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Ezekiel 21:1 The word of Yahweh came to me saying- Chapters 17-22 form an ABABAB structure. Chapters 17,19 and 21 speak of Babylon, and chapters 18,20 and 22 of Judah's sins which warranted the Babylonian involvement.

Ezekiel 21:2 Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, and drop your word toward the sanctuaries and prophesy against the land of Israel- The plural "sanctuaries" may refer to all the high places, or it could be an intensive plural for the great sanctuary, the temple. We recall that Ezekiel was with the exiles in Babylon, hence he looks towards Jerusalem and Israel.

Ezekiel 21:3 And tell the land of Israel, Thus says Yahweh: Behold, I am against you, and will draw forth My sword out of its sheath- For "Israel" to be told of these prophecies, Ezekiel's words must have been published and taken there in some form; see on :13. Or perhaps the cherubim transported him there to give this message to them in person. However the threatened destruction of Judah is being told to the exiles because their repentance could have altered the outcome for the Jews still in Judah. We note Ezekiel's continual reference to Judah as "the land of Israel" because of God's intention to restore both Judah and the ten tribes in the Kingdom He wished to reestablish in the land.

And will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked- The allusion is clearly to Abraham's pleading with God not to destroy both righteous and wicked in Sodom (Gen. 18:23,25). Jerusalem was no better than Sodom, a point already made in Ez. 16. Perhaps the implication was that there was no intercessor like Abraham to stop this eventuality happening; and that the "righteous" were not even as righteous as 'righteous Lot' (2 Pet. 2:7), who himself was weak spiritually and only counted righteous by faith. Ez. 20 has painted a very bad picture of the spiritual state of things in Judah, with sacrifice of children to idols ongoing at that very time.

Ezekiel 21:4 Seeing then that I will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall My sword go forth out of its sheath against all flesh from the south to the north- I have often noted that God speaks His judgments, but there is a gap between the statement and its fulfilment. During that gap, there is the possibility of repentance. Hence Nineveh was to be destroyed after 40 days, but in reality it wasn't because there was repentance. This idea of a gap is represented here by the sword of judgment being still in its sheath. If there was no repentance then it would be drawn out of the sheath. Likewise the implication of the Sodom and Abraham allusion could be that the sword would have remained in its sheath if there had been an Abraham type intercessor. Although maybe the state of affairs was such that God saw total destruction as the only way to move forward.

Ezekiel 21:5 And all flesh shall know that I, Yahweh, have drawn forth My sword out of its sheath; it shall not return any more- The judgment of Israel in the wilderness spoken of in Ez. 20:36-38 (see notes there) was to also be the judgment of "all flesh". This scenario didn't come about, but it will do so in essence in the last days. The judgment of "all flesh" around Israel and that of the Jews is described in Revelation as being part and parcel of the same series of events. The threatened judgments would not again be delayed or rescinded, the sword would no more return to its sheath. This speaks of a final judgment, such as will only be seen in the last days, but which could have come about in Ezekiel's time had the preconditions been met.

Ezekiel 21:6 Sigh therefore, you son of man; with the breaking of your thighs and with bitterness you will sigh before their eyes- We have the impression of the exiles standing around Ezekiel. Perhaps he was still under house arrest. He was personally involved in his message, feeling for the tragedy of it all, and not merely a relayer of information from God; as the GNB expresses the Hebrew, "groan as if your heart is breaking with despair". Just as any preaching work is not merely the imparting of information, but the word has to become flesh in the preacher of it. The despair was for the fact that had the exiles repented, the awful judgment need not have come. "Thighs" is literally "sides", as if his heart had burst and the blood was issuing through his side- yet another way in which he prefigured the ultimate "son of man", the Lord Jesus. "Bitterness" again reflects how Ezekiel was to feel their bitterness, as their "son of man" representative. But GNB offers "sorrow" for "bitterness".

Ezekiel 21:7 It shall be, when they tell you, ‘Why do you sigh?’ that you shall say, Because of the news, for it is coming. Every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, every spirit shall faint and all knees shall be weak as water. It is coming, and it shall be done, says the Lord Yahweh- Because Israel’s heart would melt and be feeble “Because of the tidings” which Ezekiel taught, therefore his heart sighed and broke because he identified with how they would later feel when his words came true (Ez. 21:6,7). See on Ez. 3:15. There would be a psychological paralysis- evidence that God can work directly on the mind of people, positively [through the "holy spirit"] and negatively [an "evil spirit from the Lord"]. This had been threatened in Ez. 7:17 and Jer. 6:24 in the same words as used here; the point is now made that the words of the prophets were to really come true, and they must be taken seriously.

Ezekiel 21:8 The word of Yahweh came to me saying- There may or may not have been a gap between the prophecies, but the sword which was about to be taken from its sheath has now been prepared by sharpening and polishing (:9,10).

Ezekiel 21:9 Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says Yahweh: Say, A sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also polished- This speaks of the preparation of the Babylonians by God. They were His sword, and would be wielded by His hand.

Ezekiel 21:10 It is sharpened that it may make a slaughter; it is polished that it may be as lightning- This is again an allusion to the opening vision of the cherubim, from whom flashed lightning. This huge system of Divine operation was to use the Babylonians in order to destroy His own people.


Shall we then laugh?- As noted on Ez. 20:49, the response to Ezekiel's words was mirth and refusing to take seriously the issues of eternal judgment, just as we see today.

The rod of My son condemns every tree- LXX "be sharpened that thou mayest be bright, ready for slaughter, slay, set at nought, despise every tree"; GNB "There can be no rejoicing, for my people have disregarded every warning and punishment". This would take "my son" as Israel (as in Hos. 11:1). The rod to fall upon Israel would also be the condemnation of every nation or tree, a figure just used in Ez. 20:46,47.

Ezekiel 21:11 It is given to be polished, that it may be ready for use: the sword, it is sharpened, yes, it is polished, to give it into the hand of the killer- The sword of Babylon was in fact being prepared by the Jews trying to deceive Babylon by entering into alliances and loyalty agreements with other nations. This was what provoked the sharpness of Babylon's final fall upon Judah. But God worked through that; thereby Judah were preparing their own judgment.

Ezekiel 21:12 Cry and wail, son of man; for it is on My people, it is on all the princes of Israel: they are delivered over to the sword with My people; strike therefore on your thigh- The princes were to be judged parallel with the masses of "My people". This is a point often made in the prophets. It wasn't that the masses suffered because of the failures of the minority in leadership. The leaders acted as the people wanted, so that even without democracy, a people effectively get the leadership they subconsciously desire. And so all Judah were to be judged.

Ezekiel 21:13 For I am putting My people to the test, and if they refuse to repent, all these things will happen to them, says the Lord Yahweh- The message of Ezekiel, perhaps particularly of this chapter, was to be published in Judah itself; see on :3. It was a call to repentance, and if they failed to respond, then these things would happen. Jeremiah's prophetic words to Judah were likewise to be their "test" (Jer. 6:27 s.w.). The same word is used of how the fire of the invaders' judgment would "test" the people (Zech. 13:9). But they could have avoided this if they had responded to God's word ahead of time. The call to repentance we hear today is likewise a foretaste of the fire of final judgment; and now is the time to respond and not then when it is too late.

Ezekiel 21:14 You therefore, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together; and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the deadly wounded: it is the sword of the great slaughter which surrounds them- The sword doubled the third time may simply be an idiom meaning as GNB "the sword will strike again and again". The LXX has "take a second sword: the third sword is the sword of the slain, the great sword of the slain: and thou shalt strike them with amazement, lest the heart should faint". Perhaps the first sword refers to the "test" of :13; the sword point is held at Jerusalem in the hope they would repent on the cusp of Divine judgment. The second sword is repeated twice, in that Jerusalem was to fall and suffer from the sword, and then the exiles also were to suffer the sword in Babylon.
 The ESV has "let the sword come down twice, yes, three times"; and this would be using the same idiom as "for three and for four" in Amos 1:3 etc. The triple coming of the sword would then connect with the triple 'overturning' of Zion to be spoken of in :27.

"The deadly wounded" refers to Zedekiah, "You, deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day has come" (:25). The intention was that Zedekiah would die by the sword, but in fact he didn't. He was blinded, but died peacefully in prison (Jer. 52:11). The wound that ought to have been unto death was in fact not unto death- because God wanted him to be moved by His grace to repent.

Ezekiel 21:15 I have set the threatening sword against all their gates, that their hearts may tremble, and their ruins be multiplied: ah! it is made as lightning, it is pointed for slaughter- The sword was a "threatening sword" because it was part of the "test" of :13. It was as if the people of Jerusalem were being held at sword point by Ezekiel's words, telling them that the sword was about to pierce them. If they repented, then it would be withdrawn. That sword was fully prepared for actual slaughter, and the similarity with lightning [from being so highly polished and therefore glinting] was to forge connection with the cherubim vision. God was in and behind and above and controlling the Babylonian invasion; His huge system of operation was involved.

Ezekiel 21:16 Gather yourselves together, go to the right, set yourselves in array, go to the left, wherever your face is set- GNB sees this as addressed to the sword, in what could be described as "the song of the sword": "Cut to the right and the left, you sharp sword! Cut wherever you turn". Right and left could return to 'north and south'.

Ezekiel 21:17 I will also strike My hands together- Just as Ezekiel had done (:15). Ezekiel was not merely imparting information on God's behalf, but was emotionally caught up in the message as God's representative. And any true preacher of God's word should be likewise.

And I will cause My wrath to rest: I, Yahweh, have spoken it- The cessation, accomplishment or resting of God's wrath is mentioned several times in Ezekiel, and nowhere else in this way (Ez. 5:13; 6:12; 7:8; 13:15; 16:42; 20:8; 21:17; 22:20; 24:13). The idea is not that God was so angry that He had to express that anger and only calmed down once He had as it were lashed out. He does have real wrath; the huge love He has cannot exist in a dimensionless vacuum, it of itself implies He also has wrath. Ez. 5:13 continues: "I will cause My wrath toward them to rest, and I shall be comforted", and the Hebrew there for "comforted" is literally 'to sigh', to be sorry, even to repent / change. Having expressed His legitimate anger, God knew that He would then be sorry and would then embark upon a process of restoration- by grace. For the objects of His wrath didn't deserve any restoration. "To rest" is the word translated "to place" in Ez. 37:14: "I shall place you in your own land" at the restoration from captivity. His wrath had to be expressed, and yet it was part of His wider purpose toward restoring His people and Kingdom. We would be quite wrong, therefore, to read these words as meaning that God was furiously angry and needed to lash out and get it all expressed so that He could as it were calm down again. His judgments are always ultimately constructive, and therefore "the wrath of God is the love of God". His wrath is therefore described in Ez. 5:15 as the rebuke of His fury / wrath; it was intended to rebuke, to achieve instruction, that they should 'know Yahweh'. The tragedy was that the captives for the most part refused to perceive it this way and respond.

Ezekiel 21:18 The word of Yahweh came to me again saying- This further prophecy is also about the sword; but the point is that the Babylonian sword is in fact in God's hand.

Ezekiel 21:19 Also, you son of man, appoint two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come; they both shall come forth out of one land. Mark out a place, mark it out at the head of the way to the city- Ezekiel as God's prophet is helped to see that he and his prophetic word are in fact the controllers of the movements of the Babylonian army. Ezekiel was to as it were draw a road coming out of Babylon and then split it into two ways (:21), one going to Rabbah and the other to Jerusalem (:20).

Ezekiel 21:20 You shall appoint a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the fortified- Perhaps the Jewish false prophets claimed that the Babylonian army advancing from the north was in fact heading for Rabbah and the Ammonites and not for them. But Ezekiel was to prophesy that the same Divine sword was to attack both cities, and the apparent choice exercised by Nebuchadnezzar was in fact all overruled by God.

Ezekiel 21:21 For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use fortune telling. He shook the arrows back and forth, he consulted the images, he looked in the liver- The king had a choice as to whether to attack Rabbah first, or Jerusalem. He would have taken two arrows, presumably with the names of the two cities upon them, and shaken them back and forth in his quiver, believing that whichever he withdrew first after a certain ritual would be the one to attack first.

Ezekiel 21:22 In his right hand was the forecast for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build forts- The battering rams are exactly those depicted by Ezekiel (Ez. 4:2);

Ezekiel 21:23 It shall seem to them as a false forecast in their opinion- Perhaps the Jewish false prophets claimed that the Babylonian army advancing from the north was in fact heading for Rabbah and the Ammonites and not for them.


They have sworn solemn oaths, but he brings their guilt to remembrance, that they may be caught- The Jews had solemnly promised total allegiance to Babylon, when in fact they had been making such solemn oaths to others, in the hope of assembling enough political and military might to overcome Babylon. This was how the Babylonian sword was so sharpened against Israel; they were angry that they had been lied to, and that the Jerusalem temple was not merely the shrine of their gods, but of the gods of other nations too. In all this they were used by God to express His anger regarding how Judah had treated Him.

Ezekiel 21:24 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because you have made your wickedness to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered so that in all your doings your sins appear; because you have come to memory, you shall be taken with the hand- The way the Jews had made alliances with other peoples was an uncovering of their sins. Their previous infidelities to Babylon now were also remembered by the Babylonians; and again, God was manifest through Babylon. Because their feelings of hurt and anger at the deception
experienced were exactly those of God- with whom Judah had also entered a covenant of total loyalty, and promised the temple as His sole sacred space.

Ezekiel 21:25 You, deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day has come- “The prince” of Ezekiel 40-48 is hard to understand as an immortal being such as the Lord Jesus. “The prince” of Ezekiel 21:27 was Judah’s last ruler- so “the prince” later in Ezekiel would appear to be a promise of a restored monarchy. Yet tragically, the royal family chose to remain in Babylon. See on Ez. 37:25. "The deadly wounded" of :14 refers to Zedekiah, "You, deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day has come" (:25). The intention was that Zedekiah would die by the sword, but in fact he didn't. He was blinded, but died peacefully in prison (Jer. 52:11). The wound that ought to have been unto death was in fact not unto death- because God wanted him to be moved by His grace to repent.

In the time of the iniquity of the end- This phrase could imply that this was the time when Judah's iniquity would be finally punished. It is the same idea as in Dan. 9:24, when after the 70 weeks there was to be an end of Judah's sin, in that the punishment for it would be completed. But as noted there, the 70 years prophecy had become reapplied to a 70 weeks prophecy. So this "end" envisaged didn't in fact come when expected, neither in the death or deposition of Zedekiah, neither at the end of the 70 years, neither at the end of 70 weeks, but only in the last days in the final "time of the end".

Ezekiel 21:26 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Remove the mitre and take off the crown; this shall be no more the same- It seems that Zedekiah had worn both the crown and the high priestly mitre, declaring himself to be the Messianic king-priest. But "this shall be no more the same", he was not to be a king-priest any more.

Exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high- Zedekiah the high, the proud, was to be abased- blinded and then left to die in prison. But a "low" one was to  be exalted to take his place. This would have been possible at the time of the restoration. But the various possibilities didn't work out, and so the prophecy was reapplied and rescheduled to the Lord Jesus, the low one who was made high, as Phil. 2 exults.

Ezekiel 21:27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn it. This also shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him-
The triple 'overturning' of Ez. 21:25-27 can refer to the three invasions made by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Remember that Ezekiel was primarily speaking to the captives in Babylon who had been taken there after the first and second Babylonian invasions. One more was yet to come. We have here an example of how the kingdom of God and its king can be treated as parallel; Zedekiah's overthrow was that of God's kingdom.  Thus God's kingdom as it was in the nation of Israel ended: "I... will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel" (Hos.1:4). "It shall be no more, until..." carries the implication that the kingdom would revive when "he come whose right it is; and (God) will give it him".  God will "give (Jesus) the throne of his father David... and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32,33) - at Christ's return. This, therefore, is when the promise of the kingdom's restoration will be fulfilled. There is a tremendous theme throughout the Old Testament prophets of the restoration of God's Kingdom on Messiah's return. Christ's disciples were well tuned in to this: "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt you at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?" i.e. 'Will Ezekiel 21:27 be fulfilled now?' Jesus replied by saying that the exact time of his second coming they would never know, although the angels immediately afterwards assured them that he would, indeed, return at some point (Acts 1:6-11).

And yet the triple overturnings, perhaps parallel with the triple smiting with the sword of :14, could refer to three overturnings of Zion; once by Babylon, then by Rome, and then finally a third time in the last days, which will be the final signal for the Lord Jesus to come and revive the throne.

Ezekiel 21:28 You, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord Yahweh concerning the children of Ammon, and concerning their reproach; and say, A sword, a sword is drawn, for the slaughter it is polished, to cause it to devour, that it may be as lightning- This is the language of the same sword which was to come upon Judah as described earlier in this chapter. Judah had tried to make an alliance with Ammon so that together they could resist the Babylonian advances against them. But this was not to succeed, and Ammon also was to be destroyed by the same Divinely directed Babylonian sword as Judah. But Ez. 25:3-6 describes the Ammonites rejoicing with Babylon at the destruction of the temple. Clearly they were not sincere in their agreement with Judah; like Judah, they were promising loyalty whilst making the same promise of loyalty to Babylon. The deceivers were deceived by each other.

Ezekiel 21:29 While they see for you false visions, while they forecast lies to you, to lay you on the necks of the wicked who are deadly wounded, whose day has come in the time of the iniquity of the end- Ammon like Judah had its false prophets. The "deadly wounded" earlier referred to Zedekiah (:14,25), and the time of the end of the iniquity to the final judgment for Israel's sins (:25). So the idea may be that Ammon was to be judged together with Judah- far from the false prophecies that "No, actually this Babylonian advance is not in fact headed for us, but it's aiming for Rabbah... for Jerusalem". They would perish as it were together, even if they didn't do so chronologically.

Ezekiel 21:30 Cause it to return into its sheath- This can be translated as a rhetorical question: "Shall I cause it to return into its sheath?". And the answer was that no, God was really going to bring about this destruction, and the prophets claiming that the sword of judgment was going to return into its sheath at the last moment were going to be shown utterly false.

In the place where you were created, in the land of your birth, will I judge you- Ammon was born of an incestuous relationship in the land of Sodom. Sodom has been associated with apostate Judah in Ez. 16. The idea is that Ammon and Judah would share a similar judgment because their origins and mentality were similar. Jerusalem's birthplace was therefore defined as being in Canaan, where Ammon's was too (Ez. 16:3). The false prophets were quite wrong to claim that the Babylonians would only judge Ammon and not Judah; and it seems the false prophets of Ammon were saying similarly that Babylon would judge only Judah and not themselves.

Ezekiel 21:31 I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath; and I will deliver you into the hand of cruel men, skilful to destroy- The idea is that these men had been educated or trained up for this destruction, just as in an earlier analogy the sword of Babylon had been sharpened and polished.

Ezekiel 21:32 You shall be for fuel to the fire; your blood shall be in the midst of the land; you shall be remembered no more: for I, Yahweh, have spoken it- If Ammon were but fuel on the fire, the implication is that the fire is burning something else. And according to Ezekiel's pictures of Jerusalem as a pot, that something was Jerusalem. Clearly it was utterly foolish for the false prophets of both Rabbah and Jerusalem to claim that the Babylonian judgment was solely intended for the other party.