20 It was the seventh year, in the fifth month of our captivity. It was the tenth day of the month. Some of the elders of Israel came to ask about the Lord. They sat down before me.
The Lord spoke his word to me. He said: “Human being, speak to the elders of Israel. Say to them: ‘This is what the Lord God says: Did you come to ask me questions? As surely as I live, I will not let you ask me questions.’
“Will you judge them? Will you judge them, human being? Let them know the hated things their fathers did. Say to them: ‘This is what the Lord God says: I chose Israel and made a promise to the descendants of Jacob. At that time I made myself known to them in Egypt. I promised them, “I am the Lord your God.” At that time I promised them I would bring them out of Egypt. I promised to bring them into a land I had chosen for them. This is a land where much food grows. It is the best of all lands. I said to them, “Each one of you must throw away the hateful idols you have set your eyes on. Don’t make yourselves unclean with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
“‘But they turned against me and refused to listen to me. They did not throw away the hated idols which they saw and liked. They did not leave the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out my anger against them in the land of Egypt. But I acted to show who I am. I did not allow myself to be dishonored before the nations where the Israelites lived. I made myself known to the Israelites. I did this by bringing them out of Egypt while the nations were watching. So I took them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert. I gave them my rules. I told them about my laws. If a person obeys them, he will live. I also gave them my Sabbaths. They were to be a sign between us. Then they would know that I am the Lord. I make them holy.
“‘But in the desert Israel turned against me. They did not follow my rules. They rejected my laws. But if a person obeys them, he will live. They dishonored my Sabbaths. Then I decided to pour out my anger against them and destroy them in the desert. But I acted for the sake of my name. I did not allow it to be dishonored before the nations. As the nations watched, I had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. But in the desert I had to make another promise to the Israelites. I had to promise I would not bring them into the land I had given them. It is a land where much food grows. It is the best of all the lands. This is because they rejected my laws. They did not follow my rules. They dishonored my Sabbaths. They would rather worship their idols. But I had pity on them. I did not destroy them. I did not put an end to them in the desert. I said to their children in the desert, “Don’t live by the rules of your fathers. Don’t obey their laws. Don’t make yourselves unclean with their idols. I am the Lord your God. Live by my rules. Obey my laws and do them. Keep my Sabbaths holy. They will be a sign between me and you. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
“‘But the people turned against me. If a person obeys my laws, he will live. But they did not live by my rules. They were not careful to obey my laws. They dishonored my Sabbaths. So I decided to pour out my anger against them. I decided to carry out my anger against them in the desert. But I held back my anger. I acted for the sake of my name. Then my name would not be dishonored with the nations watching. As the nations watched, I had brought the Israelites out from Egypt. Also in the desert I had to make a promise to the Israelites. I had to promise to scatter them among the nations and spread them among the countries. This is because they did not obey my laws. They had rejected my rules and dishonored my Sabbaths. And they worshiped the idols of their ancestors. I also allowed them to follow rules that were not good. And they followed laws by which they could not live. I let the Israelites make themselves unclean by the gifts they brought to their false gods. They sacrificed their oldest children in the fire. This is how I shocked them so they would know that I am the Lord.’
“So, human being, speak to the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Your ancestors spoke against me by being unfaithful to me in this way: I had brought them into the land I promised to give them. They saw every high hill and every leafy tree. There they offered their sacrifices to false gods. They brought offerings that made me angry. There, also, they burned their incense. There they poured out their drink offerings. Then I said to them: What is this place where you go to worship false gods?’” (It is still called High Place today.)
“So say to the people of Israel: ‘This is what the Lord God says: Will you make yourselves unclean as your ancestors did? Will you be unfaithful and desire their hated idols? You offer your children as gifts to the false gods. You sacrifice them in the fire. You make yourselves unclean with all your idols even today. So, people of Israel, should I let you ask me questions? As surely as I live, says the Lord God, I will not accept questions from you.
“‘What you want will not come true. You say, “We want to be like the other nations and the people in other lands. We want to worship idols made of wood and stone.” As surely as I live, says the Lord God, I will rule you. I will rule you with my great power and strength and anger. I will bring you out from the foreign nations. I will gather you from the lands where you are scattered. I will do this with my great power and strength and anger. I will bring you among the nations as I brought your ancestors into the desert with Moses. There I will judge you face to face. I will judge you the same way I judged your ancestors. That was in the desert of the land of Egypt. So I will judge you, says the Lord God. I will take control of you. I will punish you by my agreement. I will get rid of those who refuse to obey me and who turn against me. I will bring them out of the land where they are now living. But they will never enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
“‘This is what the Lord God says: People of Israel, go serve your idols for now. But later you will listen to me. You will not continue to dishonor my holy name with your gifts and false gods. My holy mountain is the high mountain of Israel. There all Israel will serve me in the land, says the Lord God. There I will accept you. There I will look for your offerings. I will look for the first harvest of your offerings and all your holy gifts. I will accept you like a pleasing smell. This will happen when I bring you out from the foreign nations. It will take place when I gather you from the lands where you are scattered. Then through you I will show how holy I am. The nations will see it. When I bring you into the land of Israel, you will know that I am the Lord. I will bring you into the land I promised your ancestors. There you will remember everything you did that made you unclean. Then you will hate yourselves for all the evil things you have done. I will deal with you to show who I am. Then you will know I am the Lord, people of Israel. But it’s not because of your evil ways or unclean actions, says the Lord God.’”
Now the Lord spoke his word to me. He said: “Human being, look toward the south. Prophesy against the south. Prophesy against the forest of the southern area. Say to that forest: ‘Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord God says: I am ready to start a fire in you. The fire will destroy all your green trees and all your dry trees. The flame that burns will not be put out. All the land from south to north will be burned by the fire. Then all the people will see that I, the Lord, have started the fire. It will not be put out.’”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! The people are saying about me, ‘He is only telling stories.’”
21 Then the Lord spoke his word to me. He said: “Human being, look toward Jerusalem and speak against their holy place. Prophesy against the land of Israel. Say to Israel: ‘This is what the Lord says: I am against you. I will pull my sword out of its holder. I will separate you from both wicked people and those who do right. I am going to separate the wicked and those who do right. So my sword will come out from its holder. And it will come against all people from south to north. Then all people will know that I, the Lord, have pulled my sword out from its holder. My sword will not go back in again.’
“So, human being, groan with breaking heart and great sadness. Make these sad sounds in front of the people. They will ask you, ‘Why do you make these sad sounds?’ Then you will say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt with fear. All hands will become weak. Everyone will be afraid. All knees will become weak as water. Look, it is coming. It will happen, says the Lord God.’”
The Lord spoke his word to me. He said, “Human being, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Lord says:
A sword, a sword,
made sharp and polished.
It is made sharp for the killing.
It is polished to flash like lightning.
“‘You are not happy about this horrible punishment by the sword. But my son, Judah, you did not change when you were only beaten with a rod.
The sword should be polished.
The sword is meant to be held in the hand.
It is made sharp and polished.
It is made ready for the hand of the killer.
Shout and yell, human being.
This is because the sword is against my people.
It is against all the rulers of Israel.
They will be killed by the sword,
along with my people.
So beat your chest in sadness.
“‘The test will come. And Judah, who is hated by the armies of Babylon, will not last, says the Lord God.’
“So, human being, prophesy.
And clap your hands.
Let the sword hit
two or three times.
It is the sword for killing.
It is the sword for much killing.
This sword surrounds the people.
Their hearts will melt with fear.
And many people will die.
I have placed the killing sword
at all their gates.
Oh! The sword is made to flash like lightning.
It is held, ready for killing.
Sword, cut on the right side.
Then cut on the left side.
Cut anywhere your blade is turned.
I will also clap my hands.
Then my anger will rest.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”
The Lord spoke his word to me. He said: “Human being, mark two roads that the king of Babylon and his sword can follow. Both of these roads will start from the same country. And make signs where the road divides and one way goes toward the city. One sign shows the road he can take with his sword to Rabbah. It is in the land of the Ammonites. And the other sign shows the road he can take to Judah and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is protected with strong walls. The king of Babylon will come to where the road divides into two. He will use magic. He will throw lots with arrows. He will ask questions of his family idols. He will look at the liver of a sacrificed animal to learn where he should go. The lots will tell him to go toward his right to Jerusalem. They will tell him these things: Use logs to break down the city gates. Shout the battle cry and give the order to kill. Build a dirt road to the top of the walls and devices to attack the walls. The people of Jerusalem have made agreements with other nations to help them fight Babylon. So they will think this prediction is wrong. But the king of Babylon will remind them of their sin. And he will capture them.
“So this is what the Lord God says: ‘You have shown how sinful you are by turning against the Lord. Your sins are seen in all the things you do. So you will be taken captive by the enemy.
“‘You unclean and evil leader of Israel, you will be killed! The time of your final punishment has come. This is what the Lord God says: Take off the turban. Take off the crown. Things will change. Those who are important now will be made unimportant. And those who are unimportant now will be made important. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! This place will not be rebuilt until the one comes who has a right to be king. Then I will give it to him.’
“And you, human being, prophesy and say: ‘This is what the Lord God says about the people of Ammon and their insults:
A sword, a sword
is pulled out of its holder.
It is polished to kill and destroy.
It will flash like lightning!
Prophets see false visions about you
and prophesy lies about you.
The sword will be put on the necks
of these evil people who are to be killed.
Their day has come.
The time of your final punishment has come.
Put the sword back in its holder.
I will judge you in the place where you were created.
I will judge you in the land where you were born.
I will pour out my anger against you.
I will breathe on you with the fire of my anger.
I will hand you over to cruel men
who are skilled in destruction.
You will be like fuel for the fire.
You will die in the land.
You will not be remembered.
I, the Lord, have spoken.’”