Ezekiel 2


1 “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will

speak unto thee.” Son of man, etc. It is noticeable that the phrase (ben adam), as

addressed to a prophet, occurs only in Ezekiel, in whom we find it not less

than eighty times, and in Daniel 8:17. As used elsewhere, e.g. in Numbers 23:19;

Psalm 8:4; Job 25:6; Isaiah 51:12; 56:2, and in Ezekiel’s use of it, it is probably

connected with the history of Adam, as created from the ground (adamah) in

Genesis 2:7; 3:19. The prophet is reminded, in the very moment of his highest

inspiration, of his Adam nature with all its infirmity and limitations. In the use

of a like phrase (bar enosh, instead of ben adam) in Daniel 7:13 we have the

same truth implied. There one like unto man in all things is called to share the

sovereignty of the “Ancient of Days,” the Eternal One. Here the prophet,

nothing in himself, is called to be the messenger of God to other sons of

men. It is in many ways suggestive that our Lord should have chosen the

same formula for constant use when speaking of Himself (Matthew

8:20, and passim in the Gospels). Stand upon thy feet. The attitude of

adoration is changed, by the Divine command, into that of expectant

service, that of awe and dread for the courage of a soldier of the Lord of

hosts (compare the parallels of ch.3:24; 43:3, 5; Daniel 8:18).



God Speaking and Man Listening (v. 1)


This second chapter of the prophecies of Ezekiel introduces us to the

personal call and commission of the prophet. The first chapter was engaged

with preliminary and preparatory visions. Now the prepared soul receives

the direct word from God.


  • GOD SPEAKING. God speaks to Ezekiel:


Ø      In words. Previously the prophet’s attention had been arrested by

 visions — glorious, awful, soul-stirring visions — visions that not

only roused his feelings, but that must also have awakened in his

mind many strange thoughts by their profound suggestiveness;

still only visions, and therefore mysterious revelations shrouded

in a measure of uncertainty. Now God proceeds from the vague

vision to definite speech. It matters not whether we consider that

the speech came in physical sound, in real air waves, that

any other listener, had he been present, might have understood, or

whether the words were impressed on the mind of the prophet. In any

case, he heard them, and thus he received a clear, definite, unmistakable

message.  We are not left to uncertain visions, nor even to the difficult

hieroglyphics of nature. We have a revelation in language, A



Ø      In direct address. God spoke immediately to Ezekiel. Here is the

contrast between the prophet and the ordinary bearer of a Divine

message.  We receive our messages at second hand from God’s

inspired teachers.  They held direct communications with Heaven.

But may not we do something similar, not indeed in new prophecies

or gospels, but at least in the illumination of soul which makes the old

truth stand out in a new light, or helps us to make a fresh application

of it to new circumstances? By His Spirit God does thus speak directly

to every listening soul, though the words are those of familiar truth.


  • MAN LISTENING. Speech is useless without a hearer. For ages the

“silent proclamation” of nature has been spread before the gaze of heedless

witnesses (Psalm 19:1-4).  The difference between the seer and the man who

beholds only material facts may lie in the natures of the men more than in the

external facts that are presented to them. The one is a seer because he has eyes

to behold what is equally present to the other, though unperceived for lack of

sight to discover it. So the prophet must have “ears to hear” the message

of God. And all who would receive God’s message in their souls must have

the heating ear. Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” 

(Mark 4:9)  The manner of the delivery of the Divine message to

Ezekiel suggests the way in which it should be received.


Ø      In a certain human simplicity. Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man.”

When nearest to Heaven he must not forget his human nature. The

prophet is our fellow man. The knowledge of heavenly truth does not

kill human nature, nor destroy the kinship between the enlightened

and the ignorant.


o       Here all pride is rebuked. The prophet must not suppose that

he is anything more than a man.

o       Human interests are to be considered. The message is given to

one man for the sake of his fellows.


Ø      In manly obedience. Ezekiel is to stand up. He had fallen in fear before

the vision of glory. To hear the word of revelation he must arise. God

does not delight in the humiliation of His children. We are exhorted to

“come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). Religion does

not destroy manliness. Yet God expects the attention shown by a

servant to his master. Ezekiel is not to sit. He who receives a word from

God is to be awake, listening, attentive, and ready to obey, like the

servant who stands by his master’s side.



2 “And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me

upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.”

And the Spirit, etc. It scarcely admits of question (though the

Hebrew has no article, and so far Luther’s Version, “Ich ward wieder

erquickt,” is tenable) that the word is used in the same sense as in

ch.1:20-21 (compare ch. 3:24). The Spirit which moved the

“living creatures” and the “wheels” in the mysterious symbol was now in

him. Ezekiel finds in that fact the ground of his prophetic inspiration

(compare Numbers 24:2; Judges 11:29; I Samuel 10:6, 10; Isaiah 11:2-4)



The Entrance of the Spirit.  (v. 2)


If it were not for another reference to the Spirit in ch.4:3, we

might reasonably suppose that the prophet was referring to his own spirit,

and indicating, in picturesque language, that he recovered from faintness,

or that his “spirits” rose, that he gained courage and strength. But since

this passage plainly shows that none other than the Spirit of God can be

meant, it is clear that a very close connection between the Holy Spirit and

man is here indicated. The possibility of misunderstanding as to what spirit

is designated only emphasizes the idea of the intimate association of the

human and the Divine.


  • THE SPIRIT OF GOD ENTERS MAN. We can never fathom the

mystery of the nature of God. But it would seem that certain modes of the

Divine Being are more within touch of us than others. So, while as our

Father God rules and blesses us, and while the Son of God enters humanity

generally by taking our nature upon Him and becoming our Brother, the

Spirit enters into individual souls, and unites Himself with our very selves.

(John 14:23)  The Christian is a temple of the Holy Ghost. Something more

must lie in this fact than the omnipresence of God, for God is everywhere,

and therefore does not need to enter any region of creation. The spiritual

entrance must therefore mean the manifestation of His presence:


Ø      by an exercise of energy, or

Ø      by a revelation to consciousness.


The prophet may know the latter form of Divine entrance. The former,

however, is the more usual in experience. Now, it is very much to know

that God does indeed dwell with the children of men. The earth is not a

God-deserted waste. Religion is not a one sided effort of man to reach

after God. Spiritual life is not simply an exercise of a man’s own powers.

God has His share in the soul’s experience, touching it in its inmost secret

being. He is nearer to the spiritually minded man than that man’s own




Ezekiel tells us that “the Spirit entered into me when he spake unto me.

So it was in the days of the early Church. The apostles preached first; then,

after their word had been received, the Holy Ghost descended upon the

hearers. While it is commonly recognized that prayer is a fitting means

through which to obtain a fuller presence of the Spirit of God,

is it so often acknowledged that the reception of truth is an equally

important condition? God’s Spirit does not come like a flash of lightning,

striking the unexpectant soul, nor like a gift of magic. The understanding of

truth is the open door through which the inspiration of life enters. Hence

the importance of teaching, preaching, reading the Bible, meditation,

cultivating spiritual intelligence and enlightened faith. Yet this very

connection between the Spirit and the Word is a rebuke to cold

intellectualism. The Word by itself is not enough. When we have

comprehended and embraced it to the full, it is still but the door through

which to receive the far more important gift of the Holy Ghost.



STRENGTH. Ezekiel was bidden to stand up. At first it would seem he

was so overwhelmed with awe in the presence of sublime visions of

heaven, that he could scarcely obey. But as the first sounds of the Word of

God reach his dazed ears, the Spirit of God enters him, and at once he

acquires a new energy, and is able to stand erect in manly strength. (“But

as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of

God, even to them that believe on His name”  - John 1:12).  Shame

for sin casts us down; inspirations of God lift us up. To see God afar off is

to fail down before Him in confusion and terror; to welcome God in the

shrine of the heart is to enjoy a cheering encouragement and an uplifting

power. The Church too often droops and languishes for lack of this

inspiring presence. She should remember that God’s Spirit is not only a

purifying, enlightening, and comforting influence, but also the supreme

Source of energy. That same Spirit which of old brooded over the face of

the waters, and brought life and order out of chaos and death (Genesis 1),

now broods over the human world with infinite powers of life to bestow on

all who will receive Him. Then, in receiving strength from the incoming of

the Spirit, the soul is able to receive more truth from God, as Ezekiel heard

more Divine words when he stood up in his new strength. Thus there is no

limit to the growth of knowledge and power m this twofold process.


3 “And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of

Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and

their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.”

To a rebellious nation; literally, with Revised Version, nations

that are rebellious. The Hebrew word (goim) is that used elsewhere for

“heathen” and that may be its sense here. As in ch. 28:22. Judah

and Israel may be thought of as having fallen to the level of the heathen.

Part of Ezekiel’s work was actually addressed to the heathen as such (chps.

25-32.). The word may, however, be used in the plural to include both

Judah and the remnant of the northern kingdom. They and their fathers.

The words anticipate the teaching of ch. 18. The people to whom the

prophet was sent could not say that they were suffering for the sins of their

fathers. They, in their own persons, had transgressed up to the very day

on which the prophet received his mission. They had rebelled as their

fathers had done in the days of Moses and Joshua (Numbers 14:9;

Joshua 22:18).



Rebellious Nations (v. 3)


This must have been a hard message for Ezekiel to deliver to his fellow

countrymen. It was the heathen, the Gentiles, who were usually designated

“nations;” and in applying this designation to Israel, he seemed to degrade

the chosen people from their peculiar position of honor, and to rank them

with the idolatrous nations whom they were accustomed to despise. And it

has been surmised that, in employing the plural, the prophet intended to

intimate that the Hebrews no longer constituted one people, one state, but

were divided among themselves, dissolved as it were into disconnected and

opposing sections and factions. It may be just and profitable to regard

Israel as representative of the human race, in respect to this lamentable

charge of rebellion, which may certainly be brought against mankind at





If there is no liberty, there can be no rebellion. Rebellion implies intelligent

apprehension, and it implies deliberate purpose. The rebel knows what is

the authority which he defies, and he defies that authority, not only

intelligently, but of purpose. Brutes do not rebel; but men and angels may

do, and have done.   Hence the serious responsibility attaching to rebellion

against God on the part of willful though misguided men.




no rebellion where there is no government, no rebel where there is no

governor. Neither can there be rebellion, properly speaking, against a

usurper, who has no claim upon the loyalty and allegiance of those whom

he may unjustly denominate his subjects. The moral government of the

world is a fact, and its administration is characterized by EQUITY!  As the

universal Legislator and Judge, God demands the subjection and obedience

of mankind; all are His lawful subjects. There is no rebel against Divine

authority who can bring against the rule and sway of the great Governor of

the universe the charge of injustice and tyranny. “Shall not the Judge of all

the earth do right?”  (Genesis 18:25)



MISERY. This awful fact is not to be questioned by any reasonable student

of the moral history of mankind. Nowhere more strikingly than in the

history of Israel has it been shown that they who resist Divine authority

and violate Divine Law incur the most awful guilt and entail upon

themselves the most awful punishments. Sentimentalists may complain that

such assertions are the expression of severity and fanaticism; but it remains

forever true that “the way of transgressors is hard”  (Proverbs 13:15), and

“the wages of sin is death.”  (Romans 6:23)




history of the Hebrew people exhibits instances not only of human

apostasy, but of Divine compassion and merciful interposition and

deliverance. Thus the Captivity was itself a punishment for rebellion, for

idolatry, and for all the evils idolatry brought upon the nation. Yet God did

not forget to be gracious. He made the Captivity an occasion for displaying

His grace; mercy triumphed over judgment. Repentance and submission

took the place of resistance and defiance. Discipline, chastisement,

answered its appointed purpose. God pitied the rebels even whilst He

censured the rebellion. And very similar has been His treatment of mankind

at large. The whole race has rebelled, and the whole race has been

redeemed. There is spiritual amnesty provided THROUGH CHRIST

JESUS, reconciliation through faith and repentance, restoration to

affectionate loyalty and to happy subjection through the gracious

influences of the Holy Spirit.




HAPPINESS. God does not leave His work half done. He pardons the

penitent, but He blesses the loyal and the reconciled. Great is the change

which takes place in the state of him who has laid down the weapons of

rebellion and has cast himself in penitence and submission before the

footstool of the throne. As rebellion is exchanged for loyalty, and defiance

for submission and gratitude, so disgrace is exchanged for honor, and the

just sentence of death for the merciful assurance of Divine favor and



4 “For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto

them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.”

Impudent children and stiff-hearted; literally, hard of face

(i.e. callous to their shame) and stiff of heart. The Septuagint gives aptly,

σκληροπρόσωποι καὶ σκληροκάρδιοι - sklaeroprosopoi kai sklaerokardioi

impudent and stiff-hearted - (compare the “past feeling” of Ephesians 4:19).

Thus saith the Lord God. In the Hebrew, Adoaai Jehovah; which the

Septuagint represents by Κύριος Κύριος, Kurios, KuriosLord, Yahweh –

 and Luther by   der Herr Herr.” The two highest names of THE GOD

OF ISRAELwere ‘used to denote the fullness of the prophet’s inspiration.

The same formula occurs in ch.3:11, 27; 13:8; 22:28, and passim. So also in

II Samuel 7:18, 19, 20, 29; and elsewhere.


THE MESSAGE.  At first the prophet received no other message than

this: “Thus saith the Lord God.” But this was the earnest of much to

follow. And, indeed, the whole of the prophecies were amplifications of

this. Ezekiel was to go among the children of the Captivity with words

from Jehovah. A prophet is one who speaks for, on behalf of, the Divine

Being by whom he is commissioned. If the speaker had his own special

reasons for believing that the words he uttered were not his own, but

God’s, those who listened to his declarations of warning and of promise

had a witness within, in the testimony of their own conscience, assuring

them that the prophet spoke with Divine authority. And this is so still with

all who will listen reverently and obediently to the heavenly voice. It is thus

that the Scriptures possess over our minds a preeminent power; their

writers preface every authoritative utterance with the statement, “Thus

saith the Lord.”



An Embassy to Rebels (vs. 3-4)


The people of Israel are regarded as a vassal nation that has added

rebellion to disloyalty, and has gone so far as to throw off its allegiance to

its suzerain lord, and now the Supreme Sovereign sends His prophet as an

ambassador to declare His will at this terrible crisis.


  • TRANSGRESSORS RIPEN INTO REBELS. They and their fathers

had transgressed in the past. But the children have exceeded the

wickedness of their parents by breaking out into open revolt. This may

refer to the idolatry that follows neglect of the service of the true God, or

to the abandonment of Jehovah after previously disobeying Him.


Ø      All sin tends to aggravate its own evil. Rebellion is worse than

transgression. The bad child may be more wicked than his corrupt

parent — at least, if only left to the evil influences of his home. In

every man, if sin is chosen, a downward course is being followed

into blacker iniquity and more outrageous wickedness, till the goal

is reached and the sinner has fully developed the kingdom of hell

within him.


Ø      Moral transgression leads to personal opposition against God. At first

the transgressor may have no desire to quarrel with God. He only

wants to have his own way, and possibly regrets the misfortune that

this happens to be opposed to the Divine will. For a time he tries to

sever morality from devotion, and to retain his worship after he has

broken up his obedience.  This state of discord cannot last. The enemy

of God’s Law cannot but become an enemy of God. He who resists the

law opposes the government.


Ø      Concealed iniquity ends in confessed impiety. The transgression may be

secret; the rebellion will be open. The sudden fall of a saint that

sometimes surprises and shocks the Church may be only the step

from disloyalty to rebellion.


Ø      The progress of sin coarsens and hardens the sinner, The parents

“transgressed.” The children are “impudent” and “stiff-hearted.”

Reverence cannot long outlive obedience. The conscience which is

roughly used loses its sensitiveness and becomes harsh and callous,

like the skin of the hand that works with rough materials. Thus the

worst sin is least acknowledged, and the greatest sinner most





Ø      God has not lost His claims on them. Men may throw off their

allegiance to God, but they cannot destroy His rightful authority

over them. No soul can outlaw itself. To renounce a sovereign is

not to escape from the power of his rule. If an English soldier

declared himself a republican, he would not be exonerated from

the service of the queen. God is the Judge of all the earth —

of those who reject His Law as surely as of those who obey it.


Ø      God desires to recover them. The message may come in wrath,

threatening destruction. Yet it need never have been sent at all. The

ambassador might have been spared, and an avenging army dispatched

to the rebellious nation. But God sends warnings before judgments,

preaching prophets before destroying angels, invitations to return

before mandates of extermination, gospels of grace before swords of

doom. The darker the message of warning is, the more assuredly is it

prompted by mercy; because, if an exceedingly dreadful punishment

is deserved and is even impending, it is an especial mark of God’s

forbearance towards the worst of sinners that He holds it back in the

hope of urging to repentance those who have been treasuring up for

themselves so fearful an accumulation of wrath. Much more, then is

the gospel of Christ a message of mercy, inviting sinners back into

the kingdom of heaven instead of trampling them underfoot as

worthless rebels.


5 “And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for

they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a

prophet among them.”  Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, etc.

The latter word is used in the sense of “cease” or “desist,” as in I Corinthians 9:6

and Ephesians 6:9. The same formula meets us in v. 7; ch. 3:11, 27. The prophet

is warned beforehand of the (at least) probable failure of his mission, wholly or in

part. We note the parallelism of thought, though not language, in II Corinthians

2:15-16. Such, at all times, has been the condition of the prophet’s work. The

expectation is grounded upon the antecedent fact of their being a “rebellious

 people.”  There is the consolation that in the end, partly through the fulfillment

of his words, partly, it may be, through the witness of their own conscience,

they shall know that there has been a prophet among them (compare ch. 33:33;

Jeremiah 28:9). We note that it is the first time that Ezekiel claims that name

for himself.



                                    The Prophet’s Commission (vs. 4-5)


Nothing is clearer than that the prophets did not believe themselves to be

acting and speaking simply upon the promptings of their own inclinations

or their own convictions of what was right and expedient. Whether they

were self-deluded or not, certain it is that they deemed themselves

ministers and messengers of the Eternal. It was this which gave them both

courage and authority. In the most explicit manner, Ezekiel in this passage

records his commission to go among his fellow countrymen as the herald of

God’s wisdom, authority, and grace.


·         THE COMMISSION. “I do send thee unto them.” There is great

simplicity and great dignity in this language of authorization; he who heard

it could never forget it. When disappointed in the result of his ministry, or

alarmed at the threats of those whom he sought to benefit, these words

must often have recurred to the mind of the prophet, inspiring him with

fresh zeal and courage. If the ambassador of a powerful king is

strengthened in the fulfillment of his trust by the recollection that he

received his authority from a court honored by friends and feared by foes,

how much more must the ambassador from God derive courage and

confidence from the knowledge that he is sent by the Supreme, who will

never desert those who engage in His service and do His will!


·         THE MESSAGE. At first the prophet received no other message than

this: “Thus saith the Lord God.” But this was the earnest of much to

follow. And, indeed, the whole of the prophecies were amplifications of

this. Ezekiel was to go among the children of the Captivity with words

from Jehovah. A prophet is one who speaks for, on behalf of, the Divine

Being by whom he is commissioned. If the speaker had his own special

reasons for believing that the words he uttered were not his own, but

God’s, those who listened to his declarations of warning and of promise

had a witness within, in the testimony of their own conscience, assuring

them that the prophet spoke with Divine authority. And this is so still with

all who will listen reverently and obediently to the heavenly voice. It is thus

that the Scriptures possess over our minds a preeminent power; their

writers preface every authoritative utterance with the statement, “Thus

saith the Lord.”



accordance with the reasonableness of the inspired writers that. they

cherished such moderate expectations regarding the effect to be produced

by their ministry. Fanatics would have felt assured that, in such

circumstances, they must meet with ready credence and immediate

obedience. Ezekiel certainly had no such delusive anticipations, and was

indeed expressly warned that his message would meet with varying

reception. Some would hear, some would forbear. It was with Ezekiel as in

the Christian dispensation it was with Paul; we are told that the result of his

ministry at Rome was that “some believed the things which were spoken,

and some disbelieved.”  (Acts 28:24)



THOSE TO WHOM HE WAS SENT. “They shall know that there hath

been a prophet among them.” Even those who were so much under the

influence of ignorance, prejudice, evil example, and sin, that they did not

and would not turn unto God, nevertheless were well aware that their

obstinate impiety was unjustifiable. (When I was a child that was the

condition of things in Pulaski County, Kentucky!  Is it that way now?

Is the Holy Spirit gradually being withdrawn to where people in their

ignorance, prejudice, evil and sin, are unaware that they are obstinate,

impious, and what they are doing can never be justified, outside the

blood of Jesus Christ?  CY - 2021) They might ridicule the prophet in their

language, but they reverenced him in their hearts. Beneath the laugh of

incredulity was a deep-seated fear, springing from an inward conviction

that the voice they rejected WAS INDEED THE VOICE OF GOD! Had

one come among them flattering their vanity and pride, and ministering to

their sinful tastes, they would in their heart of hearts have despised him. But

when one came fearlessly upbraiding them with their unfaithfulness, and

denouncing their guilty defection, they could not but know that a prophet had

been among them.  (v. 5)


·         APPLICATION.  This passage has an especial significance for ministers of

God’s Word, and for all religious teachers. It shows them where their

strength lies; warns them against enunciating their own speculations or

inculcating precepts founded upon their own experience; and directs them

to go among their fellow men with this dignified and effective message,

“Thus saith the Lord.” They may be tempted to court men’s favor and

good will by uttering words of flattery. But it is well that, when so

tempted, they should remember that there is in men a conscience, which

may be repressed, but which cannot be crushed, which renders a homage,

though silent, to the just authority of truth and righteousness, and which

recognizes, even though it does not lead to practical obedience, the



6 “And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of

their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost

dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be

dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.”

Though briers and thorns be with thee. The two Hebrew

nouns are not found elsewhere, and have consequently puzzled translators.

The Septuagint gives two verbs, παροιστρήσπυσιν καὶ ἐπισυστήσονται ἐπὶ σὲ

paroistraesousin kai episustaesontai epi se – briars and thorns are

with you; the Vulgate, increduli et subversores. The words, however, are

formed from roots that imply “pricking” or “burning,” and the Authorized

Version rendering, followed by the Revised Version, is tenable enough. A

cognate form of the first is found in ch. 28:24, and there the Septuagint

gives σκόλοψskolopsithorn, and the Vulgate, spina. A like figurative

use of “scorpions” is found in I Kings 12:11 (but here the reference may

be to some scorpion like scourge) and Ecclesiasticus. 26:7 (compare also our

Lord’s words in Luke 10:19). Be not afraid.   Compare the like command in

Jeremiah 1:17. The words imply, probably, a past as well as a future experience.

Ezekiel had already known what it was to dwell among those whose hearts

were venomous as scorpions. The comparison was a sufficiently familiar

one among both Eastern and Greek writers.




Dwelling among Scorpions (v. 6)


  • THE DISTRESS. Ezekiel lay on no bed of roses. His messages of stern

denunciation raised up enemies who gave him worse than a thorny couch

— a very house of scorpions to dwell in. No more hideous picture of

distress can well be conceived than that of the faithful prophet thrust into a

thicket of briers, which turns out to be a scorpions’ nest. The thorns are

bad enough, yet fierce stinging creatures are added. This is a prophet’s

Inferno. Captives who only suffered from the grief of exile would hang

their harps on the willows in heart-broken despair. Ezekiel’s is a far worse

case — to be tormented by his fellow captives in return for his faithful



Ø      A great mission may bring a great distress. The common people are

spared; the prophet is tormented. Ezekiel has his scorpion-neighbors;

Paul, exalted to the third heaven, receives his thorn in the flesh

(II Corinthians 12:7); Christ, the Holy One, is crowned with thorns,

pierced with nails, and more terribly wounded with cruel hatred.


Ø      A mans worst enemies may be those of his own household. The

scorpions are not pagan Babylonians, but Jews. No rancor is so bad as

that of one whose milk of natural affection is turned to the venom of

a brother’s hatred. This is the murder spirit of Cain the fratricide, the

devilry of Judas the traitor.


Ø      A guilty conscience is a dangerous sting. If it does not wound its

owner, it is likely to turn on its accuser. Ezekiel had to accuse the

Jews of sin. We may often take the very ferocity of the attack made

upon the gospel as a sign that its opponents are not at ease in their

own hearts.


Ø      A spiteful tongue stings like a scorpion. Ezekiel was cruelly hurt when

no bodily harm was done to him. Possibly his enemies were scarcely

conscious of the keenness of their words. But the rankling wound

which comes from venomous speech is more painful than the fiery

swelling of the worst scorpion sting. Spiteful slanderers are more

mischievous than the most repulsive insects.


  • THE DUTY. Though scorpions infest the sphere of his labors, still the

faithful prophet must toil on, braving their threatening stings. The people at

Banias build leafy booths on the tops of poles, for residence during the hot

season, in order to escape the attacks of scorpions, which are very

abundant in their neighborhood. No, such escape is permitted to the

prophet of God.


Ø      Unpopularity may be a sign of fidelity. This is a shamefully forgotten

doctrine in our day of easy living. Now the popular preacher is

regarded as the great preacher, and the unpopular servant of God is

regarded, even by his brethren, as a “failure.” If so, then Ezekiel and

Jeremiah were “failures,” while their now-forgotten comrades, who

prophesied smooth things, were great “successes.” Such a doctrine

would have given us no Hebrew prophets to stand in the first rank

of God’s heroes. But time is a great avenger. Frederick Robertson

of Brighton, whose sensitive spirit was assailed by a scorpion press

during his lifetime, is now recognized as a prince of Divine teachers;

while the very names of his enemies — happily for them — are



Ø      The duty of fidelity in the midst of persecution is blessed with heavenly

rewards. The rewards begin on earth in the soul’s culture. Mediaeval

monks would roll in thorns for self-chastisement. Persecuted prophets

needed to invent no such fantastic devices. The thorns were thrust upon

them; their path was beset by scorpions. There is danger in the path of

ease. It is better to be stung by the vicious scorpion than bitten by the

deadly cobra. The thorn bush of persecution has its venomous insects,

but in the flower beds of pleasure lies the serpent whose bite is death.


7 “And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear,

or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.”

Thou shalt speak my words, etc. The words conveyed:


  • a ground of encouragement in the fact that the words would be given

by Jehovah (compare Jeremiah 1:7, 17; Matthew 10:19-20); and


  • a warning against the intermingling of lower thoughts and a self-originated

message (see ch.13:7; 22:28). They are most rebellious; literally, the Hebrew

being a noun, they are rebellion, or stubbornness, itself.



Preaching to Unwilling Hearers (v. 7)


There can be no more difficult or painful duty than that of a preacher to

unwilling hearers. But it was seen in the case of Hebrew prophets; it was

illustrated in Christ’s brave dealings with the Pharisees and Sadducees; and

it must necessarily fall at times to the lot of every faithful Christian minister

in the present day.



TO ALL KINDS OF HEARERS. He cannot select his favorite audience.

He has no right to wait till men ask for his message. He is the herald sent

into the camp, who must declare the will of his Master, even though his

hearers are too busy with their work or amusement to give him attention,

or too unsympathetic to care to hear what he says. With most things the

supply is regulated by the demand. The farmer will not grow more corn

than the people need for food; the manufacturer turns out the largest

quantity of those products that sell must widely. But this spirit of

commerce should not obtain any footing in the Christian Church. Yet, no

doubt, it has invaded the Church, and the temptation is to echo popular

cries from the pulpit, and to bow to the will of the pew. Many people ask

for short sermons, restive under the strain of attention to more lengthy

discourses. Some wish for pleasant, cheerful themes; they are particularly

desirous that no demands shall be made on their thinking faculties; they

would luxuriute in sweet, soothing fancies. Then the temptation is to

concede what is thus demanded. That is to lower the claims of truth. In this

region it is necessary to create the right hunger, and here the supply must

precede and exceed the demand. The negligence of the people is no reason

for the preacher’s reticence.





Ø      Divine obligations. The preacher is not the slave of his people, but the

servant of God. If he is sent to speak for God, a burden of

responsibility is laid upon him. Moreover, he is the custodian of truth.

Truth seeks the daylight and the free air. Men have no right to imprison

her because her presence in the busy world is sometimes unwelcome.

GOD’S TRUTH must be brought even where it is not sought, even

where  it is hated and rejected.


Ø      Human needs. They who are most reluctant to hear a message from

Heaven most need that message, for their very indifference or

opposition is a sign of that state of alienation which God is seeking

to overcome. If the family were awake when the house was on fire

there would be no necessity for the watchman to call to them. But

in their sleep is their great danger.  Just because they are indifferent

they most need to be warned.




delivery must be faithful. There is a snare for the preacher in our subject.

He may lay the charge of the failure of his message against his hearers,

when he ought to have taken it home to himself. Though he cannot

command success, it is his duty to aim at it and to labor for it with the

utmost assiduity. Possibly the message has not been rightly apprehended by

him nor wisely and affectionately commended to the people. He may have

been indolent in preparation. He may have been cold or stern, haughty or

aloof from his hearers, when he should have approached them in a loving

brotherly way. (“Speaking the truth in love” Ephesians 4:15).  Or his own

heart may not have opened to receive the message. How, then, can he expect

his hearers to be interested in it? One cold heart can inspire no warmth in

other cold hearts. But when the preacher has done his best in the strength

of God, he must leave his message. At this point the responsibility shifts

to the hearers. Even the words of him who spake as never man spake

sometimes fell by the wayside and on stony ground. (John 7:46;  Luke

8:5,12).  What wonder if ours seem to fail? The apparent failure of the

faithful is indeed no real failure; the words may fail, but the man has

not failed, for he has done his duty — and no man can do more than that.


8 “But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou

rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I

give thee.”  Be not thou rebellious, etc. The words convey a warning

against the prophet’s natural weakness. Instinctively he shrank, as Moses

had done (Exodus 3:11; 4:10-13) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) and

Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6), from his dread vocation of being a “mortal

vessel of the Divine Word.” In so shrinking he would identify himself with

the very “rebellion” which he was sent to reprove, and would incur its

punishment. Eat that I give thee. As in the parallel of Revelation 10:9,

the words imply that what was to be given him was no message resting, as

it were, on the surface of the soul. It was to enter into the prophet’s

innermost life, to be the food and nourishment of his soul; to be, in our

familiar phrase, “inwardly digested” and incorporated with his very flesh

and blood. He was to live “not by bread only” (Deuteronomy 8:3,

Matthew 4:4), but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of




Faithful among the Faithless (v. 8)


Ezekiel is to go among the rebellious people; but he is to be most careful

not to rebel himself against the will of God. Though he stand alone, yet he

must be true.


  • A SEVERE TRIAL. It is difficult to be faithful among the faithless.

There is a subtle poison in the atmosphere of evil society. No doubt Christ

instituted His Church in part that His followers might be lifted out of the

malarious regions of sinful associations, and drawn into a more wholesome

climate of saintly companionship. Ezekiel was scarcely allowed any such

help from Church fellowship. Like Nehemiah, he had to stand alone and

face the current of rebellion. Then, beyond the unconscious temptation to

go with the multitude to do evil, there was a very visible danger in the case

of Ezekiel  (“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” – Exodus 223:2).

He was called to testily against his brethren with such a

message that they would turn against him like so many scorpions. He was

to find himself in a border of thorns as the penalty of his fidelity (see v. 6).

Although this visible persecution is now rare, the spirit of it is not dead,

and there are places still where the faithful must stand alone and be made

to smart severely for their integrity. How often this is the case with one

high-principled Christian young man in a house of business where the

methods of conducting trade and amusement both assail his fidelity! It is

hard to be faithful under such circumstances. Yet the duty does not cease.

The rebellion of others is no excuse for us also to rebel.




Ø      Extraordinary fidelity. Ezekiel was not only warned not to rebel in the

exact manner of his fellow countrymen. He had a higher command laid

upon him than any that was imposed upon them. They were only

required to keep the general Law of God; he was commissioned to a

special task of difficulty and danger in a prophet’s career, and his

faithfulness was to consist in his not rebelling against this great task.

The most honored servants of God are those who are set in the posts

of greatest danger and required to discharge the most arduous service.

Brave men leap to such service and danger in human pursuits, eagerly

volunteering to join expeditions into the heart of Africa or in search

for the north pole. Some, too, are as eager in God’s service. These

are God’s heroes.


Ø      Superhuman aid. Ezekiel was a man of God, a man of faith and prayer.

Hence his power to be faithful. To stand faithful we must feel the

influence of God’s grace. It is possible to be


“True as the needle to the pole,

Or as the dial to the sun,”


because needle and dial shadow follow great commanding influences.


  • A SPLENDID EXAMPLE. One faithful man among a host of traitors

is a mighty encouragement to the weak. He can be a nucleus about which

they can cluster, although they would never have had strength to stand

without his great personality. Like a lighthouse in a wild and wintry night,

the solitary example of fidelity sheds its encouraging rays far out to the

darkness round about. For example:


Ø      Joseph in immoral Egypt,

Ø      Daniel in unprincipled Babylon,

Ø      Paul at wicked Rome,

Ø      Luther at Worms,

Ø      Latimer at Oxford,


these men are beacon lights shining down the ages. It is worth the cost of

all the hardship of exceptional trials of fidelity to become such

magnificent inspiring influences for all time.



God’s Ambassador a Warrior (vs. 6-8)


The path of duty, since the Fall, is never smooth. We may have an inward

sense of delight — tranquil satisfaction, arising from the approval of

conscience and the smile of God — but from without we must expect

sharp opposition. There is demand for vigilance, skill, and courage.


  • OPPOSITION FORESEEN. Men who have long time departed from

God are not easily induced to return. The tree that has grown wildly

crooked, cannot readily be restored to straightness and shape. Those who

have abandoned the paths of truth and righteousness, sadly degrade their

original nature. The cedars are reduced to thorns and briers. Sinners are

unprofitable and injurious in the worlda curse to society. They bear no

fruit, or only sour and poisonous fruit. They choke the promise of better

things. Or they are like scorpions, bent only on mischief. Originally lords of

nature, they have sunk to the level of the meanest insects. There is poison

in their crafty words. There is a danger in their very looks.


  • COURAGE DEMANDED. “Be not afraid of them.” Why should

God’s servants fear? Our adversaries’ words are mere breath. Not a

particle of power have they but such as is permitted them by our Master.

While they open their mouths in loud boasting, the finger of death is

loosening the silver cord within. As the mighty God hath said to the angry

waves, so hath He said to these, “Thus far shall ye go, and no further”

(Job 38:11).  They may loudly bark, but it is seldom they have power to bite.

The fierce opposition of the ungodly may turn to our good; it may and ought

to develop our courage. The severer the conflict, the more strength we may

gather, and the greater will be our triumph. As they are so zealous in a bad

cause, how much more zealous should we be in the very best of enterprises?


  • THE ONLY WEAPON PERMITTED. In this conflict with human

folly and rebellion, our only weapon is to be “the sword of the Spirit,

which is the Word of God”  (Ephesians 6:17).  “Thou shalt speak my

words unto them”  (v. 7).  If they meet us with contempt and malice,

we have but to repeat in calmer tones, and with undisturbed patience,

the same facts — the message from the lips of God. Any addition of

ours, however suitable it may seem, only weakens the force of the message.

We must see to it that the edge of the weapon is not blunted by our own

carelessness. Our only concern should be that we do speak all the counsel

of God — that it is the Word of God, both in substance and form, which

we utter. 


  • AN INSIDIOUS DANGER EXPOSED. “Be not thou rebellious like

that rebellions house.” One foe within the camp is more injurious than a

thousand outside. If a germ of disease be in the medicine, it will invalidate

all its efficacy. Rebellion assumes a myriad forms. It is a hydra with more

than a hundred heads.


Ø      Listlessness in hearing the heavenly commission,

Ø       a tampering with its fixed terms,

Ø      a rash attempt to improve the Divine original,


 these and such-like acts are seed germs of rebellion in the soul!

“If the salt be deprived of its savor”  (Matthew 5:13), wherewith shall the

corruptions of the world be purged out? An unfaithful ambassador adds

fresh aggravation to the revolt of a province. Sin is a contagious evil.


9 “And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a

roll of a book was therein;”  An hand was sent (put forth, Revised Version)

unto me, etc.  Apparently the hand was not that of the human form seated on

the throne (ch.1:26), nor of one of the four living creatures (Ibid. v.8),

but one appearing mysteriously by itself, as in the history of Belshazzar’s

feast (Daniel 5:5). The words connect themselves with the use of the

hand stretched out of a cloud as the symbols of the Divine energy both in

Jewish and Christian art. The writer has in his possession a Jewish brass

tablet, probably of the sixteenth century, commemorating the legend of the

miraculous supply of oil at the Feast of the Dedication, in which such a

hand appears as pouring oil into the seven-branched candlestick, or lamp,

of the temple. Lo, a roll of a book, etc. The words remind us of the

volume, or roll, in Psalm 40:7; Jeremiah 36:2; Zechariah 5:1;

like those which are still used in Jewish synagogues.


10 “And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without:

and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and

woe.”  It was written within and without. Commonly such rolls,

whether of vellum or papyrus, were written on one side only. This, like the

tables of stone (Exodus 32:15), was written, as a symbol of the fullness

of its message, on both sides. And as he looked at the roll thus “spread

before” him, he saw that it was no evangel, no glad tidings, that he had

thus to identify with his work, but one from first to last of lamentations,

and mourning, and woe. Jeremiah had been known as the prophet of

weeping, and was about this time (probably a little later) writing his own

Lamentations (the Hebrew title of the book, however, is simply its first

words) over the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s work was to be of a like

nature. The word meets us again (ch. 19:1, 14; 26:17; 27:2, 32; 28:12; 32:2,16)

as the keynote of his writings. Out of such a book, though the glad tiding

s were to come afterwards, his own prophetic work was to be evolved.


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                                     Son of Man (v. 1)


This expression is so constantly used with reference to Ezekiel that it

cannot be considered a mere Oriental idiom with no peculiar significance.

There were special reasons why Ezekiel, as the prophet chosen to

communicate God’s will to Israel, should be thus designated.




vehicle for communicating with man. The ministry of angels is a reality, but

such ministry is subordinate to that which is strictly human. Man is made in

the likeness of God, and shares in the Divine reason. His highest thinking,

it was grandly said by Kepler, is thinking over again the thoughts of God.

It is in virtue of this prerogative that human beings are able to enter into

the counsels of the Eternal Wisdom. The inferior inhabitants of this globe

may indeed express in their structure the designs of the Creator. But man is

more than the creature; he is the child of the heavenly Father, who calls his

children to share in the revelation of his own character and will. And

certain selected individuals, notably those designated “prophets,” are

admitted into special relations with the Infinite Spirit, that they may be

made the medium of carrying out his purposes of wisdom and of love.




HE MINISTERED. The prophets sprang from the people, and knew them

from familiar intercourse and intimacy; they knew their sins and

weaknesses, their temptations and struggles. Some, like Elijah and John the

Baptist, led a life secluded and ascetic — only now and again coming forth

from their retirement and mingling with their countrymen for some special

purpose. But others lived amongst those whom they had known in

childhood and youth, and made themselves acquainted with their temporal

condition and their spiritual wants. It seems to have been so with Ezekiel.

And as participation in common sorrows and sufferings often draws men

closer together, it is reasonable to believe that comrades in exile were upon

terms of closest fellowship and correspondence. The prophet knew well, in

virtue of a common nature and a common lot, the people amongst whom

he dwelt, and to whom he was called to minister.




Men may see much of one another, may be brought frequently into contact

with one another, and yet may have little mutual knowledge, and even feel

little interest in one another’s experiences. But this was not the case with

Ezekiel, who did not harden his heart against even the disobedient,

rebellious, and unresponsive, but, on the contrary, cultivated, as a man, a

spirit of true brotherhood with his fellow men. He was deeply pained when

it was his duty to threaten or to denounce; he was sincerely glad when it

was given him to speak words of kindness and encouragement. There was,

in consequence of this human sympathy, an especial authoritativeness in his

prophetic ministrations. What he said and did went home, in many cases, to

the hearts of those whom he addressed; because they interpreted his words

and deeds in the light of his spirit and character.




Perfect Man as well as perfect God, the Lord Christ entered into the

position of those whom he came to save. Like Ezekiel, the Lord Jesus

came to a captive people; like Ezekiel, he addressed to them words of

reproach, words of warning, words of consolation, words of hope. He did

more than this: he bore their sins, and carried their sorrows. And thus he

brought deliverance to the bondmen, opened the prison doors, and bade

the oppressed go free.




                                    Prophetic Receptiveness (v. 8)


This Book of Ezekiel is one abounding in figure and symbol; it would be a

mistake to take all its contents literally. When we read that the prophet was

required by God to eat that which was given him, and are then informed

that a written scroll was that which was to be eaten, we are at first

surprised. But then we recollect that eating has been in many religions

regarded as a sacred and symbolical act. The Mosaic dispensation had its

Paschal meal, and the Christian religion has its sacrament of the Lord’s

Supper. So that the symbol of the text is quite in accordance with the

practices which, upon Divine authority, have prevailed in the Church

throughout the ages.




the meaning of the symbol of this passage is evident from the context. It

was in connection with the prophet’s commission that he was bidden to eat

the scroll. It was thus that he was to fit and qualify himself for his special

ministry; he was to take from God, that he might have wherewith to supply

the needs of the people.




MINISTER OF DIVINE TRUTH, Eating is a process by which suitable

nutriment is introduced into the bodily system, and assimilated by the

organs of digestion, so that it both builds up the bodily structure and

supplies the organism with renewed power for life work. Such is the

function fulfilled by God’s truth in connection with the spiritual being and

life. The teacher of the revealed mind and will of the Supreme cannot be

fitted for his service by a superficial and slight acquaintance with his

message. That message must sink into the depths of his nature, must

penetrate his being, must enter into all the functions of the spiritual life.





requirement of God could not but awaken in the prophet’s mind something

of repugnance, The scroll he was bidden to eat was filled with

lamentations, mourning, and woe; the message he was commissioned to

deliver was a message of reproach, of expostulation, of warning, of

threatening. Such a ministry could not be agreeable to his natural

inclinations; he must have shrunk from it as uncongenial and distasteful. It

must often happen that the fulfilment of duty is distressing to the faithful

and yet sensitive preacher of righteousness; it is a bitter thing to deliver a

message of condemnation to one’s fellow men.



COMMANDS OF THE LORD. When the disinclination to undertake the

painful commission had been overcome, a profound satisfaction followed.

The prophet found that in keeping God’s commandments there is great

reward. The distress is temporary and brief the satisfaction is lasting. The

surgeon may often inflict pain upon his patient; the physician may see it

right to order a course of treatment which is repulsive. To act wisely and

conscientiously may, in such cases, be painful. But let the duty be

discharged, and there follows a true satisfaction. It was so with Ezekiel; it

is so with every true and faithful servant of God. The office may he one

arduous and difficult, painful and repugnant; yet, if it is the office to which

God calls a man, obedience and fidelity, the unshrinking fulfilment of the

service, will bring a rich reward. Sweet are the delights of those who

conquer self, who yield themselves up to the service of that Saviour who

himself carried the cross. They shall enter into the joy of the Lord..




                                                The Scroll (v. 9)


It is certainly remarkable that, whilst the ministry of Ezekiel was to be

fulfilled by word of mouth, the communication of its substance should be

figuratively represented by the scroll — “a roll of a book, written within

and without.” What the scroll was to the prophet, it may fairly be said, the

volume of Holy Scripture is to us. Holy Writ is the record of successive

revelations, and its form, as literature, answers very important purposes.

Scripture is the standard of faith and doctrine and practice, to which the

ministers of the gospel are bound to refer, according to the well known

saying, “The Church to witness, the Scripture to prove.” This strikingly

symbolical passage suggests valuable truth regarding both the form and the

substance of the inspired volume.



have the scroll, the volume, i.e. the mind of the holy and inspired men of

old perpetuated in the written form. Certain advantages are by this means

secured, which more than compensate for any disadvantages which may

possibly be connected with the literary form which revelation assumes.


1. A written revelation, as compared with one merely oral, is deliberate.

What men say in conversation, or under the stress of popular oratory, is

not to be compared in this respect with what is carefully committed to a

literary form. Speech is often intended merely to produce an immediate

impression; what is written is probably intended to bear examination, to

stand the test of reflection and of time.

2. Continuous. Fragmentary and disjointed utterances are all that can be

expected from an ordinary speaker; and even a thoughtful and powerful

speaker must usually, by the very conditions of his work, come short in the

point of orderliness and continuity. The preparation of a book, and

especially of a volume containing in many books the revelation of the

Divine mind, involves a design, a plan, a connection and correspondence

among the several parts which go to make up the whole.

3. Incorruptible. The untrustworthiness of tradition is proverbial. Wisdom

is apparent in the arrangement by which the communication of God’s will

to man has been placed beyond the corrupting influences to which every

oral tradition is liable.



a book” delivered to Ezekiel may be presumed to have been the emblem of

the communications which were to form the matter of his prophetic

ministry. And although the writing is described as consisting of mourning

and woe, this is probably only because such was the prevailing tenor of the

earlier portions of his prophecies. We may say generally that the written

revelation through Ezekiel is a summary of that which occupies the entire

Bible. The scroll, accordingly, may be considered as:


1. Displaying the Divine interest in mankind.

2. Revealing Divine acquaintance with men’s sinful character their

wanderings from God, and the various errors and follies into which sin has

ever led its victims.

3. Declaring God’s foresight of the miserable condition into which idolatry,

apostasy, and every kind of moral evil and error must certainly plunge the

rebellious. Nowhere is this more vividly displayed than in this book of


4. Expressing the Divine solicitude for man’s welfare, and the Divine

provision for man’s recovery and salvation. In all these several particulars

the Book of Ezekiel is a miniature of the Bible. The theme of the prophet,

and the theme of Holy Writ as a whole, is surely nothing else than this —

the exhibition of man’s heinous sin, and the offer of God’s merciful



                        The Interlacing of Divine Command and Divine Strength

                                                            (vs. 1-2)


The commands of God are acts of kindness. If he had abandoned us, he

would give us no indications of his will. He is not so unreasonable as to

give commands without also proffering help. If he says “This is the way,”

he also says, “I will be with thee.” Hence, with Augustine, we may say to

God, “Give what thou requirest, and require what thou pleasest.”


I. COMMAND. “Stand upon thy feet.” The form of address, “son of

man,” was intended to encourage the prophet. The vision of God’s

kingdom, and of his royal state, bad oppressed the mind of Ezekiel, and he

had prostrated himself before such majestic splendor. But now the voice

of the supreme Monarch assures him that he may also find a place among

the honoured servants of Jehovah. Though but a frail man, a descendant of

erring progenitors, he was yet a man, and therefore capable of high

attainment and noble service. There was no hardship implied in this

command to stand upon his feet. It chimed in with his own predisposition.

Duty taken step by step, in easy gradations, becomes a delight. The

requirement was honourable. There had been occasion for prostrate

humility in the presence of the holy God. But humility is the way to

honour. Now he is required to lift himself up to the full stature of his

manhood, and to be ready for active and willing service. Use thy feet!

Look heavenward! Be a man! Equip thyself for service!


II. PROMISE. “I will speak unto thee.” This is a stupendous act of Divine

condescension to hold intercourse with fallen, fickle men. It is a mark of

special favour if an earthly monarch calls a commoner into his presence,

discloses to him royal counsels, and engages his services for the throne.

Much greater token of good will is it, if that commoner had been

heretofore a detected criminal, a dangerous rebel. But the similitude serves

very poorly to illustrate the immeasurable grace of the heavenly King, who

stoops to converse with the children of men. Human monarchs have set

times, which they set apart to give audience to the noblest of their subjects.

But God permits us to approach him at all times, and, if we will but speak

to him, he will also speak unto us. “His delights are with the sons of men.”

He loves to employ men in his service. Yea! he has determined to employ

none but men in proclaiming to their brethren the royal purposes of



III. INDWELLING POWER While Jehovah spake to his servant, “the

Spirit entered into him.” Finding in Ezekiel a readiness to obey, God

immediately imparted to him the needed strength. If the will be present

with us, the power to perform will not long be absent. When humility opens

the door of the human heart, God will enter and abide there. It was not so

much Ezekiel who put forth his strength and rose erect, as the indwelling

Spirit, “who set him on his feet.” Verily, “in God we live, and move, and

exist.” “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Ezekiel’s name was no

misnomer. In very deed, God was his Strength. And the result of the

Spirit’s entrance, further, was “that I heard him that spake unto me.” The

very power to hear, whether by the organ of sense, or by the finer aptitude

of the spirit, comes alone from God. “He that hath ears to hear, let him




                                    An Arduous Embassage (vs. 2-5)


Every prophet is a missionary; every true missionary is a prophet. In an

inferior sense of the word, he is a mediator — a mediator between God

and man.



“sent.” He goes not to this difficult and responsible work by the impulse of

his own reason or will. He is in the employ and under the direction of

another — of One whom he cannot disregard. He cannot go or stay, as he

pleases, he is a servant. The Son of God himself has undertaken similar

work. He was “sent” into our world on an errand of kindness. “As thou

hast sent me, so have I sent them.”



thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation.” The possession of

outward advantages, or of special Divine favours, does not ensure

gratitude or obedience on the part of men. In Eden, man transgressed. In

Canaan, the glory of all lands, the Hebrews rebelled. Righteousness is not

conveyed by blood relationship. The piety of Abraham did not descend in

the line of natural posterity. But rebellion is a weed that grows freely in the

degenerate soil of the human heart. The people of Israel, in Ezekiel’s time,

were hardened in sin. The evil had become inveterate by long centuries of

vicious habit, sad all the alternate measures of kindness and severity which

God had employed had failed to reduce the people to submission. Though

now in exile and disgrace, yet “to that very day” the rebellious spirit

continued. Nor were they even ashamed of the past. No blush tinged their

cheeks. All right feeling seemed petrified within!


III. THE MISSIONARY’S INSTRUMENT. He is armed simply with the

authoritative Word of God. What he hears from God, that, and that alone,

may he speak! He is not allowed to elaborate, from his own judgment,

conditions of reconciliation. He is not to rely for success on the

inventiveness of reason, nor on beguiling acts of sophistry, nor on the

persuasiveness of subtle rhetoric. He is to proclaim everywhere, “Thus

saith the Lord!” Authority is the weapon on which he is to rely — not

human authority, but Divine. He is to be simply the mouthpiece of Deity.

But, being this, he will become the power of God and the wisdom of God.

His business is to speak Divine truth with all the pathos of Divine love.



would hear, or whether they would forbear, was still an unsolved problem

so far as the prophet was concerned. God had not given to him the promise

of visible and direct success. But whether they accepted or rejected the

Divine overtures, the end which God anticipated would be realized. The

people should have this conviction inwrought in their minds, viz. that a

messenger from God had been among them. This was all that Ezekiel might

confidently expect. This was the goal at which he was to aim, viz. to

convince them that he was God’s prophet — to commend his mission to

the consciences of the people. Hence, if no other end was gained, he was

not to feel depression of soul. Whether the people relented or further

rebelled, he was to continue his simple work; and rest assured that God

would defend his own cause, and bring final good out of present evil.


                                    The Bread of Heaven

                                        (v. 9 to ch. 3:3)


The appetites of the human body may be regarded by us as pictures and

symbols of the inner hunger of the spirit. Not more surely does the body

cry out for food than does the inner man crave for truth. He only who has

created this complex frame can meet its varied wants.


I. THE HUNGER OF THE SOUL. As the emotional element in man cries

out for friendship, as the intellectual asks for knowledge, so the spiritual

element eagerly asks after God’s will. “Lord, what writ thou have me to

do?” To be out of harmony with God is misery to the soul. To be ignorant

of God’s purposes and intentions respecting us must bring perpetual

disquietude. Hence the question in some form, either vague or clear, is ever

rising to the surface, “What must I do to gain eternal life?”


II. DIVINE PROVISION. In order to qualify Ezekiel more fully for his

undertaking, a fresh vision was vouchsafed to him. A hand was stretched

out from heaven, containing a parchment roll. In form, it seemed like the

“bread that perisheth;” but it was in truth the heavenly manna — the

revelation of Jehovah’s will. Man, at the best, is under the dominance of

animal appetites; and consequently spiritual facts make most impression on

him when presented under material images. But God never deceives. He

unfolded the roll; showed him how full it was of instruction and meaning;

explained to him its real contents, viz. “mourning, lamentations, and woe.”

Like unleavened bread and bitter herbs, this knowledge of God’s will may

be most healthful for men at certain seasons of their life. God’s regard for

us is too genuine and profound for him to indulge our appetites with

dangerous delicacies. The bitter must come before the sweet, darkness

before light, sorrow before joy.


III. PERSONAL DIGESTION REQUIRED. The command is heard, “Eat

that I give thee.” “Fill thy bowels with this roll.” A superficial acquaintance

with God’s will is not enough for the prophet’s equipment. He must

observe, learn, masticate, digest, incorporate, the truth. Here is indeed

precious counsel — a Physician’s wise advice. Less food, probably, but

more digestion. Heavenly counsel this, which every disciple should write in

golden letters on his chamber walls. The truth which God gives to men

does not become really theirs until it is assimilated into their own nature —

becomes part and parcel of themselves. By examination and reflection and

practical obedience, this truth passes into the very blood and nerve and

fibre of our being. We become the truth — “living epistles, known and read

of all men.”



as honey for sweetness.” The regenerate man will welcome all the truth of

God. Whatever God’s will be, he knows that God’s will is right, and that

righteousness must bring blessing and peace. He is not now so blind as to

limit his vision to the narrow present; he compasses, in the sweep of his

eye, the remote and the future. That the prophet learnt that lamentation and

mourning were decreed, was an element of hope. Would the Divine Ruler

take such pains with men if he did not intend to do them ultimate good?

The very severity of the treatment implied that health would come at last.

To do the will of God is always sweet to the renewed man. Unless our

spiritual palate is in a diseased condition, every particle of heavenly truth

will be “as honey for sweetness.” “Thy words were found, and I did eat

them; and they were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”




                        The Commission to Prophetic Service (vs. 3-8)


“And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel,”

etc. We have here —



Ezekiel was sent to:


1. A people who had mournfully fallen. “I send thee to the children of

Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me.” By descent they

were sons of Israel, who had engaged in mighty wrestling with God, and

by faith had prevailed; and they ought to have been his sons in character.

But instead of that they are here spoken of as “the rebellious nations.” The

word is plural, as in the margin; and it is that which is used to denote the

heathen as distinguished from the people of God. They are designated

“nations,” as if they had something of the sins of all heathen peoples. They

were sadly degenerate branches of a noble root. In former times the

Israelites had been the Lord’s “peculiar treasure… a kingdom of priests

and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5, 6); now they were “the rebellious

nations that have rebelled against” him.


2. A people persistently rebellious against God. Observe the repetition of

this charge against them in vs. 3, 5-8. Their rebelliousness had

existed long. Generation after generation they had been revolters against

Jehovah. “They and their fathers have transgressed against me unto this

very day.” The children trod in the sinful steps of their rebellious fathers.

Unless restrained by the grace of God, children will imitate their parents,

however wicked they may be. Let parents remember the power of their

example over their children, and so live that their children may imitate them

with advantage.


3. A people openly obdulate in wickedness. “They are impudent children,

and stiff-hearted.” They were hard of face; they had lost shame; they had

ceased to blush by reason of their sins. “Were they ashamed when they had

committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could

they blush” (Jeremiah 6:15). And they were “stiff-hearted” — an

expression which denotes steadfastness and determination in their evil

ways; they were hardened in wickedness.


4. A people resolutely hostile to the Lords prophets. “Briers and thorns be

with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions; be not afraid of their

words, nor be dismayed at their looks.” Three ideas are suggested

concerning the people.


(1) Their barrenness. They were as destitute of the fruits of righteousness

as dry thorns.

(2) Their injuriousness. They would prick and sting as briers and thorns.

(3) Their venomousness. Like scorpions, they would seek to poison the

heart and life of the prophet. They would assail him with envenomed

words, and scowling, threatening looks. The life of a prophet of Jehovah

was generally one of trial and persecution. Ezekiel is here forewarned of

the pains and penalties awaiting him in his future course. In like manner our

Lord made known to the twelve apostles the persecutions they would have

to encounter in the fulfilment of their mission (Matthew 10:16-22).

What an evidence it is of the mercy of God that he should send his prophet

to so rebellious a people (compare Hosea 11:7-9)!



involves two main functions.


1. Reception of Divine communications. “Son of man, hear what I say unto

thee.” The prophet must be a devout listener in the glorious temple of

God’s great universe. His spiritual ear must be keenly sensitive even to the

whispers of the Divine voice.


2. Publication of Divine communications. “Thou shalt say unto them, Thus

saith the Lord God” (v. 4). “And thou shalt speak my words unto them.”

It is his business neither to expound the systems of other men, nor to

propound his own opinions, but to declare the Word of the Lord. He must

speak what he receives from God; and he must speak it in his Name and by

his authority. The Christian minister is an ambassador of the Lord Jesus

Christ, offering his pardon, etc. (compare II Corinthians 5:20).



“Thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether: they will hear, or

whether they will forbear.” It was not granted to Ezekiel to know how his

message would be regarded by his fellow countrymen. He received no

assurance that they would hear and. heed it. Rather it was suggested to him

that they might refuse to hear his testimony. Nevertheless, he must deliver

to them the words which he received from God. He must


“Learn a prophet’s duty:

For this cause is he born, and for this cause,

For this cause comes he to the world — to bear



And now the ministers of Jesus Christ must speak his Word faithfully,

irrespective of the treatment which is given to that Word. The treatment

which the gospel receives from their hearers they are not responsible for;

but for fidelity in the proclamation of that gospel they will be held

responsible (compare ch. 3:16-21).




1. Obedience to the Divine call demands this service. “I send thee to the

children of Israel” (v. 3); “I do send thee unto them” (v. 4); “Be not

thou rebellious” (v. 8). The true prophet, whether Hebrew or Christian,

is called of God. He cannot decline the service without grievous

unfaithfulness and disobedience. He is encouraged to fulfill it by the fact of

the Divine commission; for he who calls strengthens and sustains his



2. Attention to the Divine exhortations strengthens for this service. “Be

not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words,” etc. (v. 6). This

exhortation implies that he who gives it will defend his servant. “Be not

afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord”

(Jeremiah 1:8; and see Matthew 10:26-31).


3. The assurance of its vindication encourages in this service. “They,

whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, yet shall know that

there hath been a prophet among them.” Because of his covenant relation

to the children of Israel, the Lord will send his prophet unto them. “His

testimony, the tidings from him, must be heard in the midst of Israel.” The

declaration of that testimony was a proof of the fidelity of the Lord to his

covenant engagements. And the people should know the genuineness of

that testimony. Those who truly heard it would know, by blessed

experience of the results of obedience, that a prophet had been among

them. And those who rejected it would know by bitter experience, know to

their confusion, that a prophet had been among them, and that his words

were true. So also shall the mission of every true Christian minister be

vindicated, as we see from II Corinthians 2:14-16.




1. Let those who have received a mission from the Lord be encouraged to

    fulfill it. (compare II Timothy 2:1.)


2. Let those to whom the Word of the Lord is preached take heed how

    they hear.





            The Vision of the Roll; or, A View of the Prophetic Message

                                                (v. 9 to ch. 3:3)


“And when I locked, behold, an hand was sent unto me,” etc. This section

concerning the roll of prophecy must be looked upon as being of the nature

of vision. It pertained not to the external and material, but to the internal

and spiritual. It suggests the following observations concerning the

prophetic message.



“And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a

book was therein; and he spread it before me.” The volume was unrolled

before him that he might become acquainted with the Divine commission

given to him; “undertake his mission with a clear consciousness of its

difficulty;” and know the Word of the Lord which he was to proclaim. He

was not to promulgate his own thoughts, opinions, or convictions however

true or noble they might have been); but the things which were revealed to

him by God. “Thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God....And

thou shall speak my words unto them” (vs. 4, 7). And the Christian

minister is to “preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15), to “preach the Word”

(II Timothy 4:2), after the example of the apostles who, “when they had

preached the Word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the

gospel,” etc. (Acts 8:25). “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus

Christ” (ibid. ch. 5:42; and compare 1 Corinthians 1:23; II Corinthians

4:5; Ephesians 3:8; Colossians 1:27-28).



The roll was “written within and without: and there was written therein

lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” This roll is intended to represent

the book of the prophet.


1. It was long. “Written within and without.” Such was the extent and

fulness of the revelation that the one side, which generally was alone used

for writing on, was insufficient to contain it; both sides were required.


2. It was mournful. “There was written therein lamentations, and

mourning, and woe.” A correct description of many of the prophecies of

this book. How mournful was the moral condition of the people as set

forth by the prophet! How woeful the judgments which he proclaimed unto

them! Very often the Word of the Lord by the prophets was in fact a heavy

“burden” (compare Isaiah 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1;

Zechariah 9:1; 12:1; Malachi 1:1). And the Word of the Lord to the rebellious

and the hardened (such as the Israelites were) is still a stern word — a word of

condemnation and woe. The true prophet cannot prophesy smooth things to

stiff-necked sinners. To such characters he must proclaim “the severity of God.”



THE PROPHET. “Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou

fin, test; eat this roll,” etc. (ch. 3:1-3). The meaning of this is given

in ch. 3:10, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive

in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.” He must receive it, meditate upon

it, appropriate it, make it a part of his being. “Here we have the right

expression,” says Umbreit on eating the roll, “to enable us to form a

judgment and estimate of true inspiration. The Divine does not remain as a

strange element in the man; it becomes his own feeling thoroughly,

penetrates him entirely, just as food becomes a part of his bodily frame.”

There is need of a similar appropriation of the Word of God by Christian

preachers today. That Word should be in them not only by intellectual

apprehension, but by spiritual assimilation also. It should be not merely on

their lips, but in their hearts. This will give the accent and power of

conviction to their words when they publish it.



PROPHET. “Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for

sweetness.” “Thy words were found, and I did eat them,” etc.

(Jeremiah 15:16). It seems strange that this roll of “lamentations, and

mourning, and woe” should be sweet to Ezekiel. It was so probably:


1. Because it was the Word of the Lord. (compare Psalm 19:10; 119:103.)

2. Because of the honour conferred upon him in making him the agent of

the Lord in hearing and speaking that Word. “It is infinitely sweet and

lovely to be the organ and the spokesman of the Most High”


3. Because even its severest portions were righteous. There was nothing

that would clash with his sense of justice and truth. Says Calvin, “The

sweet taste means Ezekiel’s approbation of God’s judgment and


4. Because behind the severest judgments there was the grace of the Lord

God. In the roll there were promises of mercy and restoration to the

penitent. “Athwart the cloud,” says Hengstenberg, “the rainbow gleams.

Better to be condemned by God than comforted by the world. For he who

smites can also heal, and will heal, if his proclamation of judgment, and the

judgment itself, be met by penitence; while, on the other hand, the comfort

of the world is vain.” So the roll was in the prophet’s “mouth as honey for

sweetness.” Yet there were times when his stern message and his arduous

mission were not sweet to him, and he “went in bitterness, in the heat of his

spirit” (ch. 3:14; and compare Revelation 10:9-10). The work of the

Christian preacher has its sweetness and bitterness; its high and holy joys,

and its deep and heart-rending sorrows.



DELIVERED. “Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of

Israel.” Even despite the determined opposition of those to whom he is

sent, he must discharge his mission with fidelity (compare ch.3:4-11, the

meaning of which is very similar to that of the paragraph, Ezekiel 2:3-8,

which has already engaged our attention). And it is required of the

ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ that they be faithful to the great trust

which is committed to them (1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Ephesians 6:21;

Colossians 1:7; 4:7; II Timothy 2:2). Blessed are they who in the

review of their life can humbly declare, with St. Paul, that they have kept

the glorious deposit which was entrusted to them (compare1 Timothy 1:11;

II Timothy 4:7).