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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 11

Verses 1-4

The Leaders Devise Iniquity

The vision that began in Ezekiel 8 continues here. The Spirit brings Ezekiel to the east gate of the house of the LORD (Eze 11:1), where the throne chariot of the LORD stood still (Eze 10:19). At the entrance of the gate are twenty-five men, the political leaders of the people. Attached to the gate is the idea that it is the place where justice is spoken by the leaders of a city (Rth 4:1; 11; Job 5:4; Pro 8:3). It is also where the people gather to listen to the judges (Jer 26:10-11).

Of the leaders, two are mentioned by name, while it is emphatically stated that they are “leaders of the people”. The LORD tells Ezekiel what these leaders devise and what advice they give in the city (Eze 11:2). He knows their thoughts and their words through and through. Their deepest hidden thoughts are an open book to Him. He also sees the hidden deliberations of the heart (1Cor 4:5).

The advice they give goes head-on against what God has said (Eze 11:3). Not only are they themselves wicked and faithless, but they are leading God’s people down sinful paths and moving them to go against the words of God which He had proclaimed to them through His prophets. This is the most obvious thought here because what they are saying recalls what God had Jeremiah say about the exiles building houses in Babylon. Indeed, God said that the exiles did have to build houses in Babylon (Jer 29:4-5), indicating thereby that the exiles should prepare for a long stay in Babylon.

This word of Jeremiah is ridiculed here by the authorities in Jerusalem. They say that for them building a house in Babylon is out of the question. Jerusalem may be surrounded by the armies of the king of Babylon, but of course the city will not fall into the hands of those armies. On the contrary, they appease the people with the imagery of a pot and the flesh. Jerusalem, they say, is the pot, and we, the inhabitants, are the flesh. As an iron pot protects the flesh from the fire, so the city protects its inhabitants.

Perhaps they also refer to what Jeremiah saw and said about “a boiling pot” with which God symbolizes judgment on Jerusalem (Jer 1:13-14). We might expect this from these scoffers. Someone who mocks God knows no limit, but ridicules everything.

Because of their great disobedience, Ezekiel must prophesy “against them” (Eze 11:4). The word “prophesy” is twice used and indicates the seriousness of the task. God wants them to know that He hears their blatant words and that He will punish them for them.

Verses 5-13

The Leaders of Jerusalem Punished

After the command to prophesy, the Spirit of the LORD falls on Ezekiel (Eze 11:5). Prophesying what God says can only be done by the Spirit. Ezekiel is also told by the LORD what to prophesy. Prophets may only pass on the Word of God. Here we see the close connection between the Spirit and the Word. Prophecy reveals the thoughts of the hearts of the hearers (1Cor 14:25). The LORD knows what comes up in the minds of these people. To His eyes all things are open and laid bare (Heb 4:13; Jer 17:10a; Psa 139:1-4).

The LORD adopts the picture they use and says that the city is indeed the pot and they are the flesh, but He gives it a different meaning (Eze 11:6-7). Certainly, Jerusalem is the pot, but a pot filled with the flesh of the slain. Those slain are laid there by themselves, they are “your slain”, for they lie there as a result of their evil advice. The leaders will not find the supposed protection in “the pot” but will be taken out of it. The LORD Himself will see to that.

The LORD will do this by bringing the sword, which the leaders are so afraid of, upon them (Eze 11:8). Here we see that these leaders, despite their boasting, are themselves afraid. That He will do what He says is underscored by the words “the Lord GOD declares”. Their fear is justified. The LORD will give them into the hand of “strangers”, the Babylonians, and cause them to depart from Jerusalem (Eze 11:9; Eze 7:21). Through these “strangers” He will execute His judgments against these leaders (2Kgs 25:1-7; Jer 39:1-9; Jer 52:9-10; 24-27). Where they feel safe, they will be judged by the LORD and receive their deserved punishment (Eze 11:10). As a result, they will know that He is the LORD (Eze 6:7).

Jerusalem will not be a pot for them to protect them from judgment (Eze 11:11). Nor are they the flesh that will be saved. The punishment will be meted out by the Babylonians, but it is because the LORD uses them. Thus, they will know that He is the LORD (Eze 11:12). He makes Himself known in the judgment He must execute because the leaders have not walked in His statutes. On the contrary, they have done according to the ordinances of the nations around them. In doing so, they have taunted Him to the extreme. He is a jealous God Who is not mocked.

God impressively confirms His word through the sudden death of one of the leaders, Pelatiah, the son of Benaiah (Eze 11:13; Eze 11:1). Through this He also demonstrates vividly the fate that will befall all. This is a reality in the vision. The men in Jerusalem have not heard the words of God that Ezekiel has prophesied. This sudden judgment confirms the words of God. Later when Ezekiel delivers his message to the exiles, he can refer to this event.

God’s judgment on Pelatiah and his own announcement of judgment again elicit a vehement reaction from the prophet (cf. Eze 9:7-8). Again he acts very emotional as an intercessor for his people. If the remnant of Judah and Jerusalem is destroyed, it means the absolute end of Israel. Surely this cannot be so, can it? Perhaps in this complaint there is also an allusion to the name Pelatiah, which means ‘Yahweh delivers’.

Verses 14-15

The Brothers of the Prophet

The LORD responds to Ezekiel’s complaint (Eze 11:14). The prophet made intercession, first for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Eze 9:8b) and then for the leaders (Eze 11:13b). He asked God if He would destroy all the remnant of Israel. God now answers (Eze 11:15) that his brethren, in whom he has so much interest, are not these inhabitants of Jerusalem and these leaders, but the Israelites who have been led into exile.

The exiles are considered by these inhabitants of Jerusalem to be cut off from the people of God. The repetition of “your brothers” [“your relatives” is literally also “your brothers”] serves to assure Ezekiel that they are his real, true brothers, as opposed to the Israelites, who only have the name of Israel and boast of it, but do not live up to it. His brethren have the right of redemption (Lev 25:25; Rth 2:20b).

“Your fellow exiles” is in Hebrew “the men of your redemption” by which the LORD refers to the right of redemption, which means that these “brothers” have the inalienable right to the land from which they were taken. This already contains a promise of restoration. The core of the people are the exiles, to whom new exiles will soon join. God recognizes them as His people. From them He will form a remnant that will again possess the land according to the law. They have not lost it forever, which is what the inhabitants of Jerusalem in their haughtiness think and say of them.

Also, the words “whole” and “all” in the phrase “the whole house of Israel, all of them” emphasize the totality of what God sees as His people. With this totality, “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” form a contrast. For the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who claim the right to the land, the reverse is true. Them God no longer sees as His people. They look with contempt upon the expelled exiles of whom they think are far from God. For these people in Jerusalem, the expulsion from the land means the removal from God’s presence.

In their unbelieving posturing, they believe that the exiles are away from the God of Israel, Who after all dwells in Jerusalem. Thus, after the custom of idolatry around them, they make God a local god. At the same time, they claim the land of the exiles for themselves. They are blind to the fact that the glory of God is about to leave them.

Verses 16-21

Promise of Restoration

The inhabitants of Jerusalem see the removed ones as rejected by God, while they consider themselves the faithful Jews. To their presumption, God responds with promises for those who are carried away into exile (Eze 11:16). These are the first promises of restoration in this book. God may have removed them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, but there He will be with them. They may be deprived of the beautiful temple and the service therein, but He Himself will be a sanctuary for them in the foreign land (cf. Isa 57:15a).

They will experience His presence in a special way. For them, the presence of God is no longer connected to a particular building (cf. Jn 4:21; 24). In the time in which we live, a time in which the children of God are also scattered (cf. Jn 11:52), it is a great encouragement for us to know and experience that the Lord Jesus wants to be a sanctuary for us, even if we are only a few (Mt 18:20).

For the exiles, He will be a sanctuary only for a little while. “Little while” can also mean “limited”. That He is a limited sanctuary for them in Babylon, then, should be understood to mean that they have no temple and cannot perform temple service and have no place to go during the feasts of the LORD. As a result, they are limited in the expressions of their service to God. But God Himself is their sanctuary and that, of course, cannot be limited. For those who put their trust in Him, He does not limit Himself to a building and statutes.

That He will be their sanctuary for a little while, in the sense of for a short time, in the countries to which they are scattered, implies that the exile will come to an end. To this thought connects the next verse, in which the promise of return to their land is given (Eze 11:17). He will gather them out of all the countries to which they have been driven, and will give them the land of Israel.

Here the LORD gives this promise even before the whole people are removed out of the land. A first, provisional fulfillment, on a very small scale, is the return of a remnant in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In our days, we experience in the return of the Jews to their land the beginning of the final fulfillment of this promise in the end time.

When the final fulfillment takes place, the Jews will remove idols and idolatry from the land (Eze 11:18). Those abominable idols and abominations are the things that the antichrist will introduce. This situation will arise in Israel after the rapture of the church.

That they return and remove idolatry is the result of the new heart the LORD gives them (Eze 11:19; cf. Deu 30:5-6). He gives that new heart in place of their heart of stone. The giving of new life and a new spirit is His work. Only God can change a sinner. A heart of stone is stolid and hard. A fleshly heart is one that responds to the Word of God with faith and obedience.

Because of that new heart, they will live from a different spirit. They will have one heart. This means that all double-mindedness and hypocrisy are gone (Psa 86:11). It also means that they will live in unity, that they will serve the LORD one in mind and one in feeling.

God is foretelling a spiritual renewal here (Eze 36:24-26). Then they will obey Him and respond to His desires (Eze 11:20). The connection between them as His people and Him as their God (Jer 11:4; Jer 24:7; Jer 30:22; Jer 31:1; 33; Jer 32:38; Eze 14:11; Eze 36:28; Eze 37:23; 27) will then be fully restored to the great joy of God and also of His people. This will become a reality in the realm of peace.

Exiles who do not repent and those who have not been taken away and remain in Jerusalem persist in their idolatry (Eze 11:21). They go with their hearts “after their detestable things and abominations”. Literally it says: “And to the heart of their detestable things and their abomination their heart goes.” Gods of silver and gold have no heart, no life. Demons do. The hearts of the demons and the hearts of the idol worshipers connect. The LORD will cause them to perish in their own abominable acts.

Verses 22-23

The Departure of Glory

Ezekiel’s vision is nearing its end. In these verses Ezekiel sees the departure of “the glory of the God of Israel” from Jerusalem. God, however, departs only after first giving comforting promises of the restoration of a remnant in the preceding verses. Then He withdraws, leaving city and land to their fate.

As a final stop, He stands over the mountain that lies east of Jerusalem, which is the Mount of Olives. This determines us that the glory of God will also return to the city over the Mount of Olives (Zec 14:4a; Acts 1:9-12) to fulfill the promises of the previous verses. The glory will again take up its residence in the new temple in the realm of peace (Eze 43:1-5).

Verses 24-25

Ezekiel Back With the Exiles

The vision ends with Ezekiel seeing himself lifted up by the Spirit of God Who gave him the vision and brought back to the exiles (Eze 11:24). All this time he has been physically with the elders (Eze 8:1). As a faithful witness, as a watchman, Ezekiel communicates to the exiles all that the LORD has shown him in the vision (Eze 11:25).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.