Ezekiel 3:6
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.
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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.To many people - To various nations using diverse languages.

Surely - The thought is that expressed by our Saviour Himself (margin reference). Some render it: "but I have sent thee unto these; they can hearken" etc.

6. many people—It would have increased the difficulty had he been sent, not merely to one, but to "many people" differing in tongues, so that the missionary would have needed to acquire a new tongue for addressing each. The after mission of the apostles to many peoples, and the gift of tongues for that end, are foreshadowed (compare 1Co 14:21 with Isa 28:11).

had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened—(Mt 11:21, 23).

This verse is much what the former, yet strengthens and illustrates what is laid down there.

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.

Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language,.... The prophet was sent, not to different nations, of different languages; but to one nation of the same language; indeed several of his prophecies concern other nations, as the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Tyrians, Philistines, Egyptians, and Assyrians; but then these had a relation to the, people of Israel, and were chiefly on their account; and therefore he was not sent to those nations to deliver his prophecies unto them, but to the people of Israel only; and so had no difficulty on his part concerning their language, which he would have had, had he been sent to the barbarous nations;

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.

(i) "si non ad eos misissem te", Vatablus; "si non misero te", Montanus; "si non mitterem", Pagninus. (k) "Si non misissem te ad eos", Calvin.

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.
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 3:6After 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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