“As for you son of man, prophesy. Clap your hands and let the sword come down twice, yes, three times, the sword for those to be slain… I also will clap my hands, and I will satisfy my fury; I the LORD have spoken.” - Ezekiel 21:14 & 17
This is one of dozens of times in Ezekiel that the LORD speaks of pouring out His fury or satisfying His anger. I draw attention to them because they convey an emotion that is real and personal. His anger toward Judah demands an answer. Even His promises of redemption come in a fury. As we read yesterday: As I live, declares the LORD GOD, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you.
This persistence of the LORD’s anger is just one of the attributes that can make Ezekiel a tough read. You might respond differently, but I find that reading the prophets winds me up. There is something to the metaphor, the pacing, the raw personal style that stirs me differently than other genres. There is little nuance; the heart is laid bare. I encourage you to think about how these texts affect you – and how they might have – or should have – affected their original audience.
This emotion takes on additional life in our final chapter today, as the LORD portrays Israel and her sister Judah as prostitutes, selling themselves first to Egypt and then to Assyria and Babylon. Like with chapter 16, this extended metaphor is not for the faint of heart, and reflects the LORD’s anger in a disturbingly creative way.
But don’t get lost: remember the covenant of Sinai, where the LORD had promised: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Our verse for this week is 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Ezekiel 21 through 23. Now let’s read it!
Ezekiel 21 - 23
21:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries. Prophesy against the land of Israel and say to the land of Israel, Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked. Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall be drawn from its sheath against all flesh from south to north. And all flesh shall know that I am the LORD. I have drawn my sword from its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again.
“As for you, son of man, groan; with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan before their eyes. And when they say to you, ‘Why do you groan?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled,’” declares the Lord GOD.
And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord, say:
“A sword, a sword is sharpened
and also polished,
sharpened for slaughter,
polished to flash like lightning!
(Or shall we rejoice? You have despised the rod, my son, with everything of wood.) So the sword is given to be polished, that it may be grasped in the hand. It is sharpened and polished to be given into the hand of the slayer. Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh. For it will not be a testing—what could it do if you despise the rod?” declares the Lord GOD.
“As for you, son of man, prophesy. Clap your hands and let the sword come down twice, yes, three times, the sword for those to be slain. It is the sword for the great slaughter, which surrounds them, that their hearts may melt, and many stumble. At all their gates I have given the glittering sword. Ah, it is made like lightning; it is taken up for slaughter. Cut sharply to the right; set yourself to the left, wherever your face is directed. I also will clap my hands, and I will satisfy my fury; I the LORD have spoken.”
The word of the LORD came to me again: “As for you, son of man, mark two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to come. Both of them shall come from the same land. And make a signpost; make it at the head of the way to a city. Mark a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites and to Judah, into Jerusalem the fortified. For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows; he consults the teraphim; he looks at the liver. Into his right hand comes the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth with murder, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build siege towers. But to them it will seem like a false divination. They have sworn solemn oaths, but he brings their guilt to remembrance, that they may be taken.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have made your guilt to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand. And you, O profane wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day has come, the time of your final punishment, thus says the Lord GOD: Remove the turban and take off the crown. Things shall not remain as they are. Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted. A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it. This also shall not be, until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give it to him.
“And you, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach; say, A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter. It is polished to consume and to flash like lightning—while they see for you false visions, while they divine lies for you—to place you on the necks of the profane wicked, whose day has come, the time of their final punishment. Return it to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you. And I will pour out my indignation upon you; I will blow upon you with the fire of my wrath, and I will deliver you into the hands of brutish men, skillful to destroy. You shall be fuel for the fire. Your blood shall be in the midst of the land. You shall be no more remembered, for I the LORD have spoken.”
22:1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “And you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Then declare to her all her abominations. You shall say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A city that sheds blood in her midst, so that her time may come, and that makes idols to defile herself! You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries. Those who are near and those who are far from you will mock you; your name is defiled; you are full of tumult.
“Behold, the princes of Israel in you, every one according to his power, have been bent on shedding blood. Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. You have despised my holy things and profaned my Sabbaths. There are men in you who slander to shed blood, and people in you who eat on the mountains; they commit lewdness in your midst. In you men uncover their fathers' nakedness; in you they violate women who are unclean in their menstrual impurity. One commits abomination with his neighbor's wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; another in you violates his sister, his father's daughter. In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take interest and profit and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; but me you have forgotten, declares the Lord GOD.
“Behold, I strike my hand at the dishonest gain that you have made, and at the blood that has been in your midst. Can your courage endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it. I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you through the countries, and I will consume your uncleanness out of you. And you shall be profaned by your own doing in the sight of the nations, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are dross of silver. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you. I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD; I have poured out my wrath upon you.”
And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, say to her, You are a land that is not cleansed or rained upon in the day of indignation. The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.”
23:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms handled. Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.
“Oholah played the whore while she was mine, and she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors clothed in purple, governors and commanders, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. She bestowed her whoring upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them, and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted. She did not give up her whoring that she had begun in Egypt; for in her youth men had lain with her and handled her virgin bosom and poured out their whoring lust upon her. Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, after whom she lusted. These uncovered her nakedness; they seized her sons and her daughters; and as for her, they killed her with the sword; and she became a byword among women, when judgment had been executed on her.
“Her sister Oholibah saw this, and she became more corrupt than her sister in her lust and in her whoring, which was worse than that of her sister. She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. And I saw that she was defiled; they both took the same way. But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, wearing belts on their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”
Therefore, O Oholibah, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them, officers and men of renown, all of them riding on horses. And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples. They shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield, and helmet; and I will commit the judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their judgments. And I will direct my jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in fury. They shall cut off your nose and your ears, and your survivors shall fall by the sword. They shall seize your sons and your daughters, and your survivors shall be devoured by fire. They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your beautiful jewels. Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and your whoring begun in the land of Egypt, so that you shall not lift up your eyes to them or remember Egypt anymore.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust, and they shall deal with you in hatred and take away all the fruit of your labor and leave you naked and bare, and the nakedness of your whoring shall be uncovered. Your lewdness and your whoring have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols. You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand. Thus says the Lord GOD:
“You shall drink your sister's cup
that is deep and large;
you shall be laughed at and held in derision,
for it contains much;
you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.
A cup of horror and desolation,
the cup of your sister Samaria;
you shall drink it and drain it out,
and gnaw its shards,
and tear your breasts;
for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.”
The LORD said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. Moreover, this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my Sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And behold, this is what they did in my house. They even sent for men to come from afar, to whom a messenger was sent; and behold, they came. For them you bathed yourself, painted your eyes, and adorned yourself with ornaments. You sat on a stately couch, with a table spread before it on which you had placed my incense and my oil. The sound of a carefree multitude was with her; and with men of the common sort, drunkards were brought from the wilderness; and they put bracelets on the hands of the women, and beautiful crowns on their heads.
“Then I said of her who was worn out by adultery, ‘Now they will continue to use her for a whore, even her!’ For they have gone in to her, as men go in to a prostitute. Thus they went in to Oholah and to Oholibah, lewd women! But righteous men shall pass judgment on them with the sentence of adulteresses, and with the sentence of women who shed blood, because they are adulteresses, and blood is on their hands.”
For thus says the Lord GOD: “Bring up a vast host against them, and make them an object of terror and a plunder. And the host shall stone them and cut them down with their swords. They shall kill their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses. Thus will I put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done. And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”