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DELITZSCH BIBLE COMMENTARY -
by C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch
THE PROPHECIES OF EZEKIEL INTRODUCTION
I. THE PERSON OF THE PROPHET
Ezekiel, laqez]j,y] (Ezek 1:3; 24:24), i.e., lae qWej;y] , God strengthens, Iezekih>l (LXX and Book of Sirach, ch. 49:8), in the Vulgate Ezechiel, while Luther, after the example of the LXX, writes the name Hesekiel, was the son of Busi, of priestly descent, and was carried away captive into exile to Babylon in the year 599 B.C.-i.e., in the eleventh year before the destruction of Jerusalem-along with King Jehoiachin, the nobles of the kingdom, many priests, and the better class of the population of Jerusalem and of Judah (1:2; 40:1; cf. 2 Kings 24:14ff.; Jer 29:1). He lived there in the northern part of Mesopotamia, on the banks of the Chaboras, married, and in his own house, amidst a colony of banished Jews, in a place called Tel-abib (Ezek 1:1; 3:15,24; 8:1; 24:18).
In the fifth year of his banishment, i.e., 595 B.C., he was called to be a prophet of the Lord, and laboured in this official position, as may be shown, twenty-two years; for the latest of his prophecies is dated in the twenty-seventh year of his exile, i.e., 572 B.C. (Ezek 29:17). Regarding the other circumstances and events of his life, as also of his death, nothing is known. The apocryphal legends found in the Fathers and in the Rabbinical writings, to the effect that he was put to death by a prince of his own nation for rebuking his idolatry, and was buried in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad, etc. (cf. Carpzov, Introd. ii. p. 203ff.), are without any historical value. So much alone is certain, that he ended his life among the exiles, where God had assigned him his sphere of labour, and did not, like his contemporary Daniel (comp. Dan. 1:21; 20:1), outlive the termination of the Captivity and the commencement of the redemption of Israel from Babylon, as his prophecies do not contain the slightest allusion to that effect.
II. THE TIMES OF THE PROPHET
Ezekiel, like Daniel, is a prophet of the exile, but in a different fashion from the latter, who had been already carried away prisoner before him to Babylon on the first capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Jehoiakim, and who lived there upwards of seventy years at the Babylonian and Medo-Persian court, and who held from time to time very important offices of State. Daniel was placed by God in this high position, which afforded him a view of the formation and evolution of the worldkingdom, in order that from this standpoint he might be enabled to see the development of the world-kingdoms in the struggle against the kingdom of God, and to predict the indestructible power and glory of the latter kingdom, which overcomes all the powers of the world. Ezekiel, on the other hand, was appointed a watcher over the exiled nation of Israel, and was in this capacity to continue the work of the earlier prophets, especially that of Jeremiah, with whom he in several ways associates himself in his prophecies; to preach to his contemporaries the judgment and salvation of God, in order to convert them to the Lord their God. Rightly to understand his work as a prophet, the ripe fruit of which lies before us in his prophetic writings, we must not only keep in view the importance of the exile for the development of the kingdom of God, but also form a clear conception of the relations amidst which Ezekiel carried on his labours.
What the Lord had caused to be announced by Moses to the tribes of Israel while they were yet standing on the borders of the Promised Land, and preparing to take possession of it, viz., that if they should persistently transgress His commands, He would not only chastise them with heavy punishments, but would finally drive them out of the land which they were about to occupy, and disperse them among all nations (Lev 26:14-45; Deut 28:15-68)-this threatening, repeated by all the prophets after Moses, had been already executed by the Assyrians upon the ten tribes, who had revolted from the house of David, and was now in process of fulfilment by the Chaldeans upon the kingdom of Judah also. In the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, for the first time invaded Judah, captured Jerusalem, made Jehoiakim tributary, and carried away to Babylon a number of Israelitish youths of noble birth and of the bloodroyal, amongst whom was Daniel, along with a portion of the vessels of the temple, in order that these youths might be trained up for the service of his court (Dan 1:1-7).
With this invasion of the Chaldeans begin the seventy years of Chaldean servitude and exile in Babylon, predicted by Jeremiah. As Jehoiakim, so early as three years afterwards, revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, the latter, after a lengthened siege, took Jerusalem a second time, in the third month of the reign of Jehoiachin, and carried away into captivity to Babylon, along with the captive monarch and the members of his court, the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem, a great number of priests, warriors, carpenters, and smiths, leaving behind in the land only the meaner portion of the people, over whom he appointed as his vassal King Mattaniah, the uncle of the banished monarch, whose name he changed to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:10-17; Jer 29:2). By this removal of the heart and strength of the nation the power of the kingdom of Judah was broken; and although Nebuchadnezzar did not at that time destroy it, but still allowed it to remain as a subject kingdom under his sway, yet its existence could not be of any long duration.
Judah had fallen too deeply to recognise in the calamities which she had suffered the chastening hand of her God, and to bow herself repentantly under His mighty arm. Instead of listening to the voice of the prophet Jeremiah, and bearing the Chaldean yoke in patience (2 Chron 36:12), both monarch and people placed their trust in the assistance of Egypt, and Zedekiah broke the oath of fealty which he had sworn to the king of Babylon. To punish this perfidy, Nebuchadnezzar again marched against Jerusalem, and by the capture and burning of the city and temple in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign put an end to the kingdom of Judah.
Zedekiah, who had fled from the beleaguered city, was taken by the Chaldeans, and brought with his sons to Riblah into the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar, who first caused the sons of Zedekiah to be put to death before the eyes of their father; next, Zedekiah himself to be deprived of sight, and then commanded the blind monarch to be conducted in chains to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer 52:1-30).
Many military officers and priests of rank were also put to death at Riblah; while those who had been taken prisoners at Jerusalem, along with the deserters and a great portion of the rest of the people, were led away into exile to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer 52:1-30). By this catastrophe the Old Testament theocracy lost its political existence; the covenant people were now driven out of their own land amongst the heathen, to bear the punishment of their obstinate apostasy from the Lord their God.
Nevertheless this dispersion among the heathen was no entire rejection of Israel; it was merely a suspension, and not an annihilation, of the covenant of grace. Man’s unfaithfulness cannot destroy the faithfulness of God. “In spite of this terrible judgment, brought down upon them by the heaviest transgressions, Israel was, and remained,”-as Auberlen (The Prophet Daniel, p. 27, 2nd ed.) well remarks “the chosen people, through whom God was still to carry out His intentions towards humanity. His gifts and calling may not be repented of” (Rom 11:29).
Even after the Babylonian exile the theocracy was not again restored; the covenant people did not after their return again recover their independence, but remained, with the exception of the short period when under the Maccabees they won for themselves their freedom, in constant dependence upon the heathen world-rulers, until, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, they were completely dispersed among all the nations of the earth. The kingdom of God, however, was not really to perish along with the external theocracy; it was only to pass into a new phase of development, which was intended to be the medium of transition towards its renewal and perfection in that kingdom of God which was to be founded by Christ. To pave the way to this end, and at the same time to serve as a witness to the exiles, that Israel, notwithstanding its dispersion among the heathen, still remained God’s people, the Lord raised up in Ezekiel, the son of a priest, a prophet of uncommon power and energy in the midst of the captives, “one who raised his voice aloud, like a trumpet, and showed to Israel its misdeeds-whose whole manifestation furnished the most powerful testimony that the Lord was still amongst His people; who was himself a temple of the Lord, before whom the visible temple, which yet remained standing for a short time at Jerusalem, sank back into its nothingness; a spiritual Samson, who seized with mighty arm the pillars of the idol temple, and dashed it to the ground; a powerful, gigantic nature, which was fitted by that very qualification to effectually subdue the Babylonian spirit of the time, which delighted in powerful, gigantic, and grotesque forms; standing alone, but equal to a hundred of the sons of the prophets” (Hengstenberg’s Christol. II. p. 531).
The call of Ezekiel to the prophetic office took place in the fifth year of the reign of Zedekiah, in the fourth month of the year (Ezek 1:1-2), at a point of time when, amongst those who had remained behind in the land, as well as amongst those who had been carried to Babylon, the hope of the speedy downfall to the Babylonian monarchy, and of the return of the exiles to their native country, which was then to follow, was very strong, and was powerfully encouraged by the lying statements of false prophets; cf. Jer 29.
In the same year and month prophesied Hananiah, a prophet from Gibeon, in the temple at Jerusalem, before the eyes of the priests and the whole people, saying that Jehovah would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, and within two years bring back to Jerusalem all the temple-vessels carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, as well as King Jechoniah and all the captives who had been brought to Babylon, Jer 28:1-4.
And the prophet Jeremiah, who with the word of the Lord rebuked and opposed those lying predictions and empty hopes, and foretold that the Babylonian servitude would be of long duration, was violently assailed and persecuted by the lying prophets, even by those of them who were to be found in Babylon; cf. Jer 28:5-17; 29:21-32. This delusion regarding the political condition of affairs, this spirit of resistance to the decree of the Lord, had seized not only upon the people, but also upon the nobles and the king, so that they formed and eagerly carried on conspiracies against the king of Babylon. The meeting of the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon, with Zedekiah in Jerusalem, had no other object than this (Jer 27:3). The embassy, moreover, sent by Zedekiah to Babylon (Jer 24:3), as well as his own journey thither in the fourth year of his reign (Jer 51:59), were intended merely to deceive the king of Babylon, by assurances of devotion and fidelity, in order that the intended revolt might be carried out.
But this baseless hope of a speedy liberation from the Babylonian yoke was ignominiously disappointed: in consequence of the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, after a blockade and siege of a year and a half, captured Jerusalem, burnt the city and temple to the ground, and destroyed the kingdom of Judah. By this blow all the supports upon which the Godalienated nation had vainly relied were broken. The delusive statements of the false prophets had proved to be lies; the predictions of the Lord’s prophets, on the contrary, had been strikingly justified as divine truth. The destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and the downfall of the kingdom, form accordingly a turning-point for the prophetic labours of Ezekiel. Hitherto, prior to the calamity, he had to announce to the people (animated with the hope of speedy liberation from exile) the judgment of the downfall of Jerusalem and Judah, although such preaching found little acceptance. The time, however, had now arrived when, in order to preserve from despair the nation languishing in exile, and given over to the scorn, contempt, and tyranny of the heathen, he was able to open up the sources of comfort by announcing that the Lord, in requital of the ignominy heaped upon His people, would overwhelm all the heathen nations with destruction, but that, if His people whom they had oppressed would repent and return to Him, He would again gather them out of their dispersion; would make of them a holy nation, walking in His commands and yielding Him a willing service; would conduct them back to their own land; would give them His servant David for a prince, and once more gloriously establish His kingdom.
III. THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
I. Announcements of judgment upon Israel and the heathen nations, ch. 1- 32; II. Announcements of salvation for Israel, ch. 33-48. Each of these main divisions is subdivided into two sections. The first, namely, contains the prophecies of judgment (a) upon Jerusalem and Israel, Ezek 3:22-24; (b) upon the heathen nations, ch. 25-32. The second main division contains (c) the predictions of the redemption and restoration of Israel, and the downfall of the heathen world-power, ch. 33-39; (d) the prophetic picture of the re-formation and exaltation of the kingdom of God, ch. 40-48; and the entire collection opens with the solemn dedication of Ezekiel to the prophetic office, Ezek 1:1-3:21.
The prophecies of the first, third, and fourth parts are throughout arranged in chronological order; those of the second part-the threatenings predicted against the heathen nations-are disposed according to their actual subjectmatter.
This is attested by the chronological data in the superscriptions, and confirmed by the contents of the whole of the groups of prophecies in the first three parts. The first part contains the following chronological notices: the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin (Ezek 1:2) as the time of Ezekiel’s call to the office of prophet, and of the first predictions regarding Jerusalem and Israel; then the sixth (8:1), seventh (20:1), and ninth years of the captivity of that monarch (24:1). The second part contains the predictions against seven foreign nations, of which those against Tyre fall in the eleventh (26:1), those against Egypt in the tenth (39:1), twenty-seventh (29:17), eleventh (30:20 and 31:1), and twelfth years of the exile.
Of the two last parts, each contains only one chronological notice, namely, Ezek 33:21, the twelfth year of the captivity, i.e., one year after the destruction of Jerusalem; and Ezek 40:1, the twenty-fifth year of the captivity, or the fourteenth after the destruction of Jerusalem. The remaining prophecies, which bear at their head no note of time, connect themselves closely as to their contents with those which are furnished with chronological data, so that they belong to the same period with those.
From this it appears that the prophecies of the first part wholly, those of the second part to a great extent, date before the destruction of Jerusalem; those of the third and fourth parts proceed from the time after this catastrophe. This chronological relationship is in favour of the view that the prophecies against foreign nations, ch. 25-32, are not-as the majority of expositors suppose-to be assigned to the second, but rather to the first half of the book.
This view is confirmed, on the one hand, by the contents of the prophecies, inasmuch as these, without an exception, announce only the downfall of the heathen nations and kingdoms, making no reference to the future forgiveness and conversion of the residue of these nations, and through this very peculiarity connect themselves closely with the prophecies of threatening against Israel in the first part; on the other hand, by the resemblance which exists between Ezek 30:1-20 and ch. 3:16-21, compared with ch. 18:19-32, and which leaves no doubt upon the point that Ezek 33:1-20 marks out to the prophet the task which was to occupy his attention after the destruction of Jerusalem, and consequently forms the introduction to the second half of his prophecies.-For further remarks upon the contents and subdivisions of the book, see the expositions in the introductory observations to the individual sections and chapters.
Ezekiel’s style of prophetic representation has many peculiarities. In the first place, the clothing of symbol and allegory prevails in him to a greater degree than in all the other prophets; and his symbolism and allegory are not confined to general outlines and pictures, but elaborated in the minutest details, so as to present figures of a boldness surpassing reality, and ideal representations, which produce an impression of imposing grandeur and exuberant fulness. Even the simplest prophetic discourse is rich in imagery, and in bold, partly even strange, comparisons, and branches out into a copiousness which strives to exhaust the subject on all sides, in consequence of which many peculiar expressions and forms are repeated, rendering his language diffuse, and occasionally even clumsy.
These peculiarities of his style of representation it has been attempted, on the one hand, to explain by the influence of the Babylonian spirit and taste upon the form of his prophecy; while others, again, would regard them as the result of a literary art, striving to supply the defect of prophetic spirit, and the failing power of the living word, by the aid of learning and an elaborate imitation of actual life. The supposed Babylonian spirit, however, in the forms of our prophet’s symbolism, has no existence. The assertion of Hävernick, that “the whole of these symbols has a colossal character, which points in many ways to those powerful impressions experienced by the prophet in a foreign land-Chaldea-and which here are grasped and given out again with a mighty and independent spirit,” remains yet to be proved.
For the observation that these symbols, in reference to form and contents, resemble in many respects the symbols of his contemporary Daniel, is not sufficient for the purpose, and cannot in itself be accepted as the truth, by reference to the picture of the eagle, and the comparison of rich men to trees, cedars, in ch. 17, because these pictures already occur in the older prophets, and lions as well as cedars are native in Palestine. Just as little are Babylonian impressions to be recognised in the vision of the field with the dead men’s bones, ch. 37, and of the new temple, ch. 40, so that there only remains the representation of the cherubim with four faces, in ch. 1 and 10, which is peculiar to Ezekiel, as presumptive evidence of Chaldean influence. But if we leave out of account that the throne, upon which the Lord appears in human form, indisputably forms the central point of this vision, and this central point has no specific Babylonian impress, then the representation of the cherubim with faces of men, lions, oxen, and eagles, cannot be derived from the contemplation of the Assyrian or Chaldean sculptures of human figures with eagle heads and wings, or winged oxen with human heads, or sphinxes with bodies of animals and female heads, such as are found in the ruins of ancient Nineveh, inasmuch as the cherubim of Ezekiel were not pictures of oxen with lions’ manes, eagles’ wings, and human countenances furnished with horns-as W. Neumann has still portrayed them in his treatise upon the tabernacle-but had, according to Ezekiel, Ezek 1:5, the human form.
There are indeed also found, among the Assyrian sculptures, winged human figures; but these Ezekiel had no reason to copy, because the cherubic images in human form, belonging toe Solomon’s temple, lay much nearer to his hand. The whole of Ezekiel’s symbolism is derived from the Israelitish sanctuary, and is an outcome of Old Testament ideas and views.
As the picture of the idea temple in ch. 40ff. is sketched according to the relations of Solomon’s temple, which was burnt by the Chaldeans, so the elements for the description of the majestic theophany, in ch. 1 and 10, are contained in the throne of Jehovah, which was above the cherubim, who were over the covering of the ark of the covenant; and in the phenomena amid which was manifested the revelation of the divine glory at the establishment of the covenant on Sinai. On the basis of these facts, Isaiah had already represented to himself the appearance of the Lord, as a vision, in which he beholds Jehovah in the temple, sitting on a high and lofty throne, and, standing around the throne, seraphim with six wings, who began to sing, “Holy, holy” (Isa 6).
This symbolism we find modified in Ezekiel, so as to correspond with the aim of his vocation, and elaborated to a greater extent. The manner in which he works out this vision and other symbols certainly gives evidence of his capacity to describe, distinctly and attractively in words, what he had beheld in spirit; although the symbolism itself is, just as little as the vision, a mere product of poetic art, or the subjective framework of a lively fancy, without any real objective foundation; for it rests, in harmony with its contents and form, upon views which are spiritually real, i.e., produced by the Spirit of God in the soul of the prophet, in which the art of the author is reduced to a faithful and distinct reproduction of what had been seen in the spirit.
It is only the abundance of pictures and metaphors, which is in this respect characteristic of Ezekiel, and which betrays a lively imagination, and manysidedness of his knowledge. These qualities appear not merely in the sketch of the new temple (ch. 40ff.), but also in the description of the widespread commerce of Tyre (ch. 27), and of the relations of Egypt (ch. 29 and 31), as well as in the endeavours manifest in all his representations-not merely in the symbolical descriptions and allegorical portraits (ch. 16 and 23), but also in the simple discourses, in the rebukes of the current vices and sins, and in the threatenings of punishment and judgment-to follow out the subject treated of into the most special details, to throw light upon it from all sides, to penetrate through it, and not to rest until he has exhausted it, and that without any effort, in so doing, to avoid repetitions.
This style of representation, however, has its foundation not merely in the individuality of our prophet, but still more in the relations of his time, and in his attitude towards that generation to whom he had to announce the counsel and will of the Lord. As symbolism and the employment of parables, pictures, and proverbs is, in general, only a means for the purpose of presenting in an attractive light the truths to be delivered, and to strengthen by this attractiveness the impression made by speech and discourse, so also the copiousness and circumstantiality of the picture, and even the repetition of thoughts and expressions under new points of view, serve the same end. The people to whom Ezekiel was not to preach repentance, by announcing the divine judgment and salvation, was “a rebellious race, impudent and hard-hearted” (Ezek 3:7-9,26; 12:2, etc.). If he was faithfully and conscientiously to discharge the office, laid upon him by the Lord, of a watcher over the house of Israel, he must not only punish with stern words, and in drastic fashion, the sins of the people, and distinctly paint before their eyes the horrors of the judgment, but he must also set forth, in a style palpable to the senses, that salvation which was to bloom forth for the repentant nation when the judgment was fulfilled.
Closely connected with this is the other peculiarity of Ezekiel’s style of prophecy, namely, the marked prominence assigned to the divine origin and contents of his announcements, which distinctly appears in the standing form of address- “Son of man” -with which God summons the prophet to speech and action; in the continual use of hwO;hy] wn;doa ; in the formulae yyrmæa; hKo or yy µaun] ; in the introduction to almost every discourse of God’s requirement to him to prophesy or to do this and that; and in the formula which recurs frequently in all the discourses-”Ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” The standing address, “Son of man,” and the frequent call to speech and action, are likewise regarded by modern critics as a token of the failure of the prophetic spirit-power.
Both phrases, however, could only be held to convey so much, if-in conformity with the view of Ewald, who, agreeably to the naturalistic representation of prophecy, assumes it to be a result of high poetic inspiration-they had been selected by Ezekiel of his own free choice, and employed with the intention of expressing the feeling of his own profound distance from God, and of imparting to himself courage to prophesy. If, on the contrary, according to the Scriptural conception of prophecy, God the Lord addressed Ezekiel as “son of man,” and called him, moreover, on each occasion to utter predictions, then the use of the God-given name, as well as the mention of the summons, as proceeding from God only, furnishes an evidence that Ezekiel does not, like the false prophets, utter the thoughts and inspirations of his own heart, but, in all that he says and does, acts under a divine commission and under divine inspiration, and serves to impress the rebellious nation more and more with the conviction that a prophet of the Lord is in their midst (Ezek 2:5; 33:33), and that God had not departed with His Spirit from Israel, notwithstanding their banishment among the heathen.
In favour of the correctness of this view of the expressions and phrases in question, there speak decisively the manner and fashion in which Ezekiel was called and consecrated to the prophetic office; not only the instruction which God communicates to him for the performance of his calling (Ezek 2:1-3,21)-and which, immediately upon the first act of his prophetic activity, He supplements to the effect of enjoining upon him dumbness or entire silence, only then permitting him to open his mouth to speak when He wishes to inspire him with a word to be addressed to the rebellious people (3:26-27; cf. 24:27 and 33:22)-but also the theophany which inaugurated his call to the prophetic office (ch. 1), which, as will appear to us in the course of the exposition, has unmistakeably the significance of an explanation of a reality, which will not be dissolved and annihilated with the dissolution of the kingdom of Judah, and the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the temple of that covenant of grace which Jehovah had concluded with Israel.
It is usual, moreover, to quote, as a peculiarity of Ezekiel’s prophecies, the prominence given to his priestly descent and disposition, especially in the visions, ch. 1, cf. ch. 10, ch. 8-11 and 40-48, and in the individual traits, as Ezek 4:13ff., 20:12ff., Ezekiel 22:8; 26:24,16ff., etc. etc., which Ewald explains as “a result of the one-sided literary conception of antiquity according to mere books and traditions, as well as of the extreme prostration of spirit intensified by the long duration of the exile and bondage of the people;” while de Wette, Gesenius, and others would see in it an intellectual narrowness on the part of the prophet. The one view is as groundless and perverse as the other, because resting upon the superficial opinion that the copious descriptions of the sacred articles in the temple were sketched by Ezekiel only for the purpose of preserving for the future the elevating recollection of the better times of the past (Ewald).
When we recognise, on the contrary the symbolical character of these descriptions, we may always say that for the portrayal of the conception of the theophany in ch. 1 and 10, and of the picture of the temple in ch. 40, no individual was so well fitted as a priest, familiar with the institutions of worship. In this symbolism, however, we may not venture to seek for the products of intellectual narrowness, or of sacerdotal ideas, but must rise to the conviction that God the Lord selected a priest, and no other, to be His prophet, and permitted him to behold the future of His kingdom on earth in the significant forms of the sanctuary at Jerusalem, because this form was the symbolical covering which presented the closest correspondence to the same.-Still less to the passages Ezek 4:13ff., 20:12ff., and others, in which stress is laid upon the ceremonial commands of the law, and where their violation is mentioned as a cause of the judgment that was breaking over Israel, furnish evidence of priestly one-sidedness or narrowness of spirit.
Ezekiel takes up towards the Mosaic Law no other position than that which is taken by the older prophets. He finds impressed on the precepts, not only of the Moral, but also of the Ceremonial Law, divine thoughts, essential elements of the divine holiness, attesting itself in and to Israel; and penetrated by a sense of the everlasting importance of the whole law, he urges obedience to its commands. Even the close adherence to the Pentateuch is not at all peculiar to him, but is common to all the prophets, inasmuch as all, without exception, criticize and judge the life of the nation by the standard of the prescriptions in the Mosaic Law. Ezekiel, with his nearest predecessor Jeremiah, is in this respect only distinguished from the earlier prophets, that the verbal references to the Pentateuch in both occur with greater frequency, and receive a greater emphasis.
But this has its ground not so much in the descent of both from a priestly family, as rather in the relations of their time, especially in the circumstance that the falling away of the nation from the law had become so great, in consequence of which the penal judgments already threatened in the Pentateuch upon transgressors had fallen upon them, so that the prophets of the Lord were obliged, with all their energy, to hold up before the rebellious race not merely the commandments, but also the threatenings of the law, if they were faithfully to discharge the office to which they had been called.
The language of Ezekiel is distinguished by a great number of words and forms, which do not occur elsewhere, and which, probably, were for the greater part coined by himself (see an enumeration of these in the Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction, 77, Rem. 6), and shows a strong leaning towards the diction of the Pentateuch. It has, however, been unable to resist the influences of the inaccurate popular dialect, and of the Aramaic idiom, so that it betrays, in its many anomalies and corruptions, the decline and commencement of the dying out of the Hebrew tongue (cf. 17, of the Historico-Critical Manual), and reminds us that the prophet’s residence was in a foreign country.
The genuineness of Ezekiel’s prophecies is, at the present day, unanimously recognised by all critics. There is, moreover, no longer any doubt that the writing down and relation of them in the volume which has been transmitted to us were the work of the prophet himself. Only Ewald and Hitzig, for the purpose of setting aside the predictions which so much offend them, have proposed very artificial hypotheses regarding the manner and way in which the book originated; but it appears unnecessary to enter into a closer examination of these, as their probability and trustworthiness depend only upon the dogmatic views of their authors.
For the exegetical literature, see the Historico-Critical Manual, vol. i. p. 353 (new ed. p. 254), where is also to be added, as of very recent date, Das Buch Ezechiels. Uebersetzt und erklärt von Dr. Th. Kleifoth. Zwei Abtheilungen. Rostock, 1864 and 1865.
FIRST HALF - THE PROPHECIES OF JUDGMENT
Ch. 1-3:21 The Consecration and Calling of Ezekiel to the Office of Prophet In a vision of God, Ezekiel beholds in a great cloud, through which shone the splendour of fire, and which a tempestuous wind drives from the north, the glory of the Lord above the cherubim upon a majestic throne in human form (ch. 1), and hears a voice, which sends him as a prophet to Israel, and inspires him with the subject-matter of his announcements (Ezek 2:1-3:3).
He is thereafter transported in spirit to Tel-abib on the Chebar, into the midst of the exiles, and the duties and responsibilities of his calling laid before him (3:4-21). By this divine appearance and the commission therewith connected is he consecrated, called, and ordained to the prophetic office. The whole occurrences in the vision are subdivided into the copious description of the theophany, ch. 1, by which he is consecrated for his calling; and into the revelation of the word, Ezek 2:1-3,21, which prepares him for the discharge of the same. From these contents it clearly appears that these chapters do not constitute the first section of the book, but the introduction to the whole, to which the circumstantial notices of the time and place of this revelation of God at the commencement, 1:1-3, also point.
The Appearance of the Glory of the Lord.
V. 1. Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth (month), on the fifth (day) of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
V. 2. On the fifth day of the month, it was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, V. 3. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Busi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.
Regarding hy;h; at the beginning of a book, as e.g., in Jonah 1:1, cf. the note on Josh 1:1. The two notices of the year in vv. 1 and 2 are closely connected with the twofold introduction of the theophany. This is described in verse first, according to its form or phenomenal nature, and then in verses second and third, according to its intended purpose, and its effect upon the prophet. The phenomenon consisted in this, that the heavens were opened, and Ezekiel saw visions of God. The heaven opens not merely when to our eye a glimpse is disclosed of the heavenly glory of God (Calvin), but also when God manifests His glory in a manner perceptible to human sight. The latter was the case here. µyhila’ ha;r]mæ , “visions of God,” are not “visiones praestantissimae,” but visions which have divine or heavenly things for their object; cf. Isa 6:1; 1 Kings 22:19; Kings 6:17.
Here it is the manifestation of Jehovah’s glory described in the following verses. This was beheld by Ezekiel in the thirtieth year, which, according to verse second, was in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin. The real identity of these two dates is placed beyond doubt by the mention of the same day of the month, “on the fifth day of the month” (v. 2 compared with v. 1). The fifth year from the commencement of Jehoiachin’s captivity is the year 595 B.C.; the thirtieth year, consequently, is the year 625 B.C.
But the era, in accordance with which this date is reckoned, is matter of dispute, and can no longer be ascertained with certainty. To suppose, with Hengstenberg, that the reference is to the year of the prophet’s own life, is forbidden by the addition “in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month,” which points to an era generally recognised. In the year 625 B.C., Nabopolassar became king of Babylon, and therefore many of the older expositors have supposed that Ezekiel means the thirtieth year of the era of Nabopolassar. Nothing, however, is know of any such era.
Others, as the Chaldee paraphrast and Jerome, and in modern times also Ideler, are of opinion that the thirtieth year is reckoned from the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, because in that year the book of the law was discovered, and the regeneration of public worship completed by a solemn celebration of the Passover. No trace, however, can elsewhere be pointed out of the existence of a chronology dating from these events. The Rabbins in Seder Olam assume a chronology according to the periods of the years of jubilee, and so also Hitzig; but for this supposition too all reliable proofs are wanting. At the time mentioned, Ezekiel found himself hl;wOG Ëw,T; , “in the midst of the exiles,” i.e., within the circuit of their settlements, not, in their society; for it is evident from Ezek 3:15 that he was alone when the theophany was imparted to him, and did not repair till afterwards to the residences of the settlers.
Verse 3. By the river Chebar, in the land of the Chaldees, i.e., in Babylon or Mesopotamia. The river rb;K] , to be distinguished from rwObj; , the river of Gosan, which flows into the Tigris, see on 2 Kings 17:6, is the Mesopotamian Chaboras, Abo’rrhas (Strabo, xvi. 748), or Chaboo’ras (Ptolem. v. 18, 3), Arab. châbûr (Edrisi Clim. iv. p. 6, ii. p. 150, ed. Jaubert and Abulf. Mesopot. in the N. Repertor. III. p. xxiv.), which according to Edrisi takes its rise from “nearly three hundred springs,” near the city Ras- el-’Ain, at the foot of the mountain range of Masius, flows through Upper Mesopotamia in a direction parallel with its two principal streams, and then, turning westward, discharges itself into the Euphrates near Kirkesion.
There the hand of Jehovah came upon Ezekiel. The expression lae ) l[æ ht;y]h; yy dyæ always signifies a miraculous working of the power or omnipotence of God upon a man-the hand being the organ of power in action-by which he is placed in a condition to exert superhuman power, Kings 18:46, and is the regular expression for the supernatural transportation into the state of ecstasy for the purpose of beholding and announcing (cf. 2 Kings 3:15), or undertaking, heavenly things; and so throughout Ezekiel, cf. Ezek 3:22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1.
Description of the theophany seen by the spirit of the prophet.
V. 4. And I saw, and, lo, a tempestuous wind came from the north, a great cloud, and a fire rolled together like a ball, and the brightness of light round about it, and out of its midst, as the appearance of glowing metal from the midst of the fire.
The description begins with a general outline of the phenomenon, as the same presented itself to the spiritual eye of the prophet on its approach from the north. A tempestuous wind brings hither from the north a great cloud, the centre of which appears as a lump of fire, which throws around the cloud the brightness of light, and presents in its midst the appearance of glowing metal. The coming of the phenomenon from the north is, as a matter of course, not connected with the Babylonian representation of the mountain of the gods situated in the extreme north, Isa 14:13.
According to the invariable usage of speech followed by the prophets, especially by Jeremiah (cf. e.g., Ezek 1:14; 4:6; 6:1, etc.), the north is the quarter from which the enemies who were to execute judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah break in. According to this usage, the coming of this divine appearance from the north signifies that it is from the north that God will bring to pass the judgment upon Judah. jqæl; cae , “fire rolled together like a ball,” is an expression borrowed from Ex 9:10. ttæK; ] refers to `ˆn;[; , and Ëw,T; to cae , as we see from the words in apposition, cae Ëw,T; . The fire, which formed the centre of the cloud, had the appearance of lmæv]jæ . The meaning of this word, which occurs again in v. 27 and ch. 8 v. 2, is disputed. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate it by ee’lektron, electrum, i.e., a metal having a bright lustre, and consisting of a mixture of gold and silver.
Cf. Strabo, III. 146; Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxiii. 4. To the explanation of Bochart, that it is a compound of tv,jn] , “brass,” and the Talmudic word llæm; or allm , “aurum rude,” and signifies “rough gold ore,” is opposed the fact that the reading allm in the Talmud is not certain, but purports to be almm (cf. Gesen. Thesaur. p. 535, and Buxtorf, Lexic. Talmud, p. 1214), as well as the circumstance that raw gold ore has not a lustre which could shine forth out of the fire. Still less probability has the supposition that it is a compound of lvj , in Syriac “conflavit, fabricavit,” and µv;Wj , “fricuit,” on which Hävernick and Maurer base the meaning of “a piece of metal wrought in the fire.” The word appears simply to be formed from µv;Wj , probably “to glow,” with l appended, as lm,r]Kæ from µr,K, , and to denote “glowing ore.”
This meaning is appropriate both in v. 27, where lmæv]jæ `ˆyi[æ is explained by vaeAhaer]mæ , as well as in Ezek 8:2, where rhæzO, “brilliancy,” stands as parallel to it. lmæv]jæ , however, is different from ll;q; tv,jn] in v. 7 and in Dan 10:6, for lmæv]jæ refers in all the three places to the person of Him who is enthroned above the cherubim; while ll;q; tv,jn] in v. 7 is spoken of the feet of the cherubim, and in Dan 10:6 of the arms and feet of the personage who there manifests Himself. In verse fifth the appearance is described more minutely. There first present themselves to the eye of the seer four beings, whom he describes according to their figure and style.
The four cherubim.
V. 5. And out of its midst there prominently appeared a figure, consisting of four creatures, and this was their appearance: they had the figure of a man.
V. 6. And each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. V. 7. And their feet were upright-standing feet; and the soles of their feet like the soles of a calf, and sparkling like the appearance of shining brass.
V. 8. And the hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and all four had faces and wings.
V. 9. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not as they went; they went each one in the direction of his face.
V. 10. And the form of their faces was that of a man; and on the right all four had a lion’s face; and on the left all four had the face of an ox; and all four had an eagle’s face.
V. 11. And their faces and their wings were divided above, two of each uniting with one another, and two covering their bodies.
V. 12. And they went each in the direction of his face; whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went; they turned not as they went.
V. 13. And the likeness of the creatures resembled burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: it (the fire) went hither and thither amongst the beings; and the fire was brilliant, and from the fire came forth lightning.
V. 14. And the beings ran hither and thither in a zig-zag manner.
From out of the fiery centre of the cloud there shows itself the form tWmD] , properly “resemblance,” “picture”) of four yjæ , animantia, “living creatures;” zw>a , Rev 4:6; not qhri>a , “wild beasts,” as Luther has incorrectly rendered it, after the animalia of the Vulgate. These four creatures had µd;a; tWmD] , “the figure of a man.” Agreeably to this notice, placed at the head of the description, these creatures are to be conceived as presenting the appearance of a human body in all points not otherwise specified in the following narrative. Each of them had four faces and four wings dj;a, without the article stands as a distributive, and ãn;K; are “pinions,” as in Isa 6:2, not “pairs of wings”). Their feet were rv;y; lg,r, , “a straight foot;” the singular stands generically, stating only the nature of the feet, without reference to their number. We have accordingly to assume in each of the four creatures two legs, as in a man. rv;y; , “straight,” i.e., standing upright, not bent, as when sitting or kneeling. lg,r, is the whole leg, including the knee and thigh, and lg,r, ãKæ , “sole of the foot,” or the under part of the leg, with which we tread on the ground. This part, not the whole leg, resembled the calf’s foot, which is firmly planted on the ground. The legs sparkled like the appearance of ll;q; tv,hn] . The subject of xxæn; is not “the bWrK] , which are understood to be intended under the hy;j; in verse fifth” (Hitzig), for this subject is too far distant, but lg,r, , which is here construed as masculine, as in Jer 13:16.
On this word see Hengstenberg and Düsterdieck on Rev 1:15. qll nch’ probably signifies “light,” i.e., “bright, shining brass,” as the old translators have rendered it. The Septuagint has exastra>ptwn ; the Vulgate, aes candens ; and the Chaldee paraphrase, aes flammans . The signification “smoothed, polished brass” (Bochart), rests upon uncertain combinations; cf. Gesen. Thes. p. 1217, and is appropriate neither here nor in Dan 10:6, where these words precede, “His face had the appearance of lightning, and his eyes were as a flame of fire.” Under the four wings were four hands on the four sides of each cherub, formed like the hands of a man. The wings accordingly rested upon the shoulders, from which the hands came forth.
The Chetib wydw may certainly be defended if with Kimchi and others we punctuate wd;y;w] , and take the suffix distributively and µd;a; elliptically, “his (i.e., each of the four creatures) hands were (the hands of) a man;” cf. for such an ellipsis as this, passages like that in Ps 18:34, hl;Y;aæ lg,r, , “my feet as the (feet) of hinds;” Job 35:2, hL,ae , “before the righteousness of God.”
It is extremely probable, however, that w is only the error of an old copyist for y , and that the Keri dy; is the correct reading, as the taking of µd;a; elliptically is not in keeping with the broad style of Ezekiel, which in its verbosity verges on tautology.
The second half of v. 8 is neither, with Hävernick, to be referred to the following ninth verse, where the faces are no more spoken of, nor, with Hitzig, to be arbitrarily mutilated; but is to be taken as it stands, comprising all that has hitherto been said regarding the faces and wings, in order to append thereto in v. 9ff. the description of the use and nature of these members. The definite statement, that “the wings were joined one to another,” is in v. 11 limited to the two upper wings, according to which we have so to conceive the matter, that the top or the upper right wing of each cherub came in contact with the top of the left wing of the neighbouring cherub. This junction presented to the eye of the seer the unity and coherence of all the four creatures as a complete whole — a hy;j; , and implied, as a consequence, the harmonious action in common of the four creatures. They did not turn as they went along, but proceeded each in the direction of his face. paanaayw ‘el-`eeber, “over against his face.” The meaning is thus rightly given by Kliefoth: “As they had four faces, they needed not to turn as they went, but went on as (i.e., in the direction in which) they were going, always after the face.”
In the closer description of the faces in v. 10, the face of the man is first mentioned as that which was turned towards the seer, that of the lion to the right side, the ox to the left, and that of the eagle (behind). In naming these three, it is remarked that all the four creatures had these faces: in naming the man’s face, this remark is omitted, because the word µynip; (referring to all the four) immediately precedes. In v. 11, it is next remarked of the faces and wings, that they were divided above l[æmæ , “from above,” “upward”); then the direction of the wings is more precisely stated. The word µynip; is neither to be referred to the preceding, “and it was their faces,” nor, with Hitzig, to be expunged as a gloss; but is quite in order as a statement that not only the wings but also the faces were divided above, consequently were not like Janus’ faces upon one head, but the four faces were planted upon four heads and necks.
In the description that follows, vyai rbæj; is not quite distinct, and vyai is manifestly to be taken as an abbreviation of ‘ Ala, hV;ai Ht;wOja\ in v. 9: on each were two wings joining one another, i.e., touching with their tops the tips of the wings of the cherub beside them, in accordance with which we have to conceive the wings as expanded. Two were covering their bodies, i.e., each cherub covered his body with the pair of wings that folded downwards; not, as Kliefoth supposes, that the lower wings of the one cherub covered the body of the other cherub beside him, which also is not the meaning in v. 23; see note on that verse. In v. 12, what is to be said about their movements is brought to a conclusion, while both statements are repeated in v. 9b, and completed by the addition of the principium movens. In whatever direction the jæWr “was to go, in that direction they went;” i.e., not according to the action of their own will, but wherever the jæWr impelled them. jæWr , however, signifies not “impulse,” nor, in this place, even “the wind,” as the vehicle of the power of the spiritual life palpable to the senses, which produced and guided their movements, (Kliefoth), but spirit.
For, according to v. 20, the movement of the wheels, which was in harmony with the movements of the cherubim, was not caused by the wind, but proceeded from the yjæ jæWr , i.e., from the spirit dwelling in the creature. On the contrary, there is not in the whole description, with the exception of the general statement that a tempestuous wind drove from the north the great cloud in which the theophany was enwrapped, any allusion to a means of motion palpable to the senses. In the 13th and 14th verses is described the entire impression produced by the movement of the whole appearance. yjæ tWmD] precedes, and is taken absolutely “as regards the form of the creatures,” and corresponds to the yjæ [Bær]aæ tWmD] in v. 5, with which the description of the individual figures which appeared in the brightness of the fire was introduced.
Their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. aWh refers to cae as the principal conception. Fire, like the fire of burning coals and torches, went, moved hither and thither amongst the four creatures. This fire presented a bright appearance, and out of it came forth lightnings. The creatures, moreover, were in constant motion. ax;r; , from ax;r; , an Aramaising form for the Hebrew xWr , to run. The infin. absol. stands instead of the finite verb. The conjecture of ax;y; , after Gen 8:7 (Hitzig), is inappropriate, because here we have not to think of “coming out,” and no reason exists for the striking out of the words, as Hitzig proposes. The continued motion of the creatures is not in contradiction with their perpetually moving on straight before them. “They went hither and thither, and yet always in the direction of their countenances; because they had a countenance looking in the direction of every side” (Kliefoth). qz;B; signifies not “lightning” (= qr;B; ), but comes from qz;B; ; in Syriac, “to be split,” and denotes “the splitting,” i.e., the zigzag course of the lightning (Kliefoth).
V. 16. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like the appearance of the chrysolite; and all four had one kind of figure: and their appearance and their work was as if one wheel were within the other.
V. 17. Towards their four sides they went when they moved: they turned not as they went.
V. 21. When the former moved, the latter moved also; when the former stood, the latter stood; and when the former raised themselves from the ground, the wheels raised themselves beside them: for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels.
The words, “and I saw the creatures,” prepare the way for the transition to the new object which presented itself in these creatures to the eye of the seer. By the side of these creatures upon the ground he sees a wheel, and that at the four fronts, or front faces of the creatures. The singular suffix in µynip; [Bær]aæ can neither be referred, with Rosenmüller, to the chariot, which is not mentioned at all, nor, with Hitzig, to the preposition lx,ae , nor, with Hävernick, Maurer, and Kliefoth, to ˆp;wOa , and so be understood as if every wheel looked towards four sides, because a second wheel was inserted in it at right angles.
This meaning is not to be found in the words. The suffix refers ad sensum to yjæ (Ewald), or, to express it more correctly, to the figure of the cherubim with its four faces turned to the front, conceived as a unity-as one creature yjæ , v. 22). Accordingly, we have so to represent the matter, that by the side of the four cherubim, namely, beside his front face, a wheel was to be seen upon the earth. Ezekiel then saw four wheels, one on each front of a cherub, and therefore immediately speaks in v. 16 of wheels (in the plural). In this verse ha,r]mæ is adspectus, and hc,[mæ “work;” i.e., both statements employing the term “construction,” although in the first hemistich only the appearance, in the second only the construction, of the wheels is described. vyvir]Tæ is a chrysolite of the ancients, the topaz of the moderns-a stone having the lustre of gold.
The construction of the wheels was as if one wheel were within a wheel, i.e., as if in the wheel a second were inserted at right angles, so that without being turned it could go towards all the four sides. Bgæ , in v. 18, stands absolutely. “As regards their felloes,” they possessed height and terribleness-the latter because they were full of eyes all round. Hitzig arbitrarily understands HbæGO of the upper sides; and ha;r]yi , after the Arabic, of the under side, or that which lies towards the back. The movement of the wheels completely followed the movement of the creatures (vv. 19-21), because the spirit of the creature was in the wheels. yjæ , in vv. 20 and 21, is not the “principle of life” (Hävernick), but the cherubic creatures conceived as a unity, as in v. 22, where the meaning is undoubted. The sense is: the wheels were, in their motion and rest, completely bound by the movements and rest of the creatures, because the spirit which ruled in them was also in the wheels, and regulated their going, standing, and rising upwards. By the yjæ jæWr the wheels are bound in one with the cherub-figures, but not by means of a chariot, to or upon which the cherubim were attached.
The throne of Jehovah.
V. 23. And under the expanse were their wings, extended straight one towards another: each had two wings, covering to these, and each two (wings), covering to those, their bodies. V. 24. And I heard the sound of their wings, as the sound of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, as they went: a loud rushing like the clamour of a camp: when they stood, they let down their wings.
V. 27. And I saw like the appearance of glowing brass, like the appearance of fire within the same round about; from the appearance of his loins upwards, and from the appearance of his loins downwards, I saw as of the appearance of fire, and a shining light was round about it.
V. 28. Like the appearance of the bow, which is in the clouds in the day of rain, was the appearance of the shining light round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah. And I saw it, and fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one that spake.
Above, over the heads of the figures of the cherubim, Ezekiel sees something like the firmament of heaven (v. 22f.), and hears from above this canopy a voice, which re-echoes in the rushing of the wings of the cherubim, and determines the movement as well as the standing still of these creatures. The first sentence of v. 22 literally signifies: “And a likeness was over the heads of the creature-a canopy, as it were, stretched out.” [æyqir; is not the genitive after tWmD] , but an explanatory apposition to it, and before [æyqir; ; neither has k fallen out (as Hitzig supposes), nor is it to be supplied.
For tWmD] denotes not any definite likeness, with which another could be compared, but, properly, similitudo, and is employed by Ezekiel in the sense of “something like.” [æyqir; , without the article, does not mean the firmament of heaven, but any expanse, the appearance of which is first described as resembling the firmament by the words jræq, `ˆyi[æ . It is not the firmament of heaven which Ezekiel sees above the heads of the cherubim, but an expanse resembling it, which has the shining appearance of a fear- inspiring crystal. arey; , used of crystal, in so far as the appearance of this glittering mass dazzles the eyes, and assures terror, as in Judg 13:6, of the look of the angel; and in Job 37:22, of the divine majesty. The description is based upon Ex 24:10, and the similitude of the crystal has passed over to the Apocalypse, Rev 4:6.
Under the canopy were the wings of the cherubim, rv;y; , standing straight, i.e., spread out in a horizontal direction, so that they appeared to support the canopy. ht;wOja\Ala, hV;ai is not, with Jerome and others, to be referred to the cherubim yjæ ), but to ãn;K; , as in v. 9. The vwOna’ which follows does refer, on the contrary, to the cherub, and literally signifies, “To each were two wings, covering, namely, to these and those, their bodies.” hN;he corresponds to vwOna’ , in a manner analogous to ttæK; dj;a, in v. 6. By the repetition of the hN;he , “to these and those,” the four cherubim are divided into two pairs, standing opposite to one another. That this statement contradicts, as Hitzig asserts, the first half of the verse, is by no means evident.
If the two creatures on each side covered their bodies with the two wings, then two other wings could very easily be so extended under the canopy that the tops of the one should touch those of the other. As the creatures moved, Ezekiel hears the sound, i.e., the rustling of their wings, like the roaring of mighty billows. This is strengthened by the second comparison, “like the voice of the Almighty,” i.e., resembling thunder, cf. Ezek 10:5.
The hLmuh lwOq that follows still depends on [mæv; . hLmuh , which occurs only here and in Jer 11:6, is probably synonymous with ˆwOmh; , “roaring,” “noise,” “tumult.” This rushing sound, however, was heard only when the creatures were in motion; for when they stood, they allowed their wings to fall down. This, of course, applies only to the upper wings, as the under ones, which covered the body, hung downwards, or were let down. From this it clearly appears that the upper wings neither supported nor bore up the canopy over their heads, but only were so extended, when the cherubim were in motion, that they touched the canopy. In v. 25 is also mentioned whence the loud sound came, which was heard, during the moving of the wings, from above the canopy, consequently from him who was placed above it, so that the creatures, always after this voice resounded, went on or stood still, i.e., put themselves in motion, or remained without moving, according to its command. With the repetition of the last clause of v. 24 this subject is concluded in v. 25. Over or above upon the firmament was to be seen, like a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne, on which sat one in the form of a man-i.e., Jehovah appeared in human form, as in Dan 7:9f. Upon this was poured out a fiery, shining light, like glowing brass lmæv]jæ `ˆyi[æ , as in v. 4) and like fire, caabiyb beeyt-laah, “within it round about” tyiBæ = tyiBæ , “within,” and ttæK; , pointing back to aSeKi tWmD] ). This appears to be the simplest explanation of these obscure words. They are rendered differently by Hitzig, who translates them: “like fire which has a covering round about it, i.e., like fire which is enclosed, whose shining contrasts so much the more brightly on account of the dark surrounding.” But, to say nothing of the change which would then be necessary of tyiBæ into tyiBæ , this meaning seems very far-fetched, and cannot be accepted for this reason alone, that cae ha,r]mæ , neither in the following hemistich (v. 27b) nor in Ezek 8:2, has any such or similar strengthening addition.
The appearance above shows, as the centre of the cloud (v. 4), a fiery gleam of light, only there is to be perceived upon the throne a figure resembling a man, fiery-looking from the loins upwards and downwards, and round about the figure, or rather round the throne, a shining light HgænO, cf. v. 4), like the rainbow in the clouds, cf. Rev 4:3. This aWh , v. 28, does not refer to HgænO, but to the whole appearance of him who was enthronedthe covering of light included, but throne and cherubim (Ezek 10:4,19) excluded (Hitzig)] was the appearance of the likeness of Jehovah’s glory.
With these words closes the description of the vision. The following clause, “And I saw, etc.,” forms the transition to the word of Jehovah, which follows on the second chapter, and which summoned Ezekiel to become a prophet to Israel. Before we pass, however, to an explanation of this word, we must endeavour to form to ourselves a clear conception of the significance of this theophany.
For its full understanding we have first of all to keep in view that it was imparted to Ezekiel not merely on his being called to the office of prophet, but was again repeated three times-namely, in Ezek 3:22ff., where he was commissioned to predict symbolically the impending siege of Jerusalem; Ezek 8:4ff., when he is transported in spirit to the temple-court at Jerusalem for the purpose of beholding the abominations of the idolworship practised by the people, and to announce the judgment which, in consequence of these abominations, was to burst upon the city and the temple, in which it is shown to him how the glory of the Lord abandons, first the temple and thereafter the city also; and in Ezek 43:1ff., in which is shown to him the filling of the new temple with the glory of the Lord, to swell for ever among the children of Israel. In all three passages it is expressly testified that the divine appearance was like the first which he witnessed on the occasion of his call.
From this Kliefoth has drawn the right conclusion, that the theophany in Ezek 1:4ff. bears a relation not to the call only, but to the whole prophetic work of Ezekiel: “We may not say that God so appears to Ezekiel at a later time, because He so appeared to him at his call; but we must say, conversely, that because God wills and must so appear to Ezekiel at a later time while engaged in his prophetic vocation, therefore He also appears to him in this form already at his call.” The intention, however, with which God so appears to him is distinctly contained in the two last passages, ch. 8-11 and ch. 43: “God withdraws in a visible manner from the temple and Jerusalem, which are devoted to destruction on account of the sin of the people: in a visible manner God enters into the new temple of the future; and because the whole of what Ezekiel was inspired to foretell was comprehended in these two things-the destruction of the existing temple and city, and the raising up of a new and a better;-because the whole of his prophetic vocation had its fulfilment in these, therefore God appears to Ezekiel on his call to be a prophet in the same form as that in which He departs from the ancient temple and Jerusalem, in order to their destruction, and in which He enters into the new edifice in order to make it a temple. The form of the theophany, therefore, is what it is in 1:4ff., because its purpose was to show and announce to the prophet, on the one side the destruction of the temple, and on the other its restoration and glorification.”
These remarks are quite correct, only the significance of the theophany itself is not thereby made clear. If it is clear from the purpose indicated why God here has the cherubim with Him, while on the occasion of other appearances (e.g., Dan 7:9; Isa 6:1) He is without cherubim; as the cherubim here have no other significance than what their figures have in the tabernacle, viz., that God has there His dwelling-place, the seat of His gracious presence; yet this does not satisfactorily explain either the special marks by which the cherubim of Ezekiel are distinguished from those in the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple, or the other attributes of the theophany. Kliefoth, moreover, does not misapprehend those diversities in the figures of the cherubim, and finds indicated therein the intention of causing it distinctly to appear that it is the one and same Jehovah, enthroned amid the cherubim, who destroys the temple, and who again uprears it.
Because Ezekiel was called to predict both events, he therefore thinks there must be excluded, on the one hand, such attributes in the form of the manifestation as would be out of harmony with the different aims of the theophany; while, on the other, those which are important for the different aims must be combined and comprehended in one form, that this one form may be appropriate to all the manifestations of the theophany. It could not therefore have in it the ark of the covenant and the mercy-seat; because, although these would probably have been appropriate to the manifestation for the destruction of the old temple (Ezek 8:1ff.), they would not have been in keeping with that for entering into the new temple. Instead of this, it must show the living God Himself upon the throne among “the living creatures;” because it belongs to the new and glorious existence of the temple of the future, that it should have Jehovah Himself dwelling within it in a visible form.
From this, too, may be explained the great fulness of the attributes, which are divisible into three classes: 1. Those which relate to the manifestation of God for the destruction of Jerusalem; 2. Those which relate to the manifestation of God for entering into the new temple; and, 3. Those which serve both objects in common.
To the last class belongs everything which is essential to the manifestation of God in itself, e.g., the visibility of God in general, the presence of the cherubim in itself, and so on: to the first class all the signs that indicate wrath and judgment, consequently, first, the coming from the north, especially the fire, the lightnings, in which God appears as He who is coming to judgment; but to the second, besides the rainbow and the appearance of God in human form, especially the wheels and the fourfold manifestation in the cherubim and wheels. For the new temple does not represent the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel, but the economy of salvation founded by Christ at His appearing, to which they belong as essential tokens; to be founded, on the one hand, by God’s own coming and dwelling upon the earth; on the other, to be of an oecumenic character, in opposition to the particularities and local nature of the previous ancient dispensation of salvation.
God appears bodily, in human form; lowers down to earth the canopy on which His throne is seated; the cherubim, which indicate God’s gracious presence with His people, appear not merely in symbol, but in living reality, plant their feet upon the ground, while each cherub has at his side a wheel, which moves, not in the air, but only upon the earth. By this it is shown that God Himself is to descend to the earth, to walk and to dwell visibly among His people; while the oecumenic character of the new economy of salvation, for the establishment of which God is to visit the earth, is represented in the fourfold form of the cherubim and wheels. The number four-the sign of the oecumenicity which is to come, and the symbol of its being spread abroad into all the world-is assigned to the cherubim and wheels, to portray the spreading abroad of the new kingdom of God over the whole earth. But how much soever that is true and striking this attempt at explanation may contain in details, it does not touch the heart of the subject, and is not free from bold combinations.
The correctness of the assumption, that in the theophany attributes of an opposite kind are united, namely, such as should refer only to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, and such as relate only to the foundation and nature of the new economy of salvation, is beset with wellfounded doubts. Why, on such a hypothesis, should the form of the theophany remain the same throughout in all three or four cases? This question, which lies on the surface, is not satisfactorily answered by the remark that Ezekiel had to predict not only the destruction of the old, but also the foundation of a new and much more glorious kingdom of God. For not only would this end, but also the object of showing that it is the same God who is to accomplish both, have been fully attained if the theophany had remained the same only in those attributes which emblemize in a general way God’s gracious presence in His temple; while the special attributes, which typify only the one and the other purpose of the divine appearance, would only they have been added, or brought prominently out, where this or that element of the theophany had to be announced.
Moreover, the necessity in general of a theophany for the purpose alleged is not evident, much less the necessity of a theophany so peculiar in form. Other prophets also, e.g., Micah, without having seen a theophany, have predicted in the clearest and distinctest manner both the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the raising up of a new and more glorious kingdom of God. The reason, then, why Ezekiel witnessed such a theophany, not only at his call, but had it repeated to him at every new turn in his prophetic ministry, must be deeper than that assigned; and the theophany must have another meaning than that of merely consecrating the prophet for the purpose of announcing both the judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple, and the raising up of a new and more glorious economy of salvation, and strengthening the word of the prophet by a symbolical representation of its contents.
To recognise this meaning, we must endeavour to form a distinct conception, not merely of the principal elements of our theophany, but to take into consideration at the same time their relation to other theophanies.
In our theophany three elements are unmistakeably prominent 1st , The peculiarly formed cherubim; 2nd , The wheels are seen beside the cherubim; and, 3rd , The firmament above, both with the throne and the form of God in human shape seated upon the throne.
The order of these three elements in the description is perhaps hardly of any importance, but is simply explicable from this, that to the seer who is on earth it is the under part of the figure which, appearing visibly in the clouds, first presents itself, and that his look next turns to the upper part of the theophany. Especially significant above all, however, is the appearance of the cherubim under or at the throne of God; and by this it is indisputably pointed out that He who appears upon the throne is the same God that is enthroned in the temple between the cherubim of the mercy-seat upon their outspread wings. Whatever opinion may be formed regarding the nature and significance of the cherubim, this much is undoubtedly established, that they belong essentially to the symbolical representation of Jehovah’s gracious presence in Israel, and that this portion of our vision has its real foundation in the plastic representation of this gracious relation in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle or temple. As, however, opinions are divided on the subject of the meaning of these symbols, and the cherubim of Ezekiel, moreover, present no inconsiderable differences in their four faces and four wings from the figures of the cherubim upon the mercy-seat and in the temple, which had only one face and two wings, we must, for the full understanding of our vision, look a little more closely to the nature and significance of the cherubim.
While, according to the older view, the cherubim are angelic beings of a higher order, the opinion at the present day is widely prevalent, that they are only symbolical figures, to which nothing real corresponds-merely ideal representations of creature life in its highest fulness. f1 This modern view, however, finds in the circumstance that the cherubim in the Israelitish sanctuary, as well as in Ezekiel and in the Apocalypse, are symbolical figures of varying shape, only an apparent but no real support.
The cherubim occur for the firs time in the history of Paradise, where, in Gen 3:22-24, it is related that God, after expelling the first human pair from Paradise, placed at the east side of the garden the cherubim and the flame of a sword, which turned hither and thither, to guard the way to the tree of life. If this narrative contains historical truth, and is not merely a myth or philosopheme; if Paradise and the Fall, with their consequences, extending over all humanity, are to remain real things and occurrences-then must the cherubim also be taken as real beings. “For God will not have placed symbols-pure creations of Hebrew fancy-at the gate of Paradise,” Kliefoth. Upon the basis of this narrative, Ezekiel also held the cherubim to be spiritual beings of a higher rank.
This appears from Ezek 28:14-16, where he compares the prince of Tyre, in reference to the high and glorious position which God had assigned him, to a cherub, and to Elohim. It does not at all conflict with the recognition of the cherubim as real beings, and, indeed, as spiritual or angelic beings, that they are employed in visions to represent super-sensible relations, or are represented in a plastic form in the sanctuary of Israel. “When angels,” as Kliefoth correctly remarks in reference to this, “sing the song of praise in the holy night, this is an historical occurrence, and these angels are real angels, who testify by their appearance that there are such beings as angels; but when, in the Apocalypse, angels pour forth sounds of wrath, these angels are figures in vision, as elsewhere, also, men and objects are seen in vision.” But even this employment of the angels as “figures” in vision, rests upon the belief that there are actually beings of this kind.
Biblical symbolism furnishes not a single undoubted instance of abstract ideas, or ideal creations of the imagination, being represented by the prophets as living beings. Under the plastic representation of the cherubim upon the mercy-seat, and in the most holy and holy place of the tabernacle and the temple, lies the idea, that these are heavenly, spiritual beings; for in the tabernacle and temple (which was built after its pattern) essential relations of the kingdom of God are embodied, and all the symbols derived from things having a real existence. When, however, on the other hand, Hengstenberg objects, on Rev 4:6, “that what Vitringa remarks is sufficient to refute those who, under the cherubim, would understand angels of rankviz. that these four creatures are throughout the whole of this vision connected with the assembly of the elders, and are distinguished not only from the angels, but from all the angels, as is done in Ezek 7:11,”-we must regard this refutation as altogether futile.
From the division of the heavenly assembly before the throne into two choirs or classes (Rev 5 and 7)-in which the zw>a (cherubim) and the elders form the one (5:8), the a’ggeloi the other choir (v. 11)-an argument can be as little derived against the angelic nature of the cherubim, as it could be shown, from the distinction between the stratia> oura>nios and aggelos , in Luke 2:13, that the “multitude of the heavenly host” were no angels at all. And the passage in Rev 7:11 would only then furnish the supposed proof against the relationship of the cherubim to the angels, if pa>ntev a>ggeloi (in general-all angels, how numerous soever they may bewere spoken of. But the very tenor of the words, pa’ntes ohi a’ggeloi “all the angels,” points back to the choir of angels already mentioned in Ezek 5:11, which was formed by polloi’ a’ggeloi, whose number was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. f2 From the distinction between the zw>a and the a’ggeloi in the Apocalypse, no further inference can be deduced than that the cherubim are not common angels, “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister” (Heb 1:14), but constitute a special class of angels of higher rank.
More exact information regarding the relationship of the cherubim to the other angels, or their nature, cannot indeed be obtained, either from the name cherubim or from the circumstance that, with the exception of Gen 3, they occur always only in connection with the throne of God. The etymology of the word bWrK] is obscure: all the derivations that have been proposed from the Hebrew or any other Semitic dialect cannot make the slightest pretensions to probability. The word appears to have come down from antiquity along with the tradition of Paradise. See my Biblical Archaeology, p. 88ff. If we take into consideration, however, that Ezekiel calls them yjæ , and first in ch. 10 employs the name bWrK] , known from the tabernacle, or rather from the history of Paradise; since, as may be inferred from Ezek 10:20, he first recognised, from the repetition of the theophany related in ch. 10, that the living creatures seen in the vision were cherubimwe may, from the designation yjæ , form a supposition, if not as to their nature, at least as to the significance of their position towards the throne of God. They are termed yjæ , “living,” not as being “ideal representatives of all living things upon the earth” (Hengstenberg), but as beings which, among all the creatures in heaven and earth, possess and manifest life in the fullest sense of the word, and on that very account, of all spiritual beings, stand nearest to the God of the spirits of all flesh (who lives from eternity to eternity), and encircle His throne.
With this representation harmonises not only the fact, that after the expulsion of the first human beings from Paradise, God commanded them to guard the way to the tree of life, but also the form in which they were represented in the sanctuary and in the visions. The cherubim in the sanctuary had the form of a man, and were only marked out by their wings as super-terrestrial beings, not bound by the earthly limits of space. The cherubim in Ezekiel and the Apocalypse also preserve the appearance of a man. Angels also assume the human form when they appear visibly to men on earth, because of all earthly creatures man, created in the image of God, takes the first and highest place. For although the divine image principally consists in the spiritual nature of man-in the soul breathed into him by the Spirit of God-yet his bodily form, as the vessel of this soul, is the most perfect corporeity of which we have any knowledge, and as such forms the most appropriate garment for the rendering visible the heavenly spiritual being within.
But the cherubim in our vision exhibit, besides the figure of the human body with the face of a man, also the face of the lion, of the ox, and of the eagle, and four wings, and appear as four-sided, square-formed beings, with a face on each of their four sides, so that they go in any direction without turning, and yet, while so doing, they can always proceed in the direction of one face; while in the vision in the Apocalypse, the four faces of the creatures named are divided among the four cherubim, so that each has only one of them. In the countenance of man is portrayed his soul and spirit, and in each one also of the higher order of animals, its nature. The union of the lion, ox, and eagle-faces with that of man in the cherubim, is intended, doubtless, to represent them as beings which possess the fulness and the power of life, which in the earthly creation is divided among the four creatures named.
The Rabbinical dictum (Schemoth Rabba, Schöttgen, Horae Hebraicae, p. 1168): Quatuor sunt qui principatum in hoc mundo tenent. Inter creaturas homo, inter aves aquila, inter pecora bos, inter bestias leo , contains a truth, even if there lies at the foundation of it the idea that these four creatures represent the entire earthly creation. For in the cherub, the living powers of these four creatures are actually united. That the eagle, namely, comes into consideration only in reference to his power of flight, in which he excels all other birds, may be concluded from the circumstance that in Rev 4:7 the fourth zw>on is described as resembling an eagle flying.
According to this principle, the ox and the lion are only to be considered in reference to their physical strength, in virtue of which the ox amongst tame animals, the lion amongst wild beasts, take the first place, while man, through the power of his mind, asserts his supremacy over all earthly creatures. f3 The number four, lastly, both of the cherubim and of the four faces of each cherub, in our vision, is connected with their capacity to go in all directions without turning, and can contribute nothing in favour of the assumption that these four indicate the whole living creation, upon the simple ground that the number four is not essential to them, for on the mercy-seat only two cherubim are found. That they are also represented in the vision as higher spiritual beings, appears not only from Ezek 10:7, where a cherub stretches forth his hand and fetches out fire from between the cherubim, and places it in the hands of the angel clothed in white linen, who was to accomplish the burning of Jerusalem; but, still more distinctly, from what is said in the Apocalypse regarding their working. Here we observe them, as Kliefoth has already pointed out, “in manifold activity: they utter day and night the Tersanctus; they offer worship, Rev 4:8-9; 5:8; 19:4; they repeat the Amen to the song of praise from all creation, 5:14; they invite John to see what the four first seals are accomplishing, 6:1,3,5,7; one of them gives to the seven angels the seven phials of wrath, 15:7.”
Besides this activity of theirs in the carrying out of the divine counsel of salvation, we must, in order to gain as clear a view as possible of the significance of the cherubim in our vision, as well as in Biblical symbolism generally, keep also in view the position which, in the Apocalypse, they occupy around the throne of God. Those who are assembled about the throne form these three concentric circles: the four zw>a (cherubim) form the innermost circle; the twenty-four elders, seated upon thrones, clothed in white garments, and wearing golden crowns upon their heads, compose the wider circle that follows; while the third, and widest of all, is formed by the many angels, whose number was many thousands of thousands (Rev 4:4,6; 5:6,8; 7:11). To these are added the great, innumerable host, standing before the throne, of the just made perfect from among all heathens, peoples, and languages, in white raiment, and with palms in their hands, who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and ow, before the throne of God, serve Him day and night in His temple (Ezek 7:9,14-15).
Accordingly the twenty-four elders, as the patriarchs of the Old and New Testament congregation of God, have their place beside God’s throne, between the cherubim and the myriads of the other angels; and in the same manner as they are exalted above the angels, are the cherubim exalted even above them. This position of the cherubim justifies the conclusion that they have the name of zw>a from the indwelling fulness of the everlasting blessed life which is within them, and which streams out from the Creator of spirits-the King of all kings, and Lord of all lords-upon the spiritual beings of heaven, and that the cherubim immediately surround the throne of God, as being representatives and bearers of the everlasting life of blessedness, which men, created in the image of God, have forfeited by the Fall, but which they are again, from the infinitude of the divine compassion, to recover in the divine kingdom founded for the redemption of fallen humanity.
Although the throne of God is not now expressly represented and designated as a chariot-throne, yet there can be no doubt that the wheels which Ezekiel sees under the throne beside the cherubim are intended to indicate the possibility and ease with which the throne can be moved in the direction of the four quarters of the heavens. The meaning of the eyes, however, is matter of controversy, with which, according to Ezek 1:18, the felloes of the wheels, and, as is expressly mentioned in Ezek 10:12, and also noted in Rev 4:6, the cherubim themselves are furnished all round.
According to Kliefoth, the eyes serve the purpose of motion; and as the movement of the cherubim and wheels indicates the spreading abroad over the whole earth of the new economy of salvation, this mass of eyes in the cherubim and wheels must indicate that this spreading abroad is to take place, not through blind accident, but with conscious clearness.
The meaning is not appropriate to Rev 4:6, where the cherubim have no wheels beside them, and where a going forth into all countries is not to be thought of. Here therefore, according to Kliefoth, the eyes only serve to bring into view the moral and physical powers which have created and supported the kingdom of God upon earth, and which are also to bring it now to its consummation. This is manifestly arbitrary, as any support from passages of the Bible in favour of the one view or the other is entirely wanting. The remark of Rosenmüller is nearer the truth, that by the multitude of the eyes is denoted Coelestium naturarum perspicacia et oxuwpi>a , and leads to the correct explanation of Rev 5:6, where the seven eyes of the Lamb are declared to be ta> eJpta> pneu>mata tou> Qeou> ta> apestalme>na eis pa>san th>n gh>n ; the eyes consequently indicate the spiritual effects which proceed from the Lamb over the entire earth in a manner analogous to His seven horns, which are the symbols of the completeness of His power. The eye, then, is the picture and mirror of the Spirit; and the ornamentation of the cherubim and wheels with eyes, shows that the power of the divine Spirit dwells within them, and determines and guides their movements.
The remaining objects of the vision are not difficult to explain. The appearance of the expanse over above the cherubim and wheels, upon which a throne is to be seen, represents the firmament of heaven as the place of God’s throne. God appears upon the throne in human form, in the terrible glory of His holy majesty. The whole appearance draws nigh to the prophet in the covering of a great fiery cloud (v. 4). This cloud points back to the “thick cloud” in which Jehovah, in the ancient time, descended upon Mount Sinai amid thunders and lightnings (Ex 19:16) to establish His covenant of grace, promised to the patriarchs with their seed-the people of Israel brought forth from Egypt-and to found His kingdom of grace upon the earth. If we observe the connection of our theophany with that manifestation of God on Sinai for the founding of the Old Testament dispensation of salvation, we shall neither confine the fire and the lightnings in our vision to the manifestation of God for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, nor refer the splendour which appears above the throne in the form of a rainbow to the grace which returns after the execution of judgment, or to the new dispensation of salvation which is to be established.
Nor may we regard these differing attributes, by referring them specially to individual historical elements of the revelation of God in His kingdom, as in opposition; but must conceive of them, more generally and from the point of view of unity, as symbols of the righteousness, holiness, and grace which God reveals in the preservation, government, and consummation of His kingdom. It holds true also of our theophany what Düsterdieck remarks on Rev 4:3 (cf. p. 219 of the second edition of his Commentary) regarding the importance of the divine appearance described in that passage: “We may not hastily apply in a general way the description before us by special reference to the judgments of God (which are seen at a later time) in their relation to the divine grace; it is enough that here, where the everlasting and personal ground of all that follows is described, the sacred glory and righteousness of God appear in the closest connection with His unchanging, friendly grace, so that the entire future development of the kingdom of God, and of the world down to the final termination, as that is determined by the marvellous unity of being which is in the holy, righteous, and gracious God, must not only according to its course, but also according to its object, correspond to this threefold glory of the living God.” As this fundamental vision (of the Apocalypse) contains all that serves to alarm the enemies and to comfort the friends of Him who sits on the throne, so the vision of Ezekiel also has its fundamental significance not only for the whole of the prophet’s ministry, but, generally, for the continuation and development of the kingdom of God in Israel, until its aim has been reached in its consummation in glory.
This, its fundamental significance, unmistakeably appears from the twofold circumstance-firstly, that the theophany was imparted to the prophet at his call, and was then repeated at the principal points in his prophetic ministry, at the announcement both of the dissolution of the old kingdom of God by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, ch. 9-11, and also at the erection of the new temple and a new arrangement of the kingdom (ch. 40- 48). Since, as was formerly already remarked (p. 22), a theophany was not required either for the calling of Ezekiel to the office of a prophet, or for the announcement which was entrusted to him of the annihilation of the old and the foundation of the new kingdom of God, so the revelation of God, which pointed in its phenomenal shape to the dwelling of the Lord among His people in the Holy of Holies in the temple (and which was imparted in this place to Ezekiel, living among the exiles in the land of Chaldea by the banks of the Chebar), could only be intended, in view of the dissolution of the theocracy, which had already begun, and was shortly to be completed, to give to the prophet and those of his contemporaries who were living with him in exile, a real pledge that the essential element of the theocracy was not to be removed by the penal judgment which was passing over the sinful people and kingdom; but that God the Lord would still continue to attest Himself to His people as the living God, and preserve His kingdom, and one day bring it again to a glorious consummation.-In correspondence with this aim, God appears in the temple in the symbolical forms of His gracious presence as He who is throned above the cherubim; but cherubim and throne are furnished with attributes, which represent the movement of the throne in all directions, not merely to indicate the spreading of the kingdom of God over all the earth, but to reveal Himself as Lord and King, whose might extends over the whole world, and who possesses the power to judge all the heathen, and to liberate from their bondage His people, who have been given into their hands, if they repent and turn unto Him; and who will again gather them together, and raise them in the place of their inheritance to the glory which had been promised.
Such is the significance of the theophany at the inauguration of Ezekiel to the prophetic office. The significance, however, which its repetition possesses is clearly contained in the facts which the prophet was herewith permitted by God to behold. From the temple and city, polluted by sinful abominations, the gracious presence of God departs, in order that temple and city may be given over to the judgment of destruction; into the new and glorious temple there enters again the glory of God, to dwell for ever among the children of Israel.
The calling of the prophet begins with the Lord describing to Ezekiel the people to whom He is sending him, in order to make him acquainted with the difficulties of his vocation, and to encourage him for the discharge of the same.
V. 3. And He said to me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to the rebels who have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have fallen away from me, even until this very day. V. 4. And the children are of hard face, and hardened heart. To them I send thee; and to them shalt thou speak: Thus says the Lord Jehovah.
V. 5. And they-they may hear thee or fail (to do so); for they are a stiff-necked race-they shall experience that a prophet has been in their midst.
V. 6. But thou, son of man, fear not before them, and be not afraid of their words, if thistles and thorns are found about thee, and thou sittest upon scorpions; fear not before their words, and tremble not before their face; for they are a stiff-necked race.
V. 7. And speak my words to them, whether they may hear or fail (to do so); for they are stiff-necked.
The children of Israel have become heathen, no longer a people of God, not even a heathen nation ywOG, Isa 1:4), but ywOG, “heathens,” that is, as being rebels against God. dræm; (with the article) is not to be joined as an adjective to ywOG, which is without the article, but is employed substantively in the form of an apposition. They have rebelled against God in this, that they, like their fathers, have separated themselves from Jehovah down to this day (as regards b] [væp; , see on Isa 1:2; and hz, µwOy `µx,[, , as in the Pentateuch; cf. Lev 23:14; Gen 7:13; 17:23, etc.). Like their fathers, the sons are rebellious, and, in addition, they are µynip; hv,q; , of hard countenance” = jxæme qz;j; , “of hard brow” (Ezek 3:7), i.e., impudent, without hiding the face, or lowering the look for shame.
This shamelessness springs from hardness of heart. To these hardened sinners Ezekiel is to announce the word of the Lord. Whether they hear it or not ( µaiw] A ?ai , sive-sive, as in Josh 24:15; Eccl 11:3; 12:14), they shall in any case experience that a prophet has been amongst them. That they will neglect to hear is very probable, because they are a stiff-necked race tyiBæ , “house” = family). The Vau before [dæy; (v. 5) introduces the apodosis. hy;h; is perfect, not present. This is demanded by the usus loquendi and the connection of the thought. The meaning is not: they shall now from his testimony that a prophet is there; but they shall experience from the result, viz., when the word announced by him will have been fulfilled, that a prophet has been amongst them. Ezekiel, therefore, is not to be prevented by fear of them and their words from delivering a testimony against their sins.
The aJpa>x lego>mena , br;s; and ˆwOLsi , are not, with the older expositors, to be explained adjectively: “rebelles et renuentes,” but are substantives. As regards calown, the signification “thorn” is placed beyond doubt by ˆwOLsi in Ezek 28:24, and br;s; in Aramaic does indeed denote “refractarius;” but this signification is a derived one, and inappropriate here. br;s; is related to bræx; , “to burn, to singe,” and means “urtica,” “stinging-nettle, thistle,” as Donasch in Raschi has already explained it. tae is, according to the later usage, for tae , expressing the “by and with of association,” and occurs frequently in Ezekiel. Thistles and thorns are emblems of dangerous, hostile men. The thought is strengthened by the words “to sit on lae for `l[æ ) scorpions,” as these animals inflict a painful and dangerous wound.
For the similitude of dangerous men to scorpions, cf. Sir. 26:10, and other proof passages in Bochart, Hierozoic. III. p. 551f., ed. Rosenmüll.
EZEKIEL 2:8-10-3:1-13 After the Lord had pointed out to the prophet the difficulties of the call laid upon him, He prepared him for the performance of his office, by inspiring him with the divine word which he is to announce.
V. 8. And thou, son of man, hear what I say to thee, Be not stiffnecked like the stiff-necked race; open thy mouth, and eat what I give unto thee.
V. 10. And He spread it out before me; the same was written upon the front and back: and there were written upon it lamentations, and sighing, and woe.
Ch3:1. And He said to me: Son of man, what thou findest eat; eat the roll, and go and speak to the house of Israel.
V. 2. Then opened I my mouth, and He gave me this roll to eat. V. 3. And said to me: Son of man, feed thy belly, and fill thy body with this roll which I give thee. And I ate it, and it was in my mouth as honey and sweetness.
The prophet is to announce to the people of Israel only that which the Lord inspires him to announce.
This thought is embodied in symbol, in such a way that an outstretched hand reaches to him a book, which he is to swallow, and which also, at God’s command, he does swallow; cf. Rev 10:9ff. This roll was inscribed on both sides with lamentations, sighing, and woe yhi is either abbreviated from yhin] , not = yai , or as Ewald, §101c, thinks, is only a more distinct form of ywOh or wOh ). The meaning is not, that upon the roll was inscribed a multitude of mournful expressions of every kind, but that there was written upon it all that the prophet was to announce, and what we now read in his book. These contents were of a mournful nature, for they related to the destruction of the kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple.
That Ezekiel may look over the contents, the roll is spread out before his eyes, and then handed to him to be eaten, with the words, “Go and speak to the children of Israel,” i.e., announce to the children of Israel what you have received into yourself, or as it is termed in v. 5, rb;d; , “my words.”
The words in Ezek 3:3a were spoken by God while handing to the prophet the roll to be eaten. He is not merely to eat, i.e., take it into his mouth, but he is to fill his body and belly therewith, i.e., he is to receive into his innermost being the word of God presented to him, to change it, as it were, into sap and blood. Whilst eating it, it was sweet in his mouth. The sweet taste must not, with Kliefoth, be explained away into a sweet “after-taste,” and made to bear this reference, that the destruction of Jerusalem would be followed by a more glorious restoration. The roll, inscribed with lamentation, sorrow, and woe, tasted to him sweetly, because its contents was God’s word, which sufficed for the joy and gladness of his heart (Jer 15:16); for it is “infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and spokesman of the Omnipotent,” and even the most painful of divine truths possess to a spiritually-minded man a joyful and quickening side (Hengstenberg on Rev 10:9). To this it is added, that the divine penal judgments reveal not only the holiness and righteousness of God, but also prepare the way for the revelation of salvation, and minister to the saving of the soul.
The Sending of the Prophet.
This consists in God’s promise to give him power to overcome the difficulties of his vocation (vv. 4-9); in next transporting him to the place where he is to labour (vv. 10-15); and lastly, in laying upon him the responsibility of the souls entrusted to his charge (vv. 16-21). After Ezekiel had testified, by eating the roll which had been given him, his willingness to announce the word of the Lord, the Lord acquaints him with the peculiar difficulties of his vocation, and promises to bestow upon him strength to overcome them.
V. 4. And He said to me, Son of man, go away to the house of Israel, and speak with my words to them.
V. 9. Like to adamant, harder than rock, do I make thy brow: fear not, and tremble not before them, for they are a stiff-necked race.
The contents of this section present a great similarity to those in Ezek 2:3- 7, inasmuch as here as well as there the obduracy and stiff-neckedness of Israel is stated as a hindrance which opposes the success of Ezekiel’s work.
This is done here, however, in a different relation than there, so that there is no tautology. Here, where the Lord is sending the prophet, He first brings prominently forward what lightens the performance of his mission; and next, the obduracy of Israel, which surrounds it with difficulty for him, in order at the same time to promise him strength for the vanquishing of these difficulties. Ezekiel is to speak, in the words communicated to him by God, to the house (people) of Israel. This he can do, because Israel is not a foreign nation with an unintelligible language, but possesses the capacity of understanding the words of the prophet (vv. 5-7), hp;c; `qme[; `µ[æ , “a people of deep lips,” i.e., of a style of speech hollow, and hard to be understood; cf. Isa 33:19. ac;n; `qme[; is not genitive, and `µ[æ is not the status constructus, but an adjective belonging to `µ[æ , and used in the plural, because `µ[æ contains a collective conception. “And of heavy tongue,” i.e., with a language the understanding of which is attended with great difficulty. Both epithets denote a barbarously sounding, unintelligible, foreign tongue. The unintelligibility of a language, however, does not alone consist in unacquaintance with the meaning of its words and sounds, but also in the peculiarities of each nation’s style of thought, of which language is only the expression in sounds.
In this respect we may with Coccejus and Kliefoth, refer the prophet’s inability to understand the language of the heathen to this, that their manner of thinking and speaking was not formed according to the word of God, but was developed out of purely earthly, and even God-resisting factors. Only the exclusive prominence given by Kliefoth to this side of the subject is incorrect, because irreconcilable with the words, “many nations, whose words (discourse) thou didst not understand” (v. 6). These words show that the unintelligibility of the language lies in not understanding the sounds of its words. Before cy tyBeAla, , in v. 5, the adversative particle sed is omitted (cf. Ewald, §354a); the omission here is perhaps caused by this, that jlæv; hT;aæ , in consequence of its position between both sentences, can be referred to both.
In v. 6 the thought of v. 5 is expanded by the addition of bræ `µ[æ , “many nations” with different languages, in order to show that it is not in the ability, but in the willingness, to hear the word of the Lord that the Israelites are wanting. It is not to many nations with unintelligible languages that God is sending the prophet, but to such men as are able to hear him, i.e., can understand his language. The second hemistich of v. 6 is rendered by the old translators as if they had not read alo after µai , “if I sent thee to them (the heathen), they would hear thee.” Modern expositors have endeavoured to extract this meaning, either by taking alo µai as a particle of adjuration, profecto, “verily” (Rosenmüller, Hävernick, and others), or reading aWl µai as Ewald does, after Gen 23:13.
But the one is as untenable as the other: against aWl µai stands the fact that aWl is written with w , not with ynæa ; against the view that it is a particle of adjuration, stands partly the position of the words before lv lae , which, according to the sense, must belong to mvy hM;he , partly the impossibility of taking jlæv; conditionally after the preceding alo µai . “If such were the case, Ezekiel would have really done all he could to conceal his meaning” (Hitzig), for alo µai , after a negative sentence preceding, signifies “but;” cf. Gen 24:38. Consequently neither the one view nor the other yields an appropriate sense. “If I had sent thee to the heathen,” involves a repenting of the act, which is not beseeming in God. Against the meaning “profecto” is the consideration that the idea, “Had I sent thee to the heathen, verily they would hear thee,” is in contradiction with the designation of the heathen as those whose language the prophet does not understand.
If the heathen spoken a language unintelligible to the prophet, they consequently did not understand his speech, and could not therefore comprehend his preaching. It only remains, then, to apply the sentence simply to the Israelites, “not to heathen nations, but to the Israelites have I sent thee,” and to take [mæv; as potential, “they are able to fear thee,” “they can understand thy words.” This in v. 7 is closed by the antithesis, “But the house of Israel will not hear thee, because they will not hear me (Jehovah), as they are morally hardened.” With 7b, cf. Ezek 2:4. The Lord, however, will provide His prophet with power to resist this obduracy; will lend him unbending courage and unshaken firmness, v. 8; cf. Jer 15:20. He will make his brow hard as adamant (cf. Zech 7:12), which is harder than rock; therefore he shall not fear before the obduracy of Israel. rxæ , as in Ex 4:25, = rWx . As parallel passages in regard of the subject-matter, cf. Isa 50:7 and Jer 1:18.
Prepared then for his vocation, Ezekiel is now transported to the sphere of his activity.
V. 10. And He said to me, Son of man, all my words which I shall speak to thee, take into thy heart, and hear with thine ears. V. 11. And go to the exiles, to the children of thy people, and speak to them, and say to them, “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah,” whether they may hear thee or fail (to hear thee).
V. 15. And I came to Tel-abib to the exiles, who dwelled by the river Chebar, and where they at there sat I down seven days, motionless and dumb, in their midst.
The apparent hysteron proteron, “take into thy heart, and hear with thine ears” (v. 10), disappears so soon as it is observed that the clause “hear with thine ears” is connected with the following “go to the exiles,” etc.
The meaning is not, “postquam auribus tuis percepisses mea mandata, ea ne oblivioni tradas, sed corde suscipe et animo infige ” (Rosenmüller), but this, “All my words which I shall speak to thee lay to heart, that thou mayest obey them. When thou hast heard my words with thine ears, then go to the exiles and announce them to them.” With v. 11 cf. Ezek 2:4-5.
Observe that it is still `µ[æ ˆBe , “the children of thy” (not “my”) “people.”
Stiff-necked Israel is no longer Jehovah’s people. The command “to go to the people” is, in v. 12ff., immediately executed by the prophet, the wind raising him up and transporting him to Tel-abib, among the exiles. jæWr , phenomenally considered, is a wind of which God makes use to conduct the prophet to the scene of his labour; but the wind is only the sensible substratum of the spirit which transports him thither. The representation is, that “he was borne thither through the air by the wind” (Kliefoth); but not as Jerome and Kliefoth suppose, in ipso corpore, i.e., so that an actual bodily removal through the air took place, but the raising up and taking away by the wind was effected in spirit in the condition of ecstasy. Not a syllable indicates that the theophany was at an end before this removal; the contrary rather is clearly indicated by the remark that Ezekiel heard behind him the noise of the wings of the cherubim and of the wheels.
And that the words jæWr ac;n; do not necessitate us to suppose a bodily removal is shown by the comparison with Ezek 8:3; 11:1,24, where Kliefoth also understands the same words in a spiritual sense of a merely internal-i.e., experienced in a state of ecstasy-removal of the prophet to Jerusalem and back again to Chaldea. The great noise which Ezekiel hears behind him proceeds, at least in part, from the appearance of the hydwObK; being set in motion, but (according to v. 13) not in order to remove itself from the raptured prophet, but by changing its present position, to attend the prophet to the sphere of his labour. It tells decidedly in favour of this supposition, that the prophet, according to v. 23, again sees around him the same theophany in the valley where he begins his work.
This reappearance, indeed, presupposes that it had previously disappeared from his sight, but the disappearance is to be supposed as taking place only after his call has been completed, i.e., after v. 21. While being removed in a condition of ecstasy, Ezekiel heard the rushing sound, “Praised be the glory of Jehovah.” µwOqm; belongs not to wgw Ërær; , which would yield no appropriate sense, but to [mæv; , where it makes no difference of importance in the meaning whether the suffix is referred to hwO;hy] or to dwObK; . Ezekiel heard the voice of the praise of God’s glory issuing forth from the place where Jehovah or His glory were to be found, i.e., where they had appeared to the prophet, not at all from the temple. Who sounded this song of praise is not mentioned. Close by Ezekiel heard the sound, the rustling of the wings of the cherubim setting themselves in motion, and how the wings came into contact with the tips of each other, touched each other qvæn; , from qvæn; , “to join,” “to touch one another”).
Verse 14 describes the prophet’s mood of mind as he is carried away.
Raised by the wind, and carried on, he went, i.e., drove thither, jæWr hm;je rmæ , “bitter in the heat of his spirit.” Although rmæ is used as well of grief and mourning as of wrath and displeasure, yet mourning and sorrow are not appropriate to hm;je , “warmth of spirit,” “anger.” The supposition, however, that sorrow as well as anger were in him, or that he was melancholy while displeased (Kliefoth), is incompatible with the fundamental idea of rmæ as “sharp,” “bitter.” Ezekiel feels himself deeply roused, even to the bitterness of anger, partly by the obduracy of Israel, partly by the commission to announce to this obdurate people, without any prospect of success, the word of the Lord. To so heavy a task he feels himself unequal, therefore his natural man rebels against the Spirit of God, which, seizing him with a strong and powerful grasp, tears him away to the place of his work; and he would seek to withdraw himself from the divine call, as Moses and Jonah once did.
The hand of the Lord, however, was strong upon him, i.e., “held him up in this inner struggle with unyielding power” (Kliefoth); cf. Isa 8:11. qz;j; , “firm,” “strong,” differs from dbeK; , “heavy,” Ps 32:4. bybia; lTe , i.e., “the hill of ears,” is the name of the place where resided a colony of the exiles.
The place was situated on the river Chebar (see on Ezek 1:3), and derived its name, no doubt, from the fertility of the valley, rich in grain h[;q]Bi , v. 23), by which it was surrounded; nothing further, however, is known of it; cf. Gesen. Thesaur. p. 1505. The Chetib rvaw , at which the Masoretes and many expositors have unnecessarily taken offence, is to be read rv,a\w; , and to be joined with the following µv; , “where they sat” (so rightly the Chaldee, Syriac, and Vulgate). That this signification would be expressed differently, as Hitzig thinks, cannot be established by means of Job 39:30.
The Keri bvæy; is not only unnecessary but also inappropriate, which holds true also of other conjectures of modern expositors. Ezekiel sat there seven days, µmev; , i.e., neither “deprived of sensation,” nor “being silent,” but as the partic. Hiphil from µmev; , as µmev; in Ezra 9:3-4, “rigidly without moving,” therefore “motionless and dumb.” The seven days are not regarded as a period of mourning, in support of which Job 2:13 is referred to; but as both the purification and the dedication and preparation for a holy service is measured by the number seven, as being the number of God’s works (cf. Ex 29:29ff.; Lev 8:33ff.; 2 Chron 29:17), so Ezekiel sits for a week “motionless and dumb,” to master the impression which the word of God, conveyed to him in ecstatic vision, had made upon his mind, and to prepare and sanctify himself for his vocation (Kliefoth).
When these seven days are completed, there comes to him the final word, which appoints him watchman over Israel, and places before him the task and responsibility of his vocation. V. 16. And it came to pass after the lapse of seven days, that the word of Jehovah came to me as follows: V. 17. Son of man, I have set thee to be a watchman over the house of Israel; thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and thou shalt warn them from me.
V. 18. If I say to the sinner, Thou shalt surely die, and thou warnest him not, and speakest not to warn the sinner from his evil way that he may live, then shall he, the sinner, die because of his evil deeds, but his blood will I require at thy hand.
V. 19. But if thou warnest the sinner, and he turn not from his wickedness and his evil way, then shall he die because of his evil deeds, but thou hast saved thy soul.
V. 20. And if a righteous man turn from his righteousness, and do unrighteousness, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, then shall he die; if thou hast not warned him, he shall die because of his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood will I require at thy hand.
V. 21. But if thou warnest him, the righteous man, so that the righteous man sin not, and he do not sin, then will he live, because he has been warned, and thou hast saved thy soul.
As a prophet for Israel, Ezekiel is like one standing upon a watchtower (Hab 2:1), to watch over the condition of the people, and warn them of the dangers that threaten them (Jer 6:17; Isa 56:10). As such, he is responsible for the souls entrusted to his charge. From the mouth of Jehovah, i.e., according to God’s word, he is to admonish the wicked to turn from their evil ways, that they die not in their sins. ˆmi , “from me,” i.e., in my name, and with my commission. “If I say to the sinner,” i.e., if I commission thee to say to him (Kimchi). As tWm tWm reminds us of Gen 2:17, so is the threatening, “his blood will I require at thy hand,” an allusion to Gen 9:5. If the prophet does not warn the wicked man, as God has commanded him, he renders himself guilty of a deadly sin, for which God will take vengeance on him as on the murderer for the shedding of blood.
An awfully solemn statement for all ministers of the word. [v]r; , in vv. and 19, at which the LXX have stumbled, so that they have twice omitted it, is not a substantive, and to be changed, with Hitzig, into h[;v]ri , but is an adjective, foemin. gen., and belongs to Ër,D, , which is construed as feminine. The righteous man who backslides is, before God, regarded as equal with the sinner who persists in his sin, if the former, notwithstanding the warning, perseveres in his backsliding (v. 20ff.). qd,x, bWv , “to turn oneself from his righteousness,” denotes the formal falling away from the path of righteousness, not mere “stumbling or sinning from weakness.” `lw,[, `hc;[; , “to do unrighteousness,” “to act perversely,” is “se prorsus dedere impietati” (Calvin). lwOvk]mi ˆtæn; belongs still to the protasis, tWm aWh forming the apodosis, not a relative sentence-as Ewald and Hitzig suppose-”so that he, or, in consequence of which, he die.” lwOvk]mi , “object of offence,” by which any one comes to fall, is not destruction, considered as punishment deserved (Calvin, Hävernick), but everything that God puts in the way of the sinner, in order that the sin, which is germinating in his soul, may come forth to the light, and ripen to maturity.
God, indeed, neither causes sin, nor desires the death of the sinner; and in this sense He does not tempt to evil (James 1:13), but He guides and places the sinner in relations in life in which he must come to a decision for or against what is good and divine, and either suppress and sinful lusts of his heart, or burst the barriers which are opposed to their satisfaction. If he does not do the former, but the latter, evil gains within him more and more strength, so that he becomes the servant of sin, and finally reaches a point where conversion is impossible. In this consists the lwOvk]mi , which God places before him, who turns away from righteousness to unrighteousness or evil, but not in this, that God lets man run on in order that he may die or perish. For tWm does not stand for tWm , and there is therefore no ground for a change of punctuation to carry forward Athnach to rhæz; (Hitzig).
For the subject spoken of is not that the backsliding righteous man “in general only dies if he is not warned” (Hitzig)-that meaning is not in v. 21, “that he, in contrast to the [v]r; , gives sure obedience to the warning,”-but only the possibility is supposed that a qydixæ , who has transgressed upon the way of evil, will yield obedience to the warning, but not that he will of a certainty do this. As with the [v]r; in v. 19, only the case of his resisting the warning is expressly mentioned; while the opposite case-that he may, in consequence of the warning, be converted-is not excluded; so in v. 21, with the qydixæ , who has entered upon the path of unrighteousness, only the case of conversion in consequence of the warning is expressly mentioned, without the possibility of his hardening himself against the prophet’s word being thereby excluded. For the instruction of the prophet it was sufficient to bring forward the two cases mentioned, as it appears from them that in the one case as well as in the other he has done his duty, and saved his soul.
CH. 3:22-5:17. THE DESTINY OF JERUSALEM AND ITS INHABITANTS Verses 22-27 in ch. 3 no longer belong to the prophet’s inauguration and introduction into office, nor do they form the conclusion of his call, but the introduction to his first prophetic act and prediction, as has been rightly recognised by Ewald and Kliefoth. This appears already from the introductory formula, “The hand of Jehovah came upon me” (v. 22), and, more distinctly still, from the glory of Jehovah appearing anew to the prophet (when, in obedience to a divine impulse, he had gone down into the valley), in the form in which he had seen it by the river Chebar, and giving him a commission to announce byword and symbol the siege of Jerusalem, and the fate of its inhabitants. For, that the divine commission did not consist merely in the general directions, Ezek 3:25-27, but is first given in its principal parts in ch. 4 and 5, is indisputably evident from the repetition of the words µd;a;Aˆb, hT;aæw] in Ezek 3:25; 4:1, and 5:1.
With hT;aæ neither can the first nor, in general, a new prophecy begin. This has been recognised by Hitzig himself in Ezek 4:1, where he remarks that the first of the three oracles which follow down to 8:1, and which he makes begin with 4:1, “attaches itself to Ezek 3:25-27 as a continuation of the same.” But what holds true of 4:1 must hold true also of 3:25, viz., that no new oracle can begin with this verse, but that it is connected with 3:22-24.
The commencement, then, we have to seek in the formula, “and the hand of Jehovah came upon me” (3:22), with which also 8:1 (where only lpæn; stands instead of hy;h; ) and 40:1-new oracles-are introduced. No doubt these passages are preceded by chronological notices, while in 3:22 every note of time is wanting. But nothing further can be inferred from this, than that the divine word contained in 3:25-5:17 was imparted to the prophet immediately after his consecration and call, so that it still falls under the date of Ezek 1:2; which may also be discovered from this, that the µv; in v. 22 points to the locality named in v. 15.
Immediately after his call, then, and still in the same place where the last word of calling (Ezek 3:16-21) was addressed to him, namely, at Gel- Abibl, in the midst of the exiles, Ezekiel received the first divine revelation which, as prophet, he has to announce to the people. This revelation is introduced by the words in Ezek 3:22-24; and divided into three sections by the thrice-occurring, similar address, “And thou, son of man” (3:25; 4:1; 5:1). In the first section, Ezek 3:25-27, God gives him general injunctions as to his conduct while carrying out the divine commission; in the second, ch. 4, He commands him to represent symbolically the siege of Jerusalem with its miseries; and in the third, ch. 5, the destiny of the inhabitants after the capture of the city.
Introduction to the first prophetic announcement.
V. 24. And spirit came into me, and placed me on my feet, and He spake with me, and said to me, Go, and shut thyself in thy house. h[;q]Bi is, without doubt, the valley situated near Tel-abib. Ezekiel is to go out from the midst of the exiles-where, according to v. 15, he had found himself-into the valley, because God will reveal Himself to him only in solitude. When he had complied with this command, there appears to him there the glory of Jehovah, in the same form in which it had appeared to him at the Chaboras (Ezek 1:4-28); before it he falls, a second time, on his face; but is also, as on the first occasion, again raised to his feet, cf. 1:28- 2:2.
Hereupon the Lord commands him to shut himself up in his house-which doubtless he inhabited in Tel-Abib-not probably “as a sign of his future destiny,” as a realistic explanation of the words, “Thou canst not walk in their midst (v. 25); they will prevent thee by force from freely exercising thy vocation in the midst of the people.” For in that case the “shutting of himself up in the house” would be an arbitrary identification with the “binding with fetters” (v. 25); and besides, the significance of the address µd;a; ˆBe hT;aæ , and its repetition in Ezek 4:1 and 5:1, would be misconceived. For as in 4:1 and 5:1 there are introduced with this address the principal parts of the duty which Ezekiel was to perform, so the proper divine instruction may also first begin with the same in 3:25; consequently the command “to shut himself up in his house” can only have the significance of a preliminary divine injunction, without possessing any significance in itself; but only “serve as a means for carrying out what the prophet is commissioned to do in the following chapters” (Kliefoth), i.e., can only mean that he is to perform in his own house what is commanded him in ch. 4 and 5, or that he is not to leave his house during their performance.
More can hardly be sought in this injunction, nor can it at all be taken to mean that, having shut himself up from others in his house, he is to allow no one to approach him; but only that he is not to leave his dwelling. For, according to Ezek 4:3, the symbolical representation of the siege of Jerusalem is to be a sign for the house of Israel; and according to 4:12, Ezekiel is, during this symbolical action, to bake his bread before their eyes. From this it is seen that his contemporaries might come to him and observe his proceedings.
The general divine instructions.
V. 25. And thou, son of man, lo, they will lay cords upon thee, and bind thee therewith, so that thou canst not go out into their midst.
V. 27. But when I speak to thee, I will open thy mouth, that thou mayest say to them, Thus sayeth the Lord Jehovah, Let him who wishes to hear, hear, and let him who neglects, neglect (to hear): for they are a stiff necked generation. The meaning of this general injunction depends upon the determination of the subject in ˆtæn; , v. 25. Most expositors think of the prophet’s countrymen, who are to bind him with cords so that he shall not be able to leave his house. The words Ëw,T; ax;y; alo appear to support this, as the suffix in Ëw,T; indisputably refers to his countrymen.
But this circumstance is by no means decisive; while against this view is the twofold difficulty-firstly, that a binding of the prophet with cords by his countrymen is scarcely reconcilable with what he performs in ch. 4 and 5; secondly, of hostile attacks by the exiles upon the prophet there is not a trace to be discovered in the entire remainder of the book. The house of Israel is indeed repeatedly described as a stiff-necked race, as hardened and obdurate towards God’s word; but any embitterment of feeling against the prophet, which should have risen so far as to bind him, or even to make direct attempts to prevent him from exercising his prophetic calling, can, after what is related in Ezek 33:30-33 regarding the position of the people towards him, hardly be imagined. Further, the binding and fettering of the prophet is to be regarded as of the same kind with the cleaving of his tongue to his jaws, so that he should be silent and not speak (v. 26).
It is God, however, who suspends this dumbness over him; and according to Ezek 4:8, it is also God who binds him with cords, so that he cannot stir from one side to the other. The demonstrative power of the latter passage is not to be weakened by the objection that it is a passage of an altogether different kind, and the connection altogether different (Hävernick). For the complete difference between the two passages would first have to be proved. The object, indeed, of the binding of the prophet in 4:8 is different from that in our verse. Here it is to render it impossible for the prophet to go out of the house; in 4:8, it is to prevent him from moving from one side to the other. But the one object does not exclude the other; both statements coincide, rather, in the general thought that the prophet must adapt himself entirely to the divine will-not only not leave the house, but lie also for 390 days upon one side without turning.-We might rather, with Kliefoth, understand 4:8 to mean that God accomplished the binding of the prophet by human instruments-viz. that He caused him to be bound by foreigners (3:25).
But this supposition also would only be justified, if either the sense of the words in Ezek 3:25, or other good reasons, pronounced in favour of the view that it was the exiles who had bound the prophet. But as this is not the case, so we are not at liberty to explain the definite ˆtæn; , “I lay on” (4:8), according to the indefinite ˆtæn; , “they lay on,” or “one lays on” (3:25); but must, on the contrary, understand our verse in accordance with 4:8, and (with Hitzig) think of heavenly powers as the subject to ˆtæn; -as in Job 7:3; Dan 4:28; Luke 12:20-without, in so doing, completely identifying the declaration in our verse with that in 4:8, as if in the latter passage only that was brought to completion which had been here (3:25) predicted. If, however, the binding of the prophet proceeds from invisible powers, the expression is not to be understood literally-of a binding with material cords;-but God binds him by a spiritual power, so that he can neither leave his house nor go forth to his countrymen, nor, at a later time (Ezek 4:8), change the position prescribed to him.
This is done, however, not to prevent the exercise of his vocation, but, on the contrary, to make him fitted for the successful performance of the work commanded him. He is not to quit his house, nor enter into fellowship and intercourse with his exiled countrymen, that he may show himself, by separation from them, to be a prophet and organ of the Lord. On the same grounds he is also (vv. 26, 27) to keep silence, and not even correct them with words, but only to speak when God opens his mount for that purpose; to remain, moreover, unconcerned whether they listen to his words or not (cf. Ezek 2:4,7). He is to do both of these things, because his contemporaries are a stiff-necked race; cf. v. 9 and 2:5,7. That he may not speak from any impulse of his own, God will cause his tongue to cleave to his jaws, so that he cannot speak; cf. Ps 137:6. “That the prophet is to refrain from all speech-even from the utterance of the words given him by God-will, on the one hand, make the divine words which he utters appear the more distinctly as such; while, on the other, be an evidence to his hearers of the silent sorrow with which he is filled by the contents of the divine word, and with which they also ought justly to be filled” (Kliefoth).
This state of silence, according to which he is only then to speak when God opened his mouth for the utterance of words which were to be given him, is, indeed, at first imposed upon the prophet-as follows from the relation of vv. 25-27 to ch. 4 and 5-only for the duration of the period Ezek 3:25 to 5:17, or rather 7:27. But the divine injunction extends, as Kliefoth has rightly recognised, still further on-over the whole period up to the fulfilment of his prophecies of threatening by the destruction of Jerusalem.
This appears especially from this, that in 24:27 and 33:22 there is an undeniable reference to the silence imposed upon him in our verse, and with reference to which it is said, that when the messenger should bring back the news of the fall of Jerusalem, his mouth should be opened and he should be no longer dumb. The reference in 24:27 and in 33:22 to the verse before us has been observed by most expositors; but several of them would limit the silence of the prophet merely to the time which lies between ch. 24 and 33:21ff.
This is quite arbitrary, as neither in ch. 24 nor in ch. 33 is silence imposed upon him; but in both chapters it is only stated that he should no longer be dumb after the receipt of the intelligence that Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Chaldeans. The supposition of Schmieder, moreover, is untenable, that the injunction of v. 25 refers to the turning-point in the prophet’s office, which commenced on the day when the siege of Jerusalem actually began. For although this day forms a turning-point in the prophetic activity of Ezekiel, in so far as he on it announced to the people for the last time the destruction of Jerusalem, and then spake no more to Israel until the occurrence of this event, yet it is not said in Ezek 24:27 that he was then to be dumb from that day onwards. The hypothesis then only remains, that what was imposed and enjoined on the prophet, in vv. 26 and 27, should remain in force for the whole period from the commencement of his prophetic activity to the receipt of the news of the fall of Jerusalem, by the arrival of a messenger on the banks of the Chaboras. Therewith is also connected the position of this injunction at the head of the first prophecy delivered to him (not at his call), if only the contents and importance of this oracle be understood and recognised, that it embraces not merely the siege of Jerusalem, but also the capture and destruction of the city, and the dispersion of the people among the heathen-consequently contains in nuce all that Ezekiel had to announce to the people down to the occurrence of this calamity, and which, in all the divine words from ch. 6 to ch. 24, he had again and again, though only in different ways, actually announced.
If all the discourses down to ch. 24 are only further expositions and attestations of the revelation of God in ch. 4 and 5, then the behaviour which was enjoined on him at the time of this announcement was to be maintained during all following discourses of similar contents. Besides, for a correct appreciation of the divine precept in vv. 26 and 27, it is also to be noticed that the prophet is not to keep entire silence, except when God inspires him to speak; but that his keeping silence is explained to men, that he is to be to his contemporaries no jkæy; vyai , “no reprover,” and consequently will place their sins before them to no greater extent, and in no other way, than God expressly directs him. Understood in this way, the silence is in contradiction neither with the words of God communicated in ch. 6 to 24, nor with the predictions directed against foreign nations in ch. 25-33, several of which fall within the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Cf. with this the remark upon Ezek 24:27 and 33:22.
The Sign of the Siege of Jerusalem.
This sign, which Ezekiel is to perform in his own house before the eyes of the exiles who visit him, consists in three interconnected and mutuallysupplementary symbolical acts, the first of which is described in vv. 1-3, the second in vv. 4-8, and the third in vv. 9-17. In the first place, he is symbolically to represent the impending siege of Jerusalem (vv. 1-3); in the second place, by lying upon one side, he is to announce the punishment of Israel’s sin (vv. 4-8); in the third place, by the nature of his food, he is, while lying upon one side, to hold forth to view the terrible consequences of the siege to Israel. The close connection as to their subject-matter of these three actions appears clearly from this, that the prophet, according to v. 7, while lying upon one side, is to direct his look and his arm upon the picture of the besieged city before him; and, according to v. 8, is to lie upon his side as long as the siege lasts, and during that time is to nourish himself in the manner prescribed in v. 9ff. In harmony with this is the formal division of the chapter, inasmuch as the three acts, which the prophet is to perform for the purpose of portraying the impending siege of Jerusalem, are co-ordinated to each other by the repetition of the address hT;aæ in vv. 3, 4, and 8, and subordinated to the general injunction-to portray Jerusalem as a besieged city-introduced in v. 1 with the words µd;a; ˆBe hT;aæ . The first symbolical action.
V. 1. And thou, son of man, take to thyself a brick, and lay it before thee, and draw thereon a city, Jerusalem: V. 2. And direct a siege against it; build against it siege-towers, raise up a mound against it, erect camps against it, and place battering-rams against it round about. V. 3. And thou, take to thyself an iron pan, and place it as an iron wall between thee and the city, and direct thy face towards it; thus let it be in a state of siege, and besiege it. Let it be a sign to the house of Israel.
The directions in vv. 1 and 2 contain the general basis for the symbolical siege of Jerusalem, which the prophet is to lay before Israel as a sign. Upon a brick he is to sketch a city qqæj; , to engrave with a writing instrument) which is to represent Jerusalem: around the city he is to erect siege-workstowers, walls, camps, and battering-rams; i.e., he is to inscribe the representation of them, and place before himself the picture of the besieged city. The selection of a brick, i.e., of a tile-stone, not burnt in a kiln, but merely dried in the sun, is not, as Hävernick supposes, a reminiscence of Babylon and monumental inscriptions; in Palestine, also, such bricks were a common building material (Isa 9:9), in consequence of which the selection of such a soft mass of clay, on which a picture might be easily inscribed, was readily suggested. rwOxm; ˆtæn; = rwOxm; µWc , Mic. 4:14, “to make a siege,” i.e., “to bring forward siege-works.” rwOxm; is therefore the general expression which is specialized in the following clauses by qyeD; , “siegetowers” (see on 2 King Ezek 24:1); by hl;l]so , “mound” (see on 2 Sam 20:15); hn,jmæ , “camps” in the plural, because the hostile army raises several camps around the city; rKæ , “battering-rams,” “wall-breakers,” arietes; according to Joseph Kimchi, “iron rams,” to break in the walls (and gates, 21:27).
They consisted of strong beams of hard wood, furnished at the end with a ram’s head made of iron, which were suspended by a chain, and driven forcibly against the wall by the soldiers. Compare the description of them by Josephus, de bello Judaico iii. 7. 19. The suffix in `l[æ , in v. 2, refers to `ry[i . The siege-works which are named were not probably to be placed by Ezekiel as little figures around the brick, so that the latter would represent the city, but to be engraved upon the brick around the city thereon portrayed. The expressions, “to make a siege,” “to build towers,” “to erect a mound,” etc., are selected because the drawing was to represent what is done when a city is besieged. In v. 3, in reference to this, the inscribed picture of the city is at once termed “city,” and in v. 7 the picture of the besieged Jerusalem, “the siege of Jerusalem.” The meaning of the picture is clear. Every one who saw it was to recognise that Jerusalem will be besieged.
But the prophet is to do still more; he is to take in hand the siege itself, and to carry it out. To that end, he is to placed an iron pan as an iron wall between himself and the city sketched on the brick, and direct his countenance stedfastly towards the city ˆWK), and so besiege it. The iron pan, erected as a wall, is to represent neither the wall of the city (Ewald) nor the enemies’ rampart, for this was already depicted on the brick; while to represent it, i.e., the city wall, as “iron,” i.e., immoveably fast, would be contrary to the meaning of the prophecy. The iron wall represents, as Rosenmüller, after the hints of Theodoret, Cornelius a Lapide, and others, has already observed, a firm, impregnable wall of partition, which the prophet as messenger and representative of God is to raise between himself and the beleaguered city, ut significaret, quasi ferreum murum interjectum esse cives inter et se, i.e., Deum Deique decretum et sententiam contra illos latam esse irrevocabilem, nec Deum civium preces et querimonias auditurum aut iis ad misericordiam flectendum. Cf. Isa 59:2; Lam 3:44. tbæjmæ , “pan,” i.e., an iron plate for baking their loaves and slices of cakes; see on Lev 2:5.
The selection of such an iron plate for the purpose mentioned is not to be explained, as Kliefoth thinks, from the circumstance that the pan is primarily to serve the prophet for preparing his food while he is occupied in completing his sketch. The text says nothing of that. If he were to have employed the pan for such a purpose, he could not, at the same time, have placed it as a wall between himself and the city. The choice is to be explained simply from this, that such a plate was to be found in every household, and was quite fitted for the object intended. If any other symbolical element is contained on it, the hard ignoble metal might, perhaps, with Grotius, be taken to typify the hard, wicked heart of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; cf. Ezek 22:18; Jer 15:12. The symbolical siege of Jerusalem is to be a sign for the house of Israel, i.e., a pre-announcement of its impending destiny. The house of Israel is the whole covenant people, not merely the ten tribes as in v. 5, in contradistinction to the house of Judah (v. 6).
The second symbolical act. V. 4. And do thou lay thyself upon thy left side, and lay upon it the evil deeds of the house of Israel; for the number of the days during which thou liest thereon shalt thou bear their evil deeds.
V. 6. And (when) thou hast completed these, thou shalt then lay thyself a second time upon thy right side, and bear the evil deeds of the house of Judah forty days; each day I reckon to thee as a year.
V. 8. And, lo, I lay cords upon thee, that thou stir not from one side to the other until thou hast ended the days of thy siege.-Whilst Ezekiel, as God’s representative, carries out in a symbolical manner the siege of Jerusalem, he is in this situation to portray at the same time the destiny of the people of Israel beleaguered in their metropolis.
Lying upon his left side for 390 days without turning, he is to bear the guilt of Israel’s sin; then, lying 40 days more upon his right side, he is to bear the guilt of Judah’s sin. In so doing, the number of the days during which he reclines upon his sides shall be accounted as exactly equal to the same number of years of their sinning. `ˆwO[; ac;n; , “to bear the evil deeds,” i.e., to take upon himself the consequence of sin, and to stone for them, to suffer the punishment of sin; cf. Num 14:34, etc. Sin, which produces guilt and punishment, is regarded as a burden or weight, which Ezekiel is to lay upon the side upon which he reclines, and in this way bear it. This bearing, however, of the guilt of sin is not to be viewed as vicarious and mediatorial, as in the sacrifice of atonement, but is intended as purely epideictic and symbolical; that is to say, Ezekiel, by his lying so long bound under the burden of Israel and Judah which was laid upon his side, is to show to the people how they are to be cast down by the siege of Jerusalem, and how, while lying on the ground, without the possibility of turning or rising, they are to bear the punishment of their sins. The full understanding of this symbolical act, however, depends upon the explanation of the specified periods of time, with regard to which the various views exhibit great discrepancy.
In the first place, the separation of the guilt into that of the house of Israel and that of the house of Judah is closely connected with the division of the covenant people into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. That Ezekiel now is to bear the sin of Israel upon the left, that of Judah on the right side, is not fully explained by the circumstance that the kingdom of the ten tribes lay to the left, i.e., to the north, the kingdom of Judah to the right, i.e., to the south of Jerusalem, but must undoubtedly point at the same time to the pre-eminence of Judah over Israel; cf. Eccl 10:2. This pre-eminence of Judah is manifestly exhibited in its period of punishment extending only to 40 days = 40 years; that of Israel, on the contrary, 390 days = 390 years.
These numbers, however, cannot be satisfactorily explained from a chronological point of view, whether they be referred to the time during which Israel and Judah sinned, and heaped upon themselves guilt which was to be punished, or to the time during which they were to atone, or suffer punishment for their sins.
Of themselves, both references are possible; the first, viz., in so far as the days in which Ezekiel is to bear the guilt of Israel, might be proportioned to the number of the years of their guilt, as many Rabbins, Vatablus, Calvin, Lightfoot, Vitringa, J. D. Michaelis, and others suppose, while in so doing the years are calculated very differently; cf. des Vignoles, Chronol. I. p. 479ff., and Rosenmüller, Scholia, Excurs. to ch. iv. All these hypotheses, however, are shattered by the impossibility of pointing out the specified periods of time, so as to harmonize with the chronology. If the days, reckoned as years, correspond to the duration of their sinning, then, in the case of the house of Israel, only the duration of this kingdom could come into consideration, as the period of punishment began with the captivity of the ten tribes. But this kingdom lasted only 253 years. The remaining 137 years the Rabbins have attempted to supply from the period of the Judges; others, from the time of the destruction of the ten tribes down to that of Ezekiel, or even to that of the destruction of Jerusalem.
Both are altogether arbitrary.
Still less can the 40 years of Judah be calculated, as all the determinations of the beginning and the end are mere phantoms of the air. The fortieth year before our prophecy would nearly coincide with the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, and therefore with the year in which this pious king effected the reformation of religion. Ezekiel, however, could not represent this year as marking the commencement of Judah’s sin. We must therefore, as the literal meaning of the words primarily indicates, regard the specified periods of time as periods of punishment for Israel and Judah. Since Ezekiel, then, had to maintain during the symbolical siege of Jerusalem this attitude of reclining for Israel and Judah, and after the completion of the 390 days for Israel must lie a second time ynive , v. 6) 40 days for Judah, he had to recline in all 430 (390 + 40) days. To include the forty days in the three hundred and ninety is contrary to the statements in the text.
But to reckon the two periods together has not only no argument against it, but is even suggested by the circumstance that the prophet, while reclining on his left and right sides, is to represent the siege of Jerusalem.
Regarded, however, as periods of punishment, both the numbers cannot be explained consistently with the chronology, but must be understood as having a symbolical signification. The space of 430 years, which is announced to both kingdoms together as the duration of this chastisement, recalls the 430 years which in the far past Israel had spent in Egypt in bondage (Ex 12:40). It had been already intimated to Abraham (Gen 15:13) that the sojourn in Egypt would be a period of servitude and humiliation for his seed; and at a later time, in consequence of the oppression which the Israelites then experienced on account of the rapid increase of their number, it was-upon the basis of the threat in Deut 28:68, that God would punish Israel for their persistent declension, by bringing them back into ignominious bondage in Egypt-taken by the prophet as a type of the banishment of rebellious Israel among the heathen. In this sense Hosea already threatens (Hos 8:13; 9:3,6) the ten tribes with being carried back to Egypt; see on Hos 9:3. Still more frequently, upon the basis of this conception, is the redemption from Assyrian and Babylonian exile announced as a new and miraculous exodus of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, e.g., Hos 2:2; Isa 11:15-16.-This typical meaning lies also at the foundation of the passage before us, as, in accordance with the statement of Jerome, it was already accepted by the Jews of his time, and has been again recognised in modern times by Hävernick and Hitzig. That Ezekiel looked upon the period during which Israel had been subject to the heathen in the past as “typical of the future, is to be assumed, because only then does the number of 430 cease to be arbitrary and meaningless, and at the same time its division into 390 + 40 become explicable.”-Hitzig. This latter view is not, of course, to be understood as Hitzig and Hävernick take it, i.e., as if the 40 years of Judah’s chastisement were to be viewed apart from the 40 years’ sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness, upon which the look of the prophet would have been turned by the sojourn in Egypt. For the 40 years in the wilderness are not included in the 430 years of the Egyptian sojourn, so that Ezekiel could have reduced these years to 390, and yet have added to them the 40 years of the desert wanderings. For the coming period of punishment, which is to commence for Israel with the siege of Jerusalem, is fixed at 430 years with reference to the Egyptian bondage of the Israelites, and this period is divided into 390 and 40; and this division therefore must also have, if not its point of commencement, at least a point of connection, in the 430 years of the Egyptian sojourn. The division of the period of chastisement into two parts is to be explained probably from the sending of the covenant people into the kingdom of Israel and Judah, and the appointment of a longer period of chastisement for Israel than for Judah, from the greater guilt of the ten tribes in comparison with Judah, but not the incommensurable relation of the divisions into 390 and 40 years.
The foundation of this division can, first of all, only lie in this, that the number forty already possessed the symbolical significance of a measured period of divine visitation. This significance it had already received, not through the 40 years of the desert wandering, but through the 40 days of rain at the time of the deluge (Gen 7:17), so that, in conformity with this, the punishment of dying in the wilderness, suspended over the rebellious race of Israel at Kadesh, is already stated at 40 years, although it included in reality only 38 years; see on Num 14:32ff. If now, however, it should be supposed that this penal sentence had contributed to the fixing of the number 40 as a symbolical number to denote a longer period of punishment, the 40 years of punishment for Judah could not yet have been viewed apart from this event. The fixing of the chastisement for Israel and Judah at 390 + 40 years could only in that case be measured by the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, if the relations of this sojourn presented a point of connection for a division of the 430 years into 390 and 40, i.e., if the last years of the Egyptian servitude could somehow be distinguished from the preceding 390.
A point of contact for this is offered by an event in the life of Moses which falls within that period, and was fertile in results for him as well as for the whole of Israel, viz., his flight from Egypt in consequence of the slaughter of an Egyptian who had ill-treated an Israelite. As the Israelites, his brethren, did not recognise the meaning of this act, and did not perceive that God would save them by his hand, Moses was necessitated to flee into the land of Midian, and to tarry there 40 years as a stranger, until the Lord called him to be the saviour of his nation, and sent him as His messenger to Pharaoh (Ex 2:11-3:10; Acts 7:23-30). These 40 years were for Moses not only a time of trial and purification for his future vocation, but undoubtedly also the period of severest Egyptian oppression for the Israelites, and in this respect quite fitted to be a type of the coming time of punishment for Judah, in which was to be repeated what Israel had experienced in Egypt, that, as Israel had lost their helper and protector with the flight of Moses, so now Judah was to lose her king, and be given over to the tyranny of the heathen world-power. f5 While Ezekiel thus reclines upon one side, he is to direct his look unchangingly upon the siege of Jerusalem, i.e., upon the picture of the besieged city, and keep his arm bare, i.e., ready for action (Isa 52:10), and outstretched, and prophesy against the city, especially through the menacing attitude which he had taken up against it. To be able to carry this out, God will bind him with cords, i.e., fetter him to his couch (see on Ezek 3:25), so that he cannot stir from one side to another until he has completed the time enjoined upon him for the siege. In this is contained the thought that the siege of Jerusalem is to be mentally carried on until its capture; but no new symbol of the state of prostration of the besieged Jerusalem is implied. For such a purpose the food of the prophet (v. 9ff.) during this time is employed.
The third symbolical act.
V. 9. And do thou take to thyself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and spelt, and put them in a vessel, and prepare them as bread for thyself, according to the number of the days on which thou liest on thy side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat it.
V. 10. And thy food, which thou eatest, shall be according to weight, twenty shekels for a day; from time to time shalt thou eat it. V. 11. And water shalt thou drink according to measure, a sixth part of the hin, from time to time shalt thou drink it.
V. 14. Then said I: Ah! Lord, Jehovah, my soul has never been polluted; and of a carcase, and of that which is torn, have I never eaten from my youth up until now, and abominable flesh has not come into my mouth.
V. 16. And He said to me, Son of man, lo, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, so that they will eat bread according to weight, and in affliction, and drink water by measure, and in amazement.
For the whole duration of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem, Ezekiel is to furnish himself with a store of grain corn and leguminous fruits, to place this store in a vessel beside him, and daily to prepare in the form of bread a measured portion of the same, 20 shekels in weight (about 9 ounces), and to bake this as barley cakes upon a fire, prepared with dried dung, and then to partake of it at the different hours for meals throughout the day. In addition to this, he is, at the hours appointed for eating, to drink water, in like manner according to measure, a sixth part of the hin daily, i.e., a quantity less than a pint (cf. Biblisch. Archäol. II. p. 141). The Israelites, probably, generally prepared the `hG;[u from wheat flour, and not merely when they had guests (Gen 18:6). Ezekiel, however, is to take, in addition, other kinds of grain with leguminous fruits, which were employed in the preparation of bread when wheat was deficient; barley-baked into bread by the poor (Judg 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9; see on 1 Kings 5:8); lwOp , “beans,” a common food of the Hebrews (2 Sam 17:28), which appears to have been mixed with other kinds of grain for the purpose of being baked into bread. f6 This especially holds true of the lentiles, a favourite food of the Hebrews (Gen 25:29f.), from which, in Egypt at the present day, the poor still bake bread in times of severe famine (Sonnini, R. II. 390; a>rtov fa>kinov , Athenaeus, IV. 158). ˆjæDo , “millet,” termed by the Arabs “Dochn” (Arab. dchn), panicum, a fruit cultivated in Egypt, and still more frequently in Arabia (see Wellsted, Arab. I. 295), consisting of longish round brown grain, resembling rice, from which, in the absence of better fruits, a sort of bad bread is baked. Cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, i. 453ff.; and Gesen. Thesaur. p. 333. tm,S,Ku , “spelt or German corn” (cf. Ex 9:32), a kind of grain which produces a finer and whiter flour than wheat flour; the bread, however, which is baked from it is somewhat dry, and is said to be less nutritive than wheat bread; cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, ii. 98f. Of all these fruits Ezekiel is to place certain quantities in a vessel-to indicate that all kinds of grain and leguminous fruits capable of being converted into bread will be collected, in order to bake bread for the appeasing of hunger. In the intermixture of various kinds of flour we are not, with Hitzig, to seek a transgression of the law in Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9. mac¦par is the accusative of measure or duration. The quantity is to be fixed according to the number of the days.
In v. 9 only the 390 days of the house of Israel’s period of punishment are mentioned-quod plures essent et fere universa summa (Prado); and because this was sufficient to make prominent the hardship and oppression of the situation, the 40 days of Judah were omitted for the sake of brevity. f7 wgw lk;amæ , “thy food which thou shalt eat,” i.e., the definite portion which thou shalt have to eat, shall be according to weight (between subject and predicate the substantive verb is to be supplied). Twenty shekels = 8 or ounces of flour, yield 11 or 12 ounces of bread, i.e., at most the half of what a man needs in southern countries for his daily support. f8 The same is the case with the water. A sixth part of a hin, i.e., a quantity less than a pint, is a very niggardly allowance for a day. Both, howevereating the bread and drinking the water-he shall do from time to time, i.e., “not throughout the entire fixed period of 390 days” (Hävernick); but he shall not eat the daily ration at once, but divided into portions according to the daily hours of meals, so that he will never be completely satisfied. In addition to this is the pollution (v. 12ff.) of the scanty allowance of food by the manner in which it is prepared. µyri[Oc] tNæ[u is predicate: “as barley cakes,” shalt thou eat them. The suffix in lkæa; is neuter, and refers to µj,l, in v. 9, or rather to the kinds of grain there enumerated, which are ground and baked before them: µj,l, , i.e., “food.” The addition hr;[oc] is not to be explained from this, that the principal part of these consisted of barley, nor does it prove that in general no other than barley cakes were known (Hitzig), but only that the cakes of barley meal, baked in the ashes, were an extremely frugal kind of bread, which that prepared by Ezekiel was to resemble.
The `hG;[u was probably always baked on hot ashes, or on hot stones (1 Kings 19:6), not on pans, as Kliefoth here supposes. The prophet, however, is to bake them in (with) human ordure. This is by no means to be understood as if he were to mix the ordure with the food, for which view Isa 36:12 has been erroneously appealed to; but-as `l[æ in v. 15 clearly shows-he is to bake it over the dung, i.e., so that dung forms the material of the fire. That the bread must be polluted by this is conceivable, although it cannot be proved from the passages in Lev 5:3; 7:21, and Deut 23:13 that the use of fire composed of dung made the food prepared thereon levitically unclean. The use of fire with human ordure must have communicated to the bread a loathsome smell and taste, by which it was rendered unclean, even if it had not been immediately baked in the hot ashes. That the pollution of the bread is the object of this injunction, we see from the explanation which God gives in v. 13: “Thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the heathen.” The heart of the prophet, however, rebels against such food. He says he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law; from his youth up he has eaten no unclean flesh, neither of a carcase, nor of that which was torn by wild beasts (cf. Ex 22:30; Deut 14:21), nor flesh of sacrifices decayed or putrefying lWGpi , see on Lev 7:18; Isa 65:4). On this God omits the requirement in v. 12, and permits him to take for firing the dung of oxen instead of that of men. f9 In v. 16f., finally, is given the explanation of the scanty allowance of food meted out to the prophet, namely, that the Lord, at the impending siege of Jerusalem, is to take away from the people the staff of bread, and leave them to languish in hunger and distress. The explanation is in literal adherence to the threatenings of the law (Lev 26:26 and 39), which are now to pass into fulfilment. Bread is called “staff of bread” as being indispensable for the preservation of life. To lq;v]mi , Lev 26:26, hg;a;D] , “in sorrow,” is added; and to the water, ˆwOmM;vi , “in astonishment,” i.e., in fixed, silent pain at the miserable death, by hunger and thirst, which they see before them. `ˆwO[; qqæm; as Lev 26:39. If we, finally, cast a look over the contents of this first sign, it says that Jerusalem is soon to be besieged, and during the siege is to suffer hunger and terror as a punishment for the sins of Israel and Judah; that upon the capture of the city of Israel (Judah) they are to be dispersed among the heathen, and will there be obliged to eat unclean bread. To this in ch. 5 is joined a second sign, which shows further how it shall fare with the people at and after the capture of Jerusalem (vv. 1-4); and after that a longer oracle, which developes the significance of these signs, and establishes the necessity of the penal judgment (vv. 5-17).
The Sign which is to Portray Israel’s Impending Destiny.
V. 1. And thou, son of man, take to thyself a sharp sword, as a razor shalt thou take it to thyself, and go with it over thy head, and over thy chin, and take to thee scales, and divide it (the hair).
V. 2. A third part burn with fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are accomplished: and take the (other) third, smite with the sword round about it: and the (remaining) third scatter to the winds; and the sword will I draw out after them.
The description of this sign is easily understood. bL;Gæ r[æTæ , “razor of the barbers,” is the predicate, which is to be understood to the suffix in jqæl; ; and the clause states the purpose for which Ezekiel is to use the sharp sword-viz. as a razor, in order to cut off therewith the hair of his head and beard.
The hair, when cut off, he is to divide into three parts with a pair of scales (the suffix in qlæj; refers ad sensum to the hair). The one third he is to burn in the city, i.e., not in the actual Jerusalem, but in the city, sketched on the brick, which he is symbolically besieging (Ezek 4:3). To the city also is to be referred the suffix in bybis; , v. 2, as is placed beyond doubt by v. 12. In the last clause of v. 2, which is taken from Lev 26:33, the description of the sign passes over into its exposition, for rjæaæ does not refer to the hair, but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The significance also of this symbolical act is easily recognised, and is, moreover, stated in v. 12. Ezekiel, in this act, represents the besieged Jerusalem. What he does to his hair, that will God do to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. As the hair of the prophet falls under the sword, used as a razor, so will the inhabitants of Jerusalem fall, when the city is captured, into destruction, and that verily an ignominious destruction.
This idea is contained in the picture of the hair-cutting, which was a dishonour done to what forms the ornament of a man. See on 2 Sam 10:4ff. A third of the same is to perish in the city. As the fire destroys the hair, so will pestilence and hunger consume the inhabitants of the beleaguered city (v. 12). The second third will, on the capture of the city, fall by the sword in the environs (v. 12); the last third will God scatter to the winds, and-as Moses has already threatened the people-will draw forth the sword after them, still to persecute and smite them (v. 12). This sign is continued (vv. 3 and 4) in a second symbolical act, which shadows forth what is further to happen to the people when dispersed among the heathen.
Of the third scattered to the winds, Ezekiel is to bind a small portion in the skirt of his garment. µv; , “from thence,” refers not to yviyliv] , but, ad sensum, to jæWr hr;z; : “from the place where the third that is scattered to the winds is found”-i.e., as regards the subject-matter, of those who are to be found among the dispersion. The binding up into the ãn;K; , “the corners or ends of the garment” (cf. Jer 2:34), denotes the preservation of the few, who are gathered together out of the whole of those who are dispersed among the heathen; cf. 1 Sam 25:29; Ezek 16:8. But even of these few He shall still cast some into the fire, and consume them. Consequently those who are gathered together out of exile are not all to be preserved, but are still to be sifted by fire, in which process a part is consumed. This image does not refer to those who remain behind in the land, when the nation is led away captive to Babylon (Theodoret, Grotius, and others), but, as Ephrem the Syrian and Jerome saw, to those who were saved from Babylon, and to their further destiny, as is already clear from the µv; , rightly understood.
The meaning of the last clause of v. 4 is disputed; in it, as in the final clause of v. 2, the symbolical representation passes over into the announcement of the thing itself. ˆmi , which Ewald would arbitrarily alter into ˆmi , cannot, with Hävernick, be referred to haa’eesh ‘el-towk¦, because this yields a very forced sense, but relates to the whole act described in vv. 3 and 4: that a portion thereof is rescued and preserved, and yet of this portion many are consumed by fire-from that a fire shall go forth over the whole house of Israel. This fire is explained by almost all expositors, from Theodoret and Jerome onwards, of the penal judgment which were inflicted after the exile upon the Jews, which reached their culminating point in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and which still continue in their dispersion throughout the whole world.
But this view, as Kliefoth has already remarked, is not only in decided antagonism to the intention of the text, but it is, moreover, altogether impossible to see how a judgment of extermination for all Israel can be deduced from the fact that a small number of the Israelites, who are scattered to the winds, is saved, and that of those who are saved a part is still consumed with fire. From thence there can only come forth a fire of purification for the whole of Israel, through which the remnant, as Isaiah had already predicted (Isa 6:12ff.), is converted into a holy seed. In the last clause, consuming by fire is not referred to. The fire, however, has not merely a destructive, but also a cleansing, purifying, and quickening power.
To kindle such a fire on earth did Christ come (Luke 12:40), and from Him the same goes out over the whole house of Israel. This view, for which Kliefoth has already rightly decided, receives a confirmation through Ezek 6:8-10, where is announced the conversion of the remnant of those Israelites who had been dispersed among the nations.
So far the symbolical acts. Before, however, we pass on to the explanation of the following oracle, we must still briefly touch the question, whether these acts were undertaken and performed by the prophet in the world of external reality, or whether they were occurrences only internally real, which Ezekiel experienced in spirit-i.e., in an ecstatic condition-and afterwards communicated to the people. Amongst modern expositors, Kliefoth has defended the former view, and has adduced the following considerations in support: A significant act, and yet also a silent, leisurely one, must be performed, that it may show something to those who behold it. Nor is the case such, as Hitzig supposes, that it would have been impossible to carry out what had been required of the prophet in Ezek 4. It had, indeed, its difficulty; but God sometimes requires from His servants what is difficult, although He also helps them to the performance of it.
So here He will make it easy for the prophet to recline, by binding him (Ezek 4:8). “In the sign, this certainly was kept in view, that it should be performed; and it, moreover, was performed, although the text, in a manner quite intelligible with reference to an act commanded by God, does not expressly state it.” For these latter assertions, however, there is anything but convincing proof. The matter is not so simple as Kliefoth supposes, although we are at one with him in this, that neither the difficulty of carrying out what was commanded in the world of external reality, nor the non-mention of the actual performance, furnishes sufficient grounds for the supposition of merely internal, spiritual occurrences. We also are of opinion that very many of the symbolical acts of the prophets were undertaken and performed in the external world, and that this supposition, as that which corresponds most fully with the literal meaning of the words, is on each occasion the most obvious, and is to be firmly adhered to, unless there can be good grounds for the opposite view.
In the case now before us, we have first to take into consideration that the oracle which enjoins these symbolical acts on Ezekiel stands in close connection, both as to time and place, with the inauguration of Ezekiel to the prophetic office. The hand of the Lord comes upon him at the same place, where the concluding word at his call was addressed to him (the µv; , Ezek 3:22, points back to µv; in 3:15); and the circumstance that Ezekiel found himself still on the same spot to which he had been transported by the Spirit of God (3:14), shows that the new revelation, which he here still received, followed very soon, if not immediately, after his consecration to the office of prophet. Then, upon the occasion of this divine revelation, he is again, as at his consecration, transported into an ecstatic condition, as is clear not only from the formula, “the hand of the Lord came upon me,” which in our book always has this signification, but also most undoubtedly from this, that he again sees the glory of Jehovah in the same manner as he had seen it in ch. 1-viz. when in an ecstatic condition.
But if this were an ecstatic vision, it is obvious that the acts also which the divine appearance imposed upon him must be regarded as ecstatic occurrences; since the assertion that every significant act must be performed, in order that something may be shown to those who witness it, is fundamentally insufficient for the proof that this act must fall within the domain of the earthly world of sense, because the occurrences related in ch. 8-11 are viewed even by Kliefoth himself as purely internal events. As decisive, however, for the purely internal character of the symbolical acts under consideration (ch. 4 and 5), is the circumstance that the supposition of Ezekiel having, in his own house, actually lain 390 days upon his left, and then, again, 40 days upon his right side without turning, stands in irreconcilable contradiction with the fact that he, according to Ezek 8:1ff., was carried away in ecstasy to Jerusalem, there to behold in the temple the monstrosities of Israel’s idolatry and the destruction of Jerusalem. For the proof of this, see the introduction to ch. 8.
The Divine Word which Explains the Symbolical Signs, in which the judgment that is announced is laid down as to its cause (5-9) and as to its nature (10-17).
V. 5. Thus says the Lord Jehovah: This Jerusalem have I placed in the midst of the nations, and raised about her the countries.
V. 7. Therefore thus says the Lord Jehovah: Because ye have raged more than the nations round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, and have not obeyed my laws, and have not done even according to the laws of the nations which are round about you; V. 8. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Lo, I, even I, shall be against thee, and will perform judgments in thy midst before the eyes of the nations.
V. 9. And I will do unto thee what I have never done, nor will again do in like manner, on account of all thine abominations. vWry] taoz , not “this is Jerusalem,” i.e., this is the destiny of Jerusalem (Hävernick), but “this Jerusalem” (Hitzig); tazO is placed before the noun in the sense of iste, as in Ex 32:1; cf. Ewald, §293b. To place the culpability of Jerusalem in its proper prominence, the censure of her sinful conduct opens with the mention of the exalted position which God had assigned her upon earth. Jerusalem is described in v. 5 as forming the central point of the earth: this is done, however, neither in an external, geographical (Hitzig), nor in a purely typical sense, as the city that is blessed more than any other (Calvin, Hävernick), but in a historical sense, in so far as “God’s people and city actually stand in the central point of the God-directed world-development and its movements” (Kliefoth); or, in relation to the history of salvation, as the city in which God hath set up His throne of grace, from which shall go forth the law and the statutes for all nations, in order that the salvation of the whole world may be accomplished (Isa 2:2ff.; Mic 4:1ff.). But instead of keeping the laws and statutes of the Lord, Jerusalem has, on the contrary, turned to do wickedness more than the heathen nations in all the lands round about rMoTi , cum accusat. object., “to act rebelliously towards”).
Here we may not quote Rom 2:12,14 against this, as if the heathen, who did not know the law of God, did not also transgress the same, but sinned ano>mws ; for the sinning ano>mws , of which the apostle speaks, is really a transgression of the law written on the heart of the heathen. With ˆKe , in v. 7, the penal threatening is introduced; but before the punishment is laid down, the correspondence between guilt and punishment is brought forward more prominently by repeatedly placing in juxtaposition the godless conduct of the rebellious city. ˆwOmh; is infinitive, from haaman, a secondary form ˆwOmh; , in the sense of hm;h; , “to rage,” i.e., to rebel against God; cf. Ps 2:1. The last clause of v. 7 contains a climax: “And ye have not even acted according to the laws of the heathen.” This is not in any real contradiction to Ezek 11:12 (where it is made a subject of reproach to the Israelites that they have acted according to the laws of the heathen), so that we would be obliged, with Ewald and Hitzig, to expunge the alo in the verse before us, because wanting in the Peshito and several Hebrew manuscripts.
Even in these latter, it has only been omitted to avoid the supposed contradiction with Ezek 11:12. The solution of the apparent contradiction lies in the double meaning of the ywOG fp;v]mi . The heathen had laws which were opposed to those of God, but also such as were rooted in the law of God written upon their hearts. Obedience to the latter was good and praiseworthy; to the former, wicked and objectionable. Israel, which hated the law of God, followed the wicked and sinful laws of the heathen, and neglected to observe their good laws. The passage before us is to be judged by Jer 2:10-11, to which Raschi had already made reference. f10 In v. 8 the announcement of the punishment, interrupted by the repeated mention of the cause, is again resumed with the words wgw hKo ˆKe . Since Jerusalem has acted worse than the heathen, God will execute His judgments upon her before the eyes of the heathen. fp,v, `hc;[; or fp;v]mi `hc;[; (vv. 10, 15; Ezek 11:9; 16:41, etc.), “to accomplish or execute judgments,” is used in Ex 12:12 and Num 33:4 of the judgments which God suspended over Egypt. The punishment to be suspended shall be so great and heavy, that the like has never happened before, nor will ever happen again. These words do not require us either to refer the threatening, with Coccejus, to the last destruction of Jerusalem, which was marked by greater severity than the earlier one, or to suppose, with Hävernick, that the prophet’s look is directed to both the periods of Israel’s punishment-the times of the Babylonian and Roman calamity together. Both suppositions are irreconcilable with the words, as these can only be referred to the first impending penal judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem. This was, so far, more severe than any previous or subsequent one, inasmuch as by it the existence of the people of God was for a time suspended, while that Jerusalem and Israel, which were destroyed and annihilated by the Romans, were no longer the people of God, inasmuch as the latter consisted at that time of the Christian community, which was not affected by that catastrophe (Kliefoth).
Further execution of this threat.
V. 11. Therefore, as I live, is the declaration of the Lord Jehovah, Verily, because thou hast polluted my sanctuary with all thine abominations and all thy crimes, so shall I take away mine eye without mercy, and will not spare.
V. 12. A third of thee shall die by the pestilence, and perish by hunger in thy midst; and the third part shall fall by the sword about thee; and the third part will I scatter to all the winds; and will draw out the sword after them.
V. 13. And my anger shall be fulfilled, and I will cool my wrath against them, and will take vengeance. And they shall experience that I, Jehovah, have spoken in my zeal, when I accomplish my wrath upon them.
V. 15. And it shall be a mockery and a scorn, a warning and a terror for the nations round about thee, when I exercise my judgments upon thee in anger and wrath and in grievous visitations. I, Jehovah, have said it.
V. 16. When I send against thee the evil arrows of hunger, which minister to destruction, which I shall send to destroy you; for hunger shall I heap upon you, and shall break to you the staff of bread.
V. 17. And I shall send hunger upon you, and evil beasts, which shall make thee childless; and pestilence and blood shall pass over thee; and the sword will I bring upon thee. I, Jehovah, have spoken it.
As a proof of the unheard-of severity of the judgment, there is immediately mentioned in v. 10 a most horrible circumstance, which had been already predicted by Moses (Lev 26:29; Deut 28:53) as that which should happen to the people when hard pressed by the enemy, viz., a famine so dreadful, during the siege of Jerusalem, that parents would eat their children, and children their parents; and after the capture of the city, the dispersion of those who remained “to all the winds, i.e., to all quarters of the world.”
This is described more minutely, as an appendix to the symbolical act in vv. 1 and 2, in vv. 11 and 12, with a solemn oath, and with repeated and prominent mention of the sins which have drawn down such chastisements.
As sin, is mentioned the pollution of the temple by idolatrous abominations, which are described in detail in ch. 8. The [ræG; , which is variously understood by the old translators (for which some Codices offer the explanatory correction [dga ), is to be explained, after Job 36:7, of the “turning away of the eye,” and the `ˆyi[æ following as the object; while µwOjjæAalw] , “that it feel no compassion,” is interjected between the verb and its object with the adverbial signification of “mercilessly.” For that the words µwjt alw are adverbially subordinate to [ræG; , distinctly appears from the correspondence-indicated by ynæa µGæ -between [ræG; and lmæj; alo .
Moreover, the thought, “Jehovah will mercilessly withdraw His care for the people,” is not to be termed “feeble” in connection with what follows; nor is the contrast, which is indicated in the clause ynia\Aµgæw] , lost, as Hävernick supposes. ynia\Aµgæw] does not require [ræG; to be understood of a positive act, which would correspond to the desecration of the sanctuary. This is shown by the last clause of the verse. The withdrawal without mercy of the divine providence is, besides, in reality, equivalent to complete devotion to destruction, as it is particularized in v. 12. For v. 12 see on vv. 1 and 2. By carrying out the threatened division of the people into three parts, the wrath of God is to be fulfilled, i.e., the full measure of the divine wrath upon the people is to be exhausted (cf. 7, 8), and God is to appear and “cool” His anger. hm;je jæWn , “sedavit iram,” occurs again in Ezek 16:42; 21:22; 24:13. µjæn; , Hithpael, pausal form for µjæn; , “se consolari,” “to procure satisfaction by revenge;” cf.
Isa 1:24, and for the thing, Deut 28:63. In v. 14ff. the discourse turns again from the people to the city of Jerusalem. It is to become a wilderness, as was already threatened in Lev 26:31 and 33 to the cities of Israel, and thereby a “mockery” to all nations, in the manner described in Deut 29:23f. hy;h; , in v. 15, is not to be changed, after the LXX, Vulgate, and some MSS, into the second person; but Jerusalem is to be regarded as the subject which is to become the object of scorn and hatred, etc., when God accomplishes His judgments. rs;Wm is a warning-example. Among the judgments which are to overtake it, in v. 16, hunger is again made specially prominent (cf. Ezek 4:16) and first in v. 17 are wild beasts, pestilence, blood, and sword added, and a quartette of judgments announced as in 14:21. For pestilence and blood are comprehended together as a unity by means of the predicate. Their connection is to be understood according to 14:19, and the number four is significant, as in 14:21; Jer 15:3ff. For more minute details as to the meaning, see on Ezek 14:21. The evil arrows point back to Deut 32:23; the evil beasts, to Lev 24:22 and Deut 32:24ff. To produce an impression, the prophet heaps his words together. Unum ejus consilium fuit penetrare in animos populi quasi lapideos et ferreos. Haec igitur est ratio, cur hic tanta varietate utatur et exornet suam doctrînam variis figuris (Calvin).
CH. 6. THE JUDGMENT UPON THE IDOLATROUS PLACES, AND ON THE IDOL-WORSHIPPERS
To God’s address in vv. 5-17, explaining the signs in Ezek 4:1-5, are appended in ch. 6 and 7 two additional oracles, which present a further development of the contents of these signs, the judgment portrayed by them in its extent and greatness. In ch. 6 there is announced, in the first section, to the idolatrous places, and on their account to the land, desolation, and to the idolaters, destruction (vv. 3-7); and to this is added the prospect of a remnant of the people, who are dispersed among the heathen, coming to be converted to the Lord (vv. 8-10). In the second section the necessity and terrible character of the impending judgment is repeatedly described at length as an appendix to vv. 12, 14 (vv. 11-14).
The desolation of the land, and destruction of the idolaters.
V. 1. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: V. 2. Son of man, turn thy face towards the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them.
V. 3. And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the mountains, and to the hills, to the valleys, and to the low grounds, Behold, I bring the sword upon you, and destroy your high places.
V. 4. Your altars shall be made desolate, and your sun-pillars shall be broken; and I shall make your slain fall in the presence of your idols. V. 5. And I will lay the corpses of the children of Israel before their idols, and will scatter your bones round about your altars.
V. 6. In all your dwellings shall the cities be made desolate, and the high places waste; that your altars may be desolate and waste, and your idols broken and destroyed, and your sun-pillars hewn down, and the works of your hands exterminated.
V. 7. And the slain will fall in your midst; that you may know that I am Jehovah.
With v. 1 cf. Ezek 3:16. The prophet is to prophesy against the mountains of Israel. That the mountains are mentioned (v. 2) as pars pro toto, is seen from v. 3, when to the mountains and hills are added also the valleys and low grounds, as the places where idolatry was specially practised; cf. Hos 4:13; Jer 2:20; 3:6; see on Hos. l.c. and Deut 12:2. qypia; , in the older writings, denotes the “river channels,” “the beds of the stream;” but Ezekiel uses the word as equivalent to valley, i.e., ljænæ , a valley with a brook or stream, like the Arabic wady. ay]Gæ , properly “deepening,” “the deep ground,” “the deep valley;” on the form ay]Gæ , cf. Ewald, §186da. The juxtaposition of mountains and hills, of valleys and low grounds, occurs again in Ezek 36:4,6, and 35:8; the opposition between mountains and valleys also, in 32:5-6, and 24:13.
The valleys are to be conceived of as furnished with trees and groves, under the shadow of which the worship of Astarte especially was practised; see on v. 15. On the mountains and in the valleys were sanctuaries erected to Baal and Astarte. The announcement of their destruction is appended to the threatening in Lev 26:30, which Ezekiel takes up and describes at greater length. Beside the hm;B; , the places of sacrifice and worship, and the chamaaniym, pillars or statues of Baal, dedicated to him as the sun-god, he names also the altars, which, in Lev. l.c. and other places, are comprehended along with the hm;B; ; see on Lev 26:30 and 1 Kings 3:3.
With the destruction of the idol temples, altars, and statues, the idolworshippers are also to be smitten, so as to fall down in the presence of their idols. The fundamental meaning of the word lWLGi , “idols,” borrowed from Lev. l.c., and frequently employed by Ezekiel, is uncertain; signifying either “logs of wood,” from llæG; , “to roll” (Gesen.), or stercorei, from geel, “dung;” not “monuments of stone” (Hävernick). V. 5a is taken quite literally from Lev 26:30b. The ignominy of the destruction is heightened by the bones of the slain idolaters being scattered round about the idol altars. In order that the idolatry may be entirely rooted out, the cities throughout the whole land, and all the high places, are to be devastated, v. 6. The forms µvæy; and µvæa; are probably not to be derived from µmev; (Ewald, §138b), but to be referred back to a stem-form yaasheem, with the signification of µmev; , the existence of which appears certain from the old name ˆwOmyviy] in Ps 68 and elsewhere. The ynæa in µvæa; is certainly only mater lectonis. In v. 7, the singular ll;j; stands as indefinitely general. The thought, “slain will fall in your midst,” involves the idea that not all the people will fall, but that there will survive some who are saved, and prepares for what follows. The falling of the slain-the idolaters with their idols-leads to the recognition of Jehovah as the omnipotent God, and to conversion to Him.
The survivors shall go away into banishment amongst the heathen, and shall remember the word of the Lord that will have been fulfilled.
V. 9. And those of you who have escaped, will make mention of me among the nations whither they are led captive, when I have broken to me their whorish heart, which had departed from me, and their eyes, which went a whoring after their idols: and they shall loathe themselves because of the evil which they have done in reference to all their abominations.
V. 10. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Not in vain have I spoken this evil to you — rtæy; , superstites facere, “to make or preserve survivors.” The connection with wgw hy;h; is analogous to the construction of rtæy; , in the sense of “giving a superabundance,” with B] rei , Deut 28:11 and 30:9, and is not to be rejected, with Ewald and Hitzig, as inadmissible. For hy;h; is supported by the old versions, and the change of rtæy; into rbæd; , which would have to be referred to v. 7, is in opposition to the twofold repetition of the hwO;hy] ynæa yKi [dæy; [dæy; ), vv. 10 and 14, as this repetition shows that the thought in v. 7 is different from that in 17, 21, not “they shall know that Jehovah has spoken,” but “they shall know that He who has done this is Jehovah, the God of Israel.” The preservation of a remnant will be shown in this, that they shall have some who have escaped the sword. hr;z; is infin. Niph. with a plural form of the suffix, as occurs elsewhere only with the plural ending owt of nouns, while Ezekiel has extended it to the owt of the infinitive of hl verbs; cf. Ezek 16:31, and Ewald, §259b.
The remembrance of Jehovah (v. 9) is the commencement of conversion to Him. rv,a before rbæv; is not to be connected as relative pronoun with ble , but is a conjunction, though not used conditionally, “if,” as in Lev 4:22; Deut 11:27, and elsewhere, but of time, oJ>te , “when,” as Deut 11:6 and Chron 35:20, and rbæv; in the signification of the futur. exact. The Niphal rbæv; here is not to be taken as passive, but middle, sibi frangere, i.e., ble , poenitentiâ conterere animum eorum ut ad ipsum (Deum) redeant (Maurer, Hävernick). Besides the heart, the eyes also are mentioned, which God is to smite, as the external senses which allure the heart to whoredom. fWq corresponds to rkæz; at the beginning of the verse. fWq , “the later form for xWq , “to feel a loathing,” Hiphil, “to be filled with loathing;” cf. Job 10:1 with b object., “in (on) their µynip; , faces,” i.e., their persons or themselves: so also in Ezek 20:43; 36:31. [ræ lae , in allusion to the evil things; l¦kaalt` owb’, in reference to all their abominations. This fruit, which is produced by chastisement, namely, that he idolaters are inspired with loathing for themselves, and led to the knowledge of Jehovah, will furnish the proof that God has not spoken in vain.
The punishment is just and well deserved.
V. 11. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Smite with thy hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Woe on all the wicked abominations of the house of Israel! that they must perish by sword, hunger, and pestilence. V. 12. He that is afar off will die by the pestilence; and he that is near at hand shall fall by the sword; and he who survives and is preserved will die of hunger: and I shall accomplish my wrath upon them.
V. 13. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when your slain lie in the midst of your idols round about your altars, on every high hill, upon all the summits of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick-leaved terebinth, on the places where they brought their pleasant incense to all their idols.
Through clapping of the hands and stamping of the feet-the gestures which indicate violent excitement-the prophet is to make known to the displeasure of Jehovah at the horrible idolatry of the people, and thereby make manifest that the penal judgment is well deserved. ãKæ hk;n; is in Ezek 21:19 expressed more distinctly by ãKæ lae ãKæ hk;n; , “to strike one hand against the other,” i.e., “to clap the hands;” cf. Num 24:10. ja; , an exclamation of lamentation, occurring only here and in Ezek 21:20. rv,a , v. 11, is a conjunction, “at.” Their abominations are so wicked, that they must be exterminated on account of them.
This is specially mentioned in v. 12. No one will escape the judgment: he who is far removed from its scene as little as he who is close at hand; while he who escapes the pestilence and the sword is to perish of hunger. rWx , servatus, preserved, as in Isa 49:6. The signification “besieged” (LXX, Vulgate, Targum, etc.), Hitzig can only maintain by arbitrarily expunging raæv; as a gloss. On v. 12b, cf. Ezek 5:13; on 13a, cf. v. 5; and on 13b, cf. v. 3, and Hos 4:13; Jer 2:20; 3:6; Deut 12:2. bgAlK; la, , according to later usage, for ybgAlK; l[\ . jæwOjyni jæyre , used in the Pentateuch of sacrifices pleasing to God, is here transferred to idol sacrifices; see on Lev 1:9 and Gen 8:21. On account of the prevalence of idolatry in all parts, God will make the land entirely desolate. The union of hM;væm] hm;m;v] serves to strengthen the idea; cf. Ezek 33:8ff., 35:3. The words hl;b]D] rB;d]mi are obscure, either “in the wilderness towards Diblath” (even to Diblath), or “more than the wilderness of Diblath” ˆmi of comparison). There is no doubt that hl;b]D] is a nom. prop.; cf. the name of the city µyitæl;b]Di in Jer 48:22; Num 33:46. The second acceptation of the words is more probable than the first. For, if rB;d]mi is the terminus a quo, and hl;b]D] the terminus ad quem of the extent of the land, then must rB;d]mi be punctuated not only as status absolut., but it must also have the article; because a definite wilderness-that, namely, of Arabia-is meant. The omission of the article cannot be justified by reference to Ezek 21:3 or to Ps 75:7 (Hitzig, Ewald), because both passages contain general designations of the quarters of the world, with which the article is always omitted.
In the next place, no Dibla can be pointed out in the north; and the change of Diblatha into Ribla, already proposed by Jerome, and more recently brought forward again by J. D. Michaelis, has not only against it the authority of all the old versions, but also the circumstance that the Ribla mentioned in 2 Kings 23:33 did not form the northern boundary of Palestine, but lay on the other side of it, in the land of Hamath; while the haarib¦laah, named in Num 34:11, is a place on the eastern boundary to the north of the Sea of Gennesareth, which would, moreover, be inappropriate as a designation of the northern boundary. Finally, the extent of the land from the south to the north is constantly expressed in a different way; cf.
Num 23:21 (34:8); Josh. 13:5; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:65; Amos 6:14; Chr. 13:5; 2 Chr. 7:8; and even by Ezekiel himself (Ezek 48:1) hm;je awOB is named as the boundary on the north. The form hl;b]D] is similar to hn;m]Ti for hn;m]Ti , although the name is hardly to be explained, with Hävernick, as an appellation, after the Arabic dibl, calamitas, exitium. The wilderness of Diblah is unknown. With wgw yKi [dæy; the discourse is rounded off in returning to the beginning of v. 13, while the thoughts in vv. 13 and 14 are only a variation of vv. 4-7.
CH. 7. THE OVERTHROW OF ISRAEL
The second “word of God,” contained in this chapter, completes the announcement of judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah, by expanding the thought, that the end will come both quickly and inevitably upon the land and people. This word is divided into two unequal sections, by the repetition of the phrase, “Thus saith Adonai Jehovah” (vv. 2 and 5). In the first of these sections the theme is given in short, expressive, and monotonous clauses; namely, the end is drawing nigh, for God will judge Israel without mercy according to its abominations. The second section (vv. 5-27) is arranged in four strophes, and contains, in a form resembling the lamentation in ch. 19, a more minute description of the end predicted.
The end cometh.
V. 3. Now (cometh) the end upon thee, and I shall send my wrath upon thee, and judge thee according to thy ways, and bring upon thee all thine abominations.
V. 4. And my eye shall not look with pity upon thee, and I shall not spare, but bring thy ways upon thee; and thy abominations shall be in the midst of thee, that ye may know that I am Jehovah — hT;aæ , with the copula, connects this word of God with the preceding one, and shows it to be a continuation. It commences with an emphatic utterance of the thought, that the end is coming to the land of Israel, i.e., to the kingdom of Judah, with its capital Jerusalem. Desecrated as it has been by the abominations of its inhabitants, it will cease to be the land of God’s people Israel. ac;n; hm;d;a (to the land of Israel) is not to be taken with rmæa; hKo (thus saith the Lord) in opposition to the accents, but is connected with xqe (an end), as in the Targ. and Vulgate, and is placed first for the sake of greater emphasis.
In the construction, compare Job 6:14. xr,a, ãn;K; [Bær]aæ is limited by the parallelism to the four extremities of the land of Israel. It is used elsewhere for the whole earth (Isa 11:12). The Chetib [Bær]aæ is placed, in opposition to the ordinary rule, before a noun in the feminine gender. The Keri gives the regular construction (vid., Ewald, §267c). In v. 3 the end is explained to be a wrathful judgment. “Give ˆtæn; ) thine abominations upon thee;” i.e., send the consequences, inflict punishment for them. The same thought is expressed in the phrase, “thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee;” in other words, they would discern them in the punishments which the abominations would bring in their train. For v. 4a compare Ezek 5:11.
The execution of the judgment announced in vv. 2-4, arranged in four strophes: vv. 5-9, 10-14, 15-22, 23-27.-The first strophe depicts the end as a terrible calamity, and as near at hand. Vv. 3 and 4 are repeated as a refrain in vv. 8 and 9, with slight modifications.
V. 5. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Misfortune, a singular misfortune, behold, it cometh.
V. 6. End cometh: there cometh the end; it waketh upon thee; behold, it cometh.
V. 8. Now speedily will I pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger on thee; and judge thee according to thy ways, and bring upon thee all thine abominations.
V. 9. My eye shall not look with pity upon thee, and I shall not spare; according to thy ways will I bring it upon thee, and thy abominations shall be in the midst of thee, that ye may know that I, Jehovah, am smiting.
Misfortune of a singular kind shall come. [ræ is made more emphatic by [ræ dj;a, , in which dj;a, is placed first for the sake of emphasis, in the sense of unicus, singularis; a calamity singular (unique) of its kind, such as never had occurred before (cf. Ezek 5:9).
In v. 6 the poetical xWq , it (the end) waketh upon thee, is suggested by the paronomasia with xqe . The force of the words is weakened by supplying Jehovah as the subject to xWq , in opposition to the context. And it will not do to supply [ræ (evil) from v. 5 as the subject to awOB hNehi (behold, it cometh). awOB is construed impersonally: It cometh, namely, every dreadful thing which the end brings with it. The meaning of tzephirâh is doubtful.
The only other passage in which it occurs is Isa 28:5, where it is used in the sense of diadem or crown, which is altogether unsuitable here. Raschi has therefore had recourse to the Syriac and Chaldee ar;p]xæ , aurora, tempus matutinum, and Hävernick has explained it accordingly, “the dawn of an evil day.” But the dawn is never used as a symbol or omen of misfortune, not even in Joel 2:2, but solely as the sign of the bursting forth of light or of salvation.
Abarbanel was on the right track when he started from the radical meaning of rpæx; , to twist, and taking tzephirâh in the sense of orbis, ordo, or periodical return, understood it as probably denoting rerum fatique vicissitudinem in orbem redeuntem (Ges. Thes. p. 1188). But it has been justly observed, that the rendering succession, or periodical return, can only give a forced sense in v. 10. Winer has given a better rendering, viz., fatum, malum fatale, fate or destiny, for which he refers to the Arabic tsabramun, intortum, then fatum haud mutandum inevitabile. Different explanations have also been given of rhæ dhe . But the opinion that it is synonymous with dd;yhe , the joyous vintage cry (Jer 25:30; Isa 16:10), is a more probable one than that it is an unusual form of dwOh , splendor, gloria.
So much at any rate is obvious from the context, that the hapax legomenon dhe is the antithesis of hm;Whm] , tumult, or the noise of war. The shouting of the mountains, is shouting, a rejoicing upon the mountains. bwOrq; , from the immediate vicinity, in a temporal not a local sense, as in Deut 32:17 (= immediately). For ãaæ hl;K; , see ch. 6;12. The remainder of the strophe (vv. 8b and 9) is a repetition of vv. 3 and 4; but hk;n; is added in the last clause. They shall learn that it is Jehovah who smites. This thought is expanded in the following strophe.
V. 10. Behold the day, behold, it cometh; the fate springeth up; the rod sprouteth; the pride blossometh. V. 11. The violence riseth up as the rod of evil: nothing of them, nothing of their multitude, nothing of their crowd, and nothing glorious upon them.
V. 13. For the seller will not return to that which was sold, even though his life were still among the living: for the prophecy against its whole multitude will not turn back; and no one will strengthen himself as to his life through his iniquity.
V. 14. They blow the trumpet and make everything ready; but no one goeth into the battle: for my wrath cometh upon all their multitude.
The rod is already prepared; nothing will be left of the ungodly.
This is the leading thought of the strophe. The three clauses of v. 10b are synonymous; but there is a gradation in the thought. The approaching fate springs up out of the earth ax;y; , applied to the springing up of plants, as in 1 Kings 5:13; Isa 11:1, etc.); it sprouts as a rod, and flowers as pride.
Matteh, the rod as an instrument of chastisement (Isa 10:5). This rod is then called zâdhoon, pride, inasmuch as God makes use of a proud and violent people, namely the Chaldeans (Hab 1:6ff.; Jer 50:31 seq.), to inflict the punishment. Sprouting and blossoming, which are generally used as figurative representations of fresh and joyous prosperity, denote here the vigorous growth of that power which is destined to inflict the punishment.
Both châmâs (violence) and zâdhoon (pride) refer to the enemy who is to chastise Israel. The violence which he employs rises up into the chastening rod of “evil,” i.e., of ungodly Israel. In v. 11b the effect of the blow is described in short, broken sentences.
The emotion apparent in the frequent repetition of alo is intensified by the omission of the verb, which gives to the several clauses the character of exclamations. So far as the meaning is concerned, we have to insert hy;h; in thought, and to take ˆmi in a partitive sense: there will not be anything of them, i.e., nothing will be left of them (the Israelites, or the inhabitants of the land). µhe (of them) is explained by the nouns which follow. ˆwOmh; and the aJp leg . µhe , plural of µh; or hm,h; , both derivatives of hm;h; , are so combined that ˆwOmh; signifies the tumultuous multitude of people, hm,h; the multitude of possessions (like ˆwOmh; , Isa 60:2; Ps 37:16, etc.). The meaning which Hävernick assigns to hâmeh, viz., anxiety or trouble, is unsupported and inappropriate.
The aJp leg . HnO is not to be derived from hh;n; , to lament, as the Rabbins affirm; or interpreted, as Kimchi-who adopts this derivation-maintains, on the ground of Jer 16:4ff., as signifying that, on account of the multitude of the dying, there will be no more lamentation for the dead. This leaves the Mappik in h unexplained. noh is a derivative of a root hwn ; in Arabic, nâha, elata fuit res, eminuit, magnificus fuit; hence hnO, res magnifica . When everything disappears in such a way as this, the joy occasioned by the acquisition of property, and the sorrow caused by its loss, will also pass away (v. 12). The buyer will not rejoice in the property he has bought, for he will not be able to enjoy it; and the seller will not mourn that he has been obliged to part with his possession, for he would have lost it in any case. f11 The wrath of God is kindled against their whole multitude; that is to say, the judgment falls equally upon them all. The suffix in hn;wOmh refers, as Jerome has correctly shown, to the “land of Israel” (admath, Yisrâeel) in v. 2, i.e., to the inhabitants of the land. The words, “the seller will not return to what he has sold,” are to be explained from the legal regulations concerning the year of Jubilee in Lev 25, according to which all landed property that had been sold was to revert to its original owner (or his heir), without compensation, in the year of jubilee; so that he would then return to his mimkâr (Lev 25:14,27-28). Henceforth, however, this will take place no more, even if yjæ , their (the sellers’) life, should be still alive (sc., at the time when the return to his property would take place, according to the regulations of the year of jubilee), because Israel will be banished from the land.
The clause h yjæ `dwO[ is a conditional circumstantial clause. The seller will not return bWv alo ) to his possession, because the prophecy concerning the whole multitude of the people will not return bWv alo ), i.e., will not turn back (for this meaning of bWv , compare Isa 45:23; 55:11). As bWv alo corresponds to the previous bWv alo , so does Hn;wOmh\ lKoAta, ˆwOzj; to hn;wOmh\AlK;Ala, ˆwOrj; in v. 12. In the last clause of v. 13, yjæ is not to be taken with `ˆwO[; in the sense of “in the iniquity of his life,” which makes the suffix in `ˆwO[; superfluous, but with qzæj; , the Hithpael being construed with the accusative, “strengthen himself in his life.”
Whether these words also refer to the year of jubilee, as Hävernick supposes, inasmuch as the regulation that every one was to recover his property was founded upon the idea of the restitution and re-creation of the theocracy, we may leave undecided; since the thought is evidently simply this: ungodly Israel shall be deprived of its possession, because the wicked shall not obtain the strengthening of his life through his sin. This thought leads on to v. 14, in which we have a description of the utter inability to offer any successful resistance to the enemy employed in executing the judgment. There is some difficulty connected with the word [æwOqT; , since the infin. absolute, which the form [æwOqT; seems to indicate, cannot be construed with either a preposition or the article. Even if the expression W[q]Ti [æwOqt]Bi in Jer 6:1 was floating before the mind of Ezekiel, and led to his employing the bold phrase [wOqT]Bæ , this would not justify the use of the infinitive absolute with a preposition and the article. [æwOqT; must be a substantive form, and denote not clangour, but the instrument used to sound an alarm, viz., the shoophâr (Ezek 33:3). ˆWK, an unusual form of the inf. abs. (see Josh 7:7), used in the place of the finite tense, and signifying to equip for war, as in Nah 2:4. lKo , everything requisite for waging war. And no one goes into the battle, because the wrath of God turns against them (Lev 26:17), and smites them with despair (Deut 32:30).
Thus will they fall into irresistible destruction; even their silver and gold they will not rescue, but will cast it away as useless, and leave it for the enemy.
V. 15. The sword without, and pestilence and famine within: he who is in the field will die by the sword; and famine and pestilence will devour him that is in the city. V. 16. And if their escaped ones escape, they will be upon the mountains like the doves of the valleys, all moaning, every one for his iniquity.
V. 17. All hands will become feeble, and all knees flow with water.
V. 19. They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be as filth to them. Their silver and their gold will not be able to rescue them in the day of Jehovah’s wrath; they will not satisfy their souls therewith, nor fill their stomachs thereby, for it was to them a stumbling-block to guilt.
V. 20. And His beautiful ornament, they used it for pride; and their abominable images, their abominations they made thereof: therefore I make it filth to them.
V. 21. And I shall give it into the hand of foreigners for prey, and to the wicked of the earth for spoil, that they may defile it.
V. 22. I shall turn my face from them, that they defile my treasure; and oppressors shall come upon it and defile it.
The chastisement of God penetrates everywhere (v. 15 compare with Ezek 5:12); even flight to the mountains, that are inaccessible to the foe (compare 1 Macc. 2:28; Matt 24:16), will only bring misery. Those who have fled to the mountains will coo-i.e., mourn, moan-like the doves of the valleys, which (as Bochart has correctly interpreted the simile in his Hieroz.
II. p. 546, ed. Ros.), “when alarmed by the bird-catcher or the hawk, are obliged to forsake their natural abode, and fly elsewhere to save their lives.
The mountain doves are contrasted with those of the valleys, as wild with tame.”
In hm;h; lKo the figure and the fact are fused together. The words actually relate to the men who have fled; whereas the gender of hm;h; is made to agree with that of hn;wOy . The cooing of doves was regarded by the ancients as a moan (hâgâh), a mournful note (for proofs, see Gesen. on Isa 38:14); for which Ezekiel uses the still stronger expression hâmâh fremere, to howl or growl (cf. Isa 59:11). The low moaning has reference to their iniquity, the punishment of which they are enduring. When the judgment bursts upon them, they will all (not merely those who have escaped, but the whole nation) be overwhelmed with terror, shame, and suffering. The words, “all knees flow with water” (for hâlak in this sense, compare Joel 4:18), are a hyperbolical expression used to denote the entire loss of the strength of the knees (here, v. 17 and Ezek 21:12), like the heart melting and turning to water in Josh 7:5. With this utter despair there are associated grief and horror at the calamity that has fallen upon them, and shame and pain at the thought of the sins that have plunged them into such distress. For tWxL;pæ hs;K; , compare Ps 55:6; for hv;WB µynip;AlK;Ala, , Mic 7:10; Jer 51:51; and for hj;r]q; varAlk;B] , Isa 15:2; Amos 8:10. On the custom of shaving the head bald on account of great suffering or deep sorrow, see the comm. on Mic 1:16.
In this state of anguish they will throw all their treasures away as sinful trash (v. 19ff.). By the silver and gold which they will throw away (v. 19), we are not to understand idolatrous images particularly-these are first spoken of in v. 20-but the treasures of precious metals on which they had hitherto set their hearts. They will not merely throw these away as worthless, but look upon them as niddâh, filth, an object of disgust, inasmuch as they have been the servants of their evil lust. The next clause, “silver and gold cannot rescue them,” are a reminiscence from Zeph 1:18.
But Ezekiel gives greater force to the thought by adding, “they will not appease their hunger therewith,”-that is to say, they will not be able to protect their lives thereby, either from the sword of the enemy (see the comm. on Zeph 1:18) or from death by starvation, because there will be no more food to purchase within the besieged city.
The clause wgw lwOvk]mi yKi assigns the reason for that which forms the leading thought of the verse, namely, the throwing away of the silver and gold as filth; `ˆwO[; lwOvk]mi , a stumbling-block through which one falls into guilt and punishment; `ydi[ ybix] , the beauty of his ornament, i.e., his beautiful ornament. The allusion is to the silver and gold; and the singular suffix is to be explained from the fact that the prophet fixed his mind upon the people as a whole, and used the singular in a general and indefinite sense. The words are written absolutely at the commencement of the sentence; hence the suffix attached to µWc , Jerome has given the true meaning of the words: “what I (God) gave for an ornament of the possessors and for their wealth, they turned into pride.” And not merely to ostentatious show (in the manner depicted in Isa 3:16ff.), but to abominable images, i.e., idols, did they apply the costly gifts of God (cf.
God punishes this abuse by making it (gold and silver) into niddâh to them, i.e., according to v. 19, by placing them in such circumstances that they cast it away as filth, and (v. 21) by giving it as booty to the foe. The enemy is described as “the wicked of the earth” (cf. Ps 75:9), i.e., godless men, who not only seize upon the possession of Israel, but in the most wicked manner lay hands upon all that is holy, and defile it. The Chetib llæj; is to be retained, notwithstanding the fact that it was preceded by a masculine suffix. What is threatened will take place, because the Lord will turn away His face from His people µhe , from the Israelites), i.e., will withdraw His gracious protection from them, so that the enemy will be able to defile His treasure. Tsâphuun, that which is hidden, the treasure (Job 20:26; Obad. 1:6). Tsephuunii is generally supposed to refer to the temple, or the Most Holy Place in the temple.
Jerome renders it arcanum meum, and gives this explanation: “signifying the Holy of Holies, which no one except the priests and the high priest dared to enter.” This interpretation was so commonly adopted by the Fathers, that even Theodoret explains the rendering given in the Septuagint, th>n episkoph>n mou , as signifying the Most Holy Place in the temple. On the other hand, the Chaldee has ytin]ykiv] tybe a[;r]aæ , “the land of the house of my majesty;” and Calvin understands it as signifying “the land which was safe under His (i.e., God’s) protection.” But it is difficult to reconcile either explanation with the use of the word tsâphuun. The verb tsâphan signifies to hide, shelter, lay up in safety. These meanings do not befit either the Holy of Holies in the temple or the land of Israel. It is true that the Holy of Holies was unapproachable by the laity, and even by the ordinary priests, but it was not a secret, a hidden place; and still less was this the case with the land of Canaan.We therefore adhere to the meaning, which is so thoroughly sustained by Job 20:26 and Obad. v. 6-namely, “treasure,” by which, no doubt, the temple-treasure is primarily intended.
This rendering suits the context, as only treasures have been referred to before; and it may be made to harmonize with µyrit;a\ awOB which follows. b] awOB signifies not merely intrare in locum, but also venire in (e.g., Kings 6:23; possibly Ezek 30:4), and may therefore be very properly rendered, “to get possession of,” since it is only possible to obtain possession of a treasure by penetrating into the place where it is laid up or concealed. There is nothing at variance with this in the word llæj; , profanare, since it has already occurred in v. 21 in connection with the defiling of treasures and jewels. Moreover, as Calvin has correctly observed, the word is employed here to denote “an indiscriminate abuse, when, instead of considering to what purpose things have been entrusted to us, we squander them rashly and without selection, in contempt and even in scorn.”
Still worse is coming, namely, the captivity of the people, and overthrow of the kingdom.
V. 24. I shall bring evil ones of the nations, that they may take possession of their houses; and I shall put an end to the pride of the strong, that their sanctuaries may be defiled.
V. 25. Ruin has come; they seek salvation, but there is none.
V. 26. Destruction upon destruction cometh, and report upon report ariseth; they seek visions from prophets, but the law will vanish away from the priest, and counsel from the elders.
V. 27. The king will mourn, and the prince will clothe himself in horror, and the hands of the common people will tremble. I will deal with them according to their way, and according to their judgments will I judge them, that they may learn that I am Jehovah.
Those who have escaped death by sword or famine at the conquest of Jerusalem have captivity and exile awaiting them. This is the meaning of the command to make the chain, i.e., the fetters needed to lead the people into exile. This punishment is necessary, because the land is full of mishpat dâmim, judgment of blood. This cannot mean, there is a judgment upon the shedding of blood, i.e., upon murder, which is conducted by Jehovah, as Hävernick supposes. Such a thought is irreconcilable with alem; , and with the parallel sm;j; alem; . µD; fp;v]mi is to be explained after the same manner as tw,m; fp;v]mi (a matter for sentence of death, a capital crime) in Deut. 19:6,21-22, as signifying a matter for sentence of bloodshed, i.e., a crime of blood, or capital crime, as the Chaldee has already rendered it. Because the land is filled with capital crime, the city (Jerusalem) with violence, the Lord will bring ywOG [ræ , evil ones of the heathen, i.e., the worst of the heathen, to put an end to the pride of the Israelites. `z[æ ˆwOaG; is not “pride of the insolents;” for `z[æ does not stand for µynip; yWe[æ (Deut 28:50, etc.). The expression is rather to be explained from `z[o ˆwOaG; , pride of strength, in Ezek 24:21; 30:6,18 (cf. Lev 26:19), and embraces everything on which a man (or a nation) bases his power and rests his confidence.
The Israelites are called `z[æ , because they thought themselves strong, or, according to Ezek 24:21, based their strength upon the possession of the temple and the holy land. This is indicated by vdæq; llæj; which follows. ljæn; , Niphal of llæj; and µh,yved]qæm] , not a participle Piel, from vdæq; , with the Dagesh dropped, but an unusual form, from vD;q]mi for vdæq; (vid., Ew. §215a).-The aJp leg . hd;p;q] , with the tone drawn back on account of the tone-syllable which follows (cf. Ges. §29, 3. 6), signifies excidium, destruction (according to the Rabbins), from dpæq; , to shrink or roll up (Isa 38:12). awOB is a prophetic perfect. In v. 25 the ruin of the kingdom is declared to be certain, and in vv. 26 and 27 the occurrence of it is more minutely depicted.
Stroke upon stroke does the ruin come; and it is intensified by reports, alarming accounts, which crowd together and increase the terror, and also by the desperation of the spiritual and temporal leaders of the nation-the prophets, priests, and elders-whom God deprives of revelation, knowledge, and counsel; so that all ranks (king and princes and the common people) sink into mourning, alarm, and horror. That it is to no purpose that visions or prophecies are sought from the prophets (v. 26), is evident from the antithetical statement concerning the priests and elders which immediately follows. The three statements serve as complements of one another. They seek for predictions from prophets, but the prophets receive no vision, no revelation. They seek instruction from priests, but instruction is withdrawn from the priests; and so forth. Toorâh signifies instruction out of the law, which the priests were to give to the people (Mal 2:7). In v. 27, the three classes into which the people were divided are mentioned-viz. king, prince (i.e., tribe-princes and heads of families), and, in contradistinction to both, xr,a, `µ[æ , the common people, the people of the land, in distinction from the civil rulers, as in 2 Kings 21:24; 23:30. Ër,D, , literally from their way, their mode of action, will I do to them: i.e., my action will be derived from theirs, and regulated accordingly. tae for tae , as in Ezek 3:22, etc. (See the comm. on Ezek 16:59.)
VISION OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM A year and two months after his call, the glory of the Lord appeared to the prophet a second time, as he had seen it by the Chebar. He is transported in spirit to Jerusalem into the court of the temple (Ezek 8:1-4), where the Lord causes him to see, first the idolatry of Israel (ch. 8:5-18), and secondly, the judgment why, on account of this idolatry, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem are smitten (ch. 9), the city is burned with fire, and the sanctuary forsaken by God (ch. 10). Lastly, after he has been charged to foretell to the representatives of the people more especially the coming judgment, and to those who are sent into exile a future salvation (Ezek 11:1-21), he describes how the gracious presence of God forsakes the city before his own eyes (Ezek 11:22-23). After this has taken place, Ezekiel is carried back in the vision to Chaldea once more; and there, after the vision has come to an end, he announces to the exiles what he has seen and heard (Ezek 11:24-25).
Abominations of the Idolatry of the House of Israel.
V. 1. And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth (month), on the fifth (day) of the month, I was sitting in my house, and the elders of Judah were sitting before me; there fell upon me the hand of the Lord Jehovah there.
V. 3. And he stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by the locks of my head, and wind carried me away between earth and heaven, and brought me to Jerusalem in visions of God, to the entrance of the gate of the inner court, which faces towards the north, where the image of jealousy exciting jealousy had its stand.
V. 4. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision which I have seen in the valley.
The place where Ezekiel received this new theophany agrees with the statements in Ezek 3:24 and 4:4,6, that he was to shut himself up in his house, and lie 390 days upon the left side, and 40 days upon the right sidein all, 430 days.
The use of the word bvæy; , “I sat,” is not at variance with this, as bvæy; does not of necessity signify sitting as contrasted with lying, but may also be used in the more general sense of staying, or living, in the house. Nor is the presence of the elders of Judah opposed to the command, in Ezek 3:24, to shut himself up in the house, as we have already observed in the notes on that passage. The new revelation is made to him in the presence of these elders, because it is of the greatest importance to them. They are to be witnesses of his ecstasy; and after this has left the prophet, are to hear from his lips the substance of the divine revelation (Ezek 11:25). It is otherwise with the time of the revelation. If we compare the date given in Ezek 8:1 with those mentioned before, this new vision apparently falls within the period required for carrying out the symbolical actions of the previous vision.
Between Ezek 1:1-2 (the fifth day of the fourth month in the fifth year) and Ezek 8:1 (the fifth day of the sixth month in the sixth year) we have one year and two months, that is to say (reckoning the year as a lunar year at 354 days, and the two months at 59 days), 413 days; whereas the two events recorded in Ezek 1-7 require at least 437 days, namely 7 days for Ezek 3:15, and 390 + 40 = 430 days for ch. 4:5-6. Consequently the new theophany would fall within the 40 days, during which Ezekiel was to lie upon the right side for Judah. To get rid of this difficulty, Hitzig conjectures that the fifth year of Jehoiachin (Ezek 1:2) was a leap year of 13 months or 385 days, by which he obtains an interval of 444 days after adding 59 for the two months-a period sufficient not only to include the days (Ezek 3:15) and 390 + 40 days (Ezek 4:5-6), but to leave 7 days for the time that elapsed between ch. 7 and 8. But however attractive this reckoning may appear, the assumption that the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin was a leap year is purely conjectural; and there is nothing whatever to give it probability. Consequently the only thing that could lead us to adopt such a solution, would be the impossibility of reconciling the conclusion to be drawn from the chronological data, as to the time of the two theophanies, with the substance of these divine revelations.
If we assume that Ezekiel carried out the symbolical acts mentioned in ch. 4 and 5 in all their entirety, we can hardly imagine that the vision described in the chapters before us, by which he was transported in spirit to Jerusalem, occurred within the period of forty days, during which he was to typify the siege of Jerusalem by lying upon his right side. Nevertheless, Kliefoth has decided in favour of this view, and argues in support of it, that the vision described in Ezek 8:1ff. took place in the prophet’s own house, that it is identical in substance with what is contained in Ezek 3:22-7:27, and that there is no discrepancy, because all that occurred here was purely internal, and the prophet himself was to address the words contained in Ezek 11:4-12 and 11:14-21 to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in his state of ecstasy. Moreover, when it is stated in Ezek 11:25 that Ezekiel related to the exiles all that he had seen in the vision, it is perfectly open to us to assume that this took place at the same time as his report to them of the words of God in ch. 6 and 7, and those which follow in ch. 12.
But. on the other hand, it may be replied that the impression produced by Ezek 11:25 is not that the prophet waited several weeks after his visionary transport to Jerusalem before communicating to the elders what he saw in the vision. And even if the possibility of this cannot be disputed, we cannot imagine any reason why the vision should be shown to the prophet four weeks before it was to be related to the exiles. Again, there is not sufficient identity between the substance of the vision in ch. 8-11 and the revelation in ch. 4-7, to suggest any motive for the two to coincide. It is true that the burning of Jerusalem, which Ezekiel sees in ch. 8-11, is consequent upon the siege and conquest of that city, which he has already predicted in ch. 4- 7 both in figure and word; but they are not so closely connected, that it was necessary on account of this connection for it to be shown to him before the completion of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem. And, lastly, although the ecstasy as a purely internal process is so far reconcilable with the prophet’s lying upon his right side, that this posture did not preclude a state of ecstasy or render it impossible, yet this collision would ensue, that while the prophet was engaged in carrying out the former word of God, a new theophany would be received by him, which must necessarily abstract his mind from the execution of the previous command of God, and place him in a condition in which it would be impossible for him to set his face firmly upon the siege of Jerusalem, as he had been commanded to do in Ezek 4:7.
On account of this collision, we cannot subscribe to the assumption, that it was during the time that Ezekiel was lying bound by God upon his right side to bear the sin of Jerusalem, that he was transported in spirit to the temple at Jerusalem. On the contrary, the fact that this transport occurred, according to Ezek 8:1, at a time when he could not have ended the symbolical acts of ch. 4, if he had been required to carry them out in all their external reality, furnishes us with conclusive evidence of the correctness of the view we have already expressed, that the symbolical acts of ch. 4 and 5 did not lie within the sphere of outward reality (see comm. on Ezek 5:4).-And if Ezekiel did not really lie for 430 days, there was nothing to hinder his having a fresh vision 14 months after the theophany in ch. 1 and Ezek 3:22ff. For yy’ dy; `l[æ lpæn; , see at Ezek 3:22 and 1:3.
The figure which Ezekiel sees in the vision is described in v. 2 in precisely the same terms as the appearance of God in Ezek 1:27. The sameness of the two passages is a sufficient defence of the reading vaeAha,r]mæK] against the arbitrary emendation vya mk , after the Sept. rendering oJmoi>wma andro>s , in support of which Ewald and Hitzig appeal to Ezek 1:26, though without any reason, as the reading there is not vyai , but µd;a; . It is not expressly stated here that the apparition was in human form-the fiery appearance is all that is mentioned; but this is taken for granted in the allusion to the ˆt,mo (the loins), either as self-evident, or as well known from ch. 1. rhæzO is synonymous with HgænO in Ezek 1:4,27. What is new in the present theophany is the stretching out of the hand, which grasps the prophet by the front hair of his head, whereupon he is carried by wind between heaven and earth, i.e., through the air, to Jerusalem, not in the body, but in visions of God (cf. Ezek 1:1), that is to say, in spiritual ecstasy, and deposited at the entrance of the inner northern door of the temple. ymiynip] is not an adjective belonging to r[ævæ , for this is not a feminine noun, but is used as a substantive, as in Ezek 43:5 (= ymiynip] rxej; : cf. Ezek 40:40): gate of the inner court, i.e., the gate on the north side of the inner court which led into the outer court.
We are not informed whether Ezekiel was placed on the inner or outer side of this gate, i.e., in the inner or outer court; but it is evident from v. 5 that he was placed in the inner court, as his position commanded a view of the image which stood at the entrance of the gate towards the north. The further statement, “where the standing place of the image of jealousy was,” anticipates what follows, and points out the reason why the prophet was placed just there. The expression “image of jealousy” is explained by hn;q; , which excites the jealousy of Jehovah (see the comm. on Ex 20:5).
Consequently, we have not to think of any image of Jehovah, but of an image of a heathen idol (cf. Deut 32:21); probably of Baal or Asherah, whose image had already been placed in the temple by Manasseh (2 Kings 21:7); certainly not the image of the corpse of Adonis moulded in wax or clay. This opinion, which Hävernick advances, is connected with the erroneous assumption that all the idolatrous abominations mentioned in this chapter relate to the celebration of an Adonis-festival in the temple.
There (v. 4) in the court of the temple Ezekiel saw once more the glory of the God of Israel, as he had seen it in the valley (Ezek 3:22) by the Chaboras, i.e., the appearance of God upon the throne with the cherubim and wheels; whereas the divine figure, whose hand grasped him in his house, and transported him to the temple (v. 2), showed neither throne nor cherubim. The expression “God of Israel,” instead of Jehovah (Ezek 3:23), is chosen as an antithesis to the strange god, the heathen idol, whose image stood in the temple. As the God of Israel, Jehovah cannot tolerate the image and worship of another god in His temple. To set up such an image in the temple of Jehovah was a practical renunciation of the covenant, a rejection of Jehovah on the part of Israel as its covenant God.
Here, in the temple, Jehovah shows to the prophet the various kinds of idolatry which Israel is practising both publicly and privately, not merely in the temple, but throughout the whole land. The arrangement of these different forms of idolatry in four groups of abomination scenes (vv. 5, 6, 7-12, 13-15, and 16-18), which the prophet sees both in and from the court of the temple, belong to the visionary drapery of this divine revelation. It is altogether erroneous to interpret the vision as signifying that all these forms of idolatry were practised in the temple itself; an assumption which cannot be carried out without doing violence to the description, more especially of the second abomination in vv. 7-12. Still more untenable is Hävernick’s view, that the four pictures of idolatrous practices shown to the prophet are only intended to represent different scenes of a festival of Adonis held in the temple. The selection of the courts of the temple for depicting the idolatrous worship, arises from the fact that the temple was the place where Israel was called to worship the Lord its God.
Consequently the apostasy of Israel from the Lord could not be depicted more clearly and strikingly than by the following series of pictures of idolatrous abominations practised in the temple under the eyes of God.
V. 5. And He said to me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now towards the north. And I lifted up my eyes towards the north, and, behold, to the north of the gate of the altar was this image of jealousy at the entrance.
V. 6. And He said to me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? great abominations, which the house of Israel doeth here, that I may go far away from my sanctuary; and thou shalt yet again see greater abominations still.
As Ezekiel had taken his stand in the inner court at the entrance of the north gate, and when looking thence towards the north saw the image of jealousy to the north of the altar gate, the image must have stood on the outer side of the entrance, so that the prophet saw it as he looked through the open doorway. The altar gate is the same as the northern gate of the inner court mentioned in ch. 3. But it is impossible to state with certainty how it came to be called the altar gate. Possibly from the circumstance that the sacrificial animals were taken through this gate to the altar, to be slaughtered on the northern side of the altar, according to Lev 1:4; 5:11, etc. µhem; , contracted from µhiAhm; , like hZ,mæ from hz, hm; in Ex 4:2. The words “what they are doing here” do not force us to assume that at that very time they were worshipping the idol. They simply describe what was generally practised there. The setting up of the image involved the worship of it. The subject to qjær; is not the house of Israel, but Jehovah. They perform great abominations, so that Jehovah is compelled to go to a distance from His sanctuary, i.e., to forsake it (cf. Ezek 11:23), because they make it an idol-temple.
Second abomination: Worship of beasts.
V. 9. And He said to me, Come and see the wicked abominations which they are doing here.
V. 11. And seventy men of the leaders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them, stood in front, every man with his censer in his hand; and the smell of a cloud of incense arose.
V. 12. And He said to me, Seest thou, son of man, what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every one in his imagechambers?
This would be at variance with the context, as we not only find the prophet at the northern entrance in vv. 3 and 5, but at v. 14 we find him there still.
If he had been taken to the eastern gate in the meantime, this would certainly have been mentioned. As that is not the case, the reference must be to that entrance to the court which lay between the entrance-gate of the inner court (v. 3) and the northern entrance-gate to the house of Jehovah (v. 14), or northern gate of the outer court, in other words, the northern entrance into the outer court. Thus the prophet was conducted out of the inner court through its northern gate into the outer court, and placed in front of the northern gate, which led out into the open air. There he saw a hole in the wall, and on breaking through the wall, by the command of God, he saw a door, and having entered it, he saw all kinds of figures of animals engraved on the wall round about, in front of which seventy of the elders of Israel were standing and paying reverence to the images of beasts with burning incense.
According to v. 12, the prophet was thereby shown what the elders of Israel did in the dark, every one in his image-chamber. From this explanation on the part of God concerning the picture shown to the prophet, it is very evident that it had no reference to any idolatrous worship practised by the elders in one or more of the cells of the outer court of the temple. For even though the objection raised by Kliefoth to this view, namely, that it cannot be proved that there were halls with recesses in the outer court, is neither valid nor correct, since the existence of such halls is placed beyond the reach of doubt by Jer 35:4; 2 Kings 23:11, and 1 Chron 28:12; such a supposition is decidedly precluded by the fact, that the cells and recesses at the gates cannot have been large enough to allow of seventy-one men taking part in a festive idolatrous service. The supposition that the seventy-one men were distributed in different chambers is at variance with the distinct words of the text.
The prophet not only sees the seventy elders standing along with Jaazaniah, but he could not look through one door into a number of chambers at once, and see the pictures draw all round upon their walls. The assembling of the seventy elders in a secret cell by the northern gate of the outer temple to worship the idolatrous images engraved on the walls of the cell, is one feature in the visionary form given to the revelation of what the elders of the people were doing secretly throughout the whole land. To bring out more strikingly the secrecy of this idolatrous worship, the cell is so completely hidden in the wall, that the prophet is obliged to enlarge the hole by breaking through the wall before he can see the door which leads to the cell and gain a view of them and of the things it contains, and the things that are done therein. f12 And the number of the persons assembled there suggests the idea of a symbolical representation, as well as the secrecy of the cell. The seventy elders represent the whole nation; and the number is taken from Ex 24:1ff. and Num 11:16; 24:25, where Moses, by the command of God, chooses seventy of the elders to represent the whole congregation at the making of the covenant, and afterwards to support his authority. This representation of the congregation was not a permanent institution, as we may see from the fact that in Num 11 seventy other men are said to have been chosen for the purpose named. The high council, consisting of seventy members, the so-called Sanhedrim, was formed after the captivity on the basis of these Mosaic types. In the midst of the seventy was Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, a different man therefore from the Jaazaniah mentioned in Ezek 11:1. Shaphan is probably the person mentioned as a man of distinction in 2 Kings 22:3ff.; Jer 29:3; 36:10; 39:14. It is impossible to decide on what ground Jaazaniah is specially mentioned by name; but it can hardly be on account of the meaning of the name he bore, “Jehovah heard,” as Hävernick supposes. It is probable that he held a prominent position among the elders of the nation, so that he is mentioned here by name as the leader of this national representation.
On the wall of the chamber round about there were drawn all kinds of figures of hm;heB] cm,r, , reptiles and quadrupeds (see Gen 1:24). xq,v, is in apposition not only to hm;heB] , but also to cm,r, , and therefore, as belonging to both, is not to be connected with hm;heB] in the construct state. The drawing of reptiles and quadrupeds became a xq,v, , or abomination, from the fact that the pictures had been drawn for the purpose of religious worship. The following clause, “and all the idols of the house of Israel,” is co-ordinate with wgw tynib]TæAlK; . Besides the animals drawn on the walls, there were idols of other kinds in the chamber. The drawing of reptiles and quadrupeds naturally suggests the thought of the animal-worship of Egypt.
We must not limit the words to this, however, since the worship of animals is met with in the nature-worship of other heathen nations, and the expression tynib]TæAlK; , “all kinds of figures,” as well as the clause, “all kinds of idols of the house of Israel,” points to every possible form of idolworship as spread abroad in Israel. `rt;[; , according to the Aramaean usage, signifies suffimentum, perfume, Ëv,j , in the dark, i.e., in secret, like baceter in 2 Sam 12:12; not in the sacred darkness of the cloud of incense (Hävernick). tyKic]mæ rd,j, , image-chambers, is the term applied to the rooms or closets in the dwelling-houses of the people in which idolatrous images were set up and secretly worshipped. tyKic]mæ signifies idolatrous figures, as in Lev 26:1 and Num 33:52. This idolatry was justified by the elders, under the delusion that “Jehovah seeth us not;” that is to say, not: “He does not trouble Himself about us,” but He does not see what we do, because He is not omniscient (cf. Isa 29:15); and He has forsaken the land, withdrawn His presence and His help. Thus they deny both the omniscience and omnipresence of God (cf. Ezek 9:9).
Third abomination: Worship of Thammuz.
V. 13. And He said to me, Thou shalt yet again see still greater abominations which they do.
V. 15. And He said to me, Dost thou see it, O son of man? Thou shalt yet again see still greater abominations than these.
The article in hV;ai is used generically. Whilst the men of the nation, represented by the seventy elders, were secretly carrying on their idolatrous worship, the women were sitting at the temple gate, and indulging in public lamentation for Thammuz. Under the weeping for Thammuz, Jerome (with Melito of Sardis and all the Greek Fathers) has correctly recognised the worship of Adonis. zWMTæ , Qammou>z or Qammou>v ,” says Jerome, “whom we have interpreted as Adonis, is called Thamuz both in Hebrew and Syriac; and because, according to the heathen legend, this lover of Venus and most beautiful youth is said to have been slain in the month of June and then restored to life again, they call this month of June by the same name, and keep an annual festival in his honour, at which he is lamented by women as though he were dead, and then afterwards celebrated in songs as having come to life again.”
This view has not been shaken even by the objections raised by Chwolson in his Ssaabins (II. 27. 202ff.), his relics of early Babylonian literature (p. 101), and his Tammuz and human-worship among the ancient Babylonians.
For the myth of Thammuz, mentioned in the Nabataean writings as a man who was put to death by the king of Babylon, whom he had commanded to introduce the worship of the seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac, and who was exalted to a god after his death, and honoured with a mourning festival, is nothing more than a refined interpretation of the very ancient nature-worship which spread over the whole of Hither Asia, and in which the power of the sun over the vegetation of the year was celebrated.
The etymology of the word Tammuz is doubtful. It is probably a contraction of zWzm]Tæ , from zzæm; = ssæm; , so that it denotes the decay of the force of nature, and corresponds to the Greek afanismo’s Adoo’nidos (see Hävernick in loc.).
Fourth abomination: Worship of the sun by the priests.
V. 16. And He took me into the inner court of the house of Jehovah, and behold, at the entrance into the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, as it were five and twenty men,with their backs towards the temple of Jehovah and their faces towards the east; they were worshipping the sun towards the east.
V. 17. And He said to me, Seest thou this, son of Man? Is it too little for the house of Judah to perform the abominations which they are performing here, that they also fill the land with violence, and provoke me to anger again and again? For behold they stretch out the vine-branch to their nose.
After Ezekiel has seen the idolatrous abominations in the outer court, or place for the people, he is taken back into the inner court, or court of the priests, to see still greater abominations there.
Between the porch of the temple and the altar of burnt-offering, the most sacred spot therefore in the inner court, which the priests alone were permitted to tread (Joel 2:17), he sees as if twenty-five men, with their backs toward the temple, were worshipping the sun in the east. K] before `µyric][, is not a preposition, circa, about, but a particle of comparison (an appearance): as if twenty-five men; after the analogy of K] before an accusative (vid., Ewald, §282d). For the number here is not an approximative one; but twenty-five is the exact number, namely, the twenty-four leaders of the classes of priests (1 Chron 24:5ff.; 2 Chron 36:14; Ezra 10:5), with the high priest at the head (see Lightfoot’s Chronol. of O.T., Opp. I. 124). As the whole nation was seen in the seventy elders, so is the entire priesthood represented here in the twentyfive leaders as deeply sunk in disgraceful idolatry. Their apostasy from the Lord is shown in the fact that they turn their back upon the temple, and therefore upon Jehovah, who was enthroned in the temple, and worship the sun, with their faces turned towards the east. The worship of the sun does not refer to the worship of Adonis, as Hävernick supposes, although Adonis was a sun-god; but generally to the worship of the heavenly bodies, against which Moses had warned the people (Deut 4:19; 17:3), and which found its way in the time of Manasseh into the courts of the temple, whence it was afterwards expelled by Josiah (2 Kings 23:5,11). The form µt,ywiT\tæv]mi must be a copyist’s error for µywij\Tæv]mi ; as the supposition that it is an unusual form, with a play upon tjæv; , is precluded by the fact that it would in that case be a 2nd per. plur. perf., and such a construction is rendered impossible by the µhe which immediately precedes it (cf. Ewald, §118a).
To these idolatrous abominations Judah has added other sins, as if these abominations were not bad enough in themselves. This is the meaning of the question in v. 17, wgw llæq; : is it too little for the house of Judah, etc.? llæq; with ˆmi , as in Isa 49:6. To indicate the fulness of the measure of guilt, reference is again briefly made to the moral corruption of Judah. sm;j; embraces all the injuries inflicted upon men; hbæ[ewOT, impiety towards God, i.e., idolatry. By violent deeds they provoke God repeatedly to anger bWv , followed by an infinitive, expresses the repetition of an action). The last clause of v. 17 ( wgw jlæv; ˆhe ) is very obscure. The usual explanation, which has been adopted by J. D. Michaelis and Gesenius: “they hold the twig to their nose,” namely, the sacred twig Barsom, which the Parsees held in their hands when praying (vid., Hyde, de relig. vet. Pars. p. 350, ed. 2; and Kleuker, Zend-Avesta, III. p. 204), suits neither the context nor the words.
According to the position of the clause in the context, we do not expect an allusion to a new idolatrous rite, but an explanation of the way in which Judah had excited the wrath of God by its violent deeds. Moreover, hr;wOmz] is not a suitable word to apply to the Barsom-Zemoorâh is a shoot or tendril of the vine (cf. Ezek 15:2; Isa 17:10; Num 13:23). The Barsom, on the other hand, consisted of bunches of twigs of the tree Gez or Hom, or of branches of the pomegranate, the tamarisk, or the date (cf. Kleuker l.c., and Strabo, XV. 733), and was not held to the nose, but kept in front of the mouth as a magical mode of driving demons away (vid., Hyde, l.c.).
Lastly, lae jlæv; does not mean to hold anything, but to stretch out towards, to prepare to strike, to use violence. Of the other explanations given, only two deserve any consideration-namely, first, the supposition that it is a proverbial expression, “to apply the twig to anger,” in the sense of adding fuel to the fire, which Doederlein (ad Grotii adnott.) applies in this way, “by these things they supply food, as it were, to my wrath, which burns against themselves,” i.e., they bring fuel to the fire of my wrath.
Lightfoot gives a similar explanation in his Hor. hebr. ad John 15:6. The second is that of Hitzig: “they apply the sickle to their nose,” i.e., by seeking to injure me, they injure themselves. In this case hr;wOmz] must be taken in the sense of hr;Mezæm] , a sickle or pruning-knife, and pointed hr;wOmz; . The saying does appear to be a proverbial one, but the origin and meaning of the proverb have not yet been satisfactorily explained.-V. 18.
Therefore will the Lord punish unsparingly (cf. Ezek 7:4,9; 5:11). This judgment he shows to the prophet in the two following chapters.
The Angels which Smite Jerusalem.
At the call of Jehovah, His servants appear to execute the judgment.
V. 2. And behold six men came by the way of the upper gage, which is directed toward the north, every one with his smashingtool in his hand; and a man in the midst of them, clothed in white linen, and writing materials by his hip; and they came and stood near the brazen altar.
V. 3. And the glory of the God of Israel rose up from the cherub, upon which it was, to the threshold of the house, and called to the man clothed in white linen, by whose hip the writing materials were — `ry[i hD;qup] does not mean the punishments of the city. This rendering does not suit the context, since it is not the punishments that are introduced, but the men who execute them; and it is not established by the usage of the language. hD;qup] is frequently used, no doubt, in the sense of visitation or chastisement (e.g., Isa 10:3; Hos 9:7); but it is not met with in the plural in this sense.
In the plural it only occurs in the sense of supervision or protectorate, in which sense it occurs not only in Jer 52:11 and Ezek 44:11, but also (in the singular) in Isa 60:17, and as early as Num 3:38, where it relates to the presidency of the priests, and very frequently in the Chronicles.
Consequently hD;qup] are those whom God has appointed to watch over the city, the city-guard (2 Kings 11:18)-not earthly, but heavenly watchmenwho are now to inflict punishment upon the ungodly, as the authorities appointed by God. bræq; is an imperative Piel, as in Isa 41:21, and must not be altered into bræq; (Kal), as Hitzig proposes. The Piel is used in an intransitive sense, festinanter appropinquavit, as in Ezek 36:8. The persons called come by the way of the upper northern gate of the temple, to take their stand before Jehovah, whose glory had appeared in the inner court.
The upper gate is the gate leading from the outer court to the inner, or upper court, which stood on higher ground-the gate mentioned in Ezek 8:3 and 5. In the midst of the six men furnished with smashing-tools there was one clothed in white byssus, with writing materials at his side. The dress and equipment, as well as the instructions which he afterwards receives and executes, show him to be the prince or leader of the others.
Kliefoth calls in question the opinion that these seven men are angels; but without any reason. Angels appearing in human form are frequently called hV;ai or vyai , according to their external habitus. But the number seven neither presupposes the dogma of the seven archangels, nor is copied from the seven Parsic amschaspands. The dress worn by the high priest, when presenting the sin-offering on the great day of atonement (Lev 16:4,23), was made of dBæ , i.e., of white material woven from byssus thread (see the comm. on Ex 28:42). It has been inferred from this, that the figure clothed in white linen was the angel of Jehovah, who appears as the heavenly high priest, to protect and care for his own. In support of this, the circumstance may be also adduced, that the man whom Daniel saw above the water of the Tigris, and whose appearance is described, in Dan 10:5-6, in the same manner as that of Jehovah in Ezek 1:4,26-27, and that of the risen Christ in Rev 1:13-15, appears clothed in dBæ (Dan 10:5; 12:6-7). f14 Nevertheless, we cannot regard this view as established. The shining white talar, which is evidently meant by the plural dBæ , occurring only here and in Daniel (ut. sup.), is not a dress peculiar to the angel of Jehovah or to Christ. The seven angels, with the vials of wrath, also appear in garments of shining white linen ( endedume>noi li>non kaqaro>n lampro>n , Rev 15:6); and the shining white colour, as a symbolical representation of divine holiness and glory (see comm. on Lev 16:4 and Rev 19:8), is the colour generally chosen for the clothing both of the heavenly spirits and of “just men made perfect” (Rev 19:8). Moreover, the angel with the writing materials here is described in a totally different manner from the appearance of Jehovah in Ezek 1 and Dan 10, or that of Christ in Rev 1; and there is nothing whatever to indicate a being equal with God. Again, the distinction between him and the other six men leads to no other conclusion, than that he stood in the same relation to them as the high priest to the Levites, or the chancellor to the other officials.
This position is indicated by the writing materials on his hips, i.e., in the girdle on his hips, in which scribes in the East are accustomed to carry their writing materials (vid., Rosenmüller, A. u. N. Morgenland, IV. p. 323). He is provided with these for the execution of the commission given to him in v. 4. In this way the description can be very simply explained, without the slightest necessity for our resorting to Babylonian representations of the god Nebo, i.e., Mercury, as the scribe of heaven. The seven men take their station by the altar of burnt-offering, because the glory of God, whose commands they were about to receive, had taken up its position there for the moment (Kliefoth); not because the apostate priesthood was stationed there (Hävernick). The glory of Jehovah, however, rose up from the cherub to the threshold of the house. The meaning of this is not that it removed from the interior of the sanctuary to the outer threshold of the templebuilding (Hävernick), for it was already stationed, according to Ezek 8:16, above the cherub, between the porch and the altar.
It went back from thence to the threshold of the temple-porch, through which one entered the Holy Place, to give its orders there. The reason for leaving its place above the cherubim (the singular bWrK] is used collectively) to do this, was not that “God would have had to turn round in order to address the seven from the throne, since, according to Ezek 8:4 and 16, He had gone from the north gate of the outer court into the inner court, and His servants had followed Him” (Hitzig); for the cherubim moved in all four directions, and therefore God, even from the throne, could turn without difficulty to every side. God left His throne, that He might issue His command for the judgment upon Israel from the threshold of the temple, and show Himself to be the judge who would forsake the throne which He had assumed in Israel. This command He issues from the temple court, because the temple was the place whence God attested Himself to His people, both by mercy and judgment.
The divine command.
V. 4. And Jehovah said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a cross upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which take place in their midst.
V. 5. And to those he said in my ears: Go through the city behind him, and smite. Let not your eye look compassionately, and do not spare.
V. 6. Old men, young men, and maidens, and children, and women, slay to destruction: but ye shall not touch any one who has the cross upon him; and begin at my sanctuary. And they began with the old men, who were before the house.
V. 7. And He said to them, defile the house, and fill the courts with slain; go ye out. And they went out, and smote in the city.
God commands the man provided with the writing materials to mark on the forehead with a cross all the persons in Jerusalem who mourn over the abominations of the nation, in order that they may be spared in the time of the judgment. wT; , the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, had the form of a cross in the earlier writing. wT; twOja; , to mark a t, is therefore the same as to make a mark in the form of a cross; although there was at first no other purpose in this sign than to enable the servants employed in inflicting the judgment of God to distinguish those who were so marked, so that they might do them no harm.
V. 6. And this was the reason why the wT; was to be marked upon the forehead, the most visible portion of the body; the early Christians, according to a statement in Origen, looked upon the sign itself as significant, and saw therein a prophetic allusion to the sign of the cross as the distinctive mark of Christians. A direct prophecy of the cross of Christ is certainly not to be found here, since the form of the letter Tâv was the one generally adopted as a sign, and, according to Job 31:35, might supply the place of a signature. Nevertheless, as Schmieder has correctly observed, there is something remarkable in this coincidence to the thoughtful observer of the ways of God, whose counsel has carefully considered all before hand, especially when we bear in mind that in the counterpart to this passage (Rev 7:3) the seal of the living God is stamped upon the foreheads of the servants of God, who are to be exempted from the judgment, and that according to Rev 14:1 they had the name of God written upon their foreheads.
So much, at any rate, is perfectly obvious from this, namely, that the sign was not arbitrarily chosen, but was inwardly connected with the fact which it indicated; just as in the event upon which our vision is based (Ex 12:13,22ff.) the distinctive mark placed upon the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, in order that the destroying angel might pass them by, namely, the smearing of the doorposts with the blood of the paschal lamb that had been slain, was selected on account of its significance and its corresponding to the thing signified. The execution of this command is passed over as being self-evident; and it is not till v. 11 that it is even indirectly referred to again.
In vv. 5, 6 there follows, first of all, the command given to the other six men. They are to go through the city, behind the man clothed in white linen, and to smite without mercy all the inhabitants of whatever age or sex, with this exception, that they are not to touch those who are marked with the cross. The `l[æ for laæ before sWj is either a slip of the pen, or, as the continued transmission of so striking an error is very improbable, is to be accounted for from the change of ynæa into [ , which is so common in Aramaean. The Chetib `ˆyi[æ is the unusual form grammatically considered, and the singular, which is more correct, has been substituted as Keri. græh; is followed by tyjiv]mæ , to increase the force of the words and show the impossibility of any life being saved. They are to make a commencement at the sanctuary, because it has been desecrated by the worship of idols, and therefore has ceased to be the house of the Lord. To this command the execution is immediately appended; they began with the old men who were before the house, i.e., they began to slay them. ˆqez; vwOna’ are neither the twenty-five priests (Ezek 8:16) nor the seventy elders (ch. 8:11).
This locality makes it natural to think of priests, and consequently the LXX rendered vD;q]mi by apo> tw>n aJgi>wn mou . But the expression ˆqez; hV;ai is an unsuitable one for the priests. We have therefore no doubt to think of men advanced in years, who had come into the court possibly to offer sacrifice, and thereby had become liable to the judgment. In v. 7 the command, which was interrupted in v. 6b, is once more resumed. They are to defile the house, i.e., the temple, namely, by filling the courts with slain.
It is in this way that we are to connect together, so far as the sense is concerned, the two clauses, “defile...and fill.”
This is required by the facts of the case. For those slain “before the house” could only have been slain in the courts, as there was no space between the temple house and the courts in which men could have been found and slain.
But tyiBæ µynip; cannot be understood as signifying “in the neighbourhood of the temple,” as Kliefoth supposes, for the simple reason that the progressive order of events would thereby be completely destroyed. The angels who were standing before the altar of burnt-offering could not begin their work by going out of the court to smite the sinners who happened to be in the neighbourhood of the temple, and then returning to the court to do the same there, and then again going out into the city to finish their work there. They could only begin by slaying the sinners who happened to be in the courts, and after having defiled the temple by their corpses, by going out into the city to slay all the ungodly there, as is related in the second clause of the verse (v. 7b).
Intercession of the prophet, and the answer of the Lord.
V. 8. And it came to pass when they smote and I remained, I fell upon my face, and carried, and said: Alas! Lord Jehovah, wilt Thou destroy all the remnant of Israel, by pouring out Thy wrath upon Jerusalem?
V. 9. And He said to me: The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is immeasurably great, and the land is full of bloodguiltiness, and the city full of perversion; for they say Jehovah hath forsaken the land, and Jehovah seeth not.
V. 11. And, behold, the man clothed in white linen, who had the writing materials on his hip, brought answer, and said: I have done as thou hast commanded me.
The Chetib ravan is an incongruous form, composed of participle and imperfect fused into one, and is evidently a copyist’s error.
It is not to be altered into ‘eshaa’eer, however (the 1st pers. imperf. Niph.), but to be read as a participle raæv; , and taken with hk;n; as a continuation of the circumstantial clause. For the words do not mean that Ezekiel alone was left, but that when the angels smote and he was left, i.e., was spared, was not smitten with the rest, he fell on his face, to entreat the Lord for mercy. These words and the prophet’s intercession both apparently presuppose that among the inhabitants of Jerusalem there was no one found who was marked with the sign of the cross, and therefore could be spared. But this is by no means to be regarded as established. For, in the first place, it is not stated that all had been smitten by the angels; and, secondly, the intercession of the prophet simply assumes that, in comparison with the multitude of the slain, the number of those who were marked with the sign of the cross and spared was so small that it escaped the prophet’s eye, and he was afraid that they might all be slain without exception, and the whole of the remnant of the covenant nation be destroyed.
The tyriaev] of Israel and Judah is the covenant nation in its existing state, when it had been so reduced by the previous judgments of God, that out of the whole of what was once so numerous a people, only a small portion remained in the land. Although God has previously promised that a remnant shall be preserved (Ezek 5:3-4), He does not renew this promise to the prophet, but begins by holding up the greatness of the iniquity of Israel, which admits of no sparing, but calls for the most merciless punishment, to show him that, according to the strict demand of justice, the whole nation has deserved destruction. hF,mu (v. 9) is not equivalent to fh;wOm , oppression (Isa 58:9), but signifies perversion of justice; although fp;v]mi is not mentioned, since this is also omitted in Ex 23:2, where hf;n; occurs in the same sense. For v. 9b, vid., Ezek 8:12. For ˆtæn; ar;B; Ër,D, (v. 10 and Ezek 11:21-22,31), vid., 1 Kings 8:32. While God is conversing with the prophet, the seven angels have performed their work; and in v. their leader returns to Jehovah with the announcement that His orders have been executed. He does this, not in his own name only, but in that of all the rest. The first act of the judgment is thus shown to the prophet in a figurative representation. The second act follows in the next chapter.
Burning of Jerusalem, and Withdrawal of the Glory of Jehovah from the Sanctuary.
V. 1. And I saw, and behold upon the firmament, which was above the cherubim, it was like sapphire-stone, to look at as the likeness of a throne; He appeared above them.
V. 2. And He spake to the man clothed in white linen, and said:
V. 4. And the glory of Jehovah had lifted itself up from the cherubim to the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the splendour of the glory of Jehovah.
V. 5. And the noise of the wings of the cherubim was heard to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when He speaketh. V. 6. And it came to pass, when He commanded the man clothed in white linen, and said, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubim, and he came and stood by the side of the wheel, V. 7. That the cherub stretched out his hand between the cherubim to the fire, which was between the cherubim, and lifted (some) off and gave it into the hands of the man clothed in white linen. And he took it, and went out.
V. 1 introduces the description of the second act of the judgment.
According to Ezek 9:3, Jehovah had come down from His throne above the cherubim to the threshold of the temple to issue His orders thence for the judgment upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and according to Ezek 10:4 He goes thither once more. Consequently He had resumed His seat above the cherubim in the meantime. This is expressed in v. 1, not indeed in so many words, but indirectly or by implication.
Ezekiel sees the theophany; and on the firmament above the cherubim, like sapphire-stone to look at, he beholds the likeness of a throne on which Jehovah appeared. To avoid giving too great prominence in this appearance of Jehovah to the bodily or human form, Ezekiel does not speak even here of the form of Jehovah, but simply of His throne, which he describes in the same manner as in Ezek 1:26. lae stands for `l[æ according to the later usage of the language. It will never do to take lae in its literal sense, as Kliefoth does, and render the words: “Ezekiel saw it move away to the firmament;” for the object to hNehi ha;r; is not hwO;hy] or hwO;hy] dwObK; , but the form of the throne sparkling in sapphire-stone; and this throne had not separated itself from the firmament above the cherubim, but Jehovah, or the glory of Jehovah, according to Ezek 9:3, had risen up from the cherubim, and moved away to the temple threshold.
The k] before ha,r]mæ is not to be erased, as Hitzig proposes after the LXX, on the ground that it is not found in Ezek 1:26; it is quite appropriate here.
For the words do not affirm that Ezekiel saw the likeness of a throne like sapphire-stone; but that he saw something like sapphire-stone, like the appearance of the form of a throne. Ezekiel does not see Jehovah, or the glory of Jehovah, move away to the firmament, and then return to the throne. He simply sees once more the resemblance of a throne upon the firmament, and the Lord appearing thereon. The latter is indicated in `l[æ ha;r; . These words are not to be taken in connection with wgw ha,r]mæ , so as to form one sentence; but have been very properly separated by the athnach under aSeKi , and treated as an independent assertion. The subject to ha;r; might, indeed, be aSeKi tWmD] , “the likeness of a throne appeared above the cherubim;” but in that case the words would form a pure tautology, as the fact of the throne becoming visible has already been mentioned in the preceding clause. The subject must therefore be Jehovah, as in the case of rmæa; in v. 2, where there can be no doubt on the matter.
Jehovah has resumed His throne, not “for the purpose of removing to a distance, because the courts of the temple have been defiled by dead bodies” (Hitzig), but because the object for which He left it has been attained.
He now commands the man clothed in white linen to go in between the wheels under the cherubim, and fill his hands with fire-coals from thence, and scatter them over the city (Jerusalem). This he did, so that Ezekiel could see it. According to this, it appears as if Jehovah had issued the command from His throne; but if we compare what follows, it is evident from v. 4 that the glory of Jehovah had risen up again from the throne, and removed to the threshold of the temple, and that it was not till after the man in white linen had scattered the coals over the city that it left the threshold of the temple, and ascended once more up to the throne above the cherubim, so as to forsake the temple (v. 18ff.). Consequently we can only understand vv. 2-7 as implying that Jehovah issued the command in v. 2, not from His throne, but from the threshold of the temple, and that He had therefore returned to the threshold of the temple for this purpose, and for the very same reason as in Ezek 9:3.
The possibility of interpreting the verses in this way is apparent from the fact that v. 2 contains a summary of the whole of the contents of this section, and that vv. 3-7 simply furnish more minute explanations, or contain circumstantial clauses, which throw light upon the whole affair.
This is obvious in the case of v. 3, from the form of the clause; and in vv. and 5, from the fact that in vv. 6 and 7 the command (v. 2) is resumed, and the execution of it, which was already indicated in `ˆyi[æ awOB (v. 2), more minutely described and carried forward in the closing words of the seventh verse, ax;y; jqæl; . lGæl]Gæ in v. 2 signifies the whirl or rotatory motion, i.e., the wheel-work, or the four oophannim under the cherubim regarded as moving. The angel was to go in between these, and take coals out of the fire there, and scatter them over the city. “In the fire of God, the fire of His wrath, will kindle the fire for consuming the city” (Kliefoth). To depict the scene more clearly, Ezekiel observes in v. 3, that at this moment the cherubim were standing to the right of the house, i.e., on the south or rather south-east of the temple house, on the south of the altar of burnt-offering. According to the Hebrew usage the right side as the southern side, and the prophet was in the inner court, whither, according to Ezek 8:16, the divine glory had taken him; and, according to ch. 9:2, the seven angels had gone to the front of the altar, to receive the commands of the Lord. Consequently we have to picture to ourselves the cherubim as appearing in the neighbourhood of the altar, and then taking up their position to the south thereof, when the Lord returned to the threshold of the temple. The reason for stating this is not to be sought, as Calvin supposes, in the desire to show “that the way was opened fore the angel to go straight to God, and that the cherubim were standing there ready, as it were, to contribute their labour.”
The position in which the cherubim appeared is more probably given with prospective reference to the account which follows in vv. 9-22 of the departure of the glory of the Lord from the temple. As an indication of the significance of this act to Israel, the glory which issued from this manifestation of divine doxa is described in vv. 3b-5. The cloud, as the earthly vehicle of the divine doxa, filled the inner court; and when the glory of the Lord stood upon the threshold, it filled the temple also, while the court became full of the splendour of the divine glory. That is to say, the brilliancy of the divine nature shone through the cloud, so that the court and the temple were lighted by the shining of the light-cloud. The brilliant splendour is a symbol of the light of the divine grace. The wings of the cherubim rustled, and at the movement of God (Ezek 1:24) were audible even in the outer court.
After this picture of the glorious manifestation of the divine doxa, the fetching of the fire-coals from the space between the wheels under the cherubim is more closely described in vv. 6 and 7. One of the cherub’s hands took the coals out of the fire, and put them into the hands of the man clothed in white linen. To this a supplementary remark is added in v. 8, to the effect that the figure of a hand was visible by the side of the cherubim under their wings. The word ax;y; , “and he went out,” indicates that the man clothed in white linen scattered the coals over the city, to set it on fire and consume it.
The glory of the Lord forsakes the temple.
V. 10. And as for their appearance, they had all four one form, as if one wheel were in the midst of the other.
V. 14. And every one had four faces; the face of the first was the face of the cherub, the face of the second a man’s face, and the third a lion’s face, and the fourth an eagle’s face.
V. 17. When those stood, they stood; and when those ascended, they ascended with them; for the spirit of the being was in them.
V. 18. And the glory of Jehovah went out from the threshold of the house, and stood above the cherubim. V. 19. And the cherubim raised their wings, and ascended from the earth before my eyes on their going out, and the wheels beside them; and they stopped at the entrance of the eastern gate of the house of Jehovah; and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
V. 21. Every one had four faces, each and every one four wings, and something like a man’s hands under their wings.
V. 22. And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the faces which I had seen by the river Chebar, their appearance and they themselves. They went every one according to its face.
With the words “I saw, and behold,” a new feature in the vision is introduced. The description of the appearance of the cherubim in these verses coincides for the most part verbatim with the account of the theophany in ch. 1. It differs from this, however, not only in the altered arrangement of the several features, and in the introduction of certain points which serve to complete the former account; but still more in the insertion of a number of narrative sentence, which show that we have not merely a repetition of the first chapter here. On the contrary, Ezekiel is now describing the moving of the appearance of the glory of Jehovah from the inner court or porch of the temple to the outer entrance of the eastern gate of the outer court; in other words, the departure of the gracious presence of the Lord from the temple: and in order to point out more distinctly the importance and meaning of this event, he depicts once more the leading features of the theophany itself.
The narrative sentences are found in vv. 13, 15, 18, and 19. In v. 13 we have the exclamation addressed to the wheels by the side of the cherubim to set themselves in motion; in v. 15, the statement that the cherubim ascended; and in vv. 18 and 19, the account of the departure of the glory of the Lord from the inner portion of the temple. To this we may add the repeated remark, that the appearance was the same as that which the prophet had seen by the river Chebar (vv. 15, 20, 22). To bring clearly out to view both the independence of these divine manifestations and their significance to Israel, Ezekiel repeats the leading features of the former description; but while doing this, he either makes them subordinate to the thoughts expressed in the narrative sentences, or places them first as introductory to these, or lets them follow as explanatory. Thus, for example, the description of the wheels, and of the manner in which they moved (vv. 9-12), serves both to introduce and explain the call to the wheels to set themselves in motion.
The description of the wheels in vv. 9-11 harmonizes with Ezek 1:16 and 17, with this exception, however, that certain points are given with greater exactness here; such, for example, as the statement that the movements of the wheels were so regulated, that in whichever direction the front one turned, the other did the same. varo , the head, is not the head-wheel, or the wheel which was always the first to move, but the front one, which originated the motion, drawing the others after it and determining their direction. For v. 12b and the fact that the wheels were covered with eyes, see Ezek 1:18. In v. 12a we have the important addition, that the whole of the body and back, as well as the hands and wings, of the cherubim were full of eyes. There is all the less reason to question this addition, or remove it (as Hitzig does) by an arbitrary erasure, inasmuch as the statement itself is apparently in perfect harmony with the whole procedure; and the significance possessed by the eyes in relation to the wheels was not only appropriate in the case of the cherubim, but necessarily to be assumed in such a connection. The fact that the suffixes in rc;B; , Bgæ , etc., refer to the cherubim, is obvious enough, if we consider that the wheels to which immediate reference is made were by the side of the cherubim (v. 9), and that the cherubim formed the principal feature in the whole of the vision.
Ver. 13 does not point back to v. 2, and bring the description of the wheelwork to a close, as Hitzig supposes. This assumption, by which the meaning of the whole description has been obscured, is based upon the untenable rendering, “and the wheels they named before my ears whirl” (J.
D. Mich., Ros., etc.). Hävernick has already pointed out the objection to this, namely, that with such a rendering ˆz,aO forms an unmeaning addition; whereas it is precisely this addition which shows that ar;q; is used here in the sense of addressing, calling, and not of naming. One called to the wheels lGæl]Gæ , whirl; i.e., they were to verify their name galgal, viz., to revolve or whirl, to set themselves in motion by revolving. This is the explanation given by Theodoret: anakuklei’sthai kai’ anakinei’sthai proseta’chtheesan. These words therefore gave the signal for their departure, and accordingly the rising up of the cherubim is related in v. 15. V. 14 prepares the way for their ascent by mentioning the four faces of each cherub; and this is still further expanded in vv. 16 and 17, by the statement that the wheels moved according to the movements of the cherubim. dj;a, without an article is used distributively (every one), as in Ezek 1:6 and 10. The fact that in the description which follows only one face of each of the four cherubs is given, is not at variance with Ezek 1:10, according to which every one of the cherubs had the four faces named. It was not Ezekiel’s intention to mention all the faces of each cherub here, as he had done before; but he regarded it as sufficient in the case of each cherub to mention simply the one face, which was turned toward him. The only striking feature which still remains is the statement that the face of the one, i.e., of the first, was the face of the cherub instead of the face of an ox (cf. Ezek 1:10), since the faces of the man, the lion, and the eagle were also cherubs’ faces.
We may, no doubt, get rid of the difficulty by altering the text, but this will not solve it; for it would still remain inexplicable how bWrK] could have grown out of rwOv by a copyist’s error; and still more, how such an error, which might have been so easily seen and corrected, could have been not only perpetuated, but generally adopted. Moreover, we have the article in bWrK] , which would also be inexplicable if the word had originated in an oversight, and which gives us precisely the index required to the correct solution of the difficulty, showing as it does that it was not merely a cherub’s face, but the face of the cherub, so that the allusion is to one particular cherub, who was either well known from what had gone before, or occupied a more prominent position than the rest. Such a cherub is the one mentioned in v. 7, who had taken the coals from the fire between the wheels, and stood nearest to Ezekiel. There did not appear to be any necessity to describe his face more exactly, as it could be easily seen from a comparison with Ezek 1:10.-In v. 15, the fact that the cherubim arose to depart from their place is followed by the remark that the cherubic figure was the being yjæ , singular, as in Ezek 1:22) which Ezekiel saw by the Chaboras, because it was a matter of importance that the identity of the two theophanies should be established as a help to the correct understanding of their real signification.
But before the departure of the theophany from the temple is related, there follows in vv. 16 and 17 a repetition of the circumstantial description of the harmonious movements of the wheels and the cherubim (cf. Ezek 1:19-21); and then, in v. 18, the statement which had such practical significance, that the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple, and resumed the throne above the cherubim; and lastly, the account in v. 19, that the glory of the God of Israel, seated upon this throne, took up its position at the entrance of the eastern gate of the temple. The entrance of this gate is not the gate of the temple, but the outer side of the eastern gate of the outer court, which formed the principal entrance to the whole of the temple-space. The expression “God of Israel” instead of “Jehovah” is significant, and is used to intimate that God, as the covenant God, withdrew His gracious presence from the people of Israel by this departure from the temple; not, indeed, from the whole of the covenant nation, but from the rebellious Israel which dwelt in Jerusalem and Judah; for the same glory of God which left the temple in the vision before the eyes of Ezekiel had appeared to the prophet by the river Chebar, and by calling him to be the prophet for Israel, had shown Himself to be the God who kept His covenant, and proved that, by the judgment upon the corrupt generation, He simply desired to exterminate its ungodly nature, and create for Himself a new and holy people. This is the meaning of the remark which is repeated in vv. 20-22, that the apparition which left the temple was the same being as Ezekiel had seen by the Chaboras, and that he recognised the beings under the throne as cherubim.
Threatening of Judgment and Promise of Mercy. Conclusion of the Vision.
This chapter contains the concluding portion of the vision; namely, first, the prediction of the destruction of the ungodly rulers (vv. 1-13); secondly, the consolatory and closing promise, that the Lord would gather to Himself a people out of those who had been carried away into exile, and would sanctify them by His Holy Spirit (vv. 14-21); and, thirdly, the withdrawal of the gracious presence of God from the city of Jerusalem, and the transportation of the prophet back to Chaldea with the termination of his ecstasy (vv. 22-25).
Judgment upon the rulers of the nation.
V. 1. And a wind lifted me up, and took me to the eastern gate of the house of Jehovah, which faces towards the east; and behold, at the entrance of the gate were five and twenty men, and I saw among them Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, the chiefs of the nation.
V. 4. Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, son of man.
Ezekiel is once more transported from the inner court (Ezek 8:16) to the outer entrance of the eastern gate of the temple jæWr ac;n; , as in Ezek 8:3), to which, according to ch. 10:19, the vision of God had removed. There he sees twenty-five men, and among them two of the princes of the nation, whose names are given.
These twenty-five men are not identical with the twenty-five priests mentioned in Ezek 8:16, as Hävernick supposes. This is evident, not only from the difference in the locality, the priests standing between the porch and the altar, whereas the men referred to here stood at the outer eastern entrance to the court of the temple, but from the fact that the two who are mentioned by name are called `µ[æ rcæ (princes of the people), so that we may probably infer from this that all the twenty-five were secular chiefs.
Hävernick’s opinion, that `µ[æ rcæ is a term that may also be applied to princes among the priests, is as erroneous as his assertion that the priestprinces are called “princes” in Ezra 8:20; Neh 10:1, and Jer 35:4, whereas it is only to national princes that these passages refer. Hävernick is equally incorrect in supposing that these twenty-five men take the place of the seventy mentioned in Ezek 8:11; for those seventy represented the whole of the nation, whereas these twenty-five (according to v. 2) were simply the counsellors of the city-not, however, the twenty-four duces of twentyfour divisions of the city, with a prince of the house of Judah, as Prado maintains, on the strength of certain Rabbinical assertions; or twenty-four members of a Sanhedrim, with their president (Rosenmüller); but the twelve tribe-princes (princes of the nation) and the twelve royal officers, or military commanders (1 Chron 27), with the king himself, or possibly with the commander-in-chief of the army; so that these twenty-five men represent the civil government of Israel, just as the twenty-four priestprinces, together with the high priest, represent the spiritual authorities of the covenant nation. The reason why two are specially mentioned by name is involved in obscurity, as nothing further is known of either of these persons. The words of God to the prophet in v. 2 concerning them are perfectly applicable to representatives of the civil authorities or temporal rulers, namely, that they devise and give unwholesome and evil counsel.
This counsel is described in v. 3 by the words placed in their mouths: “house-building is not near; it (the city) is the caldron, we are the flesh.”
These words are difficult, and different interpretations have consequently been given. The rendering, “it (the judgment) is not near, let us build houses,” is incorrect; for the infinitive construct tBæ cannot stand for the imperative or the infinitive absolute, but must be the subject of the sentence. It is inadmissible also to take the sentence as a question, “Is not house-building near?” in the sense of “it is certainly near,” as Ewald does, after some of the ancient versions. For even if an interrogation is sometimes indicated simply by the tone in an energetic address, as, for example, in 2 Sam 23:5, this cannot be extended to cases in which the words of another are quoted. Still less can bwOrq; alo mean non est tempus, it is not yet time, as Maurer supposes. The only way in which the words can be made to yield a sense in harmony with the context, is by taking them as a tacit allusion to Jer 29:5. Jeremiah had called upon those in exile to build themselves houses in their banishment, and prepare for a lengthened stay in Babylon, and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the words of false prophets, who predicted a speedy return; for severe judgments had yet to fall upon those who had remained behind in the land. This word of Jeremiah the authorities in Jerusalem ridiculed, saying “house-building is not near,” i.e., the house-building in exile is still a long way off; it will not come to this, that Jerusalem should fall either permanently or entirely into the hands of the king of Babylon. On the contrary, Jerusalem is the pot, and we, its inhabitants, are the flesh. The point of comparison is this: as the pot protects the flesh from burning, so does the city of Jerusalem protect us from destruction. f15 On the other hand, there is no foundation for the assumption that the words also contain an allusion to other sayings of Jeremiah, namely, to Jer 1:13, where the judgment about to burst in from the north is represented under the figure of a smoking pot; or to Jer 19, where Jerusalem is depicted as a pot about to be broken in pieces by God; for the reference in Jer 19 is simply to an earthen pitcher, not to a meat-caldron; and the words in the verse before us have nothing at all in common with the figure in Jer 1:13. The correctness of our explanation is evident both from Ezek 24:3,6, where the figure of pot and flesh is met with again, though differently applied, and from the reply which Ezekiel makes to the saying of these men in the verses that follow (vv. 7-11). This saying expresses not only false confidence in the strength of Jerusalem, but also contempt and scorn of the predictions of the prophets sent by God. Ezekiel is therefore to prophesy, as he does in vv. 5-12, against this pernicious counsel, which is confirming the people in their sins.
V. 6. Ye have increased your slain in this city, and filled its streets with slain.
V. 8. The sword you fear; but the sword shall I bring upon you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
V. 9. I shall lead you out of it and give you into the hand of foreigners, and shall execute judgments upon you.
V. 10. By the sword shall ye fall: on the frontier of Israel shall I judge you; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah.
V. 11. It shall not be as a pot to you, so that you should be flesh therein: on the frontier of Israel shall I judge.
For yy jæWr `l[æ lpæn; , compare Ezek 8:1. Instead of the “hand” (ch. Ezek 8:1), the Spirit of Jehovah is mentioned here; because what follows is simply a divine inspiration, and there is no action connected with it. The words of God are directed against the “house of Israel,’ whose words and thoughts are discerned by God, because the twenty-five men are the leaders and counsellors of the nation. jæWr hl;[mæ , thoughts, suggestions of the mind, may be explained from the phrase ble `l[æ `hl;[; , to come into the mind. Their actions furnish the proof of the evil suggestions of their heart. They have filled the city with slain; not “turned the streets of the city into a battle-field,” however, by bringing about the capture of Jerusalem in the time of Jeconiah, as Hitzig would explain it.
The words are to be understood in a much more general sense, as signifying murder, in both the coarser and the more refined signification of the word. µyt,aLemi is a copyist’s error for alem; . Those who have been murdered by you are the flesh in the caldron (v. 7). Ezekiel gives them back their own words, as words which contain an undoubted truth, but in a different sense from that in which they have used them. By their bloodshed they have made the city into a pot in which the flesh of the slain is pickled.
Only in this sense is Jerusalem a pot for them; not a pot to protect the flesh from burning while cooking, but a pot into which the flesh of the slaughtered is thrown. Yet even in this sense will Jerusalem not serve as a pot to these worthless counsellors (v. 11). They will lead you out of the city ax;y; , in v. 7, is the 3rd pers. sing. with an indefinite subject). The sword which ye fear, and from which this city is to protect you, will come upon you, and cut you down-not in Jerusalem, but on the frontier of Israel. lWbG]Al[æ , in v. 10, cannot be taken in the sense of “away over the frontier,” as Kliefoth proposes; if only because of the synonym lWbG]Ala, in v. 11. This threat was literally fulfilled in the bloody scenes at Riblah (Jer 52:24-27). It is not therefore a vaticinium ex eventu, but contains the general thought, that the wicked who boasted of security in Jerusalem or in the land of Israel as a whole, but were to be led out of the land, and judged outside. This threat intensifies the punishment, as Calvin has already shown.
In v. 11 the negation alo ) of the first clause is to be supplied in the second, as, for example, in Deut 33:6. For v. 12, compare the remarks on Ezek 5:7.
And it came to pass, as I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died: then I fell upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said: Alas! Lord Jehovah, dost Thou make an end of the remnant of Israel?
The sudden death of one of the princes of the nation, while Ezekiel was prophesying, was intended to assure the house of Israel of the certain fulfilment of this word of God. So far, however, as the fact itself is concerned, we must bear in mind, that as it was only in spirit that Ezekiel was at Jerusalem, and prophesied to the men whom he saw in spirit there, so the death of Pelatiah was simply a part of the vision, and in all probability was actually realized by the sudden death of this prince during or immediately after the publication of the vision. But the occurrence, even when the prophet saw it in spirit, made such an impression upon his mind, that with trembling and despair he once more made an importunate appeal to God, as in Ezek 9:8, and inquired whether He meant to destroy the whole of the remnant of Israel. hl;K; `hc;[; , to put an end to a thing, with tae before the object, as in Zeph 1:18 (see the comm. on Nah 1:8). The Lord then gives him the comforting assurance in vv. 14-21, that He will preserve a remnant among the exiles, and make them His people once more.
Promise of the gathering of Israel out of the nations.
V. 14. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 15. Son of man, thy brethren, thy brethren are the people of thy proxy, and the whole house of Israel, the whole of it, to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem say, Remain far away from Jehovah; to us the land is given for a possession.
V. 16. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Ye, I have sent them far away, and have scattered them in the lands, but I have become to them a sanctuary for a little while in the lands whither they have come.
V. 17. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will gather you from the nations, and will collect you together from the lands in which ye are scattered, and will give you the land of Israel.
V. 19. And I will give them one heart, and give a new spirit within you; and will take the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh; V. 20. That they may walk in my statutes, and preserve my rights, and do them: and they will be my people, and I will be their God.
The prophet had interceded, first of all for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Ezek 9:8), and then for the rulers of the nation, and had asked God whether He would entirely destroy the remnant of Israel. To this God replies that his brethren, in whom he is to interest himself, are not these inhabitants of Jerusalem and these rulers of the nation, but the Israelites carried into exile, who are regarded by these inhabitants at Jerusalem as cut off from the people of God. The nouns in v. 15a are not “accusatives, which are resumed in the suffix to qjær; in v. 16,” as Hitzig imagines, but form an independent clause, in which ja; is the subject, and hL;auG] vyai as well as yis¦raa’eel kaal-beeyt the predicates. The repetition of “thy brethren” serves to increase the force of the expression: thy true, real brethren; not in contrast to the priests, who were lineal relations (Hävernick), but in contrast to the Israelites, who had only the name of Israel, and denied its nature.
According to the law, the Goël was the brother, or the nearest relation, whose duty it was to come to the help of his impoverished brother, not only by redeeming (buying back) his possession, which poverty had compelled him to sell, but to redeem the man himself, if he had been sold to pay his debts (vid., Lev 25:25,48). The Goël therefore became the possessor of the property of which his brother had been unjustly deprived, if it were not restored till after his death (Num 5:8). Consequently he was not only the avenger of blood, but the natural supporter and agent of his brother; and hL;auG] signifies not merely redemption or kindred, but proxy, i.e., both the right and obligation to act as the legal representative, the avenger of blood, the hair, etc., of the brother.
The words “and the whole of the house of Israel” are a second predicate to “thy brethren,” and affirm that the brethren, for whom Ezekiel can and is to intercede, form the whole of the house of Israel, the term “whole” being rendered more emphatic by the repetition of lKo in lKo . A contrast is drawn between this “whole house of Israel” and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who say to those brethren, “Remain far away from Jehovah, to us is the land given for a possession.” It follows from this, first of all, that the brethren of Ezekiel, towards whom he was to act as Goël, were those who had been taken away from the land, his companions in exile; and, secondly, that the exiles formed the whole of the house of Israel, that is to say, that they alone would be regarded by God as His people, and not the inhabitants of Jerusalem or those left in the land, who regarded the exiles as no longer a portion of the nation: simply because, in their estrangement from God, they looked upon the mere possession of Jerusalem as a pledge of participation in the grace of God. This shows the prophet where the remnant of the people of God is to be found.
To this there is appended in v. 16ff. a promise of the way in which the Lord will make this remnant His true people. ˆKe , therefore, viz., because the inhabitants of Jerusalem regard the exiles as rejected by the Lord, Ezekiel is to declare to them that Jehovah is their sanctuary even in their dispersion (v. 16); and because the others deny that they have any share in the possession of the land, the Lord will gather them together again, and give them the land of Israel (v. 17). The two ˆKe are co-ordinate, and introduce the antithesis to the disparaging sentence pronounced by the inhabitants of Jerusalem upon those who have been carried into exile. The yKi before the two leading clauses in v. 16 does not mean “because,” serving to introduce a protasis, to which v. 17 would form the apodosis, as Ewald affirms; but it stands before the direct address in the sense of an assurance, which indicates that there is some truth at the bottom of the judgment pronounced by their opponents, the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The thought is this: the present position of affairs is unquestionably that Jehovah has scattered them (the house of Israel) among the Gentiles; but He has not therefore cast them off. He has become a sanctuary to them in the lands of their dispersion.
Migdâsh does not mean either asylum or an object kept sacred (Hitzig), but a sanctuary, more especially the temple. They had, indeed, lost the outward temple (at Jerusalem); but the Lord Himself had become their temple.
What made the temple into a sanctuary was the presence of Jehovah, the covenant God, therein. This even the exiles were to enjoy in their banishment, and in this they would possess a substitute for the outward temple. This thought is rendered still more precise by the word f[æm] , which may refer either to time or measure, and signify “for a short time,” or “in some measure.” It is difficult to decide between these two renderings. In support of the latter, which Kliefoth prefers (after the LXX and Vulgate), it may be argued that the manifestation of the Lord, both by the mission of prophets and by the outward deliverances and inward consolations which He bestowed upon the faithful, was but a partial substitute to the exile for His gracious presence in the temple and in the holy land.
Nevertheless, the context, especially the promise in v. 17, that He will gather them again and lead them back into the land of Israel, appears to favour the former signification, namely, that this substitution was only a provisional one, and was only to last for a short time, although it also implies that this could not and was not meant to be a perfect substitute for the gracious presence of the Lord. For Israel, as the people of God, could not remain scattered abroad; it must possess the inheritance bestowed upon it by the Lord, and have its God in the midst of it in its own land, and that in a manner more real than could possibly be the case in captivity among the Gentiles. This will be fully realized in the heavenly Jerusalem, where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be a temple to the redeemed (Rev 21:22). Therefore will Jehovah gather together the dispersed once more, and lead them back into the land of Israel, i.e., into the land which He designed for Israel; whereas the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who boast of their possession of Canaan (v. 15), will lose what they now possess. Those who are restored will then remove all idolatrous abominations (v. 17), and receive from God a new and feeling heart (v. 19), so that they will walk in the ways of God, and be in truth the people of God (v. 20).
The fulfilment of this promise did, indeed, begin with the return of a portion of the exiles under Zerubbabel; but it was not completed under either Zerubbabel or Ezra, or even in the Maccabean times. Although Israel may have entirely relinquished the practice of gross idolatry after the captivity, it did not then attain to that newness of heart which is predicted in vv. 19, 20. This only commenced with the Baptist’s preaching of repentance, and with the coming of Christ; and it was realized in the children of Israel, who accepted Jesus in faith, and suffered Him to make them children of God. Yet even by Christ this prophecy has not yet been perfectly fulfilled in Israel, but only in part, since the greater portion of Israel has still in its hardness that stony heart which must be removed out of its flesh before it can attain to salvation. The promise in v. 19 has for its basis the prediction in Deut 30:6. “What the circumcision of the heart is there, viz., the removal of all uncleanliness, of which outward circumcision was both the type and pledge, is represented here as the giving of a heart of flesh instead of one of stone” (Hengstenberg). I give them one heart. dj;a, ble , which Hitzig is wrong in proposing to alter into rjeaæ ble , another heart, after the LXX, is supported and explained by Jer 32:39, “I give them one heart and one way to fear me continually” (cf. Zeph 3:9 and Acts 4:32). One heart is not an upright, undivided heart µlev; ble ), but a harmonious, united heart, in contrast to the division or plurality of hearts which prevails in the natural state, in which every one follows his own heart and his own mind, turning “every one to his own way” (Isa 53:6). God gives one heart, when He causes all hearts and minds to become one.
This can only be effected by His giving a “new spirit,” taking away the stone-heart, and giving a heart of flesh instead. For the old spirit fosters nothing but egotism and discord. The heart of stone has no susceptibility to the impressions of the word of God and the drawing of divine grace. In the natural condition, the heart of man is as hard as stone. “The word of God, the external leadings of God, pass by and leave no trace behind. The latter may crush it, and yet not break it. Even the fragments continue hard; yea, the hardness goes on increasing” (Hengstenberg). The heart of flesh is a tender heart, susceptible to the drawing of divine grace (compare Ezek 36:26, where these figures, which are peculiar to Ezekiel, recur; and for the substance of the prophecy, Jer 31:33). The fruit of this renewal of heart is walking in the commandments of the Lord; and the consequence of the latter is the perfect realization of the covenant relation, true fellowship with the Lord God. But judgment goes side by side with this renewal. Those who will not forsake their idols become victims to the judgment (v. 21).
The first hemistich of v. 21 is a relative clause, in which rv,a is to be supplied and connected with ble : “Whose heart walketh after the heart of their abominations.” The heart, which is attributed to the abominations and detestations, i.e., to the idols, is the inclination to idolatry, the disposition and spirit which manifest themselves in the worship of idols. Walking after the heart of the idols forms the antithesis to walking after the heart of God (1 Sam 13:14). For wgw Ër,D, , “I will give their way,” see Ezek 9:10.
The promise that the Lord would preserve to Himself a holy seed among those who had been carried away captive, brought to a close the announcement of the judgment that would fall upon the ancient Israel and apostate Jerusalem. All that is now wanting, as a conclusion to the whole vision, is the practical confirmation of the announcement of judgment. This is given in the two following verses.
The manifestation of the glory of the Lord had already left the temple, after the announcement of the burning of Jerusalem, and had taken its stand before the entrance of the eastern gate of the outer court, that is to say, in the city itself (Ezek 10:19; 11:1).
But now, after the announcement had been made to the representatives of the authorities of their removal from the city, the glory of the God of Israel forsook the devoted city also, as a sign that both temple and city had ceased to be the seats of the gracious presence of the Lord. The mountain on the east of the city is the Mount of Olives, which affords a lofty outlook over the city. There the glory of God remained, to execute the judgment upon Jerusalem. Thus, according to Zech 14:4, will Jehovah also appear at the last judgment on the Mount of Olives above Jerusalem, to fight thence against His foes, and prepare a way of escape for those who are to be saved. It was from the Mount of Olives also that the Son of God proclaimed to the degenerate city the second destruction (Luke 19:21; Matt 24:3); and from the same mountain He made His visible ascension to heaven after His resurrection (Luke 24:50; cf. Acts 1:12); and, as Grotius has observed, “thus did Christ ascend from this mountain into His kingdom, to execute judgment upon the Jews.”
After this vision of the judgments of God upon the ancient people of the covenant and the kingdom of God, Ezekiel was carried back in the spirit into Chaldea, to the river Chaboras. The vision then vanished; and he related to the exiles all that he had seen.
CH. 12. DEPARTURE OF THE KING AND PEOPLE; AND BREAD OF TEARS
The words of God which follow in ch. 12-19 do not contain any chronological data defining the exact period at which they were communicated to the prophet and reported by him. But so far as their contents are concerned, they are closely connected with the foregoing announcements of judgment; and this renders the assumption a very probable one, that they were not far removed from them in time, but fell within the space of eleven months intervening between Ezek 8:1 and 20:1, and were designed to carry out still further the announcement of judgment in ch. 8-11. This is done more especially in the light thrown upon all the circumstances, on which the impenitent people rested their hope of the preservation of the kingdom and Jerusalem, and of their speedy liberation from the Babylonian yoke. The purpose of the whole is to show the worthlessness of this false confidence, and to affirm the certainty and irresistibility of the predicted destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, in the hope of awakening the rebellious and hardened generation to that thorough repentance, without which it was impossible that peace and prosperity could ever be enjoyed. This definite purpose in the prophecies which follow is clearly indicated in the introductory remarks in Ezek 12:2; 14:1, and 20:1. In the first of these passages the hardness of Israel is mentioned as the motive for the ensuing prophecy; whilst in the other two, the visit of certain elders of Israel to the prophet, to seek the Lord and to inquire through him, is given as the circumstance which occasioned the further prophetic declarations. It is evident from this that the previous words of God had already made some impression upon the hearers, but that their hard heart had not yet been broken by them.
In ch. 12, Ezekiel receives instructions to depict, by means of a symbolical action, the departure of the king and people from Jerusalem (vv. 3-7), and to explain the action to the refractory generation (vv. 8-16). After this he is to exhibit, by another symbolical sign, the want and distress to which the people will be reduced (vv. 17-20). And lastly, he is to rebut the frivolous sayings of the people, to the effect that what is predicted will either never take place at all, or not till a very distant time (vv. 21-28).
Symbol of the Emigration.
V. 1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying.
V. 2. Son of man, thou dwellest amidst the refractory generation, who have eyes to see, and see not; and have ears to hear, and hear not; for they are a refractory generation.
V. 3. And thou, son of man, make thyself an outfit for exile, and depart by day before their eyes; and depart from thy place to another place before their eyes: perhaps they might see, for they are a refractory generation.
V. 7. And I did so as I was commanded: I carried out my things like an outfit for exile by day, and in the evening I broke through the wall with my hand; I carried it out in the darkness; I took it upon my shoulder before their eyes. In v. 2 the reason is assigned for the command to perform the symbolical action, namely, the hard-heartedness of the people. Because the generation in the midst of which Ezekiel dwelt was blind, with seeing eyes, and deaf, with hearing ears, the prophet was to depict before its eyes, by means of the sign that followed, the judgment which was approaching; in the hope, as is added in v. 3, that they might possibly observe and lay the sign to heart. The refractoriness yrim] tyiBæ , as in Ezek 2:5-6; 3:26, etc.) is described as obduracy, viz., having eyes, and not seeing; having ears, and not hearing, after Deut 29:3 (cf. Jer 5:21; Isa 6:9; Matt 13:14-15).
The root of this mental blindness and deafness was to be found in obstinacy, i.e., in not willing; “in that presumptuous insolence,” as Michaelis says, “through which divine light can obtain no admission.” hl;wOG yliK] , the goods (or outfit) of exile, were a pilgrim’s staff and traveller’s wallet, with the provisions and utensils necessary for a journey. Ezekiel was to carry these out of the house into the street in the day-time, that the people might see them and have their attention called to them. Then in the evening, after dark, he was to go out himself, not by the door of the house, but through a hole which he had broken in the wall. He was also to take the travelling outfit upon his shoulder and carry it through the hole and out of the place, covering his face all the while, that he might not see the land to which he was going. “Thy place” is thy dwelling-place. hl;wOG ax;wOm : as the departures of exiles generally take place, i.e., as exiles are accustomed to depart, not “at the usual time of departure into exile,” as Hävernick proposes.
For ax;wOm , see the comm. on Mic 5:1. `hf;l;[ differs from `br,[, , and signifies the darkness of the depth of night (cf. Gen 15:17); not, however, “darkness artificially produced, equivalent to, with the eyes shut, or the face covered; so that the words which follow are simply explanatory of `hf;l;[ ,” as Schmieder imagines. Such an assumption would be at variance not only with v. 7, but also with v. 12, where the covering or concealing of the face is expressly distinguished from the carrying out “in the dark.” The order was to be as follows: In the day-time Ezekiel was to take the travelling outfit and carry it out into the road; then in the evening he was to go out himself, having first of all broken a hole through the wall as evening was coming on; and in the darkness of night he was to place upon his shoulders whatever he was about to carry with him, and take his departure.
This he was to do, because God had made him a moopheeth for Israel: in other words, by doing this he was to show himself to be a marvellous sign to Israel. For moopheeth, see the comm. on Ex 4:21. In v. 7, the execution of the command, which evidently took place in the strictness of the letter, is fully described. There was nothing impracticable in the action, for breaking through the wall did not preclude the use of a hammer or some other tool.
Explanation of the symbolical action.
V. 10. Say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, This burden applies to the prince in Jerusalem, and to all the house of Israel to whom they belong.
V. 11. Say, I am your sign: as I have done, so shall it happen to them; into exile, into captivity, will they go.
V. 12. And the prince who is in the midst of them he will lift it upon his shoulder in the dark, and will go out: they will break through the wall, and carry it out thereby: he will cover his face, that he may not see the land with eyes.
V. 14. And all that is about him, his help and all his troops, I will scatter into all winds, and draw out the sword behind them.
V. 15. And they shall learn that I am Jehovah, when I scatter them among the nations, and winnow them in the lands.
V. 16. Yet I will leave of them a small number of men from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may relate all their abominations among the nations whither they have come; and learn that I am Jehovah. As queries introduced with µwOlv; have, as a rule, an affirmative sense, the words “have they not asked,” etc., imply that the Israelites had asked the prophet what he was doing, though not in a proper state of mind, not in a penitential manner, as the epithet yrim] tyiBæ plainly shows. The prophet is therefore to interpret the action which he had just been performing, and all its different stages.
The words hz, aC;mæ aycin; , to which very different renderings have been given, are to be translated simply “the prince is this burden,” i.e., the object of this burden. Hammassâ does not mean the carrying, but the burden, i.e., the threatening prophecy, the prophetic action of the prophet, as in the headings to the oracles (see the comm. on Nah 1:1). The “prince” is the king, as in Ezek 21:30, though not Jehoiachin, who had been carried into exile, but Zedekiah. This is stated in the apposition “in Jerusalem,” which belongs to “the prince,” though it is not introduced till after the predicate, as in Gen 24:24. To this there is appended the further definition, “the whole house of Israel,” which, being co-ordinated with aycin; , affirms that all Israel (the covenant nation) will share the fate of the prince. In the last clause of v. 10 Ëw,T; does not stand for Ëw,T; , so that the suffix would refer to Jerusalem, “in the midst of which they (the house of Israel) are.” rv,a cannot be a nominative, because in that case µhe to be understood as referring to the persons addressed, i.e., to the Israelites in exile (Hitzig, Kliefoth): in the midst of whom they are, i.e., to whom they belong.
The sentence explains the reason why the prophet was to announce to those in exile the fat of the prince and people in Jerusalem; namely, because the exiles formed a portion of the nation, and would be affected by the judgment which was about to burst upon the king and people in Jerusalem.
In this sense Ezekiel was also able to say to the exiles (in v. 11), “I am your sign;” inasmuch as his sign was also of importance for them, as those who were already banished would be so far affected by the departure of the king and people which Ezekiel depicted, that it would deprive them of all hope of a speedy return to their native land. ttæK; , in v. 11, refers to the king and the house of Israel in Jerusalem. hl;wOG is rendered more forcible by the addition of ybiv] . The announcement that both king and people must go into exile, is carried out still further in vv. and 13 with reference to the king, and in v. 14 with regard to the people.
The king will experience all that Ezekiel has described. The literal occurrence of what is predicted here is related in Jer 39:1ff., 52:4ff.; Kings 25:4ff. When the Chaldeans forced their way into the city after a two years’ siege, Zedekiah and his men of war fled by night out of the city through the gate between the two walls. It is not expressly stated, indeed, in the historical accounts that a breach was made in the wall; but the expression “through the gate between the two walls” (Jer 39:4; 52:7; Kings 25:4) renders this very probable, whether the gate had been walled up during the siege, or it was necessary to break through the wall at one particular spot in order to reach the gate.
The king’s attendants would naturally take care that a breach was made in the wall, to secure for him a way of escape; hence the expression, “they will break through.” The covering of the face, also, is not mentioned in the historical accounts; but in itself it is by no means improbable, as a sign of the shame and grief with which Zedekiah left the city. The words, “that he may not see the land with eyes,” do not appear to indicate anything more than the necessary consequence of covering the face, and refer primarily to the simple fact that the king fled in the deepest sorrow, and did not want to see the land; but, as v. 13 clearly intimates, they were fulfilled in another way, namely, by the fact that Zedekiah did not see with his eyes the land of the Chaldeans into which he was led, because he had been blinded at Riblah (Jer 39:5; 52:11; 2 Kings 25:7). `ˆyi[æ , by eye = with his eyes, is added to give prominence to the idea of seeing.
For the same purpose, the subject, which is already implied in the verb, is rendered more emphatic by aWh ; and this aWh is placed after the verb, so that it stands in contrast with xr,a, . The capture of the king was not depicted by Ezekiel; so that in this respect the announcement (v. 13) goes further than the symbolical action, and removes all doubt as to the credibility of the prophet’s word, by a distinct prediction of the fate awaiting him. At the same time, his not seeing the land of Babylon is left so indefinite, that it cannot be regarded as a vaticinium post eventum.
Zedekiah died in prison at Babylon (Jer 52:11). Along with the king, the whole of his military force will be scattered in all directions (v. 14). hroz][, , his help, i.e., the troops that break through with him. wyp;næa\AlK; , all his wings (the wings of his army), i.e., all the rest of his forces. The word is peculiar to Ezekiel, and is rendered “wings” by Jos. Kimchi, like kenâphaim in Isa 8:8. For the rest of the verse compare Ezek 5:2; and for the fulfilment, Jer 52:8; 40:7,12. The greater part of the people will perish, and only a small number remain, that they may relate among the heathen, wherever they are led, all the abominations of Israel, in order that the heathen may learn that it is not from weakness, but simply to punish idolatry, that God has given up His people to them (cf. Jer 22:8).
Sign Depicting the Terrors and Consequences of the Conquest of Jerusalem.
V. 17. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 18. Son of man, thou shalt eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and trouble; V. 19. And say to the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, They will eat their bread in trouble, and drink their water in amazement, because her land is laid waste of all its fulness for the wickedness of all who dwell therein.
The carrying out of this sign is not mentioned; not that there is any doubt as to its having been done, but that it is simply taken for granted. The trouble and trembling could only be expressed by means of gesture. v[æræ , generally an earthquake or violent convulsion; here, simply shaking, synonymous with zgær; , trembling. “Bread and water” is the standing expression for food; so that even here the idea of scanty provisions is not to be sought therein. This idea is found merely in the signs of anxiety and trouble with which Ezekiel was to eat his food. tmæd]aæAla, = daAl[æ , “upon the land,” equivalent to “in the land.” This is appended to show that the prophecy does not refer to those who had already been carried into exile, but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were still in the land. For the subject-matter, compare Ezek 4:16-17. ˆ[æmæ indicates not the intention, “in order that,” but the motive, “because.”
Declarations to Remove all Doubt as to the Truth of the Threat. The scepticism of the people as to the fulfilment of these threatening prophecies, which had been made still more emphatic by signs, manifested itself in two different ways. Some altogether denied that the prophecies would ever be fulfilled (v. 22); others, who did not go so far as this, thought that it would be a long time before they came to pass (v. 27).
These doubts were fed by the lying statements of false prophets. For this reason the refutation of these sceptical opinions (vv. 21-28) is followed in the next chapter by a stern reproof of the false prophets and prophetesses who led the people astray.
V. 23. Therefore say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will put an end to this saying, and they shall say it no more in Israel; but say to them, The days are near, and the word of every prophecy.
V. 24. For henceforth there shall be no vain prophecy and flattering soothsaying in the midst of the house of Israel.
V. 25. For I am Jehovah; I speak; the word which I speak will come to pass, and no longer be postponed; for in your days, O refractory generation, I speak a word and do it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
Mâshâl, a proverb, saying current among the people, and constantly repeated as a truth. “The days become long,” etc., i.e., the time is lengthening out, and yet the prophecy is not being fulfilled. dbæa; , perire, to come to nothing, to fail of fulfilment, is the opposite of awOB, to come, to be fulfilled. God will put an end to these sayings, by causing a very speedy fulfilment of the prophecy. The days are near, and every word of the prophecy, i.e., the days in which every word predicted shall come to pass.
The reason for this is given in vv. 24 and 25, in two co-ordinate sentences, both of which are introduced with yKi .
First, every false prophecy shall henceforth cease in Israel (v. 24); secondly, God will bring about the fulfilment of His own word, and that without delay (v. 25). Different explanations have been given of the meaning of v. 24. Kliefoth proposes to take ad]v; and ql;j; µs;q]mi as the predicate to ˆwOzj; : no prophecy in Israel shall be vain and flattering soothsaying, but all prophecy shall become true, i.e., be fulfilled. Such an explanation, however, is not only artificial and unnatural, since µs;q]mi would be inserted as a predicate in a most unsuitable manner, but it contains this incongruity, that God would apply the term µs;q]mi , soothsaying, to the predictions of prophets inspired by Himself. On the other hand, there is no force in the objection raised by Kliefoth to the ordinary rendering of the words, namely, that the statement that God was about to put an end to false prophecy in Israel would anticipate the substance of the sixth word of God (i.e., ch. 13).
It is impossible to see why a thought should not be expressed here, and then still further expanded in ch. 13. qlæj; , smooth, i.e., flattering (compare Hos 10:2; and for the prediction, Zech 13:4-5). The same reply serves also to overthrow the sceptical objection raised by the frivolous despisers of the prophet’s words. Hence there is only a brief allusion made to them in vv. 26-28.
V. 26. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 27. Son of man, behold, the house of Israel saith, The vision that he seeth is for many days off, and he prophesies for distant times.
CH. 13. AGAINST THE FALSE PROPHETS AND PROPHETESSES
The way was already prepared for the address in this chapter by the announcement in Ezek 12:24. It divides itself into two parts, viz., vv. 1-16, directed against the false prophets; and vv. 17-23, against the false prophetesses. In both parts their conduct is first described, and then the punishment foretold. Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, and sometimes still more strongly, denounces the conduct of the false prophets, who are therefore to be sought for not merely among the exiles, but principally among those who were left behind in the land (vid., Jer 23:9ff.). A lively intercourse was kept up between the two, so that the false prophets extended their operations from Canaan to the Chaboras, and vice versa.
Against the False Prophets.
V. 3. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe upon the foolish prophets, who go after their spirit, and that which they have not seen!
V. 4. Like foxes in ruins have thy prophets become, O Israel.
V. 7. Do ye not see vain visions, and speak lying soothsaying, and say, Oracle of Jehovah; and I have not spoken?
The addition ab;n; , “who prophesy,” is not superfluous. Ezekiel is not to direct his words against the prophets as a body, but against those who follow the vocation of prophet in Israel without being called to it by God on receiving a divine revelation, but simply prophesying out of their own heart, or according to their own subjective imagination. In the name of the Lord he is to threaten them with woes, as fools who follow their own spirit; in connection with which we must bear in mind that folly, according to the Hebrew idea, was not merely a moral failing, but actual godlessness (cf. Ps 14:1). The phrase “going after their spirit” is interpreted and rendered more emphatic by ha;r; yTil]Bi , which is to be taken as a relative clause, “that which they have not seen,” i.e., whose prophesying does not rest upon intuition inspired by God. Consequently they cannot promote the welfare of the nation, but (v. 4) are like foxes in ruins or desolate places.
The point of comparison is to be found in the undermining of the ground by foxes, qui per cuniculos subjectam terram excavant et suffodiunt (Bochart). For the thought it not exhausted by the circumstance that they withdraw to their holes instead of standing in front of the breach (Hitzig); and there is no force in the objection that, with this explanation, hB;r]j; is passed over and becomes in fact tautological (Hävernick). The expression “in ruins” points to the fall of the theocracy, which the false prophets cannot prevent, but, on the contrary, accelerate by undermining the moral foundations of the state. For (v. 5) they do not stand in the breaches, and do not build up the wall around the house of Israel alo belongs to both clauses). He who desires to keep off the enemy, and prevent his entering the fortress, will stand in the breach. For the same purpose are gaps and breaches in the fortifications carefully built up.
The sins of the people had made gaps and breaches in the walls of Jerusalem; in other words, had caused the moral decay of the city. But they had not stood in the way of this decay and its causes, as the calling and duty of prophets demanded, by reproving the sins of the people, that they might rescue the people and kingdom from destruction by restoring its moral and religious life. hm;j;l]mi `rmæ[; , to stand, or keep ground, i.e., so that ye might have kept your ground in the war. The subject is the false prophets, not Israel, as Hävernick supposes. “In the day of Jehovah,” i.e., in the judgment which Jehovah has decreed. Not to stand, does not mean merely to avert the threatening judgment, but not to survive the judgment itself, to be overthrown by it. This arises from the fact that their prophesying is a life; because Jehovah, whose name they have in their mouths, has not sent them (v. 6). ljæy; is dependent upon jlæv; : God has not sent them, so that they could hope for the fulfilment of the word which they speak.The rendering adopted by others, “and they cause to hope,” is untenable; for ljæy; with l does not mean “to cause to hope,” or give hope, but simply to hope for anything. This was really the case; and it is affirmed in the declaration, which is repeated in the form of a direct appeal in v. 7, to the effect that their visions were vain and lying soothsaying. For this they are threatened with the judgment described in the verses which follow.
Punishment of the false prophets.
V. 9. And my hand shall be against the prophets who see vanity and divine lies: in the council of my people they shall not be, and in the register of the house of Israel they shall not be registered, and into the land of Israel shall they not come; and ye shall learn that I am the Lord Jehovah.
V. 10. Because, yea because they lead my people astray, and say, “Peace,” though there is no peace; and when it (my people) build a wall, behold, they plaster it with cement: V. 11. Say to the plasterers, that it will fall: there cometh a pouring rain; and ye hailstones fall, and thou stormy wind break loose!
V. 14. And I demolish the wall which ye have plastered, and cast it to the ground, that its foundation may be exposed, and it shall fall, and ye shall perish in the midst of it; and shall learn that I am Jehovah.
V. 15. And I will exhaust my wrath upon the wall, and upon those who plaster it; and will say to you, It is all over with the wall, and all over with those who plastered it; V. 16. With the prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem, and saw visions of peace for her, though there is no peace, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
In v. 8 the punishment which is to fall upon the false prophets is threatened in general terms; and in v. 9 it is more specifically described in the form of a climax, rising higher and higher in the severity of its announcements. (1) They are no longer to form part of the council of the people of God; that is to say, they will lose their influential position among the people. dwOs is the sphere of counsellors, not the social sphere.) (2) Their names shall not be registered in the book of the house of Israel.
The book of the house of Israel is the register in which the citizens of the kingdom of God are entered. Any one whose name was not admitted into this book, or was struck out of it, was separated thereby from the citizenship of Israel, and lost all the privileges which citizenship conferred.
The figure of the book of life is a similar one (cf. Ex 32:32). For Israel is not referred to here with regard to its outward nationality, but as the people of God; so that exclusion from Israel was also exclusion from fellowship with God. The circumstance that it is not the erasure of their names from the book that is mentioned here, but their not being entered in the book at all, may be accounted for from the reference contained in the words to the founding of the new kingdom of God. The old theocracy was abolished, although Jerusalem was not yet destroyed. The covenant nation had fallen under the judgment; but out of that portion of Israel which was dispersed among the heathen, a remnant would be gathered together again, and having been brought back to its own land, would be made anew into a holy people of God (cf. Ezek 11:17ff.). But the false prophets are not to be received into the citizenship of the new kingdom. (3) They are not even to come into the land of Israel; i.e., they are not merely to remain in exile, but to lose all share in the privileges and blessings of the kingdom of God. This judgment will come upon them because they lead astray the people of God, by proclaiming peace where there is no peace; i.e., by raising and cherishing false hopes of prosperity and peace, by which they encourage the people in their sinful lives, and lead them to imagine that all is well, and there is no judgment to be feared (cf. Jer 23:17 and Mic 3:5). The exposure of this offence is introduced by the solemn ˆ[æyæ ˆ[æyæ , because and because (cf. Lev 26:43); and the offence itself is exhibited by means of a figure.
When the people build a wall, the false prophets plaster the wall with lime. aWh (v. 10) refers to `µ[æ , and the clause is a circumstantial one. lpeT; signifies the plaster coating or cement of a wall, probably from the primary meaning of lpæf; , to stick or plaster over (= lpæf; , conglutinare, to glue, or fasten together), from which the secondary meaning of weak, insipid, has sprung. The proper word for plaster or cement is Eiyach (v. 12), and lpeT; is probably chosen with an allusion to the tropical signification of that which is silly or absurd (Jer 23:13; Lam 2:14). The meaning of the figure is intelligible enough. The people build up foolish hopes, and the prophets not only paint these hopes for them in splendid colours, but even predict their fulfilment, instead of denouncing their folly, pointing out to the people the perversity of their ways, and showing them that such sinful conduct must inevitably be followed by punishment and ruin. The plastering is therefore a figurative description of deceitful flattery or hypocrisy, i.e., the covering up of inward corruption by means of outward appearance (as in Matt 23:27 and Acts 23:3). This figure leads the prophet to describe the judgment which they are bringing upon the nation and themselves, as a tempest accompanied with hail and pouring rain, which throws down the wall that has been erected and plastered over; and in connection with this figure he opens out this double thought: (1) the conduct of the people, which is encouraged by the false prophets, cannot last (vv. 11 and 12); and (2) when this work of theirs is overthrown, the false prophets themselves will also meet with the fate they deserve (vv. 13-16). The threat of judgment commences with the short, energetic lpæn; , let it (the wall) fall, or it shall fall, with Vav to indicate the train of thought (Ewald, §347a). The subject is lpeT; , to which lpæn; suggests a resemblance in sound. In v. this is predicted as the fate awaiting the plastered wall. In the description of the bursting storm the account passes with hT;aæ (and ye) into a direct address; in other words, the description assumes the form of an appeal to the destructive forces of nature to burst forth with all their violence against the work plastered over by the prophets, and to destroy it. ãfæv; µv,G, , pouring rain; cf. Ezek 38:22. vybiG;l]a, ˆb,a, here and Ezek 38:22 are hailstones.
The word vybiG;l]a, , which is peculiar to Ezekiel, is probably vybiG; (Job 28:18), with the Arabic article lae ; ice, then crystal. r[æsæ jæWr , wind of storms, a hurricane or tempest. [qæB; (v. 11) is used intransitively, to break loose; but in v. 13 it is transitive, to cause to break loose. The active rendering adopted by Kliefoth, “the storm will rend,” sc. the plaster of the wall, is inappropriate in v. 11; for a tempest does not rend either the plaster or the wall, but throws the wall down. The translation which Kliefoth gives in v. 13, “I will rend by tempest,” is at variance with both the language and the sense. Jehovah will cause this tempest to burst forth in His wrath and destroy the wall, and lay it level with the ground. The suffix in Ëw,T; refers (ad sensum) to Jerusalem not to ryqi (the wall), which is masculine, and has no Ëw,T; (midst). The words pass from the figure to the reality here; for the plastered wall is a symbol of Jerusalem, as the centre of the theocracy, which is to be destroyed, and to bury the lying prophets in its ruins. hl;K; (v. 15) contains a play upon the word hl;K; in v. 13. By a new turn given to hl;K; , Ezekiel repeats the thought that the wrath of God is to destroy the wall and its plasterers; and through this repetition he rounds off the threat with the express declaration, that the false prophets who are ever preaching peace are the plasterers to whom he refers.
Against the False Prophetesses.
As the Lord had not endowed men only with the gifts of prophecy, but sometimes women also, e.g., Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; so women also rose up along with the false prophets, and prophesied out of their own hearts without being impelled by the Spirit of God.
V. 17. And thou, son of man, direct thy face towards the daughters of thy people, who prophesy out of their heart and prophesy against them, V. 18. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to those who sew coverings together over all the joints of my hands, and make caps for the head of every size, to catch souls! Ye catch the souls of my people, and keep your souls alive.
V. 19. And ye profane me with my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay souls which should not die, and to keep alive which should not live, by your lying to my people who hearken to lying.
Like the prophets in v. 2, the prophetesses are here described as prophesying out of their own heart (v. 17); and in vv. 18 and 19 their offences are more particularly described.
The meaning of these verses is entirely dependent upon the view to be taken of dy; , which the majority of expositors, following the lead of the LXX, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, have regarded as identical with dy; or dy; , and understood as referring to the hands of the women or prophetesses. But there is nothing to justify the assumption that dy; is an unusual form for dy; , which even Ewald takes it to be (Lehrbuch, §177a).
Still less can it stand for the singular dy; . And we have not sufficient ground for altering the text, as the expression [æwOrz] in v. 20 (I will tear the ts,K, from your arms) does not require the assumption that the prophetesses had hidden their arms in kctwt; and such a supposition is by no means obviously in harmony with the facts.
The word ts,K, , from ts,K, , with t fem. treated as a radical letter (cf.
Ewald, §186e), means a covering or concealment = tWsK] . The meaning “cushion” or “pillow” (LXX proskefa>laia , Vulg. pulvilli) is merely an inference drawn from this passage, and is decidedly erroneous; for the word rpæT; (to sew together) is inapplicable to cushions, as well as the phrase ydæy; yleyXiaæAlK; l[æ , inasmuch as cushions are not placed upon the joints of the hands, and still less are they sewed together upon them. The latter is also a decisive reason for rejecting the explanation given by Hävernick, namely, that the kesâthooth were carpets, which were used as couches, and upon which these voluptuous women are represented as reclining. For cushions or couches are not placed upon, but under, the arm- joints (or elbows) and the shoulders, which Hävernick understands by dy; lyxia; .
This also overthrows another explanation given of the words, namely, that they refer to carpets, which the prophetesses had sewed together for all their arm-joints, so as to form comfortable beds upon splendid carpets, that they may indulge in licentiousness thereon. The explanation given by Ephraem Syrus, and adopted by Hitzig, namely, that the kesâthooth were amulets or straps, which they would round their arm-joints when they received or delivered their oracles, is equally untenable. For, as Kliefoth has observed, “it is evident that there is not a word in the text about adultery, or amulets, or straps used in prayer.” And again, when we proceed to the next clause, the traditional rendering of hj;p;s]mi , as signifying either pillows ( uJpauce>nia , Symm.; cervicalia, Vulg.) or broad cloaks = twOjpæf]mi (Hitzig, Hävernick, etc.), is neither supported by the usage of the language, nor in harmony with varo `l[æ .
Mispâchooth, from sâphach, to join, cannot have any other meaning in the present context than a cap fitting close to the head; and `l[æ must denote the pattern which was followed, as in Ps 110:4; Est 9:26: they make the caps after (answering to) the head of every stature. The words of both clauses are figurative, and have been correctly explained by Kliefoth as follows: “A double charge is brought against the prophetesses. In the first place, they sew coverings together to wrap round all the joints of the hand of God, so that He cannot touch them; i.e., they cover up and conceal the word of God by their prophesying, more especially its rebuking and threatening force, so that the threatening and judicial arm of God, which ought above all to become both manifest and effective through His prophetic word, does not become either one or the other. In the second place, they make coverings upon the heads of men, and construct them in such a form that they exactly fit the stature or size or every individual, so that the men neither hear nor see; i.e., by means of their flattering lies, which adapt themselves to the subjective inclinations of their hearers at the time, they cover up the senses of the men, so that they retain neither ear nor eye for the truth.”
They do both of these to catch souls. The inevitable consequence of their act is represented as having been intended by them; and this intention is then still further defined as being to catch the souls of the people of God; i.e., to allure them to destruction, and take care of their own souls. The clause dWx vp,n, is not to be taken as a question, “Will ye catch the souls?” implying a doubt whether they really thought that they could carry on such conduct as theirs with perfect impunity (Hävernick). It contains a simple statement of what really took place in their catching of souls, namely, “they catch the souls of the people of God, and preserve their own souls;” i.e., they rob the people of God of their lives, and take care of their own (Kliefoth). `µ[æ is used instead of the genitive (stat. constr.) to show that the accent rests upon `µ[æ . And in the same way we have hy;j; instead of the suffix. The construction is the same as in 1 Sam 14:16. V. 19 shows how great their sin had been. They profane God among His people; namely, by delivering the suggestions of their own heart to the people as divine revelations, for the purpose of getting their daily bread thereby (cf. Mic 3:5); by hurling into destruction, through their lies, those who are only too glad to listen to lying; by slaying the souls of the people which ought to live, and by preserving those which ought not to live, i.e., their own souls (Deut 18:20). The punishment for this will not fail to come.
Punishment of the false prophetesses.
V. 20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with your coverings with which ye catch, I will let the souls fly; and I will tear them away from your arms, and set the souls free, which ye catch, the souls to fly.
The threat of judgment is closely connected with the reproof of their sins. Vv. 20 and 21 correspond to the reproof in v. 18, and vv. 22 and 23 to that in v. 19. In the first place, the Lord will tear in pieces the coverings and caps, i.e., the tissue of lies woven by the false prophetesses, and rescue the people from their snares (vv. 20 and 21); and, secondly, He will entirely put an end to the pernicious conduct of the persons addressed (vv. 22 and 23). The words from hT;aæ rv,a to jræp; (v. 20a), when taken as one clause, as they generally are, offer insuperable difficulties, since it is impossible to get any satisfactory meaning from µv; , and jræp; will not fit in. Whether we understand by kesâthooth coverings or cushions, the connection of µv; with rv,a (where ye catch the souls), which the majority of commentators prefer, is untenable; for coverings and cushions were not the places where the souls were caught, but could only be the means employed for catching them.
Instead of µv; we should expect µyrit;a ] or µyrit;a ]; and Hitzig proposes to amend it in this way. Still less admissible is the proposal to take µv; as referring to Jerusalem (“wherewith ye catch souls there”); as µv; would not only contain a perfectly superfluous definition of locality, but would introduce a limitation altogether at variance with the context. It is not affirmed either of the prophets or of the prophetesses that they lived and prophesied in Jerusalem alone. In vv. 2 and 17 reference is made in the most general terms to the prophets of Israel and the daughters of thy people; and in v. 16 it is simply stated that the false prophets prophesied peace to Jerusalem when there was no peace at all. Consequently we must regard the attempt to find in µv; an allusion to Jerusalem (cf. v. 16) as a mere loophole, which betrays an utter inability to get any satisfactory sense for the word.
Moreover, if we construe the words in this manner, jræp; is also incomprehensible. Commentators have for the most part admitted that jræp; is used here in the Aramaean sense of volare, to fly. In the second half of the verse there is no doubt about its having this meaning. For shileeach is used in Deut 22:7 for liberating a bird, or letting it fly; and the combination twOjr]pol] pnhAta, jæLevi is supported by the expression yvip]j;l] jæLevi in Ex 21:26, while the comparison of souls to birds is sustained by Ps 11:1 and 124:7. Hence the true meaning of the whole passage jræp; ... twOvp;N]hæAta, yTj]Lævi is, I send away (set free) the souls, which ye have caught, as flying ones, i.e., so that they shall be able to fly away at liberty. And in the first half also we must not adopt a different rendering for jræp; , since twOvp;N]hæAta, is also connected with it there.
But if the words in question are combined into one clause in the first hemistich, they will give us a sense which is obviously wrong, viz., “wherewith ye catch the souls to let them fly.” As the impossibility of adopting this rendering has been clearly seen, the attempt has been made to cloak over the difficulty by means of paraphrases. Ewald, for example, renders jræp; in both cases “as if they were birds of passage;” but in the first instance he applies it to birds of passage, for which nets are spread for the purpose of catching them; and in the second, to birds of passage which are set at liberty. Thus, strictly speaking, he understands the first jræp; as signifying the catching of birds; and the second, letting them fly: an explanation which refutes itself, as pârach, to fly, cannot mean “to catch” as well. The rendering adopted by Kimchi, Rosenmüller, and others, who translate jræp; ut advolent ad vos in the first hemistich, and ut avolent in the second, is no better.
And the difficulty is not removed by resorting to the dialects, as Hävernick, for the purpose of forcing upon jræp; the meaning dissoluteness of licentiousness, for which there is no authority in the Hebrew language itself. If, therefore, it is impossible to obtain any satisfactory meaning from the existing text, it cannot be correct; and no other course is open to us than to alter the unsuitable µv; into µWc , and divide the words from hT;aæ rv,a to jræp; into two clauses, as we have done in our translation above.
There is no necessity to supply anything to the relative rv,a , as dWx is construed with a double accusative (e.g., Mic 7:2, µr,je dWx , to catch with a net), and the object to dWx , viz., the souls, can easily be supplied from the next clause. µWc , as a participle, can either be connected with ˆhe , “behold, I make,” or taken as introducing an explanatory clause: “making the souls into flying ones,” i.e., so that they are able to fly ( l] µWv , Gen 12:2, etc.). The two clauses of the first hemistich would then exactly correspond to the two clauses of the second half of the verse. tae [ræq; is explanatory of tsk lae ˆhe , I will tear off the coverings from their arms.
These words do not require the assumption that the prophetesses wore the twtsl on their arms, but may be fully explained from the supposition that the persons in question prepared them with their own hands. wgw jlæv; corresponds to wgw twOvp;N]hæAta, ; and jræp; is governed by jlæv; . The insertion of µyvip;N]hæAta, is to be accounted for from the copious nature of Ezekiel’s style; at the same time, it is not merely a repetition of twOvp;N]hæAta, , which is separated from jræp; by the relative clause ax;m; hT;aæ rv,a , but as the unusual plural form vp,n, shows, is intended as a practical explanation of the fact, that the souls, while compared to birds, are regarded as living beings, which is the meaning borne by vp,n, in other passages.
The omission of the article after tae may be explained, however, from the fact that the souls had been more precisely defined just before; just as, for example, in 1 Sam 24:6; 2 Sam 18:18, where the more precise definition follows immediately afterwards (cf. Ewald, §277a, p. 683).-The same thing is said in v. 21, with regard to the caps, as has already been said of the coverings in v. 20. God will tear these in pieces also, to deliver His people from the power of the lying prophetesses. In what way God will do this is explained in vv. 22 and 23, namely, not only by putting their lying prophecies to shame through His judgment, but by putting an end to soothsaying altogether, and exterminating the false prophetesses by making them an object of ridicule and shame. The reason for this threat is given in v. 22, where a further description is given of the disgraceful conduct of these persons; and here the disgracefulness of their conduct is exhibited in literal terms and without any figure.
They do harm to the righteous and good, and strengthen the hands of the wicked. ha;K; , Hiphil of ha;K; , in Syriac, to use harshly or depress; so here in the Hiphil, connected with ble , to afflict the heart. rq,v, is used adverbially: with lying, or in a lying manner; namely, by predicting misfortune and divine punishments, with which they threatened the godly, who would not acquiesce in their conduct; whereas, on the contrary, they predicted prosperity and peace to the ungodly, who were willing to be ensnared by them, and thus strengthened them in their evil ways. For this God would put them to shame through His judgments, which would make their deceptions manifest, and their soothsaying loathsome. ATTITUDE OF GOD TOWARDS THE WORSHIPPERS OF IDOLS, AND CERTAINTY OF THE JUDGMENTS This chapter contains two words of God, which have obviously an internal connection with each other. The first (vv. 1-11) announces to the elders, who have come to the prophet to inquire of God, that the Lord will not allow idolaters to inquire of Him, but will answer all who do not turn from idolatry with severe judgments, and will even destroy the prophets who venture to give an answer to such inquirers. The second (vv. 12-23) denounces the false hope that God will avert the judgment and spare Jerusalem because of the righteousness of the godly men therein.
The Lord Gives no Answer to the Idolaters.
V. 1 narrates the occasion for this and the following words of God: There came to me men of the elders of Israel, and sat down before me. These men were not deputies from the Israelites in Palestine, as Grotius and others suppose, but elders of the exiles among whom Ezekiel had been labouring. They came to visit the prophet (v. 3), evidently with the intention of obtaining, through him, a word of God concerning the future of Jerusalem, or the fate of the kingdom of Judah. But Hävernick is wrong in supposing that we may infer, from either the first or second word of God in this chapter, that they had addressed to the prophet a distinct inquiry of this nature, to which the answer is given in vv. 12-23. For although their coming to the prophet showed that his prophecies had made an impression upon them, it is not stated in v. 1 that they had come to inquire of God, like the elders in Ezek 20:1, and there is no allusion to any definite questions in the words of God themselves. The first (vv. 2-11) simply assumes that they have come with the intention of asking, and discloses the state of heart which keeps them from coming to inquire; and the second (vv. 12-23) points out the worthlessness of their false confidence in the righteousness of certain godly men.
Verse 2. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 3. Son of man, these men have let their idols rise up in their heart, and have set the stumbling-block to guilt before their face: shall I allow myself to be inquired of by them?
V. 4. Therefore speak to them, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Every man of the house of Israel who lifteth up his idols in his heart, and setteth the stumbling-block to his sin before his face, and cometh to the prophet, to him do I, Jehovah, show myself, answering according thereto, according to the multitude of his idols; V. 5. To grasp the house of Israel by their heart, because they have turned away from me, all of them through their idols.
We have not to picture these elders to ourselves as given up to gross idolatry. ble `l[æ `hl;[; means, to allow anything to come into the mind, to permit it to rise up in the heart, to be mentally busy therewith. “To set before one’s face” is also to be understood, in a spiritual sense, as relating to a thing which a man will not put out of his mind. `ˆwO[; lwOvk]mi , stumbling-block to sin and guilt (cf. Ezek 7:19), i.e., the idols. Thus the two phrases simply denote the leaning of the heart and spirit towards false gods. God does not suffer those whose heart is attached to idols to seek and find Him. The interrogative clause wgw vræD; contains a strong negation.
The emphasis lies in the infinitive absolute vræD; placed before the verb, in which the h is softened into ynæa , to avoid writing h twice. vræd]ni , to allow oneself to be sought, involves the finding of God; hence in Isa 65:1 we have vræd]ni as parallel to ax;m; . In vv. 4, 5, there follows a positive declaration of the attitude of God towards those who are devoted to idolatry in their heart.
Every such Israelite will be answered by God according to the measure of the multitude of his idols. The Niphal `hn;[; has not the signification of the Kal, and does not mean “to be answerable,” as Ewald supposes, or to converse; but is generally used in a passive sense, “to be answered,” i.e., to find or obtain a hearing (Job 11:2; 19:7). It is employed here in a reflective sense, to hold or show oneself answering. µyrit;a , according to the Chetib µyrit;a , for which the Keri suggests the softer gloss awOB, refers to lg bro which follows; the nominative being anticipated, according to an idiom very common in Aramaean, by a previous pronoun. It is written here for the sake of emphasis, to bring the following object into more striking prominence. b is used here in the sense of secundum, according to, not because, since this meaning is quite unsuitable for the b in v. 7, where it occurs in the same connection µyrit;a . The manner in which God will show Himself answering the idolatry according to their idols, is reserved till v. 8. Here, in v. 5, the design of this procedure on the part of God is given: viz., to grasp Israel by the heart; i.e., not merely to touch and to improve them, but to bring down their heart by judgments (cf. Lev 26:41), and thus move them to give up idolatry and return to the living God. rWz , as in Isa 1:4, to recede, to draw away from God. lKo is an emphatic repetition of the subject belonging to rWz .
Verse 6-8. In these verses the divine threat, and the summons to repent, are repeated, expanded, and uttered in the clearest words.
V.7. For every one of the house of Israel, and of the foreigners who sojourn in Israel, if he estrange himself from me, and let his idols rise up in his heart, and set the stumbling-block to his sin before his face, and come to the prophet to seek me for himself; I will show myself to him, answering in my own way.
V. 8. I will direct my face against that man, and will destroy him, for a sign and for proverbs, and will cut him off out of my people; and ye shall learn that I am ˆKe in v. 6 is co-ordinate with the ˆKe in v. 4, so far as the thought is concerned, but it is directly attached to v. 5b: because they have estranged themselves from God, therefore God requires them to repent and turn.
For God will answer with severe judgments every one who would seek God with idols in his heart, whether he be an Israelite, or a foreigner living in the midst of Israel. bWv , turn, be converted, is rendered still more emphatic by the addition of bWv . This double call to repentance corresponds to the double reproof of their idolatry in v. 3, viz., bWv , to ble l[æ lg hl;[‘h, ; and µynip; bWv , to their setting the idols µynip; jkænO. bWv is not used intransitively, as it apparently is in Ezek 18:30, but is to be taken in connection with the object µynip; , which follows at the end of the verse; and it is simply repeated before µkynp for the sake of clearness and emphasis. The reason for the summons to repent and give up idolatry is explained in v. 7, in the threat that God will destroy every Israelite, and every foreigner in Israel, who draws away from God and attaches himself to idols.
The phraseology of v. 7a is adopted almost verbatim from Lev 17:8,10,13.
On the obligation of foreigners to avoid idolatry and all moral abominations, vid., Lev 20:2; 18:26; 17:10; Ex 12:19, etc. The w before rzæn; and `hl;[; does not stand for the Vav relat., but simply supposes a case: “should he separate himself from my followers, and let his idols rise up, etc.” ybi wOlAvr;d]li does not mean, “to seek counsel of him (the prophet) from me,” for ttæK; cannot be taken as referring to the prophet, although vræD; with l] does sometimes mean to seek any one, and l] may therefore indicate the person to whom one goes to make inquiry (cf. 2 Chron 15:13; 17:4; 31:21), because it is Jehovah who is sought in this case; and Hävernick’s remark, that vræD; with l] merely indicates the external object sought by a man, and therefore in this instance the medium or organ through whom God speaks,” is proved to be erroneous by the passages just cited. ttæK; is reflective, or to be taken as a dat. commodi, denoting the inquirer or seeker.
The person approached for the purpose of inquiring or seeking, i.e., God, is indicated by the preposition b] , as in 1 Chron 10:14 hwO;hy] vræD; ); and also frequently, in the case of idols, when either an oracle or help is sought from them (1 Sam 28:7; 2 Kings 1:2ff.). It is only in this way that ttæK; and µyrit;a can be made to correspond to the same words in the apodosis:
Whosoever seeks counsel of God, to him will God show Himself answering µyrit;a , in Him, i.e., in accordance with His nature, in His own way-namely, in the manner described in v. 8. The threat is composed of passages in the law: wgw µynip; ˆtæn; and wgw træK; , after Lev 20:3,5-6; and wgw WhytiwOmvij\wæ , though somewhat freely, after Deut 28:37 ( wgw lv;m; hM;væ hy;h; ). There is no doubt, therefore, that ytiwOMvih\ is to be derived from µmev; , and stands for ytiwOMvih\ , in accordance with the custom in later writings of resolving the Dagesh forte into a long vowel. The allusion to Deut 28:37, compared with twOa hy;h; in v. 46 of the same chapter, is sufficient to set aside the assumption that ytwmvh is to be derived from µWc , and pointed accordingly; although the LXX, Targ., Syr., and Vulg. have all renderings of µWc (cf. Ps 44:16). Moreover, µWc in the perfect never takes the Hiphil form; and in Ezek 20:26 we have µmev; in a similar connection. The expression is a pregnant one: I make him desolate, so that he becomes a sign and proverbs.
Verse 9-11. No prophet is to give any other answer.
V. 10. They shall bear their guilt: as the guilt of the inquirer, so shall the guilt of the prophet be; V. 11. In order that the house of Israel may no more stray from me, and may no more defile itself with all its transgressions; but they may be my people, and I their God is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.-The prophet who allows himself to be persuaded is not a prophet ble (Ezek 13:2), but one who really thinks that he has a word of God. pitaah, to persuade, to entice by friendly words (in a good sense, Hos 2:16); but generally sensu malo, to lead astray, or seduce to that which is unallowable or evil. “If he allow himself to be persuaded:” not necessarily “with the hope of payment from the hypocrites who consult him” (Michaelis).
This weakens the thought. It might sometimes be done from unselfish good-nature. And “the word” itself need not have been a divine oracle of his own invention, or a false prophecy. The allusion is simply to a word of a different character from that contained in vv. 6-8, which either demands repentance or denounces judgment upon the impenitent: every word, therefore, which could by any possibility confirm the sinner in his security.- By hwO;hy] ynæa (v. 9) the apodosis is introduced in an emphatic manner, as in vv. 4 and 7; but ht;p; cannot be taken in a future sense (“I will persuade”). It must be a perfect; since the persuading of the prophet would necessarily precede his allowing himself to be persuaded. The Fathers and earlier Lutheran theologians are wrong in their interpretation of ht;p; , which they understand in a permissive sense, meaning simply that God allowed it, and did not prevent their being seduced.
Still more wrong are Storr and Schmieder, the former of whom regards it as simply declaratory, “I will declare him to have gone astray from the worship of Jehovah;” the latter, “I will show him to be a fool, by punishing him for his disobedience.” The words are rather to be understood in accordance with 1 Kings 22:20ff., where the persuading (pittâh) is done by a lying spirit, which inspires the prophets of Ahab to predict success to the king, in order that he may fall. As Jehovah sent the spirit in that case, and put it into the mouth of the prophets, so is the persuasion in this instance also effected by God: not merely divine permission, but divine ordination and arrangement; though this does not destroy human freedom, but, like all “persuading,” presupposes the possibility of not allowing himself to be persuaded. See the discussion of this question in the commentary on Kings 22:20ff.
The remark of Calvin on the verse before us is correct: “it teaches that neither impostures nor frauds take place apart from the will of God” (nisi Deo volente). But this willing on the part of God, or the persuading of the prophets to the utterance of self-willed words, which have not been inspired by God, only takes place in persons who admit evil into themselves, and is designed to tempt them and lead them to decide whether they will endeavour to resist and conquer the sinful inclinations of their hearts, or will allow them to shape themselves into outward deeds, in which case they will become ripe for judgment. It is in this sense that God persuades such a prophet, in order that He may then cut him off out of His people. But this punishment will not fall upon the prophet only. It will reach the seeker or inquirer also, in order if possible to bring Israel back from its wandering astray, and make it into a people of God purified from sin (vv. 10 and 11). It was to this end that, in the last times of the kingdom of Judah, God allowed false prophecy to prevail so mightily-namely, that it might accelerate the process of distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked; and then, by means of the judgment which destroyed the wicked, purify His nation and lead it on to the great end of its calling.
The Righteousness of the Godly will not Avert the Judgment.
The threat contained in the preceding word of God, that if the idolaters did not repent, God would not answer them in any other way than with an exterminating judgment, left the possibility still open, that He would avert the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem for the sake of the righteous therein, as He had promised the patriarch Abraham that He would do in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:23ff.). This hope, which might be cherished by the people and by the elders who had come to the prophet, is now to be taken from the people by the word of God which follows, containing as it does the announcement, that if any land should sin so grievously against God by its apostasy, He would be driven to inflict upon it the punishments threatened by Moses against apostate Israel (Lev 26:22,25-26, and elsewhere), namely, to destroy both man and beast, and make the land a desert; it would be of no advantage to such a land to have certain righteous men, such as Noah, Daniel, and Job, living therein.
For although these righteous men would be saved themselves, their righteousness could not possibly secure salvation for the sinners. The manner in which this thought is carried out in vv. 13-20 is, that four exterminating punishments are successively supposed to come upon the land and lay it waste; and in the case of every one, the words are repeated, that even righteous men, such as Noah, Daniel, and Job, would only save their own souls, and not one of the sinners. And thus, according to vv. 21- 23, will the Lord act when He sends His judgments against Jerusalem; and He will execute them in such a manner that the necessity and righteousness of His acts shall be made manifest therein.-This word of God forms a supplementary side-piece to Jer. 15:1-43, where the Lord replies to the intercession of the prophet, that even the intercession of a Moses and a Samuel on behalf of the people would not avert the judgments which were suspended over them.
V. 12. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 13. Son of man, if a land sin against me to act treacherously, and I stretch out my hand against it, and break in pieces for it the support of bread, and send famine into it, and cut off from it man and beast: V. 14. And there should be these three men therein, Noah, Daniel, and Job, they would through their righteousness deliver their soul, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
V. 15. If I bring evil beasts into the land, so that they make it childless, and it become a desert, so that no one passeth through it because of the beasts: V. 16. These three men therein, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would not deliver sons and daughters; they only would be delivered, but the land would become a desert.
V. 17. Or I bring the sword into that land, and say, Let the sword go through the land; and I cut off from it man and beast: V. 18. These three men therein, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would not deliver sons and daughters, but they only would be delivered.
V. 19. Or I send pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: V. 20. Verily, Noah, Daniel, and Job, in the midst of it, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would only deliver their own soul through their righteousness xr,a, in v. 13 is intentionally left indefinite, that the thought may be expressed in the most general manner. On the other hand, the sin is very plainly defined as l[æmæAl[;m]lie l[æm; . l[æmæ , literally, to cover, signifies to act in a secret or treacherous manner, especially towards Jehovah, either by apostasy from Him, in other words, by idolatry, or by withholding what is due to Him (see comm. on Lev 5:15).
In the passage before us it is the treachery of apostasy from Him by idolatry that is intended. As the epithet used to denote the sin is taken from Lev 26:40 and Deut 32:51, so the four punishments mentioned in the following verses, as well as in Ezek 5:17, are also taken from Lev 26-viz. the breaking up of the staff of bread, from v. 26; the evil beasts, from v. 22; and the sword and pestilence, from v. 25. The three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, are named as examples of true righteousness of life, or hq;d;x] (vv. 14, 20); i.e., according to Calvin’s correct explanation, quicquid pertinet ad regulam sancte et juste vivendi. Noah is so described in Gen 6:9; and Job, in the Book of Job 1:1; 12:4, etc.; and Daniel, in like manner, is mentioned in Dan 1:8ff., Ezek 6:11ff., as faithfully confessing his faith in his life. The fact that Daniel is named before Job does not warrant the conjecture that some other older Daniel is meant, of whom nothing is said in the history, and whose existence is merely postulated.
For the enumeration is not intended to be chronological, but is arranged according to the subject-matter; the order being determined by the nature of the deliverance experienced by these men for their righteousness in the midst of great judgments. Consequently, as Hävernick and Kliefoth have shown, we have a climax here: Noah saved his family along with himself; Daniel was able to save his friends (Dan 2:17-18); but Job, with his righteousness, was not even able to save his children.-The second judgment (v. 15) is introduced with aWl , which, as a rule, supposes a case that is not expected to occur, or even regarded as possible; here, however, aWl is used as perfectly synonymous with µai . lkov; has no Mappik, because the tone is drawn back upon the penultima (see comm. on Amos 1:11). In v. 19, the expression “to pour out my wrath in blood” is a pregnant one, for to pour out my wrath in such a manner that it is manifested in the shedding of blood or the destruction of life, for the life is in the blood. In this sense pestilence and blood were also associated in Ezek 5:17.
If we look closely at the four cases enumerated, we find the following difference in the statements concerning the deliverance of the righteous: that, in the first instance, it is simply stated that Noah, Daniel, and Job would save their soul, i.e., their life, by their righteousness; whereas, in the three others, it is declared that as truly as the Lord liveth they would not save either sons or daughters, but they alone would be delivered. The difference is not merely a rhetorical climax or progress in the address by means of asseveration and antithesis, but indicates a distinction in the thought. The first case is only intended to teach that in the approaching judgment the righteous would save their lives, i.e., that God would not sweep away the righteous with the ungodly. The three cases which follow are intended, on the other hand, to exemplify the truth that the righteousness of the righteous will be of no avail to the idolaters and apostates; since even such patterns of righteousness as Noah, Daniel, and Job would only save their own lives, and would not be able to save the lives of others also. This tallies with the omission of the asseveration in v. 14. The first declaration, that God would deliver the righteous in the coming judgments, needed no asseveration, inasmuch as this truth was not called in question; but it was required in the case of the declaration that the righteousness of the righteous would bring no deliverance to the sinful nation, since this was the hope which the ungodly cherished, and it was this hope which was to be taken from them. The other differences which we find in the description given of the several cases are merely formal in their nature, and do not in any way affect the sense; e.g., the use of alo , in v. 18, instead of the particle µai , which is commonly employed in oaths, and which we find in vv. 16 and 20; the choice of the singular ˆBe and tBæ , in v. 20, in the place of the plural tBæ ˆBe , used in vv. 16 and 18; and the variation in the expressions, vp,n, lxæn; (v. 14), vp,n, lxæn; (v. 20), and lxæn; dBæ µhe (vv. and 18), which Hitzig proposes to remove by altering the first two forms into the third, though without the slightest reason. For although the Piel occurs in Ex 12:36 in the sense of taking away or spoiling, and is not met with anywhere else in the sense of delivering, it may just as well be used in this sense, as the Hiphil has both significations.
Verse 21-23. The rule expounded in vv. 13-20 is here applied to Jerusalem.
V. 21. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, How much more when I send my four evil judgments, sword, and famine, and evil beasts, and pestilence, against Jerusalem, to cut off from it man and beast?
V. 22. And, behold, there remain escaped ones in her who will be brought out, sons and daughters; behold, they will go out to you, that ye may see their walk and their works; and console yourselves concerning the evil which I have brought upon Jerusalem.
V. 23. And they will console you, when ye see their walk and their works: and ye will see that I have not done without cause all that I have done to her, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
By yKi in v. 21 the application of the general rule to Jerusalem is made in the form of a reason. The meaning, however, is not, that the reason why Jehovah was obliged to act in this unsparing manner was to be found in the corrupt condition of the nation, as Hävernick supposes-a thought quite foreign to the context; but yKi indicates that the judgments upon Jerusalem will furnish a practical proof of the general truth expressed in vv. 13-20, and so confirm it.
This yKi is no more an emphatic yea than the following ãaæ is a forcible introduction to the antithesis formed by the coming fact, to the merely imaginary cases mentioned above” (Hitzig). ãaæ has undoubtedly the force of a climax, but not of an asseveration, “verily” (Häv.); a meaning which this particle never has. It is used here, as in Job 4:19, in the sense of yKi ãaæ ; and the yKi which follows ãaæ in this case is a conditional particle of time, “when.” Consequently yKi ought properly to be written twice; but it is only used once, as in Ezek 15:5; Job 9:14, etc. The thought is this: how much more will this be the case, namely, that even a Noah, Daniel, and Job will not deliver either sons or daughters when I send my judgments upon Jerusalem. The perfect jlæv; is used, and not the imperfect, as in v. 13, because God has actually resolved upon sending it, and does not merely mention it as a possible case.
The number four is significant, symbolizing the universality of the judgment, or the thought that it will fall on all sides, or upon the whole of Jerusalem; whereby it must also be borne in mind that Jerusalem as the capital represents the kingdom of Judah, or the whole of Israel, so far as it was still in Canaan. At the same time, by the fact that the Lord allows sons and daughters to escape death, and to be led away to Babylon, He forces the acknowledgment of the necessity and righteousness of His judgments among those who are in exile. This is in general terms the thought contained in vv. 22 and 23, to which very different meanings have been assigned by the latest expositors. Hävernick, for example, imagines that, in addition to the four ordinary judgments laid down in the law, v. announces a new and extraordinary one; whereas Hitzig and Kliefoth have found in these two verses the consolatory assurance, that in the time of the judgments a few of the younger generation will be rescued and taken to those already in exile in Babylon, there to excite pity as well as to express it, and to give a visible proof of the magnitude of the judgment which has fallen upon Israel. They differ so far from each other, however, that Hitzig regards those of the younger generation who are saved as qydixæ , who have saved themselves through their innocence, but not their guilty parents, and who will excite the commiseration of those already in exile through their blameless conduct; whilst Kliefoth imagines that those who are rescued are simply less criminal than the rest, and when they come to Babylon will be pitied by those who have been longer in exile, and will pity them in return.
Neither of these views does justice to the words themselves or to the context. The meaning of. v. 22a is clear enough; and in the main there has been no difference of opinion concerning it. When man and beast are cut off out of Jerusalem by the four judgments, all will not perish; but hf;ylep] , i.e., persons who have escaped destruction, will be left, and will be led out of the city. These are called sons and daughters, with an allusion to vv. 16, 18, and 20; and consequently we must not take these words as referring to the younger generation in contrast to the older. They will be led out of Jerusalem, not to remain in the land, but to come to “you,” i.e., those already in exile, that is to say, to go into exile to Babylon. This does not imply either a modification or a sharpening of the punishment; for the cutting off of man and beast from a town may be effected not only by slaying, but by leading away.
The design of God in leaving some to escape, and carrying them to Babylon, is explained in the clauses which follow from ha;r; onwards, the meaning of which depends partly upon the more precise definition of Ër,D, and `hl;yli[ , and partly upon the explanation to be given of h[;r;h;Al[æ µT,m]jæni and tae µjæn; . The ways and works are not to be taken without reserve as good and righteous works, as Kliefoth has correctly shown in his reply to Hitzig. Still less can ways and works denote their experience or fate, which is the explanation given by Kliefoth of the words, when expounding the meaning and connection of vv. 21-23. The context certainly points to wicked ways and evil works. And it is only the sight of such works that could lead to the conviction that it was not µN;ji , in vain, i.e., without cause, that God had inflicted such severe judgments upon Jerusalem. And in addition to this effect, which is mentioned in v. 23 as produced upon those who were already in exile, by the sight of the conduct of the hf;ylep] that came to Babylon, the immediate design of God is described in v. 22b as wgw h[;r;h;Al[æ .
The verb µjæn; with `l[æ cannot be used here in the sense of to repent of, or be sorry for, a judgment which God has inflicted upon him, but only of evil which he himself has done; and µjæn; does not mean to pity a person, either when construed in the Piel with an accusative of the person, or in the Niphal c. `l[æ , rei. µjæn; is Niphal, and signifies here to console oneself, as in Gen 38:12 with `l[æ , concerning anything, as in 2 Sam 13:39; Jer 31:15, etc.; and µjæn; (v. 23), with the accusative of the person, to comfort any one, as in Gen. 51:21; Job 2:11, etc. But the works and doings of those who came to Babylon could only produce this effect upon those who were already there, from the fact that they were of such a character as to demonstrate the necessity for the judgments which had fallen upon Jerusalem. A conviction of the necessity for the divine judgments would cause them to comfort themselves with regard to the evil inflicted by God; inasmuch as they would see, not only that the punishment endured was a chastisement well deserved, but that God in His righteousness would stay the punishment when it had fulfilled His purpose, and restore the penitent sinner to favour once more.
But the consolation which those who were in exile would derive from a sight of the works of the sons and daughters who had escaped from death and come to Babylon, is attributed in v. 23 tae µjæn; ) to the persons themselves. It is in this sense that it is stated that “they will comfort you;” not by expressions of pity, but by the sight of their conduct. This is directly affirmed in the words, “when ye shall see their conduct and their works.”
Consequently v. 23a does not contain a new thought, but simply the thought already expressed in v. 22b, which is repeated in a new form to make it the more emphatic. And the expression `aaleyhaa heebee’tiy kaal- ’asher ‘eet, in v. 22, serves to increase the force; whilst tae , in the sense of quoad, serves to place the thought to be repeated in subordination to the whole clause (cf. Ewald, §277a, p. 683).
JERUSALEM, THE USELESS WOOD OF A WILD VINE As certainly as God will not spare Jerusalem for the sake of the righteousness of the few righteous men therein, so certain is it that Israel has no superiority over other nations, which could secure Jerusalem against destruction. As the previous word of God overthrows false confidence in the righteousness of the godly, what follows in this chapter is directed against the fancy that Israel cannot be rejected and punished by the overthrow of the kingdom, because of its election to be the people of God.
V. 1. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 2. Son of man, what advantage has the wood of the vine over every wood, the vine-branch, which was among the trees of the forest?
V. 6. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, As the wood of the vine among the wood of the forest, which I give to the fire to consume, so do I give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem, V. 7. And direct my face against them. They have gone out of the fire, and the fire will consume them; that ye may learn that I am Jehovah, when I set my face against them.
Israel is like the wood of the wild vine, which is put into the fire to burn, because it is good for nothing. From Deut 32:32-33 onwards, Israel is frequently compared to a vine or a vineyard (cf. Ps 80:9ff.; Isa 5; Hos 10:1; Jer 2:21), and always, with the exception of Ps 80, to point out its degeneracy. This comparison lies at the foundation of the figure employed, in vv. 2-5, of the wood of the wild vine. This wood has no superiority over any other kind of wood. It cannot be used, like other timber, for any useful purposes; but is only fit to be burned, so that it is really inferior to all other wood (vv. 2 and 3a). And if, in its perfect state, it cannot be used for anything, how much less when it is partially scorched and consumed (vv. and 5)! hy,h]YiAhmæ , followed by ˆmi , means, what is it above ˆmi , comparative)?-i.e., what superiority has it to x[eAlK; , all kinds of wood? i.e., any other wood. wgw rv,a hr;wOmz] is in apposition to ˆp,G,hæ x[e , and is not to be connected with x[eAlK;mi , as it has been by the LXX and Vulgate-notwithstanding the Masoretic accentuation-so as to mean every kind of fagot; for hr;wOmz] does not mean a fagot, but the tendril or branch of the vine (cf. Ezek 8:17), which is still further defined by the following relative clause: to be a wood-vine, i.e., a wild vine, which bears only sour, uneatable grapes.
The preterite hy;h; (which was; not, “is”) may be explained from the idea that the vine had been fetched from the forest in order that its wood might be used. The answer given in v. 3 is, that this vine-wood cannot be used for any purpose whatever, not even as a peg for hanging any kind of domestic utensils upon (see comm. on Zech 10:4). It is too weak even for this. The object has to be supplied to hk;al;m] `hc;[; : to make, or apply it, for any work. Because it cannot be used as timber, it is burned. A fresh thought is introduced in v. 4b by the words q µyinæv] tae . The two clauses in v. 4b are to be connected together. The first supposes a case, from which the second is deduced as a conclusion. The question, “Is it fit for any work?” is determined in v. 5 in the negative. yKi ãaæ : as in Ezek 14:21. rræj; : perfect; and rræj; : imperfect, Niphal, of chaarar, in the sense of, to be burned or scorched.
The subject to rræj; is no doubt the wood, to which the suffix in lkæa; refers. At the same time, the two clauses are to be understood, in accordance with v. 4b, as relating to the burning of the ends and the scorching of the middle.-Vv. 6-8. In the application of the parable, the only thing to which prominence is given, is the fact that God will deal with the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the same manner as with the vine-wood, which cannot be used for any kind of work. This implies that Israel resembles the wood of a forest-vine. As this possesses no superiority to other wood, but, on the contrary, is utterly useless, so Israel has no superiority to other nations, but is even worse than they, and therefore is given up to the fire.
This is accounted for in v. 7: “They have come out of the fire, and the fire will consume them” (the inhabitants of Jerusalem). These words are not to be interpreted proverbially, as meaning, “he who escapes one judgment falls into another” (Hävernick), but show the application of vv. 4b and 5 to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Out of a fire one must come either burned or scorched.
Israel has been in the fire already. It resembles a wild vine which has been consumed at both ends by the fire, while the middle has been scorched, and which is now about to be given up altogether to the fire. We must not restrict the fire, however, out of which it has come half consumed, to the capture of Jerusalem in the time of Jehoiachin, as Hitzig does, but must extend it to all the judgments which fell upon the covenant nation, from the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes to the catastrophe in the reign of Jehoiachin, and in consequence of which Israel now resembled a vine burned at both ends and scorched in the middle. The threat closes in the same manner as the previous one. Compare v. 7b with Ezek 14:8b, and v. 8 with ch. 14:15 and 13.
INGRATITUDE AND UNFAITHFULNESS OF JERUSALEM. ITS PUNISHMENT AND SHAME.
The previous word of God represented Israel as a wild and useless vine, which had to be consumed. But as God had planted this vine in His vineyard, as He had adopted Israel as His own people, the rebellious nation, though met by these threatenings of divine judgment, might still plead that God would not reject Israel, on account of its election as the covenant nation. This proof of false confidence in the divine covenant of grace is removed by the word of God in the present chapter, which shows that by nature Israel is no better than other nations; and that, in consequence of its shameful ingratitude towards the Lord, who saved it from destruction in the days of its youth, it has sinned so grievously against Him, and has sunk so low among the heathen through its excessive idolatry, that God is obliged to punish and judge it in the same manner as the others. At the same time, the Lord will continue mindful of His covenant; and on the restoration of Sodom and Samaria, He will also turn the captivity of Jerusalem-to the deep humiliation and shame of Israel-and will establish an everlasting covenant with it.-The contents of this word of God divide themselves, therefore, into three parts. In the first, we have the description of the nations’s sin, through its falling away from its God into idolatry (vv. 2-34); in the second, the announcement of the punishment (vv. 35-52); and in the third, the restoration of Israel to favour (vv. 53-63). The past, present, and future of Israel are all embraced, from its first commencement to its ultimate consummation.-These copious contents are draped in an allegory, which is carried out on a magnificent scale. Starting from the representation of the covenant relation existing between the Lord and His people, under the figure of a marriage covenant-which runs through the whole of the Scriptures-Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of God, as the representative of Israel, the covenant nation, is addressed as a wife; and the attitude of God to Israel, as well of that of Israel to its God, is depicted under this figure.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Israel, by nature unclean, miserable, and near to destruction (vv. 3-5), is adopted by the Lord and clothed in splendour (vv. 6-14). Vv. 1 and 2 form the introduction.
V. 1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 2. Son of man, show Jerusalem her abominations. The “abominations” of Jerusalem are the sins of the covenant nation, which were worse than the sinful abominations of Canaan and Sodom. The theme of this word of God is the declaration of these abominations. To this end the nation is first of all shown what it was by nature.
V. 5. No eye looked upon thee with pity, to do one of these to thee in compassion; but thou wast cast into the field, in disgust at thy life, on the day of thy birth. According to the allegory, which runs through the whole chapter, the figure adopted to depict the origin of the Israelitish nation is that Jerusalem, the existing representative of the nation, is described as a child, born of Canaanitish parents, mercilessly exposed after its birth, and on the point of perishing. Hitzig and Kliefoth show that they have completely misunderstood the allegory, when they not only explain the statement concerning the descent of Jerusalem, in v. 3, as relating to the city of that name, but restrict it to the city alone, on the ground that “Israel as a whole was not of Canaanitish origin, whereas the city of Jerusalem was radically a Canaanitish, Amoritish, and Hittite city.” But were not all the cities of Israel radically Canaanaean? Or was Israel not altogether, but only half, of Aramaean descent?
Regarded merely as a city, Jerusalem was neither of Amoritish nor Hittite origin, but simply a Jebusite city. And it is too obvious to need any proof, that the prophetic word does not refer to the city as a city, or to the mass of houses; but that Jerusalem, as the capital of the kingdom of Judah at that time, so far as its inhabitants were concerned, represents the people of Israel, or the covenant nation. It was not the mass of houses, but the population-which was the foundling-that excited Jehovah’s compassion, and which He multiplied into myriads (v. 7), clothed in splendour, and chose as the bride with whom He concluded a marriage covenant. The descent and birth referred to are not physical, but spiritual descent.
Spiritually, Israel sprang from the land of the Canaanites; and its father was the Amorite ad its mother a Hittite, in the same sense in which Jesus said to the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).
The land of the Canaanites is mentioned as the land of the worst heathen abominations; and from among the Canaanitish tribes, the Amorites and Hittites are mentioned as father and mother, not because the Jebusites are placed between the two, in Num 13:29, as Hitzig supposes, but because they were recognised as the leaders in Canaanitish ungodliness. The iniquity of the Amorites yrimoa ) was great even in Abraham’s time, though not yet full or ripe for destruction (Gen 15:16); and the daughters of Heth, whom Esau married, caused Rebekah great bitterness of spirit (Gen 27:46).
These facts furnish the substratum for our description. And they also help to explain the occurrence of yrimoa with the article, and tyTiji without it.
The plurals hr;Wkm] and td,l,wOm also point to spiritual descent; for physical generation and birth are both acts that take place once for all. hr;kom] or hr;Wkm] (Ezek 21:35; 29:14) is not the place of begetting, but generation itself, from rWK = hr;K; , to dig = to beget (cf. Isa 51:1). It is not equivalent to rwOqm; , or a plural corresponding to the Latin natales, origines. td,l,wOm : birth.
Vv. 4 and 5 describe the circumstances connected with the birth. td,l,wOm (v. 4) stands at the head as an absolute noun. At the birth of the child it did not receive the cleansing and care which were necessary for the preservation and strengthening of its life, but was exposed without pity.
The construction tae dlæy; (the passive, with an accusative of the object) is the same as in Gen 40:20, and many other passages of the earlier writings. træK; : for korat (Judg 6:28), Pual of træK; ; and rvo : from rvo , with the reduplication of the r, which is very rare in Hebrew (vid., Ewald, §71). By cutting the navel-string, the child is liberated after birth from the blood of the mother, with which it was nourished in the womb. If the cutting be neglected, as well as the tying of the navel-string, which takes place at the same time, the child must perish when the decomposition of the placenta begins.
The new-born child is then bathed, to cleanse it from the impurities attaching to it. y[iv]mi cannot be derived from h[;v; = [[vi; because neither the meaning to see, to look h[;v; ), nor the other meaning to smear ( [[v ), yields a suitable sense. Jos. Kimchi is evidently right in deriving it from [v]r; , in Arabic mš’, 2 and 4, to wipe off, cleanse. The termination y is the Aramaean form of the absolute state, for the Hebrew ty[iv]mæ , cleansing (cf. Ewald, §165a). After the washing, the body was rubbed with salt, according to a custom very widely spread in ancient times, and still met with here and there in the East (vid., Hieron. ad h. l. Galen, de Sanit. i. 7; Troilo Reisebeschr. p. 721); and that not merely for the purpose of making the skin drier and firmer, or of cleansing it more thoroughly, but probably from a regard to the virtue of salt as a protection from putrefaction, “to express in a symbolical manner a hope and desire for the vigorous health of the child” (Hitzig and Hävernick). And, finally, it was bound round with swaddling-clothes.
Not one of these things, so indispensable to the preservation and strengthening of the child, was performed in the case of Israel at the time of its birth from any feeling of compassionate love ( hl;m]hul] , infinitive, to show pity or compassion towards it); but it was cast into the field, i.e., exposed, in order that it might perish vp,n, l[æGO in disgust at thy life (compare l[æG; , to thrust away, reject, despise, Lev 26:11; 15:30). The day of the birth of Jerusalem, i.e., of Israel, was the period of its sojourn in Egypt, where Israel as a nation was born-the sons of Jacob who went down to Egypt having multiplied into a nation. The different traits in this picture are not to be interpreted as referring to historical peculiarities, but have their explanation in the totality of the figure. At the same time, they express much more than “that Israel not only stood upon a level with all other nations, so far as its origin and its nature were concerned, but was more helpless and neglected as to both its nature and its natural advantages, possessing a less gifted nature than other nations, and therefore inferior to the rest” (Kliefoth).
The smaller gifts, or humbler natural advantages, are thoughts quite foreign to the words of the figure as well as to the context. Both the Canaanitish descent and the merciless exposure of the child point to a totally different point of view, as indicated by the allegory. The Canaanitish descent points to the moral depravity of the nature of Israel; and the neglected condition of the child is intended to show how little there was in the heathen surroundings of the youthful Israel in Canaan and Egypt that was adapted to foster its life and health, or to educate Israel and fit it for its future destination. To the Egyptians the Israelites were an abomination, as a race of shepherds; and not long after the death of Joseph, the Pharaohs began to oppress the growing nation.
Israel therefore owes its preservation and exaltation to honour and glory to the Lord its God alone.
V. 6. Then I passed by thee, and saw thee stamping in thy blood, and said to thee, In thy blood live! and said to thee, In thy blood live!
V. 7. I made thee into myriads as the growth of the field, and thou grewest and becamest tall, and camest to ornament of cheeks. The breasts expanded, and thy hair grew, whereas thou wast naked and bare. V. 8. And I passed by thee, and saw thee, and, behold, it was thy time, the time of love; and I spread my wing over thee, and covered thy nakedness; and I swore to thee, and entered into covenant with thee, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, and thou becamest mine.
V. 13. And thou didst adorn thyself with gold and silver; and thy clothing was byssus, and silk, and embroidery. Wheaten-flour, and honey, and oil thou didst eat; and thou wast very beautiful; and didst thrive to regal dignity.
The description of what the Lord did for Israel in His compassionate love is divided into two sections by the repetition of the phrase “I passed by thee” (vv. 6 and 8). The first embraces what God had done for the preservation and increase of the nation; the second, what He had done for the glorification of Israel, by adopting it as the people of His possession.
When Israel was lying in the field as a neglected new-born child, the Lord passed by and adopted it, promising it life, and giving it strength to live. To bring out the magnitude of the compassion of God, the fact that the child was lying in its blood is mentioned again and again. The explanation to be given of sWB (the Hithpolel of sWB, to trample upon, tread under foot) is doubtful, arising from the difficulty of deciding whether the Hithpolel is to be taken in a passive or a reflective sense. The passive rendering, “trampled upon” (Umbreit), or ad conculcandum projectus, thrown down, to be trodden under foot (Gesenius, etc.), is open to the objection that the Hophal is used for this. We therefore prefer the reflective meaning, treading oneself, or stamping; as the objection offered to this, namely, that a new-born child thrown into a field would not be found stamping with the feet, has no force in an allegorical description.
In the clause v. 6b, which is written twice, the question arises whether µD; is to be taken with hy;j; or with ttæK; rmæa; : I said to thee, “In thy blood live;” or, “I said to thee in thy blood, ‘Live.’” We prefer the former, because it gives a more emphatic sense. µD; is a concise expression; for although lying in thy blood, in which thou wouldst inevitably bleed to death, yet thou shalt live. Hitzig’s proposal to connect µD; in the first clause with yjæ , and in the second with rmæa; , can hardly be entertained. A double construction of this kind is not required either by the repetition of ttæK; rmæa; , or by the uniform position of Ëymdb before yjæ in both clauses, as compared with 1 Kings 20:18 and Isa 27:5.
In v. 7a the description of the real fact breaks through the allegory. The word of God hy;j; , live, was visibly fulfilled in the innumerable multiplication of Israel. But the allegory is resumed immediately. The child grew bræ , as in Gen 21:20; Deut 30:16), and came into ornament of cheeks awOB with b] , to enter into a thing, as in v. 8; not to proceed in, as Hitzig supposes). µyyd[ ydi[\ , not most beautiful ornament, or highest charms, for µyyd[ is not the plural of `ydi[ ; but according to the Chetib and most of the editions, with the tone upon the penultima, is equivalent to `ydi[ , a dual form; so that `ydi[ cannot mean ornament in this case, but, as in Ps 39:9 and 103:5, “the cheek,” which is the traditional meaning (cf. Ges.
Thes. p. 993). Ornament of cheeks is youthful freshness and beauty of face.
The clauses which follow describe the arrival of puberty. ˆWK, when applied to the breasts, means to expand, lit., to raise oneself up. r[;ce = lg,r, r[æcæ , pubes. The description given in these verses refers to the preservation and marvellous multiplication of Israel in Egypt, where the sons of Israel grew into a nation under the divine blessing. Still it was quite naked and bare `µroy[e and `hy;r][, are substantives in the abstract sense of nakedness and bareness, used in the place of adjective to give greater emphasis). Naked and bare are figurative expressions for still destitute of either clothing or ornaments. This implies something more than “the poverty of the people in the wilderness attached to Egypt” (Hitzig). Nakedness represents deprivation of all the blessings of salvation with which the Lord endowed Israel and made it glorious, after He had adopted it as the people of His possession. In Egypt, Israel was living in a state of nature, destitute of the gracious revelations of God.
The Lord then went past again, and chose for His bride the virgin, who had already grown up to womanhood, and with whom He contracted marriage by the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai. `t[e , thy time, is more precisely defined as dwOD `t[e , the time of conjugal love. I spread my wing over thee, i.e., the lappet of my garment, which also served as a counterpane; in other words, I married thee (cf. Ruth. Ezek 3:9), and thereby covered thy nakedness. “I swore to thee,” sc. love and fidelity (cf. Hos 2:21-22), and entered into a covenant with thee, i.e., into that gracious connection formed by the adoption of Israel as the possession of Jehovah, which is represented as a marriage covenant (compare Ex 24:8 and 19:5-6, and Deut tae for tae ). Vv. 9ff. describe how Jehovah provided for the purification, clothing, adorning, and maintenance of His wife.
As the bride prepares herself for the wedding by washing and anointing, so did the Lord cleanse Israel from the blemishes and impurities which adhered to it from its birth. The rinsing from the blood must not be understood as specially referring either to the laws of purification given to the nation (Hitzig), or as relating solely to the purification effected by the covenant sacrifice (Hävernick). It embraces all that the Lord did for the purifying of the people from the pollution of sin, i.e., for its sanctification.
The anointing with oil indicates the powers of the Spirit of God, which flowed to Israel from the divine covenant of grace. The clothing with costly garments, and adorning with all the jewellery of a wealthy lady or princess, points to the equipment of Israel with all the gifts that promote the beauty and glory of life. The clothing is described as made of the costliest materials with which queens were accustomed to clothe themselves. hm;q]ri , embroidered cloth (Ps 45:15). vjæTæ , probably the seacow, Manati (see the comm. on Ex 25:5). The word is used here for a fine description of leather of which ornamental sandals were made; a kind of morocco. “I bound thee round with byssus:” this refers to the headband; for chaabash is the technical expression for the binding or winding round of the turban-like headdress (cf. Ezek 24:17; Ex 29:9; Lev 8:13), and is applied by the Targum to the headdress of the priests. Consequently covering with yvim, , as distinguished from clothing, can only refer to covering with the veil, one of the principal articles of a woman’s toilet. The aJp leg yvim, (vv. 10 and 13) is explained by the Rabbins as signifying silk. The LXX render it tri>capton . According to Jerome, this is a word formed by the LXX: quod tantae subtilitatis fuerit vestimentum, ut pilorum et capillorum tenuitatem habere credatur. The jewellery included not only armlets, nose-rings, and ear-rings, which the daughters of Israel were generally accustomed to wear, but also necklaces and a crown, as ornaments worn by princesses and queens.
For rybir] , see comm. on Gen 41:42. V. 13 sums up the contents of vv. 9- 12. sheeshiy is made to conform to yvim, ; the food is referred to once more; and the result of the whole is said to have been, that Jerusalem became exceedingly beautiful, and flourished even to royal dignity. The latter cannot be taken as referring simply to the establishment of the monarchy under David, any more than merely to the spiritual sovereignty for which Israel was chosen from the very beginning (Ex 19:5-6). The expression includes both, viz., the call of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, and the historical realization of this call through the Davidic sovereignty. The beauty, i.e., glory, of Israel became so great, that the name of fame of Israel sounded abroad in consequence among the nations. It was perfect, because the Lord had put His glory upon His Church. This, too, we must not restrict (as Hävernick does) to the far-sounding fame of Israel on its departure from Egypt (Ex 15:14ff.); it refers pre-eminently to the glory of the theocracy under David and Solomon, the fame of which spread into all lands.-Thus had Israel been glorified by its God above all the nations, but it did not continue in fellowship with its God.
The apostasy of Israel. Its origin and nature, vv. 15-22; its magnitude and extent, vv. 23-34. In close connection with what precedes, this apostasy is described as whoredom and adultery. V. 15. But thou didst trust in thy beauty, and didst commit fornication upon thy name, and didst pour out thy fornication over every one who passed by: his it became.
V. 16. Thou didst take off thy clothes, and didst make to thyself spotted heights, and didst commit fornication upon them: things which should not come, and that which should not take place.
V. 17. And thou didst take jewellery of thine ornament of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and didst make thyself male images, and didst commit fornication with them; V. 18. And thou didst take thy embroidered clothes, and didst cover them therewith: and my oil and my incense thou didst set before them.
V. 20. And thou didst take thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou barest to me, and didst sacrifice them to them to devour. Was thy fornication too little?
V. 21. Thou didst slay my sons, and didst give them up, devoting them to them.
The beauty, i.e., the glory, of Israel led to its fall, because it made it the ground of its confidence; that is to say, it looked upon the gifts and possessions conferred upon it as its desert; and forgetting the giver, began to traffic with the heathen nations, and allowed itself to be seduced to heathen ways. For the fact, compare Deut 32:15 and Hos 13:6. “We are inflamed with pride and arrogance, and consequently profane the gifts of God, in which His glory ought to be resplendent” (Calvin). Ëmev] l[æ yniz]Tæ does not mean either “thou didst commit fornication notwithstanding thy name” (Winer and Ges. Thes. p. 422), or “against thy name” (Hävernick); for `l[æ connected with hn;z; has neither of these meanings, even in Judg 19:2.
It means, “thou didst commit fornication upon thy name, i.e., in reliance upon thy name” (Hitzig and Maurer); only we must not understand µve as referring to the name of the city of God, but must explain it, in accordance with v. 14, as denoting the name, i.e., the renown, which Israel had acquired among the heathen on account of its beauty. In the closing words, hy;h; ttæK; , ttæK; refers to rbewO[AlK; , and hy;h; stands for hy;h; , the copula having been dropped from hy;h; because ttæK; ought to stand first, and only hy;h; remaining (compare hk;n; , Hos 6:1). The subject to hy;h; is ypiy’ ; the beauty became his (cf. Ps 45:12). This fornication is depicted in concrete terms in vv. 16-22; and with the marriage relation described in vv. 8-13 still in view, Israel is represented as giving up to idolatry all that it had received from its God.-V. 16.
With the clothes it made spotted heights for itself. hm;B; stands for hm;B; tyiBæ , temples of heights, small temples erected upon heights by the side of the altars (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:29; for the fact, see the comm. on Kings 3:2), which may probably have consisted simply of tents furnished with carpets. Compare 2 Kings 23:7, where the women are described as weaving tents for Astarte, also the tent-like temples of the Slavonian tribes in Germany, which consisted of variegated carpets and curtains (see Mohne on Creuzer’s Symbolik, V. p. 176). These bamoth Ezekiel calls al;f; , not variegated, but spotted or speckled (cf. Gen 30:32), possibly with the subordinate idea of patched ( aL;fum] , Josh 9:5), because they used for the carpets not merely whole garments, but pieces of cloth as well; the word being introduced here for the purpose of indicating contemptuously the worthlessness of such conduct. “Thou didst commit whoredom upon them,” i.e., upon the carpets in the tent-temples. The words wgw awOB alo are no doubt relative clauses; but the usual explanation, “which has not occurred, and will not be,” after Ex 10:14, cannot be vindicated, as it is impossible to prove either the use of awOB in the sense of occurring or happening (= hy;h; ), or the use of the participle instead of the preterite in connection with the future. The participle awOB in this connection can only supply one of the many senses of the imperfect (Ewald, §168c), and, like hy;h; , express that which ought to be. The participial form awOB is evidently chosen for the sake of obtaining a paronomasia with hm;B; : the heights which should not come (i.e., should not be erected); while hy;h; alo points back to `l[æ hn;z; : “what should not happen.”
The jewellery of gold and silver was used by Israel for rk;z; µl,x, , idols of the male sex, to commit fornication with them. Ewald thinks that the allusion is to Penates (teraphim), which were set up in the house, with ornaments suspended upon them, and worshipped with lectisternia. But there is no more allusion to lectisternia here than in Ezek 23:41. And there is still less ground for thinking, as Vatke, Movers, and Hävernick do, of Lingam- or Phallus-worship, of which it is impossible to find the slightest trace among the Israelites. The arguments used by Hävernick have been already proved by Hitzig to have no force whatever. The context does not point to idols of any particular kind, but to the many varieties of Baalworship; whilst the worship of Moloch is specially mentioned in vv. 20ff. as being the greatest abomination of the whole.
The fact that µynip; ˆtæn; , to set before them (the idols), does not refer to lectisternia, but to sacrifices offered as food for the gods, is indisputably evident from the words jæwOjyni jæyre , the technical expression for the sacrificial odour ascending to God (cf. Lev 1:9,13, etc.). hy;h; (v. 19), and it came to pass (sc., this abomination), merely serves to give emphatic expression to the disgust which it occasioned (Hitzig).-Vv. 20, 21. And not even content with this, the adulteress sacrificed the children which God had given her to idols. The revulsion of feeling produced by the abominations of the Moloch-worship is shown in the expression lkæa; , thou didst sacrifice thy children to idols, that they might devour them; and still more in the reproachful question mt’ f[æm] , “was there too little in thy whoredom?” ˆmi before tWnz]Tæ is used in a comparative sense, though not to signify “was this a smaller thing than thy whoredom?” which would mean far too little in this connection.
The ˆmi is rather used, as in Ezek 8:17 and Isa 49:6, in the sense of too: was thy whoredom, already described in vv. 16-19, too little, that thou didst also slaughter thy children to idols? The Chetib Ëtwnzt (vv. 20 and 25) is a singular, as in vv. 25 and 29; whereas the Keri has treated it as a plural, as in vv. 15, 22, and 33, but without any satisfactory ground. The indignation comes out still more strongly in the description given of these abominations in v. 21: “thou didst slay my sons” (whereas in v. 20 we have simply “thy sons, whom thou hast born to me”), “and didst give them up to them, `rbæ[; , by making them pass through,” sc. the fire. `rbæ[; is used here not merely or lustration or februation by fire, but for the actual burning of the children slain as sacrifices, so that it is equivalent to Ël,Molæ vaeB; rybi[\hæ (2 Kings 23:10).
By the process of burning, the sacrifices were given to Moloch to devour.
Ezekiel has the Moloch-worship in his eye in the form which it had assumed from the times of Ahaz downwards, when the people began to burn their children to Moloch (cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6; 23:10), whereas all that can be proved to have been practised in earlier times by the Israelites was the passing of children through fire without either slaying or burning; a februation by fire (compare the remarks on this subject in the comm. on Lev 18:21).-Amidst all these abominations Israel did not remember its youth, or how the Lord had adopted it out of the deepest wretchedness to be His people, and had made it glorious through the abundance of His gifts. This base ingratitude shows the depth of its fall, and magnifies its guilt. For v. 22b compare vv. 7 and 6.
Extent and magnitude of the idolatry.
V. 26. Thou didst commit fornication with the sons of Egypt thy neighbours, great in flesh, and didst increase thy whoredom to provoke me. V. 27. And, behold, I stretched out my hand against thee, and diminished thine allowance, and gave thee up to the desire of those who hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of thy lewd way.
V. 28. And thou didst commit fornication with the sons of Asshur, because thou art never satisfied; and didst commit fornication with them, and wast also not satisfied.
V. 29. And thou didst increase thy whoredom to Canaan’s land, Chaldaea, and even thereby wast not satisfied.
V. 32. The adulterous wife taketh strangers instead of her husband.
V. 33. Men give presents to all prostitutes; but thou gavest thy presents to all thy suitors, and didst reward them for coming to thee from all sides, for fornication with thee.
V. 34. And there was in thee the very opposite of the women in thy whoredom, that men did not go whoring after thee. In that thou givest payment, and payment was not given to thee, thou wast the very opposite. Ëte[;r;Alk; yrej\aæ , the picture of the wide spread of idolatry, commenced in v. 22, is placed in the relation of chronological sequence to the description already given of the idolatry itself.
For all sin, all evil, must first exist before it can spread. The spreading of idolatry was at the same time an increase of apostasy from God. This is not to be sought, however, in the face that Israel forsook the sanctuary, which God had appointed for it as the scene of His gracious presence, and built itself idol-temples (Kliefoth). It consisted rather in this, that it erected idolatrous altars and little temples at all street-corners and cross-roads (vv. 24, 25), and committed adultery with all heathen nations (vv. 26, 28, 29), and could not be induced to relinquish idolatry either by the chastisements of God (v. 27), or by the uselessness of such conduct (vv. 32-34). Ëte[;r;AlK; is the whole of the apostasy from the Lord depicted in vv. 15- 22, which prevailed more and more as idolatry spread. The picture of this extension of idolatry is introduced with woe! woe! to indicate at the outset the fearful judgment which Jerusalem was bringing upon itself thereby.
The exclamation of woe is inserted parenthetically; for hn;B; (v. 24) forms the apodosis to hy;h; in v. 23. Bgæ and µWr are to be taken as general terms; but, as the singular Bgæ with the plural hm;r; in v. 39 plainly shows, Bgæ is a collective word. Hävernick has very properly called attention to the analogy between Bgæ and hB;qu in Num 25:8, which is used there to denote an apartment furnished or used for the service of Baal-peor. As hB;qu , from bbæq; , signifies literally that which is arched, a vault; so Bgæ , from gaabab, is literally that which is curved or arched, a hump or back, and hence is used here for buildings erected for idolatrous purposes, small temples built on heights, which were probably so called to distinguish them as chapels for fornication. The ancient translations suggest this, viz.: LXX oi>khma porniko>n and e>kqema , which Polychron. explains thus: proagw>gion e>nqa ta>s po>rnas tre>fein ei>wqasi ; Vulg.: lupanar and prostibulum . µWr signifies artificial heights, i.e., altars built upon eminences, commonly called bâmooth. The word râmâh is probably chosen here with an allusion to the primary signification, height, as Jerome has said: quod excelsus sit ut volentibus fornicari procul appareat fornicationis locus et non necesse sit quaeri .
The increase of the whoredom, i.e., of the idolatry and illicit intercourse with heathenish ways, is individualized in vv. 26-29 by a specification of historical facts. We cannot agree with Hitzig in restricting the illicit intercourse with Egypt (v. 26), Asshur (v. 28), and Chaldaea (v. 29) to political apostasy, as distinguished from the religious apostasy already depicted. There is nothing to indicate any such distinction. Under the figure of whoredom, both in what precedes and what follows, the inclination of Israel to heathen ways in all its extent, both religious and political, is embraced. Egypt stands first; for the apostasy of Israel from the Lord commenced with the worship of the golden calf, and the longing in the wilderness for the fleshpots of Egypt. From time immemorial Egypt was most deeply sunken in the heathenish worship of nature. The sons of Egypt as therefore described, in accordance with the allegory, as rc;B; ldeG; , magni carne (bâzâr, a euphemism; cf. Ezek 23:20), i.e., according to the correct explanation of Theodoret: meq> uJperbolh>v th> tw>n eidw>lwn qerapei>a prostethko>tav ouJ>toi ga>r kai> tra>gouv kai> bo>av kai> pro>bata ku>nav te kai> piqh>kouv kai> krokodei>louv kai> i>beiv kai> iJe>rakav proseku>nhsan .
The way in which God punished this erring conduct was, that, like a husband who endeavours by means of chastisement to induce his faithless wife to return, He diminished the supply of food, clothing, etc. (choog, as in Prov 30:8), intended for the wife (for the fact compare Hos 2:9-10); this He did by “not allowing Israel to attain to the glory and power which would otherwise have been conferred upon it; that is to say, by not permitting it to acquire the undisturbed and undivided possession of Canaan, but giving it up to the power and scorn of the princes of the Philistines” (Kliefoth). vp,n, ˆtæn; , to give any one up to the desire of another. The daughters of the Philistines are the Philistian states, corresponding to the representation of Israel as an adulterous wife. The Philistines are mentioned as the principal foes, because Israel fell completely into their power at the end of the period of the Judges (cf. Judg 13-16; 1 Sam 4:1); and they are referred to here, for the deeper humiliation of Israel, as having been ashamed of the licentious conduct of the Israelites, because they adhered to their gods, and did not exchange them for others as Israel had done (compare Jer 2:10-11). hM;zi (v. 27) is in apposition to Ër,D, : thy way, which is zimmâh. Zimmâh is applied to the sin of profligacy, as in Lev 18:17.-But Israel was not improved by this chastisement.
It committed adultery with Asshur also from the times of Ahaz, who sought help from the Assyrians (2 Kings 16:7ff.); and even with this it was not satisfied; that is to say, the serious consequences brought upon the kingdom of Judah by seeking the friendship of Assyria did not sober it, so as to lead it to give up seeking for help from the heathen and their gods. In v. 28, lae hn;z; is distinguished from hn;z; hn;z; , with accus.). The former denotes the immoral pursuit of a person for the purpose of procuring his favour; the latter, adulterous intercourse with him, when his favour has been secured. The thought of the verse is this: Israel sought the favour of Assyria, because it was not satisfied with illicit intercourse with Egypt, and continued to cultivate it; yet it did not find satisfaction or sufficiency even in this, but increased its adultery hm;yDic]Kæ ˆ[ænæK] xr,a,Ala, , to the Canaan’s-land Chaldaea. ˆ[ænæKi xr,a, is not the proper name of the land of Canaan here, but an appellative designation applied to Chaldaea (Kasdim) or Babylonia, as in Ezek 17:4 (Raschi).
The explanation of the words, as signifying the land of Canaan, is precluded by the fact that an allusion to Canaanitish idolatry and intercourse after the mention of Asshur would be out of place, and would not coincide with the historical order of things; since it cannot be shown that “a more general diffusion of the religious customs of Canaan took place after the Assyrian era.” And it is still more decidedly precluded by the introduction of the word yDic]Kæ , which cannot possibly mean as far as, or unto, Chaldaea, and can only be a more precise definition of xra ˆ[nk .
The only thing about which a question can be raised, is the reason why the epithet ˆ[nk should have been applied to Chaldaea; whether it merely related to the commercial spirit, in which Babylon was by no means behind the Canaanitish Tyre and Sidon, or whether allusion was also made to the idolatry and immorality of Canaan. The former is by no means to be excluded, as we find that in Ezek 17:4 “the land of Canaan” is designated “a city of merchants” (rookhelim). But we must not exclude the latter either, inasmuch as in the Belus- and Mylitta-worship of Babylon the voluptuous character of the Baal- and Astarte-worship of Canaan had degenerated into shameless unchastity (cf. Herodotus, i. 199).
In v. 30, the contents of vv. 16-29 are summed up in the verdict which the Lord pronounces upon the harlot and adulteress: “yet how languishing is thy heart!” lmæa; (as a participle Kal aJp leg .; since the verb only occurs elsewhere in the Pual, and that in the sense of faded or pining away) can only signify a morbid pining or languishing, or the craving of immodest desire, which has grown into a disease. The form ble is also aJp leg .; but it is analogous to the plural hB;li . f18 tf,L,væ , powerful, commanding; as an epithet applied to zoonâh, one who knows no limit to her actions, unrestrained; hence in Arabic, insolent, shameless.
V. 31 contains an independent sentence, which facilitates the transition to the thought expanded in vv. 32-34, namely, that Jerusalem had surpassed all other harlots in her whoredoms. If we take v. 31 as dependent upon the protasis in v. 30, we not only get a very dragging style of expression, but the new thought expressed in v. 31b is reduced to a merely secondary idea; whereas the expansion of it in vv. 32ff. shows that it introduces a new feature into the address. And if this is the case, ytyyih,Aalw] cannot be taken as co-ordinate with `hc;[; , but must be construed as the apodosis: “in thy building of rooms...thou wast not like the (ordinary) harlot, since thou disdainest payment.” For the plural suffix attached to hn;B; , see the commentary on Ezek 6:8. The infinitive slæq; answers to the Latin gerund in ndo (vid., Ewald, §237c and 280d), indicating wherein, or in what respect, the harlot Jerusalem differed from an ordinary prostitute; namely, in the fact that she disdained to receive payment for her prostitution.
That this is the meaning of the words, is rendered indisputable by vv. 32- 34. But the majority of expositors have taken ˆnæt]a, slæq; as indicating the point of comparison between Israel and other harlots, i.e., as defining in what respect Israel resembled other prostitutes; and then, as this thought is at variance with what follows, have attempted to remove the discrepancy by various untenable explanations. Most of them resort to the explanation: thou wast not like the other prostitutes, who disdain to receive their payment offered for their prostitution, in the hope of thereby obtaining still more, an explanation which imports into the words a thought that has no existence in them at all. Hävernick seeks to fix upon slq , by means of the Aramaean, the meaning to cry out (crying out payment), in opposition to the ordinary meaning of slq , to disdain, or ridicule, in which sense Ezekiel also uses the noun hs;L;qæ in Ezek 22:4. Hitzig falls back upon the handy method of altering the text; and finally, Kliefoth gives to l] the imaginary meaning “so far as,” i.e., “to such a degree that,” which cannot be defended either through Ex 39:19 or from Deut 24:5.
With the loose way in which the infinitive construct with l] is used, we grant that the words are ambiguous, and might have the meaning which the majority of the commentators have discovered in them; but this view is by no means necessary, inasmuch as the subordinate idea introduced by ˆnæt]a, slæq; may refer quite as well to the subject of the sentence, “thou,” as to the zoonâh with whom the subject is compared. Only in the latter case the ˆnæt]a, slæq; would apply to other harlots as well as to Israel; whereas in the former it applies to Israel alone, and shows in what it was that Israel did not resemble ordinary prostitutes. But the explanation which followed was a sufficient safeguard against mistake. In this explanation adulteresses are mentioned first (v. 32), and then common prostitutes (vv. 33, 34). V. must not be taken, as it has been by the majority of commentators, as an exclamation, or a reproof addressed to the adulteress Jerusalem: O thou adulterous wife, that taketh strangers instead of her husband! Such an exclamation as this does not suit the connection at all.
But the verse is not to be struck out on that account, as Hitzig proposes. It has simply to be construed in another way, and taken as a statement of what adulteresses do (Kliefoth). They take strangers instead of their husband, and seek their recompense in the simple change, and the pleasure of being with other men. vwOna’ tjæTæ , lit., under her husband, i.e., as a wife subject to her husband, as in the connection with hn;z; in Ezek 23:5 and Hos 4:12 (see the comm. on Num 5:19).-Vv. 33, 34. Common prostitutes give themselves up for presents; but Israel, on the contrary, gave presents to its lovers, so that it did the very opposite to all other harlots, and the practice of ordinary prostitutes was left far behind by that of Israel. The change of forms nede’ and ˆd;n; (a present) is probably to be explained simply on the ground that the form nd’ was lengthened into ndn with a consonant as the termination, because the suffix could be attached more easily to the other. Ëp,h, , the reverse, the opposite, i.e., with the present context, something unheard of, which never occurred in the case of any other harlot.-Ezekiel has thus fulfilled the task appointed him in v. 2, to charge Jerusalem with her abominations. The address now turns to an announcement of the punishment.
As Israel has been worse than all the heathen, Jehovah will punish it notwithstanding its election, so that its shame shall be uncovered before all the nations (vv. 36-42), and the justice of the judgment to be inflicted upon it shall be made manifest (vv. 43-52). According to these points of view, the threat of punishment divides itself into two parts in the following manner:-In the first (vv. 35-42) we have, first of all (in v. 36), a recapitulation of the guilty conduct described in vv. 16-34; and secondly, an announcement of the punishment corresponding to the guilt, as the punishment of adultery and murder (vv. 37 and 48), and a picture of its infliction, as retribution for the enormities committed (vv. 39-42). In the second part (vv. 43-52) there follows a proof of the justice of this judgment.
Verse 35-42. The punishment will correspond to the sin.
V. 35. Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of Jehovah!
V. 36. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thy brass has been lavished, and thy shame exposed in thy whoredom with thy lovers, and because of all the idols of thine abominations, and according to the blood of thy sons, which thou hast given them; V. 37. Therefore, behold, I will gather together all thy lovers, whom thou hast pleased, and all whom thou hast loved, together with all whom thou hast hated, and will gather them against thee from round about, and will expose thy shame to them, that they may see all thy shame.
V. 38. I will judge thee according to the judgment of adulteresses and murderesses, and make thee into blood of wrath and jealousy.
V. 39. And I will give thee into their hand, that they may destroy thy arches, and pull down thy heights; that they may strip thy clothes off thee, and take thy splendid jewellery, and leave thee naked and bare.
V. 42. And I quiet my fury toward thee, and will turn away my jealousy from thee, that I may repose and vex myself no more.
In the brief summary of the guilt of the whore, the following objects are singled out, as those for which she is to be punished: (1) the pouring out of her brass and the exposure of her shame; (2) the idols of her abominations (with `l[æ before the noun, corresponding to ˆ[æyæ before the infinitive); (3) the blood of her sons, with the preposition k] , according to, to indicate the measure of her punishment.
Two things are mentioned as constituting the first ground of punishment.
The first is, “because thy brass has been poured out.” Most of the commentators have explained this correctly, as referring to the fact that Israel had squandered the possessions received from the Lord, viz., gold, silver, jewellery, clothing, and food (vv. 10-13 and 16-19), upon idolatry.
The only difficulty connected with this is the use of the word nechoosheth, brass or copper, in the general sense of money or metal, as there are no other passages to support this use of the word. At the same time, the objection raised to this, namely, that nechoosheth cannot signify money, because the Hebrews had no copper coin, is an assertion without proof, since all that can be affirmed with certainty is, that the use of copper or brass as money is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament, with the exception of the passage before us.
But we cannot infer with certainty from this that it was not then in use. As soon as the Hebrews began to stamp coins, bronze or copper coins were stamped as well as the silver shekels, and specimens of these are still in existence from the time of the Maccabees, with the inscription “Simon, prince of Israel” (cf. Cavedoni, Bibl. Numismatik, transl. by Werlhof, p. 20ff.). Judging from their size, these coins were in all probability worth a whole, a half, and a quarter gerah (Caved. pp. 50, 51). If, then, the silver shekel of the value of 21 grains contained twenty gerahs in Moses’ time, and they had already silver pieces of the weight of a shekel and half shekel, whilst quarter shekels are also mentioned in the time of Samuel, there would certainly be metal coins in use of the value of a gerah for the purposes of trade and commerce, and these would in all probability be made of brass, copper, or bronze, as silver coins of the value of a penny would have been found too small. Consequently it cannot be positively denied that brass or copper may have been used as coin for the payment of a gerah, and therefore that the word nechoosheth may have been applied to money. We therefore adhere to the explanation that brass stands for money, which has been already adopted by the LXX and Jerome; and we do so all the more, because every attempt that has been made to fasten another meaning upon nechoosheth, whether by allegorical interpretation (Rabb.), or from the Arabic, or by altering the text, is not only arbitrary, but does not even yield a meaning that suits the context. Ëpæv; , to be poured out = squandered or lavished. To the squandering of the possessions bestowed by the Lord upon His congregation, there was added the exposure of its shame, i.e., the disgraceful sacrifice of the honour and dignity of the people of God, of which Israel had made itself guilty by its whoredom with idols, i.e., by falling into idolatry, and adopting heathen ways. Ëyibæh\aæm]Al[æ , to (towards), i.e., with thy lovers `l[æ standing for lae , according to later usage: vid., Ewald, §217i, p. 561), is to be explained after the analogy of lae hn;z; , as signifying to commit adultery towards a person, i.e., with him. But it was not enough to sacrifice the gifts of the Lord, i.e., His possessions and His glory, to the heathen and their idols; Israel also made for itself twOb[ewOt yleWLGiAlK; , all kinds of logs of abominations, i.e., of idols, upon which it hung its ornaments, and before which it set oil and incense, meal and honey (vv. 18 and 19).
And it was not even satisfied with this, but gave to its idols the blood of its sons, by slaying its children to Moloch (v. 20). Therefore (vv. 37ff.) the Lord will uncover the shame of His people before all the nations. He will gather them together, both friend and foe, against Jerusalem, and let them execute the judgment. The punishment will correspond to the sin. Because Israel has cultivated friendship with the heathen, it shall now be given up altogether into their power. On the uncovering of the nakedness as a punishment, compare Hos 2:12. The explanation of the figure follows in v. 38. The heathen nations shall inflict upon Jerusalem the punishment due to adultery and bloodshed. Jerusalem (i.e., Israel) had committed this twofold crime. It had committed adultery, by falling away from Jehovah into idolatry; and bloodshed, by the sacrifices offered to Moloch. The punishment for adultery was death by stoning (see the comm. on v. 40); and blood demanded blood (Gen 9:6; Ex 21:12). wgw µD; ˆtæn; does not mean, “I will put blood in thee” (Ros.), or “I will cause thy blood to be shed in anger” (De Wette, Maurer, etc.); but I make thee into blood; which we must not soften down, as Hitzig proposes, into cause thee to bleed.
The thought is rather the following: thou shalt be turned into blood, so that nothing but blood may be left of thee, and that the blood of fury and jealousy, as the working of the wrath and jealousy of God (compare v. 42).
To this end the heathen will destroy all the objects of idolatry bGe and µWr , v. 39, as in vv. 24, 25), then take from the harlot both clothes and jewellery, and leave her naked, i.e., plunder Jerusalem and lay it waste, and, lastly, execute upon her the punishment of death by stoning and by sword; in other words, destroy both city and kingdom. The words wgw `hl;[; , they bring (up) against thee an assembly, may be explained from the ancient mode of administering justice, according to which the popular assembly (qâhâl, cf. Prov 5:14) sat in judgment on cases of adultery and capital crimes, and executed the sentence, as the law for stoning expressly enjoins (Lev 20:2; Num 15:36; Deut 22:21; compare my Bibl. Archäol. II. p. 257).
But they are also applicable to the foes, who would march against Jerusalem (for qâhâl in this sense, compare Ezek 17:17). The punishment of adultery (according to Lev 20:10) was death by stoning, as we may see from Lev 20:2-27 and Deut. 20:24 compared with John 8:5. This was the usual mode of capital punishment under the Mosaic law, when judicial sentence of death was pronounced upon individuals (see my Archäol. II. p. 264). The other form of punishment, slaying by the sword, was adopted when there were many criminals to be put to death, and was not decapitation, but cutting down or stabbing (bâthaq, to hew in pieces) with the sword (see my Archäol. l.c.). The punishment of death was rendered more severe by the burning of the corpse (Lev 20:14; 21:9). Consequently the burning of the houses in v. 41 is also to be regarded as intensifying the punishment; and it is in the same light that the threat is to be regarded, that the judgment would be executed “before the eyes of many women.”
The many women are the many heathen nations, according to the description of Jerusalem or Israel as an unfaithful wife. “As it is the greatest punishment to an adulterous woman to be exposed in her sin before the eyes of other women; so will the severest portion of Israel’s punishment be, that it will stand exposed in its sin before the eyes of all other nations” (Kliefoth). This is the way in which God will put an end to the fornication, and appease His wrath and jealousy upon the harlot (vv. 41b and 42). tbæv; , with ˆmi , to cause a person to cease to be or do anything. For v. 42, compare Ezek 5:13. By the execution of the judgment the jealousy ha;n]qi ) of the injured husband is appeased.
Verse 43-52. This judgment is perfectly just; for Israel has not only forgotten the grace of its God manifested towards it in its election, but has even surpassed both Samaria and Sodom in its abominations.
V. 43. Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, and hast raged against me in all this; behold, I also give thy way upon thy head, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that I may not do that which is wrong above all thine abominations.
V. 44. Behold, every one that useth proverbs will use this proverb concerning thee: as the mother, so the daughter.
V. 45. Thou art the daughter of thy mother, who casteth off her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who cast off their husbands and their children. Your mother is a Hittite, and your father an Amorite.
V. 47. But thou hast not walked in their ways and done according to their abominations a little only; thou didst act more corruptly than they in all thy ways.
V. 50. They were haughty, and did abominations before me; and I swept them away when I saw it.
V. 51. And Samaria, she hath not sinned to the half of thy sins; thou hast increased thine abominations more than they, and hast made thy sisters righteous by all thine abominations which thou hast done.
V. 52. Bear, then, also thy shame, which thou hast adjudged to thy sisters. Through thy sins, which thou hast committed more abominably than they, they become more righteous than thou. Be thou, then, also put to shame, and bear thy disgrace, as thou hast justified thy sisters — rv,a ˆ[æyæ , which corresponds to ˆ[æyæ in v. 36, introduces a new train of thought. Most of the commentators take v. 43 in connection with what precedes, and place the pause at v. 44. But the perfect ˆtæn; shows that this is wrong.
If v. 43 simply contained a recapitulation, or a concluding summary, of the threat of judgment in vv. 35-42, the punishment would be announced in the future tense, as it is in v. 37. By the perfect ˆtæn; , on the contrary, the punishment is exhibited as a completed fact, and further reasons are then assigned in vindication of the justice of the divine procedure, which we find in vv. 44ff. To this end the guilt of Jerusalem is mentioned once more: “thou didst not remember the days of thy youth,” i.e., what thou didst experience in thy youth; the misery in which thou didst find thyself, and out of which I rescued thee and exalted thee to glory (vv. 4-14). To this there was added rage against Jehovah, which manifested itself in idolatrous acts. l] zgær; , to be excited upon or against any person, to rage; thus in Hithpael with lae in 2 Kings 19:27-28.
For varo Ër,D, ˆtæn; , compare Ezek 9:10. The last clause of v. 43, wgw `hc;[; alo , has been misinterpreted in many ways. According to the Masoretic pointing, `hc;[; is the second person; but this does not yield a suitable meaning. For hM;zi `hc;[; is not used in the sense adopted by the Targum, upon which the Masoretic pointing is undoubtedly based, and which Raschi, Kimchi, and Rosenmüller retain, viz., cogitationem facere: “thou hast not take any thought concerning all thy abominations,” i.e., has not felt any remorse. The true meaning is to commit a crime, a wrong, and is used for the most part of unnatural offences (cf. Judg 20:6; Hos 6:9).
There is all the more reason for retaining this meaning, that hM;zi (apart from the plural zimowh = hM;zim] ) only occurs sensu malo, and for the most part in the sense of an immoral action (vid., Job 31:11).
Consequently we should have to adopt the rendering: and thou no longer committest this immorality above all thine abominations. But in that case not only would `dwO[ have to be supplied, but a distinction would be drawn between the abominations committed by Israel and the sin of lewdness, i.e., adultery, which is quite foreign to the connection and to the contents of the entire chapter; for, according to these, the abominations of Israel consisted in adultery or the sin of lewdness. We must therefore take `hc;[; as the first person, as Symm. and Jerome have done, and explain the words from Lev 19:29, where the toleration by a father of the whoredom of a daughter is designated as zimmâh. If we adopt this interpretation, Jehovah says that He has punished the spiritual whoredom of Israel, in order that He may not add another act of wrong to the abominations of Israel by allowing such immorality to go on unpunished. If He did not punish, He would commit a zimmâh Himself-in other words, would make Himself accessory to the sins of Israel.
The concluding characteristic of the moral degradation of Israel fits in very appropriately here in vv. 44ff., in which Jerusalem is compared to Samaria and Sodom, both of which had been punished long ago with destruction on account of their sins. This characteristic is expressed in the form of proverbial sayings. Every one who speaks in proverbs (moosheel, as in Num 21:27) will then say over thee: as the mother, so her daughter. Her abominable life is so conspicuous, that it strikes every one, and furnishes occasion for proverbial sayings. µae may be a feminine form of µae , as ble is of ble (v. 30); or it may also be a Raphe form for µae : as her (the daughter’s) mother, so her (the mother’s) daughter (cf. Ewald, §174e, note, with §21, 223). The daughter is of course Jerusalem, as the representative of Israel. The mother is the Canaanitish race of Hittites and Amorites, whose immoral nature had been adopted by Israel (cf. vv. 3 and 45b).
In v. 45 the sisterly relation is added to the maternal, to carry out the thought still further. Some difficulty arises here from the statement, that the mothers and the sisters despise their husbands and their children, or put them away. For it is unquestionable that the participle l[æG; belongs to µae , and not to tBæ , from the parallel relative clause l[æG; rv,a , which applies to the sisters. The husband of the wife Jerusalem is Jehovah, as the matrimonial head of the covenant nation or congregation of Israel. The children of the wives, viz., the mother, her daughter, and her sisters, are the children offered in sacrifice to Moloch. The worship of Moloch was found among the early Canaanites, and is here attributed to Samaria and Sodom also, though we have no other proofs of its existence there than the references made to it in the Old Testament. The husband, whom the mother and sisters have put away, cannot therefore be any other than Jehovah; from which it is evident that Ezekiel regarded idolatry generally as apostasy from Jehovah, and Jehovah as the God not only of the Israelites, but of the heathen also. f20 twOja; (v. 45) is a plural noun, as the relative clause which follows and v. 46 clearly show, and therefore is a contracted form of twOja; (v. 51) or ËtæwOyj\aæ (v. 52; vid., Ewald, §212b, p. 538). Samaria and Sodom are called sisters of Jerusalem, not because both cities belonged to the same mother-land of Canaan, for the origin of the cities does not come into consideration here at all, and the cities represent the kingdoms, as the additional words “her daughters,” that is to say, the cities of a land or kingdom dependent upon the capital, clearly prove.
Samaria and Sodom, with the daughter cities belonging to them, are sisters of Jerusalem in a spiritual sense, as animated by the same spirit of idolatry.
Samaria is called the great (greater) sister of Jerusalem, and Sodom the smaller sister. This is not equivalent to the older and the younger, for Samaria was not more deeply sunk in idolatry than Sodom, nor was her idolatry more ancient than that of Sodom (Theodoret and Grotius); and Hävernick’s explanation, that “the finer form of idolatry, the mixture of the worship of Jehovah with that of nature, as represented by Samaria, was the first to find an entrance into Judah, and this was afterwards followed by the coarser abominations of heathenism,” is unsatisfactory, for the simple reason that, according to the historical books of the Old Testament, the coarser forms of idolatry forced their way into Judah at quite as early a period as the more refined.
The idolatry of the time of Rehoboam and Abijam was not merely a mixture of Jehovah-worship with the worship of nature, but the introduction of heathen idols into Judah, along with which there is no doubt that the syncretistic worship of the high places was also practised. lwOdG; and ˆf;q; do not generally mean old and young, but great and small.
The transferred meaning old and young can only apply to men and animals, when greatness and littleness are really signs of a difference in age; but it is altogether inapplicable to kingdoms or cities, the size of which is by no means dependent upon their age. Consequently the expressions great and small simply refer to the extent of the kingdoms or states here named, and correspond to the description given of their situation: “at the left hand,” i.e., to the north, and “at the right hand,” i.e., to the south of Jerusalem and Judah.
Jerusalem had not only equalled these sisters in sins and abominations, but had acted more corruptly than they (v. 47). The first hemistich of this verse, “thou walkest not in their ways,” etc., is more precisely defined by ˆhe tjæv; in the second half. The link of connection between the two statements is formed by fqæ f[æm] . This is generally rendered, “soon was there disgust,” i.e., thou didst soon feel disgust at walking in their ways, and didst act still worse. But apart from the fact that while disgust at the way of the sisters might very well constitute a motive for forsaking those ways, i.e., relinquishing their abominations, it could not furnish a motive for surpassing those abominations. This explanation is exposed to the philological difficulty, that fqæ by itself cannot signify taeduit te, and the impersonal use of fWq would at all events require ttæK; , which could not be omitted, even if fqæ were intended for a substantive.
These difficulties fall away if we interpret fqæ from the Arabic qatt, omnino, tantum, as Alb. Schultens has done, and connect the definition “a little only” with the preceding clause. We then obtain this very appropriate thought: thou didst walk in the ways of thy sisters; and that not a little only, but thou didst act still more corruptly than they. This is proved in vv. 48ff. by an enumeration of the sins of Sodom. They were pride, satiety-i.e., superabundance of bread (vid., Prov 30:9)-and careless rest or security, which produce haughtiness and harshness, or uncharitableness, towards the poor and wretched. In this way Sodom and her daughters (Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim) became proud and haughty, and committed abominations µynip; , i.e., before Jehovah (alluding to Gen 18:21); and God destroyed them when He saw this. The sins of Samaria (v. 51) are not specially mentioned, because the principal sin of this kingdom, namely, image-worship, was well known.
It is simply stated, therefore, that she did not sin half so much as Jerusalem; and in fact, if we except the times of Ahab and his dynasty, pure heathenish idolatry did not exist in the kingdom of the ten tribes, so that Samaria seemed really a righteous city in comparison with the idolatry of Jerusalem and Judah, more especially from the time of Ahaz onward (vid., Jer 3:11).
The punishment of Samaria by the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes is also passed over as being well known to every Israelite; and in v. 52 the application is directly made to Jerusalem, i.e., to Judah: “Thou also, bear thy shame, thou who hast adjudged to thy sisters,”-sc. by pronouncing an uncharitable judgment upon them, thinking thyself better than they, whereas thou hast sinned more abominably, so that they appear more righteous than thou. qdæx; , to be righteous, and tsideeq, to justify, are used in a comparative sense. In comparison with the abominations of Jerusalem, the sins of Sodom and Samaria appeared perfectly trivial. After hT;aæ µGæ , the announcement of punishment is repeated for the sake of emphasis, and that in the form of a consequence resulting from the sentence with regard to the nature of the sin: therefore be thou also put to shame, and bear thy disgrace.
But this disgrace will not be the conclusion. Because of the covenant which the Lord concluded with Israel, Jerusalem will not continue in misery, but will attain to the glory promised to the people of God;-and that in such a way that all boasting will be excluded, and Judah, with the deepest shame, will attain to a knowledge of the true compassion of God.-Yet, in order that all false confidence in the gracious promises of God may be prevented, and the sinful nation be thoroughly humbled, this last section of our word of God announces the restoration of Sodom and Samaria as well as that of Jerusalem, so that all boasting on the part of Israel is precluded.
V. 53. And I will turn their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and the captivity of thy captivity in the midst of them: V. 54. That thou mayest bear thy shame, and be ashamed of all that thou hast done, in comforting them.
V. 55. And thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, will return to their first estate; and Samaria and her daughters will return to their first estate; and thou and thy daughters will return to your first estate.
V. 56. And Sodom thy sister was not a discourse in thy mouth in the day of thy haughtinesses, V. 57. Before thy wickedness was disclosed, as at the time of the disgrace of the daughters of Aram and all its surroundings, the daughters of the Philistines, who despised thee round about.
V. 58. Thy wrong-doing and all thy abominations, thou bearest them, is the saying of Jehovah. V. 59. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I do with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised oath to break covenant.
V. 61. And thou wilt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou receivest thy sisters, those greater than thou to those smaller than thou; and I give them to thee for daughters, although they are not of thy covenant.
V. 62. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou wilt perceive that I am Jehovah; V. 63. That thou mayest remember, and be ashamed, and there may no longer remain to thee an opening of the mouth because of thy disgrace, when I forgive thee all that thou hast done, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
The promise commences with an announcement of the restoration, not of Jerusalem, but of Sodom and Samaria. The two kingdoms, or peoples, upon which judgment first fell, shall also be the first to receive mercy; and it will not be till after then that Jerusalem, with the other cities of Judah, will also be restored to favour, in order that she may bear her disgrace, and be ashamed of her sins (v. 54); that is to say, not because Sodom and Samaria have borne their punishment for a longer time, but to the deeper shaming, the more complete humiliation of Jerusalem. tWbv] bWv , to turn the captivity, not “to bring back the captives” (see the comm. on Deut 30:3), is here used in a figurative sense for restitutio in statum integritatis, according to the explanation given of the expression in v. 55.
No carrying away, or captivity, took place in the case of Sodom. The form tWbv] , which the Chetib has adopted several times here, has just the same meaning as tWbv] . ybiv] tWbv] does not mean the captives of thy captivity, since the same word cannot be used first as a concrete and then as an abstract noun; nor does the combination serve to give greater emphasis, in the sense of a superlative-viz. “the captivity of thy captivities, equivalent to thy severest or most fearful captivity,”-as Stark and Hävernick suppose.
The genitive must be taken as explanatory, as already proposed by Hengstenberg and Kliefoth: “captivity, which is thy captivity;” and the pleonastic mode of expression is chosen to give greater prominence to the thought, “thine own captivity,” than would have been given to it by a suffix attached to the simple noun. Ëw,T; , in their midst, does not imply, that just as Judah was situated now in the very midst between Sodom and Samaria, so its captives would return home occupying the centre between those two (Hitzig); the reference is rather to fellowship in captivity, to the fact that Jerusalem would share the same fate, and endure the same punishment, as Samaria and Sodom (Hengst., Klief.). The concluding words of v. 54, “in that thou comfortest them,” do not refer to the sins already committed by Israel (as Kliefoth, who adopts the rendering, “didst comfort them,” imagines), but to the bearing of such disgrace as makes Jerusalem ashamed of its sins.
By bearing disgrace, i.e., by its endurance of well-merited and disgraceful punishment, Jerusalem consoles her sisters Samaria and Sodom; and that not merely by fellowship in misfortune-solamen miseris, etc. (Calvin, Hitzig, etc.)-but by the fact that from the punishment endured by Jerusalem, both Samaria and Sodom can discern the righteousness of the ways of God, and find therein a foundation for their hope, that the righteous God will bring to an end the merited punishment as soon as its object has been attained (see the comm. on Ezek 14:22-23). The turning of the captivity, according to v. 55, will consist in the fact that Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem return hm;d]qæ , to their original state. µdæq; does not mean the former or earlier state, but the original state ( oJs h>san ap> arch>s , LXX), as in Isa 23:7. Kliefoth is wrong, however, in explaining this as meaning: “as they were, when they came in Adam from the creative hand of God.” The original state is the status integritatis, not as a state of sinlessness or original righteousness and holiness-for neither Jerusalem on the one hand, nor Samaria and Sodom on the other, had ever been in such a state as this-but as an original state of glory, in which they were before they had fallen and sunk into ungodly ways.
But how could a restoration of Sodom and her daughters (Gomorrah, etc.) be predicted, when the destruction of these cities was accompanied by the sweeping away of all their inhabitants from off the face of the earth? Many of the commentators have attempted to remove the difficulty by assuming that Sodom here stands for the Moabites and Ammonites, who were descendants of Lot, who escaped from Sodom. But the untenableness of such an explanation is obvious, from the simple fact that the Ammonites and Moabites were no more Sodomites than Lot himself. And the view expressed by Origen and Jerome, and lately revived by Hävernick, that Sodom is a typical name denoting heathenism generally, is also unsatisfactory. The way in which Sodom is classed with Samaria and Jerusalem, and the special reference to the judgment that fell upon Sodom (vv. 49, 50), point undeniably to the real Sodom. The heathen world comes into consideration only so far as this, that the pardon of a heathen city, so deeply degraded as Sodom, carries with it the assurance that mercy will be extended to all heathen nations. We must therefore take the words as referring to the literal Sodom. Yet we certainly cannot for a moment think of any earthly restoration of Sodom. For even if we could conceive of a restoration of the cities that were destroyed by fire, and sunk into the depths of the Dead Sea, it is impossible to form any conception of an earthly and corporeal restoration of the inhabitants of those cities, who ere destroyed at the same time; and in this connection it is chiefly to them that the words refer. This does not by any means prove that the thing itself is impossible, but simply that the realization of the prophecy must be sought for beyond the present order of things, in one that extends into the life everlasting.
As v. 55 elucidates the contents of v. 53, so the thought of v. 54 is explained and still further expanded in vv. 56 and 57. The meaning of v. 56a is a subject of dispute; but so much is indisputable, that the attempt to Kliefoth to explain vv. 56 and 57 as referring to the future, and signifying that in the coming day of its glory Israel will no longer carry Sodom as a legend in its mouth as it does now, does violence to the grammar, and is quite a mistake. It is no more allowable to take hy;h; alo as a future, in the sense of “and will not be,” than to render hP;r]j, `t[e wOmK] (v. 57), “it will be like the time of scorn.” Moreover, the application of ˆwOaG; µwOy to the day of future glory is precluded by the fact that in v. 49 the word ˆwOaG; is used to denote the pride which was the chief sin of Sodom; and the reference to this verse very naturally suggests itself.
The meaning of v. 56 depends upon the rendering to be given to h[;Wmv] .
The explanation given by Rosenmüller and Maurer, after Jerome-viz. non erat in auditione, i.e., non audiebatur, thou didst not think at all of Sodom, didst not take its name into thy mouth-is by no means satisfactory. h[;Wmv] means proclamation, discourse, and also report. If we adopt the last, we must take the sentence as interrogatory alo for µwOlv; ), as Hengstenberg and Hitzig have done. Although this is certainly admissible, there are no clear indexes here to warrant our assumption of an interrogation, which is only hinted at by the tone. We therefore prefer the meaning “discourse:” thy sister Sodom was not a discourse in thy mouth in the day of thy haughtinesses, that thou didst talk of the fate of Sodom and lay it to heart when thou wast in prosperity.
The plural ˆwOaG; is more emphatic than the singular. The day of the haughtinesses is defined in v. 57 as the period before the wickedness of Judah had been disclosed. This was effected by means of the judgment, which burst upon Jerusalem on the part of Babylon. Through this judgment Jerusalem is said to have been covered with disgrace, as at the time when the daughters of Aram, i.e., the cities of Syria, and those of the Philistines (Aram on the east, and the Philistines on the west, Isa 9; 11), scorned and maltreated it round about. This refers primarily to the times of Ahaz, when the Syrians and Philistines pressed hard upon Judah (2 Kings 15:37; 16:6; and 2 Chron 28:18-19). It must not be restricted to this, however; but was repeated in the reign of Jehoiachin, when Jehovah sent troops of the Chaldaeans, Aramaeans, Ammonites, and Moabites against him, to destroy Judah (2 Kings 24:2).
It is true, the Philistines are not mentioned here; but from the threat in Ezek 25:15, we may infer that they also attempted at the same time to bring disgrace upon Judah. faæv; = fWv , according to Aramaean usage, to treat contemptuously, or with repudiation (cf. Ezek 28:24,26). Jerusalem will have to atone for this pride, and to bear its wrong-doing and its abominations (v. 58). For zimmâh, see the comm. on v. 43. The perfect ac;n; indicates that the certainty of the punishment is just as great as if it had already commenced. The reason assigned for this thought in v. forms a transition to the further expansion of the promise in vv. 60ff. w`syt (v. 59) has been correctly pointed by the Masoretes as the 1st person. The w is copulative, and shows that what follows forms the concluding summary of all that precedes. tae for tae , as in vv. 60, etc., to deal with any one. The construction of `hc;[; , with an accusative of the person, to treat any one, cannot be sustained either from Ezek 17:17 and 23:25, or from Jer 33:9; and Gesenius is wrong in assuming that we meet with it in Isa 42:16.
Despising the oath hl;a; ) points back to Deut 29:11-12, where the renewal of the covenant concluded at Sinai is described as an entrance into the covenant and oath which the Lord then made with His people.-But even if Israel has faithlessly broken the covenant, and must bear the consequence punishment, the unfaithfulness of man can never alter the faithfulness of God. This is the link of connection between the resumption and further expansion of the promise in v. 60 and the closing words of v. 59. The remembrance of His covenant ins mentioned in Lev 26:42 and 45 as the only motive that will induce God to restore Israel to favour again, when the humiliation effected by the endurance of punishment has brought it to a confession of its sins. The covenant which God concluded with Israel in the day of its youth, i.e., when He led it out of Egypt, He will establish as an everlasting covenant.
Consequently it is not an entirely new covenant, but simply the perfecting of the old one for everlasting duration. For the fact itself, compare Isa 55:3, where the making of the everlasting covenant is described as granting the stedfast mercies of David, i.e., as the fulfilment of the promise given to David (2 Sam 7). This promise is called by David himself an everlasting covenant which God had made with him (2 Sam 23:5). And the assurance of its everlasting duration was to be found in the fact that this covenant did not rest upon the fulfilment of the law, but simply upon the forgiving grace of God (compare v. 63 with Jer 31:31-34).-The bestowal of this grace will put Israel in remembrance of its ways, and fill it with shame. In this sense, rkæz; (and thou shalt remember), in v. 61, is placed side by side with rkæz; (I will remember) in v. 60. This shame will seize upon Israel when the establishment of an everlasting covenant is followed by the greater and smaller nations being associated with it in glory, and incorporated into it as children, though they are not of its covenant.
The greater and smaller sisters are the greater and smaller nations, as members of the universal family of man, who are to be exalted to the glory of one large family of God. The restoration, which is promised in vv. and 55 to Sodom and Samaria alone, is expanded here into a prophecy of the reception of all the greater and smaller nations into fellowship in the glory of the people of God. We may see from this that Sodom and Samaria represent the heathen nations generally, as standing outside the Old Testament dispensation: Sodom representing those that were sunk in the deepest moral degradation, and Samaria those that had fallen from the state of grace. The attitude in which these nations stand towards Israel in the everlasting covenant of grace, is defined as the relation of daughters to a mother. If, therefore, Israel, which has been thrust out among the heathen on account of its deep fall, is not to return to its first estate till after the return of Sodom, which has been destroyed, and Samaria, which has been condemned, the election of Israel before all the nations of the earth to be the first-born son of Jehovah will continue unchanged, and Israel will form the stem of the new kingdom of God, into which the heathen nations will be incorporated.
The words, “and not of thy covenant,” have been taken by most of the commentators in the sense of, “not because thou hast kept the covenant;” but this is certainly incorrect. For even if “thy covenant” really formed an antithesis to “my covenant” (vv. 60 and 62), “thy covenant” could not possibly signify the fulfilment of thy covenant obligations. The words belong to bânooth (daughters), who are thereby designated as extratestamental- i.e., as not included in the covenant which God made with Israel, and consequently as having no claim by virtue of that covenant to participate in the glory of the everlasting covenant which is hereafter to be established.-When this covenant has been established, Israel will know that God is Jehovah, the unchangeably true (for the meaning of the name Jehovah, see the commentary on Gen 2:4); that it may call to mind, sc. both its sinful abominations and the compassionate grace of God, and be so filled with shame and penitence that it will no more venture to open its mouth, either for the purpose of finding excuses for its previous fall, or to murmur against God and His judgments-namely, when the Lord forgives all its sins by establishing the everlasting covenant, the kernel and essence of which consists in the forgiveness of sins (cf. Jer 31:34). Thus will the experience of forgiving grace complete what judgment has already begun, viz., the transformation of proud and haughty sinners into meek and humble children of God, for whom the kingdom has been prepared from the beginning.
This thought brings the entire prophecy to a close-a prophecy which embraces the whole of the world’s history and the New Testament, the parallel to which is contained in the apostle’s words, “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32).-As the punishment threatened to the adulteress, i.e., to the nation of Israel that had despised its God and King, had been fulfilled upon Jerusalem and the Jews, and is in process of fulfilment still, so has the promise also been already fulfilled, so far as its commencement is concerned, though the complete and ultimate fulfilment is only to be expected in time to come.
The turning of the captivity, both of Jerusalem and her daughters, and of Samaria and her daughters, commenced with the establishment of the everlasting covenant, i.e., of the covenant made through Christ, and with the reception of the believing portion of Israel in Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee (Acts 8:5ff., 25, 9:31).
And the turning of the captivity of Sodom commenced with the spread of the gospel among the heathen, and their entrance into the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as Sodom with her daughters represents the morally degraded heathen world. Their reception into the kingdom of heaven, founded by Christ on earth, forms the commencement of the return of the forgiven to their first estate on the “restitution of all things,” i.e., the restoration of all moral relations to their original normal constitution (compare Acts 3:21 and Meyer’s comm. thereon with Matt 17:11), which will attain its perfection in the paliggenesi>a , the general restoration of the world to its original glory (compare Matt 19:28 with Rom 8:18ff. and Peter 3:13). The prophecy before us in v. 55 clearly points to this final goal. It is true that one might understand the return of Jerusalem and Samaria to their original state, which is predicted here as simply relating to the pardon of the covenant nation, whose apostasy had led to the rejection of both its parts; and this pardon might be sought in its reception into the kingdom of Christ and its restoration as the people of God. In that case the complete fulfilment of our prophecy would take place during the present aeon in the spread of the gospel among all nations, and the conversion of that portion of Israel which still remained hardened after the entrance of the full number of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God. But this limitation would be out of harmony with the equality of position assigned to Sodom and her daughters on the one hand, and Samaria and Jerusalem on the other.
Though Sodom is not merely a type of the heathen world, the restoration of Sodom and her daughters cannot consist in the reception of the descendants of the cities on which the judgment fell into the kingdom of God or the Christian Church, since the peculiar manner in which those cities were destroyed prevented the possibility of any of the inhabitants remaining alive whose descendants could be converted to Christ and blessed in Him during the present period of the world. On the other hand, the opinion expressed by C. a Lapide, that the restoration of Sodom is to be referred and restricted to the conversion of the descendants of the inhabitants of Zoar, which was spared for Lot’s sake, when the other cities of the plain were destroyed, is too much at variance with the words of the passage to allow of our accepting such a solution as this. The turning of the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, i.e., the forgiveness of the inhabitants of Sodom and the other cities of the plain, points beyond the present aeon, and the realization can only take place on the great day of the resurrection of the dead in the persons of the former inhabitants of Sodom and the neighbouring cities. And in the same way the restoration of Samaria and Jerusalem will not be completely fulfilled till after the perfecting of the kingdom of Christ in glory at the last day.
Consequently the prophecy before us goes beyond Rom 11:25ff., inasmuch as it presents, not to the covenant nation only, but, in Samaria and Sodom, to all the larger and smaller heathen nations also, the prospect of being eventually received into the everlasting kingdom of God; although, in accordance with the main purpose of this prophetic word, namely, to bring the pride of Israel completely down, this is simply hinted at, and no precise intimation is given of the manner in which the predicted apokatastasis will occur. But notwithstanding this indefiniteness, we must not explain away the fact itself by arbitrary expositions, since it is placed beyond all possible doubt by other passages of Scriptures. The words of our Lord in Matt 10:15 and 11:24, to the effect that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom than for Capernaum and every other city that shall have rejected the preaching of the gospel, teach most indisputably that the way of mercy stands open still even for Sodom itself, and that the judgment which has fallen upon it does not carry with it the final decision with regard to its inhabitants.
For Sodom did not put away the perfect revelation of mercy and salvation.
If the mighty works which were done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom, it would have stood to the present day (Matt 11:23). And from this it clearly follows that all the judgments which fell before the time of Christ, instead of carrying with them the final decision, and involving eternal damnation, leave the possibility of eventual pardon open still. The last judgment, which is decisive for eternity, does not take place till after the full revelation of grace and truth in Christ. Not only will the gospel be preached to all nations before the end comes (Matt 24:14), but even to the dead; to the spirits in prison, who did not believe at the time of Noah, it has been already preached, at the time when Christ went to them in spirit, in order that, although judged according to man’s way in the flesh, they might live according to God’s way in the spirit (1 Peter 3:19; 4:6). What the apostle teaches in the first of these passages concerning the unbelievers before the flood, and affirms in the second concerning the dead in general, is equally applicable according to our prophecy to the Sodomites who were judged after man’s way in the flesh, and indeed generally to all heathen nations who either lived before Christ or departed from this earthly life without having heard the gospel preached.-It is according to these distinct utterances of the New Testament that the prophecy before us respecting the apokatastasis of Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem is to be interpreted; and this is not to be confounded with the heretical doctrine of the restoration, i.e., the ultimate salvation of all the ungodly, and even of the devil himself. If the preaching of the gospel precedes the last judgment, the final sentence in the judgment will be regulated by the attitude assumed towards the gospel by both the living and the dead. All souls that obstinately reject it and harden themselves in unbelief, will be given up to everlasting damnation. The reason why the conversion of Sodom and Samaria is not expressly mentioned, is to be found in the general tendency of the promise, in which the simple fact is announced without the intermediate circumstances, for the purpose of humbling Jerusalem. The conversion of Jerusalem also is not definitely stated to be the condition of pardon, but this is assumed as well known from the words of Lev 26, and is simply implied in the repeated assertion that Jerusalem will be seized with the deepest shame on account of the pardon which she receives.
HUMILIATION AND EXALTATION OF THE DAVIDIC FAMILY The contents of this chapter are introduced as a riddle and a parable, and are divided into three sections. Vv. 1-10 contain the parable; vv. 11-21, the interpretation and application of it to King Zedekiah; and vv. 22-24, the promise of the Messianic kingdom.
V. 1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 2. Son of man, give a riddle, and relate a parable to the house of Israel; V. 3. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, A great eagle, with great wings and long pinions, full of feathers of variegated colours, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar: V. 4. He plucked off the topmost of its shoots, and brought it into Canaan’s land; in a merchant-city he set it.
V. 5. And he took of the seed of the land, and put it into seed-land; took it away to many waters, set it as a willow.
V. 6. And it grew, and became an overhanging vine of low stature, that its branches might turn towards him, and its roots might be under him; and it became a vine, and produced shoots, and sent out foliage.
V. 7. There was another great eagle with great wings and many feathers; and, behold, this vine stretched its roots languishingly towards him, and extended its branches towards him, that he might water it from the beds of its planting.
V. 9. Say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Will it thrive? will they not pull up its roots, and cut off its fruit, so that it withereth? all the fresh leaves of its sprouting will wither, and not with strong arm and with much people will it be possible to raise it up from its roots.
The parable (mâshâl, corresponding exactly to the New Testament parabolh> ) is called chiidhâh, a riddle, because of the deeper meaning lying beneath the parabolic shell. The symbolism of this parable has been traced by many commentators to Babylonian influences working upon the prophet’s mind; but without any tenable ground. The figure of the eagle, or bird of prey, applied to a conqueror making a rapid descent upon a country, has as little in it of a specifically Babylonian character as the comparison of the royal family to a cedar or a vine. Not only is Nebuchadnezzar compared to an eagle in Jer 48:40; 49:22, as Cyrus is to a bird of prey in Isa 46:11; but even Moses has described the paternal watchfulness of God over His own people as bearing them upon eagle’s wings (Ex 19:4; Deut 32:11). The cedar of Lebanon and the vine are genuine Israelitish figures. The great eagle in v. 3 is the great King Nebuchadnezzar (compare v. 12).
The article is simply used to indicate the species, for which we should use the indefinite article. In v. 7, instead of the article, we have dj;a, in the sense of “another.” This first eagle has large wings and long pinions; he has already flown victoriously over wide-spread countries. hm;q]rih; wOlArv,a\ , literally, which is to him the variegated ornament, i.e., which he has as such an ornament. The feathers of variegated ornamental colours point to the many peoples, differing in language, manners, and customs, which were united under the sceptre of Nebuchadnezzar (Hitzig, etc.); not to the wealth and splendour of the conqueror, as such an allusion is altogether remote from the tendency of the parable. He came to Lebanon. This is not a symbol of the Israelitish land, or of the kingdom of Judah; but, as in Jer 22:23, of Jerusalem, or Mount Zion, with its royal palace so rich in cedar wood (see the comm. on Hab 2:17 and Zech 11:1), as being the place where the cedar was planted (compare the remarks on v. 12).
The cedar is the royal house of David, and the top of it is King Jehoiachin.
The word tzammereth is only met with in Ezekiel, and there only for the top of a cedar (compare Ezek 31:3ff.). The primary meaning is doubtful.
Some derive it from the curly, or, as it were, woolly top of the older cedars, in which the small twigs that constitute their foliage are only found at the top of the tree. Others suppose it to be connected with the Arabic dmr, to conceal, and understand it as an epithet applied to the foliage, as the veil or covering of the tree. In v. 4, tzammereth is explained to be r¦niyqowtaayw ro’sh, the topmost of its shoots. This the eagle plucked off and carried k¦na`an ‘el-’erets, an epithet applied to Babylonia here and in Ezek 16:29, as being a land whose trading spirit had turned it into a Canaan. This is evident from the parallel lkær; `ry[i , city of traders, i.e., Babylon (compare v. 12). The seed of the land, according to v. 13, is King Zedekiah, because he was of the land, the native king, in contrast to a foreign, Babylonian governor. jqæl; , for jqæl; , after the analogy of jqæl; in Hos 11:3, and pointed with Kametz to distinguish it from the imperative. lae jqæl; is used as in Num 23:27. The aJp leg hp;x;p]xæ signifies, in Arabic and the Talmud, the willow, probably so called because it grows in well-watered places; according to Gesenius, it is derived from ãWx , to overflow, literally, the inundated tree. This meaning is perfectly appropriate here. “He set it as a willow” means he treated it as one, inasmuch as he took it to many waters, set it in a well-watered soil, i.e., in a suitable place. The cutting grew into an overhanging vine, i.e., to a vine spreading out its branches in all directions, though not growing very high, as the following expression hm;wOq lp;v; more clearly shows.
The object of this growth was, that its branches might turn to him (the eagle), and its roots might be under him (the eagle). The suffixes attached to lae and tjæTæ refer to rv,n, . This allusion is required not only by the explanation in v. 14 (? vv. 14, 15), but also by v. 7, where the roots and branches of the vine stretch to the (other) eagle. In v. 6b, what has already been affirmed concerning the growth is briefly summed up again. The form hr;aop is peculiar to Ezekiel. Isaiah has hr;aop] = hr;aup] in Ezek 10:33.
The word signifies branch and foliage, or a branch covered with foliage, as the ornament of a tree.-The other eagle mentioned in v. 7 is the king of Egypt, according to v. 15. He had also large wings and many feathers, i.e., a widely spread and powerful kingdom; but there is nothing said about pinions and variegated colours, for Pharaoh had not spread out his kingdom over many countries and peoples, or subjugated a variegated medley of peoples and tribes. ˆpæK; , as a verb hap leg., signifies to yearn or pine after a thing; in Chaldee, to hunger. hq;v; , that he (the eagle-Pharaoh) might give it to drink, or water it.
The words [F;mæ `hg;Wr[ are not connected with hq;v; , but with jlæv; and kan¦paah, form the beds of its planting, i.e., in which it was planted; it stretched out roots and branches to the other eagle, that he might give it to drink. The interpretation is given in v. 15. The words tae hq;v; , which are added by way of explanation, do not interrupt the train of thought; nor are they superfluous, as Hitzig supposes, because the vine had water enough already (vv. 5 and 8). For this is precisely what the passage is intended to show, namely, that there was no occasion for this pining and stretching out of the branches towards the other eagle, inasmuch as it could thrive very well in the place where it was planted. The latter is expressly stated once more in v. 8, the meaning of which is perfectly clear-namely, that if Zedekiah had remained quiet under Nebuchadnezzar, as a hanging vine, his government might have continued and prospered.
But, asks Ezekiel in the name of the Lord, will it prosper? jlæx; is a question, and the third person, neuter gender. This question is answered in the negative by the following question, which is introduced with an affirmative µwOlv; . The subject to qtæn; and ssæq; is not the first eagle (Nebuchadnezzar), but the indefinite “one” (man, they). In the last clause of v. 9 taecm is a substantive formation, used instead of the simple form of the infinitive, after the form aC;mæ in 2 Chron 19:7, with the termination owt, borrowed from the verb ha;le (compare Ewald, §160b and 239a), and the construction is the same as in Amos 6:10: it will not be to raise up = it will not be possible to raise it up (compare Ges. §132, 3, Anm. 1). To raise it up from its root does not mean to tear it up by the root (Hävernick), but to rear the withered vine from its roots again, to cause it to sprout again.
This rendering of the words corresponds to the interpretation given in v. 17.-In v. 10 the leading thought is repeated with emphasis, and rounded off. The east wind is peculiarly dangerous to plants on account of its dryness (compare Gen 41:6, and Wetstein on Job 27:21 in Delitzsch’s Commentary); and it is used very appropriately here, as the Chaldeans came from the east.
Interpretation of the riddle.
V. 11. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 12. Say to the refractory race: Do ye not know what this is?
Say, Behold, the king of Babel came to Jerusalem and took its king and its princes, and brought them to himself to Babel.
V. 13. And he took of the royal seed, and made a covenant with him, and caused him to enter into an oath; and he took the strong ones of the land: V. 14. That it might be a lowly kingdom, not to lift itself up, that he might keep his covenant, that it might stand. V. 15. But he rebelled against him by sending his messengers to Egypt, that it might give him horses and much people. Will he prosper? will he that hath done this escape? He has broken the covenant, and should he escape?
V. 17. And not with great army and much people will Pharaoh act with him in the war, when they cast up a rampart and build siegetowers, to cut off many souls.
V. 20. I will spread out my net over him, so that he will be taken in my snare, and will bring him to Babel, and contend with him there on account of his treachery which he has been guilty of towards me.
V. 21. And all his fugitives in all his regiments, by the sword will they fall, and those who remain will be scattered to all winds; and ye shall see that I Jehovah have spoken it.
In vv. 12-17 the parable in vv. 2-10 is interpreted; and in vv. 19-21 the threat contained in the parable is confirmed and still further expanded. We have an account of the carrying away of the king, i.e., Jehoiachin, and his princes to Babel in 2 Kings 24:11ff., Jer 24:1, and 29:2. The king’s seed hk;Wlm] [ræz, , v. 13, as in Jer 41:1 = Ël,m, [ræz, , 1 Kings 11:14) is Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah, whom Nebuchadnezzar made king under the name of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17), and from whom he took an oath of fealty (2 Chron 36:13). The strong of the land lyiaæ = lWLGi , 2 Kings 24:15), whom Nebuchadnezzar took jqæl; ), i.e., took away to Babel, are not the heads of tribes and families (2 Kings 24:15); but the expression is used in a wide sense for the several classes of men of wealth, who are grouped together in 2 Kings 24:14 under the one term lyijæ yrewOBGiAlK; lyijæ vyai , 2 Kings 24:16), including masons, smiths, and carpenters (2 Kings 24:14 and 16), whereas the heads of tribes and families are classed with the court officials syris; , 2 Kings 24:15) under the title rcæ (princes) in v. 12.
The design of these measures was to make a lowly kingdom, which could not raise itself, i.e., could not revolt, and to deprive the vassal king of the means of breaking of the covenant. the suffix attached to `rmæ[; is probably to be taken as referring to hk;l;m]mæ rather than tyriB] , although both are admissible, and would yield precisely the same sense, inasmuch as the stability of the kingdom was dependent upon the stability of the covenant.
But Zedekiah rebelled (2 Kings 24:20). The Egyptian king who was to give Zedekiah horses and much people, in other words, to come to his assistance with a powerful army of cavalry and fighting men, was Hophrah, the Apries of the Greeks, according to Jer 44:30 (see the comm. on Kings 24:19-20). jlæx; points back to jlæx; in v. 9; but here it is applied to the rebellious king, and is explained in the clause wgw flæm; .
The answer is given in v. 16 as a word of God confirmed by a solemn oath: he shall die in Babel, the capital of the king, who placed him on the throne, and Pharaoh will not render him any effectual help (v. 17). tae `hc;[; , as in Ezek 15:59, to act with him, that is to say, assist him, come to his help. tae refers to Zedekiah, not to Pharaoh, as Ewald assumes in an inexplicable manner. For wgw hl;l]so Ëpæv; , compare Ezek 4:2; and for the fact itself, Jer 34:21-22, and 37:5, according to which, although an Egyptian army came to the rescue of Jerusalem at the time when it was besieged by the Chaldeans, it was repulsed by the Chaldeans who marched to meet it, without having rendered any permanent assistance to the besieged.
In v. 18, the main thought that breach of faith can bring no deliverance is repeated for the sake of appending the further expansion contained in vv. 19-21. dy; ˆtæn; , he gave his hand, i.e., as a pledge of fidelity. The oath which Zedekiah swore to the king of Babel is designated in v. 19 as Jehovah’s oath hl;a; ), and the covenant made with him as Jehovah’s covenant, because the oath had been sworn by Jehovah, and the covenant of fidelity towards Nebuchadnezzar had thereby been made implicite with Jehovah Himself; so that the breaking of the oath and covenant became a breach of faith towards Jehovah. Consequently the very same expressions are used in vv. 16, 18, and 19, to designate this breach of oath, which are applied in Ezek 16:59 to the treacherous apostasy of Jerusalem (Israel) from Jehovah, the covenant God. And the same expressions are used to describe the punishment as in Ezek 12:13-14. wOTai fpæv]ni is construed with the accusative of the thing respecting which he was to be judged, as in Sam 12:7.
Jehovah regards the treacherous revolt from Nebuchadnezzar as treachery against Himself µyrit;a l[æmæ ); not only because Zedekiah had sworn the oath of fidelity by Jehovah, but also from the fact that Jehovah had delivered up His people and kingdom into the power of Nebuchadnezzar, so that revolt from him really became rebellion against God. tae before wj;r;b]miAlK; is nota accus., and is used in the sense of quod adtinet ad, as, for example, in 2 Kings 6:5. jr;b]mi , his fugitives, is rendered both by the Chaldee and Syriac “his brave men,” or “heroes,” and is therefore identified with mib¦chaaraaw (his chosen ones), which is the reading in some manuscripts. But neither these renderings nor the parallel passage in Ezek 12:14, where bybis; apparently corresponds to it, will warrant our adopting this explanation, or making any alteration in the text. The Greek versions have pa>sav fugadei>av autou> ; Theodoret: en pa>saiv tai>v fugadei>aiv autou> ; the Vulgate: omnes profugi ejus ; and therefore they all had the reading mbrchw, which also yields a very suitable meaning. The mention of some who remain, and who are to be scattered toward all the winds, is not at variance with the statement that all the fugitives in the wings of the army are to fall by the sword. The latter threat simply declares that no one will escape death by flight. But there is no necessity to take those who remain as being simply fighting men; and the word “all” must not be taken too literally.
The planting of the true twig of the stem of David.
V. 22. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will take from the top of the high cedar, and will set it; from the topmost of its shoots will I pluck off a tender one, and will plant it upon a high and exalted mountain.
V. 23. On the high mountain of Israel will I plant it, and it will put forth branches, and bear fruit, and become a splendid cedar, so that all the birds of every plumage will dwell under it. In the shade of its branches will they dwell.
V. 24. And all the trees of the field will learn that I Jehovah have lowered the lofty tree, lifted up the low tree, made the green tree wither, and the withered tree become green. I Jehovah have said it, and have done it.
Although the sprout of David, whom Nebuchadnezzar had made king, would lose the sovereignty because of his breach of faith, and bring about the destruction of the kingdom of Judah, the Lord would not let His kingdom be destroyed, but would fulfil the promise which He had given to the seed of David. The announcement of this fulfilment takes its form from the preceding parable.
As Nebuchadnezzar broke off a twig from the top of the cedar and brought it to Babel (v. 13), so will Jehovah Himself also pluck off a shoot from the top of the high cedar, and plant it upon a high mountain. The Vav before jqæl; is the Vav consec., and ynæa is appended to the verb for the sake of emphasis; but in antithesis to the acting of the eagle, as described in v. 3, it is placed after it. The cedar, which it designated by the epithet râmâh, as rising above the other trees, is the royal house of David, and the tender shoot which Jehovah breaks off and plants is not the Messianic kingdom or sovereignty, so that Zerubbabel could be included, but the Messiah Himself as “a distinct historical personage” (Hävernick). The predicate Ëræ , tender, refers to Him; also the word qnæy; , a sprout (Isa 53:2), which indicates not so much the youthful age of the Messiah (Hitzig) as the lowliness of His origin (compare Isa 11:1; 53:2); and even when applied to David and Solomon, in 2 Sam 3:39; 1 Chron 22:5; 29:1, expresses not their youthfulness, but their want of strength for the proper administration of such a government.
The high mountain, described in v. 23 as the high mountain of Israel, is Zion, regarded as the seat and centre of the kingdom of God, which is to be exalted by the Messiah above all the mountains of the earth (Isa 2:2, etc.). The twig planted by the Lord will grow there into a glorious cedar, under which all birds will dwell. The Messiah grows into a cedar in the kingdom founded by Him, in which all the inhabitants of the earth will find both food (from the fruits of the tree) and protection (under its shadow).
For this figure, compare Dan 4:8-9. kaal-kaanaap tsipowr, birds of every kind of plumage (cf. Ezek 39:4,17), is derived from Gen 7:14, where birds of every kind find shelter in Noah’s ark. The allusion is to men from every kind of people and tribe. By this will all the trees of the field learn that God lowers the lofty and lifts up the lowly. As the cedar represents the royal house of David, the trees of the field can only be the other kings or royal families of the earth, not the nations outside the limits of the covenant.
At the same time, the nations are not to be entirely excluded because the figure of the cedars embraces the idea of the kingdom, so that the trees of the field denote the kingdoms of the earth together with their kings. The clauses, “I bring down the high tree,” contain a purely general thought, as in 1 Sam 2:7-8, and the perfects are not to be taken as preterites, but as statements of practical truths. It is true that the thought of the royal house of David in its previous greatness naturally suggests itself in connection with the high and green tree, and that of Jehoiachin in connection with the dry tree (compare Jer 22:30); and these are not to be absolutely set aside.
At the same time, the omission of the article from HboG; `x[e and the objects which follow, is sufficient to show that the words are not to be restricted to these particular persons, but are applicable to every high and green, or withered and lowly tree; i.e., not merely to kings alone, but to all men in common, and furnish a parallel to 1 Sam 2:4-9, “The bows of the mighty men are broken; and they that stumbled are girded with strength,” etc.
THE RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE OF GOD EZEKIEL. 18:1-4
In the word of God contained in this chapter, the delusion that God visits the sins of fathers upon innocent children is overthrown, and the truth is clearly set forth that every man bears the guilt and punishment of his own sins (vv. 1-4). The righteous lives through his righteousness (vv. 5-9), but cannot save his wicked son thereby (vv. 10-13); whilst the son who avoids the sins and wickedness of his father, will live through his own righteousness (vv. 14-20). The man who repents and avoids sin is not even charged with his own sin; and, on the other hand, the man who forsakes the way of righteousness, and gives himself up to unrighteousness, will not be protected from death even by his own former righteousness (vv. 21-29).
Thus will God judge every man according to his way; and it is only by repentance that Israel itself can live (vv. 30-32). The exposition of these truths is closely connected with the substance and design of the preceding and following prophecies. In the earlier words of God, Ezekiel had taken from rebellious Israel every support of false confidence in the preservation of the kingdom from destruction. But as an impenitent sinner, even when he can no longer evade the punishment of his sins, endeavours as much as possible to transfer the guilt from himself to others, and comforts himself with the thought that he has to suffer for sins that other shave committed, and hardens himself against the chastisement of God through such false consolation as this; so even among the people of Israel, when the divine judgments burst upon them, the delusion arose that the existing generation had to suffer for the fathers’ sins. If, then, the judgment were ever to bear the fruit of Israel’s conversion and renovation, which God designed, the impenitent generation must be deprived even of this pretext for covering over its sins and quieting its conscience, by the demonstration of the justice which characterized the government of God in His kingdom. The proverb and the word of God.
V. 3. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, this proverb shall not be used any more in Israel.
V. 4. Behold, all souls are mine; as the father’s soul, so also the soul of the son-they are mine; the soul which sinneth, it shall die.
On v. 2a compare Ezek 12:22. µk,L;Ahmæ , what is to you, what are you thinking of, that...? is a question of amazement. tmæd]aæAl[æ , in the land of Israel (Ezek 12:22), not “concerning the land of Israel,” as Hävernick assumes. The proverb was not, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes,” for we have not lkæa; , as in Jer 31:29, but lkæa; , they eat, are accustomed to eat, and ba; has no article, because it applies to all who eat sour grapes.
Booser, unripe, sour grapes, like beeser in Job 16:33 (see the comm. in loc.). The meaning of the proverb is self-evident. The sour grapes which the fathers eat are the sins which they commit; the setting of the children’s teeth on edge is the consequence thereof, i.e., the suffering which the children have to endure. The same proverb is quoted in Jer 31:29-30, and there also it is condemned as an error. The origin of such a proverb is easily to be accounted for from the inclination of the natural man to transfer to others the guilt which has brought suffering upon himself, more especially as the law teaches that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children (Ex 20:5), and the prophets announce that the Lord would put away Judah from before His face on account of the sins of Manasseh (2 Kings 24:3; Jer 15:4), while Jeremiah complains in Lam 5:7 that the people are bearing the fathers’ sins.
Nevertheless the proverb contained a most dangerous and fatal error, for which the teaching of the law concerning the visitation of the sins of the fathers, etc., was not accountable, and which Jeremiah, who expressly mentions the doctrine of the law (Jer 32:18), condemns as strongly as Ezekiel. God will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children who hate Him, and who also walk in the footsteps of their fathers’ sins; but to those who love Him, and keep His commandments, He will show mercy to the thousandth generation. The proverb, on the other hand, teaches that the children would have to atone for their fathers’ sins without any culpability of their own. How remote such a perversion of the truth as to the transmission of sins and their consequences, viz., their punishment, was from the law of Moses, is evident from the express command in Deut 24:16, that the children were not to be put to death with the fathers for the sins which the latter had committed, but that every one was to die for his own sin.
What God here enjoins upon the judicial authorities must apply to the infliction of his own judgments. Consequently what Ezekiel says in the following verses in opposition to the delusion, which this proverb helped to spread abroad, is simply a commentary upon the words, “every one shall die for his own sin,” and not a correction of the law, which is the interpretation that many have put upon these prophetic utterances of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In v. 3, the Lord declares with an oath that this proverb shall not be used any more. The apodosis to wgw hy;h; µai , which is not expressed, would be an imprecation, so that the oath contains a solemn prohibition. God will take care that this proverb shall not be used any more in Israel, not so much by the fact that He will not give them any further occasion to make use of it, as by the way in which He will convince them, through the judgments which He sends, of the justice of His ways. The following is Calvin’s admirable paraphrase: “I will soon deprive you of this boasting of yours; for your iniquity shall be made manifest, so that all the world may see that you are but enduring just punishment, which you yourselves have deserved, and that you cannot cast it upon your fathers, as you have hitherto attempted to do.” At the same time, this only gives one side; we must also add the other, which is brought out so prominently in Jer 31:29ff., namely, that after the judgment God will manifest His grace so gloriously in the forgiveness of sins, that those who are forgiven will fully recognise the justice of the judgments inflicted. Experience of the love and compassion of the Lord, manifesting itself in the forgiveness of sin, bows down the heart so deeply that the pardoned sinner has no longer any doubt of the justice of the judgments of God. “In Israel” is added, to show that such a proverb is opposed to the dignity of Israel. In v. 4, the reason assigned fore the declaration thus solemnly confirmed by an oath commences with a general thought which contains the thesis for further discussion.
All souls are mine, the soul of the father as well as that of the son, saith the Lord. In these words, as Calvin has well said, “God does not merely vindicate His government or His authority, but shows that He is moved with paternal affection towards the whole of the human race which He created and formed.” There is no necessity for God to punish the one for the other, the son for the father, say because of the possibility that the guilty person might evade Him; and as the Father of all, He cannot treat the one in a different manner from the other, but can only punish the one by whom punishment has been deserved. The soul that sinneth shall die. vp,n, is used here, as in many other passages, for “man,” and tWm is equivalent to suffering death as a punishment. “Death” is used to denote the complete destruction with which transgressors are threatened by the law, as in Deut 30:15 (compare Jer 21:8; Prov 11:10). This sentence is explained in the verses which follow (vv. 5-20).
The righteous man shall not die.
V. 5. If a man is righteous, and doeth right and righteousness, V. 6. And doth not eat upon the mountains, and doth not lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, and doth not defile his neighbour’s wife, and doth not approach his wife in her uncleanness, V. 7. Oppresseth no one, restoreth his security (lit., debt-pledge), committeth no robbery, giveth his bread to the hungry, and covereth the naked with clothes, V. 8. Doth not give upon usury, and taketh not interest, withholdeth his hand from wrong, executeth judgment of truth between one and another, V. 9. Walketh in my statutes, and keepeth my rights to execute truth; he is righteous, he shall live, is the saying of the Lord “Jehovah.” The exposition of the assertion, that God only punishes the sinner, not the innocent, commences with a picture of the righteousness which has the promise of life.
The righteousness consists in the fulfilment of the commandments of the law: viz., (1) those relating to religious duties, such as the avoidance of idolatry, whether of the grosser kind, such as eating upon the mountains, i.e., observing sacrificial festivals, and therefore sacrificing to idols (cf. Deut 12:2ff.), or of a more refined description, e.g., lifting up the eyes to idols, to look to them, or make them the object of trust, and offer supplication to them (cf. Ps 121:1; Deut 4:19), as Israel had done, and was doing still (cf.
Ezek 6:13); and (2) those relating to moral obligations, such as the avoidance of adultery (compare Ex 20:14; Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22; and for amef; , Gen 34:5), and of conjugal intercourse with a wife during menstruation, which was a defilement of the marriage relation (cf. Lev 18:19; 20:18). All these sins were forbidden in the law on pain of death.
To these there are appended duties to a neighbour (vv. 7ff.), viz., to abstain from oppressing any one (Ex 22:28; Lev 15:14,17), to restore the pledge to a debtor (Ex 22:25; Deut 24:6,10ff.). bwOj is hardly to be taken in any other sense than as in apposition to lboj , “his pledge, which is debt,” equivalent to his debt-pledge or security, like hM;zi Ër,D, in Ezek 16:27. The supposition of Hitzig, that bwOj is a participle, like µWq in Kings 16:7, in the sense of debtor, is a far less natural one, and has no valid support in the free rendering of the LXX, enecurasmo>n ofei>lontov . The further duties are to avoid taking unlawful possession of the property of another (cf. Lev. 5:23); to feed the hungry, clothe the naked (cf. Isa 58:5; Matt 25:26; James 2:15-16); to abstain from practising usury (Deut 23:20; cf. Ex 22:24) and taking interest (Lev 25:36-37); in judicial sentences, to draw back the hand from wrong, and promote judgment of truth-a sentence in accordance with the true nature of the case (see the comm. on Zech 7:9); and, lastly, to walk in the statutes and rights of the Lord-an expression which embraces, in conclusion, all that is essential to the righteousness required by the law.-This definition of the idea of true righteousness, which preserves from death and destruction, and ensures life to the possessor, is followed in vv. 10ff. by a discussion of the attitude which God sustains towards the sons.
The righteousness of the father does not protect the wicked, unrighteous son from death.
V. 10. If, however, he begetteth a violent son, who sheddeth blood, and doeth only one of these things, V. 11. But he himself hath not done all this-if he even eateth upon the mountains, and defileth his neighbour’s wife, V. 12. Oppresseth the suffering and poor, committeth robbery, doth not restore a pledge, lifteth up his eyes to idols, committeth abomination, V. 13. Giveth upon usury, and taketh interest: should he live? He shall not live! He hath done all these abominations; he shall be put to death; his blood shall be upon him.
The subject to dlæy; , in v. 10, is the righteous man described in the preceding verses. xyrip] , violent, literally, breaking in or through, is rendered more emphatic by the words “shedding blood” (cf. Hos 4:2). We regard ja; in the next clause as simply a dialectically different form of writing and pronouncing, for Ëaæ , “only,” and he doeth only one of these, the sins previously mentioned (vv. 6ff.). dj;a, , with a partitive ˆmi , as in Lev 4:2, where it is used in a similar connection; the form dj;a, is also met with in Deut 15:7.
The explanation given by the Targum, “and doeth one of these to his brother,” is neither warranted by the language nor commended by the sense. `hc;[; is never construed with the accusative of the person to whom anything is done; and the limitation of the words to sins against a brother is unsuitable in this connection. The next clause, `hc;[; aWh , which has also been variously rendered, we regard as an adversative circumstantial clause, and agree with Kliefoth in referring it to the begetter (father): “and he (the father) has not committed any of these sins.” For it yields no intelligible sense to refer this clause also to the son, since kaal-’eeleh cannot possibly refer to different things from the preceding hL,ae , and a man cannot at the same time both do and not do the same thing. The yKi which follows signifies “if,” as is frequently the case in the enumeration of particular precepts or cases; compare, for example, Ex 21:1,7,17, etc., where it is construed with the imperfect, because the allusion is to things that may occur.
Here, on the contrary, it is followed by the perfect, because the sins enumerated are regarded as committed. The emphatic µGæ (even) forms an antithesis to dj;a, ja; Ëaæ ), or rather an epanorthosis of it, inasmuch as µGæ yKi resumes and carries out still further the description of the conduct of the wicked son, which was interrupted by the circumstantial clause; and that not only in a different form, but with a gradation in the thought. The thought, for instance, is as follows: the violent son of a righteous father, even if he has committed only one of the sins which the father has not committed, shall die. And if he has committed even the gross sins named, viz., idolatry, adultery, violent oppression of the poor, robbery, etc., should he then continue to live? The w in yyæj; introduces the apodosis, which contains a question, that is simply indicated by the tone, and is immediately denied. The antique form yjæ for hy;j; , 3rd pers. perf., is taken from the Pentateuch (cf. Gen 3:22 and Num 21:8). The formulae tWm tWm and µyrit;a\ µD; are also derived from the language of the law (cf. Lev 20:9,11,13, etc.).
The son who avoids his father’s sin will live; but the father will die for his own sins.
V. 14. And behold, he begetteth a son, who seeth all his father’s sins which he doeth; he seeth them, and doeth not such things.
V. 15. He eateth not upon the mountains, and lifteth not up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel; he defileth not his neighbour’s wife, V. 16. And oppresseth no one; he doth not withhold a pledge, and committeth not robbery; giveth his bread to the hungry, and covereth the naked with clothes.
V. 17. He holdeth back his hand from the distressed one, taketh not usury and interest, doeth my rights, walketh in my statutes; he will not die for the sin of his father; he shall live.
V. 18. His father, because he hath practised oppression, committed robbery upon his brother, and hath done that which is not good in the midst of his people; behold, he shall die for his sin.
V. 19. And do ye say, Why doth the son not help to bear the father’s sin? But the son hath done right and righteousness, hath kept all my statutes, and done them; he shall live.
V. 20. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. A son shall not help to bear the father’s sin, and a father shall not help to bear the sin of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
The case supposed in these verses forms the antithesis to the preceding one; the father is the transgressor in this instance, and the son a keeper of the law. The subject to dlæy; in v. 14 is not the righteous man described in v. 15, but a man who is described immediately afterwards as a transgressor of the commandments of God. The Chetib ha;r; in the last clause of v. is not to be read arey; , kai> fobhqh> , et timuerit, as it has been by the translators of the Septuagint and Vulgate; nor is it to be altered into ha;r; , as it has been by the Masoretes, to make it accord with v. 28; but it is the apocopated form ha;r; , as in the preceding clause, and the object is to be repeated from what precedes, as in the similar case which we find in Ex 20:15, (18).
Ewald and Hitzig propose to alter yni[;me in v. 17 into `lw,[, after v. 8, but without the slightest necessity. The LXX are not to be taken as an authority for this, since the Chaldee and Syriac have both read and rendered `yni[; ; and Ezekiel, when repeating the same sentences, is accustomed to make variations in particular words. Holding back the hand from the distressed, is equivalent to abstaining from seizing upon him for the purpose of crushing him (compare v. 12); `µ[æ Ëw,T; , in the midst of his countrymen = `µ[æ Ëw,T; , is adopted from the language of the Pentateuch. tWm after hNehi is a participle. The question, “Why does the son not help to bear?” is not a direct objection on the part of the people, but is to be taken as a pretext, which the people might offer on the ground of the law, that God would visit the sin of the fathers upon the sons in justification of their proverb. Ezekiel cites this pretext for the purpose of meeting it by stating the reason why this does not occur. b] ac;n; , to carry, near or with, to join in carrying, or help to carry (cf. Num 11:17). This proved the proverb to be false, and confirmed the assertion made in v. 4b, to which the address therefore returns (v. 20). The righteousness of the righteous man will come upon him, i.e., upon the righteous man, namely, in its consequences. The righteous man will receive the blessing of righteousness, but the unrighteous man the curse of his wickedness. There is no necessity for the article, which the Keri proposes to insert before [v]r; .
Turning to good leads to life; turning to evil is followed by death.
V. 21. But if the wicked man turneth from all his sins which he hath committed, and keepeth all my statutes, and doeth right and righteousness, he shall live, and not die.
V. 22. All his transgressions which he hath committed, shall not be remembered to him: for the sake of the righteousness which he hath done he will live.
V. 23. Have I then pleasure in the death of the wicked? is the saying of Jehovah: and not rather that he turn from his ways, and live? V. 24. But if the righteous man turn from his righteousness, and doeth wickedness, and acteth according to all the abominations which the ungodly man hath done, should he live? All the righteousness that he hath done shall not be remembered: for his unfaithfulness that he hath committed, and for his sin that he hath sinned, for these he shall die.
V. 25. And ye say, “The way of the Lord is not right.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?
V. 26. If a righteous man turneth from his righteousness, and doeth wickedness, and dieth in consequence, he dieth for his wickedness that he hath done.
The proof that every one must bear his sin did not contain an exhaustive reply to the question, in what relation the righteousness of God stood to the sin of men? For the cases supposed in vv. 5-20 took for granted that there was a constant persistence in the course once taken, and overlooked the instances, which are by no means rare, when a man’s course of life is entirely changed. It still remained, therefore, to take notice of such cases as these, and they are handled in vv. 21-26. The ungodly man, who repents and turns, shall live; and the righteous man, who turns to the way of sin, shall die. “As the righteous man, who was formerly a sinner, is not crushed down by his past sins; so the sinner, who was once a righteous man, is not supported by his early righteousness. Every one will be judged in that state in which he is found” (Jerome). The motive for the pardon of the repenting sinner is given in v. 23, in the declaration that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but desires his conversion, that he may live. God is therefore not only just, but merciful and gracious, and punishes none with death but those who either will not desist from evil, or will not persevere in the way of His commandments. Consequently the complaint, that the way of the Lord, i.e., His conduct toward men, is not weighed ˆkæT; , see comm. on 1 Sam 2:3), i.e., not just and right, is altogether unfounded, and recoils upon those who make it. It it not God’s ways, but the sinner’s, that are wrong (v. 25). The proof of this, which Hitzig overlooks, is contained in the declarations made in vv. 23 and 26-viz. in the fact that God does not desire the death of the sinner, and in His mercy forgives the penitent all his former sins, and does not lay them to his charge; and also in the fact that He punishes the man who turns from the way of righteousness and gives himself up to wickedness, on account of the sin which he commits; so that He simply judges him according to his deeds.-In v. 24, `hc;[; is the continuation of the infinitive bWv , and yyæj; is interrogatory, as in v. 13.
The vindication of the ways of God might have formed a fitting close to this divine oracle. But as the prophet was not merely concerned with the correction of the error contained in the proverb which was current among the people, but still more with the rescue of the people themselves from destruction, he follows up the refutation with another earnest call to repentance.
V. 27. If a wicked man turneth from his wickedness which he hath done, and doeth right and righteousness, he will keep his soul alive.
V. 28. If he seeth and turneth from all his transgressions which he hath committed, he shall live and not die.
V. 29. And the house of Israel saith, The way of the Lord is not right. Are may ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not rather your ways that are not right?
V. 30. Therefore, every one according to his ways, will I judge you, O house of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Turn and repent of all your transgressions, that it may not become to you a stumbling-block to guilt.
V. 31. Cast from you all your transgressions which ye have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! And why will ye die, O house of Israel?
V. 32. For I have no pleasure in the death of the dying, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Therefore repent, that ye may live.
For the purpose of securing an entrance into their hearts for the call to repentance, the prophet not only repeats, in vv. 27 and 28, the truth declared in vv. 21 and 22, that he who turns from his sin finds life, but refutes once more in v. 29, as he has already done in v. 25, the charge that God’s ways are not right. The fact that the singular ˆkæT; is connected with the plural Ër,D, , does not warrant our altering the plural into Ër,D, , but may be explained in a very simple manner, by assuming that the ways of the people are all summed up in one, and that the meaning is this: what you say of my way applies to your own ways-namely, “it is not right; there is just measure therein.” ˆKe , “therefore, etc.;” because my way, and not yours, is right, I will judge you, every one according to his way.
Repent, therefore, if ye would escape from death and destruction. bWv is rendered more emphatic by bWv , sc. µynip; , as in Ezek 14:6. In the last clause of v. 30, `ˆwO[; is not to be taken as the subject of the sentence according to the accents, but is a genitive dependent upon lwOvk]mi , as in Ezek 7:19 and 14:3; and the subject is to be found in the preceding clause: that it (the sinning) may not become to you a stumbling-block of iniquity, i.e., a stumbling-block through which ye fall into guilt and punishment.-The appeal in v. 31 points back to the promise in Ezek 11:18-19. Ëlæv; , to cast away. The application of this word to transgressions may be explained from the fact that they consisted for the most part of idols and idolatrous images, which they had made.-”Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit:” a man cannot, indeed, create either of these by his own power; God alone can give them (Ezek 11:19). But a man both can and should come to God to receive them: in other words, he can turn to God, and let both heart and spirit be renewed by the Spirit of God. And this God is willing to do; for He has no pleasure tWm tw,m; , in the death of the dying one. In the repetition of the assurance given in v. 23, tWm is very appropriately substituted for [v]r; , to indicate to the people that while in sin they are lying in death, and that it is only by conversion and renewal that they can recover life again.
LAMENTATION FOR THE PRINCES OF ISRAEL Israel, the lioness, brought up young lions in the midst of lions. But when they showed their leonine nature, they were taken captive by the nations and led away, one to Egypt, the other to Babylon (vv. 1-9). The mother herself, once a vine planted by the water with vigorous branches, is torn from the soil, so that her strong tendrils wither, and is transplanted into a dry land. Fire, emanating from a rod of the branches, has devoured the fruit of the vine, so that not a cane is left to form a ruler’s sceptre (vv. 10-14).- This lamentation, which bewails the overthrow of the royal house and the banishment of Israel into exile, forms a finale to the preceding prophecies of the overthrow of Judah, and was well adapted to annihilate every hope that things might not come to the worst after all.
Capture and Exile of the Princes.
V. 1. And do thou raise a lamentation for the princes of Israel, V. 2. And say, Why did thy mother, a lioness, lie down among lionesses; bring up her whelps among young lions?
V. 4. And nations heard of him; he was caught in their pit, and they brought him with nose-rings into the land of Egypt.
V. 5. And when she saw that her hope was exhausted, overthrown, she took one of her whelps, made it a young lion.
The princes of Israel, to whom the lamentation applies, are the king aycin; , as in Ezek 12:10), two of whom are so clearly pointed out in vv. 4 and 9, that there is no mistaking Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin. This fact alone is sufficient to protect the plural yaeycin; against the arbitrary alteration into the singular aycin; , proposed by Houbigant and Hitzig, after the reading of the LXX. The lamentation is not addressed to one particular prince, either Zedekiah (Hitzig) or Jehoiachin (Ros., Maurer), but to Israel as a nation; and the mother (v. 2) is the national community, the theocracy, out of which the kings were born, as is indisputably evident from v. 10. The words from µae hm; to xbær; form one sentence. It yields no good sense to separate µae hm; from xbær; , whether we adopt the rendering, “what is thy mother?” or take hm; with aybil; and render it, “how is thy mother a lioness?” unless, indeed, we supply the arbitrary clause “now, in comparison with what she was before,” or change the interrogative into a preterite: “how has thy mother become a lioness?”
The lionesses, among which Israel lay down, are the other kingdoms, the Gentile nations. The words have no connection with Gen 49:9, where Judah is depicted as a warlike lion. The figure is a different one here. It is not so much the strength and courage of the lion as its wildness and ferocity that are the points of resemblance in the passage before us. The mother brings up her young ones among young lions, so that they learn to take prey and devour men. rWG is the lion’s whelp, catulus; rypiK] , the young lion, which is old enough to go out in search of prey. `hl;[; is a Hiphil, in the tropical sense, to cause to spring up, or grow up, i.e., to bring up. The thought is the following: Why has Israel entered into fellowship with the heathen nations? Why, then, has it put itself upon a level with the heathen nations, and adopted the rapacious and tyrannical nature of the powers of the world?
The question “why then?” when taken with what follows, involves the reproof that Israel has struck out a course opposed to its divine calling, and will now have to taste the bitter fruits of this assumption of heathen ways.
The heathen nations have taken captive its king, and led him away into heathen lands. lae [mæv; , they heard of him lae for `l[æ ). The fate of Jehoahaz, to which v. 4 refers, is related in 2 Kings 23:31ff.-Vv. 5-7 refer to Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, and not to Zedekiah, as Hitzig imagines. For the fact that Jehoiachin went out of his own accord to the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:12), is not at variance with the figure contained in v. 8, according to which he was taken (as a lion) in a net. He simply gave himself up to the king of Babylon because he was unable to escape from the besieged city. Moreover, Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are simply mentioned as examples, because they both fell into the hands of the world-powers, and their fate showed clearly enough “what the end must inevitably be, when Israelitish kings became ambitious of being lions, like the kings of the nations of the world” (Kliefoth).
Jehoiakim was not so suitable an example as the others, because he died in Jerusalem. ljæy; , which has been explained in different ways, we agree with Ewald in regarding as the Niphal of ljy = lWj , in the sense of feeling vexed, being exhausted or deceived, like the Syriac …., viribus defecit, desperavit. For even in Gen 8:12, ljæy; simply means to wait; and this is inapplicable here, as waiting is not equivalent to waiting in vain. The change from lWj to ljæy; is established by Judg 3:25, where lWj or lyji occurs in the sense of lyji . In v. 7, the figurative language passes into a literal description of the ungodly course pursued by the king. He knew, i.e., dishonoured, its (Israel’s, the nation’s) widows. The Targum reads [[ær; here instead of [dæy; , and renders it accordingly, “he destroyed its palaces;” and Ewald has adopted the same rendering.
But [[r , to break, or smash in pieces, e.g., a vessel (Ps 2:9), is never used for the destruction of buildings; and hn;m;l]aæ does not mean palaces ( twOnm;r]aæ ), but windows. There is nothing in the use of the word in Isa 13:22 to support the meaning “palaces,” because the palaces are simply called ‘almânooth (widows) there, with a sarcastic side glance at their desolate and widowed condition. Other conjectures are still more inadmissible. The thought is as follows: Jehoiachin went much further than Jehoahaz. He not only devoured men, but laid hands on defenceless widows, and laid the cities waste to such an extent that the land with its inhabitants became perfectly desolate through his rapacity. The description is no doubt equally applicable to his father Jehoiakim, in whose footsteps Jehoiachin walked, since Jehoiakim is described in Jer 22:13ff. as a grievous despot and tyrant. In v. 8 the object tv,r, also belongs to ˆtæn; : they set up and spread out their net. The plural dWxm; is used in a general and indefinite manner: in lofty castles, mountain-fortresses, i.e., in one of them (cf. Judg 12:7).
V. 11. And it had strong shoots for rulers’ sceptres; and its growth ascended among the clouds, and was visible in its height in the multitude of its branches.
V. 14. There goeth out fire from the shoot of its branches, devoureth its fruit, so that there is no more a strong shoot upon it, a sceptre for ruling.-A lamentation it is, and it will be for lamentation.
From the lamentable fate of the princes transported to Egypt and Babylon, the ode passes to a description of the fate, which the lion-like rapacity of the princes is preparing for the kingdom and people.
Israel resembled a vine planted by the water. The difficult word µD; we agree with Hävernick and Kliefoth in tracing to the verb µD; , to rest (Jer 14:17), and regard it as synonymous with ymiD] in Isa 38:10: “in thy repose,” i.e., in the time of peaceful, undisturbed prosperity. For neither of the other renderings, “in thy blood” and “in thy likeness,” yields a suitable meaning. The latter explanation, which originated with Raschi and Kimchi, is precluded by the fact that Ezekiel always uses the word tWmD] to express the idea of resemblance.-For the figure of the vine, compare Ps 80:9ff. This vine sent out strong shoots for rulers’ sceptres; that is to say, it brought forth powerful kings, and grew up to a great height, even into the clouds. `tbo[ signifies “cloud,” lit., thicket of clouds, not only here, but in Ezek 31:3,10,14.
The rendering “branches” or “thicket of foliage” is not suitable in any of these passages. The form of the word is not to be taken as that of a new plural of `b[; , the plural of `b[; , which occurs in 2 Sam 23:4 and Ps 77:18; but is the plural of `b[; , an interlacing or thicket of foliage, and is simply transferred to the interlacing or piling up of the clouds. The clause wgw ha;r; , and it appeared, was seen, or became visible, simply serves to depict still further the glorious and vigorous growth, and needs no such alteration as Hitzig proposes. This picture is followed in v. 12ff., without any particle of transition, by a description of the destruction of this vine. It was torn up in fury by the wrath of God, cast down to the ground, so that its fruit withered (compare the similar figures in Ezek 17:10). `z[o hF,mæ is used collectively, as equivalent to `z[o hF,mæ (v. 11); and the suffix in lkæa; is written in the singular on account of this collective use of hF,mæ .
The uprooting ends in the transplanting of the vine into a waste, dry, unwatered land-in other words, in the transplanting of the people, Israel, into exile. The dry land is Babylon, so described as being a barren soil in which the kingdom of God could not flourish. According to v. 14, this catastrophe is occasioned by the princes. The fire, which devours the fruit of the vine so that it cannot send out any more branches, emanates dBæ hF,mæ , from the shoot of its branches, i.e., from its branches, which are so prolific in shoots. hF,mæ is the shoot which grew into rulers’ sceptres, i.e., the royal family of the nation. The reference is to Zedekiah, whose treacherous breach of covenant (Ezek 17:15) led to the overthrow of the kingdom and of the earthly monarchy. The picture from v. 12 onwards is prophetic. The tearing up of the vine, and its transplantation into a dry land, had already commenced with the carrying away of Jeconiah; but it was not completed till the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of Zedekiah, which were still in the future at the time when these words were uttered.-The clause wgw aWh hn;yqi does not contain a concluding historical notice, as Hävernick supposes, but simply the finale of the lamentation, indicating the credibility of the prediction which it contains. hy;h; is prophetic, like the perfects from vtæn; in v. 12 onwards; and the meaning is this: A lamentation forms the substance of the whole chapter; and it will lead to lamentation, when it is fulfilled.
THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF ISRAEL EZEKIEL. 20:1-4
The date given in Ezek 20:1 applies not only to ch. 20, but also to ch. 20- 23 (compare Ezek 24:1); the prophetic utterances in these four chapters being bound together into a group of connected words of God, both by their contents and by the threefold repetition of the expression, “wilt thou judge?” (vid., Ezek 20:4; 22:2, and 23:36). The formula fpæv; , which is only omitted from the threat of punishment contained in ch. 21, indicates at the same time both the nature and design of these words of God. The prophet is to judge, i.e., to hold up before the people once more their sinful abominations, and to predict the consequent punishment. The circumstance which occasioned this is narrated in Ezek 20:1-3. Men of the elders of Israel came to the prophet to inquire of the Lord. The occasion is therefore a similar one to that described in the previous group; for we have already been informed, in Ezek 14:1, that elders had come to the prophet to hear God’s word from him; but they had not gone so far as to inquire. Here, however (ch. 20), they evidently address a question to the prophet, and through him to the Lord; though the nature of their inquiry is not given, and can only be gathered from the answer, which was given to them by the Lord through the prophet. The ground for the following words of God is therefore essentially the same as for those contained in ch. 14-19; and this serves to explain the relation in which the two groups stand to each other, namely, that ch. 20-24 simply contain a further expansion of the reproachful and threatening addresses of ch. 14-19.
In ch. 20 the prophet points out to the elders, in the form of a historical survey, how rebellious Israel had been towards the Lord from the very first, even in Egypt (vv. 5-9) and the desert (vv. 10-17 and 18-26), both the older and the later generations, how they had sinned against the Lord their God through their idolatry, and how it was only for His own name’s sake that the Lord had not destroyed them in His anger (vv. 27-31). And as Israel hath not given up idolatry even in Canaan, the Lord would not suffer Himself to be inquired of by the idolatrous generation, but would refine it by severe judgments among the nations (vv. 32-38), and sanctify it thereby into a people well-pleasing to Him, and would then gather it again out of the dispersion, and bring it into the land promised to the fathers, where it would serve Him with sacrifices and gifts upon His holy mountain (vv. 39- 44). This word of God is therefore a more literal repetition of the allegorical description contained in ch. 16. Date, occasion, and theme of the discourse which follows.
V. 2. Then the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, V. 3. Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Have ye come to inquire of me? As I live, if I suffer myself to be inquired of by you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
V. 4. Wilt thou judge them? Wilt thou judge, O son of man? Make known the abominations of their fathers to them.
If we compare the date given in v. 1 with Ezek 8:1, we shall find that this word of God was uttered only eleven months and five days after the one in ch. 8; two years, one month, and five days after the call of Ezekiel to be a prophet (Ezek 1:2); and two years and five months before the blockading of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Ezek 24:1).
Consequently it falls almost in the middle of the first section of Ezekiel’s prophetic work. hwO;hy] tae vræD; , to seek Jehovah, i.e., to ask a revelation from Him. The Lord’s answer in v. 3 is similar to that in Ezek 14:3. Instead of giving a revelation concerning the future, especially with regard to the speedy termination of the penal sufferings, which the elders had, no doubt, come to solicit, the prophet is to judge them, i.e., as the following clause explains, not only in the passage before us, but also in Ezek 22:3 and 23:36, to hold up before them the sins and abominations of Israel. It is in anticipation of the following picture of the apostasy of the nation from time immemorial that the sins of the fathers are mentioned here. “No reply is given to the sinners, but chiding for their sins; and He adds the oath, ‘as I live,’ that the sentence of refusal may be all the stronger” (Jerome). The question fpæv; , which is repeated with emotion, “gives expression to an impatient wish, that the thing could have been done already” (Hitzig). The interrogative form of address is therefore adopted simply as a more earnest mode of giving expression to the command to go and do the thing. Hence the literal explanation of the word fpæv; is also appended in the form of an imperative [dæy; ).-The prophet is to revert to the sins of the fathers, not merely for the purpose of exhibiting the magnitude of the people’s guilt, but also to hold up before the sinners themselves, the patience and longsuffering which have hitherto been displayed by the Lord.
V. 5. And say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the day that I chose Israel, and lifted my hand to the seed of Jacob, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, and lifted my hand to them, saying, I am Jehovah, your God: V. 6. In that day I lifted my hand to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into the land which I sought out for them, which floweth with milk and honey-it is an ornament of all lands: V. 7. And said to them, Cast away every man the abominations of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am Jehovah, your God.
V. 8. But they were rebellious against me, and would not hearken to me. Not one of them threw away the abominations of his eyes, and they did not forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them, to accomplish my anger upon them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
V. 9. But I did it for my name’s sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, in the midst of which they were, before whose eyes I had made myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
Vv. 5 and 6 form one period. rjæB; µwOy (v. 5) is resumed in aWh µwOy (v. 6), and the sentence continued. With ac;n; the construction with the infinitive passes over into the finite verb. Lifting the hand, sc. to heaven, is a gesture employed in taking an oath (see the comm. on Ex 6:8). The substance of the oath is introduced by the word rmæa; at the close of v. 5; but the clause wgw [dæy; (and made myself known( is previously inserted, and then the lifting of the hand mentioned again to indicate the importance of this act of divine grace. The contents of vv. 5 and 6 rest upon Ex 6:2ff., where the Lord makes Himself known to Moses, and through him to the children of Israel, according to the nature involved in the name Jehovah, in which He had not yet revealed Himself to the patriarchs (Ex 6:3). Both dy; ac;n; (I lifted my hand) and hwO;hy] ynæa are taken from Ex 6:8. The word rWT, from rWf , to seek out, explore, also belongs to the Pentateuch (compare Deut 1:33); and the same may be said of the description given of Canaan as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (vid., Ex 3:8, etc.). But ybix] , ornament, as an epithet applied to the land of Israel, is first employed by the prophets of the time of the captivity-namely, in vv. 6 and 15 of this chapter, in Jer 3:19, and in Dan 8:9; 11:16,41.
The election of the Israelites to be the people of Jehovah, contained eo ipso the command to give up the idols of Egypt, although it was at Sinai that the worship of other gods was for the first time expressly prohibited (Ex 20:3), and Egyptian idolatry is only mentioned in Lev 17:7 (cf. Josh 24:14). Ezekiel calls the idols “abominations of their eyes,” because, “although they were abominable and execrable things, they were looked upon with delight by them” (Rosenmüller). It is true that there is nothing expressly stated in the Pentateuch as to the refusal of the Israelites to obey the command of God, or their unwillingness to give up idolatry in Egypt; but it may be inferred from the statements contained in Ex 6:9 and 12, to the effect that the Israelites did not hearken to Moses when he communicated to them the determination of God to lead them out of Egypt, and still more plainly from their relapse into Egyptian idolatry, from the worship of the golden calf at Sinai (Ex 32), and from their repeated desire to return to Egypt while wandering in the desert. f21 Nor is there anything said in the Pentateuch concerning the determination of God to pour out His wrath upon the idolatrous people in Egypt. We need not indeed assume on this account that Ezekiel derived his information from some special traditional source, as Vitringa has done Observv. ss. I. 263), or regard the statement as a revelation made by God to Ezekiel, and through him to us. The words do not disclose to us either a particular fact or a definite decree of God; they simply contain a description of the attitude which God, from His inmost