Forum Class #11

Ezekiel Chapters 25-28: God Judges the Nations, Part I

Chronology Review: Fall of Samaria: 722 BC. Fall of Nineveh (N. Iraq, near Mosul) and Assyria to Babylon, 612 BC (Nahum). King Josiah dies in battle against Pharaoh Neco, 609. Battle of Carchemish (defeat of Egypt by Babylon), 605 BC. Captivity of Daniel and friends to Babylon, 605 BC. Captivity of Ezekiel, Jeconiah and 10,000 Jewish leaders, 597. Ezekiel's messages to the Jewish exiles encamped near Babylon began in July 27, 593 BC and ended when the siege of Jerusalem actually began on January 15, 588 BC. The city fell 18 months later on the 9th of Av, 587 BC. When the news of the fall of Jerusalem reaches Babylon by a refugee, Ezekiel is allowed to speak freely to the people instead of speaking only the direct words of God with no discourse or discussion. From Chapter 25 and on, Ezekiel turns to other subjects--not to messages exclusively concerned with the judgment of Israel and the fall of Jerusalem.

Jewish Calendar:

 Month  Jewish Religious Calendar  Western Calendar
 1  Nissan (Abib)
 2  Iyyar (Ziv)
(Shavuot = Pesach + 50 days)
 3  Sivan  May-June
 4  Tammuz  June-July
 5  Ab  July-August
 6  Elul  August-September
 7  Tishri (Ethanim)
(Sukkot and New Year)
 8  Marchesvan (Bul)  October-November
 9  Chislev  November-December
 10  Tebeth  December-January
 11  Shebat  January-February
 12  Adar  February-March

Calendar Notes: The names of the months of the Jewish calendar were adopted during the time of Ezra, after the return from the Babylonian exile. The names are actually Babylonian month names, brought back to Israel by the returning exiles. Note that most of the Bible refers to months by number, not by name. In leap years, Adar has 30 days. In non-leap years, Adar has 29 days. The length of Cheshvan and Kislev are determined by complex calculations involving the time of day of the full moon of the following year's Tishri and the day of the week that Tishri would occur in the following year. Note that the number of days between Nissan and Tishri is always the same. Because of this, the time from the first major festival (Passover in Nissan) to the last major festival (Sukkot in Tishri) is always the same. (from:

Ezekiel Chapter 25: The judgments on Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia are straightforward. The prophet Obadiah deals specifically with Edom. Here is more on Edom to show the symbolism for us today, namely Edom is a type of the flesh.


Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, is the pronouncement of doom against an ancient and long-forgotten nation, the land of Edom. But there is more to this book than that. The Scriptures have that beautiful faculty of appearing to be one thing on the surface, but on a deeper level, yielding rich and mighty treasures. That is certainly true of this amazing book of Obadiah. We know very little about Obadiah except that he was one of the minor prophets... Most Bible commentators believe the author of this book was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, the last of the prophets before Israel went into captivity. The name Obadiah means "the servant of Jehovah;" he fulfills the position of a servant. He comes and does his work and fades into the background; he delivers his message and he is gone. And that is about all we know about the man behind this book.

The book of Obadiah tells the story of two nations, the nation of Israel and the nation of Edom, the country to the south of Israel that is now usually referred to as the Negev or Negeb. Through this ancient land of Edom the Israelites marched as they came into the land of Israel out of the captivity and slavery of Egypt. As they came into the land they had difficulty with the Edomites; they were enemies of Israel from its very beginning.

But behind the story of these two nations, this book tells the story of two men. Every nation in the Bible is a lengthened shadow of its founder, and the two men behind the nations Israel an Edom were twin brothers. Do you know who they are? Jacob and Esau. Jacob was the father of Israel, and Esau, his twin brother, became the father of the Edomites. In the story of these nations you also have the extended story of these two men, Jacob and Esau. God, in a sense, has put Jacob and Esau into an enlarger and blown them up to national size. As the prophet discusses this you can see that the story of these two men continues; Israel is still Jacob and Edom is still Esau.

Jacob and Esau were in perpetual antagonism. We read in the book of Genesis that even before they were born, they struggled together in their mother's womb. That antagonism marked the lives of these two men, and, consequently, the lives of their descendants, the two nations of Israel and Edom. And as you recall from Genesis, Jacob was mother's darling and Esau was daddy's little man, and there was one unending conflict between the two of them which did not end with the lives of these men. The nations carried on this same conflict, and all the way from Genesis through Malachi there is the threat of struggle and unbroken antagonism between them. In the book of Malachi (remember, Genesis records the beginning of these nations), the last book of the Old Testament, God says, "I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau." (Mal. 1:2) Why does the story of these two men come to a focus here in this little prophecy of Obadiah? What is so important about these two men and these two nations? Well, that is what the book of Obadiah makes very clear to us. In the New Testament we discover that there is a perpetual antagonism within the nature of the Christian. In Galatians 5:17 we are told that the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; they are opposed to one another.

God is a great illustrator. He is always using pictures for us so that we can understand truth more easily, more graphically. We are children in this respect. We like to have a picture. We would rather see something than hear it, so God has many pictures. He has taken these two men and the subsequent nations that came from them and used them through the Bible as a consistent picture of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit -- Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom.

(This, by the way, is a wonderful key to Bible study. Have you learned to recognize what we might call interpretational constants that run throughout the scriptures? There are certain names and figures, or metaphors and similes that, once used to symbolize a thing, maintain that characteristic and that reference all the way through the Bible, wherever they are used. You know how this is true of certain items, certain material things, like oil. Wherever oil is used symbolically in Scriptures it is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Wine is always a picture of joy in the Scriptures. Leaven is always a picture of evil. These two men, Jacob and Esau, and the nations Israel and Edom, always appear as a picture of a struggle between the flesh and the spirit that is going on in our own lives as believers. Esau lusts against Jacob, and Jacob against Esau; the two great principles are irreconcilably opposed to one another.)

Obadiah turns the spotlight first on Esau, who is the man of the flesh, and Edom, the proud nation that came from the flesh, and he answers the question "Why does God hate Esau?" The trouble with Esau, the prophet says, is this (verse 3):

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" (Obad. 1:3 RSV)

The trouble with Esau is pride. Pride is the root of all human evil, and pride is the basic characteristic of what the Bible calls the flesh that lusts against, wars against, the Spirit. The flesh is a principle that stands athwart God's purposes in human life and continually defies what God is trying to accomplish. Each of us has this struggle within us if we are Christians, and its basic characteristic is revealed here as pride. That is the number one identifying mark of the flesh.

Proverbs 6:16 says: "There are six things which the Lord hates, seven which are an abomination to him." And what is number one on the list? A proud look. And everything else that follows is a variation of pride. Those that are swift to run after mischief, he that spreads lies and slander and discord among brothers -- all these things are manifestations of that single basic evil, pride. This is the satanic nature which was implanted in the human race; all who are born of Adam have this congenital twist of pride, the independent ego that evaluates everything only in terms of its importance or its unimportance to self. The universe centers around self, the rival god. That is pride. That is Esau; that is Edom. It can appear in our lives in ten thousand ways, but you will find some common expressions of it here in this book of Obadiah. One way it may be expressed is in self-sufficiency (v.3, 4):

...who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, thence I will bring you down, says the Lord. (Obad. 1:3b-4 RSV)

Here is the man who says, "Nobody can touch me. Who is going to upset me? My plans are all laid out. I am able to carry through what I set out to do." This attitude of self-sufficient ability is a mark of pride. And the Lord says that "though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, yet I am able to bring you down."

The reference in this book to "you who live in the clefts of the rock" is a very literal reference to the nation of Edom. If you have had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land, you may have gone down into the Negev area and visited the city of Petra, the rose-red city of the dead. This amazing city is approached through a tremendous fissure that runs for a mile or more right through the rock, a narrow file only a few yards wide that brings you at last into an open place where temples have been carved out of the living rock -- giant temples with doorways in them some 25-30 feet high. That was the capital of Edom. That was the ancient city, whose people felt that because of these natural defenses they were impregnable. They lifted up their hearts in pride and, as the Lord speaking through the prophet says, the pride of their heart is deceived; they thought that nothing could overthrow them, but God said it would be done. Just a few years after our Lord's day, the Romans came in and destroyed the cities of Edom and took this impregnable fortress. It has been in ruins ever since.

This kind of self-sufficiency is clearly evident in the man who says, "I don't need God. I can run my own life without God, in my own wisdom, my own strength, my own abilities, my own talents -- that is enough. that is all I need to make a success in life." But self-sufficiency is also seen in the Christian who says, "Well, I need God, yes, in times of danger and fear and pressure, but I am quite able, thank you, to make my own decisions about the girl I am going to marry, or the career I am going to follow, or the friends that I have, or the car that I buy or anything else like that." That is the same spirit of self sufficiency, isn't it?

The thing that characterized the Lord Jesus Christ and marked him as continually opposed to this spirit of self-sufficiency was his utter dependence on the Father. We Christians have to learn that if there is any area of our life where we think that we've got what it takes to do without God, it is in that same area that we are manifesting the flesh, the pride of Edom. When you step into your office on Monday morning and you have been a fine Christian on Sunday and all through the weekend, but on Monday morning you say, "Now I am in charge. I know what to do here. I don't need the Bible. I don't need God. I don't need my religion to help me here. I know exactly how to run this business," you are manifesting this same spirit of Edom, this spirit of self-sufficiency. In many areas of their lives Christians live as though God were dead, they believe in God, but live as though he were dead, they live without any sense of dependency upon his wisdom and his strength. Another form of pride is found in this little book, too (verse 10):

For the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever. (Obad. 1:10 RSV)

Violence is a form of pride; the man who strikes his wife, a child who has been beaten, a baby whose bones have been broken, and who has been damaged internally. What is behind this violence of the human heart? An unbroken ego, a spoiled and cowardly spirit. Pride is centered only on self and it strikes out against anything that dares to challenge its supreme reign in life. I have been in a Christian home and seen a woman with black eyes and bruises on her legs and arms because her Christian husband, who was a Sunday School teacher, had beaten her. Where does this violence come from? It is from Edom. It is the pride of the flesh. Here is another form of pride (verse 11):

On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. (Obad. 1:11 RSV) [You just stood and watched.]

Indifference is a form of pride. I think this is by far one of the major causes of marital difficulty. In the constant stream of people who have come to see me about problems in their marriage, almost invariably, somewhere along the line, I hear the complaint. "Well, he is simply indifferent to me. He doesn't care about me. He ignores me." Or, "She pays no attention to me. She isn't interested in the things that I am interested in." Isn't it strange that these things can be true in Christian homes? And how quickly it comes in after courtship. During the courtship it is, "What are you thinking about? Tell me what you would like?" But when marriage comes, it is, "Where's dinner? Where is the paper? What's on TV?" And the concern is entirely different. Why? Well, Esau is at work -- that's why. The force in human life that God hates is Esau. There is yet another form of pride that we read about in Obadiah (verses 12,13):

But you should not have gloated over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted in the day of distress. You should not have entered the gate of my people in the day of his calamity; you should not have gloated over his disaster in the day of his calamity; you should not have looted his goods in the day of his calamity. (Obad. 1:12-13 RSV)

God charges Edom with the sin of gloating as a manifestation of this basic problem of pride. Notice how you hear this so frequently in children who haven't yet learned to cover up what they feel with a subtle varnish of politeness: "Yay, yah, yah, good for you. You had it coming!" Did you ever say that in your own heart about somebody? "You had it coming." You were gloating over them. Adults learn to disguise this sometimes, but it comes out once in a while. You hear that the boss is sick, and you say. "Nothing trivial, I hope." What do you say when someone fails and you hear about it? Do you ever say, "Well, I told you so. I knew that would happen. I expected it all along"? That is the sense of gloating, you see. I remember reading of the hypochondriac who had written on his tombstone the words, "I told you I was sick."

Now, what causes this? Why do we like to rub salt on another's wounds? What is behind this perverse delight we take in another person's failure or his faults? It is Esau in us. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. In our pride and unconcern we don't care what happens to someone else, as long as everything is all right with us. Another manifestation of pride is exploitation (verse 14):

You should not have stood at the parting of the ways to cut off his fugitives; you should not have delivered up his survivors in the day of distress. (Obad. 1:14 RSV)

When calamity fell, Edom took advantage of it. The Edomites moved in on a fallen people, a captured people, took advantage of the fact that these were fugitives, and used their trouble and their misery to their own advantage. They delivered up the survivors in the day of Israel's distress. They took unfair advantage. God hates it when we utilize another's weakness or bad luck to our advantage.

Have you ever heard anyone say, "Well, I had a contractor bid on some work I would like him to do, and the fellow made a mistake and he has underbid this. But I am going to hold him to It. After all, I've got the contract. He signed it and I am going to hold him to it"? That is taking advantage of another's mistake. We find this spirit coming up so easily when something like that happens. We say, "Oh, that is your hard luck. Finders keepers, losers weepers." We try to move in and take advantage of another's distress. "Oh," you say, "I could never do a thing like that." Well, how many of you are on the lookout for some old coin, or some antique chair, or some widow selling her husband's golf clubs who doesn't know the value of them? What a bargain! Move in on that and take advantage of it. Well, this is only a partial listing of the ways of Esau, the man God hates, but the worse thing, the tragedy of Esau, is back in verse 3, where God says,

The pride of your heart has deceived you. (Obad. 1:3 RSV)

You are this way, but you don't know it. Blind to your own problems, you go on thinking that everything is fine, but suddenly everything falls to pieces, just as it did here to Edom (verses 6, 7):

How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out! All your allies have deceived you, they have driven you to the border; your confederates have prevailed against you; your trusted friends have set a trap under you -- there is no understanding of it. (Obad. 1:6-7 RSV)

That is the terrible thing about pride. It traps us. It tricks us. It trips us up. We don't recognize it until we are too late. We go stumbling along in our pride and arrogance and vanity and we think we are doing fine. Everyone else can see the trouble we are having, but we go blissfully on, sawing away on the limb, totally unaware that the limb we are sawing on is the limb we are sitting on, until it falls down and we are suddenly exposed.

Remember the story of The Emperor's New Clothes? The emperor advertised throughout his kingdom for a tailor to make him an especially good suit, and a man came and told him he would make him the finest suit that had ever been made. He brought a piece of cloth and showed it to the emperor, only the trouble was, there was nothing there. He held up his hands as though holding a piece of cloth, and he said to the emperor, "You know, this cloth has a really remarkable quality. Only the pure in heart can see it. If you have an evil in your heart, you can't see this cloth, but if your heart is pure, then you can see it. Now, surely, sir, you can see it?" The emperor couldn't see anything, but he nodded his head and said, "What beautiful cloth! What remarkable cloth. That is exactly what I am looking for." And so the man made him a suit from this cloth and he came and put it on him and the poor emperor stood there naked, fancying he had these clothes on. He called his courtiers in to admire him (of course he told them of the special quality of the cloth) and they too said, "Oh my, what a beautiful suit!"

No one would admit that he couldn't see a thing until the emperor, in his pride and his vanity, decided to go out to the public streets of the city so everyone could see him. There goes the poor ignorant fellow, strutting along in his nakedness, and the whole city out there admiring him -- all but a little boy who stood up and said, "But the emperor doesn't have anything on." Now what can you do about this? This is where we live, isn't it? We all have this problem of the flesh within. Well, that is not the end of the story (verses 15,16):

For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you, your deeds shall return on your own head. For as you have drunk upon my holy mountain, all the nations round about shall drink;
they shall drink, and stagger, and shall be as though they had not been. (Obad. 1:15-16 RSV)

In other words, God has determined judgment upon Edom, and there is no escaping it. Does that sound like destruction? Well, it is -- for Esau. There is no hope for Esau; there is no way out. The judgment of God is absolutely inescapable for Esau. God is forever set against him. One of the grandsons of Esau was a man named Amalek, who withstood the Israelites on their way into Canaan. In Exodus 17:14-16 it is recorded that God said to Moses, "I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." And Moses says, "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." That is what God is saying about the flesh. He will never make peace with it. But the day of triumph is for Jacob (verses 17, 18):

But in Mount Zion there shall be those that escape [Mount Zion is Jerusalem, or Jacob], and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor to the house of Esau; for the LORD has spoken. (Obad. 1:17-18 RSV)

And finally (verse 21):

Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord's. (Obad. 1:21 RSV)

This is what you might call the ruthlessness of God. He has his heart set to destroy Esau. After all, that is the whole story of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the human heart; he has come to destroy Esau and all these characteristics of the flesh. He will destroy them in those who are his and bring Jacob into the full inheritance of all his possessions -- and the weapon he uses is the judgment of the cross.

Isn't it interesting that when you get to the New Testament you find these same two principles personified again in two persons who meet in the pages of the Gospels face to face. In the last week of our Lord's sufferings, he stands before Herod. Herod, we are told, is an Idumean, which is another spelling of Edom -- he is an Edomite. Jesus before Herod -- the representative of Jacob and the representative of Esau face to face. Herod the Edomite, proud, arrogant and rebellious, watches the cruel mockery of the soldiers as they strip the Lord down and dress him in his royal robes. The Gospel writer says that Herod plied him with many questions, but for the son of Esau there is no answer from the son of Jacob. He has nothing to discuss with him. There can be no compromise. God has nothing to say to the flesh, nothing at all except judgment.

And what is the final issue of that account? The prisoner went out to a cross and a grave, and from it he emerged a king; but King Herod went on to disgrace, exile, and, finally, to a grave in a foreign country. Beyond that he is a prisoner, bound by chains of his own making, eternally.

Now which are you? A king or a prisoner? Is Esau or Jacob ruling? Do you know about this ruthless cross that denies you any right to self-sufficiency, to self-expression, to self-advantage, to self-exploitation, to all these things -- denies you indifference, gloating, or self-righteousness? Have you learned yet to reign with Christ, not in heaven, but right now? Have you learned to possess your possessions -- as Jacob is intended to do -- so that the kingdom shall be the Lord's, the kingdom of your life? Or are you still a prisoner, like Herod, fancying yourself to be free, on a throne in authority, but still bound by unbreakable chains because you refuse to pass through the death that sets you free? (From

Notes on Ezekiel 25:1-28:26 from God Strengthens by Derek Thomas

Chapter 25 begins a new section of the prophecy of Ezekiel. The first twenty-four chapters have dealt largely with the future of Jerusalem and Judah. Now the focus of attention turns elsewhere to the neighboring nations. They include Ammon (25:1-7). Moab (25:8-11). Edom (25:12-14; 32:29). Philistia (25:15-17). Tyre (26:1-28:19); Sidon (28:20-24); Egypt (29:1-32:21; 32:31-32). Ethiopia or Cush (Nubia). Libya, Lydia, Arabia and Chub (30:4-9), Assyria (32:22-23). Elam (32:24-26). Meshech and Tubal (32:26-28). One nation is, of course, missing: Babylon. All these nations would fall to the Babylonian expansionist policy of the seventh century B.C. and, for the time being at least, nothing is being said against this powerful nation. In effect. these chapters summarize the extent of the Neo-Babylonian empire

The corrupting influences of godless neighbors: Commenting on the surrounding nations is something the prophets did continually (cf. Isa. 14:24-16:14; Amos 1:3-2:3). Nor did they confine their comments to merely spiritual matters. Every social and moral aspect of the behavior of these nations came under the scrutiny of God's all-seeing eye. Just because they were not in possession of a Bible did not exempt them; their conscience was enough to condemn them. In one of Dryden's poems there is the line: "Beware the anger of a patient man." Ezekiel would add the further thought: "Beware the wrath of a patient God!"

Ammon (25:1-7): Ezekiel has mentioned the Ammonites before (21:28-32). As we saw in our comments on that passage, Ammon and Moab (25:8-11) were Lot's two sons born of his incestuous relationship with his two daughters. Both were regarded as relatives of Israel, though both treated Israel with contempt. Ammon's crime was their delight in the downfall of God's kingdom (25:3.6). Not content to watch Judah fall in 586 B.C., Ammon relished it. They clapped and cheered at the desecration of the temple, the desolation of the land of Judah and the deportation of the Judeans to Babylon. It was the sin of glee in the face of another's downfall. "You shouldn't mock the afflicted," was a famous line of a late comedian. Behind the quip lies a solemn truth. We all too frequently find our amusement in the misfortunes of others. Ammon's heartless response to the fate of their neighbors was not only wrong. it was also blind; they too would fall (25:4). The lesson is one of failure to appreciate that the fall of a neighbor is one that can befall us too, apart from the grace of God. Every time we see another fall into sin, even if he is our enemy, we should show no gleeful delight, but rather compassion and thankfulness: compassion, for we are to love even our enemies, and thankfulness that "There go I, but for the grace of God."

Moab (25:8-11): The Moabites occupied land immediately to the south of the Ammonites, in the Transjordan. Like the Ammonites. they were a constant threat to the Israelites.' Moab, like Ammon. is depicted as gleeful over Judah's downfall. saying: "Look, the house of Judah has become like all the other nations" (25:8). A century earlier Isaiah had depicted Moab as arrogant:

"We have heard of Moab's pride--her overwhelming pride and conceit, her pride and her insolence---but her boasts are empty" (Isa. 16:6).

Moab has learned few lessons, even from the consequences of the Assyrian invasion that followed Isaiah's warning. Now she boasts again that Judah's God was of no greater significance than any other god. This is the ultimate crime. The Moabites had failed to perceive that Judah's downfall was an act of judgment. Rather, they had depicted it as a sign of weakness. They had failed to reckon on the power of God. They had assumed that Judah's God was one they could safely ignore. Should he exist at all, he was of little significance to them. Countless numbers of people live in this way, in defiance of the reality of God. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31), warns one New Testament writer; but it falls on deaf ears. Moab's sin, that of pronouncing God as surplus to requirements, is one that has been repeated times without number.

It has to be said that one of the reasons why Moab saw Judah as "like all the other nations" was Judah's own fault. Judah was suffering because she was experiencing the punishment of God due to her sin and waywardness. Her witness to the nations had been one of compromise and worldliness.

Edom (25:12-14): Edom or "Seir" (25:8) was where Jacob's twin brother Esau went (Gen. 32:3), and 'Edomites' is the Bible's name for Esau's descendants. Following the siege of Jerusalem, Judah was powerless to prevent Edomite raids on southern towns and villages. It is to this "revenge"' that verse 12 refers. Obadiah adds that the Edomites even took advantage of Judeans who fled from the Babylonian armies (Obad. 14).

Ezekiel's prophecy warns that Edom 's advantage is short-lived. There will come a day when Judah will not only recapture its lost lands, but conquer Edom also. This appears to be a reference to the subduing of the Edomites by Judas Maccabaeus (the so-called "Maccabean Revolt") in 164 B.C. and John Hyrcanus, c. 120 B.C. This was to be plan of the Lord's vengeance (25:14). Vengeance is an important aspect of the covenant which the Bible is keen to stress (the word occurs live times in verses 14-17). Following the covenant renewal ceremonies on the plains of Moab, Israel was warned in clear terms: 'I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me' (Deut. 32:41). This truth was underlined later by Isaiah: "For the Lord has a day of vengeance... ", (Isa. 34:8; 61:2), and particularly by Jeremiah (Jer. 46:10; 50:28; 51:11). The "vengeance of the covenant" is foretold in Leviticus 26:25 and expanded upon in verses 14-45, the broad truth being that God's saving work, the establishment of the covenant of grace, has two sides to it: God will save those who come to him through Jesus Christ; equally, to those who refuse to come, God will mete out the punishment that their sins deserve. It is something Paul is anxious to leave with God: we are not to take on this task ourselves (Rom. 12:19). Those within the covenant can expect to be chastised for disobedience. Those who remain unrepentant have no hope. They are a reminder to us of the need to persevere, yielding our lives as holy offerings to the Lord (cf. Heb. 12:1-14). God loves his people and will never forsake them, but he will chastise them when they fall into sinful ways. Those who abandon the Lord can expect only vengeance. It is a warning Jesus gave to an unbelieving Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). (A further prophecy against Edom is to be found in Ezekiel 35.)

Philistia (25:15- 17): The Philistines had been a thorn in Israel's side ever since she first entered Canaan. It is interesting that the word hostility (25:15) 'the old hatred' (NKJV) - is the same word ('enmity') used in Genesis 3:15 to describe the continual opposition of Satan to God and his purposes.

The Philistine sin is described as vengeance (25:15), carried out with malice, or a spiteful heart'(NKJV). Vengeance, while proper in God as the reflex of his holy nature towards sin, is forbidden in man (Rom. 12:19). Philistine vengeance was nothing other than spite. Their malice would reap God's wrath. The Kerethites (25:1-6) will be cut off - the verb to "cut off" and the word "Kereth" (one of the Philistine tribes) sound the same in Hebrew. The Scriptures encourage us to show forbearance and forgiveness to those whom we regard as our enemies (Eph. 4:2: Col. 3:13). The Philistines (and the Edomites) took every opportunity to get back at the Israelites for perceived wrongs committed in the past. The smallest revenge will poison the soul. The Philistines had become war-mongers; revenge and retaliation characterized the way they lived. The trouble spots of the world today, together with nations whose history is ingrained with hatred for past wrongs, need to take note that the Lord of the nations knows and sees all. He will not tolerate it for ever.

Tyre (26:1 - 28:19): Does God care about scandals in the Stock Exchange, or Wall Street? Is he concerned at the exploitation by multi-national industries of the poor nations of the world? Does the Christian faith have anything to say about commercial fraud? The answer given by the Old Testament prophets is a resounding "Yes!" Tyre was the commercial centre of the ancient Middle East, and in the next three chapters it comes under the scrutiny of the divine Accountant and Judge. If the previous chapter had dealt largely with the violence of the nations to the east of Judah, the next three chapters will focus on corruption in the commercial life of the nations to the northwest.

A time reference opens the chapter and informs us that the year is 587-586 B.C. -- a few weeks after the fall of Jerusalem. As Ezekiel's companions were coming to terms with the collapse of their own city, they must have wondered at the justice of God in allowing the rich and prosperous people of Phoenicia to the northwest to do so well. Surely it was time for Tyre to fall, too!

Tyre (26:2) was the capital of Phoenicia. which also included such independent states as Sidon (28:21) and Byblos ("Gebal" in the Old Testament, 27:9). These were all Mediterranean ports and, together with the Philistines, the Phoenicians were the great merchant traders of the ancient Near East, and hence: "the gate to the nations" (26:2). During the reigns of David and Solomon, Tyre established good relations with Israel; there is no record of any war between Israel and these Mediterranean coastal states. One moment of cooperation deserves to be mentioned: King Hiram I of Tyre provided wood and craftsmen for Solomon's temple (I Kings 5:1-18) and sailors for his commercial fleet (I Kings 9:27).

If relations between Israel and Phoenicia had been generally good, there had been moments of tension over economic matters. As Stuart comments, "The shipping industry in the Mediterranean had increased in influence to the point that shipping nations like Tyre and Sidon were economic cross-roads, reaping enormous profits from international sea trade, to the consternation of much poorer states such as Judah." It just so happens that as I write these lines, the headlines of the news bulletins have been relating an incident off the Devonshire coast where British Navy vessels have been called in to investigate accusations of French fishing trawlers having attacked English ships! Tensions between nations over commerce persist!

If the Edomites had taken advantage of Judah's battle with the Babylonians by plundering from the south-east (Obad. 13-14), the Phoenicians had been guilty of the same thing by incursions from the northwest. As Judah suffered at the hands of Babylon, they must have wondered at the relative ease of Phoenician lifestyle, particularly since it was they who profited from the Babylonian invasion of Judah by supplying these foreign armies with goods and services which they had plundered from Judah. If past relationships had been good, present ones were strained. It was time, so Ezekiel's contemporaries no doubt thought, for the folk of Tyre and Sidon to be taught a lesson. They must have listened with eager expectation as Ezekiel turned his focus on the 'fat cats' of the coastal plains."

A bare rock (26:1-21): As an example of engineering, the city of Tyre-- built partly on the mainland and partly on an adjacent island (approximately one mile long and half a mile wide) and joined by a causeway -- ranked alongside Hezekiah's famous tunnel through which water was supplied to the city of Jerusalem. The city of Tyre was noted for its trade and the sea-faring abilities of its inhabitants. Speaking of their eventual fall, Ezekiel says,

How you are destroyed, O city of renown, peopled by men of the sea! You were a power on the seas, you and your citizens; you put your terror on all who lived there (26:17).

Surrounded by the sea (27:32): Tyre thought herself impregnable: "I will prosper" she boasted, seeing Jerusalem's collapse (26:2). Using the fact that in Canaanite/Hebrew its name means "rock", Ezekiel prophesies that Tyre will be returned to just that: "a bare rock" strutting out of the sea (26:4). She too, despite her arrogant claims of self-confidence, will be defeated by many nations (26:3), by an invader from the north called Nebuchadnezzar (26:7), i.e. Babylon. This was something Isaiah had foretold a century and a half earlier, saying that even if the people of Tyre crossed over to Cyprus they would find no resting place (Isa. 23:11-12). Several features of Tyre's godlessness are recorded.

1. Tyre's dependence on physical resources: Ezekiel provides us with a vivid description of the ensuing battle, including references to Babylon's military power which include horses, horsemen, chariots, wagons, battering rams, and weapons (26:7-11). But Tyre had her military arsenal, too! Apart from her strategic location -- the sea to the west, and the celebrated mountains and forests of Lebanon to the east, thus forming a natural defense-- Tyre boasted of her towers (26:4,9), walls (26:9-10) and strong pillar' (26:11). But Tyre was no match for Babylon. Her confidence was misplaced. Instead of trusting in the Lord, she trusted in her own ingenuity. Better by far the confidence of the psalmist: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Ps. 20:7).

2. Tyre put her trust in her leaders: In an astonishing display of humiliation, Tyre's leaders, princes of the coast, will wear the clothes of terror instead of embroidered garments (26:16). Twice the psalmist warns of misplaced confidence in rulers: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes" (Psalm 118:9), and "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save" (Ps. 146:3).

3. Tyre was materialistic: Ezekiel makes specific mention of Tyre's wealth, loot, merchandise, line houses and especially her timber (26:12). Chapter 27 elaborates upon this aspect of Tyre's failure. It is a timely reminder of the danger of materialism. Isaiah had compared Tyre's commercial activity to prostitution (Isa. 23:15-17) and the figure seems apt: commercialism can easily assume the policy of the highest profit regardless of the means. The love of money remains the root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). It is this characteristic of ungodliness which is underlined in the book of Revelation:

"For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." (Rev. 18:3).

We need to take heed of our Savior's warning about the seductiveness of material things: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matt. 6:19-20).

4. Tyre was fond of the so-called 'good life': Tyre's streets were filled with the sound of noisy songs and 'music' (26:13). In that sense it is no different from a typical street in any modem city. It is a portrayal of a lifestyle given over to entertainment. It is essentially carefree and pagan. And God will not tolerate it for long.

The end of the wicked: Tyre's fall is complete. She is never to be rebuilt or heard of again (26:21). Her demise is likened to drowning -- an apt choice for a seafaring nation (26:19). She will be brought down to the pit (26:20). This expression is used several times in Ezekiel (28:8; 31:14; 32:18,23,24,25,29,30) and is meant to convey roughly the same as the word Sheol does: namely, the realm of the dead. It is associated with darkness and being lost. "There is no hope of resurrection, simply a murky continuing existence alongside the people of old among the ruins of the past; a dreadful end indeed." This prophecy is meant to signify Tyre's destruction, first at the hands of the Babylonians and later by Alexander the Great in a spectacular siege on the city in which he built a causeway out to the island in order to defeat it. Behind it, however, is a general warning to the wicked of what lies in store. There is life after death. no matter what. but the quality of that life depends upon what we have done with God's offer of forgiveness in this life. Those who die in their sins will be sent, as Jesus warned, "into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:12).

A funeral dirge (27:1-36): Chapter 27 is a lengthy lament on the decease of Tyre -- something which has not yet happened, of course. Some might ponder as to the possible relevance of this to us today. Surely a chapter like this belongs in the archives, to be examined by specialists in ancient history. It cannot possibly have anything to say to me, today! This is where the principle of universality of application comes in." Since God himself does not change (cf. Heb. 13:8), his dealings with folk in a previous generation are a model of his dealings with us today. The self-aggrandizement shown by Tyre in these chapters (cf. "I am perfect in beauty" 27:3), or Jerusalem in Isaiah 1-5 or Rome in Revelation 17-18 will always and everywhere evoke the same hostility. What we find in these Old Testament chapters are the universal principles of God's will and work. If we live like the inhabitants of Tyre, we can expect the same treatment as they received. Passages such as these serve as timely warnings to Christians whose lives, though changed, are not what they should be, and to non-Christians whose lives need changing in a revolutionary way.

Since Tyre was a seafaring nation, it is apt that a metaphor associated with the sea is used. Tyre is likened to a great ship, built party of wood from Senir (Mt Hermon), Lebanon, Bashan and Cyprus (27:5-6). Its sails are made from fine embroidered linen from Egypt, with deck awnings made from dyed fabrics from the coasts of Elisha -- the non-Phoenician part of Cyprus (27:7). Men of Sidon, Arvad (an island off the north coast of Phoenicia), and Geba' (Byblos: another coastal city) are its oarsmen, seamen and sailors (27:8-9).

Changing the picture somewhat, Tyre 's land-based army is now described. It consists of mercenaries from Persia, Lydia, Libya, Arvad, Helech and Gammad (27:10-11).

Moving on to a description of Tyre 's commercial life, trade was carried on with almost every conceivable nation east and west of this central coastal region. The list (27:12-23) includes places in what is today Sardinia (Tarshish), Greece, Turkey (Tubal and Meshech), Armenia (Beth Togarmah), Rhodes, Syria (Aram), the Arabian peninsula: modern Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (Dedan, Kedar, Sheba and Raamah) and Iraq (Haran, Canneh and Eden). The list also includes the trade of Judah and Israel (23:17).

As for the merchandise that passed through Tyre's ports, it includes an impressive array of raw materials and finished products, including: silver, iron, tin and lead, bronze, ivory tusks and ebony, turquoise, purple fabric, embroidered work, fine linen, coral and rubies, wheat, honey, oil and balm, wine, wool, blankets, Iambs, rams and goats, spices and precious stones, and gold, and rugs. One need only go to a modern port where ships come and go from the nations of the world, carrying every conceivable kind of merchandise, to imagine how prestigious, and wealthy, Tyre was. Truly, Tyre was the centre of the commercial universe.

This section highlights the danger of pride and the sense of invulnerability that comes with it. Tyre boasted: I am perfect in beauty (27:3). This is the claim of conceit and arrogance. Scripture warns that it was pride that led to the downfall of both Uzziah and Hezekiah (2 Chron. 26:16; 32:26). It is pride that prevents sinners from seeking after God (Psalm 10:4). God says of it, "I hate pride" (Prov. 8:13). It is the precursor to destruction (Prov. 16:18), as the next section of this chapter relates.

Pride followed by destruction (27:25-36): Having likened Tyre to a great ship (27:3-9), Ezekiel portrays Tyre s destruction in terms of a shipwreck (27:27) caused by the east wind (27:26), that is, Babylon. Sailors and oarsmen find themselves at the mercy of the sea, drowning in its depths. Others, standing on the shore, look on with grief and shock (27:28- 30). They raise a lament of pitiful and somber tones. It includes much weeping and mourning (27:31). Two responses to Tyre 's demise are noted. First, there are those who are shaken by it:

"All who live in the coastlands are appalled at you; their kings shudder with horror and their faces are distorted with fear" (27:35).

This is the reaction of fear. It is the sudden realization on the part of the surrounding nations that what has happened to Tyre can happen to them too. It is a reminder to them of their vulnerability. No defense is a match for the anger of God when it is kindled. Their dependence on worldly means to save them in the hour of trouble will prove to be their undoing. This is a lesson that we need to learn. Second, there are those who gloat at Tyre' s downfall. Rather than learn the lesson, they hiss at Tyre's humiliation (27:36). This is, in fact, the treatment that Tyre had itself meted out to Jerusalem in her undoing (26:2). Our sins have a habit of coming home to roost . Do to others what you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12).

Tyre's great might has waned. When we survey what has happened in the history of the twentieth century - its two world wars, the rise and collapse of Communism, the emergence of tyrants and the like -- we are to perceive the hand of God at work among the nations. The sins of the nations have not altogether been dealt with yet; indeed, for some their iniquity is only now coming perilously close to the brim. But soon, God will arise and destroy the proud and arrogant, those who base their confidence on the material things of this world. They have no ultimate future. A day will come when the arrogant cry, I am perfect in beauty, will be heard no more. Instead, there will be the noise of wailing and weeping. This is a solemn truth.

Falling from fame and fortune (28:1-19): Democracy is not the savior of the world, but it has the merit of at least some choice in as far as our leaders are concerned. In the ancient world, the removal of a despotic king was difficult. To be brutally honest, there was only one choice: assassination! This was the way several kings in Judah and Israel had met their end. Ittobal II, Tyre' s king, was to be spared death at the hands of his people; instead, he was to be removed by a divine hand. That pride was the cause of Tyre's downfall is something that finds confirmation in the claim Ittobal II made of himself: firstly, that he was wiser than Daniel; secondly, in his abilities as a leader which meant that in terms of wealth, Tyre had never had it so good (28:4-5); and thirdly, in the ultimate claim of all: "I am a god" (28:2,6). The judgment is swift and decisive: foreigners will come upon him (the king in particular, but the whole of Tyre that he represents is meant) and he will be brought down to the pit (28:8)." As the king dies, he will hardly then be in a position to boast that he is God Almighty! (28:9).

His death will be the death of one outside the covenant, the death of the uncircumcised (28:10; cf. 31:18; 32:19-32). Circumcision was the sign and seal of the covenant God made with Abraham and his posterity. It had a national as well as a spiritual significance. It served to introduce people into the externally organized community of Israel as well as representing a God-ward relationship that was the essence of the covenant. Repeatedly, the Philistines, for example, are designated as uncircumcised. Goliath is the uncircumcised Philistine (I Sam. 17:26,36). Saul would rather die than fall into the hands of the uncircumcised (I Sam. 31:4). The prophets became even more explicit, insisting that the Judeans circumcise the foreskins of (their] hearts (Jer. 4:4, NKJV). They were already Israelites and in possession of the physical sign of identity. What was missing was the true essence of circumcision: their relationship with the Lord. To die the death of the uncircumcised was to die the death of an unbeliever.

This is a sorry tale of one who once held such honor and power, who lived in such luxury and wealth, who dies in shame and descends into the pit. Ittobal II was not the first to go this way; nor was he the last. Jesus spoke of another rich man who died and went to hell. His pleas for mercy went unheeded because it is an irreversible condition (Luke 16:19-31).

Behind the description of the fall of the King of Tyre lies the shadow of Satan. Many commentators have believed that behind this passage and a similar one of the fall of the King of Babylon in Isaiah 14:12-14 lies a traditional account of the fall of Satan, whose image these arrogant monarchs bore. This theory cannot be proved, but both kings were types of Satan, who is anti-Christ (Dan. 11:36; 2 Thess. 2:4).

In order to establish the relevance of the story to his readers, Ezekiel compares the King of Tyre to a primeval man in the Garden of Eden, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (28:12). What Ezekiel is portraying in these poetic and difficult lines is the idea of a great fall from a perfect existence. The king seemed to have everything: he is bedecked with the finest jewelry - and falls. Adam had everything - and fell! And with Adam, we too fell! Behind the Eden story lies the figure of Satan, who also had everything - and fell. Changing the figure, Ezekiel then compares him to a guardian cherub on the holy mount of God (28:14). This expression was a common way of alluding to the place where God was thought to dwell. Thus the King of Tyre, who claimed to be a god, resides in the mountain of God, but falls: wickedness is found in him (28:15). And the cause of wickedness? Greed, self-aggrandizement, summed up in a simple, self-condemning sentence: Your heart became proud (28:17). These were the elements which Adam found so alluring. Augustine was insistent that pride was the essence of Adam's sin in Eden, and is the essence of sin in general. The King of Tyre 's fall. spectacular and shocking as it was, is a symbol of what sin can expect, no matter where it is found. If he was banished from Eden, the fault lay entirely within himself. It is a salutary warning to shady business practice, something of which Tyre was guilty, that its end is destruction. Many a tycoon has found it to be just so.

Epilogue: Sidon and Israel (28:20-26): Sidon (28:21) was the second largest city of ancient Phoenicia after Tyre and about twenty-five miles to the north on the Mediterranean coast; by New Testament times they were often joined together (cf. Matt. 11 :21-22; 15:21). No immediate reason is given for Sidon 's judgment, but we may assume that the city had sided with Tyre, perhaps contributing to Judah's downfall to the Babylonians.

Encyclopedia Phoeniciana Web site

When the prophet Habakkuk, who preached just slightly before Ezekiel and may well have still been alive when Ezekiel ministered, allowed himself to think about the way God was going to use the Babylonians in his devices, he seems to have had many problems. He tells us in his opening chapter how he cried to the Lord about it. He was a puzzled prophet, unable to account for what was happening and why it was happening in the way it was. God's answer to him was to take refuge in his Covenant. It was true that he was going to use the Babylonians, but reminding Habakkuk of his promise to Abraham, he told the prophet, "The righteous will live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4; cf. Gen. 15:6). The righteous, that is, those who arc reckoned to be righteous by faith, will live. The promise will never fail. It is the same reassurance that God now gives to Ezekiel's audience. As Calvin comments on an earlier verse relating to the same promise, "If the exile had been perpetual. that promise might seem vain." After four chapters of judgment upon the nations, and when Israel (Judah) has already felt the force of that judgment at the hands of the Babylonians, God's people must have wondered if this was all God had to say. Was there any hope for the people of God? In a message of unsurpassed comfort, Ezekiel sings eloquently of Israel's restoration from exile. There will come a time when 'They will live in their own land... They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God' (28:25-26). The charge that Ezekiel is full of judgment is imbalanced. The prophecy certainly does contain some of the strongest notes of God's anger towards sin found anywhere in the Scriptures. In that sense it is not an easy book to read. But it is also suffused with statements of God's grace. The sentiment in verses 25-26 is yet another of many such in Ezekiel (cf. 11:17; 20:34,41-42; 29:13; 34:13; 36:24; 37:21; 38:8; 39:27). Though God is justly angry with Judah, his anger lasts only for a while, and once the lesson has been learned he will restore them to their land again. That this is true is something the books of Nehemiah and Ezra relate.

Summary: The Old Testament story focuses largely upon Israel as God's chosen people, but it is equally anxious to stress that God is Lord of the nations. The whole world belongs to God and he is anxious to exercise his lordship over it all. God judges others. There is a measure of comfort in the knowledge that when we witness the brutality of the present world - violence, murder, rape, the abuse of children, etc. -- God is not indifferent to it. Sometimes we are tempted to ask, 'What is God doing?' The answer is that he is being patient (cf. 2 Peter 3:15). He gives people a certain amount of rope, but he will not be patient for ever. Though none of these nations possessed a Bible and they were not recipients of special revelation, they were still without excuse. God judged them as sinners who had broken his laws. It is a salutary lesson that people do not need a Bible to be held accountable to God for their actions. This is something Paul makes very clear (Rom. 1:18-20; 2:14-15). In the judgments pronounced on Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia, God has reminded the nations of the world that, one day, they will be called to account for their actions. These chapters, Ezekiel 26-28, have dealt principally with the seafaring state of Phoenicia, or Tyre, as it is collectively known here. Proud and greedy as it had become, its end will be swift and devastating. This once great prosperous state, renowned throughout the world for its commercial success, was to be brought to a heap of rubble. What looked so important in Ezekiel's time now lies buried beneath the debris accumulated over the centuries. Nations, empires, moguls -- these come and go. It is only the sovereign purposes of God that endure.

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