For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 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, saying,”


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 Great Tribulation.


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 judgment. 


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 Israel.”


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 of doom.


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; 52:7-11


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 countries.”


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 me, saying,”


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 Lord.”


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, saying,”


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 faileth?”


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 come. 


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, saying,”


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.

[Ezekiel 13]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough