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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


2. The judgment coming on Judah chs. 6-7

The Lord commanded Ezekiel to announce prophetic messages to the Jews in captivity after his time of imposed silence ended (cf. Ezekiel 3:26-27). In these messages the prophet elaborated some of the symbols he introduced in chapter 5. The first message dealt with the cause of the judgment, namely, idolatry (ch. 6), and the second with the nature of the judgment (ch. 7).

The destruction of pagan shrines ch. 6

". . . the focus of chap. 6 is on the individual responsibility of the people and prepares the way for the subsequent spoken messages." [Note: Cooper, p. 106. Allen, pp. 92-96, provided an excursus on and a chart of the parallels between Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 4-6.]

Verses 1-2

The Lord directed Ezekiel to pronounce an oracle of judgment against "the mountains of Israel." This phrase occurs 17 times in Ezekiel and nowhere else in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 36:1-15 Ezekiel prophesied a message of restoration to these mountains. The mountains of Israel, which run the entire length of the country from north to south, represent the whole land of Israel, especially Jerusalem, which sits on the central watershed ridge. By contrast, Babylonia was very flat. Specifically, the mountains of Israel also stand for the centers of pagan worship where the Israelites practiced idolatry. The expression "set your face toward" always means to turn toward something with hostile intentions in all 14 of its occurrences in Ezekiel.

"If the practice of turning to Jerusalem for prayer was already catching on among the exiles (cf. Daniel 6:10), there would be particular irony in his [Ezekiel’s] doing this in an act of condemnation." [Note: Taylor, p. 89.]

Verses 3-7

Ezekiel was to announce to his audience of exiles that God would bring warriors against Israel’s mountains, hills, ravines, and valleys, namely, the places where the people worshipped at pagan shrines (cf. 2 Kings 23:10). The object of His judgment would be the high places of worship that stood throughout the land. [Note: See Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1238, for a brief history of the high places in Canaan.] God would destroy the altars, and the people who worshipped before them would fall slain around them. The idols would not be able to defend their worshippers. The Lord would defile these altars with the bones of the Israelites who died before them (cf. Leviticus 26:30; 2 Kings 23:20; Psalms 53:5; Psalms 141:7; Jeremiah 8:1-2). Scattered animal bones often marked these places of sacrifice, but human bones would pollute them in the future. Pagan altars of all types that the people had built would be broken down throughout the country along with the cities. Many people would die, and God’s people would know that He had judged them.

"Judgment is a pervasive theme of all the prophets of Israel, but none exceeds Ezekiel in the abundance and intensity of his messages of divine retribution. Moreover, none reiterates as much as Ezekiel the pedagogical purposes of the visitations of the Lord: ’that they [Israel and the nations] might know Yahweh.’ Judgment, then, is not only retributive but redemptive. God’s purpose in judgment is not to destroy the peoples He has created but to bring them back into harmony with His creation purposes for them." [Note: Merrill, p. 372.]

Verses 8-10

The Lord would leave a remnant alive, however, when He brought this judgment and scattered His people in captivity. They would despise themselves when they remembered how their adulterous hearts and lustful eyes had hurt their Lord. The Hebrew word gillulim, translated "idols," literally means "dung-gods." This word occurs 38 times in Ezekiel and only nine times elsewhere in the Old Testament. The remnant would remember that the Lord’s promised judgments for their sins were not vain (cf. Ezekiel 6:7).

"What idolatry most reveals about the people who practice it is not merely another faith, but also an actual lack of faith. Modern idolatry, like the ancient Israelite-Near Eastern kind, is essentially materialistic (1 John 2:15-17; 1 John 5:21). Instead of full reliance on God, while we may not deny His existence, we don’t trust Him to take care of us materially. Thus we do everything we can to gain worldly possessions, to secure our future, to have a ’comfortable’ retirement, to succeed in a competitive world. With this comes the danger of ’losing our own souls’ because we cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). When we fail to trust God for our needs, we go far beyond the bounds of providing for our basic requirements and can thus trap ourselves in modern idolatry, which is nothing other than materialism (1 Timothy 6:6-10)." [Note: Stuart, p. 72.]

Verses 11-14

The people and Ezekiel were to express derision that the sword, famine, and plague (cf. Ezekiel 5:1-3; Ezekiel 5:12; Revelation 6:4-8) would come and judge these evil abominations (cf. Ezekiel 21:14-17; Ezekiel 22:13; Ezekiel 25:6; Lamentations 2:15; Nahum 3:19). These three instruments of judgment, summarizing the full range of divine punishment (cf. 2 Samuel 24:13; Jeremiah 27:13; Jeremiah 29:17), would affect various parts of the people and touch them all. The people would recognize Yahweh at work in judgment when they observed so many Judahites slain beside their pagan places of worship. He would make the land of Judah more desolate than the wilderness near Diblah. "Diblah" appears only here in the Old Testament. It may be a variation of "Riblah," the border town near Hamath where the Babylonian soldiers took King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:5-7; Jeremiah 39:6-7; Jeremiah 52:8-11; Jeremiah 52:26-27). The Hebrew letters for "d" and "r" are very similar in shape. The purpose of God’s judgment was to restore the people to their proper relationship with Him (Ezekiel 6:7; Ezekiel 6:10; Ezekiel 6:13-14). The expression "they will know that I am Yahweh" appears about 65 times in Ezekiel and was one of the major purposes of God for His apostate people.

"In every generation God’s judgment and discipline is misunderstood by most people. God’s chief desire is to bring people to himself-or back to himself. When mankind willfully refuses to turn to him, God mercifully uses discipline and judgment to cause the people to recognize that he is the only true God, always faithful to what he has said in his word!" [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 775.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ezekiel-6.html. 2012.
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