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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].
3. The chapter falls into two great parts:
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.
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;
to which passages the form of words here alludes) implies the solemn
earnestness of God's purpose of grace to them.
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).
Da 8:9; 11:16, 41,
"the glorious land"; see Margin, "land of delight," or,
ornament"; "the pleasant land," or "land of desire,"
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)
which makes it likely they had worshipped such idols in Egypt. Also, in
"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
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
to be the covenant-people of God.
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.
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.
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).
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"
is explanatory of
Their own sin I made their punishment.
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.
28. provocation of their offering--an offering as it were purposely
made to provoke God.
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.
30. The interrogation implies