Ezekiel – Chapter 21

Yes, There Are Two Paths You Can Go By...

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d told Ezekiel to face south (towards Israel from Babylonia) and speak to (or of) the “forest of the field,” meaning the Temple. G-d will light a fire that will consume both moist trees and dry trees (i.e., both the righteous and the wicked). This fire will not be doused, burning everything south of Babylonia.

Ezekiel said that he was concerned that the people would dismiss his prophecies as mere fables. Therefore, G-d restated the prophecy in a straightforward manner, rather than as a parable. “Okay,” G-d said, “Speak to Jerusalem about the Temple and the land.” G-d said He would remove His “sword” and strike down both the righteous and the wicked, from Jerusalem to Babylonia. Once He starts, G-d won’t stop until He’s finished. Ezekiel will sigh so hard from the calamity that it will physically deplete him. The people will ask the cause of his sighs and he will tell them the horrible news of the oncoming disaster.

Next, G-d told Ezekiel to prophesy about two swords: first, that of Babylonia, to destroy Jerusalem. Then, that of those who would kill Gedalia, who had been appointed governor over the remnant that stayed in Judah. These swords are sharpened and polished, ready to be put to use. There’s no reason for joy. G-d rebuked His children, but they laughed it off, so now He has to “up the ante.” G-d tells Ezekiel to go ahead and cry for what’s about to happen. The rulers and royalty will be put to death by the sword. (This refers to Josiah, Yehoyakim and the sons of Tzidkiyahu.) There will be many trials and tribulations to come, because the nation refused to be corrected by less harsh means.

There’s still a third sword, G-d says – the sword of slaughter, which will cause many people to fall. The people will lose heart and stumble. This sword is polished and wrapped, ready for use. Pick a path, left or right, and get going.

G-d tells Ezekiel to make two roads by which the sword of Babylonia could come, both starting from the same source. Clear a place at the head of the road that leads to the city. Make a road to Rabbah, for the people of Amon, and one to Jerusalem – Nebuchadnezzar is going to one or the other! He will stand at the fork in the road and cast lots to determine which route to take. Jerusalem is selected for conquest! Israel cannot believe it, but the result of every form of divination Nebuchadnezzar used was the same. He used 49 forms of fortune-telling and they all told him to go to Jerusalem, to serve as G-d’s instrument to punish them for their sins.

The sins of the people are about to be recalled and, because of them, the people will be delivered into the hands of the Babylonians. The wicked are sentenced to death and Tzidkiyahu will forfeit the throne at this time of reckoning. G-d will remove mitznefes (the “turban”) from the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) and the crown from the king; neither will retain their position. Gedaliah, who is not of royal blood, will become ruler, while Tzidkiyahu will be deposed. The leadership of the nation will be a “hot potato,” tossed from person to person. It was taken from Yehoyachin and given to Tzidkiyahu, then from Tzidkiyahu and given to Gedaliah; Gedaliah won’t hold on to it for long, either.

Ezekiel was told to prophesy about the nation of Amon, who rejoiced when Nebuchadnezzar’s fortune-telling sent him to Jerusalem, rather than to Rabbah. Not so fast! There’s still a sword polished and ready for Amon! Amon’s soothsayers may say that the danger has passed, but it’s not so! They’re just misleading their people to end up like Jerusalem will! When the sword drawn against the Jews is finished with its work, it will be Amon’s turn. G-d will punish them for their sins, allowing them to fall prey to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Amon will be wood for the fire and their blood will run. Amon will be wiped out, as G-d has said.

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