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Eze22:19 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.

20 As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.

21 Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof.

22 As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.

Has there ever been a time when Israel has been gathered to Jerusalem for the purpose mentioned above?

2 Answers 2

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Multiple times.

Hebrew writing frequently makes a "dual prophecy" - that is, the prophet states something that will have a temporal fulfilment and a spiritual fulfilment, or an application in his day and an application at one (or both) comings of the Messiah:

E.g.

Isaiah spoke in such a manner that his words find application and fulfillment in many different ages or events in world history. (see Ludlow Isaiah - Prophet, Seer, and Poet p. 54)

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Examples

The most obvious application of the prophecy would be the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC, which occurred just a few years after Ezekiel made this pronouncent. In this sense, Ezekiel is offering one of God's final warnings--the people have been wicked, and they will be purged & purified.

Second-temple Jews would have seen a clear application of this prophecy to their own day, when Jerusalem was again destroyed, this time by Titus, in AD 70. The city was literally burned, as was the temple, where numerous Jewish people had gathered in hopes of safety.

Consider that just a few verses prior (see v. 15) Ezekiel speaks of the people being scattered. There is a clear application to both of the historical events noted above. In both cases the people had fallen into wickedness, they were pushed together into their final, holiest place of defense, and they were overthrown (with violence & fire) and scattered among other nations.

Many see in Biblical passages on scattering & gathering an ongoing work of the Lord, in purifying His people and gathering them physically and/or spiritually to Jerusalem and the truths taught therein.

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Refining

Multiple times the Biblical writers spoke of God refining & purifying His people. The theme of scattering & gathering is common in the Old Testament, and especially in Isaiah. God promises to scatter & purge His people because of sin, and promises to gather them again. For example:

9 For my name’s sake will I defer mine banger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.

10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. (Isaiah 48:9-11)

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2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:

3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. (Malachi 3:2-4)

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Conclusion

In these promises (and other similar passages), the Lord is not merely wreaking vengeance upon the wicked, He is purifying His people so that they can be what they were meant to be. God sees a bigger picture than just the immediate consequences. The fire of affliction does not destroy the silver, it separates the silver from impurity.

Since the silver & the dross are going separate ways, people must decide which part of themselves to leave behind, the silver or the dross.

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  • "a clear application of this prophecy... when Jerusalem was again destroyed... the Lord is not merely wreaking vengeance upon the wicked, He is purifying His people so that they can be what they were meant to be" So, the means by which God purifies His people is by destroying all the wicked (the impure) so that only the righteous (the pure) remain, correct? This is an interesting concept I have not yet explored. +1 Great answer :)
    – Rajesh
    May 22 at 14:22
  • @Rajesh I do believe that the time will come (and has come in past eras) when wickedness reaches a point where God removes from the earth all those unwilling to live to a certain standard. But the trials preceding that time may well be what convinces some people to turn their lives around and let God refine them into silver. May 22 at 14:34
  • "the time will come... when wickedness reaches a point where God removes from the earth all those unwilling to live to a certain standard" I completely agree, but that doesn't answer my question. You said the destruction of Jerusalem was an example of God purifying His people. So, is the destruction of the wicked (the impure) the means by which God purifies His people, since all that will be left are the righteous (the pure)?
    – Rajesh
    May 22 at 15:31
  • @Rajesh I believe the removal of the wicked is one of the ways God purifies His people & the earth, but I wouldn't say it's the only way. E.g. see the parable of the wheat & the tares. He's able to grow up a righteous covenant people even while they are surrounded by wickedness. Gratefully, He knows & judges when a people is "fully ripe" in iniquity and when all appropriate chances for repentance have been granted. May 22 at 17:02
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Let me first provide an outline of the book of Ezekiel.

1. Eze 1:1-24:27 - Judgement Prophecies about Judah

  • Part A: 5th year, 4th month, 5th day: 1:1-7:27
  • Part B: 6th year, 6th month, 5th day: 8:1-19:14
  • Part C: 7th year, 5th month, 10th day: 20:1-23:49

2. Eze 25:1-32:32 - Judgement about Foreign Nations

  • Part A: (Date not specified but possibly a continuation of above): 25:1-28:26
  • Part B: 29:1-32:32 given on various dates

3. Eze 33:1-48:35 - Prophecies of Grace and Future Restoration of Judah

  • Part A: 12th year, 10th month, 5th day, 33:1-39:29
  • Part B: 25th year, beginning of the year, 10th day, 40:1-35

We observe that Ezekiel precisely dates all his utterances and prophecies and all except the last are before the final destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

Specifically, the prophecy of Eze 22 is dated to the 7th year, 5th month, 10th day (Eze 20:1). This means that if Ezekiel had been captured in the second of conquests of Jerusalem in 597 BC, this prophecy would be dated to the year 591/590 BC, that is, well before the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Thus, the prophecy in Eze 22 appears to be a simple prophecy about what would literally happen to Jerusalem in about five years from the giving of the prophecy. More specifically, in V17-30 God predicts the following

  • the residents are so sinful that they are compared to "dross" in the smelting of metal
  • God promises to remove the valuable metal (righteous people) and melt the dross (the wicked) with a "fiery blast" - the wicked would be melted in the city (V21, 22).

This prophecy was dramatically fulfilled in the two year siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar which ended in 586 BC. Most of the residents were killed, including Zedekiah's sons and a few were deported to Babylon. This is described in 2 Kings 25, 2 Chron 36:15-22, Jer 39, etc.

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