Ezekiel 20:1
And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me.
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(1) Came to enquire.—It does not appear that the elders actually proposed their enquiry. It doubtless had relation not to personal affairs, but to the welfare of the nation, and in this prophecy the Lord meets their unspoken question.

Ezekiel 20:1-3. It came to pass in the seventh year, &c. — Namely, of Jehoiakim’s captivity. All the prophecies recorded from the eighth chapter to this, probably belong to the sixth year of that captivity. Certain of the elders came to inquire, &c. — Came to me, as the prophet of God, to inquire what would be the event of their affairs; when they might expect deliverance from their calamities, and by what means. I will not be inquired of by you — I will give you no information concerning the things about which you come to inquire: or, you shall not receive such an answer as you expect, but such as your hypocrisy deserves.

20:1-9. Those hearts are wretchedly hardened which ask God leave to go on in sin, and that even when suffering for it; see ver.The elders of Israel - These were as in Ezekiel 14:1, some of Ezekiel's fellow-exiles, designated in general terms by the name of Israel, though more properly belonging to the kingdom of Judah. CHAPTER 20

Eze 20:1-49. Rejection of the Elders' Application to the Prophet: Exposure of Israel's Protracted Rebellions, notwithstanding God's Long-suffering Goodness: Yet Will God Restore His People at Last.

1. seventh year, &c.—namely, from the carrying away of Jeconiah (Eze 1:2; 8:1). This computation was calculated to make them cherish the more ardently the hope of the restoration promised them in seventy years; for, when prospects are hopeless, years are not computed [Calvin].

elders … came to inquire—The object of their inquiry, as in Eze 14:1, is not stated; probably it was to ascertain the cause of the national calamities and the time of their termination, as their false prophets assured them of a speedy restoration.God refuseth to be consulted by the elders of Israel, Ezekiel 20:1-3. He rehearseth the rebellions of their ancestors in Egypt, Ezekiel 20:4-9; in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20:10-26; and in the Promised Land, Ezekiel 20:27-29. He reproacheth the present generation with the like corrupt manners, Ezekiel 20:30-32. He threateneth to rule over them with rigour, but with promise to gather them, to purge out the rebels, and accept the services of the faithful in his church, Ezekiel 20:33-44. The destruction of Jerusalem prophesied under the name of a forest, Ezekiel 20:45-49.

The seventh year of Jeconiah’s captivity and Zedekiah’s reign, two years and five months before Nebuchadnezzar did besiege Jerusalem.

The fifth month; August.

The tenth day; which answers to cur twenty-seventh.

Certain, Heb. men. Some of note among the elders and rulers of Israel. Either some of the captives in Babylon, as most likely they were who, Ezekiel 8:1, came to him, or some of those who were sent from Zedekiah to compliment or carry tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, as most likely they were, Ezekiel 14:1.

Of the elders; not of the priests or Levites, but of the laity, civil magistrates and officers, who might be sent to view the state of Babylon, and to observe what posture things were in, the better to resolve on that Zedekiah and his councils were forming, whether it will be advisable to shake off the yoke of the king of Babylon by a rebellion, or patiently bear it: and I conjecture this might be the main inquiry they made now, which was two years and five months before the siege began, during which two years and five months I suppose the design was resolved on, framed, provision made of all sorts, and at last a rebellion raised.

Came to inquire of the Lord; yet resolved beforehand what they would do, as will appear. Prophets neither did pretend to, nor could they, resolve such inquiries, but the Lord whom the prophets did consult.

Sat before me: whether it speak the quality of the persons, that did not stand as mean persons, or their resolution to wait for answer, or be a phrase proper with the Jews to express the common deportment of the country, I leave you to guess.

And it came to pass in the seventh year,.... Of Zedekiah's reign, and of the captivity of Jeconiah; from whence the dates of Ezekiel's visions and prophecies are taken, Ezekiel 1:2; two years, one month, and five days, after Ezekiel began to prophesy, and eleven months and five days after the preceding prophecy:

in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month; the month Ab, which answers to our July and August; on this day afterwards Jerusalem was twice destroyed, first by the Chaldeans, and then by the Romans:

that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord; by the prophet; these were either some of the elders that were carried captive, who came to inquire how long they should continue in this state; or what methods they should use to free themselves from it; or what they should do while they were in it; whether it would be advisable that they should conform to the customs of the Heathens among whom they were; or what would be the case of those that were left in Judea: or else these were sent by Zedekiah to pay the king of Babylon his tax, or to negotiate some affair with him relating to the captives; and who took this opportunity of consulting the Lord by the prophet what methods should be taken to throw off the yoke, and to know what was the mind of God in it; but these things are uncertain, as are also the persons the inquirers; though the Jews say (e) they were Ananias, Azarias, and Misael; which is not probable, since they were good men, whereas these seem to be hypocritical persons:

and sat before me; with great seriousness and devotion seemingly, waiting for an answer.

(e) Seder Olam Rabba apud Abarbinel in loc.

And it came to pass in the {a} seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

(a) Of the captivity of Jeconiah.

1–4. Introductory. Certain elders came to the prophet to enquire of the Lord, in the seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin and tenth day of the fifth month—Aug. 590 b.c., four years before Jerusalem fell.

Verse 1. - A new date is given, and includes what follows to Ezekiel 23:49. The last note of time was in Ezekiel 8:1, and eleven months and five days had passed, during which the prophecies of the intervening chapters had been written or spoken. We may note further that it was two years one month and five days after the prophet's call to his work (ch. 1.), and two years and five months before the Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem (Ezekiel 24:1). The immediate occasion here, as in Ezekiel 8:1, was that some of the elders of Israel bad come to the prophet to inquire what message of the Lord he had to give them in the present crisis. Whether any stress is to be laid on the fact that here the elders are said to be "of Israel," and in Ezekiel 8:1 "of Judah," is doubtful (see note on Ezekiel 14:1). Ezekiel seems to use the two words as interchangeable. Here, however, it is stated more definitely that they came to inquire, probably in the hope that he would tell them, as other prophets were doing, that the time of their deliverance, and of that of Jerusalem, was at hand. Passing into the prophetic state, Ezekiel delivers the discourse that follows. Ezekiel 20:1The date given in Ezekiel 20:1 applies not only to Ezekiel 20, but also to Ezekiel 20-23 (compare Ezekiel 24:1); the prophetic utterances in these four chapters being bound together into a group of connected words of God, both by their contents and by the threefold repetition of the expression, "wilt thou judge?" (vid., Ezekiel 20:4; Ezekiel 22:2, and Ezekiel 23:36). The formula התשׁפּוט, which is only omitted from the threat of punishment contained in Ezekiel 21, indicates at the same time both the nature and design of these words of God. The prophet is to judge, i.e., to hold up before the people once more their sinful abominations, and to predict the consequent punishment. The circumstance which occasioned this is narrated in Ezekiel 20:1-3. Men of the elders of Israel came to the prophet to inquire of the Lord. The occasion is therefore a similar one to that described in the previous group; for we have already been informed, in Ezekiel 14:1, that elders had come to the prophet to hear God's word from him; but they had not gone so far as to inquire. Here, however (Ezekiel 20), they evidently address a question to the prophet, and through him to the Lord; though the nature of their inquiry is not given, and can only be gathered from the answer, which was given to them by the Lord through the prophet. The ground for the following words of God is therefore essentially the same as for those contained in Ezekiel 14-19; and this serves to explain the relation in which the two groups stand to each other, namely, that Ezekiel 20-24 simply contain a further expansion of the reproachful and threatening addresses of Ezekiel 14-19.

In Ezekiel 20 the prophet points out to the elders, in the form of a historical survey, how rebellious Israel had been towards the Lord from the very first, even in Egypt (Ezekiel 20:5-9) and the desert (Ezekiel 20:10-17 and Ezekiel 20:18-26), both the older and the later generations, how they had sinned against the Lord their God through their idolatry, and how it was only for His own name's sake that the Lord had not destroyed them in His anger (Ezekiel 20:27-31). And as Israel hath not given up idolatry even in Canaan, the Lord would not suffer Himself to be inquired of by the idolatrous generation, but would refine it by severe judgments among the nations (Ezekiel 20:32-38), and sanctify it thereby into a people well-pleasing to Him, and would then gather it again out of the dispersion, and bring it into the land promised to the fathers, where it would serve Him with sacrifices and gifts upon His holy mountain (Ezekiel 20:39-44). This word of God is therefore a more literal repetition of the allegorical description contained in Ezekiel 16.

Date, occasion, and theme of the discourse which follows. - Ezekiel 20:1. And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth (moon), on the tenth of the moon, there came men of the elders of Israel, to inquire of Jehovah, and sat down before me. Ezekiel 20:2. Then the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 20:3. Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Have ye come to inquire of me? As I live, if I suffer myself to be inquired of by you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 20:4. Wilt thou judge them? Wilt thou judge, O son of man? Make known the abominations of their fathers to them. - If we compare the date given in Ezekiel 20:1 with Ezekiel 8:1, we shall find that this word of God was uttered only eleven months and five days after the one in Ezekiel 8; two years, one month, and five days after the call of Ezekiel to be a prophet (Ezekiel 1:2); and two years and five months before the blockading of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Ezekiel 24:1). Consequently it falls almost in the middle of the first section of Ezekiel's prophetic work. דּרשׁ את , to seek Jehovah, i.e., to ask a revelation from Him. The Lord's answer in Ezekiel 20:3 is similar to that in Ezekiel 14:3. Instead of giving a revelation concerning the future, especially with regard to the speedy termination of the penal sufferings, which the elders had, no doubt, come to solicit, the prophet is to judge them, i.e., as the following clause explains, not only in the passage before us, but also in Ezekiel 22:3 and Ezekiel 23:36, to hold up before them the sins and abominations of Israel. It is in anticipation of the following picture of the apostasy of the nation from time immemorial that the sins of the fathers are mentioned here. "No reply is given to the sinners, but chiding for their sins; and He adds the oath, 'as I live,' that the sentence of refusal may be all the stronger" (Jerome). The question התשׁפּוט, which is repeated with emotion, "gives expression to an impatient wish, that the thing could have been done already" (Hitzig). The interrogative form of address is therefore adopted simply as a more earnest mode of giving expression to the command to go and do the thing. Hence the literal explanation of the word התשׁפּוט is also appended in the form of an imperative (הודיעם). - The prophet is to revert to the sins of the fathers, not merely for the purpose of exhibiting the magnitude of the people's guilt, but also to hold up before the sinners themselves, the patience and long-suffering which have hitherto been displayed by the Lord.

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