Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
9. The Survey of the Leading of the People from of old (Ezekiel 20.)
1And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth [month] on the tenth [day] of the month, that men of the elders of Israel came to enquire of 2Jehovah, and sat [down] before me. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying: 3Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Do ye come to enquire of Me? As I live, if I will be enquired of by you! Sentence of the Lord Jehovah. 4Wilt thou judge 5them? Wilt thou judge, son of man? Make them to know the abominations of their fathers. And say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; In the day that I chose Israel, then I lifted up My hand to the seed of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, and lifted up 6My hand to them, saying, I [am] Jehovah [am] your God. In that day I lifted up My hand to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, into the land which I had sought out for them, flowing with milk and honey,—which is a 7glory [ornament] to all lands. And I said to them, Cast ye away, every man, the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of 8Egypt. I, Jehovah your God. And they rebelled against Me, and would not hearken unto Me; they did not cast away every man the abominations of his eyes, nor forsake the idols of Egypt. And I said that I would pour out My fury upon them, that I would accomplish My anger in them, in the 9midst of the land of Egypt. And I wrought for My name’s sake, that it might not be polluted before the eyes of the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the 10land of Egypt. And I led them out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. 11And I gave them My statutes, and made known to them 12My judgments, which, if a man do, he shall live in them. And I also gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, so that it might be 13known [they knew] that I Jehovah do sanctify them. And the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they walked not in My statutes, and they despised [cast away] My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them, and they grievously profaned My sabbaths. And I said that I would 14pour out My fury upon them in the wilderness to destroy [uproot] them. And I wrought for My name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the 15heathen, in whose sight I brought them out. And also I lifted up My hand to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given, flowing with milk and honey—which is a glory to all lands,—16Because they despised My judgments, and walked not in My statutes, and 17profaned My sabbaths, for their heart went after their idols. And [yet] Mine eye pitied, instead of destroying them, and I did not make an end of them in 18the wilderness. And I said to their sons in the wilderness, Ye shall not walk in your fathers’ statutes, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves 19with their idols. I am Jehovah, your God; walk in My statutes and keep My judgments, and do them. 20And hallow My sabbaths, and they are for a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am Jehovah your God. 21And the sons rebelled against Me; they walked not in My statutes, and they kept not My judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall live in them; they profaned My sabbaths; and I said that I would pour out My fury upon 22them, that I would accomplish My anger in them in the wilderness. And [yet] I turned My hand, and wrought for My name’s sake, that it should not 23be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out. I also lifted up My hand to them in the wilderness, that I would scatter them 24among the heathen, and disperse them in the countries; Because they executed not My judgments, and despised My statutes, and profaned My 25sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols. And I also gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments in which they could not live; 26And I polluted them in their gifts, inasmuch as they caused all that openeth the womb to pass through, that I might desolate them, that they might know 27that I am Jehovah. Therefore speak to the house of Israel, son of man, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; In this again your fathers mocked 28[blasphemed] Me, in dealing faithlessly with Me. And I brought them into the land, which I lifted up My hand to give them, and they saw every high hill, and every thick [dark] tree, and there they offered their sacrifices, and gave there the provocation of their offering, and there they presented their 29sweet savours, and there they poured out their drink-offerings. And I said to them, What is the high place to which ye go? And its name was called 30“Bamah” to this day. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; In the way of your fathers do ye pollute yourselves, and do ye 31go wantonly after their abominations? And in the offering of your gifts, in making your sons to pass through the fire, do ye pollute yourselves according to all your idols to this day, and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,—sentence of the Lord Jehovah,—if I shall be enquired of by you! … 32And that which has come up in your mind shall not at all happen, that ye say, We shall be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone. 33As I live,—sentence of the Lord Jehovah,—if I shall not rule over you with strong hand, and with outstretched arm, and with fury poured out! … 34And I will lead you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries in which ye have been dispersed, with strong hand, and with outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, 35And I will bring you into 36the wilderness of the peoples, and contend with you there face to face. As I contended with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I contend with you,—sentence of the Lord Jehovah. 37And I will cause you to pass under the staff [sceptre], and bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38And I will purge [separate] out from among you the rebels, and the transgressors against Me; out of the land of their wanderings [strangerhood] will I lead them forth, and [yet] he [they] shall not come to the land of Israel, and ye shall 39know that I Jehovah. And ye, house of Israel, thus saith the Lord Jehovah,—Go, serve every one his idols. Yet afterwards,—if ye will not [now] hearken unto Me, ye shall not further pollute My holy name with [in] your offerings 40and with [in] your idols. For upon My holy mountain, upon the high mountain of Israel,—sentence of the Lord Jehovah,—there shall they serve Me, the whole house of Israel, the whole of it in the land; there will I accept them graciously, and there will I require your [heave] offerings, and the first-fruits 41of your oblations, with all your holy things. As a sweet savour will I accept you graciously, when I lead you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries, in which ye have been dispersed, and sanctify Myself in you before the eyes of the heathen. 42And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I bring you to the land of Israel, to the land which I lifted up My hand to give to your fathers. 43And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, in [with] which ye have been defiled, and loathe yourselves in your own sight, for all your wicked things [evil deeds] which ye have done. 44And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, in My dealing with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, and your corrupt doings, O house of Israel. Sentence of the Lord Jehovah.
Ezekiel 20:3. Sept.: ... ζω ἐγω εἰ ἀποκριθησομαι ὑμιν... εἰ (4) ἐκδικησω αὐτους ἐκδικησει.—(Another reading, 3: אל זקני.)
Ezekiel 20:5. ... ὠφ ἡς ἡμετισς ἡρετισα... κ. ἐγνωρισθην τω σπερματι... κ. ἀντεγαβομην τη κειρι μου αὐτων—
Ezekiel 20:12. The LXX add: Κ εἰτα προς τ. οἰκ. τ. ʼΙσρ ἐν τ. ἐρημωʼ ʼΕν τοι; προσταγμκσιν μου πορευεσθε κ. τ. δικαιωματα μου φυγασσετε του ποιειν αὐτα, ἁ τοιησει αὐτα ἀνθρωτος κ. ζησεται ἐν αὐτοις.
Ezekiel 20:18. ... μη συικναμιγνυσθε κ. μη μικινεσθε.
Ezekiel 20:22. Κ. οὐκ ἐποιησα, ὀπως το ὀνομα μου—
Ezekiel 20:26. Κ. μιαινω αὐτους... ἐν τω διαπορευεσθαι με παν... ὁπως ἀφανισω αὐτους.—Vulg.: Et pollui … cum offerrent omne quod—
Ezekiel 20:27. ... ʼΕως τουτου παρωργισαν με—
Ezekiel 20:28. ... κ. ἐθυσαν ἐκει τοις θεοις αὐτων—
Ezekiel 20:30. Sept.: Εἰ ἐν. τ. ἀνομιαις τ. πατερων ὑμων.—
Ezekiel 20:31. κ. ἑν τ. ἀπαρχαις τ. ὸομκτων ὑμων κ. ἐν τ. ἀφορισμοις υἱων ὑμ. ἐν πυρι—(Another reading: בניכם ובנתיכם.)
Ezekiel 20:32. κ. εἰ ἀναβησετα ἐπι τ. πνευμκ ὑμ. τουτο. Κ. οὐκ ἑωται ὁν τροπον ὑμεις λεγετε—
Ezekiel 20:36. Another reading: אשפוט את׳. S pt., Vulg., Arabs: judicabo vos.
Ezekiel 20:37. ... κ. εἰσαξω ὑμας ἐν ἀριθμω. (Targ. et versiones.)
Ezekiel 20:38. Another reading: לא יבאו.
Ezekiel 20:39. Sept.: ... ἑκαστος... ἑξαρατε, κ. μετα ταυτα εἰ μη ὑ μεις εἰσακουετε μου, κ. τ. ὀνομα—
Ezekiel 20:40. ... ἐκει δουλευσουσιν μοι... εἰς τελος—
Ezekiel 20:43. ... τ. ὁδους... κ. τ. ἐπιτηδευματα ὑμ. ἐν οἱς ἐμιαινεσθε.—Vulg.: … et displicebitis vobis in conspectu vestro—
Ezekiel 20:44. ... ὁπως τ. ὀνομα μου μη βεβηλωθη κατα τ. ὁδους ὑμ.... κ. κατα τ. ἐπιτηδευματα ὑμ. τα διεφθαρμενα—
Ezekiel 20:1–4. The Occasion and Theme of the Discourse
Ezekiel 20:1. A date is prefixed to the occasion of the following prophetic discourse, which points us back to Ezekiel 8, and which at the same time applies to Ezekiel 21–23 [KLIEF. reckons 11 months 5 days since Ezekiel 8:1; 2 years 1 month 5 days since Ezekiel 1:2 (adhering to the captivity of king Jehoiachin): and 2 years 5 months before Ezekiel 24:1.]—The parallel to Ezekiel 14:1 is evident. There, indeed, we have אֵלַי ווַיָּבוֹא, and here only בָּאוּ. But they are called men of the elders of Israel in both places. That they were the same persons (KLIEF.) is questionable; probably not. Rather can they be considered as the successors of that deputation, and they may be distinguished from it by the fact that they mentioned the purpose of their visit, to inquire, etc., although what they asked is not stated, while the former deputation can be depicted as sitting before the prophet in speechless amazement. That a middle, a turning point in Ezekiel’s labours is indicated, as Klief. thinks, by the fact of a spirit of inquiry being excited in the minds of his hearers, is too much to draw from the words. Hengst. sees in the men “representatives, not of the totality of the exiles, but of the great mass of those only externally fearing God, while internally addicted to the spirit of the world and of the age,” as in Ezekiel 14, and conjectures a special occasion in a favourable turn which the affairs of the coalition had taken.(?) Owing to the interest felt in Judah and Jerusalem by all the exiles, nothing prevents us understanding here also, as in Ezekiel 14, envoys (if not elders themselves?) from the elders of the exiles of the ten tribes. As these had been so long in a state of exile, the existence of the elder-organization is the more intelligible. That the divine message of the prophet is addressed to the whole people, does not prevent its being coloured with a special regard to the ten tribes, as the details of our exposition may possibly show.
Ezekiel 20:3. Comp. Ezekiel 2:1, 14:3.
Ezekiel 20:4. The repeated question, Wilt thou, etc., is connected with the appearance of the men of Israel, who are thereby represented as if standing before a tribunal, but at the same time destitute of an advocate, and of any ground for self-justification. Hitzig rightly perceives in the repetition evidence of the emotion which the presence of unworthy persons had excited. “The form of a question makes apparent the impatient wish that the thing, should happen, and so includes a command.” Therefore the imperative: Make them to know the abominations, etc. The theme of the discourse is a review of the objective [leading], and over against that, the subjective [behaviour] conduct of the people from the days of old (Ezekiel 22:2; 23:36). The reference to the fathers points to an ancient and deep-rooted evil which demands a radical cure (HENGST., CALVIN). Matt 23:32; Acts 7:51; Ezekiel 16:2.R
Ezekiel 20:5–9. Israel in Egypt
Ezekiel 20:5. בָּחַר with בְּ, as Israel is subjected to examination, so Israel remains the object of the divine election. “Choosing in the sense of divine, prevenient love and grace, Deut. 7:6, 14:2” (Häv.).—The lifting up of the hand, as the gesture of one making oath (Deut. 32:40; Ex. 6:8), assured and confirmed the choosing of Israel as the people of God (Deut. 7:6, 14:2) with reference to Canaan (Ezekiel 20:6, 15, 28).—Israel is significantly interchanged with Jacob. The former points to the grace of their election to the position of Jehovah’s warriors; the latter points to their natural origin.—As interpreted by the clause: and made myself known, etc., the day was the period when Jehovah in point of fact revealed Himself to the people in Egypt as that which He had called Himself to Moses (Ex. 3:14, etc.) by signs and wonders, as by an actual, renewed oath (therefore the very significant repetition of the lifting up of the hand).
Ezekiel 20:6. A sort of conclusion. Once again, I lifted up, etc., and emphasizing of the day, in order to mark God’s solemn determination, as well as what had taken place. The imaginations of priests and vain sayings of the people are not the point in question. The object was “bringing out,” therefore freedom, redemption, which is described according to its issue and goal.—Sought out (comp. Num. 10:33), ere ever they had spied it out.—Ex. 3:8.—The לְ in לְבָל׳, either, datively, that all lands reckon it so; or with respect to or, above all lands (?).
Ezekiel 20:7. The Sinaitic law also said this plainly, as it rested expressly upon the אֲנִי יְהוָֹה׳, Ex. 20:2. But from the beginning the same was proclaimed by the fact of election, which involved a reciprocal obligation on the part of the people.
[“The very form given to the commission of Moses to go and vindicate the children of Israel for God, that they might come forth and serve Him, was itself a proof how much the worship of Jehovah had fallen into abeyance, and how generally the people had allowed themselves to sink into the prevailing idolatries. They must go out of the polluted region, where other lords, spiritual as well as temporal, have had dominion over them, that they may stand free to worship and serve Jehovah. And so the whole design and purport of the commission of Moses might be regarded as a protest against their connection with the abominations of Egypt, and a call not only to Pharaoh, to let the people go, but also to the people themselves, to come out and be separate, as a seed whom the Lord had chosen.”—P. F.—W. F.]
Of the eyes, not merely which the eyes see, but whereon they fix, with which they become familiar, etc.
Ezekiel 20:8. Israel’s further rebelliousness in the wilderness would even justify a similar inference as to their behaviour in Egypt. Compare further Josh. 24:14; Ex. 32:3; Lev. 17:7 (Ps. 106:7).—And I said; not to them, nor to Moses, but to Myself. It corresponded to the character of God and the actual condition of the people. Comp. Ex. 20:5, 32:10.—Ezekiel 7:8, 5:13, 6:12; and besides, Ex. 5:3.
Ezekiel 20:9. And I wrought, forms a contrast to: “and I said;” consequently the thing contrasted with what was said,—the object of the verb “wrought,”—which can be gathered from what follows, may also be assumed as known.—For My name’s sake, etc. (Ps. 106:8); they were unworthy of it, had not merited it. But the revelation which I had given of Myself before the eyes of the heathen among whom they were was not to be desecrated before these same eyes, especially before the Egyptians, as if to wish well to My name were present with Me, but not the power of performance (regard being had at the same time to the heathen, as Israel was placed in a peculiar position in regard to humanity as a whole). Comp. Num. 14:13 sq.; Ex. 32:12 (Num. 23:19).
Ezekiel 20:10–24. Israel in the Wilderness. Ezekiel 20:10–17, The First; 18–24, The Second Generation
Ezekiel 20:10–17. The First Generation in the Wilderness
Ezekiel 20:10. Transition from the foregoing to the following.
Ezekiel 20:11. The giving of the law on Sinai, as introduction to the present leading of the people, after being brought out, Ex. 20. sq.—Statutes and judgments, as often, comprehending the general idea of the law. Live includes prosperity and blessedness, body and spiritual, temporal and eternal. Comp. Deut. 4:1.—The law was given for life, Rom. 7:10; Matt. 19:17; Ex. 20:12, etc. Which if a man do. The leading through the wilderness served to test them as to this. [KEIL translates: “Which a man shall do in order to live through them.”]
Ezekiel 20:12. Ex. 20:8, 31:13. A sign must denote something, so the Sabbath repeating itself (therefore the plural with each week’s close betokened the rest of God, into which the people of God are to enter after all their works, Heb. 4. This is a common element to Jehovah and Israel on the ground of the covenant. As the Sabbaths of Jehovah are to be hallowed by Israel, and to be separated from the other days of the week, it would thereby be made evident that Jehovah sanctifies Israel, and separates them from the world-peoples to be His own peculiar people. This is the reciprocal relation of the Sabbath to Jehovah and Israel. Therefore the Sabbath was so characteristic for Israel.—As the prophetic sense of the law, and of the Sabbath-law in particular, reaches far beyond a formal, outward observance of it, so the prophet is speaking not of the mere letter of the law as a whole, nor in Ezekiel 20:13 of merely external desecration of the Sabbath (Isa. 58:13, 14). Compare further Ex. 16:27 sq.; Num. 15:32 sq. Also Ezekiel 5:6, 7
Ezekiel 20:8—With Ezekiel 20:14 comp. Ezekiel 20:9
Ezekiel 20:15. And also = and even; for after the contrast to: “and I said,” in Ezekiel 20:13 has been expressed in Ezekiel 20:14 by: “and I wrought,” וְגַם׳ resumes the thread. The thought as to the destruction of the rebellious expressed itself even in the oath which excluded the first wilderness generation from Canaan; Num. 14:11 sq.; Ps. 95:11, etc. [Hengst. interprets וגם׳ of retribution; so they, and I also!]
Ezekiel 20:17 carries out the idea of Ezekiel 20:14 (Ezekiel 16:5).—Ezekiel 11:13. The sequel shows what is meant.
Ezekiel 20:18–24. The Second Generation in the Wilderness
Ezekiel 20:18. The contents of the fifth book of Moses belonged peculiarly to the sons (children)—the spared second generation in the wilderness. The fathers in question are represented in their constant disobedience to the laws which Jehovah gave (which even necessitated their repetition and renewal in Deuteronomy), as in some sort lawgivers according to their own ideas and on their own authority.
Ezekiel 20:19. But!—Comp. Ezekiel 20:11
Ezekiel 20:20. Comp. Ezekiel 20:12
Ezekiel 20:21. Num. 15:16, 17
Ezekiel 20:8, 13
Ezekiel 20:22. Contrast to Ezekiel 20:21; Num. 16:21 sq., Ezekiel 17:9 sq.
Ezekiel 20:14, 9
Ezekiel 20:23. I also, as in Ezekiel 20:15, here in relation to Ezekiel 20:21—Ezekiel 12:15, 6:8. The threatening with exile, Deut. 28:30; Lev. 26:33 sq.; and as an oath, Deut. 29:13, 18.
Ezekiel 20:24. As Ezekiel 20:16.
Ezekiel 20:25–31. Israel in Canaan. Ezekiel 20:25–29. The Fathers. Ezekiel 20:30, 31. The People of the Present
Ezekiel 20:25–29. The Fathers in Canaan
Ezekiel 20:25. Transition, linked to the foregoing with וְגַם׳, as in Ezekiel 20:23 גַּם׳ hinted at what succeeds. The threat of exile, the fulfilment of which had begun in the people of the present, could be denounced against the second generation in the wilderness, because they were brought into Canaan, and along with the following generations, in so far as they could come into account as “your fathers” (Ezekiel 20:27), they are set over against the existing people. The second generation, in the wilderness was therefore the medium of transition to, and at the same time became, Israel in Canaan. Therefore, although it was not executed against the second generation in the wilderness, the threat of exile remains in its original force and form. The reference to Canaan, which Ezekiel 20:28 formally makes, determines the peculiar forms of expression in Ezekiel 20:25 and 26. Such a progress in sin is made, that at last God makes sin its own punishment. Thus
Ezekiel 20:7. They are warned against idolatry in Egypt, which is followed up in Ezekiel 20:11 sq. by the Sinaitic legislation in the wilderness.—In Ezekiel 20:18 sq., over against their own law-making, of which the first generation was guilty, there is the renewal of the Sinaitic law with reference to Canaan, but even already under the threat of exile (Ezekiel 20:23). Finally—in Canaan as a beginning of the judgment of God, there were given to Israel for chastisement the wicked statutes and the death-bringing judgments of Canaan. Because they would not have My good law, I gave them Canaan’s law, which is not good, etc. Thus the force of: I gave, etc., is to be maintained, and by no means to be weakened to permission or any similar idea, as Jewish and Christian interpreters wish.—Not good is sufficiently explained by לָהֶם going before, and by the parallel לאֹ יִתְיוּ׳.
Ezekiel 20:26 shows clearly what sort of “statutes” and “judgments” are meant, from the result which they produced, more precisely describing: “I gave,” as: I polluted them. The pollution of Israel was very notably exhibited in that which they did with their first-born male children, who in virtue of Ex. 13:12, 13 required to be redeemed. This ordinance, according to the connection in Ex. 13, being characteristically associated with the redemption of the people from Egypt, the allusion in our verse is most significant. Comp. also Ex. 13:11, which introduces the statute in question. As a guide to the understanding of לַיהוָֹה ,בְּהַעֲבִיר, which is associated with הַעֲבַרְתָּ in Ex. 13, is here omitted, and בָּאֵשׁ is added in Ezekiel 20:31, so that the Canaanitish Moloch - worship is undoubtedly meant. (Lev. 18:21, comp. Ezekiel 20:3; Deut. 18:10, 9) Comp. Ezekiel 16:21. So the life, the continuous life which the people of Israel should have enjoyed in their sons, became its opposite, death. How could these be good statutes! [Cocceius also connects הַעֲבַרְתָּ with Ex. 13:12, and understands the pollution of Israel as a declaration of the uncleanness of the people (Häv., on account of the heathenish turn which had been given to the law), since Aaron and the Levites had been installed by Jehovah in the sacred office instead of the first-born, Num. 3:45!] Comp. as to the whole, Rom. 1:24 sq.; Acts 7:42; 2 Thess. 2:11.—As to the “desolation,” comp. Ezekiel 14:8. Others render it: to be benumbed, shocked, so that if possible they might be brought to reflection from what was so abhorrent to parental feeling. According to our rendering of the word, preparation is here made for the idea of the wilderness, which is afterwards so prominent in the chapter: they came to resemble a wilderness people even before they were brought into the wilderness of the peoples (Ezekiel 20:35).
Ezekiel 20:27. The people of the present are addressed, although the matter itself still concerns the fathers in Canaan. Ezekiel 20:30 sq. will define more precisely the meaning of this address.—In this again (Ezekiel 16:29), besides what was formerly adduced. The thing meant is first of all indicated more generally as mockery and faithlessness (Ezekiel 15:8, 14:13), and is then in Ezekiel 20:28 stated more in detail. Comp. with Ezekiel 6:13, 16:16.—כַּעַס׳ refers to the forementioned mockery, whereby they aroused the displeasure and wrath of Jehovah (Deut. 32:16, 21); רֵיחַ׳ (comp. Ezekiel 6:13, 16:19) to the faithlessness which could present sweet savours of various kinds to idols.
Ezekiel 20:29. And I said, etc. By the question there is recalled to mind God’s ever-repeated opposition to and condemnation of the worship of the high places (therefore the collective singular: הַבָּמָה, in contrast to the one sanctuary—the temple), with all that He had said against it. [Häv. adopts the explanation of Kimchi, who refers it to the high place at Gibeon, 1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chron. 1:3.]—וַיִּקָּרֵא, the thing itself, as well as its name, continued to this day.
Ezekiel 20:30, 31. The People of the Present
Ezekiel 20:30. לָכֵן, resuming the strain of Ezekiel 20:27, and substituting אֱמֹר for דַּבֵּר, directly addresses the people of the present, i.e. the inquirers of Israel who had come to the prophet in the interest of those who still remained in Canaan.
Ezekiel 20:31. The note struck in the question of Ezekiel 20:29 is still maintained, not merely to express astonishment, but still more to compel self-reflection. I ask what further communication you would have?—Comp. Ezekiel 7:20.—Ezekiel 6:9.
Ezekiel 20:26.—Comp. Ezekiel 14:3.
Ezekiel 20:32–44. Prophetic Survey of the yet Future Dealing with the People. Ezekiel 20:32–38. In Judgment. Ezekiel 20:39–44. In Mercy
Ezekiel 20:32–38. The Impending Judgment
Ezekiel 20:32. Transition to what follows.—Comp. Ezekiel 14:3, 11:5.—However much the people had become like the heathen, yet they were not to become heathen, which the inquirers of Ezekiel 20:1 may have said to themselves, with a feeling of satisfaction or of despair, Deut. 4:28, 28:36, 64. Such was not to be the end of the people of God. But Jehovah will manifest Himself to them as their King.
Ezekiel 20:33. Backward glance at His mighty, royal dealing in former times, when they were redeemed from Egypt (Deut. 4:34; Ex. 6:6, etc). Comp. Ezekiel 6:14. But it is immediately added, in order to point to retributive judgment (see Ex. 6:6): and with fury poured out, which is repeated in Ezekiel 20:34 in connection with the “leading out,” and “gathering,” by which the aforesaid (Ezekiel 20:33) royal authority will also manifest itself, so that these too must be regarded as acts of divine judgment. A future leading into Canaan (against which see also Ezekiel 20:35), after the conversion of all Israel, is thereby strictly excluded. But: out from the peoples, and: out of the countries, when rightly taken, namely, in contrast to: “into the wilderness of the peoples,” by no means excludes a reference to the existing Babylonish captivity. That Israel was then dispersed in one land only, and among one people (KLIEF., KEIL), is not in the least to the point, when the empire of the king of Babylon could be described in such a manner as, e.g., in Jer. 27:5 sq.! The exile, says Jehovah, the King whose supreme power they were to experience, shall not be mere dispersion among “peoples” and in “countries” (different from the fatherland, Canaan), where the external relations of life may be to some extent of an agreeable character, as was the case (see Introd). I will lead you thence and conduct you into another exile, for
Ezekiel 20:35—I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples,—an expression whose deepest interpretation is immediately added, viz.: and contend with you, etc.; a change of condition is meant—an intensifying of exile to “a wilderness of the peoples,” which must be taken figuratively (comp. Hos. 2:16), like the leading out and gathering of the previous verse, and the “wilderness” in Ezekiel 19:13. (Häv. compares Ezekiel 6:14.) In the form of the word, the previous expressions (Ezekiel 20:34): “countries,” and: “peoples,” coalesce. As “the bringing into” corresponds to: “the leading out,” so Jehovah’s “contending” corresponds to the “gathering.” The “dispersion” becomes a gathering face to face, i.e., person opposite person—the people opposite the King who contends with them. In such a connection the idea of Hitzig and others is weak. They refer the expression to the great wilderness which separates Babylon from the lands on the shore of the Mediterranean, which lay in the way of the exiles who ultimately returned. It is almost analogous to the word “world” in the New Testament. Although Keil explains the “leading out,” etc. of Ezekiel 20:34 as neither local nor material, yet we do not understand it with him “of a spiritual separation from the heathen world” (to which they are immediately brought, Ezekiel 20:35), “lest they should be absorbed in it,” etc., but of an aggravation of their exiled condition, a spiritual experience of it, so that they should know and feel that they as the people of God were once more in the wilderness, but not at all in the same sense as before (Deut. 8:15, 32:10). [Cocceius with perfect right here points still farther forward to the Roman period.] The future “contending” (comp. Ezekiel 17:20) is compared in Ezekiel 20:36 to a former contention with their fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt. As the fathers, according to Ezekiel 20:27, are the second generation, which reached Canaan from the wilderness, the “contending” with them is to be referred not to Num. 14:28 sq., but rather to such judicial scenes as Num. 17:5, 6, 10. The Babylonish exile was formerly called “wilderness of the peoples,” in relation to the “peoples” from among whom Israel (Ezekiel 20:34) was to be led thither; in like manner the Arabian wilderness, to which the expression “wilderness of the peoples” alludes, is called the wilderness of the land of Egypt, because the people had been led out into it from Egypt. They were not led thither as a punishment, although on account of their disobedience it often became a place of punishment; but the divine intention was to try them (to prove, Deut. 8:2 sq.), from which resulted separation of individuals, purification, which was so strongly urged upon them in reference to Egypt, whither they were always looking back (Num. 20:5, 21:5). While, therefore, the “contending” of Ezekiel 20:36 also includes chastisement, yet in the application of it to the future, Ezekiel 20:37, the idea of the separation—the purification of the people through divine chastisement is the prevailing one. The judgments which God brought on Israel (Num. 16:17, 20, affecting even Moses and Aaron!) were only purifying separations. The question is not that of a possible re-entrance into Canaan, so that, with reference to this result, the future guidance of Israel is represented as a repetition of their former guidance (KEIL), nor with Neteler can we understand by: “the wilderness of the peoples,” Palestine (?); but Ezekiel 20:33 as well as Ezekiel 20:36 point back to Egypt, to the exodus thence, which Keil also on the other hand admits. [Hengst. supposes that the part taken by the exiles in the political intrigues of the home country brought upon them also severe sufferings (Jer. 29:21, 22); but that by true repentance many may have been freed from participation in the punishment here threatened!!] They shall go out of the state of exile (Ezekiel 20:38), but this going out shall be a passing under the staff (the “contending,” in Ezekiel 20:35 sq., is here viewed in a new way). The underlying figure is that of the shepherd (Lev. 27:32; Mic. 7:14; Jer. 33:13), under whose staff the sheep were required to go individually in order to be inspected and numbered (HITZ.); but its application is here to be understood of the royal sceptre of Jehovah, agreeably to the expression: “rule over,” in Ezekiel 20:33. Comp. further Ex. 13:12; 1 Sam. 16:8. The meaning of the figurative expression is neither subjection to the government of God (HENGST.), nor a special guardianship of God (KEIL), nor anything similar, but choice, with a very narrow inspection of individuals, the idea distinctly expressed in Ezekiel 20:38 as to separation and purification being the prominent one. The result intended by this royal inspection, as the parallel sentence: and bring you, etc., brings out more fully, alludes to the giving of the covenant-law at Sinai after the passage of the Red Sea (comp. Ex. 14:16). Under the bond (קָסֹרֶת, contr. for קָאֲסֹרֶת, from the root אָסַר) is a much preferable rendering to: under “the discipline (יָסַר?) of the covenant,” whether the penalties of the covenant only, or its promises also, be thought of. The law, which must not be conceived of apart from its promises and penalties, and which may be either a bond of love or an oppressive chain according to one’s personality, became, from the fact of men turning to it and observing its statutes, a medium of separation between heathenism and Judaism, and also between the people themselves. The extent to which this was the case is shown especially by the history of Pharisaism since the exile, both on its bright and its shady side.
Ezekiel 20:38 now states explicitly what end is contemplated by the impending leading forth of the people in judgment. Hävern. notes a paronomasia in וּבָרוֹתִי and הַבְּרִית.—Comp. Ezekiel 2:3.—Land of their wanderings, i.e. wherein they were strangers, Canaan is elsewhere called, Gen. 36:7; Ex. 6:4. Here, with a fine antithesis, it is the land of their exile.—לאֹ יָבוֹא, Hengst.: “the rebels are here collected into one ideal person.” Keil, who understands the “leading forth” as an utter sweeping of them away, takes the singular in a distributive sense: not one of the transgressors shall enter in. It accords better with the context to regard: I will lead them forth, as containing a retrospective reference to Ezekiel 20:34, so that the rebels and transgressors in the close of the paragraph are again taken together with the whole people. Yet not to the land of Israel, would then say negatively what the “wilderness of the peoples” in Ezekiel 20:35 said positively, consequently that Jehovah will enter into judgment with them all (Ezekiel 20:35). The singular subject to לאֹ יָבוֹא can therefore from אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל be Israel. (Possibly even, with an eye to the inquirers of Ezekiel 20:1, with a reference to the always doubtful question of the return of the ten tribes!?) With: and ye shall know, etc., the message is again directed to the persons who spoke to the prophet; if not to Israel in a special sense, at least to Israel in general.
Ezekiel 20:39–44. The Promised Mercy of God
Ezekiel 20:39. Since judgment, as has been stated, approaches the house of Israel, every man who will not do otherwise may be commanded to go and serve his idols. The impending judgment will make a separation, and the future will belong to the people of God. Comp. Rev. 22:11. The holy irony of Him who knows that mercy is laid up for the future.—וְאַחַר is not to be translated: “also afterwards,” and coupled with serve, nor yet can it be joined with what follows imperatively, but it stands by itself, as if with a—.אִס־ can be simply a conditional particle: if ye will not hearken (in the present) unto Me, then (וְ takes up וְאַחַר again) ye shall not farther, etc. The majority of expositors take it as a particle of swearing, introducing with the negative (אין, with Part) an affirmative sentence, so that the sense would be: and afterwards ye will surely hearken unto Me, and ye will no longer profane My holy name, etc. (comp. Ezekiel 36:20).
Ezekiel 20:40. The positive ground. Comp. Ps. 2:6, and Ezekiel 17:23.—They shall serve Me, in contrast to: “serve . … idols,” Ezekiel 20:39.—בָּל׳, and again כֻּלֹּה׳, point to the healing of the breach between Judah and Israel. Comp. also Ezekiel 11:15. The emphatically repeated: there, just as in the contrasted Ezekiel 20:38, remains within the horizon of the Old Testament (comp. the New Testament expansion, John 4:20 sq.), as the form and clothing of the thought in the rest of the verse maintains the phraseology of the Old Testament worship.
Ezekiel 20:41. The previous steps are now recapitulated. Through the leading out and gathering already brought into view in Ezekiel 20:34, the people, purified by judgment, shall be acceptable to Jehovah as a sweet savour (comp. Ezekiel 6:13), and in them as a holy people, anew consecrated to God, shall be exhibited to the heathen the holiness of Jehovah.
Ezekiel 20:42. But then shall they also, as was assumed in Ezekiel 20:40 (“in the land”), return to the land of Israel (Ezekiel 20:38).
Ezekiel 20:43 finally adds a portrait of the inner condition of the people—the complement to Ezekiel 20:40. Comp. Ezekiel 6:9, 14:22, 23 (Ezekiel 16:61).
Ezekiel 20:44. Conclusion. The knowledge of Jehovah from an experience of His gracious dealings with them for His name’s sake (comp. Ezekiel 20:9, 14).
1. The prophet may judge (Ezekiel 20:4), for Jehovah will manifest Himself as King to His people. Prophetic activity in interpreting and applying the divine law was always based on the royal might of God in relation to Israel.
2. The exile was a political and a religious question of the day. The former might easily be confounded with the latter. Therefore in the chapter before us the history of the people is simply opened up, and the exile is exhibited to their conscience as the righteous result of their own conduct.
3. The experience which succeeded to Egypt was the wandering in the wilderness, where the people were purified. The exile which followed Canaan was designed by God to accomplish a similar result, only deeper and more essential in its character, as an ever-increasing corruption had fastened upon Israel’s inner being. If, therefore, the wilderness of Egypt was especially an external experience, and the testing came from without, the exile was to be more decidedly an internal exile—a wilderness of the peoples—to the people of God, in order to give them a felt experience of the “world,” and of “anguish” in the world.
4. Since the still existing kingdom of Judah, and the people as a whole, were to be upbraided with sin, the kingdom of Israel, which had already sunk into the condition of exile, supplied the most appropriate materials for colouring the accusation. It had from the beginning adopted the way of the heathen, and maintained it almost without interruption. Because it had become like the heathen, it at last fell completely under the dominion of the heathen. And thus there was at hand a course pursued up to the point of judgment, from which a demonstrative argument could be deduced.
5. Already, with their self-willed abandonment of the sanctuary at Jerusalem, but above all with their enforced removal from the Holy Land, the kingdom of Israel became the “Diaspora,” instar omnium, the “dispersed among the Gentiles,” and “scattered in the countries.”
6. That which the history of the people testifies regarding their conduct is stated in the ever-repeated refrain of our chapter: “and they rebelled against Me,” etc. (Ezekiel 20:8, 13, 21). God’s leading (the objective in opposition to the subjective conduct just mentioned) shows itself throughout, on the other hand, as law according to Ezekiel 20:37, i.e. as a judicial statement (Ezekiel 20:7), as a formal enunciation of law (Ezekiel 20:11 sq.), as a recapitulation of the law which had been given (Ezekiel 20:18 sq.). Therewith threatening is connected (Ezekiel 20:8, 13, 21, also 33 sq., 38). God’s threat strengthens itself to an oath (Ezekiel 20:15, 23, 31, 33), had even been fulfilled as punishment (Ezekiel 20:15, 23, 25 sq.), and still remains to be similarly fulfilled (Ezekiel 20:34 sq., 38). But the patience and long-suffering of God (Ezekiel 20:9 sq., 14, 22, 28), His mercy (Ezekiel 20:17), walk side by side with the law from the beginning to the end; and just as life was promised to the people in the law itself (vers.11 sq., 21), so mercy promises the ultimate purification of the people (Ezekiel 20:32, 35, 37, 38), so as to make them a sanctified “all” Israel, well-pleasing to God (Ezekiel 20:39 sq.). As Ewald expresses it: “In order to bring the redeemed to a proper recognition of their former great transgressions, and thus to confirm the other and still greater truth which lies in the ancient history, namely, that in the end, grace is still the deepest and the all-surviving element in Jehovah.”
7. “I am Jehovah, your God.”—On this the law is based, and this underlies the whole history of the people from the beginning to the end. (Ezekiel 20:5, 7, 9, 14, 19, 20, 22, 44.) The history of God’s people is the evolution of the name of Jehovah, the people of God being in regard to it after the flesh, what the Son of God was after the Spirit.
8. “Not the old race, adhering to idolatry, but a race spiritually new, devoted to Jehovah in profound love and dependence, was to leave Egypt” (HÄV.).
9. The divine discourse of the prophet does not draw its materials from tradition apart from the Pentateuch, as from very different standpoints has been assumed by a Vitringa and a Vatke, in order to explain what the prophet states as to the condition of Israel in Egypt. Criticism would fain show therein a conflict between Ezekiel and the Pentateuch. But the evident dependence of the prophetic statements on the Pentateuch is made prominent throughout, and here also in Ezekiel 20. We note, besides what has been brought out in our exegesis, that the spirit of the prophets knew how to read “between the lines” of the history, while criticism attempts, at the most, to import its own spirit into the Holy Scriptures.
10. For the theological understanding of the chapter, the emphatic reiteration of the expression “wilderness” is important. Neteler has entitled the passage: “The people in two wildernesses.” Hengst. and Häv. define the idea of the wilderness as “calamity, spiritual and bodily need.” As to the kernel of the matter, this, however, would be better: alone with God, when the judicial character of the leading of the people in question would not so distinctly refer to experiences of which the heathen peoples could be eye-witnesses.
11. “The precepts which God gave His people also imply, above all things, that they shall confess their sins, and seek forgiveness in the blood of atonement. This is required by the laws concerning the sin-offerings, which in the Mosaic law form the root of all the other offerings; the pass-over, which so strictly requires us to strive after the forgiveness of sins, and connects all salvation with it; the great day of atonement.” (HENGST.).
12. “The fundamental feature of life through sincere devotion to the law is holiness, and God, as the sanctifier of Israel, is therefore the law’s centre. This idea of the sanctification of the people through their God comes notably to the front in the Sabbath. It is the sign of God’s creative activity, as well as the expression of man’s relation to God: rest in God after life’s toil” (HÄV.). The life of man is therefore a divine one,—the life of God, just as the justifying righteousness which appeases the conscience and satisfies the law is also the righteousness of God. See Bähr’s Symbolism. (“From the expression: ‘and also My Sabbaths,’ they could learn that the commands as to works in which the man lives who does them were not given with the view of making them attempt to live by works, but that they might renounce their own righteousness after learning what kind of a righteousness is essential to life; and since God had declared that it was His will to sanctify them, that they might believe that He who cannot make void His own law (the reward of life is connected with the doing of the commandments, to show that an obedience of this sort is required in order to gain life) would provide an offering by which their conscience could be cleansed, and a priest through whose obedience they could be made righteous, so that they might keep God’s commands, hate and avoid all that is opposed to them, from a spirit of grateful love,” COCC.)
13. “Only those who truly fear God celebrate the Sabbath in a right sense, so that all that in the books of Moses attests the want of true godliness among the people in the wilderness involves at the same time the charge of desecrating the Sabbath” (HENGST.). “The Jews were careful to observe the Sabbath, but they missed its meaning and end” (CALV.), “for they perverted it to their corrupt, dead righteousness” (COCC.).
14. [The command as to the Jewish Sabbath “must have been, and it was, intended not only to separate the people from their worldly employments, but also to call out their hearts in suitable exercises of faith and love to God, and in brotherly acts of kindness and good-will toward those around them. On no other account could its faithful observance be represented as indicative of a sound and healthful state of religion generally. And we might ask, without the least fear of contradiction, if the same practical value is not attached to the careful observance of the Lord’s day now by those who have an enlightened regard to the interests of religion? When this day ceases to be devoutly observed, all experience and observation testify that there never fails to ensue a corresponding decline in the life and actings of religion.”—P. F.—W. F.]
15. “God has so constituted human nature, that revolt from Him must be followed by total darkness and disorder; that no moderation in error and sin, no standing still at the middle point, is possible; that man, however willing he may be to stand still, must, against his will, sink from step to step. Revolt from God is the crime, excess in error and moral degradation the merited doom, from which all would willingly escape if it were in their power” (HENGST.).
16. The temptation (Gen. 22), in which Abraham, as representing all his descendants, the people who were to settle down in the land in which he wandered as a stranger, was taught experimentally the difference between Jehovah and Moloch, did not influence them as it ought to have done—they surrendered their first-born to the bloody cultus of the land; Abraham’s temptation became Israel’s judgment.
17. That Israel should become like the heathen would be repugnant to the nature of God, especially to His name Jehovah. The very reverse would be much more in harmony with it, namely, that the heathen should become like Israel. For the idea informed in this people, and for which it was chosen out of all peoples, is the idea of the people of God, with God as King and Lord (the idea of the theocracy), whereby Israel is at the same time the bearer of the idea of humanity as a whole; and just as this idea, conformably to creation, is, to be of God (τοῦ θεοῦ, Luke 3:38), so is it realized through the restoration of man to God by redemption, whereby God becomes all in all (1 Cor. 15:28), and men become His willing subjects as He becomes their God (Rev. 21:3). Now, as the realization of this idea of Israel, and of humanity generally, takes place in the fulness of time in the One Man, who is both Israel and “the Son of Man,” so His historical appearance is linked, according to the flesh, to Israel (this is the meaning of the genealogies of Jesus); but according to the Spirit there is developed out of Him the new humanity, which He Himself is in Spirit and truth, and which it was the office of Israel to prefigure. The pouring out of the Spirit promised by Him, shows that Israel had not become heathen (unless in so far as the languages were concerned), but that the heathen had been incorporated in Israel, Acts 2. Only this can be the spiritual fulfilment of Ezekiel 20:40, according to the idea of the “all” Israel (כלה). Every other would apply to a privileged nationality, and therefore to the flesh. That for a long time after the dissolution of the kingdom of Israel, Judah gave the tone to the Old Testament people of God; that from the very first the theocratic elements of the kingdom of Israel were attracted to Judah (2 Chron. 11:13 sq.); that, like Benjamin, many from the other tribes returned with Judah from exile, so that it thereafter furnished a name for the whole people,—all that was a transient historical manifestation, as it was nothing more than that when the kingdom of Israel, on account of its size, its greater populalation, and in the consciousness of more fully representing the whole people, appropriated the name of the whole, and called itself Israel, under which name it was acknowledged by King Mesa on the recently discovered Moabitish stone. Ezekiel 20:40 sq. is undoubtedly Messianic, and in this sense apocalyptic. Klief., who includes in the idea of the Babylonish exile the present dispersion of the Jews, seeing in this the real wilderness of the peoples, makes Ezekiel 20:40–44 prophesy the gathering of the Jews, their conversion to Christ, and their return as a Christian people to their own land, and holds that God, after the θλῖψις μεγάλη of the and (Rev. 12.) shall have intervened, will separate this believing Israel, together with all other believers, from the wicked, and openly establish them in the life everlasting.
18. “The heathen stood under the divine long-suffering (Rom. 3:25); not so Israel, to whom God had so gloriously made Himself known. Wherein the heathen prosper, therein must Israel decline” (HENGST.).
19. Cocceius remarks on our chapter, that, “when the Jews had returned from Babylon under Zerubbabel and Ezra, along with those who adhered to them from all the tribes, they formed a unity, possessed a temple at Jerusalem, and became a single people under the same presidency. Thus matters continued under the rule of the Persians and also of the Greeks. But God freed them from all foreign authority, so that He alone was their King, and made them greater than in the days of their fathers, and the Asmonæaus ventured to assume the royal diadem,” etc.
20. Calvin’s prelections on Ezekiel end with the twentieth chapter, as to which Schipper says: “After he had completed this last prelection, that distinguished man Dr. John Calvin, who was previously ailing, began to feel himself much worse, which is the reason that he left off at the end of the twentieth chapter, and never finished the work so well begun.”
Ezekiel 20:1. “Here we see that the people of God, even in exile, did not repair to magi, star-gazers, enchanters, and such like, but to the prophet, Deut. 30:12 sq.” (C.)—“The fifth month is our month July. Thus the Spirit of God notes day and date” (STCK.).—It is enough to say merely that they came to inquire, for from the prophet’s mode of answering them we see that they made no inquiry as to deliverance and the way of salvation; they were troubled as to political things, the duration of the exile, the end of the Babylonish power, the issue of Zedekiah’s faithlessness. We too ask, Watchman, what of the night? rather than, How shall I find grace?—Why are we so concerned about the future? It will be like our past. We should be deeply concerned on account of the past.—“In our approaches to God, humility and reverence should be combined with a strong and assured faith, which must acquiesce in the authority of the one God, and yet must not object to hear God speak through His servants” (C.).—Summon thyself to the study of the prophets and apostles through whom God has spoken!—God will be inquired of, but still more should His will, which is sufficiently known to us, be done.—“To call on God, and yet not to obey Him, is an abomination in His sight. He heareth not sinners, John 9:31; Isa. 1:15” (TÜB. BIB.).
Ezekiel 20:2 sq. God’s suggestive silence, and His more suggestive answer.—God in the mouth, and idols in the heart, a most critical condition.—God speaks not the smallest word of comfort to hypocrites. “For hypocrites there is in the heart of God, and in the Holy Scriptures, no other counsel but to sincere repentance, Isa. 55:7” (ST.).—“Thus they were not in a condition to hear God’s word. God hides Himself from those who hear His word with their gaze fixed only on their idols. They have no part in God’s word” (COCC.).
Ezekiel 20:4. That is an upbraiding grounded on their ancestral sin, which therefore (Ezekiel 18) cannot be denied.—One should not merely touch (Ezekiel 20) ulcers, after the manner of the moral preacher, but cut them out according to the law of God. The former tickles, the latter causes pain. Here God impels to judge, and in the new covenant the word is always, Judge not! But the Son of God Himself, who yet was not sent into the world for judgment, becomes to the unbelieving a self-judgment. Here Ezekiel sets in motion God’s, and not man’s, judgment.—Fathers are judged in their sons, but sons may also be judged in their fathers.
Ezekiel 20:5 sq. Three witnesses against Israel,—Egypt, the wilderness, Canaan.—“God anticipates men with His grace” (O.).—God’s election in relation to merit and demerit; not resting on the one, nor hindered by the other.—Circumcision was the sign of the election. The substance consisted in God’s willingness to be their God. The result of Israel’s election was the whole leading of the people; the choosing of a people for the preparation of humanity to be a praise to God’s glorious name,—an Israel out of all peoples.—“By no act of God’s good-will do we acquire desert, but by each we come under obligation” (STCK.).—If God is to be anything to a man, He must give him an experimental knowledge of Himself. The first experience of God is the recognition of His revelation in the word: the various experiences of His requiring, chastising, forgiving love, follow.—“Oh how many are the ways in which God makes Himself known to men as a gracious God! Acts 17:27, 28” (ST.).—“God lifts up His hand to swear; one day His hand will execute what He has sworn, the threatening as well as the promise” (C.).—“We call God our God by faith” (STCK.).—“The time when faith in Christ is bestowed on us, and we as it were hear the assurance, I, the Lord, am your God, is the day of our election. He who is assured of his election by God is sufficiently armed against flesh and blood. There is no other way of throwing off the abominations of sin, but by being assured of the love of God. Through faith alone is the heart cleansed from idols” (H. H.).
Ezekiel 20:6, 7. Men are chosen of God not to uncleanness, but to redemption from sin and the power of the devil.—“God must be our God, else we make a god of ourselves, or serve the devil as God” (C.).—“God is indeed the God of all men; but by promise, covenant, and grace, He becomes our God, that our faith may embrace Him as such” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 20:6. “God is ever mindful of His promise, but we forget it” (STCK.).—“Once an ornament, now a desert” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 20:7. The idolatry of the eyes. We never merely contract guilt by sinning, we pollute ourselves at the same time; just as, on the other hand, forgiveness and sanctification always go together.
Ezekiel 20:8. “In Ex. 5:21 only their repute in the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants is in question. Had they believed in the name of Jehovah, they would have rendered a better obedience. But they were infected with the Egyptian idolatrous spirit, as all of us are naturally inclined to idolatry, and they were anxious to stand well with the Egyptians” (C.).—“A worse yoke for Israel than that of the Egyptians was the yoke of their idols” (COCC.).—Note the increased oppression, and in the end the persecution of Israel by the Egyptians, as a sign of God’s anger.
Ezekiel 20:9. “God’s honour and the welfare of the Church are bound together” (C.).—With God, word and deed, promise and fulfilment agree, Num. 23:19.—The holiness of God’s name our safety.
Ezekiel 20:11. The law is designed for life, not only according to its idea as the revealed will of God, so that he who should keep it would live a divine life, but also in reality, for in him who is led by the law to the knowledge of sin and conversion unto God, it does not tend to death, but rather to life, as our conversion is God’s will, and results in life; the law is therefore the will of God, and the medium of its fulfilment.—“He makes mention of the promise along with the law, where He might justly have made mention of the law alone; this shows His fatherly love” (C).
Ezekiel 20:12. The Sabbath pointed directly to the life which the law promises, to the rest of God, that man should be in God, and that God desires to be in man. It pointed beyond the works of the law, as such, to the rest of faith which is in Christ.—“But we rest from our works, when, self being dead, we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God; thus the Sabbath when rightly observed involves the death of self” (C.).—The Sabbath the key of the whole law, according to its highest intention.—The lighting up of the Mosaic law by the ante-Mosaic Sabbath.
Ezekiel 20:13 sq. Idleness and good cheer are neither Sabbath-sanctification nor Sunday-observance.—“Let it be observed that the disobedience happened in the wilderness, where they were wholly dependent on God every moment! Usually men revolt from God in the arrogance of prosperity; here it happened when Israel had death before their eyes” (C.).—“What will become of those who in Christian times spend their Sabbaths in drinking, amusement, and such like!?” (B. B.)
Ezekiel 20:15. “It depends on the will of every one what position he will take towards God; but he must be prepared for this, that his act will be attended by a corresponding divine act” (HENGST.).
Ezekiel 20:17. The lifted-up hand and the compassionate eye of God.
Ezekiel 20:18. “The one standard of our whole life should be, not human opinion and ancient custom, but the word of God, Ps. 119:105” (ST.).—“Godlessness has such authority that it is respected as a law. For the devil and the world have also their statutes and ordinances, which are more accounted of than God’s command” (B. B.).—“If the Church is to be truly reformed, a beginning must be made with the youth” (ST.).
Ezekiel 20:23. The threatening with exile a set-off to the wilderness.—The scattering threatened amid outward gathering, and carried out to the inward gathering of the people.—How fruitlesslove, suffering, and everything else may be!
Ezekiel 20:25. He who makes himself like the world is punished by God through the world.—“The true doctrine of God is peace, joy, and life in the Holy Ghost. Man’s doctrine is nothing but unrest, pain of heart, and death. For it gives the consciences of men neither rest nor peace, although they do great things, making even their loved children pass through the fire,” etc. (RANDGL.)—“That which brings evil on them, and is fraught with death and ruin, has nevertheless the greatest attraction for men” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 20:26. To be forsaken of God means to be compelled to recognise, in the state of desolation into which one falls, who God is, and what He is.—He who will not present his offerings to God must present them to the devil.—Religious desolation is a judgment from God.
Ezekiel 20:27 sq. A self-invented religious worship pretends to be something lofty, and yet it casts down the glory of God, and exalts man’s unreason only.—In departing from God, one never rests with the first, nor yet with the second step, but step follows step. To combine God and idols in one’s religion is blasphemy.—Faithlessness to the word of God in our worship.—Mockery of God in many an act of adoration.
Ezekiel 20:28. Even Canaan may become a place of corruption, if we there seek high places, and if God is not to us the highest and the only high place.—“If one will present to God a sweet savour, one must offer up to Him heart, soul, and spirit, feeling and desires, otherwise prayer is offensive to Him” (B. B.).—Let one neither add to nor take from the word of God, and thus avoid lighting on dubious high places!
Ezekiel 20:29. The irony of all our high places.—God’s laughter on hearing His enemies without, and perceiving their earnest proceedings. Not on the heights of human philosophy, but in the high and holy place dwells the Lord, who abides with him who is humble and of a contrite spirit (Isa. 57:15).
Ezekiel 20:30 sq. Why does God hide Himself from us when we profess to seek truth? Because the truth which we seek is only an idol-picture. God reveals not Himself to those who serve idols.—Idolatry gradually obscures man’s natural knowledge of God.—“How powerfully men are influenced by bad examples! how easily the sensuous pomp of false religions stirs them! How soon the heart is carried captive by the outward, forgetting the true, inward worship of God!” (ST.)
Ezekiel 20:32. “The world of the heathen was to them an object of greater interest than the exiled Church, just as in our days also many regard an irreligious condition as preferable to the struggles of a religious life. To others, God’s sincere solicitude for His house appears as hardness and severity, and therefore they prefer freer relations with less control. Thus Israel thought of its redemption when among the heathen” (C.).—Let us leave the heathen to their heathenism, and not only that, but let us ourselves become like the heathen, has all been already desired, said, and carried out in action. Our modern method is no new wisdom.—Dreadful as it sounds, a child of God can be reduced to the melancholy condition of exclaiming, Oh that I had never known God!—“The despair of the Jews was their unbelief,—that they did not believe that Christ would arise from among them” (COCC.).
Ezekiel 20:33–35. God will not withdraw from His obligations. He watches over us, and leads us out of the world when He leads us into it, i.e. gives us an inner experience of it, that it may be known if we will still be as the heathen.—“God withdraws the sinner from the opportunity of sinning” (STCK.).—“Oh how good it is for men when God compels them to obedience, and brings them by means of affliction when they will not come of their own accord!” (B. B.)—“To bring the Jews under His own authority, God must needs gather them out of the peoples, as they were there scattered in exile. This He did, not without anger, as the house of his master seems to a recaptured slave like a sepulchre because he is either thrust into a deep dungeon or there is required of him threefold more than he can bear. And so, after they were brought back from Chaldea, they lived a lonely life as if they were in a corner of the earth, or in a desert in the midst of the peoples; and the great majority wandered about virtually in the wilderness, as only a small proportion returned to the fatherland. He led them forth as King, He ceased not to reveal Himself to them as Judge. Then He showed His wrath to them” (C.).—“The wilderness of the peoples was their incorporation with the Roman Empire,—a wilderness in contrast to the vanished Canaan-glory under the Maccabees. In this wilderness, Canaan now lay” (COCC.).—“Among great crowds one may feel oneself lonely and desolate, as, on the other hand, one may feel in waste places as if he were in a circle of friends” (L.).—“Face to face indicates confidential discourse, for God can come nearer the heart in the wilderness, Hos. 2:14”(B. B.).—As to the “contending,” read also the books of Nehemiah and Ezra
Ezekiel 20:36. “Ancient examples of chastisement are not written in vain” (ST.).—The wilderness a type and picture of the exile.—Egypt and Babylon in their significance for the people of God.—Ps. 82:1.—Rev. 11:8, 17:3.
Ezekiel 20:37. “Points to Christ, John 10:14. He came for the sake of the sheep of the house of Israel, but they only are Israel whom Christ reckons so, touching them with the point of His staff and numbering them” (COCC.).—Jehovah, who spoke to Israel face to face through Moses on Mount Sinai (Deut. 5:4), who appeared to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1) in the form of man, would plead with them in the flesh when He came to the lost sheep in the wilderness of the land of Judah (Matt. 3), where the Baptist had prepared His way. Comp. Isa. 52:8.—“They may have thought in the state of exile, that they would become free and uncontrolled, if they could obliterate from their souls the name of Jehovah; but He, on the other hand, is mindful of that which is His own, that not even one should be snatched from Him, since He claims authority over all without exception” (C.).—“His covenant stands, His love is for ever.” God had left the heathen to go on in their own way, Israel’s way was always brought back again to the covenant.—Still Christ asks that His yoke be taken, Matt. 11:29.—“For the docile, who patiently bear the yoke, the bands are cords of love, Hos. 11:4” (SCHM.).
Ezekiel 20:38. Transgressors stand not in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, Ps. 1.—This purifying process with Israel foreshadowed the still severer process which was to succeed, when Christ appeared and the gospel was preached. This purification was the sanctification of the Church from among the Jews.—Israel so-called did not inherit the land, which is promised only to the meek (Matt. 5:5), who learn of the Meek One (Matt. 11:29).
Ezekiel 20:39. Decision; to this all God’s leadings point.—However many run after idols, God has still a people. “Thus God gives them up to a perverted mind” (B. B.).—In the end, all tongues, even involuntarily, must hallow His name.—“Go! is sounded out by God’s voice, as the condemned shall one day hear” (ST.).
Ezekiel 20:40 sq. “When a renewing of the gracious covenant is in question, God first sifts His Church, and casts out the hypocrites. This needs no external force” (SCHM.).—The spiritual worship of the New Testament can be well described in the phraseology of the Old Testament worship, by which it was symbolized and prefigured. We still speak of the heavenly “Jerusalem.”—There is high place and high place. Here the high mountain of Israel; in Ezekiel 20:28 sq. the high places on the mountains of Canaan.
Ezekiel 20:41. In Christ we are made acceptable to God.
Ezekiel 20:43. “When believers are admitted to the grace of God, and lovingly treated by Him, they remember their transgressions with shame, and perceive for the first time their real greatness and enormity. After his conversion, Paul regarded himself as one born out of due season, as the least of the apostles, because he had persecuted the Church of God. This remembrance gives birth to the song of grateful praise, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Thus our sins exalt the glory of God. Comp. Deut. 8, 9. Hence it follows that Christian life is a perpetual repentance, from which the life of grace received from God shines forth” (H. H.).
Ezekiel 20:44. Not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy holy name be praise and glory!—“All salvation is founded on God’s grace and the forgiveness of sins, but not without repentance” (SCHM.).
And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me.