Ezekiel 14:1-23

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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.