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The Sword of the Lord against Jerusalem (and Ammon?)
Ezekiel 21 of the Hebrew Bible begins with Ezekiel 20:45 of the English. It is mainly concerned with Jerusalem (Ezekiel 20:45 to Ezekiel 21:27), but has an appendix consisting of a short prophecy about Ammon, which has been interpreted in different ways (Ezekiel 21:28-32).
(a) Against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 20:45 to Ezekiel 21:27)
An enigmatic parable of a forest fire in the S. (Ezekiel 20:45-49) is explained as referring to the land of Israel, against which God’s sword is drawn (Ezekiel 21:1-5). Ezekiel’s distress at the announcement is a sign of the dismay which all will feel when it comes to pass (Ezekiel 20:6-7). A ’Song of the Sword’ follows (Ezekiel 20:8-17). Next comes a picture of Nebuchadrezzar halting on his march on Palestine, and consulting his oracles as to whether Jerusalem or Ammon should be attacked first. The omens decide for Jerusalem, which is doomed to capture, though its people make light of the heathen oracles (Ezekiel 20:18-24). The prophecy ends with a denunciation of Zedekiah, and a hint of the future ideal king (Ezekiel 20:25-27).
46, 47. Field.. forest of the south] Palestine lay almost due W. of Babylon, but the way between them took a circuit N. owing to the desert, and to one coming from Babylon, Palestine lay directly S. in the last stages of the journey.
3, 4. The righteous and the wicked] corresponding to the green tree and the dry in the parable (Ezekiel 20:47). In spite of his strict theory of retribution in Ezekiel 18, Ezekiel recognised the fact that good men as well as bad would perish in the siege of Jerusalem.
10. It contemneth, etc.] RV ’The rod of my son, it contemneth every tree’ These words are almost hopelessly obscure, and the text is probably corrupt. As it stands, the meaning may be (a) that the rod (the sword) with which God chastises His son (the king or people of Israel) is more severe than any mere rod of wood (any previous chastisement), or (b) that the king of Judah (the rod or sceptre of my son) despises all other powers (every other rod or tree).
12. Cry.. howl.. smite] tokens of Ezekiel’s excited sympathy with God’s justice. Terrors.. upon my people] RV ’they’ (the princes) ’are delivered over to the sword with my people.’
13. What if the sword contemn even the rod?] equally obscure with Ezekiel 21:10. RV ’what if even the rod that contemneth shall be no more? ’What if Judah in its pride shall be destroyed?
14. Smite, etc.] another gesture of excited sympathy. Doubled the third time] rather, ’doubled and trebled’ in its destructive power.
Slain] RV ’deadly wounded.’ The great men that are slain] RV ’the great one that is deadly wounded’—Zedekiah.
15. Point] RM ’consternation.’ Ruins] RV ’stumblings.’
Wrapped up] RV ’pointed.’
17. I will also smite] God also exults in His judgment. His sternest justice is a true expression of Himself.
Cause.. to rest] RV ’satisfy.’
19. Choose thou (RV ’mark out’) a place] rather, ’grave a hand,’ i.e. a sign-post. Nebuchadrezzar is imagined as halting at some point where the roads to Jerusalem and Rabbah (the capital of Ammon) diverge, and as consulting his oracles as to which way he shall take.
20. In Jerusalem] rather, ’unto Jerusalem.’
21. He made his arrows bright] RV ’He shook the arrows to and fro.’ Two arrows, inscribed with the names of the two cities, were put into a bag and shaken, and then one was drawn out. With images] RV ’the teraphim,’ the portable images of the gods whose advice was sought. Looked in the liver] another ceremony of divination. The liver would be that of the animal sacrificed on the occasion, and an omen would be drawn from its shape or colour.
22. At his right hand] RV ’In his right hand. Nebuchadrezzar drew the arrow marked ’Jerusalem.’
23. The people of Jerusalem would make light of Nebuchadrezzar’s omens.
That have sworn oaths] This may refer to the broken oaths of allegiance to Babylon (see Ezekiel 17:13-16), or perhaps to the covenant to free their j slaves which the people of Jerusalem made in Zedekiah’s reign (Ezekiel 34:8-10), and which may have led them into self-righteous confidence.
25. Profane wicked] RV ’O deadly wounded wicked one.’ Zedekiah is addressed.
27. Until he come] the future ideal king.
(b) Concerning Ammon (Ezekiel 21:28-32)
The Ammonites were a nation E. of the Jordan, and descended from Lot (Genesis 19:38). They had joined in the league against Nebuchadrezzar (Jeremiah 27:3), and had reason to fear his vengeance (Ezekiel 21:20 above). But they seem to have thought they would escape, and to have indulged in reproach, and even hostility, against ’Judah. Ezekiel foretells their certain punishment. For another prophecy against Ammon see Ezekiel 25:1-7
28. The sword.. is drawn] most naturally understood to be the sword of the Lord against Ammon, as against Jerusalem in Ezekiel 21:9. But others take it to be the sword which Ammon drew against Jerusalem: see on Ezekiel 21:30.
29. They see vanity] The Ammonites were misled by false prophets. Them that are slain, of the wicked] RV ’The wicked that are deadly wounded’—the people of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 21:14).
30. Shall I cause it] RV ’cause it.’ As it stands this is a command to Ammon to sheathe the sword, and hence the sword in Ezekiel 21:28 is generally understood to be theirs. But the prophecy is so closely parallel otherwise to the preceding one that it is probable that the text in Ezekiel 21:30 is corrupt, and that the sword in Ezekiel 21:28 is the Lord’s.
31. Brutish men] most naturally understood of the Babylonians, but see Ezekiel 25:4.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19