The prophet, after having addressed several other nations, returns now to his own; previously to which he is told, as on a former occasion, the duty of a watchman, the salvation or ruin of whose soul depends on the manner in which he discharges it. An awful passage indeed; full of important instruction both to such as speak, and to such as hear, the word of God, Ezekiel 33:1-9. The prophet is then directed what answer to make to the cavils of infidelity and impiety; and to vindicate the equity of the Divine government by declaring the general terms of acceptance with God to be (as told before, chap. 18) without respect of persons; so that the ruin of the finally impenitent must be entirely owing to themselves, Ezekiel 33:10-20. The prophet receives the news of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, about a year and four months after it happened, according to the opinion of some, who have been led to this conjecture by the date given to this prophecy in the twenty-first verse, as it stands in our common Version: but some of the manuscripts of this prophet consulted by Dr. Kennicott have in this place the Eleventh year, which is probably the genuine reading. To check the vain confidence of those who expected to hold out by possessing themselves of its other fastnesses, the utter desolation of all Judea is foretold, Ezekiel 33:21-29. Ezekiel is informed that among those that attended his instructions were a great number of hypocrites, against whom he delivers a most awful message. When the Lord is destroying these hypocrites, then shall they know that there hath been a prophet among them, Ezekiel 33:30-33.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:Son of man - if the people of the land take a man - The first ten verses of this chapter are the same with Ezekiel 3:17-22; and to what is said there on this most important and awful subject I must refer the reader. Here the People choose the watchman; there, the Lord appoints him. When God chooses, the people should approve.
If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?If our transgressions and our sins be upon us - They are upon us, as a grievous burden, too weighty for us to bear: how then can we live under such a load?
We pine away in them - In such circumstances how consoling is that word: "Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!"
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked - From this to the twentieth verse inclusive is nearly the same with Ezekiel 18, on which I wish the reader to consult the notes.
Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.
When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.If he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity - If he trust in his acting according to the statutes and ordinances of religion, and according to the laws relative to rights and wrongs among men, and in other respects commit iniquity, he shall die for it.
Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;
If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.
When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.He shall live thereby - "The wages of sin is death;" the "gift of God is eternal life." It is a miserable trade by which a man cannot live; such a trade is sin.
Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.In the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month - Instead of the twelfth year, the eleventh is the reading of seven of Kennicott's MSS., one of De Rossi's, and the Syriac. My own, mentioned in the preceding chapter, reads with the present text. This was on Wednesday, Jan. 25, A.M. 3416 or 3417.
One that had escaped out of Jerusalem - After it had been taken by the Chaldeans.
Came unto me, saying, The City Is Smitten - This very message God had promised to the prophet, Ezekiel 24:26.
Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.My mouth was opened - They had now the fullest evidence that I had spoken from the Lord. I therefore spoke freely and fully what Good delivered to me, Ezekiel 24:27.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance.Abraham was one - If he was called to inherit the land when he was alone, and had the whole to himself, why may we not expect to be established here, who are his posterity, and are many? They wished to remain in the land and be happy after the Chaldeans had carried the rest away captives.
Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land?Ye eat with the blood - Abraham was righteous, ye are unrighteous. Eating of blood, in any way dressed, or of flesh from which the blood had not been extracted, was and is in the sight of God abominable. All such practices he has absolutely and for ever forbidden. Let the vile blood-eaters hear and tremble. See the note on Acts 15:20, and the passages in the margin.
Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife: and shall ye possess the land?Ye stand upon your sword - Ye live by plunder, rapine, and murder. Ye are every way impure; and shall ye possess the land? No.
Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.They that are in the wastes - He seems to speak of those Jews who had fled to rocks, caves, and fortresses, in the mountains; whose death he predicts, partly by the sword, partly by wild beasts, and partly by famine.
For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.
Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.The people still are talking against thee - בך bach should be rather translated, "concerning thee," than "against thee;" for the following verses show that the prophet was much respected. The Vulgate translates, de te; the Septuagint, περι σου, "concerning thee," both right.
Talking by the walls and in the doors of the houses is not a custom peculiar to the Copts, mentioned by Bp. Pococke, it is a practice among idle people, and among those who are resting from their work, in every country, when the weather permits. Gossiping in the inside of the house is not less frequent, and much more blamable.
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.As the people cometh - As they are accustomed to come on public days, Sabbaths, etc.
With their mouth they show much love - They respected the prophet, but would not bend themselves to follow his precepts. They loved earthly things, and did not relish those of heaven.
And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.As a very lovely song - They admired the fine voice and correct delivery of the prophet; this was their religion, and this is the whole of the religion of thousands to the present day; for never were itching ears so multiplied as now.
And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.When this cometh to pass - then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them - What I have predicted, (and it is even now at the doors), then they will be convinced that there was a prophet among them, by whose ministry they did not profit as they ought.