Forum Class #4 (Ezekiel)

 The widest thing in the universe is not space, it is the
potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image
of God, it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all
directions. Christians should seek for inner enlargement till
their outward dimension gives no hint of the vastness within.
... A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Pursuit of God [1948]

Ezekiel "Visits" Jerusalem (Chapters 8-11)

Ezekiel And The Destruction Of Jerusalem

Ezekiel, whose name means "God strengthens," had trained for the temple priesthood in Jerusalem, which he intended to enter at age 30. But he was carried into captivity by General (soon to be King) Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC--along with a number of fellow countrymen including King Jehoiachin. He was a contemporary of Daniel, though a few years older at the time of their deportation. In fact Daniel and his three friends (Dan. 1) had been taken to Babylon 8 years earlier in 605 after Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of the Egyptian armies at the Battle of Carchemish (Jer. 46:2). Five years after reaching Babylon, Ezekiel found himself called by God to awaken the remnant of the Jews in exile, to comfort them, to make them fully aware of God's continuing purposes for Israel. He was also to remind them also of God's dealings with all the nations. Ezekiel's clear and dazzling visions of the glory and splendor of the presence of God are accompanied by warnings of impending destruction of the temple and the beloved city. His wife died in 586 as a sign from God that the siege of Jerusalem had begun (24:16-18). The prophets words came true in the final destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC, however Ezekiel's work continued until his death about 570 BC.

The 8th through 11th Chapters of Ezekiel are revelations of what was malignantly wrong in Jerusalem. This vision came fourteen months after the first vision of God at the beginning of Ezekiel's ministry when he was first called.

So serious and deep-rooted was the national idolatry that God could only move in judgment---violently destroying most of his covenant people. Ezekiel's knowledge of what was then going on in Jerusalem, several hundred miles away, came to him in a series of great visions. When he received the divine revelation described in Chapter 8, he was sitting in his house in exile with the elders of Israel with him, waiting for a prophetic word from God. There the Spirit of God caught him up by a lock of his hair and transported him to Jerusalem, so he could have a bird's eye view of what was happening in the temple itself.

The present-day equivalent of viewing the activities and idolatries at the temple site would be for us to be enabled, as Jesus was, to see into the hearts of men, to know their motives and to be able to read behind the scenes men's secret conduct, to see things as God sees them rather than forming judgments based on outward appearances. Thus, Ezekiel's vision gives us insights that enable us to judge the inner state of our hearts before God, and if necessary to submit ourselves to God's corrective open-heart surgery.

"In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me (Ezekiel). Then I beheld, and lo, a form that had the appearance of a man; below what appeared to be his loins it was fire, and above his loins it was like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming bronze. He put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was (located) the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes (God) to jealousy. And behold, the (Shekinah) glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain."

We are given the year of this vision, it was the fifth day of the month of Elul, or September 592 BC. God has exact dates on His calendar of world events, though He does not reveal them to us in advance. The name most frequently used for God in this passage is Adonai Yahweh, which means "Lord Jehovah."

The impressive figure of a man seen in this vision was probably THE Angel of the LORD, that is, the Son of God, in one of his Old Testament preincarnate appearances which are known as "theophanies." The vision may be compared, for example, to that given in Revelation 1:12-16 where Jesus Christ in His present glory is pictured for us in similar imagery. The symbolism of gleaming bronze from the man's waist upwards speaks of judgment, and the fiery appearance of the rest of his body suggest the actual flames of destruction taking place.

The Shekinah, or Cloud of Glory, is here shown as the outshining Presence which accompanied the people of Israel in their wilderness wanderings---a Pillar of Fire by night and a Pillar of Cloud by day. The awesome Presence of the majesty and ineffable splendor of God at the time of the dedication of the First Temple by Solomon, 373 years earlier, is recorded in II Chronicles 7:1-3. In Ezekiel's time, the manifested presence of God as the Shekinah departed from the Temple (Ezekiel 10ff), to leave Jerusalem in stages, obviously with great reluctance.

However, in a yet-future day, the glowing cloud of the Shekinah will rest once again over Jerusalem marking the return of Messiah and the fulfillment of Israel's final destiny as chief among the nations, (Ezekiel 43, Matthew 24:29-31, Isaiah 4:2-6).

The image which provoked (God) to jealousy described was probably an obscene statue or image indicating the nation's open tolerance of sexual immorality. The "pillars" of Baal in the Old Testament were carved phallic symbols to remind the worshiper of unrestrained male virility associated with that pagan God. That such a symbol should be found anywhere near the temple, which was carefully marked off in zones of increasing holiness, should have been unthinkable to God's people. The worship of pagan deities such as Baal allowed the people of Israel to become sexually indulgent and permissive, to rational selfish behavior that was prohibited by the Law of Moses. God continues to give Ezekiel a personal tour around the Temple Mount:

"Then he said to me, 'Son of man, lift up your eyes now in the direction of the north.' So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance was this image of jealousy. And he said to me, 'Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.'"

A holy God can not have fellowship and remain in communion and intimate relationship with an unclean and profaned people. The Apostle Paul instructs us,

"What partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What accord does Christ have with Belial?...What agreement has the temple of God (our bodies) with idols?" (2 Corinthians 6:14,15)

Proverbs admonishes, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for out of the heart are the springs of life." (4:23) Jesus elaborated on this principle teaching that, "...out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man..."(Matthew 15). Whatever we set our affections upon becomes our god---whether it be a girlfriend, a sports car, a challenging career, a football star we admire, love of money and power, or the girl in the Playboy centerfold. Romans Chapter One says that idolatry sets in when we cease to worship and serve the true and living God with all our hearts and minds and souls and might. Next Ezekiel gets a look into the "inner life" of the leaders of the land:

"And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, and behold, there was a hole in the wall. Then he said to me, 'Son of man, dig in the wall': and when I dug in the wall, lo, there was a door. And he said to me, 'Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.' So I went in and saw; and there, portrayed upon the wall round about, were all kinds of creeping things, and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah, ("Yahweh hears"), the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the cloud of incense went up. Then he said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, every man in his room(s) of pictures? For they say, "The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land."' He also said to me, 'You will see still greater abominations which they commit.'"

The modern equivalent to these "rooms of pictures" would surely be television and movies. Taken together with pornographic literature, our secret fantasies, and the American macho male mythologies we live by today, these captivate us more fully than any statue of a golden calf ever could. In Ezekiel's day, "every man" had his "room of pictures"---his secret world of lustful fantasies, and inner idolatries which, though hidden largely from public view, reflected the condition of the hearts of the people towards personal and holy devotion to God. This passage is a reminder that whatever enters the "eye-gate" of man can have a special power to gain a grip on his mind and imagination. Jaazaniah's name ("Yahweh hears") implies he was aware that God hears all things, but evidently he had forgotten that God also sees all things, including the thoughts and intentions of the heart, (Hebrews 4:13). In his commentary, Ezekiel, (Intervarsity Press, 1969) John B. Taylor notes that Shaphan is probably to be identified with Josiah's secretary of state, and Ahikam, another of Shaphan's sons was an influential supporter of Jeremiah. Thus Jaazaniah evidently "was the black sheep of a worthy family."

"Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the LORD; and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then he said to me, 'Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.'"

The heart of all false religion in the world traces back to Nimrod and the Babylonian mystery religion. Tammuz was the divine child who died and was raised again, mentioned in connection with Semiramis, his mother, the wife of Nimrod.

Tammuz seems to have been virgin born without benefit of normal sexual intercourse in marriage. The cult of the mother-and-child was perpetuated in Egypt as Isis and Osiris, in Greece as Venus and Cupid, in Rome as Aphrodite and Eros, etc. Worship of the Great Mother and the nature/fertility rites of Canaan (Baal worship) are variations on this central idolatry of Babylon. Temple prostitution was common among the Canaanites whom the Israelites were supposed to have totally destroyed upon entering the land under Joshua. Instead the Israelites accommodated and incorporated Canaanite idolatries into the worship of Yahweh. The scene of women weeping for Tammuz seems to suggest the unfulfilled feminine longings of the women of Israel---their husbands and brothers and fathers were preoccupied elsewhere. The worship in the temple and its courts was not centered around marriage, family and interpersonal relationships, but around the private idolatries of individuals split off from God and from one another---to each his own. Left to himself man (and woman) seem to seek their sexual fulfillment everywhere else except in the one God-given relationship of marriage which God designed for our happiness and wholeness. The result is a sexual brokenness and confusion of sexual roles at all levels of society.

"And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD; and behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces towards the east, worshiping the sun to the east. Then he said to me, 'Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too slight a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence, and provoke me further to anger? Lo, they put the branch to the nose. Therefore I will deal in my wrath; my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; and though they cry in my eyes with a loud voice, I will not hear them.'"

The Temple in Jerusalem faced east to symbolize that hope and light and the eventual appearing of the Messiah would come from the direction of the rising sun. Open and deliberate sun worship (which was central to the Egyptian religion, for example) was a flaunting of the law of Moses forbidding the worship of the "host of heaven," that is the sun, moon, stars, or the angelic beings they symbolize. In turning their backs to the Holy of Holies in order to bow to the east, the twenty-four representative temple elders were turning their backs to God and to the sanctuary where God was to be served and revered. By their actions they were denying the very purpose for which the temple was built. The true temple of God today is the body of every believer, and true and proper service to God is to allow Him to put His temples to the holy uses He has made us for. Scripture reveals that violence and lawlessness in a nation are the results of spiritual decline and rejection of God and His ways. Taylor says, "When church leadership becomes corrupted there is no end of chaos that is caused to the life of the nation."

The euphemistic expression "to put the branch to the nose" perhaps is somewhat equivalent to our modern expression, "to thumb one's nose at someone." It probably means something even more vulgar, literally it is "to put forth a stench before the nose (of God)."

After ignoring repeated warnings from a long-suffering and patient, merciful God, there do come times in all our lives, and in national and corporate life as well, when judgment can no longer be averted. Ezekiel is given to see God's prompt action of judgment against all Jerusalem which is to be carried out for Him by angels sent for that purpose. The year, the month, the day, and the hour for judgment had arrived.

Our attention is called to the fact that judgment begins at the sanctuary. Perhaps this is the inspiration for Peter's word to the church, "The time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God. And if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And 'if the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the sinner and ungodly appear?'" (1 Peter 4:17,18, Prov. 11:31) The text in Ezekiel continues:

"Then he (the Lord) cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, 'Draw near, you executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.' And lo, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, every man with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his side. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Ichabod: The Glory Departs

"Now the (Shekinah) glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherubim on which it rested to the threshold of the house; and he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his side. And the LORD said to him, 'Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.' And to the others he said in my hearing, 'Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.' So they began with the elders who were before the house. Then he said to them, 'Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go forth.' So they went forth, and smote in the city. And while they were smiting, and I was left alone, I fell upon my face, and cried, 'Ah Lord GOD! Wilt thou destroy all that remains of Israel in the outpouring of thy wrath upon Jerusalem?' "Then he (God) said to me, 'The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice; for they say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see' As for me, my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity, but I will requite their deeds upon their heads.'

"And lo, the man clothed in linen, with the writing case at his side, brought back word, saying, 'I have done as thou didst command me.'" (Ezekiel, Chapters 8 and 9)

The six men referred to are six angels. "Executioners of the city" is taken from a Hebrew verb meaning "to visit," i.e. with punishment. They are accompanied by a seventh recording angel who is instructed to mark the forehead of all in Israel who were sighing and moaning over her sins. The mark was Tav, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, probably written as an "X", or as"+" that is, like a cross. Those so marked were to be protected from destruction since they were a remnant who lived in repentance and sorrow over the apostasy of their nation (Taylor).

The text continues:

And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, "Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city." And he went in as I watched. Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court.

Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house (the temple) was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD'S glory. And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks. Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, "Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim," that he went in and stood beside the wheels. And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man's hand under their wings.

And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. As for their appearance, all four looked alike--as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went. And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, "Wheel."
Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar. When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them. When the cherubim stood still, the wheels stood still, and when one was lifted up, the other lifted itself up, for the spirit of the living creature was in them.

Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD'S house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. And the likeness of their faces was the same as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straight forward.

Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the East Gate of the LORD'S house, which faces eastward; and there at the door of the gate were twenty-five men, among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. And He said to me: "Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give wicked counsel in this city, "who say, 'The time is not near to build houses; this city is the cauldron, and we are the meat.' "Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man!" Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me, "Speak! 'Thus says the LORD: "Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind. "You have multiplied your slain in this city, and you have filled its streets with the slain." 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Your slain whom you have laid in its midst, they are the meat, and this city is the cauldron; but I shall bring you out of the midst of it. "You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you," says the Lord GOD. "And I will bring you out of its midst, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and execute judgments on you. "You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. "This city shall not be your cauldron, nor shall you be the meat in its midst. I will judge you at the border of Israel. "And you shall know that I am the LORD; for you have not walked in My statutes nor executed My judgments, but have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which are all around you."'"

Now it happened, while I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then I fell on my face and cried with a loud voice, and said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Will You make a complete end of the remnant of Israel?" Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the East Gate of the LORD'S house, which faces eastward; and there at the door of the gate were twenty-five men, among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. And He said to me: "Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give wicked counsel in this city, "who say, 'The time is not near to build houses; this city is the cauldron, and we are the meat.' "Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man!" Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me, "Speak! 'Thus says the LORD: "Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind. "You have multiplied your slain in this city, and you have filled its streets with the slain." 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Your slain whom you have laid in its midst, they are the meat, and this city is the cauldron; but I shall bring you out of the midst of it. "You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you," says the Lord GOD. "And I will bring you out of its midst, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and execute judgments on you. "You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. "This city shall not be your cauldron, nor shall you be the meat in its midst. I will judge you at the border of Israel. "And you shall know that I am the LORD; for you have not walked in My statutes nor executed My judgments, but have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which are all around you."'" Now it happened, while I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then I fell on my face and cried with a loud voice, and said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Will You make a complete end of the remnant of Israel?"(10:1-11:13}

Ezekiel's lament (that all of his people would surely be destroyed if God persists in his slaughter of men, women and children without pity or without sparing) continues, "Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?" (Ezekiel 11:13) According to the Bible judgment is "God's strange work." God is long-suffering and reluctant to judge, yet as a Just God, He must inevitably deal with human evil:

"For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men. To crush under foot all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the right of a man in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord does not approve. Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?" (Lamentations 3:30-39)

In response to his prayers, an answer from God comes--a great unconditional promise from the Lord which would come to pass in the distant future to bless all of the nation of Israel. Here at Israel's darkest hour comes the first announcement by this prophet of the New Covenant and the Millennial age. (Compare Jeremiah 31:31ff).

"And the word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, your brethren, even your brethren, your fellow exiles, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, 'They have gone far from the LORD; to us this land is given for a possession.' Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary in small measure (or, "for a little while"), in the countries where they have gone.' Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: I will gather you from the peoples, and I will assemble you out of the countries where they have gone.' And I will give you the land of Israel.' And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things, and all its abominations. And I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will requite their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 11:14-21)

Finally, the Shekinah Glory Leaves the City from the Mount of Olives

So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them. And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city. Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, (Babylon) to those in captivity. And the vision that I had seen went up from me. So I spoke to those in captivity of all the things the LORD had shown me." (11:22-25)

The Destruction of the First Temple

The 9th of Av, 586 B.C.E.

O God, the heathen have come into thy inheritance;
they have defiled thy holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

They have given the bodies of thy servants to the birds of the air for food,
the flesh of thy saints to the beasts of the earth.

They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem,
and there was none to bury them.

We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those round about us.

How long, O LORD?
Wilt thou be angry for ever?
Will thy jealous wrath burn like fire?

Pour out thy anger on the nations that do not know thee,
and on the kingdoms that do not call on thy name!
For they have devoured Jacob,
and laid waste his habitation.

Do not remember against us the iniquities of our forefathers;
let thy compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins, for thy name's sake!
Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"

Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of thy servants be known
among the nations before our eyes!
Let the groans of the prisoners come before thee;
according to thy great power preserve those doomed to die!

Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbors the taunts
with which they have taunted thee, O Lord!
Then we thy people, the flock of thy pasture,
will give thanks to thee for ever;
from generation to generation we will recount thy praise.
(Psalm 79. A Psalm of Asaph)

God of Love, God of Judgment

A common charge leveled by critics of the Bible is that the Jewish Scriptures teaches a God of wrath and judgment and the Christian Writings teaches that God is love. Such claims are naive: God is Love, but He is also Holy and Just and can not act in a manner that is inconsistent with His character. At the time of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai the LORD passed before Moses:

...and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6, 7)

The Psalmist declares,

For thy steadfast love is great above the heavens, thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let thy glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 108:4, 5)

Because judgment from God is delayed, often for very long periods of time, some suppose that it will never happen. Yet individuals who have experienced the judgment of God for the failure to correct sinful failings in their lives will testify that when God does judge sin He is both relentless and thorough.

Isaiah reveals God's reluctance to judge his people - his longsuffering and patience. But when He acts God is thorough in "his strange work" of judgment:

For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim, he will be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon; to do his deed - strange is his deed! and to work his work - alien is his work! Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord GOD of hosts upon the whole land. Give ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Does he who plows for sowing plow continually? does he continually open and harrow his ground? When he has leveled its surface, does he not scatter dill, sow cummin, and put in wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and spelt as the border? For he is instructed aright; his God teaches him. Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cummin; but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cummin with a rod. Does one crush bread grain? No, he does not thresh it for ever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom." (Isaiah 28:21-29)

The Lamentations of Jeremiah describes God's judgment as accompanied by mercy and compassion,

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust - there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.

To crush under foot all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the right of a man in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord does not approve.

Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?

Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? (Lamentations 3:21-39)

A little reflection will show that God must intervene in human affairs as Judge of all the earth:

"All through the Bible we see God's love is manifest to men and women everywhere in urging them to escape this judgment. God in love pleads with people, 'Do not go on to this end!' But ultimately he must judge those who refuse his offer of grace. He says, in effect, 'I love you and I can provide all you need. Therefore love me, and you will find the fulfillment your heart is looking for.' But many men and women say, 'No, I do not want that. I will take your gifts, I will take all the good things you provide, but I do not want you! Let me run my own life. Let me serve my own ends. Let me have my own kingdom.' To such, God ultimately says, 'All right, have it your way!'

"God has three choices: first, he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In that case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails, must go on forever. God does not want that, and neither does man. Second, God can force men to obey him and control them as robots. But he will never do that because that means they cannot truly love him. Love cannot be forced. Therefore, third, the only choice God really has is that he must withdraw ultimately from those who refuse his love. He must let them have their own way forever. That results in the terrible torment of godlessness. If God is necessary to us, then to take him out of our lives is to plunge us into the most terrible sense of loneliness and abandonment that mankind can know. We have all experienced it to some small degree when we get what we want and then discover we do not want what we got! For that sense of bored emptiness to go on forever, is unspeakable torment." (Ray C. Stedman [1])

What is more difficult for us to accept is that God also judges His own covenant peoples, not just His enemies. These temporal judgments are disciplinary and corrective rather than punitive. In fact before God judges the unbelieving world He first judges His own people:

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:17, 18)

It is not as though the Lord had never warned His people Israel. The blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 27-28 Moses gave to the people as they were preparing to enter the land under Joshua were later to be read from Mt. Gerazim and Mt. Ebal at Shechem. The list is clear, and it is black and white.

Sadly, all manner of persons who know God, not just His special people the Jews, show a propensity for ignoring God, for not taking Him seriously, and for running off to follow their own ways and the ways of the world. Israel is a model nation, put on public display as "Exhibit A" to show us what any people is like when they ignore or rebel against their Creator--the One true God, Holy One of Israel.

The Hebrew Bible is a sad record of the gradual downhill course of Israel and Judah after the death of Solomon. Occasional good kings in Jerusalem brought about temporary reforms and revivals but these were soon forgotten after the death of the reformer. Repentance on the part of God's people delays judgment, so the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple occurred almost a century and a half after the fall of Samaria and the captivity of the ten northern tribes.

Prophets from God were sent both to Israel and to Judah, beginning with Elijah (about 875-850 B.C.) and extending to well after the return from exile (ie., to Malachi, 500-450 B.C.). The prophets revealed God's great displeasure at the course of events and they warned of impending judgment. This judgment on Israel was to eventually come, the prophets announced, by foreign invasion. Ruthless gentile kings and great armies were to sweep into Israel in waves of destruction in order to awaken the people - and to save a remnant. (Ref. 2)

In the days of Elijah only a small fraction of the nation was faithful to the Lord. But in answer to Elijah's complaint - he thought he was the only one left who was faithful - the Lord told him,

...I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:18)

Typically what the prophets had to say regarding impending judgments soon came to pass in accurate detail (the test of a true prophet is that his predictions must come true - 100% - otherwise he is a false prophet and under sentence of death). Many of the prophecies of the Bible have both an immediate and also a long term fulfillment. Sometimes there were more than two fulfillments intended.

In fact, many Old Testament prophecies have their greatest fulfillments in the future - which stretches out immediately before us in our own time. What these great men of God of old had to say is highly relevant for our understanding of the events that must unfold in the Middle East as the kingdom of God comes down upon us. There is good reason to believe that the human race is now being plunge into a time of history about which the Bible has more to say that any other period of history.

Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Destruction of Jerusalem

As the time of Judah's captivity and the destruction of the First Temple drew near Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah were particularly key figures.

Nebuchadnezzar ascended to the throne of Babylon on the death of his father Nabopolassor in September 605 after defeating the Egyptian armies under Pharaoh Neco at the famous battle of Carchemish in May and June of that year. (Mighty Egypt was permanently weakened at that battle and Babylon moved into ascendancy as the greatest gentile power in the ancient world). Daniel, and others were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in the same year (2 Kings 24:1). King Jehoiakim was made a vassal at that time, but soon proved rebellious.

And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by his servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon. (2 Kings 24:2-4)

The second invasion of Nebuchadnezzar came in 597. Jerusalem was captured, King Jehoichin was deported to Babylon, and Zedekiah was placed on the throne. (2 Kings 24:17) The final end is described in 2 Kings:

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the LORD it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it; and they built siegeworks against it round about. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city; the king with all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, though the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence upon him. They slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and took him to Babylon.

In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month - which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon - Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile.

But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen. And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried the bronze to Babylon. And they took away the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service, the firepans also, and the bowls. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. As for the two pillars, the one sea, and the stands, which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD, the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight. The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and upon it was a capital of bronze; the height of the capital was three cubits; a network and pomegranates, all of bronze, were upon the capital round about. And the second pillar had the like, with the network.

And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the threshold; and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and five men of the king's council who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city. And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. And the king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land. (2 Kings 24:1-25:21)

Second Chronicles, which emphasizes issues closer to the temple and God's point of view, gives this account:

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God; he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel. All the leading priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, till the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged; he gave them all into his hand.

And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. And they burned the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious vessels. He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. (2 Chronicles 36:11-21)

The best available account of the destruction of Jerusalem was written by the Jewish historian Josephus (who lived much later - during the Roman Period) (Ref. 3).

While Daniel spent a long and productive life as a major statesmen in the successive governments of Babylon, and while Ezekiel accompanied another large group of later exiles to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah was chosen to remain in Jerusalem during the final siege and destruction. Jeremiah, "the weeping prophet" took the judgments falling on Judah as if they were God's personal judgments upon himself. He was not, however, allowed by God to pray for the people (Jer. 8:16):

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding; he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow. He drove into my heart the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the burden of their songs all day long. He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, "Gone is my glory, and my expectation from the LORD." (Lamentations 3:1-18)

For forty years Jeremiah continued to preach and warn the people, all without any reward or sense of accomplishment. He was told to prophesy about the coming judgment on Israel's judgment as other prophets also did, and he was given promises of the future restoration and blessing of Israel.

Jeremiah specifically predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem and a seventy year captivity of the people. He also pronounced judgment on those who destroyed her, Babylon:

And the whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,' says the Lord; 'and I will make it a perpetual desolation. (Jeremiah 25:12,13).

For thus says the LORD: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." (Jer. 29:10-14)

Babylon was of course subsequently judged and leveled as predicted. In 553 B.C. Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians (Daniel 5). So significant were the prophecies of Jeremiah (50-51) against Babylon that major portions of his predictions await fulfillment in our own day. Tradition has it that Jeremiah was martyred about 584 after being taken captive to Egypt by his fellow countrymen who tried to flee Nebuchadnezzar.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah are read every year, to this day, by devout Jews gathering at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount on the 9th day of the month of Av. It was on the 9th of Av, 586 B.C. that the magnificent temple of Solomon was destroyed. It was on the 9th of Av in the year 70 A.D. that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.

Jerusalem During the Exile

After the First Temple was destroyed small numbers of Jews still came - when they were able - to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices:

Certain men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men with beards shaved and their clothes torn, having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord (Jeremiah 41:5).

A Psalm for Times of Desolation:

O God, why dost thou cast us off for ever? Why does thy anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember thy congregation, which thou hast gotten of old, which thou hast redeemed to be the tribe of thy heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where thou hast dwelt. Direct thy steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary! Thy foes have roared in the midst of thy holy place; they set up their own signs for signs. At the upper entrance they hacked the wooden trellis with axes. And then all its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers. They set thy sanctuary on fire; to the ground they desecrated the dwelling place of thy name. They said to themselves, "We will utterly subdue them"; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land. We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile thy name for ever? Why dost thou hold back thy hand, why dost thou keep thy right hand in thy bosom?

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst divide the sea by thy might; thou didst break the heads of the dragons on the waters. Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. Thou didst cleave open springs and brooks; thou didst dry up ever-flowing streams. Thine is the day, thine also the night; thou hast established the luminaries and the sun. Thou hast fixed all the bounds of the earth; thou hast made summer and winter. Remember this, O LORD, how the enemy scoffs, and an impious people reviles thy name. Do not deliver the soul of thy dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of thy poor for ever. Have regard for thy covenant; for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence. Let not the downtrodden be put to shame; let the poor and needy praise thy name. Arise, O God, plead thy cause; remember how the impious scoff at thee all the day! Do not forget the clamor of thy foes, the uproar of thy adversaries which goes up continually! (Psalm 74. A Maskil of Asaph.)


1. Ray C. Stedman, The Time of Harvest, Commentary on the Book of the Revelation.

2. The lives of the kings of Israel and Judah tell us much about ourselves. In a sense every man is king over the kingdom of his life. The extent that we subject ourselves to the inner rule of the King of kings, we shall prosper spiritually. But our waywardness will bring with it the same consequences as those ancient kings suffered. For this reason the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles should be read by believers with more than history in mind.

3. The Destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple:

The Account of Josephus:

Now the king of Babylon was very intent and earnest upon the siege of Jerusalem; and he erected towers upon great banks of earth and from them repelled those that stood upon the walls: he also made a great number of such banks round about the whole city, the height of which was equal to those walls. However, those that were within bore the siege with courage and alacrity, for they were not discouraged, either by the famine or by the pestilential distemper, but were of cheerful minds in the prosecution of the war, although those miseries within oppressed them also; and they did not suffer themselves to be terrified, either by the contrivances of the enemy, or by their engines of war, but contrived still different engines to oppose all the other withal, till indeed there seemed to be an entire struggle between the Babylonians and the people of Jerusalem, who had the greater sagacity and skill; the former party supposing they should be thereby too hard for the other, for the destruction of the city; the latter placing their hopes of deliverance in nothing else but in persevering in such inventions, in opposition to the other, as might demonstrate the enemy's engines were useless to them; and this siege they endured for eighteen months, until they were destroyed by the famine and the darts which the enemy threw at them from the towers.

Now the city was taken on the ninth day of the fourth month, in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah. They were indeed only generals of the king of Babylon, to whom Nebuchadnezzar committed the care of the siege, for he abode himself in the city of Riblah. The names of these generals who ravaged and subdued Jerusalem, if any one desire to know them, were these: Nergal Sharezer, Sangar Nebo, Rabsaris, Sarsechim, and Rabmag; and when the city was taken about midnight, and the enemy's generals were entered into the temple, and when Zedekiah was sensible of it, he took his wives and his children, and his captains and friends, and with them fled out of the city, through the fortified ditch, and through the desert; and when certain of the deserters had informed the Babylonians of this, at break of day, they made haste to pursue after Zedekiah, and overtook him not far from Jericho, and encompassed him about. But for those friends and captains of Zedekiah who and fled out of the city with him, when they saw their enemies near them, they left him and dispersed themselves, some one way and some another, and every one resolved to save himself, so the enemy took Zedekiah alive, when he was deserted by all but a few, with his children and his wives, and brought him to the king. When he was come, Nebuchadnezzar began to call him a wicked wretch, and a covenant breaker, and one that had forgotten his former words, when he promised to keep the country for him. He also reproached him for his ingratitude, that when he had received the kingdom from him, who had taken it from Jehoiachin, and given it him, he had made use of the power he gave him against him that gave it: "but," said he, " God is great, who hateth that conduct of thine, and hath brought thee under us." And when he had used these words to Zedekiah, he commanded his sons and his friends to be slain, while Zedekiah and the rest of the captains looked on; after which he put out the eyes and bound him, and carried him to Babylon. And these things happened as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had foretold to him, that he should be caught and brought before the king of Babylon, and should speak to him face to face, and should see his eyes with his own eyes; and this far did Jeremiah prophesy. But he was also made blind, and brought to Babylon but did not see is according to the prediction of Ezekiel.

We have said thus much because it was sufficient to show the nature of God to such as are ignorant of it that it is various, and acts many different ways, and that all even happen after a regular manner, in their proper season, and that it foretells what must come to pass. It is also sufficient to show the ignorance and incredulity of men, whereby they are not permitted to foresee any thing that is future, and are, without any guard, exposed to calamities, so that it is impossible for them to avoid the experience of those calamities.

And after this manner have the kings of David's race ended their lives, being in number twenty-one, until, the last king, who all together reigned five hundred and fourteen years, and six months, and ten days: of whom Saul, who was their first king, retained the government twenty years, though he was not of the same tribe with the rest.

And now it was that the king of Babylon sent Nebuzaradan, the general of his army, to Jerusalem, to pillage the temple; who had it also in command to burn it and the royal palace, and to lay the city even with the ground, and to transplant the people into Babylon. Accordingly he came to Jerusalem, in the eleventh year of king Zedekiah, and pillaged the temple, and carried out the vessels of God, both gold and silver, and particularly that large laver which Solomon dedicated, as also the pillars of brass, and their chapters, with the golden tablets and the candlesticks: and when he had carried these off, he set fire to the temple in the fifth month, the first day of the month, in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, and in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar; he also burnt the palace, and overthrew the city. Now the temple was burnt four hundred and seventy years, six months, and two days, after it was built it was then one thousand and sixty-two years, six months, and ten days, from the departure out of Egypt; and from the Deluge to the destruction of the temple, the whole interval was one thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven years, six months, and ten days; but from the generation of Adam, until this befell the temple, there were three thousand five hundred and thirteen years, six months. and ten days; so great was the number of years hereto belonging; and what actions were done during these years, we have particularly related. But the general of the Babylonian king now overthrew the city to the very foundations, and removed all the people, and took for prisoners the high-priest Seraiah, and Zephaniah, the priest that was next to him, and the rulers that guarded the temple, who were three in number, and he eunuch who was over the armed men, and seven friends of Zedekiah, and his scribe and sixty other rulers; all whom, together with the vessels they had pillaged, he carried to the king of Babylon to Riblah, a city of Syria So the king commanded the heads of the high-priest and of the rulers, to be cut off there; but he himself led all the captives and Zedekiah to Babylon. He also led Josedek the high-priest, away bound. He was the son of Seraiah, the high-priest, whom the king of Babylon had slain in Riblah, a city of Syria, as we just now related.

And now, because we have enumerated the succession of the kings, and who they were, and how long they reigned, I think it necessary to set down the names of the high priests, and who they were that succeeded one another in the high-priesthood under the kings. The first high-priest then at the temple which Solomon built was Zadok; after him his son Achimas received that dignity; after Achimas u as Azarias; his son was Joram, and Joram's son was Isus; after him was Axioramus; his son was Phideas, and Phideas's son was Sudeas, and Sudeas's son was Juelus, and Juelus's son was Jotham, and Jotham's son was Urias, and Urias's son was Nerias, and Nerias's son was Odeas, and his son w as Sallumus, and Sallumus's son was Elcias, and his son [was Azarias, and his son] was Sareas, and his son was Josedec, who was carried captive to Babylon. All these received the high-priesthood by succession, the sons from their father.

When the king was come to Babylon, he kept Zedekiah in prison until he died, and buried him magnificently, and dedicated the vessels he had pillaged out of the temple of Jerusalem to his own gods, and planted the people in the country of Babylon, but freed the high-priest from his bonds. (Antiquities of the Jews, Chapter VIII.)

 Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
--Proverbs 4:23

Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"

He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' "But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"--' (that is, a gift to God), "then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."

When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand: "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"

When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, "because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?"

And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, "thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. "All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Mark 7:1-23)

The Curses and Blessings of Israel Under the Covenant of the Land

Deuteronomy 28



1. "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 "And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God: 3 "Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 4 "Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 5 "Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 "Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 7 "The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. 8 "The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. 9 "The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. 10 "Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 "And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. 12 "The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 "And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 "So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15. "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: 16 "Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. 17 "Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 "Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 19 "Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20 "The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me. 21 "The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess. 22 "The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. 23 "And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. 24 "The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. 25 "The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26 "Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away. 27 "The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. 28 "The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. 29 "And you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you. 30 "You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes. 31 "Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue them. 32 "Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long; and there shall be no strength in your hand. 33 "A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually. 34 "So you shall be driven mad because of the sight which your eyes see. 35 "The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head. 36 "The LORD will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods--wood and stone. 37 "And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the LORD will drive you. 38 "You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. 39 "You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. 40 "You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off. 41 "You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity. 42 "Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land. 43 "The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. 44 "He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. 45 "Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 "And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever. 47 "Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 "therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. 49 "The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 "a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. 51 "And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. 52 "They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you. 53 "You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. 54 "The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, 55 "so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. 56 "The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, 57 "her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. 58 "If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD, 59 "then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues--great and prolonged plagues--and serious and prolonged sicknesses. 60 "Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. 61 "Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed. 62 "You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. 63 "And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess. 64 "Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known--wood and stone. 65 "And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. 66 "Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. 67 "In the morning you shall say, 'Oh, that it were evening!' And at evening you shall say, 'Oh, that it were morning!' because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see. 68 "And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, 'You shall never see it again.' And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you."

Notes and audio files in MP3 are on Lambert's web site:
Cassette Tapes, $3.00 each from Discovery Publishing,
January 31, 2004.