Covenants

Covenant in Ezekiel, Part 5

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A Literal Reading

The structure of Ezekiel reaches its crescendo in the theme of the returning Glory to the Temple in Ezekiel 43:1-7.1 This return must be linked with the abandonment of Solomon’s Temple by the Glory-cloud in chapter 11. There is a narrative-theological arc extending from Ezekiel 8 and 11 over to Ezekiel 43.

This arc from a literal temple to what is often taken to be a spiritual temple at the end of the book, looks hermeneutically unbalanced and forced upon the prophet’s words. But if this arc and the other details in this section can be adequately accounted for by not spiritualizing them, then the theological fallout is immense.2 The strongly covenantal connections involved would, for example, stimulate a long overdue examination of God’s eternal covenant of peace with Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13) and his descendants the Zadokites (cf. 1 Chron. 6:4-8).

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Covenant in Ezekiel, Part 4

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Gog and Magog Against Israel

There has been a lot of debate about Ezekiel 38 and 39. Those who think they ought to be read symbolically appeal to the apocalyptic character of the descriptions.1 But it appears sometimes that appeals to certain genres are a little too convenient; the word being placed over the text like a kind of detour sign in the middle of a road, preventing people from drawing the “wrong” conclusion. Other expositors find little difficulty with unpacking the details of the two oracles, other than the identification of the names and places.2 Stuart, Alexander, and others have shown that it is unwise to attempt to identify “Rosh” in these chapters with modern Russia. No one can pinpoint “Rosh” as an ancient land,3 and students of the Bible are not to try to surmise predictions of future nations from mere names. We are not to read Holy Scripture like the quatrains of Nostradamus. All commentators seem to agree that Ezekiel 38-39 is for the purpose of reasserting God’s defense of Israel.4

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Covenant in Ezekiel, Part 3

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A Valley Full of Dry Bones

The first vision in Ezekiel 37 is the best known in the book. If people are ignorant of everything else in the book, they are often aware of the valley of dry bones, though frequently they have no idea what it means. It surely doesn’t help when commentators apply the whole passage to the Christian church.

The bones stretch out over a wide area, and the prophet is given an aerial view of them. When the inspection is over, God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man,1 can these bones live?” (Ezek. 37:3). The prophet is wise. He knows that the answer to all such questions lies with the living God. So, the Lord gives Ezekiel a command to speak over the bones, and as He speaks the words of God the bones came together and flesh covered them (Ezek. 37:7-8). As so often in the biblical record, the Lord does not bypass the human instruments He has created to exercise dominion upon earth. Ezekiel speaks for God and God’s power stands behind the words.

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Covenant in Ezekiel, Part 2

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On the Mountains of Israel

Ezekiel 34 – 39 is bound together by the theme of the return of the presence of God. But one should also note the repeated refrain “the mountains of Israel.” The phrase is a favorite one with Ezekiel, who uses it seventeen times. In fact, it is only found elsewhere in two verses in Joshua (Josh. 11:16, 21). Up until chapter 34 all four times it is been used it has rung a negative note. But things change in these markedly eschatological chapters. And whereas in Joshua the phrase was merely topographical, in these last chapters “the mountains of Israel” are not only mentioned topographically, but they are viewed wistfully, even when in Ezekiel 39 the refrain is used of the defeat of Israel’s end-time foe.1 The words summon up thoughts of Israel restored to its land.2

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Covenant in Ezekiel, Part 1

The Glory of the Lord

Ezekiel begins with a vision of what appears to be a moveable throne, with a kind of platform beneath it (Ezek. 1:22-26). At its sides, just below the platform were wheels (Ezek. 1:19-21), and creatures full of life (“living creatures”), who had some sort of symbiotic attachment to each other; the creatures energizing the wheels.1 These are identified later as cherubim (Ezek. 10:1ff.). The “voice of the Almighty” seemed to be heard in the wings of these creatures (Ezek. 1:24), and the Figure on the throne is identified as “the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezek. 1:28). It is significant that a rainbow is seen around the throne and the Figure (Ezek. 1:28); perhaps alluding to the covenant in Genesis 9:11-13.

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 5)

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What Yahweh Thinks of Covenant-Breakers

Having just uttered what is undoubtedly one of the most unambiguous promises in literature, and coming on the back of an entire extended portion on the subject of Israel’s eschatological hope (Jer. 30 – 33), Jeremiah switches gear to relate an incident under the quickly ebbing reign of king Zedekiah.

The background to the story is the desperation of the king and his nobles over the engagement with the overwhelming forces of Nebuchadnezzar, and what was sure to follow (Jer. 34:1f.). In a last ditch effort to stave off the inevitable, the king and his courtiers turn to Yahweh and, in a fit of religious zeal, they make a covenant before Him in the temple to implement the command contained within the Mosaic covenant (Jer. 34:13-14) to release Hebrew slaves (see Exod. 21:1-11; Deut. 15:12-18). Dishonorably they went back on their oath and took the slaves back (Jer. 34:8-11); an action that provoked the following response:

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 4)

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The Abundance of Peace and Truth

Jeremiah 33 opens by referencing the destruction that has been made upon Jerusalem (“this city” in v.4), where the inhabitants had to demolish houses to build fortifications (Jer. 33:1-4). Yahweh declares that, although He will not save them from the Babylonians, He does intend to heal the city and bring to it “an abundance of peace and truth” (33:6). This will involve a return from captivity (33:7), which to the prophet’s hearers would put them in mind of their eventual return from Chaldea. But again, just as with 32:28-41, we should hesitate to reach that conclusion because God also promises redemption and national preeminence for Israel among the nations of the world (33:8-9).1

There is a return to the theme of rejoicing (Isa. 35:1-2; 61:10; 65:18; Jer. 31:13; Zeph. 3:14), but it incorporates cultic elements; the “house of the Lord” being prominent (Jer. 33:11). These features of salvation, national ascendancy, and celebration push the prophecy into the time of covenant consummation. What one chooses to do with the temple in verse 11 will depend on the level of sufferance one has for a temple and priesthood in the post-advent kingdom era.

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 3)

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The Guarantee of the Lord of Creation and Providence

Returning to where we left off in Jeremiah 31, after Jeremiah has revealed a New covenant to replace the Mosaic covenant, he is given revelation which underlines its validity.

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name):

If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”

Thus says the LORD: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD. (NKJV, Jeremiah 31:35-37)

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