Ezekiel Chapter 20  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Ezekiel 20
Eze 20:1

“seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month.” That is, the seventh year reckoned from when Jehoiachin was taken into exile in the Babylonian Captivity (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Chron. 36:9-10). Thus, this revelation came to Ezekiel on August 14, 591 BC. [For more on the chronology of Ezekiel, see commentary on Ezek. 1:2].

Eze 20:2(top)
Eze 20:3(top)
Eze 20:4(top)
Eze 20:5

“In the day when I chose Israel.” God now reminds the people how He had chosen Israel to be His people and brought them out of Egypt.

“lifted up my hand.” One way a person swore a solemn oath was to raise his hand and swear. See commentary on Genesis 14:22.

Eze 20:6

“lifted up my hand.” A way of swearing an oath. See commentary on Ezekiel 20:5.

Eze 20:7

“the detestable things that are before his eyes.” The Hebrew text reads, “detestable things of his eyes,” that is, that he sees or looks at. The NIV nuances the text but makes it clear: “get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on.” This context shows that those things were idols.

“do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt.” The books of Moses do not specifically refer to the Israelites worshiping idols while they were in Egypt, but it is apparent they did. They had barely left Egypt when they desired to have gods made, and made a golden calf (Exod. 32:1-4). Also, according to Joshua 24:14 the Israelites still had gods with them they had worshiped in Egypt.

Eze 20:8(top)
Eze 20:9

“eyes…sight.” The Hebrew words are literally “eyes” (ayin, #5869) in both places, but the first use refers to the mental eyes, i.e., the knowledge or understanding, while the second use refers to the physical sight. The use of the same word in one sentence with two different meanings is the figure of speech antanaclasis, and it is meant to catch the attention. [For more on antanaclasis, see commentary on 1 Sam. 1:24].

Eze 20:10(top)
Eze 20:11

“live.” This is the pregnant sense of “live,” meaning live a meaningful life now but also live forever.

Eze 20:12

“gave them my Sabbaths.” Here we see one of God’s reasons for the Sabbath: to make people holy. Most ancient cultures had feasts and festivals when people did not work or work much, but Yahweh gave His people Sabbaths so they had a rest day every week and could rest, rejuvenate, have family time, and spend time with God. That gave people time to reflect on God and commit to being holy.

Eze 20:13(top)
Eze 20:14

“eyes…sight.” The Hebrew words are literally “eyes” (ayin, #5869) in both places, but the first use refers to the mental eyes, i.e., the knowledge or understanding, while the second use refers to the physical sight. The use of the same word in one sentence with two different meanings is the figure of speech antanaclasis, and it is meant to catch the attention.

Eze 20:15

“lifted up my hand.” A way of swearing an oath. See commentary on Ezekiel 20:5.

Eze 20:16(top)
Eze 20:17(top)
Eze 20:18(top)
Eze 20:19(top)
Eze 20:20(top)
Eze 20:21(top)
Eze 20:22

“eyes of the nations in whose sight I brought them out.” This is the figure antanaclasis, “word-clashing,” when a word is used in the same sentence with two different meanings. In this case, “eyes” is used twice. The first time refers to the mental eyes, the mind or understanding, and the second time it refers to the physical eyes, the sight. [For more on antanaclasis, see commentary on 1 Sam. 1:24].

Eze 20:23

“lifted up my hand.” A way of swearing an oath. See commentary on Ezekiel 20:5.

Eze 20:24(top)
Eze 20:25

“statutes that were not good.” It is not that the statutes were not good, they were good. But because Israel could not keep some and refused to keep others, those good statutes ended up producing death (cp. Rom. 7:10).

Eze 20:26

“their firstborn children.” The Hebrew uses the idiom, “all that opens the womb,” referring to the firstborn children.

“that I might make them desolate in order that they would know.” The point God is making is that the sin of the people in burning their firstborn children would result in their destruction as a consequence and show the people that Yahweh was God. People cannot sin against God without consequence.

Eze 20:27(top)
Eze 20:28

“lifted up my hand.” A way of swearing an oath. See commentary on Ezekiel 20:5.

Eze 20:29(top)
Eze 20:30

“detestable things?” Referring to the idols of the ancestors.

Eze 20:31(top)
Eze 20:32(top)
Eze 20:33(top)
Eze 20:34

“will gather you out of the countries in which you are scattered.” It is clear from the context that this gathering is not a return at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, but rather the regathering of Judah and Israel into the land of Israel when Christ sets up his Millennial Kingdom. That is why there is a judgment and a separation of the godly people from the ungodly (Ezek. 20:38). That judgment is the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46).

Eze 20:35

“into the wilderness of the peoples.” This is the wilderness through which Israel passed on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Jesus Christ will enter the Promised Land from the south, from Edom, when he comes to conquer in the same way that Israel came out of Egypt into the Promised Land (Isa. 63:1). After the conquest, he will set up his throne in the “wilderness of the people” and separate them there into Sheep and Goats (Matt. 25:31-46). The “sheep,” the godly people, will be let into his kingdom, but the “goats” will not get to go into the Promised Land (Ezek. 20:38) but will be destroyed (Ezek. 34:16); they will be thrown immediately into Gehenna (Matt. 25:41, 46).

This “wilderness” (or “desert”) of the people” is not the desert between Babylon and Israel to gather the people coming back from the Babylonian Captivity, because this gathering is after Armageddon as the context shows (cp. esp. Ezek. 20:38). This gathering of God’s people has some important similarities to the Exodus. At the Exodus, God took Israel from their bondage in Egypt and judged them in the wilderness (Ezek. 20:36). In the future, God will take Israel from the nations where they have been scattered due to their sin and will again judge them in the wilderness (Ezek. 20:35). Israel will be judged by God; it will be put under His “rod” and the flock separated into good and bad before the good are allowed to enter the Promised Land and the bad people destroyed (Ezek. 20:38; 34:16). Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 25, and it is referred to as the “Sheep and Goat Judgment” (Matt. 25:31-46). Also, in the future Israel will meet God “face to face” and be judged in the “wilderness” (Ezek. 20:35) just as Israel met God “face to face” after the Exodus (cp. Moses meeting God “face to face” (Exod. 33:11; Deut. 34:10)), the Israelite leaders personally seeing God (Exod. 24:9-11), and Israel meeting God “face to face” at Mount Sinai (Deut. 5:4) and hearing His voice (see commentary on Exod. 20:1).

Eze 20:36(top)
Eze 20:37

“I will make you pass under the shepherd’s staff.” A shepherd counted his sheep for different reasons and he would count them by passing them under his staff. The shepherd or herdsman drove the flock or herd through a gate, and someone counted the animals as they went through. In the case of the tithe, every tenth animal passing under the rod would be marked because each tenth newborn animal was given to God as His tithe. If a person was starting out with a small herd or flock, and ten animals were not born to him that year, then the man did not have to tithe that year, which was a way God provided for His people and helped them build their wealth (Lev. 27:30-33).

Ezekiel 20:37 is a picture of God gathering His faithful people together and counting them to make sure none of them is missing, as well as separating them into good and bad. God’s people have sinned and will suffer consequences, but there will be a time in the future when God’s faithful ones will be gathered together and not one will be missing. “The covenant” referred to here is the New Covenant. We learn from other scriptures that when the people are judged (“passed under the staff”) the righteous will be separated from the unrighteous and the unrighteous will not enter into the Promised Land in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom but will be destroyed (Ezek. 20:38; 34:16). Jesus Christ speaks of this time of judgment as the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matt 25:31-46).

[For more on the Sheep and Goat Judgment, see commentary on Matt. 25:32. For more on the Millennial Kingdom, Christ’s 1000 year kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

Eze 20:38(top)
Eze 20:39(top)
Eze 20:40

“For on my holy mountain.” That is, Mount Zion in Israel. When Ezekiel was prophesying, Israel and Judah had been captured by foreign armies and scattered throughout foreign lands. But just as there had been an exodus from Egypt and Israel got its own land, now Ezekiel foretells of another exodus, with the faithful people of Israel leaving their exile and being regathered in Israel and worshiping God on His holy mountain. That regathering is still future.

“on the highest mountain of Israel.” The literal Hebrew is difficult to understand: “On the mountain of the height of Israel.” The meaning is the highest mountain of Israel (cp. NAB). In the Millennial Kingdom, the mountain on which God’s Temple and the city of Jerusalem are located will be the highest mountain in the world. Other verses that say that Mount Zion will be the highest mountain include Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1. [For more on the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

“all the house of Israel, all of them, will serve me in the land.” Although by Ezekiel’s time the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of the ten northern tribes, had been long before carried away by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:6), the prophecy was that Israel would be regathered and would serve God in the land of Israel. [For more on the ten lost tribes of Israel being regathered in the Millennial Kingdom, see commentary on Jer. 32:37].

“there…there…there.” When God reestablishes Israel, which will be in the Millennial Kingdom, the Temple will be on Mount Zion and the worship of Yahweh will happen there. There is a clear emphasis in this verse that it will be “there,” on Mount Zion in Israel, that Yahweh will be worshiped. Ezekiel’s prophecy of that fact would be very comforting and encouraging to the people listening to Ezekiel who had been carried as captive to Babylon and places some 600 miles east of Jerusalem.

Eze 20:41

“I will show my holiness through you.” All the nations will see that God is holy because of the way He treats Israel.

Eze 20:42

“lifted up my hand.” A way of swearing an oath. See commentary on Ezekiel 20:5.

“I lifted up my hand and swore to give to your fathers.” One of the reasons that there must be a Millennial Kingdom, a future kingdom of Christ on earth, is that God swore to give the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants. Yet Abraham never owned land in Israel (cp. Acts 7:5). Furthermore, between Israel’s failure to conquer the land under Joshua, and the fact that through much of Israel’s history part or all of the land was controlled by foreigners—the Philistines, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and others—God’s promise that Israel would have the land has not been fulfilled. Yet God’s promise must be fulfilled; and it will be when Jesus Christ comes back to earth, fights the Battle of Armageddon, conquers the earth and gives the land of Israel back to the Israelites.

Eze 20:43

“And there you will remember.” When the Israelites are back in the land of Israel, which will occur at the Resurrection of the Righteous (the First Resurrection), the people will remember how they lived their first life, and if they were sinful and selfish, they will hate that they lived that way.

“and you will loathe yourselves.” This is very strong wording considering that it is speaking about people who are saved and alive in the Millennial Kingdom. Many people who are saved and have everlasting life never make the effort to live a truly godly life on earth. In the future kingdom of Christ there will be a distinct difference between those people who made the effort to live truly godly lives and those people who got saved but continued living selfishly and in sin. The people who have little or no rewards in the Millennial Kingdom will realize why that is, and will be ashamed of their selfish lives.

[For more on shame in the future life, see commentary on 1 John 2:28 and 2 Cor. 5:10, “good or evil.” For more on the future Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

Eze 20:44(top)
Eze 20:45(top)
Eze 20:46(top)
Eze 20:47(top)
Eze 20:48(top)
Eze 20:49(top)

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