As we continue studying Ezekiel 21-23, God asks Ezekiel to perform another skit to dramatize the invasion of Israel by foreign armies. Look at Ezekiel 21, verses 18-23. Ezekiel is to make what was probably marks in the dirt in front of his house, illustrating two roads. Much like children would do with their toys in a sandbox, making roads for their matchbox cars. After making roads, Ezekiel was to make signposts. “This way to Rabbah,” on one sign, and “This way to Jerusalem” on the other. Through this skit, God explains that an invading army will be led by the King of Babylon, who will cast lots to determine which way to continue his invasion, and the lot will fall toward Jerusalem. Babylon will take the road to Jerusalem, lay siege to the city and take the people captive, because they are guilty. Guilty of what? The answer will not surprise you.
In verse 24 God says that the people of Jerusalem are guilty because of their rebellion and sin. That’s why they will be taken captive. We’ve heard God ask Ezekiel to prophesy this very message many times since the beginning of Ezekiel. At this point, though, the message is vague. Sin and rebellion, yes, but what sin and rebellion? Ezekiel has talked about it more specifically many times, but not yet in chapter 21.
Skim over the rest of the chapter. Verses 25-27 proclaim punishment against the prince, which is the king of Jerusalem. Then verses 28-32 are very similar to the previous poem, but this time they are about the Ammonites, a non-Jewish neighboring nation of Israel, which was mentioned back in verse 20, as Rabbah is the capital of Ammon. What God is saying is that, though Babylon will go down the road to attack Jerusalem first, they will eventually circle back, go down the other road and destroy Ammon too. Again, though, the reason for the judgment is vague.
That brings us to chapter 22, and now God’s accusations get really specific. The prophecy will be vague no longer. In verses 1-2, God asks Ezekiel to judge the city of bloodshed, and that refers to Jerusalem. This reminded me of Philadelphia, a word that means “City of Brotherly Love,” and ironically it has a major problem with murder and crime. Or take Philadelphia Eagles fans. Are they known to be people who practice brotherly love? No. Eagles fans have a reputation for being some of the most brutal in the league. That’s very similar to this new label for Jerusalem. It was God’s city, and the people were to be living God’s way, the way of love. But instead, God says the city needs a new name, the City of Bloodshed. In verses 3-5, in addition to the evil of bloodshed, God says they also committed idolatry. These are two specific categories. In their worship and in treatment of humans, they have not followed the way of God. As a result, God says he is putting a stop to this.
As God continues, he lists specific ways the people of Jerusalem have committed false worship and social injustice.
In verse 6, the leaders use their power to shed blood. This is some kind of government-sponsored murder.
In verse 7, we have three issues: contemptuous treatment of parents, oppression of foreigners, and mistreatment of the fatherless and widow.
In verse 8, he returns to discussing worship, as they despised the holy articles in the temple, and desecrated the practice of sabbath-keeping.
Verse 9 is likely all about worship. Shedding blood could be a reference to child sacrifice in worship, which we’ve heard about before in previous chapters. But the people also worship at pagan ritual sites in the mountains, and there they commit lewd acts, which likely involved prostitution in worship.
Verses 10-11 mention unrestrained sexual impurity, particularly violating women who are vulnerable.
In verse 12, the people commit the injustices of bribery and financially ripping off their neighbors.
Worst of all, God concludes in verse 12, they have forgotten him. That’s why he says over and over throughout Ezekiel that he wants his people to know him, because they have forgotten him. Notice that the people forgetting God is proven by their actions. It’s not as though they have forgotten about God in their memories. Of course they know about God. Instead, by their wicked actions that he just described, their sinful worship and social injustice to their fellow humans, they show they have forgotten God in the sense that they have no relationship with him. God cares, therefore, about the choices and actions of their lives. How they treat one another is perhaps the best indication of their faith in him.