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Ezekiel 36

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Oracles of Restoration
(33:1-:39:29)
   
The Mountains of Israel To Be Blessed Blessing On Israel Prophecy To the Mountains of Israel God's Blessing on Israel Prophecy About the Mountains of Israel
36:1-12 36:1-7 36:1-7 36:1-4 36:1-5
      36:5  
      36:6-12 36:6-7
  36:8-15 36:8-12   36:8-12
36:13-15   36:13-15 36:13-15 36:13-15
  The Renewal of Israel   Israel's New Life  
36:16-21 36:16-21 36:16-21 36:16-21 36:16-32
Israel To Be Renewed for His Name's Sake        
36:22-32 36:22-32 36:22-32 36:22-32  
36:33-36 36:33-36 33:33-36 36:33-36 36:33-36
36:37-38 36:37-38 36:37-38 36:37-38 36:37-38

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 five 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.

 

BACKGROUND

It must be remembered that these chapters fall into the major literary unit of chapters 33-39, which are an emphasis on God restoring His people and their land.

A. Chapter 36 is a personification of the land with its renewed blessings (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28).

 

B. Chapter 37 is a metaphor of the national restoration amidst the death of exile.

 

C. Both of these chapters are historical precursors of future events.

1. post-exilic restoration under Zerubbbel

2. Pentecost, where believing Jews received the Spirit (Heb. 8:6-13)

3. eschatological setting (Romans 9-11)

 

D. A quote from Norman H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, has a good word about this chapter.

"Arising, then, out of this sure, unswerving love of God, we get the doctrine of the Remnant, and with it the belief that God Himself will accomplish in Israel that repentance and turning to Him without which there can never be any hope of better days, or indeed any Remnant. God will indeed find in Israel that righteousness which He demands, but it will not be of Israel's doing, even supposing that it is of Israel's desiring. It will be because God's sure love will find a way. Herein are the beginnings of those doctrines of the Christian Faith which we sons of the Reformation know assuredly to be at the root of the Gospel, in chief, Salvation by Faith alone, and through Grace, for even the first stirrings towards repentance in the human heart are the work of God Himself" (p. 122).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:36:1-12
 1"And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord. 2Thus says the Lord God, "Because the enemy has spoken against you, 'Aha!' and, 'The everlasting heights have become our possession,' 3therefore prophesy and say, 'Thus says the Lord God, "For good reason they have made you desolate and crushed you from every side, that you would become a possession of the rest of the nations and you have been taken up in the talk and the whispering of the people."'" 4Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God. Thus says the Lord God to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes and to the forsaken cities which have become a prey and a derision to the rest of the nations which are round about, 5therefore thus says the Lord God, "Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey." 6Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to the valleys, "Thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath because you have endured the insults of the nations.' 7Therefore thus says the Lord God, 'I have sworn that surely the nations which are around you will themselves endure their insults. 8But you, O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel; for they will soon come. 9For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown. 10I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities will be inhabited and the waste places will be rebuilt. 11I will multiply on you man and beast; and they will increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited as you were formerly and will treat you better than at the first. Thus you will know that I am the Lord. 12Yes, I will cause men—My people Israel—to walk on you and possess you, so that you will become their inheritance and never again bereave them of children.'"

36:1 As usual Ezekiel starts a new vision with YHWH addressing him directly (i.e., "son of man"). This literary marker is usually accompanied by imperatives. In this chapter

1. prophesy, BDB 612, KB 655, Niphal imperative, cf. vv. 3,6 (Niphal perfect in 4:7)

2. say, BDB 55, KB 65, Qal perfect (often Qal imperative in 12:10,11,23,28; 17:9,12)

3. hear, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal perfect, cf. 13:2 where all three are used. This command is repeated in v. 4.

 

▣ "O mountains of Israel" Earlier in Ezekiel's prophecies (chapter 6) this same idiom (unique in Ezekiel) is negative (i.e., judgment).

36:2 The arrogance of the surrounding nations over the demise of YHWH's people and their annexing her lands causes Him to act!

▣ "Aha" This interjection (BDB 210) expresses joy at another's demise (cf. Ps. 35:21,25; Ezek. 25:3; 26:2; 36:2).

▣ "the everlasting heights" Often the mountains are used as one of God's two permanent witnesses, but here they are used as a personification of Israel and the blessings to come. It is ironical that the same word "heights," bamoth (BDB 119), was used of the high places of Canaanite fertility worship (cf. 20:29). This phrase may imply that the surrounding nations see Palestine as an especially blessed place (i.e., fruitful, cf. Deut. 11:11).

36:3 "therefore" Notice that vv. 3,4,5,6, and 7 all start with the adverb "so" or "thus" (BDB 485), when used with a preposition means "that being so" or "therefore" (e.g., Num. 16:11; Ezek. 11:4; 37:12; 38:14).

▣ "for good cause they have made you desolate" This is a confession and recognition of the sins of God's people that resulted in the exile.

Judah's condition is described in three infinitives.

1. desolate, BDB 1030, KB 1563, Qal infinitive construct used in two senses

a. be desolate, 6:4; 20:26; 25:3; 29:12; 30:7,12,14; 32:15; 33:28; 36:4

b. be appalled, 3:15; 4:17; 26:16; 27:35; 28:19; 32:10

2. crushed or trampled upon, Qal infinitive absolute, cf. Ps. 56:2; 57:4; 94:5; Isa. 3:15; Amos 2:7; 8:4

3. become the possession ("possession," BDB 440, cf. Exod. 6:8; Ezek. 11:15; 25:10; 33:24; 36:2,5), BDB 224, KB 243, Qal infinitive construct

 

▣ "the talk and whisperings of the people" This refers to amazement of the reproach of those who live near or pass by (cf. v. 15; 34:29; Deut. 28:57; Ps. 44:9-16; Jer. 18:16). The people speak of defeated Judah as they did of her God (cf. 34:12-13).

36:4 God addresses His devastated land (i.e., its covenant people). God's people had become exactly the opposite (i.e., a prey [BDB 103] and a derision [BDB 541]) of what He intended for them to be to the nations.

36:5 This is a summary verse expressing God's sorrow in judging His own covenant people (i.e., jealousy is a love word). But now He will judge those who

1. took His people's land

2. rejoiced over their downfall

3. disrespected ("scorn of soul") them

4. drove them out of the Promised Land

These surrounding nations are the very ones Ezekiel addresses (except Babylon) in chapters 25-32.

▣ "My land" YHWH owns all lands by creation (cf. Exod. 19:5), but He uniquely claims a special ownership of Canaan (cf. 38:16; Lev. 25:23; Isa. 14:25; Jer. 2:7; Joel 1:6; 3:2).

36:7 "I have sworn" This is literally "lift up my hands," which was an idiomatic way of referring to an oath (cf. 20:5,6,15,23,28,42; 44:12; 47:14). Often YHWH's oath is stated as "as I live, declares the Lord."

36:8 "Oh mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear fruit for My people" This is the opposite of what the mountains of Edom will do (cf. 35:3, 7, 15). This is a fulfillment of 17:23 and 34:26-29 (cf. Isaiah 4; 27:6).

39:9 "I am for you" The covenant will be restored. YHWH will be with and for His people again. The promises of Deuteronomy 28 will be actualized.

▣ "I will turn to you" As is so often the case, Ezekiel uses phrases from Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 27-29. This phrase is in Lev. 26:9.

36:10-15 This reflects the promises of Deuteronomy. It implies that the covenant is renewed and is being obeyed! These blessings are for a repentant and obedient Israel!

1. multiply men on you

2. cities reinhabited

3. waste places rebuilt

4. multiply man and beast

5. treat you better than at the first

6. possess Canaan as an inheritance

7. no loss of children

8. no more insults from the surrounding nations

9. no more stumbling on Israel's part

 

36:10 "all the house of Israel, all of it" This speaks of the reuniting of the thirteen tribes of Israel (cf. 37:21,22; Jer. 3:18; 50:4).

36:12 "you" This is a personification of the Promised Land (i.e., "the mountains of Israel" or "the everlasting heights"). YHWH has been addressing them in v. 1 through v. 15.

▣ "never again bereave them of children" This phrase may link back to the spies' report found in Num. 13:32 or YHWH's judgment from Jer. 15:7. If so, it refers to famine, plague, sword, and wild beasts.

The verb "bereave" (BDB 1013, KB 1491, Piel infinitive construct) is repeated in v. 13 and possibly v. 14 (MT notes Kethiv, ["written"], "shall not stumble," BDB 505, כשׁל, but Qere ["read"], "shall not bereave," שׁכל), possibly just the author using a wordplay. This threat was first used in Lev. 26:22 (cf. Deut. 32:25). Ezekiel often used Leviticus 26 as a source for his vocabulary. Children were seen as a gift from YHWH, but for covenant disobedience He takes them away. However, a new day has come and no longer will the children be taken!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:36:13-15
 13"Thus says the Lord God, 'Because they say to you, "You are a devourer of men and have bereaved your nation of children," 14therefore you will no longer devour men and no longer bereave your nation of children,' declares the Lord God. 15I will not let you hear insults from the nations anymore, nor will you bear disgrace from the peoples any longer, nor will you cause your nation to stumble any longer," declares the Lord God.'"

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:36:16-21
 16Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 17"Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. 18Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols. 19Also I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, 'These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of His land.' 21But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went."

36:16-21 YHWH reminds His people of their sins.

1. they defiled YHWH's land

2. they shed blood (murder or child sacrifice to Molech)

3. they were idolatrous

therefore, YHWH (recurrent themes in Ezekiel)

1. poured out His wrath on them

2. scattered them among the nations

3. judged them according to their ways and deeds

Instead of revealing YHWH to the nations, they profaned His name (in the land and in exile). YHWH wanted to use a people to reveal Himself to all people (cf. vv. 32,36). Israel failed to be a clear reflection of YHWH, as a matter of fact, they distorted His image. He has a universal redemptive plan that will not be thwarted! So, He will act Himself to reveal Himself. The new action is "the new covenant" of Jer. 31:31-34 (i.e., the New Testament). This new covenant, based on YHWH's actions, is described in vv. 22-38.

36:17 "like the uncleanness of a women in her impurity" To the Jews all bodily excretions made one ceremonially unclean. See Lev. 15:19-30.

36:18 "the blood which they shed" This refers either to (1) the murder of righteous people; (2) the murder of poor people; or (3) child sacrifice to Molech.

▣ "idols" See note at 18:15.

36:19 "I scattered them among the nations" This is the covenant curse of Lev. 26:33 coming to fruition (cf. Ezek. 20:23). This judgment on Judah's covenant disobedience became an opportunity for YHWH to reveal Himself to the nations (cf. 36:20-21,22-23).

▣ "and according to their ways and their deeds I have judged them" See note at 33:20.

36:20 "they have profaned my holy name" Remember that YHWH was linked to the nation and the nation went into captivity. YHWH was willing for His own name to be impugned that His people might turn back to Him. Israel and Judah profaned YHWH's name (i.e., reputation) in several ways.

1. covenant disobedience

2. Canaanite worship

3. national defeat

YHWH is jealous for His holiness (cf. 39:7, see Special Topic at 20:12).

36:21 "But I had concern for My holy name" YHWH is concerned (lit. "took pity," BDB 328, KB 328, Qal imperfect, see the negative in 5:11; 7:4,9; 8:18; 9:5,10) about His reputation (cf. 20:39) because He is in the business of winning all humans made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) to faith and repentance in Himself (cf. v. 14). His name stands for His person!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:36:22-32
 22"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord," declares the Lord God, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. 24For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. 29Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. 30I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. 32I am not doing this for your sake," declares the Lord God, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!"

36:22-32 Verse 22 captures the essence of the new covenant (cf. Luke 22:20; I Cor. 11:25; Galatians 3, 4; Heb. 8:6-13; 10:15-18)! Notice the things He will do to reestablish His reputation (cf. v. 23).

1. I will take you from the nations and bring you back to Canaan, v. 24

2. I will sprinkle clean water on you and cleanse you from filthiness and idolatry, v. 25

3. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit, v. 26

4. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to obey My covenant, v. 27

5. I will be your God in the Promised Land, v. 28

6. I will forgive and restore covenant fruitfulness, vv. 29-30

7. YHWH will do this to reveal Himself (v. 32). His people will be grieved over their sin (vv. 31-32).

 

36:25 "sprinkle clean water on you" Remember that Ezekiel was a trained priest who would be familiar with water as a symbol of spiritual cleansing (e.g., Exod. 29:4; 30:18-21; Lev. 1:9,13; 6:28; 8:6,21; 14:5,6,8,9,51,52; 15:5,6,7,8,10,11,21,22,27; 16:4,24,26,28; 17:15; 22:6; Num. 5:17-27; 8:7; 19:7,8,9, 13,17,18,19,20,21). Some commentators think this text, which links "water" and "Spirit," is the key OT background to John 3:5 (see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 67-68).

36:26 "I wi11 give you a new heart" The balance is seen in Ezek. 18:31 (see full note there), where the Israelites are commanded to make themselves a new heart (cf. Ezek. 11:19; Jer. 31:31-34). God always comes in grace, but humans, empowered by YHWH's grace, must respond. The "heart" (see Special Topic at 11:19) was the center of the intellect as the spirit was the source of life. When both are used together, it refers to the entire person.

36:27 "I will put My Spirit within you" This is setting the stage for the "Spirit" in chapter 37. He is the sign of the new age (cf. Ezek. 37:14; 39:29; Isa. 42:1; 44:3; 59:21; Joel 2:28, 29). This is rare text where the Spirit is personalized and internalized (cf. 37:14; 39:29; Isa. 11:2; 32:15; 44:3; 59:21; Jer. 32:36-41; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2). This is New Covenant terminology! This is a precursor to the concept of a Trinity (see Special Topic at 2:2), which is so difficult to contemplate in connection with monotheism.

For good articles on the Spirit in the OT see

1. Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 273-274

2. Christian Theology, 2nd ed., by Millard J. Erickson, pp. 881-885

 

36:28 "my people, and I will be your God" These are covenant terms (cf. 11:20; 14:11; 37:23,27), which show that YHWH has reestablished the covenants of the Patriarchs and Moses.

36:30 "I will multiply the fruit of the tree" This refers to the covenant blessings (cf. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28).

36:31 "You will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves" This refers to the repentance of the covenant people (cf. Ezek. 6:9; 16:61,63; 20:43; Jer. 22:22; 31:19). Repentance, faith, obedience (cf. Deut. 30:1-3), and perseverance are covenant requirements of the OT and NT. Justification must not be separated from sanctification! Both are gifts from God in which believers must participate (cf. v. 20).

36:32 YHWH wants His people to acknowledge their sin. This verse has three commands.

1. "let it be known," BDB 393, KB 390, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. "be ashamed," BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperative

3. "be confounded," BDB 483, KB 480, Niphal imperative

Verse 32 is a crucial theological message.

1. YHWH is going to act for His name's sake, not for Israel's glory.

2. Israel must repent. The new covenant is also conditional on repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance (cf. 6:9; 16:63; 20:43; Jer. 31:18).

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:36:33-36
 33'Thus says the Lord God, "On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. 34The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. 35They will say, 'This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.' 36Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it."

36:33-36 This is a repeat of vv. 10-15.

36:36 "the nations that are left round about you" What nations are these? Does it refer to the surrounding nations addressed in chapters 25-32? If so, then the call to "take prophecy literally" must be questioned here. If it refers to future unnamed nations, what is the purpose of their "knowing that I am the Lord"? Are these Gentile nations just to recognize His blessing on Israel or come to know her God also?

All of us who believe, honor, respect, and cherish God's Word struggle with the relationship between the Old and New Covenants. If the NT is the fulfillment of the OT and the specific fulfillment of Gen. 3:15, then the scope of God's love must be expanded to all nations because of Gen. 1:26-27; 3:15; and 12:3 (see Special Topic at 12:16)! This does not minimize Israel, but recognizes that the biblical focus is on YHWH, not Israel. The focus of the gospel is not Israel, but the redemption and restoration of all mankind. Jesus, not Israel, is the key thrust of the NT. If He is Messiah and if the NT writers are inspired (esp. Paul and the author of Hebrews), then a new day has come, a universal offer has been made, a once-for-all sacrifice has been given! The original purpose of creation has been fulfilled, not in Israel, but in fellowship between God and His highest creation, mankind. Salvation is the restoration of the image of God in humanity damaged in the fall of Genesis 3.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:36:37-38
 37'Thus says the Lord God, "This also I will let the house of Israel ask Me to do for them: I will increase their men like a flock. 38Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so will the waste cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they will know that I am the Lord."'"

36:37-38 This is a reemphasis on vv. 10, 11.

36:37 "I will let the house of Israel ask Me to do for them" YHWH reverses His unwillingness to hear Israel's prayers (cf. 14:3; 20:3,31; Isa. 1:15; Jer. 11:11).