The prophecies of this section Ezekiel 20-23 were delivered nearly a year after those of the former Ezekiel 8:1. Ezekiel in reply to other inquiries from the chieftains of the people, sets forth their national history, the national judgment, and the hope of divine mercy. This leads up to the prediction of the kingdom of the Messiah.
And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me.The elders of Israel - These were as in Ezekiel 14:1, some of Ezekiel's fellow-exiles, designated in general terms by the name of Israel, though more properly belonging to the kingdom of Judah.
Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,
Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to inquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.Enquire - As to the hope of deliverance from the Babylonians.
Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:Wilt thou judge them? - We should rather say, Wilt thou not judge them? i. e., wilt thou not pronounce sentence upon them? Compare Ezekiel 22:2.
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God;The children of Israel in Egypt were warned to abstain from the idolatry of the pagan. This purpose they lost sight of, yet God spared them and brought them into another state of probation.
Lifted up mine hand - i. e., sware, because the hand was lifted up in adjuration.
In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:
Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.Idols of Egypt - These incidental notices show the children of Israel in Egypt to have been addicted to idolatry. Compare Joshua 24:14.
But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.I wrought for my name's sake - Lest it should appear to the Egyptians that Yahweh was a God who would, but could not, save.
Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.The probation in the wilderness. The promise was forfeited by those to whom it was first conditionally made, but was renewed to their children.
And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.The "statutes" were given on Mount Sinai, and repeated by Moses before his death (Exodus 20:1 ff; Deuteronomy 4:8).
In them - Or, through them: and in Ezekiel 20:13.
Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.See Exodus 31:13. The Sabbath was a sign of a special people, commemorative of the work of creation, and hallowed to the honor of Yahweh, the covenant-God. As man honored God by keeping the Sabbath holy, so by the Sabbath, God "sanctified" Israel and marked them as a holy people. Therefore to profane the Sabbath was to abjure their Divine Governor.
But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.My sabbaths they greatly polluted - Not by actual non-observance of the sabbatical rest in the wilderness, but in failing to make the day holy in deed as well as in name by earnest worship and true heart service.
But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.
Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;
Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.
But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:The book of Deuteronomy contains the address to "the children" of those who perished in the wilderness. The whole history of Israel was a repetition of this course. The covenant was made with one generation, broken by them, and then renewed to the next.
I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;
And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.
Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.
I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries;
Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.
Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;The "judgments whereby they should not live" are those spoken of in Ezekiel 20:18, and are contrasted with the judgments in Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:21, laws other than divine, to which God gives up those whom He afflicts with judicial blindness, because they have willfully closed their eyes, Psalm 81:12; Romans 1:24.
And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.To pass through - The word also means to "set apart," as the firstborn to the Lord Exodus 13:12. They were bidden to "set apart" their firstborn males to the Lord. They "caused them to pass through the fire" to Moloch. An instance of their perversion of God's laws.
Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.The probation in the land of Canaan from their entry to the day of Ezekiel.
Yet in this - It was an aggravation of their guilt that they defiled with idolatry the land given them for their glory.
For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink offerings.
Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go? And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.Bamah - The Hebrew word for "high place." Another instance of the perversion of God's laws. When the Israelites first entered Canaan they were to set up the "tabernacle" on a "high place," and upon this and upon no other they were to worship Yahweh (1 Samuel 9:12 ff; 1 Kings 3:4). But the Israelites followed the custom of the country, and set up idol-worship on every high hill, and the word "high place" ("Bannah," plural "Bamoth") became a by-word (compare "Bamoth-Baal," Joshua 13:17). "Bamoth" occurs on the Moabitic stone, which records the erection of high places in honor of Chemosh. The name "Bamah" was thus a brand of the divine displeasure, and a memorial of the people's guilt.
Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations?The present state of the people. Those who came to inquire were the representatives of the whole people though belonging to the exiles.
For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.
And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.God's future dealings with His people:
(1) in judgment Ezekiel 20:32-38;
(2) in mercy Ezekiel 20:39-44.
The inquirers had thought that if Jerusalem were taken, and the whole people became sojourners in a foreign land, they would cease to be a separate nation. In their love for idolatry some may have even desired this. But more probably they thought that this very consequence precluded the possibility of such a catastrophe. God answers that He will not allow them to become as the pagan, but this will only subject them to severer trial and stricter rule.
As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:The expressions "a mighty hand, stretched out arm" carry back the thoughts to Egyptian bondage Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; but then it was for deliverance, now for judgment "with fury poured out."
And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.The wilderness of the people - A time of probation will follow, as before in the wilderness of Sin, so in the "wilderness of the nations" among whom they will sojourn (not the Babylonians) "after" that captivity. This period of their probation is not over. The dispersion of the Jews did not cease with the return under Zerubbabel; but in our Saviour's time they were living as a distinct people in all the principal places in the civilized world; and so they live now. God is yet pleading with them "face to face," calling them personally to embrace those offers which as a nation they disregarded.
Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.
And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:To pass under the rod - i. e., to be gathered into the flock Micah 7:14.
The bond - The shepherd collects the flock, and separates the sheep from the goats, which are rejected. Compare Romans 11:7-11.
And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.Strong irony. Some prefer another rendering: "Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, yet hereafter ye shall surely hearken unto me, and shall no more pollute My Holy Name etc." In this way, this verse is introductory to what follows.
For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.This points to the consummation indicated by the vision of the temple.
The house of Israel, all of them - All the separation between Israel and Judah shall cease. This points to times yet future, when in Messiah's kingdom Jews and Gentiles alike shall be gathered into one kingdom - the kingdom of Christ. Jerusalem is the Church of Christ Galatians 4:26, into which the children of Israel shall at last be gathered, and so the prophecy shall be fulfilled Revelation 21:2.
I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.
And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers.
And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.
And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,This paragraph is in the Hebrew text, Septuagint and Vulgate the beginning of Ezekiel 21 to which it belongs, as it contains a prophecy delivered in a form which is there explained. It may, however, be regarded as a link between the foregoing and following prophecies, being a general introduction to seven words of judgment about to be pronounced in development of that which has just been delivered.
Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;In this verse occur three Hebrew synonyms for "south," denoting:
(1) the region on the right, Teman 1 Samuel 23:24;
(2) the region of dryness, Negeb Joshua 15:4;
(3) the region of brightness, Darom Deuteronomy 33:23.
The variety of terms helps the force of the application. Chebar is in the north of Babylonia; from the north the Chaldaeans came upon Judaea (see the Ezekiel 1:4 note).
And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.Forest of the south - The land of Israel. See Ezekiel 21:1-2.
And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.
Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?Parables - Compare Ezekiel 17:2. The meaning of the prophet was clear enough, if those whom he addressed had chosen to understand.