1 “He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them
that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with
his destroying weapon in his hand.” He cried, etc. The voice comes, as
before, from the human form, seen as a theophany, in the midst of the Divine
glory. Cause them that have charge over the city. The noun is an abstract plural,
commonly rendered “visitation” (Isaiah 10:3; Jeremiah 11:23, and elsewhere).
Here, however, it clearly stands for persons (just as we use “the watch” for
“the watchmen”), and is so used in Isaiah 60:17; II Kings 11:18
(compare ch. 44:11). The persons addressed are called “men,” but
they are clearly thought of as superhuman; like the angels who came to
24:16; I Chronicles 21:16. His destroying weapon. The word clearly implies
something different from a sword, but corresponds in its vagueness to the
Hebrew. In v. 2 the Hebrew for “slaughter weapon” implies an instrument
for crashing into fragments, probably an axe or mace. A cognate word in
Jeremiah 51:20 is translated “battle axe,” and the Septuagint gives that
meaning here, as also does the margin of the Revised Version.
2 “And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which
lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his
hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a
writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the
brasen altar.” Behold, six men, etc. The man clothed with linen brings the
number up to the sacred number seven, as in Zechariah 4:10;
Revelation 1:16,20; 15:6. He is over them rather than among them, and
answers to the scribe who appears so frequently in Assyrian sculptures, as
the secretary who counts the prisoners that have been taken in battle. They
come from the north, the region from which the vision of ch.1:4
had come, in which, in the nearer vision of ch. 8:4, the prophet had
seen the same glorious presence. They appear, i.e., as issuing from the
Divine presence to do their work of judgment. Possibly. as in Jeremiah 1.,
there may be an allusive reference to the fact that the Chaldeans, as the
actual instruments of their judgment, came from the same region. The gate
in question was built by Jotham (II Kings 15:35). The captain of the
band is arrayed in the “white linen” of the hosts of heaven and of the
priests on earth (ποδήρης - podaeraes – clothed - in the Septuagint;
compare Leviticus 6:10; 16:4; ch. 44:17; Daniel 10:5; 12:6). A writer’s inkhorn.
Through all the changes of Eastern life this has been the outward sign of the
scribe’s office. Here it is obviously connected with the oft-recurring thought
of the books of life and death in the chancery of heaven (Exodus 32:32;
Psalm 69:28; 139:16; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3). It was to be
the work of this scribe (v. 4) to mark such as were for death to death, such
as were for life to life. The Septuagint, misunderstanding the
Hebrew, or following a different text, gives, not “a writer’s inkhorn,” but
“a girdle of sapphire.” With all the precision of one who knew every inch
of the temple courts, the priest-prophet sees the visitants take their station
beside the brazen altar, probably, as they came from the north, on the north
side of it.
A Writer’s Inkhorn (v. 2)
Here was a singular contrast. When
to slaughter, six armed men went forth for the work of destruction, their
accoutrements and military bearing quite in harmony with the dread
circumstances of the day; but accompanied by a most incongruous
companion, a civilian, one of the city clerks, perhaps, with no better
ammunition than an inkhorn. When, however, the work of this man of ink
is apparent, his function is seen to be of supreme importance in regard to
the events of the day; for he it is who is to set a mark on the foreheads of
the penitent, which is to save them from the otherwise indiscriminate
used in those early days; yet even then the pen was known and used. Since
that distant age how greatly has its power extended! It is now par
excellence the tool and weapon of civilized society. From the inkhorn go
forth influences that encircle the globe and endure to many generations.
The writer at his desk uses his magic fluid as an elixir vitae for ideas which
would otherwise be still born and be speedily buried in oblivion. By means
of this potent agency he is able to give body and endurance to the fleeting
fancies of the hour. The greatest truths are thus preserved and transmitted.
If there had been no inkhorn, we should have had no Bible. Civilization has
grown up on the food of literature. The sword destroys; the pen creates.
When the work of the warrior is lost in the wreck of ages, the work of the
writer still endures. The victories of Nebuchadnezzar have left not a
shadow behind them; but the Psalms of David are more powerful today
than when the sweet singer of
may be put to hurtful or frivolous uses. It may disseminate poisonous
ideas. Bad literature is worse than the plague. In private life the pen may
record scandal that had better have been forgotten; it may write spiteful
words that will rankle in the mind of the reader who peruses them long
years after the heedless writer has forgotten that he ever committed the
folly of putting them to paper. The power of the pen is a warning to the
humblest writer to beware of what he sets down. But there is a noble use
of this power. The man with the inkhorn in Ezekiel’s vision was to mark
the penitent, and so to secure their being passed over in the great slaughter
by the men of the sword. It is nobler to save than to destroy. The arts of
peace are better than the science of war. Pure literature should be a saving
and protecting influence. They who have the thoughts of God written on
their minds and hearts may be said to be marked against the advent of the
destroyer. All who have the gift or the vocation of writing are called to a
career which should be one of help to their fellow men. The literary man is
tempted to be indolent and selfish, to dream his life away without coming
into contact with the misery of his fellow men, and without doing much to
alleviate that misery. Ezekiel’s man of the inkhorn, however, is to leave his
desk and walk through the streets. He is to use his ink to save his fellows.
When a city is perishing it is no time to write idle sonnets.
inkhorn was required to give an account of his use of it (see v. 11). This
is a talent which the great Master expects to be used for His glory. Abuse
of it is sin. Now, there are special temptations to such an abuse.
Ø The love of fame. This leads to writing what will be admiral rather
than what is good and true.
Ø The greed of money. The gift of writing is prostituted to a shameful
use when a man writes for pay contrary to his conscience and his
Ø The sense of power. A writer is tempted to set down striking words,
even if they should not be quite true, or though, perhaps, they should
needlessly pain some fellow man. Smartness is often cruel. Writing,
like every other act of life, needs to be consecrated to Christ and
executed for His glory.
3 “And the
glory of the God of
whereupon He was, to the threshold of the house. And He called to
the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his
side;” Was gone up; better, went up. The prophet saw the process as
well as the result. The “glory of the Lord” which he had seen (ch.8:4)
by the northern gate rose from its cherub throne (we note the use of
the singular to express the unity of the fourfold form), as if to direct the
action of His ministers, to the threshold of the “house.” This may be
connected also with the thought that the normal abiding place of the
presence of the Lord had been “between the cherubim” (Psalm 80:1) of
the mercy seat, but that thought seems in the present instance to be in the
background, and I adopt the former interpretation as preferable.
4 “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city,
through the midst of
of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be
done in the midst thereof. 5 And to the others he said in mine hearing,
Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare,
neither have ye pity:” Set a mark upon the foreheads, etc. The command
reminds us of that given to the destroying angel in Exodus 12:13, and has its
earlier and later analogues in the mark set upon Cain (Genesis 4:15),
and in the “sealing” of the servants of God in Revelation 7:3. Here, as
in the last example, the mark is set, not on the lintels of the doorposts, but
upon the “foreheads” of the men. And the mark is the letter tau, in old
Hebrew, that of a cross + , and like the “mark” of mediaeval and (in the
case of the illiterate) of modern usage, seems to have been used as a
signature, and is rightly so translated in the Revised Version of Job
31:35. Jewish writers have accounted for its being thus used, either:
Christian writers (Origen, in loc.; Tertullian, ‘Adv. Marcion,’
3:22) have not unnaturally seen in it a quasi-prophetic reference to the sign
of the cross as used by Christians, and it is possible that the use of that sign
in baptism may have originated in this passage. That was to be the sign of
the elect of God in the midst of a world lying in wickedness “among whom
we are to shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15). It is clear, that
there could be no anticipation of the Christian symbolism in the minds of
Ezekiel or of his hearers. The “mark” was to be placed on all who were still
faithful to the worship of their fathers, though they could show their
faithfulness only by lamentation of the national apostasy. (The only way
that I have known to respond to the
turning her back on God, is “I MOURN!” - CY – 2014). Such, of course,
were Jeremiah, and Baruch, and Ahikam, and Shaphan, and Gedaliah, and
others, and such as these Ezekiel may have had present in his thoughts.
Against all others (v. 5) they were sent forth with UNSPARING SEVERITY!
The Mark upon the Forehead (v. 4)
FOREHEADS. “The men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations”
are to be marked on the forehead by the man with the inkhorn. God looks
for confession of sin and repentance. He does not expect primitive
innocence, because we have all lost that fair grace of
to see our admission of guilt and our sorrow for sin. The penitent publican
is accepted (Luke 18:13). The woman who washed Christ’s feet with
her tears is forgiven (Ibid. ch.7:37-48). Such a condition involves certain
Ø A recognition of the fact of guilt. We are often just blind to sin. It is
one great step gained when we abandon excuses and admit the
charges God has against us.
Ø A sense of sorrow for sin. These men “sigh.” It is worse to admit
guilt and to pride ourselves in it, or regard it with indifference,
making light of sin, than to be ignorant of its enormity.
Ø A public confession. These men “cry.” They are known among their
companions as penitents. Such are the men whom God marks.
FOREHEADS. When the slayers go about with their swords they are to
spare all who have the mark. The use of this inkmark on the forehead is
like the use of the blood smeared on the doorposts of the Hebrews on the
night when the destroying angel went about to slay the firstborn
God does not punish indiscriminately. In the midst of wrath HE
REMEMBERS MERCY! (Habakkuk 3:2) There is a way of escape from
Divine vengeance. When we REPENT OF SIN He is ready to forgive
Ø The mark is set by a Divine command. The penitent do not mark
themselves, nor do they mark one another. There may be wolves in
sheep’s clothing in Christ’s flock. The seeming penitent may be a
hypocrite; but “the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (Nahum
1:7; II Timothy 2:19).
Ø The mark is conspicuous. “On the forehead,” not on some hidden
part of the body. There can be no mistake about it. Men may be
disowned by their brethren, but God will not forget His own.
OF CHRIST. This whole scene is visionary. We may find in it illustrations
of more than the people of the time guessed, or even the prophet himself
dreamed. According to the best interpretation of the text, the mark seems
to have been a cross. The penitent had the sign of the cross drawn in ink
upon their foreheads. In
posts. Look at these two symbols — a cross; sprinkled blood! Both are for
the same object — to secure deliverance. Surely we have here, at least,
most apt illustrations of THE CHRISTIAN REDEMPTION! No mere
inkmark of the cross, nor sacramental wine, can effect spiritual deliverance.
But the cross and blood of Christ, i.e. the giving of His life for us and to us,
secure our salvation. We must see to it, however, that this cross, this “mark
of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17), is on each one of us individually.
(Contrast the “mark of the beast” – Revelation 13:14-18 – CY – 2014)
The Mark of Spiritual Concern (v. 4)
The defection and idolatry already described in the previous chapter could
neither be disregarded nor unavenged. A nation that had enjoyed privileges
conspicuously great as
privileges, apostatized from the God to whom they owed everything that
distinguished them from the surrounding nations, had written its own
sentence of condemnation.
epitaph! - CY – 2014) But the Divine retribution is never
undiscriminating. The laws of national life are such that the righteous are
often slain with the wicked; but their calamity is not a sign of Divine
displeasure. And above this earth, upon which anomalies are ever
witnessed — anomalies calling for both submission and faith — there is a
region where perfect discrimination IS EVER EXHIBITED! This passage
teaches a precious lesson. The Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25);
He will separate the wheat from the chaff. “The Lord knoweth them that are His”
(II Timothy 2:19). They bear His own mark, the impress of His own seal. They
shall be delivered in the judgment that shall overtake the disobedient and rebellious.
The Divine Priest of salvation Himself gives the direction, “Come not near any
man upon whom is the mark!”
COMMUNITY. The various idolatries that had been brought into
neighborhood and the precincts of the temple itself the worship and the
practices of the heathen prevailed unchecked. A holy God, and
commandments righteous and pure, were forsaken for deities and for rites
which were the expression of human degradation and corruption. Where is
the community in which there is nothing parallel to the state of things at
standard of judgment and of life, are too often substituted for the lofty and
exacting religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. With irreligion come vice and
crime in varying forms. Abominations are wrought in every great city in
Christendom at which angels may weep.
battle axes, whom the prophet saw in his vision, were directed to execute a
righteous sentence upon the inhabitants of the city; they were without pity
to slay the sinful and rebellious OF EVERY AGE AND EVERY CLASS!
There is something awful in the resolve of the Lord, as recorded by the prophet,
“I will recompense their way upon their head.” No one who has studied the
history of the nations of the earth will question the action of a retributive
us; but we are not left in doubt as to the fate of the selfish, the worldly, the
unjust, the cruel, the voluptuous, in a word, the idolatrous, those who
forget and forsake God. However it may be hereafter, there is no room for
questioning how it is in this world with those who rebel against God.
TOO GENERALLY REGARDED. Such indifference is sometimes
justified by argument: as when men say that the world’s sin is fated and
inevitable, and that it is needless and useless to trouble ourselves
concerning it. But generally this is merely a sign of selfishness and hardness
of heart. Men shut their eyes and deafen their ears to the evidences of
prevailing sin; to recognize it would disagreeably disturb them in their
pursuits, their pleasures, their dreams.
TRUE PEOPLE OF GOD BY THE SPECTACLE OF ABOUNDING
INIQUITY. There are those, thank God, in every community of professed
Christians who are not unaffected by the abominations which are done.
They mark their sense of prevailing sin by their protests and rebukes, by
their confessions and prayers, by their practical efforts for the improvement
of their fellow men, and especially by their zeal in the proclamation of the
gospel and in the furtherance of all means employed to bring before the
minds of sinners the character, the ministry, the redeeming work of Him
who came “TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST!”
FAVOR, AND A SIGN OF FUTURE SALVATION. It was a common
practice, and indeed still is, in the East, to set a mark upon the forehead of
the deity worshipped, and upon the forehead of the worshipper. The
practice is alluded to in other passages besides this in Ezekiel. The priest
and intercessor placed the sign upon those who sighed and cried because of
the abominations; and they were exempted from the general calamities and
destruction. In this provision is a great spiritual truth. We should commit a
mistake did we understand an outward and visible sign merely. This may be
present or absent. It is the Lord’s own prerogative to mark His own people,
to recognize their earnest spiritual concern, to assure them of His own
favor and approval as partaking the sentiments, if it may so be expressed
with reverence, of His own nature, and to secure them for the coming
tribulation, to hide them as in the cleft of the rock, and to enrich them with
the blessings of eternal salvation. There is no truer mark of the Divine
Spirit than sorrow for prevalent sin, and solicitude for the cause of truth
6 “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and
women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and
begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which
were before the house.” Begin at my sanctuary, etc. It was fitting that
the spot in which guilt had culminated should be the starting point of
punishment. There seems something like a reference to this command
in I Peter 4:17. In each case judgment “begins at the house of God.”
So the dread work began with the ancient men, or elders, of the same class,
i.e., if not the same persons, as those mentioned in ch.8:11.
Beginning at the Sanctuary (v. 6)
The destroying messengers were to begin their direful work at the sanctuary.
flee to the holy shrine as to an asylum. This was done at heathen temples,
and later at Christian churches, and no doubt in rude, violent ages, the
pause of vengeance which such places afforded, like the use of the “cities
of refuge” for the innocent manslayer, would then serve the purpose of
justice. But this would be needless with God, because He is never hasty nor
unjust, but slow to anger, and only taking just vengeance. Moreover, the
asylum can never be a permanent protection for the guilty, and Ezekiel’s
Jews at the temple are guilty.
Ø No holy place can secure us against God’s wrath. We are not saved
by attending church. The bad man who dies at church will go to the
same fate that would have awaited him if he had dropped dead in
his familiar haunts of debauchery.
Ø No holy office will secure us without holy living. They who minister
at the altar are not spared because of their sacred function. Priests
share the doom of laity. Dante and Michael Angelo locate bishops
in hell. The cardinal’s hat appears in Fra Angelico’s picture of the
prison of lost souls. We shall not escape the punishment of our sins
by putting on clerical vestments.
doubt the punishment was to begin there because the worst sin was
practiced in that place. The previous chapter gives an account of the
abominations of the “chambers of imagery” in the temple. Many things
concur to make the sins of the sanctuary great.
Ø They are sins committed against light. The sins of Christians are
worse than the same deeds done by the heathen, because
Christians know the evil of them. People brought up under
religious influences have not the excuse which may be pleaded
for the poor waifs and strays of the streets.
Ø They are sins committed by men who profess better things.
Hypocrisy is thus added to the guilt of the offences themselves.
Ø They are stumbling blocks to others. Where a good example is
looked for, people see the shame of a hypocritical pretence. This
is enough to destroy all faith in religion.
Ø They are dishonoring to God. The holy place is desecrated. Where
God should be most honored His Name is most outraged.
destroyed; the Jews were scattered. These things were done in part for our
warning. They show that great guilt will surely bring great punishment.
They make it evident that no favoritism will prevent God from punishing
the guilty. The members of a Christian Church will have no immunity on
account of their membership, nor will pious phrases condone impious
deeds. The bosom of destruction will make a thorough search of the most
secret refuges WHEN GOD DOES BEGIN THAT DREADFUL
WORK! Let us flee from the sanctuary TO THE SAVIOUR!
Divine Discrimination in the Execution of Judgment (vs. 4-6)
In the execution of His judgments God discriminates between the two great
Divisions of moral character. “And he called to the man clothed with linen,
which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; and the Lord said unto him,”
etc. (vs. 3-6). Thus in this judgment certain persons were to be spared,
while the rest were cut off; and provision was made for sparing them. How
were they to be divided? Upon what principle was the awful separation to
the great division of men as a matter of Divine choice, altogether
irrespective of human character or conduct. They say that men are elect or
non-elect and reprobate solely because of the determinations of the Divine
will. Certainly it is not so in this case. In the Divine estimation the essential
division of men is not material, social, or intellectual, but moral. Mark the
character here indicated of the men who are to be preserved: “The men
that sigh and cry for all the abominations, that be done in the midst”
of the city.
Ø Men who deeply grieved because of sin. They “sighed for all the
abominations,” etc. They did not participate in them, or regard
them as trivial, or treat them with indifference; but were burdened
by them, and mourned over them. Thus have holy men in all ages
been afflicted by sin (compare II Peter 2:7-8; Psalm 119:53, 136, 158;
139:21; Jeremiah 9:1; Ezra 9:3). And thus our blessed Lord was
deeply moved by the wickedness and woe of men (Luke 13:34;
Ø Men who gave expression to their grief because of sin. “That cry” —
Or groan — “for all the abominations,” etc. Their sorrow found
audible utterance. It was not concealed, but manifest. Their cries
and groans indicated the oppression of their souls. It argues
strength of grace to mourn for others’ sins. Censuring and
reproaching of others for their sins argues strength of corruption;
and mourning for them argues strength of grace, a sound spiritual
constitution. Such a one was in Christ; He prayed because of the
hardness of others’ hearts (Mark 3:5).” Such are the characters
who were to be spared in the great slaughter.
man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side,” etc.
(vs. 3-4). Some think that the inkhorn was to be used for registering the
names in the book of life, and making the mark upon the forehead. And as
to the character of the mark, many contend that it was in the form of a
cross. But the entire proceeding appears to be symbolical. We know that it
took place in vision; and this marking upon the forehead was not to be an
actual external thing, but it was a figurative setting forth of the truth that in
the general slaughter certain persons would be safe, they would be guarded
by the omniscient and omnipotent providence of God. Now, this
discrimination was infallible. The man with the inkhorn is no other than He
who “knew all men, and needed not that any one should testify of man; for
He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). His knowledge is
infinite, both in its minuteness and in its comprehensiveness. And in THE
FINAL JUDGMENT which is committed unto Him, there will be no mistake.
To Him every man’s character will be manifest as if written upon his forehead;
and He will read it with unerring accuracy.
He said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite,” etc.
(vs. 5-6). They who had the mark upon their foreheads were exempted
from the awful judgments, while they who had it not were subject unto
them. The signed ones were perfectly secure; the unsigned were ruthlessly
slaughtered. But were the godly actually preserved in the siege and capture
of the city? We know that Jeremiah, Ebed-melech, and Baruch were
(Jeremiah 39:16-18; 45:5). But looking at the question more broadly
— Are the true and good exempted from the judgments which befall the
wicked? In some instances they have been. Noah was saved when the
ungodly world was drowned;
the plain; the Israelites escaped the plagues which fell upon the Egyptians;
and ere the destruction of
escaped to the little town of
Payson, “it will perhaps be said that many of the most bold and faithful
servants of God and opposers of vice have suffered even unto blood,
striving against sin. We grant it, but still it is true that the mark of God was
upon them. It appeared in those Divine consolations which raised them far
above suffering and the fear of death, and enabled them to rejoice and
glory in tribulation. Did not Stephen exhibit this mark, when his murderers
saw his face as it had been the face of an angel? (Acts 6:15) Did not Paul
and Silas display it, when at midnight their joy broke forth, in the hearing
of their fellow prisoners, in rapturous ascriptions of praise? (Ibid 16:25)
Did not some of the martyrs display it, when they exclaimed in the flames,
‘We feel no more pain than if reposing on a bed of roses’?” So far as the
outward event is concerned, the righteous and the wicked have often
been swept away in one common calamity; but wide has been the difference
of their inward experiences in such calamities. Nothing befalls the godly
but what they shall be sustained under, and it shall be overruled for their
good. In the gracious providence of God “all things work together for
good to them that love” Him. (Romans 8:28) “Who is he that will
harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Peter 3:13)
It is eternally true that “righteousness tendeth to life and he that
pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death” (Proverbs 11:19).
In THE LAST GREAT ASSIZE the wicked “shall go away into
eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
7 “And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with
the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.”
Defile the house, etc. What Ezekiel saw in vision was, we may
well believe, fulfilled literally when the city was taken by the Chaldeans.
The pollution of the temple by the bleeding corpses of the idolatrous
worshippers was a fitting retribution for the worship with which they had
polluted it (compare ch. 6:13).
The Jews had a horror of death, and regarded a corpse with disgust as an
unclean thing, the presence of which would defile the most holy place, and
the touch of which would render unclean any person who came in contact
with it. Therefore a massacre in the temple would defile that sanctuary in
the eyes of the nation by filling it with scenes of death, and strewing its
courts with abhorred dead bodies. The irony of such a conception lies in
the fact that the aggravated abominations of idolatry and vice which
brought down this fate on the doomed temple had not been regarded as
any defilement. So it was when the Jews feared to enter Pilate’s palace lest
the consequent defilement should prevent them from eating the Passover,
although the stain of murder on their consciences was not reckoned to be
any impediment (John 18:28). Thus men strain out the gnat and swallow
the camel. (Matthew 23:24)
TO THE INTERNAL.
Ø This is caused by the deadening influence of sin. The once keen
conscience is blunted, and the perception of real evil dulled, so that
what should be regarded with loathing is tolerated with indifference.
At the same time, the conventional standards by which questions of
outward propriety are measured remain undiminished. The loss of the
higher standards then gives these lower ones a fictitious supremacy.
(Is not this
what is happening in Church-State issues in
CY – 2014) The fog which hides the eternal mountains of Divine
righteousness magnifies the petty hillocks of human opinion.
Ø This is illustrated in all phases of experience. Not only is more
thought of external than of internal defilement in religion;
external things generally take the lead. The punishment of a sin
is more considered than the evil of the sin itself. Shame is treated
as worse than GUILT! The word “character”comes to be
transferred from interior disposition to public reputation. A
social stigma is dreaded, while undiscovered sin is harbored
complacently. (This written at least 200 years ago – CY – 2014)
things which proceed out of a man that defile him (Matthew 15:18),
because they spring from the center of all true evil, THE HEART
Ø The sanctuary of worship is only defiled by the corrupt conduct
of the worshippers. Pompey could not really defile the sacred
courts by trampling rudely over the holy ground. The true
abomination of desolation was the sin of the Jews. A church is
desecrated by worldliness and evil thoughts in the worshippers.
Ø The temple of the body is only defiled by unholy conduct. It is a
mere symbol of this defilement when contact with a corpse is
thought to render the person unclean. Contact with sinful
occupations is the real defilement. When this temple of the
Holy Ghost is turned into a depository of evil, its glory
DEPARTS! It is not the dead flesh of a corpse, but living
carnality that DEFILES! When this rottenness is cut out
no external defilement can hurt, for then “to the pure all
things are pure.” (Titus 1:15)
OUTWARD SHAME. The Jews are to have the temple defiled in this
external manner as a punishment for the previous moral degradation of it.
In the end SIN BLOSSOMS INTO SHAME! The commission of sin may
be hidden, but the punishment of it will be public. In God’s great day the
secrets of all hearts will be revealed (Luke 12:2-3). THEN hypocrisy will
cease, and the external will be a true index to the internal. The defiled soul
will be seen in a foul body; the corruption of heart will be punished by THE
DEGRADATION OF ALL THINGS THAT A MAN PRIZES! The only
way of escape is by a previous confession of the soul corruption, and the
cleansing of the heart from its defilement through the grace of Christ
8 “And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left,
that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt
thou destroy all the residue of
the prophet were left in the courts of the temple alone. His human, national
sympathies led him, as they led Moses (Numbers 11:2; 14:19) and
Paul (Romans 9:1-3) to undertake the work of intercession. With the
words which had been the keynote of Isaiah’s prophecies, probably present
to his thoughts (Isaiah 37:32, et al.), he asks whether Jehovah will
indeed destroy all that remnant of
might be as the germ of hope for the future.
9 “Then said He unto me, The iniquity of the house of
is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of
perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and
the LORD seeth not. 10 “And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare,
neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.”
Then said He unto me. The answer holds out but little comfort.
The iniquity of
the house of
his prayer had gone up for the whole body of the twelve tribes) was
immeasurably great. Not idolatry only, but its natural fruits, bloodshed and
oppression, had eaten into the life of the nation (compare ch. 7:11-12;
8:17; 22:25). And these evils had their root in the practical atheism of the
denials which had been already uttered in ch.8:12. and which are
here reproduced. The unpitying aspect of God’s judgments is, for the
present, dominant, and THE WORK MUST BE THOROUGH! One notes
how the despair of the prophet leads him to forget those who were to have the
mark upon their foreheads, who were indeed the true “remnant.” Like
Elijah, he does not know of any such (I Kings 19:10); like Jeremiah, he
searches through the streets of
man (Jeremiah 5:1).
The Intercession of the Prophet and the Answer of the Lord (vs. 8-10)
“And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left,” etc.
This intercession helps us to understand why the Lord showed to Ezekiel
the secret abominations of the people, and called upon him to consider
them (ch. 8:7-12). In dealing with that vision, we suggested that he
was called upon to consider it in order that he might be qualified to
estimate correctly the righteousness of God’s treatment of the wicked. To
know the extent and enormity of their sins was necessary to enable him to
acquiesce in the Divine judgments with which they were about to be
visited. That necessity is made manifest by the fact that, now that the
prophet beholds the execution of those judgments, he cries to God to abate
their severity, and has to be reminded again of the many and heinous sins of
vision the work of slaughter in the temple is finished, and the angels of
judgment have gone forth to slay in the city, leaving Ezekiel alone “in the
court of the priests of the temple;” then he “fell upon his face, and cried,
and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou
destroy all the residue of
pouring out of thy fury upon
Ø Arose from deep feeling. “I fell upon my face, and cried.” Falling
upon the face in prayer is indicative of great humiliation and grief,
as may be seen from several examples (compare Numbers 14:5;
16:4, 22; 20:6; Joshua 7:6). And our Lord, when His “soul was
exceeding sorrowful, even unto death .... fell on his face, and
prayed” (Matthew 26:38-39). So the soul of Ezekiel was intensely
stirred as he beheld in vision the terrible slaughter of the sinful
people. It may be a prophet’s stern task to denounce the awful
judgments of the Most High; but he will be deeply moved because
of those judgments. The miseries of even the most guilty sinners
will affect his heart with grief; and this feeling will lead him to
intercede with God on behalf of the sinful and suffering people.
Deep feeling prompts to earnest prayer.
Ø Presented an earnest appeal. “Ah, Lord God! wilt thou destroy
all the residue of
persons were to have a mark set upon their foreheads, and were to
be spared in the general slaughter? That his question is not hindered
by his having heard of the pious being spared shows either his fear
in this respect, that in
or that the sparing in comparison with the destruction does not at all
come into consideration. Almost every word in this appeal is weighty.
Lord Jehovah! wilt thou destroy
all the residue of
Thou who didst enter into covenant with them, and didst say,
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out
of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie
unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the
sun before me” (Psalm 89:34-36); wilt thou fail in thy promises,
and break thy covenant? “Wilt thou destroy all the residue of
Thou didst say, “If his children forsake my Law, and walk not in
my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my
commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod,
and their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless my loving kindness
will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail;”
(Ibid. vs. 30-33) and wilt thou now destroy them? Will it not suffice
for thee to visit them with the sharp rod and with the searching stripes
of thy chastisement? “Wilt thou destroy all the residue of
They have slain all that were in and about the temple, and have gone
forth to slay in the city, and thou didst say unto me, “Yet
will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the
sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the
countries” (ch. 6:8); and wilt thou make an utter end, leaving no
remnant, but slaying all? Thus earnestly and powerfully does the
prophet appeal to the Lord on behalf of the doomed people.
(vs. 9-10.) The Lord graciously responds to the intercession of his
servant; and in this response we have:
Ø A declaration of the great wickedness of the people. (v. 9.)
o Here are some forms of their wickedness. “The land is full of
blood, and the city full of perverseness;” or, as in the margin,
“wresting of judgment.” Cruelty and injustice ABOUNDED!
They had “filled the land with violence” (ch.8:17).
o Here is the root of their wickedness: “They say, The Lord hath
forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not.” (We have noticed
these words in ch. 8:12.) They were practically atheistic, denying
the Divine interest in and observation of human life. “The source
of all transgression,” says Michaelis, “is the denial of the
providence of God.”
Ø A declaration of His determination to fully execute His judgments.
“And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have
pity.” (See our notes on these words in ch.7:4.)
Ø A declaration of the retributory character of His judgments.
“I will recompense their way upon their head.” This relation
of judgment and sin is more fully stated in ch.7:3-4 (see our
notes there). The Prophet Obadiah also declares this truth:
“As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward
shall return upon thine own head.” (Obadiah 1:15)
prophet sheds encouraging light upon His treatment of our prayers to Him.
We learn that we have liberty of approach to Him. We may talk with Him
of His judgments; and He will not resent it as if it were presumptuous on
our part. We may rather rest assured that He will graciously respond to our
appeals. He will reply even to our “wild and wandering cries” to Him. But
He will not always grant our requests either for ourselves or for others
when we seek amiss (James 4:3). He loves us too much and too wisely so
The Inexorable God (v. 10)
We are so accustomed to dwell upon the forbearance, long suffering, and
merciful disposition of God, that the inexorable character of His
righteousness is not sufficiently considered. There are conditions in which
He cannot show mercy.
condition of repentance. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9). But if we will not humble ourselves
to admit our guilt, nor cease to court and favor the things that God hates,
it is simply impossible that He should regard us with complacency.
perpetual fallacy of
of the favor of God in spite of its own UNFAITHFULNESS, instead of
understanding that it stood under covenant relations with Him which
involved a loyal observance of certain conditions if the Divine blessings
were to be received. Christians are in danger of flattering themselves with a
similar delusion, God cast off His own people the Jews when they were
faithless. God will cast off a faithless Church. Christians who break away
from Christ will merit and will receive the “wrath of the Lamb.”
(Revelation 6:16). Those in highest positions in the Church will find no
immunity. No excuses will be available for real guilt.
If the sinner holds to it and identifies his fate with it he must come under the
destruction. If he cast it off as an alien, hateful, deadly thing — a viper that
he has plucked from his bosom — God will destroy the sin. In the
discipline of the Christian life God is always fighting against sin. He will
not cease till He has killed the last of the vile brood of the serpent. Christ
has come as the friend of the sinner, and therefore as the enemy of his sin.
“He will throughly purge his floor, ….He will burn up the chaff with
unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12).
hurts the kind parent to have to chastise his son. Yet it would be an
unkindness and a selfishness to spare himself the pain of inflicting
wholesome punishment. The surgeon has a steadier hand than the soldier.
His knife is more inexorable than the sword of war. The very fact that it
cuts to heal makes it the more strong and certain. “Whom the Lord loveth
He chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6). Therefore the chastisement which love
inspires is the more certain to fall.
us all.” (Romans 8:32.) In the sacrifice of Christ GOD SHOWED
THE FIRMNESS AND STRENGTH OF HIS LOVE TO US!
A weak and soft love would not have gone to so great a cost. Even the
this was really with the consent of CHRIST, WHO FREELY GAVE
HIMSELF FOR US and to whom therefore no wrong was done.
11 “And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by
his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast
commanded me.” And, behold, etc. The speaker in the previous verses had
been none other than THE PRESENCE which remained upon the cherubic
form, while the seven ministers did their work. The captain of the seven now
returns to report, as an officer to his king, that the work has been accomplished.
The Completed Task (v. 11)
A man with an inkhorn had been sent round
foreheads of all penitent persons, and so to mark them for protection
against THE TERRIBLE COMING SLAUGHTER! This pleasant task
had been performed, and the messenger now returned, saying, “I have done
as thou hast commanded me.” These words are a suitable motto for a
completed task. (Even, a completed life! – CY – 2014)
COMMANDS HIM. He is not only required to serve, he is also required to
obey; i.e. he is not merely to work for the benefit of his Master, he is to do
what his Master wishes. Thus obedience is more than service; and it is
harder of performance.
Ø He should have a single eye to his Master’s will. Possibly this may
be contrary to his own inclinations, and even opposed to what he
imagines would be most serviceable towards the end in view. Men
may criticize, advise, mock, threaten. The servant of God must be
ready to reply with Peter, “Whether it be right in the sight of God
to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye,” etc.
(Acts 4:19). The will of God — in the revelation of the Bible, the
example of Christ, and a man’s own conscience — is the one sole
authority. With the ENLIGHTENED
CHRISTIANITY this does not come as a blind law, but
appealing to conviction.
Ø He has only to accomplish his Master’s will. The man with the
inkhorn has simply to mark the penitent — not to rescue them,
build a castle in which to hide them, fight on their behalf, The
Christian soldier is to preach the gospel to every creature. The
results he must leave with God. Moreover, each is just to do
his own part, and not to distress himself because he cannot also
do his neighbor’s work. The terrible burden of the world would
seem less if we realized our responsibility as lying just in
THE TASK HIS MASTER LAYS UPON HIM. God does not put upon
His servants harder work than they can perform by His aid. Now we have to
face our tasks, and perhaps they appear toilsome and formidable. It will be
a most happy thing to be able to look back upon them as
ACCOMPLISHED! Not, indeed, that any one perfectly fulfils the Master’s
commands. Christ alone could cry, in the fullest sense of the words,
“It is finished!” (John 19:30). Yet Paul could say, “I have fought a good
fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).
And Christ will welcome His true steward with the words, “Well done,
good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Ø There is the joy of accomplishment. The task of a Sisyphus is one
of the tortures of Tartarus (In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was
condemned in Tartarus to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then
watching it roll back down again). The aimlessness of the walk of the
treadmill gives the sting to the convict’s punishment. There is a joy
o each stage passed,
o each height climbed, and
o each task done,
brings its own joy — a joy of which the indolent can have no
conception. The true servant will say:
“And I will ask for no reward,
Except to serve thee still.”
o There is the joy of the Master’s approval. Christ makes obedience the
condition of His friendship – “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever
I command you.” (John 15:14).
True Obedience (v. 11)
The very word “obedience” is to some minds offensive and repulsive.
Association may connect it with tyranny, and then it suggests harshness
and severity on the one side, and merely compulsory submission on the
other. But to the right minded no word is more welcome, for no moral
quality is more honorable. The son obeys the wishes of his father; the
soldier, the sailor, render immediate obedience to the word of command; to
the school boy who is worthy of his advantages, his master’s will is law;
the ambassador lives to carry out the instructions of the court by which he
is commissioned. In fact, all through human life, especially in civilized and
Christian communities, command and obedience are universal principles,
binding society together. In the text we have an example of obedience
rendered by one of His servants to the most high God; the profession of
obedience here made is distinguished by remarkable simplicity and dignity.
RELATIONS. There is natural law, which, in a certain sense, we may be
said to obey, but with no voluntary adoption or choice. Being, so far as the
body is concerned, subject to physical law, we are to that extent obedient
without the moral quality and virtue of obedience. But law in its proper
sense is the imposition of the will of a superior upon that of an inferior.
Law of this kind is not always just, is not always deserving of reverence.
The despot commands, and his trembling subject may obey; the slave driver
commands, and the slave may from fear render unquestioning obedience.
But, on the other hand, there are human relations which involve wise
directions and willing compliance. And such are, in a sense, the copy of
that beneficent relation which subsists between the Creator and His subject
man. Mind comes into contact with mind. “I have done as thou hast
commanded me.” The language brings the personalities into closest
contact. The obedient is impelled, not by regard for his interests or by fears
lest he suffer, but by the recognition of the personal right of God. It is
always well, in the religious life, to look through the Law to the Lawgiver,
through the decision to the Judge, through the fatherly word to the Father
SUBJECTION. Authority is not, as has sometimes been taught, an
invention of human ingenuity for the promotion of human convenience.
In its essence it is Divine. It is something quite different from power, and
something far higher. In human nature and in human society, authority is
sometimes unaccompanied by power; force even usurps its proper place.
Human beings are fallible in wisdom and imperfect in goodness; and it
often happens that the exercise of authority is unjust and hateful. But the
authority of God is always exercised with wisdom and with justice.
Obedience to man is always a qualified, whilst obedience to God is an
absolute, duty. The Divine will is indeed binding, and for this reason —
that the Divine judgment is always supremely excellent. In fact, EVERY
COMMAND OF GOD IS THE UTTERANCE OF INFINITE REASON!
There is moral authority in God’s commands, which our judgment and
conscience spontaneously acknowledge.
GRATEFUL LOVE. There is much obedience rendered by man to man,
merely upon compulsion, under the influence of fear. And there are those
who, under similar motives, seek to serve God. Veneration for the
Lawgiver, and admiration of commandments in themselves excellent and
beautiful, constrain some men to devote themselves to a life of obedience.
But the distinctively Christian obedience is that which is rendered from
gratitude and affection to the Saviour. When His mission to earth is truly
understood; when it is perceived that it was pity which led Him to
undertake the work of redemption; when not only His labors, but His
sufferings and sacrifice, are pondered and appreciated; — then love may
well enkindle love, and those for whom Christ died may well ask what
they shall render for all the benefits they receive from and through Him
(Psalm 116:12). Who would not do anything to evince loyalty, affection,
and gratitude, to a Friend so self-sacrificing, a Saviour so compassionate?
Our Lord Jesus Himself relied upon these motives. He did indeed claim
obedience as His right: “Why call ye me Master and Lord, and do not the
things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) But He also asked obedience as a proof
of response to His friendship: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I
command you;” (John 15:14); “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
“‘Tis love that makes our willing feet
In swift obedience move.”
REPUGNANCE TO ANY COURSE OF ACTION PRESCRIBED BY
DIVINE AUTHORITY. We have an illustration of this in the context. The
special vocation of the man with the inkhorn was to set a mark upon the
foreheads of the men who sighed and cried for all the abominations that
were done; yet he seems also to have had charge of the officers of the city
to whom was entrusted the awful task of punishment and destruction. The
work of deliverance was agreeable and grateful; the work of chastisement
and slaughter must have been painful and distressing. Yet in both directions
the will of the rightful Lord and King was done; and the report was
rendered of the fulfil
lment in all their completeness of the royal commands.
It happens to us all now and again to be called to undertake some service
from which we shrink, to which by our temperament and habits we are
naturally averse. But obedience has to be rendered, not only when the
commands given harmonize with our predilections, but when they arc
sorely opposed to our natural or acquired tastes and inclinations. But
rightful orders must be obeyed. So in the case of many a child of God,
many a soldier of Christ, orders are known to be issued upon Divine
authority which can only be obeyed at the risk of wealth, or reputation,
or life. But such considerations have to be dismissed. Once satisfied that
the commandments are Divine, the subject renders, if not a happy, yet a
willing obedience. It is not to be expected that, in this imperfect state of
being, obedience should always be enjoyment, though the aim of every
Christian should be to say, with his Master, “I delight to do thy will, O
my God!” (Psalm 40:8)
CONSCIENCE, If pleasure does not always accompany and follow true
service, approval will not fail. Upon the grave of a great philanthropist may
be read these lines –
“He does well who does his best.
Brothers! I have done my best:
I am weary: let me rest.”
There may be something of self-righteousness in these lines. Here is an
epitaph, however, which may be placed over any faithful servant of Christ:
“Life’s work well done;
Life’s course well run;
Life’s crown well won:
Now comes rest.”
There is, however, no reflection upon a life of obedience to compare in
grandeur and beauty with that recorded to have been uttered by our Lord
Himself, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”
(John 17:4) To have given up one’s own will, to have accepted the will
of Heaven, to have toiled and suffered as an obedient son and servant in
God’s cause, — this is the better part, which will endure the retrospect
of life’s closing hour.
REWARD FROM THE SUPREME RULER HIMSELF. If rebellion is,
in the sight of God, man’s one great error and sin, obedience is, in His sight,
above all things acceptable. Every man who is saved is indeed saved by
grace; but all are judged by their works. The good pleasure of the King
promotes to higher service as the reward of diligence and fidelity. And
there can be no words so welcome at the last as these, “Well done, good
and faithful servant…..enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!” (Matthew
Human Intercession (vs. 8-11)
In every age good men have felt an internal constraint to intercede for the
guilty. Love to God always produces love to men.
felt that, though surrounded by the slain, his own life had been spared. A
proper sense of God’s compassion to us awakens similar compassion for
others. It is a noble sentiment, and God does not discourage it. It sheds a
blessing in the breast of him who cherishes it. Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, Paul, are notable examples of earnest intercessors for their fellows.
GREAT HUMILITY. Ezekiel “fell upon his face.” This was most seemly.
For, on the surface of our appeal, it would seem as if an imperfect man
were more possessed with pity than is God. Yet this can never be. The tiny
rill can never rise higher than the fount. One beam of light can never out
vie the sun. Nor can we suppose that any element of extenuation has been
overlooked by the comprehensive mind of God. In fact, reflection at such
time is quiescent; the intercessor yields for the moment to the impulse of
feeling. Nevertheless, intercession is proper and becoming; for who can tell
but that God has predetermined to grant delay or reprieve on condition that
intercession be made? We must stoop if we would conquer.
SUBORDINATE TO THE INTERESTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The
prophet evidently had due regard to the honor of God, while he sought a
reprieve for men. To blot out the very nation which He had aforetime so
protected and blessed, would (in the eyes of the heathen) have been a
dishonor. But the approval of the good among angels and among men
was more precious, deserved more consideration, than the opinion of
idolatrous nations. The well being of the universe is intertwined with the
MAINTENANCE OF THE RIGHTEOUS and, at all costs, righteousness
must be upheld. Already God had provided for the safety of the faithful few;
but to the eye of the prophet the few seemed as nothing. Yet, if we had larger
faith, we should have less anxiety for the Church’s weal.
BRINGS SOME ADVANTAGE. Though Abraham, in pleading for
fruitless. God was not displeased with Ezekiel’s intercession. He
condescended to reason with him. He showed him yet more clearly the
evil men, the evil men in
blood.” He impressed on the prophet’s heart yet more deeply the sanctity
of law and equity. The severest punishment was simply “RECOMPENSE”
- their proper wages. By such intercession the prophet is the better equipped
for his future work.
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