Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD:
Eze 36:1-38. Israel Avenged of Her Foes, and Restored, First to Inward Holiness, Then to Outward Prosperity.
The distinction between Israel and the heathen (as Edom) is: Israel has a covenant relation to God ensuring restoration after chastisement, so that the heathen's hope of getting possession of the elect people's inheritance must fail, and they themselves be made desolate (Eze 36:1-15). The reason for the chastisement of Israel was Israel's sin and profanation of God's name (Eze 36:16-21). God has good in store for Israel, for His own name's sake, to revive His people; first, by a spiritual renewal of their hearts, and, next, by an external restoration to prosperity (Eze 36:22-33). The result is that the heathen shall be impressed with the power and goodness of God manifested so palpably towards the restored people (Eze 36:34-38).
1, 2. mountains of Israel—in contrast to "Mount Seir" of the previous prophecy. They are here personified; Israel's elevation is moral, not merely physical, as Edom's. Her hills are "the everlasting hills" of Jacob's prophecy (Ge 49:26). "The enemy" (Edom, the singled-out representative of all God's foes), with a shout of exultation, "Aha!" had claimed, as the nearest kinsman of Israel (the brother of their father Esau), his vacated inheritance; as much as to say, the so-called "everlasting" inheritance of Israel and of the "hills," which typified the unmoved perpetuity of it (Ps 125:1, 2), has come to an end, in spite of the promise of God, and has become "ours" (compare De 32:13; 33:15).
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession:
Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people:
3. Literally, "Because, even because."
swallowed you up—literally, "panted after" you, as a beast after its prey; implying the greedy cupidity of Edom as to Israel's inheritance (Ps 56:1, 2).
lips of talkers—literally, "lips of the tongue," that is, of the slanderer, the man of tongue. Edom slandered Israel because of the connection of the latter with Jehovah, as though He were unable to save them. De 28:37, and Jer 24:9 had foretold Israel's reproach among the heathen (Da 9:16).
Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;
4. Inanimate creatures are addressed, to imply that the creature also, as it were, groans for deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Ro 8:19-21) [Polanus]. The completeness of the renewed blessedness of all parts of the land is implied.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.
5. to cast it out for a prey—that is, to take the land for a prey, its inhabitants being cast out. Or the land is compared to a prey cast forth to wild beasts. Fairbairn needlessly alters the Hebrew pointing and translates, "that they may plunder its pasturage."
Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen:
6. the shame of the heathen—namely, the shame with which the heathen cover you (Ps 123:3, 4).
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.
7. lifted … mine hand—in token of an oath (Eze 20:5; Ge 14:22).
they shall bear their shame—a perpetual shame; whereas the "shame" which Israel bore from these heathen was only for a time.
But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.
8. they are at hand to come—that is, the Israelites are soon about to return to their land. This proves that the primary reference of the prophecy is to the return from Babylon, which was "at hand," or comparatively near. But this only in part fulfilled the prediction, the full and final blessing in future, and the restoration from Babylon was an earnest of it.
For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:
10. wastes builded—Isa 58:12; 61:4; Am 9:11, 12, 14, where, as here (Eze 34:23, 24), the names of David, Messiah's type, and Edom, Israel's foe, are introduced in connection with the coming restoration.
And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
11. do better … than at your beginnings—as in the case of Job (Job 42:12). Whereas the heathen nations fall irrevocably, Israel shall be more than restored; its last estate shall exceed even its first.
Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.
12. to walk upon you—O mountains of Israel (Eze 36:8)!
thee … thou—change from plural to singular: O hill of Zion, singled out from the other mountains of Israel (Eze 34:26); or land.
thou shall no more … bereave them of men—Thou shalt no more provoke God to bereave them of children (so the ellipsis ought to be supplied, as Ezekiel probably alludes to Jer 15:7, "I will bereave them of children").
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they say unto you, Thou land devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations;
13. Thou land devourest up men—alluding to the words of the spies (Nu 13:32). The land personified is represented as doing that which was done in it. Like an unnatural mother it devoured, that is, it was the grave of its people; of the Canaanites, its former possessors, through mutual wars, and finally by the sword of Israel; and now, of the Jews, through internal and external ills; for example, wars, famine (to which Eze 36:30, "reproach of famine among the heathen," implies the allusion here is).
Therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nations any more, saith the Lord GOD.
14. bereave—so the Keri, or Hebrew Margin reads, to correspond to "bereave" in Eze 36:13; but "cause to fall" or "stumble," in the Hebrew text or Chetib, being the more difficult reading, is the one least likely to come from a corrector; also, it forms a good transition to the next subject, namely, the moral cause of the people's calamities, namely, their falls, or stumblings through sin. The latter ceasing, the former also cease. So the same expression follows in Eze 36:15, "Neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more."
Neither will I cause men to hear in thee the shame of the heathen any more, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more, saith the Lord GOD.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.
17. removed woman—(Le 15:19, &c.).
Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it:
18, 19. The reason for their removal was their sin, which God's holiness could not let pass unpunished; just as a woman's legal uncleanness was the reason for her being separated from the congregation.
And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.
And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.
20. profaned my holy name, when they—the heathen
said to them—the Israelites.
These, &c.—The Israelites gave a handle of reproach to the heathen against God, who would naturally say, These who take usury, oppress, commit adultery, &c., and who, in such an abject plight, are "gone forth" as exiles "out of His land," are specimens of what Jehovah can or will effect, for His people, and show what kind of a God this so-called holy, omnipotent, covenant-keeping God must be! (Isa 52:5; Ro 2:24).
But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.
21. I had pity for mine holy name—that is, I felt pity for it; God's own name, so dishonored, was the primary object of His pitying concern; then His people, secondarily, through His concern for it [Fairbairn].
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
22. not … for your sakes—that is, not for any merit in you; for, on the contrary, on your part, there is everything to call down continued severity (compare De 9:5, 6). The sole and sure ground of hope was God's regard to "His own name," as the God of covenant grace (Ps 106:45), which He must vindicate from the dishonor brought on it by the Jews, before the heathen.
And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
23. sanctify—vindicate and manifest as holy, in opposition to the heathen reproaches of it brought on by the Jews' sins and their punishment (see on Eze 36:20).
sanctified in you—that is, in respect of you; I shall be regarded in their eyes as the Holy One, and righteous in My dealings towards you (Eze 20:41; 28:22).
For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
24. Fulfilled primarily in the restoration from Babylon; ultimately to be so in the restoration "from all countries."
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
25. The external restoration must be preceded by an internal one. The change in their condition must not be superficial, but must be based on a radical renewal of the heart. Then the heathen, understanding from the regenerated lives of God's people how holy God is, would perceive Israel's past troubles to have been only the necessary vindications of His righteousness. Thus God's name would be "sanctified" before the heathen, and God's people be prepared for outward blessings.
sprinkle … water—phraseology taken from the law; namely, the water mixed with the ashes of a heifer sprinkled with a hyssop on the unclean (Nu 19:9-18); the thing signified being the cleansing blood of Christ sprinkled on the conscience and heart (Heb 9:13, 14; 10:22; compare Jer 33:8; Eph 5:26).
from all your idols—Literal idolatry has ceased among the Jews ever since the captivity; so far, the prophecy has been already fulfilled; but "cleansing from all their idols," for example, covetousness, prejudices against Jesus of Nazareth, is yet future.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
26. new heart—mind and will.
spirit—motive and principle of action.
stony heart—unimpressible in serious things; like the "stony ground" (Mt 13:5, 20), unfit for receiving the good seed so as to bring forth fruit.
heart of flesh—not "carnal" in opposition to "spiritual"; but impressible and docile, fit for receiving the good seed. In Eze 18:31 they are commanded, "Make you a new heart, and a new spirit." Here God says, "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Thus the responsibility of man, and the sovereign grace of God, are shown to be coexistent. Man cannot make himself a new heart unless God gives it (Php 2:12, 13).
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
27. my spirit—(Eze 11:19; Jer 32:39). The partial reformation at the return from Babylon (Ezr 10:6, &c.; Ne 8:1-9:38) was an earnest of the full renewal hereafter under Messiah.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
28. ye … my people, … I … your God—(Eze 11:20; Jer 30:22).
I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
29. save … from all … uncleannesses—the province of Jesus, according to the signification of His name (Mt 1:21). To be specially exercised in behalf of the Jews in the latter days (Ro 11:26).
call for … corn—as a master "calls for" a servant; all the powers and productions of nature are the servants of Jehovah (Ps 105:16; Mt 8:8, 9). Compare as to the subordination of all the intermediate agents to the Great First Cause, who will give "corn" and all good things to His people, Ho 2:21, 22; Zec 8:12.
And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.
30. no more reproach of famine among the heathen—to which their taunt (Eze 36:13), "Thou land devourest up men," in part referred.
Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
31. remember your … evil ways—with shame and loathing. The unexpected grace and love of God, manifested in Christ to Israel, shall melt the people into true repentance, which mere legal fear could not (Eze 16:61, 63; Ps 130:4; Zec 12:10; compare Jer 33:8, 9).
Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
35. they shall say—The heathen, who once made Israel's desolation a ground of reproach against the name of Jehovah Himself (Eze 36:20, 21); but now He so vindicates its sanctity (Eze 36:22, 23) that these same heathen are constrained to acknowledge Israel's more than renewed blessedness to be God's own work, and a ground for glorifying His name (Eze 36:36).
Eden—as Tyre (the type of the world powers in general: so Assyria, a cedar "in the garden of God, Eden," Eze 31:8, 9), in original advantages, had been compared to "Eden, the garden of God" (Eze 28:13), from which she had fallen irrecoverably; so Israel, once desolate, is to be as "the garden of Eden" (Isa 51:3), and is to be so unchangeably.
Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.
36. Lord … spoken … do it—(Nu 23:19).
Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.
37. I will yet for this be inquired of—so as to grant it. On former occasions He had refused to be inquired of by Israel because the inquirers were not in a fit condition of mind to receive a blessing (Eze 14:3; 20:3). But hereafter, as in the restoration from Babylon (Ne 8:1-9:38; Da 9:3-20, 21, 23), God will prepare His people's hearts (Eze 36:26) to pray aright for the blessings which He is about to give (Ps 102:13-17, 20; Zec 12:10-14; 13:1).
like a flock—resuming the image (Eze 34:23, 31).
As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
38. As the holy flock—the great flock of choice animals for sacrifice, brought up to Jerusalem at the three great yearly festivals, the passover, pentecost, and feast of the tabernacles.