Ezekiel 21 - Outline of Ezekiel (Book Notes menu page)
This chapter concludes the message to the elders among the exiles (which began in 20:1). At the end of the previous chapter, the elders complained that they could not understand the 'Parable of Fire in the south Forest' (20:45-49). Therefore, the LORD proceeds to clearly explain its terrible meaning.
A message to the Elders of Israel (ch. 20-21)
a. Review of Israel's unfaithfulness (20:1-32)
b. Promise of Israel's future restoration (20:33-44)
c. Parable of Fire in the south Forest (20:45-49)
d. Parable explanation:     (21:1-32)
     The Sword will sweep the land, in the Fire of judgment upon sin.
1. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem,
and drop [thy word] toward the holy places,
and prophesy against the land of Israel,
3 And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD;
Behold, I [am] against thee,
and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath,
and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
4 Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked,
therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath
against all flesh from the south to the north:
5 That all flesh may know
that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath:
it shall not return any more.
6 Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of [thy] loins;
and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.
7 And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou?
that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh:
and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble,
and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak [as] water:
behold, it cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord GOD.
Compare each point in v.1-5 against the corresponding points in the parable, in 20:45-48.
The meaning of the parable is unmistakably clear.
The fires of judgment, which would destroy the land and people of Israel, would be in the form of an enemy's sword.
...sigh {ie., groan, mourn} therefore... with bitterness {ie., bitter grief} sigh before their eyes.
Ezekiel, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, would be overcome with emotion in anticipation of the effects of God's judgment upon their people. cp. Isa 21:3; 22:4; Jer 4:19
     Yet, the unbelieving elders, were so calloused against God's Word, that they must ask, "Why are you groaning?" (v.7)
...thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh...
...every heart shall melt... every spirit shall faint... saith the Lord GOD.
The LORD had determined that grievous judgment was about to fall. It would not be postponed or diverted. Mourning and grief would soon overtake the people of Israel. cp. Eze 7:2-12
     In the remainder of this chapter, Ezekiel is given a series of prophecies describing various aspects of 'the sword.'
- The sword, of slaughter, prepared for Israel's judgment -
8. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9 Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD;
Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished
{ie., polished}:
10 It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter;
it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth?
it contemneth the rod of my son, [as] every tree.
11 And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled:
this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished,
to give it into the hand of the slayer.
12 Cry and howl, son of man:
for it shall be upon my people, it [shall be] upon all the princes of Israel:
terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people:
smite therefore upon [thy] thigh.
13 Because [it is] a trial
{ie., a test, to purge and refine, cp. 20:37,38},
and what if [the sword] contemn even the rod?
it shall be no [more], saith the Lord GOD.
14 Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite [thine] hands together,
and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain:
it [is] the sword of the great [men that are] slain,
which entereth into their privy chambers.
15 I have set the point of the sword against all their gates,
that [their] heart may faint, and [their] ruins be multiplied:
ah! [it is] made bright, [it is] wrapped up
{ie., thinned, sharpened} for the slaughter.
16 Go thee one way or other, [either] on the right hand, [or] on the left,
whithersoever thy face [is] set.
17 I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest:
I the LORD have said [it].
The LORD had fully prepared His sword of judgment. cp. Psa 7:11-13
He had already placed it in the hand of the 'slayer' {ie., one who kills violently} (ie., the king of Babylon, v.19).
...should we then make mirth?
Only those, who refused to see the coming crisis, could be happy. Such happiness would be short lived. Isa 5:12-14; cp. Luk 21:34,35
...the sword... it contemneth {ie., despises} the rod of My son, as every tree.
Due to ambiguities in the Hebrew of v.10, translations differ.
  • Some imply that "my son" is the king of Babylon, the slayer,
    against whom no "tree" {ie., person} can stand.
    eg., "Should we rejoice? The scepter of My son, the sword despises every tree." [HCSB]
  • Others identify "my son" as the king who was then on David's throne (cp. 2Sam 7:14).
    This (eg., the KJV reading of v.10c) seems to fit the context better. The slayer would have no respect for the sceptre {'rod'} of the Davidic king, and would treat him as any other man. Under judgment for sin, the sceptre "shall be no more" (v.13). cp. v.25-27; Eze 19:11-14
         Some translations also suggest that the Davidic king was the object of Israel's mirth {ie., rejoicing}, because they had placed undue confidence in him. eg., "Should we rejoice in the scepter of my son? No! The sword despises every tree!" [NET Bible]
...cry and howl... terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people.
The word for 'terrors' {HB=magar} is usually rendered 'yielded up' (or) 'cast down.'
God's people were about to be 'delivered up' to the sword. It was a time for bitter lamentation (v.6,7)
...let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain...
  • The doubling and tripling, of the smiting sword, is emphatic of the severity of the slaughter.
  • This phrase may also reflect on the previous two kings
    who were previously taken captive (Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin). "The third time" would complete the process, with the captivity of the final king (Zedekiah), and the total destruction of Jerusalem.
    All three kings were taken by the same sword handler (ie., Babylon).
  • The sword would affect three categories of people (v.12-14):
    (1) the common people, (2) the rod {ie., the king and princes}, and (3) the great men.
    The sword would find the great men, even in their 'privy chambers' {ie., secret and innermost hiding places}. See the use of this word for 'chambers' in Deu 32:25 (translated 'within'); Eze 8:12 ('chambers')
...the point of the sword against all gates... on the right hand... on the left...
The sword would be effective wherever it turned. There would be no escape.
...I will cause my fury to rest...
The sword would slay, until the LORD's judgment, upon the sin of Jerusalem, was accomplished and settled. cp. Eze 5:13
- The sword, of false divination, confirmed by Israel's iniquity -
18. The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
19 Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways,
that the sword of the king of Babylon may come:
both twain shall come forth out of one land:
and choose thou a place, choose [it] at the head of the way to the city.
20 Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites,
and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.
21 For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way,
at the head of the two ways, to use divination:
he made [his] arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.
22 At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem,
to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter,
to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint [battering] rams against the gates,
to cast a mount, [and] to build a fort.
23 And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight,
to them that have sworn oaths:
but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.
24 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD;
Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered,
in that your transgressions are discovered,
so that in all your doings your sins do appear;
because, [I say], that ye are come to remembrance,
ye shall be taken with the hand.
25 And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel,
whose day is come, when iniquity [shall have] an end,
26 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown:
this [shall] not [be] the same:
exalt [him that is] low, and abase [him that is] high.
27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no [more],
until he come whose right it is; and I will give it [him].
...two ways... 'choose thou a place' {lit., 'make a hand'}... at the head of the way to the city.
Several translations read: "make a sign..." It is possible that Ezekiel was to act out this scenario, with the aid of a sign, as though it stood at a fork in the road to Jerusalem. His dramatic action, before the watching elders, was a revelation from the LORD, concerning an actual incident which would soon occur hundreds of miles away.
...for the king of Babylon stood at the parting... of the two ways, to use divination...
As Nebuchadnezzar moved his army southward, he was faced with a decision. Should he attack Rabbath, a chief city of the Ammonites, or should he attack Jerusalem?
     The Ammonites were an idolatrous people, who were historic enemies of Israel. During the Babylonian siege and conquest of Jerusalem, the Ammonites would encourage and assist Israel's enemies, for their own advantage. Therefore, not long after the fall of Jerusalem, the LORD would use Babylon to judge the Ammonites (as foretold, in v.28-32 and Eze 25:5-7). But according to the LORD's plan, the judgment of Jerusalem would come first.
...he made his arrows bright... consulted with images {HB=teraphim, portable idols}... looked in the liver...
Nebuchadnezzar sought guidance through divination {ie., witchcraft, shamanism}. Polished arrows would have been marked for each city and drawn like straws. Prayer and offerings would have been presented to the idols. The entrails of sacrificial animals would have been examined for clues based on their superstitions.
...at his right hand was {or, 'to his right hand came...' [NASB]} the divination for Jerusalem...
According to his occultic rituals, he should attack Jerusalem. (This answer was actually arranged by the LORD. cp. Prov 16:33)
     Jerusalem was a defenced {ie., fortified} city, with strong walls, and set on high ground. Nebuchadnezzar reviewed the difficulties which would be encountered in its conquest (in v.22). cp. Lam 4:12
...it shall be unto them as a false {ie., lying} divination... to them that have sworn oaths...
Nebuchadnezzar's counselors would argue against the direction received...
...even though they had sworn oaths, in the process of their occultic rituals...
...or, perhaps, because Zedekiah had previously sworn an oath of subservience to Babylon. 2Chr 36:13
...but he {Nebuchadnezzar} will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken...
Israel's spiritual and political adultery were well known to the surrounding nations. The LORD caused her 'lovers' to hate her and turn against her, because of her sins. Eze 16:35-40
...because ye have made your sins to be remembered... ye shall be taken with the hand.
Following the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan (the captain of the guard, in charge of the captives taken by Babylon) remembered Israel's sins, as he released Jeremiah. See Jer 40:1-3.
...and thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come,
when iniquity shall have an end... take off the crown...
Wicked king Zedekiah would not be released (Eze 17:19; Jer 24:8-10; 52:1-3,9-11).
While he had been high, he was made low, at the day of his judgment.
     With his removal, the iniquity of the kings of Israel would cease, because Israel would have no king. Since the time of Zedekiah, only one king in David's line has been presented, and He was rejected (Zech 9:9; Mat 21:5). The nation would be under Gentile dominion, until the 'Times of the Gentiles' ends with the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom (Hos 3:4,5).
     The full 'end' of iniquity will not occur, until Christ returns in the time of the end (Dan 9:24). Just prior to that time, another 'profane wicked prince' (the Antichrist) will arise (Dan 9:26,27). Like Zedekiah, he will make a covenant in Israel's behalf, and then, break it. The Antichrist will be deposed by Christ at His second coming (2The 2:8,9).
I will overturn, overturn, overturn... it shall be no more...
...until He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him
The word 'overturn' {HB='avvah, distortion, ruin} is rooted in a word which means 'to commit iniquity' {HB='avah}. While the iniquity of Israel's kings would be ended (v.25), the ruinous reward of that iniquity would linger long. The kingdom of Israel would "be no more" until the coming of One "whose right it is" {HB=mishpat, judgment, justice, right}, ie., the One whom the LORD judges to be worthy. cp. Gen 49:10 (where 'Shiloh' means 'the One whose right it is'); Rev 5:1-10
     The One who was lowly, will be highly exalted. v.26; Php 2:5-11
     In Christ's Kingdom, the LORD's promises to David will be fulfilled (Psa 89:3-4,26-29). But until that day, the house of David will have no king (Psa 89:38-45).
     Israel's 'ruin' was by the sword. One of the prerequisites, for the events which immediately precede the establishment of Christ's Millennial Kingdom, is that the nation and people of Israel must first be "brought back from the sword" (Eze 38:8).
- The sword, while unsheathed, would judge the Ammonites -
28. And thou, son of man, prophesy and say,
Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach;
even say thou, The sword, the sword [is] drawn:
for the slaughter [it is] furbished, to consume because of the glittering:
29 Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee,
to bring thee upon the necks of [them that are] slain, of the wicked,
whose day is come, when their iniquity [shall have] an end.
30 Shall I cause [it] to return into his sheath?
I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity.
31 And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee,
I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath,
and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, [and] skilful to destroy.
32 Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land;
thou shalt be no [more] remembered: for I the LORD have spoken [it].
Although the LORD's judgment would fall first upon Jerusalem, by the sword of Babylon, the Ammonites would not escape His wrath. The LORD was about to use the sword of Babylon to bring the iniquity of Israel's kings to an end (v.25,29). While that sword was unsheathed, it would also execute judgment upon the Ammonites (about five years after the fall of Jerusalem). They would be punished for their reproach {ie., shame} in following the lies of their false gods, by which they wrongfully assumed that they should benefit from Israel's fall, and sought to destroy the few Jews who remained in the land after the LORD's judgment of Jerusalem was accomplished. eg., The Ammonites conspired against Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed as governor over the Jews who were left in the land (Jer 40:14); also see Jer 49:1,2; Amos 1:13-15
     The judgment of the Ammonites will be addressed again, in ch. 25.
     Its mention, here, is a reminder that though the LORD must judge the sin of Israel, He will not leave the gentile nations unpunished. The future time of Jacob's Trouble, though centered on Israel, will break her enemies and release her from their dominion (Jer 30:7,8).

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