Judah Judged [Chapters 4-24]
The leaders of Jerusalem were publicly and ruthlessly opposed to the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They vaulted their own ministries and leadership as the ones chosen of God. In this chapter Ezekiel is used of God to confront these false and deceptive leaders with fatal rebukes.
The Deceitful Court (1-3)
The Spirit lifted Ezekiel and brought him to the east gate of the Temple area. Ezekiel saw the twenty-five men like those who had been worshiping the sun with their backs to the Temple and God's Glory. These men were likely not priests but a new group, the political or ruling group of the city. Among the twenty-five were Jaazaniah and Pelatiah, who were princes among the people. These men were two from the nobility who had sold out and were devoted to the misdirection of Israel. They were satisfying their own lustful cravings, having buried their lives in the salacious practices of idolatry (1).
They were the Supreme Court or the final counsel to the city, so to speak. They plotted evil; they were deceitful schemers, professional scoundrels, who gave advice based on their potential for profit, no matter whom it hurt (2).
They were telling the nation that while it was not time to expand economically as a nation, safe and prosperous times were coming.
They told the nation of Judah that being in Jerusalem was like being meat in a steel pot.They were protected, as safe as a stew’s being protected by a wife and mother preparing dinner for her family. The nation could rest secure, they continued, guaranteeing them that they were impervious to outside invasion.
The plight of the siege would soon be over. They needed merely to buckle down, resist Babylon, and wait for their allies from Egypt to come to their aid, and together they would rout the Babylonians (3).
The Prophecy Against the Leaders (4-13)
As Ezekiel was called to prophesy, the Spirit of Yahweh fell on him and began to speak to his spirit. Ezekiel told those wicked leaders that Yahweh knew their very thoughts. Ezekiel then told them that the advice they were giving the nation of Judah was going to result in the needless death of a multiplied many (4-6).
The twenty-five rulers who advised Israel not to give up also encouraged resisting and rebelling against Babylon. This counsel stood condemned before Yahweh. Jerusalem would not be saved and would not prosper; the counsel of the rulers was false.
The city of Jerusalem was a stew pot, but those wicked leaders were making needless victims of those who assumed they were safe. The stew was going to be spilled (7).
Because God was allowing the Babylonians success against His holy city, He was claiming sovereign responsibility for the sword of war (8).
By leaving the city empty of His presence and glory, God was allowing foreigners to enter and carry out the necessary judgment. Yahweh was putting a stop to Israel's vile and lustful idolatry (9). Judah, the southern kingdom, would come under the heavy hand of the Babylonians and experience judgment all the way to the borders of the northern kingdom, Israel. They would learn that they were under the hand of Babylon because they had run Yahweh off. Their idolatry essentially told God to exit the city—He was no longer their sovereign; He was no longer Yahweh to them (10).
Ezekiel announced that Judah was not going to be like stew meat in a pot, all safe and protected. None would be able to stop the pot’s from being spilled. The walls were going to tumble down and the precious stew meat, Judah, would spill out (11). Judah would learn that Yahweh was sovereign. His statutes were meant to be followed and His rules obeyed. All of this they threw off, out of their lives. They threw it all off so they could act like the other nations and lust for those things the other nations lusted after (12).
As Ezekiel was prophesying within the context of his vision, Pelatiah dropped dead. Ezekiel, so concerned that none would be spared, fell to his knees, face to the ground, and cried out with loud intercession for Yahweh to save the remnant in His mercy. Ezekiel realized no one deserved saving so he was crying out with all his heart for Yahweh to be merciful to a nation not deserving any mercy (13).
Sanctuary for the Scattered (14-16)
Those Jews left in the city, those not taken captive to Babylon, had falsely assumed that their being spared was some kind of evidence that they were specially chosen. They were glad to rid themselves of the former two groups deported earlier into captivity. Those who remained in Jerusalem under the siege and in the land falsely claimed that they would endure the siege, turn back Babylon, and inherit then divide the land of those weak folks who had given up. The attitude of those left to endure the siege in Jerusalem was, “Good riddance to cowards who gave up early” (14-15).
Ezekiel claimed that those taken had actually been moved into God's sanctuary, a place of refuge in far-off foreign lands. They had been scattered, but they had been scattered to be saved (16).
The Ultimate Result of Judgment (17-20)
God had a purpose in leaving His Temple and allowing Babylon to judge His people. He was saving Israel from ultimate destruction and being wiped out of the memory of the world's peoples. Their sins would have surely and completely destroyed them.
Instead, a remnant would be spared, and the remnant taken into Babylon would come to know Yahweh as God Who is sovereign above all others.
The remnant would one day be gathered and then given the land of Israel. This is not just the property of Palestine but the whole inheritance promised to the true Israel of God (17).
Those fully devoted to Yahweh would be known for ruthlessly wiping out every idol-ridden, loathsome lust. They would deny themselves as living by lust and be fully devoted to Yahweh, hearts completely changed, no longer touched nor impacted by insensitivity and human meanness (18).
When the spirit of idolatry and the associated mean-hearted, brute nature was removed from the heart of those devoted to Yahweh, a huge miracle would take place. The people of God would be united as one from the depths of their hearts to Yahweh. This amazing, loving unity would create in each individual a new spirit and in the whole new community a completely different spirit.
The stony heart of insensitivity would be removed and the heart of compassion for others would find root in every chest (19). This new heart would give them the power to walk in God-formed habits (statutes) and would enable them to listen to essential limitations necessary for all God-devoted communities to survive. In other words, they would be able to keep and obey rules.
Mostly, they would finally become Yahweh's people, reflecting His wonder and love (20).
The Destiny of the Lustful (21)
Those whose hearts were determined to live for lust, those without impulse control, those whose hearts were wading neck-deep in wanting to live by what they desired, those who inevitably brought harm to others, would someday experience judgment. They would experience God's presence withdrawing, God’s allowing those who lust for idols to be swallowed up in the reaping of what they had sown.
The Glory Departs (22-23)
The cherubim lifted up their wings and with them the glory of God. The cherubim with the glory of God crossed the valley and stood on the mount of Olives just east of the temple (22-23). The glory had departed the temple, moved above the Heifer bridge, and stood at the site where Jesus would make a habit of praying, where Jesus would be arrested, and where some believe Jesus would later be crucified.
[Notice the picture below, the bridge going over to the site where Jesus was arrested and where some think He was crucified.]
Ezekiel Returns in Spirit to His Home (24-25)
Ezekiel came out of his vision by the Spirit of God, and his spirit was returned to his home, with the exiles in Chaldea. The vision went up from Ezekiel out of his view.
Ezekiel then related to the exiles in his home all he had seen while in his vision/trance-like state (24-25).