1 “And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s
razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard:
then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair.”
Take thee a barber’s razor, etc. The series of symbolic acts is
carried further. Recollections of Isaiah and Leviticus mingle strangely in
the prophet’s mind. The former had made the “razor” the symbol of the
devastation wrought by an invading army (Isaiah 7:20). The latter had
forbidden its use for the head and beard of the priests (Leviticus 19:27;
21:5). Once again Ezekiel is commanded to do a forbidden thing as a
symbolic act. He is, for the moment, the representative of the people of
as “by a razor that is hired.” The word for “barber” (perhaps “hair cutter”)
does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament, but its use may be noted as
showing that then, as now, the “barber” was a recognized institution in
every Eastern town. The word for “knife” (Joshua 5:2; I Kings 18:28)
is used in v. 2, and commonly throughout the Old Testament, for“sword,”
and is so translated here by the Septuagint and Vulgate. The prophet is to take a
“sword” and use it as a razor, to make the symbolism more effective.
2 “Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when
the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part,
and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in
the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them.” Thou shalt burn with fire, etc.
The symbolism receives its interpretation in v. 12. A third part of the people (we
need not expect numerical exactness) was to perish in the city of pestilence and
famine, another to fall by the sword in their attempts to escape, yet another third
was to be scattered to the far off land of their exile, and even there the
sword was to follow them. The words, in the midst of the city, and the
days of the siege, find their most natural explanation in ch.4:1, 5-6.
3 “Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy
skirts.” 4 “Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire,
and burn them in the fire; for thereof shall a fire come forth into all
the house of
and were left in the land (II Kings 25:22; Jeremiah 40:6; 52:16); or
“fire” of God’s chastening judgments. They were, if saved at all, to be
saved “so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:15), to be as “brands plucked
from the burning” (Amos 4:11; Zechariah 3:2). Isaiah’s thought of
the “remnant” (Isaiah 10:20-22; 11:11-16) seems hardly to come in
here. The whole utterance is one of denunciation. The act of “binding in
the skirts” implies only a limited protection. Omit “for,” and for “thereof”
A Barber’s Razor (vs. 1-4)
The coming siege and destruction of Jerusalem are described under the
image of the prophet shaving his head and then disposing of his hair in
various ways. The razor stands for the Divine judgment, the hair for the
people, the different treatment of the hair for the difference in the doom of
crush, others cut. The latter do not dispose of their victims at a blow. More
is reserved for the hair that has been shaved off; for it is to be burnt, etc.
But first of all the head is shorn. Thus judgment is progressive. Now, the
first stage throws down pride, breaks up the established order, and casts
the miserable sufferers into a state of dismay. This is irresistible. Slender
hair cannot resist sharp steel. Feeble man cannot stand up against the
penetrating judgment of Heaven.
Each hair is a separate growth (“But the very hairs of your head are all
numbered.” - Matthew 10:30), and in shaving the whole head the razor
cuts through individual hairs. It is too commonly imagined that burdens can
be shifted from the individual to the nation. But if this were universally
done there would be no gain, as the nation is nothing more than the
aggregate of the individuals that compose it; and if it were only partially
done, injustice would be inflicted on the many for the relief of the few. In
Divine judgments there is no escaping on account of the wholesale and
national character of what happens. Great general wars lay homesteads
desolate, bring mourning to separate households, impoverish private
businesses, kill individual men.
DOOM. The hair is to be divided out, and the several portions are then to
be dealt with in different ways. The siege of Jerusalem results in a variety
of dreadful calamities. Some of the citizens perish from fire, famine, or
disease; some are killed by the sword; some are driven into exile. No doubt
there will be varieties of doom in the future world. All will not suffer the
same penalties, and yet the just punishment of sin must be unspeakably
awful in every instance.
Ezekiel is to take a few hairs and bind them in his skirts. Eight people were
saved from the Flood. Three were saved from the destruction of Sodom
Roman siege of
repeatedly exemplified. None are so obscure as to be overlooked by God.
He is not indiscriminate in His judgment. The faithful are safe in the most
overwhelming destruction. Those who are God’s true people are well
guarded and cared for by Him. (“The foundation of God standeth sure,
having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His” – II Timothy 2:19).
Such have no occasion to fear any future judgment day.
SAFETY. V. 4 seems to teach that some who escaped from the horrors
of the siege would yet be cut off by some later calamity. God’s forbearance
is no excuse for man’s indifference. Judgment deferred is not judgment
destroyed. It is possible to turn aside from God in one’s later days after
serving Him truly in one’s earlier life, and then the safety of the Past must
give place to peril
5 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is
midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.”
we have the unfigurative interpretation. The words that follow point to the
central position of
the ancient East:
and in the nearer distance Moabites and Ammonites, and Edomites, and
Phoenicians, and Philistines; to all of these
city set on a hill, as the light of the Gentiles. That had been her ideal
position from the first, as in the visions of Micah 4:1 and Isaiah 2:1-2,
it was to be in its ideal future. The words are not without interest, as
probably having suggested the thought, prominent in mediaeval geography
(Dante, ‘Inf.,’ 34:115, and the
was physically the central point of the earth’s surface. So Moslems believe
A Central Position (v. 5)
Jerusalem was in a central position. Palestine was in the very midst of the
nations. The highway between Assyria and Egypt ran through her territory.
Seated on the shores of the Mediterranean, she was midway between the
great empires of the East and the mysterious world of the West. England is
in a position like that of ancient
sweep of circumference. This island looks eastward to Europe and Asia,
it is in the highway from the Old World to
commercial capital of the world. England, more than any other country,
has interests and influence in the four quarters of the globe. (Written two
from God, we are in decline and are in danger of the “barber’s razor” in
the last homily. – CY – 2014). Then there are individual men in central
positions. This is so of all persons in posts of authority. It is also true in a
very real sense of everybody. Each man is the center of his own horizon;
the range of his vision and voice extend in a circle all round him. Throw a
atone where you will into a pond, and at once it becomes a center of spreading
circles of wavelets. We are all centers of influence. This central position involves
garnered experience of the ages and the wide wealth of thought that grows
in many minds are at our disposal. Jerusalem in the days of the prophets
had many faults, but narrow mindedness was not one. We see her seated
on the great plain of the world’s history. In like manner there is a happy
richness, a variety and breadth of knowledge, of which we in
today are able to avail ourselves. As individuals, we are in the midst of
many enriching sources. Tennyson’s Ulysses says, “I am a part of all that I
have met.” We are able to profit by multitudinous influences from many
quarters. We should not stultify these influences by parochial narrowness,
but welcome and use all the helps God sends, e.g. in good books,
inspiriting lives, wise and good public movements.
she was separate from them. She was not to follow the example of her
neighbors. She was called to a unique destiny. Alone knowing the true
God, she was to serve him in the full blaze of the world, but in separation
from the contamination of neighboring religions. This is the Christian
destiny; not to forsake society and cultivate religion in seclusion, but to live
in the world, yet free from the spirit of the world — a citizen of heaven
residing as God’s ambassador on earth.
nations to be a power for good among them. God did not convey His
chosen people to some distant “Isles of the Blessed.” They were set down
in the center of the great stage of the world’s history. They were a separate
people, it is true — a sort of
to give the true religion to all nations. England is most advantageously
situated for blessing other nations. We of all peoples should be a
missionary nation. The Church of Christ is in the midst of the people, not
like Noah’s ark, only destined to secure the safety of those shut up inside
it, but like leaven put into the, meal to leaven the whole lump. Every
Christian Church is in the midst of the people, in a neighborhood for
which it should be a center of light. So also individual men, according as
they are in any sort of central positions, are there for the good they can
confer. No life can be pure in its purpose or strong in its strife, and all life
not be purer and stronger thereby.
America will have her day of reckoning. We shall all be judged, especially
as to our conduct in places of privilege and influence.
Ř We are responsible for our privileges. Assyria was not judged as
Judaea; Africa and England will not be measured by the same standard.
Much is expected of them to whom much has been given. (Luke
Ř We are responsible for our influence. The effects of our work, word,
and example will come back upon our own heads in blessings or in
from her high estate. The fall of favored Palestine is a warning to
MAKE SHIPWRECK! Then the bigger the ship the greater the wreck.
There is something inspiriting in the thought of a mission. It helps one to
make the best use of life. The idea that we are useless will certainly lead to
indifference and paralyze our energies. But to accept a place of influence
and its privileges and then to fall, is the most culpable of all things.
6 “And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than
the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round
about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes,
they have not walked in them.” She hath changed, etc. To that calling
sunk to a lower level than the nations round about her. For changed my
judgments into wickedness, read, with the Revised Version, hath rebelled
against my judgments in doing wickedness. The pronoun refers, not to the
nations, but to the inhabitants of
The Lord represents Himself as pained by the contempt with which Jerusalem
has treated His distinguishing mercy and favor. He is displeased with those
who have shown so little appreciation of all that he has done for their well being.
Now, He threatens judgments upon the disobedient, rebellious, and impenitent.
7 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more
than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in
my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done
according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;”
Because ye multiplied, etc.; better, with the Revised Version,
because ye are turbulent. The verb is cognate with the noun translated
“tumult” in I Samuel 4:14; Psalm 65:7; Isaiah 33:3, though it is
more commonly rendered “multitude.” It is not the verb rendered “rage” in
Psalm 2:1. The former meaning fits in fairly here, but some critics suppose
that the text is corrupt. A conjectural emendation gives, “ye were counted
with the nations.” Neither have done according to the judgments; better,
with the Revised Version, ordinances. Taking the words as they stand, the
words find their explanation in Jeremiah 2:10-11. In doing as the nations
true to the gods whom they worshipped, and she had rebelled against her
God. Some Hebrew manuscripts and some versions omit the negative, but
this is probably a correction made in order to bring about a verbal
agreement with ch.11:12.
8 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against
thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of
the nations.” Therefore, etc. The conjunction is emphatic. It was because
punishment was to be equally conspicuous (compare Lamentations 4:6;
Opposed by God (v.8)
We are more familiar with the idea of our opposition to God than with that
of His opposition to us, because He is long suffering and slow to anger,
while we are rebellious and self-willed. But there is a point where infinite
patience cannot restrain just wrath; where, indeed, without any conflict of
Divine attributes, the very love of God must acquiesce in His resistance to
our sinful conduct by stern measures. Then God is against us!
Ř God is not originally opposed to any of His creatures. “He hateth
nothing that he hath made.” Nor can we suppose that God turns
against His children for reasons of His own apart from their conduct.
There is no caprice in the heart of the Immutable. It seems to some
men in their deepening adversity, as blow after blow falls upon them,
that God has become their enemy. This is a trial to faith; but true faith
should survive and cry in the tempest of trouble, “Though He slay me,
yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:15)
Ř The cause of God’s opposition lies in men alone. Ours is the change,
not His. The Israelites in the wilderness “provoked” him to wrath. As
He is always graciously inclined, it always lies with us to determine
whether He shall be our Friend or our Enemy. It is fearful to make an
Enemy of our best Friend. But can we expect that persistent neglect,
deepening into disobedience, and disobedience pushed to the extremity
of rebellion, should be regarded with indifference by the Lord of heaven
dangerous for man to run counter to the will of God; it is fatal for God to
rouse Himself in opposition to man. The man who falls on the chosen Stone
is bruised, but he on whom it falls will be ground to powder (Matthew
21:44). There is in this a Divine activity. The sinner does not suffer only
negatively, by privation, by the loss of Divine grace. His doom is more than
to be cast into THE OUTER DARKNESS and to be left there in a God-
deserted solitude. That would be bad enough. But it must be remembered
that God is active, and is ever making His will felt by His children. If a
man swallows arsenic, the poison will work in him by the exercise of its
own corrosive properties. In opposing the laws of nature we bring those
laws into active play against us. It is like running in face of an express train.
The result is incomparably worse than running against a dead wall. The
dreadfulness of the Divine opposition thus encountered is only to be
measured by the might and energy of God. The very fact that He loves us,
instead or mitigating the horror of the opposition, must heighten it, for no
plea can soften the blow when love itself acquiesces in it. If a hard master
punished we might hope to soften him, but if a God of love is against us
THERE IS NO FURTHER APPEAL!
WITNESS IT. The judgments were to be executed “in the sight of the
nations.” This would add to the humiliation of the Jews. It would be a
shock to the self-complacency that was founded on the notion that for the
sake of His own honor among the heathen God would uphold His chosen
people. That notion was a delusion. GOD’S HONOR is not maintained BY
PROTECTING HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR SIN! It is more manifest in the
impartial execution of justice without any rebate on the ground of favoritism.
God is not honored now by the simple security of His Church, but by the purity
of it. It is better for the cause of righteousness that fallen Christians should
be shamed and cast out, than that they should be petted and spared and
their wickedness hushed up. The fall and judgment of the Jews proclaimed
to all the world the unbiased righteousness of God. Certainly, if the
chosen people were not spared, no sinners can hope to escape — EXCEPT
BY THE WAY OF DELIVERANCE GOD HAS MADE THROUGH
JESUS CHRIST! (“For the time is come that judgment must begin
at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end of them
that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved,
where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” - I Peter 4:17-18)
Divine Antagonism (v. 8)
That is a lawless state of society in which every man’s hand is against his
neighbor. Yet no observer of human life is insensible to the prevalence of
enmity, rivalry, opposition of various kinds, among all communities of
men. “There are many adversaries” is a complaint which every man has
made in his time. Men become accustomed to this, and regard it as a
natural accompaniment of social life. But it is something very different
when the Almighty and Righteous Lord addresses a man or a community,
and says, “Behold I, even I, am against thee.”
the heathen, who construct the character of their gods upon the lines of
their own character, should depict them as hostile, seems natural enough.
But that enlightened theists should be surprised at such a representation as
that of the text, is a consequence of the conceptions which reason and
revelation alike have taught them to form of God. Is not God on our side?
Does He not represent Himself as favorable to the sons of men — using His
power for their protection, their deliverance, their aid? How, then, can a
merciful and benevolent God be in any sense against us?
ATTITUDE. It is clear that the Creator and Lord of all cannot be expected
to alter the principles of His government in order to accommodate Himself
to the follies and the caprices of His creatures. If a man throws himself into
mid-ocean, or into the crater of a burning volcano, nature is against him,
and he must perish. If a man by his own action contracts disease, he must
suffer. Gravitation is not to be suspended because a foolhardy fanatic flings
himself from a tower. Nor are chemical laws to be abolished because one
ignorantly swallows poison. In all such cases, we may say with reverence,
“God is against those who act in such and such a manner.” Similarly in the
moral realm. The spiritual universe is so constituted that men cannot
violate moral law without suffering, cannot defy God with impunity. Those
who sin must sooner or later learn the fact, which no reasoning of theirs
can affect, that God is against them.
that, if all things were made easy and pleasant for the sinner, if there were
no check and no chastisement for his sin, such an arrangement would not
be for the sinner’s real good. On the contrary, he would be encouraged to
persevere in his evil courses. But the sinner, finding that God is against
him, is in many cases by this very fact led to consider his ways. His
experience “gives him pause.” There follows from this consciousness of
punishment the state of mind known as “conviction of sin,” and conviction
of sin may lead to repentance and to submission. Finding that, by setting
himself against God, the sinner sets God against Him, he may be led to
submission; he may ask himself, “Why should I not have God with me
instead of against me?” The beginning of the process may partake of a
selfish regard for his own interests, but he may be led on to see something
better than this — to discern the justice, the propriety, the moral excellence
of subjection to and harmony with the will which ever accords with perfect
righteousness, wisdom, and love.
ATTITUDE. No one who reflects upon the character of the God of infinite
justice and benevolence can suppose that He can take a pleasure in a
posture of antagonism and hostility against anything that He has made, far
less against man, whom He created in His own likeness, to show forth His
own glory. His aim is ever to bring His intelligent and voluntary creatures
into harmony with His own nature; to recover and restore, not to
overwhelm with destruction; to bring His children to exclaim, “If God be
for us, who can be against as?” (Romans 8:31)
9 “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I
will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations.”
I will do in thee, etc. The like words were spoken by our Lord
of the destruction of the city that was then future (Matthew 24:21); but
the words of Ezekiel manifestly refer to that which was within the horizon
of his vision, and find their parallel in Daniel 9:12; Lamentations 1:12; 2:13.
10 “Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the
sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee,
and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.”
The fathers shall eat their sons, etc. An echo from Leviticus 26:29 and
Deuteronomy 28:53. The words of Jeremiah 19:9 and Lamentations 4:10 imply
that horrors such as these occurred during the siege of the city by the Chaldeans,
they had occurred before in the siege of
were to occur afterwards in that by the Romans (Josephus, ‘Bell Jud.,’ 6:4. § 4).
The whole remnant, etc. (compare v. 2).
Abused Privilege Produces Condign Punishment (vs. 5-10)
This doctrine is repeated and emphasized in myriad forms. It is written, not
in sand, but on rock, and written with a pen of steel. If the men of world
do not read this lesson, the reason is evident — they are wantonly blind.
body, what the sun is to the solar system,
empires. Hers was special advantage for getting good and for doing good.
She was within easy reach of the
patterns to be imitated, follies to be avoided. Of all the intellectual, moral,
and commercial life of primitive man, the Jews occupied a central place.
Intercourse between the distant nations passed, in large measure, through
true religion far and wide. Inquirers after God ought to have found at
the wise and righteous government of God, and every possession he holds
he holds in trust. He is a steward, who holds and uses his Master’s goods.
In proportion to the good he enjoys is the service he is required to render.
For every faculty of body and of mind, for every special advantage and gift,
he is accountable to his Maker. God has never intended that any donation
of His should terminate in the man himself. We receive in order that we
may give. The wealthy man has more service to render than the poor man.
The sage has more to account for than the fool. A man is not in the same
position morally at the close of the sabbath as at the dawn. He must, in the
nature of things, be either better or worse for every advantage he obtains.
The tree that does not bear good fruit is something worse than useless.
Each man adds something to the piety, or to the impiety, of the age. As
God had dowered the Hebrews with special privilege, He rightly expected
from them fruitful service. (“And He looked that it should bring forth
grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.” - Isaiah 5:2)
the Hebrews was inexcusable. They rebelled against the light:
Ř the light of nature,
Ř the light of conscience, and
Ř the light of supernatural revelation.
o There was base neglect. God had made known to them His
infallible wisdom; but they preferred their own foolishness.
God had deigned to weigh difficult matters for them, and to
give them the benefit of His superior judgment; but they
refused to follow. They would, at all risks, fling off restraint,
and yield to none BUT SELF!
o There was positive perversion of God’s goodness. They changed
His judgments into wickedness. They made even religious
ordinances an occasion of sin. They transmuted truth into
falsehood, the house of prayer into a den of thieves. Better,
far better, not to have the sabbath, than to profane its sacred
hours. Better not to have a message of kindness than to
treat it with scorn.
o Their guilt was extraordinary. It exceeded that of the nations
round about them. While they enjoyed special restraints, they
not only went to the same lengths of profane idolatry as other
nations, they went beyond them! Although the fact of one
spiritual Deity was clearly made known among them, yet they
borrowed the idol deities of every adjacent nation, until their
Reprover could declare, “According to the number of thy cities
are thy idols, O
o Public warnings were lost upon them. That God had spoken by
the mouth of prophets was clear, because their predictions had
come to pass. That God was uniformly faithful in maintaining
His Word, no sane mind could question. His judgments had fallen,
like hail, upon all the surrounding empires, and manifestly, because
of idolatry; therefore nothing short of sheer insensibility of mind
prevented their taking heed. What more could God do for them,
to bring them to repentance, than He had done? Every mouth is
silent. Their guilt had come to a head, had reached a final climax.
PUNISHMENT. It is not possible that anything can sever the link between
sin and punishment. That link has been wrought by Eternal Justice.
o This punishment should manifestly proceed from God. “They
shall know that I the Lord have spoken it,” etc. Too often men
regard their sufferings as chance effects, misfortunes that have come
about in a haphazard way. Not so here. Even those who would not
believe that God had done them former kindness, and sent them
faithful monitors — even these shall be compelled to feel that this
punishment is from God. It shall be so public, so severe, so intimately
connected with the sin, so precisely in accordance with prophetic
warning, that GOD SHALL BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE
RIGHTEOUS AUTHOR! So self-willed are some children
that nothing but the rod will induce submission.
o This retribution shall be public. Though the sin be done in secret,
the chastisement shall be public. In every age, impartial justice has
sought the fullest light for its deeds. Among the ancients, law was
administered, and wisely so, in the gate. God has nothing to conceal.
To the extent that His creatures have capacity to understand, He is
prepared to reveal. It is His intention that the universe shall behold
the retributions of guilt and BE AWED THEREBY! The
destruction of one may thus turn to the salvation of many.
o This punishment shall be extremely severe. “I will do in thee that
which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the
like,” etc. (v. 9). Yet, though severe, it was not too severe. It was
not more severe than the case required. The cause of justice would
not have been satisfied with less. When God holds the scales,
punishment will be exact; it will neither be too great nor too lenient.
Guilt is proportionate to previous advantage, and retribution is in
precise measure with guilt. If we prove unfaithful, the higher we
have been lifted up by acts of kindness, the deeper will be our
o The guilty are to be the executors of their own fate. “The fathers
shall eat the sons… and the sons shall eat their fathers.” The
famine shall press sore; but this is not the worst feature in the
doom. Natural affection shall so decay that the father will
not shrink from slaying his own boy, and feeding on the human
flesh. Sons shall be so far lost to filial reverence that they will do
the like to their fathers. When once love to our heavenly
Father is dead, LOVE TO OUR NATURAL KIN SOON
DECAYS! Man, cut off from God, BECOMES A MONSTER!
The beasts of the field never sink so low as man does in his last
depravity. It is an impressive fact that guilty men often execute
God’s judgments upon themselves, while yet they know it not. A
heavenly glory emanates from the cross of Jesus Christ, but
eternal shame encircles forever the gallows of Judas.
11 “Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou
hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with
all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither
shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.”
Because thou hast defiled my sanctuary, etc. For the full
account of the nature of the abominations which are thus spoken of, see
notes on ch. 8. This was, after all, the root evil of all other evils. Pollution
of worship, the degradation of the highest element in man’s nature, passed
into pollution and degradation of his whole life. Even in our Lord’s acted
teaching, in John 2:15-16 and Matthew 21:12, we have the same
principle implied. Therefore will I also diminish thee, etc. The italics
show that the last word is not in the Hebrew. The Revised Version margin
suggests two other renderings:
I will reject, and the Vulgate I will break in pieces, which apparently,
limply a different reading. Most recent critics suggest conjectural
emendations of the text. I incline to rest satisfied with the Authorized
Version, and to explain it by ch. 16:27. The word implies not only
the decrease, but THE ENTIRE WITHDRAWAL OF JEHOVAH’S
FAVOR! Possibly there is an implied reference to the command of
Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32.
had, as it were, erased the commandments which were of supreme obligation,
and therefore, as by a lex talionis (law of retaliation), God would diminish her.
Neither will I have any pity. The words are, of course, anthropomorphic, and
have therefore to be received with the necessary limitations. As the earthly
minister of justice must not yield to a weak pity which would be incompatible
with the assertion of the eternal law of righteousness, so neither will the
Supreme Judge. There is a time for all things, and justice must do its work
first, in order that there may be room for pity afterwards. For other assertions,
which seems strange to us, of this unpitying character of God, see ch.7:4, 9;
8:18; 9:10, et al.; Jeremiah 13:14.
Diminishment (v. 11)
The wicked nation is to be punished by being diminished (i.e. if we accept
the Authorized Version, confirmed as it is by the majority of the Revisers).
thrown back almost to the condition of a wilderness, and lions came up
from the desert to the once thickly peopled country (II Kings 17:25).
But even before the exile, war, famine, and plague reduced the population.
Professor Seeley has shown that the chief cause of the overthrow of Rome
by the Teutonic invaders was the great depopulating of
place under the empire. (Think of the 55 million aborted children in the
more than in its wealth.
among the nations which was seen under Solomon, the Hebrew nation is
now to shrink in importance, and so to fall into a position of insignificance.
This has happened to
happening in the
McDonald’s a few minutes ago and was talking to a friend about
this very thing. CY – 2014) We have no assurance that our proud
American flag shall always float in glory. For our national sins God
may permit it to be trampled in the mire.
parallel with the previous thought, but in individuals it has a wider scope.
The final punishment of sin is DEATH! The prior penalties of sin are
dying, i.e. a reduction of spiritual life, activity, and power. The once fruitful
tree is now barren. He who was most successful in spiritual work now feels
himself failing in all he attempts. His influence shrinks into insignificance.
Sin has paralyzed his soul.
formerly growing knowledge of truth. The eyes of the soul become dim.
God, who was once near, seems to withdraw Himself into the darkness.
The whole spiritual world, which had shone on the soul in full-orbed
splendors, wanes and fades, and passes in gloom out of sight. The things
unseen and eternal, which had been the very universe of existence, melt
into vague shadows, and float out of consciousness like the summer clouds
that disappear while we gaze at them.
can only be bright when the soul’s life is fresh and strong. A dull apathy
comes with the reduced spirituality. A very weariness succeeds to the old
earnest gladness of service. The May time of the soul has gone, and a
November gloom has taken its place.
There is hope still. Diminution is not extinction. The tree
is hewn down, but the stump may sprout (Isaiah 6:13). The Jews
diminished by Nebuchadnezzar were restored under Cyrus. It is good in
some way to feel diminution if pride is thereby also diminished. In the
humility of shame the penitent may hope for his restoration to a new and
more sound vigor by the merciful Saviour, who will not break the bruised
reed nor quench the smoking flax (Isaiah 42:3).
12 “A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine
shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall
fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part
into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.”
A third part of thee, etc. (see note on v. 2). The strange
symbolic act is now interpreted. I will draw out a sword, etc. The phrase
recurs in ch.12:14, and is found in Leviticus 26:33 — an echo,
like so many other passages in Ezekiel, from what seems to have been his
favorite storehouse of thought and language (Leviticus 17-26.).
13 “Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury
to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know
that I the LORD have spoken it in my zeal, when I have
accomplished my fury in them.” I will cause my fury to rest upon them, etc.;
Revised Version, I will satisfy, etc. The phrase meets us again in ch. 16:42;
21:17; 24:13. To “rest” here is to “repose” rather than to “abide.” The
thought is that a righteous anger, like that of Jehovah, rests (i.e. is quieted)
when it has done its work, and that in this sense God is “comforted,” either
as rejoicing in the punishment of evil for its own sake (as in Deuteronomy 28:63;
Isaiah 1:24), or because the punishment does its work in leading men to
that His judgments have done their work, and that His wrath can find repose.
Have spoken in my zeal. The thought implied is that what is spoken in the
earnest purpose of “zeal” will assuredly be carried into execution (compare
Isaiah 9:7; 37:32). Men might deride the prophet’s warning as an idle threat.
IT WOULD PROVE ITSELF TO HAVE COME FROM GOD!
14 “Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the
nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.”
In the sight of them that pass by. The phrase reminds us of
Lamentations 1:12; 2:15: and the latter was probably a conscious
reproduction of it. The scorn and mockery of the heathen who rejoiced in
her humiliation were to be the keenest pang in the punishment of the guilty
15 “So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an
astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I
shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious
rebukes. I the LORD have spoken it.” A reproach and a taunt, etc.
An echo of Deuteronomy 28:37. The accumulation of synonyms in both
clauses of the verse is eminently characteristic of Ezekiel’s style. Word
follows word, like the strokes of a sledge hammer. The word for “instruction”
is that which occurs so often in the Book of Proverbs (1:2-3, and in twenty-two
other passages). In Deuteronomy 11:12; Isaiah 53:5; Jeremiah 30:14,
the Authorized Version renders it “chastisement,” and that sense is
manifestly implied here. Jerusalem was, as it were, to be THE GREAT
OBJECT LESSON IN GOD’S EDUCATION OF MANKIND! And the
final stroke of all is that the words were not the prophet’s own, but
“I the Lord have spokes it.” The words reappear in v. 17.
The Shame of Moral Shipwreck, and Its Lessons (vs. 14-15)
All the nations round about were to be witnesses of the shipwreck of
Israel. The eyes of the world are upon the Church. No single Christian man
can fall without his ruin being observed by many neighbor’s. The city set
on a hill cannot be hid in its prosperity and splendor; much less will it be
unnoticed when it is wrapped in flames, and even later when its melancholy
ruins tell the world a tale of fallen greatness. The spectacle is striking; the
thoughts which it suggests should be instructive. Let us note four things
about this moral shipwreck.
blame will be attached to it. Nations must stand the chance of war, in
which the most just and brave may suffer grievous loss; and yet history
rarely, if ever, shows an instance of a people crushed and exterminated
without any fault of its own. Moral corruption precedes total national
overthrow. This was certainly the case with Israel, which fell in its
wickedness, and was scattered for its sin. Misfortune may visit the Church,
or an individual good man — such as Job — without guilt on the part of
the sufferer, because a wholesome discipline or some other high and distant
Divine purpose of love is to be wrought out through this means. But utter
shipwreck of life does not come without moral delinquency. Unhappily, the
reproach does not cease with the guilty person; it is laid against the cause
of Christ, and it brings dishonor on His Name. This new “reproach of
Christ” is the greatest hindrance to the progress of the gospel, and far more
of a stumbling block than the old shame of the cross.
fallen nation will be “a taunt.” Contempt will succeed to the old respect.
The Church may expect to meet with opposition from the world, but she is
indeed in an evil state when she has earned its contempt. To be despised
wrongfully through the pride and superficial judgment of others is a fate
which brave men can learn to endure. But to merit contempt is to lie in
abject wretchedness. When Christian men fall from their pure profession,
they sink into this most shocking ignominy. Even godless people can look
down upon them, and taunt them with their high pretensions and boasted
attainments and prized privileges.
instruction.” (A case study – CY – 2014). As “no man liveth to himself,”
so also “no man dieth to himself” (Romans 14:7). The ruin of nations is a
lesson to the world. History is studded with beacon warnings. The greatest
nations have been defeated and destroyed. The prosperity of the Church in one
age has been succeeded by corruption and shame in another. Men called
“pillars” of the Church have fallen. People praised as “ornaments” of society
have left tarnished reputations. Such sights not only warn us against pride and
self-assurance; in searching for the explanation of them we may learn many a
lesson as to the causes of success and failure, e.g. that SECRET SIN LEADS
TO OPEN SHAME, that past prosperity will not prevent present failure, that a
good name is not an impregnable bulwark, that to forsake God is to COURT
Ř It surprises the sufferers. (“And knew not until the flood came,
and TOOK THEM ALL AWAY” (Matthew 24:39). They never
expected such a fall. Living in a fool’s paradise, they spent their
days at their ease till the crash came. Careless Christians are
surprised at their own shipwreck.
Ř It surprises the onlookers. It is contrary to expectation founded on
previous observation and confident pretensions. Can the long successful
nation fall, and the people favored of Heaven be abandoned to ruin?
THERE WILL BE MANY SURPRISES IN THE FUTURE
JUDGMENT (See I Timothy 5:24-25) because ignorance of the awful
power of moral law and of the just retribution of God destroys men’s
expectations of the punishment of sin. To some it will come with a
shock of amazement, unless they now turn to THE REDEMPTION
(All that happened to the Jews and Jerusalem were foretold in Leviticus,
Deuteronomy and other places in the Old Testament. What happened was
not to be unexpected! The same can be said for the policies in the United
States today! CY – 2014)
16 “When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which
shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you:
and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff
of bread:” The evil arrows of famine, etc. The thought of the “arrows”
of God’s judgment may have been taken from Deuteronomy 32:23, 42,
and occurs frequently also in the Psalms (Psalm 7:13; 38:2, et al.).
Clothed in the language of poetry, the attributes of Jehovah included those
of the Far-darter of the Greeks. Which shall be for their destruction,
etc.; better, as Revised Version, that are for destruction. Ewald looks on
the noun as a personification, like Abaddon, also translated “destruction” in
Job 28:22 and Proverbs 15:11, and renders the words, “that are
from hell;” but there seems no special reason for assuming such a meaning
here. It is noticable that, as in the symbolism of ch.4:9-17, the
famine is more prominent in Ezekiel’s thoughts than the other
17 “So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall
bereave thee: and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and
I will bring the sword upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it.”
Evil beasts, etc. These appear in like connection in Ezekiel’s
favorite textbooks (compare Leviticus 26:6, 22; Deuteronomy 32:24).
They reappear in ch.14:15, 21. Historically, we have an
example of the suffering thus caused in the lions of II Kings 17:25,
when towns and villages were deserted, and the unburied carcasses of those
who had died by famine, or pestilence, or the sword, were everywhere to
attract them from afar. This was, of course, the natural and inevitable
result. Pestilence and blood, etc. As this is followed by the work of the
sword, “blood” probably points to some special form of plague, possibly
dysentery (Acts 28:8, Revised Version), or carbuncles, like Hezekiah’s
boil (Isaiah 38:21). The same combination appears in ch.14:19; 28:23.
The Divine Remonstrator (vs. 11-17)
It is clear as daylight that the root sin of the Jews was UNBELIEF! Although
the prophets of Jehovah brought incontestable evidence that they spake in
God’s Name, and spake only words of truth, the people closed their ears,
and treated the warning with contempt. They were in love with sin, and
were resolved not to part from it. Proofs that God spake through the lips
of these prophets were abundant.
THAT GOD SPAKE BY THEM. Ezekiel was known to be a true man. It
was known that he had no private interests to serve. It was acknowledged
that in all the relations of human life he was honorable and faithful. He
was known to be a devout man, a man of prayer. What other explanation,
therefore, could men put upon his earnest, heart-stirring appeals than that
God spoke by him? If his reproof of sin was true, then God spoke through
him. If he made known the might and righteousness of Jehovah, Jehovah
spoke through him. If his purpose was to deter from sin and induce
repentance, it was evident to every honest mind that it was true, as Ezekiel
related, “I the Lord have spoken it!”
PROVED THAT THE MESSENGER SPAKE IN GOD’S NAME. The
retribution was not announced in vague, general terms. There was revealed
a wise discrimination in dealing out judgment to wrong doers. “A third part
shall die with the pestilence;” “A third part shall fall by the sword;” “I will
scatter a third part into all the winds.” Severe as the threatening was, there
was nothing improbable or unnatural in it. Pestilence was a common
disaster, and if a hundred families, now and again, were carried off by its
virulence, why may not a third of the nation? So with famine; so with the
sword. In a time of severe drought, famine and pestilence often went hand
in hand. The flower of the nation being destroyed, some martial neighbor
would gladly seize the opportunity for invasion. Resistance would end in
terrible defeat; and, for the residue, banishment was decreed. Both man and
nature are the servants of God; often are they combined to execute His will.
If we escape one minister of vengeance, it is only to be overtaken by
SATISFY GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. “Then shall mine anger be
comforted.” God accommodates Himself, in His speech, to the manners of
men. There can be no rest for Him so long as guilt stalks abroad
unpunished. There is disturbance in His moral universe. There is pain in
every loyal angel’s breast. Fallen spirits are encouraged in their rebellion.
The moral force of law is weakened. His own veracity is at stake while sin
is unpunished. Therefore, to maintain the interests of universal justice, to
maintain in tranquility His own throne, to uphold order everywhere, SIN
MUST BE STAMPED OUT! There is disease in the system, and no rest
can be enjoyed until health be restored. The principles and attributes of
God’s nature can only then settle into complete harmony when sin is
PROVED THAT IT WAS FROM GOD. “I the Lord have spoken it.”
No sane mind could doubt that the motive of such repeated remonstrance
Was love — wise and far reaching love. The ancient Greeks had a proverb,
“The gods have feet of wool.” They were supposed to overtake men
noiselessly and without warning. Not so Jehovah. In His most severe
retributions kindness is yet manifest. Faithful expostulation and tearful
warning PRECEDE FINAL DESTRUCTION! The good of His creatures
is a superlative motive in His bosom — a motive that reigns side by side with
THE MAINTAINANCE OF LAW! If the good of the sinner himself be
hopeless, then the good of others is sought. These earnest pleadings with men
declare most emphatically His condescension, His patience, His self-sacrificing
love. This is not after the manner of men. If offenders against God would
only reflect, they would confess that such remonstrance was a remonstrance
of eternal Love — THE COUNSEL OF THE LIVING GOD!
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