Module 31: The Failure of Human Teaching - God's Attitudes
Module Guide: Jeremiah - The Prophet of Failure; and Lamentations - Lamentations of Jeremiah; and Daniel - The Prophet of Interpretation; and Ezekiel - The Prophet of Hope
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Jeremiah was Jehovah's spokesman in days of darkness and disaster. Through great personal suffering he delivered his messages of punishment and of promise with unswerving fidelity, notwithstanding the fact that the people refused to hear or to obey. He was the son of Hilkiah, of priestly family. Whether this was the Hilkiah who discovered the book of the law in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, that is, five years after Jeremiah's prophesying commenced, cannot be absolutely decided. It is possible, if not probable.
His ministry extended from the thirteenth year of Josiah to the eleventh of Zedekiah, that is, over a period of forty years. No prophet in all the long and honourable succession had a more thankless work. To stand, the lonely messenger of God, in the midst of the rebellious opposition of his own people, was a task needing the greatest courage. We wrong Jeremiah when we speak of him merely as the prophet of tears, or think of him only as a man haunted by fears. His tears were evidences of his compassion, but his compassion never made him unfaithful to the Divine message. All evidences of weakness were manifested in the presence of God, and never when he stood as God's messenger. Only once was there a momentary failure - in the case of the false word of Hananiah - and this was rather a mistake of judgment than a deflection from the clearly marked path of duty.
The first part of the book gives us the story of his Call and Commission, and the last the account of his Ministry. It may be that the messages in the first part were delivered as they were received, but it is evident throughout that he was being prepared for that more sorrowful and yet weighty ministry which was to follow.
The book thus falls into two parts: the Prophet's Call and Commission (1-13); the Prophet's Ministry (14-51); with an historical Appendix (52).
The Prophet's Call and Commission
The first three verses constitute a title-page, naming the author, and giving the dates of the period during which he exercised his ministry.
The call of the prophet was first personal. Over against the "I" of Jeremiah's fear, Jehovah set the "I" of His own omnipotence. The call was then official, and was ratified by the two signs, of the almond-tree, and the seething caldron.
In the commissioning of Jeremiah for his ministry there are three distinctly marked movements, each of which ends with the account of how Jehovah strengthened His servant.
The first movement commences with the command to utter an impeachment of Israel. She was charged with forsaking Jehovah, and with obstinate sinfulness. The impeachment ended by a summary, describing Israel's infidelity and its issue.
Following the impeachment the prophet appealed to the people to return, pointing out the conditions upon which they might do so. This appeal was followed by the recitation of an ideal confession for the sinning people, and ended with the promise of Jehovah that if Israel would return she should be established.
Suddenly the prophet turned to the subject of judgment. He declared that it was determined on, described it, and affirmed its inevitableness. His own anguish was revealed in the course of this declaration. He proceeded to announce the reason of judgment as being their utter corruption of conduct, their unbelief of the prophetic message, and their revolting and rebellious heart. He then foretold, in graphic description, the taking of the city, and the suffering of the people consequent there-upon.
The movement ends with an account of the words spoken by Jehovah to Jeremiah, in order to strengthen him.
The second movement in the commissioning of the prophet deals first with the sins of worship. At the gate of the Temple the prophet rebuked the people for trusting in external forms. So terrible was the condition that he was charged at last not to pray for them. For this idolatry of formalism the sentence of judgment was again pronounced.
The sin of idolatry had been aggravated by their terrible persistence therein. If men fall, it is naturally expected that they will rise; if they wander, that they will return. In the case of Judah this had not been so. The back-sliding had been perpetual, therefore the judgment must be complete.
The strain of the terrible messages upon the prophet now becomes evident as it is seen how he poured out his soul in lamentation. To this cry of His servant Jehovah replied in a five-fold declaration. He had no choice but to afilict, because of their sin. He also suffered. The reason of judgment was that of their persistent rebellion. He called the people to lamentation, but insisted that it should be for right causes. Finally He proclaimed the true ground of glorying for man to be, not his own wisdom or riches, but his understanding and knowledge of Jehovah.
In the third movement in the commissioning of the prophet the sin of idolatry is again dealt with. He revealed its unutterable folly in a powerful contrast between idols and Jehovah. On the sin of idolatry he then pronounced judgment.
There came to the prophet from the Lord a special word commissioning him to pronounce a curse upon "the man that heareth not the words of this covenant." He was to proclaim in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sin of the fathers, and the fact that it was being repeated by their sons. They were guilty of conspiracy against Jehovah in turning back to other gods. Therefore Jehovah visited with judgment.
The closing part of the third movement is occupied with an account of how Jehovah strengthened Jeremiah in view of the persecution which was already stirred against him, and of the yet severer troubles awaiting him. From the midst of peril in Anathoth, Jeremiah appealed to Jehovah to be his Defender, and was answered by the declaration of the Divine determination concerning his evil neighbours. Perplexed, the prophet poured out his soul to God in questions. The answer of Jehovah indicated the fact that the things he had seen, and the trials through which he had passed, were as nothing to those which awaited him. The account of the commissioning of the prophet ends with the story of how Jehovah gave him two signs, one for himself and one for his people.
The Prophet's Ministry
The second division of the book contains the account of the prophet's ministry. It falls into three sections: prophecies before the fall of Jerusalem, prophecies after the fall of Jerusalem, and prophecies concerning the Nations.
The prophecies before the fall of Jerusalem open with a declaration of God's determination to punish. This is introduced by a graphic parable of drought, in which the high and the low are alike affected, the whole ground is barren for lack of rain, and all animal life suffers.
Then follows the account of a remarkable controversy between Jeremiah and Jehovah. The prophet appealed to Jehovah repeatedly on behalf of the people. Jehovah replied by forbidding him to pray for them, and declaring His determination to punish them. On hearing this Jeremiah cried out in his anguish, and Jehovah replied by promising to strengthen him for the delivery of his message. This controversy was immediately followed by a new charge to the prophet. He was called to a life of personal asceticism, and commanded to abstain both from mourning and from mirth. He was to stand aloof from the people, in order to deliver to them the messages of God.
Once again Jehovah declared His determination to deal with the people in judgment, because of the defiant definiteness of their sin. This declaration was followed by a contrast between the man who trusts in men, and the man who trusteth in Jehovah. The first dwells in the midst of desert desolation. The second is rooted by the springs of fruitfulness. To these words the prophet replied in a great affirmation of faith, and an equally great appeal of need. He was then commissioned to stand in the gate of the people and offer them the test of the Sabbath, warning them of how their fathers failed in this respect, and declaring to them that if they refused to hearken, the judgment must fall.
The second series of messages before the fall of Jerusalem consists of declarations of God's absolute supremacy. In preparation, Jeremiah was sent to the house of the potter. Power was manifest in the potter's manipulation of the clay in his hand, and pity in his re-making of the marred vessel. The explanation was given by Jehovah Himself. The house of Israel was as clay in His hand, but His will must be accomplished, and they could not possibly escape from Him. The delivery of these messages stirred up new opposition to the prophet, and a conspiracy was formed against his life. He was then commissioned to go forth into the valley of the son of Hinnom, taking with him a potter's vessel, and there to deliver a message of judgment, symbolizing the same by breaking the vessel in the sight of the people. Returning from Topheth, having obeyed the command, he sat in the court of the Lord's House, and repeated the fact of coming judgment.
This action stirred up yet fiercer persecution against him. He was arrested and imprisoned. Out of the midst of these circumstances he poured out his soul in the presence of Jehovah, complaining that he had been the laughing-stock of the people, and had become a reproach and derision. He had declared that he would not speak the word, but it had become a burning fire, and he had been compelled to utter it. The tempest-tossed condition of his mind at this time is seen in his alternating declarations of faith and fear.
The final series before the fall of Jerusalem consists of messages delivered to Zedekiah. The scourge which Jeremiah had foretold seemed to be imminent. Nebuchadrezzar was approaching. Zedekiah sent to inquire whether he might hope for the interference and deliverance of Jehovah. There was nothing halting or unswerving in the prophet's answer. He foretold the disaster in detail.
The message of Jeremiah by the deputation was not enough. He was commanded to go to the house of the king. Arrived at the court, he repeated his call to repentance and his warning. He then reviewed the history of Zedekiah's three predecessors — Jehoahaz (Shallum), Jehoiakim, and Jehoiachin (Coniah), and proceeded to charge the failure of the people first upon the kings. In the Divine economy the king has always been a shepherd; but the men who had held the office had destroyed and scattered the sheep. He then turned to the prophets, and spoke of them out of a broken heart. Their judgment was consequent upon the falseness of the messages they had delivered. They had dreamed their own dreams rather than delivered the word of Jehovah. Jeremiah's acute understanding of the process of the nation's corruption is clearly revealed. False kings and prophets had led the people into courses of evil. The people, in their turn, had willingly listened and followed.
Still speaking to Zedekiah, Jeremiah repeated three prophecies from the past, the first being a vision in Jeconiah's captivity, the second a message delivered in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and the last delivered in the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign. At this time false prophets were also speaking among the captives and in Jerusalem, and throughout the remainder of Jeremiah's message to Zedekiah he denied the authority and inspiration of these false teachers.
Still speaking to Zedekiah, Jeremiah reminded him of the word which came in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, announcing the judgment of God as determined against Judah, Babylon, the nations, the world. Thus the king would see how inevitable was the doom now threatening himself and Jerusalem.
He then repeated the message delivered in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. The priests, the prophets, and the people seized Jeremiah, and condemned him to die. The princes rescued him, and Jeremiah again addressed himself to Zedekiah. Having shown, by his vision of the basket of figs, what was determined against Jiidah, he declared the attitude of Jehovah in the matter. Messengers representing a confederacy of kings for the purpose of resisting Nebuchadrezzar were answered by the declaration that all such attempts would be useless. He then directed his attention specially to Zedekiah, urging him to submit to the king of Babylon.
In the incident between Hananiah and Jeremiah we see the conflict with the false prophets clearly manifest. For the moment Jeremiah was deceived, and permitted Hananiah to take the bar from off his neck and break it. Immediately the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah contradicting all that Hananiah had said. It is evident that the exiles were disturbed by the false prophesying, and Jeremiah sent a letter to them on the subject. He warned them that it was better for them to settle in Babylon, and beware of false prophets. Deliverance was in the purpose of God for them, but it would not be accomplished until after seventy years.
At this point there occurs a series of prophecies whose dominant note is that of hope. These are remarkable from the fact that they were uttered during the time that Jeremiah was in prison, and the condition of affairs in the city was calculated to fill his mind with despair. In the midst of this darkness Jeremiah was granted visions of ultimate restoration, and his messages are therefore full of hope. The first of these may be described as a song, declaring that the people of God, now so overwhelmed with sorrow, should yet ultimately pass through trouble to triumph. In graphic language the prophet described the time of Jacob's trouble, and predicted deliverance. In words that still burn as we read them, he depicted the friendlessness of the forsaken people, and announced their restoration to favour, describing the tempest by which the change would be wrought. The song then merges into a description of the issues of restoration; the city rebuilt, and the people gathered back to it, so that sorrow passes away, and the new contentment with the Divine government and administration is manifest. In that day a new covenant will be made between Jehovah and His people, a covenant not external and material, but internal and spiritual, and universal in application. The song ends with a declaration of Jehovah in which He uses the signs in the heavens as the seal of His promise. The next of the prophecies of hope is introduced by the statement that Jeremiah is imprisoned, and the account of the charge given to liim to purchase the field in Anathoth. This command he obeyed, and then in perplexity inquired of Jehovah what was the use of purchasing a field when the land was wholly given over to judgment. The answer of Jehovah announced the certainty of the judgment which Jeremiah anticipated, but also declared the equal certainty of ultimate restoration, so that the purchase of the field was intended as a sign of the ultimate repossession of the land. The last of the prophecies of hope is a song full of beauty, and full of confidence. It celebrates that ultimate restoration which Jehovah had promised, first as to the gathering of the people and the building of the city, describing a moral and consequent material restoration. This is all to be brought about in the days of the Branch, when the two functions of king and priest shall be restored in the person of one Deliverer. The song ends with the Divine afiirmation, in which Jehovah again uses tlie sign of day and night, and declares His determination to accomplish His purpose in spite of unbelief.
Next in order we have three prophecies delivered while Nebuchadrezzar and his army were round about the city. In the first the prophet foretold the success of Nebuchadrezzar and the consequent fall of Jerusalem, and described the manner of Zedekiah's death. The next is a denunciation of Zedekiah for having broken his covenant with the Hebrew servants. The prophet delivered the message of Jehovah, describing the sin and pronouncing judgment. In the last Jeremiah told the story of how the Rechabites, when put to the test, were true to their vow, and refused to drink. The purpose of the telling of the story was that the prophet might put into contrast with it, the sin of Judah. The sons of Rechab had been true to the command laid upon them by their father. Judah had been untrue to the perpetual messages of Jehovah. Upon Judah, therefore, evil should come, while a gracious promise was made to the Rechabites.
Chapter thirty-six constitutes a break in the historic method of the prophecy, and gives us the account of how the prophecies of Jeremiah against Judah and Jerusalem were committed to writing. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim Jehovah commanded Jeremiah to write. He obeyed by dictating to Baruch. In the following year, the fifth of Jehoiakim, Baruch read the writings in the hearing of all the people. He next read them by special invitation to the princes, who in alarm advised Baruch and Jeremiah to hide. Finally they were read by Jehudi to the king, who in anger mutilated the writings and destroyed the roll. It is possible to mutilate and burn a writing, but not to destroy the word of Jehovah. Jeremiah again dictated, and Baruch wrote, but this time many other words were added.
The final movement in the section of the book devoted to the prophecies before the fall of Jerusalem consists of a history of the siege. Jeremiah is first seen as free. The army of Pharaoh had come forth out of Egypt, and the king hoped that it might aid him against Nebuchadrezzar. Then Jeremiah declared that there was no hope in that quarter. For the moment events seemed to contradict his prophecy, as the army of the Chaldeans fell away. He left the city to go to Benjamin, and was arrested and imprisoned on the charge of falling away to the Chaldeans. After many days' imprisonment Zedekiah sent for him, and to him he delivered the same stern message, foretelling the victory of the king of Babylon. The issue of the interview was that Jeremiah was removed, still as a prisoner, into the court of the guard, and was there supplied with bread. He continued his foretelling of the doom about to fall upon the city, and as a result was cast into a loathsome dungeon. Through the intervention of Ebed-melech he was released from thence. Sadly perplexed, and almost distraught, Zedekiah again sent for him, and the prophet still insisted upon the truth of his declaration that the city should be taken by the Chaldeans. He therefore advised Zedekiah to surrender, and so save the city from burning, and himself from death, warning him that if he refused, even the women of his own household would heap reproaches upon him. The section ends with the story of the fall of Jerusalem, which the prophet had so long foretold. Nebuchadrezzar and his princes forced an entrance, and Zedekiah fled. He, however, was pursued and overtaken, his sons were slain before his eyes, and then his own eyes were put out, and he was bound in fetters and carried to Babylon. This was followed by the sack of the city. In the midst of the rout Jeremiah was protected, undoubtedly as the result of the overruling: of Jehovah, and he was commissioned specially to find Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, who had succoured him, and to declare to him that he also was under Divine protection.
Chapters forty to forty- four tell the story of Jeremiah and his prophesying after the fall of Jerusalem. The first movement in this section gives an account of the events immediately following, and of Jeremiah's protest against going into Egypt. The second chronicles the prophecies in Egypt. Released by Nebuzaradan, Jeremiah joined the remnant remaining in the land under the governorship of Gedaliah, who sought to restore order, urging the people to avail themselves of the privilege granted to them to settle in the land, he promising to abide at Mizpah in order to stand before the Chaldeans. In response to this invitation, many of them gathered from the distant places to which they had been scattered. The governor was warned by Johanan of the plot formed against his life by Ishmael, but he refused to believe the report. Ishmael through the basest treachery carried out his design, slaying Gedaliah and others, and leading captives away to the children of Ammon. Johanan, who had warned Gedaliah of his danger, rescued these captives, compelling Ishmael to flee, and prepared to go into Egypt. Before going, they sought counsel from Jeremiah, asking tliat he should inquire the will of Jehovah, and promising implicit obedience to whatever might be revealed. After ten days he delivered his message, telling them distinctly that the will of God was that they should not go into Egypt, urging them not to be afraid of the king of Babylon, declaring that Jehovah was with them, and that His purpose was one of mercy, and that they should return to their own land. With great solemnity, he warned them that if they went into Egypt, the judgment of God would fall upon them. He moreover charged them with dishonesty, in inquiring from him; and therefore, he foretold the certain judgment of God which would fall upon them.
As Jeremiah had foreseen, his word was not obeyed. They charged him with having spoken falsely under the influence of Baruch, and in rebellion passed over into Egypt. They compelled Jeremiah to accompany them, and his next messages were delivered there. The first of these consisted of a prophecy of the coming victory of Babylon over Egypt. The next was a fiery protest against the persistent rebellion of the people of God, in which he reminded them of the patience of God, of how His anger had already been poured out upon Jerusalem, and declared that the rebellious remnant which had found its way into Egypt should be wholly cut off. This message the men answered by a defiant and persistent word of rebellion, in which they misinterpreted their own history by declaring that all the evils that had fallen upon them had resulted from attacks made upon idolatry, and they deliberately declared their intention to continue their idolatrous practices. To this attitude Jeremiah replied by first answering their argument, declaring that their sorrows were the result of their idolatry, rather than, as they affirmed, the result of their turning from idols. Continuing, he declared that the judgment of God was determined against them, that they should be consumed, and only a small remnant should escape ultimately from Egypt. He ended by declaring that the sign of Jehovah to them should be the defeat of Pharaoh Hophra, and his handing over to those who sought his life.
The messages of Jeremiah to the chosen people end at this point, and there is inserted a special word to Baruch. It is evident that this faithful ally of the prophet had become depressed. He had manifestly hoped for great results, and was at once rebuked and comforted. He was charged not to seek great things for himself ; and promised that his own life should be preserved.
The third and last section of the division containing the prophet's ministry is occupied with his messages concerning the nations. The first of these has to do with Egypt, and consists of two prophecies. The earlier one described the army of Egypt, in its preparation and advance, and declared that this was in reality the coming of the day of the vengeance of Jehovah. In general terms the prophet predicted the doom of Egypt. The second distinctly foretold the defeat of Egypt by Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon. This visitation was that of Jehovah, and the agent was Nebuchadrezzar. The prophecy ends with the message of comfort to Jacob, who, while afflicted, is yet not to be utterly destroyed, but corrected by judgment.
The word concerning the Philistines was a foretelling of the coming against them of a scourge from the north, which would utterly break their power. In figurative language the prophet then described the sorrow which would overtake the proud, yet broken people.
The word of the Lord concerning Moab was one of judgment, which nevertheless closed with a gleam of hope. The judgment was described first from the standpoint of the scourge. The widespread extent of it was foretold, and the affliction and helplessness graphically set forth. The judgment was then spoken of from the standpoint of Moab, that is to say, the long security of Moab, and his freedom from affliction was recognized, as was also his self-confidence. In contrast with this, the judgment was announced. All his past security was to end, and his strength to vanish. Finally, in a long passage, full of tremendous power, the judgment of Moab from the standpoint of the on-looker was described. Surrounding nations were called upon to observe and to lament, while yet they recognized the justice of the judgment, as it was a punishment for Moab for the sin of magnifying himself against the Lord. The prophet himself, observing the judgment, broke out into mourning and lamentation, with sobs describing the desolation, until at last, in one brief sentence, he announced the promise of Jehovah, that finally He would restore the captivity of Moab, and indicated that until that time of the Divine intervention the judgment of Moab must continue.
Against the children of Amnion, Jeremiah raised a protest because their king was in possession of Gad. He declared that by the fierce judgment of war they were to be dispossessed and driven forth. The message ends with a gleam of hope, in which the prophet foretold the bringing again of the captivity of the children of Ammon.
Concerning Edom, destruction was foretold, in spite of her wisdom. The reference to wisdom in Teman would seem to be a satirical literary allusion to the fact that it was the birthplace of Eliphaz, the counsellor of Job. The destruction was described in figurative language, and the prophet declared, that notwithstanding the arrogancy and security of the people, Jehovah would bring them down into the dust. The destruction of Edom was intended to be a warning to the whole earth.
Damascus was described in her decay, and in the destruction determined against her by the Lord of Hosts. This reference to Damascus is brief, for it does not seem that in Jeremiah's time there was anything like intimate relationship of any sort between her and the chosen people. It is evident, however, that as his vision swept the horizon he saw that she also was within the circle of the Divine government, and that judgment was determined against her.
Kedar and Hazor represent the Arab peoples, the former such as were nomadic, the latter those who dwelt at settled centres, and yet not in walled cities. Against both of these Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon, was to be the instrument of judgment.
The prophecy against Elam was one of judgment, ending once more with a gleam of hope. Of Elam nothing can be said with any certainty. It is evident, however, that in the far-reaching vision of Jeremiah she was seen as under the Divine displeasure, and consequently to he visited by the Divine judgment.
The last of the prophecies concerning the nations has to do with Babylon. Throughout the whole of Jeremiah's prophetic utterances, she has been seen as the instrument of God's judgment. Finally, on account of her own sin and corruption, that judgment must inevitably fall upon her. That is the great burden of this message. It is perfectly evident throughout that the prophet had in mind the nations of Judah and Israel, and what he said concerning Babylon had its direct bearing upon these as the people of God. The prophecy falls into two parts, the first foretelling Babylon's doom and Israel's delivery; the second indicating Israel's responsibility in view of this doom determined upon Babylon. In general terms the prophet announced the coming overthrow of Babylon, and described the repentant return of the children of Israel and Judah. He then more definitely described the destruction of the city of Babylon. A confederacy of nations would come against her, and destroy her, and that because she had rejoiced and been wanton in her dealing with the people of God. That people, though scattered and driven away, would be gathered and restored, while the iniquity of Israel and the sins of Judah would be pardoned. The prophecy increased in power as it proceeded, and Jeremiah foretold the completeness of the overthrow. There was to be the utter humbling of her pride, and the absolute destruction of her power. The instrument of the destruction would be a people from the north, but the judgment would be that of the invincible Jehovah. In the second movement the prophet again declared the determination of Jehovah to bring about the complete overthrow of Babylon, in order to ensure the deliverance of His people. To emphasize this, he described the invincible power of Jehovah, as Creator and Sustainer of the world, in the presence of Whom man is vanity. He thereupon described the judgment, first recognizing that Babylon had indeed been an instrument in the hand of Jehovah for the accomplishing of His judgments, but proceeding to declare that Jehovah was now against Babylon, and that therefore she must become a desolation without inhabitant, repeating finally the truth that the purpose of His judgment was the deliverance of His people. Upon the basis of these great declarations Jeremiah, in the name of Jehovah, made his appeal to the people of God, urging them to escape from the midst of Babylon, and declaring again the certainty of her doom. The prophecy concerning Babylon closes with an account of the charge which Jeremiah gave to Seraiah to write these words and read them in Babylon. Here the words of Jeremiah end.
The last chapter consists of an historical appendix, written, as the final words of the previous chapter show, by another hand. It first repeats in brief form the story of the capture of the citjy and chronicles the oppression of the people which followed. A list is then given of Nebuchadrezzar's captives, and the story of Jehoiachin's position in Babylon is told.
PART A: THE PROPHETS CALL AND COMMISSION - Jeremiah 1:1-13:27
A.1. The Call - Jer. 1:1-1:19
- Title Page - 1:1-1:3
- Personal - 1:4-1:10
- Official - 1:11-1:19
A.2. The Commision - Jer. 2:1-13:27
- First Movement - 2:1-6:30
- Impeachment - 2:1-2:37
- Call to Return - 3:1-4:2
- Judgement - 4:3-6:26
- The Prophet Strengthened - 6:27-6:30
- Second Movement - 7:1-9:26
- The Sins of Worship - 7:1-8:3
- Perpetual Backsliding - 8:4-8:17
- The Prophet Strengthened - 8:18-9:26
- Third Movement - 10:1-13:27
- The Sins of Idolatry - 10:1-10:25
- The Broken Covenant - 11:1-11:17
- The Prophet Strengthened - 11:18-13:27
Part B: THE PROPHETS MINISTRY - Jeremiah 14:1-51:64
B.1. Prophecies before the Fall of Jerusalem - Jer. 14:1-39:18
- God's Determination to Punish - 14:1-17:27
- God's Absolute Supremacy - 18:1-20:18
- Message to Zedekiah - 21:1-27:22
- Jeremiah and False Prophets - 28:1-29:23
- Prophecies of Hope - 30:1-33:26
- Prophecies of the Seige - 34:1-35:19
- The Story of the Roll - 36:1-36:32
- History of the Seige - 37:1-39:18
B.2. Prophecies after the Fall of Jerusalem - Jer. 40:1-45:5
- Against going into Egypt - 40:1-42:22
- In Egypt - 43:1-44:30
- The Word to Baruch - 45:1-45:5
B.3. Prophecies concerning the Nations - Jer. 46:1-51:64
- Concerning Egypt - 46:1-46:28
- Concerning the Philistine - 47:1-47:7
- Concerning Moab - 48:1-48:47
- Concerning Ammon - 49:1-49:6
- Concerning Edom - 49:7-49:22
- Concerning Damascus - 49:23-49:27
- Concerning Kedar and Hazor - 49:28-49:33
- Concerning Elam - 49:34-49:39
- Concerning Babylon - 50:1-51:64
Part C: HISTORICAL APPENDIX - Jeremiah 52:1-52:34
In the Septuagint the Lamentations are prefaced with these words: "And it came to pass, that after Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem made desolate, Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lament over Jerusalem, and said. ..." This serves to show that, long before the coming of Christ, they were considered by Jewish scholars to be the work of Jeremiah.
In his prophecy Jeremiah is revealed as a man having a keen sense of the righteousness of judgment because of sin, and yet overwhelmed with sorrow for his people. Throughout the whole of his ministry he shrank from the difficulty of his work, and yet manifested heroic loyalty to the will of God. In this brief book of Lamentations the spirit of the man is strikingly revealed. There is no exultation over the fulfilment of his predictions; and there is a twofold loyalty manifest throughout, first to God in the confession of sin, and then to his people in the expression of their sorrow.
The chapter-division of the book is the natural one. It consists of five poems, the titles of which may thus be written: The Solitary City (1); the Sources of her Sorrow (2); the Prophet's Identification (3); the Desolation (4); the Appeal out of Sorrow (5).
The Solitary City
In this poem there are two movements. The first describes the desolation of the city as to her relationships with other nations, and as to her internal condition, declaring the cause to be that she "hath grievously sinned." In the second the city personified bewails her affliction, appealing to the passer-by, and describes her sorrow; she then confesses the justice of the desolation which has overtaken her, appealing to Jehovah for sympathy and deliverance.
The Sources of the Sorrow
In the second poem the prophet dealt with the sources of the sorrow. He first affirmed that it was the result of the direct action of Jehovah, and was manifest in material and spiritual judgments. He then broke out into a description of the affliction of iniquity, as to the actual sufferings endured, and the even more painful contempt of the nations. The poem ends with a double appeal : first that of the prophet to the people, in which he urged them to penitence; and secondly that of the people to Jehovah, in which they described their affliction.
The Prophet's Identification
In this central and longest poem Jeremiah identified himself completely with the experiences of his people. In the first movement, in language which throbs with pain, he described his own sorrows, recognizing, through all, the action of Jehovah, as the almost monotonous repetition of the pronoun "He" reveals. This recognition of the fact that judgment is the work of Jehovah, compelled the ending of this dirge by the affirmation of hope. The next movement is one of assurance, in which the prophet, having in the previous section recognized Jehovah's activity in judgment, now recognized His activity in mercy. This section ends with an expression of submission to judgment and a song of hope. The third movement is one of appeal, in which the prophet first recognized the justice of the Divine visitation, and then earnestly appealed to the people to turn to God in true penitence, ending with a declaration of his own sorrows. The final movement is one which first celebrates in song the deliverances already wrought for the prophet by Jehovah, and concludes with a declaration of his consequent assurance that God would jet act on behalf of His people.
The fourth poem is for the most part a dirge of desolation, which nevertheless ends in a song of hope. The prophet described the disaster in Zion, and the consequent degradation of the people, and then proceeded to show that the sins of the prophets and the priests constituted the cause of the disasters, and declared that these prophets and priests were therefore hated of the people. In the next place he showed how vain had been their hope of help from men, and described the remorselessness of their enemies. The last movement is a satirical address to Edom, and a declaration to Zion of coming deliverance.
The Appeal out of Sorrow
The final poem is an appeal to Jehovah. It first calls upon Him to remember, describing the actual desolation, the affliction of all classes, and the consequently prevalent sorrow. Then, affirming confidence in the abiding throne of Jehovah, it appeals to Him to turn them unto Him. The last word of this poem and collection is a wail out of the then present distress.
PART A: THE SOLITARY CITY - Lamentations 1:1-1:22
A.1. The Desolation - Lam. 1:1-1:11
A.2. The Confession - Lam. 1:11-1:22
Part B: THE SOURCES OF HER SORROW - Lamentations 2:1-2:22
B.1. The Act of the Lord - Lam. 2:1-2:10
B.2. The Affliction of Iniquity - Lam. 2:11-2:17
B.3. The Appeal of Penitence - Lam. 2:18-2:22
Part C: THE PROPHET'S IDENTIFICATION - Lamentations 3:1-3:66
C.1. In Affliction - Lam. 3:1-3:21
C.2. In Assurance - Lam. 3:22-3:33
C.3. In Appeal - Lam. 3:34-3:54
C.4. In Assurance - Lam. 3:55-3:66
Part D: THE DESOLATION - Lamentations 4:1-4:22
D.1. The Description - Lam. 4:1-4:12
D.2. The Cause - Lam. 4:13-4:16
D.3. Vain Help - Lam. 4:17-4:20
D.4. Hope - Lam. 4:21-4:22
PART E: THE APPEAL OUT OF SORROW - Lamentations 5:1-5:22
E.1. "Remember O Lord" - Lam. 5:1-5:18
E.2. "Turn Thou us unto Thee" - Lam. 5:19-5:22
Daniel was carried away into captivity before Ezekiel, having been among the number of those captured by Nebuchadnezzar in his first invasion, in the third year of Jehoiakim. His whole life from that time would seem to have been spent in Babylon. His personal history is a remarkable one, in that notwithstanding the fact that he was of the captive race, he rose to positions of power in three kingdoms, those namely of Babylon, Media, and Persia; and this, moreover, not as the result of any deflection from unswerving loyalty to the God of his fathers. His prophecies deal in detail far more fully with Gentile nations than with the history of the Hebrew people. In the midst of the densest darkness he was the medium through which the light of the Divine government shined. His ministry was exercised largely in the atmosphere of visions, and its nature was that of interpretation.
The first half of the book is occupied with historic matter, giving us pictures of the times and conditions in which he lived. The second half of the book deals with visions and their interpretations, and thus constitutes his prophetic message. The book thus falls into two divisions: the Historic Night (1-6); the Prophetic Light (7-12).
The Historic Night
During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel came into favour and power. The king would seem to have been impressed by the people he had conquered, and desired that some of the choicest of their young men should be included among his own confidential servants. Among those selected were four specially named, and among the four, Daniel. These were set apart for training and preparation for the fulfilment of their official duties. This training lasted for three years, and included special physical attention, their food and drink being supplied from the king's table. Daniel at once manifested his strength of character in the purpose he formed to abstain from the king's meat and wine. His attitude was characterized by courtesy, and he asked for a ten days' test. The test vindicated his purpose, and Daniel and his friends were allowed to proceed with their training. At the end of that training they were presented to Nebuchadnezzar, approved by him, and appointed to positions in the kingdom.
In the second year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar, troubled by dreams, called together his magicians, and sought their interpretation. Their difficulty consisted in the fact that he could not tell them his dream, and demanded that they should discover it and interpret it. Being unable to do so, he was furious, and commanded their destruction. In this decree the Hebrew youths were involved. Daniel sought an interview of the king, and asked for time, promising to show the king the interpretation of his dream. This being granted, he at once gathered his friends together, and they betook themselves to prayer. In answer to that prayer the secret was revealed to him in a vision of the night. He then stood before the king, and first, in language full of confidence and dignity, ascribed to God the glory of the interpretation he was about to give; exonerating the wise men from any blame in their inability to interpret the dream. He then vividly described the image of the king's dream, and proceeded to an interpretation of its meaning. Tracing the progress of events through the successive kingdoms of Babylon, Media, and Persia, Greece, Rome, the ten kingdoms, and the final setting up of the kingdom of heaven, he showed that there would be a process of deterioration. This interpretation carried conviction to the mind of Nebuchadnezzar, who at once recognized the supremacy of God, and rewarded Daniel by setting him over the province and the wise men.
The next story is that of the pride of Nebuchadnezzar in setting up in the plain of Dura a great image of gold. There may have been a connection between this and the interpretation of the dream which Daniel had given. The head of gold in the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream symbolized Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's image was all of gold, and perhaps revealed his conception of the power of Babylon. To this he commanded all peoples to bow down in worship. This would also explain the attitude of the dauntless three who declined to bend their knee to the image. In the first place it was an act of idolatry; and moreover, such obeisance on their part might have been construed into a recognition of the continuity of the power of Babylon, of which the Divine revelation to Daniel had predicted the downfall. With splendid heroism they cast themselves upon God, and were supernaturally delivered from the fierce fire of the furnace. This deliverance more deeply impressed Nebuchadnezzar, and he made a decree that no word should be spoken against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and promoted them in the province of Babylon.
The last story connected with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar consists of the king's own manifesto, setting forth the dealings of the Most High God with him. It opens with an ascription of praise, then proceeds to tell the story of his own humbling before God, and ends with a description of his restoration, and a final ascription of praise. In the midst of his prosperity he had a dream which filled him with fear, and his magicians were unable to interpret it to him. Again he sent for Daniel, and minutely described his vision of the tree growing to great height, and then cut down, so that only roots and stump were left. Daniel "was astonied," evidently because he saw the application of the dream to the king. He nevertheless, in loyalty to truth, interpreted to him its meaning, declaring that he, by the decree of the Most High, would be driven out a madman from the ways of men for a long period, and appealing to him to turn from sin. A year later the dream was fulfilled. In the midst of a proud boast he was stricken with madness. Finally restored to reason, he recognized the God of heaven, and was restored to his kingdom, and uttered the praise of the Most High.
The next scene is cast in the reign of Belshazzar. A man of profligate habits, he had succeeded to the throne of his father. In the midst of a great carousal there appeared to him a mystic hand, writing on the wall his doom and that of his kingdom. Again the wise men were unable to interpret the meaning; and Daniel, who evidently was not now in proximity to the king, who did not seem to know him, was sent for. The attitude of Daniel before him was full of dignity and heroic loyalty to God. With clear, incisive words he first declined all the king's gifts, and then charged upon him his guilt. Continuing, he proclaimed God as seated high over the thrones of earth and interpreted the writing as indicating God's knowledge of the kingdom and His determination to end it; His estimate of the king; and finally the future of Babylon, as divided among Medes and Persians. With dramatic and terrible force the story declares, "In that night Belshazzar the Chaldean King was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom."
The last scene in the historic portion is in the reign of Darius. Having come into the kingdom, he appointed Daniel as one of three presidents, and proposed to set him over the whole realm. This naturally stirred up jealousy in the hearts of the other presidents and satraps, who with great cunning planned his downfall. Knowing that they would be unable to find occasion against him, save in the matter of his relation to God, they induced the king to sign a decree which would necessarily involve Daniel. His loyalty never swerved; he continued to observe those acts of worship which had been his custom. Against the desire of the king, he was cast into the den of lions, and was supernaturally delivered. This deliverance issued in a proclamation made by Darius, and Daniel prospered through his reign, and in the reign of Cyrus.
The Prophetic Light
During the reign of Belshazzar two visions were granted to Daniel, which constituted the prophetic light of that particular period. The first of these was of four beasts arising from the sea, the last of which had ten horns. In the midst of these there arose another, which destroyed them. The vision then became that of the setting of thrones, and the appearing of the glory of One Who overcame the beasts, and received dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom. These visions troubled Daniel, but an interpretation was given to him, first in general terms. The beasts symbolized four kings, and the final vision indicated that the saints of the Most High should yet receive and possess the Kingdom for ever and for ever. A particular interpretation of the meaning of the fourth beast, and the horns, was vouchsafed to him; and the ultimate value was again declared to be the government of Jehovah, and the final establishment of His Kingdom over all others. The whole matter troubled the prophet, but he kept it in his heart.
Two years later another vision came to him. It was that of a ram with two horns pushing westward, northward, and southward. As he watched, a he-goat attacked the ram, and overcame him, and magnified himself. Four horns appeared, out of one of which there came another, which grew until it had broken down the sanctuary. A voice of a holy one inquired as to how long this should continue, and the answer was given to Daniel. Again he pondered the vision, and sought to understand it, and an interpretation was granted to him. The two-horned ram represented the united power of Media and Persia; the rough he-goat was the king of Greece. Against him a fierce one should arise, succeeding through policy, but ultimately being broken without hand. The effects of the vision upon Daniel was such that he fainted, and was sick. Being restored, he continued to fulfil his office in the kingdom, until the hour came in which, as we have already seen, he interpreted the writing to Belshazzar, and Darius succeeded to the throne.
In the first year of the reign of Darius, Daniel became conscious that the seventy years of judgment upon Jerusalem, foretold by Jeremiah, were drawing to a close. He set himself to personal prayer and penitence on behalf of his people, making confession of their sin, and pleading their cause. He besought the Lord that the reproaches which had fallen upon Jerusalem might be put away, and as the men of vision had so often done, he based his plea upon the honour of the name of the Lord. In the midst of this intercession Gabriel came to him, declaring to him first of all that he was "greatly beloved," urging him to consider the matter, and understand the vision. He then made a revelation to him concerning the Divine programme. Seventy weeks were decreed upon the people and the city. These were divided into three periods, the first of seven weeks, the second of sixty-two weeks, and the third of one week.
The last things were revealed to Daniel in the reign of Cyrus. In the third year of his reign Daniel was mourning and fasting for three weeks. Following this morning there appeared to him, as he was by the river Hiddekel, a Person glorious in appearance, in the presence of Whom he was reduced to weakness, and evidently filled with an overwhelming sense of awe. This glorious One touched him, and then addressed him in words full of tenderness, and subsequently gave him a prophetic history of what should befall his people in the latter days.
That history dealt first with Persia, showing how there should be three kings, and yet a fourth "richer than they all." It then foretold the coming of a mighty king whose kingdom would be divided after his death. Proceeding, it described the conflict between the kings of the north and they of the south in the centuries following, until there should arise one contemptible in person, but gaining the kingdom by flatteries. The reign of this one, undoubtedly Antiochus Epiphanes, is described at greatest length. The last things were then foretold; the coming of Michael, and the subsequent time of trouble; beyond that the resurrection, and the advent of a new age. Daniel was charged to shut the book and seal it to "the time of the end." In mystic language he heard the man clothed in linen swear "by Him that liveth" that these things should be for "a time, times, and a half." Being filled with a sense of mystery, he asked what would "be the issue of these things"; and was answered that the words were "shut up and sealed till the time of the end," and assured that to such as waited there would be blessing, and that he would rest, and yet stand in his lot at the end of the days.
PART A: THE HISTORIC NIGHT - Daniel 1:1-6:28
A.1. The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar - Dan. 1:1-4:37
- Daniel's History - 1:1-1:21
- Nebuchadnezzar's Dream - 2:1-2:49
- Nebuchadnezzar's Pride - 3:1-3:30
- Nebuchadnezzar's Manifesto - 4:1-4:37
A.2. The Reign of Belshazzar - Dan. 5:1-5:30
- The Carousal - 5:1-5:4
- The Writing - 5:5-5:12
- Daniel - 5:13-5:29
- The Fulfillment - 5:30-5:31
A.2. The Reign of Darius - Dan. 6:1-6:28
- The Appointment of Daniel - 6:1-6:3
- The Plot - 6:4-6:15
- The Deliverance - 6:16-6:24
- The Proclamation - 6:25-6:28
Part B: THE PROPHETIC LIGHT - Daniel 7:1-12:13
B.1. Belshazzar's Reign - Dan. 7:1-8:27
- Daniel's first Vision in first Year - 7:1-7:28
- The Vision - 7:1-7:14
- The Explanation - 7:15-7:28
- Daniels's second Vision in third year - 8:1-8:27
- The Vision - 8:1-8:14
- The Explanation - 8:15-8:27
B.2. Darius' Reign - Dan. 9:1-9:27
- Daniel and the Prophecy of Jeremiah - 9:1-9:2
- Daniel's Confession and Prayer - 9:3-9:19
- The Coming of Gabriel - 9:20-9:23
- The Revelation - 9:24-9:27
B.3. Cyrus' Reign - Dan. 10:1-12:13
- The Introductory Apocalypse - 10:1-10:21
- Prophetic History - 11:1-11:45
- The last Things foretold - 12:1-12:3
- The Closing of the Book - 12:4-12:13
Of the prophet Ezekiel personally we only know that he was a priest, and the son of Buzi. If the expression "the thirtieth year" in the opening verse of the book refers to his age, which is probable, seeing that he was a priest, and that thirty was the age at which they commenced their work, he must have been twenty-five years of age when the captivity commenced. During the whole of those years Jeremiah was exercising his ministry. This would account for the evident influence exercised upon Ezekiel by the teaching of Jeremiah. His method was superlatively that of symbolism. The book is full of visions, symbolic actions, similitudes, parables, proverbs, allegories, and open prophecies. He was the prophet who supremely looked through the then existing devastation to ultimate deliverance. Recognizing the fact of the reprobation of the people by Jehovah, and the righteousness thereof, he yet foretold a glorious restoration, basing his conviction upon his conception of the character of God. The main object of his prophesying would seem to have been the comfort of the exiles, and their preservation from the idolatry by which they were surrounded. The book falls into three main parts, the first describing how the word of the Lord came expressly to him, by visions and in a voice; the second dealing with the reprobation of the people of God; and the last foretelling their restoration, and indicating the methods by which it would be brought about. It may be divided thus: the Prophet's Preparation (1-3); Reprobation (4-24); Restoration (25-48).
The Prophet's Preparation
The division dealing with the prophet's preparation falls into two sections, the first describing the visions he saw, and the second the voices he heard. The second and third verses, which are really parenthical, may be treated as a title-page. This gives the date, states the fact that the word came expressly to him, and indicates the place in which he saw the visions and heard the voice.
The visions were inclusive visions of God. They proceeded in four manifestations. The first was that of a cloud swept into sight by a stormy wind, surrounded by brightness, and continually flashing forth in glory. The second was the appearance out of the midst of this fire, of four living ones, who moved in rhythmic unity. The third appearance was that of wheels which rotated in harmony with each other, and in co-operation with the movements of the living ones. The last appearance was that, first of a firmament over-arching the ceaseless activity of the living ones; above the firmament a voice was heard, and then the likeness of a throne was seen, and finally a Person was manifested, of the nature of fire, surrounded by a glory like that of the rainbow. In the presence of the manifested glory Ezekiel fell upon his face, and then heard the voice. This voice called him to listen, and then commissioned him to deliver the message of God to the children of Israel, charging him that he was to speak it whether they would hear or forbear. The commission was ratified by the symbolism of a roll handed to him, which he was commanded to eat. He obeyed, and found the roll in his mouth "as honey for sweetness." Continuing, the voice announced to him what his equipment for the fulfilment of his mission would be, warning him of the difficulties awaiting him, promising him that he should be strengthened for his work, and charging him to be loyal to the word of the Lord. In an interval he was borne up by the Spirit, and carried to the midst of the captives, where he sat "astonied" for seven days. The word of Jehovah then came to him again, laying upon him his responsibilities anew. He was first reminded of the source of the message, and told that his first responsibility was that of hearing, and his second that of speech. He was called into the plain, where once again he saw the glory of Jehovah as he had seen it by the river. A double charge was again laid upon him, the first part of which was that of silence, and the second that of speech.
The second division of the book contains the messages of the prophet concerning the reprobation of the chosen nation. These fall into three parts. In the first, by symbol and speech, he described the results of reprobation; in the second he declared its reason; and in the last he proclaimed its righteousness.
The results of reprobation were first symbolically set forth in four signs. These were immediately followed by general denunciations. Finally the coming judgment was dealt with at length, as to its cause and its process.
Ezekiel's first sign was that of a tile, upon which he portrayed a city, around which were depicted all the forces of a siege. His second sign consisted of a posture. For three hundred and ninety days he lay upon his left side, and for forty days upon his right, prophesying during the whole period against Jerusalem. The third sign was that of the food of which he partook during the period of the three hundred and ninety days. The fourth was that of the shaving of his hair from head and face. This hair was divided into three parts, a third was burned, a third was smitten with the sword, and a third was scattered to the wind. This last sign was carefully explained. The hair symbolized Jerusalem, and the treatment of it indicated the method of the Divine judgment against it.
These signs were followed by denunciations. The first foretold tlie coming judgment of the sword against the whole land, and the consequent scattering of the people. In this process of judgment a remnant would be spared, in order that the lesson might be learned. The prophet was charged to deliver this message of the sword with vehemence, and to make clear the fact that vengeance moved toward the purpose of making the people who had forgotten, know Jehovah. The second dealt with the fact of the completeness of the judgment. Its keynote was expressed in the words "an end." The prophet declared that an end was determined upon the land, and upon the people; and that it should be accomplished by the act of God. He then proceeded to describe that end. Its first manifestation would be the paralysis of the people, so that although the trumpet was blown to the battle, and all was ready, yet none moved forward, being overcome by terror and grief. This paralysis would issue in poverty, not wholly in the absolute lack of silver and gold, but in the awful consciousness that these things were useless as means of deliverance from the wrath of Jehovah. All this, finally, would produce the confession of overwhelming perplexity, and no interpreter would be found. The second denunciation ended, as did the first, by indicating the purpose of the vengeance: "They shall know that I am the Lord."
The long prophecy, descriptive of the cause and process of judgment, came to the prophet as he sat in his own house in the presence of the elders of Judah. In its first movement it described the idolatry in Jerusalem, which was the sin to be visited with punishment. The prophet first saw the image of jealousy at the entrance of the inner court of the house of God. He then saw, through a hole in the wall, all secret abominations before which the elders of Israel were burning incense. In the third place he was shown the depravity of the women of Israel, who were seen weeping for Tammuz. Finally, in the inner court men were seen with their backs toward the Temple, worshipping the sun. On account of this utter corruption of the people, Jehovah would proceed in judgment.
The next section of the message reveals the fact of the Divine discrimination in judgment. A man with an inkhorn passed through the midst, and set a mark upon the foreheads of such as mourned the abominations. These were to be spared, while all the rest were to be slain. The vision appalled the prophet, and he cried out in intercession, but he was told that the sin of Israel and Judah was great, and therefore the punishment was irrevocable.
The prophet then described the process of judgment. He was first granted a preliminary vision. The man with the inkhorn gathered coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scattered them over the city. Out of the midst of visions of the glory of God, similar to those which he had seen by the river Chebar, this fire was taken.
Again the prophet saw the princes of the people devising iniquity; and, instructed of the Spirit, he uttered a denunciation of them, and declared God's vengeance against them. One of the princes died, as he prophesied, and he appealed to Jehovah in terms of intercession. This appeal was answered by the declaration that Jehovah would protect those scattered among the nations, that eventually they should be restored, but that vengeance would inevitably fall upon such as were persistent in their sin. Again there was granted to him a vision of the glory of God, but he saw it departing from the city. Returning from the height of these visions, the prophet uttered in the hearing of the captives all the things that the Lord had showed him.
He was next commanded, in the sight of these people, to act as an exile going forth from his country. In answer to the inquiry of the people as to the meaning of what he did, he foretold the capture of the people and the princes in Jerusalem, and their carrying away to Babylon. By the sign of his own method of eating and drinking, he was charged to foretell the desolations which would fall upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The people of Israel declared in proverbs the failure of prophecy, or the distance of its fulfilment; and Ezekiel was charged to announce that the things foretold would immediately be fulfilled.
The next movement in the prophesying was that of a denunciation of false prophets and false prophetesses. The evil inspiration of the former was described, and its disastrous effect declared. Their destruction was foretold, and its reason made clear. They had seduced the people by promising peace, when judgment was determined. The prophetesses had been guilty of the same iniquity for the sake of hire, and their judgment was equally sure.
Certain of the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel, and he was instructed by Jehovah to declare to them that, while idolatry remained in their heart, the only answer of Jehovah to them must be that of punishment.
This determined attitude of judgment was then explained to Ezekiel, first by a statement of principle. In days of wilful and persistent corruption men as righteous as Noah, Daniel, and Job could not prevent the operation of vengeance, but only save their own souls by their righteousness. The application of this to the sore judgments against Jerusalem would prove to the prophet how that all that the Lord had done had been not without cause.
This final word as to the results of reprobation leads naturally to the part of the prophecy dealing with the reason thereof. This reason is first set forth under two general figures; secondly, in the form of a riddle; thirdly, as an answer to a false excuse; and finally, in a great lament.
The figures were familiar, because they had been used by former prophets. The first was that of the vine, and the second that of the adulteress. As to the vine, the prophet declared its uselessness as a tree, and its still more pronounced uselessness when burnt; the intention of which declarations was to show that the only value of a vine is in the fruit it bears. The application of the figure was made immediately to Jerusalem, whose inhabitants were to be given to the fire on account of their trespass.
The second figure the prophet wrought out at greater length. It was that of Jerusalem, the faithless city, as an adulteress. Maintaining his figure throughout, he traced the history of the city. An abandoned child, born and forsaken, was found and nurtured by Jehovah. At maturity the child was taken in marriage, and loaded with benefits. Then as wife she trusted in her beauty, and turned to harlotry, in which she prostituted her husband's wealth. This harlotry had been worse than the common, in which the harlot receives gifts, in that in this case she had bestowed gifts to seduce others. The punishment of the adulteress was that of stripping and shame. Yet this very process was intended to produce in the heart of the sinning city the shame of repentance. The last movement is one in which the prophet foretold the restoration of the wife by the remembrance of the covenant and its re-establishment by Jehovah.
The prophet then, commanded by Jehovah, put forth a riddle. A great eagle came upon Lebanon, took off the top of the cedar; carried away the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful soil, where it became a spreading vine. Toward a second eagle it bent its roots, that he might water it. The vine was denounced for this act of treachery, its judgment being that it should be plucked up by the roots, and withered by the east wind. The riddle was then explained. The first eagle was the king of Babylon, who carried away the king, and planted the seed royal in Babylon. The second eagle was the king of Egypt, whose help Zedekiah sought, and who was punished by Jehovah in consequence. The riddle ended with the promise of Jehovah that He would ultimately plant again a cedar in the mountain of the height of Israel, and as a result there should be universal recognition of the activity of Jehovah.
The people at this time were quoting a proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge," by which they intended to lay the blame of their present suffering upon their fathers. The truth of this the prophet denied, first by illustrations, declaring that the righteous man lives, that the wicked son of a righteous man dies, that the righteous son of a wicked father lives. He then stated the principle that God deals with individuals directly, and consequently that the sinner, turning to righteousness, should live; and the righteous man, turning to sin, must die. Then in the name of Jehovah he appealed to Israel to turn from transgression, and declared that God had "no pleasure in the death of him that dieth."
The final movement in this section is that of the lament of the prophet over Jehoahaz, in which he first described Judah, the lioness mother, and the captured whelp; then over Jehoiachin, the second whelp, and his capture; finally, over Zedekiah, whose mother, Judah, was like a vine plucked up, and destroyed by fire proceeding out of her rods, that is, from her children.
In the next section we have a series of prophecies, showing the righteousness of reprobation. This was first vindicated to the elders; secondly, celebrated in the song of the sword; thirdly, declared in a description of the utter evil of the city; fourthly, shown in a description of the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem; and finally, manifested in a description of the destruction of the city.
Certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord, and Ezekiel was commissioned to answer them. This he did, first by reviewing their past history, and showing how God had dealt with them for His name's sake, in delivering them from Egypt; in delivering them in the wilderness; and in sparing them there. He then examined the relation of the present sin to the past. The fathers had sinned in the land; so also had the sons; and consequently they were punished. He then foretold the future. The Lord God, by a mighty hand, would gather His people to the wilderness and discipline them, and sanctify His name among them. As a result, Israel would be restored, and Jehovah's name sanctified among the nations; and all this for His name's sake.
The prophet was then commissioned to prophesy against the forest of the south, that a fire should be kindled in it. Not understanding the meaning of the message, he made his appeal to God, that men would say to him that he was a speaker of parables, and immediately the explanation was given. The sword of Jehovah was about to proceed against the land of Israel. The prophet's anguish in the presence of the judgment was to become a sign to the people. All this prepared the way for the song of the sword, in which in graphic language the process of its sharpening, and its readiness for use were described; and its commission was uttered. The song was immediately followed by an interpretation, announcing that the king of Babylon was coming against the city, and the prince of Israel was to be degraded by Jehovah, who would overturn until the coming of the rightful king. This interpretation was followed by a brief address to the children of Ammon, who had drawn the sword, commanding them to sheathe it, and declaring the judgment decreed against them.
The next movement described the utter evil of the city. Its fundamental sins of bloodshed and idolatry were named, and the resultant evils of oppressions by princes, irreligion, lewdness, and greed were described. On account of these things, the judgment of Jehovah would be terrible, and would proceed to purpose which was illustrated under the figure of the furnace into which Israel was cast. Again the prophet described the corruption of the inhabitants, first in general statement, in which he described a land with no water, having no teaching; and the springs as polluted, having no prophets; and then proceeded to make particular charges against priests, princes, prophets, people. He concluded by describing the utter hopelessness of the case. There was no man to stand in the gap. Therefore the fire of wrath must proceed upon its way.
The next prophecy dealt with the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem under the figure of two women, Oliolah and Oholibah. Samaria was charged with unfaithfulness in her confederacy with Assyria and Egypt, this being the cause of her judgment. Jerusalem was charged with unfaithfulness with Assyria, with Babylon, and with Egypt, this being the cause of her judgment. In other terms the prophet declared their sins. They were guilty of idolatry and bloodshed, profanation of the sanctuary, and unholy alliances. Returning to the figure, he declared them to be worthy of judgment by righteous men, of stoning by consent of the assembly, in order that the land might be purged.
Under this section the last prophecy described the destruction of the city. This was first done under the parable of the caldron set upon a fire, filled with water, and made to boil, which symbolized the coming destruction of Jerusalem and its people.
The prophet was then bereft of his wife, and commanded not to mourn, in order that he might be a sign to the people of coming judgment. Ezekiel was then told that the news would be conveyed to him of the fall of the city, and that in that day his mouth would be opened, and he would be able to speak with assurance the messages of Jehovah.
The last division of the prophecy deals with the subject of the ultimate restoration of the chosen nation. It falls into three sections. The first has to do with the nations; the second with the Nation; and the last describes the restored order.
The prophecies concerning the nations fall into three groups. The first pronounced the doom of four, the second the doom of two, and the third the doom of one.
The doom of four dealt with Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. Ammon had mocked the people of God in the day of their desolation, therefore they were to be destroyed. Moab had rejoiced in the degradation of Judah, therefore judgment was determined against it. Edom had been brutal in her treatment of Judah, and therefore was to be made desolate. Philistia had taken vengeance with perpetual enmity, and therefore vengeance was determined against her. Each of these dooms ended with the same thought - that these people by judgment should know Jehovah.
The doom of two dealt with Tyre and Zidon, but principally with Tyre. Concerning her the prophet first made a general statement describing her sin and the judgment determined against her, declaring that the purpose was that she should know Jehovah. He then described in detail the destruction of the city by Nebuchadrezzar, and foretold the lamentation of the princes over her downfall. At the command of Jehovah, Ezekiel then took up a lamentation for Tyre, which first described her commercial supremacy and enterprises, and then in language full of force foretold her commercial ruin. The prophecy concerning Tyre ended with a message to its prince, and a lamentation for its king. To the prince the prophet declared his sin to have been that of pride, which thought of himself as a god, and boasted accordingly. His judgment was to be, that by humiliation and destruction, even to the pit, he should learn that he was a man, and not God. The lamentation concerning the king of Tyre first described his glory, and his appointment by God to his original position. The prophet then described his sins, and their consequent judgment. Unrighteousness was found in him, and therefore he was cast out of the mountain of God. Pride filled him, therefore he was cast down in the presence of kings. For the multitude of his iniquities a fire devoured him, and he was burnt to ashes.
Judgment was to fall upon Zidon that she might know the Lord; and that there should be no more a pricking brier to the house of Israel. Immediately following this prophecy dealing with the doom of two is a brief parenthesis describing the restoration of Israel; the prophet declaring in the name of Jehovah that she should be gathered and settled, in order that her people should know that Jehovah was their God.
The doom of one had to do with Egypt. It consists of seven prophecies, which are placed here, not in the order of their delivery. Throughout these prophecies the purpose of judgment is constantly declared to be that of making Jehovah known. The first is against Pharaoh, and all Egypt. His sin the prophet declared to be the pride which claimed the river as his own creation, and the doom he poetically described as the taking of Pharaoh as a great fish out of his river, and casting him upon the land. That doom he then proceeded to foretell as the coming of a sword upon the land of Egypt, and the scattering of its people among the nations. After forty years he declared that Jehovah would gather them again, and in their own land make them a people degraded, no more to rule over the nations. The second prophecy foretold that the instrument of judgment should be Nebuchadnezzar, and the capture of Egypt would be his wage for the defeat of Tyre. The third prophecy described the process by which Nebuchadnezzar would accomplish this purpose of Jehovah. His stroke would fall on the multitudes, on the idols, on the cities. The fourth prophecy was directed against the power of Pharaoh, and declared that the Lord would break his arms, and strengthen those of the king of Babylon for the accomplishment of His purpose. The fifth prophecy was against the greatness of Pharaoh. That greatness was first described as that of a stately cedar in Lebanon, and then its destruction was foretold, first under the same figure, and then by a graphic and awful picture of the descent of Pharaoh into Sheol. The sixth prophecy was a lamentation for Pharaoh, in which his doom was first described, and then its widespread effect. Again the prophet declared that the destruction of Pharaoh and of Egypt would be brought about by the sword of the king of Babylon. The seventh prophecy was a wail for the multitudes of Egypt, in which the descent to death is portrayed, and all the companies of the dead from among the nations are represented as companions of Pharaoh and his hosts in the under-world.
Ezekiel next delivered a series of messages concerning the chosen nation. The first described the watchman; the second dealt with shepherds, false and true; the third set forth the new order; the fourth consisted of a vision of the valley of bones; and the fifth dealt with the last enemy.
The first message to Israel described the function and responsibilities of the prophet under the figure of a watchman. The duty of the watchman was to give warning of the approach of a foe. Ezekiel occupied that position. He was charged to declare to the people in the midst of their sins that Jehovah had no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and that they were to remember their responsibilities. Past acts of righteousness would not atone for present trangression. Past sin would be pardoned if the sinner turned to Jehovah. Upon the basis of this announcement the prophet defended Jehovah against the people who charged Him with being unequal in His ways. Immediately upon the delivery of this message fugitives who had escaped from the sack of Jerusalem came to the prophet. He was prepared and commissioned to deliver to them the message of Jehovah. The attention of the people was aroused, but they were disobedient to his voice.
The next prophecy dealt with the one Shepherd. Its first movement was an indictment of the false shepherds, through whom the evil things had happened to the chosen people. They had cared for themselves, and neglected the flock, with the result that the flock was scattered and devoured. Therefore Jehovah was against the shepherds, and required His sheep at their hands. This indictment was followed by a description, full of beauty, of Jehovah's method of deliverance. He Himself would come to search for His sheep. His government would proceed in strict discrimination and righteous administration. The message ended with the promise of the appointment of the one Shepherd under Whose rule order would be restored, blessing would be bestowed, and peace established.
The prophet then described the new order by contrasting Mount Seir with the mountains of Israel. The sin of Mount Seir had been that of perpetual enmity, and its judgment would be that of perpetual desolation. Its guilt had been that of the possession of Jehovah's land, and its punishment would be that of dispossession. The mountains of Israel were to be delivered from their enemies, and to be made abundantly fruitful. This prediction the prophet was charged to explain by affirming the fact that their own sin had been the reason of their sufferings, and by declaring that for the sake of His holy name they would be restored. A description of the method of restoration followed. The people were to be gathered from all countries, and cleansed from filthiness, and spiritually re-made. The results of restoration would be that they should dwell in their own land, and in place of desolation there should be fruitfulness. The conditions of restoration were that Jehovah would be inquired of for these things, and its purpose that He should be known.
There was now granted to the prophet the great vision of the valley filled with bones. Over these bones he was commanded to prophesy. He obeyed, and beheld the bones coming together, and being clothed with sinews and flesh. Again he was commanded to prophesy to the wind. He obeyed, and saw the corpses in the valley stand upon their feet, a living army. This vision was the outcome of a proverb in which the people had declared, "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost, we are clean cut off." The application of the vision was made in the declaration that God would bring His people from their graves, and make them live. Having thus foretold the renewal of the people, the prophet was commanded to take two sticks and join them into one, and to declare to the people, by an explanation of his action, that God would gather the scattered ones from among the nations, and make them one under the dominion of a new king, and within the terms of a new covenant.
The final message concerning the nation dealt with matters far removed from the times of the prophet. He described the final antagonism of Gog, who with his allies would gather, under Divine compulsion, and in malice, against Israel. The prophet declared that this coming would be against Jehovah. He then proceeded to foretell the antagonism of God to the gathered hosts. The destruction of the enemy would be brought about by the act of Jehovah, completely and terribly; and the issue would be the restoration of the whole house of Israel.
The final movement in the prophecies of restoration described the restored order, and dealt with the Temple, Jehovah, the service of the Temple, the river, the land, the people, and the city.
Fourteen years after the sack of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was given visions of the ultimate restoration of the scattered and desolate people. His description of the new Temple commenced with the courts, of which he described the outer and the inner. Passing to the Temple proper, he portrayed it first from the outside, describing the actual Temple, with its holy place, and holy of holies; then the side-chambers, finally the separate building; ending with general dimensions of the inner court, the house buildings, and the separate building. He then gave a description of the internal woodwork and ornamentation. Returning to the buildings, he described the chambers in the inner court, and their uses, ending with external measurements of the whole.
His next vision was that of the return of Jehovah to His house. The visions which he had seen by the river Chebar appeared again, and all the glory moved into possession of the new Temple. Again he heard the voice declaring that Jehovah had taken up His abode in the house, and that Israel should no more defile His holy name. Then follows a parenthesis, which chronicles the charge delivered to the prophet to show this house of future glory to the house of Israel, that she might be ashamed of her iniquities. The prophet then described the ordinances of the altar, giving its measurements and the arrangements for its consecration.
The next section described the service of the new Temple. The gate by which the God of Israel entered would be kept shut. The place of the prince was appointed, and the prophet was charged to pay careful attention to the instructions concerning the ordinances of the house. No aliens would be allowed to minister therein. The Levites would be restored to the service of the sanctuary, and the priests to their sacred offices. Careful instructions were given for the support of priest, Levite, and prince. The duties of the prince would be to provide for the offerings. The actual services were next set forth. The feasts, the Sabbaths and months, the freewill offering, the daily burnt-offering, were all arranged for. Instructions were given concerning the inheritance of the sons of the prince, and the prophet was shown the boiling-houses.
The prophet was brought back again to the door of the house, and there beheld the wonderful symbolic river proceeding under the threshold past the altar. He watched it in its course, and observed its marvellous growth and its life-giving effect.
The new boundaries and divisions of the land were next described, and careful instructions were given concerning the disposition of the people. At the centre was the sacred land, occupied by priests and Levites, the city, and the prince. To the north places were appointed for Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah; and to the south places for Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad.
The last vision granted to Ezekiel was of the city in the south of the sacred land. Its gates and dimensions were given; and the final words of this prophet of hope announced the name of the city, Jehovah-shammah, "The Lord is there."
PART A: PROPHET'S PREPARATION - Ezekiel 1:1-3:27
A.1. The Visions - Ezek. 1:1-1:28
- Title Page - 1:2-1:3
- Fire - 1:1 and 1:4
- Living Ones - 1:5-1:14
- Wheels - 1:15-1:21
- The Likeness - 1:22-1:28
A.2. The Voice - Ezek. 2:1-3:27
- The Message - 2:1-3:3
- The Equipment - 3:4-3:15
- The Responsibility - 3:16-3:21
- The Commission - 3:22-3:27
Part B: REPROBATION - Ezekiel 4:1-24:27
B.1. Results of Retrobation - Ezek. 4:1-14:23
- The Four Signs - 4:1-5:17
- The Denunciations - 6:1-7:27
- The Judgement - 8:1-14:23
B.2. Reason for Retrobation - Ezek. 15:1-19:14
- The Two General Figures - 15:1-16:63
- The Riddle - 17:1-17:24
- The False Excuse - 18:1-18:32
- The Lament - 19:1-19:14
B.3. Righteousness of Retrobution - Ezek. 20:1-24:27
- Vindicated to Elders - 20:1-20:44
- The Song of the Sword - 20:45-21:32
- The Utter Evil of the City - 22:1-22:31
- Oholah. Oholibah - 23:1-23:49
- The Destruction of the City - 24:1-24:27
Part C: RESTORATION - Ezekiel 25:1-48:35
C.1. The Nations - Ezek. 25:1-32:32
- The Doom of Four - Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia - 25:1-25:17
- The Doom to Two - Tyre and Zidon - 26:1-28:24
- (Parenthesis Restoration of Israel - 28:25-28:26)
- The Doom of One - Egypt - 29:1-32:32
C.2. The Nation - Ezek. 33:1-39:29
- The Watchman - 33:1-33:33
- Shepherds, False and True - 34:1-34:31
- The New Order - 35:1-36:38
- The Vision of the Bones - 37:1-37:28
- The Last Enemy - 38:1-39:29
C.3. The Restored Order - Ezek. 40:1-48:35
- The Temple - 40:1-42:20
- Jehovah - 43:1-43:27
- The Service of the Temple - 44:1-46:24
- The River - 47:1-47:12
- The Land - 47:13-47:23
- The People - 48:1-48:29
- The City - 48:30-48:35
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.