Ezekiel 20:5
And say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up my hand to the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up my hand to them, saying, I am the LORD your God;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) When I chose Israel.—In Ezekiel 20:5-9 the Lord takes up the first, or Egyptian period of the history* of Israel. The record of that period, as it has come to us in the Pentateuch, does not contain either any commands against idolatry, or any notice of the rebellion of the people against such command; but both are clearly implied. The very mission of Moses to deliver them rested upon a covenant by which they were to be the peculiar people of Jehovah (Exodus 6:2-4); the command to go into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord implies that this was a duty neglected in Egypt; and their previous habitual idolatries may be certainly inferred from Leviticus 17:7, while the disposition of their hearts is seen in their prompt relapse into the idolatry of the golden calf in Exodus 32. Their whole murmurings and rebellions were but the manifestation of their resistance to having the Lord for their God, and His will for their guide.

Lifted up mine hand—As the form of taking an oath (see Ezekiel 20:23 and Ezekiel 47:14). The reference is to such passages as Genesis 15:17-21; Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 32:40, &c. The phrase is repeated in Ezekiel 20:6. which is a continuation of Ezekiel 20:5.

Ezekiel 20:5. In the day when I chose Israel — When I entered into a solemn covenant. And lifted up my hand, &c. — That is, sware unto them, this being a gesture used in swearing: see the margin, and notes on Genesis 14:22, and Psalm 144:8. “Among the Jews the juror held up his right hand toward heaven; which explains Psalm 144:8, Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood. The same form is retained in Scotland still.” — Paley’s Moral and Political Philosophy, p. 159. This manner of taking an oath is mentioned by Homer, Ευχετο χειρας ανασχων, which shows it to have been of great antiquity, even among the heathen. It was a solemn appeal to God, as the author of truth, and the defender thereof, and also the judge of the heart; implying a wish in the person swearing, that God would take vengeance if the truth was either violated or concealed. Some think, however, that lifting up the hand in this place means giving them help and deliverance: but the 15th and 23d verses evidently confirm the former explication. And made myself known unto them — By appearing unto Moses, and showing myself present among them, by the wonders I wrought for their deliverance. Saying, I am the Lord your God — I am the God whom you ought to serve, and none else.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.The children of Israel in Egypt were warned to abstain from the idolatry of the pagan. This purpose they lost sight of, yet God spared them and brought them into another state of probation.

Ezekiel 20:5

Lifted up mine hand - i. e., sware, because the hand was lifted up in adjuration.

5, 6. The thrice lifting up of God's hand (the sign of His oath, Re 10:5, 6; Ex 6:8, Margin; Nu 14:30; to which passages the form of words here alludes) implies the solemn earnestness of God's purpose of grace to them.

made myself known unto them—proving Myself faithful and true by the actual fulfilment of My promises (Ex 4:31; 6:3); revealing Myself as "Jehovah," that is, not that the name was unknown before, but that then first the force of that name was manifested in the promises of God then being realized in performances.

In the day; at the time, the season; it speaks not of that precise portion of hours which make up the natural day, but of the time wherein God began to show them his great mercy. When I chose; it includes mercy without merit in them, and it refers to God’s declaring by his kindness to them that he had chosen them; it supposeth the free eternal election, but it expressly refers to a temporal and seasonable selecting them from others; chosen, as Isaiah 14:1; again Deu 7:6,7: or possibly thus, when I went to make them a choice people by refining them from their dross and idolatries contracted in Egypt, so the word Isaiah 48:10, and selecting them.

Israel; not personally considered, but nationally.

Lifted up mine hand; either assuring them by oath that he would now make good his promise, and bring them out of bondage; it is the gesture of one that solemnly sweareth, and scriptures frequently mention it, as Ezekiel 20:15 Deu 32:40: or else, stretched out and made bare my arm, i.e. magnified my power for your deliverance.

The seed of the house of Jacob: this explaineth and tells us who Israel was.

Made myself known unto them, by the miracles which he wrought; for it is not to be understood of making known or discovering his essence and incomprehensible being. It is not unlikely that many of them either were ignorant or forgot God; now by his wonders wrought for their deliverance he brings them to remember him, and look to him. Moses’s question in Exodus 3:13 seems to intimate this ignorance of this people.

In the land of Egypt; as this expressly directs us to the place, so it points out the time too when Israel was chosen, selected.

When I lifted up mine hand unto them; showed my power in performing my oath and promise in what was now to be done, and assuring them of doing what was further promised by him, and expected by them; and to assure them the more, it is doubled.

I am the Lord your God: so Exodus 3:13,16,17. Yours from your progenitors, yours by promise, by covenant, and now am come to be your God by actual and punctual performing my word to you, bringing you out of the land of Egypt by a lifted-up hand and arm. And say unto them, thus saith the Lord God,.... Here begins the account of their fathers; of God's unmerited goodness to them, and of their sins and transgressions against him, and how it fared with them:

in the day when I chose Israel; to be his peculiar people, above all people on the face of the earth; when he declared his choice of them, and made it appear that he had chosen them, and distinguished them, by special blessings and favours bestowed on them:

and lifted up mine hand to the seed of the house of Jacob; the posterity of Jacob or Israel, to whom the Lord swore that he would do such and such things for them; of which the lifting up the hand was a token; it is a gesture used in swearing, Daniel 12:7; and so the Targum,

"and I swore unto them by my word:''

and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt: by his name Jehovah; by the prophets he sent unto them, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; and by the miracles he wrought among them:

when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your God: making promise of it, declaring it unto them, confirming it with an oath; see Hebrews 6:17.

And say to them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and {c} lifted up my hand to the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up my hand to them, saying, I am the LORD your God;

(c) I swore that I would be their God, which manner of oath was observed from all antiquity, where they used to lift up their hands toward the heavens, acknowledging God to be the author of truth and the defender of it, and also the judge of the heart, wishing that he would take vengeance, if they concealed anything which they knew to be truth.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. when I chose Israel] The choice or election of Israel is referred to only here in Ez., and also once in Jeremiah 33:24. The idea is much insisted on in Isaiah 40-66. Already, however, Deuteronomy 7:6.

lifted up mine hand] i.e. sware, Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30. The thing sworn is stated Ezekiel 20:6.

made myself known] Cf. Exodus 3:6 seq., Ezekiel 6:3. He made himself known as Jehovah their God, whose nature his acts revealed, Psalm 103:7.

5–29. Review of the history of the fathers

The principle that has ruled this history is that all through it Jehovah has acted for his name’s sake. It is this principle that has given Israel a history, otherwise their sins would have cut them off. For his name’s sake he spared the people in Egypt (Ezekiel 20:9), again in the wilderness (Ezekiel 20:14), and again the second generation there (Ezekiel 20:22). The history is reviewed in these divisions: Ezekiel 20:5-10 Israel in Egypt; Ezekiel 20:11-17 the people led out into the wilderness: Ezekiel 20:18-26 the children of those who fell in the wilderness; and Ezekiel 20:27-29 the people that entered Canaan.Verses 5, 6. - In the day that I lifted up mine hand. The attitude was that of one who takes an oath (Exodus 6:8), and implies the confirmation of the covenant made with Abraham. The land flowing with milk and honey appears first in Exodus 3:8, and became proverbial. The glory of all lands is peculiar to Ezekiel. Isaiah (Isaiah 13:19) applies the word to Babylon. 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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