Ezekiel 11 – The Departure of God’s Glory, the Promise of a New Covenant
A. Judgment on Jerusalem and beyond.
1. (1-4) Prophesy against the princes of the people.
Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the East Gate of the LORD’s house, which faces eastward; and there at the door of the gate were twenty-five men, among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. And He said to me: “Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give wicked counsel in this city, who say, ‘The time is not near to build houses; this city is the caldron, and we are the meat.’ Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man!”
a. The Spirit lifted me up: This is the continuation of Ezekiel’s vision that began in Ezekiel 8. He physically remained in Babylon, but God gave him a vision of the spiritual corruption of Jerusalem and God’s response to it, both of judgment and the departing of God’s glory from the temple and the city.
b. To the East Gate of the LORD’s house: The last mention of this East Gate in Ezekiel’s vision described how the visible representation of God’s glory hovered there on its way away from the holy of holies (Ezekiel 10:19).
c. There at the door of the gate were twenty-five men: A group of this many men is previously mentioned in Ezekiel 8:16, who stood with their backs to the temple and worshipped the sun as they faced the east gate. Now Ezekiel saw Jaazaniah and Pelatiah among them.
i. The Jaazaniah named here seems to be different than the one mentioned in (Ezekiel 8:9-11), having a different father.
d. These are the men who devise iniquity and give wicked counsel in this city: God meant this of the entire group of twenty-five men, though Jaazaniah and Pelatiah were notable among the group. These were the wicked leaders of a wicked city.
e. The time is not near to build houses; this city is the caldron, and we are the meat: This seems to be the content of their wicked counsel. This phrasing is obscure and may refer to figures of speech that were well known in Ezekiel’s day but mysterious to us. The sense seems to be that they were defiantly confident that they would be safe in Jerusalem, despite what prophets such as Jeremiah (as in Jeremiah 29:5) and Ezekiel had told them.
i. It seems better to regard the time is not near to build houses as a question, not a statement. Isn’t it time to build houses? This was a statement of confidence that Jerusalem would be safe and delivered from the Babylonian threat. Just as pieces of meat are safe in a covered caldron, so they claimed to be safe.
ii. “This sentiment expresses confidence that all will be well and, if building houses is taken as a symbol of peaceful activity (cf. Ezekiel 28:26), it advocates a policy of ignoring the threat of a further Babylonian invasion.” (Taylor)
iii. “The city would be a shield about them as the caldron is to seething flesh. Thus they were scorning the message of God’s prophet, and relying on a false confidence in Jerusalem and its power to withstand siege and ultimate exile.” (Feinberg)
iv. “The innuendo in this metaphor was that the people in Jerusalem were choice cuts of meat while the exiles in Babylon were just the scraps and rejected pieces.” (Wiersbe)
2. (5-6) The cause of the devastating judgment on Jerusalem.
Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me, “Speak! ‘Thus says the LORD: “Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind. You have multiplied your slain in this city, and you have filled its streets with the slain.”
a. For I know the things that come into your mind: God knew not only the actions but also the thinking of the leaders and people of Jerusalem.
b. You have multiplied your slain in this city: God reminded the leaders and the people of their responsibility in the great judgment coming upon them. God’s judgment was the response to their persistent, deep rebellion.
3. (7-10) God’s dealing with Israel will not end when Jerusalem falls.
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Your slain whom you have laid in its midst, they are the meat, and this city is the caldron; but I shall bring you out of the midst of it. You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord GOD. “And I will bring you out of its midst, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and execute judgments on you. You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.
a. They are the meat, and this city is the caldron: Ezekiel turned their defiant claim of confidence into a predication of doom. They wouldn’t be protected in the caldron, they would be cooked – and then devoured!
i. “Thus their own words, spoken in mockery, are wittily retorted upon them, and driven back again down their throats as it were.” (Trapp)
ii. “No longer is Jerusalem a crock in which food is securely stored; she is a pot over the fire in which the meat is cooked.” (Block)
b. But I shall bring you out of the midst of it: God promised that though the devastation to come upon Jerusalem would be terrible, it would not be the last word. The story of Israel and Jerusalem would not end with the Babylonian conquest.
c. I will bring you out of its midst, and deliver you into the hands of strangers: Not everyone would perish in Jerusalem. God would send many into exile. When Jerusalem was destroyed the judgments upon them would not end; God would continue to deal with His people at the border of Israel and beyond.
i. I will judge you at the border of Israel: “In the northern border, even at Riblah. [2 Kings 25:6; 2 Kings 25:21; Jeremiah 52:10; Jeremiah 52:26; Jeremiah 52:27].” (Trapp)
4. (11-12) God’s judgment will extend beyond the city of Jerusalem.
This city shall not be your caldron, nor shall you be the meat in its midst. I will judge you at the border of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD; for you have not walked in My statutes nor executed My judgments, but have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which are all around you.”’”
a. This city shall not be your caldron, nor shall you be the meat in its midst: Ezekiel quoted their defiant claim to them one last time. Jerusalem would be no protection for them at all.
b. And you shall know that I am the LORD: God’s dealing with His people after the fall of Jerusalem would be another way He revealed Himself to His people. He would not give up on them, either ending His discipline or His promises.
c. Have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which are all around you: Since Israel imitated the idolatry and wickedness of the surrounding pagan nations, it was appropriate for God to exile them among those nations.
B. Renewal promised as the glory departs.
1. (13) The question after the death of one of the princes of Jerusalem.
Now it happened, while I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then I fell on my face and cried with a loud voice, and said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Will You make a complete end of the remnant of Israel?”
a. Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died: In Ezekiel’s vision, he saw one of the leaders of Jerusalem (mentioned earlier in the chapter) die, no doubt under the promised judgments of God.
i. “Pelatiah may have been the leader of those who scoffed at God’s word (Ezekiel 11:1-3). His death was a foretaste of what awaited the rest whom Ezekiel had warned.” (Feinberg)
ii. Vawter and Hoppe say the name Pelatiah means Yahweh preserves a remnant. Block gives the meaning as Yahweh has rescued.
b. Will You make a complete end of the remnant of Israel? Ezekiel asked God the same question he asked earlier in the vision (Ezekiel 9:8). Stunned by the depth and the breadth of God’s judgments, he wondered if any would remain.
2. (14-16) God’s promise to sustain His people in exile.
Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, your brethren, your relatives, your countrymen, and all the house of Israel in its entirety, are those about whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Get far away from the LORD; this land has been given to us as a possession.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.”’
a. Get far away from the LORD; this land has been given to us as a possession: This seems to be the cry of those who ignored the warning of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, telling those who believed Jerusalem would be conquered to leave, because they would possess the land.
i. Get far away from the LORD: “These are the words of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, against those of Israel who had been carried away to Babylon with Jeconiah. Go ye far from the Lord: but as for us, the land of Israel is given to us for a possession, we shall never be removed from it, and they shall never return to it.” (Clarke)
ii. “The scornful Get you far from the Lord (AV, RV) is reminiscent of David’s lament in 1 Samuel 26:19, “They have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, “Go, serve other gods.”’” (Taylor)
b. Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles: We know from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:1-7) that Jews who remained in Jerusalem and who had not yet been carried off to exile considered themselves superior to those who had been taken. Here God spoke well of those already exiled, saying though He had cast them far off He had not forsaken them.
c. Yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone: God promised to sustain His people in exile. One of the reasons the leaders and people clung to the hope of possessing the land, even in opposition to God, was because they could not understand that God could be with them in exile. They thought opposing God was their best chance for survival as a people, but the opposite was true.
i. The tone of Ezekiel’s recorded prophecies up to this point in the book has been dark and filled with judgment. There have been few examples of hope and light. Here is one; God promised – with the same faithfulness as His promises of judgment – that He would care for and sustain His people even in exile. The Babylonian conquest would not be the end of Israel, as it was for several other nations and peoples.
ii. “For the period of their absence from their land and the earthly temple, He would be their Sanctuary.” (Morgan)
iii. “This statement is without parallel in the OT. The sanctuary was normally conceived of as a cult site or building rendered sacred by the presence of the deity. Here Yahweh promises to be for the exiles what the temple has heretofore been for them in Jerusalem.” (Block)
iv. “Away from the outward ordinances and the material edifice, the exiles would find more than the equivalent in God Himself. He would give them the reality, of which there had been the outward and visible emblems.” (Meyer)
v. A little sanctuary: The sense of little is not small, but of short season. “It is not a ‘little sanctuary’ (Ezekiel 11:16, AV, which could never be true of God), but ‘for a little while’ (ASV).” (Feinberg)
3. (17-21) God’s promise to restore Israel to the land and renew them spiritually.
Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.
a. Thus says the Lord GOD: The declared message from Adonai Yahweh is commonly used in Ezekiel (more than 200 times). It gives special attention to Yahweh’s status as Master and Lord over His covenant people.
b. I will gather you from the peoples: God first promised to sustain His people in exile (Ezekiel 11:14-16). Then He promised to gather and assemble them from their places of exile and to give you the land of Israel. Judgment was assured, but so was restoration.
i. I will give you the land of Israel is a remarkable promise to make to post-exilic Israel. “The gathering is to be by divine direction and from all lands and countries of their dispersion. And the promise is unequivocal: ‘I will give you the land of Israel’ (Ezekiel 11:17). Is it not pointless then to speak now as though the land of promise may belong to the Arabs or Israel? When did God reverse His land grant?” (Feinberg)
c. They will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations: God promised that Israel’s time of exile would be a cleansing time, a time to takeaway their previous devotion to idols. This was fulfilled in history; the people of Israel did not have the same problem with the idols of the nations after the exile as they did before.
d. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them: As God promised His work of restoration, He began to speak in terms associated with His greater work of restoration in the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). These promises are later repeated by Ezekiel and spoken of specifically as a covenant (Ezekiel 37:21-28). Here in Ezekiel 11 we see several features of the new covenant.
· Israel gathered together again (one heart).
· Spiritual transformation (a new spirit…and give them a heart of flesh).
· The law written on the heart (that they may walk in My statutes).
· Special relationship with God (they shall be My people, and I will be their God).
i. Throughout the Bible, God reveals His plan of redemption through a series of covenants. After the extended story of the fall and ruin of humanity in Genesis 1-11, the story of the covenants begins.
· The Abrahamic Covenant promised to Abraham and His covenant descendants a land, a nation, and a blessing to extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3).
· The Mosaic or Sinai Covenant gave Israel the law, the sacrifices, and the choice of blessing or curse (Exodus 19).
· The Davidic Covenant that promised an everlasting dynasty, a perfect ruler, and the Promised Messiah (2 Samuel 7).
· God’s plan of redemption through the covenants is completed and perfected in the New Covenant. Over the span of Old Testament passages that announce the new covenant (especially Ezekiel 11:16-20, 36:16-28, and 37:21-28), we see the promises of a gathered Israel [one heart], of cleansing and spiritual transformation [new spirit…heart of flesh], of a new and real relationship with God [they shall be My people, and I will be their God] and the reign of the Messiah.
ii. “The term berit [covenant] is absent, but in the declaration They will become my people, and I will become their God, the reader is introduced for the first time to what is generally known as ‘the covenant formula. ’” (Block)
iii. The promise of one heart may speak of a singularly devoted heart, or of a unified, gathered Israel. “If MT is followed, with EVV, the gift is of one heart, implying the reunion of the old northern and southern kingdoms, as in Ezekiel 37:15–22.” (Taylor)
e. I will recompense their deeds on their own heads: The promise of coming restoration (especially as seen in the new covenant) is not the message of universalism, saying that all will be restored, even if they persist in their rejection of God. Those who follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations will be judged for their sins.
4. (22-23) The departure of the glory of the LORD.
So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them. And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city.
a. So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them: As seen in the previous chapter, the cloud of God’s glory was being carried by or with God’s chariot throne, attended by the cherubim. As the cherubim moved, so did the glory of the God of Israel.
b. The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain: After progressing from the holy of holies to the threshold of the temple, to the east gate, the glory of the LORD then left the temple and even the city of Jerusalem, pausing at the Mount of Olives on the east side of the city. We can imagine this as a pause to regret and sorrow over the departure, even as Jesus later looked over Jerusalem with regret and sorrow.
i. Ezekiel left the description with the glory of the LORD hovering over the Mount of Olives. If it departed further, Ezekiel did not describe it. “The vision’s present ending reflects its primary concern: the departure of Yahweh from the temple. In any case, to a person inside the city, the Mount of Olives represents the eastern horizon.” (Block)
ii. “No further movement is described, as if the prophet is saying that though the Lord has left his temple and the holy city he is still standing by in case there should be a repentance on the part of the people.” (Taylor)
iii. “The rabbis have enumerated ten stages whereby the Shekinah withdrew. These stages unmistakably reveal the loving and longing reluctance of God to leave His sanctuary where He dwelt in the midst of His beloved and erring people. Before He departed, however, He set forth the consoling promise of restoration for the remnant which we have been considering.” (Feinberg)
5. (24-25) The end of the vision.
Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to those in captivity. And the vision that I had seen went up from me. So I spoke to those in captivity of all the things the LORD had shown me.
a. Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision: In his vision, Ezekiel returned to Chaldea (Babylon), and then the vision ended.
b. So I spoke to those in captivity all the things the LORD had shown me: Ezekiel wasn’t given this message for his own amazement, but to instruct and warn the people and elders of Israel. They were perhaps shocked at the depths of Jerusalem’s depravity, the severity of the coming judgment, and the promised departure of God’s glory.
i. I spoke to those: “Either the elders who came to him, Ezekiel 8:1, or to the body of the people, who were in those parts where Ezekiel was; for many were scattered into other parts of Chaldea. ” (Poole)