To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn your hand on the desolate places that are now inhabited, and on the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the middle of the land.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)In the midst of the land.—Literally, in the navel of the earth. (See Note on Ezekiel 5:5.) The important position of Israel in reference to the other nations of the earth combined with its unsuspecting security and its riches to tempt the cupidity of Gog and his allies,Zechariah 2:4-5. To take a spoil: the Scythians, and those other nations in this army, were from their original a violent, unjust, and thievish people, addicted to robberies; and they now, under this Gog, follow the old trade.
To take a prey; the same repeated. To turn thine hand: either it speaks the ease with which Gog presumeth he shall do what he intendeth, or the sad desolation which he would cause to return upon the Jews.
The desolate places; made so by the Babylonians, and continued so till of late years past.
Now inhabited; newly repeopled and rebuilt upon their return out of Babylon.
Which have gotten cattle and goods; or which are now by their husbandry and diligence getting somewhat of estate and riches; or, as we read it,
have gotten; for it was to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes from their return near three hundred and fifty years, and from the finishing the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah to the time of Antiochus two hundred years, so that in that time the Jews might be grown rich enough to be accounted a great prey to him, if he were this Gog. However, such the Jews will be thought, when Gog attempts this enterprise.
to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited: such as were before desolate, and had lain long so, but now peopled and cultivated; these he would attack and demolish, and make a spoil and prey of:
and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations; a description of the Jews, as before; Ezekiel 38:8.
which have gotten cattle and goods; so that it should seem that Gog or the Turks will not immediately attack the Jews upon their possession of the land of Judea; but some time after, when they have settled in it, and have acquired much wealth and riches in cattle and goods, and then think to have a fine booty of them:
that dwell in the midst of the land; or, "the navel of the land" (p); which may design Jerusalem, situated in the midst of the land of Israel, and so called the navel of it, as that is in the midst of the body; as Enna is said by Cicero to be the navel of Sicily: or, as Kimchi thinks, the land of Israel itself is meant; which is in the midst of the world, and so the navel of it; though the former seems best.To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)12. On “take a spoil” cf. Ezekiel 29:19; Isaiah 10:6. The phrase “turn the hand upon” is always used in a hostile sense (Isaiah 1:25). Ezekiel 38:11-12 give the prophet’s idea of the condition of the restored community and of the state of the world in those days which permits it. He does not furnish details, but previous prophecies (ch. 25–32) describe how all the nations formerly hostile to Israel are humbled or taken out of the way. The period of Israel’s restoration is a time of universal peace. Only distant nations on the outskirts of the world, that have never entered upon the stage of history, remain unaware of the fame and glory of the God of Israel (Isaiah 66:19). The same circle of ideas appears in the passage relating to the period of a thousand years in the Apocalypse: outside the historical world there remain distant nations unaffected by the kingdom of Christ.
midst of the land] of the earth, lit. the navel of the earth, i.e. the mountain—land of Israel, the centre of the earth, cf. Ezekiel 38:5. The prophet speaks of the world as known in his day.
Ezekiel 35:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 35:2. Son of man, set thy face against Mount Seir, and prophesy against it, Ezekiel 35:3. And say to it, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with thee, Mount Seir, and will stretch out my hand against thee, and make thee waste and devastation. Ezekiel 35:4. Thy cities will I make into ruins, and thou wilt become a waste, and shalt know that I am Jehovah. Ezekiel 35:5. Because thou cherishest eternal enmity, and gavest up the sons of Israel to the sword at the time of their distress, at the time of the final transgression, Ezekiel 35:6. Therefore, as truly as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, I will make thee blood, and blood shall pursue thee; since thou hast not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue thee. Ezekiel 35:7. I will make Mount Seir devastation and waste, and cut off therefrom him that goeth away and him that returneth, Ezekiel 35:8. And fill his mountains with his slain; upon thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy low places, those pierced with the sword shall fall. Ezekiel 35:9. I will make thee eternal wastes, and thy cities shall not be inhabited; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Ezekiel 35:10. Because thou sayest, The two nations and the two lands they shall be mine, and we will take possession of it, when Jehovah was there; Ezekiel 35:11. Therefore, as truly as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, I will do according to thy wrath and thine envy, as thou hast done because of thy hatred, and will make myself known among them, as I shall judge thee. Ezekiel 35:12. And thou shalt know that I, Jehovah, have heard all thy reproaches which thou hast uttered against the mountains of Israel, saying, "they are laid waste, they are given to us for food." Ezekiel 35:13. Ye have magnified against me with your mouth, and heaped up your sayings against me; I have heard it. Ezekiel 35:14. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will prepare devastation for thee. Ezekiel 35:15. As thou hadst thy delight in the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was laid waste, so will I do to thee; thou shalt become a waste, Mount Seir and all Edom together; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.
The theme of this prophecy, viz., "Edom and its cities are to become a desert" (Ezekiel 35:2-4), is vindicated and earnestly elaborated in two strophes, commencing with 'יען וגו (Ezekiel 35:5 and Ezekiel 35:10), and closing, like the announcement of the theme itself (Ezekiel 35:4), with 'כּי אני (וידעוּ) וידעתּם, by a distinct statement of the sins of Edom. - Already, in Ezekiel 25, Edom has been named among the hostile border nations which are threatened with destruction (Ezekiel 35:12-14). The earlier prophecy applied to the Edomites, according to their historical relation to the people of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. In the present word of God, on the contrary, Edom comes into consideration, on the ground of its hostile attitude towards the covenant people, as the representative of the world and of mankind in its hostility to the people and kingdom of God, as in Isaiah 34 and Isaiah 63:1-6. This is apparent from the fact that devastation is to be prepared for Edom, when the whole earth rejoices (Ezekiel 35:14), which does not apply to Edom as a small and solitary nation, and still more clearly from the circumstance that, in the promise of salvation in Ezekiel 36, not all Edom alone (Ezekiel 35:5), but the remnant of the heathen nations generally (Ezekiel 36:3-7 and Ezekiel 36:15), are mentioned as the enemies from whose disgrace and oppression Israel is to be delivered. For Ezekiel 35:2, compare Ezekiel 13:17. הר is the name given to the mountainous district inhabited by the Edomites, between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic Gulf (see the comm. on Genesis 36:9). The prophecy is directed against the land; but it also applies to the nation, which brings upon itself the desolation of its land by its hostility to Israel. For Ezekiel 35:3, compare Ezekiel 6:14, etc. חרבּה, destruction. The sin of Edom mentioned in Ezekiel 35:5 is eternal enmity toward Israel, which has also been imputed to the Philistines in Ezekiel 25:15, but which struck deeper root, in the case of Edom, in the hostile attitude of Esau toward Jacob (Genesis 25:22. and Genesis 27:37), and was manifested, as Amos (Amos 1:11) has already said, in the constant retention of its malignity toward the covenant nation, so that Edom embraced every opportunity to effect its destruction, and according to the charge brought against it by Ezekiel, gave up the sons of Israel to the sword when the kingdom of Judah fell. הנּיר על , lit., to pour upon ( - into) the hands of the sword, i.e., to deliver up to the power of the sword (cf. Psalm 63:11; Jeremiah 18:21). בּעת recalls to mind בּיום אידם in Obadiah 1:13; but here it is more precisely defined by בּעת עון , and limited to the time of the overthrow of the Israelites, when Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Chaldeans. בּעת עון קץ, as in Ezekiel 21:30. On account of this display of its hostility, the Lord will make Edom blood (Ezekiel 35:6). This expression is probably chosen for the play upon the words דּם and אדם. Edom shall become what its name suggests. Making it blood does not mean merely filling it with bloodshed, or reddening the soil with blood (Hitzig); but, as in Ezekiel 16:38, turning it as it were into blood, or causing it to vanish therein. Blood shall pursue thee, "as blood-guiltiness invariably pursues a murderer, cries for vengeance, and so delivers him up to punishment" (Hvernick). אם לא cannot be the particle employed in swearing, and dependent upon חי־אני, since this particle introduces an affirmative declaration, which would be unsuitable here, inasmuch as דּם in this connection cannot possibly signify blood-relationship. אם לא means "if not," in which the conditional meaning of אם coincides with the causal, "if" being equivalent to "since." The unusual separation of the לא from the verb is occasioned by the fact that דּם is placed before the verb to avoid collision with ודּם. To hate blood is the same as to have a horror of bloodshed or murder. This threat is carried out still further in Ezekiel 35:7 and Ezekiel 35:8. The land of Edom is to become a complete and perpetual devastation; its inhabitants are to be exterminated by war. The form שׁממה stands for שׁמּמה, and is not to be changed into משׁמּה. Considering the frequency with which משׁמּה occurs, the supposition that we have here a copyist's error is by no means a probable one, and still less probable is the perpetuation of such an error. עבר ושׁב, as in Zechariah 7:14. For Ezekiel 35:8 compare Ezekiel 32:5-6 and Ezekiel 31:12. The Chetib תּישׁבנה is scriptio plena for תּשׁבנה, the imperfect Kal of ישׁב in the intransitive sense to be inhabited. The Keri תּשׁבנה, from שׁוּב, is a needless and unsuitable correction, since שׁוּב does not mean restitui.
In the second strophe, Ezekiel 35:10-15, the additional reason assigned for the desolation of Edom is its longing for the possession of Israel and its land, of which it desired to take forcible possession, although it knew that they belonged to Jehovah, whereby the hatred of Edom toward Israel became contempt of Jehovah. The two peoples and the two lands are Israel and Judah with their lands, and therefore the whole of the holy people and land. את is the sign of the accusative: as for the two peoples, they are mine. The suffix appended to ירשׁנוּה is neuter, and is to be taken as referring generally to what has gone before. ויהוה שׁם היה is a circumstantial clause, through which the desire of Edom is placed in the right light, and characterized as an attack upon Jehovah Himself. Jehovah was there - namely, in the land of which Edom wished to take possession. Kliefoth's rendering, "and yet Jehovah is there," is opposed to Hebrew usage, by changing the preterite היה into a present; and the objection which he offers to the only rendering that is grammatically admissible, viz., "when Jehovah was there," to the effect "that it attributes to Ezekiel the thought that the Holy Land had once been the land and dwelling-place of God, but was so no longer," calls in question the actual historical condition of things without the slightest reason. For Jehovah had really forsaken His dwelling-place in Canaan before the destruction of the temple, but without thereby renouncing His right to the land; since it was only for the sins of Israel that He had given up the temple, city, and land to be laid waste by the heathen. "But Edom had acted as if Israel existed among the nations without God, and Jehovah had departed from it for ever" (Hvernick); or rather as if Jehovah were a powerless and useless Deity, who had not been able to defend His people against the might of the heathen nations. The Lord will requite Edom for this, in a manner answering to its anger and envy, which had both sprung from hatred. נודעתּי בם, "I will make myself known among them (the Israelites) when I judge thee;" i.e., by the fact that He punishes Edom for its sin, He will prove to Israel that He is a God who does not suffer His people and His possession to be attacked with impunity. From this shall Edom learn that He is Jehovah, the omniscient God, who has heard the revilings of His enemies (Ezekiel 35:12, Ezekiel 35:13), and the almighty God, who rewards those who utter such proud sayings according to their deeds (Ezekiel 35:14 and Ezekiel 35:15). נאצות has retained the Kametz on account of the guttural in the first tone, in contrast with נאצות in Nehemiah 9:18, Nehemiah 9:26 (cf. Ewald, 69b). - The expression "mountains of Israel," for the land of Israel, in Ezekiel 35:12 and Ezekiel 36:1, is occasioned by the antithesis "mountain (mountain-range) of Seir." The Chetib hmmhs is to be pronounced שׁממה, and to be retained in spite of the Keri. The singular of the neuter gender is used with emphasis in a broken and emotional address, and is to be taken as referring ad sensum to the land. הגדּיל בּפה, to magnify or boast with the mouth, i.e., to utter proud sayings against God, in other words, actually to deride God (compare הגדּיל פּה in Obadiah 1:12, which has a kindred meaning). העתיר, used here according to Aramean usage for העשׁיר, to multiply, or heap up. In כּשׂמה, in Ezekiel 35:14, כּ is a particle of time, as it frequently is before infinitives (e.g., Joshua 6:20), when all the earth rejoices, not "over thy desolation" (Hitzig), which does not yield any rational thought, but when joy is prepared for all the world, I will prepare devastation for thee. Through this antithesis כּל־הארץ is limited to the world, with the exception of Edom, i.e., to that portion of the human race which stood in a different relation to God and His people from that of Edom; in other words, which acknowledged the Lord as the true God. It follows from this, that Edom represents the world at enmity against God. In כּשׂמחתך (Ezekiel 35:15) כ is a particle of comparison; and the meaning of Ezekiel 35:15 is: as thou didst rejoice over the desolation of the inheritance of the house of Israel, so will I cause others to rejoice over thy desolation. In Ezekiel 35:15 we agree with the lxx, Vulgate, Syriac, and others, in taking תּהיה as the second person, not as the third. כּל־אדום כּלּהּ serves to strengthen הר־שׂעיר (compare Ezekiel 11:15 and Ezekiel 36:10).
The Restoration and Blessing of Israel
Ezekiel 36:1. And thou, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, Mountains of Israel, hear the word of Jehovah: Ezekiel 36:2. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because the enemy saith concerning you, Aha! the everlasting heights have become ours for a possession: Ezekiel 36:3. Therefore prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because, even because they lay you waste, and pant for you round about, so that ye have become a possession to the remnant of the nations, and have come to the talk of the tongue and gossip of the people: Ezekiel 36:4. Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the mountains and hills, to the low places and valleys, and to the waste ruins and the forsaken cities, which have become a prey and derision to the remnant of the nations round about; Ezekiel 36:5. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Truly in the fire of my jealousy I have spoken against the remnant of the nations, and against Edom altogether, which have made my land a possession for themselves in all joy of heart, in contempt of soul, to empty it out for booty. Ezekiel 36:6. Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains and hills, to the low places and valleys, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, in my jealousy and fury have I spoken, because ye have borne the disgrace of the nations. Ezekiel 36:7. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I, I have lifted up my hand; truly the nations round about you, they shall bear their disgrace. Ezekiel 36:8. But ye, ye mountains of Israel, shall put forth your branches, and bear your fruit to my people Israel; for they will soon come. Ezekiel 36:9. For, behold, I will deal with you, and turn toward you, and ye shall be tilled and sown. Ezekiel 36:10. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel at once; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the ruins built. Ezekiel 36:11. And I will multiply upon you man and beast; they shall multiply and be fruitful: and I will make you inhabited as in your former time, and do more good to you than in your earlier days; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Ezekiel 36:12. I will cause men, my people Israel, to walk upon you; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be an inheritance to them, and make them childless no more. Ezekiel 36:13. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because they say to you, "Thou art a devourer of men, and hast made thy people childless;" Ezekiel 36:14. Therefore thou shalt no more devour men, and no more cause thy people to stumble, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 36:15. And I will no more cause thee to hear the scoffing of the nations, and the disgrace of the nations thou shalt bear no more, and shalt no more cause thy people to stumble, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.
This prophecy is uttered concerning the land of Israel, as is plainly declared in Ezekiel 36:6; whereas in Ezekiel 36:1 and Ezekiel 36:4 the mountains of Israel are mentioned instead of the land, in antithesis to the mountains of Seir (Ezekiel 35:1-15; see the comm. on Ezekiel 35:12). The promise takes throughout the form of antithesis to the threat against Edom in Ezekiel 35:1-15. Because Edom rejoices that the Holy Land, which has been laid waste, has fallen to it for a possession, therefore shall the devastated land be cultivated and sown again, and be inhabited by Israel as in the former time. The heathen nations round about shall, on the other hand, bear their disgrace; Edom, as we have already observed, being expanded, so far as the idea is concerned, into all the heathen nations surrounding Israel (Ezekiel 36:3-7). In Ezekiel 36:2, האויב, the enemy, is mentioned in quite a general manner; and what has already been stated concerning Edom in Ezekiel 35:5 and Ezekiel 35:10, is her predicted of the enemy. In Ezekiel 36:3 and Ezekiel 36:4 this enemy is designated as a remnant of the heathen nations; and it is not till Ezekiel 36:5 that it is more precisely defined by the clause, "and all Edom altogether." The גּוים round about (אשׁר, Ezekiel 36:4, compared with Ezekiel 36:3) are the heathen nations which are threatened with destruction in Ezekiel 25 and 26, on account of their malicious rejoicing at the devastation of Jerusalem and Judah. This serves to explain the fact that these nations are designated as שׁארית הגּוים, the rest, or remnant of the heathen nations, which presupposes that the judgment has fallen upon them, and that only a remnant of them is left, which remnant desires to take possession of the devastated land of Israel. The epithet applied to this land, בּמות, everlasting, i.e., primeval heights, points back to the גּבעות עולם of Genesis 49:26 and Deuteronomy 33:15, and is chosen for the purpose of representing the land as a possession secured to the people of Israel by primeval promises, in consequence of which the attempt of the enemy to seize upon this land has become a sin against the Lord God. The indignation at such a sin is expressed in the emotional character of the address. As Ewald has aptly observed, "Ezekiel is seized with unusual fire, so that after the brief statement in Ezekiel 36:2 'therefore' is repeated five times, the charges brought against these foes forcing themselves in again and again, before the prophecy settles calmly upon the mountains of Israel, to which it was really intended to apply." For יען בּיען, see the comm. on Ezekiel 13:10. שׁמּות is an infinitive Kal, formed after the analogy of the verbs ה'ל (cf. Ewald, 238e), from שׁמם, to be waste, to devastate, as in Daniel 8:13; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:11, and is not to be taken in the sense of נשׁם, after Isaiah 42:14, as Hitzig supposes. שׁאף, to pant for a thing; here it is equivalent to snapping at anything. This is required by a comparison with Ezekiel 36:4, where היה לבז corresponds to שׁמּות ושׁאף, and ללעג to 'תּעלוּ על שׂפת וגו. In the connection שׂפת לשׁון, שׂפה signifies the lip as an organ of speech, or, more precisely, the words spoken; and לשׁון, the tongue, is personified, and stands for אישׁ לשׁון (Psalm 140:12), a tongue-man, i.e., a talker.
In Ezekiel 36:4 the idea expressed in "the mountains of Israel" is expanded into mountains, hills, lowlands, and valleys (cf. Ezekiel 31:12; Ezekiel 32:5-6); and this periphrastic description of the land is more minutely defined by the additional clause, "waste ruins and forsaken cities." אם לא in Ezekiel 36:5 is the particle used in oaths (cf. Ezekiel 5:11, etc.); and the perfect דּבּרתּי is not merely prophetic, but also a preterite. God has already uttered a threatening word concerning the nations round about in Ezekiel 25, 26, and Ezekiel 35:1-15; and here He once more declares that they shall bear their disgrace. אשׁ קנאח is the fiery jealousy of wrath. כּלּא is an Aramean form for כּלּהּ (Ezekiel 35:15). For בשׁאט נפשׁ, see Ezekiel 25:6. In the expression למען מגרשׁהּ לבז noisserp, which has been rendered in various ways, we agree with Gesenius and others in regarding מגרשׁ as an Aramean form of the infinitive of גּרשׁ, with the meaning to empty out, which is confirmed by the Syriac; for מגרשׁ cannot be a substantive, on account of the למען; and Hitzig's conjecture, that לבז should be pointed לבז, and the clause rendered "to plunder its produce," is precluded by the fact that the separation of the preposition למען ל, by the insertion of a word between, is unexampled, to say nothing of the fact that מגרשׁ does not mean produce at all. The thought expressed in Ezekiel 36:6 and Ezekiel 36:7 is the following: because Israel has hitherto borne the contempt of the heathen, the heathen shall now bear their own contempt. The lifting of the hand is a gesture employed in taking an oath, as in Ezekiel 20:6, etc. But the land of Israel is to receive a blessing. This blessing is described in Ezekiel 36:8 in general terms, as the bearing of fruit by the mountains, i.e., by the land of Israel; and its speedy commencement is predicted. It is then depicted in detail in Ezekiel 36:9. In the clause כּי קרבוּ לבוא, the Israelites are not to be regarded as the subject, as Kliefoth supposes, in which case their speedy return from exile would be announced. The כּי shows that this cannot be the meaning; for it is immediately preceded by 'לעמּי ישׁ' yb , which precludes the supposition that, when speaking of the mountains, Ezekiel had the inhabitants in his mind. The promised blessings are the subject, or the branches and fruits, which the mountains are to bear. Nearly all the commentators have agreed in adopting this explanation of the words, after the analogy of Isaiah 56:1. With the כּי in Ezekiel 36:9 the carrying out of the blessing promised is appended in the form of a reason assigned for the general promise. The mountains shall be cultivated, the men upon them, viz., all Israel, multiplied, the desolated cities rebuilt, so that Israel shall dwell in the land as in the former time, and be fruitful and blessed. This promise was no doubt fulfilled in certain weak beginnings after the return of a portion of the people under Zerubbabel and Ezra; but the multiplying and blessing, experienced by those who returned from Babylon, did not take place till long after the salvation promised here, and more especially in Ezekiel 36:12-15.
According to Ezekiel 36:12, the land is to become the inheritance of the people Israel, and will no more make the Israelites childless, or (according to Ezekiel 36:14) cause them to stumble; and the people are no more to bear the contempt of the heathen. But that portion of the nation which returned from exile not only continued under the rule of the heathen, but had also in various ways to bear the contempt of the heathen still; and eventually, because Israel not only stumbled, but fell very low through the rejection of its Saviour, it was scattered again out of the land among the heathen, and the land was utterly wasted...until this day. In Ezekiel 36:12 the masculine suffix attached to וירשׁוּך refers to the land regarded as הר, which is also the subject to היית and תּוסף. It is not till Ezekiel 36:13, Ezekiel 36:14, where the idea of the land becomes so prominent, that the feminine is used. שׁכּלם, to make them (the Israelites) childless, or bereaved, is explained in Ezekiel 36:13, Ezekiel 36:14 by אכלת, devouring men. That the land devours its inhabitants, is what the spies say of the land of Canaan in Numbers 13:32; and in 2 Kings 2:19 is it affirmed of the district of Jericho that it causes משׁכּלת, i.e., miscarriages, on account of its
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