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Ezekiel 20:1-29

Context
Israel’s Rebellion

20:1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month, 1  some of the elders 2  of Israel came to seek 3  the Lord, and they sat down in front of me. 20:2 The word of the Lord came to me: 20:3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and tell them: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Are you coming to seek me? As surely as I live, I will not allow you to seek me, 4  declares the sovereign Lord.’ 20:4 “Are you willing to pronounce judgment? 5  Are you willing to pronounce judgment, son of man? Then confront them with the abominable practices of their fathers, 20:5 and say to them:

“‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: On the day I chose Israel I swore 6  to the descendants 7  of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore 8  to them, “I am the Lord your God.” 20:6 On that day I swore 9  to bring them out of the land of Egypt to a land which I had picked out 10  for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, 11  the most beautiful of all lands. 20:7 I said to them, “Each of you must get rid of the detestable idols you keep before you, 12  and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” 20:8 But they rebelled against me, and refused to listen to me; no one got rid of their detestable idols, 13  nor did they abandon the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out 14  my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 20:9 I acted for the sake of my reputation, 15  so that I would not be profaned before the nations among whom they lived, 16  before whom I revealed myself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 17 

20:10 “‘So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them to the wilderness. 20:11 I gave them my statutes 18  and revealed my regulations to them. The one 19  who carries 20  them out will live by them! 21  20:12 I also gave them my Sabbaths 22  as a reminder of our relationship, 23  so that they would know that I, the Lord, sanctify them. 24  20:13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not follow my statutes and they rejected my regulations (the one who obeys them will live by them), and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I decided to pour out 25  my rage on them in the wilderness and destroy them. 26  20:14 I acted for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 20:15 I also swore 27  to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them to the land I had given them – a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. 20:16 I did this 28  because they rejected my regulations, did not follow my statutes, and desecrated my Sabbaths; for their hearts followed their idols. 29  20:17 Yet I had pity on 30  them and did not destroy them, so I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.

20:18 “‘But I said to their children 31  in the wilderness, “Do not follow the practices of your fathers; do not observe their regulations, 32  nor defile yourselves with their idols. 20:19 I am the Lord your God; follow my statutes, observe my regulations, and carry them out. 20:20 Treat my Sabbaths as holy 33  and they will be a reminder of our relationship, 34  and then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” 20:21 “‘But the children 35  rebelled against me, did not follow my statutes, did not observe my regulations by carrying them out (the one who obeys 36  them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I decided to pour out 37  my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness. 20:22 But I refrained from doing so, 38  and acted instead for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 20:23 I also swore 39  to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the lands. 40  20:24 I did this 41  because they did not observe my regulations, they rejected my statutes, they desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on 42  their fathers’ idols. 20:25 I also gave 43  them decrees 44  which were not good and regulations by which they could not live. 20:26 I declared them to be defiled because of their sacrifices 45  – they caused all their first born to pass through the fire 46  – so that I would devastate them, so that they will know that I am the Lord.’ 47 

20:27 “Therefore, speak to the house of Israel, son of man, and tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: In this way too your fathers blasphemed me when they were unfaithful to me. 20:28 I brought them to the land which I swore 48  to give them, but whenever they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices there and presented the offerings that provoke me to anger. They offered their soothing aroma there and poured out their drink offerings. 20:29 So I said to them, What is this high place you go to?’” (So it is called “High Place” 49  to this day.)

1 sn The date would be August 14th, 591 b.c. The seventh year is the seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile.

2 tn Heb “men from the elders.”

3 tn See the note at 14:3.

4 tn Or “I will not reveal myself to you.”

5 tn Heb “will you judge.” Here the imperfect form of the verb is probably used with a desiderative nuance. Addressed to the prophet, “judge” means to warn of or pronounce God’s impending judgment.

6 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”

7 tn Heb “seed.”

8 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”

9 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand to them.”

10 tn Or “searched out.” The Hebrew word is used to describe the activity of the spies in “spying out” the land of Canaan (Num 13-14); cf. KJV “I had espied for them.”

11 sn The phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey,” a figure of speech describing the land’s abundant fertility, occurs in v. 15 as well as Exod 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; Deut 6:3; 11:9; 26:9; 27:3; Josh 5:6; Jer 11:5; 32:23 (see also Deut 1:25; 8:7-9).

12 tn Heb “each one, the detestable things of his eyes, throw away.” The Pentateuch does not refer to the Israelites worshiping idols in Egypt, but Josh 24:14 appears to suggest that they did so.

13 tn Heb “each one, the detestable things of their eyes did not throw away.”

14 tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.”

15 tn Heb “for the sake of my name.”

16 tn Heb “before the eyes of the nations in whose midst they were.”

17 tn Heb “to whom I made myself known before their eyes to bring them out from the land of Egypt.” The translation understands the infinitive construct (“to bring them out”) as indicating manner. God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt was an act of self-revelation in that it displayed his power and his commitment to his promises.

18 sn The laws were given at Mount Sinai.

19 tn Heb “the man.”

20 tn Heb “does.”

21 tn The wording and the concept is contained in Lev 18:5 and Deut 30:15-19.

22 sn Ezekiel’s contemporary, Jeremiah, also stressed the importance of obedience to the Sabbath law (Jer 17).

23 tn Heb “to become a sign between me and them.”

24 tn Or “set them apart.” The last phrase of verse 12 appears to be a citation of Exod 31:13.

25 tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.”

26 tn Heb “to bring them to an end.”

27 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”

28 tn The words “I did this” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons. Verses 15-16 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text. The translation divides this sentence into two for stylistic reasons.

29 tn Heb “for after their idols their heart was going.” The use of the active participle (“was going”) in the Hebrew text draws attention to the ongoing nature of their idolatrous behavior.

30 tn Heb “my eye pitied.”

31 tn Heb “sons,” reflecting the patriarchal idiom of the culture.

32 tn Or “standard of justice.” See Ezek 7:27.

33 tn Or “set apart my Sabbaths.”

34 tn Heb “and they will become a sign between me and you.”

35 tn Heb “sons.”

36 tn Or “carries them out.”

37 tn Heb “and I said/thought to pour out.”

38 tn Heb “drew my hand back.” This idiom also occurs in Lam 2:8 and Ps 74:11.

39 tn Heb “I lifted up my hand.”

40 sn Though the Pentateuch does not seem to know of this episode, Ps 106:26-27 may speak of God’s oath to exile the people before they had entered Canaan.

41 tn The words “I did this” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons. Verses 23-24 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text. The translation divides this sentence into two for stylistic reasons.

42 tn Or “they worshiped” (NCV, TEV, CEV); Heb “their eyes were on” or “were after” (cf. v. 16).

43 tn Or “permitted.”

sn The content of the verse is shocking: that God would “give” bad decrees. This probably does not refer to the Mosaic law but to the practices of the Canaanites who were left in the land in order to test Israel. See Judg 2:20-23, the note on “decrees” in v. 25, and the note on “pass through the fire” in v. 26.

44 tn The Hebrew term חֻקּוֹת (khuqot; translated “statutes” elsewhere in this chapter) is normally feminine. Here Ezekiel changes the form to masculine: חֻקִּים (khuqim). Further, they are not called “my decrees” as vv. 11 and 13 refer to “my statutes.” The change is a signal that Ezekiel is not talking about the same statutes in vv. 11 and 13, which lead to life.

45 tn Or “gifts.”

46 sn This act is prohibited in Deut 12:29-31 and Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35. See also 2 Kgs 21:6; 23:10. This custom indicates that the laws the Israelites were following were the disastrous laws of pagan nations (see Ezek 16:20-21).

47 sn God sometimes punishes sin by inciting the sinner to sin even more, as the biblical examples of divine hardening and deceit make clear. See Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Divine Hardening in the Old Testament,” BSac 153 (1996): 410-34; idem, “Does God Deceive?” BSac 155 (1998): 11-28. For other instances where the Lord causes individuals to act unwisely or even sinfully as punishment for sin, see 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 17:14; 1 Kgs 12:15; 2 Chr 25:20.

48 tn Heb “which I lifted up my hand.”

49 tn The Hebrew word (“Bamah”) means “high place.”



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