And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)At the end of seven days.—A fresh Divine communication comes to the prophet, designed especially to impress upon him the responsibility of his office (Ezekiel 3:16-21). In Ezekiel 33:1-20 the same charge is repeated with some amplification, and there Ezekiel 3:2-6 are taken up with describing the duties of the military sentinel, upon which both these figurative addresses are founded. The language is there arranged in the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, to which there is indeed an approach here, but too imperfect to be easily represented in English. What is said there, moreover, is expressly required to be spoken to the people (Ezekiel 3:1), while this seems to have been immediately for the prophet’s own ear.
The substance of the communication in either place is this: man must in all cases live or die according to his own personal righteousness or sinfulness; but such a responsibility rests upon the watchman, that if he die unwarned his blood will be required at the watchman’s hand. The responsibility extends only, however, to the giving of the warning, not to its results: when the warning is given the watchman has “delivered his soul,” whether it is heeded or not. The word soul in Ezekiel 3:19; Ezekiel 3:21, as also in Ezekiel 33:5; Ezekiel 33:9, is not to be understood distinctively of the immortal part of man, but is equivalent to life, and forms here, as often in Hebrew, little more than a form of the reflective, thy soul = thyself.
In this charge the individual and personal relation in which every Israelite stood to God is strongly emphasised, that they may neither feel themselves lost because their nation is undergoing punishment, nor, on the other hand, think that no repentance is required of them individually because they “had Abraham to their father.” The gradual bringing out more and more fully the individual relation of man to God, at the expense of the comparative sinking of the federal relation, is one of the most strongly marked features of the progress of revelation, and at no other time was this progress so great as under the stern discipline of the captivity. In Ezekiel’s office of “watchman,” there is even an approach to the pastoral “cure of souls” under the Christian dispensation. Such an office had almost no place under the Old Testament, and. Ezekiel is the only one of the prophets who is charged to exercise this office distinctly towards individuals. Habakkuk, indeed, speaks of standing upon his watch on the tower (Habakkuk 2:1); Jeremiah, of the watchmen whom the people would not hear (Jeremiah 6:17); and Isaiah, of the “blind watchmen” (Isaiah 56:10); but the duty of all these was far more collective and national.Ezekiel 3:16-19. And at the end of seven days — During which time the prophet had sufficient opportunity to observe their manners and prevailing vices; the word of the Lord came to me — Informing me more particularly what my office was, and what the duty of that office. Song of Solomon of man, I have made thee a watchman, &c. — Prophets have the title of watchmen given them; because, like watchmen placed on towers to discern and give notice of any dangers that may be approaching, they, by their prophetical spirit, were enabled to foresee the evils coming upon the ungodly, and were bound to give people timely notice, that they might avoid them by true repentance and reformation. When I say — By the threatenings of my word, or by my spirit exciting thee to give seasonable and necessary reproofs and warnings; unto the wicked — Any wicked person whatever, poor or rich, mean or mighty. Thou shalt surely die — Both temporally and eternally, unless thy sincere repentance prevent this destruction; and thou givest him not warning — As thy office indispensably requires thee to do; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity — Shall depart this life in a state of sin and guilt, and be condemned to those punishments to which temporal death translates sinners; for his ignorance will not procure him impunity. But his blood will I require at thy hand — “Thou shalt be accountable for the loss of his soul, Just as a man’s blood is laid to the charge of him who is any way accessory to his death.” Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not — But still go on in his trespasses, unawakened and unreformed; he shall die, but thou hast delivered thy soul — Thou shalt be clear from the guilt of being accessory to his destruction.
I sat, &c.—This is the Hebrew Margin reading. The text is rather, "I beheld them sitting there" [Gesenius]; or, "And those that were settled there," namely, the older settlers, as distinguished from the more recent ones alluded to in the previous clause. The ten tribes had been long since settled on the Chabor or Habor (2Ki 17:6) [Havernick].
that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying; the Targum is,And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16–21. More precise definition of the prophet’s appointment: he is set to be a watchman
So soon as the prophet is face to face with the exiles, and is able to see the sphere and materials of his work, he receives a more precise account of his position—he is appointed a watchman or sentinel. The watchman stands on his watch-tower to observe, and his office therefore is to warn, should danger be seen approaching. Isaiah 21:6, “Thus saith the Lord, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” Jeremiah 6:17, “Also I set watchmen over you and said, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet, but they said, We will not hearken;” Habakkuk 2:1; comp. 2 Kings 9:17-20. The appointment of Ezekiel as watchman was not a change upon his original appointment as “prophet” (ch. Ezekiel 2:5), it is only a more precise definition of it. The term, which had already been used by Jer. (Jeremiah 6:17), expresses the duties and part of a prophet of this age. Ezekiel entered on his prophetic career with his ideas as to the course of events to come fixed and matured. The fall of Jerusalem was a certainty. And his true place was in the midst of a people whom this great calamity had overtaken. The destruction of the state was not the end of Israel or of the kingdom of God. Israel would be gathered again, and the kingdom of God reconstituted. But it would be on new principles. God would no more deal with men in the lump and as a state, he would deal separately with each individual soul (ch. 18). The destruction of the former state, however, was not the final judgment. Before the new kingdom of God arose men would have to pass through a new crisis, and to pass through it as individual persons, and the issue of this crisis would be “life” or “death” to them. It is in this full sense that Ezekiel speaks of the wicked dying and the righteous living. To “live” is to be preserved and enter the new kingdom of God, to “die” is to perish in the crisis and be excluded from it. The idea of a “watchman” implies danger imminent (ch. Ezekiel 33:1-6), and the coming crisis is the ideal danger before the prophet’s mind. Hence the part of the watchman is to warn men in regard to this coming sifting of individual souls, and to prepare them for it. The idea is part of the prophet’s individualism, his teaching regarding the freedom and responsibility to God of the individual mind (ch. 18, 33). Hence the watchman warns all classes of men, the wicked that he may turn from his evil lest he “die,” and the righteous that he may be confirmed in his righteousness and “live.” The watchman’s place is behind the destruction of the old state and in front of the new and final kingdom of God, for the reconstruction of which he labours. This place is given him in ch. 33.Ezekiel 2:8. And thou, son of man, hear what I say to thee, Be not stiff-necked like the stiff-necked race; open thy mouth, and eat what I give unto thee. Ezekiel 2:9. Then I saw, and, lo, a hand outstretched towards me; and, lo, in the same a roll of a book. Ezekiel 2:10. And He spread it out before me; the same was written upon the front and back: and there were written upon it lamentations, and sighing, and woe. Ezekiel 3:1. And He said to me: Son of man, what thou findest eat; eat the roll, and go and speak to the house of Israel. Ezekiel 3:2. Then opened I my mouth, and He gave me this roll to eat. Ezekiel 3:3. And said to me: Son of man, feed thy belly, and fill thy body with this roll which I give thee. And I ate it, and it was in my mouth as honey and sweetness. - The prophet is to announce to the people of Israel only that which the Lord inspires him to announce. This thought is embodied in symbol, in such a way that an outstretched hand reaches to him a book, which he is to swallow, and which also, at God's command, he does swallow; cf. Revelation 10:9. This roll was inscribed on both sides with lamentations, sighing, and woe (הי is either abbreviated from נהי, not equals אי, or as Ewald, 101c, thinks, is only a more distinct form of הוי or הו). The meaning is not, that upon the roll was inscribed a multitude of mournful expressions of every kind, but that there was written upon it all that the prophet was to announce, and what we now read in his book. These contents were of a mournful nature, for they related to the destruction of the kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. That Ezekiel may look over the contents, the roll is spread out before his eyes, and then handed to him to be eaten, with the words, "Go and speak to the children of Israel," i.e., announce to the children of Israel what you have received into yourself, or as it is termed in Ezekiel 3:4, דּברי, "my words." The words in Ezekiel 3:3 were spoken by God while handing to the prophet the roll to be eaten. He is not merely to eat, i.e., take it into his mouth, but he is to fill his body and belly therewith, i.e., he is to receive into his innermost being the word of God presented to him, to change it, as it were, into sap and blood. Whilst eating it, it was sweet in his mouth. The sweet taste must not, with Kliefoth, be explained away into a sweet "after-taste," and made to bear this reference, that the destruction of Jerusalem would be followed by a more glorious restoration. The roll, inscribed with lamentation, sorrow, and woe, tasted to him sweetly, because its contents was God's word, which sufficed for the joy and gladness of his heart (Jeremiah 15:16); for it is "infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and spokesman of the Omnipotent," and even the most painful of divine truths possess to a spiritually-minded man a joyful and quickening side (Hengstenberg on Revelation 10:9). To this it is added, that the divine penal judgments reveal not only the holiness and righteousness of God, but also prepare the way for the revelation of salvation, and minister to the saving of the soul.
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