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The Vision of Ezekiel - Francisco Collantes (1629)

The word of God came to Ezekiel.

“Son of man, the people of Jerusalem have said of your fellow exiles and all the other Israelites, ‘They are far away from God. This land was given to us as our possession.’ Therefore tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’

“Tell them ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’

“They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them. I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God.

“But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declared the Sovereign Lord.”

Fendt Vision of Ezekiel - Unknown artist (1565)Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, lifted their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.

The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me, and I told the exiles everything the Lord had shown me.

What the story means to us today

Consolation that God will continue to deliver to us today

Like many today, the exiled Jews worried that God was not listening to them, that he had abandoned them. They heard citizens around them degrade and belittle them and they became impatient, waiting for God to deliver the Promise Land to them.

In their day, the Jews had the prophet Ezekiel to relay God’s promise to them. Although we have no prophets such as Ezekiel today, we have the written record, the Bible, to confirm instances of the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Additional thoughts and considerations

The end of Ezekiel’s vision

Up to this point in our story, Ezekiel’s visions revealed nothing but doom and destruction. The last chapter ended with a worried Ezekiel asking God, “Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?” In response, God reveals his plan for Israel’s salvation and restoration. After explaining that his covenant will be fulfilled, God leaves Ezekiel.

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“The cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings and the glory of God was above them. The glory of God went up from the city and stopped above the mountain (the Mount of Olives) east of it.”

After God concludes his message with hope, his presence is removed from the people of Israel and God’s movement, as seen by Ezekiel in his vision, is now complete.

Tracking God’s movement in Ezekiel’s vision

Prophet Ezekiel - Quinten Massys (1589)In these verses, we see God’s spirit removed to the Mount of Olives. This marks the conclusion of God’s movement during Ezekiel’s vision. Taking prior verses into consideration, we can now see God’s movement in its entirety.

From one cherub on the ark to another.

From the ark to the temple door.

From the temple threshold back to the cherubim to be transported.

Accompanied by the cherubim to the east gate.

Enters the courtyard of the temple.

Moves to the altar of sacrifice.

Moves to the roof of the temple.

Moves to the temple wall.

Moves to the city.

Moves to the Mount of Olives (where Jesus also ascended to heaven and where he will return).

The wages of sin

God promises to restore Israel and embody them with a “new spirit”. For those that follow God’s statutes, “they will be my people and I will be their God.” However, God conditions his promise to the Israelites. Those who refuse to obey, whose hearts are “devoted to detestable things”, can expect judgement for their sin. God says he will “repay them for what they have done”. It is just another example of consequences for actions. Follow God and observe his regulations and God will reward you. If you go astray, you must be held responsible for the consequences.

The cherubim

Jews gathering at Absalom's Tomb in Kidron Valley (about 1920)Cherubim (the plural of cherub) are mentioned throughout the Bible (more than 90 times in the Old Testament). While classified among the angels, what they are is uncertain. The Hebrew word bears no English equivalent but probably means something like “a divine being associated with a sanctuary”. Similar entities are also described in Egyptian and Mesopotamian religious documents and art. In fact, Egyptian Sphinxes may portray them most accurately.

In Genesis 3:24, cherubim are placed by God to guard the garden of Eden. They are described in various verses in the Bible as bearers of the throne and attendants of God. Ezekiel mentioned them in Ezekiel 1:4 where he identified them as the “living creatures” he saw by the Kabar River. It appears as if Ezekiel now recognizes that the living creatures are indeed cherubim. In Ezekiel’s context (and as mentioned in several biblical verses), they are described as “throne bearers”

The science and history behind the story

The Mount of Olives

When God leaves Ezekiel, he moves over the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. God’s movement and its relationship to the Mount of Olives is important. In the New Testament, we see Jesus ascend into heaven (following his resurrection) from the Mount of Olives with the promise to return to mankind at the same place.

Notes on Biblical translation

Chaldea

Some translations specify “Chaldea” instead of “Babylon”. Chaldea (or Dhaldaea) existed from about 900 BC to 550 BC. After this, its people were assimilated into Babylon. Chaldea is sometimes used to refer to the Babylonians but more accurately, the Chaldeans were a people who lived in the southern part of Babylon, the outskirts of the city.

Bible Text

NIV

14 The word of the LORD came to me: 15 “Son of man, the people of Jerusalem have said of your fellow exiles and all the other Israelites, ‘They are far away from the LORD; this land was given to us as our possession.’

16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’

17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’

18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

22 Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 23 The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. 24 The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God.

Then the vision I had seen went up from me, 25 and I told the exiles everything the LORD had shown me.

The New International Versi

The Prophet Ezekiel - Byzantine manuscript (1891)

on. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

11:14 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 11:15 “Son of man, your brothers, your relatives, and the whole house of Israel, all of them are those to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘They have gone far away from the LORD; to us this land has been given as a possession.’

11:16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: Although I have removed them far away among the nations and have dispersed them among the countries, I have been a little sanctuary for them among the lands where they have gone.’

11:17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: When I regather you from the peoples and assemble you from the lands where you have been dispersed, I will give you back the country of Israel.’

11:18 “When they return to it, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 11:19 I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them; I will remove the hearts of stone from their bodies and I will give them tender hearts, 11:20 so that they may follow my statutes and observe my regulations and carry them out. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God. 11:21 But those whose hearts are devoted to detestable things and abominations, I hereby repay them for what they have done, says the sovereign LORD.”

11:22 Then the cherubim spread their wings with their wheels alongside them while the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. 11:23 The glory of the LORD rose up from within the city and stopped over the mountain east of it. 11:24 Then a wind lifted me up and carried me to the exiles in Babylonia, in the vision given to me by the Spirit of God.

Then the vision I had seen went up from me. 11:25 So I told the exiles everything the LORD had shown me.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

14 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 15 “Son of man, your brethren, your relatives, your countrymen, and all the house of Israel in its entirety, are those about whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Get far away from the LORD; this land has been given to us as a possession.’ 16 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” ’ 17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” ’ 18 And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. 19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.

22 So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them. 23 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.

24 Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to those in captivity. And the vision that I had seen went up from me. 25 So I spoke to those in captivity of all the things the LORD had shown me.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

14–15 The answer from GOD came back: “Son of man, your brothers—I mean the whole people of Israel who are in exile with you—are the people of whom the citizens of Jerusalem are saying, ‘They’re in the far country, far from GOD. This land has been given to us to own.’

16–20 “Well, tell them this, ‘This is your Message from GOD, the Master. True, I sent you to the far country and scattered you through other lands. All the same, I’ve provided you a temporary sanctuary in the countries where you’ve gone. I will gather you back from those countries and lands where you’ve been scattered and give you back the land of Israel. You’ll come back and clean house, throw out all the rotten images and obscene idols. I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you. I’ll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscled heart. Then you’ll obey my statutes and be careful to obey my commands. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!

21 “ ‘But not those who are self-willed and addicted to their rotten images and obscene idols! I’ll see that they’re paid in full for what they’ve done.’ Decree of GOD, the Master.”

22–23 Then the cherubim spread their wings, with the wheels beside them and the Glory of the God of Israel hovering over them. The Glory of GOD ascended from within the city and rested on the mountain to the east of the city.

24–25 Then, still in the vision given me by the Spirit of God, the Spirit took me and carried me back to the exiles in Babylon. And then the vision left me. I told the exiles everything that GOD had shown me.

The Vision of Ezekiel - Alexey Akindinov (2005)Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 15 Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD: unto us is this land given in possession. 16 Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. 17 Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. 19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.

22 Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and othe glory of the God of Israel was over them above. 23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. 24 Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. 25 Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

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Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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