Ezekiel 22:1-31

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Again YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. In the Targum, this message is referred to as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (22:1) As at other times, Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. The question about judging that was directed to him apparently related to proclaiming a judgment based on a record of serious sins. The context indicates that the “city of bloods” is Jerusalem, with the plural word “bloods” indicating that much innocent blood had been spilled in the city. This was on account of judicial corruption, oppression that reduced people to extreme poverty, and the abominable practice of child sacrifice. Ezekiel was to make known to the city or the inhabitants all the abominable deeds (“lawless deeds” [LXX]) that had been committed. (22:2)

According to the message from the Lord YHWH for Ezekiel to proclaim, Jerusalem had been guilty of shedding blood “in her midst” or within the boundaries of her walls. This had not stopped and would continue until her “time” came, the time for punitive action to be taken against her. Jerusalem or the inhabitants of the city had become defiled by making idols (literally, “dungs things” [an expression of contempt]) to worship. The Septuagint refers to Jerusalem as devising “thoughts” or plans against herself. (22:3)

With the blood that had been shed, Jerusalem (or the inhabitants of the city) had incurred serious guilt. The inhabitants of Jerusalem had defiled themselves with the idols (literally, “dungy things” [an expression of contempt]; “thoughts” or plans [LXX]) they had made. Their record of bloodshed and idolatry brought near the “days” for punitive judgment, and they would come to the end of their “years.” In view of their abominable practices, YHWH would cause or allow the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be reproached by the peoples of other nations and to be mocked in all lands that came to know about the calamity that had befallen them. (22:4)

The people of lands near Jerusalem and of lands that were far away would mock her or the inhabitants. The city is identified as “defiled” in “name” or reputation and great in “tumult” or “confusion” (“abundant in lawless deeds” [LXX]). Jerusalem was a place where “confusion” or unrest existed, probably on account of injustices and oppression. (22:5) The “princes of Israel” or the leaders of the people should have been upholding the law and dealing justly. Instead, they used their “arm” or power against the people and shed innocent blood. They apparently accepted bribes and rendered judgments that proved to be ruinous to the needy ones among the people. According to the oldest extant Greek text (P967), the leaders were sworn to their relatives so as to shed blood. (22:6) The inhabitants of Jerusalem had no regard for parents, but treated father and mother with contempt. They defrauded the resident alien (proselyte [LXX]) and oppressed the orphan and the widow. (22:7)

The plural Hebrew and Greek noun relating to that which is “holy” could either refer to things that were holy from YHWH’s standpoint or to “holy places” (the temple complex). By their corrupt actions, the people despised what was holy. The sabbaths were YHWH’s sabbaths, for he had given them to the people. They, however, profaned them by their failure to observe them according to his requirements. (22:8)

Among the inhabitants of Jerusalem could be found men who slandered, and their false accusations led to the shedding of innocent blood. The Septuagint refers to “robbers.” There also were men who ate on the mountains, apparently partaking of offerings made to nonexistent deities at the elevated sites established for the veneration of idols. Men engaged in lewdness (“unholy things” [LXX]) in the midst of Jerusalem. Lewdness likely included involvement in ceremonial prostitution. (22:9)

The uncovering of a father’s “nakedness” refers to having sexual relations with his wife, concubine, or the same woman. Also contrary to God’s law, men chose to have sexual relations with, or to humiliate, a woman in an impure condition on account of menstruation. (22:10; Leviticus 18:7, 8, 19) Men made themselves guilty of adultery and incest. They engaged in the detestable deed of having sexual intercourse with the wife of an associate, committed sexual immorality with a daughter-in-law, or had sexual relations with a sister, the daughter of their own father, and thus humiliated her. (22:11; Leviticus 18:9, 15, 20)

To pervert justice, men accepted bribes and then condemned guiltless ones and had their blood shed. Instead of making loans to needy ones without charging interest, corrupt men exacted interest from them and made themselves guilty of usury. Through fraudulent means, oppressive men made unjust profit from their companions or neighbors. According to the Septuagint, the corrupt men brought their evil to completion by means of oppression. These men had no regard for YHWH, acting as if he did not exist. They conducted themselves as persons who had forgotten him as one to whom they would have to render an account for their actions. (22:12)

The introductory words “and look” served to call attention to what YHWH was about to do and the reason for his punitive action. Apparently in expression of his anger, he would strike his “palm” or his hands together against the unjust gain that the oppressive people had made and the innocent blood that had been spilled in the midst of Jerusalem. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the things Jerusalem (or the inhabitants) had brought to completion and had done. (22:13)

The question for the people to answer in view of the execution of YHWH’s sure judgment against them was: “Can your heart [or your courage] endure or can your hands be strong in the days that I shall be dealing with you?” YHWH had declared his purpose to take action, and he would do what he had stated. The obvious answer to the question was that the courage of the people would fail, and they would have no strength to stop the punishment that would befall them. (22:14)

By means of the warriors under the command of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH would scatter his disobedient people among the nations and disperse them throughout various lands. This severe punishment would serve to bring a remnant of the people to repentance and thus prove to be the means for ending their unclean condition. (22:15)

As exiles in the lands to which they had been scattered, the people would be “profaned” or dishonored within themselves before the “eyes of the nations.” This could mean that they would keenly sense within themselves that, in the sight of people of other nations, they were deprived of all dignity as if they were filth. Their punishment would force them to “know” or recognize that YHWH is not a God who tolerates unfaithfulness to him. A number of modern translations have rendered the words according to a Hebrew manuscript reading that makes the application to God, not the people. “And when I have been dishonored among the nations because of you, you will know that I am the LORD.” (NLT) “In you I will allow myself to be desecrated in the eyes of the nations; thus you shall know that I am the LORD.” (NAB, revised edition) The Septuagint rendering may have arisen through a misreading of the Hebrew text and could be understood to mean that God would make others heirs “before the eyes of the nations” or that he would receive his inheritance among his people “before the eyes of the nations.” (22:16)

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.” (22:17)

As at other times, Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. To YHWH, the “house [or people] of Israel” had become like dross or like base metals (copper, tin, iron, and lead). The people were no longer precious to him like silver, but were like the worthless scum on the surface of molten silver. In the Septuagint, they are referred to as being like silver mixed up with copper, iron, tin, and lead. The people were impure or defiled. (22:18)

All of the people had become like worthless dross (“one mixture” [LXX]). Therefore, YHWH declared, “Look, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.” The word “look” serves to call attention to what YHWH would do. As the context reveals, the gathering of the people “into the midst of Jerusalem” was for the purpose of taking punitive action against them. (22:19)

Silver (“and gold” [P967]), copper, iron, lead, and tin, upon being gathered into a furnace, would be subjected to a blasting of fire to smelt the metal. YHWH, in his anger, likewise would gather the disobedient people and smelt them like metal in expression of his wrath. (22:20) He would gather them and blow upon them “with the fire of [his] wrath,” smelting them in the midst of Jerusalem (verse 19) as if they were metal inside a furnace. (22:21) Their distressing experience would then be comparable to being subjected to the fire that smelts silver in a furnace. The disobedient people would be smelted in the midst of Jerusalem as a consequence of the suffering that would befall them during the Babylonian siege and capture of the city. Although many of the people proved to be like valueless dross, others would be moved to repentance and thus come to be like refined silver. As the severe punishment had been made known in advance through the prophets, the people would come to “know” or be forced to recognize that YHWH had poured out his wrath upon them. (22:22)

Again YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum identifies this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (22:23) Upon being addressed as “son of man,” Ezekiel was reminded of his being a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. Apparently the message was directed to Jerusalem (“say to her”). The circumstances of the city and all the people there would be comparable to an unclean land or a land under a curse, for no rain would descend upon it in a “day of indignation” or the time when YHWH’s anger would be expressed against it. Without needed rain, all vegetation would dry up. For Jerusalem to come to be like a drought-stricken land would mean that it would be reduced to ruins. (22:24)

The severe punishment was warranted, for in the city there were both those who actively misled the people and those who allowed themselves to be misled. There were prophets in Jerusalem who were in league with one another to proclaim falsehoods that lulled the people into a false sense of security. The decisions that the leading inhabitants of Jerusalem made on the basis of the false prophecies proved to be ruinous, for they led to unsuccessful warfare and much loss of life among the defenders of the kingdom of Judah. Therefore, the prophets are fittingly likened to a roaring lion that tears prey. These prophets, by their false utterances, brought death to others and so the devouring of a “soul” or a person is attributed to them. The victorious invaders of the land pillaged treasure and other precious items, and the false prophets were responsible for this development. Many men died in battle, leaving behind their wives as widows. In this case, the prophets made themselves responsible for multiplying widows in the midst of Jerusalem. (22:25; see the Notes section.)

The priests in Jerusalem failed the people. Instead of upholding God’s law and instructing the people to follow it, they did violence to the law. This could have been by their wrong conduct and erroneous teaching that excused God-dishonoring practices. Their serious failures profaned “holy things” or “holy places” (the temple complex). The priests did not make a clear distinction for the people between what was holy and what was profane or common and what was ceremonially unclean and what was clean. They did not teach the people to observe the sabbaths according to the God-given requirements, but they hid their eyes from the God-given sabbaths, treating them as not needing to be kept. The priests represented YHWH. Therefore, their wrong conduct and teaching brought reproach on him or caused him to be profaned. (22:26)

The princes or rulers in Jerusalem were corrupt, oppressive, and unjust. Therefore, they were like wolves tearing prey. They shed innocent blood and destroyed “souls” or people so as to procure gain for themselves. (22:27)

With false visions and by divining lies, the prophets in Jerusalem did what was comparable to whitewashing a wall. They obscured the reality that the moral condition of the people incurred YHWH’s anger and that calamity was certain to befall them on account of their unfaithfulness to him. The prophets misled the people into believing that their well-being and security were not threatened in any way, and they represented their words as having YHWH as their source. They would say, “Thus says the Lord YHWH.” He, however, had not spoken to them. They had no revelation from him. (22:28; see the Notes section.)

The “people of the land,” those residing in the territory of the kingdom of Judah, including Jerusalem, engaged in defrauding, robbery, and oppression of the needy in their midst. They took advantage of the resident alien (proselyte [LXX]) among them, defrauding the individual without any possibility of redress. The resident alien would never have a favorable judgment rendered for him. (22:29)

YHWH represented himself as looking for a man among the people who would build a wall, a wall that would serve to shield them from the unleashing of his wrath against them, or for a man who would stand in the breach before him (literally, [his] face) to protect the people. According to the Septuagint, the man God was looking for would be one who conducted himself uprightly and would be standing before his “face” or before him soundly “in the time of the land” (the time for expressing his wrath) so that he might not wipe out the land completely (apparently meaning those living in the territory of the kingdom of Judah, including Jerusalem). This suggests that the man would be like Moses who stood in the breach, pleading with YHWH not to destroy the people. YHWH, however, did not find such a man. (22:30; Exodus 32:7-14; see the Notes section.)

In view of his not finding the man for whom he was looking, YHWH determined to “pour out” his indignation upon the wayward people, consuming them with the “fire of [his] wrath.” He would bring the consequences of their corrupt “way” or their course of life upon their “head,” letting them experience the severe punishment that their unfaithfulness to him merited. (22:31)


In verse 25, the Septuagint does not mention “prophets,” but it refers to “leaders.” These leaders are represented as “devouring souls by domination” or on the basis of the authority they had.

According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 28, the prophets would be anointed. The future tense verb “will fall” is linked to the prophets. This could mean that those anointing the prophets would fall before them or that the prophets themselves would fall. The Targum refers to the false prophets as being like a person who builds a wall and plasters it with plain mud or clay that is not strengthened with straw.

According to the interpretation of the words of verse 30 in the Targum, the man would be one in possession of “good deeds” and would pray that mercy be shown to the people of the land.