Tree of Knowledge – Trees and Garden in Ezekiel

In this post, I will focus on the trees in chapter 31 of Ezekiel.  In studying the topic of trees in the Book of Ezekiel I saw four groupings of trees throughout its chapters:

  1. Chapters 6 – 20 – are a mixture of unfaithfulness and judgment. 
  2. Chapter 31 – Pharaoh and his hordes being compared to Assyria.
  3. Chapters 34 and 36 – a promise of provision and “more than enough”.
  4. Chapters 40 and 41 – palm trees (art) in the new temple.

Fact – Bible Gateway (NIV) has Ezekiel with thirty verses that have the word trees in it.  That is more verses with the word “tree” than any other book in the Bible.

Chapter 31 starts with a timestamp of the “eleventh year, the first day of the third month” and verse 29:20 has the “eleventh year, the seventh day of the first month” so some background is in order.  I will digress and talk about world events outside of this chapter to help explain what we are reading.  The two timestamps are Ezekiel’s time in exile with King Jehoiachin (see 1:2) and possibly referring to the Hebrew calendar.  So first, it is after Passover and in the time of the “Counting of the Omer” that leads to what Christians call Pentecost (see Leviticus 23).  This is from the month and day portion of the timestamps.  The eleventh year is placing this just before the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:2).

The Other Prophets – A part of this study that has been eye-opening is that Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel where all alive at this time.  Jeremiah was nearing his death and the fall of Jerusalem.  Daniel was in the time period of his first four chapters – the fiery furnace, golden statues, and dreams interpreted.  (Like Jeremiah, I do not believe that Ezekiel and Daniel are in chronological order within their chapters.)  I wonder just how much of their doings and prophecies were known to the others?  We know from Daniel’s fast that he was aware of the seventy-year exile that was spoken by Jeremiah. Zephaniah may be the oldest of the group but little of his background is known except that he was active during the reign of Josiah (1:1). 

World Events – This will be a brief placement of Tyre, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt in context with Ezekiel 28 through 31.  You will need to do your own searches on these topics as I am not giving references.  There are too many and they seem to overlap or not go far enough on any one topic. 

  1. Tyre – In chapter 28 the king of Tyre is given the characteristics of Satan and his fall into pride is discussed (See the Bad Guy post).  Tyre was destroyed by Babylon, even though it was on an island.  It was part of the Assyrian Empire and is associated with Lebanon. 
  2. Assyria – This is the nation that defeated and exported Northern Israel and brought the “Samaritans” to take their place.  By Ezekiel’s time, Assyria had been defeated by Babylon, so they were a good object lesson. 
  3. Babylon – They are a good/evil tree in the history of mankind.  In their day they were a chosen instrument to do the bidding of God, unfortunately, they took things to unneeded levels and reaped that reward.  But the empire did do much for humanity.  The use of Babylon as an example goes all the way into the book of Revelations.
  4. Egypt – The focus of Ezekiel 29 through 32 is Egypt.  By this time, they had been defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish.  Josiah had been killed in the fighting with Neco, as he was going to Carchemish.  Neco also changed who was king in Israel setting the stage for Jerusalem’s fall.  They are given to Babylon as plunder in 29:17. This verse’s timestamp seems out of place!  The twenty-seventh year may refer to his age but that still is out of place (1:1), or this was his very first word from the Lord. Very little of Egypt’s and Israel’s interactions could be considered good.  Starting with Abraham Egypt has been a snare for Israel and all of the words from the Lord are about to be fulfilled.  Egypt would still be a “player” but never the world power that it had been.

 Trees and the Garden – The analogy of Pharaoh and Assyria uses the metaphor of trees to explain the fallen angels and Satan with the men/nations who supported them.  I am going on the premise that the “garden of God” and “garden of Eden” are being used to separate the ideas of angels and men.  To me the trees in the “garden of God” in verse eight are angels and a transition occurs in verse nine to bring both realms together, and then in verses 16 – 18 it shifts to the men who are the allies.  The end results of these comparisons were that Babylon did humble Assyria and that Egypt would fair no better.  

In the Bible – The Book of Jonah was written about the city of Nineveh, which at that time was the capital of Assyria.  

The words to Ezekiel are not done with the enemies of God before He sets up the New Jerusalem.  The “unfaithful shepherds”, Edom, and Gog are still to be dealt with before the “valley of dry bones” becomes God’s army and the new Temple comes.  Edom is the land of Esau, Jacob’s brother.  Gog has been referenced as Russia or China, but I am starting to think that it is Europe and the coalition of the Beast.

So, starting with the trees of the garden in chapter 31 I wonder if the rest of the Book is a “timeline” of events before the return of Jesus?

pic ; http://clipart.christiansunite.com/Bible_Characters_Clipart

Joel – The Land

If asked, before this study, I would have said the key feature in the Book of Joel is the locust; now I would say it is “the land” or “His land.”  The reason for the locust came was to distress the people and clean the land. Sometimes our English translations don’t do the Hebrew text justice.  Joel used specific words when he talked about valleys and mountains that change the mental pictures of his prophecy.  He does the same thing when he is writing about land or ground; most of the time the word is erets, but twice the word adamah is used.

David states in Psalm 24:1 “the earth is the Lord’s and everything that is in it.”  Joel is writing to the “elders” and “the all” that live in THE LAND.  In 1:6 and 3:2 Yahweh refers to this piece of real estate as “My land” and Joel in 2:18 calls it “His land.”  The word is erets and refers to earth or by extension all of the earth is His because He made it.  But that little sliver of land we call Israel is very special to Him.  It is no mistake that he led Abram there and promised it to his yet unborn children.  New Jerusalem will be placed there and some Bible teachers will make the argument that is where the Garden of Eden (2:3) was.  Those locusts were sent to strip the fields and pastures and so cover the mountains and valleys in order “to clean” it off.  This, in turn, produced the anguish/repentance that was needed.  The army of locust/army of people will be judged for what they do in Israel.

Adamah the word for ground/earth is used in 1:10 and 2:21, and it refers to red or productive ground and is the ground that Adam came from.  This term is important because it is a promise for us; when we are obedient the ground is productive, but rebellion will hinder that productiveness.  1:10 is dealing with the rebellion/loss of production and 2:21 is when Judah is promised blessings again.

The razing of the land talked about in Joel sounds like the destruction that the Roman army brought when they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

God is the Master Gardener; He is letting us use His earth we need to take care of it as best we can.

Joel – Mountains

To do a post on valleys and not one on mountains does not seem right.  The Hebrew word har is used six times in Joel.  A word for hill is used once in 3: 18, but depending on the translation you may read “hill” even though it is the word Har. (Got to love translators and their work.)

Three times in Joel Har is used with the word Zion or holy (2: 1, 32; 3: 17).  The other three times the NIV adds an “s” making them plural, so to me, that makes them all the other mountains in Israel.  Mountains in Israel and other places are often sacred places.  Strong’s Concordance states they are often associated with deities and serve as symbols of strength.  Israel did have problems with using mountains as worships sites for other gods throughout its history.  If you read this thought (what we think as strong or wrong gods) into the verse when you read 2: 2, 5, and 3: 18 it transforms the verses into statements of God’s greatness and blessings over and above the gods that would war against Him and his people.

In 3:18 it is the mountains and hills that are giving the wine and milk.  These are the “areas” above the valleys where I would normally think of when it comes to food production.  I will let you draw your own conclusions here but it should give you another look into the greatness of our God.

Reference – Strong’s/Vine’s Concordance

Joel – Valleys (What they say about the End Times)

Part of the judgment/restoration prophesies in Joel deal with valleys.  The word “valley” occurs five times, but they come from two different Hebrew words: emeq and nachalahNachalah means a narrow valley and is associated with the “winter rains” and the wadi the water flows in. It is used once in Joel.  Emeq is a broad valley or vale, this word is used four times.  The different valleys are part of the metaphors that God uses to speak the truths He wants us to see about Him, so being able to visualize these landforms is important.  (See the post Valleys.)

Given the intensity of Joel’s prophesies my mental image of the valleys has been a rough place with steep sides.  So it did surprise me to find that the valley of Jehoshaphat and the valley of decision were emeq.  Now my mental picture is a place that can hold many people, and you can get into it easily (or out of it easily).

The first two uses (3:2, 12) of emeq are the Valley of Jehoshaphat which means the valley of the Eternal Judge.  In both of these, He is commanding the nations into the valley to be judged.  Several sources will note that the locust in the first part of the book could represent nations or that the nations will be like locust.  There is a valley near Jerusalem that is known by this name.  But given other prophecies and the history of the land, you would think of the valley of Megiddo.220px-jpf-jezreel_valley_and_mount_tabor

Emeq is also used in 3:17 where it is the valley of decision.  Decision in Hebrew is the word charuts.  Again my paradigm did not cover the many uses of this word.  This word is translated gold, diligent, sharp cutting objects, and refers to a wall.  Most of the uses of charuts as “gold” are in the book of Proverbs: 3:14, 8:10 & 19, and 16:16.  In these verses, they are associated with wisdom and knowledge.  When translated “diligent” it is also in Proverbs: 10:4, 12: 24 & 27, 13: 4, 21: 5.  In these verses, it is associated with wealth and valued possessions.  When it is translated as “sharp objects” it refers to threshing or harvesting implements and how the work is being done.  Daniel 9: 25 has it as a wall that will be finished in a time of distress.

All of these different uses challenged what I thought people would be deciding about; I assumed it would be to choose God or not.  Even though I still think this; I now see the reasons they are in the valley choosing.  People will be in the valley choosing between God and money, God and their knowledge, God and destruction (getting cut down), and/or God and their man-made walls/excuses. This is where the type of valley (emeq) becomes important; it will be easy to get into that situation, but it will be just as easy to get out of it.  Joel 3: 14 says “the Lord” will be heard sounding the coming judgment, but that He will be a refugee and stronghold for His people (Israel = those who have struggled with God).

The promises of the last five verses in Joel also center on a valley – Nachalah.  It is called the valley of acacias which is a thorny plant that grows in places where it seldom rains but when it does it is a flash flood.  The promise is that this rough place will become a blessing by a continual flow of water (Holy Spirit) from the throne of God.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Megiddo

Wonders, Miracles, and Sign

Charles Swindoll used this statement in his book The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart – If miracles happened every day they would be called REGULARS. I think it is fair to say that Abraham had miracles, signs, and wonders working in his life. Look at his narrative from Genesis 12 to 25 and realize that it covers 100 years of life you start to understand they were not “regulars.”

The other side of this topic is John 14: 12 where doing “greater miracles” is promised. The “greater” carries the idea of more not better. I have always thought that the person doing these “more” miracles are doing them for other people and not for themselves. In Acts, the Apostles did a lot of miracles “among the people.”

Acts 2:22 says Jesus was accredited by doing miracles, signs, and wonders and Paul says that these also marked his apostolic ministry. So miracles being done for God’s people are part of our heritage. Of all the times wonders and signs are mentioned in the New Testament most are in a positive light. Three times they refer to counterfeits or false prophets doing them: Mark 13:22, Matthew 24: 24, and 2 Thessalonians 2: 9. The Spirit of God will show you the difference and keep you from being deceived.  The key is who is being given the glory!

It does seem possible that you can see miracles, signs, and wonders done by God for His glory and still not understand. The children of Israel did this as they left Egypt and treated those signs and wonders lightly.

Other posts on the miraculous: The Seven Miracles in John, Miracles, and Storms, The Problem With the Miraculous.