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Ezekiel lived to see the overthrow of Jerusalem and attributed it to God’s judgment for the long-standing wickedness of the city. We read in Ezekiel 7:8, 9,
8 Now I will shortly pour out My wrath on you and spend My anger against you; judge you according to your ways and bring on you all your abominations. 9 My eye will show no pity nor will I spare. I will repay you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst; then you will know that I, the Lord, do the smiting.
The KJV reads, “and ye shall know that I am the Lord that smiteth” (Jehovah-Nakaw). The word is also translated “strike” and “beat.” So we read in Deut. 25:2,
2 then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten [nakaw], the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten [nakaw] in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt.
This is the God that brings judgment according to the principle of equal justice. Hence, He judged Jerusalem according to its own ways and actions by the law of equal weights and measures (Lev. 19:35, 36). This law is also expressed in Exodus 21:23-25,
23 But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
The mercy of God postponed judgment upon Jerusalem for centuries. In times of repentance, God refrained from judging the land and the city. God refrains from judgment until the people reach a point when it is clear that they will not obey His voice as they vowed in Exodus 19:8, “All the Lord has spoken, we will do!”
Divine justice decrees a measure of justice that is equal to the crime (sin). Those who are being judged, of course, nearly always disagree, thinking that God is unjust for not allowing them the right to sin. That is to be expected of lawless people, who interpret God’s patience as indulgence.
The Israelites had fallen into the same wicked practices as the Canaanites before them. God’s equal justice is seen in Lev. 18:24-28,
24 Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 26 But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns with you 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you.
We see how the Canaanites were expelled from the land on account of these abominations. Thus, God warned the Israelites that the land would expel them as well, if they followed the example of their predecessors. He is a God of equal justice. The main difference is that the Israelites had received greater revelation of God’s law, and so they were more accountable, because “from everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
One may argue that the Israelites were given greater grace than the Canaanites were given. Yet the Canaanites were given 848 years of grace. The curse of Noah upon Canaan in Gen. 9:25 was followed by 2 cycles of 414 years (“Cursed Time”). When God’s grace ended, He told Joshua to cross the Jordan and expel the Canaanites from the land.
The Israelites spent just 821 years in the land, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. at the hands of Jehovah-Nakaw.
Just as God raised up the Israelites to judge Canaan; God also raised up the Babylonians to judge the House of Judah (Jer. 27:6). In both cases, however, God spared a remnant, in order that His word might be fulfilled in them.
In the case of Canaan, we read in Gen. 9:26,
26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.”
The Canaanites were destined to be the servant of “the Lord, the God of Shem.” When Shem built Jerusalem, he was known by the title Melchizedek, King of Righteousness. According to the book of Jasher, Melchizedek was also called Adonizedek, “Lord of Righteousness.” The Canaanites were to submit to his rule, for he held the birthright and the Dominion Mandate—or what the Chinese call The Mandate of Heaven. To serve Shem was to serve the God of Shem.
Unfortunately, Shem’s successors, who assumed the title of Adonizedek (Joshua 10:1), were ungodly and thus came under divine judgment. But by this time, Shem had designated that the birthright would go to Abraham. The Canaanites should have served Joshua, who was the heir of the birthright, but they chose to fight against him.
Nonetheless, a remnant of the Canaanites known as the Gibeonites, fulfilled Noah’s prophecy and served the God of Shem. Joshua 9:27 says,
27 But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place which He would choose.
A few centuries later, we see how the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant for 7 months (1 Sam. 6:1). When it was returned, the Ark spent 20 years in Kiriath-jearim (1 Sam. 7:2). Kiriaith-jearim was one of four cities that made a covenant of peace with Joshua (Joshua 9:17). These were located within the territory of the tribe of Judah (Judges 18:12). God honored these Canaanites with the presence of the Ark for 20 years as they served the Lord God of Shem.
In fact, God brought judgment upon the house of Saul for persecuting the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:1).
We also find “Ishmaiah the Gibeonite” among David’s mighty men (1 Chron. 12:4). In fact, David’s Royal Guard was a company of 600 Philistines from Gath known as Gittites (2 Sam. 15:18). No doubt these were Philistines who came to believe in the God of Shem as well, along with their families. The Philistines were immigrants from Crete who, after a failed war against Egypt, had settled in what is today known as the Gaza Strip. The land of Philistia is now called Palestine.
The point is that the Gibeonites, along with three other nearby towns, became part of the House of Judah and served the God of Shem. This was how they fulfilled the “curse” of Noah. Even God’s curses are, ultimately, a blessing.
Most believers are familiar with the remnant in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 19:18), because Paul expounded on its significance in Rom. 11:1-7. But Isaiah was the prophet who received the greatest revelation of the remnant.
When Judah was smitten by Jehovah-Nakaw, God again spared His remnant. One of Isaiah’s sons was named Shear-jashub, “The Remnant Shall Return” (Isaiah 7:3). He was named prophetically to show that even though God was smiting the nation, there was a remnant that would fulfill the promises of God. This was Paul’s interpretation in Rom. 11:7.
God used Assyria as the rod of His anger (Isaiah 10:5) to strike Israel, as it is written in the law in Deut. 25:1-3. So the prophet writes in Isaiah 10:20-22,
20 Now in that day the remnant of Israel and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck [nakaw] them but will rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return…
Later, God says, “do not fear the Assyrian who strikes [nakaw] you with the rod” (Isaiah 10:24). The Assyrians do the striking, but Jehovah-Nakaw takes the credit for it. Those who simply blame the Assyrians for striking Israel or blame the Babylonians for striking Judah need a greater understanding of the sovereignty of God, and they also need a revelation of Jehovah-Nakaw.
The law in Deut. 25:1-3 limits any beating to 40 lashes so that “your brother is not degraded in your eyes.” The number 40 is the biblical number of trial or probation. In a national application of this law, Israel was sentenced to 40 years in the wilderness in Num. 14:34. So also, God’s judgment upon Israel was to be limited. Israel was told not to fear the Assyrian “rod” because, as Isaiah 10:25 says,
25 For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent and My anger will be directed to their [the Assyrian’s] destruction.
God’s judgments are always limited, because Jehovah-Nakaw is a God of mercy and grace as well as judgment. This is guaranteed in the law of Jubilee, where all debts are cancelled after a maximum of 50 years. It is also why the so-called “eternal judgment” must be interpreted correctly. The Hebrew word olam means “hidden, unknown, indefinite,” rather than “everlasting” or “eternal.”
Likewise, its Greek equivalent, aionian, must also be interpreted by the meaning of olam. It ought to be rendered as “an age” or “age-abiding,” rather than eternal. Divine judgments do not last forever, for God judges sin in direct proportion to the offence. That is why the Israelites were not sentenced to eternal punishment but for only 40 years. It was directly proportional to the 40 days that the spies had spied out the land.
This, then, is the nature of Jehovah-Nakaw, the God of Smitings or Beatings.