EXPOSITION OF EZEKIEL 6:1-14, 22:33-44, AND 34:25-31


The purpose of this research is to show that God has a divine purpose for Israel that began in the past, exists in the present, and will culminate in the future. It begins by taking an exegetical look at Ezekiel 6:1-14 to see how Israel has obtained a rejected status in the world; to see if God has abandoned Israel or if there is a remnant preserved for a future purpose. Then will be an examination of Ezekiel 24:33-44 to see what purpose God’s punishment serves; to see if there is a limit to God’s patience or faithfulness to His Word; how God responds to Israel’s unfaithfulness; and to see why there is a remnant at all. The third segment of this research is an exegetical analysis of Ezekiel 34:25-31 to discover who God’s flock is and who it is that shepherds His flock; what terms the flock lives under; If Israel’s cycle of rebellion and punishment will continue; if Israel will continue to be hated by the world; if the Abrahamic Covenant is truly unconditional.

Ezekiel 6:1-14

Chapter 6 of Ezekiel begins with וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֹֽר, “And the word of the Lord came to me saying.” Of the 47 times this phrase is used in the Bible, 39 are in the book of Ezekiel. The phrase is used to clarify that Ezekiel’s words are God’s words that Ezekiel is inspired to write. God calls Ezekiel בֶּן־אָדָ֕ם, “son of man” or “son of Adam.” Then tells Ezekiel to שִׂ֥ים פָּנֶ֖יךָ אֶל־הָרֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל, “set your face towards the mountains of Israel.” One must remember that Ezekiel is in Babylon and could not have seen the mountains of Israel. Ezekiel was to look in the direction of Israel as though he could see them in the distance. Ezekiel is told וְהִנָּבֵ֖א אֲלֵיהֶֽם “and prophecy to them.”

The only modern translation that uses “to them” is the Common English Bible. The rest use “against them.” As the context will soon show, it is not the mountains themselves that were the target, which “against them” would suggest. God says אֲנִ֜י מֵבִ֤יא עֲלֵיכֶם, “I [will/am] bring[ing] upon you.” The word “bring” is a hiphil absolute participle in the Hebrew text, which shows that God is the cause of what is coming next. What is coming next is חֶ֔רֶב וְאִבַּדְתִּ֖י “a sword to destroy.” The word for “destroy” is a piel verb that intensifies “perish” to “destroy” or “annihilate.” What God is going to destroy or annihilate are בָּמֽוֹתֵיכֶֽם “your high places.” A paraphrase could be “The high places that are on you.” Even though the mountains were not willing participants in the worship of false gods, they would still need to be cleansed of the remnants of this practice that took place in them. Romans 8:19-22 comes to mind in this connection.

The “altars would become desolate,” and “incense altars would be smashed,” v4. God also says in v4 that He will cause the ‎ חַלְלֵיכֶ֔ם “pierced ones” to fall on their faces before their idols. As the destruction comes to Jerusalem’s mountains, there will be Jewish people who will be slain that are praying to idols at the high places to prevent the destruction. Verse 5 says that God will scatter their bones around their altars. Verse 6 says that all dwellings and cities on the mountains of Jerusalem will “become waste,” v6. The word for “waste” here means “dry.” The mountain and valley region of Jerusalem will become dry of life and deserted.

There is a direct relationship between this prophecy in Ezekiel 6:1-7 to Leviticus 26:14-39. The word for “high places” is the Hebrew word בָּמָה. It is used 75 times in the bible; the first use of it is Lev. 26:30. Balaam first saw a portion of the Israelites from “the high places of Baal” (Nu. 24:41) on his mission to curse Israel for Balak, which shows that the high places were present before Israel came into the land. Before entering to possess the land, Israel was told to destroy the high places, Nu. 33:50-53; Deut. 12:2. During the time of the Judges, Israel had become a participant at the high places, Judges 5:18. King Solomon also worshipped at the high places, 1 Kings 3:2-3. The twelve tribes were divided into two nations over the worship at the high places, 1 Kings 12:31-32. John B. Taylor says that “worship was carried on at them nominally in the name of Yahweh, most of them had been originally Canaanite shrines which the Israelites had taken over for their own purposes.”[1] Judah’s downfall was the inconsistency of their kings concerning the high places. For example, Hezekiah destroyed many of the high places, only for his son Mannassa to rebuild them.

Leviticus 26:14-17 gives a series of punishments that would occur if Israel was disobedient to God. Verse 18 shows that if the punishments of verses 14-17 are ineffective for turning Israel from their sin, their punishment would be multiplied by seven. In 18-21, God lists several more punishments, and if those are not effective at turning Israel from its sin, the punishment will escalate another multiple of seven to 7 to the third power. In verses 21-23, another series of punishments and another escalation of power. Now the level of punishment is 7 to the fourth power. Verses 24-28 is another series of punishments that, if are not effective for turning Israel from their sin, there is another power of 7 escalation to the fifth power for the punishment. The punishments in 28-33 represent the highest level of punishment that Israel will face. The number value is 75 or 7*7*7*7*7. The final product of this math problem is not what is significant. The point is that the punishment does not get any higher. Ezekiel 6:1-8 is the final phase of punishment before the restoration of Lev. 26:34-26. God’s patience has an end, but thankfully God’s mercy and grace are revealed in Ezekiel 6:8.

While God promises that there will be great destruction and loss of life, God goes on to promise in verse 8 that He וְהוֹתַרְתִּ֗י, “will cause to be left” or “cause to remain.” בִּהְי֥וֹת לָכֶ֛ם, “some of you.”[2] ‎ פְּלִ֥יטֵי חֶ֖רֶב בַּגּוֹיִ֑ם, “fugitives of the sword of the nations.”‎ בְּהִזָּרֽוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם בָּאֲרָצֽוֹת, “among [whom] you will be scattered in the earth.” What verse 8 affirms is that while destruction will come to Jerusalem, God will preserve a remnant of them. That remnant will be scattered throughout the world, where the sword will chase after them, 5:12. In 6:10, God says that His Words are not vain, they are not empty threats, God will “inflict this disaster on them.” God will always have a remnant in the earth to declare His glory. This remnant is not new to the prophets, as Isaiah 1:9 declares the promise of a remnant, and Isaiah wrote almost 200 years before Ezekiel. Jeremiah 21:9 says that Jeremiah sent word to the exiles in Babylon and called them the “rest of the elders.” Jeremiah’s words can also mean “remnant of the elders,” YLT.[3] Jeremiah considered the exiles in Babylon as a remnant.

The stamping of the foot and clapping of hands in Ezekiel 6:11 is not actions of worship or joy but of sorrow and regret. They are more like the actions of a person who bet everything he had on one horse. The horse stumbled out of the gate and never had a chance. The man had to watch the whole race knowing he had lost everything. Because Jerusalem and the whole nation gambled and lost, “sword, famine, and plague” (v14) will follow wherever they go in the nations to which they have been scattered, which is connected to Ezekiel’s prophetic object lesson in 5:1-4.

Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem is well documented in secular history. One question that arises is, “Does the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. fulfill this prophecy in Ezekiel 6?” One indicator that it does not is that the Jews were deported to Babylon, not among the earth’s nations, which would indicate that the Babylonian invasion and deportation of Jews to Babylon illustrates a future event that will fulfill the magnitude of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Neither is this prophecy of the second advent of Christ because when Christ comes to establish His Kingdom, there will be a regathering, as this research will soon show. The scattering of Jews worldwide after Titus destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 better fits the scale of death, destruction, and scattering that Ezekiel prophecies in chapter 6.

While the nation was living in exile in Babylon, there is no mention of the persecution of Jews while they were there. There were three Jews thrown into a fiery furnace, but the nation as a whole worshiped a golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 3. They lived in relative safety to the end of the Babylonian empire and into the Medo-Persian empire. The Jews were under threat of elimination in the book of Esther, but God’s providence protected them. Since A.D. 70 and the worldwide scattering of the Jews, they have endured a gradual escalation of persecution among the nations in which they lived. The persecution of the Jews increased exponentially since A.D. 70, resulting in the Holocaust in Germany. Some say that just as many, if not more, Jews were put to death by the Czar of Russia and Stalin in the Soviet Union during the first half of the 20th century.

Ezekiel 20:33-44

If Ezekiel 1:1 means that Ezekiel is 30 years old, in chapter 20, Ezekiel is now 37. Twice before, in the preceding seven years, “elders” of Judah/Israel came to hear what Ezekiel had to say, 8:1, 14:1. In all three encounters, God refused to be consulted by them. God then, in 20:6-32, delineates the nation’s rebellion against Him. God had provided for and protected them, yet they never let God rule over them. Early on, Israel wanted a king. They just did not want the king to be God, 1 Sam. 8:7. Ezekiel 20:33-35 points out that God wants to be their King, but He wants the nation to choose Him based on His goodness.

Verse 33 begins‎ חַי־אָ֕נִי, “As I live,” The following word is ‎ נְאֻ֖ם, a singular noun in the construct state that means “utterance.” What follows is‎ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֑ה, “the Lord God.” Since the final noun of the construct is a proper noun, the whole construct is articular, “‘[As] I Live’ an utterance of the Lord God…” Ezekiel is telling the reader, “God said this, not me.” Typically people say something like this when they say something that the reader might think is an addition by the prophet/speaker to point something out that the reader might not like. A modern preacher would say, “Hey, if you don’t like it, take it up with the Lord because He wrote it. I am just telling you what He said.”

At this point, the translation into English gets tricky. The following word combination is‎ אִם־לֹ֠א which is an “if” conjunction joined with a negative particle. Then comes‎ בְּיָ֙ד, which is an “in, at, with, by, among” preposition added to the noun “hand,” then the attributive adjective‎ חֲזָקָ֜ה, “strong, stout.” A literal rendering is “if not with strong hand…” ‎ וּבִזְר֧וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֛ה, “and with arm outstretched,” ‎ וּבְחֵמָ֥ה שְׁפוּכָ֖ה, “and with wrath poured out,” ‎ אֶמְל֥וֹךְ עֲלֵיכֶֽם, “will I be king over you.”

Young’s Literal Translation treats the‎ אִם־לֹ֠א as an interrogative particle. Verse 33 of that translation says, “I live–an affirmation of the Lord Jehovah, Do not I, with a strong hand, And with a stretched-out arm, And with fury poured out–rule over you?” This translation fits very similar to what this writer will argue. Most modern translations seem to follow the LXX rendering and translate the אִם־לֹ֠א as an emphatic affirmative with the English word “surely.”[4] The modern English translations of the CSB and the NET do not translate the negative particle.

Verse 34 picks up the thought from verse 33‎ וְהוֹצֵאתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם, “then I will bring you;” ‎ מִן־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים, “out of/from the nations;” ‎ וְקִבַּצְתִּ֣י אֶתְכֶ֔ם מִן־הָ֣אֲרָצ֔וֹת, “and gather you from the lands;”‎ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נְפוֹצֹתֶ֖ם בָּ֑ם, “which in them you were scattered;” ‎ בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה, “with strong hand;” ‎ וּבִזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֔ה, “and with arm stretched out;”‎ וּבְחֵמָ֖ה שְׁפוּכָֽה, “and with wrath poured out.” That is the end of verse 34, but there is still no complete thought. Verse 35 is needed to tie the thought together. Verse 35 says‎ וְהֵבֵאתִ֣י אֶתְכֶ֔ם, “I will bring you;” ‎ אֶל־מִדְבַּ֖ר הָֽעַמִּ֑ים, “into a wilderness of the people;” ‎ וְנִשְׁפַּטְתִּ֤י אִתְּכֶם֙ שָׁ֔ם, “and will plead with you there;” ‎ פָּנִ֖ים אֶל־פָּנִֽים, “face to face.” The complete thought of verses 33-35 is:

“As I live, [an] utterance of the Lord God, if not with a strong hand and with arm outstretched and with wrath poured out will I be king over you, then I will bring you out from the nations and gather you from the lands, which in them you were scattered, with [a] strong hand and with arm stretched out and with wrath poured out, I will bring you into [a] wilderness of the people and plead with you there face to face.

To understand what is being said here, one needs to understand the context of Ezekiel 20:4-32. Ezekiel 20:4-8 deals with God’s mighty hand and stretched out arm; He brought the Jews out of Egypt. But they rebelled against God, who poured out His wrath on them. God brought Israel out of Egypt because of God’s promise that He would, v9; Gen. 15:12-16.

In 20:10-17, God brought Israel into the wilderness and, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, gave them His Law. But they rebelled against God, and He poured out His wrath on them, v13. Because of God’s Word to Abraham, God preserved some of them, v17. In 20:18-26, God deals with the second generation of Israel in the wilderness. God warns them not to act as their fathers acted. But the second generation in the wilderness rebelled against God, and God poured out His wrath on them, v21. However, God relented and preserved some of them, v22. In 20:27-32, God has brought Israel into the promised land with a strong hand and a stretched-out arm, but they rebelled against Him. God poured out His wrath on them and drove them out of the land, 5:1-4; 6:1-7. Ezekiel 20:33 deals with Israel’s historical past from Ezekiel’s vantage point. Ezekiel 20:34-35 points to a future judgment synonymous with Joel 3:1-3. Thomas Constable says that “A second exodus is in view.”[5] Constable goes on to say that “God would bring them into another type of wilderness, a wilderness full of people, and the present worldwide dispersion of the Jews that began in A.D. 70 when the Jews had to leave the Promised Land again.”[6]

God also promised to save some alive (Ezekiel 6:8) but they would be fugitives of the sword. The worldwide dispersion of Jews began in A.D. 70 after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple there. Israel’s future judgment will be a face-to-face encounter just like in the wilderness, v36; Matt. 25:31-33. God will cause the nation to “pass under the rod,” which Unger calls a “metaphor…taken from the shepherd who makes his sheep pass under his rod in counting them and separating sheep from goats;”[7] and will be “brought into the bond of the covenant,” Ezekiel 20:37. There is some question as to which covenant is referred. Since no event such as this has ever occurred, the event is still in the future. Since Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant, the covenant to which v37 refers must be the new covenant of Jer. 31:31-33. The rebels will be purged out and “will not enter into the land of Israel, v38. The “Israel” to which this speaks is the promised land ruled by the promised King of the millennium.

Verse 39 seems to be that God lets them serve their idols since that is what they want. However, they are doing so knowing that at some point, judgment will come. There may be arrogance on the part of Israel, thinking that God is letting them escape judgment. Verse 40 seems to be saying that those who survive the judgment are a remnant serving God “on the high mountain of Israel.” “The whole house of Israel” in this context is not every Israelite that has ever lived or all of those that were alive when this gathering and judgment takes place. It is “the whole house of Israel” that passed under the rod and was allowed into the future Kingdom. It will be then that the nation realizes how poorly they have treated God. They will realize that God preserved them on account of His promises to Abraham and not based on any merit of theirs, v43-44.

Ezekiel 34:25-31

The context before Ezekiel 34:25-31 begins in v20 where God judges “between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.” God has brought this judgment on the fat sheep, who were the false shepherds of Israel and are in stark contrast to the shepherd in Ps. 23 and John 10:11-16. God had also mentioned rams and male goats at this judgment (v17), along with the fat sheep who had been treading down with their feet the pastures and fouling the drinking waters by tromping in them. God promises to “judge between one sheep and another,” v22. These sheep are metaphorically speaking of Israelites. God is going to remove the fat sheep, the rams, and the male goats and deliver His flock so that His flock “will no longer be a prey,” v22. God will then set over His flock “one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd,” v23; Ps. 78:70-72. At that time, “the Lord will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them,” v24. These passages speak of a judgment that will occur in the future before establishing the Millennial Kingdom.

Verse 25 begins‎ וְכָרַתִּ֤י לָהֶם֙ בְּרִ֣ית שָׁל֔וֹם, “I will make for them a covenant of peace…” The covenant of peace is most likely the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Constable states that “the New Covenant was inaugurated at the Cross and now governs all believers.”[8] The word for peace here is the Hebrew word שָׁל֔וֹם, shaw-lome’, which means “completeness, soundness, welfare, safety, health, prosperity,” and a whole range positive qualities. It is a standard greeting among modern Jews today. The modern use of it could be a reference or longing to this point in the kingdom. Verse 25 continues with‎ וְהִשְׁבַּתִּ֥י חַיָּֽה־רָעָ֖ה מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ, “and I will remove evil beasts from the land.” The purpose of removing the evil beasts is ‎ וְיָשְׁב֤וּ בַמִּדְבָּר֙ לָבֶ֔טַח וְיָשְׁנ֖וּ בַּיְּעָרִֽים, “so they [may] dwell in the wilderness in regard to security and sleep in the woods.” With the evil beast removed, the sheep will be secure from harm. They will be able to lie down and sleep anywhere without fear of danger. The question is, what kind of danger? The danger is the evil beasts, but is this a metaphor for evil people? Since the text has already spoken of men as sheep, rams, and goats, this is more than likely another metaphor for evil people who would rob or harm someone they found sleeping in the woods. Verse 31 will make that point even more evident. Constable says that “The beasts may be a figure for the Gentile nations that sought to devour Israel.” [9]

Verses 26-28 speak of a blessing of the people and a blessing for the people. Rain will come at the proper time and in the proper amount, v26. Not only will the trees be fruitful, but the yield of fruit will also increase, v27. There seems to be an easing of the curse of original sin in the garden of Eden, Gen. 3:17-19.

In verse 28, the Hebrew says‎ וְלֹא־יִהְי֙וּ ע֥וֹד בַּז֙ לַגּוֹיִ֔ם, “and they will not continue to be spoil for the nations.” The nations of the world have plundered Israel for about 2500 years. Again the metaphor of beasts is used of evil people who devour, who will no longer be present, and Israel will live securely in the land. In verse 29, God says Israel will be planted in a place from which they will “not again become victims of famine…and they will not endure the insults of the nations anymore.” Iran and the Muslim community will not be around to wipe Israel off the map. There will be no United Nations to condemn Israel. There will be no antisemitism. There will be prosemitism, and Israel will be the only superpower nation on the planet. Unger says that “Zion will be exalted in the Kingdom age as the religious and governmental capital of the earth.”[10]

Ezekiel 34:30-31 makes several significant statements. The first is “Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them…” The second is “…and that they, the house of Israel, are My people.” The first time the bible uses this type of language is in Gen. 17:7 when God gives Abraham the covenant of circumcision. The nation will know that God has kept His Word to them. That they are God’s chosen people to bring revelation of God into the world. While they are God’s chosen people, that does not mean that they bear no responsibility for their disobedience. Both history and God’s testimony shows the extreme measure to which God will go to turn men from their sin to hope and trust in Him alone.

Louis Berkof, a prominent Reformed/Covenant theologian, inputs an interesting concept into v30. He attributes the outcome of all that has occurred to Israel, and all mankind for that matter, to a covenant of grace. On this topic, Berkhof says:

“The main promise of God, which includes all other promises, is contained in the oft-repeated words, ‘I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.’ …This promise is found in several Old and New Testament passages which speak of the introduction of a new phase of the covenant life, or refer to a renewal of the covenant.”[11]

Berkof is attributing the outcome of God’s working with and through Israel to a covenant of grace. However, there are no passages in the Bible that speak of such a covenant. There are no poems or songs of David that speak of a covenant of grace. There are no narratives in the Bible where an individual stood on a covenant of grace and prevailed. A normal reading of Scripture will reveal that God is honoring His Word to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (who is Israel), and David. God will make good on His promises because He is faithful in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness. What these passages prove is the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. A covenant which Berkof and other Reformed/Covenant theologians file away into a covenant of grace never to be referenced again.


From Ezekiel 6:1-14 it was revealed that Israel’s place in the modern world is a result of her rebellion against God. But, that God has not abandoned Israel and has preserved a remnant in the earth for a future purpose. That purpose is not judgment but restoration. While the dispersion of Jews into the world occurred after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when they will be restored is unknown. Ezekiel 20:33-44 reveals that the purpose of God’s punishment is to turn people from sin. It also shows that there is a limit to God’s patience when it comes to sin and repentance. However, there is no limit to God’s faithfulness to His Word. Even though Israel has never been faithful to God, God is still faithful to His promises. A remnant of Israel is preserved so that God can fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Ezekiel 34:25-31 reveals that God has a flock of Israelites that God intends to shepherd Himself. That flock will live in conditions near to what existed in the Garden of Eden prior to the fall when the earth was cursed. It was revealed that the cycle of retribution and punishment will one-day end because there will be no more evil. It will be the true utopia that the world is clamoring for but will never see. It will be a world with Israel as the one nation whose King rules the world. Finally, this third section reveals the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant.


Berkhof, Louis, and Louis Berkhof. Systematic Theology. New ed. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996.

Constable, Thomas. Thomas Constable’s Notes on the Bible. Vol. 4. 12 vols. Tyndale Seminary Press, 2013.

Owens, John Joseph. Analytical Key to the Old Testament. Vol. 4. 4 vols. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1989.

Taylor, John. Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary. Edited by Weisman, D.J. The Tyndale Press, 1969.

Unger, Merrill Frederick. Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.

  1. John Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary, ed. Weisman, D.J. (The Tyndale Press, 1969). page 88
  2. John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, vol. 4, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1989). page 448
  3. Young’s Literal Translation
  4. Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions – BibleWorks electronic version
  5. Thomas Constable, Thomas Constable’s Notes on the Bible, vol. 4, 12 vols. (Tyndale Seminary Press, 2013). page 438
  6. Ibid
  7. Merrill Frederick Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002). page 1535
  8. (Constable 2013) page 478
  9. Ibid
  10. (Unger 2002) page 1535
  11. Louis Berkhof and Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, New ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996). page 277

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