New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 6:1 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying- This phrase is used multiple times in Jeremiah and Ezekiel; but very rarely elsewhere. It is never once used in Isaiah. The fact it occurs so often in Jeremiah and Ezekiel supports the impression that they were giving very similar messages, often using the same words; Jeremiah to the Jews still in Judah, and Ezekiel to the Jews taken into captivity in the first and second invasions. Ezekiel was bidding the exiles to repent in order to avert the catastrophe which was otherwise to come upon the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. This shows how much the spirituality of third parties can really affect people.

Ezekiel 6:2 Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy to them-
We wonder why Ezekiel in Babylon would usefully prophecy against or towards the mountains of Israel. I suggest as on :1 that the repentance of the minority in Babylon could have affected the outcomes for the Jews still in Judah.

Ezekiel 6:3 And say, 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: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword on you-
God told Ezekiel that Israel would not hear his preaching (Ez. 3:7); and yet Ezekiel repeatedly prefaced his preaching addresses with an appeal to please hear God’s word (Ez. 6:3; 13:2; 18:25; 20:47; 34:7; 36:1,4). He was hoping against hope; his preaching work was asking him to attempt the impossible. To make a nation hear who would not hear. Jeremiah likewise was told that Israel wouldn’t hear him (Jer. 7:27), but still he pleaded with them to hear (Jer. 9:20; 10:1; 11:6; 16:12; 17:24; 38:15). The "mountains" are put by metonymy for the people sacrificing to idols upon them; just as the altar is addressed in 1 Kings 13:2, when the people sacrificing upon it are in view.

And I will destroy your high places- Quoting from Lev. 26:30; this was the result of having broken the covenant. 

Ezekiel 6:4 Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken; and I will cast down your slain men before your idols-
"Incense altars" is literally 'sun images'. But they had supposedly been destroyed in Josiah's reformations (2 Chron. 34:4). This point is made so many times- that leaders destroyed idolatry but the people continued it. And it tends to be the same with so much apparent reform we may make in our lives. The corpses of the worshippers would be placed before their idols, because by worshipping them, the worshippers had effectively prostrated their lives before them. Again, the judgment was appropriate to the sin. They had effectively condemned themselves, and this will be true for all who are condemned at the last day.

Ezekiel 6:5 I will lay the dead bodies of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars-
See on :4. The valley of dry bones vision in Ez. 37 depicted Israel in captivity as bones waiting to come together and return to the land as a great army. Jer. 8:1 and other passages earlier in Ezekiel (Ez. 6:5; 24:4) had described both Judah and Israel as dry bones. The feeling of those bones was that "our bones are dried and our hope is lost" (Ez. 37:11). Judah in captivity felt that they had no "hope", that God had cast them off, and that they were unable to have a full relationship with Him outside the land. However, it seems that this was a rather convenient piece of theology for them- they were doing well in Babylon, and despite the opportunity to return to the land, they largely chose to remain in Babylon.

Ezekiel 6:6 In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be abolished-
Here the idols are called the works of their hands. And here we see the essential relevance for us today, living in an age where physical idols don't exist. The idols were attractive because they were the works of the hands of the worshippers. This is what is so relevant to us. What we have made in our lives and by our own device, a business, a self built home... so easily thereby become our idols.

Ezekiel 6:7 The slain shall fall in the midst of you, and you shall know that I am Yahweh-
The "midst" of the mountains may refer specifically to Jerusalem. They would know "I am Yahweh" in that they would all too late come to recognize Him. This is the tragedy of the Biblical pictures of condemnation; that all too late, the condemned come to realize the essence of Yahweh.

Ezekiel 6:8 Yet will I leave a remnant: you shall have some that escape the sword among the peoples, when you shall be scattered through the nations-
This "remnant" were intended to return in repentance and be the basis of the restored kingdom of God. The same word is used in Jer. 43:5: "Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces took all the remnant of Judah, who were returned from all the nations where they had been driven, to live in the land of Judah". But this remnant didn't respond; having returned, they then began worshipping the sun again and went to Egypt, against God's specific pleading with them through Jeremiah. The time spent in exile could have been far shorter than the 70 years of Jeremiah; there were various time frames potentially possible, as noted on Ez. 4:6.

Ezekiel 6:9 Those of you that escape shall remember Me among the nations where they shall be carried captive because I have been broken with their lewd heart which has departed from Me-
When God said that "I have been broken with their whorish heart" (Ez. 6:9 RV), He meant it. Sinful Israel broke the heart of Almighty God. The tone of God’s speeches in Jeremiah varies wildly, moving abruptly from outraged cries of pain to warm entreaties of love, and then to desperate pleas for a new start. He is responding like a jilted lover, who gained His Israel by wooing them in the wilderness. He felt the pain of Israel’s rejection, and went through very human-like reactions to this. The book of Hosea shows all this lived out in a real human life. Hosea was representative of God, and yet he married a slut called Gomer, and in their life together they portrayed graphically the pain of God’s relationship with His people. The image of God as the wounded lover which we meet in Hosea and Jeremiah ought to deeply impress us. The God who created all of existence subjects Himself to such humiliation from His creation. One is almost haunted by the reality of a God who lets our response to Him count that much. God says that the remnant of His people would "remember" what they had done to Him. But they didn't, and that is the abiding tragedy.

And with their eyes, which play the prostitute after their idols- As an alcoholic's eyes dart immediately to the alcohol on display in a supermarket, so their eyes had a natural inclination and attraction towards idols. And the glance of their eyes, their mental predisposition toward idolatry, was prostitution in God's eyes. We see powerfully portrayed the sensitivity of God toward our deepest psychology and the core yearning of our hearts. May that be ever toward Him alone.

They shall loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations- But they didn't. Ez. 18 explains how they considered they were suffering unjustly for the sins of their fathers, and sat depressed by the rivers of Babylon, still looking towards their idols. "They shall..." do this was the Divine hope of the unrequited lover for the beloved. Or at best it was command rather than prediction.

Ezekiel 6:10 They shall know that I am Yahweh: I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them-
There was the tendency to think that Ezekiel was just another prophet groaning on about evil to come from Yahweh. By considering that God's word is somehow not precisely, personally relevant to ourselves, we consider it to be "vain", no matter what high view of Divine inspiration of the scriptures we may hold. "They shall..." as noted on :9 was God's desperate hope for them.

Ezekiel 6:11 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Strike with your hand and stamp with your foot and say, Alas!-
These things were an expression of anger. The intense wrath of God was appropriate considering the deep love He had for them, and the way they were breaking His heart by their adultery against Him; see on :9. "Alas!" is really a calling to mourning, and in that word there may be also a calling to repentance, so that this tragedy need not happen. 

Because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, they shall fall by the sword, by the famine and by the plague- "Evil" would come upon them (:10) because they had been evil. Their condemnation through the experience of "evil" was therefore really a reflection of the evil they themselves had wrought. By doing evil they were therefore living out their own condemnation.

Ezekiel 6:12 He who is far off shall die of the plague; and he who is near shall fall by the sword; and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine-
The differentiation between those "far off" and those "near" is important. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were saying the same things, but Jeremiah to those still 'remaining' in Judah, and Ezekiel to the captives "far off"; that phrase is used of how Judah were to be exiled "far off" in Babylon. The captives to whom he ministered, and who at this time had placed him under house arrest, would "die of the plague". Their repentance was required, lest they face yet further suffering.

Thus will I accomplish My wrath on them- 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 6:13 You shall know that I am Yahweh, when their slain men shall be among their idols around their altars on every high hill, on all the tops of the mountains and under every green tree and under every thick oak-
Judah were indeed slain and their corpses mockingly placed next to their idols. But they did not "know that I am Yahweh". For "you shall...", see on :9. To know Yahweh was not so much to know about Him theologically, but to have a relationship with Him; for that is the Hebraic sense of 'to know'.

The places where they offered pleasant aroma to all their idols- "Pleasant aroma" is the phrase often used for the "pleasant aroma" of sacrifices to Yahweh- three times in Exodus, seventeen in Leviticus, seventeen in Numbers. As a priest, Ezekiel would have been aware of this. But instead, they offered this to the idols. The Divine hope (see on :9), the desperate hope of the unrequited lover for the beloved, was that a repentant remnant would realize this and then offer "pleasant aroma" again to Him alone (Ez. 20:41). But they didn't.

Ezekiel 6:14 I will stretch out My hand on them, and make the land desolate and waste-
This was the judgment to come upon Babylon (Jer. 51:26). Babylon was to be punished as they had punished Judah. This is the great theme of Revelation; the seals of judgment poured upon Israel in the last days are related to the vials of judgment poured upon those who perform that judgment. 

From the wilderness toward Diblah, throughout all their habitations- This is the equivalent of "From Dan [the north] to Beersheba [the south]". The "wilderness" is usually applied to the nomad region south of Palestine, and this would lead us to look for Diblah in the north. The two Hebrew letters for 'd' and 'r' are easily confused. Riblah may therefore be the place in view, and the LXX has "Diblah" whereas the AV and Masoretic Text has "Riblah" in 2 Kings 23:33; 25:6. Riblah was a fortified town on the north road from Palestine to Babylon. Hamath, in the same region, is given as the northern boundary in Ez. 47:16.

They shall know that I am Yahweh- See on :9.