Ezekiel 20:32
And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.
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(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.

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. Ezekiel 20:32The Judgment Awaiting Israel of Purification among the Heathen

Ezekiel 20:32. And that which riseth up in your mind shall not come to pass, in that ye say, We will be like the heathen, like the families of the lands, to serve wood and stone. Ezekiel 20:33. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, with strong hand and with outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, will I rule over you. Ezekiel 20:34. And I will bring you out of the nations, and gather you out of the lands in which ye have been scattered, with strong hand and with outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, Ezekiel 20:35. And will bring you into the desert of the nations, and contend with you there face to face. Ezekiel 20:36. As I contended with your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so will I contend with you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 20:37. And I will cause you to pass through under the rod, and bring you into the bond of the covenant. Ezekiel 20:38. And I will separate from you the rebellious, and those who are apostates from me; out of the land of their sojourning will I lead them out, but into the land of Israel shall they not come; that ye may know that I am Jehovah. - העלה על רוּח, that which rises up in the spirit, is the thought that springs up in the mind. What this thought was is shown in Ezekiel 20:32, viz., we will be like the heathen in the lands of the earth, to serve wood and stone; that is to say, we will become idolaters like the heathen, pass into heathenism. This shall not take place; on the contrary, God will rule over them as King with strong arm and fury. The words, "with strong hand and stretched-out arm," are a standing expression in the Pentateuch for the mighty acts by which Jehovah liberated His people from the power of the Egyptians, and led them out of Egypt (cf. Exodus 6:1, Exodus 6:6 with וּבמשׁפּטים גּדולים). Here, on the contrary, they are connected with בּחמה שׁפוּכה, and are used in Ezekiel 20:33 with reference to the government of God over Israel, whilst in Ezekiel 20:34 they are applied to the bringing out of Israel from the midst of the heathen. By the introduction of the clause "with fury poured out," the manifestation of the omnipotence of God which Israel experience in its dispersion, and which it was still to experience among the heathen, is described as an emanation of the divine wrath, a severe and wrathful judgment. The leading and gathering of Israel out of the nations (Ezekiel 20:34) is neither their restoration from the existing captivity in Babylon, nor their future restoration to Canaan on the conversion of the people who were still hardened, and therefore rejected by God. The former assumption would be decidedly at variance with both מן העמּים and מן הארצות, since Israel was dispersed only throughout one land and among one people at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Moreover, neither of the assumptions is reconcilable with the context, more especially with Ezekiel 20:35. According to the context, this leading out is an act of divine anger, which Israel is to feel in connection therewith; and this cannot be affirmed of either the redemption of the people out of the captivity in Babylon, or the future gathering of Israel from its dispersion. According to Ezekiel 20:35, God will conduct those who are brought out from the nations and gathered together out of the lands into the desert of the nations, and contend with them there. The "desert of the nations" is not the desert lying between Babylonia and Palestine, on the coastlands of the Mediterranean, through which the Israelites would have to pass on their way home from Babylon (Rosenmller, Hitzig, and others). For there is no imaginable reason why this should be called the desert of the nations in distinction from the desert of Arabia, which also touched the borders of several nations. The expression is doubtless a typical one, the future guidance of Israel being depicted as a repetition of the earlier guidance of the people from Egypt to Canaan; as it also is in Hosea 2:16. All the separate features in the description indicate this, more especially Ezekiel 20:36 and Ezekiel 20:37, where it is impossible to overlook the allusion to the guidance of Israel in the time of Moses.

The more precise explanation of the words must depend, however, upon the sense in which we are to understand the expression, "desert of the land of Egypt." Here also the supposition that the Arabian desert is referred to, because it touched the border of Egypt, does not furnish a sufficient explanation. It touched the border of Canaan as well. Why then did not Ezekiel name it after the land of Canaan? Evidently for no other reason than that the time spent by the Israelites in the Arabian desert resembled their sojourn in Egypt much more closely than their settlement in Canaan, because, while there, they were still receiving their training for their entrance into Canaan, and their possession and enjoyment of its benefits, just as much as in the land of Egypt. And in a manner corresponding to this, the "desert of the nations" is a figurative expression applied to the world of nations, from whom they were indeed spiritually distinct, whilst outwardly they were still in the midst of them, and had to suffer from their oppression. Consequently the leading of Israel out of the nations (Ezekiel 20:34) is not a local and corporeal deliverance out of heathen lands, but a spiritual severance from the heathen world, in order that they might not be absorbed into it or become inseparably blended with the heathen. God will accomplish this by means of severe chastisements, by contending with them as He formerly contended with their fathers in the Arabian desert. God contends with His people when He charges them with their sin and guilt, not merely in words, but also with deeds, i.e., through chastening and punishments. The words "face to face" point back to Deuteronomy 5:4 : "Jehovah talked with you face to face in the mount, out of the midst of the fire." Just as at Sinai the Lord talked directly with Israel, and made know to it the devouring fire of His own holy nature, in so terrible a manner that all the people trembled and entreated Moses to act the part of a mediator between them, promising at the same time obedience to him (Exodus 20:19); so will the Lord make Himself known to Israel in the desert of the world of nations with the burning zeal of His anger, that it may learn to fear Him. This contending is more precisely defined in Ezekiel 20:37 and Ezekiel 20:38. I will cause you to pass through under the (shepherd's) rod. A shepherd lets his sheep pass through under his rod for the purpose of counting them, and seeing whether they are in good condition or not (vid., Jeremiah 33:13). The figure is here applied to God. Like a shepherd, He will cause His flock, the Israelites, to pass through under His rod, i.e., take them into His special care, and bring them "into the bond of the covenant" (מסרת, not from מסר Raschi, but from אסר, for מאסרה, a fetter); that is to say, not "I will bind myself to you and you to me by a new covenant" (Bochart, Hieroz. I. p. 508), for this is opposed to the context, but, as the Syriac version has rendered it, b-mardûtâ (in disciplina), "the discipline of the covenant." By this we are not merely to understand the covenant punishments, with which transgressors of the law are threatened, as Hvernick does, but the covenant promises must also be included. For not only the threats of the covenant, but the promises of the covenant, are bonds by which God trains His people; and אסר is not only applied to burdensome and crushing fetters, but to the bonds of love as well (vid., Sol 7:6). Kliefoth understands by the fetter of the covenant the Mosaic law, as being the means employed by God to preserve the Israelites from mixing with the nations while placed in the midst of them, and to keep them to Himself, and adds the following explanation, - "this law, through which they should have been able to live, they have now to wear as a fetter, and to feel the chastisement thereof." But however correct the latter thought may be in itself, it is hardly contained in the words, "lead them into the fetter (band) of the law." Moreover, although the law did indeed preserve Israel from becoming absorbed into the world of nations, the fact that the Jews were bound to the law did not bring them to the knowledge of the truth, or bring to pass the purging of the rebellious from among the people, to which Ezekiel 20:38 refers. All that the law accomplished in this respect in the case of those who lived among the heathen was effected by its threatenings and its promises, and not by its statutes and their faithful observance. This discipline will secure the purification of the people, by severing from the nation the rebellious and apostate. God will bring them forth out of the land of this pilgrimage, but will not bring them into the land of Israel. ארץ is the standing epithet applied in the Pentateuch to the land of Canaan, in which the patriarchs lived as pilgrims, without coming into actual possession of the land (cf. Genesis 17:8; Genesis 28:4; Genesis 36:7; Exodus 6:4). This epithet Ezekiel has transferred to the lands of Israel's exile, in which it was to lead a pilgrim-life until it was ripe for entering Canaan. הוציא, to lead out, is used here for clearing out by extermination, as the following clause, "into the land of Israel shall they not come," plainly shows. The singular יבוא is used distributively: not one of the rebels will enter.

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