Ezekiel 9:2
And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.
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(2) One man among them was clothed with linen.—He was among them, but not of them. There were six with weapons, and this one without a weapon formed the seventh, thus making up the mystical number so often used in Scripture. He was “clothed in linen,” the ordinary priestly garment, and the special garment of the high priest at the ceremonies on the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16); yet also used by others, and on other occasions, simply as a garment of purity and of distinction (comp. Daniel 10:5), so that there is no need here to suppose a priestly character attached to this one. He carried in his girdle the “inkhorn,” i.e., the little case, containing pens, knife, and ink, commonly worn by the Oriental scribe. There is no occasion to understand this person either, on the one hand, as a representation of the Babylonian god Nebo, “the scribe of heaven,” nor, on the other, as is done by many commentators, of our Lord. There is nothing mentioned which can give him any special identification. He is simply a necessity of the vision, an angelic messenger, to mark out those whose faithfulness to God amid the surrounding evil exempts them from the common doom (comp. Revelation 7:3). This party are seen coming “from the way of the higher gate.” The courts of the Temple were built in stages, the innermost the highest. This, then, was the gate of the inner court, and was on the north, both as the place where the prophet had been shown the idolatries, and as the quarter from which the Chaldæan destruction was poured out upon the nation. They took their station “beside the brazen altar,” as the central point at once of the true worship of Israel and of the present profanation of that worship.

9:1-4 It is a great comfort to believers, that in the midst of destroyers and destructions, there is a Mediator, a great High Priest, who has an interest in heaven, and in whom saints on earth have an interest. The representation of the Divine glory from above the ark, removed to the threshold, denoted that the Lord was about to leave his mercy-seat, and to pronounce judgment on the people. The distinguishing character of this remnant that is to be saved, is such as sigh and cry to God in prayer, because of the abominations in Jerusalem. Those who keep pure in times of general wickedness, God will keep safe in times of general trouble and distress.Six men - angels of wrath - figurative of destruction. They come from the north, the quarter from which invading armies entered the holy land. These "six" angels, with the "one among them," a superior over the six, make up the number "seven," a number symbolic of God's covenant with His people.

The higher gate - The north gate of the court of the priests. The temple rose by platforms; as there was a north gate to the outer and also to the inner court, the latter was probably distinguished as the "higher gate." It was built by Jotham 2 Kings 15:35.

Clothed with linen - The priestly garment Exodus 28:6, Exodus 28:8; Leviticus 16:4. This "One Man" (Compare Daniel 10:5; Revelation 1:13) was the "angel of the covenant," the great high priest, superior to those by whom He was surrounded, receiving direct communication from the Lord, taking the coals of vengeance from between the cherubim Ezekiel 10:2, but coming with mercy to the contrite as well as with vengeance to the impenitent; these are attributes of Jesus Christ John 5:30; Luke 2:34; Matthew 9:13; John 6:39.

A writer's inkhorn - Usually a flat case about nine inches long, by an inch and a quarter broad, and half an inch thick, the hollow of which serves to contain the reed pens and penknife. At one end is the ink-vessel which is twice as heavy as the shaft. The latter is passed through the girdle and prevented from slipping through by the projecting ink-vessel. The whole is usually of polished metal, brass, copper or silver. The man with the inkhorn has to write in the Book of Life the names of those who shall be marked. The metaphor is from the custom of registering the names of the Israelites in public rolls. Compare Exodus 32:33; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5.

2. clothed with linen—(Da 10:5; 12:6, 7). His clothing marked his office as distinct from that of the six officers of vengeance; "linen" characterized the high priest (Le 16:4); emblematic of purity. The same garment is assigned to the angel of the Lord (for whom Michael is but another name) by the contemporary prophet Daniel (Da 10:5; 12:6, 7). Therefore the intercessory High Priest in heaven must be meant (Zec 1:12). The six with Him are His subordinates; therefore He is said to be "among them," literally, "in the midst of them," as their recognized Lord (Heb 1:6). He appears as a "man," implying His incarnation; as "one" (compare 1Ti 2:5). Salvation is peculiarly assigned to Him, and so He bears the "inkhorn" in order to "mark" His elect (Eze 9:4; compare Ex 12:7; Re 7:3; 9:4; 13:16, 17; 20:4), and to write their names in His book of life (Re 13:8). As Oriental scribes suspend their inkhorn at their side in the present day, and as a "scribe of the host is found in Assyrian inscriptions accompanying the host" to number the heads of the slain, so He stands ready for the work before Him. "The higher gate" was probably where now the gate of Damascus is. The six with Him make up the sacred and perfect number, seven (Zec 3:9; Re 5:6). The executors of judgment on the wicked, in Scripture teaching, are good, not bad, angels; the bad have permitted to them the trial of the pious (Job 1:12; 2Co 12:7). The judgment is executed by Him (Eze 10:2, 7; Joh 5:22, 27) through the six (Mt 13:41; 25:31); so beautifully does the Old Testament harmonize with the New Testament. The seven come "from the way of the north"; for it was there the idolatries were seen, and from the same quarter must proceed the judgment (Babylon lying northeast of Judea). So Mt 24:28.

stood—the attitude of waiting reverently for Jehovah's commands.

brazen altar—the altar of burnt offerings, not the altar of incense, which was of gold. They "stood" there to imply reverent obedience; for there God gave His answers to prayer [Calvin]; also as being about to slay victims to God's justice, they stand where sacrifices are usually slain [Grotius], (Eze 39:17; Isa 34:6; Jer 12:3; 46:10).

So soon as command was given out, these ministers of God’s just displeasure appear ready to execute.

Six; that was the precise number, neither more nor fewer.

Men. In appearance and vision they were men, and the prophet calls them as he saw them; whether angels in the shape of men, or whether really men, needs not much inquiry; they came without delay.

From the way of the higher gate; either because, being more inward, it is higher than the outward, as in all buildings upon ascents, where you go up by steps from the outward parts towards the inmost building; or because it was built more lofty than the other, enlarged likely by Jotham, 2 Chronicles 27:3.

Toward the north; insinuating whence their destruction should come; from Babylon came that whirlwind, Ezekiel 1:4, which was to overthrow Jerusalem. And this north gate was the weakest, both by their sins there committed, and by its situation, which invited Antiochus and Titus to pitch their tents on that side when they besieged it, and on this side the Chaldeans did first enter.

A slaughter weapon: see Ezekiel 9:1.

One man; not companion, but as one of great authority over them, who are as officers waiting on him on every side.

Linen; a garment proper to the priesthood, whether ordinary priest or high priest, Exodus 28:42,43 Le 6:10: in this habit appeared the angel, Daniel 10:5 12:6,7; and a very fit resemblance of Christ, who is the only Saviour of his elect, whose names he knows as if written by him.

They went in; all the seven, both the six executioners, and the single man clothed in linen, went into the inner court, where they stand waiting till the word be given for execution.

Stood beside the brazen altar; either showing that they were ready to offer up many sacrifices to the just revenge of God; or to show their value, zeal, and constancy to God’s appointment, for they are not where Ahaz’s altar was in the middle of the court, but near the brazen altar of God’s own direction.

And, behold, six men,.... Either angels the form of men; or the generals of Nebuchadnezzar's army, as Kimchi interprets it; whose names are, Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, Jeremiah 39:3; these six executioners of God's vengeance are, in the Talmud (n), called

"wrath, anger, fury, destruction, breach, and consumption:''

came from the way of the higher gate, Kimchi observes, from the Rabbins, that this is the eastern gate called the higher or upper gate, because it was above the court of the Israelites. Maimonides (o) says, the upper gate is the gate Nicanor; and why is it called the upper gate? because it was above the court of the women; see 2 Kings 15:35;

which lieth toward the north: where were the image of jealousy, and the women weeping for Tammuz, and other idolatrous practices were committed; which were the cause of the coming of these destroyers: moreover, the Chaldean army with its generals came out of the north; for Babylon lay north or northeast of Jerusalem; and so this gate, as Kimchi says, was northeast; and he adds, and Babylon was northeast of the land of Israel; see Jeremiah 1:13;

and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; as ordered, Ezekiel 9:1, a different word is here used; it signifies a hammer, with which rocks are broken in pieces, as the above mentioned Jewish writer observes. The Septuagint render it an axe or hatchet:

and one man among them; not one of the six, but who made a seventh. The Jews say this was Gabriel (p); but this was not a created angel, as they; nor the Holy Spirit as Cocceius; but the Son of God, in a human form; he was among the six, at the head of them, as their leader and commander; he was but one, they six; one Saviour, and six destroyers:

was clothed with linen; not in the habit of a warrior, but of a priest; who, as such, had made atonement for the sins of his people, and intercession for them; and this may also denote the purity of his human nature, and his unspotted righteousness, the fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints: and

with a writer's inkhorn by his side; or "at his loins" (q); nor a slaughter weapon, as the rest; but a writer's inkhorn; hence Kimchi takes him to be the king of Babylon's scribe; but a greater is here meant; even he who took down the names of God's elect in the book of life; and who takes an account, and keeps a book of the words, and even thoughts, of his people and also of their sighs, groans, and tears; see Malachi 3:16; but now his business was to mark his people, and distinguish them from others, in a providential way; and keep and preserve them from the general ruin and destruction that was coming upon Jerusalem: or, "a girdle on his lions", as the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions render it; and so was prepared and fit for business; which sense of the word is approved of by Castel (r); and he asks, what has an inkhorn to do at a man's loins? but it should be observed, that it was the custom of the eastern people to carry inkhorns at their sides, and particularly in their girdles, as the Turks do now; who not only fix their knives and poniards in them, as Dr. Shaw (s) relates; but the "hojias", that is, the writers and secretaries, hang their inkhorns in them; and by whom it is observed, that that part of these inkhorns which passes between the girdle and the tunic, and holds their pens, is long and flat; but the vessel for the ink, which rests upon the girdle, is square, with a lid to clasp over it:

and they went in; to the temple, all seven:

and stood beside the brasen altar; the altar of burnt offering, so called to distinguish it from the altar of incense, which was of gold; here they stood not to offer sacrifice, but waiting for their orders, to take vengeance for the sins committed in the temple, and at this altar; near to which stood the image of jealousy, Ezekiel 8:5.

(n) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 55. 1.((o) Hilchot Cele Hamikdash, c. 7. sect. 6. (p) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 77. 1. & Gloss. in ib. (q) "in lumbis suis", Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (r) Lexic. Polyglott. col. 3393. (s) Travels, p. 227. Ed. 2.

And, behold, six {b} men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the {c} north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's {d} inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.

(b) Which were angels in the appearance of men.

(c) Signifying that the Babylonians would come from the north to destroy the city and the temple.

(d) To mark them that would be saved.

2. six men] The symbolism represents the judgment of God as executed by supernatural agents, immediately under his command. These agents are called “men,” having the human form to the eyes of the prophet (cf. ch. Ezekiel 40:3, Ezekiel 43:6). Six of the men had instruments of destruction in their hands, and the seventh was clothed in linen garments with an inkhorn at his girdle. The inkhorn consisted of a case for holding the reed pens, with an inkholder attached near the mouth of the case. These inkhorns are carried in the girdle, and those worn by high officials are often of silver, richly chased and ornamented. The purpose of the inkhorn appears in Ezekiel 9:4. The linen garments mark the man’s divine sanctity and eminence, not priestly rank (Ew.); the high angel, Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6, was so clothed, as were the seven angels having the vials of wrath, the last plagues of judgment upon the world, Revelation 15:6. The seven men entering the inner court proceeded until they stood beside the brazen altar, in front of the house, whither the glory of the Lord had moved from the cherubim (Ezekiel 9:3).

the higher gate] Or, upper. What this gate was is not quite clear. It is usually held to be the same gate of the inner court already mentioned, ch. Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5. In Ezekiel’s new temple the inner court is higher than the outer, and a flight of steps leads to the gate from the level of the outer court, but probably in the old temple the courts were much on a level. In 2 Kings 15:35, Jotham is said to have built the “upper gate” of the house of the Lord. This gate seems identical with the upper Benjamin gate, Jeremiah 20:2, probably also with the “new gate,” Jeremiah 26:10; Jeremiah 36:10. In the last passage this new gate is said to be in the “upper court,” which can hardly be the inner court, but rather a small court which lay at the northern extremity of the outer court, and was elevated some feet above the latter. (See plan in Encycl. Brit., Art. Temple.) At all events the “men” came from the north side of the house into the inner court. The abominations of the people are represented as practised on the north side (ch. 8), and the Instruments of God’s vengeance approach from the same quarter.

the brasen altar] This is again obscure. It is said in 1 Kings 8:64 that the brazen altar was too small to receive the burnt-offerings and the fat of Solomon’s holocausts, and that the king consecrated the middle of the court, and there burnt his offerings. Ahaz caused his priest Uriah to “build” an altar after the pattern of the altar which he saw in Damascus. This new altar must have been of stone, terminating at the top in a platform or hearth for burning the fat and sacrifices upon; and somewhat after this model the altar in Ezekiel’s new temple is to be constructed (ch. Ezekiel 43:13-17). The altar of Ahaz appears to have been placed in the middle of the court, further from the house than the original position of the brazen altar; and it is added that Ahaz removed the brazen altar from its former place, and set it on the north side of his new altar (2 Kings 16:14). This sense is given both by the Heb. and LXX., though the texts differ in some points. The Heb. reading is not quite natural, and as construed by some it says nothing of a removal of the brazen altar from its former place. (See W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 466 seq.) The seven men took up their position either in the middle of the court in the vicinity of the altar place, or considerably nearer the house than the altar of burnt-offering.

Verse 2. - Behold, six men, etc. The man clothed with linen brings the number up to the sacred number seven, as in Zechariah 4:10; Revelation 1:16, 20; Revelation 15:6. He is over them rather than among them, and answers to the scribe who appears so frequently in Assyrian sculptures, as the secretary who counts the prisoners that have been taken in battle. They come from the north, the region from which the vision of Ezekiel 1:4 had come, in which, in the nearer vision of Ezekiel 8:4, the prophet had seen the same glorious presence. They appear, i.e., as issuing from the Divine presence to do their work of judgment. Possibly. as in Jeremiah 1, there may be an allusive reference to the fact that the Chaldeans, as the actual instruments of their judgment, came from the same region. The gate in question was built by Jotham (2 Kings 15:35). The captain of the band is arrayed in the "white linen" of the hosts of heaven and of the priests on earth (ποδήρης in the LXX.; comp. Leviticus 6:10; Leviticus 16:4; Ezekiel 44:17; Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6). A writer's inkhorn. Through all the changes of Eastern life this has been the outward sign of the scribe's office. Here it is obviously connected with the oft-recurring thought of the books of life and death in the chancery of heaven (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Psalm 139:16; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3). It was to be the work of this scribe (ver. 4) to mark such as were for death to death, such as were for life to life. The LXX., misunderstanding the Hebrew, or following a different text, gives, not "a writer's inkhorn," but "a girdle of sapphire." With all the precision of one who knew every inch of the temple courts, the priest-prophet sees the visitants take their station beside the brazen altar, probably, as they came from the north, on the north side of it. Ezekiel 9:2The Angels which Smite Jerusalem

At the call of Jehovah, His servants appear to execute the judgment. - Ezekiel 9:1. And He called in my ears with a loud voice, saying, Come hither, ye watchmen of the city, and every one his instrument of destruction in his hand. Ezekiel 9:2. And behold six men came by the way of the upper gage, which is directed toward the north, every one with his smashing-tool in his hand; and a man in the midst of them, clothed in white linen, and writing materials by his hip; and they came and stood near the brazen altar. Ezekiel 9:3. And the glory of the God of Israel rose up from the cherub, upon which it was, to the threshold of the house, and called to the man clothed in white linen, by whose hip the writing materials were. - פּקדּות העיר does not mean the punishments of the city. This rendering does not suit the context, since it is not the punishments that are introduced, but the men who execute them; and it is not established by the usage of the language. פּקדּה is frequently used, no doubt, in the sense of visitation or chastisement (e.g., Isaiah 10:3; Hosea 9:7); but it is not met with in the plural in this sense. In the plural it only occurs in the sense of supervision or protectorate, in which sense it occurs not only in Jeremiah 52:11 and Ezekiel 44:11, but also (in the singular) in Isaiah 60:17, and as early as Numbers 3:38, where it relates to the presidency of the priests, and very frequently in the Chronicles. Consequently פּקדּות are those whom God has appointed to watch over the city, the city-guard (2 Kings 11:18), - not earthly, but heavenly watchmen, - who are now to inflict punishment upon the ungodly, as the authorities appointed by God. קרבוּ is an imperative Piel, as in Isaiah 41:21, and must not be altered into קרבוּ (Kal), as Hitzig proposes. The Piel is used in an intransitive sense, festinanter appropinquavit, as in Ezekiel 36:8. The persons called come by the way of the upper northern gate of the temple, to take their stand before Jehovah, whose glory had appeared in the inner court. The upper gate is the gate leading from the outer court to the inner, or upper court, which stood on higher ground, - the gate mentioned in Ezekiel 8:3 and Ezekiel 8:5. In the midst of the six men furnished with smashing-tools there was one clothed in white byssus, with writing materials at his side. The dress and equipment, as well as the instructions which he afterwards receives and executes, show him to be the prince or leader of the others.

Kliefoth calls in question the opinion that these seven men are angels; but without any reason. Angels appearing in human form are frequently called אנשׁים or אישׁ, according to their external habitus. But the number seven neither presupposes the dogma of the seven archangels, nor is copied from the seven Parsic amschaspands. The dress worn by the high priest, when presenting the sin-offering on the great day of atonement (Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23), was made of בּד, i.e., of white material woven from byssus thread (see the comm. on Exodus 28:42). It has been inferred from this, that the figure clothed in white linen was the angel of Jehovah, who appears as the heavenly high priest, to protect and care for his own. In support of this, the circumstance may be also adduced, that the man whom Daniel saw above the water of the Tigris, and whose appearance is described, in Daniel 10:5-6, in the same manner as that of Jehovah in Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:26-27, and that of the risen Christ in Revelation 1:13-15, appears clothed in בּדּים (Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7).

(Note: לבוּשׁ בּדּים is rendered by the lxx, in the passage before us, ἐνδεδυκώς ποδήρῃ. It is in accordance with this that Christ is described in Revelation 1:13 as clothed with a ποδήρης, and not after Daniel 10:5, as Hengstenberg supposes. In Daniel 10:5, the Septuagint has ἐνδεδυμένος βαδδίν or τὰ βαδδίν. In other places, the Sept. rendering of בּד is λίνον (thus Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23; Leviticus 6:3; Exodus 28:42, etc.); and hence the λίνον λαμπρόν of Revelation 15:6 answers to the בּד made of שׁשׁ, βύσσος, and is really the same as the βύσσινον λαμπρόν of Revelation 19:8.)

Nevertheless, we cannot regard this view as established. The shining white talar, which is evidently meant by the plural בּדּים, occurring only here and in Daniel (ut. sup.), is not a dress peculiar to the angel of Jehovah or to Christ. The seven angels, with the vials of wrath, also appear in garments of shining white linen (ἐνδεδυμένοι λίνον καθαρὸν λαμπρόν, Revelation 15:6); and the shining white colour, as a symbolical representation of divine holiness and glory (see comm. on Leviticus 16:4 and Revelation 19:8), is the colour generally chosen for the clothing both of the heavenly spirits and of "just men made perfect" (Revelation 19:8). Moreover, the angel with the writing materials here is described in a totally different manner from the appearance of Jehovah in Ezekiel 1 and Daniel 10, or that of Christ in Revelation 1; and there is nothing whatever to indicate a being equal with God. Again, the distinction between him and the other six men leads to no other conclusion, than that he stood in the same relation to them as the high priest to the Levites, or the chancellor to the other officials. This position is indicated by the writing materials on his hips, i.e., in the girdle on his hips, in which scribes in the East are accustomed to carry their writing materials (vid., Rosenmller, A. u. N. Morgenland, IV. p. 323). He is provided with these for the execution of the commission given to him in Ezekiel 9:4. In this way the description can be very simply explained, without the slightest necessity for our resorting to Babylonian representations of the god Nebo, i.e., Mercury, as the scribe of heaven. The seven men take their station by the altar of burnt-offering, because the glory of God, whose commands they were about to receive, had taken up its position there for the moment (Kliefoth); not because the apostate priesthood was stationed there (Hvernick). The glory of Jehovah, however, rose up from the cherub to the threshold of the house. The meaning of this is not that it removed from the interior of the sanctuary to the outer threshold of the temple-building (Hvernick), for it was already stationed, according to Ezekiel 8:16, above the cherub, between the porch and the altar. It went back from thence to the threshold of the temple-porch, through which one entered the Holy Place, to give its orders there. The reason for leaving its place above the cherubim (the singular כּרוּב is used collectively) to do this, was not that "God would have had to turn round in order to address the seven from the throne, since, according to Ezekiel 8:4 and Ezekiel 8:16, He had gone from the north gate of the outer court into the inner court, and His servants had followed Him" (Hitzig); for the cherubim moved in all four directions, and therefore God, even from the throne, could turn without difficulty to every side. God left His throne, that He might issue His command for the judgment upon Israel from the threshold of the temple, and show Himself to be the judge who would forsake the throne which He had assumed in Israel. This command He issues from the temple court, because the temple was the place whence God attested Himself to His people, both by mercy and judgment.

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