A Dish Upside Down

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Word pictures used by the prophets of the Old Testament are certainly interesting and instructive. What a blessing it is to read their words and see the pictures those words form in the mind!

In 2 Kings 21.10-13 we learn that some unnamed prophets were called upon to deliver a message to one of the most wicked of all of the kings of Judah, King Manasseh. For fifty-five years this ungodly man did his damage from his lofty throne, but there came a time for judgment eventually. The longsuffering of the Lord came to an end with him. The prophets were especially generous with the word pictures for Manasseh, using four of them together. Perhaps they felt a particular challenge in penetrating his seriously polluted mind.

  1. 2 Kings 21.12 speaks of TINGLING EARS.
  2. 2 Kings 21.13 speaks of THE LINE OF SAMARIA.
  3. 2 Kings 21.13 also speaks of THE PLUMMET OF THE HOUSE OF AHAB.
  4. 2 Kings 21.13 then speaks of WIPING A DISH AND TURNING IT UPSIDE DOWN.

The “tingling ears” would seem to emphasize that this judgment that is about to come upon Judah would be so severe it was unlike anything anyone ever heard of before (cf., 1 Samuel 3.11; Jeremiah 19.3). The “line of Samaria” must have reference to the old plumbline concept of measuring the straightness of a wall, or figuratively of the wickedness of a nation, as was true of the Northern Kingdom headquartered in Samaria. The “plummet of the House of Ahab,” also measured that most wicked of kings of the northern ten tribes.

There are a couple of possibilities for the figure of wiping the dish and turning it upside down. In the English translation of the Vulgate for this verse (2 Kings 21.13), the text has it: “I will blot out Jerusalem as tablets are wont to be blotted out.” The stylus used by ancient scribes to write on the board of wax had two ends: (1) one sharp point for writing; (2) one blunt one for smoothing away the words in the wax (erasing or blotting out).

Adam Clarke points out that the idea of emptying the dish, wiping it out, and turning it upside down expresses the same idea. There would be such a judgment upon Jerusalem and her people that there would simply be nothing left. This figure perhaps also signifies the period of the restoration which followed the seventy years of Babylonian Captivity. Russell Dilday writes, in The Preacher’s Commentary: “This could indicate that, once cleansed by His judgment, Jerusalem would be ready for His use again. Or the symbol may mean that God was turning the dish upside down to show that not a drop remained in it, indicating that Jerusalem would be completely depopulated.”

One of the most prominent sermon topics used by the apostles and prophets of the first century was Judgment Day. Paul reasoned with Governor Felix along those lines (Acts 24.25). In 21st Century America, there is a great need to consider Judgment Day. Paul warns the church at Thessalonica—2 Thessalonians 1.7-9… And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. The basis of the judgment will be the word of Christ (John 12.48). Let us be sure that we hear the warning Paul gives and make the adequate preparation (cf., John 8.24; Luke 13.3; Matthew 10.32; Acts 2.38).