Ezekiel 20 - Outline of Ezekiel (MENU page)
In the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity (1:2,3), the LORD had called and commissioned Ezekiel as a watchman, to warn the exiles already held captive by Babylon, of additional trouble ahead. Since that time, Ezekiel had been faithful to the task. The LORD instructed him to use a variety of methods, to get the attention of his hard hearted people, as he proclaimed that the judgment of Jerusalem was both necessary and imminent.
     While his hearers remained steadfast in their unbelief, the day of reckoning marched ever nearer. This message, given in the seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity, was less than two and a half years prior to Nebucadnezzar's siege of the city, and less than four years before its fall.
 
A message to the Elders of Israel (ch. 20-21)
- - Review of Israel's unfaithfulness (v.1-32)
 
1. And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth [month], the tenth [day] of the month,
[that] certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD, and sat before me.
2 Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,
3 Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them,
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to enquire of me?
[As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you.
Although these elders professed a desire to receive direction from the LORD, He knew their hearts.
Whatever their specific questions might have been, He would not give them their desired answer, because He knew they had already chosen their own way, and would not heed His Word. cp. Eze 8:1; 14:1-3; 33:30-33
     Not long after these elders approached Ezekiel among the exiles near Babylon, king Zedekiah (in Jerusalem) asked Jeremiah to enquire of the LORD. The answer, to Zedekiah, was that the time for repentance had passed, and the destruction of the city was irrevocably determined (Jer 21:1-7). This is also the essence of the LORD's message to the elders who came to Ezekiel. The LORD had been very gracious to the nation, having withheld His wrath on multiple historic occasions. But because they had persisted in their rebellion, the time for judgment had come. cp. Psa 50:15-21; Mat 15:7-9
4 Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge [them]?
cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:
5. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
In the day when I chose Israel,
and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob,
and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt,
when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying,
I [am] the LORD your God;
{Ex 3:14,15; Ex 6:6-8}
6 In the day [that] I lifted up mine hand unto them,
to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them,
flowing with milk and honey, which [is] the glory of all lands:
{Ex 3:8,17}
7 Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes,
and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt:
I [am] the LORD your God.
{eg., Ex 20:1-6; Deu 29:16-18; Josh 24:14}
8 But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me:
they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes,
neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt:
then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them,
to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
{Ex 32:1-10}
9 But I wrought for my name's sake,
that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they [were],
in whose sight I made myself known unto them,
in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.
{Ex 32:11-14}
...judge them... cause them to know the abominations of their fathers...
Ezekiel was not asked to sit in judgment over the nation. That was the LORD's place, and His sentence had already been rendered (eg., Eze 15:6-8). Ezekiel's role was to rehearse the LORD's case against His rebellious people, by 'causing them to know' how they had offended Him. (See this phrase in Eze 16:2,3; 22:2; 23:36.)
Led by the Holy Spirit, Ezekiel outlines five periods of Israel's unfaithfulness to the LORD:
  1. In Egypt, v.5-9
  2. In the Wilderness (the fathers), v.10-17
  3. In the Wilderness (the children), v.18-26
  4. In the Land, v.27-29
  5. In Exile, v.30-38
    [Above points are as listed by GWms.]
1. In Egypt -
...I... made myself known unto them... saying, I am the LORD your God... but they rebelled against me...
     (See the references at vs.5-7 above.)
...when I 'lifted up mine hand' to them...
This is the literal reading of this phrase (which occurs 3x in v.5,6 and once each in v.15,28,42). The phrase is accurately rendered 'swore' or 'swore an oath' by most modern translations, because this is its primary meaning (eg., as translated in Ex 6:8). However, the phrase can also refer to the initiation of action (eg., Psa 10:12). Both connotations are in view in this chapter. The LORD swore to Abraham and his descendants, in making irrevocable and absolutely sure promises to them. He also initiated and continues to pursue the process by which those promises will be fulfilled. Observe, in v.5-7, that the LORD's oath was accompanied by actions which He initiated:
  • I chose Israel.
  • I made myself known unto them...
    • He revealed Himself to them: "I am the LORD {the everliving One}..."
    • He identified Himself with them: "...your God."
    • He revealed His purpose and promise: "to bring them out of Egypt, into a land... flowing with milk and honey..."
      (In Egypt, He also demonstrated His power to fulfill His promised purpose.)
    • He commanded His people to abandon all false gods, to serve Him alone.
...but they rebelled against me...
Although the LORD had given them His sure Word, the people of Israel neither truly believed nor fully committed themselves to Him.
     While they were still in Egypt, at the beginning of the LORD's contest with Pharaoh, the people of Israel rebelled against Moses, when difficulty was encountered (eg., Ex 5:19-21). As they were departing from Egypt, they rebelled again and threatened to turn back (Ex 14:8-12; Psa 106:7-14). Just beyond Egypt's borders, the people rebelled repeatedly for want of food, or water, or for other distresses. They longed for the land from which they had been delivered (eg., Ex 16:2,3). In all of these difficulties, the LORD demonstrated His power over the gods of Egypt, as His mighty hand protected and provided for His people. Ex 19:4-6
     Yet, at Mt. Sinai, it became clear that rather than abandoning the false gods of Egypt, the people of Israel had carried them in their hearts. Their rebellion was not so much against Moses as against the LORD.
...I said, I will pour out my fury upon them... in the midst of the land of Egypt...
This may refer to the time when they provoked God at the Red Sea (Psa 106:7), or to some other unrecorded event. On the other hand, the early portion of their wilderness experience may have been considered Egyptian territory. In any case, Israel's worship of the golden calf, at Mt. Sinai, was adequate demonstration that the nation deserved to be destroyed. (See the references, at vs.8,9 above.)
...but I wrought {ie., worked, took action} for my name's sake... (see this phrase in v.14,22)
The word 'wrought' {HB='asiah, to do, to make, to work, to take action} is frequently associated with the hand (eg. Ecc 9:10).
     Throughout this chapter, the LORD's hand acts in accord with His Name {ie., consistent with Who He is, His Person, Character and revealed Purposes}. The action of His hand is specifically mentioned nine times (eg., v.22,33,34), while numerous verbs further describe actions which He has taken or will take.
     Having lifted up His hand to identify Himself with Israel and His stated purposes for that nation, the honor of His Name is closely associated with what He does with them.
     In v.8,9, the LORD not only withheld His wrath, but also powerfully delivered His undeserving people... so that the surrounding nations might better understand who He is. This was the subject of Israel's song, after they crossed the Red Sea (Ex 15:11-16).
     Yet, Israel did not truly know Him. Eze 36:21-23; 39:7
 
2. In the Wilderness (the fathers), v.10-17
10. Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt,
and brought them into the wilderness.
11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments,
which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them.
12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them,
that they might know that I [am] the LORD that sanctify them.
13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness:
they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments,
which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them;
and my sabbaths they greatly polluted:
then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
14 But I wrought for my name's sake,
that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.
...I gave them my statutes... my judgments... which if a man do, he shall even live in them.
In spite of their failure at Mt. Sinai, it was there that the LORD gave the Mosaic Law, including its religious and civil elements. The Law gave Israel great advantage (and responsibility) compared to other nations. Deu 4:8; Rom 3:1,2
     Note that the text says "he shall live in them" (not "by them"). The Law was never the means of securing righteousness and eternal life (eg., Gal 3:6,11,21). The Law prescribed a way of living, for the righteous... and condemned the sin of the unrighteous. No one can attain unto life by keeping the Law, because no one can do what the Law demands. Lev 18:5; Rom 3:19,20; 10:3-6; Gal 3:10-13
...also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them... I am the LORD that sanctify them. (Lev 20:8)
Although the sabbath is mentioned as early as Gen 2:3, apparently it was not observed by most men. Like circumcision, the LORD gave the sabbath to Israel as a way of setting them apart from the world, as His people. Note that 'my sabbaths' is plural. The sabbaths included one day per week (Ex 20:8-11; Lev 23:3); periodic special days (eg., Lev 23:24), the sabbatical year, every seventh year (eg., Lev 25:4), and the year of Jubilee, which followed the seventh sabbatical year (Lev 25:8-10).
...but the house of Israel rebelled... walked not in my statutes... despised my judgments... my sabbaths they... polluted...
In the wilderness, the people repeatedly murmured and threatened mutiny.
They were worthy of God's wrath. eg., Psa 78:40,41; 106:13-15
...but I wrought for my name's sake... before the heathen...
Again, He withheld judgment, and carried them forward on their journey.
Their survival in the desert, and their arrival at the destination, was dependent upon His Grace.
15 Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness,
that I would not bring them into the land which I had given [them],
flowing with milk and honey, which [is] the glory of all lands;
16 Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes,
but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
17 Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them,
neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.
The LORD did bring them to the entrance to the promised land, at Kadesh-Barnea.
The spies reported that the land was rich and bountiful. But the people rebelled upon hearing that there were giants in the land (Num 14:1-4). The LORD was ready to destroy them, but withheld His wrath for His name's sake (Num 14:11-20; Psa 78:37-41). Rather than destroying them in the wilderness, He caused them to wander in it for 40 years, until all who had rebelled had died (Num 14:22-33; Psa 95:8-11). To that end, the LORD solemnly swore {"I have lifted up mine hand..."} that they would not enter the promised land, due to their unbelief.
     The LORD had given them His Word and His sabbaths, but they had not truly trusted Him. The word 'sabbath' {HB=shabbath} refers to a 'rest' or a 'ceasing' from one's own effort. The purposes of God cannot be accomplished by the wisdom and strength of men. The Lord alone will fulfill His promises, for those who rest in Him by faith. Heb 3:15-19
 
3. In the Wilderness (the children), v.18-26
18 But I said unto their children in the wilderness,
Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers,
neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:
19 I [am] the LORD your God;
walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;
20 And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you,
that ye may know that I [am] the LORD your God.
21 Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me:
they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them,
which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them;
they polluted my sabbaths:
then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them,
to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
22 Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake,
that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.
During the forty years of wandering, Israel repeatedly rebelled against the LORD and His appointed leaders.
Example: The rebellion of Korah and Dathan and their followers, Num 16:1-3, 32-35; Psa 106:16-18
Shortly before they would have crossed the Jordan River into Canaan, at the end of the wilderness wanderings,
those who had been children, when the forty years began, joined with ungodly nations in idolatry and fornication.
Yet, the LORD withdrew His hand from destroying the whole nation of Israel. Num 25:1-9; Psa 106:28-33
23 I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness,
that I would scatter them among the heathen,
and disperse them through the countries;
24 Because they had not executed my judgments,
but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths,
and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.
25 Wherefore I gave them also statutes [that were] not good,
and judgments whereby they should not live;
26 And I polluted them in their own gifts,
in that they caused to pass through [the fire] all that openeth the womb,
that I might make them desolate,
to the end that they might know that I [am] the LORD.
While Israel was still in the wilderness, the LORD gave Moses a foreview of the nation's future decline and dispersion.
eg., Lev 26:33; Deu 28:64-68; 31:29; 32:21-29
...wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good... whereby they should not live.
Because Israel preferred to serve the false gods of the nations, and rejected His Word (statutes, judgments, sabbaths, etc.), He would give them up to what they wanted. Deu 4:27,28; 28:36; Psa 81:12; Isa 66:4; cp. Rom 1:21-28; 2The 2:8-12
...that I might make them desolate, to the end they might know that I am the LORD.
The troubles, which would come upon them, were for the purpose of enabling them to recognize the LORD whom they had rejected.
 
4. In the Land, v.27-29
27. Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel,
and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me,
in that they have committed a trespass against me.
28 [For] when I had brought them into the land,
[for] the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them,
{Gen 15:18-21}
then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees,
and they offered there their sacrifices,
and there they presented the provocation of their offering:
there also they made their sweet savour,
and poured out there their drink offerings.
{Eze 16:15-19}
29 Then I said unto them, What [is] the high place whereunto ye go?
And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.
Even after the LORD had established them in the promised land, they blasphemed {ie., reviled, reproached} Him before the nations.
...they have committed a trespass {ie., trespassed a trespass} against me.
By turning from the LORD to idols...
  • they declared to their neighbors that the false gods were of more worth than He. cp. Rom 2:24
  • they provoked the LORD to anger. Psa 78:55-58; Jer 2:7; 3:6
...What is the 'high place' {HB=bamah, high, elevated} whereunto ye go? ...the name... is called Bamah...
The places of idolatrous worship were nothing but an empty name.
The places called 'high' were dedicated to the depths of perversion.
cp. Isa 57:4-9, where 'the king' may refer to the idol 'Molech' {meaning 'king'}.
 
5. In Exile, v.30-38
30 Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Are ye polluted
{ie., defiled, utterly unclean} after the manner of your fathers?
and commit ye whoredom after their abominations
{ie., detestable things}?
31 For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire,
ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day:
and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel?
[As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you.
32 And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all,
that ye say, We will be as the heathen,
as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.
As instructed by the LORD, Ezekiel had caused the elders "to know the abominations of their fathers" (v.4).
Now, he makes application to those who were seated before him, as represenatives of the exiles...
  • Were they any different than their fathers?
    No. For they also were guilty of spiritual adultery.
    They also had offered their children to Molech. Deu 18:10-12; Psa 106:37-39
    Furthermore, they continued doing these things "even unto this day." Jer 16:11,12
    Even as captives in exile, they had not been moved to repentance. cp. Acts 7:51
  • Should they expect the LORD to favor their enquiry?
    No. For the LORD was provoked to anger with them also. v.3; Eze 14:3-5; Isa 1:15
...that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen...
God had purposed that they should be His holy people, separated from the world, unto Him.
But they wanted to be comfortably conformed to their worldly neighbors. cp. 1Sam 8:5-7; Rom 12:2
     Since their neighbors lived to serve the works of their own hands (the idols made of wood and stone), they intended to do the same. However, the LORD, who knows the hearts and minds, declared to them that He would not allow their desires to be fulfilled. In the next several verses, He declares what He would do.
 
- - Promise of Israel's future restoration, v.33-44 - -
A. The LORD would scatter and purge Israel in His fury (v.33-39)
B. The LORD will gather and purify Israel for His Glory (v.40-44)
33. [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD,
surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm,
and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:
34 And I will bring you out from the people,
and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered,
with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people,
and there will I plead with you face to face.
36 Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt,
so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.
37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod,
and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
38 And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me:
I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn,
and they shall not enter into the land of Israel:
and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD.
39 As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD;
Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter [also], if ye will not hearken unto me:
but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.
Although it seemed that Israel did not want to be associated with Him (eg., v.32), the LORD was not done with them.
As in previous periods of Israel's history, so in Ezekiel's day (and also in and beyond our present day), He would work for His name's sake (v.9,14,22, 39,44). Whether they like it or not, the nation of Israel is closely linked to the glory of the LORD's Name, because it is well known that He chose them for Himself (eg., Deu 28:9,10; 1Chr 17:21,22; 2Chr 7:14). Therefore, even though they had failed to heed His Word, He would keep His Word and deal with the nation in a way that demonstrates who He is (eg., Isa 46:12,13).
Go ye, serve every one his idols... pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.
In the near term, the LORD was expelling the idolatrous nation from the place where He had chosen to place His name. The gifts which they had brought to the Temple were defiled by hearts devoted to false gods. Since they wanted to serve idols, they would be given that opportunity, but not in Jerusalem. Therefore, the people would be scattered to the nations. Deu 4:25-28; Psa 81:12-14
...as I live, saith the Lord GOD... with fury poured out will I rule {HB=malak, reign as king} over you... (v.33)
Sixteen times, in the book of Ezekiel, the LORD uses the phrase "as I live..." to emphasize that His Word will be fulfilled without fail, for He is the everliving One. In every instance, in Ezekiel, this phrase is spoken by "the Lord GOD" {Adonai Jehovah}. Because He is Jehovah {the One who is, and was, and ever more shall be}, He is Adonai {the Lord, the Master} with absolute authority over all. Just as He held Israel accountable, so He holds everyone accountable, for what they do with His Word.
     Though the nation rejected His rule, He would determine their destiny. He would deal with the rebels among His people. The fall of Jerusalem would mark the beginning of the times of the Gentiles, and the long dispersion of Israel. Eze 8:18; Jer 21:5-7
Most of the actions described, in v.33-38, are still future, and will be fulfilled in the Time of Jacob's Trouble, the Tribulation period (Jer 30:7).
  • ...and I will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered... with fury poured out. cp. Isa 27:9-13
    Though He had scattered them in judgment, the time would come when the LORD would regather the dispersed nation.
  • ...I will bring you into the wilderness... and there I will plead {ie., contend, execute judgment} with you...
    Israel would be regathered, not for immediate restoration, but first, for a time of testing.
    The LORD will use the Time of Jacob's Trouble to prepare His people for His Presence.
    They will abandon their false lovers, and turn to Him as their 'husband.'
    See Hos 2:14-17 (where 'Achor' means 'trouble', and 'Ishi' means 'my Husband'); Rev 12:14
  • ...I will cause you to pass under the rod...
    This phrase refers to the counting of sheep (eg., Lev 27:32; Jer 33:13).
    During that future time of trouble, the LORD will separate Jewish people who respond aright to Him, from those who do not. Eze 34:17; Amos 9:9-11; cp. Joh 10:1-5,27-28
  • ...I will bring you into the bond of the covenant... Eze 16:59,60
    The LORD's sheep (those people who truly belong to Him) will be brought into covenant relationship with Him. Jer 31:31-34
    This covenant relationship is also described as a marriage contract. Hos 2:18-20
  • ...I will purge out from among you the rebels... Zech 13:8,9
    In that time of trouble, the Jewish people who refuse to submit to Him will be removed from among His people.
    The obstinate opposition to God's will, which characterizes rebels, is rooted in their unbelief in His Word.
    • ...I will bring them forth out of the land where they sojourn...
      Though they will have been regathered from the nations where they had been strangers, in Israel's dispersion, they will not be among those who enjoy Israel's restoration, in the Kingdom of the Messiah.
    • ...they shall not enter into the land of Israel...- cp. Heb 3:18- 4:1; Jude 1:5
      Likewise, professed Christians, whose hearts are far from the Lord, will have no part in His fulfilled promises. cp. 1Cor 10:5-10; Rev 3:14-19
...and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
What a terrible thought... that one's pride should prevent the bowing of the knee to Him, until after being permanently purged from His Presence. Isa 45:22-25
 
B. The LORD will gather and purify Israel for His Glory (v.40-44)
40 For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD,
there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me:
there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings,
and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.
41 I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people,
and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered;
and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.
42 And ye shall know that I [am] the LORD,
when I shall bring you into the land of Israel,
into the country [for] the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers.
43 And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled;
and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.
44 And ye shall know that I [am] the LORD,
when I have wrought with you for my name's sake,
not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings,
O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
...in mine holy mountain... there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me...
As we saw, in the preceding paragraph, those whom the Lord will allow to enter the land, in that future restoration, will be those who survived the purge of sin. They will have been delivered, 'all' of them, from the curse of sin, when they receive their Deliverer (Rom 11:26,27).
     The partial restoration, of a remnant that returned to Jerusalem in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, cannot satisfy the features described in this paragraph. Zechariah, who lived during that partial restoration, also foretold a greater future restoration (Zech 8:20-23).
...there will I accept them, and... require {ie., seek} your offerings...
In the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, idolatry and hypocrisy had made Temple worship unacceptable to the Lord (Isa 1:11-15). But in that future day, because the worshippers will have new hearts, their worship will be acceptable (v.40).
     Today, those who are born of God's Spirit are enabled to worship in Spirit and in Truth, through the New Covenant provision of new hearts (Joh 4:23-26; Mat 26:28; Heb 8:10).
     However, the worshippers described here, are of the people who were previously scattered, and who will be regathered into the land of Israel, and to Jerusalem (v.41,42; Isa 2:2,3). In that day, Gentiles will also come to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem (Isa 56:7). It is obvious, that the passage before us describes the believing remnant of Israel, who (with believers from the Gentile nations) will worship in the Temple, during Christ's Millennial Kingdom. It does not describe the church, today.
...I will accept you... when I bring you out from the people...
Israel's believing remnant will be acceptable to the LORD, when He separates them from their unbelieving brothers, and from the ungodly nations, and from their own sinfulness.
...I will be sanctified in you before the heathen...
All that the LORD will have accomplished, for Israel's believing remnant, will demonstrate to the world, that He alone is God (Eze 36:22-28). Israel, also, will understand.
...ye shall know that I am the LORD...
...when I shall bring you into the land of Israel...
  • The believing remnant will worship the LORD for who He is, and for His faithfulness to His promises (v.42).
  • The believing remnant will remember and repent of past sins, personal and national (v.43).
...when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways...
  • The believing remnant will recognize that their restoration is a work of God's Grace, by which He will have completely removed their rebelliousness, and reversed its just reward. v.44; Eze 39:27-29
This brief description of Israel's future restoration will be expanded in great detail, later in this book of Ezekiel.
Through Ezekiel's message, the elders of the exiles (v.1-3) were given a glimpse of the future glorious day.
Yet, that picture, of separation from the world to serve the LORD alone, was not what they desired (eg., v.30-32).
In the following verses, their attention is redirected toward the prospect of the deepening judgment, which was upon the nation, at that time.
 
- - Parable of Fire in the south Forest (20:45-49; Explained in 21:1-32) - -
45. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
46 Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop [thy word] toward the south,
and prophesy against the forest of the south field;
47 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD;
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee,
and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree:
the flaming flame shall not be quenched,
and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.
48 And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.
49 Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?
...say to the forest of the south field... I will kindle a fire in thee...
In v.46, three different words are translated 'south.' These words are directional. Ezekiel's face and message were directed southward. From the perspective of the exiles, the reference is to the land of Israel from which they were taken captive, by the Babylonian forces which approached from the north.
     "The forest of the south" refers to the many people dwelling in the land of Israel.
     The reference to the land as "the south field" may be in anticipation of its desolation. The word for 'field' {HB=sadeh} refers to wild or cultivated land, as opposed to towns and cities. Israel would soon be plucked up from the place where it had been planted, leaving a barren field (eg., Eze 17:5,9; Mic 3:12).
...it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree...
The righteous and the wicked would be caught up together, in the calamity which would overturn the nation (Eze 21:3,4).
...all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.
The fires of judgment would consume the entire land. The phrase "from the south to the north" is an all inclusive expression, like "from Dan to Beersheba" (which refers to the northern and southern extremes of the land of Israel).
     This was the land to which the exiles hoped to return. But there would be no return, for the land would soon lie in desolation.
...all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it...- cp. Deu 29:24-28
...they say... Doth he not speak in parables?
The elders of the exiles could not see the meaning of this message, due to the blindness of unbelief. Therefore, in the next chapter, the LORD very clearly describes the fires of judgment which would sweep the people of Israel from their land.

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