Thursday of week 19 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Ezekiel 12:1-12

The mime of the emigrant

Ezekiel is instructed by God to go through an elaborate mime as a message to his people to warn them of the coming deportation of the people of Jerusalem into exile in Babylon.

The people are described by God as rebels, as people who have eyes but do not see, have ears but do not hear, because they do not want to. Jesus will use similar terms in speaking of the people who refused to listen to him. He will quote from Isaiah, who received these instructions from Yahweh when he was being called as a prophet:

Go and say this to the people:
Listen carefully but you will not understand!
Look intently, but you shall know nothing!
You are to make the heart of this people sluggish,
to dull their ears and close their eyes;
else their eyes will see, their ears hear,
their heart understand,
and they will turn and be healed.

(Isaiah 6:9-10; cf. Matt 13:14-15)

Ezekiel is told to pack up all his things like a person leaving home and going off into distant exile. Maybe when the people see him doing this its meaning will begin to dawn on them and they will realise that it is pointing to their rebellious behaviour.

The packing is to done by day in the sight of all but then he is to slip out in the evening but in such a way that he is seen as leaving covertly. He is to leave in darkness, through a hole in the mud wall of his house. His face is to be covered so that he cannot see the countryside which he is entering. All this is to make Ezekiel, the Lord’s prophet, a symbol or sign for what is going to happen to Israel.

Ezekiel did everything just as the Lord had commanded in full sight of the people. (We need to remember that he was a prophet and people would wonder about the significance of his rather strange actions.)

The following morning God again spoke to Ezekiel. When the people ask the prophet what is the meaning of what he is doing, they are to be told that the oracle (the mime is understood as having a message from God) is directed against the people of Jerusalem and the whole of Israel everywhere.

The meaning of Ezekiel’s mime is then clearly spelt out. The people will go into exile and banishment and King Zedekiah (“their ruler”) will carry his own belongings and go through a hole in the city wall; his face will be covered so that he will not be able to see the country.

In fact, Nebuchadnezzar will come and destroy Jerusalem and the people will be brought off into exile to Babylon. During the siege of the city, King Zedekiah and his army will try to escape through a breach in the city walls. But he was captured by the Babylonians and brought to Riblah. There his two sons were killed in his presence and then his eyes were put out before he was brought off to Babylon (see 2 Kings 25). The king’s blindness is a symbol of the blindness of the whole people.

In the Gospel Jesus frequently is seen healing the blind (those who cannot see) and the deaf (those who cannot hear) and the mute (those who cannot speak). These are afflictions all of us can suffer from and prevent us from knowing and carrying out what God wants in our lives.

Let us ask today for healing and docility to God’s will for us. “Lord, that I may see!”

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