Ezekiel 20:8
But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) The land of Egypt.—Of this idolatrous rebellion, and of this threat of the Divine anger while they were still in Egypt, as already said, we have no specific record. But they had the same disposition then as they had afterwards; and, even without such a charge, we could infer the probability of their idolatry. It is possible that the prophet may have had in mind such incidents as are related in Numbers 14:11-20, happening while the Israelites were still in the neighbourhood of Egypt, and when the report of them would speedily have reached Egyptian ears. It is by no means necessary to suppose that in this broad and general review of the teachings of history each incident is kept in its strict chronological place. Yet idolatry in Egypt is distinctly charged upon the Israelites in Ezekiel 16:3; Ezekiel 16:19, and this verse may well refer to God’s judgment for this sin suspended and delayed while they were in Egypt lest it should be misunderstood by the heathen.

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.Idols of Egypt - These incidental notices show the children of Israel in Egypt to have been addicted to idolatry. Compare Joshua 24:14.8, 9. then I said, I will … But, &c.—that is, (God speaking in condescension to human modes of conception) their spiritual degradation deserved I should destroy them, "but I wrought (namely, the deliverance 'out of … Egypt') for My name's sake"; not for their merits (a rebuke to their national pride). God's "name" means the sum-total of His perfections. To manifest these, His gratuitous mercy abounding above their sins, yet without wrong to His justice, and so to set forth His glory, was and is the ultimate end of His dealings (Eze 20:14, 22; 2Sa 7:23; Isa 63:12; Ro 9:17). They rebelled against me; so great a sin is idolatry, it is against God, as open hostility is against a sovereign whom subjects fight against. All sin is against God, but idolatry is much more so.

And would not hearken unto me; their wills were alienated from God, they refused to hear and obey in this. They did not forsake the idols of Egypt; it is probable there were some among them that carried with them (as Rachel did her father’s) the idols of Egypt.

Then I said; I was just upon resolving, I was very near saying.

I will pour out, as a storm or mighty shower,

my fury; just and severe wrath.

To accomplish my anger against them; to make an end of them.

In the midst of the land of Egypt; that they should have perished in Egypt, and never come out.

But they rebelled against me,.... All sin is rebellion against God, an act of hostility, especially idolatry; it is refusing homage and casting off allegiance to him:

and would not hearken unto me; to his word by his prophets; so the Targum,

"they rebelled against my word, and would not receive my prophets:''

they did not every man cast away the abominations of his eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of the Gentiles; whence it appears that there were some among them that did give in to the idolatry of the Egyptians; and could not be prevailed upon to relinquish it, notwithstanding the favours shown them, and the promises made unto them. The Jewish writers, Jarchi and Kimchi, say that there were many of these wicked men among the Israelites when Moses was sent to them; and that they died in the time of the three days' darkness, so that the Egyptians did not see their fall, and rejoice at it;

then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them; he threatened them, by his prophets, that he would bring down deserved wrath upon them, like a mighty shower of rain:

to accomplish mine anger against them; to bring it upon them to the utmost, and consume them with it:

in the midst of the land of Egypt; and so not bring them forth from thence, is he had promised; but cut them off in it, for their sins and rebellions.

But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken to me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of {e} their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.

(e) Which declares the wickedness of man's heart, who judge God's service by their eyes and outward senses.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. The history in Exodus narrates only the conflict of Israel with the Egyptians, being silent on internal struggles in Israel itself. The work of Moses in delivering his people must have extended over a period of time. His efforts in educating the people are entirely passed over in the history. The announcement, however, that Jehovah was the God of Israel implied casting away all other gods, and this principle, often expressed in his intercourse with the people, probably met with but slack acceptance. Psalms 106 follows Ezek. closely, cf. Ezekiel 20:7.

Ezekiel 20:8Election 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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