Ezekiel 21 – The Lord’s Sword & Babylonian Captivity: Geography (3 of 11)

I bet that was a real shocker to the Israelites after living their life one way and then it’s all changed.  Here’s an analogy that just came to mind:

New Hampshire Law (all states are the same or close to it)
Negligent homicide is the unintentional but careless killing of another human being.
“ a person found guilty of causing another person’s death due to negligent driving will automatically be charged with a Class B felony.”
“However, if the death resulted because the guilty party was intoxicated either by the use of drugs or alcohol and was driving a moving vehicle at the time (auto, boat, etc.), he or she will be charged with a Class A felony.”
Anyone convicted of a Class A felony can be sentenced to a jail term of up to 15 years. Those convicted of a Class B felony can be sentenced to a jail term of up to seven years.

Bob has a good life, a wonderful wife, two good kids and a fantastic job.  He was just promoted to Vice President of his company and with that a big fat raise so he’ll be able to get that boat he had always dreamed of, buy his wife a new car, and be able to pay for his kids’ college.

Friday night he decides to go out and celebrate his promotion with two of his friends.  He wakes up in the morning with a hangover and looks around and doesn’t recognize anything because he’s never been in jail before.

Bob won’t be getting that boat or anything.  He had gotten so drunk that he drove home in a blackout, auto-pilot, and ran over a youth on his bicycle.  Bob was charged with Negligent Homicide.

If Bob would have obeyed the law that never would have happened.  Just like the Israelites, if they would have obeyed Your laws You wouldn’t have turned away from them.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom 13:1-2).

Same thing happened to King Saul:

Negligent Homicide with God, = Willful Sin:
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, hereseies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:17-21).
Sentence
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15
But the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Rev 21:8).

“Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD…?”

“…Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Sam 15:19, 22-23).

Adam and Eve did the same thing:

“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee. 

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Gen 3:16-17, see Gen 2:15-3:19 for complete story).

After thinking about how evil people are…

Ezekiel 21
The Lord’s Sword

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:

The ancient tell of Beth-shan.
The Old Testament tell towers above the Decapolis city of Scythopolis whose ruins are visible in the foreground.

“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.

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 conquer every other country except Judah was a false hope.

“Rod” – represents rule, government or kingdom.

A baulk illustrating stratigraphy. The tags indicate floors and floor makeup of a building in use over a period of time.

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.

“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.

A baulk illustrating stratigraphy. The tags indicate floors and floor makeup of a building in use over a period of time.

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.

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

“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.

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 divination” – 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:

A Late Bronze Age Canaanite shrine termed the “Stele Temple” found at Hazor. Notice the seated figure to the left and the line of sacred stones.

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 skillful 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: The Land

“And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath.  So Judah was carried away out of their land” (2 Kgs 25:21).

The Hebrew exiles found their new home in Babylonian very different from what they had left in Palestine. Instead of a land of hills and valleys, they now lived in a flat land – no hills as far as the eye could see.

Instead of dry farming made possible in most places in Judah by a minimally adequate rainfall, they were forced to irrigate crops in soil that received only about five or six inches of rainfall per year.

Instead of a land with lots of stone and some timber and other resources, they now found themselves in a region of alluvial soil left by overflowing rivers with no stone or good metal.

Instead of reasonably comfortable temperatures in the hills of Judea, they faced unrelieved summer heat of 108° in the shade and 120° to 140° in the vicinity of Babylon. And there is no evidence of any climatic change in from that day to this.

Southern Mesopotamia was then called Babylonia, a territory that stretched from the vicinity of modern Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. In earlier days residents there had called it Sumer and Akkad – Sumer in the area north of the Persian Gulf and Akkad around Baghdad.

But after the rise of the city of Babylon, the whole region came to be known as Babylonia.  Of course the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which provided water for irrigation made life in that area possible.  The two rivers flowed only about twenty-five miles apart in the region of Baghdad, then diverged to flow as much as150 miles apart.

Finally they joined as a single stream one hundred miles north of the Persian Gulf. So Babylonian territory extended only about 150 miles from border to border at its widest part. As to length, the distance from Baghdad to Ur is about 220 miles and from Ur to the Persian Gulf about 150; hence the total length was about 375 miles.

The epics of Sumer, Akkad and the divine religion:
Some or all the researches in the history of the ancient Near East or the Middle East consider the religion to be purely a human product, and that it started with deifying the goddess Ishtar with her different names, whose statues they found in various sizes spread throughout the ancient civilizations of the Near East, which spanned for over 9000 years B.C.

North of the Persian Gulf lay extensive marshes, inhabited in ancient and modern times by the marsh Arabs. While the could not farm, the waters around them contained an abundance of fish, marsh birds and, and numerous kinds of reeds, which they used to build their houses, their furniture, and their containers.

A high level of decay in of Mesopotamia difficult for scholars to investigate carefully the region’s civilization. Hebrews did not move there.

The exiles settled in the alluvial plain to the north, where they found an irrigation culture and civilization based on sun and soil and water. People there formed clay into bricks for houses, into clay pots for utensils, and into tablets for writing material.

The rich soil yielded abundant crops and  produced cotton and flax (linen) for clothing with sheep providing the wool.  The abundance of production provided a surplus for export to exchange for metal, stone, and wood. 

Asphalt in the valley of the Euphrates, especially near Hit, northwest of Babylon, served as a bonding agent to join bricks together and make floors and walls watertight.

In this irrigation culture the increase of salt content in the soil (salinization) was always a problem, largely because of the high temperature and high evaporation rate of water used for irrigation.

There are archaeological texts that describe the goddess Ishtar or Inanna known in Sumer and Akkad with the attributes of this world that the human lives in.

As the water evaporated it left behind a residue of salts. Salinization also occurred because there were no scouring rains to wash the soil. Low, flat lands had poor drainage. Moreover, with continued irrigation the water table rose, bringing increasingly saline waters closer to the roots of growing plants.

Increasing salinization made it difficult to grow wheat and emmer; farmers were forced to restrict grain production to barley, which was more salt tolerant. Ultimately many had to leave their land and go somewhere else. But the problem of salinization did not become really acute in the south until the days of Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.).

Location of the Gulf Coastline

Debate continues about where the coastline of the Persian Gulf lay in ancient times. Of course we know that the Tigris and Euphrates carried large quantities of silt and dumped it as they flowed to the sea.

The old generalization is that as the rivers deposited this silt they advanced the seacoast and that in Abraham’s day (c. 2000 B.C.) the shoreline was near Ur.  Then scholars discovered that the rivers dropped nearly all their silt on the land before reaching the coast and that the’ river valley was a slowly subsiding basin.

For example, the water table in Babylon has been gradually rising, so that now most of the city of Hammurabi’s day (c. 1800 B.C.) is under water and cannot be excavated. Thus, it seems reasonable to believe that the coastline has remained about the same as in ancient times.

Studies conducted in the last couple of decades indicate that there has been a fluctuation in the level of Gulf waters which of course affects the position of the shoreline. Though the shore may have been much farther north in Abraham’s day, by Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and Hebrew settlement there it was probably about where it is now.

…I want to look at what kind of government they had?