Ezekiel is the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
His first chapter describes the vision which he experienced near the river Chebar.
When he saw this vision, representing the presence of the God of Israel, “I fell upon my face”.
He lay on the ground, humbled and fearful.
However, his God did not want to meet with him on those terms, and lifted him up.
“He said to me ‘Son of man, stand upon your feet and I will speak with you’. And when he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me upon
my feet” (ch2 vv1-2).
Let him at least stand “face to face”, as it were.
God has important things to say to him.
First point; “I am sending you to the people of Israel” (v3).
The purpose of the mission is “You shall say to them; Thus says the Lord your God” (v4).
It is very likely that they won’t listen.
That people are “impudent and stubborn”- five times, altogether, God calls them a “rebellious house”- but Ezekiel is not to be afraid of their
And what will Ezekiel be required to say?
The message is clearly heavy, in more than one sense. It comes in the form of a scroll written closely on both sides, with “words of lamentation and
warning and woe” (vv8-10).
We must remember that these things are happening five or six years before God will allow Jerusalem to fall to the Babylonians. As part of his
preparation for the event, he is going to give warning of it, and explain his decisions in advance.
In his vision, Ezekiel must eat this scroll. He finds it sweet in his mouth, presumably because his God is the source of the words. However, he later
re-joins his people “in bitterness in the heat of my spirit”, because of the nature of their content.
God further warns him of the difficulties of his mission.
It should be simple enough in theory, because he goes to a people who speak his own tongue. He won’t be going to foreign peoples with hard
languages. Yet even such foreign peoples are more likely to listen to him, despite the language barriers, than Israel themselves.
“All the house of Israel are of a hard forehead and of a stubborn heart” (ch3 v7).
But Ezekiel is not to worry, because God will make his forehead even harder than theirs’.
He will not be at any disadvantage In the clash of heads.
Therefore, God repeats, “Go to your people and say ‘Thus says the Lord’,; whether they hear or refuse to hear”.
Then the Spirit carries him away and he returns to the rest of the exiles, so drained and discouraged by his experience that he does nothing for seven
days but “sit there overwhelmed”.
At the end of the seven days, he receives two further messages, explaining the mission in more elaborate detail.
The first seems to be given to him directly, while he is sitting there.
It is a rather disconcerting warning about the terms and conditions of his mission.
He has been appointed as a “watchman for the house of Israel” (v16)
He is expected to give warnings to two different kinds of people.
There is the wicked man, who will die in his iniquity. If Ezekiel has warned him of this, then the man is responsible for his own death. But if
Ezekiel has neglected to warn him, God will place the responsibility upon Ezekiel himself; “I will require his blood at your hand”.
Then there is the righteous man, who may meet a “stumbling-block” and be tempted to fall away from his righteousness. If Ezekiel has failed to
warn him, then God will, once again, require his blood from Ezekiel.
But if Ezekiel warns the righteous man and the man heeds the warning, that man will live, and Ezekiel will also have saved his own life.
These are very hard terms of service, especially when the servant has not volunteered.
This must be the first attempt to get him out of the rut of “sitting there overwhelmed”.
Then the Lord “put his hand” upon Ezekiel, and sent him out for another encounter with the “Glory”, the vision of God seen in the first
There God announces the details of how this mission is going to be managed.
Ezekiel will be placed under two restraints.
There will be a restraint on his movements. He is to shut himself in his house, and he will be deprived of the ability to circulate among the people,
“as if” (I think) cords have been placed round his body.
There will also be a restraint upon his speech. He will be made dumb.
“But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them…” (v27).
It isn’t clear how these restraints are enforced; perhaps it will be the combined effect of his own obedience and “the hand of the Lord”.
Commentators tie themselves in knots trying to understand the exact period of the speech restraint.
We know that this restriction, or a similar restriction, is lifted when the news comes about the fall of Jerusalem- “my mouth was opened and I was
no longer dumb” (ch33 v22).
However, the same verse reports that “the hand of the Lord was upon me the evening before the fugitive came”, which suggests that his dumbness had
been freshly imposed.
The most natural interpretation at first glance is that Ezekiel’s mouth is closed here in ch3 and kept closed until ch33.
The problem is that the interval between the two events is filled with a sequence of spoken prophecy, which would have to be accounted for.
Other interpreters propose that the warning here has been misplaced, and the closing of Ezekiel’s mouth should be identified with “the hand of the
Lord was upon me” in the later chapter.
I think the simple solution is to abandon the assumption that there was only one period when Ezekiel was prevented from speaking.
His dumbness was not continuous, but intermittent.
The promise that God would open his mouth “when I speak to you” should be understood as “whenever
I speak to you”.
It seems to me, looking through the later chapters, that God probably shuts Ezekiel’s mouth in two sets of circumstances.
Ezekiel may be made dumb when he is “acting out” a prophecy. Then the onlookers, receiving no spoken explanation, will be obliged to concentrate
on his actions in order to work out the meaning for themselves. This would be much more effective in impressing the meaning on their memories. Thus
the dumbness imposed in this chapter is probably meant to apply during the acted-out siege of the next two chapters.
Alternatively, he may be made dumb for a short period before he is given a spoken prophecy to deliver, which is precisely what happens in ch33. This
would have the same effect as the modern institutional habit of pre-announcing the fact that an announcement is going to be made. That is, it would
raise expectations and create a sense of anticipation.
These restrictions of movement and speech would achieve the result which we see in ch8 and ch14. Since Ezekiel could no longer go out among the people
and talk to them, the leaders of the people would come to him instead, driven by their curiosity.
God has dealt with his previous numb state of “sitting among them overwhelmed” by exaggerating it and turning it into a virtue which furthers the
edit on 12-1-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)