Every chapter in Ezekiel is an adventure!
And chapter 21 is no exception.
For example, the word “sword” occurs 15 times in the 32 verses of this little unit!
And in reality it’s “the Sword of the Lord” being depicted!
Many Bible teachers call this chapter “The Song of the Sword!”
Mind you, “sword” is a key word in Ezekiel, occurring about 89 times. That counts the plural forms, too, “swords.” (I just counted and chapter 32 may even surpass our chapter today, but only by a couple of instances.)
And the sword represents?
God’s Anger at Judah, for her ever-increasing sins.
Anger that results in judgment, catastrophic death to thousands.
This sword also (subsequently) represents the “sword” of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, God’s “rod” to so chasten Israel, Judah.
Sad thing here though … both the good and bad people will die! That’s often the case in war, invasion, antagonism!
Ezekiel reports: “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel, and say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth MY SWORD out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the RIGHTEOUS and the WICKED.” Verses 1-3, “his” sheath, a weapon being personified!
This tragedy is so bad, God commands Ezekiel to react with trauma, another “demonstrated” sermon!
“Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.” Verse 6, crying and shaking, apparently uncontrollably!
Verse 12 intensifies Ezekiel’s duty. “Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.”
Wow, such terror!
By verse 18 King Nebuchadnezzar is all but named! He approaches Israel but stops (as in a “fork” in the road) … wanting to both go demolish rebellious Rabbath, an Ammonite stronghold … and rebellious Jerusalem, the Captical of Judah, of course.
And God intervened (made a decision for this mighty warrior) and brought the King of Babylon and his army to Jerusalem! At least to Jerusalem first!
This heathen king consulted his own gods even … and the Almighty clearly overruled them all! Here’s the story, King James Version: “Also, thou son of man (Ezekiel), appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land (Babylon): and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way (split in the road) to the city. Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, AND to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.” Verse 19-20, two “targets,” (By the way, “Rabbath” is today known as “Ammon” and is the Capital of Jordan!)
Watch Nebuchadnezzar’s methods of choosing which city to attack! It’s the only verse exactly like it in all the Old Testament. “For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.” Verse 21
They would write names (of enemies) on arrows. Then shuffle the arrows, picking which one to attack … as their gods determined! (Almost like rolling dice!)
Then he prayed (“consulted”) to his gods and goddesses individually! (Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? I’m thankful there is only ONE True God!)
Then he had his magicians, sorcerers, examine the livers of dead animals, seeing if they could discern any “guidance” there, foretelling the future. (Ancient diagrams of sheep livers have been found by archaeologists, teaching which areas of the liver, in deformed in any way, commanded certain behaviors!)
And God said, due to Judah’s rebellion, “Nebuchadnezzar … Judah is next!”
(Peter was right. Judgment indeed does begin at the House of God! “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 1st Peter 4:17)
So … here comes the Babylonian Army!
Then maybe even saddest of all, verse 26. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.” Here the noun “diadem” is “mitzsnepheth,” almost always translated as the “mitre” of the High Priest of Israel, 11 times in fact, of only 12 occurrences in the Hebrew Bible! God is removing the very Priesthood of Judah! And the Monarchy too, the “crown.” Our Lord is dismantling the Nation He so carefully built! Oh, the wages of sin!
And Israel will be in disarray … until Jesus comes!
At least that’s what I think verse 27 means! “I (the Lord God) will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until HE (the Messiah) come whose right it is; and I will give it HIM (JESUS).
What a chapter … Ezekiel 21.
— Dr. Mike Bagwell
Keep in mind, part of what Ezekiel wrote as “prophecy” (describing future events) … is now “history” (describing past events). But most of what remains for us … will be “prophecy,” pure and simple. Especially the last nine chapters of the book.
I am excited!