1 “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody
city? yea, thou shalt shew her all her abominations.” Moreover, etc.
The word connects what follows with the word of the Lord which began in
ch.20:2. That connection is, indeed, sufficiently indicated by the recurrence of
the formula, “Wilt thou judge?” (see note on ch.20:4). In obedience to the
commands which that question implied, Ezekiel has once more to go through
the catalogue of the sins of
that he applies the very epithet of bloody city (Hebrew, oily of bloods) which
Nahum (Nahum 3:1) had applied to
3 “Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD, The city sheddeth blood
in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against
herself to defile herself.” As in the great indictment of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:15, 21;
4:4), the sins of murder and idolatry are grouped together. She sins as if with
the purpose “that her time” (i.e. the time of her punishment) “may come.”
4 “Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast
defiled thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast
caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years:
therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the heathen, and a
mocking to all countries.” Thou hast caused thy days to draw near, etc.
As in v. 3, the days and the years are those of God’s judgments. The people
had made NO EFFORT TO AVERT THEIR DOOM THROUGH
REPENTANCE. They had, as it were, RUSHED UPON THEIR
APPOINTED FATE! So, though in another sense, the righteous lives
of the faithful are said, in II Peter 3:12, to “hasten the coming of the day
of God.” Exceptional evil and exceptional good alike hasten the approach
of the day which is to decide between the two.
5 “Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock
thee, which art infamous and much vexed.” Those that be near, etc.
The Hebrew words are both feminine, and refer to the neighboring and
distant cities which took up their proverbs of reproach against the city, once
holy and faithful, now infamous (Hebrew, defiled in name) and much vexed.
The last words point to another
form of punishment.
in a state of moral tumult and disorder as the consequence of its guilt (compare
Amos 3:9; Deuteronomy 7:23; Zechariah 14:13, where the same word is
rendered by “tumults” and “destruction”).
the princes of
to shed blood.” For the “bloodshed,” which was conspicuous among the sins,
compare ch.9:9; 16:38; 23:37, 45; and for special instances of that sin among
its princes, those of Manasseh (II Kings 21:16) and Jehoiakim (Ibid. ch.24:4).
To their power; Hebrew, each man according to his arm, i.e. his strength.
There was no restraint upon the doer of evil other than the limitation of his
7 “In thee have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of
thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in thee have
they vexed the fatherless and the widow.” We pass to sins of another kind.
The fifth commandment was trampled underfoot as well as the sixth, and THE
BLESSING OF CONTINUED NATIONAL EXISTENCE! (Exodus 20:12)
was thereby forfeited. The widow and the orphan and the stranger (we note in
that last word the width of Ezekiel’s sympathies) were oppressed (compare the
same grouping in Deuteronomy 27:16, 19).
Social Sins (v. 7)
The wickedness of
of religion — idolatry, sabbath-breaking, profanation of sacred things, etc.
It was witnessed in gross outrages of social rights. FAILURE IN RELIGION
LEADS TO FAILURE IN SOCIETY! Social wrongs are sins in the sight of
Heaven which God observes, condemns, and punishes.
· LOSS OF FILIAL REVERENCE. “They have set light by father and
mother,” The Hebrew Law attached great weight to the duty children owe
to their parents (Exodus 20:12). The requirement to honor father and
mother was “the first commandment with promise” (Ephesians 6:2).
The breach of this law was a sin in the sight of God; so the prodigal son
confessed that he had sinned against Heaven (Luke 15:21). Christ
condemned the mean devices by which some Jews in his day endeavored to
escape from their filial duty (Matthew 15:4-6). In this respect, the East,
which we often despise for its supposed corruption and barbarism, is in
advance of the West. One of the most ominous portents among us is a
growing levity in the treatment of parental claims. No doubt it is well that
the old stiffness of the family relationship has broken down, and that there
is more mutual confidence between parents and children than there was in
the olden times. Parental tyranny is no more admirable than filial rebellion.
The formal manners which separated the older generation from the
younger were hurtful to both. But with a fuller recognition of the rights of
the young, and a greater freedom of intercourse between the older and the
younger members of a family, we are in danger of losing filial reverence —
one of the most sacred of duties. Well might King Lear exclaim:
“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!”
regulations of the Jewish Law in favor of “the stranger that is within thy
gates.” In spite of the supposed Jewish exclusiveness — a trait of late
Judaism rather than of ancient Israelite manners — the foreigner had a
higher status in
peculiar wickedness. The Jews were reminded that because they had been
received as guests in
feel peculiar sympathy with aliens. Let us beware of selfish national
exclusiveness. This is not patriotism; it is narrow-minded, selfish injustice
and inhumanity. Observe some of the cases in which the sin of oppressing
strangers may be committed.
Ø Unkindness to foreign immigrants.
Ø Cruelty to foreigners abroad.
of a poor law, special attention was given to the provision for orphans and
widows by private charity under the Jewish economy. But the rough justice
of the East often failed to secure to the helpless even their own rights.
Times of lawlessness were times when those poor persons suffered
grievously. There is always a danger that the helpless should be trodden
down in the fierce race of life. We are called to higher alms — to
sympathy and mutual helpfulness.
8 “Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my
sabbaths.” Mine holy things, etc. The words take in the whole range of
Divine ordinances as affecting both things and persons. (For “profaning
sabbaths,” see ch.20:16.)
9 “In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in thee they eat
upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they commit lewdness.”
Men that carry tales, etc. Hebrew, men of slanders (compare Exodus 23:1;
Leviticus 19:16). The sin of the informers, ever ready to lend themselves to plots
against the life or character of the innocent, was then, as at all times, the besetting
evil of corrupt government in the East. Compare the story of Naboth (I Kings 21:10)
and of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:13). (For eating on the mountains, see note on
ch. 18:6; and for lewdness, that on ch.16:43.) What the lewdness consisted in is
stated in the following verses.
10 “In thee have they discovered their fathers’ nakedness: in thee have
they humbled her that was set apart for pollution.” This, well-nigh the vilest
of all forms of incest, against which the horror naturalis of the heathen, as in the
story of Hippolytus, uttered its protest, would seem to have been common among
the corruptions of
described in the second clause, see notes on ch.18:6.)
11 “And one hath committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife;
and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in
thee hath humbled his sister, his father’s daughter.
12 In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury
and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by
extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD.”
The list of sins follows on the lines of Leviticus 18:9, 15. (For those in v. 12,
see notes on ch.18:12.) It is to be remarked, however, that the prophet does
not confine himself to the mere enumeration of specific sins. These are traced
to their source in that “forgetting God” which was at once THE STARTING
POINT and THE CONSUMMATION of all forms of evil (compare
13 “Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain
which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the
midst of thee.” I have smitten my hand. The gesture, as in ch.21:14, 17,
was one of indignant, and, as it were, impatient command.
Dishonest Gain (v. 13)
before our children, in their copy-books, the motto, “Honesty is the best
policy;” but in the experience of life it is found that dishonesty is often a
more successful worldly policy. Thieves fatten on their booty, and
swindlers live in lordly palaces. There is not only the vulgar dishonesty that
steals by direct robbery. We have our civilized and refined dishonesty — a
dishonesty which contrives to keep on the near side of the law, and yet is
not the less real theft. The “sweater” is a thief. The promoter of bubble
companies is a robber on a colossal scale. (Drug dealing is attractive to
many – CY – 2014). The breadth of the area embraced, the number of
the dupes victimized, and the amount of the gain realized, do not destroy
the guilt of the robbery; they heighten it. There was a certain frank daring
about the old highwaymen which entitled them to the respect of those who
condemned their lawlessness, in comparison with which the sneaking
dishonesty of those who steal without risking their lives or liberties is a
text Ezekiel associates dishonest gain with blood-guiltiness. The thief is
near to becoming a murderer; the burglar carries firearms. The immense
growth of the custom of insuring the lives of young babies, together with
the frightful extent of infant mortality, forces us to the conclusion that,
either by neglect — the crudest kind of murder — or by the more merciful
means of direct suffocation, numbers of children are yearly slaughtered by
their parents for the sake of the paltry gain obtained from the insurance.
We cannot say much of the old pagan habit of exposing children while this
more vile, because more cunning and mercenary, crime is commonly
committed in Christian England. It is the duty of all good citizens to be on
the watch for cases of cruelty to children among their neighbors — often
practiced in the decent homes of thrifty folk. (Like the abortion industry’s
55,000,000 lives snuffed out for “convenience” – CY – 2014). In other ways
theft may mean murder — slow murder of the most painful kind. The customer
helps to murder the shopkeeper when he takes an unjust advantage of
competition. He who steals a man’s livelihood virtually steals his life, for it
is no credit to the thief that his victim may be saved from starvation by the
charity of others.
HEAVEN. God has smitten his hand at it. Dishonesty can only appear the
best policy for a season. In the long run the old proverb is certain to justify
Ø National dishonesty will bring vengeance on a nation. The English
cotton-trade has suffered materially through the cheating custom
of adding weight to goods shipped to the East by sizing the fabric.
If trade with lower races is corrupt, unjust, and cruel, the wrong
will be avenged either by the loss of the trade or in the hatred earned
by the traders. The oppression of the poor in our midst by those who
make dishonest gains in grinding down their employees will be
assuredly avenged by some awful social revolution, unless the
injustice is speedily atoned for by more fair treatment.
Ø Private dishonesty will bring vengeance on the sinner. God sees
and judges the man who enjoys dishonest gain. If he does not
suffer on earth from the enmity he has stirred, this Dives will
certainly not be carried with the Lazarus he oppressed to
Abraham’s bosom. (Luke 16:19-31). His gold will scorch him
like fire in some dread hell.
14 “Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days
that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.
15 And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the
countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee.”
Can thine heart endure, etc.? The question implies an answer
in the negative. Heart would fail and hands wax feeble in the day of the
Lord’s judgment. (See Revelation 6:12-17). The doom of exile and dispersion
must come, with all its horrors; but even here,
forgotten (ch.21:32). Her punishment was to do its work, and to consume
her filthiness out of her.
A Total Collapse (v. 14)
Ø A stout heart. The sinner believes in himself. He feels brave and
confident. No doubt this temper of mind will help him over a
number of difficulties. But will it stand in the awful day of
Ø Strong hands. The sinner is conscious of strength in himself
and in his possessions, in his body and mind, and in the
resources of his ill-gotten gain. The wicked king owns his army;
the bad millionaire holds his money; the sinful man of humbler
pretensions relies on his wits, his energy, or at worst on his luck.
Ø Present prosperity. The text refers to future days, when God will deal
with the sinner. Those days have not yet dawned, and all is fair at
present. The natural tendency is to believe that the world will
continue as it is now. “For as in the days that were before the
Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark”
(Matthew 24:38; see II Peter 3:4).
plainly suggests only one dismal answer. The delusive hope must fail.
Note the grounds of the certain failure.
Ø Human feebleness. It is a case of the strength of man matched against
the might of God. Who can doubt the issue? In such a contest the
stoutest heart must fail and the strongest arm go down. Man is the
lord of creation; but he is a feeble insect before Omnipotence.
Ø Divine constancy. “I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.” God is
true to His word. He does not mock His children with idle threats.
They are sure to fail.
Ø Changed circumstances. “In the days that I shall deal with thee.”
Those days have not yet arrived. Therefore we cannot comfort
ourselves that we shall be safe in the future because we are
comfortable enough at present. The coming days will wear a new
aspect. We are not fortified against winter storms by the enjoyment
of summer sunshine. The ease with which we glide down the stream
is no guarantee that the thunder of the falls will never be reached.
The delusive hope which shines fair in the old times of Divine waiting
will be shattered to fragments in the new days of Divine judgment.
but the doleful silence with which it is received suggests the misery that is
to follow. If heart and hand fail, the ruin and wretchedness must be
complete. While a good man fighting against adversity is said to be a sight
for the admiration of gods as well as men, a bad man crushed by misery is
only an object of horror. The stout heart of honest intentions can bear up
against unmerited woes and find in its own fortitude a certain solace. But
this solace will be wanting in the collapse of the false hope of the sinner.
Then will follow the deepest misery, the sense of being confounded, the
helplessness of being swept away in a flood of destruction. Pain is not the
worst evil. The depth of hell is reached when heart and strength fail, and
the sinner loses all power to withstand his fate. Hence the supreme need
OF A SAVIOUR! (Romans 8:1).
16 “And thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the
heathen, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.” Thou shalt take thine
inheritance, etc.; better, with the Revised Version, Keil, and most other
commentators, shalt be profaned in thyself, etc. The prophet is still speaking
of punishment, not of restoration.
17 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
18 Son of man, the house of
brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they
are even the dross of silver. 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD;
Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you
into the midst of
and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it,
to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will
leave you there, and melt you. 21 Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon
you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst therof.
22 As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in
the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out
my fury upon you.” The house of Israel is to me become dross, etc. A new
parable, based upon Isaiah 1:22-23 and Jeremiah 6:30, begins, and
is carried out with considerable fullness. In Malachi 3:2-3 we have the
same imagery. Baser metals have been mingled with the silver, and must be
burnt out, but there is hope, as well as terror, in the parable. Men throw
the mixed metals into the smelting-pot in order that the silver may be
separated from the dross and come out pure (compare I Peter 1:7). And
this was to be the issue of the “fiery
trial” through which
inhabitants were to pass.
Deplorable Deterioration and Deserved Destruction (vs. 17-22)
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house
Ø Here are several varieties of sinful character. We will notice them
as they are here adduced.
Dross. “The house of
dross of silver.” This does not mean ore, which contains silver, but
dross which has been separated from the silver — the refuse of dirt
and rubbish which is removed from the precious metal in the
cleansing, melting, and refining of it. The
The metaphor denotes the corruption of the people, who had
become like base metal.
o “Brass” probably indicates the hardihood of the people in sin;
that they had become impudent in wickedness (compare Isaiah
48:4). (We use the term “brazen” – CY – 2014)
o “Tin” is suggestive of hypocrisy, being brilliant in appearance, but
inferior in substance and value. So there were those in
who made great profession of true religion, but whose moral
character and conduct were base.
o “Iron” may denote harshness and cruelty. That such was a
characteristic of some of their great men and rulers is clear from
v. 27; ch. 34:2-4; and Zephaniah 3:3.
o “Lead,” pliable, yet not precious as compared with silver and
gold, indicates the moral dullness and stupidity of the house
high or holy uses (compare Jeremiah 4:22). Thus in
there were various types of evil character; and these types are
reproduced in our own age and country.
Ø Here is one characteristic which marks each of these varieties of sinful
character. They were each and all marked by degeneracy. In every one of
these classes of evil character there had been a lamentable deterioration.
“Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water.” “How is the
Gold become dim! How is the most pure gold changed!” Thus the
Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah lamented this deterioration.
o There was degeneracy of moral character. Their affections were
corrupted; their principles were degraded; their conscience, having
been often set at naught, was debased. So in the sight of Him to
whom all hearts are open (Hebrews 4:13) they had become as dross.
“The house of
beginnings of sin, the initial stages of this degeneration of moral
o Degeneracy of religious services. This deterioration is forcibly
set forth and sternly rebuked in Isaiah 1:11-17. Moreover, they
had become idolaters: how, then, could their worship of the
true God be genuine and acceptable? When personal character
degenerates, the quality of the religious service rendered
o Degeneracy of national position and power. The might and
majesty of their kingdom were almost entirely departed.
Their national independence was quite gone. When moral
deterioration once powerfully sets in amongst any people,
DETERIORATION in all other forms quickly follows. Says
Robertson, “The destiny of a nation is decided by its morals.”
Ø The gathering of the doomed people for destruction. “Thus saith the
Lord God; because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will
Gather you into
the midst of
pressed by their Chaldean enemies the people from far and wide
took refuge in
for safety. So that city became as it were the furnace in which
they were consumed by the triple fire of famine, pestilence, and
sword. Mark, how naturally and easily God effects His purposes.
He has not to build the furnace for their destruction: it
is already built. He has not to force them into that furnace by
supernatural means: in their approaching troubles they will
hasten into it of their own accord. He controls all things for
the execution of HIS DEEP AND RIGHTEOUS DESIGNS!
Ø The infliction of destruction upon the doomed people.
o It was by the hand of God. “Thus saith the Lord God…
I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem,” etc. The
Chaldeans were the instruments by which He effected
His purpose; but God Himself was the great Agent in
o It was an expression of the anger of God. “So will I gather
you in mine anger and in my fury,” etc. (vs. 20-21).
The wrath of God burns with awful intensity against sin.
“Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 121:29)
o It leads to the recognition of the hand of God.
“Ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury
upon you.” These words do not point to their reformation
or purification. In the whole section the judgment is
regarded, not in the light of purification, BUT IN THAT
OF DESTRUCTION, as Ezekiel usually considers the
be extirpated. Moreover, dross cannot be benefited by fire.
It cannot be purified. After all burnings it remains dross —
REFUSE! The fire was not to purify, but to punish them;
not to cleanse, BUT TO CONSUME THEM!. And in its
fierce heat they would RECOGNIZE THE DREAD
POWER OF THE GOD whom they had forsaken for idols,
and whose word they had set at naught.
character. Seek the growth and progress of character in the true and good.
Dross (vs. 18-22)
nation should have been God’s precious metal, pure white silver. By sin
it has become base metal.
Ø Dross is an inferior substance. Characters are deteriorated by sin.
Wickedness lowers the very nature of a man. We cannot commit sin
and still keep our persons in primitive worth and dignity. We are
either exalted or degraded by our deeds; they react upon our very
being and assimilate it to themselves. Thus silver becomes dross;
the man made in the image of God becomes a child of the devil
Ø Dross may be of various kinds. There are brass, tin, iron, and lead in
the furnace. Yet all are counted as dross. In human life there are
various types of evil. Vice is more picturesque than virtue because
it is more variegated. But one common stamp is on every evil coin —
the same diabolical effigy.
Ø Dross is in the place of good metal. It is mixed with silver (v. 20).
Moreover, it pretends to be the good metal. Brass would pass as gold,
and tin as silver. Sin is generally hypocritical. It craves the honor of
goodness. Wheat and tares grow together. Good and bad fishes
come to land in one net. Society contains the good and the bad in
Ø It is directly hurtful. Brass is poisonous. Tin is soft, and the vessel
made with it will stand neither the heat nor the wear which silver
is capable of enduring. All the base metals readily corrode, while
the precious metals can be kept bright. The dross of bad character
is poisonous, and a source of weakness and corrosion to society.
Ø It is deceptive. Passing itself off as better metal, it succeeds in
taking the place of honor that does not belong to it. Deceitful
men worm their way into posts of dignity which they degrade
by their evil character.
Ø It is injurious to the good metal. The choice silver is lost in the dross
when the various metals are amalgamated into one lump. Good men
are injured by bad companions. The presence of wicked characters
hinders the work of the good who are joined with them in a common
Ø God deals with it. We cannot always detect its presence or
distinguish between it and good metal. Both tares and wheat
are to be let grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:30).
God knows the secrets of all hearts. The great Assayer will
not be deceived by the most specious forgery.
God tries it in the furnace.
affliction, that the dross might be detected. In her prosperity and
confidence she listened to the prophets of smooth things, who
flattered her into the notion that she was a choice nation of rare quality —
pure silver compared to the base metal of the Gentile world. The
Captivity tried this boast. Not only was the land laid waste and the
proved itself unequal to cope with its difficulties, and,
failing to retain its distinctive character, melted away into the
neighboring nations, leaving only a remnant — the true silver —
to carry on the Hebrew tradition and earn the right of restoration.
Persecution would show how much worldly dross there is in the
Church (Matthew 13:21). Trouble reveals the dross of individual
23 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
24 Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed,
nor rained upon in the day of indignation.”
A fresh section opens, and the prophet addresses himself,
The words admit of the rendering, not shined upon, and this is adopted by
Keil. The land is deprived at once of the sunshine and the rain which are
the conditions of fertility. The Septuagint gives “not mined upon,” and so the
two clauses are parallel and state the same fact.(Compare Isaiah 5:6; Amos 4:7).
25 “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a
roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have
taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many
widows in the midst thereof.” A conspiracy of prophets. The prophet’s
thoughts go back to ch.13:1-16, from which, in v. 28, he actually quotes It is
probable that, in the interval, fresh tidings had reached him of the evil work
which they were doing at
I Peter 5:8). The word probably points to the loud declamations of
the false prophets (compare, as a striking parallel, Zephaniah 3:3-4).
26 “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy
things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane,
neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the
clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned
among them.” The sins of the prophets are followed by these of the priests.
Their guilt was that they blurred over the distinction between the holy and
the profane (Revised Version, “common”), between the clean and the
unclean (compare ch.44:23; Leviticus 10:10, where the same
terms are used), in what we have learned to call the positive and ceremonial
ordinances of the Law, and so blunted their keenness of perception in
regard to analogous moral distinctions. Extremes meet, and in our Lord’s
time the same result was brought about by an exaggerated scrupulosity
about the very things the neglect of which was, in Ezekiel’s time, the root
of the evils which he condemns. This was true generally, conspicuously
true in the case of the sabbath. Its neglect was a crying evil in Ezekiel’s
time, just as its exaggeration was in the later development of Judaism.
Though in itself positive rather than moral, to hide the eyes from its
holiness was, for these to whom the commandment had been given, an act
Holy and Profane (v. 26)
Jewish Law made elaborate distinctions between the clean and the unclean,
some of which were founded on moral differences, some on sanitary
requirements, but others on merely symbolical and ceremonial points.
Many of these distinctions were only temporary, as that between certain
foods, and that between Jews and Gentiles, the abolition of which was
revealed to Peter in his vision at Joppa (Acts 10:15). Christ
denounced the folly of formal distinctions (Matthew 15:11). Paul
claimed large liberty in this respect, and pointed out the danger and
delusion of the will-worship which was associated with too punctilious
an observance of minute external distinctions (Colossians 2:23).
Nevertheless, there remain true distinctions apart from the formal and
Ø The distinction between holiness and sin. In this distinction we
have the root out of which the ceremonial notions of cleanness
and uncleanness sprang. The formal notions may pass, the moral
foundation is eternal.
Ø The distinction between the service of God and the service of the world.
We do not want to regard the temple as the only sacred place, so that
the forum must be relegated to profanity. In the Christian age, “Holiness
unto the Lord” is not only to be inscribed on the bells of the high priest;
it is to be seen on the bells of the horses (Zechariah 14:20). But this means
a dedication of all to the service of God. If we neglect that service and
sink into secularism, we fail to observe the holiness; we then make all
things profane — temple as well as forum.
SACRED AND PROFANE. We have not now to do with definite Jewish
offences against the Law of Moses, in which the finely drawn distinction
between the clean and the unclean is disregarded. Sacred things of the
temple were desecrated by the insolent heathen at Belshazzar’s feast, but
they had been first desecrated by Jews in the house of God, while they
were touched with sinful hands and used without holy motives. They who
are most careful to keep up the ceremonial distinction may yet profane
Ø The sabbath is profaned, not only when the stores are open and
when crowds throng the public resorts of amusement, but when the
congregations at church play the part of ostentatious Pharisees, and
mock God with pretentious prayers while their hearts and thoughts
are far from Him.
Ø The Bible is profaned when it is quoted to prop up a private opinion in
disregard to the royal rights of truth.
Ø The gospel is profaned when it is preached for the sake of winning
popularity or raising money, to the neglect of the claims of Christ
and the needs of mankind.
Ø The conscience, which should be a holy standard of right, is profaned
when it is distorted by casuistry into excusing a lack of integrity.
Ø The body is profaned when, instead of being a temple of the
Holy Ghost, it is an instrument of sin (I Corinthians 6:15).
Ø The Church, which should be the bride of the Lamb, is profaned
when she sinks into worldly living or is divided against herself in
27 “Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey,
to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.”
Wolves (compare Habakkuk 1:8; Zephaniah 3:3; Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29).
28 “And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter,
seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the
Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.” (See ch.13:10.)
The fact that the prophets are addressed here gives some force to the
idea that “chiefs” or “judges” were addressed in v.. 27.
29 “The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised
robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have
oppressed the stranger wrongfully.” From the classes, the prophet turns
to the masses. The people of the land, the common people (II Kings 25:3, 19),
come under the same condemnation. (Compare Jeremiah 5:31 – “my people
love to have it so.” – Is that how the
quickly? The people like it? – CY – 2014) Greed of gain, the oppression of
the poor and the stranger, were seem everywhere.
30 “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the
hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should
not destroy it: but I found none. 31 Therefore have I poured out mine
indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath:
their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.”
And I sought for a man, etc. (For the imagery that follows, see ch.13:5:
Psalm 106:23.) The fact stated, as in Jeremiah 5:1, is that there was no one in
to be a “repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12). Nothing was left but the
righteous punishment proclaimed in v. 31.
The Dross in the Furnace (vs. 13-32)
God’s mercy and kindness scarcely anywhere appear more manifest than in
His method of dealing with His erring people, whom He subjects to
chastening and discipline with the view of purging away their faults. The
figure employed by Ezekiel in this passage occurs in other of the prophetic
writings. There is some obscurity in his expression; for it seems as if, to
convey the fullness of his meaning, he represents the people first as dross,
and then as the metal from which the dross is burnt away. Perhaps his
meaning is that the ore which is smelted contains a very large proportion of
dross compared with the genuine metal.
very qualified. There is, indeed, metal, whether more precious as silver or
less so as iron. Yet there is much that is worthless; so that the Lord says,
“Ye are all become dross.” The inference is that, however there may be
latent some possibility of good, this can only become actual after the
subjection of it to much discipline.
The ore is gathered, cast into the furnace, left there, to be blown upon by
the blast of indignation, and subjected to the heat of the fire, until it be
melted in the midst thereof. Through such a process must
before God could take pleasure therein. Siege, suffering, privation,
pestilence, famine, decimation, captivity, reproach, mockery, — such were
the sufferings appointed for the people of
fact and history, God did not spare
had been. He poured out His fury upon it, and for a time and for a purpose
withheld from it His clemency and compassion.
TO RESIST OR TO ENDURE WHAT THE LORD APPOINTS. This is
expressed very powerfully in v. 14, “Can thine heart endure, or can thine
hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?” We are reminded
of the inquiry, “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand
when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire.” (Malachi 3:2) The
discipline of God’s justice is enough to overcome and break down the hard
and obdurate hearts of men. They cannot accept it with equanimity. They
must profit by it OR BE CONSUMED BY IT!
of Eternal Wisdom and Goodness was and ever is that the dross may be
consumed in the furnace of affliction and trial, and thus that the pure metal
may be brought forth fit for the use and for the pleasure of the Most High.
The Universal Prevalence of Wickedness
the Consequent Certainty of Judgment (vs. 23-31)
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto
her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed,” etc.
exhibited by Ezekiel:
Ø In the absence of any effective correction thereof. “Thou art the land
that is not cleansed.” This refers to the moral condition of the people.
The figure is viewed by some as a land that is not freed from noxious
weeds, by others as not cleansed as metals are by the refiner’s fire.
With either view the spiritual signification
is the same. “
been oft cleansing,” says Greenhill, “but was never thoroughly
cleansed. Hezekiah and Josiah made the greatest cleansings, but all
the sin was not purged out in their days; they took away the objects
and mediums of sin, viz. the idols, images, groves, and high places,
but the people continued wicked; they did not cleanse their hands
nor hearts and turn to the Lord, but returned to their former and
worse abominations, when those good kings were gone. The
Lord had sent them many prophets, who dealt with them several
ways to draw them to repentance… (II Chronicles 36:15-16).
Besides these things, God oft sent sweeping and fierce judgments
amongst them, famine, sword, pestilence; and notwithstanding all
these, they returned not to the Lord, but the land, that is, the people
of it, did remain uncleansed, they were like a land wherein
was nothing but weeds, nettles, briars, and thorns.”
Ø In its pernicious activity amongst all classes.
o The prophets. These should have been zealous by word and example
in cleansing the land of its sins; but they were prominent in evil-
doing. Several forms of this are mentioned by Ezekiel.
§ Their guilty subservience to wicked rulers. “Her prophets
have daubed for them [i.e. the princes] with untempered
mortar,” etc. (v. 28). The clauses of this verse have come
under our notice already (ch.13:6-7, 10; 21:29). The princes
ü insatiably covetous,
ü grossly dishonest, and
ü ruthlessly cruel.
these false prophets who should have rebuked their
wickedness, countenanced their procedure, encouraged
their practices, and assured them that their ways were
approved by God.
§ Their scandalous cupidity. “They take treasure and precious
things” (v. 25). They extorted from the people their valued
possessions as the price of their prophesying. They did not
forcibly despoil them of their treasures, but they obtained
them by arts and devices which disgraced the sacred office
whose functions they had assumed. “The dogs are greedy,
they can never have enough;… they have all turned to
their own way, each one to his gain, from every quarter”
§ Their grievous cruelty. “Like a roaring lion ravening the
prey: they have devoured souls;… they have made her
widows many in the midst thereof” (v. 25). “The false
prophets rob the goods and devour the souls, in so far
as they stand by to help forward the robbing and
murdering acts of the great (v. 27), and sharpen not,
but rather soothe their conscience by saying, Peace, peace,
when there is no peace. Thus they are accomplices in the
robbing and murdering course of the great, who have them
in their pay. They deport themselves as smooth and
peaceful men, and present themselves as men of tenderness,
in contrast with the rough preachers of repentance, the true
prophets; but when examined in the light they are thieves
§ Their shameful combination. “There is a conspiracy of
her prophets in the midst thereof.” They were solemnly
banded together for the accomplishment of their atrocious
designs. They had entered into a compact to prophesy the
same things, and “were careful not to contradict
each other’s lies.”
o The priests. Two principal charges are brought against them.
§ Misinterpretation of God’s Law. “Her priests have
done violence to my Law.” “To violate the Law is to
break it — to offer violence to the Law is
to misinterpret it.” The latter is the charge which is here
preferred against the priests. They perverted the holy
Law to make it harmonize with the inclinations of a
sinful people, and with their own wicked practices.
§ Profanation of God’s institutions. “And have profaned
mine holy things: they have put no difference between
the holy and the common,” etc. (v. 26). We have noticed
God’s holy things in dealing with v. 8. “It was the
special office of the priests to keep up the distinction
between holy and unholy, clean and unclean,”
consecrated and common things (Leviticus 10:10;
22:1-13). They should have instructed the people
what meats were lawful for them, what not; what
sacrifices were fit to be brought to the Lord, and what
not; who were worthy, and who not, to eat of the holy
things and to approach unto the holy God. But this
they had not done. “The law of the Sabbath is
given as an example. This they rob of its deep spiritual
import, and limit it to the external rest, as if it were given
for animals, and not for men who are to serve God in
spirit (compare v. 8). By these doings they profaned
God Himself. “And I am profaned among them.”
The priests had degraded His infinitely holy and exalted
character in the estimation of the people (compare
o The princes are charged with:
§ Greed. They sought “to get dishonest gain.” They had
their own resources and revenues; but not content with
these, they coveted other and larger resources, and
resorted to oppression to obtain them, imposing
burdensome taxes upon the people.
§ Cruelty. “Her princes in the midst thereof are like
wolves ravening the prey; to shed blood,” etc.
(v. 27; and compare vs. 6-7; Zephaniah 3:3).
The covetousness of King Ahab led to the
murder of Naboth the Jezreelite. (I Kings 21)
o The people. “The people of the land have used oppression, and
exercised robbery,” etc. (v. 29). The prophet charges them with
oppression by force and fraud. They deceived and cheated and
robbed those whom they dared so to treat. And they thus injured
those whom they should have protected, viz. “the poor and needy
and the stranger.” Frequently these were specially commended
to the care of the Israelites; and God had taken them under His
own special guardianship (compare Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy
10:18, 19-27:19; Psalm 10:14; 41:1; 140:12; 146:9; Proverbs 14:21;
Zechariah 7:9-10). Moreover, it is inexpressibly mean to wrong
those who are unable to defend themselves and their rights.
Yet it is not to be wondered at that these things were done by
the common people; for in so doing they trod in the footsteps
of their guides and rulers. Thus amongst all classes
wickedness in some of its worst forms was terribly prevalent.
Ø In the fact that no one was found to keep back the destruction
which it was bringing upon the land. “And I sought for a man
among them that should make up the fence,” etc. (v. 30;
compare Isaiah 59:4; Jeremiah 5:1; and see our homily on
ch. 13:5). The Lord represents Himself as looking solicitously
and diligently for such a man, but finding none. Jeremiah, by
his powerful preaching of repentance, presented himself as such
a public deliverer; but they despised him, and he could gain no
position. The man alone is nothing. The position must be
added, and the people must gather around him. One ‘against
whom every man contends’ cannot avert the judgment of God;
he can only accelerate it.”
wickedness has become so flagrant and universally prevalent, and there is
no one to stand between the guilty people and the approaching judgment,
the execution of judgment is inevitable. Notice:
Ø The dread severity of this judgment. “Therefore have I poured
out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with
the fire of my wrath” (v. 31). Words similar to these we have
already noticed (v. 22; ch. 21:31). The judgment is so certain
that it is spoken of as ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED! And
as to its severity, what a day is “the day of the indignation”
of God! Who can even conceive the terrors of his indignation?
or the dread intensity of His wrath?
Ø The total absence of alleviations of this judgment. “Thou art
a land that is not rained upon in the day of indignation” (v. 24);
that is a land that in the outburst of the Divine judgment finds
no grace; and simply, as the connection shows, because its
impurity is not removed.. The clause we are dealing with
amounts to a declaration like this: “Thou shalt have no
mercy when the fire of my wrath is kindled.”
Ø The retributiveness of this judgment. “Their own way have
I brought upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” This aspect
of the Divine judgment has already engaged our attention more
than once (ch.7:3-4; 9:10; 16:43).
to the wicked, both as individuals and as communities or nations
(Psalm 2:10-12; Isaiah 55:6-7).
Common Corruption of All Classes (vs. 23-31)
To complete the picture of the debasement and moral
the prophet reviews the several classes of which the population of a great city
is composed. He finds in every class signs of departure from God, signs of
abandonment to the vices and crimes which prevailed among the heathen
DECEIVE AND LIE, AND THUS MISLEAD THE PEOPLE. In what
sense these worthless deceivers could have been called prophets, it is not
easy to determine. Probably they were persons who pretended to this
office, and who were deemed by their neighbors entitled to the appellation.
But a prophet is one who speaks for God as His representative; and of all
men deception on his part is reprehensible. Prophets are nothing IF NOT
TRUE! Yet in how many cases have the multitude been misled by crafty,
designing pretenders to Divine illumination! And not the multitude only,
but even kings and commanders have too often given themselves over
to the virtual dictation of men no better than soothsayers and diviners.
DIVINE LAW, VIOLATE AND PROFANE IT. The priesthood must be
regarded as part of a system, the object of which was to maintain right
relations between the Almighty Ruler and His chosen people. Themselves
divinely instituted, they were peculiarly bound to observe every ordinance
and regulation of Heaven. Yet these are the men whom the inspired
prophet of the Lord denounces as doing violence to God’s Law, profaning
holy things, as breaking down the distinction between clean and unclean —
a distinction which it was especially their office to maintain. How should
they be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord! “Like priest, like people.”
The moral degradation of the priesthood PROMOTED THE
DEGENERATION OF THE NATION!
AND PROMOTE THEIR WELFARE, RAVIN, SPOIL, AND
DID THAT WHICH WAS EVIL IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD! The
deeper the nation sank in poverty, humiliation, and despondency, the greater
the opportunity for those in authority, by self-denial and sympathy, to improve
the state of the nation. (This sounds like current events which too, can be
attributed to A DEPARTURE FROM GOD! - CY – 2014). But the
wretched rulers who found themselves in place and power appeared
indifferent to everything except their own selfish interests, and did their
worst to hasten and to complete the ruin which was manifestly so
JUSTICE, SYMPATHY, AND
THEIR NEIGHBORS. National life may be, and is in many cases, an
opportunity for the display of civic and social virtues. But the abuse of the
best of institutions may make them evil. It is the spirit in which the life of
the nation is lived which determines the condition of the people.
Differences in power, intelligence, and wealth always have existed, and
always will exist, in every community. But superiority ought to be regarded
as a trust to be employed for the public good. Where it is used for
purposes of oppression, especially for the oppression of the poor and the
stranger, such a state of things is a sure presage of national downfall.
“When all men live like brothers,” a nation may defy a public enemy, a
foreign foe. But suspicion and discord lay the axe at the root of the tree.
Such being the state of
it were for the nation’s ruin, no wonder that to the prophet the outlook
appeared gloomy, and the day of retribution near at hand. “I sought,” says
Jehovah, “for a man among them, that should make up the fence, and stand
in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found
A Man to Stand in the Gap (v. 30)
The nation of the Jews is in a desperate condition. Their defense is broken
down, and God is ready to rush in through the breach with devastating
vengeance. But He is loath to do so, and, though His is the threatening
power, yet in a wonderful clemency God looks for some one to fill the gap
and so to save the devoted nation. Unhappily, no such man is to be found.
lamentable condition is observable. The sinner sets himself against God
with a brazen face, and makes the stoutest fence of worldly precautions
wherewith to protect himself. But alas! this is a feeble structure. We have
not to wait long before we discover that it has been broken through.
Trouble has come. Misfortune has fallen on the self-complacent sinner. Or
it may be he has suffered from severe sickness, that has weakened the
energies of his body. Possibly his mental faculties have begun to fail. He
receives unpleasant warning of his mortality. There is a breach in his hedge.
cannot disregard the sins of His people, for He is their King, and He must act
justly. He might even make a breach at any moment, and in the awful crash
of judgment sweep away the strongest fortifications of the soul as so much
dust and rubbish. Much more, then, must the enfeebled soul, with ruined
fences, stand open to the irresistible wrath of God! So long as we live in
sin we are inviting God to come in vengeance through the ever-widening
breaches in our paltry defenses.
wonderful part of our subject. Though we deserve God’s vengeance, He is
reluctant to wreak it upon us. While He is necessarily preparing to smite the
sinner, He longs to spare him. When the soul is indifferent to its own
danger, God grieves over it and looks out for a way of escape. God now
longs to save us before we think of seeking for our deliverance.
this for themselves. They do not see their danger, or they are too busily
engaged upon the walls, or no one among them is strong and brave enough
to take so perilous a position. We cannot mend the breach in our own lives.
We cannot fortify our own souls against the wrath of God.
seemed the most likely savior in this time of extreme need; but even that
great prophet was not able to stand alone against the inrushing army of
vengeance. No man can save his neighbor from sin and ruin. The evil of the
world is too great for all the good men in it to resist. The case of man is
hopeless if it is left only to his fellow-man to save him.
see if there was any to save, and wondered that there was no man. Then
His own arm brought salvation. (Isaiah 59:16)
Ø Christ came as a man. A man was wanted. God coming in wrath
against mankind must be met by a representative man.
Ø Christ came into the world. He stood in the breach and met the
fury of the storm. He was “made sin for us” (II Corinthians 5:21,)
and faced the curse of the cross.
Ø Christ came in the might of God.
(I would be amiss if I did not relate a personal testimony here. When I was
twelve years old, I received a call from God to “Prepare!” My reaction to
this call was to study the Bible, for what the calling, I did not know! I thought
rather apprehensively, it might be
developed a plan of study, that in my seventy years, have never been improved
upon! I read one chapter consecutively and daily, from Genesis to Malachi.
I read a chapter from the Four Gospels daily and consecutively, and I read from
Acts to Revelation, one chapter daily and consecutively, with only the
Holy Spirit to guide me. When I went to
I become exposed to the Pulpit Commentary, at the school library.
I have studied the books of the Bible extensively from this commentary,
a twenty-three volume work. For Christmas in 1963, my father and mother
gave me a full set of my own. It is from these commentaries that you
see the results in this website. The Pulpit Commentary is public domain,
therefore, I am trying to share it in a more presentable venue and that
people, unaware there is such a thing, may experience what I have gleaned
in a life’s work. The Holy Spirit has been no less present in my studies since
the teenage years. In 1966, when getting out of college, Bro. Howard
the pastor at
I was a member, preached a sermon on “I sought for a man among them,
that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land,
that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” I was convicted to respond,
offering my service to God to try and fulfill this calling. In retrospect,
I must say that I believe with all my heart that I have been where I was
supposed to be – the only problem being, doing what I was supposed to
do. I will have to give account at the Judgment as to my faithfulness or
unfaithfulness to this calling. Thank God, for an Advocate, Jesus Christ
the Righteous – I John 2:1 - I interpret “making up the hedge and standing
in the gap” as it applies to my calling, as thirty-four years of teaching in
high school, during a time when the JUDAEO-CHRISTIAN VALUES in
GOD, much like
teaching career, I was encouraged to learn from a guest speaker at an
of the school year at the
and faculties of all the schools in
was a “Promise Keeper” and that their motto was “TO STAND IN THE
GAP AND MAKE UP THE HEDGE!” Apparently, one other, facet
of my calling has been to try to “stand in the gap and make up the hedge”
from the podium of the Adult Bible Class, which has Providentially been
carried over the air via WHOP radio. Through God’s grace, I am in the
44th year of having the opportunity to share God’s word, and probably
for the last twenty years, has also broadcasted over local television.
May God bless His Word which shall not return unto Him void! -
Isaiah 55:11 – CY – June 2014)
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