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Last Judgment - Stefan Lochner (1435)

The word of God came to Ezekiel saying:

“Son of man, this is what the Lord says to the land of Israel.

The end has come upon the four corners of the land! The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look on you with pity. I will not spare you. I will surely repay you for your conduct and for the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

This is what the Lord says.

“Unheard of disaster! See, it comes! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. See, it comes! Dooms has come upon you, upon you who dwell in the land. The time has come! The day is near! There is panic, not joy, on the mountains. I am about to pour my wrath on you and release my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and ensure you pay for all your detestable practices. I will not look on you with pity. I will not spare you. You will be repaid for your conduct and for the detestable practices in your civilization. Then you will know that it is, the Lord, who strikes you.

See the day! See, it comes! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! Violence has arisen, a rod to punish the wicked. None of the people will be left, none of that crowd – none of their wealth, nothing of value. The time has come! The day has arrived! Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller grieve, for my wrath is for everyone. The seller will not recover the property that was sold – as long as both buyer and seller live. This vision concerning their fate will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve their life.

They have blown the trumpet, they have made all things ready, but no one will go into battle, for my wrath is on the whole crowd. Those in the country will die by the sword, those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. The fugitives who escape will flee to the mountains. Like doves of the valleys, they will all moan, each for their own sins. Every hand will go limp, every leg will be wet with urine. They will put on sackcloth and clothed with terror. Every face will be covered with shame, and every head will be shaved.

They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as something unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them into the day of the Lord’s wrath. It will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs, for it has caused them to stumble into sin. They took pride in their beautiful jewelry and used it to make detestable idols. They made it into vile images, therefore I will make it a thing unclean for them. I will give their wealth as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, who will defile it. I will turn my face away from the people, and robbers will desecrate the place I treasure. They will enter it and will defile it.

Prepare chains! For the land is full of bloodshed, and the city is full of violence. I will bring the most wicked of nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the mighty and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace in vain. Calamity upon calamity will come. They will go searching for a vision from the prophet, priestly instruction in the law will cease, the counsel of the elders will come to an end. The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them.

Then they will know that I am the Lord.

What the story means to us today

God insists on recognition and obedience

Ezekiel presents his warning as six “oracles” – messages from God – and with an express intensity, the intent of each is quite clear.  The finality of God’s judgement is emphasized as is its imminent arrival.

In each oracle, it is important to recognize that recognition of God is underscored. The Israelites’ refusal to acknowledge God as their Lord incites God’s punishment on them. Even today our faith in a higher power is a requirement for salvation.

Additional thoughts and considerations

The first prophecy – no one will be spared

Ezekiel stresses that the end has come upon the “four corners of the land”. In other words, no one will be spared. Ezekiel stresses that God’s judgement of the people is contingent upon their conduct. He has withheld judgement up until now, he has restrained his verdict, but judgement must be imposed in order to demonstrate that God is their Lord. Without a doubt, the intent of God’s reprisal is to correct Israelite’s behavior.

The second prophecy – judgement will be severe

In the second prophecy, Ezekiel says terror and panic will fill the lands. The horror will be unimaginable. God’s judgement will be severe.

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The third oracle – time for judgement has arrived

In the third oracle, Ezekiel tells the Israelites that the time for judgement has arrived and it will be swift. This point is made throughout all the prophecies but now it’s stressed further that judgement is imminent.

The fourth oracle – everyone will be impacted

The fourth refrain tells us again that everyone will be impacted by God’s judgement. Those outside the city will die by sword. Those inside the city will die by plague and famine. God’s judgement will reach everyone throughout the land.

The fifth oracle – the people will abandon their riches

Ezekiel warns that the punishment will be so severe, people will care nothing for their riches and will cast them into the streets. They will be unable to buy themselves out of this predicament.

Ezekiel explains that the people took their “beautiful jewelry” and used it to make idols. The “beautiful jewelry” he refers to is the temple wealth. The term “beautiful jewelry” is used by other prophets to refer to the temple. Apparently, showing the most extreme form of disrespect for God, the people took treasures, ornaments, and other valuable objects from the temple and used them to make idols, or representations of other gods. Thus, God tells Ezekiel he will allow foreigners to take the temple wealth as loot. This is made clear in the last version of this section:

“I will turn my face away from the people and robbers will desecrate the place I treasure. They will enter it and defile it.”

The sixth and final prophecy – calamity upon calamity

The sixth and final section concludes with the promise of “calamity upon calamity” with the notable line,

“I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

This again stresses that the people have brought this punishment upon themselves by stubbornly resisting God and his will. No more will this be allowed.

How the Judeans would have viewed Ezekiel’s warnings

The Judeans would have regarded Ezekiel’s warnings as nonsensical, impossible, without merit. In their time, Judeans considered Jerusalem to be impenetrable and insulated from any harm. It would have been beyond belief that the city could be rampaged, and the temple destroyed.

The “day” has come

Ezekiel warns, “the day has come”. The “day” he refers to is mentioned hundreds of times in the Old Testament and is usually called the “day of the Lord”. It is a common theme in the Old Testament prophetic books (beginning with Amos 5:18) and refers to a time when God intervenes, acting as jury and judge over humanity.

The science and history behind the story

Shaved heads and sackcloth clothes

Ezekiel warns, “They will put on sackcloth and be clothed in terror. Every face will be covered with shame, and every head will be shaved.” Sackcloth is a coarse cloth typically woven from goat’s hair, similar to a potato sack or other rough, sturdy cloth.  Sackcloth later came to also mean a garment made from such cloth. Significant to Ezekiel’s story, in the ancient Near East, sackcloth was donned during a time of mourning.

Similarly, during the mourning period, men would shave their heads (a similar tradition exists in Hindu religions). Normally in Judaism, hair was typically left uncut. The act of shaving one’s hair symbolized withdrawal from society during their time of grief.

Notes on Biblical translation

“Doom” has come upon you

The word “doom” in verses 7 and 10 are translated in a variety of ways because there is little known use of the word (it is used twice here and once is Isaiah 28:5). Various translations of the original Hebrew word include doom, mourning, chain, and rope (bindings).

Bible Text

NIV

7 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel:

“ ‘The end! The end has come

upon the four corners of the land!

3 The end is now upon you,

and I will unleash my anger against you.

I will judge you according to your conduct

and repay you for all your detestable practices.

4 I will not look on you with pity;

I will not spare you.

I will surely repay you for your conduct

and for the detestable practices among you.

“ ‘Then you will know that I am the LORD.’

5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“ ‘Disaster! Unheard-of disaster!

See, it comes!

6 The end has come!

The end has come!

It has roused itself against you.

See, it comes!

7 Doom has come upon you,

upon you who dwell in the land.

The time has come! The day is near!

There is panic, not joy, on the mountains.

8 I am about to pour out my wrath on you

and spend my anger against you.

I will judge you according to your conduct

and repay you for all your detestable practices.

9 I will not look on you with pity;

I will not spare you.

I will repay you for your conduct

and for the detestable practices among you.

“ ‘Then you will know that it is I the LORD who strikes you.

10 “ ‘See, the day!

See, it comes!

Doom has burst forth,

the rod has budded,

arrogance has blossomed!

11 Violence has arisen,

a rod to punish the wicked.

None of the people will be left,

none of that crowd—

none of their wealth,

nothing of value.

12 The time has come!

The day has arrived!

Let not the buyer rejoice

nor the seller grieve,

for my wrath is on the whole crowd.

13 The seller will not recover

the property that was sold—

as long as both buyer and seller live.

For the vision concerning the whole crowd

will not be reversed.

Because of their sins, not one of them

will preserve their life.

14 “ ‘They have blown the trumpet,

they have made all things ready,

but no one will go into battle,

for my wrath is on the whole crowd.

15 Outside is the sword;

inside are plague and famine.

Those in the country

will die by the sword;

those in the city

will be devoured by famine and plague.

16 The fugitives who escape

will flee to the mountains.

Like doves of the valleys,

they will all moan,

each for their own sins.

17 Every hand will go limp;

every leg will be wet with urine.

18 They will put on sackcloth

and be clothed with terror.

Every face will be covered with shame,

and every head will be shaved.

19 “ ‘They will throw their silver into the streets,

and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean.

Their silver and gold

will not be able to deliver them

in the day of the LORD’s wrath.

It will not satisfy their hunger

or fill their stomachs,

for it has caused them to stumble into sin.

20 They took pride in their beautiful jewelry

and used it to make their detestable idols.

They made it into vile images;

therefore I will make it a thing unclean for them.

21 I will give their wealth as plunder to foreigners

and as loot to the wicked of the earth,

who will defile it.

22 I will turn my face away from the people,

and robbers will desecrate the place I treasure.

They will enter it

and will defile it.

23 “ ‘Prepare chains!

For the land is full of bloodshed,

and the city is full of violence.

24 I will bring the most wicked of nations

to take possession of their houses.

I will put an end to the pride of the mighty,

and their sanctuaries will be desecrated.

25 When terror comes,

they will seek peace in vain.

26 Calamity upon calamity will come,

and rumor upon rumor.

They will go searching for a vision from the prophet,

priestly instruction in the law will cease,

the counsel of the elders will come to an end.

27 The king will mourn,

the prince will be clothed with despair,

and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.

I will deal with them according to their conduct,

and by their own standards I will judge them.

“ ‘Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ ”

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The Message

1–4 7 GOD’s Word came to me, saying, “You, son of man—GOD, the Master, has this Message for the land of Israel:

“ ‘Endtime.

The end of business as usual for everyone.

It’s all over. The end is upon you.

I’ve launched my anger against you.

I’ve issued my verdict on the way you live.

I’ll make you pay for your disgusting obscenities.

I won’t look the other way,

I won’t feel sorry for you.

I’ll make you pay for the way you’ve lived:

Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you,

and you’ll realize that I am GOD.’

5–9 “I, GOD, the Master, say:

‘Disaster after disaster! Look, it comes!

Endtime—

the end comes.

The end is ripe. Watch out, it’s coming!

This is your fate, you who live in this land.

Time’s up.

It’s zero hour.

No dragging of feet now,

no bargaining for more time.

Soon now I’ll pour my wrath on you,

pay out my anger against you,

Render my verdict on the way you’ve lived,

make you pay for your disgusting obscenities.

I won’t look the other way,

I won’t feel sorry for you.

I’ll make you pay for the way you’ve lived.

Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you.

Then you’ll realize

that it is I, GOD, who have hit you.

10–13 “ ‘Judgment Day!

Fate has caught up with you.

The scepter outsized and pretentious,

pride bursting all bounds,

Violence strutting,

brandishing the evil scepter.

But there’s nothing to them,

and nothing will be left of them.

Time’s up.

Countdown: five, four, three, two …

Buyer, don’t crow; seller, don’t worry:

Judgment wrath has turned the world topsy-turvy.

The bottom has dropped out of buying and selling.

It will never be the same again.

But don’t fantasize an upturn in the market.

The country is bankrupt because of its sins,

and it’s not going to get any better.

14–16 “ ‘The trumpet signals the call to battle:

“Present arms!”

But no one marches into battle.

My wrath has them paralyzed!

On the open roads you’re killed,

or else you go home and die of hunger and disease.

Either get murdered out in the country

or die of sickness or hunger in town.

Survivors run for the hills.

They moan like doves in the valleys,

Each one moaning

for his own sins.

17–18 “ ‘Every hand hangs limp,

every knee turns to rubber.

They dress in rough burlap—

sorry scarecrows,

Shifty and shamefaced,

with their heads shaved bald.

19–27 “ ‘They throw their money into the gutters.

Their hard-earned cash stinks like garbage.

They find that it won’t buy a thing

they either want or need on Judgment Day.

They tripped on money

and fell into sin.

Proud and pretentious with their jewels,

they deck out their vile and vulgar no-gods in finery.

I’ll make those god-obscenities a stench in their nostrils.

I’ll give away their religious junk—

strangers will pick it up for free,

the godless spit on it and make jokes.

I’ll turn my face so I won’t have to look

as my treasured place and people are violated,

As violent strangers walk in

and desecrate place and people—

A bloody massacre,

as crime and violence fill the city.

I’ll bring in the dregs of humanity

to move into their houses.

I’ll put a stop to the boasting and strutting

of the high-and-mighty,

And see to it that there’ll be nothing holy

left in their holy places.

Catastrophe descends. They look for peace,

but there’s no peace to be found—

Disaster on the heels of disaster,

one rumor after another.

They clamor for the prophet to tell them what’s up,

but nobody knows anything.

Priests don’t have a clue;

the elders don’t know what to say.

The king holds his head in despair;

the prince is devastated.

The common people are paralyzed.

Gripped by fear, they can’t move.

I’ll deal with them where they are,

judge them on their terms.

They’ll know that I am GOD.’ ”

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

The NET Bible

7:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 7:2 “You, son of man—this is what the sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land! 7:3 The end is now upon you, and I will release my anger against you; I will judge you according to your behavior, I will hold you accountable for all your abominable practices. 7:4 My eye will not pity you; I will not spare you. For I will hold you responsible for your behavior, and you will suffer the consequences of your abominable practices. Then you will know that I am the LORD!

7:5 “This is what the sovereign LORD says: A disaster—a one-of-a-kind disaster—is coming! 7:6 An end comes—the end comes! It has awakened against you—the end is upon you! Look, it is coming! 7:7 Doom is coming upon you who live in the land! The time is coming, the day is near. There are sounds of tumult, not shouts of joy, on the mountains. 7:8 Soon now I will pour out my rage on you; I will fully vent my anger against you. I will judge you according to your behavior. I will hold you accountable for all your abominable practices. 7:9 My eye will not pity you; I will not spare you. For your behavior I will hold you accountable, and you will suffer the consequences of your abominable practices. Then you will know that it is I, the LORD, who is striking you.

7:10 “Look, the day! Look, it is coming! Doom has gone out! The staff has budded, pride has blossomed! 7:11 Violence has grown into a staff that supports wickedness. Not one of them will be left—not from their crowd, not from their wealth, not from their prominence. 7:12 The time has come; the day has struck! The customer should not rejoice, nor the seller mourn; for divine wrath comes against their whole crowd. 7:13 The customer will no longer pay the seller while both parties are alive, for the vision against their whole crowd will not be revoked. Each person, for his iniquity, will fail to preserve his life.

7:14 “They have blown the trumpet and everyone is ready, but no one goes to battle, because my anger is against their whole crowd. 7:15 The sword is outside; pestilence and famine are inside the house. Whoever is in the open field will die by the sword, and famine and pestilence will consume everyone in the city. 7:16 Their survivors will escape to the mountains and become like doves of the valleys; all of them will moan—each one for his iniquity. 7:17 All of their hands will hang limp; their knees will be wet with urine. 7:18 They will wear sackcloth, terror will cover them; shame will be on all their faces, and all of their heads will be shaved bald. 7:19 They will discard their silver in the streets, and their gold will be treated like filth. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD’s fury. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs because their wealth was the obstacle leading to their iniquity. 7:20 They rendered the beauty of his ornaments into pride, and with it they made their abominable images—their detestable idols. Therefore I will render it filthy to them. 7:21 I will give it to foreigners as loot, to the world’s wicked ones as plunder, and they will desecrate it. 7:22 I will turn my face away from them and they will desecrate my treasured place. Vandals will enter it and desecrate it. 7:23 (Make the chain, because the land is full of murder and the city is full of violence.) 7:24 I will bring the most wicked of the nations and they will take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the arrogance of the strong, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. 7:25 Terror is coming! They will seek peace, but find none. 7:26 Disaster after disaster will come, and one rumor after another. They will seek a vision from a prophet; priestly instruction will disappear, along with counsel from the elders. 7:27 The king will mourn and the prince will be clothed with shuddering; the hands of the people of the land will tremble. Based on their behavior I will deal with them, and by their standard of justice I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD!”

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

King James Version

7 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land. 3 Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations. 4 And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but gI will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

5 Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come. 6 An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come. 7 The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, kthe day of trouble is near, and not the lsounding again of the mountains. 8 Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations. 9 fAnd mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; hand ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth. 10 Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded. 11 Violence is risen up into sa rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them. 12 jThe time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. 13 For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.

14 They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. 15 The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him. 16 But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity. 17 All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water. 18 They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads. 19 They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: otheir silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.

20 As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in rmajesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them. 21 And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it. 22 My face will I turn also from them, and they shall pollute my secret place: for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it. 23 Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence. 24 Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and btheir holy places cshall be defiled. 25 Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none. 26 Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients. 27 The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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