Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Toward the mountains of Israel.—It is not uncommon to address prophetic utterances to inanimate objects as a poetic way of representing the people. (Comp. Ezekiel 36:1; Micah 6:2, &c.) The mountains are especially mentioned as being the chosen places of idolatrous worship. (See Deuteronomy 12:2; 2Kings 17:10-11; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Hosea 4:13.) Baal, the sun-god, was the idol especially worshipped upon the hills.Ezekiel 6:2-7. Set thy face toward the mountains of Israel — Turn thy face to that part where Judea is situated. Judea was a hilly country; therefore that whole land is expressed here and elsewhere by the mountains of Israel, Judah being called Israel, because the ten tribes, generally distinguished by that name, had been long since carried captive into Assyria, and Judah possessed a great part of their country. And prophesy against them — Direct thy discourse to them. The prophets sometimes directed their discourse to the inanimate parts of the creation, thereby to upbraid the stupidity of men. Thus saith the Lord to the mountains and to the hills — Every part of the country had been defiled with idolatry. The altars built for idol-worship were commonly placed upon mountains and hills; the shady valleys and river-sides were likewise made use of for the same purpose, particularly for the sacrificing of children to Moloch: see Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31. So by this the prophet denounces a general judgment upon the whole country. And your altars shall be desolate — See note on Leviticus 26:30, where Moses denounces against the Israelites the same judgments upon their provocations. I will cast down your slain men before your idols, &c. — So that their sin shall be read in the manner of their punishment; and while the idols are upbraided with their inability to help their worshippers, the idolaters are reproached with the folly of trusting in them. And ye shall know that I am the Lord — “An epiphonema, or conclusion of a severe denunciation often repeated by this prophet, importing that the judgments which God intended to bring on the Jews, would make the most hardened and stupid sinners sensible that this was God’s hand.” — Lowth. Deuteronomy 12. The prophecy is against the "mountains" of Israel, because the mountains and valleys were the seats of idol-worship. It is also the proclamation of the final judgment of Israel. It is the picture of the future judgment of the world. Song of Solomon of man; see Ezekiel 2:1; put thyself towards the mountains, in a posture of one who is going to speak, look toward them; hereby (as Isaiah did, Isaiah 12) upbraiding the deafness of the Jews, whom he now left to speak to mountains. Or rather, to the inhabitants of the mountains, who were secure in their fastnesses; and great idolaters, who chose the high hills, &c. for places of idolatrous worship. Israel; the common name to all that now remained since the ten tribes were captivated by Shalmaneser.
Prophesy against them; declare my judgments against them. Luke 1:39; and the mountains are mentioned, against which the prophet is ordered to direct his face, and look unto; partly because idolatry was much practised upon them; and partly to show the stupidity of the Jews, and the failure of the prophecy among them; that it was as well, or better, to speak to the mountains, than to them; for since they had so often put away the word of God from them, they were unworthy of it; wherefore such a direction to the prophet comes some degree of indignation and resentment:
and prophesy against them; as that the sword should be upon them, and the high places built upon them should be destroyed: or "unto them" (a); direct the prophecy to them; speak to them as if they were capable of hearing: or "concerning them", as the Syriac version; and so the Targum, concerning their desolation.Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. Song of Solomon of man] See on ch. Ezekiel 2:1.
mountains of Israel] i.e. the mountain-land of Israel, but with special reference to the mountains as the seats of idolatrous worship.Verses 2, 3. - Set thy face toward the mountains, etc. The formula is eminently characteristic of Ezekiel. We have had it with a different verb in the Hebrew, in Ezekiel 4:3. It will meet us again in Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 21:2; Ezekiel 25:2; Ezekiel 28:21; Ezekiel 29:2; Ezekiel 35:2; Ezekiel 38:2. In this case it probably implied an outward act, like that of Daniel, when he, with a very different purpose, looked towards Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10). In contrast with the widespread plains of Mesopotamia in which Ezekiel found himself, this was the chief characteristic of the land which he had left. The mountains represent the whole country, including the rivers (Revised Version, here and throughout, renders the Hebrew "water courses," to distinguish it from the "river" (nahar) of Ezekiel 1:1, 3, et al., and the "river" (nachal) of Ezekiel 47:5. Its strict meaning is that of a "ravine" or "gorge," the wady of modern Arabic, through which a stream rushes in the winter, but is dried up in the summer). All the localities are named as having been alike polluted by the worship of idols For mountains and hills as the scenes of such worship, see Deuteronomy 12:2; 2 Kings 17:10, 11; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Hosea 4:13; for the ravines and valleys, 2 Kings 23:10 and Jeremiah 7:31 (the Valley of Hinnom); and more generally, Isaiah 57:5, 6. The same combination meets us in ch. 35:8; 36:5, 6. In his address to the mountains, Ezekiel follows in the footsteps of Micah 6:2. I will destroy your high places. The words point to the most persistent, though not the worst, of all the idolatries by which the worship of Jehovah as the God of Israel had been overshadowed. The words of Ezekiel are identical with those of Leo, 26:30. The Bamoth, or high places, of Baal, are mentioned in Numbers 22:41 and Joshua 13:17, and are probably identical with the high places of Arnon in Numbers 21:28. There they are named only incidentally, not in the way of prohibition or condemnation. So, in like manner, in Deuteronomy 32:13 and Deuteronomy 33:29, if the technical sense exists at all, it is referred to only as included in the triumph of the worship of Jehovah over the hill fortresses as the sanctuaries of other gods. The absence of the word from the Book of Judges is difficult to explain, as it was precisely in that period of the history of Israel, irregular and unsettled, that we should have expected to find the people adopting the cultus of their neighbours. A probable solution of the problem is that, so long as the tabernacle and the ark were at Shiloh, that was so pre-eminently the centre of the worship of Jehovah, that the people were not tempted to forsake it, or to set up the worship upon the high places side by side with it. When, after the capture of the ark, Shiloh was a deserted sanctuary, we meet for the first time with the worship of the high places, not as a thing forbidden, but as sanctioned by the presence of Samuel, as the judge and prophet of the people (1 Samuel 9:12-14; 1 Samuel 10:5), the "high place" in the last passage being, apparently, the same as "the hill of God." In 2 Samuel 1:19, possibly from the Book of Jashar, we have the elder, less technical sense of Deuteronomy 32:12 and Deuteronomy 33:19. It would seem, accordingly, as if Samuel had acted on a policy like that of the counsel which Gregory I gave Augustine. He found the worship of the high places adopted by the Israelites from the neighbouring nations. He sought to turn them to the worship of Jehovah. So the writer of 1 Kings 3:2 records the fact that "the people sacrificed in high places," because as yet, though the ark had been brought to Jerusalem, "there was no house built unto the Name of Jehovah until those days," and that Solomon himself also "sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places." At the chief of these, the great high place of Gibeon, Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings, and had the memorable vision in which he made choice of wisdom rather than length of days, or riches and honour, returning from it, as though the cultus of the two places stood nearly on an equal footing, to offer other burnt offerings before the ark of God at Jerusalem (1 Kings 3:3-15). With the erection of the temple the state of things was, in some measure, altered, and the temple was the one legitimate sanctuary. When the ten tribes revolted under Jeroboam, they were, of course, cut off from the temple services, and the king accordingly, besides the calves at Bethel and Dan, set up high places, with priests not of the sons of Aaron, in the cities of Samaria (1 Kings 12:31; 1 Kings 13:32). From that time forward the high places are always mentioned by both historians and prophets in a tone of condemnation, whether they were in Israel or Judah (1 Kings 14:4), but they had become so deeply rooted in the reverence of the people that even the better kings of Judah, who warred against open idolatry, like Asa (1 Kings 15:14), Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43), Jehoash (2 Kings 12:3), Amaziah (2 Kings 14:4), Azariah (2 Kings 15:4), left them undisturbed; while in the history of the northern kingdom the cultus of the Bamoth reigned paramount (2 Kings 17, passim). It was not till Hezekiah, presumably under Isaiah's influence, removed the "high places" (2 Kings 18:4) that we find any serious attempt to put them down. They had been tolerated, apparently, because, as in Rabshakeh's taunt (2 Kings 18:22), they were nominally connected with the worship of Jehovah. Under the confluent polytheism of Manasseh they naturally reappeared (2 Kings 21:3: 2 Chronicles 33:3). The reformation of Josiah was more thorough (2 Kings 23, passim; 2 Chronicles 34:3), and was probably stimulated by Hilkiah and Huldah. The discovery of the book of the Law (probably Deuteronomy), with its condemnations of mountain sanctuaries, though, as we have seen, the Bamoth were not prohibited by name, roused the zeal of the prophets, especially of the priest prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and when the Bamoth-cultus revived, after the death of Josiah, the former was strong in his protests (Jeremiah 7:31, et al.), all the more so because now, as in the earlier stages of their history, they had become high places of Baal (Jeremiah 19:5; 32:55), and were associated with abominations like those of the worship of Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom. So it was that Ezekiel, writing on the banks of the Chebar, is now led to place them in the forefront of the sins of his people. Ezekiel 5:5. Thus says the Lord Jehovah: This Jerusalem have I placed in the midst of the nations, and raised about her the countries. Ezekiel 5:6. But in wickedness she resisted my laws more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries which are round about her; for they rejected my laws, and did not walk in my statutes. Ezekiel 5:7. Therefore thus says the Lord Jehovah: Because ye have raged more than the nations round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, and have not obeyed my laws, and have not done even according to the laws of the nations which are round about you; Ezekiel 5:8. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Lo, I, even I, shall be against thee, and will perform judgments in thy midst before the eyes of the nations. Ezekiel 5:9. And I will do unto thee what I have never done, nor will again do in like manner, on account of all thine abominations.
זאת ירוּשׁ not "this is Jerusalem," i.e., this is the destiny of Jerusalem (Hvernick), but "this Jerusalem" (Hitzig); זאת is placed before the noun in the sense of iste, as in Exodus 32:1; cf. Ewald, 293b. To place the culpability of Jerusalem in its proper prominence, the censure of her sinful conduct opens with the mention of the exalted position which God had assigned her upon earth. Jerusalem is described in Ezekiel 5:5 as forming the central point of the earth: this is done, however, neither in an external, geographical (Hitzig), nor in a purely typical sense, as the city that is blessed more than any other (Calvin, Hvernick), but in a historical sense, in so far as "God's people and city actually stand in the central point of the God-directed world-development and its movements" (Kliefoth); or, in relation to the history of salvation, as the city in which God hath set up His throne of grace, from which shall go forth the law and the statutes for all nations, in order that the salvation of the whole world may be accomplished (Isaiah 2:2.; Micah 4:1.). But instead of keeping the laws and statutes of the Lord, Jerusalem has, on the contrary, turned to do wickedness more than the heathen nations in all the lands round about (המרה, cum accusat. object., "to act rebelliously towards"). Here we may not quote Romans 2:12, Romans 2:14 against this, as if the heathen, who did not know the law of God, did not also transgress the same, but sinned ἀνόμως; for the sinning ἀνόμως, of which the apostle speaks, is really a transgression of the law written on the heart of the heathen. With לכן, in Ezekiel 5:7, the penal threatening is introduced; but before the punishment is laid down, the correspondence between guilt and punishment is brought forward more prominently by repeatedly placing in juxtaposition the godless conduct of the rebellious city. המנכם is infinitive, from המן, a secondary form המון, in the sense of המה, "to rage," i.e., to rebel against God; cf. Psalm 2:1. The last clause of Ezekiel 5:7 contains a climax: "And ye have not even acted according to the laws of the heathen." This is not in any real contradiction to Ezekiel 11:12 (where it is made a subject of reproach to the Israelites that they have acted according to the laws of the heathen), so that we would be obliged, with Ewald and Hitzig, to expunge the לא in the verse before us, because wanting in the Peshito and several Hebrew manuscripts. Even in these latter, it has only been omitted to avoid the supposed contradiction with Ezekiel 11:12. The solution of the apparent contradiction lies in the double meaning of the משׁפּטי הּגוים. The heathen had laws which were opposed to those of God, but also such as were rooted in the law of God written upon their hearts. Obedience to the latter was good and praiseworthy; to the former, wicked and objectionable. Israel, which hated the law of God, followed the wicked and sinful laws of the heathen, and neglected to observe their good laws. The passage before us is to be judged by Jeremiah 2:10-11, to which Raschi had already made reference.
(Note: Coccejus had already well remarked on Ezekiel 11:12 : "Haec probe concordant. Imitabantur Judaei gentiles vel fovendo opiniones gentiles, vel etiam assumendo ritus et sacra gentilium. Sed non faciebant ut gentes, quae integre diis suis serviebant. Nam Israelitae nomine Dei abutebantur et ipsius populus videri volebant.")
In Ezekiel 5:8 the announcement of the punishment, interrupted by the repeated mention of the cause, is again resumed with the words 'לכן כּה וגו. Since Jerusalem has acted worse than the heathen, God will execute His judgments upon her before the eyes of the heathen. עשׂה שׁפטים or עשׂה (Ezekiel 5:10, Ezekiel 5:15; Ezekiel 11:9; Ezekiel 16:41, etc.), "to accomplish or execute judgments," is used in Exodus 12:12 and Numbers 33:4 of the judgments which God suspended over Egypt. The punishment to be suspended shall be so great and heavy, that the like has never happened before, nor will ever happen again. These words do not require us either to refer the threatening, with Coccejus, to the last destruction of Jerusalem, which was marked by greater severity than the earlier one, or to suppose, with Hvernick, that the prophet's look is directed to both the periods of Israel's punishment - the times of the Babylonian and Roman calamity together. Both suppositions are irreconcilable with the words, as these can only be referred to the first impending penal judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem. This was, so far, more severe than any previous or subsequent one, inasmuch as by it the existence of the people of God was for a time suspended, while that Jerusalem and Israel, which were destroyed and annihilated by the Romans, were no longer the people of God, inasmuch as the latter consisted at that time of the Christian community, which was not affected by that catastrophe (Kliefoth).
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