Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 14

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-11

Punishment on the Idolaters

Ezekiel is visited by a delegation of elders of Israel (Ezekiel 14:1; cf. Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 20:1). They come to seek counsel of the LORD through him. They sit down before him, at his feet, an attitude that indicates they recognize him as a true prophet of God and want to listen to him. Before any of these elders even say a word, God Himself speaks to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:2). He knows their hypocrisy and tells Ezekiel what He sees in the hearts of the elders (cf. Ezekiel 8:12; Matthew 15:19).

He sees that the hearts of these people are full of “stink gods” that they themselves have set up in their hearts (Ezekiel 14:3). Several times He says that their hearts are full of those stink gods. Possibly they are not openly serving the idols, but are cherishing them in their hearts. By doing so, they have set before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. This inner idolatry is the cause of their misery.

Even today there is much sneaky idolatry, inner bondage to sins that are secretly cherished. When we think of inner bondage, we can think of addiction to the ‘social media’, of the internet and smartphone use. This addiction is justified by ‘needing’ it, but studies have shown that many can no longer live without social media. Every person who claims to be a child of God would do well to ask themselves honestly before the Lord whether this kind of hypocrisy is also present in them.

Now these elders addicted to idolatry come to the LORD to consult Him. They come to Him just as they go to their idols which they cherish in their hearts while consulting Him. But will He allow Himself to be consulted by those who live in hypocrisy in this way? This double-mindedness He abhors (Matthew 6:22-Jeremiah :; James 4:8). He is entitled to their undivided reverence.

Ezekiel is to pass on to them the word of the LORD (Ezekiel 14:4). The answer is general: it applies to “any man of the house of Israel” who commits this hidden idolatry. This idolatry is a stumbling block over which they fall and by which they close the way to God to themselves. A person who comes to God while clinging to the multitude of his stink gods can count on a personal response from God. That response is not a word from the prophet, but a direct act of God Himself. God will respond by an act of judgment.

How dare such a person appear in the presence of the Holy One! The LORD will “lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel”, where the stink gods dwell (Ezekiel 14:5). They do come to Him, but because of their stink gods they are estranged from Him. They no longer know Him and He can no longer acknowledge them.

Yet the LORD in His grace still speaks of an opportunity to repent (Ezekiel 14:6). Then they must turn away from their stink gods, which means to condemn and reject them. They must also turn their faces away from all their abominations, which is to stop all their idolatrous practices that they secretly engage in. True repentance is self-judgment, confession of evil and ceasing to do evil.

The word about the stink gods in the heart and the stumbling block that each puts right before his face applies to both the born Israelite and the immigrant who stays in their midst (Ezekiel 14:7). Whoever comes to the prophet with his stink gods in his heart to consult God through him will receive the appropriate answer from God. He will have to deal with God Himself, Who will judge him (Ezekiel 14:8). This will happen in a way that people will make a proverb out of it. Thus that man will be eradicated from God’s people and he will live on in memory through the proverb. That will be connected with the testimony of the LORD that He is truly the LORD.

A prophet can be deceived by these people, with stink gods in their hearts (Ezekiel 14:9). The key for him is to live close to the LORD in order not to be deceived (cf. Joshua 9:9-Ezra :; 1 Kings 14:1-Deuteronomy :; Acts 5:1-Deuteronomy :; Acts 5:7-1 Samuel :). The LORD will make it clear what needs to be done. If people come to a false prophet to consult the LORD through him, those people will be deceived by the LORD Himself. Then He will “send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Kings 22:23) and to their “depraved mind” (Romans 1:28). Evil does not come from God (James 1:13), but He in His wisdom and power can use it to accomplish His purpose (Job 12:16).

He will judge the false prophet and eradicate him from the midst of His people. He cannot let any deception go unpunished. The prophet will bear his iniquity as well as the demander (Ezekiel 14:10). One (the prophet) has put his own views and the other (the demander) his own lusts above the truth of God and thus despises God and His truth.

The purpose of all God’s punishments is that the evil will be removed and the remaining people – that is then His entire people -will not stray from Him again (Ezekiel 14:11). When they no longer stray and also “no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions”, He can again recognize them as His people. Then the connection between Him and His people is restored; they are to Him a people and He is to them a God. That situation is what He desires.

Here a ray of hope lights up in Ezekiel’s otherwise so menacing message. He cannot leave out the foreshadowing of judgments, but he also sees the silver lining around the dark, threatening clouds. In the end, some good will come out of it as well. God’s intentions will not be undone by the destruction of earthly Jerusalem.

Verses 12-23

Four Punishments and Three Righteous Men

A new word from the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:12). Very generally the LORD speaks of “a country” (Ezekiel 14:13). So it does not refer only to Israel, although it is later applied again specifically to Israel and also the words “committing unfaithfulness” does remind one strongly of Israel. Nevertheless, God has a right that every nation should fear and serve Him. His punishments are therefore general. He stretches out His hand against every nation that does not reckon with Him.

In His judgment on unfaithfulness to Him, He uses four means, which He calls “My four severe judgments” later in this chapter (cf. Ezekiel 14:21). The number four indicates dominion over the earth (cf. “the fourth day”, Genesis 1:14-Psalms :). Every land, everywhere on earth in each of the four winds, is under the dominion of God. The four means He uses to judge belong to the earth.

The first judgment is a “famine”. He will send it in countries that have cast Him aside. As a result, He will wipe out man and beast there through this plague. There is, however, the possibility of escaping this judgment, namely through personal repentance and doing righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14). The LORD points to three outstanding men, Noah, Daniel and Job, who despite their righteousness would still not be able to deliver their land from this judgment (cf. Jeremiah 15:1-Numbers :). By their righteousness, they would only deliver their own lives.

Two of these three men have been in very critical situations; the third is still living in them. Noah has lived in a world full of corruption and violence (Genesis 6:6; Genesis 6:13). Daniel lives in an environment that has sought to tempt him to give in to the lusts of the flesh and thus deny the faith of the fathers, the faith in the LORD, the God of Israel (Daniel 1:5-Ruth :). Job has been the direct target of the devil’s fiercest attacks (Job 1:8-2 Kings :; Job 2:1-Judges :). We see in them victors over the world (Noah), the flesh (Daniel) and the devil (Job). But they delivered only themselves, without being able to change the situation around them. Each is delivered only by a life of righteousness, which can only be lived if there is repentance to and faith in God.

Among the exiles there is a hope that God will spare the people who have fallen into idolatry for the sake of a few God-fearing people who are sparingly found in Jerusalem. After all, He would also have spared Sodom if ten righteous people had been found there (Genesis 18:32). The LORD smashes that completely unjustified hope. There is no ground for thinking such a thing. The men He mentions, who are held in high regard by Him because of their righteousness and godliness, if they lived in the threatened land, they would deliver only themselves, but no one else. No one should hide behind the fact that he has a praying mother and therefore it will be all right with him, while he continues to live in sin.

That these three men are mentioned also speaks to the fact that these judgments are not just about Israel. Noah and Job are not Israelites, Daniel is, but he lived most of his life in exile outside Israel. These three men did manage to do something for others. Noah delivered his home (Genesis 6:18) and Daniel and Job their friends (Daniel 2:17-Job :; Job 42:7-2 Samuel :). So great has been their righteousness before God and men (Noah), their intercession with the mighty of the earth, Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel), and their intercession for friends with God (Job).

This does not mean that the righteousness of these three men for their families and friends also meant the salvation of the souls of their families and friends before God. Each must come before God with his own sins and confess them. Only the Lord Jesus suffered substitutionary for others. On the basis of His work, Noah, Daniel and Job also received righteousness before God.

The second judgment God uses is that of the “wild beasts” He allows to pass through the land (Ezekiel 14:15). Those wild beasts will rob the people of children and make the land depopulated and desolate. No one will dare to cultivate the land or pass through it for fear of the wild beasts. Even in this judgment, these three excellent men, if they had been in their midst, would not have been able to provide relief (Ezekiel 14:16). The sons and daughters will die and the land will become desolate, while only these three men would be delivered.

The third judgment is that of “the sword” (Ezekiel 14:17). God will also be able to command the sword to pass through the land, such as in the form of war. As a result, man and beast will be cut off by Him. Again, outstanding believers like the three men mentioned above would not be able to help them escape this judgment (Ezekiel 14:18). They would not be able to deliver sons and daughters. They themselves alone would be delivered.

The fourth judgment is that of the deadly disease the “plague” (Ezekiel 14:19). Of this God says that He pours out His wrath bloodily upon them. Man and beast are killed by it. Noah, Daniel and Job also would not have been able to reverse this plague if they lived in the midst of the people (Ezekiel 14:20). They would not have been able to deliver any descendants of the people from God’s wrath. The only thing they could deliver is their own lives and that is because of their righteous lives.

There is only one righteous One Who by His righteousness delivered not only His own life, but also the lives of countless others. The Lord Jesus is the Just Who suffered for unjust people so that He might bring them to God (1 Peter 3:18). He unites in Himself all the excellencies of the three righteous men mentioned above. He is able to deliver sons and daughters and lead them to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

God mentions the judgments again, calling them “My four severe judgments” (Ezekiel 14:21). He sends all four of them “against Jerusalem”. He now specifically mentions Jerusalem and no longer generally “a country” (Ezekiel 14:13). He will cut off man and beast from Jerusalem. Yet immediately afterwards He speaks of survivors, literally “escaped ones” (Ezekiel 14:22). He introduces this with the word “behold”. Not all the inhabitants of Jerusalem will perish. There are those, the escaped ones, who “will be left in it”. These will be taken out of Jerusalem and “are going to come forth to you”, that is, they will be taken to Babylon, where Ezekiel and his fellow exiles are now.

When they get there, they will tell the exiles about “their conduct and actions”. As a result, the exiles will be “comforted” (Ezekiel 14:23). The comfort is in the fact that what the LORD has brought upon Jerusalem is the fulfillment of His word. He could not have acted otherwise than He did and He did what He said He would do. They will be at peace with God’s judgment on Jerusalem and recognize that the judgment is deserved. It is always a comfort to remember that the Lord fulfills His Word.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ezekiel-14.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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