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Ezekiel 22:1 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 22:2 You, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the city of blood? So now cause her to know all her abominations- Ezekiel's initial audience were in denial of their sins and that of their families. The Hebrew for 'entering into judgment' is literally "to plead" (as often in AV). The experience of judgment was not mere punishment, but a pleading to enter totally into covenant relationship. This pleading or judgment of the exiles is likewise associated with their salvation and restoration in Is. 43:26; 51:5. God would plead with or judge the exiles "because you say, I have not sinned" (Jer. 2:35). This was the purpose of the judgment envisaged- to elicit in the exiles repentance. Ezekiel was trying to achieve that by his ministry, he was to judge them so that they recognized their abominations (Ez. 20:4; 22:2), but they were a rebellious house.  And so this idea of bringing them out of Babylon into some situation of judgment was envisaged (Ez. 20:34-38), so that they might repent. Zedekiah personally was to be judged or pleaded with in Babylon concerning his sin (Ez. 17:20), i.e. to make him recognize it and repent of it.

Ezekiel 22:3 You shall say, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: The city sheds blood in the midst of her so that her time of judgment may come, and makes idols against herself to defile herself!- The starting point of the 70 or 40 years (see on Ez. 4:6) was somewhat flexible- for Ez. 22:3,4 records Ezekiel's prophecy that the desolation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians [the starting point of the time periods] was actually being hastened, brought forward, by the terrible behaviour of the Jews living there after the initial Babylon invasion of the land. See on :30. God worked through their sins; it was they who were bringing on their time of judgment, rather than God of Himself.

The shedding of blood was done "in the midst of" Jerusalem, presumably in the temple. Jer. 7:6 likewise laments that innocent blood was shed there, in connection with idol worship. The reference seems to be to the sacrifice of children to other gods in the temple. Lam. 4:13 states that it was the priests, perhaps Ezekiel's relatives, who had shed this innocent blood in the temple.  Jerusalem gave the blood of her children to the idols rather than dedicating the firstborn to Yahweh (Ez. 16:36).  The ideas of shedding blood and idolatry are again found in Ez. 22:4; 33:25. We may recoil at this awful practice, but to dedicate our children to careers and the idols of this world rather than to Yahweh is in essence the same abomination, and it can likewise be done in the temple of Yahweh.

Ezekiel 22:4 You have become guilty in the blood that you have shed, and are defiled in your idols which you have made- "The blood" is AV "Thy blood"; as explained on :3, the reference is to their sacrificing their own children to their idols of their own hands. We must ask what are the equivalents in this age of sacrificing our children to our idols. "Guilty" is the same word sometimes translated "desolate" (Is. 24:6; Ez. 6:6). The desolation of the land was directly their fault. But it may also mean that they were legally now pronounced guilty for the sacrifice of their children- hence after doing it, they 'became guilty'. In the gap between their sin and the execution of judgment for it, they could have repented. We too live in such a gap, giving intensity to the life we live and our response to the calls for repentance.

And you have caused your days to draw near, and have come even to your year of judgment. Therefore have I made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries- See on :3. The idea is that their time of judgment was hastened by their awful behaviour.

Ezekiel 22:5 Those who are near and those who are far from you shall mock you, you infamous one and full of tumult- "Tumult" refers to the psychological breakdown of those under Divine condemnation. Shame and mockery were a fate worse than death in the ancient world, and therefore it is so often mentioned that Israel and Jerusalem would become a mockery to the world. God deals with people within the frameworks of their self-understanding and worldviews.

Ezekiel 22:6 Behold, the princes of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you to shed blood- The initial audience of Ezekiel would have included members of the royal family. These words were therefore a direct rebuke to them and / or their families. I explained on :3 that the shedding of blood referred to child sacrifices. The princes of Israel, the royal family of Judah, had apparently done this too- with the royal seed.

Ezekiel 22:7 In you have they set light by father and mother- The intention of the gripping passage in Ez. 16 was to convict Jerusalem of her sins (Ez. 16:2); because they considered their spiritual and literal prostitution "a small matter". The same word is used in accusing the priesthood of considering it "a small matter" for the flock to have been ruined by them (Ez. 34:18). This was the problem, as it is today- the real implications of attitudes and behaviour are not taken seriously. We fail to perceive how deeply we affect both God and man. Society makes us feel insignificant cogs, but we are not like that to God. This was the problem with Ezekiel's audience; they had a light hearted approach to eternal issues. To them, sin was a light thing (Ez. 8:17; 22:7). This was the role of the prophets, to convict people of the gravity of their sins and positions, and the consequences to come.

In the midst of you have they dealt by oppression with the foreigner; in you have they wronged the fatherless and the widow- Sin brings an appropriate judgment. As they oppressed foreigners, so now Ezekiel's audience were being oppressed by foreigners. And yet all that follows in this section is exemplification of how the princes had "shed blood" (:6), which I have argued on :3-6 was in the context of idolatry and human sacrifice, with distinct sexual overtones (:9 "lewdness"). We wonder if their sexual perversions extended to masochism and the murder of their sex objects, as in cases of extreme sexual violence today. And their victims led to the exploitation of the most vulnerable in society, including Gentiles. It's all so similar with cases we encounter in the news today.

Ezekiel 22:8 You have despised My holy things, and have profaned My Sabbaths- This implies a conscious defilement, a using of the sabbath regulations and holy things as part of idol worship and sexual lewdness (:9). Again, this kind of extreme blasphemy, sexual perversion and masochism is known today, and it seems the princes of Israel, whose relatives and children were before Ezekiel in exile as he uttered these words, were doing the same kind of awful things. And doing them in Yahweh's temple. The same word is used how even after the restoration, the returned exiles "despised" God's Name and offerings ["holy things"] (Mal. 1:6,7,12). They didn't learn the lesson.

Ezekiel 22:9 Slanderous men have been in you to shed blood; and in you they have eaten on the mountains: in the midst of you they have committed lewdness- Typical of the prophets, there is a juxtaposition between slandering and shedding blood. The Lord Jesus taught the same- that hatred in the heart was murder. To slander is to murder. And yet slander is here listed along with the grossest sexual immorality imaginable, apparently involving the murder of vulnerable people in the process of it. See on :12.

Ezekiel 22:10 In you have they uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you have they humbled her who was unclean in her impurity- The sexual lewdness (:9) involved with the idol worship involved sleeping with family relatives and sexual perversions with menstruating women. This was all a conscious denial of Yahweh worship. And yet they claimed loyalty to Him.

Ezekiel 22:11 One has committed abomination with his neighbour’s wife, another has lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law; and another in you has humbled his sister, his father’s daughter- These sexual perversions with close relatives were, in the context, performed in the temple and as part of idol worship. "Abomination" is elsewhere used in that sense. And thereby the most basic moral teachings of the Law of Moses, Israel's covenant with God, were broken.

Ezekiel 22:12 In you have they taken bribes to shed blood. You have taken interest and increase, you have greedily gained from your neighbours by oppression and have forgotten Me, says the Lord Yahweh- The prohibition of taking interest was so that "your brother shall live by / with you" (Lev. 25:36). By having done so, those now in exile were separated from their poorer brethren. They had placed personal material gain before the unity of God's people. Again, that is a timeless warning. This taking of interest specifically happened in the temple, according to Ez. 22:12; suggesting the priesthood had become a financial racket which exploited the poor. It is the priesthood and ruling classes whom Ezekiel addresses, for they were those in exile with him.

As noted on :9, we have here a powerful juxtaposition. Sexual perversion in the temple as part of idol worship, even involving masochism and the murder of the women they abused, is mentioned along with taking bribes and lending on interest to their brethren. These things might seem insignificant compared to those apparently far grosser sins. But not to God through the prophets. We note that the bribes were "to shed blood", and there seems no reason to doubt that literal murder was in view.

Ezekiel 22:13 Behold, therefore, I have struck My hand at your dishonest gain which you have made, and at the blood which has been shed in the midst of you- As noted on :9 and :12, some "dishonest gain" here and there might appear not at all on the same scale as sexual perversion / idolatry in the temple, even involving murder of those sexually abused as sacrifices to the idols. But to God, such sin is in fact in the same league. There are degrees of sin, as the regulations of the Law of Moses itself reflected; but all sin against persons, especially abuse of God's people, is seen as within the same league- be it deceiving them financially or murdering them. For hatred is murder, in the Lord's book.

Ezekiel 22:14 Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I, Yahweh, have spoken it, and will do it- The implication is that they had psychologically strengthened and desensitized themselves to perform the gross abominations just discussed. That was surely the only way they could have committed murder as part of a sexually perverted session of idol worship, performed within Yahweh's temple. But in the day of judgment, all such hardening of themselves would collapse, and even they would face God's judgment with weak hands and broken hearts. It is for us to soften ourselves before Him now, and never become hardened in sin. See on :22.

Ezekiel 22:15 I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you through the countries; and I will consume your filthiness out of you- This didn't actually happen; the captivity didn't reform them. And yet the essence of the prophecy will come true in the last days. This suggests that as the day of the second coming approaches, Israel will be progressively purged and move closer and closer towards repentance. We marvel too at God's desire to ultimately save; for the perversions listed previously are so disgusting that we would assume that such persons should just be destroyed and forgotten eternally. But God's intention was as ever to punish with a view to reformation. We must never forget this in any discipline we may be called upon to minister.

Ezekiel 22:16 You shall be profaned in yourself, in the sight of the nations; and you shall know that I am Yahweh- This was perhaps the Divine hope; that the filthiness would be consumed from out of them in captivity (:15) and thus they would know Yahweh, coming into a relationship with Him. But this didn't happen; they refused to be cleansed, and so they didn't come to know Yahweh. And nationally, they even went on to slay His begotten Son. But this shall ultimately come true in the last days.

Ezekiel 22:17 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying- This next prophecy seeks to develop the idea of how God hoped to consume the filthiness out of His people (:15). He hoped to achieve that by their exile, and yet here we have the hope that this might be achieved by the judgment of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The hopefulness of God comes through powerfully.

Ezekiel 22:18 Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me: all of them are brass, tin, iron and lead in the midst of the furnace; they are the dross of silver- God's intention was that the fire of Babylonian judgment would somehow purge His people in Jerusalem. Impurity had become so mixed with purity that only this crisis could separate them. It seems this was true both in the hearts of individuals, and in society- in that not a single person was found with a pure heart (:30).

Ezekiel 22:19 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because you have all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem- As noted on :18, they "all" were dross. Impurity was apparently inextricably mixed with purity, and only the fire of the Babylonian holocaust could possibly divide the righteous from the wicked, and also purify the hearts of even the righteous.

Ezekiel 22:20 As they gather silver, brass, iron, lead and tin into the midst of the furnace to blow the fire onto it to melt it; so will I gather you in My anger- The gathering of the impure metals into the furnace was fulfilled through the peasant masses fleeing into Jerusalem in the face of the Babylonian advance. Again we see that it was not just the leadership who were corrupt, but the masses too. 

And in My wrath, and I will lay you there, and melt you- "I will lay you" uses the word usually used about the resting of God's wrath. And that seems the preferable translation. 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 22:21 Yes, I will gather you, and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst- As noted on :20, the gathering  of the impure metals into the furnace was fulfilled through the peasant masses fleeing into Jerusalem in the face of the Babylonian advance. Again we see that it was not just the leadership who were corrupt, but the masses too. 

Ezekiel 22:22 As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so you will be melted in its midst; and you will know that I, Yahweh, have poured out My wrath on you- "Melted" is often translated "poured out", so there is a play on ideas here. The intention of the pouring out of wrath was to pour them out. We noted on :14 the psychological hardening of the people to do the abominations which they did. The intention of the fire of judgment was to soften them. But the Divine hope and intention didn't come about. Instead of softening them and purging them, the fire consumed them (:31). They were not cleansed of their dross.

Ezekiel 22:23 The word of Yahweh came to me saying- This prophecy follows on from the fact just presented that the fire of Babylonian judgment would not in fact cleanse Judah of their dross. Hence :31 concludes that the fire would not purge but rather consume them.

Ezekiel 22:24 Son of man, tell her, You are a land that is not cleansed nor rained on in the day of indignation- As noted on :23, the intention of the "day of indignation" was that it would be a fire which would cleanse the land. But it didn't, the dross was not removed, and the rain of blessing intended therefore didn't come.

Ezekiel 22:25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in its midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey: they have devoured souls; they take treasure and precious things; they have made her widows many in its midst- The reason as to why the land was not cleansed by the fire of judgment in the "day of indignation" (:24) is now given. The people allowed the false prophets to devour them. It was the ordinary peasant masses who were to be gathered in to the furnace of Jerusalem and judged (:20). They were equally culpable; for the false prophets had spoken and acted as they perceived the masses wanted them to. And so the prophets became like the Babylonians, as a roaring lion, the symbol of Babylon. They were to be identified with Babylon; the Babylonian judgment was what they had done to themselves, as :31 makes explicit. Perhaps the valuable items of the peasants fleeing into Jerusalem was taken by the false prophets. The souls and widows they devoured may refer, as earlier in this chapter, to vulnerable women whom they killed during perverted sex acts as part of their worship of idols. And this was done in the "midst" of the city, in the temple.

Ezekiel 22:26 Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things: they have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they caused men to discern between the unclean and the clean and have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them- See on :8. The priests were those who actually performed the human sacrifices (Jer. 2:34; 19:4). But the root cause of their gross abominations was because they had failed to recognize and teach a distinction between holy and common, clean and unclean. The Mosaic regulations about these things were intended to teach a clear separation in the conscience between sin and righteousness. But when the line between sin and righteousness is blurred into so many shades of grey... then the awful abominations mentioned in this chapter are committed.  And this is our abiding challenge, in a world which increasingly cannot tell right from wrong.

Ezekiel 22:27 Her princes in its midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood and to destroy people so that they may get dishonest gain- The attitude of the princes to the people is described in terms appropriate to the Babylonians, who were to act as wolves in devouring the people (Jer. 5:6; Hab. 1:8). By so doing, and with the people tacitly supportive of the whole system, they had brought about the Babylonian judgment; for this would be but an extension of their own attitudes (:31). 'Getting dishonest gain' characterized the entire society, from the poor to the rich (Jer. 6:13; 8:10). See on :29.

Ezekiel 22:28 Her prophets have plastered for them with whitewash, seeing false visions and foretelling lies to them, saying, Thus says the Lord Yahweh, when Yahweh has not spoken- The gross immorality spoken of earlier in this chapter was justified by false claims that Yahweh in fact sanctioned it. The scary thing was that such gross immorality was performed in His temple; the people involved would have subconsciously wished to have Yahweh's sanction of it in order to ease their bad conscience, and so the false prophets complied. Again we see that as in the New Testament, the false prophets or teachers were not simply genuinely mistaken over abstract theological issues; the false teaching of false teachers in the Bible is nearly always in a moral context, justifying sin as righteousness.

Ezekiel 22:29 The people of the land have used oppression and committed robbery; yes, they have troubled the poor and needy and have oppressed the foreigner wrongfully- Again we see how the judgment to come was not just because of the sins of the leadership, the princes and false prophets (:27,28). The ordinary people had in their turn also abused the weak and vulnerable. And so it was appropriate that now foreigners were to oppress them. 'Getting dishonest gain' (:27) characterized the entire society, from the poor to the rich (Jer. 6:13; 8:10 s.w.).

Ezekiel 22:30 I sought for a man among them, who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none- See on :3. If a person had been found who would have powerfully interceded for Jerusalem, 'stood in the gap', God wouldn't have destroyed Jerusalem - "that I should not destroy it" is an allusion to Abraham interceding for Sodom in Gen. 18:28. But there was not such a person, because they were "all" dross (Ez. 22:18,19). Jeremiah was in the land at the time and was surely righteous, but he had been told not to intercede for the people (Jer. 11:14; 14:11). It seems that if another like him had been found, in addition to Ezekiel in exile, then the judgments could have been averted. There were simply so many possible scenarios! And this is what we must expect if even time periods can be shortened or extended in response to human behaviour. And yet Jeremiah himself seems to have been too 'pro' Israel. He was shocked at the depth of their weakness and even naive to it; and in Lamentations he seems to consider God had acted too harshly against His people. So perhaps in any case Jeremiah was not the appropriate interceder.

Ezekiel 22:31 Therefore have I poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath. Their own way have I brought on their heads, says the Lord Yahweh- As noted on :22, the fire of Babylonian judgment had been intended to purify them, to remove the dross. But the dross would not be removed, and so they were in fact consumed by the fire. And this was completely the result of their own ways, rather than simply the anger of God. Judgment is really always an extension of a man's own way in his time of opportunity.