1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house. 3 As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house. 4 You shall bring out your baggage by day in their sight, as baggage for exile, and you shall go out yourself at evening in their sight, as those do who must go into exile. 5 In their sight dig through the wall, and bring your baggage out through it. 6 In their sight you shall lift the baggage upon your shoulder and carry it out at dusk. You shall cover your face that you may not see the land, for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.”
7 And I did as I was commanded. I brought out my baggage by day, as baggage for exile, and in the evening I dug through the wall with my own hands. I brought out my baggage at dusk, carrying it on my shoulder in their sight.
8 In the morning the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Son of man, has not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said to you, ‘What are you doing?’ 10 Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel who are in it.’ 11 Say, ‘I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them. They shall go into exile, into captivity.’ 12 And the prince who is among them shall lift his baggage upon his shoulder at dusk, and shall go out. They shall dig through the wall to bring him out through it. He shall cover his face, that he may not see the land with his eyes. 13 And I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare. And I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, yet he shall not see it, and he shall die there. 14 And I will scatter toward every wind all who are around him, his helpers and all his troops, and I will unsheathe the sword after them. 15 And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries. 16 But I will let a few of them escape from the sword, from famine and pestilence, that they may declare all their abominations among the nations where they go, and may know that I am the Lord.”
17 And the word of the Lord came to me: 18 “Son of man, eat your bread with quaking, and drink water with trembling and with anxiety. 19 And say to the people of the land, Thus says the Lord God concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with anxiety, and drink water in dismay. In this way her land will be stripped of all it contains, on account of the violence of all those who dwell in it. 20 And the inhabited cities shall be laid waste, and the land shall become a desolation; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 12:1-20 ESV
While God had given Ezekiel assurances that a remnant of the people would one day return to the land of Judah, He was not overly optimistic about the spiritual condition of the prophet’s fellow exiles. The Lord described them as “a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not” (Ezekiel 12:2 ESV). Even though they had experienced God’s judgment and were living as prisoners in the land of Babylon, their less-than-ideal circumstances had failed to cause their repentance. They remained stubbornly committed to their idolatrous ways. And they maintained their misguided belief in Jerusalem’s invincibility because of the presence of the temple. They firmly believed that God would never allow His house to fall into the hands of pagan hordes. Their deportation was a fluke; nothing more than an aberration that would never happen again – or so they thought.
To expose the error behind their thinking, God gave Ezekiel yet another parable-in-a-play to enact. This time he was to dramatize the next siege of Jerusalem and the subsequent events that were to follow. God instructed Ezekiel to hastily pack a bag as if he were attempting to escape for his life. Then he was to dig a hole in the wall of his house or the surrounding garden wall and carry his belongings to the other side. And he was to do all of this in broad daylight, in full view of his fellow exiles.
“Do this right in front of the people so they can see you. For perhaps they will pay attention to this, even though they are such rebels.” – Ezekiel 12:3 NLT
This little demonstration was intended as a wake-up call to the Jews living in Babylon. It was God’s way of informing them about the devastating future in store for their beloved city and its inhabitants. Each day, Ezekiel would stage a small drama intended to dispel any hopes that Jerusalem would be spared. God’s instructions to Ezekiel were quite clear.
“Dig a hole through the wall while they are watching and go out through it. As they watch, lift your pack to your shoulders and walk away into the night. Cover your face so you cannot see the land you are leaving. For I have made you a sign for the people of Israel.” – Ezekiel 12:5-6 NLT
Ezekiel was assigned the role of the rebellious Israelite, suffering within the walls of the besieged city of Jerusalem. His daily dramatic performances were intended to bring to life God’s words of warning. And his actions would have served as a painful reminder to his audience of their own hasty departure from Jerusalem years earlier.
But God’s stage directions to Ezekiel contained important details that probably escaped his stunned onlookers. God’s command for Ezekiel to cover his eyes as he crawled through the hole he dug provided a vital hint concerning the fall of Jerusalem. The author of 2 Kings provides a more detailed description of what actually happened when Nebuchadnezzar’s forces broke through the city’s defenses.
By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. Then a section of the city wall was broken down. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, the soldiers waited for nightfall and escaped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden. Then they headed toward the Jordan Valley.
But the Babylonian troops chased the king and overtook him on the plains of Jericho, for his men had all deserted him and scattered. They captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where they pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. – 2 Kings 25:3-7 NLT
Ezekiel’s little dramatic presentation was prophetic in nature. He was revealing the fate of Zedekiah, the king of Judah. After 11 years on the throne, this godless king would be forced to attempt a nocturnal escape through a hole in the wall of the city. But he would be captured and forced to watch the execution of his own sons. Then before he was dragged away to Babylon, his eyes would be gouged out. The last thing he would remember seeing was the gruesome deaths of his boys.
God knew that Ezekiel’s actions would raise questions among the exiles. So, He provided His prophet with a scripted response.
“Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: These actions contain a message for King Zedekiah in Jerusalem and for all the people of Israel.’ Explain that your actions are a sign to show what will soon happen to them, for they will be driven into exile as captives.” – Ezekiel 12:10-11 NLT
Without giving all the gruesome details, God predicts Zedekiah’s fateful end.
“Zedekiah will leave Jerusalem at night through a hole in the wall, taking only what he can carry with him. He will cover his face, and his eyes will not see the land he is leaving. Then I will throw my net over him and capture him in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Babylonians, though he will never see it, and he will die there.” – Ezekiel 12:12-13 NLT
Ezekiel was playing the part of the defeated king trying to flee his fallen city. But rather than escape with his life, Zedekiah would be blinded, bound, and carted off as a prisoner to Babylon, where he would join Ezekiel and the rest of the exiles.
And God predicts that some within the walls of Jerusalem will manage to get away, fleeing to other countries in an attempt to preserve their lives. And the author of 2 Kings records the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Then all the people of Judah, from the least to the greatest, as well as the army commanders, fled in panic to Egypt, for they were afraid of what the Babylonians would do to them. – 2 Kings 25:26 NLT
The fall of Jerusalem was inevitable and unavoidable. God would completely destroy the city and its grand temple. Many of its inhabitants would die from disease and starvation during the lengthy siege. Many more would die by the sword when the Babylonians broke through the walls. Some would escape to other countries, while others would become captives in Babylon. And God told Ezekiel that the few who remained alive would be spared for a reason.
“I will spare a few of them from death by war, famine, or disease, so they can confess all their detestable sins to their captors. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 12:16 NLT
When the fall of Jerusalem finally happened, there would be no doubt as to its cause. Its demise would be due to the sins of the people. They would pay dearly for their failure to obey God. And all those living as exiles in Babylon would learn the painful lesson that disobedience always brings God’s discipline.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.