Ezekiel 18-20 I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life

From Ezekiel 18-20

26 Ezekiel Scroll fed thumb Ezekiel refers to the time when Israel was in slavery to Egypt. They continued to rebel against the LORD. Even after their own practices begins to hurt them.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Six years in Babylonian exile and Ezekiel was approached by several elders of Israel. They inquire of the LORD. He refuses their request and tells their past story (Eze 20.1-4).

02 Exodus thumbThe LORD begins with Egypt. He promised deliverance out of Egypt, entry into the promised land. In return he wanted Israel to give up worshiping the idols of Egypt. But they did not listen (Eze 20.5-8).

The LORD threatened destruction. Instead acted to protect his name before the nations. He led them out of Egypt and into the wilderness.

He gave them statues and rules and if Israel obeyed them they would live.

He gave them the Sabbath to remind them he sanctifies them. But the people continued to rebel in the wilderness (Eze 20.9-20).

21 But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths. (Eze 20.21)

They continue to disobey despite his repeated commands and warnings.

103 Ten Commandments“Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. 

23 Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, 24 because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols. (Eze 20.21-24)

The LORD warns them again in the wilderness he will destroy them. Like before he acts to protect his name, but this time threatens to scatter them among the nations.

25 Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, 26 and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the LORD. (Eze 20.25-26)

26 vial poison skull cross bonesWhen they began in Egypt they had no commands to obey.

After their initial disobedience the LORD gave them rules to obey. These were good and if they obeyed them, they would be given life.

But they disobeyed, so the LORD gave them more rules. These however were ‘not good’. Through them they could not have life. One command required they offer up their firstborn as a sacrifice. It defiled them and devastated them.

The laws were a punishment for their sin.

27 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me. 28 For when I had brought them into the land that I swore to give them, then wherever they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices and there they presented the provocation of their offering; there they sent up their pleasing aromas, and there they poured out their drink offerings. 29 (I said to them, What is the high place to which you go? So its name is called Bamah to this day.) (Eze 20.27-29)

The people were meant worship at the place the LORD shall choose. Instead they sacrificed on hills and under trees. They committed idolatry.

30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and go whoring after their detestable things? 31 When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.
32 “What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.’ (Eze 20.30-32)

They offered up children into the fire to other gods (‘wood and stone’). Its likely these are the sacrifices the LORD was referring to earlier in offering their firstborn. They did not even offer a payment. Instead they burnt their own children.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

“Consideration of the past is commonly designed to enable us to see ourselves mirrored there. History has to repeat itself because no one is listening. Wherever Ezekiel looks, the past is the sound of which the present is the echo. Ezekiel’s audience are people who now live in a new Egypt, and he wants to talk about a new wilderness experience that Yahweh intends for them, and a new entering into the land. The way out of the negative side to that is a change of religious life (20:30).” (Goldingay, J.A., 2003. Ezekiel. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 640.)

Story of Jesus

Ezekiel exhorted his audience not to repeat the sins of the past. Those who forget are destined to repeat them. Which is how the Jews came to kill Jesus.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Mt 23.37-39)

They killed Jesus, but not before he predicted the end of their house and announced the coming of those who would tell of his death and resurrection.

We’ve seen what happens to those who persist rejecting the LORD. But now he offers good news.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.