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Ezekiel 14

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Idolatrous Elders Condemned Idolatry Will Be Punished Of Prophets and People
(12:21-14:23)
God Condemns Idolatry Against Idolatry
14:1-5 14:1-5 14:1-5 14:1-3 14:1-5
      14:4-5  
14:6-11 14:6-11 14:6-8 14:6 14:6-11
      14:7-8  
    14:9-11 14:9-11  
The City Will Not Be Spared Judgment on Persistent Unfaithfulness   Noah, Daniel and Job Individual Responsibility
14:12-20 14:12-14 14:12-20 14:12-14 14:12-20
  14:15-16   14:15-16  
  14:17-18   14:17-18  
  14:19-20   14:19-20  
14:21-23 14:21-23 14:21-23 14:21-23 14:21-23

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

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:14:1-5
 1Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. 2And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 3"Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all? 4Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, 5in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols."'

14:1 "elders of Israel" This must refer to tribal leaders already in exile in Babylon (cf. 8:1, where a group of faithful elders were called "elders of Judah"). These particular ones are idolaters (cf. 20:1). This is Judah's problem, her leaders are not faithful YHWHists!

1. kings, princes

2. priests

3. prophets

4. elders

 

14:3 "these men have set up idols in their hearts" Apparently the idolatry of Jerusalem described in chapter 8 had already spread to the leaders in exile in Babylon (cf. vv. 4,6,11; 7:19; 20:7-8). These elders looked like YHWHists, but in the secret place of their hearts (God knows the heart), they were corrupted by pagan worship and theology.

For the term "idols" (BDB 165, NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 864-865) see note at 6:4. The term is used almost exclusively in Ezekiel (39 times) and only once in Jeremiah (i.e., 50:2) and never in Isaiah. It originally occurred in the key covenant passages of Lev. 26:30 and Deut. 29:17.

▣ "stumbling block" This term (BDB 506) is used often in Ezekiel (cf. 3:20; 14:3,4,7; 18:30; 21:15; 44:12). Its basic meaning is "to stumble" or "the means by which one stumbles." The origin of its idiomatic usage comes from

1. God's word or covenant was characterized as a clearly marked path

2. faith originally meant to be stable, walking easily in the path

3. therefore, to stumble is parallel to leaving the path, to stumbling in the path

This term came to have a Messianic aspect in Isaiah (cf. 8:14; Rom. 9:33; I Pet. 2:8). The Messiah (the Cornerstone, Gen. 49:24; Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16) will become a stumbling block to some.

▣ "Should I be consulted by them at all" This is a grammatically emphatic sentence (an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb of the same root [BDB 205, KB 233, Niphal, cf. 20:3,31]). The covenant leaders were consulting idols and false prophets, not YHWH (cf. 20:3,21). So why should YHWH now allow them to consult Him?

14:4 "speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God'" This is an emphatic construction.

1. a Piel imperative, "speak," BDB 180, KB 201

2-3. two Qal perfects, "says," BDB 55, KB 65

God's prophet must address this situation of "apparent" faith!

▣ "I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer" See note at v. 7.

14:5 "who are estranged from Me" The verb "estranged" (BDB 266, KB 267, Niphal perfect) describes the alienation of YHWH's people from Him because of idolatry. YHWH's people are now strangers/foreigners (cf. 7:21; 11:9; 16:22; 28:7,10; 30:12; 31:12) and thus enemies (cf. Isa. 1:4; Ps. 69:8).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:14:6-8
 6"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. 7For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the Lord will be brought to answer him in My own person. 8I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the Lord."

14:6 The phrase "Thus says the Lord God" is used in several senses in Ezekiel.

1. positive

a. a call to repentance, 14:6

b. forgiveness of the covenant people, 36:33

c. resurrection, 37:12

d. gathering exiles, 37:21

e. restoration of the fortunes of Jacob and having mercy on the whole house of Israel, 39:25

2. negative

a. YHWH gives Ezekiel a message that His people will not listen to, 2:4; 3:11

b. prophecies against the false prophets, 13:3,8

c. prophecies against

(1) apostasy, 20:30

(2) social injustice, 45:9

d. prophecies against the surrounding nations

(1) Ammon, 25:3

(2) Tyre, 28:2

(3) Cush, Put, Lud, Arabia, Libya, 30:2-5

(4) Gog, 39:1

e. prophecies against Judah, 5:8; 6:3; 12:19

 

As verse 4 was emphatic, so too, verse 6.

1. "say" - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperative

2. "say" - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal perfect

YHWH commands them to do three things (all using one verbal root, BDB 996, KB 1427).

1. "repent" (cf. 18:30,32; 33:11; Isa. 55:6-7)

2. "turn away from your idols"

3. "turn away from all your abominations" (see Special Topic at 5:11)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

14:7 "the immigrants" Non-Jews were to be treated as equals in the legal realm (cf. Lev. 19:33-34,35). Israel was to deal with them graciously (cf. Lev. 23:22; Deut. 10:19; 24:17; 27:19). Israel had also been an alien in Egypt (cf. Exod. 22:21; 23:9) and knew how it felt!

▣ "who separates himself from Me" This verb (BDB 634, KB 684, Niphal imperfect) means to dedicate oneself by separating oneself from ceremonial evil. The noun form is used of those in Numbers 6 who separate themselves by vow and restrictions to God (i.e., Nazirites, both male and female). There is a play on words here.

1. holy, means separated to God for His service

2. nzr, means those who separate themselves (men and women) to God by special vow (Num. 6)

3. these idolaters have separated themselves from God and to idols

 

▣ "I the Lord will be brought to answer him in My own person" What an ominous phrase. YHWH comes personally, not for blessing, but for destruction (cf. 14:4; also note Heb. 10:31).

14:8 "I shall set My face against that man" As the idolater sets his idol "right before his face" (cf. v. 4), so now YHWH sets His face against him (cf. 15:7). The face (BDB 815) is an idiom of personal presence (cf. vv. 4,7).

Notice what YHWH threatens to do to the idolater.

1. make him a sign (BDB 16)

2. make him a proverb (BDB 605, possibly "byword," cf. Deut. 28:37; I Kgs. 9:7; II Chr. 7:20; Ps. 44:14; Jer. 24:9; Joel 2:17)

3. cut him off from the covenant people (BDB 503, KB 500, Hiphil perfect)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:14:9-11
 9"But if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak a word, it is I, the Lord, who have prevailed upon that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel. 10They will bear the punishment of their iniquity; as the iniquity of the inquirer is, so the iniquity of the prophet will be, 11in order that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me and no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. Thus they will be My people, and I shall be their God,"' declares the Lord God."

14:9 YHWH reveals Himself to true prophets, but hides His word from false prophets. He uses them for His own purposes (i.e., I Kgs. 22:22-23). These false prophets were prophesying "peace" and "security" (cf. Jer. 14:15), but they were lying! The refusal of Judah to repent caused YHWH's judgment to come!

YHWH uses even "evil" for His purposes and plans! One way the ancient Hebrew Scriptures demonstrated monotheism was by attributing all causality to God (i.e., Deut. 32:39; Job 5:18; 12:13-25; Isa. 30:26; 45:7; Hosea 6:1; Amos 3:6).

14:11 The purpose of judgment is restoration (cf. 14:22-23)! However, for this to occur, some other things must happen first.

1. "Israel may no longer stray" (BDB 1073, KB 1766, Qal imperfect, cf. 44:10,15; 48:11)

2. Israel "no longer defile themselves" (BDB 379, KB 375, Hiphil imperfect, cf. 37:23)

If these criteria are not met, then they will not be His covenant people (cf. 11:20; 34:30; 36:28; 37:27; Exod. 6:7; Lev. 11:45; 22:33; 25:38; 26:12,44,45).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:14:12-20
  12Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 13"Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, 14even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves," declares the Lord God. 15"If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of the beasts, 16though these three men were in its midst, as I live," declares the Lord God, "they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate. 17Or if I should bring a sword on that country and say, 'Let the sword pass through the country and cut off man and beast from it,' 18even though these three men were in its midst, as I live," declares the Lord God, "they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters, but they alone would be delivered. 19Or if I should send a plague against that country and pour out My wrath in blood on it to cut off man and beast from it, 20even though Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, as I live," declares the Lord God, "they could not deliver either their son or their daughter. They would deliver only themselves by their righteousness."

14:13 The Jewish Study Bible marginal note (p. 1066) asserts that the "ifs" of vv. 13,15,17,19 are textual markers for a legal case (i.e., casuistic law).

▣ "committing unfaithfulness" This verb (BDB 591, KB 612, Qal infinitive construct) comes from the priestly realm and denotes acts of idolatrous treachery (i.e., idolatry). It is used of marital infidelity in Num. 5:12,27. It is used several times in Ezekiel for unfaithfulness towards YHWH (cf. 15:8; 17:20; 18:24; 20:27; 39:23,26).

This phrase is emphatic by the repetition of the Hebrew root (BDB 591) in the infinitive and the noun.

Notice YHWH's reactions.

1. "I stretch out My hand against it" (i.e., His nation, His capital), which is an idiom of purposeful action

2. "I destroy (lit. "break the staff," cf. 4:16; 5:16) its supply of bread," which denotes famine

3. "I send famine against it"

4. "I cut off (i.e., destroy completely) from it both man and beast" (cf. vv. 7,19,21)

5. "cause wild beasts to pass through the land" (v. 15, cf. Lev. 26:22)

6. "bring a sword on that country"

7. "send a plague against that country" (v. 19)

All of them are summarized in four severe judgments (v. 21; 5:12; Deut. 32:23-24)

1. sword (BDB 352)

2. famine (BDB 944)

3. wild beasts (BDB 312, cf. Lev. 26:22)

4. plague (BDB 184)

 

14:14 "even though these three men" It is clear from the OT who Noah (cf. Genesis 6-9) and Job (cf. Job) are. It is not so clear who Daniel (BDB 193) is.

1. the father-in-law of Enoch, Jubilees 4:20, who surprisingly is not mentioned as our ancient righteous person

2. a son of David, I Chr. 3:1

3. a priest of the line of Ithamar, Ezra 8:2; Neh. 10:7

4. a well known Canaanite sage, Ezek. 14:14,20; 28:3

5. a prophet, hero, administrator under Nebuchadnezzar from the biblical book of Daniel

6. an unknown famous righteous person

Daniel is a contemporary with Ezekiel and did not have time for his faith and life to be well known (i.e., become a proverb of wisdom and faithfulness). Daniel might really be Daniel (or Dan-El, Ezekiel's spelling is different from Dan. 6:16 and is spelled like the hero of the Ugaritic text), a Canaanite sage (from Ras Shamra Ugaritic texts) known for his upright thoughtful life. The problem is that he is involved with the Canaanite pantheon! Therefore, even with all the questions the biblical Daniel seems the best option (cf. Ezek. 28:3).

▣ "by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves" This phrase reflects OT theology of a performance-based righteousness (cf. 3:21, or better an OT sense of "blamelessness, like Noah," Gen. 6:9 or Job, Job 1:1). This section is a theological precursor to chapter 18. The people thought that a few faithful worshipers of YHWH would cause YHWH to withhold His wrath (like Gen. 18:22-33, also note Jer. 15:1-4), but this proved not to be a deterrent! See Special Topic: Righteousness at 3:20.

The term "deliver" (BDB 664, KB 717, Piel imperfect) in the Piel, usually means "to strip off" in the sense of "plunder" (cf. Exod. 3:22; 12:36; II Chr. 20:25). Only here is it translated "deliver" or "save," although the Niphal (cf. 14:16,18) and Hiphil (cf. 3:19,21; 14:20; 33:19; 34:10) stems use it in this sense.

A righteous person (in the OT Mosaic sense, cf. 3:20-21; 14:12-20; 18:5-32; 33:12-20) can only deliver himself/herself. OT righteousness is not transferable to others. It is an individual performance-based concept. I am so glad that my hope is in the "new" covenant, which is grace-based!!!

14:15

NASB"depopulate"
NKJV"empty"
NRSV"ravage"
TEV"kill"
NJB"rob it of its children"

The NJB captures the essence of the verb (BDB 1013, KB 1491, Piel perfect). This is part of the Deuteronomic curse. If the Israelites violate YHWH's covenant, their children will die (no posterity, no family joy) 

1. by sword, Deut. 32:25; I Sam. 15:33; Lam. 1:20

2. by wild beasts, Lev. 26:22; Ezek. 5:17; 14:15

 

14:17 "Let the sword pass through" This verb (BDB 710, KB 778) is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. The sword (i.e., invasion and exile) became the will and command of YHWH against His own covenant people!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:14:12-20
 21For thus says the Lord God, "How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it! 22Yet, behold, survivors will be left in it who will be brought out, both sons and daughters. Behold, they are going to come forth to you and you will see their conduct and actions; then you will be comforted for the calamity which I have brought against Jerusalem for everything which I have brought upon it. 23Then they will comfort you when you see their conduct and actions, for you will know that I have not done in vain whatever I did to it," declares the Lord God.

14:21 The four judgments mentioned were common in the ancient world (i.e., Lev. 26:22,25-26; they are also mentioned in the Babylonian flood texts).

14:22-23 The terrible judgments on Judah and Jerusalem were for the purpose of redemption! A new Israel will rise out of the ashes of the old rebellious one. There will be a believing remnant (cf. 6:7-9). There will be days of repentance (cf. 14:6)! There will be a new day of righteousness (cf. Isaiah 55-66).

14:22 "you will see their conduct and actions" This phrase has been interpreted two contrasting ways.

1. the wicked receive their just judgment ("actions," BDB 760 is always used in a negative sense)

2. the wicked are changed by God's judgment and repent (cf. 18:21-23)

The question is, does this refer to an illustration of God's justice or an example of a believing, faithful remnant?

It is possible that the message to the exiles was "the current generation does not have to bear the sins of their fathers" (or fellow Israelites). Each person's personal faith and action (cf. Ezekiel 18) will determine one's relationship with YHWH. This is a rare example of an individual emphasis in a corporate society. This will form a crucial aspect of "new" covenant theology (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13).