Ezekiel 5:11
Why, as I live, said the Lord GOD; Surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you; neither shall my eye spare, neither will I have any pity.
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(11) Because thou . . . therefore will I.—The parallel between Israel’s conduct and God’s judgments is here, as everywhere, brought into strong light. God would inflict no evil upon them which they had not themselves called down by their obdurate and infatuated persistence in rebellion against Him.

Also diminish thee.—The word diminish is hardly an adequate translation of the original, and the pronoun thee is not in the Hebrew. The word properly means to withdraw, and is to be taken either as reflective, “withdraw myself,” or as having for its object “mine eye” of the following clause, the sense being the same in either case: the Lord will withdraw from them His presence and His compassion.

Ezekiel 5:12-17 follow in plain language the symbolical prophecies of Ezekiel 5:1-4, and give the inspired interpretation of their meaning. They bring out very distinctly the fact that the judgments should not end with the destruction of Jerusalem.

5:5-17 The sentence passed upon Jerusalem is very dreadful, the manner of expression makes it still more so. Who is able to stand in God's sight when he is angry? Those who live and die impenitent, will perish for ever unpitied; there is a day coming when the Lord will not spare. Let not persons or churches, who change the Lord's statutes, expect to escape the doom of Jerusalem. Let us endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Sooner or later God's word will prove itself true.Compare Matthew 24:21. The calamities of the Babylonian were surpassed by the Roman siege, and these again were but a foreshadowing of still more terrible destruction at the last day. 11. as I live—the most solemn of oaths, pledging the self-existence of God for the certainty of the event.

defiled my sanctuary—the climax of Jewish guilt: their defiling Jehovah's temple by introducing idols.

diminish—literally, "withdraw," namely, Mine "eye" (which presently follows), that is, My favors; Job 36:7 uses the Hebrew verb in the same way. As the Jews had withdrawn from God's sanctuary its sacredness by "defiling" it, so God withdraws His countenance from them. The significance of the expression lies in the allusion to De 4:2, "Ye shall not diminish aught from the word which I command you"; they had done so, therefore God diminishes them. The reading found in six manuscripts, "I will cut thee off," is not so good.

As I live; a form of an oath becoming none but the living God, used often in Scripture and in this prophet.

Defiled; violated and profaned.

My sanctuary; my temple.

With all thy detestable things; not that all they did abominably was done in the temple; but either because they never heeded how they were polluted, but with legal pollutions on them came to the temple; or rather, brought in their idols, all their detestable counterfeit gods, as Jeremiah 7:30, and, in 2 Kings 16:10 23:12,13, their own altars, as Ahaz and Manasseh. All their idolatry and wickednesses, expressed by two words of like emphasis.

Diminish; lessen, break to pieces, cut up by the roots such stinking weeds.

Neither shall mine eye spare; there shall not be the least sign of pity in my eye, though I see all their misery.

Neither will I have pity; nor yet will I retain any affection of kindness for them; my heart, as my eye, shall be far from all pity and commiseration towards them. Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord God,.... This is a form of an oath, and shows that what is after said should certainly be done; God would not repent of it, nor revoke it:

surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary, with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations: that is, with their idols and idolatrous worship, which were detestable and abominable to the Lord; so Manasseh not only built altars for Baal in the house of the Lord, but set up in it a graven image of the grove, 2 Kings 21:3;

therefore will I also diminish thee; as they lessened his glory by such abominable actions, so he threatens that he would lessen their privileges and blessings; as they took away from him the worship and honour that were due to him, so he would take away from them their civil and church state, his sanctuary, word, and ordinances, and deprive them of everything that was valuable and excellent. The Targum paraphrases it,

"I will cut off the strength of thine arm;''

weaken her power:

neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity; when in the greatest misery and distress. The Targum is,

"my Word shall not spare, &c.''

Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.
11. defiled my sanctuary] The commentary on this is supplied by ch. 8.

will I also diminish thee] The word is so rendered ch. Ezekiel 16:27, where, however, an object follows the verb. The balance of clauses here: I also will—and mine eye shall not spare: I also will not pity, appears to shew that the word expresses one idea along with the words “mine eye shall not spare.” This can hardly be expressed otherwise than: I also will withdraw mine eye and it shall not spare; I also will have no pity. For the phrase “withdraw the eye” cf. Job 36:7. In ch. Ezekiel 24:14 a similar word occurs, but there with the negative. Targ. Vulg. render “hew down,” but this kind of reading (d for r) is too familiar to be of any value. Perhaps the reading might be: I also am against thee and mine eye shall not spare, (form of “against thee” as Ezekiel 21:8, cf. here Ezekiel 5:8). Cf. ch. Ezekiel 8:18.Verse 11. - Because thou hast defiled my sanctuary, etc. For the full account of the nature of the abominations which are thus spoken of, see notes on ch. 8. This was, after all, the root evil of all other evils. Pollution of worship, the degradation of the highest element in man's nature, passed into pollution and degradation of his whole life. Even in our Lord's acted teaching, in John 2:15, 16 and Matthew 21:12, we have the same principle implied. Therefore will I also diminish thee, etc. The italics show that the last word is not in the Hebrew. The Revised Version margin suggests two other renderings.

(1) Therefore will I also withdraw mine eye that it shall not spare; and

(2) Therefore will I hew thee down. To these we may add the LXX. I will reject, and the Vulgate I will break in pieces, which apparently, like (2), imply a different reading. Most recent critics suggest conjectural emendations of the text. I incline to rest satisfied with the Authorized Version, and to explain it by Ezekiel 16:27. The word implies not only the decrease, but the entire withdrawal of Jehovah's favour. Possibly there is an implied reference to the command of Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32. Jerusalem had "diminished" from the Law of God, had, as it were, erased the commandments which were of supreme obligation, and therefore, as by a lex talionis, God would diminish her. Neither will I have any pity. The words are, of course, anthropomorphic, and have therefore to be received with the necessary limitations. As the earthly minister of justice must not yield to a weak pity which would be incompatible with the assertion of the eternal law of righteousness, so neither will the Supreme Judge. There is a time for all things, and justice must do its work first, in order that there may be room for pity afterwards. For other assertions, which seems strange to us, of trials unpitying character of God, see Ezekiel 7:4, 9; Ezekiel 8:18; Ezekiel 9:10, et al.; Jeremiah 13:14. The third symbolical act. - Ezekiel 4:9. And do thou take to thyself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and spelt, and put them in a vessel, and prepare them as bread for thyself, according to the number of the days on which thou liest on thy side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:10. And thy food, which thou eatest, shall be according to weight, twenty shekels for a day; from time to time shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:11. And water shalt thou drink according to measure, a sixth part of the hin, from time to time shalt thou drink it. Ezekiel 4:12. And as barley cakes shalt thou eat it, and shalt bake it before their eyes with human excrement. Ezekiel 4:13. And Jehovah spake; then shall the children of Israel eat their bread polluted amongst the heathen, whither I shall drive them. Ezekiel 4:14. Then said I: Ah! Lord, Jehovah, my soul has never been polluted; and of a carcase, and of that which is torn, have I never eaten from my youth up until now, and abominable flesh has not come into my mouth. Ezekiel 4:15. Then said He unto me: Lo, I allow thee the dung of animals instead of that of man; therewith mayest thou prepare thy bread. Ezekiel 4:16. And He said to me, Son of man, lo, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, so that they will eat bread according to weight, and in affliction, and drink water by measure, and in amazement. Ezekiel 4:17. Because bread and water shall fail, and they shall pine away one with another, and disappear in their guilt. - For the whole duration of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem, Ezekiel is to furnish himself with a store of grain corn and leguminous fruits, to place this store in a vessel beside him, and daily to prepare in the form of bread a measured portion of the same, 20 shekels in weight (about 9 ounces), and to bake this as barley cakes upon a fire, prepared with dried dung, and then to partake of it at the different hours for meals throughout the day. In addition to this, he is, at the hours appointed for eating, to drink water, in like manner according to measure, a sixth part of the hin daily, i.e., a quantity less than a pint (cf. Biblisch. Archol. II. p. 141). The Israelites, probably, generally prepared the עגּות from wheat flour, and not merely when they had guests (Genesis 18:6). Ezekiel, however, is to take, in addition, other kinds of grain with leguminous fruits, which were employed in the preparation of bread when wheat was deficient; barley - baked into bread by the poor (Judges 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9; see on 1 Kings 5:8); פּול, "beans," a common food of the Hebrews (2 Samuel 17:28), which appears to have been mixed with other kinds of grain for the purpose of being baked into bread.

(Note: Cf. Plinii Histor. Natur. xviii. 30: "Inter legumina maximus honos fabae, quippe ex qua tentatus sit etiam panis...Frumento etiam miscetur apud plerasque gentes et maxime panico solida ac delicatius fracta.")

This especially holds true of the lentiles, a favourite food of the Hebrews (Genesis 25:29.), from which, in Egypt at the present day, the poor still bake bread in times of severe famine (Sonnini, R. II. 390; ἄρτος φάκινος, Athenaeus, IV. 158). דּחן, "millet," termed by the Arabs "Dochn" (Arab. dchn), panicum, a fruit cultivated in Egypt, and still more frequently in Arabia (see Wellsted, Arab. I. 295), consisting of longish round brown grain, resembling rice, from which, in the absence of better fruits, a sort of bad bread is baked. Cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, i. 453ff.; and Gesen. Thesaur. p. 333. כּסּמים, "spelt or German corn" (cf. Exodus 9:32), a kind of grain which produces a finer and whiter flour than wheat flour; the bread, however, which is baked from it is somewhat dry, and is said to be less nutritive than wheat bread; cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, ii. 98f. Of all these fruits Ezekiel is to place certain quantities in a vessel - to indicate that all kinds of grain and leguminous fruits capable of being converted into bread will be collected, in order to bake bread for the appeasing of hunger. In the intermixture of various kinds of flour we are not, with Hitzig, to seek a transgression of the law in Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9. מספּר is the accusative of measure or duration. The quantity is to be fixed according to the number of the days. In Ezekiel 4:9 only the 390 days of the house of Israel's period of punishment are mentioned - quod plures essent et fere universa summa (Prado); and because this was sufficient to make prominent the hardship and oppression of the situation, the 40 days of Judah were omitted for the sake of brevity.

(Note: Kliefoth's supposition is untenable, that what is required in Ezekiel 4:9-17 refers in reality only to the 390 days of Israel, and not also to the 40 days of Judah, so that so long as Ezekiel lay and bore the sins of Israel, he was to eat his food by measure, and unclean. For this is in contradiction with the distinct announcement that during the whole time that he lay upon the one side and the other, he was besieging Jerusalem; and by the scanty and unclean food, was to portray both the deficiency of bread and water which occurred in the besieged city (Ezekiel 4:17), as well as the eating of unclean bread, which impended over the Israelites when among the heathen nations. The famine which took place in Jerusalem during the siege did not affect the ten tribes, but that of Judah; while unclean bread had to be eaten among the heathen not only by the Israelites, but also by the Jews transported to Babylon. By the limitation of what is prescribed to the prophet in Ezekiel 4:9-15 to the time during which the sin of Israel was to be borne, the significance of this symbolical act for Jerusalem and Judah is taken away.)

מאכלך וגו, "thy food which thou shalt eat," i.e., the definite portion which thou shalt have to eat, shall be according to weight (between subject and predicate the substantive verb is to be supplied). Twenty shekels equals 8 or 9 ounces of flour, yield 11 or 12 ounces of bread, i.e., at most the half of what a man needs in southern countries for his daily support.

(Note: In our climate (Germany) we count 2 lbs. of bread for the daily supply of a man; but in warm countries the demand for food is less, so that scarcely 1 1/2 lbs. are required. Wellsted (Travels in Arabia, II. p. 200) relates that "the Bedoweens will undertake a journey of 10 to 12 days without carrying with them any nutriment, save a bottle full of small cakes, baked of white flour and camel or goat's milk, and a leather bag of water. Such a cake weighs about 5 ounces. Two of them, and a mouthful of water, the latter twice within 24 hours, is all which they then partake of.")

The same is the case with the water. A sixth part of a hin, i.e., a quantity less than a pint, is a very niggardly allowance for a day. Both, however - eating the bread and drinking the water - he shall do from time to time, i.e., "not throughout the entire fixed period of 390 days" (Hvernick); but he shall not eat the daily ration at once, but divided into portions according to the daily hours of meals, so that he will never be completely satisfied. In addition to this is the pollution (Ezekiel 4:12.) of the scanty allowance of food by the manner in which it is prepared. ענּת שׂערים is predicate: "as barley cakes," shalt thou eat them. The suffix in תּאכלנּה is neuter, and refers to לחם in Ezekiel 4:9, or rather to the kinds of grain there enumerated, which are ground and baked before them: לחם, i.e., "food." The addition שׂערים is not to be explained from this, that the principal part of these consisted of barley, nor does it prove that in general no other than barley cakes were known (Hitzig), but only that the cakes of barley meal, baked in the ashes, were an extremely frugal kind of bread, which that prepared by Ezekiel was to resemble. The עגּה was probably always baked on hot ashes, or on hot stones (1 Kings 19:6), not on pans, as Kliefoth here supposes. The prophet, however, is to bake them in (with) human ordure. This is by no means to be understood as if he were to mix the ordure with the food, for which view Isaiah 36:12 has been erroneously appealed to; but - as עליהם in Ezekiel 4:15 clearly shows - he is to bake it over the dung, i.e., so that dung forms the material of the fire. That the bread must be polluted by this is conceivable, although it cannot be proved from the passages in Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21, and Deuteronomy 23:13 that the use of fire composed of dung made the food prepared thereon levitically unclean. The use of fire with human ordure must have communicated to the bread a loathsome smell and taste, by which it was rendered unclean, even if it had not been immediately baked in the hot ashes. That the pollution of the bread is the object of this injunction, we see from the explanation which God gives in Ezekiel 4:13 : "Thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the heathen." The heart of the prophet, however, rebels against such food. He says he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law; from his youth up he has eaten no unclean flesh, neither of a carcase, nor of that which was torn by wild beasts (cf. Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21), nor flesh of sacrifices decayed or putrefying (פּגּוּל, see on Leviticus 7:18; Isaiah 65:4). On this God omits the requirement in Ezekiel 4:12, and permits him to take for firing the dung of oxen instead of that of men.

(Note: The use of dung as a material for burning is so common in the East, that it cannot be supposed that Ezekiel first became acquainted with it in a foreign country, and therefore regarded it with peculiar loathing. Human ordure, of course, so far as our knowledge goes, is never so employed, although the objection raised by Hitzig, on the other hand, that it would not yield so much heat as would be necessary for roasting without immediate contact, i.e., through the medium of a brick, rests upon an erroneous representation of the matter. But the employment of cattle-dung for firing could not be unknown to the Israelites, as it forms in the Huaran (the ancient Bashan) the customary firing material; cf. Wetzstein's remarks on Delitzsch's Job, vol. I. pp. 377, 8 (Eng. trn.), where the preparation of the g'elle - this prevalent material for burning in the Hauran - from cow-dung mixed with chopped straw is minutely described; and this remark is made among others, that the flame of the g'elle, prepared and dried from the dung of oxen that feed at large, is entirely without smoke, and that the ashes, which retain their heat for a lengthened time, are as clean as those of wood.)

In Ezekiel 4:16., finally, is given the explanation of the scanty allowance of food meted out to the prophet, namely, that the Lord, at the impending siege of Jerusalem, is to take away from the people the staff of bread, and leave them to languish in hunger and distress. The explanation is in literal adherence to the threatenings of the law (Leviticus 26:26 and Leviticus 26:39), which are now to pass into fulfilment. Bread is called "staff of bread" as being indispensable for the preservation of life. To בּמשׁקל, Leviticus 26:26, בּדאגה, "in sorrow," is added; and to the water, בּשׁמּמון, "in astonishment," i.e., in fixed, silent pain at the miserable death, by hunger and thirst, which they see before them. נמקּוּ בּעונם as Leviticus 26:39. If we, finally, cast a look over the contents of this first sign, it says that Jerusalem is soon to be besieged, and during the siege is to suffer hunger and terror as a punishment for the sins of Israel and Judah; that upon the capture of the city of Israel (Judah) they are to be dispersed among the heathen, and will there be obliged to eat unclean bread. To this in Ezekiel 5 is joined a second sign, which shows further how it shall fare with the people at and after the capture of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-4); and after that a longer oracle, which developes the significance of these signs, and establishes the necessity of the penal judgment (Ezekiel 4:5-17).

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