Bible Question:

Please explain Ezekiel chapter 12.

Bible Answer:

Nebuchadnezzar had invaded Canaan and deported thousands of Jews to the city of Babylon in 605 B.C. This should have been a warning to the Jews that God was serious about their sin and that they needed to seek God, but it was not. The exiles did not repent but believed that all the prophetic predictions of the future destruction of Jerusalem and the land of Canaan were in error. They believed that the prophecies were false. They had a heart problem, not a head problem.

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days are long and every vision fails’?” (NASB) Ezek. 12:21-22

Ezekiel 12 is another warning from God to the Jews who were in exile in Babylon and Canaan that destruction was coming and very soon.

The Sign

Therefore, God told the prophet Ezekiel to give them a sign by acting as if he were going into exile before the “rebellious house.” He was to to do this before those . . .

. . . who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house. (NASB) Ezek. 12:2

So Ezekiel prepared his baggage during the day (v. 3-4) as God had directed, and then in the evening, he dug through a wall (v. 4-7) as one seeking to escape from the invaders. Ezekiel’s actions were successful because people started asking “What are you doing?” (v.9). So God told him to tell them that he was a sign to them that most of the Israelites back in Canaan would go into exile too (v. 10-11). Ezekiel predicted that “the prince,” or Zedekiah, who was in Jerusalem, would go into exile but not see Babylon. Zedekiah was called the prince because the real king of Canaan, King Jehoiakim, was already in exile in Babylon.

Ezekiel’s “sign” was fulfilled later when Nebuchadnezzar’s army defeated Zedekiah’s army, and then captured Zedekiah, who had left the city and was fleeing in the plains of Jericho (2 Kings 25:4-7; Jer. 39:4-10; 52:5-10). Zedekiah’s sons were killed; his eyes were blinded, and then he was taken to Babylon.

The Promise

Then God promised that the destruction of Israel would not be delayed any longer.

Therefore say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘I will make this proverb cease so that they will no longer use it as a proverb in Israel. But tell them, The days draw near as well as the fulfillment of every vision. For there will no longer be any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it,’ declares the Lord GOD.'” (NASB) Ezek. 12:23-25

The Jewish historian Josephus records the following:

Ezekiel also foretold in Babylon what calamities were coming upon the people, which when he heard, he sent accounts of them unto Jerusalem; but Zedekiah did not believe their prophecies, for the reason following: It happened that the two prophets agreed with one another in what they said as in all other things, that the city should be taken, and Zedekiah himself should be taken captive; but Ezekiel disagreed with him, and said, that Zedekiah should not see Babylon; while Jeremiah said to him, that the king of Babylon should carry him away thither in bonds; and because they did not both say the same thing as to this circumstance, he disbelieved what they both appeared to agree in, and condemned them as not speaking truth therein, although all the things foretold him did come to pass according to their prophecies . . .

Josephus. The Antiquities of the Jews. 10.7.2

Conclusion:

Ezekiel 12 is a strong warning to every believer that God will not wink at our sin forever. Yes, He is merciful and longsuffering but He hates evil. He will not allow His saints – His righteous ones – to sin and sin forever. Eventually, He will bring suffering into a sinning person’s life to encourage that person to stop sinning, if that person really belongs to Him. God wants a relationship with us, but He wants a holy one centered in love!

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