Ezekiel 22



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 Judah and Jerusalem. It is not without significance

that he applies the very epithet of bloody city (Hebrew, oily of bloods) which

Nahum (Nahum 3:1) had applied to Nineveh.


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


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. Jerusalem is described as

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”).


6 “Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power

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


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 Jerusalem was not confined to what might be called sins

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!”


  • OPPRESSION OF THE STRANGER. Many and merciful were the

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 Jerusalem than was accorded by the liberal-minded Greeks

at Athens to the Xenoi. Oppression of foreign residents was a sign of

peculiar wickedness. The Jews were reminded that because they had been

received as guests in Egypt and then betrayed by their hosts, they should

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 Israel (Amos 2:7; compare I Corinthians 5:1). (For the sin

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

Romans 1:28).



                                    The Reproach of Jerusalem (vs. 1-12)


Patriot as he was, Ezekiel was not, like some sincere patriots, blind to his

country’s faults. His conscience and judgment were enlightened, and his

emotional nature was rendered especially sensitive, so that a just and deep

impression was made upon his mind by the contemplation of his

countrymen’s errors and iniquities. Leaders of public opinion, teachers of

the time, are ever in danger of flattering those among whom their lot is

cast, with whom their interests are identified. Yet Ezekiel proves himself to

have the true spirit of the prophet, who rises superior to this temptation,

and whose motto is, “Be just, and fear not!”




of the people’s sins is both a long and an awful one. It suffices to mention

these as boldly charged upon them by the faithful prophet of the Lord.


1. Idolatry.

2. Violence and murder.

3. Disregard of parents.

4. Oppression of strangers, of the widows and fatherless.

5. Profanation of the sabbath.

6. Lewdness and vile indulgence of lust.

7. Bribery.

8. Extortion.


Was ever such an indictment brought against a community? The marvel is,

not that the threatened judgment came, but that it was so long delayed.



INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM. It certainly seems strange, all but

incredible, that the highly favored Jerusalem should be famed among the

very heathen for degradation in iniquity and moral debasement. But the

language of Ezekiel is explicit; and he would be more likely to soften than

to exaggerate the charge. Jerusalem a reproach, a mocking, infamous,

defiled, full of tumult! How are the mighty fallen! The city of the great

King, the seat of the temple of Jehovah, the home of the consecrated

priesthood, — infamous among the surrounding idolaters for flagitious

violation of those very moral laws which the city was consecrated to




INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM. The simple dignity of the Divine

reproach is beyond all rhetoric, all denunciation. “Thou hast forgotten me,

saith the Lord God.” Here, indeed, was the real secret of the defection and

rebellion, of the vices and crimes of the sons of Israel.   Had they kept

Jehovah in memory, they would have kept themselves free from the errors

and. the follies into which they fell. After all that the Lord had done for

them, after all His forbearance and long-suffering, they nevertheless forgot

Him! There was but one hope for Jerusalem, but one way of recovery and

restoration that they should bring again to memory Him whom they had

not only forsaken, but forgotten.


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

despicable cowardice.



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, Judah was not, like Ammon to be

forgotten (ch.21:32). Her punishment was to do its work, and to consume

her filthiness out of her.


A Total Collapse (v. 14)


  • DELUSIVE HOPE. Consider what it rests on.


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

Divine judgment? 


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).


  • CERTAIN FAILURE. The text is in the form of a question, but it

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.


  • CONSEQUENT MISERY. The question of the text is not answered;

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.




                        The Prophet on the Judgment-Seat (vs. 1-16)


As among men there occurs, now and again, a great assize, when evil

deeds are examined and flagrant offenders judged, so God has His seasons

when high-handed crime is arrested, and the offenders feel the reality of

Divine justice. Penalties are not awarded in the dark. Good men see clearly

the equity of the proceeding and the extreme patience of the Judge. God

places His doings in the public light.


·         THE INDICTMENT. It is a long indictment, and embraces all classes of



1. Gross abuse of power. The princes — i.e. heads of tribes — used their

power for the destruction of life, not to preserve it. The scepter was turned

into a dagger. Even neglect to protect innocent life becomes murder.


2. Idolatry. “The city maketh idols against herself.” In Israel idolatry was

treason. It was the rejection and humbling of their proper King.


3. Murder. “The city sheddeth blood.” He who begins to despise God soon

learns to under-value human life. Their children were made to pass through

the fire. Violence against property and life abounded.


4. Filial disobedience. “In thee have they set light by father and mother.”

The slaughter of innocent children soon produced its natural fruit.

Children grew up without natural affection. (II Timothy 3:3)  If the

central sun be  destroyed, the planets will soon rush headlong to

mutual destruction.


5. Tyranny. “They have dealt by oppression with the stranger: they have

vexed the fatherless and the widow.” All regard for humane virtues, for

common morality, had vanished. It is the custom throughout the East to

show hospitality to strangers. This is considered a virtue of the first order;

yet even this ordinary virtue was trampled underfoot.


6. Profanity. “Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my

sabbaths.” In Israel this was a most flagrant sin. God had given them

tokens of His presence and favor which He had not given unto others;

therefore to profane these sacred tokens was to disgrace God in the eyes of

the surrounding heathen. It was as if a soldier on the battle-field trailed his

country’s flag in the mire. It was as if a married woman should fling her

wedding ring into the fire.


7. Murderous intrigues. “Men carry tales to shed blood.” Untruthfulness is

a common sin among the Orientals. Lying intrigues, to encompass a rival’s

death, are plentiful as laws. This sin the Hebrews had copied from their

neighbors.  (and could have been avoided had they obeyed God in

destroying the Canaanites - CY - 2022)


8. Unchastity and adultery.They commit lewdness.” The sanctity of the

marriage-tie disappeared. Virtuous affection was strangled by animal lust.

Incest and other abominations followed. (LGBTQ in modern times for

example - supported by search engines who donate part of their profit - CY

-2022)  The people gradually sank to the level of the beasts. (II Peter 2)

All the special dignity and nobleness of manhood died out. Degradation of

humanity spread.


9. Judicial bribery. “They have taken gifts to shed blood.” Not an upright

judge remained. Wickedness, like an epidemic (what if the concept of

wickedness was handled by the media [even local media like the New Era]

like they do Covid-19 - daily cramming down the throats of its readers -

same for TV - get immunity through vaccine - can’t get a job

if you are not saved - etc. - CY - 2022) spread and infected every

office and every rank. The fountain of justice became a fountain of

corruption and death.


10. Avarice. There were gains that were dishonest. Extortion was on every

side. Avarice, like a cancer, had eaten out all the healthy flesh of honor and

sincerity. Gold became to them a god.  (Is there any possibility of avarice

in those who have developed vaccines for Covid? - CY - 2022)


11. Forgetfulness of God. This was the root and the crown of their sins.

The very memory which God created refused to entertain Him; as if a house

which a man himself had built should shut its doors against him. When God

is driven out, all His retinue — purity, strength, unity, peace, honor — go

with Him. (And this is what happened when He left Jerusalem and Judah

to themselves. Do you not see that this can happen and is happening in your

lifetime in the United States of America?  CY - 2022)  This is a long and dismal

catalogue of crimes.  Basically, these are the same things that will bring down

the house at the end of time.  CY - 2022)


·         THE ASSIZE-DAY. “Thou hast caused thy days to draw near.”


Ø      This assize is certain. “I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” As

surely as night succeeds to day, the reckoning-day of God’s justice

comes.  It has never yet failed. Neither the man nor the nation that



Ø      The proceeding will be strictly equitable. The people had made alliance

with the gods of the heathen, therefore among the heathen shall they



Ø      The irresistibleness of Gods judicial act. “Can thine hands be strong

in the day that I shall deal with thee?” From His bar there is no appeal.

Against His power it is vain to strive.


·         THE VERDICT. “Thou shall show her all her abominations.” Here is



Ø      Self-discovery. All sin has a subtle potency to blind the judgment. Men

are prone to measure themselves only by others, or to look at their

conduct only in the mirror of their neighbors’ conduct. But when the

clear light of eternal truth flashes upon the soul, past sins start into

gigantic magnitude; they are like mountains for their size.


Ø      Public shame. “Therefore I have made thee a reproach unto the

heathen.” This is a stinging verdict. Even the heathen, so much more

barbarous and degraded than were the Hebrews aforetime, shall now

reproach them for their evil deeds. The fall is all the greater if we

have first climbed to some stupendous height.


Ø      Overwhelming affliction. Can thine heart endure in the days that

       I shall deal with thee?” (v. 14 - Have you ever been dealt with by

      God? - CY - 2022)  When Cain felt the full stress of his sentence,

he cried out ”My punishment is greater than I can bear!” The just

wrath of the Creator: how can frail man endure it?


Ø      Banishment. “I will disperse thee… in the countries.” In the same

measure in which the Hebrews had been confident and boastful in their

own land, was the gravamen of the sentence that scattered them among

many nations. To be shut out from one’s own land and home is a

heavy stroke.  (Have you ever been homesick?  CY - 2022)


Ø      Abandonment. “Thou shall take thine inheritance in thyself.” In other

words, thou shalt shift for thyself: thou shall find no good beyond thyself.

When men persist in saying to God, “Depart from me!” God will say to

them, “Depart from me!” To be left to ourselves is heaviest doom.


·         THE ULTIMATE DESIGN. “I will consume thy filthiness out of



Ø      Purification. This abandonment is only for a time. When penalty and

suffering have accomplished their end, God promised to return to them in

mercy. Meanwhile, alas! many would be cut off by death. Only a remnant

would partake of the distant grace. So it came to pass. The seventy years’

banishment purged out effectually the spirit of idolatry. It was a severe,

yet a successful, remedy!


Ø      Surrender. “Thou shall know that I am the Lord.” This knowledge

would be not only intellectual, but practical. It was a knowledge of God

as Supreme King and Judge. It was a knowledge that produced fruits

of obedience. “A burnt child dreads the fire:” so the painful

experiences through which that generation passed left wholesome

effects upon their children, Full surrender is the only safety.





                        An Appalling Indictment and a Just Judgment

                                                    (vs. 1-16)


“Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Now, thou son of

man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city?” etc. “This chapter,”

says Fairbaim, “stands closely related to the last chapter, and may fitly be

regarded as supplementary to it; the former having presented a striking

delineation of the Lord’s purpose to execute the severity of His displeasure

upon the people of Jerusalem, while this returns to lay open the fearful

mass of corruption on account of which such severity was to be inflicted.

In what is written here there is nothing properly new; in its general purport

it is a repetition of the charges which were urged in ch. 20.; and so the

chapter begins much in the same way — with a call upon the prophet to

judge the people, and set before them their iniquities. There, however, the

charge took the form of an historical review for the purpose of connecting

the present state of wickedness with the past, and showing how

continuously the stream of corruption had flowed through all periods of

their national existence. Here, on the other hand, the prophet looks

exclusively to the present, and brings out in fearful array the many heinous

and rampant sins which were crying in Heaven’s ear for vengeance.” We

have in the text:




Ø      The nature of these sins.


o        Forgetfulness of God. “Thou hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God.”

We mention this first, because it was the root-sin out of which all the

others sprang. Men forget God’s holy authority, His constant and universal

presence, and His great goodness, and thus the principal restraints from

sin are removed. “Forgetfulness of God opens the window to every wicked



o        Blood-guiltiness. This charge is repeatedly and variously stated. “The

bloody city A city that sheddeth blood in the midst of her Thou art become

guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed.” This may refer, as Schroder

suggests, to murderous deeds generally; specially to judicial murders,

consequently to the shedding of the innocent blood of righteous,

God-tearing men, prophets, etc. (compare Matthew 23:37). The city which

had its name from ‘peace’ has become a city of death to those who require

true peace.” Even the princes were guilty of violence and bloodshed.

“Behold, the princes of Israel, every one according to his power, have

been in thee to shed blood” (v. 6). They did not recognize the sacred duties

or the solemn accountabilities of their exalted station. They ruled not in

accordance with right, but according to their might; and that might they

exercised barbarously and bloodily. And there were these who were guilty

of bloodshedding by reason of their false witness. Slanderous men have

been in thee shed blood.”  (v. 9) They were malignant slanderers of the

innocent, who because of their slanders were adjudged to death. Moreover,

mercenary and unjust judges condemned men to death for bribes.

“In thee have they taken bribes to shed blood” (v. 12). And it is probable

that Schroder is correct in his opinion that both the false witnesses and the

unrighteous judges were thus wickedly employed by the violent and

murderous princes. Thus in Jerusalem, “the holy city,” human life was

no longer regarded as a sacred thing. It was ruthlessly slaughtered:


§         in defiance of law,

§         in defiance of the feelings of our common humanity, and

§         in defiance of the Creator and Father of men.


o        Idolatry. “A city… that maketh idols against herself to defile her. Thou

art defiled in thine idols which thou hast made.... And in thee they have

eaten upon the mountains.” (On the extent of their idolatry and the

pollutions thereof,  ch. 8:5-16) and our notes thereon.) The

eating upon the mountains, the seats of idol-worship, refers to the eating

of things sacrificed unto idols (compare ch. 18:6, 11).


o        Disregard of the tenderest and most sacred obligations towards their

fellow-men. “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

wronged the fatherless and the widow.” Loving respect to parents is

commanded and encouraged in the Law of the Lord (Exodus 20:12;

Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16). The New Testament enforces

the same obligation (Matthew 15:4; 19:19; Ephesians 6:1-3); and

the best feelings of the human heart plead for its observance. But in

Jerusalem there were those who set at naught this obligation. God had

made the cause of’ the stranger, the widow, and the fatherless in a special

manner His own, and repeatedly enjoined righteousness and kindness in the

treatment of them (Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 27:19;

Psalm 10:14, 18; 68:5; 146:9; Jeremiah 7:6; Zechariah 7:9-10). Yet there

were these in Jerusalem who opposed and wronged them.


o        Profanation of Divine institutions. “Thou hast despised mine holy

things, and hast profaned my sabbaths.” The holy things comprise “all

that the Holy One has instituted, consecrated, and commanded”


§         the priests,

§         the temple,

§         the sacred vessels,

§         the sacrifices and sacraments, and

§         all other religions ordinances of His appointment.


These they had despised. And the sabbath they had profaned

(compare ch. 20:12, 24). “He profanes the sabbath who does not

celebrate it, who celebrates it ill, or who consecrates

it to the service of sin” (Schroder).


o        Unchastity in its most revolting forms (vs. 10-11). On the first

clause of v. 10, compare Leviticus 18:8; 20:11; 1 Corinthians 5:1; on

the second, compare Leviticus 18:19; 20:18; on the first clause of v. 11,

compare Leviticus 18:20; 20:10; on the second, cf.compare ibid.  18:15;

20:12; and on the third, compare ibid.  18:9; 20:17.


o        Covetousness in its worst manifestations. “In thee have they taken

bribes to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast

greedily gained of thy neighbors by oppression” (v. 12). Covetousness in

their judges was so extreme that they accepted bribes to condemn the

innocent to death. “Usury is the profit exacted for the loan of money,

increase that which is taken for goods; both are alike forbidden

(Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19).” Yet in Jerusalem they bad

taken both. And taking advantage of their neighbors’ distress and need,

they had oppressed them by exacting exorbitant interest on any loan

granted for their help. Such were the sins charged against the people of

Judah at this time.


Ø      The scene of these sins. Jerusalem. In this paragraph we have the

words, “in thee,” or “in the midst of thee,” not less than twelve times.

This was a grievous aggravation of their sins that they were committed

in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was spoken of as “the holy city;” it was the

seat of the worship of the true and holy God; it was celebrated in

sacred song as the dwelling-place of the Most High (Psalm 76:2);

and it was favored religiously above any other city in the world. But

now it had become “the bloody city,” the “defiled” city, the home

of the foulest crimes, “A Jerusalem may become a Sodom, a holy city

 a den of murderers.” And if it do so, its former privileges aggravate

its guilt and augment its doom (compare Matthew 11:20-24;

Luke 12:47- 48).


Ø      The maturity of these sins. “Thou hast caused thy days to draw near,

and art come even unto thy years” (v. 4; compare ch. 21:25, 29). By

reason of its sins Jerusalem had grown ripe for the sickle of the

Divine judgment. By the extent and enormity of its transgressions it had

hastened the time of its doom. In the history of persistent wickedness

there comes a crisis when the evil-doers are ripe for judgment; and

then the Divine executioners go forth against them.




Ø      They become a reproach among the nations. “Therefore have I made

thee a reproach unto the nations, and a mocking to all the countries.

Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee,

thou infamous one and full of tumult.” We noticed (ch. 21:28) how

the Ammonites reproached the people of Judah, and were to be punished

for so doing. Yet although the people of Ammon had no right to

reproach their suffering neighbors, the Jews deserved reproach.

Jerusalem had made itself infamous by its wickedness before it became

a reproach and a mocking unto the nations. “Righteousness exalteth a

nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.”  (Proverbs 14:34)

“The wicked shall be turned into hell and all nations that forget

God.”  (Psalm 9:17


Ø      They shall be dispersed among the nations. “And I will scatter thee

among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries.” We

have noticed this point in ch. 5:12; 12:1-16; 20:23 (compare

Deuteronomy 4:27; 28:25, 64).


Ø      They shall be dishonored in the sight of the nations. “And thou shalt

      be profaned in thyself, in the sight of the nations,” etc. (v. 16). “Thou

shalt by thine own fault forfeit the privileges of a holy nation.” Mark the

retributiveness of this. Jerusalem has desecrated the holy things of the

Lord (v. 8); therefore shall it also be desecrated for a requital (v. 16).

It has wickedly insulted the dignity of God; for this it must suffer the

loss of its own dignity” (Hengstenberg).


Ø      They would be unable to withstand this visitation of judgment.

“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days

that I shall deal with thee?” (v. 14). Says Greenhill, “O Jerusalem!

be thine heart never so stout or strong, my judgments will be too

heavy for thee to bear them; when they come, thine heart will fail thee,

fail thee of counsel, that thou shalt not know what to do, and fail thee

of strength, that thou shalt not be able to do what thou knowest.”

When God in judgment visits any one, “heart and hand, courage

and power, fail” (compare Job 40:9; Psalm 6:7; Nahum 1:6).


·         CONCLUSION. Many are the lessons deducible from our subject. We

mention three.


1. The fearful growth of sin. Forgetfulness of God may develop into

     idolatry, adultery, murder.


2. The essential ruinousness of sin. It is of its very nature to blight and

     destroy everything that is true and beautiful, wise and good, right and

     strong, both in individuals and communities. “Sin, when it is

      full-grown, bringeth forth death.”  (James 1:15)


3. The righteous judgment of God against sin. (Romans 2:2-11.)


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

18  Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are

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 Jerusalem.  20 As they gather silver, and brass, and iron,

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 Jerusalem and its

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

of Israel is to me become dross,” Notice:





Ø      Here are several varieties of sinful character. We will notice them

as they are here adduced.


o       Dross. “The house of Israel is to me become dross;… they are the

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 people of Judah and

Jerusalem had become “the ignoble dross of noble silver.”

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 Jerusalem

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

of Israel. They were pliable to evil, yet not available for any

high or holy uses (compare Jeremiah 4:22). Thus in Jerusalem

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 Israel is become dross unto me.” Beware of the

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

must decline.


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 Jerusalem,” etc. (vs. 19-20). When

pressed by their Chaldean enemies the people from far and wide

took refuge in Jerusalem, trusting to its forces and fortifications

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



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

the work.


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

population of Jerusalem as an ungodly multitude doomed to

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.


  • CONCLUSION. Guard against the beginnings of the deterioration of

character. Seek the growth and progress of character in the true and good.





                                    The Smelting Furnace (vs. 17-22)


For every material thing there is a test. We may know metals by their

action under chemical agents, or by the furnace-flame. We can test gases

by their power to sustain life or to sustain flame. We can test dynamical

forces by electricity or by their power to create motion. So for human

character there is a crucial test.


·         ADULTERATED METAL. The seed of Israel had sadly degenerated.

They had been, compared with other people, as silver and gold. Now they

were, in God’s esteem, only as dross, and His judgment is according to

truth.” What virgin gold is in a human kingdom, true righteousness is in the

kingdom of God. Loyalty and love are the coins current in God’s empire.

A good man is worth more than argosies of gold and rubies. Wisdom,

righteousness, and love, — these are the only durable riches. They exalt

and enrich men for time and for eternity.  (see Matthew 6:19-21) Selfishness,

disobedience, and rebellion are the dross and rust which eat out the very

life  of the soul. Real riches become part and parcel of the man.


·         THE FURNACE-FIRE. What the material flame of the furnace is to

metals, God’s anger is to human character. It tests the qualities of mind

and heart. As metals have no power to resist being cast into the furnace,

neither has any man power to exempt himself from Divine chastisement. It

comes upon all in some form or other. In some, humility, submission,

resignation, appear. These are precious metals — the gold and silver of

moral excellence. In others, fretfulness, remorse, defiance, are the effect.

These are base dross, destitute of any worth. A myriad of men know

nothing about their characters until trial, in some sort, comes upon them. If

milder forms of chastisement will not melt the hardened metal, the anger of

Jehovah will wax hot. There shall be, sooner or later, self-revelation — the

sooner the better.


·         SEPARATION. The furnace is not merely a test of metal and alloy; it

further separates the one from the other. Among men this separation,

resulting from God’s visitations, is twofold.


Ø      This separation is seen as one between man and man. The precious and

the vile become more distinguishable one from the other.


Ø      The separation is internal. In those who turn the affliction to good

account there follows self-inspection, self-denial, pruning. The idol is

dethroned. The vice is abandoned. The evil is withstood and fought.

Refinement goes on within. The darkness and the light separate.

The man comes out of the process as gold that is purified.


·         DESTRUCTION. The residuum of alloy is cast out as base and

worthless. God will not tolerate falsehood, hypocrisy, or any iniquity in his

kingdom. “Every liar shall have his portion in the lake that burneth with fire

and brimstone.” The liar is not only the man who speaks with intention to

deceive; he is the man who has preferred to deceive himself rather than

face the truth. Unquestionably, separation, accomplished in the furnace, is

with a view to refinement, but also with a view of destruction to the

worthless dross. Every man has his face either toward purity or toward

perdition. The processes of God’s furnace are going on among us every

day. Are we getting better or worse?




Dross (vs. 18-22)


  • THE NATURE OF THE DROSS. Israel is compared to dross. The

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

(John 8:44).


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

close association.




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.


Ø      God tries it in the furnace. Israel was to go into the furnace of

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

city of Jerusalem destroyed, but the mass of the Jewish nation

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,

not to Jerusalem only, but to the whole land. A land that is not cleansed.

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 Jerusalem. Like a roaring lion (compare ch.19:2-3;

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

of immorality.



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

ceremonial differences.


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

sacred things.


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

bitter uncharitableness.


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 United States has fallen so low, so

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

all Jerusalem righteous enough to be either a defender or an intercessor, none

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 Judah pass

before God could take pleasure therein. Siege, suffering, privation,

pestilence, famine, decimation, captivity, reproach, mockery, — such were

the sufferings appointed for the people of Jerusalem. And, as a matter of

fact and history, God did not spare Jerusalem — favored though the city

had been. He poured out His fury upon it, and for a time and for a purpose

withheld from it His clemency and compassion.




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!



JUDAH. Ammon was cast into the fire, to be consumed into smoke and to

vanish away; Judah, in order to refinement and purification. The intention

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. “Judaea had

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”

(Isaiah 56:11).


§         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

and murderers.”


§         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

Malachi 1:6-7).


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).


  • CONCLUSION. The whole subject is charged with most solemn warnings

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 deterioration of Jerusalem,

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





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





DESTROY. Judah had been afflicted with a succession of monarchs WHO


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





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 Jerusalem and Judah, all classes striving together as

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





                        Highest Rank Among Men not Sought (vs. 23-31)


The development of human civilization demands an organized system. Men

require to be classified according to their ability and fitness to contribute to

the welfare of the whole. For the public benefit there must be ruler and

subject, master and servant, teacher and taught, commander and army.

Each, according to his office, has duties and obligations, the neglect of

which brings instant loss and distant ruin.



hold any office nor possess any wealth without incurring corresponding

obligation. There is force in the French proverb, Noblesse oblige! (with 

wealth, power, and prestige come responsibilities) Although the sovereign

may be above written law, it is only for expediency’s sake, and certainly

he is under law, equally binding, though not expressed in words. Every

person holding office of whatever sort or kind has undertaken a definite

responsibility to protect or promote certain interests of the people. He may

be responsible for social order, or for immunity against invaders, or for

advancement of learning, or for development of wealth, or for the

maintenance of religion. But some responsibility springs out of his office.



may and does qualify for office; but official position does not generate

moral character. High rank has special temptations and special perils. Rank

is only a change of situation; office is simply a change of occupation. They

involve changes only outside the man; they do not touch or purify his real

self. A man may be an apostle, and yet be harboring a demon in his heart.

A man may be a prophet, yet need himself to be taught.



ORDERS. Because the princes, priests, and prophets acted basely in Israel,

therefore the “people of the land used oppression and exercised robbery”

(v. 29). Vice is more contagious than fever. Rank gives artificial

importance to its possessor, and exerts extensive influence either for evil or

for good. As a monument attracts the notice of human eyes in proportion

to the elevation on which it is raised, so according to the station in society

a man occupies he will have more or fewer imitators. Wide influence is a

perilous possession.



sought for a man who 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.” Real

and thorough reform is always unpopular. Men are often eager to reform

their institutions or their laws, but always backward to reform themselves.

A faithful prophet, who shall recall the people back to God, has always

been a scarce man. Nor is this the only time in which God expressed His

surprise that no intercessor for men could be found. Yet this is the noblest

office any man can occupy. Its aim is the very loftiest. It brings man into

companionship with God. Its fruits are permanent, yea, eternal. Alongside

this order of service every other rank pales into insignificance. A mediator

is a peerless man!



real man been found to reprove the people, restore religious worship, and

plead with God, Israel might have been spared its overthrow. One man

may save a nation or plunge it into perdition. Paul, on board ship, obtained

the lives of all the crew. The intercession of Moses brought a deed of

pardon for the Hebrew host. For David’s sake God conferred large favors

on the nation. Luther’s firm faith brought deliverance both spiritual and

temporal to all Europe. What one man can do no language can portray,

imagination can scarce conceive. A man of wisdom, piety, and faith may

quietly revolutionize the world.




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.


  • THE BREACH IS MADE. The Jews have been already beaten in the war

with Babylon. In the corresponding experience of souls the same

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.


  • A MAN IS NEEDED TO FILL THE BREACH. The Jews cannot do

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.


  • NO MAN IS FOUND TO FILL THE BREACH. Jeremiah might have

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 China.  With God’s help and direction, I

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 Cumberland College in 1962,

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

Prather, the pastor at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Somerset, KY, of which

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

America was being cast aside by AMERICA’S DEPARTURE FROM

GOD, much like Israel and Judah did, in our present study!  Late in my

teaching career, I was  encouraged to learn from a guest speaker at an

opening of the school year at the Fairgrounds Center, when before all the

administrators and faculties of all the schools in Christian County, that he

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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