1 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, set thy
toward the holy places,
and prophesy against the
3 And say to the
against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and
will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.” Man’s estimate of
righteousness and God’s estimate differ widely. In a nation every variety of
character will be found, and sin will exist in every shade and gradation. In
comparison with the blackest characters some will appear righteous who
are only less tainted with sin. These are the so called righteous. In the very
nature of things God will not and cannot treat alike the righteous and the
wicked. The truth, then, set before us here is this — that the whole nation
was corrupt, yea, ripe for slaughter. So few were the righteous, as to be
left out in this graphic and impressive description. The scourge should
sweep through the land, and penetrate every secret place.
4 “Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the
wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against
all flesh from the south to the north:
5 That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my
sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.”
The opening words, reproducing those of ch. 20:46, indicate that the
interpretation of that parable is coming. So the three variants of “south” are
shown to mean respectively
So, in v. 3, the righteous and the wicked take the place of the “green” and the
“dry” tree, and the fire is explained as meaning the sword of the invader. The
teaching of ch. 18, had shown that Ezekiel had entered, as regards the ultimate
judgment of individual men, into the spirit of Abram’s words “That be far from
thee to destroy the righteous with the wicked” (Genesis 18:25). But in regard to
temporal judgments there would be in this case, as in the complaint of Job 9:22,
no distinction. The sword went forth “against all flesh.”
The Common Fate of Righteous and Wicked (v. 4)
Both the righteous and the wicked are to be cut off. Though not equal in moral
character, they are to share in the same general calamities.
WICKED. We see this fact in everyday experience, and it would be a
falsehood to formulate a doctrine which seemed to our short-sighted
judgment more just, if it did interpret events.
Ø From human conduct. The bad policy of a king brings war and its
attendant miseries on a whole nation. The crime of a father bequeaths
poverty, shame, and misery to his whole family.
Ø From natural calamities. An earthquake will shake down a church upon
the heads of the most devout worshippers, with as terrible a slaughter as
that which follows the overthrow of some theatre of sinful revelry.
COMMON FATE. There is a certain solidarity of man. We are members
one of another, so that if one member suffers, all the members suffer. This
is one penalty we pay for the union with our fellow men which on the
whole is immensely helpful. Without such a union there would be no
society, no organic connection between individuals. The rich, full life that
grows out of the mutual ministries of man would then be impossible.
RIGHTEOUS SHARE THE FATE OF THE WICKED. The wicked
could well be spared, and it might seem to be a good thing for the world
that their places should be vacant; but every good man has his good work
which suffers when he is taken away. The guilt of those who bring disaster
on the innocent is all the greater on this account. No worse thing can
happen to a people than that its saving elements should be taken away.
They are the salt of the land.
NOT ULTIMATELY INJURED. The injustice is temporary.
Ø The outward suffering is an inward blessing. The physical nature
of the suffering may be the same in both cases; but its moral character
differs entirely according as it is deserved or not. When it falls on
innocent men it is not punishment; there is no curse in it; it comes as
the fire that purges the silver.
Ø The temporary suffering will be followed by eternal blessedness. We
may say of the righteous and the sinful who were victims of a common
calamity, “In their death they were not divided” (II Samuel 1:23).
But after death there is a swift and searching separation. Then it is seen
that the righteous were taken from the evil to come. (Isaiah 57:1)
BE A MEANS OF SAVING BOTH. It was so in the Captivity. Good men
like Daniel and “The Three Children” were taken to
the corrupt courtiers of
ancient Hebrew piety, so as to prepare for a renewed people’s restoration.
Christ died the sinner’s death that He might save the sinner, after
He Himself had been raised up from the dead in victory over sin.
What we know not now we shall know hereafter. The anomalies of the present state
of being are such as to suggest that this is only a probationary state, that we do not
now and here see the unfolding of the complete purposes of the Lord and Judge of all.
The Scriptures reveal a state in which retribution and compensation shall be complete,
as we know they are not here. The righteous and the wicked shall not always be
confused in one common category, and consigned to one common doom.
The discrimination which is not exercised now shall be exercised hereafter.
Prosperous sinners shall not forever elude the righteous judgment of God.
The suffering and patience of the virtuous and pious shall one day be
rewarded, not only by the approbation of the Judge, but by an everlasting
recompense. (“Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to
judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works
of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be
hid.” - I Timothy 5:24-25)
6 “Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and
with bitterness sigh before their eyes.
7 And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou?
that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and
every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every
spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it
cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord GOD.”
Sigh therefore, etc. As in other instances (ch.4:4; 5:1-4), the prophet
dramatizes the coming calamity. He is to act the part of a
mourner, whose sighs are so deep that they seem to “break his loins”
(compare, for the gesture, Nahum 2:1, 10 Isaiah 21:3; Jeremiah 30:6).
The strange action was meant to lead to questions. What did it
mean? And then he is to answer that he does it “for the tidings” which are
to him as certain as if they had already come. He is but doing what all
would do, when the messenger brought word, as in ch.33:21, five
years later, that the city was at last smitten.
Divine admonitions, through men, must be delivered with deep emotion!
“Sigh therefore, son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness
sigh before their eyes.” If it be possible, on our part, to impress our fellow, men
with the reality and severity of God’s judgments, we must do our utmost to
arouse earnest repentance, or we incur grave responsibility. God has constituted
human nature so that strong emotion in the preacher, seemingly manifested,
awakens strong emotion in the hearers. Men everywhere are susceptible of
influence from a superior or a holier man. Nothing God allows us to omit
which may serve to lead our fellows to repentance. We must make it clear
that the events of coming retribution adequately impress our own minds;
then, and then only, shall we arouse attention, promote inquiry, and lead to
reflection, self-examination, and return to God.
8 “Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9 Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD; Say, A
sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished:” A sword, a sword, etc.
The new section (vs. 9-17) rises out of the thought of the unsheathed sword
in v. 3. More than most other portions of Ezekiel’s writings, it assumes a
distinctly lyrical character, and might be headed, “The Lay of the Sword of
Jehovah.” The opening words are probably an echo of Deuteronomy 32:41.
The dazzling brightness of the sword is added to its sharpness as a fresh
element of terror.
The sword is the weapon of Divine retribution upon the nations. Whilst it is
unquestionable that wars and fightings come from human lusts, it is to the
religious man, to the student of Scripture, equally plain that a Divine Providence
overrules all the conflicts of the nations to accomplish wise purposes, and even
purposes of. benevolence. The Assyrian power directed its forces against the
which those passions were suggested. But
powers which the God of Israel employed to bring about the ends fixed upon by
His own wisdom and faithfulness. As an instrument by which punishment was
inflicted upon the idolatrous and rebellious, the sword was not only the sword
of Nebuchadnezzar, but the sword of the Lord of hosts.
The Sword of War (v. 9)
hoarded judgment bursts over the head of the guilty nation of
in the form of war. Those people who speak lightly of war as being “good
for trade,” as “opening careers for men,” and as “developing manly
virtues,” etc., would do well to consider that the fearful monster is
regarded in the Bible as the worst of plagues. David was a man of war and
he knew what its horrors meant. It was with no nervous fear like that of
King James who shuddered at the sight of a sword, with no sentimental
tremors of an effeminate nature, that the old warrior David chose the
horrors of a pestilence in preference to those of war. (II Samuel 24).
Note some of its evils.
Ø Destructiveness. It must be a fallacy to regard it as “good for trade.”
Whatever temporary and artificial stimulus commerce may receive
during the actual campaign is paid for ten times over by the subsequent
- CY – 2014). The soldiers are withdrawn from productive work;
ordinary commerce is stopped; and a vast amount of property is directly
Ø Suffering. Every one who has witnessed the scenes of a battlefield turns
from the recollection of them with loathing and horror. War is not a
pageant of drums and trumpets and flying banners; it is a huge Inferno
of groans and agonizing deaths. Thousands lie wounded on the field,
some trampled on by charging steeds, some anguished for want of the
drop of water which cannot be reached, sick with the blazing heat of
the sun or chilled to the marrow in snow and frost. Thousands are cut
off in the flower of their youth, sent prematurely to the grave before
their real life work is begun. And every death means a household of
bitter mourning in the old home.
Ø Wickedness. War lets loose the lowest passions. Hatred and
bloodthirsty vengeance are engendered, and men are brought down
to the level of wild beasts. Too often savage lust follows, and the
vilest outrages are committed.
Ø Sharpened by sin. National misconduct lays a people open to the
ravages of war. The curse may be earned immediately by insolent and
unrighteous dealings with other nations; or it may be brought less
directly and not as we could anticipate. Yet the awful fact remains —
NATIONAL SIN necessitates NATIONAL JUDGMENT, and the
most awful and yet the most common national judgment is war.
Ø Directed by God. This was the case with the wars of judgment that
it. For the providence of God cannot be excluded, even from so
lawless and monstrous a thing as war.
o This adds to its terror. It is fearful to know that God wills
us to suffer from so dire a calamity. Then there can be no
o This suggests hope of final rescue. Wherever God is, LOVE IS!
The God of battles is the God of Bethlehem. He who sends the
war to scourge also sends the gospel to save.
10 “It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may
glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my
son, as every tree.
11 And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this
sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of
the slayer.” The rod (scepter) of my son, etc. The clause is obscure, possibly
corrupt, and has received many interpretations.
Keil and Kliefoth: Shall we rejoice (saying), The sceptre of my son
despiseth all woods. Here the “rod” is the “sceptre”
of the tribe of
(Genesis 49:10), and the words are supposed to be spoken by those
who hear of the destroying sword. They need not dread the sword, they
say, because the sceptre of the house of David, whom Jehovah recognizes
as His son, despises all wood, looks on every other rod that is the symbol of
sovereignty, with scorn. It is urged, in favor of this interpretation, that
v. 27 contains an unmistakable reference to the prophetic words of
sword of Jehovah is no weak weapon such as might be used for the
chastisement of a child (Proverbs 10:13; 13:24).
tree? There is no cause for anything but the reverse of joy in the rod, the
punishment which God appoints for
all others in its severity.
“sword” the nominative, and the words are those of Jehovah:
It contemneth the rod (i.e. the sceptre) of my son, as it contemns every
other tree (i.e. as in v. 10), every other national sovereignty.
is the rod of my son (appointed for his chastisement), and it despiseth
every tree, in same sense as in the previous comment.
sword) is for men who murder and plunder, and regard not any strength.
Neither the Septuagint nor the Vulgate help us, the former giving,
“Slay, set at naught, reject every tree;” and the latter, “Thou who guidest
the sceptre of my son, thou hast cut down.” On the whole, the first
comment seems to rest on better ground than the others.
12 “Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, it shall
be upon all the princes
shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.”
Terrors by reason of the sword; better, as in the Revised
Version and margin of the Authorized Version, They (the
corresponding to the “rod” of v. 10) are delivered over to the sword with
my people. At this stage, in contemplating the destruction alike of princes
and of people, the prophet is bidden to make his gestures of lamentation
yet more expressive, “crying, howling, smiting on his thigh” (Jeremiah 31:19).
Who were the victims of the sword in this slaughter?
(We have frequently noticed this point; e.g. on ch. 20:46, and v. 3.)
shall be upon all the princes of
advocates of the alliance with
Nebuchadnezzar. They did this in defiance of the word of the Lord by
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and against the judgment of the weak minded King
Zedekiah, when he was in his better moods (See Jeremiah 37, and 38.). By
this course of action they
hastened the destruction of
fitting that, when the sword came, they should not escape its terrible
strokes. And King Zedekiah is probably referred to by the prophet. “It is
the sword of the great one that is deadly wounded, which entereth into
their chambers” (v. 14, Revised Version); or, “that pierces into them”
(Hengstenberg); “that penetrates to them” (Schroder). His sons were slain
before his eyes; then his eyes were put out; then, bound in fetters, he was
surely the glittering sword pierced him. This sharp sword recognized no
distinction of rank or riches, of place or power.
13 “Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it
shall be no more, saith the Lord GOD.” Because it is a trial, etc. The verse has
received as many interpretations, and is just as obscure as v. 10, with which it is
obviously connected. I begin as before with that which seems most probable.
come? The “despising sceptre”
asks, “What will happen, what extreme of misery is to be looked for, if
that kingdom shall not appear, if
will not be. Men will find on trial that the sword of Jehovah is not
a soft rod, but the sharpest of all weapons.
other punishments not be? i.e. shall the sword of Jehovah not do its work
meaning: How should I judge with favor? They have not turned
themselves from their pollution. They shall find no place.
meaning that the “trial” will show that the sword of the Lord contemns the
rod, i.e. the sceptre
then? Shall not they also belong to the despising rod? may have had a
meaning for those who adopted it, but I fail to find it.
margin, and substitutes, For there is a trial, and what if even the rod that
the sceptre of
preceding clause, rendering it respectively, “for it has been justified
(δεδικαίωται – dedikaiotai),” and “because it has been tested (probatus),”
and translate what follows — the Septuagint, “What if even a tribe be
repulsed? It shall not be;” and the Vulgate, “And this when it (the sword!)
has overturned the kingdom, and it shall not be,” etc. This will be a
sufficient summary of the difficulties of the exegetical problem. At the best,
we must say that it remains unsolved.
14 “Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together,
and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the
sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy
chambers.” Smite thine hands together, etc. Another gesture follows,
either of horror and lamentation, or perhaps, looking to v. 17, of
imperative command. The sword is to do its thrice-redoubled work (the
words emphasize generally the intensity, and are scarcely to be taken
numerically, of the repeated invasions of the Chaldeans); it is “the sword of
the slain” (better, pierced ones, or, with Revised Version, the deadly
wounded). The next clause should be taken, with the Revised Version, in
the singular — the sword of the great one that is deadly wounded; sc. the
sword should smite the king as well as the people. For entereth into their
privy chambers, read, with the Revised Version (margin), Ewald, and
Keil, it compasseth them about.
Here is an example of Divine and human cooperation. This sword, which was
sharpened to destroy, was no less God’s sword, though it was wielded by
the captains of
their part to take, with God, in the execution of His just fury. The prophet is
directed “to smite his hands together” — a matter of fact prophecy of the
coming event — the sign to summon the great army. And (in v. 17) God
describes Himself as about to do the same act: “I will also smite mine hands
together.” Men are often called to act in God’s stead — as God’s delegates.
15 I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their
heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: ah! it is made bright,
it is wrapped up for the slaughter.” For their ruins shall be multiplied,
read, with the Revised Version, that their stumblings; and for wrapped up,
pointed, or sharpened.
16 “Go thee one way or other, either on the right hand, or on the left,
whithersoever thy face is set. 17 I will also smite mine hands together, and
I will cause my fury to rest: I the LORD have said it.”Go thee one way or
another, etc.; i.e. as in the following, to the right hand or the left — to the north
or the south. Whichever way the prophet turned (ch.20:47), he would see nothing
but the sword and its work of slaughter. Jehovah had given that command with
the gesture of supreme authority. He would not rest till He had appeased His
wrath by letting it work itself out even to the end. With these words the
“Lay of the Sword of Jehovah” ends, and there is again an interval of silence.
This terrible judgment was the expression of the righteous anger of the Lord God,
because of the persistent and aggravated sins of the people. And when it was thus
expressed, it rested. It was satisfied with the vindication of the holy Law, which
had been so basely set at naught.
The Satisfaction of God’s Fury (v. 17)
This is a most awful subject. Gladly would we leave it alone. Oh for a fresh
sight of God’s eternal love, instead of this horror of great darkness, this
vision of wrath and judgment unrestrained and fully satisfied! Yet the
fearful words are before us and they invite our earnest regard.
against sinners that these dreadful words are written. The righteous may
share the temporal calamities that smite the wicked (v. 4), but they incur
none of the wrath of God that lies behind those calamities. Nevertheless,
as we are all sinners, there is little comfort in this thought. Consider how
greatly SIN PROVOKES WRATH!
Ø It is committed in full daylight. The Jews possessed the land. We
know Christ. We cannot plead ignorance. Even the heathen have
accusing consciences. (“…their conscience also bearing
witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else
excusing one another.” - Romans 2:15)
Ø It is committed against love. We sin against our Father, to whom we
owe everything, and who has been infinitely gracious to us.
It is committed in spite of warnings.
minatory prophets from Elijah to Ezekiel. We have the warnings of
Ø It is committed without necessity. There is a better way and a happier.
Nothing but the most willful perversity can make us choose the evil path.
A saving hand has been held out to protect us. When we sin we reject
Ø It is committed after God’s long suffering has been tried. He has long
refrained from punishing. Yet men have made His long suffering an
excuse for greater sin. Thus they have “treasured up wrath for THE
DAY OF WRATH!” (Romans 2:5)
Ø It cannot be opposed by men’s powers. The sinner has to contend with
the Almighty and the All-wise. The stoutest must fall in such a contest,
and the most cunning must fail in the foolish attempt to outwit God.
Ø It cannot be opposed by any excuses. Unhappily, there is no doubt as to
the guilt of the sinner. He had opportunities of return, and he rejected
them. Conscience must paralyze resistance.
Ø It cannot be opposed by God’s love. There is no schism in the nature of
God. Love itself must approve of wrath directed against hardened
Ø It will not fail. Nothing that God attempts can fail. This we may infer as
a conclusion from the observations under the previous head.
Ø It will not endure forever. When it has accomplished its work it will rest.
It may be that some of the results of it will endure forever. The slain man
will not arise again on earth, but he is not being killed continuously. The
ruined city may never be rebuilt, and yet the earthquake that overthrew
temples and palaces has long subsided, and all is now still and calm.
Ø It will be satisfied when it has accomplished its end. God’s fury is not
like His love. It does not spring unprovoked from His own heart. It is
roused by sin, and when it has punished sin, it is satisfied. But this is
the most awful satisfaction of it. There is another satisfaction, viz.:
Ø It will be satisfied when it is propitiated. This is not stated in the verse
before us. But it is the burden of the gospel. CHRIST, OUR
ADVOCATE, propitiates the wrath of God (I John 2:1-2). Then if we
have confessed our sin, and sought the saving help of Christ, we need
fear the wrath of God no longer. IT IS SATISFIED!
18 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
19 Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of
the king of
one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way
to the city. 20 Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the
Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways,
to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images,
he looked in the liver.” The new section opens in a different strain. Ezekiel sees,
as in vision, Nebuchadnezzar and his army on their march. He is told to
appoint (better, make, or mark, as on a brick or tile, as in ch. 4:1)
a place where the road bifurcated. Both come from one land, i.e. from
of the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 3:11; II Samuel 11:1), the other to
themselves that the former was the object of the expedition. The answer to
that false hope is a vivid picture of what was passing in the council of war
which Nebuchadnezzar was holding at that parting of the ways. The
prophet sees, as it were, the sign post pointing, as with a hand, to each of
the two cities The king consults his soothsayers, and uses divinations. Of
these Ezekiel enumerates three:
among the Greeks as the βέλομαντεια – belomanteia. The arrows
were put into a quiver, with names (in this case probably Rabbath and
chance, and decided the direction of the campaign.
this case is not known, but Judges 18:18 and Hosea 3:4 point to
some such use of them.
in Greek, Etrurian, and Roman divination (Cicero, ‘De Divin.,’ 6:13).
22 “At his right hand was the divination for
captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice
with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a
mount, and to build a fort.” At his right hand was, etc.; better, into his
right hand came, etc.; sc. the arrow marked for
came into the king’s hand as the quiver was shaken. To appoint captains;
better, battering rams, in both clauses. The same Hebrew word is used in
both (see note on ch.4:2). The verse paints the engineering operations
of the besiegers, following on the issue of the divination. (For the mount,
compare Isaiah 37:33.)
23 “And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that
have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they
may be taken.” The whole verse is obscure, and has been very variously
interpreted. I follow the translation of the Revised Version, and explain it
by inserting words which are needed to bring out its meaning: It (what
Nebuchadnezzar has done) shall be as a vain divination in their sight (sc.
that of the men of
taken oaths of fealty to the Chaldeans, and are ready to take them again),
but he (Nebuchadnezzar) brings iniquity to remembrance. The fact
represented is that when the people of
the parting of the ways, they still lulled themselves in a false security. They
and Zedekiah had sworn obedience, and that oath would protect them.
“Not so,” rejoins the prophet; “the Chaldean king knows how those oaths
have been kept.” The Septuagint omits all reference to “oaths.” The Vulgate.
taking the word for “oath” in its ether sense of “sabbath,” gives the curious
rendering, Eritque quasi consulens frustra oraculum in eorum oculis, et
sabbatorum otium imitans. In spite of the reports that reached them, the
keeping a sabbath day. Ewald partly follows the Vulgate, and renders, They
believe they have weeks on weeks, i.e. will not believe that the danger is
close at hand. Keil and Havernick: Oaths of oaths are theirs; i.e. they
count on the oath of Jehovah, on His promises of protection, but He
(Jehovah) brings iniquity to remembrance. That they may be taken; i.e.
be seized by the invader and either slain or made prisoners
24 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your
iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are
discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because,
I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the
hand.” The prophet adds words which in part explain these that
precede. The iniquity of the people has forced, not the Chaldean king only,
but Jehovah himself, to remember and to punish them.
Transgressions Discovered (v. 24)
THEY ARE COMMITTED. He is present when the deeds are done; His
eyes are always open to observe the conduct of His creatures; He is not
negligent of sin. We start, therefore, with the position that THERE IS NO
SUCH THING AS SECRET SIN! The appearance of secrecy arises from
the fact that the great Witness withholds His evidence for the present. Such
a position leads to the inevitable conclusion that some day the most hidden
evil may be made manifest. God holds the key, and He will unlock the door
whenever He sees fit. (“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be
revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever
ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which
ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the
housetops” - Luke 12:2-3)
UNIVERSE IN THE FUTURE JUDGMENT. This must be what the
judgment really means. We have been accustomed to the picture of a vast
assize, as though God needed to go through the forms of a criminal trial
with souls, every secret of whom has been perfectly known to Him from the
first. Such a trial would be an empty form, a mere theatrical display. But
God will make the justice of His action apparent to all, and in doing so the
secrets of all hearts will be revealed.
EARTH. It is scarcely possible for a man to play the hypocrite successfully
until his secret is sealed in death. At some moment of inadvertency he is
almost certain to lift the mask, and then the discovery of his deceit, once
made, will destroy forever the reputation of years. Sin will work its fruits in
the bad man’s life. Though never confessed in words, it is expressed in tone
and temper. The very features of the countenance set themselves to the
character of the life within. Moreover, sudden surprises and unexpected
turns of events will reveal a man to the world. The long buried secret
comes to light. Achan’s Babylonish garment is brought to light (Joshua
7:18-20). Ananias and Sapphira cannot conceal their lie (Acts 5:9).
Eugene Aram cannot hide the corpse of his victim. Dimsdale is driven to
reveal the scarlet letter that burns in fire on his breast.
the expressive Hebrew phrase, they are then said to be “covered.” The only
way to have our transgression thus buried out of sight is for us FIRST TO
CONFESS IT TO GOD! Thus we need to pray that He will search us and
try us, and see if there be any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24). Until our
sins are brought home to our consciences, there is no hope that they will be
permanently hidden. If we forget them, God will remember them. For God
to forget them we must first remember them. When transgressions are thus
owned to God, we are in the condition to receive HIS PARDON after which
we may take the assurance, “Your sins and iniquities will I remember no
more” (Isaiah 43:25; Romans 11:27; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). The sins are then
banished “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). They are
“buried in the depth of the sea” (Micah 7:19). God does not goad His
restored children with their old sins.
25 “And thou, profane wicked prince of
shall have an end,” And thou, profane wicked prince of Judah, etc.; better,
with the Revised Version, O deadly wounded, etc., as in v. 29, where the
same word is translated in the Authorized Version as “slain” The
Authorized Version follows the Septuagitn and Vulgate, apparently in order to
make the word fit in with the fact that Zedekiah was not slain, but carried
into exile. The word “deadly wounded,” or “sorely smitten,” may rightly be
applied to one who fell, as Zedekiah did, from his high estate. From the
sins of the people the prophet turns to the special guilt of Zedekiah, who
had proved unfaithful alike to Jehovah and to the Chaldean king, whom he
had owned as his suzerain. His day had at last come, the time of the
iniquity of the end of the last transgression which was to bring down on
him the final punishment.
26 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the
crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase
him that is high.” Remove the diadem, etc. The noun is used throughout the
Pentateuch (e.g. Exodus 28:4; 37:39; Leviticus 8:9; 16:4) for the
“turban” or “mitre” of the high priest, and Keil so takes it here, as pointing
to the punishment of the priest as well as of the king. This shall not be the
same; literally, this shall not be this; or, as the Revised Version
paraphrases, this shall be no more the same; i.e. the mitre and the crown
shall alike pass away — taken from their unworthy wearers. There was to
be, as in the following words, a great upturning of all things; the high
brought low, the lowly exalted.
Persistence in sin leads to the punishment of their sins. “Because that ye
are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand. And thou, O
deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of
people were to “be taken with the hand” (v. 24). God would deliver them
into the hand of the Chaldeans, who would inflict upon them the dreadful
judgments already predicted by the prophet:
The glory of the priesthood would be taken away; for the Lord
God would “remove the diadem,” or “mitre.” The king would be carried
into a miserable captivity, after enduring the most terrible sufferings (II Kings
25:4-7), and the kingdom would be destroyed; for God would “take
off the crown.” Their most valued institutions would be overthrown. The
then existing state of things would be destroyed. “This shall be no more the
same: exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high.” All would be
brought to ONE MELANCHOLY CONDITION OF MISERY!
NATIONAL RUIN was to be THE PENALTY OF NATIONAL SIN!
Persistence in sin must ever lead to ITS JUST PUNISHMENT!
27 “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until
He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.” I will overthrow.
The sentence of destruction is emphasized, after the Hebrew manner, by a
threefold iteration (Isaiah 6:3; Jeremiah 22:29). It shall be no more. The pronoun
in both clauses probably refers to the established order of the kingdom and the
priesthood. “That order,” Ezekiel says, “shall be no more.” Keil, however, takes
the second “it” — the “this” of the Revised Version — as meaning the fact of
the overthrow. That also was not final; all things were as in a state of flux
till THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM hinted at in the next clause should
RESTORE THE TRUE ORDER. Until He come whose right it is. The
words contain a singularly suggestive allusion to Genesis 49:10, where a probable
interpretation of the word “
noticeable as being Ezekiel’s first distinct utterance of the hope of a personal
Messiah. Afterwards, in ch.34:23-24, it is definite enough.
“This also shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.”
Until our Lord shall reign over the whole world, these revolutions will occur with
Greater or less frequency. But when He, the rightful Sovereign, shall take
possession of the kingdoms of this world, THESE OVER-TURNINGS WILL
FOR EVER CEASE! The reign of the Christ precludes revolution. The character
of His reign shows this. Under it the sacredness of human life will be practically
recognized, and thus war will be precluded. Under His reign the universal
brotherhood of man will also be practically recognized; and thus the cruel
oppressions and base wrongs of man by man, which have often led to
terrible revolutions, will be precluded. The reign of the “strong Son of
God” is the sovereignty of His Spirit and principles in the hearts and lives of
men; and these are entirely opposed to the crimes and ills which generate
revolutions. His perpetual and universal sovereignty is founded upon His
mercifulness and kindness, His justice and love (Psalm 72:11-17).
Such a sovereignty is incompatible with revolution. Under it men will have
neither cause nor occasion for anything of the kind. Animated and
governed by His Spirit and principles, they will advance calmly and
regularly towards perfection.
International exhibitions, commercial interests, peace treaties,
political economics, can never bring about the abolition of revolution,
because they are not able to curb and conquer the strong and stormy
passions of evil men. The gospel of the Lord Jesus is the only power that
can abolish revolution, and bring in a state of peaceful and blessed
progress. When it is heartily accepted it becomes a power in the heart,
making man true and righteous, pure and loving, and so promotes peace on
earth and good will toward men. Be encouraged, then, in your efforts to
promote it. “Men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed”
(Psalm 72:17); “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom
from generation to generation.” (Ibid. ch. 145:13; Daniel 7:14)
We learn that the Omnipotent Ruler is not indifferent to what
happens among the nations, that He works in and through the ordinary laws
of human action, and may sometimes work by extraordinary and exceptional
means. Certain it is that His ways are not as men’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). The
great are often overthrown, and the feeble exalted, by the operation of His
wise and merciful providence. God confounds all human policy and defeats
all human expectations, exalts the low, and at the same time abases the
high. The mitre and the crown are taken from the forehead of the powerful,
and are placed upon the lowliest, brows.
There is a grandeur in this language which seems almost to
compel its reference to greater events than those which happened in
then have often felt how utterly vain it is to expect that kingdom to yield to
any human attack. Ignorance and error, vice and crime, superstition and
infidelity, have through millenniums of human history acquired over
humanity a power which seems irresistible and invincible. But there is One
“WHOSE RIGHT IT IS” to reign, and He, the Son of God, has come in the
flesh, and has come in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. In His favor, and in
order to secure His universal conquest, His everlasting dominion, the Most
High is overturning, ever overturning. He is the High Priest, the rightful
King, of the humanity whose nature He assumed, and for whose salvation
He died. The mitre and the crown are His of right, and TO HIM THEY
SHALL BE GIVEN! Every usurper shall be defeated and disgraced;
and Christ, whose right it is to reign, shall receive the kingdom, and His
dominion shall have no end. (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 2:44; Luke 1:32-33)
Revolution and Restoration (v. 27)
acts in the successive invasions of Nebuchadnezzar. The ruin is utter. No
city has sustained so many sieges as
and destroyed. Now, we are reminded that these terrible disasters are
elements in a Divine judgment and discipline. It is God who overturns.
There is, therefore, a providential purpose in the event.
Ø Revolution must precede restoration. The Divine education of
Mankind is not a continuous, unbroken development. The earthquake
has its mission as truly as the April shower. Evil must be overthrown
before good can be built up. This may mean a violent process. We are
too mild in some of our methods of treating sin. Undoubtedly,
God has not committed His sword of judgment to us, but He
expects His servants to testify against sin, and so to
pull down the strong walls of Satan. Aggressive work is absolutely
necessary. While we preach the gospel of peace, we have also to
fight against intemperance, commercial corruption, and all evil
customs and institutions.
Ø This revolution must be universal. There is a sweeping
comprehensiveness in our text. Political revolutions, indeed, may not
be called for, for now we have to engage in spiritual work. But there
must be revolution in every region of life.
o In the heart. Old prejudices and habits must be thrown down —
every mountain made low.
o In the Church. Christ cleansed the temple. The Reformation
was a great overturning. Much in the Church now needs to be
§ worldly practices,
§ human inventions,
§ false ideas,
§ Christless journalism, etc.
o In society. The apostles were regarded as firebrand revolutionists,
who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Social injustice
must be overturned, not, perhaps by Republicans or Democrats
but by Christian brotherhood. We must not suppose that God
will let the monstrous evils of Christendom go on forever. He will
overturn much before we can see the millennium. The new
wine cannot be contained in the old bottles. (Mark 2:22)
Ø The revolution prepares for a restoration. Mere destruction perfects
nothing. It is necessary only as preliminary to something constructive.
Blank nihilism is the most barren philosophy. The “everlasting no” is
not a gospel for hungry humanity. After the revolution there must be
a new order, and after repentance there must be a new life.
Ø The restoration can only be accomplished by CHRIST! Until Christ
came the Jews were never truly restored, though they had returned
to their land. IN CHRIST
(Luke 2:29-30), though, alas! most of the nation rejected it, and left it
to others. (“Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God
is sent unto the Gentiles, AND THEY WILL HEAR IT!” (Acts 28:28).
It is easy to demolish an ancient effete system. The difficulties begin
with building up a new and better one. We cannot establish a new social
order, nor can we even stir up a better life in our own breasts. The weary
world waits for THE FULL COMING OF CHRIST TO RESTORE
its overturned PEACE and ORDER.
Ø This restoration will be fully satisfactory.
o Christ has a right to enjoy the headship over it: “Whose right
it is.” He is not only the Son of David, and Heir to the old
throne; He is THE SON OF GOD, vested with Divine rights.
o Christ receives His kingdom from His Father (Philippians 2:9-11):
“I will give it Him.”
o This restoration will not be a return to the old position. If it
were so, the whole process would be a profitless cycle. But
Christ’s kingdom of heaven is infinitely better than David’s
28 “And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD
concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; even
say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it is
furbished, to consume because of the glittering:”
Thus saith the Lord God concerning the Ammonites.
Ezekiel has not forgotten that scene at the parting of the ways. The
Ammonites, when they saw the issue of the divination, and the march of
the Chaldean army to the west, thought themselves safe. They took up their
another strophe of the “Lay of the Sword of Jehovah,” that their confidence
is vain (compare Zephaniah 2:8 for a like exultation at an earlier period).
29 “Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee,
to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked,
whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an end.”
Whiles they see, etc. The words may possibly refer to
Nebuchadnezzar’s diviners in v. 21, but more probably to those whom
the Ammonites themselves consulted. The pronoun “thee” in both clauses
refers to Ammon. The result of those who divined falsely was that the
sword would be drawn against the necks of the Ammonites and threw them
upon the heap of the slaughtered ones. For them, as in the words that end
the verse, reproducing those of v. 25, punishment is decreed, and that
punishment will come.
30 “Shall I cause it to return into his sheath? I will judge thee in the place
where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity.” The question of the
Authorized Version suggests a negative answer, as though the speaker were
Jehovah, and the sheath that of His sword. The Revised Version, which translates
it, with Keil, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate, as an imperative, deals with it as
addressed to the Ammonites. They are told to sheath their sword; it would
be of no avail against the sharp, glittering weapon of Jehovah. Their
judgment would soon come on them in their own land, not, as in the case
the prophet’s thought).
31 “And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against
thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of
brutish men, and skilful to destroy.” I will blow against, etc. The imagery of
fire takes the place of that of the sword. The brutish men (same word as in
Psalm 49:10; 92:6) are the Chaldean conquerors. The fact that the adjective may
Also mean “those that burn” may, in part, have determined Ezekiel’s choice of it.
32 “Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of
the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I the LORD have
spoken it.” For Ammon there is no hope of a restoration like that which
Ezekiel speaks of as possible for
remembered (compare ch. 25:7).
The Impartiality of Divine Justice (vs. 18-32)
Very picturesque and memorable is this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecies.
The prophet in his vision beholds the King of Babylon on his way to
execute the purposes of God upon the rebellious and treacherous prince of
expedition, standing on the northeast of
first instance to direct his arms against Rabbath, the capitol of the
the way,” and calls to his aid, to help him to a decision, not only the
counsel of the politician and the commander, but that also of the diviner.
The bright arrows, on which the names of the two cities are inscribed, are
drawn as in a lottery, the images are consulted, the liver is inspected by the
augur. The prophet sees the resolve taken to proceed against
yet at the same time, he predicts that the children of Ammon shall not
escape the edge of the glittering sword of retribution and vengeance.
RETRIBUTION, OFTEN THEMSELVES UNCONSCIOUS OF THE
PURPOSES FOR WHICH THEY ARE EMPLOYED. The King of
Judah and Ammon. Unawares to himself, he, in his military operations, was
carrying out the predictions of God’s prophets, and the decree of God
Himself. Infinite wisdom is never at a loss for means by which to bring to
pass its own counsels and resolves.
UNFAITHFUL TO THEIR PRIVILEGES AS WELL AS THOSE
WHOSE PRIVILEGES HAVE NOT BEEN EXCEPTIONAL. Although
the descendants of Abraham were selected from among the nations for a
special purpose connected with God’s plans for the moral government of
the world, they were not thereby released from their righteous obligations,
or from liability to punishment in case those obligations were repudiated.
defection and rebellion. Rather was the guilt of the nation deemed to be
aggravated by their neglect to use aright the many advantages with which
they were favored. On the other hand, the Ammonites were not secured
against righteous retribution merely because they were less highly
responsible for walking in the light they enjoyed; and if they loved
darkness rather than light, they secured their own condemnation.
BE CORRECTED, AND WHICH SHALL BE DESTROYED. Into the
secret counsels of God it is not given us to enter. Facts are before us; and
we see that, according to this prophecy, Ammon was committed as fuel to
the fire, and was no more remembered; that the very name of the
Ammonites vanished out of human history; and we see that the Jewish
people survived, and were brought forth from the furnace into which they
were cast. We can only apply to these facts our faith in the Divine
righteousness, and hold fast by our conviction that in this, as in all His
dealings with men, the Eternal Ruler has acted upon principles of
REPENTANCE AND NEWNESS OF LIFE. These predictions and their
fulfillment in history have been recorded for our instruction. What we read
in Scripture is fitted to deepen within our nature the conviction that this
world is under the righteous government of God. And we shall be foolish
indeed if we do not infer from this fact the necessity of repentance and of
renewal; if we are not led to welcome the assurance that:
Ø for the penitent there is mercy, and
Ø for the lowly, life!
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