EZEKIEL 24, 25, 26 and 27
The Lord is very precise in his timing. “Make sure you record this date, Ezekiel”, he instructed in chapter 24. On the tenth day of the tenth month of the ninth year of King Zedekiah’s reign in Jerusalem (January 15th 588 BC, in our calendar), the King of Babylon began the final siege that would end in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. The rebellious Jews were like meat and bones in a cooking pot (the city) and a fire of God’s judgment was being lit under that pot. These ‘choice’ pieces of meat (as they called themselves) who thought that they had been spared exile nine years previously – ‘obviously as a result of their innate goodness’ – were about to receive the shock of their lives! For God was not just about to cook the meat well, but he was going to burn it to a cinder and melt away the evil impurities with the blowtorch of his wrath. The much-threatened time had finally come!
The price of being a true prophet of the Lord was huge; not only did Ezekiel have to put up with being mocked and threatened, then ignored and abused in equal measure, he was also required to ‘act out’ many of the prophecies that God was bringing through him. The most terrible of all was to reflect the loss of the Lord’s sanctuary that Israel was about to suffer as a result of the siege. And God’s way of enacting the severity of that loss was to cause Ezekiel to suddenly lose his wife! “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears… do not mourn for the dead”. It happened the following day, just as the Lord had said (and the day that the Jerusalem temple was burned to the ground). What a price to pay for serving the Lord so faithfully in the prophetic ministry!
Why did God demand such a heavy sacrifice, and why did he forbid Ezekiel to make any public display of grief – in a land where public grief was not only normal but almost demanded? It was to underline the grief God felt over his people, but more importantly, to show rebel Israel that God’s justice was more important than his feelings towards his temple, his people and the system of sacrifices and offerings that the Lord himself had established. “I desire obedience more than sacrifice”, he had already stated. But for Ezekiel this must have been of small comfort, so very hard to endure, and it must had demanded a huge degree of faith in the coming Kingdom of Heaven – the only thing that made sense of the futility and hurt of living in the present age.
Then follows in chapters 25-27 a series of judgments over Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, and Tyre, in punishment for the manner in which they had treated Israel/Judah and gloated over Jerusalem’s demise. Tyre actually gets three whole chapters of prophecy and lament. It was an island fortress that had an extra harbour on the mainland. God promised to send invading nations against Tyre: “…like the sea casting up its waves” (26:3). There were two phases of war against the city, separated by many hundreds of years. The first, involving Nebuchadnezzar, caused the destruction of the mainland city; the second related to the eventual capture and total destruction of the island fortress after a seven-month siege by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. After that it was never rebuilt and became a place for spreading out fishing nets.
Chapter 27 is a lament over the fallen city, which had been so full of pride and self-importance: “I am perfect in beauty”. All those trading nations who had done good business with Tyre would be shocked to the core. Who could believe that such an impregnable fortress would finally fall!