At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)At his right hand was.—This is too exactly literal. The sense is, into his right hand came the divination which determined his course towards Jerusalem. “Captains” should be as in the margin, battering. rams (see Ezekiel 4:2), for the siege of Jerusalem; the same word is so translated farther on in this verse. The remaining clauses portray the operations of the attack.
captains—The Margin, "battering-rams," adopted by Fairbairn, is less appropriate, for "battering-rams" follow presently after [Grotius].
open the mouth in … slaughter—that is, commanding slaughter: raising the war cry of death. Not as Gesenius, "to open the mouth with the war shout."
To appoint; now Nebuchadnezzar sets all in order pursuant to his observance of the diviners.
Captains; the commanders of his forces, and their particular charges in the march and siege; he did, it is probable, assign them by lot, as is ordinary where greatest dangers attend the charges.
To open the mouth; to assault the city where breaches were made, and storm the battered walls, to slay the defenders, and to run the hazard of being slain by them.
With shouting; so all the barbarous, fierce nations did with shouts and hideous noises assault and fight their enemies, and with this they hoped to terrify and amaze them, and so more easily master them; and so these Babylonians did, as may be collected from Psalm 137:7 Jeremiah 51:14, where Babylon shall be repaid her shouts.
Battering rams; engines made to beat down walls; and they had this name from the iron or brass head, which usually was at the end of it, like unto the head of a ram.
Against the gates, which might more easily be broken and beat down.
To cast a mount: in a siege of some length mounts must be raised to offend the besieged by shooting from the tops of them into the city, and to defend the besiegers; and the toil and danger hereof seems here to be cast on both overseers and labourors too by lot.
To build a fort; wooden towers now all these works being thus by lot disposed, the wary tyrant prevents the murmurs of his commanders and soldiers, and insinuates a courage into them by the pretences of assured success, and his idols approving them.
to appoint captains to open the mouth in the slaughter; upon which he appointed his several captains and officers their distinct bodies of men they were to lead on to the siege of Jerusalem; and give them the word of command when to attack the place, scale the walls, or make breaches in it, and fall upon the enemy, and make a slaughter of them. The word for "captains" signifies "rams"; and Joseph Kimchi interprets it of battering rams, to beat down walls; but these are after mentioned; and is both by Jarchi and David Kimchi explained of general officers of the army; and so the Targum,
"to appoint generals to open the gates, that the slayer may enter by them:''
to lift up the voice with shouting; which is usually done in sieges, when a shout is made, and a place is stormed; both to animate the besiegers, and to terrify the besieged:
to appoint battering rams against the gates; to break them down, or break through them, and so make way for the army to enter in; these were engines used in sieges, to beat down walls, and make breaches in them, that the besiegers might enter; so called from the iron heads of them, which resembled rams; and are thus described by Josephus (o),
"the ram is a huge beam, not unlike the mast of a ship; the top of it is capped with a thick piece of iron, in the form of a ram's head, from whence it has its name: this is hung by the middle with ropes to another beam, which lies across, supported by a couple of posts; and thus hanging equally balanced, is, by a great number of men violently thrust backwards and forwards, and so beats the wall with its iron head; nor is there any tower so strong, or wall so broad, as to resist its repeated strokes.''
Vitruvius (p) says it was invented by the Carthaginians at the siege of Cadiz; but Pliny (q) affirms it was invented by Epeus at the siege of Troy; but the first mention of them is made by Ezekiel here, and in Ezekiel 4:2, and Diodorus Siculus (r) affirms they were not known in the times of Sardanapalus, when Nineveh was taken by Arbaces. The Targum interprets it of officers set at the gates, as before; and so Jarchi:
to cast a mount; made up of earth, to raise their batteries upon: and
to build a fort; to cast out their arrows from thence, and protect the besiegers; See Gill on Ezekiel 4:1.At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. at his right hand] in his right hand is the lot (or, oracle) “Jerusalem,” to set battering rams, to open the mouth with a cry. Though “battering rams” occurs again in the verse the word can have no other sense, such as “captains.” The word “cry” seems required by the parallel “shouting;” the letters have probably been transposed. On the apparatus of siege, cf. ch. Ezekiel 4:2.Verse 22. - At his right hand was, etc.; better, into his right hand came, etc.; sc. the arrow marked for Jerusalem was that which came into the king's hand as the quiver was shaken. To appoint captains; better, battering rams, in both clauses. The same Hebrew word is used in both (see note on Ezekiel 4:2). The verse paints the engineering operations of the besiegers, following on the issue of the divination. (For the mount, comp. Isaiah 37:33.)
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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