Ezekiel: Watchman of Israel: Highlights From LDS OT Manual

Ezekiel: Watchman of Israel: Highlights From LDS OT Manual

It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a mortal to convey in writing the message and spirit of a vision or other revelation from God so that the reader will have a complete understanding of what took place and what was communicated. Such was the challenge of Ezekiel in describing his transcendent visions of heaven. Others, too, have faced the same challenge (see 2 Corinthians 12:4;3 Nephi 28:12–14; D&C 76:114–17). Joseph Smithsaid that “could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject” (History of the Church, 6:50). One must experience revelation to understand it fully.

-Those, including Ezekiel, who have had visitations or visions from the eternal worlds have often used symbolism, metaphor, simile, comparisons, and other kinds of figurative language to try to convey the experience they had and the message they received (see D&C 110:2–3; JS—H 1:32;Daniel 10:5–9; Revelation 1:12–18; 12:1–6). Therefore, everything Ezekiel said need not be taken literally, for he used many figurative expressions to try to tell that which was far beyond mortal experience. Many times, for example, he used words like as, likeness, andappearance (see Ezekiel 1:4–5, 7, 10, 13–14, 16, 24, 26–28).

Ezekiel 1:4, 13. Cloud, Fire, Brightness, Color of Amber, Lamps, Lightning

These figures are used throughout the scriptures in association with the glory, power, and majesty of God’s presence or that of His messengers. (See “cloud” and “fire” in Exodus 13:21–22; 16:10; 19:9–16; 24:16; Leviticus 16:2; Matthew 17:5; D&C 34:7. See “fire,” “brightness,” “colour of amber,” “lamps,” and “lightning” in Exodus 3:2; Hebrews 12:29;1 Nephi 1:6; D&C 29:12; 110:2–3; 133:41;Habakkuk 3:3–4; Acts 26:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:8;JS—H 1:16–17, 30–32; Daniel 10:6.)

-The Prophet Joseph explained that the four beasts in John’s vision were representative of classes of beings (see D&C 77:3). The faces of the creatures in Ezekiel’s vision seem to represent the same thing.

-“Man is exalted among creatures; the eagle is exalted among birds; the ox is exalted among domestic animals; the lion is exalted among wild beasts; and all of them have received dominion, and greatness has been given them, yet they are stationed below the chariot of the Holy One” (Midrash Shemoth Rabbah 23; in D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 667). (On Ezekial beast vision from LDS OT Manual)

-Ezekiel saw that the throne of God was above the creatures (Ezekiel 1:26–28). That placement represents His having dominion over all living things, though He provides the means for all His creations, both human and animal, to enter into eternal glory, each in their appropriate order (seeD&C 77:2–3).

Ezekiel 1:6. What Is Represented by the Wings the Creatures Had?

The Lord taught Joseph Smith that the wings of the beasts John saw in his revelation (seeRevelation 4:8) “are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc.” (D&C 77:4). That interpretation also seems to apply to the creatures in Ezekiel’s vision.

Ezekiel 1:7. Feet like Burnished Brass

The word straight in Ezekiel 1:7means “standing upright, not bent, as when sitting or kneeling” (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 9:1:23). That is, the creatures did not travel as a person travels when walking.

The comparison of the sole of their feet to that of a calf seems to refer to the smoothness of a cow’s hoof to indicate the shininess of the feet of the beasts. “There is scarcely any thing that gives a higher lustre than highly polished or burnished brass.” (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:425). In the King James Version of the Bible, polished brass is translated “amber.” It signifies beauty and glory (see D&C 110:3–4; Daniel 10:6; Revelation 1:15;2:18).

Ezekiel 1:9, 11. Their Wings Were Joined Together

The creatures of Ezekiel’s vision were in complete harmony and unity. They moved as one, symbolizing the total unity that exists among all living things who submit to God’s will.

-The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 291.)

Ezekiel 1:26–28. Ezekiel Saw God upon His Throne

Ezekiel saw a firmament, or expanse, above or over the creatures. Above the firmament Ezekiel saw God sitting on His throne in His glory. Ezekiel used several terms to describe the brilliance, beauty, and glory of God. Then, as a humble witness to such glory, beauty, and majesty, he fell upon his face in awe and reverent submission. (Compare Isaiah 6:1–5; Revelation 1:10–18; D&C 76:19–23; 110:1–4. Note especially the parallels between Ezekiel’s language and John’s inRevelation 4:2–11.)

Ezekiel 2:9–10; 3:1–3. What Is Meant by the “Roll of a Book” the Lord Caused Ezekiel to Eat?

In a similar experience, the Apostle John, too, was commanded to eat a book. The Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, explained that this action represented a mission given to John among the tribes of Israel (see D&C 77:14).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that “John’s act of eating a book containing the word of God to him was in keeping with the custom and tradition of ancient Israel. The act signified that he was eating the bread of life, that he was partaking of the good word of God, that he was feasting upon the word of Christ—which was in his ‘mouth sweet as honey.’ But it made his ‘belly bitter’; that is, the judgments and plagues promised those to whom the Lord’s word was sent caused him to despair and have sorrow of soul. ‘How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’ (Psalm 119:103.) Such is the exulting cry of the Psalmist. And, conversely, how bitter is the penalty for rebellion and disobedience. Ezekiel had a similar experience. He was commanded to eat a roll (a book), which was in his mouth ‘as honey for sweetness,’ but in the writing itself there was ‘lamentations, and mourning, and woe.’ (Ezek. 2:6–10; 3:1–3.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:507.)

Ezekiel 3:8. “I Have Made Thy Face … and Thy Forehead Strong”

The words of Ezekiel 3:8are a Hebrew idiom suggesting essentially the English idiom “face up to it.” The Lord promised Ezekiel power, courage, and firmness, since his mission was to a very rebellious and stubborn people (see Jeremiah 1:17–19). The Lord gives His humble servants sufficient strength to withstand the world’s opposition as they seek to do His will.

Ezekiel 3:17–21. There Can Be Jeopardy in Being a Watchman

Ezekiel’s prophecies did not fall on friendly ears. But, as a watchman, he had to raise the warning voice. The analogy of the watchman referred to the military watchman who had to stay awake and who faced execution if he failed to warn the city when the enemy appeared. Such a watchman was in jeopardy always: the enemy sought to destroy him to keep him from raising the warning and, if he did not raise the warning when it was needed, his life was in jeopardy at the hands of those he was responsible to warn. Likewise, watchmen in the Lord’s kingdom have a serious responsibility with far-reaching consequences, as Elder Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“As watchmen on the tower of Zion, it is our obligation and right as leaders to speak out against current evils—evils that strike at the very foundation of all we hold dear as the true church of Christ. …

“As one of these watchmen, with a love for humanity, I accept humbly this obligation and challenge and gratefully strive to do my duty without fear. In times as serious as these, we must not permit fear of criticism to keep us from doing our duty, even at the risk of our counsel being tabbed as political, as government becomes more and more entwined in our daily lives.

“In the crisis through which we are now passing, we have been fully warned. This has brought forth some criticism. There are some of us who do not want to hear the message. It embarrasses us. The things which are threatening our lives, our welfare, our freedoms are the very things some of us have been condoning. Many do not want to be disturbed as they continue to enjoy their comfortable complacency.

“The Church is founded on eternal truth. We do not compromise principle. We do not surrender our standards regardless of current trends or pressures. Our allegiance to truth as a church is unwavering. Speaking out against immoral or unjust actions has been the burden of prophets and disciples of God from time immemorial. It was for this very reason that many of them were persecuted. Nevertheless, it was their God-given task, as watchmen on the tower, to warn the people.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1973, pp. 49–50; or Ensign, July 1973, p. 38.)

Ezekiel 3:25–27. What Is Meant by Ezekiel’s Being Bound?

Ezekiel was called to prophesy to a very obstinate people, and, as Nephi later said, “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:2). Hearing messages of reproof and warning, the unrighteous rose up against Ezekiel. They sought to quiet his preaching and hinder his work, either by physical binding and confinement (though there is no scriptural record that this did actually happen), or by rejecting his message, refusing to listen, and seeking to get others to do the same, thus “binding” Ezekiel’s effectiveness.

-Ezekiel was instructed to present visual representations before the people to teach His messages more effectively (see Ezekiel 4:1–17; 5). Other prophets have been instructed to use similar teaching techniques (see Jeremiah 27:1–11; 1 Kings 11:29–39; 13:1–11; 19:1–18; Acts 21:11).

Ezekiel 4:9–11, 16–17. Why Was Ezekiel Instructed to Eat Specific Foods and to Do So by Weight and Measure?

Another symbolic act Ezekiel was commanded to perform represented the conditions that would prevail during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

“In times of scarcity, it is customary in all countries to mix several kinds of coarser grain with the finer, to make it last the longer. This mashlin,which the prophet is commanded to take, of wheat, barley, beans, lentiles, millet, and fitches, was intended to show how scarce the necessaries of life should be during the siege.

“… The whole of the above grain, being ground, was to be formed into one mass, out of which he was to make three hundred and ninety loaves; one loaf for each day; and this loaf was to be of twenty shekels in weight. Now a shekel, being in weight about half an ounce, this would be ten ounces of bread for each day; and with this water to the amount of one sixth part of a hin, which is about a pint and a half of our measure. All this shows that so reduced should provisions be during the siege, that they should be obliged to eat the meanestsort of aliment, and that by weight, and their waterby measure; each man’s allowance being scarcely a pint and a half, and ten ounces, a little more thanhalf a pound of bread, for each day’s support.” (Clarke, Commentary, 4:434.)

The phrase “I will break the staff of bread” (Ezekiel 4:16) indicates that the time would come when the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be without bread. see 2 Kings 25:3for a record of the prophecy’s fulfillment.

Ezekiel 4:12–15. What Was the Purpose of Ezekiel’s Being Instructed to Cook with Dung?

“Dried ox and cow dung is a common fuel in the east; and with this, for want of wood and coals, they are obliged to prepare their food. Indeed, dried excrement of every kind is gathered. Here, the prophet is to prepare his bread with dry human excrement. … This was required to show the extreme degree of wretchedness to which they should be exposed; for, not being able toleave the city to collect the dried excrements of beasts, the inhabitants during the siege would be obliged, literally, to use dried human ordure for fuel. The very circumstances show that this was the plain fact of the case. However, we find that the prophet was relieved from using this kind of fuel, for cows’ dung was substituted at his request. See ver. 15.” (Clarke, Commentary, 4:434–35.) As Ezekiel 4:13indicates, the Jews would be driven to Babylon where they would be compelled to eat “defiled bread.” Because foreign lands were considered unclean (see Hosea 9:3–4; Amos 7:17), living and eating in other lands was considered unclean. (From LDS OT Manual)

-“To make the head bald, or to shave or pluck the beard, was a sign of mourning among the Hebrews and many other nations” (James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible,p. 256; see also Ezra 9:3; Job 1:20; Isaiah 22:12;48:37–38 Ezekiel 5:1–4, 12).

Ezekiel 5:10. “The Fathers Shall Eat the Sons”

As had been earlier prophesied by Moses (seeLeviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53), the siege of Jerusalem would be so severe and the famine would be so dreadful that parents would eat their children and children would eat their parents (seeEzekiel 16–17; Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 2:20;4:10). These tragedies also took place during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus in A.D.  70 (see Josephus, Wars of the Jews, bk. 5, chap. 10, pars. 1–5; bk. 6, chap. 3, pars. 3–5).

Ezekiel 6:9. What Is Meant by the Phrase “Whorish Heart”?

The expression “whorish heart” refers to the idolatry practiced by Israel. Some may think it strange that ancient Israel was guilty of such infidelity to Jehovah. Yet modern Israel is often guilty of the same thing. Though today men rarely worship idols of wood or stone, they may devote themselves to serving certain governments that have set themselves up as the state religion, or they devote themselves to acquiring material things, or they dedicate themselves to other pursuits that take them away from service to God. (See Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle ofForgiveness, pp. 40–42; Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 245–48.)

The Jews worshiped strange gods because they put their trust in the power of men and earthly governments instead of in Jehovah and righteousness as the solution to human happiness and welfare. Modern idolatry is essentially the same as ancient idolatry, though the outward form has changed.

(LDS OT Manual)

Ezekiel 7:7. “Not the Sounding Again of the Mountains”

The phrase “sounding again of the mountains” inEzekiel 7:7refers to the impending destruction of Jerusalem.

Clarke said: “The hostile troops are advancing! Ye hear a sound, a tumultuous noise; do not suppose that this proceeds from festivals upon the mountains; from the joy of harvestmen, or the treaders of the wine-press. [Great rejoicing was common at harvest time.] It is the noise of those by whom ye and your country are to fall; … and not the reverberation of sound, or reflected sound, or reechoing from the mountains. ‘Now will I shortly pour out,’ ver. 8. Here they come!” (Commentary, 4:439–40.)

Throughout chapter 7, Ezekiel sounds the same theme sounded by Jeremiah: because of the people’s wickedness, Jerusalem will be destroyed. (LDS OT Manual)

-The ornament mentioned in Ezekiel 7:20is a reference to the temple, the most beautiful ornament of Jerusalem. The temple will be despoiled and desecrated by conquerors because the people had despoiled and spiritually desecrated it with their idols.

Ezekiel 8:3–18. Ezekiel’s Vision of Idolatrous Abominations in Jerusalem…The arrangement of these different forms of idolatry in four groups or abomination scenes (vers. 5, 6, 7–12, 13–15, and 16–18 (Keil and Delitzsch,Commentary, 9:1:116–17.)

Ezekiel 8:7–12. Worship of Beasts in the Dark

In his vision of the second abomination shown him (see Ezekiel 8:7–12), Ezekiel saw all manner of beasts and creeping things.

“It is very likely that these images pourtrayed on the wall were the objects of Egyptian adoration: the ox, the ape, the dog, the crocodile, the ibis, thescaraboeus or beetle, and various other things. It appears that these were privately worshipped by the sanhedrin or great Jewish council, consisting of seventy or seventy-two persons, six chosen out of every tribe, as representatives of the people. The images were pourtrayed upon the wall, as we find those ancient idols are on the walls of thetombs of the kings and nobles of Egypt.” (Clarke,Commentary, 4:443.)

It is significant that such worship took place in the dark (see v. 12). This fact, in addition to the necessity Ezekiel was under to dig through the wall to see in, indicates that ancient Israelites knew of the Lord but sought to hide their abominable practices from Him. They said, “The Lord seeth us not” (v. 12). Such is often the case among those who perform unrighteous acts. How foolish it is for any to assume that they can hide their acts from God’s all-seeing eye!

The statement made by Elder Spencer W. Kimball concerning God’s omniscience was as applicable in Ezekiel’s time as it is today: “There are no corners so dark, no deserts so uninhabited, no canyons so remote, no automobiles so hidden, no homes so tight and shut in but that the all-seeing One can penetrate and observe” (“Message of Inspiration,” Church News, 30 May 1970, p. 2).

Ezekiel 8:14. Who Was Tammuz and Why Did Women Weep for Him?

According to J. R. Dummelow, Tammuz was “a deity worshipped both in Babylonia and in Phoenicia—the same as the Greek Adonis. He appears to have been a god of the spring, and the myth regarding him told of his early death and of the descent of Istar his bride into the underworld in search of him. The death of Tammuz symbolised the destruction of the spring vegetation by the heat of summer, and it was celebrated annually by seven days of women’s mourning in the 4th month (June–July), which was called Tammuz. This superstition had been introduced into Jerusalem.” (A Commentary on the Holy Bible, pp. 497–98.)

Ezekiel 8:16. Worship of the Sun with Backs toward the Temple

“Sun worship was practised by the Canaanites, but lately had been reintroduced from Assyria (2 Ki. 23:5, 11; Je. 8:2). Between the porch and the altar was the place where the priests offered prayer (Joel 2:17), with their faces, of course, towards the Temple; in this spot, with their backs to the temple, the adoration of the sun took place, as complete a renunciation of Yahweh [Jehovah] as possible.” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 670; see also 2 Chronicles 29:6.)

Ezekiel 8:17. What Is Meant by Putting the “Branch to Their Nose”?  Dummelow may be helpful. He wrote that the expression was “usually explained as a ceremony connected with sun-worship. Persian sun-worshippers held bunches of the twigs of certain trees before their mouths, that they might not contaminate the sun with their breath.” (Commentary, p. 498.)

Ezekiel 9:4. Why Was a Mark Put on the Foreheads of the Righteous in Jerusalem?

“This mark was to be put on these faithful ones for their protection when the faithless were to be destroyed. It showed that they belonged to God. The allusion is to a very ancient custom. In Egypt a runaway slave was freed from his master if he went to the temple and gave himself up to the god, receiving certain marks upon his person to denote his consecration to the deity there worshiped. Cain had a mark put on him for his protection, as an evidence of God’s promise to spare his life notwithstanding his wickedness. [Genesis 4:15.] To this day all Hindoos have some sort of mark upon their forehead signifying their consecration to their gods. Several passages in the book of Revelation represent the saints as having a mark on their foreheads. [see Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4.] The followers of the ‘beast’ are also said to be marked in the forehead or in the hands. [see Revelation 13:16–17; 14:9; 20:4.] The Romans marked their soldiers in the hand and their slaves in the forehead. The woman in scarlet, whom John saw, had a name written on her forehead. [Revelation 17:5.]” (Freeman,Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 301–2.)

In this case the mark represented the allegiance of the faithful to God. As those who belonged to God, they would be preserved. (LDS OT Manual).

Ezekiel 9:5–8. Slaying of Those Who Were Not Marked on the Forehead

None were to be slain who were marked on the forehead! This passage shows that even in war, plagues, and starvation, the Lord can preserve whom He will and leave the rest to die. In the great destructions in the Americas before Christ’s visit, though thousands were killed, the more righteous were spared (see 3 Nephi 10:12). Even though there will be martyrs and other exceptions, the Saints of this day have a promise that generally the righteous will be preserved in the tribulations to come (see 1 Nephi 22:16–17;2 Nephi 30:10; D&C 97:25–27; 115:6; Moses 7:61–62). To a great extent, the preservation of the righteous is a natural expectation since they follow inspired counsel by which they are led to make choices favorable to their well-being. (SeeNotes and Commentary on Ezekiel 21:4.)

It is not just association with God’s kingdom that preserves individuals; it is individual righteousness. In fact, the Lord has reserved His most severe judgments for those who profess His name but do not obey Him. Orson Pratt said: “Where shall these great and severe judgments begin? Upon what people does the Lord intend to commence this great work of vengeance? Upon the people who profess to know his name and still blaspheme it in the midst of his house. They are the ones designated for some of the most terrible judgments of the latter days.” (In N. B. Lundwall, comp., Inspired Prophetic Warnings to All Inhabitants of the Earth, p. 139.) Compare Ezekiel 9:6with Doctrine and Covenants 112:24–26.

Ezekiel 10:2, 6–7. What Is Meant by the Coals of Fire Scattered over Jerusalem?

The part of Ezekiel’s vision found in Ezekiel 10:2, 6–7is a reference to the judgments and eventual burning and destruction which would come upon the city.

Ezekiel 11:3, 7, 11. “It Is Not Near; Let Us Build Houses: This City Is the Caldron, and We Be the Flesh”

Keil and Delitzsch gave the following explanation of Ezekiel 11:3: “Jeremiah had called upon those in exile to build themselves houses in their banishment, and prepare for a lengthened stay in Babylon, and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the words of false prophets, who predicted a speedy return; for severe judgments had yet to fall upon those who had remained behind in the land [see Jeremiah 29]. This word of Jeremiah the authorities in Jerusalem ridiculed, saying ‘house-building is not near,’ i.e. the house-building in exile is still a long way off; it will not come to this, that Jerusalem should fall either permanently or entirely into the hands of the king of Babylon. On the contrary, Jerusalem is the pot, and we, its inhabitants, are the flesh. The point of comparison is this: as the pot protects the flesh from burning, so does the city of Jerusalem protect us from destruction. … This saying expresses not only false confidence in the strength of Jerusalem, but also contempt and scorn of the predictions of the prophets sent by God. Ezekiel is therefore to prophesy, as he does in vers. 5–12, against this pernicious counsel, which is confirming the people in their sins.” (Commentary, 9:1:144–45.)

Ezekiel 12:27. “He Prophesieth of the Times That Are Far Off”

A common mistake that uninspired people make is to ignore prophetic warnings, thinking that the fulfillment is not imminent and that they still have time to “eat, drink, and be merry” (2 Nephi 28:7–8). They think that repentance can come later. The Lord warned of such foolishness during His ministry (see Matthew 24:37–44; 25:1–13). How much wiser it is to repent at the first voice of warning from the Lord’s anointed! (LDS OT Manual)

Ezekiel 13:1–16. Ezekiel’s Reproof of False Prophets

Chapter 13 in Ezekiel closely parallels Jeremiah’s condemnation of false prophets (see Jeremiah 23:9–40).

It is common among the people of the world to reject the words of true prophets and accept the words of false ones (see Helaman 13:24–38). Such is the easy way in the beginning, for it allows people to accept only that which they want to hear. It is, however, the path to destruction.

False prophets pacify and lull people into carnal security (see 2 Nephi 28:21). Like the cunning foxes in the desert (see Ezekiel 13:4), they obtain their prey by subtlety. False prophets have not provided for the people a secure defense against spiritual destruction (see v. 5). Ezekiel compared the work of the false prophets to daubing a wall “with untempered morter” (v. 10). Freeman explained:

“Kitto is of the opinion that reference is here made to ‘cob-walls;’ that is, walls which are made of beaten earth rammed into molds or boxes, to give shape and consistence, and then emptied from the molds, layer by layer, on the wall, where it dries as the work goes on. Such walls cannot stand the effects of the weather, and houses built on this principle soon crumble and decay. … To protect them from the weather a very fine mortar is sometimes made, which is laid thickly on the outside of the walls. When this mortar is properly mixed with lime, it answers the purpose designed; but where the lime is left out, as is often the case, the ‘untempered mortar’ is no protection. …

“Some commentators, however, translate taphel,which in our version is rendered ‘untempered mortar,’ by the word ‘whitewash.’ They represent the idea of the text to be the figure of a wall of unendurable material, and coated, not with cement which might protect it, but with a mere thin covering of lime, which gives the wall a finished durable appearance, which its real character does not warrant.” (Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 302.)

Ezekiel 13:17–23. Denunciation of Sorceresses and Diviners

The word pillows (see Ezekiel 13:18) would better be translated bands or coverings. The kerchief was a kind of veil used as part of the trappings in the magical arts (see The Interpreter’s Bible, 6:132–33).

Ezekiel prophesied against women who, by divination (see Ezekiel 13:23), led people away from God and gave them a false sense of security. They brought destruction upon those who might otherwise live (spiritually) and held up and sustained those who ought to have been condemned (see vv. 19, 22). They promised prosperity and freedom (see v. 20) which they could not deliver (compare 2 Nephi 28:22–23;Alma 30:53, 60).

Ezekiel 14:9. Does the Lord Ever Deceive Prophets?

In Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible, he corrected Ezekiel 14:9to read: “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have not deceived that prophet.”

Ezekiel 14:13–20. Noah, Job, and Daniel Could Not Save the Unrighteous from God’s Judgments

Daniel, who was a contemporary of Ezekiel in Babylon, was one of the most righteous men on the earth at the time and was highly favored of God. He was even respected by Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, kings of Babylon and Persia (seeDaniel 2:48; 6:1–3). The Lord referred to both Noah and Job as being perfect (see Genesis 6:9;Job 1:1, 8; 2:3), meaning that they were completely upright before God in living the commandments He had given them. But, Ezekiel said, even they could not save the people of Judah from the consequences of their sins. All people stand or fall in accordance with their own actions and cannot rely on the righteousness of others (see Ezekiel 14:18, 20). Also, it is not the personal power of the Lord’s spokesman that turns people to God but the willingness of the recipient to respond to the promptings and witness of the Spirit of God. (Consider, for example, the message of the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31.)

Ezekiel 15:1–8. Inhabitants of Jerusalem Compared to a Useless Vine

The people at Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s day were similar to those referred to by Isaiah in his parable of a vineyard (see Isaiah 5:1–25). Though they had been set up as the Lord’s vineyard to produce fruit, they did not produce and were of little value.

“The worthlessness of a vine save only for its fruit was set forth by the Lord through His prophet Ezekiel (15:2–5); and truly it is so, that the wood of the grape plant is fit for nothing but burning; the whole vine as wood is inferior to a branch from a forest tree (verse 3). And Israel is represented as such a vine, precious if but fruitful, otherwise nothing but fuel and that of poor quality.” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 542.)

Ezekiel 16:3–5. The People of Jerusalem Were as Children of Heathens

The Lord referred to Jerusalem (which means Judah in general) as having the Amorites for their father and the Hittites for their mother.

“The descent and birth referred to are not physical, but spiritual descent. Spiritually, Israel sprang from the land of the Canaanites; [though they should have sprung from their spiritual father, Jehovah] and its father was the Amorite and its mother a Hittite, in the same sense in which Jesus said to the Jews, ‘Ye are of your father the devil’ (John viii. 44). The land of the Canaanites is mentioned as the land of the worst heathen abominations; and from among the Canaanitish tribes, the Amorites and Hittites are mentioned as father and mother, … because they were recognized as the leaders in Canaanitish ungodliness.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary,9:1:196.)

The Lord said, “Thy navel [umbilical cord] was not cut” (Ezekiel 16:4). That is, they were still being nourished in their wickedness by the degrading practices of their heathen neighbors who had given them birth in iniquity. Neither were they “washed … salted … nor swaddled” (v. 4). They had not been cleansed from the corruptions they had obtained from their parents.

The reference to not being salted comes from an ancient practice wherein “new-born babes were rubbed with salt in order to harden their skin, as this operation was supposed to make it dry, tight, and firm. … The salt may also have been applied as an emblem of purity and incorruption.” (Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible,p. 304.) Swaddling means being wrapped in a cloth or bandage, which would have been somewhat of a protection to a tender infant. The message being conveyed by Ezekiel is that the Jews had never really been cleansed from the corruptions of the world and born as God’s children. Without God’s care they had no one as their protector.