Ezekiel 20:35: Wilderness of the People Insights

Ezekiel 20:35

Ezekiel 20:33-38 speaks of the Lord bringing the people of Israel to the “wilderness of the people”. Ezekiel 20:35-38 suggests that the Lord’s people will endure a wilderness experience like the Israelites endured after they left the land of Egypt. Verse 20:38 notes that the rebels and the transgressors will not be allowed to enter the land of Israel:

“(33) As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: (34) And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. (35) And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. (36) Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. (37) And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: (38) And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 20:33-38)

In this article, I will provide insight about the location of the wilderness of the people.

Ezekiel 20:35-36: Not Only in Egypt

I believe Ezekiel 20:35-36 is important to consider when trying to find where the wilderness of the people may or may not be located. Ezekiel 20:35-36 compares the experience that the people of Israel will endure during the end times with the experience their ancestors faced in the wilderness of the land of Egypt:

“(35) And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. (36) Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 20:35-36)

The distinction between “wilderness of the people” in Ezekiel 20:35 and “wilderness of the land of Egypt” in Ezekiel 20:36 suggests that the “wilderness of the people” does not encompass the wilderness of Egypt exclusively (if Ezekiel 20:35 tried to convey the thought that “the wilderness of Egypt” is the only location where the Lord will plead with people face to face it should say “wilderness of Egypt” like in verse 20:36).

The Nations & the Wilderness of the People

A comparison between Jeremiah 31:2, Ezekiel 20:35, Amos 9:9-10 indicates that the “wilderness of the people” encompasses the nations. Jeremiah 31:2 references the remnant of Israel and the wilderness. The verse mentions that the remnant of Israel “found grace in the wilderness” and are survivors of “the sword”:

“(1) At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. (2) Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. (Jeremiah 31:1-2)”

The detail that those who will find grace in the wilderness are survivors of sword implies that a purge may take place in the wilderness. The idea of a wilderness purge harkens back to Ezekiel 20:35-38, which says that the Lord will purge the rebels and transgressors in “the wilderness of the people”:

“(35) And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. (36) Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. […] (38) And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 20:35-36, 38)

This leads to Amos 9:9-10. Amos 9:9-10 references the end time purge of the house of Israel by comparing the purge to the sifting of grain:

“(9) For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. (10) All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.” (Amos 9:9-10)

Amos 9:10 says that “all the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us” while Amos 9:9 says that “yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth” (or in other words, there will be a remnant of the house of Israel which will remain after the sift/purge). Taken together, Amos 9:9-10 implies there will be a remnant of the house of Israel that will not die by the sword. This is reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:2 where it says that there will be a remnant that will have survived the sword.

The parallel between Amos 9:9-10 and Jeremiah 31:2 suggest the verses are talking about a similar (if not, the same development) and is important because it potentially can help us better understand where the wilderness of Jeremiah 31:2 or even the wilderness of the people of Ezekiel 20:35 may be located. Amos 9.9 suggests that the end time purge of the house of Israel shall take place “among all the nations”:

“For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” (Amos 9:9)

This leads to the conclusion that the wilderness of Jeremiah 31:2 and the wilderness of the people of Ezekiel 20:35 are located among the nations of the earth. Here are Ezekiel 20:35-38, Jeremiah 31:2, and Amos 9:9-10, and the similarities between the passages are highlighted:

“(35) And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. (36) Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. (37) And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: (38) And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 20:35-38)

“(1) At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. (2) Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. (Jeremiah 31:1-2)”

“(9) For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. (10) All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.” (Amos 9:9-10)

I believe the “wilderness of the people” is a term that encompasses the locations outside of the land of Israel (the nations of the earth) where the people of Israel will endure a wilderness experience that is akin to the wilderness experience their ancestors experienced following the Exodus. I will discuss the “wilderness” of Jeremiah 31:2 in more detail shortly.

Wilderness Locations

Egypt and Assyria are two of many locations that I believe are part of the “wilderness of the people”. Several Bible prophecy passage mention Egypt and Assyria as places where the Lord’s people will be called back from, including the passages below. Isaiah 11:11 mentions that those who will be recovered from the nations are a “remnant”. This implies that a purge will occur in the places where the Lord’s people will be recovered from and those who are brought back are survivors of the purge. Similarly, Isaiah 27:13 notes that those are brought back from Assyria “were ready to perish”:

“(11) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea…(16) And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.” (Isaiah 11:11, 16)

“(12) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. (13) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:12-13)

“(10) I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them. (11) And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.” (Zechariah 10:10-11)

“(10) They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west. (11) They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.” (Hosea 11:10-11)

Another major location that the Bible mentions is Babylon. I place the fulfillment of this particular section of Jeremiah 50 during the latter portion of the end times because verse 5 mentions that the Lord’s people will seek to make a perpetual covenant with the Lord:

“(4) In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. (5) They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. (6) My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. (7) All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers. (8) Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.” (Jeremiah 50:4-8)

I believe the wilderness of the people will encompass many locations around the world since the people of Israel will be scattered worldwide. Isaiah 11:11-12 provides a sense of how widespread people will be scattered before they are recovered:

(11) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. (12) And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:11-12)

Regardless of how widespread the wilderness of the people may be (or may not be), the central idea is that the “wilderness of the people” encompasses locations outside of the land of Israel, such as Assyria and Egypt, where the people of Israel will endure a wilderness experience that is akin to the wilderness experience their ancestors experienced following the Exodus.

Wilderness of the People vs. The Wilderness

It is important to recognize that the term “wilderness of the people” only appears in Ezekiel 20:35. The term “wilderness” appears in several places like Revelation 12:6, Revelation 12:14-16, Hosea 2:14-15, and Jeremiah 31:2:

“(6) And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. […] (14) And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. (15) And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. (16) And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.” (Revelation 12:6, 14-16)

“(1) At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. (2) Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.” (Jeremiah 31:1-2)

“(14) Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. (15) And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:14-15)”

I think instances like these refer to a specific area of the Middle East or a part/sub-region of “the wilderness of the people” where people will seek refuge.

Although a part of the “wilderness of the people”, I believe the “wilderness” in these verses refer to specific areas of the Middle East where people will seek refuge. I believe Edom, Moab, and Ammon (which are in modern day Jordan) are the primary locations which will comprise the wilderness area because Daniel 11:41 suggests that each of these locations will escape an attack by the Antichrist:

“He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” (Daniel 11:41)

Although I refer to Edom, Moab, and Ammon as the primary locations that comprise the wilderness area, it does not mean that people won’t seek refuge in other nearby locations as wilderness is prevalent in that part of the Mideast.

If you would like to learn about the gathering of the people of Israel from the nations after their time in the wilderness of the people, click this link for my article on the gathering of the people of Israel: The Lord Sets His Hand Again: Thoughts on Isaiah 11:11-12

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