Ezekiel 12



1 “The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying,” This formula, so familiar

in Isaiah and Jeremiah, appears for the first time in Ezekiel, but occurs repeatedly

afterwards, especially in this chapter (vs. 8, 17, 21, 26. and again ch.13:1; 14:2, et al.).

The teaching by “the visions of God” ceases, and that of direct message or symbolic

acts is resumed. In each case the point aimed at was the same. The people who heard

the one or saw the other were to be taught how utterly groundless was the hope that

Jerusalem could hold out against its enemies. The interval between the two

was probably a short one, and the new teaching, we may conjecture, had its

starting point in the prophecies of a speedy deliverance which were current

both at Jerusalem and among the exiles at Babylon.


2 “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which

have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not:

for they are a rebellious house.”  Which have eyes to see, etc. We note the

words in their relation both to like utterances in the past (Isaiah 6:9; 42:20),

and by Ezekiel’s contemporary (Jeremiah 5:21), and in the future by our Lord

(Matthew 13:13), by John (John 12:40), and lastly by Paul (Acts 28:27). The

thought and phrase were naturally as ever-recurring as the fact.



Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears (v. 2)



TRUTH. These blind Jews have eyes and the deaf have ears. Neither class

is deformed or mutilated in respect of their organs of sense. Here is the

paradox, the surprising situation. It is men with eyes and ears who are blind

and deaf. It is no wonder that the lower animals should live without man’s

religion in a life of brutish appetite. But it is surprising that beings endowed

with higher faculties should degrade themselves to such a life. That this is

the case with the most hardened and ignorant may be proved by the

experience of life.


Ø      The most brutalized sinner was once a child. Then he had the child’s

wondering, open-eyed vision of truth.


Ø      The most degraded have been restored. Then the faculty of spiritual

perception has been reawakened. This proves that it was only

dormant, not absent.


Ø      Even in a condition of indifference a degraded, deadened soul may be

aroused. The bow drawn at a venture may send an arrow into a joint

of the armor of worldly thought and find the natural sensitiveness

beneath.  (I Kings 22:34)



SPIRITUAL TRUTH. Their eyes are blind and their ears deaf. This does

not mean merely that they have not the gifts Joel referred to (Joel 2:28).

It means that they do not perceive the truth which is declared to

them by the messengers of God.


Ø      The words spoken are not heeded. They are mere sound.

Immediately they are spoken in the ear a rush of unsympathetic

thoughts sweeps them away. It is like sowing by the wayside.

The seed is trampled underfoot.  (Matthew 13:19)


Ø      If the words are attended to, the personal significance of them is not

grasped. They are mere ideas unrealized. They are not felt to have any

relation to life. Thus a biblical scholar may be blind to the truth of God.



CAUSED BY SIN. The people are “a rebellious house,” and therefore they

cannot perceive the Divine message. We have come upon one of the worst

consequences of sin. It deadens the soul against its own guilt and against

the messages from God to the sinner. This is very different from intellectual

dullness. The will of God is so revealed that “the wayfaring man, though a

fool, may not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8).  Indeed, mere intellectual acumen

does very little in helping us to perceive spiritual and moral truth. God has

hidden from the “wise and prudent” what He has revealed to “babes and

sucklings  (Matthew 11:25).   The preaching of the cross of Christ is

foolishness to many of the world’s wise men (I Corinthians 1:18-19),

because they have not spiritual sympathy with it (Ibid. ch.2:14). Note the

blinding and deafening which are sometimes ascribed to God (e.g. Isaiah

6:9-10) — because it is the abuse of God’s action that leads to such a


are here brought back to man’s guilt.



is one of guilt — for they brought it on themselves and also one of

danger. But they are not left alone in it. Ezekiel is to proceed to more

simple and striking action, in order to extort attention from the indifferent.

We must shake the sleeper when his house is on fire. We want more

rousing preaching. God has pity on the blind and deaf, and it is according

to his mercy that every effort should be made to reach them. Christ gives

new sight and hearing (Luke 4:18).


3  “Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and

remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place

to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though

they be a rebellious house.  4 Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by

day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even

in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity.  5 Dig thou through the

wall in their sight, and carry out thereby.  6 In their sight shalt thou bear

it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover

thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto

the house of Israel.  7 And I did so as I was commanded: I brought forth

my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged through the

wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon

my shoulder in their sight.”  Prepare thee stuff for removing, etc.; better,

equipment for a journey, with the implied thought that it is the journey of one

going into exile. “Bag and baggage,” all the household goods which an exile

could take with him (Exodus 12:11, 34 may supply an illustration), were to

be brought out in broad daylight and piled up opposite his door. Then in

the twilight (Revised Version, in the dark, and so in vs. 7, 12) he was to

go forth, not by the door of his house, but by breaking through the wall

(with such walls as those of ch. 13:11 the process would not be difficult),

as a man might do who was escaping secretly from a city through

the gates of which he dared not pass (v. 5), and was to start with his

traveling chattels upon his shoulder. Lastly (v. 6), as the strangest

feature of all, he was to go forth with his face covered, as one who

wished to avoid recognition, as one also who could not see one step of the

way before him. This, it is intimated, would startle even the most careless,

and in this way he would become, as he had been before in like symbolic

acts (Ezekiel 4., 5.), as Isaiah (Isaiah 20:2) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:2)

had been before him, a sign unto the house of Israel.




                                    Hope Mingled with Fear (v. 3)


If we bear in mind that this language was employed by the Lord in

directing Ezekiel how to deal with the house of Israel, we shall see what

light it casts upon human liberty and responsibility. The prophet was to

make use of certain symbolical means with the view of wakening his

countrymen to a sense of their danger, and of inducing them to repent and

to turn unto the Lord. Now, believing in the Divine omniscience and

foreknowledge, we cannot but be assured that the Eternal foresaw what

would be the result of the appeal which was to be made. Yet lie spoke to

the prophet as if that result was uncertain. “It may be they will consider,

though they be a rebellious house.” Ezekiel did not and could not know

what would be the issue of this ministry with which he was entrusted; and

he was to do his work in a perfectly natural and human way, to act as

believing in the liberty of those to whom he was sent, and as leaving the

responsibility entirely with them. He experienced in his mind a conflict of

emotions; hope was mingled with fear.



Ezekiel knew that he was sent to “a rebellious house,” to “a stiffnecked

people;” he could not possibly be blind to the character and disposition of

those whom he knew so well. Every herald and messenger of God is

sometimes sent to the unbelieving, the hard-hearted, the apparently

unimpressible. Such characters have often been brought into contact with

the Divine Word, and have as often spurned it. Judging by experience only,

how can any servant of God go to such, taking with him a new message, or

the old message with new arguments and persuasions to enforce it, without

something of discouragement, something of foreboding? It is not possible.

Habits are confirmed as days and years pass on; the hard heart is likely to

grow harder instead of softer. Only the hammer can break, only the fire can

melt it.



Divine kindness addresses the rebellious and impenitent yet once again. “It

may be they will consider.” If this view is possible to God, surely it is

possible to God’s human messenger. He knows, perhaps, that his own

ignorance has been instructed, his own obduracy has been melted; and he

hopes that in this the experience of others may resemble his own. If men

will but consider, consideration may lead to repentance. And why should

they not consider? Is not the message from God a message that deserves

serious and patient attention? The good will which the Lord’s servant has

towards his fellow men forbids him to despair of their salvation, to

abandon labor on their behalf.




THOSE ADDRESSED IN GOD’S NAME. The herald of God delivers his

message, presents the offers and the requirements of Divine authority; he

does this with mingled fear and hope; and he can do no more. The record

has always been a record resembling that of Paul’s ministry at Rome:

Some believed, and some believed not.” (Acts 28:24)  The minister of Christ

preaches the gospel, whether men will hear or forbear. He delivers his soul.

He cannot command results. He can simply repeat the admonition of his

Master, “Take heed how ye hear!” And it is well that he should not

discharge his ministry in a spirit of dejection and despondency. He must

indeed face the possibility that those whose welfare he seeks may refuse to

consider; they are free agents, and the competing voices of the world are

powerful, attractive. Yet he should not forget that they may consider; and

if they will only yield so far, he may reasonably hope that consideration

may lead to repentance and to life eternal.


8  And in the morning came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,

9 Son of man, hath not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said

unto thee, What doest thou?”  The commands were obeyed, and the prophet

waited fur the next inspiration, the next word of the Lord. It would seem as if

he had himself done what he was told to do without knowing what it meant. It

was not till night had passed to morning that he was able to answer the question

which the exiles asked him, What doest thou! At last the answer came.


10 “Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; This burden

concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that

are among them.  11 Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it

be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity.”

Literally, the prince is this burden in Jerusalem. The word “burden,” in the

sense of “prophecy,” so common in Isaiah and Jeremiah and other

prophets, as Hosea (Hosea 8:10) and Nahum (Nahum 1:1), is used

by Ezekiel here only. Possibly he on the whole avoided it, as having fallen

into discredit through its constant use by the false prophets (Jeremiah

23:33-38), and preferred the formula of “the word of Jehovah.” As

interpreted by Jeremiah 39:4 and II Kings 25:4, the “prince” is

Zedekiah. Possibly Ezekiel avoided the title “king,” as seeing in him one

who was a ruler de facto, but not a king de jure. The facts related in

Jeremiah 39:4 exactly correspond with the symbolic act. Zedekiah and

his men of war escape from the city by night, “by the way of the king’s

garden, by the gate between the two walls,” probably enough with faces

covered, as David’s was in his flight (II Samuel 15:30), to avoid

detection, or as a sign of mourning, and through some freshly made exit

from the palace. The further significance of the covered face is found in the

fact that Zedekiah was blinded at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, and

from that time could not see the ground on which he trod. Those who see

in every Old Testament prediction nothing but a prophecy ex eventu infer

from this that this section of Ezekiel was written after the destruction of

Jerusalem. I do not take that view, and place it in close connection with the

preceding chapters. We note in v. 11 the peculiar phrase, “I am your

sign.” Ezekiel, in what he does in the presence of the exiles, is figuring that

which, before long, will come to pass in Jerusalem. They were to go forth

into captivity as he had gone. For they shall remove, the Revised. Version

gives, they shall go into exile.



Teaching by Example (v. 11)


The Jews had neglected the words of Ezekiel; the prophet is now to

attempt to rouse them by a fresh method, by an illustrative action. They

would not attend when he told them that the trouble was coining; he is

now to perform before their eyes an action illustrative of that trouble. The

inhabitants of Jerusalem refused to admit that they will be sent into

captivity, and it would seem that their friends in captivity were in sympathy

with them in this respect, and could communicate with them. So Ezekiel

packs up his goods and removes his house, as a sign of the approaching

removal of the Jews into captivity. This is the most effective method of





Ø      It is transparent.   Deeds are more visible than words. Men of

various languages can understand the same facts. The bold

outlines of an event are more readily grasped than the floating

sounds of speech.


Ø      It is impressive. We are struck by what we see with our own eyes far

more than by what is reported to us by others. The greatest deeds

recorded in history do not produce so much impression on us as the

much smaller things with which we have had personal contact

(I imagine that is why God has ordained for us to witness one on

One – CY – 2014); but those historic deeds are far more interesting

than abstract philosophical principles.


Ø      It is suggestive. Deeds are more eloquent than words. They are

many-sided, and every face; is capable of reflecting some truth.

Thus the same illustration may convey various aspects of truth to

different persons.


Ø      It is enduring. The memory of events remains when that of words

has faded. Nothing dies so rapidly as the influence of an orator.

Facts live forever, while words of preaching vanish almost as soon

as they are spoken.




Ø      That which is human. We may take illustrations from nature, and

read “sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in

everything;” but human life is more full of instruction — more

intelligible, impressive, suggestive, and enduring in its lessons.

Hence the inestimable value of honest biography.


Ø      That which is personal to the teacher. It is good to be able to point to

great examples in history. But when the preacher himself does some

striking deed, his influence is far greater. Ezekiel was himself to

remove in illustration of the Captivity. We can teach best by our lives.


Ø      That which involves self-sacrifice. Ezekiel’s action was one of trouble

and vexation. If our message costs us little, it may be lightly esteemed.

Nothing is so impressive as the evidence of pain and cost in the effort to

enlighten others. Self-denial is the most eloquent of persuasive influences.

He who thus puts himself to trouble proves his sincerity, and impresses

his neighbours with his own earnestness, and with the corresponding

weightiness of his message.


  • Note: All this may be most perfectly illustrated from the gospel of Christ.

Here we are taught by the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of

Christ. Those facts are seen in the personal history of our great Teacher,

and pre-eminently in His sacrifice of Himself to the truth and for the benefit

of the world.


12 “And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in

the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to

carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground

with his eyes.”  For that he see not, read, with the Revised Version, because

be shall not see.


13 “My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my

snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans;

yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.”  My net also will I spread, etc.

Compare the same image in Lamentations 1:13. The prediction of v. 12 is

reiterated with emphasis. Zedekiah shall be in Babylon, yet shall not see.

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 10. 7:2; 8:2) relates that Ezekiel sent this prophecy to

Jerusalem, and that Zedekiah, finding an apparent discrepancy in the words

that he should not see Babylon, and those of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:4; 34:3),

hardened himself in his unbelief. (Like people today who ignorantly look

for discrepancies in the Bible.  (“…..some things are hard to be understood,

which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the

other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”  II Peter 3:16 – CY  - 20-14).

There is no reason, however, for supposing that Josephus had access to any

other records than the books of the two prophets, and his narrative looks

rather like an imagined history of what might have been.



God’s Net (v. 13)




Ø      God will not leave guilty men free. They have a time of liberty, but

there will be a limit to this. Though they have a long tether, some

day its end will be reached. Freedom is given to allow scope for

choice. If the power of choice is abused, the freedom will be



Ø      God employs means for restraining the liberty of bad men. He does

not lay hold of them with His hand; He uses a net. In the present

instance the net was Nebuchadnezzar. That heathen monarch did

not know that he was a mere instrument in the hand of God; yet did

God so completely hold him in this respect that he called the man

“my servant Nebuchadnezzar  (Jeremiah 25:9). Thus God overrules

the movements of kings.


Ø      These means may not be perceived by the unhappy victims. The net

is a snare, and “in vain is a snare spread in the sight of any bird”

(Proverbs 1:17).  We must not suppose that God really deceives

His children. The Jews had been warned.  But their eyes were

blind and their ears deaf (v. 2). The danger is not the

less because men do not perceive it. Just when a man boasts of his

greatest triumph the meshes of a Divine judgment may be drawing

together about his doomed life.




Ø      He designs the net for particular persons. In the verse before us it is

spread for one man. There is no element of chance in the judgments

of Heaven. God considers the case of each soul, and acts accordingly.


Ø      All the men caught in Gods net are sinners. He has no terrors for the

good. He is not like the tempter, who ensnares men into evil. Every

man who is caught in God’s net of judgment has been first ensnared

in the devil’s net of sin.


Ø      The greatest are not beyond the reach of this net. In the present

instance the net is spread expressly to catch no less a person than

Zedekiah, the King of Jerusalem. Massive battlements and the serried

ranks of a mighty army cannot keep off the invisible entanglement

of the net of judgment.



NET. Its threads may be fine as gossamer, but they are strong as steel.

Zedekiah was to be taken in the snare, and brought to Babylon in so

helpless a state that he would not even see the place, for, as the event

proved, his eyes were to be put out. The king fled by night from Jerusalem,

but was caught by the Chaldeans near Jericho. As “the stars in their

courses fought against Sisera(Judges 5:20), the course of armies and

nations turned against the guilty Jews and their wicked king. There is NO




apostles that they should be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), and He

compared the kingdom of heaven to a dragnet (Ibid.ch.13:47). The

only way of escaping from the awful net of judgment is to permit one’s

self to be taken in the saving net of the gospel.


14 “And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help

him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them.

15 And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall scatter them

among the nations, and disperse them in the countries.

16 But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the

famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their

abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall

know that I am the LORD.” And I will scatter. The capture of the king would

naturally be followed by the dispersion of his adherents, some of whom

would fall by the sword, while a few (Hebrew, men of number, i.e. easily

counted) would escape to some neighboring country, where they might

hope to find a refuge. There they would have to tell their tale of shame,

and to let the heathen know that Jehovah was thus punishing their

abominations (compare ch.14:22-23). The prophecy ends with the

familiar formula, They shall know that I am the Lord.




            The Dramatic Form of Prophecy (vs. 1-16)


It is of the first moment that men should have right and adequate

impressions of the truth. A man’s life is properly molded through his

intelligence. His intelligence molds his tastes, feeds his emotions, inspires

his purposes, directs his life. Clear convictions of truth and duty possess

unspeakable value.



GRIEF TO GOD. Eyes have been conferred for the sole reason that men

may see; and ears, that they may hear. Yet men often misuse and neglect

them. By indulgence in vicious likings they willfully blind the inner eye

and make deaf the inner ear. “None are so blind as those who will not see.”

“If the eye be evil, the whole body is full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:23)

If the sole channel of truth be choked, the man is the victim of falsehood.

This is a grief to God, and he adopts a thousand methods to illumine the

dark understanding. He sometimes blinds the eye of sense that the eye of

the mind may open. He finds His way into the heart of men through some

other avenue hitherto untried; for He who made man will find some method

of access to his soul.



LIFE. Instruction, as a rule, is addressed to the ear; but for the deaf and for

infants it is often addressed to the eye. So, in olden times, God often gave

to men an object lesson. We have the narrative of such an event in the

fourth chapter, where Ezekiel was required to lie on free side of his body

during three hundred and ninety days. When Zedekiah the prophet was

summoned to the court of Ahab, to give counsel respecting the projected

war, Zedekiah entered the king’s presence furnished with horns of iron.

The appearance of these was to add impressiveness to the prophet’s words.

So when Paul was journeying for the last time to Jerusalem, Agabus, a

prophet, came to him at Caesarea, and, taking Paul’s girdle, bound his own

hands and feet, then added, “So shall the Jews bind the man that owneth

this girdle.” (Acts 21:11) This appeal to the eye by living action strengthens

conviction in the minds of spectators of the truth and importance of the

message. By every possible method God accommodated Himself to the

necessities of the people for whom He still designed kindness.


·         MEDIATORAL SERVICE BY MAN FOR MEN. The labor of a

true prophet is no sinecure (easy job). It is the hardest of toil. He must have no

care for himself in his solicitude for others. To be a true prophet he must be

like-minded with God. The self-forgetful, self sacrificing love of God must

flow in his veins. He must be completely devoted to the good of those to

whom he is sent. No labor must be accounted arduous, no pain severe, in

order to success in his undertaking. Now Ezekiel is required to array

himself in an emigrant’s attire; provide himself with the usual baggage for

foreign travel; take his staff in his hand; carry his equipment on his

shoulder; leave his home in the sight of men, yet with face veiled; and dig a

hole through the city wall, to secure exit from the city. To do all this in the

town of Tel-Abib would excite public attention, surprise, and wonder. The

people would consider the prophet mad. Yet this was the very end God

had in view, viz. to arrest attention and to produce reflection. This strange

action would indicate the strength of Ezekiel’s faith, and strong faith

awakens faith in others. He was willing, like Paul, “to become all things, so

that by any means he might save some.”  (I Corinthians 9:22)



knowledge which man gets in response to inquiry is more appreciated and

more pondered than that which is given unasked. A great triumph is gained

over the sluggishness of our nature when a spirit of inquiry is stirred

within. If a man desires knowledge, it is an omen for good; it is the dawn

of blessing. Clearer and fuller information can come through the gateway

of the ear than through the gateway of the eye. The people to whom

Ezekiel addressed himself were those of the Captivity at Tel-Abib. They

were fostering a false hope (aided by vain counsels sent from brethren in

Jerusalem) that their captivity would be very brief, and that new political

combinations would result in speedy restoration to Palestine. Thus their

minds would be disturbed; their simple trust was diverted from God, and

they were losing the spiritual benefit which the exile was intended to bring.

Inquiry after the truth would lead the way to mental tranquillity and

submission. The clear fulfillment of prophecy would strengthen faith in



·         FOLLY OF ALL EFFORT TO EVADE GOD. In the fourteenth verse

we read, “I will scatter toward every wind all that are about to help him,

and all his bands.” This announcement would embrace the Egyptian host

which came to help Zedekiah, as well as his own people. To resist Jehovah

is to resist the granite rock. A single word from God ought to suffice in

order to obtain our readiest obedience. Patriotism is an excellent virtue in

its place, but very often it is only a poor admixture of vanity and selfish

ambition. Pious trust and pious obedience are far superior. To be wise we

must always be on the side of God. God’s will is supreme, and, in the end,

is irresistible. Oneness with that will is life and peace.


·         TO KNOW GOD — THIS IS THE FINAL ISSUE. It is instructive to

observe how that this is the frequent refrain: “They shall know that I am

the Lord.” (I have counted 62 times from a concordance that this phrase

is used in this context in Ezekiel - see  Ezekiel – Study of God’s Use of  the Word Know -

# 223 - this website - Y - 2021)  This was a lesson which the Hebrews

would not learn in days of prosperity; therefore they were led into the deep

shades of adversity to acquire it. The discipline, though severe, was

successful. Experience is an excellent school, though a costly one. It cured

them of their foolish belief in idols, and wrought in them the conviction

that the unseen Jehovah alone was God. Yet in many persons this

knowledge was only intellectual. It did not command their affection,

nor draw after it spontaneous service. The knowledge of God which

becomes to us salvation, is an experimental knowledge. It is knowledge of

God as our God — our reconciled Father. We know Him with personal

intimacy. We admit Hhim to the inmost chamber of our hearts. He becomes

Emmanuel, i.e. God with us — God in us. We grow up into His likeness,

We imitate His qualities. We yield to Him our will and

            heart and life.





                        A Parabolic Appeal to a Rebellious People (vs. 1-16)


“The word of the Lord also came unto me, saying, Son of man, thou dwellest in the

midst of a rebellious house,” etc. “Now begin the amplifications,” says Hengstenberg,

the marginal notes, so to speak, on the great text in ch. 8-11., which extend to ch. 19,

and these terminate in a song, corresponding to the song in the first group in ch. 7.

The approaching catastrophe of Jerusalem forms the central point throughout.

The prophet is inexhaustible in the announcement of this, as the false

patriotism was inexhaustible in its announcements of salvation.” We are

not certain whether this parable of Ezekiel’s removing was really acted by

him or only visional. But we incline to the opinion that it was internal and

visional, for the following reasons:


1. This communication (vs. 1-16) refers chiefly to the king and the

people in Jerusalem, while the prophet dwelt at Tel-Abib. So that so far as

the people principally interested in it are concerned, it would be as

impressive to them if it took place in the region of the prophet’s soul as if it

were outwardly enacted in a country far away from them.


2. The prophet is represented as dwelling in the midst of the people to

whom this communication chiefly applies, and as doing these things in their

sight; but seeing that he actually dwelt at Tel-Abib on the Chebar, we think

that his dwelling and acting spoken of in this chapter must have been



3. If it had been an actual and external occurrence it would not, at least in

one respect, have well answered the end designed. That end was to set

forth the truth that the king and the people in Jerusalem should be carried

into captivity. But inasmuch as Ezekiel was already in exile, if he actually

went forth thus from his Babylonian residence, the action would more fitly

symbolize the return of the exiles to their own land than the carrying of

others into exile. Such a return many of the exiles were hoping for and

expecting speedily; and the prophet was not likely to be told to do anything

that would encourage the vain expectation. Jeremiah had already written to

them, exhorting them to build houses and settle peacefully in the land of

their captivity, because they should not return to their own land until

seventy years of exile were accomplished. For these reasons we incline to

the opinion that the doings of vs. 3-7 were not external and actual, but

internal and visional; but, as we have said above, we are not certain of this.

Of this we feel assured, that, if they were visional, they were impressed

upon the mind of Ezekiel with all the vividness of actual transactions. But,

happily, this question does not affect the permanent and universal teachings

of the incident. Notice:



            SINNERS. “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house,”



Ø      A condition of sad moral obtuseness. Which have eyes to see, and see

not; they have ears to hear, and hear not” (compare Deuteronomy 29:4;

Isaiah 6:9-10). The will of God was made known unto them, and they

had the mental and moral faculties which are necessary for its

apprehension, yet they did not apprehend it; they misapprehended or

disregarded it. “When men see, hear, and do not profit by their seeing or

hearing, then they neither see nor hear in Scripture sense.” In this respect

how great is the moral insensibility, not only of the openly profane, but of

many who attend the public means of grace! They unite in forms of public

worship without any spiritual improvement; they hear the ministry of

redemptive truth without any saving impression. They “have eyes to see,

and see not; they have cars to hear, and hear not.”


Ø      Moral obtuseness arising from persistent wickedness. “For they are a

rebellious house.” Their moral insensibility was a consequence of their

habitual sin. “The cause is all from themselves; the darkness of the

understanding is owing to the stubbornness of the will.”


o       The practice  of sin blunts the spiritual susceptibilities,

o        tends to destroy the capacity for receiving religious impressions

or perceiving spiritual truth;


and when fully developed IT ENDS IN MORAL INSENSIBILITY,

and makes a man “past feeling.”  (Ephesians 2:19)



FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE WICKED. “Therefore, thou son of

man, prepare thee stuff for removing,” etc. (v. 3). Many means had been

tried to lead them to repentance, but without a satisfactory result. Still,

God does not yet abandon them, but directs that other means shall be tried,

saying, “It may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house.”

The truth must “be set before their eyes,” says Hengstenberg, “in rough,

palpable, overpowering reality, if it is to find entrance to their minds, and

succeed in emancipating them from those dreams of the future which are

preventing their repentance....The greater the weakness of their eyes, the

more conspicuous must he the exhibition of the truth.” God is unwilling to

abandon the wicked to their sin and doom. He has long patience with them,

sends to them messenger after messenger, and employs means after means,

both various and oft-repeated, in order to lead them to turn from sin to

            Himself. (“And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by His

            messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had

            compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place:  But they mocked

the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets,

until the wrath oI the Lord arose against His people, till there was no

remedy.  (II Chronicles 36:15-16)  In illustration and confirmation of this,

see here ch. 33:11; Jeremiah 44:4; Hosea 11:8-9; Nehemiah 9:26-31;

Matthew 21:33-44. And in the incident before us, he not only addresses to

them this stirring parable to arrest their attention and awaken their consideration,

but he also instructs the prophet to make known to them the interpretation of

it, that even the most indifferent and the most insensible might be made

acquainted with the truths communicated.




(vs. 3- 7) was the Lord’s appeal to the insensible and rebellions people. It

does not require any exposition from us, as the inspired interpretation is

here given (vs. 8-16), and this also is interpreted by its remarkable fulfillment

in history. But we may mark the several stages of the mournful history here

predicted, the fulfillment of which is recorded in II Kings 25.; Jeremiah

39:1-10; 52:1-30.


Ø      Here is a picture of the king and people of Jerusalem going into

captivity. (vs. 3-4, 10-11.) “The stuff for removing,” or “baggage of the

emigrant(vs. 3-4), “is the equipment made by one who enters on a

journey never to return.” And “as they that go forth into captivity,” or

like the removals of the emigrant” (v. 4), signifies, according to

Hengstenberg, “in the costume and with the maimer of emigrants; ‘with a

bag on the shoulder and a staff in the hand;’ ‘sad and with drooping

head.’” Thus Ezekiel was to typify the departure of prince and people into



Ø      Here is a picture of going into captivity by sorrowful and stealthy

flight. (vs. 5-7, 12.) He is to go forth in the twilight so as to elude the

vigilance of the enemies, and with his face covered so as not to see the

beloved land which he is leaving. And all the accounts of the flight agree

that it was made in fright and furtively under cover of night.

(Just imagine what they were going through, all so unnecessary because

they could have and should have obeyed!  CY - 2021)


Ø      Here is a veiled announcement of the kings deprivation of sight and an

explicit declaration of his destination as an exile. (v. 13.) According to

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 10. 7:2), Ezekiel sent an account of this prophecy to

Jerusalem to strengthen the influence of Jeremiah with the king, who was

personally considerably disposed to heed the counsel of that prophet. But

the king compared the announcements of the two prophets, and finding

that while Jeremiah said he should be carried in bonds to Babylon, Ezekiel

said he should not see it, he disbelieved both of them. And yet the event

showed that both of them were true. The king was carried as a prisoner to

Babylon, but he did not see it, for Nebuchadnezzar had put out his eyes at

Riblah in the land of Hamath.


Ø      Here is a declaration that the king should be left without defense or

helper. “I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him,

and all his bands” (v. 14). And the sacred historian tells us that when the

army of the Chaldeans overtook the fleeing king “in the plains of Jericho,

all his army were scattered from him.”  *****


Ø      Here is the intention expressed to spare a small remnant for the

acknowledgment of the supremacy of Jehovah and the confession of

their sins. (vs. 15-16.) Only “a few men,” or “men of number,” should be

left, i.e. so few that they might be easily counted; and they should be spared

in order that they might acknowledge the many aggravated and

persistent sins of the people, which had led to these stern judgments,

and so vindicate the justice of God in the infliction of them. And by these

judgments they would become convinced that Jehovah is the living and the

true God. “They shall know that I am the Lord.” These words, which

recur as a refrain” in these prophecies, we have already considered

(in Ezekiel 6:7, 10).  (A wasted life - so useless to have happened -

how do we miss the mark - why so anti-God?  I do not have the words

to convey my feelings!  CY - 2021)


·         CONCLUSION. Learn:


1. The peril of disregarding the Word of the Lord. Such conduct, persisted

    in, leads to spiritual blindness and deafness.

2. The obligation of the good to put forth persistent efforts for the

    conversion of the wicked.

3. The importance of employing various means for the conversion of the



17 “Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,”

The opening words, The worn of the Lord came to me,

imply an interval of passivity and silence. One conscious burst of

inspiration came to an end, and was followed, after a time, by another.


18 “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with

trembling and with carefulness;  19 And say unto the people of the land,

Thus saith the Lord GOD of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land

of Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water

with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein,

because of the violence of all them that dwell therein.  20 And the cities that

are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall

know that I am the LORD.”  Eat thy bread with quaking, etc. No special stress

is to be laid on the fact that only bread and water are named. The prophet is not

dwelling now on the scarcity of food in the besieged city, as he had done in

ch. 4:9-17, but on the fear and terror which should haunt the lives of the

besieged. Here again we can scarcely doubt that, as in v. 11, Ezekiel was a

sign to those among whom he lived. Outwardly and visibly

he was seen after his strange flitting, cowering in a corner, as one hunted

down and dreading pursuit, with every look and gesture of extremest

terror. This was to be the portion of those who escaped and whose life was

“given them for a prey”  (Jeremiah 45:5).  The strange act was to be explained

to “the people of the land,” i.e. the exiles among whom Ezekiel lived. The short

prediction ends with the usual formula. There is another interval, and then

another inspiration.



Fear (v. 18)


Ezekiel, in conformity with his new, desperate method of rousing the

heedless Jews, is now to dramatize Fear in his own person and action, as a

sign of the terror that will seize upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the

days of its overthrow.


  • FEAR ARISES FROM EVIL CAUSES. The sound and innocent soul in

healthy circumstances should not know fear. Observe some of the causes

of fear.


Ø      Ignorance. Fear always springs from ignorance,” says Emerson.

There is a sense of the mysterious and uncertainty about it. When we

perceive an approaching calamity, we may shrink from it and feel the

keenest distress; but the peculiar agony of fear lies in the darkness of

futurity. This, of course, implies nothing morally defective, for we

are necessarily limited.  Childish fears naturally haunt childish

ignorance. But though not morally wrong, except in the careless

and wilful, ignorance is an evil circumstance to be conquered.


Ø      Weakness. There is a weakness of nerve which belongs to one’s

bodily condition, and so some are constitutionally timorous. But

the worst fear springs from cowardice, i.e. from a culpable laxity

of moral fiber.


Ø      Guilt. Fear followed the Fall. “The wicked flee when no man

pursueth.”  (Proverbs 28:1)  We know that we deserve ill; therefore

we cannot be surprised if we are to receive it. This is an intellectual

conception; but the moral effect of sin is stronger. The man who is

conscious of his sin feels ashamed, smitten with helplessness; and

the heavens gather up black thunderclouds over his head.




Ø      It is one of the most painful elements of punishment. The murderer

suffers infinitely more agony in the condemned cell than he can ever

feel on the gallows. “There is but one thing of which I am afraid,”

says Montaigne, “and that is fear.”  (“For God hath not given us

the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

II Timothy 1:7)


Ø      Fear is a cause of disaster. “The direst foe of courage,” says George

Macdonald, “is the fear itself, not the object of it; and the man who can

overcome his own terror is a hero and more.” We are paralyzed by fear.

As in dreams the limbs are heavy, like lead, when a terror is approaching,

so in waking life we find that the terror which threatens fascinates us

into helplessness.


Ø      Worse than all this, fear is morally degrading. “Fear is cruel and mean,”

says Emerson. It is a selfish passion, and it lowers our whole tone and



  • FEAR MAY BE CONQUERED BY FAITH. Constitutional bravery

will exclude the possibility of fear. “Fear!” exclaimed the hero Nelson,

when only a boy, to his grandmother, who had asked if he had not met fear

when he had lost his way, “what is it like? I have never seen it.” Such

incapacity for fear is a splendid natural endowment, but it has not the moral

character of victory over fear in those who are capable of its pangs. The

true antidote to fear is FAITH!   We cannot know everything, and so dispel

the ignorance out of which fear springs; nor can we create in ourselves the

strength of a hero by a sheer act of will; nor can we deny or repudiate our

guilt. But we may:


Ø      trust God’s protection in the darkness,

Ø      lean upon His strength in the hour of need,

Ø      rely upon His pardon when we repent of sin and

Ø       turn to the grace of Christ.


So the feeblest can say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then am

I strong”  (II Corinthians 12:10); “I will go in the strength of the Lord God”

(Psalm 71:16).  Moreover, the work of faith will be completed by love,

for “perfect love casteth out fear.”  (I John 4:18)




                                    Trembling Anticipations (v. 18)


Frequently was the ministry of Ezekiel a ministry of symbolism as well as

of language. Very pictorial and effective must some of the prescribed

actions of the prophet have appeared to those who witnessed them. On the

occasion referred to in this passage he ate his bread and drank his water

with trembling, carefulness, and astonishment. Now, in ordinary cases, the

daily meals are partaken by good men with cheerfulness and gratitude. The

change from Ezekiel’s usual demeanor to that evident upon this occasion

must certainly have awakened on the part of his companions not a little

curiosity and inquiry. There was a typical signification in it, which he

himself was ready to explain. There are times when anticipation of evil is

justified, when its absence is unreasonable. The terrors, privations, and

sufferings of the approaching siege of Jerusalem were pictured beforehand

by the figurative, symbolical actiom of the prophet.



the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of Israel who were about to

suffer. And their sufferings were the just reward of their unfaithfulness and

rebelliousness. Threats and warnings had not been spared. The prophet at

least believed that these threats were not empty and vain, that the day was

approaching when they should be fulfilled. The siege of the rebellious city

was at hand.



FOREBODINGS. lake a true minister of God, Ezekiel thought and felt less

for himself than for his people. He had personally no special reason for

alarm. So far as his own safety was concerned, there was no reason why he

should cherish anticipations of evil. But in his own mind he identified

himself with Jerusalem, with Israel. He could not separate and isolate

himself from those to whom he was bound by ties of kindred and of

common indebtedness to the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

If his people suffered, he would suffer with them. Even if they showed a

sinful indifference to their state and prospects, he would cherish a just

sensitiveness. If disaster were approaching, he would not be content to

secure his own safety and to regard their fate with heartless unconcern.



Ezekiel was no mere prophet of evil. He did not conceive himself to have

accomplished his mission in predicting the coming evil, and then

abandoning the people to the consequences of their sin. He warned them in

the hope that they would profit by his warning, turn from their evil ways,

and seek that national disaster might be averted, or, at all events, in the

hope that individuals might repent and flee from the wrath to come. His

mission was one of benevolence.



FOREBODINGS. The siege which Ezekiel foretold came to pass; the

people, in the famine which ensued, ate their bread with carefulness, and

drank their water with astonishment; the cities were laid waste, and the

land became a desolation. All the predictions of the Lord’s prophet were

verified. The false security of the people was proved to be false and

baseless; their hope of immunity from judgment was frustrated. The

righteous judgment of God was vindicated, and that in a most awful




FOREBODINGS. The fear of the prophet, the calamity and terror which

overtook the people, had a moral, a religious end, which in large measure

was secured. The authority of the God of Israel was asserted. The vanity of

rebellion against Him was demonstrative. The attention of all concerned was



“Ye shall know  that I am the Lord.”




Deprivations Caused by Sin (vs. 17-20)


“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, eat thy

bread with quaking,” etc. This paragraph was addressed to Ezekiel’s fellow

exiles. “Say unto the people of the land;” i.e. of Chaldea. The design was

to discourage the false expectations of the captives, who were looking

forward to an early season of prosperity for their native land, in which they

hoped to share. To this end the prophet shows to them that, in respect to

their fellow countrymen in Jerusalem, there would be a cutting off of the

physical comforts of life, great anxiety and distress of mind, and sad

devastation of both cities and country, and all these things because of the

sins of the people, or “for the violence of all who dwell in it.” Several

things call for attention.



LIFE. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with

trembling and with carefulness; and say unto the people of the land, Thus

saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of Israel

[or, ‘in the land of Israel’]; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and

drink their water with astonishment.” These words point to the cutting off

of the comforts of life, and the possession of the mere necessaries thereof.

But not always does sin produce consequences such as this. Sin and secular

prosperity have often gone hand in hand (compare Genesis 13:10, 13;

Psalm 73:3-12; Luke 12:16-20; 16:19-26). But in these cases the prosperity

was precedent to the Divine judgment or to the full development

of sin (Genesis 15:16). When that development had taken place, and that

judgment was being exercised, there was a striking reversal of circumstances

in each case.  In the siege of Jerusalem, to which our text points, physical

comforts and luxuries disappeared, and long before its close men deemed

themselves fortunate if they could secure bread and water. And in our age

the wicked may prosper in the world and increase in riches; but in the time of

retribution, whenever it arrives, sin will be found injurious to all THE TRUE

INTERESTS OF MEN!  Sin often strips the sinner of physical comforts,

and even of the bare necessaries of life. Drunkenness, gluttony, indolence,

wastefulness, bring many a person and many a family to abject poverty and

want (compare Proverbs 6:9-11; 19:15; 23:21; 24:30-34).



SPIRIT. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water

with trembling and with carefulness.… They shall eat their bread with

carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment.” They would eat

even the necessaries of life, not in peace and comfort, but in anxiety and

alarm.  Their distress may have arisen from fear lest their scanty supplies of

food should fail them, and so they ate “their bread with carefulness.” And

to this was joined terror of their enemies who surrounded them, causing

them to take of the sustenance of life “with quaking, trembling, and

astonishment.”  It is of the nature of sin, when it is developed, to destroy

peace and calmness of mind, and to produce terror and distress. “The wicked

are like the troubled sea,” etc. (Isaiah 57:20-21). Without doubt we may often

find the wicked in their sad career untroubled either by guilt or fear; but

for everyone the time of awakening comes, and with it security departs and

terror arrives. “When the pleasure has been tasted and is gone,” says Mr.

Froude, “and nothing is left of the crime but the ruin which it has wrought,

then the furies take their seats upon the midnight pillow.” “The wicked flee

when no man pursueth (Proverbs 28:1).  “The sound of a shaken leaf

shall chase them; and they shall flee as fleeing from a sword; and they

shall fall when none pursueth.”  (Leviticus 26:36)



COMMITTED. “That her land may be desolate from all that is therein,

because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that

are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate.” Instead of

“That her land may be desolate from all that is therein,” the margin reads,

“from the fulness thereof.” The meaning seems to be that the land would be

“stripped of all its inhabitants and of all its wealth.” The land of Israel was

once fair and fertile — “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of

fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills,” etc.

(Deuteronomy 8:7-9). In the time of Solomon the Tyrians received

large quantities of corn and wine and oil from this fruitful land (I Kings

5:11; II Chronicles 2:10). But what is its condition now? And what has

been its condition for ages past? “He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness,

for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.”The plain of Jordan, well

watered everywhere, and as the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10) is

not the only example of fertility, being changed into barrenness because of

the sins of the people. Other lands have had a similar fate, but by a different

process. There are sins by which lands are still laid waste. Indolence,

effeminacy, self-indulgence, delight in war, and social oppression, in every

age produce impoverishment and desolation in any country where they





“And ye shall know that I am the Lord” (see our notes on these words in

ch. 6:7, 10; 11:10).


21 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

22 Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel,

saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth?”

What is that proverb, etc.? The words indicate how the previous messages

had been received. Like the men of Jerusalem, the exiles could not believe

that the judgment was so near. They said, in words that had become proverbial:


  • The days are prolonged. “Month after month passes” (it is obvious

that they had so passed since Ezekiel began his work), “and yet the end

comes not.” Such throughout the world’s history has been the cry of

those of little, or of no, faith (Amos 6:3; Isaiah 5:19; Jeremiah 17:15;

Matthew 24:48; II Peter 3:4).


  • Every vision faileth. The prophet is a dreamer of dreams. We have

heard of many such visions, yet still all things continue as they were.”



The most dangerous proverbial expressions are those that flatter ourselves. With the

Jews the favorite proverb was one that postponed the prospect of the evil day and

threw doubt on the Divine message. Cynical unbelief is full of sell-assurance. But

it is not safe to trust to it simply because it may be clever or prevalent. Every idea

that denies the Divine word is sure to prove delusive.


This sinful misinterpretation of the Divine dealings is not confined to that

generation or to that people.


23 “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this

proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in

Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of

every vision.”  The prophet meets the current proverb with a counter proverb

of his own: “The days are not far off, but have come near.” Compare the

language of the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), of our Lord (Ibid. ch.4:17), of Paul

(Romans 13:11). For the true prophet there is always a near fulfillment, though

there may be also an ultimate and more complete reality of which that is the

pledge and earnest. The “vision” shall not fail; every word (so in the Hebrew)

shall become a reality.




                                    A Worthless Proverb (vs. 22-23)


Ezekiel quotes a proverb with which the Jews are comforting themselves,

and tells them that it cannot be relied on.




Ø      Its aptness of expression attracts us. We are taken by neatness of

phrase. A lie may be ably expressed, and a great fallacy may strike us as

particularly well put. Thus the form disguises the substance.


Ø      Its wide use throws us off our guard. We regard it as an embodiment of

the wisdom of the many.” What “everybody” says is taken for granted as

true. Passing freely in conversational commerce, the question of a familiar

proverb’s soundness is scarcely raised.


Ø      Its antiquity makes it acclaimed. Proverbs are supposed to contain “the

wisdom of the ancients.”




Ø      Aptness of expression is no guarantee of truth. This is only a matter of

form. Surely Descartes made a mistake in asserting that seeing a thought

clearly was equivalent to an assurance of the truth of it. Clarity  of

expression may cover falsity of idea.


Ø      The mass of men may be in error. The voice of the people is by no

means always the voice of God. When one common prejudice seizes many

minds, they are all likely to be deluded into a common error.


Ø      The venerableness of a proverb does not guarantee its truth. It is

forgotten that, as Bacon tells us, we are the ancients, and those who lived

in the early days belong to the childhood of the race. Other things being

equal, the latest saying should be the truest. Certainly no premium is to be

set on the knowledge of antiquity.


·         A PROVERB MAY BE MISAPPLIED. This was the case with the

Jews to whom Ezekiel referred. They quoted a proverb revealing a startling

insight into one remarkable feature of Hebrew prophecy which until lately

had been almost lost sight of. The prophet sees the future as though it were

present, and he describes it in such a way as to suggest to many that it is

nearer than it proves to be. There is little perspective in prophecy. Its

horizon often appears to move before us as its predictions are translated

into facts of history. But this is not always the case, nor does the

postponement of fulfillment mean its never coming. In the present case the

proverb of postponement was misapplied, for fulfillment was close at hand.

Here is the danger of general phrases. True in one set of circumstances,

they may be utterly false in another application.


·         A PROVERB SHOULD BE TESTED. We should treat our proverbs

as uncertain coins, and ring them before using them. Then we shall find

that not a few are of as base metal as Hanoverian sovereigns. There is a

sort of proverbial orthodoxy constructed out of set theological phrases

which has no other stamp upon it than that of preachers’ usage. Loyalty to

truth compels us to submit this religion’s coinage to the test of Scripture,

conscience, and experience. The most dangerous proverbial expressions

are those that flatter ourselves. With the Jews the favorite proverb was

one that postponed the prospect of the evil day and threw doubt on the

Divine message. Cynical unbelief is full of sell-assurance. But it is not safe

to trust to it simply because it may be clever or prevalent. Every idea that

denies the Divine word is sure to prove delusive.


24 “For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination

within the house of Israel.” Flattering divination. The word is the same as

the “smooth things” of Isaiah 30:10, the “flattering lips” of Psalm 12:2-3.

The “divinations” (the  Hebrew word is found only here and in ch. 13:7,

though cognate words are found elsewhere) are so described, not without a

touch of scorn in the use of a word which is not applied to the utterance of

the true prophets, because they promised a speedy deliverance, even within

“two full years” (Jeremiah 28:3).



The End of Delusions (v. 24)


The Jews had beer deluding themselves with a false proverb — or at all

events, with a proverb falsely applied (see v. 22). Ezekiel tells them that

such errors and those of flattering divination will both cease. There is to be

an end to error.



has his day of success. Flattering errors easily win their way into

popularity. The history of thought is largely made up of the story of errors



Ø      genesis,

Ø      growth,

Ø      prevalence,

Ø      triumph, and

Ø      decay.


This fact should guard us against accepting any motive just because it

happens to be triumphant. There are fashions in philosophy and theology.

But truth is ETERNAL and ABIDING and it is therefore simply foolish

to accept the ideas which chance to be in vogue at our own time without

further inquiry.



barren of any solid results. It is darkness, death, negation. Even when at

the acme of prosperity it is but as a bubble; it has no substance in it. There

came a time when the vain vision and the flattering divination of the Jews

were to be put to the test in the siege of Jerusalem. At this moment of trial

they were found to be utterly useless. This is the fatal defect of a false idea.

We may cherish it for so long until we need to use it. But directly we put it

into practice it crumbles away.


Ø      TROUBLE EXPOSES DELUSIONS. So long as Jerusalem

prospered the vain visions continued, and the flattering divination was

practiced without intermission. It was the touch of real trouble that broke

the bubble. Many a comfortable soul is living in a fool’s paradise or direful

error without fear or pain until some real adversity comes. Then the utter

delusiveness of the admired notions is suddenly revealed with appalling

amazement. If we are able to hold to fatal notions till the end of life, we

shall find at last that they are but rotten planks, which will break up when

we try to float on them over the chill waters of death.



enough, it first strikes the helpless dupes with dismay as a pure calamity.

Why should they not be permitted to dream their lives away on a bed of

roses although the volcano should be slumbering beneath? Because even

apart from consequences truth is supremely desirable, and error is an evil

thing. We ought to be thankful for a painful process which leads us out of

darkness INTO LIGHT!   But it is not necessary for us to wait for the

alarming awakening. The revelation of God in Christ and the truths of

inspiration are with us to spare us the terrible method of deliverance from

error, and to lead us out of DARKNESS INTO THE LIGHT OF CHRIST!


25 “For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak

shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days,

O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith

the Lord GOD.”  The thought of ver. 23 is reiterated with emphasis. The

rebellious house, whether at Tel-Abib or in Jerusalem (probably the word

is used with special reference to the former), should see the word of

Jehovah fulfilled in their own days. One notes how the prophet dwells on

the word prolonged, as though that had specially stirred his indignation. So

again —


26 “Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying.

27 Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that

he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times

that are far off.  28 Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;

There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word

which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.”

The words imply another interval of silence, meditation,

and then a fresh utterance to the same effect as before. In this case (v. 27)

we trace a slight modification in the language of the gainsayers. They

recognize Ezekiel both as a seer and a prophet. They do not say that his

vision “faileth.” They content themselves with throwing the fulfillment into

the distant future. Their thought is that of the proverb which has been

ascribed to more than one king or statesman, Apres moi le deluge. To

these his answer is nearly in the same terms as before. Still harping on the

offensive word, he tells them that nothing that he has spoken shall be

“prolonged.” The destruction of the temple and the holy city, the departure

of the Divine Presence from the sanctuary, these were already within




The Snare of Unbelief (vs. 21-28)


Faith has the power to make the distant near. It obliterates distance of time

and space. But unbelief reverses the effect. It looks in at the wrong end of

the telescope, and reduces realities to a mere speck. Unbelief corrupts all

blessing; it makes sour the very cream of God’s kindness. “Because

judgment is not speedily executed,” incorrigible rebellion makes a mock of

retribution.  (Ecclesiastes 8:11)



KINDNESS. The ancient Greeks had an adage: “The gods have feet of

wool.” But this does not describe the character of the living God. Instead

of overtaking men hastily, “He is slow to anger.” He does not willingly

afflict. “The axe is often laid at the root of the tree,” and that for a long

spell; and if repentance and fruitfulness appear, THE SENTENCE IS

GLADLY REVOKED!   The aim and purpose of our God are not

destruction, but restoration. If it is within the range of possibility to

awake the slumbering conscience, and save the man, God will do it.

To announce beforehand ordained judgments is KINDNESS




CONFIDENCE. The best blessings, when corrupted, become our direst

curses. Neither the bitter experience of sin, though long continued, nor the

royal clemency of God, produces any beneficial effect on some men. They

seem deaf to every appeal of prudence, insensible to every overture of

kindness. All tender feeling appears to have vanished; they have reached

already a state of hopeless reprobation. If the severity of justice for a

moment should relax, they put it down to cowardice, or weakness, or

irresolution. They say, “We shall have peace, though we walk after the

imagination of our own hearts”  (Jeremiah 18:12).  “Give a loose rein to

lust,” say they; “God doth not regard us.”



shallow line of reasoning is this: “No punishment has fallen upon us as yet.

Today will be as yesterday, and tomorrow as today. Probably,” say they,

“punishment will not come at all; or if it should, it is so far away that for all

practical purposes we may disregard it” There is a strong force of inertia in

every man’s nature. What has been, he thinks, will continue to be. “Where

is the promise of His coming?”  (II Peter 3:4)  The wish becomes father to

the thought, that punishment is dubious, problematic — a mere ghost of

probability. All the evidence of Divine rule and Divine interposition

UNBELIEF REJECTS as hypothetical craze. What cannot be seen

and handled and touched unbelief despises as unreal.



To men it often seems a sudden event; not so to God. He has seen the

Elements preparing stage by stage, and “suddenness” forms no part of

His experience. So it has been with all the great calamities that have

overtaken men. In the period of Noah’s deluge, men saw no prognostication

of coming danger. “They bought, they sold, they married, they were given

 in marriage, until the very day that Noah entered into the ark.  And knew

not until the flood came, and took them all away” – Matthew 24:38-39).

 On the day of Sodom’s doom, the sun rose over the eastern hills with

his usual splendor and tranquility (Genesis 19:23); yet before noon the

smoke of the devastation rose and smothered in silence the cries of its

dying population. “So shall the coming of the Son of man be”

(Luke 17:28-30).  (I recommend www.arkdiscovery.com and browse

the section on Sodom and Gommorah – CY – 2014).  When profligate

men least expect it the storm shall break upon their heads. Whenever

the long suffering kindness of God is made an occasion of fresh license,

be quite sure that retribution is not far away. “In such an hour as ye

 think not, the Son of man cometh.”  (Matthew 24:44)



The Human Proverb and the Divine (vs. 22-28)


National proverbs embody national thinking, national sentiments, national

habits. They sometimes convey counsels of wisdom. But they are

sometimes superficial and all but valueless. As in the case here recorded,

such frivolous and misleading sayings need to be replaced and substituted

by the dictates of inspiration, of infallible wisdom, and undying truth.




Ø      Its import. This was twofold — it asserted the postponement

indefinitely of righteous judgment, and the failure of authorized

prophecy. No doubt retribution was deferred; but this, which was

a sign of Divine forbearance, was interpreted as a proof that

judgment there was none, on earth or in heaven. No doubt the

warnings were uttered long before the calamity overtook the

people; and, in consequence, the threatened, the unbelievers,

instead of using the opportunity to repent and reform, abused



Ø      Its plausibility. It is described as a “flattering divination;” for it was

intended to fall in with and to encourage:


o       the carelessness,

o       the impenitence, and

o       the unspirituality of men.


Ø      Its illusiveness. The opponents of the inspired prophet had but a

“vain vision” to boast of. Time unmasks all false, deceitful

appearances; in a short time it was seen that the proverbial

wisdom of the impenitent was utterly baseless, was indeed

nothing but folly.




Ø      The proverb dishonoring to God is exposed and refuted. “I will

make this proverb to cease.” Events should make its currency

impossible. There is a destructive power in truth — it shatters

illusions to pieces. Great swelling words of vanity collapse when

they encounter the simple but authoritative utterances of



Ø      The truthfulness of the Lord’s prophets is established. Every word is

fulfilled. Most unlikely events come to pass in accordance with

prophetic utterance. God speaks, and the pride of the haughty is

humbled, and things that are not vanquish things that are. The

faithful admonitions of the Lord’s servants are proved to be just

and wise.


Ø      A new proverb is created by the action of Divine providence. “There

shall none of my words be deferred any more.” The time came, and

came speedily, when this could not be questioned. And what happened

in the days of Ezekiel has happened wherever God has spoken. For us

 it is chiefly of practical concern to notice that He who came from God

and went to God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, uttered forth

the Divine mind and will with a unique completeness; and that though

heaven and earth shall pass away, His words shall not pass away.

                        (Matthew 24:35; II Peter 3:10-13)





                        The Word of the Lord Discredited and Vindicated

                                                            (vs. 21-22)


“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that

proverb that ye have in the land of Israel?” etc.




Ø      It was discredited in various degrees.


o        By some it was entirely disbelieved. “Son of man, what is that proverb

that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and

every vision faileth?” The reference in this proverb is to the predictions

of the Divine judgments against Jerusalem and its inhabitants, which

had been made by Jeremiah long ago. And the proverb is a jeering

expression, indicating the opinion that these predictions had totally

failed. These skeptics argued within themselves and amongst themselves,

that because the fulfillment of the threatened judgment was delayed,

the threatening itself was untrue. “The experience of God’s

forbearance  had destroyed their apprehension of his truthfulness.”

This sinful misinterpretation of the Divine dealings is not confined to

that generation or to that people. We discover the same presumptuous

unbelief in Psalm 50:21, “These things hast thou done; and I kept

silence,” etc.; in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because sentence against an

evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of

men is fully set in them to do evil.” and in II Peter 3:3-5, “There shall

come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And

saying, Where is the promise of His coming?  for since the fathers

fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of

the creation.  For this they are willingly ignorant.... . What an

abuse is this of the patience of the Lord God! What a base perversion

of His forbearance and grace (compare Romans 2:4-11; II Peter 3:9)!


o        By others the word of the Lord was discredited by indefinitely

postponing its fulfillment. “Son of man, behold, the house of Israel

 say, The vision that he seeth is for many days, and he prophesieth

of the times that are far off.” These persons argued that, because the

fulfillment of the threatenings of Jeremiah had been delayed so long,

that fulfillment was yet far off. They concluded that the prophetic

visions would not be realized in their time, and therefore they need

not be troubled by them.


Ø      It was discredited in open expression. “Behold, the house of Israel say,

The vision that he sooth is for many days,” etc. (v. 27). In the case of

those who entirely discredited the word of the Lord by the prophet, the

terms in which they expressed their disbelief had become proverbial.

“What is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel?” etc. (v. 22).

This sentiment, common among the people, “had been expressed in

a pointed sentence,… and straightway became popular as a watchword,

which was taken up on every occasion against the true prophet.” Their

disbelief of the message of the Lord by His prophet, and their derision

of that prophet, were not veiled, but openly paraded by the people.

As Greenhill says, “This wicked speech was become a proverb; it

passed  through the mouths of all sorts, young, old, great small,

learned,  ignorant; it was in the city and country, a proverb in




Ø      This discredit was plausibly encouraged. False prophets, by means of

vain visions and flattering divinations, had fostered disbelief of the stern

announcements of Jeremiah, the true prophet of Jehovah (v. 24). These

men had prophesied smooth things to the credulous house of Israel

credulous, that is, of such announcements as harmonized with their

inclinations. So Ahab believed the smooth-speaking false prophets to his

own death, while he hated and imprisoned the faithful Micaiah, the

prophet of the Lord Jehovah (1 Kings 22.). (Any who are incredulous

of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will like Zedekiah the son of

Chenaanah, know the truth “...in that day when thou shalt go into an

inner chamber to hide thyself” a la the example of Revelation 6:12-17 -

CY - 2021)  And the false prophets of Jeremiah’s age encouraged the

presumptuous security of the people until that security was shattered

by disaster and ruin.




            The Word of the Lord Vindicated by Himself (vs. 23-28)


  • BY ITS CONTINUED PROCLAMATION.  The people of Jerusalem

Probably thought by their disbelief and derision to put to silence the word

of the Lord by Jeremiah his prophet. But God still speaks by him, and by

Ezekiel also. “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God,” etc. (v. 23).

“I am the Lord: I will speak,” etc. (v. 25). “Therefore say unto them, Thus

saith the Lord God, etc. (v. 28). In this way God speaks again and again to

this unbelieving and rebellious people. He will not leave Himself without

faithful witnesses, who will speak His word even to the most sceptical and

stubborn of men (ch. 2:3-7; 3:4-11).


  • BY ITS FULL AND SPEEDY FULFILLMENT.   The Lord here declares



Ø      His word should be fulfilled speedily. “Say unto them, The days are at

hand, and the effect of every vision .... I will speak, and. the word that I

shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your

days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the

Lord God....There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the

word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God.”  The

announcement of the prophet has passed into fulfillment in a terrible manner.

Scarcely five years elapsed when Jerusalem with its temple LAY IN RUINS;

and those who had filled their belly with the east wind of their proud hopes

of the future were either lost or envied the dead.


Ø      His word should be fulfilled completely. “The days are at hand, and the

effect of every vision.” The full “contents of every prediction” would be

brought to pass. The unbelieving and rebellious people probably thought

that even if things came to the worst, they could not be so bad as in the

prophetic representations, that Jeremiah had exaggerated the troubles that

were coming upon the nation. But “the word of every vision” WAS AT

HAND!  No partial fulfillment was about to take place. Every word of

prophetic prediction was to be realized.


Ø      By putting to silence the also prophets who had discredited it. “There

shall no more be any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house

of Israel.” The events that were drawing so near would confound these

prophesiers of smooth things. The complete fulfillment of the visions of the

true prophet would effectually stop the mouths of the false ones.


Let us realize that God’s promises are true and. reliable. The hopes which it inspires

are not delusive. For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the Yea:

wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us.

(II Corinthians 1:20)


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