Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Eze 21:1-32. Prophecy against Israel and Jerusalem, and against Ammon.
Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,
2. the holy places—the three parts of the temple: the courts, the holy place, and the holiest. If "synagogues" existed before the Babylonian captivity, as Ps 74:8 seems to imply, they and the proseuchæ, or oratories, may be included in the "holy places" here.
And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
3. righteous … wicked—not contradictory of Eze 18:4, 9 and Ge 18:23. Ezekiel here views the mere outward aspect of the indiscriminate universality of the national calamity. But really the same captivity to the "righteous" would prove a blessing as a wholesome discipline, which to the "wicked" would be an unmitigated punishment. The godly were sealed with a mark (Eze 9:4), not for outward exemption from the common calamity, but as marked for the secret interpositions of Providence, overruling even evil to their good. The godly were by comparison so few, that not their salvation but the universality of the judgment is brought into view here.
Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:
4. The "sword" did not, literally, slay all; but the judgments of God by the foe swept through the land "from the south to the north."
That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.
Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.
6. with the breaking of thy loins—as one afflicted with pleurisy; or as a woman, in labor-throes, clasps her loins in pain, and heaves and sighs till the girdle of the loins is broken by the violent action of the body (Jer 30:6).
And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord GOD.
7. The abrupt sentences and mournful repetitions imply violent emotions.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished:
9. sword—namely, of God (De 32:41). The Chaldeans are His instrument.
It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.
10. to make a sore slaughter—literally, "that killing it may kill."
glitter—literally, "glitter as the lightning flash": flashing terror into the foe.
should we … make mirth—It is no time for levity when such a calamity is impending (Isa 22:12, 13).
it contemneth the rod of my son, &c.—The sword has no more respect to the trivial "rod" or scepter of Judah (Ge 49:10) than if it were any common "tree." "Tree" is the image retained from Eze 20:47; explained in Eze 21:2, 3. God calls Judah "My son" (compare Ex 4:22; Ho 11:1). Fairbairn arbitrarily translates, "Perchance the scepter of My son rejoiceth; it (the sword) despiseth every tree."
And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer.
11. the slayer—the Babylonian king in this case; in general, all the instruments of God's wrath (Re 19:15).
Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.
12. terrors by reason of the sword, &c.—rather, "they (the princes of Israel) are delivered up to the sword together with My people" [Glassius].
smite … upon … thigh—a mark of grief (Jer 31:19).
Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord GOD.
13. it is a trial—rather, "There is a trial" being made: the sword of the Lord will subject all to the ordeal. "What, then, if it contemn even the rod" (scepter of Judah)? Compare as to a similar scourge of unsparing trial, Job 9:23.
it shall be no more—the scepter, that is, the state, must necessarily then come to an end. Fulfilled in part at the overthrow of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, but fully at the time of "Shiloh's" (Messiah's) coming (Ge 49:10), when Judea became a Roman province.
Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy chambers.
14. smite … hands together—(Nu 24:10), indicative of the indignant fury with which God will "smite" the people.
sword … doubled the third time—referring to the threefold calamity:—(1) The taking of Zedekiah (to whom the "rod," or scepter, may refer); (2) the taking of the city; (3) the removal of all those who remained with Gedaliah. "Doubled" means "multiplied" or "repeated." The stroke shall be doubled and even trebled.
of the slain—that is, by which many are slain. As the Hebrew is singular, Fairbairn makes it refer to the king, "the sword of the great one that is slain," or "pierced through."
entereth … privy chambers—(Jer 9:21). The sword shall overtake them, not merely in the open battlefield, but in the chambers whither they flee to hide themselves (1Ki 20:30; 22:25). Maurer translates, "which besieged them"; Fairbairn, "which penetrates to them." English Version is more literal.
I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: ah! it is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter.
15. point—"the whirling glance of the sword" [Fairbairn]. "The naked (bared) sword" [Henderson].
ruins—literally, "stumbling-blocks." Their own houses and walls shall be stumbling-blocks in their way, whether they wish to fight or flee.
made bright—made to glitter.
wrapped, &c.—namely, in the hand of him who holds the hilt, or in its scabbard, that the edge may not be blunt when it is presently drawn forth to strike. Gesenius, translates, "sharpened," &c.
Go thee one way or other, either on the right hand, or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set.
16. Apostrophe to the sword.
Go … one way—or, "Concentrate thyself"; "Unite thy forces on the right hand" [Grotius]. The sword is commanded to take the nearest route for Jerusalem, "whither their face was set," whether south or north ("right hand or left"), according to where the several parts of the Chaldean host may be.
or other, … on the left—rather "set thyself on the left." The verbs are well-chosen. The main "concentration" of forces was to be on "the right hand," or south, the part of Judea in which Jerusalem was, and which lay south in marching from Babylon, whereas the Chaldean forces advancing on Jerusalem from Egypt, of which Jerusalem was north, were fewer, and therefore "set thyself" is the verb used.
I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest: I the LORD have said it.
17. Jehovah Himself smites His hands together, doing what He had commanded Ezekiel to do (see on Eze 21:14), in token of His smiting Jerusalem; compare the similar symbolical action (2Ki 13:18, 19).
cause … fury to rest—give it full vent, and so satisfy it (Eze 5:13).
The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city.
19. two ways—The king coming from Babylon is represented in the graphic style of Ezekiel as reaching the point where the road branched off in two ways, one leading by the south, by Tadmor or Palmyra, to Rabbath of Ammon, east of Jordan; the other by the north, by Riblah in Syria, to Jerusalem—and hesitating which way to take. Ezekiel is told to "appoint the two ways" (as in Eze 4:1); for Nebuchadnezzar, though knowing no other control but his own will and superstition, had really this path "appointed" for him by the all-ruling God.
out of one land—namely, Babylon.
choose … a place—literally, "a hand." So it is translated by Fairbairn, "make a finger-post," namely, at the head of the two ways, the hand post pointing Nebuchadnezzar to the way to Jerusalem as the way he should select. But Maurer rightly supports English Version. Ezekiel is told to "choose the place" where Nebuchadnezzar should do as is described in Eze 21:20, 21; so entirely does God order by the prophet every particular of place and time in the movements of the invader.
Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.
20. Rabbath of the Ammonites—distinct from Rabbah in Judah (2Sa 12:26). Rabbath is put first, as it was from her that Jerusalem, that doomed city, had borrowed many of her idols.
to Judah in Jerusalem—instead of simply putting "Jerusalem," to imply the sword was to come not merely to Judah, but to its people within Jerusalem, defended though it was; its defenses on which the Jews relied so much would not keep the foe out.
For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.
21. parting—literally, "mother of the way." As "head of the two ways" follows, which seems tautology after "parting of the way," Havernick translates, according to Arabic idiom, "the highway," or principal road. English Version is not tautology, "head of the two ways" defining more accurately "parting of the way."
made … bright—rather, "shook," from an Arabic root.
arrows—Divination by arrows is here referred to: they were put into a quiver marked with the names of particular places to be attacked, and then shaken together; whichever came forth first intimated the one selected as the first to be attacked [Jerome]. The same usage existed among the Arabs, and is mentioned in the Koran. In the Nineveh sculptures the king is represented with a cup in his right hand, his left resting on a bow; also with two arrows in the right, and the bow in the left, probably practising divination.
images—Hebrew, "teraphim"; household gods, worshipped as family talismans, to obtain direction as to the future and other blessings. First mentioned in Mesopotamia, whence Rachel brought them (Ge 31:19, 34); put away by Jacob (Ge 35:4); set up by Micah as his household gods (Jud 17:5); stigmatized as idolatry (1Sa 15:23, Hebrew; Zec 10:2, Margin).
liver—They judged of the success, or failure, of an undertaking by the healthy, or unhealthy, state of the liver and entrails of a sacrifice.
At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort.
22. Rather, "In his right hand was [is] the divination," that is, he holds up in his right hand the arrow marked with "Jerusalem," to encourage his army to march for it.
captains—The Margin, "battering-rams," adopted by Fairbairn, is less appropriate, for "battering-rams" follow presently after [Grotius].
open the mouth in … slaughter—that is, commanding slaughter: raising the war cry of death. Not as Gesenius, "to open the mouth with the war shout."
And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.
23. Unto the Jews, though credulous of divinations when in their favor, Nebuchadnezzar's divination "shall be (seen) as false." This gives the reason which makes the Jews fancy themselves safe from the Chaldeans, namely, that they "have sworn" to the latter "oaths" of allegiance, forgetting that they had violated them (Eze 17:13, 15, 16, 18).
but he, &c.—Nebuchadnezzar will remember in consulting his idols that he swore to Zedekiah by them, but that Zedekiah broke the league [Grotius]. Rather, God will remember against them (Re 16:19) their violating their oath sworn by the true God, whereas Nebuchadnezzar kept his oath sworn by a false god; Eze 21:24 confirms this.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.
24. Their unfaithfulness to Nebuchadnezzar was a type of their general unfaithfulness to their covenant God.
with the hand—namely, of the king of Babylon.
And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,
25. profane—as having desecrated by idolatry and perjury his office as the Lord's anointed. Havernick translates, as in Eze 21:14, "slain," that is, not literally, but virtually; to Ezekiel's idealizing view Zedekiah was the grand victim "pierced through" by God's sword of judgment, as his sons were slain before his eyes, which were then put out, and he was led a captive in chains to Babylon. English Version is better: so Gesenius (2Ch 36:13; Jer 52:2).
when iniquity shall have an end—(Eze 21:29). When thine iniquity, having reached its last stage of guilt, shall be put an end to by judgment (Eze 35:5).
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.
26. diadem—rather, "the miter" of the holy priest (Ex 28:4; Zec 3:5). His priestly emblem as representative of the priestly people. Both this and "the crown," the emblem of the kingdom, were to be removed, until they should be restored and united in the Mediator, Messiah (Ps 110:2, 4; Zec 6:13), [Fairbairn]. As, however, King Zedekiah alone, not the high priest also, is referred to in the context, English Version is supported by Gesenius.
this shall not be the same—The diadem shall not be as it was [Rosenmuller]. Nothing shall remain what it was [Fairbairn].
exalt … low, … abase … high—not the general truth expressed (Pr 3:34; Lu 1:52; Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5); but specially referring to Messiah and Zedekiah contrasted together. The "tender plant … out of the dry ground" (Isa 53:2) is to be "exalted" in the end (Eze 21:27); the now "high" representative on David's throne, Zedekiah, is to be "abased." The outward relations of things shall be made to change places in just retaliation on the people for having so perverted the moral relations of things [Hengstenberg].
I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.
27. Literally, "An overturning, overturning, overturning, will I make it." The threefold repetition denotes the awful certainty of the event; not as Rosenmuller explains, the overthrow of the three, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah; for Zedekiah alone is referred to.
it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is—strikingly parallel to Ge 49:10. Nowhere shall there be rest or permanence; all things shall be in fluctuation until He comes who, as the rightful Heir, shall restore the throne of David that fell with Zedekiah. The Hebrew for "right" is "judgment"; it perhaps includes, besides the right to rule, the idea of His rule being one in righteousness (Ps 72:2; Isa 9:6, 7; 11:4; Re 19:11). Others (Nebuchadnezzar, &c.), who held the rule of the earth delegated to them by God, abused it by unrighteousness, and so forfeited the "right." He both has the truest "right" to the rule, and exercises it in "right." It is true the tribal "scepter" continued with Judah "till Shiloh came" (Ge 49:10); but there was no kingly scepter till Messiah came, as the spiritual King then (Joh 18:36, 37); this spiritual kingdom being about to pass into the literal, personal kingdom over Israel at His second coming, when, and not before, this prophecy shall have its exhaustive fulfilment (Lu 1:32, 33; Jer 3:17; 10:7; "To thee doth it appertain").
And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it is furbished, to consume because of the glittering:
28. Lest Ammon should think to escape because Nebuchadnezzar had taken the route to Jerusalem, Ezekiel denounces judgment against Ammon, without the prospect of a restoration such as awaited Israel. Jer 49:6, it is true, speaks of a "bringing again of its captivity," but this probably refers to its spiritual restoration under Messiah; or, if referring to it politically, must refer to but a partial restoration at the downfall of Babylon under Cyrus.
their reproach—This constituted a leading feature in their guilt; they treated with proud contumely the covenant-people after the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (Eze 25:3, 6; Zep 2:9, 10), and appropriated Israel's territory (Jer 49:1; Am 1:13-15).
furbished, to consume—Maurer punctuates thus, "Drawn for the slaughter, it is furbished to devour ('consume'), to glitter." English Version, "to consume because of the glittering," means, "to consume by reason of the lightning, flash-like rapidity with which it falls." Five years after the fall of Jerusalem, Ammon was destroyed for aiding Ishmael in usurping the government of Judea against the will of the king of Babylon (2Ki 25:25; Jer 41:15) [Grotius].
Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked, whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an end.
29. see vanity … divine a lie—Ammon, too, had false diviners who flattered them with assurances of safety; the only result of which will be to "bring Ammon upon the necks," &c., that is, to add the Ammonites to the headless trunks of the slain of Judah, whose bad example Ammon followed, and "whose day" of visitation for their guilt "is come."
when their iniquity shall have an end—See on Eze 21:25.
Shall I cause it to return into his sheath? I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity.
30. Shall I cause it to return into his sheath—namely, without first destroying Ammon. Certainly not (Jer 47:6, 7). Others, as the Margin, less suitably read it imperatively, "Cause it to return," that is, after it has done the work appointed to it.
in the land of thy nativity—Ammon was not to be carried away captive as Judah, but to perish in his own land.
And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy.
31. blow against thee in, &c.—rather, "blow upon thee with the fire," &c. Image from smelting metals (Eze 22:20, 21).
skilful to destroy—literally, "artificers of destruction"; alluding to Isa 54:16.
Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I the LORD have spoken it.
32. thy blood shall be—that is, shall flow.
be no more remembered—be consigned as a nation to oblivion.