Ezekiel 22 – The Indictment of Jerusalem & Babylon Captivity: Government (4 of 11)

Finger Pointing UpNebuchadnezzar, like King David, knew what he was doing, but once he died the Babylonian Empire slowly began to fall apart.  But what can you expect, the kings after Nebuchadnezzar weren’t with You, they were evil.

1 Rooted deeply in our Judeo Christian heritage
Rooted deeply in our Judeo-Christian heritage, the practice of offering thanksgiving underscores our unshakable belief in God as the foundation of our Nation and our firm reliance upon Him from Whom all blessings flow.

Both as individuals and as a people, we join with the Psalmist in song and praise: “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” One of the most inspiring portrayals of American history is that of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. That moving image personifies and testifies to our Founders’ dependence upon Divine Providence during the darkest hours of our Revolutionary struggle.

That’s kind of scary because that is what’s happening to the United States.

Reagan and Trump were great presidents and they trusted You  and that is why they did so well:

“We’ve been a free people living under the law, with faith in our Maker and in our future. I’ve said before that the most sublime picture in American history is of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. That image personifies a people who know that it’s not enough to depend on our own courage and goodness; we must also seek help from God, our Father and Preserver” (Ronald Reagan).

But all of the Bushes, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama are all evil.

Their government doesn’t seem to treat the poor any better than our government.  What kind of…

Ezekiel 21
The Lord’s Sword

2 King Hammurabi and Šamaš
King Hammurabi and Šamaš
In our times, the Babylonian laws of king Hammurabi have become famous. The stela -which is now in the Louvre in Paris- on which the regulations were inscribed, is one of the best-known monuments from Antiquity.

Yet it is unclear how important the laws of Hammurabi really were. When the stela was discovered in Susa, it was the first known non-Biblical law code of the ancient Near East.

1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

2 Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,

 3 And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.

4 Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:

5 That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.

6 Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.

7 And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord GOD.

“When they say unto thee” – cf. 12:9 for the people’s response to Ezekiel’s behavior.  This is Ezekiel seventh symbolic act.

8 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

9 Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished:

“A sword, a sword” – a sword song, possibly accompanied by dancing or symbolic actions.  Such songs may have been sung by warriors about to go into battle.

3 Babylonian world map
Babylonian world map. This ancient tablet from the 7th Century BC depicts the world at the time of Sargon (2300 BC) as a circle surrounded by water, with Babylon at its center.

10 It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.

To think that the Babylonian’s would conq2uer every other country except Judah was a false hope.

“Rod” – represents rule, government or kingdom.

11 And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer.

12 Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.

“Cry and howl…smite…thy thigh” – eighth symbolic act.

13 Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord GOD.

“It is a trial” – of Judah.

4 Tablet with a list of eclipses between 518 and 465 mentioning the death of king
Tablet with a list of eclipses between 518 and 465, mentioning the death of king Xerxes.

“What if the sword contemn even the rod?” – the question anticipates the final interruption of Davidic kingship, which came in 586 B.C.

14 Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy chambers.

15 I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: ah! it is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter.

16 Go thee one way or other, either on the right hand, or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set.

17 I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest: I the LORD have said it.

18 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,

19 Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city.

“One land” – Babylon or possibly Aram (Syria) – Nebuchadnezzar headquartered at Riblah in northern Aram.

5 The Cyrus Cylinder
The Cyrus Cylinder, discovered in 1879 and now in the British Museum, is one of the most famous cuneiform texts, because it was once believed that it confirmed what the Bible says (Isaiah 44.23-45.8; Ezra 1.1-6, 6.1-5; 2 Chronicles 36.22-23): that in 539 BCE, the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great had allowed the Jews to return from their Babylonian Captivity.

20 Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.

“Rabbath” – capital of Ammon, modern Amman (capital of Jordan).

21 For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.

“To use divination…his arrows” – for the purpose of seeking good omens for the coming campaign – a practice not elsewhere mentioned in the Bible.  Apparently arrows were labeled (e.g., “Rabbath,” “Jerusalem”), placed into a quiver and drawn out, one with each hand.  Right-hand selection was seen as a good omen.

“Images” – miniature representations of the gods worshiped by the family or clan.  Consulting them is referred to in Hos 3:4; Zech 10:2.  The household idols of Gen 31:19-35 were small enough to hide in a saddle, but others were life-size (1 Sam 19:13-16).  Like Rachel had stolen from her father Laban when she left with Jacob (Gen 31:19).

“Looked in the liver’ – looking at the color and configurations of sheep livers to foretell the future was common in ancient Babylonian and Rome, but the practices is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

22 At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort.

6 Relief of the Assyrian King greeting the Babylonian King on the right.
Relief of the Assyrian King, greeting the Babylonian King (on the right).

23 And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.

“False dinivation” – the leaders of Jerusalem once submissive to Nebuchadnezzar but now in rebellion hoped that the result of the omen-seeking was misleading.

24 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.

25 And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,

26 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.

“Diadem” only here is it mentioned as royal headwear.  Elsewhere it is worn by priests as a setting for the crown.  It was made of fine linen.

27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.

“Until he come whose right it is” – the Messiah; apparently an allusion to Gen 49:10.  Or possibly the reference is to Nebuchadnezzar, translating “whose right it is” as “whose is the judgment.”

28 And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it is furbished, to consume because of the glittering:

7 King Jehu of Israel leads a procession bringing tribute to Assyrian King Shalmaneser – 853 B.C.
King Jehu of Israel, leads a procession bringing tribute to Assyrian King Shalmaneser – 853 B.C.

29 Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked, whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an end.

“See vanity…divine a lie” – apparently Ammon also had false prophets of peace.

30 Shall I cause it to return into his sheath? I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity.

31 And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy.

“Brutish men” – the people of the East, as in 25:4.

32 Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I the LORD have spoken it.

Babylonian Captivity: Government

You, O king, art a king of kings:  for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory (Dan 2:37).

When we think of the Hebrew exiles in Babylonia we imagine their being captive under a despotic and all-powerful king – image created by Daniel’s address to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his destruction of Jerusalem.

8 The most troubling prerogative
The most troubling prerogative of modern government is the ability of the sovereign or head of state to go to war.
War means death, debt, and, if the decision is a bad one, the very end of
civil society and the prevailing political order.

Because war is potentially so terrible, a number of nations have curtailed the ability of the executive authority to make such a decision without first satisfying conditions imposed through constitutional and other political restraints.

It is perhaps ironic that the world’s oldest republic, the United States, has ignored its own constitution to grant to the president the authority to enter into armed conflict through the simple expedient of not actually declaring war. America has been de facto at war continuously since 2001 and the recent National Defense Authorization Act has codified an unending conflict in which the whole world is a battlefield and everyone in it is a potential enemy combatant subject to no constitutional or legal protection.

Many critics of the perennially lopsided relationship that the United States enjoys with Israel have noted a disturbing shift in the relationship during the first three years of the Obama Administration.

The most troubling prerogative of modern government is the ability of the sovereign or head of state to go to war.

War means death, debt, and, if the decision is a bad one, the very end of civil society and the prevailing political order.

Because scriptures and poets and artists in the West so played up his deeds, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire have enjoyed a reputation for power and glory far beyond what they deserve.

As a matter of fact, after the promise shown by Nebuchadnezzar, he was followed by weak and irresponsible kings. The Persian colossus in the East overmatched them and Babylon fell to Cyrus without a fight in 539 B.C.

In reality God, who called Nebuchadnezzar “My servant” (Jer 25:9), primarily used him to carry out God’s judgment against Judah and the surrounding states.

To understand how Nebuchadnezzar got his power, we need to backtrack a little.  After the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal died in 627 B.C., the Assyrian Empire fell apart.  With the breakdown of the central government, provincial governors enjoyed greater freedom.

One of these, Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, established himself as king of Babylonian within about a year.  By and large, the political structures established under the Assyrians continued, with a twist.

The temples, and the priests who controlled them, gained greater power (these priests could very easily be the Jews that were of the Synagogue of Satan.

The fact is that during the political uncertainties of the late 2nd millennium and early 1st millennium B.C., Babylonians had tended to gravitate to the temples for protection and livelihood, much as many people in Western Europe turned to the monastic communities during the Middle Ages.

The Assyrians had kept the temples from gaining too much power, but when the overwhelming power of the Assyrians was lifted, Babylonian political figures found themselves in a different position.

Throughout the Neo-Babylonian Empire (625-539 B.C.), the king reigned as a kind of tenant of the god.  Evidence of this fact is especially clear in what happened during the New Year Festival or akitu, celebrated for 11 or 12 days every spring in March-April.

9 Ashurbanipal was King of Assyria
Ashurbanipal was King of Assyria, and counted as the last great ruler of the country. When his father died, he left Ashurbanipal a kingdom that stretched from Northern Egyptto Persia, but he also made his brother king of Babylonia.

Throughout his reign, Ashurbanipal had military problems, mainly at the borders of the empire. He attacked Egypt, and campaigns in 667 and 664 B.C. led to the defeat of the Egyptians.

On the 5th day the king went to the great temple of Esagila in Babylon (sacred to Marduk).  There he surrendered his insignia of rule – scepter, mace, and crown – t the priest, who put them on a chair in front of the god Marduk.

Then the priest struck the king on the cheek, after which the king made a ritual confession in which he asserted that the had not neglected the sovereignty of the god, had not oppressed subordinates and watched out for the city of Babylon, among other things.

After this the priest assured the king of the god’s acceptance of his prayer and his blessing upon the king. Then the priest struck the king on the cheek once more and returned his insignia of office.

The ceremony made it clear that the king atoned for the sins of the community and that he owed his powers to the gods.

The king appointed royal revenue officers in the temples to serve alongside the priests to collect taxes, since temples owned much of the land in Babylonia. And gradually they managed to gain greater authority for the king, but there was always a tug-of-war between temple and state.

Of course the situation was different outside the power base in Babylonia. In places such as Judah or Phoenicia, where the king had military success and took control of new territories, he appointed officials at will, ruled without religious restraints, and retained all the revenues.

After Nebuchadnezzar took the reins of government, he evidently did not either occupy the Assyrian Empire or try to rebuild it. Instead he concentrated on subjection of Syria-Palestine in order to maintain a gateway to the Mediterranean.

Almost all Babylonian trade was with the West. Internally he devoted his efforts to the religious and cultural revival of southern Mesopotamia, combined with extensive architectural activity.

10 The Assyrian
The Assyrian army invaded Elamand Babylonia. Babylon was captured in 648 BC, and the following year, the Elamite city of Susa was destroyed. Ashurbanipal is remembered as one of the most cultured rulers of the time.

He supported the establishment of the first systematically organized library, which contained tens of thousands of works, in the shape of tablets. He was personally involved in the appointments of governors and prefects, and he functioned as the real general contractor when building state houses and structures.

After Ashurbanipal died in 63 1BC, the Assyrian kingdom started to fall a part, but this is not considered to be his fault. It was not weakness inside Assyria, but continuous attacks from hostile neighbors, that brought it down.

Nebuchadnezzar and his successors launched reconstruction programs in all the main cities of Sumer and Akkad. Babylon became one of the great cities of the world. And Hebrew artisans undoubtedly made significant contributions during the building programs when they were exiles in Babylonia.

If you had been publishing a Hebrew newspaper for the exiles in Babylon, you would have read a lot about Nebuchadnezzar as a builder. But you would have seen a lot more about his military campaigns.

He found it much easier to win battles and declare control in the Westland than to maintain effective control there. He was compelled to make an almost annual show of force somewhere in Palestine, Syria, or Phoenicia. His frequent military actions led to a substantial standing army.

Of course at the court his word was law, and he was the “supreme court” of the state. Though the power of the crown was checked by the temple, the king had control of the political, military, and legal machinery of the state.

Nebuchadnezzar
and His Successors

Imagine being a political figure like Daniel in Babylonia during the Exile, experiencing constant government upheaval after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. After Nebuchadnezzar died of an illness late in 562 B.C. (total reign 605-562), his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach of 2 Kgs 25:27; Jer 32:31) ruled for two years.

He so badly managed the affairs of state that his sister’s husband Neriglisaros (Neriglissar, Nergal-Sharezer, Jer 39:3, 11) rebelled against him and killed him. Nergal-Sharezer then ruled for four yean (559-556), carrying out some public work and winning a short war in southeast Asia Minor.

His young son and successor Labashi-Marduk, was so totally inept that a group of conspirators killed him after a nine-month rule (556 B.C.) and installed one of their number, Nabunaid (Nabonidus) as king.

11 Babylonian king Nabopolassar
Babylonian king Nabopolassar ruled over the rising empire from about 626 to 605 B.C.
The Babylonian Chronicle for the years 615-609 B.C. tells of the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The wounded Assyrian Empire would collapse seven years later at the battle of Carchemish.

Babylonian king Nabopolassar ruled over the rising empire from about 626 to 605 B.C. The Babylonian Chronicle for the years 615-609 B.C. tells of the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The wounded Assyrian Empire would collapse seven years later at the battle of Carchemish.

Now imagine the rumors circulating in Hebrew communities during the rule of Nabonidus (556-539 B.C.), described as “enigmatic” and “fascinating.” At this distance we find it hard to know exactly what he was trying to do, especially because his enemies worked hard to stain his reputation.

We do know, however, that he favored the moon god Sin and sought to restore his temples at Ur and Haran. Moreover, he tried to expand the power of the monarchy at the expense of the priestly power in the temples.

 In the process he probably alienated the Marduk priesthood. He also weakened his position in the state by spending almost a decade in Arabia.   It now appears that he was trying lit gain control of trade routes with south Arabia to compensate for those lost to the Medo-Persians farther north.

During those years he made his son Belshazzar the ruler in Babylon. Belshazzar is remembered as the king who saw the handwriting on the wall and had Daniel provide the explanation for it.

Meanwhile, Cyrus the Great of Persia grew stronger, establishing his rule in Persia and building his empire. When he came banging on the gates of the Babylonian Empire, the empire proved to be a hollow shell and fell without much Persian effort.

…housing and furniture did they have?

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