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Those, including Ezekiel, who have had visitations or visions from the eternal worlds have often used symbolism, metaphor, simile, comparisons, and other kinds of figurative language to try to convey the experience they had and the message they received (see D&C 110:2-3; JS-H 1:32; Daniel 10:5-9; Revelation 1:12-18; 12:1-6). Therefore, everything Ezekiel said need not be taken literally, for he used many figurative expressions to try to tell that which was far beyond mortal experience. Many times, for example, he used words like as, likeness, and appearance (see Ezekiel 1:4-5, 7, 10, 13-14, 16, 24, 26-28).
Another difficulty in understanding Ezekiel and other Old Testament writers is the cultural differences between the Jews of Ezekiel's day and the modern reader. Where it is important, Notes and Commentary on the book of Ezekiel explain the cultural aspects of Ezekiel's writing.
Ezekiel 1:4. "Whirlwind"The words wind, tempest, or storm would better fit the meaning intended in Ezekiel 1:4. A wind that revolves on its own axis with great rapidity is not what is meant by the Hebrew word translated "whirlwind"; rather, the idea of a furious or powerful wind is what was intended (see Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary, s.v. "whirlwind"). The metaphor signifies the power of God. For instance, the power of God's presence was indicated to Job through allusion to a whirlwind (see Job 38:1). When the Lord poured out His Spirit with great power at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in this dispensation, "a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple" (History of the Church, 2:428).
Ezekiel 1:4, 13. Cloud, Fire, Brightness, Color of Amber, Lamps, LightningThese figures are used throughout the scriptures in association with the glory, power, and majesty of God's presence or that of His messengers. (See "cloud" and "fire" in Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10; 19:9-16; 24:16; Leviticus 16:2; Matthew 17:5; D&C 34:7. See "fire," "brightness," "colour of amber," "lamps," and "lightning" in Exodus 3:2; Hebrews 12:29; 1 Nephi 1:6; D&C 29:12; 110:2-3; 133:41; Habakkuk 3:3-4; Acts 26:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; JS-H 1:16-17, 30-32; Daniel 10:6)
Ezekiel 1:5, 5-16, 26-27. List three things that Ezekiel saw in his vision.
Ezekiel 1:5-6, 10. Four Creatures with Four FacesIn his vision, Ezekiel saw four creatures, each of which had four faces. "They four had the face of a man, ... a lion, ... an ox ... [and] the face of an eagle" (Ezekiel 1:10). The Apostle John had a similar vision. In his vision, the creatures were described as being "like a lion, ... like a calf, ... [having] a face as a man, and ... like a flying eagle" (Revelation 4:7). The Prophet Joseph explained that the four beasts in John's vision were representative of classes of beings (see D&C 77:3). The faces of the creatures in Ezekiel's vision seem to represent the same thing. The following interpretation, from an ancient Jewish commentary, is in harmony with that view: "Man is exalted among creatures; the eagle is exalted among birds; the ox is exalted among domestic animals; the lion is exalted among wild beasts; and all of them have received dominion, and greatness has been given them, yet they are stationed below the chariot of the Holy One" (Midrash Shemoth Rabbah 23; in D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 667).
Ezekiel saw that the throne of God was above the creatures (Ezekiel 1:26-28). That placement represents His having dominion over all living things, though He provides the means for all His creations, both human and animal, to enter into eternal glory, each in their appropriate order (see D&C 77:2-3).
Ezekiel 1:6. What Is Represented by the Wings the Creatures Had?The Lord taught Joseph Smith that the wings of the beasts John saw in his revelation (see Revelation 4:8) "are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc." (D&C 77:4). That interpretation also seems to apply to the creatures in Ezekiel's vision.
Ezekiel 1:7. Feet like Burnished BrassThe word straight in Ezekiel 1:7 means "standing upright, not bent, as when sitting or kneeling" (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 9:1:23). That is, the creatures did not travel as a person travels when walking.
The comparison of the sole of their feet to that of a calf seems to refer to the smoothness of a cow's hoof to indicate the shininess of the feet of the beasts. "There is scarcely any thing that gives a higher lustre than highly polished or burnished brass." (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible ... with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:425). In the King James Version of the Bible, polished brass is translated "amber." It signifies beauty and glory (see D&C 110:3-4; Daniel 10:6; Revelation 1:15; 2:18).
Ezekiel 1:9, 11. Their Wings Were Joined TogetherThe creatures of Ezekiel's vision were in complete harmony and unity. They moved as one, symbolizing the total unity that exists among all living things who submit to God's will.
Ezekiel 1:15-21. What Is Represented by the Wheels That Ezekiel Described?Because Joseph Smith received from the Lord some keys for interpreting the meaning of the beasts in John's vision (see D&C 77:2-4), the parallels between John's vision and Ezekiel's give some clues to the meaning of the beasts Ezekiel saw. There is, however, no parallel in John's vision to the wheels seen by Ezekiel.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: "I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don't be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 291)
At present the interpretation of Ezekiel's vision has not been given to the Church, so the Lord does not hold His Saints accountable for understanding what is represented by the wheels.
Ezekiel 1:26-28. Ezekiel Saw God upon His ThroneEzekiel saw a firmament, or expanse, above or over the creatures. Above the firmament Ezekiel saw God sitting on His throne in His glory. Ezekiel used several terms to describe the brilliance, beauty, and glory of God. Then, as a humble witness to such glory, beauty, and majesty, he fell upon his face in awe and reverent submission. (Compare Isaiah 6:1-5; Revelation 1:10-18; D&C 76:19-23; 110:1-4. Note especially the parallels between Ezekiel's language and John's in Revelation 4:2-11)
Ezekiel 2:3, 7. What was Ezekiel called to do?
Ezekiel 2:9-10; 3:1-3. What Is Meant by the "Roll of a Book" the Lord Caused Ezekiel to Eat?In a similar experience, the Apostle John, too, was commanded to eat a book. The Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, explained that this action represented a mission given to John among the tribes of Israel (see D&C 77:14).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that "John's act of eating a book containing the word of God to him was in keeping with the custom and tradition of ancient Israel. The act signified that he was eating the bread of life, that he was partaking of the good word of God, that he was feasting upon the word of Christ -- which was in his 'mouth sweet as honey.' But it made his 'belly bitter'; that is, the judgments and plagues promised those to whom the Lord's word was sent caused him to despair and have sorrow of soul. 'How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!' (Psalm 119:103) Such is the exulting cry of the Psalmist. And, conversely, how bitter is the penalty for rebellion and disobedience. Ezekiel had a similar experience. He was commanded to eat a roll (a book), which was in his mouth 'as honey for sweetness,' but in the writing itself there was 'lamentations, and mourning, and woe.' (Ezek. 2:6-10; 3:1-3)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:507)
Ezekiel 2:10. What was written in the book he saw?
Ezekiel 3:8. "I Have Made Thy Face ... and Thy Forehead Strong"The words of Ezekiel 3:8 are a Hebrew idiom suggesting essentially the English idiom "face up to it." The Lord promised Ezekiel power, courage, and firmness, since his mission was to a very rebellious and stubborn people (see Jeremiah 1:17-19). The Lord gives His humble servants sufficient strength to withstand the world's opposition as they seek to do His will.
Ezekiel 3:17. What did the Lord make Ezekiel to be?
Ezekiel 3:17-21. There Can Be Jeopardy in Being a WatchmanEzekiel's prophecies did not fall on friendly ears. But, as a watchman, he had to raise the warning voice. The analogy of the watchman referred to the military watchman who had to stay awake and who faced execution if he failed to warn the city when the enemy appeared. Such a watchman was in jeopardy always: the enemy sought to destroy him to keep him from raising the warning and, if he did not raise the warning when it was needed, his life was in jeopardy at the hands of those he was responsible to warn. Likewise, watchmen in the Lord's kingdom have a serious responsibility with far-reaching consequences, as Elder Ezra Taft Benson taught:
"As watchmen on the tower of Zion, it is our obligation and right as leaders to speak out against current evils -- evils that strike at the very foundation of all we hold dear as the true church of Christ ... "As one of these watchmen, with a love for humanity, I accept humbly this obligation and challenge and gratefully strive to do my duty without fear. In times as serious as these, we must not permit fear of criticism to keep us from doing our duty, even at the risk of our counsel being tabbed as political, as government becomes more and more entwined in our daily lives.
"In the crisis through which we are now passing, we have been fully warned. This has brought forth some criticism. There are some of us who do not want to hear the message. It embarrasses us. The things which are threatening our lives, our welfare, our freedoms are the very things some of us have been condoning. Many do not want to be disturbed as they continue to enjoy their comfortable complacency.
"The Church is founded on eternal truth. We do not compromise principle. We do not surrender our standards regardless of current trends or pressures. Our allegiance to truth as a church is unwavering. Speaking out against immoral or unjust actions has been the burden of prophets and disciples of God from time immemorial. It was for this very reason that many of them were persecuted. Nevertheless, it was their God-given task, as watchmen on the tower, to warn the people." (In Conference Report, Apr. 1973, pp. 49-50; or Ensign, July 1973, p. 38)
Ezekiel 3:18. What would happen to Ezekiel if he failed to warn the people?
Ezekiel 4:1-3. What did Ezekiel create?
Ezekiel 4:1-3. Ezekiel's Representation of the Siege of JerusalemEzekiel was instructed to make a representation of the city of Jerusalem on a clay tablet and portray to the people the events that would befall the city. The Lord wanted to make very clear to the people through many means the message He had for them. Ezekiel was instructed to present other visual representations before the people to teach His messages more effectively (see Ezekiel 4:4-17; 5). Other prophets have been instructed to use similar teaching techniques (see Jeremiah 27:1-11; 1 Kings 11:29-39; 13:1-11; 19:1-18; Acts 21:11).
During the events described in Ezekiel 4, Ezekiel himself was in captivity with other Jews in Babylon. Twice Nebuchadnezzar had gone to war against Judah and taken captives both times. Both times, however, he retreated, thinking he had taught Judah a lesson. So Jerusalem was still intact until the third siege, which brought the destruction of Judah. Ezekiel dramatized that destruction in verses 1-3.
The "iron pan" (v. 3) represented the wall that the Chaldeans erected around Jerusalem during their siege. It prevented escape and allowed no entry of supplies.
Ezekiel 4:4-8. Why Was Ezekiel Told to Lie on His Sides for 430 Days?Ezekiel 4:4-8 contains another example of a figurative teaching device that has not been fully interpreted. After forming the image of Jerusalem under siege (vv. 1-3), Ezekiel was told to lie on his side for 390 days and to bear the iniquity of Israel (in this case it appears the Northern Kingdom is meant). Then he was to change sides and lie for another 40 days to bear the iniquity of Judah.
The symbolic meaning of the act seems clear enough. Ezekiel was to be fettered to the bed (v. 8) and bound down to show that the two kingdoms were bound down, or brought into bondage, because of their iniquity. But whether Ezekiel actually performed this act is not known. It seems strange that the Lord would ask a prophet to lie immobile for fifteen months. Perhaps Ezekiel performed the act in some kind of symbolic way.
Why the numbers 390 and 40 were used is not clear. Though Ezekiel was told that each day represented a year (v. 6), the years do not fit any known history.
Keil and Delitzsch, using the total of 430 days or years (390+40), suggested that this is the number of years Israel was in bondage in Egypt (see Exodus 12:40-41). They explain the split of 390 days and 40 days as referring to the forty years after Moses killed the Egyptian and fled into the wilderness of Midian (see Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:23, 30). This time, just before Moses returned to deliver them, was probably the most intense period of suffering for Israel. (See Commentary, 9:1:74-76) Others, however, believe that the 430 years included the time from Abraham to the Exodus. (See Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis-2 Samuel, pp. 119-20)
Without a revealed key for interpreting these numbers, one cannot definitely interpret this passage.
Ezekiel 4:9-11, 16-17. Why Was Ezekiel Instructed to Eat Specific Foods and to Do So by Weight and Measure?Another symbolic act Ezekiel was commanded to perform represented the conditions that would prevail during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.
"In times of scarcity, it is customary in all countries to mix several kinds of coarser grain with the finer, to make it last the longer. This mashlin, which the prophet is commanded to take, of wheat, barley, beans, lentiles, millet, and fitches, was intended to show how scarce the necessaries of life should be during the siege.
"... The whole of the above grain, being ground, was to be formed into one mass, out of which he was to make three hundred and ninety loaves; one loaf for each day; and this loaf was to be of twenty shekels in weight. Now a shekel, being in weight about half an ounce, this would be ten ounces of bread for each day; and with this water to the amount of one sixth part of a hin, which is about a pint and a half of our measure. All this shows that so reduced should provisions be during the siege, that they should be obliged to eat the meanest sort of aliment, and that by weight, and their water by measure; each man's allowance being scarcely a pint and a half, and ten ounces, a little more than half a pound of bread, for each day's support." (Clarke, Commentary, 4:434)
The phrase "I will break the staff of bread" (Ezekiel 4:16) indicates that the time would come when the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be without bread. See 2 Kings 25:3 for a record of the prophecy's fulfillment.
Ezekiel 4:12-15. What Was the Purpose of Ezekiel's Being Instructed to Cook with Dung?"Dried ox and cow dung is a common fuel in the east; and with this, for want of wood and coals, they are obliged to prepare their food. Indeed, dried excrement of every kind is gathered. Here, the prophet is to prepare his bread with dry human excrement ... This was required to show the extreme degree of wretchedness to which they should be exposed; for, not being able to leave the city to collect the dried excrements of beasts, the inhabitants during the siege would be obliged, literally, to use dried human ordure for fuel. The very circumstances show that this was the plain fact of the case. However, we find that the prophet was relieved from using this kind of fuel, for cows' dung was substituted at his request. See ver. 15." (Clarke, Commentary, 4:434-35)
As Ezekiel 4:13 indicates, the Jews would be driven to Babylon where they would be compelled to eat "defiled bread." Because foreign lands were considered unclean (see Hosea 9:3-4; Amos 7:17), living and eating in other lands was considered unclean.
Ezekiel 5:1-4, 12. What Was Meant by the Cutting and Dividing of Ezekiel's Hair?In Ezekiel 5:12 the Lord briefly explained the next symbolic act He instructed Ezekiel to perform (see vv. 1-4). Ezekiel represented the Jewish nation and particularly the city of Jerusalem. That which he was to do to his hair would also be done to Judah. The razor represented the Babylonians who would cut Judah asunder with the sword and would be the means of bringing judgments upon them. "To make the head bald, or to shave or pluck the beard, was a sign of mourning among the Hebrews and many other nations" (James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 256; see also Ezra 9:3; Job 1:20; Isaiah 22:12; 48:37-38). As Ezekiel was to burn one-third of the hair in the city, so also would one-third of Judah's inhabitants perish in Jerusalem during its siege. The third of the hair Ezekiel cut with a knife represented the people who would be destroyed by the sword in the environs of Jerusalem. The third that was scattered in the wind represented those who would be taken captive and scattered far from their homeland. There would further be a sword drawn after them who would be scattered (see Ezekiel 5:2, 12), which was signified by those hairs Ezekiel bound to his skirts and later cast into the fire. This act signified that even among those who were taken captive and preserved from the original destruction, some would later be "cast ... into the midst of the fire" (v. 4) to be destroyed, or to be cleansed and purified from iniquity by tribulations. That all of Judah would not be completely destroyed is attested to by the Lord's promise of eventual escape for some (see Ezekiel 6:8-10).
Ezekiel 5:10. "The Fathers Shall Eat the Sons"As had been earlier prophesied by Moses (see Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53), the siege of Jerusalem would be so severe and the famine would be so dreadful that parents would eat their children and children would eat their parents (see Ezekiel 16-17; Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 2:20; 4:10). These tragedies also took place during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70 (see Josephus, Wars of the Jews, bk. 5, chap. 10, pars. 1-5; bk. 6, chap. 3, pars. 3-5).
Ezekiel 5:12. List four things the judgment of Jerusalem would include.
Ezekiel 6:2-4. Why would Israel be destroyed?
Ezekiel 6:8. What would happen to a remnant of Israel?
Ezekiel 6:9. What Is Meant by the Phrase "Whorish Heart"?The expression "whorish heart" refers to the idolatry practiced by Israel. Some may think it strange that ancient Israel was guilty of such infidelity to Jehovah. Yet modern Israel is often guilty of the same thing. Though today men rarely worship idols of wood or stone, they may devote themselves to serving certain governments that have set themselves up as the state religion, or they devote themselves to acquiring material things, or they dedicate themselves to other pursuits that take them away from service to God. (See Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 40-42; Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis-2 Samuel, pp. 245-48)
The Jews worshiped strange gods because they put their trust in the power of men and earthly governments instead of in Jehovah and righteousness as the solution to human happiness and welfare. Modern idolatry is essentially the same as ancient idolatry, though the outward form has changed.
Ezekiel 7:7. "Not the Sounding Again of the Mountains"The phrase "sounding again of the mountains" in Ezekiel 7:7 refers to the impending destruction of Jerusalem.
Clarke said: "The hostile troops are advancing! Ye hear a sound, a tumultuous noise; do not suppose that this proceeds from festivals upon the mountains; from the joy of harvestmen, or the treaders of the wine-press. [Great rejoicing was common at harvest time] It is the noise of those by whom ye and your country are to fall; ... and not the reverberation of sound, or reflected sound, or reechoing from the mountains. 'Now will I shortly pour out,' ver. 8. Here they come!" (Commentary, 4:439-40)
Throughout chapter 7, Ezekiel sounds the same theme sounded by Jeremiah: because of the people's wickedness, Jerusalem will be destroyed. (26-24) Ezekiel 7:20. What Is the Ornament? The ornament mentioned in Ezekiel 7:20 is a reference to the temple, the most beautiful ornament of Jerusalem. The temple will be despoiled and desecrated by conquerors because the people had despoiled and spiritually desecrated it with their idols.
Ezekiel 7:15, 25. What would sweep the land of Israel?
Ezekiel 7:20. What Is the Ornament?The ornament mentioned in Ezekiel 7:20 is a reference to the temple, the most beautiful ornament of Jerusalem. The temple will be despoiled and desecrated by conquerors because the people had despoiled and spiritually desecrated it with their idols.
Ezekiel 8:3-18. Ezekiel's Vision of Idolatrous Abominations in JerusalemThough Ezekiel was residing in Babylon among the exiles, he was "brought ... in the visions of God" (Ezekiel 8:3) to the temple in Jerusalem. "Here, in the temple, Jehovah shows to the prophet the various kinds of idolatry which Israel is practising both publicly and privately, not merely in the temple, but throughout the whole land. The arrangement of these different forms of idolatry in four groups or abomination scenes (vers. 5, 6, 7-12, 13-15, and 16-18), which the prophet sees both in and from the court of the temple, belong to the visionary drapery of this divine revelation." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:116-17)
Ezekiel 8:6, 16. List two things Ezekiel saw in his vision.
Ezekiel 8:7-12. Worship of Beasts in the DarkIn his vision of the second abomination shown him (see Ezekiel 8:7-12), Ezekiel saw all manner of beasts and creeping things.
"It is very likely that these images pourtrayed on the wall were the objects of Egyptian adoration: the ox, the ape, the dog, the crocodile, the ibis, the scaraboeus or beetle, and various other things. It appears that these were privately worshipped by the sanhedrin or great Jewish council, consisting of seventy or seventy-two persons, six chosen out of every tribe, as representatives of the people. The images were pourtrayed upon the wall, as we find those ancient idols are on the walls of the tombs of the kings and nobles of Egypt." (Clarke, Commentary, 4:443)
It is significant that such worship took place in the dark (see v. 12). This fact, in addition to the necessity Ezekiel was under to dig through the wall to see in, indicates that ancient Israelites knew of the Lord but sought to hide their abominable practices from Him. They said, "The Lord seeth us not" (v. 12). Such is often the case among those who perform unrighteous acts. How foolish it is for any to assume that they can hide their acts from God's all-seeing eye!
The statement made by Elder Spencer W. Kimball concerning God's omniscience was as applicable in Ezekiel's time as it is today: "There are no corners so dark, no deserts so uninhabited, no canyons so remote, no automobiles so hidden, no homes so tight and shut in but that the all-seeing One can penetrate and observe" ("Message of Inspiration," Church News, 30 May 1970, p. 2).
Ezekiel 8:14. Who Was Tammuz and Why Did Women Weep for Him?According to J. R. Dummelow, Tammuz was "a deity worshipped both in Babylonia and in Phœnicia -- the same as the Greek Adonis. He appears to have been a god of the spring, and the myth regarding him told of his early death and of the descent of Istar his bride into the underworld in search of him. The death of Tammuz symbolised the destruction of the spring vegetation by the heat of summer, and it was celebrated annually by seven days of women's mourning in the 4th month (June-July), which was called Tammuz. This superstition had been introduced into Jerusalem." (A Commentary on the Holy Bible, pp. 497-98)
Ezekiel 8:16. Worship of the Sun with Backs toward the Temple"Sun worship was practised by the Canaanites, but lately had been reintroduced from Assyria (2 Ki. 23:5, 11; Je. 8:2). Between the porch and the altar was the place where the priests offered prayer (Joel 2:17), with their faces, of course, towards the Temple; in this spot, with their backs to the temple, the adoration of the sun took place, as complete a renunciation of Yahweh [Jehovah] as possible." (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 670; see also 2 Chronicles 29:6)
Ezekiel 8:17. What Is Meant by Putting the "Branch to Their Nose"?Although it is not clear what the expression "put the branch to their nose" means, and there are differences of opinion among the scholars, a comment from Dummelow may be helpful. He wrote that the expression was "usually explained as a ceremony connected with sun-worship. Persian sun-worshippers held bunches of the twigs of certain trees before their mouths, that they might not contaminate the sun with their breath." (Commentary, p. 498)
Ezekiel 9:2-6. What did Ezekiel see concerning the righteous and the wicked?
Ezekiel 9:4. Why Was a Mark Put on the Foreheads of the Righteous in Jerusalem?"This mark was to be put on these faithful ones for their protection when the faithless were to be destroyed. It showed that they belonged to God. The allusion is to a very ancient custom. In Egypt a runaway slave was freed from his master if he went to the temple and gave himself up to the god, receiving certain marks upon his person to denote his consecration to the deity there worshiped. Cain had a mark put on him for his protection, as an evidence of God's promise to spare his life notwithstanding his wickedness. [Genesis 4:15] To this day all Hindoos have some sort of mark upon their forehead signifying their consecration to their gods. Several passages in the book of Revelation represent the saints as having a mark on their foreheads. [See Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4] The followers of the 'beast' are also said to be marked in the forehead or in the hands. [See Revelation 13:16-17; 14:9; 20:4] The Romans marked their soldiers in the hand and their slaves in the forehead. The woman in scarlet, whom John saw, had a name written on her forehead. [Revelation 17:5]" (Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 301-2)
In this case the mark represented the allegiance of the faithful to God. As those who belonged to God, they would be preserved.
Ezekiel 9:5-8. Slaying of Those Who Were Not Marked on the ForeheadNone were to be slain who were marked on the forehead! This passage shows that even in war, plagues, and starvation, the Lord can preserve whom He will and leave the rest to die. In the great destructions in the Americas before Christ's visit, though thousands were killed, the more righteous were spared (see 3 Nephi 10:12). Even though there will be martyrs and other exceptions, the Saints of this day have a promise that generally the righteous will be preserved in the tribulations to come (see 1 Nephi 22:16-17; 2 Nephi 30:10; D&C 97:25-27; 115:6; Moses 7:61-62). To a great extent, the preservation of the righteous is a natural expectation since they follow inspired counsel by which they are led to make choices favorable to their well-being. (See Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 21:4)
It is not just association with God's kingdom that preserves individuals; it is individual righteousness. In fact, the Lord has reserved His most severe judgments for those who profess His name but do not obey Him. Orson Pratt said: "Where shall these great and severe judgments begin? Upon what people does the Lord intend to commence this great work of vengeance? Upon the people who profess to know his name and still blaspheme it in the midst of his house. They are the ones designated for some of the most terrible judgments of the latter days." (In N. B. Lundwall, comp., Inspired Prophetic Warnings to All Inhabitants of the Earth, p. 139) Compare Ezekiel 9:6 with Doctrine and Covenants 112:24-26.
Ezekiel 10. Ezekiel Received Another Vision Similar to His Earlier OneEzekiel's description in chapter 10 of a later vision contains many elements that correspond to the vision described in chapter 1. Compare items to similar ones in the first account.
A significant difference in chapter 10 is the frequent reference to cherubim. The substitution of the face of a cherub in chapter 10 (see v. 14) for the face of an ox in chapter 1 (see v. 10) raises a question of interpretation. If the faces represent various classes of living creatures in God's kingdom that function in harmony with His will, the problem is not difficult. The cherub, which is an angelic servant of God, is in the same category with all living creatures that serve God. In fact, all of the creatures Ezekiel saw are referred to as cherubim (see Ezekiel 10:20). All follow the dictates of His Spirit and perform His work.
Ezekiel 10:12 tells of eyes on the body, backs, hands, and wings of the cherubim and on the wheels. These eyes represent light and knowledge. All creatures who serve God with complete dedication may have the blessing of receiving the Light of Christ, by which Spirit they function in complete harmony, agreeable to His will.
Ezekiel 10:1. What are Cherubim?Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
"Apparently a cherub is an angel of some particular order or rank to whom specific duties and work are assigned. That portion of the Lord's word which is now available among men does not set forth clearly either the identity or work of these heavenly beings ...
"In English, the plural of cherub is cherubs; in Hebrew, the plural is cherubim, except that the King James Version of the Bible erroneously translates the plural as cherubims. The Book of Mormon (Alma 12:21; 42:2-3), the Pearl of Great Price (Moses 4:31), and the [Joseph Smith Translation] of the Bible (Ex. 25:20-22), give the plural as cherubim." (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 124-25)
Ezekiel 10:1-5, 9. What did Ezekiel see in his vision?
Ezekiel 10:2, 6-7. What Is Meant by the Coals of Fire Scattered over Jerusalem?The part of Ezekiel's vision found in Ezekiel 10:2, 6-7 is a reference to the judgments and eventual burning and destruction which would come upon the city.
Ezekiel 11:3, 7, 11. "It Is Not Near; Let Us Build Houses: This City Is the Caldron, and We Be the Flesh"Keil and Delitzsch gave the following explanation of Ezekiel 11:3: "Jeremiah had called upon those in exile to build themselves houses in their banishment, and prepare for a lengthened stay in Babylon, and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the words of false prophets, who predicted a speedy return; for severe judgments had yet to fall upon those who had remained behind in the land [see Jeremiah 29]. This word of Jeremiah the authorities in Jerusalem ridiculed, saying 'house-building is not near,' i.e. the house-building in exile is still a long way off; it will not come to this, that Jerusalem should fall either permanently or entirely into the hands of the king of Babylon. On the contrary, Jerusalem is the pot, and we, its inhabitants, are the flesh. The point of comparison is this: as the pot protects the flesh from burning, so does the city of Jerusalem protect us from destruction ... This saying expresses not only false confidence in the strength of Jerusalem, but also contempt and scorn of the predictions of the prophets sent by God. Ezekiel is therefore to prophesy, as he does in vers. 5-12, against this pernicious counsel, which is confirming the people in their sins." (Commentary, 9:1:144-45)
Ezekiel 11:5-16. What did Ezekiel see in vision about Jerusalem and the Jews?
Ezekiel 11:17-20. What did he prophesy about Israel?
Ezekiel 12:1-14. Zedekiah's Escape, Abandonment, and Blinding Were Described in Prophetic TypesEzekiel's prophecy of Zedekiah's fate seemed to contradict the prophecies of Jeremiah and caused Zedekiah to reject both (see Notes and Commentary on 2 Kings 25:1-7).
Ezekiel 12:14-15. Where were the Jews to be scattered?
Ezekiel 12:27. "He Prophesieth of the Times That Are Far Off"A common mistake that uninspired people make is to ignore prophetic warnings, thinking that the fulfillment is not imminent and that they still have time to "eat, drink, and be merry" (2 Nephi 28:7-8). They think that repentance can come later. The Lord warned of such foolishness during His ministry (see Matthew 24:37-44; 25:1-13). How much wiser it is to repent at the first voice of warning from the Lord's anointed!
Ezekiel 13:1-16. Ezekiel's Reproof of False ProphetsChapter 13 in Ezekiel closely parallels Jeremiah's condemnation of false prophets (see Jeremiah 23:9-40).
It is common among the people of the world to reject the words of true prophets and accept the words of false ones (see Helaman 13:24-38). Such is the easy way in the beginning, for it allows people to accept only that which they want to hear. It is, however, the path to destruction.
False prophets pacify and lull people into carnal security (see 2 Nephi 28:21). Like the cunning foxes in the desert (see Ezekiel 13:4), they obtain their prey by subtlety. False prophets have not provided for the people a secure defense against spiritual destruction (see v. 5). Ezekiel compared the work of the false prophets to daubing a wall "with untempered morter" (v. 10). Freeman explained:
"Kitto is of the opinion that reference is here made to 'cob-walls;' that is, walls which are made of beaten earth rammed into molds or boxes, to give shape and consistence, and then emptied from the molds, layer by layer, on the wall, where it dries as the work goes on. Such walls cannot stand the effects of the weather, and houses built on this principle soon crumble and decay ... To protect them from the weather a very fine mortar is sometimes made, which is laid thickly on the outside of the walls. When this mortar is properly mixed with lime, it answers the purpose designed; but where the lime is left out, as is often the case, the 'untempered mortar' is no protection ...
"Some commentators, however, translate taphel, which in our version is rendered 'untempered mortar,' by the word 'whitewash.' They represent the idea of the text to be the figure of a wall of unendurable material, and coated, not with cement which might protect it, but with a mere thin covering of lime, which gives the wall a finished durable appearance, which its real character does not warrant." (Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 302)
Ezekiel 13:2, 6, 10. Whom did Ezekiel reprove? Why?
Ezekiel 13:17-23. Denunciation of Sorceresses and DivinersThe word pillows (see Ezekiel 13:18) would better be translated bands or coverings. The kerchief was a kind of veil used as part of the trappings in the magical arts (see The Interpreter's Bible, 6:132-33).
Ezekiel prophesied against women who, by divination (see Ezekiel 13:23), led people away from God and gave them a false sense of security. They brought destruction upon those who might otherwise live (spiritually) and held up and sustained those who ought to have been condemned (see vv. 19, 22). They promised prosperity and freedom (see v. 20) which they could not deliver (compare 2 Nephi 28:22-23; Alma 30:53, 60).
Ezekiel 14:4. Whom did the Lord refuse to answer?
Ezekiel 14:6. What did Ezekiel cry to the people?
Ezekiel 14:9. Does the Lord Ever Deceive Prophets?In Joseph Smith's inspired translation of the Bible, he corrected Ezekiel 14:9 to read: "And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have not deceived that prophet."
Ezekiel 14:13-20. Noah, Job, and Daniel Could Not Save the Unrighteous from God's JudgmentsDaniel, who was a contemporary of Ezekiel in Babylon, was one of the most righteous men on the earth at the time and was highly favored of God. He was even respected by Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, kings of Babylon and Persia (see Daniel 2:48; 6:1-3). The Lord referred to both Noah and Job as being perfect (see Genesis 6:9; Job 1:1, 8; 2:3), meaning that they were completely upright before God in living the commandments He had given them. But, Ezekiel said, even they could not save the people of Judah from the consequences of their sins. All people stand or fall in accordance with their own actions and cannot rely on the righteousness of others (see Ezekiel 14:18, 20). Also, it is not the personal power of the Lord's spokesman that turns people to God but the willingness of the recipient to respond to the promptings and witness of the Spirit of God. (Consider, for example, the message of the Lord's parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31)
Ezekiel 15:1-8. Inhabitants of Jerusalem Compared to a Useless VineThe people at Jerusalem in Ezekiel's day were similar to those referred to by Isaiah in his parable of a vineyard (see Isaiah 5:1-25). Though they had been set up as the Lord's vineyard to produce fruit, they did not produce and were of little value.
"The worthlessness of a vine save only for its fruit was set forth by the Lord through His prophet Ezekiel (15:2-5); and truly it is so, that the wood of the grape plant is fit for nothing but burning; the whole vine as wood is inferior to a branch from a forest tree (verse 3). And Israel is represented as such a vine, precious if but fruitful, otherwise nothing but fuel and that of poor quality." (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 542)
Ezekiel 15:6. What would happen to Jerusalem?
Ezekiel 16:3-5. The People of Jerusalem Were as Children of HeathensThe Lord referred to Jerusalem (which means Judah in general) as having the Amorites for their father and the Hittites for their mother.
"The descent and birth referred to are not physical, but spiritual descent. Spiritually, Israel sprang from the land of the Canaanites; [though they should have sprung from their spiritual father, Jehovah] and its father was the Amorite and its mother a Hittite, in the same sense in which Jesus said to the Jews, 'Ye are of your father the devil' (John 8:44). The land of the Canaanites is mentioned as the land of the worst heathen abominations; and from among the Canaanitish tribes, the Amorites and Hittites are mentioned as father and mother, ... because they were recognized as the leaders in Canaanitish ungodliness." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:196)
The Lord said, "Thy navel [umbilical cord] was not cut" (Ezekiel 16:4). That is, they were still being nourished in their wickedness by the degrading practices of their heathen neighbors who had given them birth in iniquity. Neither were they "washed ... salted ... nor swaddled" (v. 4). They had not been cleansed from the corruptions they had obtained from their parents.
The reference to not being salted comes from an ancient practice wherein "new-born babes were rubbed with salt in order to harden their skin, as this operation was supposed to make it dry, tight, and firm ... The salt may also have been applied as an emblem of purity and incorruption." (Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 304) Swaddling means being wrapped in a cloth or bandage, which would have been somewhat of a protection to a tender infant. The message being conveyed by Ezekiel is that the Jews had never really been cleansed from the corruptions of the world and born as God's children. Without Godís care they had no one as their protector.
Ezekiel 16:15. Whom had Jerusalem become like?
Ezekiel 16:17-26. What had Jerusalem done?
Ezekiel 16:30-34. Judahís Iniquities Were Worse Than Those of a HarlotThe imagery Ezekiel uses in 16:30-34 is some of the most scathing in all the scriptures. Comparing idolatry to adultery, Ezekiel condemned Judah for being far worse than a harlot who takes men for personal gain and the presents they give her. Judah was not like this. She scorned personal presents (see v. 31) and took strangers to her simply for the change and the pleasure of being with other men (see v. 32). A harlot takes presents from her lovers, and that is her motivation; in Judahís case, not only did she not receive such presents from her lovers (the false gods gave no benefits to Israel) but instead she gave the presents to her lovers (the false gods; see v. 33).
Thus, so deeply sunk in her idolatry (adultery), Judah should not have been surprised to be punished accordingly (see vv. 35-43).
Ezekiel 16:44-52. Judah's Sins Were Worse Than Their Neighbors'Judah was in dire circumstances, for their sins were greater than the sins of Samaria or Sodom, both of which had already fallen under the chastening hand of the Lord. To understand the message of this passage, it is helpful to know the meaning of several figurative terms in these verses.
Ezekiel 16:45. The words mother and father refer to the Hittites and Amorites who were leaders in Canaanite idolatry. Daughter indicates Jerusalem, a representative of Judah or Israel. The husband represents the Lord (see Ezekiel 16:8, 32, 38). The antecedents of both that and her are "daughter," not "mother." Children were offeredin sacrifice to Molech as part of heathen worship. The sisters were Samaria and Sodom (see v. 46). They and Jerusalem were all motivated by the same spirit of idolatry.
Ezekiel 16:46. The words elder and younger could more clearly be rendered greater and lesser. Perhaps they are a reference to the degree of iniquity, that is, Samaria's was greater, Sodom's lesser. Left hand equals the direction north; right hand means south. The word daughters is used here and throughout the rest of the chapter with a different meaning than the word daughter in verse 45; daughters are cities under the domination of Samaria and Sodom, lesser cities in the surrounding areas. (See Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:221-23; Interpreter's Bible, 6:148-49)
Ezekiel 16:60-63. What would the Lord do with Jerusalem in the last days?
Ezekiel 17:1-21. Ezekiel's Parable of the Cedar TreeThough the Bible speaks of Zedekiah's sons being killed (see 2 Kings 25:7), the Book of Mormon tells of the escape of his son Mulek (see Omni 1:15; Mosiah25:2; Helaman 6:10; 8:21).
Elder Orson Pratt said: "When Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon, the Lord took one of his sons, whose name was Mulok [Mulek] with a company of those who would hearken unto His words, and brought them over the ocean, and planted them in America. This was done in fulfillment of the 22nd and 23rd verses of the seventeenth chapter of Ezekiel, which read thus: [Ezekiel 17:22-23] By reading this chapter , it will be seen that the Jews were the 'high cedar,' that Zedekiah the king was the 'highest branch,' that the 'tender one' cropped off from the top of his young twigs, was one of his sons, whom the Lord brought out and planted him and his company upon the choice land of America, which He had given unto a remnant of the tribe of Joseph for an inheritance, in fulfillment of the blessing of Jacob and Moses upon the head of that tribe [Genesis 48-49; Deuteronomy 43]." (Orson Pratt's Works on the Doctrines of the Gospel, pp. 280-81)
Ezekiel 17:12-17. What did Ezekiel show in a parable?
Ezekiel 18:1-20. "The Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die"The Lord has given individuals the freedom to exercise their own agency. They are therefore accountable for their own actions while they work out their salvation. No one is punished for the sins of someone else. The second article of faith teaches this principle.
Ezekiel used the example of a man, his son, and his grandson to teach the principles of accountability as they relate to spiritual life and death. He said that if a man (the grandfather in this case) is just, he shall live (see Ezekiel 18:5-9). If his son, having seen the good example and been exposed to the good teachings, turns to iniquity, he shall not live (see vv. 10-13). "His blood shall be upon him" (v. 13), that is, he will be punished for his own sins. If he, in turn, has a son who sees his father's iniquities and yet lives righteously, "he [the son] shall not die for the iniquity of his father" (v. 17; see also vv. 14-18). Verse 20 is a clear summary of these principles. (See Notes and Commentary on Jeremiah 31:29-30)
Ezekiel 18:4. What will men be punished for?
Ezekiel 18:14-17. Who will save their souls?
Ezekiel 18:20. Who will be damned?
Ezekiel 18:21. Who will be saved?
Ezekiel 18:24, 27. A Person Cannot Be Saved by His Former RighteousnessThe Lord has made it clear that all who wish to be saved must endure to the end in righteousness (see Matthew 10:22; Mosiah 4:30; 3 Nephi 15:9; 27:17; D&C 18:22; 53:7; 82:7).
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: "Having received the necessary saving ordinances -- baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances and sealings -- one must live the covenants made. He must endure in faith. No matter how brilliant was the service rendered by the bishop or stake president or other person, if he falters later in his life and fails to live righteously 'to the end' the good works he did all stand in jeopardy." (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 121)
Ezekiel 19:1-9. The Allegory of the Lioness and the Whelps"The interpretation of this allegory seems fairly clear. The lioness, if not the doomed country [Judah], is Hamutal, the mother of Zedekiah. (2 Kings 24:18) The first of her whelps would then be Jehoahaz, who after reigning for a short time was taken prisoner to Egypt by Pharaoh-nechoh. (2 Kings 23:31-33) Jehoahaz was in turn succeeded by Jehoiakim, a son of Josiah by a wife other than Hamutal. Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. When the last-named was taken captive by the Babylonians, Hamutal's second son, Zedekiah, was appointed king in his stead. He must, therefore, be the other 'whelp' of the allegory. When taken captive by Nebuchadrezzar and carried to Babylon, Zedekiah fulfilled the requirements of the last two verses." (Sperry, Voice of Israel's Prophets, p. 211)
Ezekiel 19:4, 8. Why did Ezekiel lament for Israel?
Ezekiel 19:10-14. The Allegory of the Vine and Its BranchesThe allegory in Ezekiel 19:10-14 deals with the conditions in Israel at the time of Ezekiel: "Israel resembled a vine planted by the water ... This vine sent out strong shoots for rulers' sceptres; that is to say, it brought forth powerful kings, and grew up to a great height, ... It was torn up in fury by the wrath of God, cast down to the ground, so that its fruit withered ... The uprooting ends in the transplanting of the vine into a waste, dry, unwatered land, -- in other words, in the transplanting of the people, Israel, into exile. The dry land is Babylon, so described as being a barren soil in which the kingdom of God could not flourish." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:261-62)
With the destruction of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and the killing of Zedekiah's sons, "she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule" (Ezekiel 19:14). Clarke summarized: "None of the blood-royal of Judah [was] left. And from that time not one of her own royal race ever sat upon the throne of Israel." (Commentary, 4:474)
Ezekiel 20:3, 31-32. "I Will Not Be Enquired of by You"When the elders of Israel came to inquire of Ezekiel concerning the Lord's word (see v. 1), the Lord would not respond (v. 3). The reason is given in the rest of chapter 20. The Lord told Ezekiel to remind them of the covenant He had made with Israel and the great blessings He had given them and also of how the people had rebelled against Him. He then instructed Ezekiel to remind them of their current apostate condition, which was just like their fathers' (see JST, Ezekiel 20:30; see also Ezekiel 20:31-32). If the elders really wanted God's word, they would have obeyed that which they already had from His prophets. God will not be mocked. He will not give more to those who reject that which He has already given (see Alma 12:9-11).
Ezekiel 20:5-29. How long had Israel rebelled and failed to keep the commandments?
Ezekiel 20:33-44. Israel to Be Gathered by Revelation and with PowerEzekiel prophesied of the captivity and scattering of Israel and also of the gathering in the latter days. He said this gathering would be accomplished through revelation (see v. 35) and would be accompanied by manifestations of the Lord's power (see vv. 33-34).
Elder Orson Pratt, in a discourse in Salt Lake City on 26 March 1871, spoke of the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy:
"You young men who sit here on these seats will live to see the times of the Gentiles fulfilled; ... the mission which you will receive, young men, will be to go to the scattered remnants of the house of Israel among all the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles. To search them out and proclaim to them the message restored by the angel, that it may be preached to Israel as well as to the Gentiles. That is your destiny; that, young men, is what the Lord will require at your hands. [See 1 Ne. 13:42] ...
"... And you will have the pleasure of gathering them up by thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands, from the islands of the sea and from all quarters of the earth; for that will be a day of power far more than it is while the Gospel continues among the Gentiles.
"... When the day of his power comes they [Israel] will be willing to hearken, they will gather up to their promised land, for it will be the day of the Lord's power. In what respect will there be power manifested then? As power was manifested when the Lord brought Israel from the Egyptian nation into the wilderness of Sinai and spoke to them by his own voice, so will the power of Almighty God be made manifest among all the nations of the earth when he brings about the redemption and restoration of his people Israel; or, in other words, the former display of power will be eclipsed, for that which was done in one land, among the Israelites and Egyptians in the wilderness, will be performed among all nations ...
"... So will he plead with Israel in the latter days, and show forth his mighty hand and power, when he gathers them from the nations; and he will give revelation as he did to their fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt." (In Journal of Discourses, 14:64-66)
The prophecies of Ezekiel and the interpretation of Orson Pratt are now being fulfilled.
Passing under the rod (see Ezekiel 20:37) is a figure of speech that "alludes to the custom of tithing the sheep ... The sheep were all penned; and ... only one sheep could come out at once ... [The shepherd] counted ... and as the tenth came out, he marked it with the rod [dipped in vermilion], and said, 'This is ... set apart for the Lord.'" (Clarke, Commentary, 4:477) Thus, the converted Israelites will be the Lord's, just as tithing is.
Ezekiel 20:34-38, 41-42. What would the Lord do in the last days?
Ezekiel 20:45-48. What Is the Forest of the South Field and What Did the Lord Mean by Saying He Would Kindle a Fire There?"The forest of the field in the south is a figure denoting the kingdom of Judah [the southern part of the land of Israel] ... The forest is a figure signifying the population, or the mass of people. Individual men are trees. The green tree is a figurative representation of the righteous man, and the dry tree of the ungodly (v. 3, compare Luke 23:31). The fire which Jehovah kindles is the fire of war ... From the terrible fierceness of the fire, which cannot be extinguished, every one will know that God has kindled it, that it has been sent in judgment." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:288-89) The Lord further described in the next chapter the terribleness of the wrath of war that would come upon Judah (see Ezekiel 21:1-17).
Ezekiel 21:3-4. Who in Jerusalem would be slain?
Ezekiel 21:4. The Righteous Sometimes Suffer with the WickedWhen righteous people live among the wicked, they sometimes experience tribulations resulting from the unrighteousness of their neighbors. Sometimes the "innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty" (Smith, Teachings, p. 34).
In speaking of the judgments of the last days, Joseph Smith said: "It is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and 'the righteous shall hardly escape;' still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death, for all flesh is subject to death; and the Savior has said, 'Judge not, lest ye be judged.'" (History of the Church, 4:11)
Clarke gave the following commentary on Ezekiel 21:4 that is helpful in understanding why the righteous, along with the wicked, sometimes find their lot in life full of distress:
"And when all the provisions were consumed, so that there was no more bread in the city, during the siege by Nebuchadnezzar, the righteous must have suffered as well as the wicked; for they could not be preserved alive, but by miracle, when there was no bread; nor was their perishing for want any loss to them, because the Lord would take them straight to his glory. And however men in general are unwilling to die, yet there is no instance, nor can there be, of any man's complaint that he got to heaven too soon. Again, if God had permitted none to be carried off captive but the wicked, the case of these would be utterly hopeless, as there would be none to set a good example, to preach repentance, to reprove sin, or to show God's willingness to forgive sinners. But God, in his mercy, permitted many of the righteous to be carried off also, that the wicked might not be totally abandoned, or put beyond the reach of being saved. Hence, both Ezekiel and Daniel, and indeed several others, prophets and righteous men, were thus cut off from the land, and carried into captivity. And how much was God's glory and the good of men promoted by this! What a seed of salvation was sown, even in the heathen countries, by thus cutting off the righteous with the wicked! To this we owe, under God, many of the Psalms, the whole of the Book of Ezekiel, all the prophecies of Daniel, the bright example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, the decrees passed in favour of the religion of the true God by Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius, &c." (Commentary, 4:479-80)
Ezekiel 21:6-7. "Breaking of Thy Loins"To depict the terror and pain of the judgments that would come upon Judah, Ezekiel was told to sigh and mourn like a woman in the pains of travail, or childbirth.
Ezekiel 21:10, 13. "It Contemneth the Rod of My Son, as Every Tree"The sword of Nebuchadnezzar, meaning his destructive force, had contempt for any strength or power promised to Judah (compare Genesis 49:9-10). His sword destroyed the regal government of Judah just as it had brought down other nations over which it had been wielded in power. (See Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 20:45-48)
Ezekiel 21:12, 14. "Smite ... upon Thy Thigh" and "Smite Thine Hands Together"Ezekiel 21:12, 14 expresses signs of great emotion -- in this case great alarm and horror at the impending calamity (see also Ezekiel 6:11; Jeremiah 31:9). Smiting the hands also showed contempt (see Job 27:23), anger (see Ezekiel 22:13), or triumph (see Ezekiel 25:6), or indicated a pledge (see Ezekiel 21:17).
Ezekiel 21:19-32. What would Babylon do?
Ezekiel 21:21. "He Made His Arrows Bright, He Consulted with Images, He Looked in the Liver"Three methods of divination used by idolaters were shaking arrows and drawing one out or watching them fall, consulting with idols, and examining the entrails of animal sacrifices -- customs no more ridiculous than consulting cards and tea leaves or reading palms. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem because Jehovah allowed it, not because an arrow, an image, or a liver bespoke good omens. (See Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 305-7)
Ezekiel 21:26-27. "Remove the Diadem ... until He Come Whose Right It Is"Judah would be overturned and her king deposed until He comes who has the right to reign over Israel and all flesh: Jesus Christ the King (see D&C 133:25; Micah 4:7; Revelation 11:15).
Ezekiel 22:2-13.. What did Ezekiel catalog?
Ezekiel 22:15-31. Why would the Jews be scattered and destroyed?
Ezekiel 23:1-49. Allegory of the Two SistersEzekiel 23 tells about the idolatry of the ten tribes (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem). All the references to whoredoms, to other impure sexual practices, and to various parts of the female anatomy are metaphorical. These metaphors are used in the same way as those used by Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others in which Jehovah is the husband and the nation Israel is the wife. Infidelity and fornication are similar, and both words have dual meanings. One meaning relates to marriage (adultery) and the other to worship (idolatry). Ezekiel plays these meanings against each other and draws out lessons on both. Dummelow summarized the relationships referred to in the allegory:
"The idolatries and foreign alliances of Jerusalem and Samaria are here described under the same strong figure which is used in c. 16. Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem) were two sisters, both seduced in Egypt in their youth (v. 3), both espoused by God (v. 4), and both unfaithful to Him. Samaria took as her lovers first the Assyrians (vv. 5-7), and then the Egyptians (v. 8), and was at length slain by the former (vv. 9, 10). Jerusalem, not warned by her sister's fate, made first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians her paramours (vv. 11-16). Being alienated from the latter she has turned to her early lovers of Egypt (vv. 17-21), but she will be destroyed, like her sister, by the lovers whom she has just forsaken (vv. 22-35). The sin and judgment of the two sisters are described afresh (vv. 36-49)." (Commentary, p. 507)
In his inspired translation, Joseph Smith made small but significant changes in Ezekiel 23:17, 22, and 28. The sisters' minds were turned not from their lovers (the false gods) but from God by their lovers.
Ezekiel 23:4. Who were the two sisters?
Ezekiel 23:5-8, 11-21. What did they do?
Ezekiel 23:9-10, 23-25. What happened to them?
Ezekiel 24:1-4. What is foretold in Ezekiel 24?
Ezekiel 24:1-14. The Parable of the Boiling PotThe pot in this parable represents the city of Jerusalem. Its inhabitants are symbolized by the flesh and bones in the pot. The choice pieces denote the strongest and most important inhabitants of the city (Zedekiah and his family would be part of this group). Boiling the contents of the pot on the fires represents the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The scum in the pot indicates impurity and bloodshed in Jerusalem, the inhabitants of which are in a very sinful state. As the contents of the pot are brought out piece by piece, so will the city of Jerusalem be emptied of its inhabitants one by one, either by death or by captivity. The phrase "let no lot fall upon it" (v. 6) means that the contents of the pot will be pulled out indiscriminantly, at random, without preference. The heating of the empty pot represents the burning of the city of Jerusalem after the siege. (See Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:340-47; Clarke, Commentary, 4:488-89; Dummelow, Commentary, pp. 507-8)
Ezekiel 24:7-8 refers to blood being set on the top of a rock: "The city has shed blood, which is not covered with earth, but has been left uncovered, like blood poured out upon a hard rock, which the stone cannot absorb, and which cries to God for vengeance, because it is uncovered [compare Genesis 4:10; Job 16:18; and Isaiah 26:21]. The thought is this: she has sinned in an insolent and shameless manner, and has done nothing to cover her sin, has shown no sign of repentance or atonement, by which she might have got rid of her sin. This has all been ordered by God. He has caused the blood that was shed to fall upon a bare rock, that it might lie uncovered, and He might be able to execute vengeance for the crime." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:345)
Ezekiel 24:15-24. What sign did Ezekiel give to the Jews?
Ezekiel 24:15-27. Why Was Ezekiel Told Not to Mourn for the Death of His Wife?Although the Lord took away "the desire of [his] eyes" (Ezekiel 24:16), meaning his wife (see v. 18), Ezekiel was instructed to make no mourning. Putting ashes on the head, making one's feet bare, covering the lips, and eating bread of mourning were all signs of grief (see Joshua 7:6; 2 Samuel 13:19; Isaiah 20:2-3; Micah 3:7; Hosea 9:4; Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:348-49)
"When Ezekiel thus abstained from all lamentation and outward sign of mourning on the death of his dearest one, the people conjectured that such striking conduct must have some significance, and asked him what it was that he intended to show thereby. He then announced to them the word of God (vers. 20-24). As his dearest one, his wife, had been taken from him, so should its dearest object, the holy temple, be taken from the nation by destruction, and their children by the sword. When this occurred, then would they act as he was doing now; they would not mourn and weep, but simply in their gloomy sorrow sigh in silence on account of their sins, and groan one toward another." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:1:349)
Ezekiel 25-32. Ezekiel Prophesied against Foreign NationsThese eight chapters contain prophecies against several foreign nations: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt. (See "Old Testament Canaan" and "The Old Testament World" in Maps to locate these nations)
"Although the prophets concentrated mainly on Israel/Judah, all of them were very conscious that God was Lord of the whole world. There is no nation beyond the reach of his judgement; and what he condemns and punishes in his own people, he condemns and punishes in other nations too. This collection of prophecies effectively marks the break in Ezekiel's ministry before, and his ministry after, the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC." (David Alexander and Pat Alexander, eds., Eerdmans' Handbook to the Bible, p. 423)
These chapters in Ezekiel are similar to those in Isaiah and Jeremiah where prophetic burdens are pronounced on certain foreign nations (see Isaiah 13-23; Jeremiah 46-51).
Ezekiel 25:2-7, 8-11, 13, 15-17. Upon whom would the Lord's vengeance fall?
Ezekiel 25:3. What Is the Significance of the Interjection "Aha"?Aha was used as an expression of malicious joy. Because the Ammonites rejoiced when Judah fell and the temple was profaned, the Lord was displeased and promised to punish them. (See Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, s.v. "aha"; Ezekiel 26:2; 36:2)
Ezekiel 25:8. What Is Seir?Seir is the original name of the mountain ridge extending along the east side of the valley of Arabah, from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. This area was the dwelling place of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau. Seir in the Bible became synonymous with Edom. Compare this prophecy about Edom in Ezekiel 25:8-11 with those in Isaiah 16:1-5 (where Sela, which in Hebrew means "the rock," is assumed to be Mount Seir) and in Jeremiah 49:7-22.
Ezekiel 25:16. Who Were the Cherethims?The word cherethims would better be translated "Cretans," a branch of the sea peoples of whom the Philistines were a part. The Cretans dwelt in southwest Canaan. (See C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 9:1:369)
Ezekiel 26:1-14. A Remarkable Fulfillment of ProphecyKorihor, the Book of Mormon anti-Christ, told Alma that "no man can know of anything which is to come" because "ye cannot know of things which ye do not see" (Alma 30:13, 15). Again and again in the Old Testament, one can find examples that prove Korihor wrong. The prophets foretold in great detail many future events. Ezekiel's prophecies concerning Tyre (Tyrus) are some of the most remarkable.
Tyre was situated on the coast about halfway between Carmel in Israel and Beirut in Lebanon.
But it was a peculiar geographic feature of Tyre that gave it its most remarkable prophetic destiny. Merrill F. Unger noted that Tyre "once consisted of two parts -- a rocky coast defense of great strength on the mainland, and a city upon a small but well-protected island, about half a mile from the shore" (Unger's Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Tyre," p. 1121).
Ezekiel predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would lay siege to Tyre (see Ezekiel 26:7-11), but a skeptic like Korihor might say that this prediction was not remarkable since Nebuchadnezzar was conquering nearly every major city in the area, and Tyre was a particularly ripe plum because of its wealth. But "before a generation had passed away, according to Josephus, Philostratus, and Seder Olam, Nebuchadnezzar came up, as had been predicted [Ezekiel 26:7-15], making a fort, casting a mount, and lifting up the buckler. At the end of thirteen years [about 605 BC] he took the city, at least that on the mainland, and Tyre was forgotten seventy years, as had been foretold by Isaiah [23:15]." (Samuel Fallows, ed., The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia and Scriptural Dictionary, s.v. "Tyre," p. 1682)
Some of Ezekiel's peculiar promises seemed to be unfulfilled, including the following:
"I will also scrape her dust from her" (Ezekiel 26:4).
Tyre will become "like the top of a rock" (Ezekiel 26:4).
"It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea" (Ezekiel 26:5).
"They shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water" (Ezekiel 26:12).
"Thou shalt be built no more" (Ezekiel 26:14).
For nearly three hundred years these prophecies appeared to be inaccurate. Nebuchadnezzar conquered the mainland city but was unable to subdue all of Tyre because of its strategic position on the island. After a few decades Tyre regained her wealth and splendor, though the ruined city on the shore was not rebuilt, and the island fortification became the central city.
Then in 332 BC, Alexander the Great swept out of the northern Mediterranean world. He moved south with his forces and camped on the ruins of ancient Tyre, isolating the inhabitants on the island offshore. Tyre had supposedly made a peaceful alliance with the Greeks, but when Alexander requested permission to bring his troops into Tyre to worship their gods and was refused, he laid siege to Tyre -- a difficult task since the city lay on an island a half mile off the shore.
James Hastings described what followed: "The memorable siege began. Alexander built a mole [causeway] 200 ft. wide out towards the island. It was repeatedly destroyed. The defense was desperate and successful, till Alexander invested the city with a fleet of 224 ships. Tyre was stormed, 8000 of her inhabitants massacred, 2000 crucified on the shore, and 30,000 sold into slavery. Tyre ceased to be an island, and henceforth was permanently joined to the mainland. Only a blunt headland to-day suggests the existence of the former island fortress. The mole is now 1/2 mile broad." (A Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. "Tyre")
Fallows noted how Ezekiel's prophecy that Tyre would be scraped clean and made like the top of a rock was fulfilled: "So utterly were the ruins of old Tyre thrown into the sea, that its exact site is confessedly undeterminable, although the ruins of nearly fifty cities near Rome, which perished almost 2,500 years ago, testify that the extinction of every trace of a city is a sort of miracle." (Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. "Tyre," p. 1682)
Today there is no island opposite Tyre, but a close examination of the coastline in that vicinity will show a small peninsula jutting into the sea. Because of its configuration and the prevailing breezes, local fishermen come to the barren, rocky outcrop to spread their nets to dry.
The prophet Ezekiel certainly met the criteria outlined in Deuteronomy 18:18-22 for determining whether a prophet speaks for the Lord.
Ezekiel 26:2. Why would Tyrus be destroyed?
Ezekiel 27:1-36. What did Ezekiel lament?
Ezekiel 27:5, 10, 13-14, 16. Geographical LocationsSenir (see Ezekiel 27:5) is Mount Hermon. Phut (see v. 10) is Libya. Javan (see v. 13) is Greece. Togarmah (see v. 14) is Armenia. Syria (see v. 16) was known in ancient times as Aram (see v. 16a).
Ezekiel 28:12-16, 21-24. Who would fall and be destroyed?
Ezekiel 28:20-23. "Set Thy Face against Zidon"Zidon, or Sidon, a sister city with Tyre, also had been a thorn in Israel's side. If the Israelites had followed Moses' instructions to destroy all the Canaanites (see Deuteronomy 7:1-5; Judges 1:31), Tyre and Sidon would have been Israelite cities for nearly eight centuries by Ezekiel's time and their history significantly different.
Ezekiel 28:25-26. What would happen to Israel?
Ezekiel 29:1-16. Egypt Will Learn Who Is GodAlexander and Alexander wrote: "By his insufferable pride in placing himself among the gods, Pharaoh has exposed his whole land to God's anger. But he will learn who is God!" (Eerdmans' Handbook, p. 425)
Syene (see Ezekiel 29:10) was a city in the south of Egypt, far up the Nile. Pathros (see v. 14) was the name for upper Egypt, or the south part of Egypt. Once the seat of leadership for Egypt was driven up to Pathros, Egypt became "the basest of the kingdoms" and never did "exalt itself any more above the nations" (v. 15). From that point on, Egypt ceased to play an important role in world affairs.
Ezekiel 29:18-20. Nebuchadnezzar Lost TyreNebuchadnezzar had not been able to conquer the island city (see Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 26:1-14). When the long siege of Tyre was ended, many of the Tyrians loaded their wealth on their ships and escaped to Carthage. Thus Nebuchadnezzar lost some of the spoil of one of the world's richest cities (see Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible ... with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:503).
Ezekiel 29:19. Who would overthrow Egypt?
Ezekiel 29:13-14. What would Egypt be when she rises again?
Ezekiel 30:13-17. Locations of the Lord's Judgments upon EgyptNoph. The city of Memphis in lower Egypt.
Zoan. The city of Rameses in lower Egypt in the Nile River delta.
No. The city of Thebes in upper Egypt.
Aven. The sacred city of Heliopolis, or On, in lower Egypt.
Pi-beseth. Atown of lower Egypt, the same as Bubastis, about forty miles from Memphis.
Ezekiel 30:6-7. Who would be made desolate by Babylon?
Ezekiel 31:2. What was compared to the glory and fall of the Assyrians?
Ezekiel 32. The Fearful Fall of EgyptEzekiel 32 is written in poetic and figurative style and relates to Egypt's pending downfall and the decimation of her people, especially the leaders -- the "bright lights" (v. 8). In verse 22 the Lord says Ashur (Assyria) is already in hell, which was where Egypt was headed. The reference to the "nether parts of the earth" in verses 18 and 24 is typical of the ancient belief that hell is below the earth. Pharaoh was to join the kings of Tyre, Sidon, Damascus, Assyria, Persia, Idumea, and so forth, in hell, with their armies, and be comforted to know that they share a common fate (see v. 31; Clarke, Commentary, 4:510).
Ezekiel 32:2. What did Ezekiel lament for?
Ezekiel 33:2-5. Who would save their souls?
Ezekiel 33:2-9. "I Have Set Thee a Watchman unto the House of Israel"Ezekiel 33:2-9 reiterates the teachings about the watchman found in Ezekiel 3:17-21. Elder Spencer W. Kimball explained the need to have a watchman:
"I am sure that Peter and James and Paul found it unpleasant business to constantly be calling people to repentance and warning them of dangers, but they continued unflinchingly. So we, your leaders, must be everlastingly at it; if young people do not understand, then the fault may be partly ours. But, if we make the true way clear to you, then we are blameless [Ezekiel 33:3-6].
"So, I wish today to help define meanings of words and acts for you young people, to fortify you against error, anguish, pain and sorrow." (Love versus Lust, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [5 Jan. 1965], pp. 6-7)
Ezekiel 33:12-19. Repenting of SinEzekiel 33:12-19 says that one's righteous deeds will not cancel out one's works of iniquity. If a sinner "turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right" (v. 14), however, his sins will not be mentioned on his account (v. 16).
Repentance is not to be procrastinated (see Alma 34:32-34), nor is it to be "trifled with every day," said Joseph Smith. "Daily transgression and daily repentance [incomplete or insincere] is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 148) But the Prophet also said, "There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin." (Teachings, p. 191)
Elder Spencer W. Kimball further commented on the need to provide restitution for sin, as noted in Ezekiel 33:15:
"When one is humble in sorrow, has unconditionally abandoned the evil, confessed to those assigned by the Lord, he should next restore insofar as possible that which was damaged. If he burglarized, he should return to the rightful owner that which was stolen. Perhaps one reason murder is unforgivable is that having taken a life, the murderer cannot restore it. Restitution in full is not possible ...
"However, the truly repentant soul will usually find things which can be done to restore to some extent. The true spirit of repentance demands this. Ezekiel taught: [Ezekiel 33:15] ...
"A pleading sinner must also forgive all people of all offenses committed against himself. The Lord is under no obligation to forgive us unless our hearts are fully purged of all hate, bitterness and accusations against all others." (Be Ye Clean, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 4 May 1954, p. 11)
Ezekiel 33:13, 18. Who are damned?
Ezekiel 33:14-16. Who else are saved?
Ezekiel 33:21-33. Ezekiel Heard of the Destruction of Jerusalem"The news did not take Ezekiel by surprise. God had already given him back his speech, as promised [Ezekiel 24:27], by the time the messenger arrived. Some texts have 'eleventh year' for 'twelfth' in verse 21, in which case the news takes the more likely time of six months to reach them. Those left behind in Judah, far from repenting, were busy annexing other people's property. And in Babylonia the exiles who seemed to lap up Ezekiel's words came simply for entertainment. They neither believed them nor acted on them: a depressing state of affairs after all that had happened!" (Alexander and Alexander, Eerdmans' Handbook, p. 426)
It was unfortunate that the Jews in Babylonia did not appreciate at that time "that a prophet hath been among them" (Ezekiel 33:33).
Ezekiel 33:23-29. Why would the Jews be destroyed?
Ezekiel 34:1-10. "Should Not the Shepherds Feed the Flocks?"In a tone very similar to Jeremiah's (see Jeremiah 23:1-8), Ezekiel condemned the pastors, or shepherds, of the Lord's spiritual flock, the religious leaders of Ezekiel's day.
In contrast to the Lord's care of His flock, the shepherds of Israel fed themselves but not the flock. The negligent shepherds did not strengthen the sick, bind up the broken, bring back again those who were driven away, or seek for the lost sheep -- all of which any real shepherd would do for his own sheep. Instead, they ruled the sheep with force and cruelty and let them wander to become a prey to beasts.
President Spencer W. Kimball, in a priesthood session of general conference, charged the present shepherds -- priesthood leaders -- of the kingdom to be concerned about the welfare of the flock:
"As we read and study the scriptures, we are made conscious of the fact that the Savior has always been concerned about the welfare of the members of his flock, both individually and collectively. It is about that principle of caring for and ministering to the needs of the Church membership in these troubled days that I desire to speak to you brethren tonight.
"Bishops and branch presidents, please be ever alert to the needs of the precious individuals and families who make up the membership of your wards and branches. You are the nurturing shepherds of our people. To the greatest extent possible, let your counselors and others who serve and work under your direction be the managers of programs. If you will pursue this emphasis, you will often be able to detect very early some of those members who have serious difficulties, while their challenges and problems are still small and manageable. Be conscious of the little tensions and problems you may see in families so that you can give the required attention, counsel, and love when it is most needed. An hour with a troubled boy or girl now may save him or her, and is infinitely better than the hundreds of hours spent in their later lives in the reclamation of a boy or girl if they become inactive.
"As we have said so many times, delegate those tasks which others can do so that you are free to do those things which you, and you alone, can do. Home teachers are to help watch over the flock. Even though they don't counsel as bishops and branch presidents do, home teachers can render much appropriate and preventive help under the direction of the quorum leaders and bishoprics.
"Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. The Savior has told us to feed his sheep (see John 21:15-17). I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time when they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come." (In Conference Report, Oct. 1980, p. 67; see also Ensign, Nov. 1980, pp. 45-46)
Ezekiel 34:2-3. Whom did the Lord reprove?
Ezekiel 34:12, 23, 25. What three things would the Lord do in the last days?
Ezekiel 34:23-31. Who Is David the Prince?See Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 11:1.
Ezekiel 35. Edom to Be DestroyedWhy would the Lord deal so harshly with the people of Edom, the descendants of Esau and therefore also of Abraham and Isaac? The answer is clear after analyzing Ezekiel 35. The people of Edom hated the children of Israel and shed their blood (see v. 5), sought to take over their lands (see vv. 10, 12), spoke against the Lord (see v. 13), and rejoiced at Israel's desolation (see v. 15).
Edom as a distinct nation was destroyed, giving further evidence that the Lord keeps His promises. Although the nation is no more, Edom, or Idumea (see v. 15), has become a symbol for the wicked world that exists today (see D&C 1:36; see also Jeremiah 49:7-22; Obadiah 1; Notes and Commentary on Jeremiah 49; Obadiah 1).
Ezekiel 35:3, 5. Upon whom will the judgment fall? Why? (See also Bible Dictionary, p. 706, s.v. "Idumea")
Ezekiel 36. The House of Israel Will Be Gathered to Their Own LandsThe only verses in Ezekiel 36 that do not deal with the last days are those that explain why the Lord scattered Israel (see vv. 16-22).
None of the following events have fully transpired, though today is the day when these prophecies are being fulfilled:
◆ Those men who will multiply upon the land are from all the house of Israel, not just the kingdom of Judah (see v. 10).
◆ Israel is to walk upon the land which shall "no more henceforth bereave them of men" (v. 12; see also vv. 13-14).
◆ Those who return will be gathered from the heathen and from all countries (see v. 24).
◆ They are to be cleansed from their filthiness (see v. 25).
◆ They are to be converted to the Lord and receive His Spirit (see vv. 26-27).
Verses 28-38 explain that the recovery of Israel will be quite remarkable and will be done for the Lord's reasons, not because Israel has earned it (see v. 32). The Israel of the future must be spiritually worthy and must submit themselves to the Lord's will.
Ezekiel 36:24. What would happen to the house of Israel in the last days?
Ezekiel 36:26. What would the Lord give them?
Ezekiel 37:1-14. Is Ezekiel's Vision of the Valley of Bones about the Resurrection or about the Renewal of the House of Israel?Often prophetic utterances have dual meanings. Such is the case for the well-known allegory of the scattered dry bones. The beauty of prophecy is that the Lord can reveal to those who are spiritually alert more than one truth in one prophecy.
Sidney B. Sperry wrote the following commentary on the dual nature of this prophecy: "It will be seen from this passage that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead ... is invoked to symbolize the restoration of Israel's exiles to their own land. The exiles are represented -- so it seems to me -- as having lost hope (their bones are dried up) of ever living again as a nation. But the Lord shows them that they can be restored through His mighty power even as the dead will be raised in the resurrection. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is assumed. Some writers contend that the idea of resurrection was not known among the Hebrews at this early time. But the fact that Ezekiel speaks as he did would seem to me an indication that the doctrine had long been understood in Israel. Any true prophet would understand the doctrine of the resurrection, so Latter-day Saints believe, and Israel had had many prophets long before Ezekiel's time." (The Voice of Israel's Prophets, pp. 225-26)
The symbolic meaning of this prophecy as it relates to the gathering of Israel is apparent: The bones represent Israel in its lost and scattered state; the graves indicate where Israel is as well as its condition of spiritual death. The spirit, or ruach in Hebrew (see Ezekiel 37:9), means the new spirit of righteousness the people will have when they have been resurrected, that is, restored from their fallen state. The source of this new life will be the Holy Ghost.
But Ezekiel's account of the Resurrection is literal, as well as symbolic of the future gathering of Israel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie testified: "There is nothing more real, more literal, more personal than the resurrection, as Ezekiel then beheld in vision. He saw the dead live again, live literally and personally, each one becoming in physical makeup as he had been in mortality. It was with each of them as it would be with their Lord, when he, having also come forth from his valley of dry bones, stood in the upper room with his disciples, ate before them, and permitted them to handle his physical body. To his people the Lord's voice came: 'I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.' (Ezek. 37:1-14) He who shall do all this, as we are now acutely aware, is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the God of Israel." (The Promised Messiah, pp. 270-71)
Ezekiel 37:12-13. What would Israel inherit? When?
Ezekiel 37:15-17. What Was the Meaning Anciently of the Word Stick?Bible scholars who are not Latter-day Saints have insisted that the traditional Christian interpretation of the word stick should be a "rod or scepter" rather than a record of some kind. They conclude that uniting the two tribal scepters vividly symbolizes the reunification of the divided tribes. But as Keith H. Meservy pointed out:
"Recent exciting discoveries now confirm the correctness of Joseph Smith's interpretation in a way impossible in 1830. But before discussing these new discoveries, let's take a quick look at some linguistic points. Both stick, in the English King James Version, and rod, in the Greek Septuagint Version, are very unusual translations of the Hebrew word etz ... whosebasic meaning is wood ...
"The modern nation of Iraq includes almost all of Mesopotamia, the homeland of the ancient kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia. In 593 BC, when Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, he was living in exile in Babylonia ... As he walked its streets, he would have seen the typical scribe pressing a wedge-shaped stylus into moist clay tablets to make the complex writings familiar to us as cuneiform (wedge-shaped). But scholars today know that other kinds of records were being made in Mesopotamia: papyrus, parchment, and wooden tablets. Though only the clay tablets have survived the millennia, writers referred to the other writing materials on their clay tablets. [One such writing style was called "wood tablets"]
"Modern archaeologists knew what papyrus and parchment were, but what were these wood tablets? How could cuneiform be written on wood? ...
"... Some years ago ... San Nicolo [an archaeologist] remembered that Romans and Greeks both made wooden wax tablets for record-keeping purposes out of boards whose surfaces had been cut below the edges in order to hold a thin coating of wax. Scribes wrote on the wax. The raised edges protected the inscribed surfaces when two tablets were put together.
"Could the Babylonians have done the same thing? ... Five years later, ... a discovery made in the territory that had been ancient Assyria confirmed his theory to the letter.
"The discovery, directed by archaeologist Max Mallowan, was made in a layer of sludge deep in a well in Nimrod, a city known as Calah in the Bible ... By the end of the day workmen had found ... fragments of two complete sets of tablets, one of ivory and the other of walnut, each composed of sixteen boards ...
"All of the surfaces of the boards were cut down a tenth of an inch, leaving a half-inch-wide raised edge all around. The lowered surfaces provided a bed for wax filling, of which some thin biscuit-like fragments were found either still adhering to the boards or mixed in the sludge nearby ...
"The cover boards ... had hinge marks on both sides, making it evident that all sixteen in each set had once been joined together like a Japanese folding screen. The whole work made such an extensive record that Mallowan could announce his discovery as the oldest known example of a book ...
"With these things in mind, we can see how we might translate Ezekiel 37:15-17 in this way:
"'These were the words of the Lord to me: Man, take one leaf of a wooden tablet and write on it, "Judah and his associates of Israel." Then take another leaf and write on it, "Joseph, the leaf [wooden tablet] of Ephraim and all his associates of Israel."
"'Now bring the two together to form one tablet; then they will be a folding tablet in your hand.'
"This translation is faithful to what we now know of Ezekiel's language and culture." ("Ezekiel's 'Sticks,'" Ensign, Sept. 1977, pp. 24-26)
Ezekiel 37:15-20. What Is the Symbolism of the Two Sticks Being Joined Together?This passage is another example of the dual nature of prophecy. Sperry explained: "What is the meaning of these 'sticks' and what is their significance? Most commentators simply believe that each piece of wood represents one of the two kingdoms, either Judah or Israel (Ephraim), which are to be bound together or united under the Lord's direction. This act symbolizes the reunion of Ephraim and Judah into one kingdom ... However, the Latter-day Saints insist that such an interpretation is by no means complete ... What they do believe is that each of the sticks represents a scripture, a significant piece of writing. The Bible represents the scripture of Judah. To an average person not of our faith this conclusion may seem reasonable, but he will ask immediately what scripture represents the stick of Ephraim. To which we reply, the Book of Mormon. The Nephite scripture is the record of the descendants upon this continent of Joseph who was sold into Egypt." (Voice of Israel's Prophets, pp. 226-27)
The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon affirm that Ezekiel's prophecy deals with the Bible and the Book of Mormon being joined together. Doctrine and Covenants 27:5 teaches that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Ephraim. The Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi 13:40-41; 2 Nephi 29:10-14; and Mormon 7:8-9 speaks of the records of the Jews and the records of the Nephites being gathered together into one.
The sign that Jesus Christ gave the Nephites that the restoration of the tribes of Israel was at hand was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which made the combining of the records possible (see 3 Nephi 20:46; 21:1-7; 29:1). This truth is sustained by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Because [the Book of Mormon] came forth, as the seeric insight of Ezekiel has so plainly set forth, latter-day Israel would be gathered, her people would become clean before the Lord, he would make with them again his everlasting gospel covenant, and his tabernacle and temple would be in their midst forevermore. (Ezek. 37:15-28)" (Promised Messiah, p. 146)
Ezekiel 37:16-17. What would become one in the Lord's hand?
Ezekiel 37:21. What would happen to Israel?
Ezekiel 37:24-27. What would they receive?
Ezekiel 37:26-28. A Latter-day Temple in JerusalemEzekiel prophesied in 37:26-28 about a holy sanctuary or temple that would be part of the great reunification of Israel. Soon after this vision, Ezekiel received a detailed vision of what the new temple in Jerusalem would be like (see Ezekiel 40-48). President Joseph Fielding Smith said: "Ezekiel predicted the building of a temple in Jerusalem which will be used for ordinance work after the gathering of Israel from their long dispersion and when they are cleansed from their transgressions" (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:244).
Ezekiel 38-39. The Battle of Gog and MagogThe following from Elder Bruce R. McConkie sums up the events of the battle of Armageddon:
"Our Lord is to come again in the midst of the battle of Armageddon, or in other words during the course of the great war between Israel and Gog and Magog. At the Second Coming all nations of the earth are to be engaged in battle, and the fighting is to be in progress in the area of Jerusalem and Armageddon. (Zech. 11; 12; 13; Rev. 16:14-21) The prophecies do not name the modern nations which will be fighting for and against Israel, but the designation Gog and Magog is given to the combination of nations which are seeking to overthrow and destroy the remnant of the Lord's chosen seed.
"The 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel record considerable prophetic detail relative to this great war. It should be noted that it is to take place 'in the latter years'; that it will be fought in the 'mountains of Israel' against those who have been gathered to the land of their ancient inheritance; that the land of Israel shall be relatively unprotected, a 'land of unwalled villages'; that Gog and Magog shall come 'out of the north parts' in such numbers as 'to cover the land' as a cloud; that the Lord will then come, and all men shall shake at his presence; that there will be such an earthquake as has never before been known, which will throw down the mountains; that there will be pestilence, blood, fire, and brimstone descend upon the armies; that the forces of Gog and Magog will be destroyed upon the mountains of Israel; that the Supper of the Great God shall then take place as the beasts and fowls eat the flesh and drink the blood of the fallen ones (Rev. 19:17-18; D&C 29:18-21); and that the house of Israel will be seven months burying the dead and seven years burning the discarded weapons of war.
"In the light of all this and much more that is prophetically foretold about the final great battles in the holy land, is it any wonder that those who are scripturally informed and spiritually enlightened watch world events with great interest as troubles continue to foment in Palestine, Egypt, and the Near East?" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 324-25)
That the battle before the Millennium, which is known as the battle of Armageddon, makes reference to Gog and Magog may at first be confusing since the last great battle at the end of the Millennium is called the battle of Gog and Magog by John (see Revelation 20:7-9). But the names "Gog" and "Magog" are used for both battles because they symbolize an alliance of great, evil power. President Joseph Fielding Smith clarified this point as follows: "Before the coming of Christ, the great war, sometimes called Armageddon, will take place as spoken of by Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39. Another war of Gog and Magog will be after the millennium." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:45)
Obviously the battle seen by Ezekiel will be one of the greatest events of the world's history, and so it is not surprising that the prophets speak of it again and again. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, and John the Revelator all speak of it in some detail, and it is mentioned in several places in latter-day scripture.
Ezekiel 38:1-2. Gog and MagogThe terms Gog and Magog are often joined together, as, for example, in the phrase the "battle of Gog and Magog" (see Revelation 20:8). Thus, many people assume the terms refer to two people by those names. Ezekiel 38:1-2 shows clearly, however, that Gog is a name of a person and Magog the land from which he comes. Technically, "Gog of Magog" is the correct way to say it. Over the centuries, however, the names have come to mean the combination of nations that will fight against Israel in the last days. (See Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 38-39)
Ezekiel 38:1-23. What will usher in the Second Coming? (See also D&C 29:21)
Ezekiel 38:2-6. Ancient Names and Modern EquivalentsEzekiel specifically told his readers where Gog, the great military and political leader or leaders of the last days, would come from and with whom he would be allied in the war against Israel. He used names that were current in Old Testament times, though many of these names are not familiar to modern readers. Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were in northern Asia Minor (see v. 2). Persia was in eastern Asia Minor, and Ethiopia and Libya (Cush and Phut) were in Africa (see v. 5). Gomer and Togarmah have been associated with peoples in Asia Minor and Europe (see v. 6; see Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible; Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia; Encyclopaedia Judaica; Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:2:159-60) That these nations would come from north and south, east and west, represents the teaching that all nations will fight against Israel (compare Zechariah 14:2).
Ezekiel 38:9-16, 21. What will the earth be like when the Lord comes?
Ezekiel 38:19-20. What will men do at his presence?
Ezekiel 38:22. "I Will Rain upon Him ... Great Hailstones"As did Ezekiel, John the Revelator also saw great hailstones raining down on the vast army at Armageddon. He gave their weight at one talent (see Revelation 16:21), which is approximately 75.6 pounds, or 34.3 kilograms (see Bible Dictionary, s.v. "weights and measures"). Ezekiel 38:22 is the verse referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 29:21.
Ezekiel 39:1-5. Who will be destroyed?
Ezekiel 39:9. How long will it take to burn the weapons of war?
Ezekiel 39:11. Where Is the Valley of Hamongog?Ezekiel 39:11 depicts a future event and is not making reference to a known location of that day. Hamon in Hebrew means "multitude" (see William Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. "multitude"). The name Hamongog therefore means the "multitude of Gog," indicating that the valley will be so called because of the vast numbers buried there. Since the final battle centers around Jerusalem, it is assumed that the valley of Hamongog is somewhere nearby.
Ezekiel 39:12. How long will it take to bury the dead?
Ezekiel 39:17, 21-29. What will happen after that?
Ezekiel 40-44. The Vision of a Future TempleIn one of the most remarkable visions of the Old Testament, Ezekiel had the privilege of being carried away by the Spirit to the holy city of Jerusalem to behold on the temple mount the magnificent temple to be built there in the latter days. In Ezekiel 40:3, Ezekiel was introduced to a "man" who subsequently showed him the temple and its measurements. This "man" was probably not the Lord but an authorized messenger.
Elder James E. Talmage described the main features of this temple:
"In the twenty-fifth year of the Babylonian captivity, while yet the people of Israel were in exile in a strange land, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Ezekiel; the power of God rested upon him; and he saw in vision a glorious Temple, the plan of which he minutely described. As to whether the prophet himself considered the design so shown as one to be subsequently realized, or as but a grand yet unattainable ideal, is not declared. Certain it is that the Temple of the vision has not yet been builded.
"In most of its essential features Ezekiel's ideal followed closely the plan of Solomon's Temple; so close, indeed, is the resemblance, that many of the details specified by Ezekiel have been accepted as those of the splendid edifice destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. A predominant characteristic of the Temple described by Ezekiel was the spaciousness of its premises and the symmetry of both the Holy House and its associated buildings. The area was to be a square of five hundred cubits, walled about and provided with a gateway and arches on each of three sides; on the west side the wall was to be unbroken by arch or portal. At each of the gateways were little chambers regarded as lodges, and provided with porches. In the outer court were otherchambers. The entire area was to be elevated, and a flight of steps led to each gateway. In the inner court was seen the great altar, standing before the House, and occupying the center of a square of one hundred cubits. Ample provision was made for every variety of sacrifice and offering, and for the accommodation of the priests, the singers, and all engaged in the holy ritual. The main structure comprised a Porch, a Holy Place, and an inner sanctuary or Most Holy Place, the last named elevated above the rest and reached by steps. The plan provided for even greater exclusiveness than had characterized the sacred area of the Temple of Solomon; the double courts contributed to this end. The service of the Temple was prescribed in detail; the ordinances of the altar, the duties of the priests, the ministry of the Levites, the regulations governing oblations and feasts were all set forth.
"The immediate purpose of this revelation through the vision of the prophet appears to have been that of awakening the people of Israel to a realization of their fallen state and a conception of their departed glory." (The House of the Lord, pp. 37-38)
Ezekiel 40:1-49. What was Ezekiel shown in vision?
Ezekiel 40:45-46. Who Are the Sons of Zadok?The heavenly messenger explained to Ezekiel that the Levites who would keep charge of the holy house would be the sons of Zadok. Zadok was a righteous high priest in the days of King Solomon. Zadok replaced Abiathar (see 1 Kings 2:26-27, 35) because of his loyalty to David and Solomon. Zadok was the first high priest to officiate in Solomonís temple. Apparently the Lord desired the descendants of the righteous Zadok to officiate in the latter-day temple in Jerusalem (see Ezekiel 44:15; 48:11).
Ezekiel 41:1-26. What was Ezekiel shown?
Ezekiel 42:1-20. What did Ezekiel see?
Ezekiel 43:1-5; 44:4. The Glory of God Fills the TempleThe glory of God is manifest in the brightness and power of His divine presence. It is expected that the glory of the Lord would fill His holy house in Jerusalem. Unquestionably, His glory has filled all of the temples that have been built in His name and by His authority. (See Numbers 9:15-18; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; Ezra 6:14-16; D&C 110:1-5; 124:27-28, 38-41)
Ezekiel 43:4-5. What fills the temple?
Ezekiel 43:7. What is in the temple?
Ezekiel 43:7. What did the Lord promise to do?
Ezekiel 43:18-27. What Sacrifices Will Be Offered in the Temple?President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
"When these temples [the temple seen by Ezekiel and others to be built in the New Jerusalem] are built, it is very likely that provision will be made for some ceremonies and ordinances which may be performed by the Aaronic Priesthood and a place provided where the sons of Levi may offer their offering in righteousness. This will have to be the case because all things are to be restored. There were ordinances performed in ancient Israel in the tabernacle when in the wilderness, and after it was established at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, and later in the temple built by Solomon. The Lord has informed us that this was the case and has said that in those edifices ordinances for the people were performed ...
"We are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since the beginning. Even this earth is to be restored to the condition which prevailed before Adam's transgression. Now in the nature of things, the law of sacrifice will have to be restored, or all things which were decreed by the Lord would not be restored. It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation. Sacrifice by the shedding of blood was instituted in the days of Adam and of necessity will have to be restored.
"The sacrifice of animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood sacrifices will be performed long enough to complete the fulness of the restoration in this dispensation. Afterwards sacrifice will be of some other character." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:93-94)
Ezekiel 44:4. What filled the house of the Lord?
Ezekiel 44:9. Who may not enter the sanctuary?
Ezekiel 44:10-11, 14-23, 27. What services are set forth?
Ezekiel 45:1-8; 47:13-48:29. How Will the Land Be Divided among the Tribes of Israel?According to Ezekiel's vision of the future, the Holy Land will be divided in strips running between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Dead Sea and the Jordan River on the east. Each of the twelve tribes will be given a strip of land with a strip out of the middle for the prince, the city, and the Levites, that is, the priests. Joseph will receive a double portion (Ezekiel 47:13) since Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph's sons, both became tribes in Israel. The city will have twelve gates, one for each tribe (including Levi and one for Joseph). On the north will be the tribes of Reuben, Judah, and Levi; on the east will be Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan; on the south will be Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun; on the west will be Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. Jerusalem will then be called the Lord is there (Jehovah-shammah; see Ezekiel 48:35). There will be a gathering there of the scattered tribes of Israel, and the temple that Ezekiel saw in vision will be central in location and function in that gathering.
Regarding the inheritances of Joseph's descendants in the Middle East, Sperry commented: "Of interest to the Latter-day Saints is the fact that provision is made for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It is quite evident from Ezekiel's vision that not all of Joseph's descendants are to have their inheritance on the American continent, as some of our people have supposed. We may be justified in believing, however, that most of Joseph's seed will be provided for on this land (see Ether 13:5-12), but Ezekiel very obviously implies that some of Joseph's descendants will dwell in Palestine." (Voice of Israel's Prophets, pp. 236-37)
Ezekiel 45:4. For whom would land be provided?
Ezekiel 45:6-16. What are the people to do?
Ezekiel 46:1-24. What ordinances are set forth?
Ezekiel 47:1-9. How ould the Dead Sea be healed?
Ezekiel 47:1-12. Waters Issue from the TempleThe Prophet Joseph Smith proclaimed: "Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance." (Teachings, p. 286)
The waters issuing forth from under the temple and the healing of the Dead Sea may occur when the Lord Himself sets foot upon the Mount of Olives, causing this mountain to divide in two and create a large valley (see Zechariah 14:4; D&C 133:20-24).
Ezekiel 47:13-21. What did the Lord show Ezekiel?
Ezekiel 47:22-23. Who Are These Strangers?Undoubtedly there will be converts who are not part of blood Israel who will receive an inheritance because of their devotion to the gospel. They will then be adopted into the house of Israel. These strangers may be some of the gentile peoples who will accept the gospel in the last days.
Ezekiel 48:31. How would the gates of the city be named?
Ezekiel 48:31-34. The Gates of the CitySee Revelation 22:13-17 for the requirements one must fill to enter in the gates of the holy city.
Ezekiel 48:35. What would be the name of the city?
Ezekiel 48:35. Jerusalem Will Be Called HolyThe Joseph Smith Translation reads: "And the name of the city from that day shall be called, Holy; for the Lord shall be there" (see JST, Ezekiel 48:35; emphasis added). The temple will be built as a symbol to Israel that the Lord is with His people.