Ezekiel 9:6
Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man on whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
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9:5-11 The slaughter must begin at the sanctuary, that all may see and know that the Lord hates sin most in those nearest to him. He who was appointed to protect, reported the matter. Christ is faithful to the trust reposed in him. Is he commanded by his Father to secure eternal life to the chosen remnant? He says, Of all that thou hast given me, I have lost none. If others perish, and we are saved, we must ascribe the difference wholly to the mercy of our God, for we too have deserved wrath. Let us still continue to plead in behalf of others. But where the Lord shows no mercy he does no injustice; he only recompenses men's ways.Begin at my sanctuary - The first to be punished were those who had brought idolatry nearest to the holy place. The "ancient men," i. e., the 25 men who had stood with their backs to the altar Ezekiel 8:16 were the first to be slain. 6. come not near any … upon whom … mark—(Re 9:4). It may be objected that Daniel, Jeremiah, and others were carried away, whereas many of the vilest were left in the land. But God does not promise believers exemption from all suffering, but only from what will prove really and lastingly hurtful to them. His sparing the ungodly turns to their destruction and leaves them without excuse [Calvin]. However, the prophecy waits a fuller and final fulfilment, for Re 7:3-8, in ages long after Babylon, foretells, as still future, the same sealing of a remnant (one hundred forty-four thousand) of Israel previous to the final outpouring of wrath on the rest of the nation; the correspondence is exact; the same pouring of fire from the altar follows the marking of the remnant in both (compare Re 8:5, with Eze 10:2). So Zec 13:9; 14:2, distinguish the remnant from the rest of Israel.

begin at … sanctuary—For in it the greatest abominations had been committed; it had lost the reality of consecration by the blood of victims sacrificed to idols; it must, therefore, lose its semblance by the dead bodies of the slain idolaters (Eze 9:7). God's heaviest wrath falls on those who have sinned against the highest privileges; these are made to feel it first (1Pe 4:17, 18). He hates sin most in those nearest to Him; for example, the priests, &c.

ancient men—the seventy elders.

Slay utterly; my purpose is to exterminate and make desolate, therefore slay all that are designed to destruction. Old; whose venerable age, if innocent, might have awed you, whose wisdom might preserve some and themselves.

Young; who should be a seed-plot, or nursery, for posterity, cut them off too. Regard no state or sex, neither the loveliness of the virgin, nor the prettiness of the infant, nor the comeliness and gravity of the matron; spare none: yet in your fervours of revenge look you come not near to any sealed forehead; you may see them; though they blush for their own sins, and for the sins of others, yet they look up to me and wait for me in the way of my judgments, they will lift up their heads, and look you in the faces.

And begin, both the execution and the distinction, at my sanctuary; there are the great sinners, and the abominable sins which have brought this on them; and that all Israel may know nothing but repentance can secure them.

The ancient men; the seventy, or sanhedrim, Ezekiel 8:10,11. Which were before the house; who were governors in the temple and house of God by office, but idolaters by practice and principles. Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children,

and women,.... All, of them objects of compassion, because of their age and sex; and yet none to be spared; and which orders were exactly obeyed; see 2 Chronicles 36:17;

but come not near any man on whom is the mark; these were not to be slain; and though some were carried captive, as Daniel, and others; yet it was for their good and God's glory; see Revelation 7:3;

and begin at my sanctuary; the temple, the house of God, and the priests and Levites that dwelt there. The Septuagint version is, "begin at my saints"; those who professed themselves to be the saints of the Lord, and were separated and devoted to his service; and so the Rabbins say (y), do not read "at my sanctuary"; but "at those that sanctify me", or "my sanctified ones"; which they interpret of those that keep the whole law, from "aleph" to "tau"; see 1 Peter 4:17;

then they began at the ancient men which were before the house; the seventy elders of Israel, who offered incense to the idols portrayed upon the walls of the chambers of the temple, Ezekiel 8:10; these they slew first.

(y) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 4. 1.

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the {g} mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the {h} elders who were before the house.

(g) Thus in all his plagues the Lord preserves his small number, which he marks as in Ex 12:12, Re 7:3 but the chief mark is the spirit of adoption, with which the heart is sealed up to life everlasting.

(h) Which was the chief opportunity for all these evils, as in Eze 8:11.

6. begin at my sanctuary] Judgment begins at the house of God. The Lord had returned for a moment to the place of his abode in the temple, and from there the judgment went forth; Amos 1:2, “The Lord shall roar out of Zion and give forth his voice from Jerusalem.” There he was most present, there most fully known, there if possible most forgotten and provoked, and there his holiness and godhead will assert themselves with most terribleness against the sins of men.

the ancient men] the elders, those mentioned, ch. Ezekiel 8:16.Verse 6. - Begin at my sanctuary, etc. It was fitting that the spot in which guilt had culminated should be the starting point of punishment. There seems something like a reference to this command in 1 Peter 4:17. In each case judgment "begins at the house of God." So the dread work began with the ancient men, or elders, of the same class, i.e., if not the same persons, as those in Ezekiel 8:11. Second Abomination: Worship of Beasts

Ezekiel 8:7. And He brought me to the entrance of the court, and I saw, and behold there was a hole in the wall. Ezekiel 8:8. And He said to me, Son of man, break through the wall: and I broke through the wall, and behold there was a door. Ezekiel 8:9. And He said to me, Come and see the wicked abominations which they are doing here. Ezekiel 8:10. And I came and saw, and behold there were all kinds of figures of reptiles, and beasts, abominations, and all kinds of idols of the house of Israel, drawn on the wall round about. Ezekiel 8:11. And seventy men of the leaders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them, stood in front, every man with his censer in his hand; and the smell of a cloud of incense arose. Ezekiel 8:12. And He said to me, Seest thou, son of man, what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every one in his image-chambers? For they say: Jehovah doth not see us; Jehovah hath forsaken the land. - The entrance of the court to which Ezekiel was now transported cannot be the principal entrance to the outer court towards the east (Ewald). This would be at variance with the context, as we not only find the prophet at the northern entrance in Ezekiel 8:3 and Ezekiel 8:5, but at Ezekiel 8:14 we find him there still. If he had been taken to the eastern gate in the meantime, this would certainly have been mentioned. As that is not the case, the reference must be to that entrance to the court which lay between the entrance-gate of the inner court (Ezekiel 8:3) and the northern entrance-gate to the house of Jehovah (Ezekiel 8:14), or northern gate of the outer court, in other words, the northern entrance into the outer court. Thus the prophet was conducted out of the inner court through its northern gate into the outer court, and placed in front of the northern gate, which led out into the open air. There he saw a hole in the wall, and on breaking through the wall, by the command of God, he saw a door, and having entered it, he saw all kinds of figures of animals engraved on the wall round about, in front of which seventy of the elders of Israel were standing and paying reverence to the images of beasts with burning incense. According to Ezekiel 8:12, the prophet was thereby shown what the elders of Israel did in the dark, every one in his image-chamber. From this explanation on the part of God concerning the picture shown to the prophet, it is very evident that it had no reference to any idolatrous worship practised by the elders in one or more of the cells of the outer court of the temple. For even though the objection raised by Kliefoth to this view, namely, that it cannot be proved that there were halls with recesses in the outer court, is neither valid nor correct, since the existence of such halls is placed beyond the reach of doubt by Jeremiah 35:4; 2 Kings 23:11, and 1 Chronicles 28:12; such a supposition is decidedly precluded by the fact, that the cells and recesses at the gates cannot have been large enough to allow of seventy-one men taking part in a festive idolatrous service. The supposition that the seventy-one men were distributed in different chambers is at variance with the distinct words of the text. The prophet not only sees the seventy elders standing along with Jaazaniah, but he could not look through one door into a number of chambers at once, and see the pictures draw all round upon their walls. The assembling of the seventy elders in a secret cell by the northern gate of the outer temple to worship the idolatrous images engraved on the walls of the cell, is one feature in the visionary form given to the revelation of what the elders of the people were doing secretly throughout the whole land. To bring out more strikingly the secrecy of this idolatrous worship, the cell is so completely hidden in the wall, that the prophet is obliged to enlarge the hole by breaking through the wall before he can see the door which leads to the cell and gain a view of them and of the things it contains, and the things that are done therein.

(Note: "Because the whole is exhibited pictorially and figuratively, he says that he saw one hole in a wall, and was directed to dig through and make it larger, that he might enter as if through an open door, and see the things which he could not possibly have seen while stationed outside." - Jerome.)

And the number of the persons assembled there suggests the idea of a symbolical representation, as well as the secrecy of the cell. The seventy elders represent the whole nation; and the number is taken from Exodus 24:1. and Numbers 11:16; Numbers 24:25, where Moses, by the command of God, chooses seventy of the elders to represent the whole congregation at the making of the covenant, and afterwards to support his authority. This representation of the congregation was not a permanent institution, as we may see from the fact that in Numbers 11 seventy other men are said to have been chosen for the purpose named. The high council, consisting of seventy members, the so-called Sanhedrim, was formed after the captivity on the basis of these Mosaic types. In the midst of the seventy was Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, a different man therefore from the Jaazaniah mentioned in Ezekiel 11:1. Shaphan is probably the person mentioned as a man of distinction in 2 Kings 22:3.; Jeremiah 29:3; Jeremiah 36:10; Jeremiah 39:14. It is impossible to decide on what ground Jaazaniah is specially mentioned by name; but it can hardly be on account of the meaning of the name he bore, "Jehovah heard," as Hvernick supposes. It is probable that he held a prominent position among the elders of the nation, so that he is mentioned here by name as the leader of this national representation.

On the wall of the chamber round about there were drawn all kinds of figures of רמשׂ וּבהמה, reptiles and quadrupeds (see Genesis 1:24). שׁקץ is in apposition not only to בּהמה, but also to רמשׂ, and therefore, as belonging to both, is not to be connected with בּהמה in the construct state. The drawing of reptiles and quadrupeds became a sheqetz, or abomination, from the fact that the pictures had been drawn for the purpose of religious worship. The following clause, "and all the idols of the house of Israel," is co-ordinate with 'כּל־תּבנית וגו. Besides the animals drawn on the walls, there were idols of other kinds in the chamber. The drawing of reptiles and quadrupeds naturally suggests the thought of the animal-worship of Egypt. We must not limit the words to this, however, since the worship of animals is met with in the nature-worship of other heathen nations, and the expression כּל־תּבנית, "all kinds of figures," as well as the clause, "all kinds of idols of the house of Israel," points to every possible form of idol-worship as spread abroad in Israel. עתר, according to the Aramaean usage, signifies suffimentum, perfume, בּחשׁך, in the dark, i.e., in secret, like בּסּתר in 2 Samuel 12:12; not in the sacred darkness of the cloud of incense (Hvernick). חדרי משׂכּית, image-chambers, is the term applied to the rooms or closets in the dwelling-houses of the people in which idolatrous images were set up and secretly worshipped. משׂכּית signifies idolatrous figures, as in Leviticus 26:1 and Numbers 33:52. This idolatry was justified by the elders, under the delusion that "Jehovah seeth us not;" that is to say, not: "He does not trouble Himself about us," but He does not see what we do, because He is not omniscient (cf. Isaiah 29:15); and He has forsaken the land, withdrawn His presence and His help. Thus they deny both the omniscience and omnipresence of God (cf. Ezekiel 9:9).

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