Ezekiel 11:16
Therefore say, Thus said 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Therefore say.—These words, again repeated in Ezekiel 11:17, refer to what the people of Jerusalem had said in Ezekiel 11:15. Their saying these things was a reason, not for what God would do, but for His declaring His merciful purpose beforehand.

As a little sanctuary.—Rather, as a sanctuary for a little. The original word is to be taken as an adverb rather than an adjective, and in itself may refer either to time or to amount: either a sanctuary for a little time, or a sanctuary in some degree. The connection points to the former as the true sense; for a little while, during the term of their captivity, God’s presence with them spiritually would be instead of the outward symbolical presence in His Temple. The contrast is striking. God has already said that he would abandon the Temple, and give up Jerusalem to destruction, and cast out its people; but now to the exiles, scattered among the heathen, He would Himself be for a sanctuary.

Ezekiel 11:16. Therefore say — In vindication of the captives; Although I have cast them far off — Not from myself, but from you and your polluted land, and out of the way of the dreadful judgments which are approaching; among the heathen — The Chaldeans, or those among whom the Chaldeans have placed them; and have scattered them among the countries — Have separated them from each other, and dispersed them in many countries; yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary — A sanctuary, or a refuge and protection “for a short time,” (so Bishop Newcome,) that is, during the seventy years’ captivity; or a little one in opposition to the great temple at Jerusalem; which, when its inhabitants were in the greatest need, should afford them the least help. But I, says God, will really be to my captives what the proud, self-deceiving Jews promise themselves from their temple, namely, their defence, support, and comfort. To me shall they flee, and in me shall they be safe, as he was that took hold on the horns of the altar. Or rather, they shall have such communion with me in the land of their captivity, as it was thought could be had nowhere but in the temple. They shall have the tokens of my presence with them, and my grace in their hearts shall sanctify their prayers and praises, as truly as ever the altar at the temple sanctified the gift. Observe, reader, they that are deprived of the benefit of public ordinances, if it be not their own fault, may have the want of them abundantly supplied in the immediate communications of divine grace and comforts.11:14-21 The pious captives in Babylon were insulted by the Jews who continued in Jerusalem; but God made gracious promises to them. It is promised, that God will give them one heart; a heart firmly fixed for God, and not wavering. All who are made holy have a new spirit, a new temper and dispositions; they act from new principles, walk by new rules, and aim at new ends. A new name, or a new face, will not serve without a new spirit. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. The carnal heart, like a stone, cannot be made to feel. Men live among the dead and dying, and are neither concerned nor humbled. He will make their hearts tender and fit to receive impressions: this is God's work, it is his gift by promise; and a wonderful and happy change is wrought by it, from death to life. Their practices shall be agreeable to those principles. These two must and will go together. When the sinner feels his need of these blessings, let him present the promises as prayers in the name of Christ, they will be performed.As a little sanctuary - Rather, I will be to them for a little while a sanctuary. The blessing was provisional, they were to look forward to a blessing more complete. For a little while they were to be satisfied with God's special presence in a foreign land, but they were to look forward to a renewal of His presence in the restored temple of Jerusalem. "sanctuary" means here strictly the holy place, the tabernacle of the Most High: Yahweh will Himself be to the exiles in the place of the local sanctuary, in which the Jews of Jerusalem so much prided themselves (compare the margin reference). Here is the germ from which is developed Ezekiel 40-48, the picture of the kingdom of God in its new form. 16. Although—anticipating the objection of the priests at Jerusalem, that the exiles were "cast far off." Though this be so, and they are far from the outer temple at Jerusalem, I will be their asylum or sanctuary instead (Ps 90:1; 91:9; Isa 8:14). My shrine is the humble heart: a preparation for gospel catholicity when the local and material temple should give place to the spiritual (Isa 57:15; 66:1; Mal 1:11; Joh 4:21-24; Ac 7:48, 49). The trying discipline of the exile was to chasten the outcasts so as to be meet recipients of God's grace, for which the carnal confidence of the priests disqualified them. The dispersion served the end of spiritualizing and enlarging the views even of the better Jews, so as to be able to worship God everywhere without a material temple; and, at the same time, it diffused some knowledge of God among the greatest Gentile nations, thus providing materials for the gathering in of the Christian Church among the Gentiles; so marvellously did God overrule a present evil for an ultimate good. Still more does all this hold good in the present much longer dispersion which is preparing for a more perfect and universal restoration (Isa 2:2-4; Jer 3:16-18). Their long privation of the temple will prepare them for appreciating the more, but without Jewish narrowness, the temple that is to be (Eze 40:1-44:31).

a little—rather, "for a little season"; No matter how long the captivity may be, the seventy years will be but as a little season, compared with their long subsequent settlement in their land. This holds true only partially in the case of the first restoration; but as in a few centuries they were dispersed again, the full and permanent restoration is yet future (Jer 24:6).

Therefore; in apology and vindication of them, backed with excellent promises in the following verses.

Say; say to them, and of them in Babylon.

Although I have cast them far off: the obstinate Jews at Jerusalem will call them apostates and renegades; but let such false accusers know that they were sent thither, and that I the Lord sent them thither, and will own them there too.

Far off; not from myself, but from you, your polluted land, and dreadful approaching judgments.

Among the heathen; the Chaldeans, or such as the Chaldeans placed them among.

Scattered them; dispersed and separated them from one another in many countries which were under the king of Babylon. Yet they are dear to me, and my purposes are for them more gracious than yours are for them, or than mine are for you.

As a little sanctuary; for a little while, i.e. during the seventy years’ captivity; or for a few of them, the remnant was ever little: or, as it refers to the sanctuary, a little one in opposition to that great, rich, splendid, and admired temple at Jerusalem, which when they need most, shall help least; but I, saith God, will be really to my captives what the proud self-deceiving Jews promise their temple shall be to them, both for glory, defence, and for worship, which shall with heart and love be given by these I have sent away; and wherever they are, their prayers, synagogue worship, and obedience shall be to me as well-pleasing as they shall desire. They at a distance weep on Chebar banks; you, O rebellious! pollute the temple by your idolatries. I will comfort the mourners; I will punish you polluters of my temple and worship. Therefore say, thus saith the Lord God,.... Since they were so insulted and ill treated by their brethren the Jews:

although I have cast them afar off among the Heathen; both the ten tribes, even all the house of Israel, who were carried into Assyria, and placed in the cities of the Medes, in Halath and Habor, by the river Gozan, 2 Kings 17:6; and those of the Jews in Jeconiah's captivity, among whom were Ezekiel, and his brethren, and his kindred:

and although I have scattered them among the countries; and therefore, what with the distance of the place where they were, and the dispersion of them among the people where they resided, their case might seem to be desperate; and that there was no probability, and scarce any possibility, of their being preserved as a people, and of their restoration to their own land:

yet will I be to them a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come; their dwelling place, as he has been to his people in all generations their protection from all their enemies, in whom, and by whose power, they should be safe; and whose presence they should enjoy, though deprived of public ordinances, of temple worship and service; though they were at a distance from the great sanctuary, the temple, the inhabitants of Jerusalem boasted of, yet the Lord would make up the want of that to them with himself. The Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi (m) interpret this of the synagogues, which were second to the temple, the Israelites had in foreign countries, where they prayed to the Lord, and worshipped him, and enjoyed his presence. It may be rendered, "the sanctuary of a few" (n); they being but few, especially that were truly godly, that were carried captive: or, "a sanctuary for a little while" (o); that is, during seventy years, and then they should be returned, as follows. The Targum is,

"I have given them synagogues, second to my sanctuary, and they are as few in the provinces where they are carried captive.''

(m) Ex T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 29. 1.((n) "ad sanctuarium paucitatis", Calvin; "in sanctuarium paucorum", Cocceius. So Ben Melech says the word is a substantive in some copies. (o) Paulisper, Junius & Tremellius, Polanus, Castalio.

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

(h) They will be yet a little church: showing that the Lord will ever have some to call on his Name, whom he will preserve and restore, though they are for a time afflicted.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verse 16. - Yet will I be unto them as a little sanctuary; better, with the Revised Version, a little while, as marking that the state described was transient and provisional. For a time, Ezekiel and the exiles were to find the presence of Jehovah manifested as in the vision of Chebar (Ezekiel 1:4-28), or felt spiritually, and this would make the spot where they found themselves as fully a holy place as the temple had been. There also they would have a "house of God." But this was not to be their permanent lot. There was to be a restoration to "the land of Israel" (ver. 17; Ezekiel 37:21), to the visible sanctuary, to a second temple no longer desecrated by the pollutions that had defiled the first. As with all such prophecies, the words had "springing and germinant accomplishments." In Ezekiel 40-48, we have Ezekiel's ideal vision of their fulfilment. A literal but incomplete fulfilment is formed in the work of restoration achieved by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and the hopes then cherished by Haggai and Zechariah. A more complete but less literal fulfilment appears in the Church of Christ as the true Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), and in the Jerusalem which is above (Galatians 4:26). In the fact that in the seer's vision of that heavenly city there is no temple, but the presence of "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb" Revelation 21:22), we find the crowning development of Ezekiel's thought. Intermediate expansions are found

(1) in the gradual substitution of the synagogue for the temple in the religious life of Israel;

(2) in our Lord's words to the woman of Samaria (John 4:21-24); and

(3) in his promise that where two or three are gathered together in his Name, there he would be in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). The thought that it is the presence of Jehovah that makes the sanctuary, not the sanctuary that secures the presence, Ezekiel may have learnt from the fate of Shiloh (Psalm 78:60). Judgment upon the rulers of the nation. - Ezekiel 11:1. And a wind lifted me up, and took me to the eastern gate of the house of Jehovah, which faces towards the east; and behold, at the entrance of the gate were five and twenty men, and I saw among them Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, the chiefs of the nation. Ezekiel 11:2. And he said to me: Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity, and counsel evil counsel in this city; Ezekiel 11:3. Who say, It is not near to build houses; it is the pot, and we are the flesh. Ezekiel 11:4. Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, son of man. - Ezekiel is once more transported from the inner court (Ezekiel 8:16) to the outer entrance of the eastern gate of the temple (תּשּׂא רוּח, as in Ezekiel 8:3), to which, according to Ezekiel 10:19, the vision of God had removed. There he sees twenty-five men, and among them two of the princes of the nation, whose names are given. These twenty-five men are not identical with the twenty-five priests mentioned in Ezekiel 8:16, as Hvernick supposes. This is evident, not only from the difference in the locality, the priests standing between the porch and the altar, whereas the men referred to here stood at the outer eastern entrance to the court of the temple, but from the fact that the two who are mentioned by name are called שׂרי העם (princes of the people), so that we may probably infer from this that all the twenty-five were secular chiefs. Hvernick's opinion, that שׂרי העם is a term that may also be applied to princes among the priests, is as erroneous as his assertion that the priest-princes are called "princes" in Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 10:1, and Jeremiah 35:4, whereas it is only to national princes that these passages refer. Hvernick is equally incorrect in supposing that these twenty-five men take the place of the seventy mentioned in Ezekiel 8:11; for those seventy represented the whole of the nation, whereas these twenty-five (according to Ezekiel 11:2) were simply the counsellors of the city - not, however, the twenty-four duces of twenty-four divisions of the city, with a prince of the house of Judah, as Prado maintains, on the strength of certain Rabbinical assertions; or twenty-four members of a Sanhedrim, with their president (Rosenmller); but the twelve tribe-princes (princes of the nation) and the twelve royal officers, or military commanders (1 Chronicles 27), with the king himself, or possibly with the commander-in-chief of the army; so that these twenty-five men represent the civil government of Israel, just as the twenty-four priest-princes, together with the high priest, represent the spiritual authorities of the covenant nation. The reason why two are specially mentioned by name is involved in obscurity, as nothing further is known of either of these persons. The words of God to the prophet in Ezekiel 11:2 concerning them are perfectly applicable to representatives of the civil authorities or temporal rulers, namely, that they devise and give unwholesome and evil counsel. This counsel is described in Ezekiel 11:3 by the words placed in their mouths: "house-building is not near; it (the city) is the caldron, we are the flesh."

These words are difficult, and different interpretations have consequently been given. The rendering, "it (the judgment) is not near, let us build houses," is incorrect; for the infinitive construct בּנות cannot stand for the imperative or the infinitive absolute, but must be the subject of the sentence. It is inadmissible also to take the sentence as a question, "Is not house-building near?" in the sense of "it is certainly near," as Ewald does, after some of the ancient versions. For even if an interrogation is sometimes indicated simply by the tone in an energetic address, as, for example, in 2 Samuel 23:5, this cannot be extended to cases in which the words of another are quoted. Still less can לא בקרוב mean non est tempus, it is not yet time, as Maurer supposes. The only way in which the words can be made to yield a sense in harmony with the context, is by taking them as a tacit allusion to Jeremiah 29:5. Jeremiah had called upon those in exile to build themselves houses in their banishment, and prepare for a lengthened stay in Babylon, and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the words of false prophets, who predicted a speedy return; for severe judgments had yet to fall upon those who had remained behind in the land. This word of Jeremiah the authorities in Jerusalem ridiculed, saying "house-building is not near," i.e., the house-building in exile is still a long way off; it will not come to this, that Jerusalem should fall either permanently or entirely into the hands of the king of Babylon. On the contrary, Jerusalem is the pot, and we, its inhabitants, are the flesh. The point of comparison is this: as the pot protects the flesh from burning, so does the city of Jerusalem protect us from destruction.

(Note: "This city is a pot, our receptacle and defence, and we are the flesh enclosed therein; as flesh is preserved in its caldron till it is perfectly boiled, so shall we continue here till an extreme old age." - Hlsemann in CaloV. Bibl. Illustr.)

On the other hand, there is no foundation for the assumption that the words also contain an allusion to other sayings of Jeremiah, namely, to Jeremiah 1:13, where the judgment about to burst in from the north is represented under the figure of a smoking pot; or to Jeremiah 19:1-15, where Jerusalem is depicted as a pot about to be broken in pieces by God; for the reference in Jeremiah 19:1-15 is simply to an earthen pitcher, not to a meat-caldron; and the words in the verse before us have nothing at all in common with the figure in Jeremiah 1:13. The correctness of our explanation is evident both from Ezekiel 24:3, Ezekiel 24:6, where the figure of pot and flesh is met with again, though differently applied, and from the reply which Ezekiel makes to the saying of these men in the verses that follow (Ezekiel 11:7-11). This saying expresses not only false confidence in the strength of Jerusalem, but also contempt and scorn of the predictions of the prophets sent by God. Ezekiel is therefore to prophesy, as he does in Ezekiel 11:5-12, against this pernicious counsel, which is confirming the people in their sins.

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