|@September 26, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
- Prophecy to the Mountains of Israel
- The Lord’s Concern for His Holy Name
- I Will Put My Spirit Within You
The chapter opens with Ezekiel being told to prophecy to the “mountains of Israel”. The terrain of Israel was an elevated region between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea coast characterized by mountainous areas (Deut. 11:11). Thus, this reference to the mountains of Israel should be understood as a reference to the entire nation.
In Ezek. 36:2-7, God says that it was because the other nations jeered at Israel and made them their possession that He has spoken in His “hot jealousy”. Also translated “burning zeal” (CSB), God’s passion was formerly kindled by Israel’s rebellion against Him, but now if flares against the arrogant Gentiles. The consequence will be that the other nations will now suffer the same reproach experienced by Israel (Ezek. 36:7).
Ezek. 36:8-15 are of how the people will return to the land and God will be with them. Farming metaphors are used heavily here in that the mountains “shall shoot forth” branches and “yield fruit” (Ezek. 36:8), God will turn toward them and they “shall be tilled and sown” (Ezek. 36:9). The phrase I will turn toward you also occurs in Lv 26:9 in the context of the covenant blessings that would accompany obedience to the Mosaic law. Thus the renewed abundance of fruitfulness in the land will coincide with the blessings that accompanied obedience to the Mosaic law (Lev. 26:1–13). God will do more good to the people than ever before (Ezek. 36:11), they will be able to roam freely throughout the land (Ezek. 36:12) and God will not let them hear the reproach of other nations (Ezek. 36:15).
In Ezek. 36:16-21, God through Ezekiel describes Israel’s previous way of living and that their ways were like the “uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual perioud” (Ezek. 36:17). This caused God to pour out His wrath upon them for their bloodshed and idol worship. The dual offenses of blood shed on the land and idolatry summarize Israel’s social injustices and idolatrous practices (Ezek. 22:3). The people have sinned against God and their fellow man—the two categories of sin outlined in the Ten Commandments. God showed concern for His holy name as the people profaned it even while scattered among the nations (Ezek. 36:21).
Ezek. 36:22-32 are some of the most profound verses of the Bible. God’s response to the bloodshed, idolatry, rebellion and profanation of His name would be to “vindicate the holiness” of His “great name” (Ezek. 36:23) and give them an entirely new heart. He would 1) gather them, 2) cleanse them, 3) remove their old heart, 4) give them a new heart and 5) put His Spirit within them. Amidst this restoration, the people would remember their “evil ways” and loathe themselves for their iniquities and abominations (Ezek. 36:31). God makes very clear that it is not for their sake that He will act (Ezek. 36:32).
Ezek. 36:33-36 contain the effects of God’s restoration of the people. He will cleanse them and the land that was once desolate will be tilled. Onlookers will say that the land that was once desolate “has become like the garden of Eden” (Ezek. 36:35), the ultimate symbol of fertility and fruitfulness. The other nations will witness the restoration of Israel and acknowledge that it was God who rebuilt the “ruined places” (Ezek. 36:36).
The final verses (Ezek. 36:37-38) describe how the cities of Israel will “increase their people like a flock” (Ezek. 36:37). This is compared to the “flock for sacrifices” in Jerusalem “during her appointed feasts” (Ezek. 36:38). Through God’s sovereign empowerment the people can now replenish the earth in harmony with God’s purposes for creation—“Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28; Gen. 9:1; Gen. 9:7). The phrase a flock of people conveys the idea of abundance (1 Kings 8:63; 1 Chron. 29:21; 2 Chron. 35:7).
Ezekiel is here commissioned to prophesy to the mountain of Israel that God would restore His people and bring desolation to those who oppressed them. In an act of sheer grace, to vindicate His holy name, God would respond to Israel’s former rebellion and idolatry by removing their old heart of stone and giving them a new heart of flesh. What’s more, He would give them His Spirit to dwell within them, empowering them for faithful obedience.
It was the Spirit’s role in Ezek. 36:27 that especially stood out today: “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” The “and cause you” is crucial to grasp. Absent the Spirit’s work within us, we are entirely incapable of following God’s law. It is only into those whom God has chosen to pour His Spirit who have the capacity for faithful obedience. What an amazing grace to be given Himself that we may walk in a way worthy of His name.
Scripture Journal Notes
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)