Ezekiel 21:2
Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, and drop your word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Set thy face . . . drop thy word . . . prophesy.—These expressions, with the “say to the land” of Ezekiel 21:3, connect this with 20:46, 47; but there they were followed by figurative terms, while here we have plainly “Jerusalem,” “the holy places,” and “the land of Israel.”

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.The first word of judgment Ezekiel 21:1-7. Ezekiel speaks first to the people of Israel, shows the universality of the coming destructions, and indicates by a sign (that of sighing) the sadness of the calamity.

The words and order of words are identical with Ezekiel 20:45-46, except that for "south," there are substituted:

(1) "Jerusalem;"

(2) "the holy place," i. e., the temple and its various parts;

(3) "the land of Israel."

No subterfuge is left for the people to pretend misunderstanding.

2. the holy places—the three parts of the temple: the courts, the holy place, and the holiest. If "synagogues" existed before the Babylonian captivity, as Ps 74:8 seems to imply, they and the proseuchæ, or oratories, may be included in the "holy places" here. Set thy face; put thyself in a posture may bespeak thy going to prophesy.

Toward Jerusalem, or against Jerusalem, called, Ezekiel 20:46, forest of the south field. Drop thy word; of the phrase see Ezekiel 20:46; as rain from heaven, so distil my word.

The holy places; either the temple, and all the parts of it, which were three, the porch, the holy, and holy of holies; or their synagogues, in which they met to worship and read the law, which were burnt up by this fire, Psalm 74:8.

Against the land of Israel; not only against Jerusalem, but the whole land of Israel, from the south thereof to the north; as Ezekiel 20:47. Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem,.... Which shows that this city was meant by "the south", Ezekiel 20:46,

and drop thy word toward the holy places; which also are meant by the south in the passage referred to, even the holy land, holy city, and holy temple; or the temple itself is only meant, with the courts adjoining to it; or as consisting of three parts, as Kimchi, the porch, the temple, and the oracle; or the outward court, the holy place, and the holy of holies; and it may respect all other places for sacred worship, as their synagogues, both in city and country; which were not to be spared any more than the temple, nor were they, Psalm 74:7. Jarchi thinks that the destruction both of the first and second temple is here intended; and which sense Kimchi also mentions.

And prophesy against the land of Israel: by which it appears that this is intended by the "forest of the south field": even the numerous inhabitants of it in general, as well as the city of Jerusalem, Ezekiel 20:46.

Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, {a} and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,

(a) Speak sensibly, that all may understand.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. the holy places] Or, sanctuaries. These are not the rural sanctuaries or high places, but the holy buildings in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 7:24; Lamentations 2:6).Verses 2, 3. - The opening words, reproducing those of Ezekiel 20:46, indicate that the interpretation of that parable is coming. So the three variants of "south" are shown to mean respectively Jerusalem, the holy places, and the land of Israel. So, in ver. 3, the righteous and the wicked take the place of the "green" and the "dry" tree, and the fire is explained as meaning the sword of the invader. The teaching of ch. 18, had shown that Ezekiel had entered, as regards the ultimate judgment of individual men, into the spirit of Abram's words "That be far from thee to destroy the righteous with the wicked" (Genesis 18:25). But in regard to temporal judgments there would be in this case, as in the complaint of Job 9:22, no distinction. The sword went forth "against all flesh." The Judgment Awaiting Israel of Purification among the Heathen

Ezekiel 20:32. And that which riseth up in your mind shall not come to pass, in that ye say, We will be like the heathen, like the families of the lands, to serve wood and stone. Ezekiel 20:33. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, with strong hand and with outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, will I rule over you. Ezekiel 20:34. And I will bring you out of the nations, and gather you out of the lands in which ye have been scattered, with strong hand and with outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, Ezekiel 20:35. And will bring you into the desert of the nations, and contend with you there face to face. Ezekiel 20:36. As I contended with your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so will I contend with you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 20:37. And I will cause you to pass through under the rod, and bring you into the bond of the covenant. Ezekiel 20:38. And I will separate from you the rebellious, and those who are apostates from me; out of the land of their sojourning will I lead them out, but into the land of Israel shall they not come; that ye may know that I am Jehovah. - העלה על רוּח, that which rises up in the spirit, is the thought that springs up in the mind. What this thought was is shown in Ezekiel 20:32, viz., we will be like the heathen in the lands of the earth, to serve wood and stone; that is to say, we will become idolaters like the heathen, pass into heathenism. This shall not take place; on the contrary, God will rule over them as King with strong arm and fury. The words, "with strong hand and stretched-out arm," are a standing expression in the Pentateuch for the mighty acts by which Jehovah liberated His people from the power of the Egyptians, and led them out of Egypt (cf. Exodus 6:1, Exodus 6:6 with וּבמשׁפּטים גּדולים). Here, on the contrary, they are connected with בּחמה שׁפוּכה, and are used in Ezekiel 20:33 with reference to the government of God over Israel, whilst in Ezekiel 20:34 they are applied to the bringing out of Israel from the midst of the heathen. By the introduction of the clause "with fury poured out," the manifestation of the omnipotence of God which Israel experience in its dispersion, and which it was still to experience among the heathen, is described as an emanation of the divine wrath, a severe and wrathful judgment. The leading and gathering of Israel out of the nations (Ezekiel 20:34) is neither their restoration from the existing captivity in Babylon, nor their future restoration to Canaan on the conversion of the people who were still hardened, and therefore rejected by God. The former assumption would be decidedly at variance with both מן העמּים and מן הארצות, since Israel was dispersed only throughout one land and among one people at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Moreover, neither of the assumptions is reconcilable with the context, more especially with Ezekiel 20:35. According to the context, this leading out is an act of divine anger, which Israel is to feel in connection therewith; and this cannot be affirmed of either the redemption of the people out of the captivity in Babylon, or the future gathering of Israel from its dispersion. According to Ezekiel 20:35, God will conduct those who are brought out from the nations and gathered together out of the lands into the desert of the nations, and contend with them there. The "desert of the nations" is not the desert lying between Babylonia and Palestine, on the coastlands of the Mediterranean, through which the Israelites would have to pass on their way home from Babylon (Rosenmller, Hitzig, and others). For there is no imaginable reason why this should be called the desert of the nations in distinction from the desert of Arabia, which also touched the borders of several nations. The expression is doubtless a typical one, the future guidance of Israel being depicted as a repetition of the earlier guidance of the people from Egypt to Canaan; as it also is in Hosea 2:16. All the separate features in the description indicate this, more especially Ezekiel 20:36 and Ezekiel 20:37, where it is impossible to overlook the allusion to the guidance of Israel in the time of Moses.

The more precise explanation of the words must depend, however, upon the sense in which we are to understand the expression, "desert of the land of Egypt." Here also the supposition that the Arabian desert is referred to, because it touched the border of Egypt, does not furnish a sufficient explanation. It touched the border of Canaan as well. Why then did not Ezekiel name it after the land of Canaan? Evidently for no other reason than that the time spent by the Israelites in the Arabian desert resembled their sojourn in Egypt much more closely than their settlement in Canaan, because, while there, they were still receiving their training for their entrance into Canaan, and their possession and enjoyment of its benefits, just as much as in the land of Egypt. And in a manner corresponding to this, the "desert of the nations" is a figurative expression applied to the world of nations, from whom they were indeed spiritually distinct, whilst outwardly they were still in the midst of them, and had to suffer from their oppression. Consequently the leading of Israel out of the nations (Ezekiel 20:34) is not a local and corporeal deliverance out of heathen lands, but a spiritual severance from the heathen world, in order that they might not be absorbed into it or become inseparably blended with the heathen. God will accomplish this by means of severe chastisements, by contending with them as He formerly contended with their fathers in the Arabian desert. God contends with His people when He charges them with their sin and guilt, not merely in words, but also with deeds, i.e., through chastening and punishments. The words "face to face" point back to Deuteronomy 5:4 : "Jehovah talked with you face to face in the mount, out of the midst of the fire." Just as at Sinai the Lord talked directly with Israel, and made know to it the devouring fire of His own holy nature, in so terrible a manner that all the people trembled and entreated Moses to act the part of a mediator between them, promising at the same time obedience to him (Exodus 20:19); so will the Lord make Himself known to Israel in the desert of the world of nations with the burning zeal of His anger, that it may learn to fear Him. This contending is more precisely defined in Ezekiel 20:37 and Ezekiel 20:38. I will cause you to pass through under the (shepherd's) rod. A shepherd lets his sheep pass through under his rod for the purpose of counting them, and seeing whether they are in good condition or not (vid., Jeremiah 33:13). The figure is here applied to God. Like a shepherd, He will cause His flock, the Israelites, to pass through under His rod, i.e., take them into His special care, and bring them "into the bond of the covenant" (מסרת, not from מסר Raschi, but from אסר, for מאסרה, a fetter); that is to say, not "I will bind myself to you and you to me by a new covenant" (Bochart, Hieroz. I. p. 508), for this is opposed to the context, but, as the Syriac version has rendered it, b-mardûtâ (in disciplina), "the discipline of the covenant." By this we are not merely to understand the covenant punishments, with which transgressors of the law are threatened, as Hvernick does, but the covenant promises must also be included. For not only the threats of the covenant, but the promises of the covenant, are bonds by which God trains His people; and אסר is not only applied to burdensome and crushing fetters, but to the bonds of love as well (vid., Sol 7:6). Kliefoth understands by the fetter of the covenant the Mosaic law, as being the means employed by God to preserve the Israelites from mixing with the nations while placed in the midst of them, and to keep them to Himself, and adds the following explanation, - "this law, through which they should have been able to live, they have now to wear as a fetter, and to feel the chastisement thereof." But however correct the latter thought may be in itself, it is hardly contained in the words, "lead them into the fetter (band) of the law." Moreover, although the law did indeed preserve Israel from becoming absorbed into the world of nations, the fact that the Jews were bound to the law did not bring them to the knowledge of the truth, or bring to pass the purging of the rebellious from among the people, to which Ezekiel 20:38 refers. All that the law accomplished in this respect in the case of those who lived among the heathen was effected by its threatenings and its promises, and not by its statutes and their faithful observance. This discipline will secure the purification of the people, by severing from the nation the rebellious and apostate. God will bring them forth out of the land of this pilgrimage, but will not bring them into the land of Israel. ארץ is the standing epithet applied in the Pentateuch to the land of Canaan, in which the patriarchs lived as pilgrims, without coming into actual possession of the land (cf. Genesis 17:8; Genesis 28:4; Genesis 36:7; Exodus 6:4). This epithet Ezekiel has transferred to the lands of Israel's exile, in which it was to lead a pilgrim-life until it was ripe for entering Canaan. הוציא, to lead out, is used here for clearing out by extermination, as the following clause, "into the land of Israel shall they not come," plainly shows. The singular יבוא is used distributively: not one of the rebels will enter.

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