20:1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month, 1 some of the elders 2 of Israel came to seek 3 the Lord, and they sat down in front of me. 20:2 The word of the Lord came to me: 20:3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and tell them: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Are you coming to seek me? As surely as I live, I will not allow you to seek me, 4 declares the sovereign Lord.’ 20:4 “Are you willing to pronounce judgment? 5 Are you willing to pronounce judgment, son of man? Then confront them with the abominable practices of their fathers, 20:5 and say to them:
“‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: On the day I chose Israel I swore 6 to the descendants 7 of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore 8 to them, “I am the Lord your God.” 20:6 On that day I swore 9 to bring them out of the land of Egypt to a land which I had picked out 10 for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, 11 the most beautiful of all lands. 20:7 I said to them, “Each of you must get rid of the detestable idols you keep before you, 12 and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” 20:8 But they rebelled against me, and refused to listen to me; no one got rid of their detestable idols, 13 nor did they abandon the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out 14 my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 20:9 I acted for the sake of my reputation, 15 so that I would not be profaned before the nations among whom they lived, 16 before whom I revealed myself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 17
20:10 “‘So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them to the wilderness. 20:11 I gave them my statutes 18 and revealed my regulations to them. The one 19 who carries 20 them out will live by them! 21 20:12 I also gave them my Sabbaths 22 as a reminder of our relationship, 23 so that they would know that I, the Lord, sanctify them. 24 20:13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not follow my statutes and they rejected my regulations (the one who obeys them will live by them), and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I decided to pour out 25 my rage on them in the wilderness and destroy them. 26 20:14 I acted for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 20:15 I also swore 27 to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them to the land I had given them – a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. 20:16 I did this 28 because they rejected my regulations, did not follow my statutes, and desecrated my Sabbaths; for their hearts followed their idols. 29 20:17 Yet I had pity on 30 them and did not destroy them, so I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.
20:18 “‘But I said to their children 31 in the wilderness, “Do not follow the practices of your fathers; do not observe their regulations, 32 nor defile yourselves with their idols. 20:19 I am the Lord your God; follow my statutes, observe my regulations, and carry them out. 20:20 Treat my Sabbaths as holy 33 and they will be a reminder of our relationship, 34 and then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” 20:21 “‘But the children 35 rebelled against me, did not follow my statutes, did not observe my regulations by carrying them out (the one who obeys 36 them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I decided to pour out 37 my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness. 20:22 But I refrained from doing so, 38 and acted instead for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 20:23 I also swore 39 to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the lands. 40 20:24 I did this 41 because they did not observe my regulations, they rejected my statutes, they desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on 42 their fathers’ idols. 20:25 I also gave 43 them decrees 44 which were not good and regulations by which they could not live. 20:26 I declared them to be defiled because of their sacrifices 45 – they caused all their first born to pass through the fire 46 – so that I would devastate them, so that they will know that I am the Lord.’ 47
20:27 “Therefore, speak to the house of Israel, son of man, and tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: In this way too your fathers blasphemed me when they were unfaithful to me. 20:28 I brought them to the land which I swore 48 to give them, but whenever they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices there and presented the offerings that provoke me to anger. They offered their soothing aroma there and poured out their drink offerings. 20:29 So I said to them, What is this high place you go to?’” (So it is called “High Place” 49 to this day.)
20:30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Will you defile yourselves like your fathers 50 and engage in prostitution with detestable idols? 20:31 When you present your sacrifices 51 – when you make your sons pass through the fire – you defile yourselves with all your idols to this very day. Will I allow you to seek me, 52 O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I will not allow you to seek me! 53
20:32 “‘What you plan 54 will never happen. You say, “We will be 55 like the nations, like the clans of the lands, who serve gods of wood and stone.” 56 20:33 As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm, 57 and with an outpouring of rage, I will be king over you. 20:34 I will bring you out from the nations, and will gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm and with an outpouring of rage! 20:35 I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 20:36 Just as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the sovereign Lord. 20:37 I will make you pass under 58 the shepherd’s staff, 59 and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 20:38 I will eliminate from among you the rebels and those who revolt 60 against me. I will bring them out from the land where they have been residing, but they will not come to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
20:39 “‘As for you, O house of Israel, this is what the sovereign Lord says: Each of you go and serve your idols, 61 if you will not listen to me. 62 But my holy name will not be profaned 63 again by your sacrifices 64 and your idols. 20:40 For there on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord, all the house of Israel will serve me, all of them 65 in the land. I will accept them there, and there I will seek your contributions and your choice gifts, with all your holy things. 20:41 When I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, I will accept you along with your soothing aroma. I will display my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. 20:42 Then you will know that I am the Lord when I bring you to the land of Israel, to the land I swore 66 to give to your fathers. 20:43 And there you will remember your conduct 67 and all your deeds by which you defiled yourselves. You will despise yourselves 68 because of all the evil deeds you have done. 20:44 Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for the sake of my reputation and not according to your wicked conduct and corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord.’”
20:45 (21:1) 69 The word of the Lord came to me: 20:46 “Son of man, turn toward 70 the south, 71 and speak out against the south. 72 Prophesy against the open scrub 73 land of the Negev, 20:47 and say to the scrub land of the Negev, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look here, 74 I am about to start a fire in you, 75 and it will devour every green tree and every dry tree in you. The flaming fire will not be extinguished, and the whole surface of the ground from the Negev to the north will be scorched by it. 20:48 And everyone 76 will see that I, the Lord, have burned it; it will not be extinguished.’”
20:49 Then I said, “O sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Does he not simply speak in eloquent figures of speech?’”
[20:4] 5 tn Heb “will you judge.” Here the imperfect form of the verb is probably used with a desiderative nuance. Addressed to the prophet, “judge” means to warn of or pronounce God’s impending judgment.
[20:6] 11 sn The phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey,” a figure of speech describing the land’s abundant fertility, occurs in v. 15 as well as Exod 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; Deut 6:3; 11:9; 26:9; 27:3; Josh 5:6; Jer 11:5; 32:23 (see also Deut 1:25; 8:7-9).
[20:7] 12 tn Heb “each one, the detestable things of his eyes, throw away.” The Pentateuch does not refer to the Israelites worshiping idols in Egypt, but Josh 24:14 appears to suggest that they did so.
[20:9] 17 tn Heb “to whom I made myself known before their eyes to bring them out from the land of Egypt.” The translation understands the infinitive construct (“to bring them out”) as indicating manner. God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt was an act of self-revelation in that it displayed his power and his commitment to his promises.
[20:16] 28 tn The words “I did this” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons. Verses 15-16 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text. The translation divides this sentence into two for stylistic reasons.
[20:24] 41 tn The words “I did this” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons. Verses 23-24 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text. The translation divides this sentence into two for stylistic reasons.
[20:25] sn The content of the verse is shocking: that God would “give” bad decrees. This probably does not refer to the Mosaic law but to the practices of the Canaanites who were left in the land in order to test Israel. See Judg 2:20-23, the note on “decrees” in v. 25, and the note on “pass through the fire” in v. 26.
[20:25] 44 tn The Hebrew term חֻקּוֹת (khuqot; translated “statutes” elsewhere in this chapter) is normally feminine. Here Ezekiel changes the form to masculine: חֻקִּים (khuqim). Further, they are not called “my decrees” as vv. 11 and 13 refer to “my statutes.” The change is a signal that Ezekiel is not talking about the same statutes in vv. 11 and 13, which lead to life.
[20:26] 46 sn This act is prohibited in Deut 12:29-31 and Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35. See also 2 Kgs 21:6; 23:10. This custom indicates that the laws the Israelites were following were the disastrous laws of pagan nations (see Ezek 16:20-21).
[20:26] 47 sn God sometimes punishes sin by inciting the sinner to sin even more, as the biblical examples of divine hardening and deceit make clear. See Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Divine Hardening in the Old Testament,” BSac 153 (1996): 410-34; idem, “Does God Deceive?” BSac 155 (1998): 11-28. For other instances where the Lord causes individuals to act unwisely or even sinfully as punishment for sin, see 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 17:14; 1 Kgs 12:15; 2 Chr 25:20.
[20:39] 62 tn Heb “and after, if you will not listen to me.” The translation leaves out “and after” for smoothness. The text is difficult. M. Greenberg (Ezekiel [AB], 1:374) suggests that it may mean “but afterwards, if you will not listen to me…” with an unspoken threat.
[20:45] 69 sn Beginning with 20:45, the verse numbers through 21:32 in the English Bible differ by five from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 20:45 ET = 21:1 HT, 20:46 ET = 21:2 HT, 21:1 ET = 21:6 HT etc., through 21:32 ET = 21:37 HT. Beginning with 22:1 the verse numbers in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible are again the same.