The Divine Government And Man’s Responsibility
No attentive reader can fail to notice the similarity between this chapter and portions of chapter 3 and all of chapter 18. One might wonder why the duplication of instruction, but we may be very sure of this: when God repeats Himself it is in order that His truth may be impressed upon our hearts and minds. It is so easy to forget divine principles and to let slip the teaching of any portion of God’s Holy Word. Repetition is recognized among pedagogues generally as an important process for impressing certain lessons upon the student’s mind. And so when we find repetition in the Holy Scriptures we may well give the passages in question our most careful consideration, realizing that God had something very important to communicate, or He would not have duplicated it, as in the case of Pharaoh’s dreams, and the visions of Daniel. When a thing is repeated it is in order to assure us of its great importance and absolute certainty.
We have already noticed, in considering chapter 18, that the principles set forth in these portions do not in any sense picture the grace of God as revealed in the gospel. They have to do definitely with man under the government of God, and particularly in the legal dispensation. God had given His holy law and declared that the man who walked in obedience to it should live long on the earth; whereas he who disobeyed would bring judgment upon himself, and his days on earth would be cut short. But even under law there was provision for repentance. If a man turned to God and abjured his evil ways and sought to walk carefully before Him, God extended mercy and did not immediately execute judgment upon him.
These principles come out clearly in the present chapter.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and set him for their watchman; if, when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him; whereas if he had taken warning, he would have delivered his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned, and the sword come, and take any person from among them; he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die, and thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and he turn not from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul”—vers. 1-9.
This first section is almost the same as chapter 3:16-21. Once more God emphasized the responsibility of the watchman placed upon the walls of a city in order that he might see the approach of any hostile army and blow the trumpet to warn the people that they might not be taken unawares by the foe. If the watch- man does his part and the people fail to take warning, he has delivered his own soul, and the people themselves will be responsible for their own destruction. But if he fails to give the warning and the people are taken unawares and destroyed by the enemy, the watchman will be held responsible. The blood of the inhabitants of that city will be upon him.
There is surely a very solemn lesson for all of us here who know the danger to which this poor godless world is exposed. We are called upon by God to seek to arouse men to flee from the wrath to come. If they refuse to take warning we have delivered our souls, but if, knowing that the judgment of God is against all who do evil, we fail to sound the trumpet of alarm and men and women are left to die in their sins, there will be a solemn accounting for us at the judgment-seat of Christ. Paul was able to say, in addressing the Ephesian elders, “I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26). So faithful had he been in giving the message that the responsibility was thrown entirely upon his hearers. We might well seek to emulate him.
Ezekiel himself had been set by God to be a watchman to the house of Israel. It was for him to hear the Word at the mouth of Jehovah and give the people warning. As he set forth the principles of the divine government, if men took heed, then God would turn away the sword of judgment; if they refused, as indeed had been the case in so many instances since Ezekiel began to prophesy, then they themselves were responsible for the loss of their own souls, but Ezekiel was free. He had carried out the will of God, and in doing this he had met the requirements of a faithful watchman.
“And thou, son of man, say unto the house of Israel: Thus ye speak, saying, Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them; how then can we live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? And thou, son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall he that is righteous be able to live thereby in the day that he sinneth. When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in his iniquity that he hath committed, therein shall he die. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that which he had taken by robbery, walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be remembered against him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live”—vers. 10-16.
Here, as in chapter 18, the principle is laid down that no man need consider himself in a hopeless condition because he has failed in the matter of obedience to the law of God. While he is rightly under condemnation because of sin, yet the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but desires that all men should turn from their evil ways and live. So He entreats those who have gone astray, saying, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” If men thus turned, God would have mercy on them.
On the other hand, no one was entitled to glory in his own righteousness, or to become careless after a life of obedience to the law. His righteousness did not deliver him if he turned away from the law and took the path of transgression: he would fall in his own wickedness in the day that he sinned. He who trusted in his own past righteousness and congratulated himself on his good record, and so allowed himself to become careless in the future, would have to learn in bitterness of soul that he had to do with One who demanded of him continued obedience to the law that He had given. But if once more he recognized the error of his ways and turned back to God, seeking to walk obediently, the Lord declared he should not surely die, but because of his reformation of life the past would be remitted, and he would live before God here on the earth.
It should be clearly seen that this is not a question of the salvation of the soul; it is not a matter of redemption by the blood of Christ, such as we have in the New Testament. It sets forth God’s dealings with men under law, in accordance with the principles of His government over the earth.
Many in Israel, failing to realize this, blamed God for the disasters that had come upon them, forgetting that He was judging them for their own sins. Notice how they dared to put the blame on the Lord rather than to acknowledge their own failures.
“Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: hut as for them, their way is not equal. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die therein. And when the wicked turneth from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways”—vers. 17-20.
Man is always prone to try to find some excuse for his own failures and to make another responsible for the ills that come upon him. It was so with Adam in the very beginning. Instead of frankly acknowledging his own waywardness, he sought to put the blame upon God by declaring, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Adam was not merely blaming his wife; the sin was far greater than that: it was impugning the wisdom of God in giving him that wife. So Israel, failing to recognize that their own iniquities had brought judgment upon them, impudently threw the blame back on God as they said, “The way of the Lord is not equal.” God’s ways are just and right; it was their way that was unequal, and this they needed to learn.
The remaining part of this chapter forms a distinct section in which we have the messages that came to Ezekiel when some of his prophecies were being fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.
“And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten. Now the hand of Jehovah had been upon me in the evening, before he that was escaped came; and He had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb”—vers. 21, 22.
Year after year Ezekiel had been declaring that no human power would be able to protect Jerusalem against the onslaught of the Babylonians, nor would God Himself interfere to deliver the city where He of old had set His name. Its iniquities and manifold crimes had reached unto heaven, and judgment must ensue.
At last in the twelfth year of the captivity and the tenth month, word was brought by one who had escaped out of Jerusalem to bring the information, that the city had been smitten and all hope of its deliverance was at an end. This was sad news indeed to those who had dwelt in Chaldea. They had cherished the hope that, after all, Jerusalem might withstand the siege and that God would intervene to give His people victory over the invader, but now they knew that their hope had been in vain.
Before the messenger came, Ezekiel’s spirit had been greatly disturbed, evidently as God was preparing him for the word he was to receive on the morrow. He sat as one dumb throughout the evening before the messenger reached him. When at last in the morning he was informed as to what had actually taken place, his mouth was opened, and he spoke again in the name of Jehovah, rebuking those who had self-confidently counted on being delivered soon from bondage and returning to take possession of the land.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, they that inhabit those waste places in the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance. Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes unto your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land? Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbor’s wife: and shall ye possess the land? Thus shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: As I live, surely they that are in the waste places shall fall by the sword; and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured; and they that are in the strongholds and in the caves shall die of the pestilence. And I will make the land a desolation and an astonishment; and the pride of her power shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, so that none shall pass through. Then shall they know that I am Jehovah, when I have made the land a desolation and an astonishment, because of all their abominations which they have committed”—vers. 23-29.
They had said Abraham was but a single person and yet to him God gave the land; they were many: surely the land should be theirs for an inheritance. But Ezekiel reproved them in the name of Jehovah for the sins they had committed. They violated the law by eating with the blood, and by idolatrous practices; innocent blood was shed and there was no repentance; corruption of life, such as characterized the heathen, marked them as those who had thrown off all allegiance to the law of God: therefore, the Lord gave them over to fall by the sword. Let them defend themselves if they could; He refuses to aid them. He had given their land up to become a desolation and an astonishment, and they were to be slain or to go into captivity.
“And as for thee, son of man, the children of thy people talk of thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from Jehovah. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but do them not; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their gain. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass (behold, it cometh), then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them”—vers. 30-33.
To Ezekiel God spoke as with His friend. He reminded him how the people to whom he ministered professed admiration for him and his messages, and yet secretly reviled him and spoke against him, having no intention of obeying the word that he proclaimed. They seemed interested in hearing his words, saying one to another, “Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from Jehovah.” But they had no intention of obeying that word. With their mouths they showed much love, but their hearts were set upon covetousness. Ezekiel was to them as one singing a very lovely song with a pleasant voice, and playing well upon an instrument. They delighted in his eloquence and the forceful way in which he presented his messages, but like so many today who can admire a preacher and revel in his utterances, and yet give no heed to his words, so the people of Israel went on in the path of disobedience and refused to take anything seriously that came from the lips of the prophet. When at last the judgments in all their horror fell upon them God declared that they should know a prophet had been among them, but then it would be too late to deliver their souls by heeding his words.
The True Shepherd Of Israel Contrasted With The False
The present chapter contains Jehovah’s invective against the unworthy and selfish shepherds of Israel, whose one great concern was to take advantage of every opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the flock. There is no date given for this particular prophecy; it may have followed immediately after those we have been considering. From early times kings and governors as well as ecclesiastical leaders, such as priests and prophets, were designated “shepherds.” Our word “pastor” is just the Latin for shepherd. In all ages it has pleased God to place upon certain men the responsibility of ministering to and caring for the temporal and spiritual needs of their fellows. Where this service is performed in the fear of God and out of love for the people of his flock, it brings rich reward, as we see in 1 Peter 5:1-4, where the faithful pastor is promised a crown of glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Jehovah Himself is pictured as the Shepherd of His people in many places in the Old Testament. We need hardly remind our readers of the beauty of the twenty-third Psalm, with its opening verse, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Then again in Psalm 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock”; Isaiah uses the same figure in 40:11, “He shall feed His flock like a shep- herd”; and Jeremiah, in 31:10, tells how Jehovah will keep Israel “as a shepherd doth his flock.” It is prophesied of Messiah that He will be a faithful Shepherd who will be raised up in the land of Palestine (Zech. 11:16). When our Lord actually appeared among men He announced Himself as the Good Shepherd that giveth His life for the sheep. All His hearers would understand that He meant thereby to declare Himself the promised Deliverer, the Messiah of Israel. Here Ezekiel is commissioned by God to give a solemn warning to the selfish shepherds.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, even to the shepherds, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill the fatlings; but ye feed not the sheep. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought back that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor have ye ruled over them. And they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food to all the beasts of the field, and were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, My sheep were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and there was none that did search or seek after them”—vers. 1-6.
The shepherds were the leaders of the people in things both civil and religious. Corruption was everywhere rife among them. They had no real concern for the sheep of the flock; they took advantage of every possible opportunity to enrich themselves, and cared nothing about those for whom they should have had deep concern: they did not minister to the diseased nor to those who were sick, neither did they care for any who were maimed or injured in other ways; nor did they seek after those who had gone astray, as the shepherd is pictured doing in the fifteenth of Luke. They ruled the people with force and rigor, and as a result when the enemy appeared the sheep were terrified and scattered abroad and soon became food to all the beasts of the field: that is, beast-like Gentile powers. How tender the expression used by the Lord in verse 6 where He bewails the sheep wandering through all the mountains and upon every high hill with none to seek after or care for them. Such has been the condition of Israel ever since the dispersion, and will be until in a coming day they return to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls.
“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely forasmuch as My sheep became a prey, and My sheep became food to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did My shepherds search for My sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not My sheep; therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require My sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any wore; and I will deliver My sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them”—vers. 7-10.
Since these shepherds had been so faithless to their trust the Lord Himself would deal with them. He had taken note of all their evil ways; He saw how they fed themselves and left the people to starve: therefore, He declared He was against these evil shepherds, and would require His sheep at their hand. What a solemn accounting it would be when they would have to answer before His judgment-bar for failing to fulfil the responsibilities He had laid upon them. He would deliver His sheep out of their hand, and deal with them for their perfidy. Surely such words as these may be well taken to heart by any who today are in the position of leaders among God’s people and yet fail to feed the flock committed to them, or to seek after those who have gone astray. Nor need we think only of ecclesiastical leaders, for it is God who has given authority to magistrates, and He holds them responsible to consider themselves as having been entrusted with authority in order that they may exercise it for the good of the nation as a whole. Where it is otherwise His judgment is certain to fall.
But if these shepherds are faithless the Lord Himself abideth true, as we see in verses 11 to 16.
“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I Myself, even L will search for My sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out My sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered la the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture; and upon the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord Jehovah. I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice”—vers. 11-16.
Jehovah Himself will search for His sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd endeavoring to gather together his dispersed flock, He will seek for them individually and deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the dark and cloudy day. Then together He will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the various countries in which they have been oppressed, and will bring them as a renewed nation into their own land: that is, the land of Palestine, where He will shepherd them upon the mountains of Israel, and cause that land once more to bring forth abundantly for their blessing.
It is the height of folly to attempt to spiritualize such a passage as this and make it apply only to God’s gracious dealings with His people today. It is clear that the same nation that has been scattered is the nation that will be gathered again when God’s due time comes. Then, indeed, He will feed them with good pasture, and on the heights of Israel they will find their fold and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord.
Note the definiteness of His language, “I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep, and I will cause them to lie down.” Charles H. Spurgeon has well said, “One would think even a poor silly sheep would have sense enough to lie down when weary, but alas, with the sheep of Christ’s flock it is often otherwise.” David declared, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”; and here Jehovah says, “I will cause them to lie down.” He will seek after those that are lost, and will bring back those that have been driven away; He will bind up those that have been maimed, and will strengthen those that were sick; but the self-sufficient and the strong will be disappointed in that day when He shepherds His sheep in righteousness.
“And as for you, O My flock, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, the rams and the he-goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have fed upon the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture? and to have drunk of the clear waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for My sheep, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet”—vers. 17-19.
Not all who profess to be the Lord’s sheep are actually numbered among His own; so He distinguishes between those who truly trust Him and those who do not. He will judge those who, instead of enjoying the still waters and the green pastures, tread down the latter and defile the former, thus making them unfit for the true people of Jehovah to eat and drink.
May we not see in the behavior of those who spurn the truth of God and ridicule the testimony of Holy Scripture, a sample of this very thing today: they befoul that which means so much to the hungry and thirsty people of Christ’s flock. Because of such behavior judgment is sure to fall.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto them: Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because ye thrust with side and with shoulder, and push all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 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, Jehovah, will be their God, and My servant David prince among them; I, Jehovah, have spoken it”—vers. 20-24.
In the day when everyone’s work shall be made manifest, the Lord will judge between those who are genuine and those who are unreal; He will hold responsible those who have had anything to do with turning His own away from Himself, and will save the flock that they shall no more be a prey to their enemies. This refers undoubtedly to the time when the remnant of Israel will be gathered back to the land of Palestine, when they shall look on Him whom they have pierced and shall mourn for Him “as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zech. 12:10). Then the Lord shall set up one shepherd over them— His servant David: that is, great David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the one true Shepherd of Israel. Then indeed they will know in reality that Jehovah is their God, and the Prince of David’s house will be recognized as the promised Messiah.
“And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land; and they shall dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have broken the bars of their yoke, and have delivered them out of the hand of those that made bondmen of them. And they shall no more be a prey to the nations, neither shall the beasts of the earth devour them; but they shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up unto them a plantation for renown, and they shall be no more consumed with famine in the land, neither bear the shame of the nations any more. And they shall know that I, Jehovah their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people, saith the Lord Jehovah. And ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord Jehovah”—vers. 25-31.
In the day of Israel’s restoration to God and to the land, the Lord will recognize them as His covenant people, He Himself becoming their Protector, so that no harm will touch them in the future; evil beasts will cease out of the land, and they will dwell securely even in the wilderness or the forest; and He will order everything necessary for their welfare. No longer will the land suffer for lack of moisture: the former and the latter rains, as another prophet has told us, will be given in their season, and there shall be showers of blessing. These words have made an appeal to many hearts and spoken loudly of both spiritual and tem- poral mercies which God delights to send for the refreshment of His trusting people. We sing even today:
“There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Saviour above.”
We are thinking particularly of spiritual blessings. In that coming day God will vouchsafe blessing to Israel, both material and spiritual, which will give them to rejoice in His goodness and praise Him for His loving-kindness. All the blessings that were promised of old to those who kept His law will be given to them in that day because of the covenant of grace. The yoke of their enemies will be broken off their necks, and they will be delivered out of the hand of the Gentiles under whose bondage they have suffered for so long. No more will they be ruthlessly hunted down by haughty and contemptuous nations, but they shall dwell securely in their own land with none to make them afraid. The evils that they have had to meet throughout the centuries will trouble them no more, and Jehovah their God will be with them and will rejoice over them in that day of His power.
The last verse makes this perfectly clear, and explains fully the parable of the Shepherd and the sheep. Jehovah says, “Ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men, and I am your God.”
The Doom Of Edom
Under divine direction Ezekiel now turns to deliver a message against Mount Seir and the land of Edom. Mount Seir is definitely identified with Edom in Genesis 32:3. It was the inheritance of those who were descended from Esau (Genesis 36:8). As the Edomites were so closely related to Israel, God forbade His people to lift up the sword against them (Deut. 23:7) when they were on their way from Kadesh-Barnea to the east side of the Jordan. They were commanded definitely not to fight with the children of Esau but to ask permission to pass through their territory on the main highway. This permission the Edomites refused, and so the Israelites were obliged to take a much longer route compassing the land of Edom in order to obtain their goal. But while the Israelites sought carefully to obey the command of God in regard to their brethren, the Edomites, the latter manifested from the beginning a very different spirit toward their brethren. They not only joined at times with Israel’s enemies in seeking to wreak havoc upon them, but even if they stood by and took no part in the border conflicts that prevailed so frequently, they nevertheless rejoiced in every setback that Israel had and gloried in the victories of their enemies. All this was under the eye of God, and stirred His heart to indignation: therefore, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, and Ezekiel pronounced God’s judgment upon Edom and the entire land of Idumea, as it was later known.
We turn then to consider the present chapter which pronounces judgment on this haughty and idolatrous people.
“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it, and say unto it, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O mount Seir, and I will stretch out My hand against thee, and I will make thee a desolation and an astonishment. I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah. Because thou hast had a perpetual enmity, and hast given over the children of Israel to the power of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time of the iniquity of the end; therefore, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: since thou hast not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue thee. Thus will I make mount Seir an astonishment and a desolation; and I will cut off from it him that passeth through and him that returneth. And I will fill its mountains with its slain: in thy hills and in thy valleys and in all thy watercourses shall they fall that are slain with the sword. I will make thee a perpetual desolation, and thy cities shall not be inhabited; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah”—vers. 1-9.
Jehovah was against Mount Seir, the land which He had given to Esau, because of the attitude that its people had taken toward Israel. Therefore, He was about to stretch out His hand against the land and make it a desolation and an astonishment. The cities were to be laid waste and to become utterly desolate—a prophecy that has been literally fulfilled. As we have noticed, Edom had been a perpetual enemy against the children of Israel; not only had they themselves taken up the sword against their blood-brothers, but also they had joined with others in seeking to prevent their escape when attacked by cruel foes. In retributive judgment, the mountains, hills, and valleys of the land of Edom were to be filled with its slain by the sword. Their cities, of which Petra and Teman were the chief, were to be made desolate perpetually, and left uninhabited in order that Jehovah might be manifested as the One whose word cannot be turned aside. Students of history know how exactly this prophecy has been fulfilled.
For some centuries after Ezekiel uttered these words Edom continued as a subject country, dominated first by Babylon, then by Medo-Persia, and later, in 126 B. C, it was conquered by John Hycranus of the Maccabee family. He forced the Idumeans, who remained alive, to become Jews. When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jews were scattered throughout the world, the remnant of Edom absolutely disappeared. It is impossible to find a person whose Edomite ancestry can be identified today; but their cities remain, as predicted by Obadiah (ver. 18), and Jeremiah (49:13). One may walk through the streets of these desolate Edomite cities, particularly Petra, and enter into the houses where the frescoes on the walls are as brilliant as if painted yesterday, but there are no inhabitants. God’s word has been fulfilled to the letter. By and by when the Lord Jesus returns to reign as King and Israel will be restored to Himself, their land will include that of Edom, but the Edomites themselves will never again appear in history.
“Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall he mine, and we will possess it; whereas Jehovah was there: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I will do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast showed out of thy hatred against them; and I will make Myself known among them, when I shall judge thee. And thou Shalt know that I, Jehovah, have heard all thy revilings which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to devour. And ye have magnified yourselves against Me with your mouth, and have multiplied your words against Me: I have heard it. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. As thou didst rejoice over the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt he desolate, O mount Seir, and all Edom, even all of it; and they shall know that I am Jehovah”—vers. 10-15.
It is evident that as Edom saw the plight into which Israel had fallen they considered it their opportunity to attempt to conquer the land of Palestine, and thus unite the two nations; and in a certain sense, this is exactly what occurred temporarily, although as we have seen it was Israel who conquered Edom, but it was an Edomite who reigned over the two nations. Because of this spirit of envy and hatred, Jehovah would make Himself known to Edom. They had gone far from Him and fallen into the vilest kind of idolatry. He would judge them for their wickedness and visit their sin upon them; thus they should know that Jehovah had spoken, and that He had heard all their revilings against the mountains of Israel. Edom rejoiced to see Israel made a desolation, and declared that they had been given to them to devour. They had magnified themselves against the Lord in thus speaking against the Jews. His ear had heard their boastings, and His heart was stirred on behalf of His people. He declared that when at last the whole earth should be made to rejoice: that is, when the kingdom of God should be set up in power, Edom would remain desolate. As they rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel when it became desolate, so God will visit their iniquities upon them, and there should be another desolation—a desolation from which they should never recover.
There is surely a serious lesson for all who are guilty of what is commonly called anti-Semitism, as we contemplate this solemn prophecy. In spite of all their sins and mistakes the people of Israel are beloved for the fathers’ sake, and God takes note of every hand lifted in opposition to them and of every voice that is raised in ridicule or contumely against the people whom He called out to be His peculiar treasure. Their failures do not warrant our joining with any people in helping to make conditions worse for them. Rather should we seek to do what we can to alleviate their grief and help to bring them to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise we may depend upon it that He who judged Edom because of its attitude toward Israel, will not overlook similar conduct on the part of Gentiles today, even though they be professing Christians.
Born Of Water And Of The Spirit
We have seen already that Israel’s glorious future as a nation settled in the land of Palestine under Messiah’s beneficent and righteous rule, depends primarily upon the return of the remnant to God. Not until they are regenerated by the Spirit and the Word will they be prepared to enter into fulness of blessing. This comes out very clearly in the present chapter. Undoubtedly our blessed Lord had this portion of Scripture in mind when, after informing Nicodemus of the importance of new birth by water and the Spirit, He gently reproved him for his ignorance in not knowing these things; for had he but apprehended the teaching given here he would have understood what the Saviour meant when He spoke of the new birth of water and of the Spirit in order that one might enter into the kingdom of God.
The first part of our chapter has to do with the coming restoration of the people to the land—a restoration which, as we know, has begun even now, although in unbelief, and will never bring settled peace to Israel until they return in heart to the Lord Himself.
“And thou, son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha! and, The ancient high places are ours in possession; therefore prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because, even because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the nations, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and the evil report of the people; therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes and to the cities that are forsaken, which are become a prey and derision to the residue of the nations that are round about; therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Surely in the fire of My jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the nations, and against all Edom, that have appointed My land unto themselves for a possession with the joy of all their heart, with despite of soul, to cast it out for a prey. Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath, because ye have borne the shame of the nations: therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I have sworn, saying, Surely the nations that are round about you, they shall bear their shame”—vers. 1-7.
Observe that in this message the prophet is commanded to address himself directly to the mountains of Israel: that is, he speaks rather to the land itself than to the people, and this of course that the people may learn from his message what God has in store for Palestine in the latter days. In the light of what has happened within the last thirty years we can almost apply these words literally to the present time, but they will have a more complete fulfilment later on. Already has that land, which lay desolate so long, begun to answer to the description given in this chapter of what God is yet to do for it.
Throughout the long centuries of Gentile dominion Palestine has been made desolate; the enemies of Israel have swallowed her up on every side, and one great power after another has dominated the land of which Jehovah said so long ago, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine” (Lev. 25:23). Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, Egyptian, Syrian, Roman, Turk, and other powers have fought for pos- session of Palestine. God has taken note of all the bitter enmity that these nations have manifested toward Israel, and He will never overlook the manner in which they have made Palestine a prey. Their attitude toward the land of the people of Jehovah’s choice has stirred the fire of His jealousy, so that He has declared His judgments against all nations that seek to take possession of that land and bring His people into bondage. He has sworn in His indignation and concern for Israel, that as they have borne the shame of the nations so the nations themselves, who have been the cause of Israel’s distress, should be put to shame in the coming day of the Lord. At that time the land will be freed from the treading down of the Gentiles, and the remnant of Israel will return to it, a chastened and repentant people.
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown; and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded; and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former estate, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even My people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of children. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because they say unto you, Thou land art a devourer of men, and hast been a bereaver of thy nation; therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nation any more, saith the Lord Jehovah; neither will I let thee hear any more the shame of the nations, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the peoples any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nation to stumble any more, saith the Lord Jehovah”—vers. 8-15.
Still addressing the mountains of Israel, Ezekiel predicts that in God’s due time great forests shall once more cover them and orchards yield their fruit to the people of Israel, for they are at hand to come.
For two millennia the mountains of Israel have to a great extent been denuded of their forests, only a few groves have remained of the once famous cedars of Lebanon, but during the past three decades, under the British mandate, a great movement has been set on foot for the reforestation of the mountains, and millions of trees have been planted—all this in preparation for the coming back to their own land of God’s ancient people.
If we did not know that God has something more for Israel than simply her restoration as a nation, we might think that these verses are now having a complete fulfilment. That which we see is in perfect accord with what is presented here, but it is simply a beginning of that which God has in mind, and which will have complete fulfilment after the great tribulation is past and Messiah has appeared in glory. Then the city shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded. That land which lay desolate, a great desert with just here and there a fruitful oasis, will increase in abundance with orchards, vineyards, dairy farms and other evidences of the divine pleasure. At the present time such renewed conditions are the wonder of the world, but we must remember that the time of Jacob’s trouble is in the future. Much that is being done will be undone because .of the wars that are to ravage that land in the time of the end; but eventually all will be literally fulfilled as indicated here, and Israel shall possess their former inheritance and never again be bereaved of her children.
Because of the manifold conflicts in which Palestine has been involved, the nations have considered it a devourer of men, and it has seemed as though there was no possibility of Israel’s rehabilitation, but God’s Word is sure, and He will see that every prophecy is fulfilled to the letter. In the coming day of glory the land shall be able to sustain in abundant measure a great population who, through the entire kingdom age, will flourish in peace and happiness. The nations of the world will no longer reproach Israel nor cause them to stumble, but will recognize the fact that they are indeed the people of Jehovah.
All their past sufferings and those which they are yet to undergo in that awful hour of the great tribulation when the vials of the wrath of God will be poured out upon the earth, are the result of the sins to which they have given themselves.
“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they denied it by their way and by their doings: their way before Me was as the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. Wherefore I poured out My wrath upon them for the blood which they had poured out upon the land, and because they had defiled it with their idols; and I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they came unto the nations, whither they went, they profaned My holy name; in that men said of them, These are the people of Jehovah, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had regard for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, whither they went”—vers. 16-21.
When God gave Palestine to Israel in the beginning, He warned them against following after the customs of the nations out of which He had delivered them, and of those nations that surrounded their territory, but they paid no heed to this, and so the land became defiled by their evil ways and their wicked actions. Because of this, God poured out His wrath upon them. Innocent blood had been shed in libation to their idols, thus defiling the land even more: therefore God gave them a baptism of blood in righteous retribution. He scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the lands of the earth, judging them according to their evil ways. When thus scattered among the Gentiles, instead of returning in heart to Him, they profaned His holy name, even as the Apostle Paul tells us in the Epistle to the Romans, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (2:24). Though they had thus dishonored Him, He still preserved His watch over them and made it impossible for their enemies to destroy them utterly.
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name, which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went. And I will sanctify My great name, which hath been profaned among the nations, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, saith the Lord Jehovah, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God. And I will save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations. Then shall ye remember your evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations”—vers. 22-31.
Not for their own sake was Jehovah to act but for the glory of His holy name which they had profaned. In order to sanctify that great name He pledged Himself to carry out the promise of restoration. When the day comes that His Word in this regard is fulfilled all nations will recognize the fact that Jehovah has kept His covenant, and thus His name will be sanctified before their eyes. Note the particularity of the promises in regard to their regeneration. The Lord has declared, “I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.” Then in accordance with our Lord’s words to Nicodemus, He declares, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols.” We know from other scriptures that this refers to the washing of water by the Word. In Psalm 119:9 we read, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” When that Word is received by Israel and takes effect, it will result in the cleansing of their ways and thus fit them to enter again into fellowship with God.
“A new heart,” He says, “will I give you,” and “a new spirit will I put within you.” This is the new birth of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. Had Nicodemus been as careful a student of the Prophets as his profession implied, being a doctor of the law, he would not have been bewildered when Jesus spoke of being born of water and of the Spirit. He would have understood that the Word of God was to be applied to the hearts and consciences of the people in the power of the Holy Spirit. The stony heart of unbelief would be taken from them, and God would give them a heart of flesh. Moreover, He promised to put His own Spirit within them and cause them to walk in His statutes and delight in His ordinances. Just as truly as Scripture teaches the second coming of Christ so it predicts the second coming of the Holy Spirit. He came at Pentecost to baptize believers into one Body and to dwell in the Church, empowering it for testimony. He will be poured out from on high in the day of Israel’s restoration, and will indwell the regenerated people who will then be gathered back to their land, never more to be rooted out of it. In that day God will own them as His people, and He will be their God. The Lo-Ammi sentence of Hosea 1:9 will then be repealed, and those whom He refused to acknowledge as His own during the long dispersion will be recognized by Him again when they have come back to Him in confession of sin and recognition of His righteousness. Thus, they will be saved from all their uncleannesses, and it will be the delight of Jehovah to pour out upon them every temporal mercy as well as spiritual blessing: then they will look back over the years of their wanderings, and as they remember their evil ways and their doings, they will loathe themselves in their own sight because of these iniquities and abominations.
“Not for your sake do I this, saith the Lord Jehovah, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your -ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: In the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, whereas it was a desolation in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, Jehovah, have builded the ruined places, and planted that which was desolate: I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and I will do it”—vers. 32-36.
All God’s dealings in regard to Israel’s future blessing will be in pure grace; nothing will be on the ground of merit, for they have merited only judgment. They will be ashamed and confounded as they reflect on their failures and His manifold mercies. The Lord will show by His care for them in temporal things how fully He has cleansed them from their iniquities and forgiven all their sins. Their cities will be inhabited; their waste places will be built; their former desolate lands will be covered with fruitful farms and orchards; and the nations that once looked upon them with contempt will exclaim with amazement as they behold the land that was once desolate, and as they see formerly ruined cities rebuilt and inhabited, “It is become like the garden of Eden.” It is an unimpeachable testimony to the power and the faithfulness of Jehovah the God of Israel, who never calls back His word, but who declares, “I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and I will do it.”
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: For this, moreover, will I he inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them: I will increase them with men like a flock. As the flock for sacrifice, as the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men; and they shall know that I am Jehovah”—vers. 37, 38.
In view of these manifold promises of future blessing, God would have His people Israel take all these things to heart and turn to Him even now, confessing their sin and looking to Him to hasten the fulfilment of His Word. This should ever be the effect of prophetic testimony upon the soul. It was never the thought of God simply to occupy the people with future events, what we might call the political aspect of prophetic fulfilment, but rather that the promises made might exercise the heart of those who read them and humble them before God, turning them to Him in contrition of heart and confession of sin, that thus they might enter even now into the reality of the blessedness of iniquities forgiven, and fellowship with God enjoyed.
The Valley Of Dry Bones
This vision brings before us the spiritual condition of Israel nationally during all the long centuries of the dispersion. Having turned away from God they are characterized no longer, as a people, by divine life. Not only has blindness in part happened to them so that they find it difficult, even when reading their own Scriptures, to discern the mind of God, but also they are actually dead in trespasses and in sins, as are the Gentiles whom once they despised, because of their ignorance of the law and of the true God.
In vision Ezekiel found himself set down in a deep valley filled with dry bones. He says:
“The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. And He caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord Jehovah, Thou knowest. Again He said unto me, Prophesy over these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah”—vers. 1-6.
Commanded by Jehovah to look all about him, he noticed that in every part of the valley these bones were seen, and they were very many and very dry; in other words, there was not the slightest evidence of spiritual life. Then came the question, asked by God Himself, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Surely none but He who asked the question could answer it. So far as human power is concerned it must have seemed impossible that they would ever be revived. As we come in contact with individual Israelites today we find that the most discouraging work in the world is that of trying to bring them to a saving knowledge of their own Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. So utterly dead are they to the great truths of their own Scriptures that it is only as the Spirit of God moves upon them that they can apprehend in any sense these tremendous verities. We are told in the New Testament, “It pleased God by the foolishness” (or the simplicity) “of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). And so Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy over these bones: that is, to proclaim the message of God, saying to them, “O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah.” He Himself declared that the day would come when He would cause breath to enter into them and they should live, for He would put sinews upon them and bring flesh upon them, and cover them with skin, and put breath in them, that they might once more respond to His love and know that He is Jehovah. We are reminded of the prayer of David in Psalm 119:25, “Quicken Thou me according to Thy word”; and the Lord Jesus has told us, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). So when the life-giving Word goes forth in the energy of the Holy Spirit even poor, dead, dry Israelites will be revived and will know that God has spoken.
Immediately upon hearing the divine command Ezekiel began to prophesy or preach to the bones, and the results were manifest at once.
“So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and, behold, an earthquake; and the hones came together, bone to its bone. And I beheld, and lo, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army”—vers. 7-10.
As Ezekiel proclaimed the word there was a noise as of thunder and a tremendous shaking of the earth; and then, before the prophet’s startled eyes, the bones came together, each one fitted to the other, until they formed complete human skeletons. In another moment sinews and flesh came upon them and skin covered them, and they became perfect human bodies, but there was no breath or life in them. Again the word of the Lord came to the prophet, saying, “Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So far as I have been able to discern this is the only place in sacred Scripture where we have prayer addressed directly to the Holy Spirit. Ordinarily, as we see in Eph. 2:18, prayer is by or in the energy of the Spirit to the Father in the name of the Son; but here we have a definite case where one was commanded to speak directly to the Holy Spirit, for the term “wind” here can mean no other than He who is the blessed life-giving Spirit of God. It is He who quickens the dead; and in answer to this prayer, breath came into these resurrected bodies, and they stood up upon their feet an exceeding great army.
We need to remember that all this was in vision and is not to be taken as referring to a literal physical res- urrection of the dead. That Scripture does teach such a resurrection—in fact, two resurrections: one of the just, and the other of the unjust—is perfectly clear; but that is not what is contemplated here. This is rather a fulfilment in vision of what is predicted in Daniel 12:2, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” These words might be applied to the two resurrections just referred to: the one before, and the other after the millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, but the connection in which they are found in Daniel 12 makes it evident, in my judgment, that the resurrection there depicted is a national resuscitation, such as we have in our present chapter.
For long centuries Israel has been a dead nation, sleeping among the Gentiles. In the day of Jehovah’s power, they will be brought out from their graves, gathered from the countries into which they have been dispersed, and appear as an exceeding great host: those in whose hearts faith is found entering into everlasting life, and those who refuse to believe the message of that day given over to shame and everlasting contempt.
The explanation of Ezekiel’s vision is given very clearly in the next few verses:
“Then He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people. And I will put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I will place you in your own land: and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken it and performed it, saith Jehovah”—vers. 11-14.
The identification is complete. These bones are the whole house of Israel. In their distress they have said, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” But they are yet to learn that Jehovah has better things in store for them: He is going to open their graves; that is, cause them to come up out of the condition in which they have been for so long as scattered over the world, suffering under the hand of the Gentiles, and He will bring them into the land of Israel. Then indeed they shall know that they have to do with Jehovah when He has renewed them as a nation and delivered them from the hopeless condition that has been theirs for so long. At that time, as we have seen in the previous chapter, they will be regenerated as a people. God will put His own Spirit within them, and they shall live, and He will place them securely in their own land, thus fulfilling all that He has spoken concerning them.
“The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, And thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: and join them for thee one to another into one stick, that they may become one in thy hand. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with it, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thy hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 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; neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God”—vers. 15-23.
Following the death of Solomon the nation had been divided into two parts, the northern kingdom going by the name of Israel, and the southern kingdom by the name of Judah. That difference continued until the dispersion of both peoples, but when God restores them to Himself again the two houses of Israel will be united in one, nevermore to be separated. So the prophet was commanded to take sticks, or pilgrim rods, and to write upon one the name Judah, and upon the other the name Israel. These were to be joined one to another so that both could be held with a single hand; and in this way he was to picture the union of the two kingdoms in the coming day. When the people of the captivity inquired of him what was meant by his carrying the two sticks in one hand thus united to each other, he was to declare the truth that God had revealed to him, and tell them that Jehovah had said He would take the children of Israel from among the nations whither they had gone, and gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land, and make them one nation in that land upon the mountains of Israel, and set one king over them all. Moreover, they would be divided no more into two kingdoms; nor should they be denied by idolatry and other detestable things, but they would be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and cleansed from their sins, and openly acknowledged by God as His people, even as they would own Him as their God.
This is the glorious future which, according to the universal testimony of the Prophets, is yet in store for Israel. In that day Messiah, the Son of David, will be recognized as their King and Shepherd.
“And My servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and David My servant shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the nations shall know that I am Jehovah that sanctifieth Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore”—vers. 24-28.
“My servant David,” God says, “shall be king over them.” I do not understand this to mean that David himself will be raised and caused to dwell on the earth as king. Some have thought this. It may be true, but it seems to me as one considers other scriptures, that the implication is that He who was David’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is to be the King, and thus David’s throne will be re-established. The Lord Jesus, when here on earth, declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, and spoke of the gathering together of the children of God scattered abroad, and said there should be one flock. This is true now concerning Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in Him; it will be true also in millennial days when He will feed His flock like a shepherd, and those of Israel and those from among the Gentiles will together own His righteous sway and rejoice in His shepherd care. No man will then rebel against the law of God, but they will walk in obedience to His ordinances and observe His statutes, glorying in the fact that they belong to Him. Nor shall they ever again be driven out of the land which God gave by covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They shall dwell in the land with none to make them afraid, and under the benign sway of Messiah, the Son of David, who will be their Prince forever, they will delight in obedience to God. At that time a covenant of peace will be made with the people in accordance with God’s promise through Jeremiah, to confirm a new covenant with Israel and Judah; this will be an everlasting covenant with no possibility of its ever being broken because of the fact that it will be a covenant of pure grace. The blood of that covenant has been shed already on Calvary’s cross, but not until the time of the end will Israel come into the good of it. Then after restoration to God and to their land, Jehovah will set His sanctuary in the midst of them. When He brought them out of Egypt He put into their hearts the desire to make a dwelling-place for Him that He might live among them. The tabernacle in the wilderness was such a dwelling-place but only for a short time. Solomon’s temple was owned of God in this way but soon became defiled. When the day of restoration comes the tabernacle of the Lord will again be set up in the midst of Israel, and He will be their God, and they shall be His people. Then they will understand that He is Jehovah the Sanctifier who shall set Israel apart for Himself and dwell in the sanctuary which will be rebuilt in Palestine, never to be destroyed so long as the world lasts.
A Vast Northern Confederacy Of Israel’s Enemies
Chapters 38 and 39 really form one complete prophecy and have to do with a vast confederation of nations from north of the Black and Caspian Seas, extending down to Persia on the east, and to North Africa on the southwest, who in the latter days will be leagued together in a great offensive against the Jewish nation after its return to the land of Palestine. There has been much attention directed to these chapters during recent years and many idle speculations as to the exact time when these northern powers will make an onslaught upon the land of Palestine. Some consider that the complete fulfilment of the prophecy may take place at any time, even while the Church is still here on earth and the Jews are gathering back to their ancient land in unbelief. Others who have a clearer conception of the prophetic plan and recognize the fact that many Old Testament predictions of judgment have not yet been fulfilled, believe these chapters have to do largely with conditions that will prevail during the last seventieth week of Daniel’s great time-prophecy, as given in his ninth chapter. To these it seems unthinkable that this prophecy should have its fulfilment during the present age, in the great parenthesis between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Some indeed whose deep insight into the prophetic Word cannot be denied, have held and taught that it would be after the Lord had actually returned and set up His kingdom in Palestine, possibly between the close of the 1290 days and the end of the 1335 days of Daniel 12, that this onslaught would take place. This seems incongruous, as the words of the Holy Spirit, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7), would seem to teach us very definitely that the Lord’s second advent will be visible, not only in Palestine but also in some remarkable sense throughout the whole world: therefore, one can scarcely imagine vast populations unaware that He has actually returned and set up the throne of David in Jerusalem, and their venturing to attempt to subjugate Israel’s land subsequent to this glorious event.
In Zech. 14:1-4 we are told of the gathering of all nations against Jerusalem, an event which certainly takes place just prior to the manifestation of Christ as King, when His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives. It would seem, therefore, that these northern and eastern hordes must be included among the armies that will then invade Palestine, and therefore the onslaught depicted in this chapter will take place toward the close of the great tribulation.
It is well to remember, however, that there are doubtless many details of unfulfilled prophecy concerning which we may not have an absolutely clear understanding at the present time, but which will all become plain after the Church has been caught away from this scene and God is dealing with the remnant of Israel, whose eyes will be opened to understand their own Scriptures in a way that we perhaps cannot.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Bosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Eehold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Bosh, Meshech, and Tubal: and I will turn thee about, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them handling swords: Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer, and all his hordes; the house of Togarmah in the uttermost parts of the north, and all his hordes; even many peoples with thee”—vers. 1-6.
Gog is said to mean “extension,” and Magog “expansion.” The two terms might well indicate the ruler of a vast territory, greater perhaps than that over which anyone else holds authority. Gog is designated as the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.
The word “Rosh” admittedly is used again and again in Scripture for head or chief; but the construction of the text here has led the revisers as well as many other translators, even one so conservative in some respects as James Moffatt, to take the word “Rosh” as indicating a country. Remembering that there are no vowels in the Hebrew, it seems that Rosh then is really that land which we know as Russia. Meshech and Tubal—names found in the book of Genesis—have been identified as the progenitors of Scythian tribes located in the region of the Black and Caspian Seas. There seems to be little reason to doubt but that these tribes were the progenitors of the peoples in both Europe and Asia, who eventually were welded into the vast Russian empire.
Russia has been dominated in late years, as we know, by a thoroughly atheistic group of leaders opposed to everything in the way of divine revelation and the recognition of spiritual realities. While the Russian people are incurably religious even to superstition, yet their leaders have, ever since the Revolution, been committed to an anti-religious program.
In the last days the final head of the Russian people will look with covetous eyes upon the great developments going on in the land of Palestine, and will determine that Russia must have her part of the wealth there produced. Consequently, we have the picture which the prophet brings before us—that of a vast army augmented by warriors from Persia, Cush, and Put, marching down toward Palestine.
Cush seems to refer to Ethiopia, but there was also a Cush in the Arabian Peninsula; it may be impossible to identify the exact people referred to until the prophecy is actually being fulfilled.
Put, or Phut, as it is in the Hebrew, seems to be identical with Libya in North Africa. These allied nations with all the hordes of the Cimmerians—or as the Authorized Version renders it, Gomer, which is generally supposed to refer to the tribes that dwelt along the Danube and the Rhine, later forming the German empire—and with the house of Togarmah, or Armenia, will become a formidable host indeed as they move on toward the mountains of Israel. To them it will seem as though the taking of that land will be an easy accomplishment, but they are to know eventually that it is not the Jews with whom they have to do but the Eternal One, the God of Israel.
In verses 7 to 9 we note the spirit that actuates them.
“Be thou prepared, yea, prepare thyself, thou, and all thy companies that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, that is gathered out of many peoples, upon the mountains of Israel, which have been a continual waste; but it is brought forth out of the peoples, and they shall dwell securely, all of them. And thou shalt ascend, thou shalt come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy hordes, and many peoples with thee”—vers. 7-9.
It is after many days that this great confederation will be formed, in the latter years after Israel returns to the land—that is, brought back from the sword. That country which has been so long a continual waste will become prosperous because of its productive or« chards, vineyards, and dairy farms, its chemical plants, on the shores of the Dead Sea, and great manufacturing concerns, which will be developed there through Jewish ingenuity. All this will stir the cupidity of Gog and his confederates so that they shall come down like a great cloud to cover the land, determined to subject it to their own authority, but they will find soon who it is with whom they have to do.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: It shall come to pass in that day, that things shall come into thy mind, and thou shalt devise an evil device: and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of un-walled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither “bars nor gates; to take the spoil and to take the prey; to turn thy hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and against the people that are gathered out of the nations, that have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the middle of the earth. Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take the spoil? Hast thou assembled thy company to take the prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take great spoil?”—vers. 10-13.
Thinking that it will be an easy thing to subdue a people practically unarmed and dwelling in a land of unwalled villages, this great army sets forth with boldness and self-assurance, determined to enrich themselves by the spoils of Israel: however, they are to find themselves antagonized by a group of peoples who have befriended the Jew. Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish will be aroused and alarmed, and will prepare to come to the defense of Israel.
Sheba and Dedan doubtless refer to Arab peoples, but Tarshish is generally identified with the lands of the far west of Europe, including perhaps a part of Spain but very definitely Great Britain. It was from Tarshish of old that the Phoenicians obtained tin, and the word Britannia means “the land of tin,” as we have noted before. Britain has for many centuries been a friend of the Jews, and possibly with the help of other nations, she will prepare to defy the armies of Gog; but that help will not be needed, for God Himself is going to deal with this vast atheistic power.
In the verses that follow we see the hosts of Gog moving on in their might, knowing not that they are simply going to their doom.
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say unto Gog, Thus salth the Lord Jehovah: In that day when My people Israel dwelleth securely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the uttermost parts of the north, thou, and many peoples with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; and thou shalt come up against My people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land: it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring thee against My land, that the nations may know Me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes”—vers. 14-16.
Having returned to Palestine the Jews will engage in building up their interests in that country. They will be alarmed as word reaches them concerning the many peoples and the mighty army coming against them: but their alarm will be needless, for they are to learn that it is God Himself who, in the latter days, will bring Gog against the land in order that He may deal with him in judgment, and thus be sanctified in the eyes of those who have boldly declared, “There is no God.”
The form which that judgment will take comes out clearly in the closing section of the chapter.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Art thou he of whom I spake in old time by My servants the prophets of Israel, that prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring thee against them? And it shall come to pass in that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, that My wrath shall come up into My nostrils. For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall he a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at My presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him unto all My mountains, saith the Lord Jehovah: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And with pestilence and with blood will I enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him, and upon his hordes, and upon the many peoples that are with him, an overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. And I will magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself, and I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah”—vers. 17-23.
When it will seem as though Palestine’s doom is sealed and Israel will be unable to escape the power of these selfish and vindictive enemies, Jehovah Himself will deal with them: He will speak in His indignation, and the nations shall learn that He is concerned about the deliverance of His people. First will come a mighty-earthquake that will wreak havoc upon the enemies of Israel, filling the hearts of their followers with fear and dread as well as destroying many of them. This will be followed by anarchy, and pestilence will break out among the hosts led by Gog, and great natural calamities, hailstones, fire, and brimstone falling from the skies, will literally annihilate the over-confident armies led by the prince of Kosh.
The details of their destruction are given us in the next chapter.
The Doom Of Israel’s Enemy
Doubtless when the leader of the northern confederacy orders his armies to press on to the land of Palestine in the last days he will have laid his plans very definitely for its complete subjugation, and will be counting on an easy victory because of the overwhelming number of men at his disposal. But he will learn, as many others have learned in the past, that he who rushes upon the thick bosses of the Almighty must be defeated. He who is Israel’s all-powerful Protector will undertake to deliver His people by destroying their mighty foe. It is of this that we read in the following verses.
“And thou, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Bosh, Meshech, and Tubal: and I ‘will turn thee about, and will lead thee on, and will cause thee to come up from the uttermost parts of the north; and I will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel; and I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy hordes, and the peoples that are with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah. And I will send a fire on Magog, and on them that dwell securely in the isles; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. And My holy name will I make known in the midst of My people Israel; neither will I suffer My holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it cometh, and it shall be done, saith the Lord Jehovah; this is the day whereof I have spoken. And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall make fires of the weapons and burn them, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall make fires of them seven years; so that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall make fires of the weapons; and they shall plunder those that plundered them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord Jehovah”—vers. 1-10.
The mighty armies of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, when brought down from the far north to attack the highlands of Israel, will find themselves utterly unable to cope with the disasters that will face them.
Following the events described in the last section of the previous chapter, we are told here that their destruction will be so complete that their dead bodies will be left as food for all kinds of ravenous birds and wild beasts to devour. Israel will not be obliged to defend themselves, for the Lord will act for them. So terrible and all-embracing will be the destruction of the vast armies of these allied powers that the wood of their weapons will serve as fuel for the people of Israel for seven full years, during which time it will not be necessary to hew down any trees of the forest, because the plunder of those who had intended to plunder Israel will suffice for all purposes as far as fuel is concerned. Some have thought it strange in this age of metallic warfare that such a prophecy could ever be fulfilled literally, but undoubtedly in the coming day many weapons and vehicles of various sorts will be, to a large extent, composed of wood, at least in the area out of which the northern hordes will be gathered. We may not understand fully every detail of the prophecy, but we can be assured that in its own time it will be fulfilled to the letter.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place for burial in Israel, the valley of them that pass through on the east of the sea; and it shall stop them that pass through: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude; and they shall call it The valley of Hamon-gog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying them, that they may cleanse the land. Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown in the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord Jehovah. And they shall set apart men of continual employment, that shall pass through the land, and, with them that pass through, those that bury them that remain upon the face of the land, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. And they that pass through the land shall pass through; and when any seeth a man’s bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. And Hamonah shall also be the name of a city. Thus shall they cleanse the land”—vers. 11-16.
So suddenly will death claim the myriads who formed these armies that there will be no opportunity to bury their own dead. The blow will come as it were in a moment: the dead bodies will be strewn everywhere in the valley of Hamon-gog, which in all likelihood will be the same as the valley of Mageddo or Jezreel, where the different nations are to be destroyed by fire from heaven at the time of the end. These decayed corpses will poison the very air, and would be a source of grievous pestilence to the whole land if steps were not taken almost immediately to properly inter them: therefore, a great squad of grave-diggers will be formed whose business it will be to go throughout the entire section where Gog’s army has been destroyed, and bury the bodies in order to cleanse the land. For seven months this work will continue before the last bodies will have been covered from human sight. Anyone passing through this region beholding bones or corpses will be required to set up a sign in order that the buriers may see it and so inter the body as soon as possible. In this way the land will be cleansed from its defilement and the air purified.
In the meantime, birds and beasts that feed upon carrion will assist in the work of clearing away the rotting corpses.
“And thou, son of man, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Speak unto the birds of every sort, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to My sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. And ye shall be filled at My table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord Jehovah”—vers. 17-20.
One is reminded as he reads these words of that which we have in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, when the fowls of the air are called to the great supper of God to glut themselves on the flesh of kings, captains, and mighty men, of horses and those that sat thereon.
It is evident that the various powers to be destroyed in the last days will be dealt with similarly. God Himself will pour out His wrath upon those who have spurned His grace and have arrayed themselves in red-handed opposition to earth’s rightful King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The effect of this judgment upon the nations is given in the verses that follow:
“And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see My judgment that I have executed, and My hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am Jehovah their God, from that day and forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they trespassed against Me, and I hid My face from them: so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they fell all of them by the sword. According to their unclean-ness and according to their transgressions did I unto them; and I hid My face from them”—vers. 21-24.
Jehovah’s glory will be manifested among the nations when they see the judgment that shall be executed upon Gog. The house of Israel, too, will recognize then that Jehovah their God had intervened on their behalf, and they will turn to Him as in the days of their fathers when He brought them out of Egypt. The nations will understand then that all the sufferings that the house of Israel has endured through the many centuries of its captivity and the scattering among the Gentiles, was because of its iniquities. The people had trespassed against God, and therefore He had turned His face from them and given them over to the hand of their enemies; and so throughout all the centuries they had fallen by the sword, and because of their uncleanness and their manifold transgressions, God refused to intervene for them but turned away His face when they cried to Him. But in the coming day all this will be at an end, for they will turn back to Him in repentance, and He will turn His face upon them in blessing.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Now will I bring back the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. And they shall bear their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against Me, when they shall dwell securely in their land, and none shall make them afraid; when I have brought them back from the peoples, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations. And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, in that I caused them to go into captivity among the nations, and have gathered them unto their own land; and I will leave none of them any more there; neither will I hide My face any more from them; for I have poured out My Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah”—vers. 25-29.
It seems very clear from this portion of the prophecy that the full return of the captivity of Jacob will be after the onslaught and the defeat of Gog and his hosts. This seems to prove definitely that the events we have been considering as set forth in these two chapters, will take place during the time of the great tribulation and before the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. Israel will understand then the reason for their suffering throughout the centuries, and will return in repentance to the God against whom they have sinned, who will in His infinite grace forgive their iniquities and restore them to Himself. Then they shall dwell safely in their own land with none to make them afraid. When He shall bring them back from the peoples, that is, from the Gentiles among whom they have been scattered for so long, and gather them out of all their enemies’ lands, and be sanctified in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that Jehovah is indeed their God—Jehovah revealed—in that day, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who caused them to go into captivity will re-gather them; He will leave none of them to wander longer among the nations, neither will He continue to hide His face from them, but will look upon them in infinite grace and loving-kindness. When they bow before Him as a repentant, believing people, He will pour out His Spirit upon the house of Israel, and acknowledge them once more as His own.
This closes another section of Ezekiel’s prophecy, in which God emphasized the sin of His people and their consequent suffering, but also revealed His purpose of grace to restore them when they have learned the important lesson that it is indeed an evil and a bitter thing to forsake the Lord their God. Humbled before Him, contrite and penitent, they will confess their sin and find restoration.
The chapters that follow are of quite a different character, and give an apocalyptic view of the restored nation worshiping in the land when Jehovah’s Prince dwells among them.