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A Sword Prepared for Slaughter, Ezekiel 21

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Will God's people who have turned away from him prosper? What about the wicked - will they get away with it forever? Study this lesson and you will discover the answer.

Review. In 593 B.C. Ezekiel received a heavenly vision from the LORD. He was Israel's prophet to the exiles in Babylon, while Jeremiah was Israel's prophet in the besieged city of Jerusalem. As a watchman Ezekiel warned the exiles of Jerusalem's destruction by Babylon. He did this because Israel had false prophets teaching them that they would soon return to the land and take all the temple articles with them that had been confiscated when Babylon had attacked them. Not so, said Ezekiel. God would save exiles who would repent, and he would preserve a small remnant from Jerusalem. They would be exiled. The rest would die by famine and plague or by sword. Then through object lessons, illustrations, dramatizations, parables, riddles and other means he tried to get their attention so that they might know that God rules and they must repent to find mercy.

In our last lesson we learned that it was now 591 B.C. and once again the elders of Israel in Babylon gather to hear what the prophet Ezekiel has to say. They are looking for favors from God. However, he is very offended and refuses to give them an answer they want to hear because in addition to their other wickedness and idolatry, they were now offering their children as burnt offerings to the god Molech! Instead, Ezekiel is asked to take the place of a prosecutor in a courtroom. Like a prosecuting attorney he tracks their history of their crimes, their idolatry, and when he is done, God the judge renders his decision. His decision is to let the Babylonian nation come and destroy Jerusalem. In today's Bible reading, the swords are made ready for the slaughter.

Idea for the Bible teacher or discussion leader: This lesson might be more effective if Ezekiel's prophecies were dramatized with a lit match for the forest fire, loud cries of grief, and striking the hands together to simulate the striking of the sword, and the making of a sign that indicates Judah and Jerusalem in one direction and Rabbah of the Ammonites in the other.

The context of today's lesson starts in Ezekiel 20:45-49. In the Hebrew Bible it is actually an introduction to the prophecy of chapter 21 (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T, by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.1266). What is the prophecy in these verses, to whom is it given, and what is the reaction of the exiles?

Answer 1


In Ezekiel 21 the word of the LORD comes to him again apparently explaining the parable. Since the people will not listen to the prophecy about the forest of the Negev, the prophecy is dramatized.

Read Ezekiel 21:1-5 and notice the common phrase from south to north. To whom is the prophecy against? To what can the forest fire of the Negev be likened? Whose sword is it? See also Ezek 21:19,22, and Jeremiah 21:7

Answer 2


How is Ezekiel to respond to this prophecy and why? Ezekiel 21:6-7

Answer 3


Read Ezekiel 21:8-17. What is the sword for? What is to be the response of Ezekiel to this event? How does God feel about it? To whom specifically does this sword fall (v. 10b, vs 13). Hint: rod means a scepter.

Answer 4


Read Ezekiel 21:18-23. How does the sign and Babylonian divination illustrate how God works?

Answer 5


How will the Israelites respond to this omen? What does God say will happen to the surviving residents of Jerusalem? How long will it be that the throne will be vacant and who will have the right to be the next king? vs. 23-27; Luke 1:32,33

Answer 6


Would the Ammonites escape Judgment? What would happen to them? Ezekiel 21:28-32

Answer 7


Lessons to Live by: (ask for members' input first)

Today's Bible memory verse:

Psalm 7:9 O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. (NIV)

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A1: The prophecy is against the forest of Negev, the southern territory of Judah. Judah is the nation that Babylon is besieging. A fire will burn from south to north. The exiles in Babylon live in denial; they claim that Ezekiel is just speaking in parables.

A2: The prophecy is against the sanctuaries (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary states that this may have reference to the "three parts of the temple: the courts, the holy place, and the holiest.") and the land. The forest fire of the Negev can be likened to the slaughter of the Israelites in Judah by the sword. The sword is the LORD's, but from previous prophecies, Ezek 21:19,22, and Jeremiah 21:7 we know that he will use the Babylonians to accomplish his purpose. The righteous that will be cut off could be interpreted as those who were righteous in their own eyes or it could be interpreted as those who would be exiled. Otherwise, this contradicts Ezekiel 18, where each individual is judged for his own sin, not for those of others.

A3: Ezekiel is to groan with a breaking heart and bitter grief over this prophecy as a sign to what the exiles would do when they received the news of Jerusalem's destruction. This speaks of the certainty of the judgment.

A4: The sword is for slaughtering the people in Jerusalem, even the princes and King [Zedekiah] of Israel. Ezekiel was to wail and beat his breast - both of which are signs of grief. Ezekiel and God will smack their hands in derision as the Babylonians strike with their swords until God's wrath is satisfied.

A5: God is sovereign and can even work through the deluded religious beliefs of kings and nations. The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T. by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p. 1268 says that casting lots with the arrows was like drawing straws; the first arrow with the name of the city drawn would be the city they would attack. Consulting the idols may have been a way they thought they could contact dead spirits to get their advice.

Examining the liver was a form of divination known as hepatoscopy. The shape and markings of the liver of a sacrificed animal were studied by soothsayers [fortune tellers or false prophets] to see if a proposed plan was favorable or not.

A6: It will seem to the Jews in Jerusalem to be a false omen for they believed they were in a secure fortress. They would find out differently when they would be carried captive to Babylon. The high priest would be disrobed and the crown would be removed from Zedekiah and he, too, would be taken captive. No one would rightfully take his throne until Jesus takes it someday.

A7: The Ammonites, too, despite their false visions and divinations, would be destroyed, slaughtered by the sword, and never to rise again as a kingdom. The same fiery type of judgment leveled against Jerusalem would come against Ammon.

Lessons to Live by:

  • God uses even ungodly nations to accomplish his purposes.
  • God disciplines his people (those who have a covenant relationship with him). He offers mercy and forgiveness (more...), but he does not let them get away with sin forever.
  • Other nations that are guilty of wickedness will also be punished.
  • Someday Jesus will rule and reign in Jerusalem.

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