Ezekiel 3:17
Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
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3:12-21 This mission made the holy angels rejoice. All this was to convince Ezekiel, that the God who sent him had power to bear him out in his work. He was overwhelmed with grief for the sins and miseries of his people, and overpowered by the glory of the vision he had seen. And however retirement, meditation, and communion with God may be sweet, the servant of the Lord must prepare to serve his generation. The Lord told the prophet he had appointed him a watchman to the house of Israel. If we warn the wicked, we are not chargeable with their ruin. Though such passages refer to the national covenant made with Israel, they are equally to be applied to the final state of all men under every dispensation. We are not only to encourage and comfort those who appear to be righteous, but they are to be warned, for many have grown high-minded and secure, have fallen, and even died in their sins. Surely then the hearers of the gospel should desire warnings, and even reproofs.Watchman - The priests and ministers of the Lord were often so called. Ezekiel is especially distinguished by this title Ezekiel 33:7. The duties of a watchman are twofold,

(1) to wait and watch what God will order,

(2) to watch over and superintend the people.

Isaiah describes and censures unfaithful watchmen Isaiah 56:10.

17. watchman—Ezekiel alone, among the prophets, is called a "watchman," not merely to sympathize, but to give timely warning of danger to his people where none was suspected. Habakkuk (Hab 2:1) speaks of standing upon his "watch," but it was only in order to be on the lookout for the manifestation of God's power (so Isa 52:8; 62:6); not as Ezekiel, to act as a watchman to others. See Ezekiel 2:1.

I; the person that appeared to him, Ezekiel 1:26. It is the great and glorious One.

Made thee; appointed by commission; I have qualified by gifts, I have actually sent thee forth, &c.

Watchman; night and day to observe whether the enemy approach, and to give notice on pain of death.

Hear the word at my mouth: see Ezekiel 2:8.

Give them warning; I will give thee notice, thou art then to give warning unto them, and let them know it comes from me, and in mercy, to prevent their final ruin. Be not as a prognosticator, as one that consults the stars, and foretells from the conjunction of them, but own the things thou art to warn them of as from my mouth. Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel,.... Not in a civil sense, a watchman of a town or city, or of the whole country, but in an ecclesiastical sense. So the Targum renders it by "a teacher"; whose business it was to instruct the people in divine things, to warn them of their evil ways, and of the danger they exposed them to; such were the prophets of old, and such are the ministers of the New Testament: the office is the same with that of bishops or overseers; and lies in watching over the souls of men, as shepherds over their flocks, that they go into right pastures, and not astray, and so preserves them from beasts of prey; and as watchmen of cities, to give the time of night, and, notice of approaching danger; to the discharge of which office are necessary quick sight, diligence in looking out, sobriety and vigilance, courage, constancy, and faithfulness: and they are "sons of men" that are put into this office, and not angels; sons of fallen Adam, sinful men; men subject to infirmity, weak, frail, mortal men, and oftentimes of a mean and low extraction, and greatly unworthy of so high an honour; but Christ counts them faithful, and puts them into this office; they are not made and constituted watchmen or ministers by themselves or by others, but by him; and they are given by him as such to the church of God: "son of man, I have given thee a watchman" (t), &c. they become watchmen through gifts bestowed upon them, qualifying them for this office; and they themselves are gifts to the churches over whom they are placed, signified by "the house of Israel"; for a church is a house of Christ's building, and where he dwells, and a family named of him, which he takes care of, and consists of Israelites indeed;

therefore hear the word at my mouth; for, as the prophets of old, so the ministers of the Gospel are first to hear what Christ says; and then deliver out his doctrine, called the doctrine of Christ, and the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus. So the Targum,

"and thou shalt receive the word from my Word;''

the word of prophecy, or the word of the Gospel, from Christ the essential Word;

and give them warning from me; in his name and stead, and as from his mouth, to take care of sinning against him, dishonouring his name, and wounding their own souls; that they live soberly, righteously, and godly, and adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour; that they avoid all appearances of evil, and shun the company of wicked men; the house of Israel, or church of God, are to be warned to be careful who they take into their communion, and to exclude such that are bad in principle and practice; to beware of innovations in worship, and of false teachers and false doctrines; and that they do not forsake the word, worship, and ordinances of God's house, but fill up their places, and perform all duties incumbent on them. The Targum is,

"and thou shalt warn them from sinning before me.''

(t) "speculatorem dedi", V. L. Polanus, Cocceius, Starckius. So Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Son of man, I have made thee a {h} watchman to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

(h) Of this read Eze 33:2.

Verse 17. - A watchman unto the house of Israel. The seven days' session of amazement came to an end, but even then there was at first no utterance of a message. The word of the Lord came to his own soul, and told him what his special vocation as a prophet was to be. He was to be a "watchman unto the house of Israel." He was, like the watchman of a city on his tower, to be on the look out to warn men against coming dangers, not to slumber on his post. In 2 Samuel 18:24-27 and 2 Kings 9:17-20 we have vivid pictures of such a work. It had already been used figuratively of the prophet's work by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 6:17). The cognate verb, with the image fully developed, meets us in Habakkuk 2:1. Its use in Hosea 9:8 is doubtful as to meaning, and in Isaiah 52:8 and Isaiah 56:10 it may be, if we accept the theory of a Deutero-Isaiah, an echo from Ezekiel. It is reproduced with special emphasis in Ezekiel 33:2-7. More than any word it describes the special characteristic of Ezekiel's work. He is to watch personally over individual souls. So in a like sense, a corresponding word is used of the Christian ministry in Hebrews 13:17 (compare also for the thought, though the word is not the same, Isaiah 21:11, 12; Isaiah 62:6; Psalm 127:1). A vivid picture of the work of such a watchman is found, it may be noted, in the opening speech of the 'Agamemnon' of AEschylus. Give them warning, etc. It is, I think, a legitimate inference that the prophet acted on the command while he was with the exiles and before the departure of ver. 22, not by harangues or sermons addressed to the whole body of the exiles, but by direct warning to individuals. After the Lord had pointed out to the prophet the difficulties of the call laid upon him, He prepared him for the performance of his office, by inspiring him with the divine word which he is to announce. - 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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