1 “And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day
of the month, that
certain of the elders of
and sat before me. 2 Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,”
A new date is given, and includes what follows to ch.23:49. The last note of time
was in ch.8:1, and eleven months and five days had passed, during which the
prophecies of the intervening chapters had been written or spoken. We may note
further that it was two years one month and five days after the prophet’s call to
his work (ch. 1.), and two years and five months before the Chaldeans besieged
that some of the elders of
message of the Lord he had to give them in the present crisis. Whether any
stress is to be laid on the fact that here the elders are
said to be “of
and in (Ibid.) “of
seems to use the two words as interchangeable. Here, however, it is stated
more definitely that they came to inquire, probably in the hope that he would
tell them, as the false prophets were doing, that the time of their deliverance, and
of that of
delivers the discourse that follows.
3 “Son of man, speak unto the elders of
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to inquire of me? As I
live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.”
The inquirers are answered, but not as they expected. Instead of hearing of the
“times and seasons” of the events that were in the near future, the prophet at once
enters on his stern work as a preacher. The general principle that determines the
refusal to answer has been given in ch. 14:3.
The Silent Oracle (vs. 1-3)
An embassy of elders is sent to Ezekiel to make an inquiry of the Lord
through the prophet as to what is to be expected at a new juncture of
national affairs, and Ezekiel is instructed to tell them that God will
give no answer.
TEACH THEM ARE ANXIOUS FOR LIGHT ON LESS IMPORTANT
QUESTIONS. This was the peculiar, the inconsistent, position of
God had not been keeping silence. On the contrary, he had been sending
repeated messages to his people, and the Prophet Ezekiel had been busy in
teaching what God had revealed to him. (…..the Lord God of their fathers
sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because
He had compassion on His people…….But they mocked the messengers
of God and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the
wrath of the Lord arose against His people, TILL THERE WAS NO
REMEDY!” II Chronicles 36:15-16). This was not a time, like that of
Samuel, when the word of the Lord was rare. But the people had not cared
to receive the Divine messages. Here was Ezekiel’s trouble. He had to
preach to deaf ears and to exhibit his prophetic signs to blind eyes
(ch. 12:2). Likewise Isaiah and Jeremiah. See Isaiah 6:9-10; Jeremiah 5:21;
Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40. The perversity of his
audience had driven him to novel and startling symbolical representations
of truth in a last, despairing endeavor to arrest attention. And yet even these
efforts seemed to have been all in vain. Then there came to him an embassy,
innocently ignoring all these neglected oracles, and blandly requesting a
Divine answer to certain inquiries of their own. Was there ever a more insolent
approach to God? Now, we have a full and rich Divine revelation in the Bible,
and especially in the gospel of Christ. Here we may see God’s message to man
and God’s answer to the most momentous inquiries of the soul. Yet there are
men who set aside these voices of God, and then plead piteously for light. No
doubt these elders of
they were anxious for light on their fate. They were like those people who
discuss the problem of future punishment, and with keen interest, but who
are indifferent to the voice of conscience and the Divine call to repentance.
Yet there is a pathetic side to this subject. Those who reject God still feel
driven to Him for refuge in trouble.
THOSE WHO REFUSE TO GIVE HEED TO HIS WORD ALREADY
RECEIVED. We cannot be surprised that Ezekiel’s oracle was silenced.
Such insolence as that of the elders of Israel could meet with no more
Ø If we refuse to hear God’s Word, we must expect to be left in darkness.
Before we cry for more light, let us use the light we have. We may indeed
pray for God’s Spirit to help our interpretation of the Bible, and having
read the written Word we may crave more light still. But first to reject the
Divine revelation and then to seek for new light is not the way to receive
Ø God will not give light to those who harden themselves in impenitence.
The Jews had been charged with sin and called to repentance. They had
refused to admit the charge and had declined to repent. Thus they had
shut the door against further Divine communications. The spiritual
vision is best purged by the tears of penitence. A hard heart is deaf
to God’s Word.
Ø It is useless to be informed about the future unless we listen to the
spiritual teachings of God. Men resorted to oracles to satisfy idle curiosity
or to seek mere worldly guidance. God does not speak for such
comparatively worthless ends. We most need spiritual instruction for the
guidance of our souls into the way of life. Till we have received and
obeyed that instruction any other form of revelation must be irrelevant,
distracting, and therefore positively injurious. (Characterized by
seeking unto soothsayers and fortune-tellers)
4 “Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? Cause them to know
the abominations of their fathers:” Wilt thou judge them, etc.? The doubled question
has the force of a strong imperative. The prophet is directed, as it were, to assume the
office of a judge, and as such to press home upon his hearers, and through them upon
others, their own sins and those of their fathers. He is led, in doing so, to yet another
survey of the nation’s history; not now, as in chapter16, in figurative language,
5 “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I
Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt,
when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your
God; 6 In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them
forth of the
with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:” In the day that I lifted up
mine hand. The attitude was that of one who takes an oath (Exodus 6:8), and
implies the confirmation of the covenant made with Abraham. The land flowing
with milk and honey appears first in (Ibid. 3:8, and became proverbial. The glory of
all lands is peculiar to Ezekiel. Isaiah (Isaiah 13:19) applies
the word to
7 “Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations
of his eyes, and defile
not yourselves with the idols of
the LORD your God. 8 But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken
unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes,
neither did they forsake
the idols of
fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the
polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made
myself known unto them,
in bringing them forth out of the
10 Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the
brought them into the
wilderness.” No special mention of the idols of
occurs in the Pentateuch, but it lies, in the nature of the case, that this was the
form of idolatry implied in the second commandment, and the history of the
“golden calf” (Exodus 32:4) shows that they had caught the infection
the Mnevis or Apis worship
while they sojourned in
apparently the prophet speaks of that sojourn prior to the mission of
Moses. In bold anthropomorphic speech he represents Jehovah as half
purposing to make an end of the people there and then, and afterwards
repenting. He wrought for his Name’s sake, that the deliverance of the
Exodus might manifest His righteousness and might, the attributes specially
implied in that Name, to
not have it in their power to say that He had abandoned the people whom
He had chosen.
“And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; In the day when I chose
the day when chose
house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the
when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your God.”
The day when God chose
their God was the time when He interposed on their behalf by His servant
Moses. He chose them; they did not choose Him. They did not seek to
serve or worship Him; but He sent Moses to demand their emancipation in
order that they might worship and serve Him. And He thus chose them
neither for their greatness nor their goodness, but because of His own love
for them and His fidelity to his promises made unto their fathers (compare
Deuteronomy 7:7-8). He chose them to receive special revelations of
religious and redemptive truth, to be “a people for His own possession,” His
visible Church in the world, and His witnesses amongst men, testifying to
His unity and supremacy, and observing and maintaining His worship (compare
Ibid. ch.10:15; 14:2). And still God of His grace calls men to Himself. He begins
with us, and not we with Him. “God commendeth His love toward us, in
that, while we were yet sinners CHRIST DIED FOR US!” (Romans 5:8);
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His
Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10). If we have sought
God, it was because He first sought us. “By the grace of God I am what
I am” (I Corinthians 15:10). And the Lord made Himself known to them as
their God, both by declarations and by mighty deeds wrought on their behalf
(Exodus 3:14; 6:1-8). He chose them to be His people; He gave Himself to
them to be their God. “I am the Lord your God.” ‘Your God.’ This is a great
word, and hath great mercy in it; an engaging word, tying God and all His
attributes to them:
Ø your God to counsel you,
Ø your God to protect you,
Ø your God to deliver you,
Ø your God to comfort you,
Ø your God to plead for you,
Ø your God to teach you,
Ø your God to set up His Name and worship among you,
Ø your God to bless you with the dews of heaven and fullness of the earth,
Ø your God to hear your prayers and make you happy!
And he asserts this relationship in the most solemn manner. “I lifted up mine
hand unto them,” i.e. I sware unto them.
PEOPLE. (V. 6.) This purpose has two branches.
Ø To deliver them from a miserable condition. “In that day I lifted up mine
hand unto them, to bring them forth out of the
the power of their cruel oppressors, and by a mighty hand He set them free
from their burdens, and led them out of the land of their captivity. And
when men believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and respond to His call, He
delivers them from the bondage of sin. He came into our world to
“proclaim liberty to the captives” (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18), to save men
from the power and pollution and punishment of sin.
Ø To establish them in a desirable condition. “Into a land that I had
espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory
of all lands.”
o This land was selected for them by God. He summoned Abram to
go forth unto the land that He would show him (Genesis 12:1; and
compare Exodus 3:8,17). “He shall choose our inheritance for us,
the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.”
Ø This land was excellently situated and richly fertile. (We have noticed
these points in treating of ch.19:10.) In its natural fortifications, its
remarkable fertility, and its religious privileges, it was glorious as
compared with other lands. And this land God gave unto them. And
our Saviour Jesus Christ not only delivers from sin those who believe
on Him, but He introduces them into a condition of spiritual privilege
and progress. “Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear,”
etc. (Romans 8:15-17); “Beloved, now are we children of God,” etc.
(I John 3:2).
them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not
yourselves with the idols of
obligation arises out of the relationship stated in v. 5. Because they are His
people and He is their God, they must be true to Him as their God, having
no connection with idols. The great basis of their obligation to Him is contained
in the words, “I am Jehovah your God” (compare Exodus 20:1-2). In this
prohibition of idolatry there are two points which call for brief notice.
Ø Sin entering by the eyes. “The abominations of his eyes” — an
expression which denotes idols. The eyes look upon the idols, become
familiar with them, and come to behold them with respect and reverence.
The eyes are both inlets and outlets to the heart. They convey to the heart
the impression of the idol, and if the heart come to reverence the idol, they
express that reverence in their gaze. The eyes are often an avenue
through which temptation to sin enters the soul.
Sin defiling the
not yourselves with the idols of
Sin pollutes our moral life at its very springs. It proceeds from an impure
heart, and it makes the heart still more impure. David was conscious of its
defilement when he prayed, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity,”
etc. (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10). The people of God are under the most binding
obligations to shun everything that would lead to their moral
contamination, and to be true to Him both in heart and in life.
Ø The nature of this rebellion. “But they rebelled against me, and
would not hearken unto me; they did not every man cast away
the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols
idolatrous practices. The Mosaic history does not explicitly mention
the idolatry of the Israelites in
The making and worship of the golden calf was probably an imitation
of the Egyptian worship of the various sacred cows or of the sacred
bulls. It appears from Leviticus 17:7 (Revised Version), that in the
desert the Israelites offered sacrifices to he-goats, and “the worship of
a deity under the form of a he-goat was peculiar to
they worshipped idols in
also from Joshua 24:14, “Put away The gods which your fathers
served beyond the river, and in
And from ch. 23:3 of our prophet, “They committed whoredoms
Ø The punishment of this rebellion. “Then I said I would pour out my
fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst
(Exodus 5:5-23), were signs of the anger of the Lord against them. The
Egyptians acted wickedly and cruelly in thus ill treating them; for they
Had not wronged them. Yet they might have been the unconscious agents
Of punishing the Israelites for their unfaithfulness to the Lord their God.
This is certain, that persistent sin invariably meets with deserved punishment.
NOTWITHSTANDING THE REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE. “But I
wrought for my Name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of
the nations, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known
unto them, in bringing them forth out of the
Numbers 14:13-16). Had He not accomplished His purpose in delivering
them out of
Egyptians and others. They might have questioned or even denied:
Ø His ability to execute His purposes and fulfill His promises, asserting
that He did not do so because He could not (Ibid. vs. 15-16).
Ø His fidelity to His purposes and promises, asserting that He does not
abide by His determinations, but is changeable and therefore unreliable.
Ø His kindness towards His people, asserting that He is not so deeply
interested in them as to always fulfill His engagements with them.
Therefore, for His Name’s sake,
sins man may exclude himself from any participation in their
fulfillment, or any enjoyment thereof; but he cannot defeat their
fulfilment (compare Exodus 32:9-10; Numbers 14:11-12; 23:19;
II Timothy 2:13).
Ø Warnings against rebellion against God.
Ø Encouragements to trust and obey Him.
See sequel, God and
11 “And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments,
which if a man do, he shall even live in them.” I gave them my statutes, etc.
Ezekiel recognizes, almost in the very language of Deuteronomy 30:16-20,
as fully as the writers of Psalms 19 and 119 recognized, the excellence of the Law.
A man who kept that Law in its fullness would have life in its fullest and highest
sense. He was beginning, however, to recognize, as Jeremiah had done
(Jeremiah 31:31), the powerlessness of the Law to give that life without the aid of
something higher. The “new covenant” was already dawning on the mind of the
scholar as on that of the master.
Law and Life (v. 11)
His statutes in order that the Jews might live by means of them. Without
those ordinances they were in danger of death, for they were sinners, and
the fruit of sin is death. Thus we see that the Law was given in mercy. It
came as a blessing. It was in its aim a gospel. Nothing can be further from
the truth than the notion that it was a rod of chastisement, or even, as some
have regarded it, an evil thing, a sort of curse upon sinners. It was not so
regarded by the Old Testament saints, who sang hymns in praise of it, and
hailed it with language of affection and rapture (e.g. Psalm 40. and 119).
Ø Truth leads to life. The Law was a revelation of God’s eternal verities,
without which the soul would perish in the night of its own ignorance.
Ø Righteousness would make for life. The Law declared the nature of
righteousness, and pointed out the path on which it could be pursued.
Thus it was an aid to conscience. Further, by its sanctions of menace
And promise it urged the careless to walk in that path.
Ø Grace leads to life. The Law did not exclude all grace. On the contrary,
it was given in mercy, and it contained saving provisions in various
forms of condescension to human weakness and in the great institution
of sacrifices for sin.
We have come to regard the Law with aversion under the influence of
the arguments of Paul. Yet he distinctly teaches that the Law was good,
but that the perversion of it led to ruin (Romans 7:12).
Ø The Law condemns sin. Before we have sinned it is a friend to warn us
against doing wrong, but by sinning we have turned it into an enemy.
The warning beacon has thus become an ominous meteor, the sign post a
gallows tree. That which by its guidance protects the innocent from
death, by its judgments condemns the guilty to death (Romans 7:10).
Ø The Law is powerless to save from sin.
o Its commandments cannot save. They are standards of
measurement, not direct powers. Though they urge through
conscience, fear, and hope, they only appeal to our nature in
its present state. They do not create a new heart. They may
drive us to flee from the wrath to come; but they do
not provide any refuge.
o Its sacrifices cannot save. Ceremonial sacrifices could only save
from ceremonial sins. In regard to moral guilt these sacrifices
could only typify cleansing, not really accomplish it (Psalm 51:16;
LIFE. The Law was “weak,” though not on account of its own
imperfection, but “through the flesh,” i.e. on account of man’s human
degradation, so that man did not respond to it. Therefore God sent His Son
to bring the salvation which the Law was powerless to produce (Romans 8:3).
Ø In Christ we have the gift of life. (I John 5:12). Nothing less than
death is due under the Law; nothing less than life is given by Christ.
This we receive by ACTIVE REGENERATING GRACE, not by
the erection of a new standard of morals — the Sermon on the Mount
substituted for the Ten Commandments — but by the presence and work
of a living Saviour.
Ø This life in Christ does not destroy the glory of the Law.
o Christ satisfies the Law in His own Person.
o He destroys in us the sin which makes the Law our enemy
and earns the death penalty.
o He gives us His new law of love, His eternal statutes, “which,
if a man do, he shall even live in them” (Matthew 7:24-27;
12 “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me
and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify
them.” I gave them my sabbaths, etc. As in Exodus 31:12-17,
the sabbath is treated as the central sign (we might almost say sacrament)
of the Jewish Church, not only as a mark differencing them from other
nations, but as between Jehovah and them, a witness of their ideal
relation to each other, a means of making that ideal relation a reality.
into the seventy years of Captivity - II Chronicles 36:21 – CY – 2014)
13 “But the house of
walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which
if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they
greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them
in the wilderness, to consume them. 14 But I wrought for my name’s sake,
that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought
them out. 15 Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I
would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk
and honey, which is the glory of all lands;” It is hardly necessary to count up the
several instances of rebellion, from the sin of the golden calf onward. Of direct
violation of the sabbath we have but two recorded instances (Exodus 16:27;
Numbers 15:32); but the prophet looked below the surface, and would
count a mere formal observance, that did not sanctify the sabbath, as a
pollution of the holy day. (For parallel teaching in the prophets, see
Isaiah 56:2-4; 58:13-14; Jeremiah 17:19-27; and later on in the history,
probably as the result of their teaching, Nehemiah 10:31-33; 13:15-22.)
Then I said. The history of Numbers 14:26-35 and 26:65 was probably in
16 “Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes,
but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
17 Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither
did I make an end of them in the wilderness.” Their heart went after their idols.
The words may point generally to the fact that the idolatrous tendencies of the
people, though suppressed, were not really eradicated. The history of Baal-peor
(Numbers 25:3-9) shows how ready they were to pass into act, and Amos 5:25-26
implies a tradition of other like acts during the whole period of the wanderings in
18 “But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the
statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile
yourselves with their idols: 19 I am the LORD your God; walk in my
statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; 20 And hallow my sabbaths;
and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the
LORD your God.”
The Sanctity of the Sabbath (v. 20)
was given to
(Exodus 20:8-11). But it also had a deeper mystical significance which
gave it a peculiar sanctity. It was the sign of
chosen people might be marked, the seal of the covenant of Sinai, as
circumcision was the seal of the earlier covenant with Abraham. In this
particular, of course, the sabbath belonged only to the Jews under the Law,
and our neglect of the seventh day and observance of the “Lord’s day” are
signs that we have passed under a new covenant with a new sanction, seal,
and token, viz. that of the communion (Luke 22:20), which therefore
takes a place with us corresponding to the sabbath in the Law and
circumcision among the patriarchs. Nevertheless, the grounds on which the
sabbath was selected as the symbol of the covenant of the Law are wider
than the dominion of
ascertaining their perpetual significance.
NATURE. God rested from creation (Genesis 2:2). This fact is stated
in primitive language. But the latest science shows that the course of
nature is not a mechanical revolution, but a sort of vital pulsation. Its
movement is rhythmic. It goes by shock and pause. It has its work and its
rest. Summer activity and winter sleep, day and night, storm and calm, are
nature’s alternate week days and sabbaths. We are part of nature, and must
observe its methods.
THE NEEDS OF MAN. “The sabbath was made for man and not
man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27). Therefore man needed the sabbath.
Ø He needed the rest. Ceaseless toil wears and frets the very fiber of life.
Masters and slaves, as well as the beast of burden, were benefited by the
Jewish sabbath. We are not under the same formal regulations as those by
modern world are so much more exacting than any that can be imagined to
belong to the simple pastoral and agricultural life of the ancient Jews, that
the requirement of some equivalent to their sabbath must be much stronger
Ø He needed the opportunity FOR REMEMBERING GOD! The sabbath
Was sacred to the covenant. Sunday is sacred to the resurrection of Christ.
The congenial thoughts and holy occupations of such a day are helpful.
“The Sundaies of man’s life,
Thredded together on time’s string,
Make bracelets to adorn the wife
Of the eternal, glorious King.
On Sunday heaven’s gates stand ope;
Blessings are plentiful and rife,
More plentiful than hope.”
GOD. God ordained the sabbath; it was typical of His resting; and it was
the seal of His covenant with
day. Christ has warned us against the formal abuse of its sanctity, and
Paul has dared to assert a large Christian liberty in regard to it. Anything
that makes its use formal savours of the Law, is Judaistic, is anti-Christian.
Anything that makes it a day of gloom and repression is even contrary to
its old Jewish observance as a festival. But, on the other hand, God has
claims of worship. If Sunday is given up to amusement or toil those claims
are ignored. It is our duty to give them all possible range in this age of
driving secular interests. Thus are we led on to
“The sabbaths of eternity,
One sabbatic, deep and wide.”
(Tennyson, ‘St. Agnes.’)
21 “Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they
walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a
man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then
I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against
them in the wilderness. 22 Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought
for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen,
in whose sight I brought them forth.” I said unto their children, etc. The words
can refer to nothing but the great utterance of the Book of Deuteronomy as
addressed to the children of those who had perished in the wilderness. That
utterance also, it is implied, as indeed the Baal-peor history at the close of the
forty years showed, fell on deaf ears. Then also there was, once again, in the
inevitable anthropomorphic language, a change of purpose, from that of a
rigorous judgment to the mercy which prevailed against it.
23 “I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would
scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries;
24 Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my
statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after
their fathers’ idols.” That I would scatter them among the heathen. The words
seem to refer to the generation that had grown up in the wilderness, and,
taken, do not correspond with the history of the conquest of
What Ezekiel contemplates, however, as the resolve of Jehovah, is the
commutation of the sentence of destruction for that of the dispersion of the
people, leaving the time and manner of that dispersion to be determined by
His own will. Possibly even in the time of the judges, with its many
conquests and long periods of oppression, there were instances of such
dispersion, and these, with others that would naturally accompany an
invasion like that of Shishak (II Chronicles 12:2-9), not to speak of
frequent attacks from Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, Edomites, and
Syrians, may have seemed to the prophet the working out, step by step, of
the dispersion which culminated in the deportation of the ten tribes by
Shalmaneser, and of Judah and Benjamin by Nebuchadnezzar. Traces of
such dispersions before Ezekiel’s time meet us in Psalm 78:59-64;
Isaiah 11:11-12; Zephaniah 3:10, 20.
25 “Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and
judgments whereby they should not live;” The words have sometimes been
understood as though Ezekiel applied these terms to the Law itself, either as
speaking of what Paul calls its “weak and beggarly elements” (Galatians 4:9),
or as unable to work out the righteousness which it commanded (Romans 3:20),
and the language of Hebrews 7:19 and 10:1 has been urged in support of this view.
One who has studied Ezekiel with any care will not need many words to show
that such a conclusion was not in his thoughts at all. For him the Law was
“holy and just and good,” and its statutes such that a man who should keep
them should even live in them (vs. 13, 21). He is speaking of the time
that followed on the second publication of that Law, and what he says is
that the people who rebelled against it were left, as it were, to a law of
another kind. The baser, darker forms of idolatry are described by him,
with a grave irony, as statutes and judgments of another kind, working,
not life, but DEATH! Sin became, by God’s appointment, the punishment of
that it might be manifest as exceeding sinful. So Stephen says of
that “God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven”
(Acts 7:42). So Paul paints the corruptions of the heathen world as
the result of God’s giving them up to “vile affections” (Romans 1:24-27).
So in God’s future dealings with an apostate form of Christianity, the
same apostle declares that “God shall send them strong delusions that they
should believe a lie” (II Thessalonians 2:11). Psalm 81:12 may have
been in Ezekiel’s thoughts as asserting the same general law.
26 “And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass
through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them
desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.”
“Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of
chief teachings of this section of the chapter may be developed under the
This is brought into our notice in four respects.
Ø In the deeds which He wrought for them. “l caused them to go forth
out of the
emancipation from their oppressors was effected by the mighty hand of
God, and of His unmerited grace to them. Our Lord Jesus is the great
Deliverer from the serfdom of sin and Satan (compare Isaiah 61:1; John
Ø In the gifts which He bestowed upon them.
o His Law. “And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my
judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them.” Statutes
and judgments express the general idea of law. This God gave
to them at Sinai, soon after their deliverance from
this Law was given for life unto them (compare Exodus 20:12;
Matthew 19:17; Romans 7:10, 12). “The precepts which God
gave His people bring life and salvation with them to him who
does them. What grace in God, who gives such precepts! What a
summons to true obedience! These precepts also imply before
all things that they shall confess their sins and seek forgiveness
in THE BLOOD OF THE ATONEMENT! This is required
by the laws concerning the sin offerings, which in the Mosaic Law
form the root of all other offerings; the Passover, which so strictly
requires us to strive after the forgiveness of sins, and connects all
salvation with it and the great Day of Atonement.”
Ø His sabbaths. “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign
between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that
sanctify them.’ The sabbath was instituted by God, and was peculiar to
amongst them the Lord sanctified them, separated them from the
nations as a people chosen for Himself; and by keeping it they manifested
their allegiance to Him and honored Him. By its institution He owned
them as His people; by its observance they owned Him as their God. By
so doing they also promoted their best interests. How rich and manifold
are God’s gifts to us!
o religions ministries,
o His sacred Word;
o His beloved Son,
o His Holy Spirit!
Ø In the forbearance which He exercised towards them. “Then I said, I
would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
But I wrought for my Name’s sake,” etc. (vs. 13-14, 17). Many and
extreme were the provocations of the Israelites in the wilderness.
“How oft did they rebel against Him in the wilderness, and grieve Him
in the desert!” More than once it seemed as though He would have
destroyed them utterly, as they certainly deserved. Yet in wrath He
remembered mercy. “He being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
and destroyed them not,” etc. (Psalm 78:38-39). How frequently and
grievously have we sinnned against Him! We too have tried His
patience, have provoked Him by our unfaithfulness, our rebelliousness,
our perversity. Great has been His longsuffering toward us (Ibid. ch.
103:8-11; II Peter 3:9).
Ø In the appeals which he addressed to them. God did not stand by (as it
were), patiently bearing with them in their sin, yet making no effort to
save them therefrom; but He appealed to them earnestly and repeatedly
to keep His commands. “I said unto their children in the wilderness,
Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers,” etc. (vs. 18-20). The
reference in these verses is to the regiving of the Law in the plains of
great appeal, in many tones and by many arguments, TO THE
YOUNGER GENERATION to be true to the Lord their God.
How graciously and powerfully God appeals to us in this Christian
o to our sense of duty and our sense of interest;
o by authoritative command and gracious persuasion;
o by strong fears and thrilling hopes;
o by His Divine Son and by His Holy Spirit.
RELATION TO GOD, Three features of their wickedness are here
Ø Apostasy of heart. “Their heart went after their idols” (v. 16); “Their
heart was not right with Him, neither were they faithful in His
covenant” (Psalm 78:37). Their sin was not merely on the surface of
their lives, but deeply rooted in their moral nature. “Out of the
heart come forth evil thoughts, murders,” etc. (Matthew 15:19);
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
Rebellion of life.
wilderness,” etc. (v. 13); “They despised my judgments,” etc. (v. 16).
It is quite unnecessary to specify their rebellions, because they were so
numerous. And the profanations of the sabbath must not be restricted to
the attempt to gather manna on that day (Exodus 16:27-30), or to the
case of the man who gathered sticks thereon (Numbers 15:32-36). God
required them to sanctify the sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12); to “hallow”
it (v. 20); “to consecrate it in every respect to Him, and withdraw it
wholly from the region of self-interest, of personal sinful inclination;”
and as they failed to keep it thus, they profaned it. Failing to sanctity
it by reverent worship and hearty service, they are charged with
desecrating it. And it behoves us earnestly to endeavor to preserve
the Lord’s day for the promotion of the best interests of man and
THE SUPREME HONOR OF GOD! Its SECULARIZATION
would be an irreparable loss and injury to man. (Witness the
present status of the
Ø Successiveness in sin. “The children rebelled against me,” etc.
(v. 21). The younger generation were far from being so wicked as
their fathers (Joshua 24:31); they were also far from being true and
faithful in their relation to the Lord their God. The generation that
nation. Yet they frequently rebelled against the Lord. What a
lamentable successiveness in sin there has been in the generations of
our race! Real advance certainly has been made; but still sin, dark
and prevalent, has characterized every generation of mankind.
(Like father, like son. Like mother, like daughter.
Ø The nature of this retribution. The elder generation was excluded from
the promised land because of their unbelief and rebellion against God
and against the leaders whom He had chosen. “I lifted up my hand
unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land
which I had given them.” etc. (vs. 15-16; and compare Numbers
14:26-35; Psalm 106:24-26). They disbelieved God’s word of promise,
and they should not share in its fulfillment; “they despised the pleasant
land,” and they were not allowed to enter therein; they wished that
they had died in the wilderness, and in the wilderness they died. And
as to the younger generation, their retribution is thus described: “I gave
them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they
should not live,” etc. (vs. 25-26). The ‘judgments whereby they should
not live’ are those spoken of in v. 18, and are contrasted with the
judgments in vs. 13, 21, laws other than Divine, to which God gives
up those whom He afflicts with judicial blindness, because they have
wilfully closed their eyes (Psalm 81:12; Romans 1:24). We may
compare here Romans 1:24, according to which God, in just retribution
for their revolt, gave over the heathen to vile affections; Acts 7:42,
where it is traced back to God that the heathen served the host of
heaven; and II Thessalonians 2:11, where God sends the apostates
strong delusions. God has so constituted human nature that revolt
from Him must be followed by TOTAL DARKNESS and DISORDER;
that no moderation in error and sin, no standing still at the middle point,
is possible; that the man, however willing he might be to stand still, must,
against his will, sink from step to step. Revolt from God is the crime,
excess in error and moral degradation the merited doom, from which all
would willingly escape if this were in their power. By way of example,
the custom of sacrificing children is mentioned in v. 26. ‘To cause to
pass through’ the fire (v. 31; compare ch.16:21; 23:37) is the current
phrase for sacrificing children which were offered to Moloch. Into such
a detestable custom did God in His righteous judgment PERMIT
THEM TO FALL that the merited punishment might come
upon them (‘that I might lay them desolate’), by which they learn that
their paternal God, whom they set at naught, is God in the full sense,
whom to forsake is AT ONCE FALL INTO MISERY!
Ø The design of this retribution. “To the end that they might know that I
am the Lord.” (See our notes on these words in ch.6:7,10; 7:4.)
We must every one be brought to know Him:
o either by the way of His grace or
o by the way of His judgments.
See sequel, God and
27 “Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of
them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Yet in this your fathers have
blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.”
I polluted them through their own gifts. The noun includes
forms of blessing bestowed on
ch. 16:19-20), even its sons and daughters, the fruit of the womb,
as well as the increase of the earth. (For the prevalence of Moloch worship,
and for the phrase, “pass through,” see notes on Ibid. v.21.) The sins were
to bring desolation as their punishment, and then men would learn to know
JEHOVAH, AS INDEED HE IS!
28 “For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up
mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all
the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there
they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they
made their sweet savor, and poured out there their drink offerings.”
It was a special aggravation of the sin that it was committed in
the very land into which they had been brought by the oath (the “hand
lifted up”) of Jehovah, that it might be a holy land, a witness of the Divine
righteousness to the nations round about. The forms of worship include
that of the high places, and the thick trees (Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6)
which witnessed the cultus of the Asherah or of Ashtaroth.
29 “Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go?
And the name whereof is called Bamah unto this day.” Bamah, in the plural
Bamoth, was the Hebrew for “high place.” At first it was applied to the hill on
Which some local sanctuary stood (I Samuel 9:12; I Kings 3:4), but was
gradually extended, after the building of the temple as the one appointed
sanctuary, to other places which were looked upon as sacred, and which
became the scenes of an idolatrous and forbidden worship. Ezekiel
emphasizes his scorn by a conjectural derivation of the word, as if derived
from the two words ba (“go”) and mah (“whither”); or, perhaps, What
comes? (compare Exodus 16:15 for a parallel derivation of the word
marones). Taking the words in their ordinary sense, they seem to express
only a slight degree of contempt. “What, then, is the place to which you
go?” — what is the “whither” to which it leads? But I incline (with Ewald
and Smend) to see in the word “go into” the meaning which it has in Genesis
16:2 and 19:31, and elsewhere, as a euphemism for sexual union. So later the
word “Bamah” becomes a witness that those who worship in the high place
go there (as in v. 30) to commit whoredom literally and spiritually. Its name
showed that it was what I have called “a chapel of prostitution” (ch. 16:24-25).
of man, speak unto the house of
Thus saith the Lord God,” etc. We have here:
them into the land which I lifted up mine hand to give unto them.”
The Lord gave
them the lands of the nations; and they took the labor of the peoples in
possession” (Psalm 105:44); “And when He had destroyed seven
nations in the
13:19). Look at the taking of
illustration of this. It was not by human strategy or strength that
they obtained the city, but by Divine interposition. And this land
was a desirable possession (compare Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy
8:7-9; 11:10-12; and see our notes on ch.19:10).
The Lord brought them into
“The land which I lifted up mine hand to give unto them.” The lifting
up of the hand is the gesture of the oath, or solemn promise.
Notwithstanding the rebellions of those to whom the promise was given,
and the difficulties in the way of its fulfillment, He made His promise
good. His faithfulness and His power guarantee the performance of His
word. Here we have ground for confidence in Him (compare Numbers
23:19; Matthew 24:35; I Peter 1:25).
The Lord brought them into
Though not expressed, this is clearly implied here (compare Deuteronomy
7:6-8; 9:4-6). God’s kindness to us has been great and undeserved. Who
can count the multitude of His mercies, or estimate their preciousness?
“The Lord hath dealt bountifully with us.” (Psalm 13:6)
Ø By worshipping in prohibited places. “Then they saw every high hill,
and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices,” etc.
(v. 28). The margin of the Revised Version presents a more striking
signification and a darker guilt. “They looked out for every high hill,” etc.
Their conduct in this respect was a perversion of a Divine law. When the
Israelites first entered
High place, and upon this and upon no other they were to worship
Jehovah. This was the high place (I Samuel 9:12, etc.; I Kings 3:4).
But the Israelites followed the custom of the country, and set up idol
worship on every high hill, and the word ‘high place’ (bamah), or in
the plural ‘high places’ (bamoth), became a byword (compare bamoth
Baal, Joshua 13:17). This was distinctly forbidden to the Israelites
Ø By worshipping prohibited objects. They offered sacrifices to idols.
This fact is not explicitly stated in our text; but it is implied in the
charge of blasphemy preferred against them, and in the expression,
“the provocation of their offering.”
o As to their blasphemy. The attempt “to combine God and
idols in one’s religion is blasphemy.” It involves a fearful
disparagement, if not the despising, of the Lord Jehovah.
o The expression, “the provocation of their offering,” indicates
the offerings made to idols whereby they provoked God to
anger (compare Deuteronomy 32:16-17; I Kings 14:22). It was
an aggravation of their guilt that they not only were idolaters,
but defiled with their idolatry the land which was given them
for their glory. It was perverting the gracious gift of God to
His deep dishonor (compare Jeremiah 2:7). How often have the
good gifts of God been thus perverted! Genius and power,
rank and riches, have frequently been used for selfish and sinful
purposes. And in this and other ways the kindness of God to
man is often basely requited still.
unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go?” Revised Version,
“What meaneth the high place?” etc. This inquiry seems to be designed:
Ø To awaken their serious reflection. It was fitted for this. Perhaps it
would lead the idolatrous people to ask themselves, “What meaneth the
high place whereunto we go?” Earnest interrogation might lead to
Ø To lead to their recognition of their folly. Serious reflection could
hardly fail to reveal to them the foolishness of idolatry. What benefit,
could they derive from it? What could their idols do for them? How
unreasonable that reasonable beings should pay homage to things of
wood and stone!
Ø To lead to their recognition of their sin. Their idolatry involved the
breach of the most sacred and solemn obligations. It was a transgression
of an oft-repeated command of God. Great was both the folly and the
sin of the Israelites in this (compare Jeremiah 2:11-13). This inquiry might
lead them to perceive and to feel these things. The Most High frequently
interrogates sinful men in order to lead them to reflection and reformation
(compare ch. 18:31; Jeremiah 2:5; 4:14). “Not wishing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
DIVINE INTERROGATION. “And the name thereof is called Bamah unto
this day.” The name was continued, and. the people persisted in the
practice of idolatry despite the remonstrances of the Lord. Even under the
most faithful and godly kings the high places were not taken away until
Josiah entered upon his great reformation (II Chronicles 34:3). It is
difficult to eradicate sins in the case of individuals, when the sins have had
time to strike their roots deeply in the heart and life. “Can the Ethiopian
change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that
are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). It is even more difficult to
eradicate the widespread, long continued, deep-rooted sins of a community
or a nation.
30 “Wherefore say unto the house of
Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye
whoredom after their abominations? 31 For when ye offer your gifts,
when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves
with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be inquired of by you,
O house of
by you.” Say ye unto the house of Israel, etc. The words are
addressed primarily to the elders who had come to consult the prophet
(v. 1), but through them to all their contemporaries and fellow
countrymen. They still in heart and even in deed (compare Isaiah 57:4-6, 11,
and 65:3, as showing the habits of the exiles) clung to the old idolatries. The
question for them was whether they would continue to walk in the ways of
their fathers. If so, it was true of them, as of the elders, that the Lord to whom
they came would not be inquired of by them.
32 “And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye
say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to
serve wood and stone.”
“Wherefore say unto the house of
polluted after the manner of your fathers?” etc. The Lord Jehovah through
His prophet now addresses Himself to the
to the elders who had come to the prophet to inquire of him. In these
verses He declares their sins. Three chief points claim our attention.
Ø The idolatry of the fathers continued by their children. “Say unto the
manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their
abominations?” The whoredom spoken of is spiritual —
unfaithfulness to God, in the worship of idols. Even the exile in
fathers had done, so did they. Parental example is very powerful
for several reasons.
o It is the example of those who are most looked up to and
imitated by the young.
o It influences the young in the most impressionable season
of their life. “As the twig is bent the tree inclines.”
o It is most continuous in its influence upon the young.
“The characters of living parents are constantly presented
for the imitation of their children. Their example is
continually sending forth a silent power to mold young
hearts for good or ill; not for a single month or year, but
through the whole impressionable period of childhood and youth,
the influence of parental example is thus felt. If it be constituted
of the highest and purest elements, the results will be unspeakably
precious. Sons and daughters will” almost certainly become
patterns of propriety and goodness, because their parents are such.
If, on the other hand, their example be evil, most injurious will be
its effects upon their children. A solemn consideration is this for
parents, and one that should be laid to heart by them. It is difficult,
moreover, to break away from sins which have obtained a firm hold
upon family life and practice.
is easier to lead your children into
Ø Idolatry practiced even in its most cruel rites. “For when ye offer your
gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute
yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day” (see our notes on
Ø The practice of idolatry defiling the idolater. “Ye pollute yourselves
with all your idols” Worship either elevates or degrades the
worshipper, according to the character of the object thereof. Genuine
adoration is transforming in its influence upon him who offers it, We
become like unto the object or objects of our supreme love and reverence.
Hence the worship of the true God purifies, exalts, enriches, ennobles,
sanctifies, the worshipper; while the worship of any idol or idols — e.g.
riches, rank, popularity, power, pleasure — defiles, degrades, and
impoverishes the worshipper. Moreover, sin of any kind pollutes the
sinner; it stains and defiles his soul (see our notes on v. 7).
GOD. “Shall I be inquired
of by you, O house of
Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.” (We have already considered
this topic in our homilies on vs. 1-4 and ch. 14:1-11.)
Ø Here is a deliberate design formed by man to conform to idolatrous
usages. “That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all,
that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries,
to serve wood and stone.” Thus the house of
only living and true God, inwardly resolved to conform to heathenish
customs, hoping in some way to improve their condition by so doing?
And in our day there are those who, while manifesting some respect
for religion, yet conform to this world in its questionable and even
sinful usages. And some “regard an irreligious condition as preferable
to the struggles of a religious life.”
Ø Here is man’s design to conform to idolatrous usages discovered by the
Lord God. It was in vain for these insincere inquirers of the Lord to think
that they could conceal any design from Him. And elders of
have known this so well as to be in no danger of overlooking it. But the
practice of sin misleads and deceives sinners, and had probably deceived
them. God is perfectly acquainted with every thought of the mind of man
(ch.11:5; Psalm 139:1-5; Matthew 9:4; John 2:24-25; Hebrews 4:13).
Ø Here is man’s design to conform to idolatrous usages defeated by the
Lord God. “That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all.”
Their inward purpose He would frustrate. (My prayer is that God
will frustrate the evil in our society which I am powerless to do any
thing about! – CY – 2014) They might attempt to carry it out, but
it would not succeed. That
would be repugnant to the nature of God, especially to His name
Jehovah. The very reverse would be much more in harmony with it,
namely, that the heathen should become like
of God is not to be conformed to and lost in the world; but the world
is to be conformed to the Church and to be included therein. The
kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of
His Christ (Revelation 11:15). And so the Lord declares that the evil
designs of His sinful people should fail. He can utterly foil the deepest,
subtlest schemes of man; and He will do so when those schemes are
exposed to HIS HOLY WILL! (compare Job 5:12-14; Psalm 33:10-11;
Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 8:10; Acts 5:38-39).
33 “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with
a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:”
That which cometh into your mind, etc. The prophet reads the
secret thoughts of the inquirers. If the temple were destroyed, they
thought, then the one restraint on the idolatries they loved would be
removed. They would be no longer a separate people, and would be free to
adopt the cultus of the heathen among whom they lived. If that was not
Jehovah’s purpose for them, then there must be no destruction of the
temple, no dispersion among the nations. They come to Ezekiel to know
which of the two alternatives he, as the prophet of Jehovah, has in store,
and his answer is that he is bound to neither. They could not abdicate their
high position, and would remain under the burden of its responsibilities.
Scattered though they might be among the heathen, yet even there the
“mighty hand and the stretched-out arm” (we note the phrases as from
Deuteronomy 4:34; 5:15) would hunt them down, and punish them for
34 “And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out
of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and
with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring
you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to
face. 36Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of
Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.” The prophet’s words seem
to look beyond the horizon of any fulfillment as yet seen in history, of which the
return of the exiles under Zerubbabel was but the pledge and earnest. He contemplates
a return straight from
in which they had been scattered (Isaiah 11:11). When gathered, the
whole nation is to be brought into the wilderness of the peoples, bordered
by many nations. This may probably point to the great Syro-Arabian desert
wilderness of Sinai had been in the time of the Exodus. There Jehovah
would plead with them face to face, in the first instance as an accuser. (For
face to face, as expressing the direct revelation of Jehovah, see Exodus 33:11;
Deuteronomy 5:4; 34:10, and elsewhere.)
37 “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you
into the bond of the covenant:” The “rod” (same word as in Psalm 23:4) is
primarily that of chastisement, but it is also that of the shepherd who gathers
in his flock (ch. 34:11; Leviticus 27:32; Micah 7:14). Into the bond of
the covenant. The word for “bond” (only found here in the Old Testament) is
probably cognate with that for “fetter” or “bond” (Isaiah 52:2; Jeremiah 5:5;
27:2). The chastisement was, for those who accepted it, to do its work by
restoring the blessings of the covenant which apostasy had forfeited.
38 And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that
transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country
where they sojourn,
and they shall not enter into the
and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” The thought of the shepherd
suggests, as in Matthew 25:33, the separation of the sheep from the goats.
The land of the restored
rebels were not to enter into it. Was Ezekiel thinking of those who were
thus to die in the “wilderness of the peoples” as a counterpart of those who
perished in the forty
years of the wandering, and did not enter
V. 36 seems to imply that he was looking for a repetition of that history.
The solemn fast kept
by Ezra by the
noted as corresponding, on a small scale, to Ezekiel’s expectations.
39 “As for you, O house of
serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not
hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your
gifts, and with your idols.” Go ye, serve every man his idols, etc. The command
comes as with a grave irony. “Be at least consistent. Sin on, if it is your will to sin;
but do not make the sin worse by the hypocrisy of an unreal worship, and
mix up the name of Jehovah with the ritual of Moloch” (compare ch.Joshua
24:19-20). The margin of the Revised Version gives“but hereafter surely ye shall
hearken unto me” (“if not” equivalent to “ye shall,” as in the familiar idiom of
Psalm 95:11, where“if” is equivalent to “shall not”). So taken, the verse looks
forward to what follows.
40 “For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height
saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of
in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I
require your offerings, and the first-fruits of your oblations, with all
your holy things.” From the earlier stage of the restoration the prophet passes
on to its completion. The people have come to the mountain of the height of
at last be worthy of its name, the worship of false gods rooted out forever.
The all of them points to the breaking down of the old division between
(same word as in Exodus 29:27; Leviticus 7:14, et al.) and other oblations.
The fact that
which Jehovah accepts (compare II Corinthians 2:15; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians
4:18) suggests a like spiritual interpretation of the other offerings, though the
literal meaning was probably dominant in the prophet’s own thoughts. The
nearest approach to a parallelism in a later age is that presented by the 9th,
10th and 11th chapters of Romans.; but it is noticeable how there Paul avoids
any words that imply the perpetuation of the temple and its ritual, and
confines himself to the spiritual restoration of his brethren according to the
flesh. It was given to him to see, what the prophets did not see, that that
perpetuation would frustrate the purpose of the restoration; that the temple
and its ritual took their places among the things that “were decaying and
waxing old,” and were ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13).
God promises his people that the exile will cease, that they shall return and
worship Him once more at the old sacred spot. Note the characteristics of it.
It is exalted. A mountain.
— now covered by what is called the “Mosque of Omar” — is the highest
Ø It is conspicuous. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Private
worship should be unostentatious and secret (Matthew 6:6); but public
worship should be open to all, and well known, that others may be
invited, and that God may be glorified. Churches should be built in
Ø It is consecrated by old memories. There the fathers worshipped, and
there also God came down and blessed His people in the olden time.
Faith is strengthened, and worship stimulated by such memories.
Ø The people are to serve. They will not be rescued only to be left to
enjoy themselves in idleness. The restored exiles are redeemed for
high service. Christians are not saved from ruin that they may slumber
in listless indifference. Indeed, part of Christ’s salvation is deliverance
from idleness, and the redemption of our powers that they may be
turned to higher uses, i.e. to the service of God.
Ø God is to be the one Lord served. In the old days of sin the people had
attempted a divided allegiance. But this must now cease. The redeemed
must live to the Lord. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew
which the glow and joy of it spring. God had rejected His people and their
sacrifices, casting the men into exile and permitting the sacrifices to cease.
Before that disaster, He had refused to accept the offerings of those who
practiced wickedness (Isaiah 1:13). But now on their return to their old
home as purged penitents, God will accept both the people and their gifts.
All our labor is in vain unless it be accepted by Him to whom it should be
offered. God accepts His repentant and returning people
Ø on the ground of their repentance;
Ø in Christ, and on account of his merits;
Ø fundamentally, because of his own forgiving love.
especially by means of the offerings that they bring.
Ø They express gratitude. Sacrifices for sin are excluded from this passage.
Doubtless they will be required, for unhappily the people will sin again.
But so sad a prospect is not to be contemplated as yet. The offerings now
thought of are those of thanksgiving. They suggest the thought that God
will give bountiful harvests. Here is a picture of joy in worship.
Ø They were required by God. One would have thought that gratitude
would have made the commandment superfluous. But Malachi shows that,
as a matter of fact, the people were backward with their gifts (Malachi
3:8). “Where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17). CHRIST IS OUR ONE
SACRIFICE FOR SIN! Yet God still requires us to offer our bodies
as living sacrifices for thank-offerings and self-dedication (Romans 12:1).
41 “I will accept you with your sweet savor, when I bring you out from
the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have
been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.
42 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into
hand to give it to your fathers.” I will be sanctified in you, etc. God is
sanctified when He is manifested and recognized as holy (Leviticus 10:3;
Numbers 20:13). That recognition would be the consequence of the restoration
had been holy and just and true in His judgments, and that HE SEEKS TO
MAKE MEN PARTAKERS OF HIS HOLINESS! (II Peter 1:4)
43 “And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye
have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your
evils that ye have committed. 44 And ye shall know that I am the LORD when
I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked
ways, nor according
to your corrupt doings, O ye house of
Lord GOD.” And there shall ye remember, etc. The words stretch far and
wide, and throw light on many of the problems that connect themselves
with the conversion of the sinner and the eschatology of the Divine
government. The whole evil past is still remembered after repentance and
forgiveness. There is no water of Lethe, such as the Greeks fabled, such as
Dante dreamt of as the condition of entering
The self-loathing and humility which grow out of that memory, the
acceptance of all the punishment of the past as less than had been deserved,
— these are the conditions and safeguards of the new blessedness. Ezekiel
teaches us, i.e., that it is possible to conceive of an eternal punishment, the
punishment of memory, shame, self-loathing, as compatible with eternal
life. So (in v. 44) the prophet ends what is perhaps, the profoundest and
the noblest of his discourses, his “vindication of the ways of God to man.”
“For My Name’s Sake” (v. 44)
The grounds of the Divine action are not man’s deserts, but considerations
in regard to God Himself. This is the secret of our hope. “He hath not dealt
with us after our sins” (Psalm 103:10). He hath dealt with us after His
Name. God’s Name stands for what is known of Him — His revelation of
Himself; it also represents His fame, and then His honor — as we should
say, His “good name.” No doubt the latter is the meaning of God’s Name in
the present instance, although this rests upon the former meaning, and in a
measure includes it. Our word “character” has this twofold meaning —
what is known to be in a person and the reputation he bears — the
subjective and the objective characters. We may say that God saves us for
the sake of His own character in both senses.
Ø God is honored by His fidelity. His name is pledged to His word. His
promise involves His Name. When a man has put his name to a deed,
he is bound to fulfill its conditions. If he fails, his name is dishonored.
Promoters make great efforts to secure for their enterprises names that
will inspire confidence. God will keep His word for the sake of His
credit — for this at least, though we know also for deeper reasons.
Ø God is honored by His success. The name of the artist goes with his
work. If he sends out a bad piece of work, his name suffers.
was God’s rescued people. All the world gazed in wonder and admiration
when the poor helpless slaves were wrested by Divine power from the iron
grip of Pharaoh. They were seen to be a nation made by God, His
workmanship. (Likewise, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should
walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). If they/we came to ruin after this, God
would seem to have failed. Moses used this argument (Exodus 32:12).
Ø God is honored by His mercy. Cruel earthly monarchs of the old
heathen type were proud to record on their tablets the number of kings
they had slain, and the number of cities they had sacked. We have
learned to see a greater royal dignity in the saying of William Ill.
concerning a certain nonjuror, “The man has determined to be a martyr,
but I have determined to prevent him.” God is more honored by
saving the world than He would be by damning it.
Ø God acts from regard to truth. After all, it is but as an accommodation
to human views that God can be said to keep His promises for the sake
of His reputation, that His Name may not be dishonored. He is essentially
true and eternally constant. Though men may provoke Him to change,
He is firm and holds on to His purpose. Thus Christ persisted in His
saving work, even when those whom He came to bless rejected Him.
He had a great purpose, and no action of man would turn Him from it.
Ø God acts from regard to righteousness. He desires to establish
righteousness, and to extend its domain. For this purpose it will not
be well that sin should be left to run its own fatal course unchecked,
nor will it be best simply to visit the sin with vengeance, and to cut
down the evil tree root and branch, sweeping the sinner with his sin
into utter destruction. A silent desolation, in which every enemy lies
low, smitten to death, is not the noblest victory. The conquest of the
foe by his conversion to friendship is far higher. THIS IS GOD’S
METHOD! His righteousness is most honored by THE
REGENERATION OF SINNERS!
Ø God acts from regard to love. HIS NAME IS LOVE! When we
penetrate to the heart of God, love is what we see there. If, then, His
Name expresses His inmost character, when God acts for His Name’s
sake He acts in love. Therefore, though He might smite, extirpate, and
destroy them, HE redeems, saves, and restores His unworthy children
45 “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”
In the Hebrew the verses that follow form the opening of the
next chapter. The Authorized Version follows the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and
Luther. The section has clearly no connection with what has preceded, and,
though fragmentary in its character, seems by the words, “set thy face,” to
connect itself with ch.21:2, and to lead up to it. The words of v. 45 imply,
as always, an interval of silence and repose.
46 “Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word
toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;”
Drop thy word. The verb is used specially of prophetic utterances (ch.21:2;
Amos 7:6; Micah 2:6, 11), and stands, therefore, in the Hebrew without an
object. Toward the south. Three distinct words are used in the Hebrew for the
thrice-repeated “south” of the Authorized Version.
looks to the east which Ezekiel also uses in ch. 47:19; 48:28);
(Deuteronomy 33:23; Job 37:17; Ecclesiastes 1:6; 11:3); and
Version with a capital letter), of Joshua 15:21, and the historical books
generally, the region lying to the south of
The use of the three words where one might have sufficed is, perhaps, characteristic
of Ezekiel’s affluence of diction. The Septuagint treats all three as proper names,
and transliterates them as Thaiman, Darom, and N’ageb. Against this
region and its inhabitants (they, of course, are the “trees”) Ezekiel is
directed to utter his words of judgment. The parenthesis in the last
sentence gives the key to the prophet’s cipher-writing. From Ezekiel’s
standpoint on the Chebar, the whole of
The “green tree,” as in Psalm 1:1-2, is the man who is relatively
righteous; the “dry tree” is the sinner whose true life is withered; the “fire”
the devastation wrought by the Chaldean invaders, as executing the Divine
judgment. In our Lord’s words in Luke 23:31 we may probably find an
echo of Ezekiel’s imagery.
47 “And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD;
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and
it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the
flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south
to the north shall be burned therein. 48 And all flesh shall see that I the
LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.”
All faces from the south to the north, etc. The phrase seems,
at first, to pass from the figure to the reality. Possibly, however, face may
stand for “the outward appearance,” the leaves and branches, of the trees.
“From the south (Negeb) to the north” takes the place of the older “from
judgment, it is said, as in our Lord’s use of a like imagery, that it shall not
be quenched (Mark 9:43). It shall do its dread work till that work is accomplished.
49 “Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak
parables?” Doth he not speak parables? We can scarcely wonder that
Ezekiel’s enigmatic words here, as in chapters 15, 16, and 17, should have
called forth some such expression from his hearers; but he obviously records the
whisper which he thus heard, in a tone of sorrow and indignation. It was to
him a proof, as a like question was to the Christ (Matthew 15:16; 16:9;
Mark 8:21) proof that those hearers were yet without understanding.
The question was, for those who asked it, an excuse for hardening their
hearts against remonstrances which needed no explanation. The indignation
was followed by another interval of silence, during which he brooded over
their stubbornness, and at last, in ch. 21:1, the word of the Lord comes to him,
and he speaks “no more in proverbs,” but interprets the latest parable even in
"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.
Materials are reproduced by permission."
This material can be found at:
If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.