Israel’s Rebellion, 1-44
20:1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month, some of the elders of Israel came to seek the LORD, and they sat down in front of me. 20:2 The word of the LORD came to me: 20:3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and tell them: ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: Are you coming to seek me? As surely as I live, I will not allow you to seek me, declares the sovereign LORD.’ 20:4 “Are you willing to pronounce judgment? Are you willing to pronounce judgment, son of man? Then confront them with the abominable practices of their fathers, 20:5 and say to them:
“ ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: On the day I chose Israel I swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore to them, “I am the LORD your God.” 20:6 On that day I swore to bring them out of the land of Egypt to a land which I had picked out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. 20:7 I said to them, “Each of you must get rid of the detestable idols you keep before you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” 20:8 But they rebelled against me, and refused to listen to me; no one got rid of their detestable idols, nor did they abandon the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 20:9 I acted for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations among whom they lived, before whom I revealed myself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt.
20:10 “ ‘So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them to the wilderness. 20:11 I gave them my statutes and revealed my regulations to them. The one who carries them out will live by them! 20:12 I also gave them my Sabbaths as a reminder of our relationship, so that they would know that I, the LORD, sanctify them. 20:13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not follow my statutes and they rejected my regulations (the one who obeys them will live by them), and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I decided to pour out my rage on them in the wilderness and destroy them. 20:14 I acted for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 20:15 I also swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them to the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. 20:16 I did this because they rejected my regulations, did not follow my statutes, and desecrated my Sabbaths; for their hearts followed their idols. 20:17 Yet I had pity on them and did not destroy them, so I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.
v11 ‘It is worth noting that, despite New Testament strictures on the spiritual value of the law as an instrument of salvation (e.g. John 1:17; Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19ff.), it is quite clearly regarded as a gracious gift of God through Moses to his people and it was ordained so that by the observance of it man shall live, i.e. ‘prosper’, both materially and spiritually (cf. Deut. 4:40; Josh. 1:7f.).’ (Taylor)
20:18 “ ‘But I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the practices of your fathers; do not observe their regulations, nor defile yourselves with their idols. 20:19 I am the LORD your God; follow my statutes, observe my regulations, and carry them out. 20:20 Treat my Sabbaths as holy and they will be a reminder of our relationship, and then you will know that I am the LORD your God.” 20:21 “ ‘But the children rebelled against me, did not follow my statutes, did not observe my regulations by carrying them out (the one who obeys them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I decided to pour out my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness. 20:22 But I refrained from doing so, and acted instead for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 20:23 I also swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the lands. 20:24 I did this because they did not observe my regulations, they rejected my statutes, they desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols. 20:25 I also gave them decrees which were not good and regulations by which they could not live. 20:26 I declared them to be defiled because of their sacrifices—they caused all their first born to pass through the fire—so that I would devastate them, so that they will know that I am the LORD.’
“I gave them decrees which were not good and regulations by which they could not live” – The thought here is similar to that of Rom 1:24, 28f, where Paul says that God ‘gave them over’, or ‘gave them up’ to ungodly practices.
Taylor (TOTC) regards v25f as presenting ‘an acute problem of interpretation’. He suggests that the form of child-sacrifice described here is ‘so strongly and frequently condemned in the Old Testament that it may well have happened far more than the occasional times it is mentioned (e.g. 2 Kgs 21:6; 2 Chr. 28:3; cf. 2 Kgs 17:17; 23:10, 13; Jer. 7:31; 32:35).’ Child-sacrifice would never be condoned by God. The ordinance that is being referred here (he suggests) might be ‘the offering of the first-born with its insistence that everything that opens the womb belongs to the Lord. This is modified by the law of redemption whereby a substitute or a ransom-price can be provided for first-born children (Exod. 22:29; Num. 18:15ff.).’ The continuation of child-sacrifice would then be due to a misinterpretation of this law.