Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 24 The rusted caldron set upon the coals
The passage, of date Jan. 587, is the prophet’s last oracle against Jerusalem. It consists of two parts:
First, Ezekiel 24:1-14. A parable of a rusted caldron set upon the fire—the siege and capture of the city.
Second, Ezekiel 24:15-27. On the death of his wife the prophet abstains from all mourning—a sign of the silent stupefaction which the news of the city’s fall will occasion.
Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,1. The same date of the commencement of the siege is given 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 52:4. In later times the day was kept as a fast, Zechariah 8:19.
1–14. The rusted caldron set on the fire
(1) Ezekiel 24:1-5. A caldron is to be set on the fire, filled with water, pieces of flesh cast into it and fuel piled under it that it may boil furiously. The caldron is Jerusalem; the pieces of flesh the inhabitants; the fire and boiling the siege with its terrible severities. The pieces of flesh shall be pulled out of the caldron indiscriminately, symbol of the universal dispersion when the siege is over.
(2) Ezekiel 24:6-8. Explanation: these sufferings are judgments for the sins of the city, its bloodshed and uncleanness, which are public and open. This blood and filthiness cleaves to it like rust to a caldron.
(3) Ezekiel 24:9-14. Rising anew into tones of menace the divine voice commands that the caldron be set empty upon the coals that its rust and foulness may be molten and consumed. This must signify the ruin in which the city shall long lie, and the dispersion in which her inhabitants shall pine away, till her warfare be accomplished and her iniquity pardoned.
Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.
And utter a parable unto the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Set on a pot, set it on, and also pour water into it:3. Set on a pot] the caldron.
Gather the pieces thereof into it, even every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones.4. the pieces thereof] those belonging to the caldron, which are to be boiled in it.
Take the choice of the flock, and burn also the bones under it, and make it boil well, and let them seethe the bones of it therein.5. burn also the bones] a pile also of wood under it. If “pile” could be read as a verb, and pile also wood, the construction would be easier. In spite of the versions wood must be substituted for “bones.”
make it boil well] Lit. make boil its boilings. The word “boilings” does not occur again; possibly by changing a letter “boil its pieces,” parallel to its bones in next clause.
let them seethe] let the bones thereof be seethed. Naturally here and Ezekiel 24:4 “bones” include the flesh upon them. They are those of such parts as leg and shoulder.
Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the bloody city, to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out of it! bring it out piece by piece; let no lot fall upon it.6. Explanation: the caldron is Jerusalem, the bloody city.
whose scum] rust.
bring it out] i.e. the caldron as having contents.
let no lot fall] The contents (the inhabitants) shall be pulled out indiscriminately. The dispersion is alluded to.
For her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the top of a rock; she poured it not upon the ground, to cover it with dust;7. top of a rock] a bare rock. Job 16:18, “O earth cover not my blood.” Blood uncovered cries for vengeance. Cf. Leviticus 17:13; Deuteronomy 12:16. On the idea of the openness of Jerusalem’s sin cf. Isaiah 3:9, “They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.”
That it might cause fury to come up to take vengeance; I have set her blood upon the top of a rock, that it should not be covered.8. I have set her blood] In Ezekiel 24:7 it was Jerusalem herself who left her bloodshed uncovered; here, as usual in the prophet, this is an appointment of God, that he may bring up judgment because of it.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the bloody city! I will even make the pile for fire great.9. I will even] I too will make. LXX. wants the clause “woe … city,” cf. Ezekiel 24:6.
9–14. Rising anew into tones of threatening the divine voice commands fuel to be heaped under the caldron, and to set it empty upon the coals, that its brass may glow in the fire and its rust be consumed.
Heap on wood, kindle the fire, consume the flesh, and spice it well, and let the bones be burned.10. consume the flesh] boil (or, do) well, as R.V.
spice it well] Probably: make thick (stew) the broth.
bones be burnt] Either “burnt” is used inexactly of the powerful action of the heat in boiling, or, less naturally, the contents of the pot are supposed to suffer directly from the fire. LXX. omits.
Then set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the brass of it may be hot, and may burn, and that the filthiness of it may be molten in it, that the scum of it may be consumed.11. scum of it] Rust. When the contents of the caldron have been seethed and emptied out of it—the siege and dispersion—the caldron itself shall be set empty upon the coals that its filth and rust may be molten and consumed—a figure for the purifying judgments continued long after the destruction of the city.
She hath wearied herself with lies, and her great scum went not forth out of her: her scum shall be in the fire.12. As the words stand they seem to read: she hath wearied my labours, and her great rust goeth not out from her; let her rust be in the fire! Previous efforts to purify Jerusalem have been in vain, her uncleanness will go out only by fire (Ezekiel 24:13); cf. Isaiah 43:24. LXX. omits first clause, which might be a duplicate of words immediately preceding.
In thy filthiness is lewdness: because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee.13. In thy … lewdness] Or, because of thy lewd filthiness, cf. Ezekiel 16:27, thy lewd way.
shalt not be purged … more] i.e. shalt never be purged, till, &c., or purged so as to be again clean, till, &c.
caused … to rest] appeased, Ezekiel 5:13, Ezekiel 8:18, Ezekiel 16:42.
I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD.14. shall they judge] Cf. Ezekiel 23:49. LXX. and the versions, I will judge, which LXX. then amplified into an additional verse, somewhat in terms of Ezekiel 22:5. The words, though found by the translator in his MS., are hardly original.
Also the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.15–27. The prophet’s abstention from mourning on the death of his wife—a symbol of the stupefaction of the people at the news of the fall of the city
16. with a stroke] The word need not be pressed to mean a sudden unexpected death, apart from all previous sickness.
thy tears run down] wanting in LXX.
Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men.17. Forbear to cry] sigh in silence; lit. sigh, be silent.
mourning for the dead] Another order was to be expected; two accus. must be assumed.
the tire of thine head] The “tire” is not necessarily the priestly tiara, but the ordinary headdress (Ezekiel 24:23), which would probably be white. Putting off the shoes was a sign of calamity, 2 Samuel 15:31, and also covering the lower part of the face up to the upper lip. Micah 3:7; Leviticus 13:45.
the bread of men] Jeremiah 16:7, “Neither shall men break bread for them to comfort them for the dead, neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.”
So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.18. The death of the prophet’s wife was no doubt an actual occurrence. And there is nothing improbable in his demeanour after it, with the view of attracting the attention of his fellow-captives. At the same time his tendency to idealize occurrences precludes absolute certainty.
And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?
Then I answered them, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Speak unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the excellency of your strength, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword.21. excellency of your strength] i.e. your proud boast, or, your boasted stronghold (Ezekiel 24:25). The temple is referred to.
that which … pitieth] Or, spareth, i.e. holds dear, Ezekiel 36:21; Job 20:13.
And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.
And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away for your iniquities, and mourn one toward another.23. pine away for] in your iniquities; Ezekiel 33:10; Leviticus 26:39.
mourn one towards] moan. The unparalleled severity of the stroke will paralyse grief and prevent it expressing itself.
Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.24. is … a sign] shall be.
Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters,25. their strength] i.e. stronghold; the thing in which they placed confidence.
joy of their glory] the glorious (or beautiful) thing in which they delighted. Both expressions allude to the temple, &c.
set their minds] their hearts,—that which is the object of their desire, Psalm 24:4.
25–27. When tidings come of the city’s fall, verifying the prophet’s predictions and giving confirmation to all the principles which he had long declared, his mouth will be opened, he will have confidence to speak and more willing listeners before him.
That he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears?26. that escapeth in that day] on that day he that is escaped shall come. The phrase “on that day” is used with considerable latitude, to indicate the period marked by any great event and following it.
cause thee … thine ears] Perhaps more general: to cause it to be heard with the ears—not the prophet’s only but also those of the exiles.
In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.27. opened to him] Or, with him, i.e. when he comes. Cf. Ezekiel 3:26-27, Ezekiel 33:22. The last words of this verse recur to the prophet’s demeanour Ezekiel 24:16-18.