Ezekiel 20:16
Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.My sabbaths they greatly polluted - Not by actual non-observance of the sabbatical rest in the wilderness, but in failing to make the day holy in deed as well as in name by earnest worship and true heart service.16. The special reason is stated by Moses (Nu 13:32, 33; 14:4) to be that they, through fear arising from the false report of the spies, wished to return to Egypt; the general reasons are stated here which lay at the root of their rejection of God's grace; namely, contempt of God and His laws, and love of idols.

their heart—The fault lay in it (Ps 78:37).

See the whole former part of this verse explained already, Ezekiel 20:13. Their heart went after their idols; their will and affections, their zeal and resolution, were for their idols which they served in Egypt, and which they had brought with them out of Egypt. Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths,.... Which were just causes of divine resentment and anger; See Gill on Ezekiel 20:13;

for their heart went after their idols; which they had served in Egypt; and that led them off from the true worship and service of God; no man can serve two masters; if he holds to the one, and his heart is towards him, he will despise the other; and yet these idols were no other, as the word signifies, than dunghill gods, as in Ezekiel 20:16; and such are all worldly things, in comparison of God, that the heart of man is going after.

Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but profaned my {h} sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.

(h) That is, my true religion, which I had commanded them, and gave themselves to serve me according to their own fantasies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. polluted my sabbaths] profaned.

went after their idols] Exodus 32; Numbers 25; Hosea 9:10. Amos 5:25 cannot be appealed to here.Verse 16. - Their heart went after their idols. The words may point generally to the fact that the idolatrous tendencies of the people, though suppressed, were not really eradicated. The history of Baal-peor (Numbers 25:3-9) shows how ready they were to pass into act, and Amos 5:25, 26 implies a tradition of other like acts during the whole period of the wanderings in the wilderness. The 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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