Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury on them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The children rebelled.—The history of the wanderings in the wilderness, given in Exodus and Numbers, offers abundant illustrations of the truth of this and the following verse.Ezekiel 20:13, where see it explained. Numbers 25:3;
they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them; they did as their fathers before them; though they saw with their eyes the judgments of God upon them, yet this did not deter them from following their evil ways:
which if a man do, he shall even live in them; See Gill on Ezekiel 20:13;
they polluted my sabbaths; just as their fathers had done, taking no warning by them, and what befell them:
then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish mine anger against them in the wilderness; twenty and four thousand died on account of the idolatry of Baalpeor, Numbers 25:9.Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. polluted my sabbaths] profaned.Ezekiel 20:5. And say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the day that I chose Israel, and lifted my hand to the seed of Jacob, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, and lifted my hand to them, saying, I am Jehovah, your God: Ezekiel 20:6. In that day I lifted my hand to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into the land which I sought out for them, which floweth with milk and honey - it is an ornament of all lands: Ezekiel 20:7. And said to them, Cast away every man the abominations of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am Jehovah, your God. Ezekiel 20:8. But they were rebellious against me, and would not hearken to me. Not one of them threw away the abominations of his eyes, and they did not forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them, to accomplish my anger upon them in the midst of the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:9. But I did it for my name's sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, in the midst of which they were, before whose eyes I had made myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. - Ezekiel 20:5 and Ezekiel 20:6 form one period. בּיּום בּחרי (Ezekiel 20:5) is resumed in בּיּום ההוּא (Ezekiel 20:6), and the sentence continued. With ואשּׂא the construction with the infinitive passes over into the finite verb. Lifting the hand, sc. to heaven, is a gesture employed in taking an oath (see the comm. on Exodus 6:8). The substance of the oath is introduced by the word לאמר at the close of Ezekiel 20:5; but the clause 'ואוּדע וגו (and made myself known) is previously inserted, and then the lifting of the hand mentioned again to indicate the importance of this act of divine grace. The contents of Ezekiel 20:5 and Ezekiel 20:6 rest upon Exodus 6:2., where the Lord makes Himself known to Moses, and through him to the children of Israel, according to the nature involved in the name Jehovah, in which He had not yet revealed Himself to the patriarchs (Exodus 6:3). Both נשׂאתי ידי (I lifted my hand) and אני יהוה are taken from Exodus 6:8. The word תּרתּי, from תּוּר, to seek out, explore, also belongs to the Pentateuch (compare Deuteronomy 1:33); and the same may be said of the description given of Canaan as "a land flowing with milk and honey" (vid., Exodus 3:8, etc.). But צבי, ornament, as an epithet applied to the land of Israel, is first employed by the prophets of the time of the captivity - namely, in Ezekiel 20:6 and Ezekiel 20:15 of this chapter, in Jeremiah 3:19, and in Daniel 8:9; Daniel 11:16, Daniel 11:41. The election of the Israelites to be the people of Jehovah, contained eo ipso the command to give up the idols of Egypt, although it was at Sinai that the worship of other gods was for the first time expressly prohibited (Exodus 20:3), and Egyptian idolatry is only mentioned in Leviticus 17:7 (cf. Joshua 24:14). Ezekiel calls the idols "abominations of their eyes," because, "although they were abominable and execrable things, they were looked upon with delight by them" (Rosenmller). It is true that there is nothing expressly stated in the Pentateuch as to the refusal of the Israelites to obey the command of God, or their unwillingness to give up idolatry in Egypt; but it may be inferred from the statements contained in Exodus 6:9 and Exodus 6:12, to the effect that the Israelites did not hearken to Moses when he communicated to them the determination of God to lead them out of Egypt, and still more plainly from their relapse into Egyptian idolatry, from the worship of the golden calf at Sinai (Exodus 32), and from their repeated desire to return to Egypt while wandering in the desert.
(Note: The remarks of Calvin upon this point are very good. "We do not learn directly from Moses," he says, "that they had been rebels against God, because they would not throw away their idols and superstitions; but the conjecture is a very probable one, that they had always been so firmly fixed in their abominations as to prevent in a certain way the hand of God from bringing them relief. And assuredly, if they had embraced what Moses promised them in the name of God with promptness of mind, the execution of the promise would have been more prompt and swift. But we may learn that it was their own obtuseness which hindered God from stretching out His hand forthwith and actually fulfilling all that He had promised. It was necessary, indeed, that God should contend with Pharaoh, that His power might be more conspicuously displayed; but the people would not have been so tyrannically afflicted if they had not closed the door of divine mercy.")
Nor is there anything said in the Pentateuch concerning the determination of God to pour out His wrath upon the idolatrous people in Egypt. We need not indeed assume on this account that Ezekiel derived his information from some special traditional source, as Vitringa has done ObservV. ss. I. 263), or regard the statement as a revelation made by God to Ezekiel, and through him to us. The words do not disclose to us either a particular fact or a definite decree of God; they simply contain a description of the attitude which God, from His inmost nature, assumes towards sinners who rebel against His holy commandments, and which He displayed both in the declaration made concerning Himself as a zealous, or jealous God, who visits iniquities (Exodus 20:5), and also in the words addressed to Moses when the people fell into idolatry at Sinai, "Let me alone, that my wrath may wax not against them, and that I may consume them" (Exodus 32:10). All that God expresses here, His heart must have felt in Egypt towards the people who would not desist from idolatry. For the words themselves, compare Ezekiel 7:8; Ezekiel 6:12; Ezekiel 5:13. ואעשׂ (Ezekiel 20:9), "but I did it for my name's sake." The missing object explaining what He did, namely, abstain from pouring out His wrath, is to be gathered from what follows: "that I might not profane my name." This would have taken place if God had destroyed Israel by pouring out His wrath; in other words, have allowed them to be destroyed by the Egyptians. The heathen might then have said that Jehovah had been unable to liberate His people from their hand and power (cf. Numbers 14:16 and Exodus 32:12). החל is an infin. Niphal of חלל for החל (cf. Leviticus 21:4).
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