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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).

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.

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- 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.

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.

 

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.


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). 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).

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- "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.


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 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).

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.


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.

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.

 

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.

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.). 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.). 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.

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.


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- 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.

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.


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 Jereusalem 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.

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).