|Ezekiel 12:17 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me saying|
|WBC: I received the following communication from Yahweh:|
|The third of five divine communiqués to Ezekiel in chapter 12. Remember Ezekiel is prophesying in this section circa 591bc or about 5 years before the final fall of Jerusalem in 586bc.
In this communication Jehovah instructs Ezekiel to carry out another sign. Whereas the sign in the previous verses depicted the certainty of Judah going into captivity, this sign speaks of the famine and distress which would occur with the protracted siege of Jerusalem.
|Ezekiel 12:18 "Son of man, eat your bread with trembling and drink your water with quivering and anxiety.|
|WBC: “Human one, you are to quake as you eat your bread, and shudder as you drink your water.|
|"Eat your bread with trembling… " (shaking, quaking) (Ezek 4:16,17; 23:33; Lv26:26,36; Dt28:48,65; Job 3:24; Ps60:2,3; 80:5; 102:4-9) In Ezekiel 4 (in Ezekiel's first drama with food) God declared that would He would
Normally when most of us partake of food and drink, it is a congenial, relaxed, reinvigorating time and the mood at the table often reflects current conditions. Here the anxiety betrays the threat they are living under as Babylon besieged Jerusalem. The word for "trembling" (ra'ash) was used elsewhere in the OT to refer to an earthquake. The use here is of course figurative but still quite paints a dramatic word picture of the fear. The focus here appears to be not so much on a picture of starvation but of the fear and anxiety as the inhabitants of Jerusalem sense the end drawing near.
Matthew Henry draws an excellent application that
Although it is not stated, the context suggests that this was yet another prophetic drama portrayed before his fellow exiles. As explained below Ezekiel's actions portend the horrible state of those in Jerusalem encircled by the powerful Babylonian army. Ezekiel is commanded to represent them by acting out that foreboding in an exaggerated physical counterpart, a pitiable trembling that presumably showed itself in spilling his drink and missing his mouth with his food. Just imagine the reaction of the horrified exiles watching yet another of Ezekiel's bizarre behaviors. If you read some of the liberal commentaries, you too will be "horrified" by their bizarre interpretations for some "scholars" have gone so far as to diagnose Ezekiel’s condition as a physiological consequence of the strain he felt from his ecstatic prophetic experiences! That is absurd and not at all what the text clearly states. This type of fallacious interpretation by men who should rightfully and theoretically know better is another reason why you need to be diligent to hone your skills of Inductive Bible study, allowing the inspired text and your infallible Teacher, the Holy Spirit, to guide you into all truth rather than into vain speculation out of which can flow nothing but corrupt application.
|Ezekiel 12:19 "Then say to the people of the land, 'Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel, "They will eat their bread with anxiety and drink their water with horror, because their land will be stripped of its fullness on account of the violence of all who live in it.|
|Brenton: And thou shalt say to the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, on the land of Israel; They shall eat their bread in scarcity, and shall drink their water in desolation, that the land may be desolate with all that it contains: for all that dwell in it are ungodly. (English of Septuagint)
Daily Study Bible: and say of the people of the land, Thus says the Lord God concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with fearfulness, and drink water in dismay, because their land will be stripped of all it contains, on account of the violence of all those who dwell in it.
WBC: Tell the people of the land this message from the Lord Yahweh concerning the residents of Jerusalem still on Israelite soil: They will eat their bread anxiously and drink their water with trepidation, anticipating its territory being desolated and stripped of what now fills it, as a result of the violence perpetrated by all who reside there.
|"The land" in the first use refers to the land of Babylon, and the audience is Ezekiel's fellow exiles.
Following a pattern we saw in the first part of chapter 12 (and elsewhere in Ezekiel), the drama of verse 18 is followed by specific explanation from Jehovah through Ezekiel to the exiles. God explains their reaction (anxiety… horror) (1 Ki17:10, 11, 12) to the consequence (land… stripped) (and plundered) (Ezek 6:6,7,14; 36:3; Is6:11; Je4:27; 9:10,11; 10:22; 18:16; 32:28; Je33:10,12; Mic7:13; Zec7:14) (Ps24:1; 1 Co10:26,28) and then explains the reason for the consequence (violence of all) Giving a similar portrayal of the fruit of sin, the psalmist says that God turns
Through His prophet Moses God warned Israel that as a consequence of disobedience
As Henry notes
In a similar description of Jerusalem and Judah in chapter 7, Ezekiel had painted "the land (as) full of bloody crimes, and the city (as) full of violence." (Ezek7:23) (7:23; Ge6:11-13; Ps107:34; Je6:7; Mic3:10-12) and went on to explain that because of this violence God had stated
The drama in this section is reminiscent of the one in Ezek 4:10–16, predicting the intense starvation related to the dire shortage of food and water during the coming 18 month siege of Jerusalem.
|Ezekiel 12:20 "The inhabited cities will be laid waste and the land will be a desolation. So you will know that I am the LORD."|
|WBC: The other cities, now inhabited, will also be laid waste, and the country will become desolate. Then you will realize that I am Yahweh.”|
|"The inhabited cities… the land" (Ezek 15:6,8; Isaiah 3:26; 7:23,24; 24:3,12; 64:10,11; Jeremiah 4:7,23-29; Jeremiah 12:10-12; 16:9; 19:11; 24:8-10; 25:9; 34:22; Lam 5:18; Daniel 9:17) leaves no corner that will be spared from the LORD's hand of just retribution.
The purpose of the waste and desolation is given -- to know that God is the LORD, clearly a major emphasis of Ezekiel as this same phrase is found 63 times in the book. If they would not know Him in obedience, they would know Him in the just consequences wrought by their disobedience.
Allen commenting on the "waste and… desolation" adds that
Think about the application of this aspect of God's judgment - that the exiles might know Him as Jehovah. Now this is speculation but for a moment imagine yourself as one of the "scoffers" in Ezekiel's audience having heard these prophecies 5 years earlier but now being confronted with the heretofore unthinkable defeat of the "eternal city" and sacking of the Holy Temple. What impact might this detailed fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy have had on the exiles? Might not some have been awakened from their spiritual slumber and eternal death? We can't say for certain, but I can personally testify that the Spirit of God used fulfilled prophecy in my "spiritual journey" to bring me to the point of knowing and accepting that "I Am" is the LORD Jesus Christ.
Matthew Henry adds that
|Ezekiel 12:21 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,|
|WBC: I received the following communication from Yahweh:|
|"Then" marks a subsequent succeeding event introduced by the fourth of five direct declarations by God in this chapter.
As Matthew Henry comments
In this last section God gives Ezekiel the words to respond to the two popular attitudes of contempt toward his (as well as his contemporary Jeremiah's) prophecies of judgment, first citing the common saying that prophecy is no longer fulfilled at all (Ezek 12:21, 22, 23, 24, 25) and then the saying that these prophecies refer to the far distant future (Ezek 12:26, 27, 28).
|Ezekiel 12:22 "Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, 'The days are long and every vision fails'?|
|AMP Son of man, what is this proverb that you have in the land of Israel, saying, The days drag on and every vision comes to nothing and is not fulfilled?
Mt Henry They said, “The days are prolonged; the judgments have not come when they were expected to come, but seem to be still put off and therefore we may conclude that every vision fails
MSG "Son of man, what's this proverb making the rounds in the land of Israel that says, "Everything goes on the same as ever; all the prophetic warnings are false alarms'?
NLT "Son of man, what is that proverb they quote in Israel: 'Time passes, making a liar of every prophet'?
TEV "Mortal man," he said, "why do the people of Israel repeat this proverb: 'Time goes by, and predictions come to nothing'?
WBC: “Human one, what do you all mean by this slogan you are using about the land of Israel, ‘After a long time elapses, every revelation is a dead letter’? (a dead threat)
|The Hebrew word for "proverb… " (mashal click for 8/40 OT uses) describes a pithy maxim or brief popular saying that is often memorable and also suggests that it gives special insight and authority. The proverb that prevailed among the Jews at this time could be curtly paraphrased as
Time passes and nothing happens! or "the prophets speak and yet nothing happens" or the prophets had cried "wolf, wolf" for a long time without anything happening.
Over 14 months of Ezekiel's doom and gloom had passed and nothing that he had predicted had come to pass. Some falsely concluded therefore that nothing bad would happen. They had eyes but could not see, ears but could not hear and understand.
The proverb clearly reflected the general feeling of the people that the prophetic doom and gloom of Ezekiel (and his contemporary Jeremiah) was empty rhetoric and not a valid representation of the future. Given that the year was about 591bc, the delay in God's judgment had already been about 6 years (assuming exile in 597bc or 14 years if exiled in 605bc) and thus they falsely reasoned that the stroke of judgment would never come. They reasoned that it was unnecessary to take seriously the declarations of the prophets. They were always warning of terrible disasters, and nothing ever happened. The "proverb" was directed to ridicule Ezekiel (and God) because the warnings had not been immediately fulfilled.
God issues warnings, not as predictions of the future, but as opportunities for men to know the will of God and to change their lives accordingly.
Richards comments that
To cease is the Hebrew verb shabath which in other contexts means to observe the sabbath and cease from activity. s related to the word "Sabbath" and the idea is to rest or cease.
"The days are long" (Ezek 12:27; 11:3; Is 5:19; Je 5:12,13; Am 6:3; 2Pe3:3,4)
How blind Judah was to the acts of God in their own history. Time had passed and something had already happened to the exiles. They were in exile! Of all people, the exiles should have known the folly of protesting that prophecy would not come true, or would happen only in the distant future. The end was already upon them, if they only had the eyes to perceive it. They were like those Peter writes about who are
Isaiah was confronted with this skeptical, scoffing attitude, his distracters crying out
In the same way Ezekiel's contemporary, Jeremiah, records
Fallen human nature has not changed over 2500 years later, for many "enlightened" men and women attempt to explain away prophetic judgments yet to come.
Evangelical Commentary explains this proverb as an indicator of
Ezekiel's contemporary, Jeremiah of Jerusalem, gives a similar portrayal of the Jews cynical attitude towards imminent judgment as expressed "proverbially". Jeremiah records God's words testifying that
As Matthew Henry comments that the
|Ezekiel 12:23 Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "I will make this proverb cease so that they will no longer use it as a proverb in Israel." But tell them, "The days draw near as well as the fulfillment of every vision.|
|WBC:Well, tell them this as a message from the Lord Yahweh: I will put a stop to this slogan, and it will be used in Israel no longer. Say to them rather: The time is near, and so is the content of every revelation.
NLT: Give the people this message from the Sovereign LORD: I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it. Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: 'The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled!'
|Therefore or because of the fact that "you people" have this false assumption that the delayed judgment equated with no judgment. God instructs Ezekiel to declare that judgment day is coming and will be fulfilled to the minutest detail. It could be paraphrased:
Time’s up and everything is going to happen!
I will make this proverb cease How? When the doubters and scoffer finally experience God's day of vengeance and that not one iota or tittle of the prediction falls to the ground, then they will be ashamed and clearly foolish to continue using it as a proverb.
God counters the saying that the days are long with the exact opposite: "The days draws near" (Ezek 12:25; 7:2,5-7,10-12; Joel 2:1; Zeph 1:14; Mal 4:1; Mt24:34; Ja5:8,9)
"The fulfillment of every vision" reminds one of God's declaration
Vision Most of the Hebrew words translated “vision” come from the root hazah and each indicates a revelation from God or a special, mystical means through which God communicated His message to the Old Testament prophets.
|Ezekiel 12:24 For there will no longer be any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel.|
|WBC: For no longer will any revelation be spoken in vain nor any divination be devoid of reality in the community of Israel.|
|When the judgment comes it will put an end to the false prophesies of the lying prophets and fake soothsayers who decry God's judgment and promulgate hope. The coming judgment would put an end to their predictions of continued well-being and expose their empty delusion.
"False" (Hebrew = shav') (Ezek 13:23; 1Ki22:11, 12, 13,17; Pr 26:28; Je14:13-16; 23:14-29; La 2:14; Zec13:2, 3, 4; Ro16:18; 1 Th2:5; 2Pe2:2,3) means emptiness, vanity, nothingness, deceit, deception, malice, falsehood, anything unsubstantial, unreal, worthless. It is a word that is occasionally used for idols. Shav' describes anything which disappoints the hope which rests upon it! All of these synonyms and short definitions readily describe the character of the visions of the false prophets.
Flattering divination Divination is the attempt to communicate with the supernatural by observing natural phenomena (e.g., stars, entrails of sacrificial animals, clouds, births), manipulating certain objects (arrows, oil and water, lots, etc.), or consulting mediums. The pagans made use of divination, magic, and mediums to learn the mind of the deity (Deut 18:9-12). In true prophecy mechanical arts were discarded, for Jehovah spoke to the mind of the prophet. Flattering or smooth divination promised immunity from trouble (cf. Jer 23:16, 17; 28:1-17).
The IVP Bible background commentary adds that
"Within" (tavek) literally means right in the middle or midst of! The point is that these false visions, etc were not just a few "crazies" on the fringe, but were taking place right in the center of the "house of Israel". How tragic that God's chosen people
Matthew Henry writes that
|Ezekiel 12:25 "For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it," declares the Lord GOD.|
|WBC:For it is I, Yahweh, who is speaking: whatever word I speak is fulfilled. There will be no further delay. In your lifetime, you rebellious community, I mean to both speak the word and fulfill it. So runs the oracle of the Lord Yahweh.”|
|"I the LORD will speak" (Ezek 12:28; 6:10; Numbers 14:28-34; Isaiah 14:24; 55:11; Lamentations 2:17; Daniel 9:12; Zechariah 1:6; Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:13,33) His Name is Jehovah, the God Who keeps His covenant.
Whatever word I speak will be performed is a principle not only applicable to Jerusalem's certain judgment but to all of God's promises, for good or for bad. Isaiah records a similar declaration
Writing from exile in Babylon Daniel declares
Writing after the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah reiterates that
Zechariah adds a hopeful note writing
Matthew Henry writes
In similar tones Moses reminded Israel that
As Samuel reminded disobedient, rebellious King Saul
It will no longer be delayed (Jeremiah 16:9; Habakkuk 1:5; Mark 13:30,31) He had borne with Judah a great while, but He would not always forbear and now God's patience has expired and He will no longer defer the execution of the sentence. “Not yet” doesn’t mean “never.”
Let's apply this truth: Simply put: Don’t mistake judgment deferred for judgment denied. Delay is not denial with God.
This present age is drawing to a close and there is a promised judgment by the Almighty and so it should not surprise us to read similar words in the Revelation from the angel who
With the phrase "in your days" Ezekiel makes it abundantly clear that God's judgment would transpire in their lifetime.
"I will speak the word and perform it"
Matthew Henry presents us with a somber application writing
|Ezekiel 12:26 Furthermore, the word of the LORD came to me, saying,|
|WBC: I received a further communication from Yahweh:|
|For the fifth time in chapter 12, Ezekiel has an up close and personal encounter with Jehovah.|
|Ezekiel 12:27 "Son of man, behold, the house of Israel is saying, 'The vision that he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies of times far off.|
|Brenton Son of man, behold, the provoking house of Israel boldly say, The vision which this man sees is for many days, and he prophesy for times afar off. (English of Septuagint)
WBC: “Human one, I draw your attention to what the community of Israel is saying, ‘The revelation he is giving relates to a long time ahead. It is about the distant future he is prophesying.’
|"The vision… for many years from now… times far off" (Ezek 12:22; Is 28:14,15; Da10:14; 2Pe 3:4) Instead of implying that prophecies are not true (as in the proverb in verse 22), the second response indicated that the fulfillment of prophecies lay far in the future. There was therefore little need to be worried about them in the present. Let future generations worry! In the next verse God reverses their "saying", emphasizing that it will happen now, in your own time.
Even those who did believe Ezekiel, did not believe that his words would affect them. They thought
God’s response through Ezekiel was, “Not someone… you!” And, “Not someday… soon!”
Isaiah speaking at the time the Assyrians were in power and threatening Judah after having defeated Israel, proclaimed to the deceived deceivers in Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s leaders yielded to expediency for the sake of security. Without directly admitting it, they had taken refuge in deceit and falsehood.
Let's apply this truth: The attitude of the people of Ezekiel’s day is still pervasive in the modern day church. If only saints would truly believe that Jesus (and judgment) was coming and allow this truth to break the bondage of materialism that entangles so many saints so that they would be set free to live wholly and holy for the Lord to the glory of the Father. Many who have been blind to the truth have found that reading the Bible is a real eye-opener.
Jesus solemnly warned about a similar mindset declaring that
Matthew Henry paraphrases this verse as
Evangelical Commentary comments that this proverbial" expression
A Storm is Coming
Several years ago in Florida, I watched the ominously black sky as a howling wind drove the rain in stinging sheets across angrily churning bay waters. A hurricane was approaching! All day long, radio and TV stations gave urgent instructions on how to guard against the destructive winds and surging tides of the impending storm. As residents were frantically preparing for the storm, I asked myself, "Why do people take the warnings issued by the weather bureau so seriously, yet stubbornly refuse to hear God's warnings?" In His Word, God has told us that a much greater disaster will come upon the entire world. The Bible says,
Yes, that dreadful day is coming. But there is a sure way of escaping God's judgment. It's found in Christ. Those who have placed their faith in Him enjoy His peace here on earth and are assured of spending eternity with Him in heaven. Are you prepared? If not, accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior today (Ro10:9-13). — (Our Daily Bread - Richard De Haan)
To learn how you can be prepared for the day you will stand before the Lord,
To reject God's deliverance is to invite destruction.
God explains to Ezekiel that the exiles still don't understand and have deluded themselves into thinking that the judgment of Jerusalem won't impact them since it is so far in the future. This attitude is always present, for even today no one wants to consider the idea that God might soon judge them or their nation. This delusion is similar to that we see in the end of the age where scoffers question "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2Pet3:4) You can mark it down: Jesus' second coming is as certain as His first!
|Ezekiel 12:28 "Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "None * of My words will be delayed any longer. Whatever * word I speak will be performed' declares the Lord GOD|
|WBC: Well, tell them this as a message from the Lord Yahweh: There will be no further delay over any words of mine. Whatever word I speak is fulfilled. So runs the oracle of the Lord Yahweh.”|
|"None of My words will be delayed any longer" (shall not be deferred) (Ezek 12:23, 24, 25; Jer 4:7; 44:28; Mk 13:32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37; Lk 21:34, 35, 36; Rev 3:3) Jesus' parable of the evil servant gives a similar clear warning to all unbelievers regarding the certainty of God's judgment, Jesus declaring that
Similarly, Paul reminded the Thessalonians of the certitude of the wrath of God, writing
Do you recognize this implement? The diagram depicts a stone grinding mill, and brings to mind the crushing power of the slowly grinding stone which eventually pulverizes whatever is placed under its crushing weight. Someone has written a poem that conveys the essence of the truth recorded by Ezekiel and pictured by this heavy grinding stone…
"Though the mills of God grind slowly,
To counter the false conclusions of the exiles God instructs Ezekiel to declare to them that the judgment will be "delayed (no) longer". The LORD's statement reminds us of
God does not necessarily recompense at the end of every week; but He does pay with perfect timing and in full.