Ezekiel 21:19
Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city.
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(19) Appoint thee two ways.—Or, set before thee. The prophet is directed to represent Nebuchadnezzar as about to go forth with his armies, and hesitating whether he should take first the road to Jerusalem or to the capital of the Ammonites. His choice of the former is determined, as he supposes, by his divinations, but really by the overruling hand of the Lord, who thus shows beforehand what it shall be. The whole is set forth in the vivid and concrete imagery so characteristic of Ezekiel; but it is impossible that the scene in real life was to be thus determined by the prophet’s open interference. The whole is a vision, in which life and action is conveyed by this manner of describing the course of future events as actually taking place before the eyes of his hearers. The two ways “come forth out of one land;” their starting-point is the same. Babylon, and they diverge towards different destinations.

Choose thou a place.—Literally, make a hand or, as we say, a finger-post. The verb here used never means “choose,” nor does the noun ever mean “place” but the verb is often used both in the sense of to make and to engrave, and “hand” frequently occurs in the sense of a pillar, and occasionally in that of a guide post. (See 1Samuel 15:12; 2Samuel 18:18; Isaiah 56:5.) The prophet in vision sets up this guide-post to direct the king on his march. The roads to Rabbah and to Jerusalem from Babylon would be the same for many hundred miles. It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that Ezekiel actually stood at their parting.

Head of the way, called more poetically in Ezekiel 21:21 “mother of the way,” is the point where the road forks. From this point the road to Jerusalem would lie on the right, that to Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites, on the left.

Ezekiel 21:19-20. Appoint thee two ways — So as to represent them to the eyes of thy countrymen: see Ezekiel 4:1; “Designa in tabella, lapide, aut terra.” Mark on a map, a stone, or on the earth. — Vatablus. That the sword of the king of Babylon may come — Dr. Waterland translates this, “Appoint thee two roads for the king of Babylon’s sword to come by; let both go forth out of one land; and choose thou a way-mark; choose it at the head of the road toward the city: Ezekiel 21:20, Point out a road for the sword to go to Rabbath, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.” Instead of the defenced, Houbigant reads, that he may besiege it. God here foreshows his prophet, that when the king of Babylon should come with his army into Syria, and find the Ammonites had entered into a confederacy with Egypt as well as Zedekiah, he would be in doubt against which of the two people he should first make war, and would commit the decision of the matter to his arts of divination, described Ezekiel 21:21; and that God should direct the divination to be for taking the road that leads to Jerusalem. The words, Let both go forth out of one land, seem to mean, that the single way should divide itself into two, leading to different places. This, as appears from what follows, was the road coming out of Arabia, which afterward parted into two, one leading to Rabbath, and the other to Jerusalem.

21:18-27 By the Spirit of prophecy Ezekiel foresaw Nebuchadnezzar's march from Babylon, which he would determine by divination. The Lord would overturn the government of Judah, till the coming of Him whose right it is. This seems to foretell the overturnings of the Jewish nation to the present day, and the troubles of states and kingdoms, which shall make way for establishing the Messiah's kingdom throughout the earth. The Lord secretly leads all to adopt his wise designs. And in the midst of the most tremendous warnings of wrath, we still hear of mercy, and some mention of Him through whom mercy is shown to sinful men.Appoint thee - Set before thee.

Choose thou a place, choose it - Rather, "mark a spot, mark it," as upon a map, at the head of the two roads, one leading to Jerusalem, the other to Ammon. These were the two roads by one or other of which an invading army must march from Babylon to Egypt.

19. two ways—The king coming from Babylon is represented in the graphic style of Ezekiel as reaching the point where the road branched off in two ways, one leading by the south, by Tadmor or Palmyra, to Rabbath of Ammon, east of Jordan; the other by the north, by Riblah in Syria, to Jerusalem—and hesitating which way to take. Ezekiel is told to "appoint the two ways" (as in Eze 4:1); for Nebuchadnezzar, though knowing no other control but his own will and superstition, had really this path "appointed" for him by the all-ruling God.

out of one land—namely, Babylon.

choose … a place—literally, "a hand." So it is translated by Fairbairn, "make a finger-post," namely, at the head of the two ways, the hand post pointing Nebuchadnezzar to the way to Jerusalem as the way he should select. But Maurer rightly supports English Version. Ezekiel is told to "choose the place" where Nebuchadnezzar should do as is described in Eze 21:20, 21; so entirely does God order by the prophet every particular of place and time in the movements of the invader.

Appoint; paint, mark out, or describe on the or tablet, as Ezekiel 4:1, two roads, and set it before thy countrymen in Babylon, and let them know that the arms and sword of Nebuchadnezzar are designed for exploits, where those ways lead them. Thus typically Ezekiel foretells the invasion the king of Babylon would make.

Both twain; the ways, though two in the course they lead, as stream that divide and multiply, yet must take their rise from one and the same land, that is, Babylon; there the prophet must begin to mark out the way which is to he drawn out: till it divide into two. And pitch on some convenience place, where thou mayst place Nebuchadnezzar’s army, he and his council of war consulting where this one way divides into two, which was on the edge of the desert of Arabia, as Nebuchadnezzar pursued his march from Babylon.

At the head of the way; either where the way begins, at Babylon; or rather at the head where each distinct way runs out, toward either Rabbath of the Ammonites, of Jerusalem; for there Nebuchadnezzar will cast lots.

Also thou, son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come,.... Describe or draw out upon a table or tile, as in Ezekiel 4:1, or on the ground, two roads, such as are described in maps; which it may be supposed the king of Babylon would take, either the one or the other, in order to make war against some king or another:

both twain shall come forth out of one land; both ways must be drawn as coming from one country, even Babylon;

and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city; fix upon some spacious place, where Nebuchadnezzar may be supposed to bring his army, as a proper rendezvous for them to muster them in; and let be where two ways meet, that lead to cities, one to one city, and another to another: and it seems that upon the desert of Arabia, through which the king of Babylon came, there was such a place, where two ways met, and one led to Jerusalem, and the other to Rabbath; and this is the place the prophet was to describe, and where in fact Nebuchadnezzar came.

Also, thou son of man, mark {o} two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both ways shall come forth from one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city.

(o) This was spoken because when Nebuchadnezzar came against Judah his purpose was also to go against the Ammonites, but doubting in the way which enterprise to undertake first he consulted with his soothsayers and so went against Judah.

19. appoint thee two ways] Or, make thee. The prophet is to make a representation of a way branching into two ways, i.e. the way from Babylon, which at a certain point parts into two, there being two possibilities before the king, either Rabbah or Jerusalem. Naturally the action was not performed in reality by the prophet.

choose thou a place] and grave a hand, at the head of the way to the (each) city grave it. The “hand” is the pointer or sign-post indicating direction. LXX. reads somewhat differently.

Ezekiel 21:19The sword of the king of Babylon will smite Jerusalem, and then the Ammonites also. - Ezekiel 21:18. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 21:19. And thou, son of man, make to thyself two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come by them; out of one land shall they both come forth, and draw a hand, at the cross road of the city do thou draw it. Ezekiel 21:20. Make a way that the sword may come to Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, and to Judah into fortified Jerusalem. Ezekiel 21:21. For the king of Babylon is stopping at the cross road, at the parting of the two ways, to practise divination. He is shaking the arrows, inquiring of the teraphim, looking at the liver. Ezekiel 21:22. The divination falls to his right: Jerusalem, to set battering-rams, to open the mouth with a death-cry, to lift up the voice with a war-cry, to set battering-rams at the gates, to heap up a rampart, to build siege towers. - After the picture of the terrible devastation which the sword of the Lord will produce, the last word of God in this prophecy answers the questions, in whose hand Jehovah will place His sword, and whom it will smite. The slayer into whose hand the sharpened sword is given (Ezekiel 21:11) is the king of Babylon, and it will smite not only Judah, but the Ammonites also. Jerusalem and Judah will be the first to fall, and then the arch-enemy of the covenant nation, namely Ammon, will succumb to the strokes of the sword of Jehovah, in order that the embittered enemies of the Lord and His people may learn that the fall of Jerusalem is not, as they fancy, a proof of the impotence, but rather of the omnipotence, of its God. In this way does our prophecy expand into a prediction of the judgment which will fall upon the whole of the world in hostility to God. For it is only as the arch-enemies of the kingdom of God that the Ammonites come into consideration here. The parallel between Israel and the sons of Ammon is carried out in such a way as to give constant prominence to the distinction between them. Jerusalem will fall, the ancient theocracy will be destroyed till he shall come who will restore the right (Ezekiel 21:26 and Ezekiel 21:27). Ammon, on the other hand, will perish, and not a trace be left (Ezekiel 21:31, Ezekiel 21:32).

This prediction is exhibited to the eye by means of a sign. The prophet is to make two ways, i.e., to prepare a sketch representing a road leading from a country, viz., Babylon, and dividing at a certain spot into two roads, one of which leads to Rabbath-Ammon, the capital of the kingdom of the Ammonites, the other to Judah, into Jerusalem. He is to draw the ways for the coming (לבוא) of the sword of the king of Babylon. At the fork of the road he is to engrave a hand, יד, i.e., an index. בּרא signifies in the Piel to cut away (Joshua 17:15, Joshua 17:18), to dig or hew (Ezekiel 23:47), here to engrave written characters in hard material. The selection of this word shows that Ezekiel was to sketch the ways upon some hard material, probably a brick or tile (cf. Ezekiel 4:1). יד does not mean locus spatium, but a hand, i.e., an index. ראשׁ , the beginning of the road, i.e., the fork of the road (Ezekiel 16:25), is explained in Ezekiel 21:21, where it is called אם, mother of the road, inasmuch as the roads start from the point of separation, and ראשׁ שׁני הדּרכים, beginning of the two roads. דּרך עיר, the road to a city. For Rabbath-Ammon, which is preserved in the ruins of Ammn, on the Upper Jabbok (Nahr Ammn), see the comm. on Deuteronomy 3:11. The road to Judah is still more precisely defined by בּירוּשׁלים בּצוּרה, into fortified Jerusalem, because the conquest of Jerusalem was the purpose of Nebuchadnezzar's expedition. The omission of the article before בּצוּרה may be explained from the nature of the participle, in which, even in prose, the article may be left out after a definite noun (cf. Ewald, 335a). The drawing is explained in Ezekiel 21:21 and Ezekiel 21:22. The king of Babylon is halting (עמד, to stand still, stop) to consult his oracles, and inquire which of the two roads he is to take. קסם, to take in hand, or practise divination. In order that he may proceed safely, he avails himself of all the means of divination at his command. He shakes the arrows (more strictly, the quiver with the arrows). On the practice itself Jerome writes as follows: "He consults the oracle according to the custom of his nation, putting his arrows into a quiver, and mixing them together, with the names of individuals inscribed or stamped upon them, to see whose arrow will come out, and which state shall be first attacked."

(Note: The arrow-lot (Belomantie) of the ancient Greeks (Homer, Il. iii. 324, vii. 182, 183) was similar to this; also that of the ancient Arabs (vid., Pococke, Specim. hist. Arab. pp. 327ff., and the passages from Nuweiri quoted by Reiske, Samml. einiger Arab. Sprichwrter von den Stecken oder Stben, p. 21). Another kind, in which the lot was obtained by shooting off the arrows, was common according to the Fihrist el Ulum of En-Nedm among the Hananian Ssabians (see Chwolsohn, Ssabier, ii. pp. 26 and 119, 200).)

He consults the Teraphim, or Penates, worshipped as oracular deities and gods of good fortune (see the comm. on Genesis 31:19 and my Biblical Archaeology, 90). Nothing is known concerning the way in which these deities were consulted and gave their oracles. He examines the liver. The practice of ἡπατοσκοπία, extispicium, in which signs of good or bad luck, of the success or failure of any enterprise, were obtained from the peculiar condition of the liver of the sacrificial animals, was a species of divination to which great importance was attached by both the Babylonians (vid., Diod. Sic. ii. 29) and the Romans (Cicero, de divin. vi. 13), and of which traces were found, according to Barhebr. Chron. p. 125, as late as the eighth century of the Christian era among the Ssabians of Haran.

The divination resulted in a decision for Jerusalem. בּימינו היה is not to be translated "in his right hand was," but "into his right hand there came." היה: ἐγένετο (lxx), נפיל (Chald.), קסם does not mean lot (Ges.), but soothsaying, divination. ירוּשׁלים is connected with this in the form of a noun in apposition: the divination which indicated Jerusalem. The right hand is the more important of the two. The meaning of the words cannot be more precisely defined, because we are not acquainted with the king of divination referred to; even if we were to take the words as simply relating to the arrow in this sense, that an arrow with the inscription "Jerusalem" came into his right hand, and thus furnished the decision, which was afterwards confirmed by consulting the Teraphim and examining the liver. But the circumstance itself, that is to say, the fact that the divination coincided with the purpose of God, must not be taken, as Hvernick supposes, as suggesting a point of contact between Hebraism and the soothsaying of heathenism, which was peculiar to Ezekiel or to the time of the captivity. All that is proved by this fact is, that even heathenism is subject to the rule and guidance of Almighty God, and is made subservient to the accomplishment of the plans of both His kingdom and His salvation. In the words, to set bettering rams, etc., the substance of the oracle obtained by Nebuchadnezzar is more minutely given. It is a double one, showing what he is to do: viz., (1) to set bettering rams, i.e., to proceed to the siege of Jerusalem, as still further described in the last portion of the verse (Ezekiel 4:2); and (2) to raise the war-cry for storming the city, that is to say, to take it by storm. The two clauses 'לפתּח וגו and 'להרים וגו are synonymous; they are not "pure tautology," however, as Hitzig affirms, but are chosen for the purpose of giving greater emphasis to the thought. The expression בּרצח creates some difficulty, inasmuch as the phrase "ut aperiat os in caede" (Vulg.), to open the mouth in murder or ruin, i.e., to put to death or lay in ruins, is a very striking one, and could hardly be justified as an "energetic expression for the battle-cry" (Hvernick). ב does not mean "to," and cannot indicate the intention, all the less because בּרצח is parallel to בּתרוּעה, where תרועה is that in which the raising of the voice expresses itself. There is nothing left then but to take רצח in the sense of field-or war-cry, and to derive this meaning either from רצח or, per metathesin, from צרח.

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