Ezekiel 36

Introduction

Scorn to repay scorn

‘Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The enemy said of you, ‘Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession.’ Therefore prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because they ravaged and crushed you from every side so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations and the object of people’s malicious talk and slander, therefore, mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, to the desolate ruins and the deserted towns that have been plundered and ridiculed by the rest of the nations around you—this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my burning zeal I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, for with glee and with malice in their hearts they made my land their own possession so that they might plunder its pastureland.’ Therefore, prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations. Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I swear with uplifted hand that the nations around you will also suffer scorn.’ Ezekiel 36:1-7

The Land will again be fruitful

After a reminder of the reason for their punishment, Ezekiel shows the people that they will be restored to a fruitful land. Note again that the mountains are addressed, but of course the message is for the people.

Ezekiel had previously revealed condemnation of Mount Seir, Ezekiel 35:3. Now he revealed blessing for the mountains of Israel. The mountains stood for all the land. The land, including its mountains, valleys and rivers, was the sustenance of the nation of Israel.

The rest of the nations were land grabbers. Once the Israelites were taken from the land, countries as Edom grabbed the land. Because of the apostasy, God had taken His people from the land. However, when He took His people from their inheritance, He did not permanently give it over to other nations. The message of hope in this context was that the mountains and valleys would again be productive for the people of God.

‘But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favour; you will be ploughed and sown, and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited, and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of people and animals living on you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD. I will cause people, my people Israel, to live on you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.’ Ezekiel 36:8-12

Israel to prosper

Though others took possession of the land, the promise was that the land would again bring forth its fruit for the people of God. All twelve tribes would again enjoy their occupation of the land after King Cyrus of the Medo-Persian Empire released the exiles in 536 B.C.

The promise was that the cities of the land would be rebuilt, not just the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was important to the returnees, but it was not the only city that was rebuilt. In fact, according to the history that is given by Ezra and Nehemiah, the completion of the reconstruction of Jerusalem came after the rebuilding of many other cities in the land. There is no emphasis here on the rebuilding of the temple.

Their prosperity in the land would be the sign that God was again with them.

‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because some say to you, ‘You devour people and deprive your nation of its children,’ therefore you will no longer devour people or make your nation childless, declares the Sovereign LORD. No longer will I make you hear the taunts of the nations, and no longer will you suffer the scorn of the peoples or cause your nation to fall, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ Ezekiel 36:13-15

Taunts will cease

The other nations were saying that Israel orphaned herself of children. But this reproach of the nation would cease. Neither the people, nor the land, would bear the disgrace that was brought on the land through their apostasy.

Through repentance and restoration, the Israelites would not become the victims of themselves. They would no longer be a reproach and a derision among the nations.

God says of the land that in the future it will be:

1. Secure. Ezekiel 36:15.

2. Fruitful. Ezekiel 36:8.

3. Peaceful. Ezekiel 36:14.

‘Again, the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. So, I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. ‘Therefore, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.’ Ezekiel 36:16-23

Holy name honoured

The Reason for punishment and the reason for Restoration. We again are reminded by the prophet of the reasons for Judah losing her land in the first place. With a familiar figure of unclean woman, God shows the remnant that their idolatry and ungodliness caused Him to remove them from their land. The exile was a direct result of their sin, but it was carried out by the hand of God.

However, their exile caused God’s name to be profaned among the nations. The nations believed God was not able to take care of his people which was evidenced in their exile. It seemed as if Babylon’s gods were more powerful than the God of Israel. This local deity concept was common amongst the people at this time. Isaiah 36:18ff / 1 Kings 20:23ff / 2 Kings 5:17.

‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!’ Ezekiel 36:24-32

A new spirit

God proves He is strong by returning them to the land. The people would be cleansed of their former sins because of their repentance from their idolatrous past. They would once again be His holy people, Leviticus 11:44 / 1 Peter 1:1516.

It would be a humbled heart. The purpose for the captivity of Israel was not simply punishment. If we do not understand that God was working to preserve a remnant of Israel in order to re-establish their identity for the fulfilment of the promises made to the fathers, then we have missed the point.

In order to re-establish the identity of Israel, they had to be humbled through captivity. This was God putting a new heart and spirit within them. They had to voluntarily submit to His will, realizing that the only way out of captivity was through humble submission to Him.

Once this was accomplished after the first generation of captives died, then through scribes such as Ezra, with the leadership of spiritual men like Nehemiah, the humble and dedicated could be brought back into the land in order to prepare for the coming Messiah and Saviour of the world.

‘I will put My Spirit within you’, this statement would possibly take these promises beyond the restoration of the captives to the land after the Babylonian captivity. The prophecy possibly looks to the fulfilment of Joel 2:28-32. God poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles in Acts 2, afterwards filling His people with the Spirit upon their obedience to the Gospel, Acts 2:38.

However, the meaning would also be applicable from the time of the restoration to the coming of the Messiah, the time when God did not work through prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets.

The Old Testament prophets were sent in order to call Israel back to God from their idolatry. But after the return, they would need no message as was given to them by the Old Testament prophets. God caused them to go through the cleansing of the captivity by humiliating the proud and arrogant idolaters.

Since we would also interpret this to refer to a restoration of the people to return to God, then we would assume that the teaching of Jeremiah 31:31-34, would apply to this prophecy. The new heart would be the people’s desire for God alone.

They would no longer give themselves over to false gods that they had created after their own imaginations. They would be restored to the one true God and thus made to be His people. Because they would give their hearts to God, God would not bring famine and pestilence on them in an effort to turn them from their sin. Thus, the nations would never again mock them because their God had brought punishment on them for their sin.

When restored to the land, the generation of Israelites that would return would look back on the idolatry of their fathers and loathe the behaviour of their fathers. They would realise that their fathers brought independent Israel down because they ran after false gods.

‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.’ Ezekiel 36:33-36

A great replanting

Prosperity is promised by God in the land to which they have returned. We are again shown that God is the motivating factor in the restored blessings. It seems that God is just as determined to restore their fortunes now as He was to waste the city in the earlier part of the book.

‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So, will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ Ezekiel 36:37-38

Repopulation of the nation

Not only will the cities prosper and multiply, but the people are also promised prosperity. There is a willingness on God’s part now to listen to the people and even give them what they are asking of him. When a nation was conquered in ancient times and taken into captivity, that was the end of the nation.

However, in the case of Israel, God would resurrect His people out of captivity and re-establish them as a people within their land that had been given to them one thousand years before. When this would happen, then all the nations would perceive that the God of Israel was the true God of heaven.

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