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Judgment on the Mountains of Israel
The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Eze 6:1). He, “son of man”, is to “set” his “face toward the mountains of Israel” (cf. Eze 4:3) and prophesy against them (Eze 6:2). The phrase “mountains of Israel” occurs only in Ezekiel (Eze 6:2; 3; Eze 19:9; Eze 33:28; Eze 34:13; 14; Eze 35:12; Eze 36:1; 4; 8; Eze 37:22; Eze 38:8; Eze 39:2; 4; 17). The mountains of Israel is a mountain range that lies in the heart of Israel and extends for about 250 km from the plain of Jezreel, just north of Nablus or Shechem, to the southern end of the Dead Sea. Those mountains include Jerusalem, Bethel, Ai, Shechem, Bethany and Hebron. There Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, Jacob, Joshua, Joseph and David were buried. They made up most of what is now called the West Bank.
It is toward that area that Ezekiel must set his face because the Israelites erected their idolatrous altars there to serve their idols. In addressing the mountains, everything and everyone involved in this idolatry is addressed. This idolatry is often accompanied by sacred prostitution and all kinds of other debauchery.
Ezekiel is to preach against these mountains, and also the lower “hills”, the word of the Lord GOD in judgment (Eze 6:3). The LORD will bring the sword on them, on the idolaters and the idolatrous heights and all that is in the immediate vicinity of them, such as the ravines or water streams and the valleys. Ravines or water streams and valleys may refer to the refreshments and fertile ground they attribute as a blessing to their idols.
We can learn much from Ezekiel’s obedience. God not only gives him the words to speak, but also determines to whom they are to be spoken. And Ezekiel obeys. He does not ask if it makes sense to prophesy against Jerusalem which is hundreds of miles away (Eze 4:3; 7). Nor does he ask if the mountains and hills of Israel will hear the sound of his voice. He simply does what is asked of him.
The places of worship of the idols will be broken smashed (Eze 6:4). The idolaters will lie down before their idols mortally wounded (cf. Lev 26:30). It is the epitome of the madness of their idolatry. With the utmost contempt, God calls their idols “stink gods” [the word for idols here is a word of utmost contempt, which is best rendered with ‘stink gods’, and is used 38 times in Ezekiel]. Under the ‘watchful’ eye of these stink gods, He will make their slain fall. Then it will be clear that these stink gods will not lift a finger to ward off the calamity. The dead bodies lie there, in front of the stink gods (Eze 6:5). Someone who worships such gods has truly lost his mind. What folly it is to worship dead matter and expect salvation from it!
These gods do not spread a pleasant odor, but stench, the stench of the slain who lie in front of them. God carries the defamation to a climax by scattering the bones of the dead around their altars. This punishment has a double effect. The offenders are denied the honor of a burial – a burial is highly valued – and at the same time the places they consider holy are defiled.
The judgment of God will destroy everything that has come under the influence of the stink gods (Eze 6:6). In all habitations He will destroy the cities through the enemy. The heights on which they have committed their idolatry will become a wilderness. The judgment will be thorough and will leave nothing of the altars, the stink gods, the incense altars and the works of the idolaters. The Holy Spirit uses a multitude of words to describe the devastation in the most impressive way possible: “waste”, “desolate”, “waste and desolate”, “broken and brought to an end”, “cut down”, “blotted out”.
In the midst of all this rubble lie the slain (Eze 6:7). The whole area is an open mass grave full of corpses and destroyed habitations. Then they will finally know that He is the LORD. The acknowledgment of this will not mean life for them. They have passed up the opportunity every time the LORD has called them to repentance.
The phrase “and you will know that I am the LORD” or an almost identical expression, occurs frequently in this book. However, this expression is remarkably absent in Ezekiel 40-48. At the same time, this is understandable because that part of the book is about the realm of peace and there they will all know the LORD and know that He is the LORD (Jer 31:34).
Although the judgment is so severe, God promises that there will be “remnant” (Eze 6:8). Here, in the midst of all the unfaithfulness and warnings, is a first reference to a remnant and thus to restoration. This remnant will be scattered, but among the nations where they will then be, they will come to repentance and remember the LORD (Eze 6:9; cf. Jer 51:50; Zec 10:9).
He has had to scatter them because they have hurt His heart by the aberrations of their hearts, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their stink gods. The idolatry of Israel is represented as harlotry, as unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant between the LORD and His people (cf. Exo 34:15; Hos 1:2). Their eyes play a major role in their unfaithfulness to God (Eze 18:12; 15; Eze 20:24; cf. Num 15:39). Through the eyes, sin entered the world: Eve saw (Gen 3:6).
When the people come to repentance through God’s work in them, they will loathe themselves in their own sight for all their abominations, for all their disgusting idolatrous practices. We too must know this loathing ourselves in order to truly know and love the Lord.
Also this section ends with “then they will know that I am the LORD”, a knowledge that comes here not through judgment, as in Eze 6:7, but through the grace that brought them to repentance (Eze 6:10). They will recognize that He has dealt with them fully righteously. The full fulfillment of this will be experienced by the remnant in the end time.
Judgment by Sword, Famine and Plague
Ezekiel is commanded to clap his hand, stamp his foot, and say “alas”, as an expression of disgust “because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel” (Eze 6:11). He is thus again personally involved in the judgment God is bringing on His people. The announcement of judgment is not an emotionless affair. It works an emotional response in each person who must do so.
Judgment will come on Jerusalem by the sword of the enemy, by famine because of the siege, and by the plague (pestilence) that will come as a result of starvation. The people here do not have the choice to choose one of these plagues, as once David had (2Sam 24:13-14), but will be affected by every plague.
The pestilence that is going through the land will affect all those who live further away in the land (Eze 6:12). The sword will strike those who are in and around the city, surrounded by the enemies. Those who have been able to hide and have been spared from the sword will die the slow death of starvation. This is how God will execute His wrath. He announces clearly what He will do.
When the slain lie in all those places where they paid homage to their stink gods, they will know that He is the LORD (Eze 6:13). Here again we have this knowledge of the LORD through and after judgment. It is terrible to come to know God in judgment (Heb 10:31). They will also gain that knowledge through God’s judgment of their land which He will make more desolate and waste than the wilderness toward Diblah (Eze 6:14). The wilderness toward Diblah is presumably east of Moab (see Num 33:46 Almon-Diblathaïm and Jer 48:22 Beth-Diblathaïm).
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 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19