Ezekiel 36:17
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelled in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) They defiled it.—In Ezekiel 36:17-20 the sin of Israel in the past is set forth as the reason of their present condition. “The land” is always regarded in Scripture as peculiarly consecrated to God, and defiled by the sin of the people. (Comp. Leviticus 18:28; Numbers 35:34.) The comparison is with a woman who has been set apart for uncleanness (Leviticus 15:19), who until her purification was not allowed to come into the sanctuary.

Ezekiel 36:17-19. When the house of Israel dwelt in their own land — In fulness of bread, ease, and security, as they did in days past; they defiled it — Rendered it abominable before God, and uncomfortable to themselves; by their own way and by their doings — By the way of their own choice, their wicked way, forsaking my law, despising my counsel, deserting my worship and temple; and by their unholy conversation and unrighteous practices. Their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman — As a woman under a legal pollution was forbidden to come within the courts of the temple, or to attend upon God’s worship there; so the defilements which the Jews had contracted by their idolatries, adulteries, murders, and other heinous sins, rendered them unfit to be acknowledged as God’s people, or to offer up any religious service to him. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them — These and their other sins were the true causes of the desolation of their country, and of all the miseries which they underwent, and not any thing in the land itself, as the heathen said, Ezekiel 36:13. According to their doings I judged them — God frequently repeats that his judgments upon the Jews were no more than what their own ways or doings obliged him to inflict. There was in his dealings with them no arbitrary exercise of sovereignty, but they were dealt with according to their own conduct. And thus God deals with mankind in general: his actions, in regard to them, are not founded in an arbitrary exercise of his absolute sovereignty over them, but in impartial justice, wisdom, and goodness, and he judges them according to their own ways, and not according to the dictates of an arbitrary will.36:16-24 The restoration of that people, being typical of our redemption by Christ, shows that the end aimed at in our salvation is the glory of God. The sin of a people defiles their land; renders it abominable to God, and uncomfortable to themselves. God's holy name is his great name; his holiness is his greatness, nor does any thing else make a man truly great.The defilement of the people described in order to its removal.17. removed woman—(Le 15:19, &c.). In their own land; in fullness, case, and security, as in days past they did.

They defiled it; brought in much sin and great guilt upon the land, i.e. on themselves who dwelt there, and sinned greatly.

By their own way; leaving my law, despising my counsel, forsaking my worship and temple.

By their doings; by their carriage and practices in their whole conversation.

As the uncleanness, & c.; or as one excommunicate, and cut off from the congregation, because of some great sin. Or, since idolatry is so often compared to fornication and whoredom, possibly it may be here the filthiness of spiritual whoredom. I hated and loathed the filthiness of their ways, as I would the impurity of a whorish woman prostituting herself for gain. The word may include the reward of a whore, as it doth Ezekiel 16:33. Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land,.... The land of Canaan, which the Lord their God gave unto them; a land abounding with all good things, where they dwelt in great ease, plenty, and prosperity; and which also was a holy land, peculiarly chosen of God for his worship and service:

they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: by their sinful ways and evil works: sin is of a defiling nature; it defiles the bodies and souls of men; it defiles their own, and it defiles others; it defiles a land, and the inhabitants of it, and makes them loathsome and abominable to a pure and holy God:

their way was before me, as the uncleanness of a removed woman: of a menstruous woman in the time of her separation; when she was debarred the company of her husband, and might not enter into the sanctuary of the Lord: this shows what an evil thing sin is, what an uncleanness it is in the sight of God, how abhorrent sinful ways are to him; and though he was the husband of these people, yet, because of their sins, he separated from them, and removed them from and out of their land, as not fit to be in his presence, nor to live there.

Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16–23. Israel’s past history and the principles which it illustrates

17. When in their own land the people defiled it with their doings. The land was “holy” being sanctified by Jehovah’s presence in it. The sins of the people, idolatry and bloodshed, desecrated it and made it unclean. Holy embraces “clean” under it, as the general does a particular, Jeremiah 2:7; Leviticus 18:25. Ezek., however, seems to call all sins “uncleanness.” This way of speaking and thinking could hardly have arisen except under the influence of a law of ceremonial defilements (which were real defilements) and purifications.

uncleanness of a removed] the uncleanness of a woman’s impurity. Leviticus 15:19. The comparison expresses the extreme of loathing, ch. Ezekiel 7:20.Verse 17. - Their way was before me. Their ways and doings, i.e. their violent deeds and idolatrous practices (ver. 18), were as morally loathsome in Jehovah's sight as the uncleanness of a woman in her separation was materially disgusting. The comparison may have been derived from Isaiah 64:6, but was as likely to have been original, seeing Ezekiel was a priest-prophet, to whom the details of the Levitical Law must have been familiar (comp. Ezekiel 18:6; Leviticus 15:19). Appointment of David as Shepherd, and Blessing of the People

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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