The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (16)

Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper


      1. Some Preliminary Observations
      2. The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
      3. The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
      4. The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
      5. Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
      6. The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
      7. Prophecy and Idolatry
      8. Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
      9. The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
      10. God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
      11. The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
      12. Israel's Past and Future Experiences
      13. The Sword of Jehovah
      14. Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
      15. The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
      16. The Boiling Caldron
      17. Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
      18. The Oracle Concerning Tyre
      19. The Oracles Concerning Egypt
      20. The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
      21. The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
      22. The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
      23. The Judgment upon Edom
      24. The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
      25. Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
      26. The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
      27. The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
      28. The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
      29. The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
      30. The Millennial Jerusalem
      31. The Millennial Temple
      32. The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
      33. The Land of Israel in the Millennium

The Boiling Caldron

As we approach the study of Ezekiel, chapter 24, let us remember that the prophet was in Babylon in captivity, and that most of the visions which he received to be delivered to the people pertained to Jerusalem and the rest of the nation that still remained in the land. Of course the Jewish captives who had been taken to Babylon, and to whom Ezekiel ministered, were those that had been deported by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim's reign and those also carried away when he took Jehoiachin and numbers of the leaders of Israel into captivity. These captives of course were very much interested in their native land and in their beloved city, Jerusalem. They were eager to get the news from heaven concerning the events before the realities were unfolded before their eyes.

I might illustrate the situation in Ezekiel's day by that which exists today. There are Jews all over the world who are looking intently to the Jewish situation in Palestine. Since the open war has broken out there, Jews in other lands are eagerly listening to the radio and reading the papers to get the very last minute news concerning the development of the situation in their native land. In a manner similar to this one were the captives in Babylon at the time when Ezekiel was prophesying.

I. The Date of The Prophecy

Much confusion has arisen among commentators because of their failure to understand the system of the dating of the prophecies of this book. Ezekiel received his call, according to 1:2, in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim and the predecessor of Zedekiah, who reigned only three months, and then was deported to Babylon. The prophet's next oracle is dated in the sixth year (8:1). The next one is found in 20:1 and is dated in the seventh year. The present prophecy is dated in the ninth year. Ezekiel does not say that this is the ninth year of Jehoiachin's captivity. Most students assume that this was the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign. But a glance at Ezekiel 40:1 makes it clear that Ezekiel dates his prophecies in the era of Jehoiachin's captivity; for he declared that the twenty-fifth year of their captivity was the fourteenth year after the city fell. The wording is exact. That twenty-fifth year, when Ezekiel received the oracle found in chapters 40-48, was the fourteenth year after the fall of the city. From the account in Second Kings we see that the city fell in the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign (II Kings 25:1-12). Thus Ezekiel 40:1 shows that the chronological scheme adopted by Ezekiel was that of the captivity of Jehoiachin.

The prophecy which we are studying now is that of the boiling caldron. The revelation came in the ninth year, in the tenth month and tenth day. Since Ezekiel used the era of Jehoiachin's captivity, the ninth year in that system was the eighth year of Zedekiah's reign. This being true, the prophecy was given exactly one year prior to the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This was a memorable date, because from it is dated the period of the seventy years of indignation which is mentioned by Zechariah in chapter 1 of his prophecy.

II. The Symbolism

Jeremiah, a senior contemporary of Ezekiel, had a vision in which he saw a boiling caldron that was facing from the north. Its contents were boiling over and running in the direction of Palestine. The Lord interpreted this symbolism as indicating that there would come forth from the north all the nations under the Babylonians in an invasion of the land to wreck and to ruin it from one end to the other. This use of the symbolism must be kept distinct from that employed by Ezekiel.

In Ezekiel 11:3 we see that the people in Jerusalem employed this same symbolism. There were certain men in Jerusalem who were devising iniquity by giving wicked counsel and spreading propaganda among the inhabitants. They were therefore saying, “The time is not near to build houses: this city is the caldron, and we are the flesh.” It is altogether possible, yes, probable, that they drew this figure of the caldron from the language of Jeremiah, who lived at Anathoth, three miles northeast of Jerusalem, and who came and spoke in Jerusalem frequently. Hence the men of the city of Jerusalem were in touch with his preaching. These subversive agents, possibly fifth columnists, were spreading their propaganda and were breaking the morale of the people. They therefore said that the people should not continue in their regular pursuits, but that Jerusalem was simply the caldron, and that they themselves were the flesh placed in the boiling caldron. In reply to this subversive propaganda, the Lord declared: “Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron; but ye shall be brought forth out of the midst of it” (11:7). These underhanded, conniving teachers were actually the cause of the murder of various ones in the city. Thus the Lord turned the language upon these wicked ones by saying that they themselves had made Jerusalem the caldron, and that those whom they had slain, were the flesh in the caldron. But the Lord announced in no uncertain sound that these subversive teachers would be taken out of the city. The implication is that they would be taken out and punished and would not be suffered to remain there and to carry on their nefarious campaigns. Then again, He declared, “This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither have ye executed mine ordinances, but have done after the ordinances of the nations that are round about you” (11:11,12). The prophecy of these verses is in accordance with the prediction in the verse quoted above.

Ezekiel uses the word caldron in the same symbolic sense in chapter 24, as he did in chapter 11. The prophet's hearers were familiar with the caldron or pot and of the cooking of flesh in such a vessel. They knew that men gathered wood and put it under the caldron, poured water in it, and then placed the animal to be cooked, piece by piece, there. When the fire became hot, the water would boil and flow over its rim at places. Thus this boiling caldron with its flesh was a vivid pictorial representation or symbolic presentation of what God intended to do to Jerusalem.

III. The Meaning of the Symbolism

The Lord by this symbolism indicated that He would gather together the people who were left in the land into their capital, Jerusalem, in which was the rust of the caldron, the filth and immorality of the people, that had never been purged by the past judgments through which the people had gone. Moreover the Lord indicated that they would pass through a terrible ordeal which should, like the boiling of the caldron, remove the rust but would not. Of course He was speaking of the siege of the Babylonians and Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. The city and the people were not purged of their corruption and vices although that ordeal was terrific.

It will, however, be cleansed of all its filthiness when the Lord causes His wrath to burn like a fire and consume the filth of the people. When it has thus accomplished the removal of all the wickedness in Israel, His wrath will rest or cease, as we see in verse 13: “In thy filthiness is lewdness: because I have cleansed thee and thou wast not cleansed, thou shall not be cleansed from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my wrath toward thee to rest.” God's wrath will burn and the caldron will boil to the nth degree and it squared, figuratively speaking, in the time of the great Tribulation, at the time of the end, when the Lord gathers all nations against Jerusalem to battle (for a full description of these perilous times for Israel in the future, see Zechariah, chapters 12, 13, and 14). When Israel is thus brought to her extremity, she will fully surrender to God and will call upon Him for peace, pardon, and cleansing. She will also pray that He send the Messiah, against whom she sinned nineteen hundred years when He first came, and whom she has rejected throughout the intervening centuries of the present era. When she thus acknowledges her national sin and pleads for Him to return, He will do so. Then His wrath will cease or come to rest.

IV. The Death of Ezekiel's Wife

In verses 15-18 we have an account of the death of Ezekiel's wife whom he loved very dearly. It seems from the language that she was stricken very suddenly and passed away. Although the prophet's heart was crushed by this severe blow, the loss of his true companion, the Lord forbade his weeping or giving any outward demonstration of the grief and sorrow that was in his soul. He was to lay her to rest without giving expression to his emotions and feeling. He was given this revelation that she would die. She passed away that evening. The next morning the prophet did exactly as God had commanded him.

V. Ezekiel's Interpretation of the Situation

In verses 19-24 we have a record that the people came to Ezekiel and asked him to explain his strange conduct in passing through such an ordeal as the present one without giving expression to his emotions. By God's grace he was able to carry out the instructions which the Lord gave him. In this connection let us remember that God's commandings are God's enablings. All one has to do is to look to God in faith and He will grant the deliverance and all things that are necessary for one under any condition.

When the people asked Ezekiel what was the significance of his strange actions, he delivered the following oracle from the Lord:

Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left behind shall fall by the sword. 22 And ye shall do as I have done; ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. 23 And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away in your iniquities, and moan one toward another.” (Ezekiel 24:21-23)

This of course was a prediction of the calamity that would come upon Israel because of her sins. The nation would be crushed, the city would be captured, the government overthrown, and the people carried off into a foreign land into captivity. All of this of course was fulfilled by the Babylonian conquest of the land and the consequent exile.

Thus Ezekiel became a sign, a living walking sign, to Israel of that which was inevitable. Men should learn that they reap what they sow, and that sin always finds them out.

VI. Report of the Fall of the City to be the Confirmation for the Prophet and the People

The oracle closes with verses 25-27. Thus a year before the siege began, the prophet made this revelation known to the people. He knew that this vision would be shortly fulfilled, but he at the instruction of the Lord said that he, Ezekiel, and the people would know when the prophecy was fulfilled that this prediction was a revelation from God. Of course Ezekiel and the others who were walking by faith knew that this message was an oracle from God. But the fulfillment, which was in the very near future, would be confirmation to strengthen the conviction of the people in the thought that Ezekiel was a true prophet of God, one who was speaking faithfully the Word of God to them. The thought of this paragraph and of the people's being confirmed in the prediction with reference to Ezekiel's true prophetic office might be illustrated by the nobleman of the New Testament whose son lay at the point of death. He left Capernaum, his home, and went to Cana of Galilee to meet Jesus. He reported to the Lord the condition of his son and asked Him to come down and heal him. Instead of going with him, Jesus assured him that his son would be restored and instructed him to return to his home. This man believed exactly what Jesus said and started homeward. The next day he met his servants coming to meet him, who reported that his son was alive. He asked them when he began to amend. Their reply was that at the seventh hour of the preceding day the fever left him. John tells us then that the father believed, together with his whole house. He had faith to go and appeal to Jesus to restore his son. When Jesus told him that his son was living and that he should return home, he believed. When he heard the report that the fever left at the very hour when Jesus spoke the word, he believed, that is, his faith was strengthened. Nothing then could shake his faith in Jesus as the Saviour.

Thus the conviction regarding Ezekiel was confirmed by the prophecy's being fulfilled literally as God had spoken.

May we have our faith confirmed by our walking in close fellowship with God, by our bringing our needs and wants to Him, and by letting Him verify His promises in our lives. Thus our faith will be strengthened by each answer to believing prayer; 0 Lord, increase our faith; help our unbelief!

Next: Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia