Ezekiel 7



1 “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”

The absence of any fresh date, and the fact that it is simply

tacked on to the previous chapter by the copulative conjunction, shows

that what follows belongs to the same group. The use of the phrase, the

word of the Lord came unto me, shows, however, that there was an

interval of silence, perhaps of meditation, followed by a fresh influx of

inspiration; and, so far as we may judge from the more lyrical character of

the chapter, a more intense emotion.


2 Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of

Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.”

An end, etc. The iteration of the word once more gives

emphasis. The words read like an echo of Amos 8:2. The four corners

(Hebrew, “wings”) were probably, as with us, the north, east, south, and

west. The phrase had been used before in Isaiah 11:12, and the thought

meets us again, in the form of the “four winds,” in Daniel 11:4;

Zechariah 2:6; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27. The “end” in this

case is either that of the siege of Jerusalem, or that of the existence of

Israel as a nation. It was now drawing nigh — was, as we say, within

measurable distance.



The End is Come (v. 2)


  • THE END THAT SURELY COMES. Time is broken into periods; and

every period, long or short, has its certain end. The tale of life is written in

many chapters, each with its own appropriate conclusion; in some cases the

conclusion is violent, abrupt, and startling. We are surprised out of an old

settled course. The mill stops suddenly, and then the silence is alarming.

There are the greater epochs of life, when a whole volume of experience is

closed, and another must be opened, till at length we reach Finis. But

every day has its sunset. Every year runs out to December and dies its

wintry death, in spite of all the festivities of Christmas. Youth is fleeting; its

sweet springtime fast melts, its blossoms fade and fall. Life itself runs out

and reaches an end. As each period goes it vanishes, never to return. Thus

Christina Rossetti writes:


“Come, gone, — gone forever;

Gone as an unreturning river;;

Gone as to death the merriest liver;

Gone as the year at the dying fall,

Tomorrow, today, yesterday, never:

Gone once for all.”


Ø      There is an end to the day of work. The night cometh, wherein no man

can work” (John 9:4). The opportunity will pass. Let us make the most

of our strength and time while we have them.


Ø      There is an end to the freedom of sin. The orgies of mad self-indulgence

will not last forever. They burn themselves out in folly and shame. Then

comes the end, and AFTER THAT THE RECKONING!


Ø      There is an end to the discipline of sorrow. The pain will not last

forever. (“Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the

morning”  (Psalm 30:5).  The doubt and mystery and darkness are

not eternal. The Christian pilgrimage is long and weary, but it is not

an infinite, endless course. The wilderness is wide, and the goal far off.

But the way will end at last in the heavenly city, the home of the soul.


  • THE END THAT SHOULD COME. There are some things which we

should do well to end, yet still they are with us.


Ø      An end should come to our life of sin. The old sin has been our

companion for years, a bad companion, corrupt and corrupting. It is

time we and it parted. It is time we turned over a new leaf and began

a better way. The old self has lived too long. Let it die and be buried.


Ø      An end should come to our indecision. How long halt ye between two

opinions?”  (I 18:21)  This hesitation has lasted too long. “Choose you

this day whom ye will serve.”  (Joshua 24:15)


Ø      An end should come to the gloom of doubt, the coldness of half-

hearted service, the lethargy and paralysis of an unspiritual religion.

“The night is far spent; the day is at hand;”  (Romans 13:12) 

“Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and

Christ shall give thee light!”  (Ephesians 5:14)


  • THE END THAT MAY COME. We contemplate possible endings

which we would fain avert, but which seem to be approaching.


Ø      Some of these endings are within our power, and should be kept off.

We should guard against an end to our early faith and zeal. Ephraim’s

goodness, which was like the morning cloud (Hosea 6:4), was soon

 must be said the end has come to their fervent devotion and self-

sacrificing service. Once they were bright lights of the Church, but

they have waned, and are approaching spiritual night.


Ø      Some of these endings are beyond our control. The home circle may be

broken, the dear countenances of the loved may smile upon us no more.

For the old fullness of friendship we may have left only blankness and

vacancy, and a bitter sense of loss. The very freshness of our soul may

be lost too, and then we look back to the old sweet years, and wonder

how we could have taken them so quietly.




Ø      There will never be an end to the righteous Law of God. Right and

truth are eternal. We can never outlive their claims. If we continue

forever in opposition to them, their pains and penalties must be

always ours.


Ø      The love of God will never end. Modes of Divine operations may

change as circumstances alter, and new dispensations may succeed

to old dispensations — new covenants taking the place of old

covenants. But GOD DOES NOT CHANGE! There is no end to

Him. He abideth faithful. In the wreck of the universe THE ROCK

OF AGES REMAINS UNSHAKEN!   Love in His essence, God

never wearies in helping and blessing. There is no end to his

grace. “The mercy of the Lord endureth forever.” Whenever the

helpless, penitent prodigal returns, he will find his Father waiting to

welcome him.


Ø      The eternal life can have NO END!  The body dies. Happily there

will be an end to that. But the LIFE IN GOD ABIDES FOR

EVER!   In that life many things thought to be ended here on earth

will be recovered and will revive. Thus our past experience is not

utterly lost. It lives in memory and in what it has made us. A German

poet writes:


“Yesterday I loved;

Today I suffer;

Tomorrow I die.

But I shall gladly,

Today and tomorrow

Think on yesterday.”


3 “Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon

thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will

recompense upon thee all thine abominations.”

 Now is the end upon thee, etc. We note the repetition of this

and v. 4 in vs. 8-9, as a kind of refrain in the lamentation. Stress is laid,

and for the time laid exclusively, on the unpitying character of the Divine

judgments. And this is followed as before, in ch. 6:14, by “Ye shall

know that I am the Lord.” Fear must teach men the lesson which love

had failed to teach.


4 “And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I

will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall

be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”

Thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee, etc. These

are, of course, primarily the idolatries of Israel. The people are to reap

what they have sown. Their sins should be recognized in their punishment.


5 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come.”

An evil, an only evil, etc. The words imply that the evil would

be unique in character, attracting men’s notice, not needing repetition.

Cornill, however, following Luther, gives “evil after evil,” changing one

letter m the Hebrew for “one,” so as to get the word “after.” For is come

read, with the Revised Version, it cometh. It is the nearness, not the actual

arrival, of the end, that is in the prophet’s thoughts. He writes in B.C. 595-

4. Jerusalem was not taken till  B.C. 588.


6 “An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is

come.”  It watcheth for thee; better, with the Revised Version, it

awaketh against thee. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Luther. The Hebrew presents

a paronomasia between the noun and verb — hakketz, hekitz — which

cannot be reproduced in English. The DESTINED DOOM is thought of as

rousing itself to ITS APPOINTED WORK!   The word is cognate with that

rendered awaketh in Psalm 78:65.


7 “The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land:

the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding

again of the mountains.”  The morning is come unto thee, etc. In the only

other passage in which the Hebrew noun occurs (Isaiah 28:5), it is translated

“diadem,” the meaning being strictly a circular ornament. Here the Septuagint

gives πλοκὴ - plokae-  something twirled, out of which may come the meaning of

the changes of fortune. Possibly, as in the familiar “wheel of fortune,” that

thought was involved in the circular form by itself. In the Tahmud it appears

as the name of the goddess of fate at Ascalon (Furst). On the whole, I

follow the Revised Version, Keil, and Ewald, in giving “thy doom.” The

“morning” of the Authorized Version probably rises from the thought that

the dawn is, as it were, the glory and diadem of the day. The Vulgate gives

contritio. The day of trouble; better, with the Revised Version, of tumult.

The word is specially used of the noise of war (Isaiah 22:5; Amos 3:9;

Zechariah 14:3). Not the sounding again upon the mountains.

The first noun is not found in the Old Testament, but a closely allied form

appears in Isaiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:30; 48:33, for the song of the

vintage. Not that, the prophet says, shall be heard on the mountains, but in

its place the cry of battle and the noise of war. The Septuagint “not with

travail-pangs,” and the Vulgate non gloriae montium, show that the word

was in both cases a puzzle to the translators.


8 “Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish

mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways,

and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.

9 And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will

recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations

that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD

that smiteth.”  The verses repeat, like the burden of a lyric ode, but end

more emphatically, ye shall know that I am Jehovah that smiteth.


10 “Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the

rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.”  It is come. Read, as before,

it cometh; and for morning, doom (see note on v. 7). The rod hath blossomed, etc.

The three verbs imply a climax. The “doom” springs out of the earth; the rod

of vengeance blossoms (the word is the same as that which describes the blooming

of Aaron’s rod (Numbers 17:8), and the phrase was probably suggested

by the history); pride (either that of the Chaldean ministers of vengeance,

or of Israel as working out its own punishment; I incline to the latter) buds

and bears fruit. In Isaiah 27:6 the word follows on “blossom,” and

therefore seems applicable to the formation of the fruit rather than the

flower. (For the image of the rod, compare Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 10:26;

Micah 6:9.)



The Day is Come (v. 10)


This chapter opened with a prophecy of “an end.” It now proceeds to the

annunciation of a new beginning. No end is absolutely final. In the night

which sees the death of one day a new day is born.


  • THE FUTURE BECOMES PRESENT. The much anticipated day at

length arrives. We are thus forever overtaking the future. However far the

future event may be, it will surely be reached, if time is the only

impediment to be got over. The day of death may be far ahead, but most

assuredly it will come. The dreaded day will come only too swiftly. The

hoped for day will also dawn, though we become weary in waiting for it.

God’s great day of doom will arrive, though the sinner mock at its tarrying.

Christ’s glorious day of triumph will also appear, though the Church grow

faint and wonders at its slow approach.



No prediction can exactly describe the coming day, for no words can paint

the thing that has not been. We vainly try to anticipate the future, and we

blunder into the greatest mistakes. We cannot know what sorrow is till the

day of sorrow breaks, nor can we understand the joy of the Lord till a glad

day of heavenly love smiles upon us. We shall not know death till we are in

the day of death. When the new day of the life beyond dawns we shall

know its meaning as we can never guess now.



days are exactly alike. Ezekiel was announcing a day of doom. The awful

thunders of that day are to roll over the heads of guilty and impenitent men

with a surprise and a horror NEVER ANTICIPATED IN EASIER TIMES!

Thus it was in the doom of Israel under the Babylonian invasion. But there

are brighter days to anticipate. There is the day of light after the night of doubt;

the day of joy’s sunshine succeeding the night of sorrow’s weeping; the day of

penitent new beginnings after the night of sin; the day of busy service after

the night of rest and waiting. Carlyle writes:


“Lo! here hath been dawning

Another blue day:

Think, wilt thou let it

Slip useless away?

“Out of eternity

This new day is born;

Into eternity

At night will return.

“Behold it aforetime

No eye ever did;

So soon it forever

From all eyes is hid.”



OUR CONDUCT IN THE OLD DAYS. The day of doom is not the day

of fate. It is a day of judgment, i.e. of examination, discrimination, and

consequent decision. Therefore it is determined by the character of the old

days it judges. The new day may come to us as a surprise, but it will not

fall out by chance as one of storm or one of sunshine. When it arrives we

shall see that, in its deepest character, it bears the record of our



11 “Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall

remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of their’s: neither shall

there be wailing for them.”  Violence is risen up, etc. The “violence”

admits of the same twofold interpretation as the “pride” of v. 10.

None of them shall remain. The interpolated verb, though grammatically

necessary, weakens the force of the Hebrew. “None of them; none of their

multitude; none of their wealth.” Neither shall there be wailing for them.

The noun is not found elsewhere. Taken, as the Authorized Version takes it,

the thought, like that of ch. 24:16 and Jeremiah 16:4, is that the usual rites

of burial would be neglected, and that there would be “no widows to make

lamentation” (Psalm 78:64). The Revised Version “eminency” implies

the loss of all that constituted greatness. Cornill and the Septuagint (“beauty” or

“gaiety”) practically agree with this. The Vulgate gives requies, and Furst

“a gathering, or tumult of the people.” Probably the text is corrupt.


12 “The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice,

nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”

Let not the buyer rejoice, etc. We have to read, between the

lines, the story of Ezekiel’s companions in exile. They belonged, it will be

remembered, to the nobler and wealthier class (II Kings 25:19). They, it

would seem, had been compelled to sell their estates at a price which made

the “buyer rejoice and the seller mourn.” In each case the joy and the

sorrow would be but transient. Wrath had gone out against the whole

multitude. In Micah 2:2 and Isaiah 5:8 we have parallel instances of

the advantage taken by the rich of the distress of the old free holders. In

the story of Jeremiah 32:6-16 we have, though from a very different

point of view, the history of a like purchase, while the city was actually

surrounded by the Chaldeans. The neglect of the sabbatic year

(Jeremiah 34:8-17) makes it probable that the jubilee year also (if,

indeed, it had ever been more than an ideal) had fallen into desuetude, and

that the buyers comforted themselves with the thought that the land they

had got, on cheap terms, would belong to them and their children forever.




Buyer and Seller (v. 12)



COMMERCE. Religion is spiritual, but it aims at filling the secular sphere,

as the soul fills the body. The Church may be its center, as the brain is the

center of the soul’s consciousness; but every region of life is a scene for its

operation, as every limb of the body is for the action of the soul. Religion

claims a place in the shop, in the factory, in the mine, on the highway of the

sea, in the noisy streets and markets of the city. She does not claim this

place as a mere spectator or guest, to be respected in name, but not

followed with obedience, like the statue of a deceased citizen set up in a

public place to honor his memory, although his principles are derided and

travestied by the throng of present day men who crowd about it. Religion

claims to be a living presence, guiding and controlling commerce. The

relations of buyer and seller are too often treated on the ground of pure

self-interest — self-interest of the lowest kind, mere money profit.

Religion should inspire higher motives.


Ø      A respect for truth and justice. A Christian merchant’s word should be

as good as his bond in his counting house as well as in his home. It is

scandalous that “trust” can only go with “security.” Christian honor

should pay the debt that cannot be exacted by law. The bankrupt who

listens to the teachings of Christ will not be content to scrape through

the courts by the aid of technicalities which only enable him to cheat

his creditors. The Christian seller will not deceive the buyer, nor the

Christian buyer take advantage of the difficulties of the seller to drive

an unfair bargain. Justice means more than keeping the law — it means

fair dealing and equal treatment.


Ø      A recognition of human brotherhood. If I recognize my neighbor as a

brother when at church, can I pounce upon him as my prey in the

world? The “golden rule” belongs to commerce as much as to any

other part of life. But it will not be effective till a spirit of

cooperation takes the place of one of cruel, hard, selfish competition.


Ø      A reverence for the rights of God in the fruits of commerce. Over the

Royal Exchange, in London, there runs, in great and bold letters, the

legend, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” (Something

that the New York Stock Exchange could notice! – CY – 2014).  How

far is that the text of the words and deeds of the men who throng the

streets round this public building? If all in the earth belongs to God,

we shall have to give Him an account of our trade transactions.



WELFARE OF A PEOPLE. People who prefer Mammon to God will

find they have chosen a hard master.


Ø      When commerce is prosperous, it will not satisfy the greatest needs of

men. Man does not live by bread alone, and certainly he cannot subsist

on bankers’ accounts. In Jerusalem the buyer and seller would cease to

rejoice over their bargains, would even not care for loss or gain, glad

if only they escaped with their lives. The best things cannot be bought

with money; but, happily, they can be had “without money and without

price.”  (Isaiah 55:1)


Ø      When national calamity comes, commerce fails. The commercial

barometer is a most sensitive test of approaching political storms.

Wickedness in business is deservedly punished in the general

calamity of a nation by the collapse of trade that is certain to be

one of the first results of the adversity.


Ø      COMMERCIAL SIN will be justly punished with COMMERCIAL

RUIN!   This does not necessarily happen to the individual trader

who may die rich with ill-gotten gains; but history proves it to be

true in the long run with nations.


13 “For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they

were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude

thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself

in the iniquity of his life.”  For the seller shall not return, etc. At first the thought

seems only to add to the sorrow of the seller. He is told that he, at least, shall not

return to his old estate. Even though they should be alive at the year of

jubilee, their exile had to last its appointed time, Ezekiel’s forty

(ch.4:6) and Jeremiah’s seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). This,

however, did not exclude the return of their children (Jeremiah 32:44),

and in the mean time all private sorrow would fall into the background as

compared with the great public woe of the destruction of the holy city. The

vision is touching, etc. The noun is used as a synonym for prophecy, as

elsewhere (Isaiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:1). It may be

noted that it is specially characteristic of Ezekiel (seven times) and Daniel

(eleven times). For the Authorized Version read with the Revised Version,

none shall return, or better (with the Vulgate and Keil), the vision

touching the whole multitude shall not return, i.e. shall go straight onward

to do its work (compare Isaiah 55:11). So taken, there is a kind of play

upon the iterated word: “The seller shall not turn his footsteps back,

neither shall the prophecy.” Vestigia nulla retrorsum shall be true of both.

I take the other words, with the Revised Version, no man in the iniquity of

his life shall strengthen himself, noting the fact that the word for

“strengthen” is that which enters into Ezekiel’s name. It is as though he

said, “God is the only true source of strength to thee, as thy very name

bears witness.”



   The Impossibility of Becoming Truly Strong in a Life of Sin (v. 13)


“Neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.” This clause

has been variously rendered and interpreted. The meaning seems to be — Let no

one think that in these impending judgments he can invigorate himself in “his iniquity;

from such a source no such strengthening or invigoration of life can be derived; on

the contrary, it is this very iniquity which is bringing all to desolation and ruin.”

Two observations are authorized by the text.




frequently and variously done. Take a few common examples of it. The

dishonest bank manager or bookkeeper attempts to hide his defalcations by

manipulating the accounts, making false entries in them, etc. Many try to

conceal vice or crime by falsehood, as did Gehazi the servant of Elisha

(II Kings 5:20-27). A man who has got into monetary difficulties

through betting or gambling seeks to escape from them by theft or forgery.

Or a man has been in a position of privilege or power, and by reason of his

own misdoing he is losing that position, but he seeks to retain it by further

wrong doing. When Saul, the King of Israel, realized that the kingdom

would not descend to his heirs, and saw his own popularity waning and

David’s growing, he endeavored to secure the kingdom to his family by

repeated attempts to kill David. Or when a person has obtained riches or

power by fraud, oppression, or cruelty, and finding that possession failing

him, he seeks to retain it firmly by perpetrating other crimes. The Macbeth

of Shakespeare is a striking illustration of this. When he feels himself

insecure on the throne which he had committed murder to obtain, he says

to Lady Macbeth, the daring partner of his dread guilt —


“Things bad begun, make strong themselves by ill.”


And later, when he had incurred the guilt of another murder, and was

tormented by terrible fears, he says to her —


“For mine own good.

All causes shall give way; I am in blood

Stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,

Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”


And thus he endeavoured to strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.




this. We have seen that men try to strengthen themselves in iniquity by

means of falsehood. But falsehood is opposed to the reality of things, and

by its very nature cannot give lasting strength or security to any one.

Carlyle says forcibly, “No lie you can speak or act, but it will come, after

longer or shorter circulation, like a bill drawn on nature’s reality, and be

presented then for payment, with the answer — No effects.” Again, “For if

there be a Faith from of old, it is this, as we often repeat, that no Lie can

live forever .... All Lies have sentence of death written down against them

in Heaven’s chancery itself; and, slowly or fast, advance incessantly

towards their hour.” “The lip of truth shall be established forever; but a

lying tongue is but for a moment”  (Proverbs 12:19).  “He that speaketh

 lies shall perish”  (Ibid. ch. 19:9).  And turning from falsehood in particular

to sin in general, iniquity, so far from invigorating man, by its essential nature

strips him of strength and courage. Thus the guilty and aforetime brave

Macbeth cries —


“How is’t with me when every noise appals me?”


And elsewhere, Shakespeare says truly —


“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind;

The thief doth fear each bush an officer.”


To the same effect writes Wordsworth —


“From the body of one guilty deed

A thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed?


And our prophet, “How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing

thou doest all these things!” (ch. 16:30). “The wicked flee when no

man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion”  (Proverbs 28:1).

The consciousness of truth and uprightness inspires the heart with

courage and nerves the arm with power.


“What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted?

Thrice is he arm’d that hath his quarrel just;

And he but naked, though locked up in steel,

Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.”



And the throne which is based on injustice, cruelty, or blood, and

maintained by oppression and tyranny, is founded upon sand and

supported by feebleness. Wickedness is weakness. “it is an

abomination for kings to commit wickedness; for the throne is

established by righteousness” (Proverbs 16:12).  “The king that

faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established

forever”   (Ibid. ch. 29:14).  No man can ever truly strengthen himself

in iniquity; neither can any number of men do so. The only way by which

the wicked may become truly strong is by resolutely turning from sin and

trusting in the Saviour.  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the

unrighteous man his thoughts:  and let him return unto the Lord,

and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will

abundantly pardon!” (Isaiah 55:7)


14 “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none

goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”

They have blown the trumpet. The word for “trumpet” is

not found elsewhere, but the corresponding verb is used continually in

connection with the trumpet of war, and Ezekiel seems to have coined the

corresponding substantive, not, perhaps, without a reminiscence of

Jeremiah 6:1. There may possibly be an allusion to the trumpet blowing

with which the jubilee year (see v. 13) was ushered in. The trumpet

should sound, not for each man’s return to his own estate, but for the

alarm of war and even then the consciousness of guilt will hinder men

from arming themselves for battle (compare Leviticus 26:36;

Deuteronomy 28:25; 32:30).


15 “The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he

that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the

city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.”  The sword is without (see ch.5:12;

6:12). Here there seems a more traceable fitness in assigning the pestilence as well

as the famine to those who are shut up in the besieged city.



The Hand of the Clock on the Hour of Doom (vs. 1-15)


The bulk of men persist in thinking of God as if He were such a One as

themselves (Psalm 50:21).  Rejecting the revelation of God’s nature contained in

Scripture, they conceive of Him as a man greatly magnified  - the infirmities

of man magnified, as well as his virtues. They know the proneness of man

to threaten and not to perform; hence they conclude that the judgments of

God, because delayed, will evaporate in empty words. God will not be

hastened. Proportionate to His immeasurable power is His immeasurable


The wrath accumulates as in a thundercloud, until it is overburdened, and the

storm all the more violently breaks forth. Never yet in the history of men


Never yet has the transgressor escaped, AND NEVER WILL HE!

As surely as the sun shines, vengeance will come.



SET TIME. For the most part it is not according to human expectation.

“God seeth not as man seeth  (I Samuel 16:7).  A thousand things enter

into God’s calculation which do not enter into man’s reckoning. The clock

of heaven does not measure days and years; it measures events and necessities.

The well being of other races has to be pondered beside the race of men. Very

often the doom of the ungodly is a fixed and irreversible fact long before

that doom is felt and endured  (Genesis 15:13-16).  From that moment

gracious help is withdrawn, and the doomed man becomes the victim of

his folly. To God’s eye, the end is seen long before it is seen by man.

While he is yet promising himself much delight, lo! by an invisible

thread the sword is suspended over his head.



outcome of infallible wisdom and righteous deliberation. The Supreme

Ruler of heaven says, “I send.” As nothing is too great for His management,

so nothing is too minute to engage His notice. He who nourishes myriads of

myriads of blades of grass, and clothes the hills with majestic forests,

counts every hair of our heads (Luke 12:7).  Too often men are so stunned

with the blow of retribution that they count themselves only the victims of

a great catastrophe, and look on every side for sympathy. But when

conscience awakes, and connects the calamity with previous sin, then at

length — too late to avert the crushing evil — they confess that it is “the

Lord that smiteth (v. 9).  “God is not mocked.” The seed we sow today

will bear its proper fruit tomorrow.  (Galatians 6:7)



scales so delicately true as those in the hands of God. The judgment is

precisely” according to thy ways.” It is exact “recompense for all thine

abominations.” Often men are so blinded by the deceitfulness of sin that

they do not perceive this. But when the transient pleasure of sin has

ceased, men awake to the fact that the retribution is well deserved. This

will be the keenest sting of the suffering — that it is a just desert. If men

could only persuade themselves that they were unjustly treated, it would be

an alleviation of the woe — it would be a sweet consolation in their misery.

But such alleviation is denied them. Their own consciences will confirm the

sentence, an  out of the dark abyss the cry will rise, “Just and true are thy

ways, thou King of saints.”  (Revelation 15:3)



RIGHTEOUS. The unbeliever has no eye with which to see the kingdom

of God. The organ of vision he has first blinded, then destroyed.


“If I willfully keep my conscience in darkness and continue

             in errors which I might easily know to be such by a little

            thought and searching of God’s Word, then my conscience

            conscience can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of

            blindfolding the guide which I have chosen and then

            knowing him to be blindfolded, I am guilty of the folly

            of letting him lead me into rebellion against God.


So, too, he is blind to the significance of passing events. He does not perceive

The moral aspect of things — does not see that God’s hand is behind the

Smoke and din of war. But the man of God has learnt to see God in everything.

In all the sunshine of life he sees God, whose presence gives a brighter luster

to all earthly joy. And in all the adversities of life he learns to see the rod

and the hand that wields it. Standing by the side of God, and in full

sympathy with Him, Ezekiel saw clearly every minute detail of the

retribution that was preparing, and, until the latest moment, implored them

to escape. But he foresaw also that they would delude themselves to the

very last — would buoy themselves with false hopes.



every side there is bitter disappointment. The earthly props on which men

were wont to rely, fail them. All the bonds of society relax and dissolve. To

resist invasion the summoning trumpet is blown; but, alas! none respond.

ANARCHY IS EVERYWHERE!   The day itself becomes night, and every

fount of joy is poisoned. Amid previous corrections and afflictions there

were many forms of gracious compensation — silver linings on the black

cloud. But NO RELIEF COMES NOW!   There is defeat and disaster on

every side. Weeping endures through a long night, without any prospect of

joy in the morning.  It is darkness without a beam of light, despair without

a vestige of hope.  Not even shall there be the sweet relief of tears; for the

hearts of men have been rendered insensible by the cursed power of sin.

They are at length “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19) — incapable of

repentance. “Neither shall there be any wailing for them”  (v. 11) –

it is abasement the most profound. The first has become the last.



Our wise and gracious God has constructed His universe on this principle,

that every form of rebellion shall bear in itself the seed of penalty. The

pivot on which everything turns is RIGHTEOUSNESS!   There is no

occasion for God to issue any code of penalties commensurate with acts

of transgression. Sin and punishment are one and the selfsame thing.

Retribution is simply full-grown sin. It is often sweet in the bud, but the

ripened fruit is bitterness absolute. As gunpowder is, in its nature,

explosive, so that it is madness to set a light to it and expect it not to

explode; so sin is, in its very nature, destructive, and can lead to nothing

else than DESTRUCTION!   Love cements and unites; transgression

dissolves and separates. And SEPARATION FROM GOD IS RUIN!

Where God is, THERE IS LIFE; where God is not, THERE IS DEATH!

Where God is, THERE IS HEAVEN!   Where God is not, THERE



16 “But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the

mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every

one for his iniquity.”  They that escape, etc. The sentence is virtually conditional.

They that escape shall, it is true, in one sense, escape the immediate doom;

but if so, it shall only be to the mountains. These were, in all times

(Genesis 19:17; Judges 6:2; I Samuel 13:6; Psalm 11:1; I Maccabees  2:28;

Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14), the natural refuge for those who fled from danger,

but even this should fail those of whom the prophet speaks. They should be like

the doves of the mountain gorges, that are fluttered at the appearance of the eagle

or the fowler, and seem by note (Isaiah 38:14; 59:11) and gesture (Nahum 2:7),

to be mourning forevermore. There also they shall lie, every man in his iniquity, and

wailing for its punishment. We are reminded of Dante’s similitudes in ‘Inferno,’

5:40, 46, 82.



Mourning (v. 16)


This chapter has justly been termed rather a dirge than a prophecy. Whilst

its language is in some respects special to the experience of the children of

Israel, such representations as this may well be applied to all those who

have forsaken God, and have turned every man to his own way.








MOURNING. How truly has it been said that “the worst of feeling is to

feel all feeling die”! “They that lack time to mourn lack time to mend.”



AND HORROR. They who mourn because they have lost what was

precious to them, especially because they have been bereaved of such as

they held dear, may mourn tranquilly and holily, and with a patient

submission to the will of God. but they who “mourn, every one for his

iniquity,” cannot but feel conscience stricken because of their personal

participation in sin, and their personal guilt for sin; they cannot but accuse

themselves, and pass judgment, as it were, upon their own wrong doing

and folly.



THOSE PARTICIPATING IN IT. The prophet compares the conscience

stricken remnant, distressed and weeping because of their own and their

nation’s iniquities, to a flight of doves uttering their doleful lamentations. It

is no exceptional, singular case; multitudes are involved in the common

fate, the common trouble. The feeling is heightened by sympathy. When all

heads are bowed in confession, when the utterance of contrition rises from

many afflicted hearts, when a contagion of sorrow and distress passes

through a vast congregation of humble and penitent worshippers, each is

the better able to realize his own and the common distress, and to

unburden the over-laden heart.



AND MAY ISSUE IN NEWNESS OF LIFE. There is a “godly sorrow

which worketh repentance” (II Corinthians 7:10) — a sorrow which is

not only or chiefly because of the painful results of sin, but because of the

very evil itself which is in sin, and because it is an offence against a

forbearing and gracious God. Where such sorrow is, there can be no

despair. The rainbow of hope spans the cloud, dark and heavy though

it be.



Mourning as Doves (v. 16)


The fugitives from Jerusalem flee to the mountains and hide themselves

there, like the doves in the valleys below, whose melancholy notes seem to

be a suitable echo to their own sad feelings.



interpretation of nature by man; there is also an interpretation of man by

nature. The glad sights and sounds of spring are commentaries on the fresh

joyousness of youth. We should not know the hope and beauty of life so

well if May never came. So, also, storm, night, winter, desert, mountain,

and raging torrent open the heart of man’s grief and despair, and reveal its

desolation. The key to human passion is there. Wordsworth, the prophet of

nature, who saw deepest into her secret, discerned among the woods and

hills “the still, sad music of humanity.”



The mourning exiles will note the melancholy tones of the doves of the

valley. To the happy these sounds come as a touching variation from the

generally pleasing aspect of nature; but to the sorrowful fugitives among

the mountains they express the sympathy of nature. It is well to cultivate

this sympathy, which is not all imaginative; “for there is a spirit in the

woods.” and hills and valleys are filled with a Divine presence.

(I hear the mourning of the doves from the deck on which I am

studying.  CY - July 5, 1995)



THE SOUL FIND VENT. While among the mountains the exiles utter

their lamentations. In the city, scenes of warfare, bloodshed, fury, and

terror absorb all attention. These are the immediate and the coarser

experiences in a season of great calamity. (Within the last month there

have been numerous shooting to disturb our fair city!  – CY – 2014)

For the time they destroy the power of reflection. But in solitude and

silence men have leisure to think.  Then the sadness of the soul wakes

up, and takes the place of the agitation and distress of external




MELANCHOLY OF NATURE, While the doves coo in plaintive notes

that suggest to the hearer a feeling of grief, though they are not really

mourning, the exiles from Jerusalem respond to the natural notes of the

doves with utterances of true sorrow. Man is greater than nature. He has

self-consciousness and conscience. He knows his trouble and he knows his

sin. He pays the penalty of his higher endowments in the greater depth of

his fall and shame and sorrow. The whole range of nature’s experiences is

slight by the side of the lofty aspirations and profound griefs of man. Going

from the one to the other is like leaving the soft, undulating landscape of

England for the cliffs and chasms and dark valleys and the awful mountain

peaks of Switzerland. The chief difference is moral. Man alone has

conscience; he only can mourn for sin. This grief for sin — and not merely

grief on account of its penalties — is one of the deepest experiences of the

human heart. It puts leagues of space between the men who mourn like

doves, and the innocent, simple birds whose notes suggest a grief they can

never feel. But in this deeper grief is man’s hope. Mourning for sin is a part

of repentance, and it points to the day of better things, when God has

forgiven His guilty children, and when the mourning doves will be

forgotten, and the singing of the lark at heaven’s gate will be the key to a

new experience of heavenly gladness.


17 “All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.”

All knees shall be weak as water; literally, shall flow with

water. So the Vulgate. The Septuagint is yet stronger, shall be defiled, etc. The

words may point to the cold sweat of terror which paralyzes men’s power

to act. The phrase is peculiar to Ezekiel, and meets us again in ch. 21:7.

The thought finds a parallel in Isaiah 13:7; Jeremiah 6:24.


18 “They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall

cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon

all their heads.”  They shall also gird, etc. The words become more general,

and include those who should remain in the city as well as the fugitives.

For both there should be the inward feelings of horror and shame, and their

outward symbols of sackcloth (Genesis 37:34; II Samuel 3:31-32;

II Kings 6:30; Isaiah 15:3; Jeremiah 4:8, et al.) and baldness

(Isaiah 3:24; 15:2; 22:12; Amos 8:10).


19 “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be

removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver

them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy

their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the

stumblingblock of their iniquity.”  They shall cast their silver, etc. The words

remind us of Isaiah 2:20 and 30:22, with the difference that here it is the silver and

gold as such, and not the idols made of them, that are to be flung away.

They had made the actual metal their idol, and their confidence in it should

be powerless to deliver them (Zephaniah 1:18). Their gold shall be

removed; better, with the Revised Version, as an unclean thing. The word

implies the kind of impurity of ch.18:6; 22:10; 36:17; Isaiah 30:22.

Instead of gloating, as they had done, over their money, men should

shrink from it, as though its very touch brought pollution. The Vulgate

gives in sterquilinium, “to the dunghill.They shall not satisfy their

souls. In the horrors of the siege, with everything at famine prices (II

Kings 6:25), and little or nothing to be had for them, their money would

not stop the cravings of hunger. It is characteristic that he applies to riches

as such the very same epithet, stumbling block of their iniquity, as he

had applied before (ch. 3:20) to actual idolatry (compare Colossians 3:5).




                                    Gold and Silver (v. 19)


Gold and silver are here referred to as precious things that have become

worthless in the confusion consequent on the sack of Jerusalem. Inasmuch

as they are usually regarded as of great value and guarded with especial

care, kept in purses and safe places, to throw them in the streets is to

reverse the normal treatment of them.



this fact is recognized in the Money Market, but it goes further than men of

business generally admit. The precious metals have a certain utility and

beauty of their own; but there are circumstances under which they become

mere incumbrances; e.g:


Ø      . on board a sinking ship,

Ø      in a besieged city,

Ø      on a desert island,

Ø      in great sickness,

Ø      at death.


They are chiefly valued as money, i.e. as a medium of exchange. But when

there is nothing to exchange them for, their money value is lost. This must

be the case in a state of social insecurity, when no one can depend upon

holding his property from one day to another. Then the purchasing power

of money will fall, even though there be plenty of articles for sale, because

the purchase of goods may be nullified by the loss of them. In a famine at

first the rich man may buy dear food which the poor man can not

afford to get; but when all the food is exhausted, he cannot feed on his gold

and silver. In times of great sorrow the value of gold and silver falls almost to

nil.  It will not supply the vacant place of the dead, nor will it heal the smart of

unkindness or ingratitude.  He is poor indeed whose wealth consists in nothing

better than gold and silver. The worship of Mammon is a miserable idolatry,

certain to be most fatal to the most devoted worshipper — and, alas! how many

such our money loving age produces! What Wordsworth wrote of the

plutocracy  of his day is little less true now.


“The wealthiest man among us is the best:

No grandeur now in nature or in book

Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,

This is idolatry: and these we adore:

Plain living and high thinking are no more:

The homely beauty of the good old cause

Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,

And pure religion breathing household laws.”






Ø      Necessity. There are circumstances which lead to the abandonment of

gold and silver.  “All that a man hath will he give for his life.” (Job 2:4) 

The drowning man will drop his money bags rather than be dragged

down to death with them. Yet there are men who behave as slaves to

their money, consenting to a slow death of exhaustion from devotion

to business rather than preserve health and life at the cost of pecuniary



Ø      Folly. Extravagant people “cast their silver in the streets.” Money spent

in sin is worse than lost; it is invested in funds from which the dividends

will be PAIN and DEATH!  Therefore, let us “.....lay up for yourselves

treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and

where thieves do not break through nor steal.”  (Matthew 6:20)


Ø      Charity. There are the poor of the streets, and the rich and well clad

man who sees his brethren shivering and hungry has a good call to

cast his silver in the streets — not, indeed, for a loose scramble in which

the most worthless will seize most, not in indiscriminate charity which

breeds idle paupers and neglects modest poverty, but in wise and

thoughtful alleviation of misery. The young man whom Jesus loved

was bidden to sell all and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21). St. Francis

of Assissi and many another did so. Those who do not practice this

counsel of perfection” should see the duty of making real sacrifices

for their brethren as for Christ.  “.....Inasmuch as ye have done it

unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

(Matthew 25:40).


Ø      Consecration. Men may cast aside their care of wealth, and even let the

proceeds lie in neglect while they devote themselves to a higher ministry;

or they may bring their wealth and lay it at the feet of Christ, to be spent

on His work in the streets of earth.


20 “As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they

made the images of their abominations and of their detestable

things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.”

As for the beauty of his ornament. The latter word is

commonly used of the necklaces, armlets, etc., of women (Exodus

33:4-6; Isaiah 49:18; Jeremiah 2:32; 4:30). So again in ch. 16:7, 11; 23:40.

The singular is used of the people collectively, or of each

man individually, like German man or French on. He set it in majesty;

better, he — or to give the sense they turned it to pride. Wealth and art

had ministered, as in Isaiah 2:16, first to mere pride and pomp; then they made out

of their ornaments the idols which they worshipped, and which were now,

the same emphatic word being repeated, as a pollution to them.


21 “And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to

the wicked of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it.”

 I will give it. The “it” refers to the silver and gold, the “beauty

of the ornaments” thus desecrated in their use. The strangers, i.e. the

Chaldean invaders, should in their turn pollute (better, with the Revised

Version, profane it) by making it their prey. For them the idols which

Israel had worshipped would be simply as booty to be plundered.


22 “My face will I turn also from them, and they shall pollute my secret

place: for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it.”

My secret place. The work of the spoiler would not stop at

the idols of silver and gold. Jehovah would surrender His own “secret

place” (secret treasure in margin of Revised Version), that over which He

had watched, sc. the sanctuary of His temple, to the hands of the spoiler. In

Psalm 83:4 the same adjective is used of persons, the “hidden” or

protected ones of God. In the name of Baal-zephon, “Lord of the secret

place,” we have possibly a kindred thought. In Psalm 17:14 we have

hid treasure.”



The Averted Face (v. 22)


In the figurative but natural and expressive language of the Hebrews, the

shining of God’s countenance means His good pleasure and good will

towards those whom He favors, and the hiding or averting of His

countenance means His displeasure. Prayer often shaped itself into the

familiar expression, The Lord cause His face to shine upon us;” and the

displeasure of Heaven was deprecated in such terms as these: “Turn not

thy face from thy servants.” The child distinguishes at once between the

smile and the frown of the parent; the courtier is at no loss to discriminate

between the welcome and favor and the displeasure apparent upon the

monarch’s face. To the mind at all sensitive to the moral beauty and glory

of God, no sentence can be so dreadful as that uttered in the simple but

terrible language of the text, “My face will I turn also from them.”



“In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures

for evermore.”  (Psalm 16:11)  When the sun arises in his strength, and

floods the hills and the valleys, the rivers and the forests, the cornfields

and the meadows, with his glorious rays, nature returns the smiles, glows

in the sunbeams, rejoices in the warmth and the illumination. Where the

sun shines brightly, there the colors are radiant, the odor delicious, there

the music of the grove is sweet and the harvest of the plain is golden,

there life is luxuriant and gladness breaks forth into laughter and song.

And in the moral, the spiritual realm, it is the sunlight of God’s

countenance, the manifestation of God’s favor, which calls forth

and sustains all spiritual life, health, peace, and joy. “In thy favor is

life.”  (Psalm 30:5)




Him; it is in us. When the sun is not seen in the sky, it is not because he no

longer shines, but because clouds, mists, or smoke, ascending from the

earth, come between the orb of day and the globe which he illumines. So if

God turns His face from an individual, a city, a people, it is because their

sins have risen up as a dense, foul fog, intervening between them and a

holy, righteous God. “Your iniquities have separated between you and

your God” (Isaiah 59:2).  So it was with those against whom the Prophet

Ezekiel was called upon to testify. So it is with multitudes whom the

ministers of Christ are required to address in language of tender sympathy,

yet of expostulation and reproach.



OF ALL CALAMITIES. It is not to be wondered at that men with their

composite nature, absorbed as they are in things which affect the body and

the earthly life, should think chiefly of the sufferings and privations in

which the moral laws of the universe INVOLVE THEM!   And these

sufferings and privations are realities which no thoughtful man can fail

to perceive and to estimate with something like correctness. Yet he

who is enlightened and in any measure spiritually sensitive cannot fail to

see that it is the regard of God Himself which is of chief import. It is

better to enjoy the Divine loving kindness (“which is better than life”

- Psalm 63:3), even in poverty, privation, spoliation, and

weakness, than to possess luxury, honor, and the delights of sense,

and to know that God’s countenance is turned away, is hidden.




SUPPLIANTS. It is sin which conceals the Divine countenance; it is

repentance which seeks the shining anew of that countenance; and

salvation consists in the response of God to the prayer of man. Yet the

turning of His face towards us is the work of His own mercy, the

revelation of His own nature — COMPASSIONATE, GRACIOUS



23 “Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is

full of violence.”  Make a chain; better, the chain. The word is not found

elsewhere, but a kindred form is thus translated in I Kings 6:21.

Looking to the force of the verbs from which it is formed, its special

meaning is that of a coupling chain, such as would be used in the case of

captives marched off to their place of exile (Nahum 3:10). All previous

sufferings were to culminate in this. The φυρμόν phurmon - of the Septuagint

and the fac conclusionem of the Vulgate show that the word perplexed them.

Full of bloody crimes. The only passage in the Authorized Version of the Old

Testament in which the English noun occurs. Literally, judgments of blood.

The words may be equivalent either:


·         to “blood guiltiness” (compare the “judgment” in Jeremiah 51:9), or


·         to judgment perverted into judicial murder. The latter finds support in

ch. 9:9. In either case it is noticeable that Ezekiel points not only to

idolatry, but to violence and wrong, as the sins that had cried for

punishment (compare Jeremiah 22:17 as a contemporary witness).


24 “Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall

possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to

cease; and their holy places shall be defiled.”  The worst of the heathen;

literally, evil ones of the nations — with the superlative implied rather than

expressed. For the thought, compare Deuteronomy 28:50; Lamentations 5:11-13;

Jeremiah 6:23. The Chaldeans were probably most prominent in the prophet’s

thoughts, but ch. 35:5 and Psalm 137:7 suggest that there was a side

glance at the Edomites. The pomp of the strong, etc. Another echo of

Leviticus 26:31). The “pomp” is that of Judah trusting in her

strength. The “holy places” find their chief representative in the temple,

but, as the word is used also of a non-Jehovistic worship (ch.28:18; Amos 7:9),

may include whatever the people looked on as sanctuaries — the “high places”

and the like. The Vulgate gives possidebuut sanctuaria; the Revised Version

margin, they that sanctify them; but the Authorized Version is probably right

in both cases. Luther renders ihre kirchen, which reminds us of Acts 19:37.


 25 “Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be

none.”  They shall seek peace, etc. The noun is probably to be taken

in its wider sense as including safety and prosperity, but may also include

specific overtures for peace made to the Chaldean generals.



Peace Sought in Vain (v. 25)


No feature of distress and horror is omitted in this prophetic description of

the effects of God’s displeasure manifested towards the Jewish people. The

burden of predicting such judgments must have been too heavy to bear:

what can be said of the state of those upon whom the judgments came?

They might well ask, “Who can abide the day of His coming?” (Malachi

3:2)  What more appalling than the account given in these few words of the

state of the people in the time of their disasters: “They shall seek peace,

and there shall be none”?


  • THE GREAT BLESSING OF PEACE. This may be misunderstood.

Warfare with ignorance, error, and iniquity, is characteristic of the

condition of the good man here upon earth. Our Lord Jesus saw this, and

declared, “I am not come to send peace, but a sword”  (Matthew 10:34).

The presence of evil requires that the attitude of the righteous should be one

of antagonism. But this is for a season and for a purpose. A state of

controversy and hostility is not a state in itself perfectly desirable and good.

Peace of conscience, peace with God, peace with Christian brethren, as far

as possible peace with all men, — these are blessings devoutly to be desired

and sought.



from the harmony of the several parts of a man’s nature among themselves,

and from harmony between man as a moral being and his God, it is not to

be expected that, when the passions are arrayed against the reason, interest

against conscience, the subject against the rightful and Divine Ruler, there

can be peace. It is mercifully ordered that peace should flee when iniquity

prevails. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”  (Isaiah 57:21)




there is none. Thus they are led to reflect upon the unreasonableness of

their expectation that the moral laws of the universe should be changed for

their pleasure. Tossed to and fro upon the stormy waters, they long for the

haven of repose.




to be found either by endeavoring to stifle the voice of conscience within,

or by withdrawing from a world of outward strife to some seclusion and

isolation. Both these methods have often been tried, but in vain. The

conciliation must take place within. The heart must find rest and

satisfaction in the gospel of Jesus Christ, “our Peace.” The whole nature

must, by the power of the Spirit, be brought into subjection to God. The

fountain of peace must thus be divinely opened, and “peace will flow as a



26 “Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon

rumor; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law

shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.”

Mischief… rumor. The combination reminds us of the “wars

and rumours of wars” of Matthew 24:6. The floating uncertain reports

of a time of invasion aggravate the actual misery (compare Isaiah 37:7;

Jeremiah 51:46; Obadiah 1:1). They shall seek a vision of the

prophet, etc. The words paint a picture of POLITICAL CHAOS and

CONFUSION.  The people turn in their distress to the three representativtes

of wisdom — the prophet as the bearer of an immediate message from Jehovah,

the priest as the interpreter of His Law (Malachi 2:7), the “ancients” or “elders”

as those who had learned the lessons of experience, — and all alike in vain.

(For illustrative facts, see Jeremiah 5:31; 6:13; 21:2; 23:21-40; 27:9-18; 28:1-9,

and generally Micah 3:6; Amos 8:11; I Samuel 28:6; Lamentations 2:9.)



A Vain Search (v. 26)


“Then they shall seek a vision,” etc. Ezekiel describes the vain search for the

assistance of a prophet’s vision in the dark days of Israel’s overthrow, and the

utter failure of that search, as one of the features of the dreadful time.


  • THE SEARCH. The words of true prophecy were not much valued by

the careless people in their hours of ease; but when trouble came natural

anxiety and superstitious terror combined to drive them to the sacred

oracles. The question arises — What did they wish to learn from the

prophets? There is no indication that they desired to know the will of God

and to be directed back into his way. More probably they were simply

consumed with a morbid curiosity as to their approaching doom. Was it

certain that the nation must be scattered? Now, little good can come from

such inquiries. A search into the deep mysteries of the future is not likely to

give us any very helpful results. It is in God’s most merciful method of

educating his children, to keep the future hidden, for the most part, and to

give just so much light as is needed for the day. There is, however, a better

side to this search. Trouble breaks through the thin crust of worldliness,

and reveals the essentially spiritual character of man and his needs. Then it

is not possible to be satisfied with things seen and temporal. The unseen

world that has been slighted in prosperous times is felt to be supremely real

and of profoundest interest. So the sorrow-stricken soul searches for some

voice out of the darkness beyond.


  • THE LOSS. The search proves to be vain and useless. The oracle is

dumb; the prophet sees no vision; the Law perishes; counsel ceases. This is

a disappointment for the boasting confidence of the people (Jeremiah 18:18).


Ø      There is no new inspiration. Revelation did not continue to come in an

unbroken stream of light. There were periods of darkness in the history

of Israel, when no new word of God was given. The completion of the

Bible has put an and to this kind of revelation. Yet there is the inspiring

guidance of God’s eternal Spirit and the opening of the eyes of

spiritually minded men to a personal knowledge and to new aspects

of truth. If this ceases, though the letter of revelation remains, the

quickening spirit is lost.


Ø      The old written word is lost. Not only is there no prophet’s vision; even

the ancient Law perishes from the priest. The ceremonial of the temple

was stopped by Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem. This was

very different from the final cessation of it when the Jewish economy

had passed away. Now the loss of the Law was premature. It would be

paralleled by our loss of the whole Bible and its guidance — a thing

that happened practically in the Middle Ages.  (For a feel of this

condition I highly recommend Amos 8 – The Blank Bible by

Henry Rogers  this web site -CY – 2014)


Ø      Tradition fails. This counsel of the ancients is lost in the confusion of

the scattered people. There are floating beliefs and customs of religion

that help and influence us unconsciously. In a broken, disordered

condition even these advantages may be lost.


  • THE SIN. The lamentable condition was part of the punishment of

Israel’s sin. This was the abuse of Law and prophecy. The law of the ritual

had been followed as a mere form, and trusted without moral obedience

(Isaiah 1:10-15). Such a desecration of religion may be justly punished

by the loss of its aid. Perhaps this would be the most merciful way to bring

people to appreciate eternal verities, if all our Bibles were lost, should we

value them more, and crave the recovery of them with a new relish? With

Israel, prophecy was degraded till, like today,  the popular prophets became

mere echoes of popular, opinions, THE POLITICALLY CORRECT! 

-          CY – 2014).  Then they were deceivers of the people  (who not so

innocently “loved to have it so” – Jeremiah 5:31 – CY – 2014) and

not only did they deserve to be swept away, but the loss of them was a

merciful deliverance to the deluded nation, There is a teaching which

can be well spared, especially in view of a higher gospel.


“Ring out the old,

Ring in the new;

Ring out the false,

Ring in the true.”




Rumor (v. 26)


“And rumor shall be upon rumor.” One element of the dark times of the

destruction of Jerusalem is the constant accession of new and terrifying

rumors — one contradicting another, yet all presaging fearful events. This

is always an accompaniment of times of unrest, and Christ referred to it in

His picture of coming evils (Matthew 24:6). We may have seen some

such thing in our own happier days; but the telegraph and the newspaper

have done immense service in substituting authentic news for vague and

floating rumor, so that it is difficult for us to understand the distress of

less rapidly informed ages, which must have been far more the prey to

uncorroborated reports and chance rumors.




Ø      Rumor distresses by its prophecy of coming evil. There may be

rumors of good, to cheer. But in the present instance we have only

rumors of evil brought to our attention. Such reports cloud the present

with dim visions of a possible dark future. It is hard enough to face the

difficulties of today; add to these the portents of tomorrow, and the load

may be crushing. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”


Ø      Rumor alarms by its vagueness. Rumor is not news, not the picture of

the distant, but only its shadow. If we knew the worst, we might know

how to prepare for it; but rumor comes with large, general adumbrations

(the act of giving the main facts and not the details about something0

leaving us to fill in the details with imaginary horrors.


Ø      Rumor confuses us by its contradictoriness. Rumor is to follow “upon

rumor.” There is to be a succession of reports. Possibly these might

confirm one another. But general experience would suggest that they are

more likely to conflict one with another. The result is a chaos of

impressions and a paralysis of energy.


Ø      Rumor exaggerates evil. It is rarely, if ever, true to fact. It is like the

snowball, that grows as it rolls.




Ø      We should be careful how we spread a rumor. First, it is necessary to

ascertain that we receive it on good authority. Then it is important to

guard against adding our reflections and impressions as parts of the

originalreport. If the rumor be one calculated to do harm it may be well

to keep it to ourselves. No good comes of scandalmongery. A vulgar

 sense of self-importance delights in telling shocking news; but the

motive is a low one, and the action may be most unkind. Panics spring

from rumor. When a thoughtless person cries “Fire!” in a public place,

he cannot answer for the consequences of his rash and perhaps fatal

folly. We need self-restraint to prevent the mischievous spread of



Rumour is a pipe

Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,

And of so easy and so plain a stop,

That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,

The still-discordant wavering multitude,

Can play upon it.”


Ø      We should be on our guard against yielding to rumor. It wants

courage and strength to resist this influence, especially when our

neighbors are carried away by it. But past experience should teach

caution. We have better than rumor to follow in seeking our highest

interest. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” We have

the more sure word of prophecy,” and the inward personal experience

of the soul with God. Christianity is not based on a rumor of ghost

stories; it sends on the historical facts of gospel history and on Christian



27 “The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with

desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be

troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their

deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

The king shall mourn, etc. The picture reminds us of

Jehoram in II Kings 6:30. The action of Zedekiah in Jeremiah 21:1

and 34:8 makes it probable enough that it was actually reproduced. A

solemn litany procession like that of Joel 1:13-14 and 2:15-17 would

have been quite in keeping with his character. The prince shall clothe

himself, etc. The noun is specially characteristic of Ezekiel, who uses it

thirty-four times. In ch. 12:12 the “prince” seems identified with the

“king.” Here it may mean either the heir to the throne, or the chief ruler

under the king. The people of the land, etc. The phrase is perhaps used,

as the Jewish rabbis afterwards used it, with a certain touch of scorn, for

the laboring class. All the upper class had been carried away captive with

Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:14). Compare Ezekiel’s use of it in ch.33:2; 46:3, 9.

I will do unto them, etc. The chapter, or rather the whole

section from ch. 1:1 onwards, ends with an iterated assertion of the

EQUITY OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS.   Then also they shall know

that  I am the Lord, Almighty and all-righteous.





                        The Even Balances of Jehovah (vs. 23-27)


The penal judgments of God are not haphazard events. The minds of

thoughtful men discover in them a marked feature of retribution. Striking

correspondences occur between the transgression and the punishment. “I

will do unto them after their way.”


·         VIOLENCE IS MET BY VIOLENCE. The Law of God had been

            despised; and, instead of a just administration of Law, the rule of violence

had prevailed. Therefore by violence they shall be mastered. “Make a

chain.” The arm of power had dominated over the hand of justice;

therefore a mightier arm shall master it. Often has it been seen that they

who ruthlessly use the sword themselves perish by the sword. Men are

often “hoisted on their own petard.” The gallows which Haman had

prepared for another served for himself.



I will bring the worst of the heathen upon them.” The objects of their

worship had reputed attributes of lust, cruelty, oppression, violence; these

attributes shall appear in the worshippers. It is a law of nature, as well as a

law of Scripture, that “they who make them are like unto them; so is every

one that bows down to them” (Psalm 115:8).  As the stream cannot rise

above its fount, so man cannot rise above the object of his adoration.

Worshippers of idols rapidly deteriorate in CHARACTER and in MORAL

QUALITY! If God is driven out of the heart, demons will speedily come in.

(See Matthew 12:43-45).  “Nature abhors a vacuum.” 



shall seek peace, and there shall be none.” (v. 25) “They shall seek a vision

from the prophet; but the Law shall perish from the priest.” (v. 23) Had they

sought earlier, they would have found; now probation has ceased, the Judge has

ascended His throne. All forbearance has its limits. and men are always one

day behind.


Ø      The tide has ceased to flow. Ebb has begun.

Ø      In middle life they are weeping over a wasted youth.

Ø      In old age they are lamenting the decay of vigorous manhood.

Ø      On a death bed they regret the neglect of yesterday’s opportunity.


When the last shilling (dollar) is spent men learn the value of money. Today

there is the sunlight of hope; tomorrow there will be black despair.



CHASTISEMENTS. “The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be

clothed with desolation.” In proportion to the station any man occupies in

society, in proportion to his talents and strength of character, is the

influence he exerts, whether for good or for evil. The king will always have

a crowd of servile imitators. Princes, by virtue of their exalted rank, wield

an extensive influence. For the right employment of influence every man is

responsible. He is daily sowing now; and, as the sowing is, so will be the

harvest. The mourning of a king will have an intensity of bitterness that

never irritates the tears of a peasant.


·         JUSTICE SHALL FINALLY BE PARAMOUNT.  “They shall know that

      I am the Lord.”  Although they would not know Him as Friend and Benefactor,

they shall  know Him and acknowledge Him as the Vindicator of right. The

spirits in hell confess him, while blind and ungrateful men ignore Him.

We know  thee who thou art” (Luke 4:34).  Righteousness is endowed with

a deathless life; and out of all present confusion and strife it shall come to the

surface and be by all honored. The lesson which men will not learn in the


ADVERSITY!   They shall know that JEHOVAH IS SUPREME! 

Yet such knowledge does not save; it leads only to deeper despair. It had

been a long fight between self-will and God’s will; and men often flatter

themselves they are going to conquer. But the termination is always the






The Dread Development of Moral Evil (vs. 23-27)


“Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes,” etc. This paragraph

suggests the following observations.



“Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of

violence.” The wickedness of the people had grown to such an extent that

the darkest crimes were everywhere prevalent and predominant. The city

was filled with outrage, and the country with blood guiltiness. Sin, unless it

be striven against and resisted, increases both in measure and in power,

until it attains unto terrible fullness and maturity. As in holiness, so also in

wickedness, full development is reached gradually. Peoples and nations

arrive at thorough moral corruption not with a bound, but step by step. But

unless checked, wickedness ever tends to that dreadful goal (compare

Genesis 15:16; Daniel 8:23; Matthew 23:32; I Thessalonians 2:16).



JUDGMENTS OF GOD. Because of the fullness of wickedness, the

calamities announced by the prophet were coming upon the people. This is

explicitly stated in vs. 23-24. The prevalent iniquities of Israel were the

meritorious cause of the stern judgments of the Lord. Several features of

these require notice.


Ø      They were of dread severity. They were to be carried into captivity. To

set forth this truth Ezekiel is summoned to “make a chain.” And, as a

matter of fact, Zedekiah the king was bound with fetters of brass, and

carried to Babylon (II Kings 25:7). And a post-exilian poet speaks of

the miserable captivity of the people (Psalm 107:10-12). Their homes

were to be seized and held by their enemies. “I will bring the worst of the

heathen, and they shall possess their houses.” Their sanctuary was to be

profaned. “Their holy places shall be defiled.” The reference is to the

temple, their “holy and beautiful house.” The prophet speaks of it as

theirs, not Gods, probably to indicate that God had already forsaken

the sanctuary which they had defiled. “Woe be to us when our

sanctuaries are nothing but our sanctuaries!” Anguish was to take hold

upon hem. “Destruction cometh;” literally, “standing up of the hair

cometh.” If we accept this view of the word, it denotes extreme

anguish or horror by one of the physical manifestations thereof, as in

‘Hamlet’ (act 1. sc. 5) —


“I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word

Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood;

Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres;

Thy knotted and combined locks to part,

And each particular hair to stand on end,

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.”



Ø      They were to come in terrible succession. Mischief shall come upon

mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor.” “Mischief” fails to fully

express the force of the original word. Fairbairn renders it “woe;” Cheyne,

“ruin;” Schroder, “destruction.” Woe upon woe, misery upon misery,

would befall them. Calamities would rush upon them in troops. As the

king of Egypt was visited with plague after plague, so the strokes of

the Divine judgments are sometimes sternly repeated, each stroke for

a time being the harbinger of others.


Ø      Even the mightiest would be unable to stand against them. I will also

make the pomp of the strong to cease.” Jehovah by His servant Moses

had threatened the Israelites with a dreadful series of punishments if

they persisted in rebelling against Him, including this, “I will break

the pride of your power” (Leviticus 26:19). When the Omnipotent

arises for judgment, the most powerful creature is impotent to

withstand Him. “Hast thou an arm like God?”




peace, and there shall be none;… they shall seek a vision of the prophet.”

“Peace” is not an adequate rendering of the Hebrew here.. Professor Cheyne

translates, “safety;” and Schroder, “salvation.” In their overwhelming

calamities the Israelites would seek the help which they had despised in the

time of their prosperity. So the proud Pharaoh, when the plagues were

upon him and his subjects, repeatedly called for Moses and Aaron, and

besought them to entreat the Lord. on his behalf. So also the perverse and

rebellious Israelites applied unto Moses when they were smarting under the

Divine chastisements (Numbers 11:2; 21:7; compare Psalm 78:34-37).

And the presumptuous Jeroboam, soon as his hand was smitten with

paralysis, entreated the prayers of the prophet whom a moment before he

was about to treat with violence (I Kings 13:6). By thus seeking

deliverance from God in the time of their distress, the wicked bear witness

to their sense of the reality of His Being, and of their need of Him. And by

seeking the intercession of His faithful servants they unwittingly testify to

the worth of genuine religion.




YET NOT OBTAIN IT. “They shall seek peace, and there shall be none;…

then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the Law shall perish from

the priest, and counsel from the ancients. The king shall mourn,” etc. The

following points require brief notice.


Ø      Deliverance from trouble, and direction in trouble, sought in vain.

The Israelites seek for safety, but find it not; for prophetic guidance,

but it fails them. The prophet or seer has no vision for them; the

priest has no instruction in the Law or in religion; the ancients or

wise men have no counsel for their life and conduct. Saul, the King

of Israel, presents a mournful illustration of this (I Samuel 28:6, 15).

“Because I have called, and ye refused,” etc. (Proverbs 1:24-31).


Ø      Failure to obtain help in trouble producing great distress. “The king

shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation,” etc. The

distress is general. The king, the prince, and the people all feel it. The

calamities are not partial or sectional, BUT NATIONAL!   The distress

is very great. The king mourns in deep inward grief; the prince clothes

himself with horror, is as it were wrapped up in terror; and the hands

of the common people tremble.


Ø      The righteousness of these judgments. “I will do unto them after their

way, and according to their deserts will I judge them.” The dealings

of the Lord with them would be regulated by their conduct. His

judgments would correspond with their lives and works. THEY



Ø      The righteous judgments of God leading to the recognition of Him.

“And they shall know that I am the Lord.” In this day of their

calamity they will feel and acknowledge the supremacy of Jehovah.

(See our remarks on v. 4, and on ch. 6:7, 10.) Let us seek to know Him,

not in His judgments, but in His mercies; not in wrath, but in love.

“And this is life eternal, that they should know thee THE ONLY

TRUE GOD, and Him whom thou didst send, even JEUS

CHRIST!”  (John 17:3)



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Recompense (v. 4)


All earthly government presumes the ideas of responsibility and retribution.

Human nature itself contains what may be regarded as their conditions and

elements. The welfare, and indeed in certain stages the very existence, of

society renders recompense a necessity. What is true of human relations

has truth also in reference to those that are Divine. The parallel, indeed, is

not complete, but it is real.



ON THE PART OF MAN. There can be no recompense where there is no

accountability; and there can be no accountability where there is no

intelligence, no freedom. Natural objects, Kant tells us, act according to

laws; spiritual beings, according to representation of laws. Man is capable

of apprehending and approving moral ordinances prescribed for his

guidance and control; he can recognize moral authority. And he is

distinguished from unintelligent and involuntary natures in that he can obey

or disobey the laws which he apprehends. If this were not so, consequences

might indeed ensue from action; but recompense would be an impossibility.





chiefly of law, or uniformity of action, we cannot but remember that law

does not account for itself; if we think of the Lawgiver, we are constrained

to recognize purpose in all his proceedings and provisions. It cannot be

imagined that the great Ruler of all inflicts suffering for any delight in

seeing his creatures suffer, or even that he regards their sufferings with

perfect indifference. There must be a governmental, a moral end to be

secured. The Lawgiver and Judge has what, in the case of a man, we

should call a deep interest in the condition and action of the children of





EXERCISE OF JUDICIAL FUNCTIONS. None but an omniscient Ruler

can be acquainted with all the secret springs of action, as well as with all

the varied circumstances of life; yet without such knowledge, how can

recompense be other than imperfect and uncertain? None but a perfectly

impartial Ruler can administer justice which shall be undisputed and

indisputable: who but God is stainlessly and conspicuously just? All earthly

retribution is open to suspicion, for the simple reason that every human

judge acts upon partial knowledge, and is liable to be influenced by

prejudice. But as from the Divine tribunal there is no appeal, so with the

Divine decisions can no fault be found. The Judge of all the earth will

surely and in every case do right.




PEOPLE. The Old Testament has been written to little purpose for those

who do not recognize the action of retributive Providence; the narrative

would be meaningless apart from this moral significance. The position of

Ezekiel compelled him to trace the hand of God in the life and fortunes of

his nation. For the Captivity in the East was an unmistakable instance of

God’s judicial interposition. And if this was the most striking instance,

others occur in abundance, witnessing to the fact that this earthly state is a

scene of moral government, incomplete, indeed, yet not to be denied as





Doubtless the history of the children of Israel is intended to teach, among

other lessons, in a very especial manner, the lesson of Divine government

and human responsibility. Not only is the story told, but its moral

significance is expressly.set forth. Yet the great principles which are

explicit in Old Testament history are Implied in all history — in the history

of every nation which exists upon earth. Go where we may, we do not and

cannot go beyond the sphere of Divine retribution. Everywhere “the way of

transgressors is hard,” and “the wages of sin is death.”





in the prophetic writings, we find no unqualified denunciation. Threats of

severe punishment are met with; but they are followed by offers of mercy

and promises of pardon to the penitent. The gates of hope are not closed

upon the sinner. And if the most complete and glorious manifestation of

God’s character is to be found in the gospel of Christ, it must be

remembered that, whilst that gospel was occasioned by man’s ruin by sin

and his liability to punishment, it was intended to secure man’s salvation

and deliverance “from the wrath to come.”



The Limitations to the Power of Wealth (v. 19)


The description of the text is remarkably picturesque. We seem to behold

the panic-stricken remnant escaping from the city with trembling forms and

anxious countenances. Horror and shame impel their flight, as, girded in

coarse sackcloth, they hurry away, barely hoping that they may save their

lives. As they go, in their terror they cast away their silver and gold, the

burden of which may impede their fight, and which have lost their interest

in the all-absorbing endeavour to escape from the hands of the foe. The

action thus graphically described is suggestive of a great principle.



RELIANCE UPON THEIR RICHES. Money can purchase many things,

and it is not surprising that the rich should have a latent belief that it can

procure for them everything that they may need.




of heart, in many calamities, especially in distressing bereavement, the

powerlessness of wealth to deliver or to aid is made painfully apparent. In

how many circumstances are the rich and the poor almost upon a level!

How often would the wealthy be glad to exchange their riches for the poor

man’s poverty, might they enjoy the poor man’s health!




DISPLEASURE. Judah was fated to experience the catastrophe designated

by the prophet as “the day of the wrath of the Lord.” This awful expression

conveys a distinct declaration concerning the Divine government,

concerning human responsibility for rebellion and defection. From this

wrath no worldly agency could possibly deliver. In the day when the

Eternal enters into judgment with the sons of men, earth can offer no

immunity, no protection. Release, exemption from righteous judgment can

be purchased by no treasures, no gifts, no sacrifice.




shipwreck, in a fire, in flight from a besieged or captured city, men have

been known, by clutching their gold and burdening themselves with its

weight, to lose their chance of escape, and consequently miserably to

perish. Their wealth has been their stumbling block. Such action and such a

fate are a picture, a figure, of the conduct and the doom of not a few. They

trust in uncertain riches instead of trusting in the living God. They make an

idol of their possessions. That which they might have used for good ends

they misuse to their own destruction.




PROVISION FOR THE DAY OF TRIAL. Silver and gold must fail their

possessor; the time must come when they will be cast aside. But there are

true riches; there is a steadfast and unfailing prop; there are riches of

Divine mercy and compassion. It is not what a man has, it is what a man is,

which is of supreme concern. He who has repented of sin and forsaken sin,

who has sought and obtained through Christ acceptance with God, whose

attitude towards the great King is no longer an attitude of opposition and

rebellion, but one of subjection and obedience, he only can look forward

with calm confidence to the day of trial; for he knows whom he has

trusted, and is persuaded that the Lord will keep that which he has

committed to Him against that day.





The Prophetic Vision Dimmed, and the Prophetic Voice Silenced

(v. 26)


In seasons of national calamity and disaster, evils abound which are

apparent to every observer. Famine, pestilence, and slaughter, the ruin of

industry and the cessation of trade, the breaking up of homes and the

departure of national glory, — such ills as these none can fail to notice and

to appreciate. But the worst is not always what meets the eye. Beneath the

surface, harm is wrought, and the very springs of the national life may

perhaps be poisoned. Ezekiel, in predicting the disasters that shall come

upon his countrymen, mentions as among them bonds, death, the

destruction of city and temple, the overthrow of king and prince. But he

does not fail to refer to what may perhaps strike the imagination less, but

what may upon reflection appear to be an evil more lamentable and

injurious. The time shall come when, in their distress, The smitten people

shall turn for counsel and guidance, comfort and succour, to the priest, the

prophet, the ancient, of the Lord. And then, to crown their sorrow, to

deepen it into despondency, they shall find that the vision has perished, that

the oracle is dumb.”





Jews, the priests performed the sacrifices, and in this represented the nation

before God; whilst the seers and prophets spake to the people of

righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, and in this represented

God to the nations. Others, too, there were who lived and taught among

their fellow countrymen as witnesses of God. In every community there are

raised up by Divine Providence just and fearless servants of God, who

testify to the law which a nation ought to obey, and who summon their

fellow countrymen to obedience. There was doubtless what was special in

the case of the religious leaders of the Jews, but the principle is the same

wherever there exist soldiers of righteousness whose endeavour it is to lead

the people in the holy war.





nations as with individuals; in time of prosperity and of that distraction

which is produced by absorption in things of earth and sense, the soul’s

interests are often neglected, and God himself is often forgotten. But let

affliction befall either a man or a people, let earthly success come to an

end, let earthly props be removed, let earthly visions be shattered, — then

it is seen that consolation and succour are sought in directions long

forsaken and despised. The counsellor, whose warnings were formerly

ridiculed, is now besought to guide and to help. The neglected oracle is

sought unto. Unwonted petitions are presented for help. “Is there,” is the

cry, “is there a word from the Lord?”




SUCCOR IS MADE TOO LATE. The prophet may be dead; he may be

slain, the innocent with the guilty; he may share the fate of those whom he

warned in vain. Or his voice may be judicially silenced; no word may be

given him whereby to relieve anxiety or to encourage hope. And recourse

may be had even to the proper quarter when it is too late to be of any





God has not forgotten to be gracious. Certain opportunities which have

been neglected may never recur; certain ministers of wisdom and sympathy,

whose ministrations have been despised, may no more be available. But the

Lord’s ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, nor his hand shortened that it

cannot save.





False Deliverance (vs. 16-22)



Flight is not deliverance. If the invading army is God’s army, no escape is

possible, save in submission. We cannot elude God’s detectives. Lonely

mountains, no more than crowded cities, serve as an asylum, if God be our

Foe. As we cannot get beyond the limits of his world, neither can we get

beyond the reach of his sword.


  • THEIR MISERY. They may escape, for a moment, sword wounds and

bodily captivity; yet they have not escaped from inward distress and

wretchedness. Exposure to hunger and cold and nakedness on the

mountains is scarcely to be preferred to violent death. God, the real

Avenger, has smitten them in their flight. Their senseless cowardice has

added to their pain. Even though they live, they are dishonoured among

men. The heathen nations will point at them with a finger of scorn. The

common moralities of men reflect, though it be feebly, the just displeasure

of God. Honour is lost, though life is yet continued.


  • THEIR REMORSE. Tears are on all faces, and sorrow is an occupant

of every breast. Yet it is a selfish sorrow, which bears the fruit of death. It

is not repentance, it is only remorse. Had this sorrow earlier come, and had

it sprung from a better motive, it would have availed to deliver them. They

mourn, not because they have sinned, but because their sin has been found

out. When retribution comes, repentance is impossible.


  • THE COLLAPSE OF FALSE TRUST. In the day of their prosperity

they had made their riches their trust. They reposed their faith in idols of

silver instead of the living God. For gold they imagined they could hire

mercenaries or buy the favour of kings. Such wealth as theirs seemed to

them an impregnable security. They could make gates of brass and towers

of iron. Yet how sudden and how complete was the collapse of their proud

hope! Their gold, instead of a protection, became a snare. It attracted the

cupidity of their foes. As hounds scent the prey, so foreign soldiers scented

from afar Israel’s riches. The gold and silver lavished on Jehovah’s temple

drew, like a magnet, the avarice of the Babylonian king! To rely on

material possessions is to rely on a broken reed — is to slumber on the

edge of a volcano.


  • THEIR RELIGIOUS DEGRADATION. Their temple had been their

pride; now it shall be their shame. They had gloried in its external beauty,

and had forgotten that the Lord of the temple is greater than the building.

They had neglected the spirituality of worship, and had profaned the holy

place with human inventions and with idolatrous symbols. In their folly

they had deemed it politic to set up, side by side with Jehovah, the shrines

of other deities. But their policy was rotten. It was based on atheistic

selfishness. And new the profanation they had commenced shall be

completed by their foes. They had admitted a trickling stream of idolatry

into the temple; now it shall become a flood. Thus God makes our sins to

become our punishments; at length they sting like hornets, they bite like

adders. Once our sin lasted like a sweet morsel; when once in the veins it

works like poison. Rebellion is but a seed, of which retribution is the rife




will I turn also from them.” This is the crowning disaster, the bitter dregs

of misery, the knell of doom. If, in our hour of crushing affliction, God

would turn towards us as a Friend, the wheel of ill fortune would be

reversed; all loss would be recovered. If he would only move upon our

hearts with his mighty grace, and reduce our self-will and pride, disaster

would be changed into dowry, night into day. The hurtling clouds would

burst into showers of blessing. But when God departs, the last ray of hope

departs, and man’s prospects set in blackest night.




The Punishment of the Wicked (vs. 1-4)


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

man, thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is

come,” etc. “This chapter,” says Dr. Currey, “is a dirge rather than a

prophecy. The prophet laments over the near approach of the day wherein

the final blow shall be struck, and the city be made the prey of the

Chaldean invader. Supposing the date of the prophecy to be the same as

that of the preceding, there were now but four, or perhaps Three, years to

the final overthrow of the kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar

(‘Speaker’s Commentary’). Our text leads us to observe —




REPENTANCE. “Thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel; An end,

the end is come upon the four corners of the land. Now is the end come

upon thee.” The land is looked upon as a garment, and by the end coming

upon the four corners thereof the prophet indicates the fact that the

approaching judgment will cover the entire country. The punishment of

their sins had been repeatedly and solemnly announced to the Israelites;

and they had disregarded the announcement, and persisted in their sinful

ways; and now “the end” was at hand. They would not consider that end

while there was hope for them; and now the execution of the Divine

judgment cast its dark shadow across their path (compare Lamentations 1:9).

The delay in the infliction of the punishment of sin is sometimes construed

as an assurance that it will never be inflicted. “Because sentence against an

evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is

fully set in them to do evil.” Perilous and, if persisted in, fatal mistake! If in

the time during which punishment is held back the wicked do not truly

repent, that punishment will be all the more terrible when it comes (compare

Romans 2:4-11). The holiness of God arrays him in resolute

antagonism against sin.



THE LORD GOD. “I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee

according to thy ways,” etc. The Chaldeans were as a weapon in the hand

of the Almighty for inflicting deserved punishment upon Israel. (We have

noticed this point in our homily on ch. 5:5-17.) When the stroke

had fallen it was looked upon as having come from the hand of the Most

High (compare Lamentations 1:14, 15; 2:1-9, 17). All persons and all powers

are at God’s disposal, and can be employed by him for the execution of his

judgments. Very impressively is this illustrated in the plagues and

calamities with which he visited Egypt by the hand of Moses.





Ø      Their sins are the cause of their punishment. “I will judge thee

according to thy ways.” They had brought upon themselves the severe

impending judgments. They could not truthfully charge the Lord with

injustice or harshness in thus visiting them, for their punishment was the

just consequence of their sins. “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a

man for the punishment of his sins?” With frequent reiteration Ezekiel

declares that their sins have evoked their sufferings. With pathetic sorrow

Jeremiah acknowledges the same truth (Lamentations 1:8, 9, 18; 3:42;

4:13-14). And it is ever true that the sins of men are the reasons of the

judgments of God.


Ø      Their sins are the measure of their punishment. “I will judge thee

according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine

abominations.” Their sins were persistent, and were aggravated by many

advantages and privileges conferred upon them; therefore their

punishment was terrible in its severity. In the distribution of the Divine

judgments a strict proportion is observed between the guilt and the

penalty of sin. God inflicts his judgments equitably (compare Luke



Ø      Their sins determine the character of their punishment. “I will

recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the

midst of thee,” i.e. in their dire consequences. According to the order

which God has established, the punishment grows out of the sin.

Punishment is “ripened sin.” “Whatsoever a man soweth,

that shall he also reap,” etc. Sin, says Hengstenberg, “has an active and a

passive history. When the latter begins, that which was before the object

of gratification becomes the object of terror.” “Let the sinner know that he

binds for himself the rod which will smite him.” “His own iniquities shall

take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.”



INFLEXIBLY EXECUTED. “And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither

will I have pity.” The holy Scriptures magnify the mercy of God — its

infinity, its perpetuity, its tenderness, and his delight in it. And sometimes

the wicked have drawn from these representations the unwarrantable

conclusion that he is so merciful as to be devoid of justice, so gentle as to

be incapable of anger. But “our God is a consuming Fire.” He will be as

firm in the punishment of the persistently wicked as he is gracious in

pardoning the penitent.. He who mercifully spared repentant Nineveh

ruthlessly destroyed incorrigible Sodom and Gomorrah.




that I am the Lord.” (We have dealt with these words as they occur in ch.

6:7, 10.) “Every one must know the Lord in the end, if not as One that

calls, allures, blesses, then as One that smites, is angry, punishes”

(Schroder). Be it ours to know him as the God of all grace, and to obey

and serve him with loyal hearts and devoted lives.




Aspects of the Execution of the Divine Judgments

(vs. 5-11)


“Thus saith the Lord God; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come. An end is

come,” etc. Nearly everything contained in these verses we have already

noticed in previous paragraphs. Vers. 8 and 9 are almost a literal repetition

of vs. 3 and 4, which came under consideration in our preceding homily.

But certain aspects of the execution of the Divine judgment are here set

forth which we have not hitherto contemplated. We shall confine our

attention to a brief consideration of these.



DIVINE JUDGMENTS IS PREPARED. “The rod hath blossomed, pride

hath budded. Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness.” The rod is the

emblem of power to execute the judgment; and pride, of disposition to

execute it. Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean monarch is thus indicated. And

the text suggests that his power had long been in preparation for the stern

work which he was about to do, and that now it was in readiness for it, like

a rod which has been planted, taken root, and grown into vigorous

development. “It illustrates,” says Kitto, “the Lord’s deliberateness in

executing his judgments, as contrasted with man’s haste, impatience, and

precipitancy. Man, so liable to err in judgment and action and to whom,

slow deliberation in inflicting punishment upon transgressors might seem

naturally to result from his own consciousness of weakness, is in haste to

judge and prompt to act; whereas he who cannot err, and whose immediate

action must be as true and right as his most delayed procedure, works not

after the common manner of men, but after the manner of a husbandman in

sowing and planting. When the sin comes to that state, which must in the

end render judgment needful for the maintenance of righteousness upon the

earth, and for the vindication of the Lord’s justice and honour, the rod of

punishment is planted; it grows as the sin grows; and it attains its maturity

for action at the exact time that the iniquity reaches maturity for

punishment. When Israel entered upon that course of sin which ended in

ruin, the rod of the Babylonian power was planted; and as the iniquities of

Israel increased, the rod went on growing, until, under Nebuchadnezzar, it

became a great tree, overshadowing the nations; and when the full term

was come, it was ripe and ready for the infliction upon Israel of the

judgments which had so often been denounced, and were so greatly

needed” (‘Daily Bible Illustrations’). This principle of the Divine action in

human history may be traced in the relation of the Israelites to the ancient

Canaanites. And in the Babylonian power it receives twofold illustration.

One of these we have in the text, where Babylon is the rod of judgment for

Israel. And afterwards Babylon itself was smitten by the rod of the Medo-

Persian power, which had been gradually growing into maturity and

strength. And the same principle is in operation today in relation both to

nations and to individuals. If by either sin be persisted in, the rod of God’s

judgment for that sin will be planted, and when it has grown into power, 

God will sorely smite the nation or the individual with it. What the poet says of

nature we may say of God.


“Nature has her laws

That will not brook infringement; in all time,

All circumstance, all state, in every clime,

She holds aloft the same avenging sword,

And, sitting on her boundless throne sublime,

The vials of her wrath, with justice stored,

Shall, in her own good hour, on all that’s ill be poured”

(J.G. Percival.)



DIVINE JUDGMENTS TAKES PLACE. “An end is come, the end is

come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come.” Instead of “it watcheth for

thee,” the Hebrew is, as in the margin, “it awaketh against thee.” The end

which had long seemed to sleep, now awakes and comes; it comes in sharp

judgments. “The repetition indicates the certainty, the greatness, and the

swiftness” of the approaching end. The judgment which had so long and

frequently been announced to Israel, would come upon them at last

suddenly and unexpectedly. That which seemed to sleep, awakes, arises,

and draws near, to their confusion and dismay. How often do the

judgments of God come unexpectedly, and with a great shock of surprise!

Thus came the Deluge upon the old world, and the fiery flood upon the

cities of the plain (Matthew 24:38=39; Luke 17:26-29). Thus came

the awful summons to the fool in the midst of his temporal prosperity and

spiritual destitution (Luke 12:16-20). And so will come the last, the

great day of judgment. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the

night,” etc. (II Peter 3:10). Although the wicked may persuade

themselves that the Divine retribution lingers and slumbers, it is ever awake

and active, and, unless they repent, it shall come upon them in “swift




DIVINE JUDGMENTS PRODUCES. “The time is come, the day of

trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains.” Schroder

translates more correctly, “The day is near, tumult, and not joyous shouting

upon the mountains.” Upon some of their hills the Israelites planted vines,

and in the time of the gathering of the vintage the labourers made the hills

to echo with shouts and songs of gladness (compare Isaiah 16:10). Perhaps

the prophet refers to this in the text. Or the reference may be to the altars

which were upon the mountains (ch. 6:3, 13; Jeremiah 3:21, 23), and from

which the shouts and songs of revelling worshippers echoed

far and wide. And instead of these shouts of joy there should arise the wild

tumult of war, and the lamentable cries of the distressed, imploring succour

or seeking deliverance. Terrible are the transformations wrought by the

judgments of the Most High. The selfish rich man passed from his

luxurious home, his purple and fine linen, and his sumptuous fare, “and in

Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments,” and was unable to obtain

even a drop of water to cool his patched tongue. Blessed are they who,

through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, are delivered from

condemnation, and made heirs of eternal life.





                                    The Limitation of the Power of Riches

                                                       (vs. 12-13, 19)


“The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the

seller mourn,” etc. It is not wise to despise riches, or to affect to do so, or

to depreciate them. They have many uses; they may be made the means of

promoting the physical well being and the mental progress of their

possessor, of enabling him to do much good to others, and of furthering

the highest and best interests of the human race. When wisely employed,

they produce most excellent results. On the other hand, it is foolish and

wrong to over estimate them: to make their attainment the object of our

supreme concern and effort, to trust in them, to make a god of them. The

verses chosen as our text suggest the following observations.




buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude

thereof. For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they

were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof; he

shall not return.” The reference seems to be to a compulsory sale of their

estates by the Jews at the time of the troubles now impending. As the

‘Speaker’s Commentary’ points out, “it was grievous for an Israelite to

part with his land. But now the seller need not mourn his loss, nor the

buyer exult in his gain. A common ruin should carry both away; the buyer

should not take possession, nor should the seller return to profit by the

buyer’s absence. Should he live, it will be in exile. All should live the pitiful

lives of strangers in another country.” The sad changes about to transpire

would so depreciate the value of the commodity sold, that the seller need

not mourn over a bad bargain, or the buyer rejoice over a good one.

Circumstances and events producing similar effects frequently arise, and

will readily occur to every one upon reflection. The commercial value of

properties and possessions fluctuates; and that to which a man may be

looking confidently for the means of subsistence may become almost or

altogether worthless. There is no absolute and permanent value in the

riches of this world.






Ø      Their inability to satisfy their souls. “They shall not satisfy their souls.”

Schroder interprets this that their silver and gold were aesthetically

worthless to the Israelites in the day of their calamity; they were not able to

minister to their taste or promote their enjoyment in their season of hitter

woe. It is true that in the day of sore distress all that can be bought with

money will not afford relief. Aesthetic gratifications — pictures and

statues, poetry and music — cannot adequately minister to the soul in its

deepest sorrows. But may we not discover in the words a deeper meaning?

Gold and silver cannot supply the soul’s greatest needs, or satisfy its most

importunate cravings. The gifts of God cannot be purchased with money.


Ø      Their inability, in certain circumstances, to procure even the

necessaries of bodily life. “They shall… neither fill their bowels.” When no

food was left in the beleaguered city, the Israelites could not appease, or

even mitigate, their hunger with their riches. I have read of an Arab who

lost his way in the desert, and was in danger of dying from hunger. At last

he found one of the cisterns out of which the camels drink, and a little

leathern bag near it. “God be thanked!” he exclaimed. “Here are some

dates or nuts; let me refresh myself.” He opened the bag, but only to turn

away in sad disappointment. The bag contained pearls. And of what value

were they to one who, like Esau, was “at the point to die”?


Ø      Their inability to deliver from the retributions of the Divine

government. “Their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in

the day of the wrath of the Lord” (compare Zephaniah 1:18). Riches can

neither set a man so high that God’s judgments cannot reach him. nor

surround him with such panoply that God’s arrows cannot pierce through

it. We have striking illustrations of this in the cases of two rich men of

whom our Lord spake (Luke 12:16-20; 16:19-31). And there are some

of the ordinary afflictions and sorrows of this life from which we can

secure neither immunity nor deliverance by means of riches. “A golden

crown cannot cure the headache, nor a velvet slipper give ease of the gout,

nor a purple robe flay away a burning fever.” All the royal wealth of King

David could not ward off death from one of his children (II Samuel

12:15-18), or exempt him from the heartbreaking treachery and rebellion of

another (ibid. ch. 15).



POSSESSION OF RICHES. In circumstances like those indicated by the

prophet riches are calculated to increase the evils in two ways.


Ø      They may endanger life by enkindling the greed of enemies. Greedy

of booty, the invaders of Jerusalem would be likely to direct their

unwelcome attentions to the rich, and not to the poor. As Matthew Henry

quaintly observes, “It would be a temptation to the enemy to cut their

throats for their money.” Hence Ezekiel says, “They shall cast their silver

in the streets, and their gold shall be removed,” or “shall be as filth.” They

would cast it away as an unclean thing, because their life was imperilled

by it.


Ø      They may endanger life by hindering flight from enemies. Riches would

be an encumbrance to those Israelites who sought to escape from the

Chaldean soldiery by flight, and would retard their progress. Therefore, to

be more free and swift in their movements, “they shall cast their silver in

the streets, and their gold shall be as filth.” How many human lives have

been lost in the attempt to save riches! When the steamer Washington was

burnt, one of the passengers, on the first alarm of fire, ran to his trunk,

and took from it a large amount of gold and silver coin, and, loading his

pockets, ran to the deck and jumped overboard. As a necessary

consequence, he went down immediately. His riches were his ruin.


·         THAT RICHES MAY BE THE OCCASION OF SIN. “Because it is

the stumbling block of their iniquity.” Their silver and gold had been the

occasion of sin to the Israelites, especially in the manufacture of idols. “Of

their silver and their gold have they made them idols” (Hosea 8:4). And

there are many in our age and country to whom riches are an occasion of

sin; they set their affections upon them, they repose their confidence in

them. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of

God!” etc. (Luke 18:24-25). “The deceitfulness of riches chokes the

word” of the kingdom. “They that will be rich tall into temptation and a

snare,” etc. (1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17-19).


·         CONCLUSION.


1. Let us endeavor to form a true estimate of riches.

2. If we possess them, let us use our riches, not as the proprietors, but as

   the stewards thereof, who will one day be called by the great Owner to

   render the account of oar stewardship.






                        The Perversion of Desirable Possessions Punished


                                        the Deprivation of Them

                                                     (vs. 20-22)


“As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it, in majesty,” etc. In these

words we discover:



This verse has been differently translated and interpreted. Hengstenberg

renders it, “And his glorious ornament he has set for pride; and they made

the images of their abominations and detestable idols of it: therefore have I

laid it on them for uncleanness.” Some refer this to the temple, which “by

way of eminence was the glory and ornament of the nation.” Others,

connecting it with the preceding verse, refer it to the riches, or to the

elegant ornaments made of gold and silver, which the Israelites possessed.

Without presuming to speak dogmatically on the point, we incline to the

latter view. The Israelites were an opulent people. The Prophet Isaiah said,

“Their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their

treasures.” God had enabled them to accumulate riches (compare

Deuteronomy 8:18). And now they misused their wealth against Him.


Ø      Their desirable possessions they turned into an occasion of pride. “His

glorious ornament he has set for pride.” The “he” signifies the people,

who are called either he or they. They perverted their riches into a parade

of their own self-sufficient, power; they misused them for their self-

glorification. The prosperity, which should have enkindled their gratitude

to the Lord their God, led to their presumption and self-exaltation

(compare Isaiah 2:11, 17). This is not a solitary case, but a representative

one, of the way in which the gifts of God are perverted by the sin of

man. When spiritual privileges lead to supercilious pharisaism (compare

Luke 18:11); when the possession of personal gifts and abilities generate

self-conceit; or when the possession of riches is made the occasion of

self-laudation (compare Deuteronomy 7:17; Daniel 4:30); — when

these things occur, we have a similar abuse of the gifts of God.

“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,”

etc. (Jeremiah 9:23-24).


Ø      Their desirable possessions they turned into detestable idols. “They

made the images of their abominations and detestable idols of it.” In

Isaiah 2:7-8 the abundance of riches and the prevalence of idolatry

stand in close connection. To a great extent the idolatry proceeded from

the self-exaltation. Pride would choose even its own god, rather than

accept and serve the true God as he has revealed himself and his will.

“All idolatry,” says Hengstenberg, “is at bottom egoism, the apotheosis

of self, that sets up its god out of itself — first makes and then adores.”

The gold and silver, which the Lord had enabled them to acquire, they

abused against His express commands, and to His dishonour. Nor is

this sin of perverting God’s gifts to sinful and base uses without its

modern illustrations. When the poet employs his glorious gift of song

for the pollution of the imagination; or the philosopher his powers

for the propagation of skepticism and the destruction of faith; when

riches are expended for the gratification of pride, the love of vain show,

or for any sinful object; when a nation uses its power oppressively,

tyrannically, or to the injury of others; — when these things are done,

the principle of the sin dealt with in our text receives fresh illustration.




into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for

a spoil; and they shall pollute it.” Notice:


Ø      The true Proprietor of mans possessions. “I will give it into the hands

of the strangers.” In these words, by implication, the Most High asserts his

claim to dispose of the riches of the Israelites according to his own

pleasure. The richest man is but the steward or trustee of the riches. God

alone is absolute Proprietor. The ablest man is indebted to God for his

abilities, and is solemnly accountable to him for the use of them. “For who

maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” etc.

(1 Corinthians 4:7). God has the right to do with our gifts and goods

how and what He will.


Ø      Man deprived of the possessions which he has abused by the true

Proprietor of them. God was about to give the riches of the Israelites to

the Chaldeans, who are here spoken of as “strangers, and the wicked of the

earth.” They could not have conquered and spoiled the Israelites but for

the permission of the Lord Jehovah. The victory of the Chaldeans was his

penal victory over his sinful people. Is it not reasonable and righteous that

the gifts which have been perverted should be withdrawn from their

pervertors? that the possessions which have been abused should be taken

away from their abusers? (compare Matthew 21:33-43).




also from them, and they shall pollute my secret: for the robbers shall enter

into it, and defile it.”


Ø      Persistence in sin leads to the withdrawal of the favor of God. Turning

the Divine face to any one is an expression denoting the favourable regards

of God (compare Numbers 6:25-26; Psalm 25:16; 67:1; 69:16; 80:3, 7,

19; 86:16). “The face of God,” says Schroder suggestively, “is the

consecration of our life: our free upward look to it, its gracious look on

us.” In his favour there is life and peace, prosperity and joy. The turning of

his face from any one is a token of his displeasure. He was about to turn it

away thus from Israel.


Ø      The withdrawal of the favour of God leaves man without adequate

defence. “They shall pollute my secret: for the robbers shall enter into it,

and defile it.” Very different meanings are given to the words, “my secret.”

Some would translate it, “my treasure,” and apply it to Jerusalem; others to

the holy land in general. Ewald interprets it, “the treasure of my

guardianship, i.e. of my country or my people.” It seems to us probable

that Jerusalem is meant. When God turns “away his face from any, the lace

of calamity and destruction is towards them, nay, destruction is upon them.

No sooner doth God turn away from a nation, but destruction steps into

that nation.” He is both the Sun and the Shield of his people; and if he turn

his face away from them, they are in darkness, and defenseless before their

enemies and dangers. And this was the punishment of idolatry most

solemnly announced by Jehovah through his servant Moses: “I will hide my

face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles

shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come

upon us, because our God is not among us?” (Deuteronomy 31:16-18).


·         CONCLUSION. Here are solemn admonitions as to our use of the

privileges and possessions, the gifts and goods, which God has bestowed

upon us.