Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.Ezekiel 14:1. Then came certain of the elders of Israel — Men of note, that were in office and power among the Jews. “The prophet neither tells us the name nor the intention of these elders of Israel, nor the time when they came to him. But the manner wherein God speaks, gives us to understand that they came only to tempt him, as the Pharisees came to Christ, and with no design to profit by what they heard, or to correct their faults:” see Calmet. And sat before me — As was the usual posture of those that came to hear the instructions of any prophet or teacher: see Ezekiel 8:1. In after times the teachers sat in a chair or eminent seat, and the hearers on lower forms at the feet of their masters: see Luke 10:39; Acts 22:3.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,Ezekiel 14:2-3. And the word of the Lord came unto me — To acquaint me with the real character of these men, and what I should say to them. These men have set up their idols in their hearts — They are not only inclined to idolatry in their hearts, but they have actually set up idols and worshipped them. It seems, however, that their idolatry consisted, not in entirely deserting, but in corrupting and polluting the service of the true God, intermixing it with foreign worship and superstitions, learned from the heathen. And have set up the stumbling-block, &c. — Their idols, which were both the object of their sin, and the occasion of their ruin. Should I be inquired of at all by them? — Shall I give any counsel, or any answer concerning that of which they inquire of me, to such hypocrites as these?
Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;Ezekiel 14:4-5. Say unto them — Declare my will clearly and faithfully; Every man of the house of Israel — Whoever he be, rich or poor, mighty or mean; that setteth up his idols in his heart — That is attached in his heart to any species of idolatry; and cometh to the prophet — As if he were desirous to know what is best to be done, that he might do it; or what is the will of God, that he might comply with it: and what will be the issue of these times and affairs; I the Lord will answer him that cometh — And that in a way but little to his satisfaction; according to the multitude of his idols — According to his real iniquity, not according to his pretended piety: I will declare the greatness of his sin by the greatness of his punishment; he has multiplied his idols, and I will multiply his sorrows. That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart — That I may lay open what is in their hearts, and discover their hypocrisy and impiety; or, that I may reprove and convince them, from their own words and behaviour, what a base part they act, and that their inward and secret wickedness is perfectly known to me. Because they are estranged from me through their idols — It is always through some idol or other that the hearts of men are estranged from God. Some creature has gained that place in the heart which belongs to none but God.
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.Ezekiel 14:6-8. Therefore say, Repent — Be truly sorry for your past sins, and give proof of your sorrow by forsaking them, &c.; and turn from your idols — Separate yourselves from them, that they may not finally and eternally separate you from God. And turn away your faces — Your heart and ways; from all your abominations — Not only from all your idolatries, but from all sinful practices. Turn your faces from them, abhor the very sight of them; not only forsake them, but do it with loathing and detestation. For every one of the house of Israel — Every Jew of the seed of Abraham, whom this warning first and principally concerns; or of the stranger that sojourneth, &c. — Every proselyte: or the expression may include the foreigners who lived in Judea, termed, in the fourth commandment, the stranger within their gates. For these, although they were neither circumcised nor subject to the ceremonial laws, yet were under an obligation to refrain from idolatry, or from worshipping any God but Jehovah. Which separateth himself from me — Who leaves me to worship idols. God considered them as separating themselves from him, not only if they wholly left off to worship him, but also if they worshipped as gods any other beings, real or imaginary, along with him. For he, being the only true God, could not, of course, admit of any other to be worshipped together with him, as no other being whatsoever had the least pretence to be worshipped as God. I the Lord will answer him by myself — I who am Jehovah, the only Creator, Preserver, and Lord of all things, will answer him according to my own inherent power, not by words, but by executing my judgments upon him. And he shall find by the answer, that it was not the prophet, but God that answered, so dreadful, searching, and astonishing shall my answer be. And I will set my face against that man —
I will make him a mark for my indignation; and will make him a sign and a proverb — A signal and remarkable instance of my vengeance; and will cut him off, &c. — By sudden death, attended with extraordinary circumstances.
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:
And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.Ezekiel 14:9-12. And if the prophet be deceived — Or, seduced. This is to be understood of the false prophets, whose practices are reproved throughout the whole foregoing chapter. I the Lord have deceived that prophet — I Jehovah have suffered him to be deceived; I have given him up to strong delusions, as a just judgment upon him for going after idols, and setting up false pretences to inspiration, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Or the words may signify, I will disappoint the expectations of those prophets who seduce my people, by speaking peace to them. For I will bring upon them those evils which they, with great assurance, have declared shall never come to pass. Thus Bishop Newcome, “When any false prophet is deceived, the probable event proving contrary to his prophecy, I Jehovah have so superintended the course of things as to deceive that prophet.”
And I will, &c. — Or, Yea, I will stretch out my hand upon him — Remarkably punish his falsehood, and in severity destroy him. And they — Both the deceiver and the deceived; shall bear the punishment of their iniquity — There is so great a parity in the folly and impiety of both the seducing prophets and the seduced people, that it is hard to say, whose sin is greatest. The punishment of the prophet shall be, &c. — Their punishments shall be as similar as they made their sins: both shall be cut off and destroyed. That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me — The judgments I will inflict upon the false prophets, and those that consult them, shall be an instruction to my people to continue steady to me and my worship, and not hanker after the idolatrous practices of the neighbouring nations.
And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;
That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.
The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,
Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:Ezekiel 14:13-14. When the land, or, when a land sinneth, &c. — The meaning of this and the following verses is, that when the inhabitants of a land have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and God ariseth to execute judgment upon them, the few righteous that are left among them shall not be able, by their prayers and intercessions, to deliver the nation from the judgments decreed against it. They shall but deliver their own souls; as we see in the case of Sodom, where there were none righteous but Lot and his family: those just persons saved themselves, but no intercession could avail to save the city. Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it — All of them persons eminent for piety. Noah, as a reward of his piety, saved eight persons out of the universal deluge, and obtained a promise from God that he would never destroy the world so again, Genesis 8:21. Daniel interceded with God for the whole nation of the Jews, and obtained a promise of their restoration, and of the coming of the Messiah, Daniel 9. Job was appointed by God to make intercession for his three friends, and obtained pardon for them, Job 42:8. But when God’s irreversible decree is gone out against a nation which hath filled up the measure of its iniquity, even the prayers of such men will be ineffectual toward their deliverance. For it is only for those that are not arrived to that height of wickedness, that the prayers of the righteous avail: compare Jeremiah 15:1. We may observe here how early the fame of Daniel’s piety was spread over Chaldea, who at this time was probably not above thirty years of age; he having been carried to Babylon only fourteen years before, when he was very young. For he was taken captive in the third year of Jehoiakim, (Daniel 1:1,) who, after this, reigned eight years, 2 Kings 23:36. And this prophecy, as appears from chap. Ezekiel 8:1, was uttered in the sixth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, who succeeded Jehoiakim, and only reigned three months.
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:Ezekiel 14:15-21. If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land — We find it was one punishment of the inhabitants of Judea, to be infested by lions and other wild beasts. To this their neighbourhood to the deserts of Arabia exposed them; and God, at certain times, to punish them for their sins, either by causing a scarcity of food in the deserts, or by some other means, influenced these wild beasts to make incursions into Judea, in great numbers, which they otherwise were not wont to do. Or if I bring a sword upon that land, &c. — “If I deliver a land into the hand of a cruel enemy. The conquerors’ sword is often called the sword of the Lord, in the prophets, because they are the executioners of God’s judgments.” So that I cut off man and beast from it — “Men are destroyed by the sword, and the cattle are driven away by the enemy; or else consumed by pestilence, arising from the air’s being corrupted through the stench of dead bodies.” Or I send pestilence, and pour out my fury in blood — With great destruction of men’s lives, Ezekiel 38:22; for every kind of sudden and immature death is called blood in the Hebrew. How much more — Shall there be an utter destruction; when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem — “If it is just, with respect to other countries, that the good alone should escape punishment, how much more with respect to Jerusalem, after such repeated instructions and admonitions?” And if the intercessions of such holy men as those above mentioned could not prevent the execution of one of these four judgments upon those that had filled up the measure of their iniquities, how much less would they be able to keep off all the four, when I commission them all to come at once?
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?
Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.Ezekiel 14:22-23. Yet, behold, therein — In Jerusalem itself, though marked for utter ruin; in Judea, though condemned to suffer unexampled desolations; shall be left a remnant — That shall not be cut off by any of those sore judgments before mentioned, but shall escape and be brought forth into Chaldea, to be your companions in captivity; both sons and daughters — That shall be the seed of a new generation. And ye shall see their ways and their doings — “Ye shall be made sensible of their guilt and reformation.” Their sufferings shall be made instrumental in bringing them to a due sense of the greatness and aggravations of their former iniquities, and you shall hear them make a free and ingenuous confession of them, and an humble profession of repentance for them, with promises of amendment, and you shall see instances of this amendment, and be witnesses of the good their affliction has done them, and how prudently and patiently they carry themselves under it. And ye shall be comforted — “By their confession of their idolatries, by a conviction of my justice, and by the spirit of allegiance to me, which they shall propagate.” — Bishop Newcome. Concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem — Ye shall the less grieve when you are made sensible they were not punished beyond what their sins deserved, and that their sufferings have had a salutary influence on their spirit and conduct. This consideration will compose your minds, and make you give glory to God, and acknowledge his judgments to be righteous, though they touch you very nearly in the destruction of your friends and country. And they shall comfort you when ye see their ways, &c. — When you see them repenting of their sins and reforming their lives, humbling themselves before God, justifying his conduct toward them, and quietly accepting the punishment of their iniquity. And ye shall know that I have not done without cause — Not without a just provocation, and yet not without a gracious design; all that I have done in it — In Jerusalem and among its inhabitants. When afflictions have done their work, and have accomplished that for which they were sent, then will appear the wisdom and goodness of God in sending them, and God will not only be justified, but glorified in them.
And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.