Summary: Ezekiel's vision of what is taking place in Jerusalem continues and God declares that the positive preachers among them are wrong! The crisis would not soon be over!
VERSES 1-3: Bad Advice
Now we see Ezekiel taken to the eastern gate in the city of Jerusalem where he sees a group of twenty-five men. It is interesting to note that he names several of these men. Excavations of Jerusalem have uncovered more than 250 bullae (clay seals used on official documents) and the names of Jaazaniah and Pelatiah appear on some of these. (as a side note- so do the names of Jeremiah as well as his prophet, Baruch). Therefore, we know that these people were REAL people and had some official function within the government in Jerusalem.
The two things that these elders are doing that God finds objectionable are mentioned. They are plotting evil and they are giving bad advice. Young’s Literal translation says that they are “designing evil.” They are not content doing evil things, but they are developing new ways to do evil.
I’m now going to share a very sad fact of technological life with you. Much of the technology we have today has been funded and developed by people who wanted to make pornography more available. The video revolution was pushed and propelled by pornography. Today, we are able to watch television programs and movies via the internet largely because of work that was funded by folks trying to find methods to deliver pornography in a more convenient manner. We live in a society that is constantly trying to find new ways to do evil.
Recently, in Los Angeles, a tragedy occurred up at Dodger Stadium. A San Francisco Giants Fan was beaten and at this time remains in very serious condition in a coma. Though I consider myself the Anti-Dodger fan (Go Angels!!!) the illustration I am using is nothing against the team itself. While there have always been rowdy fans and there have been instances of violence at Dodger stadium before, can we really imagine a society where a person can be beaten so severely simply for wearing another team’s jersey and cheering for his favorite baseball team? Has our society gone so far from polite behavior that we cannot even cheer for our favorite team? Is this a new way to do evil? We’ve seen senseless violence before, but this is absurd.
The reference to building houses can be troublesome. It has three possible meanings, and as I often do, I have the opinion that all three are meant. First, the concept of it soon being time to build houses is one way of expressing a belief that the current crisis would soon be over. Another possible idea is that they did not think it was proper for those in exile (in Babylon) to build houses. This is in direct contradiction to what God told the people through the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 29). If the people in exile chose to refuse to build houses and abide by the instructions given through Jeremiah then they were rejecting the discipline of the Lord and not learning the lesson God meant for His people to gain. The third idea is that it wasn’t time to be building up houses, but instead preparing to defend against the Babylonian army which was marching against them. As I stated before, I believe that the interpretation is really best to consider all three of them combined. All three interpretations certainly reflect the stubborn mindset of the leaders under King Zedekiah who for some reason felt strong enough to throw off the oppressive iron handed rule of the Babylonians.
Of course, the illustration of the cooking pot seems odd. Who wants to be known as the meat inside the pot. Ryrie’s notes (from the Ryrie Study Bible) suggest that it was a poorly chosen illustration, meant to suggest that the people were in a solid cooking container and safe from Nebuchadnezzar’s forces. Instead, the problem was that the people were indeed in a cooking pot, about to be cooked in the judgment of God. To be more specific, it is interesting to note that clay pots (easily broken) were used to do cooking in. These pots were used to place the choicest cuts of meats and food in order to prevent them from burning the food. This is likely what was meant here and explains God’s statement in verse 11 that the city will not be cooking pot and will not protect them.
It seems that the leaders were much like those scoffers mentioned in II Peter 3:3-4:
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
VERSES 4-12: Dinner is going to be burned!
God commands Ezekiel to prophesy against them. He begins by stating the obvious, God knows what you are thinking. The fact that God knows man’s thoughts is almost one of those facts we just accept, yet it remains amazing to me. I cannot escape the truth of Psalm 139:1-6, that God knows all of my thoughts, my words, and my motives. These people could not escape the knowledge that God knew all about what they were thinking and what they were planning.