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4. The condemnation of Jerusalem’s leaders ch. 11
Ezekiel’s vision of the departure of Yahweh’s glory (chs. 8-11) now reached its climactic conclusion.
The Spirit next lifted Ezekiel up in his vision and transported him to the east (main) gate of the temple courtyards where God’s glory had moved (cf. Ezekiel 10:19). There the prophet saw 25 of the governing leaders of the people of Jerusalem, including Jaazaniah the son of Azzur and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah. [Note: See Cooper, p. 139, for archaeological confirmation of the existence of these men in Jerusalem at this time.] These 25 civic leaders were not the same individuals as the 25 sun-worshipping priests whom Ezekiel had seen earlier (Ezekiel 8:16). Jaazaniah the son of Azzur does not seem to be the same man as Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan in Ezekiel 8:11. The name was evidently common at this time (cf. 2 Kings 25:23; Jeremiah 35:3). Gates were the traditional places where city elders administered justice and conducted legal matters.
The assurance of judgment on the people of Jerusalem 11:1-13
The Lord told Ezekiel that these men were those who were planning wickedness and giving bad advice to the residents of Jerusalem. They were encouraging the people either to feel secure by advising them to build homes and plan on living long in Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 28:26) or to prepare for battle rather than submitting to the Babylonians. Either interpretation is possible because the unbelieving leadership of Jerusalem was advising both courses of action. The true prophets, like Jeremiah, however, were telling them to submit to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 21:8-10). Jeremiah wrote the exiles advising them to build homes and settle down in captivity (Jeremiah 29:5). These wicked leaders were comparing the people of Jerusalem to meat in a clay cooking pot. They were saying that the people were as secure in the city, even though they were uncomfortably "hot," as meat inside a kettle is safe from the fire outside it. The walls and fortifications of the city, and God Himself, they said, would amply protect the people from the fiery hostility of the Babylonian army.
Ezekiel was to prophesy against these leaders. The Spirit came upon him and instructed him to tell them that the Lord knew what they were thinking (cf. Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 13:1-3; 2 Peter 1:21). God always knows what His people are thinking (cf. Psalms 139:1-6; Daniel 2:30; Acts 1:24). In this case their thinking was in rebellion against what He, through Jeremiah, had told them to do. Furthermore, they had slain many innocent people in Jerusalem by perverting justice and taking advantage of the weak.
Jerusalem had become like a cooking pot in that these slain people were like meat in it (cf. Micah 3:1-3). It was a secure place only for those who had already died there. Nevertheless the Lord would remove the living from the "pot." Jerusalem would provide no refuge for the living. The Lord would bring the sword of the invader down on them. He would bring them out of the city into the hands of the invading enemy soldiers who would kill and capture them.
"Those who perceive themselves as the cream that has risen to the top are nothing but scum in God’s eyes." [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 337.]
The Jerusalemites would die violently at the hands of their enemy all the way to the borders of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 52:8-11; Jeremiah 52:24-27), not just in the city. The walls of the city would not defend them from the fires of Babylonian invasion (cf. Ezekiel 11:3). Then they would know that the Lord was God. This punishment would come on the people because they had been unfaithful to the Mosaic Covenant but had followed the laws of their surrounding neighbor nations.
"This message was exactly the opposite of what Jerusalem’s leaders considered appropriate. They saw the exiles as unfortunate victims of their own bad luck and poor judgment for having somehow gotten exiled instead of having been spared as the present leaders had been." [Note: Stuart, p. 100.]
In his vision Ezekiel saw Pelatiah ("Yahweh rescues" or "Yahweh provides escape") die (cf. Ezekiel 11:1). Evidently Pelatiah really did die in Jerusalem when Ezekiel saw this vision or shortly after that. Ezekiel was able to see this real event happening in Jerusalem. This was a sign that God would judge the people as He had said.
"Because Pelatiah’s name means ’the Lord rescues,’ perhaps Ezekiel saw his death as an ironic and bad omen." [Note: Chisholm, p. 245. See also Allen, p. 163.]
Pelatiah’s death greatly affected Ezekiel (cf. Acts 5:5). He wondered if God would deliver anyone in Jerusalem. He fell on his face before the Lord and asked Him if He was going to destroy the godly remnant of the nation as well as the wicked (cf. Ezekiel 9:8). The compassion of Ezekiel came out again as he saw God judging the sinful Jews of Jerusalem.
"Perhaps Ezekiel felt that Pelatiah’s sudden death signaled a decision by God that there would be no remnant, hence his cry, ’Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 11:13)." [Note: Cooper, p. 141.]
All societies tend to put in leadership or allow to rise to leadership individuals who reflect, appeal to, and will carry out the expectations and values of the majority. These judgments on Israel’s leaders view them as reflections of and manifestations of a corrupt society. Ezekiel saw in the death of its leaders the death of all the people, whom the leaders represented.
The Lord then replied that many of the Jews in Jerusalem were saying that the Judahites who had gone into captivity were the ones that God was judging. They believed that the Jews left in Jerusalem were the remnant that God would preserve and bless. They incorrectly believed that Israel’s future lay with the Jews in Jerusalem rather than with the Jews in exile.
The assurance of restoration in the future 11:14-21
Block entitled this modified disputation speech "The Gospel according to Ezekiel." [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 341.]
Ezekiel was to respond to these Jerusalem Jews by saying that though God had driven the exiles from their land He would be with them and would provide a refuge for them in Babylon. He Himself would be a sanctuary for them even though they were far from the temple sanctuary in Jerusalem. Israel’s future did not lie with the Jews still in Jerusalem but with those in Babylon.
"Even in drastic judgment, as in the case of the dispersion of Israel, God provides for His people a place of refuge. This refuge, called here ’a little sanctuary [AV],’ is the LORD Himself (cp. Psalms 90:1; Psalms 91:9; Isaiah 4:6). So with all of God’s own, Gentile as well as Jew, in the midst of deserved judgment there is still a sanctuary of refuge and peace in Him." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 848.]
The Lord also promised to assemble the Jews in exile from the various places where they had scattered from the Promised Land and to give them that land again. This is the first mention of Israel’s future restoration in Ezekiel. When they came back into the land they would purify it of all the things that made it detestable and abominable to the Lord (cf. Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 7:20).
"Such words have a Mosaic ring about them, as if the promised land of Canaan is being held out to the wilderness wanderers once again. The desert experience would not last for ever: one day they would possess the land-not by arrogant claim (as in Ezekiel 11:15), but by a gracious gift of God-and their worship would be purified of all the foreign, corrupting influences that had beset the Israelites since Joshua’s day." [Note: Taylor, p. 111.]
"The promise of restoration to the land, though declared in the blessings of the Mosaic covenant (Leviticus 26:40-45; Deuteronomy 30:1-10), was based on the eternal covenants to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34)." [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 793.]
The Lord also promised to give His people a united desire and commitment (cf. Ezekiel 36:26; Exodus 14:5; 1 Samuel 14:7; 1 Samuel 27:1; 2 Samuel 7:3; Jeremiah 32:39). He would put a new attitude within them (cf. Psalms 51:10). This "spirit" would enter into them when God would pour out His Spirit on them (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:33; Joel 2:28-29). He would remove their hard hearts and give them hearts that were responsive to Him so they would obey His commands and do His will. Then they would enjoy an intimate relationship with God and He with them. On the individual level this change takes place through a new birth (cf. John 3:3-10). On the national level it will happen when the nation of Israel experiences a new birth (cf. Romans 11:25-27).
"The term berit [covenant] is absent, but in the declaration They will become my people, and I will become their God, the reader is introduced for the first time to what is generally known as ’the covenant formula.’ Derived from ancient legal terminology, specifically the marriage ceremony, this formula expresses a relationship of commitment and intimacy. It’s prominence in both Ezekiel and Jeremiah is based on a long history, beginning with Yahweh’s commitment to be the God of Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:7-8)." [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 354.]
"After the exile when many Jews returned to a restored province of Judah in fulfillment of prophecy (Ezra 1:1), they were careful to avoid idolatry (Ezra 4:1-3; Ezra 6:19-21; Nehemiah 8-10). Nevertheless, their obedience was not complete (Ezra 9:1-2; Ezra 9:10-15; Ezra 10:15; Ezra 10:44; Nehemiah 5:1-9; Nehemiah 13:7-29), nor was their experience of promised blessings (Ezra 9:8-9; Nehemiah 9:32-37). Thus the radical spiritual transformation of the people and the associated physical blessings promised in this and other prophecies of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 34:20-31; Ezekiel 36:24-38; Ezekiel 37:15-28) await fulfillment in a future messianic age." [Note: Cooper, p. 144. See also Feinberg, p. 66; and Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1248.]
Many amillennialists take the fulfillment as happening on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). [Note: See Taylor, p. 112.] Single-minded devotion to God is what He always requires and what His grace makes possible (cf. Matthew 4:10; Matthew 6:24-34; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22).
In the present, the Lord promised to bring judgment down on those who pursued the detestable and abominable idolatries that had polluted His people.
Ezekiel then saw in his vision the glory of God depart from the temple gate and from the city of Jerusalem. He saw the cherubim under Yahweh’s throne-chariot bear the Lord east from the entrance of the temple to the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. This was the eastern horizon from the perspective of someone in Jerusalem. The removal of God’s blessing signaled the end of His longsuffering with His sinful people, and it opened the way for His judgment to fall on them (cf. Romans 1:18-32). From this point on in Ezekiel-until Ezekiel 43:1-4, in which the prophet saw in another vision the glory of God returning to the city-the prophet saw the Lord’s presence and glory removed from Jerusalem.
"The departure of the divine glory (the visible symbol of God’s presence) from the Temple, marks the end of the theocratic kingdom in O.T. history. On the mount of transfiguration the glory of God was manifested to our Lord’s disciples (Matthew 17:1-5; cp. also John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6; James 2:1; 2 Peter 1:16-18). The visible glory will return when the kingdom is restored to Israel (Ezekiel 43:1-7; Revelation 21:22-24)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 848.]
"There is an interesting Midrash (commentary) which reads: ’Rabbi Jonathan said, Three years and a half the Shekinah stayed upon the Mount of Olives, in the hope that Israel would do penance; but they did none.’ All readers of the New Testament know this was the length of the earthly ministry of our Lord to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Sadly enough, they did not repent and He did depart from them (cf. Hosea 5:15 with Matthew 23:37-39). . . . From this very place the Lord Jesus Christ left the earth (Acts 1) and to it He will return (Zechariah 14; cf. also Luke 21:20 with Matthew 24:3; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:11-12)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 67.]
Perhaps the Lord’s presence stood over the Mount of Olives, rather than departing from it (Ezekiel 11:23), because the Lord was waiting to execute His judgment on the city (cf. Zechariah 14:4; Luke 19:41). [Note: Keil, 1:154.]
The departure of God’s glory from Jerusalem and the end of Ezekiel’s vision 11:22-25
The Spirit then returned Ezekiel in his vision to Babylon. The vision was over, and the prophet related everything God had shown him to his fellow exiles.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/