Ezekiel 11
Calvin's Commentaries
Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD'S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.

1. Moreover, the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD'S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.

1. Et sustulit me Spiritus et introduxit me ad portam domus Iehovae orientalera: [229] et ecce in limine portae vigintiquinque viri: et aspexi in medio ipsorum [230] Iaazaniah filium Azur, et Pelthiah filium Benaiah, principes populi.

2. Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:

2. Et dixit ad me, Fili hominis, isti homines cogitant vanitatem, et consultant consilium perversum in urbe hae.

Here the Prophet admonishes the people that perverse leaders would be the cause of their destruction. For if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39.) Since, therefore, the elders of the city were such wicked apostates, they drew with them the whole body of the people into the same ruin. Now, therefore, the Prophet shows that the state of the city was so corrupt that no hope of pardon remained, since those who ought to be the eyes of the whole people were involved in darkness. But he names the [15]five and twenty seniors Whence it is probable, that this number was chosen in the midst of confusion, or that a definite number is put for an indefinite; and I rather embrace this second view. Whatever it is, it implies that those who held the reins of government were impious despisers of God, and hence it is not surprising that impiety and defection from God and his law had begun to increase among the whole people. But we must remark the Prophet's intention. For common soldiers are accustomed to consider their commanders as a shield, as we this day see in the Papacy. For this is their last refuge, since they think themselves guilty of no fault when they obey their holy Mother Church. Such also formerly was the obstinacy of the people.

Lastly, men always throw off all blame from themselves, under pretense of error or ignorance. Hence the Prophet now shows that the city was not free from God's wrath, since it was corrupted by its leaders and rulers; nay, that this was a cause of its destruction, since the people were too easily led astray by perverse examples. Meanwhile, we must notice the Prophet's freedom, because he here fearlessly attacks the most noble princes. He was, indeed, out of danger, because he was an exile: but it seems that he was at Jerusalem when he uttered this prophecy. He shows, therefore, his strength of mind, since he does not spare the nobles. Hence this useful doctrine is collected, that those who excel in reputation and rank are not free from blame if they conduct themselves wickedly, as we see happens in the Papacy. For, as to the Pope himself, it is in his power to condemn the whole world, while he exempts himself from all blame. And as to the Bishops, now twenty or thirty witnesses are required, and afterwards even seventy: hence one of those horned beasts could not be convinced, unless the whole people should rise up: so also it was formerly. But here the Prophet shows, that however eminent are those who are endued with power over the people, yet they are not sacred nor absolved from all law by any peculiar privilege, since God freely judges them by his Spirit, and reproves them by his Prophets. Lastly, if we wish to discharge our duty rightly, especially when it consists of the office of teaching, we should avoid all respect of persons, for those who boast that they excel others are yet subject to the censures of God. For this reason it follows --


[229] "Which looks towards the cast." -- Calvin.

[230] That is, "between themselves." -- Calvin.

Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:
Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.

3. Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.

3. Qui dicunt, non in propinquo: aedificare domos [231] ipsa est olla [232] nos autem sumus caro.

Here the Prophet explains what might be obscure through their perverseness. He brings forward, therefore, what the impious thought could be covered by many fallacies. For we know that hypocrites endeavor to fix their eyes on God, and when they scatter their own clouds before themselves, they think that he is blinded. For this reason Isaiah says, that God also is wise, (Isaiah 31:2,) and derides their cunning, since they think that they blind God's eyes whilst they conceal their sins with various coverings. Since, therefore, the obstinacy of these men was so great., the Prophet here strips off their mask; for they could be turned aside by perverse counsels to deny that they deserved anything of the kind. But the Prophet here cuts away their pretenses, because, in truth, their impiety was more than sufficiently evident, since they boast that the time is not yet at hand, and, therefore, that they might build houses at Jerusalem as in a time of ease and peace. As we saw in Jeremiah, the time of the last destruction was approaching; everything remaining in the city had now been destined to final ruin: and for this reason Jeremiah advised houses to be built in Chaldea and in foreign lands, since the captives must spend a long period there, even seventy years. (Jeremiah 29:5.) Since then the predicted time was now drawing on, it became extreme folly in the people to oppose themselves, and to treat God's threats as a laughing-stock, and to boast that it was a time for building. Now, therefore, we see what the Prophet blames and condemns in the five and twenty men who were princes of the people, namely, that they hardened the people in obstinate wickedness, and encouraged torpor, so that the Prophet's threats were unheeded. Since, therefore, they so stupified the people by their enticements, and took away all sense of repentance, they also set aside all fear of God's wrath which had been denounced against them. The Prophet condemns this depravity in their counsels.

But, in the second clause, this contempt appears more detestable when they say, that Jerusalem is the caldron, and they are the flesh I do not doubt their allusion to Jeremiah; for in the first chapter the pot was shown, but the fire was from the north, (Jeremiah 1:13;) so then the Spirit wished to teach us, that the Chaldeans would come like a fire to consume Jerusalem, as if a pot is placed on a large and constant fire, even if it be full of water and flesh, yet its contents are consumed, and the juice of the flesh is dried up by too long cooking. God had demonstrated this by his servant Jeremiah: here the Jews deride and factiously elude what ought to strike them with no light fear, unless they had been too slothful: behold, say they, we are the flesh and Jerusalem is the caldron: So they seem to rate the Prophet Jeremiah, as if he were inconsistent, -- "What? do you threaten us with captivity? and meanwhile you say that this city will be the pot and the Chaldeans the fire. If God wishes to consume us, therefore let us remain within: thus we may build houses." Now we understand how they sought some appearance of inconsistency in the words of the Prophet: as reprobate and profane men always take up arguments by which they may diminish and extenuate all faith in heavenly doctrine, nay, even reduce it to nothing if they could. The Prophet, therefore, provides a remedy for this evil, as we have seen. But before he proceeds to it, he repeats their impious saying, that Jerusalem is a caldron, and the people flesh They turned what had been said to a meaning directly contrary, for the Prophet said that they should burn since the Chaldeans would be like fire' but they said -- well, we shall be scorched, but that will be done lightly, so that we shall remain safe to a good old age. Hence we understand how diabolical was their audacity, who were so blinded by the just judgments of God, that they did not scruple petulantly to blame even God himself, and to make a laughingstock of the authority of his teaching. Thus we see in another way how faithfully Ezekiel had discharged his duty: he had been created a Prophet: he had not to discharge his office by himself, but was an assistant to Jeremiah. And we cannot otherwise discharge our duty to God and his Church unless we mutually extend our hands to each other, when ministers are mutually united and one studies to assist the other. Ezekiel now signifies this when he professes himself the ally and assistant of Jeremiah.


[231] That is," Let us build." -- Calvin.

[232] Or, "caldron." -- Calvin. PRAYER.

Grant, Almighty God, that as we know from thine ancient people how great our hardness is, unless we are inclined by thy Holy Spirit, nay, totally renewed into obedience to thy doctrine: that as often as we hear thy threatening, we may be seriously frightened, and that we may desire to return to true and perfect obedience, not by momentary but by permanent repentance, till at length we are gathered into that happy rest, which has been obtained for us through the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen.

Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.

4. Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.

4. Propterea prophetiza contra cos, prophetiza, fili hominis.

Yesterday we saw that the Jews scurrilously eluded the prophecies of Jeremiah, especially when he threatened them with God's wrath. For he had said, that a vision was offered to him, in which Jerusalem was like a pot, and the fire lighted from the north. For a laughing-stock they said that they could rest safely within the city, because they were not yet cooked but raw, so that if that prophecy is true, said they, we shall not so quickly depart from the city. For God foretold that we should be the flesh which was about to be cooked: if this city is a caldron, we ought to remain here till we are cooked: but this has not happened. Hence what Jeremiah pronounces is vain, that we shall be dragged into exile, because these two things disagree, viz., God wishing us to rest in the city, and yet dragging us into a distant region. Since it is so, Jeremiah's prophecy is vain; thus then they deceived themselves. But God commands another Prophet of his to rise up against them. And the repetition is emphatic, prophesy, prophesy against them For nothing is less tolerable than that men should petulantly spurn God's anger, which ought to inspire all with fear. For if the mountains melt before him, (Isaiah 64:3,) if angels themselves tremble, (Job 4:18,) how comes it that the vessel of clay dares to conflict with its maker? (Isaiah 45:9.) And we see also how God grows angry against such perverseness; especially when he denounces, by the mouth of Isaiah, that this sin would be unpardonable. I have called you, said he, to ashes and mourning: but, on the other hand, ye have said, Let us eat and drink, and ye have turned my threats into a laughing-stock. For this was your proverb, to-morrow we shall die: as I live, your iniquity shall not go unpunished. God affirms by an oath, that he would never be appeased by the impious and profane despisers of his judgments. For this reason also he now repeats again, prophesy, prophesy. Let us go on --

And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.

5. And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.

5. Et cecidit super me Spiritus Iehovae, et dixit mihi, Die, sic dicit Iehovah, sic dixisti domus Israel: et ascensiones spiritus vestri ego novi ipsam. [233]

Here the Prophet turns the impious scurrility of the people into another sense, for they had corrupted what Jeremiah had said. They knew what he meant by the pot and the flesh, but they thought they could avert God's wrath by their cleverness. Here the Prophet brings forward another sense, not that of Jeremiah, nor that of the people, but a third. In the twenty-fourth chapter he will again denounce them as like flesh, since God will cast them into a pot to be cooked, so that even their bones should be consumed. But here the Prophet only considers how he shall refute their wicked saying, by which they think to catch Jeremiah in a snare, as they did not agree sufficiently with his prophecy. What does he say, then? First, that the Spirit had fallen upon, him, that he might gain a hearing for his prophecy; for if he had spoken from his own mind he might be rejected with impunity; for the speakers ought to utter God's word, and to be the organ of his Spirit. The Pope boasts this to his followers, but the true and faithful servants of God ought to do this in reality, namely, not to utter their own comments, but to receive from God's hands what they deliver to the people, and thus to discharge their duty faithfully. To this end the Prophet says, that the Spirit fell upon him. For although he had been previously endued with the gift of prophecy, yet as often as he exercised it this grace ought, to be renewed; because it is not sufficient for us to be imbued once with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, unless God works in us daily. Since, therefore, he follows up his gifts in his servants while he uses their assistance, hence it is not in vain that Ezekiel says, the Spirit was still given to him, because this gift was necessary for every act. Afterward she expresses more dearly what he had said, namely, that the Spirit had spoken; for it signifies that what he shortly subjoins had been dictated to him.

Here, therefore, he admonishes the Jews that they should not foolishly promise themselves impunity, when they despised his prophecies, since he does not speak from himself, but only relates what the Spirit suggested and dictated. Thus have ye spoken, O house of Israel, said he, and I have known the risings of your heart God here precisely urges the Jews that they should not hope to obtain anything by turning their backs; for we know how carelessly and boldly hypocrites reject all teaching, and do not hesitate to strive with God, since they find many pretexts by which they excuse themselves. Hence there would be no end, unless the Lord should racet them, and with the supreme command and power of a judge, should show them that subterfuges were vain, and make all their excuses idle, and of no moment. This then is the Prophet's meaning when he says, that whatever rose up in their heart was known to God But by these words he implies, that they sought in vain a theater in the world, as if they should succeed if they proved their cause before men: he says that it is vain, because they must come into the court of heaven, where God will be the only Judge. Now, when our thoughts are known to God, in vain we take up with this or that; because God will not admit our subterfuges, nor will he allow himself to be deluded by our smartness and cunning. Now, therefore, we see what the Prophet means by saying that God knows what sprang up in the heart of the Jews, because, forsooth, they had never desisted from contending and quarreling by their fallacies, so as to draw away all confidence from his prophecies. Hence we see the utility of the doctrine, that we deceive ourselves in vain by acuteness, so as to escape by our crooked imaginations, because God sees men's cunning, and while they desire to be ingenious, he seizes them, and shows the vanity of what they think the greatest wisdom. So let us desire to approve ourselves to God, and not esteem our deeds and plans according to our own sense and judgment. Now it follows --


[233] There is a change of number. -- Calvin.

Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain.

6. Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain.

6. Multiplicasti interfectos vestres in urbe hac, et implevistis compita ejus inteffectis.

7. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Your slain, whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron: but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it.

7. Propterea sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Interfecti vestri quos posuistis in medio ejus, ipsi erunt caro, et ipsa olla [234] et vos ejiciam e medio eius.

Now Ezekiel attacks, as it were, in close combat, the buffoons who trifled with God by their jests, and brings forward that; sense which I have just before touched on, and of which the prophecy of Jeremiah was full, in a different manner to that. which they imagined. Ye, says he, have slain many; the city was full of many slaughters: therefore the pot was full of flesh; this flesh was cooked: there is no longer any room in the vessel. You must therefore of necessity be cast forth as froth, or as foul flesh, for which no vessel is found for cooking it. We see, then, that the Prophet here treats them wittily, and plays off jests in answer to them; meanwhile he strikes a deadly wound, when he shows that they joked so petulantly to their own destruction, and boasted that Jeremiah was their adversary. Hence he confirms the prophecy of Jeremiah, and yet he does not interpret it, because Jeremiah had spoken properly and clearly, when he said that they were flesh. The meaning was the same as if God were to pronounce that he would consume them in the midst of the city. It happened as we have formerly seen; for he scattered some of the people, and slew some with the sword, and some with hunger. Whatever it is, the prophecy of Jeremiah will always be found true, namely, that God had cooked the Jews with the fire of the Chaldees. (Jeremiah 1:13.) But since they had perverted that doctrine, the Prophet does not regard the meaning of Jeremiah, but shows that they never profited while they turned their backs on God. Ye shall not be flesh, says he, but your slain were flesh: ye have refilled the caldron, that is the city with the slain; now there is no room for you. What therefore remains, but that God should cast you out as foul flesh? Neither will he cook you, says he, nor will he consume you in a caldron, but where he has stretched you at full length on the earth, there will he consume you. Now, therefore, we see how great a destruction the Jews had brought upon themselves, when they took the liberty of joking and jesting at the Prophets. Hence he says, they had filled the city with the slain He does not mean that men had been openly put to death in Jerusalem, but this form of speech embraces all forms of injustice; for we know that God esteems those homicides who oppress miserable men, overturn their fortunes, and suck innocent blood. Since, then, God esteems all violence as slaughter, he properly says, that the city was filled with the slain The Jews might object that no one had brought violence upon them; they could not be convicted in the sight of men; but when their wickedness was so gross among themselves, that they did not spare the wretched, but cruelly afflicted them, he says that the city was filled with the slain He now adds, when the city was full of flesh there was no more place for them, and he now shows that although Jeremiah had predicted that they should be cooked with the fire of the Chaldeans, yet they had advanced so far in wickedness, that they were unworthy of being cooked within the city. Hence, says he, a greater vengeance from God awaits you, since ye proceed to provoke his anger more and more. It follows --


[234] Or, "caldron." -- Calvin.

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron: but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it.
Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord GOD.

8. Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord GOD.

8. Gladium timuistis, et gladium adducam super vos, dicit Dominator lehovah.

9. And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you.

9. Et ejiciam vos e medio ejus, et tradam vos in manum extraneorum, et exercebo in vos judicia.

10. Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

10. Et gladio cadetis: ad terminum Israel judicabo vos, et scietis quod ego sim Iehovah.

11. This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; but I will judge you in the border of Israel:

11. Ipsa non erit vobis in ollam: et vos non eritis [235] in medio ejus in carnem: in termino Israel judicabo vos.

We ought to join these verses together, because the Prophet treats the same thing in many words. First he denounces that they should perish by the sword since they feared the sword By these words he admonishes them, that even if God should draw them out of the city, yet Jeremiah's prophecy would prove true, since the Chaldeans would consume them as if the pot was boiling on the fire. Lastly, he shows how frivolous was their cavil when they said, "if we are flesh, we shall remain in the caldron." But the Prophet shows that they must not cavil like children with God, because when he showed the caldron to his servant Jeremiah, he meant nothing else than that the Jews should perish, since the Chaldeans would come to consume them. But they had purposely perverted the Prophet's sense, and thought themselves clever and shrewd when they corrupted the heavenly doctrine. First of all the Prophet says, ye have feared the sword, and ye shall fall by the sword: he afterwards adds the manner: I, says he, will bring the sword upon you, which ye feared: he says, I will draw you out from the midst of it. He declares the manner: namely, that he will bring them into an open plain, that he may more easily slay them there. If any should object, that this was not seething them in the city, the answer is easy: that God did not restrict his wroth to one kind of punishment, when he thus spoke by Jeremiah. For we know that the Prophets set before us God's judgments in various ways, and thus use various figures. Since therefore the Prophets do not always teach in the same manner, it is not surprising if, when he shortly shows that God's wrath was near the Jews, he used that simile: ye shall fall, says he, by the sword, and in the borders of Israel shall I judge you.

Here he clearly expresses what I lately touched upon. It was indeed God's judgment, when the Jews were drawn from the city in which they thought they had a quiet nest: for when they were violently dragged into exile, God exercised his judgments upon them: and from the time when he deprived them of their country, then he already began to be their judge. But here he begins to treat of a severer judgment. Although God had begun to chastise the Jews when he expelled them from the city, yet he treated them more severely in the boundaries of Israel; because when they came in sight of the king of Babylon, then the king saw his slain: then he himself was rendered blind and dragged into Chaldea, and all the nobles slain. (2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 39.) Hence we may gather that the people's blood was poured out without discrimination. Now therefore we understand what God means when he threatens to judge them in the borders of Israel, that is without their country. Lastly, he here denounces a double penalty, first because God would east them out of Jerusalem in which they delighted, and in which they said that they should dwell so long that exile would be their first punishment: then he adds, that he was not content with exile, but that a heavier punishment was at hand, when they should be cast out of their country, and the land should cast; them forth as a stench which it cannot bear. I will judge you therefore in the borders of Israel: that is, beyond the holy land: for since one curse has already occurred in exile, still a harder and more formidable revenge will await; you. Now he adds, ye shall know that I am Jehovah

Doubtless Ezekiel reproves the sloth which was the cause of such great contumacy: for they had never dared to contend so perseveringly with God, unless their minds had been stupified; for were we to reflect that we are striving with God, horror would immediately seize upon us; for who labors under such madness as to dare to contend with God his maker? This torpor, therefore, Ezekiel now obliquely reproves, when he says that the Jews would know too late that they were dealing with God. Although therefore they sinned through ignorance, it does not follow that they were without, excuse, for whence arose their ignorance except from being inattentive to God? It sprang first from carelessness: then that carelessness and security produced contempt, and contempt sprang from their depraved lust of sinning. Since therefore they determined to give themselves up to all manner of sinning, they put away as far as possible all teaching: nay they willingly endeavored to stupify their own consciences, and thus we see that depraved desire impelled them to contempt, and contempt begat in them security, in which at length this ignorance plunged them. Since therefore at the time it did not come into their mind to contend with God, this does not extenuate their fault, because, as I have said, they had stupified themselves with determined and spontaneous wickedness.

Meanwhile, it is by no means doubtful that God always pricked them that they might feel themselves sinners, but the Prophet here speaks of that knowledge which is called experimental. For the impious are said to know God when, being struck by his hand, they unwillingly acknowledge his power: because whether they will or not they feel him to be their judge. But this knowledge does not profit them; nay even increases their destruction. But we understand the Prophet's meaning, that the Jews were rebellious and despised God's servants: because they pretended that they had to do only with men, and covered themselves with darkness, lest they should behold the light which was offered to their eyes. God pronounces that they should know at length with whom they contended, as Zechariah says, they shall see whom they have pierced; (Zechariah 12:10;) that is, they shall know that it is I whom they have wounded, when they so proudly despised my servants, and abjured all confidence in my teaching. Hence also we gather that the minds of the impious were so confused, that seeing they did not see; for when they experience God to be their judge, they are compelled in reality to confess that they feel his hand: yet they remain stupid, because they do not profit, as the Prophet had just now said, -- ye feared the sword. But they were careless, as we saw, and despised all threats. Of what kind, then, is this fear which is remarked upon by the Prophet? that of the impious forsooth, who while they make for themselves blandishments, and fancy that they have made a covenant with death, as is said in Isaiah, (Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 48:22; and Isaiah 57:21,) and promise themselves freedom from punishment, even when a scourge is passing through the land, yet tremble and are always ill-at-ease, because they have no peace, as it is said elsewhere. In fine, we see the impious always remaining careless and stupid: though they are careless, yet they tremble and are tortured with secret impiety, since the severity of God urges them on. At length he concludes, Jerusalem should not be their caldron, but he would punish them in the border of Israel But I have sufficiently explained this clause. It follows --


[235] The negative must be understood. -- Calvin.

And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you.
Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; but I will judge you in the border of Israel:
And ye shall know that I am the LORD: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.

12. And ye shall know that I am the LORD: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.

12. Et cognoscentis quod ego sim Iehovah; quia in statutis meis non ambulastis, et judicia mea non fecistis: sed secundum judicia gentium quae in circmitu vestro sunt, fecistis.

He repeats what he had said, that they would acknowledge too late how impiously and wickedly they had despised the prophecies: because this was to draw down God himself from heaven; for God wishes that reverence which he exacts from us to be given to his own word. Therefore men rage in contempt of his teaching, as if after the manner of giants they wished to draw God down from heaven. But he expresses the cause more clearly: because indeed they have not walked in his law and his precepts; but have entangled themselves in the superstitions of the nations Here we see that God could not possibly be accused of too much rigor, because he executed a judgment so heavy and severe against the Jews. For he had given them the law. This was the greatest ingratitude, to reject the teaching, which ought to be familiar to them, and at the same time to add to it the impious rites of the Gentiles: this was to prefer the devil to God himself with full deliberation. Hence God shows that although he would treat the Jews severely, yet that his wrath was moderate compared with their sins: because nothing was wanting to complete their impiety when they so rejected his law. When therefore he says that they did not walk in the law, he takes this principle for granted, that the law was not given in vain, but that in it the Jews were, faithfully and clearly taught the right way, as also Moses says, "this is the way, walk ye in it." There is no doubt that Ezekiel referred to that sentence of Moses, when he said,

that the Jews did not walk in the law, and did not perform the judgments of God. (Deuteronomy 5:33; Isaiah 30:21.)

Since therefore God has shown the way, so that they had no excuse for wandering, how great was their ingratitude in leaving the way and willfully casting themselves into wanderings?

Now comparison aggravates their crime, when he says, that they preferred the judgments and rites of the Gentiles which were around them Because they had unbelieving neighbors, God had opposed his law like a rampart to separate them from the profane Gentiles. Since therefore they had so far approached these detestable rites, and that too by rejecting utterly the law of God, do we not perceive that they were worthy of severe punishment? Meanwhile let us observe, when God has borne with us a long time, if we persist in our obstinacy, that nothing else is left but the extinction of the light of doctrine, and that God should show himself in some other manner. For the Prophet's discourse is like a glass, in which God represents himself. But when we shut our eyes and throw down the glass and break it, then God shows himself in some other manner; that is, he no longer thinks it right to show us his face, but teaches us by his hand, and convinces us of our impious obstinacy by a proof of his power, because we were unwilling to submit to his teaching. It follows --

And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?

13. And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?

13. Et fuit cum prophetarem, tunc Phalatias filius Benaim mortuus est: et cecidi super faciem meam, et clamavi voce magna, et dixi, Heus Dominator Iehovah, tu consumptionem facies residui Israel?

It is by no means doubtful that this Phalatias died at the same time at which the vision was offered to God's servant. We shall see at the end of the chapter that the Prophet was always in exile; but then he seemed to himself caught up into the temple, and seemed also to himself to behold Phalatias dead. And yet it is possible that he died at his own home, and not in the entrance or threshold of the temple. But we know that the vision was not limited to places. As, therefore, Ezekiel was only by vision in the temple, so also he saw the death of Phalatias; and in this way God began by a kind of prelude to show that the slaughter of the city was at hand. For Phalatias was one of the chief rulers, as was said in the first verse of this chapter, and was doubtless a man of good reputation: hence his death was a presage of a general destruction. Hence this exclamation of the Prophet, Ah Lord God, wilt thou utterly consume the remnant of Israel? for now only a small number out of an immense multitude remained. Phalatias is seized, and in this way he shows that destruction hangs over the whole people. Hence it came to pass that the Prophet fell upon the earth astonished, and exclaimed that it was by no means agreeable to God's promises to destroy the remnant of Israel. For some remnant ought to remain, as we often see in other places: even in the general slaughter of the whole people, God always gave some hope that he would not abolish his covenant. For this reason the Prophet now exclaims. PRAYER.

Grant, Almighty God, since we cease not to provoke thine anger every day, that at least being admonished by the prophecies which thine ancient people did not despise with impunity, we may be touched with a true sense of penitence, and may we so submit ourselves to thee, that we may willingly humble and renounce ourselves; and not only do thou mitigate the punishments which otherwise hang over us, but also show thyself a merciful and gracious Father towards us, until at length we enjoy the fullness of thy fatherly love in thy heavenly kingdom, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

14. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

14. Et fuit sermo Iehovah ad me, dicendo,

15. Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD: unto us is this land given in possession.

15. Fili hominis, fratres tui, fratres tui, viri propinquitatis tuae, et omnis domus Israel tota ipsa: quibus dixerunt ipsis incolae Ierusalem, Procul discedite a Iehovah, nobis data est terra in haereditatem.

16. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.

16. Propterea dic, Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Quia procul ejecti estis inter gentes, et quia dispersi estis per tetras: ideo [237] ero ipsis in sanctuarium parrum [238] in terris ad quas venerunt.

Here God seems to rebuke the thoughtlessness of his servant, or rather the error of the people, because we said that the Prophet announced not what he privately thought, but what was commonly received. Whatever it is, God answers his complaint as we saw, and shows that even if he takes away from the midst the eminent and conspicuous, and those who seem to be the supports of a city and kingdom, yet the Church does not perish on that account, because he has hidden reasons why he preserves it, not in splendid and magnificent pomp, as men call it, but that its safety may at length excite admiration. The sum of the matter is, therefore, although not only Phalatias, but all the councillors of the king, and all the leaders of the people should perish, yet that God can work in weakness, so that the Church shall nevertheless remain safe: and so he teaches that the remnant must not be sought in that rank which was then conspicuous, but rather among men ordinary and despised. Now we understand the intention of God in this answer.

He says therefore, thy brethren, thy brethren, and the men of thy relationship. He here recalls his servant to the exiles and the captives, of whom he himself was one, as if he would say that they were not cast out of the Church, as they were still in some estimation. For God seemed to east them off when he banished them from the promised land; but he now shows that they were reckoned among his sons although disinherited from the land of Canaan. Hence he twice repeats the name of brethren, and adds, men of thy relationship, that the Prophet might rather reckon himself also to be among the number. Those who refer this to the three exiles, weaken the vehemence of the passage, whilst they obtrude an inappropriate comment, and turn away the reader from the genuine sense of the Prophet. But rather, as I lately hinted,. God here chastises the Prophet because he perversely restricts the body of the Church to the citizens at Jerusalem; as if he said, although the Israelites are captives, yet do they seem to you foreigners? and so will you not leave them a place in the Church? They are, therefore, thy brethren, thy brethren, says he, and the men of thy relationship Hence the repetition is emphatic, and tends to this purpose, that the Prophet may cease to measure God's grace by the safety of the city alone, as he had done. Because one man had suddenly died, he thought that all must perish. Meanwhile he did not perceive how he injured the miserable exiles, whom God had so expelled from the land of Canaan, that yet some hope of pity remained, as all the Prophets show, and as we shall soon see. This passage then is worthy of observation, that we may learn not to estimate the state of the Church by the common opinion of mankind. And so with respect to the splendor which too often blinds the eyes of the simple. For it will so happen, that we think we have found the Church where there is none, and we despair if it does not offer itself to our eyes; as we see at this day that many are astonished by those magnificent pomps which are conspicuous in the Papacy. There the name of "The Church" keeps flying bravely in the face of all: there also its marks are brought forward: the simple are attracted to the empty spectacle: so under the name of the Church they are drawn to destruction; because they determine that the Church is there where that splendor which deceives them is seen. On the other hand, many who cannot discern the Church with their eyes and point to it with the finger, accuse God of deceiving them, as if all the faithful in the world were extinct. We must hold, therefore, that the Church is often wonderfully preserved in its hiding -- places: for its members are not luxurious men, or such as win the veneration of the foolish by vain ostentation; but rather ordinary men, of no estimation in the world. We have a memorable example of this, when God recalls his own Prophet from the chief leaders at Jerusalem, not to other leaders, who should attract men to wonder at themselves, but to miserable exiles, whose dispersion rendered them despicable. He shows therefore that some remnants were left even in Chaldea.

Now it follows, to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, depart, ye far from the sanctuary of Jehovah, the land is given to us Here God inveighs against the arrogance of the people, which remained at home quiet and careless. For he here relates the words of the citizens of Jerusalem, because, forsooth, they preferred themselves to the exiles, nay boasted that they were alienated from the holy people because they had been dragged into exile, or had left the city of their own accord. As to their saying, depart afar off, it ought not to be taken strictly in the imperative mood; but the speech ought so to be understood, that while they depart far from the sanctuary, the land will remain as an inheritance for us. We see, therefore, that the citizens of Jerusalem pleased themselves, and were satisfied with their own ease, since they still enjoyed their country, worshipped God in the temple, and the name of a kingdom was still standing. Since therefore they so enjoyed themselves, God shows that on the contrary they were blinded with pride, since he had not entirely cast away his captives, although he afflicted them with temporal punishment. But this their boasting was very foolish, in congratulating themselves on their escape from exile. For meanwhile what was their state? In truth their king' was treated with ignominy, and we know what happened to themselves afterwards; for they were reduced to such straits, that mothers devoured their children, and those nourished in great, luxury consumed their dung. Nay even before the city was besieged, what reason was left them for boasting in themselves! but we here perceive how great was their obstinacy in which they hardened themselves against the scourge of God. Hence they stupidly supposed that God could not subdue them. Now what is their ferocity, that they insult over the miserable exiles as if they were cast away far from God? since Ezekiel and Daniel and their companions were among these exiles. We know that Daniel's piety was so celebrated at Jerusalem, that they all acknowledged him as the peculiar gift and ornament of his age. When, therefore, Daniel was in such estimation for superior piety, how could they erect their crests against him -- since they were Conscious of many crimes, profane, full of all defilements, addicted to cruelty, fraud, and perjury, being foul in their abominations, and infamous in their intemperance?

Since therefore we see that they so boldly insulted their brethren, can we wonder that at this day the Papists also are fierce, because they retain the ordinary succession and the title of the Church, and that they say that we are cast away and cut off from the Church, and so are unworthy of enjoying either a name or a place among Christians? If, therefore, at this day the Papists are so hot against us, there is no reason why their haughtiness should disturb us; but in this mirror we may learn that it always was so. But there was another reason why the citizens of Jerusalem said that their captives were cast far away. For it was clear that their exile was the just penalty for their crimes; but meanwhile how did they dare separate themselves from others, when their life was more wicked? Lastly, since God had already passed sentence upon them, their condition could not be really different from theirs, concerning whom the judge had pronounced his opinion, but they were deaf to all the Prophets' threats, so that they despised God, and hence that boasting which treated all as foreigners who did not remain in the land of Canaan. This passage also teaches us, that if God at any time chastises those who profess the same religion with us, yet there is no reason why we should entirely condemn them, as if they were desperate; for opportunity must be given for the mercy of God. And we must diligently mark what follows. For after the Prophet has related that the citizens of Jerusalem boasted when they thought themselves the sole survivors, God answers on the contrary, because they were cast away far among the nations, and dispersed among the lands, or through the lands, therefore I shall be to them as a small sanctuary

We see that God even here claims some place for sinners in the Church, against whom he had exercised the rigor of his judgment. He says, by way of concession, that they were cast away and dispersed, but he adds, that he was still with them for a sanctuary; nay, because they bore their exile calmly and with equanimity, they pronounce this to be a reason why he should pity them. For neither is their sentence so general that God overlooked his own elect. This promise then ought not to be extended to all the captives without discrimination, because we shall see that God included only a few. Without doubt then, this was a peculiar promise which God wished to be a consolation to his elect. He says, because they bore exile and dispersion with calmness and composure, therefore God would be a sanctuary to them But this was a gracious approval of their modesty and subjection, because they not only suffered exile but also dispersion, which was more severe. For if they had all been drawn into a distant region this had been a severe trial, but still they might have united more easily, had they not been dispersed. This second punishment was the sadder to them, because they perceived in it the material for despair, as if they could never be collected together again in one body.

thus their wrestling with these temptations was a sign of no little piety; and as some of the faithful did not demonstrate their obedience at once, yet because God knows his own, (2 Timothy 2:19,) and watches for their safety, hence he here opposes to all their miseries that protection on which their safety was founded. Because, therefore, they were dispersed through the lands, hence, says he, I will be to them a small sanctuary

The third person is here used. Interpreters make mt, megnet, mean the noun toar, and understand it as "a small sanctuary," although it may be taken for a paucity of men, and we may, therefore, fairly translate it "a sanctuary of security." Although the other sense suits the passage best, that God would be a small sanctuary to the captives, so there will be an antithesis between the splendor of the visible temple and the hidden grace of God, which so escaped the notice of the Chaldeans that they rather trod it under foot, and even the Jews who still remained at Jerusalem despised it. The sanctuary, therefore, which God had chosen for himself on Mount Zion, because it deservedly attracted all eyes towards it, and the Israelites were always gazing at it, since it revealed the majesty of God, might be called the magnificent sanctuary of God: nothing of the sort was seen in the Babylonish exile: but God says, that he was to the captives as a small or contracted sanctuary This place answers to the 90th Psalm, where Moses says, Thou, O God, hast always been a tabernacle to us, (Psalm 90:1,) and yet God had not always either a temple or a tabernacle from which he entered into a covenant with the fathers. But Moses there teaches what God afterwards represented by a visible symbol, that the fathers really thought that they truly lay hid under the shadow of God's wings, and were not otherwise safe and sheltered unless God protected them. Moses, therefore, in the name of the fathers, celebrates the grace of God which was continual even before the sanctuary was built. So also in this place God says by a figure, that he was their sanctuary, not that he had erected an altar there, but because the Israelites were destitute of any external pledge and symbol, he reminds them that the thing itself was not entirely taken away, since God had his wings outstretched to cherish and defend them. This passage is also worthy of notice, lest the faithful should despond where God has no standard erected: although he does not openly go before them with royal ensigns to preserve them, yet they need not conclude themselves altogether deserted; but they should recall to remembrance what is here said of a small sanctuary. God, therefore, although he does not openly exhibit his influence, yet he does not cease to preserve them by a secret power, of which in this our age we have a very remarkable proof. The world indeed thinks us lost as often as the Church is materially injured, and the greater part become very anxious, as if God had deserted them. Then let this promise be remembered as a remedy, God is to the dispersed and cast away a small sanctuary; so that although his hand is hidden, yet our safety proves that he has worked powerfully in our weakness. We see then that this sense is most suitable, and contains very useful doctrine. Yet the other sense will suit, that God is "the sanctuary of a few," because in that great multitude but few remain who are really the people of God, for the greater part was ignorant of him; since then God does not regard that multitude of the impious which was already within the Church, but only here directs his discourse towards his own elect, it is not surprising that he asserts them to be but few in number. Now it follows --


[237] "Therefore" -- the copula ought to be resolved into the causative. -- Calvin.

[238] Or, "of fewness." -- Calvin.

Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD: unto us is this land given in possession.
Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.
Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.

17. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD, I will even gather you from among the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.

17. Propterea dices, Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, congregabo vos e populis, et colligam vos et terris, ad quas expulsi estis, et dabo vobis terrain Israel.

Now God expresses the effect of his grace. In the last verse he had said that he would be a sanctuary. I have reminded you that these words ought not to be understood of a visible place in which God was worshipped, but of that hidden influence by which he cherishes his people. But if the exile had been perpetual, that promise might seem vain. Why then did God protect his people in exile, if he wished them to be consumed there? because otherwise his covenant would have been in vain. Therefore lest any one should object that God deceives his faithful ones, when he pronounces that he would be their sanctuary, he now points out its result, viz., that he would restore them to their country. Therefore, says he, I will collect you from the people, and gather you from the nations to which ye have been, driven, and I will give you the land of Israel Since therefore a return to their country was a certain pledge of God's love, hence he announces that they should at length return On the whole the restitution of the Church is promised, which should confirm God's covenant. In it had been said to Abraham, I will give this land to thee and to thy seed for ever. (Genesis 13:15; and Genesis 17:8.) God, therefore, to show his covenant still remaining entire and secure, which he had interrupted for a short time, here speaks concerning this restoration. And as to the Prophet so often inculcating the name of God, and relating his orders in God's name, and directing his discourse to the captives, this tends to confirm his message, because in such a desperate state of things it was difficult to wait patiently for what the Prophet taught, viz., that a time would come when God would collect them again, and recall them home. Hence the faithful were admonished that they must consider God's power, and put their trust in this prophecy. It follows --

And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.

18. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.

18. Et venient illuc, et tollent omnia idola ejus, et omnes abominationes ejus ex ea.

Here he adds something more important -- that when the Israelites had returned to their country they would be sincere worshippers of God, and not only offer sacrifices in the temple, but purge the land of all its pollutions. Here also the Prophet admonishes them how great and detestable was the impiety of the ten tribes, because they had contaminated the land with idols. He does not here allude to the idols of the Gentiles, but rather reproves the Israelites because they had contaminated with their defilements the land which had been dedicated to God. Hence the Prophet exhorted his countrymen to repentance, when he shows that they were not cast out of the land before it was polluted; and therefore that they were justly punished for their sacrilege. This is one point. Afterwards we must remark, that we then truly and purely enjoy God's blessings, when we direct their use to that end which is here set before us, namely, pure and proper worship. Nothing more frequently meets us than this teaching -- that we have been redeemed by God that we may celebrate his glory; that the Church was planted that in it he may be glorified, and we may make known his attributes. Hence let us learn that God's benefits then issue in our safety, and are testimonies of his paternal favor when they excite us to worship him. Thirdly, we must remark, that we do not rightly discharge our duty towards God, unless when we purge his worship from all stain and defilement. Many so worship God, that they corrupt with vicious mixtures whatever obedience they seem to render. And to this day even, those who seem to themselves very wise, are shamefully divided between God and the devil, as if they could satisfy God with half their allegiance. Hence let us learn from this passage, that God abhors such deceivers; for when he says that the Israelites after their return should be devoted to piety, he indicates it by this mark -- that they shall take away all their abominations, and all their idols from the land It afterwards follows --

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

19. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

19. Et dabo illis cor unum, et spiritum novurn ponam in visceribus eorum, et tollam cor lapideum e carne ipsorum, et dabo ipsis cor carneum.

20. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

20. Ut in statutis meis ambulent, et jndicia mea custodiant, et faciant ea: et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero ipsis in Deum.

As God had already spoken concerning the piety of the Israelites, he shows that they could not forsake their sins until they were renewed, and so born again by his Spirit. Therefore he seemed in the last verse to praise the Israelites; but because men too eagerly claim as their own what has been given them from above, now God claims to himself glow of their virtues, of which he had formerly spoken. Their zeal in purging the land of all abominations was worthy of praise; hence the survivors of the people of Israel are deservedly celebrated, because they were impelled by the fervor of zeal to free the worship of God from all corruptions; but lest they should boast, that they had done it in their own strength, and from the impulse of their own hearts, God now modifies his former assertions, and shows that such pursuit of piety would exist among the Israelites, after he had regenerated them by his Spirit. And this plea alone may suffice to refute the Papists, as often as they seize upon such passages from the Scriptures, where God either exacts something from his people, or proclaims their virtues. David does this; hence he does it of his own free will: God requires this; hence it is in the will of men that they are equal to the performance of all things. Thus they trifle. But we see that the Prophet unites two things together, namely, the faithful elect of God strenuously attending to their duty, and intent on promoting his glory, even with ardor in the pursuit of his worship; and yet they were nothing by themselves. Hence it is added immediately afterwards -- I will give them one heart, and will put a new spirit in their breasts But we must defer the rest to the next lecture.

Grant, O Almighty God, that we may learn to cast our eyes upon the state of thine ancient Church, since at the present day the sorrowful and manifest dispersion of thy Church seems to threaten its complete destruction: Grant also, that we may look upon those promises which are common to us also, that we may wait till thy Church emerges again from the darkness of death. Meanwhile, may we be content with thy help, however weak as to outward appearance, till at length it shall appear that our patience was not delusive, when we enjoy the reward of our faith and patience in thy heavenly kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.

21. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.

21. Et quorum cor pergit [239] ad cor abominationurn [240] et spurcitiarum ipserum, viam corum in caput ipsorum rependam, dicit Dominator Iehovah.

The phrase which the Prophet uses is indeed harsh: he says, their heart goes after heart, so that some interpret this of imitation: namely, since God promises that he will be an avenger if any of the people conduct themselves after bad examples and unite in alliance with the wicked, just as if they glued together their hearts and affections, but that is harsh. The repetition is therefore superfluous, and the Prophet means nothing else than that God will be avenged if the Israelites follow their own heart, so as to walk in their own foulness and abominations. First of all we must understand the reason why the Prophet uses this sentiment. God had liberally poured out the treasures of his mercy, but since, hypocrites have always been mixed with the good, at the same time that they confidently boast themselves members of the Church, and use the name of God with great audacity; so that the Prophet uses this threat that they may not think all the promises which we hear of to belong to themselves promiscuously. For there were always many reprobate among the elect people, because not all who sprang from father Abraham were true Israelites. (Romans 9:6, 7.)

Since therefore it was so, the Prophet properly shows here that what he had previously promised was peculiar to God's elect, and to the true and lawful members of the Church, but not to the spurious, nor to the degenerate, nor to those who are unregenerated by the true and incorruptible seed. This is the Prophet's intention. But lest there might seem to be too much rigor when God, as it were, armed comes down into the midst to destroy all who do not repent, the Prophet here declares their crime -- namely, because their heart walks after their heart, that is, thine heart draws itself, and so the word heart is twice repeated. It is indeed a superfluous repetition but emphatic, when he says, that the heart of those who so pertinaciously adhere to their own superstitions is then impelled by its own self to new motions, so that by its continual tenor it goes always towards superstitions. Hence I will be an avenger, says God. Hence as often as God proposes to us testimonies of his favor, let each descend into himself and examine all his affections. But when any one lays hold of his own vices let him not please himself in them, but rather groan over them, and strive to renounce his own affections that he may follow God: neither let him harden himself in obstinacy, so that his heart may not proceed and rush continually towards evil, as is here said.


[239] Or, "walks." -- Calvin.

[240] "Foulness." -- Calvin. PRAYER.

Grant, Almighty God, since we have utterly perished in our father Adam, and there remains in us no single part which is not corrupt, whilst we carry material for wrath, and cursing, and death, as well in the soul as in the body, that being regenerated by the Spirit, we may more and more withdraw ourselves from our own will and our own spirit, and so submit ourselves to thee, that thy Spirit may truly reign within us: And afterwards, grant that we may not be ungrateful, but considering how inestimable is this benefit, may we dedicate our whole life and apply ourselves to glorify thy name, in Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.

22. Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.

22. Et sustulerunt cherubim alas suas, et rotae e regione ipsorum: et gloria Dei Israel super ipsos sursum.

23. And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.

23. Et ascendit gloria Iehovae e medio urbis, et stetit super montem qui est ab oriente urbis.

Here Ezekiel repeats what we saw before, namely, that God as he had chosen Mount Zion had at length rejected it, because that place had been polluted by the many wickednesses of the people. The Jews fancied that God was, as it were, held captive among them, and in this confidence they gave themselves up to licentiousness. Hence the Prophet shows them that God was not so bound to them as not to go wherever he pleased, and what is more, he announces that he has migrated, and that the temple is deprived of his glory. This indeed was almost incredible. For since God had pro-raised to dwell there perpetually, (Psalm 132:14,) his faithful ones could scarcely suppose that he would neglect his promise, and desert the temple which he had chosen. But this interruption does not interfere with his promise, which was always true and firm. God, therefore, did not entirely desert Mount Zion, because the opposite promise concerning his return must be kept. Since then the exile was temporary, and the temple was to be restored after seventy years, these points may be reconciled: namely, that God departed from it and yet the place remained sacred, so that after the lapse of that time which God had previously determined, his worship should be restored again in the temple and on Mount Zion. But he says, that God had visibly gone out of the city and the cherubim also: that is, that God was borne above the wings of the cherubim, as also the scripture elsewhere says: and he does this, because the Jews were governed by external symbols, and when the ark of the covenant was shut up in the sanctuary, no one could be persuaded that God could be torn away from it. With this view the Prophet says, The cherubim had flown away elsewhere, and that at the same time God was carried upon their wings Now he adds --

And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.
Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me.

24. Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me.

24. Et Spiritus sustulit me, et reduxit me in Chaldaeam ad captivitatem, in visione, in Spiritu Dei. Et ascendit desuper me [241] visio quam videram.

Let us add also the next verse --


[241] That is, "left me." -- Calvin.

Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.

25. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.

25. Et locutus sum captivitati cunctos sermones Iehovae, quos mihi ostenderat. [242]

The Prophet here confirms what he had said at the beginning, viz., that this vision was divinely presented and was not an empty and deceptive specter. This prophecy was difficult of belief, so that all doubt ought to be removed, lest any one should object that God was not the author of the vision. He says, therefore, that he was raised up by the Spirit of God and brought into Chaldea. We have already asserted, that the Prophet did not change his place, though I am unwilling to contend for this, if any one think otherwise. But still it appears to me, that when the Prophet remained in exile he saw Jerusalem and the other places about which he discourses, not humanly but by a prophetic spirit. As then he had been carried to Jerusalem by the Spirit, so was he brought back into exile. But Spirit is here opposed to nature, since we know that our prospect is limited within a definite space. Now if the least obstacle occur our sight will not pass over five or six paces. But when God's Spirit illuminates us, a new faculty begins to flourish in us, which is by no means to be estimated naturally. We now see in what sense Ezekiel says, that he was brought back into Chaldea by the Spirit of God, because he was in truth like a man in an ecstasy. For he had been carried out of himself, but now he is left in his ordinary state. And this is the meaning of these words, in a vision in the Spirit of God For a vision is opposed to a reality. For if the Prophet had been brought back by a vision, it follows that he had not really been at Jerusalem so as to be brought back into Chaldea. Now he meets the question which may be moved, viz.: "What was the efficacy of the vision?" For the Prophet recalls us to the power of the Spirit which we must not measure by our rule. Since, therefore, the operation of the Spirit is incomprehensible, we need not wonder that the Prophet was carried to Jerusalem in a vision, and afterwards brought back into captivity. He adds that the vision departed from him, by which words he commends his own doctrine, and extols it beyond all mortal speeches, because he separates between what was human in himself and what was divine when he says, the vision departed from me. Hence the Prophet wishes himself to be considered as twofold: that is, as a private man, and but one of many, for in this capacity he had no authority as if he was to be heard in God's stead. But when the Spirit acted upon him, he wished to withdraw himself from the number of men, because he did not speak of himself, nor treat of anything human, or in a human manner, but the Spirit of God so flourished in him that he uttered nothing but what was celestial and divine.

Afterwards he says, that he spoke all those words to the captives, or exiles. This passage seems superfluous. For to what purpose had the Prophet been taught concerning the destruction of the city, the overthrow of the kingdom, and the ruin of the temple, unless to induce the Jews who still remained in the country to desist from their superstition? But we must remember that the Prophet had a hard contest with those exiles among whom he dwelt, as will more clearly appear in the next chapter. For as the Jews boasted that they remained safe, and laughed at the captives who had suffered themselves to be drawn away into a distant land, so the exiles were weary of their miseries. For their condition was very sorrowful when they saw themselves exposed to every reproach, and treated by the Chaldeans servilely and insultingly. Since, then, this was their condition, they roared among themselves and were indignant, since they had to bear the manners of the Prophets, and especially Jeremiah. Since, therefore, the captives repented of their lot, it was needful for the Prophet to restrain their contumely. And this is the meaning of the words that he related the words of Jehovah to the captives. Nor was this admonition less needful for the exiles, than for the Jews who as yet remained safe in the city. He says, the words which God caused him to see, improperly, but very appositely to the sense; for not only had God spoken, but he had placed the thing itself before the eyes of the Prophet. Hence we see why he says, that words had been shown to him that he might behold them I have already said that this language is improper for words, because it applies to the sight, for eyes do not receive words, but cars. But here the Prophet signifies that it was not the naked and simple word of God, but clothed in an external symbol. Augustine says that a sacrament is a word made visible, and he speaks correctly; because in baptism God addresses our eyes, when he brings forward water as a symbol of our ablution and regeneration. In the Supper also he directs his speech to our eyes, since Christ shows his flesh to us as truly food, and his blood as truly drink, when bread and wine are set before us. For this reason also the Prophet now says, that he saw the word of God, because it was clothed in outward symbols. For God appeared to his Prophet, as I have said, and showed him the temple, and there erected a theater, as it were, in which he beheld the whole state of the city Jerusalem. [243] Let us go on --


[242] "Which he had made me see." -- Calvin

[243] See Augustine's Homily on John, 89, bk. 19, com. Faust. Calvin, as well as other Commentators, often felt great difficulty in separating the human element from the divine, while interpreting the Prophets. He has expressed it feelingly while interpreting this last verse of the eleventh chapter. It is confessedly most difficult to draw the line rigidly between the direct agency of God and the subservient instrumentality of man. The spiritual teaching delivered by the Prophets evidently needed some visible and tangible means of conveyance to the outward senses of the recipients; but who shall mark off any palpable boundary between spirit and grace -- the mind of God, and the regenerated mind of the Prophet? If there are no harsh transitions and sudden breaks in the natural world, so in the spiritual and moral, the limits between the essentially divine and the clearly human are at present untraceable by mortal vision. As the revelations to Ezekiel were progressive, differing in immediate character and object, so together with them something extrinsic was needed, to become a suitable vehicle for the majesty and purity of the truth conveyed. Neither the Prophet nor his countrymen could bear the naked effulgence of the divine messages; they were too luminous and dazzling for their sin-burdened souls, and thus they needed a condescending adaptation to their many infirmities. The pure and colorless water of life, instinct though it be with the spirit of Deity, comes to us tinctured with the peculiarity of the earthen vessel through which it flows. Our attention ought often to be dragon to this while reading Ezekiel. The Almighty not only condescends to his infirmities, but to those of the captives among whom he dwelt, so that the pure light of prophetic manifestation becomes tinged in passing through a two-fold medium, before it reaches us, among "the isles of the Gentiles." And while we cannot give the reader any formal rules for testing the soundness of Calvin's interpretations, we must appeal to that sound mind, that cultivated scholarship, and that Christian tact, which is the result of experience, in discriminating between the chaff and the wheat. Ordinary faculties, chastened by severe and patient study, combined with holy and Christian views of Divine truth as a whole, will suffice for deciding on such abstruse questions with a sufficient degree of precision and correctness.

John Calvin's Commentaries
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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