Ezekiel 21


Please note that Ezekiel 20:45 should be taken up to Ezekiel 21:32.


Jerusalem will be punished with a flaming sword. Babylon will be God’s executor of judgement. The priestly and kingly authority will be removed from Judah. Ammon will also be judged by God. Because of Israel’s rebellion, judgment has already come against the northern tribes, and God’s vengeance is poised against Judah.

Ezekiel now sees the sword of judgment coming, He turns his face Southward, and brings still other pronouncements against Judah’s sin. Perhaps the judgements keep coming because so few people have believed so far in his message.

As Ezekiel complains, they think he is simply bringing nice little parables, and interesting sermons, from which they derive some entertainment. Hence the picture of a sword, perhaps this will get their attention.

The imminence of Jerusalem’s destruction

The burning forest and the sword of the Lord. Ezekiel 20:45-21:32.

The Burning Forest is a fire kindled by the Lord. Ezekiel 20:45-49.

The sword of the Lord. Ezekiel 21:1-32.

Its disastrous effects. Ezekiel 21:1-7.

The sword sharpened for the slaying. Ezekiel 21:8-17.

The sword of the king of Babylon will smite Jerusalem, then smite the Ammonites also. Ezekiel 21:18-23.

The prophecy will appear to Judeans as deceptive but will be verified. Ezekiel 21:24-27.

The overthrow of the Ammonites. Ezekiel 21:28-32.

‘The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face against Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuary. Prophesy against the land of Israel and say to her: ‘This is what the LORD says: I am against you. I will draw my sword from its sheath and cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked. Because I am going to cut off the righteous and the wicked, my sword will be unsheathed against everyone from south to north. Then all people will know that I the LORD have drawn my sword from its sheath; it will not return again.’ ‘Therefore groan, son of man! Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief. And when they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt with fear and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every leg will be wet with urine.’ It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ Ezekiel 21:1-7

The Parable of Ezekiel 20:45-49 Explained

The prophet explains one figure with another. The figure changes to a sword, the Lord’s sword. The land is now specified however, it is not the vague ‘south’, but Jerusalem and the land of Israel. So, the sword becomes a picture of the judgement that is coming throughout the whole land, from south to north. Everyone is going to suffer the consequences of this judgement; the sword is going to be busy.

‘Once the sword of the Lord was drawn it would slay as indiscriminately as a forest fire destroys’. Ellison

The sword is drawn from its sheath, ready for action. We can see Ezekiel’s reaction again to the news of judgement and destruction. Although instructed by the Lord to break down emotionally, it seems to me he wouldn’t need much encouragement to cry over his people.

‘The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘A sword, a sword, sharpened and polished—sharpened for the slaughter, polished to flash like lightning! ‘Shall we rejoice in the sceptre of my royal son? The sword despises every such stick. ‘The sword is appointed to be polished, to be grasped with the hand; it is sharpened and polished, made ready for the hand of the slayer. Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people; it is against all the princes of Israel. They are thrown to the sword along with my people. Therefore, beat your breast. ‘Testing will surely come. And what if even the sceptre, which the sword despises, does not continue? declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ‘So then, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together. Let the sword strike twice, even three times. It is a sword for slaughter—a sword for great slaughter, closing in on them from every side. So that hearts may melt with fear and the fallen be many, I have stationed the sword for slaughter at all their gates. Look! It is forged to strike like lightning, it is grasped for slaughter. Slash to the right, you sword, then to the left, wherever your blade is turned. I too will strike my hands together, and my wrath will subside. I the LORD have spoken.’ Ezekiel 21:8-17

The Sword Sharpened

Here is a yet clearer picture of the sword and what is going to happen. The sword is polished and sharpened. Several times in a testing situation, they are shown the sharpening and the polishing of the sword. It is sharpened for one reason, to slaughter better. It is polished to shine like lightning so that it might flash in battle and frighten the enemy.

What is all this saying?

The sword is not to be used as a rod of discipline. Proverbs 13:24, to spank them on the bottom. This is for judgement. They would not listen to another discipline, for they had ignored them in the past.

‘Or do we make mirth?’ This is no joke. This sword is out to kill. Ezekiel 9:2. This is no warning, no discipline, no testing. It is too late for that.

‘The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to take, both starting from the same country. Make a signpost where the road branches off to the city. Mark out one road for the sword to come against Rabbah of the Ammonites and another against Judah and fortified Jerusalem. For the king of Babylon will stop at the fork in the road, at the junction of the two roads, to seek an omen: He will cast lots with arrows, he will consult his idols, he will examine the liver. Into his right hand will come the lot for Jerusalem, where he is to set up battering rams, to give the command to slaughter, to sound the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to build a ramp and erect siege works. It will seem like a false omen to those who have sworn allegiance to him, but he will remind them of their guilt and take them captive. ‘Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘Because you people have brought to mind your guilt by your open rebellion, revealing your sins in all that you do—because you have done this, you will be taken captive. Ezekiel 21:18-24

Once again, the prophet is active in visual aids. He procures a signpost and plants it at a road junction. On one part he writes Rabbah and on the other, he writes Jerusalem. Here is Nebuchadnezzar coming to deal with two rebellious states, Israel and Ammon. He is unsure of which one to hit first. So, he does the natural thing and consults the ‘higher’ powers.

Here we see three ways of divination:

1. Shaking arrows.

2. Consulting the teraphim.

3. Looking at the liver.

The arrow shaking would be similar to dice. Perhaps two with the names of the cities written on them, and if they landed a certain way then that place would be chosen. The teraphim would seem to be some kind of small images consulted in some way, maybe crystal-ball style. The liver looks involved the liver of a dead animal.

‘The interpretation of omens called for considerable skill on the part of the priests, resulting in the use of divinatory methods such as astrology and hepatoscopy (the examination of post-mortem livers) in an attempt to anticipate the trend of future events.’ R. K. Harrison. Old Testament times.

The undecided Babylonian thinks his superstitions have brought up Jerusalem, but Ezekiel knew different. Nebuchadnezzar is coming to Jerusalem by the will of Jehovah. The result of the divination is seen in Jerusalem in Ezekiel 21:23.

‘Them’, the people of Jerusalem, perhaps especially the false prophets. ‘It’, the result of the divination. The people think that the answer from the divination is a false one. They think that Babylon is now coming into their trap, for they have the Egyptians waiting. Jeremiah 37:5 / Jeremiah 37:11.

They have sworn victory for the people with the help of the Egyptians if the Babylonians come at all. Jeremiah 37:3-11 shows us two things the people were saying at this time: Babylon will not come to Jerusalem. Jeremiah 37:9. If they do, they will fall into our trap. Jeremiah 37:5.

But the false prophecy and counsel were beginning to be shown up hence, uncovered transgressions and appearing sin. This is where the false divination is; the hand of Jehovah is with Nebuchadnezzar.

‘You profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until he to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it.’ Ezekiel 21:25-27

This concerns the prince of Israel, Zedekiah. Ezekiel 12:10. His description as an unhallowed, wicked one is an apt one for this weak leader of Judah. His time of punishment is near in this judgement. The removal of the turban and the crown describes the coming upheaval in the priesthood and the royal family. They are going to be removed and not fully established together until the coming of an individual.

This seems clearly to be a reference to Genesis 49:10 and therefore a Messianic prophecy. So, the kingly authority will be removed from Zedekiah and kept for the Messiah.

Note, Psalm 89. God made a covenant with David, that there would always be a Davidic ruler in Israel. The removal of Zedekiah seemed to break that covenant.

For 600 or so years there was no son of David ruling on the throne. This was a punishment on David’s family as had been the division of the kingdom. 1 Kings 11:9-13.

The book of Daniel helped the Jews see that this was so and that God would rule through the heathen, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Then the kingdom would be given to a son of David again.

This was the kingdom restored to the Jews, the son of David in particular. Daniel 2:36-45 / Micah 3:9-4:8 / Acts 1:6. Jesus of Nazareth took that throne. John 18:33-38 / Acts 17:7.

‘And you, son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says about the Ammonites and their insults: ‘A sword, a sword, drawn for the slaughter, polished to consume and to flash like lightning! Despite false visions concerning you and lying divinations about you, it will be laid on the necks of the wicked who are to be slain, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax. ‘Let the sword return to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your ancestry, I will judge you. I will pour out my wrath on you and breathe out my fiery anger against you; I will deliver you into the hands of brutal men, men skilled in destruction. You will be fuel for the fire, your blood will be shed in your land, you will be remembered no more; for I the LORD have spoken.’ Ezekiel 21:28-32

The Judgement on Ammon

Just in case they thought they were getting away with it, God reminds them that the sword wielded by Babylon will come upon them too. In 581 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar came against Ammon. The sin of the ammonites is here intimated. The reproach that they put on the God of Israel when they triumphed in their afflictions was inhuman.

A conceit that they were a better people than Israel, being spared when they had been cut off, making them so haughty that they even tread on the necks of the Israelites that were slain.

The utter destruction of the Ammonites is threatened. God resents the indignities and injuries done to his people as done to himself.

Go To Ezekiel 22