Ezekiel 20:7
Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ezekiel 20:7-9. Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes — The idols to which your eyes are lifted up. One of the chief allurements to the worship of images is, that by way of indulgence to men’s imagination, they exhibit a visible object of adoration. This was what the Israelites were so fond of, when they said to Aaron, Make us gods to go before us, Exodus 32:1. And defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt — It is generally supposed that the Israelites, while they dwelt in Egypt, learned the idolatry of that country: the fact indeed is not recorded in the books of Moses; but it may be collected from their proneness to that sin in the wilderness. But they rebelled against me — The history of the rebellions of the children of Israel begins as early as their beginning. So does the history of man’s apostacy from his Maker. No sooner have we read the story of his creation than we meet with that of his rebellion. So we see here it was with Israel; a people designed to represent the body of mankind, both in their dealings with God, and in God’s dealings with them. Then I said, I threatened, I will pour out my fury upon them — Such a threatening as this is nowhere recorded in the Scriptures no more than that which follows Ezekiel 20:23 of this chapter. Without question God might have justly cut them off in Egypt for their idolatries and other sins which they had committed, and never exerted his power for their deliverance. But I wrought for my name’s sake — For the glory of my mercy and faithfulness. That it should not be polluted before the heathen — Reproached and blasphemed. This is elsewhere assigned as the reason why God did not punish the Israelites according to their deserts, namely, because it would have turned to God’s dishonour in the judgment of the heathen world, as if he had not been able to make good those promises which he had given them. This was a proper consideration to check the vain presumption of the Jews, who imagined that God’s gracious dealings with them were owing to their own merits.

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.

7. Moses gives no formal statement of idolatries practised by Israel in Egypt. But it is implied in their readiness to worship the golden calf (resembling the Egyptian ox, Apis) (Ex 32:4), which makes it likely they had worshipped such idols in Egypt. Also, in Le 17:7, "They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils (literally, seirim, 'he-goats,' the symbol of the false god, Pan), after whom they have gone awhoring." The call of God by Moses was as much to them to separate from idols and follow Jehovah, as it was to Pharaoh to let them go forth. Ex 6:6, 7 and Jos 24:14, expressly mention their idolatry "in Egypt." Hence the need of their being removed out of the contagion of Egyptian idolatries by the exodus.

every man—so universal was the evil.

of his eyes—It was not fear of their Egyptian masters, but their own lust of the eye that drew them to idols (Eze 6:9; 18:6).

Then, Heb. And, which connects the words; and though we read it then, this doth not point out the time when God spake this, though it is certain, when he had brought them out of Egypt he gave them his ordinances and laws of worship; nay, it is sufficiently included, in that they were to go out that they might serve the Lord.

Cast ye away every man; let every one of you, man by man, and family by family, cast away with abhorrence and indignation; the word is used Ezekiel 18:31.

The abominations of his eyes; which your eyes should have abhorred, but you rather lifted up your eyes to them, and looked for help from them; and it includes their own voluntary act in this idolatry.

Defile not yourselves with the idols: this explains the former passage.

Of Egypt; which were in veneration among the Egyptians, and with whose worship too many of them had been insnared and polluted while they were in Egypt.

I am the Lord your God; the only true God, and therefore you should worship none other. See Ezekiel 20:6. You are my covenant people, and therefore ought to have no other God as Exodus 20:3. Thus God prepared them, by his mercies and by his law, for himself.

Then I said unto them,.... Having promised and swore to do such great and good things for them; which must lay them under an obligation to regard what he should command them: promises and blessings of goodness are great incentives to duty, and lay under great obligation to it:

cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes; which should be so, meaning idols; but which his eyes were taken with, and were lifted up unto, as his gods; though they ought to have been rejected with the utmost abhorrence, as abominable:

and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt; their "dunghill gods", as the word (f) signifies; which to worship, as it was an abomination to God, was defiling to themselves; yet these they were fond of, and prone to worship them; their eyes and their hearts were after them; and they needed such cautions and instructions as these, backed with the following strong reason against such idolatry:

I am the Lord your God; their Creator and Benefactor, their covenant God; the only Lord God, and whom only they ought to serve and worship; to whom they were under ten thousand obligations; and who was infinitely above all the idols of Egypt.

(f) "stercoreis diis", Junius & Tremellius, Polanus; "stercoribus", Piscator, Cocceius.

Then said I to them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, {d} and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

(d) God had forbidden them to make mention of the idols, Ex 23:13, Ps 16:4.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. abominations of his eyes] Those to which his eyes and desires were directed, the idols, cf. Ezekiel 18:6; Numbers 15:39. The prophet charges Israel with idolatry in Egypt (ch. Ezekiel 23:3). Though history as we have it says little of such a thing, it may be assumed as certain, considering the people’s receptivity to the worship of their neighbours throughout their history. The same view, Joshua 24:14; cf. Leviticus 18:3.

The question how far Jehovah was known and worshipped in Egypt is an obscure one. The name could not have been altogether unknown or the people could not have been rallied by Moses to his service nor induced to put themselves under his protection. That his worship, however, was mixed with impurities may be assumed. How far the people partook in the worship of Egyptian deities cannot be ascertained.

Verses 7-10. - No special mention of the idols of Egypt occurs in the Pentateuch, but it lies, in the nature of the case, that this was the form of idolatry implied in the second commandment, and the history of the "golden calf" (Exodus 32:4) shows that they had caught the infection of the Mnevis or Apis worship while they sojourned in Egypt. Here apparently the prophet speaks of that sojourn prior to the mission of Moses. In bold anthropomorphic speech he represents Jehovah as half purposing to make an end of the people there and then, and afterwards repenting. He wrought for his Name's sake, that the deliverance of the Exodus might manifest his righteousness and might, the attributes specially implied in that Name, to Egypt and the surrounding nations. They should not have it in their power to say that he had abandoned the people whom he had chosen. Ezekiel 20:7Election of Israel in Egypt. Its resistance to the commandments of God. - Ezekiel 20:5. And say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the day that I chose Israel, and lifted my hand to the seed of Jacob, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, and lifted my hand to them, saying, I am Jehovah, your God: Ezekiel 20:6. In that day I lifted my hand to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into the land which I sought out for them, which floweth with milk and honey - it is an ornament of all lands: Ezekiel 20:7. And said to them, Cast away every man the abominations of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am Jehovah, your God. Ezekiel 20:8. But they were rebellious against me, and would not hearken to me. Not one of them threw away the abominations of his eyes, and they did not forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them, to accomplish my anger upon them in the midst of the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:9. But I did it for my name's sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, in the midst of which they were, before whose eyes I had made myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. - Ezekiel 20:5 and Ezekiel 20:6 form one period. בּיּום בּחרי (Ezekiel 20:5) is resumed in בּיּום ההוּא (Ezekiel 20:6), and the sentence continued. With ואשּׂא the construction with the infinitive passes over into the finite verb. Lifting the hand, sc. to heaven, is a gesture employed in taking an oath (see the comm. on Exodus 6:8). The substance of the oath is introduced by the word לאמר at the close of Ezekiel 20:5; but the clause 'ואוּדע וגו (and made myself known) is previously inserted, and then the lifting of the hand mentioned again to indicate the importance of this act of divine grace. The contents of Ezekiel 20:5 and Ezekiel 20:6 rest upon Exodus 6:2., where the Lord makes Himself known to Moses, and through him to the children of Israel, according to the nature involved in the name Jehovah, in which He had not yet revealed Himself to the patriarchs (Exodus 6:3). Both נשׂאתי ידי (I lifted my hand) and אני יהוה are taken from Exodus 6:8. The word תּרתּי, from תּוּר, to seek out, explore, also belongs to the Pentateuch (compare Deuteronomy 1:33); and the same may be said of the description given of Canaan as "a land flowing with milk and honey" (vid., Exodus 3:8, etc.). But צבי, ornament, as an epithet applied to the land of Israel, is first employed by the prophets of the time of the captivity - namely, in Ezekiel 20:6 and Ezekiel 20:15 of this chapter, in Jeremiah 3:19, and in Daniel 8:9; Daniel 11:16, Daniel 11:41. The election of the Israelites to be the people of Jehovah, contained eo ipso the command to give up the idols of Egypt, although it was at Sinai that the worship of other gods was for the first time expressly prohibited (Exodus 20:3), and Egyptian idolatry is only mentioned in Leviticus 17:7 (cf. Joshua 24:14). Ezekiel calls the idols "abominations of their eyes," because, "although they were abominable and execrable things, they were looked upon with delight by them" (Rosenmller). It is true that there is nothing expressly stated in the Pentateuch as to the refusal of the Israelites to obey the command of God, or their unwillingness to give up idolatry in Egypt; but it may be inferred from the statements contained in Exodus 6:9 and Exodus 6:12, to the effect that the Israelites did not hearken to Moses when he communicated to them the determination of God to lead them out of Egypt, and still more plainly from their relapse into Egyptian idolatry, from the worship of the golden calf at Sinai (Exodus 32), and from their repeated desire to return to Egypt while wandering in the desert.

(Note: The remarks of Calvin upon this point are very good. "We do not learn directly from Moses," he says, "that they had been rebels against God, because they would not throw away their idols and superstitions; but the conjecture is a very probable one, that they had always been so firmly fixed in their abominations as to prevent in a certain way the hand of God from bringing them relief. And assuredly, if they had embraced what Moses promised them in the name of God with promptness of mind, the execution of the promise would have been more prompt and swift. But we may learn that it was their own obtuseness which hindered God from stretching out His hand forthwith and actually fulfilling all that He had promised. It was necessary, indeed, that God should contend with Pharaoh, that His power might be more conspicuously displayed; but the people would not have been so tyrannically afflicted if they had not closed the door of divine mercy.")

Nor is there anything said in the Pentateuch concerning the determination of God to pour out His wrath upon the idolatrous people in Egypt. We need not indeed assume on this account that Ezekiel derived his information from some special traditional source, as Vitringa has done ObservV. ss. I. 263), or regard the statement as a revelation made by God to Ezekiel, and through him to us. The words do not disclose to us either a particular fact or a definite decree of God; they simply contain a description of the attitude which God, from His inmost nature, assumes towards sinners who rebel against His holy commandments, and which He displayed both in the declaration made concerning Himself as a zealous, or jealous God, who visits iniquities (Exodus 20:5), and also in the words addressed to Moses when the people fell into idolatry at Sinai, "Let me alone, that my wrath may wax not against them, and that I may consume them" (Exodus 32:10). All that God expresses here, His heart must have felt in Egypt towards the people who would not desist from idolatry. For the words themselves, compare Ezekiel 7:8; Ezekiel 6:12; Ezekiel 5:13. ואעשׂ (Ezekiel 20:9), "but I did it for my name's sake." The missing object explaining what He did, namely, abstain from pouring out His wrath, is to be gathered from what follows: "that I might not profane my name." This would have taken place if God had destroyed Israel by pouring out His wrath; in other words, have allowed them to be destroyed by the Egyptians. The heathen might then have said that Jehovah had been unable to liberate His people from their hand and power (cf. Numbers 14:16 and Exodus 32:12). החל is an infin. Niphal of חלל for החל (cf. Leviticus 21:4).

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