Ezekiel fell to his knees in reverence to the figure on the throne. The figure spoke to Ezekiel saying, “Stand up and I will speak to you.” The spirit entered Ezekiel and raised him to his feet.
The figure on the throne said, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, a rebellious nation that has revolted against me. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what God says’ and whether they choose to listen, they will know that a prophet has been among them. Do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid. You must speak my words to them. Open your mouth and eat what I give you.’”
Ezekiel saw a hand stretched toward him. In the hand was a scroll which unrolled before him. There was writing on both sides of the scroll. Written on the scroll were words of lament, mourning, and woe.
The figure said, “Eat this scroll and fill your stomach with it.”
Ezekiel ate the scroll – and it tasted as sweet as honey.
What the story means to us today
Spreading God’s word
Ezekiel is told to deliver a message. The original Hebrew words are identical to the words an ancient messenger would have used when delivering a message. God tells Ezekiel to deliver the message without regard to how the recipients respond. In other words, the people will be held responsible for how they respond to Ezekiel’s message but Ezekiel will only be held responsible for his obligation to deliver it.
It requires courage to disseminate God’s word, but it should be done (in a respectful and non-belligerent manner) no matter how people respond. Our purpose is to deliver the message and let God take care of the rest.
Additional thoughts and considerations
What God means by “Son of Man”
The phrase “son of man” is spoken many times in the Bible (including 93 times in Ezekiel). In the New Testament, the phrase is applied to Christ. It means “human one” or “member of the human family” and is used to delineate mankind from our creator.
The rebellious Israelites
There are several ambiguous words used in Ezekiel’s story. In some cases, the Hebrew text contains words only used a single time in the Old Testament. For instance, God Tells Ezekiel that the Israelites rebelled against him. The original Hebrew word indicates a harsh violation of a covenant. God saw the Israelites were violating his covenant with them. The Israelites have been given specific instructions and they were refusing to follow them. God granted mankind freewill, the ability to make decisions on our own, but when we run astray, God is disappointed with us.
Writing on both sides of the scroll
At the time, it was uncommon to write on both sides of a scroll. Ezekiel says the scroll handed to him had writing on both sides. This is often proposed to indicate the message was coherent, intense, and complete.
Did Ezekiel really eat the scroll?
In Ezekiel’s vision, he eats the scroll God handed him. The meaning of the act is symbolic. Ezekiel internalized God’s message before venturing forth to proclaim God’s message to the people. Note that although the message contained in the scroll was judgmental, Ezekiel recognized it was the word of God and thus “tasted as sweet as honey” in his mouth.
Notes on Biblical translation
Ezekiel says, “the Spirit” came into him and raised him to his feet. In the original text, it is difficult to discern the meaning of “spirit”. It could be the “life force” that drives all human beings. It could mean the power of strength and courage.
The Hebrew word used hints at “wind”, possibly indicating a “breath” of God raised him to his feet. Possibly the breath of the speaker moved like wind, entered Ezekiel, and helped raise him to his feet.
2 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
3 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
1 2 It said, “Son of man, stand up. I have something to say to you.”
2 The moment I heard the voice, the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. As he spoke to me, I listened.
3–7 He said, “Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, ‘This is the Message of GOD, the Master.’ They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels.
8 “Only take care, son of man, that you don’t rebel like these rebels. Open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
9–10 When I looked he had his hand stretched out to me, and in the hand a book, a scroll. He unrolled the scroll. On both sides, front and back, were written lamentations and mourning and doom.
1 3 He told me, “Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel.”
2–3 As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, “Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!”
So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.
The NET Bible
2:1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak with you.” 2:2 As he spoke to me, a wind came into me and stood me on my feet, and I heard the one speaking to me.
2:3 He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the house of Israel, to rebellious nations who have rebelled against me; both they and their fathers have revolted against me to this very day. 2:4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and hard-hearted, and you must say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says.’ 2:5 And as for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 2:6 But you, son of man, do not fear them, and do not fear their words—even though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions—do not fear their words and do not be terrified of the looks they give you, for they are a rebellious house! 2:7 You must speak my words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious. 2:8 As for you, son of man, listen to what I am saying to you: Do not rebel like that rebellious house! Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.”
2:9 Then I looked and realized a hand was stretched out to me, and in it was a written scroll. 2:10 He unrolled it before me, and it had writing on the front and back; written on it were laments, mourning, and woe.
3:1 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you—eat this scroll—and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 3:2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll.
3:3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth.
Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.
King James Version
2 And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. 2 And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and cset me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. 4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. 5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for gthey are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. 6 And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though kbriers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. 7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. 8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.
9 And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; 10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.
3 Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. bThen did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.