The Parables of the Forest and the Sword
Text: Ezekiel 20:45–21:32
I. A parable of the forest - Ezekiel 20:45-49
A. God now returns to dealing with the destruction of Israel. It is a prelude to the parable of chapter 21
B. Ezekiel is to face south and preach against the forest to the south.
1. From Babylon, Israel is to the south.
2. People compared to a forest - Isaiah 9:18-19; 10:15-19; Jeremiah 21:14
C. God will be sending war (a fire) that will consume them
1. Both the green and the dry (the righteous and wicked) - Ezekiel 21:3-4
2. It will be an unstoppable fire
D. All will understand that this was God’s doing - II Chronicles 7:20-22
E. But the reaction of the elders is that Ezekiel is speaking in an incomprehensible parable!
1. In other words, why bother listening?
2. Matthew 13:13-14
II. A parable of the sword - Ezekiel 20:1-7
A. God responds to the complaint about the parable of the forest with another parable set in plainer terms.
B. The parable is against Jerusalem, the sanctuaries, and the land of Israel
1. Sanctuaries (holy places) might refer to the parts of the temple, or indicates that the use of synagogues has already started - Psalm 74:8
C. God was coming with a sword that would cut off both the righteous and the wicked
1. Some wonder if this is contradictory to Ezekiel 9:4
2. Not a literal slaying but a complete judgment from north to south
3. In this the righteous did suffer along with the wicked.
4. The sword would not return until it has accomplished God’s will - Jeremiah 23:20
D. Ezekiel is told to deliver the message with tears
1. Recall that Ezekiel was not to be dismayed by his listeners - Ezekiel 3:4-9
2. Here he is told to express deep dismay. “Breaking of heart” means literally the breaking of the loins – i.e. the anguish of childbearing or the pain of a man being kicked between the legs.- Jeremiah 30:5-7; Isaiah 21:3
3. The delivery is to cause curiosity and questions
a. The answer is because the fulfillment of the prophesy is too dismaying - Isaiah 13:7; Jeremiah 8:18; Lamentations 5:17
b. But it will happen
III. The second parable of the sword - Ezekiel 20:8-17
A. In the first parable the sword is unsheathed. In this one the sword is described in detail
B. It is both polished and sharpened.
1. God had warned of the danger of His sword of judgment - Deuteronomy 32:41; Psalm 7:11-13; Jeremiah 12:12
2. It flashes like lightening - it is quick in execution.
C. The people don’t truly believe the prophecy
1. My son is understood to be Israel - Exodus 4:22
2. The people are rejoicing in their rulership (the scepter or rod of Israel), but God’s sword thinks nothing of it or any other piece of wood – the other nations that fell before it. (Most likely)
3. The rod as a symbol of punishment; therefore, the people of Israel are mocking the threat of punishment as they do all the forest of other threats from other nations.
4. There is mirth when there should be fear and woe - Isaiah 22:12-13
D. God's sword was given to a slayer for the purpose of being used
1. The threat of Babylon is not one to be ignored - Jeremiah 51:20-23
2. God doesn’t idly give authority - Romans 13:4
E. The sword will be wielded against Israel, even the rulers
1. Strike your thigh - Same as smacking your forehead and exclaiming “How dumb could I have been!” - Jeremiah 31:19
2. Ezekiel was to cry and wail over the coming slaughter - Jeremiah 25:34
F. It is a period of trial
1. It doesn’t matter if Nebuchadnezzar is proud and despises Israel’s king
2. It doesn’t matter if Israel’s king is overthrown and no longer exists
3. There will be no sympathy
G. Ezekiel is to clap his hand, calling for attention (see Ezekiel 6:11; Numbers 24:10)
1. On the third execution, the sword will do twice the damage.
2. Nebuchadnezzar struck Israel three times: against Jehoiakim (II Kings 24:1), against Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:10-16), and against Zedekiah (II Kings 24:1-7).
3. It will seek people out, even in their homes - Jeremiah 9:21; in their hiding places as in I Kings 20:30; 22:25; Amos 9:2
H. The strength of the sword and its swiftness is to cause Israel to be dismayed.
1. The sword is commanded to ravage in every direction - Ezekiel 14:17
I. Now God claps His hands and brings an end to His fury - Ezekiel 5:13
IV. The third parable of the sword - Ezekiel 21:18-32
A. Ezekiel is instructed to make a map showing two different routes
1. One route leads to Rabbah, the capital of Ammon(II Samuel 12:26). The other route leads to Jerusalem.
2. Nebuchadnezzar had decided to destroy both, but had not decided which to attack first - Lamentations 4:12
a. Why Ammon? Because they were in league with Zedekiah - Jeremiah 27:1-3
3. He uses divination: lots (using arrows), idols (Zechariah 10:2), and looking a livers
a. It really doesn’t matter - Proverbs 16:33
b. God declares in advance that the decision will be to attack Jerusalem first.
c. Nebuchadnezzar would draw the arrow indicating Jerusalem, and preparation for siege and war begins
B. The leaders of Israel don’t believe they will be destroyed - II Chronicles 36:16; Isaiah 28:14-15
1. Those who make oaths with Nebuchadnezzar - Ezekiel 17:13-19
2. But Nebuchadnezzar will bring their sins to remembrance – their breaking of their oaths to him
3. In a sense, their unfaithfulness to Nebuchadnezzar is representative of their unfaithfulness to God
C. Zedekiah’s life would end
1. He is profane (broken his oath) - II Chronicles 36:13
2. His is wicked (sinned against God - Jeremiah 52:2), but it is brought to an end - Jeremiah 24:8
3. The turban (mitre) of the High Priest is to be removed - Exodus 28:4
4. The crown of the king is to be removed - Lamentations 5:16
5. God is removing those in power to give that power to another - Psalm 75:7
a. God resists the proud - Luke 1:52; James 4:6
b. It will go to the lowly - Isaiah 53:2
6. It would remain overthrown until the one who has the right takes it up - Genesis 49:10; Luke 1:32-33
D. Turning to the Ammonites, Ezekiel also announces their destruction
1. Why? - Zephaniah 2:8-10; Ezekiel 25:3, 6
2. Like the Jews, the Ammonites will not believe that Babylon would really attack them. The deceit will be supported by false prophets. - Isaiah 44:25
a. On the neck - Triumphing over them
E. After Nebuchadnezzar’s victories, he will return to his own land where God will judge him (referring to his seven years of insanity - Daniel 4:4-37)
1. God will turn His wrath on His sword (Babylon). Or, could be continuing his wrath against Ammon.
2. Blow on the fire - stir up the flames - Isaiah 54:16
3. The Babylonians were God’s weapon of destruction - Habakkuk 1:6-10
4. Either way, the Ammonites (Ezekiel 25:10) and the Babylonians were destroyed.