Ezekiel 36:8
But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Shoot forth your branches.—The land of Israel, represented by its mountains, is now to put forth its fruit, for the time is at hand when the people will return—a strong and vivid way of setting forth at once the certainty and the nearness of the return.

Ezekiel 36:8-12. But ye, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your fruit, &c. — Here the land of Judea is ordered to provide for the sustenance of the people of Israel, who were about to return out of captivity to dwell there again: for, says the prophet, they are at hand to come — That is, the deliverance of my people shall be effected in a short time. This prophecy seems to have an immediate reference to the return of the Jews from Babylon; but there can be no doubt, as Calmet justly observes, that it has also a further reference, even to the general return of the Israelites, and to the kingdom of the Messiah; the longest distance of time that the things of this world can extend to being but a moment in respect of eternity. For I am for you, and will return unto you, &c. — I will send down again my blessing upon you, and favourable seasons; and cause you to be inhabited, so that you shall again be cultivated and fruitful. This is also addressed, as it were, to the land of Judea. And the cities shall be inhabited — The cities and towns that lie in ruins shall be built again. And I will multiply upon you man and beast — As God, in his judgments, threatened to cut off man and beast from the land, (Ezekiel 14:17,) so here he promises to replenish it with both. And will do better unto you than at your beginning — In bestowing upon you the blessings of the gospel, the promises of which were first made to the Jews and to their children, Acts 2:39. The words may likewise imply, that God would give them a more lasting and secure possession of their land than ever they had before: see the following verses. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you — O mountains, or land of Israel, Ezekiel 36:8. And thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men — That is, thou shall no more be remarkable for thy inhabitants dying in uncommon numbers, by pestilence, the sword, and famine.36:1-15 Those who put contempt and reproach on God's people, will have them turned on themselves. God promises favour to his Israel. We have no reason to complain, if the more unkind men are, the more kind God is. They shall come again to their own border. It was a type of the heavenly Canaan, of which all God's children are heirs, and into which they all shall be brought together. And when God returns in mercy to a people who return to him in duty, all their grievances will be set right. The full completion of this prophecy must be in some future event.They are at hand to come - i. e., under Zerubbabel. 8. they are at hand to come—that is, the Israelites are soon about to return to their land. This proves that the primary reference of the prophecy is to the return from Babylon, which was "at hand," or comparatively near. But this only in part fulfilled the prediction, the full and final blessing in future, and the restoration from Babylon was an earnest of it. Shall shoot; shall be fruitful, and send forth the branches, trees, plants, herbs, and grass, that are proper for you, and these branches shall not have leaves only, but they shall bring forth their fruit.

They are at hand; the time will come, yea is near, when my people shall come out of Babylonish captivity to resettle in their own land. I will perform my word, and give them assured peace, and this will not be long ere it is begun at least. But ye, O mountains of Israel,.... Literally understood, as appears by what follows; for though they could not hear what was said, the proprietors of them could, now in captivity; and the efficacy of the word should be seen on them, producing the following effects:

ye shall shoot forth your branches; that is, the trees that grew upon them should; the vines, and the olive trees, planted on hills and mountains, as was usual, as appears from the mount of Olives, and other places:

and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; not only put forth branches, but bear fruit; and which should be given to the right owners, the people of Israel, and not to the Heathens, who had claimed the ancient mountains for their possession:

for they are at hand to come; the Israelites; either by repentance, as Kimchi; or by a return from the Babylonish captivity, which was about forty or fifty years after this prophecy; and which was but a shadow and figure of their restoration in the latter day, yet to come; which might be said to be at hand, or near, with respect to God, with whom two or three thousand years are as nothing. The Targum is,

"for the day of my redemption is near to come.''

But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall {g} shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are soon to come.

(g) God declares his mercies and goodness toward his Church, who still preserves his, even when he destroys his enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. at hand to come] The presentiment of the prophet is that the restoration of the people and the age to which all these promises which he gives (ch. 33–37) belong is close at hand.

8–15. Positive promise to the mountain-land of Israel. In the age of the regeneration, which is at the door, it shall be luxuriantly fruitful (Ezekiel 36:8-9), and populous (Ezekiel 36:10-12); it shall no more kill its inhabitants with scarcity (Ezekiel 36:13-14), nor any more be subject to the reproach of the nations on this account (Ezekiel 36:15).Verse 8. - For they are at hand to come. Keil and Plumptre make the subject of the verb the material blessings in which Israel's prosperity is depicted as consisting, viz. the foliage and fruit her mountains were soon to bear for the people of Jehovah. The majority of expositors believe the subject to be the people whose return from exile was in this way declared to be approaching. Nor is there any reason why Ezekiel should not have represented the return from exile as an event soon to take place, since of the seventy years of captivity predicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11) at least twenty years had passed, if its commencement be dated from the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Ezekiel 33:21); and the fulfillment of Jehovah's promise was to the prophet so much a matter of certainty (Ezekiel 11:17) that his fervent imagination conceived it as at hand. Jehovah Himself will seek His flock, gather it together from the dispersion, lead it to good pasture, and sift it by the destruction of the bad sheep. - Ezekiel 34:11. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I myself, I will inquire after my flock, and take charge thereof. Ezekiel 34:12. As a shepherd taketh charge of his flock in the day when he is in the midst of his scattered sheep, so will I take charge of my flock, and deliver them out of all the places whither they have been scattered in the day of cloud and cloudy night. Ezekiel 34:13. And I will bring them out from the nations, and gather them together out of the lands, and bring them into their land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel, in the valleys, and in all the dwelling-places of the land. Ezekiel 34:14. I will feed them in a good pasture, and on the high mountains of Israel will their pasture-ground be: there shall they lie down in a good pasture-ground, and have fat pasture on the mountains of Israel. Ezekiel 34:15. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 34:16. That which is lost will I seek, and that which is driven away will I bring back; that which is wounded will I bind up, and that which is sick will I:strengthen: but that which is fat and strong will I destroy, and feed them according to justice. Ezekiel 34:17. And you, my sheep, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will judge between sheep and sheep, and the rams and the he-goats. Ezekiel 34:18. Is it too little for you, that ye eat up the good pasture, and what remains of your pasture ye tread down with your feet? and the clear water ye drink, and render muddy what remains with your feet? Ezekiel 34:19. And are my sheep to have for food that which is trodden down by your feet, and to drink that which is made muddy by your feet? Ezekiel 34:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah to them, Behold, I, I will judge between fat sheep and lean. Ezekiel 34:21. Because ye press with side and shoulder, and thrust all the weak with your horns, till ye have driven them out; Ezekiel 34:22. I will help my sheep, so that they shall no more become a prey; and will judge between sheep and sheep. - All that the Lord will do for His flock is summed up in Ezekiel 34:11, in the words דּרשׁתּי את־צאני וּבקּרתּים, which stand in obvious antithesis to 'ואין דּורשׁ וגו in Ezekiel 34:6 - an antithesis sharply accentuated by the emphatic הנני אני, which stands at the head in an absolute form. The fuller explanation is given in the verses which follow, from Ezekiel 34:12 onwards. Observe here that biqeer is substituted for בּקּשׁ. בּקּר, to seek and examine minutely, involves the idea of taking affectionate charge. What the Lord does for His people is compared in Ezekiel 34:12 to the care which a shepherd who deserves the name manifests towards sheep when they are scattered (נפרשׁות without the article is connected with צאנו in the form of apposition); and in Ezekiel 34:12 it is still more particularly explained. In the first place, He will gather them from all the places to which they have been scattered. הצּיל implies that in their dispersion they have fallen into a state of oppression and bondage among the nations (cf. Exodus 6:6). בּיום belongs to the relative clause: whither they have been scattered. The circumstance that these words are taken from Joel 2:2 does not compel us to take them in connection with the principal clause, as Hitzig and Kliefoth propose, and to understand them as relating to the time when God will hold His judgment of the heathen world. The notion that the words in Joel signify "God's day of judgment upon all the heathen" (Kliefoth), is quite erroneous; and even Hitzig does not derive this meaning from Joel 2:2, but from the combination of our verse with Ezekiel 30:3 and Ezekiel 29:21. The deliverance of the sheep out of the places to which they have been scattered, consists in the gathering together of Israel out of the nations, and their restoration to their own land, and their feeding upon the mountains and all the dwelling-places of the land (מושׁב, a place suitable for settlement), and that in good and fat pasture (Ezekiel 34:14); and lastly, in the fact that Jehovah bestows the necessary care upon the sheep, strengthens and heals the weak and sick (Ezekiel 34:15 and Ezekiel 34:16) - that is to say, does just what the bad shepherds have omitted (Ezekiel 34:4) - and destroys the fat and strong. In this last clause another side is shown of the pastoral fidelity of Jehovah. אשׁמיד has been changed by the lxx, Syr., and Vulg. into ,אשׁמורφυλάχω; and Luther has followed them in his rendering, "I will watch over them." But this is evidently a mistake, as it fails to harmonize with ארענּה במשׁפּט. The fat and strong sheep are characterized in Ezekiel 34:18 and Ezekiel 34:19 as those which spoil the food and water of the others. The allusion, therefore, is to the rich and strong ones of the nation, who oppress the humble and poor, and treat them with severity. The destruction of these oppressors shows that the loving care of the Lord is associated with righteousness - that He feeds the flock בּמשׁפּט.

This thought is carried out still further in Ezekiel 34:17-21, the sheep themselves being directly addressed, and the Lord assuring them that He will judge between sheep and sheep, and put an end to the oppressive conduct of the fat sheep and the strong. בּין שׂה לשׂה: between the one sheep and the other. לשׂה is extended in the apposition, "the rams and he-goats," which must not be rendered, "with regard to the rams and he-goats," as it has been by Kliefoth. The thought is not that Jehovah will divide the rams and he-goats from the sheep, as some have explained it, from an inappropriate comparison with Matthew 25:32; but the division is to be effected in such a manner that sheep will be separated from sheep, the fat sheep being placed on one side with the rams and he-goats, and kept apart from the lean (רזה, Ezekiel 34:20) and the sickly sheep (נהלות, Matthew 25:21). It is to the last-named sheep, rams, and he-goats that Matthew 25:18 and Matthew 25:19 are addressed. With regard to the charge brought against them, that they eat up the pasture and tread down the remainder with their feet, etc., Bochart has already correctly observed, that "if the words are not quite applicable to actual sheep, they are perfectly appropriate to the mystical sheep intended here, i.e., to the Israelites, among whom many of the rich, after enjoying an abundant harvest and vintage, grudged the poor their gleaning in either one or the other." משׁקע, a substantive formation, like מרמס, literally, precipitation of the water, i.e., the water purified by precipitation; for שׁקע, to sink, is the opposite of רפשׂ, to stir up or render muddy by treading with the feet (compare Ezekiel 32:14 and Ezekiel 32:2). בּריה, Ezekiel 34:20 equals בּראה or בּריּה. Ezekiel 34:22 brings to a close the description of the manner in which God will deliver His flock, and feed it with righteousness. והושׁעתּי points back to והצּלתּי in Ezekiel 34:12, and ושׁפטתּי to ארענּה במשׁפּט in Ezekiel 34:16. - To this there is appended in Ezekiel 34:23. a new train of thought, describing how God will still further display to His people His pastoral fidelity.

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