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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Ezekiel 24

 

 

Verse 1-2

THE COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM PREDICTED, BOTH IN PARABLE AND BY SIGN (Chap. 24)

(Eze )

EXEGETICAL NOTES.—"On the day on which the King of Babylon commenced the siege and blockade of Jerusalem, this event was revealed by God to Ezekiel on the Chaboras (Eze ); and he was commanded to predict to the people through the medium of a parable the fate of the city and its inhabitants (Eze 24:3-14). God then foretold to him the death of his own wife, and commanded him to show no sign of mourning on account of it. His wife died the following evening, and he did as he was commanded. When he was asked by the people the reason of this he explained to them that what he was doing was symbolical of the way in which they were to act when Jerusalem fell (Eze 24:15-24). The fall would be announced to the prophet by a fugitive, and then he would no longer remain mute, but would speak to the people again (Eze 24:25-27). Apart, therefore, from the last three verses, this chapter contains the words of God, the first of which unfolds in a parable the approaching calamities, and the result of the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Eze 24:1-14); whilst the second typifies by means of a sign the pain and mourning of Israel, namely, of the exiles at the destruction of the city with its sanctuary and its inhabitants. These two words of God, being connected together by their contents, were addressed to the prophet on the same day, and that, as the introduction (Eze 24:1-2) expressly observes, the day on which the siege of Jerusalem by the King of Babylon began."—(Keil.)

Eze . "The ninth year." The date is taken from the commencement of of Jehoiachin's captivity, which would fix the time when the word of the Lord came to the prophet as B.C. 590."‘In the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month." This day was afterwards kept as a fast, and is still observed as such by the synagogue.

Eze . "Write thee the name of the day." "The prophet is to write down the day, as a man does with remarkable days, in order not to forget the date. The object, to make use of this afterwards in proof of his prophetic office, needed to be more definitely noticed."—(Hengstenberg). "The prophet is specially charged to write down the particular day on which he delivered his message, and to announce it as that on which Nebuchadnezzar had commenced his attack on Jerusalem. As he was at the time at the distance of more than four hundred miles from that city, it was not to be supposed that the intelligence could have reached him by any human means. When, therefore, the captives afterwards received the information, they had, on comparing the dates, an infallible proof of the Divine inspiration of the prophet."—(Henderson). "Set himself against Jerusalem." The Hebrew word signifies to lie hard upon (Psa 87:7). It is sometimes used to describe the investing of a city with an army. In the afflictions of the righteous God is said to lay on a heavy hand (Psa 32:4). The sacrificer laid his hand upon the victim (Exo 29:19); and the witnesses were ordered to lay their hand on a blasphemer before the was stoned (Lev 24:4), so in great judgments God lays on His hand.

HOMILETICS

THE LAST WARNING OF JUDGMENT

Ezekiel had uttered many warnings before, and he still goes on speaking up to the very moment of judgment. This illustrates:—

I. The Prophet's faithfulness. Amidst every discouragement he is still resolved to deliver the message of God. He will utter God's last word, though it comes too late to arrest judgment. The true prophet must speak the word which is given him, and leave the results with Him who sent him.

II. The Prophet's inspiration. Ezekiel was four hundred miles from Jerusalem, and yet he tells his fellow-captives that the siege was begun at that very moment at which he was speaking. This was a clear proof that the prophet's mind was enlightened by that Sovereign Intelligence which sees and knows all things. He could not possibly know this event by human means. Therefore his assertion, that the siege was then commencing while he was speaking, must have been the result of supernatural knowledge. If any one maintains that this was a prophecy after the event, he must be prepared to accept the conclusion that both Ezekiel's prophetic and moral characters fall to the ground.

III. The solemnity of the prophet's last word. In this chapter he takes his farewell of his nation. We are reminded of Our Lord's parting words to Jerusalem, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate" (St. Mat ). When the prophets of God speak no more to nations, or to individual men, then the day of their visitation is over and the time of judgment has come.

IV. The solemn importance of God's notes of time, in the life of nations, and of men. There are times and events in the lives of nations which historians may note down as the most important. But what different rates of importance are to be assigned to these as God views them! And so it is in regard to the lives of individual men. How different would be the calendar of our lives if we marked the times and events of it at God's bidding! "We are generally ignorant of the real significance of events, which we think we understand. Almost every person can recollect one or more instances, where the whole aftercurrent of his life was turned by some single word, or some incident so trivial as scarcely to fix his notice at the time. On the other hand, many great crises of danger, many high and stirring occasions, in which, at the time, his total being was absorbed, have passed by, leaving no trace of effect on his permanent interests, and have wellnigh vanished from his memory. The conversation of the stage-coach is often preparing results which the solemn assembly and the most imposing and eloquent rites will fail to produce. What countryman, knowing the dairyman's daughter, could have suspected that she was living to a mightier purpose and result than almost any person in the church of God, however eminent? The outward of occasions and duties is, in fact, almost no index of their importance; and our judgments concerning what is great and small are without any certain validity. These terms, as we use them, are, in fact, only words of outward description, not words of definite measurement."—(Bushwell).

1. The Lord can make known what men do, to whom He pleases and at what distance soever. Nebuchaduezzar and his forces were in Judea, sitting down before Jerusalem, and this the Lord revealed to Ezekiel, being in Babylon. It was declared to Elisha, whither the king of Syria would march, and where he would pitch his camp. (2Ki .) The death of Herod, in Judea, was discovered to Joseph, being in Egypt. (Mat 2:19-20.) And when Moses was in Midian, the Lord told him that all the men were dead in Egypt, which sought his life. (Exo 4:19.)

2. There are some things and times the Lord would hace his people take special notice of, and keep the chronology thereof. Ezekiel must write the year, the month, and day of Jerusalem's beseiging. When God hath been upon executing great judgments, or showing great mercies, the days and months have been recorded. The day and month of Noah's entrance into the ark, and of his coming out again, are mentioned. (Gen ; Gen 8:14; Gen 8:16.) The time of the Jews going out of Egypt you have punctually set down. (Exo 12:41-42); so the time of their passing over Jordan (Jos 4:19); of Solomon's building the temple (2Ch 3:2); of Haman's plot to destroy the Jews (Est 3:8; Est 3:13.) This shows that these events were not casual, that the wisdom and power of God were interested in them, whoever were the instruments."—(Greenhill.)


Verses 3-14

(Eze .)

EXEGETICAL NOTES.—The prophet illustrates the destruction of Jerusalem by the allegory of a cauldron which he was to set on the fire, and having put water into it, to boil therein choice pieces of meat (Eze ). Then he follows with an application of the allegory to Jerusalem, as describing her irrevocable doom.

Eze . "Utter a parable." "The contents of these verses are called a proverb or parable. It follows from this that the ensuing act which the prophet is commanded to perform is not to be regarded as a symbolical act which he really carried out, but that the act forms the substance of the parable—in other words, belongs to the parable itself; consequently the interpretation of the parable (Eze 24:10, etc.) is clothed in the form of a thing actually done" (Keil.) "Set on a pot … pour water into it." The repeated demand expresses urgent haste. The pot is Jerusalem, which had become so foul as to poison all meats which were put into it.

Eze . "The pieces." The pieces represent the inhabitants of Jerusalem. By the "thigh, the shoulder, choice bones," we are to understand the wealthy, the nobles, and chiefs of the people.

Eze . "Burn also the bones under it, and make it boil well.""The bones that had been stripped of their flesh were to be used for fuel: those to which it still adhered were to be thrown into the pot, that it might be boiled" (Henderson). "The fire with which they are boiled is the fire of war, and the setting of the pot upon the fire is the commencement of the siege, by which the population of the city is to be boiled away like the flesh and bones in a pot."—Keil.

Eze . "Whose scum is therein." "We are not to understand such scum as gathers on the surface of the contents of a pot, but the rust or verdigris contracted by copper. The moral impurity of the city is intended. The prophet begins here to give the explanation of the parable. The Jews, indeed, could be at little loss to know what was intended by it. They had already themselves bandied the metaphor about as a taunt, boasting that they should dwell securely in Jerusalem."—(Henderson). "Piece by piece." The pieces were the various members of the body corporate. They were all to be brought out, no favour was to be shown, but all without discrimination were to be put into the cauldron. "Let no lot fall upon it." No lot was to be cast in order to decide what part should be taken, and what should be spared (Nah 3:10). All are doomed to be carried off, by death or by captivity.

Eze . "She set it upon the top of a rock." "Here we have the cause of this judgment: deeds of murder are done in Jerusalem boldly and without abhorrence, by which we are to under stand the numerous judicial murders which were perpetrated by the party who had at that time seized the helm of the state, the party of the external alliances, against which all were indignant, who in the name of the God of Israel raised a protest against this adulterous movement. An example of such judicial murder is the prophet Urijah (Jer 26:20. &c.)" (Hengstenberg). "Poured it not upon the ground." It was commanded in the Law, that the blood of animals slain for food should be poured on the earth and covered up with dust (Lev 17:13). Idolatrous Jerusalem recklessly poured out even human blood under the open sky, and covered it not up. She sinned shamelessly, and before the face of all. Therefore the Lord will not cover up her sin, but her blood shall be ruthlessly poured out in the sight of all nations.

Eze . "Upon the top of a rock." "The Hebrew word signifies a sunny rock, the highest part of a bare rock exposed to the rays of the sun. In just retribution, Jehovah declares that He would expose them with equal publicity, that the blood might call for vengeance."—(Henderson).

Eze . "Spice it well." "There are differences of opinion as to the meaning of this word. The rendering sometimes given, namely ‘to spice,' is at all events unsuitable, and cannot be sustained by the usage of language. It is true that in Exo 30:25, &c., the verb is used for the preparation of the anointing oil, but it is not the mixing of the different ingredients that is referred to, but in all probability the thorough boiling of the spices, for the purpose of extracting their essence, so that ‘thorough boiling' is no doubt the true meaning of the word."—(Keil).

Eze . "That the filthiness of it may be molten in it." The uncleanness of the pot is the rust upon it. The impurity and rust of the pot itself must be consumed by the fire. Thus when the guilty inhabitants are slain, the city itself will be destroyed. In the Old Testament, impurity is considered as being attached to things as well is persons (Lev 18:25; Lev 27:28). Leprosy not only polluted men, but clothes also and houses.Thus God's judgments fell not upon men only, but also upon cities and lands.

Eze . "She wearied herself with lies." The idea is, that the pot wearied and exhausted men in their exertions to cleanse it. All the labours spent upon the devoted city were of no avail.

Eze . "I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent." "The impurity of the inhabitants of Jerusalem was of the most atrocious character. It was crime, deliberate wickedness. Jehovah had used a variety of means, both physical and moral, to restore them to purity, but they had produced no effect. It remained now only for the Chaldeans to do their work. The decree was irrevocable, and the execution inevitable."—(Henderson).

HOMILETICS

THE FINAL JUDGMENTS OF GOD UPON JERUSALEM

I. They would be severe. The judgments coming upon Jerusalem are set forth under the parable of a boiling pot, tilled with flesh and bones and set over a fierce file. Not only are the contents to be completely destroyed by fire, but also the rust of the pot itself. This declares that God's purpose is to destroy Jerusalem itself as well as the guilty inhabitants (Eze ). They are to be burned well until the whole is consumed (Eze 24:10). The blood Jerusalem had shed must now be avenged upon her before the eyes of all nations (Eze 24:8).

II. They would be a just retribution. For corruption had spread to all ranks and conditions of the people (Eze ). Sin, like rust, had eaten into the very substance of the nation. The "scum" had cleaved to the vessel (Eze 24:6). So universal was the corruption that there was no need for the "lot" to be cast in order to decide what part should be taken for destruction, and what spared. All were doomed to be carried off, by death, or by captivity. Nor were these judgments a sudden thought, or expedient—a desperate remedy applied at the last moment. They had often been warned and corrected before. God by the ministry of His prophets had effected some reformations, but the effect of these soon wore off and the nation refused to be purged of her iniquity (Eze 24:13). Holy men were wearied with toil to cleanse the sinful city, but their labours were in vain (Eze 24:12). She had sinned in the most open and shamless manner, had done nothing to cover her sin, had shown no signs of repentance, and had resisted all the instruments which God had used to restore her. There was nothing arbitrary or vindictive in her punishment, which was but a just recompense for her sin. The city with her sinful population were left to share the inevitable consequences which arise from the persistent breach of moral laws. "According to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord God" (Eze 24:14). The judgments were to fall upon the city itself as well as upon the inhabitants. The works of man are turned by his sin into the instruments of his punishment. The blood of Christ was shed at Jerusalem, and retribution came, at length, when Titus burned the city. Divine grace abused will bring sure vengeance. Sin must be put away out of God's sight, either by cleansing it away, or by overwhelming it under His dire judgments. When God Himself has done all that could be done, consistent with man's moral liberty, then judgment must take it course. "Thus also it was not cleansed by Christ, who had wearied Himself in labours for Jerusalem even to hot tears."—(Jerome).

III. They would be irrevocable. The Lord had spoken, and He would not repent of His word (Eze ). Their time of grace had run out.

"As to the principle of dealing, there is no essential difference between what God did then with Israel, and what He still does with those who stand in a similar relation to Him, and pursue a similar course. Where there is the profession of a belief in God's word, and a regard to God's authority, though intermingled with much that is false in sentiment, or unrighteous in conduct, there must still be dealings of severity and rebuke, to bring the professor, if possible, to a sense of his sinfulness, and lead him to renounce it; but, failing this, to vindicate concerning him the righteousness of God, and leave him without excuse if iniquity should prove his ruin. In the case of sincere, God-fearing people, the severity exercised will always be attended with salutary results; for they have the root of the matter in them, and are sure to profit by the chastening of the Lord. But with those who have the profession only, without the principle of true godliness, the iniquity is clung to in spite of all the severity that is exercised, until the wrath falls on them to the uttermost. There may be signs of the Divine displeasure sufficient to startle the tender conscience, and call for deep humiliation of spirit, while nothing appears outwardly wrong, and all may even wear a smiling aspect as far as regards social and public relations. Should there be a restraining of Divine grace within, an absence of spiritual refreshment, a felt discomfort of mind, or an obvious withdrawal of spiritual privileges, there is beyond doubt the commencement of a work of judgment; and if such marks of God's displeasure are slighted, others of a more severe and alarming kind may assuredly be looked for. But as men's tempers and circumstances in life are infinitely varied, so there is a corresponding variety in the methods employed by God to check the risings of sin, and expel its poison from the heart. And it is the part of spiritual wisdom to seek for the wakeful ear and the discerning eye, which may enable one to catch even the earliest intimations of God's displeasure, and so improve these as to render unnecessary the heavier visitations of wrath."—(Fairbairn.)


Verses 15-27

(Eze .)

EXEGETICAL NOTES—"With a view to affect more deeply the minds of his fellow-captives Ezekiel had announced to him the disseverance of the tenderest of all earthly ties—the removal of her on whom he had ever been accustomed to look with affection and delight. This removal of his beloved wife was to be effected by a stroke, i.e., in so sudden and striking a manner as to show that it was an immediate visitation of God. Distressing, however, as this event would be, the prophet is commanded to exhibit no tokens of grief on the occasion."—(Henderson.)

Eze . "The desire of thine eyes." Heb. "The delight of thine eyes,"—thus describing the prophet's wife. A stroke. A sudden death inflicted by God. The word is the same as that which is rendered "plague" (Num 14:37; Num 17:13; 2Sa 24:21; 2Sa 24:25).

Eze . "Forbear to cry." Heb. "Be silent." The prophet was to check the emotions which he would naturally feel. They are to be repressed by a solemn sense of God's having interposed (Lev 10:7; Lev 21:10; Lev 21:12; Psa 39:9). "Make no mourning for the dead.""Though the High Priest was interdicted mourning for any person whatever (Lev 21:10), the ordinary priests were permitted to mourn for near relatives (Lev 21:2-3). Ezekiel, therefore, though of priestly descent, would have been under no restriction in this respect. He was, however, on the present occasion, though of the most trying nature, to appear as usual, not laying aside his turban and instead of it casting ashes on his head, nor going barefooted, nor covering the upper lip together with its moustachio (Lev 13:45; Mic 3:7). Neither was he to partake of the food which it was customary for friends to bring in token of their sympathy with the mourners. This in the original is called bread of men, i.e., what men usually furnish on such occasions."—(Henderson.) "By the bread of men is meant that bread which the people were accustomed to send to the house of mourning in cases of death, to manifest their sympathy and to console and refresh the mourners, a custom which gave rise in the course of time to that of formal funeral meals. These are not mentioned in the Old Testament; but the sending of bread or food to the house of mourning is clearly referred to in Deu 26:14; Hos 9:4; Jer 16:7.—(Keil.)

Eze . "I did in the morning as I was commanded." On the morning following the death of his wife.

Eze . "I will profane My sanctuary." The profanation of the temple would be accomplished by its destruction. "The excellency of your strength." "Israel based its might and strength upon the temple as the scene of the gracious presence of God, living in the hope that the Lord would not give up his sanctuary to the heathen to be destroyed, but would defend the temple, and therewith Jerusalem and its inhabitants (Jer 7:4)"(Keil). "Your sons and your daughters." "Many parents might, when they were carried away from Jerusalem, have been under the necessity of leaving their children of tender age behind them. These the Chaldeans should mercilessly put to the sword."—Henderson.

Eze . "Ye shall pine away for your iniquities." The thought of their personal guilt would swallow up all the sorrows of bereavement. They would be made to feel that their own sins had brought all this overwhelming trouble upon them. "Mourn one toward another." "Though prevented, by the circumstances in which they were placed in the land of their conquerors, from making any public manifestation of their sorrow, they would privately one to another give expression to their feelings of grief."—Henderson.

Eze . "Thus Ezekiel is a sign unto you." "It is not an unexampled thing for the sacred writers to introduce their own names into their productions (Exo 2:11; Num 12:3; Is. 20:3; Dan 8:27). Ezekiel was a sign or significant typical representation, foreshadowing what was to take place in the experience of his countrymen. When the thing signified should happen, it would be an indubitable proof that Jehovah had revealed the event beforehand to his servant."—(Henderson).

Eze . Their strength. The word means rather "stronghold" or "fortress." This was the temple in which they trusted, forgetting their true "fortress-rock" (Isa 17:10).

Eze . "In that day." This, like the expression "in the day," in Eze 24:25, refers to that day in which the temple was destroyed and the fugitive made his escape.

Eze . "In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped.""The day is referred to on which the fugitive arrived at the Chebar with the melancholy news. From the time of the temple's actual destruction until this messenger should arrive the prophet ceased from his public labours, meanwhile leaving his predictions to produce their natural effect; but then he was again to stand forth, and pointedly appeal to the issue in proof of his divine commission."—(Henderson).

HOMILETICS

JERUSALEM'S DESTRUCTION TYPIFIED BY THE DEATH OF EZEKIEL'S WIFE

Ezekiel himself is now to be a "sign" unto them by his personal calamities and sorrows. He was a highly gifted man, and called to an honourable office, but corresponding to this height of privilege is a depth of sorrow. The chosen symbol of Jerusalem's destruction was to be the occasion of pain and grief to him. But he is taught to set the claims of his duty and of his office higher than those of natural affection. His bereavement is here regarded rather in its bearing on public utility than on his domestic happiness. It is as a man of sorrows that he shall accomplish his prophetic mission. In his deepest afflictions he shall be powerful, as never before, to arouse the people to repentance. His ministry, like that of a greater Prophet, exemplifies the power of the Cross. The death of Ezekiel's wife is here regarded as a type of the destruction of the city.

I. It would be a manifest visitation of God. "Son of man, behold I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke" (Eze .) The hand of God was to be specially evident. "A stroke," implying an action directed by an intelligent will; a calamity also sudden, like that of the pestilence which walketh in darkness. "In the day" (Eze 24:25), the time of judgment was fixed. The destruction of the devoted city would be brought about, not by the accidents of history as men count them, but by the evident working of God's will. The prophet had long known of the Divine purpose. For five years he had prophesied in dumb show, by parable, and by allegory of the final destruction of Jerusalem. Everything possible had been done to show the hand of God plainly revealed in this solemn work of judgment. Thus all will be forced at length to acknowledge the prophet's Divine mission.

II. It would be an overwhelming sorrow. "Neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down" (Eze ). The prophet is also forbidden to observe the sad customs of the house of mourning (Eze 24:17). The "sign" was to be the most solemn and expressive of all,—the sign of a silent sorrow. The grief would prove too deep for tears, too serious for the outward trappings of woe. It is a common saying, that "there is no sorrow like a dry sorrow." It is saddest of all when the burden of the heart can find no relief in tears.

II. It would bring home to them the greatness of their sin. The prophet's silent sorrow was a type of the fact that his guilty nation would be brought solemnly to acknowledge that God had interposed. When His hand is made bare in judgment, the confession must be, "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because Thou didst it" (Psa ). The inhabitants of the city would be overcome with such a sense of guilt that it would swallow up every thought of bereavement (Eze 24:23). They would now begin to receive the prophet's message seriously, asking the question in solemn earnestness, "Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us?" (Eze 24:19). They now begin to learn that the prophet is a "sign" unto them. Not only his words, but the stern realities of his life bear witness for God. The ruin of their city, now plainly seen to be a just judgment of God, would be an all-absorbing topic of conversation. They would be able to talk of nothing else, but "mourn one towards another" (Eze 24:23). They would believe a human messenger when he comes to tell them a disastrous piece of news (Eze 24:26). Thus they are compelled by stern facts to accept the prophet's message, though they had long refused to believe him.

IV. It would bring them to the true knowledge of God (Eze ). The prophet had revealed the mind and will of God, but he was not believed. Now he shall speak with a power of instant conviction, for the messenger of evil tidings has arrived with news of the judgments which he had so long threatened in vain. He had laid before them the principles of righteousness, but now these are wrought out in stern facts to which they must listen. His words are now corroborated by a human messenger (Eze 24:27). Thus the solemn realities of things, the solemnities of judgment must, sooner or later, be brought home to impenitent sinners, "Thou shalt be a sign unto them, and they shall know that I am the Lord."

(Eze .)

1. The resting in holy things, causes God to remove them, how dear soever they be unto us. "I will profane My sanctuary." You confide in the outward means, you are taken with the outward splendour of the ceremonies and pomp of the Temple, but the spiritual true worship ye mind not. The temple, city and state are dearer to you than I am. Why is the Temple, and not Myself, "the excellency of your strength?" Why is that "the desire of your eyes," and not Myself, who fill the Temple with My glory? Why are you troubled that it should be laid in the dust, and care not that My honour, My glory, My name are profaned amongst you!

2. Men's sins sometimes bring them into such straits that though they have lost their dearest comforts, yet they dare not outwardly manifest sorrow for them. It was sad to lose their dearest comforts, and more sad that they might not ease their hearts by tears or sighings, and most sad that they must show no respect to their dead friends by any funeral rites. Jeremiah had predicted this sad condition (Jer ).

3. God may put His own faithful servants upon hard and unwonted things, thereby to declare what shall be the condition of the wicked. "Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign." He hath not been suffered to mourn or weep; and why so? that he may be a sign unto you. You would not be taught by his doctrine, now you must be taught by his example; "according to all that he hath done shall ye do." The things are harsh and unnatural that I (Ezekiel) have done, but it is for your sakes that I am put upon them; and ye shall do as I have done. Thus Isaiah was a sign (Isa ).

4. Signs accomplished convince men of the truth and just proceedings of God. By the fulfilling of this sign foretold, ye shall be so convinced as to acknowledge Ezekiel was a true sign, made so by Me, and that I have dealt justly with you for your iniquities, in bringing you into such straits, as not to dare to mourn openly for your miseries. If Ezekiel have nothing to object against Me, from whom, being innocent, I took away the desire of his eyes, and forbade him to mourn for her; what can you object against Me, being so guilty as none more, if I send away your desirable things, and hem you about with my judgments and enemies, that you shall not dare to mourn?—Greenhill.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 24:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/ezekiel-24.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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