Ezekiel – No More Sour Grapes
by John C. Westervelt
Ezekiel was a priest living in Jerusalem in 597 B.C. when he found himself among a group of hostages captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon. This city is on the Euphrates River three hundred miles northwest of where the river empties into the Persian Gulf.
The shortest route from Jerusalem to Babylon was six hundred miles across the Arabian Desert. The route taken by men and animals was five hundred miles north to the upper Euphrates, then five hundred miles southeast along the river to Babylon.
Ezekiel settled in his own house in a village near Nippur along the Chebar Canal, an extension of the Royal Canal, which encircled Babylon on three sides with connections to the Euphrates River to the north and south of the city.
Nebuchadnezzar built a splendid city for his capital. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, with exotic shrubs and flowers irrigated by water lifted from the Euphrates. Not far from this opulent city, the Lord spoke to a humble priest, saying, “ Ezekiel, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.” As a result of this call, Ezekiel ministered to the exiles in Babylon. His ministry took place at the same time that Jeremiah was the prophet for the Jews in Palestine.
During the years between his arrival in Babylon in 597 B.C. and the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied about the sins of the Hebrews and the overthrow of their nation. According to his prophecies, many Jews would die, but a remnant would remain in Jerusalem and the surrounding countries.
To give the people a word of hope, the Lord said through Ezekiel, “Someday, I shall gather the Jews from the countries all around. They will remove all detestable things from the land of Israel. I shall take the heart of stone out of the people and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My commandments. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”
Eight hundred and fifty years before Ezekiel, the Lord had spoken to Moses, saying, “I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children.” Now the Lord spoke to Ezekiel with a new message: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are on edge?’ As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to Me. The soul that sins is the one who will die.”
Ezekiel prophesied about the Lord’s punishment of the Hebrews for their idol worship. At the same time, the Lord punished surrounding nations, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt, for their ill treatment of the Jews.
Ezekiel, in a literary style common to the Hebrews, used allegories to prophesy about the renewal of the nation. In a dialogue between the Lord and Ezekiel, the Lord said, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’” The Lord’s directions and Ezekiel’s prophecy continued as the bones came together, bone to bone. This was followed by sinew, flesh, skin, breath, and finally life. These words written by Ezekiel 2580 years ago have become the lyrics of a song for our time – “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones...Hear the word of the Lord.”
Ezekiel Exodus 20:5
Copyright 2003 by John C. Westervelt
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