Ezekiel 33:11

The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 2

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God instructs Ezekiel to respond to the people’s complaint, and the Lord’s response has two parts: first, God makes an oath-bound affirmation; second, he issues an impassioned entreaty. Let’s consider each of those in turn.

An Oath-bound Affirmation

Yahweh begins his response to the people’s complaint by swearing an oath. In the ancient Near East, people would sometimes swear by the life of their deity or by the life of the king to add solemnity to what they were about to say. They also did it to underscore the absolute truthfulness of their affirmation. It was roughly equivalent to the modern practice of placing one’s hand on the Bible and saying, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We would think it sufficient to say, “I will tell the truth.” How in the world is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” more truthful than just the “truth”?! It’s like saying, “I promise to be completely honest” instead of saying, “I promise to be honest.”

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 1

The Prodigal Son, Nikolay Losev, 1882.

Read the series. 

The setting of Ezekiel’s prophecy in general and of our text in particular is the exile. The first phase of the exile took place around 605 B.C. The second phase of the exile took place about 7 or 8 years later, around 597 B.C. And the final stage of the exile took place in 586 B.C. This is when the Babylonians destroyed the walls and temple of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel was part of the group of people who were deported in the second phase of the exile, and God called him to the prophetic ministry in the fifth year of that second phase, which puts the beginning of his ministry at somewhere around 593 B.C. The specific prophecy that we’re going to examine was given sometime during the siege of Jerusalem, which began in 588 B.C. (see 24:1-2), and just prior to the third and final deportation in 586 B.C. (see 26:1; 33:21-22). So the nation of Israel has already experienced God’s judgment, and they are about to experience another phase of God’s judgment.

Into that context, God calls Ezekiel to serve as a “watchman” (33:1-9).

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