1 On the tenth day of the fifth month of the seventh year, some of the elders of Israel came to ask advice from the Lord, and they sat down with me.
2 Then a message from the Lord came to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, tell these elders of Israel that this is what the Lord God says: Have you come to ask my advice? As I live, I'm not going to answer you, declares the Lord God.
4 Are you going to condemn them—will you do that, son of man? Remind them about the disgusting things their forefathers did, 5 and then tell them that this is what the Lord God says: At the time I chose Israel, I held up my hand and made a solemn promise to Jacob's descendants and revealed myself to them when they were in Egypt. I held up my hand and told them, ‘I am the Lord your God.’
6 I promised them on that day to lead them out of Egypt and take them to a country that I had chosen for them, a land flowing with milk and honey—better than any other country. 7 I told them: ‘All of you have to get rid of your disgusting pagan images. Don't make yourselves unclean by worshiping the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’
8 But they rebelled against me and wouldn't do what I told them. None of them got rid of their disgusting pagan images, and they didn't give up worshiping the idols of Egypt. So I warned them that I would punish them in my anger there in Egypt. 9 But I did act* “Act”: by leading the Israelites out of Egypt. so I would not be misrepresented, so that I wouldn't lose respect in the eyes of the other nations living near them who had seen me reveal myself to Israel by leading them out of Egypt.
10 So I led them out of Egypt and took them into the wilderness. 11 There I gave them my laws and explained to them my regulations so that those who kept them would live. 12 I also gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, so that they would acknowledge that I am the Lord who makes them holy.
13 But the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert, refusing to observe my laws and rejecting my regulations, even though they would have given them life. They violated my Sabbaths. So I warned them that I would punish them and wipe them out there in the desert. 14 But I still acted for them so I would not be misrepresented, so that I wouldn't lose respect in the eyes of the other nations who had seen me lead Israel out of Egypt.
15 So I held up my hand and vowed to them in the desert that I wouldn't take them into the land that I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey—better than any other country— 16 because they repeatedly rejected my regulations, refused to observe my laws, and violated my Sabbaths, and because they chose to continue worshiping idols. 17 Even so I was sorry for them and I didn't destroy them; I didn't wipe them out in the desert.
18 I told their children in the desert: ‘Don't do what your fathers told you to do. Don't follow their practices. Don't make yourselves unclean by worshiping their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God. Do what I tell you to do. Follow my regulations and make sure to practice them. 20 Keep my Sabbaths holy so they may be a sign between me and you, so that you may acknowledge that I am the Lord your God.’
21 But their children also rebelled against me. They didn't follow my laws and didn't keep my regulations, even though they would have given them life. They violated my Sabbaths. So I warned them that I would punish them in my anger there in the desert. 22 But I held back and did what I did so I would not be misrepresented, so that I wouldn't lose respect in the eyes of the other nations who had seen me lead Israel out of Egypt.
23 However, I held up my hand and vowed to them in the desert that I was going to scatter them among the various countries of different nations. 24 For they didn't keep my regulations, instead they rejected my laws and violated my Sabbaths, always looking to worship their fathers' idols.
25 I also let them follow the regulations they wanted that weren't good; laws that wouldn't help them live. 26 I let them make themselves unclean by their offerings to idols, including their firstborn sons. I allowed this to happen so that they would be so appalled that they would acknowledge that I am the Lord.
27 So, son of man, tell the people of Israel that this is what the Lord God says: You're acting in exactly the same way your forefathers insulted me by being unfaithful to me. 28 After I led them into the land that I had promised to give them, on any high hill or under any leafy tree they saw there they offered their pagan sacrifices and presented offerings to idols that made me angry, burning their sweet-smelling incense and pouring out their drink offerings. 29 So I asked them: ‘What's this high place you're going to?’ (Even today it's still called Bamah.)† “Bamah” means high place, a pagan shrine on a hill or mountain.
30 Therefore tell the people of Israel that this is what the Lord God says: Are you going to make yourselves unclean like your forefathers, turning yourselves into prostitutes, acting the way they did with the same disgusting practices? 31 When you present your offerings to idols and sacrifice your children in the fire, you continue to make yourselves unclean with all your idols right up until now. So should I give you advice when you ask me, people of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I'm not going to answer you!
32 When you say to yourselves, ‘Let's be like the other nations, like people in other countries who worship idols made of wood and stone,’ what you're thinking is never going to happen.
33 As I live, declares the Lord God, I will rule you with all my strength and power, and in my anger. 34 With all my strength and power, and in my anger, I will lead you out from among the nations and gather you from the countries where you were scattered. 35 I will bring you before me for judgment face to face in the desert of the nations.
36 In the same way I judged your forefathers in the Egyptian desert after I'd led them out of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Lord God. 37 I will decide about you as you pass under the rod‡ “Pass under the rod”: the method by which shepherds counted and divided their flocks. and see if you kept our solemn agreement. 38 I will get rid of those of you who rebel against me, those who sin against me. I will lead them out of the country where they're currently living, but they won't enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
39 This is what the Lord God says to you, you people of Israel: All of you, go ahead and worship your idols. But after that if you don't listen to me you won't continue to disgrace me with your pagan offerings and idols.
40 For there on my holy mountain, Israel's high mountain, declares the Lord God, every single person in the whole country of Israel will worship me. That's where I'll accept them and will ask for your offerings and your best gifts, together with all your holy sacrifices.
41 When I bring you back from the nations and gather you from countries where you were scattered, I will accept you as a suitable offering to me. I will reveal my holiness through you so the nations can see. 42 Then you will acknowledge that I am the Lord when I bring you back to the country of Israel, the land that I promised to give your forefathers.
43 That's where you will remember your bad ways and everything you've done to make yourselves unclean, and you will hate yourselves for the evil things you did. 44 Then you people of Israel will acknowledge that I am the Lord, because I have treated you well because of who I am, and not because of your evil ways and terrible things you've done, declares the Lord God.”
45 Another message from the Lord came to me, saying, 46 “Son of man, face towards the south and preach against it. Prophesy against the forest of the Negev. 47 Tell the forest of the Negev: Listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Lord God says: I am going to set you on fire, and it will burn up all your trees, both those that are living and those that are dead. The blaze won't be put out, and everything from the north to the south will be burned. 48 Then everyone will recognize that it was me, the Lord, who started the fire, and it won't be put out.”
49 But then I said, “Oh no, Lord God! People already say, ‘He's just telling stories!’ ”
*20:9 “Act”: by leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
†20:29 “Bamah” means high place, a pagan shrine on a hill or mountain.
‡20:37 “Pass under the rod”: the method by which shepherds counted and divided their flocks.