Ezekiel 20:11
And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.
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(11) He shall even live in them.—Comp. Deuteronomy 30:15-20. It becomes plain, on a careful perusal of this passage, that what was required was not a mere outward, technical, and perfunctory keeping of certain definite precepts, but a living and loving obedience to God’s will from the heart. The same fundamental principle of life underlies the Old Testament as the New; yet the former is justly regarded, and frequently spoken of in the New Testament, as a covenant of works, because the people were not yet sufficiently educated spiritually to be able to receive the principle of faith, and were therefore placed under a law of many definite precepts, that by keeping these with glad alacrity they might show their readiness and desire to do the Lord’s will. It is in this sense that a man should live by doing the statutes of the law, and not on the ground of his thereby earning for himself salvation. But even thus, they failed miserably under the test.

20:10-26. The history of Israel in the wilderness is referred to in the new Testament as well as in the Old, for warning. God did great things for them. He gave them the law, and revived the ancient keeping of the sabbath day. Sabbaths are privileges; they are signs of our being his people. If we do the duty of the day, we shall find, to our comfort, it is the Lord that makes us holy, that is, truly happy, here; and prepares us to be happy, that is, perfectly holy, hereafter. The Israelites rebelled, and were left to the judgments they brought upon themselves. God sometimes makes sin to be its own punishment, yet he is not the Author of sin: there needs no more to make men miserable, than to give them up to their own evil desires and passions.The "statutes" were given on Mount Sinai, and repeated by Moses before his death (Exodus 20:1 ff; Deuteronomy 4:8).

In them - Or, through them: and in Ezekiel 20:13.

11. which if a man do, he shall … five in them—not "by them," as though they could justify a man, seeing that man cannot render the faultless obedience required (Le 18:5; Ga 3:12). "By them" is the expression indeed in Ro 10:5; but there the design is to show that, if man could obey all God's laws, he would be justified "by them" (Ga 3:21); but he cannot; he therefore needs to have justification by "the Lord our righteousness" (Jer 23:6); then, having thus received life, he "lives," that is, maintains, enjoys, and exercises this life only in so far as he walks "in" the laws of God. So De 30:15, 16. The Israelites, as a nation, had life already freely given to them by God's covenant of promise; the laws of God were designed to be the means of the outward expression of their spiritual life. As the natural life has its healthy manifestation in the full exercise of its powers, so their spiritual being as a nation was to be developed in vigor, or else decay, according as they did, or did not, walk in God's laws. I, who spared them in Egypt, had brought them forth, and owned them as the children of Abraham my friend: God gave his law by Moses, and now Israel’s laws are really of Divine origin, when others did but pretend it. Gave them; appointed and commanded by my authority, and communicated out of my love and kindness to them.

My statutes; the law on Mount Sinai, containing their duty.

Showed them; plainly declared, spake so that they might know.

My judgments; not the terrible executions of his wrath, but judgments here are the rules that God gave them to walk by.

If a man do; if any one, without partiality, whosoever should keep these statutes and judgments with God is no respect of persons.

He shall live: not that any ever did or could by sinless keeping the law attain the eternal blessedness; grace gives that; but it surely points out a future prosperity and flourishing state in this life to all that are careful to keep these statutes and judgments as they can; such should not be cut off, nor brought into captivity, but live and rejoice in their own land.

In them; both in the fruit of them already obeyed, and in the continuance to do them for the future. And I gave them my statutes,.... The precepts of his law, the law on Mount Sinai, of which there were not the like among other nations; nor were they given unto them, but were a special gift unto Israel, and greatly to be valued, Deuteronomy 4:8;

and showed them judgments: the nature, use, and excellency of the the necessity and advantage of observing them: the same as before, called "statutes", because appointed, fixed, and certain, being of inviolable and lasting obligation; and "judgments", being according to strict justice and equity: these, though they were originally written on man's heart, yet so obliterated by sin that there was need not only of their being afresh written and published, but of their being taught and made known; or of pointing out the use of them, and obligation to them:

which if a man do, he shall live in them; or "by them" (g); in the land of Canaan, enjoying all the blessings of a long and happy life: reference seems to be had to Leviticus 18:5. The Targum adds,

"in eternal life;''

but eternal life is not to be obtained by the works of the law, since no man can perfectly obey or fulfil it, but is the pure gift of the grace of God.

(g) "per ea", Junius & Tremellius, Polanus, Piscator; "propter ea", Pagninus.

And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.
11. gave them … statutes] Reference is to the Sinaitic legislation. The fact of the legislation is, confirmed by the prophet, but his language “statutes and judgments” does not enable us to form an opinion how extensive it was, nor what particulars it embraced besides the law of the sabbath (Ezekiel 20:12), and of course the law that Jehovah was God alone of Israel, because he uses the phrase “statutes and judgments” very generally, for example of the conduct and principles of the people in the wilderness themselves (Ezekiel 20:18).

shall even live in them] Or, shall live by them. Obedience to them will issue in “life,” the word being used in its natural sense, Deuteronomy 4:40, “thou shalt keep his statutes … that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the land,” Deuteronomy 5:16 (fifth commandment). The precepts of Jehovah given to the people were such that obedience to them would ensure prosperity and life, while disobedience would cause calamity and death, and this not only in the mere government of them by their God, but because the statutes were in themselves “good,” cf. Ezekiel 20:25; Amos 5:14; Hosea 8:3; Micah 3:2; Micah 6:8.

11–17. The people delivered from Egypt and brought into the wilderness. There also Jehovah wrought for his name’s sake.Verse 11. - I gave them my statutes, etc. Ezekiel recognizes, almost in the very language of Deuteronomy 30:16-20, as fully as the writers of Psalm 19. and 119. recognized, the excellence of the Law. A man who kept that Law in its fulness would have life in its fullest and highest sense. He was beginning, however, to recognize, as Jeremiah had (lone (Jeremiah 31:31), the powerlessness of the Law to give that life without the aid of something higher. The "new covenant" was already dawning on the mind of the scholar as on that of the master. Destruction of the Kingdom, and Banishment of the People

Ezekiel 19:10. Thy mother was like a vine, planted by the water in thy repose; it became a fruitful and rich in tendrils from many waters. Ezekiel 19:11. And it had strong shoots for rulers' sceptres; and its growth ascended among the clouds, and was visible in its height in the multitude of its branches. Ezekiel 19:12. Then it was torn up in fury, cast to the ground, and the east wind dried up its fruit; its strong shoots were broken off, and withered; fire devoured them. Ezekiel 19:13. And now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. Ezekiel 19:14. There goeth out fire from the shoot of its branches, devoureth its fruit, so that there is no more a strong shoot upon it, a sceptre for ruling. - A lamentation it is, and it will be for lamentation. - From the lamentable fate of the princes transported to Egypt and Babylon, the ode passes to a description of the fate, which the lion-like rapacity of the princes is preparing for the kingdom and people. Israel resembled a vine planted by the water. The difficult word בּדמך we agree with Hvernick and Kliefoth in tracing to the verb דּמה, to rest (Jeremiah 14:17), and regard it as synonymous with בּדמי in Isaiah 38:10 : "in thy repose," i.e., in the time of peaceful, undisturbed prosperity. For neither of the other renderings, "in thy blood" and "in thy likeness," yields a suitable meaning. The latter explanation, which originated with Raschi and Kimchi, is precluded by the fact that Ezekiel always uses the word דּמוּת to express the idea of resemblance. - For the figure of the vine, compare Psalm 80:9. This vine sent out strong shoots for rulers' sceptres; that is to say, it brought forth powerful kings, and grew up to a great height, even into the clouds. עבתים signifies "cloud," lit., thicket of clouds, not only here, but in Ezekiel 31:3, Ezekiel 31:10,Ezekiel 31:14. The rendering "branches" or "thicket of foliage" is not suitable in any of these passages. The form of the word is not to be taken as that of a new plural of עבות, the plural of עב, which occurs in 2 Samuel 23:4 and Psalm 77:18; but is the plural of עבות, an interlacing or thicket of foliage, and is simply transferred to the interlacing or piling up of the clouds. The clause 'ויּרא וגו, and it appeared, was seen, or became visible, simply serves to depict still further the glorious and vigorous growth, and needs no such alteration as Hitzig proposes. This picture is followed in Ezekiel 19:12., without any particle of transition, by a description of the destruction of this vine. It was torn up in fury by the wrath of God, cast down to the ground, so that its fruit withered (compare the similar figures in Ezekiel 17:10). מטּה עזּהּ is used collectively, as equivalent to מטּות עז (Ezekiel 19:11); and the suffix in אכלתהוּ is written in the singular on account of this collective use of מטּה. The uprooting ends in the transplanting of the vine into a waste, dry, unwatered land, - in other words, in the transplanting of the people, Israel, into exile. The dry land is Babylon, so described as being a barren soil in which the kingdom of God could not flourish. According to Ezekiel 19:14, this catastrophe is occasioned by the princes. The fire, which devours the fruit of the vine so that it cannot send out any more branches, emanates ממּטּה בדּיה, from the shoot of its branches, i.e., from its branches, which are so prolific in shoots. מטּה is the shoot which grew into rulers' sceptres, i.e., the royal family of the nation. The reference is to Zedekiah, whose treacherous breach of covenant (Ezekiel 17:15) led to the overthrow of the kingdom and of the earthly monarchy. The picture from Ezekiel 19:12 onwards is prophetic. The tearing up of the vine, and its transplantation into a dry land, had already commenced with the carrying away of Jeconiah; but it was not completed till the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of Zedekiah, which were still in the future at the time when these words were uttered. - The clause 'קינה היא does not contain a concluding historical notice, as Hהvernick supposes, but simply the finale of the lamentation, indicating the credibility of the prediction which it contains. ותּהי is prophetic, like the perfects from ותּתּשׁ in Ezekiel 19:12 onwards; and the meaning is this: A lamentation forms the substance of the whole chapter; and it will lead to lamentation, when it is fulfilled.

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