Ezekiel 20:46
Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;
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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.

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. Ezekiel 20:46The Burning Forest

Ezekiel 20:45. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 20:46. Son of man, direct thy face toward the south, and trickle down towards the south, and prophesy concerning the forest of the field in the south land; Ezekiel 20:47. And say to the forest of the south land, Hear the word of Jehovah; Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I kindle a fire in thee, which will consume in thee every green tree, and every dry tree: the blazing flame will not be extinguished, and all faces from the south to the north will be burned thereby. Ezekiel 20:48. And all flesh shall see that I, Jehovah, have kindled it: it shall not be extinguished. Ezekiel 20:49. And I said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! they say of me, Does he not speak in parables? - The prophet is to turn his face toward the south, and prophesy concerning the forest of the field there. הטּיף is used for prophesying, as in Amos 7:16 and Micah 2:6, Micah 2:11. The distinction between the three epithets applied to the south is the following: תּימן is literally that which lies on the right hand, hence the south is a particular quarter of the heavens; דּרום, which only occurs in Ezekiel and Ecclesiastes, with the exception of Deuteronomy 33:23 and Job 37:17, is derived from דּרר, to shine or emit streams of light, and probably signifies the brilliant quarter; נגב, the dry, parched land, is a standing epithet for the southern district of Palestine and the land of Judah (see the comm. on Joshua 15:21). - The forest of the field in the south is a figure denoting the kingdom of Judah (נגב is in apposition to השּׂדה, and is appended to it as a more precise definition). שׂדה is not used here for a field, as distinguished from a city or a garden; but for the fields in the sense of country or territory, as in Genesis 14:7 and Genesis 32:3. In Ezekiel 20:47, יער , forest of the south land, is the expression applied to the same object (הנגב, with the article, is a geographical term for the southern portion of Palestine). The forest is a figure signifying the population, or the mass of people. Individual men are trees. The green tree is a figurative representation of the righteous man, and the dry tree of the ungodly (Ezekiel 21:3, compare Luke 23:31). The fire which Jehovah kindles is the fire of war. The combination of the synonyms להבת שׁלהבת, flame of the flaming brightness, serves to strengthen the expression, and is equivalent to the strongest possible flame, the blazing fire. כּל־פּנים, all faces are not human faces or persons, in which case the prophet would have dropped the figure; but pânim denotes generally the outside of things, which is the first to feel the force of the flame. "All the faces" of the forest are every single thing in the forest, which is caught at once by the flame. In Ezekiel 21:4, kŏl-pânim (all faces) is interpreted by kŏl̇-bâsar (all flesh). From south to north, i.e., through the whole length of the land. From the terrible fierceness of the fire, which cannot be extinguished, every one will know that God has kindled it, that it has been sent in judgment. The words of the prophet himself, in Ezekiel 20:49, presuppose that he has uttered these parabolic words in the hearing of the people, and that they have ridiculed them as obscure (mâshâl is used here in the sense of obscure language, words difficult to understand, as παραβολή also is in Matthew 13:10). At the same time, it contains within itself request that they may be explained. This request is granted; and the simile is first of all interpreted in Ezekiel 21:1-7, and then still further expanded in Ezekiel 21:8.

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