Jehovah Unsheathes His Sword!
“All those of flesh will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have brought forth my sword from its sheath.”—EZEKIEL 21:5.
1. Against whom did Jehovah wield his sword in Judah and Israel?
JEHOVAH’S sword rightly inspires terror in his foes. But when he wielded it against wrongdoers in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, did they really know what was happening? Yes, they were made to know that Jehovah had brought his symbolic sword from its sheath.—Ezra 9:6-9; Nehemiah 1:8; 9:26-30.
2. What did Jehovah say about his “sword,” raising what questions?
2 Through his prophet and watchman Ezekiel, God said: “All those of flesh will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have brought forth my sword from its sheath.” (Ezekiel 21:5) Did those words apply only in ancient times? Or do they have meaning for us?
Forecasts of Jerusalem’s Judgment
3. What did Ezekiel tell exiles in Babylonia, and this has what modern-day parallel?
3 Jehovah’s chariot moved again, and Ezekiel’s location also changed. It was as if God’s chariotlike heavenly organization moved to an observation post above the Mount of Olives. From there Jesus foretold the destruction that came upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E., a devastation prophetic of Christendom’s end. (Mark 13:1-20) In vision, Ezekiel himself had been taken from the river Chebar, but by God’s spirit he was now brought back to his house of exile in Babylonia. There he told other exiles ‘all that Jehovah had caused him to see.’ Similarly, God’s anointed “watchman” and associated witnesses today declare all that has been revealed to them by the Rider of the celestial chariot.—Ezekiel 11:22-25.
4. How did Jewish exiles respond to Ezekiel’s symbolic acts?
4 By symbolic acts, Ezekiel showed Jewish exiles that national disaster was imminent. (Read Ezekiel 12:1-7.) The prophet carried “luggage for exile” to denote the few items that captives could manage to carry on their shoulders. Horror would soon prevail in besieged Jerusalem. Though many did not take such warnings seriously, Ezekiel was to tell the people: “There will be no postponement anymore.” Today too there is contempt for divine warnings and prophecies, but we can do much to help truth-seekers to place confidence in their fulfillment.—Ezekiel 12:8-28.
5. Since “the day of Jehovah” was imminent, what denunciations were fitting?
5 Those not listening to Jehovah’s watchman needed to know that they would feel God’s “sword.” So, those responsible for misconceptions about the security of Jerusalem and Judah were denounced. False prophets were compared to destructive foxes, and it was shown that liars were whitewashing the tottering walls, or vain projects, of the people. False prophetesses were denounced too. “The day of Jehovah” was imminent, and his face was set against those ‘withdrawing from him,’ that is, ‘dedicating themselves away from following God.’ If we are dedicated to Jehovah, surely we would never want to withdraw from his sacred service.—Ezekiel 13:1–14:11.
6. Could any human save the wayward people of Judah, and what does this teach us?
6 Who could save the wayward people of Judah? Not even righteous Noah, Daniel, and Job could deliver them when God brought his judgments upon the land. If we are to experience salvation, then, we must shoulder our personal responsibility before God and do his will.—Ezekiel 14:12-23; Romans 14:12.
7. To what was Judah likened, yet what would God establish with the faithful ones?
7 Because of her unfaithful inhabitants, Judah was likened to a wild vine without good fruit and fit only for the fire. (Ezekiel 15:1-8) She was also likened to a foundling saved by God from Egypt and nurtured to womanhood. Jehovah took her as his wife, but she turned to false gods and would suffer destruction for her spiritual adultery. Yet, with faithful ones God would ‘establish an indefinitely lasting covenant’—the new covenant with spiritual Israel.—Ezekiel 16:1-63; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Galatians 6:16.
8. (a) To what were Babylon and Egypt likened? (b) How should Zedekiah’s breaking of his oath affect us?
8 Next, the rulers of Babylon and Egypt were likened to great eagles. One broke off the top of a cedar tree by removing King Jehoiachin and replacing him with Zedekiah. Although Zedekiah took a loyalty oath to Nebuchadnezzar, he broke it, seeking the military help of Egypt’s ruler, the other great eagle. If Zedekiah invoked God’s name in taking his oath, breaking it brought reproach on Jehovah. The very thought of bringing reproach on God should restrain us from ever proving false to our word. Privileged we are indeed to bear the divine name as Jehovah’s Witnesses!—Ezekiel 17:1-21.
9, 10. (a) What prophecy is recorded at Ezekiel 17:22-24, but what must be done if we are to benefit from the fulfillment of it? (b) Who is responsible for the consequences of our conduct?
9 Heartening Messianic prophecy comes next. (Read Ezekiel 17:22-24.) Here, “a tender one” is the Messianic King, Jesus Christ. Planted by Jehovah on heavenly Mount Zion, he would become “a majestic cedar,” a source of protection and blessing as he ruled over the earth. (Revelation 14:1) In this we can indeed take heart.
10 If we are to benefit from the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, however, we must maintain a good relationship with Jehovah. Ezekiel’s fellow exiles apparently thought that they had a fine standing with God and blamed their forebears for their sufferings. But the prophet pointed out that each person is responsible for the consequences of his own conduct. (Ezekiel 18:1-29; compare Jeremiah 31:28-30.) Next came an appeal. (Read Ezekiel 18:30-32.) Yes, Jehovah is merciful to the repentant and takes no delight in anyone’s death. Therefore, God says: ‘Turn back and keep living, O you people.’—Compare 2 Peter 3:9.
11. To what were Judah’s rulers compared, and what would happen to her when she was struck by Jehovah’s “sword”?
11 In a dirge over Judah’s fall, her rulers were compared to young lions. King Jehoahaz died in Egyptian exile, Jehoiakim was captured by Nebuchadnezzar, and Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar next placed Zedekiah on Judah’s throne, but he revolted. Ultimately, like a caged lion, Zedekiah was carried captive to Babylon. In keeping with the prophetic dirge, in 607 B.C.E., Judah became a ruined vine, “and there proved to be in her no strong rod, no scepter for ruling.” She had been struck by Jehovah’s “sword”!—Ezekiel 19:1-14; Jeremiah 39:1-7.
12. (a) Like their forebears, in what wrongdoing did Ezekiel’s contemporaries engage? (b) Why did the people ask if Ezekiel was not composing proverbial sayings, and what warning does this provide for us?
12 Approached by “men from the elderly ones of Israel,” Ezekiel spoke God’s message. He pointed out that although Jehovah delivered the Israelites from Egypt and gave them His Law, they rejected it and practiced idolatry. Since Ezekiel’s contemporaries were guilty of similar wrongdoing, God would put himself on judgment against them. Apparently with skepticism and not because they did not understand what Ezekiel meant, the people asked: “Is he not composing proverbial sayings?” They would soon learn that there was nothing merely proverbial about the prophet’s message. This should warn us never to adopt a skeptical attitude toward the fulfillment of Scriptural warnings.—Ezekiel 20:1-49.
Jehovah the Warrior
13. God’s “sword” signifies what, and what would “all those of flesh” be made to know when that sword was wielded?
13 In the seventh year of the exile (by Ab 10, 611 B.C.E.), less than two and a half years remained before “the battle in the day of Jehovah” was to begin against Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezekiel 13:5; 20:1) Note what Jehovah the Warrior then said through Ezekiel. (Read Ezekiel 21:1-5.) God’s “sword” signifies the earthly agency he would use, but it can include his heavenly, chariotlike organization. “Righteous” and “wicked” inhabitants of Judah and Israel, as well as nations having ill will toward God’s people, would fall by the edge of God’s “sword.” Indeed, “all those of flesh” would be made to know that Jehovah was warring against them.
14. (a) Like Ezekiel, to what do Jehovah’s anointed witnesses call attention? (b) What indicates that Christendom’s rulers will not escape God’s “sword”?
14 Like Ezekiel, Jehovah’s anointed witnesses today call attention to the “sword” that God will brandish against adherents of Christendom, the realm of which is the antitypical “soil of Israel.” Soon that “sword” will be felt by “all flesh from south to north,” by all practicers of false religion. Self-assured ones of Ezekiel’s day had no reason to exult, concluding that Jehovah’s “sword” would not ‘organize a slaughter’ against them. That “sword” rejected the royal scepter of the kingdom of Judah, even as it rejected every other “tree,” or scepter. Surely, then, Christendom’s rulers will not be spared by God’s executional agency.—Ezekiel 21:6-17.
15. What incident involving Nebuchadnezzar shows that nobody can turn Jehovah’s “sword” aside?
15 Ezekiel’s prophecy goes on to show that nobody, including the demons, can turn Jehovah’s “sword” aside. (Read Ezekiel 21:18-22.) Although King Nebuchadnezzar would employ demonistic divination, Jehovah would see to it that the Babylonian ruler marched against Jerusalem, not against the weaker Ammonite capital of Rabbah. From a container Nebuchadnezzar would choose an arrow marked for Jerusalem. He would use teraphim (likely, small idols in human form) and would look for indications in the liver of a slain animal. Despite divination, however, he would take the road to the Judean capital and besiege it. True, Nebuchadnezzar had concluded a covenant with King Zedekiah. But because of their oath-breaking, Zedekiah and other Jews would be “seized even by the hand” and led captive to Babylon.—Ezekiel 21:23, 24.
16. (a) What happened in fulfillment of Ezekiel 21:25-27? (b) When did the Gentile Times begin, and with what event did they end?
16 By rebelling, Zedekiah wounded himself in a deadly way. (Read Ezekiel 21:25-27.) When Judah’s king was deposed, the royal turban and the crown were removed. (2 Kings 25:1-7) The “high” kingdom of Judah was ‘brought low’ by being destroyed in 607 B.C.E. Thus the “low” Gentile kingdoms were “put on high,” leaving them in control of the earth without interference by a typical kingdom of God. (Deuteronomy 28:13, 15, 36, 43, 44) So began “the appointed times of the nations”—the Gentile Times—that ended in 1914 when God conferred kingship upon Jesus Christ, ‘the one having the legal right’ to it. (Luke 21:20-24; Psalm 110:1, 2; Daniel 4:15-28; 7:13, 14) With Jesus on a heavenly throne, Gentile nations cannot trample upon what ancient Jerusalem symbolized, the Kingdom of David’s legal heir.—Hebrews 12:22.
17. What “lie” was being proclaimed by Ammonite prophets?
17 Ammonite prophets were saying that Ammon’s capital, Rabbah, would escape destruction by Nebuchadnezzar’s sword. But this was “a lie,” for the entire land of Ammon would be devastated. In our day, God has decreed that the destruction of the nations will follow that of Christendom, even as Rabbah was destroyed after Jerusalem.—Ezekiel 21:28-32; Revelation 16:14-16.
18. For what sins did Ezekiel denounce Jerusalem, and how should we react to this?
18 Again speaking Jehovah’s word, Ezekiel denounced Jerusalem for such sins as bloodshed, idolatry, loose conduct, fraud, and forgetting God. Her bloodguilty chieftains abused power to the point of judicial murder, and slanderers rid themselves of foes by accusing them falsely. For such wrongdoing, Jerusalem’s residents would be scattered. Knowledge of this should strengthen our resolve to avoid abuse of power, loose conduct, slander, and other gross sins.—Ezekiel 22:1-16.
19. In what way would the people of Judah be smelted, and why was their extermination warranted?
19 Jehovah would also smelt the people of Judah in a furnace. This was not to purify them in a refining process but was to liquefy them in his fiery rage. (Ezekiel 22:17-22) This judgment was well deserved by the conspiring prophets, lawless priests, greedy princes, and unjust people. All were denounced. Since not a man among them stood for righteousness, God would exterminate them with the fire of his fury.—Ezekiel 22:23-31.
20. Upon what symbolic women was God’s anger to be poured out, and what details can you provide regarding their identity?
20 The outpouring of God’s anger was next represented as judgment executed upon two symbolic women guilty of spiritual adultery. One was Oholah, the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel with Samaria as her capital. She was “the older one” because of being composed of most of the tribes of Israel, including those that descended from Jacob’s eldest sons, Reuben and Simeon. Her sister was Oholibah, two-tribe Judah with Jerusalem as her capital. Oholah means “Her Tent.” Oholibah means “My Tent Is in Her,” which is apropos since God’s tent, or temple, was in Judah.—Ezekiel 23:1-4.
21. In what did Oholah seek security, providing what warning for us?
21 Oholah (Israel) ceased to exist when she was overthrown by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E. What had she done? (Read Ezekiel 23:5-7.) Oholah had faithlessly sought security in political alliances, but this led to her adopting the false worship of her allies, so that ‘she defiled herself with their dungy idols.’ Taking a warning from Oholah’s spiritual adultery, we should guard against worldly ties that can destroy our faith.—James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17.
22. Like Oholah and Oholibah, what is Christendom doing, but what will happen to her?
22 For pursuing a more sinful course than her sister, Oholibah (Judah) suffered national calamity at Babylonian hands in 607 B.C.E. Her children fell by the sword or were led away captive, and she was disgraced among the nations. Like Oholah and Oholibah, Christendom commits spiritual adultery, a sin in the sight of the God she claims to worship. Protestantism, with her many denominations, has defiled herself with the commercial and political powers of the world even more than her elder sister, Roman Catholicism. Thus, Jehovah will see to it that all of Christendom is destroyed. Then people will know that he is the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. It will strengthen our determination to shun improper worldly ties if we remember that Christendom’s associates will soon turn on her and execute God’s sentence upon her as a principal part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion.—Ezekiel 23:8-49; Revelation 17:1-6, 15-18.
23. How was Jerusalem represented in God’s message to Ezekiel in late December of 609 B.C.E., and what would happen to her?
23 On the very day in late December that Nebuchadnezzar began his 18-month siege of Jerusalem (Tebeth 10, 609 B.C.E.), God gave Ezekiel another graphic message. In it, besieged Jerusalem was represented as a cooking pot in which the city’s residents would be ‘boiled.’ Moral filth had caused “rust” in that symbolic cooking pot. “Piece by piece,” the wrongdoers would be brought out of Jerusalem, and her woe would not end until she suffered destruction. Jehovah had judged Jerusalem according to her wicked dealings, and she had to be destroyed, even as Christendom must be.—Ezekiel 24:1-14.
24. (a) Why did Ezekiel display no grief when his wife died? (b) When Jehovah’s “sword” descends upon her, how will Christendom react, and what will she come to know?
24 Next, Ezekiel was to act in an unusual way. (Read Ezekiel 24:15-18.) Why was the prophet to display no grief when his wife died? To show how stunned the Jews would be at the destruction of Jerusalem, her inhabitants, and the temple. Ezekiel had already said enough about such matters and would not speak God’s message again until Jerusalem’s downfall was reported to him. Similarly, Christendom and her hypocritical religionists will be stunned at the time of their destruction. And after the “great tribulation” begins, what the anointed watchman class had already said about her end will be enough. (Matthew 24:21) But when God’s “sword” descends upon Christendom, such stunned religionists and others ‘will have to know that he is Jehovah.’—Ezekiel 24:19-27.
How Would You Respond?
□ What happened when Jehovah wielded his “sword” against Judah and Israel?
□ How should we be affected by Zedekiah’s breaking of his oath to Nebuchadnezzar?
□ What does God’s “sword” signify?
□ What incident involving Nebuchadnezzar shows that nobody can turn Jehovah’s “sword” aside?
□ What happened in fulfillment of Ezekiel 21:25-27?
□ What was foreshadowed by Ezekiel’s not displaying grief when his wife died?
[Picture on page 18]
When King Zedekiah broke his oath to Nebuchadnezzar and was taken captive, what prophecy began to be fulfilled?