Bible Study: Ezekiel 20 – Repeated Rebellion & Holocaust

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The twentieth chapter of Ezekiel is about God giving a history lesson of repeated rebellion to some of the elders of Israel.

Background

Ezek 20:1 It came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

If the 5 year of Jehoiachin’s captivity is 593 BC (based on chapter 1), then the 12th year is 586 BC.

Ezek 20:2-4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Have you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you.” Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? Then make known to them the abominations of their fathers.

Some elders had come to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord. God in His anger rejects it because of the abominations of their fathers. He then gives a detailed account of their rebellion. It is a cycle of God’s promise or oath, the rebellion, His anger and His mercy.

Egypt – Harlot bride

Ezek 20:5-7 Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God.’ On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands. Then I said to them, ‘Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

God raised His hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob to bring them out of the land of Egypt. God said to them to throw away the abominations which are before their eyes and not to defile with the idols of Egypt.

Ezek 20:8a“But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. 

Did the children of Jacob obeyed God? No. Instead they rebelled against God. They neither cast away the abominations nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. It is like the Bridegroom asking His bride to leave her former ways yet the bride is not willing to leave her harlotry.

Ezek 20:8b-9 Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’ But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

In-spite of the bride not leaving her harlotry, the Bridegroom is still merciful and did not pour out His fury and anger towards the bride for His name sake.

Sinai – Adulterous wife

Ezek 20:10-12 “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’ Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

After God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He gave them His statutes and His judgments. He also gave them His Sabbaths as a sign between them and Him so that they may know that it is God who sanctifies them.

Ezek 20:13-14 “Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them. But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out.

Did the children of Israel obeyed God? No. We clearly see how they rebelled again and worshiped a golden calf while God was giving the 10 commandments. It is like the Husband is marrying His wife while the wife is committing adultery at the same time.

Ezek 20:15-17 “So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands, because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols. Nevertheless My eye spared them from destruction. I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.

While God was extremely angry with their act, His eyes did spared them from destruction.

Rebellion Yet again

Ezek 20:18-22 “But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. ‘I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’ Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness. Nevertheless I withdrew My hand and acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out.

We see several incidents where the children of those who left for the promised land rebelled against God. The defeat from the city of Ai because of the sin of Achan is one such incident.

Pronounced Unclean

Ezek 20:23-26 “Also I raised My hand in an oath to those in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols. Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live; and I pronounced them unclean because of their ritual gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire, that I might make them desolate and that they might know that I am the LORD.”

The children of Israel not only worshiped other gods but involved in child sacrifice by making their own firstborn to pass through fire. This was the greatest sin which is repeated echoed in this book of Ezekiel which made God to have a determination to make them desolate. Even after Josiah was good in restoring everything, God did not withdrew from His anger. The same child sacrifice is practiced even today except it is not for other gods nor it is called child sacrifice anymore. Instead children are killed for pleasure and choice and called as abortion. If was determined to make His own wife desolate because of child sacrifice, how much more will His anger be poured out on those who practice abortion? The tares will continue to grow alongside the wheat until the the end of the age and the harvest.

What does it mean when God said, He gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live?

So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels (Psa 81:12). 

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves (Rom 1:24)

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. (Rom 1:26a)

God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Rom 1:28b)

God delivering people to uncleanness if they refuse to obey Him is repeatedly mentioned in the Scriptures. Because the children of Israel rebelled and refused to obey Him, He delivered them to statutes that were not good and judgments by which they could not live which are not from Him.

 

Never sin and look for answers from God

Ezek 20:27-31 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “In this too your fathers have blasphemed Me, by being unfaithful to Me. When I brought them into the land concerning which I had raised My hand in an oath to give them, and they saw all the high hills and all the thick trees, there they offered their sacrifices and provoked Me with their offerings. There they also sent up their sweet aroma and poured out their drink offerings. Then I said to them, ‘What is this high place to which you go?’ So its name is called Bamah to this day.” ’ Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Are you defiling yourselves in the manner of your fathers, and committing harlotry according to their abominations? For when you offer your gifts and make your sons pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols, even to this day. So shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you.

The elders who came to inquire of the Lord never left their idols of their fathers but committed abominations and caused their sons to pass through fire to defile themselves and then come to Lord to pray and look for answers from Him. Can anyone sin, never truly repented and still expect God to answer Him? Absolutely not.

Prov 28:9 One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.

As we read in proverbs, if you don’t obey God, even your prayer is an abomination to Him.

 

The Holocaust

To understand what God’s fury being poured out looks like, just look at the holocaust.
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Ezek 20:32-34 “What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.’ As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.

We all know in the past century the nation Israel was formed. Yet, it wasn’t formed without much suffering and pain often referred as holocaust. Many may have questions on why God allowed such genocide on His own chosen people. The holocaust is God’s fury being poured out.

Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Holocaust is God’s fury and the fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in Ezekiel.

Ezek 20:35-36 “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the Lord GOD.

The NASB gives a more accurate translation.

Ezek 20:35-36 and I shall bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I shall enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord GOD.

God did not plead with children of Israel but rather entered into judgment.

Ezek 20:37-38 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

What does pass under the rod mean?

Lev 27:31-33 ‘If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’

Jer 33:12-13 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In this place which is desolate, without man and without beast, and in all its cities, there shall again be a dwelling place of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the South, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flocks shall again pass under the hands of him who counts them,’ says the LORD.

Pass under the rod is a term used to refer the counting. In other words, God will purge the rebels who will not enter the land of Israel but those who are brought into the bond of the covenant will be numbered.

 

Don’t profane God’s holy name

Ezek 20:39-44 “As for you, O house of Israel,” thus says the Lord GOD: “Go, serve every one of you his idols–and hereafter–if you will not obey Me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols. For on My holy mountain, on the mountain height of Israel,” says the Lord GOD, “there all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, shall serve Me; there I will accept them, and there I will require your offerings and the firstfruits of your sacrifices, together with all your holy things. I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel,” says the Lord GOD.’

God had delivered the children of Israel to the idol worship if they will not obey Him. God will do the same to Christians today, if they forsake the commandments of Christ. The above prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

Isa 2:2-4 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.

The prophecy regarding the mountain of the Lord which is also mentioned in Mic 4:1-4 is yet to be fulfilled.

A Final Prophecy

Ezek 20:45-49 Furthermore the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, set your face toward the south; preach against the south and prophesy against the forest land, the South, and say to the forest of the South, ‘Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree and every dry tree in you; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I, the LORD, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! They say of me, ‘Does he not speak parables?’ ”

It is important to remember that south mentioned may not be referring to the south of Israel but rather, it could be south to the location where Ezekiel was located i.e., the land of Caldeans by the river Chebar. The south of the river Chebar in today’s map is mostly desert.

Conclusion

Look at holocaust to understand what God’s fury being poured out looks like for repeated rebellion of the house of Israel which is a fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in Ezekiel. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Lord. There is a coming wrath of the Lamb on all ungodly and sinners. How long will there be repeated rebellion in your life? Repent now!