Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in you to their power to shed blood.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Were in thee to their power.—The tense is the same with that of the verbs in Ezekiel 22:7, and both should be translated alike; the order of the words should also be changed: “The princes of Israel, every one according to his power, have been in thee to shed blood.” The rulers, who should have preserved order and administered justice, were foremost in deeds of violence. (See the instances of Manasseh, 2Kings 21:16, and of Jehoiakim, 2Kings 24:4.)Ezekiel 22:6-12. Behold, the princes of Israel, &c. — Probably the members of the great sanhedrim, or the king’s counsellors and chief officers, are here intended; every one in thee — Not one to be found of a more merciful temper; to their power — According to their ability; to shed blood — Every one of the princes committed acts of violence, and shed blood, as far as he had it in his power to do it. In thee have they set light by father and mother — Disobedience to, or slighting of parents, is unnatural and brutish in itself, and had, in particular, a curse denounced against it by God’s law, Deuteronomy 27:16; so that it is here placed next to murder in the catalogue of their sins. Thou hast despised my holy things, &c. — Thou hast paid no proper regard to my holy temple, mine altars, sacrifices, feasts, and other things consecrated to my service, nor to the pure worship I appointed; but hast defiled and profaned them all by worshipping of idols together with me, and mingling heathen rites with the forms of worship which I ordered. The sabbaths, which I appointed to be set apart for my honour, thou hast, in great measure, employed in the worship and to the honour of false gods. In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood —
Who raise calumnies and depose falsehoods even so far as to take away the lives of innocent persons. In thee they eat upon the mountains — Thy inhabitants sacrifice, and feast upon the sacrifices, in the mountains, in honour of idols or false gods. In the midst of thee they commit lewdness — And that in the most scandalous instances. In thee have they discovered their fathers’ nakedness — Have defiled their fathers’ beds, or taken their mothers-in-law for wives, called by St. Paul, such fornication as is not named among the Gentiles. In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood — Thy judges have taken bribes, not only to pervert justice, but even to take away the lives of the innocent.Ezekiel 23:2 commanded to show the Jews all their abominations. Now he is directed to begin with the greatest first, either those of the royal family, or else such as adhered close to the interest of them, and were advanced to places of great trust; or, who were heads of families.
Every one; not one to be found of a juster or more merciful temper.
To their power; according to their ability and opportunity.
To shed blood; for murdering all they hated, or that stood in their way.
everyone were in thee to their power to shed blood; everyone exerted himself to the uttermost, according to his ability, to shed blood, or cause it to be shed; everyone strove, as it were, who should shed most, to exceed each other in this abominable sin.Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power to shed blood.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)6–12. Particular enumeration of Jerusalem’s sins
6. The “princes” are those of the royal house.
were … to their power] have been high-handed in thee, to shed. The meaning is not that they shed blood to the utmost of their power, but that they were arbitrary; their power, lit. arm, was the only law.Verse 6. - Behold, the princes of Judah, etc. For the "bloodshed," which was conspicuous among the sins, comp. Ezekiel 9:9; Ezekiel 16:38; Ezekiel 23:37, 45; and for special instances of that sin among its princes, those of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:16) and Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:4). To their power; Hebrew, each man according to his arm, i.e. his strength. There was no restraint upon the doer of evil other than the limitation of his capacity. Ezekiel 21:23. And it is like deceptive divination in their eyes; sacred oaths are theirs (lit., to them); but he brings the iniquity to remembrance, that they may be taken. Ezekiel 21:24. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye bring your iniquity to remembrance, in that your offences are made manifest, so that your sins appear in all your deeds, because ye are remembered ye shall be taken with the hand. Ezekiel 21:25. And thou pierced one, sinner, prince of Israel, whose day is come at the time of the final transgression, Ezekiel 21:26. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The turban will be removed, the crown taken off. This is not this; the low will be lifted up, and the lofty lowered. Ezekiel 21:27. Overthrown, overthrown, overthrown will I make it; even this shall not be, till He cometh, to whom is the right, to Him do I give it. - In Ezekiel 21:23 (28), להם, which is more precisely defined by בּעיניהם, refers to the Israelites, i.e., the Judaeans. This also applies to the following להם, which cannot possibly be taken as referring to a different subject, say, for example, the Chaldeans. It is evident, therefore, that it is impossible to sustain the rendering given in Gesenius' Thesaurus (s.v.) to the obscure words שׁבעי שׁבעות, viz., qui juramenta jurarunt eis (sc., Chaldaeis), which Maurer has modified and expounded thus: "they will not fear these auguries; they will swear oaths to them (the Chaldeans), that is to say, according to their usual custom, these truce-breakers will take fresh oaths, hoping that the Chaldeans will be conciliated thereby." Moreover, the thought itself is an unsuitable one, inasmuch as "the defiant attitude of confidence with which they looked such awfully threatening danger in the face must have had some other ground than a reliance upon false oaths and Chaldean credulity" (Hvernick). The common explanation, which Rosenmller and Kliefoth uphold, is, "because the Chaldeans are sworn allies, sworn confederates of theirs;" or as Kliefoth explains it, "on account of the oath of fealty or vassalage sworn by Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar, they have sworn confederates in the Chaldeans, and relying upon this, they are confident that they have no hostile attack to fear from them." But this is altogether untenable, not only because it is perfectly arbitrary to supply "the Chaldeans," but still more for the reason adduced by Maurer. "How," he justly asks, "could the Judaeans despise these auguries because the Chaldeans were bound to them by an oath when they themselves had broken faith? When a treaty has been violated by one party, is not the other released from his oath?" We therefore adopt the same explanation as Hvernick: "oaths of oaths are theirs (to them), i.e., the most sacred oaths are (made) to them, namely, by God." They rely upon that which God has solemnly sworn to them, without considering upon what this promise was conditional, namely, upon a faithful observance on their part of the commandments of God. For the fact itself, compare Ezekiel 20:42, and such passages as Psalm 105:9., etc. The form שׁבעי by the side of שׁבעות may be explained in a very simple way from the relation of the construct state, i.e., from the endeavour to secure an obvious form for the construct state, and cannot in any case furnish a well-founded argument against the correctness of our explanation. As Ezekiel uses נפשׁים for נפשׁות in Ezekiel 13:20, he may also have formed שׁבעים (שׁבעי) by the side of שׁבעות. - As they rely upon the promises of God without reflecting upon their own breach of covenant, God will bring their sin to remembrance through His judgment. והוּא is Jehovah, upon whose oaths they rely. עון must not be restricted to Zedekiah's breach of covenant, since Ezekiel 21:24 clearly shows that it is the wrong-doing of Judah generally. להתּפשׂ in Ezekiel 21:24 (29) is also to be understood of the whole nation, which is to be taken and punished by the king of Babylon. For Ezekiel 21:24 (29) introduces the reason for the statement made in the last clause of Ezekiel 21:23 (28). God must put the people in remembrance of their iniquity by inflicting punishment, because they have called it to remembrance by sins committed without any shame, and thereby have, so to speak, compelled God to remember them, and to cause the sinners to be grasped by the hand of the slayer. הזכּיר עון is used in Ezekiel 21:24 (29) in a different sense from Ezekiel 21:23 (28), and is therefore explained by 'בּהגּלות. בּכּף, which is indefinite in itself, points back to יד הורג in Ezekiel 21:11 (16), and receives from that its more exact definition.
With Ezekiel 21:25 the address turns to the chief sinner, the godless King Zedekiah, who was bringing the judgment of destruction upon the kingdom by his faithless breach of oath. The words חלל, רשׁע, and 'נשׂיא ישׂ are asyndeta, co-ordinate to one another. חלל does not mean profane or infamous (βέβηλε, lxx), but simply pierced, slain. This meaning is to be retained here. This is demanded not only by the fixed usage of the language, but also by the relation in which חלל stands both to Ezekiel 21:14 and to חללי רשׁעים in Ezekiel 21:29 (34). It is true that Zedekiah was not pierced by the sword either at that time or afterwards, but was simply blinded and led in captivity to Babylon, where he died. But all that follows from this is, that חלל is used here in a figurative sense, given up to the sword, i.e., to death; and Zedekiah is so designated for the purpose of announcing in a more energetic manner the certainty of his fate. The selection of the term חלל is the more natural, because throughout the whole prophecy the description of the judgment takes its character from the figure of the sword of Jehovah. As God does not literally wield a sword, so חלל is no proof of actual slaying with the sword. יומו .dro, his day, is the day of his destruction (cf. 1 Samuel 26:10), or of the judgment upon him. The time of the final transgression is not the time when the transgression reaches its end, i.e., its completion, but the time when the wickedness brings the end, i.e., destruction (cf. Ezekiel 35:5, and for קץ in this sense, Ezekiel 7:2-3). The fact that the end, the destruction, is come, i.e., is close at hand, is announced in Ezekiel 21:26 to the prince, and in his person to the whole nation. If we understand the connection in this way, which is naturally suggested by Ezekiel 21:25, we get rid of the objection, which led Kliefoth to question the fact that it is the king who is addressed in Ezekiel 21:25, and to take the words as collective, "ye slaughtered sinners, princes of Israel," and to understand them as referring to the entire body of rulers, including the priests, - an explanation that is completely upset by the words נשׂיא... אתּה (thou...prince), which are so entirely opposed to the collective view. Again, the remark that "what follows in Ezekiel 21:26, viz., the statement to be made to the נשׂיא, has really nothing to do with him, since the sweeping away of the priesthood did not affect Zedekiah personally" (Kliefoth), is neither correct nor conclusive. For Ezekiel 21:26 contains an announcement not only of the abrogation of the priesthood, but also of the destruction of the kingdom, which did affect Zedekiah both directly and personally. Moreover, we must not isolate the king addressed, even as an individual, from the position which he occupied, or, at any rate, which he ought to have occupied as a theocratic monarch, so as to be able to say that the abrogation of the priesthood did not affect him. The priesthood was one of the fundamental pillars of the theocracy, the removal of which would necessarily be followed by the collapse of the divine state, and therefore by the destruction of the monarchy. Hence it is that the abolition of the priesthood is mentioned first. The infinitives absolute (not imperatives) הסיר and הרים are selected for the purpose of expressing the truth in the most emphatic manner; and the verbs are synonymous. הרים, to lift up, i.e., not to elevate, but to take away, to abolish, as in Isaiah 57:14; Daniel 8:11. מצנפת does not mean the royal diadem, like צניף in Isaiah 62:3, but the tiara of the high priest, as it does in every instance in the Pentateuch, from which Ezekiel has taken the word. העטרה, the king's crown. The diadem of the priest and the regal crown are the insignia of the offices of high priest and king; and consequently their removal is the abolition of both high-priesthood and monarchy. These words contain the sentence of death upon the theocracy, of which the Aaronic priesthood and the Davidic monarchy constituted the foundations.
They predict not merely a temporary, but a complete abolition of both offices and dignities; and their fulfilment took place when the kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the king of Babylon. The earthly sovereignty of the house of David was not restored again after the captivity; and the high-priesthood of the restoration, like the second temple, was only a shadowy outline of the glory and essential features of the high-priesthood of Aaron. As the ark with the Shechinah, or the gracious presence of God, was wanting in the temple of Zerubbabel; so were the Urim and Thummim wanting to the high-priesthood, and these were the only means by which the high priest could really carry out the mediation between the Lord and the people. זאת לא זאת .el (this is not this) does not refer to the tiara (mitre) and crown. זאת is neuter, and therefore construed with the masculine היה. This (mitre and crown) will not be this (היה is prophetic), i.e., it will not continue, it will be all over with it (Hvernick, Maurer, and Kliefoth). To this there is appended the further thought, that a general inversion of things will take place. This is the meaning of the words - the low will be lifted up, and the lofty lowered. הגבּהּ and השׁפּיל are infinitives, and are chosen in the same sense as in the first hemistich. The form השּׁפלה, with ה without the tone, is masculine; the ־ה probably serving merely to give greater fulness to the form, and to make it correspond more nearly to הגּבהּ.
(Note: Hitzig has given a most preposterous exposition of this verse. Taking the words הסיר and הרים as antithetical, in the sense of removing ad exalting or sustaining in an exalted position, and regarding the clauses as questions signifying, "Shall the high-priesthood be abolished, and the real dignity, on the contrary, remain untouched?" he finds the answer to these questions in the words זאת לא (this, not this). They contain, in his opinion, as affirmation of the former and a negation of the latter. But he does not tell us how זאת לא זאת without a verb can possibly mean, "the former (the abrogation of the high-priesthood) will take place, but the latter (the exaltation of the monarchy) will not occur." And, finally, the last clause, "the low shall be lifted up," etc., is said to contain simply a watchword, which is not for the time being to be followed by any result. Such trifling needs no refutation. We simply observe, therefore, that there is no ground for the assertion, that הרים without מן cannot possibly signify to abolish.)
This general thought is expressed still more definitely in Ezekiel 21:27. עוּה, which is repeated twice to give greater emphasis to the thought, is a noun derived from עוּה, inversion, overthrow; and the suffix in אשׂימנּהּ points back to זאת in Ezekiel 21:26 (31). This, the existing state, the high-priesthood and the monarch, will I make into destruction, or utterly overthrow. But the following זאת cannot also refer to the tiara and crown, as Kliefoth supposes, on account of the גּם which precedes it. This shows that זאת relates to the thing last mentioned. Even this, the overthrow, shall have no durability; or, as Tanch. has correctly expressed it, neque haec conditio erit durabilis. The following עד־בּא attaches itself not so much to this last clause as to the main thought: overthrow upon overthrow will ensue. The thought is this: "nowhere is there rest, nowhere security; all things are in a state of flux till the coming of the great Restorer and Prince of peace" (Hengstenberg). It is generally acknowledged that the words עד־בּא אשׁר־לו המּשׁפּט contain an allusion to Genesis 49:10, עד כּי; and it is only by a false interpretation of the preceding clauses, wrung from the words by an arbitrary alteration of the text, that Hitzig is able to set this connection aside. At the same time, אשׁר־לו המּשׁפּט is of course not to be taken as a philological explanation of the word שׁילה, but is simply a theological interpretation of the patriarchal prophecy, with direct reference to the predicted destruction of the existing relations in consequence of the ungodliness and unrighteousness of the leaders of the theocracy up to that time. המּשׁפּט is not the rightful claim to the mitre and crown, but right in an objective sense, as belonging to God (Deuteronomy 1:17), and entrusted by God to the earthly government as His representative. He then, to whom this right belongs, and to whom God will give it, is the Messiah, of whom the prophets from the time of David onwards have prophesied as the founder and restorer of perfect right on earth (cf. Psalm 72; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 42:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:17). The suffix attached to נתתּיו is not a dative, but an accusative, referring to משׁפּט (cf. Psalm 72:1). There was no necessity to mention the person again to whom God would give the right, as He had already been designated in the previous expression אשׁר לו.
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