“For thus saith the Lord God; Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel; Behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” — Ezekiel 25:6-7
The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived around 700 B.C., wrote in one of his works, “A bad neighbor is as great a plague as a good one is a great blessing.”1 Over the centuries, this ancient saying has proved true on both a personal and a national level.
Since my husband and I moved into our current home a few years ago, we have been blessed with good neighbors from different ethnic backgrounds, careers, and stages of life. A young Asian couple and their cute toddler son live a few houses down, and a multi-generational Afghan/Pakistani family around the corner. An EMT and volunteer fireman, and his wife who works at a crisis center, are directly across from us. Next to them is a bachelor who is a great cook and rents out a guesthouse in his backyard, and to his right are an elderly retired couple. Down the block is a young schoolteacher who is part Native American and owns what may be the world’s most adorable puppy.
We’ve shared contact information and many conversations with these neighbors — along with tools, gardening tips, babysitting, block parties, and grocery store runs. We watch out for each other’s children and lend a hand with maintenance projects when needed. We have found that being surrounded by helpful and caring people brings a comforting sense of camaraderie and security in the neighborhood.
On a national level, good relationships with neighboring nations can also bring security, as well as economic and cultural benefits. However, during the time of Ezekiel, the people of Judah did not have that blessing. The nations surrounding them were proud, aggressive, and hostile — and God took note. According to the oracles delivered by the prophet, these neighboring nations were to be judged because of their actions and attitudes toward God’s people. Today’s text records four of Ezekiel’s oracles: the divine proclamations of retribution against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. Our key verses record God’s condemnation of the Ammonites, who had rejoiced over Judah’s fall.
These nations may not have realized that the recent overthrow of Judah by Babylon was not merely a judgment upon the Jews; it was also a warning to them. Although God had focused first on the sins of His people, He would not ignore the pagan nations who lived around them. He would judge those nations for their sins, just as He had Judah.
This portion of text conveys a timeless Biblical truth: God is a God of justice. Our actions and attitudes toward our “neighbors” — those in physical proximity to us or within our circle of influence — will not go unnoticed. God is aware of how we treat others, and He will judge righteously. Let’s be sure that we show others unfailing compassion, kindness, and respect.
This chapter begins a section (chapters 25-32) in which Ezekiel pronounced judgments against seven nations that were neighbors to Israel. In verse 2, the phrase “set thy face against the Ammonites, and prophesy against them” might more literally be rendered “set thy face toward the Ammonites and prophesy against them,” implying a confrontational posture. Ammon was a tribal state located east of the Jordan River. Rabbah, mentioned in verse 5, was the nation’s preeminent city and is the site of modern-day Amman, Jordan.
Seir, referenced in verse 8, is a high mountain range south of the Dead Sea that frequently is used in Scripture as a representation of the Edomites. Here, the coupling of Seir with Moab may be because the Edomites were in subjection to the Moabites at that time. Their sin, like that of the Ammonites, was that they rejoiced in the fall of Jerusalem (compare verse 3 with verse 8). Eventually both Moabites and Ammonites were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar.2 The three cities mentioned in verse 9 were in the area of southern Syria known as “the Belka” that is renowned for its fine pastureland. It is a portion of the ancient land of Gilead.
The Edomites resided in the area east-southeast of the Dead Sea. As descendants of Esau, they were closely related to Israel and were given a degree of deference by Moses (see Deuteronomy 23:7-8). However, judgment was pronounced against them because Edom was vengeful toward God’s people, Israel. Forms of the word “vengeance” occur four times in verses 12-14 of the Hebrew text; this multiple usage reflects the high emotion portrayed in this passage. Teman was the northern frontier district of Edom, and Dedan was the southern frontier.
The Philistines resided in the southern coastal area of Israel. Again, the word “vengeance” is mentioned repeatedly in the judgment pronounced against this nation (verses 15-17). “Furious rebukes” (blazing anger) is another indication of the passion behind this condemnation. “Cherethims” (elsewhere called Cherethites) were Philistine mercenary soldiers who guarded King David. Here, Cherethims may merely be an alternative name for the Philistines. This could refer to their land of origin, which is thought to be Crete.
III. The condemnation of the nations
A. The condemnation of Ammon (25:1-7)
1. The first cause (25:1-3)
2. The first course (25:4-5)
3. The second cause (25:6)
4. The second course (25:7)
B. The condemnation of Moab (25:8-11)
1. The cause (25:8)
2. The course (25:9-11)
C. The condemnation of Edom (25:12-14)
1. The cause (25:12)
2. The course (25:13-14)
D. The condemnation of Philistia (25:15-17)
1. The cause (25:15)
2. The course (25:16-17)
We want to make every effort to be good and godly neighbors to those around us in order to influence them toward Christ.
1. Hesiod, and Hugh G. Evelyn-White. 1914. Works and Days. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
2. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (London: William Whiston, 1737), X.9.7