Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.
Before, there was a direct commission, now there is a symbolic action. John has the same vision (Revelation 10:8 ff), but there that is expressed, which is here left to be inferred, namely, that "as soon as he had eaten it his belly was bitter." The sweetness in the mouth denoted that it was good to be a messenger of the Lord (compare the margin reference), but the bitterness which accompanied it, denoted that the commission brought with it much sorrow.
So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.
And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.
For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;
Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.
To many people - To various nations using diverse languages.
Surely - The thought is that expressed by our Saviour Himself (margin reference). Some render it: "but I have sent thee unto these; they can hearken" etc.
But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.
Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.
I have made ... thy forehead strong - I have given thee a strength superior to theirs; a metaphor taken from horned animals.
As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
Adamant - Or, diamond Jeremiah 17:1, which was employed to cut flint. Ezekiel's firmness being that of a diamond, he should cut a stroke home to the hardened hearts of a rebellious people. For "though" read "for."
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.
And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
Thy people - God's people.
Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place.
I heard behind me - The commission having been given, and the prophet transported to the place of his ministry, the chariot of the vision passes away with the proper tokens Ezekiel 1:24-25. A voice from above the firmament is now heard proclaiming the divine glory.
From his place - The place where the glory of the Lord had revealed itself in the vision. The words are to be joined to "saying:" put a comma after Lord.
I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing.
That touched - literally, touching. The living creatures in their flight raised their wings, so as to touch each other.
So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.
Lifted me up - We are not to suppose that the prophet was miraculously transported from one place to another in the land of his captivity. Compare Matthew 4:1; Acts 8:39. He had been in an ecstatic vision Ezekiel 1:1, and now guided by the Spirit he goes forth among his countrymen.
The heat of my spirit - Full of the righteous indignation, which God inspired, against the sin which he was to denounce.
But the hand - and "the hand." The Lord strengthened him for his mission.
Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
Tel-abib - , on the river Chebar was the chief seat of the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. The name "Tel-abib" ("mount of ears of corn") was probably given on account of its fertility.
I sat where they sat - Rather, "And I saw them sitting there and I sat there."
Astonished - Rather, silent, with fixed and determined silence (compare Ezra 9:3-4). "To be silent" was characteristic of mourners Lamentations 3:28; "to sit" their proper attitude Isaiah 3:26; Lamentations 1:1; "seven days" the set time of mourning Job 2:13.
And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
The Lord guards both Ezekiel and his countrymen from dwelling exclusively on the national character of his mission. In the midst of the general visitations, each individual was to stand as it were alone before Him to render account of his doings, and to be judged according to his works.
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
Watchman - The priests and ministers of the Lord were often so called. Ezekiel is especially distinguished by this title Ezekiel 33:7. The duties of a watchman are twofold,
(1) to wait and watch what God will order,
(2) to watch over and superintend the people.
Isaiah describes and censures unfaithful watchmen Isaiah 56:10.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
This passage anticipates the great moral principle of divine government Ezekiel 18 that each man is individually responsible for his own actions, and will be judged according to these and these alone.
Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
I lay a stumblingblock before him - I bring him to trial by placing difficulties and temptations in his way (compare Ezekiel 7:19; Ezekiel 44:12 margin; Ezekiel 14:3-4). It is true that God tempts no man in order to his destruction, but in the course of His Providence He permits men to be tried in order that their faith may be approved, and in this trial some who seem to be righteous fall.
Because thou ... his blood ... - So far as the prophet was concerned, the neglect of his duty is reckoned as the cause of the seemingly righteous man's fall.
His righteousness ... - Or, righteousnesses, i. e. acts of righteousness. The "righteous" man here is one, who had hitherto done the "acts of righteousness" prescribed by the Law, but when trial came was shown to lack the "principle of righteousness."
Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.
The repetition of the word "righteous" is to be noted. There seems to be an intimation that sin is alien to the character of a "righteous" man. Compare 1 John 3:7-9.
And the hand of the LORD was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee.
Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.
A fresh revelation of the glory of the Lord, to impress upon Ezekiel another characteristic of his mission. Now he is to learn that there is "a time to be silent" as well as "a time to speak," and that both are appointed by God. This represents forcibly the authoritative character and divine origin of the utterances of the Hebrew prophets.
Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.
"Shut" in the privacy of his own chamber he is to receive a message from Yahweh. This "shutting up," however, and the "bands" (Ezekiel 3:25, used figuratively) were signs of the manner in which Ezekiel's countrymen would close their ears, hindering him as far as in them lay from delivering the message of the Lord.
With this verse commences a series of symbolic actions enjoined to the prophet in order to foretell the coming judgments of Jerusalem Ezekiel 4; 5. Generally speaking symbolic actions were either literal and public, or figurative and private. In the latter case they impressed upon the prophet's mind the truth which he was to enforce upon others by the description of the action as by a figure. Difficulties have arisen, because interpreters have not chosen to recognize the figurative as well as the literal mode of prophesying. Hence, some, who would have all literal, have had to accept the most strange and unnecessary actions as real; while others, who would have all figurative, have had arbitrarily to explain away the most plain historical statement. There may be a difference of opinion as to which class one or other figure may belong; but after all, the determination is not important, the whole value of the parabolic figure residing in the lesson which it is intended to convey.
But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them:
And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house.
And I will make - Rather, Then will I "make." One action is the consequence of the other. Because the people would silence the prophet, God to punish them will close his mouth (compare Isaiah 6:9; Matthew 13:14).
But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.