Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words you can not understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened—(Mt 11:21, 23).
Many people here may be, according to the comprehensiveness of the Hebrew word, either numerous, whose multitudes would be their pride, and tempt them to deride thee; or, mighty in valour and feats of war and policy, whose might would harden them; or, far off, who would wonder a stranger should come to tell them their destiny; or, divers nations, that thou shouldst need divers tongues, to speak to them all in their own language. This difficult work is reserved to those whom Shiloh will send, it is kept to the times when the Spirit poured forth shall enrich with the gift of tongues in gospel days.
Strange speech; deep lip, &c.: see Ezekiel 3:5.
Whose words thou canst not understand: words are articulate and significant, and when understood they are words to the hearer, but whilst not understood they are but empty and barbarous sounds, as the apostle observes in 1 Corinthians 14.
Surely: in the Hebrew the words occasion difficulty and variety of translations, but all of no great moment. Some would refer it to the Jews, and make this sense, Hadst thou gone in any name but mine they would have heard; so parallel it with John 5:43; but it is better, and more agreeable with the text, to refer it to many nations mentioned, who would have heard what the house of Israel refused to hear, (of which Jonah’s Ninevites are pregnant proofs,) and to them I would have sent thee, (say some,) but that they did not understand thee: this is but a very slender guess, and ill consists with the power of God, which can give the tongue, if he would have sent the message, as he intimated to Moses, unwilling to go. Our version hath well read and referred the words; with that asseveration,
surely, they have expressed what some will have the Hebrew al Ma to be, a form of an oath. God assures the prophet the message is such that any men in their wits would hear; go therefore to thy people, try whether they will act like men and hear, especially when their condition is quite otherwise than that I now suggest of the nations, for the Jews are few, weak, reduced to this by neglecting to hear; in reason, they should now hear, repent, seek me, do my word, and live.
whose words, thou canst not understand: the prophet being, only used to the language of the Jews and not having the gift of speaking with and understanding divers tongues; as the apostles of Christ had, when they were sent to many people of different languages, and which is here tacitly intimates:
surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee; which is an aggravation of the obstinacy and disobedience of the people of Israel; that had the barbarous nations been favoured with the same means of instruction they were they would have been obedient; see Matthew 11:21; for though they could not understand the prophet's language, nor he theirs; yet, as Kimchi observes, they would have sought for an interpreter to have explained the prophecy to them. The thing is very strongly affirmed, "surely", verily, "of a truth"; as the same Jewish writer interprets ; and both he and Jarchi take it to be the form of an oath. Some render the words, "if I had not sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee" (i); and the sense is, either that if the Lord had not sent him to the Israelites, but to the peopled a strange speech, they, the people, would have hearkened to him: or, if the Lord had not sent the prophet, but he had gone of himself, as the false prophets in their own name, the Israelites would have hearkened to him; such was their perverseness and rebellion: others render the words, "if not", or had it not been for their strange speech and hard language, "I would have sent thee to them" (k), the barbarous nation, and "they would have hearkened unto thee"; but the first sense seems best; which is confirmed by the Targum, Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and the Oriental versions.Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)6. many people] Rather: peoples, i.e. different foreign nations.
Surely, had I sent thee] More exactly: surely if I sent thee … they would hearken. There is some difficulty about the construction, but the sense is sufficiently clear. The heathen have a greater susceptibility for the truth than Israel, which has acted more wickedly than the nations (ch. Ezekiel 5:6-7, Ezekiel 16:48; Ezekiel 16:51. Cf. Jeremiah 2:10-11). Others would render: but I send thee to them (Israel), they will understand thee. The last words, however, cannot mean “understand thee;” they mean “hearken unto thee,” as Ezekiel 3:7, where the phrase is the same.Verse 6. - Surely, if I sent thee to them, etc. The "surely" represents the Hebrew "if not" taken as a strong affirmation, just as "if" in Psalm 95:11 represents a strong negation; compare the use of the fuller formula jurandi in 1 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35; 2 Samuel 19:13; and of the same in Deuteronomy 1:35; Isaiah 62:8; and in Ezekiel himself (Ezekiel 17:19). The margin of the Authorized Version, If I had sent thee to them, would they not have hearkened, etc.? expresses the same meaning, but is less tenable as a translation. The thought in either case finds its analogue in our Lord's reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, to Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 10:12-14). Israel was more hardened than the worst of the nations round her. Ezekiel 2:3. And He said to me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to the rebels who have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have fallen away from me, even until this very day. Ezekiel 2:4. And the children are of hard face, and hardened heart. To them I send thee; and to them shalt thou speak: Thus says the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 2:5. And they - they may hear thee or fail (to do so); for they are a stiff-necked race - they shall experience that a prophet has been in their midst. Ezekiel 2:6. But thou, son of man, fear not before them, and be not afraid of their words, if thistles and thorns are found about thee, and thou sittest upon scorpions; fear not before their words, and tremble not before their face; for they are a stiff-necked race. Ezekiel 2:7. And speak my words to them, whether they may hear or fail (to do so); for they are stiff-necked.
The children of Israel have become heathen, no longer a people of God, not even a heathen nation (גּוי, Isaiah 1:4), but גּוים, "heathens," that is, as being rebels against God. המּורדים (with the article) is not to be joined as an adjective to גּוים, which is without the article, but is employed substantively in the form of an apposition. They have rebelled against God in this, that they, like their fathers, have separated themselves from Jehovah down to this day (as regards פּשׁע בּ, see on Isaiah 1:2; and עצם היּום הזּה, as in the Pentateuch; cf. Leviticus 23:14; Genesis 7:13; Genesis 17:23, etc.). Like their fathers, the sons are rebellious, and, in addition, they are קשׁי פנים, of hard countenance" equals חזקי, "of hard brow" (Ezekiel 3:7), i.e., impudent, without hiding the face, or lowering the look for shame. This shamelessness springs from hardness of heart. To these hardened sinners Ezekiel is to announce the word of the Lord. Whether they hear it or not (אם־ואם, sive-sive, as in Joshua 24:15; Ecclesiastes 11:3; Ecclesiastes 12:14), they shall in any case experience that a prophet has been amongst them. That they will neglect to hear is very probable, because they are a stiff-necked race (בּית, "house" equals family). The Vau before ידעוּ (Ezekiel 2:5) introduces the apodosis. היה is perfect, not present. This is demanded by the usus loquendi and the connection of the thought. The meaning is not: they shall now from his testimony that a prophet is there; but they shall experience from the result, viz., when the word announced by him will have been fulfilled, that a prophet has been amongst them. Ezekiel, therefore, is not to be prevented by fear of them and their words from delivering a testimony against their sins. The ἁπάξ λεγόμενα, סרבים and סלּונים, are not, with the older expositors, to be explained adjectively: "rebelles et renuentes," but are substantives. As regards סלּון, the signification "thorn" is placed beyond doubt by סלּון in Ezekiel 28:24, and סרב in Aramaic does indeed denote "refractarius;" but this signification is a derived one, and inappropriate here. סרב is related to צרב, "to burn, to singe," and means "urtica," "stinging-nettle, thistle," as Donasch in Raschi has already explained it. אותך is, according to the later usage, for אתּך, expressing the "by and with of association," and occurs frequently in Ezekiel. Thistles and thorns are emblems of dangerous, hostile men. The thought is strengthened by the words "to sit on (אל for על) scorpions," as these animals inflict a painful and dangerous wound. For the similitude of dangerous men to scorpions, cf. Sir. 26:10, and other proof passages in Bochart, Hierozoic. III. p. 551f., ed. Rosenmll.
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