For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 22
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 18; 2 Corinthians 11; Ezekiel 25; Psalm 73
EZEKIEL 25—32 PRESERVES Ezekiel’s oracles against the nations. If Yahweh is the God of the whole earth, it is not surprising if he has things to say to individual nations other than Israel, quite apart from what he says to all nations without distinction. Certainly there is ample evidence that God holds all nations responsible for the sins they commit on the grand scale—he may not hold them responsible for the details of the Law of Moses, but he is certainly ready to impose judgment where there is arrogance, cruelty, aggression, covenant breaking, and rapacity. Always that proverb is true: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
Four more preliminary observations will orient us to these chapters. (a) The number of nations treated is seven: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt. The same number of nations appears in Amos. These oracles may have been uttered over an extended span of Ezekiel’s ministry, but their gathering in this way into seven, and only seven, suggests the number itself is symbolic: God speaks to all the nations. (b) Intriguingly, Babylon is not included. Probably that is because Babylon is God’s agent in crushing all of these nations. (c) By far the majority of the space is given over to the condemnation of Tyre, at that point a powerful city-state made awesomely wealthy by her trade. After Nebuchadnezzar finished with Jerusalem, the next city he successfully besieged was Tyre—and that siege lasted thirteen years. Undoubtedly the exiles would be interested to hear whether or not a city like Tyre would be held accountable in the same way that Jerusalem was. (d) From a literary point of view, the collection of these oracles into one group, squeezed between chapter 24 and chapter 33 (when the news of Jerusalem’s fall arrives in Babylon), has the effect of heightening the dramatic tension. The first two dozen chapters of Ezekiel colorfully specify what God will do. Then, before unveiling the outcome, this book records that God’s justice will be meted out on all the nations. And then comes the report of what has happened to Jerusalem.
The burden of Ezekiel 25, with its oracles against the first four nations (all of them small states around Judah) contains a salutary lesson. When the mighty Babylonian army finally attacked and destroyed Jerusalem, these nearby states joined in the final assault. Probably in part they were trying to win the favor of Babylon. They were also trying to demolish Judah. Their heartless gloating and arrogant vengeance is an abomination to the Lord, and they will pay for it. Reflect on the implications.