Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devours both the ends of it, and the middle of it is burned. Is it meet for any work?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
both the ends—the north kingdom having been already overturned by Assyria under Tiglath-pileser; the south being pressed on by Egypt (2Ki 23:29-35).
midst of it is burned—rather, "is on flame"; namely, Jerusalem, which had now caught the flame by the attack of Nebuchadnezzar.
Is it meet for any work—"it," that is, the scorched part still remaining.John 15:6; and this, it is suggested, would be the end of the Jewish nation; who were become by their sins like a wild vine, and were fit fuel for the fire of divine wrath:
the fire devoureth both the ends of it; the branch cast into it, and so is quickly consumed. Kimchi explains this by Isaiah 9:12; "the Syrians before, and the Philistines behind, and they devour Israel with open mouth"; and Abendana of the ten tribes; but it seems only to design how soon the fire takes it; and how inevitable the consumption is when it is fired at both ends:
and the midst of it is burnt: presently; it being dried, and reduced to a brand by the heat of the fire at both ends: this Kimchi interprets of the city of Jerusalem, which was in the midst of the land:Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. A hypothetical sentence: Behold, when it hath been cast into the fire for fuel, when the fire hath devoured both the ends of it, and the midst of it is charred, will it be meet for any work? This part of the similitude is borrowed from the actual instance of Israel. As it is Jerusalem, including Judah, that is compared to the vine, the burning of the ends and scorching of the middle probably refers to the calamities sustained by that kingdom, such as the captivity under Jehoiachin and other severe reverses.
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. 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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