New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 12:1 The word of Yahweh also came to me saying- "Came" is also translated "came to pass". God's word is so certain of fulfilment that when it 'comes', it effectively 'comes to pass'. 

Ezekiel 12:2 Son of man, you dwell in the midst of the rebellious people, who have eyes to see, and don’t see, who have ears to hear, and don’t hear; for they are rebellious people-
Ezekiel was living amongst the captives in Babylon. They had the potential to respond to his message as intended, and to become the repentant remnant who would restore the Kingdom of God in Israel. But they would not respond. Because of this, there would be a further captivity of the people of Jerusalem (:3). It wasn't that the people still in Judah were being punished for the sins of those in exile; it was that the sinners in Judah could have been spared further punishment by the repentance of those in exile. So much can depend upon the spirituality of third parties; see on Mk. 2:5. The same was true of the Jews in Judah- they too had eyes to see but chose not to (Jer. 5:21).

They were "rebellious" in that they refused to mentally respond to Ezekiel's message. Their rebellion, like ours so often, was a case of a sin of omission rather than commission. Those taken into captivity were the royal family and the leadership, and so the allusion would have been to Saul and his family being rejected as kings of Israel because of his 'rebellion' against God's word through Samuel (1 Sam. 15:23 s.w.).

Ezekiel 12:3 Therefore, you son of man, prepare what you need for a journey into exile and move by day in their sight. You shall move from your place to another place in their sight-
As explained on :2, the rebellion of the captives meant that they were not going to be able to spare those still in Judah from further invasion and captivity. And Ezekiel as "son of man" was representative not only of God but also of the sinful people of God, again typifying the work of the Lord Jesus. Ezekiel's acted parable was to make them "consider". They had already gone on the journey into exile; the message was that they could really avert this happening for others. And they were apparently unmoved by the possibilities they had for others.

Perhaps they will consider, though they are rebellious people- God had told Ezekiel at the start that his audience would not respond. But here we see the essential hopefulness of God for human response- "perhaps" they would respond. When we do respond, we thrill the heart of the God who must be so often disappointed. "Consider" is the common Hebrew word for 'to see'. Ezekiel was to act his parable "in their sight", in the hope they would "see". We have here the two kinds of sight, alluded to several times in John's Gospel. We are to 'see' spiritually the lessons behind what we 'see' with our natural vision.

Ezekiel 12:4 You shall bring forth your belongings by day in their sight, as belongings for exile; and you shall go forth at evening in their sight, as when men go forth into exile-
This was to typify Zedekiah and the remnants of the Jerusalem leadership fleeing Jerusalem by night (Jer. 39:4; 52:7). Zedekiah was to be punished for his sins by the attempt to flee, his capture and judgment by the Babylonians; but the full effect of his sins could have been lightened by the repentance of the exiles. And this principle is still true; the judgment of some people can be ameliorated by the spirituality of third parties.

Ezekiel 12:5 Dig through the wall in their sight, and carry your belongings out that way-
Although Zedekiah and his family fled through "the gate between the two walls", we can assume that all the main gates of Jerusalem were being watched by the Babylonian besiegers, and so this "gate" would have been dug specially for them to flee by (Jer. 39:4; 52:7).

Ezekiel 12:6 In their sight you shall carry it on your shoulder, and carry it forth in the twilight; you shall cover your face, so that you don’t see the land; for I have set you for a sign to the house of Israel-
The disguise was to represent how Zedekiah and the remnants of the royal family would have tried to disguise themselves as they fled (Jer. 39:4; 52:7). See on :10. It was deep humiliation for Zedekiah; he himself had to carry his few belongings on his own shoulder rather than have servants carry them. It was all part of God's attempt to bring him down, that He might exalt him in due time.

Ezekiel 12:7 I did as I was commanded: I brought forth my belongings by day, as if for exile, and in the evening I dug through the wall with my hand; I brought it forth in the dark, and carried it on my shoulder in their sight-
Ezekiel was representing Zedekiah (:10). Perhaps he himself frantically dug through the wall with his own hands. If the wall could be dug through with hands, we see how flimsy were the defences of Jerusalem against the Babylonians. And yet the Jews had argued that Jerusalem was as strong as an iron cauldron, and the fire of Babylonian judgment could therefore never reach them; see on Ez. 11:3. In Ez. 13:14, the strength of Jerusalem is spoken of as a wall built with bad morter that was very weak. This had a connection with the literally weak wall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 12:8 In the morning came the word of Yahweh to me, saying-
"In the morning" after Zedekiah fled Jerusalem he was arrested. The morning after Ezekiel's symbolic exile from the house of his arrest, the observing Jews ought to have figured that now, he was as it were in captivity. They ought to have figured that he represented Zedekiah. And so this was now to be stated explicitly.

Ezekiel 12:9 Son of man, has not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said to you, ‘What are you doing?’-
This was the intention of the acted parable; to elicit this question, even though in their consciences the answer was surely clear. As in Ez. 24:19, the question "What are you doing? / What do you mean?" was elicited; but this was followed by the direct revelation of God's word. And so it is in our witness; our lives elicit questions and pique interest from those around us, as a springboard toward the declaration of God's word to them.

Ezekiel 12:10 Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: This burden concerns the prince in Jerusalem, and all the people of Israel who are in it’-
Josephus (Antiquities 10:7) claims that Ezekiel sent a copy of this prophecy to Zedekiah. As Jeremiah had sent a letter to the captives at the Chebar, so it would be understandable if Ezekiel sent a message to Jerusalem confirming the warnings of Jeremiah.

Ezekiel 12:11 Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity-
This was not merely prediction. The group of exiles had power over the outcome; if they had repented, the implication is that this need not have happened. Therefore we have the otherwise awkward change of pronouns from "I am your sign" to "so shall it be done to them". Ezekiel was a sign to those observing him in Babylon; and they were to respond to that sign by repentance, so that the outcome for "them" could be different.

Ezekiel 12:12 The prince who is among them shall carry his belongings on his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby-
The "them" and "they" rather than "you" remind us that Ezekiel is saying this in captivity in Babylon. See on :11.

He shall cover his face, because he shall not see the land with his eyes- This looked ahead to how Zedekiah's eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:7). The way Zedekiah is described as "the prince" lays the basis for the later prophecies about "the prince" in Ez. 40-48. Had the exiles returned and rebuilt and operated the temple system as required there, another individual called "the prince" would have arisen. Perhaps the blind, repentant Zedekiah could have returned from exile and become the prince figure; this would then solve the otherwise strange prophecy of  Is. 42:19, that the restored community would have had a blind leader. Likewise the exiles could have lived under the shadow of a great leader in exile (Lam. 4:20), fulfilling the prophecies of Messiah as a great tree. But none of those involved lived up to their potential.

Ezekiel 12:13 My net also will I spread on him, and he shall be taken in My snare-
The Babylonian army is likened to a net in Hab. 1:14-16.

And I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there- “O Zedekiah… Thou shalt not die by the sword: but thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers… so shall they burn odours for thee” (Jer. 34:5) mentions no conditions. But consider the words of Ez. 12:13 about the same man; he would die in Babylon and he would be made blind before arrival. The surrounding verses give an accurate prophecy of how Zedekiah was captured whilst fleeing from Jerusalem. And the same is said in Jer. 32:4; 38:17. It surely has to be recognized that the ‘prophecy’ that Zedekiah would die in peace was conditional upon his obedience to the word of Jeremiah- even though those conditions aren’t recorded (although they are implicit surely).

Ezekiel 12:14 I will scatter toward every wind all who are around him to help him, and all his armies; and I will draw out the sword after them-
His personal bodyguard would scatter from him, and Zedekiah would be captured alone. This was the ultimate humiliation for a leader. And this is the nature of condemnation- intensely personal, when absolutely all human strength has been taken away. And Zedekiah fleeing from Jerusalem towards Jericho is picked up in the parable of the good Samaritan. We are all Zedekiah, beaten and injured because of our sins, but saved by the grace of the Samaritan.

Ezekiel 12:15 They shall know that I am Yahweh, when I disperse them among the nations, and scatter them through the countries-
The curse for breaking the covenant was to be 'dispersed' to the Gentile world, where they would serve other gods as a punishment for having done so in Israel (Dt. 28:64 s.w.). But it seems God ammended this judgment- He envisaged they would be 'dispersed' and there would know or recognize Him as God alone. But there is ample evidence that the exiles did worship idols for the next few generations. So the original curse of serving idols in captivity was the path Israel allowed to happen. But God had provided an alternative potential.

Ezekiel 12:16 But I will preserve a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the nations where they come; and they shall know that I am Yahweh-
The righteous remnant were actually persecuted by the other Jews in Babylon, according to the testimony of the later parts of Isaiah. One significant problem which they had right from the start was that they insisted that the captivity was unfair, it was not their fault, they were righteous and were being unfairly punished for the sins of their fathers. Ezekiel 18 addresses this at length with them. God's intention was that His exiled people would "declare all their abominations among the nations whither they come", i.e. the 127 provinces of Babylon (Ez. 12:16). The intention was that they would admit to all how they had sinned. Note how confession of personal failure and testimony to God's forgiveness is actually a powerful witness to unbelievers. But instead, Ezekiel had to reason against the Jews' insistence that they had not sinned, and were being unfairly punished for their fathers' sins by an unjust God (Ez. 18). And so likewise it happens with us all too often that the potential witness which we could make simply isn't made.

Ezekiel 12:17 Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me, saying-
See on :1.

Ezekiel 12:18 Son of man, eat your bread with quaking, and drink your water with trembling and with fearfulness-
The geography of Jerusalem meant that there was always a problem with water whenever the city was besieged. The "trembling and fear" refer to the psychological breakdown related to the paranoia about condemnation which was part of the curse for disobedience. But such paranoia was ultimately the fault of those who had chosen the way to condemnation. Ezekiel, the righteous, was here to feel and act like the condemned sinners. This was what it meant to be "son of man"; and the Lord Jesus as our representative felt the feelings of sinners and the condemned, whilst being holy, harmless and separate from sinners.

Ezekiel 12:19 And tell the people of the land-
The reference is to the Jews in "the land" of Babylon. They are addressed because their repentance could have affected the outcomes for the Jews in "the land" of Judah.

 Thus says the Lord Yahweh concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with fearfulness, and drink their water in dismay, that her land may be desolate, and all that is therein, because of the violence of all those who dwell therein- The "violence" as in their unloving attitudes to their brethren (Ps. 107:34). In the restored Zion, the princes were to not practice "violence" but instead justice, and make no demands ["exactions"] upon others (Ez. 45:9). It is this human tendency to demand of others, often through not forgiving them (Mt. 18:28), which is seen by God as violence. And it was this which led them to the "fear" and "dismay" which were part of the psychological breakdown which they were given; see on :18. "Dismay" translates the word usually translated 'desolation' with respect to the desolation of the land by the Babylonians (Lev. 26:22,31,32,34,35,43). The land would be desolated just as they as persons would be left desolated. Ezekiel as the representative of sinful Israel had sat 'desolate' by the rivers of Babylon (Ez. 3:15 s.w.). See on :18.

Ezekiel 12:20 The cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be a desolation; and you shall know that I am Yahweh-
The reference is to the cities still left habitable after the earlier Babylonian incursions. But again, in wrath God remembered mercy. Not all the cities of Judah were destroyed; Jeremiah records how Mizpah was made the new capital under a Babylonian puppet ruler. As explained on Ez. 5:10; 11:15, probably only about 10% of the population were deported, agricultural activity continued and grain offerings were still brought to the site of the temple by men from Shiloh and Shechem (Jer. 41:5). This amelioration of the planned judgments may have been because of the intercession of Ezekiel and / or the repentance of a remnant.

Ezekiel 12:21 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying-
See on :1.

Ezekiel 12:22 Son of man, what is this proverb that you have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every prophetic vision fails?-
God knows every bit of small talk and the phrases people use in mockery. It was God's grace which had meant that the threatened judgments had not come. But they mocked at it, to the point of joking that prophecies of judgment never come true. The Jews in the land of Israel joked like this (also in Jer. 17:15; Zeph. 1:12), and those in captivity did likewise. It is common amongst people of all ages to assume that God's apparent slowness to act means that He never will do (2 Pet. 3:3,4). Just as the exiles thought that day by day had passed without Ezekiel's words coming true.

Ezekiel 12:23 Tell them therefore, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but tell them, The days are at hand, and the fulfilment of every prophetic vision-
"Days" was really literal; any day, the news would come of Jerusalem's fall and the destruction of the temple. The false prophets had been falsely claiming that the captivity would end within two years (Jer. 28:3). The "every... vision" in view may refer to all of Ezekiel's visions so far recorded. Or the idea may be that the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon was envisaged as the final and total fulfilment of the prophetic word of God so far given; but by grace, there was to be a restoration, and when this potential failed, then further destructions of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 12:24 For there shall be no more any false vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel-
As noted on :23, there was the potential for the prophetic program to come to a finality in the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem under a Messianic king. This would have meant that literally, there would never again be false prophets in Israel. But the reality was different. That potential restoration didn't happen; and false prophets did continue within Israel. They will only finally be destroyed in the last days, when all these prophecies will come to their final term.

There were many false prophets at the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel; when in fact the true word of prophecy could have 'turned away' the captivity, if the exiles and the people left in Judah had responded to it (Lam. 2:14). Indeed it could have been that Zedekiah returned as "the prince" of the restored kingdom; see on Ez. 12:12. Ezekiel prophesied to the exiles in Babylon of what was going to happen to the Jews still in the land, exactly so that the exiles' repentance might avert those in the land suffering further. An ameliorated program of judgment and events would have been possible if they had repented.

Ezekiel 12:25 For I am Yahweh. I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall be performed. It shall be no more deferred; for in your days, rebellious house, will I speak the word, and will perform it, says the Lord Yahweh-
There seems to be the suggestion that God ‘speaks’ a word / plan / intention; and when He decides to operationalize it, then He speaks it again- presumably in the court of Heaven. "Deferred" is the word used by Nehemiah in thanking God for his 'forbearance' (Neh. 9:30). Tragically, this forbearance of God was what led some to take the impression that He was not serious about judgment and was a God somewhat distant and disinterested. See on :28.

Ezekiel 12:26 Again the word of Yahweh came to me saying-
See on :1.

Ezekiel 12:27 Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he sees is for many days to come, and he prophesies of times that are far off-
They now apparently accepted that Ezekiel was a prophet, but comforted themselves that it would not come true in their times. We see here a classic case of how misinterpretation of God's word has a psychological and spiritual basis. Rather than accept the plain meaning of Ezekiel's message, that destruction in Jerusalem was imminent, they decided that the visions spoke of the far distant future.

Ezekiel 12:28 Therefore tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: None of My words shall be deferred any more, but the word which I shall speak shall be performed, says the Lord Yahweh
- See on :25. The word was to be "performed" or literally 'done'. The same phrase is to be found in the lament that Israel would not perform or do God's word (Ez. 33:31,32). If we do not perform God's word, then He will perform it in our condemnation. The idea is that His word is so utterly certain of fulfilment (see on :1). It is for us to as it were be on His wide by performing it ourselves, seeing He will surely perform it one way or the other.