Ezekiel, an Aaronic priest, was among those whom King Nebuchadnezzar took as captives into exile along with King Jehoiachin, members of the royal family, officials of the realm, warriors, and skilled craftsmen. (2 Kings 24:12-15) In the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin, commonly considered to have been the year 593 BCE, Ezekiel received his commission to serve as YHWH’s prophet. (1:1-3) Verse 3 of Ezekiel chapter 1 says, “The word of YHWH came to Ezekiel the son of Buzi the priest in the land of the Chaldeans.” This wording in the third person could indicate that Ezekiel, like Jeremiah and other prophets, did not personally compile and write the record of his words, visions, and activity.
Like Jeremiah in Jerusalem, so Ezekiel in Babylon declared the word of YHWH that Jerusalem would be besieged and fall before the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. Neither those then living in Jerusalem and the realm of the kingdom of Judah nor the exiles in Babylonia wanted to hear this message, and they refused to repent of their wrongdoing. Prophets of falsehood lulled the people into a false sense of security, proclaiming that Jerusalem would not be conquered and that the exiles in Babylonia would soon be returning. (Jeremiah 5:1-5; 26:1-11; 27:16-18; 28:2-4; 29:20-28; Ezekiel 2:3-7; 3:24-27) The words of Ezekiel 3:25 suggest that the exiles in Babylon did not even want Ezekiel to leave his house. Possibly because the people did not want to hear the message, YHWH directed Ezekiel to perform symbolic actions that vividly portrayed the severe punishment they would experience.
Besides foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and what would befall the people, Ezekiel prophesied against Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Philistines, the city of Tyre and its “leader,” prince, or ruler, and Egypt and its ruler, Pharaoh. (Ezekiel 25:1-32:32; 35:1-15) After the desolation of Jerusalem and the the territory of the kingdom of Judah, the message Ezekiel made known apparently changed. The word of YHWH through Ezekiel pointed forward to the time when the devastated land would be restored and the exiles would be able to return. In the concluding part of the book of Ezekiel (40:1-48:35), a new arrangement for the worship of YHWH is outlined, an arrangement centered in a temple that would be far grander than the one that had been built during the reign of King Solomon. From this new temple, a river would flow that would provide life-imparting water.
Only fragments of the text of Ezekiel survive in six manuscripts from Qumran and one from Masada. With a few insignificant exceptions, the wording that is preserved corresponds to that of the Masoretic Text. Based on the space between the first seven preserved letters of verse 13 of chapter 5 and the next and last four preserved letters in this verse, the text in one scroll fragment (11QEzek) appears to have been shorter than is the Masoretic Text. Another place where the text seems to have been shorter and different is in the wording of verses 16 and 17 in manuscript fragment 4QEzekᵅ. The space that remains for the wording from the five preserved letters of verse 15 and the only preserved word of verse 17 is insufficient to accommodate the intervening words found in verses 16 and 17 of the Masoretic Text.
The Septuagint contains numerous departures from the extant Hebrew text. There is evidence that translations into Greek are based on Hebrew copies that differed in significant ways. The oldest partially preserved Greek text is in P967, considered to date from the third century CE. In this papyrus manuscript, the text is shorter than is contained in manuscripts of the fourth and fifth centuries (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus), and it is arranged differently. The wording of chapters 38 and 39 follows that of chapter 36, then the words of chapter 37 precede those of chapters 40 to 48.
In the commentary that follows, reference is made to the Septuagint and the Targum of Ezekiel. Comments focus on significant differences, including omissions and expansions of the text.
The “thirtieth year” may have been the thirtieth year of Ezekiel’s life. It was on the fifth day of the fourth month (mid-June to mid-July) of this year that Ezekiel was among the exiles from the kingdom of Judah by the “river Chebar,” probably one of the major canals in ancient Chaldea. At this time, the “heavens” opened up to Ezekiel, and he “saw visions of God.” (1:1; see the Notes section.) The thirtieth year was also the “fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin,” which is commonly understood to have been the year 593 BCE. Ezekiel had been taken into exile along with Jehoiachin, members of the royal family, officials of the realm, warriors, and skilled craftsmen. (1:2; 2 Kings 24:12-15)
According to a cuneiform inscription (British Museum 21946), King Nebuchadnezzar “encamped against the city of Judah [Jerusalem]” and on the second day of the month Adar [mid-February to mid-March (the twelfth month)]” captured the city and seized the “king” (Jehoiachin). This would mean that the fifth day of the fourth month of the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile was about four years later. It was then that Ezekiel’s service as a prophet began, and it continued at least until the twenty-seventh year of this exile or about twenty-two years. (29:17) Aside from the name “Buzi,” nothing else is known about Ezekiel’s father. Like his contemporary Jeremiah who served as a prophet in the kingdom of Judah, Ezekiel was a priest. It was by the river Chebar (probably one of the major canals in ancient Chaldea) that Ezekiel received a “word” or message from YHWH. The “hand of YHWH” came upon him, indicating that he had become the chosen prophet under his power or control. In the Targum, the reference is to the “spirit of prophecy from before the Lord.” (1:3)
Ezekiel observed a powerful wind coming from the north. He apparently saw a huge cloud drawing nearer. Within this cloud, a fire was flickering or flashing (literally, “taking hold of itself”), and a bright glow surrounded the cloud. In the midst of this cloud and the fire, Ezekiel saw what appeared to him something like electrum, an alloy of gold and silver that gleamed brightly. (1:4)
Apparently as the cloud came closer, Ezekiel saw the “likeness of four living beings.” Their basic form was like that of a man (an earthling), but there were other features that differed significantly from that of a human. (1:5) Each one of the living beings had “four faces” and “four wings.” (1:6) Their legs were straight. Unlike the human leg that has a knee, the legs of the living beings apparently were like straight pillars, and the feet were round like those of the hooves of a calf. Equipped with wings, they did not need legs and feet like those of humans for walking or running. The living beings could fly or glide. According to the Septuagint, their feet “were winged.” The living beings gleamed like burnished copper or bronze. (1:7) Under the wings, there apparently were arms with hands that looked like those of a man. One hand would have been on each of the four sides of the living being. Therefore, when Ezekiel looked directly at the face on a specific side, he would have seen a hand on the right and the left. Each of the living beings had the same set of faces and wings. (1:8; see the Notes section.) The wings that extended above the faces of the living beings joined or touched those of the other living beings. (Compare 1:11.) With a face on each of their four sides, the living beings could move forward in any direction without having to turn. (1:9; see the Notes section.)
Apparently the face that Ezekiel saw directly looking in his direction was that of a man. To the right of this face was that of a lion and to the left that of a bull. Behind the face of the man was that of an eagle. If the face of a man represented the noble qualities humans possess, the other faces could represent features in which humans do not excel — strength (bull, Proverbs 14:4), boldness or fearlessness (lion, 2 Samuel 17:10; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Proverbs 28:1), and speed (eagle, Habakkuk 1:8). (1:10)
After again referring to the “faces” of the living beings, the verse continues with a comment about the wings. One set of two wings spread out above the face of each living being and touched or joined those of the other living beings. The other set of two wings covered their bodies. Ezekiel was able to see the legs, suggesting that the upper part of the body of each living being was covered. (1:11)
The spirit controlled the movement of the four living beings, probably meaning that all of them went straight forward in unison, apparently as the spirit of God impelled them. Their having a face on each side made it possible for them to go forward without having to turn. (1:12)
The appearance of the living beings resembled “burning coals of fire” or fire from burning coals. According to the Septuagint, an “appearance like burning coals of fire” was “in the midst of the living beings.” “Among the living beings, something that had the “appearance of torches” moved to and fro. The fire was radiant, and “lightning went forth from the fire.” (1:13)
The living beings seemingly moved rapidly, darting back and forth “like the appearance of lightning” or like lightning flashes. (1:14; see the Notes section.)
Near the four faces of each of the four living beings, Ezekiel saw a large wheel, the bottom part of which touched the “earth” or the ground. (1:15) All four wheels were of identical construction, with a wheel within a wheel, and they gleamed like topaz (tarshísh; transliterated as tharsis in LXX), a transparent or translucent gemstone. The words “the wheel within the wheel” could mean that each of the four wheels was intersected at right angles with another wheel. A number of modern translations are specific in expressing this basic meaning regarding the wheels. “Each wheel had a second wheel turning crosswise within it.” (NLT) “Each wheel was exactly the same and had a second wheel that cut through the middle of it.” (CEV) “Each had another wheel intersecting it at right angles.” (TEV) (1:16; see the Notes section.) Such a design of the wheels would have facilitated movement in any one of four directions without having to turn. A number of modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the Hebrew text and convey different meanings. “As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.” (NIV) “The wheels could move in any of the four directions.” (TEV) “When they moved in any of the four directions they never swerved from their course.” (REB) “The beings could move in any of the four directions they faced, without turning as they moved.” (NLT) (1:17)
Seemingly, the rims at the top of the large wheels were so high above the ground that they appeared terrifying to Ezekiel, and all four rims were covered with “eyes” all around. This suggests that the rotation of the wheels was purposeful as if they were seeing every detail of the area being traversed. (1:18; see the Notes section.) The living beings and the wheels moved in perfect unison. Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved beside them; and whenever the “living beings rose from the earth [or the land], the wheels rose.” (1:19) The “spirit,” apparently God’s spirit, animated everything, making fully coordinated movement possible. Wherever the spirit went or directed, the living being would go, and the wheels would rise along with them. This was because the spirit that was “in the living beings,” guiding, controlling, or directing them, was also the animating power in the wheels. (1:20; see the Notes section.) The feature regarding unified movement and its source is repeated. When the living beings went, the wheels would go. When the living beings stood, the wheels would stand. When the living beings rose, the wheels would rise along with them. This was because the “spirit of the living beings” was “in the wheels,” animating them. (1:21)
Ezekiel saw what looked like an “expanse,” firmament, or platform that was spread out “over the heads of the living beings,” and this expanse had the appearance of “dreadful,” awesome, or dazzling “ice,” probably meaning that it was as bright as ice when reflecting sunlight. The Septuagint indicates that the firmament looked like “crystal.” (1:22)
Under the “expanse” or platform, two wings of each living being were “straight” or stretched out above their heads. The position of each straight or outstretched wing is referred to as a “woman to her sister,” probably meaning that the tip of each outstretched wing touched the outstretched wing of the living being in the closest proximity. According to the Septuagint, the outstretched wings were “flapping” one to the other. The other set of two wings served to cover much of the body of each living being. (1:23)
To Ezekiel, the moving wings of the living beings sounded like “many waters,” likely resembling the roar of waves crashing against the shore. The sound was also like the voice of the Almighty, probably meaning thunder, and like the noise of a large military force. When not moving, the living beings let down their wings, apparently folding them against their sides. (1:24)
Ezekiel heard a sound from above the “expanse” or platform that was over the heads of the living beings. The Hebrew text repeats the words about their letting down their wings, but this repetition is not included in the Septuagint. (1:25)
Above the “expanse” or platform over the heads of the living beings, there was what looked like a throne fashioned from “sapphire,” a transparent or translucent precious stone that probably was deep blue in color. The Septuagint refers to the throne as being on the sapphire platform. Seated on the throne was one whose likeness was the appearance of a man. (1:26)
From the waist up of the one seated on the throne, Ezekiel saw what appeared to him like the glow of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver that gleamed brightly, and like flames of fire all around. The appearance of the seated one from his waist downward was like flames of fire and surrounding brightness. (1:27) Ezekiel also saw what looked like a rainbow (“the bow that is in the cloud on a day of the rain”) and brightness all around the seated figure. Possibly this brightness glowed like the colors of the rainbow and formed a bow around the one seated on the throne. Ezekiel recognized the appearance to be the “likeness of the glory of YHWH.” Apparently filled with reverential fear, he dropped to his knees and bowed low, with his face touching the ground. He then heard the voice of the one seated on the throne speaking directly to him. (1:28)
According to the Targum, the “thirtieth year” mentioned in verse 1 started counting from the time in the reign of King Josiah when Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the Torah in the temple.
The Targum makes a distinction in verse 8 between the living beings and the cherubs. It says that the “hands” were used to take burning coals from among the cherubs and to give these coals to the seraphs. The seraphs then sprinkled the coals on the place of the wicked ones, to annihilate the sinners who transgressed God’s word.
In verse 9, the Septuagint does not mention “wings.” It indicates that the faces of the four living beings did not turn when they were moving. They moved in the direction of the focus of a specific face.
The wording in verse 14 is not in the Septuagint.
In verse 16, the Hebrew word tarshísh may designate topaz, but this is not certain. Common renderings in translations are “topaz” and “chrysolite.”
Verse 18 of the Septuagint rendering contains no reference to fear or terror in connection with the rims of the wheels.
The opening words of verse 20 in the Septuagint are, “Wherever the cloud was, there the spirit [was ready] to go.”
So that he might speak to him, YHWH addressed Ezekiel as “son of man” and told him to “stand upon [his] feet.” The directive for him to stand called upon Ezekiel to be alert and attentive to everything he would hear. (2:1; see the Notes section.)
When YHWH spoke to him, Ezekiel sensed that the “spirit” (God’s spirit) came into him. Impelled by the spirit, he stood up “upon [his] feet,” ready to hear the words of YHWH. The Septuagint says regarding the effect the spirit had on Ezekiel, “The spirit came upon me and raised me up and set me upon my feet.” (2:2)
YHWH commissioned Ezekiel to go to the “sons of Israel,” his own people. Their being designated as “rebellious nations” may refer to the people of the former ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the people of the kingdom of Judah. All of them had rebelled against YHWH. They and their “fathers” or ancestors had transgressed against him, disregarding his commands, and this had continued to that “day” or the very time in which Ezekiel lived. (2:3; see the Notes section.)
The “sons” or people of Israel were “hard” or obstinate of “face.” Their countenance reflected a stubborn and unresponsive attitude. They were “stout of heart” or unyielding and defiant in their inmost selves. When being sent to them, Ezekiel had a difficult assignment as the prophet who would be proclaiming an unpopular message. He was to identify the source of his words, saying to the people, “Thus says the Lord YHWH.” (2:4; see the Notes section.)
Whether the people, having proved to be a “rebellious house,” listened to or refused to hear the message proclaimed to them, they would still know that a prophet had been in their midst. The Septuagint says regarding the people and Ezekiel, “They will know that you are a prophet in their midst.” (2:5; see the Notes section.)
Again addressing Ezekiel as “son of man,” YHWH told him not to be afraid of the people and their words, indicating that he should be bold and fearless in proclaiming the message despite their stubborn resistance and hostility. The Targum says that he should not fear them or their words even if they rebel and contend against him. In their response to Ezekiel, the first Hebrew word used to describe them is the plural form of saráv. There is uncertainty about the meaning of this verb. The word saráv could identify the people as obstinate or rebellious persons. Another possible significance is that the people were hurtful like nettles. They were also likened to “thorns” and “scorpions.” The Targum indicates that their works were like scorpions. Ezekiel was sitting among “scorpions,” suggesting that he found himself in an environment that could cause him harm. The Septuagint says regarding the people, “They will rage and rise up against you round about, and you are dwelling in the midst of scorpions.” Nevertheless, Ezekiel was told not to be afraid of their words and not to be dismayed or terrified at their faces, “for they are a house of rebellion” or a rebellious people. The implication was that he should not be afraid because YHWH would be with him as he faithfully served as his prophet. (2:6; see the Notes section.)
Ezekiel was to speak YHWH’s “words” to the people regardless of whether the rebellious ones would listen to or refuse (be terrified [LXX]) to hear these words. According to the Targum, the objective was that the people might obey the instruction and stop sinning. (2:7)
YHWH again addressed Ezekiel as “son of man” and said to him, “Hear [or listen to] what I am saying to you. Do not be rebellious like the rebellious house [of Israel]. Open your mouth, and eat what I am giving to you.” As the text that follows reveals (3:1), the item intended for Ezekiel to eat was not customary food, but he was to eat it without protesting. (2:8; see the Notes section.) He saw a hand reaching out to him (probably the hand of one of the living beings or cherubs [10:20]), and this hand held a scroll. (2:9) When the scroll was unrolled before Ezekiel, he saw that it had writing on both front and back. The wording consisted of “laments [or dirges] and moaning [expressions prompting sorrow] and woe [pronouncements of calamity or doom].” (2:10; see the Notes section.)
In this chapter (verses 1, 3, 6, and 8), as is the case throughout the entire book of Ezekiel, the prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This designation would have reminded him of his being an earthling or a mortal with a commission from the eternal Sovereign upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
In verse 3, the Septuagint does not include the reference to “nations.”
The wording of verse 4 in the Septuagint is shorter than that of the Hebrew text. “And you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord.”
In verse 5, the Septuagint opens with the words, “Whether they hear or be terrified …”
The Targum interprets the words in verse 10 differently. It indicates that the nations would exercise dominion over the people of the house of Israel if they transgressed against the Torah. If they heeded the Torah, God would remove lamentation, groaning, and mourning from them.
Ezekiel was instructed to eat what he found and then, more specifically, to eat the scroll that had been held out to him and to go to speak to the “house of Israel” (“the sons [or people] of Israel” [LXX]). (3:1; see the Notes section.) Obediently, he opened his mouth, and YHWH had him eat the scroll. (3:2) The directive for Ezekiel to cause his “belly” to eat and to fill his innards with the scroll may have served to assure him that he would not vomit up what normally would have been indigestible. In Ezekiel’s mouth, the scroll was as sweet as honey. Since YHWH is never the source of evil but only of good, everything that proceeds from him is delightful or sweet to his devoted servants. Even the pronouncements of punitive judgments are “sweet,” for they are merited and expressions of flawless justice. Therefore, besides the honor to serve YHWH as his prophet, the words of YHWH would have been sweet to Ezekiel. (3:3; see the Notes section.)
The designation “house of Israel” apparently applied to the Israelite exiles among whom Ezekiel was to enter to speak to them YHWH’s “words.” (3:4; see the Notes section.) Ezekiel was not being sent to foreigners, to persons whose speech sounded unintelligible to him and whose tongue or language would seem “heavy” to him. This could refer to a “language” that was hard or difficult or that the tongue of the speakers appeared to be impaired, expressing words in a way that sounded like gibberish to one unfamiliar with the foreign language. Ezekiel was being sent to his own people who spoke the same language he did. (3:5) He was not being sent to one of many peoples speaking a foreign language or being “heavy of tongue” (either having a difficult language or expressing themselves in a manner that sounded like gibberish to a person who did not know the foreign language). If YHWH had sent Ezekiel to a foreign-language-speaking people, they would have listened to him. (3:6) The “house [or people] of Israel,” however, would not listen to Ezekiel, for they were unwilling to listen to YHWH. They were “strong of forehead” (“contentious” [LXX]) and “hard of heart,” suggesting that they were stubborn or defiant and, in their “heart” or inmost self, unyielding and unresponsive.(3:7)
So that Ezekiel would be able to carry out his commission boldly and fearlessly, YHWH prepared him for the resistance and hostility he would encounter. He made his “face” or countenance as “hard” or as resistant to change as the faces of the people, and his “forehead as hard as their foreheads” (strengthened Ezekiel’s controversy against the controversy of the people [LXX]). (3:8)
YHWH assured Ezekiel that he would be up to the assignment to confront the rebellious “house” or people of Israel despite their obstinate and unyielding disposition and unresponsiveness. He had made Ezekiel’s forehead hard like a diamond or emery, “harder than flint.” Therefore, he was not to be afraid of them or terrified at their “faces,” their stubborn and defiant resistance to the message he would be proclaiming to them. According to the Septuagint, Ezekiel’s controversy with the rebellious people would be stronger than a rock or crag in everything or continually. (3:9)
For Ezekiel to take YHWH’s word into his “heart” would mean for him to make it a precious part of his inmost self. To hear it with his ears would signify to give undivided attention to it. (3:10; see the Notes section.)
After entering among the exiled people (literally, the “sons of your people”) who by then had been in Babylonian exile for at least four years (1:2), Ezekiel was to say to them, “Thus says the Lord YHWH.” Regardless of whether they listened or stubbornly refused to listen, he was to speak to them YHWH’s word or message. (3:11)
Either a “wind” or God’s spirit lifted Ezekiel up and took him away, possibly away from the glorious visionary scene and back to the actual circumstances. While this visionary movement of Ezekiel was occurring, the four-wheeled vehicle also appears to have been in the process of departing. Behind him, Ezekiel heard the “sound of great shaking,” probably a loud rushing sound. It may be that the four living beings or cherubs then uttered the doxology, “Blessed be the glory of YHWH from its place,” possibly meaning praised be the majesty of YHWH in its exalted heavenly place. The Targum is more specific in indicating that the living beings were the ones offering praise and saying the words of the doxology. (3:12) The sources of the “great shaking” or the loud rushing sound are identified as being the sound from the beating wings of the four living beings or cherubs as these wings touched (literally, “kissed”) one another, and as being the sound from the movement of the gigantic wheels beside the cherubs. (3:13)
Ezekiel sensed that a wind or God’s spirit had lifted him up and was transporting him. When the visionary aspect of his experience had ended, he proceeded to go, “bitter in the heat [or rage] of [his] spirit.” Possibly because he would be proclaiming a severe message of judgment to his own people who would be obstinate and unresponsive, Ezekiel was bitter and filled with indignation. His being bitter and going in the rage of his spirit also harmonized with his having consumed the scroll that contained “laments and moaning and woe.” (2:10; 3:2) According to the Septuagint, he went under the impulse of his own spirit. The “hand [power, control, or hold] of YHWH” on Ezekiel was “strong,” compelling him and strengthening him to carry out his commission. (3:14)
Ezekiel came to the exiles who were residing at Tel-abib by the river Chebar, probably one of the major canals in ancient Chaldea. He then took up residence where they were dwelling. While there for “seven days,” he sat “stunned” in their midst. His being stunned may have been on account of the vision he had seen and the assignment to fulfill the role of a prophet. Another possible reason for his being stunned could have been because of feeling a need for time to reflect on everything he had seen and heard. (3:15; see the Notes section.) At the end of the seven days, the “word of YHWH” came to him. (3:16) This “word” or message explained the role Ezekiel was to fill. YHWH made him to be a “watchman” or lookout to the “house [or [people] of Israel.” In that capacity, Ezekiel would hear from the “mouth of YHWH” a “word,” evidently a message about impending punitive judgment for unfaithfulness, and then was to give the warning to the people that YHWH had conveyed to him. (3:17; see the Notes section regarding “son of man.”)
If YHWH said to a wicked man (“lawless man” [LXX]), “You will definitely die [literally, dying you will die],” and Ezekiel, in his role as a watchman, failed to warn him to turn away from his wicked way [“his ways” (LXX)] so that he might live, the man would die for his guilt, but YHWH would require his blood from Ezekiel’s hand. Ezekiel would be held accountable for his death because of having withheld from him the opportunity to repent and to continue to live. (3:18)
If Ezekiel warned the wicked man (“lawless man” [LXX]) and he did not turn away “from his wickedness and his wicked way [his lawlessness and his way (LXX)],” the man would die for his guilt. For having faithfully discharged his commission as a watchman, Ezekiel, however, would deliver his own “soul” or life. He would share no responsibility for the death of the wicked man. (3:19)
If a righteous man turned away from his righteousness (righteous deeds [LXX]) and committed injustice (transgression [LXX]) and YHWH placed a “stumbling block” before him, causing him to fall or to experience calamity, he would die. His righteous deeds would not be remembered or taken into consideration, for he had ceased to be an upright man and merited punishment for his wrongdoing. If Ezekiel had failed to warn the individual, YHWH would require that one’s blood from his hand. Ezekiel would be held accountable for neglecting to give the warning that might have saved the man’s life. (3:20)
If Ezekiel warned the righteous man not to sin and he stopped sinning, the righteous man would live because he responded to the warning that had been given to him. For faithfully discharging his responsibility as a watchman, Ezekiel would deliver his own “soul” or life. (3:21)
The “hand” (power or control) of YHWH was upon Ezekiel, and he was instructed to “arise” and go to the plain. YHWH would speak to him there. The plain likely was an uninhabited area some distance from the nearest town or city. (3:22) Ezekiel did get up and headed for the plain. He then saw the “glory of YHWH” standing there, like the glory or majesty (“like the vision and like the glory” [LXX]) that he had seen “by the river Chebar,” probably a major canal in Chaldea. (See 1:4-28.) Apparently overwhelmed with reverential fear, Ezekiel dropped to his knees and bowed down, with his face touching the ground. (3:23)
God’s spirit entered into Ezekiel, impelling him to “stand up on [his] feet.” YHWH began to speak to him, telling him, “Go, shut yourself in the midst of your house.” The instruction appears to be that Ezekiel was to go into seclusion or hiding because of the extreme hostility of his own people. (3:24) Seemingly, their opposition to Ezekiel as YHWH’s prophet would be comparable to their tying him up with cords and not permitting him to go out among them. They apparently would do everything they could to hinder or stop him from proclaiming the word of YHWH to them. (3:25; see the Notes section regarding “son of man” and the interpretation of the Targum.) When YHWH had no message for him to proclaim, Ezekiel would be mute. It would then be as if YHWH had made his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth, and he would not say anything to reprove the people, for they were a “rebellious house,” unwilling to respond to any correction and defiantly refusing to abandon their wayward course. They did not deserve to hear words of reproof. (3:26) When, however, YHWH had a message for Ezekiel, he would open the prophet’s mouth. Ezekiel would then say to the people, “Thus says the Lord YHWH.” The one who was willing to listen should listen, and the one choosing not to listen could refuse to listen. Ezekiel could expect unresponsiveness, for the people proved to be a “rebellious house.” (3:27; see the Notes section.)
In this chapter (verses 1, 3, 4, 10, 17, and 25), as is the case throughout the entire book of Ezekiel, the prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This designation would have reminded him of his being an earthling or a mortal with a commission from the eternal Sovereign upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
The Septuagint, in verse 15, differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that Ezekiel, in a state of having been lifted up, “entered among the captivity” or among the people who had been taken into Babylonian exile. He then moved about among those who were residing by the river Chebar. He “sat” or resided there for “seven days” and lived or went about “in their midst.”
The Targum interprets the binding of Ezekiel (verse 25) to mean that God imposed his word upon the prophet as with the chains that restrain prisoners.
According to the words of verse 27 in the Targum, the one listening should heed the instruction, and the one refraining should refrain from sinning.
YHWH instructed Ezekiel to take a brick, place it before him, and “engrave upon it a city, Jerusalem.” (4:1; see the Notes section.) He was then to stage a mock siege against the engraved city, apparently with models that he would fashion. These models included a siege wall, a bulwark or ramp, encampments, and battering rams that he would position against the representation of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was to set the battering rams (engines of war [LXX]) all around this representation (4:2) and take a “plate [or griddle] of iron,” positioning it as an iron wall between himself and the brick on which the representation of Jerusalem was engraved. With his face focused against the engraved city, he was to enact a mock siege against it as a “sign for the house [or people] of Israel.” This “sign” indicated that Jerusalem would be besieged and conquered. (4:3)
Lying on his left side, Ezekiel would be placing the “guilt [injustices (LXX)] of the house [or people (sons [LXX])] of Israel upon it.” For the number of days that he would be lying on his left side, he would be bearing their guilt. If he lay on his left side with his head to the west (the direction to Jerusalem from Babylon), his face would be looking north, the location of the former ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. The left side would have been bearing the weight of Ezekiel’s body representative of a heavy burden of guilt. (4:4; see the Notes section.)
For each year of guilt, Ezekiel would lie on his side for one day, thereby bearing the guilt of the “house [or people] of Israel.” The total number of days was to be 390. (4:5; see the Notes section.) YHWH commanded that Ezekiel complete the number of days and directed him to “lie on his right side,” bearing the “guilt of the house [or people] of Judah” 40 days (“a day for a year, a day for a year”). If he lay on his right side with his head to the west (the direction to Jerusalem from Babylon), his face would be looking to the south, the location of the kingdom of Judah. The right side would have been bearing the weight of Ezekiel’s body, representative of a heavy burden of guilt. (4:6; see the Notes section.)
YHWH directed Ezekiel to set his face to the siege of Jerusalem (the city engraved on a brick), to bare (“strengthen” [Targum]) his arm (unencumbered by clothing) so as to be in a position to strike, and to prophesy against Jerusalem, evidently to proclaim the certain conquest of the city. (4:7)
To prevent Ezekiel from turning from one side to the other, YHWH declared that he would put cords upon him. This restraint would continue until the time the days of the mock siege were completed. According to the interpretation in the Targum, God decreed his word upon Ezekiel to be as binding as cords that would prevent him from turning from one side to the other. (4:8; see the Notes section.)
Bread consisting of a mixture of grains, beans, and lentils would not have been ceremonially clean for a man who observed the Mosaic law, as the priest Ezekiel would have done faithfully. (Compare Leviticus 19:19.) Yet YHWH instructed him to put wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt into one vessel and then to use this mixture for making bread. This would be the only food Ezekiel would have to eat during the time he would be lying on his side and enacting the mock siege of Jerusalem. The stipulated period for this was 390 days (190 days [LXX]). No mention is made about what he was to do during the course of the 40 days of lying on his right side. (4:9) Ezekiel’s daily diet was limited in weight to 20 shekels. Based on the average weight of discovered ancient shekels, the amount of food would have been about 8 ounces (c. 230 grams), basically a starvation diet. This prescribed diet served to illustrate the extreme famine conditions that would come to exist inside besieged Jerusalem. The words “from time to time you will eat it” may mean that Ezekiel was to partake of this meager amount of food from one day to the next. (4:10) His intake of water was limited to “one sixth of a hin” (c. 1.3 pints; c. .6 liter). As in the case of the ingredients for the bread, Ezekiel had to measure the amount of water to determine the limited quantity he could drink “from time to time.” (4:11)
For Ezekiel to eat the bread he baked “like a cake of barley” could mean to eat it plain, without anything on it. Before the “eyes” of the people or when they could observe what he was doing, Ezekiel was to use human excrement as fuel for the fire needed to bake his bread. (4:12) For him to bake bread consisting of a mixture of ingredients and using excrement for fuel served to illustrate tangibly that the exiled “sons” or people of Israel would be eating “their bread unclean among the nations.” They would be living among persons who would be unclean to them and, therefore, in unclean lands. The exiled people would themselves be unclean, with the food they would be eating also being unclean. YHWH is represented as identifying himself as the one who would be driving the people away from their land to the territories of other nations. This is because he would permit this to take place. (4:13)
Ezekiel objected to his having to use human excrement, saying, “Ah, Lord YHWH! Look, I myself have [literally, my soul has] not been defiled.” He had not made himself ceremonially unclean by eating the meat from an animal that had died of itself or from an animal that a beast of prey had torn. (Compare Exodus 22:31; Leviticus 11:39, 40.) During the course of his entire life, from his youth onward, he had never put any foul meat into his mouth. (4:14) In response to Ezekiel’s objection, YHWH granted Ezekiel to use cattle mature instead of human excrement as the fuel needed for baking his bread. (4:15)
YHWH determined to break the “staff of bread” in Jerusalem. As a literal staff provides support, bread or food supports or sustains life. The breaking of the “staff of bread” meant that the food supply would be cut off from the people as a consequence of the siege of Jerusalem. The limited amount of available bread needed to be weighed or measured out daily so as not to run out completely. Anxiety would accompany eating, with the fear being that soon there might not be any bread. Water also would be scarce, requiring that the people drink it by measure and doing the drinking in terror, fearful that they could soon be without any water. (4:16; see the Notes section regarding “son of man.”) Suffering from lack of bread and water, the people would stare at one another (literally, a “man and his brother”) in a dazed or shocked state and would waste away, dying a slow death, in their guilt (“injustices” [LXX]). (4:17)
In this chapter (verses 1 and 16), as is the case throughout the entire book of Ezekiel, the prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This designation would have reminded him of his being an earthling or a mortal with a commission from the eternal Sovereign upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
According to verse 4 of the Septuagint, Ezekiel was to lie on his left side for 150 days. Possibly the number 150 was introduced into the text from the reference in Genesis 7:24 to the 150 days during which the flood waters overwhelmed the earth. Nothing in the biblical account relating to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel fits a period of guilt that lasted for 150 years (according to an application of the words about a “day for a year” [4:6]). The number 150, however, could represent a period of punishment.
One cannot be certain about how the 390 days (verse 5) relate to 390 years of guilt in the history of Israel. The record in 1 and 2 Kings regarding the number of years the kings reigned indicates that the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel existed for a much shorter time than 390 years. One possible explanation could be that the guilt of the “house [or people] of Israel,” though starting with the rebellion against the royal house of David and the introduction of idolatrous worship at the direction of Jeroboam (the first king of the newly formed ten-tribe kingdom of Israel), included the guilt of the people of the kingdom of Judah. Punishment for that total record of guilt came when the warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. Accordingly, the 390 years could represent the period from the establishment of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel until the destruction of Jerusalem. The inclusion of the people in the kingdom of Judah as part of the record of guilt would not rule out a shared guilt with people from other tribes. Priests, Levites, and people from all the other tribes who wanted to be faithful to YHWH left the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Jeroboam, and likely their descendants were still living in the realm of the kingdom of Judah. (2 Chronicles 11:13-17) Doubtless a significant number of these descendants shared in the idolatrous practices and other iniquities or injustices of which the people of the kingdom of Judah had made themselves guilty, and their wrongdoing could be regarded as a continuation of the record of guilt of the “house of Israel.”
Another possibility is that the 390 days (verse 5) and 40 days (verse 6), or 430 days combined, relate to past history that represented future developments. According to Exodus 12:41, the Israelites left Egypt as a free people after 430 years. The release from Babylonian exile proved to be like a second exodus. Therefore, on this basis, the 430 days could be representative of the period of exile for the entire house of Israel, Israelites from all the tribes. The period of 40 days (with the accompanying formula [a “day for a year”]) is mentioned in Numbers 14:34. There the reference is to the 40 days that the Israelite spies spent in reconnoitering the land of Canaan, and the corresponding disciplinary punishment of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness that would end with the death of the generation that faithlessly accepted the bad report from ten of the twelve spies and then rebelliously refused to enter the land. (Numbers 14:26-38) The 40 days could then represent the time of disciplinary punishment for the people of Judah that would terminate with their being able to return to their own land, with 40 years marking the end for the unfaithful generation that would not be able to return.
If the 40 days mentioned in verse 6 are associated with a 390-day period that represents 390 years from the formation of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel until the destruction of Jerusalem, then the 40 days either represent 40 years of the final part of the 390 years or an additional 40 years. About 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was commissioned to be YHWH’s prophet in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign (Jeremiah 1:1-3), and his basic message was that the Babylonians would conquer Jerusalem and the people would be taken into exile. As the prophecy of Huldah confirmed a few years later, the severe punishment for unfaithfulness was certain to befall the kingdom of Judah. (2 Kings 22:3, 10-20) In itself, however, the wording of verse 6 suggests that the “forty days” are to be added to the 390 days and, therefore, may be understood to represent a period of additional 40 years. Although the Septuagint reads 150 days instead of 390 days, it indicates, in verse 5, that the 40 days designate an additional period. The Septuagint refers to God as having given Ezekiel “two injustices” of the house of Israel for “190 days” (150 plus 40) and then (in verse 6) mentions that he should lie on his right side and take upon himself the “injustices of the house of Judah [Ioudas] for 40 days.” Idolatrous practices on an extensive scale began during the 40-year reign of King Solomon and before the establishment of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (1 Kings 11:4-7, 29-42) Therefore, it could be conjectured that the 40 days represent the entire period of 40 years during which the record of guilt of the house of Judah had its beginning.
Ezekiel’s being restrained from turning (verse 8) does not appear to mean that he was rendered immobile for 390 days and then 40 days. The enactment of the mock siege of Jerusalem involved more than his lying on his side. For his daily portion of food, he needed to weigh a specific amount of the stored ingredients (wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt) and bake bread with them. Though he was allowed to drink very little water, he still had to get it from a source and then measure out the prescribed quantity. To bake the bread, he had to obtain cattle manure as fuel for the fire. Although his intake of food and water would be very limited, he would still have to relieve himself. Moreover, while sleeping he could not enact a mock siege. As verse 12 may be regarded to indicate, the objective of Ezekiel’s actions was for people to see them. During the night, this would not have been the case. Therefore, Ezekiel may have lain on his left side and then on his right side for considerable time during the course of each of the 390 and 40 days, but this apparently would not have been for 24 hours each day.
YHWH instructed Ezekiel to take a sharp sword and to use it like a barber’s razor to cut the hair of his head and his beard. After weighing the hair, he was to divide it (5:1) into three parts (four parts [LXX]). (See the Notes section.) Upon the completion of the mock siege of the city of Jerusalem that he had engraved earlier on a brick, Ezekiel was to burn one third of the hair in the midst of the engraved city. In the Septuagint, the reference is to burning a quarter of the hair in the midst of the city and then an additional quarter in its midst. Another third (quarter [LXX]) of the hair was to be struck with the sword all around the engraved city, and the last third (quarter [LXX]) was to be scattered to the wind. Regarding what this third part represented, YHWH declared, “I will unsheathe a sword after them” (after the people who had been scattered among the nations as exiles). According to the Targum, God would incite those who would do the slaying with the sword. (5:2)
From the portion of the hair designated for scattering, Ezekiel was to take a few hairs and wrap them up in his “skirts” (“garment” [LXX]) or the loose ends of his garment, indicating that there would be some who would survive the impending calamity. (5:3) Other hairs he was to toss into the midst of the fire and burn them up. This action revealed that a fire would go forth or spread to “all the house [or people] of Israel.” (5:4; see the Notes section.)
Concerning Jerusalem, the Lord YHWH declared, “This [is] Jerusalem. In the midst of the nations I have set her, with lands round about her.” As the words that follow suggest, the implication is that Jerusalem was surrounded by the lands of other nations and ended up learning from them and adopting their practices. (5:5) In her conduct (as engaged in by the people), Jerusalem proved to be more wicked than the surrounding nations. Jerusalem (as representing the people) rebelled against God’s commands and his statutes more than the people in the lands round about. His professed people rejected his “judgments” or ordinances and did not “walk” or conduct themselves according to his statutes. (5:6) They were more “tumultuous,” wilder, or acted with far less restraint than the nations round about them. The people refused to walk or to conduct themselves according to YHWH’s statutes and to act in harmony with his “judgments” or ordinances. So corrupt were the people that they did not even act according to the “judgments” or ordinances of the nations round about them. Therefore, the Lord YHWH expressed his decision against his people, focusing on Jerusalem as the place that represented them. (5:7)
The Lord YHWH is quoted as saying that he was against Jerusalem (literally, “you” [singular and feminine gender]) and would execute his judgments in her midst “in the eyes of the nations,” or for the people of other nations to see. (5:8) YHWH determined to do to Jerusalem (representing the rebellious people) what he had never done before and the like of which he would never do again “because of all [her] abominations,” or the detestable things his disobedient people had committed. These abominations included idolatrous practices, oppression, and injustices, and the punishment for these abominations would be very severe. (5:9) During the extreme conditions of famine that would come to exist in besieged Jerusalem, fathers would eat sons, and sons would eat fathers. In Jerusalem, YHWH would execute punitive judgments and scatter any survivors to every “wind” or in all directions. (5:10)
YHWH is quoted as solemnly declaring, “Therefore, as I live, … my eye will not pity, and I will not be compassionate.” He would not look upon the suffering people with any sense of sorrow or feel any compassion for them. This was because they had defiled his sanctuary with their abominable and loathsome things, engaging in practices that were disgusting to him. He would “diminish” them or, according to the Targum, “cut off the strength of [their] arms.” The Septuagint indicates that he would reject them. (5:11)
One third of the people would die from pestilence or from infectious disease that would spread among the famished persons living in the unsanitary conditions of Jerusalem under siege. Another third would perish from the sword of warfare. The remaining third would be scattered to “every wind” or in all directions. The scattered survivors of the siege and conquest would not be secure, for YHWH would permit the sword of warfare to follow them. Therefore, he is quoted as declaring that he would “unsheathe the sword after them.” As in verse 2, the Septuagint refers to a quarter of the people, with a specific calamity being designated to affect each quarter. A quarter of the people would perish by “death” or pestilence, and the other three quarters respectively would die from famine, be scattered, and perish by the sword. (5:12)
In the punishment to come upon the rebellious people, the anger of YHWH would come to its end. He would cause his fury to “rest” upon them and “console” himself. This could mean that the unmitigated wrath of YHWH would be directed against the people, and he would be satisfied in having executed the punishment that justice required. The Septuagint says that his wrath and his fury would be brought to an end upon them. At the time YHWH would bring his rage to finish upon the people, they would know that he himself had spoken in his “jealousy” or in his right to undivided devotion from them. (5:13)
The singular feminine suffixes in the Hebrew text indicate that the reference is to Jerusalem. YHWH decreed, “I will make you a desolation [or a desolated place] and [an object of] reproach among the nations round about you before the eyes [or in the sight] of all [persons] passing by.” According to the Septuagint, God would make Jerusalem and “her daughters” (probably designating nearby towns) into a wilderness. (5:14) Jerusalem would become an object of “reproach” and of “taunt” or of words of insult, a “warning” regarding the fate of those who rebel against YHWH, and a “horror,” something terrifying, to the nations round about the city. This would occur at the time YHWH would execute his judgments upon Jerusalem in expression of his anger and rage and with furious reproofs or chastisements. There would be no change in the severe judgment, for YHWH had spoken, and his word would be carried out without fail. (5:15)
As if shooting a bow, YHWH would send “deadly arrows of famine” against the people. These arrows would bring about destruction when they would be sent against them. YHWH’s adding famine could refer to his permitting famine conditions to intensify, breaking the “staff of bread” or allowing the food supply to be completely cut off from the people. (5:16; also see the comments on 4:16.) YHWH declared that he would send famine and wild beasts against the people, and the beasts of prey would bereave them of children. The devastation of the land would force predators out of their usual habitat, leading to the death of children that might encounter them. The singular feminine suffixes in the concluding phrases indicate that Jerusalem is the focus of the words. “Pestilence” would pass through Jerusalem or infectious disease would spread within the besieged city, and also “blood” would pass through, for the conquering warriors would slay many. YHWH would permit this to happen. Therefore, he is represented as bringing the sword upon Jerusalem. (5:17)
In verse 1, the prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This designation would have reminded him of his being an earthling or a mortal with a commission from the eternal Sovereign upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
In verse 4 of the Septuagint, the expression the “house of Israel” is part of the wording that introduces the words in verse 5. “And you shall say to all the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord …”
A “word” or message from YHWH came to Ezekiel (6:1), directing him to set his face to the “mountains of Israel” and to prophesy against them. (6:2; see the Notes section.) To the “mountains of Israel,” Ezekiel was to say, “Hear the word of the Lord YHWH. Thus says the Lord YHWH to the mountains and to the hills and to the ravines and to the valleys [groves (LXX)], See, I even will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.” Throughout the territory of the kingdom of Judah, high places or sites for idolatrous worship existed on mountains and hills and in ravines and valleys, and enemy warriors would destroy these high places. (6:3) Altars for presenting sacrifices at the high places would become desolate, and incense altars (“shrines” or “sacred precincts” [LXX]) would be broken. YHWH would be using enemy warriors as his agents of destruction, and they would slay worshipers at the high places. He permitted this to happen. Therefore, he is quoted as identifying himself as the one who would cause the slain to fall before (literally, “before the face of”) the idols (literally, “dungy things” [an expression of contempt] (6:4), who would lay the “carcasses of the sons [or people] of Israel” before [literally, “before the face of] “their idols [literally, dungy things],” and would scatter the bones of those slain round about the altars. (6:5; see the Notes section.)
In all the dwelling places of the people, their cities would be laid waste, the “high places” or cultic sites would be ruined. The altars at these sites would be broken, the idols smashed, and the incense altars (“shrines” or “sacred precincts” [LXX]) cut down, and the “works” of the people or all the appendages of idolatry wiped out. Nothing would remain at the devastated high places. The “works” could also include everything that the people had constructed in the cities that would be conquered and reduced to rubble. (6:6; see the Notes section.) In the midst of the people, the slain would fall as the enemy warriors continued their campaign of conquest. This would happen in expression of YHWH’s judgment. Therefore, the people would know or be forced to recognize that he is YHWH, the God who does not tolerate wrongdoing indefinitely and fulfills the word about punitive judgment that he made known through his prophets. (6:7)
The words “and I will leave” are followed by a preposition and an infinitive that can mean “to be,” “to become,” or “to happen” or come to pass. Modern translations commonly interpret the Hebrew to mean that God would leave a remnant or survivors, but do not include a rendering that incorporates a form of the infinitive “to be” in the next phrase. Among the renderings are the following: “But I will spare some. Some of you shall escape the sword among the nations and be scattered through the countries.” (NRSV) “But I will let a few of my people escape destruction, and they will be scattered among the nations of the world.” (NLT) “I will let some escape the slaughter and be scattered among the nations.” (TEV) In the Septuagint, the phrase “and I will leave” is not included. (6:8; see the Notes section.)
The survivors would remember YHWH “among the nations” where they had been taken into captivity. This would take place after the severe punishment had brought them to repentance. This punishment or discipline would be the means by which YHWH would break their “whorish heart,” or their inclination to engage in the veneration of idols. The “heart” of the people, or they in their inmost selves, had departed from YHWH, and their “eyes” had whored after idols, longingly seeking opportunities to engage in idolatry. Upon being brought to repentance, they would look upon themselves as loathsome on account of the evils they had committed and all their abominations or their disgusting idolatrous practices. According to the Septuagint, they would “strike their faces for all their abominations.” (6:9) At that time, they would “know” or come to recognize that YHWH was indeed the Sovereign, the one to whom they were accountable. It had not been in vain that he had spoken through his prophets about the “evil” or calamity that he would bring upon them. (6:10; see the Notes section.)
The meaning of the clapping of the hands and the stamping of the foot depends upon whether they are divinely commanded reactions to the horrific calamity the people would experience or are the divinely commanded reactions to the merited execution of punitive judgment. A number of modern translations have added words to identify the divinely commanded acts as reactions that express despair or horror. “The LORD God then said: Ezekiel, beat your fists together and stomp your feet in despair! Moan in sorrow, because the people of Israel have done disgusting things and now will be killed by enemy troops, or they will die from starvation and disease.” (CEV) “This is what the Sovereign Lord says, Clap your hands in horror, and stamp your feet. Cry out because of all the detestable sins the people of Israel have committed. Now they are going to die from war and famine and disease.” (NLT) The wording of the Septuagint suggests that the clapping of the hands and the stamping of the foot are divinely commanded responses to the execution of merited punitive judgment. “Thus says the Lord, Clap [with] the hand and stomp [with] the foot and say, Good, good, over [or because of] all the abominations of the house of Israel. By the sword and by death [or pestilence] and by famine, they will fall.” In the Septuagint, the Hebrew expression that may be rendered “alas” or “aha” is translated as “good” and repeated. On account of the God-dishonoring practices of the “house [or people] of Israel,” they would die by the sword of the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar or perish from famine or infectious disease. (6:11)
Those who were far away from the wielding of the sword of warfare would die from pestilence (“die by death” [LXX]). Although having succeeded in escaping the slaughter, they would be physically weak, have limited resources, and find themselves in circumstances that would make them vulnerable to infectious disease. Those near the attacking enemy warriors would fall or perish by the sword. Others who had escaped death by pestilence or sword would die from famine. Thus by sword, pestilence, and famine, YHWH would bring his anger to a finish against his wayward people. (6:12) The people would then “know” or be forced to recognize that he is YHWH, the God who does not tolerate wrongdoing indefinitely and fulfills the word about punitive judgment that he made known through his prophets. This would be when the slain would lie among their idols (literally, “dungy things” [an expression of contempt]), all around their altars, and at the cultic sites on all the high hills, on all the tops of the mountains, and in groves — all the locations where the people offered sacrifices or incense (literally, “pleasing odor”) to their idols (literally, “dungy things”). (6:13)
YHWH declared that he would stretch out his hand (“destructive power” [LXX]) against his people, desolate their land, and devastate all their habitations. The desolation would extend from the wilderness, probably the arid area (the Negeb) south of the mountainous region of Judah, to Diblah (possibly a location in the north), suggesting that the entire territory from south to north would be reduced to a wasteland. When that happened, the people would “know” or be forced to recognize that the God whom they had disobeyed is YHWH, the God who does not tolerate wrongdoing indefinitely and acts according to the word he has made known through his prophets. (6:14; see the Notes section.)
In verse 2, the prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This designation would have reminded him of his being an earthling or a mortal with a commission from the eternal Sovereign upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
In the Septuagint, the wording of verse 5 is shorter. “And I will scatter your bones around your altars.”
In verse 6, the Septuagint does not mention the “works.”
Verse 8 in the Septuagint is rendered like a compound introductory phrase for the words that are completed in verse 9. Those who would be delivered from the sword and come to be among the nations and scattered in the lands would remember God.
The shorter text of verse 10 in the Septuagint is, “And they will know that I, the Lord, have spoken.”
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 14, the desolation would extend from the “wilderness [or desert] of Deblatha.”
Ezekiel received another “word” or message from YHWH. (7:1) Concerning the “land of Israel,” the Lord YHWH declared, “An end has come, the end upon the four wings [or corners] of the earth.” The expression the “four wings of the earth” probably is to be understood as applying to the entire territory of the kingdom of Judah that the warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar would devastate. (7:2) YHWH’s anger was not with the land itself but with the people who had defiled it, for they were guilty of engaging in idolatry, oppression, and injustice. Therefore, his wrath, though affecting the land, would be let loose against the wayward people. They would be judged “according to [their] ways” or their corrupt conduct and punished for all their abominations, especially their veneration of foreign deities. (7:3 [7:7]; see the Notes section.) YHWH declared, “My eye will not pity you, and I will not be compassionate.” He would not look upon the suffering people with any sense of sorrow or feel any compassion for them. YHWH would punish them for their corrupt ways. They merited punishment, for their “abominations” were in their midst. As to what would then follow, the word of YHWH continued, “And you will know that I am YHWH.” They would then know or be forced to recognize YHWH as the God who does not tolerate wrongdoing indefinitely and who acts according to the word he has made known through his prophets. (7:4 [7:8, LXX])
By means of repetition, the certainty of the coming disaster is expressed. The Lord YHWH is quoted as saying, An “evil [or a calamity], one [notable] evil — look, it is coming.” According to another reading, “evil after [literally, another] evil — look, it is coming.” (7:5) An “end has come. The end has awakened [or is about to reveal itself] against you [the land and the wayward people]. Look, it is coming.” (7:6) “The doom [tsephiráh] has come to you, the one inhabiting the land. The time has come; the day [is] near, tumult and not the shouting [on] the mountains,” possibly the joyous shouts of the people at the sites used for idolatrous worship or their joyous shouts on the mountain slopes at harvesttime. According to the Targum, the people would be unable to escape to mountain strongholds. (7:7; see the Notes section.) In the Septuagint, similar thoughts are expressed in verses 3, 4, and 7. “The end has come upon you, the one inhabiting the land; the time has come, the day has drawn near, not with tumult nor with labor pains.” (7:3, 4, LXX) “Now the end [is coming] to you, and I will send [calamity] upon you, and I will take vengeance upon you for all your ways [or corrupt conduct] and give against you all your abominations,” or exact punishment for all your loathsome practices. (7:7, LXX)
YHWH would pour out his wrath upon the disobedient people, bringing his anger against them to a finish. His judgment would be “according to [their] ways” or their evil practices. He would punish them for “all [their] abominations [literally, bring upon (them) all (their) abominations],” which included all their idolatrous observances. (7:8 [7:5, LXX])
With minor variations, the expressions of verse 4 are repeated (which see). In the concluding phrase, YHWH is quoted as saying, “And you will know that I am YHWH, [the one] smiting.” At the time they suffered siege and conquest from the enemy warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, the people would know or be forced to recognize that this was an expression of YHWH’s punitive judgment against them. He was the one striking them. (7:9 [7:6, LXX])
The “day” that is referred to as coming is YHWH’s day for executing judgment by means of the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. In the next phrase, the Hebrew word (tsephiráh) that appears in verse 7 is found here. To be consistent, the word may be assigned the conjectural meaning “doom.” The only other occurrence of tsephiráh is at Isaiah 28:5, where it has the meaning “wreath,” “garland,” or “crown.” This significance does not appear to fit the context. Doom, however, had indeed come for the wayward people of the kingdom of Judah. A number of modern translations convey this significance. “The day is coming, doom is here; it has burst upon them.” (REB) “See, the day! See, it comes! Your doom has gone out.” (NRSV) “The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth.” (NIV) In the Septuagint, the rendering is, “See, the end is here! See, the day of the Lord!” The phrase that includes the Hebrew word tsephiráh is missing. The “rod” that blossomed could be the instrument that YHWH would use to punish his disobedient people, and the “pride” that budded could designate the arrogance of the disobedient people that had become clearly manifest in their defiantly refusing to heed the word of YHWH that the prophets proclaimed. Instead of “rod,” a number of modern translations contain the interpretive renderings “injustice,” “violence,” and “wickedness.” “Injustice and arrogance are everywhere.” (CEV) “Injustice buds, insolence blossoms.” (REB) “Violence is flourishing. Pride is at its height.” (TEV) “The people’s wickedness and pride have blossomed to full flower.” (NLT) The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the arrogance of the people had sprouted even though the “rod” for punishment had blossomed, being ready for use against them. In the Targum, the reference could be to King Nebuchadnezzar as the “ruler’s rod” for inflicting punishment. (7:10)
Apparently among the people in the kingdom of Judah, “violence” had “risen up into a rod of wickedness.” This could mean that it had increased to the point of coming to be a rod that was used to inflict serious harm or that the resulting wickedness merited to be punished severely as with a rod. In the Targum, the reference is to “violent men” as having risen up to give their support to the wicked. The Septuagint rendering seems to indicate that the rod would break the “support of the lawless one and not with tumult nor with haste.” Modern translations contain various interpretive renderings. “Violence leads to flagrant injustice.” (REB) “Violent criminals run free.” (CEV) “Their violence has grown into a rod that will beat them for their wickedness.” (NLT) “Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness.” (NIV) “The violent have risen up to wield a scepter of wickedness.” (NAB, revised edition). A literal rendering of the rest of the verse could be, “Not of them, and not their crowd [or abundance], and not their wealth, and not preeminence among them.” There is uncertainty about the actual meaning of the words that are here translated “wealth” and “preeminence,” and the significance of the phrases is also obscure. Perhaps the implied thought is that nothing would save the violent ones from perishing when God’s time for executing his judgment arrives, or that neither they nor anything they possess would continue to exist. Interpretive renderings in modern translations include: “None of the people will be left, none of that crowd — no wealth, nothing of value.” (NIV) “None of these proud and wicked people will survive. All their wealth and prestige will be swept away.” (NLT) “But none of them [violent ones] shall remain; none of their crowd, none of their wealth, for none of them are innocent.” (NAB, revised edition) “Is it [the violence or injustice] not their fault, the fault of their turbulence and tumult? There is nothing but turmoil in them.” (REB) According to the Targum, nothing would remain of the violent men — not their crowd, not their children, not the children of their children. (7:11)
The time to come was the time for the execution of YHWH’s judgment against his people to arrive. In that “time” or “day,” enemy warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar would devastate the land, plunder possessions, and take survivors into exile. Therefore, the buyer had no reason to rejoice about his purchased property, for it would soon be lost to him The seller did not need to mourn because adverse circumstances had forced him to part with his property, for otherwise he would have lost it through enemy conquest. YHWH’s wrath was directed against everyone (literally, “all its crowd”). (7:12)
For decades to come, there would be no possibility for those taken into exile to return to their own land. As long as those taken into exile were still alive (literally, “while in the lives their life”), the seller would not be able to return to the property he sold. The “vision,” or the fulfillment of the divinely decreed and revealed coming punitive judgment, would affect everyone (literally, “all its crowd”). It would “not turn back” or be hindered or stopped from taking place. A “man,” by [or because of] his iniquity,” would not be able to hold on to his life. The words in the Septuagint could be rendered, “A man, in the eye [perhaps meaning in the sight of God], will not hold on to his life.” (7:13)
At the blowing of a trumpet, or at the sounding of an alarm, all the people would be getting ready. No one among them, however, would go out to battle the enemy warriors. They would be paralyzed by fear, for YHWH’s wrath would be directed against them (literally, “all its crowd”). The shorter rendering in the Septuagint is, “Trumpet with a trumpet, and judge everything.” (7:14)
Outside the protective city walls, the “sword” of the enemy would be wielded against the people. Inside the besieged city, famine and pestilence (“death” [LXX]) or infectious disease would be claiming victims. Enemy warriros would kill anyone whom they encountered in the field. Persons in the besieged city would perish from famine or pestilence (“death” [LXX]). (7:15)
On the mountains, where they had fled to escape from the enemy, the survivors would be like “doves of the valleys,” individually moaning like these birds over their guilt. The Septuagint represents God as saying that he would slay all of them for the injustices they individually had committed. (7:16) Faced with the enemy warriors, all the people would prove to be helpless, with “all hands” dropping down instead of being used in a successful defense. All the knees would drip with water. Fright would cause involuntary urination. (7:17) In expression of their grief and pain, people would gird themselves with sackcloth, covering the bare skin of their loins with a coarse cloth made from goat’s hair. The terrifying situation would cover them with “shuddering.” They would be in the grip of horror. There would be “shame on all faces,” for all the people would be helpless and in fear. In expression of their sorrowful circumstances, they would shave off the hair of their head. (7:18)
Tossing silver into the streets and coming to view gold as something abhorrent (like the impurity resulting from menstruation) indicated that these precious metals were valueless in the “day” or the time for the execution of YHWH’s punitive judgment. They would furnish no deliverance from his fury. Gold and silver would provide nothing that could satisfy the people (literally, “their soul”) or any of their needs. They were not items with which they could fill their stomachs. For the people, precious metal was the “stumbling block of their iniquity.” The wrongful use they made of it caused their calamitous fall. The Septuagint indicates that it became a “test of their injustices,” possibly meaning that it exposed them as having been guilty of serious wrongs. (7:19)
For the people, the “beauty of [their] ornament” was the basis for “pride.” This arrogance was especially evident in their idolatrous practices. To them, their images were like a beautiful ornament. They used gold or silver when fashioning “images of their abominations, their detestable things,” or of the foreign deities that they venerated. YHWH declared that this beautiful ornament would become a loathsome thing. According to the interpretation of the Targum, the “beautiful ornament” was the temple that God had given to the people “for glory” or as something truly glorious in which they could take pride. They, however, venerated “images of abominations” (foreign deities) in the temple. Therefore, YHWH made the ornament or temple into something contemptible. (7:20)
Possibly regarding the precious metal that was used for making idols, YHWH is quoted as saying that he would give it into the “hand of foreigners” (enemy warriors) “for plunder.” The designation “wicked ones of the earth” or land apparently also refers to enemy warriors. They would have no regard for the idols conquered peoples worshiped and would profane these idols by removing the gold or silver for other purposes. (7:21)
YHWH would turn his face away from the people, refraining from coming to their aid in their time of distress. The “hidden” or “precious place” could designate the temple, the city of Jerusalem, or the land that YHWH had given to his people. Renderings in modern translations include “treasured land” (NLT, REB), “treasured place” (NIV), “treasured Temple” (TEV), and “treasure-house” (NJB). The Septuagint identifies it as God’s “visitation,” possibly meaning the place that he guards. According to the Talmud, the reference is to the “land of the dwelling of [God’s] Shekinah [Shechinah].” Enemy warriors would enter the place and defile it. They would plunder treasures and, therefore, are called “robbers.” (7:22)
The making of the chain may refer to putting captives in chains and then leading them into exile. This fate did befall the people (Jeremiah 40:1) because the land had become full of “judgment of bloods,” probably meaning full of unjust judgments that resulted in shedding much innocent blood. Jerusalem apparently was the city that had become full of violence. The Septuagint rendering differs significantly. Seemingly, the enemy invaders are portrayed as causing befouling or confusion, for the land would be “full of peoples” (evidently foreign peoples), and the “city” (Jerusalem) would be “full of lawlessness.” According to the Targum, the land was full of persons who merited execution.(7:23)
The large military force under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar is called the “worst of nations,” for the warriors would cause extensive devastation in the land and much loss of life. By using these warriors as his instrument for punishing his disobedient people, YHWH would be bringing them into the land and having them take possession of the houses of his people. The defending warriors among the people would be powerless and fall before the enemy invaders. As everything would take place by YHWH’s permission, he would be the one who would bring an end to the proud strength of his people (both valiant warriors and fortresses). Their “holy places,” probably the sites used for idolatrous worship, would be profaned, for the enemy invaders would reduce them to ruins. (7:24)
The advance of the enemy troops would cause shuddering among the people. They would long for an end to the conflict, but there would be no peace. (7:25) One disaster would come on the heels of another disaster, and one report would follow another report, with each report giving rise to increasing fear. The people would seek a “vision” from a prophet (not a prophet of YHWH like Jeremiah whom they opposed). They would want guidance in their time of distress, but none would be provided. The people would look to a priest for “law” or instruction, but none would be forthcoming. Such instruction would perish, as also would the counsel of elders. The elders would be unable to give any sound advice for dealing effectively with the threatening circumstances. (7:26)
The suffering and devastation from the Babylonian military campaign against the kingdom of Judah would cause the “king,” Zedekiah, to mourn. Any chieftain, high official, or prominent man in the realm would wrap himself “in devastation”or be in a state of despair and weakness. The “hands of the people of the land” (the general population) would be “disturbed,” trembling in fear, for they would be without strength to defend themselves. By means of the enemy troops, YHWH would act against the people “according to their way” or their corrupt conduct. He would “judge them according to their [own] judgments.” They had dealt unjustly and harshly with innocent people. Therefore, the judgment again them would be severe, causing them experience the ruthless treatment they had meted out to others. Regarding that time, YHWH declared, “They will know that I [am] YHWH.” The people would be forced to recognize that YHWH is the God who does not tolerate lawlessness indefinitely and executes punitive judgment at the time and by means of the agency of his choosing. (7:27; see the Notes section.)
In verse 2, prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This designation would have reminded him of his being an earthling or a mortal with a commission from the eternal Sovereign upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
For verses 3 through 9, the arrangement of the text in the Septuagint differs from that in the Masoretic Text.
In verses 7 and 10, the rendering “doom” is conjectural. The Targum says that the “kingdom has been revealed.” Possibly this means that God’s royal authority in the capacity of judge had come to be in evidence, for the time for the punishment of the wayward people had arrived.
In verse 27, the initial part of the Septuagint text is shorter. It says that a “ruler will clothe himself with destruction” or devastation, “and the hands of the people of the land will be lamed.” The Targum does not refer to judgments but indicates that God would exact payment from the disobedient people according to their deeds.
Ezekiel happened to be in his house “in the sixth year” of the exile of King Jehoiachin, which year is commonly considered to have been 592 BCE. It was then the fifth day of the sixth month (mid-July to mid-August [fifth month (LXX)]). “Elders of Judah were sitting” before Ezekiel, possibly because of having come to him to hear a message from YHWH. At that time, the “hand of YHWH fell” upon Ezekiel, indicating that God’s spirit became operative upon him. The Targum does not use the expression “hand” but refers to the “spirit of prophecy from before the Lord God.” (8:1)
Ezekiel saw the likeness of a figure that had the “appearance of fire” or that shown brightly. According to the Septuagint, it was the “likeness of a man” or a likeness that resembled the human form. From his “loins” or waist downward, the appearance looked like fire; and from the “loins” upward, the appearance was like “electrum,” an alloy of gold and silver that gleamed brightly The Targum avoids any reference to a human form. It indicates that the “glory” was too great for the eye to see, being impossible to look upon. (8:2)
The bright likeness reached out with the “form of a hand”and took hold of Ezekiel by a lock of the hair of his head. A “spirit,” either God’s spirit or a wind for which God was responsible, lifted Ezekiel up and carried him “between the earth and the heavens,” or in midair between the land below and the sky above, and brought him to Jerusalem. This did not occur literally but “in visions of God” or in a visionary manner that had God as its source. In vision, Ezekiel arrived at the “entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north.” It was the inner court of the temple and the place where the “image of jealousy,” one “provoking to jealousy,” was located. According to the Targum, it was an object that provoked to anger, meaning that the idolatrous object incited God’s anger. As an object of the people’s defiant refusal to be exclusively devoted to YHWH, the “image of jealousy” was highly offensive to him. The Septuagint refers to it as the “stele [pillar or monument] of the buyer.” (8:3)
The vision of the “glory of the God of Israel” that Ezekiel had seen previously occurred at the location of a plain in Babylonia. (3:22, 23) Likely the plain was an uninhabited area some distance from the nearest town or city. The presence of the glory of YHWH in the proximity of the temple indicated that he had come to direct attention to the abominable practices of the people against whom he would express punitive judgment. (8:4)
In response to the divine directive to “lift up [his] eyes in the direction of the north,” Ezekiel did so. He then saw “north of the gate of the altar” the object that provoked YHWH to jealousy or anger (LXX), the image of jealousy in the entrance. The “gate of the altar” could refer to the inner temple gate that led to the altar of burnt offering. Modern translations vary in the meanings their renderings convey. “So I looked, and there to the north, beside the entrance to the gate near the altar, stood the idol that had made the Lord so jealous.” (NLT) “I saw that disgusting idol by the altar near the gate.” (CEV) “In the entrance north of the gate of the altar I saw this idol of jealousy.” (NIV) “There in the entry north of the altar gate was this statue of jealousy.” (NAB, revised edition) In the Septuagint, there is no mention of an idol. It indicates that Ezekiel saw the gate that led to the east. (8:5; see the Notes section.)
YHWH asked Ezekiel whether he saw the “great abominations” or detestable things (“great lawless things” or deeds [LXX]) in which the “house [or people] of Israel” engaged at his sanctuary. Their defiling practices were such as to drive him away from it, or cause him to abandon the temple as his representative place of dwelling and to let it be destroyed. Although Ezekiel had seen the disgusting “image of jealousy,” he would come to see even greater abominations (“greater lawless things” or deeds [LXX]). (8:6; see the Notes section.)
YHWH brought Ezekiel to the “door” or entrance leading into the court, apparently the inner temple court. Then Ezekiel “saw a hole in the wall,” evidently in the wall that surrounded the court. (8:7) YHWH commanded him to “dig into the wall.” Upon doing so, Ezekiel saw a door or entrance there, probably an entrance into a chamber on the perimeter of the court. (8:8; see the Notes section.) YHWH directed him to enter so that he could see the vile abominations or disgusting things (“lawless things” or deeds [LXX]) people of Israel were committing there. (8:9) Ezekiel entered and saw all kinds of crawling things and detestable beasts or unclean wild animals and idols (literally, “dungy things [an expression of contempt]) of the “house [or people] of Israel” carved on the wall of the place where he then found himself. (8:10; see the Notes section.)
Seventy elders of the “house [or people] of Israel” were standing where Ezekiel had entered. Probably the most prominent among them was “Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan,” the only one mentioned by name. Each of the elders had a censer in his hand, and smoke from the burning incense in the censer rose in the form of a cloud. When burning incense before the representations engraved on the wall, all the men made themselves guilty of idolatry. (8:11) YHWH asked Ezekiel whether he had seen what each one of the “elders of the house [or people] of Israel” was doing “in the dark in the rooms of his show piece” or idol. Perhaps the reference to rooms is to niches for the idolatrous representations to which the elders burned incense. According to the Septuagint, the rooms were private rooms — hidden bedchambers. Apparently because they saw no help coming from YHWH to deal with the serious military threat from the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, they felt that YHWH had left the land. Seemingly they reasoned that his departure from the land meant that he could not see what they were doing in secret. (8:12)
YHWH told Ezekiel that he would see even greater abominations or detestable practices (“lawless things” or deeds [LXX]) in which the people of Israel engaged. (8:13) After having been taken to the north side of the temple precincts at the “entrance of the gate of the house [or temple] of YHWH,” Ezekiel saw seated women who were “weeping for Tammuz,” a Mesopotamian fertility god. This deity is thought to have been the Dumuzi mentioned in ancient Sumerian texts. Tammuz was also the name of the month that corresponds to mid-June to mid-July. By then summer heat had dried up much of the vegetation, and worshipers of Tammuz appear to have associated this development to his death. The wailing of the women apparently was over the death of Tammuz. (8:14) YHWH is quoted as then saying to Ezekiel, “Have you seen [this], son of man? You will see still greater abominations [practices (LXX)] than these.” These words indicated that Ezekiel would witness even more shocking detestable idolatrous acts. (8:15; see the Notes section regarding “son of man.”)
From his position at the “entrance of the temple of YHWH” with a view of the “inner court of the house [or temple] of YHWH,” where he had been taken, Ezekiel saw twenty-five men with their backs to the temple. Located between the temple porch (ailam [LXX], a transliteration of the Hebrew word) and the altar of burnt offering, these men faced east and were bowing down, worshiping the sun. This act was a flagrant rejection of YHWH, for the temple was his representative place of dwelling. (8:16)
Again YHWH is quoted as asking Ezekiel, “Have you seen [this], son of man?” This is followed with the rhetorical question as to whether it was too slight a thing “for the house [or people] of Judah to commit the abominations [lawless things or deeds (LXX)] that they commit here,” filling the land with violence (lawless things or deeds [LXX]) and further provoking YHWH to anger. There is uncertainty about the significance of the concluding phrase in the question (“putting the branch to their nose”). The expression “their nose” in this phrase was anciently identified as a scribal emendation, with the alternate reading being “my nose.” In the Septuagint, the reference could be to those engaged in mocking as if thumbing their noses. “Putting the branch to [the] nose” appears to have been a highly offensive act, and the branch may even have been a phallic representation. Modern translations vary in their interpretive renderings. “Is it nothing to the people of Judah that they commit these detestable sins, leading the whole nation into violence, thumbing their noses at me, and provoking my anger?” (NLT) “Look how they insult me in the most offensive way possible!” (TEV) “Look at them at their worship, holding twigs to their noses.” (REB) (8:17; see the Notes section regarding “son of man.”)
In view of the detestable idolatrous practices and the violence and injustices with which the people had filled the land, YHWH determined to express his wrath against them. His “eye” would not pity them, and he would not be compassionate. YHWH would not look upon the suffering people with any sense of sorrow or feel any compassion for them. In their distress, they would cry out to him. Although they would cry out with a loud voice in his hearing (literally, “ears”), he would not listen to them, refusing to provide any aid or relief. The Targum says that he would not hear their prayers. (8:18; see the Notes section.)
In this chapter (verses 5, 6, 8, 12, 15, and 17), as elsewhere in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet is addressed as “son of man.” This served to remind him that he was an earthling or mortal with a commission from the eternal God YHWH upon whom cherubs are in attendance.
The Septuagint, in verse 7, does not mention a hole in the wall, and verse 8 also does not refer to a wall.
In verse 10, the Septuagint does not mention the wall, resulting in ambiguity. It also does not refer to crawling things and detestable beasts but refers to “vain [or worthless] abominations” and “all the idols of the house of Israel.”
In verse 18, the Septuagint does not include the phrase about crying out with a loud voice and not being heard.
In Ezekiel’s hearing (literally, “in my ears”), YHWH called out with a loud voice, directing those who would be making a visitation of the city (a visitation for punitive action against Jerusalem) to draw near. Each one was equipped with a destroying implement or weapon in his hand. (9:1; see the Notes section.) From the direction of the upper temple gate, the gate facing north, six men came, each one with “his implement of slaughter in his hand.” The six men apparently represented the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar that invaded from the north and would devastate Jerusalem, including the temple. Among the six men was another man. He was dressed in linen clothing and had a scribe’s inkhorn or writing case at his waist. All seven men entered the inner court of the temple and then stood “beside the altar of copper” or bronze (the altar of burnt offering). (9:2; see the Notes section.)
The “glory of the God of Israel” had been above the “expanse,” firmament, or platform over the four living beings or cherubs. This “glory” or dazzling brilliance that appeared in the likeness of a man (1:26; 3:22, 23; 8:2, 4) moved to the threshold [inner court (LXX)] of the house” or temple, probably the threshold of the entrance into the Most Holy. From that position, YHWH is represented as calling out to the man dressed in linen clothing and with a scribe’s inkhorn or writing case at his waist (a “girdle on his waist” [LXX]). (9:3; see the Notes section.)
YHWH said to the man dressed in linen clothing, “Pass through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark [sign (LXX)] on the foreheads of the men [or people] moaning and groaning over all the abominations [lawless deeds (LXX)] that are done in the midst of it.” Those who were sighing and groaning were persons who lived uprightly and were deeply distressed about the idolatrous practices, oppression, and injustices they witnessed among the people of Jerusalem. The word translated “mark” is the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, taw. In ancient times, the letter “taw” was written like an “X.” A number of modern translations reflect this in their renderings. “Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it.” (NAB, revised edition) “Mark with a cross the foreheads of those who groan and lament over all the abominations practised there.” (REB) “Mark a cross on the foreheads of all who grieve and lament over all the loathsome practices in it [Jerusalem].” (NJB) (9:4)
In his “ears” or in his hearing, Ezekiel heard YHWH tell the six men with the weapons, “Pass through the city after him [the man dressed in linen clothing] and strike. Your eye shall not have pity, and you shall not show compassion.” They were not to look with pity upon the people nor have any feeling of compassion for them. (9:5) The men with the weapons were to slay old men and young men, virgins, little children, and women. They, however, were not to go near anyone who had previously been marked. The men were instructed to begin the punitive action at the sanctuary. Their first victims were the old men in front of the temple (literally, “before the face of the house”). According to the Septuagint, the “men of the elders” were “inside, in the house,” which could mean inside the temple complex. (9:6)
The idolaters at the temple would not have considered their practices as disgusting and as polluting the sacred precincts. From YHWH’s standpoint, however, the temple was defiled, and his command to the six men with the weapons was to pollute it even more with dead bodies. They were to fill the temple courts with the slain. In response to the directive to go forth, they did so and began striking down the unmarked people “in the city,” Jerusalem. (9:7; see the Notes section.)
With the slaughter occurring all around him, Ezekiel finally found himself alone. He dropped to his knees, fell upon his face, and cried out, “Ah, Lord YHWH, are you destroying all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath upon Jerusalem?” The Targum refers to Ezekiel as making the plea, “Hear my petition.” (9:8)
In response to Ezekiel’s reaction to the slaughter conveyed to him in a vision, YHWH revealed why the punitive judgment was merited. The “guilt of the house [or people] of Israel and Judah” was “exceedingly great” (literally, “with muchness, muchness”). The “land” was “full of bloods,” with much innocent blood having been shed through acts of violence and judicial corruption, and the city, Jerusalem, was full of injustice. It appears that, because of not seeing any help coming from YHWH, the people said that he had “forsaken the land” (the “inhabitants” of the land [Targum]) and did not see, having no knowledge of what they were doing. (9:9; see the Notes section.)
YHWH was fully aware of everything that was taken place among the people. He determined that his “eye” would not have pity or look with any pity on the people during the time for the execution of punitive judgment nor would he show any compassion. The consequences for “their way” or their corrupt course of conduct would come upon “their head” as merited punishment. (9:10)
To report what he had accomplished, the man dressed in linen clothing and with a writer’s inkhorn at his waist said to YHWH, “I have done as you commanded me.” (9:11; see the Notes section.)
The Septuagint, in verse 1, indicates that the “judgment” of Jerusalem had drawn near.
In verse 2, the Septuagint says that one man was clothed with a robe (one that reached down to the feet) and had a “girdle of sapphire upon his waist.”
According to the interpretation of verse 3 in the Targum, the glory had been in the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy.
The rendering of verse 7 in the Septuagint is shorter than the wording of the Masoretic Text. “And he [God] said to them, “Pollute the house [the temple], and fill the ways with carcasses, [you], the ones going out, and strike” or slay.
Instead of being “full of bloods” (verse 9), the Targum says that the land was full of those who deserved to be slain. The Septuagint refers to the land as being filled with “many peoples.”
In verse 11, as in verse 3, the Septuagint says that the man was clothed with a robe and had a “girdle on his waist.”
The commission of the man dressed in linen clothing reveals the deep concern YHWH has for his devoted servants. It indicates that, regardless of how perilous circumstances may become, a remnant of godly persons will survive and benefit from his loving attention and care.
Upon the “expanse,” firmament, or platform that was over the heads of the cherubs (or the four living beings), Ezekiel saw something that, in appearance, resembled a sapphire stone, a transparent or translucent precious stone that probably was deep blue in color, and the object looked like a throne (10:1; compare 1:22, 26.)
Apparently the one seated on the object that resembled a throne instructed the man dressed in linen (in the “robe” [LXX]) to go in between the wheelwork (or the wheels), beneath the cherubs. From between the cherubs, he was to take “coals of fire” or fiery coals. After filling the hollows of both hands with these coals, the man dressed in linen clothing was to toss them “over the city,” Jerusalem. Ezekiel saw him going in to obtain the coals. (10:2) When the man went in, the cherubs were standing to the “right of the house” or temple, and a “cloud,” a manifestation of YHWH’s presence, filled the inner court. The right side of the temple would have been the south side, and a number of modern translations so render the text. “Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple.” (NIV) “The cherubim were standing at the south end of the Temple.” (NLT) “The creatures were standing to the south of the Temple.” (TEV) “The winged creatures were standing south of the temple.” (CEV) If, however, the right side of the temple is viewed as being in relation to the right of the man as he entered, this would have been the north side of the temple, where Ezekiel had earlier seen the cherubs before the “glory of the God of Israel” moved from above them to the threshold of the temple. Therefore, if the right side denotes the south side of the temple, this would indicate that the cherubs went to the south side, but the account makes no mention of any movement on their part. (10:3; see 8:3, 4; 9:3.)
There appears to be a repetition of what was earlier said in verse 3 of chapter 9. The “glory of YHWH” had moved from above the cherubs to the “threshold of the house” or temple. This resulted in gradually filling the temple with the “cloud” (“dense cloud” [Targum]) and the court came to be filled with the “brightness of the glory of YHWH.” (10:4) The sound of the beating wings of the cherubs (the four living beings) could be heard clear to the outer court of the temple. This loud sound was “like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks,” probably meaning that it was as loud as thunder. In a powerful way, the sound would have called attention to YHWH’s presence at the temple to execute punitive judgment. (10:5)
At this time the Almighty commanded the man dressed in linen clothing to “take fire” (or fiery coals [10:2]) “from between the wheelwork, from between the cherubs.” Ezekiel saw the man go in and then to stand beside one of the wheels. (10:6) One of the four cherubs reached out with his hand to the fire between them, took “fire” from it, and put the fire or fiery coals into the hands of the man dressed in linen clothing (the “holy robe” [LXX]). With the “fire” or fiery coals in his hands, the man departed. (10:7) Ezekiel saw what appeared to be the form of a man’s hand (men’s hands [LXX]) under the wings of the cherubs. (10:8) He also saw a wheel beside each one of the four cherubs, and it looked to him that the wheels gleamed “like topaz” (tarshísh [“like the appearance of a carbuncle stone” [LXX]), a transparent or translucent gemstone. (10:9; see the Notes section.) All four wheels looked the same. The words “the wheel within the wheel” could mean that each of the four wheels was intersected at right angles with another wheel. A number of modern translations are specific in expressing this basic meaning regarding the wheels. “Each wheel had a second wheel turning crosswise within it.” (NLT) “Each wheel was exactly the same and had a second wheel that cut through the middle of it.” (CEV) “Each one had another wheel which intersected it at right angles.” (TEV) (10:10)
If the reference is to the four wheels, they are either described as going on their “four sides” or rims or as moving in four directions. When changing directions, the wheels did so without turning. They would move in the direction that the heads of all four living beings or cherubs were facing. Numerous modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the Hebrew text and vary in applying the words of this verse either to the wheels or to the cherubs. “As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went.” (NIV) “They could move in any direction without turning. The wheels moved together whenever the creatures moved.” (CEV) “When they moved, they went in any of the four directions without veering as they moved; in whatever direction the first cherub faced, the others followed without veering as they went.” (NAB, revised edition) “When the cherubim moved in any of the four directions, they never swerved from their course; they went straight on in the direction in which their heads were turned, never swerving.” (REB) “The cherubs could move in any of the four directions they faced, without turning as they moved.” (NLT) (10:11)
“All their flesh” or the whole body of each cherub, their backs, hands, wings, and the wheels beside them were “full of eyes all around,” indicating that they could see clearly everywhere they would be going. Each of the four cherubs had one of the four wheels alongside. (10:12) In his hearing (literally, “in my ears”), Ezekiel heard the wheels being called “wheelwork” (ha-galgal, possibly denoting “whirling wheels” [gelgel (LXX), a transliteration of the Hebrew expression]). (10:13)
Each one of the four cherbus had four faces — the first face, the face of a cherub; the second face, the face of a man; the third face, the face of a lion, and the fourth face, the face of an eagle. If the face of a man represented the noble qualities humans possess, the other faces could represent features in which humans do not excel — power (cherub), boldness or fearlessness (lion, 2 Samuel 17:10; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Proverbs 28:1), and speed (eagle, Habakkuk 1:8). According to the earlier description of the four living beings or cherubs, the face of the cherub was the face of a bull. (10:14; compare 1:10 and see the Notes section.) Earlier, “by the river Chebar,” probably one of the major canals in ancient Chaldea, Ezekiel had seen the same four living beings or cherubs. At this later time, he saw them rise skyward. (10:15)
The cherubs and the wheels functioned in perfect harmony. Whenever the cherubs moved, the wheels went right along with them. When the cherubs lifted up their wings to rise above the earth or ground, the wheels did not change direction away from them but moved alongside them. (10:16) When the cherubs stood still, the wheels remained motionless. When the cherubs rose, the wheels rose with them. This was because the same “spirit” (God’s spirit [the “spirit of life” [LXX]) that was in the cherubs or that motivated them was in the wheels. (10:17)
The “glory of YHWH,” the impressive brilliance of his presence, moved from the “threshold of the house” or temple and then came to stand still over the four cherubs. This suggested that YHWH had abandoned the temple and that it would not continue to exist. (10:18; see 1:25-28.) Ezekiel saw the cherubs lift up their wings and rise from the “earth” or ground. As they rose, the wheels went along with them. The cherubs, with the wheels alongside them, stopped at the eastern entrance of the gate of the house or temple of YHWH, and the “glory of the God of Israel” was above them. (10:19)
The four living beings were the same ones Ezekiel had seen beneath the “glory of the God of Israel” (the brilliant manifestation of God’s presence) by the river Chebar, probably one of the major canals in ancient Chaldea. Apparently on the basis of their position beneath the “glory of the God of Israel,” Ezekiel recognized that the four living beings were cherubs. (10:20; compare 1:1, 26-28 and Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2.) Each one of the four living beings had four faces, and each one had four (eight [LXX]) wings. Underneath their wings, Ezekiel saw the resemblance of a man’s hands. (10:21) The likeness of the faces of the four living beings were same faces he had seen by the river Chebar. These living beings or cherubs moved straight ahead in the direction in which they faced. (10:22)
This chapter includes descriptions that are provided in greater detail in chapter 1.
In verse 9, the Hebrew word tarshísh may designate topaz, but this is not certain. Common renderings in translations are “topaz” and “chrysolite.”
The words of verse 14 are missing in the oldest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint. In the Hebrew text, the face of the cherub is in the first position. Ezekiel 1:10, however, refers to the face of the man first, the face of the lion second, and the face of the bull third.
The “spirit,” either God’s spirit or a strong wind of which God was the source, lifted Ezekiel and transported him to the “eastern gate of the house [or temple] of YHWH.” The temple itself faced the east. At the entrance of the eastern gate, Ezekiel saw twenty-five men, including two princes (leaders [LXX]) of the people, Jaazaniah the son of Azzur and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah. (11:1)
YHWH revealed to Ezekiel that the twenty-five men were devising what would prove to be injurious and were giving bad counsel in Jerusalem. Their devising of harm may have included plotting rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and counseling King Zedekiah to seek military aid from Egypt to support the plot. (11:2)
After King Jehoiachin, members of the royal family, princes, warriors, skilled craftsmen, and other prominent ones were taken into Babylonian exile, the twenty-five men apparently believed that they had no reason for concern about the city’s security. The initial words they are quoted as saying are somewhat obscure. A literal rendering of the Hebrew text would be, “Not near to build houses.” When understood as a question, this could mean that the men felt that the time was near for proceeding with building projects in Jerusalem. Another significance could be that they thought there was no need for building houses, for dwellings were available for occupancy because of having been vacated by the people who were taken into exile. Modern translations vary in their interpretive renderings. “Is it not a good time to build houses?” (NLT) “We will soon be building houses again.” (TEV) “Let’s build more houses.” (CEV) “The time has not yet come to build.” (REB) “No need to build houses!” (NAB, revised edition) “There will be no house-building yet awhile.” (NJB) According to the Septuagint, the question is, “Have not the houses been built recently?” Within the walls of the city, the men regarded themselves as safe, comparable to meat that remains within the confines of a cooking pot and is in no danger of being burned up by the fire underneath it. (11:3)
In view of their bad schemes and their senseless counsel that contradicted the message he had conveyed through his prophets, YHWH instructed Ezekiel to prophesy against the men. Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God upon whom cherubs are in attendance. (11:4)
The “spirit of YHWH” (spirit of prophecy [Targum]) fell upon Ezekiel, and he received a message to proclaim. “Thus says YHWH, So you say, O house of Israel. I know the things that come into your mind [literally, spirit].” Apparently the words of leaders among them and those of false prophets persuaded the “house” or people of Israel to consider themselves secure in Jerusalem. Therefore, they spoke or expressed themselves to this effect, and YHWH was fully aware of their thoughts (“deliberations” or plans [LXX]). (11:5)
Particularly the leaders and other prominent ones in Jerusalem would have been responsible for many people to be killed in the city, causing the streets to be filled with the slain. Those who were killed may have disagreed strongly with the scheming of the leaders or have been victims of injustice and oppression. (11:6) “Therefore” (because of the bloodguilt the men had incurred), the Lord YHWH declared, “Your slain whom you have placed in the midst of [Jerusalem] are the flesh, and [the city is] the cooking pot, and one [I (LXX), YHWH] will bring you out of the midst of it.” Whereas the dead would remain inside, the surviving men of the military campaign against Jerusalem would be forcibly removed as captives. (11:7)
The people had feared the “sword” of war being wielded against them, and the Lord YHWH purposed to bring the sword upon them. According to the Targum, the people feared those who slay with the sword, and they would be the ones God would be bringing upon them. (11:8) He would take survivors of the military campaign out of the midst of Jerusalem, give them into the hand (or power) of foreigners (the conquerors or the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar), and execute judgments against them. (11:9)
People would fall by the sword that Babylonian warriors would be wielding against them. By means of the conqueror, YHWH would judge the people “at the border [borders (LXX)] of Israel.” The “border” or “borders” (LXX) could refer to the northern limits of Israelite territory and control that anciently existed in the time of kings David and Solomon. If so, the judgment that King Nebuchadnezzar pronounced against King Zedekiah, his sons, and others at Riblah may be regarded as YHWH’s judgment at the border or borders of Israel. It was his judgment, for he permitted it to take place. (2 Kings 25:6, 7, 18-21) When the prophetic words were fulfilled, the people came to “know” or were forced to recognize that YHWH is the God who does not tolerate lawlessness indefinitely and executes judgment by means of an instrument and at a time of his choosing. (11:10)
The city of Jerusalem would not be like a cooking pot that keeps the contents from being consumed by fire nor would anyone be like the meat in such a pot. There would be no place of safety or security within the fortifications of Jerusalem, for YHWH would execute judgment “at the border [borders (LXX) of Israel.” (11:11; see verse 10.) This development would cause the people to “know” or force them to recognize YHWH as the God who punishes those who defy him and disregard his commands. Punitive judgment was merited, for the people had not walked or conducted themselves in harmony with his statutes and did not do what his judgments required, but they acted according to the judgments or ordinances of surrounding nations. (11:12; see the Notes section.)
While Ezekiel was prophesying, Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. As the prophet was in Babylon, the death of Pelatiah in Jerusalem was revealed to him in a vision. In response to this, Ezekiel dropped to his knees, “fell down upon [his] face, and cried with a loud voice,” saying, “[Hear my prayer (Targum)] Ah, Lord YHWH, will you make a complete end of the remnant of Israel?” Apparently Ezekiel considered the sudden death of Pelatiah to indicate that judgment would be executed against the other twenty-four men (11:1) and all the remaining ones of the people. (11:13)
Ezekiel received a “word” or message from YHWH. The Targum refers to this message as the “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (11:14)
Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH upon whom cherubs attended. The “brothers” of Ezekiel were fellow Israelites. In the Septuagint, they are also called “men of your captivity,” for they had been taken into exile as captives. They and all the house or people of Israel had a right to repurchase their inheritance in the land from which they had been exiled. The reference to “all the house of Israel” could include the descendants of Israelite exiles the Assyrians took into captivity from the former ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, the inhabitants of the city gave no consideration to the repurchase rights of Israelite exiles. These inhabitants are quoted as saying, “Go far from YHWH. To us, the land is given for a possession.” Probably because of their having YHWH’s temple in their city, they believed that the exiles were far from him, and they wanted this circumstance of the exiles to continue. In their view, the land inheritance the exiles lost had been given to them as their possession. (11:15)
The Lord YHWH had permitted Israelites to be taken into exile. Therefore, he is quoted as having put them far away among foreign nations and scattered them among various lands. Nevertheless, he would become a sanctuary to them in the lands to which they had been exiled. The Hebrew text could be understood to mean that this would be for a little while or in a little way. His being a sanctuary for a little while could indicate that the exile would end and that during this little while YHWH would still be with his people in whatever foreign land they might find themselves as exiles. He would care for them and preserve them as a people. If the meaning of the Hebrew text is “little way,” this could suggest that YHWH’s presence with the exiles would not be the same as if they were in their own land, for they would still be subject to a foreign power and to mistreatment. In the Targum, the interpretation is that God had given the Israelite exiles synagogues that were places of worship only second to the temple in Jerusalem. (11:16; see the Notes section.) YHWH promised to gather the exiled Israelites from among the foreign peoples, to assemble them out of the lands to which they had been scattered, and again to give them their own land (the land of Israel). (11:17)
The ones returning to the land of Israel would be a repentant people who had benefited from the divinely decreed punitive judgment they had experienced. Upon their return to the land, they would clear out of it all disgusting and detestable things (lawless deeds [LXX]). This would include idols and all appendages of idolatry. (11:18) The stubborn refusal of the people to heed YHWH’s commands that had led to military defeat and exile would cease. They would prove to be a changed people. This is indicated in YHWH’s giving them “one [another (LXX)] heart,” or an inner motivation that would be undivided in its love for him and devoted to doing his will, and putting a “new spirit” inside them. This “new spirit” would be a powerful motivating force that would prompt them to live in harmony with his commands. YHWH would remove (or cause to be taken from them) a “heart of stone,” an inner self that stubbornly resisted to living in harmony with his requirements. He would give them (or cause them to have) a “heart of flesh,” an inner self that would willingly yield to his will for them. (11:19) With a different heart and new spirit, the people would “walk” or conduct themselves in harmony with his statutes and act according to his “judgments” or ordinances. They would prove to be a people having an approved relationship with YHWH, and he would be their God, acknowledging them as uniquely belonging to him as his people. (11:20)
Israelites whose hearts or inmost selves inclined them to walk or to conduct themselves according to their detestable and disgusting things (their idolatry and lawless ways) would face serious consequences . The penalty for pursuing their own way would come upon their heads or upon them. (11:21)
After having received YHWH’s word or message about future developments, Ezekiel saw the cherubs raise their wings, and a wheel was beside each one of the four cherubs. The glory of YHWH, the magnificent divine splendor described earlier (1:26-28), was above them. (11:22) The “glory of YHWH” ascended “from the midst the city” or from over Jerusalem and began to stand over the mountain on the “east side of the city.” The Targum is specific in identifying this mountain as the Mount of Olives. (11:23)
Ezekiel found himself being lifted up and transported to the exiles in Chaldea or Babylonia. This occurred in a vision through the operation of the “spirit of God” (the “prophetic spirit … from before the Lord” [Targum]). The vision Ezekiel had seen ascended from him, suggesting that it faded away. (11:24) With the vision having ended and his being back at the actual location in Chaldea, Ezekiel was in a position to relate to the exiles everything that YHWH, through the operation of his spirit, had shown to him. (11:25)
In verse 12, the Septuagint does not include the words about not walking in YHWH’s statutes and not carrying out his judgments but acting according to the judgments of surrounding nations.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 16 represents the developments as being future, indicating that those who were still living in Jerusalem would be cast out into the nations and scattered. For them, God would be a small or diminished sanctuary in the places to which they would be exiled.
YHWH’s “word (“word of prophecy from before the Lord [Targum]) came to Ezekiel. (12:1) He was addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God. Ezekiel found himself in a “rebellious house,” among people guilty of “injustices” [LXX]). They defiantly refused to act in harmony with YHWH’s commands. As a “rebellious house,” the people were unresponsive, as if unable to see although they had eyes and if unable to hear although they had ears. (12:2; see the Notes section.)
YHWH directed Ezekiel to prepare baggage for exile and to enact going into exile before the eyes or in the sight of his fellow exiles then already in Babylon. This baggage would have contained only a few essential items, possibly including a mat used for sleeping and a skin bottle for water. To portray going into exile, Ezekiel was to leave his own place for another location before the “eyes” of the people. This was an enactment for his fellow exiles to watch and apparently served to impress upon them the serious consequences that would result from continuing to be a “rebellious house [people (Targum)].” (12:3; see the Notes section.)
In the daytime so that his actions could be watched, Ezekiel was to take out of his place baggage like baggage exiles would be carrying to distant lands. Then, in the evening, apparently at a time when he could still be observed, Ezekiel was to depart from his place like a captive to be taken into exile. (12:4)
Walls of houses and other buildings commonly were constructed of mud brick. This made it possible for Ezekiel to obey the instructions to dig a hole through the wall and then to leave through the opening with his baggage. This was to be done before the “eyes” of the people or as something for them to see. (12:5) While they would be watching (literally, “before their eyes”), Ezekiel was to lift the baggage on his shoulder and, after the onset of evening darkness, depart with his face covered so as not to see the “earth” or the ground. According to the Septuagint, Ezekiel was to leave concealed from his place. His actions served as a “sign” to the “house of Israel,” for YHWH had made him a sign to the people of Israel. (12:6)
Ezekiel did exactly what he had been commanded. In the daytime, he brought out his baggage from his place like baggage for exile. Then, in the evening, he dug through the wall by hand and left (left “concealed” [LXX]) during the time of darkness, carrying the baggage upon his shoulder. Ezekiel did so as people watched (literally, “before their eyes”). (12:7)
YHWH’s “word” (“word of prophecy from before the Lord” [Targum]) came to Ezekiel in the morning following his enactment relating to exile. (12:8) YHWH is quoted as saying to him, “Son of man, has not the house [people] of Israel, the rebellious house [people (Targum)] said to you, What are you doing?” (12:9; see the Notes section.) The “utterance,” burden, or response of the Lord YWHW (“Lord Lord” [LXX]) for Ezekiel to relate was meant for the prince (ruler [LXX]) or King Zedekiah in Jerusalem and for “all of the house [people] of Israel in the midst of them.” The plural suffix rendered “them” could be understood to apply to Jerusalem and to the king who was in the city. The Septuagint refers to “the ruler and the leader.” (12:10) Ezekiel was to tell the king and the people that he was a “sign” to them. What he had done when enacting going into exile would “be done to them” or would be their experience. They would go “into exile, into captivity” (“into exile and into captivity” [LXX]). (12:11; see the Notes section.)
The prince (ruler [LXX]) or King Zedekiah in the midst of the people would do lifting or carrying upon his shoulder after dark and go out of city. Those accompanying him would dig through the wall, creating an opening through which to depart. According to the Septuagint, the ruler would be lifted or carried upon shoulders. He would “cover his face” so that his “eye” would not see the “earth” or land. The Targum interprets the reason for his not seeing the land as being that he had “sinned with his eyes.” According to the Septuagint, the ruler would cover his face so that no eye would see or recognize him and that he would not see the earth or land. (12:12; see the Notes section.)
In view of what he permitted to happen to King Zedekiah, YHWH is represented as saying, “I will spread my net over him, and he will be taken in my snare. And I will bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chaldeans, and he will not see it, and there he will die.” Zedekiah was captured, blinded at Riblah, and taken as a captive to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:4-7) As a blind man, he did not see the land of the Chaldeans and died there. (12:13)
YHWH is quoted as declaring that he would “scatter to every wind” or in every direction all those around King Zedekiah as helpers and his troops, unsheathing his sword after them. According to 2 Kings 25:5, all the warriors with Zedekiah were scattered . (12:14)
Upon being dispersed “among the nations” and scattered in various lands, the people would come to know or be forced to recognize that YHWH is the God who does not tolerate lawlessness indefinitely and will execute punitive judgment against those who choose to disregard his commands. (12:15)
At the time for punitive judgment, YHWH would let a few men or a remnant escape or survive the sword of warfare, famine resulting from siege and conquest, and pestilence (“death” [LXX]) or infectious disease that would spread in the unsanitary conditions of siege among the famished people. The effect on the remnant of survivors would be that, wherever they went among the nations as exiles, they would confess or acknowledge their suffering to have resulted from “all their abominations” (lawless deeds [LXX]) — their idolatrous practices and wayward conduct. The dire consequences would impress upon them that YHWH was the God who had acted against them. (12:16)
Another “word” (“word of prophecy “ [Targum]) came to Ezekiel from YHWH. (12:17) He was directed to illustrate what the people would be facing during times of siege. Ezekiel was to eat his bread or food with trembling (“pain” or “grief” [LXX]). This would indicate that the scarcity of food and the probability of running out of food entirely would give rise to fear. Likewise, Ezekiel’s drinking water with horror (“torment and affliction” [LXX]) would serve to show that little potable water would be available during the time of siege and would likely cease to exist. (12:18; compare 4:16, 17, and see the Notes section regarding “son of man.”)
Ezekiel was instructed to tell the “people of the land,” apparently fellow exiles in Babylonia, “Thus says the Lord YHWH regarding the ones residing in Jerusalem in the land of Israel, Their bread they will eat with fearfulness and their water they will drink in horror, for their land will be stripped of its fullness [or everything it contains] because of the violence [impiety (LXX)] of all those residing in it.” The inhabitants of Jerusalem would be in a state of anxiety when eating, fearful that shortly there might not be any bread or food. Water also would be scarce, causing the people to experience terror when drinking because they would know that they could soon be without any water. The enemy military force would devastate the land, cutting off life’s essentials from the besieged people. On account of the violence directed especially against the poor who were often the victims of injustice and oppression, the people of Jerusalem would experience siege and conquest. (12:19; compare 4:16, 17.)
The enemy military force would devastate the inhabited cities in the territory of the kingdom of Judah and transform the land into a desolate waste. When this would come to pass, the people would know or be forced to recognize that YHWH is the God who does not leave oppression and injustices unpunished. (12:20)
Again YHWH’s “word or message (“word of prophecy from before the Lord” [Targum]) came to Ezekiel. (12:21) This message related to a proverb the people were using regarding the land of Israel. They did not believe that the punitive judgment Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and other prophets had proclaimed would actually be executed. Therefore, the people mockingly took up the proverb, “The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing.” Even if some calamity were to come, they imagined that it would be in the distant future and of no concern to them. As to the visions the prophets had seen and made known, the people reasoned that the message of these visions had not been fulfilled and so never would be. (12:22; see the Notes section regarding the expression “son of man.”)
Through Ezekiel, YHWH reproved the people for using the proverb that did not take the message he conveyed through his prophets seriously. Ezekiel was to tell them, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, I will put an end to this proverb, and they will no more use it as a proverb in Israel.” The very opposite of the thoughts expressed with the mocking proverb would take place. The days for the execution of punitive judgment were at hand, and the “word [or message] of every vision” would be fulfilled. (12:23) Once the message of YHWH’s prophets began to be fulfilled, there would not be any false or deceptive vision that contradicted what they had proclaimed nor would there be “smooth” divination or divination that supported a favorable outcome. “False vision” and “smooth divination” would not continue “in the house of Israel” or among the people of Israel (“in the midst of the sons of Israel” [LXX]). The Septuagint indicates that there would no longer be someone who would resort to divination “for favor” or to please those hearing it. (12:24)
YHWH declared that he would speak the word (his “words” [LXX]) or message, and it would be performed (he would “speak and act and no more delay” [LXX]). There would be no postponement. The Lord YHWH is quoted as telling the “rebellious house” (rebellious people” [Targum]), “For in your days, … I will speak a word, and I will do it,” fulfilling the message about coming punitive judgment. (12:25)
Again YHWH’s “word” or message (“word of prophecy from before the Lord” [Targum]) came to Ezekiel. (12:26; see the Notes section.) This word revealed what the people (the “house of Israel”) said about his prophesying. “The vision that he sees” (“the teaching that he teaches” [Targum]) is “for many days” or for a distant future time, and “he prophesies about times far off” or times that were of no concern to them because the prophecies would not be fulfilled during their lifetime. (12:27; see the Notes section regarding the expression “son of man.”) Therefore, he was to tell them that the Lord YHWH would not delay the fulfillment of all his words any longer. He would do what he had declared. The Septuagint quotes the Lord as saying, “I will speak and act.” (12:28)
In this chapter (verses 2, 3, 9, 18, 22, 27), Ezekiel is repeatedly addressed as “son of man.” This reminded Ezekiel that he was a mortal in the service of YHWH, the eternal God with cherubs in attendance upon him.
In verse 11, the Septuagint represents Ezekiel as doing or performing signs in the midst of Jerusalem (literally, “her”).
The Septuagint rendering of verse 12 represents the ruler as the one who would go out concealed through the hole that he had dug in the wall. Ancient Greek codex P967 does not include the words, “and he himself will not see the earth” or land.
The ancient Greek codex (P967) omits the wording in verse 26 through 28, and continues the text with the words in verse 1 of chapter 13.
YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (13:1) YHWH is quoted as addressing Ezekiel as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God. He directed Ezekiel to “prophesy against the prophets [false prophets (Targum)] of Israel,” for they had no message from him but were making proclamations “out of their [own] heart” or their own thoughts. YHWH, however, had a message for them and, through Ezekiel, he said, “Hear [or listen to] the word of YHWH.” (13:2) They were not to be left in any doubt about the source of the message Ezekiel would be making known to them. It was introduced with the words, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Woe to the foolish prophets who walk [or follow] after their [own] spirit [or inclination and imagination] and have seen nothing.” They had received no vision from YHWH and, therefore, had nothing to proclaim other than what originated in their own imagination. These prophets were “foolish,” proclaiming messages contrary to what YHWH’s prophets were making known. Their folly consisted of senselessly, deliberately and defiantly contradicting the word of YHWH. Therefore, they would experience woe or calamity. (13:3) The “prophets” (false prophets [Targum]) in Israel were “like foxes among ruins [in the deserts or desolate areas (LXX)].” With their burrowing, foxes do additional damage, undermining portions of walls that might still be standing. Likewise, the proclamations of false prophets had a ruinous effect on those who believed them. Their words lulled the people into a false sense of security as they continued to engage in divinely disapproved practices. The false prophets did nothing constructive. (13:4)
The prophets should have admonished the people to repent and to abandon their lawless ways so as to escape having YHWH express his wrath against them. False prophets, however, had not gone up into the breaches, acting in ways that would have spared the people from punitive judgment. They had done nothing comparable to building a protective wall “for the house of Israel,” a wall that would “stand in battle in the day of YHWH.” Instead, they had left the people in a state that merited YHWH’s wrath. According to the Targum, the false prophets had not performed good deeds nor had they petitioned for the house of Israel, praying that mercy might be shown to the people at the time for the arrival of those making war against them. (13:5; see the Notes section.)
What the false prophets saw or visioned was falsehood, and they “divined a lie.” Yet they attributed their utterances to YHWH even though he had not sent them. They still expected him to fulfill their word. According to the Targum, they insisted that their word would be fulfilled. The Septuagint refers to those saying the “Lord says” as not having been sent by him and as beginning to raise up a “word” or a false message. (13:6)
When identifying their words as a “pronouncement of YHWH” although he had not spoken anything to them, the false prophets were seeing a vain, worthless or delusive vision and expressing a lying divination. This thought is expressed in the form of a question that YHWH is quoted as directing to them. In the Septuagint, the question is shorter than it is in the Hebrew text. “Have you not seen a lying vision and spoken vain [empty or worthless] divinations?” According to the Targum, the question is, “Have you not prophesied false prophecies?” (13:7)
The Lord YHWH declared that he was against the false prophets because they had uttered vanities, delusions, or worthless things and had visioned a falsehood that they then proclaimed as truth. They deluded the people into thinking that no calamity would befall them for their disregard of YHWH’s commands and the words he directed to them through his prophets. The Targum refers to the false prophets as prophesying falsehood and teaching lies. (13:8)
YHWH would direct his “hand” (the striking power of his might [Targum]) “against the prophets [false prophets (Targum)]” who were visioning “vanity,” emptiness, or worthlessness and divining falsehood (prophesying falsehood and teaching lies [Targum]). These false prophets would not be in the council or intimate group of YHWH’s people. According to the Septuagint, they would have no part in the “instruction” of his people. The Targum indicates that they would not share in the “secret good that is concealed” or reserved for God’s people. There would be no place of honor for the false prophets. They would not be in the “writing of the house of Israel,” indicating that their names would not be found in a listing of God’s people. There would be no written record of them. At the time others would be returning to the “land of Israel,” these false prophets would not be among them. When the judgment would be executed against them, they would know that it had come upon them from YHWH. They would then know or be forced to recognize that he is a God who does not leave unpunished those who act contrary to his commands and ways. According to the interpretation of the Targum, the false prophets would not be in the record for eternal life that is recorded for the righteous ones of the house of Israel. (13:9)
The false prophets misled the people when saying, “Peace [Peace, peace (LXX)],” but there was no peace. (Compare Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11.) They maintained that all was well, with nothing to threaten security. Through his true prophets, however, YHWH had made known that punitive judgment would soon be executed against the rebellious people. The false sense of security into which the lying prophets lulled the people was comparable to the building of an unstable wall that provided no defensive value or security. The flimsy wall was covered with whitewash. In the Targum, the false prophets are likened to a person who plasters with mud that is not strengthened with a mixture of straw. (13:10)
To those applying the whitewash, YHWH through Ezekiel declared that the wall would come crashing down. This would result from means comparable to a torrential downpour, a destructive hail, and a fierce wind. (13:11; see the Notes.) The wall representing the false claim that all was well for the people would tumble down at the time the foretold calamity would befall them. Then the question for the false prophets or the ones who did the whitewashing would be, “Where is the plaster with which you plastered [the wall]?” The implication is that the whitewash would have disappeared, revealing the unstable wall that would collapse. (13:12)
The Lord YHWH is quoted as telling the false prophets that he would make a tempestuous wind break out in his wrath, cause a torrential rain in his anger, and, for annihilation, have hailstones fall in his wrath. (13:13) By this means, he would break down the wall that the false prophets had covered with whitewash, leveling it to the ground and laying its foundation bare. The prophets’ false claims of security (represented as their whitewashing of the wall) would then be fully exposed as a delusion. In the Hebrew text, the verb for “falls” that appears in the next phrase is followed by a feminine suffix (“she will fall”) and apparently refers to the fall of Jerusalem, for the word for “wall” is masculine gender. In the midst of the city, the false prophets would come to their finish (“with reproofs” or in disgrace [LXX]). They would then know or be forced to recognize that YHWH is the God who executes punitive judgment against those who act contrary to his commands and will. (13:14; see the Notes section.)
YHWH would direct his “wrath upon the wall [the city (Jerusalem) (Targum)] and upon those who covered it with whitewash (“the false prophets who prophesied false prophecies” [Targum]). He is quoted as saying to them, “The wall is no more, and those covering [plastering] it are no more.” According to the interpretation of the Targum, Jerusalem is no more, and neither are the false prophets. (13:15; see the Notes section and the comments in verse 10 about the wall.) Those covering the wall with whitewash are next identified as the “prophets [false prophets (Targum)] of Israel who are prophesying about Jerusalem and seeing visions of peace for her.” Their visions were mere delusions, for they imagined that the city and its inhabitants were secure, with no reason to fear that the people would soon be the recipients of YHWH’s punitive judgment for having transgressed his commands and disregarded the messages he had made known through his prophets. Contrary to what the false prophets were saying, there was no peace. The Targum says concerning the false prophets that they were leading Jerusalem astray with a teaching of peace. (13:16)
YHWH next directed Ezekiel’s attention to the “daughters” of his people, more specifically prophetesses whose utterances came from their own “heart” or were the products of their own imagination. When divinely commissioned to prophesy against these prophetesses, Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man.” This would have reminded him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. (13:17) To the prophetesses, Ezekiel was to say, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Woe upon those who are sewing bands upon all wrists [literally, joints of my hands] and who are making veils for the head of every stature [or size (every age or both young and old [LXX])] to hunt for souls [pervert souls (LXX)]. Are you hunting souls of my people [the souls of my people you have perverted (LXX)], and will you preserve alive souls for your benefit [and souls they have preserved or kept alive (LXX)]?” The Septuagint concludes with the words, “The souls of my people were perverted, and souls they have preserved” or kept alive either themselves or persons who chose to follow them. (13:18)
Apparently the false prophetesses resorted to magical practices, but exactly what they did cannot be determined from the Hebrew text. This is also evident from the variety of interpretive renderings in modern translations. “Woe to those who sew pads on all arm-joints and make bonnets for the head of every person, in order to entrap! Can you hunt down lives among My people, while you preserve your own lives? (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Disaster is in store for women who sew ribbons round each wrist and make headcloths for people of all sizes, in their hunt for souls! Are you to hunt the souls of my people and keep your own souls safe?” (NJB) “Woe betide you women who hunt men’s lives by sewing magic bands on the wrists and putting veils over the heads of persons of every age! Are you to hunt the lives of my people and keep your own lives safe?” (REB) “You women are doomed! You sew magic wristbands for everyone and make magic scarves for everyone to wear on their heads, so that they can have power over other people’s lives. You want to possess the power of life and death over my people and to use it for your own benefit.” (TEV) “What sorrow awaits you women who are ensnaring the souls of my people, young and old alike. You tie magic charms on their wrists and furnish them with magic veils. Do you think you can trap others without bringing destruction on yourselves?” (NLT) “Tell them they’re doomed! They wear magic charms on their wrists and scarves on their heads, then trick others into believing they can predict the future. They won’t get away with telling those lies.” (CEV) (13:18)
With their lies, the prophetesses profaned YHWH among his people (his favor for his people [Targum]), for they, like the false prophets, probably spoke their falsehoods in his name. For their services, they accepted handfuls of barley or pieces of bread. The prophetesses put to death the “souls who should not die and preserved alive the souls who should not live.” They did this with their lies to God’s people, the ones who listened to falsehood. According to the Septuagint, they declared vain, empty, or worthless declarations. Either through their misleading utterances they caused people to continue in a course that would mean death for them or, with their lying expressions, caused innocent persons to be killed. These prophetesses, however, supported lawless persons who merited death, making utterances that allowed them to escape the severe punishment they deserved. (13:19)
YHWH determined to destroy the influence of the prophetesses. He is quoted as declaring, “Look, I am against your bands with which you are hunting souls as for birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will set free [literally, send away] the souls that you hunt, souls” that you hunt as if they were “birds.” YHWH would not permit the prophetesses to cause his people to go astray with their magical devices and lying utterances, but would let his people escape from their snares. According to the Septuagint, he would send away into dispersion the souls or persons whom the prophetesses perverted. (13:20) YHWH would tear off the veils of the prophetesses and deliver his people out of their “hand,” power, or control. The people would cease to be like prey in the hand of these women. Upon the fulfillment of the punitive judgment, the prophetesses would “know” or be forced to recognize YHWH as the God who had acted against them and as the one who does not indefinitely tolerate those who act contrary to his will. (13:21)
The prophetesses “discouraged the heart of the righteous one” (or disheartened the upright person ) with falsehood, discouraging the very one whom YHWH had not discouraged or pained. They “strengthened the hands of the wicked one,” encouraging the wicked one to continue engaging in corrupt practices and not to turn away from his wicked way so that he might escape punitive judgment and preserve his life. (13:22) “Therefore,” in view of what the prophetesses had done, they would no longer see or vision vanity, delusion, emptiness, or worthlessness and no more engage in divination. YHWH determined to rescue his people from their “hand,” power, or control. Then the prophetesses would “know” or be forced to recognize that YHWH is the God who had executed judgment against them. (13:23)
In verse 5, the Septuagint rendering differs from the Masoretic Text. It indicates that the false prophets did not stand up in firmness or strength and “gather flocks [a flock (P967)] to the house of Israel. They did not arise [stand up (P967)], the ones saying, In the day of the Lord.”
In verse 11, the Septuagint refers to God as giving stones that can be hurled. Whereas P967 indicates that the wall would then fall (“it will fall”), other Greek manuscripts say that “they [the stones] will fall.”
In verse 14, the wording of the Septuagint relates everything to the wall, with no allusion to Jerusalem. According to the interpretation of the Targum, God would break down the city in which the prophets had prophesied false prophecies.
With reference to the wall, verse 15 in the Septuagint adds, “It will fall.”
Among the Israelite exiles in Babylon were elders of the people. Certain ones of these “men of the elders of Israel” came to Ezekiel and seated themselves before him (literally, “before [his] face”). (14:1) At that time, YHWH’s “word” or message (a “word of prophecy from before the Lord” [Targum])] came to Ezekiel. (14:2)
YHWH is quoted as raising the question about the elders, “Should I let myself be inquired of at all by them?” The reason for a negative answer to this rhetorical question was that the elders did not have an approved standing before him. They had taken “their idols [literally, dungy things (an expression of contempt); thoughts (LXX)] into their heart” and had set the “stumbling block [or cause] of their iniquity [punishment of their injustices (LXX)] before their faces.” Their having taken “their idols into their heart” suggests that they were devoted to idolatry in their inmost selves. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the “thoughts” to which they had a heartfelt attachment were contrary to God’s purpose. Instead of having the commands of YHWH before them at all times, the elders placed the “stumbling block of their iniquity” or the cause of their serious transgression — idols — before themselves. (Compare Romans 1:19-31.) The Septuagint rendering suggests that the injustices resulted in punishment for them. (14:3)
If a man (literally, “man, man”) of the house of Israel came to a prophet while attached in his “heart” or inmost self to his “idols” (literally, dungy things [an expression of contempt]; thoughts [LXX]) with the “stumbling block [or cause] of his iniquity [punishment of his injustices (LXX)]” set before his face, YHWH would answer him in keeping with the “multitude of his idols (literally, dungy things). The individual would receive the answer that his attachment to idols deserved. YHWH’s answer would be that severe punitive judgment would befall the idolater. (14:4; see verse 3 for additional comments.)
YHWH purposed to take hold of the heart of the “house of Israel.” The reason for his doing so was that all of them had strayed from him through their idols (literally, “dungy things”). His capturing the heart could mean that he would be taking hold of the inner self or every thought to make a judicial examination in order to determine the appropriate punishment. Another possible significance is that the purpose of taking hold of the heart, inner self, or every thought was to turn it away from idolatry and other corrupt practices. According to the interpretation of the Targum, God determined to bring the house of Israel near to himself, extending to the people the opportunity to repent in their hearts. Renderings in modern translations include: “Thus I will hold the House of Israel to account for their thoughts, because they have all been estranged from Me through their fetishes.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “All those idols have turned the Israelites away from me, but by my answer I hope to win back their loyalty.” (TEV) “When they hear my message, maybe they will see that they need to turn back to me and stop worshiping those idols.” (CEV) “In this way I hope to win back the hearts of the House of Israel who have all been estranged from me by their foul idols.” (NJB) The Septuagint represents the purpose of the divine action to be the turning of the house of Israel away “according to their hearts” that were estranged from God through their “thoughts.” This suggests that God let the people go astray in keeping with their thoughts, thoughts that were contrary to his will. (14:5)
The “house [or people] of Israel” had become estranged from YHWH through their idolatry. Therefore, he instructed Ezekiel to tell the people, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Return [to my worship (Targum)] and turn away from your idols [literally, “dungy things (an expression of contempt)] and turn away your faces from all your abominations [remove from yourselves the worship of your idols (Targum)].” The people of Israel needed to return to YHWH and abandon their idolatrous practices and everything else that was disgusting to him. According to the Septuagint, they were to turn away from their “practices and all [their] impieties” and to “turn [their] faces around.” (14:6)
YHWH declared that he himself would answer “any man [literally, man, man] of the house of Israel” and any resident alien (proselyte [LXX, Targum]) in Israel who separated himself from him and took his idols (“thoughts” [LXX]) into his “heart” and put the “stumbling block [or cause] of his iniquity [punishment of his injustice (LXX)] before his face” and yet went to inquire of him through his prophet. Both Israelites and resident aliens were under the command to shun idolatry. (Leviticus 17:7-9) For either one of them to turn away from YHWH, becoming attached to idols (literally, “dungy things”) and to focus on the object that would cause him to fall into sin, would merit severe punitive judgment. YHWH’s answer to the idolatrous inquirer of a prophet would be a declaration of punishment. (14:7; see the Notes section.) YHWH would set his face against the man, expressing his wrath against him. In view of the punitive judgment that would befall him, the man would come to be a warning sign and the subject of a proverbial taunt. YHWH would cut him off from the midst of his people (make him into a wilderness and into an extinction [LXX], bringing him to a complete end) , and the people of Israel would then know or come to recognize YHWH as the God who punishes those who disregard his commands. (14:8)
In case a prophet did not declare the word of YHWH but made a proclamation that was not true, indicating that he had been fooled or deceived, YHWH is the one who identified himself as having deceived him. This would be from the standpoint that he allowed the prophet to say what the disobedient people wanted to hear. Although permitting the prophet to be deluded by his own thoughts, YHWH would punish the false prophet, stretching out his “hand [the striking power of (his) might (Targum)] against him” and destroying him from the midst of his people Israel. He would not remain alive among God’s own people. (14:9)
The deluded ones would have to “bear their guilt” or the punishment that their wrongdoing deserved. According to the Septuagint, “they will receive their injustices,” evidently meaning that they would experience the merited punishment for their unjust dealings. The punishment would be the same for the one inquiring and the “prophet” (“false prophet” [Targum]). (14:10) This would serve as a warning to the “house [or people] of Israel” no more to go astray from YHWH and no longer to pollute themselves with all their transgressions. As a result of their changed course as a repentant people, they would then be YHWH’s approved people, and he would be their God to whom they were exclusively devoted. (14:11)
YHWH’s “word” or message again came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to the message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (14:12) Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God. The sin of the people is represented as a sin of the land, for the sin of the inhabitants defiled the land. YHWH is quoted as declaring that when a land sinned against him and acted unfaithfully (more literally, treacherously committed a treacherous act), he would stretch out his “hand” (lift the striking power of [his] might [Targum]) against it, “break its staff of bread” or cut off its food supply, “send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast.” Both the people and the domestic animals would perish. (14:13) The Lord YHWH declared that, if they were in [the land]” at the time punitive judgment was executed, Noah, Daniel [Danel], and Job would save only “their soul,” their lives, or themselves “by their righteousness.” (4:14; see the Notes section.)
The devastation of the land that invading enemy troops caused would result in large predators like lions moving into depopulated areas. Children of survivors might encounter these wild animals (“evil [or harmful] beasts” [LXX]), and these encounters could prove to be fatal. The risk of attack by predators also would lead people to avoid passing through the desolated areas. This development involving predators occurred by YHWH’s permission. Therefore, he is represented as identifying himself as the one who would cause the wild animals to pass through the land. (14:15) If the “three men” (Noah, Daniel, and Job) were in the land, they would not be able to save sons or daughters from becoming the victim of a wild animal. They would only deliver themselves, and the land itself would become a desolate place. This was certain to take place, for YHWH solemnly declared it with the words in the form of an oath, “As I live.” (14:16)
Again because YHWH would allow it to happen for his purpose, he is quoted as being the one to bring the sword upon the land, to let the sword pass through it, and to cut off from it man and beast (or domestic animal). In the Targum, the reference is to those who kill with the sword. (14:17) If the three men (Noah, Daniel, and Job) were in the land, they would not be able to save sons or daughters from the sword of warfare but would only be able to save themselves. The certainty is confirmed with YHWH’s quoted expression in the form of an oath, “As I live.” (14:18)
YHWH is next represented as saying what the outcome would be if he were to “send pestilence” or infectious disease (“death” [LXX]) upon the land and “pour out [his] wrath upon it with blood [or through bloodshed (by slaying [Targum])],” resulting in the cutting off of man and beast (or domestic animal) from the land. (14:19) If Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the land, they would only be able to deliver themselves “by their righteousness” or their upright standing as approved men before YHWH. They would not be able to save son or daughter, and this was confirmed by YHWH’s solemn declaration, “As I live.” (14:20; see the Notes section.)
The Lord YHWH revealed that he would send his four evil judgments or hurtful punishments — sword, famine, evil beasts or ferocious predators, and pestilence (“death” [LXX]) — upon Jerusalem, to cut off from the city “man and beast” or domestic animal. He would let the inhabitants of Jerusalem have the sword of warfare wielded against them, suffer from famine during the siege and conquest of the city, be in danger from large predators that would frequent depopulated areas outside the city, and be afflicted with pestilence or infectious disease from having become weak physically on account of lack of food and potable water and from having lived in unsanitary conditions during the siege. (14:21)
The text suggests that there would be comparatively few survivors, and they would be taken to Babylon with their sons and daughters. Upon seeing the “way” (ways [LXX]) or the conduct and the dealings (thoughts [LXX]) of these survivors, the earlier exiles from the kingdom of Judah would be consoled (feel regret [LXX]) regarding the “evil” or calamity that YHWH brought or permitted to befall Jerusalem. The earlier exiles would come to recognize that the severe punishment was merited. (14:22) Observing the way (ways [LXX]) or conduct and actions (thoughts [LXX]) of the survivors, the earlier exiles would come to know or recognize that everything YHWH did or allowed to happen to Jerusalem was just and not without cause. On account of the corruption and injustices that existed among the inhabitants of the city, he had to take severe punitive measures by means of the instrument of his choosing — the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, when witnessing the lawless way in which the survivors conducted themselves, the earlier exiles would take comfort regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. It had to happen. (14:23)
In verse 7, P967, like the Masoretic Text, does not include the additional concluding words found in other manuscripts of the Septuagint and that may be rendered, “by which he is entangled.”
In verses 14 and 20, the Hebrew spelling of the name “Daniel” is not the same as in the book of Daniel. The Septuagint, however, does not spell the name differently. In the Hebrew text of Ezekiel, there is no yod (Y) in the name, and so it may be read as “Danel.” Different spellings for the same name are not uncommon. One example is that there are two spellings for the Babylonian monarch who conquered Jerusalem — “Nebuchadnezzar” and “Nebuchadrezzar.” (2 Kings 24:1; Jeremiah 21:2) Therefore, in verses 14 and 20, Daniel may be considered to have been the same person and a contemporary of Ezekiel. His being mentioned along with Noah and Job indicates that he was already well known for his outstanding example as a righteous or upright person, one fully devoted to YHWH. A comparatively modern view that has gained acceptance is that “Danel” is the wise and just folk hero mentioned in ancient Ugaritic literature.
YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to it as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (15:1) As at other times, Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he is a mortal in the service of the eternal God. YHWH is represented as asking him about how the wood of the vine (probably a grapevine) differs from any of the branches of trees in the forest. In the Septuagint, the question pertains to what the wood of the vine might become in relation to all the wood of tree branches in the forest. (15:2) As the answers to the rhetorical questions indicate, wood from a vine is useless. From the wood of a vine, nothing could be made that would be suitable for work. No part of the wood could be used as a peg from which to hang a vessel. (15:3) The wood could serve as fuel for the fire. When the fire has consumed both ends of the branch from a vine and charred the remaining middle part, that part cannot be used for anything functional. (15:4)
When whole, the wood from a vine cannot be fashioned into a tool that could be used for work. “How much less” so when fire has consumed and charred the wood could it be utilized for anything useful! (15:5) Ezekiel was to make known how this applied to the populace of Jerusalem. “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which [wood] I have given [or assigned] to the fire for fuel, so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” This expression of judgment indicated that, in view of the serious wrongdoing of the people, they deserved severe punishment. (15:6) YHWH purposed to set his face against them, causing them to experience the full expression of his anger. Although they seemingly might escape from the fire (or the punishment YHWH had determined for them), the fire would consume them. They would not be able to escape the punitive judgment that was certain to be executed against them. At the time YHWH would direct his face against the wayward people, they would “know” or come to recognize that YHWH is the God who does not tolerate serious wrongdoing indefinitely and who is the one who took action against them by means of the instrument of his choosing — the warriors under the command of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. (15:7) The Lord YHWH, when permitting the enemy military invasion to succeed, would make the land desolate because his people had been unfaithful to him. (15:8)
YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum identifies this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (16:1) Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. As YHWH’s prophet, Ezekiel was to “make known to Jerusalem her abominations” or the disgusting conduct and practices of the city’s inhabitants. According to the Septuagint, he was to “testify” to Jerusalem concerning her “lawless deeds.” (16:2)
YHWH is quoted as indicating Jerusalem to have had a Canaanite origin. Although Jerusalem was a Jebusite city, the Jebusites appear to be included as being represented by the two prominent peoples that anciently occupied the land — the Amorites and the Hittites. On this basis, the “father” of Jerusalem was identified as the “Amorite,” and the “mother” as the Hittite. (16:3)
Ancient Jerusalem is portrayed as an unwanted baby girl that was exposed to the elements and left to perish. Her umbilical cord had not been cut (her breasts had not been bound [LXX]), and she had not been washed, rubbed with salt, and swaddled. (16:4; see the Notes section.) No “eye” looked with pity upon the abandoned baby girl, with no one compassionately doing any one of the aforementioned acts that were customary for newborn babies. She had simply been tossed on the surface of a field, for she was abhorred from the “day” of her birth, apparently because of not being desired as a baby boy would have been. (16:5; see the Notes section.)
YHWH represented himself as passing by and seeing Jerusalem like a baby girl that was kicking about in the blood from the time of birth. While still in her blood, he said to her, “Live.” The imperative is repeated, assuring that the baby girl would not die but would grow up. In the Septuagint, the verb for “live” is not repeated, and the entire phrase in which the verb “live” appears may be rendered, “From your blood [is] life.” (16:6; see the Notes section.)
On account of what YHWH did for her, the abandoned baby girl flourished like abundant vegetation in a field, grew up, and became “great” or tall. The reference to her arrival at “ornament of ornament” could mean that she grew up to be a beautiful woman, a woman with fully developed breasts and luxuriant hair. Still, she continued to be nude, without attire and adornment with costly jewelry. (16:7)
YHWH is represented as passing by and seeing the mature young woman that Jerusalem had become, a woman ready to be loved as a wife. He then is portrayed as spreading the skirt of his garment (“wings” [LXX]) over her, covering her nudity and, with an oath-bound covenant or agreement, making her his own. The reference to spreading the skirt” may here represent an engagement. (16:8; compare Ruth 3:9 and see the Notes section.) YHWH is depicted as washing the young woman with water, removing all traces of blood, and applying oil to her body. (16:9; see the Notes section.) He then clothed her with an embroidered robe and leather (“hyacinth” [LXX]) footwear, bound or girded her in fine linen, covered her with costly fabric (possibly silk [a veil of hair (LXX)]) (16:10; see the Notes section), adorned her with ornaments, putting bracelets on her wrists or arms and a chain or necklace around her neck (16:11; see the Notes section), and placed a ring in her nose, earrings in her ears, and a beautiful crown on her head. (16:12; see the Notes section.)
Under YHWH’s care, Jerusalem is portrayed as a woman who adorned herself with gold and silver and dressed herself with fine linen, costly fabric (possibly silk [a veil of hair (LXX)]), and embroidered cloth. Her food included fine flour, honey, and olive oil. She became very beautiful and attained a standing for royal estate. (16:13; see the Notes section.) On account of her beauty, the “name” or reputation of Jerusalem went out among the nations. Her “beauty” was “perfect” or flawless in view of the splendor that YHWH had bestowed on her. (16:14)
Instead of appreciating what YHWH had done for her, Jerusalem (as representing the people) trusted in her beauty and, because of the “name” or reputation she had come to have among the nations, engaged in prostitution, making herself available to everyone passing by. Her prostitution involved idol worship, a flagrant violation of the covenant concluded with the Israelites at Mount Sinai and which covenant bound the people to YHWH like a wife to her husband. (16:15; see the Notes section.)
Jerusalem is represented as taking some of her garments and making colorful “high places” or colorful shrines for idolatrous worship and there prostituting herself. The Masoretic Text then concludes with obscure wording, “not coming in, and not shall be.” In the Septuagint, there is similar wording, “you shall by no means enter, nor shall it by any means be” or take place. Renderings in modern translations include: “Such things should not happen, nor should they ever occur.” (NIV) “It has never happened before, nor will it happen again!” (NAB, revised edition) “These things should never have happened!” (CEV) “… not in the future; not in time to come.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (16:16)
From beautiful ornaments, from YHWH’s gold and his silver that he had given her, Jerusalem fashioned images of the male figure and engaged in prostitution with them. As violations of her covenant obligations to her Owner YHWH, her idolatrous practices constituted prostitution. (16:17) She took her embroidered garments and used them to dress the images and placed the oil and incense that belonged to YHWH before the idols (literally, “their faces”). The oil and incense were his, for trees and plants are the products of his creation. (16:18) Likewise all food products belonged to him. Yet the people (as represented by Jerusalem) took the “bread” or food, the fine flour, olive oil, and honey with which YHWH had fed them, and placed these before the idols (literally, “before their faces”) as a pleasing aroma. (16:19) Even more shocking was the practice of taking their sons and daughters, children who belonged to YHWH, and sacrificing them to the nonexistent deities that the idols represented. This occasioned the rhetorical question, “Was that not enough of your harlotries?” (16:20) The people slaughtered YHWH’s sons, for the Israelites were his people. They passed their sons through the fire as an offering to nonexistent deities. (16:21)
Jerusalem (as representing the unfaithful Israelites), while engaging in disgusting practices and harlotries — idolatry — gave no thought to what YHWH had done for her. She did not remember the “days” or time of youth when she was in an abandoned, helpless, and nude state, kicking about in the blood associated with her birth. (16:22)
After Jerusalem (as representing the people of the kingdom of Judah) had made herself guilty of “all [her] evil” or wrongdoing, the Lord YHWH declared “woe, woe” to her. In the Targum, the woe or calamity is expressed against the people who had sinned and had not repented. (16:23; see the Notes section.) Apparently for idolatrous purposes (practices represented as prostitution), Jerusalem is portrayed as having built a mound [a “whorehouse” [LXX]) for herself and an elevated place (having made or given public notice [LXX]) for herself in every square.(16:24; see the Notes section.) To be noticed as being available to engage in abominable acts, Jerusalem is depicted as having built an elevated place (“brothels” [LXX]) at the “head of every way” or street. She then made her beauty something abhorrent, for she offered herself (literally, spread out her feet or legs) to every passerby (joined the passerby in idol worship [Targum]) and increased her acts of harlotry (the number of “idols” [Targum]). (16:25)
Besides involvement in idolatrous practices, the prostitution of Jerusalem (as representing the people, particularly the king and princes in the realm of the kingdom of Judah) included forming alliances with foreign powers for military protection. This, too, was an act of disloyalty to YHWH, for the people and their rulers were to put their full trust in him for their well-being and security. Jerusalem prostituted herself to the “sons of Egypt, her neighbors.” These Egyptians are described as “great of flesh,” or as having a large male organ, apparently to heighten the image of Jerusalem’s willingness to prostitute herself to them. Jerusalem thus greatly offended YHWH with her frequent acts of prostitution. (16:26)
To punish Jerusalem (as representing the people of the kingdom of Judah), YHWH stretched out his “hand” (the striking power of his strength [Targum]) against her. He diminished her “allotted portion,” probably meaning that he permitted enemy forces to seize part of the territory of the kingdom of Judah. The Hebrew word for “allotted portion” can also mean something that is prescribed or a statute. This explains why the Septuagint indicates the reference to be to laws. According to the interpretation of the Targum, God withheld “good.” He gave Jerusalem (probably meaning part of the territory of the kingdom of Judah) to the “soul” of those hating her. The ones hating her are identified as the “daughters of the Philistines [allophyles (LXX)],” and the “soul” of these enemies probably is to be understood as meaning their “desire.” Even the Philistines found the lewd conduct of Jerusalem shocking and, therefore, are spoken of as having been “humiliated” or “put to shame” on account of it. According to the Septuagint, the allophyles or the people of another tribe turned Jerusalem aside from her way in which she behaved impiously. The Targum contains a significantly different interpretation. It says that, if God had sent his prophets to the Philistine cities, they would have responded submissively. (16:27)
Jerusalem is represented as prostituting herself to the “sons [daughters (LXX)] of Asshur” or Assyria, but was not sated with her repeated acts of harlotry. As in the case of the Egyptians, prostitution with the Assyrians involved entering into a military alliance with them. (16:28; see 2 Kings 16:7-9.)
The designation “Canaan” also was used to refer to merchants. In this context, “land of Canaan” evidently refers to Chaldea or Babylonia as a land of merchants. Jerusalem did prostitute herself with Chaldea. (See 2 Kings 20:12-18; Isaiah 39:1-7.) Numerous modern translations make this significance more specific than does the Hebrew text. “You increased your prostitutions again, now going to Chaldea, the land of traders; but despite this, you still were not satisfied.” (NAB, revised edition) “Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.” (NIV) “You added to your lovers by embracing Babylonia, the land of merchants, but you still weren’t satisfied.” (NLT) “So you went after Babylonians. But those merchants could not satisfy you either.” (CEV) (16:29; see the Notes section.)
Regarding Jerusalem, the words YHWH is quoted as saying may be translated, “How weak [is] your heart!” Translators have variously rendered these words. “How wild your lust!” (NAB, revised edition) “How weak-willed you are …” (NIV) “What a sick heart you have …” (NLT) “You would have done anything to get what you wanted.” (CEV) “How simple-minded you are!” (NJB) Based on a different vocalization of the Hebrew text, the expression may be translated, “How I was filled with your rage” (probably meaning YHWH’s fury against Jerusalem). This significance is found either in the main text or in the footnotes of a number of translations. “How you anger me!” (REB) “I am filled with anger.” (NJB, footnote) “How furious I was with you.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition], footnote) The reason for the statement about Jerusalem was that she had engaged in the deeds of a brazen prostitute, for the people of the kingdom of Judah had been guilty of idolatry and, through their kings and princes, guilty of entering alliances with foreign powers. (16:30; see the Notes section.)
“At the head of every way” or street, Jerusalem (the people of the kingdom of Judah) had built a “mound” (a “brothel” [LXX]) and an elevated place (a “platform” [LXX]) or a site for engaging in practices that constituted prostitution from YHWH’s standpoint. Unlike a prostitute, however, Jerusalem scorned hire, not seeking any payment. (16:31) The reference to an adulterous wife who takes “strangers instead of her husband” apparently applies to Jerusalem or God’s people who proved to be unfaithful to him. The Targum is explicit in making the application to the congregation of Israel as being like a wife whom her husband loves but who is unfaithful to him, abandons him, and pursues strangers. (16:32; see the Notes section.) “All harlots” receive “gifts” or payments for their services, but Jerusalem is portrayed as having given gifts to “all [her] lovers” and even bribing others to come to her. This she did, through the kings and princes of the kingdom of Judah, when seeking alliances with foreign powers. (16:33; see the Notes section.) In her harlotries, Jerusalem differed from other women, with no prostitution like hers being practiced. She paid hire and received no hire. Neither the idolatrous practices in which the people of the kingdom of Judah engaged nor their alliances with foreign powers benefited them. (16:34)
“Therefore,” in view of what she (or the people of the kingdom of Judah) had done, Jerusalem is addressed as a prostitute and called upon to “hear” or to listen to the “word of YHWH.” (16:35) The Lord YHWH is quoted as directing attention to her abominable acts. Her shame (menstruation or the uncleanness resulting therefrom) had been laid bare and her nakedness exposed (literally, poured out) in her harlotries with her lovers and all her abominable idols (literally, “dungy things” [an expression of contempt]). To the nonexistent deities that the idols represented, Jerusalem (the people of the kingdom of Judah) had sacrificed their sons and thus gave their “blood” to them. (16:36; see the Notes section.)
The “lovers” of Jerusalem were all the foreign powers with whom the people of the kingdom of Judah, through their kings and princes, made alliances. From all around, YHWH purposed to gather against her all the lovers with whom Jerusalem took pleasure and also those whom she hated and to expose her “nakedness” (“evil deeds” [LXX]) to them so that they might see all her “nakedness” (“shame” [LXX]). (16:37)
YHWH’s judgment against Jerusalem would be severe. It would be the judgment that was rendered against adulteresses and women guilty of bloodshed. Jerusalem (or the people of the kingdom of Judah) would experience having YHWH bring upon her the “blood of wrath and jealousy.” This could mean that, in expression of his “wrath and jealousy” on account of her unfaithfulness, she would have her blood shed. (16:38) YHWH would deliver Jerusalem into the “hand” or power of her former lovers and of those whom she hated. They would cast down her “mound” or lofty place (“brothel” [LXX]) and break down her “elevated places” (“platform” [LXX]). In this context, the “mound” and the “elevated places” could designate sites used for idolatrous worship. Her former lovers and those whom she hated would strip off the garments of Jerusalem, seize her beautiful ornaments, and leave her naked and exposed. The kingdom of Judah, with its capital city Jerusalem, would be reduced to ruins, and many of the people would perish. Survivors would be taken into exile as captives. (16:39) This would happen when YHWH would bring against Jerusalem an enemy host that would hurl stones at her and slay her “with their swords.” (16:40) The warring host would burn the houses of Jerusalem, executing judgments against her “before many women.” In this case, “many women” could refer to the populace of other cities that would witness the destruction of Jerusalem. By means of the severe punishment, YHWH would stop Jerusalem (or the surviving people of the kingdom of Judah) from whoring (or engaging in idolatry) and no longer giving hire to those whoring with her (either in idolatrous practices or through alliances). (16:41; see the Notes section.)
After his rage against Jerusalem had been brought to rest or been satisfied, YHWH would turn his jealousy away from her or from the people of the kingdom of Judah, remain quiet or calm, and no longer be angry (“anxious” [LXX]). (16:42)
Jerusalem did not remember the “days of [her] youth” or the time when YHWH first turned his attention to her and the Israelites experienced his loving care. The Israelites failed to show appreciation for what he had done for them and provoked him with their idolatry, alliances with foreign powers, and other deeds that were contrary to his commands. Therefore, he determined to requite their deeds upon their head, causing them to experience the serious consequences for their “way” or wayward course of conduct. The lewdness, depravity, or obscenity (“impiety” [LXX]) that Jerusalem added to her abominations may refer to the disgusting ceremonial prostitution in which the people engaged at the sites for idolatrous worship and their horrendous practice of child sacrifice. “Abominations” (“lawless deeds” [LXX]) would have included idolatry and corrupt practices like oppression of the poor. (16:43)
The introductory “look” serves to focus attention on the thought that is about to be expressed. Regarding Jerusalem, the proverb used against her would be, “Like mother, her daughter.” Jerusalem had been a Canaanite city before King David made the place his capital. As a result of this change from a Canaanite city to an Israelite city, Jerusalem became the “daughter” of her “mother.” Eventually, her actions as the daughter, or the conduct and deeds of the Israelites, came to be disgusting like those of her Canaanite mother and, in fact, proved to be even more abominable. (16:44)
Jerusalem is spoken of as the “daughter” of her “mother” and the “sister” of her “sisters.” Regarding the “mother” and the “sisters,” the text says that each of them loathed their “husband” and “sons” (“children” [LXX]). Possibly the loathing of husbands and sons or children alludes to the abominable practices of ceremonial prostitution and child sacrifice at sites for idolatrous worship. In the Targum, the reference is to the “daughter of the land of Canaan” and acting like the Canaanites whose parents and children were banished. The sisters are identified as Sodom and Gomorrah. The mother of the Israelites is identified as Sarah who lived among the Hittites but did not act like them, and the father as Abraham who lived among the Amorites but did not conduct himself according to their counsel. Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, however, identify the mother as a Hittite and the father as an Amorite, indicating that Jerusalem (or the people of the kingdom of Judah) engaged in abominable practices like those of the people of the ancient Jebusite or Canaanite city. As in verse 3, Hittites and Amorites, the most prominent peoples of Canaan, represent all the Canaanites, including the Jebusites. (16:45) The older sister is identified as Samaria with her “daughters” or neighboring towns. Her dwelling or location had been “left” (when facing east) or north of Jerusalem. To the “right” (when facing east) or south of Jerusalem had been the dwelling or location of the younger sister, Sodom with her “daughters” or neighboring towns. (16:46; see the Notes section.)
At first, Jerusalem (or the people) did not follow the course of or act according to the disgusting practices of Samaria and Sodom (the people in those places). Then, within a short time, Jerusalem, “in all [her] ways,” conducted herself more corruptly than had Samaria and Sodom. (16:47) YHWH is quoted as solemnly declaring, “As I live.” This solemn declaration precedes the statement that Sodom and her “daughters” or neighboring towns had not acted like Jerusalem and her “daughters” or neighboring towns. The conduct of the people of the kingdom of Judah was even more shocking than that of Samaria and Sodom. (16:48)
The initial “look” directs attention to the serious guilt of Sodom the “sister” of Jerusalem. Sodom’s guilt (“lawlessness” [LXX]) is identified as having been “pride,” an inordinate elevated view of self coupled with a disregard and even disdain for others. Sodom and her “daughters” or neighboring cities were “sated with bread” (overfed or gluttonous) and at ease and undisturbed or in a complacent and carefree state. Although having an abundance, Sodom refused to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” or deliberately refrained from responding with compassionate help. (16:49) She and her daughters were haughty and did what was abominable before the “face” of YHWH or before him, and he removed them when he “saw.” The Masoretic Text contains no specific reference to what YHWH saw, and many modern translations render the words according to the reading of a number of other Hebrew manuscripts. “I did away with them as you have seen.” (NIV) “As you have seen, I removed them.” (NAB, revised edition) “So I wiped her out, as you have seen.” (NLT) In case the original wording is “I saw,” the meaning could be that YHWH took notice of what Sodom and her daughters were doing. (16:50; see Genesis 18:20, 21.)
The sin of Samaria (representing the sin of the people of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel) was not even half of Jerusalem’s sin. Jerusalem (representing the people of the kingdom of Judah) engaged in more abominations than Samaria. By comparison, Jerusalem, in view of all the committed abominations, made her “sisters” Samaria and Sodom appear righteous. (16:51) It was shameful for Jerusalem to have done this. Therefore, she had to bear her disgrace for having made a favorable case for her “sisters.” By reason of all the sins Jerusalem had committed, conducting herself more detestably than her “sisters,” they were revealed as being more righteous than she was. (16:52)
The people who perished at the time of the destruction of Sodom and the ancestors of those who perished were long dead, and no identifiable descendants were then living. Also no survivors of the Assyrian conquest of Samaria were alive when Ezekiel prophesied. Accordingly, for the “captivity” or the body of captives (“fortunes,” according to numerous modern translations) to be gathered, to be “turned back” (LXX), or restored, particularly for “Sodom and her daughters” or neighboring towns, would require a resurrection and future judgment. (Compare Matthew 11:23, 24; Luke 10:12-15.) In the case of “Samaria and her daughters” or neighboring towns, only descendants of those who survived the conquest of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel could be restored to their land. For Jerusalem or the people of the kingdom of Judah, restoration to their land would have included the return of exiled survivors of the Babylonian conquest and their offspring. The prophetic words provided hope for a future restoration to Jerusalem “in the midst of” or along with “Sodom and her daughters” and “Samaria and her daughters.” (16:53) That there would be a restoration for Jerusalem despite all the detestable practices of the people of the kingdom of Judah would be a consolation for “Sodom and her daughters” and “Samaria and her daughters,” apparently from the standpoint of there being a hope of a reversal of their fortunes in the future. This is because their conduct was not as abominable as that of Jerusalem or the people of the kingdom of Judah and so their judgment could not be more severe and be without any possibility of any future change in their condition. At the same time, by comparison, Jerusalem would have to bear her disgrace at that time. (16:54; see the Notes section.)
The divine promise was that the “sisters” of Jerusalem (“Sodom and her daughters” or neighboring towns and “Samaria and her daughters” or neighboring towns) would “return to their former estate [be restored (LXX)]” and so would Jerusalem and her “daughters” or neighboring towns. (16:55) In the “day” or time of Jerusalem’s “pride,” when the people of the kingdom of Judah, took great pride in their position, considering themselves to be YHWH’s people, Sodom was a byword, occasioning but an expression of contempt from the mouth. (16:56) This was before the wickedness of Jerusalem was exposed, and the people of the kingdom of Judah then suffered the consequences for their unfaithfulness to YHWH. All basis for pride ended, and Jerusalem became the object of reproach from the “daughters of Aram [Syria]” or Edom (according to the reading of other Hebrew manuscripts) and from all her “daughters” or neighboring peoples round about. On all sides, the “daughters of the Philistines [allophyles (LXX), those of another tribe]” or the people of Philistia despised Jerusalem. (16:57) It was then that Jerusalem or the people of the kingdom of Judah had to bear the consequences for having been guilty of lewdness (impieties [LXX] or godless actions) and abominations (lawless deeds [LXX]). (16:58)
The Lord YHWH declared that he would deal with Jerusalem according to what the people of the kingdom of Judah had done. They had violated the covenant that had been concluded with their ancestors before they entered the land of Canaan. This covenant was associated with YHWH’s oath or solemn declaration, promising blessings for obedience to his commands and warning of curses for disobedience. (Deuteronomy 27:9, 10, 15-26; 28:1-68; 29:1) By violating the commands that were part of the covenant, the people of the kingdom of Judah despised YHWH’s oath. Therefore, they were dealt with accordingly and experienced the curses regarding which they had been warned. (16:59; see the Notes section.)
Despite the disobedience of his people, YHWH would remember his covenant that had been concluded with them centuries earlier (“in the days of your youth”). The feminine singular suffix meaning “your” is part of the Hebrew word for “youth” and refers to Jerusalem, and here represents the people who were bound by the terms of the covenant that had been concluded with their ancestors. Unlike the people, YHWH remembered this covenant and dealt with them accordingly. He promised to establish an eternal covenant with them (literally, “you,” with the singular feminine suffix referring to Jerusalem as representing the people). This “eternal covenant” apparently is the same as the “new covenant” mentioned in Jeremiah 31:31-33. (16:60) At the time of the establishment of the “eternal covenant,” Jerusalem (representing the people) would remember her ways or past wayward conduct and be ashamed upon receiving her sisters (the older ones [Samaria and her daughters]) and the younger ones [Sodom and her daughters]). YHWH would give them to Jerusalem as “daughters [for a building (LXX)].” The concluding phrase (“not on account of your covenant”) is obscure. Possibly it means that uniting others to YHWH’s people, persons who would become like “daughters” to them, was not a feature set forth in the covenant. The fulfillment may point to the time when both Jews and non-Jews would become one people as beneficiaries of the new covenant and have an equal standing as beloved children of God forgiven of their sins on the basis of their faith in the promised Messiah, Anointed One, or Christ — Jesus the unique Son of God. (16:61; Acts 10:34-43; Ephesians 2:11-22; see the Notes section.)
YHWH is quoted as declaring, “And I, I myself, will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am YHWH.” The suffix that is translated “you” is feminine gender and singular. It applies to Jerusalem and is referred to representatively as designating the people. At the time of the establishment of the covenant with them, the people would “know” or recognize YHWH as their God to whom they should be exclusively devoted. (16:62) They would then remember and be ashamed. This apparently concerns remembering their former transgressions and being ashamed of their waywardness. As a people restored to YHWH’s favor, they would not open their “mouth” or make any expression because of their shame on account of wrongdoing. The Lord YHWH promised that he would make an atonement for or forgive them for all that they had done. (16:63)
Regarding the wording of verse 4, the Targum refers to the congregation of Israel while enslaved and oppressed in Egypt as being like a newborn baby that is abandoned in a field.
According to the Septuagint rendering of the words in verse 5, God is the one whose eye did not spare the baby girl that represented Jerusalem. The Targum, however, identifies Pharaoh as the one with the eye that did not look with pity on the Israelites. He did not do even one good thing for them but decreed their extermination when commanding that male babies be cast into the Nile River.
The Targum does not refer to the defiling blood associated with birth (verse 6), but first mentions the “blood of the circumcision” and then indicates that God would redeem his people “by the blood of the Passover lambs.”
In verse 7, the Septuagint does not contain the expression “ornament of ornaments” but refers to entering into “cities of cities” or into the largest of cities. In the Targum, the focus is on the Israelites who were in Egypt. They became numerous and strong as a people, and the time for their redemption from enslavement and oppression arrived on account of the good deeds of their forefathers.
The Septuagint (in verse 8) does not refer to a “time of love” but reads, “time of those passing through” or of temporary lodgers. In the Targum, the focus continues to be on the Israelites in Egypt. God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush because the time for the redemption of the Israelites had arrived so that they might become his people.
The Targum interprets the wording of verse 9 to refer to redeeming the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt, putting an end to the horrific tyranny to which they had been subjected, and leading them to freedom. For the wording in verses 10 through 13, the Targum continues with a description of what God did for the Israelites. He provided them with garments from the precious things of their enemies, put costly shoes on their feet, consecrated priests who would serve him while wearing linen headgear and the high priest while dressed in colorful garments, improved the people with the “perfection of the words of the Torah” and sanctified them with the “holiness of [his] great name.” God placed the ark of the covenant among the people, caused his cloud to cover them, appointed an angel to lead them in the way, put his tabernacle in their midst, fed them manna, and made them prosper.
In verse 13, the Septuagint does not include any reference to “royal estate.”
Verse 15 of the Masoretic Text concludes with the words that may be translated, “let it be to him.” This could mean “let the act of prostitution be to the one passing by.” Rahlfs’ printed Greek text ends the verse with the phrase that may be rendered, “what should not be,” but these words are not included in fourth-century Codex Vaticanus.
In verse 23, the text of the Septuagint is shorter and continues with the wording of verse 24. “And it came to be after all your evil deeds, says the Lord, you also built a whorehouse for yourself and gave public notice for yourself in every square.”
Printed Greek texts of the Septuagint, in verse 29, read, “And you multiplied your covenants with the land of the Chaldeans.” The oldest extant Greek text (P967), however, says, “And you multiplied your covenants with the land of the Canaanites and Chaldeans.”
In verse 30, the Septuagint departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It quotes the Lord as saying, “What shall I decree for your daughter … in that you have done all these things, the work of a whoring woman? And you have whored three times among your daughters.”
The text of verses 32 and 33 in the Septuagint may have arisen through a misreading of the Hebrew wording. Jerusalem is portrayed as being like an adulterous wife who takes payments “from her man” or husband and gives payments to all who whore with her.
In verse 36 of the Septuagint, the reference is to Jerusalem as pouring out brass or copper (money). For this reason, her shame would be revealed in her harlotry with her lovers and in all the thoughts of her lawless doings and through all the blood of her children that she had given to the idols (the nonexistent deities that the idols represented).
In verse 41, Rahlfs’ printed Greek text says “your harlotry,” but the ancient Greek codex (P967) does not include the word “your.”
The former ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria, included the descendants of the oldest sons of Jacob. On this basis, Samaria could be regarded as being the “older sister.” Sodom may be identified as the “younger sister” because of having been a smaller city. If the reference to older and younger relates to the size of both places, Samaria may be viewed as the older sister because of being the larger city. (Verses 46 and 61)
In verse 54, the wording of the Septuagint departs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that Jerusalem would have to bear her pain or torment and would be disgraced for all that she had done in provoking God to anger.
The text of verse 59 in the Septuagint does not mention the “oath” but refers to dishonoring “these things.” In the oldest extant Greek text (P967), the introductory words (“thus says the Lord”) are omitted.
In Hebrew, the consonants for “as daughters” and “for a building” are the same. This explains why the Septuagint says “building” in verse 61. The interpretation of the Targum relates to warfare. It indicates that, even though the people did not heed the Torah, God would hand over to them countries that were stronger and those that were smaller than their own.
YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (17:1) Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. The prophet was directed to “propound a riddle” and to “speak a proverb” or likeness (literally, “liken a likeness”). In the Hebrew text, the verb translated “propound” is the verb form of the word rendered “riddle,” and the verb “speak” translates the verb form of the word for “proverb” or likeness. “Riddle” and “proverb” are parallel expressions. A riddle, like a proverb, can make a deeper impression on the mind than would a mere statement. This is because it requires thought and reflection to ascertain its meaning. (17:2)
YHWH is identified as the author of the riddle or the proverb. The Lord YHWH is quoted as telling about a “great eagle with great wings” or a large wingspan and “long pinions [full of talons (LXX),” abundant in variegated plumage. This eagle “came to Lebanon and plucked off the top of the cedar” there. The “great eagle” represented King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and the large outstretched wings suggested that many peoples were subject to him. “Lebanon” designated Jerusalem, for the palace complex contained impressive buildings of extensive cedarwood construction. Like a tall cedar on a lofty location, the royal administration in the line of David towered above the people. The topmost part of the cedar (“select parts of the cedar” [LXX]) primarily represented King Jehoiachin. King Nebuchadnezzar removed him and his princes from their elevated position and took them as captives into exile. (17:3) Among those taken into exile were the king, members of the royal household, princes or officials, skilled craftsmen, and other prominent persons. (2 Kings 24:12, 15, 16) Accordingly, the topmost part of the “young twigs” or “shoots” (“tops of the tender part” [LXX]) could include all the elite members of society who were exiled. The “great eagle” or King Nebuchadnezzar took this “topmost part” to the “land of Canaan” and placed it “in a city of merchants.” The designation “Canaan” also was used to refer to traders. In this context, “land of Canaan” evidently designates Chaldea or Babylonia as a land of merchants. A number of modern translations are specific in making this meaning explicit. “He carried it away to a city filled with merchants. He planted it in a city of traders.” (NLT) “[He] brought it to a land of merchants, set it in a city of traders.” (NAB, revised edition) “[He] carried it to a nation of merchants and left it in one of their cities.” (CEV) “He carried it off to a land of traders, and planted it in a city of merchants.” (REB) The “city of traders” or “merchants” was Babylon. (17:4; see the Notes section.)
King Nebuchadnezzar, the “great eagle,” took “from the seed of the land and planted it in a field [as] seed.” This “seed” was planted by “abundant waters” and so could grow like a willow. In the Septuagint, the reference is to a “plant by abundant water” and one that was set out “for attention,” suggesting that the plant would be attentively tended and observed. The “seed” was Zedekiah, the uncle of King Jehoiachin. He owed his position to the “great eagle,” for King Nebuchadnezzar elevated him to the kingship to replace Jehoiachin. Although in a secure position as if planted by a source of much water, Zedekiah did not come to enjoy the standing of a lofty cedar. He was but a vassal king and thus resembled a willow, a tree that does not attain a great height. (17:5) According to the riddle, the seed sprouted and became a “spreading vine” (a “weak vine” [LXX]) that was “low of height.” Its “branches turned toward him,” apparently the “great eagle,” and the roots came to be or remained under the vine. The planted seed developed into a mature vine and “brought forth branches and put out boughs,” shoots, or foliage (“spread its climbers” [LXX]). While subject to the “great eagle” or King Nebuchadnezzar, King Zedekiah resembled a low, spreading vine in a secure position and with the potential for continued growth, comparable to producing branches and shoots or leafage. (17:6)
When another “great eagle with great wings” or a large wingspan and “much plumage” (“many talons” [LXX]) came, the vine hungrily extended its roots toward this eagle and sent forth its branches toward him for him to water it, “away from the bed where it had been planted.” This other “great eagle” was the Egyptian Pharaoh Hophra, and King Zedekiah turned to him, desiring not to continue to be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar, the stronger “great eagle.” (17:7) Zedekiah’s secure position as a vassal of King Nebuchadnezzar was comparable to a vine in good soil and supplied with abundant water, a vine that had been transplanted so that it might grow branches, bear fruit, and develop into a majestic or impressive vine (a “big vine” [LXX]). (17:8)
The Lord YHWH is quoted as raising questions about how matters would turn out for the “vine” or King Zedekiah for turning to the other “great eagle,” the Egyptian Pharaoh Hophra. “Will it thrive? Will not one pull up its roots and strip off its fruit? [Will not its tender roots and the fruit rot? (LXX)] And will [not] all the leaves of its growth wither? [And will not all its early sprouts wither? (LXX)] It will wither.” The ruinous end for the vine would not require a “great arm” or mighty power nor many people to pull it up from its roots. In a weak position on account of his rebellion and without effective aid from Egypt, Zedekiah would not escape having King Nebuchadnezzar, the “great eagle,” rip him away from his kingship and his land. Zedekiah would prove to be like a vine that is easily pulled up from the roots. (17:9) The questions regarding the vine continued. “And look, upon being transplanted, will it thrive? Will it not completely wither [literally, to wither, wither] when the east wind strikes it? It will wither away on the bed where it sprouted.” The word “look” serves to focus attention on the questions, and the answer is that the vine will not flourish but will dry up completely. Like the searing wind coming from the arid region in the east, the Babylonian military force that would be coming to take punitive action against Zedekiah would bring him in his position as vassal king to an inglorious end like a vine that withers. (17:10; see the Notes section.)
Again YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (17:11) Ezekiel was to ask the “rebellious house,” exiles from the kingdom of Judah who were then in Babylon, “Do you know what these things [the things the riddle conveyed] mean?” The word “look” then focuses attention on the explanation that follows. The “king of Babylon,” Nebuchadnezzar, “came to Jerusalem and took her king and her princes” (the “top of the cedar” [verse 3]) and brought them to him [as captives] to Babylon” (a “city of traders” [verse 4]). (17:12; see the Notes section.) “And he took [one] of the royal seed [Zedekiah, the uncle of King Jehoiachin] and made [literally, cut] a covenant with him and put him under an oath [evidently to be loyal to him as vassal king]. And the principal men of the land he took away” (as captives into exile). (17:13) The reason for King Nebuchadnezzar’s action was for the kingdom of Judah to “become low” or a “weak kingdom” (LXX), unable to “lift itself up” to its former position of strength. It would only be able to “stand” or continue to exist if Zedekiah kept the covenant or agreement that King Nebuchadnezzar had made with him. In this way, Zedekiah, with the kingdom over which he ruled, came to be like a vine that was dependent on a water source to thrive (verses 5 and 6) or was dependent upon King Nebuchadnezzar who had placed him in his position as vassal king. (17:14)
Zedekiah rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar by “sending his messengers” or ambassadors to Egypt to request “horses and a multitude of people” (a large military host) to support his objective to free himself from being subject to Nebuchadnezzar. That Zedekiah would fail in his attempt to turn to the other “great eagle [verse 7],” the Egyptian Pharaoh Hophra, is conveyed by means of rhetorical questions. “Will he succeed? Can he who does such things escape? Can he break the covenant and escape?” (17:15; see the Notes section.)
The word of the Lord YHWH starts with the solemn declaration, “As I live,” indicating that the judgment against Zedekiah would indeed take place. King Nebuchadnezzar had made Zedekiah king, and Zedekiah despised “his oath,” the oath he had taken to be a loyal vassal, and broke “his covenant” or agreement with Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, with Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah would die in Babylon. According to the Septuagint rendering, the reference is to “my oath” and “my covenant. The oath and the covenant are attributed to God, apparently from the standpoint that Zedekiah took the oath and entered the covenant in God’s name. (17:16)
At the time a siege rampart (a “palisade” [LXX]) would be cast up and a siege wall (“engines of war” [LXX]) built to “cut off many souls” or the lives of many persons, Zedekiah would receive no effective help from Pharaoh Hophra’s military force and his great company or many assembled warriors, to counter the threat from the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. (17:17; Jeremiah 44:30) King Zedekiah had despised his oath when he broke the covenant that obligated him to remain subject to King Nebuchadnezzar, and he had “given his hand” to indicate his agreement with the terms of the covenant. “All the things” Zedekiah did included despising his oath, refusing to act in harmony therewith, and violating his covenant obligations. Consequently, he would not be able to escape from the punitive action of King Nebuchadnezzar. (17:18)
Again with a solemn declaration (“as I live”), YHWH declared that he would bring upon the head of Zedekiah the merited punishment for despising the oath and breaking the covenant. The oath and the covenant are identified as YHWH’s covenant (“my oath” and “my covenant”), for it was in God’s name that Zedekiah swore and entered the covenant with Nebuchadnezzar. (17:19) Using the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH purposed to spread his net over Zedekiah, capture him in this net, bring him to Babylon, and judge him there for being unfaithful to him in his rebellious actions. Although King Nebuchadnezzar judged Zedekiah at Riblah, the punitive judgment continued in Babylon, for he remained imprisoned there until the day of his death. (17:20; 2 Kings 25:6, 7; Jeremiah 52:10, 11; see the Notes section.)
As for “all the fugitives” of Zedekiah “with all his troops,” they would fall by the sword, and the survivors would be scattered to “every wind” or in every direction. At the time this occurred, the people would know or recognize that YHWH was the God who had spoken or made these developments known in advance through his prophets. (17:21)
The destruction of Jerusalem and the end for the kingdom of Judah did not mean that there would never again be a king in the royal line of David. YHWH purposed to take a tender twig from the topmost twigs of the lofty cedar and transplant it “upon a high and lofty mountain.” In the Targum, the application is made specific. It refers to the “kingdom of the house of David” as being “likened to the lofty cedar,” and that from there God would bring near a “child” and “anoint and establish him on a high and lofty mountain.” (17:22; see the Notes section.) YHWH would plant the “twig” (establish the “child” [Targum]) on a mountain, a height of Israel,” so that it would flourish, producing branches, bearing fruit, and growing into a majestic cedar. Under this cedar, birds of all kinds would dwell (“every beast” or wild animal would rest [Rahlfs’ printed Greek text]) and nest (“every fowl” or winged creature would rest [LXX]) in the shade of its branches. According to the Targum, the child would be established on the holy mountain of Israel and become a mighty king. The righteous ones would rely on him, and the lowly ones would dwell “in the shade of his kingdom.” (17:23; see the Notes section.)
At the time the prophetic words would be fulfilled, “all the trees of the field” (“all the kings of the nations” [Targum]) would “know” or recognize that YHWH had abased the “high tree” (the “kingdom that was mighty” [Targum]) and elevated the low tree (the “kingdom that was weak” [Targum]) and dried up the green tree (“humbled the kingdom of the nations that was strong like a green tree” [Targum] and caused the dry tree to sprout or flourish (“made mighty the kingdom of the house of Israel that had been as weak as a withered tree” [Targum]). YHWH had declared that this would take place, and it would most assuredly happen. (17:24)
In its interpretation of the words in verse 4, the Targum preserves the meaning “land of Canaan.” It refers to a land that was not subject to servitude like the land of Canaan prior to the time the Israelites entered it.
Verse 10 in the Septuagint departs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “And look, it thrives [literally, is fattened]. Will it prosper? Will it not be dried up in dryness as soon as the searing wind touches it? It will wither together with the lump [or soil] of its sprouting.”
In verse 12, the Septuagint starts with the expression “son of man,” reminding Ezekiel of his position as a mortal in the service of the eternal God.
The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) words the last phrase of verse 15 as a statement, not a question.
In verse 20, the Septuagint does not include the reference to Babylon and to God as entering into judgment.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 22 indicates that the Lord would take twigs or branches “from the choice parts of the cedar.” It then quotes him as saying, “I will snip off from the top of their heart, and I will plant on a high mountain.” The words “top of their heart” do not convey an understandable meaning and may involve an early scribal error. The quotation continues from verse 22 to verse 23, “And I will hang him on a lofty mountain of Israel …” This appears to be an interpretive rendering that alludes to the death of Jesus Christ while in a suspended position on an elevated location in the land of Israel. (Compare John 3:14; Galatians 3:13.)
In verse 23, numerous Greek manuscripts, including P967, do not mention “every beast” but refer to “every bird.”
The Targum interpretation of the words in verse 23 also indicates that the child would become a king who is victorious in warfare, assembling armies and building fortresses. This portrayal of the Messianic king is also one that is conveyed in Revelation 19:11-16, where the “King of kings and Lord of lords” is depicted as leading heavenly armies against the nations.
Again YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. In the Targum, this message is identified as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (18:1)
The people in the land of Israel used the proverb (“parable” or likeness [LXX]), “Fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the teeth of the sons are set on edge.” They were asked, “What do you mean when repeating this proverb?” The apparent meaning was that their forefathers had been guilty of wrongdoing and yet they as their sons or children had to bear the penalty for their transgressions. In the Targum, this significance is explicitly expressed. “Fathers have sinned, and sons have been punished.” The proverb was one that did not acknowledge that the “sons” themselves had sinned and merited punishment. (18:2; see the Notes section.) With a solemn expression worded in the form of an oath (“as I live”), the Lord YHWH declared that this proverb was not to be used in Israel. (18:3)
An introductory “look” served to focus the attention of the people on YHWH’s declaration. “All souls” or the persons or lives of all were his. To him belonged the “soul [life or person] of the father” and the “soul” [life or person] of the son.” The “soul” or person who sinned was the one who would die. All persons were individually responsible for their own actions and would bear the consequences for their own wrongdoing, not that of someone else. (18:4; see the Notes section.)
A “righteous man,” one who does what is just and right (literally, “judgment” or justice and “righteousness”), is the one who will live. (18:5; see the Notes section.) The just and right actions included not eating “on the mountains” or at sites on high places devoted to idolatrous worship, not lifting up the eyes to look reverently “to the idols [literally, dungy things (an expression of contempt)] of the house of Israel,” not defiling the “wife of a neighbor” or refraining from committing adultery and engaging in ceremonial prostitution, and not approaching a menstruating woman or wife to have sexual relations. (18:6)
The upright man would not oppress anyone. He would return the object he had taken as a pledge for the repayment of a loan. (Deuteronomy 24:10-13) The righteous man would not seize anything by robbery, and he would compassionately give of his bread or food to the hungry one and a garment to one who was insufficiently clothed. (18:7) Loans often were made to persons in need, and the lender was not to profit from the adversity of others. The righteous man would not lend (lend his silver [LXX]) at interest and would not make himself guilty of usury. (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36, 37) He would withhold his “hand from injustice,” never acting in an unjust manner in his dealings with others, and “true judgment [justice]” he would render “between a man and a man [his fellow],” refusing to show partiality. (18:8) The righteous man “walked” or conducted himself according to YHWH’s statutes and heeded his judgments or ordinances. He could be certain of continuing to live, for the Lord YHWH gave him the assurance that he would indeed live (literally, “to live, he will live”). (18:9)
A man may have a son who happened to become a robber or a violent man (a “pest” or corrupt person [LXX]), one who shed blood, and proved to be a “brother of one of these” evil actions. The Septuagint rendering of the expression a “brother to one of these” may be translated, “committing sins.” In the Targum, the reference is to doing one of these things to a brother. Modern translations commonly omit any mention of a “brother” (“does any of these other things” [NIV]; “does any of these things” [NAB, revised edition; NRSV]). In the context of the Hebrew text, the designation “brother” may be understood to indicate a close relationship with wrongdoing. (18:10)
Seemingly, regarding the father, the text says that “he does not do [any] of all these” things. The father did not make himself guilty of the corrupt practices in which his wayward son engaged. In the Septuagint, the son is the one identified as not walking or conducting himself according to the way of his righteous father. The lawless son ate “on the mountains” or at the sites for idolatrous worship and thus had communion with nonexistent deities. He also defiled the wife of his fellow by committing immorality with her, probably including participation in ceremonial prostitution as part of a cultic ritual. (18:11) The ruthless or evil actions of the corrupt son included oppressing the afflicted and the poor, seizing things by robbery, refusing to return the object that was pledged for the repayment of a loan, lifting up the eyes or looking reverently to idols (literally, “dungy things” [an expression of contempt]), and engaging in what was abominable or disgusting (“lawless deeds” [LXX]) from YHWH’s standpoint. (18:12) The son refused to make interest-free loans to the needy but made himself guilty of usury, charging excessive interest, and profiting from the adversity of others by taking interest. YHWH’s judgment respecting the son was that he would not continue to live because of all the abominable things he had done. The son would die (literally, “dying, he will die”). His “blood” would be upon his own head, for he merited severe punishment for his lawless actions. (18:13)
A son may see all the sins his father has committed. Although he “sees,” he does not engage in like corrupt practices. According to the Septuagint, the son “fears” or has a wholesome fear of God and so does nothing like the deeds in which his father engaged. (18:14) The son did not eat “on the mountains” or at the elevated sites for idolatrous worship and thereby share in communion with nonexistent deities. His “eyes” were not lifted up to “idols [literally, “dungy things” (an expression of contempt); did not set his eyes to the thoughts (LXX)] of the house of Israel,” abstaining from looking reverently to idols. He also did not defile the wife of his fellow, maintaining moral purity and shunning participation in ceremonial prostitution. (18:15) The son did not oppress anyone, seize pledges for loans, and resort to robbery. Instead, he responded with compassion for the needy, giving from his bread or food and providing a garment to those who were insufficiently clothed. (18:16) If the reference is to the withholding of his hand from the “poor” or afflicted one, this could be understood to mean that he did not use his hand or power in an oppressive or unjust manner. The Septuagint indicates that he turned his hand away from injustice. He did not make himself guilty of usury or charge excessive interest and did not take interest from debtors, refusing to derive benefit from their unfortunate circumstances that had forced them to borrow funds. The son was faithful in adhering to YHWH’s judgments or ordinances and in walking or conducting himself according to his statutes. In view of his upright conduct, YHWH promised that the son would continue to live (literally, “living, he will live”) and would not die for the iniquity of his father. (18:17)
The righteous son’s father would die for his own iniquity, and attention is focused on this aspect with the word “look.” His father would most certainly die, for he committed extortion or oppression and robbery of his “brother,” a fellow Israelite. Among “his” own people (“my people” [LXX], God’s people), he did not do what was good. (18:18)
To the declaration of YHWH through Ezekiel, the people would respond, “Why does the son not bear [anything] for the iniquity of the father?” This was because the son practiced “judgment” or justice and “righteousness” (“righteousness and mercy” [LXX]) and observed all of YHWH’s statutes. Therefore, YHWH promised that he would indeed continue to live (literally, “living, he will live”). (18:19) The “soul” that is sinning is the person who will die. A “son will not bear [anything] for the iniquity of the father, and the father will not bear [anything] for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous one will be upon him” or have a bearing on the outcome for him, and the “wickedness [lawlessness (LXX)] of the wicked one [lawless one (LXX)] will be upon him” or have a bearing on the outcome for him. All will be held accountable for their own actions. (18:20)
If a wicked or corrupt (lawless [LXX]) man turned away from his sins (lawless deeds [LXX]) and then observed all of YHWH’s statutes and practiced “judgment” or justice and “righteousness” (“righteousness and mercy” [LXX]), he would “live” (literally, “living, he will live”). He would not die. (18:21) His record of former transgressions would not be “remembered” or reckoned against him. For “his righteousness,” the uprightness according to which he conducted himself after his turning away from lawlessness, he would continue to live. (18:22; see the Notes section.) By means of a question, the Lord YHWH declared that he had no delight in the death of someone wicked but desired that the individual turn back from “his ways” (“his wicked way” [LXX]) and continue to live. (18:23; compare 1 Timothy 2:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:9.)
When a “righteous man turns from his righteousness” or stops doing what is right and engages in unjust practices corresponding to “all the abominable things [lawless deeds (LXX) that the wicked [lawless (LXX) man has done, will he live?” The answer is that his righteous deeds would not be “remembered” or given any consideration. He would die “for the unfaithfulness” of which he made himself guilty and “for his sin [sins (LXX)]” that he committed. (18:24)
It appears that the people thought that a previous record of doing what is right should have merit and that the person who engaged in wicked practices should be punished even if he had stopped his lawless course. Therefore, in anticipation of their response, they are quoted as saying. “The way of the Lord is not equitable [literally, measured (that is, measured according to what is standard)].” The reply of YHWH called upon the “house” or people of Israel to “hear” or to listen to his words, “Is not my way equitable? Are not your ways not equitable?” YHWH’s manner of dealing was just or right. The flaw was with the people. Their ways, including their reasoning, were wrong. (18:25; see the Notes section.)
“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness” (or from doing what is right) and commits “injustice [transgression (LXX)], he shall die for them” (apparently the unjust deeds). The Septuagint says, “and he dies.” “For the injustice [transgression (LXX)] he committed, he will die.” (18:26) “When the wicked [lawless (LXX]) man turns away from his wickedness [lawlessness (LXX)] that he has carried out and practices judgment [or justice] and righteousness, he will keep his soul [or himself] alive.” (18:27) In view of his seeing (considering or recognizing) and turning away “from all his transgressions [impieties (LXX)] that he had committed,” he would live (literally, “living, he will live”); he would not die. (18:28)
In response to the words of YHWH, the “house [or people] of Israel” would say, “The way of the Lord is not equitable [literally, measured (that is, measured according to what is standard)].” His answer came in the form of rhetorical questions. “Are my ways not equitable, O house of Israel? Are not your ways not equitable?” The people needed to adjust their thinking, for their view was wrong. (18:29)
The Lord YHWH declared his purpose to the “house [or people] of Israel.” He purposed to judge each man or person “according to his ways” or the manner in which he conducted himself. Nevertheless, YHWH gave the people an opportunity to change. His appeal to them was for them to turn back “from all [their] transgressions [impieties (LXX)],” letting nothing be a “stumbling block” that could lead them to sin. According to the Septuagint, the impieties should not be to them a punishment for injustice. (18:30)
The people were admonished to cast away all of their transgressions (“impieties” [LXX]) that they had committed (“against me” [against God], LXX) and make for themselves a “new heart” (an inner self fully devoted to YHWH) and a “new spirit” (a motivating power that would impel them to live uprightly). This was essential for them to continue to live. Therefore, the rhetorical question directed to the people was, “Why should you die, O house of Israel?” (18:31) The Lord YHWH did not have delight in the death of anyone. Therefore, he admonished the people to “turn” (from their wrongdoing) “and live.” (18:32; see the Notes section.)
In the Septuagint, the words of verse 2 refer to Ezekiel as “son of man” or a mortal in the service of the eternal God. The Masoretic Text does not include this expression at the beginning of the verse. In the Septuagint, the “parable” is mentioned as being “among the sons of Israel,” but the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) says, “in Israel, on the land.”
The introductory “look” is missing in verse 4 of the Septuagint.
In verse 5, the oldest extant Greek text (P967) does not include “judgment” or justice, but other manuscripts of the Septuagint do.
Rahlfs’ printed Greek text (in verse 22) includes the words that may be rendered “all his transgressions, which he committed.” The oldest extant Greek text (P967), however, omits “which he committed.” It then continues with two words meaning “not” and which words may be translated “by no means.” The transgressions will by no means be remembered.
In verse 25, Rahlfs’ printed Greek text includes the words, “Hear now, all the house of Israel.” The oldest extant Greek text (P967) does not contain these words and those that follow (“does my way not lead straight?”) According to the interpretation in the Targum of verses 25 and 29, the contention of the people was that the “good ways of the Lord” had not been declared to them. His answer in the form of a rhetorical question was that these ways had been declared to them.
In verse 32, the Septuagint does not include the imperative for the people to “turn and live.”
Ezekiel was directed to “take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel.” It was a lamentation or dirge, for it focused on the calamities that befell the kings of Judah. In the Septuagint, the singular noun “ruler” appears, possibly alluding either to King Jehoiachin or King Zedekiah, the last monarch. (19:1; see the Notes section.)
The monarchs of the kingdom of Judah were descendants of the first Judean king, David. So it may be that the “mother” of the “princes of Israel” represents the royal line of David. Another possibility is that the “mother” represents Judah, for David was a member of that tribe. Either the royal line of David or Judah appears to be likened to a lioness that made her lair “among young lions,” or was surrounded by the rulers of other kingdoms, and raised “her cubs,” or produced kings. According to the Septuagint, the “mother” was a cub “born in the midst of lions” and made her own “cubs” numerous, coming to be the source of a succession of monarchs The oldest extant Greek text (P967) identifies the mother as a “cub” and then says that this cub made its cubs numerous in the midst of lions. (19:2; see the Notes section.)
Eventually, one of the cubs among the many that the mother reared became a strong lion that learned to seize prey and even devoured man (men or people [LXX]). This lion was Jehoahaz whom the people made king of the realm of Judah after his father King Josiah was killed at Megiddo in a battle with the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho (Neco, Nechoh). The accounts in 2 Kings 23:30-34 and in 2 Chronicles 36:1-4 regarding the reign of Jehoahaz provide few details about his reign that lasted a mere three months. During this time, he may have initiated efforts against Egyptian interests, for Pharaoh Necho made him a prisoner. At Riblah, a considerable distance north of the territory of the kingdom of Judah. Pharaoah Necho confined Jehoahaz. This suggests that he was seized in Jerusalem and taken as a captive to Riblah. The accounts in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles reveal that Jehoahaz conducted himself in an evil or corrupt manner. He may have been responsible for injustices that led to executions. Possibly this is the reason for his being portrayed as a man-eating lion. (19:3)
The “nations” that heard about Jehoahaz may designate the warriors under the command of Pharoah Necho and the foreign troops allied with him. He was caught “in their pit” (“in their destruction” [LXX]) or captured like an animal that falls into a camouflaged pit. Jehoahaz was depicted as being taken to Egypt with “hooks” (literally, “thorns” [“in a muzzle” (LXX)]). Anciently, captives often had their cheeks or noses pierced so that hooks or rings could be inserted, and they would then be led away by means of ropes that were attached to the hooks or rings. (19:4)
When the “mother” saw or came to recognize that she had waited but that her hope had been lost, she took another one of her cubs, making him a lion or king. The waiting may have been for Jehoahaz to be returned from Egypt, but the hope did not materialize. This development required that another king begin to rule over the territory of the kingdom of Judah. The immediate successor of Jehoahaz was Jehoiakim, another son of King Josiah. His reign appears to be passed over, for it was his son Jehoiachin who was taken into Babylonian exile. (19:5; also see verse 9.)
The lion is portrayed as roaming about “in the midst of lions,” suggesting that the kings of other nations surrounded the monarch whom the lion represented and possibly also indicating that this lion acted in the oppressive manner of foreign rulers. No longer a cub, the predator had become a strong lion, had learned how to seize prey, and had even become a man-eating beast. According to 2 Kings 24:9, Jehoiachin continued his father Jehoiakim’s bad practices. Therefore, his reign of three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9) could be regarded as an extension of Jehoiakim’s reign, and the description of the lion’s actions may be viewed as reflecting the rule of both monarchs. Jehoiakim acted like a vicious predator. He proved to be a harsh oppressor, killed the prophet Urijah (Uriah), and made himself guilty of shedding other innocent blood. (Jeremiah 22:13-18; 26:20-23) As one who acted like his father, Jehoiachin fittingly could be represented as a man-eating lion. (19:6)
There is a measure of obscurity about the additional activity ascribed to the king who is represented as a lion. According to the Masoretic Text, “he knew his widows.” This could be interpreted to mean that he knew the widows of the men for whose death he had made himself responsible. Another significance could be that he “knew” these widows from the standpoint of his having ravished or oppressed them. On the basis of the Targum and an emendation of the Hebrew word for “widows,” a number of modern translations convey a different significance. “He destroyed fortresses.” (CEV) “He demolished fortresses.” (NLT) “He ravaged their strongholds.” (NAB, revised edition, NRSV) “He broke down their strongholds.” (NIV) These renderings suggest that he engaged in successful military campaigns, but there is no indication in the books of Jeremiah, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles that Jehoiakim participated in warfare or that Jehoiachin continued it. The reading of the Septuagint suggests that the translator read the Hebrew word for “know” as the similar verb for “pasture.” This appears to have led to the rendering, “And he would pasture in his boldness.” It appears preferable to retain the meaning “widows” and to consider the description that follows to relate to the devastating impact the rule of Jehoiachin had when continuing the oppressive measures of his father Jehoiakim. According to Jeremiah 22:17, the “eyes” or focus of Jehoiakim and his “heart” or inner self and thought were on dishonest gain, on the shedding of innocent blood to achieve his unworthy objectives, and on engaging in “oppression.” In view of Jehoiachin’s continuing to imitate the bad example of his father, this would have contributed to the devastation or ruin of “cities” in the territory of the kingdom of Judah, and the “sound of his roaring,” or the harsh and unjust commands proceeding from him, would have had a devastating effect on the land and all the inhabitants. (19:7)
The rebellion of King Jehoiakim against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon led to punitive action that culminated in the exile of his son Jehoiachin. After this rebellion, the kingdom of Judah faced attacks from Chaldean, Syrian, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders, and this development would have affected Jehoiachin. (2 Kings 24:1, 2) It appears to be alluded to with the reference that surrounding “nations” from the provinces “set against him” or, based on an emendation, “camped against him.” The attackers, specifically the troops of King Nebuchadnezzar, “spread their net over him.” He was caught in their pit like a lion that is trapped. (19:8)
It appears that Jehoiachin was portrayed as a caged lion controlled with hooks or rings. In this captive state, Jehoiachin was transported to the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. According to the Septuagint, Jehoiachin, under the figure of a lion, was muzzled and caged. As a captive deprived of his position as king, Jehoiachin would no longer be able to let his voice, comparable to the roar of a lion, be heard “upon the mountains of Israel” or anywhere in the realm of the kingdom of Judah. (19:9)
The “mother” of the king could designate the royal line of David or Judah, the tribe to which David and the other monarchs in the dynasty belonged. This “mother” is likened to a “vine.” According to the Targum, the “congregation of Israel” is likened to a vine when it heeded the Torah. After the word for “vine,” the Masoretic Text continues with the phrase “in your blood,” but these words do not convey a comprehensible meaning. A number of modern translations render the words about the vine according to the reading of two Hebrew manuscripts (a “vine of your vineyard”). The Septuagint rendering is, “like a blossom on a pomegranate.” The “vine” flourished, for it was “planted by waters.” Abundant available water made it possible for the vine to be fruitful and come to have many branches. (19:10)
For the vine, the branches came to be “strong staffs, scepters of dominions.” This could mean that branches of the vine represented the men who reigned as kings. They were like strong rods or like men who wielded authority. The Targum says that they were “mighty rulers,” monarchs who were powerful enough to subjugate kingdoms. With the scepter being the symbol of royal authority, they were “scepters” or kings over their realms. It appears that the vine is described as lofty because one of the branches was particularly prominent. This branch would have been a monarch, with his prominence being likened to “his height” that stood out “among the branches” or among other men. The loftiness of the branch caused it to be seen “with the abundance of its boughs,” likely meaning “with its thick foliage.” Although the Hebrew text contains plural nouns, a number of modern translations render the words to apply to one significant branch, with evident reference to one king. “One strong branch grew into a royal scepter. So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage.” (NAB, revised edition) “Its strongest stem became a ruler’s scepter; it towered aloft among the thick boughs; it stood out in its height with its mass of branches.” (NRSV) “And she had a mighty rod fit for a ruler’s scepter. It towered highest among the leafy trees, it was conspicuous by its height, by the abundance of its boughs.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) In Hebrew, the word for “vine” is feminine gender, but, starting with the reference to “his height,” the suffixes are all masculine gender. Translations that render the text to apply throughout to the vine do not preserve this gender difference. “It had stout branches, sceptres for those who bear rule. It grew tall, finding its way through the foliage; it was conspicuous for its height and many boughs.” (REB) “Its branches were strong and grew to be royal scepters. The vine grew tall enough to reach the clouds; everyone saw how leafy and tall it was.” (TEV) “Her strong branches became symbols of authority, and she was taller than all other trees — everyone could see how strong and healthy she was.” (CEV) The Septuagint focuses on the vine. “And there came to be for it a rod of strength for a tribe of leaders, and it was elevated in its greatness in the midst of trunks [the principal stems of vines], and one saw its greatness in the abundance of its branches,” twigs, or shoots. (19:11; see the Notes section.)
“In fury,” the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar and his warriors, the vine (the royal line of David, Judah, or the kingdom of Judah) was uprooted and cast down to the “earth” or ground. The searing wind from the east or the arid wilderness region to the east of the kingdom of Judah dried up the fruit of the vine, and its “strong rod” or stem (evidently representing the monarch) “was torn off and dried up. Fire consumed it.” It appears that the “strong rod” here represents Zedekiah, the last monarch of the kingdom of Judah. (19:12; see the Notes section.)
With King Zedekiah and surviving subjects coming to be exiles in Babylon, the vine ceased to be in the territory of the kingdom of Judah. Therefore, it is portrayed as being “planted in a wilderness, in a dry [or waterless] and thirsty land.” The once thriving condition of the kingdom of Judah and the royal line of David ended. (19:13)
From a “rod” of the vine, fire burst forth. The Septuagint says that the fire came from a rod of the “choice parts” (probably meaning “choice twigs”) of the vine. This fire consumed the “fruit” of the vine and left no “strong rod” remaining in it. So there was no “scepter” (“rod of strength” [LXX]) to exercise rulership. King Zedekiah, because of his rebellion against King Nebuchadnezzar, proved to be the “rod” from which the destructive fire burst forth. His refusal to continue to be a loyal vassal king led to punitive action. The warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar conquered the kingdom of Judah, destroyed the capital Jerusalem, and took most of the survivors as captives into exile. Thus the “vine” was destroyed as by a raging fire. No “scepter” or monarch of the royal line of David remained in the former territory of the kingdom of Judah. (19:14; see the Notes section.)
The portrayal of the developments regarding the royal line of David and the kingdom of Judah constituted a lamentation or dirge, and the calamitous end that was destined to come would occasion a lamentation or dirge. (19:14; see the Notes section.)
The royal line that began with David exercised dominion over all twelve tribes. This may be the reason for the reference (in verse 1) to the “princes of Israel” instead of the princes of Judah. After ten tribes revolted and established an independent kingdom, the people living in the territory of the kingdom of Judah likely considered only the kings of the royal line of David as legitimate kings of Israel.
In verse 2, the reference to being “in the midst of lions” may also indicate that the lioness chose to have close association with these lions or foreign rulers and adopted their God-dishonoring ways. (Compare 1 Kings 11:1-8; 14:21-24; 2 Kings 21:2-9.)
In verse 11, the oldest extant Greek text (P967) does not use the expression “rod of strength.” It reads, “rod.” Regarding the vine, the Targum indicates that it was elevated by its might over other kingdoms, being superior to them in its military forces and its many valiant warriors.
The Septuagint (in verse 12) refers to the “choice parts” of the vine as being dried up by a “scorching wind.” Then, regarding the “choice parts,” probably meaning choice twigs, the Septuagint continues, “they were punished” (P967). Rahlfs’ printed Greek text says, “it [the vine] was punished.” According to the Targum, a king who was as fierce as the east wind, struck down the people. The “mighty rulers were exiled, and the nations that were as fierce as fire destroyed them.”
The Targum (verse 14) links the fire to the nations that slaughtered the people. They are described as being “as fierce as fire.”
The concluding part of the Hebrew text of verse 14 may be rendered, “This [is] a lamentation and will become a lamentation.” In the Septuagint, the wording is somewhat different. “It is a tribe for a parable [or likeness] of a lamentation, and it will be [or serve] for a lamentation.” Possibly the thought is that what happened to the “tribe,” or the people of the kingdom of Judah, would prove to be a parable, likeness, or illustration of other developments that would become the subject of a lament or dirge. The Targum refers to the prophet Ezekiel as having uttered a lamentation. The words he spoke are identified as a prophecy that would become a lamentation.