Wednesday, January 2, 2019
They Will Know That I am the LORD
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The video version of this teaching is available at: https://youtu.be/S7D8zsgeXiU
The scripture reading for this teaching is Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Last week at our Shabbat Service, our discussion questions included one about how we sanctify or hallow God’s name. Since, because of time constraints, we didn’t get to it to any degree, we assigned the question as “homework” for our congregation. It just so happens that this week’s Haftarah reading from the prophet Ezekiel is all about how God’s name will be sanctified or hallowed in Israel and the nations. It opens with a tremendous promise with the last two verses of chapter 28.
Ezekiel 28:25-26 NKJV 25 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. 26 "And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God."'"
Ezekiel is telling his readers, and us, that Israel will be regathered from their exile and reestablished in their land. Through this restoration, God will be sanctified or hallowed before the entire world. Everyone will see that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the creator of the universe. How is this sanctification accomplished by God’s actions and dealings with these other nations? Ezekiel’s prophesy in this Haftarah reading is primarily dealing with Egypt, however Egypt is often a metaphor for the nations in general.
The prophecies of Ezekiel are perhaps the easiest to date because the prophet himself was careful to reference dates in his writings. In order to understand Ezekiel, and any Biblical prophets and their prophecy for that matter, it is important to have a clear picture of the historical context of their writings.
Ezekiel was born around 622 BCE into a priestly linage. His age and date of birth are inferred from the dating of his first divine encounter.
Ezekiel 1:1-2 NKJV 1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity,
Ezekiel was born and raised in Judah and was an eye witness to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Ezekiel’s prophecies contained in this week’s haftarah deal with Egypt. Egypt played an important role at this critical time in Judah’s history.
Around the time of Ezekiel’s birth, Babylon was a rising power in the Middle East. Egypt had allied itself with Assyria to try and stop the aggression of Babylon. We are familiar with the story of Judah’s king Josiah who led the Judean army against Pharaoh Necho’s Egyptian army to stop them from joining up with the Assyrians. The ensuing battle at Megiddo resulted in the death of Josiah when he was struck by an arrow just as the battle began.
This attempt to stop the Assyrians failed, Josiah died, and after a succession of evil kings, Judah fell into the hands of the Babylonians and were taken into exile. Ezekiel, along with the priesthood and the temple treasury, were among the first to be taken captive. All of Ezekiel’s prophecies are given while in captivity in Babylon.
Five times in this week’s Haftarah, Ezekiel uses the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD.” The first time this phrase is used is when Ezekiel speaks of Israel’s return from captivity and possession of the land that was promised to them in the covenant with Abraham. We have already read Ezekiel 28:25-26 in the opening of this Haftarah where Ezekiel speaks of their return and the conditions that they will find in the land.
While in captivity, it would have been an easy matter for the people to lose hope and simply forget their heritage and their God and assimilate into Babylonian society. In the first place their exile to Babylon was the result of their turning away from God and adopting the ways and religious practices of their pagan neighbors. Through his prophecies, Ezekiel supplies the people of Judah with hope for their return and also pronounces God’s judgment on Israel’s enemies, specifically Egypt.
The choice of words in Ezekiel 28:26-27 is quite interesting. As we examine the original Hebrew text, we see that in the Hebrew the word translated as “gathered” is in the perfect tense. It is as if their return to the land and their prosperity is as good as accomplished. This is a great assurance that they will be rescued from their captivity and dwell in their own land in prosperity.
In Ezekiel chapter 29, the prophet begins his prophecy against Egypt. God will be known through Egypt’s demise.
Ezekiel 29:1-3 NKJV 1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt. 3 "Speak, and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, 'My River is my own; I have made it for myself.'
Egypt was historically a frequent thorn in the side of the people of Israel. Probably for good reason. Actually, the next several chapters of Ezekiel are devoted to this prophecy against Egypt. In our reading for this week, Ezekiel uses a couple of metaphors to describe God’s judgment on Egypt.
In verse 3, the words translated as “great monster” is the Hebrew word “tannim.” #8577 meaning a marine or land monster, sea-serpent or dragon, etc. It is most often used to describe a crocodile with which the Nile River was infested.
In ancient Egypt, the Nile river and the crocodile were considered sacred. The crocodile itself was worshiped as a god. A Jewish commentary explains:
“The ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile was holy and the Crocodiles inhabiting it possessed divine powers. One huge crocodile was believed to rule over all of them, and to have created himself as well as the Nile. To this huge crocodile, the prophet (Ezekiel) compared Pharaoh; for his power on land was equivalent to that of the crocodile in the Nile.”[i]
Ezekiel continues his prophecy against Egypt with this comparison and speaks of Pharaoh’s demise.
Ezekiel 29:4-5 NKJV 4 But I will put hooks in your jaws, And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, And all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales. 5 I will leave you in the wilderness, You and all the fish of your rivers; You shall fall on the open field; You shall not be picked up or gathered. I have given you as food To the beasts of the field And to the birds of the heavens.
The way to render a crocodile helpless is to use a hook in its jaw and bring it out of its primary environment, the water. Ezekiel is using the imagery of the crocodile/creator god of Egypt to illustrate that Pharaoh, and hence all of Egypt, will be brought down. Egypt will face their own exile when, as Ezekiel put it, they are “given… as food to the beasts of the field and to the birds of the heavens.” Egypt will be broken and brought down.
Ezekiel 29:6-7 NKJV 6 "Then all the inhabitants of Egypt Shall know that I am the LORD, Because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. 7 When they took hold of you with the hand, You broke and tore all their shoulders; When they leaned on you, You broke and made all their backs quiver."
In this way, through the demise of Pharaoh and the power of Egypt, the LORD will be hallowed or known among the nations!
Ezekiel 29:8-9 NKJV 8 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will bring a sword upon you and cut off from you man and beast. 9 "And the land of Egypt shall become desolate and waste; then they will know that I am the LORD, because he said, 'The River is mine, and I have made it.'
In verse 9, Ezekiel reveals that God would be known through the desolation of Egypt. The LORD is the creator of the Nile and the giver of life and power, not their crocodile god. God would make their once beautiful and fertile land a wasteland and a desert.
The word translated a desolate is #8077 Shem-aw-mah’, meaning devastation, desolation, or waste. The word also implies astonishment. People will look upon the devastated land of Egypt in horror and astonishment at how they have been brought down and left in a state of devastation. The Nile river is the lifeline for the prosperity of Egypt. It seems that Ezekiel is suggesting the God’s judgment on Egypt would include a demise or shrinkage of the Nile.
Ezekiel 29:10 NKJV 10 "Indeed, therefore, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia.
As suggested by Ezekiel in verse 9, Egypt would recognize the LORD as the God of the universe and creator of all, including the Nile.
The judgment pronounced on Egypt through Ezekiel’s prophecy went even further, God would be known through Egypt’s reversal of fortune. They would experience an exile which paralleled that of Judah’s exile to Babylon.
Ezekiel 29:11-12 NKJV 11 "Neither foot of man shall pass through it nor foot of beast pass through it, and it shall be uninhabited forty years. 12 "I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and among the cities that are laid waste, her cities shall be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries."
Ezekiel’s words seem to indicate that the exile of the Egyptians and the desolation of their land would be worse than the desolation of the surrounding nations. John B Taylor in his commentary on Ezekiel writes:
“… subsequent history has consisted of repeated conquests and humiliation. (for Egypt) She has never been anything more than a “lowly kingdom” and it is unlikely that she will ever again enjoy the glory that once was hers.”[ii]
Ezekiel later give a prophecy about the return of Egypt to their land, but unlike the promises given to Judah and Israel, Egypt will never again obtain the glory she once had.
Ezekiel 29:13-16 NKJV 13 'Yet, thus says the Lord GOD: "At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. 14 "I will bring back the captives of Egypt and cause them to return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. 15 "It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore. 16 "No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD."'"
Ezekiel, then, shows that God would be known through fulfilled prophecy. In this last section of our Haftarah reading we see the prediction of specific events which will cause the previous prophecies to come to pass.
Ezekiel 29:17-20 NKJV 17 And it came to pass in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 18 "Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it. 19 "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. 20 'I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,' says the Lord GOD.
This last prophecy of Ezekiel in our Haftarah reading is given seventeen years later. Judah and the Children of Israel had been carried off into exile in foreign lands, yet God was not finished with His work! Judgment continued for Israel’s neighbors even as Israel’s exile in Babylon and Assyria continued. The king of Babylon laid siege to the port city of Tyre but came up dry after thirteen years of effort. The city had sent their treasures out to sea and there was no plunder for the Babylonian army.
Beginning in verse 29, Ezekiel says that God will give Egypt to Babylon. All through Israel’s time in exile, God is still faithful to His covenant with the Children of Israel and working to destroy their enemies. God allowed the Babylonians to succeed the Assyrians as the super power of the region. God allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem, to destroy the temple, and take Judah into captivity as judgment for their iniquities.
God allowed the Babylonians to capture Egypt. A fragment of an ancient Babylonian text, part of what is known as the “Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings” records Babylon invading Egypt about 568/567 BCE corresponding to the history recorded by Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews.
The Haftarah begins where it started with a promise to restore Israel to their land which was promised to them through Abraham.
Ezekiel 29:21 NKJV 21 'In that day I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth, and I will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.'"
The phrase, “the horn of the House of Israel” has been problematic with Bible scholars and commentators for centuries. What is this “horn?” This verse in Ezekiel is the only place in scripture where this exact phrase is used. The Hebrew word for horn here is #7161 keh-ren meaning a corner as in the corner of the altar or a mountain peak. Figuratively it means power, as from a leader. We see this usage in 1st Samuel
1 Samuel 2:10 NKJV 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed."
And in 2nd Samuel.
2 Samuel 22:3 NKJV 3 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.
This is the context in which, I think Ezekiel is using the term “horn.” This final verse of chapter 29 is not only speaking of the return of the people from exile in Babylon, but also of the ultimate return at the end of the age when Messiah will be that horn and finally establish a united kingdom in the land!
Daniel, being a contemporary of Ezekiel speaks of horns as evil leaders and kings found in his vision in chapter 8.
Daniel 8:8-9 NKJV 8 Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. 9 And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.
The book of Revelation has imagery similar to Daniel’s vision using “horns” to describe kings who bow down to the beast. But the key to understanding Ezekiel’s prophecy in this Haftarah is to refer to the words of Zacharias as his voice is returned to him after the birth of his son John the Baptist.
Luke 1:67-70 NKJV 67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 68 "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,
This prophecy spoken by Zacharias, which continues for several more verses, reflects Ezekiel’s words and speaks of a horn rising from the house of David who is none other than the promised Messiah!
It is our prayer as believers in Yeshua the Messiah that all the world will come to believe in the one true God. That all of the Jewish people will hear the words of the prophets and see their prophecies being fulfilled in their very midst. Ezekiel was and is the faithful messenger of God and his words are just as trustworthy and accurate today as they were in his time. This is the intent of Ezekiel’s final words in our Haftarah, “… I (God) will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Va’era Exodus 6:2-9:35?
2. The Bible often uses Egypt as a metaphor for the nations in general. In this Haftarah, we learned that God is known through the humbling of Egypt. How can this be applied to the nations today?
3. Discuss the reference in Ezekiel 29:6-7 to Egypt being referred to as a “staff of reeds” to Israel.
4. What are the four theological lessons that Egypt, and by extension, the nations and us today to learn from Ezekiel’s prophecy?
5. The Jewish people have experienced dispersion and exile from their land several times over their history and yet, have been able to maintain their ethnic and religious identity despite their exile. Discuss how that have accomplished this when no other civilization in history has be able to do so. What are both the positive and negative aspects of this accomplishment?
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