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Ezekiel 36:1 You, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of Yahweh- "Mountains" here may be an intensive plural for the great mountain, Zion, "the ancient high place" of :2. The theme may continue from Ez. 35 which speaks of the specific desire of Esau / Edom to destroy Zion and possess it (as in Ps. 137:7). But on :14 I discuss how the stress on the mountains is because these were the location of Israel's unfaithfulness to Yahweh; Ezekiel 6 has made this connection very clear. Here, verse 15 will specifically state of the mountains "that neither shall you cause your nation to stumble any more". In this way the mountains "bereaved" Israel of its people, quite literally in that child sacrifice was practiced there. The new covenant, the new deal, was to as it were enforce their faithfulness to Yahweh by permanently stopping the idolatry that took place there. Hence the repeated statements that the mountains would be transformed.

Ezekiel 36:2 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because the enemy- The specific enemy in view may be Edom; see on :1. As explained in commentary on Ez. 34:28, the new covenant with Israel of Ez. 34:25 will mean that Israel are counted as righteous, as having been obedient to the old covenant when in fact they were not; and therefore the blessings of the old covenant will come upon them. One of those blessings was victory over their enemies, as mentioned frequently in Lev. 26.

Has said against you, Aha! and, The ancient high places are ours in possession- Sadly, the Gentiles envied the way Israel used the mountains / hills as idol sanctuaries. But this could be an intensive plural, referring to the great high place- Jerusalem and the temple mount. And this continues to be the "ancient" argument between Jacob and Esau / Edom / Seir, which is the "enemy" in view in the preceding chapter (Ez. 35). Edom is mentioned specifically here in 36:5. See on :5 That have appointed My land to themselves for a possession. The argument of Esau / Edom was that the high places were their inheritance or "possession". The Koran and the hadith twist around the Biblical record of the promises to the Jewish fathers, to the intent that the land of Israel was promised to Esau and Jacob / Israel / the Jews was the son rejected from the inheritance. The picture presented here in Ez. 36, whereby Israel's enemies insist that they are the rightful inheritors of Palestine and the supreme high place of the temple mount, is exactly relevant to the Muslim claims of today. See on :3 You became the possession of the rest of the nations.

"The high places" are consistently the idol shrines. God was willing to reverse everything. He would forcibly take away idolatry from His people, and indeed turn those very places into places reflecting His saving grace. This explains why there is so much prophecy about the mountains / high places, and other areas where idolatry was focused.

Ezekiel 36:3 Therefore prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord Yahweh. Because, even because they have made you desolate and swallowed you up on every side- Israel's latter day enemies (see on Ez. 35:5,14 for the latter day relevance) are likened to a beast with a huge mouth, which is exactly the imagery of the latter day beast prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. "Every side" suggests that what is now known as Jordan will become more intensely anti Israel.

So that you became the possession of the rest of the nations- The Hebrew translated "rest" is also translated "posterity". Esau / Edom / Seir / the Muslim Arabs claim that they are the posterity who according to the Koran were promised the land of Palestine as their possession. See on :2 The ancient high places are ours in possession. 

And you became the talk and evil gossip of the nations-Exactly the scenario we see developing today, with anti-Israel gossip and rhetoric rife amongst the nations around Israel.

Ezekiel 36:4 Therefore, you mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Yahweh. Thus says the Lord Yahweh to the mountains and to the hills, to the rivers and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes and to the cities that are forsaken, which are become a prey and a mockery to the other nations that are all around- The forsaken cities refer primarily to those which had already fallen before Jerusalem fell. In the latter day application, the picture is of present day Israel destroyed and the thriving cities such as Tel Aviv and Haifa left in ruins. Such widespread desolation in rural areas was not seen after the Babylonian invasion, although Ezekiel's prophecies had predicted it. The scenario didn't fully happen then; perhaps because of the link between desolation and repentance. God foreknew that wouldn't happen, and so the total desolation prophecies were reapplied and rescheduled to the last days.

Ezekiel 36:5 therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Surely in the fire of My jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the nations, and against all Edom-

We note God's absolute passion. “Jealousy” is injured self-consciousness; He is so involved in us and with us, and His emotions are deeply involved with us.

The residue of the nations refers in the first instance to the remains of the nations judged by Babylon at the same time as Judah. Edom is singled out for special mention.  In the prophecies against the seven Gentile nations in Ez. 26-32, all are envisaged as coming to "know Yahweh", i.e. to enter relationship with Him; except Edom. The unforgiveable sin, it seems, is of hatred of ones' brother as Esau / Edom / Seir hated Jacob / Israel. And so the total elimination of "Mount Seir" in Ez. 35 was intended as coming at this time of restoration. It didn't, then, because the wider prophetic picture didn't come about, and has been transferred, reapplied and rescheduled to our last days.

We sense God's intense fury with Edom for supporting the Babylonians, urging them to raze the temple to the foundation. Edom thought they could possess the land, hence Ez. 35 has spoken so much of Edom's judgment. They appear to have started building forts on the mountains of Israel. Hence the insistence that Israel shall be eternally possessed by God's people and not Edom. Note God's fury with Edom at this point. But He had just sent Judah to Babylon in fury, taking away their king in His wrath. He presents as highly emotional, and so He is.

That have appointed My land to themselves for a possession with the joy of all their heart, with despite of soul, to cast it out for a prey- Again we see the concept of "possession". The Muslim Arabs are convinced from the Koran and hadith that Palestine is their rightful possession, and this language is likewise found in the position statements of the PLO and similar terrorist organizations. Ps. 83:11,12 records how the leaders of the latter day invasion will focus upon the idea of possession of the holy places in Jerusalem: "Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession".

Ezekiel 36:6 Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and tell to the mountains and to the hills, to the rivers and to the valleys, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I have spoken in My zeal and in My wrath, because you have borne the shame of the nations- This and other prophecies frequently mention the "shame" which will be upon Israel at the hands of their latter day enemies. This is because the Koran repeatedly speaks of the "shameful doom" to come upon the Jews because they do not accept Mohammad. "They shall be held up to shame in this world" (2:114). The scene speaks clearly of the expectations and desires of Israel's Islamic neighbours.

But "shame" can be seen as a reference to Baal, "that shameful thing" as the prophets describe it. Hills, rivers and valleys were all locations of the idol shrines, and this shame was to be removed. The shame for sin would be dissolved by the new covenant.

Ezekiel 36:7 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: I have sworn saying, Surely the nations that are around you, they shall bear their shame- The focus of Bible prophecy is upon the peoples of the eretz promised to Abraham, "the nations that are around" Judah.

Ezekiel 36:8 But you, mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to return- The idea is that there would be a resurgence of fruitfulness just before Judah left Babylon, so that when they arrived there would be abundant fruit for them ready to eat. This presupposes a specific time for the exodus from Babylon, which would have been when Babylon fell by Divine judgment. All these possibilities were precluded by Judah's lack of repentance. And so the rest of the scenario didn't work out at the time, although it will do in the last days. In fact after dribs and drabs of exiles returned after the decree of Cyrus, they found a famine in the land (Hag. 1), rather than trees loaded with fruit for them. And these famine conditions continued into the time of Malachi. This reflected their lack of repentance.

"At hand to return" surely suggests that this revival could have happened at Ezekiel's time. Likewise :32 NET "I am about to act". Those who were in exile could themselves have returned. Such huge potential was wasted. But as noted on :37, which seems the 'end stress' of the prophecy, all they had to do was ask for it, to want it. And so much would've been given. It may seem barely believable- until we reflect how many of those near and dear to us stedfastly refuse to simply say "yes" to the offer of grace in the Lord Jesus.

Ezekiel 36:9 For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you- Elsewhere we read that God will turn unto Israel when they turn unto Him (Zech. 1:3 "‘Return to me’, says Yahweh of Armies, ‘and I will return to you’, says Yahweh of Armies"). But there is no mention here nor in Ez. 34 of any such turning or repentance of Israel. The covenant of grace introduced in Ez. 34:25 and expanded upon later here in chapter 36 means that God intervenes by grace alone to treat His beloved people as if they are more spiritual than they are. And in the New Testament, He is known for giving repentance and not just forgiveness; He turns hearts by His Spirit acting upon the human spirit (Acts 3:26; Acts 11:18). Jer. 31 has described Israel saying "Turn me, and I shall be turned"- and then repenting. The initiative in this turning is always from God.

And you shall be cultivated and sown- Along with :8, the implication is that in the very last days, the land of Israel will be uncultivated and barren when overrun by Edom / Israel's neighbours. This could be due to a scorched earth policy by Israel, or the use of weaponry which destroys the fertility of the land. Such a scenario is now imaginable.

Ezekiel 36:10 And I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be built- This multiplication of men depended upon those "men" returning from exile. But most of them preferred to remain in Babylon. This multiplication of men was to be in response to Judah's prayer (:37 AV); and this was lacking. So we are reading here of potentials. The multiplication refers to the multiplying of Abraham's seed- for those within that covenant. And the promises to Abraham were the basis of the new covenant offered Judah. But they chose not to accept that new covenant, and so the promised multiplication didn't happen.

Ezekiel 36:11 I will multiply on you man and animal- The destruction commented upon in :9 is going to be so major that the majority of animals and people are destroyed. This is the kind of picture we encounter in the prophecies of the land's final turmoil in Revelation; we recall that Zechariah predicts the cutting off of the majority of Jews in the land. The reference to animals suggests the use of fearsome weaponry which leaves the land physically and literally desolate. The increase and multiplication of men in Israel would be a sign that again they were in receipt of the covenant blessings (Lev. 26:9).

And they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former manner, and I will do better to you than at your beginnings; and you shall know that I am Yahweh- It was obedience to the covenant that would result in becoming fruitful and increased (Lev. 26:4). They had not been obedient to that covenant, and yet the blessings are given- because the new covenant offers those blessings simply by grace. "Increase and be fruitful" is the term used about how things were in the eretz at creation (Gen. 1:22,28). A new creation is in view. This is the language of a restoration of the previous kingdom "after your former manner... at your beginnings", rather than a totally unprecedented new entity. The kingdom of God to come upon earth at the Lord's return is a reestablishment of His Kingdom as it was previously in the form of Israel (Ez. 21:25-27). As noted on :8, the idea is that there would be a resurgence of fruitfulness just before Judah left Babylon, so that when they arrived there would be abundant fruit for them ready to eat.

Ezekiel 36:12 Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, even My people Israel- The emphasis on such literality could have been because the very people to whom Ezekiel was preaching in Babylon could have been the very ones who would again walk in the literal land of Israel. The period to be spent in captivity was flexible, in accordance with their repentance. It could have been less than 70 year (see on Ez. 4), and in reality it turned out to be longer than 70 years.

And they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance- The emphasis being on the word "their", seeing that the Muslim Arab argument is that the land and Jerusalem are their Divine inheritance. See the earlier comment about the significance of the language of "possession" in this prophecy.

And you shall no more henceforth bereave them of children- The old system had bereaved them of their children because they sacrificed them to the idols. But this was to be no more.

Ezekiel 36:13 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because they say to you, You are a destroyer of men, and have caused bereavement in your nation- The byword was that Israel was a cursed land, those who lived there always seemed to die. This was to be turned right around, as the land was to become associated with life and blessing. These words were those of the unfaithful spies (Num. 13:32), so the idea was that if Israel had faith, unlike them, and re-entered the land in faith- then this wrong impression of the land would be changed.

Ezekiel 36:14 Therefore you shall destroy men no more, neither cause bereavement in your nation any more, says the Lord Yahweh- God comes over as very sensitive as to what people think of Him. He even changed His plan to destroy Israel after Moses pointed out that the nations would mock His ability to save. This is not because God is as it were overly interested in His image, but because He wishes human salvation so earnestly, and wishes to clear up misunderstandings and misrepresentations. We should have this same motivation in any debates we may enter regarding interpretation.

Israel and Judah worshipped idols on the mountains. This is a major theme throughout the prophetic criticisms of Israel. The high places had led them to adultery against God and hence their judgment. In this sense the mountains devoured men. God says that this will not happen ever again, but that therefore means that He will stop Israel worshipping idols and make them loyal to Him for ever. This making loyal and faithful is exactly what the new covenant is all about. This explains why the high places and hills and mountains of Israel are spoken of so often in the new covenant prophecies. God was going to forcibly stop idolatry and unfaithfulness to Him, making His beloved loyal to Him.

Ezekiel 36:15 Neither will I let you hear any more the shame of the nations, neither shall you bear the reproach of the peoples any more, neither shall you cause your nation to stumble any more, says the Lord Yahweh- The literal hills of Israel were the location of their high places and idol worship. It is latter day idolatry which will bring about the predicted devastation of Israel.

Shame for sin is a major theme with Ezekiel. The days of shame would come to an end (Ez. 16:54; 34:29; 36:15; 39:26)- if Jerusalem accepted shame for her sins. But Ez. 44:13 says that the sins of the Jerusalem priesthood were such that in the restored temple, they would bear their shame in that they would never again minister in it. Likewise the Jewish priesthood who persecuted Jeremiah at this time were to bear a shame that would last for ever (Jer. 20:11). And yet the hope of Israel was that they would eternally be unashamed, world without end (Is. 45:17). The resolution of this may be in God's willingness to count them totally righteous by grace, upon their repentance. And Ezra "blushed" [s.w. "ashamed"] because of Israel's sins (Ezra 9:6), and Jeremiah at this time cast himself down in shame because of them (Jer. 3:25). This representative intercession for Judah had some effect. Just as the Lord Jesus bore the shame of Israel and all sinners on the cross (Is. 50:6), and yet because of that He would not be ashamed eternally (Is. 50:7). He was to become representative of the repentant Israel of God; for the same words are used of how they too would have unashamed faces eternally (Is. 54:4). But the Jerusalem priesthood refused to take shame, they were unashamed of their whoredoms (Jer. 3:3; 8:12). Ezekiel's appeal in Ez. 16 was so that they would recognize their sins, and be ashamed (Ez. 16:2). There was time for them to do so right up until they were led captive, in the final attempt to make them realize their shame. For when they went into captivity, then God intended that they would be "ashamed" (Jer. 22:22). The final vision of Ezekiel, of the potential that was possible in a restored Zion, was in order to make the exiles ashamed of their sins when they realized the possibilities they had wasted and yet which were still possible by grace (Ez. 43:10,11). But they didn't respond to that vision, they refused to build and operate such a temple system; because they refused to be ashamed in exile, although it was God's intention that they should be. And so it is for us as a new Israel to be ashamed for our sins, and identify with the Messiah figure who would bear Israel's shame and thereby emerge eternally unashamed.

Ezekiel 36:16 Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me saying- Lest there should be any sense that this great program of restoration was in any sense downplaying or disregarding Israel's sin, the balance is now corrected.

Ezekiel 36:17 Son of man, when the people of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their way and by their doings. Their way before Me was as the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity- A menstruating woman was to have a hiatus in her intimate relationships with her husband and she could not enter the sanctuary for worship. Hosea spoke in the same way, of how Israel would have a period of enforced separation from God, to bring them to Him. God very graciously uses this figure, suggesting their uncleanness is just for a limited time, and soon He will resume intimate relationships with them. As discussed on :8, we continually have the impression that the exile [of both Israel and Judah] was temporary and would very soon be gloriously reversed; but Israel refused that potential. And this is how God currently looks upon Israel. See on :25. At Ezekiel's time, He was prepared to restore relationship with them by washing them from their blood through the new covenant. But they were unwilling.

Ezekiel 36:18 Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had poured out on the land, and because they had defiled it with their idols- The pouring out of blood is again associated with idolatry. The reference is to the sacrifice of children and perhaps other categories of people to the idols. We note the parallel between the pouring out of Divine wrath, and their pouring out of blood. The phrase 'to pour out blood' occurs multiple times in the Mosaic law; the idea was that life, represented by the blood, was to be poured out to Yahweh. Instead, they had poured out life to idols. And this can be done today, so easily, in the pouring out of life's minutes and hours to images and modern day idols.

Ezekiel 36:19 And I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. According to their way and according to their doings I judged them- The reference to "the nations" could suggest that God also has in view the ten tribes here. This is God being positive; because He did not carry out the full extent of the threatened judgments, the majority of them, "the poor of the land", remained in Judah; and at this very time of restoration, Ezra reflects that God had punished them "less than our iniquities deserve" (Ezra 9:13).

Ezekiel 36:20 When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name; in that men said of them, These are the people of Yahweh, and are gone forth out of His land- God accepts that the exiles had not repented as they ought to have done. The idea seems to be that the nations realized that the exiles had been exiled because of their sins, and noted that they continued in them. Child sacrifice to Moloch is specifically described as profaning God's Name (Lev. 18:21), and that is the context here (:18). It seems they continued to do this in exile, at least initially. And yet they still carried God's Name, despite having broken covenant with Him. This is proof for all time that God never gives up with His people, even if they give up with Him.

Ezekiel 36:21 But I had respect for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went- "Respect" is the word elsewhere translated "pity". The wonder of God's grace was that His eye did spare and He did pity at the restoration (also Joel 2:18; Mal. 3:17 s.w.), just as His eye had spared them in the desert (Ez. 20:17). Whereas in His wrath He had said that He would never again pity Judah (Ez. 5:11; 7:4; 8:18; 9:10). This reveals the emotion of God, His pity even for the spiritually weak, and how this triumphs over His judgment. Ezekiel speaks as if God's people had already gone amongst the nations; he may have in view the ten tribes as well, for it was God's intention to regather them along with Judah.


Ezekiel 36:22 Therefore tell the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: I don’t do this for your sake, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went- Clearly although there had not been the intended repentance of the exiles in captivity, yet God by all means sought reasons, even excuses, to still restore His beloved people. And so He cites here the need to stop His Name being mocked as a reason for restoring Israel. As mentioned several times in this exposition, the final salvation of Israel under the new covenant is not because of their repentance or spirituality, but by grace alone, and because God respects the grace and pure love which is bound up in His Name / essential personality. It is this salvation of Israel by such pure grace that will cause the nations to gasp at God's love for His people: "I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes" (:23).

Hosea has shown how the Name of God involves both His gracious, loving salvation- and also His judgment of sin. These two poles are in some kind of conflict within Him, but His Name develops in that He comes down on the side of love and grace toward Israel. Therefore their salvation is not because of their repentance, but because of His Name. Because of Him and how He finally is. Is. 43:24,25 says the same: "You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; but you have burdened Me with your sins. You have wearied Me with your iniquities. I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins". Ezekiel talks about God's "Name", Isaiah "for My own sake". His Name is Him, He Himself, His very own "sake". But it is exactly this amazing grace that leads to repentance and being ashamed of our ways (:32). Earlier in Ez. 14 and Ez. 18 there have been appeals for repentance, but there was no response. God now in any case forces through His plan for Israel, just as He does with us.

God had said He would destroy Israel and make of Moses a new nation. But He relented of that, and in Ez. 20:22 we see the picture of His internal struggle, working for His Name's sake, for the sake of the principles incorporated within His Name. So it is an intrinsic part of His Name and essential personality that He changes His judgments from pity. When the Psalmist of Ps. 109:21 asks for God's grace, He asks God to "do" or "work" for the sake of His Name, and not bring about a threatened judgment. Jeremiah likewise understood this and asks God to still be gracious to Israel despite their lack of repentance- through working for His Name's sake (Jer. 14:7). To save by grace was therefore working or doing according to His Name's sake, rather than according to human merit (Ez. 36:22). Thus by working for His Name's sake, the repentant exiles would come to 'know Yahweh' (Ez. 20:44), they would come to see who He essentially is. And He is revealed as the very opposite of a stone faced, unchanging, insensitive God, which was then the standard conception of a deity.

Ezekiel 36:23 I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, says the Lord Yahweh, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes- The returned exiles however did just what a previous generation had done before the exile. They profaned the Name (Ez. 36:20), the Sabbath and also the covenant and temple (Mal. 1;12; 2:10,11), in that they saw it all as mere religion, and the fire of a true relationship with the Almighty was smothered.

All the "I will..." statements allude to His Name, I will be who I will be. His revival of Israel is for the sake of that Name, and experiencing that Name makes us "know [experientially] that I am Yahweh". “I will sanctify my great name” (v 23); “I will take you...and gather you...and bring you into your own land” (v 24); “I will sprinkle clean water upon you” (v 25); “I will put my spirit within you” (v 27); “I will be your God” (v 28); “I will deliver you...” (v 29); “I will make the fruit of the tree” (v 30).

The taking of Israel out from the nations would lead to the nations knowing Yahweh's Name. This didn't happen in the 20th century. The idea is that they had been disgusted at the moral depravity of Israel, and this had reflected badly on their God. He appeared merely a God of judgment. But they would see His extreme grace in saving them without their repentance, and thus they would know His Name as it really is- of grace triumphing over the pole of judgment.

Ezekiel 36:24 For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land- Time and again in the context of the restoration it is emphasized that God would return to His exiled people if they returned to Him (Zech. 1:3; Mal. 3:7). And they didn't return to Him- most chose not to return to the land, and those who did for the most part did not return to their God in their hearts. The whole basis of Israel's covenant relationship with God was that if they were exiled from the land for their sins, they must repent and then God would return to them (Dt. 30:1-10). Yet God graciously states to the exiles: "I am returned unto you" (Zech. 1:16; 8:3). Here was grace indeed. Passages like Ez. 36:24-31 therefore speak as if God's grace to the exiles was effectively a new covenant- which has in essence been extended to us. Having stated the conditionality of His 'returning' to His people, and recognizing they hadn't fulfilled their part of the conditions- God all the same returns to them, such was and is His almost desperate desire for relationship with His beloved people. This is a lesson for us in our relationships with others- to continue our acceptance and 'return' to them, even if they don't fulfill their part of the deal. For this, day by day, is how our God deals not only with us but with His weak and wayward people as a whole.

This verse repeats the words of the new covenant offer in Jer. 32:37. But they generally refused to be gathered from 'all nations'. This element of the new covenant is now articulated through the great commission, inviting people from all nations to the covenant; calling out of the nations a people for His Name.

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you- A reference to the water which cleansed a woman from the uncleanness of her separation from her husband (Num. 19:9 Heb.). Israel have been likened to a woman unclean by reason of menstruation in :17. We note throughout that the initiative is with God in this work of cleansing. They were taken from among the many nations that comprised Babylon / Persia; they were brought, as many as could be bothered to go, to their own land. They were cleansed there (s.w. Ezra 6:30; Nehemiah 12:30). But they became un-cleansed through allowing Tobiah into the temple chambers, by trading on the Sabbath, and by marrying Gentiles (Nehemiah 13:9,22,30). The priesthood needed to be “cleansed” again (Mal. 3:3 s.w.). The promise of Ezekiel 36 sounds unconditional- as if, whoosh, God would make His sinful people righteous regardless of their own will. And so some have misunderstood the operation of God’s Spirit in our own days. But although not directly stated, the promise of entry into the new covenant, whereby God would encourage obedience through the work of His Spirit, was conditional. Judah could have entered the new covenant there and then, with all its requirements for a Messiah figure to abrogate the Mosaic law. But they turned back to their uncleannesses, they would not keep God’s statutes, and their potential Messiah figures failed to appear. Yet again, the promise of entry into a new covenant was deferred, to be fulfilled in a new Israel who are sprinkled through the waters of baptism. The promise was fulfilled, but in a far different context to that intended.

The word for "sprinkle" is nearly always used about the sprinkling of blood. The idea seems to be that blood will wash and cleanse as water does. The new covenant here was therefore confirmed and made operative by the Lord's blood, the blood of the new covenant. So as Paul says, His death confirmed the new covenant.

But ritual water sprinkling is nearly always used for the consecration of priests (Ex. 29:4) and Levites (Num. 8:7). And it was done by priests to priests. The priesthood was corrupted. So God Himself would be the priest, and would turn Israel into a nation of priests, as originally intended.


Ezekiel 36:26 I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh- see on 1 Sam. 10:9. The new covenant involves God on His initiative giving His people a new psychology ("within you") that makes them obedient (:27). This same gift of a holy spirit is likewise available to all who accept the new covenant today. "Also" suggests that the new heart and spirit is given at the same time as the regathering of :25. The word is redundant otherwise. So it is hard to see the return of some Jews to Israel in the 20th century as fulfilling this, seeing this return wasn't accompanied by a change of their hearts nor entry into the new covenant. These prophecies play on the word shub meaning both to return and to repent. The return was to be associated with repentance. In Ez. 11:19 and 18:31, Israel had been told to get a new heart and spirit. They hadn't done so, and now God says that anyway, He will give them this, as it were enforcing it upon them because He wants them for Himself.

This "new heart" matches the new covenant promise of Jer. 32:39: "I will give them one heart and one way". To sing "Lord, give me an undivided heart" is to ask for this to happen now. This again is without conditions. It is a heart transplant operation, unilaterally decided upon by God. "Out of your flesh" encourages us to imagine a literal heart transplant operation. This is how carefully and delicately God would work.  

Hearts of flesh rather than stone imply sensitive, responsive hearts. This is what Hosea wanted from Gomer, and what God wanted from Israel. Hearts that were for Him, sensitive and not hard to Him. For love is sensitivity. 2 Cor. 3:3 alludes to this verse and applies it to the new covenant experience which we now have, and which Israel are yet to experience: "you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts... who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life... But their minds were hardened, for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains, because in Christ it passes away. But to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit".

The great restoration prophecies of Jer. 23:1-8 and Ez. 34:1-31 speak of the flock of Israel going astray due to bad shepherds, being saved by the good shepherd, being delivered / gathered, and then returning to the land. The Hebrew word shub means both 'to return' in the sense of returning to the land, and 'turning' in the sense of repentance. But these restoration prophecies are packed with allusion to the great shepherd Psalm 23. Here, David says that the good shepherd 'causes me to repent' (Ps. 23:3 Heb. "He returns / restores my soul"). This is matched in Ez. 36 by the idea of God giving Israel a new heart. And the Lord's amazing parable of the good shepherd (Lk. 15:1-7) brings together Ps. 23 and also these restoration passages, in speaking of how He goes out and finds the lost sheep and brings it back home. The sheep is found, and accepts being found- there is no actual mention of repentance. Thus the 'return' of Judah to their land was intended as a work of God- He would make them return, He would give them repentance [note how Acts 11:18 speaks of God granting men repentance]. This is all such wonderful grace. The even more incredible thing, though, is that Judah refused to accept this grace; they didn't 'return' to the land because they saw no need to 'return' to God. They willingly forgot that they were only in Babylon because of their sins; to 'return' to the land was a 'return' to God, which He had enabled. But they were like the lost sheep refusing to sit on the shepherd's shoulders, preferring to sit in a hole and die... and this is the warning to us. For truly, absolutely all things have been prepared for us to enter the Kingdom. It's only those who don't want to be there who won't be.

36:27 I will put My Spirit within you- This is the same idea as developed in the valley of dry bones prophecy, where God causes His Spirit to enter into Israel and revives them (Ez. 37:5). The Corinthians were given the Spirit potentially, but were "not spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1). Like many today, they wasted the potential. And the same was true of Judah at the restoration. Ezra 9:9: “For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us [s.w. “put” my spirit] a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations”. They revived the stones out of the heaps (Nehemiah 4:2). A new spirit was potentially given to them, God put in the heart of men like Nehemiah to revive the work (Nehemiah 2:12 s.w. "what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem"). But this didn’t force them to be obedient. They chose not to be, and so the promised kingdom blessings of corn etc. were replaced by famines, in the times of Nehemiah, Haggai and Malachi. Judah were forgiven at the restoration; but they failed to live the life of response to that grace, and therefore the spirit did not continue with them.

And cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My laws and do them- God under the new covenant gives a spirit of obedience, He makes us obedient to Him. The same causative power is referened in the many prophecies that Yahweh would "cause" the captives to "return", to repent, and then return to the land.

We notice the clear parallel with the new covenant of Jer. 31:33, which says that God would put His law within them; here, "my spirit I will put within
you". The spirit of God is in His word, the law of Moses was intended to produce the spirit of Christ, ultimate spirituality. But God promises to instill this within His people, to make them internalize His perfect law. Jer. 31:33 continues: "And I will be their God, and they shall be My people". This is matched here in Ez. 36:28: "And you shall be my people, and I will be your God".


Ezekiel 36:28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God- This restoration of the exiles in Babylon would be all of grace, for they had not repented. But many of them preferred to remain there, as did the ten tribes in the former Assyrian empire. Such huge grace was turned down. And it's the same today. God is thirsting to make people His obedient people, His Kingdom; and most refuse because the petty issues of material life block their vision of anything else, just as with the exiles.

This is the equivalent to the statement under the new covenant of Jer. 32:38, which states [with no command to obey God] that God will make Israel His people, and He their God. This differed from the original offer of the covenant in Jer. 7:23: “Obey my voice, and I will become your God and you will become my people”. It is in the Spirit of Yahweh in Hosea concluding that somehow He will make His beloved Israel "His" even though they are unfaithful to Him.

Ezekiel 36:29 I will save you from all your uncleanness, and I will call for the grain and will multiply it, and lay no famine on you- There are many links discernible between Ezekiel and Zechariah, as they both prophesy concerning the same scattering and restoration of Israel. Here the connection is with Zech. 9:17 "Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids... how great is His goodness" (in forgiveness).This was potentially possible at the restoration, but as Haggai and Malachi reveal, there were instead famines and the potential blessing wasn't poured out.

The grace shown by God to His people, reflected in Hosea’s grace toward Gomer, was especially shown to the exiled Jews in Babylon. By grace, Hosea and God granted forgiveness to their women in order to lead them to repentance (Hos. 2:16; 7:1). Hosea wanted to call Gomer and her children “my people”, and to give them grain and all the good things that went with a marriage relationship (Hos. 2:24). But this is the very language of Ez. 36:24-31 about God’s intentions for the restoration from Babylon- the people would be cleansed, called “my people”, given grain and all God’s blessings- in the hope that then they would repent and loathe their immorality and unfaithfulness. Such is God’s grace that His acceptance leads to repentance, rather than repentance being a condition of His grace and acceptance. Hosea’s attitude to Gomer says it all.

But the exiles refused all this grace. And so as Haggai and Malachi records, the exiles had famine laid upon them. "Save" is yasha, component of 'Yahoshua', Jesus, Yah's salvation or saving. Finally this wonderful salvation was to be fulfilled in Him, and in we who say yes to it.

Ezekiel 36:30 I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field, that you may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations- These are all blessings for obedience to the covenant. But that obedience as explained in the previous verses, is given by God directly upon their hearts. Their having the fruit of the spirit means that the physical land would respond in fruitfulness. This was the potential available for the exiles if they had repented; they would have returned to a land full of fruit. But most of them didn't return and those who did, didn't return to God in their hearts. And so as Haggai records, they experienced famine. But the words will have their main fulfilment at the time of the Lord's return and the full reestablishment of the Kingdom on earth. They don't apply to any usage of agricultural technology in 20th century Israel; that was a multiplication of harvest by human strength, whereas what is in view here is something miraculous, directly from God, and associated with the repentance of His people.

Ezekiel 36:31 Then you shall remember your evil ways and your doings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations- Note the chronology. They are made obedient, by grace, and then they realize how wicked they have been and repent of it. The goodness of God leads them to repentance. It cannot be over emphasized that God is not facing off against man over an open Bible, and telling us that if we repent, then He will forgive us. Here we see God taking the initiative and forgiving Israel without repentance, cleansing their hearts, making them obedient- and that experience of grace leads them to repentance. On a far lower level, we see the same in our human relationships. A policy of 'Forgiveness upon repentance' rarely works; the grant of forgiveness, frankly and sincerely, is that leads the sinner to repentance and restored relationship.


The self loathing for sin is spoken of in Ez. 20:43. The idea originally had been that the remnant would repent in exile and then be restored. But they didn't. And so the Divine hope was that by restoring them in impenitence, they would remember their sins and loathe what they had done. It's the same reason why Jesus broke His bread with as yet impenitent sinners- because He as a doctor was trying to bring sinners to repentance. We note that it was the exiles with Ezekiel who were to loathe themselves for their pollutions, or that was the intention. It was they there in exile who were still offering their children to their idols, "to this day" (Ez. 20:31). Their self loathing uses the word translated "grieve" regarding God's grieving for Israel's idolatry in the wilderness (Ps. 95:10). They would come to see their sins as God saw and felt them; that is part of repentance. But initially it had been God's plan that they would grieve or loathe their sins whilst in captivity in Babylon (s.w. Ez. 6:9). But then the plan in Ez. 20:34-38 was different; seeing they had not done so, they would be forcibly brought out from Babylon into the undefined "wilderness" situation, where God would purge the rebels from the rebellious house, and then the remnant would be allowed to return to the land; and only then would they loathe themselves for their sins. But now in Ez. 36:21 the grace was extended even further- it was after the restoration of the kingdom conditions in the land that they would be thus provoked to loathe their former sins. God's grace is such that He ammends His plans if by any means He might save some. He has that same passion for human salvation today.


The chronology is in sharp contrast to that of the old covenant in Lev. 26:40-42: "If they confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers... and also recognize that because they walked contrary to Me,
... if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity;
 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham; and I will remember the land". Here, there is no "if... then". God will circumcise their heart, remember the [re]newed covenant made to Abraham and the fathers, and only then  will they confess their sins. This is proactive grace extraordinaire. And this is the same chronology of Jer. 31:18,19: "Turn me, and I shall be turned; for You are Yahweh my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I struck on my thigh: I was ashamed, yes, even confounded".

Ezekiel 36:32 Not for your sake do I this, says the Lord Yahweh, be it known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, house of Israel- Having been unable to achieve their repentance in exile, God now tries another way. Instead of abandoning His program of restoration because of the lack of repentance, He offers to restore them anyway by pure grace, in the hope that this would be appreciated and elicit from them an appropriate shame. But even this was refused by most of Judah and the ten tribes; they preferred to remain in the world rather than participate in the restored Kingdom of God. "Ashamed and confounded" is the same Hebrew phrase used by Ezra in his prayer at the restoration (Ezra 9:6). He was taking note of Ezekiel's prophecy here, but the majority didn't. The term is also used of condemnation at the last day (Ps. 70:2; Is. 41:11; 45:16); in repentance, we are to recognize that our condemnation would be just, and as it were feel as if we are condemned at the judgment seat; and thence we shall know the wonder of forgiveness, salvation, and the change of verdict which Romans 1-8 speak of.

"Do I this" suggests immediately, NET "I am about to act"; see on :8. God was about to do this. But the exiles wasted such huge potential. The implication of :37 in the NET is that these things would happen if Israel asked for them. God had opened that possibility, He had allowed then to ask for them. But they didn't: "This is what the sovereign LORD says: I will allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them: I will multiply their people like sheep". All the stress that "I will..." do these things was conditional upon the exiles wanting it.

Ezekiel 36:33 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: In the day that I cleanse you from all your wickedness, I will cause the cities to be inhabited and the waste places shall be built- There is a  connection between Judah’s forgiveness and the rebuilding of the land. The returned exiles were forgiven, they did rebuild... but they didn't repent, despite this huge initiative of God's grace. The suggestion here could be that the rebuilding would be achieved miraculously. Perhaps the latter day fulfilment of this will be in the new Jerusalem literally coming down from God out of heaven, ready built (Rev. 21:2).

Ezekiel 36:34 The land that was desolate shall be cultivated whereas it was a desolation in the sight of all who passed by- "Cultivated" is the word used of how Adam before the fall was intended to "till" the eretz (Gen. 2:5,15). And :35 specifically talks about Eden. The final fulfilment will be at the Lord's return, when the original situation in Eden shall be restored. To claim this applies to Jewish settlers cultivating the land of Palestine in the latter half of the 20th century is to wrest this passage completely out of its context. And contrary to what many seem to think, Palestine was not "desolate" before their arrival. The British Census of Palestine recorded Jerusalem as having a population of 157,000 in 1944.

Ezekiel 36:35 They shall say, This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden- One of many hints that Eden was in fact the eretz promised to Abraham. The restoration of Israel makes it clear that this prophecy has its major fulfillment in the last days, when the Kingdom is established physically upon earth. In any case, there were no previous examples of this happening- and God's word shall come true.

And the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited- "Ruined [Heb. 'beaten down'] cities" is the phrase specifically used about what Babylon did to Judah (Is. 14:17). They really could have been fortified by God at Ezekiel's time. They would marvel at this because the rebuilding was to be miraculous, perhaps a literal miracle was potentially in view; the latter day fulfilment of this will be in the new Jerusalem literally coming down from God out of heaven, ready built (Rev. 21:2).

Ezekiel 36:36 Then the nations that are left around you shall know that I, Yahweh, have built the ruined places and planted that which was desolate. I, Yahweh, have spoken it, and I will do it- Ezekiel's prophecies of Israel's regathering had their primary fulfilment in the restoration. The other nations that the Babylonians had placed in Israel would "know that I the Lord build the ruined places", by the miraculous rebuilding of the temple amidst great opposition and against all odds. But the idea of :37 seems to be that this would only happen if Judah prayed for it.


Ezekiel 36:37 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: For this also will I be inquired of- Previously, as noted on Ez. 20:3,31, they had not been permitted to inquire of God. The elders who came to Ezekiel are in the same category as those in Judah who did not seek / inquire of Yahweh, although they did externally (Jer. 10:21). We can pray and come to God's word, when in reality we are not doing so from our whole heart and are doing this simply on the level of religious interest rather than wholehearted devotion. They would only 'find' God is they 'sought' with their whole heart (Jer. 29:13). But now in the new covenant, they would seek God with their whole heart and so inquire of Him.

This could be the end stress of this section. All this unconditional making of Israe righteous, changing their heart- had to be asked for. It was theirs for the asking. And they didn't even want it. But we surely do. And so the new covenant is offered to us and we are taken out from the nations for the sake of His Name.

By the house of Israel, to do it for them. I will increase them with men like a flock- The idea may be that all this great potential would come about if Israel really prayed for it. "The house of Israel" suggests Israel and Judah would unite at the restoration, as envisaged in several of the restoration prophecies. "Inquired" could as well be translated 'worshipped'. Israel will eternally worship God for His grace. The original text however is unclear. Some variants of the Hebrew and LXX read: "I will also further reveal My grace to the house of Israel, in that I will multiply their people as a flock" [see the Russian Synodal version]. This fits admirably with the theme of grace which dominates the chapter.


Ezekiel 36:38 As the flock for sacrifice, as the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed feasts, so shall the wasted cities be filled with flocks of men; and they shall know that I am Yahweh- There is a parallel between the men and the flock. They were to respond to all this grace by becoming living sacrifies (Rom. 12:1).