Ezekiel's 40 Days

Israel's End; Or Guilt, Grace, And Glory.

(Ezek. 4: 1-11)

it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the
fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of
Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. In the
fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's
captivity, the word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest,
the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and
the hand of the Lord was there upon him" (Ezek. 1: 1-3).

verses introduce to us a very remarkable man, who was alike a priest, a
poet, and a prophet of no mean order. The meaning of his name, Ezekiel,
it whom God will strengthen," is instructive when we remember what he
himself passed through as a captive. It was as being directly sustained
by God, that he was able to identify himself with the sorrows of the
guilty nation whose judgment he first predicts with great detail, and
whose final deliverance and exaltation by the hand of God, he describes
with the utmost precision.

Josephus states that Ezekiel was a
youth when carried away captive, but whether such was the case we have
no certain means of being assured, and the general character of his
writings would scarcely bear out the supposition. He was contemporary
with Jeremiah and Daniel, and his prophecy would appear to open about
the fifth year of his captivity, B.C. 594. This we learn from Ezek. 1:
2. You will remember that Jehoiachin, king of Judah, was carried into
captivity in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, along with a great many
of his subjects. Thus the record stands. "And Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. And
Jehoiachin, the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and
his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and
the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. And he
carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the
treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of
gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD,
as the LORD had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the
princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives,
and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort
of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin, to Babylon,
and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the
mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to
Babylon. And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen
and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them
the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon" (2 Kings 24: 11-16).

the power of Judah was broken, and Jehoiachin, carried captive,
Jerusalem was not then destroyed, and over it the King of Babylon set
Jehoiachin's uncle, changing his name from Mattaniah to Zedekiah. He
reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, doing evil in the sight of the Lord,
and eventually breaking his covenant, and rebelling against the King of
Babylon, thus leading to the sack of the city in the nineteenth year of
Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Kings 25: 8-10). During these eleven years
Ezekiel dwelt by the river Chebar, a captive, and there it was that he
says, "The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God." He there
learned that God's ancient people were not only in captivity but to be
in captivity to the Gentiles, and that, because of their guilt God
would not own them any longer. He further learned that the power of the
sword was to be passed into the hands of the Gentiles, although, as I
have said, at that time the capture of Jerusalem, then ruled over by
Zedekiah, had not yet taken place.

While at Chebar Ezekiel
receives the following instructions from the Lord (Ezek. 4: 1-11):
"Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and
portray upon it the city, even Jerusalem: and lay siege against it, and
build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also
against it, and set battering rams against it round about. Moreover,
take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between
thee and the city; and set thy face against it, and it shall be
besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to
the house of Israel. Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the
iniquity of the house of Israel upon it; according to the number of the
days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I
have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the
number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear
the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished
them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of
the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day
for a year. Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of
Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy
against it, And, behold, I will lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not
turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of
thy siege. Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and
lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make
thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt
lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat
thereof. And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty
shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. Thou shalt drink
also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time
shalt thou drink."

In representing thus the impending siege of
Jerusalem, God points out the years of iniquity that led to her
judgment - for Israel in general three hundred and ninety, and for
Judah forty. To Ezekiel comes the striking command, "Lie thou also upon
thy left side . . three hundred and ninety days" (Ezek. 4: 4). And
then: Lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of
the house of Judah forty days. I have appointed thee each day
for a year" (Ezek. 4: 6). The sin of Israel exceeded that of Judah, but
Israel is looked at as a whole, and the interests of the whole nation
are not only before the eye of the prophet, but he is to identify
himself with their iniquities. However little the guilty nation may
have felt, without doubt this godly prophet deeply felt and owned
before God the sin of his nation, and accepted the consequences
thereof, and whether for three hundred and ninety days for Israel, or
forty days for Judah, bore their iniquities in spirit before God in the
remarkable position which these verses describe, himself, without
doubt, sustained by God, otherwise it would have been impossible for
him, for so protracted a period, to have so remained and obeyed the
strict injunction, "And thou shalt not turn thee from one side to
another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege" (Ezek. 4: 9), or
lived upon the scanty diet detailed in Ezek. 4: 9 to 11. The point of
Ezekiel's "forty days" would seem to be this, that he absolutely
identifies himself with the iniquity of his nation, and is prepared to
bear the consequences of their iniquity, and that without a murmur.

very striking feature in Ezekiel's history would seem to be the entire
subordination of his whole life and feelings as a man to the great
prophetic work to which he was called. He neither speaks nor acts like
an ordinary man, but thinks and feels as a prophet. One very striking
illustration of this is found on the occasion of the death of his wife.
There is something deeply touching in his brief narrative of the moment
when "the desire of his eyes" was taken away with a stroke, and when he
was commanded not to mourn. The word of the Lord ran thus: "Son of man,
behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke:
yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run
down. Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of
thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not
thy lips, and eat not the bread of men. So I spake unto the people in
the morning; and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I
was commanded" (Ezek. 24: 15-18).

That was indeed a memorable
day. God noted it by the command, "Son of man, write thee the name of
the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against
Jerusalem this same day" (Ezek. 24: 2). The day that Nebuchadnezzar
began the siege the wife of the prophet died, and although she was the
object of his tenderest affections he was not to mourn, and did not.
That he possessed the sympathies and affections of humanity is manifest
by the beautiful touch of tenderness with which the narrative is
introduced; but he subordinates himself entirely to the will of
Jehovah, and sinks the interests of his individual life in the work of
his prophetic office.

All this is intensely in contrast with
almost every other great servant of God, whose history we have recorded
in the Old Testament. While the events of Ezekiel's personal history
are thus kept out of sight, it is interesting to notice the remarkable
vigour and energy clearly manifest in his character. God knew that he
had to oppose a "rebellious house," who were "impudent and hardhearted"
(Ezek. 3: 7-9), and hence said to him: "Behold, I have made thy face
strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their
foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead;
fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a
rebellious house."

Ezekiel's writings abound with figurative
representations, but whether unfolding heavenly visions, or truths
clothed in the garb of allegory and enigma, definiteness and vigour of
conception mark his words in a very striking way. What he saw in vision
is described with a clearness, sharpness of outline, and minuteness of
detail which almost belong to real existence; and while one says again
we never meet him in his writings as an ordinary man, you cannot but
feel that he was manifestly an extraordinary one - he was just, in
fact, the suited vessel that God could take up and use to reveal His
mind in the unfolding of striking truths as to Israel's judgment near
at hand, or her future glory which his prophecies disclose.

may help you to read his prophecy with greater interest if I briefly
glance at the salient features of the book, and indicate its general
outline. In attempting to do this, I cannot do better than quote the
words of another, to whom I am indebted for much light on the subject.
"The first twenty-three chapters contain testimonies from God against
Israel in general, and against Jerusalem in particular. After that the
surrounding nations are judged; and then, beginning with chapter 33,
the prophet resumes the subject of Israel, announcing their restoration
as well as their judgment. Finally, from chapter 40 to the end we have
the description of the temple and of the division of the land."*

of the Books of the Bible," by J. N. Darby, vol. ii. No more valuable
or helpful expository work on Scripture exists in the English language
than this. It will well repay careful perusal, and is strongly

The general scope of the book is as follows: -

earlier chapters describe the sin of Israel which made God's judgment
of them a necessity, as His name had been dishonoured and His house
polluted. The glory of the Lord thereupon leaves that house and retires
to heaven. The judgment then falls on Jerusalem, and the nation is
scattered. Their many enemies, who rejoice in their chastisement at
God's hand, and in the removal of His house and presence from the
earth, are then severally judged by Him. Next, a work of repentance and
self-judgment in Israel takes place on their restoration to their land
and to God's enjoyed favour. Their ancient foe, the Assyrian, then
seeks again to dislodge them, and is overwhelmed by God's own direct
interposition. The temple, God's earthly house, is then rebuilt, never
again to be disturbed. The glory returns to that house and to Israel,
in connection with their acceptance of their once-rejected but now
gladly-owned Messiah - the true David. The book closes with God's
blessing flowing out through the whole earth, now at peace and rest
under the sway of Jehovah-Jesus, the last word of the prophecy being,
"The Lord is there" (Ezek. 48: 35).

The destruction of Jerusalem
is the central point of Ezekiel's earlier predictions. Before that
visitation of God's chastening hand arrived, through His chosen rod,
Nebuchadnezzar, He warns the people against indulging in blind
confidence in Egyptian help (Ezek. 17: 15-19; compare Jer. 37: 7-9), to
rid themselves of the Babylonian yoke, and assures them that the
destruction of their city and temple was certain, and near at hand.
This prediction is finally confirmed by the announcement that
Nebuchadnezzar had invested the city (Ezek. 24: 2).

During the
interval between the commencement of the siege and the arrival of the
news that Jerusalem had actually fallen (Ezek. 33: 21), the burden of
his prophecy (Ezek. 25 - 32) is against foreign nations, whom God would
judge because they had interfered with those who had been His people,
but whom He, because of their sins, had now not only called Lo-ammi
(not My people), but treated as such.

From the thirty-third
chapter on, his principal object is to show how God will yet step in
and restore Judah and Israel, now captive and scattered, to their own
land, and bless them under the true David, when He will "make them one
nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be
king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall
they be divided into two kingdoms, any more at all" (Ezek. 37: 22).
Thereafter follow the final judgment of their earliest foe - the
Assyrian - the Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38 and 39, and then the
directions regarding the rebuilding of Jehovah's temple, the
re-establishment of sacrifices suited to the moment, and the redivision
of the land of Palestine.

It will be impossible to go much into
detail, but a cursory glance at the contents of the three main
divisions, just indicated, I will attempt. Ezekiel 1 opens with Ezekiel
beholding a vision of God's throne, not now, as formerly, seen in
Jerusalem, but outside the city and unconnected with it. The attributes
of Gad, under the figure of four distinct classes of created beings on
earth - a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle - the four being united in
one - are the supporters of this throne on which the God of truth sits.
It is evidently the universal sovereign throne of God here presented,
as in relation to the Gentiles. Those who had hitherto been owned as
His people He judges from that throne. He is no longer in their midst.
What Ezekiel saw deeply impressed him, and he says: "This was the
appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it,
I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one that spake" (Ezek. 1:
28). This reminds one strongly of the vision John had in Patmos when he
fell at the Lord's feet as dead (Rev. 1: 17).

What Ezekiel heard,
as given in Ezekiel 2, indicates plainly God's relation to Israel. And
he said, "Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee"
(Ezek. 2: 1). This epithet, "Son of man," is the one by which God
repeatedly, right through the book, addresses His prophet, and gives us
the key to His position in relation to Israel. It is Christ's own
title, the one by which He loved to speak of Himself all through the
Gospels, where He is viewed as the rejected One of Israel, and really
as being outside the nation. By God's giving it to Ezekiel, the prophet
is put in direct connection with Christ as rejected. It is very
important to apprehend the import of this title, which the 8th Psalm
attributes to Jesus in connection with His rejection and exaltation,
and which the Lord Himself specifically adopts as being rejected as the
Messiah (see Psalm 2) by Israel. I refer to His striking injunction to
His disciples recorded by Luke. He had asked them, "Whom say the people
that I am? . . . Peter, answering, said, The Christ of God. And he
straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be
rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and
be raised the third day" (Luke 9: 18-22).

As regards Israel, God
was rejected, and Ezekiel takes his place with Him and His throne, and
consequently is sent with messages to the people here described as
"impudent," "stiff-hearted," and "most rebellious." He was to speak
whether they would "hear" or "forbear," but any way they should "know
that there hath been a prophet among them" (Ezek. 2: 4-7). He then has
handed to him a roll of a book, written within and without, like the
one John saw (see Rev. 5: 1).

In Ezekiel 3 Ezekiel eats the roll
which he had received, finding it sweet as honey in his mouth. God's
communications are always sweet to the receiver, though their final
intent have not that character. He is then strengthened of God and bid
go to the children of his people. It needed that his forehead should be
as adamant (Ezek. 3: 9) to testify to such it a rebellious house,"
whose moral iniquities compelled God to cast them off. Carried by the
Spirit of God to Tel-abib among the captives (Ezek. 3: 15), he then
again sees the glory of the Lord (Ezek. 3: 23), and is told not to go
among the people. They were so rebellious that they were not to be
warned. God would make his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth
(Ezek. 3: 26) to enforce his silence, for He would no more plead with
them in love, as He had done by Jeremiah, until He again opened his

Ezekiel 4, which we have already considered, depicts the
impending siege of, and famine at, Jerusalem, which Jehovah, in Ezekiel
5 says, He "had set in the midst of the nations and countries round
about her" (Ezek. 5: 5) to give a true testimony to Himself. So far
from that had she been that her "wickedness more than the nations round
about her" (Ezek. 5: 6) compelled His condign judgment, a just
retribution for her sins. She therefore instead of being a witness to
Him should be "a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an
astonishment unto the nations round about" (Ezek. 5: 15).

6 shows that this judgment was to be executed not only on Jerusalem,
but on all the high places of the mountains of Israel - notorious for
their idols - as well as the valleys and rivers. They should know that
Jehovah had not "said in vain that I would do this evil unto them"
(Ezek. 6: 10), for those far off should die of pestilence, and those
near by should fall by the sword, yet mercy would spare a remnant
(Ezek. 6: 8).

The desolation culminates in Ezekiel 7, when an end
comes on "the four corners of the land" (Ezek. 7: 2). "Mischief shall
come upon mischief" (Ezek. 7: 26) is the striking conclusion. The
reason of all this overwhelming judgment by Jehovah is plain. "As for
the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the
images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein,
therefore have I made it unto them an unclean thing (see margin). And I
will give it into the hands of strangers for a prey, and to the wicked
of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it" (Ezek. 7: 20, 21).
The temple, the place of His holiness, into which God's professing
people had introduced idolatry in all its forms, was to be polluted by
"the worst of the heathen" (Ezek. 7: 24). With chapter 7 the first
prophecy which delineates the judgment of God's earthly people
concludes. They no longer are His witnesses, save as their very
judgment, lasting to this day, is a standing testimony to the truth of
His Word, a solemn consideration for faithless and Christless

With Ezekiel 8 commences a new section of Ezekiel's
prophecy, extending to the end of Ezekiel 19. In it are a number of
distinct revelations. The prophet is in his own house, with the elders
of Judah, when Jehovah's glory appears to him, and, in "the visions of
God," he is taken to Jerusalem, "to the door of the inner gate that
looketh toward the north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy,
which provoketh to jealousy" (Ezek. 8: 3). He then sees in detail the
reasons for God's judgment, as he beholds the awful idolatry carried on
there by the very leaders of Israel. The year before the Lord had
threatened to give up His Sanctuary. Now Ezekiel sees why He was
compelled to do it.

In Ezekiel 9 the destruction of Jerusalem
lowers on the threshold, and the men with slaughter-weapons are seen
(Ezek. 9: 1, 2). Then "the glory of the God of Israel" begins to depart
from the house. It first goes up from the cherub to the threshold of
the house (Ezek. 9: 3), and thereon God commands the deeply deserved
vengeance to be executed on those who had so sinned. Those who "sighed
and cried for the abominations done," were. to he spared (Ezek. 9: 4),
none other. The mass showed their moral state of depravity by saying,
"The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not" (Ezek. 9:
9). Because He had not judged their sin they inferred that He was
indifferent to it. Fatal mistake!

Ezekiel 10 is intensely
interesting. The throne and its Occupant are again in view (Ezek. 10:
1). The man clothed with linen and possessing the ink-horn (Ezek. 9: 2,
3) is thus commanded: "Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub,
and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and
scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight. Now the
cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in;
and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD went
up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the
house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the
brightness of the LORD'S glory" (Ezek. 10: 2-4). That house had been
filled with the Lord's glory at first, for deepest blessing (see 2 Chr.
5: 13, 14). Now it was similarly for judgment. The city which contained
it was to be consumed with coals of fire. Jehovah's ire could no longer
he restrained, and He leaves His throne, stands upon the threshold,
and, so to say, superintends the judgment He has commanded. There is
something intensely solemn in this. The cherubims and the crushing
wheels of that throne, again detailed here (Ezek. 10: 7-17), could have
effected this easily, but not so, the dishonoured Lord of that
sadly-defiled house stands on its very threshold, personally to direct
the judgment which would efface its existence. Nebuchadnezzar a little
later was the providential power used to this end, but the personal
intervention of Jehovah here could not but deeply strike the spiritual

Ezekiel 11 reveals the spirit of unbelief that dominated
the dwellers in Jerusalem. The prophet sees five and twenty princes of
the people whom God describes as "men that devise mischief and give
wicked counsel to this city" (Ezek. 11: 2, 3). These twenty-five men
were, I judge, the high priest and the twenty-four heads of the courses
of the priests, which shows the awful state of affairs when the
official leaders of religion were the prime movers in idolatry and
every sin. They regarded Jerusalem as impregnable, spite of Jeremiah's
previous warnings. These God afresh threatens, and one of them dies on
the spot, as Ezekiel speaks (Ezek. 11: 13).This leads him to
intercession, and he learns that, as regards those who had already been
taken captive, God would be to them "a little sanctuary" (Ezek. 11:
16),and bring them back to their land eventually.

Then the glory
of the Lord, which in Ezekiel 10: 18,19 had moved from the threshold of
the house, as if loath to leave it, and stood over the cherubims - who
in their turn mounted up from the earth - took its final departure. We
read, "And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city,
and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city"
(Ezek. 11: 23).That mountain, I conclude, was the Mount of Olives, from
whence Jesus went up, and to which He will yet return.

So the
glory of God left the earth, and though it revisited it at the birth of
the Lord Jesus, again it retired when He, rejected of earth, ascended
to heaven. When He shall return that glory will, on the ground of His
redemption work, not only fill the house, yet to be rebuilt, but will
flood the earth as well (see Num. 14: 21). "Lord, hasten that day," our
hearts may well cry.

Ezekiel 12 foretells the ineffectual efforts
of King Zedekiah to escape the snare set for him, and predicts his
being brought to Babylon. "Yet shall he not see it, though he shall die
there" (Ezek. 12: 13), isthe divine forecast of his sad history - some
five years later. "So they took the king, and brought him up to the
king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. And they
slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of
Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to
Babylon" (2 Kings 25: 6,7).The godless proverb in Israel, "The days are
prolonged, and every vision faileth" (Ezek. 12: 22), i.e., that
God's messages were worthless and not to be heeded, He now says shall
cease to be used, for the Son of man was bidden to say, "The days are
at hand, and the effect of every vision" (Ezek. 12: 23).Unbelief might
say, "The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he
prophesieth of the times that are far off" (Ezek. 12: 27).God's answer
was, "There shall none of my words be prolonged any more; but the word
which I have spoken shall be done" (Ezek. 12: 28).

In Ezekiel 13
the false prophets of Israel who seduced and deceived the people by
"vain vision" and "lying divination" (Ezek. 13: 7), saying, "Peace; and
there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it
with untempered mortar" (Ezek. 13: 10), are exposed and judged.

14 shows the elders of Israel again sitting before the prophet, who
learn that they will be judged according to their iniquities. "Repent,
and turn yourselves from your idols" (Ezek. 14: 6) is then uttered in
the ears of prophets and people alike, God declaring that the presence
of such men in their midst as Noah, Daniel, and Job would not stay His
judgment. Their righteousness would deliver only their own souls (Ezek.
14: 14-20).

Under the figure of the vine tree (see Ps. 80, Isa.
5) which yields no fruit, Ezekiel 15 shows that only utter consumption
was before Jerusalem and its inhabitants. A worthless tree was only fit
for fuel.

In Ezekiel 16 Jerusalem is reminded of God's dealings
in grace, and that what had been in misery and degradation He had
washed, anointed, and beautified. All His favour, however, she had used
in the service of idols, and to procure the support of Egypt and
Assyria. She had played the harlot, and should be dealt with as such,
her very paramours being made the executors of God's just judgment of
her. Spite of this, His oath and covenant of promise (see Ezek. 16: 8)
would yet be made good (Ezek. 16: 62, 63).

The riddle and the
parable of the two great eagles of Ezekiel 17 find their explanation in
Zedekiah's certain judgment, for breaking his covenant with
Nebuchadnezzar. This he had made, and sworn by God (see 2 Chr. 36: 13)
to keep. God had put the power of the kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar's hand,
for he was the head of gold that Daniel saw. The Babylonian king feared
God in measure, and respected His name. By intriguing with Pharaoh to
escape Nebuchadnezzar's yoke, Zedekiah broke his covenant to which
Jehovah's name had been attached. This filled up the cup of his
wickedness, and led to his downfall, for God said, "As I live, saith
the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him
king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with
him in the midst of Babylon he shall die" (Ezek. 17: 16).

18 contains the important principle that the soul that sinneth, it
shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither
shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the
righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be
upon him" (Ezek. 18: 20). The individual would be dealt with by God
according to his own conduct. It is not a question of what their
fathers had been. Their own iniquities demanded and would entail God's
judgment. Long before, God had threatened to visit "the iniquities of
the fathers upon the children" (see Ex. 34: 7). This principle is
departed from. Individually they were guilty, and as such would be
judged; nevertheless, where repentance was manifest, God would pardon,
for He had no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18: 23). It
must be borne in mind that what is spoken of here is temporal judgment,
physical death, because of sin now. It gives us no teaching as to the
eternal judgment of sin, which is taught elsewhere.

The demand
for "lamentation for the princes of Israel" in Ezekiel 19 gives in
allegory the subjugation of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24: 1), and then the
captivity of Jehoiachin, terminating thus the regal power of the house
of David, which had no longer "a sceptre to rule" (Ezek. 19: 14).

20 commences a new prophecy which terminates in Ezekiel 23. God reminds
Israel of what He had done for them in bringing them out of the land of
Egypt "and into a land flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory
of all lands" (Ezek. 20: 6). They had rebelled on their road to that
land in the wilderness. "Nevertheless," He says, "mine eye spared them
from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the
wilderness" (Ezek. 20: 17). Spite of all His grace they had polluted
themselves, and God determined to scatter them among the heathen. But
God would fulfil all His purposes, and would yet re-gather them,
saying, "I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out
of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with
a stretched out arm" (Ezek. 20: 34). But as he pled with their fathers,
and purged them in the wilderness, so would He yet do to the returning
house of Israel. And the rebels would die on their road to the land
(Ezek. 20: 34-38).

Ezekiel 21 unfolds in very striking language
the onslaught of Nebuchadnezzar on Jerusalem. It seemed a question in
his mind whether he should attack Jerusalem or Ammon. "For the king of
Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways
(to Jerusalem and Ammon), to use divination: he made his arrows bright,
he consulted with images, he looked in the liver" (Ezek. 21: 21).
Jerusalem might think it "false divination" (Ezek. 21: 23), but God's
judgment must be carried out, so the sword is unsheathed and not to
return to its scabbard. God's throne had left the earth, "the times of
the Gentiles" had begun; the judgment-day of the wicked prince of
Israel - Zedekiah the profane - had come, and God would overturn -
overturn - overturn - until He come whose was the throne and the diadem
- even Christ Himself (Ezek. 21: 25-27).

In Ezekiel 22 Jehovah
sums up and recapitulates the sins of what He now calls "the bloody
city" (Ezek. 22: 2), and of the princes, the prophets, the priests, and
the people of Israel. He says, however, "I sought for a man among them
that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the
land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none" (Ezek. 22: 30).
judgment must have its way, but one cannot but note the tenderness of
God for His people, ere the stroke fell, strikingly reminding us of the
blessed Lord's words at a later date; "How often would I have gathered
thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings,
and ye would not" (Luke 13: 34).

In Ezekiel 23 the sins of
Samaria (Israel) and Jerusalem (Judah) are very solemnly portrayed. In
each case illicit intercourse with the heathen, which He had forbidden,
is the ground of Jehovah's judgment. They were sisters in sin, and
should be similarly judged (Ezek. 23: 32). God vindicates His judgment,
saying, "Because thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back,
therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms" (Ezek. 23: 5).
They were to reap what they had sown.

Ezekiel 24 records the fact
that "the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day"
(Ezek. 24: 2). The siege of the city now commences. The same day, as we
have seen, Ezekiel's wife dies (Ezek. 24: 18). The terrible judgment
falling on Jerusalem is graphically described under the figure of a
caldron on the fire.

Ezekiel 25 to 32 are occupied with detailing
God's threatened judgments on the various nations round about Israel
because of their bygone conduct towards, and existing spirit of hatred
to His people. They would rejoice at the destruction of Jerusalem, and
the setting aside of God's earthly sanctuary. He would let them know
that though His earthly people had failed He still was God. If judgment
fell upon His own people, because of their sin, His hand would also be
upon those who hated the objects of His love. The latter He had been
obliged to chastise because of their sins.

Chapter 25 brings
Ammon, Moab, Edom, and the Philistines before us as the objects of
prophetic dealing by God. They were really intruders in, and dwellers
on, Israel's territory. The first three were related to God's people by
consanguinity (see Genesis 19: 36-38 as regards Moab and Ammon, and
Genesis 25: 25-30 regarding Edom). When Israel took possession of
Palestine, by God's command, under Joshua, Philistia, a strip of land
about forty miles long, and ten to twenty broad, lying between Joppa
and Gaza, on the sea-coast, and west of the tribes of Dan and Simeon,
was not subjugated (see Joshua 14: 2). As a consequence of this failure
on Israel's part, the Philistines were ever thorns in their sides, and
sometimes their masters. They were finally subdued in the days of
Samuel (see 1 Sam. 7: 13). Confederates in opposing God's chosen
people, these four nations are now marked out as special objects of
divine vengeance, for, if you touch God's people, you touch Him.

delight that Israel was humbled by God did not better their case. The
judgment of Edom is graphically described by Obadiah, verses 17 and 18
of his prophecy confirming God's threats found in our chapter, "I will
lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel" (Ezek. 25:
14). Remarkable further instruction as to this is given by Daniel, who
says that, when the king of the north shall yet attack Israel (see
Ezek. 38, 39), "these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom and Moab,
and the chief of the children of Ammon" (Daniel 11: 41). The reason for
this is plain. God will finally punish them, and the Philistines too,
by the very people they so persistently persecuted. When Messiah sets
up His kingdom, and Ephraim and Judah are again one, Isaiah tells us,
"They shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west;
they shall spoil them of the east together; they shall lay their hand
upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them" (Isaiah
11: 14). The retributive judgment of God will yet be executed by Israel
on these nations, who long ago so oppressed them.

Ezekiel 26, 27,
and 28 form a separate prophecy regarding Tyre, which was in Israel's
territory. That godless city, alluded to by the Lord Jesus in the
Gospels (see Matt. 11: 21), represents the world with its riches and
lusts. It hated God and God's people, and was glad of Israel's fall, as
giving freer course to the gratification of her own selfishness. Her
triumph God thus checks, saying in chapter 26, "Son of man, because
that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! she is broken that was the
gates of the people; she is turned unto me; I shall be replenished now
she is laid waste. Therefore, saith the Lord God, Behold I am against
thee, O Tyrus (Ezek. 26: 2, 3); "I will make thee like the top of a
rock thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no
more" (Ezek. 26: 14); "Though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never
be found again" (Ezek. 26: 21). This prediction Alexander the Great was
the means of carrying out (B.C. 332).

The motives that move the
world are wonderfully exposed by God in these prophecies. It dislikes
Him and His people alike, but must yet answer to Him, and receive
judgment at His hands.

Ezekiel 27 describes the grandeur and
commercial relations with all the world of Tyre, and then announces
that in "the day of thy ruin" (Ezek. 27: 27) all her former friends
"shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any
more" (Ezek. 27: 36). Such is the world and its end, fickle as the
waters which carried Tyre's ships. Tyre represents the commercial glory
of the world which passes away.

Ezekiel 28 depicts the prince and
the King of Tyre, both judged for their pride. He who is the prince of
this world's glory (see John 14: 30, John 16: 11) is represented here
as a man, and is told, "Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast
said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas.
yet thou art a man, and not God . . . thou shalt die the deaths of them
that are slain in the midst of the seas" (Ezek. 28: 2, 8). There is
little doubt that in what follows, in Ezek. 28: 11 to 19, the King of
Tyre is emblematical of Satan - the prince and god of this world. A
creature of God, his heart was lifted up; he corrupted his brightness,
became an apostate from God, and the enemy of God and man. His
advantages had been the occasion of his fall. He exalted himself
against God, and was cast out, as profane, from the mountain of God.

fate is then told us. Sidon had been associated with Tyre as "a
pricking brier" and "a grieving thorn" to the house of Israel (Ezek.
28: 24). Her judgment is predicted, and then God declares that He will
re-gather the house of Israel, when the judgment of the nations is
executed. His words are, "Yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I
have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about
them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God" (Ezek. 28: 26).
God's purposes are never frustrated either by the sins of His people or
the pride of His foes.

Ezekiel 29 to 32 give us the judgment of
Egypt, Israel's old oppressor. God had given Nebuchadnezzar the supreme
power. Egypt as a nation was proud of its governmental power. She had
said, "The river is mine, and I have made it" (Ezek. 29: 9). God would
not allow this assumption, nor permit her to have what He had given to
Nebuchadnezzar for His own purposes. Every nation must bow to him. It
was God's ordainment, for he was "the mighty one of the heathen."
Assyria had already fallen (see Ezek. 31: 10, 11). Pharaoh must fall
also. If Tyre which Nebuchadnezzar besieged by land and water for
thirteen years without success - yielded him no wages, Egypt should be
his recompense, and her judgment would lead to Israel's blessing (Ezek.
29: 18-21).

It is important in reading these prophecies to
observe that Nebuchadnezzar is regarded as the servant of God, in
executing His judgment, both on Jerusalem and on the nations round
about, and thus really freeing the land of Israel of them. Doubtless,
in all this which has historically taken place, we have a picture of
that which will yet occur in Israel's future history, when God again
puts His hand to recover, restore, and bless them in their land, then
to be for ever free from every oppressor.

In Ezekiel 33 we enter
a new phase of God's dealing with His people. We look on to the last
days, yet to come. The people are looked at as having been judged. He
has carried out His word spoken in Hosea; they are, "Lo-ammi," that
is," not My people." Their judgment has been but partial, however, for
bad indeed as that was which Ezekiel describes, before Messiah's return
their case will be yet more terrible, as they suffer under the two
beasts described in.

Rev. 13 - the revived Roman Empire and
Antichrist Individual conduct is again in question in Ezekiel 34. The
shepherds of Israel are exposed; their conduct toward the flock being
entirely in contrast to the tender care of God, who now emphatically
declares: "Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep and seek them
out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among
his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will
deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the
cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and
gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land,
and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all
the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good
pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be:
there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they
feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will
cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was
lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that
which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. but I will
destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment" (Ezek.
34: 11-16). He further says: "And I will set up one shepherd over them,
and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and
he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my
servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it" (Ezek.
34: 23, 24). He then adds, "There shall be showers of blessing." It is
God who will deliver the sheep, and bring in the true David, the Lord
Jesus Christ, whom, in Ezek. 34: 29, He calls "a plant of renown." Of
Israel He says, "And ye are my flock, the flock of my pasture" (Ezek.
34: 31). God again owns them as His people. Ezekiel 35 again brings
Edom, Israel's blood relation and perpetual hater into view (see Ezek.
35: 5), God's judgment on them will be according to their hatred of His

In Ezekiel 36 the restoration and blessing of Israel is
most touchingly unfolded. The mountains of Israel are addressed. "Ye
shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of
Israel; for they are at hand to come" (Ezek. 36: 8). Their foes had
declared the land to be one that devoured its inhabitants, that is,
that it was barren. God would make it fruitful beyond all measure, and
multiply earthly blessings to His people (Ezek. 36: 30). More than
this, He would bless them spiritually. Ezekiel 36: 24-29 describe their
spiritual regeneration, alluded to by the Lord when speaking to
Nicodemus. The Jew must be new-born to enter God's kingdom on its
earthly side, just as, today, the Christian is born again to
participate in its joys on the heavenly side.

Ezekiel 37 gives us
Israel's national resurrection. We behold a valley full of dry bones,
which the prophet presently sees coming together clothed with flesh and
skin, living, and standing on their feet, an exceeding great army.
This, he learns, is the whole house of Israel (Ezek. 37: 11).
God will yet take the twelve tribes out of their grave among the
nations, where they now are, put His Spirit in them, and cause them to
live (see Ezek. 37: 12-14). Under the figure of the two sticks, joined
in one, we get the re-uniting of the divided kingdoms of Ephraim and
Judah. They are made one nation. God says, "And I will make them one
nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be
king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall
they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (Ezek. 37: 22).

the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ, will be their king. Absolutely
cleansed from their sins (Ezek. 37: 23), they will walk in the fear of
the Lord. They will be under the blessing of the everlasting covenant
of peace (Ezek. 37: 26). Gods sets His sanctuary in the midst of them
for evermore. What infinite grace after all the sin of that nation,
culminating in the murder of His Son and their Messiah, for God thus to
say, "My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God,
and they shall he my people" (Ezek. 37: 27).

Ezekiel 38 and 39
present the final attack of Gog and Magog, their oldest enemy - the
Assyrian - upon them, when replaced in Palestine, and enjoying God's
blessing. The prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal - probably Russia,
Muscovy, and Tobolsk (Ezek. 38: 2, 3) - comes up against Israel, only
to be utterly overwhelmed by God, who will maintain His people
according to His word. The Gog and Magog of Ezekiel must not be
confounded with the Gog and Magog of Revelation 20. The former attack
Israel before the millennial reign of Christ, whereas the latter come
against the saints generally, at the close of the thousand years of the
Lord's reign.

Ezekiel 40 to 46 reveal divine instruction as to
the rebuilding of God's sanctuary in the midst of His people. "A
sanctuary which shall no more be defiled" (Ezek. 43: 7). Connected with
the rebuilding of the temple is, of necessity, found the
reestablishment of sacrifices and an earthly priesthood.

glory of the Lord revisits the earth, and Jehovah returns to His house
in Ezekiel 44, and returns to remain, hence the striking word, "This
gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in
by it, because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it,
therefore it shall be shut" (Ezek. 44: 2).

In Ezekiel 45 the portion of the prince, the priests, and the Levites is arranged, and the passover re-established (ver. 21).

Ezekiel 46 regulates their worship of God, now known on true redemption ground.

Ezekiel 47 waters flow from the sanctuary, healing on every hand, and
the waters abound with fish. It is a striking figure of the blessing
that will flow out in the millennial reign of Christ, for "everything
shall live whither the river cometh" (ver. 9), is the statement.
Widespread indeed will the blessing be, but it is not absolute or
complete even in that day, for "the miry places thereof and the marshes
thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt" (Ezek. 47:
11). The millennial day of glory is imperfect at the start, and also at
the finish, when Gog and Magog again oppose God. Only in the day of God
- eternity - will everything be as God would have it, and, blessed be
His name, will have it, to His everlasting glory.

The division of
the holy land among the twelve tribes occupies Ezekiel 48, as well as
the place of the rebuilt Jerusalem, and the prophecy closes with the
blessed statement, "And the name of the city from that day shall be
Jehovah-shammah," that is, "The Lord is there" (Ezek. 48: 35).

wonderful are God's ways! How deep His mercy! Who but He would have
foretold such a wondrous ending to the history of a people so guilty
and disobedient as Israel had been. But God is God, and the millennial
day, will convince the world of that, which we know now, that "God is