Ezekiel – Grace and Glory
The Ministry of Ezekiel
I. EZEKIEL’S MESSAGE
a. To the Jews in Exile
b. To the Gentile Nations
II. THE CONTEMPORARY PROPHETS OF EZEKIEL
I. EZEKIEL’S MESSAGE
a. To the Jews in Exile – The focus of Ezekiel’s message was the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, which was also the turning point of his ministry. Prior to the announcement of the fall of Jerusalem in Ezek 33, his message centered on punishments and threats; thereafter he preached messages of comfort and encouragement to the Jews.
Down to the time when Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel was compelled to antagonize the hopes, which were supported by false prophets, that God would not suffer this calamity. Over against this, Ezekiel persistently and emphatically pointed to this fact that the apostasy had been too great for God not to bring about this catastrophe. There was scarcely a violation of a single command-religious, moral or cultural-which the prophet was not compelled to charge against the people in the three sections, Ezek 3:16 ff; 8:1 ff; 20:1 ff, until in Ezek 24:1 ff, on the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year (589 BC.) the destruction of Jerusalem was symbolized by the vision of the boiling pot with the piece of meat in it, and the unlamented destruction of the city was prefigured by the unmourned and sudden death of his wife.
The second part of his message, (Ezek 33-48) began with a watchman’s cry for repentance, followed by predictions of deliverance. After the destruction of Jerusalem the people were despairing, and this was just the right time for the prophet to preach deliverance. Ezekiel became a herald of salvation and a consoler, prophesying the re-gathering of Israel and ended with the glorious hope of the restoration of the temple and a land for the redeemed and purified Israel during the Millennium.
b. To the Gentile Nations – the seven oracles were directed against:
- Ammon (25:1-7)
- Moab (25:8-11)
- Edom (25:12-14)
- Philistia (25:15 ff)
- Tyre (26:1 ff)
- Sidon (28:20 ff)
- Egypt (29:1 ff),
- Magog (Ezk 38-39)
These nations were arranged from a geographical point of view. The basis of judgment against Gentile nations was God’s covenant with Abraham: –
“I will curse him who curses you” (Gen 12:3).
These nations were judged for their malicious treatment of Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem.
The most extensive oracles were those against Tyre and the group of oracles against Egypt, both provided with separate dates (compare Ezek 26:1-29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17). The supplement in reference to Egypt (Ezek 29:17 ff) was the latest dated oracle of Ezekiel (from the year 571 BC), and is found here, at a suitable place, because it is connected with a threat against Egypt (Ezek 40-48 date from the year 573 according to Ezek 40:1).
Another extensive oracle against a foreign nation was Magog (Ezek 38-39).
1. Ammon (Ezk 25:1-7)
Origin – This nation sprung from Ben-ammi, Lot’s son by his younger daughter (Gen 19:38) after Lot escaped from Sodom. Hence, it makes the Ammonites relatives of the Israelites and therefore the Israelites were commanded to avoid conflict with them on their march to the Promised Land (Deut 2:19).
Geography – The land of the Ammonites generally was located in the area north and east of Moab, which is on the east of the Dead Sea and Jordan, a region between the River Arnon and the River Jabbok. Its capital city was Rabbah (Deut 3:11; 2 Sam 11:1). Amman, the name of the capital of the modern kingdom of Jordan, is a continuing use of this ancient name.
History of Relationship with Israel – Ammon and Israel had been in conflict since the time of Jephthah during the period of Judges (Jud 10:6-11:33). Saul fought with the Ammonites to rescue Jabesh Gilead (1 Sam 11:1-11), and David conquered Ammon (1 Chr 19:1-20:3). Sometime after the death of Solomon, the Ammonites regained their independence and renewed their hostilities with Judah. During Jehoshaphat’s reign, the Ammonites joined the Moabites and Edomites in an unsuccessful attack on Judah (2 Chr 20:1-30). Ammon tried to expand her territory at Israel’s expense (Jer 49:1) and she even sided with Nebuchadnezzar in an attempt to gain additional territory after Jehoiakim’s revolt, about 600-597 BC (2 Kings 24:1-2).
In 593 BC Ammon joined a secret meeting of other potential conspirators to consider rebelling against Babylon (Jer 27:1-7). That plan did not materialise but in 588 BC she did unite with Judah and Tyre against Babylon. Hence, two ancient enemies, Judah and Ammon, were joined against a common foe.
When Nebuchadnezzar decided to attack Judah instead of Ammon (Ezek 21:18-27), Ammon was relieves that she had been spared. Instead of coming to Judah’s aid, she rejoiced over Judah’s misfortune, hoping to profit territorially from Judah’s destruction.
Sins – Ammon rejoiced over the destruction of the temple (Ezek 25:3) and the decimation and exile of the people of Judah. They also gloated over Judah’s misfortune (Ezek 25:6). Hence, God’s judgment was such – the Ammonites would fall because they had rejoiced over Judah’s downfall.
Judgment – God would send the Ammonites to the people of the East (nomadic desert tribesmen) as a possession (Ezek 25:4). These nomads would overrun Ammon, turning Rabbah, the capital city, into a pasture for camels and Ammon into a resting place for the sheep (Ezek 25:5). As a result of Ammon’s malice against Israel, Ammon would also be plundered by other nations and destroyed (Ezek 25:7).
Fulfilment of Prophecy – The prophecy was fulfilled when the Bedouins, a nomadic tribe, settled in Ammon.
2. Moab (Ezek 25:8-11)
Origin – The Moabites are the descendants of Moab (“from father”), the son of Lot by his elder daughter (Gen 19:37), as the Ammonites are of the younger daughter. The starting point of both is in the vicinity of Zoar. While the roving Ammonites eventually went to the northeast, the more peaceful Moabites remained near their ancestral home, displacing the Emim (Deut 2:10-11).
Geography – Moab was situated along the eastern border of the Dead Sea, on the plateau between the Dead Sea and the Arabian Desert. It was 57 km long and 40 km wide. Although it was primarily a high plateau, Moab also had mountainous areas and deep gorges. It was a fertile land for crops and herds. To the south and west of Moab was the nation Edom ; to the north was Ammon. After the Israelites invaded the land, the tribe of Reuben displaced the Moabites from the northern part of their territory.
History of Relationship with Israel – The hostility between Moab and Israel began when Balak, king of Moab, tried to oppose Israel as Moses was leading them to Palestine (Num 22-24). During the time of Judges, Israel was oppressed by Eglon, king of Moab (Jud 3:12-30). Relations between the two countries improved slightly after that and some Israelites went to Moab during a famine. Through this contact, Ruth, the Moabitess, entered Israel’s history and the royal line of David.
However, the relationship deteriorated again during Saul’s reign (1 Sam 14:47). David subsequently conquered Moab and made it a vassal of Israel (2 Sam 8:2); it remained under Israel’s control through Solomon’s reign. Moab rebelled against Israel years after Israel and Judah split, during Jehoshaphat’s regime (2 Kings 3:4-27). Moab united with Ammon and Edom in an ill-fated attempt to defeat Judah also during Jehoshaphat’s reign (2 Chron 20:1-23). Later, Moab supported Babylon and attacked Judah after Jehoiakim’s revolt, possibly hoping to gain additional territory (2 Kings 24:2). Moab then joined other nations and considered revolting from Babylon in 593 BC (Jer 27:1-7) but no evidence indicates that she ever did.
Sins – Moab’s sin was her envy and contempt for God’s people. They had scorned, “Behold, the house of Judah is like all the other nations,” (Ezek 25:8) hence denying the special religious status of Judah and comparing the Judahites to the rest of the nations. They were denying God’s promises to Israel. By minimizing Judah’s position of centrality among the nations, they were profaning the name of God who had promised Judah that position.
Judgment – As Moab did not recognise Judah’s privileged position as God’s elect, Moab will be invaded and given into the power of people from the east (Ezek 25:10). God will remove Moab’s glory by exposing its northern flank to attack. He would destroy three towns: Beth Jeshimoth, Baal Meon and Kiriathaim. Beth Jeshimoth guarded the ascent to the Medeba Plateau from the Plains of Moab by the Jordan River. Baal Meon and Kiriathaim were important fortresses on the Medeba Plateau.
Besides losing her defenses, Moab would also lose her freedom. God said He would give Moab to the people of the east, hence sharing the same fate as Ammon. The nomadic tribesmen who would overrun Ammon would also overrun Moab (cf. Ezek 25:4).
Fulfilment of Prophecy – At a later date Moab was overrun by the Nabathaean Arabs who ruled in Petra and extended their authority on the east side of Jordan even as far as Damascus. The Moabites lost their identity as a nation. Moab was later destroyed by the Romans.
3. Edom (Ezek 25:12-14)
Origin – The name Edom, “red,” was derived from the red sandstone cliffs characteristic of the country. It was applied to Esau, the firstborn of Isaac and Jacob’s twin brother, because of the color of his skin (Gen 25:25), or from the color of the pottage for which he sold his birthright (Gen 25:30). In Gen 36:8 Esau is equated with Edom as dwelling in Mt. Seir ; and he is described as the father of Edom (Gen 36:9).
Geography – Esau, with 400 armed men (Gen 32:6), drove out the Horites, and permanently settled in Mount Seir. Thus the territory of Edom included the region beginning in the north at the River Zered, extended southward to the Gulf of Aquabah, and included mountain ranges and fertile plateaus (“fatness of the earth”) in the east and west of Arabah, the Jordan River valley south of the Dead Sea. Bozrah was its ancient capital near the Northern border. Petra, their main city, was cut in rocks and was Edom’s stronghold. Elath and Azion Geber were seaports which Solomon made his chief ports.
History of Relationship with Israel – Edom was involved in a long series of conflicts with Israel. The strife actually began when Edom refused to let Israel cross her territory during the time of the wilderness wanderings (cf. Num. 20:14-21). Saul fought the Edomites (1 Sam. 14:47), and David finally captured Edom and made it a vassal state to Israel (2 Sam. 8:13-14). Solomon further exploited Edom and established Elath in Edom as Israel’s seaport (cf. 1 Kings 9:26-28); but Edom opposed Solomon during the latter part of his reign (1 Kings 11:14-18). The nation continued as a vassal state after Israel and Judah split, and it was controlled by a governor from Judah till after the time of Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:47-48).
In the days of Jehoram (ca. 845 BC) Edom successfully rebelled against Judah (2 Kings 8:20-22a) and regained her freedom. Thereafter Judah and Edom struggled to see who would control the vital caravan and shipping routes at the southern end of the Transjordanian highway. Both Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7) and Uzziah (or Azariah, 2 Kings 14:21-22) regained territory that had been lost to Edom, but Edom counterattacked during Ahaz’s reign and inflicted a major loss on Judah (2 Chron. 28:17).
Edom became a vassal of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar’s stunning defeat of Egypt in 605 BC. Then in 593 BC Edom joined the other conspirators in planning to revolt against Babylon (cf. Jer. 27:1-7), but did not carry out the plan. When Judah revolted in 588 BC, Edom sided with Babylon and aided Babylon in her assaults on Judah (cf. Ps. 137:7; Jer. 49:7-22).
Sins – Edom’s sin was that she took revenge on the house of Judah. (Ezek 25:12-14) by siding with Babylon. Edom perpetuated the hereditary hatred of Esau against Jacob and delivered Israel to the sword (Ezek 35:5-6). She also exulted over Israel’s calamity (Ezek 35:15) and took advantage of Israel’s fall to expand her territory. (Ezek 35:10).
Judgment – Because Edom had aided in Judah’s destruction, God destroy her. God would use Israel to bring vengeance against Edom (Ezek 25:14). The people will fall by the sword (Ezek 35:8) and the land will become desolate (Ezek 35:9, 14, 15)
Fulfilment of Prophecy – Edom was conquered by Nabateans (descended from Ishmael’s oldest son) during the intertestamental period and a remnant moved to Negev. This remnant (the Idumea) was joined to Judaea under Judas Maccabaeus and John Hyrcanus. They were later forced to become Jewish converts, losing both their country and national identity.
Before the siege under Titus of Rome in AD 70, 20,000 Idumeans were admitted into Jerusalem and filled it with bloodshed. But after the fall of Judah under the Romans, the Edomites disappear from history.
Origin – The word “Philistia” is derived from the Ethiopic “falasa” which means “to emigrate”. The Philistines are powerful sea people said to have come from Caphtor (Amos 9:7; Jer 47:4; cf. Deut 2:23), generally identified with the island of Crete, in the second millennium BC origins of the Philistines except what is contained in the Bible-that they came from Caphtor (Gen 10:14), generally identified with the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Crete was supposed to be the home of the Cherethites, who were frequently associated with the Philistines (Ezek 25:16; 1 Sam 30:14).
Geography – The Philistines settled in the coastal strip in SW Palestine, extending along the Mediterranean from Joppa to south of Gaza. The undulating plain is 32 miles long, and 9 to 16 miles broad, and 30 to 300 ft. above the sea. The nation comprises a confederacy of the five cities – Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
History of Relations with Israel – The Philistines had been Israel’s enemy from the time of the Conquest. Israel had failed to take all the Promised Land because she disobeyed God and because of the Philistines’ military superiority on the coastal plain (cf. Jud. 3:1-4). Then the Philistines moved into the hill country in an attempt to control all the territory of Israel. They were opposed by the judges Shamgar (Jud. 3:31), Samson (Jud. 13-16), and Samuel (1 Sam. 7:2-17). Saul’s major battles in Israel were designed to check the Philistines’ advances on the central Benjamin plateau (1 Sam. 13:1-14:23) and in the Jezreel Valley (1 Sam. 28:1-4; 29:1-2, 11; 31:1-3, 7-10).
David finally subdued the Philistines. After a series of battles early in his reign blunted a Philistine challenge to his kingdom (2 Sam. 5:17-25), David was able to go on the offensive and defeat the Philistines (2 Sam. 8:1). Philistia remained a vassal country through the reign of Solomon and into the divided monarchy.
The battle between Philistia and Judah was renewed during the divided monarchy as each country tried to control the other. Jehoshaphat was able to dominate Philistia as a vassal state (2 Chron. 17:10-11), but she revolted against his son Jehoram and sacked Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chron. 21:16-17). Uzziah reestablished Judah’s control over Philistia (2 Chron. 26:6-7), but Philistia again gained the upper hand in Ahaz’s reign (2 Chron 28:16-18).
The feud between Philistia and Judah was halted by Babylon’s intervention. Nebuchadnezzar established control over both countries. Yet the rivalry remained. Philistia waited for an opportunity to try again to conquer Judah.
Sins – The Philistines acted in vengeance (Ezek 25:12) and malice (Ezek 25:6), and sought to destroy Judah.
Judgment – Because Philistia had tried to destroy Judah, God would destroy her.
Fulfilment Of Prophecy – After the Babylonian captivity (Ezek 25:15-17) the Philistines vented their “old hatred” on the Jews, for which God as He foretold “executed vengeance on them with furious rebukes, and destroyed the remnant,” namely, by Psammetichus, Necho (Jer 25:20), and Nebuchadnezzar who overran their cities on his way to Egypt (Jer 47), and finally by Alexander the Great, as foretold (Zech 9:5-6, “the king shall perish from Gaza”; Alexander bound Betis the satrap to his chariot by thongs thrust through his feet, and dragged round the city; the conqueror slew 10,000, and sold the rest as slaves: Zeph 2:4-5). During the intertestamental period the Philistines disappeared as a nation.
5. Tyre (Ezek 26:1-28:19)
Origin – Phoenician origin. Sidonians founded Tyre after having been defeated by the king of Ascalon in 1209 BC. The name Tyre meaning a “rock”. The Phoenician name of the city resembled in sound but not in sense the Greek Palaeo-Tyrus.
Geography – Tyre is situated east of the Mediterranean, 20 miles south of Sidon. Tyre is a double city, part on the mainland, part on an island nearly one mile long and separated from the continent by a strait half a mile broad. The mainland city stretched along the shore seven miles from the river Leontes on the north, to the fountain Ras el ain on the south. The circuit of both was 19 Roman miles and the island city only 22 stadia.
History of Relationship with Israel – Relations between Israel and Tyre were friendly during David’s time, when the king of Tyre was Hiram. Hiram was a friend and ally, supplied David with timber and workmen for his palace, and Solomon with cedars of Lebanon after having been hewn by Sidonian hewers unrivalled in skill. The Tyrian skill in copper work appears in the lilies, palms, oxen, lions and cherubim, which they executed for Solomon. In return for Hiram’s timber, metals and workmen, Solomon supplied the Tyrians with grain and oil. The friendly relations between Israel and Tyre were renewed when Ahab married king Ethbaal’s daughter, Jezebel.
Sins – Tyre was selfish in its commercial rivalry with Israel which made them regard Jerusalem’s fall as an opening for Tyre to turn to herself the inland commercial traffic of which Jerusalem had been the “gate”. Tyre said against Jerusalem, “Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people, she is turned unto me” (Ezek 26:2); the caravans from Petra, Palmyra and the East instead of passing through Jerusalem, will be transferred to me. Tyre is thus the world’s representative in intensive self-seeking which opposes God’s people by exulting in their calamity and is displayed in her schemes of gain, pride and ambition while pretending to be on friendly terms with Jerusalem. The pride of Tyre was also one of the reasons for her downfall (Ezek 27:3).
Judgment – God will bring many nations against Tyre to plunder and destroy her (Ezek 26:3-6). No longer being the central city of commerce, she would become a “bare rock” and “a place to spread fishnets” (Fishermen generally spread out their nets to dry on barren rocks).
God would bring Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against Tyre so that her gloating over Jerusalem’s fall would be short-lived. Tyre will be sunk into the ocean depths (Ezek 26:19). The final destruction of Tyre would be complete, for God predicted the city “will never be rebuilt.” (Ezek 26:7-14). Her destruction would be lamented by nations that were her former trading partner (Ezek 27) Fulfillment of Prophecy – After defeating Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar moved his army to Tyre in 585 BC and besieged the city for 13 years till all settlements on the mainland were destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the mainland but not the island stronghold, which surrendered to him in 573-572 BC.
In 332 BC Alexander the Great devastated the mainland city after a difficult 7-month long siege when it refused to submit to his advancing forces. A causeway was built to the island fortress using debris and timber of the ruined mainland city and cedars hauled from the mountains of Lebanon which were driven as piles into the floor of the sea. The army crossed the causeway to the island and destroyed it. Today this once-great commercial center lies in ruins. Though the surrounding area has been rebuilt, the original site of Tyre is a mute testimony to God’s awesome judgment.
6. Sidon (Ezek 28: 20-26)
Origin – Sidon is a mercantile city of Phoenician origin, built on a small island, which was connected with the mainland by a bridge 20 miles north of Tyre. Sidonians is the generic name of the Phoenicians or Canaanites.
Geography – Sidon is located in the narrow plain between Lebanon and the Mediterranean; 20 miles north of Tyre. It is now called Saida and is situated between mountains to its back and the sea to its front.
History of relationship with Israel – Sidon was near the territory of the tribes of Zebulun and Asher. Sidon resisted the efforts of Asher to inhabit that region and oppressed Israel during the period of the judges (Judges 10:12). The prophet Joel reproved Sidon and Tyre for selling the children of Judah and Jerusalem to the Grecians and threatens them with a like fate, Judah selling their sons and daughters to the Sabeans. Once the Israelites settled in the land, they began to worship the gods of Sidon including Baal and Ashtoreth. Sidonian women in Solomon’s harem seduced him to worship Ashtoreth the goddess of fertility. Jezebel, Ahab’s queen, was the daughter of Ethbaal of Sidon who was mainly responsible for introducing pagan gods into Israel, causing internal misery.
Sins – The Sidonians were “malicious neighbours” whose wicked influence on Israel had been like a pain in Israel’s side, “a pricking brier and a painful thorn for the house of Israel” (Ezk 28:24). Sidon had probably caused Israel a lot of distress.
Judgment – God’s judgment would be by “a plague” and “the sword” (Ezek 28:23). The judgment of Sidon would have two results. Firstly, it would make the Sidonians acknowledge God’s righteous character – “They will know that I am the LORD”(Ezek 28:22-23). Secondly, the judgment would remove an obstacle to Israel’s walk with God. (Ezek 28:25-26). The result of Sidon’s punishment would be that Israel will return to God, “they will know that” He is “the LORD their God”.
Fulfillment of Prophecy – Sidon was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of his siege of Jerusalem and Tyre, and was taken, having lost about half of its inhabitants by plague.
7. Egypt (Ezek 29-32)
Origin – The genealogies in Gen 10 concern races and not mere descent of persons. Hence, the name Mizraim (son of Ham) comes in dual form meaning “the two Egypts”. Egypt itself was colonised by the descendants of Ham. The Egyptians, however, claimed to be the “children of Ra”, the sun.
Geography – The Egyptian territory extended from Migdol (near Pelusium, north of Suez) to Syene (in the far south) (Ezk 29:10; 30:6).
History of Relationship with Israel – Early in the history of the 12 th Egyptian Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom, Abraham had gone down into Egypt in time of famine (Gen 12:10-20) as the aged Jacob and his sons did in this later period under like circumstances (Gen 46:6). However, during the time of Moses, Egypt was viewed as Israel’s traditional enemy as the nation had enslaved the Israelites, which prompted God’s great act of deliverance in the Exodus (Ex 20:5-7).
After the Exodus, the two countries continue to interact politically. Other notable contacts with Egypt occurred in the days of Solomon, who married an Egyptian princess and in the days of Rehoboam when Judah and Israel, as archaeology has shown, were overrun and plundered by Shishak. Both Israel and Judah had also looked to Egypt for help in resisting the power of Assyrians and Babylonians on a number of occasions. However, this sort of reliance on Egypt had almost always turned out badly for Israel.
Sins – The sin of Egypt is described in the early portion of Ezekiel’s first oracle (Ezek 29:1-16). This oracle is given in the 10 th year, in the 10 th month on the 12 th day, when the forces of Egypt went out to “rescue” Israel from Babylon. It was almost after a year after the siege of Jerusalem began. Two sin are being amplified here against Egypt:
1) Ezek 29:1-6a. Ezekiel’s first oracle against Egypt is dated January 587 BC, and was probably prompted by Pharaoh Hophra’s (589-570 BC) unsuccessful attempt to raise the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. Here, Ezekiel compared Pharaoh to a great monster in Egypt’s streams. This is in contrary to the Egyptian belief that Pharaoh would conquer the chaos-monster who was destroyed when the world was created, calling him as that monster instead. As Pharaoh thought of himself as a god having created the Nile (Ezk 29:9), God wanted to show him who the true God is. He would defeat Egypt despite her great strength then.
2) Ezek 29:6b-9. In this second section of the oracle, God dealt with Egypt her basic sin – she had been a staff of reeds for the house of Israel. Previously, Israel had leaned on Egypt for support in her revolt against Babylon but Egypt’s support was as fragile as the reeds. It already had a reputation as un unreliable ally (2 Kings 18:20-21). When Jerusalem had yet again turned to Egypt for aid during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege, Egypt backed out and the Judah eventually fell. Hence, by being a staff of reed that cannot render support yet hurt those who lean upon it (mainly making false promises of support to Judah), God would punish the Egyptians by the sword and Egypt would become a desolate wasteland.
Judgment – God’s judgment on Egypt is given in a series of seven oracles:
1. (Ezek 29:10-16) This last portion of Ezekiel’s first prophecy discusses the extent of God’s judgment on Egypt. The desolation would extend from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush (from the Delta region in northern Egypt to its southern region), lasting for 40 years. God would disperse Egypt among the nations and she would also be carried into captivity. Thereafter, God would let the Egyptians back to Pathros, the land of their ancestry. However, she would forever be the lowest of kingdoms and would never be able to achieve the place of power she once held gloriously. This is so that Egypt’s political weakness would be a continual object lesson to Israel – she would look at Egypt and remember her folly of depending on men instead of God.
2. (Ezek 29:17-21) Ezekiel’s second prophecy against Egypt came in the 27 th year, in the first month on the first day. It is described here that God would use Babylon as His instrument to attack Egypt and their eventual success is a reward from God for Nebuchadnezzar’s efforts in destroying Tyre previously. He had selected the most ruthless of nations to accomplish His judgment.
3. (Ezek 30:1-19) Ezekiel continued his prophecy of God’s judgment in the destruction of Egypt and her allies. The sword would be drawn against the Egyptians. They will be killed and her treasuries looted. Moreover, no major city in Egypt would escape God’s wrath:
- Memphis – an important religious center where numerous temples were built.
- Pathros – a synonym for upper Egypt (cf. Jer 44:1).
- Zoan – a royal residence in Delta region.
- Thebes – capital
- Pelusium – major military center guarding the north entrance to Egypt.
- Heliopolis, Bubastis, Tahpanhes – major religious centers in northern Egypt south of the Delta region, northeast of modern city of Cairo, and near Suez Canal.
By naming Egypt’s major cities, God was saying that the strength of the entire nation would be ended. Major cities would be destroyed and people in the villages would be taken into captivity. Besides, Egypt’s allies would also be caught in her judgment. Egypt’s mercenary allies within Egypt’s borders would be defeated under Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. They will be crushed and cities where they have settled would be ruined. The destruction would force these nations to acknowledge the God who predicted their downfall.
4. (Ezek 30:20-26) This prophecy was given in the 11th year, in the first month on the seventh day, after the Babylonians defeated Egypt. By this time, the damage done to Egypt was irreparable. Egypt’s arm, symbolizing strength, was not even put in a splint so as to become strong enough to hold a sword. However, this was only a prelude to God’s full judgment on Egypt. God said He would break both of Egypt’s arms, the good one as well as the already broken arm. This was to contrast the recent defeat suffered by Egypt (her one “broken arm”) with the still greater defeat she would suffer. In other words, God would totally destroy Egypt through Babylon. Her ability to protect both others and herself would be totally eliminated.
5. (Ezek 31) Ezekiel’s fifth prophecy against Egypt was given in the 11th year, in the third month on the first day. It is an allegory on Pharaoh’s fall. Here, Ezekiel offered an example against which Egypt could compare herself – Assyria. By comparing Assyria to a cedar in Lebanon, her eventual downfall and describing the descent of Assyria into the grave, God wanted to show an object lesson to other nations especially Egypt at that point of time. God was telling Egypt that her desire to become a lasting great power in the Middle East was destined to failure. They will be judged for their pride and together with other nations were destined for the grave instead of glory. No nations shall exalt itself highly over others because they will all suffer Assyria’s fate.
6. (Ezek 32:1-16) It was given in the 12th year, in the 12th month on the first day. It was two months after the news of Jerusalem’s fall reach the captives in Babylon (cf. 33:21). The fall of Egypt was so certain that Ezekiel was told to take up a lament (usually delivered when one was buried) concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt. The destruction of Pharaoh and Egypt was couched in terms that conjure up the images of Egypt’s judgement at the time of Exodus (Ezk 32:6 vs. Exo 7:20-24). The main purpose was to reveal God’s holy character and through Egypt’s judgment, warn other nations that if mighty Egypt could be destroyed, so could they.
7. (Ezek 32:17-32) This came in the 12th year, on the 15th day of the month (month is not specified but many interpreters assume it was the same month as the previous prophecy (Ezek 32:1). The message’s theme was the consignment of the hosts of Egypt to Sheol, therefore deriding both Pharaoh and his nation. Ezekiel also described the nations Egypt would join in Sheol. The descriptions are similar, for he spoke of each nation’s being slain by the sword and being in the grave. All (except Edom) were said to have caused terror among those they attacked.
Fulfilment of Prophecy – Pharaoh Hophra, after temporarily raising siege of Jerusalem as Zedekiah’s ally (Jer 37:5,7,11), was afterward attacked by Nebuchadnezzar in his own country. The defeat of Egypt by Babylon (29:17-21) took place shortly after Tyre’s surrender to Babylon in 572 BC For 13 years Nebuchadnezzar had besieged the city of Tyre (585-572 BC). Tyre surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, but there were no vast spoils of war to distribute as booty to his army. Evidently Tyre shipped off her wealth before she surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar needed money to pay his soldiers for their labor so he turned to Egypt. Prompted by economic necessity, Babylon attacked Egypt and plundered its wealth to pay his army.
No archeological finding has yet confirmed an Egyptian deportation by Babylon similar to the one experienced by Israel. However, it is unwise to dismiss a clear statement of Scripture on the basis of incomplete archeological data. Nebuchadnezzar did attack Egypt (Ezek 29:17-21; cf. Jer. 43:8-13; 46:1-25). Assuming that he conquered the country, one would expect him to deport people to Babylon as he did others he conquered. Presumably, then, the Egyptian captives would have been allowed to return home in the reign of Cyrus of Persia, who defeated Babylon in 539 BC (ca. 33 years after Nebuchadnezzar’s attack). Allowing seven additional years for the people to return and rebuild, a 40-year period of desolation was entirely possible.
The next Pharaoh after Hophra, Amasis, reigned prosperously; but his son, after a six months’ reign, was conquered by Cambyses, who reduced Egypt to a province of the Persian Empire in 525 BC. He took Pelusium, the key city of Egypt, by placing before this army dogs, cats, etc., held sacred in Egypt, so that no Egyptians would use weapon against them. He slew Apism the sacred ox, and burnt the other idols. From the second Persian conquest, upward of 2000 years ago, no native prince of an Egyptian race has reigned. Though the Ptolemies, successors of the Greek Alexander the Great, ruled for 300 years and raised Egypt to eminence by their patronage of literature; but they were a foreign line. Thus Ezekiel’s prophecies (Ezek 29-32) were fulfilled. Ezek 30:13: “and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt.”
Though God would let the Egyptians return to their land, Egypt would not achieve the place of power she once held. Instead she would be the lowliest of kingdoms (29:16). After Persia’s rise to power, Egypt never again in biblical times became a major international power. She tried to exert herself during the intertestamental period, but she was held in check by Greece, Syria, and Rome.
8. Magog (Ezek 38-39)
This prophecy is addressed to “Gog of Magog” (the land and people) also prince of Rosh (Roxolani), Mesech (Moschi), and Tubal (Tibareni) (Ezek 38:2).
Origin and Geography – Magog was second son of Japhet, connected with Gomer (the Cimmerians) and Madai (Medes). In Ezek 38:39, these two appear in the northern country, their weapon the bow, their warriors horsemen and notorious for cruel rapacity. They were probably the Scythians, the dominant Japhetic race between the Caucasus (Ghogh and Moghef are names still applied to its heights) and Mesopotamia from 630 to 600 BC, who invaded Palestine and besieged Ascalon under Psammeticus.
Sins (Ezek 38:1-16) – Gog was the chief of those northern hordes who were to make an onslaught upon Israel, a nation living in safety. Gog’s army included in its numbers Persia (Iran), Cush (Ethiopia), Put (Libya), Gomer or the Cimmerians, and Togarmah (Turkey), from the extreme North (Ezek 38:14-16). They are represented as a vast mixed horde from the far-off parts of the North, the limits of the horizon, completely armed and equipped for war. They were to come upon the mountains of Israel and cover the land like a cloud (Ezek 38:7-9). Their purpose is plunder, for the people of Israel are rich and dwell in towns and villages without walls (Ezek 38:10-13).
Judgment (Ezek 38:17-39:29) – Gog’s coming, which had been prophesied by the seers of Israel, shall be accompanied by a great earthquake. A panic shall seize the hosts of Gog, rain, hailstones, pestilence, fire and brimstone shall consume them (Ezek 38:22). The invading armies will be totally destroyed by God (Ezek 39:1-8). Their bodies shall be food for the birds (Ezek 39:17-19), their weapons shall serve as firewood for seven years (Ezek 39:9-11) and their bones shall be buried East of the Jordan in Hamon-gog and thus not defile the holy land (Ezek 39:12-16). As a result the nations will see God’s glory (Ezek 39:20-24) and Israel will turn back to her God (39:22). The defeat of Gog will also hasten God’s plans to restore the other Israelites from other nations (Ezek 39:25-29).
Fulfilment of Prophecy – When will this prophecy be fulfilled? No past historical events match this prophecy, so it still awaits a future fulfillment.
Several theories abound as to the time of fulfilment: –
1. At The End of Millennium – This attack on Israel is identified with the attack of Gog and Magog at the end of Christ’s millennial reign (Rev. 20:7-9). However, this identification has several flaws :-
i) The results of Ezekiel’s battle do not coincide with the events that follow the battle in Revelation 20. Why bury the dead for seven months after the battle (Ezek. 39:12-13) when the next prophetic event is the resurrection of the unsaved dead? (Rev. 20:11-13) Why would the people remain on earth after the battle to burn the weapons of war for seven years (Ezek. 39:9-10) instead of entering immediately into eternity? (Rev. 21:1-4). The events after each battle are so different that two separate battles must be assumed.
ii) The effect on the people is different. In Ezekiel the battle is the catalyst God will use to draw Israel to Himself (cf. Ezek. 39:7, 22-29) and to end her captivity. But the battle in Revelation 20 will occur after Israel has been faithful to her God and has enjoyed His blessings for 1,000 years.
2. At the beginning of the Millennium – This also seems extremely doubtful. Everyone who enters the Millennium will be a believer (John 3:3), and will have demonstrated his faith by protecting God’s Chosen People (Matt.25:31-46). At the beginning of the Millennium all weapons of war will be destroyed (Micah 4:1-4). Thus it seems difficult to see a war occurring when the unsaved warriors have been eliminated and their weapons destroyed.
3. In the Tribulation period – Other internal markers indicate that it should be placed in the first three and one-half years of the seven-year period. The attack will come when Israel is at peace (Ezek. 38:8, 11). When Israel’s covenant with the Antichrist is in effect at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week (Dan.9:27a), she will be at peace. But after the covenant is broken in the middle of the seven-year period, the nation will suffer tremendous persecution (Dan. 9:27b; Matt. 24:15-22). This will provide the time needed to bury the dead (Ezek. 39:12-13) and to burn the weapons of war (Ezek 39:9-10). So the battle described by Ezekiel may take place sometime during the first three and one-half years of the seven-year period before Christ’s second coming. Possibly the battle will occur just before the midpoint of the seven-year period.
II. THE CONTEMPORARY PROPHETS OF EZEKIEL
Ezekiel began his ministry in Babylonian exile during the twilight years of the southern kingdom of Judah and continued even after the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The prophets of Judah who were his contemporaries were, beginning with those who ministered in the reign of Josiah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Daniel. A comparison of the messages God spoke through these prophets gives a more complete picture of the prevailing social, moral and spiritual conditions of the people that justified God’s destruction of the city of Jerusalem, as well as God’s sovereign plan for His people.
Zephaniah was a prophet of royal blood who preached in the early part of the reign of the godly king, Josiah, between 642 and 611 BC.
Zephaniah’s Message – Zephaniah denounced social injustice, moral corruption, extravagance and oppression of the poor among the people. Even the leaders were corrupt Zeph (3:1-8). The religious situation was equally bad. Idolatry was rampant, the worship of Yahweh was compromised and there was widespread apostasy (Zeph 1:4-6). Thus judgment upon Judah is inevitable. However a remnant of the nations and of Judah will escape and find rest and peace in Yahweh (Zeph 3:9-13). The closing section (Zeph 3:14-20) pictured the joy and exaltation of the redeemed Zion.
The teaching of Zephaniah closely resembles that of Ezekiel. Yahweh is the God of the universe, a God of righteousness and holiness, who expects of His worshippers a life in accord with His will. Israel is His chosen people, but on account of rebellion they must suffer severe punishment. Wholesale conversion seems out of the question, but a remnant may escape, to be exalted among the nations.
A man of deep emotional strength, Habakkuk was both a poet and a prophet. He ministered in the turbulent era in ancient history when the balance of power was shifting from the Assyrians to the Babylonians. Assyria’s domination came to an end with the destruction of its capital city, Nineveh, by the invading Babylonians in 612 BC. Thus he lived during the reign of Josiah. Less than 20 years after Habakkuk wrote his book, the Babylonians also destroyed Jerusalem and carried the leading citizens of Judah into captivity.
Habakkuk’s Message – The book of Habakkuk identifies the Babylonians as God’s instruments of judgment (Hab 1:12-2:1) against His people for their sins (Hab 1:2-4). It also teaches that Yahweh’s rule embraces all nations, for He will ultimately punish the Babylonians for the oppression of Judah and other nations as well (Hab 2:2-20). God’s acts of judgment are in always accord with His holiness, righteousness, and mercy.
Jeremiah was a priest called by the Lord to the office of a prophet while still a youth (Jer 1:6) in the 13th year of King Josiah (1:2; 25:3), in the year 627 BC. He was active in this capacity from this time on to the destruction of Jerusalem, 586 BC, under kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Even after the fall of the capital city he prophesied in Egypt (Jer 43-44) at least for several years, so that his work extended over a period of about 50 years in all.
Jeremiah’s Message – Jeremiah preached that apostasy from Yahweh resulted in judgment upon Judah. Though the reformation of Josiah swept away the worst of these abominations, but an inner return to Yahweh did not result from this reformation. Together with religious insincerity went the moral corruption of the people, such as dishonesty, injustice, oppression of the helpless, slander, and the like (5:1 ff.7 f.26 ff; 6:7,13; 7:5 f.9; 9:2,6,8; 17:9 ff; 21:12; 22:13 ff; 23:10; 29:23, etc). The spiritual leaders, the priests and prophets, were also guilty.
The judgment which was to come in the near future, as a punishment for the sins of the people, was the destruction of the city and of the sanctuary, and the end of the Jewish nation and the exile of the people through these enemies from the north (Babylon). According to 25:11; 29:10, the Babylonian supremacy (not exactly the exile) was to continue for 70 years; and after this, deliverance should come.
Comparison Between Jeremiah and Ezekiel – Jeremiah and Ezekiel constitute a prophetic couple; both are of priestly descent. On comparing Ezek 13 with Jer 6:14; 8:11; 23:9-10,16,26; and Ezek 34, with Jer 23:4-5,33, we see the inner harmony between the two prophets, though Ezekiel did not receive his commission until toward the close of Jeremiah’s prophesying; the latter having prophesied 34 years before Ezekiel, and continuing to prophesy six or seven years after him. Ezekiel began prophesying the year after the communication of Jeremiah’s predictions to Babylon (Jer 51:59-64); Ezekiel’s prophecies form a sequel to them (Ezek 1:2). Jeremiah ministered to the people in Jerusalem until the fall of the city while Ezekiel ministered to the Jews in exile. But in natural character they widely differ: Jeremiah plaintive, sensitive to a fault, and tender; Ezekiel abrupt, unbending, firmly unflinching, with priestly zeal against gainsayers.
In matters of detail, too, these two prophets often show the greatest similarity, as in the threat against the unfaithful shepherds (Ezek 34:2 ff; Jer 23:1 ff); in putting into one class the Northern and the Southern Kingdom and condemning both, although the prediction is also made that they shall eventually be united and pardoned (Ezek 23; 16; Jer 3:6 ff; Ezek 37:15 ff; Jer 3:14-18; 23:5 f; 30 f); in the individualizing of religion (compare the fact that both reject the common saying: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,” Ezek 18:2; Jer 31:29); in their inwardness (Ezek 36:25 ff; Jer 24:7; 31:27-34; 32:39; 33:8); in their comparisons of the coming judgment with a boiling pot (Ezek 24:1 ff; Jer 1:13 ff); and finally, in their representation of the Messiah as the priest-king (in Ezek 21:25 f; 45:22; compare Jer 30:21; 33:17 ff;). Neither is to be considered independently of the other, since the prophetical writings, apparently, received canonical authority soon after and perhaps immediately after they were written.
Comparison between Jeremiah and Ezekiel:
|Plaintive, sensitive, tender in nature||Abrupt, unbending, firmly unflinching|
|Jews in Jerusalem||Jews in Exile|
|Judgment on Unfaithful Shepherds||23:1-8,||34:1-16|
|Judgment on False Prophets||23:30-40||13|
|Union of Israel & Judah||3:14-18; 23:8; 30:1-11||37:15-28|
|“The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,” (Proverb)||31:29||18:2|
Probably of royal blood (Dan 1:3) Daniel was carried to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s first deportation of captives, in the fourth (Jer 25:1; 46:2) year of Jehoiakim, the first of Nebuchadnezzar and trained for the king’s service (Dn. 1:1-6). Renowned for sagacity, he successfully occupied leading governmental posts under Nebuchadrezzar, Belshazzar and Darius. He gained a reputation as an interpreter of dreams and visions. He was referred to as a model of “righteousness” and “wisdom” by Ezekiel together with with Noah and Job (Ezek 14:14, 20; 28:3).
Daniel’s Message – Though the story of Daniel began in 605 BC, Daniel did not receive his vision till the first year of Belshazzar’s reign, 553 BC, when Belshazzar was made coregent with Nabonidus (Dan 7:1). This and subsequent visions provide the basic framework for Jewish and Gentile history from the time of Nebuchadrezzar to the second advent of Christ, with the nation of Israel prominent once again in God’s dealings with the human race. The 4 beasts of Dn. 7 represents the Satan-dominated “kingdom of the world” (Rev. 11:15) in the form of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, with Rome continuing in some form to the end of this age. This godless empire finally culminates in ten contemporaneous kings (2:41-44; cf. 7:24; Rev. 17:12) who are destroyed by “one like a son of man” (Dn. 7:13) who comes “on the clouds of heaven” (cf. Mt. 26:64; Rev. 19:11ff.). Christ then establishes his kingdom on earth (Mt. 6:10; Rev. 20:1-6).
The sovereignty of God over the Jews and Gentiles is emphasized in the entire book of Daniel, and God’s plan for the Jews in the world of Gentiles is revealed in these visions.