Ezekiel 21:14
Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy chambers.
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(14) Smite thine hands together.—A gesture of strong emotion (see Ezekiel 21:17, Ezekiel 22:13, and comp. Note on Ezekiel 6:11; Numbers 24:10).

Let the sword be doubled the third time.—The exact translation is here also obscure and difficult, but the meaning is plain that the activity of the sword is to be intensified to the utmost.

The sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain.—Literally, the sword of the overthrown (plural), it is the sword of the overthrown (sing.), of the great one. The word translated slain does not necessarily mean actually killed, but is used in a moral as well as physical sense; and in Ezekiel 20:16; Ezekiel 20:21; Ezekiel 20:24, as often, the verb from which this adjective is formed is translated polluted. The sword is called “the sword of the overthrown” because it is the means of their overthrow, and “the sword of the great one overthrown,” with especial reference to the king.

Which entereth into their privy chambers.—Rather, which begirts them round about, so that none can escape.

Ezekiel 21:14; Ezekiel 21:17. Prophesy, and smite thy hands together — In token of amazement and sorrow. And let the sword be doubled the third time — Bishop Newcome reads, Bring the sword twice; yea, bring it thrice; namely, that God’s judgments might be fully executed, and his justice satisfied. It is probable that the three great slaughters which should be made of the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem are here intended, namely, 1st, During the siege, in which, undoubtedly, great numbers fell who were without the walls of the city, and many within: 2dly, When the city was taken by assault, which certainly was not without great slaughter: and 3dly, The massacre of Gedaliah, and those that sided with him. The sword of the slain — Wherewith many shall be slain. It is the sword of the great men, &c. — Appointed for the slaughter of the great men, namely, the princes, rulers, and captains; which entereth into their privy chambers — Where they were hidden in hopes of escaping. I have set the point of the sword against all their gates — I have gathered together the Chaldeans round about Jerusalem, with their swords sharpened and drawn at every gate, to meet and slay all that shall attempt to come out, or to slay all they find on entering the city. Ah! it is made bright — Hebrew, עשׂויה לברק, is made like lightning. The same metaphor which occurs in Virgil:

“Vaginaque eripit, ensem fulmineum.” — ÆN. 4. 50:579.

“He drew his sword, which did like lightning blaze.”

It is wrapped — Or rather, It is sharpened for the slaughter. So Kimchius and some others translate מעשׂה, deriving the word from עשׂ, a style, or iron pen: see Buxtorf. Go thee one way or other — God is here represented as speaking, by way of apostrophe, to the sword, and giving it an unlimited commission to destroy wherever it should be drawn. I will also smite my hands together — In token of my approbation. I will animate and encourage the slayers to go on. And I will cause my fury to rest — I will satisfy my anger by a full execution of my judgments.

21:1-17 Here is an explanation of the parable in the last chapter. It is declared that the Lord was about to cut off Jerusalem and the whole land, that all might know it was his decree against a wicked and rebellious people. It behoves those who denounce the awful wrath of God against sinners, to show that they do not desire the woful day. The example of Christ teaches us to lament over those whose ruin we declare. Whatever instruments God uses in executing his judgments, he will strengthen them according to the service they are employed in. The sword glitters to the terror of those against whom it is drawn. It is a sword to others, a rod to the people of the Lord. God is in earnest in pronouncing this sentence, and the prophet must show himself in earnest in publishing it.Doubled the third time - i. e., "thrice doubled" to express its violence and force.

The sword of the slain - The sword whereby men are to be slain.

Of the great men ... - Or, The sword of the mighty slain, which presseth hard upon them.

14. smite … hands together—(Nu 24:10), indicative of the indignant fury with which God will "smite" the people.

sword … doubled the third time—referring to the threefold calamity:—(1) The taking of Zedekiah (to whom the "rod," or scepter, may refer); (2) the taking of the city; (3) the removal of all those who remained with Gedaliah. "Doubled" means "multiplied" or "repeated." The stroke shall be doubled and even trebled.

of the slain—that is, by which many are slain. As the Hebrew is singular, Fairbairn makes it refer to the king, "the sword of the great one that is slain," or "pierced through."

entereth … privy chambers—(Jer 9:21). The sword shall overtake them, not merely in the open battlefield, but in the chambers whither they flee to hide themselves (1Ki 20:30; 22:25). Maurer translates, "which besieged them"; Fairbairn, "which penetrates to them." English Version is more literal.

Smite thine hands together; either in token of amazement and sorrow, or else to signify what pleasure it should be to see justice executed on obstinate rebels; or rather, as Ezekiel 21:17, clap thy hands, to awaken and hearten the Babylonians on to the slaughter.

Let the sword be doubled the third time: perhaps it is too curious to search out what particular calamities are pointed out by this trebled sword; whether,

1. Zedekiah’s captivity with many of the princes. And,

2. Taking of the city.

3. Killing of Gedaliah and those with him: to be sure it speaks both the certainty of the thing, and the greatness of the affliction.

Sword of the slain; wherewith many shall be slain.

The great men; which were princes, and captains, and rulers.

Entereth into their privy chambers; searcheth the most secret rooms, where they slew such as they found hidden in hope to escape.

Thou, therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together,.... As being in the greatest agony for what is coming upon thy people: or "strike hand to hand" (y); clap them together, as encouraging the enemy with his drawn, sharp, and glittering sword, to make use of it, and do execution with it:

and let the sword be doubled the third time; some think this has reference to the three captivities of Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah: others to the threefold calamity in Zedekiah's time; the first, the taking of him; the second, the taking of the city; the third, the carrying captive the residue along with Gedaliah: or to the three times the Chaldeans came against Jerusalem, after this prophecy; first with Nebuchadnezzar, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, and took him and the city; then with Nebuzaradan, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, and burnt the city and temple; and again in the twenty third of Nebuchadnezzar, and carried away the remnant of the people, Jeremiah 52:5,

the sword of the slain: by which many should be slain:

it is the sword of the great men that are slain: of the sons of the kings, and of the princes and nobles of the land:

which entereth into their privy chambers; where they should endeavour to hide themselves from it, but in vain, none should escape; their privy chambers could not secrete nor secure them: or "which remains with them"; as that which is laid up, and reserved in a privy chamber, as De Dieu, from the use of the word in the Ethiopic language, renders it.

(y) "percute manum ad manum", Pagninus, Polanus; "volum ad volam"; Montanus; "feri manum ad manum", Starckius.

Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite {m} thy hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their private chambers.

(m) That is, encourage the sword.

14. doubled the third time] The reading must mean: let the sword be doubled, tripled! lit. unto a third (sword), i.e. till it be three-fold. Of course there were not to be three swords or even two; what is called for is a double and triple intensity and operation of the one sword (cf. Ezekiel 21:16).

great men that are slain] Rather: the great one that is slain, i.e. doomed to be slain—ref. being to king Zedekiah, cf. Ezekiel 21:25. A different division of letters gives: the great sword of the slain (collective)—which is less probable as “slain” is plur. immediately before.

entereth … privy chambers] Rather: which compasseth them about—still descriptive of the sword.

Verse 14. - Smite thine hands together, etc. Another gesture follows, either of horror and lamentation, or perhaps, looking to ver. 17, of imperative command. The sword is to do its thrice-redoubled work (the words emphasize generally the intensity, and are scarcely to be taken numerically, of the repeated invasions of the Chaldeans); it is "the sword of the slain" (better, pierced ones, or, with Revised Version, the deadly wounded). The next clause should be taken, with the Revised Version, in the singular - the sword of the great one that is deadly wounded; sc. the sword should smite the king as well as the people. For entereth into their privy chambers, read, with the Revised Version (margin), Ewald, and Keil, it compasseth them about. Ezekiel 21:14The Sword is Sharpened for Slaying

Ezekiel 21:8. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 21:9. Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah, A sword, a sword sharpened and also polished: Ezekiel 21:10. That it may effect a slaughter is it sharpened; that it may flash is it polished: or shall we rejoice (saying), the sceptre of my son despiseth all wood? Ezekiel 21:11. But it has been given to be polished, to take it in the hand; it is sharpened, the sword, and it is polished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. Ezekiel 21:12. Cry and howl, son of man, for it goeth over my people, it goeth over all the princes of Israel: they have fallen by the sword along with my people: therefore smite upon the thigh. Ezekiel 21:13. For the trial is made, and what if the despising sceptre shall not come? is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 21:14. And thou, son of man, prophesy and smite the hands together, and the sword shall double itself into threefold, the sword of the pierced: it is the sword of a pierced one, of the great one, which encircles them. Ezekiel 21:15. That the heart may be dissolved, and stumbling-blocks may be multiplied, I have set the drawing of the sword against all their gates: Alas! it is made into flashing, drawn for slaying. Ezekiel 21:16. Gather thyself up to the right hand, turn to the left, whithersoever thine edge is intended. Ezekiel 21:17. And I also will smite my hands together, and quiet my wrath: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. - The description of the sword is thrown into a lyrical form (Ezekiel 21:8-13), - a kind of sword-song, commemorating the terrible devastation to be effected by the sword of the Lord. The repetition of חרב in Ezekiel 21:9 is emphatic. הוּחדּה is the perfect Hophal of חדד, to sharpen. מרוּטה is the passive participle of מרט, to polish; מרטּה (Ezekiel 21:10), the participle Pual, with מ dropped, and Dagesh euphon. היה, a rare form of the infinitive for היות. The polishing gives to the sword a flashing brilliancy, which renders the sharpness of its edge still more terrible. The very obscure words, 'או נשׂישׂ וגו, I agree with Schmieder and Kliefoth in regarding as a protest, interposed by the prophet in the name of the people against the divine threat of the sword of vengeance, on the ground of the promises which had been given to the tribe of Judah. או, or perhaps; introducing an opposite case, or an exception to what has been said. The words 'שׁבט are to be taken as an objection, so that לאמר is to be supplied in thought. The objection is taken from the promise given in Jacob's blessing to the tribe of Judah: "the sceptre will not depart from Judah" (Genesis 49:10). שׁבט בּני points unquestionably to this. בּני is taken from Ezekiel 21:9, where the patriarch addresses Judah, whom he compares to a young lion, as בּני. Consequently the sceptre of my son is the command which the patriarch holds out to view before the tribe of Judah. This sceptre despises all wood, i.e., every other ruler's staff, as bad wood. This view is not rendered a doubtful one by the fact that שׁבט is construed as a feminine here, whereas it is construed as a masculine in every other case; for this construction is unquestionable in Ezekiel 21:7 (12), and has many analogies in its favour. All the other explanations that have been proposed are hardly worth mentioning, to say nothing of refuting, as they amount to nothing more than arbitrary conjectures; whereas the assumption that the words are to be explained from Genesis 49:10 is naturally suggested by the unquestionable allusion to the prophecy in that passage, which we find in Ezekiel 21:27 of the present chapter. ויּתּן in Ezekiel 21:11 is to be taken adversatively, "but he gave it (the sword) to be sharpened." The subject to ויּתּן is not Jehovah, but is indefinite, "one" (man, Angl. they), although it is actually God who has prepared the sword for the slaughter of Israel. The train of thought is the following: Do not think we have no reason to fear the sharply-ground sword of Jehovah, because Judah has received the promise that the sceptre shall not depart from it; and this promise will certainly be fulfilled, and Judah be victorious over every hostile power. The promise will not help you in this instance. The sword is given to be ground, not that it may be put into the scabbard, but that it may be taken in the hand by a slayer, and smite all the people and all its princes. In the phrase היא הוּחדּה חרב, חרב is in apposition to the subject היא, and is introduced to give emphasis to the words. It is not till Ezekiel 21:19 that it is stated who the slayer is; but the hearers of the prophecy could be in no doubt. Consequently - this is the connection with Ezekiel 21:12 - there is no ground for rejoicing from a felling of security and pride, but rather an occasion for painful lamentation.

This is the meaning contained in the command to the prophet to cry and howl. For the sword will come upon the nation and its princes. It is the simplest rendering to take היא as referring to הרב, היה ב, to be at a person, to fasten to him, to come upon him, as in 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 24:17. מגוּרי, not from גּוּר, but the passive participle of מגר in the Pual, to overthrow, cast down (Psalm 89:45): "fallen by the sword have they (the princes) become, along with my people." The perfects are prophetic, representing that which will speedily take place as having already occurred. - Smiting upon the thigh is a sign of alarm and horror (Jeremiah 31:19). בּחן, perfect Pual, is used impersonally: the trial is made. The words allude to the victories gained already by Nebuchadnezzar, which have furnished tests of the sharpness of his sword. The question which follows וּמה contains an aposiopesis: and what? Even if the despising sceptre shall not come, what will be the case then? שׁבט מאסת, according to Ezekiel 21:10, is the sceptre of Judah, which despises all other sceptres as bad wood. יהיה, in this instance, is not "to be," in the sense of to remain, but to become, to happen, to come (come to pass), to enter. The meaning is, if the sceptre of Judah shall not display, or prove itself to possess, the strength expected of it. - With Ezekiel 21:14 the address takes a new start, for the purpose of depicting still further the operations of the sword. Smiting the hands together (smiting hand in hand) is a gesture expressive of violent emotion (cf. Ezekiel 6:11; Numbers 24:10). The sword is to double, i.e., multiply itself, into threefold (שׁלישׁתה, adverbial), namely, in its strength, or its edge. Of course this is not to be taken arithmetically, as it has been by Hitzig, but is a bold paradoxical statement concerning the terrible effect produced by the sword. It is not even to be understood as referring to three attacks made at different times by the Chaldeans upon Jerusalem, as many of the commentators suppose. The sword is called חבב חללים, sword of pierced ones, because it produces the pierced or slain. The following words are rendered by Hitzig and Kliefoth: the great sword of the slain. But apart from the tautology which this occasions, the rendering can hardly be defended on grammatical grounds. For, in the first place, we cannot see why the singular חלל should have been chosen, when the expression was repeated, instead of the plural חללים; and secondly, חגּדול cannot be an adjective agreeing with חרב, for חרב is a noun of the feminine gender, and is construed here as a feminine, as החדרת clearly shows. הגּדול is in apposition to חלל, "sword of a pierced man, the great one;" and the great man pierced is the king, as Ewald admits, in agreement with Hengstenberg and Hvernick. The words therefore affirm that the sword will not only slay the mass of the people, but pierce the king himself. (See also the comm. on Ezekiel 21:25.) - Ezekiel 21:15 is not dependent upon what precedes, but introduces a new thought, viz., for what purpose the sword is sharpened. God has placed the flashing sword before all the gates of the Israelites, in order that (למען, pleonastic for למען) the heart may dissolve, the inhabitants may lose all their courage for defence, and to multiply offendicula, i.e., occasions to fall by the sword. The ἁπ. λεγ. אבחת signifies the rapid motion or turning about of the sword (cf. Genesis 3:24); אבח, related to הפך, in the Mishna אפך. The ἁπ. λεγ. מעטּה, fem. of מעט, does not mean smooth, i.e., sharpened, synonymous with מרט, but, according to the Arabic m̀t, eduxit e vagina gladium, drawn (from the scabbard). In Ezekiel 21:16 the sword is addressed, and commanded to smite right and left. התאחדי, gather thyself up, i.e., turn with all thy might toward the right (Tanchum). To the verb השׂימוּ it is easy to supply פּניך, from the context, "direct thine edge toward the left." אנה, whither, without an interrogative, as in Joshua 2:5 and Nehemiah 2:16. מעדות, from יעד, intended, ordered; not, directed, turned. The feminine form may be accounted for from a construction ad sensum, the gender regulating itself according to the חרב addressed in פּניך. The command to the sword is strengthened by the explanation given by Jehovah in Ezekiel 21:17, that He also (like the prophet, Ezekiel 21:14) will smite His hands together and cool His wrath upon them (cf. Ezekiel 5:13).

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