The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,…
The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against the Ammonites, etc. For a time the mouth of Ezekiel was closed in relation to his own countrymen; he was to be to them as a dumb man, or at least dumb as a prophet (Ezekiel 24:27). But having already proclaimed the judgment of God upon Israel and Judah by various figures and with much reiteration, he proceeds to declare that judgment against the neighboring heathen nations. "Judgment indeed begins at the house of God; but if the Father of the household does not spare the sons, how soon must it alight upon the others! This doctrine first of all shines forth from the connection of this chapter with the preceding chapters. Then, also, we see here how, with all the special solicitude wherewith God interested himself in Israel, he still by no means lets the heathen out of his sight, since he must show himself to be a God also for the heathen." Of these nations the prophet first addresses himself to the Ammonites. They were related to the Israelites, being the descendants of Ben-ammi, the son of Lot by his younger daughter. Yet they were inveterate enemies to Israel. "They had joined Eglon, had oppressed Israel in the time of Jephthah, had fought against Saul, David, Jehoshaphat, and Jotham. They had joined the Moabites in Nebuchadnezzar's army, when he besieged Jerusalem in the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:2). And they exulted in the miseries of Israel and Judah. The date of this prophecy is uncertain. Hengstenberg says that "the date in Ezekiel 24:1 applies to this also. What was predicted in Ezekiel 24. regarding the immediate future of Judah is here presupposed as already accomplished; so that the point of view is ideal." But the 'Speaker's Commentary' supposes "that this prophecy was delivered immediately after the capture of the city by Nebuchadnezzar." We have in the text -
I. AN EXHIBITION OF THE SIN OF THE AMMONITES.
1. Exultation in the miseries of others. "Thou saidst, Aha! against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was made desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity." "They were," says Greenhill, "the neighbors bordering upon them; they were their confederates, in league with the King of Egypt, as the Jews were; they were their half-brethren, descending from Lot; and upon these accounts should have sympathized with the Jews, wept with those that wept (Romans 12:15), been sensible of their great adversities (Hebrews 13:3); but they insulted over them, mocked at them, were despiteful against them, and added coals to the fire, weight to their burdens, and more chains to their bonds" (cf. Lamentations 1:2). They rejoiced when Shalmaneser King of Assyria invaded Israel, desolated the land, and carried the people into captivity (2 Kings 17:1-6). Again, they exulted in the miseries of the people of Judah when they were conquered and carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-16; 2 Kings 25:1-11). They triumphed in the national ruin and sore calamities of the Jews (cf. Ezekiel 21:28; Lamentations 2:15, 16; Zephaniah 2:8). Such derision and insultation are directly opposed to the will of God, especially when, as in this ease, the mockers are themselves also guilty of the sin which brought down the distresses. When some suffer sore calamities, God's will is that others should be thereby stimulated to consider their ways and repent of their evil doings (cf. Luke 13:1-5). Moreover, in exulting over the fallen and mocking the miserable there is Satanic malevolence and shocking cruelty. Sometimes saintly men have severely suffered by reason of such mockery. David smarted under it (Psalm 35:12-16), But the guilt of the Ammonites was darker even than this. They rejoiced in the desecration of the temple of God. "Thou saidst, Aha! against my sanctuary, when it was profaned." They looked upon that as the overthrow of the religion of the Jews, and probably declared that Jehovah was unable to defend either his temple or his worshippers. Thus they were guilty of blasphemy against the Lord God.
2. Exultation in the miseries of others with cruel animosity. "Thou hast rejoiced with all the despite of thy soul against the land of Israel" (Ver. 6). They rejoiced "with the soul, with passion, therefore with the whole heart's contempt of which" they were capable. They triumphed with revolting malignity.
3. Exultation in the miseries of others with cruel animosity in unrestrained expression. "Thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet," etc. (Ver. 6). Their bitter rejoicing knew no bounds of moderation or even of common decency. Such was their grievous and inhuman sin.
II. A DECLARATION OF THE PUNISHMENT OF THE AMMONITES.
1. Their land should be given to others. "Therefore, behold, I will deliver thee to the children of the east for a possession, and they shall set their encampments in thee, and make their dwellings in thee; they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk." In the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar made war against the Ammonites, and brought them under subjection (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 10:9. 7). "After this the land was subjected to various masters" But at length it fell to the Arabians, who are spoken of by the prophet as "the children of the east." This was a common designation of the wandering tribes of the desert (cf. Judges 6:3). "They encamp now periodically in the land of Ammon. They have continued to do so for centuries. They, and they only, eat up the fruits of the land." Thus the children of Ammon, who had exulted in the expatriation of Israel and Judah, were despoiled of their own country.
2. Their metropolis should become a desolation. "And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the children of Ammon a couching-place for flocks." When this judgment was fulfilled we know not. But that it has been fulfilled is placed beyond dispute by the ruins of what was once a flourishing city. That city entered upon an era of marked prosperity under Egyptian rule. It was rebuilt or restored by Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was called Philadelphia, after his name. It existed for some centuries afterward with varying fortunes. "As far down as the fourth century (of the Christian era) it was esteemed one of the most remarkable and strongest cities of the whole of Coele-Syria." And now amidst its ruins may be traced the remains of a magnificent theatre, an ancient castle, temples, mausoleum, and other buildings. The doom has been fulfilled, and Rabbah, "the populous" (as the name signifies), is now a desolation and without an inhabitant. Dr. Kitto brings forward several witnesses to the fulfillment of the word of the Lord by the prophet in Ver. 5. "Dr. Keith, in the last edition of his ' Evidence from Prophecy,' states that Lord Claud Hamilton told him that ' while he was traversing the ruins of the city the number of goats and sheep which were driven in among them was exceedingly annoying, however remarkable as fulfilling the prophecies.' Lord Lindsay found bones and skulls of camels moldering in the area of the theatre, and in the vaulted galleries of this immense structure. He says, ' The valley stinks with dead camels, one of which was rolling in the stream; and although we saw none among the ruins, they were absolutely covered in every direction with their dung. That morning's ride would have convinced a skeptic. How says the prophecy? "I will make Rabbah a stable for camels." He adds, "We met sheep and goats by thousands, and camels by hundreds, coming down to drink, all in beautiful condition." Mr. George Robinson also testifies, 'The space intervening between the river and the western hills is entirely covered with the remains of private buildings, now only used as stables for camels and sheep. There is not a single inhabitant remaining: thus realizing the prophecy respecting this devoted city.' These testimonials have occurred since attention has been called to the subject of the literal fulfillment of local prophecies. We add that of Mr. Buckingham, which is all the more valuable as being of anterior date. He halted for the night with a tribe of Arabs which he found encamped among the ruins, in a hollow behind the top of the theatre. Next morning he writes in his journal, 'During the night I was almost entirely prevented from sleeping by the bleating of flocks, the neighing of mares, and the barking of dogs.' "Thus literally and minutely has the prediction of the prophet been accomplished.
3. Their existence as a people would be terminated. "Therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the nations; and I will cut thee off from the peoples, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord." These expressions indicate utter and total, destruction. In this respect the judgment of the Ammonites was more severe than that pronounced upon Israel. For the latter there was hope and a future; but for the former the prophetic message closes darkly, even as their history has closed. As a tribe the Ammonites "disappear wholly at last in the Arabians."
CONCLUSION. "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamity shall not be unpunished" (Proverbs 17:5). "He that maketh others' calamities the object of his gladness stirs up God to be the Author of his destruction" (Greenhill). - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,