Ezekiel 15:2
Son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?
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15:1-8 Jerusalem like an unfruitful vine. - If a vine be fruitful, it is valuable. But if not fruitful, it is worthless and useless, it is cast into the fire. Thus man is capable of yielding a precious fruit, in living to God; this is the sole end of his existence; and if he fails in this, he is of no use but to be destroyed. What blindness then attaches to those who live in the total neglect of God and of true religion! This similitude is applied to Jerusalem. Let us beware of an unfruitful profession. Let us come to Christ, and seek to abide in him, and to have his words abide in us.The vine ... - The image is grounded on a well-known figure Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5. The comparison is not between the vine and other trees, but between the wood of the vine and the wood of other trees. 2, 3. What has the vine-wood to make it pre-eminent above other forest-wood? Nothing. Nay, the reverse. Other trees yield useful timber, but vine-wood is soft, brittle, crooked, and seldom large; not so much as a "pin" (the large wooden peg used inside houses in the East to hang household articles on, Isa 22:23-25) can be made of it. Its sole excellency is that it should bear fruit; when it does not bear fruit, it is not only not better, but inferior to other trees: so if God's people lose their distinctive excellency by not bearing fruits of righteousness, they are more unprofitable than the worldly (De 32:32), for they are the vine; the sole end of their being is to bear fruit to His glory (Ps 80:8, 9; Isa 5:1, &c.; Jer 2:21; Ho 10:1; Mt 21:33). In all respects, except in their being planted by God, the Jews were inferior to other nations, as Egypt, Babylon, &c., for example, in antiquity, extent of territory, resources, military power, attainments in arts and sciences.

or than a branch—rather, in apposition with "the vine tree." Omit "or than." What superiority has the vine if it be but a branch among the trees of the forest, that is, if, as having no fruit, it lies cut down among other woods of trees?

The house of Israel is often compared to a vine, which when barren or fruitless is very contemptible and unprofitable. This the prophet minds them of to humble them, and awaken them to fruitfulness; Will you boast yourselves of this?

Than a branch which is among the trees of the forest; one single branch of a tree in the forest is of more use and worth than the whole vine tree is, except for its fruit. Son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree,.... Or, "the wood of the vine than any wood" (b); it is not better than other wood; it is not so good as any other wood; nay, it is good for nothing. The fruit of the vine tree is good, but its wood is of no use: a vine tree, if it bears fruit, is valuable; but if it does not, it is of no account. The people of the Jews are often compared to a vine, who, while they brought forth good fruit, were in esteem; but, when they became like an empty and fruitless vine, were rejected as good for nothing, Psalm 80:8; they were originally no better than others; what they had were owing to the grace and goodness of God; and when they degenerated, they were the worst of all people:

or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? a vine tree that bears fruit is better than a tree of the forest, or than a branch of one that is unfruitful; but a vine tree that does not bear fruit is not so good; because the wood of the one may be useful when the other is not; though the words may be better rendered, even "the branch of a wild vine which is among the trees of the forest" (c); and so it explains what vine tree is spoken of; not a fruitful one in the vineyards, but a wild and barren one in the forest. So Jarchi paraphrases the words,

"not of the vine in the vineyards, which bears fruit, speak I unto thee; but of the branch of the vine which grows in the forests;''

and so Kimchi,

"I do not ask thee of the vine tree which beareth fruit, for that is valuable; but of the branch (of the wild vine) which is among the trees of the forest, and is as they that do not bear fruit, concerning that I ask thee; for even it is not as the trees of the forest; for the trees of the forest, though they do not bear fruit, they are fit to do work of them, to make vessels of them, and to floor houses with them; but the wood of this vine is not so.''

(b) "lignum vitis prae omni ligno", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Polanus, Starckius. (c) "surculus", Cocceius; "surculus vitis", Starckius; "vitis sylvestris", Munster. So Ben Melech interprets the branch, of a vine.

Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the {a} trees of the forest?

(a) Which brings forth no fruit, no more than the other trees of the forest do: meaning that if Jerusalem, which bore the name of his Church, did not bring forth fruit it would be utterly destroyed.

2. or than a branch] Perhaps: the vine-branch which is,—the words taking up “the vine tree” of previous clause. Owing to the verb the natural sense is: what shall be made of the wood of the vine among all wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? Cf. Ezekiel 15:3. With the comparative sense the accents should be disregarded: what is the wood of the vine more than any wood of the branch which is &c. On Israel as the vine cf. Genesis 49:22; Isaiah 5:1; Deuteronomy 32:32; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 17:5; Ezekiel 19:10; Psalms 80; Hosea 10:1.Verse 2. - What is the vine tree, etc.? The prophet's mind had apparently been dwelling, after the close of his previous utterance, on the imagery of earlier writers, in which Israel had appeared as the vine of Jehovah (Genesis 49:22; Psalm 80:9; Hosea 10:1; Isaiah 5; Deuteronomy 32:32; Jeremiah 2:21), and to which he himself refers again in Ezekiel 19:10. He saw how men might pervert that image to their own destruction. And he expands the parable, as our Lord does in John 15. Men might dwell, perhaps were actually dwelling, on the thought that they were branches of the true vine, and therefore could not perish. He exposes the groundlessness of that hope in tones of scornful sarcasm. If the vine did not bear fruit, or if it only brought forth wild grapes, then its special excellence was gone, and it challenged comparison with other trees only as a timber tree, and what was its worth as such? If Israel was not true to its vocation, it was poorer and weaker than the heathen nations round it. So far the general thought is clear. In dealing with details, we note that the words in italics, "or than," should disappear, and that the words should stand as in the Revised Version, What is the vine more than any tree, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest? The Righteousness of the Godly will not Avert the Judgment

The threat contained in the preceding word of God, that if the idolaters did not repent, God would not answer them in any other way than with an exterminating judgment, left the possibility still open, that He would avert the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem for the sake of the righteous therein, as He had promised the patriarch Abraham that He would do in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:23.). This hope, which might be cherished by the people and by the elders who had come to the prophet, is now to be taken from the people by the word of God which follows, containing as it does the announcement, that if any land should sin so grievously against God by its apostasy, He would be driven to inflict upon it the punishments threatened by Moses against apostate Israel (Leviticus 26:22, Leviticus 26:25-26, and elsewhere), namely, to destroy both man and beast, and make the land a desert; it would be of no advantage to such a land to have certain righteous men, such as Noah, Daniel, and Job, living therein. For although these righteous men would be saved themselves, their righteousness could not possibly secure salvation for the sinners. The manner in which this thought is carried out in Ezekiel 14:13-20 is, that four exterminating punishments are successively supposed to come upon the land and lay it waste; and in the case of every one, the words are repeated, that even righteous men, such as Noah, Daniel, and Job, would only save their own souls, and not one of the sinners. And thus, according to Ezekiel 14:21-23, will the Lord act when He sends His judgments against Jerusalem; and He will execute them in such a manner that the necessity and righteousness of His acts shall be made manifest therein. - This word of God forms a supplementary side-piece to Jeremiah 15:1 -43, where the Lord replies to the intercession of the prophet, that even the intercession of a Moses and a Samuel on behalf of the people would not avert the judgments which were suspended over them.

Ezekiel 14:12-20

Ezekiel 14:12. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 14:13. Son of man, if a land sin against me to act treacherously, and I stretch out my hand against it, and break in pieces for it the support of bread, and send famine into it, and cut off from it man and beast: Ezekiel 14:14. And there should be these three men therein, Noah, Daniel, and Job, they would through their righteousness deliver their soul, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 14:15. If I bring evil beasts into the land, so that they make it childless, and it become a desert, so that no one passeth through it because of the beasts: Ezekiel 14:16. These three men therein, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would not deliver sons and daughters; they only would be delivered, but the land would become a desert. Ezekiel 14:17. Or I bring the sword into that land, and say, Let the sword go through the land; and I cut off from it man and beast: Ezekiel 14:18. These three men therein, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would not deliver sons and daughters, but they only would be delivered. Ezekiel 14:19. Or I send pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: Ezekiel 14:20. Verily, Noah, Daniel, and Job, in the midst of it, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would only deliver their own soul through their righteousness. - ארץ in Ezekiel 14:13 is intentionally left indefinite, that the thought may be expressed in the most general manner. On the other hand, the sin is very plainly defined as למעל־מעל. מעל, literally, to cover, signifies to act in a secret or treacherous manner, especially towards Jehovah, either by apostasy from Him, in other words, by idolatry, or by withholding what is due to Him (see comm. on Leviticus 5:15). In the passage before us it is the treachery of apostasy from Him by idolatry that is intended. As the epithet used to denote the sin is taken from Leviticus 26:40 and Deuteronomy 32:51, so the four punishments mentioned in the following verses, as well as in Ezekiel 5:17, are also taken from Leviticus 26, - viz. the breaking up of the staff of bread, from v. 26; the evil beasts, from Ezekiel 14:22; and the sword and pestilence, from v. 25. The three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, are named as examples of true righteousness of life, or צדקה (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20); i.e., according to Calvin's correct explanation, quicquid pertinet ad regulam sancte et juste vivendi. Noah is so described in Genesis 6:9; and Job, in the Book of Job 1:1; Job 12:4, etc.; and Daniel, in like manner, is mentioned in Daniel 1:8., Ezekiel 6:11., as faithfully confessing his faith in his life. The fact that Daniel is named before Job does not warrant the conjecture that some other older Daniel is meant, of whom nothing is said in the history, and whose existence is merely postulated. For the enumeration is not intended to be chronological, but is arranged according to the subject-matter; the order being determined by the nature of the deliverance experienced by these men for their righteousness in the midst of great judgments. Consequently, as Hvernick and Kliefoth have shown, we have a climax here: Noah saved his family along with himself; Daniel was able to save his friends (Daniel 2:17-18); but Job, with his righteousness, was not even able to save his children. - The second judgment (Ezekiel 14:15) is introduced with לוּ, which, as a rule, supposes a case that is not expected to occur, or even regarded as possible; here, however, לוּ is used as perfectly synonymous with אם. שׁכּלתה has no Mappik, because the tone is drawn back upon the penultima (see comm. on Amos 1:11). In Ezekiel 14:19, the expression "to pour out my wrath in blood" is a pregnant one, for to pour out my wrath in such a manner that it is manifested in the shedding of blood or the destruction of life, for the life is in the blood. In this sense pestilence and blood were also associated in Ezekiel 5:17.

If we look closely at the four cases enumerated, we find the following difference in the statements concerning the deliverance of the righteous: that, in the first instance, it is simply stated that Noah, Daniel, and Job would save their soul, i.e., their life, by their righteousness; whereas, in the three others, it is declared that as truly as the Lord liveth they would not save either sons or daughters, but they alone would be delivered. The difference is not merely a rhetorical climax or progress in the address by means of asseveration and antithesis, but indicates a distinction in the thought. The first case is only intended to teach that in the approaching judgment the righteous would save their lives, i.e., that God would not sweep away the righteous with the ungodly. The three cases which follow are intended, on the other hand, to exemplify the truth that the righteousness of the righteous will be of no avail to the idolaters and apostates; since even such patterns of righteousness as Noah, Daniel, and Job would only save their own lives, and would not be able to save the lives of others also. This tallies with the omission of the asseveration in Ezekiel 14:14. The first declaration, that God would deliver the righteous in the coming judgments, needed no asseveration, inasmuch as this truth was not called in question; but it was required in the case of the declaration that the righteousness of the righteous would bring no deliverance to the sinful nation, since this was the hope which the ungodly cherished, and it was this hope which was to be taken from them. The other differences which we find in the description given of the several cases are merely formal in their nature, and do not in any way affect the sense; e.g., the use of לא, in Ezekiel 14:18, instead of the particle אם, which is commonly employed in oaths, and which we find in Ezekiel 14:16 and Ezekiel 14:20; the choice of the singular been בּן and בּת, in Ezekiel 14:20, in the place of the plural בּנים וּבנות, used in Ezekiel 14:16 and Ezekiel 14:18; and the variation in the expressions, ינצּלוּ נפשׁם (Ezekiel 14:14), יצּילוּ נפשׁם (Ezekiel 14:20), and המּה לבדּם ינּצלוּ (Ezekiel 14:16 and Ezekiel 14:18), which Hitzig proposes to remove by altering the first two forms into the third, though without the slightest reason. For although the Piel occurs in Exodus 12:36 in the sense of taking away or spoiling, and is not met with anywhere else in the sense of delivering, it may just as well be used in this sense, as the Hiphil has both significations.

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