Questions From Readers
● How could Ezekiel as a ‘watchman to the house of Israel’ be responsible for the lives of God’s people in Jerusalem when he was an exile in Babylon?—Ezek. 33:7.
Ezekiel was one of the 18,000 Israelites that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, brought as exiles from Jerusalem to Babylon in 617 B.C.E. (2 Ki. 24:14-16) This was ten years before the complete destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., when many more Israelites were taken captive to Babylon.
Communication by messengers and letters between the capital cities of Babylon and Jerusalem was quite good for the time and distances involved. (Ezek. 21:7; 33:21; 2 Ki. 25:8-10) There were regular caravans on the trade routes of the Fertile Crescent, which could carry news and messages between Jerusalem and Babylon. (Compare Genesis 11:31; 12:1-5; Ezekiel 27:3, 17-24.) What Ezekiel saw in vision and enacted in Babylon (Ezek. 24:24), and even what was said by false prophets in that city, came to be known in Jerusalem. (Jer. 29:20-23) Conversely, what Jehovah’s on-the-scene prophet Jeremiah pronounced in Jerusalem became readily known to the exiled ones of Israel in Babylon.—Jer. 29:1.
Therefore, by Ezekiel’s faithfully performing the portents of warning to the exiled ones in Babylon, such news in detailed form would reach Jerusalem. There was the graphic vision of the detestable things seen in the temple (Ezek. 8:1-18), the description of the man in linen marking the foreheads of the people sighing in Jerusalem (Ezek. 9:1-11), and the pronouncement against Jerusalem recorded at Ezekiel 12:10-16.
Thus, the Israelites both in Babylon and in Judah were officially warned by Jehovah. Ezekiel, then, not only served as a faithful ‘watchman to the house of Israel’ but also freed himself from bloodguilt responsibility for the thousands who lost their lives in 607 B.C.E. (Ezek. 3:17-19; 33:9) In a similar way today, Jehovah’s Witnesses both of the Ezekiel class of anointed ones and of the “great crowd” are keeping themselves free from bloodguilt by their serving on the world stage as proclaimers of Jehovah’s “day of vengeance,” because of their preaching Jehovah’s warning message to earth’s inhabitants.—Isa. 61:1-3; Matt. 24:14.
Jehovah’s wisdom is seen in all of this. By Ezekiel’s performing his spiritually rich service in Babylon some of the exiles there would, not only be alerted as to Jehovah’s executional judgments upon apostate Jerusalem, but also be kept spiritually alive for future activity. How so? It was Jehovah’s purpose seventy years later to bring this spiritually enriched remnant back to the soil of the land of Israel as revitalized ‘plantings.’ (Isa. 61:3) True, most of the exiles did not pay much attention to Ezekiel. Such ones became stunned when confirmation came that Jerusalem indeed had been destroyed. In their unbelief they were totally unprepared for this terrible shock. However, they were forced to acknowledge that Ezekiel had indeed been a true prophet in their midst. This stunning experience must have spiritually revived many who, along with their offspring, would become spiritually strengthened as the “good figs” Jeremiah foretold that would return to Israel to form a “new earth” destined to be established after 537 B.C.E.—Jer. 24:1-7; 28:4; Isa. 65:17.
● What does Acts 12:15 mean when, in regard to the apostle Peter, it says: “It is his angel”?
We cannot be certain, as the account does not go on to explain what was meant. But the speaker may have had in mind a holy angel representing Peter, what some might call a “guardian angel.”
Herod Agrippa I had Peter arrested and imprisoned. The apostle was there “bound with two chains between two soldiers, and guards before the door.” At night Jehovah’s angel released Peter and he went to the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother.—Acts 12:3-12.
“When he knocked at the door of the gate way, a servant girl named Rhoda came to attend to the call, and, upon recognizing the voice of Peter, out of joy she did not open the gate, but ran inside and reported that Peter was standing before the gateway. They said to her: ‘You are mad.’ But she kept on strongly asserting it was so. They began to say: ‘It is his angel.’”—Acts 12:13-15.
Rhoda, evidently a Christian, was familiar with Peter. What could the disciples have concluded from her excited, amazing report?
The Greek word they used, aggelos, literally means “messenger.” While it sometimes is applied to a human messenger, it is the word used in the Bible for a spirit messenger from heaven, an angel. (Jas. 2:25; Gal. 1:8) In view of its two possible applications, some commentators have said that the disciples meant that at the gate was a man that Peter had sent from prison with a message, a human messenger. However, this seems doubtful, for if Peter was under such heavy guard, how could he send a messenger? And this view would not account for Rhoda’s having recognized the voice as Peter’s.
Others of Christendom’s commentators have suggested that the disciples may have thought that Peter died and his “disembodied spirit” was there. This, though, cannot be the true explanation, for those disciples knew that a human does not possess an immortal soul that can survive the body; he is a soul.—1 Cor. 15:45.
What about a spirit messenger, an angel? God had often used angels in dealing with and guiding his worshipers. For example, Jacob spoke of “the angel who has been recovering me from all calamity.” (Gen. 48:16) The Jews knew this. Also, it appears that there was a widespread belief, though not based directly on the Bible, that an angel was assigned to watch over each Israelite, as a sort of guardian angel.
We cannot say to what extent these Christian Jews in Mary’s home knew of or accepted this. But definitely they were aware of Jesus’ statement about his followers: “See to it that you men do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father.” (Matt. 18:10) So, after overcoming their initial amazement, the disciples may have erroneously concluded that Jehovah had sent an angelic messenger who was representing Peter and even speaking with a voice like his.