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Ezekiel 12



Ezekiel Prepares for Exile Judah's Captivity Portrayed Symbols of the Exile The Prophet As A Refugee The Mime of Exile
12:1-6 12:1-6 12:1-6 12:1-2 12:1-6
12:7 12:7 12:7 12:7 12:7
12:8-16 12:8-16 12:8-16 12:8-14 12:8-16
  Judgment Not Postponed   The Sign of the Trembling Prophet  
12:17-20 12:17-20 12:17-20 12:17-20` 12:17-20
    Of Prophets and People
A Popular Proverb and An Unpopular Message Popular Proverbs
12:21-25 12:21-25 12:21-25 12:21-23 12:21-22
12:26-28 12:26-28 12:26-28 12:26-28 12:16-28

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2"Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house. 3Therefore, son of man, prepare for yourself baggage for exile and go into exile by day in their sight; even go into exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand though they are a rebellious house. 4Bring your baggage out by day in their sight, as baggage for exile. Then you will go out at evening in their sight, as those going into exile. 5Dig a hole through the wall in their sight and go out through it. 6Load the baggage on your shoulder in their sight and carry it out in the dark. You shall cover your face so that you cannot see the land, for I have set you as a sign to the house of Israel."

12:2 "you live in the midst of the rebellious house" Shockingly, this described the covenant people living and worshiping in Jerusalem (cf. 2:5,7,8; 3:7; 20:8; Isa. 6:5,9-13; 29:13).

▣ "who have eyes to see but do not see, who have ears to hear but do not hear" Spiritual blindness and deafness has always been a problem for the children of Jacob (cf. Deut. 29:1-4; 32:5; Isa. 1:2-3; 6:9,10; Jer. 5:21; 6:10; Zech. 7:11; Matt. 13:13, 14; Mark 8:18; John 9:39-41; 12:39-40; Acts 28:26, 27) and all fallen humanity! The results of Eden are pervasive!

12:3-6 This describes in dramatic symbolism the fall of Jerusalem brought about by Nebuchadneaazr's army in 586 b.c.

12:3 "son of man" See note at 2:1.

▣ "prepare for yourself baggage for exile" Ezekiel is to pack bags as if he were being exiled (he had done this very thing in 597 b.c.). The verb (BDB 793, KB 889) is the first of two Qal imperatives.

▣ "go into exile" This verb's (BDB 162, KB 191) basic meaning is "to uncover" or "to remove," but here it is used for going into exile (cf. Jdgs. 18:30; II Kgs. 17:23; 25:21; Isa. 5:13; Jer. 1:3; 52:27; Lam. 1:3; Ezek. 12:3; 39:23; Amos 1:5; 5:5; 6:7; 7:11,17; Micah 1:16). It is the second Qal imperative.

"by day in their sight" This (BDB 744) is repeated twice for emphasis. It is a wordplay on their blindness mentioned in v. 2.

This wordplay continues in the phrase "perhaps they will understand," which is literally the verb "to see" (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperfect).

Some modern theologians have taken literary phrases like this and Jer. 26:3; 36:3,7 and have asserted that YHWH does not know how free moral human agents will act. It is called "Open Theism." In my opinion all truth comes in tension-filled pairs. There are theological ditches on both sides. In this case the two extremes are

1. God's sovereignty chose some to heaven and others to hell (no human choice at all)

2. Human choice is ultimate and free and unknown by God

Our text is a literary statement, not a theological doctrine! YHWH desires that none should perish (cf. 18:30-32), but He requires a repentant, faithful human response.


12:5 "Dig a hole through the wall" This refers to the wall of his house, which was made of dried bricks (no wood was available in southern Mesopotamia). Obviously Ezekiel's activity caught the people's attention. The noise of breaking through the walls right after dark (cf. vv. 4,6) caused quite a disturbance.

The verb "dig" (BDB 369, KB 365) is the third Qal imperative in this context. Ezekiel's dramatic actions were not his own design, but YHWH's (cf. vv. 6,7).

12:6 "You shall cover your face so that you shall not see the land, for I have set you as a sign before the house of Israel" This probably relates to King Zedekiah's attempted escape from Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege (cf. II Kgs. 25:1-7; Jer. 39:4), as do vv. 10 and 12. He was blinded by Nebuchadnezzar II at Riblah (cf. v. 13).

For the covenant people there were two things which they depended on

1. YHWH's covenant promises about Jerusalem (Deuteronomy and Isaiah)

2. YHWH's promises about a Davidic king (II Samuel 7)

For both of these to be taken and destroyed was a theological blow that was unimaginable for them. They had forgotten the conditional nature of all the covenant promises!

 7I did so, as I had been commanded. By day I brought out my baggage like the baggage of an exile. Then in the evening I dug through the wall with my hands; I went out in the dark and carried the baggage on my shoulder in their sight.

 8In the morning the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9"Son of man, has not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said to you, 'What are you doing?' 10Say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God, "This burden concerns the prince in Jerusalem as well as all the house of Israel who are in it."' 11Say, 'I am a sign to you. As I have done, so it will be done to them; they will go into exile, into captivity.' 12The prince who is among them will load his baggage on his shoulder in the dark and go out. They will dig a hole through the wall to bring it out. He will cover his face so that he can not see the land with his eyes. 13I will also spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare. And I will bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chaldeans; yet he will not see it, though he will die there. 14I will scatter to every wind all who are around him, his helpers and all his troops; and I will draw out a sword after them. 15So they will know that I am the Lord when I scatter them among the nations and spread them among the countries. 16But I will spare a few of them from the sword, the famine and the pestilence that they may tell all their abominations among the nations where they go, and may know that I am the Lord."

12:8 YHWH communicated to Ezekiel regularly as he finished the previous revelation.

12:9 "the rebellious house" This phrase refers to the exiles (cf. 2:5-8). The term "rebellion" (BDB 598) is used often by Ezekiel (cf. 2:5,6,7,8; 3:9,26; 12:2[twice],3,9,25; 17:12; 23:3; 44:6).

12:10 "Say to them" This (BDB 55; KB 65) Qal infinitive is repeated twice (v. 10 and v. 11) to emphasize that Ezekiel is modeling the future judgment of YHWH on idolatrous Jerusalem.

12:11 "a sign" This term (BDB 69) basically means "wonder," "sign," or "portent." Here it is used to show YHWH's control of future events (i.e., 12:6,11; 24:24,27; I Kgs. 13:3,5; II Chr. 32:24;31). In the Ancient Near East a military defeat demonstrated the power of one god over another. Israel was defeated because of her covenant disobedience, not YHWH's impotence! Passages such as this demonstrate His omnipotence and control!

▣ "As I have done, so it will be done to them" Notice these are words from YHWH for Ezekiel to speak to the exiles. They show

1. the power of YHWH's word (cf. Isa. 44:24-28; 45:23; 55:11; Matt. 24:35)

2. that Ezekiel is a true prophet

Both of these theological items are crucial, especially when Ezekiel begins to prophesy about the restoration!

▣ "they will go into exile, into captivity" The "they" refers to the few in Judah and Jerusalem who will escape the destruction and horror of the invasion (cf. v. 16).

The terms "exile" (BDB 163) and "captivity" (BDB 985) are parallel. Judgment is coming! YHWH will do it! His own people will be taken out of the land (cf. Jer. 13:19; 15:2; 20:4,6) which He promised to their fathers!

12:13 "I shall also spread My net over him" This refers to the capture of King Zedekiah. It was YHWH who planned and executed (by means of the Babylonian army) his capture (i.e., 5:10,12; 6:8; 12:14,15; 20:23; 22:15; 36:19). The metaphor used is a "net" (BDB 440, cf. 17:20; 19:8), which denotes either

1. a fishing net

a. casting, Ezek. 12:13; 32:3

b. dragging, Ezek. 26:5,14; 47:10

2. a snare (for birds)


▣ "yet he will not see it" See Jer. 39:1-10, especially v. 7.

12:14 "I shall scatter to every wind" This verb (BDB 279, KB 280, Piel imperfect) is used in 5:2, which describes Ezekiel's prophetic acts of judgment (see note at 12:13).

"Every wind" is an idiom for every direction (i.e., complete exile).

12:15 This verse, which describes the exile of Israel into all the surrounding nations, can be viewed theologically in two ways.

1. This is the consequence of covenant rebellion predicted in Deuteronomy (i.e., 4:27; 28:64; 29:28).

2. This had a secondary effect of forcing Israel to fulfill her missionary mandate (similar to the dispersion of the Tower of Babel). Ezekiel makes this missionary mandate definite in 36:20-21, 22-38!


▣ "they will know" This verb (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal perfect) is used in a special sense in Ezekiel. It describes YHWH's desire that His people, all people, know (in the sense of intimate personal relationship, i.e, Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5) Him. The characteristic phrase "they will know that I am the Lord" first occurs in the covenant context of the exodus (cf. Exod. 6:7; 7:5,17; 16:12; 29:46). The phrase refers to future actions of YHWH, positive and negative. All His acts are revelations of His character and purposes!

12:16 "But I will spare a few of them" The verb (BDB 451, KB 451, Hiphil perfect) is used in several senses by Ezekiel.

1. spare, 6:8; 12:16

2. the rest, 34:18

3. some survivors, 14:22

4. what remains, 39:14,28; 48:15,18,21


▣ "the sword, the famine, the pestilence" These are the three major enemies of a city under siege (cf. 5:12; 6:11-12; 7:15; 14:21). These are mentioned repeatedly in Deuteronomy (esp. chaps. 27-29).

▣ "and may know that I am the Lord" The goal of a "chosen people" was to be a means of revelation to the nations. Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6), but she failed.


 17 Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me saying, 18"Son of man, eat your bread with trembling and drink your water with quivering and anxiety. 19Then say to the people of the land, 'Thus says the Lord God concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel, "They will eat their bread with anxiety and drink their water with horror, because their land will be stripped of its fullness on account of the violence of all who live in it. 20The inhabited cities will be laid waste and the land will be a desolation. So you will know that I am the Lord."'"

12:18 Ezekiel is told to emulate the fear of the people of Judah facing invasion (cf. v. 19; Deut. 28:65).

1. eat bread with trembling (BDB 950)

2. drink water

a. with quivering (BDB 919)

b. with anxiety (BDB 178)

It is possible that this is a reversal of the Exodus meal (cf. Exodus 11-12)! YHWH gave them the land, but now He takes it away!

12:19 "the people of the land" In the earlier parts of the OT this phrase means the landed nobility, but after the exile and in Jesus' day it speaks of the poorest people of the land. Here it refers to Ezekiel's fellow exiles.

12:20 Two terms describe YHWH's judgment of Judah.

1. the verb "will be laid waste," BDB 351, KB 349, Qal imperfect, cf. 6:6; 25:19; 30:7

2. the noun "desolation," BDB 1031, cf. 6:14; 14:15,16; 15:8; 23:33; also used often in the prophecies against the nations, chapters 25-32


 21Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 22"Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, 'The days are long and every vision fails'? 23Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God, "I will make this proverb cease so that they will no longer use it as a proverb in Israel." But tell them, "The days draw near as well as the fulfillment of every vision. 24For there will no longer be any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. 25For I the Lord will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it," declares the Lord God.'"

12:21-25 There are two stated reasons why the exiles were holding out hope that Jerusalem would not fall and that they might return.

1. Ezekiel's prophecies were far into the future and would not affect them, vv. 22-23,26-28.

2. There were other prophets who were predicting the opposite of Jeremiah and Ezekiel (i.e., see (1) Jeremiah 28 and (2) Josephus' Antiquities 10.7.2), vv. 24-25.


12:22 "the days are long and every vision fails" This was a proverb spoken by the rebellious house of Israel (cf. v. 27) that God was not going to fulfill His prophecy through Ezekiel. Ezekiel started preaching in the fifth year of the exile and the city of Jerusalem did not fall until the thirteenth year of the exile. Delay does not mean YHWH's word will not be accomplished (cf. vv. 23,25,28). Ezekiel often quotes (or alludes to) popular proverbs (cf. 16:44; 18:2,3) or parables (cf. 17:2; 24:3).

12:24 "divination" This (BDB 890) was strictly forbidden for the people of God. It is an attempt by humans to know and control future events! The fact that a prophet would use this means to know God's will shows the degradation of the leadership (cf. Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10-12; Ezek. 13:6,7,9,23; 21:21, 22,23,29; 22:28; Jer. 14:14).  For an interesting discussion of occult practices in the OT see Synonyms of the Old Testament by Robert G. Girdlestone, pp. 296-302, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 608-610.

12:25 "‘I shall speak the word and perform it,' declares the Lord God" Also refer to 6:10; 12:28; 17:24; 22:14; Isa. 14:24; 55:6-13. YHWH's word is sure, but often His patience and longsuffering are misunderstood.

 26Furthermore, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 27"Son of man, behold, the house of Israel is saying, 'The vision that he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies of times far off.' 28Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God, "None of My words will be delayed any longer. Whatever word I speak will be performed,"'" declares the Lord God.

12:26-28 See note at 12:21-25.


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