This chapter opens with a new charge to Ezekiel. “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own hearts: Hearken to the word of the Lord (Ezekiel 13:2).” This is an action against the false prophets, those who speak from within, rather than an external order from God. These prophets are said to be crazy. What’s interesting to me is that today, anyone who claimed that they were getting instructions from God to convey to people would be viewed as crazy, so how are we supposed to know the difference? God pledges to remove the false prophets from Israel due to their misleading of the people. Who are the prophets, or leaders, who are leading us falsely today? How can we tell them from the righteous ones?
“Son of man, you are dwelling in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, who have ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house (Ezekiel 12:2).” I’m thinking of this verse in the context of mindfulness. How many of us are blessed with all of the ability to see and hear, but fail to use it to notice and listen? So many of our interactions stay surface level, rather than being experiences of true listening and understanding.
There’s also something else that I’m thinking about in the context of eyes today. Last night, Shimon Peres, Israel’s former president and prime minister, and the last of the generation of the founding fathers, died. He made a direct impact on countless lives over the course of his long life and career, but in his death he made one impact unlike any of the others. He donated his corneas, meaning that although this visionary has been taken from the earth, there’s someone left behind who is literally seeing through his eyes. What does it mean to see through another person’s eyes? In this case it’s a physical reality, rather than a conceptual statement. But it makes me think of this verse, and the idea that our eyes and what we see aren’t always in sync. Regardless, in the case of Ezekiel, it’s clear that the people aren’t paying proper attention, and in the case of Peres, we can only hope that he continues to live on through his eyes, and ours.
Ezekiel is carried on the wind to the eastern gate of the Temple, and gathered there are 25 men. God tells him that these are the men who have plotted and done evil in the city. Ezekiel delivers a prophecy in front of them. “You increased your slain in this city, and you filled its streets with slain. Therefore, so said the Lord God: Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of it – they are the meat, and it is the pot, but you [I have decreed to] take out of its midst (Ezekiel 11:6-7).” These men will be confronted with their worst nightmares, payback for what they did to the people of Jerusalem.
God speaks again to the man wearing linen, who was the appointed scribe that marked the people who were to be saved. He instructs him to come under the cherubim in the Temple and to pick up burning coals from under them. “Then the glory of the Lord lifted itself from upon the cherub onto the threshold of the House, and the House was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the splendor of the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 10:4).” God now commands the man to take fire, which he is somehow capable of doing.
Then, we get a description of the cherubim. Each one has 4 faces.
- The face of a cherub
- The face of a man
- The face of a lion
- The face of an eagle
I wonder why these are the four beings depicted on God’s messengers. What does it say about angels that they’re multifaceted in this way? I’m intrigued by the descriptions of the cherubim, which are so different than the angels depicted in art and literature. Are angels meant to be beautiful, or are they supposed to be feared?
God tells Ezekiel to gather ‘those appointed over the city,’ which I take to mean the leaders or guardians of Jerusalem. Each one brings a weapon with him, and they’re also accompanied by a scribe. God speaks to the scribe first. “And the Lord said to him, ‘Pass through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and you shall mark a sign upon the foreheads of the men who are sighing and moaning over all the abominations that were done in its midst (Ezekiel 9:4).” This seems like a throwback to the Exodus and the angel of death passing over the houses of the Israelites that were marked. I find it interesting that these physical markers are needed to determine the fates of the people. Couldn’t God, or His emissaries, tell which people were good and which were evil without the marks? Does it say something about the physical marks that we as people need to determine who’s in our tribe, or club, or family?
Anyway, the leaders of the city are encouraged to be ruthless in their slaughter of the people. They smite the majority of the city, causing Ezekiel to cry out to God. But God is unyielding, and the destruction continues.
Ezekiel is holding court with the elders of Judah when God speaks to him again. He sees a vision of fire. “And it stretched out a form of a hand, and it took me by a lock of my hair, and a wind picked me up between the earth and between the heaven, and it brought me to Jerusalem in the visions of God, to the entrance of the inner gate that faces north, whereat was the seat of the image of jealousy that provokes jealousy (Ezekiel 8:3).” Ezekiel is brought to this otherworldly place and sees God’s glory manifested. Then, he is instructed to look to the north and he sees an image of jealousy. What can jealousy even look like? We talk about the green eyed monster, but what did Ezekiel see?
The people have committed more abominations, leading to more anger on God’s part, and subsequently more punishments. At this point I’ve honestly lost track of what the people have done wrong this time, and which generation is being punished for what actions. But God seems to be keeping the rage coming. “Now, speedily I shall pour out My fury upon you, and I shall spend My wrath in you, and I shall judge you according to your ways, and I shall place upon you all your abominations (Ezekiel 7:8).” It sounds like whatever the people did wrong, they’re about to have it given back to them, and to be judged according to the evil extents of their deeds.
Apparently Ezekiel’s prophecies aren’t just restricted to human beings. God tells him to speak directly to the mountains, the topography of the land of Israel. In some ways it makes sense – we do treat the land like its own being a great deal of the time, so why wouldn’t God have instructions for it as well? He tells the mountains (and the hills and valleys) that their high places will be destroyed and altars broken. “And the slain will fall in your midst, and you will know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 6:7).” The sins of the people are so great that the land will fall victim as well, becoming barren and desolate.
The weirdness continues! Ezekiel is told to take a sharp sword and shave his head and beard, and then to divide his hair into three parts on a scale. 1/3 will be burned in the middle of the city, 1/3 will be struck with a sword, and 1/3 shall be thrown to the wind and scattered. It’s in no way clear to me what the hair is supposed to represent, or what this will mean to the people. A few verses later, part of the question is answered – the fire is representative of Jerusalem. “Therefore, so said the Lord God: Behold, I too am upon you, and I shall execute judgments in your midst before the eyes of the nations (Ezekiel 5:8).” The judgment will take the form of horrible abominations. We are told that children will eat their fathers, and vice versa. That seems to be the ultimate low to which a society can sink – cannibalism within the tribe.
We’re back to the three parts analogy. 1/3 of the people will die through pestilence, 1/3 by the sword, and the final third will be scattered. It’s amazing to see that in this case, being dispersed around the world is to be taken as the equivalent fate to death. It puts the diaspora experience in a different light when one considers how awful of a punishment it was meant to be. In some places, some times, it was, but as I’ve written before, it’s also how the Jewish people managed to thrive. So how does that work when it comes to prophecies like this?
This chapter is very confusing. Ezekiel is told to take a brick and engrave Jerusalem on it. “And you shall lay siege upon it and build around it a stone-throwing catapult, and you shall pour over it a siege mound, and you shall place camps upon it and place villages around it (Ezekiel 4:2).” Then, somehow, Ezekiel is supposed to use his body movements to simulate the siege of Israel and Judah. For 390 days he’s to lie on his back, eating food that he has prepared to sustain himself. I’m assuming that I’m missing something, because I can’t seem to find any particular meaning in this chapter. Hopefully something deeper will come to me tomorrow!