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Thursday, September 21st, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 12

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-20

Prophecies Against Jerusalem (12:1-19:14)

Captivity Predicted (12:1-20)

It is typical of Ezekiel that an action speaks louder than a word. The dramatic act described in this chapter symbolizes the fact that the people and their king will seek to escape from the land before its capture by an invader. Following the prophetic act Ezekiel describes the horrors of life in exile.

The people to whom Ezekiel was sent were from the outset called "a rebellious house." On this occasion the deserved appellation is given to them once more. Because they are rebels the prophet is instructed to go through the motions of preparing baggage for exile. Bag and baggage were to be openly displayed in the sight of the people of Tel-abib, who had already experienced flight and exile, so that they might understand what was about to happen to Jerusalem. The baggage was to be made ready in the day, but escape would begin at evening. Thus there would be protection from the sun and also escape from detection by Chaldean guards along the way.

Ezekiel was instructed to prepare his baggage, then when evening came he was to dig a hole in the wall to indicate an escape in secret (vs. 5). The wall through which he was to dig was doubtless made of mud brick, a common building material in Mesopotamia. He was to carry his baggage in the darkness and to cover his face, "that you may not see the land." Thus he was to act as a sign or message to the house of Israel.

The prophetic act is in verses 8-20 specifically applied to the fate of Zedekiah, who actually was king but who is always called "prince" (vs. 10) by Ezekiel, probably because the prophet considered Jehoiachin the rightful ruler. When curious people asked the prophet for an explanation of his eccentric behavior, he was to give this answer: "This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel who are in it." Ezekiel was a sign of the coming captivity and exile of the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Zedekiah is the one who "shall lift his baggage upon his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth; he shall dig through the wall and go out through it; he shall cover his face, that he may not see the land with his eyes" (vs. 12). The historical record of Zedekiah’s flight from Jerusalem is preserved in 2 Kings 25:4-7; Jeremiah 39:4-8; Jeremiah 52:7-11. When the armies of Nebuchadnezzar finally breached the city wall, Zedekiah escaped by a secret gate in his garden. However, he was captured by the Chaldeans at a place on the border called Riblah. Verse 13 predicts the horrible fate which will befall the king. According to the historical records it was the fate of the ill-starred monarch to see his sons slain and then to be blinded. He was brought bound to Babylon, where he was imprisoned "till the day of his death" (see Jeremiah 52:10-11). At this point in the prophecy God renews his threat to scatter and to destroy Israel, leaving but a few to survive so that they may confess their failure among the nations and by confession justify the divine judgment upon Jerusalem (Ezekiel 12:14-16). Verses 17-20 are in essence a repetition of the description of life under siege as given in 4:16. Not only the city but the entire land will be laid waste, and Palestine will be a desolation.

Verses 21-28

Popular Proverbs (12:21-28)

No better index to popular thought and the real temper of spirit among a people can be found than the proverbs heard in the streets. What were people saying in the time of Ezekiel? They were saying, "The days grow long, and every vision comes to naught" (vs. 22b). This proverb caused God to command his prophet to announce that there would be no more delay, but that every prophetic vision was about to be fulfilled (vss. 23-25).

People were also using another proverb which spoke of judgment as far distant: "The vision that he sees is for many days hence, and he prophesies of times far off" (vs. 27). To this the Lord replies through his prophet, again warning of imminent judgment (vs. 28).

The popular idea was that a "vision" was a meaningless, imaginative experience of the prophet, which, though frightening, would never come to fruition. But even if it were a true forecast, it was directed to the distant future and had no relevance in the present situation. Prophets had been famous for denunciation and prediction of doom, but obviously their predictions had not yet been fulfilled. Thus have people in all times sought to make faith irrelevant to life, either depicting faith as an empty claim or pushing its demands into the far future. The primary design in such efforts is to remove it from the present where it makes a claim upon man’s life and speaks to his quality of living.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 12". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-12.html.
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