THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Part II: God’s Judgment of the Covenant People
Chapter 13: An Oracle Against the False Prophets
Chapter 14: An Oracle Against the Idolatrous Elders in Exile
Chapter 15: The Parable of the Vine
You have called us to be holy as You are holy. How could we not strive to live in holiness with Christ filling and indwelling our lives through the gift of the Eucharist? When we fail to fulfill our call to holiness, we profane our bodies that are the earthly temples of the Holy Spirit. Protect us from the temptations to sin, Lord, and help us to resist being led astray by false prophets and secular morality. Give us a vision of Heaven to help us turn away from the visions of depravity we see and hear about in the world today. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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So the Holy One of Israel says this, “Since you have rejected this
word and put your trust in fraud and disloyalty and rely on these [false prophets], for you this guilt will prove to be a breach
opening up, a bulge at the top of a wall which suddenly and all at once comes
In 592 BC, as Ezekiel was speaking the word of God to the exiles in Babylon, the leaders in Jerusalem were feeling confident. The prosperity of the people in the city had increased considerably. After the two exiles (605 and 598 BC), those still in Jerusalem had confiscated the property and material wealth of the exiles. They even boasted that they were blessed and there wasn’t any need to build more houses (11:2-3). They also controlled a weak young king who submitted to the pro-Egyptian faction and was forming an alliance with neighboring states to join the Egyptians in rebelling against the Babylonians (2 Kng 24:20; 2 Chr 36:12-13). The only “fly in the ointment,” so to speak, was Jeremiah the prophet who continued to preach the destruction of Jerusalem and the nation (Jer 24:8b-10). They decided that Jeremiah had to die (Jer 38:4-6).
In Chapters 13:1-14:11, Yahweh directs His anger against three groups of people:
Chapter 13: Oracles against the False Prophets and Prophetesses
Ezekiel 13:1-7 ~ Yahweh’s Accusations
against Judah’s False Prophets
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel; prophesy, and say to those who make up prophecies out of their own heads, ‘Hear what Yahweh says: 3 The Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for [Woe to] the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets, Israel, are like ruin-haunting jackals! 5 ‘You have not ventured into the breach; you have not built up the wall round the House of Israel, to hold fast in battle on the Day of Yahweh. 6 Theirs are futile visions and false predictions, who say: A prophecy from Yahweh, when Yahweh has not sent them; yet they expect their words to come true. 7 Have not the visions you see been futile, have not the predictions you make been false, although you say: A prophecy of Yahweh, when I have not spoken? […] literal translation IBHE vol. III, page 1924.
The formula “The word of Yahweh was addressed to me” signals the beginning of another oracle. This oracle is against the false prophets like Shemaiah the Nehelamite who wrote from exile in Babylon that Jeremiah should be punished for encouraging the exiles to accept a long captivity (Jer 29:24-28). Jeremiah denounced him in Jerusalem, and he sent a letter to the exiles, declaring Yahweh’s punishment for Shemaiah and his family that they would not survive to see the restoration of Israel (Jer 29:29-32).
3 The Lord Yahweh
says this: Disaster is in store for [Woe to*] the foolish prophets who follow
their own spirit and have seen nothing! * = Hebrew and Greek translation.
Yahweh’s oracle delivers a “woe” judgment against all prophets who claim to speak for Him but instead speak their own words. God’s prophets often present covenant lawsuits in a series of “woe” judgments. The word in both Hebrew and Greek is an expression of grief. See for example the six “woe” judgments in Isaiah 5:8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22, the five “woe” judgments in Habakkuk 2:6, 9, 12, 15, 19, and Jesus’ seven “woe” judgments against the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew Chapter 23.1
Chapter 13 contains a list of charges against the false
prophets and two announcements of judgments.
Question: What are the charges Yahweh brings against the false prophets in verses 1-8?
3 The Lord Yahweh
says this: Disaster is in store for the foolish prophets …
Scripture uses the Hebrew word nabal, meaning “foolish,” for someone:
… who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
They claim falsely to have visions and to hear oracles from God when they have seen and heard nothing.
4 Your prophets,
Israel, are like ruin-haunting jackals! 5
‘You have not ventured into the breach; you have not built up the wall
round the House of Israel, to hold fast in battle on the Day of Yahweh’…10b When my people were repairing a wall, these
men came and plastered it over!
Yahweh uses two comparisons to describe the perverse manner in which the false prophets conduct their self-appointed ministries:
God compares the false prophets to jackals, scavengers who inhabit ruins. It was apparently common to see jackals living in ruins and enlarging breaches in crumbling walls (Lam 5:18; Neh 3:35). Therefore, they, like the false prophets, contribute to and benefit from adding to the destruction of the places they inhabit. Jerusalem is a religious and moral ruin, overrun with jackal-prophets who contribute to the moral decay by telling the people what they want to hear and denouncing true prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Yahweh also compares the false prophets to ruined walls. Yahweh uses a metaphor in Scripture that compares Israel to a walled vineyard under Yahweh’s protection from humans and animals (Is 5:5). Through neglect, the “wall” of the Law that Yahweh built around Israel deteriorated until breaches or breaks occurred.
In verse 5, Yahweh makes a serious
accusation against the false prophets: 5
You have not ventured into the breach; you have not built up the wall
round the House of Israel, to hold fast in battle on the Day of Yahweh.
Stone walls and fences protected cultivated areas like vineyards (Num 22:24; Is 5:5; Prov 24:30-31; Ps 80:12-13). Israel, as Yahweh’s cherished vineyard, is one of the symbolic images of the prophets representing God’s relationship with His covenant people (see Is 5:1-7 and the chart on the Symbolic images of the prophets).
However, Yahweh’s Vineyard was now defenseless because of the unrepented sins of the people and their rulers. God’s divine protection was no longer present, like a “stone wall” between Israel/Judah and her enemies. The false prophets have not, in the tradition of Moses, “stepped into the breach” by interceding for the people and at the same time calling them to confession and repentance. An example of a true prophet “standing in the breach” is found in Moses’s defense of the Israelites after the sin of the Golden Calf in Exodus Chapter 32. Psalm 106:23 describes Moses’ intercession for the people with the same imagery as we find in this Ezekiel passage: He [God] thought of putting an end to them had not Moses, his chosen one, taken a stand in the breach and confronted him, to turn his anger away from destroying them. In the oracle in Ezekiel 22:30, God will repeat the same expression, “stand in the breach.”
The people’s iniquities, acts of
abominations, and their failure to repent caused a breach in Yahweh’s wall of
protection: …for you this guilt will prove to be a breach opening up, a
bulge at the top of a wall which suddenly and all at once comes crashing down (Is 30:13).
Question: The false prophets’ unauthorized messages and the peoples’ continued sins because of their belief in the false messages opened the “breach,” but why are the false prophets incapable of “standing in the breach”?
Answer: The false prophets are incapable of mediating for mercy to “stand in the breach” like Moses because are not true prophets that are the “chosen ones” of God.
to hold fast in battle on the Day of Yahweh.
The “Day of Yahweh” is the day of divine judgment. The bad news is that Israel is no longer a “vineyard” guarded by the “wall” of Yahweh protection but is a city under siege by an enemy. The worst news is that the enemy isn’t just an earthly one but Yahweh Himself. In Ezekiel 22:30, Ezekiel will speak of “standing in the breach” to defend the city against Yahweh’s wrath. Then, Ezekiel 33:7 presents God as the enemy and whose arrival the prophet/watchman must sound the warning.
The true prophet’s mission, according to this passage, had a three-fold purpose:
6 Theirs are
futile visions and false predictions, who say: A prophecy from Yahweh, when
Yahweh has not sent them; yet they expect their words to come true. 7 Have not the visions you see been futile, have
not the predictions you make been false, although you say: A prophecy of
Yahweh, when I have not spoken?
It was impossible for the false prophets to fulfill the three-fold mission because their visions and predictions were without substance, even if they believed them. They have lied in stamping their deceitful divinations with Yahweh’s imprimatur, claiming that their visions and pronouncements are from God.
7 Have not the
visions you see been futile, have not the predictions you make been false,
although you say: A prophecy of Yahweh, when I have not spoken?
One cannot attempt to manipulate Yahweh by forging His “stamp” on their utterances by claiming to attach His signature to a pronouncement as if the claim makes it true. God will answer His rhetorical question in verse 7 in His judgment against the false prophets in verses 8-16.
Ezekiel 13:8-9 ~ Yahweh First
Judgment against the False Prophets
8 ‘Very well, the Lord Yahweh says this: Because of your futile words and false predictions, I am now against you, declares Lord Yahweh. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who have futile visions and give false predictions; they will not be admitted to the council of my people, their names will not be entered in the roll of the House of Israel, they will not set foot on the soil of Israel; and they will know that I am the Lord Yahweh.
In verses 8-9, God pronounces His judgment for the false prophets. Those upon whom God’s “hand” never came in prophecy will experience His “hand” in punishment. The Lord gives three punishments for the false prophets who have misled the people and ending in the formula statement in verse 9:
These three judgments strike at the heart of what it means to be a member of God’s covenant people:
Question: What did St. Paul write concerning the Christian’s claim to the
promises God made to Abraham in Galatians 3:29?
Answer: He wrote: And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise (NAB).
Ezekiel 13:10-16 ~ Yahweh’s Second
Announcement of Judgment against False Prophets
10 This is because they have misled my people [led my people astray] by saying Peace! when there is no peace. When my people were repairing a wall, these men came and plastered it over! 11 Tell these plasterers: It will rain hard, it will hail, it will blow a gale, 12 and down will come the wall! Will not people ask you: What has become of the plaster you slapped on it? 13 Well then, the Lord Yahweh says this: I am going to unleash a stormy wind in my fury, torrential rain in my anger, hailstones in my destructive fury, 14 and I shall shatter the wall you plastered and knock it down and lay its foundations bare. It will fall and you will perish under it; then you will know that I am Yahweh.’ 15 “When I have sated my anger on the wall and those who plastered it, I shall say to you, ‘The wall is gone, and so are those who plastered over it, 16 the prophets of Israel who prophesy about Jerusalem and have visions of peace for her when there is no peace-declares the Lord Yahweh.’”
In verses 10-16, Yahweh gives the second, longer and more detailed announcement of judgment. The passage divides into three parts:
10 This is
because they have misled my people [led my people astray] by saying Peace! when
there is no peace. When my people were repairing a wall, these men came and
plastered it over!
This part of the judgment is more specific. God charges the false prophets with religious and social crimes, and He uses two metaphors: shepherding and building a wall. The false prophets claimed divine direction as they led the people “astray” [taah]. To lead “astray” evokes the image of a shepherd who causes his flock to become lost instead of leading them to security and rest (see this imagery in Mic 3:5; Jer 23:13, 32, and especially in Ez Chapter 34). “Shepherding” is a Biblical metaphor associated with divine protection (Ps 23:1; Jn Chapter 10) and civil leadership (1 Sam 5:1-2; Ez 34:1-2, 5). In alluding to this metaphor, God places responsibility for the “going astray” of the covenant people on the false prophets. Instead of leading the people to safe pasture and rest, they have fed them with empty promises of peace and have intentionally deluded them into a false sense of security without calling them to repentance and salvation.
Yahweh illustrates the deluding effects of the false prophets with another metaphor comparing the false prophet’s impact on the House of Israel to the way some build houses with poorly constructed walls. Instead of correcting the defects in workmanship, other “workmen” cover up the evidence of poor quality with plaster. In Hebrew, the word translated “plaster” is tapel which is also translated “saliva.” The point is they attempt to mend the walls without an essential binding ingredient which, in this case, is obedience to the Law (see verses 10-12, 14, 15 and Ez 22:28).
The false prophets will experience the violent “storm” of Yahweh’s divine wrath. When the people were close to repentance because they were moved by Jeremiah’s prophecies and his efforts to mend the “breach in the wall,” the false prophets attacked Jeremiah and undermined his credibility. Therefore, when the people were about to repair the “wall” protecting their relationship with Yahweh, the false prophets misled them with promises of “peace.” They gave them not a solid wall but an inadequate “plastered” wall that will not withstand the furious wrath of Yahweh. In this passage, the prophet is not describing a vision of men plastering a wall; rather he is developing a metaphor for hypocrisy in general.
Ezekiel 13:17-23 ~ Judgment against the
17 “Also, son of man, turn to the women of your people who make up prophecies out of their own heads; prophesy against them. 18 Say, ‘The Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for women who sew ribbons round each wrist and make head-cloths for people of all sizes, in their hunt for souls! Are you to hunt the souls of my people and keep your own souls safe? 19 You dishonor me in front of my people for a few handfuls of barley, a few bits of bread, killing those who ought not to die and sparing those who ought not to live, lying to my people who love listening to lies.’ 20 Very well, the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am now against your ribbons, with which you hunt souls like birds, and I shall tear them off your arms and free those souls whom you hunt like birds. 21 I shall tear your head-cloths to pieces and rescue my people from your clutches; no longer will they be fair game for you to ensnare. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. 22 For having intimidated with lies the heart of the upright whom I had done nothing to alarm, and for having encouraged the wicked not to give up wicked ways and so be saved, 23 very well, you will have no more futile visions and make no more predictions, for I shall rescue my people from your clutches, and you will know that I am Yahweh.’”
In verses 17-23, Yahweh denounces women who prophesy falsely and practice the occult arts that included fortunetelling. There were true female prophetesses. The Old Testament list includes Moses and Aaron’s sister Miriam (Ex 15:20-21), Deborah (Judg chapters 4-5), Isaiah’s wife (Is 8:1-4), Huldah (2 Kng 22:14-20), and Noadiah (Neh 6:14). See the chart on prophets and prophetesses.
The false women prophets used wristbands or amulets, head-clothes, and cast bits of grain or bread to make prophecies. They received payment for their services, delivering life and death prophecies for negligible compensation (1 Sam 9:7). The Law of Moses condemned divination and the one who practiced it as well as the one who sought it (Lev 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Dt 18:10-12).
Yahweh will take away their occult symbols and will let free (like birds) the lives of people who have become enslaved to their utterances. Birds were frequently used in divination in the ancient world (Is 8:19). Once again the oracle ends in the formula statement for returning to a covenant relationship with Yahweh.
Question: Under the Old Covenant Law, what was the
punishment for a false prophet? See Dt 18:20. What was the test to judge a
true prophet? See Dt 18:21-22?
Answer: The judgment was death, and the test was the fulfillment of everything a prophet spoke in Yahweh’s name.
Ezekiel 14:1-11 ~ Yahweh’s Refusal to Answer the
Elders Practicing Idolatry
1 Next, some elders of Israel visited me and while they were sitting with me, 2 the word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 3 “Son of man, these men have enshrined their foul idols in their hearts and placed the cause of their sinning right before their eyes. Why should I let myself be consulted by them? 4 So speak to them; tell them this, ‘Lord Yahweh says this: Every member of the House of Israel who enshrines his foul idols in his heart and places the cause of his sinning right before his eyes, and who then approaches the prophet, will get this answer from me, Yahweh, as the multiplicity of his idols deserves, 5 and in this way I hope to win back the hearts of the House of Israel who have all been estranged from me by their foul idols.’ 6 “So say to the House of Israel, ‘The Lord Yahweh says this: Come back, turn away from your foul idols, turn your backs on all your loathsome practices; 7 for if any member of the House of Israel or any foreigner living in Israel deserts me to enshrine his foul idols in his heart and places the cause of his sinning right before his eyes and then approaches a prophet to consult me through him, he will get his answer from me, Yahweh. 8 I shall set my face against that person; I shall make him an example and a byword; I shall rid my people of him, and you will know that I am Yahweh. 9 And if the prophet is seduced into saying something, I, Yahweh, shall have seduced that prophet; I shall point my finger at him and rid my people Israel of him. 10 Both will be punished for their guilt; the prophet’s punishment will be the same as that of the person who consults him, 11 so that the House of Israel will never stray from me again or defile themselves again with these crimes, but be my people and I their God, declares the Lord Yahweh.’”
Yahweh gives two announcements of judgment against the idol loving elders in this passage. In verse 3, God reveals the true nature of the elders who have come to make an inquiry of the Lord through His prophet. They may present an image of integrity on the outside, but internally they have enshrined “foul idols in their hearts.” In verse 4, God states the case against the idol-minded elders who came to make inquiries of Ezekiel.
Question: Will Yahweh answer their inquiry and if
not, why? See verses 6-9.
Answer: Yahweh will not answer them in the sense of responding positively to their petitions until their have repented their idolatry and returned to their covenant obligations. The only “answer” from Yahweh will be their punishment.
5 ‘and in
this way I hope to win back the hearts of the House of Israel who have all been
estranged from me by their foul idols.’ 6 “So
say to the House of Israel, ‘The Lord Yahweh says this: Come back, turn away from
your foul idols, turn your backs on all your loathsome practices…
In verses 5-6, Yahweh gives an exhortation and urgent appeal for repentance that serves as a bridge to verses 7-8 that is the second and chief statement of their offense.
7 for if any member
of the House of Israel or any foreigner living in Israel-deserts me to enshrine
his foul idols in his heart and places the cause of his sinning right before
his eyes and then approaches a prophet to consult me through him, he will get
his answer from me, Yahweh.
Israelites and resident aliens living in the land were bound by obedience to the Law, and both were subject to its protection (Ex 12:48-49; Lev 20:2-5).3Anyone guilty of idol worship and causing a schism within the covenant family will have to answer directly to God.
8 I shall set my
face against that person; I shall make him an example [sign] and a byword; I
shall rid my people of him, and you will know that I am Yahweh.
The three-fold judgment in verse 8 is Yahweh’s second pronouncement of divine judgment and ends in the familiar formula statement you will know that I am Yahweh:
The first judgment expresses God’s total disfavor and the full force of His enmity. In the second judgment, God will make an example or a “sign” (in Hebrew the word is ‘ot) of the leader-idolaters as He did in Numbers 17:25 when the staff of Aaron that budded was a “sign” (‘ot) to of the election of the priestly line as well as a “sign” of the destruction of the rebels who opposed him. The fate of the leaders who practice idolatry will provide evidence of God’s disposition toward all idolaters and motivate others not to follow their bad example. The third is literally “to cut him off from the midst of my people.” The warning recalls the orders of excommunication in Leviticus 20:2-5. Not only will the bond between them, their kinsmen, and the land be severed, but they will also suffer an ultimate and final break with God.
if the prophet is seduced into saying something, I, Yahweh, shall have seduced
that prophet; I shall point my finger at him and rid my people Israel of him.
In the same way Yahweh hardened the Egyptian Pharaoh’s already “hard heart,” God will increase the false prophet’s pride and arrogance so that the false prophecies they speak should become obvious.
10 Both will be
punished for their guilt; the prophet’s punishment will be the same as that of
the person who consults him…
Question: Who bears the burden of the sin: the false prophet or the one who believes his false prophecies?
Answer: They bear the sin burden equally.
Ezekiel 14:12-23 ~ Individual Responsibility
12 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me: 13 “Son of man, when a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I point my finger at it and destroy its supply of food, inflicting famine on it and denuding it of human and animal, 14 even if the three men, Noah, Danel and Job, were living in it, they would save no one but themselves by their uprightness-declares the Lord Yahweh. 15 Were I to unleash wild beasts on that country to rob it of its children and reduce it to a desert which no one would dare to cross because of the animals, 16 even if these three men were living there, as I live, declares the Lord Yahweh, they would not be able to save either son or daughter; they alone would be saved, and the country would become a desert. 17 Were I to bring the sword down on that country and say, ‘Sword, cross the country!’ so as to denude it of human and animal, 18 even if these three men were living there, as I live, declares the Lord Yahweh, they would not be able to save either son or daughter; they alone would be saved. 19 If I were to send the plague on that country and vent my fury on it by bloodshed, so as to denude it of human and animal, 20 even if Noah and Danel [Dan’el*] and Job were living there, as I live, declares the Lord Yahweh, they would be able to save neither son nor daughter, only themselves by their uprightness.” 21 “The Lord Yahweh says this, ‘Even if I send my four dreadful scourges on Jerusalem-sword, famine, wild beasts and plague-to denude it of human and animal, 22 even so, there will be a remnant left, a few men and women who come through; when they come to you and you see their conduct and actions, you will take comfort in spite of the disaster which I have brought on Jerusalem, in spite of all I have brought on her. 23 They will comfort you, when you see their conduct and actions, and so you will know that I have not done in vain all I have done to her, declares the Lord Yahweh.’” * Dan’el is the Hebrew spelling as opposed to Dani’el the prophet in the Book of Daniel.
The curse-judgment in verse 13 repeats the warnings of the curse-judgments for apostasy in Leviticus 26:15-20 and Deuteronomy 28:15-19. In Ezekiel 14:14, 20, God mentions three righteous men: Noah, Danel, and Job. The name Noah only appears in Genesis Chapters 5-10, Isaiah 54:9; and 1 Chronicles 1:4. Noah was a righteous person, according to Genesis 6:9-12. He lived a blameless life and “walked with God” in contrast to the corrupt and violent society in which he lived. Job was a paragon of virtue with a book dedicated to his story. Sandwiched between these two examples of righteousness is a man named Danel.
Some Bible scholars assume the “Danel” [in Hebrew Dan’el], in Ezekiel 14:14 and 20, refers to the prophet Daniel [in Hebrew Dani’el]. Chapters 1-2 of the Book of Daniel portray Daniel as a Jewish youth related to the royal family and deported into exile Babylonian in c 605 BC. Through God’s intervention, he transitioned into the role of chief advisor to the Babylonian king. He is acknowledged as the wisest man in Babylon and receives authority over the Babylonian empire’s capital province by the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (c. 603 BC). At the time of Daniel’s capture, he must have been not younger than his late teens to have achieved such an important office by 603 BC. By the time Ezekiel began prophesizing along the Chebar River, Daniel would have probably been in his late twenties or early thirties. By this time his reputation for wisdom and righteousness as one of Nebuchadnezzar’s leading officials would have had about ten years to travel from the capital city to the settlements of his fellow Jews some 100-200 miles away along the Chebar River. The question is how could a young contemporary of Ezekiel, who at this time was just beginning his service to the King of Babylon, be held up as an example alongside two non-Israelite heroes of ages past?
Since the name Dan’el is between two righteous Old Testament men who predated Abraham, it is more likely that this individual is also a righteous Gentile like Noah and Job.4 A likely candidate is some renowned figure known in the ancient Levant, like the legendary Gentile King Dan’el of Ugarit. Named in twelfth-century BC Ugarit text, he was hailed as “upright, sitting before the gate, beneath a mighty tree on the threshing floor, judging the case of the widow, adjudicating the case of the fatherless” (Ancient Near-Eastern Texts, page 151). Another possibility fitting the chronological frame of the other two men is the Dan’el of Jewish tradition who was the grandfather of Methuselah (Book of Jubilees, 4:20).
The focus of this passage is the importance of individual responsibility. We cannot save our children based solely on our merits. There are two lessons in this passage:
Ezekiel 15:1-8 ~ The Parable of the Vine
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows: 2 Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than wood from the branch of a forest tree? 3 Is its wood used for making anything? Are pegs on which to hang things made from it? 4 There it is, thrown on the fire for fuel. The fire burns off both ends; the middle is charred; can it be kept for anything now? 5 While it was intact, you could make nothing with it; burned and charred, is it any more useful now? 6 So, the Lord Yahweh says this: As the wood of the vine among the forest trees, which I have thrown on the fire for fuel, so shall I treat the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 7 I shall set my face against them. They have escaped one fire, but fire will devour them yet. And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I set my face against them. 8 I shall reduce the country to a desert, because of their infidelity—declares the Lord Yahweh.
Yahweh tells Ezekiel a parable to share as a lesson and judgment warning. The parable begins with the nation of Israel symbolized as God’s cherished vine chosen over all other vines (other nations). It ends with the image of Israel the unfaithful wife of her Divine spouse. See the chart on the “Symbolic Images of the Prophets”.
In the symbolic imagery of Israel as God’s vineyard or vine, the prophets presented four different stages of Israel’s relationship or lack of a relationship with God:
Vines are replanted/
Joel 1:7, 11-12
Ezekiel 15:6-8; 19:12-14;
Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10;
|John 15:1-2, 4-64|
According to the parable, producing fruit is the only
useful function of a vine. It was Israel’s destiny to produce the good and
useful fruit of righteousness as a witness of God to the other nations of the
Question: How did Yahweh’s “choice vine” fail Him?
Answer: Israel failed to produce the “fruit” of righteousness/good deeds, and therefore, Israel as Yahweh’s vine became good for nothing but fuel for the fire of God’s divine wrath.
Because of Israel’s rebellion and willful failure to produce the acceptable “fruit” of righteousness, the nation/vine must accept God’s divine judgment. It is a judgment theme the prophet Hosea introduced earlier (Hos 10:1). It is also one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets repeated by Isaiah ( Is 3:14; 5:1-5; 27:2-5), Jeremiah (Jer 2:21; 5:10; 6:9; 12:10), Ezekiel (Ez 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14) and by the inspired writer of the Psalms (Ps 80:8-18).
As in all parables, the elements in the parable are symbolic:
The Southern Kingdom of Judah escaped the Assyrian conquest in the 8th century BC when good King Hezekiah smashed all the false idols, and God rescued them (2 Kng 18:1-6; 19:15-19, 35-37). However, their present “infidelity” in their refusal to repent the sin of idol worship means God will not rescue them this time (“set my face against them”). They will not escape the conquest of the Babylonians. God’s wrath, “fire that will devour them yet,” will send the survivors out of the land and into exile in 587/6 BC.
Questions for reflection or discussion:
Question: What does the Bible and the Church teach about forms of divination like astrology and fortune telling? See Lev 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Dt 18:10-12, and CCC 2115-17, 2138.
Question: What practices today can be classified under the sin of divination?
Question: St. Paul wrote that anyone who taught a gospel other than Jesus Christ was a false prophet (Gal 1:6-9). Jesus warned that there would be many false prophets that would come after Him (Mt 24:24-25). Name some of the false prophets since Jesus’ Ascension who came preaching a false gospel and establishing other religions challenging the truth of the Kingdom of the Church of Jesus Christ.
1 Jesus gave the blessings of the New Covenant in the seven/eight Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12; seven or eight depending on how one counts them). The malice of the Pharisees and scribes and their efforts to mislead the people concerning Jesus’ true identity as the promised Prophet-Messiah resulted in Jesus (in His role as God’s Supreme Prophet) issuing a covenant lawsuit. He gave a series of seven/eight “woe judgments” against them in Mt 23:13-33 (seven without verse 14 which does not appear in all ancient manuscripts).
2 For references to God’s “Book of Life” see Ex 32:33; Ps 69:28-29; Is 4:3; Dan 7:10; 12:1; Acts 13:48; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. For references to the Temple registry, see Ezra 2:62; Neh 7:5, 64. The Temple registry of the official genealogies of the Israelites went into exile with the citizens of Judah but was later destroyed when the Romans burnt down the rebuilt Temple in 70 AD.
3 A resident alien could not, however, take part in the liturgy of Temple worship until he or she converted, becoming a member of the covenant and a citizen of Israel.
4 There were no “Israelites” until the sons of Jacob-Israel, centuries after the deaths of Noah and Job. “Jews” referred either to a member of the tribe of Judah (one of the twelve tribes of Israel descended from Jacob-Israel’s son Judah) or a citizen of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Judahites and Benjaminites).
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