Ezekiel 9:4
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Set a mark upon the foreheads.—The word for mark is literally a Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This, in many of the ancient alphabets, and especially in that in use among the Hebrews up to this time, and long retained upon their coins, was in the form of a cross—X or +. Much stress was laid upon this use of the sign of the cross as the mark for the Divine mercy by the older Christian writers, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, and Jerome. This marking was done, it is true, in vision, but the symbolism is taken from such passages as Genesis 4:15; Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:13; Exodus 28:36; and it is used several times in the Apocalypse (Ezekiel 7:3; Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 14:1). Such marks may be necessary for the guidance of the angelic executors of God’s commands, and at all events, the symbolism is of value to the human mind. It is with reference to such Scriptural instances of marking, doubtless, that the Church has provided for the signing of the baptized with the sign of the cross. It is to be observed here that the distinction of the marking has reference wholly and only to character. No regard is paid to birth or position; they and they only are marked who mourned for the prevailing sinfulness, and kept themselves apart from it.

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.mercy precedes judgment. So in the case of Sodom Genesis 19, and in the last day Luke 21:18, Luke 21:28; Revelation 7:1. This accords with the eschatological character of the predictions in this chapter (see the introduction of Ezekiel).

A mark - literally, "Tau," the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The old form of the letter was that of a cross. The Jews have interpreted this sign variously, some considering that "Tau," being the last of the Hebrew letters, and so closing the alphabet, denoted completeness, and thus the mark indicated the completeness of the sorrow for sin in those upon whom it was placed. Others again observed that "Tau" was the first letter of Torah ("the Law") and that the foreheads were marked as of men obedient to the Law. Christians, noting the resemblance of this letter in its most ancient form to a cross, have seen herein a reference to the cross with which Christians were signed. The custom for pagan gods and their votaries to bear certain marks furnishes instances, in which God was pleased to employ symbolism, generally in use, to express higher and more divine truth. The sign of the cross in baptism is an outward sign of the designation of God's elect, who at the last day shall be exempted from the destruction of the ungodly Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:31.

4. midst of … city … midst of Jerusalem—This twofold designation marks more emphatically the scene of the divine judgments.

a mark—literally, the Hebrew letter Tau, the last in the alphabet, used as a mark ("my sign," Job 31:35, Margin); literally, Tau; originally written in the form of a cross, which Tertullian explains as referring to the badge and only means of salvation, the cross of Christ. But nowhere in Scripture are the words which are now employed as names of letters used to denote the letters themselves or their figures [Vitringa]. The noun here is cognate to the verb, "mark a mark." So in Re 7:3 no particular mark is specified. We seal what we wish to guard securely. When all things else on earth are confounded, God will secure His people from the common ruin. God gives the first charge as to their safety before He orders the punishment of the rest (Ps 31:20; Isa 26:20, 21). So in the case of Lot and Sodom (Ge 19:22); also the Egyptian first-born were not slain till Israel had time to sprinkle the blood-mark, ensuring their safety (compare Re 7:3; Am 9:9). So the early Christians had Pella provided as a refuge for them, before the destruction of Jerusalem.

upon the foreheads—the most conspicuous part of the person, to imply how their safety would be manifested to all (compare Jer 15:11; 39:11-18). It was customary thus to mark worshippers (Re 13:16; 14:1, 9) and servants. So the Church of England marks the forehead with the sign of the cross in baptizing. At the exodus the mark was on the houses, for then it was families; here, it is on the foreheads, for it is individuals whose safety is guaranteed.

sigh and … cry—similarly sounding verbs in Hebrew, as in English Version, expressing the prolonged sound of their grief. "Sigh" implies their inward grief ("groanings which cannot be uttered," Ro 8:26); "cry," the outward expression of it. So Lot (2Pe 2:7, 8). Tenderness should characterize the man of God, not harsh sternness in opposing the ungodly (Ps 119:53, 136; Jer 13:17; 2Co 12:21); at the same time zeal for the honor of God (Ps 69:9, 10; 1Jo 5:19).

The Lord said, spake from the midst of that glory, Ezekiel 9:3.

Unto him, the man clothed in linen, i.e. to Christ.

Go through; pass through as men use to go who keep an even, steady pace.

The midst of the city; the chief street of the city.

Set a mark: it is too curious, and as useless, to inquire what mark this was. It is groundless to confine it to the sign of the cross, whatever some discourse of the antique form of the letter Thau. It is sufficient that, after the manner of man’s speaking, the Lord assures us his remnant are safe, as what is under a seal, which none can or dare break open.

Upon the foreheads, as the faithful servants of God, in allusion perhaps to the custom in the East, that servants wore their master’s name in their foreheads, or to let us know that now this deliverance would be not as in Egypt by whole families, but by single and selected persons.

That sigh, out of inward grief for other men’s sins and sorrows.

That cry; express their grief by vocal lamentations, who dare openly bewail the abominations of this wicked city, and so bear their testimony against it.

For all the abominations; not as if these mourners knew every particular abomination, but they mourned for all the kinds of wickedness which they knew of.

And the Lord said unto him,.... This shows that a divine Person is meant by the glory of the God of Israel:

go through the midst of the city; that is, as it is next explained,

through the midst of Jerusalem; the city the six men had the charge over or against, Ezekiel 9:1;

and set a mark upon the foreheads; not the Hebrew letter as some say, because in the form of a cross, and so signifying salvation by the cross of Christ; for this letter has no such form, neither in the characters used by the Jews, nor by the Samaritans, at least in the present character; though Origen and Jerom on the place say that the letter "tau" had the form of a cross in the letters the Samaritans used in their time; and this is defended by Walton (t), who observes, that Azariah in his Hebrew alphabet gives a double figure, one like that which is in present use, and another in the form of a cross, called St. Andrew's cross, and as it appears in some shekels; and in the Vatican alphabet, which Angelus E Roccha published, the last letter has the form of a cross; as have the Ethiopic and Coptic alphabets, which, it is certain, sprung from the ancient Hebrew; and so Montfaucon says (u), in some Samaritan coins, the letter "thau" has the form of a cross; which, if Scaliger had met with, he says he would never have opposed the testimonies of Origen and Jerom; though, after all, it seems to be no other than the form of the Greek "x"; and so the Talmudists say (w) the high priest, was anointed on his forehead in the same form: some think this letter was the mark, because it is the first letter of the word "the law"; as if it pointed out such who were obedient to it; or of the word "thou shall live". It is a Rabbinical fancy, mentioned by Kimchi (x), that Gabriel had orders to write the letter in ink upon the foreheads of the righteous, and in blood upon the foreheads of the wicked; in the one it signified "thou shall live", and in the other "thou shall die"; but, as Calvin observes, rather, if this letter could be thought to be meant, the reason of it was, because it is the last letter of the alphabet; and so may signify, that the Lord's people marked with it are the last among men, or the faith of the world; or that such who persevere to the end shall be saved: but the word signifies, not a letter, but a mark or sign; and so it is interpreted in the Septuagint version, and by the Targum, Jarchi, Kimchi, and others; and denotes the distinction the Lord had made by his grace between them and others; and now by his power and providence in the protection of them; for the, Lord knows them that are his, and will preserve them. The allusion is either to the marking of servants in their foreheads, by which they were known who they belonged to, Revelation 7:3; or to the sprinkling of the posts of the Israelites' houses with blood, when the firstborn of Egypt were destroyed, Exodus 12:22;

of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof; the abominations were those abominable idolatries mentioned in the preceding chapter, and those dreadful immoralities hinted at in Ezekiel 9:9; all which were grieving and distressing to godly minds, because they were contrary to the nature and will of God; transgressions, of his righteous law; and on account of which his name was dishonoured, and his ways blasphemed and evil spoken of; for these they sighed and groaned in private, and mourned and lamented in public; bearing their testimony against them with bitter expressions of grief and sorrow, by groans, words, and tears; and such as these are taken notice of by the Lord; he comforts those that mourn in Zion, and preserves them.

(t) Supplementum de Sicl. Formis, p. 37. 3. Prolegom. 3. de lingua Hebr. sect. 36. (u) Palaeograph. Graec. l. 2. c. 3.((w) T. Bab. Ceritot, c. 1. fol. 5. 2.((x) Vid. T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 55. 1.

And the LORD said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that {f} sigh and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst of it.

(f) He shows what is the manner of God's children, whom he marks for salvation: that is, to mourn and cry out against the wickedness which they see committed against God's glory.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4–7. Command to seal those to be spared, and to slay without distinction all others

4. set a mark] The word is Tav, the last letter of the alphabet, the old form of which was a cross. The term is used here as in Job 31:35, of a mark in general, though perhaps the Tav or cross was the simplest form the mark could take. The passage is imitated, Revelation 7, though the mark there is the name of God. All who mourned over the abominations done in Jerusalem were to be thus sealed and spared.

Verse 4. - Set a mark upon the foreheads, etc. The command reminds us of that given to the destroying angel in Exodus 12:13, and has its earlier and later analogues in the mark set upon Cain (Genesis 4:15), and in the "sealing" of the servants of God in Revelation 7:3. Here, as in the last example, the mark is set, not on the lintels of the doorposts, but upon the "foreheads" of the men. And the mark is the letter tau, in old Hebrew, that of a cross + , and like the "mark" of mediaeval and (in the case of the illiterate) of modern usage, seems to have been used as a signature, and is rightly so translated in the Revised Version of Job 31:35. Jewish writers have accounted for its being thus used, either

(1) from its being the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and thus denoting completeness, or

(2) from its being the first letter of the word thorah (Law); or

(3) from its standing in the same position in the Hebrew word for "thou shalt live." Christian writers (Origen, in loc.; Tertullian, 'Adv. Marcion,' 3:22) have not unnaturally seen in it a quasi-prophetic reference to the sign of the cross as used by Christians, and it is possible that the use of that sign in baptism may have originated in this passage. That was to be the sign of the elect of God in the midst of a world lying in wickedness. Possibly in older as in later forms of idolatry (as eg. in the cultus of Mithras, Vishnu, Sehiva), the votaries of this or that deity may have been distinguished by some outward note of this kind; but of this, though suggested by Currey, I do not find any evidence. It is clear, however, that there could be no anticipation of the Christian symbolism in the minds of Ezeldel or of his hearers. The "mark" was to be placed on all who were still faithful to the worship of their fathers, though they could show their faithfulness only by lamentation of the national apostasy. Such, of course, were Jeremiah, and Baruch, and Ahikam, and Shaphan, and Gedaliah, and others, and such as these Ezekiel may have had present in his thoughts. Against all others (ver. 5) they were sent forth with unsparing severity. Ezekiel 9:4The Divine Command

Ezekiel 9:4. And Jehovah said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a cross upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which take place in their midst. Ezekiel 9:5. And to those he said in my ears: Go through the city behind him, and smite. Let not your eye look compassionately, and do not spare. Ezekiel 9:6. Old men, young men, and maidens, and children, and women, slay to destruction: but ye shall not touch any one who has the cross upon him; and begin at my sanctuary. And they began with the old men, who were before the house. Ezekiel 9:7. And He said to them, defile the house, and fill the courts with slain; go ye out. And they went out, and smote in the city. - God commands the man provided with the writing materials to mark on the forehead with a cross all the persons in Jerusalem who mourn over the abominations of the nation, in order that they may be spared in the time of the judgment. תּו, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, had the form of a cross in the earlier writing. התוה תּו, to mark a ת, is therefore the same as to make a mark in the form of a cross; although there was at first no other purpose in this sign than to enable the servants employed in inflicting the judgment of God to distinguish those who were so marked, so that they might do them no harm. Ezekiel 9:6. And this was the reason why the תּו was to be marked upon the forehead, the most visible portion of the body; the early Christians, according to a statement in Origen, looked upon the sign itself as significant, and saw therein a prophetic allusion to the sign of the cross as the distinctive mark of Christians. A direct prophecy of the cross of Christ is certainly not to be found here, since the form of the letter Tâv was the one generally adopted as a sign, and, according to Job 31:35, might supply the place of a signature. Nevertheless, as Schmieder has correctly observed, there is something remarkable in this coincidence to the thoughtful observer of the ways of God, whose counsel has carefully considered all before hand, especially when we bear in mind that in the counterpart to this passage (Revelation 7:3) the seal of the living God is stamped upon the foreheads of the servants of God, who are to be exempted from the judgment, and that according to Revelation 14:1 they had the name of God written upon their foreheads. So much, at any rate, is perfectly obvious from this, namely, that the sign was not arbitrarily chosen, but was inwardly connected with the fact which it indicated; just as in the event upon which our vision is based (Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:22.) the distinctive mark placed upon the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, in order that the destroying angel might pass them by, namely, the smearing of the doorposts with the blood of the paschal lamb that had been slain, was selected on account of its significance and its corresponding to the thing signified. The execution of this command is passed over as being self-evident; and it is not till Ezekiel 9:11 that it is even indirectly referred to again.

In Ezekiel 9:5, Ezekiel 9:6 there follows, first of all, the command given to the other six men. They are to go through the city, behind the man clothed in white linen, and to smite without mercy all the inhabitants of whatever age or sex, with this exception, that they are not to touch those who are marked with the cross. The על for אל before תּחוס is either a slip of the pen, or, as the continued transmission of so striking an error is very improbable, is to be accounted for from the change of א into ע, which is so common in Aramaean. The Chetib עיניכם is the unusual form grammatically considered, and the singular, which is more correct, has been substituted as Keri. תּהרגוּ is followed by למשׁחית, to increase the force of the words and show the impossibility of any life being saved. They are to make a commencement at the sanctuary, because it has been desecrated by the worship of idols, and therefore has ceased to be the house of the Lord. To this command the execution is immediately appended; they began with the old men who were before the house, i.e., they began to slay them. האנשׁים הזּקנים are neither the twenty-five priests (Ezekiel 8:16) nor the seventy elders (Ezekiel 8:11). The latter were not לפני הבּית, but in a chamber by the outer temple gate; whereas לפני הבּית, in front of the temple house, points to the inner court. This locality makes it natural to think of priests, and consequently the lxx rendered ממּקדּשּׁי by ἀπὸ τῶν ἁγίων μου. But the expression אנשׁים זקנים is an unsuitable one for the priests. We have therefore no doubt to think of men advanced in years, who had come into the court possibly to offer sacrifice, and thereby had become liable to the judgment. In Ezekiel 9:7 the command, which was interrupted in Ezekiel 9:6, is once more resumed. They are to defile the house, i.e., the temple, namely, by filling the courts with slain. It is in this way that we are to connect together, so far as the sense is concerned, the two clauses, "defile...and fill." This is required by the facts of the case. For those slain "before the house" could only have been slain in the courts, as there was no space between the temple house and the courts in which men could have been found and slain. But לפני cannot be understood as signifying "in the neighbourhood of the temple," as Kliefoth supposes, for the simple reason that the progressive order of events would thereby be completely destroyed. The angels who were standing before the altar of burnt-offering could not begin their work by going out of the court to smite the sinners who happened to be in the neighbourhood of the temple, and then returning to the court to do the same there, and then again going out into the city to finish their work there. They could only begin by slaying the sinners who happened to be in the courts, and after having defiled the temple by their corpses, by going out into the city to slay all the ungodly there, as is related in the second clause of the verse (Ezekiel 9:7).

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