Ezekiel 14 - Outline of Ezekiel (MENU page)
In the previous chapter, the LORD pronounced judgment upon false prophets and prophetesses.
In this chapter, He declares that every person will be judged according to their own heart.
Righteousness is associated with the right reception of God's Word.
The punishment of the idolatrous nation, people and prophets is delineated and demonstrated.
 
A. The 'Answer' of individual judgment - according to personal heart condition. (v.1-11)
1. Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.
2 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart,
and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face:
should I be enquired of at all by them?
4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart,
and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet;
I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart,
because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
...then came certain of the elders of Israel... and sat before me.
Ostensibly, these leaders of the exiles in Babylon came to Ezekiel, to seek guidance from the LORD.
However, the LORD knew their hearts, and revealed the contents to His prophet.
...these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face...
They would not benefit from God's Word, because their willing captivity, to contrary desires, would cause them to stumble {waver, fall}.
  • Should the LORD honor the requests of those whose hearts are pre-occupied with false gods?
  • Should His counsel be given to those who have already chosen their own way?
    cp. Psa 66:18; Jer 42:20,21 (where, even before they enquired, the enquirers 'dissembled' {ie., wandered} from God's way, in their hearts)
In contrast, the heart, that treasures God's Word, is kept from stumbling. Psa 119:9-11; Prov 3:21-23
...therefore... say unto them... every man... that setteth up... idols in his heart... I the LORD will answer him...
The word for 'answer' {HB='anah} can refer to a verbal or non-verbal answer.
They came, expecting to receive words, which they might weigh and apply selectively (cp. Jam 1:5-8).
But He would answer "every man" with judgment, "according to the multitude of his idols." eg., 1Kin 21:20-26; 2Kin 1:16; cp. Isa 3:11; 66:4; Jer 17:10
...that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me...
As a nation, Israel had become alienated from the LORD, because the hearts of nearly all of the people had turned away from Him. Therefore, He would 'take' {ie., seize, lay hold of} them in judgment. Jer 2:11-13; Zech 7:11-14
This is also a warning for the church and professing believers, today. Gal 6:7; Heb 3:12; 1Joh 5:20,21
6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Repent, and turn [yourselves] from your idols;
and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel,
which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart,
and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face,
and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me;
I the LORD will answer him by myself:
8 And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb,
and I will cut him off from the midst of my people;
and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD.
...Repent, and turn... from your idols; and... from all your abominations {ie., loathsome, detestable things}.
The LORD's prophets had repeatedly called individuals and the nation to repentance. eg., Isa 55:6,7; Hos 14:1-3
To escape the judgment, every man must turn from {ie., forsake} his idols and turn to the LORD (to trust and serve Him alone).
...for every one... which separateth himself from me... and cometh to a prophet to enquire... I the LORD will answer him...
Even at this late date, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, those who were worshipping idols, were also giving lip service to the LORD. Like the elders (in v.1-3), people and leaders went to hear what the LORD would say, through His prophets... though their hearts were not prepared to trust and obey His Word. They had 'separated' {HB=nazar, consecrated, dedicated} themselves to something other than Him. eg., Hos 9:10
...I will set my face against that man... I will cut him off from the midst of my people...
This punishment of false hearted enquirers is parallel to that of false prophets. v.9b; Eze 13:9
...and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
When? When the LORD cut them off with their idols. Only then, would they know that He alone is God. Psa 86:10
9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing,
I the LORD have deceived that prophet,
and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity:
the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh [unto him];
11 That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me,
neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions;
but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.
...if the prophet be deceived... I the LORD have deceived that prophet...
The false prophets chose to "prophecy out of their own hearts" and "follow their own spirits," rather than giving heed to the Word of God. His Word is absolutely true. But for those who fail to love the Truth, a time comes when the LORD gives them up to their self-deception. By their "vain {ie., empty, deceitful}" visions, they deceived themselves as well as the people (13:2-3,6-7). Therefore, because they refused the LORD's Word, in favor of "lying divination," the LORD would "deceive" them, by allowing them to continue in their chosen way. cp. Psa 81:11,12; Isa 66:4; Rom 1:21,24-26; 2The 2:9-12
...and I will stretch out my hand upon him... and will destroy him from the midst of my people...
By the Lord's hand of judgment, the self-deceived prophet would be destroyed {HB=shamad, completely exterminated} from among the people of Israel.
...and they shall bear the punishment {HB='avon} of their iniquity {HB='avon, perversity, depravity, consequence of guilt}...
This HB word occurs multiple times, in v.3-10, translated as 'iniquity', 'punish', or 'punishment'.
The sinner 'bears' {ie., carries} both his iniquity and its punishment, but can survive neither.
Under the weight of his condition, he will be crushed, before the Holiness of God. Eze 18:4
The wages of sin is the same, for the false prophet and for those who seek his counsel (cp. v.7-10; 13:9).
...that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me... that they may be my people...
The Lord's ultimate purpose in judgment is to purify a people for Himself. Eze 11:17-21; 37:27; Zech 13:9
 
B. The Certainty of national judgment - according to multiple warnings - not mitigated by a few righteous. (v.12-21)
12. The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,
13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously,
then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof,
and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it,
they should deliver [but] their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
...when the land sinneth {HB=khawtaw, misses the mark} against me by trespassing {HB=ma'al, to trespass} grievously {HB=ma'al, a trespass}...
The first occurrence of this word for 'sin' alongside the Hebrew phrase 'trespass a trespass' ('commit a trespass, and sin...' Lev 5:15,16) refers to unintentional sin, and prescribes the means of forgiveness, through substitutionary blood sacrifice.
     However, in many subsequent passages, the sin of 'trespassing grievously' {'committing a trespass'} refers to the attitude of a treacherous heart, which knowingly continues to engage in deliberate unfaithfulness to the LORD. The blood of sacrifice cannot cleanse unrepentant hearts (eg., Isa 1:11-20; Jer 6:19,20).
     The NASB renders this line: "Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness ..." This was the state of the nation, at the time of Ezekiel. The true prophets had long warned of judgment upon sin, and had repeatedly called the people to turn from their sin, and to return to the LORD for mercy (eg., v.6). Yet, they persisted in their rebellion. In such a situation, the LORD had no choice but to punish the nation severely, in anticipation of a future day, when a remnant would turn to Him in true repentance (eg., Eze 9:9,10; Lev 26:39-42; Dan 9:5-12).
...I will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it... and cut off man and beast from it.
This is the first of the "four sore {HB=ra', evil, wicked, severely distressing} judgments {HB=shephet, acts of judgment, execution of sentence}" (v.21), which are listed in v.12-21.
     Bread is a 'staff' {ie., support} of life. In times of famine, people and animals die for lack of food.
     From the time of Moses, the LORD had warned His people of this kind of judgment. At first, He would send a limited famine. But it would become increasingly severe, if they took no heed (eg., Lev 26:26-29). The warnings grew ever more urgent as the siege of Jerusalem drew near (eg., Eze 4:16,17; 5:16).
...though these three men... were in it {ie., in its midst}, they should deliver {ie., escape with} but their own souls by their righteousness...
This reminds us of Abraham's prayer that Sodom would be spared, if the LORD found a few righteous people there (Gen 18:23-26-f). Abraham was concerned for his nephew, Lot, and he assumed that Lot and his family were right in God's sight. The LORD did spare Lot, though his character was not exemplary. But the city and most of his family perished.
In a similar way, the exemplary righteousness of well known men could not spare a land guilty of deliberate unfaithfulness to the LORD.
  • Noah - was righteous (Gen 6:7,8; 7:1),
    and had a part in delivering his family from the Flood (Heb 11:7).
    Noah's righteousness was "the righteousness which is by faith."
    (Likewise, the righteousness of Job and Daniel rested upon the LORD, in whom they trusted.)
  • Job - was righteous (Job 1:5,8,22; 2:9,10),
    and delivered his three friends when he prayed for them (42:8-f).
  • Daniel - was righteous (Dan 1:8; 6:19-22; 9:20-23; 10:11),
    and had a part in saving his three friends, when the Lord enabled him to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream (eg., Daniel ch.2).
         In Ezekiel's day, the history and character of Noah and Job were well attested in the available scriptural record. However, Daniel was Ezekiel's contemporary. At the time of this prophecy, Daniel was probably 30 to 35 years old, and the events recorded in Daniel chapters 3-12 had not yet occurred. His inclusion, in this list, demonstrates that Daniel's testimony, as one who wholeheartedly served the LORD, was already widely known.
Yet, the wickedness of the nation was such, that if these three men were present, their righteousness would not benefit even their closest relatives (v.16), but would apply only to their personal standing before the LORD. Prov 11:4-6; 2Pet 2:9
This point is repeated, at each of the four judgments listed here.
15 If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it,
so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
16 [Though] these three men [were] in it, [as] I live, saith the Lord GOD,
they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters;
they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
...noisesome {ie., evil, wild} beasts... they spoil {ie., bereave} it...-
See the translation of similar HB wording, in Eze 5:17.
The second 'sore judgment' was also forewarned by Moses (Lev 26:22; eg., Num 21:6).
17 Or [if] I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land;
so that I cut off man and beast from it:
18 Though these three men [were] in it, [as] I live, saith the Lord GOD,
they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
The third 'sore judgment': Death by the sword (through military invasion) was also forewarned by Moses (Lev 26:25).
The more recent prophets had declared that this punishment would be dealt by the Babylonians. Eze 5:12,17; 21:3,4; Jer 25:9
19 Or [if] I send a pestilence into that land,
and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
20 Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, [were] in it, [as] I live, saith the Lord GOD,
they shall deliver neither son nor daughter;
they shall [but] deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
21 For thus saith the Lord GOD;
How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem,
the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?
Pestilence {ie., disease} is the fourth 'sore judgment.' Deu 28:21,22
Just as Moses had said, the LORD had sent each of these specific types of judgment upon Israel, during various periods of their rebellion.
     As noted at v.13 above, the "four sore judgments," refer to four 'evil' {severely distressing} actions in execution of the sentence, as determined by the righteous Judge.
     These four judgments will also be evident during the Tribulation period, at the end of the age (Rev 6:8).
...how much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem...-
  • Because any one of the four judgments would be devastating, all four judgments at once would be much worse.
  • Because the sin of Jerusalem was grievous, He would leave the land 'desolate' {ie., waste}, and its people 'cut off' {ie., destroyed, consumed}. The Lord's wrath would not rest, until He had evicted the sinful nation from off the land. Eze 5:11-17
  • Because the LORD looks on the heart, there would be no escape, for anyone, apart from true personal righteousness.
    The righteousness of a righteous person cannot save the souls of his own children (eg., Eze 18:20).
    • Therefore, it is obvious that the presence of a few righteous men, cannot protect a rebellious nation from deserved judgment. Eze 7:8; Jer 21:6,9; 24:8-10
    • Therefore, the elders, who came to Ezekiel to enquire of the LORD (though they served false gods in their hearts), should expect to see further judgment upon themselves and upon Jerusalem. Their shallow associations with Ezekiel or Jeremiah would not hold back the poured out wrath of God (v.1-5; v.20,21).
 
C. The 'Comfort' of righteous judgment - according to the LORD's righteous purpose. (v.22-23)
22 Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, [both] sons and daughters:
behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings:
and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem,
[even] concerning all that I have brought upon it.
23 And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings:
and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.
Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant...
This word for 'remnant' {HB=peleytah, escaped ones, refugees} is not the word typically used for the believing remnant {HB=sheh-ar, remainder (as in Isa 10:20-22)}. In the near term, though the LORD's judgment upon Jerusalem would be severe, some of its sinful citizens would survive and be brought as captives to Babylon (Jer 4:27).
...ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted...
This 'comfort' is not an emotional relief in knowing that some other Israelites survived the national crisis.
When the exiles, who were already in Babylon, observed the 'way' {ie., way of life, conduct} and 'doings' {HB='aliylah, actions, evil deeds (see 'doings' in Eze 20:43,44)} of the new arrivals, they would be "comforted {HB=nacham, repent, be eased} concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem." That is, they would change their minds, and begin to understand why God had to judge Jerusalem so severely.
     Ezekiel had seen, in visions, the atrocities committed, in the Holy City (eg., Eze 8:6-18; 9:8,7; cp. Jer 7:17-20). He had related what he saw to the exiles. But few paid attention to his words. The lifestyle and behavior, of the new (soon to arrive) refugees, would make the picture more clear.
...and ye shall know that I have not done 'without cause' {HB=hinnam, for nothing, for no purpose} all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.
The LORD had good reason to punish His people. But His overriding purpose was to purge away sin and purify a people for Himself.
There could be no change of heart and turning to the LORD, until individuals came under conviction of their sinful condition. Eze 6:9,10; cp. 20:42-44; 36:32-35

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