The Sword of the Lord. 1The word of the LORD came to me: 2* Son of man, turn your face to the south: preach against the south, prophesy against the forest land in the south. 3Say to the forest in the south: Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: See! I am kindling a fire in you that shall devour every green tree as well as every dry tree. The blazing flame shall not be quenched so that from south to north every face shall be scorched by it. 4All flesh shall see that I, the LORD, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.a
5But I said, “Ah! Lord GOD, they are saying about me, ‘Is not this the one who is forever spinning parables?’” 6Then the word of the LORD came to me: 7Son of man, turn your face toward Jerusalem: preach against its sanctuary, prophesy against the land of Israel.b 8Say to the land of Israel: Thus says the LORD: See! I am coming against you; I will draw my sword from its scabbard and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked.* 9Thus my sword shall come out from its scabbard against all flesh from south to north 10and all flesh shall know that I, the LORD, have drawn my sword from its scabbard. It cannot return again.c
Act Symbolic of the City’s Fall. 11As for you, son of man, groan! with shattered loins and bitter grief, groan in their sight. 12When they ask you, “Why are you groaning?” you shall say: Because of what I heard!* When it comes every heart shall melt, every hand fall helpless; every spirit will grow faint, and every knee run with water. See, it is coming, it is here!—oracle of the Lord GOD.
Song of the Sword. 13The word of the LORD came to me:d 14Son of man, prophesy! say: Thus says the LORD:
A sword, a sword has been sharpened,
a sword, a sword has been burnished:e
15Sharpened to make a slaughter,
burnished to flash lightning!
Why should I stop now?
You have rejected the rod and every judgment!
16I have given it over to the burnisher
that he might hold it in his hand,
A sword sharpened and burnished
to be put in the hands of an executioner.
17Cry out and howl, son of man,
for it is destined for my people,
For all the princes of Israel,
victims of the sword with my people.
Therefore, slap your thigh,*
18for it is tested, and why not?
Since you rejected my staff,
should it not happen?—
oracle of the Lord GOD.
19As for you, son of man, prophesy,
and clap your hands!
Let the sword strike twice, a third time.
It is a sword of slaughter,
A sword for slaughtering,
whirling around them all,
20That every heart may tremble;
for many will be made to stumble.
At all their gates
I have stationed the sword for slaughter,
Made it flash lightning,
drawn for slaughter.
21Slash to the right!
turn to the left,
Wherever your edge is directed!f
22Then I, too, shall clap my hands,*
and spend my fury.
I, the LORD, have spoken.
Nebuchadnezzar at the Crossroads. 23The word of the LORD came to me: 24Son of man, make for yourself two roads over which the sword of the king of Babylon can come. Both roads shall start out from the same land. Then put a signpost at the head of each road 25so the sword can come to Rabbah of the Ammonites or to Judah and its fortress, Jerusalem. 26For the king of Babylon is standing at the fork of the two roads to read the omens:* he shakes out the arrows, inquires of the teraphim, inspects the liver.g 27Into his right hand has fallen the lot marked “Jerusalem”:* to order the slaughter, to raise the battle cry, to set the battering rams against the gates, to throw up a ramp, to build siege works. 28In the eyes of those bound by oath this seems like a false omen; yet the lot taken in hand exposes the wickedness for which they, still bound by oath, will be taken in hand.
29Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because your guilt has been exposed, your crimes laid bare, your sinfulness revealed in all your deeds—because you have been exposed, you shall be taken in hand.h 30And as for you, depraved and wicked prince of Israel, a day is coming to end your life of crime.i 31Thus says the Lord GOD: Off with the turban and away with the crown! Nothing shall be as it was! Exalt the lowly and bring the exalted low! 32A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I shall make it! Nothing will be the same until the one comes to whom I have given it for judgment.j
To the Ammonites.* 33As for you, son of man, prophesy: Thus says the Lord GOD to the Ammonites and their insults:
O sword, sword drawn for slaughter,
burnished to consume, to flash lightning!
34Your false visions and lying omens,
Set you over the necks of the slain,
the wicked whose day had come—
an end to their life of crime.
35Return to your scabbard!
In the place you were created,
In the land of your origin,
I will judge you.
36I will pour out my anger upon you,
breathing my fiery wrath against you;
I will hand you over to ravagers,
artisans of destruction!
37You shall be fuel for the fire,
your blood shall flow throughout the land;
You shall not be remembered,
for I, the LORD, have spoken.
* [21:2–4] In Babylon Ezekiel looks toward Judah, pictured as a forest about to be destroyed by fire.
* [21:8] Cut off from you the righteous and the wicked: a more complete devastation of Jerusalem than that described in 9:6.
* [21:12] What I heard: the news of the fall of Jerusalem; cf. 33:21–22.
* [21:17] Slap your thigh: a gesture signifying grief and dread; cf. Jer 31:19.
* [21:22] Clap my hands: the Lord declares himself no longer responsible for Judah; cf. 22:13; Nm 24:10; Jb 27:23; Lam 2:15.
* [21:26] Three forms of divination are mentioned: arrow divination, consisting in the use of differently marked arrows extracted or shaken from a case at random; the consultation of the teraphim or household idols; and liver divination, scrutiny of the configurations of the livers of newly slaughtered animals, a common form of divination in Mesopotamia.
* [21:27–28] A lot marked “Jerusalem” falls out, which marks the guilt of the city’s inhabitants.
* [21:33–37] In vv. 23–32 Ezekiel imagines Nebuchadnezzar deciding whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbath-Ammon. As it happened, the Babylonians decided to attack Jerusalem first. Here (vv. 33–37) Ezekiel prophesies to the Ammonites that a nation which serves as an instrument of the Lord’s judgment will itself be judged.
e. [21:14] cf. 2 Kgs 13:18–19.
f. [21:21] Prv 16:33; Zec 10:2.
h. [21:29] Jer 8:11–12; 27:9–10.