Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
21:1. “And the word of the Lord came unto me,
21:2. “Son of man, set thy face toward
Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the
land of Israel,”
The prophet was to speak to the people of Jerusalem, but since that city was
the capital, the message delivered there was to the whole land, being
addressed first to “the holy places,” i.e., to or against the Temple and then
to the whole land of Israel.
21:3. “And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith
the Lord; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his
sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.”
No more terrible word can be spoken than for God to say of a man or a nation,
“I am against thee,” for that man or nation is thus doomed. In the present
instance God’s sword was to be Babylon.
Relative to the cutting off of the righteous as well as the wicked, it is to
be noted that very frequently God’s judgments against the wicked affect also
the righteous, but there is a very great difference between the results. The
very same judgment that punishes the wicked, tests, and almost invariably
strengthens, the faith of the believer; and even if the judgment includes also
the physical death of the believer, it simply transports him from the misery
of earth into the presence of the Lord, “which is far better,” Php 1:23. And
again concerning the death of the righteous, we read, “Precious in the sight
of the Lord is the death of his saints,” Ps 116:15.
21:4. “Seeing then that I will cut off from thee
the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his
sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:”
The destruction would begin in the south, i.e., in Judah, and would embrace
the whole land.
21:5. “That all flesh may know that I the Lord
have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.”
The destruction would be brought by the Babylonians whom God had chosen to be
His sword. Relative to the words, “it shall not return any more,” doesn’t
mean that God’s wrath would never end, but rather that it wouldn’t cease until
that wicked generation had been destroyed, a process that wouldn’t be complete
until the end of the seventy-year Babylonian captivity.
21:6. “Sigh, therefore, thou son of man, with
the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.”
“... breaking of thy loins” is literally “breaking of thy heart” which the
ancients believed to be the seat of the intelligence and emotions.
“... to sigh” in the present context was to groan or mourn, the prophet’s
expression of bitter sorrow being meant to lend weight to his words, and
impress the people with the dreadful reality of the coming judgment.
21:7. “And it shall be, when they say unto thee,
Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it
cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every
spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh,
and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord God.”
When the people inquired why he mourned, Ezekiel was to inform them that it
was because of the terrible coming judgments that would bring death and
destruction to the whole land.
21:8. “Again, the word of the Lord came unto me,
21:9. “Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith
the Lord; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened and also furbished (polished):”
The word sword is used here synecdochically: it represents the military might
of Babylon, its being sharpened and polished indicating the skillfulness with
which the enemy soldiers would wield their weapons.
21:10. “It is sharpened to make a sore
slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it
contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.”
The sharp edge speaks of the terrible slaughter that would result from the
Babylonian incursion; while the furbishing or polishing to make the sword
glitter like lightning indicates the swiftness of the coming destruction.
“... should we then make mirth?” is rhetorical, the truth being that tears
would have been far more appropriate than the cavalier attitude of Israel in
response to the prophet’s warning.
“... it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree,” is enigmatical, and has
been variously interpreted, e.g., you have despised the rod, my son, with
everything of wood: ... to cut off the family of my son, and to reject every
other branch: being prepared for destruction slay; set at nought; fell every
tree: you have spurned the rod and every judgment: the club is brandished, my
son, to defy all wooden idols.
Since “it” is clearly the sword of Babylon, i.e., Babylon itself, the
statement seems to mean that Babylon was contemptuous of the rod or power of
Israel, as it was of every individual Israelite, “every tree” being the poetic
description of those individuals.
21:11. “And he hath given it to be furbished,
that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give
it into the hand of the slayer.”
This continues to emphasize that it was God Who was using Babylon as His sword
to destroy rebel Israel.
21:12. “Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall
be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by
reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.”
The prophet is here commanded to bewail loudly the destruction that was about
to overtake Israel, beginning with the princes or rulers, and extending down
to the common man, beating one’s thigh being a common way of expressing
21:13. “Because it is a trial, and what if the
sword condemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord God.”
The coming destruction of Israel by Babylon was in a sense a trial or test,
the very fact that God permitted it, proving that Israel was guilty of very
“... what if the sword condemn even the rod? it shall be no more.” While many
explanations of this clause have been suggested, it seems better to understand
it simply as saying, “Don’t consider it surprising when the sword which I
(Jehovah) have placed in the hand of Babylon, destroys the rod (scepter) of
Judah, i.e., destroys Judah, and ends the Davidic line of kings.” It (Judah)
would cease to exist. This, however, has to be understood in context. The
tribes of Israel have continued to exist, even though since the Diaspora no
Jew knows his tribal origin, so for all practical purposes neither Judah nor
any other tribe exists; but God knows the tribal origin of every Jew living
today, and following the rapture of the Church will reveal those origins, see
21:14. “Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy,
and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time,
the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which
entereth into their privy chambers.”
Ezekiel is here commanded to prophesy, and clap his hands or clench his fists
in approval of Babylon’s slaughter of guilty Israel, for God will cause the
sword of the Babylonian to “be doubled the third time,” i.e., keep swinging
until Israel’s great men who seek to hide in private rooms in their homes, and
virtually all the common people, are slain. “... the sword of the great men
that are slain” is literally the sword of the Babylonian that will be used to
slay the great men of Israel.
21:15. “I have set the point of the sword
against all their gates, that their heart may be faint, and their ruins be
multiplied: ah! it is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter.”
Israel’s wickedness, of which they refused to repent, had made God their enemy
so that He was about to destroy them, using the Babylonians as His terrible
swift sword. Its being made bright speaks of the fact that it would be like
destroying lightning; and its being “wrapped up for the slaughter” means that
it had been sharpened and polished for the slaughter.
21:16. “Go thee one way or other, either on the
right hand, or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set.”
This is God’s instruction to His “sword,” i.e., to the Babylonians. They were
to do their deadly work right and left throughout the length and breadth of
the land of Israel.
21:17. “I will also smite mine hands together,
and I will cause my fury to rest: I the Lord have said it.”
“... smite my hands together” is also translated clench my fists, and
is indicative of the determination with which God will execute judgment
against rebel Israel until His righteous wrath has been completely satisfied.
21:18. “The word of the Lord came unto me again,
21:19. “Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two
ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come
forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the
way to the city.”
Nebuchadnezzar would come forth out of Babylon, and he could come either
against Jerusalem, or against Rabbah the capital of Ammon which had also
rebelled against him, but Ezekiel was to choose a spot where he could place a
sign directing the Babylonians to attack Jerusalem. This is a poetic way of
saying that Ezekiel was to prophesy Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem, the
prophet’s placing a guidepost pointing to Jerusalem being the symbolic
announcement of the fact that God would direct the Babylonians to attack
21:20. “Appoint a way, that the sword may come
to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.”
This is not saying that the Babylonians might attack either Rabbath or
Jerusalem, but that at the point where the road divided the prophet was
metaphorically to set up a signpost directing them to attack Jerusalem. In
other words, God would supernaturally direct them to assault Jerusalem.
21:21. “For the king of Babylon stood at the
parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made
his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.”
Seeking guidance from his gods, Nebuchadnezzar employed such means as allowing
a handful of arrows to fall, their position then indicating in some
undisclosed manner, which city to attack first; or placing two arrows in a
quiver, with a name on each arrow, the name on the one drawn out first, being
the city to be attacked first. His consulting with images means that he
sought guidance from his gods; and hepatoscopy (examination of the liver of an
animal) was another method by which, also in a manner not disclosed, the
inquirer might discern the will of his gods.
21:22. “At his right hand was the divination for
Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up
the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast
a mount, and to build a fort.”
God Who has control of all things used Nebuchadnezzar’s divination to direct
him to attack Jerusalem first. “... to open the mouth in the slaughter, to
lift up the voice with shouting” is simply another way of saying that the
Babylonians would utter triumphant war cries as they began their siege of the
doomed city. “... to cast a mount, and to build a fort” meant that they would
build a ramp against the city wall, and erect upon it a siege tower from which
to shoot arrows, and hurl stones against the defenders.
21:23. “And it shall be unto them as a false
divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to
remembrance the iniquity that they may be taken.”
The foolish residents of Jerusalem would assure themselves that the divination
which had impelled Nebuchadnezzar to attack them was false.
“... to them that have sworn oaths” is generally understood to refer to the
fact that Israel had solemnly sworn, in the name of Jehovah, to be submissive
to Babylon, their violation of that oath provoking God’s wrath because of the
dishonor it brought upon His name. He would ensure that Babylon would
overcome the perjurers.
21:24. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God;
Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your
transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear;
because, I say, that ye have come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the
Their continued brazen evil practices kept God constantly aware of their
wickedness, with the result that He was now about to deliver them into the
hand of the Babylonians.
21:25. “And thou, profane wicked prince of
Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,”
The profane wicked prince was Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. His day of
judgment had come: his wickedness was to be brought to tragic end.
21:26. “Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the
diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is
low, and abase him that is high.”
“... diadem” points to the royal dignity that pertained to the crown; but
Zedekiah had failed miserably to exhibit such dignity, so the crown was about
to be taken from his unworthy head.
“... this shall not be the same” was another way of saying that things would
not continue as they had been: everything was about to undergo a radical
change. The exaltation of the low may have reference to the exaltation of the
prophet Jeremiah whom Zedekiah had imprisoned. Following Babylon’s conquest
of Israel, Jeremiah was not only freed, but given preferential treatment by
Gedaliah whom the Babylonians had appointed governor of the land, see Jer
40:2-6. The “low,” however, may also refer to the poor of the land who were
allowed to remain and manage it for Babylon.
The abasement of the high very clearly refers to Zedekiah’s ignominious end as
recorded in 2 Ki 25:1-7.
21:27. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it:
and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it
“... overturn” is also translated “ruin.” The normal order of Jewish life was
be overturned: brought to an abrupt end, for Zedekiah was the last king of
Israel; nor will she have another until the Lord Jesus Christ returns in power
and glory to end the Great Tribulation, and reign as King of kings and Lord of
21:28. “And thou, son of man, prophesy and say,
Thus saith the Lord God concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their
reproach; even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it
is furbished, to consume because of the glittering:”
The Ammonites were descended from Lot’s incestuously begotten younger son, and
were therefore related to the Israelites, but in spite of that were their
inveterate foes, hence this pronouncement of their doom. “... their reproach”
refers to their hatred of Israel, expressed not only in words, but also in
warfare. God, however, took note of their antagonism to Israel, and here
assured them that He had prepared His sword for their destruction.
“... to consume because of the glittering” is a poetic way of saying that His
sword would strike them with the speed of lightning until they were consumed.
Chapter 25:1-7 gives further details of their end.
21:29. “Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles
they divine a lie unto thee, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are
slain, of the wicked, whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an
The Ammonite diviners had given them lying assurances that they were to attack
Israel. Babylon’s attack against Israel meant that they, the Ammonites, would
not therefore be attacked, but they were soon to learn otherwise, for in
25:1-7 it is recorded that God delivered them into the hands of nomadic
invaders from the east. Just because they hadn’t been destroyed by Babylon
didn’t mean that God wouldn’t destroy them. He simply used another agent, the
eastern nomadic invaders.
21:30. “Shall I cause it to return into his
sheath? I will judge thee in the place where thou was created, in the land of
The question was rhetorical. God would not sheath His sword until He had used
it to destroy the Ammonites in their own land by bringing into that land
nomadic eastern invaders whom He used as His sword.
21:31. “And I will pour out mine indignation
upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee
into the hand of brutish men, and skillful to destroy.”
God’s fierce anger would kindle like fire upon the Ammonites as He delivered
them into the hand of the eastern invaders whose ferocious character may be
inferred from other translations of the word brutish: barbarous: forgers of
destruction: savage: ravagers: beast-like.
21:32. “Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy
blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for
I the Lord have spoken it.”
They would be as fuel for the fire of His fierce anger; their blood would be
shed in their own land by the eastern invaders whom God would bring against
them. They would be extirpated, and the very memory of them forgotten.