Boil it all Down—The Pollution Remains

This chapter brings to culmination a statement of judgment on Jerusalem. God gave the most painful illustration imaginable a to how God’s providence and judgments should be accepted without objection or complaint. He told Ezekiel that he was going to “take from you the desire of your eyes,” an affliction he was to receive without mourning, weeping, or change of daily routine (24:16, 17). When God struck his wife dead, Ezekiel did as he was told. In the same way, they would hear of the utter devastation of Jerusalem and the slaughter of family members remaining there.  After this, Ezekiel will say no more until a fugitive from the collapse shows up in Babylon (24:25-27). Chapters 19-23 describe the history of Israel’s rebellion. Chapter 19 is a lamentation for past glory, productivity, and strength that has been lost. Subsequent chapters reveal an amazing intensification of gross idolatry, immorality, injustice, disregard for life, sacrifice of children, and alliances with godless nations. It contains prophecies of thorough judgment, a distressing scenario of divine intensity in pursuing the punishment of unfaithful people. The depths of the perversity of the rebellion of the people remaining in Jerusalem staggers one’s moral sensitivities, assaults the conscience, and bewilders the mind. The narrative constitutes an extended theological expression illustrating how concretized rebellion and sin is in the human heart. With warning and fulfillments having been reified within the city and within their families, the inhabitants of Jerusalem continue to scoff at their privileged history of revelation and redemption. They pursue the worst features of this fallen, godless world. Chapter 23 extends a narrative of graphic unfaithfulness on the part of two daughters of one mother. Their names were Oholah (samaria) and Oholiba (Jerusalem. After a discussion of the harlotries of Oholah, the text says that Oholibah was “more corrupt in her lust than she, and her harlotries were more than the harlotries of her sister” (23:11). The Lord became “disgusted with her, as I had become disgusted with her sister” (18). Now, these lewd women were given over to “terror and plunder” so that their lewdness would be “requited upon you” (46, 49). The description of divine outrage is truly shocking and frightening.


I. Verses 1-2 – Jerusalem now under siege,

A. Verse 1 – Ezekiel is told that Jerusalem is under siege on the day that this prophecy is given. The time is given—“ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth of the month.” This is the time of the captivity of Jehoiachin and the consequent kingship of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:15-17) for the same time in given in 25:1 : “Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king d Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around.”

B. Verse 2 – He is to record the day on which he learned this: “Write the name of the day, this very day.” Ezekiel was not in Jerusalem and so could not be recording this as an observant chronicler but must be receiving immediate first-hand information from someone who is observing. This person is, of course, the Lord who not only observed but decreed. All would know that his information came from God, with the intention that they would know Ezekiel’s prophecy also came from God


II. Verses 3-13 – This parable of a boiling pot accomplishes two things

A. It reverses the mantra of 11:3 in which the leaders used the image of a pot and boiling meat to indicate safety and security. At that time (11:7, 11) God told them that the cauldron would have quite another effect than providing protection, but would become the evidence of their corruption and the preparation for their destruction.

  1. God now gives instructions as to how this supposed pot of protection should be prepared in order to reveal the true sate of affairs in Jerusalem, not safety but putrid sinfulness: “Put on the pot, put it on and also pour water in it” (3).
  2. All the choicest pieces of meat are to be placed in this pot along with the bones that give flavor from the marrow. If this is a safe place and a good recipe then the end result should be a delectable, satisfying meal (4, 5a). Will it be tasty and filled with nutrition? Will it indicate that these people are well-nourished and the fare they prepare for themselves makes them more just, compassionate, and merciful?
  3. God tells them to make the fire hot, “Pile wood under the pot.” Make it so that it cooks most efficiently. This pot that is supposed to provide protection from their enemies and insure the goodness of their life within the gates of Jerusalem. What will happen when the caldron begins to glow with heat and the meat placed in it begins to simmer and emit its fluids and it aroma?

B. These verses show that evil is so bound up in the heart of the people of Jerusalem, that all of God’s providential arrangements, the purges already performed, and the prophecies about coming destruction issued with calls for repentance had not moved them at all.

  1. The protective and health-giving pot is found to be corrupt in itself. The fire of God’s wrath, mediated by the coming second wave of hostile siege by Nebuchadnezzar, reveals the remaining corruption—the scum and the rust that cling to its insides because of lack of cleaning. The city provides no protection for it has fallen under judgment in light of the growing filthiness of sin and rebellion, pompous arrogance and false religiosity, brutality and idolatry that continually pump moral filth and blasphemous speech and conduct into the very city that God established as his inheritance (Psalm 48).
  2. In producing the meat for the pot, they did not follow God’s requirements (7) to drain the blood (Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:16). This carelessness shows their absolute lack of awareness of their need for a blood sacrifice. They have eschewed the great grace of redemptive typology, that the blood is to be shed before spiritual life can be given. Instead of covering it with dust (Leviticus 17:13), they “placed it on the bare rock” (7). Instead of regarding the blood as being specifically and necessarily related to God’s way of passing over iniquity, they profaned the blood which constituted the very essence of the covenant of redemption which sets apart Jesus Christ as the only Savior (Hebrews 10:29).
  3. God, therefore, will treat them with the same regard for the blood that they have demonstrated. For him, it will have no redemptive value in their case. As they have shed blood with no regard to its message of forgiveness, so God will do the same and, thus, it will “cause wrath to come up to take vengeance” (8). They do not consider that they need forgiveness and redemptive grace, have made no overtures for God’s gracious intervention but consider themselves already safe in their contrived sense of safety, so God will allow the morally necessary course of events to take place for an unforgiven people. “Woe to the bloody city!” Instead of regarding them with mercy, he will add to the heat of the flame: “I also will make the pile great” (9).
  4. God taunts the people with their careless manner of living and gives instruction to continue in their way of life and add to the iniquity and consequently the severity of the judgment: “Heap on the wood, kindle the fire, boil the flesh well and mix in the spices, and let the bones be burned” (10). Let it all come to such a high heat that its contents will be repulsive even to those who try to consume it.
  5. Verse 11 seems to contemplate that the severity of their disobedience, the resultant putrefaction of their food, with the accompanying judgment might cleanse them of pollution: When the pot gets hot enough with only heat and no substantial food, but only the residue, maybe they will see its distasteful, even poisonous, content and turn aside from it: “Its filthiness may be melted in it, its rust [scum] consumed” (11).
  6. That, however, did not happen. The scum and rust remain and will be obvious in the trial that is immediately upon them. Nebuchadnezzar has his siege ramps under way! (12) They are blind to their desperate sinfulness. They do not acknowledge their disregard for God’s holiness and righteousness as manifest in his law. Even civil injustice is blatant and unhidden. Like the scum that boils out of a piece of meat in a stew and is left in the pot as the pot continues to cook over hot coals with nothing in it, corruption has not disintegrated but has become annealed to their very being. They are now past the point of repentance in spite of the first wave of siege and exile that had occurred almost ten years earlier. God will give no more remedies nor opportunities and will execute judgment “till I have satisfied my fury [spent my wrath] upon you.” (13) God’s wrath will be satisfied. He will not grant escape or execute reconciliation apart from righteousness. Only One can bear such a task and bring it to pass with satisfaction, the God/man, Christ Jesus.


III. Verse 14: God has spoken and God will act.

A. Since God has spoken, he will do all that he has said. God does not bluff or seek to manipulate with false threats and empty promises. He will bring a disastrous judgment, as he had warned through the prophets, and will feel no remorse in it. All that he brings on this people is perfectly fit for the character of their crime. Beyond that, such wrath expresses a clear and true manifestation of his character in the face of evil. “I will not relent, spare, pity, or be sorry.”

B. Not only does this express his righteous anger fittingly, the judgment precisely fits their ways and their deeds (14b). God executes judgment “according to their ways.”


IV. God’s judgment in eternity will also be two fold: “according to our ways” and “according to his mercy.”

A. For those outside of Christ who will bear their own load of thought and action we read words like these: “for if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26). “Then death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14, 15). “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:15).

B. For those who have found forgiveness and justification by the blood and righteousness of Christ, we see this judgment. “Blessed are those who was their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22:14). “And this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11, 12). “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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