Ezekiel 25:1-17: What Goes Around

How can I kill the ones I’m supposed to love?
My enemies are men like me.
I will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well;
My enemies are men like me.
— Derek Webb (Mockingbird)

The tables are turned. God’s judgment on Jerusalem is spent. It’s time to judge the surrounding nations.

It is somewhat ironic that Israel’s hope begins with messages of judgment. Is this not vile schadenfreude? Little more than glib happiness in the midst of their enemies destruction. No. That is what the surrounding nations were being judged for!

This is something more profound. For a nation who believed that their God had left them (or was not strong enough to defeat the gods of the invading armies) this was a sign that their divine defender was still acting on their behalf. The oracles recorded in chapter 25 are the first stirrings of optimism in Israel—their God is still alive and active.

. . .

Seven nations are judged in chapters 25-32:

  1. Ammon
  2. Moab
  3. Edom
  4. Philistia
  5. Tyre
  6. Sidon
  7. Egypt

The oracles against these nations are precisely formed. The first six nations take up exactly the same amount of space as the last nation—Egypt. In the centre of these messages of judgment against the nations, there are two verses (28:25-26) that speak of Israel’s future hope.

The most peculiar aspect of this list is its major omission: Babylon! There are different thoughts on this.  Some people figure that since Ezekiel was currently in exile in Babylon it wouldn’t be prudent to shout out judgments against them. (Personally, I don’t think that would have stopped Ezekiel.) Other think that since Babylon was God’s direct hand of judgment, they are rightly exempt from the curses to follow.

. . .

There are four nations judged in chapter 25. God gives rationale for each of their punishments:

  1. Ammon: They were exuberant when they heard that Jerusalem fell. They shouted “Aha!”, clapped their hands and stamped their feet with glee and malice. The result? God handed them over to their enemies. What goes around…
  2. Moab: They were cynical when Jerusalem fell. They assumed that Israel was like all of the other nations. Their God was no more powerful than any of the other gods. The result? They shared in the fate of Ammon. What goes around…
  3. Edom: There are two phrases that describe Edom’s guilt, and the first is not adequately translated into English. Literally, the Edomites acted with “vengeful vengeance” on Jerusalem, and committed grievous offenses against them. The result?  God will slaughter them just like he judged Jerusalem. What goes around…
  4. Philistia: The infamous Philistines held unending vengeful hostilities against Jerusalem. Their hearts were filled with malice toward Jerusalem, glorying in her destruction. The result? God will utterly destroy them. What goes around…

What was the result of all this judgment? The nations would know that Israel’s God is the true God (vv. 7, 11, 14, 17). These nations were not mocking, insulting, and tormenting Jerusalem—they were attacking Yahweh himself.

. . .

It’s always good to step back from chapters like this and to shine the light of Jesus on them. One of Jesus’ fundamental ethics was: love your enemies (e.g. Matthew 5:43-48). How might things have been different if the surrounding nations mourned the destruction of Israel instead of taking joy in it?

Is loving our enemies even possible on a national level today? It is difficult enough to do personally! How might this world be different if our governments showed practical love for the nations who hated us? Might that love even be reciprocated? Naïveté on my part, many would say. Still, my enemies are men like me.

. . .

Lord God, your ways are beyond our understanding. Give us the power and patience to follow your Son’s example in loving our enemies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Interlude: Judgment’s Complete

Ezekiel 26:1-14 | Silent Song >

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