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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Ezekiel 21

 

 

Verses 1-32

Chapter Twenty-one

The Parting Of The Ways

In God’s dealings, both with individuals and with nations, He first instructs, then admonishes if they turn away from His word. Where repentance is manifested He delights to pour out blessing, but where instructions and pleadings are met with determined and wilful rejection, He deals finally in judgment. This comes out very clearly in the present chapter, where we see that all His pleadings with Judah had availed nothing so far as bringing them to repentance was concerned. Consequently, the destroyer of the Gentiles was permitted to come down upon the land, taking vengeance on those who had so utterly disregarded the covenant made between Jehovah and Israel at Sinai.

“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the sanctuaries, and prophesy against the land of Israel; and say to the land of Israel, Thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth My sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked. Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall My sword go forth out of its sheath against all flesh from the south to the north: and all flesh shall know that I, Jehovah, have drawn forth My sword out of its sheath; it shall not return any more. Sigh therefore, thou son of man; with the breaking of thy loins and with bitterness shalt thou sigh before their eyes. And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt say, Because of the tidings, for it cometh; and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and it shall be done, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 1-7.

The term “son of man” used here in ver. 2, and elsewhere in this book, seems to designate Ezekiel as the representative man standing for God among His people in a day of apostasy. He who had pleaded on their behalf was now called upon to set his face against Jerusalem and to declare the judgments that were destined to fall upon the land of Israel which was covered with heathen sanctuaries, all of which were an offense to Jehovah who had declared Himself to be the one true and living God. Because of their many sins He arrayed Himself against them and was about to draw His sword out of its sheath and cut them off as a people. This would involve the destruction of the righteous with the wicked; it could not be otherwise when an invading army swept over the land. But though the righteous may have to suffer in a temporal way, their souls will be gathered with all those in whom God had found faith throughout the centuries.

The sword of the Lord in this instance was really the sword wielded by Nebuchadnezzar. In other words, God had put that sword into his hands and instructed him to use it against all flesh from the south to the north, that all in those nations might know that it was a divine judgment which was falling upon them.

Though it was given to Ezekiel to declare this, there was not to be on his part any hardness of spirit or inward satisfaction when he saw his prophecies being fulfilled; rather he was to deliver the word of Jehovah in bitterness of soul as he realized what his people were to suffer because of their many offenses. He could not but sigh even as he proclaimed the word. When his hearers should look on and ask the reason for this perturbation of spirit, he was to reply that it was on account of the invading armies, before which every heart should melt, and their own hands should be feeble, and the spirit of every man in Israel should faint, and all knees should be weak as water. Nothing could now restrain the judgment so long deserved, but which God held in check ever since the days of the godly king Josiah.

The prophet has more to tell us about the sword of the Lord in verses 8 to 17.

“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah: Say, A sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also furbished; it is sharpened that it may make a slaughter; it is furbished that it may be as lightning: shall we then make mirth? the rod of My son, it contemneth every tree. And it is given to be furbished, that it may be handled: the sword, it is sharpened, yea, it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. Cry and wail, son of man; for it is upon My people, it is upon all the princes of Israel: they are delivered over to the sword with My people; smite therefore upon thy thigh. For there is a trial; and what if even the rod that contemneth shall be no more? saith the Lord Jehovah. Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thy hands together; and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the deadly wounded: it is the sword of the great one that is deadly wounded, which entereth into their chambers. I have set the threatening sword against all their gates, that their heart may melt, and their stumblings be multiplied: ah! it is made as lightning, it is pointed for slaughter. Gather thee together, go to the right, set thyself in array, go to the left, whithersoever thy face is set. I will also smite My hands together, and I will cause My wrath to rest: I, Jehovah, have spoken it”-vers. 8-17.

Jehovah commanded Ezekiel to cry, “A sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also furbished”; that is, scoured in order that it might gleam brightly as it flashed in the hands of the warrior, like lightning striking down all who came in its way.

In view of the terrible conditions which this implied, the question is asked, Shall we then make mirth? The human heart is ever ready to minimize and make light of the judgments of God, and men, instead of being sobered by divine visitations and brought to repentance, often try to forget unpleasant conditions, and in order to keep their morale, join in all kinds of folly and sin-like those of whom we read in the book of Revelation, who will be making merry in the day of wrath, sending presents one to another. Times such as those that Israel was called to pass through and which many nations have endured in the last half’ century, call for sobriety and seriousness of purpose rather than for careless joviality and merriment.

“No room for mirth or trifling here

For worldly hope or worldly fear,

If life so soon is gone,

If now the Judge is at the door,

And all mankind must stand before

The inexorable throne.”

It is far better, in such solemn times, to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, as the preacher tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes; but men in their folly try to forget reality by frivolous behavior and incitement to joviality. If ever there was a time when people ought to be serious, it is when the judgments of God are abroad in the land and when the rod of chastisement is falling upon His people.

This furbished sword of the Lord is sharpened that it might deal out death to everyone who dared to stand against it. It was to be given into the hand of the slayer; namely, the King of Babylon and his armies. To stand against these would be useless, for God had forsaken His people because of their sins. Therefore. Ezekiel was to cry and wail because of the judgments that were to fall on his people and upon all the princes of Israel, who were to be delivered over to the sword and smitten upon the thigh-that is, in the place of strength-they were to be cut down in weakness. Nothing could turn back the invader now: the day for repentance is past. The sword which had already been unsheathed in the hand of Pharaoh-necho, and earlier by Nebuchadnezzar, was now to be used the third time, and is designated as the sword of the deadly wounded. Against all the gates of the cities of Judah this glittering sword was to be seen until the hearts of the people should melt and they would stumble in their blindness and wickedness as the Chaldean armies, like lightning, came down upon the land. It made no difference where the people should turn, whether they went to the right or to the left, God’s wrath would find them out and they would fall before the invader, for Jehovah had spoken it.

In verses 18 to 23 we see the King of Babylon standing at the parting of the ways, where the slightest thing might have turned him northward rather than southward to invade the land of Palestine, but inasmuch as God Himself had decreed the latter, the king’s own diviners advised him to take that course.

“The word of Jehovah, came unto me again, saying, Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the King of Babylon may come; they twain shall come forth out of one land: and mark out a place, mark it out at the head of the way to the city. Thou shalt appoint a way for the sword to come to Kabbah of the children of Amnion, and to Judah in Jerusalem the fortified. For the King of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he shook the arrows to and fro, he consulted the teraphim, he looked in the liver. In his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build forts. And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, who have sworn oaths unto them; but He bringeth iniquity to remembrance, that they may be taken”-vers. 18-23.

Two ways were marked out for the Chaldean armies: a road leading toward the north, up into Ammon; another toward the land of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar is represented as pausing at the intersection of the roads, not fully decided whether to besiege Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites, or to go on to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. He called his soothsayers to advise him as to which city he should first seek to subdue. Using various means of divination, such as shaking of arrows, consulting with teraphim, or luck-pieces as we say, and slaughtering of victims and looking into the liver in order to assist in these prognostications, they pointed out that everything indicated that he should go to Jerusalem. Little did they know, and little did he understand that, after all, it was the very God of Israel who Himself was overruling in all this and leading the haughty king from the land of Shinar, to move upon the Holy City which had become so defiled by Israel’s sin. It was God Himself who had brought the iniquity to remembrance that they might be destroyed and taken captive by this heathen prince.

The king of Judah is addressed directly in the verses that follow:

“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand. And thou, O deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day is come, in the time of the iniquity of the end, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Remove the mitre, and take off the crown; this shall be no more the same; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: this also shall l)e no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him”-vers. 24-27.

This is one of the most striking prophecies in the Old Testament. It tells of the complete setting aside of the royal house of David because of the wickedness of its princes until the day in which Messiah should come and set up the kingdom so long predicted. In spite of all the warnings they had received, the kings who sat upon David’s throne had gone farther and farther from God until their iniquity and transgressions had become so flagrant that He could no longer condone them and consent to dwell among His people; therefore, He declared, “O deadly-wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day is come in the time of the iniquity of the end.” There was to be no further respite. The warnings that had fallen from the lips of all the prophets must now culminate in condign judgment, and so the decree went forth, “Remove the mitre, and take off the crown; this shall be no more the same.” That is, there shall be no more a man of David’s line sitting on the throne of David until great David’s greater Son should appear in power and glory.

God says, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: this also shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.” Since the carrying away of the people to Babylon, following the destruction of Jerusalem, there has never been a king recognized by God as sitting upon the throne of Israel. Hosea’s prophecy, found in the third chapter of his remarkable book, has had its fulfilment. Israel still abides without a king, without a prince, without a priest, and so shall it abide until Messiah Himself appears the second, time to take His great power and reign.

“And thou, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah concerning the children of Amnion, and concerning their reproach; and say thou, A sword, a sword is drawn, for the slaughter it is furbished, to cause it to devour, that it may be as lightning; while they see for thee false visions, while they divine lies unto thee, to lay thee upon the necks of the wicked that are deadly wounded, whose day is come in the time of the iniquity of the end. Cause it to return into its sheath. In the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy birth, will I judge thee. And I will pour out Mine indignation upon thee; I will blow upon thee with the fire of My wrath; and I will deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, skilful to destroy. Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I, Jehovah, have spoken it”-vers. 28-32.

In these last verses of the chapter we learn that even though Ammon had escaped the sword of judgment for the moment because of Nebuchadnezzar’s turning toward Jerusalem, nevertheless they, too, were to feel the sharpness of that sword when a little later Nebuchadnezzar would turn against them also. While they had not been in covenant relation with God as Israel was, nevertheless their wickedness and corruption had so offended the Holy One of Israel that He was about to judge them and pour out His indignation upon them, blowing upon them in the fire of His wrath, even as upon His own people whom the Ammonites had often persecuted in the past.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/ezekiel-21.html. 1914.

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