"In All Your Dwelling Places the Cities Shall Be Laid Waste"
At this point we have the first instance of God temporarily removing Ezekiel's muteness during the mock siege representing punishment on Israel and Judah. That it was still ongoing here is clear from the fact that Ezekiel 8:1 is dated to 13 months past the siege beginning (so the 430 days are still not over even then). The prophecy of chapter 6 is given during the 390 days symbolizing the punishment on the northern tribes of Israel. That's fitting, for the prophet is now to set his face "towards the mountains of Israel" (verses 2-3) and speak against them.
In ancient times, the literal mountains of Israel would have been the hills of Samaria, to the north of Jerusalem. Yet the Israelites were no longer settled there. They had been carried captive by the Assyrians around 130 years before Ezekiel's prophetic ministry began. And they weren't at this time anywhere close to Ezekiel. Rather, the Israelites were hundreds of miles to the northwest and northeast of him. It is therefore evident that they wouldn't have gotten his message—not then anyway. And there was no need for them to. There was no imminent threat to the existence of the kingdom of Israel at that time, as it had already been destroyed long before. And the scattered peoples of the northern tribes were not in mortal danger either. Ancient Judah's destruction was certainly imminent, but why would that have been a danger to the northern tribes?
Some try to solve this problem by arguing that "mountains of Israel" and "house of Israel" in this chapter refer exclusively to Judah. But the whole context of the mock siege is that it is to represent a punishment on the house of Israel and the house of Judah—clearly delineating between the two (Ezekiel 4:4-6). Putting all of this together, it should be clear that Ezekiel 6 is a prophecy of the future destruction of the northern tribes of Israel in the end time. (In fact, all of chapters 3-7 can be similarly understood, realizing there is probably a measure of multiple fulfillments, involving the ancient destruction of Jerusalem and some historical periods of oppression endured by the Jews and Israelites.)
Figuratively, mountains are many times used in prophecy to symbolize nations. And it is indeed likely that the prophecy is directed to the numerous nations that now make up modern Israel—chief among them being those descended from Joseph—principally Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Of course, other features of the land are also addressed by the prophecy. Verse 3 mentions mountains, hills, ravines and valleys. Some maintain that these are simply cited as locations for pagan worship, as idolatrous shrines were everywhere throughout ancient Israel. That could well be, as these are all told that their places of worship will be destroyed. Recall that God had instructed the Israelites to destroy all the places where the pagans worshiped their idols: "upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree" (Deuteronomy 12:2; compare Ezekiel 6:13). The lower valleys were where the streams ran and the green trees were located.
However, these natural features are also told that their cities will be destroyed, which makes little sense for a ravine. Considering that mountains symbolize nations, the other features could be symbolic as well. Hills might mean smaller nations (compare Isaiah 2:2). Ravines and valleys in this usage could perhaps signify Israelite populations in countries where they are not the majority and not in power (such as the English colonial descendants in Zimbabwe and South Africa). They too will suffer God's coming judgment.
Idolatry is the chief sin listed. The Hebrew word the book of Ezekiel uses most often for "idol," as in 6:4, is gillul, a term derived from gel, meaning "dung pellets," showing how detestable and disgusting they are to God (the same word was used in Jeremiah 50:2, as noted in the Beyond Today Bible Commentary). In an end-time context, there is no question that idolatry remains Israel's biggest sin—whether actual false worship, which is rampant throughout the nations of modern Israel, or the spirit of idolatry, exalting other pursuits or concerns above the true God. Even green trees are still significant as part of modern Christmas customs.
Ezekiel 6:6 tells us, "In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste." Consider the destruction that befell Judah under Nebuchadnezzar: "Conditions in Judah must have been severe, for many Judean cities suffered during the Babylonian invasions. Arad, Lachish, Ramat Rahel, En-gedi, Timnah, Ekron, and Jerusalem are among the excavated sites showing evidence of destruction at this time. Only the region north of Jerusalem appears to have escaped relatively unscathed" (Holman Bible Atlas, 1998, p. 159). This utterly pales in comparison to what Ezekiel 6:6, an end-time prophecy, is actually saying.
What we are apparently being told here is that New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, London, Glasgow, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland will be "laid waste"—obliterated. Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, Oslo and Copenhagen may be wiped out as well. Perhaps we can now see how there could be such a huge death toll as that described in chapter 5. This appears to require the work of nuclear weapons or some other new superweapons—perhaps in conjunction with a bombardment of large meteors, earthquakes and other cataclysmic natural disasters from God (compare Leviticus 26:31-32; Deuteronomy 28:24). The prophesied destruction is utterly horrific and unimaginable. But, barring unexpected national repentance, it is going to happen—because of Israel's sins. The rest of Ezekiel 6:6 tells us that this will serve to rid the land of its places of idolatrous worship (again, compare Leviticus 26:31).
We then see that people will come to realize that they have not been following the true God, as they will finally come to recognize Him for who He is (verses 7, 10, 13, 14). This will be the starting point for those who are left. Led away and scattered, many will finally come to loathe themselves because of their sins (verse 9)—the first steps on the road to repentance. He tells them to pound their fists and stamp their feet in a demonstration of grief and mourning while they lamented their national abominations (verse 11). If they had felt this way ahead of time, they would have been protected, as we later see in Ezekiel 9:4-6.
Through the proliferation of copies of the Bible, the modern nations of Israel now have ready access to this warning message Ezekiel proclaimed. Yet the vast majority of them still have no idea that they are the intended recipients of the message. We should all pray that the Israelite identity of the nations of Northwest European heritage becomes much more widely known as we approach the cataclysmic events that will shake the world at the end of this age.