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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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. Capture and Exile of the Princes

Ezekiel 19:1. And do thou raise a lamentation for the princes of Israel, Ezekiel 19:2. And say, Why did thy mother, a lioness, lie down among lionesses; bring up her whelps among young lions? Ezekiel 19:3. And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and he learned to take prey; he devoured man. Ezekiel 19:4. And nations heard of him; he was caught in their pit, and they brought him with nose-rings into the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 19:5. And when she saw that her hope was exhausted, overthrown, she took one of her whelps, made it a young lion. Ezekiel 19:6. And he walked among lionesses, he became a young lion, and learned to take prey. He devoured man. Ezekiel 19:7. He knew its widows, and laid waste their cities; and the land and its fulness became waste, at the voice of his roaring. Ezekiel 19:8. Then nations round about from the provinces set up against him, and spread over him their net: he was caught in their pit. Ezekiel 19:9. And they put him in the cage with nose-rings, and brought him to the king of Babylon: brought him into a fortress, that his voice might not be heard any more on the mountains of Israel.

The princes of Israel, to whom the lamentation applies, are the king (נשׂיא, as in Ezekiel 12:10), two of whom are so clearly pointed out in Ezekiel 19:4 and Ezekiel 19:9, that there is no mistaking Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin. This fact alone is sufficient to protect the plural נשׂיאי against the arbitrary alteration into the singular נשׂיא, proposed by Houbigant and Hitzig, after the reading of the lxx. The lamentation is not addressed to one particular prince, either Zedekiah (Hitzig) or Jehoiachin (Ros., Maurer), but to Israel as a nation; and the mother (Ezekiel 19:2) is the national community, the theocracy, out of which the kings were born, as is indisputably evident from Ezekiel 19:10. The words from מה to רבצה form one sentence. It yields no good sense to separate מה אמּך from רבצה, whether we adopt the rendering, "what is thy mother?" or take מה with לביּא and render it, "how is thy mother a lioness?" unless, indeed, we supply the arbitrary clause "now, in comparison with what she was before," or change the interrogative into a preterite: "how has thy mother become a lioness?" The lionesses, among which Israel lay down, are the other kingdoms, the Gentile nations. The words have no connection with Genesis 49:9, where Judah is depicted as a warlike lion. The figure is a different one here. It is not so much the strength and courage of the lion as its wildness and ferocity that are the points of resemblance in the passage before us. The mother brings up her young ones among young lions, so that they learn to take prey and devour men. גּוּר is the lion's whelp, catulus; כּפיר, the young lion, which is old enough to go out in search of prey. ותּעל is a Hiphil, in the tropical sense, to cause to spring up, or grow up, i.e., to bring up. The thought is the following: Why has Israel entered into fellowship with the heathen nations? Why, then, has it put itself upon a level with the heathen nations, and adopted the rapacious and tyrannical nature of the powers of the world? The question "why then?" when taken with what follows, involves the reproof that Israel has struck out a course opposed to its divine calling, and will now have to taste the bitter fruits of this assumption of heathen ways. The heathen nations have taken captive its king, and led him away into heathen lands. ישׁמעוּ אליו, they heard of him (אליו for עליו). The fate of Jehoahaz, to which Ezekiel 19:4 refers, is related in 2 Kings 23:31. - Ezekiel 19:5-7 refer to Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, and not to Zedekiah, as Hitzig imagines. For the fact that Jehoiachin went out of his own accord to the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:12), is not at variance with the figure contained in Ezekiel 19:8, according to which he was taken (as a lion) in a net. He simply gave himself up to the king of Babylon because he was unable to escape from the besieged city. Moreover, Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are simply mentioned as examples, because they both fell into the hands of the world-powers, and their fate showed clearly enough "what the end must inevitably be, when Israelitish kings became ambitious of being lions, like the kings of the nations of the world" (Kliefoth). Jehoiakim was not so suitable an example as the others, because he died in Jerusalem. נוחלה, which has been explained in different ways, we agree with Ewald in regarding as the Niphal of יחל equals חוּל, in the sense of feeling vexed, being exhausted or deceived, like the Syriac ̀ewaḥel, viribus defecit, desperavit. For even in Genesis 8:12, נוחל simply means to wait; and this is inapplicable here, as waiting is not equivalent to waiting in vain. The change from חוּל to יחל is established by Judges 3:25, where חוּל or חיל occurs in the sense of יחל. In Judges 3:7, the figurative language passes into a literal description of the ungodly course pursued by the king. He knew, i.e., dishonoured, its (Israel's, the nation's) widows. The Targum reads וירע here instead of וידע, and renders it accordingly, "he destroyed its palaces;" and Ewald has adopted the same rendering. But רעע, to break, or smash in pieces, e.g., a vessel (Psalm 2:9), is never used for the destruction of buildings; and אלמנות does not mean palaces (ארמנות), but windows. There is nothing in the use of the word in Isaiah 13:22 to support the meaning "palaces," because the palaces are simply called ̀almânōth (widows) there, with a sarcastic side glance at their desolate and widowed condition. Other conjectures are still more inadmissible. The thought is as follows: Jehoiachin went much further than Jehoahaz. He not only devoured men, but laid hands on defenceless widows, and laid the cities waste to such an extent that the land with its inhabitants became perfectly desolate through his rapacity. The description is no doubt equally applicable to his father Jehoiakim, in whose footsteps Jehoiachin walked, since Jehoiakim is described in Jeremiah 22:13. as a grievous despot and tyrant. In Ezekiel 19:8 the object רשׁתּם also belongs to יתּנוּ: they set up and spread out their net. The plural מצדות is used in a general and indefinite manner: in lofty castles, mountain-fortresses, i.e., in one of them (cf. Judges 12:7).

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