Ezekiel 24 – The Rusty Kettle…

Was reading in Ezekiel 24 this morning. After reading the chapter, I read though a commentary on the passage, (The Bible Knowledge Commentary), and something in the commentary caught my eye. Here is a quote from the commentary along with the passage that caught my eye.

.Ezekiel explained the parable through two similar statements (vv. 6-8, 9-14), each beginning with the words, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the city of bloodshed(vv. 6, 9). These statements spoke of the city’s blood-guiltiness (cf. 22:1-16). Ezekiel said Jerusalem was like a pot now encrusted, whose deposit will not go away! “Encrusted” and “deposit” are from the Hebrew word ḥel’âh and could be translated “rusted” and “rust.” In the fire of God’s judgment Jerusalem’s “impurities” floated to the surface. Her corruption could not be hidden. She was as unappealing as rusty scum floating on the surface of a meal being cooked. Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1274

 6 “ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘Woe to the city of bloodshed, to the pot now encrusted, whose deposit will not go away! Empty it piece by piece without casting lots for them. 7     “ ‘For the blood she shed is in her midst: She poured it on the bare rock; she did not pour it on the ground, where the dust would cover it. 8     To stir up wrath and take revenge I put her blood on the bare rock, so that it would not be covered. The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Eze 24:6-8 

There was one word that jumped out at me when I read that commentary and thought about about it’s significance…It was the word encrusted.

No offense intended to the authors of the commentary…but I wanted to look up the word for myself. Many Bible translations describe that word encrusted, as it was printed in the NIV, differently. Many English translations of that original Hebrew word ḥel’âh seem to favor the word scum over the word encrusted…I find that the Hebrew world view and intended purpose of this word ḥel’âh was somewhat more dramatic and would have weighed with greater significance on the original listeners to this message.

God could have used words like tame’ (to be or become unclean, Isa 64:6), . God could have used tsow’ah (filth, filthiness, excrement, like he did in Zech 3:3. but he didn’t. I believe God intentionally use the word ḥěl∙ʾā(h when he described the sin of the Isrealites in the passage because they would have understood that their sin was not something that they stumbled into suddenly or committed quickly. The sin of the Isrealites at this point in their history was a long slow build up of corrosion and pitted rust. Something similar to the greenish corrosion and incrustations that rendered ancient household pots useless when they were not cared for and maintained correctly.

Furthermore. In Ezekiel 11, false prophets tried to get people to forget about the coming Babalonian invation saying that Jerusalem was a safe “kettle.” God seemed to very carfully and creatively say that not only is Jerusalem and “unsafe kettle,”  but it is a “kettle” that has long been encrusted with scum, corrostion and rust. He basically goes on the say that the Isrealites are rotten meat in the pot, the scum in the pot is their fault , they will be dumped out and the pot itself, that is Jerusalem, will be burned and smelted to remove the filth. A strong and graphic message on the very day the Babylonian invation started.

It was also helpful  for me to find translations of the word ḥěl∙ʾā(h)  right out of the Hebrew dictionary…so thankful for translinear Bibles since I don’t read Hebrew.

2689 I. חֶלְאָה (ḥěl∙ʾā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 2457; TWOT 649a—LN 2.60 impure deposit, encrustation of greenish corrosion, i.e., copper rust, or some other impurity on a copper pot, implying it to be an unclean substance like filth (Eze 24:6(2×),11, 12(2×)+) n. noun, or nouns fem. feminine Str Strong’s Lexicon TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament LN Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon (2×) The word defined occurs twice in this verse + I have cited every reference in regard to this lexeme discussed under this definition. Swanson, James: Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). electronic ed. Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. DBLH 2689


2457 חֶלְאָה [chel’ah /khel·aw/] n f. From 2456; TWOT 649a; GK 2689; Five occurrences; AV translates as “scum” five times. 1 rust, scum. n n: noun f f: feminine TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament GK Goodrick-Kohlenberger AV Authorized Version Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario : Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996, S. H2457

I took the time to look up these definitions because I wanted to get a clear picture in my mind and, in my heart, I wanted to feel the gravity of the parable that God is communicating through Ezekiel. This passage is personally convicting to me. I am such a fool. Knowing how much God loves me. Knowing that through Christ, I am a treasured child of our most high God. Knowing God personally though Christ. Experiencing all that I have experienced in relationship to Him,  I still seem to allow my heart to accumulate the same sick green, rusty corrosions that the Isrealites had on their hearts so many years ago.

I ask God to help me  follow His ways more closely, and God teaches me His ways, but do I learn?  I pray for wisdom and He grants it…but do I receive it? I ask Him to lead me and He whispers direction, but do I follow? He is so patient with me… He aims to form my heart and to place love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control in it; to display His love, justice and wisdom to a world so in need of His touch.

 Help me dear God to not be so unappealing with my life as to let the scum and rust of my sin float in and through my heart. Yes I am a fool, Yet I will continue my hope in Christ…my only hope… Christ whose power can filter out all of this corrosion…Yet again…I yield to you my God. To be clear, I do.not yield to you with the hope that I might feel better or feel justified or blessed…I am already more blessed than I deserve. My  hope is that I would not be disqualified from being a blessing to others…To be a faithful & loving husband, a wise parent & father,  a good & faithful friend, a blessing to those around me and an intimate & obedient child to You.

Perhaps I am not alone in my conviction and in the prayers above. I trust I am not…AMEN.


2 thoughts on “Ezekiel 24 – The Rusty Kettle…

  1. Joel Lingenfelter


    Great thoughts! Taking the time to understand the full meaning of a word can often provide a level of clarity and illumination to scripture that is lost in translation. As I ponder this passage with you, I think encrusted is probably the best english translation because it implies something that happens over time. Scum can build up quickly and usually can be cleaned. Encrusted makes me think of shipwrecks, and items that will never be the same. We are impacted by our sin. The saving grace of Jesus can wipe it away, but the scarring remains.

    The other translation used is rust, but with modern metals we really don’t experience rust (except on cars) like people did then. Even with cars modern rustproofing and such has really changed how that term would impact the modern reader. Encrusted forces the reader to think of something different than their daily experience, and brings them closer to the meaning behind the original Hebrew than the other translations.


  2. George

    notice verse 12 that their corrosion had “frustrated every effort” of God to scrub it off. there was no recourse but to throw the pot in the fire and burn it off. this true of nations, churches, and individual Christians. sometimes we allow rust to form in our hearts. do we frustrate God’s efforts to scrub it off? if so, into the fire we go. i wonder if in some cases we are in that fire now.


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