Study Guide

Book of Ezekiel Power

Power

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. (NRSV 2:1-3)

And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. (KJV 2:1-3)

The power of God physically knocks Ezekiel over. From the first moment, we see that Ezekiel is totally in God's power. He loses control over his mind (those crazy visions) and his body.

When he commanded the man clothed in linen, Take fire from within the wheelwork, from among the cherubim, he went in and stood beside a wheel. And a cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings. (NRSV 10:6-8)

And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels. And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out. And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings" (KJV 10:6-8)

All of this imagery—fire, wheels, weird cherubim with human hands—seems to demonstrate how divine power isn't only really powerful but also comes from a transcendent source, way beyond the possibilities of human power. All this supernatural imagery seems to say, "Don't even try to understand this."

Say: Thus says the Lord God: A great eagle, with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to the Lebanon. He took the top of the cedar, broke off its topmost shoot; he carried it to a land of trade, set it in a city of merchants. Then he took a seed from the land, placed it in fertile soil; a plant by abundant waters, he set it like a willow twig. It sprouted and became a vine spreading out, but low; its branches turned toward him, its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine; it brought forth branches, put forth foliage. (NRSV 17:3-6)

 And say, Thus saith the Lord God; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar: He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree. And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs. (KJV 17:3-6)

The eagle in this passage represents King Nebuchadnezzar, carrying off the shoot (King Jehoiachin,) before replacing him with the seed, Zedekiah. Even though these kings brought about catastrophic events for Israel, God was the real power behind their actions. Ezekiel doesn't let Israel forget that the solutions to their problems can't be found in political alliances.

He prowled among the lions; he became a young lion, and he learned to catch prey; he devoured people. And he ravaged their strongholds, and laid waste their towns; the land was appalled, and all in it, at the sound of his roaring. The nations set upon him from the provinces all around; they spread their net over him; he was caught in their pit. With hooks they put him in a cage, and brought him to the king of Babylon; they brought him into custody, so that his voice should be heard no more on the mountains of Israel. (NRSV 19:6-9)

And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men. And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring. Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit. And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel. (KJV 19:6-9)

Who's more powerful than the King of the Jungle, right? This is another allegory to show that, regardless how fierce and powerful, kings and princes can be brought down pretty easily.

Mortal, prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord; Say: A sword, a sword is sharpened, it is also polished; it is sharpened for slaughter, honed to flash like lightning! How can we make merry? You have despised the rod, and all discipline. The sword is given to be polished, to be grasped in the hand; it is sharpened, the sword is polished, to be placed in the slayer's hand." (NRSV 21:9-11)

Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished: It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree. And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. (KJV 21:9-11)

God talks a lot about his destructive sword—which isn't a literal sword, so much as it is the wrathful force he's unleashing on the world in the form of the Babylonian army. The suspense in these verses is incredible. You can almost see the swords being sharpened. To paraphrase that other master of horror, Alfred Hitchcock, the terror isn't in the slaughter, it's in the anticipation of the slaughter. God knows how to tell a story for maximum effect.

When your wares came from the seas, you satisfied many peoples; with your abundant wealth and merchandise you enriched the kings of the earth. Now you are wrecked by the seas, in the depths of the waters; your merchandise and all your crew have sunk with you. All the inhabitants of the coastlands are appalled at you; and their kings are horribly afraid, their faces are convulsed. (NRSV 27:33-35)

When thy wares went forth out of the seas, thou filledst many people; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise. In the time when thou shalt be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall. All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they shall be troubled in their countenance. (KJV 27:33-35)

Ezekiel predicts that Tyre will be utterly destroyed—mainly, as punishment for taking pride in its wealth and failing to behave justly. (Though God changes his mind later and destroys Egypt instead.)

"With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire." (NRSV 28:14-16)

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. (KJV 28:14-16)

This story is in case we need any more proof that the power of the rulers can be fleeting and taken away whenever God feels like it. One sure way to lose your power as a ruler is to get too confident about it.

…[A]nd the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they shall know that I am the Lord. Because you said, 'The Nile is mine, and I made it,' therefore, I am against you, and against your channels, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia. No human foot shall pass through it, and no animal foot shall pass through it; it shall be uninhabited forty years. (NRSV 29:9-11)

And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the Lord: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it. Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. (KJV 29:9-11)

Pharaoh finds out the hard way not to think of himself as all that. This is getting predictable: as soon as you're too stuck on your own power and fabulousness, the party's over. And You-Know-Who is the bouncer.

Be ready and keep ready, you and all the companies that are assembled around you, and hold yourselves in reserve for them. After many days you shall be mustered; in the latter years you shall go against a land restored from war, a land where people were gathered from many nations on the mountains of Israel, which had long lain waste; its people were brought out from the nations and now are living in safety, all of them. You shall advance, coming on like a storm; you shall be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you. (NRSV 38:7-9) 

Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. (KJV 38:7-9)

God tells Gog to go out and attack Israel. Of course, Gog's going to be defeated, and the good guys will finally win and rule. Gog only has the illusion of power. In reality, God calls the shots and the outcome is already determined. God really plays Gog here, appealing to Gog's sense of his own power.

And you, mortal, prophesy against Gog, and say: Thus says the Lord God: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal! I will turn you around and drive you forward, and bring you up from the remotest parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples that are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every kind and to the wild animals to be devoured. You shall fall in the open field; for I have spoken, says the Lord God. (NRSV 39:1-5) 

Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel: And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. (KJV 39:1-5)

This is the big moment—the moment when human power finally fully gives away to divine power. According to Ezekiel, this final showdown will take place in the future.

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