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With this chapter begins the third section of the great second section. This section, which covers Ezekiel 12-17, exposes the sins of the leaders. This chapter addresses the false prophecies that are circulating that the deliverance of Jerusalem will happen soon and that the exiles will return soon. The teaching of these chapters counters this false optimism.
The Exile Depicted
From the beginning, the LORD has prepared Ezekiel that the carried away into exile of His people as a whole will not listen to His Word (Ezekiel 2:3-Ruth :; Ezekiel 3:7-1 Samuel :). Here He confirms that again (Ezekiel 12:1-Exodus :). As a whole, they are “the rebellious house”. Their eyes are blind to their sins and their ears are closed to God’s Word. The cause of this is their rebellion; they are “a rebellious house.”
Yet Ezekiel must convey to them God’s message. He must do so by visible sign acts and an audible declaration of them. He is to play out an exile (Ezekiel 12:3). This might “perhaps” lead them to “understand though they are a rebellious house”. The word “perhaps” gives room for a glimmer of hope that there will be some who will listen after all.
The LORD’s command for this action of Ezekiel shows His great lovingkindness that He uses such means to get the attention of the rebellious people. He tells Ezekiel what to take, what to do with it, and to go to another place. Ezekiel is to do everything “in their sight”, an expression that appears seven times in Ezekiel 12:3-Judges :.
Ezekiel is to perform the play in two acts, one act by day and the other by night. The first act, during the day, consists of his having to bring out from the house before their eyes the “baggage for exile”, that is, no more than the very essentials (Ezekiel 12:4; cf. Jeremiah 46:19). The performance of the second act takes place at night (Ezekiel 12:4). While the exiles stand by and watch, in the evening he himself must come out and move away, as exiles move away.
To make it look like a real run, he must break through the wall to make an escape route and through it bring out everything (Ezekiel 12:5). To do this, he must carry everything on his shoulder, as exiles do (Ezekiel 12:6). It must be done at night. He must also cover his face, as people do who do not want to be recognized. Also, it is a sign that he will not see the land, because he is leaving it. Likewise, those who are still living in Jerusalem today will not see the land from which they will be taken as exiles.
The LORD has given Ezekiel as a sign. In this sign, not only is the future announced, but it also shows what it looks like. In and during Ezekiel’s performance, the future becomes present. What is going to happen is seen in reality in the sign.
Ezekiel does exactly what the LORD has commanded him (Ezekiel 12:7), although he himself may not yet have understood what it means. It proves the utter obedience of the prophet. He literally does what the LORD has told him to do. All his actions are described again, except for covering his face. So he stands there waiting for further instructions. These come in the morning. The LORD gives him the explanation in the following verses, which he is also to pass on.
The Exile of the King
When Ezekiel has performed his play, the next morning the word of the LORD comes to him (Ezekiel 12:8). The LORD is curious, as it were, about the reaction of the people (Ezekiel 12:9). How did they react to the performance? Did they also ask Ezekiel about the meaning? Whether they did or not, in any case Ezekiel must go and tell them what he wanted to make clear with his performance (Ezekiel 12:10). What he has played out is a burden that applies to the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel in Jerusalem. He must say in plain words that he is a sign and that what he has played out will actually happen to the prince and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 12:11).
Ezekiel says that in his performance he has mainly played out what will happen to the prince (Ezekiel 12:12). That prince is Zedekiah. Several years later, what Ezekiel has played out and is described again here will literally happen to Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1-Judges :; Jeremiah 39:1-2 Samuel :; Jeremiah 52:7-1 Kings :). Zedekiah flees through the wall at night. But the soldiers of the king of Babylon pursue him and seize him. So the LORD spreads His net over him and takes him captive (Ezekiel 12:13). It is not dumb luck that Zedekiah is seized.
Zedekiah is taken to Riblah and there his eyes are put out. Then the Chaldeans take him to Babylon, but he cannot see that land because he is blind. There, in Babylon, he dies. Those who helped him flee are scattered by the LORD throughout all the winds and will fall there by the sword (Ezekiel 12:14). Through their dispersion and scattering, they will know that He is the LORD (Ezekiel 12:15).
The dramatic conquest of Jerusalem and the extermination of its inhabitants will not put a final end to them (Ezekiel 12:16). The LORD will leave a small number of men alive. He will spare them so that they can tell the nations why all this has happened to them (cf. Ezekiel 14:22; Ezekiel 33:21). It is the message to all that God punishes evil no matter how long the judgment takes because He is longsuffering. It is folly to deny eternal judgment when there is so much evidence that God punishes evil.
We can learn another lesson from the play that Ezekiel performed. Is our life in line with what he showed? Do we have only the bare necessities and are we ready to go to another place (1 Peter 1:13). For us, it is not a departure to go into exile, but to the Father’s house. Maybe then people will ask us why we live the way we do. Then we can point them to the anger of God that is coming upon the world and to the Savior Who can and desires save from it. We can then give witness to the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
Eating and Drinking in Fear
Ezekiel is commanded by the LORD to perform a second symbolic act (Ezekiel 12:17-Job :). He is to perform a new drama. He is to eat his bread with trembling and drink his water with quivering and anxiety. The explanation of this he must communicate to the people of the land, which are the fellow exiles in Babylon. By the way he eats his bread and drinks his water, he portrays the hunger and thirst and spiritual situation that will be in Jerusalem through Nebuchadnezzar’s siege. That situation will be there even afterward, when only a few are left in the city (Ezekiel 12:19).
They will take to themselves the meager rations of bread and water under constant threat and stress. “Anxiety” and “horror” point to the fear that will characterize the time ahead. The cause of this situation is the violence that prevails in the city. Everyone is out for their own benefit and seeks it at the expense of others. The result is the laying waste of the inhabited cities and the turning of the land into a desolation (Ezekiel 12:20). Thus it will become known that He is the LORD, because they have not been willing to listen to Him in any other way.
Contempt of True Prophecy
The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel again as “son of man” (Ezekiel 12:21-Song of Solomon :). The LORD points him to the reaction of His people who are in “the land of Israel” to the prophecies He has spoken. They respond with rejection, saying that the prophecy will not be fulfilled (Jeremiah 17:15; Amos 6:3; Isaiah 5:19). The days go on and on and nothing of what has been announced happens. They just don’t believe that what the prophets have foretold to them in the Name of the LORD is going to happen.
Ezekiel must tell them, in the Name of the Lord GOD, that He will cause their mocking to cease (Ezekiel 12:23; cf. 2 Peter 3:3-Numbers :). The will not be smiling anymore. The days announced and the prophecy announced for those days are near. The time of the fulfillment of the prophetic word is near. Then it will be over with all lie prophecy which is essentially “flattering divination”, or demonic activity (Ezekiel 12:24). During the life of the lying prophets, God will fulfill His word and He will punish the rebellious house (Ezekiel 12:25). Then the lying prophets will be openly belied. The LORD will speak and His speaking is the guarantee that it will happen.
The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel one more time about the attitude of the people toward prophecy (Ezekiel 12:26-Daniel :). There are also those of the house of Israel who say that it will be a long time before what the LORD has foretold will happen. This is a different attitude from the previous category of people. They do not deny the prophecy, but they put off its fulfillment. The prophecy has no effect on their lives. It will take their time off. They don’t let God’s Word upset them and lead them to repentance, but continue with their wicked lives (Ecclesiastes 8:11). They too are told that none of the LORD’s words will be delayed any longer (Ezekiel 12:28). The word that the LORD has spoken will be fulfilled.
For us, the danger of the second attitude is also great. We do believe in what God’s Word says about the future, but the prophecy has little effect on our lives. There is an urgent need to engage with the prophecy of God’s Word so that we see that the coming of Christ is near. When we engage in prophecy, the morning star rises in our hearts (2 Peter 1:19) and we know that “the Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), that is the Lord Jesus, will soon appear.
It will also separate us from the world and its things. The world is full of idolatry, wickedness and immorality. Judgment cannot be long in coming. Let us not be like the evil slave who says in his heart: “My master is not coming for a long time”, and then starts behaving evil (Matthew 24:48-Colossians :). Let us look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus as people who are waiting for their Lord and whose lamps are burning and shining a bright light (Luke 12:35-Zephaniah :).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 12". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany