Ezekiel 11:3
Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.
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(3) It is not near; let us build houses. -Neither the text nor the marginal reading of the Authorised Version quite accurately represent the original. The expression is literally not near to build houses; and it is to be explained by the prophecy and narrative of Jeremiah 29. After the 10,000 (among whom was Ezekiel) had been carried captive—and apparently shortly after—Jeremiah had sent word to the captives to build houses and make themselves comfortable. because the captivity would be long (Ezekiel 11:5-10). This greatly offended the captives; and Shemaiah, a false prophet among them, had consequently sent letters to Jerusalem asking that Jeremiah might be punished for thus prophesying (Ezekiel 11:24-25). The princes of the people now appear in Ezekiel’s vision as taking up this prophecy of Jeremiah’s and contradicting it: “this need of building houses for a long captivity is not near!” In Ezekiel 7:2-3; Ezekiel 7:12; Ezekiel 12:23, Ezekiel expressly declares that it is very near. The princes further confirmed the people in their fancied security by comparing the city to a caldron, the strong walls of which should protect the flesh within it, i.e., the people, from the fire of all hostile attack. In the prophecy of Ezekiel 24:6 this figure is taken up, and a very different application given to it; it is also turned against them immediately in Ezekiel 11:7. In consequence of this attitude and these sayings of the princes, the prophecy of Ezekiel 11:5-12 is now directed against them.

11:1-13 Where Satan cannot persuade men to look upon the judgment to come as uncertain, he gains his point by persuading them to look upon it as at a distance. These wretched rulers dare to say, We are as safe in this city as flesh in a boiling pot; the walls of the city shall be to us as walls of brass, we shall receive no more damage from the besiegers than the caldron does from the fire. When sinners flatter themselves to their own ruin, it is time to tell them they shall have no peace if they go on. None shall remain in possession of the city but those who are buried in it. Those are least safe who are most secure. God is often pleased to single out some sinners for warning to others. Whether Pelatiah died at that time in Jerusalem, or when the fulfilment of the prophecy drew near, is uncertain. Like Ezekiel, we ought to be much affected with the sudden death of others, and we should still plead with the Lord to have mercy on those who remain.It is not near - In contradiction to Ezekiel 7:2.

Let us build houses - "To build houses" implies a sense of security. Jeremiah bade the exiles "build houses" in a foreign land because they would not soon quit it Jeremiah 29:5; Jeremiah 35:7. These false counselors promised to their countrymen a sure and permanent abode in the city which God had doomed to destruction. No need, they said, to go far for safety; you are perfectly safe at home. The Hebrew, however, is, difficult: literally it means, "It is not near to build houses," which may be explained as spoken in mockery of such counsel as that of Jeremiah: matters have not gone so far as to necessitate "house-building" in a foreign land. The same idea is expressed by the image of the "caldron:" whatever devastation may rage around the city, we are safe within its walls, as flesh within a caldron is unburned by the surrounding fire (compare Ezekiel 24:6).

3. It is not near—namely, the destruction of the city; therefore "let us build houses," as if there was no fear. But the Hebrew opposes English Version, which would require the infinitive absolute. Rather, "Not at hand is the building of houses." They sneer at Jeremiah's letter to the captives, among whom Ezekiel lived (Jer 29:5). "Build ye houses, and dwell in them," that is, do not fancy, as many persuade you, that your sojourn in Babylon is to be short; it will be for seventy years (Jer 25:11, 12; 29:10); therefore build houses and settle quietly there. The scorners in Jerusalem reply, Those far off in exile may build if they please, but it is too remote a concern for us to trouble ourselves about [Fairbairn], (Compare Eze 12:22, 27; 2Pe 3:4).

this city … caldron … we … flesh—sneering at Jer 1:13, when he compared the city to a caldron with its mouth towards the north. "Let Jerusalem be so if you will, and we the flesh, exposed to the raging foe from the north, still its fortifications will secure us from the flame of war outside; the city must stand for our sakes, just as the pot exists for the safety of the flesh in it." In opposition to this God says (Eze 11:11), "This city shall not be your caldron, to defend you in it from the foe outside: nay, ye shall be driven out of your imaginary sanctuary and slain in the border of the land." "But," says God, in Eze 11:7, "your slain are the flesh, and this city the caldron; but (not as you fancy, shall ye be kept safe inside) I will bring you forth out of the midst of it"; and again, in Eze 24:3, "Though not a caldron in your sense, Jerusalem shall be so in the sense of its being exposed to a consuming foe, and you yourselves in it and with it."

What counsel was by these men given appears by their words.

It is not near; either the threatened danger and ruin by the Chaldeans; or else, build, but not in the suburbs, not near, but in the city, that your houses may not shelter the enemy.

This city is the caldron: this is an impious scoff, yet mixed with some fear, of the prophets, Jeremiah 1:13 Ezekiel 24:6. They deride the prophets, yet secretly dread the thing. Jerusalem is the pot, we the flesh that are to be boiled therein; but this will take up some time however, we were better be so destroyed than to fall by the hands of the Chaldeans, who perhaps may roast what is not boiled here.

Which say it is not near, let us build houses,.... Meaning that the destruction of the city was not near, as the prophet had foretold, Ezekiel 7:3; and therefore encourage the people to build houses, and rest themselves secure, as being safe from all danger, and having nothing to fear from the Chaldean army; and so putting away the evil day far from them, which was just at hand: though the words may be rendered, "it is not proper to build houses near" (e); near the city of Jerusalem, in the suburbs of it, since they would be liable to be destroyed by the enemy; but this would not be condemned as wicked counsel, but must be judged very prudent and advisable: and the same may be objected to another rendering of the word, which might be offered, "not in the midst to build houses"; or it is not proper to build houses in the midst of the city, in order to receive the multitude that flock out of the country, through fear of the enemy, to Jerusalem for safety; since by this means, as the number of the inhabitants would be increased, so provisions in time would become scarce, and a famine must ensue, which would oblige to deliver up the city into the hands of the besiegers; wherefore the first sense seems best. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render them, "are not the houses lately built?" and so not easily demolished, and are like to continue long, and we in them;

this city is the cauldron, and we be the flesh; referring to, and laughing at, what one of the prophets, namely Jeremiah, had said of them, comparing them to a boiling pot, Jeremiah 1:13; and it is as if they should say, be it so, that this city is as a cauldron or boiling pot, then we are the flesh in it; and as flesh is not taken out of a pot until it is boiled, no more shall we be removed from hence till we die; we shall live and die in this city; and as it is difficult and dangerous to take hot boiling meat out of a cauldron, so it, is unlikely we should be taken out of this city, and carried captive; what a cauldron or brasen pot is to the flesh, it holds and keeps it from falling into the fire; that the walls of Jerusalem are to us, our safety and preservation; nor need we fear captivity.

(e) "non in propinque aedificandae domus", Junius & Tremellius, Cocceius, Polanus; "non in propinquo aedificare domos", Montanus, Piscator, Starckius.

Who say, {a} It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the {b} caldron, and we are the flesh.

(a) Thus the wicked derided the prophets as though they preached only errors, and therefore gave themselves still to their pleasures.

(b) We will not be pulled out of Jerusalem, till the hour of our death comes, as the flesh is not taken out of the caldron until it is boiled.

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.

Verse 3. - It is not near, etc. The words take their place among the popular, half-proverbial sayings of which we have other examples in Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 9:9; and Ezekiel 18:2. As in most proverbs of this kind, the thought is condensed to the very verge of obscurity, and the words have received very different interpretations.

(1) That suggested by the Authorized Version. "It (the judgment of which the true prophets spoke) is not near. Let us build houses, not, as Jeremiah bids (Jeremiah 39:5), in the land of exile, but here in Jerusalem, where we shall remain in safety. Are we threatened with the imagery of the 'seething pot' (Jeremiah 1:13)? Let us remember that the caldron protects the meat in it from the fire. The walls of the city will protect us from the army of the Chaldeans." The temper which clothed itself in this language was that of the self-confident boastful security of Jeremiah 28:3; and the death of Hananiah, the son of Azur, in that history presents a parallel to that of Pelatiah in this.

(2) Grammatically, however, the rendering of the Revised Version is preferable: The time is not near for building houses; probably, as before, with a reference to Jeremiah's advice. "We," they seem to say, "are not come to that plaint yet. We will trust, as in (1), in our interpretation of the caldron."

(3) On the whole, I incline, while adopting the Revised Version rendering, to interpret the words, as Smend takes them, as the defiant utterance of despair: "It is no time for building houses, here or elsewhere. We are doomed. We are destined (I borrow the nearest analogue of modern proverbial speech) 'to stew in our own juice.' Well, let us meet it as we best may." I find what suggests this view

(1) in the improbability that the thought of the caldron could ever have been received as a message of safety (comp. Ezekiel 24:3, 6); and

(2) in the despairing tone of most of the sayings that Ezekiel records (Ezekiel 18:2; Ezekiel 37:11). Probably there were, as in other like crises in the history of nations (say, e.g., in those of the Franco-German War) rapid alternations between the two moods of boastful security and defiant despair - the galgenhumor, the courage of the gallows, as Smend calls it; and the same words might be uttered now in this temper, and now in that. In either case, there was the root element of the absence of repentance and submission. Ezekiel 11:3Judgment 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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