Ezekiel 20:4
Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Wilt thou judge them?—The form of the repeated question is equivalent to an imperative—judge them. Instead of allowing their enquiry and entreaty for the averting of judgment, the prophet is directed to set before them their long series of apostasies and provocations. “Judge” is used in the sense of “bring to trial,” “prefer charges.”

Ezekiel 20:4. Wilt thou judge them — Or, rather, Wilt thou not judge them? Wilt thou not reprove, or condemn them? Wilt thou not denounce my judgments against them? Cause them to know the abominations of their fathers — The abominable crimes of which their fathers have been guilty, and which they themselves, and the present generation of Jews, have also committed with fresh aggravations: and hereby let them know what they have to expect. This whole chapter is a kind of decree, in which the prophet, after having set forth the crimes of the Jews, pronounces against them their reprobation, and foretels what blessings God would bestow on a faithful people who should serve him truly on his holy mountain. 20:1-9. Those hearts are wretchedly hardened which ask God leave to go on in sin, and that even when suffering for it; see ver.Wilt thou judge them? - We should rather say, Wilt thou not judge them? i. e., wilt thou not pronounce sentence upon them? Compare Ezekiel 22:2. 4. Wilt thou judge? … judge—The emphatical repetition expresses, "Wilt thou not judge? yes, judge them. There is a loud call for immediate judgment." The Hebrew interrogative here is a command, not a prohibition [Maurer]. Instead of spending time in teaching them, tell them of the abomination of their fathers, of which their own are the complement and counterpart, and which call for judgment. Wilt thou judge them? either, Wilt thou judge charitably, and, supposing they are upright and teachable, wilt thou plead with me for them? as Ezekiel 14:3, or as Jeremiah 14:9. Or else thus, Wilt thou argue with them, convince them, and reprove them? This is fittest to be done, and do this, handle them severely as they deserve. It is repeated, to whet the prophet, and quicken him to this work, and to intimate to us the great contumacy of the people.

Cause them to know the abominations of their fathers: tell them somewhat that they may go away wiser than they came. They expect to know what will be their fate, tell them what hath been their fathers’ carriage towards me, which they imitate, nay exceed. Their curiosity and perplexity would be informed what is to come, but their consciences need more to be informed: what their fathers have done they approved, and have outdone; by that let them know what to do, what to expect. Wilt thou judge them, son of man?.... Excuse them, patronise them, defend their cause, and plead for them? surely thou wilt not; or rather, wilt thou not reprove and correct them, judge and condemn them, for their sins and wickedness? this thou oughtest to do:

wilt thou judge them? this is repeated, to show the vehemency of the speaker, and the duty of the prophet:

cause them to know the abominations of their fathers: the sins they committed, which were abominable in themselves, and rendered them abominable unto God, and what came upon them for them; by which they would be led to see the abominable evils which they also had been guilty of, in which they had imitated their fathers, and what they had reason to expect in consequence of them.

Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause {b} them to know the abominations of their fathers:

(b) This declares the great leniency and patience of God who calls sinners to repentance before he condemns them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. wilt thou judge] The interr. seems to have the sense of an impatient imperative, and the repetition gives stronger expression to the imperative, cf. ch. Ezekiel 22:2, Ezekiel 23:36. “Judge” is explained by “cause them to know the abominations of their fathers.” To rehearse the history of the fathers is to hold the mirror up to themselves.Verse 4 - Wilt thou judge them, etc.? The doubled question has the force of a strong imperative. The prophet is directed, as it were, to assume the office of a judge, and as such to press home upon his hearers, and through them upon others, their own sins and those of their fathers. He is led, in doing so, to yet another survey of the nation's history; not now, as in Ezekiel 16, in figurative language, but directly. Capture and Exile of the Princes

Ezekiel 19:1. And do thou raise a lamentation for the princes of Israel, Ezekiel 19:2. And say, Why did thy mother, a lioness, lie down among lionesses; bring up her whelps among young lions? Ezekiel 19:3. And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and he learned to take prey; he devoured man. Ezekiel 19:4. And nations heard of him; he was caught in their pit, and they brought him with nose-rings into the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 19:5. And when she saw that her hope was exhausted, overthrown, she took one of her whelps, made it a young lion. Ezekiel 19:6. And he walked among lionesses, he became a young lion, and learned to take prey. He devoured man. Ezekiel 19:7. He knew its widows, and laid waste their cities; and the land and its fulness became waste, at the voice of his roaring. Ezekiel 19:8. Then nations round about from the provinces set up against him, and spread over him their net: he was caught in their pit. Ezekiel 19:9. And they put him in the cage with nose-rings, and brought him to the king of Babylon: brought him into a fortress, that his voice might not be heard any more on the mountains of Israel.

The princes of Israel, to whom the lamentation applies, are the king (נשׂיא, as in Ezekiel 12:10), two of whom are so clearly pointed out in Ezekiel 19:4 and Ezekiel 19:9, that there is no mistaking Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin. This fact alone is sufficient to protect the plural נשׂיאי against the arbitrary alteration into the singular נשׂיא, proposed by Houbigant and Hitzig, after the reading of the lxx. The lamentation is not addressed to one particular prince, either Zedekiah (Hitzig) or Jehoiachin (Ros., Maurer), but to Israel as a nation; and the mother (Ezekiel 19:2) is the national community, the theocracy, out of which the kings were born, as is indisputably evident from Ezekiel 19:10. The words from מה to רבצה form one sentence. It yields no good sense to separate מה אמּך from רבצה, whether we adopt the rendering, "what is thy mother?" or take מה with לביּא and render it, "how is thy mother a lioness?" unless, indeed, we supply the arbitrary clause "now, in comparison with what she was before," or change the interrogative into a preterite: "how has thy mother become a lioness?" The lionesses, among which Israel lay down, are the other kingdoms, the Gentile nations. The words have no connection with Genesis 49:9, where Judah is depicted as a warlike lion. The figure is a different one here. It is not so much the strength and courage of the lion as its wildness and ferocity that are the points of resemblance in the passage before us. The mother brings up her young ones among young lions, so that they learn to take prey and devour men. גּוּר is the lion's whelp, catulus; כּפיר, the young lion, which is old enough to go out in search of prey. ותּעל is a Hiphil, in the tropical sense, to cause to spring up, or grow up, i.e., to bring up. The thought is the following: Why has Israel entered into fellowship with the heathen nations? Why, then, has it put itself upon a level with the heathen nations, and adopted the rapacious and tyrannical nature of the powers of the world? The question "why then?" when taken with what follows, involves the reproof that Israel has struck out a course opposed to its divine calling, and will now have to taste the bitter fruits of this assumption of heathen ways. The heathen nations have taken captive its king, and led him away into heathen lands. ישׁמעוּ אליו, they heard of him (אליו for עליו). The fate of Jehoahaz, to which Ezekiel 19:4 refers, is related in 2 Kings 23:31. - Ezekiel 19:5-7 refer to Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, and not to Zedekiah, as Hitzig imagines. For the fact that Jehoiachin went out of his own accord to the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:12), is not at variance with the figure contained in Ezekiel 19:8, according to which he was taken (as a lion) in a net. He simply gave himself up to the king of Babylon because he was unable to escape from the besieged city. Moreover, Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are simply mentioned as examples, because they both fell into the hands of the world-powers, and their fate showed clearly enough "what the end must inevitably be, when Israelitish kings became ambitious of being lions, like the kings of the nations of the world" (Kliefoth). Jehoiakim was not so suitable an example as the others, because he died in Jerusalem. נוחלה, which has been explained in different ways, we agree with Ewald in regarding as the Niphal of יחל equals חוּל, in the sense of feeling vexed, being exhausted or deceived, like the Syriac ̀ewaḥel, viribus defecit, desperavit. For even in Genesis 8:12, נוחל simply means to wait; and this is inapplicable here, as waiting is not equivalent to waiting in vain. The change from חוּל to יחל is established by Judges 3:25, where חוּל or חיל occurs in the sense of יחל. In Judges 3:7, the figurative language passes into a literal description of the ungodly course pursued by the king. He knew, i.e., dishonoured, its (Israel's, the nation's) widows. The Targum reads וירע here instead of וידע, and renders it accordingly, "he destroyed its palaces;" and Ewald has adopted the same rendering. But רעע, to break, or smash in pieces, e.g., a vessel (Psalm 2:9), is never used for the destruction of buildings; and אלמנות does not mean palaces (ארמנות), but windows. There is nothing in the use of the word in Isaiah 13:22 to support the meaning "palaces," because the palaces are simply called ̀almânōth (widows) there, with a sarcastic side glance at their desolate and widowed condition. Other conjectures are still more inadmissible. The thought is as follows: Jehoiachin went much further than Jehoahaz. He not only devoured men, but laid hands on defenceless widows, and laid the cities waste to such an extent that the land with its inhabitants became perfectly desolate through his rapacity. The description is no doubt equally applicable to his father Jehoiakim, in whose footsteps Jehoiachin walked, since Jehoiakim is described in Jeremiah 22:13. as a grievous despot and tyrant. In Ezekiel 19:8 the object רשׁתּם also belongs to יתּנוּ: they set up and spread out their net. The plural מצדות is used in a general and indefinite manner: in lofty castles, mountain-fortresses, i.e., in one of them (cf. Judges 12:7).

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