Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 11. Threat of destruction against the people, especially the war party in Jerusalem, with promise of restoration to the exiles
Though the symbolism in ch. 9, 10, shewing the slaughter of the inhabitants and the burning of the city, might have seemed exhaustive, there were thoughts in men’s minds which had to be met, and issues to which reference had to be made. The city was thought impregnably strong, and Jehovah’s presence would protect it. The prophet symbolizes the departure of Jehovah from it, and warns those who trust to its strength that their trust is vain. Yet the fall of the city is not the last act in Israel’s history; the “house of Israel” is wider than the population of Jerusalem, and towards the larger Israel Jehovah has purposes of mercy. He will restore them to their ancient heritage, where they shall serve him in a land purified from all its uncleanness.
In ch. Ezekiel 10:18 it was stated that the glory of the Lord left the threshold of the house and returned to the cherubims, and in ch. Ezekiel 10:19 that the whole manifestation removed from the inner court and stood at the eastern entrance to the outer court of the temple. The prophet also is transported to the same place (ch. Ezekiel 11:1). At the entrance to the gateway he sees twenty-five men, among them two who are named, princes of the people. The twenty-five represent the rulers of the city and the leaders of the inhabitants.
(1) Ezekiel 11:2-12. These men are represented as plotting evil enterprizes, that is, of rebellion against the king of Babylon. They are not unaware of the danger they incur, but are confident in the protection which the well fortified city will afford them—it is the pot and they are the flesh, which the fire cannot reach. The prophet receives command to prophesy against them, and declare that their confidence is vain. The city shall not protect them; they shall be dragged out of it and slain on the borders of the land, far away from it.
(2) Ezekiel 11:13-21. While the prophet was delivering this threat one of the two princes named died. Filled with terror at the certainty with which the word of God takes effect, the prophet fell down to intercede that the remnant of Israel might not be destroyed. He is reminded that though Jerusalem fall his fellow exiles remain and all the house of Israel. These exiles were despised by the people of Jerusalem and denied any share in the inheritance of the land; but though the Lord had scattered them he would yet bring them to their ancient home, giving them a new heart to serve him.
(3) Ezekiel 11:22-25. Finally the divine manifestation rose from the city and stood over the Mount of Olives. The prophet was carried back to Chaldæa; the hand of the Lord was lifted from him, and he awoke out of his vision, the contents of which he narrated to them of the captivity.
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.1–12. The men that plot evil
1. The gate referred to is the outer eastern gate; the position taken up by the cherubim and glory was outside the temple precincts wholly. Jaazaniah and Pelatiah are named “princes of the people.” Possibly they were more prominent members of the ruling party. It is the manner of the prophet to introduce elements of reality into his symbolical pictures (cf. ch. Ezekiel 24:16 seq.), and it is unnecessary to regard these two personages as fictitious or seek for some symbolical meaning in their names. A different Jaazaniah was mentioned in ch. Ezekiel 8:11. The twenty-five men here are not to be identified with those in ch. Ezekiel 8:16; they are rulers and leaders of the people (Ezekiel 11:2).
Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:2. give wicked counsel] lit. who counsel evil counsel. The evil counsel probably refers to the revolutionary enterprizes of these men against the authority of Babylon, which the prophet severely condemns (ch. 17). The city was divided into factions, one part holding with Babylon and another with Egypt, while some were for peace on any terms. The consequence of these divisions was much bloodshed within the city (Ezekiel 11:6). It is probable that the schemes of these plotters were only being hatched (Ezekiel 11:5); it was not till some time later that the steps now meditated were actually taken.
Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.3. It is not near; let us build] Rather as R.V. The time to build houses is not near, lit. the building of houses is not near. The phrase “to build houses” is to be taken as in ch. Ezekiel 28:26, “And they shall dwell with confidence therein, and shall build houses and plant vineyards and shall dwell with confidence.” To build houses is a sign and a consequence of a time of peace and security (Isaiah 65:21; Jeremiah 29:5; Jeremiah 29:28). These agitators desire to turn men’s minds away from peaceful occupations, and make them contemplate other measures, assuring them that when war comes the strong city will be their salvation—it is the pot which will protect the flesh from the fire around it. Others, e.g. Ew., take the phrase interrogatively: Is not the building of houses near? This, however, hardly corresponds to the situation, which is not one of war which it is hoped will speedily pass over, but one of contemplated rebellion. LXX. renders: Have not the houses been recently built? it is the pot &c.; so Corn. This gives a closer connexion to the two halves of the verse, but “houses” could hardly have the sense of fortifications, nor does the phrase naturally express the meaning that the damage done to the city when last captured (under Jehoiachin) had been fully repaired.
this city is the caldron] lit. it is the caldron or pot. The phrase implies two things, the danger of fire around, and that the strong city will prove a protection to those within it. These revolutionary spirits are aware of the risks they run, but with a certain grimness of humour they make light of them. The figure here is somewhat different from that of the boiling pot for war common in the Arabic poets.
Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.4. The prophet felt called to prophesy against these men—and all this is part of the vision. See on ch. Ezekiel 3:21.
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. things that come into your mind] i.e. your projects. Apparently as yet the rebellion was no more than a plan which was being hatched.
Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain.6. Comp. ch. Ezekiel 22:25, Ezekiel 7:23. Those opposed to the schemes of the ruling party, or suspected of opposition, were openly or on various pretexts cut off.
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. Those slain in the midst of Jerusalem will be the only “flesh” that will remain in the pot. The living conspirators who think they shall be safe shall be dragged forth and judged far away from the protecting city, on the borders of Israel. The figure of the pot and flesh is used differently in ch. 24. (The Heb. is probably to be spelled so as to give the meaning “I will bring you forth.”)
Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord GOD.8. have feared] Ye fear. The language of the ruling class, in spite of its recklessness (Ezekiel 11:3), betrays the consciousness of the risks they incur; and their fears shall be more than verified.
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. hands of strangers] i.e. foreign conquerors, the Babylonians.
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. in the border of Israel] far away from the city, which they hoped would protect them. Cf. Jeremiah 52:26, “So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and he smote them and put them to death in Riblah, in the land of Hamath.” 2 Kings 25:18 seq.
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, 12. Ezekiel 11:11-12 are wanting in LXX.
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.
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. While Ezekiel was uttering this prophecy Pelatiah fell down dead, and the prophet seemed to see in the event the coming destruction of all the remnant of Israel before the wrath of God, and fell on his face to intercede for them. This incident is exceedingly difficult to estimate. The prophet tells us that all the occurrences in ch. 8–11 were done in vision. Unfortunately this does not justify us in assuming that the death of Pelatiah was a mere symbolical death, and no reality. For the “vision” is in great measure a mere schema under which the prophet groups much that had reality, such as his own thoughts, his discourses to the people, and probably actual events happening in Jerusalem. But in grouping the events under the schema of the vision he idealises them, making them expressive of general conceptions and principles, and it is impossible to distinguish between things which were actual but are idealised, and things which are purely creations of the symbolizing imagination. It is possible that Ezekiel prophesied against these princes in Jerusalem (ch. Ezekiel 11:4), as Jeremiah did against the false prophets in Babylon, whom a horrible fate overtook (Jeremiah 29:21), and against Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:15. seq.), and it is possible that soon afterwards Pelatiah suddenly died, and that these real occurrences have been drawn by the prophet under his schema of the vision. On the other hand the death of Pelatiah may be merely symbolical, to shew with what certainty the word of God takes effect, the symbol being modelled on Jeremiah’s prophecy against Hananiah.
a full end] See on ch. Ezekiel 9:8.
14 seq. The answer of the Lord to the prophet’s intercession. The destruction of the inhabitants of Jerusalem is not the end of Israel. The Israel in exile is the Israel whom the Lord regards and will yet restore.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
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. the men of thy kindred] Lit. the men of thy redemption. This could only mean, the men to be redeemed, or delivered, by thy intercession—the men for whom thou shouldst pray. Such a sense is difficult to draw from the words. In usage the term has not the meaning of “kindred.” Probably the word should be so read as to mean “exile”—the men of thy exile, i.e. thy fellow captives.
are they unto whom] It is better to regard the first words in the verse down to “wholly” as exclamations: “thy brethren, thy brethren, thy fellow exiles, and all the house of Israel, all of it! they unto whom …” The sentence is not strictly grammatical, but the exclamations give an answer to the prophet’s anxious question, “wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” (Ezekiel 11:13). The destruction of them of Jerusalem is no full end; the fellow-exiles of the prophet and all the house of Israel scattered abroad (ch. Ezekiel 4:4, Ezekiel 36:16) remain. The second half of the verse is loosely attached to the first—they to whom, &c.
Get ye far from the Lord] A slight alteration in a point would give the sense: of whom … have said (say), They are far from the Lord. The change is hardly necessary. Those left were in possession of the temple, the abode of Jehovah, and had the assurance of his presence, in which those gone forth had no part, for to go into a foreign land was to come under the dominion of other gods, according to the words of David, “For they have driven me out this day from having part in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods” (1 Samuel 26:19, cf. Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36; Deuteronomy 28:64; Jeremiah 16:13; Hosea 9:3). See ch. Ezekiel 8:12, Ezekiel 9:9, for the expression of a different mood of feeling.
is this land given] is the land. Comp. the expression of similar pretensions, ch. Ezekiel 33:24.
16 seq. Answer of Jehovah. It is true he has scattered the exiles among the nations; but he will again gather them.
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. yet will I be to them] Rather: and have been to them for a sanctuary but little in the countries where they are come. The expression “for a sanctuary but little” refers to the taunt of the dwellers in Jerusalem that the exiles were far from the sanctuary and had no part in Jehovah. It is true that he had not been to the exiles in great measure that which a “sanctuary” is, viz. a presence of Jehovah, a sanctification, and a religious joy. It is doubtful if “sanctuary” has anywhere (even Isaiah 8:14) the meaning of asylum, protection; the sanctuary is the abode of Jehovah, and his presence there sanctifies those in the midst of whom he dwells. The exiles longed to be near the sanctuary and mourned their distance from it (Psalms 84, 137); while those left in the land boasted of the possession of it and looked on the exiles as outcasts.
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.17–20. But this time of privation for the exiles shall come to an end. They shall be gathered out of the countries, and the land of Israel given to them; from which they shall remove all its abominations. They shall receive a new heart to walk in the Lord’s commandments; and he shall be their God and they his people.
give you the land of Israel] Those left in the country said: The land is given unto us. They shall be cast out and the land again given to those now in exile. The flower of the nation had been carried away in the captivity of Jehoiachin. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel regard the exiles as the hope of the nation and speak bitterly against the population remaining at home; comp. the former’s parable of the very naughty figs (ch. 24), and the latter’s scornful questions, ch. Ezekiel 33:24-26. Cp. ch. Ezekiel 28:25, Ezekiel 34:13, Ezekiel 36:24.
And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.18. shall take away] i.e. remove. Cf. ch. Ezekiel 37:22-23. The “detestable things” are the false gods (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13), and all the accompaniments of the debased worship (cf. ch. Ezekiel 33:25-26).
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. give them one heart] Cf. Jeremiah 32:38, “And they shall be my people and I will be their God, and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever.” LXX. “another” heart (r for d). Some MSS., Targ. and Syr. read new, which is the prophet’s own term, ch. Ezekiel 36:26. Both “another” and “new” form a better antithesis to “stony heart” than “one” does. The old stony heart, unimpressible and obstinate, shall be taken away, and a heart of “flesh,” sensitive and responsive to the touch of Jehovah, shall be given them.
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. shall be my people] Then shall the covenant between the Lord and Israel be fully realized, for this is the idea of the covenant, that he should be their God and they his people, ch. Ezekiel 36:28, Ezekiel 37:27; Jeremiah 31:33.
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 those who cleave to their abominations shall receive the recompense of their ways—there is no peace saith the Lord to the wicked (Isaiah 48:22).
The language “whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things” is without parallel or meaning; elsewhere it is: whose heart walketh after their idols (ch. Ezekiel 20:16, Ezekiel 33:31, after their covetousness). A different class of persons is referred to from those spoken of in Ezekiel 11:17-20, either the population in Jerusalem or more naturally those in general who follow idols. The text requires some amendment: but as for those whose heart goeth after their detestable things … their way will I recompense.
Ezekiel 11:22-25. The manifestation of Jehovah rises from over the city and moves eastward to the Mount of Olives. The city is abandoned by Jehovah (Hosea 5:15). The prophet does not pursue the movement further. The glory passes out by the eastern gate, by which also it returns into the new temple (ch. Ezekiel 43:1-4). The prophet is carried back by the spirit to the captivity; to which he narrates all he had seen.
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.
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.
Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.