to give to your fathers. 43 And there you will remember your conduct#tn Heb “ways.” and all your deeds by which you defiled yourselves. You will despise yourselves#tn Heb “loathe yourselves in your faces.” 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)#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. The word of the Lord came to me: 46 “Son of man, turn toward#tn Heb “set your face toward.” This expression occurs as well in Ezek 6:2; 13:17. the south,#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. and speak out against the south.#tn Or “toward Darom.” Darom may mean the south or a region just north of southern city of Beer Sheba. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 2:417-18. Prophesy against the open scrub#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. land of the Negev, 47 and say to the scrub land of the Negev, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look here,#tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb. I am about to start a fire in you,#tn Fire also appears as a form of judgment in Ezek 15:4-7; 19:12, 14. 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#tn Heb “all flesh.” 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?’”