The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Prophecy of Ezechiel
Chapter 20
And now it was the seventh year, the tenth day of the fifth month. Some of the Israelite leaders had come to visit me, asking what was the Lord’s will, and sat closeted with me.
And this message I had from the Lord:
Son of man, tell the leaders of Israel this from the Lord God: Would you come to ask my will? As I am a living God, the Lord says, you shall have no answer.
Arraign them, son of man, arraign them for their crimes; tell them what foul things their fathers did before them.
This shall be thy message to them from the Lord God: Long ago I made choice of Israel, plighted to Jacob my troth, when I made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore to be their own God,
swore that I would take them away to the home I had destined for them, a land all milk and honey, the best of lands.
Only, I told them, his darling idolatries each man must set aside; not for you to be contaminated with the false gods of Egypt; I, the Lord, am your God.
All was defiance and disobedience; idolatry still cherished, the worship of Egypt’s gods still unforsaken. I was minded to let my anger have its way, glut my vengeance on them, there in Egypt.
But no, I would be their champion, for my own honour’s sake; the heathen all around, that had witnessed my coming to deliver them, must not learn to hold my honour cheap.
So from Egypt I rescued them, and led them out into the desert.

There I gave them a law, made known to them the usages that bring life;
bade them share my sabbath rest, that should be a token between me and them, a token that they were divinely set apart.
What did Israel then? Defied my anger, disobeyed my law, life-giving commandments cast away, left my sabbath all unhonoured. Should I give vent to my anger, and make an end of them, there in the desert?
And let the heathen see my work of deliverance half accomplished? For my honour’s sake, I must not.
But I swore, out in the desert, that the promised land, all milk and honey, best of lands, should never be theirs.
My will defied, my law forsaken, my sabbath neglected, a heart set on idols, they should learn to rue;
had not my pity spared them, they should have died there and then, swallowed up in those wastes.
To their sons, the desert-born, warning I gave: Not for you your fathers’ example, your fathers’ traditions, the contamination of the false gods they worshipped.
I, the Lord, am your God; mine the laws you must follow, the usages you must cherish and obey;
my sabbath you must honour, in token that the Lord is the God you worship.
But they too, the sons, defied me; my laws forsook, my life-giving usages forgot, my sabbaths profaned. There in the desert I would have given vent to my anger, let my vengeance take its toll of them,
but still I held my hand; for my own honour, the heathen must see my work of deliverance accomplished.
But once more in the desert I bound myself by an oath … I would scatter them among all the nations, spread them over the face of earth,
men defiant of my will, contemptuous of my law, careless of my sabbath as ever, after the false gods of their fathers hankering still.
Laws they should have, but for their harm, usages that brought, not life, but death;
guilty, they should stain themselves with fresh guilt by the very offerings they made, when they consecrated their first-born to the fire; they must have proof of my power at last.

They blasphemed me (tell Israel from the Lord God), those fathers of yours, and did me great despite.
Scarce had I brought them into the promised land, when the sight of high mountain here, thick forest there, set them offering victims in honour of my rivals, burning incense, pouring libations!
Well might I ask them, Whither resort you? And hill-resorts they are called to this day.

Give the men of Israel, then, this message from the Lord God: Still the same ways your fathers went, still the same itch for things abominable?
To this day, when you would make offering, you pass your sons through the fire; guilt of idolatry stains you yet, and shall I make answer to you, men of Israel? As I am a living God, the Lord says, you shall have no answer from me!
Never think I will allow you to worship wood and stone like other races of men, your neighbours;
as I am a living God, the Lord says, I mean to reign over you, though it should need all the exercise of my constraining power, all the outpouring of my vengeance.
Rescued from many masters, summoned from many lands, you shall serve me perforce, my power constraining you, my vengeance threatening you.
I will lead you out into a desert world, and there plead my cause against you,
as I did with your fathers long ago, in the desert confines of Egypt.
I will force you under my sceptre, chain you to my covenant.
The rebels I will set apart, and though I summon them away from their banishment, they shall never return to the land of Israel; then you will know what manner of God you serve.
Come, then, says the Lord God, let each man have recourse to his own idol, and pay it due worship! If that counsel you will not follow, nor drag my name in the dust with foul rites and false gods …

On that holy mountain of mine, the Lord God says, that high mountain that looks down over Israel, all the race of Israel shall be my worshippers, favoured suitors in a favoured land; first-fruit and tithe, all your hallowings shall be awaited there.
Rescued from so many masters, summoned from so many lands, you shall be a fragrant offering; all my dealings with you the heathen shall acclaim,
and you yourselves shall recognize my power, restored to the land of Israel, the land I promised to your fathers.
False paths and foul misdoings you shall remember yet, and think with loathing of what you were;
my power you shall know, men of Israel, says the Lord God; and that I was your benefactor, not for your deserts, that erred and sinned, but for my own honour’s sake.

Word came to me from the Lord:
Look southward, son of man; pour out thy complaint towards the noon-day sun, and let the southern woodlands hear thee prophesy.
To the listening forest give this message from the Lord God: I mean to set thee alight, burn up green tree and dry; unquenchable, that flame shall scorch the faces of all beholders, northward and south alike;
plain enough it shall be for all the world to see that it was I, the Lord, set it ablaze, and there is no quenching it.

Alas for pity, Lord God, said I, they are complaining already that I speak to them only in parables!