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Chapter 33 

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ch. 33:1-20    ch. 33:21-33

My Commentary On The Book Of Ezekiel




The following commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  Title chapters in this commentary correspond with chapter titles in the NIV that make for easy study.


Ezekiel was born around 627 B.C. and began his ministry around the age of thirty. He was a priest in Israel.


Prior to the time which Ezekiel wrote the words the Lord gave him, Israel was divided into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom.  For the most part,  the northern kingdom consisted of ten tribes of Israel and was called Israel.  The southern kingdom consisted of two tribes and was called Judah.  Because of Israel 's idolatry,  that's the northern kingdom, God allowed Assyria to over-run Israel and defeat them as a means of God's judgment. 


The southern kingdom of Judah became idolatrous as well and God allowed Babylon to over-run them as a means of judgment as well.  The siege of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews began in 606 B. C..  There were three invasions of Judah by Babylon.  Ezekiel was taken in the second invasion. 

The name Ezekiel means "God's strength", something he surely needed as a prophet to Israel.


Chapters 1 through 3 of Ezekiel deals with God's call on his life.  Chapters 4 to 24 deals with the fall of Judah.  Chapters 25 to 32 deals with God's judgment on Judah .  Chapters 33 to 37 deals with the restoration of Israel at the end of this age.  Chapters 38 and 39 deals with a great war during the close of this age.  Chapters 40 through 48 deals with the temple, and life in the thousand year rule of Christ on earth.


Ezekiel, A Watchman (ch. 33:1 - 20)


Watchmen in Ezekiel's days were men who stood on the walls to a city in order to watch for enemy attack.  If a watchmen saw the enemy come, he would sound the trumpet and the army would prepare for war.


In verse 2 God speaks to Ezekiel.  God wants him to explain the concept of a watchman to Israel.  From verse 2 to verse 6 God speaks in general terms to Ezekiel the message he is to pass on to Israel.  His message was simple.  If a watchman sounds the trumpet of an enemy attack, and if people don't prepare and end up being killed, that's their problem.  That's their fault.  But, if the watchman fails to sound the trumpet and the people don't respond and thus are killed, it's the watchman's fault. 


Note in verse 2 that it is God who will bring the sword against Israel.  He uses another nation in the process, but he is the one behind that nation.  Note also in verse 6 that the watchman who fails to sound the trumpet will be judged by God and held accountable for his failure. 


In the next few verses God takes the general analogy of the watchman and personalizes to Ezekiel.  God tells Ezekiel in verse 7 that he will be the watchman for Israel.  In other words, he is Israel's prophet to speak the word of the Lord to them, and especially a word of impending doom and destruction.  


In verse 8 God tells Ezekiel that if He speaks to him about a certain wicked man, that he will die if he doesn't repent, and if Ezekiel doesn't pass this warning on to the wicked man, then Ezekiel will be at fault.  Yet, as verse 9 states, if Ezekiel does warn the wicked man, and if the wicked man does not repent and dies as a result, that's the wicked man's fault. 


One thing to note here is that in context, the wicked man is Israel.  Ezekiel was to warn Israel that if they did not repent of their sin and turn from their wicked ways, God would destroy them.  That was Ezekiel's job as a prophet. 


As an aside, I believe that the ministry of prophet is just as valid today as it was in Old Testament times, even though from time to time it is misused.  Some who claim to hear prophetic words from the Lord, don't really hear from the Lord.  The words are just a product of their imagination.  We need men who have been called of God to warn, both Jew and Christian, that if they don't repent, judgment will come.


Verses 10 and 11 really personalize the job of the watchman that Ezekiel has become.  He is to point out Israel 's wickedness.  He is also to point out that God does not take pleasure in destroying the wicked.  This is important, because many non-Christians see the actions of God in the Bible and they think that God does take pleasure in judging, condemning, and destroying people.  That's not the case.  Many people today compensate for this misunderstanding by thinking God would never destroy anyone anyway.  That's not true.  God is a God of love and a God of justice.  He will judge, condemn, and destroy, but His heart aches in the process.


Note the picture language in verse 10.  The text states a real truth when it comes to sin.  It "weighs" you down and it causes you "to waste away".  Sin might feel exciting for some for a while, but it does do great harm to a life.  Sin eats away at the full life we should be experiencing, because sin separates us from our Lord.


Because sin ends in death, the Lord says "turn" from your sin in verse 11.  Once Israel, and you and I as well, turn from our sin to the Lord, we, as the text says, "will live".  We will know what life is meant to be like.


Verses 12 to 16 are a little wordy and may take a couple of readings to understand.  There are two kind of men spoken of in this section.  There is the righteous man and there is the wicked man. 


God is simply saying that the righteous man cannot depend on his righteousness to cover his sin  If the righteous man sins, he must repent.  All the good things he has done can't compensate for his sin.  The only way to rid himself of the blot of sin is to repent.  Repentance is one of the major concepts of the Bible.  There is no way for salvation to come to a person without repenting,  that is, acknowledging your wrong and turning from it.  That doesn't mean you will no longer be tempted with the sin.  It means you acknowledge the sin and you battle it out until you succeed in victory.


There's another point to understand concerning the righteousness of the righteous man.  It cannot compensate for your sin.  That means, if you sin, you cannot depend on something good you do to cover that sin.  The only thing you can do to rid the stain of sin before the Lord is to repent of it and turn from it.


Concerning the wicked man, that which I just said about the righteous man works in reverse.  All the bad things a wicked man does won't wipe out the opportunity for him to repent and find salvation.  If the wicked man truly repents and turns from his sin, he can be saved.  It does not matter how many bad things he has done.  This is the message of not only the New Testament, but the whole Bible.


In verse 17 God exposes the folly of Israel 's thinking.  Israel does not want to admit her sin.  They say the Lord's way is unjust.  God's response to that is, "Israel's ways are unjust".  It's always our human tendency to blame someone else other than ourselves.  We don't want to take responsibility for our own actions.  That is what God is saying about Israel in this verse.


In verses 18 and 19 God reminds Israel of what He has just told them about the wicked and the righteous man.  The implication here is that God views Israel's ways as being unjust, and as verse 20 states, God will judge each man accordingly. 


Note the words "each man".  At this point God is speaking to individuals, not to the nation of Israel.  God relates to mankind on two levels.  He relates to us nationally and individually.  In this passage He is saying that He will hold individuals accountable for their own actions.  This too is a Biblical principle.  No one can or will stand in the presence of God for you.  You stand before the Lord on your own.  You can't pass the blame of your actions to anyone else.  You are  exposed before the Lord and you will answer to Him. 


Jerusalem's Fall Explained (ch. 33:21 - 33)


Note the phrase "the hand of the Lord was upon me" in verses 21.  This is an expression to denote that the Lord has come to Ezekiel.  In other words, the presence of the Lord came to Ezekiel, or, the Holy Spirit came on Ezekiel, or, any of a number of expressions the Bible uses for the Lord coming to a person.  The term "hand of the Lord" suggests to me that the Lord, at least in a spiritual sense, "tapped" Ezekiel on the shoulder in order to get his attention.


What we need to realize between verses 20 and 21 is that the final invasion of Jerusalem had taken place.  The Lord spoke to Ezekiel about this but would not allow him to say anything until the confirmation came from a man who had escaped Jerusalem.  Then Ezekiel could speak the word of the Lord.  This is a dividing time in the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel.  Prior to this he had prophesied of the fall of Jerusalem that he just heard about from the man who escaped the Babylonian army.  From this point on, Ezekiel prophesies about the future of Israel.


Verses 23 and 24 show the confusion now of those who have been just overtaken by Babylon in Israel.  They said that Abraham was just one man who the land was promised too, but we are many.  They could not understand what was going don.  God promised Abraham and his descendents the land, and now it was being taken from them.  They were the many.  They were the ones to whom God promised this land.  You can certainly understand their confusion, that is, if you ignore the sin of Israel.  If you understand the rebellious nature of Israel , then you know why Israel was now being defeated by Babylon.


In verse 25 God tells Ezekiel how to respond to the logic of those Israelis who are asking this question.  God basically says that how can they keep the land.  They are disobeying his command by worshipping other gods and eating blood of animals.  Israel has been forewarned of this many times over.  This judgment was even predicted at the death of Moses, centuries earlier.  Israel is willfully sinning and they are now experiencing the judgment of God.


Verse 26 lists a few more of Israel's sins.  They rely on their sword, meaning, they are humanistic in nature, just like present day Israel.  They defile their neighbor's wife.  Sexual adultery is ramped.  They also "do detestable things".  This simply lumps all their other sins together.  Israel just is not walking with their God, and now they can't understand why they are being defeated by their enemies.  They are so far removed from understanding God's ways, when they live in sin, they think they are doing right.  I suggest that much of the modern day western church are doing the same.  I also suggest they will receive, or have already in some cases, receive the same fate as Israel did. 


Verse 27 starts with "as surely as I live", which means, "what I say will happen" because God always will live.  Thos who remain in the land of Israel who escape captivity at the hand of the Babylonian army will die, one way or another, they will not live.  This is total destruction, just as God said would happen if Israel disobeys.


Not only will people be destroyed, but verses 28 and 29 say the land will become desolate, and so it did.  This took place to a degree after Babylon wiped out Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment came in 70 A. D. when Roman armies wiped out Jerusalem. 


From verse 30 to the end of this chapter God tells Ezekiel what kind of people he is prophesying to.  God tells Ezekiel that Israelis come to hear him speak the word of the Lord, but they don't really pay attention.  God says that they "don't put the words into practice:".   Again, I see the same thing happening in the western church today.


Verse 31 says that Israelis "express their devotion but their hearts are greedy and unjust".  Jesus said something similar when He told Israel that they speak the right things with their mouths, but their hearts were far from godly.  That made them hypocrites.   Again, I see this in the western church at large today, and sad to say, even among Evangelicals.  People attend church and express their devotion with their mouths, but leave the gathering and do their own things so to speak. And, they are just like the Israelis of old.  They are so far removed from the understanding of how things should be that they think the way they live is how God wants them to live.  It's simple deception.


Verse 32 is really relevant for today.  God says that Israel looks on Ezekiel as one who sings a love song, much like the pop singers of today.  The most popular theme of modern songs is love.  Everyone sings the love songs.  Everyone listens to the loves songs, but no one really lives the life of love that people are singing about and listening to.  Again, it's hypocrisy.  What the Lord is really saying is that God's people, especially when they gather, are more interested in being entertained than hearing and then doing the will of the Lord.  Entertainment is the way of the modern church.


In verse 33 God tells Ezekiel that sooner or later, when the things he is predicting comes true, Israel will finally know that he is a real prophet of God.  The text doesn't say, but it is implied, and maybe it really does say in the last verse, that Israel does not really see Ezekiel as the prophet of God he really is.  How sad. 


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