EZEKIEL CHAPTER 21.
(Chapter 20, 45-21, 32.)
The Approaching Judgment.
THE PICTURE OF THE FOREST FIRE. — V. 45. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, in a message of verbal inspiration, as always, saying, v. 46. Son of man, set thy face toward the South, literally, toward the right hand, for the Jew always considered himself facing east, and drop thy word toward the South, in a constant dripping, more or less violently, and prophesy against the forest of the south field, where dryness and heat prevailed, namely, the southern part of Palestine, specifically of Judah, v. 47. and say to the forest of the South, the densely populated districts of that section of the country, Hear the word of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord God, whose power and sovereignty is unquestioned, Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, in the form of the various judgments which He would send upon them, and it shall devour every green tree in thee and every dry tree, fit and unfit, righteous and wicked alike, in an unsparing punishment; the flaming flame, the burst of fire kindled by His anger, shall not be quenched and all faces from the South to the North, all the inhabitants of the entire country included, shall be burned therein, struck by the punishment of the Lord in some manner. V. 48. And all flesh shall see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched; no earthly power could stop the vengeance of the Lord, it would endure until it had accomplished His purpose. V. 49. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! They say of me, Doth he not speak parables? Ezekiel thus complaining that his countrymen could not understand this form of message and therefore despised and rejected his warnings. When men do not want to understand the message of the Lord, they manage to find excuses of various kinds or, failing in this, ridicule His servants and their preaching.
THE SWORD OF THE LORD. — Chap. 21, 1. And the word of the Lord came unto me, evidently in answer to his complaint, saying, v. 2. Son of man, set thy face, in firm determination, toward Jerusalem, the capital of this same south country of which the Lord had just spoken in figurative language, and drop thy word, in a stream of denunciation and threatening, toward the holy places, the various parts of the Temple, and prophesy against the land of Israel, v. 3. and say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I am against thee, in stern opposition, and will draw forth My sword out of his sheath, in sending war with bloodshed and devastation, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, all of them being included alike in the outward form of the punishment. V. 4. Seeing, then, that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, the Lord having the external aspect of His visitation upon Judah in mind, therefore, in fulfillment of this object, shall My sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the South to the North, against all the inhabitants of the country, v. 5. that all flesh may know that I, the Lord, have drawn forth My sword out of his sheath, to accomplish this sweeping overthrow, this fearful catastrophe; It shall not return any more, it must perform its mission of carnage and distress. V. 6. Sigh, therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins, as though the very seat of strength would burst; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes, in bitter sorrow and pain over the coming calamity. V. 7. And it shall be when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tiding, because it cometh, because the message contained in the evil tidings would be fulfilled; and every heart shall melt, in utter discouragement and despair, and all hands shall be feeble, hanging down in a disheartened manner, and every spirit shall faint, be dull with apprehension and fear, and all knees shall be weak as water, in utter weakness; behold, it cometh and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord God, for He was fully determined to carry out His punishment upon His rebellious children. This thought is now set forth in greater detail. V. 8. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, v. 9. Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord, Say, A sword, a sword, is sharpened, the repetition increasing the emphasis upon the deadliness of the weapon, and also furbished, ready for immediate use, for terrifying bloodshed; v. 10. it is sharpened to make a sore slaughter, literally, “that, killing, it may kill”; it is furbished that it may glitter, the flash of its wielding striking terror to the hearts of all beholders. Should we, then, make mirth? It contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree, literally, “Shall we rejoice over the staff of my son, despising every tree?” or, “Shall we rejoice, saying, The scepter of my son despises every tree?” that is, the kingly power and authority of Judah could afford to despise every other power as inferior, on account of the Messianic promise to Judah. V. 11. And he hath given it to be furbished that it may be handled, Judah himself causing the preparations for the slaughter of his own people; this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer, so that the judgment upon Judah might take its course. V. 12. Cry and howl, son of man, namely, from fear and grief; for it shall be upon My people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel; terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon My people, the sword of slaughter being sure to accomplish its purpose. Smite therefore upon thy thigh, as a mark of extreme terror and pain. V. 13. Because it is a trial, literally, “for a testing-out it is,” and what if the sword contemn even the rod? What if the despising scepter shall not be? the power of Judah coming to an end before the advance of the Chaldean host; It shall be no more, saith the Lord God. V. 14. Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy and smite thine hands together, in extreme agitation, and let the sword be doubled, the third time, the sword of the slain, so that its sharpness and strength will be increased in their terrible effects. It is the sword of the great men that are slain, for rank and standing shielded no man against the Chaldean attack and slaughter, which entereth into their privy chambers, literally, “which encircles them, which circulates about them,” giving them no chance to escape. V. 15. I have set the point of the sword against all their gates that their heart may faint and their ruins, literally, “their stumbling-blocks,” that is, the occasions for them to fall by the sword, be multiplied. Ah! it, the sword, is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter, sharpened and drawn for the fray, for the bloodshed. With this in mind, the sword is directly addressed. V. 18. Go thee one way or other, literally, “gather thy strength,” either on the right hand or on the left, striking wherever an opportunity offers, whithersoever thy face is set, the activity and rapidity of the sword-strokes thus being pictured. V. 17. I will also smite Mine hands together, so Jehovah states, and I will cause My fury to rest, to find satisfaction in carrying out His vengeance. I, the Lord, have said it. Jehovah excels in long-suffering, but when His hour for punishing comes, He gives vent to His fury in a manner which is not readily forgotten. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
THE SWORD OF BABYLON UPON JUDAH AND UPON AMMON. — V. 18. The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, v. 19. Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, by means of a drawing or map showing a road branching off in two directions, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come, as his armies advanced to the conquest, -both twain shall come forth out of one land, - and choose thou a place, a finger-post, or pointer, to guide men aright; choose it at the head of the way to the city, placing it at the parting of the ways, so that no mistake as to directions would be possible. V. 20. Appoint a way, pointing out the road, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, to destroy the capital with the nation, and to Judah in Jerusalem, the defensed, for the capital practically represented and included the entire nation. V. 21, For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, literally, “at the mother of the way,” undecided, for the moment, which way to take, at the head of the two ways, to use divination, to determine by supernatural means which road he should take first. He made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver. These are the three ways in which he practiced divination, by shaking arrows together in a vessel and then making a drawing at random, by asking the teraphim, or household gods, whose will was made known in some strange manner, by inspecting the liver of certain sacrificial animals, the appearance or the position of the lobes determining the matter. We have here a graphic bit of description, which must have impressed all hearers with the certainty of the approaching doom. V. 22. At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, that is, Nebuchadnezzar held up in his right hand the arrow marked “Jerusalem,” to indicate that this was their goal, to appoint captains, rather, to place battering rams against’ the city, to open the mouth in the slaughter, in murderous shouting, to lift up the voice with shouting, in a loud battle cry, to appoint battering-rams against the gates, the taking of which would mean the taking of the city, to cast a mount, to build trenches, and to build a fort, siege-towers. V. 23. And it shall be unto them, namely, to the Jews, who were prone to yield to false hopes, as a false divination in their sight, they refused to believe that matters would come to such a pass, to them that have sworn oaths, literally, “oaths of oaths are to them,” that is, they relied either upon the solemn promises of the Lord which He had made to their fathers, or they depended upon the oaths of allegiance sworn by them to the Chaldean king, forgetting that these oaths had been violated on their part; but He, either God or Nebuchadnezzar, will call to remembrance the iniquity, the violation of their oath of allegiance, that they may be taken, that their conquest may be accomplished. V. 24. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, their chief transgression being their unfaithfulness to the covenant God, in that your transgressions are discovered, laid bare before the eyes of all men, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, the Lord’s attention being directed to them time and again, ye shall be taken with the hand, namely, that of the king of Babylon. V. 25. And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, Zedekiah, who had desecrated his office as the Lord’s anointed by idolatry and perjury, whose day is come, the day of his punishment, when iniquity shall have an end, or, “at the time of the iniquity of the end.” V. 26. Thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem, the high-priestly miter, with which Zedekiah was associated as the representative of a priestly people, and take off the crown, the symbol of kingly power; this shall not be the same, they will not remain as heretofore, Judah having lost its ancient position. Exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high, there will be a complete overthrow of conditions, particularly in the Messianic era. V. 27. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, the threefold repetition denoting the awful certainty of the event, until He come whose right it is, until the rightful Heir, the Messiah, would make His appearance; and I will give it Him, so that He would perform the functions both of priest and of king in the highest and truest sense of the terms. Until the time of His coming everything was preparatory and imperfect. V. 28. And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach, who were allied with Israel against the Babylonians, hut continued in their enmity toward Judah throughout, even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn, ready to descend in punishment; for the slaughter it is furbished, to consume because of the glittering, as it falls with lightning-like flashes; v. 29. whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee, that is, while the false prophets were prophesying deception and falsehood to the Ammonites eager for such support, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked, that is, the sword would lay them low with the wicked already slaughtered, whose day is come when their iniquity shall have an end, “at the time of the iniquity of the end,” that just preceding the final punishment. V. 30. Shall I cause it to return into his sheath? namely, without having performed this work of vengeance; or, “Cause it to return to its sheath,” the punishment being carried out with great rapidity, so that the very idea of defense is futile. I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity, so that Ammon would be destroyed in its own country, without being carried into exile. V. 31. And I will pour out Mine indignation upon thee, as from an overturned vessel; I will blow against thee in the fire of My wrath, so that this fire would consume the children of Ammon, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, such as are fierce and cruel in warfare, and skilful to destroy. V. 32. Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire, the land to he consumed by fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land, in their own homes, all weapons of defense being of no avail; thou shalt be no more remembered, be consigned to oblivion as a nation; for I, the Lord, have spoken it. Thus the Lord carries out His sentence of destruction upon the enemies of His people, even if He, at the same time, finds it necessary to punish His children severely.