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

14:1.  “Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.”


14:2.  “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


14:3.  “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?”


These elders, having obviously consulted their idols and the false prophets, had the brazen effrontery to come to God’s prophet to have him inquire whether He had any different message for them.


“... the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face” was the idols before which they bowed, thus committing great iniquity, and causing God to ask indignantly whether they really were so foolish as to expect Him to give them any revelation.


Their audacity is duplicated by today’s hypocritical apostate Christendom which defies Him to His face, e.g., it has forbidden prayer and the public reading of the Bible in its schools; it refuses to call Him God, and denies His power by attributing all natural phenomena to Mother Nature; it attempts to dignify sodomy - which God has declared a capital offence - by calling it “sexual preference.”  Infanticide has been legalized by the euphemism “legal abortion,” - the list is endless.  And yet in every disaster the people go through the charade of “praying” to Him!


14:4.  “Therefore speak unto them, and say unto the, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;”


God denounced their temerity by declaring that His answer to their inquiry would be to assure them of His judgment upon their rampant idolatry and all their other wickedness.


That same assurance is God’s reply to the hypocrisy of today’s apostate Christendom, His judgments coming in the fast approaching Great Tribulation.


14:5.  “That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.”


The first part of this verse is also translated, that I may lay hold of the hearts: in this way I hope to touch the heart: thus would I bring back to their senses: My answer will grip the hearts of: I will ruin Israel with their hearts’ desire: I will catch Israel in their own devices.  Since that generation was doomed because of their failure to repent in God’s time, His only answer was the assurance of destruction because of their idolatry.


14:6.  “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations (filthy practices).”


This has to be understood in the context of God’s immutable sentence of destruction upon that generation of Israel.  The call here is to the very few individuals within the apostate mass of the guilty nation who would heed the warning and repent, thereby saving their souls, though not necessarily their lives, nor assuring any believing survivors of immunity from Babylonian captivity.


14:7.  “For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me: I the Lord will answer him by myself:”


14:8.  “And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”


Idolatrous Israelite or foreigner dwelling in the land, and coming to a prophet to inquire of Jehovah, was hereby assured that God Himself would reply by slaying that man and making him an example and a byword.


14:9.  “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.”


14:10.  “And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;”


These verses are usually taken to mean that if a prophet did respond to the inquiry of idolaters it would mean that he was a false prophet, and the Lord would deceive him further, not only by giving him a false message, but by then slaying both him and the inquirers.


14:11.  “That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people and I may be their God, saith the Lord God.”


God’s severe punishment was exactly suited to the enormity of their guilt, and had for its ultimate purpose the production of a people repentant and converted, an end that will be achieved only by the now imminent Great Tribulation judgments.


14:12.  “The word of the Lord came again to me, saying,”


14:13.  “Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, Then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:”


Virtually every other translation renders “the land” as “a land,” so that the warning isn’t limited to Israel.  The whole world is responsible before God, and the agent of punishment will be famine.  The complacent western world with its abundance of everything would be well advised to consider the many other countries being ravaged today by famine, and would be equally well advised to consider that God could inflict the same condition upon them by simply withholding the rain.  Or would the culprit be “Mother Nature” who seems to have replaced God these days?


It is instructive to note that famine will be one of the agents of deadly judgment in the Great Tribulation.


14:14.  “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.”


When Abraham pleaded with God to spare Sodom he began by asking that it might be spared if fifty righteous were found in it, and finally when he had reduced the number to ten he ceased pleading, see Gen 18.  But the extent of God’s wrath in the present instance is so great that even if the three righteous men mentioned above were in the land that had fitted itself for destruction, He would permit only those three to escape before pouring out His terrible judgments, as He will in the coming Great Tribulation.


The righteousness mentioned here is not to be confused with good deeds: it is the divinely bestowed righteousness of Christ which clothes every genuine believer.


14:15.  “If I cause noisome (wild) beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:”


14:16.  “Though these three men were in it, as I live saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.”


This continues to point to the Great Tribulation, for under the fourth seal, Rev 6:8, wild beasts are listed as one of the agents of death, and in this connection it is instructive to remember that in that dreadful era in which multitudes will die of hunger, there will be little or nothing to feed the millions of abandoned pet cats, and dogs that will be turned loose, and maddened by hunger, will prowl city streets in deadly scavaging packs.


The reference to Noah, Daniel, and Job,- three outstandingly righteous men - is the reminder that only the righteous will emerge alive from the Great Tribulation judgments to inherit millennial blessing.


14:17.  “Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:”


14:18.  “Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.”


War, symbolized here by the sword, is another judgment that will devastate the Tribulation-age earth; and the three righteous men mentioned have the same significance here as in verse 16.


14:19.  “Or if I send a pestilence (disease) in that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:”


14:20.  “Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.”


Pestilence or plague is another judgment that will decimate the Tribulation age earth.


14:21.  “For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome (wild) beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?”


Having discussed details relative to each one of these same four judgments, God here asks the people to consider what it will be like when He sends all of them concurrently, as He will in the Great Tribulation.


14:22.  “Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.”


The first part of the verse declares that even in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, He would preserve a remnant who would emerge from that catastrophe with their children.


“... ye shall see their way and their doings,” means simply that those already in captivity in Babylon would see in the evil conduct of that preserved remnant brought also captive to Babylon, the justification for God’s judgment upon Jerusalem.


But even in judgment God remembers mercy, for when His judgment had accomplished His purposes in bringing them back to an obedient walk, they would then enjoy His blessing.


14:23.  “And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God.”


His preservation of that wicked remnant, and His bringing them as captives to Babylon, would show those already there, by the  ungodly lifestyles of the new arrivals, that He had had good reason for sending the judgment upon them.


We are, however, seeing only half the picture if we fail to see in what happened to guilty Israel at the hand of Babylon, a foreshadowing of what is to come upon this guilty world in the now imminent Great Tribulation.  A remnant will be preserved also through that terrible time, but it will be a godly remnant, and following Christ’s judgment of the nations, it will be brought out of the Tribulation into the enjoyment of millennial blessing.

[Ezekiel 15]


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