The scolding has been given, but there has been no change in behavior. The time has come to administer punishment. How many times has a parent said to his child as he is about to administer difficult punishment, “This hurts me more than it does you.” Those who have been parents know truth in that statement.
We as parents want to give good gifts to our children, not painful punishment; but we administer punishment for the sake of our beloved child, because we know that if we don’t act now, the situation could get much worse and the child could experience even greater pain. The child, of course, doesn’t understand or believe that administering punishment can be painful for the parent, but he is only a child…
It is exactly the same with our Heavenly Father. He wants to give us good gifts, not painful punishment, (Mat 7:11, Luk 11:13) and the book of Ezekiel provides a unique window into God’s heart in this regard.
Book of Ezekiel, An Overview
The book of Ezekiel was written during the period when God was administering punishment upon the Judean Hebrews through the Babylonians. The Babylonians, of course, were just the instruments God used to punish His children the Hebrews for their unfaithfulness.
At the start of the book some Israelites, including Ezekiel, had already been taken captive into exile in Babylon, but Jerusalem had not been destroyed yet. By the end of the book Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
The first three chapters of Ezekiel provide the setting for the book and describe Ezekiel’s commissioning. They include a magnificent vision of The LORD in His full heavenly glory and an interchange that ends with the commissioning from God:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. (Eze 3:17)
To ensure the fidelity and to verify the authenticity of His message, The LORD takes an unusual step: He makes Ezekiel mute – except for the words from The LORD. (Eze 3:27-27) This state remains in place for most of the book until news of Jerusalem’s fall reaches Ezekiel in Chapter 33. (Eze 24:27, 33:7, 33:22). Thus there can be no question that the words spoken by Ezekiel are from The LORD Himself. The words paint a vivid picture of a passionate, anguished, loving person performing an extremely unpleasant and painful task, one that is much more difficult than punishing your child: Confronting and dealing with the unfaithfulness of your wife.
The book is complex, covering many oracles and visions, structured mostly chronologically. The mood of the book vacillates between extremes of condemnation, anger, love, forgiveness, and healing, with roller-coaster-like emotional peaks and valleys similar to those one would witness in a personal confrontation between a husband and unfaithful wife. Thus we see in Ezekiel a unique glimpse of the breadth and depth of God’s passion and emotions – characteristics displayed here with unparalleled vividness.; the same characteristics which lead to The Cross, and ultimately dominate in the Day of the Lord as described in Revelation.
Before proceeding, let’s examine the steps of discipline and punishment:
Explanation: The one who punishes (“punisher”) begins the process. He sits down eye to eye with the one being punished (“punished”), and explains what is about to happen and why. For example, the punisher might say, “I warned you not to do that again or you’ll be grounded. You did it, so I’m going to ground you now.”
Description: The punisher next describes the details, method, and terms of punishment. For example, the punisher might continue, “That means you will not leave your room this weekend; nor will you use the phone.” Sometimes, in order to emphasize specific learning or difficult aspects of the punishment, the punisher may add: “Maybe you will learn…” or “It will be painful…”
Reinforcement of relationship issues: This is a very important, but oft neglected, step to prevent the punished from assuming he is being rejected as a person. Punishment is never rejection of a person; it is the consequence of some action. Therefore the punisher
- offers a promise of reconciliation after the punishment;
- reinforces the righteousness and appropriateness of the punishment as the consequence of an undesirable act;
- emphasizes that the punishment is not a rejection of the person or the relationship;
- and teaches that punishment is painful for the punisher as well as the punished.
Typical phrases one might hear as part of this discussion are, “Afterwards you can have your privileges back if you don’t make the same mistake”, “Everyone who does this gets the same…”, or “It hurts me more than you…”
Optional Mercy: Sometimes the punisher may choose to temper the fully deserved punishment by lessening the severity of the punishment for a particular reason. This must be clearly communicated to the punished with statements such as, “Usually the punishment is…, but because…, therefore in this special case your punishment we will only be…”
Punishment: The punisher must carry out the punishment quickly and exactly as promised, so the punished clearly relates the transgression to the judgment and subsequent punishment. Inappropriate punishment (too severe or too lax) is unjust punishment. Justice delayed is justice forgotten and justice thwarted.
Post-punishment follow-through: Punishment breaks the relationship, and it is important for the punisher to follow through on promises made regarding post-punishment reconciliation. It is important for the punished to know that they are still loved and respected as a person, in spite of their shortcomings. Therefore the punisher should reach out to the punished in friendship or love because the punished, having been shamed or hurt, is much less likely to seek reconciliation.
As a result of the emotionally charged nature of the punishment process, the first four steps don’t necessarily follow in the neat sequence described above. In particular, the dialog of the first four steps may comingle – but they must all precede the punishment itself. Post-punishment follow-through, of course, must follow the punishment.
Summary of God’s Message through Ezekiel
This is exactly what we find in Ezekiel. Here is a summary of what God spoke to the Israelites through Ezekiel:
- This what your punishment will be and why.
- The result will be awful, but I will temper your punishment for my Name’s sake.
- Your punishment is coming soon, but afterwards I will give you a new heart and I will be your God and you will be my people.
- A few righteous people in your midst cannot possibly save the rotten lot of you because you have been as faithless to me as a whoring wife is to her husband.
- But after your punishment is complete, I will take you back – though you will be shamed.
- I really don’t enjoy doing this, but I will, and afterwards you will obey me.
- Be prepared now, for I am beginning the punishment.
- You deserve every bit of your punishment and more; your behavior has been absolutely despicable and disgusting.
- Your punishment will be painful because you have committed adultery and are covered in blood.
- You deserve a righteous and just punishment, but for my name’s sake I’m going to restrain myself and not punish you as much as I could; I will forgive you and fully restore our relationship so that when I take you back everyone will know what you have done and they will know how much I love you.
God’s Words through Ezekiel
Let God’s words excerpted from Ezekiel speak for themselves below (some may be shockingly graphic). This section is quite long, so please persevere to the brief final comments at the end. All quotes are from ESV translation:
5:7-11 This what your punishment will be and why
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, and have not walked in my statutes or obeyed my rules, and have not even acted according to the rules of the nations that are all around you, therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, even I, am against you. And I will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations.
And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again.
Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers. And I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to all the winds.
Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity.
5:15 The result will be awful
You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes–I am the LORD; I have spoken—
6:8-11 But I will temper your punishment for my Name’s sake
“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the LORD. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.”
Thus says the Lord GOD: “Clap your hands and stamp your foot and say, Alas, because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, for they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.
7:5-9 Your punishment is coming soon
“Thus says the Lord GOD: Disaster after disaster! Behold, it comes. An end has come; the end has come; it has awakened against you. Behold, it comes. Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on the mountains.
Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. I will punish you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the LORD, who strikes.
11:16-20 But afterwards I will give you a new heart and I will be your God and you will be my people
Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’
Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
14:12-14 A few righteous people in your midst cannot possibly save the rotten lot of you because
And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.
16:1-15 You have been as faithless to me as a whoring wife is to her husband
Again the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.
“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.
Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.
Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.
“But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be.
16:22-26 More whoring and blood…
And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.
“And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD), you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring. You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger.
16:30-38 Still more whoring and blood…
“How sick is your heart, declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment.
Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!
Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.
“Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.
And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy.
16:44-45 Still more whoring and blood…
“Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.
Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways.
15:59-63 But after your punishment is complete, I will take you back – though you will be shamed
“For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you.
I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”
18:30-32 I really don’t enjoy doing this
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”
20:33-35 But I will, and afterwards you will obey me.
“As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face.
21:9-12 Be prepared now, for I am beginning the punishment
“Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord, say: “A sword, a sword is sharpened and also polished, sharpened for slaughter, polished to flash like lightning! (Or shall we rejoice? You have despised the rod, my son, with everything of wood.)
So the sword is given to be polished, that it may be grasped in the hand. It is sharpened and polished to be given into the hand of the slayer.
Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh.
22:2-5 You deserve every bit of your punishment and more
“And you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Then declare to her all her abominations. You shall say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A city that sheds blood in her midst, so that her time may come, and that makes idols to defile herself! You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries. Those who are near and those who are far from you will mock you; your name is defiled; you are full of tumult.
23:2-22 Your behavior has been absolutely despicable and disgusting
“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms handled.
Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.
“Oholah played the whore while she was mine, and she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors clothed in purple, governors and commanders, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. She bestowed her whoring upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them, and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted. She did not give up her whoring that she had begun in Egypt; for in her youth men had lain with her and handled her virgin bosom and poured out their whoring lust upon her.
Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, after whom she lusted. These uncovered her nakedness; they seized her sons and her daughters; and as for her, they killed her with the sword; and she became a byword among women, when judgment had been executed on her.
“Her sister Oholibah saw this, and she became more corrupt than her sister in her lust and in her whoring, which was worse than that of her sister. She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. And I saw that she was defiled; they both took the same way.
But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, wearing belts on their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust.
When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.
Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.” Therefore, O Oholibah, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side:
23:32-34 Your punishment will be painful
Thus says the Lord GOD: “You shall drink your sister’s cup that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; you shall drink it and drain it out, and gnaw its shards, and tear your breasts; for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.
23:36-39 Because you have committed adultery and are covered in blood
The LORD said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. Moreover, this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my Sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And behold, this is what they did in my house.
23:43-45 You deserve a righteous and just punishment
“Then I said of her who was worn out by adultery, now they will continue to use her for a whore, even her! For they have gone in to her, as men go in to a prostitute. Thus they went in to Oholah and to Oholibah, lewd women!
But righteous men shall pass judgment on them with the sentence of adulteresses, and with the sentence of women who shed blood, because they are adulteresses, and blood is on their hands.”
36:21-27 But for my name’s sake I’m going to restrain myself and not punish you as much as I could; I will forgive you and fully restore our relationship
But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
39:25-29 So that when I take you back everyone will know what you have done and they will know how much I love you
And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations.
Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”
33:21 Jerusalem is struck down in
In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been struck down.”
36:1–48:35 Visions of Future Redemption
The end of the book of Ezekiel looks forward and provides magnificent visions of the time when Israel’s relationship with The LORD is properly restored, visions and promises of future post-punishment follow-through.
The words of Ezekiel apply equally to our nation: We have profaned, rejected, and mocked The LORD. We are whoring after other gods who are not even gods. Our land is filled with the blood of unborn children. We continue to spread pornography and other evils throughout the world. We make alliances with God’s enemies.
If The LORD’s wrath resulted in the destruction of the Israelite nation – though He had a special, everlasting covenant with them – what will The LORD’s wrath do to this country?
The Word of God must never be used as an excuse to encourage or foment anti-Semitism, a tool of the enemy. “Revenge is mine,” says The LORD, and so is punishment. (Deu 32:35)
The book of Ezekiel describes a horrible punishment inflicted by God upon the Hebrews for their iniquity. Let none gloat over the Hebrews’ fate. Rather let their fate be a lesson and a sobering warning to everyone, for the book of Revelation describes a punishment to come that is much more horrible than what is described in Ezekiel. The punishment described in Revelation will be inflicted upon a sinful world by The LORD without the restraint shown to the Hebrews in Ezekiel.
The LORD limited His punishment of the Hebrews for His own sake, lest all Hebrews be destroyed and God violate His covenant with Abraham. (Eze 20:22, 36:21-32) In contrast, the book of Revelation teaches that The LORD will judge and punish the entire world in justice, truth, and completeness for His own sake, lest any sinners survive and God violate His righteousness. (Rev 20:11-15)
God gives each one of us this simple choice: Continue to live in rebellion and sin to experience His wrath and justice, or repent by turning to Christ Jesus in faith to experience His love and mercy. Which will you choose?
 We know The LORD is passionate in part because in Rev 3:15-16 He states, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”
 Immature adults and children, especially, react to punishment with “You don’t love me anymore!” The purpose of this step is to prevent that reaction from developing and being used as a threat.