Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
VARIOUS PROPHECIES AGAINST JERUSALEM (Ezekiel 12-19)
ACTED PROPHECIES REGARDING THE SIEGE AND CAPTIVITY
There is very little need for any special help in understanding this chapter. The judicially hardened condition of the Chosen People, including even those of the captivity, had left them unwilling to hear the word of God; and yet both Jeremiah in Jerusalem and Ezekiel in Babylon continued their faithful ministries.
The necessity for God's prophets to continue their efforts to guide the Chosen People into the Truth derived from the fact that a proliferation of false prophets were shouting their false assurances of the safety and security of Jerusalem, and their equally false promises of a short captivity for the exiles and their speedy return to Jerusalem.
Of course, the message of the false prophets was extremely attractive to the hardened people of God, and that made it very difficult for them to believe God's true prophets. It was almost impossible for the people to accept the bitter facts that practically none of them would ever return to Jerusalem, that Jerusalem would be destroyed, along with the temple, that the few survivors would be deported to join the other captives in Babylon, and that "the righteous remnant" would be derived from a few of the captives who, in the second generation, would indeed find their way back to Jerusalem.
It was due to the very great difficulties of the situation that special miracles attended some of the prophecies of Ezekiel. The sudden death of Pelatiah in Ezekiel 11 was one such miracle; and the exact prophecy of the capture, blinding, and deportation of Zedekiah, all of which was most circumstantially fulfilled shortly after the prophecy was given, is another.
It was also the severe difficulty of conditions under which Ezekiel prophesied that resulted in the use of dramatic, enacted prophecies of the siege, deportation, terror, and hardships of the people. There was no way that even the most unwilling of the captives could have failed to understand what God's message actually was.
"The purpose is evident throughout this whole section of Ezekiel 12-19, namely, that of presenting the necessity for the exile and the moral cause of it."
"The word of Jehovah also came unto me, saying, Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of the rebellious house, that have eyes to see, and see not, that have ears to hear, and hear not; for they are a rebellious house. Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though they are a rebellious house. And thou shalt bring forth thy stuff by day in their sight, as stuff for removing; and thou shalt go forth thy self at even in their sight, as when men go forth into exile. Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby. In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulder, and carry it forth in the dark; thou shalt cover thy face that thou see not the land: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel."
GOD COMMANDED AN ENACTED PROPHECY
This command to Ezekiel, "Stands under the same date as Ezekiel 8:1, namely 592-1 B.C.;" and this means that the fulfillment of it was only about four or five years after this prophecy was enacted.
There were no great difficulties involved in Ezekiel's following these instructions. It had been only a few years since he himself and thousands of others were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon; and he would have remembered exactly what the exiles would have carried, the manner of their loading it, and what would be necessary. All of his exiled neighbors would also have recognized the significance of such a back-pack, designed to be carried by exiles.
"In their sight ..." (Ezekiel 12:3-4). These words appear no less than six times in four verses, indicating that the purpose of the prophet's actions was that of getting as much public attention as possible; and it is easy to suppose that such actions did indeed attract a lot of attention and speculation upon the possible meaning of what Ezekiel did.
The covering of the face was a symbol of the people's sorrow in leaving their homeland. It also appears that this might have been a prophecy of the blinding of Zedekiah, or a reference to his flight at night, when he could not see the land.
"And I did as I was commanded; I brought forth my stuff by day, as stuff for removing, and in the even I digged through the wall with my hand; I brought it forth in the dark, and bare it upon my shoulder in their sight."
This verse merely notes that Ezekiel carded out the Lord's instructions exactly.
"And in the morning came the word of Jehovah unto me, saying, Son of man, hath not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said unto thee, What doest thou? Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: this burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel among whom they are. Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them; they shall go forth into exile, into captivity. And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, for he shall not see the land, because he shall not see the land with his eyes. My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare; and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there."
"This burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem ..." (Ezekiel 12:10). The word "burden" refers to a prediction of some woeful event, and was often used by God's prophets to describe the prophecy of doom to some city or some individual, as, for example, in the case of Nahum's "burden of Nineveh." Here, the message is that this prophecy of capture, blindness, and captivity applies to Zedekiah, the puppet king of Nebuchadnezzar's on the throne of Judah.
G. A. Cooke, and other radical critics, denominate this prophecy as a "post eventum" prophecy, without any authority whatever, against all evidence, and in spite of the historical corroboration of the fact that the prophecy was spoken long before Zedekiah's fall.
What is the basis of this scholarly blindness? It is based upon the critical dictum that, there is no such thing as predictive prophecy, a silly and irresponsible rule that has no basis whatever except in the prejudice of evil men who are simply unwilling to believe God's Word.
Did not the Hebrew Scriptures prophesy the whole person and works of the Son of God afull quarter of a millennium before our Lord was born? Did they not name the town where he would be born, eight centuries before the event? Only a fool can accept the critical dictum that there is no such thing as predictive prophecy.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF PREDICTIVE PROPHECY
In the paragraph before us, we have the prophecy of Zedekiah's flight from Jerusalem by night, his capture, his blinding, and his deportation to Babylon. It just happens that Ezekiel dates his prophecy (Ezekiel 8:1), about five years prior to its fulfillment.
Canon Cook reminds us that, "The genuineness of Ezekiel and the position of this passage within it are beyond dispute. Jer. 39:4,2 Kings 25:4 provide a Scriptural record of the historical fulfillment; and the only legitimate inference is that Ezekiel received his information from above."
Note that Cook stated that the facts here are "beyond dispute." How is this true? The Jewish historian, Josephus records the fact that Zedekiah himself was familiar with Ezekiel's prophecy, which definitely means that the prophecy did not originate after the king's death.
Zedekiah himself heard the prophecies both of Jeremiah and of Ezekiel, for Ezekiel's prophecy had been sent to Jerusalem; but Zedekiah did not believe their prophecies for the following reason. The two prophets agreed with one another in all other things: (1) that the city should be taken, (2) Zedekiah himself would be taken captive and carried to Babylon. Zedekiah was told by Jeremiah that his eyes should see Nebuchadnezzar; but Ezekiel prophesied that Zedekiah would never see Babylon. Zedekiah thought that contradicted Jeremiah who had prophesied that Zedekiah would indeed be carried to Babylon. Therefore, he disbelieved what they both said, condemning them as false prophets!
This event is too well documented, both in the Bible and in history for it to be intelligently denied. Poor old Zedekiah, like many another skeptic, fancied that he found a contradiction in God's Word; but both prophecies were most accurately and circumstantially fulfilled. It all happened as the prophets said. Zedekiah did indeed see Nebuchadnezzar face to face in Riblah in Hamath, but he never saw Babylon, despite the fact of his being carried captive to Babylon and eventually dying there. Nebuchadnezzar blinded Zedekiah at Riblah after forcing the unhappy king to witness the execution of all of his sons.
"And I will scatter to every wind all that are round about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the word after them. And they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall disperse them among the nations, and scatter them though the countries. But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the nations whither they come; and they shall know that I am Jehovah."
Here it appears that one of God's reasons for leaving any survivors at all was that he might have witnesses unto all generations of the gross sins and abominations of the Chosen People.
"I will scatter all ... who were there to help Zedekiah... and all of his bands (soldiers) ..." (Ezekiel 12:14). This also happened exactly as prophesied. "But those friends and captains of Zedekiah who had fled with him out of the city, when they saw their enemies near them, they left him and dispersed themselves, some one way, and some another ... so they took Zedekiah alive, when he was deserted by all but a few; and with his children and his wives, they brought him to Nebuchadnezzar."
"Moreover the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and with fearfulness; and say unto the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with fearfulness, and drink their water in dismay, that her land may be desolate and despoiled of all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be a desolation; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah."
This is an enacted prophecy of the hardships of the siege, and it bears a good deal of similarity to the passage in Ezekiel 4:9-17, especially Ezekiel 12:16-17; "But, whereas the earlier passage stresses the scarcity of food and water during the siege, this passage is designed to prophesy the terror and fearfulness of it."
The additional truth here is that all of the outlying cities of Judah will also be destroyed along with Jerusalem itself, as stated in verse 19, the very same verse. As for the notion that Ezekiel could not have addressed people in Judah while he himself was in Babylon, the words of Josephus, quoted above, show clearly that all of Ezekiel's prophecies were also read and studied in Jerusalem.
"The people of the land ..." (Ezekiel 12:19). Some have objected to this expression, for it generally meant land-owners of the wealthier class of people; and as Ezekiel was in Babylon, such a term could not be applied to the captives; but the objection has no weight. The message here was to the "the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the land of Israel."
"And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Son of man, what is this proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say to them, The days are at hand, and the fulfillment of every vision. For there shall be no more any false vision, nor any flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am Jehovah; I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall be performed; it shall be no more deferred: for in your days, O rebellions house, I will speak the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord Jehovah."
EZEKIEL ANSWERS A FALSE PROVERB
These words and some of the following prophecies deal with the problem of true and false prophecy. The unbelievers, encouraged by the false prophets, were saying, "Look, we've heard all this before. Nothing happens; things are going on just the same as always." Very well, the Lord says here, "Your wicked generation is the very one that shall indeed see every vision fulfilled, every prophecy vindicated, and all the predictions against the apostate nation happening just like the true prophets said." This proverb appears in the Hebrew here literally, as, "The days lengthen; the vision fails." In those days, even as today, a catchy proverb can be a very bad influence, if it is founded upon a falsehood.
In all generations, there have been echoes of this same attitude. The apostle Peter declared that, "In the last days, mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:3-4).
"Again the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: There shall none of my words be deferred any more, but the word which I shall speak shall be performed, saith the Lord Jehovah."
ANOTHER FALSE PROVERB REFUTED
Although the problem created by this false proverb was very similar to the one addressed in the previous paragraph, "There is a slight variation. The gainsayers are not saying here that, `The vision faileth'; they indeed recognize Ezekiel as a prophet; but they throw the fulfillment of his words into the far distant future."
The refutation of such false views would appear in the complete fulfilment of the prophecies in the very near future. From the time of this chapter until the total ruin of Jerusalem and all Judah, along with the slaughter of most of the people, the burning of the temple, the capture, blinding, and captivity of their king, and the deportation of the pitiful remnant to Babylon where they would join their other unbelieving brethren in their captivity until it was all fulfilled was only a matter of four or five years. When? All of this, the last ugly detail of it, happened within a time-frame of only four or five years. Allowing some eighteen months for the siege, the events prophesied in this very chapter began to unfold only three and one half years after the prophecies were given to Ezekiel.
Monday, September 26th, 2016
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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