The Sword of Judgment1 [Heb. 21:6] ▼ The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, turn toward ▼
▼ Heb “set your face toward.”Jerusalem ▼ and speak out against the sanctuaries. Prophesy against the land of Israel 3 and say to them, ▼
▼ Heb “the land of Israel.”‘This is what the Lord says: Look, ▼
▼ The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) draws attention to something and has been translated here as a verb.I am against you. ▼
▼ Or “I challenge you.” The phrase “I am against you” may be a formula for challenging someone to combat or a duel. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:201–2, and P. Humbert, “Die Herausforderungsformel ‘hinnenî êlêkâ,’” ZAW 45 (1933): 101-8.I will draw my sword ▼ from its sheath and cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked. ▼
▼ Ezekiel elsewhere pictures the Lord’s judgment as discriminating between the righteous and the wicked (9:4–6; 18:1–20; see as well Pss 1 and 11) and speaks of the preservation of a remnant (3:21; 6:8; 12:16). Perhaps here he exaggerates for rhetorical effect in an effort to subdue any false optimism. See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:25–26; D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:669–70; and W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel (Hermeneia), 1:424–25.4 Because I will cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked, my sword will go out from its sheath against everyone ▼
▼ Heb “all flesh” (also in the following verse).from the south ▼
▼ Heb “Negev.” The Negev is the south country.to the north. 5 Then everyone will know that I am the Lord, who drew my sword from its sheath – it will not be sheathed again!’
6 “And you, son of man, groan with an aching heart ▼
▼ Heb “breaking loins.”and bitterness; groan before their eyes. 7 When they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning?’ you will reply, ‘Because of the report that has come. Every heart will melt with fear and every hand will be limp; everyone ▼
▼ Heb “every spirit will be dim.”will faint and every knee will be wet with urine.’ ▼ Pay attention – it is coming and it will happen, declares the sovereign Lord.”
8 The word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Son of man, prophesy and say: ‘This is what the Lord says:
“‘A sword, a sword is sharpened,
and also polished.
10 It is sharpened for slaughter,
it is polished to flash like lightning!
“‘Should we rejoice in the scepter of my son? No! The sword despises every tree! ▼
▼ Heb “Or shall we rejoice, scepter of my son, it despises every tree.” The translation understands the subject of the verb “despises,” which is a feminine form in the Hebrew text, to be the sword (which is a feminine noun) mentioned just before this. Alternatively, the line may be understood as “let us not rejoice, O tribe of my son; it despises every tree.” The same word in Hebrew may be either “rod,” “scepter,” or “tribe.” The word sometimes translated as “or” or taken as an interrogative particle may be a negative particle. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:672, n. 79.▼
11 “‘He gave it to be polished,
to be grasped in the hand –
the sword is sharpened, it is polished –
giving it into the hand of the executioner.
12 Cry out and moan, son of man,
for it is wielded against my people;
against all the princes of Israel.
They are delivered up to the sword, along with my people.
Therefore, strike your thigh. ▼
13 “‘For testing will come, and what will happen when the scepter, which the sword despises, is no more? ▼
▼ Heb “For testing (will come) and what if also a scepter, it despises, will not be?” The translation understands the subject of the verb “despises,” which is a feminine form in the Hebrew text, to be the sword (which is a feminine noun) mentioned in the previous verses. The text is very difficult and any rendering is uncertain.declares the sovereign Lord.’
14 “And you, son of man, prophesy,
and clap your hands together.
Let the sword strike twice, even three times!
It is a sword for slaughter,
a sword for the great slaughter surrounding them.
15 So hearts melt with fear and many stumble.
At all their gates I have stationed the sword for slaughter.
Ah! It is made to flash, it is drawn for slaughter!
16 Cut sharply on the right!
Swing to ▼
▼ Heb “Put to.”the left,
wherever your edge ▼
▼ Heb “face.”is appointed to strike.
17 I too will clap my hands together,
I will exhaust my rage;
I the Lord have spoken.”
18 The word of the Lord came to me: 19 “You, son of man, mark out two routes for the king of Babylon’s sword to take; both of them will originate in a single land. Make a signpost and put it at the beginning of the road leading to the city. 20 Mark out the routes for the sword to take: “Rabbah of the Ammonites” and “Judah with Jerusalem in it.” ▼
▼ The MT reads “Judah in fortified Jerusalem,” a geographic impossibility. The translation follows the LXX, which assumes בְּתוֹכָהּ (betokhah, “in it”) for בְּצוּרָה (betsurah, “fortified”).▼
▼ As the Babylonians approached from the north, one road would branch off to the left and lead down the east side of the Jordan River to Ammon. The other road would veer to the right and lead down west of the Jordan to Jerusalem.21 For the king of Babylon stands at the fork ▼
▼ Heb “mother.”in the road at the head of the two routes. He looks for omens: ▼
▼ Mesopotamian kings believed that the gods revealed the future through omens. They employed various divination techniques, some of which are included in the list that follows. A particularly popular technique was the examination and interpretation of the livers of animals. See R. R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel, 90–110.He shakes arrows, he consults idols, ▼ he examines ▼
▼ Heb “sees.”animal livers. ▼
▼ Heb “the liver.”22 Into his right hand ▼
▼ Or “on the right side,” i.e., the omen mark on the right side of the liver.comes the portent for Jerusalem – to set up battering rams, to give the signal ▼
▼ Heb “to open the mouth” for slaughter.for slaughter, to shout out the battle cry, ▼
▼ Heb “to raise up a voice in a battle cry.”to set up battering rams against the gates, to erect a siege ramp, to build a siege wall. 23 But those in Jerusalem ▼
▼ Heb “they”; the referent (the people in Jerusalem) has been specified in the translation for clarity.will view it as a false omen. They have sworn solemn oaths, ▼ but the king of Babylon ▼
▼ Heb “he”; the referent (the king of Babylon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.will accuse them of violations ▼
▼ Or “iniquity.”in order to seize them. ▼
24 “Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you have brought up ▼
▼ Heb “caused to be remembered.”your own guilt by uncovering your transgressions and revealing your sins through all your actions, for this reason you will be taken by force. ▼
▼ Heb “Because you have brought to remembrance your guilt when your transgressions are uncovered so that your sins are revealed in all your deeds – because you are remembered, by the hand you will be seized.”
25 “‘As for you, profane and wicked prince of Israel, ▼
▼ This probably refers to King Zedekiah.
whose day has come, the time of final punishment,
26 this is what the sovereign Lord says:
Tear off the turban, ▼
take off the crown!
Things must change! ▼
▼ Heb “This not this.”
Exalt the lowly,
bring down the proud! ▼
▼ Heb “the high one.”
27 A total ruin I will make it! ▼
▼ Heb “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I will make it.” The threefold repetition of the noun “ruin” is for emphasis and draws attention to the degree of ruin that would take place. See IBHS 233 #12.5a and GKC 431-32 #133.k. The pronominal suffix (translated “it”) on the verb “make” is feminine in Hebrew. The probable antecedent is the “turban/crown” (both nouns are feminine in form) mentioned in verse 26. The point is that the king’s royal splendor would be completely devastated as judgment overtook his realm and brought his reign to a violent end.
It will come to an end
when the one arrives to whom I have assigned judgment.’ ▼
▼ Heb “Also this, he was not, until the coming of the one to whom the judgment belongs and I have given it.” The Hebrew text, as it stands, is grammatically difficult. The pronoun “this” is feminine, while the following negated verb (“was not”) is masculine. Some emend the verb to a feminine form (see BHS). In this case the statement refers to the destiny of the king’s turban/crown (symbolizing his reign). See the previous note. The preposition translated “when” normally means “until,” but here it seems to refer to the period during which the preceding situation is realized, rather than its termination point. See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:19, 21. The second part of the statement, though awkward, probably refers to the arrival of the Babylonian king, to whom the Lord had assigned the task of judgment (see 23:24). Or the verse may read “A total ruin I will make, even this. It will not be until the one comes to whom is (the task of) judgment and I have assigned it.”
28 “As for you, son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says concerning the Ammonites and their coming humiliation; ▼
▼ Heb “their reproach.”say:
“‘A sword, a sword drawn for slaughter,
polished to consume, ▼
▼ Heb “to contain, endure.” Since the Hebrew text as it stands makes little, if any, sense, most emend the text to read either “to consume” or “for destruction.” For discussion of options see D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:693.to flash like lightning –
29 while seeing false visions for you
and reading lying omens for you ▼
▼ Heb “in the seeing concerning you falsehood, in divining concerning you a lie.” This probably refers to the attempts of the Ammonites to ward off judgment through prophetic visions and divination.–
to place that sword ▼ on the necks of the profane wicked, ▼
▼ The second half of the verse appears to state that the sword of judgment would fall upon the wicked, despite their efforts to prevent it.
whose day has come,
the time of final punishment.
30 Return it to its sheath! ▼
In the place where you were created, ▼
in your native land, I will judge you.
31 I will pour out my anger on you;
the fire of my fury I will blow on you.
I will hand you over to brutal men,
who are skilled in destruction.
32 You will become fuel for the fire –
your blood will stain the middle of the land; ▼
▼ Heb “your blood will be in the middle of the land.”
you will no longer be remembered,
for I, the Lord, have spoken.’”
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