Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.
Eze 3:1-27. Ezekiel Eats the Roll. Is Commissioned to Go to Them of the Captivity and Goes to Tel-abib by the Chebar: Again Beholds the Shekinah Glory: Is Told to Retire to His House, and Only Speak when God Opens His Mouth.
1. eat … and … speak—God's messenger must first inwardly appropriate God's truth himself, before he "speaks" it to others (see on Eze 2:8). Symbolic actions were, when possible and proper, performed outwardly; otherwise, internally and in spiritual vision, the action so narrated making the naked statement more intuitive and impressive by presenting the subject in a concentrated, embodied form.
So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.
And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
3. honey for sweetness—Compare Ps 19:10; 119:103; Re 10:9, where, as here in Eze 3:14, the "sweetness" is followed by "bitterness." The former being due to the painful nature of the message; the latter because it was the Lord's service which he was engaged in; and his eating the roll and finding it sweet, implied that, divesting himself of carnal feeling, he made God's will his will, however painful the message that God might require him to announce. The fact that God would be glorified was his greatest pleasure.
And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.
For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;
5. See Margin, Hebrew, "deep of lip, and heavy of tongue," that is, men speaking an obscure and unintelligible tongue. Even they would have listened to the prophet; but the Jews, though addressed in their own tongue, will not hear him.
Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.
6. many people—It would have increased the difficulty had he been sent, not merely to one, but to "many people" differing in tongues, so that the missionary would have needed to acquire a new tongue for addressing each. The after mission of the apostles to many peoples, and the gift of tongues for that end, are foreshadowed (compare 1Co 14:21 with Isa 28:11).
had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened—(Mt 11:21, 23).
But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.
7. will not hearken unto thee: for … not … me—(Joh 15:20). Take patiently their rejection of thee, for I thy Lord bear it along with thee.
Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.
8. Ezekiel means one "strengthened by God." Such he was in godly firmness, in spite of his people's opposition, according to the divine command to the priest tribe to which he belonged (De 33:9).
As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
9. As … flint—so Messiah the antitype (Isa 50:7; compare Jer 1:8, 17).
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.
10. receive in … heart … ears—The transposition from the natural order, namely, first receiving with the ears, then in the heart, is designed. The preparation of the heart for God's message should precede the reception of it with the ears (compare Pr 16:1; Ps 10:17).
And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
11. thy people—who ought to be better disposed to hearken to thee, their fellow countryman, than hadst thou been a foreigner (Eze 3:5, 6).
Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place.
12. (Ac 8:39). Ezekiel's abode heretofore had not been the most suitable for his work. He, therefore, is guided by the Spirit to Tel-Abib, the chief town of the Jewish colony of captives: there he sat on the ground, "the throne of the miserable" (Ezr 9:3; La 1:1-3), seven days, the usual period for manifesting deep grief (Job 2:13; see Ps 137:1), thus winning their confidence by sympathy in their sorrow. He is accompanied by the cherubim which had been manifested at Chebar (Eze 1:3, 4), after their departure from Jerusalem. They now are heard moving with the "voice of a great rushing (compare Ac 2:2), saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place," that is, moving from the place in which it had been at Chebar, to accompany Ezekiel to his new destination (Eze 9:3); or, "from His place" may rather mean, in His place and manifested "from" it. Though God may seem to have forsaken His temple, He is still in it and will restore His people to it. His glory is "blessed," in opposition to those Jews who spoke evil of Him, as if He had been unjustly rigorous towards their nation [Calvin].
I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing.
13. touched—literally, "kissed," that is, closely embraced.
noise of a great rushing—typical of great disasters impending over the Jews.
So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.
14. bitterness—sadness on account of the impending calamities of which I was required to be the unwelcome messenger. But the "hand," or powerful impulse of Jehovah, urged me forward.
Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
15. Tel-Abib—Tel means an "elevation." It is identified by Michaelis with Thallaba on the Chabor. Perhaps the name expressed the Jews' hopes of restoration, or else the fertility of the region. Abib means the green ears of corn which appeared in the month Nisan, the pledge of the harvest.
I sat, &c.—This is the Hebrew Margin reading. The text is rather, "I beheld them sitting there" [Gesenius]; or, "And those that were settled there," namely, the older settlers, as distinguished from the more recent ones alluded to in the previous clause. The ten tribes had been long since settled on the Chabor or Habor (2Ki 17:6) [Havernick].
And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
17. watchman—Ezekiel alone, among the prophets, is called a "watchman," not merely to sympathize, but to give timely warning of danger to his people where none was suspected. Habakkuk (Hab 2:1) speaks of standing upon his "watch," but it was only in order to be on the lookout for the manifestation of God's power (so Isa 52:8; 62:6); not as Ezekiel, to act as a watchman to others.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
18. warning … speakest to warn—The repetition implies that it is not enough to warn once in passing, but that the warning is to be inculcated continually (2Ti 4:2, "in season, out of season"; Ac 20:31, "night and day with tears").
save—Eze 2:5 had seemingly taken away all hope of salvation; but the reference there was to the mass of the people whose case was hopeless; a few individuals, however, were reclaimable.
die in … iniquity—(Joh 8:21, 24). Men are not to flatter themselves that their ignorance, owing to the negligence of their teachers, will save them (Ro 2:12, "As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law").
Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
19. wickedness … wicked way—internal wickedness of heart, and external of the life, respectively.
delivered thy soul—(Isa 49:4, 5; Ac 20:26).
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
20. righteous … turn from … righteousness—not one "righteous" as to the root and spirit of regeneration (Ps 89:33; 138:8; Isa 26:12; 27:3; Joh 10:28; Php 1:6), but as to its outward appearance and performances. So the "righteous" (Pr 18:17; Mt 9:13). As in Eze 3:19 the minister is required to lead the wicked to good, so in Eze 3:20 he is to confirm the well-disposed in their duty.
commit iniquity—that is, give himself up wholly to it (1Jo 3:8, 9), for even the best often fall, but not wilfully and habitually.
I lay a stumbling-block—not that God tempts to sin (Jas 1:13, 14), but God gives men over to judicial blindness, and to their own corruptions (Ps 9:16, 17; 94:23) when they "like not to retain God in their knowledge" (Ro 1:24, 26); just as, on the contrary, God makes "the way of the righteous plain" (Pr 4:11, 12; 15:19), so that they do "not stumble." Calvin refers "stumbling-block" not to the guilt, but to its punishment; "I bring ruin on him." The former is best. Ahab, after a kind of righteousness (1Ki 21:27-29), relapsed and consulted lying spirits in false prophets; so God permitted one of these to be his "stumbling-block," both to sin and its corresponding punishment (1Ki 22:21-23).
his blood will I require—(Heb 13:17).
Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.
And the hand of the LORD was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee.
22. hand of the Lord—(Eze 1:3).
go … into the plain—in order that he might there, in a place secluded from unbelieving men, receive a fresh manifestation of the divine glory, to inspirit him for his trying work.
Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.
23. glory of the Lord—(Eze 1:28).
Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.
24. set me upon my feet—having been previously prostrate and unable to rise until raised by the divine power.
shut thyself within … house—implying that in the work he had to do, he must look for no sympathy from man but must be often alone with God and draw his strength from Him [Fairbairn]. "Do not go out of thy house till I reveal the future to thee by signs and words," which God does in the following chapters, down to the eleventh. Thus a representation was given of the city shut up by siege [Grotius]. Thereby God proved the obedience of His servant, and Ezekiel showed the reality of His call by proceeding, not through rash impulse, but by the directions of God [Calvin].
But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them:
25. put bands upon thee—not literally, but spiritually, the binding, depressing influence which their rebellious conduct would exert on his spirit. Their perversity, like bands, would repress his freedom in preaching; as in 2Co 6:12, Paul calls himself "straitened" because his teaching did not find easy access to them. Or else, it is said to console the prophet for being shut up; if thou wert now at once to announce God's message, they would rush on thee and bind them with "bands" [Calvin].
And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house.
26. I will make my tongue … dumb—Israel had rejected the prophets; therefore God deprives Israel of the prophets and of His word—God's sorest judgment (1Sa 7:2; Am 8:11, 12).
But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.
27. when I speak … I will open thy mouth—opposed to the silence imposed on the prophet, to punish the people (Eze 3:26). After the interval of silence has awakened their attention to the cause of it, namely, their sins, they may then hearken to the prophecies which they would not do before.
He that heareth, let him hear … forbear—that is, thou hast done thy part, whether they hear or forbear. He who shall forbear to hear, it shall be at his own peril; he who hears, it shall be to his own eternal good (compare Re 22:11).