I. Re-Cap and Introduction
A. Read 22:1-2
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Further, O mortal, arraign, arraign the city of bloodshed; declare to her all her abhorrent deeds!
Jerusalem has so many glorious names elsewhere in the Tanach (city of peace, Righteousness, of God, Faithful City) and in Ezekiel (HaShem is there); here it is called the City of Bloodshed. The chapter explains the use of the name. How could it be so?
B. Read 24:16-18
16 O mortal, I am about to take away the delight of your eyes from you through pestilence; but you shall not lament or weep or let your tears flow. 17 Moan softly; observe no mourning for the dead: Put on your turban and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover over your upper lip, and do not eat the bread of comforters.”
18 In the evening my wife died, and in the morning I did as I had been commanded. And when I spoke to the people that morning,
Why is the prophet not permitted to mourn the devastation, which involved perhaps the loss of his own wife? How/why does a leader who loves the people refrain from mourning?
C. Read 25:8, 12, 15, 26:2
8 Thus said the Lord God: Because Moab and Seir said, “ See, the House of Judah is like all other nations:---
12 Thus said the Lord God; Because Edom acted vengefully against the House of Judah and incurred guilt by wreaking revenge upon it---
15 Thus said the Lord God: Because the Philistines, in their ancient hatred, acted vengefully, and with utter scorn sought revenge and destruction---
26: 2 O mortal, because Tyre gloated over Jerusalem, “Aha! The gateway of the peoples is broken, it has become mine; I shall be filled, now that it is laid in ruins”---
How do Moab and Seir, Edom, the Philistines, and Tyre offend God? Why are they unable to preserve the “victories” God has given them? What are we learning more generally about God’s expectations of people who “benefit” from Divine favor?
D. While God (through Ezekiel) condemns the wrongdoing of these nations, we also see in chapters 27 and 28 God’s direction to Ezekiel to sing a lament specifically for Tyre. Why? What might this - broadly put - mean?
Read 27:1-6, 33-34; 28:1-7. Also, look at 28:13-17, which describe it beautifully.
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Now you, O mortal, intone a dirge over Tyre. 3 Say to Tyre: O you who dwell at the gateway of the sea, Who trade with the peoples on many coastlands: Thus said the Lord God: O Tyre, you boasted, I am perfect in beauty. 4 Your frontiers were on the high seas. Your builders perfected your beauty. 5 From cypress trees of Senir. They fashioned your planks; They took a cedar from Lebanon To make a mast for you. 6 From oak trees of Bashan they made your oars; of boxwood from the isles of Kittim, inlaid with ivory, they made your decks.
33 When your wares were unloaded from the seas, You satisfied many peoples; with your great wealth and merchandise you enriched the kings of the earth. 34 But when you were wrecked on the seas, in the deep waters sank your merchandise and all the crew aboard you.
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 O mortal, say to the prince of Tyre: Thus said the Lord God: Because you have been so haughty and have said, ”I am a god; I sit enthroned like a god in the heart of the seas,: whereas you are not a god but a man, though you deemed your mind equal to a god’s--- 3 Yes, you are wiser than Daniel; in no hidden matter can anyone compare to you. 4 By your shrewd understanding you have gained riches, and have amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. 5 By your great shrewdness in trade you have increased your wealth, and you have grown haughty because of our wealth. 6 Assuredly, thus said the Lord God: Because you have deemed your mind equal to a god’s, 7 I swear I will bring against you strangers, the most ruthless of nations. They shall unsheathe their swords against your prized shrewdness, and they shall strike down your splendor.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your adornment; Carnelian, chrysolite, and amethyst; beryl, lapis lazuli, and jasper; sapphire, turquoise, and emerald’ and gold beautifully wrought for you, Mined for you, prepared the day you were created. 14 I created you a cherub with outstretched shielding wings; and you resided on God’s holy mountain; you walked among stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways, from the day you were created until wrongdoing was found in you. 16 by your far-flung commerce you were filled with lawlessness and you sinned. So I have struck you down from the mountain of God, and I have destroyed you, O shielding cherub, from among the stones of fire. 17 You grew haughty because of your beauty, you debased your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I have cast you to the ground, I have made you an object for kings to stare at.
E. In the closing chapters of the book, Ezekiel’s role moves from one of sentinel to one who develops the response to the fugitive. This happens as the book turns from the theme of destruction to consolation. Let’s look at 33:1-5 and then 33:10-16 and consider how this is so.
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 O mortal, speak to your fellow countrymen and say to them: When I bring the sword against a country, the citizens of that country take one of their number and appoint him their watchman. 3 Suppose he sees the sword advancing against the country, and he blows the horn and warns the people. 4 If anybody hears the sound of the horn but ignores the warning, and the sword comes and dispatches him, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 Since he heard the sound of the horn but ignored the warning, his bloodguilt shall be upon himself; had he taken the warning, he would have saved his life.
10 Now O mortal, say to the House of Israel: This is what you have been saying: Our transgressions and our sins weigh heavily upon us; we are sick at heart about them. How can we survive?” 11 Say to them: As I live---declares the Lord God---it is not My desire that the wicked shall die, but that the wicked turn from his(evil) ways and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, that you may not die, O House of Israel!
12 Now O mortal, say to your fellow countrymen: The righteousness of the righteous shall not save him when he transgresses, nor shall the wickedness of the wicked cause him to stumble when he turns back from his wickedness. The righteous shall not survive through his righteousness when he sins. 13 When I say of the righteous “He shall surely live,” and, relying on his righteousness, he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but for the iniquity that he has committed he shall die. 14 So , too, when I say to the wicked “ You shall die, “ and he turns back from his sinfulness and does what is just and right---15 if the wicked man restores a pledge, makes good what he has taken by robbery, follows the laws of life and does not commit iniquity---he shall live, he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he committed shall be remembered against him; since he does what is just and right, he shall live.
F. Let’s continue our study of the metaphor of the people as sheep and God as the shepherd by reading 34:13-19, 22-30, and 36:37-38.
13 I will take them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them to their own land, and will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses and in all the settled portions of the land. 14 I will feed them in good grazing land, and the lofty hills of Israel shall be their pasture. There, in the hills of Israel, they shall lie down in a good pasture and shall feed on rich grazing land. 15 I Myself will graze My flock, and I Myself will let them lie down---declares the Lord God. 16 I will look for the lost, and I will bring back the strayed; I will bandage the injured, and I will sustain the weak; and the fat and healthy ones I will destroy. I will tend them rightly. 17 And as for you, My flock, thus said the Lord God: I am going to judge between one animal and another. To the rams and the bucks: 18 Is it not enough for you to graze on choice grazing ground, but you must also trample with your feet what is left from your grazing? And is it not enough for you to drink clear water, but you must also muddy with your feet what is left? 19 And must My flock graze on what your feet have trampled and drink what your feet have muddied?
22 I will rescue My flock and they shall no longer be a spoil. I will decide between one animal and another. 23 Then I will appoint a single shepherd over them to tend them---My servant David. He shall tend them and shall be a shepherd to them. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and My servant David shall be a ruler among them---I the Lord have spoken. 25 And I will grant them a covenant of friendship. I will banish vicious beasts from their land, and they shall live secure in the wasteland, they shall even sleep in the woodland. 26 I will make these and the environs of My hill a blessing. I will send down the rain in its season, rains that bring blessing. 27 The trees of the field shall yield their fruit and the land shall yield its produce. (My people) shall continue secure on its own soil. They shall know that I am the Lord when I break he bars of their yoke and rescue them from those who enslave them. 28 They shall no longer be a spoil for the nations and the beasts of the earth shall not devour them, they shall dwell secure and untroubled. 29 I shall establish for them a planting of renown, they shall no more be carried off by famine, and they shall not have to bear again the taunts of the nations. 30 They shall know that I the Lord their God am with them and they, the House of Israel, are My people---declares the Lord God.
37 Thus said the Lord God: Moreover, in this I will respond to the House of Israel and act for their sake; I will multiply their people like sheep. 38 As Jerusalem is filled with sacrificial sheep during her festivals, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. And they shall know that I am the Lord.
23 Nor shall they ever again defile themselves by their fetishes and their abhorrent things, and by their other transgressions. I will save them and all their settlements where they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people and I will be there God. 24 My servant David shall be King over them; there shall be one shepherd for all of them. They shall follow My rules and faithfully obey my laws. 25 Thus shall they remain in the land which I gave to my servant Jacob and in which your fathers dwelt; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, with My servant David as their prince for all time.
G. Consistent with the theme of renewal that closes out the book, Ezekiel focuses on God’s commitment never to abandon a covenant He makes with people. Read 36:7–12 and 22-30.
7 Thus said the Lord God: I hereby swear that the nations which surround you shall, in their turn, suffer disgrace. 8 But you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near. 9 For I will care for you: I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. 10 I will settle a large population on you , the whole House of Israel; the towns shall be resettled, and the ruined sites rebuilt. 11 I will multiply men and beasts upon you, and they shall increase and be fertile, and I will resettle you as you were formerly, and will make you more prosperous than you were at first. And you shall know that I am the Lord. 12 I will lead men---My people Israel--- to you, and they shall posses you. You shall be their heritage, and you shall not again cause them to be bereaved.
22 Say to the House of Israel: Thus said the Lord God: Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations to which you have come. 23 I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations ---among whom you have caused it to be profaned. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord---declares the Lord God---when I manifest My holiness before their eyes through you. 24 I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries and I will bring you back to your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes. 26 And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; 27 and I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people and I will be your God. 29 And when I have delivered you from all your uncleanness, I will summon the grain and make it abundant, and I will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of your trees and the crops of your fields abundant, so that you shall never again be humiliated before the nations because of famine.
What makes for a new heart and a new spirit? Note in 27 that the new heart and new spirit are to serve to the end that we go by God’s decrees and guard God’s laws and perform them. What does this mean?
H. In 37:1-10, we read of life being restored to what were dead bones. How do we interpret these verses - literally, metaphorically, or more narrowly in the context of this “return from exile” narrative?
Ezekiel 37: 1-10
1 The hand of the Lord came upon me. He took me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the valley. Its was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many of them spread over the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “O mortal, can these bones live again?: I replied, “O Lord God, only You know.” 4 And He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus said he Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again. 6 I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you. And I will put breath into you, and you shall live again. And you shall know that I am the Lord!” 7 I prophesied as I had been commanded. And while I was prophesying, suddenly there was a sound of rattling and the bones came together, bone to matching bone. 8 I looked and there were sinews on them, and flesh had grown, and skin had formed over them’ but there was no breath in them. 9 Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, O mortal! Say to the breath: Thus said the Lord God; Come, O breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live again”. 10 I prophesied as He commanded me. The breath entered them and they came to life and stood up on their feet, a vast multitude.
II. Conclusion - There are several more significant passages in this book, including those regarding Gog in Magog (38 and 39), amazing detail about the Third Temple (40-48), return of the Glory of God to sacred space (43), requirements for operation of sacred space that appear new and different than provided for in the Torah (44 and following), and the new name of the city of the Temple.
We don’t have time in this course to explore these fascinating ideas. Maybe we can return to them.
What are our biggest takeaways of this remarkable book?