The Days of Christendom Are Numbered
1. Why may the matter of time be asked with regard to Christendom, and why are her days numbered?
“WHAT time is it?” We might well ask this question with regard to that world-embracing religious organization, Christendom. The God whom she professes to worship is a Numberer of Years. He has placed within his own jurisdiction the “times and seasons” with respect to his human creatures, and especially those who religiously claim to be representatives and servants of Him. (Daniel 2:20-22; Acts 1:7) This fact should be of great comfort to all who love what is right. Why? Because it assures us that the Almighty God of righteousness will not forever put up with wickedness here on earth. He has marked off the time when he will permit false religion to prevail over all the earth, enslaving practically the entire human family. Not even the most powerful false religious organization on earth will be able to ward off destruction at His hand, when his due time will have arrived for Him to execute his judicial decision against false religion. Christendom has been most culpable in misrepresenting Him to mankind. Therefore Christendom’s days are numbered!
2. How was Christendom’s end illustrated in type, and how was Ezekiel to be a “sign” man to his people?
2 This astounding fact was illustrated in the ancient type of Christendom, namely, Jerusalem and the land of Judah in the days of the prophet Ezekiel, more than six centuries before our Common Era. Ezekiel was told that he was to be a “sign” man to his people, the house of Israel. What he was told to do would be a prophetic “sign” of what would happen inside and around Jerusalem, the capital of the Kingdom of Judah.—Ezekiel 4:3; 12:6, 11.
3. What organization does well to listen to what Jehovah tells Ezekiel from atop his chariotlike organization in 613 B.C.E.?
3 It is still the year 613 B.C.E., and Ezekiel is still at Tel-abib in the land of Babylon and is still beholding the vision of the chariotlike organization of Jehovah. Ezekiel, although now fully commissioned as prophet and watchman by Jehovah, has not yet gone into action. From above the magnificent celestial “chariot,” Jehovah continues to speak to Ezekiel, telling him specifically what he must now do, first. The people of Christendom today do well to listen to what he says to Ezekiel:
4. What was Ezekiel to do with the brick that he must take, as “a sign to the house of Israel”?
4 “And you, O son of man, take for yourself a brick, and you must put it before you and engrave upon it a city, even Jerusalem. And you must lay siege against it and build a siege wall against it and throw up a siege rampart against it and set encampments against it and put battering rams all around against it. And as for you, take to yourself an iron griddle, and you must put it as an iron wall between you and the city, and you must fix your face against it, and it must get to be in a siege, and you must besiege it. It is a sign to the house of Israel.”—Ezekiel 4:1-3.
5. At what time was Ezekiel in Jerusalem when under siege, and what had led up to this siege by a foreign king?
5 These instructions may have reminded Ezekiel that he himself had once been within Jerusalem when under siege. This was just four years earlier, back in the year 617 B.C.E. That was when, for the second time, the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar by name, had come against Jerusalem and besieged it. The ruler on the throne of Jerusalem at that time was Jehoiakim, the son of good King Josiah. In the eighth year of King Jehoiakim’s reign this king of Babylon had come against Jerusalem and had made Jehoiakim subject to him, to make him pay tribute to him instead of to the king of Egypt. For three years King Jehoiakim stayed subject to the king of Babylon and then rebelled against him.
6. During the siege that followed Jehoiakim’s rebellion, what happened to him, and so what did Jerusalem’s inhabitants do?
6 So in the eleventh year of the reign of King Jehoiakim Jerusalem saw the king of Babylon come against her for the second time, in order to take King Jehoiakim captive and to carry him off to the land of Babylon and put a different king in his place on the throne of Jerusalem. So Jerusalem was under siege by the king of Babylon in the year 617 B.C.E., in the third year of the vassalage of Jehoiakim to Babylon. But before the siege was over, King Jehoiakim met his death, and his son Jehoiachin was put on the throne by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the besieged city of Jerusalem Jehoiachin reigned for only three months, and then he decided to surrender to the king of Babylon.
7. What did the besieger Nebuchadnezzar do with Jerusalem after King Jehoiachin surrendered to him, and what happened to Ezekiel?
7 It was not then Jehovah’s time for Jerusalem and its temple to be destroyed, and he did not put it into the heart of the king of Babylon to destroy the holy city at that time. Instead, we read concerning Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon: “He took into exile all Jerusalem and all the princes and all the valiant, mighty men—ten thousand he was taking into exile—and also every craftsman and builder of bulwarks. No one had been left behind except the lowly class of the people of the land. Thus he took Jehoiachin into exile to Babylon; and the king’s mother and the king’s wives and his court officials and the foremost men of the land he led away as exiled people from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (2 Kings 23:36 to 24:15; 2 Chronicles 36:5-10; Daniel 1:1-4; Jeremiah 22:18, 19) Ezekiel the son of Buzi the priest was taken into exile with the captured king, Jehoiachin, in 617 B.C.E.—Ezekiel 1:1-3.
8. According to Jehovah’s timetable, how much more time had Jerusalem then to go, and what did Jehovah reveal to Ezekiel that King Zedekiah would do in international matters?
8 After that, according to the time schedule of Jehovah, the city of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah were to be spared for about eleven years more. To take the place of the deported Jehoiachin, his uncle, Mattaniah, the son of good King Josiah, was put on the throne of Jerusalem by the king of Babylon, and his name was changed to Zedekiah. As he was a bad king, who favored the Egyptians as against the Babylonians, the question arose, Would King Zedekiah repeat the mistake of his brother Jehoiakim and rebel against the king of Babylon? Three years before it occurred, Jehovah revealed by a vision to Ezekiel that King Zedekiah would actually do so. (Ezekiel 17:1-6, 9-21; 2 Kings 24:18 to 25:2; Jeremiah 52:1-5) Truly, when Ezekiel was raised up as a prophet and watchman to the house of Israel, the days of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah were numbered. Jehovah was keeping count.
9. What was Ezekiel to do to pantomime what would happen to Jerusalem and the protection to be had by the besiegers and the use of their arm for vigorous action?
9 To picture in pantomime what would happen to the capital city Jerusalem after the rebellion of King Zedekiah against the king of Babylon in violation of an oath before Jehovah, Ezekiel was to lie down with his eyes fixed against the picture of the city of Jerusalem that he had engraved upon a brick while it was still moist. To picture the protection from behind which the attackers would lay siege to the doomed city, Ezekiel was to set an iron griddle between himself and the engraved brick. He was also to have his “arm bared,” like a Babylonian soldier with his arm bared for vigorous action against the besieged city.
10, 11. How does the historic account, as written by a man who was among the besieged ones, prove that Jehovah did not give a “sign” by Ezekiel in vain?
10 True to the “sign” that Ezekiel was to enact before the house of Israel, the siege did take place in Jehovah’s due time.
11 The historical account of this as described by one who was actually in the besieged city at the time, namely, the prophet Jeremiah, reads as follows: “Zedekiah began to rebel against the king of Babylon. And it came about in the ninth year of his being king, in the tenth month [Tebeth] on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came, yes, he and all his military force, against Jerusalem and began camping against it and building against it a siege wall all around. And the city came to be under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.” (2 Kings 24:20 to 25:2; Jeremiah 52:1-5) There was a short interruption of this siege when the Babylonians (Chaldeans) withdrew in order to drive back the Egyptians to whom King Zedekiah had appealed for help. But, after having taken care of this Egyptian threat, the Babylonians came back and resumed the siege, just as the prophet Jeremiah forewarned that they would do. (Jeremiah 37:5-11) Not in vain had Jehovah given a “sign” by Ezekiel.
12. Why was this disastrous siege to come upon the city to which Jehovah’s name was attached, and how had Jerusalem become the capital city of but two tribes of all Israel?
12 Why, though, was this siege together with its disastrous consequences to come upon the city to which the name Jehovah was attached because of his temple there? Strange to say, it was because the destruction of Jerusalem came as a punishment from the hand of Jehovah for the rebellion of his covenant people against Him. That city was for about seventy-three years the capital of the united kingdom of the twelve tribes of Israel. But after the bad end and death of King Solomon there was a revolt of ten tribes against his son and successor, King Rehoboam. The kingdom was broken into two unequal parts, ten tribes (mainly on the north) forming the Kingdom of Israel under King Jeroboam with his capital city at Shechem in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. The two loyal tribes of Judah and Benjamin, together with the tribe of Levi whose qualified men served at the temple of Jehovah, formed the Kingdom of Judah to the south, with its capital at Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:1-25; 2 Chronicles 10:1 to 11:16) That was in 997 B.C.E., or 384 years before Ezekiel prophesied.
THE 390 DAYS OF BEARING ISRAEL’S ERROR
13. For how many days was Ezekiel to lie on his left side before the engraved brick, and with what purpose in view?
13 That the destruction of Jerusalem was to be in punishment for the religious error of his chosen people, Jehovah directly stated to Ezekiel, who was depicting the siege of Jerusalem, saying: “And as for you, lie upon your left side, and you must lay the error of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you will lie upon it you will carry their error. And I myself must give to you the years of their error to the number of three hundred and ninety days, and you must carry the error of the house of Israel. And you must complete them.”—Ezekiel 4:4-6.
14. Why was Jerusalem to be held accountable for the error of “the house of Israel” for 390 days?
14 By this Ezekiel was to indicate, not the length of the coming siege of Jerusalem, but the exact year in which the city was to be destroyed, at the end of its siege. The expression “the house of Israel” here stands for the Northern Kingdom of ten rebellious tribes of Israel, which did not recognize Jerusalem as its capital. Nevertheless, Jerusalem was held accountable for the religious error of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, because, from the closing years of King Solomon, that city had given all twelve tribes of Israel a bad religious example, toward idolatry.
15. How was King Rehoboam implicated in the “error” of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and so was the matter of accountability settled with Jehovah by destruction of Samaria in 740 B.C.E.?
15 Also, King Solomon’s son and successor, Rehoboam, had not dealt kindly with the grievances of the ten complaining tribes. So he had driven them to revolt and had alienated them from Jerusalem as the center of Jehovah’s worship. Hence Jerusalem was not guiltless as respects the religious error of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This rebellious kingdom did not last three hundred and ninety (390) years from its start in 997 B.C.E., for it was destroyed by the Assyrian World Power about the year 740 B.C.E. Although this served as a direct punishment for its departure from the worship of Jehovah as God, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, with its final capital at Samaria, did not settle the matter as far as Jehovah was concerned. There was still a measure of accounting to be settled with the mother capital, Jerusalem. When was it to be settled?
16. When was the matter of accounting for the “error” of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to be settled?
16 At the end of three hundred and ninety years from the start of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. That “error” could not start any earlier than the start of that kingdom itself, in 997 B.C.E. It did start then. In that year of revolt, what did King Jeroboam do?
17, 18. According to the record in 1 Kings 12:26-33, what did King Jeroboam of the revolted tribes do?
17 “And Jeroboam began to say in his heart: ‘Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people continues going up to render sacrifices in the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem, the heart of this people will also be bound to return to their Lord, Rehoboam the king of Judah; and they will certainly kill me and return to Rehoboam the king of Judah.’ Consequently the king took counsel and made two golden calves and said to the people: ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here is your God, O Israel, that brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’
18 “Then he placed the one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing came to be a cause for sin, and the people began to go before the one as far as Dan. And he began to make a house of high places and to make priests from the people in general, who did not happen to be of the sons of Levi. . . . And he began to make offerings upon the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had invented by himself; and he proceeded to make a festival for the sons of Israel and to make offerings upon the altar to make sacrificial smoke.”—1 Kings 12:26-33; 2 Chronicles 11:14, 15.
19. When would those 390 years end, and what does this timing of matters show Jehovah to be?
19 The year of the start of the “error” of the house of Israel having been found, namely, 997 B.C.E., then if we measure three hundred and ninety years from then we arrive at the date for the destruction of Jerusalem. It is the year 607 B.C.E.* Whether the prophet Ezekiel figured out that date on his receiving the prophecy six years before Jerusalem suffered destruction, we do not know. But the exactness of the matter proves that Jehovah indeed is a Numberer of Years and that he had fixed in advance the year in which he was to execute his judicial decision to the full upon unfaithful Jerusalem. This is something for the modern-day counterpart of unfaithful Jerusalem, namely, Christendom, to take seriously to heart at this late date. Does she realize from examining the Bible that her days are numbered?
THE FORTY DAYS OF BEARING JUDAH’S ERROR
20. In the second case, how many days was Ezekiel to lie on his right side, and with what purpose in view?
20 However, was there no “error” on the part of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the punishment for which was to be executed upon Jerusalem to the point of destroying her? Yes. Jehovah did not overlook this, for he went on to say to Ezekiel, who was pantomiming the siege of Jerusalem: “And you must lie upon your right side in the second case, and you must carry the error of the house of Judah forty days. A day for a year, a day for a year, is what I have given you. And to the siege of Jerusalem you will fix your face, with your arm bared, and you must prophesy against it. And, look! I will put cords upon you that you may not turn yourself from your one side to your other side, until you will have completed the days of your siege.”—Ezekiel 4:6-8.
21. If Ezekiel faced east, his left and right sides would be turned to what kingdoms respectively, and what was the sum of the days of his lying down in this mimic siege of Jerusalem?
21 If Ezekiel was lying with the head to the east in his mimic siege of Jerusalem, then his left side would be to the north, the direction of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel, and his right side would be to the south. So it was fitting for him to lie upon his right side when carrying the “error” of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Of course, Ezekiel’s lying on his right side for forty days came after his lying on the left side for three hundred and ninety days, which would mean four hundred and thirty days of lying down as in a siege.
22. How did the forty days respecting the “error” of the kingdom of Judah apply with reference to the 390 days for Israel’s “error,” and so how did the forty years respecting Judah apply with respect to the 390 years for Israel?
22 However, in the actual fulfillment upon ancient Jerusalem, the forty days for the “error” of the “house of Judah” would run concurrently with the last forty days of the three hundred and ninety days for the “error” of the “house of Israel.” The unit of time measurement that Jehovah gave to Ezekiel was, “a day for a year,” made emphatic by being repeated. This was the same unit of time measurement that Jehovah gave when he required the rebellious Israelites to wander forty years in the wilderness after coming up out of Egypt. (Numbers 14:34) So that time unit as stated back there in 1512 B.C.E. was at least 899 years old when Jehovah restated it to Ezekiel. Accordingly the forty years for the “error” of the “house of Judah” were to run concurrently with the last forty years of the 390-year period for the “error” of the “house of Israel.” The last forty years of that time period began in the year 647 B.C.E. (350 years after 997 B.C.E.) Those forty years ended in 607 B.C.E. Both time periods, the longer one and the shorter one, had to converge on the same date, for ancient Jerusalem was destroyed only once, namely, in 607 B.C.E.
23 A question now arises, Was the beginning of those forty years for the “error of the house of Judah” marked by anything to indicate a start of counting religious “error”? Yes, the opening year of that period was the thirteenth year of the reign of good King Josiah of Jerusalem, and that was the year when Jehovah appointed Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah the priest to serve as His prophet in the land of Judah. (Jeremiah 1:1-3; 25:3) But at that time was not good King Josiah restoring the pure worship of Jehovah throughout the land of Judah? Why, then, should Jehovah start to reckon “error” against the “house of Judah” in that year? It was because of the sins of King Manasseh, the grandfather of King Josiah, sins that had been so plentiful and shocking that Jehovah could not clear them from the account that he held against Jerusalem as a bloodstained, idolatrous city. We read:
24 “It was only by the order of Jehovah that it took place against Judah, to remove it from his sight for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done; and also for the innocent blood that he had shed, so that he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and Jehovah did not consent to grant forgiveness.”—2 Kings 24:3, 4; 21:16.
25. How does 2 Kings 23:25-27 indicate that, despite the noble efforts of King Josiah, an account remained for Jehovah to settle with Jerusalem?
25 Even after the noble efforts of King Josiah to enforce the law of Jehovah in Judah and Jerusalem, we read: “And like him there did not prove to be a king prior to him who returned to Jehovah with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his vital force, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him has there risen up one like him. Nevertheless, Jehovah did not turn back from the great burning of his anger, with which his anger burned against Judah over all the offensive things with which Manasseh had made them offend. But Jehovah said: ‘Judah, too, I shall remove from my sight, just as I have removed Israel; and I shall certainly reject this city that I have chosen, even Jerusalem, and the house [temple] of which I have said, “My name will continue there.”’”—2 Kings 23:25-27.
26. How had King Amon not improved matters in Judah, so leaving a heavy amount of unpardonable accountability for Jerusalem when his son Josiah became king?
26 Josiah’s father, King Amon, had not improved matters in Judah and Jerusalem, for with regard to King Amon it is written: “And he proceeded to do what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, just as Manasseh his father had done; and to all the graven images that Manasseh his father had made Amon sacrificed, and he continued serving them. And he did not humble himself because of Jehovah the same as Manasseh his father humbled himself, for Amon was one that made guiltiness increase. Finally his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his own house.” (2 Chronicles 33:22-25) Thus King Amon left Judah and Jerusalem with an ugly record and a heavy amount of unpardonable accountability before Jehovah when his son and successor, Josiah, became king in 659 B.C.E.
27. Had the forty years begun counting when King Manasseh was taken captive to Babylon, why might those forty years have ended during Josiah’s reign, and why would this have been inappropriate?
27 In the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign Jehovah raised up Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah the priest as his prophet, in 647 B.C.E. By Jeremiah’s prophesying Jehovah definitely made known his purpose to bring utter desolation upon Judah and Jerusalem without fail. (Jeremiah 19:1-5; 25:1-11) In accord with this, Jehovah made the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign the beginning of the count of the forty years of bearing the “error of the house of Judah.” This forty-year period ended in 607 B.C.E., or twenty-one years after the death of King Josiah. If the forty-year period had begun during the reign of his grandfather, King Manasseh, especially from the time that King Manasseh was taken captive to Babylon by the king of Assyria, then the forty years might have ended during the reign of King Josiah. How so? Because the reign of King Manasseh lasted for fifty-five years, and his son Amon’s reign lasted for two years, and that of King Josiah for thirty-one years. (2 Chronicles 33:10 to 34:2, 19-28) Josiah’s reign was good all the way through, and so the calamity due at the end of forty years was not allowed to come in his day.—2 Kings 22:11-20; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33.
28. However, with the calamity coming upon whom are we concerned today, and how does the modern antitype correspond with ancient Jerusalem as to idolatry and bloodshed?
28 However, what especially concerns us today is the fulfillment of the calamity upon the modern-day counterpart of idolatrous, bloodstained Jerusalem and Judah, namely, Christendom. No less so than in the ancient type, Christendom is filled with idolized things, with religious images and with nationalistic statues and emblems to which idolatrous devotions are paid. No less so than in the case of Jerusalem, Christendom has been filled with “innocent blood” in great quantity “from end to end.” (2 Kings 21:16) From its very beginning Christendom has been befouled with bloodshed. After the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great, had accepted the Christianity of his day, making it the religion of the State, yes, after he had presided over the religious Council of Nicaea, he had his oldest son put to death and thereafter his own wife, Fausta. In this way the very foundations of Christendom were befouled with blood.—The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 6, page 989, paragraph 4.
29. If Jehovah held ancient Jerusalem responsible for bloodguiltiness, what cases of large-scale bloodshed on the part of Christendom since Emperor Constantine’s day may Jehovah consider?
29 Throughout the centuries that followed, Christendom’s skirts have dripped with blood. If that blood could cry out, it would testify against the ten religious crusades that she carried on vainly against the “infidel” Mohammedans of the Middle East, the crimes of the religious inquisition, the religious wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants, her Hundred Years’ War, her Thirty Years’ War, and now, finally, her two world wars of this twentieth century by means of which more blood was shed than has been shed since the founding of ancient Babylon by Nimrod, “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah” four thousand two hundred years ago! Has not the “error” of Christendom come to be far greater than that of ancient Jerusalem and Judah? From all the facts the answer is plainly Yes! And if Jehovah held ancient Jerusalem responsible, ought He not to do the same with Christendom?
CHRISTENDOM WORSE THAN “HEATHENDOM”
30, 31. A comparison of Christendom with heathendom corresponds with what estimate that Jehovah expressed to Ezekiel about Jerusalem when compared with surrounding lands, and so what was Jehovah determined to do to Jerusalem?
30 Christendom cannot deny that she has acted far worse than that religious realm which she called “heathendom” or “pagandom.” Jehovah’s estimate of her must be the same as that which he expressed to the prophet Ezekiel concerning the city where the temple of His worship was located: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘This is Jerusalem. In the midst of the nations I have set her, with lands all around her. And she proceeded to behave rebelliously against my judicial decisions in wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the lands that are all around her, for my judicial decisions they rejected and, as for my statutes, they did not walk in them.’
31 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘For the reason that you people were more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, in my statutes you did not walk and my judicial decisions you did not perform; but according to the judicial decisions of the nations that are all around you, you performed, did you not? therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Here I am against you, O city, even I, and I will execute in the midst of you judicial decisions in the eyes of the nations. And I will do in you that which I have not done and the like of which I shall not do anymore by reason of all your detestable things.”’”—Ezekiel 5:5-9.
32. As in the raising up of Ezekiel as a prophet, how far along is it now in the bearing of the “error” of Christendom, and from all standpoints what must be true about her remaining days?
32 When we recall that it was late in the forty-year period of bearing “error” for the house of Judah that Jehovah appointed Ezekiel as his prophet and watchman, we see reason to believe that it is likewise late in Jehovah’s appointed period of time for bearing the error of Christendom. Here we are more than half a century from the end of the Gentile Times in the year 1914, and Christendom’s two world wars are now shameful history and nothing seems to deter her from preparing for a third one. From her own internal state of affairs the days of Christendom must be numbered. But from Jehovah’s count of time her days are for a certainty numbered. And when the number thereof ends, then what?
33. What and how was Ezekiel to eat and drink during the days of the mimic siege of Jerusalem?
33 To the prophet Ezekiel Jehovah indicated what the ending of the 390 “days” (years) and of the 40 “days” (years) simultaneously would mean for Jerusalem and Judah. After telling Ezekiel how to pantomime the approaching siege of Jerusalem, Jehovah went on to say to him: “And as for you, take for yourself wheat and barley and broad beans and lentils and millet and spelt, and you must put them in one utensil and make them into bread for you, for the number of the days that you are lying upon your side; three hundred and ninety days you will eat it. And your food that you will eat will be by weight—twenty shekels a day. From time to time you will eat it. And water you will drink merely by measure, the sixth part of a hin. From time to time you will drink.”—Ezekiel 4:9-11.
BAD FOOD AND HEALTH CONDITIONS
34. What did such a starvation diet for Ezekiel indicate for Jerusalem during her siege, with what health effects therefrom?
34 Think of it—eating just twenty shekels’ weight (slightly over eight ounces) of food a day, and drinking just one-sixth of a hin measure (about a pint) of water a day, for three hundred and ninety days! A starvation diet like that indicated a critical food shortage, a famine, yes, just like that to which the besieged city of Jerusalem was to be reduced. This was enough, also, to bring on pestilence among the starving inhabitants! And yet these are the very things that Ezekiel was instructed to pantomime and that Jehovah clearly said, by way of interpretation, would befall Jerusalem under siege. Even cannibalism would result, he said:
35. According to what Jehovah said to Ezekiel, how extreme was the famine to become?
35 “‘Therefore fathers themselves will eat sons in the midst of you, and sons themselves will eat their fathers, and I will execute in you acts of judgment and scatter all the remainder of you to every wind. Therefore as I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘surely for the reason that it was my sanctuary that you defiled with all your disgusting things and with all your detestable things, I myself also am the One that will diminish you and my eye will not feel sorry and I myself also will not show compassion. A third of you—by the pestilence they will die, and by famine they will come to their end in the midst of you.’”—Ezekiel 5:10-12.
36. How did Ezekiel illustrate that the famine and pestilence would consume their victims like fire?
36 Those who would die as a result of the famine and the pestilence inside besieged Jerusalem were to be like the third of the hair that Ezekiel would shave off his head and beard, not with a razor, but with a sword of war, and that Ezekiel was to “burn in the very fire in the midst of the city as soon as the days of the [mimic] siege have come to the full.” (Ezekiel 5:1, 2) The famine and pestilence were to consume their victims like fire!
37. How was illustrated the ceremonially unclean bread that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be obliged to eat?
37 What a miserable diet the cooped-up inhabitants of besieged Jerusalem were to have! It was bad enough to have to eat bread made up of a variety of ingredients, of wheat, barley, broad beans, lentils, millet and spelt. For a Jew like Ezekiel the son of a temple priest such a bread would be unclean, for its makeup violated the principle that Jehovah had set down in the law given through Moses, in Leviticus 19:19: “You must not sow your field with seeds of two sorts, and you must not put upon yourself a garment of two sorts of thread, mixed together.” (Also, Deuteronomy 22:9) But look at the combustible material that the inhabitants of besieged Jerusalem might have to use in baking this ritually unclean bread! Jehovah hinted at it when he said to Ezekiel about how to bake the bread mixture: “And as a round cake of barley you will eat it; and as for it, upon dung cakes of the excrement of mankind you will bake it before their eyes.” Ezekiel was hereby to enact a prophetic picture, for he tells us: “And Jehovah went on to say: ‘Just like this the sons of Israel will eat their bread unclean among the nations to which I shall disperse them.’”—Ezekiel 4:12, 13.
38. How did Ezekiel express horror at eating bread of that kind prepared in such a way, and what did it mean for Jerusalem to have to eat such objectionable bread?
38 Baked in such a way, bread would be doubly unclean. Does such a baking process seem revolting to us of modern civilization? Twenty-five centuries ago it was even revolting to Ezekiel. He just could not help but express his horror, as he tells us: “And I proceeded to say: ‘Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Look! My soul is not a defiled one; neither a body already dead nor a torn animal have I eaten from my youth up, even until now, and into my mouth there has come no foul flesh.’” (Ezekiel 4:14) Over six hundred years later the Jewish Christian, the apostle Peter, had a similar revulsion of feelings at the instructions given to him in a vision from God. (Acts 10:9-17; 11:5-10) Ezekiel, of a priestly family, would not desire, even under the dire famine conditions of a siege, to defile himself ceremonially, although it might mean death by starvation. It gives one just an inkling of the dire straits to which the besieged Jerusalem might be brought down.
39. Why could Jehovah show consideration for Ezekiel’s feelings in this regard, and yet how was Jerusalem to fare as to food and drink?
39 However, a bread mixture, whether baked over dung cakes made of human excrement or not, would still be unclean as well as be in short supply. This was the main point to be stressed. Hence Jehovah could show consideration for Ezekiel’s feelings and make the baking process more normal for Middle Easterners. “Accordingly,” says Ezekiel, “he said to me: ‘See, I have given you cattle manure instead of the dung cakes of mankind, and you must make your bread upon it.’” Then Jehovah gives his own explanation, for Ezekiel writes: “And he continued saying to me: ‘Son of man, here I am breaking the rods around which ring-shaped loaves are suspended, in Jerusalem, and they will have to eat bread by weight and in anxious care, and it will be by measure and in horror that they will drink water itself, to the intent that they may be lacking bread and water and they may look astonished at one another and rot away in their error.’”—Ezekiel 4:15-17.
40. How did the later developments in Jerusalem prove that Jehovah had not made an overdrawn statement about food and drink?
40 This was no overdrawn statement. During the actual siege, the prophet Jeremiah, imprisoned inside Jerusalem, was finally given a round loaf of bread “daily from the street of the bakers, until all the bread was exhausted from the city.” (Jeremiah 37:21) Finally, Jeremiah could write concerning the last year of the reign of wicked King Zedekiah in besieged Jerusalem: “On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was severe in the city, and there proved to be no bread for the people of the land. And the city got to be breached, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the double wall that is by the king’s garden, while the Chaldeans were all around against the city; and the king began to go in the direction of the Arabah. And a military force of Chaldeans went chasing after the king, and they got to overtake him in the desert plains of Jericho; and all his own military force was scattered from his side.” (2 Kings 25:3-5; Jeremiah 39:3-5; 52:6-8) The warning “sign” that Jehovah gave by Ezekiel proved to be all too true!
41. How were the survivors of the siege of Jerusalem to get along in the lands to which they were scattered?
41 What, though, about those survivors of the eighteen-month-long siege of Jerusalem? They were, as Jehovah told Ezekiel, to “eat their bread unclean among the nations to which I shall disperse them.” (Ezekiel 4:13) They were to be dispersed, scattered to non-Israelite lands as exiles, leaving the land of Judah and Jerusalem a complete desolation. They left behind at Jerusalem, not only the victims of the famine and pestilence, but also those who had been killed off by the weapons and military equipment of the Chaldeans or Babylonians. These latter war casualties and the survivors themselves were like the other two parts of the hair that Ezekiel had shaved off his head and beard by a sword. The war dead were like the third of his hair that Ezekiel was to strike with the sword all around, on all sides. As for the survivors, who were to be dispersed among the Gentile nations, they were like the remaining third of Ezekiel’s hair that he was to scatter to the wind, not for a peaceful life in exile, but, as Jehovah said to Ezekiel, “I shall draw out a sword itself after them.” (Ezekiel 5:2) Explaining Ezekiel’s symbolic actions toward these latter two portions of hair, Jehovah said to his prophet:
42. How did Jehovah explain it according to the way in which Ezekiel treated the last third of his shaved-off hair, and what were the survivors to know?
42 “And another third [the second third of the hair]—by the sword [of war] they will fall all around you. And the last third I shall scatter even to every wind, and a sword is what I shall draw out after them. And my anger will certainly come to its finish and I will appease my rage on them and comfort myself; and they will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have spoken in my insistence on exclusive devotion, when I bring my rage to its finish upon them.”—Ezekiel 5:12, 13.
43. What was to be the experience of those pictured by the hairs bound in Ezekiel’s skirts and of those pictured by the hair thrown into the fire?
43 Some exiles were to be like the few hairs that Ezekiel would take from the third portion of shaved hair and would wrap up in the skirts of his garment. Such exiles would go through their hard experience and come back from the dispersion to take up a purified worship of Jehovah after the land of Judah had lain desolate for seventy years. But as for the exiles in general, it was to be no easy experience. The consuming fire of Jehovah’s anger would be against them. Like human hair, they would be very combustible. So, concerning the remaining hairs that were not bound up in Ezekiel’s skirts, Jehovah said to him: “And others of them you will take and you must pitch them into the midst of the fire and incinerate them in the fire. From one [fire] a fire will go forth to all the house of Israel.”—Ezekiel 5:3, 4.
44, 45. What kind of example was Jehovah to make of the people of Jerusalem, and what acts of judgment was he to do toward the partway survivors of Jerusalem?
44 So those who try to worship the true God hypocritically will not escape for long. Jehovah hates being treated by religious hypocrites like a God who can be fooled. Therefore to such partway survivors this God who requires exclusive devotion said:
45 “And I shall make you a devastated place and a reproach among the nations that are all around you before the eyes of every passerby. And you must become a reproach and an object of reviling words, a warning example and a horror to the nations that are all around you, when I do in you acts of judgment in anger and in rage and in raging reproofs. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken. When I send the injurious arrows of the famine upon them, which must prove to be for ruination, which arrows I shall send to bring you people to ruin, even famine I shall increase upon you people and I will break your rods around which ring-shaped loaves are suspended. And I will send upon you people famine and injurious wild beasts, and they must bereave you of children, and pestilence and blood themselves will pass along through you, and a sword I shall bring in upon you. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken.”—Ezekiel 5:14-17.
46. Were the later facts more cruel than those prophetic words, and so what results to religious pretenders who bring reproach upon Jehovah and his name?
46 Cruel words! So that declaration of Jehovah’s purpose may appear to be to sentimentalists and to those who do not heartily detest religious hypocrisy and who do not appreciate the dignity of the true God that has been outraged. But those words were not more cruel than the actual experiences that befell the dispersed survivors of Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. Jehovah did not speak in vain, nor had he overstated matters. His words are not to be taken lightly. When religious pretenders bring reproach upon Him and his sacred name, it is sure to result in reproach coming upon them from the worldly nations. Jehovah exposes their religious hypocrisy before the nations of the world.
ARROWS OF FAMINE AND PESTILENCE TO HIT CHRISTENDOM
47. For not heeding this “warning example” of Bible history, what food and health conditions are due to come upon Christendom?
47 Let not this historic lesson be lost upon us. Why should we suffer with Christendom, who has not taken to heart this “warning example” that is so plainly recorded in Jehovah’s Word? Of course, famine and pestilence are predicted to come, not just on Christendom alone, but upon all the world of mankind, according to the warnings of today’s ecologists and economists and statisticians who are worried at the way the population increase is outstripping the production of food and also the spreading of diseases due to the increasing pollution of man’s environment. But when Jehovah lets loose the “great tribulation” as predicted by his Son Jesus Christ, in Matthew 24:21, 22, and when it strikes the modern-day counterpart of ancient Judah and Jerusalem, then Christendom will experience famine and pestilence in an added sense.
48. How will Christendom experience famine and pestilence in an added sense?
48 Christendom’s salaried clergymen, even those of the highest ecclesiastical dignity, will no longer receive the financial and material support of the people. Her religious churches and related seminaries and other institutions will suffer and perish from lack of contributions and patronage; in fact, they will be violently despoiled. Not being fed and nourished on the sound doctrine of Jehovah’s written Word, both the clergy and their religious organizations will prove to be mortally sick spiritually, smitten with an epidemic of venereal diseases that result from committing religious fornication with the political and secular elements of this unclean system of things.
49. Because of being misrepresented, from what will Jehovah not shield Christendom, and how will He bring his rage to a finish upon any hypocritical survivors of Christendom’s destruction?
49 Because she has misrepresented him to the nations, Jehovah will not shield her from violence at the hands of disgusted worldly elements. The number of her days will have come to their full. She will be destroyed as surely as was Jerusalem back in 607 B.C.E. Any associates of Christendom who survive her destruction in the “great tribulation” will not come through to any improved, long-lived future, any more than did those hypocritical survivors of ancient Jerusalem’s destruction. They face only further hardship and eventual destruction in the further and concluding part of the “great tribulation.” Jehovah’s symbolic “sword” of judicial execution will be brandished against them in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at the world situation called Har–Magedon. (Revelation 16:14-16; 19:11-21) In this way he will bring his righteous rage against religious hypocrisy and ungodliness to a finish upon them.
50. The desolating of the land of Judah and Jerusalem back there accomplished what religiously, and likewise to what will Christendom’s removal lead religiously?
50 Does this seem a gloomy picture, one setting out in sharp detail the “dirges and moaning and wailing” that were written in the “roll” that Ezekiel ate? There is, nevertheless, a bright side to the picture! What did the utter desolating of the land of Judah and Jerusalem back there accomplish? It cleared off all false religion from that God-given land. The land lay clean for the reestablishment of the pure religion there in Jehovah’s due time. (Ezekiel 2:9 to 3:2) Similarly down here in this twentieth century. If Christendom must go in the approaching “great tribulation,” so must all the rest of false religion. The entire earth must be cleansed of all false religion and its defiling, corruptive influence and power.
51. Why will the destruction of Christendom and all other false religion not leave a godless vacuum on the earth?
51 But this will not leave a religious vacuum, a godless emptiness. The true religion of the one living and true God will survive under his protection. Without the opposition and persecution by the promoters of false religion, it will flourish under divine blessing and spread to all parts of the earth. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., Ezekiel was appointed to prophesy about this blessed future for all mankind.—See Ezekiel’s prophecy in chapters thirty-six through forty-eight.
Compare Aid to Bible Understanding, page 338, paragraphs 7-9.