If you like poetry, you might appreciate this chapter, which compares Egypt to a mighty tree, describing its former beauty and how it has now been cut down, yada yada yada. The only verses of mild interest to me are those about death (14 and 16); do the references to ‘the pit’ and ‘the nether regions of the earth’ suggest a concept of hell beginning to develop?
I am the lord and I’m gonna slaughter everybody…
“I will send them down to the world below in company with those who descend to the pit…. Egypt and its hordes will be dragged away to their judgment. Down in the grave mighty leaders will mockingly welcome Egypt and its allies, saying, ‘They have come down; they lie among the outcasts, hordes slaughtered by the sword.’ (v 18-21)
This does sound like the beginning of the concept of some kind of underworld, or afterlife, doesn’t it? Note that is only appears in the bible after the Jews were conquered; at which point they were exposed to and mingled with other cultures in the area that had concepts of hell and an afterlife.
Otherwise, this chapter is just a violent rant about all the destruction and death that Yahweh has caused or will cause.
God appoints Ezekiel as a ‘watchman’. His duty is to warn people of their sins and impending punishment if they don’t repent. If he warns them and they fail to repent, then they will die and it will be their own fault. But if he fails to warn them, then he will be held accountable for their deaths. (v 1-9). This goes a long way to helping understand the zeal of street preachers, door-knockers, and other evangelicals – if they really believe that this is true, then no wonder they continue their carrying on regardless of how many times they are mocked.
In v 12-20, we are again told that the means to salvation is only through repentance and obedience/belief. A lifetime of good deeds can mean nothing, and a lifetime of wickedness can be forgiven in an instant. That’s how ax-murderers can get to heaven – it says so right here!
Now it gets more bizarre. In v 22, Zeke gets his voice back. Huh? Yup, it was taken away back in 3:26, and since then he has been unable to speak except when he proselytizes. Doesn’t that just make you want to skim back through all the chapters in between to check if he spoke or not? Me neither.
Take a look at v 26 – Yahweh is ranting at people about why they are evil. In the NLT he yells “Murderers! Idolaters! Adulterers!”; in the NIV he yells “You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife.”; but in the KJV he yells “Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour’s wife”. Apparently some Christians interpret “abomination” as homosexual intercourse. But where does it say that? It could be anything (like eating shellfish)! And note how the NLT completely hides any hint of this connotation. I really like the NLT for its ease of reading, but you have to be careful; it sanitizes some of the tricky bits. It pays to compare versions.