Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
This chapter is addressed primarily, but not exclusively, to the Jews already
in captivity in Babylon, and who wrongly anticipated an early repatriation: it
is also for the instruction of those still in Jerusalem, but who were also
about to be carried captive to Babylon.
12:1. “The word of the Lord also came unto me,
12:2. “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of
a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to
hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.”
God viewed apostate Israel as a nation of rebels who could see physically, but
who were completely blind to all that had to do with the spirit; and whose
natural hearing was normal, but whose spiritual hearing was nonexistent.
Today’s apostate Christendom is equally blind and deaf to spiritual things,
and by her rebellion against God has made herself also the object of His
fierce anger, which will be poured out upon her guilty head in the impending
12:3. “Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee
stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight: and thou shalt remove
from thy place to another place in their sight; it may be they will consider,
though they be a rebellious house.”
This command to Ezekiel to pack up his belongings and remove to another
dwelling place, in full view of the sinful people, was clearly God’s symbolic
way of warning them that they too were to be removed, not to another place in
the land, but to captivity in Babylon. But the God Who loved them in spite of
their rebellion, would thus continue to warn them so that they might take
heed, repent of their wickedness, and thus save themselves from the terrible
But did He not know that the warning would be ignored? Of course He did. Why
then did He give it? It was for the same reason that He continues to have the
Gospel preached today. He knew that one or two here and there would repent
and thus save their souls, though not necessarily their lives, when the
Babylonians invaded the land. Though the Gospel preached today is almost
universally ignored or mocked, there are still the few, the gleanings of the
harvest, as it were, who believe it to the salvation of their souls.
The exact moment hadn’t come when God would bring the destroyer into Israel,
nor has it come yet for apostate Christendom; but only spiritually blind eyes
will fail to see that it is as imminent for today’s reprobate world as it was
for equally wicked Israel.
12:4. “Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by
day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even in
their sight, as they that go forth into captivity.”
It is instructive to note that the sinful people were permitted to see God’s
servant packing up his belongings, but not to see the place to which God was
sending him. The spiritual lesson is crystal clear. Ezekiel’s departure is
symbolic of the rapture of the Church. The world ought to see by our
lifestyles that we are a people preparing to leave this doomed world; but
unless they too trust Christ as Savior they will never see that heaven to
which we are going.
We shouldn’t forget, however, that everything the prophet did was to warn them
to flee from the wrath to come; and a question we would do well to ask
ourselves is whether our lifestyles, the things we do and say, convey any
warning to those around us who are traveling at breakneck speed on the broad
and crowded way that ends in hell.
12:5. “Dig thou through the wall in their sight,
and carry out thereby.”
12:6. “In their sight shalt thou bear it upon
thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover thy face,
that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of
12:7. “And I did as I was commanded: I brought
forth my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged
through the wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I
bare it upon my shoulder in their sight.”
This is very clearly predictive of Zedekiah’s nighttime flight from the city,
see Jer 39:4-7, but it embodies also additional spiritual instruction. The
prophet was not to carry his belongings out through the door of the house, but
rather by a hole which he himself was to make in the wall, and in this is
portrayed the truth that the way to heaven is not by means of the “door” of
man’s making, i.e., religion, good works, Bible study, prayer, etc., but by
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savor, He Himself declaring, “I am the
door,” John 10:7,9, and warning further, “There is a way that seems right unto
a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” Pr 14:12; 16:25.
A further truth being declared in his having himself to dig the hole is that
salvation is an individual matter. No one can believe for another. And
inasmuch as removal of his belongings through the hole rather than the door,
was more difficult, a further lesson to be learnt is that faith in Christ
introduces us not to a “smooth, rose-bordered way” to heaven, but on the
contrary to a way of tribulation, the Lord Himself warning, “In the world ye
shall have tribulation:” but adding the encouragement, “but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world,” John 16:33.
The fact that he was able to carry all his belongings implies that they were
few, and the practical lesson being taught is that we too are not to encumber
ourselves unnecessarily with the things of this perishing world. Despising
the things of this world, as did Paul, we are, like him, to lay up for
ourselves treasure in heaven.
Apart from the symbolic instructions for believers, however, lies the fact
that in the prophet’s conduct God was warning the rebellious people that they
would be leaving the city in virtually the same manner as Ezekiel. The hole
in the wall of his house portrays the breaches the Babylonians would make in
the wall of the city and in the walls of their houses. His carrying his few
belongings on his shoulder points to the fact that the people would do the
same as they were carried captive to Babylon, their captors seizing everything
of value, and leaving for the captives only what was worthless.
It isn’t difficult to see in all of this another typological picture: that of
the hopeless departure of the unrepentant from this world, and their descent
into the darkness of eternal imprisonment and torment in hell.
The repeated mention of the time as being “at even,” verse 4, and “in the
twilight” verse 6, declares the truth that their day of probation was also
nearing an end, and giving place to the long night of seventy years captivity
in a foreign land.
His having to cover his face so that he couldn’t see the ground as he left the
city, declares the truth that the Israelites were also to leave the city and
land, knowing not where they were going, and in the certainty, that apart from
the small believing remnant that would return at the end of the seventy years,
they would never again see that good land God had given them to enjoy.
12:8. “And in the morning came the word of the
Lord unto me, saying,”
12:9. “Son of man, hath not the house of Israel,
the rebellious house, said unto thee, What doest thou?”
12:10. “Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord
God; This burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of
Israel that are among them.”
“Burden” in the present context means an utterance: prophecy: pronouncement
God, foreknowing that the people would ask Ezekiel to explain his enigmatic
pronouncements, instructed His servant to enlighten them. It was a message of
doom for “the prince in Jerusalem,” i.e., for king Zedekiah, and for “all the
house of Israel that are among them,” i.e., for all the people in Jerusalem,
the city being used here to designate the whole land.
12:11. “Say, I am your sign: like as I have
done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity.”
Ezekiel was to explain that his puzzling activity was symbolic of what God was
about to do to the rebellious nation. The verse might be paraphrased, “I,
Ezekiel, am a sign for you. What I, Jehovah, have done to you, Ezekiel, is
the foreshadowing of what I am about to do to you, rebel Israel.” They would
be carried into captivity in Babylon.
12:12. “And the prince that is among them shall
bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig
through the wall to carry out thereby; he shall cover his face, that he see
not the ground with his eyes.”
The prince here is Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. On the night of his
flight from doomed Jerusalem he took with him what valuables he could carry,
he and his few followers digging a hole in the city wall, through which they
fled toward the Jordan.
“... he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes,” is
translated in The New Berkeley Version “for his eyes shall not see the
ground again,” many scholars understanding this to mean that he would not see
Jerusalem again; nor, in fact, did he, for he was captured by the Babylonians,
blinded, and imprisoned for the rest of his life, see 2 Ki 25:1-7; Jer 39:4-7;
12:13. “My net also will I spread upon him, and
he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of
the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.”
Zedekiah’s refusal to heed the warnings given him by Jeremiah
resulted in his being taken prisoner, blinded, so that he could not see
Babylonia (Chaldea), and in his dying in that land as noted in verse 12.
12:14. “And I will scatter to every wind all
that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the
sword after them.”
The reference here is to Zedekiah’s courtiers and troops, many of whom would
be slain or captured by the Babylonians, only a few managing to escape and
find refuge in foreign lands.
12:15. “And they shall know that I am the Lord,
when I shall scatter them among the nations, and disperse them in the
What they had refused to learn by obedience, they would learn by bitter
experience. Having refused to know Jehovah as the Source of all their
blessings, they would be compelled, by His dreadful judgments, to know as the
great and terrible God Who punishes persistent rebellion with death.
Countless multitudes have been guilty of the same madness, today’s godless
world being about to learn that same bitter lesson in the now imminent
appalling judgments of the Great Tribulation.
12:16. “But I will leave a few men of them from
the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all
their abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall know
that I am the Lord.”
By His mercy God would preserve some of them from dying by the sword, or by
famine and disease, so that in exile they would be led to confess the justice
of His punishment of their great wickedness and filthy practices, with the
result that some of the people in those lands would also come to know Him.
The lesson being taught in this is that whether by His extension of mercy in
response to obedience, or His execution of judgment as the recompense of
rebellion, He will be glorified. What madness, then, to glorify Him by making
ourselves heirs of eternal torment in the lake of fire, rather than by
obedience, and the enjoyment of eternal bliss in heaven!
“... and they shall know that I am the Lord.” The frequency with which this
thought is expressed, not just in this book, but throughout the whole Bible,
reminds us that God’s one great desire is that all men should know Him as the
God of salvation, hence the Lord’s last command to His own just prior to His
ascension to heaven, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature,” Mk 16:15.
12:17. “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto
12:18. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking,
and drink thy water with trembling and with carefulness;”
12:19. “And say unto the people of the land,
Thus saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of
Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water
with astonishment (dismay), that her land may be desolate from all that is
therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein.”
By his pantomimic eating and drinking, the prophet was to show the rebellious
people what awaited them in the lands to which they were about to be
scattered. They would exist there in fear and trembling, being allowed to
live only by the caprice of their captors. The land that God had given them
to enjoy would become a desolate waste for lack of the people to cultivate it,
they languishing in captivity in foreign lands because of their wickedness.
“... quaking” is also translated anxiety: fearfulness: trembling; while
“carefulness” is translated anxiety: care: fear: heaviness: sorrow.
12:20. “And the cities that are inhabited shall
be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the
How drastic the change! The land that God had caused to flow with milk and
honey when the people had been submissive to His benign government, would
become a desolate wasteland. It is the same in men’s lives. The life lived
in submission to His Word is blessed and fruitful; the life lived in rebellion
becomes the spiritual equivalent of a desolate wasteland.
12:21. “And the word of the Lord came unto me,
12:22. “Son of man, what is that proverb that ye
have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision
Moved by loving compassion for His erring people, God had graciously and
mercifully delayed the execution of the judgments foretold by His prophets,
but the people in their self-chosen ignorance and love of wickedness, had
concluded that the true prophets had uttered empty words, and that the
pronouncements of the false prophets were the truth. Because the foretold
judgments hadn’t come, they concluded, very wrongly, that they would never
It is the same in apostate Christendom today. Deluded by the smooth words of
their false teachers masquerading as God’s “ministers,” they too live in the
confidence of an unjustified euphoria, unaware that the terrible judgments of
the Great Tribulation are about to break, reducing this present evil world to
the state foreshadowed in the desolation of Palestine following the Diaspora
of 586 BC.
12:23. “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord
God; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a
proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect
(fulfillment) of every vision.”
The days were near when that foolish word would cease to be uttered, because
the fulfillment of all the foretold judgments would reveal its falsity. And
so will it be in Christendom. The descent of the long foretold judgments of
the Great Tribulation will reveal the false teachers for the liars they are,
and the folly of those who believed them.
12:24. “For there shall be no more any vain
vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel.”
“... vain” is also translated false: empty. All such alleged visions
of peace and prosperity would cease, their worthlessness being revealed by the
ravages of the impending judgment. Nor would there be any more assurances
from the so-called prophets who claimed that they had obtained their
information by the practice of divination, i.e., examination of the stars, or
the entrails of a sacrificial animal or bird; alleged communications from the
dead; dreams; imagined signs seen in water, and many others, the “reading” of
tea-leaves being a modern form of this so-called art.
12:25. “For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the
word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for
in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it,
saith the Lord God.”
The worthlessness of the assurances given by the false prophets would be
revealed by the fulfillment of God’s Word delivered by His true prophets. The
judgments they foretold were about to break upon the guilty nation, thus
confirming the veracity of their words. Fulfilled prophecy is an infallible
proof of the fact that all Scripture is God-breathed, and is a proof which the
skeptic can’t refute, hence the exhortation given by the Apostle Peter, “We
have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take
heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and
the day star arise in your hearts,” 2 Pe 1:19.
It is very unfortunate that many well-meaning, but untaught believers,
dabbling in prophecy without a proper knowledge of it, have done much to
discredit Scripture in the eyes of unbelievers.
12:26. “Again the word of the Lord came unto me,
12:27. “Son of man, behold, they of the house of
Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he
prophesieth of the times that are far off.”
Besides those who flatly rejected Ezekiel’s words there were some who readily
accepted them as being indeed the pronouncements of God, but who maintained
that they had reference to a day in the far distant future, and thereby they
did just as much harm as those who rejected them altogether. In 2 Pe 3:3-11
the Apostle writes of exactly the same attitude among the unbelieving Jews of
his day relative to the Lord’s second coming.
Only a fool would deny that much of prophecy has indeed an immediate as well
as a far distant application, but that does not justify rejection of the
immediate in favor of the distant. Spiritual discernment based on a knowledge
of Scripture easily distinguishes between the two. Fortunately in this
present day much of prophecy has already been fulfilled, thus accrediting
Scripture, but in the OT age there was no such validation until the foretold
event actually occurred. The hearer had to reject or accept by faith what the
genuine prophet said, and undoubtedly the Holy Spirit endowed the believer
with the ability to make the distinction.
12:28. “Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the
Lord God; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word
which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God.”
This was God’s warning to those who assigned fulfillment of Ezekiel’s words to
a far distant day. The fact that much of what the prophet said has also an
application to this present age, didn’t diminish the reality of its first
application to that day in which he lived. Nor does that past fulfillment
diminish the application of the prophecy to this present day, and perhaps no
better words can be found to close our study of this chapter than those of
Peter already quoted, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye
do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until
the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts,” 2 Pe 1:19.