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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 20

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Ezekiel 20:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
God's Dealings With Israel RehearsedThe Rebellions of IsraelThe Fall and Rise of IsraelThe LORD's Will and Human DefianceAn Account of Israel's Infidelities
Ezekiel 20:1-8aEzekiel 20:1-4Ezekiel 20:1-8aEzekiel 20:1-3Ezekiel 20:1-3
Ezekiel 20:4-9Ezekiel 20:4-17
Ezekiel 20:5-9
Ezekiel 20:8-17Ezekiel 20:8-13a
Ezekiel 20:10-17Ezekiel 20:10-16
Ezekiel 20:13-17
Ezekiel 20:17-20
Ezekiel 20:18-26Ezekiel 20:18-26Ezekiel 20:18-21aEzekiel 20:18-26
Ezekiel 20:21-24
Ezekiel 20:21-26
Ezekiel 20:25-26
Ezekiel 20:27-32Ezekiel 20:27-32Ezekiel 20:27-31Ezekiel 20:27-32Ezekiel 20:27-29
Ezekiel 20:30-44
Ezekiel 20:32
God Will Restore Israel to Her LandGod Will Restore IsraelGod Punishes and Forgives
Ezekiel 20:33-38Ezekiel 20:33-38Ezekiel 20:33-38Ezekiel 20:33-36
Ezekiel 20:37-38
Ezekiel 20:39-44Ezekiel 20:39-44Ezekiel 20:39Ezekiel 20:39-44
Fire in the ForestEzekiel 20:40-44Fire in the SouthThe Sword of Yahweh(MT 21:45-49)
Ezekiel 20:45-49Ezekiel 20:45-49Ezekiel 20:45-49Ezekiel 20:45-48
Ezekiel 20:49

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:1-8a 1Now in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month, certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me. 2And the word of the LORD came to me saying, 3”Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “Do you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you.”' 4”Will you judge them, will you judge them, son of man? Make them know the abominations of their fathers; 5and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “On the day when I chose Israel and swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I swore to them, saying, I am the LORD your God, 6on that day I swore to them, to bring them out from the land of Egypt into a land that I had selected for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands. 7I said to them, 'Cast away, each of you, the detestable things of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.' 8But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.”

Ezekiel 20:1 “in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month” Ezekiel makes an attempt to date his prophecies (i.e., 591 B.C., cf. 2 Kings 25:8; compare with Jeremiah 52:12; also note the dates in Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 20:1; Ezekiel 26:1; Ezekiel 29:1, Ezekiel 29:17; Ezekiel 30:20; Ezekiel 31:1; Ezekiel 32:1, Ezekiel 32:17; Ezekiel 33:21). The purpose for this may be

1. a literary way of asserting that YHWH spoke to him

2. a way of showing he was a true prophet (i.e., YHWH spoke to him before the event)

3. just his meticulous personality or possibly priestly training

The elder's question is not stated, but the date causes one to imagine it was related to Egypt's power and Zedekiah's proposed alliance with Pharaoh Psammetik II (595-589 B.C.).

“the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD” They had done this before (cf. Ezekiel 8:1, Ezekiel 8:11, Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 14:1). We do not know what they came to ask because Ezekiel receives another vision while they sat there. This revelation relates to their questions.

Ezekiel 20:3 The motives and sins of this (these) group(s) of elders are consistently negative (cf. Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1). They came as if they were seeking YHWH's advice and guidance (cf. Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 20:31), but in reality, they were idolaters (cf. Ezekiel 14:7). The wickedness of Jerusalem (chapters 8-10) has already affected the exiles (leaders reflect the populace). This uniform evil demonstrates that YHWH's choosing the exiles to reconstitute Israel, while judging and destroying those in Palestine, was an act of mercy, not merit (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38). He chose them because of His eternal redemptive purposes for all mankind! See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

One day YHWH will listen again (cf. Ezekiel 36:37-38)!

“Son of Man” See note at Ezekiel 2:1.

“speak” This (BDB 180, KB 210) is a Piel IMPERATIVE (cf. Ezekiel 3:1; Ezekiel 12:23; Ezekiel 14:4; Ezekiel 20:27; Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 33:2; Ezekiel 37:19, Ezekiel 37:21).

“the Lord GOD” This is literally Adon YHWH. See Special Topic: Names for Deity. Notice the number of titles used for God in this chapter. This is a chapter about God and His intentions for Israel, but they would not!

1. LORD (YHWH), Ezekiel 20:2

2. Adon YHWH, Ezekiel 20:3(twice),5,27,30,31,33,36,39,40,44,47,49

3. YHWH your Elohim, Ezekiel 20:5, Ezekiel 20:7, Ezekiel 20:19, Ezekiel 20:20

4. I am the LORD (YHWH), Ezekiel 20:26, Ezekiel 20:38, Ezekiel 20:42, Ezekiel 20:44

5. I, the LORD (YHWH), Ezekiel 20:48

Also notice the personal PRONOUNS and phrases.

1. Myself, Ezekiel 20:5, Ezekiel 20:9

2. against Me, Ezekiel 20:8, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:21, Ezekiel 20:27, Ezekiel 20:38

3. My wrath, Ezekiel 20:8, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:21

4. My anger, Ezekiel 20:8, Ezekiel 20:21

5. My name, Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14

6. My statutes, Ezekiel 20:11, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:19, Ezekiel 20:21, Ezekiel 20:24

7. My ordinances, Ezekiel 20:11, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:19, Ezekiel 20:21, Ezekiel 20:24

8. My sabbaths, Ezekiel 20:11, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:20, Ezekiel 20:21, Ezekiel 20:24

9. My eye, Ezekiel 20:17

10. My hand, Ezekiel 20:22

11. blasphemed Me, Ezekiel 20:27

12. listen to Me, Ezekiel 20:39

13. My holy name, Ezekiel 20:39

14. My holy mountain, Ezekiel 20:40

15. serve Me, Ezekiel 20:40

16. prove Myself holy, Ezekiel 20:41

17. My name's sake, Ezekiel 20:44

Ezekiel 20:4 YHWH seems to be asking Ezekiel if he is ready to act as His mouthpiece in confronting (cf. Ezekiel 16:2; Ezekiel 22:2) these idolatrous elders. The repeated VERB (BDB 1047; KB 1622) could be Qal IMPERFECT or Qal IMPERFECT used as a JUSSIVE (cf. Ezekiel 20:7, Ezekiel 20:18[thrice]).

“Make them know” This VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, see Special Topic at Ezekiel 22:4) is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE (Hiphil PERFECT in Ezekiel 22:2). It implies both

1. truth

2. a relationship with YHWH (e.g., Genesis 4:1; Jeremiah 1:5)

“abomination” See Special Topic: Abomination.

“of their fathers” This is surprising in light of Ezekiel 18:0. Are these elders being confronted because of their parents' or ancestors' sins? Our parents and society often set destructive patterns or licenses which reap judgment (cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9, Deuteronomy 5:10). There is both an individual and corporate ethical, moral, religious responsibility. It is not an either/or situation. These elders are affected, but also responsible, as were the Davidic kings of Ezekiel 19:0.

Ezekiel 20:5-7 These verses describe YHWH's actions/admonitions towards the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (“the seed of the house of Jacob,” Ezekiel 20:5).

1. “I chose Israel,” BDB 103, KB 119, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, this election terminology, so common in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, occurs only here in Ezekiel

2. “I swore” (lit. “lifted hand”), Ezekiel 20:5(twice), BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT (i.e., that I would be their God)

3. “I made Myself known to them,” Ezekiel 20:5, BDB 393, KB 390, Niphal IMPERFECT

4. “I swore,” Ezekiel 20:6, BDB 669, KB 724, Qal PERFECT (that I would bring them out of bondage, out of Egypt)

5. “that I had selected for them,” Ezekiel 20:6, BDB 1064, KB 1707, Qal PERFECT (I would give them the land of Canaan, cf. Genesis 15:12-21)

6. “cast away. . .the detestable things,” Ezekiel 20:7, BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

7. “do not defile yourselves,” Ezekiel 20:7, BDB 379, KB 375, Hithpael IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, cf. Ezekiel 18:15; Ezekiel 20:7, Ezekiel 20:18, Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 22:3-4; Ezekiel 23:7, Ezekiel 23:30; Ezekiel 36:18, Ezekiel 36:25; Ezekiel 37:23

Ezekiel 20:5 “swore” This is literally “lift the hand” and is used twice in this verse. This forms the central theme of this chapter (cf. Ezekiel 20:6, Ezekiel 20:15, Ezekiel 20:23, Ezekiel 20:28, Ezekiel 20:42): God's gracious provisions and covenant promises in contrast to Israel's repeated covenant failures (cf. Psalms 106:0; Nehemiah 9:0).

The gesture of raising/lifting (BDB 669, KB 724) the hand can have several meanings.

1. oath taking, Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Psalms 106:26; Ezekiel 20:5-6

2. rebellion, 2 Samuel 20:21

3. positive action, Psalms 10:12 (YHWH); 119:48 (human)

4. blessing, Leviticus 9:22; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 63:4; Psalms 134:2; 1 Timothy 2:8

5. prayers, Lamentations 2:19

Ezekiel 20:6 “to bring them out” This VERB (BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, cf. Ezekiel 20:6, Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:10, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:34, Ezekiel 20:38, Ezekiel 20:41) is often used (in the Hiphil) of YHWH's act of (1) prophetic fulfillment (cf. Genesis 15:12-21) and/or (2) mercy in delivering Israel from Egypt. It is also used of YHWH delivering Israel from the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles (cf. Ezekiel 20:34, Ezekiel 20:38, Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 34:13).

NASB“that I had selected for them” NKJV, NRSV“that I had searched out for them” TEV“I had chosen for them” NJB“which I had reconnoitered for them” LXX“that I spied for them” REV, JPSOA“that I had sought out for them”

The VERB (BDB 1064, KB 1707, Qal PERFECT) means “to seek out,” “to spy out,” or “to explore,” in light of the fact that (1) it is used so often for the twelve spies (cf. Numbers 13:2, Numbers 13:16, Numbers 13:17, Numbers 13:25, Numbers 13:32; Numbers 14:6, Numbers 14:7, Numbers 14:34, Numbers 14:36, Numbers 14:38) and (2) it is found only here in the Prophets. The translation “spy out” seems best in light of Deuteronomy 1:33. YHWH took special, personal care of young Israel (cf. Ezekiel 16:0)!

“flowing with milk and honey” This phrase is first used in Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 14:8; Numbers 16:13-14. It became a technical name used in Aramaic sources (i.e., Persian) for the land of Palestine/ Canaan (cf. Jeremiah 3:19). It was a very fertile place (cf. Ezekiel 20:15).

Ezekiel 20:7, Ezekiel 20:8 “cast away” This VERB (BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERATIVE) is often used of people rejecting God's revelation, word (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 127).

1. 1 Kings 14:9, Jeroboam I cast YHWH behind his back (i.e., out of sight, out of mind)

Ezekiel 20:2. Nehemiah 9:26, Israelites, during the period of the Judges, cast God's law behind their backs

Ezekiel 20:3. Psalms 2:3, the kings of the earth reject the Lord's anointed

Ezekiel 20:4. Psalms 50:17, the wicked reject YHWH's word

Ezekiel 20:5. Ezekiel 23:35, Judah forgot YHWH and cast Him behind their backs

What these rebels should have cast away was their rebellion (cf. Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 20:7-8). One day they will throw their idols out in the street (cf. Ezekiel 7:19).

Ezekiel 20:7 “defiled yourselves with the idols of Egypt” This could refer to the golden calf of Exodus 32:0 or the idols mentioned in Joshua 24:14.

Ezekiel 20:8a This describes Israel's rebellion against their covenant God (i.e., during and after the Exodus).

1. they rebelled against Me, Ezekiel 20:8 BDB 598, KB 632, Hiphil IMPERFECT

2. they were not willing to listen to Me, Ezekiel 20:8, “listen,” BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, cf. Ezekiel 3:7; Ezekiel 12:2

3. they did not cast away the detestable things, Ezekiel 20:8, BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 11:21

4. they did not forsake the idols of Egypt, Ezekiel 20:8, BDB 736, KB 806, Qal PERFECT, cf. Exodus 32:0; Psalms 106:19-23

The foolishness of idol worship is highlighted in Psalms 115:4-8; 138:15-18; Isaiah 44:9-17; Jeremiah 2:27-28; Jeremiah 10:3-5; Habakkuk 2:18-19!

Verses 8-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:8-17 8b”Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. 12Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. 13But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes and they rejected My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; and My sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them. 14But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, before whose sight I had brought them out. 15Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands, 16because they rejected My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they did not walk in them; they even profaned My sabbaths, for their heart continually went after their idols. 17Yet My eye spared them rather than destroying them, and I did not cause their annihilation in the wilderness.”

Ezekiel 20:8b This describes YHWH's reaction to Israel's rebellions (i.e., bondage in Egypt).

1. I resolved to pour out My wrath, Ezekiel 20:8

2. I resolved to accomplish My anger, Ezekiel 20:8

3. I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned (“profane” lit. “pollute,” BDB 320, KB 319, cf. Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:21, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:24, Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 36:22-38)

Ezekiel 20:9-12 God's actions towards Israel during the Exodus and beyond (Ezekiel 20:9c).

1. I took them out of Egypt.

2. I brought them into the wilderness.

3. I gave them My statutes, I informed them of My ordinances.

4. I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them (a regular worship time and place, Exodus 31:13).

5. That they might know. This Hebrew word (BDB 393, KB 390, cf. Ezekiel 20:20) implies both

a. a personal relationship

b. knowledge about something

Ezekiel 20:9 Notice that YHWH has a concern for “the nations.” Israel was meant to reveal YHWH to the nations (cf. Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Ezekiel 39:7). I think there is a direct link to Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:4; Acts 3:24-26; Galatians 3:8-9!

“I acted for the sake of My name” This idea that historical actions related to Israel defined the character of YHWH seems to have begun with Moses' intercessory prayer in Exodus 32:11-14. It becomes a recurrent theme (cf. 2 Kings 19:34; 2 Kings 20:6; Psalms 23:3; Psalms 25:11; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 79:9; Psalms 106:8; Psalms 119:21; Psalms 143:9; Isaiah 37:35; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:9, Isaiah 48:11; Jeremiah 14:7, Jeremiah 14:21; Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:44; Ezekiel 36:21, Ezekiel 36:22-38). See Special Topic: “The Name” of YHWH.

See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN! YHWH's choice, love, and care for Israel was redemptively purposeful! There was/is an eternal redemptive plan: YHWH created humanity in His image and likeness for fellowship (cf. Genesis 1-2). See Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 377-381.

Ezekiel 20:11 “statutes. . .ordinances” See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

“by which, if a man observe them, he will live” This alludes to the promises of Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Ezekiel 18:0 (cf. Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:21). See Special Topic: Keep.

Life on earth is both physical and spiritual, similar to John 5:40; John 10:10. Life is far more than mere physical existence. There is a quality of life that only God can give, which involves more than things or time. Augustine put it well when he said, “there is a God-shaped hole in every person.” This is the image, likeness of the Creator, which only He can fill!

Ezekiel 20:12-13 A brief content outline (compare with Nehemiah 9:0 and Acts 7:0):

1. Ezekiel 20:7-8 shows the rebellion of the people of God during the Exodus

2. Ezekiel 20:12-13 shows the rebellion of the people of God during the wilderness wandering period

3. Ezekiel 20:20-21 shows the rebellion of the second generation during the wilderness period

4. Ezekiel 20:24-25 shows the continual rebellion of the people of God even in the Promised Land

5. in the midst of all this rebellion, God's grace and provision remain steadfast

Ezekiel 20:12 “sabbaths” This term (BDB 992) is surprisingly mentioned several times in this chapter in correlation with words for God's revelation (statutes, ordinances, cf. Ezekiel 20:11-12, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:19-20, Ezekiel 20:21, Ezekiel 20:24). The exact reason is uncertain. For a good brief discussion on the origin of the Sabbath see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 475-483. See Special Topic: Sabbath (OT).

“who sanctifies them” This PARTICIPLE (BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel PARTICIPLE) is from the root term “holy” (i.e., set apart for service to YHWH). Israel was made holy by God (cf. Exodus 31:13) in order to reveal holiness to the nations. Their holiness would be YHWH's way to manifest Himself to the nations (cf. Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 36:22-38).

Holiness is a covenant position (i.e., related to YHWH), but also a call to holy living!

SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY

Ezekiel 20:13 Israel sins during the wilderness wandering period (i.e., from Egypt to Canaan).

1. They did not walk in My statutes, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal PERFECT, cf. Ezekiel 20:16(twice), 18, 19, 21,39

2. They rejected My ordinances, BDB 549, KB 540 Qal PERFECT, cf. Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:24

3. They profaned My sabbaths, BDB 320, KB 319, Piel PERFECT

Ezekiel 20:14 Again YHWH's concern for His name before the nations is emphaasized (cf. Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:39; Isaiah 48:9). YHWH has a personal interest in Israel (i.e., the coming Messiah). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Ezekiel 20:15 Here the reason for the forty years in the wilderness is explained. It was Israel's continuing sin (i.e., idolatry [cf. Ezekiel 20:16b, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE] and other covenant disobedience).

Ezekiel 20:17 Even amidst their sin YHWH limited His wrath so as not to destroy Israel (cf. Isaiah 48:9). In my opinion, so that Messiah would/could come from Abraham's line and fulfill Genesis 3:15! There has always been an eternal redemptive plan for all humanity (i.e., Isaiah 66:23). Israel was a tool, a servant in that plan (cf. Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; Acts 13:29)!

Verses 18-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:18-26 18”I said to their children in the wilderness, 'Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols. 19I am the LORD your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and observe them. 20Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.' 21But the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; they profaned My sabbaths. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the wilderness. 22But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 23Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them among the lands, 24because they had not observed My ordinances, but had rejected My statutes and had profaned My sabbaths, and their eyes were on the idols of their fathers. 25I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live; 26and I pronounced them unclean because of their gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know that I am the LORD.”'

Ezekiel 20:18-26 Again we return to the issue of multi-generational sin. Ezek. 18-20 are related by this theme. If one generation rebels, YHWH tries to encourage and inform the next one. Tragically Israel continued its rebellion through time. It ultimately resulted in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles (the bondage of Egypt in another land). Moses predicted this (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25-31; Deuteronomy 28:64-68), as did Joshua (cf. Joshua 24:19-20).

Ezekiel 20:18-20 A series of commands expresses YHWH's intent for the second generation of the Exodus.

1. Negative (Israel's reality), Ezekiel 20:18

a. do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, Ezekiel 20:18; Ezekiel 20:18, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

b. do not keep their ordinances, Ezekiel 20:18; Ezekiel 20:18, BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

c. do not defile yourselves with their idols, BDB 379, KB 375, Hithpael IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

2. Positive (YHWH's hope), Ezekiel 20:19-20

a. walk in My statutes, Ezekiel 20:19, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE

b. keep My ordinances, Ezekiel 20:19; Ezekiel 20:19, BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal IMPERATIVE

c. observe them (lit. “do”), Ezekiel 20:19, BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE

d. sanctify My sabbath, Ezekiel 20:20, BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel IMPERATIVE

Ezekiel 20:21-26 Israel did not obey, but rebelled against YHWH (several of this list are parallel).

1. They did not walk in His statutes, Ezekiel 20:21

2. They were not careful to observe His ordinances, Ezekiel 20:21

3. They profaned His sabbaths (cf. Ezekiel 20:20), Ezekiel 20:21

So YHWH

1. resolved to pour out His wrath, Ezekiel 20:21

2. accomplished His anger against them in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20:21

3. withdrew His hand, Ezekiel 20:22, cf. Psalms 74:11; Lamentations 2:3

4. acted for the sake of His name, Ezekiel 20:22 (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38)

5. scattered them among the nations, Ezekiel 20:23 (cf. Psalms 106:19-27 describes the wilderness period, Ezekiel 20:26-27 make the threat)

6. dispersed them among the lands, Ezekiel 20:23 (parallel to #5)

7. gave them statutes that were not good, Ezekiel 20:25

8. gave them ordinances by which they could not live, Ezekiel 20:25 (apparently from false prophets or faithless leaders)

9. pronounced them unclean (i.e., worship of Molech, child sacrifice), Ezekiel 20:26

10. made them desolate, Ezekiel 20:26

Ezekiel 20:25 “I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live” This verse has been a great concern to many commentators because it seems to impugn God's character.

1. Rashi says that YHWH let their inner evil loose (cf. Psalms 81:12; Isaiah 66:4; Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28).

2. Kimchi, another Jewish expositor, says that they were given over to the enemy (i.e., Canaanite tribes) and they tried to live by their standards (i.e., worship of Molech, cf. Ezekiel 20:26).

3. This may be sarcasm, like Ezekiel 20:29 and 39; they were using His guidelines (cf. Ezekiel 20:11-13, Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 20:19-21, Ezekiel 20:24) in Canaanite ways (one example, Genesis 22:0 became a model for child sacrifice, cf. Ezekiel 20:26). These people had the appearance of being faithful worshipers (like the elders of Ezekiel 20:1-4), but in reality were idolaters.

Ezekiel 20:4. Compare 14:29; Isaiah 29:13-14; Isaiah 63:17

Ezekiel 20:26 “they caused all their first-born to pass through the fire This refers to the worship of the Phoenician fire god, Molech (cf. Ezekiel 16:20; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; 2 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10; 1 Chronicles 28:3; 1 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 32:35). This may have been a misunderstanding about the death of the first-born recorded in Exodus 12:13 or even Genesis 22:0. See Special Topic: Molech.

Verses 27-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:27-32 27”Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed Me by acting treacherously against Me. 28When I had brought them into the land which I swore to give to them, then they saw every high hill and every leafy tree, and they offered there their sacrifices and there they presented the provocation of their offering. There also they made their soothing aroma and there they poured out their drink offerings. 29Then I said to them, 'What is the high place to which you go?' So its name is called Bamah to this day.”' 30Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and play the harlot after their detestable things? 31When you offer your gifts, when you cause your sons to pass through the fire, you are defiling yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you. 32What comes into your mind will not come about, when you say: 'We will be like the nations, like the tribes of the lands, serving wood and stone.'“

Ezekiel 20:27 Israel was meant to be a light to the nations (cf. Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:41), but idolatry turned their witness into confusion, darkness, and blasphemy (e.g., “to throw accusations,” BDB 154, KB 180, Piel PERFECT). Their covenant disobedience was seen as “unfaithfulness” or even “treachery” (BDB 591, KB 612, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, cf. Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 17:20; Ezekiel 18:24; Ezekiel 20:27; Ezekiel 39:26) against YHWH.

Ezekiel 20:28 “which I swore to give them” This refers to the repeated promise by YHWH to give Abraham and his seed the Promised Land (i.e., Canaan).

1. Abraham, Genesis 12:1, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18

2. Isaac, Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:11; Exodus 33:1; Numbers 11:12; Numbers 14:23; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 29:13

3. Jacob, Genesis 26:3

4. Israel, Numbers 14:16; Deuteronomy 4:21; Deuteronomy 6:23; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 19:8; Deuteronomy 26:3, Deuteronomy 26:15; Deuteronomy 28:11; Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:23; Deuteronomy 34:4; Joshua 1:6; Joshua 21:43-44

See Special Topic: Covenant Promises to the Patriarchs

“then they saw every high hill and every leafy tree” This refers to the worship of the gods of the Canaanite fertility cult of Ba'al and Ashterah/Astarte. They turned every hill and valley into a place of sexual idolatry (cf. Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 16:23-29; Isaiah 57:5-8; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 17:2; Hosea 4:13). See Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the Ancient Near East.

NASB, NRSV“the provocation” NKJV“provoked Me” TEV“made Me angry” NJB“provoked My anger”

The term (BDB 495) means “vexation” or “anger.” It often refers to YHWH's anger at idolatry (cf. 1 Kings 15:30; 1 Kings 21:22; 2 Kings 23:26).

The phrase “they poured out their libations” is mentioned as part of pagan rituals which provoked YHWH several times in Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Jeremiah 44:17-19). YHWH is a jealous God (cf. Leviticus 26:30-31). He will not accept rivals!

“soothing aroma” This (BDB 629) is a metaphor for an acceptable sacrifice (incense or meat, cf. Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41; Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13, Leviticus 1:17; Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 20:28). It must be stated that this phrase does not imply that sacrifices were seen as a “feeding” of YHWH, which is part of the Mesopotamian texts (i.e., Gilgamesh Epic). It is an idiom!

“poured out their libations” This refers to liquid offerings (usually wine), which often accompanied other sacrifices.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ALCOHOL (fermentation) AND ALCOHOLISM (addiction)

Ezekiel 20:29 “Bamah” This is the Hebrew word for “high place” (BDB 119). Originally they were local shrines (cf. 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:12-25; 1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 10:13; 1 Kings 3:2-4), which were not condemned.

However, the same places became the sites of fertility worship (cf. Numbers 22:41; 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 12:31-32; 1 Kings 14:23; 1 Kings 15:14; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Chronicles 21:11; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35; Hosea 4:13; Hosea 10:8; Amos 7:9; Micah 1:5). Josiah ordered them to be destroyed (cf. 1 Kings 13:2, 1 Kings 13:32, 1 Kings 13:33; 2 Kings 23:5-20; 2 Chronicles 34:3-4). The centralization of worship in Jerusalem (cf. Leviticus 17:3-5; Deuteronomy 12:13-14) was meant to control this potential abuse.

Ezekiel 20:30-32 The question is to whom does “your fathers” refer?

1. immediate past generation

2. wilderness wandering generation

3. early settlers in the Promised Land

4. or, collective of all past generations

The specific idols referred to are the fertility gods of Canaan (i.e., Ba'al, Asherah, Molech). Verse Ezekiel 20:32 describes the enormity of the problem in the statement “we will be like the nations, like the tribes of the land, serving wood and stone.” Remember that the Israelites were given the land of Canaan because of the continuing idolatry of the tribes of the land (cf. Genesis 15:12-21). If Israel repeats their abominations, she will also be removed from the land (uniquely dedicated/owned by YHWH). Israel loses that which makes her distinct! Israel cannot be a light to the nations because she has become one of the nations! She was lost as a vehicle of revelation!

Ezekiel 20:32 This statement of desire by the idolatrous Judeans will never come to pass (the Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and the Qal IMPERFECT of the VERB “to be,” BDB 224, KB 243). God's covenant people cannot be allowed to be like the other people. God desires that He (the only true God) be revealed to the nations through His people! They are His people for this very purpose (see Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN).

Verses 33-38

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:33-38 33”As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. 34I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; 35and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord GOD. 37I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel 20:33 YHWH will not allow His covenant people to completely degenerate into idolatry.

1. surely with a mighty hand

2. with wrath poured out, cf. Lamentations 4:11

These phrases (i.e., #1,#2) were originally used of YHWH's great and merciful acts of deliverance (in the Exodus, cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:21; Deuteronomy 7:8, Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 9:29; Deuteronomy 11:2; Deuteronomy 26:8; Joshua 4:24). But now they are used to demonstrate that YHWH is fighting against rebellious Israel, not for her!

YHWH will be king! He will accomplish His purposes through national Israel! Even though He exiles them, He will bring them back into the land (cf. Ezekiel 20:34, Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 29:13; Ezekiel 34:12-13; Deuteronomy 30:3; Jeremiah 23:3).

Ezekiel 20:37 “pass under the rod” This refers to a shepherd's rod (BDB 986) used for counting sheep (i.e., Leviticus 27:32; Jeremiah 33:13).

“the bond of the covenant” This may reflect the cursings and blessings of Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 27-28.

Ezekiel 20:38 The exile will “purge” (BDB 140, KB 162, Qal PERFECT)

1. those who continue to rebel, BDB 597, KB 632, Qal PARTICIPLE

2. those who continue to transgress, BDB 833, KB 981, Qal PARTICIPLE

“they will not enter the land” See Ezekiel 20:15, Ezekiel 20:16, and Ezekiel 13:9. Evil will be purged from the Promised Land!

Verses 39-44

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:39-44 39”As for you, O house of Israel,” thus says the Lord GOD, “Go, serve everyone his idols; but later you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols. 40For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,” declares the Lord GOD, “there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things. 41As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations. 42And you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers. 43There you will remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done. 44Then you will know that I am the LORD when I have dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord GOD.'“

Ezekiel 20:39-40 The verse begins with sarcasm (two Qal IMPERATIVES, “go” and “serve”), denoting Israel's current idolatry. However, a new day is coming (i.e., “afterwards,” BDB 29)! This is the great news of chapter 20. Israel has been so consistently unfaithful, but YHWH is consistently faithful. He will restore a repentant and purged Israel!

Note how the text expresses this.

1. You will surely listen to Me, Ezekiel 20:39

2. My holy name you will profane no longer, Ezekiel 20:39, cf. Ezekiel 36:21, Ezekiel 36:22; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 19:12; Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 21:6

3. All Israel will serve Him, Ezekiel 20:40

4. I shall accept them, Ezekiel 20:40

5. I shall accept their sacrifices, Ezekiel 20:40

6. I shall accept them as an approved sacrifice, Ezekiel 20:41

7. I will gather them from the nations, Ezekiel 20:41

8. I shall prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations, Ezekiel 20:41

Ezekiel 20:40 “For on My holy mountain” In context this refers to Mount Moriah, on which Abraham offered Isaac (i.e., Genesis 22:0) and on which the temple was built (i.e., 1 Kings 7-8). This is a symbolic way of asserting the effective working of the Mosaic covenant.

The term “mountain(s)” (BDB 249) is used often in Ezekiel.

1. It often is a way of referring to the whole land (as Mt. Seir stands for Edom, cf. Ezekiel 35:2-3), i.e., Ezekiel 6:3; Ezekiel 19:9; Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 34:13, Ezekiel 34:14; Ezekiel 37:22

2. It often is a way of identifying the site of fertility worship, i.e., Ezekiel 6:3-4, Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 18:6, Ezekiel 18:11

3. It refers to YHWH's special holy mountain (i.e., the temple), cf. Ezekiel 17:22-23; Ezekiel 20:40; Ezekiel 28:14, Ezekiel 28:16 (possibly a divine mountain in the north); Ezekiel 43:12

The phrase “the mountains of Israel” is unique to Ezekiel (i.e., note repetition in Ezekiel 36:0).

Ezekiel 20:41 “As a soothing aroma I shall accept you” This construct (BDB 629 and 926) is metaphorical of a sacrifice (see note at Ezekiel 20:28). In Ezekiel it has been used consistently of pagan offerings (cf. Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 20:28). But here it refers to the people of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 43:27). YHWH brought back the remnant from exile and denotes His acceptance of them by this priestly phrase (remember Ezekiel was a trained priest of the line of Zadok)! A people in fellowship with their Creator has always been the goal of the tabernacle and Levitical sacrifices.

Ezekiel 20:43 Israel's true repentance will cause them

1. to remember (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal PERFECT) their sin (cf. Ezekiel 16:61, Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 36:31, in Ezekiel 6:9 they will remember how they hurt YHWH).

2. to loathe (BDB 876, KB 1083, Niphal PERFECT) themselves for it (cf. Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 36:31).

Ezekiel 20:44 “not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt ways” Grace, oh grace! What a marvelous message to share! God will deal with us according to who He is and what He has done, not according to who we are or what we have done! Hallelujah.

The spiritual principle “we reap what we sow” is abrogated by the mercy and eternal redemptive purposes of YHWH. Israel has a place in a larger scheme, as do the nations (cf. Romans 9-11).

Verses 45-49

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 20:45-49 45Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 46”Son of man, set your face toward Teman, and speak out against the south and prophesy against the forest land of the Negev, 47and say to the forest of the Negev, 'Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it will consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree; the blazing flame will not be quenched and the whole surface from south to north will be burned by it. 48All flesh will see that I, the LORD, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.”'“ 49Then I said, “Ah Lord GOD! They are saying of me, 'Is he not just speaking parables?'“

Ezekiel 20:45 A new revelation of a cleansing fire to sweep Canaan of idolatry. See Special Topic: FIRE. This parable introduces Ezekiel 21:0. This is where the MT starts a new chapter.

Ezekiel 20:46 “set your face toward” This is a literary marker for a judgment pronouncement (cf. Ezekiel 6:2; Ezekiel 13:17; Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 21:2; Ezekiel 25:2; Ezekiel 28:21; Ezekiel 29:2; Ezekiel 35:2; Ezekiel 38:2), which follows the same imagery used of YHWH (cf. Leviticus 26:17; Jeremiah 21:10; Ezekiel 14:8; Ezekiel 15:7).

“Teman” This is one of three different words which denote the south.

1. Temas (BDB 412, cf. Ezekiel 40:24, Ezekiel 40:27, Ezekiel 40:28, Ezekiel 40:44, Ezekiel 40:45; Ezekiel 41:11, Ezekiel 41:12, Ezekiel 41:13, Ezekiel 41:18)

2. Darom (BDB 204, cf. Ezekiel 21:2; Ezekiel 40:24, Ezekiel 40:27, Ezekiel 40:28, Ezekiel 40:44; Ezekiel 41:11; Ezekiel 42:12, Ezekiel 42:13)

3. Negeb (BDB 616, cf. Ezekiel 21:3; Ezekiel 40:2; Ezekiel 46:9; Ezekiel 47:19; Ezekiel 48:16, Ezekiel 48:28, Ezekiel 48:33)

All of these are allusions to the capital city of Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 21:1).

Ezekiel 20:47 “it shall consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree” This parable describes a coming judgment that will affect all Israelites. Here again, we are confronted with the two different ways of judgment.

1. from father to children to the third and fourth generations, cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9

2. one individual's life does not affect the children, cf. Ezekiel 18:0

Somehow both are true! One deals with individuals and one with a national collective. The tension remains! For me personally, my hope lies in Deuteronomy 5:10 and Ezekiel 7:9! My nation may experience the judgment of God, which affects me, but My God knows me and will bring me (and my faithful descendants) to Himself!

Ezekiel 20:49 The idolatrous elders listening to Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 20:1) heard these words and thought he was speaking only metaphorically. Chapter 21 is a reaction to this!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 20". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-20.html. 2021.
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