Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
4. The Leaders of the People (CH. 11.)
1And the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the gate of the house of Jehovah, the east one, which looketh eastward; and behold, in [at] the opening of the gate five-and-twenty men; and I saw in their midst Jaazaniah the 2son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, the rulers of the people. And He said unto me, Son of man, these [are] the men that devise mischief, and 3that counsel evil counsel in this city; That say, [it is] not “near,” “building 4of houses”; it [is] the caldron, and we [are] the flesh. Therefore prophesy upon them, prophesy, son of man. 5And the Spirit of Jehovah fell upon me, and He said unto me, Say, Thus saith Jehovah: Thus said ye, O house of 6Israel, and the things which rise up in your spirit, I know it. Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and filled its streets with slain. 7Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Your slain, whom ye have laid in its midst [the city’s], they [are] the flesh, while it [is] the caldron, and one brings you 8forth out of its midst. A sword ye feared; and I cause a sword to come 9upon you: sentence of the Lord Jehovah. And I bring you forth out of its midst, and give you into the hands of strangers, and execute judgments on 10[among] you. By the sword shall ye fall; on Israel’s border will I judge you; 11and ye know that I am Jehovah. It will not be the caldron for you, so that 12ye should be the flesh in its midst; on Israel’s border will I judge you. And ye know that I am Jehovah, ye that walked not in My statutes, neither executed My judgments, and [but] did after the judgments of the heathen which were round about you. 13And it came to pass, as I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died; and I fell upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! art thou making an utter end of the 14remnant of Israel? And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying: 15Son of man, thy brethren, thy brethren [are] the men represented by thee as kinsman, and [yea] the whole house of Israel, it wholly, to [of] whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem say, Be far from Jehovah; unto us was it—the land —given for a possession. 16Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because I removed them to a distance among the heathen, and because I scattered them in the countries, I become [became] to them for a sanctuary for a little in the countries whither they came. 17Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I gather you out of the nations, and assemble you out of the countries in which you were scattered, and give you the land of Israel. 18And they come thither, and they take away all its detestable things and all 19its abominations out of it. And I give them one heart, and a new spirit will I give in your inward part, and I take away the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh. 20That they may walk in My statutes, and keep My judgments, and do them, and may be to Me for a people, and 21I may be to them for a God. And [as for them] whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, their way give I 22upon their head: sentence of the Lord Jehovah. And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and the wheels [were] beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel over them above. 23And the glory of Jehovah rose up from over the midst of the city, and stood over the mountain which is on the east of 24the city. And the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me to the land of the Chaldeans, to the exiles, in the vision, in the Spirit of God; and the vision 25which I had seen rose up from above me. And I spake to the exiles all the words of Jehovah which He showed me.
Ezekiel 11:1. Sept.: ... τ. ἀφηγουμενους του λαον.
Ezekiel 11:3. …οὐχι προσφατως ὠκοδομηνται αἰ οἰκιαι;—Nonne dudum ædificatæ sunt domus?
Ezekiel 11:7. Anoth. read.: אוציא. Sept.: Κ. ὑμας ἐξαξω—and all the Versions.
Ezekiel 11:13. כהנ׳; anoth. read.: בהנבאי.
Ezekiel 11:15. The second אחיך is omitted by some Codd., Sept., and Arab.—Sept.: ... και οἱ ἀνδρες τ. αἰχμαλωσιας σου... κ. πκς... συντετελεσται, οἱς εἰπαν—
Ezekiel 11:16. …εἰς ἁγιασμα μικρον—in sanctificationem modicam—
Ezekiel 11:17. …αν̓τους—
Ezekiel 11:19. …καρδιαν ἑτεραν κ. πνευμα καινον... ἐν αὐτοις—(Anoth. read.: לב חדש–.ונתתי לבם, Syr.—בקרבהם, בקרבם, Syr., Sept., Arab., Chald., Vulg.—לכם, מבשרכם, in some Codices.)
Ezekiel 11:21. instead of ואל־לב, there is a reading ואל כל.
Ezekiel 11:24. …κ. ἀνεβην ἀπο της ὁρχσεως—
The execution of judgment on the guilty inhabitants of Jerusalem is followed, as a second act, by the fire of wrath on the city, in connection with the departure of Jehovah from, the temple (Ezekiel 10). The vision is brought to a close by means of a striking occurrence. But, as in Ezekiel 9 in the midst of destruction there was at the same time the exercise of forbearance, so here also comfort and promise are joined with it. In the outset we have in Ezekiel 11:1 (comp. at Ezekiel 3:12, 14, 8:3) a new ecstatic commencement as regards the prophet. The locality to which (from where it is not said, and Ezekiel 8:16 is not the rule for it; comp. on the other hand, Ezekiel 10:5) he is transported is that mentioned in Ezekiel 10:19. As in Ezekiel 8:16 we have קֵדְמָה from קֵדֶם, so here קָדִימָה from קָדִים. The express repetition of the quarter of the heavens has something which points to Ezekiel 8:16, without thereby identifying the five-and-twenty here with those mentioned there; it is only the similar turning away from the God of Israel towards an east, rich in hope, as they imagine, that can be hinted at therein. Comp. on Ezekiel 8:16. “At the opening of the temple” is not=at the opening of the gate. Moreover, those mentioned in Ezekiel 8:16 cannot (in accordance with Ezekiel 9:6 sq.) be conceived of as any longer alive. The Jaazaniah (יַאֲזַנְַיָהוּ=יַאֲזַנְיָה) in their midst, who is first mentioned by name, accords in name and appositional statement with Ezekiel 8:11: “and Jaazaniah … standing in their midst,” but without the possibility of their being the same person, as their fathers are different; only their parallel disposition (we shall be able here also to notice it) might have been meant to be hinted at. There is some allusion to Ezekiel 8 in the expression. We know nothing more otherwise, either of the first named or of the second. [Hengstenberg extracts symbolically from the names of the men themselves and of their fathers the concentration of their thoughts: “all was full of joyous music to them.” “God-hears, the son of the Helper, and God-helps, the son of God-builds,” are to him “excellent names for men who promise themselves salvation without repentance, the direct opposite of the name Jeremiah: God-casts-down.”] The fact that the two who are named are designated as “princes of the people,” as it is commonly translated, does not at the same time assign this position to the remaining twenty-three, as the expositors admit; on the contrary, they appear thereby to be distinguished above the rest of the men; and the reason for it seems to be given in their importance, which immediately follows (Ezekiel 11:2). The שָׂרֵי הָעָם, however, are by no means נְשִׂאֵי הָעֵדָה; but the more general meaning of שַׂר admits of the sense demagogues, those having sway over the people, rather than of elders (זְקֵנִים), or presidents of parts of the city, or members of the Sanhedrim, or presidents of the classes of priests, or of our thinking of the twelve princes of tribes and the twelve royal officials (colonels), with the king himself (KLIEF.) or commander-in-chief of the army. In their quality as bearing sway over the people they come into consideration, not as representing the civil authority of Israel, as those in Ezekiel 8:16 represent the spiritual chiefs of the covenant-people (KEIL.). In this way, also, it might be explained why the two are mentioned by name. The number given (25) may be intended to express a parallel with Ezekiel 8:16, just as a parallelizing tendency to Ezekiel 8 seems to belong to the expression here at the close of the vision. With the patriarchically representative constitution of Israel, where the influence of the elders and heads of families easily pervaded the whole nation (SAALSCHÜTZ, Archäol. ii. 432, § 4), the two individuals named may nevertheless also be, if not princes of tribes, yet elders of the people, although they are not here designated as such officially. It is no ordinary sitting of a college, as Hitzig alleges, but an assemblage of persons like-minded (officials, notables, individuals out of the mass) that is represented; perhaps, however, in order to represent the “house of Israel” (Ezekiel 11:5) amply, designedly in the form of two for every tribe, and one more besides.
Ezekiel 11:2. Song of Solomon of man, Ezekiel 2:1.—אָוֶן, with no fixed boundary between cause and effect, stretching from the moral to the physical, from the subjective to the objective,—mischief, as it results from injustice. Their evil counsel turns out ill. Their manner of speaking in Ezekiel 11:3 is the popular-rhetorical, which makes an impression on the sensuous mass by its striking, figurative character, and is easily remembered. How they think, and what corresponding counsel they give, is shown first of all by the statement: It is not near, building of houses,—their reply, namely, to the prophets of this period, who supplement one another, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. The distinctive expression in the case of the former—comp. Ezekiel 7, especially Ezekiel 11:7, 8 (עָתַּה מִקָּרוֹב)—is met by the bold denial לֹא בְקָרוֹב, and at the same time, בְּנוֹ בָּתִּים (building of houses) ridicules the letter of Jeremiah to the exiles (Ezekiel 29:5), beginning with בְּנוּ בָתִּים (“build ye houses”), which threatened those at Jerusalem with sword, famine, and pestilence, etc. [Other explanations of these words are either hardly justifiable linguistically,—such as Luther’s, those of the Sept. and Vulg. (Ewald takes לֹא as a question, Gram. 324a),—or give a far-fetched sense, such as Hitzig’s.] Positively their meaning is expressed to this effect, that Jerusalem will keep its inhabitants, as the caldron keeps the flesh; and therefore their counsel is, to remain and to trust to the secure walls, instead of trusting the word of the prophets. [According to Hävernick, with allusion to Jer. 1:13; according to Kliefoth, alluding to Jer. 19?] BUNSEN: “We sit here in Jerusalem warm and protected, like the flesh in the caldron.”
Their reply to the prophetic word is answered in Ezekiel 11:4: therefore—the repeated prophesy; and in Ezekiel 11:5 we have Ezekiel’s immediate carrying out of the command in virtue of the divine equipment; comp. Ezekiel 8:1. The Spirit, instead of the hand of Jehovah, because of the revelation in word (אֱמֹר). Jehovah knows what rises up in their spirit (Ezekiel 20:32), as His Spirit also goes forth to meet their spirit. Thus there is a return to their saying. [־יהָ refers to מַעֲלוֹת (Deut. 31:21; Hos. 5:3; Ps. 139:2; John 2:25), or it is a collective feminine.] The expression: house of Israel, emphasizes almost ironically the contrast of what they pretended, what they also ought to be. Their mischievous devising, their bad counsel (Ezekiel 11:2), is set before their eyes in Ezekiel 11:6 in its ultimate effect in actual fact, by means of the result to which it will lead when they are brought forth (Ezekiel 11:7). Not that their deeds hitherto are to show the wickedness of their plots,—neither from “the epoch of Jeconiah” (HITZ.), nor, in accordance with a more general interpretation, of murder in a refined and gross sense (Häv.),—which would lie outside the context, but the slain (הַלָל, properly: “to pierce through,” as happens in the case of those who are put to the sword) are those to be slain by the Chaldeans, already slain from the standpoint taken up in the discourse of God. They are by their wicked counsels the authors of their death (HENGST.). חָלָל, comp. Ezekiel 6:7; EW. Gram. 278a.
Ezekiel 11:7. A retributive (לָכֵן) interpretation of their proverb in accordance with such a result of their counsel. It is fulfilled, but how? Not for themselves. Inasmuch as they—in contrast with their remaining in the city, which they have strongly asserted (Ezekiel 11:3)—are brought forth, they remain alive, as distinguished from those slain as the result of their counsel. Yet comp. Ezekiel 5:2. (Like the Sept. and Vulg. [Eng. Vers. also], Ewald reads אוֹצִיא instead. of הוֹצִיא.) [J. D. MICH.: “Many citizens misled by you shall perish in the city, for whom it will be the caldron, and they the flesh which is cooked therein; only ye yourselves shall not be the flesh in this caldron, but shall be dragged forth and cut in pieces elsewhere.”]
Ezekiel 11:8. From fear of those who are able to kill the body (Matt. 10:28), but not from fear of God (otherwise they would have hearkened to the word of His prophets), they took the walls of Jerusalem as a “caldron,” which was to enclose them securely as the “flesh.” (“Ye would not give yourselves up to the Babylonians, as Jeremiah advised you, because ye were afraid of being put to death by them,” etc., A LAP. “Their revolt from the Chaldean king, the coalition and Egypt, will not save them from the sword of Babylon, on the contrary will bring it upon them,” HENGST.) Ezekiel 6:3. Comp. also at Ezekiel 5:11.
Ezekiel 11:9. Now comes the question how it will be with the bringing of them forth (Ezekiel 11:7). First of all, Jehovah (not Babylon, as it may appear outwardly) is He that brings them forth. Then farther, there is along with that His design, His aim; comp. Ezekiel 7:21, 5:10, 15.
Ezekiel 11:10. Ezekiel 5:12. Comp. the fulfilment, 2 Kings 25:18 sq.; Jer. 39:6, 52:10, 24 sq.—עַל־גְּבוּל, or אֶל גְּ׳, in Ezekiel 11:11 (EW. Gram. 351a), removes the judgment not merely outside Jerusalem, which was to be a “caldron” for them, but outside Israel, which they have represented so badly (Ezekiel 11:5).
Ezekiel 11:12 explains more definitely what is meant by the experimental knowledge of Jehovah in Ezekiel 11:10,—that where they have not made themselves known before the heathen as Israel by doing what is right, He will make Himself known to them as Jehovah by means of His judgment, which deprives them of city and land. Comp. Ezekiel 6:7, 13, 5:7.
The sudden dying of Pelatiah takes place literally within the sphere of the vision merely, although in his case there may have been a corresponding reality at the same time, or at least about this time. As the prophet had to predict to the individual in question, as well as to his fellows, their being brought forth out of Jerusalem for judgment by the sword, but not their immediate death (Ezekiel 11:4 sq.), this incident, whose awful character (Acts 5:5) is attested to us by the impression upon Ezekiel, symbolizes prophetically the certainty in actual fact of the judgment of death on the others also (comp. besides, Jer. 28:17). And so Ezekiel sees them all already dead, and Ezekiel 9:8 repeats itself. Comp. there. Just as there, so here also it is the portion of the people still remaining at Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, and the standpoint of feeling is likewise (as against Hengst.) that of the exiles. For כָּלָה עשֶֹׁה, comp. Jer. 4:27, 5:10, 18; Ezek. 20:17. According to HÄVERN.: a juridical term for the carrying out of the final sentence. [Hävern. and Hengst. find an allusion besides to the name of the individual in question,—that the “help of Jehovah” is at an end, that with him, as it were, all salvation for Judah fell to the ground (?).]
But while Ezekiel 9:9 sq. emphasized guilt only, and God’s justice only as confronting it, Ezekiel 11:14 introduces, and that solemnly, God’s mercy.—Still Ezekiel 11:15 does not on that account form any “antithesis” (as Hävernick), but rather confirms what is announced in Ezekiel 9:9. For those in reference to whom remark will be made, and not merely of their being spared, but more positively even of their being preserved in an extraordinary manner, are different from those for whom Ezekiel interceded. He did so from a brotherly heart, and, because speaking from the standpoint of feeling of the exiles, characterized these also at the same time, in accordance with Jer. 24. Thy brethren, thy brethren, namely, those who are so in truth, and not merely according to the flesh (Matt. 12:48; Rom. 9:3). The repetition in the first place lays emphasis on this, but then farther, at the same time, puts in his right place the prophet of the glory of God in the midst of the exile, as we have seen Ezekiel to be (see the Introd.) in this his calling. For the designation of the exiles as “men of thy גְּאֻלָּה” (predicate, not subject) is not=thy kinsmen (GESEN.), which after such emphasizing would be equivalent to a weakening of the idea, but it reminds the prophet of his duty. [The Sept. read גּוֹלָתֶךָ.] גְּאֻלָּה embraces the whole duty of the גֹּאֵל (the brother or nearest kinsman): redemption of goods and property, of liberty and life, the avenging of blood, the marriage obligation, and thus the entire representation of, giving of assistance to, and attorneyship for him who was reduced to poverty, slain, or dead. The expression: and the whole house of Israel, just as little adds “the laity” (HITZIG) to the others, as by the expression: the men, etc., is meant the priests only, as Hävernick also understands, in accordance with his view of the twenty-five in Ezekiel 11:1; but the discourse sets over against the title (Ezekiel 11:5) the thing itself, over against the name the reality, and at the same time deals with the (as in Ezekiel 9:8, so here in Ezekiel 11:13) so-called “remnant of Israel,” inasmuch as, corresponding to the repetition (“thy brethren,” etc.) at the beginning of our verse, the whole house of Israel (Ezekiel 9:8), by being repeated through means of: it wholly, is made emphatic. (Ezekiel 20:40; Rom. 11:26.) HENGST.: “The contrast is, of course, such only on the whole; otherwise Jeremiah even would be no true Israelite. According to Ezekiel 9., even in Jerusalem there is an election under the Lord’s sheltering protection, although it cannot prevent the downfall of the city; and according to Ezekiel 14. there is also among the exiles much refuse.” [John 1:47 (Ezekiel 48.); Rom. 2:28, 29, 9:6; Jer. 7:4; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 3:9.] The idea which is expressed by כֻּלֹּה stands forth still more prominently by means of the contrast, so far as appearances go, to which those who are still for the moment the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 12:19) give expression, in accordance with their Pharisaic, hypocritical self-exaltation. Their characteristic dictum is quoted. For the imperative רַחְַקוּ, comp. on Ezekiel 8:6 and John 9:22. What they themselves are inwardly in reality, the appearance of that—its outward realization—they cast to those in exile. “They fall into a kind of holy zeal. In this position which they assumed toward their brethren, they themselves bear witness that they are not in the true sense brethren” (HENGST.).—לְמוֹרָשָׁה, Ex. 6:8.
Over against such a saying (Ezekiel 11:15) on their part, Ezekiel 11:16 places the retributive saying of Jehovah: Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord, etc. And what is retribution towards Jerusalem is at the same time promise towards the exile. But there are two things said and therewith promised by God. The first, which is in reply to that saying: “Be far from Jehovah” (Ezekiel 11:15), which made a declamatory use of their being outwardly far from the temple at Jerusalem, is the declaration so rich in promise: I become a sanctuary to them,—a thought which must from the first in Ezekiel 1, along with other things, have been indicated by the vision at the river Chebar, but which especially the vision in Ezekiel 8 sq. has brought as a compensation for the symbol of the presence in the outward temple of Jerusalem. The older Jewish expositors think of the synagogues. כִּי, not before the direct speech, like: Yea, etc., and therefore impressively repeated (HITZ.); but in fact granting the reality, although tracing it back to Jehovah expressly, it begins like a protasis which gives the reason, or at least in the sense of: “if,” “although,” or the like, [מִקְדָּשׁ, according to Gesen. “asylum,” which is too narrow.] מְעַט, either the length of time, or in the sense of measure (in some measure), which does not suit the context so well, and a promise of God, as here, still less.—(Isa. 8:14; John 2:19; Rev. 21:22.)
The second answer to the saying of the inhabitants of Jerusalem has reference to the statement: “to us was the land given” (Ezekiel 11:15). Hence Ezekiel 11:17, with therefore, parallel to Ezekiel 11:16, and continuing the promise by means of וְ, in the oratio directa. I gather you (Jer. 23:3)—comp. John 11:52—for which the return from Babylon was merely the outward substratum. In how spiritual a sense the return is conceived, namely, as at the same time an inward return to Jehovah (Jer. 24:7), and therefore into the land promised by Him, is shown immediately by Ezekiel 11:18. And they, etc., i.e. the parties addressed, the parties mentioned. The history of the Jews after the exile proves the purification of Palestine from the previous idolatry (Ezekiel 5:11).—To the gathering corresponds the divine bestowal in Ezekiel 11:19, just as it explains the reformation (Ezekiel 11:18). [HITZIG: אַחֵר, “another” heart, like the Sept.] The one heart (Acts 4:32) and the new spirit in the inward part are parallel. The old spirit which ruled them inwardly did not permit the harmony and concord which now ensue. But with the gift of a new spirit, the heart of stone, the unnatural element, is at the same time removed out of the flesh, and the natural element—an heart of flesh—is given. It is therefore no antithesis of Holy Spirit and flesh, as elsewhere,—not the contrast of nature and grace, but “a new spirit” and the opposite of the “one heart” that is to be given, i.e. the old spirit, that confront each other,—nature and the unnatural. The manner of expression is peculiar to Ezekiel. As they take away (הֵסִירוּ) all the detestable things and abominations out of the land, so Jehovah takes away (הֲסרֹתִי) the heart of stone out of their flesh. The “stony heart” stands in relation to the idols; so also the “heart of flesh,” “the new spirit,” the “one heart,” stands in relation to the only true God (1 Kings 18:21; Ps. 86:11; James 1:8, 4:8). Comp. the opposite in Ezekiel 11:21. [Commonly the heart of flesh is taken as a soft heart, receptive of the impressions of divine grace, and the stony heart as the human heart in its natural condition.] Comp. Ezekiel 36:26; Jer. 31:33, 32:39; Ps. 51:12 . Israel, by her apostate, polytheistic conduct, has fallen entirely out of what was natural to her as a people,—that she should be the people of the one true God, the people of His holy law. This unnatural element of her conduct as a nation is to cease by means of the divine gift and working, and so לְמַעַן in Ezekiel 11:20 fits in quite simply as defining the purpose. Comp. besides, Ezekiel 11:12.
Ezekiel 11:21. In contrast, either those at Jerusalem who have filled the land with their idolatry (Ezekiel 11:18), or those among the people of God to be restored who shall prove worthless (comp. Ezekiel 14:3), or the latter as well as the former. (In a grammatical point of view, comp. EW. Gr. 333, p. 820.) Just as one may take up idols into his heart, so a heart may be ascribed to them. It is only the practical side of his becoming one with them, so that one is represented as one heart (Ezekiel 11:19) and one soul with them, when his heart walketh after their heart, instead of walking in Jehovah’s statutes (Ezekiel 11:20). Comp. besides on Ezekiel 9:10.
Ezekiel 11:22. The closing scene of the vision of Ezekiel 8–11 Comp. the previous scenes connected with the movement and departure of the glory of God out of the most holy place of the temple, as equivalent to and parallel with the vision of glory in Ezekiel 1, 8:4, 9:3, 10:3, 4, 18, 19.—Comp. Ezekiel 10:19.
Ezekiel 11:23. The expression: from over the midst of the city, points at the same time to this circumstance, that the execution of judgment and the exercise of forbearance within the city (Ezekiel 9), as well as the throwing of the coals of fire over the city (Ezekiel 10:2), were a manifestation of glory. The position in Ezekiel 10:19, 11:1 (“inasmuch as the city stretches to the north and south beyond the temple,” HITZ.), indicates also the middle of the city. Such an abandonment of the temple, therefore, is at the same time an abandonment of the city (Hos. 5:15). While the vision still lasts, the glory of Jehovah stands over the Mount of Olives (2 Sam. 15:30; Zech. 14:4), as is the view of ancient and modern expositors alike. Its situation and height are suitable (“the commanding point in reference to Jerusalem, which is overlooked from it in its whole extent,” HENGST.). (Comp. Luke 19:37, 41 sq., 21:37, 22:39; Acts 1:12.) Comp. Ezekiel 43:2. Whether for the purpose of there presiding over the judgment on Jerusalem and the temple, or whether for the purpose of going back from thence to heaven, it is not said. This is objectively the end of the vision, but likewise subjectively as regards the prophet, Ezekiel 11:24; comp. on Ezekiel 11:1, Ezekiel 8:1, 1:1, 3:11 (Acts 10:16). The fulness of the description lays emphasis on the divine superhuman as well as non-human character of the revelation made to him, with a view specially to those to whom he in Ezekiel 11:25 communicates it. דִּבְרֵי, as throughout Holy Scripture. Yet the word, in a pre-eminent sense (John 1), is finally the deed, the Word of God κατ̓ ἐξοχην.
1. Demagogism in Israel is characterized in Num 16 as a laying stress on the universal priesthood of Israel, as opposed to the special office of Moses and Aaron. In our chapter its seductive skill in words is turned against the prophets of the period, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, inasmuch as the popular orators harangue their public on the possession of Jerusalem and the dwelling in the promised land. If, therefore, in Num. 16 the argument is borrowed from the idea of Israel,—what she is to be according to Ex. 19:6,—it is argued in our case from the existing reality of Jewish affairs at the moment; hence, in comparison, also a degenerate demagogism, just as everything in Israel’s case points downwards. Perhaps we may compare the relation of social demagogism to the old republican demagogism, which latter at least still inscribed the ideas, liberty, equality, fraternity, on its red banner, while socialism agitates merely in reference to the actual relations of society for the moment.
2. Hävernick admits the “remarkable literal fulfilment” of Ezekiel 11:9–11, but refuses, on the other hand, with Grotius, to understand them as “a prediction.” The idea of the threatening in our prophet here “lies much deeper, in the nature of the subject itself; the extent of its application accordingly is also much wider.” Hengstenberg remarks: “The prophecy cannot have been framed merely after the event; Ezekiel laid his book before his contemporaries, who were able to put him right. And the guarantee for the predictions which were fulfilled in the lifetime of the prophet lies in those which did not come to be fulfilled till long after his death. The confidence of Ezekiel is a sufficient proof that there is a supernatural element,” etc. Certainly neither the canon of Nitzsch, that the prediction must not destroy the history, nor the limitation of Tholuck, that the detailed prediction must not be expressed before the subjects who are actors in the history, can suffice for regulating the prophetic gift of divination. Alike the psychologico-anthropological and the specifically theological elements are deprived of an adequate scientific basis.
3. “It is lamentable if we must gain the knowledge of God (Ezekiel 11:10, 12) by our own destruction—if He in whom we live, and move, and have our being, is known only by the strokes which break our own head. The knowledge has in this case, moreover, no moral import. It is a mere passive knowledge, forced also upon the ungodly, unconnected with repentance” (HENGST.).
4. Although the prospect which the divine promise (Ezekiel 11:16 sq.) opens up regarding the captives of Israel is expressed everywhere in forms of Old Testament life as it appears under the law, yet the New Testament background, the “Messianic salvation” (EWALD), shows itself behind it. The realization of the covenant into which God entered with Israel for the human race, that they should be to Him a people and He should be to them a God, remains a theme down even to Rev. 21:3. With this the fulfilment also coincides, as it brought the return from the exile. The exiles were gathered out of their banishment to be a people again, and that on the “recovered soil of Israel,” under Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah; just as those who had continued to dwell in the heathen countries solemnly professed by their visits to the feasts at Jerusalem (Acts 2.) that they belonged to the nation of the Jews. The reformation of the religious condition was an energetic one, as directed against the heathenish lusts after idolatry on every hand which prevailed before the exile. Comp. also the period of the Maccabees. Monotheism became the purifying fundamental dogma of the Jewish nation. And there was also developed a scrupulous legality, down even to Pharisaism, in the trivial actions of life. It was “a new spirit,” and proved to be in general, and in comparison with the previous “stony heart,” which God’s judgment had broken in pieces, an “heart of flesh;” but yet it was merely an heart of flesh. The New Testament interpretation must not as a matter of course be put upon Ezekiel 11:19 sq., as is done by Cocceius and the most of believing expositors. The prophetic words do not affirm this; but the prospect into the New Covenant does not open till at the close, where God gives the assurance that He will make Himself known as their God to those who have become His people. For this took place when He εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθε, John 1:11. Only ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτὸν, ἔδωχεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν κ. τ. λ. (Ezekiel 11:12). The renewal for that is not contained in Ezekiel 11:19 sq. Cocceius, indeed, interprets מִקְדָשׁ מְעַט (Ezekiel 11:16) by: sanctuarium paucorum, i.e. Deum per inhabitationem suam in aliquibus, paucis, eos sanctificare, and finds therein the antithesis to Isa. 53:12 and Rom. 8:29!
5. What the vision of the glory of Jehovah which Ezekiel had at the Chebar already signified, but still more in accordance with its supplementary confirmation as well as renewal by means of Ezekiel 8 sq., that obtains in the statement: “I become to them for a sanctuary” (and that not merely in a rhetorical sense, as it may be understood in Isa. 8:14, and hence as an emblem of protection and also of blessing), its retrospective, but, at the same time, preparatory (as regards Ezekiel 40 sq.) expression, and, in general, one that is predictive and rich in promise. The saying in Ezekiel 11:15 does not indeed affirm anything expressly of the temple, but would make the presence of Jehovah be decided as a matter of fact by the possession of the land. But so much the more does the divine reply, in contrast with the material possession of the land, draw attention to the “sanctuary,” by means of which Jehovah’s presence in the land is brought about, and in which one is able to draw near to Jehovah (קָרַב, as opposed to רחַק). Since, then, Jehovah promises to be to them a sanctuary, i.e. a temple in this connection, the priestly-prophetic office of Ezekiel is brought specially to light, by means of which the exiles approach God, and God makes Himself known to them, and in addition to which there is the glorifying of the name of Jehovah in and through Daniel; but along with that in general, there is promised a presence of God in spirit and in truth, as John 4:20 sq. expresses it in respect of worship. Thus the exile might be to the Jews a school as regards the indwelling of the Word in flesh among men full of grace and truth, as regards the revelation of glory as of the Only-Begotten (John 1:14), as regards the temple which appeared in Jesus Christ (John 2:19 sq.).
[“The dispersion, besides being a just chastisement on account of sin, and a salutary discipline to lead the heart of the people back to God, had an important end to accomplish as a preparatory movement in Providence for opening the way for Messiah’s kingdom. It was very far from being an unmixed evil. As a mere external arrangement, it was destined to be of great service in diffusing the knowledge of God, and providing materials for the first foundations of the Christian Church, by giving the bearers of God’s truth a place and an influence in many of the most commanding positions in the heathen world. But still more important and necessary was the end it had to serve, in spiritualizing the views of the better part of the Jews themselves, and training them to the knowledge and service of God, without the help of a material temple and an earthly kingdom. Practically it had the effect of indefinitely widening the bounds of Canaan, or of giving to the world at large somewhat of its distinctive characteristics, since the devout worshipper at Babylon, Alexandria, Rome, or wherever he might be placed, found himself a partaker of God’s presence and blessing as well as in Jerusalem. What a mighty advance did the kingdom of God thus make toward the possession of the world! And in rendering the dispersion of His people instrumental to the attainment of such a result, how strikingly did the Lord manifest His power to overrule a present evil for the accomplishment of an ultimate good! Nor were it, perhaps, too much to say, having respect to the issues of things, that the dispersion of the Israelites among the nations was fraught with as much blessing for the Church and the world as even their original settlement in Canaan.”—FAIRBAIRN’S Ezekiel, p. 114.—W. F.]
“For a little,” it is said in Ezekiel 11:16, Jehovah Himself will be a sanctuary; in view of the destiny of the Jewish people, the state in exile could only be of a provisional character, only preparatory. For salvation is of the Jews, and the destiny of the people—and this must be upon its own soil—is the building of the temple of the kingdom of God (Ezekiel 40. sq.). Palestine became the cradle of the incarnation of God in Christ, and thus of the Church on earth. But now, when the exile of the Jews has become a long period, the Jews must have fallen out with their destiny, as in such a case they have neither recognised their temple in Christ, nor built themselves as a people for a temple of God (Eph. 2:21; 1 Cor. 3:16 sq.; 2 Cor. 6:16; comp. John 17:19 sq.).
6. “How different the Babylonian exile from the present! In the latter case, no proof of the presence of God; the people can keep only feasts of commemoration, and dream of the future; between the distant past and the distant future an immense empty space, a complete Sahara. In the former case, for him who looks more deeply, in the deepest humiliation there are everywhere traces of the loving care of God, pledges of the enduring election, of the future glorification” (HENGST.).
7. As against Keil, who quotes Hengstenberg for his view, we must assert that the passage Deut. 30:6 does not lie at the foundation of the promise in Ezekiel 11:19, as was held already by Cocceius, who quoted in addition Col. 2:11 sq., and the Epistle to the Hebrews. The “one” heart can only mean in the case of the individual a united heart,—a heart, therefore, which does not in its thoughts go from one thing to another, which does not through its lusts scatter itself on outward things, but is held together by the fear of God in its bent towards Him; which comes to the same thing as לְב שָׁלֵם, i.e. a whole heart, not divided between God and any other (Deut. 6:5, 10:12). But here it is the people as a whole and generally that are spoken of. Their σκληρο-καρδία is well known (Matt. 19:8); it has come to light by means of their history, that even the best, the noblest of this people shared in it (Mark 16:14). We call attention to the passages in our prophet, Ezekiel 2:4, 3:7. Comp. Isa. 48:4 (and this, too, with reference to idolatry); Jer. 5:3. They have hardened themselves in such a way (Deut. 10:16, like Pharaoh under the plagues) in opposition to the law, that God’s law, which was written on tables of stone, is written as it were, with its penalties and its curse, upon stony Israel. But whatever their hardness may be, there is confronted with it (Deut. 9:27) what they are in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; in other words, that they are as flesh, that is their nature, and hence to be the Lord’s servant. And that God says He will give back, restoring what originally belonged to their nature (“an heart of flesh”), in contrast with the unnatural and that which is against nature which has grown up in them (“the heart of stone”). Comp. on the other hand, John 1:13.
8. There is generally more said than ought to be said according to God’s word, that “in its natural state man’s heart” is “hard as a stone” (HENGST., KEIL). It becomes the “heart of stone” only by hardening. By nature it is rather “an heart of flesh,” which grace confronts with spirit of Spirit (John 3:6). Even in the case of Pharaoh there comes forth on repeated occasions the fleshy element of his heart (Ex. 8:4, 21, 24 [8, 25, 28], 9:27, etc.). And with the fleshy state of the heart manifold gifts of God are conceivable, as was the case with Israel from their fathers (hereditary blessing).
9. The “heart of stone,” which has become such by hardening, God breaks in pieces. Thus it happened to Pharaoh. He does not break it; in that case it must have been an “heart of flesh.” But this is done in Zech. 12:10. Or, as in our chapter, God takes away the “heart of stone,” and gives “an heart of flesh.” The keeping apart of flesh and stone is as important as that of flesh and spirit.
10. “In a threatening (Ezekiel 11:21) the whole terminates in a remarkable way. The idols are in themselves dead—mere reflexes and objective representations of the popular spirit; but even as such they exercise an enormous power over individuals. What power has Mammon now, as a Jewish (?) national god, over Jewish minds, although he is in himself a mere shadow?—Jehovah even may be an idol. With the idol-images the idols themselves do not yet disappear from a land”(HENGST.).“Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” the disciple of love still says to us (UMBR.).
11. The Messianic significance of the Mount of Olives, which is not denied by the Jews even, has its Christological fulfilment in the Gospels; but in addition, the whole movement of the glory of Jehovah in Ezekiel 10, 11 has its meaning for the life of the Son of God in the flesh. Jerome remarks: “By degrees the glory of the Lord takes its departure from Jerusalem. After it leaves the temple, it stands first on the threshold, thereafter at the entrance of the east gate, finally over the Mount of Olives, whence the Saviour ascends to the Father.” Comp. the beginning in Luke 2:46, the continuation in John 2:14 sq., along with the New Testament passages already quoted in the exposition; and for the end, still farther, Matt. 21:12 sq., 24:1 sq. (Ezekiel 27:5, 51). One might say, Ezekiel has seen beforehand the life of Jesus in its elements of judgment in reference to the Jewish people.
12. Baumgarten (The Acts of the Apostles, on Ezekiel 1, Clark’s Trans.) remarks on the glory of Jehovah in relation to the Mount of Olives: “It was therefore a departure, and yet a remaining in the neighbourhood; if the outward protection and blessing of Jehovah should be withdrawn from His people, the invisible power of His Spirit will remain near them, and perhaps manifest itself the more gloriously. It is the very same Ezekiel, who has afterwards brought vividly before us this side of promise and hope even in the departure of the glory of Jehovah; it is just Ezekiel who has beheld, represented, and described in the most impressive way the awakening, creative power of the Spirit of Jehovah for the whole nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37.). In like manner, Jesus, in whom dwelleth the divine glory bodily, withdraws from the Jews (John 8:21); but His standing on the Mount of Olives is a sign that He remains invisibly and blessedly near them, Acts 3:26.”
Ezekiel 11:1–3. “Do thou also give thyself up to the drawing of the Spirit of God. Wherever He may lead thee, it will be to a joyful end at last. But beware of the leading of the evil spirit” (STARCK).—When those who bear sway over the people are not able even to master their own wicked thoughts and words, but rather strive against God’s thoughts and words, it must certainly turn out ill both for themselves and for the people. The beautiful names of such leaders avail nothing, just as little as the voice of the people is, as is said, the voice of God, unless it be that God’s judgment is made known by it.—“We learn from this chapter how great a blessing from God it is for a people to have pious leaders.”—“That the prophet names only two may show us how it is the few who draw so many after them: so it is in the senates of princes, so it is in the free states” (LUTHER).—Thus God reveals the thoughts of men, 2 Cor. 5:10.
Ezekiel 11:3. “They allude to Jer. 1:13, and insinuate that the prophet contradicts himself. What! thou threatenest us with captivity, and yet thou sayest this city is the caldron, and the Chaldeans will be the fire! If it is God’s pleasure to cook us, then we shall remain in the caldron! Just as abandoned and profane men are always in quest of subtleties wherewith they may put down the heavenly doctrine, so they turned what was said by the prophets into the opposite: Well, then, we shall be thoroughly cooked, and shall therefore remain in Jerusalem onwards to extreme age” (CALV.).—“Impenitent sinners delight themselves in their sins, and do not suffer themselves, in the midst of their ungodly conduct, to dream of anything but pure good fortune, Jer. 5:12” (O.).—“In this way reason is accustomed always to drive all judgments out of the mind, or to comfort itself with the thought how it is quite able to withstand them by means of the flesh” (BERL. BIB.).—“Now-a-days still there are certain men who love to make the word of God contradict itself” (LUTHER).
Ezekiel 11:4. They are against the prophets, and therefore prophecy is against them, and that without regard of their persons, or of the multitude at their back. Our prophet mentions the ringleaders even by name. How indelicate! how imprudent! how defiant! Is it not? But with God’s word at our back, we have the Almighty Himself at our back, and God’s servants are neither to be dumb dogs nor flatterers of men.—“Son of man” the prophet remains notwithstanding; his is the weakness, the power is God’s.—“God does not suffer Himself to be mocked, Gal. 6:7” (STARCK).
Ezekiel 11:5. “It is not the commissioned servants that speak, but the Spirit of their Father, Matt. 10:20. He is the Preacher, they are merely the voice, John 1:23” (BERL. BIB.).—What rises up out of the heart of man (Matt. 15:18, 19) is of such a nature, that God must put a bridle on it; and this is just God’s bridle, that the darkness is dragged to the light, and reproved by the light, Eph. 5:13.—“It is of no use, therefore, to make a show in the theatre of the world, even if the matter obtains the applause of men, because it goes at last before the heavenly tribunal, where God alone will be Judge. He knows our thoughts, and will not accept our subterfuges, nor allow Himself to be mocked by our subtleties. What men have held to be the highest wisdom, God will show them to be a vain conceit, and worthless” (CALV.).
Ezekiel 11:6 sq. God is in word and deed a righteous Judge. To that very point to which the counsel of the ungodly brings those who follow them, God brings the ungodly themselves in the end. He judges them according to their words, although not as they mean them.—The irony in the divine retribution.—The “caldron,” the coffin.—The “flesh” is slaughtered; the “caldron” broken in pieces.—The retribution of God (1) attaches itself to the form of the sin, but (2) changes the substance of the sin into the substance of the punishment.
Ezekiel 11:8. “The sword, therefore, does not come by chance where it comes, but God’s hand is in the matter” (BERL. BIB.).
Ezekiel 11:9–12. “He who will not bend his heart before God must bend his head to strangers” (STARCK).—“They had not chosen to know God from His word, and so they were now to learn to know Him, according to His word, from His works. If God’s law does not enlighten so as to impart a knowledge that is saving, then must God’s righteousness in judgment enlighten so as to impart a knowledge which is not saving” (LUTHER).
Ezekiel 11:13, 14. “If one will not listen to words, then God must speak by means of examples, which in that case call to us, Luke 13:3, 5” (BERL. BIB.).—“A sudden death in the case of the ungodly is the most terrible thing that can happen, 1 Thess. 5. To the pious, on the other hand, who are always living in sight of death, even the most sudden death does not come unexpected” (LUTH.).—“Although the pious do not find fault with God’s sentence, yet they look on the ruin of the ungodly with a sigh” (O.).—“When an angry father is going about in the house with a rod, even a dutiful child is afraid, falls at his feet, and pleads for his brothers and sisters: this a believer also does for the ungodly when God punishes them, Ex. 32.” (STARKE).
Ezekiel 11:15. It is not the word “brother” that is of consequence, but what the word expresses, and therefore it is repeated; and just as little is it the dwelling together that is of consequence, but their being one with each other (Ezekiel 11:19) is the reality of brotherhood.—1 John 5:16: There is a sin unto death, for which one is not to pray.—What the inhabitants of Jerusalem say reminds one of the manner of speaking of many in the “only-saving” Church, as well as of many who fancy that they are “the community of the faithful.”—Comp. the Pharisee, Luke 18:11.—But the meek shall inherit the land, Matt. 5.—“There is a passage here which is worth noting, that we may learn not to estimate the state of the Church according to the common judgment of men, nor according to the glitter, which for the most part dazzles the eyes of the simple. For thus it comes about that we suppose we have found the Church where there is no Church, and are in despair when it does not present itself before our eyes. Rather are we to hold fast by this, that frequently the Church is preserved in a wonderful way in secret; and farther, that members of the Church are not those puffed-up people who impose upon fools, but rather the common people, whom no one regards” (CALV.).
Ezekiel 11:16. The exile a Jewish school, in which the Jews (1) may learn the spirit of the temple, (2) may be prepared for the Spirit of Christ, (3) might have been educated in the spirit of true Christianity.
Ezekiel 11:17–20. True return home is return to the true God.
Ezekiel 11:18. “The true cleansing of the Church has taken place under the New Covenant; the perfect cleansing will take place on the day of harvest, at the last judgment.”—“True reformation of life must show itself by earnest hatred of what is evil, Ps. 119:128” (STARCK).
Ezekiel 11:19, 20. “To the one heart belonged the outward union of the tribes under one name (Jews), the unity of endeavour on the part of all to return to Canaan, the unity in the doctrine of Moses, their unanimity against all idolatry, etc. From the stone we may take the following properties: that it is hard, deaf, fixed, etc. The flesh, on the other hand, is soft, moveable, receives impressions, feels pain and blows” (STARCK).—The grace of God makes man again natural, human; before he is unnatural, inhuman.—“For true Christianity it is not enough to perform this and that other act of outward worship, at times even to do what is good, but one must become another man” (STARKE).—“It is not merely gross idolatry that is to be rejected, but everything that is at variance with the word of God” (LUTHER).
Ezekiel 11:21. “The walk after the heart of the idols stands opposed to the walk after the heart of God” (HENGST.).—“The fountain of all evil is to be sought nowhere else but in the innermost depth of the heart, Matt. 15:19” (STARKE).
Ezekiel 11:22. Jesus lifts up His hands (Luke 24:50), and departs in the act of blessing; here, on the other hand, the uplifted wings announced the outpouring of the curse. The Mount of Olives on both occasions, the contrast and the predictive type.—The life of Jesus in decisive moments, and the glory of the Lord in Ezekiel.
Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD'S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.