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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Ezekiel 24

 

 

Verse 1

GOD'S LAST MESSAGE BEFORE THE FALL OF JERUSALEM

THE RUSTED CALDRON; AND THE DEATH OF EZEKIEL'S WIFE

There are three connected themes in this chapter: (1) the parable of the rusty caldron (Ezekiel 24:1-14); the sign of the death of Ezekiel's wife (Ezekiel 24:15-24); and (3) the prophecy of the end of Ezekiel's dumbness (Ezekiel 24:25-27).[1]

The date of this chapter is January 15,588 B.C., a date confirmed in 2 Kings 25:1, and in Jeremiah 39:1; 52:4. It is also significant that, in the times of Zechariah, this very date had been memorialized among the captives, and for ages celebrated as a solemn fast-day (Zechariah 8:19).

When Ezekiel wrote these words (yes, they were actually written down on the very day God's message came, Ezekiel 24:2), he was in Babylon, four hundred miles from Jerusalem; and there was no way that he could have known the exact day of Nebuchadnezzar's investment of Jerusalem except by the direct revelation of God. "It cannot be supposed that such intelligence could have reached him by any human means. When, therefore, the captives later received news of the beginning of the siege, they had, upon comparing the dates, an infallible proof of the Divine inspiration of Ezekiel."[2]

The radical critics have done their best to get rid of the implications of a passage like this; but as Keil stated it, "The definite character of this prediction cannot be changed into a "vaticinium post eventum", either by arbitrary explanations of the words, or by some unfounded hypothesis."[3]

Only an unbeliever, or one who wishes to become an unbeliever, can possibly allow some evil scholar, whose purpose is clearly that of discrediting the Word of God, to deny what the sacred text says, merely upon the basis of his arbitrary emendations of the text, or by his efforts to substitute his own word for the Word of God.

"These prophecies in Ezekiel 24 were delivered two years and five months after those dated in Ezekiel 20:1 ."[4]

PARABLE OF THE RUSTY CALDRON

Ezekiel 24:1-5

"Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, write the name of the day, even of this selfsame day: the king of Babylon drew close unto Jerusalem this selfsame day. And utter a parable unto the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Set on the caldron, set it on, and also pour water into it: gather the pieces thereof into it, even every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones. Take the choice of the flock, and also a pile of wood for the bones under the caldron; make it boil well; yea, let the bones thereof be boiled in the midst of it."

The arrogant unbelief of some alleged scholars never fails to astonish us. May, for example, stated that, Ezekiel was probably in Babylon when he wrote this, "To be able to know the very day of the beginning of the siege."[5] Apparently such a `scholar' never heard of such a thing as 'Divine inspiration.' One may wonder why he wrote so much about a book in the Bible, the value of which is founded solely upon its being "inspired of God (1 Peter 1:21)."

Feinberg accurately observed that, "One purpose for this attention to the exact date, was in order for the nations to have written, tangible proof of the accuracy of Ezekiel's prophecies."[6]

Analogies clearly visible in this parable: the caldron is the city; the flesh in it is the people; the immense fire under it is the fire of war; the setting of the caldron on the fire is the beginning of the siege; the rust in the pot (introduced later) is the inherent wickedness of the people; the "choice bones (Ezekiel 24:4)" are the bones with meat attached to them; their being "choice" bones indicates that the nobility and the landed gentry will also be ruined by the war; the "bones under the caldron (Ezekiel 24:5)" are the large bones used, along with the logs for fuel; the removal of the flesh from the caldron indicates the destruction of the whole city, rich and poor alike, high and low, indiscriminately, whether by sword, by pestilence, by famine, or by deportation; the emptying of the caldron indicated the removal of Jerusalem's population; the caldron's still being rusted indicated Jerusalem's worthlessness, at that time, as regarded God's eternal purpose, entailing, of course, the necessity for its complete destruction; the severe burning of the caldron in intense fire after it was emptied speaks of the burning and destruction of the city itself and the Temple of God.

It would seem, as Jamieson thought, that God's selection of this figure of the boiling caldron might have been in response to that boastful proverb the people adopted (Jeremiah 11:3), in which they claimed to be "the flesh" safe in the caldron (Jerusalem), whereas the captives, by their absence, were out of it altogether. Ezekiel here revealed to them that, "Your proverb shall prove to be awfully true, but in a far different sense from what you intended."[7] Judah would not be safe in the caldron, but cooked and destroyed in it.

Verse 6
"Wherefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe to the bloody city, to the caldron whose rust is therein, and whose rust is not gone out of it! take out of it piece after piece; no lot is fallen upon it. For her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the bare rock; she poured it not upon the ground, to cover it with dust. That it may cause wrath to come up to take vengeance, I have set her blood upon the bare rock, that it should not be covered. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe to the bloody city! I also will make the pile great. Heap on the wood, make the fire hot, boil well the flesh, make thick the broth, and let the bones be burned."

"Woe to the bloody city ..." (Ezekiel 24:6). The implications of this epithet hurled against Jerusalem by God Himself may be read in the terrible fate of Nineveh, which city God addressed in the very same language (Nahum 3:1).

"Whose rust is not gone out of it ..." (Ezekiel 24:6) The "rust" here symbolizes the blood-guiltiness of Jerusalem. In the parable, this meant that the ingredients of the caldron were poisoned by the rust, and the mess within fit only to be destroyed.

"Take out of it piece after piece; no lot is fallen upon it ..." (Ezekiel 24:5). Sometimes in antiquity, lots were cast to determine a definite portion of a city either to be slaughtered, or to be made captives. "In the captivity of Jehoiachin and Jehoiachim some were taken, others left."[8] But here, there would be none spared. All were doomed. The indiscriminate destruction of the population is indicated.

"Her blood is in the midst of her ..." (Ezekiel 24:7). This refers to the shameless murder of her victims. Jerusalem did not even bother to conceal or disguise the murders. The thought in this passage takes account of the fact that the blood of Abel, which the ground received, cried unto God for vengeance. Even the blood of animals was supposed to be covered with dust; but Jerusalem's brazen murders of men left the blood visible to all, thus constituting an aggravation of the sin of murder.

"I also will make the pile great ..." (Ezekiel 24:9). This refers to the pile of fuel on the fire, with the meaning that God will make the destruction of Jerusalem as complete as possible.

"Let the bones be burned ..." (Ezekiel 24:10). This means that any residue of the "choice bones" left in the caldron were also to be burned.

Verse 11
"Then set it empty upon the coals thereof, that it may be hot, and the brass thereof may burn, and that the filthiness thereof may be molten in it, that the rust of it may be consumed. She hath wearied herself with toil; yet her great rust goeth not forth out of her; her rust goeth not forth by fire. In thy filthiness is lewdness: because I have cleansed thee, and thou wast not cleansed, thou shalt not be cleansed from thy filthiness any more, until I have caused my wrath toward thee to rest. I, Jehovah have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord Jehovah."

What is indicated here is the utter uselessness of the rusted caldron; not even fire could burn the corrupted copper enough to cleanse it. In the analogy, the caldron is the city of Jerusalem, the destruction of which is already under way, as this was written.

"In spite of the seemingly terrible hopelessness of the situation described here, a gleam of hope appears in Ezekiel 24:13, even as there also did in Ezekiel 16:42. When the punishment of Israel has done its full work, then Jehovah might cause his fury toward Israel to rest."[9]

"These verses, Ezekiel 24:11-14, declare that the only recourse is to set the caldron upside down on the fire and melt it away; Jerusalem must be destroyed in order to be cleansed."[10] "The tragedy of national sins, which began as occasional lapses, but which at last became part and parcel of Jerusalem's way of life, finally became a tragedy that not even God could redeem."[11]

"She hath wearied herself with toil ..." (Ezekiel 24:12). Some versions read "lies" instead of "toil" in this clause; but Bunn tells us that "The literal meaning here is that `Yahweh has worn himself out attempting to purify the people.'"[12] Due to uncertainties in the text, this verse is disputed as to its meaning. McFadyen suggested that this clause should probably be omitted.[13] Whatever the exact meaning of the verse may be, the thought is certainly the futility of any further effort on the part of God to purge his rebellious people.

The many things God had done in order to preserve and save Israel included: the giving of the Law of Moses, the sending of many prophets, severe punishments, miraculous judgments in their marvelous deliverances, the ministrations of the Levitical system with its priests and Levites, etc., etc.

However, as Henry pointed out, "It is sad to think how many there are, even today, upon whom the death of Christ, the establishment of his spiritual body the Church, the sacred New Testament, and all of the ordinances and blessings of Christianity, are utterly lost in the indifference and lethargy of mankind."[14]

Verse 15
EZEKIEL NOT TO DEMONSTRATE GRIEF OVER THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE

The second sign presented in this chapter is that following the death of the prophet's wife, when, acting upon the prior commandment of God, Ezekiel refrained from any demonstration of grief or lamentation.

"Also the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying. Son of man, Behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet thou shalt neither mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud, make no mourning for the dead; bind thy headtire upon thee, and put thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men. So I spake unto the people in the morning; and at even, my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded."

Ezekiel here was told that his wife would die, but that God forbade him to make any visible demonstration of his grief or lamentation. All of the usual things that were normally done to mark the passing of a loved one were to be omitted. He was not to uncover his head, nor go barefoot, nor to sigh aloud, nor to cover his lip, or even to eat "of the bread of men." All of these funeral customs are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, and some of them also in the New Testament, as in the case of the loud mourners wailing for the death of Jairus' daughter.

"Nor eat the bread of men ..." (Ezekiel 24:17). This is of special interest to us, because it still in this present day is a characteristic of the New Israel of God, observed by Churches of Christ and other communions throughout the world upon funeral occasions. Cooke described the custom thus: "Friends and relatives of the deceased were accustomed to assemble in the house of mourning for a funeral meal, provided by those assembled."[15] Of course, the bereaved was supposed to participate in the feast. It was that meal, here called, "the bread of men," that Ezekiel was forbidden to eat.

"Bind thy headtire upon thee ..." (Ezekiel 24:17) The meaning of headtire is "turban."

Eichrodt warned us not to be taken in by the critical nonsense that the warning which God gave Ezekiel regarding his wife's death was "merely the realization that his wife's long illness would probably lead to her death in the near future."[16]

Such a canard is no less a denial of God's Word than Satan's arrogant falsehood, that, "Ye shall not surely die."

For Biblical references to the types of actions mentioned here as expressions of sorrow see: Leviticus 10:6 (leaving off headtire), Isaiah 20:2 (the bare feet); Leviticus 13:45 (the covered lip). Deuteronomy 26:14; Jeremiah 16:7 (the meal in the house of mourning), etc.

The meaning of Ezekiel's being commanded not to demonstrate mourning is that:

"The context requires that the great tragedy of the fall of Jerusalem is not to be followed by wholesale demonstrations of lamentation and grief. Ezekiel would not weep (visibly) over the death of his beloved, and neither would the people of Israel weep over the fall of Jerusalem. Why? Because, in both cases the tragedy was too deep and stunning for any expression of grief to prove adequate."[17]

Verse 19
"And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so? Then I said unto them, The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Speak unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left behind shall fall by the sword. And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away in your iniquities, and moan one toward another. Therefore shall Ezekiel be unto you a sign; according to all that he hath done shall ye do: when this cometh, then shall ye know that I am the Lord Jehovah."

Ezekiel's behavior in such a strange and unnatural manner had the desired effect. The people felt that there was some message for them involved in it; and so they consulted him the following day. His news was devastating: the Holy Temple itself would be profaned. That meant the total destruction of Jerusalem. Many of the captives had left their children in Jerusalem; and here they learned that all of them would be killed. The loss of their children, their beloved capital city, and the Temple itself meant that, just like the case of Ezekiel, "They would have the desire of their eyes taken away." "Then it was the desire of Ezekiel's eyes that was taken away; but now it will be the desire of the people's eyes which will be taken away; and the loss will be too grave for tears."[18]

"Then shall Ezekiel be unto you a sign ..." (Ezekiel 24:24). Apart from Ezekiel 1:3, this is the first mention of Ezekiel's name. "This verse is the subscription to the first twenty-four chapters; and Ezekiel 1:3 is the superscription."[19] Ezekiel as a sign also has overtones reaching into our own times. He is unmistakably a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially in the matter of that title found so frequently, "Son of man." His being commanded to "Judge Israel" is typical of the fact that God has given "judgment of all men" into the hands of the Son of God; his rejection by the Israel of his day typifies the rejection of Jesus Christ by the apostate racial Israel of his day.

Verse 25
"And thou, son of man, shall it not be the day when I take from them, their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their heart, their sons and their daughters, that in that day he that escapeth shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears? In that day shall thy mouth be opened unto him that is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: so shalt thou be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am Jehovah."

THE THIRD SIGN: EZEKIEL'S SILENCE TO END

It will be recalled that in the very beginning of Ezekiel's ministry, God had, except in the matter of specific prophecies which he was commanded to deliver, forbidden Ezekiel to speak freely to the people; but all of that would be changed at the end of the siege. (See Ezekiel 3:22-27). "The fall of Jerusalem would release Ezekiel from all restrictions."[20]

Howie seemed to believe that the removal of such restrictions should have led immediately to his prophecies of hope and restoration; but the true restoration of Israel could not come until the evil nations had received their own judgments from God.

"In that day ..." (Ezekiel 24:26-27). "This clearly is a reference to the day of the fall of Jerusalem."[21] That was the day when God took away the desire of their eyes, their hopes, their treasures, their fortification, the lives of the vast majority of them, their pride, and their confidence. It was the most tragic day in the long and terrible history of Israel, in fact, being exceeded in shame and sorrow by only one other day in the history of mankind, that being the one in which Israel, through its chosen leaders, cried, "We have no king but Caesar! .... His blood be upon us and our children."

This concluded Ezekiel's prophecies against Jerusalem. "There was no further need to keep repeating God's threats and warnings. The die was cast; there remained only for Ezekiel to await the fulfillment of the predictions already made."[22]

"The news of the fall of Jerusalem came to Ezekiel three years later."[23] "Until the fall of Jerusalem occurred, and Ezekiel had received the message of it's happening, he suspended his prophecies, as far as the Jews were concerned."[24]

Canon Cook's final observations on this chapter are as follows:

"For four whole years, Ezekiel had been engaged in foretelling the disasters that would happen to Jerusalem. He had been, throughout that period, utterly disregarded by the citizens of Jerusalem; and, although the captives apparently respected him, they absolutely refused to believe anything that he prophesied. Now, that the city had fallen, the voice of prophecy would cease, as far as God's people were concerned. This accounts for the fact that the next section of the prophecy is a series relating to the neighboring nations surrounding Israel (Ezekiel 25-32). After that series, the voice of Ezekiel is again heard addressing the exiles. This explains the apparently parenthetical nature of the next eight chapters."[25]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 24:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?book=eze&chapter=024". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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