1 On August 14,a during the seventh year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, some of the leaders of Israel came to request a message from the Lord. They sat down in front of me to wait for his reply. 2 Then this message came to me from the Lord: 3 “Son of man, tell the leaders of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: How dare you come to ask me for a message? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will tell you nothing!’
4 “Son of man, bring charges against them and condemn them. Make them realize how detestable the sins of their ancestors really were. 5 Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: When I chose Israel—when I revealed myself to the descendants of Jacob in Egypt—I took a solemn oath that I, the Lord, would be their God. 6 I took a solemn oath that day that I would bring them out of Egypt to a land I had discovered and explored for them—a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the best of all lands anywhere. 7 Then I said to them, ‘Each of you, get rid of the vile images you are so obsessed with. Do not defile yourselves with the idolsb of Egypt, for I am the Lord your God.’
8 “But they rebelled against me and would not listen. They did not get rid of the vile images they were obsessed with, or forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I threatened to pour out my fury on them to satisfy my anger while they were still in Egypt. 9 But I didn’t do it, for I acted to protect the honor of my name. I would not allow shame to be brought on my name among the surrounding nations who saw me reveal myself by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. 10 So I brought them out of Egypt and led them into the wilderness. 11 There I gave them my decrees and regulations so they could find life by keeping them. 12 And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy.
13 “But the people of Israel rebelled against me, and they refused to obey my decrees there in the wilderness. They wouldn’t obey my regulations even though obedience would have given them life. They also violated my Sabbath days. So I threatened to pour out my fury on them, and I made plans to utterly consume them in the wilderness. 14 But again I held back in order to protect the honor of my name before the nations who had seen my power in bringing Israel out of Egypt. 15 But I took a solemn oath against them in the wilderness. I swore I would not bring them into the land I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful place on earth. 16 For they had rejected my regulations, refused to follow my decrees, and violated my Sabbath days. Their hearts were given to their idols. 17 Nevertheless, I took pity on them and held back from destroying them in the wilderness.
18 “Then I warned their children not to follow in their parents’ footsteps, defiling themselves with their idols. 19 ‘I am the Lord your God,’ I told them. ‘Follow my decrees, pay attention to my regulations, 20 and keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord your God.’
21 “But their children, too, rebelled against me. They refused to keep my decrees and follow my regulations, even though obedience would have given them life. And they also violated my Sabbath days. So again I threatened to pour out my fury on them in the wilderness.
22 Nevertheless, I withdrew my judgment against them to protect the honor of my name before the nations that had seen my power in bringing them out of Egypt. 23 But I took a solemn oath against them in the wilderness. I swore I would scatter them among all the nations 24 because they did not obey my regulations. They scorned my decrees by violating my Sabbath days and longing for the idols of their ancestors. 25 I gave them over to worthless decrees and regulations that would not lead to life. 26 I let them pollute themselvesc with the very gifts I had given them, and I allowed them to give their firstborn children as offerings to their gods—so I might devastate them and remind them that I alone am the Lord.
27 “Therefore, son of man, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: Your ancestors continued to blaspheme and betray me, 28 for when I brought them into the land I had promised them, they offered sacrifices on every high hill and under every green tree they saw! They roused my fury as they offered up sacrifices to their gods. They brought their perfumes and incense and poured out their liquid offerings to them. 29 I said to them, ‘What is this high place where you are going?’ (This kind of pagan shrine has been called Bamah—‘high place’—ever since.)
30 “Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: Do you plan to pollute yourselves just as your ancestors did? Do you intend to keep prostituting yourselves by worshiping vile images? 31 For when you offer gifts to them and give your little children to be burned as sacrifices,d you continue to pollute yourselves with idols to this day. Should I allow you to ask for a message from me, O people of Israel? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will tell you nothing.
32 “You say, ‘We want to be like the nations all around us, who serve idols of wood and stone.’ But what you have in mind will never happen. 33 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will rule over you with an iron fist in great anger and with awesome power. 34 And in anger I will reach out with my strong hand and powerful arm, and I will bring you backe from the lands where you are scattered. 35 I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will judge you face to face. 36 I will judge you there just as I did your ancestors in the wilderness after bringing them out of Egypt, says the Sovereign Lord. 37 I will examine you carefully and hold you to the terms of the covenant. 38 I will purge you of all those who rebel and revolt against me. I will bring them out of the countries where they are in exile, but they will never enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
39 “As for you, O people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Go right ahead and worship your idols, but sooner or later you will obey me and will stop bringing shame on my holy name by worshiping idols. 40 For on my holy mountain, the great mountain of Israel, says the Sovereign Lord, the people of Israel will someday worship me, and I will accept them. There I will require that you bring me all your offerings and choice gifts and sacrifices. 41 When I bring you home from exile, you will be like a pleasing sacrifice to me. And I will display my holiness through you as all the nations watch. 42 Then when I have brought you home to the land I promised with a solemn oath to give to your ancestors, you will know that I am the Lord. 43 You will look back on all the ways you defiled yourselves and will hate yourselves because of the evil you have done. 44 You will know that I am the Lord, O people of Israel, when I have honored my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
45 fThen this message came to me from the Lord: 46 “Son of man, turn and face the southg and speak out against it; prophesy against the brushlands of the Negev. 47 Tell the southern wilderness, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Hear the word of the Lord! I will set you on fire, and every tree, both green and dry, will be burned. The terrible flames will not be quenched and will scorch everything from south to north. 48 And everyone in the world will see that I, the Lord, have set this fire. It will not be put out.’”
49 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord, they are saying of me, ‘He only talks in riddles!’”
a. 20:1 Hebrew In the fifth month, on the tenth day, of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar. This day was August 14, 591 b.c.; also see note on 1:1.
b. 20:7 The Hebrew term (literally round things) probably alludes to dung; also in 20:8, 16, 18, 24, 31, 39.
c. 20:25-26 Or I gave them worthless decrees and regulations. . . . I polluted them.
d. 20:31 Or and make your little children pass through the fire.
e. 20:34 Greek version reads I will welcome you. Compare 2 Cor 6:17.
f. 20:45 Verses 20:45-49 are numbered 21:1-5 in Hebrew text.
g. 20:46 Hebrew toward Teman.