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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - EZEKIEL 20
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    CHAPTER 20

    Eze 20:1-49. REJECTION OF THE ELDERS' APPLICATION TO THE PROPHET: EXPOSURE OF ISRAEL'S PROTRACTED REBELLIONS, NOTWITHSTANDING GOD'S LONG-SUFFERING GOODNESS: YET WILL GOD RESTORE HIS PEOPLE AT LAST.

    1. seventh year, &c.--namely, from the carrying away of Jeconiah (Eze 1:2; 8:1). This computation was calculated to make them cherish the more ardently the hope of the restoration promised them in seventy years; for, when prospects are hopeless, years are not computed [CALVIN].
    - elders . . . came to inquire--The object of their inquiry, as in Eze 14:1, is not stated; probably it was to ascertain the cause of the national calamities and the time of their termination, as their false prophets assured them of a speedy restoration.

    3. The chapter falls into two great parts: Eze 20:1-32, the recital of the people's rebellions during five distinct periods: in Egypt, the wilderness, on the borders of Canaan when a new generation arose, in Canaan, and in the time of the prophet.
    - I will not be inquired of by you--because their moral state precluded them from capability of knowing the will of God (Ps 66:18; Pr 28:9; Joh 7:17).

    4. Wilt thou judge? . . . judge--The emphatical repetition expresses, "Wilt thou not judge? yes, judge them. There is a loud call for immediate judgment." The Hebrew interrogative here is a command, not a prohibition [MAURER]. Instead of spending time in teaching them, tell them of the abomination of their fathers, of which their own are the complement and counterpart, and which call for judgment.

    5, 6. The thrice lifting up of God's hand (the sign of His oath, Re 10:5, 6; Ex 6:8, Margin; Nu 14:30; to which passages the form of words here alludes) implies the solemn earnestness of God's purpose of grace to them.
    - made myself known unto them--proving Myself faithful and true by the actual fulfilment of My promises (Ex 4:31; 6:3); revealing Myself as "Jehovah," that is, not that the name was unknown before, but that then first the force of that name was manifested in the promises of God then being realized in performances.

    6. espied for them--as though God had spied out all other lands, and chose Canaan as the best of all lands (De 8:7, 8). See Da 8:9; 11:16, 41, "the glorious land"; see Margin, "land of delight," or, ornament"; "the pleasant land," or "land of desire," Zec 7:14, Margin.
    - glory of all lands--that is, Canaan was "the beauty of all lands"; the most lovely and delightful land; "milk and honey" are not the antecedents to "which."

    7. Moses gives no formal statement of idolatries practised by Israel in Egypt. But it is implied in their readiness to worship the golden calf (resembling the Egyptian ox, Apis) (Ex 32:4), which makes it likely they had worshipped such idols in Egypt. Also, in Le 17:7, "They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils (literally, seirim, 'he-goats,' the symbol of the false god, Pan), after whom they have gone awhoring." The call of God by Moses was as much to them to separate from idols and follow Jehovah, as it was to Pharaoh to let them go forth. Ex 6:6, 7 and Jos 24:14, expressly mention their idolatry "in Egypt." Hence the need of their being removed out of the contagion of Egyptian idolatries by the exodus.
    - every man--so universal was the evil.
    - of his eyes--It was not fear of their Egyptian masters, but their own lust of the eye that drew them to idols (Eze 6:9; 18:6).

    8, 9. then I said, I will . . . But, &c.--that is, (God speaking in condescension to human modes of conception) their spiritual degradation deserved I should destroy them, "but I wrought (namely, the deliverance 'out of . . . Egypt') for My name's sake"; not for their merits (a rebuke to their national pride). God's "name" means the sum-total of His perfections. To manifest these, His gratuitous mercy abounding above their sins, yet without wrong to His justice, and so to set forth His glory, was and is the ultimate end of His dealings (Eze 20:14, 22; 2Sa 7:23; Isa 63:12; Ro 9:17).

    11. which if a man do, he shall . . . five in them--not "by them," as though they could justify a man, seeing that man cannot render the faultless obedience required (Le 18:5; Ga 3:12). "By them" is the expression indeed in Ro 10:5; but there the design is to show that, if man could obey all God's laws, he would be justified "by them" (Ga 3:21); but he cannot; he therefore needs to have justification by "the Lord our righteousness" (Jer 23:6); then, having thus received life, he "lives," that is, maintains, enjoys, and exercises this life only in so far as he walks "in" the laws of God. So De 30:15, 16. The Israelites, as a nation, had life already freely given to them by God's covenant of promise; the laws of God were designed to be the means of the outward expression of their spiritual life. As the natural life has its healthy manifestation in the full exercise of its powers, so their spiritual being as a nation was to be developed in vigor, or else decay, according as they did, or did not, walk in God's laws.

    12. sabbaths, . . . a sign between me and them--a kind of sacramental pledge of the covenant of adoption between God and His people. The Sabbath is specified as a sample of the whole law, to show that the law is not merely precepts, but privileges, of which the Sabbath is one of the highest. Not that the Sabbath was first instituted at Sinai, as if it were an exclusively Jewish ordinance (Ge 2:2, 3), but it was then more formally enacted, when, owing to the apostasy of the world from the original revelation, one people was called out (De 5:15) to be the covenant-people of God.
    - sanctify them--The observance of the Sabbath contemplated by God was not a mere outward rest, but a spiritual dedication of the day to the glory of God and the good of man. Otherwise it would not be, as it is made, the pledge of universal sanctification (Ex 31:13-17; Isa 58:13, 14). Virtually it is said, all sanctity will flourish or decay, according as this ordinance is observed in its full spirituality or not.

    13. in the wilderness--They "rebelled" in the very place where death and terror were on every side and where they depended on My miraculous bounty every moment!

    15. I swore against them (Ps 95:11; 106:26) that I would not permit the generation that came out of Egypt to enter Canaan.

    16. The special reason is stated by Moses (Nu 13:32, 33; 14:4) to be that they, through fear arising from the false report of the spies, wished to return to Egypt; the general reasons are stated here which lay at the root of their rejection of God's grace; namely, contempt of God and His laws, and love of idols.
    - their heart--The fault lay in it (Ps 78:37).

    17. Nevertheless--How marvellous that God should spare such sinners! His everlasting covenant explains it, His long-suffering standing out in striking contrast to their rebellions (Ps 78:38; Jer 30:11).

    18. I said unto their children--being unwilling to speak any more to the fathers as being incorrigible.
    - Walk ye not in . . . statutes of . . . fathers--The traditions of the fathers are to be carefully weighed, not indiscriminately followed. He forbids the imitation of not only their gross sins, but even their plausible statutes [CALVIN].

    19. It is an indirect denial of God, and a robbing Him of His due, to add man's inventions to His precepts.

    20. (Jer 17:22).

    21. Though warned by the judgment on their fathers, the next generation also rebelled against God. The "kindness of Israel's youth and love of her espousals in the wilderness" (Jer 2:2, 3) were only comparative (the corruption in later times being more general), and confined to the minority; as a whole, Israel at no time fully served God. The "children" it was that fell into the fearful apostasy on the plains of Moab at the close of the wilderness sojourn (Nu 25:1, 2; De 31:27).

    23. It was to that generation the threat of dispersion was proclaimed (De 28:64; compare Eze 29:4).

    25. I gave them . . . statutes . . . not good--Since they would not follow My statutes that were good, "I gave them" their own (Eze 20:18) and their fathers' "which were not good"; statutes spiritually corrupting, and, finally, as the consequence, destroying them. Righteous retribution (Ps 81:12; Ho 8:11; Ro 1:24; 2Th 2:11). Eze 20:39 proves this view to be correct (compare Isa 63:17). Thus on the plains of Moab (Nu 25:1-18), in chastisement for the secret unfaithfulness to God in their hearts, He permitted Baal's worshippers to tempt them to idolatry (the ready success of the tempters, moreover, proving the inward unsoundness of the tempted); and this again ended necessarily in punitive judgments.

    26. I polluted them--not directly; "but I judicially gave them up to pollute themselves." A just retribution for their "polluting My sabbaths" (Eze 20:24). This Eze 20:26 is explanatory of Eze 20:25. Their own sin I made their punishment.
    - caused to pass through the fire--FAIRBAIRN translates, "In their presenting (literally, 'the causing to pass over') all their first-born," namely, to the Lord; referring to the command (Ex 13:12, Margin, where the very same expression is used). The lustration of children by passing through the fire was a later abomination (Eze 20:31). The evil here spoken of was the admixture of heathenish practices with Jehovah's worship, which made Him regard all as "polluted." Here, "to the Lord" is omitted purposely, to imply, "They kept up the outward service indeed, but I did not own it as done unto Me, since it was mingled with such pollutions." But English Version is supported by the similar phraseology in Eze 20:31, see on Eze 20:31. They made all their children pass through the fire; but he names the first-born, in aggravation of their guilt; that is, "I had willed that the first-born should be redeemed as being Mine, but they imposed on themselves the cruel rites of offering them to Molech" (De 18:10).
    - might know . . . the Lord--that they may be compelled to know Me as a powerful Judge, since they were unwilling to know Me as a gracious Father.

    27-29. The next period, namely, that which followed the settlement in Canaan: the fathers of the generation existing in Ezekiel's time walked in the same steps of apostasy as the generation in the wilderness.
    - Yet in this--Not content with past rebellions, and not moved with gratitude for God's goodness, "yet in this," still further they rebelled.
    - blasphemed--"have insulted me" [CALVIN]. Even those who did not sacrifice to heathen gods have offered "their sacrifices" (Eze 20:28) in forbidden places.

    28. provocation of their offering--an offering as it were purposely made to provoke God.
    - sweet savour--What ought to have been sweet became offensive by their corruptions. He specifies the various kinds of offerings, to show that in all alike they violated the law.

    29. What is the high place whereunto ye go?--What is the meaning of this name? For My altar is not so called. What excellence do ye see in it, that ye go there, rather than to My temple, the only lawful place of sacrificing? The very name, "high place," convicts you of sinning, not from ignorance but perverse rebellion.
    - is called . . . unto this day--whereas this name ought to have been long since laid aside, along with the custom of sacrificing on high places which it represents, being borrowed from the heathen, who so called their places of sacrifice (the Greeks, for instance, called them by a cognate term, Bomoi), whereas I call mine Mizbeaach, "altar." The very name implies the place is not that sanctioned by Me, and therefore your sacrifices even to ME there (much more those you offer to idols) are only a "provocation" to Me (Eze 20:28; De 12:1-5). David and others, it is true, sacrificed to God on high places, but it was under exceptional circumstances, and before the altar was set up on Mount Moriah.

    30. The interrogation implies

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