Ezekiel 20:32
And that which comes into your mind shall not be at all, that you say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(32) As the heathen.—The desire to be “like the nations that are round about,” had long been a ruling ambition with the Israelites, as shown in their original desire for a king (1Samuel 8:5; 1Samuel 8:20), and this desire, as shown in the text, had been one chief reason for their tendency to idolatry.

The second part of this prophecy extends from Ezekiel 20:33 to Ezekiel 20:44, where the chapter closes in the Hebrew, and it would have been better if the same division had been observed in the English, as the fresh prophecy of Ezekiel 20:45-49 is more closely connected with the following chapter. The object of this concluding part of the prophecy is to declare the mingled severity and goodness with which God is about to deal with His people to wean them from their sins, and prepare them to receive His abundant blessing.

20:32. God is justly angry with those who are resolved to go on still in their trespasses. Cause the people to know the evil deeds of their fathers, that they may see how righteous it was with God to cut them off.God's future dealings with His people:

(1) in judgment Ezekiel 20:32-38;

(2) in mercy Ezekiel 20:39-44.

Ezekiel 20:32

The inquirers had thought that if Jerusalem were taken, and the whole people became sojourners in a foreign land, they would cease to be a separate nation. In their love for idolatry some may have even desired this. But more probably they thought that this very consequence precluded the possibility of such a catastrophe. God answers that He will not allow them to become as the pagan, but this will only subject them to severer trial and stricter rule.

32. We will be as the heathen—and so escape the odium to which we are exposed, of having a peculiar God and law of our own. "We shall live on better terms with them by having a similar worship. Besides, we get from God nothing but threats and calamities, whereas the heathen, Chaldeans, &c., get riches and power from their idols." How literally God's words here ("that … shall not be at all") are fulfilled in the modern Jews! Though the Jews seemed so likely (had Ezekiel spoken as an uninspired man) to have blended with the rest of mankind and laid aside their distinctive peculiarities, as was their wish at that time, yet they have remained for eighteen centuries dispersed among all nations and without a home, but still distinct: a standing witness for the truth of the prophecy given so long ago. God by his prophet, to convince and recover them, tells them what they think and have purposed.

Shall not be at all; shall be quite frustrated.

Ye say; you have consulted and come to a resolution herein.

As the heathen; unite in habitation, covenants, marriages, commerce, and religion too; and then ye shall be more safe among them, thrive with them, and all the displeasure they have against you will cease: these are your imaginations and contrivances of you at the court of Zedekiah in Jerusalem. But I tell you that this shall not be at all. This designed apostacy to Gentilism, if you do act it, shall not prosper with you, or help you, ye blind, hardened, senseless atheists. And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all,.... What they had contrived in their own breasts, and laid a plan of, and would gladly have brought about, should be frustrated, take no effect, and come to nothing:

that ye say, we will be as the Heathen; live without God; not be in subjection to him, or under his government, or be called by his name, or attend to his word, worship, and ordinances; but join ourselves to them; enter into alliance, and intermarry with them; carry on trade and commerce with them, and embrace the same religion; and then we shall prosper as they do, as well as no more incur the reproach of singularity or preciseness in religion:

as the families of the countries: being incorporated into them, dwelling with them, and joining with them in the same exercises of religious worship:

to serve wood and stone; images made of wood and stone. Strange! that a people that had a revelation from God, and such an experience of his power and goodness, should ever form such a scheme, or once think of entering into such measures, so grossly absurd and scandalous.

And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the nations, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and {q} stone.

(q) He declares that man by nature is wholly enemy to God, and to his own salvation, and therefore God calls him to the right way, partly by chastising but chiefly by his mercy in forgiving his rebellion and wickedness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
32. The prophet regards the worship on the high-places as Canaanitish heathenism; but probably many of the exiles to whom he spoke were drifting into complete conformity with the nations among whom they were. Their minds were losing hold of their distinctiveness as the people of Jehovah. This practical assimilation to the heathen the prophet represents as a deliberate one, which in many cases it may have been—cf. the answer of the exiles in Egypt to Jeremiah 44:15-19, also Jeremiah 2:25.

to serve wood and stone] The service of the heathen is a service of wood and stone, Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36; Isaiah 37:19. The images were often of wood, plated with some precious metal (Isaiah 40:20; Jeremiah 10:3; Isaiah 30:22), or of stone; often, however, of baser metal overlaid with gold or silver. It is the dead matter in opposition to Jehovah, the living God, that gives point to the antithesis. On “cometh into your mind” cf. Ezekiel 11:5; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Isaiah 10:7.Verse 32. - That which cometh into your mind, etc. The prophet reads tide secret thoughts of the inquirers. If the temple were destroyed, they thought, then the one restraint on the idolatries they loved would be removed. They would be no longer a separate people, and would be free to adopt the cultus of the heathen among whom they lived. If that was not Jehovah's purpose for them, then there must be no destruction of the temple, no dispersion among the nations. They come to Ezekiel to know which of the two alternatives he, as the prophet of Jehovah, has in store, and his answer is that he is bound to nether. They could not abdicate their high position, and would remain under the burden of its responsibilities. Scattered though they might be among the heathen, yet even there the "mighty hand and the stretched-out arm" (we note the phrases as from Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15) would hunt them down, and punish them for their iniquities. The Generation that Grew Up in the Desert

Ezekiel 20:18. And I spake to their sons in the desert, Walk not in the statutes of your fathers, and keep not their rights, and do not defile yourselves with their idols. Ezekiel 20:19. I am Jehovah your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my rights, and do them, Ezekiel 20:20. And sanctify my Sabbaths, that they may be for a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am Jehovah your God. Ezekiel 20:21. But the sons were rebellious against me; they walked not in my statutes, and did not keep my rights, to do them, which man should do that he may live through them; they profaned my Sabbaths. Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them, to accomplish my anger upon them in the desert. Ezekiel 20:22. But I turned back my hand and did it for my name's sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, before whose eyes I had them out. Ezekiel 20:23. I also lifted my hand to them in the desert, to scatter them among the nations, and to disperse them in the lands; Ezekiel 20:24. Because they did not my rights, and despised my statutes, profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after the idols of their fathers. Ezekiel 20:25. And I also gave them statutes, which were not good, and rights, through which they did not live; Ezekiel 20:26. And defiled them in their sacrificial gifts, in that they caused all that openeth the womb to pass through, that I might fill them with horror, that they might know that I am Jehovah. - The sons acted like their fathers in the wilderness. Historical proofs of this are furnished by the accounts of the Sabbath-breaker (Numbers 15:32.), of the rebellion of the company of Korah, and of the murmuring of the whole congregation against Moses and Aaron after the destruction of Korah's company (Numbers 16 and Numbers 17:1-13). In the last two cases God threatened that He would destroy the whole congregation (cf. Numbers 16:21 and Numbers 17:9-10); and on both occasions the Lord drew back His hand at the intercession of Moses, and his actual intervention (Numbers 16:22 and Numbers 17:11.), and did not destroy the whole nation for His name's sake. The statements in Ezekiel 20:21 and Ezekiel 20:22 rest upon these facts. The words of Ezekiel 20:23 concerning the oath of God, that He would scatter the transgressors among the heathen, are also founded upon the Pentateuch, and not upon an independent tradition, or any special revelation from God. Dispersion among the heathen is threatened in Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 28:64, and there is no force in Kliefoth's argument that "these threats do not refer to the generation in the wilderness, but to a later age." For in both chapters the blessings and curses of the law are set before the people who were then in the desert; and there is not a single word to intimate that either blessing or curse would only be fulfilled upon the generations of later times.

On the contrary, when Moses addressed to the people assembled before him his last discourse concerning the renewal of the covenant (Deuteronomy 29 and 30), he called upon them to enter into the covenant, "which Jehovah maketh with thee this day" (Deuteronomy 29:12), and to keep all the words of this covenant and do them. It is upon this same discourse, in which Moses calls the threatenings of the law אלה, an oath (Deuteronomy 29:13), that "the lifting of the hand of God to swear," mentioned in Ezekiel 20:23 of this chapter, is also founded. Moreover, it is not stated in this verse that God lifted His hand to scatter among the heathen the generation which had grown up in the wilderness, and to disperse them in the lands before their entrance into the land promised to the fathers; but simply that He had lifted His hand in the wilderness to threaten the people with dispersion among the heathen, without in any way defining the period of dispersion. In the blessings and threatenings of the law contained in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-30, the nation is regarded as a united whole; so that no distinction is made between the successive generations, for the purpose of announcing this particular blessing or punishment to either one or the other. And Ezekiel acts in precisely the same way. It is true that he distinguishes the generation which came out of Egypt and was sentenced by God to die in the wilderness from the sons, i.e., the generation which grew up in the wilderness; but the latter, or the sons of those who had fallen, the generation which was brought into the land of Canaan, he regards as one with all the successive generations, and embraces the whole under the common name of "fathers" to the generation living in his day ("your fathers" Ezekiel 20:27), as we may clearly see from the turn given to the sentence which describes the apostasy of those who came into the land of Canaan ('עוד זאת ). In thus embracing the generation which grew up in the wilderness and was led into Canaan, along with the generations which followed and lived in Canaan, Ezekiel adheres very closely to the view prevailing in the Pentateuch, where the nation in all its successive generations is regarded as one united whole. The threat of dispersion among the heathen, which the Lord uttered in the wilderness to the sons of those who were not to see the land, is also not mentioned by Ezekiel as one which God designed to execute upon the people who were wandering in the desert at the time. For if he had understood it in this sense, he would have mentioned its non-fulfilment also, and would have added a 'ואעשׂ למען שׁמי וגו, as he has done in the case of the previous threats (cf. Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:14, and Ezekiel 20:9). But we do not find this either in Ezekiel 20:24 or Ezekiel 20:26. The omission of this turn clearly shows that Ezekiel 20:23 does not refer to a punishment which God designed to inflict, but did not execute for His name's sake; but that the dispersion among the heathen, with which the transgressors of His commandments were threatened by God when in the wilderness, is simply mentioned as a proof that even in the wilderness the people, whom God had determined to lead into Canaan, were threatened with that very punishment which had now actually commenced, because rebellious Israel had obstinately resisted the commandments and rights of its God.

These remarks are equally applicable to Ezekiel 20:25 and Ezekiel 20:26. These verses are not to be restricted to the generation which was born in the wilderness and gathered to its fathers not long after its entrance into Canaan, but refer to their descendants also, that is to say, to the fathers of our prophet's contemporaries, who were born and had died in Canaan. God gave them statutes which were not good, and rights which did not bring them life. It is perfectly self-evident that we are not to understand by these statutes and rights, which were not good, either the Mosaic commandments of the ceremonial law, as some of the Fathers and earlier Protestant commentators supposed, or the threatenings contained in the law; so that this needs no elaborate proof. The ceremonial commandments given by God were good, and had the promise attached to them, that obedience to them would give life; whilst the threats of punishment contained in the law are never called חקּים and משׁפּטים. Those statutes only are called "not good" the fulfilment of which did not bring life or blessings and salvation. The second clause serves as an explanation of the first. The examples quoted in Ezekiel 20:26 show what the words really mean. The defiling in their sacrificial gifts (Ezekiel 20:26), for example, consisted in their causing that which opened the womb to pass through, i.e., in the sacrifice of the first-born. העביר כּל־פּטר points back to Exodus 13:12; only ליהוה, which occurs in that passage, is omitted, because the allusion is not to the commandment given there, but to its perversion into idolatry. This formula is used in the book of Exodus (l.c.) to denote the dedication of the first-born to Jehovah; but in Ezekiel 20:13 this limitation is introduced, that the first-born of man is to be redeemed. העביר signifies a dedication through fire ( equals העביר בּאשׁ, Ezekiel 20:31), and is adopted in the book of Exodus, where it is joined to ליהוה, in marked opposition to the Canaanitish custom of dedicating children of Moloch by februation in fire (see the comm. on ex. EZechariah 13:12). The prophet refers to this Canaanitish custom, and cites it as a striking example of the defilement of the Israelites in their sacrificial gifts (טמּא, to make unclean, not to declare unclean, or treat as unclean). That this custom also made its way among the Israelites, is evident from the repeated prohibition against offering children through the fire to Moloch (Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 18:10). When, therefore, it is affirmed with regard to a statute so sternly prohibited in the law of God, that Jehovah gave it to the Israelites in the wilderness, the word נתן (give) can only be used in the sense of a judicial sentence, and must not be taken merely as indicating divine permission; in other words, it is to be understood, like 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ("God sends them strong delusion") and Acts 7:42 ("God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven"), in the sense of hardening, whereby whoever will not renounce idolatry is so given up to its power, that it draws him deeper and deeper in. This is in perfect keeping with the statement in Ezekiel 20:26 as the design of God in doing this: "that I might fill them with horror;" i.e., might excite such horror and amazement in their minds, that if possible they might be brought to reflect and to return to Jehovah their God.

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