Ezekiel 3:5
For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;
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(5) To a people of a strange speech.—In Ezekiel 3:4-7 it is emphasised that Ezekiel’s immediate mission is to be, like that of his great Antitype, to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel; “and yet that they would not give the heed to him which men far below them in spiritual privilege would have gladly yielded. Similar facts are continually encountered in the Scriptures, whether in its histories, as in those of Naaman the Syrian, of the faith of the Syro-Phœnician woman (Matthew 15:21-28), and of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:10-12), or in the express declarations of our Lord that the teaching and signs given to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in vain would have been more than sufficient for the conversion of Tyre, or Sidon, or even of Sodom (Matthew 11:21; Matthew 11:23; Matthew 12:41-42). If it be asked, Why then should so much of the Divine compassion be expended upon a nation which so generally refused to avail itself of its blessings? the answer must be that only thus could even a few be raised at all above the very lowest spiritual plane, and that the raising of these few leads ultimately to the elevation of many. As an accountable being, man must be left free to neglect the proffered grace; and, as in the case of the Israelites to whom Ezekiel was sent, there would always be many who choose to do so. The consequence of this neglect must be such a hardening of the heart as was now shown by these people, and every man is warned by their example of the responsibility attached to the enjoyment of religious privilege. But the same thing would have happened with any other nation; and that God’s faithfulness should not fail, and that His purposes for man’s salvation should be accomplished, more grace must yet be given and His people must still be pleaded with, that at least a remnant of them might be led to repentance and be saved from the impending ruin. Theodoret calls attention to the contrast between the restriction of the grace of the Old Dispensation to a single people, and the universal diffusion of the preaching of the Gospel.

Ezekiel 3:5-8. Thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech — It would be a great addition to the burden of thy office if thou wert sent, as Jonah was, as a prophet to a foreign nation, and to a people whose language thou couldest not understand, nor they thine. Not to many people of a strange speech, &c. — God seems, as it were, to hint here that the time would come when he should order his messengers to go to many people of a strange speech, and should find those who would obey him in this. The apostles, evangelists, and other first preachers of the gospel, were sent to such a people, or rather to all nations, however difficult and strange their language was. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened, &c. — And yet, in all appearance, even a strange nation, who could not understand thy words plainly, or without the greatest difficulty, would have hearkened to thy preaching sooner than the house of Israel, so corrupt are they become. Behold, I have made thy face strong, &c. — Do but thou obey me in what I command thee, and I will give thee courage and firmness proportionable to the hardiness and insolence of those thou hast to deal with.

3:1-11 Ezekiel was to receive the truths of God as the food for his soul, and to feed upon them by faith, and he would be strengthened. Gracious souls can receive those truths of God with delight, which speak terror to the wicked. He must speak all that, and that only, which God spake to him. How can we better speak God's mind than with his words? If disappointed as to his people, he must not be offended. The Ninevites were wrought upon by Jonah's preaching, when Israel was unhumbled and unreformed. We must leave this unto the Divine sovereignty, and say, Lord, thy judgments are a great deep. They will not regard the word of the prophet, for they will not regard the rod of God. Christ promises to strengthen him. He must continue earnest in preaching, whatever the success might be.Before, there was a direct commission, now there is a symbolic action. John has the same vision (Revelation 10:8 ff), but there that is expressed, which is here left to be inferred, namely, that "as soon as he had eaten it his belly was bitter." The sweetness in the mouth denoted that it was good to be a messenger of the Lord (compare the margin reference), but the bitterness which accompanied it, denoted that the commission brought with it much sorrow. 5. See Margin, Hebrew, "deep of lip, and heavy of tongue," that is, men speaking an obscure and unintelligible tongue. Even they would have listened to the prophet; but the Jews, though addressed in their own tongue, will not hear him. Though the Divine command is reason enough why we should obey readily, yet God is pleased to give the prophet arguments to persuade, and ushers them in here.

A people of a strange speech; who cannot skill of thy speech, nor thou speak (without gift of tongues) to them. Shift not off thy work as if, with Jonah, sent to a people of barbarous tongue, in which are dark and profound idioms, but as horrid to thy ear as deep and dark precipices and gulfs to the eye, as the Hebrew, deep of lip, intimates.

Of an hard language; the same repeated in other words; they will need no interpreter to tell them what thou sayest to them, nor wilt thou need an interpreter to tell thee what answer they give. Thy work will be the easier, neither difficult, as things that lie deep to be digged out, nor as things of great weight and heaviness to be lifted, as both metaphors imply: this is his first argument. Next, implied in it, I send thee to thine own countrymen, whose welfare thou shouldst readily seek, and in their own tongue thou mayst express thy care for them.

To the house of Israel; they still are a family that God owneth he hath not broke up housekeeping, there is further encouragement; and they are Israel’s seed, the posterity of Jacob, and under covenant mercy; go therefore readily, for Israel shall be gathered.

For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech,.... "Deep of lip" (g), or "speech"; difficult to be got at and understood:

and of a hard language: or "heavy of tongue" (h) of a barbarous and unknown language, whom he could not understand, nor they him; and so would have been barbarians to one another; and consequently it could not be thought his prophesying among them, could have been of any use. This may be considered, either by way of encouragement to the prophet to go on his errand to such a people; since as he could understand them, and they him he might hope to meet with success; or, however he could deliver his message so as to be understood: or as an aggravation of the impiety perverseness and stupidity of the Israelites; that though the prophet spoke to them in their own language, yet they would not hear nor receive his words:

but to the house of Israel; who were a people of the same speech and language with the prophet; all spoke and understood the language of Canaan; nor were the things he delivered such as they were altogether strangers to being the same, for substance, which Moses, and the other prophets, had ever taught.

(g) "profundi labii", Vatablus; "profundorum labio", Polanus, Cocceius; "profundi sermonis", Starkius. (h) "graves linguae", Montanus; "gravium lingua", Polanus.

For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;
5. a strange speech] lit. deep of lip (or speech) and heavy of tongue. The former expression perhaps refers to the inarticulateness with which, to one unacquainted with their language, foreigners appear to speak; and the other to the thickness of their utterance. The first half of the expression occurs again Isaiah 33:19, a people of deep speech, so that thou canst not perceive; and the second half is said of Moses, Exodus 4:10.

Verse 5. - Of a strange speech and of a hard language, etc.; literally, as in margin, both of Authorized Version and Revised Version, to a people deep of lip and heavy of tongue; i.e. to a barbarous people outside the covenant, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Scythians: not speaking the familiar sacred speech of Israel (compare the "stammering lips and another tongue" of Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 33:19). The thought implied is that Ezekiel's mission, as to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24), was outwardly easier than if he had been sent to the heathen. With Israel there was at least the medium of a speech common both to the prophet and his hearers. In ver. 6 the thought is enlarged by the use of "many peoples." Ezekiel 3:5After 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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