Ezekiel 20: Rebellious
Israel's Failures & Purging
Comment: In chapter 14 when the elders came to Ezekiel,
the Lord warned them not to ask for a ‘nice word' but told Ezekiel
they were to be confronted with their sin and need to repent of
it. In chapter 18 we have recently seen the Lord spelling out
the guilt & repentance equation and noted as a conclusion
the Lord calling on the people to actually repent.
1: v.1-29: A litany of the Failures of Israel
The Lord challenges the elders who came to Ezekiel
In the seventh year, [probably
591BC] in the fifth month on
the tenth day, some of the elders of Israel came to enquire of
the Lord , and they sat down in front of me.
the word of
the Lord came to me :
of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, “This is
what the Sovereign Lord says: have you come to enquire of me?
As surely as I live, I will not let you enquire of me, declares
the Sovereign Lord.”
elders come to apparently seek the Lord. See the Preliminary Notes
above for the approach we should expect.]
Ezekiel, you confront them with their past, brought from Egypt
you judge them? Will you judge them, son of man? Then confront
them with the detestable practices of their ancestors
say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: on the day
I chose Israel, I swore with uplifted hand to the descendants
of Jacob and revealed myself to them in Egypt. With uplifted hand
I said to them, ‘I am the Lord your God.'
that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt
into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk
and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.
I said to them, ‘Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have
set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols
of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'
we noted above, the Lord is first and foremost concerned that
the people repent. Perhaps to be able to do that they first need
to be confronted with the waywardness of the nation that has been
observed ever since their earliest days as a nation. In what follows
we will identify the references to their rebellion throughout
their history by the letter ‘R' and the judgments or corrections
that Lord had had to bring with the letter ‘J'. Note the shear
number of times both these things are referred to. Note also the
number of times the Lord said He had had to act for the sake of
Despite becoming Egyptian in worship, God delivered them
‘“But they rebelled against me and
would not listen to me; they [R2] did
not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, [R3]
nor did they forsake the idols of
Egypt. So I said [J1] I would
pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in Egypt.
for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did
it to keep my name from being profaned in the
eyes of the nations among whom they lived and in whose sight
I had revealed myself to the Israelites.
I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
aren't told in the Exodus of the spiritual state of Israel in
Egypt but the prophet reveals they had been following some of
the idols of the Egyptians. The Lord did not let this put Him
off and so He still delivered them from Egypt, despite that. One
wonders if the affair of being required to do more work as slaves
[Ex 5:6-] was in fact God disciplining them for their idolatry
while living in Egypt.]
At Sinai God gave them laws – which they soon forgot
gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which
the person who obeys them will live.
I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know
that I the Lord made them holy.
the people of Israel [R4] rebelled
against me in the wilderness. They [R5] did
not follow my decrees but rejected my laws – by which the
person who obeys them will live – and they [R6] utterly
desecrated my Sabbaths. So [J2] I
said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the
failures of Israel in the desert, both before Sinai and ten after
it, are well documented. Despite having witnessed God's incredible
activity bringing the plagues on Egypt, they still had not learned
to respect and obey the Lord. After Sinai this brought various
acts of discipline upon them – see Numb 14:22]
When they failed to enter the Promised Land, He nevertheless persevered
with them and did not destroy them
for the sake of my name I did what would keep
it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose
sight I had brought them out.
with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that [J3]
I would not bring them into the land
I had given them – a land flowing with milk and honey, the
most beautiful of all lands –
they [R7] rejected
my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths.
For [R8] their hearts were
devoted to their idols.
I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an
end to them in the wilderness.
disobedience in refusing to enter the Promised Land [see Num 14]
meant that generation had died off over the next forty years in
He spoke to the next generation but they too rebelled
said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not follow the statutes
of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their
am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep
my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you
will know that I am the Lord your God.'
the children [R9] rebelled
against me: they did not follow my decrees, they were not careful
to keep my laws, of which I said, ‘The person who obeys them will
live by them,' and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said [J4]
I would pour out my wrath on them
and spend my anger against them in the wilderness.
I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my name
I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the
nations in whose sight I had brought them out.
with uplifted hand [J5] I
swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among
the nations and scatter them through the countries,
they had [R10] not
obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths,
and their eyes lusted after their parents' idols.
I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through
which they could not live;
defiled them through their gifts – the sacrifice of every
firstborn – that I might fill them with horror so that they
would know that I am the Lord .”
next generation continued to receive God's guidance but still
failed to adhere to it. e.g. Num 21 – grumbling against God, Num
25:1- with the women of Moab.]
In the Land they had been idolatrous
son of man, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, “This
is what the Sovereign Lord says: in this also your ancestors [R11]
blasphemed me by being unfaithful
I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they
saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they [R12]
offered their sacrifices, made offerings
that aroused my anger, presented their fragrant incense and poured
out their drink offerings.
I said to them: what is this high place you go to?”' (It is called
Bamah to this day.)
disobedience and rebellion had continued in the land with idolatry
abounding as has been seen earlier in the book.]
2: v.30-49: A Purging will come
Don't expect God to listen when you sacrifice your children to
say to the Israelites: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
will you defile yourselves the way your ancestors did
and lust after their vile images?
you offer your gifts – the sacrifice of your children in
the fire – you continue to defile yourselves with all your
idols to this day. Am I to let you enquire of
me, you Israelites? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign
Lord , I will not let you enquire of me.
previously declared in the Preliminary Comment, the Lord will
not deign to answer these elders while they refuse to repent and
continue to countenance the evil of idolatry and child sacrifice.]
You may want to be idol worshippers like the rest of the world
but I won't let that happen
say, ‘We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the
world, who serve wood and stone.' But what you have in mind will
surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will reign over
you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured
will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries
where you have been scattered – with a mighty hand and an
outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.
attitude, in their continuing idolatry, suggests they want to
be like every other nation but they are the people who covenanted
with God on Mount Sinai to be different, so He will yet discipline
them and gather them back to their Land.]
I will purge you in a place of judgment and cleansing
will bring you into the wilderness of the nations and there, face
to face, I will execute judgment upon you.
I judged your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt,
so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord.
will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring
you into the bond of the covenant.
will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although
I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they
will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am
be able to do that He must first purge them through judgment and
they must change. Failure in Babylon to do that may mean they
will leave Babylon but it will not be for their own land again.]
I will bring about a faithful remnant
for you, people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterwards you
will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with
your gifts and idols.
on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the
Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will
serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your
offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices.
may want to hold on to their idols for the moment but eventually
they will listen to Him and only then will He return them to their
I will restore you to be a holy people worshipping me in the Land
will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from
the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been
scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight
of the nations.
you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land
of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to
will return as a holy worshipping people whose worship will be
as incense before the Lord, and then they and the world will know
this is a work of God.]
You will detest and abhor your past when you look back
you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you
have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all
the evil you have done.
will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name's
sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices,
you people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”'
will come a time, after they are cleansed, when they will look
back in horror to what they were like before they were originally
Even in the south I will send a purging judgement
The word of
the Lord came to me :
of man, set your face towards the south; preach against the south
and prophesy against the forest of the southland.
to the southern forest: “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what
the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to set fire to you, and it
will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame
will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will
be scorched by it.
will see that I the Lord have kindled it; it will not be quenched.”'
I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, they are saying of me, “Isn't he just
in the south may hear all these warnings to Jerusalem and think
they are secure and able to continue their idolatry, but they
aren't! Destruction will come to them as well.]
to Chapter 21