Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This chapter also consists of three short prophecies, less intimately connected with one another than those of Ezekiel 21. In the first (Ezekiel 22:2-16) the sins of Jerusalem are recounted, with evident reference to Ezekiel 18; in the second (Ezekiel 22:17-22) the punishment and purification of Israel is represented under the figure of melting mixed metals in the furnace; while the third returns to the recounting of other sins than those mentioned in the first, showing that the corruption pervades all classes, and closing with the warning of certain punishment. This chapter, like chap 20, is a justification of the Divine judgment.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea, thou shalt shew her all her abominations.(2) Wilt thou judge.—The same expression as in Ezekiel 20:4. (See Note there.) The sense of the margin, “plead for,” is not appropriate here.
Bloody city.—In Ezekiel 22:2-6 crimes of bloodshed and idolatry are dwelt upon, between which there seems always to have been a close connection. The same words are used in Ezekiel 24:6; Ezekiel 24:9, and in Nahum 3:1.
Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD, The city sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against herself to defile herself.(3) That her time may come.—Her time of punishment. That which will be the inevitable consequence of her acts is represented by a very common figure, as if it were her purpose in doing them. She has been so fully warned of the result that continuance in her course seems to involve the design of bringing on that result.
Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast defiled thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries.(4) Thy days . . . thy years.—Viz., of judgment and visitation. The Rabbinical commentators interpret the days of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the years of the captivity in Babylon.
A mocking to all countries.—This is frequently spoken of in Ezekiel, and is the necessary result in all ages of the contrast between high professions and inconsistent performance. Israel’s law stood far above the legislation of any other nation of the period, but the habitual conduct of her people was in utter disregard of that law. The effect was the same as at a later day, when St. Paul said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (Romans 2:24), just as the same evils and the same hindrances to the spread of the Gospel now result from the unworthy lives of Christians. But the Jews peculiarly exposed themselves to derision by their claim, as the chosen people of God, to universal and everlasting dominion, contrasted with their present overthrow and desolation; and this desolation was a punishment for the outrageous sins of a people whose whole national existence was based upon a call to peculiar holiness.
Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee, which art infamous and much vexed.(5) Infamous and much vexed.—It is better to omit the words in italics, which art. The literal meaning of “infamous” is given in the margin; but the “much vexed” refers to the internal confusion, commotions, and social disorders which characterised the decaying state of the kingdom.
Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power to shed blood.(6) Were in thee to their power.—The tense is the same with that of the verbs in Ezekiel 22:7, and both should be translated alike; the order of the words should also be changed: “The princes of Israel, every one according to his power, have been in thee to shed blood.” The rulers, who should have preserved order and administered justice, were foremost in deeds of violence. (See the instances of Manasseh, 2Kings 21:16, and of Jehoiakim, 2Kings 24:4.)
In thee have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in thee have they vexed the fatherless and the widow.(7) By father and mother.—Filial respect was one of the most frequently enjoined precepts of the law (see Leviticus 19:32; Leviticus 20:9, &c.). So the other sins mentioned in this and the following verses are transgressions of special Divine commands. “Dealt by oppression” is “dealt oppressively” (see Leviticus 19:10; Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 24:14, &c.); for “the father less and widow” (Exodus 22:22-24, &c.). The despising of holy things and the profanation of the sabbaths were the constant subject of the warnings of the law; tale-bearers are forbidden in Leviticus 19:16; the “eating upon the mountains” (which means joining in the idol sacrifices) is often reproved by this and the other prophets; and the sins of lewdness enumerated are all specifically forbidden in Leviticus 18, 20, as well as elsewhere; while the various sins arising from covetousness, mentioned in Ezekiel 22:12, had been constantly denounced both by the law and in the warnings of the prophets. The expression “hast forgotten me” is at once the root of all these sins, and in itself the climax of all.
Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee.(13) Smitten mine hand.—See Note on Eze. Vi. 11, and comp. Ezekiel 22:17 and Ezekiel 22:13.
And thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the heathen, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.(16) Shalt take thine inheritance.—Rather, thou shalt be profaned by thyself. The same word occurs in Ezekiel 7:24, and is there rendered “shall be defiled;” it admits of either sense, according to its derivation. The meaning is that through their own misconduct they forfeit the privileges of a holy nation, and become profaned or dishonoured in the sight of the heathen. The first prophecy of this chapter closes with the terrible warning of Ezekiel 22:14-16, showing the extreme suffering necessary for the purification of Israel.
Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver.(18) Become dross.—The second prophecy (Ezekiel 22:17-22) is occupied with a figure taken from the refining of silver, which is a favourite one with the prophets (see Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3). The peculiar appropriateness of this figure has been often noted in the fact that the completion of the process of refining silver in the furnace was determined by the parting of the floating dross and the reflection of the image of the refiner from its molten surface. This figure, while setting forth the punishment of Israel, shows clearly that this punishment was for the purpose of purification.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.(19) Into the midst of Jerusalem.—Jerusalem is represented as the refining pot into which the people were to be cast, because this was at once their national centre, and also the centre of the war by which they were carried into captivity.
As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.(20) I will leave you there.—Better, I will cast you in.
Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.(24) That is not cleansed.—The third and last Divine communication of this chapter begins with Ezekiel 22:23, and contains a further enumeration of the sins of Israel, showing that they have been committed by all classes alike, and ending, like the others, with the prophecy of the outpouring of God’s wrath. There is much difference of opinion as to the meaning of the clause “that is not cleansed;” the most probable view is that it speaks of the land as neglected and uncared for—the stones not gathered up and the weeds allowed to grow. It has had neither human care, nor has it received the Divine blessing of rain.
There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.(25) A conspiracy of her prophets.—The opposition of false prophets to the Divine measures for the reformation of the people is continually spoken of (comp. Ezekiel 13, Zephaniah 3:4, and many passages in Jeremiah) as among the most serious obstacles to the work of the true prophets: there is also frequent mention of them in history (1 Kings 22, &c), as they had been foretold from of old in prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Nothing, it may be observed, could have afforded more plausible excuse to the people for not obeying the Divine admonitions than an opposing “Thus saith the Lord.” The greed of the false prophets and the disastrous effects of their counsel are spoken of here in stronger terms than in any other passage.
Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.(26) Have violated my law.—The next class to be spoken of, as the next in influence, were the priests. It was their especial office to observe and to teach the distinction between the holy and the unholy (Leviticus 10:10), and to care for the Sabbath. In all they had been unfaithful. (Comp. Micah 3:11; Zephaniah 3:4.)
Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.(27) Her princes.—These are not only the kings, but also the nobles and those in authority at court—in other words, the ruling class. Their injustice and violence is a constant theme for prophetic rebuke.
And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.(28) With untempered morter.—See Note on Ezekiel 13:10. The prophets are here again spoken of in reference to their powerful influence upon the princes in leading them astray by falsehoods. “Seeing vanity” is an expression for pretended and false visions. (Comp. Ezekiel 13:7; Ezekiel 13:9-10.)
The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.(29) The people of the land,—i.e., the common people, not belonging to any of the above classes. In regard to their general corruption see Ezekiel 18
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.(30) Make up the hedge, is only another form of “stand in the gap,” added for the sake of emphasis. Both refer to intercession for the people (see Psalm 106:23). It is not meant that there was not a single godly man, but not one of such a pure, strong, and commanding character that his intercessions might avert the threatened doom.