Ezekiel 20:46
Son of man, set your face toward the south, and drop your word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
20:45-49 Judah and Jerusalem had been full of people, as a forest of trees, but empty of fruit. God's word prophesies against those who bring not forth the fruits of righteousness. When He will ruin a nation, who or what can save it? The plainest truths were as parables to the people. It is common for those who will not be wrought upon by the word, to blame it.In this verse occur three Hebrew synonyms for "south," denoting:

(1) the region on the right, Teman 1 Samuel 23:24;

(2) the region of dryness, Negeb Joshua 15:4;

(3) the region of brightness, Darom Deuteronomy 33:23.

The variety of terms helps the force of the application. Chebar is in the north of Babylonia; from the north the Chaldaeans came upon Judaea (see the Ezekiel 1:4 note).

46. south … south … south—three different Hebrew words, to express the certainty of the divine displeasure resting on the region specified. The third term is from a root meaning "dry," referring to the sun's heat in the south; representing the burning judgments of God on the southern parts of Judea, of which Jerusalem was the capital.

set thy face—determinately. The prophets used to turn themselves towards those who were to be the subjects of their prophecies.

drop—as the rain, which flows in a continuous stream, sometimes gently (De 32:2), sometimes violently (Am 7:16; Mic 2:6, Margin), as here.

forest—the densely populated country of Judea; trees representing people.

He was now in Babylon, north from Jerusalem, and being commanded to look toward the south, it is toward Jerusalem, and the land of Canaan.

Thy face; thy courage and undaunted mind, manifest in prophesying as thou art commissioned.

Drop; let thy word distil, begin with softer words ere thou shower down with the vehemency of a storm; prophesy so, Amos 7:16 Micah 2:6.

The forest of the south field, i.e. Jerusalem, which was become like a forest for multitude of inhabitants, for barrenness, wildness, degeneracy, and sheltering wild beasts; murderers lodged in her. Son of man, set thy force toward the south,.... The land of Judea, which lay south of Babylon, where the prophet now was, as Babylon lay north of that, Jeremiah 1:14 to set his face was to speak freely and boldly, with courage and constancy, and without fear and dread, to the inhabitants of it; and as a token of the Lord's face being set against them for their sins. The Targum is,

"take a prophecy towards the way of the south.''

And drop thy word toward the south; or prophesy, as the Targum; doctrine or prophecy being compared to rain, and the delivery of it to the dropping or distilling of rain; which falls gently, gradually, successively, and oftentimes with weight, and to good purpose; see Deuteronomy 32:2, which metaphorical phrase is explained in the next clause:

and prophesy against the forest of the south field; the city of Jerusalem, in the land of Judea, which was very full of people, as a forest of trees; but these barren and unfruitful, as the trees of the wood generally are; and a rendezvous of wicked persons, comparable to beasts of prey, that haunt in woods and forests.

Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward {x} the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;

(x) For Judah stood south from Babylon.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
46. the south] Though the reference is to Judah and Jerusalem (Ezekiel 21:1-5), the term “south” hardly means the south of Palestine; rather the whole land of Palestine from the point of view of the prophet residing in the north. The “forest of the field” hardly refers to Lebanon, but belongs to the figure, which, however, Lebanon may have suggested (Ezekiel 17:3; Jeremiah 22:23). The “scorching” of all faces from north to south (Ezekiel 20:47) is also part of the figure, though powerfully expressing the effect on all who behold the great judgments on Israel. There may be, however, a certain mixture of figures, those whose faces are scorched being no other than those who, regarded as trees, are consumed—viz. all flesh from the south to the north in Israel (Ezekiel 21:3-4).

the south field] the field in the south, the land of Israel (Ezekiel 21:3).Verse 46. - Drop thy word. The verb is used specially of prophetic utterances (Ezekiel 21:2; Amos 7:6; Micah 2:6, 11), and stands, therefore, in the Hebrew without an object. Toward the south. Three distinct words are used in the Hebrew for the thrice-repeated "south" of the Authorized Version.

(1) One which primarily means "the region on the right hand," sc. as a man looks to the east. which Ezekiel also uses in Ezekiel 47:19; Ezekiel 48:28);

(2) the "shining land," used repeatedly in Ezekiel 40, 42. (Deuteronomy 33:23; Job 37:17; Ecclesiastes 1:6; Ecclesiastes 11:3); and

(3) the Negeb, the "dry" or "parched" land, the South (always in Revised Version with a capital letter), of Joshua 15:21, and the historical books generally, the region lying to the south of Judah. The use of the three words where one might have sacrificed is, perhaps, characteristic of Ezekiel's affluence of diction. The LXX. treats all three as proper names, and transliterates them as Thaiman, Darom, and N'ageb. Against this region and its inhabitants (they, of course, are the "trees") Ezekiel is directed to utter his words of judgment. The parenthesis in the last sentence gives the key to the prophet's cypher writing. From Ezekiel's standpoint on the Chebar, the whole of Judah is as the forest of the south. The "green tree," as in Psalm 1:1, 2, is the man who is relatively righteous; the "dry tree" is the sinner whose true life is withered; the "fire" the devastation wrought by the Chaldean invaders, as executing the Divine judgment. In our Lord's words in Luke 23:31 we may probably find an echo of Ezekiel's imagery. The 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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