Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16–38. Not for Israel’s sake but for his own name’s sake does Jehovah do all this in behalf of his people
The passage is remarkable and deserves to be studied almost more than any other part of Ezek. when one is seeking to understand his general conceptions. It exhibits his philosophy of history (cf. ch. 20), and also describes with great beauty the principles of Jehovah’s redemption of his people, and how step by step this shall be accomplished. The prophet reviews the history of the people from the beginning, running it out till it is lost in its eternal issues, and shewing how it will read to all the nations of the earth the true lesson of that which Jehovah, the God of Israel, is, and leave ineffaceable impressions on the mind of his own people.
First, Ezekiel 36:16-24. The history with its significance up to Israel’s final restoration.—The people defiled the land with their idolatries and bloodshed (Ezekiel 36:17), therefore the fury of Jehovah was kindled and he poured it out upon them, scattering them among the nations (Ezekiel 36:18-19). By these disasters which the people brought upon themselves they “profaned” Jehovah’s name among the heathen. The nations, ignorant of the nature of Jehovah, and incapable of divining the moral principles of his rule of the world and of his people, attributed the calamities of Israel to the feebleness of their God, who was unable to defend them, saying, these are the people of Jehovah, and they are gone forth out of his land. Thus the greatness and power of Jehovah, who is God alone, was detracted from, and the knowledge of him by the nations—which he wills in all that he does to convey to them—was delayed or frustrated (Ezekiel 36:20). Therefore for the sake of his holy name he will interpose and turn the fortunes of his people, that he may be sanctified in the eyes of the nations and known by them to be God omnipotent (Ezekiel 36:21-24, cf. Ezekiel 36:35-36).
Secondly, Ezekiel 36:24-38. The history of Jehovah’s restoration of his people and their full redemption in its successive steps, with the eternal impressions which this history will engrave upon the people’s minds.—In the prophet’s view Jehovah must vindicate himself in the eyes of the nations by the restoration of Israel, not because he is a mere tribal god who will do something for his people, but because he is God alone, and his manifestation of himself to the nations of the world is the goal towards which all history runs.
Jehovah “sanctifies” himself in the sight of the nations not only by convincing them of his power, but even more if possible by displaying his moral rule of his people (cf. Ezekiel 39:23-24), and by the spiritual regeneration which he works among them (Ezekiel 36:25 seq.). But though this great thought of Jehovah’s revelation of himself in the sight of the nations be attractive to the prophet, having touched upon the redemption of Israel he becomes absorbed in these internal operations of Jehovah among his own people, which he pursues in all their details, and the wider thought of their influence on the heathen is not reverted to till Ezekiel 36:35-36. (1) Jehovah will take his people from the nations and bring them again to their own land (Ezekiel 36:24). (2) Then he will sprinkle clean water upon them and wash them from all their past impurities (Ezekiel 36:25). (3) He will also regenerate them, giving them a new heart and a new spirit, putting indeed his own spirit within them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). (4) In this spirit they shall walk in his statutes and judgments, and thus shall inherit the land for ever, which the Lord will greatly bless (Ezekiel 36:27-30). (5) Surrounded thus on all sides by the tokens of Jehovah’s goodness, and looking at themselves and at their past doings with the new mind which the Lord will give them (Ezekiel 36:26), they shall loathe themselves because of all their former impurity and evil, for it is not for what they have been that Jehovah does this to them (Ezekiel 36:31-32). (6) Thus when Israel’s captivity is brought back the nations shall learn the true meaning of their dispersion, and the nature of Jehovah their God, who disperses and restores (Ezekiel 36:33-36).Verse 16. - The oracle, commencing with this verse and extending to Ezekiel 37:14, has an ultimate connection with that which precedes. Having predicted a golden age in the future for Israel, when her people should have returned from banishment her cities should again be inhabited and her fields cultivated, the prophet is directed
(1) to explain that the ground of this would not have in any worthiness Jehovah should behold in Israel, who had rather in the past been punished and dispersed (vers. 16-20), but only in the regard he, Jehovah, should have for his own holy Name or character (vers. 21-24);
(2) to intimate that this glorious period should be accompanied by a moral and spiritual renovation of the people, which, however, could and therefore would be brought about only by God himself giving them a new heart and a new spirit, again for his own Name's sake (vers. 25-32), and which, when attained, should lead to a prosperity so unparalleled as to recall the pristine splendors of earth's paradisiacal condition, and convince the heathen that should then be sharers in Israel's felicity that Jehovah alone was God (vers. 33-38); and
(3) to remove all doubt from the people's minds as to the possibility of this happening by the vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Verses 16-20. - That Israel's restoration should not be brought about on account of Israel's merit, the prophet shows by briefly rehearsing the story of Israel's demerit, as the reason of her exile.
Ezekiel 34:23. And I will raise up one shepherd over them, who shall feed them, my servant David; he will feed them, and he will be to them a shepherd. Ezekiel 34:24. And I, Jehovah, will be God to them, and my servant David prince in the midst of them: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. Ezekiel 34:25. And I will make a covenant of peace with them, and destroy the evil beasts out of the land, so that they will dwell safely in the desert and sleep in the forests. Ezekiel 34:26. And I will make them and the places round my hill a blessing, and cause the rain to fall in its season: showers of blessing shall there be. Ezekiel 34:27. The tree of the field will give its fruit, and the land will give its produce, and they will be safe in their land, and will know that I am Jehovah, when I break their yoke-bars in pieces, and deliver them out of the hand of those who made them servants. Ezekiel 34:28. They will be no more a prey to the nations, and the wild beasts will not devour them; but they will dwell safely, and no one will terrify them. Ezekiel 34:29. And I will raise up for them a plantation for a name, so that they will no more be swept away by famine in the land, and shall no longer bear the disgrace of the heathen nations. Ezekiel 34:30. And they shall know that I, Jehovah, their God, am with them, and they are my people, the house of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 34:31. And ye are my sheep, the flock of my pasture; ye are men, I am your God, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - God will cause to stand up, raise up, one single shepherd over His flock. הקים, the standing expression for the rising up of a person in history through the interposition of God (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; 2 Samuel 7:12, and other passages). רעה, not unicus, singularis, a shepherd unique in his kind, but one shepherd, in contrast not only with the many bad shepherds, but with the former division of the people into two kingdoms, each with its own separate king. Compare Ezekiel 37:24 with Jeremiah 28:6, where it is expressly said that the David to be raised up is to feed Israel and Judah, the two peoples that had been divided before. "My servant David:" Jehovah calls him עבדּי, not merely with reference to the obedience rendered (Hvernick), but also with regard to his election (Isaiah 42:1; Hengstenberg). There is no necessity to refute the assertion of Hitzig, David Strauss, and others, that Ezekiel expected the former King David to be raised from the dead. The reference is to the sprout of David (Jeremiah 23:5), already called simply David in Hosea 3:5 and Jeremiah 30:9. In Ezekiel 34:24 the relation of Jehovah to this David is more precisely defined: Jehovah will then be God to His people, and David be prince in the midst of them. The last words point back to 2 Samuel 7:8. Through the government of David, Jehovah will become in truth God of His people Israel; for David will feed the people in perfect unity with Jehovah, - will merely carry out the will of Jehovah, and not place himself in opposition to God, like the bad shepherds, because, as is therewith presupposed, he is connected with God by unity of nature.
In Ezekiel 34:25. the thought is carried out still further, - how God will become God to His people, and prove Himself to be its covenant God through the pastoral fidelity of the future David. God will fully accomplish the covenant mercies promised to Israel. The making of the covenant of peace need not be restricted, in accordance with Hosea 2:20 (18), to a covenant which God would make with the beasts in favour of His people. The thought is a more comprehensive one here, and, according to Leviticus 26:4-6, the passage which Ezekiel had in his mind involves all the salvation which God had included in His promises to His people: viz., (1) the extermination of everything that could injure Israel, of all the wild beasts, so that they would be able to sleep securely in the deserts and the forests (Ezekiel 34:25, compare Leviticus 26:6); (2) the pouring out of an abundant rain, so that the field and land would yield rich produce (Ezekiel 34:26, Ezekiel 34:27; cf. Leviticus 26:4-5). "I make them, the Israelites, and the surroundings of my hill, a blessing." גּבעתי, the hill of Jehovah, is, according to Isaiah 31:4, Mount Zion, the temple-mountains, including the city of Jerusalem. The surroundings of this hill are the land of Israel, that lay around it. But Zion, with the land around, is not mentioned in the place of the inhabitants; and still less are we to understand by the surroundings of the hill the heathen nations, as Hengstenberg does, in opposition both to the context and the usage of the language. The thought is simply that the Lord will make both the people and the land a blessing (Hvernick, Kliefoth). בּרכה, a blessing, is stronger than "blessed" (cf. Genesis 12:2). The blessing is brought by the rain in its season, which fertilizes the earth. This will take place when the Lord breaks the yokes laid upon His people. These words are from Leviticus 26:13, where they refer to the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt; and they are transferred by Ezekiel to the future redemption of Israel from the bondage of the heathen. For עבדים , compare Exodus 1:14. This thought is carried out still further in Ezekiel 34:28; and then, in Ezekiel 34:29, all that has been said is summed up in the thoughts, "I raise up for them a plantation for a name," etc. מטּע, a plantation, as in Ezekiel 17:7; not a land for planting (Hitzig). לשׁם, for a name, i.e., not for the glory of God (De Wette); but the plantation, which the Lord will cause to grow by pouring down showers of blessing (Ezekiel 34:26), is to bring renown to the Israelites, namely, among the heathen, who will see from this that Israel is a people blessed by its God. This explanation of the words is supplied by the following clause: they shall no more be swept away by famine in the land, and no more bear the disgrace of the heathen, i.e., the disgrace which the heathen heaped upon Israel when in distress (compare Zephaniah 3:19; Jeremiah 13:11; and the primary passage, Deuteronomy 26:29). From this blessing they will learn that Jehovah their God is with them, and Israel is His people. The promise concludes in Ezekiel 34:31 with these words, which set a seal upon the whole: "Ye are my flock, the flock of my pasture (lit., my pasture-flock; צאן , Jeremiah 23:1, the flock fed by God Himself); men are ye, I am your God." That these last words to not serve merely as an explanation of the figurative expression "flock," is a fact of which no proof is needed. The figure of a flock was intelligible to every one. The words "call attention to the depth and greatness of the divine condescension, and meet the objection of men of weak faith, that man, who is taken from the earth האדמה, and returns to it again, is incapable of so intimate a connection with God" (Hengstenberg).
If we take another survey, in conclusion, of the contents of our prophecy, the following are the three features of the salvation promised to the people of Israel: - (1) The Lord will liberate His people from the hand of the bad shepherds, and He Himself will feed it as His flock; (2) He will gather it together from its dispersion, bring it back to the land of Israel and feed it there, will take charge of the sheep in need of help, and destroy the fat and strong sheep by which the weak ones are oppressed; (3) He will raise up the future David for a shepherd, and under his care He will bestow upon His people the promised covenant blessings in richest measure. These saving acts of God for His people, however, are not depicted according to their several details and historical peculiarities, as Kliefoth has correctly observed, nor are they narrated in the chronological order in which they would follow one another in history; but they are grouped together according to their general design and character, and their essential features. If, then, we seek for the fulfilment, the Lord raised up His servant David as a shepherd to Israel, by sending Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10; Matthew 18:11), and who calls Himself the Good Shepherd with obvious reference to this and other prophetic declarations of a similar kind (John 10:11.). But the sending of Christ was preceded by the gathering of Israel out of the Babylonian exile, by which God had already taken charge of His flock, Yet, inasmuch as only a small portion of Israel received the Messiah, who appeared in Jesus, as its shepherd, there fell upon the unbelieving Israel a new judgment of dispersion among all nations, which continues still, so that a gathering together still awaits the people of Israel at some future time. No distinction is made in the prophecy before us between these two judgments of dispersion, which are associated with the twofold gathering of Israel; but they are grouped together as one, so that although their fulfilment commenced with the deliverance of Israel from the Babylonian captivity and the coming of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd of the family of David, it was only realized in that portion of Israel, numerically the smallest portion, which was willing to be gathered and fed by Jesus Christ, and the full realization will only be effected when that conversion of Israel shall take place, which the Apostle Paul foretells in Romans 11:25. - For further remarks on the ultimate fulfilment, we refer the reader to a later page.
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