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Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever. (Ezekiel 43:9 ESV)

In whose midst is God going to be dwelling forever?

  • I've edited this to focus is on the text in its original context. It's applications to modern religious followers is off topic here. You can as about those matters at Christianity. – Dan Oct 5 '16 at 13:12
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Based on various parallel verses throughout Ezekiel, it seems very clear that 'in whose midst' refers to Israel or Judah (pp. 16:60, 37:26, 43:7,9 as below). The word you're choosing to translate 'forever' is one to take carefully, however. Let's consider the wider context of the book.


Olam's usage in Ezekiel

The word 'olam' (עולם) occurs 15 times in Ezekiel, and can be likened to 'eternal/everlasting/ancient' etc. All usages below:

Yahweh's everlasting [olam] covenant or dwelling with Judah or Israel: 16:60, 37:26, 43:7,9

An everlasting [olam] enmity which destroys Philistia: 25:15

Ancient [olam] people go down to judgement like the ancient [olam] waste places: 26:20

Everlasting [olam] destruction of Tyre and its king: 26:21, 27:36, 28:19

An ancient/unending [olam] hostility by Edom: 35:5, 9

Israel's possession of the ancient [olam] heights/mountains: 36:2

Everlasting [olam] possession of the land for Israel's descendants, David to be their prince forever [olam]: 37:25

Yahweh to set up his sanctuary in Israel's midst forever [olam]: 37:26,28

An everlasting [olam] ordinance of grain offerings: 46:14


Olam: Forever, or the fullness of an age?

We can see that obviously we're best trying to capture the breadth of meaning this word has, rather than replacing it with the English term 'forever'. The Septuagint translates the word as aiōnios, from where we get the term 'eon', which is an extremely long period but not 'forever'. Consider Matthew 28:20 as a great example, where a commission is given 'to the end of the aiōnos', which we typically render as 'to the end of the age'. This is fairly close to most usages we find in the OT too - some verses do seem to sound like 'forever', but others are more clearly about the fullness of an age past or present or future.

Thus in answer to your question, it's Israel primarily in scope here, but the 'forever' part is not straightforward. As with any other part of the scriptures, we need to weigh that against the rest of the material we have, and discourage 'prooftexting', especially where one or more words in a verse are ambiguous.


Related questions:

Does the Hebrew word 'olam' mean 'forever' in Leviticus?

How do you know when to understand the Hebrew word 'olam' as eternal?

  • Thank you so much for your answer Steve. I don't know if this is bad etiquette here on SE, but I wanted to ask a follow up question. Should I pose it as a new post? – Lin Wang Oct 21 '16 at 21:27
  • Hi Luke, glad you found this helpful! You're spot on - just start your new question, and you can refer back to this one in it if that helps put it in context. – Steve Taylor Oct 22 '16 at 10:56
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Ezekiel 43:9 relies upon the reference to the "sons of Israel" in Ezekiel 43:7, as shown below.
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Not all the "sons of Israel", however, will experience the full blessing of the presence of Yahweh in their midst, but only those the prophet states in Ezekiel 43:11, who "are ashamed of all they have done".

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