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.Ezekiel 20:1-3. It came to pass in the seventh year, &c. — Namely, of Jehoiakim’s captivity. All the prophecies recorded from the eighth chapter to this, probably belong to the sixth year of that captivity. Certain of the elders came to inquire, &c. — Came to me, as the prophet of God, to inquire what would be the event of their affairs; when they might expect deliverance from their calamities, and by what means. I will not be inquired of by you — I will give you no information concerning the things about which you come to inquire: or, you shall not receive such an answer as you expect, but such as your hypocrisy deserves.
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.
Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:Ezekiel 20:4. Wilt thou judge them — Or, rather, Wilt thou not judge them? Wilt thou not reprove, or condemn them? Wilt thou not denounce my judgments against them? Cause them to know the abominations of their fathers — The abominable crimes of which their fathers have been guilty, and which they themselves, and the present generation of Jews, have also committed with fresh aggravations: and hereby let them know what they have to expect. This whole chapter is a kind of decree, in which the prophet, after having set forth the crimes of the Jews, pronounces against them their reprobation, and foretels what blessings God would bestow on a faithful people who should serve him truly on his holy mountain.
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;Ezekiel 20:5. In the day when I chose Israel — When I entered into a solemn covenant. And lifted up my hand, &c. — That is, sware unto them, this being a gesture used in swearing: see the margin, and notes on Genesis 14:22, and Psalm 144:8. “Among the Jews the juror held up his right hand toward heaven; which explains Psalm 144:8, Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood. The same form is retained in Scotland still.” — Paley’s Moral and Political Philosophy, p. 159. This manner of taking an oath is mentioned by Homer, Ευχετο χειρας ανασχων, which shows it to have been of great antiquity, even among the heathen. It was a solemn appeal to God, as the author of truth, and the defender thereof, and also the judge of the heart; implying a wish in the person swearing, that God would take vengeance if the truth was either violated or concealed. Some think, however, that lifting up the hand in this place means giving them help and deliverance: but the 15th and 23d verses evidently confirm the former explication. And made myself known unto them — By appearing unto Moses, and showing myself present among them, by the wonders I wrought for their deliverance. Saying, I am the Lord your God — I am the God whom you ought to serve, and none else.
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:Ezekiel 20:6. To bring them into a land that I had espied for them — Which I chose out of all others to bestow it upon them. So God is said to go before them, to search out a place to pitch their tents in, Deuteronomy 1:33. The expressions import, that every step the people took, till their settlement in the land of Canaan, was under the immediate care and conduct of providence. Flowing with milk and honey — Judea is often called a land flowing with milk and honey, both on account of its own fruitfulness, and also from God’s peculiar blessing upon it: see Deuteronomy 11:12. The great number of inhabitants which it nourished is an evident proof of its fertility. Bochart observes, that this phrase occurs about twenty times in the Scriptures; and that it is an image frequently used in the classics: as Ρει δε γαλακτι πεδον, ρει δ’ οινω, ρει δε μελισσων νεκταρι. The land flows with milk, flows with wine, flows with nectar of bees. Eurip. Bacch. 142. Which is the glory of all lands — The Hebrew, צבי היא לכל הארצות, may either mean, that this circumstance of flowing with milk and honey is a glory to all lands, namely, in which it is found; or, that Judea was the glory of all lands. The Vulgate takes it in the latter sense, rendering the clause, Quæ est egregia inter omnes tetras, which is excellent among all lands. Judea might justly be called the glory of all lands, because it was the place where the temple of the true God was fixed, Psalm 48:2-3; Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41; Daniel 11:45.
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.Ezekiel 20:7-9. Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes — The idols to which your eyes are lifted up. One of the chief allurements to the worship of images is, that by way of indulgence to men’s imagination, they exhibit a visible object of adoration. This was what the Israelites were so fond of, when they said to Aaron, Make us gods to go before us, Exodus 32:1. And defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt — It is generally supposed that the Israelites, while they dwelt in Egypt, learned the idolatry of that country: the fact indeed is not recorded in the books of Moses; but it may be collected from their proneness to that sin in the wilderness. But they rebelled against me — The history of the rebellions of the children of Israel begins as early as their beginning. So does the history of man’s apostacy from his Maker. No sooner have we read the story of his creation than we meet with that of his rebellion. So we see here it was with Israel; a people designed to represent the body of mankind, both in their dealings with God, and in God’s dealings with them. Then I said, I threatened, I will pour out my fury upon them — Such a threatening as this is nowhere recorded in the Scriptures no more than that which follows Ezekiel 20:23 of this chapter. Without question God might have justly cut them off in Egypt for their idolatries and other sins which they had committed, and never exerted his power for their deliverance. But I wrought for my name’s sake — For the glory of my mercy and faithfulness. That it should not be polluted before the heathen — Reproached and blasphemed. This is elsewhere assigned as the reason why God did not punish the Israelites according to their deserts, namely, because it would have turned to God’s dishonour in the judgment of the heathen world, as if he had not been able to make good those promises which he had given them. This was a proper consideration to check the vain presumption of the Jews, who imagined that God’s gracious dealings with them were owing to their own merits.
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.
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.
Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.Ezekiel 20:10-11. Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of Egypt — Removed all obstacles, furnished them with all necessaries, went before them, and showed them the way they should go, Exodus 13:17; And brought them into the wilderness — It was not Moses’s error, though Pharaoh thought so, Exodus 14:3-4, but the peculiar conduct of God that brought them thither. And I gave them my statutes — A favour not afforded to other nations: see Deuteronomy 4:8; Psalm 147:20. This was a treasure which David declared he prized above thousands of gold and silver, Psalm 119:72. Which if a man do, he shall even live in them — That is, in keeping God’s commandments there is abundance of comfort, and a great reward. “By life is generally meant, in the Old Testament, all that happiness which is contained in the literal sense of the promises belonging to that covenant. Under these were mystically comprehended the promises of a better life, wherein God will bestow upon his servants the peculiar marks of his favour, Psalm 16:11. These promises were made to the Jews upon condition of their punctual obedience to the whole law, Leviticus 18:5; Leviticus 26:3, &c.; Deuteronomy 27:26. And several persons under that dispensation are styled blameless, by reason of the sincerity of their obedience, though it was not perfect, or unsinning: see Luke 1:6; Php 3:6. But if we understand the forementioned condition in its rigorous sense, as implying a perfectly exact and unsinning obedience; and as the word life contains the promise of eternal life under it; (a promise which the pious Jews expected, and hoped to obtain, Matthew 19:16-17; Acts 26:6-7;) as it was impossible to be performed, so no person could lay claim to eternal life by virtue of any promise therein contained; from whence St. Paul infers the necessity of seeking to Christ, and laying hold on the promises in the gospel, for the obtaining of justification and eternal life.” — Lowth. It must always be remembered, that the promises of spiritual blessings that we find in the Old Testament, such as pardon, acceptance with God, the Holy Spirit, sanctification, &c., belong to the gospel, or covenant of grace, as much as those in the New Testament: see 2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 6:17-18; Hebrews 8:10-12; Hebrews 11:13.
And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.
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.Ezekiel 20:12. Moreover, I gave them my sabbaths — Including the weekly sabbaths, the sabbatical years, and all the solemn days of divine worship, in which no servile work was to be done: to be a sign between me and them — A sign of their being peculiarly my people, and to distinguish them from all other people, as the worshippers of me, Jehovah, who in six days made heaven and earth, and all things therein, and rested the seventh day; and also of my delivering them out of their state of bondage in Egypt. That they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them — That by their resting on those days from their usual employments, and their coming together to wait upon me in the ordinances of my worship, they might become more acquainted with me, and with my will concerning them, and might receive a larger measure of my sanctifying grace. Observe, reader, 1st, Sabbaths are privileges, and are to be considered and improved as such. 2d, They are signs: it is a sign men have a sense of religion, and that there is some correspondence between them and God, while they make conscience of keeping holy the sabbath day. 3d, Sabbaths, if duly sanctified, are the means of our sanctification: if we do the duty of the day, we shall find to our comfort; it is the Lord that sanctifies us; makes us holy, that is, truly happy, here; and prepares us to be happy, that is, perfectly holy, hereafter.
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.Ezekiel 20:13-17. But the house of Israel — Not a few, but the generality of the people; rebelled against me — Were undutiful, disobedient, contumacious, and even openly and repeatedly rebellious; in the wilderness — Where they were receiving daily and great mercies from me; where they were on their way to Canaan, and were peculiarly dependant upon me for direction in the way, protection from their enemies, and the supply of all their wants; where they most needed my care and favour, and where the preserving their lives from being destroyed by noxious creatures and by famine, in that barren, desolate, and howling desert, required and was a continued miracle. They walked not in my statutes — Given them as the rule of their conduct toward me and one another. And they despised my judgments — Slighted them first as of little excellence, and then refused and cast them off. They who disobey God’s statutes despise them; they show by their disobedience that they have a mean opinion of them, and of him whose statutes they are. And my sabbaths they greatly polluted — That is, profaned, neglecting the duties enjoined to be done on those holy days, and employing them in worldly business, in pursuing sensual gratifications, or in practising secret idolatry and other wickedness. But I wrought, &c. — See on Ezekiel 20:9. Yet I lifted up my hand, &c. — I solemnly swore (see Ezekiel 20:5) they should not enter into that rest I had designed for them. So all the murmuring, disobedient, unbelieving generation was excluded, and their children were brought in. Because they despised, &c. — See on Ezekiel 20:13. For their heart went after their idols — They were still inclined to the idolatries which they had learned in Egypt, to which they added new idols, which they had seen in the countries through which they travelled, namely, the idols of the Midianites, Amorites, &c: see the margin. Nevertheless, mine eye spared them — Though they did highly provoke me, and deserved to be all cut off, I had great patience with them, often reprieved them after sentence of condemnation was passed, and bore with their untoward manners, till a new and better disposed generation arose, to whom I could, consistently with my holiness, fulfil my promises made to their fathers.
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:Ezekiel 20:18-24. But I said unto their children in the wilderness — In the plains of Moab; Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers — Imitate not their superstitious usages, nor retain their foolish and wicked customs, but walk in the statutes of your God. This refers to the many pathetical exhortations contained in the book of Deuteronomy, particularly those in chapters twenty-ninth to the thirty-second, which were uttered after that rebellious generation were all consumed, according as God had threatened them. Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against me — Even that generation which I afterward permitted to enter Canaan, and which I rendered victorious over all the inhabitants of that land, was guilty of many instances of disobedience and rebellion. The chief instance of that generation’s contumacy and inclination to idolatry, was the iniquity of Peor, (Numbers 25:3,) as that of their fathers was the golden calf. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel: then there was a plague in the congregation of the Lord, which, if it had not been seasonably stayed by Phinehas’s zeal, had cut them all off; and yet they owned in Joshua’s time that they were not cleansed from that iniquity unto that day, Joshua 22:17. Then it was that God said he would pour out his fury upon them, Ezekiel 20:21; that he lifted up his hand, &c., in the wilderness — When they were a second time just ready to enter into Canaan; that he would scatter them among the heathen — This very thing he said to them by Moses in his parting song, (Deuteronomy 32:20; Deuteronomy 32:26-27,) which explains this passage.
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;Ezekiel 20:25-26. Wherefore I gave them statutes that were not good, &c. — This some understand of the ceremonial law, as if it were given purely to be a check and restraint to that perverse people, consisting of numerous rites and observances, many of which had no intrinsic good in them. “But I conceive,” says Lowth, “the statutes here spoken of to be of a different nature from those mentioned Ezekiel 20:11, because they have a quite contrary character given of them; and therefore I take the words to import, that God, in a just judgment for their disobedience to his own laws, gave them up to a reprobate mind, and suffered them to walk after the idolatrous and impious customs of the heathen around them. And whereas, by obeying the laws and ordinances which he had given them, they might have lived happily, (Ezekiel 20:11,) they became slaves to the vile and cruel practices of the heathen idolatries, so as to offer up their very children in sacrifice to idols, to the utter destruction of themselves and their posterity, Ezekiel 20:26. This will appear to be the sense of the text, if we compare it with Ezekiel 20:39, and with Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36; Jeremiah 16:13; in which texts God threatens them, as a punishment for their neglect of his worship, to disperse them into the heathen countries, and thereby deprive them of an opportunity of serving him in public, and expose them to the peril of being seduced to idols. Just as David complains to Saul of the hardship of his exile, that it laid him open to the temptation of serving the heathen gods, 1 Samuel 26:19.” In the same light Bishop Newcome views the passage, interpreting the sense to be, “I permitted them to observe statutes, or idolatrous rites, of an evil and execrable nature.” And I polluted them in their own gifts — I suffered them to pollute themselves in offering abominable sacrifices. In that they caused to pass through the fire, &c. — In offering their firstborn sons in sacrifice to Moloch. That I might make them desolate — Which occasioned the destruction of great numbers of them, and made a desolation in the land. That they might know that I am the Lord — This I permitted, that they might be made sensible that I am the living and true God, and a being infinitely more excellent than any or all of the idols, to the worship of which they had foolishly addicted themselves: or, that they might be compelled to acknowledge, that I am a mighty king in punishing those that would not have me for a gracious king in governing them.
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.
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.Ezekiel 20:27-29. Therefore, son of man, speak, &c. — Here the prophet proceeds with the story of their rebellions for their further humiliation, and shows that they persisted in them after they were settled in the land of Canaan. Thus saith the Lord, Yet in this, &c. — Or, Moreover in this, your fathers have blasphemed me — Have dishonoured me in acting contrary to my commandments. For when I had brought them into the land, &c. — As soon as they were settled in the land promised to Abraham and his seed; then they saw every high hill, &c. — When they saw the high hills and shady groves, they made choice of them as proper places whereon to erect altars for the worship of idols. The Jews were wont to offer sacrifices upon mountains or high places to the true God before the temple was built, 1 Kings 3:2; 1 Kings 3:5. And this custom was afterward, permitted by godly kings, who were zealous in putting down all sorts of idolatry, 1 Kings 15:14; and 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Chronicles 33:17. But by degrees those places became appropriated to idolatrous worship, and upon that score are severely condemned. There they presented the provocation of their offering — There they presented the offerings whereby they provoked me. This, being distinguished from their sacrifices already mentioned, is to be understood of their meat-offerings, of which see the note on Leviticus 2:1. These were especially styled offerings of a sweet savour. Then I said, What is the high place whereunto ye go? — What mean you that you go to the high place? What do you find so inviting there, that you will leave my altar, where I require your attendance, to frequent such places as I have forbidden you to worship in, and which I will avenge? And the name thereof is called Bamah — That is, the high place; unto this day — “Notwithstanding my reproof, the name continues, and the practice, unto this day.” So Bishop Newcome, who adds, “It may be doubted whether the last six (Hebrew words) of this verse have not been taken into the text from the margin, where they anciently stood as a note.” “All the old versions have this verse, which yet seems out of its place here. If the verse should stand, it relates to something not to be explained now.” — Secker.
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.
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?Ezekiel 20:30-32. Say unto the house of Israel — To the elders now sitting before thee, and through them to the rest of their brethren; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers — After all that God hath said to and against you by a succession of prophets, and done against you by a series of judgments, yet will you take no warning? Will you still be as wicked as your fathers were, and commit the same abominations that they committed? Some prefer rendering the words, Are ye not polluted, and do ye not commit whoredom, &c.? Do ye not walk in your fathers’ sins and idolatries, notwithstanding all the warnings I have given you, and the severe instances of my displeasure against their practices, which ought to have terrified you from following their bad example? For when ye offer your gifts, &c., ye pollute yourselves — You render yourselves filthy and abominable in my sight. And shall I be inquired of by you — Are you fit to come and ask counsel of me, whom you have so shamefully and so obstinately forsaken and reproached? I will not be inquired of by you — I will answer you as little as you regard me. And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all — Shall be quite frustrated. God, to convince them, here tells them what was in their thoughts, and what they had purposed. We find by the Scripture history, that the Jews had all along a fond desire of worshipping the gods of their neighbours, and could not bear that imputation of singularity, which their peculiar way of worship exposed them to. They thought also by this means to live more quietly among the heathen whither they were led captive. God tells them here that he would prevent this purpose of theirs from taking effect. And we find, from the very time of their return from the Babylonish captivity, they have been very cautious of committing idolatry, and scrupulous of making the least approaches to it. — Lowth.
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.
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:Ezekiel 20:33-36. Surely with a mighty hand, &c. — I will no longer try to reclaim you by the gentle methods of patience and forbearance, but will govern you, as masters do bad servants, by stripes and corrections; and by this means cure you of your inclinations to the heathen customs and idolatries. And I will bring you out from the people — With whom you now live mixed, and whose manners and customs you follow. The Moabites, Ammonites, and other neighbouring nations, seem to be intended, into whose countries many of the Jews were carried captive, or went as voluntary exiles, before the general captivity by the Chaldeans. God here declares he will bring them thence, and carry them to Babylon. And I will bring you into the wilderness — Between Judea and Babylon, through which ye shall pass into captivity. Or, as some think, the barren lands in which the Babylonians planted these captives are meant. “The wilderness of the people,” says Michaelis, “is the desert in the neighbourhood of the Chaldeans, and of other nations. And there will I plead with you face to face — Convince you of your sins, execute judgments on you, and thereby most plainly manifest my justice to you. “I will punish you in the face of the world, and fill you with conviction that my punishments are just.” — Bishop Newcome. Like as I pleaded with your fathers — Punished them for their sins; in the wilderness of the land of Egypt — That is, the wilderness bordering upon Egypt. As I there set the crimes of your fathers before their eyes, so that they were not able to deny their guilt, nor to say any thing against the justice of the punishment inflicted on them, so will I deal with you.
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.
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:Ezekiel 20:37-38. I will cause you to pass under the rod — Of punishment. I will bring you under the chastisement due to you for breaking my covenant. Or there may be an allusion to the custom of numbering flocks and herds, by striking them with a rod: and so the sense will be, “I will take an exact account of you, as a shepherd does of his flock, and will sever between the good and the bad, between the sheep and the goats.” And I will bring you into the bond of the covenant — By these methods I will reduce you to that obedience to which, by my covenant, you are obliged. And I will purge out from among you the rebels — I will separate the righteous from the wicked, in order to destroy the latter, as I did the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness. I will bring them forth out of the country, &c. — I will bring them (namely, the rebels, or wicked ones) forth out of the land of Judea, where they now sojourn, and where they boast that they shall always continue; and they shall not enter into the land of Israel — They shall never return into it again. Bishop Newcome thinks “those are here referred to, who, after the murder of Gedaliah, went into Egypt, called here the land of their sojourning. Some of these were to be carried into Chaldea with the captive Egyptians, Jeremiah 43:11, though the greater part were to be consumed, Jeremiah 44:12. Some of the obstinately rebellious Jews might also sojourn in other neighbouring countries subdued by Nebuchadnezzar, as Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, &c., and might thence be taken into captivity. The small number who returned from Egypt into Judea were righteous men, and not such as are here called rebels and transgressors.”
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.Ezekiel 20:39. As for you, O house of Israel, go ye, serve, &c. — Go at present, and serve your idols; persist in your idolatries, agreeably to the stubbornness of your hearts. An indignant concession. And hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me — And continue to do so if you are resolved not to do according to my commandments, or to worship me as I have appointed. But pollute ye my holy name no more, &c. — While you are such idolaters, forbear to take my name into your lips. In other words, While you offer your gifts, and immolate your children to idols, do not call yourselves any longer my servants, nor pretend to pay your devotions in my temple, and thereby bring a reproach upon my name and worship.
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.Ezekiel 20:40-42. For in my holy mountain, &c. — The holy hill of Zion, holy through God’s appointing it for the place of his temple. The mountain of the height of Israel — See Ezekiel 17:23; Micah 4:1. Though mount Zion was not one of the highest mountains of Israel, yet God manifesting his presence there in his temple, it was more honoured than any of their other mountains. Lowth, and several other commentators, think the Christian Church is here meant, and termed God’s holy mountain in allusion to the temple at Jerusalem, built upon mount Moriah, a part of mount Zion; (see notes on Ezekiel 17:23, and Isaiah 2:2;) and that the prophet here foretels the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, and their union with the converted Gentiles in the church of God. At the same time, however, they suppose that, upon their conversion and return to their own country, certain privileges shall belong to the earthly Jerusalem, as the metropolis of that nation. There shall all the house of Israel, all of them, serve me — That is, all the house of Israel that are restored, shall serve me in Jerusalem. There shall be no more any such separation as when the ten tribes forsook the worship of God at Jerusalem. There will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, &c. — Requiring signifies the same with accepting, by a metonymy of the cause for the effect; just as seeking is sometimes used for finding: see Isaiah 65:1. In the same sense, God is said not to require such instances of worship as he takes no delight in, Isaiah 1:11. Offerings signify in general every thing devoted to God’s service. Those who suppose that the prophet is here foretelling the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, consider him as “expressing the Christian worship by those religions oblations which were proper to his own time; as the other prophets frequently describe the state of the Christian Church, by representations taken from the Jewish temple and service.” — See Lowth. I will accept you with your sweet savour — This is mentioned in opposition to the sweet savour of their offerings to idols. The words may be rendered, I will be pleased with you, as with a sweet savour; or, as with the savour of an offering of atonement. When I bring you out — Or, as it may be better rendered, When I have brought you out from the people; that is, either, 1st, When I have brought you back out of captivity to your own land; or, 2d, When I have converted you to Christ, and united you to the Christian Church. And I will be sanctified in you before the heathen — I shall procure honour to my name by the wonderful works, whether of justice or mercy, which I will show toward you; and the nations shall consider me as a great and holy God, when they shall observe my deliverance of you, and your obedience to me. And ye shall know that I am the Lord — Or, Jehovah; that is, He who causeth that TO BE which he hath said SHALL BE, and who fulfilleth his promises. When I shall bring you into the country, &c. — Into the land which I sware to give to your fathers and their posterity: see Ezekiel 20:5.
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.Ezekiel 20:43-44. And there shall ye remember your ways — There, in my holy mountain, in Zion, when you are restored to your own land; and more especially in the Christian Church, when, in consequence of your conversion, you enter into it, and enjoy the privileges of it, ye shall remember and be humbled on account of your doings, whereby you have been defiled. When you find how gracious I am to you, notwithstanding your long-continued disobedience and repeated rebellions, you will be overcome with my kindness, and blush to think of your refractory conduct toward so good a God. And ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight — See notes on Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 16:63. Thus the prophet fore-tels that the restoration of the Jews to their own land would be accompanied with a general repentance, and a deep remorse for their former mis-doings. And we find, from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, that this was in fact the case with multitudes of them: they fasted and made public confessions of their sins upon their returning to Judea, and entered into a general and solemn engagement to be obedient to God, and observe his laws for the future. And, undoubtedly, this humiliation, godly sorrow, and true repentance, will more especially take place, and be more abundantly manifested in and among that people, when they shall be converted to Christianity in the latter days.
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,Ezekiel 20:45-49. Moreover, the word of the Lord, &c. — Here we have a new prophecy, with which Houbigant, following many learned commentators, begins the xxist chapter, and that very properly; for what is contained in that chapter is only an explanation of what is contained in the remainder of this. Song of Solomon of man, set thy face toward the south — The prophets were generally commanded to turn themselves toward the places concerning which they were going to prophesy; and Ezekiel being now in Chaldea, near the river of Chebar, Judea lay to the south of him. And drop thy word, &c. — That is, prophesy. The gift of prophecy seems to be here compared to rain, or dew, distilling from heaven upon the earth, and refreshing and rendering it fruitful: see Deuteronomy 32:2. Such is the benefit of sound doctrine wherever it is received. And prophesy against the forest of the south field — By this is meant Jerusalem, the word forest being taken metaphorically for a city; either because its stately buildings resembled tall cedars standing in their several ranks, or, as Archbishop Secker supposes, from the number of its inhabitants. And say, Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee — By fire here is meant, not only the burning of literal fire, but every thing which destroys or consumes, as in Ezekiel 19:12. Indeed, fire is often taken, in a general sense, for God’s severe judgments, which, it is here said, shall devour both the green tree and the dry, that is, the righteous as well as the wicked; the righteous being here, as elsewhere, compared to green and flourishing trees, and the wicked to dry and withered ones, such as are only fit for the fire. The flaming flame shall not be quenched — The evils I will send upon them shall not cease, till what I will has been accomplished. And all faces from the south to the north shall be burned — The destruction shall reach from one end of the land to the other: see Ezekiel 21:2; Ezekiel 21:4. Ah, Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables? — They make this an argument for disregarding what I say, that I use so many similitudes and metaphorical expressions, that they cannot understand my meaning. To take away all ground for this objection, God commands him, in the next chapter, to speak the same thing in plain words.
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;
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.
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?