THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Part II: God's Judgment of the Covenant People
Chapters 6-9: The Sins of Israel/Judah and Ezekiel's Vision-Journey to the Jerusalem Temple
As Jesus told us in His homily at the Last Supper, and as St. John repeated in his letter to the Universal Church, those who love Christ are obedient to His commands. You cannot claim to love Him if you follow your own path and ignore or willfully violate the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. Obedience is a lesson that is necessary for every agent of God, as Ezekiel learned, and hopefully, we can profit from his example. God can do great works through us, like Ezekiel, if we are willing and obedient. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in our lesson. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
+ + +
When I speak to
you, however, I shall open your mouth and then you will say to them, "Lord
Yahweh says this: Let anyone prepare to listen, listen: let anyone who refuses,
refuse!" for they are a tribe of rebels
The scroll God commanded Ezekiel to consume in 3:1 contained the words of God in a covenant lawsuit document. The covenant lawsuit, a riv in Hebrew, was the official declaration of a broken covenant. There were other times times when prophets, at Yahweh's command, declared covenant lawsuits in the Old Testament. For example in Isaiah 1:2, the prophet Isaiah calls on heaven and earth as witnesses in Yahweh's lawsuit against Israel. Also see Isaiah 34:8; Jeremiah 1:16; 11:1; 25:31 (against the nations); Ezekiel 17:19; Hosea 2:4  and 4:1, to name a few examples.
Ezekiel reluctantly begins his mission, but he will do it from his silence until God tells him to speak in association with a series of symbolic acts. His silence is both an admonishment for his unspoken anger and resentment (Ez 3:14) and to teach him, until his normal speech returns, that the words he speaks must only be God's words. His normal ability to speak will not return until news of the fall of Jerusalem reaches the exiles, and they know that his symbolic acts and his preaching were from God. God will inform Ezekiel of the fall of Jerusalem in 24:2, but his normal speech isn't restored until 33:21-22, as God promised in 24:25-27.
Question: What other chief priest in the New
Testament lost his ability to speak because of his lack of faith in God's
Divine Plan? When did his speech return? See Luke 1:5, 10-20, 57-64.
Answer: The angel Gabriel deprived the priest Zechariah of his speech when he questioned the announcement of the future birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. When St. John was born, and Zechariah wrote that his name was to be "John" in obedience to the angel's command, his speech returned.
The account of Ezekiel's symbolic acts and their interpretation may present those of us on this side of salvation history with the same responses as Ezekiel's original audience:
However, to react in these three ways, rejecting the pronouncements of God and Ezekiel's obedience to them is to misunderstand the profound theological nature of God's message communicated to Ezekiel. First, to live in a unique covenant relationship with Yahweh and in the acceptance of that privilege means taking on the responsibilities of the conditions of that relationship, stated for Israel in the articles of the Sinai Covenant. In the New Covenant in Christ, we also have responsibilities which Jesus emphasized in Luke 12:35-48 in His parable of the wise and faithful servants. He summed up His teaching by saying, "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more" (Lk 12:48).
Second, if we truly believe God is just in all His dealings with a sinful humanity, those of us who presume upon the goodness of God's grace must also reckon with the justness of His divine wrath against those who claim His goodness but reject and abuse His promises. The danger is to accept a romantic or "politically correct" view of God devoid of an understanding of His true nature. God, because He loves us like a good parent, will not condone our infidelity, rebellion, wicked acts, violations against the poor and oppressed, and other acts that are to Him abominations.
Third, God guards His covenant relationship with His people with a passionate and exclusive love. Those in a covenant relationship with Him have a mission to bear witness to that relationship in a public view to those who do not yet know Him. God set Israel among the pagan nations as His "firstborn son" (Ex 4:22) so they might witness His loving care of His people and their prosperity in their relationship with Him to their "brother" nations. Since Israel failed publically, she must bear the humiliation of her punishment publically. God does not utter His judgments without carrying them out. The warnings of His prophets will be fulfilled exactly as foretold. Ezekiel's pronouncements of God's word of divine judgment will be confirmed. In 587/6 BC Jerusalem will be destroyed by the Babylonians. They will burn the Temple, and they will take the remaining population into exile, fulfilling the curse judgments for disobedience to the covenant in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
Question: What is the most obvious public
expression of our New Covenant relationship with Jesus Christ? See Ex 20:8; Dt 5:12; CCC 2041-42.
Answer: The most obvious public witness of our relationship with Christ is keeping the Sunday and Holy Days obligations. It is the first of the five precepts of the Church: "The first precept ( You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor') requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord...by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days" (CCC 2041).
Chapters 6-7: Prophecies Against Israel/Judah
Ezekiel 6:1-10 ~ God Tells Ezekiel's To Speak Against the Mountains of Israel
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, turn towards the mountains of Israel and prophesy against them. 3 Say, Mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Yahweh. The Lord Yahweh says this to mountains and hills and ravines and valleys: Look, I am going to summon the sword against you and destroy your high places. 4 Your altars will be wrecked, and your incense burners smashed; I shall fling your butchered inhabitants down in front of your foul idols; 5 I shall lay the corpses of the Israelites in front of their foul idols and scatter their bones all round your altars. 6 Wherever you live, the towns will be destroyed and the high places wrecked, to the ruin and wrecking of your altars, the shattering and abolition of your foul idols, the smashing of your incense burners and the utter destruction of all your works. 7 As the butchered fall about you, you will know that I am Yahweh. 8 But I shall spare some of you to escape the sword among the nations, when you have been dispersed in their lands; 9 and your survivors will remember me among the nations where they are held captive, since I shall have broken their adulterous hearts for having deserted me, and destroyed their eyes for having turned adulterously towards their foul idols. They will loathe themselves for all the wrong they have caused by their loathsome practices. 10 Then they will know that I am Yahweh and that I was not talking lightly when I said that I would inflict these disasters on them.'"
Ezekiel and his fellow exiles are living on a flat, alluvial plain in Babylonia, far from the hills and valleys of their native land. Yahweh tells His prophet to turn towards the mountains of central Judah where Yahweh's Temple stands on Mount Moriah (2 Chr 3:1). He is to prophesy the warning that Yahweh will summon the armies of the Babylonians to come against His rebellious covenant people who worship false gods, offering profane sacrifices and incense to them on the hills and mountains of God's Holy Land.
Question: In offering worship to pagan gods, which
of the Ten Commandments are the people violating?
Answer: They are violating the first of the Ten Commandments in which Yahweh commanded that worshipping Him must be exclusive: You shall have no other gods to rival me. You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them... (Ex 20:3-5a).
In verse 4, Ezekiel uses the plural Hebrew word gillulim (translated filthy idols) that is from the root galal, "to roll" and the noun gelal, "dirt" or "filth," indicating the unclean and polluted nature of the idols. Ezekiel uses the word three times in this passage and for idols 39 times in the Book of Ezekiel of the 48 times it occurs in the Old Testament (Block, page 226).(1)
In verses 3-7, Yahweh says everything is to be swept away by the swords of the enemy:
8 But I shall
spare some of you to escape the sword among the nations, when you have been
dispersed in their lands; 9 and
your survivors will remember me among the nations where they are held captive...
In verses 8-9a, Yahweh instructs Ezekiel to tell the people that He will spare a remnant who will remember Him.
I shall have broken their adulterous hearts for having deserted me, and
destroyed their eyes for having turned adulterously towards their foul idols.
They will loathe themselves for all the wrong they have caused by their
loathsome practices. 10 Then they
will know that I am Yahweh and that I was not talking lightly when I said that
I would inflict these disasters on them.
In verses 9-10, God says the exiles' sufferings will bring about their repentance and an end to their idol worshipping, since I shall have broken their adulterous hearts for having deserted me, and destroyed their eyes for having turned adulterously towards their foul idols (underlining added for emphasis). The mention of adulterous hearts and eyes is most likely a reference to Numbers 15:39 where Yahweh warned the covenant people not to follow the dictates of your own heart and eyes, which have led you to be unfaithful. The people's eyes and hearts (what they saw in the practices of pagan nations and what they told themselves in their hearts/feelings was acceptable) became the two brokers of sin. But God says that their suffering will have the desired effect of breaking the idol worship of their adulterous hearts. Notice that verse 9 uses one of the reoccurring images of the prophets in an expression that describes idol worship in the symbolic imagery of Israel as an adulterous wife violating her marriage vows to her Divine husband, Yahweh (for example, see the same promise in Jer 32:40).(2)
10 Then they will know that I am Yahweh... When the prophesied destruction comes, the people will know that it is Yahweh's judgment. This phrase in verse 10 is the first of 70 times that it is repeated with slight variations (also "Then you will know that I am Yahweh"), in the Book of Ezekiel, identifying the theme of the book and Ezekiel's ministry.
Ezekiel 6:11-14 ~ The Sins of Israel
11 The Lord Yahweh says this, "Clap your hands, stamp your feet, and say: Alas for all the loathsome sins of the House of Israel, which is about to fall by sword, famine and plague! 12 Far off, they will die by plague; near at hand they will fall by the sword; and any who survive or are spared will die of famine. This is how I shall sate my fury on them. 13 Then you will know that I am Yahweh, when their butchered corpses lie among their foul idols, all round their altars, on every high hill, on every mountain top, under every green tree, under every leafy oak, wherever they offer a smell pleasing to all their idols. 14 I shall point my finger at them and reduce the country to an empty wasteland from the desert to Riblah, everywhere they live, and they will know that I am Yahweh."
The Lord Yahweh says this or Thus says the LORD [Yahweh] is a message formula that introduces a new oracle. In the ancient world, stamping one's feet and clapping one's hands indicated approval. In this case, Ezekiel is told to indicate his approval of the fulfillment of Yahweh's prophecies in the venting of Yahweh's wrath on a sinful and unrepentant covenant people (see the curse judgment in Dt 28:63).
Sword, famine, and plague are the three disasters that are the result of war and are judgments of suffering repeated in other covenant judgments of the prophets. The same triple threat is in the curse judgments of Leviticus 26:25; Jeremiah 14:12; 21:9; 27:8, 13; 29:18.
Question: The three scourges are among what three groups?
Answer: Those "far off" and those "near at hand," meaning those outside the walls of the city and those inside the city, and those "who survive" and "are spared" the sword.
Verse 13 lists the sites of pagan worship: their butchered corpses lie among their foul idols, all round their altars, on every high hill, on every mountain top, under every green tree, under every leafy oak, wherever they offer a smell pleasing to all their idols. The bodies of those who die by the sword outside the city will lie by their pagan altars where their false gods were incapable of saving them. 14 I shall point my finger at them and reduce the country to an empty wasteland from the desert to Riblah, everywhere they live gives the extent of the destruction from "the desert" that is the southern boundary of Israel to the most northern part of the Promised Land (see 2 Kng 23:33 and Judg 20:1).
Verses 13 and 14 repeat the reason for Yahweh's divine judgment and the theme of Ezekiel's messages, Then you/they will know that I am Yahweh. With this refrain, the focus shifts from those in the land to the exiles to whom the words are addressed. The result of the foretold destruction is that those suffering in Jerusalem and the exiles will know that I am Yahweh.
Ezekiel 7:1-14 ~ The Oracle Announcing that the End is Near
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, say, Lord Yahweh says this to the land of Israel: Finished! The end is coming for the four corners of the country. 3 This is the end for you; I shall unleash my anger on you, and judge you as your conduct deserves and call you to account for all your loathsome practices. 4 I shall show you no pity, I shall not spare you; I shall repay you for your conduct and for the loathsome practices in which you persist. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. 5 "The Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster, a unique disaster, is coming. 6 The end is coming, the end is coming, it is on the move towards you, it is coming now. 7 Now it is your turn, you who dwell in this country. Doom is coming, the day is near; no joy now, only tumult, on the mountains. 8 Now I shall soon vent my fury on you and sate my anger on you: I shall judge you as your conduct deserves and repay you for all your loathsome practices. 9 I shall show neither pity nor mercy, but shall repay you for your conduct and the loathsome practices in which you persist. Then you will know that I am Yahweh and that I strike. 10 Now is the day, your turn has come, it has come, it appears, the scepter has blossomed, pride is at its peak. 11 Violence has risen to become the scourge of wickedness ... 12 Doom is coming, the day is near. Neither should buyer rejoice, nor seller regret, for the fury rests on everyone alike. 13 The seller will not be able to go back on his bargain; each persists in his sins; they take no defensive measures. 14The trumpet sounds, all is ready, but no one goes into battle, since my fury rests on all alike.'"
Finished! The end is coming for the four corners of the country.
Yahweh addresses the next oracle to all the people still in Judah in verses 1-6. The announcement "Finished" means that the time for repentance has passed. Divine judgment is inevitable and inescapable and is coming for all parts of the country. Just as Yahweh used the Israelites to punish the abomination of human sacrifice practiced by the Canaanites in the conquest of Canaan, He will now use the Babylonians as His instrument of divine judgment against the remaining Israelites in the state of Judah. Verse 9b repeats the reason Yahweh unleashes His divine judgment: Then you will know that I am Yahweh... This judgment, like all divine judgments, is meant to be redemptive in bringing those in need of correction back to faith and obedience in their relationship with God. Even those who perish will die knowing that Yahweh, the one true God, ordained this judgment and the false gods they worshipped were incapable of saving them. Those who die in their sins will be purified in Sheol (CCC 632-33) and will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of salvation when Jesus descends to the abode of the dead (1 Pt 3:18-22; 4:6; Apostles' Creed).
Question: In the New Covenant in Christ Jesus,
when will it be too late to repent?
Answer: After we take our last breath; until that moment, we can repent and call upon the mercy of Jesus Christ to save us.
Then the focus shifts to the exiles in verses 7-14 and Ezekiel delivers Yahweh's message: I shall judge you as your conduct deserves and repay you for all your loathsome practices. The exiles will also face Yahweh's divine judgment for their sins, and their hope for the preservation of the nation of Judah and their return from exile is lost; there is no longer any hope.
14The trumpet sounds, all is ready, but no one goes into battle, since my fury rests on all alike.
The sound of the trumpet does not announce battle but judgment. In the same way, a trumpet blast announced the judgment on the pagan inhabitants of Jericho (Josh 6:20-21), and trumpets announced the annual Feast of Trumpets, the call to prepare for the Day of Atonement ten days later (Lev 23:23-32). Seven trumpets are associated with the seven actions of divine judgment in the Book of Revelation (Rev 8:2-10:7), and St. Paul writes that trumpets will announce the end of the Age of Man and the Final Judgment: At the signal given by the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God, the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and only after that shall we who remain alive be taken up in the clouds, together with them to meet the Lord in the air. This is the way we shall be with the Lord for ever (1 Thes 4:16).
Ezekiel 7:15-27 ~ The Sins of Israel
15 "Outside, the sword; inside, plague and famine. Whoever is living in the countryside will die by the sword; whoever is living in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. 16 And those who escape will escape to the mountains and there, like doves of the valleys, I shall slaughter them all, each one for his sin. 17 Every hand will grow limp, every knee turn to water. 18 They will put on sackcloth, each one trembling. Every face will be ashamed and every head be shaved. 19 They will throw their silver away in the streets and their gold they will regard as a pollution; neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of Yahweh's fury. Never again will they have enough to eat, never again will they fill their bellies, since that was the occasion for their guilt. 20 They used to pride themselves on the beauty of their jewelry, out of which they made their loathsome images, their horrors; so now I have made it pollute them. 21 I shall hand it over as plunder to foreigners, as loot to the most evil people on earth. They will profane it. 22 I shall turn my face away from them, while my treasure-house is profaned and robbers will force their way in and profane it. 23 Forge yourself a chain; for the country is full of bloody executions and the city full of deeds of violence, 24 so I shall bring the cruelest of the nations to seize their houses. I shall put an end to the pride of their elite, and their sanctuary will be profaned. 25 Terror is on the way: they will look for peace and there will be none. 26 Disaster will follow on disaster, rumor on rumor; they will pester the prophet for a vision; the priest will be at a loss over the law and the elders on how to advise. 27 The king will go into mourning*, the prince be plunged in grief, the hands of the country people tremble. I shall treat them as their conduct deserves, and judge them as their own verdicts merit. Then they will know that I am Yahweh!'" *missing from the Septuagint text.
Outside the walls of the city are the swords of the enemy; inside the city walls are plague and famine. The people of Jerusalem will realize that their temporal treasures of silver and gold are meaningless in the face of disaster and death. Their wealth gave them a false sense of security and contributed to their pride and their lack of fear in offending God and polluting His House of worship. Their civil and religious leadership who failed in calling the people to repentance will be completely ineffective as the end draws near. They can save neither the people nor themselves.
The king will go into mourning, the prince be plunged in grief,
the hands of the country people tremble. I shall treat them as their conduct
deserves, and judge them as their own verdicts merit. Then they will know that
I am Yahweh!'"
The phrase The king will go into mourning is not in the Greek text. It was probably added to the Massoretic text because of the reference to "the prince." However, Ezekiel does not recognize Zedekiah as the legitimate king of Judah. For Ezekiel, Zedekiah is only a "prince" of the House of David as a son of Davidic King Josiah (2 Kng 24:17-20; 1 Chr 3:15). The Divine King of Israel is Yahweh and Jehoiachin is the legitimate Davidic King (2 Kng 24:8-12, 17).
Chapters 8-11: Ezekiel's Vision-Journey to Jerusalem
Ezekiel 8:1-9 ~ Ezekiel's Vision of Abominations in the Jerusalem Temple
1 In the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month, I was sitting at home and the elders of Judah were sitting with me, when suddenly the hand of the Lord Yahweh fell on me there. 2 I looked, and there was a form with the appearance of a human being. Downwards from what seemed to be the waist there was fire; and upwards from the waist there was a brilliance like the glitter of amber. 3 Something like a hand was stretched out and it took me by a lock of my hair; and the spirit lifted me between heaven and earth and, in visions from God, took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the inner north gate, where stands the idol that provokes jealousy [the image of jealousy]. 4 There was the glory of the God of Israel; it looked like what I had seen in the valley. 5 He said, "Son of man, raise your eyes to the north." I raised my eyes to the north, and there, to the north of the altar gate, stood this statue of jealousy at the entrance. 6 He said, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the monstrous, loathsome things that the House of Israel is practicing here, to drive me out of my sanctuary? And you will see practices more loathsome still." 7 He next took me to the entrance to the court. I looked; there was a hole in the wall. 8 He said, "Son of man, bore through the wall." I bored through the wall, until I had made an opening. 9 He said, "Go in and look at the loathsome things they are doing inside." [...] = IBHE, vol. III, page 1913.
The material in Chapters 8-11 narrates a single visionary experience. The vision begins in 8:1-3 with the date, location, audience of exiled elders, and the weight of God's hand/glory falling upon Ezekiel to begin the vision in which a brilliant human figure seizes him, and the spirit transports him to Jerusalem. The visionary experience will end in 11:22-25 with Ezekiel carried eastward by the spirit as he is "lifted" up and taken back to Babylon where Ezekiel tells the elders everything he saw.
Ezekiel's vision of the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem is in two parts:
Part I also divides into two parts:
The date is the fifth day of Elul, August/September 592 BC; it is a year and two months since Ezekiel's call. The elders in exile have recognized that the "hand of Yahweh" is upon Ezekiel, and they are keeping company with him to see what message Yahweh will reveal through him. In the presence of the elders, Ezekiel has a vision as suddenly the hand of the Lord Yahweh fell on me there.
2 I looked, and
there was a form with the appearance of a human being. Downwards from what
seemed to be the waist there was fire; and upwards from the waist there was a
brilliance like the glitter of amber. 3 Something
like a hand was stretched out and it took me by a lock of my hair; and the
spirit lifted me between heaven and earth and, in visions from God, took me to
Jerusalem, to the entrance of the inner north gate...
The figure he sees is similar to the description he gave of the human-like figure in the center of the four living creatures in his first vision in 1:26-28. His experience of being grabbed by his hair is similar to that of the prophet Habakkuk in Daniel 14:36. The spirit of God takes Ezekiel, in a vision, to the Jerusalem Temple, not to recount the past sins of the people but to witness the present abominations of the people that demand immediate punishment.
The "inner" north gate may have been an entrance to the side structure of the Temple complex. The "image of jealousy" in verses 3 and 5 probably refers to an image of the pagan goddess Ishtar (Astarte), a Middle Eastern goddess worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity. The worship of this idol is particularly associated in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians, and devotion to her cult was also celebrated in Egypt following the importation of Levantine cults.
Ezekiel 8:10-18 ~ The Sins of the Leaders and the People
Within the Holy Temple
10 I went in and looked and there was every kind of reptile and repulsive animal, and all the foul idols of the House of Israel, carved all round the walls. 11 Seventy elders of the House of Israel were worshipping the idols-among them Jaazaniah son of Shaphan; each one with his censer in his hand, from which rose a fragrant cloud of incense. 12 He said, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the House of Israel do in the dark, each in his personal image-shrine? They say, Yahweh cannot see us; Yahweh has abandoned the country.'" 13 He said, "You will see them at practices more loathsome still." 14 He next took me to the entrance of the north gate of the Temple of Yahweh where women were sitting, weeping for Tammuz. 15 He said, "Son of man, do you see that? You will see even more loathsome things than that." 16 He then led me to the inner court of the Temple of Yahweh. And there, at the entrance to Yahweh's sanctuary, between the portico and the altar, there were about twenty-five men, with their backs to Yahweh's sanctuary and their faces turned towards the east. They were prostrating themselves to the east, before the rising sun. 17 He said to me, "Son of man, do you see that? Is it not bad enough for the House of Judah to be doing the loathsome things they are doing here? But they fill the country with violence and provoke my anger further; look at them now putting that branch to their nostrils. 18 And so I shall react in fury; I shall show neither pity nor mercy. They may cry as loudly as they like to me; I will not listen."
The six abominations Ezekiel witnesses taking place in the Temple (verses 10-17):
Tammuz was a Mesopotamian deity associated with vegetation. According to the legend, Tammuz died every fall and was resurrected every spring to restore fertility to the earth. Worship of Tammuz included rites of profuse weeping of the god's death in the fall of the year, as in the case when Ezekiel received his vision.
Ezekiel sees seventy elders of House of Israel involved
in pagan worship. These men are the highest leaders of the nation.
Question: What role did seventy elders play in Israel's history? See Ex 24:1-2, 9-11; Num 11:16-17; 2 Sam 5:3; 1 Kg 12:6; 20:7.
Answer: The institution of Israel's seventy elders as the primary ruling body of the nation was established in the nations tradition: seventy elders from the twelve tribes were among those leaders invited to approach Yahweh at the ratification of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24:1-2) and ate a sacred communion meal in the Divine Presence (Ex 24:9-10). They were consecrated to help Moses by judging legal cases in the twelve tribes they represented (Num 11:16-17. They also played a role in selecting and advising the nation's kings (2 Sam 5:3; 1 Kg 12:6; 20:7).
Later, seventy elders representing the people, along with
the reigning High Priest, composed the governing body of the Sanhedrin, the
nation's high court. Jaazaniah son of Shaphan is one of the seventy
elders committing idolatry within the Temple, and it is significant that he is the
only one named in this passage (although two other wicked leaders will be named
Question: Who was Shaphan whose son was worshipping idols in the House of God? See 2 Kng 22:3, 8-10, 12; 2 Chr 34:8, 15-16, 18, 20; Jer 26:24; 39:14; 29:3. What was the Shaphan family's relationship to Jeremiah? See Jer 26:24; 29:3; 36:25.
Answer: Shaphan was a righteous man who served as the royal scribe to King Josiah. Shaphan and the priest Hilkiah found the missing Book of the Law and took it to King Josiah who immediately called for national repentance and a recommitment of the people's covenant with Yahweh. Shaphan's sons supported Jeremiah. Ahikam son of Shaphan protected Jeremiah from King Jehoiakim (Jer 26:24), and his brother, Elasah, secretly carried Jeremiah's letter to the exiles in Babylon, condemning the preaching of the false prophet Hananiah who opposed Jeremiah.
It is shocking to hear that the son from a righteous family is openly worshipping idols in the Temple. However, it is a warning that children can stray from the righteous path set for them by their parents and followed by their siblings, putting their salvation in jeopardy. Jaazaniah son of Shaphan will perish with the other Jerusalemites.
Chapter 9: Divine Judgment for Jerusalem
Ezekiel 9:1-11 ~ Punishment and the Salvation
1 Then he shouted loudly for me to hear, "The scourges of the city are approaching, each carrying his weapon of destruction!" 2 Immediately six men advanced from the upper north gate, each holding a deadly weapon. Among them was a man dressed in linen, with a scribe's ink-horn in his belt. They came in and halted in front of the bronze altar. 3 The glory of the God of Israel rose from above the winged creature [cherub] where it had been, towards the threshold of the Temple. He called to the man dressed in linen with a scribe's ink-horn in his belt 4 and Yahweh said to him, "Go all through the city, all through Jerusalem, and mark a cross [taw] on the foreheads of all who grieve and lament over all the loathsome practices in it." 5 I heard him say to the others, "Follow him through the city and strike. Not one glance of pity; show no mercy; 6 old men, young men, girls, children, women, kill and exterminate them all. But do not touch anyone with a cross on his forehead. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the old men who were in the Temple. 7 He said to them, "Defile the Temple; fill the courts with corpses; then go out!" They went out and hacked their way through the city. 8 While they were hacking them down, I was left alone; I fell on my face, crying out, "Ah, Lord Yahweh, are you going to annihilate all that is left [all the remnant] of Israel by venting your fury on Jerusalem?" 9 He said, "The guilt of the House of Israel and Judah is immense; the country is full of bloodshed, the city full of perversity, for they say, Yahweh has abandoned the country, Yahweh cannot see.' 10 Then, I too shall neither give one glance of pity nor show any mercy. I shall repay them for what they have done." 11 The man dressed in linen with the scribe's ink-horn in his belt then came back and made his report, "I have carried out your orders." [...] = literal Hebrew word, Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English, vol. III, page 1915.
2 Immediately six
men advanced from the upper north gate, each holding a deadly weapon.
The "scourges of the city" are God's agents who will take vengeance on the city and its citizens for their many sins. Ezekiel is not seeing what is taking place in his present; he sees what will take place in the future. The six "men" are angelic beings with the appearance of men. The "north gate" is also called the "upper gate," located in the exterior court and called "the upper gate of Benjamin in Jeremiah 20:2 because through it was the way to the Benjamin Gate in the city wall (Jer 37:13).(3)
them was a man dressed in linen, with a scribe's ink-horn in his belt.
The man dressed in linen is wearing what is similar to a liturgical garment worn by the priests (Ex 28:29-42; 29:27; Lev 6:10) and by angels (Dan 10:5; 12:6f). Both the Prophet Daniel and St. John had similar visions of "a man" dressed in linen:
However, the ink-horn on his belt is the equipment of a scribe. Perhaps he is the heavenly agent who wrote out the covenant lawsuit scroll that Ezekiel consumed at God's command in 2:9-3:3. Six "men" plus the heavenly scribe makes seven agents of God, a number symbolizing competition. Perhaps the number suggests the seven angels in St. John's vision of divine judgment in the Book of Revelation: Next I saw seven trumpets being given to the seven angels who stand in the presence of God... The seven angels that had the seven trumpets now made ready to sound them (Rev 8:2, 6). It is a vision that also divides the destruction into thirds as in Ezekiel 5:1-2 (see Rev 8:7-12).
They came in and halted in front of the bronze altar.
This altar is the bronze sacrificial altar that originally stood in the courtyard in front of the Sanctuary of Solomon's Temple (1 Kng 8:64). It was removed by wicked King Ahaz (736-716 BC) and placed to the north of his new Damascus altar (2 Kng 16:14). The seven "men" dressed in linen halted in front of the sacrificial altar built at God's command and according to His specifications for the desert Sanctuary (Ex 27:1-8; 38:1-7).
3 The glory of
the God of Israel rose from above the winged creature [cherub] where it had
been, towards the threshold of the Temple.
For the first time, the Book of Ezekiel uses the word "cherub" (in the singular). The "glory of God" rose from the between the winged statues of the cherubim on the Mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant where the Divine Presence of God dwelt among His people in the Holy of Holies (Ex 25:18; 1 Kng 8:10-11). The vision signifies the departure of God's Divine Presence from the Temple. His departure is the withdrawing of His divine protection for the Temple and makes way for the judgment to be carried out.
He called to the man dressed in linen with a scribe's
ink-horn in his belt 4 and Yahweh
said to him, "Go all through the city, all through Jerusalem, and mark a cross [tau]
on the foreheads of all who grieve and lament over all the loathsome practices
The "HE" is Yahweh. The vision reveals that God's punishment will not strike indiscriminately; it will spare the innocent. God instructs His agent to go throughout the city seeking out the righteous and marking the Hebrew letter "taw" on their foreheads. It was an ancient custom that the "taw," served as a mark of ownership. In the ancient Hebrew script, this last letter in the Hebrew alphabet was cross-shaped. All those marked by the "sign of the cross" will be saved. It is possible that this mark represented Yahweh's signature and was His claim of ownership on those who were citizens of the true Kingdom of God.
Question: When had the righteous of the
Israelites experienced salvation under a similar sign in their history? See Ex 12:21-23.
Answer: In the Egyptian tenth plague judgment, the Israelites were told God would spare those protected by the sign of the blood over their doorways from the threshold to the lintel above the door to each side of the door, making a cross over their doors.
For all Christians, of course, the sign of the Cross of Jesus Christ is the premier sign of our salvation. The brilliant Roman-Carthaginian Christian apologist, Tertullian, wrote concerning this passage: "For this same letter TAU of the Greeks, which is our T, has the appearance of the cross, which he foresaw we should have on our foreheads in the true and catholic Jerusalem....And since all these are found in use with you also, the sign on the foreheads, and the sacraments of the churches, and the pureness of the sacrifices, you ought at once to break forth and affirm that it was for your Christ that the Creator's Spirit prophesied (Against Marcion, 3.22).
8 While they were
hacking them down, I was left alone; I fell on my face, crying out, "Ah, Lord
Yahweh, are you going to annihilate all that is left [all the remnant] of
Israel by venting your fury on Jerusalem?"
Horrified by his vision and realizing these events have not yet taken place, Ezekiel asks Yahweh if He intends to carry out the destruction until no one is left. Ezekiel uses the expression "all the remnant of Israel," acknowledging that the population of Judah and Jerusalem represent all that remains of Israel. He fears that the outpouring of Yahweh's wrath will signal the end of the covenant people.
9 He said, "The
guilt of the House of Israel and Judah is immense; the country is full of
bloodshed, the city full of perversity, for they say, Yahweh has abandoned the
country, Yahweh cannot see.' 10 Then,
I too shall neither give one glance of pity nor show any mercy. I shall repay
them for what they have done."
Yahweh's answers Ezekiel's question by citing four causes for His judgment:
The fifth cause reminds us of the fifth petition of the
Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:12, Gospel of Matthew Lesson 11 Handouts.
Question: What was Jesus' warning about withholding forgiveness immediately after the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:14-15?
Answer: Jesus said, "Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either."
11 The man
dressed in linen with the scribe's ink-horn in his belt then came back and made
his report, "I have carried out your orders."
The "man dressed in linen," who may be the Angel of the Yahweh (Ex 14:19) or the Captain of the Army of Yahweh (Jos 5:13-15) or the pre-Incarnate Christ, reports that Yahweh's plan will move forward.
Questions for discussion or reflection:
Under the Old Covenants, judgment was not eternal. All the dead went to the abode of the dead (Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek) where they awaited the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah. The righteous dead waited in the company of Father Abraham, while the wicked dead experienced divine punishment for their sins. See Jesus' description of Sheol/Hades in Luke 16:19-31 and see CCC 632-33. Also see Jesus' references to necessary purification after death in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35 and St. Paul's reference in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.
In the New Covenant, we also have blessings and judgments, but our blessings and judgments are eternal. The blessings include Christ's gift of eternal salvation, the Eucharist in which we partake of the life of Christ to nourish us on our journey to eternal salvation, and His Kingdom of the Church to guide us on our journey.
1 The word gillulim probably refers to the cylindrical shape of human excrement and in modern terms would be expressed by a four-letter expletive for human excrement.
2 Ezekiel often refers to this evil combination (cf 11:21; 18:6, 12, 15; 20:7, 8, 24; 23:27), and he will contrast the old "broken heart" with God's gift of a "new heart" in 11:19; 18:31 and 36:26; also promised in Jer 24:7.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2017 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson (* indicates
Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):
Matthew 25:31-46 (CCC 544*, 1033*, 1373, 2447*, 2831*; 25:31-36 (CCC 2443*); 25:25-32 (CCC 1038); 25:36 (CCC 1503); 25:40 (CCC 678, 1397*, 1825*, 1932*, 2449*); 25:41 (CCC 1034).
Luke 6:24-26 (CCC 2547)
1 Peter 3:18-19 (CCC 632*); 3:21-22 (CCC 845*); 4:6 (CCC 634)