Ezekiel 14:13
Son of man, when the land sins against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out my hand on it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine on it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) When the land sinneth.—The definite article is not in the Hebrew, and should be omitted, as the proposition is a general one. Also the future tenses throughout the verse should be rendered as present, in accordance with this character of a general statement: “When a land sinneth . . . and I stretch out . . . and break the staff . . . and send famine . . . and cut off.” The particular judgment of famine was threatened in the warnings of the law (Leviticus 26:26; Deuteronomy 28:38-40), and also, in immediate connection with it, all the other woes here mentioned.

Ezekiel 14:13-14. When the land, or, when a land sinneth, &c. — The meaning of this and the following verses is, that when the inhabitants of a land have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and God ariseth to execute judgment upon them, the few righteous that are left among them shall not be able, by their prayers and intercessions, to deliver the nation from the judgments decreed against it. They shall but deliver their own souls; as we see in the case of Sodom, where there were none righteous but Lot and his family: those just persons saved themselves, but no intercession could avail to save the city. Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it — All of them persons eminent for piety. Noah, as a reward of his piety, saved eight persons out of the universal deluge, and obtained a promise from God that he would never destroy the world so again, Genesis 8:21. Daniel interceded with God for the whole nation of the Jews, and obtained a promise of their restoration, and of the coming of the Messiah, Daniel 9. Job was appointed by God to make intercession for his three friends, and obtained pardon for them, Job 42:8. But when God’s irreversible decree is gone out against a nation which hath filled up the measure of its iniquity, even the prayers of such men will be ineffectual toward their deliverance. For it is only for those that are not arrived to that height of wickedness, that the prayers of the righteous avail: compare Jeremiah 15:1. We may observe here how early the fame of Daniel’s piety was spread over Chaldea, who at this time was probably not above thirty years of age; he having been carried to Babylon only fourteen years before, when he was very young. For he was taken captive in the third year of Jehoiakim, (Daniel 1:1,) who, after this, reigned eight years, 2 Kings 23:36. And this prophecy, as appears from chap. Ezekiel 8:1, was uttered in the sixth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, who succeeded Jehoiakim, and only reigned three months.14:12-23 National sins bring national judgments. Though sinners escape one judgment, another is waiting for them. When God's professing people rebel against him, they may justly expect all his judgments. The faith, obedience, and prayers of Noah prevailed to the saving of his house, but not of the old world. Job's sacrifice and prayer in behalf of his friends were accepted, and Daniel had prevailed for the saving his companions and the wise men of Babylon. But a people that had filled the measure of their sins, was not to expect to escape for the sake of any righteous men living among them; not even of the most eminent saints, who could be accepted in their own case only through the sufferings and righteousness of Christ. Yet even when God makes the greatest desolations by his judgments, he saves some to be monuments of his mercy. In firm belief that we shall approve the whole of God's dealings with ourselves, and with all mankind, let us silence all rebellious murmurs and objections.Jeremiah 14; 15 is a remarkable parallel to this prophecy. Here, as elsewhere, Ezekiel is commissioned to deliver to the exiles the same message which Jeremiah conveys to the inhabitants of Judaea. The answer discovers the nature of the questions which had been expressed or implied.

(1) Can God cast out a people who are holy unto Himself?

(2) Is it just to punish them with utter desolation?

The prophet answers:

(1) That when a people is so corrupt as to call down national judgment, individual piety shall save none but the individuals themselves.

(2) The corrupt condition of the people shall be made so manifest, that none will question the justice of God in dealing thus severely with them.

Ezekiel 14:12

Or, "When a land" - the case is first put in a general form, and then ism brought with increased force home to Jerusalem - "sinneth against me by trespassing grievously," and I stretch out "mine hand upon it," and break the staff of bread "thereof," and send famine "upon it and" cut off "man and beast: though these three men" etc.

13. staff of … bread—on which man's existence is supported as on a staff (Eze 4:16; 5:16; Le 26:26; Ps 104:15; Isa 3:1). I will send a famine. When; at what time soever.

The land, put for the men that dwell in the land.

By trespassing grievously; as a hypocritical, backsliding people, that give fair promises, but perform them not, rather act contrary to their professions, as the Hebrew intimateth.

Upon it; against it. Break the staff of the bread: scarcity and famine are effects of the power of God, which makes that barren for the sins of a people which otherwise would be fruitful.

Will cut off man and beast from it; make the land utterly desolate by famishing the cattle as well as their owners. Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously,.... That is, the inhabitants of the land, when they are in general become sinners against God and his law; and not merely sinners, as all men are, but grievous ones, notorious sinners, guilty of very gross enormities, of great prevarication, perfidy, and treachery; for God is a God longsuffering, and has great patience with a people; and does not usually come forth in his judgments against nation, until sin has universally prevailed among them, and they are guilty of grievous abominations, and those continued in: but when this is the case,

then will I stretch out mine hand upon it; his hand of vindictive wrath and justice, and cause it to fall heavily, and men to feel it:

and will break the staff of the bread thereof; take away bread corn from the nation, the support of human life; which is that unto it, and the stay of it, as a staff is to a decrepit old man, that cannot walk without one; or take away the virtue of it, so as though it might be had and eaten, yet not be nourishing; see Ezekiel 4:16;

and will send famine upon it; by causing a drought, restraining rain, sending mildew, locusts, caterpillars, &c. to eat up the fruits of the earth:

and will cut off man and beast from it; the latter for the sake of the former, and both through want of food.

Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out my hand upon it, {h} and will break the staff of its bread, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:

(h) Read Eze 4:16,5:17, Isa 3:1.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. when the land] Rather: a land. The whole of Ezekiel 14:13 is supposition: when a land sinneth … and I stretch … and break … and send … and cut off.Punishment of the False Prophetesses

Ezekiel 13:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with your coverings with which ye catch, I will let the souls fly; and I will tear them away from your arms, and set the souls free, which ye catch, the souls to fly. Ezekiel 13:21. And I will tear your caps in pieces, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall no more become a prey in your hands; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah. Ezekiel 13:22. Because ye grieve the heart of the righteous with lying, when I have not pained him; and strengthen the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his evil way, to preserve his life. Ezekiel 13:23. Therefore ye shall no more see vanity, and no longer practise soothsaying: and I will deliver my people out of your hand; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah. - The threat of judgment is closely connected with the reproof of their sins. Ezekiel 13:20 and Ezekiel 13:21 correspond to the reproof in Ezekiel 13:18, and Ezekiel 13:22 and Ezekiel 13:23 to that in Ezekiel 13:19. In the first place, the Lord will tear in pieces the coverings and caps, i.e., the tissue of lies woven by the false prophetesses, and rescue the people from their snares (Ezekiel 13:20 and Ezekiel 13:21); and, secondly, He will entirely put an end to the pernicious conduct of the persons addressed (Ezekiel 13:22 and Ezekiel 13:23). The words from אשׁר אתּנּה to לפרחות (Ezekiel 13:20), when taken as one clause, as they generally are, offer insuperable difficulties, since it is impossible to get any satisfactory meaning from שׁם, and לפרחות will not fit in. Whether we understand by kesâthōth coverings or cushions, the connection of שׁם with אשׁר (where ye catch the souls), which the majority of commentators prefer, is untenable; for coverings and cushions were not the places where the souls were caught, but could only be the means employed for catching them. Instead of שׁם we should expect בּם or בּהם; and Hitzig proposes to amend it in this way. Still less admissible is the proposal to take שׁם as referring to Jerusalem ("wherewith ye catch souls there"); as שׁם would not only contain a perfectly superfluous definition of locality, but would introduce a limitation altogether at variance with the context. It is not affirmed either of the prophets or of the prophetesses that they lived and prophesied in Jerusalem alone. In Ezekiel 13:2 and Ezekiel 13:17 reference is made in the most general terms to the prophets of Israel and the daughters of thy people; and in Ezekiel 13:16 it is simply stated that the false prophets prophesied peace to Jerusalem when there was no peace at all. Consequently we must regard the attempt to find in שׁם an allusion to Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 13:16) as a mere loophole, which betrays an utter inability to get any satisfactory sense for the word. Moreover, if we construe the words in this manner, לפרחות is also incomprehensible. Commentators have for the most part admitted that פּרח taht is used here in the Aramaean sense of volare, to fly. In the second half of the verse there is no doubt about its having this meaning. For שׁלּח is used in Deuteronomy 22:7 for liberating a bird, or letting it fly; and the combination שׁלּח is supported by the expression שׁלּח לחפשׁי in Exodus 21:26, while the comparison of souls to birds is sustained by Psalm 11:1 and Psalm 124:7. Hence the true meaning of the whole passage לפרחות... שׁלּחתּי את־הנּפשׁות is, I send away (set free) the souls, which ye have caught, as flying ones, i.e., so that they shall be able to fly away at liberty. And in the first half also we must not adopt a different rendering for לפרחות, since את־הנּפשׁות is also connected with it there.

But if the words in question are combined into one clause in the first hemistich, they will give us a sense which is obviously wrong, viz., "wherewith ye catch the souls to let them fly." As the impossibility of adopting this rendering has been clearly seen, the attempt has been made to cloak over the difficulty by means of paraphrases. Ewald, for example, renders לפרחות in both cases "as if they were birds of passage;" but in the first instance he applies it to birds of passage, for which nets are spread for the purpose of catching them; and in the second, to birds of passage which are set at liberty. Thus, strictly speaking, he understands the first לפרחות as signifying the catching of birds; and the second, letting them fly: an explanation which refutes itself, as pârach, to fly, cannot mean "to catch" as well. The rendering adopted by Kimchi, Rosenmller, and others, who translate לפרחות ut advolent ad vos in the first hemistich, and ut avolent in the second, is no better. And the difficulty is not removed by resorting to the dialects, as Hvernick, for the purpose of forcing upon פּרחות the meaning dissoluteness of licentiousness, for which there is no authority in the Hebrew language itself. If, therefore, it is impossible to obtain any satisfactory meaning from the existing text, it cannot be correct; and no other course is open to us than to alter the unsuitable שׁם into שׂם, and divide the words from אשׁר אתּנּה to לפרחות into two clauses, as we have done in our translation above. There is no necessity to supply anything to the relative אשׁר, as צוּד is construed with a double accusative (e.g., Micah 7:2, צוּד חרם, to catch with a net), and the object to מצדדות, viz., the souls, can easily be supplied from the next clause. שׂם, as a participle, can either be connected with הנני, "behold, I make," or taken as introducing an explanatory clause: "making the souls into flying ones," i.e., so that they are able to fly (שׁוּם ל, Genesis 12:2, etc.). The two clauses of the first hemistich would then exactly correspond to the two clauses of the second half of the verse. וקרעתּי אתם is explanatory of הנני אל כסת, I will tear off the coverings from their arms. These words do not require the assumption that the prophetesses wore the לסתות on their arms, but may be fully explained from the supposition that the persons in question prepared them with their own hands. 'ושׁלּחתּי וגו corresponds to 'שׂם את־הנּפשׁות וגו; and לפרחות is governed by שׁלּחתּי. The insertion of את־הנּפשׁים is to be accounted for from the copious nature of Ezekiel's style; at the same time, it is not merely a repetition of את־הנּפשׁות, which is separated from לפרחות by the relative clause 'אשׁר אתּם מח, but as the unusual plural form נפשׁים shows, is intended as a practical explanation of the fact, that the souls, while compared to birds, are regarded as living beings, which is the meaning borne by נפשׁ in other passages. The omission of the article after את may be explained, however, from the fact that the souls had been more precisely defined just before; just as, for example, in 1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 18:18, where the more precise definition follows immediately afterwards (cf. Ewald, 277a, p. 683). - The same thing is said in Ezekiel 13:21, with regard to the caps, as has already been said of the coverings in Ezekiel 13:20. God will tear these in pieces also, to deliver His people from the power of the lying prophetesses. In what way God will do this is explained in Ezekiel 13:22 and Ezekiel 13:23, namely, not only by putting their lying prophecies to shame through His judgment, but by putting an end to soothsaying altogether, and exterminating the false prophetesses by making them an object of ridicule and shame. The reason for this threat is given in Ezekiel 13:22, where a further description is given of the disgraceful conduct of these persons; and here the disgracefulness of their conduct is exhibited in literal terms and without any figure. They do harm to the righteous and good, and strengthen the hands of the wicked. הכאות, Hiphil of כּאה, in Syriac, to use harshly or depress; so here in the Hiphil, connected with לב, to afflict the heart. שׁקר is used adverbially: with lying, or in a lying manner; namely, by predicting misfortune and divine punishments, with which they threatened the godly, who would not acquiesce in their conduct; whereas, on the contrary, they predicted prosperity and peace to the ungodly, who were willing to be ensnared by them, and thus strengthened them in their evil ways. For this God would put them to shame through His judgments, which would make their deceptions manifest, and their soothsaying loathsome.

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