Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.
Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place.II. THE FIRST EXECUTION OF THE DIVINE COMMISSION.—EZEKIEL 3:12–7:27
1. THE INSTALLATION AND INSTRUCTIONS (EZEKIEL 3:12–27)
12And the spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a sound of a great 13tumultuous noise: Praised be the glory of Jehovah from His place. And [I heard] the noise of the wings of the living creatures striking one upon another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great tumultuous 14noise. And the spirit lifted me up, and took me, and I went bitterly, in the 15heat of my spirit, and [but] the hand of Jehovah was strong upon me. And I came to the captivity at Tel-abib, who dwelt by the river Chebar, and where they were sitting, there I also sat stunned [starr] in their midst seven days. 16And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 17Son of man, I have given thee as a watchman to the house of Israel; 18and thou hearest a word at my mouth, and thou warnest them from me. If I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou warnest him not, and speakest not to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life,—he, the wicked, shall die in [because of] his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine 19hand. But if thou dost warn the wicked, and he doth not turn from his wickedness and from his wicked way, he shall die in [because of] his iniquity; 20but thou hast delivered thy soul. And if the righteous doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I give a stumbling-block before him, he shall die, for thou didst not warn him; in his sin he shall die, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will 21I require at thine hand. But if thou dost warn him as a righteous man, not to sin as being righteous, and he sinneth not, he shall surely live, because he is warned; and thou hast delivered thy soul. 22And the hand of Jehovah came upon me there, and He said unto me, Arise, go forth to the valley, and there will 23I speak with thee. And I arose, and went forth to the valley: and, behold, the glory of Jehovah standing there, as the glory which I saw by the river Chebar: 24and I fell upon my face. And the spirit came into me, and set me upon my feet, and He spake with me, and said unto me: Go, shut thyself within thine 25house. And thou, son of man, behold, they give [lay] bands upon thee, and bind 26thee in them, and thou shalt not go out among them. And thy tongue will I make to cleave to the roof of thy mouth, and thou art dumb, and thou shalt not be to them a man that reproveth; for they are a house of rebelliousness. 27But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou sayest unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a house of rebelliousness.
Ezekiel 3:13. Sept.: K. εἰδον φωνην—
Ezekiel 3:14. K. το πνευμα χυριου ἐξηρεν με—
Ezekiel 3:15.…εἰζ τ αἰχμαλωσιαν μετεωρος, κ.. περιηλθον τ. κατοικουντας … τ. ὀντας ἐκει, κ.. ἐκαθισα ἐκει—(some MSS. and Syr. omit ואשר המה׳ שם).
Ezekiel 3:19. Another reading: הוא רשע בעונו. Sept. and Arab. have read הרשע for the omitted הרשעה which precedes.
Ezekiel 3:25.…δησουσιν σε ἐν αὐτοις, κ. συ μη ἐξελθης ἐξ αὐτων.
Ezekiel 3:12–15. After the Installation of Ezekiel in his Sphere of Labour by means of the Commission in Word, there follows now the Installation in actual Fact.
Ezekiel 3:12. רוח cannot possibly be anything else here than it has always been hitherto. Both Keil and Klief. unnecessarily bring in “a wind,” which, however, according to Keil, carried the prophet through the air not in body, but in spirit, Ezekiel 8:3, 11:1, 24. But here, also, just as in Ezekiel 3:14, there is no reference to being carried through the air. The lifting up by the spirit corresponds entirely to the raising up in Ezekiel 2:2. Only what was there raising up from the earth, in order to stand and hear, is here rather (and that also because of the higher situation of Tel-abib) lifting up from the place of hearing, in order to go and speak; and at the same time, Ezekiel hears immediately behind him קול רעש גדול, by which is signified to him the marching forth of the divine glory, with which movement of the same, his installation in actual fact commences in highest fashion. His mission, shadowed forth by the character of the vision of glory, begins in this way to be realized in actual fact. Thus, and the spirit lifted me up is connected with and I heard, etc., and what Ezekiel hears with his actual introduction to his sphere of labour. As the spirit qualified him (Ezekiel 2:2) to hear Him that spake to him, so the spirit moves, lifts him up to do what he is told (Ezekiel 3:11). Comp. besides, 1 Kings 18:12, 46; Matt. 4:1; Acts 8:39. The lifting up quite harmonizes with this influence of the spirit, just as it entirely corresponds with the character of the vision (Ezekiel 3:24, 25) in the midst of which it occurs. And because the prophet is moved to betake himself to his fellow-countrymen, he also hears what he hears behind him.—The great tumultuous noise (Ezekiel 3:13, Ezekiel 37:7; Isa. 9:5; Jer. 10:22) takes an articulate form, first of all, as praise of the glory of Jehovah, whereby our view (given at p. 39) of something super-terrestrial, heavenly, in the chajoth is only confirmed. It is not said who gave utterance to this praise; and nothing in the context, at least, compels us to think of heavenly spirits. Thus there remain in fact for it only the chajoth; and for this we may compare not merely Rev. 4:8 sqq., but even Isa. 6:3.—From His place, no matter whether we refer it to Jehovah or His בבוד, denotes very suitably, what Keil denies, not indeed so much as: who now leaves His place (HENGST.), nor what is said in Ezekiel 9:3, still less the temple (HÄV.), which is not at all the subject in hand, but perhaps, that from the place where Jehovah’s glory has manifested itself to the prophet, and just as it manifested itself, its praise must and will go forth, and that immediately, over Israel (first), and into the whole world, and among all mankind (Mic. 1:3). Hence, also, as respects Ezekiel’s doings and labours, how remarkably in this way the praise of the divine glory introduces him to his sphere of action! ממקומו is certainly too far off from ואשמע, to which Keil wishes to refer it! Philippson refers ממקומו to “the creation embraced in the vision: Praised be, etc., from the place where it is borne along, where it tarries” (Isa. 13:13).
Ezekiel 3:13: comp. Ezekiel 1:24, 9, 11, 23, 15, 20, 21. This was in a manner the musical accompaniment of the laudation expressed above in words. וקול dependent on ואשמע in Ezekiel 3:12.—נשק, to arrange, to join together. Hiphil: to strike on one another.—It ends, as it began, in the great tumultuous noise. (“The life of the creatures is the boundless sphere of the praise of the Creator of heaven and earth [Ps. 148]. This is the fugue notes of the sublimest music, which makes the universe, itself ring. Finely and beautifully for the melodious harmony, we have the happy expression, that the wings kiss one another: fearful as is the sound of the striking of wings, and of the wheel-work of creation, yet there is unison and love in it; at last comes the soft, gentle whisper, as in the case of Elijah!”—UMBREIT.)
Ezekiel 3:14 (Ezekiel 11:24) as at Ezekiel 3:12; the ecstatic lifting up is designated as a being laid hold of, a being taken (לקח). Nothing in the context points to “taking away” (J. H. MICH.); on the contrary, he went (ואלך), as he had been commanded in Ezekiel 3:1, 4, 11. Now, therefore, a corporeal movement of the prophet in space took place, but not by means of wind through the air (JER., KLIEF.). The vision, as to the matter of it, is at an end with (Ezekiel 3:12, 13) the laudation and great tumultuous noise (comp. Gen. 17:22); Keil unnecessarily adopts the view that it ends only with Ezekiel 3:21. Personally, as respects the person of Ezekiel, the vision ends when he is ecstatically lifted up and laid hold of by the spirit, and not by wind, inasmuch as the power of the spirit put an end to all lingering and loitering in him, and prepared him, so that he betook himself to the quarter that was necessary, as was also expressly indicated to him by the departure of the divine glory. And with this the following description necessarily corresponds. Bitterly, in the heat of my spirit—thus he describes what is in his spirit, when he goes now on his own feet, after the spirit lifted him up and laid hold of him, so that he could neither stand still, nor move off in any other direction. The subjectivity of the prophet comes into the foreground (so already Calvin has it). The taste that was so sweet before (Ezekiel 3:3) is followed (as in Rev. 10:9, 10) by a bitter after-taste; the joyousness which Ezekiel felt during the vision, gives place, when the vision ends, to bitterness (Matt. 26:41). This bitterness expresses the special feeling of the prophet, while the heat designates the general character of his mental state.בחמת רוחי, reflecting the fiery style of the vision he has had, shows Ezekiel’s spirit raised to glowing heat by the wrath of God, by the unavoidable judgment on Israel which he has to announce. In so far there is as yet no difference which would have to be got rid of or repressed; the difference respects not so much the relation to God, as the relation to Israel. It is in this direction that the interpretation of מר is to be sought (have the LXX. read רם?), and that simply as an expression for the pain which the prophet specially feels when he goes to his people. That is the human element of bitterness in his divine wrath. Distress and sorrow undoubtedly say too little,—HITZIG: “because the days of cheerful, sportive innocence are now over for him” (!)—but neither is it the “bitterness of fiery wrath because of the hardening of Israel, because of his commission with no prospect of success” (KEIL); and just as little have we to think, with Hengsten., of “holy irritation.” In Ezekiel’s spirit there is the wrath of God (Jer. 15:17); but love to his people feels it bitter,—feels bitter pain. Hence: the hand of Jehovah was strong upon me (חזקה, according to the ingenious remark of Hitzig, different from בבד in Ps. 32:4), where we must not compare either Ezekiel 1:3 or Isa. 8:11, but equivalent to: God strengthened him, as the Jewish expositors render it, with an allusion to the name Ezekiel. וְ may be the simple and, not “since” (EWALD), nor as Hengst., who derives the indignation and heat of spirit from the powerful divine influence in him.
Ezekiel 3:15. The bitterness of the pain, and the glow of the wrath, and the strengthening of the Almighty, obtain a corresponding plastic expression in the behaviour of the prophet, as soon as he finds himself in the midst of his fellow-exiles.—תל אביב, the dwelling-place of Ezekiel, probably “hill of corn-ears,” so called from the elevated situation and richness in grain of this colonial settlement; for other combinations with Tel in Babylon, see GESEN. Lex., ROSENM.; comp. besides, Introd. pp. 7, 8. Jerome gives a symbolical meaning to the name of the place. The LXX. appear to have thought of a form תָּלַל and סָבַב. (The Kethib ואשר has given rise to many far-fetched interpretations. Even a second river has been made of it. The Qeri reads וָאֵשֵׁב, that he has not only come hither, but also remained [!], not to speak of other explanations. It is simply to be read וַאֲשֶׁר, and to be connected with שָׁם: and where.) Seven days—not because the week is the unity that most readily suggests itself for a plurality of days (HITZ.), nor as a standard period for cleansing, consecration, preparation for holy service (KEIL), but, if this number shadows forth anything, then, according to its leading symbolical signification (BÄHR, Symb. i. pp. 187 sqq., 193 sqq.), the covenant relation of God to Israel, by which the wrath as well as the pain of the prophet might be excited. Comp. Job 2:13; Gen. 50:10; 1 Sam. 31:13 (Ps. 137:1).—משמים partic. Hiph. HITZ.: sunk in fixed silence; KEIL: motionless and still. Comp. Ezra 9:3, 4. (HENGST.: in a state of horror. But how is this conceivable during the whole seven days?)—Häv. finds in the text two classes of exiles: those who had recently settled near the Chaboras, and the old inhabitants of former times belonging to the kingdom of the ten tribes still dwelling there. Comp. Introd. pp. 7, 8.
Ezekiel 3:16–27. To the Installation of Ezekiel in actual Fact there is appended an Admonition of a more general Character (Ezekiel 3:16–21), and a special One having reference to his Sphere of Labour (Ezekiel 3:22–27).
Ezekiel 3:16. The admonition after the installation comes to Ezekiel in a new revelation. (In the usual Hebrew text we find between ימים and ויהי דבר־ the sign Pisca: פסקא באמצע פסוק, i. e. a pause in the middle of the verse.)
Ezekiel 3:17. There is first an admonition of a more general character, but less, as Hitz. supposes, with respect to the relation between the revelation and him, that he is to speak only when he receives a revelation, than as to how he is to look upon himself in reference to his sphere of labour; for the latter reference is that which predominates in what follows. צֹפֶה partic., not subst., from צפה, “to draw round,” to draw over, to cover, to take care of, hence: “to keep one’s eyes on anything,”—the seer, the look-out, who from his watch-tower, which, in the case of the prophet, is the divine standpoint, turns to account the revelations which are made to him for the weal and woe of the people entrusted to his care as a watchman. Comp. 1 Sam. 14:16; 2 Sam. 13:34, 18:24; Jer. 6:17; Hab. 2:1; Isa. 56:10; Ezek. 33:1 sqq.—With the judicial character which predominates in the mission of Ezekiel, the word from My mouth is not revelation in general, but announcement, hint, command, sentence in connection with the threatening judgment of God, with a view thereto, and determined thereby; and, therefore, זהר in Hiph. not: to enlighten in the sense of to teach (Heb. 13:17), but in the sense of to caution, to warn. ממני is explained in accordance with the preceding ממי. HÄV.: “partly in compliance with definite divine instructions received, partly with continual appeal and reference thereto.”
Ezekiel 3:18. The רשע, like the צדיק in what follows, is not so much a rhetorical personification of the species (HENGST.), and that of the people on the one hand, of the little flock on the other, but a characteristic individualization, for this preliminary period of the New Covenant; already the individuals are separating themselves from Israel as a national whole according to their individual qualification, i.e. as they exhibit themselves in their procedure towards the divine judgment on Israel, and the public preaching takes the shape of the special care of souls; and in this way the national mission of the prophetic order, on the one hand, enters more deeply into its spiritual significance, and, on the other hand, brings into prominence its general human side.—If I say unto the wicked, in accordance with Ezekiel 3:17: “thou hearest a word at my mouth,” equivalent to: when thou hearest what I say unto the wicked, that I announce unto him inevitable ruin in the impending judgment (Luke 10:16; 1 Thess. 4:8).—מות תמות, the original threatening on the transgressor of the divine word (Gen. 2:17) is nothing new, unheard of, is only applied here (Gen. 20:7) to the individual. In order to make his duty quite clear to the prophet, to free it from every objection, whether springing from his own heart, or coming from his fellow-men, or from surrounding circumstances, to fix it for all cases, and thus to enforce it very strongly, the simple and thou warnest him not is expanded still farther into what follows, and speakest not to warn, etc., implying at the same time repetition and urgency. Although the nation as a whole is lost (Ezekiel 3:7), the return of the individual is nevertheless, nay, so much the more, to be sought (Acts 20:31; 2 Tim. 4:2). The substance of such warning: “of” and “from his way;” it is consequently not the judgment of God, this way of God with Israel, for this may issue in life, inasmuch as it awakens to return, to repentance, but it is his own way and will, the life of self-will on the part of the רשע, which, in accordance with God’s righteousness, is changed into death, just as it is in its root a dying, because departure from God, from the divine way, pointed out in the law. There lies at the root of רשע (if not, as contrasted with צדק, the meaning of what is crooked, awry—HUPF. on Ps. 1:1—and thus deviation from the straight, right way, yet at least) apostasy from God (Ps. 18:22 ). He is one who, according to the divine law, the rule for Israel as a nation, appears unrighteous, here as everywhere the opposite of צדיק—הָרְ .שָׁעָה, which the LXX. in Ezekiel 3:19 also have passed over, refers to דרבו (like א̇רַח), construed as feminine, perhaps in order to emphasize the significance of the figurative expression.—לחיתו, the object of the warning, perhaps at the same time: to bring him to life again (Ps. 30:4 ; Hos. 6:2; Eph. 2:5).—עון, properly: what is not straight, perverted in consequence of deviating from the straight, right way, hence: unrighteousness, and also: iniquity. In his perversity the unrighteous man necessarily brings upon himself death as a consequence; there is an עון קץ, as it is expressed in Ezekiel 21:30 [E. V. 25].—The close of the verse likewise contains an allusion to a passage in Genesis, Gen. 9:5 (42:22), only with this difference, that בקש stands instead of דרש, which latter Ges. explains as: to go after any one, thus of a more active reclamation, while בקש means more a looking after, a seeking with the eyes. It is the life, which is in the blood, of those in Israel which is entrusted to the prophet as a watchman. For this Jehovah, the Supreme Proprietor, demands a reckoning. The prophet who forgets his duty, which he owes to the unrighteous in God’s stead, becomes a man-slaughterer, a murderer of that man, and is regarded as such by God.
Ezekiel 3:19. What the way of deliverance is for the unrighteous man, is shown, viz. return, alike inwardly (wickedness) and outwardly. The deliverance of soul, as regards the prophet (here נפש, formerly דם Gen. 9:4), is preservation from the divine avenging of blood.
Ezekiel 3:20. Antithetic parallelism of this and the following verse with the two preceding. Hengst., holding fast by the people in his interpretation, denies the personal contrast in צדיק; they are, according to him, designated as wicked at present, as righteous with reference to their destiny and better past. The description of the righteous man does not certainly rise above a certain outward legality and isolated righteousnesses. Ezekiel 3:18: באמרי, here באוב.—His righteousness is that attained by him as regards the law of Israel, the national-legal righteousness; hence, also, departure therefrom is quite conceivable as “committing wickedness (iniquity);” and, for the decision of the matter, the stumbling-block is given by God; i. e., to such a righteous man (comp. however, Prov. 4:11, 12, 15:19) the exile, or the state of matters in Jerusalem, becomes a temptation from God, in so far as, for the purpose of deciding the condition of the man, such like outward circumstances are arranged by Him, but not: a stumbling-block “on which he may die” (EW.); for הוא ימות begins the apodosis, just as in Ezekiel 3:18 הוא רשע, he shall die,—so it is decided as to the apostate righteous man, who has become like the wicked (Ezekiel 18:24), and therefore must appear still worse than he; just as the stumbling-block to be given by God brings him also in actual fact to utter ruin. The parallel, however, with Ezekiel 3:18 necessarily implies neglect in warning on the part of the prophet; and as such omission is presupposed, so also the death of this “righteous” man, his ruin in the Chaldean divine judgment, must be expressly (בי) referred to the prophet, and, consequently, the possibility of another result be presupposed. How the case will be in reality with this man, who is worse than the רשע, is shown by the statement: in his sin he shall die, which points, not to a false step arising from mere weakness, ignorance, but to wickedness become a habit. The individualizing description of our verse (as already in Ezekiel 3:19) gives additional proof of the fearful corruption of Israel as a whole, which was disclosed in what precedes (Ezekiel 2:3). His righteousnesses mean, according to Hengst., “the good works of pious ancestors, Ps. 132:1” (!). They are the legal deeds of the “righteous man,” or collectively: what he has done in accordance with the law, works without reference to the state of the heart. [Rosenm. reads צִדְקָתוֹ as a collective singular with the plural of the verb תִּזָּכַרְוָ.] Comp. besides, on Ezekiel 3:18.
Ezekiel 3:21. ואתה בי as in Ezekiel 3:19; but the issue of the case is exactly the opposite: there warning without return, here warning which attains its object. After the three dark pictures which precede, this is drawn in colours so much the brighter. It is the righteous man as he ought to be: and hence also the emphatic mode of expression. Comp. besides, 1 John 3:8, 9, 2:1, 3:6.—בי as in Ezekiel 3:20. Comp. besides, on Ezekiel 3:19.
In Ezekiel 3:22–27 there follows a quite special instruction for Ezekiel as to his sphere of labour, which is introduced by a special demand in Ezekiel 3:22. Comp. Ezekiel 1:3. It is at Tel-abib, also, that this divine revelation is made to the prophet. Hengst. consistently asserts that there is no actual change of place, that Ezekiel’s betaking himself to the valley, like his presence at the Chebar, takes place in the inner region of the spirit (!).—The valley, as distinguished from the height on which Tel-abib was situate, is not exactly the plain extending to the river—not הַשָׂדֶה, but הבקעה, a certain valley between the mountain-walls there. It is not so much the solitude (HENGST.) as the subsequent renewal of the earlier vision of glory which leads to the choice of this locality. (2 Cor. 6:17; Ps. 45:10, 11; comp. Ezek. 37:1, 2.)
Ezekiel 3:23; comp. Ezekiel 1:28. The vision begins with: and, behold. עמד indicated to him the standing background and protection for his labours, or the Judge before the door!
Ezekiel 3:24; comp. Ezekiel 2:2. Hitzig’s conjecture seems a correct one, that this definite ordering of the prophet into the house is connected with the preceding summons to go forth; it appears at least so much the more visible,—which is certainly of importance, if the prophet was, in the first place, to preach to the eye merely of his countrymen. If his procedure in Ezekiel 3:15 was a sermon, this shutting of himself up within his house is, primarily, nothing else,—an action, a condition of Ezekiel’s, meant for a sermon; just as in his case, more readily than in that of any of the other prophets, the inward becomes outward, and the outward is inward. His isolation from the midst of his countrymen in the valley for God is now followed by his isolation among them within his own house; the former a momentary one, the latter of a more enduring character. This latter symbolical sermon is further defined as a non in publicum prodire (Ezekiel 3:25), and more exactly as a silence on the part of the voice calling to repentance (Ezekiel 3:26). Those who are so very eager after what is visible are accordingly directed, first of all, to look at what the prophet will do (Ezekiel 12:6, 11). That would necessarily excite attention, and curiosity would necessarily, with ever growing intensity, desire to have it explained, what Ezekiel’s acting has in view, what it means. This is certainly the primary reason why the prophet is not only summoned away by God (Ezekiel 3:22 sqq.) from the midst of his countrymen, but also receives the command to shut himself up in his house in their midst. The shutting himself up in his house is therefore, of course, symbolic, although, at the same time, it explains to us the way in which Ezekiel 4 and 5 are to be understood, viz. as domestic occurrences. It has been regarded as a picture of the future of Ezekiel’s own prophetic destiny (HÄV.), and also as a picture of Jerusalem under investment (EPHRAEM SYRUS, JER.), inasmuch as it was falsely assumed that there was a connection with what follows immediately, or at a later stage. (RASCHI: that thou mayest show them that they are unworthy of admonition. GROT.: in order to await the suitable time for speaking.) Moreover, this house of the prophet is the innocent cause of all the “leisure of domestic life,” amid which, according to Ewald, Ezekiel was almost exclusively occupied in literary pursuits.
Ezekiel 3:25. The shutting himself up in his house is not intended to shut out his countrymen from him; for what he is to do there is for the house of Israel (Ezekiel 4:3 sqq.), is done before their eyes (Ezekiel 3:12; comp. also Ezekiel 8:1); but he (ואתה) is to be for them one who is shut up, i. e. in the first place, one who is not to go forth into their midst.—For Song of Solomon of man, comp. on Ezekiel 2:1.—Behold, they lay, etc., can only be his countrymen, and that not as being members of his family, who take him for a madman (A LAPIDE),—a view which nothing in the context favours. But Hitzig’s view (accepted by Keil) of invisible, heavenly powers, which bound Ezekiel (“as it were bands of enchantment”!), is quite opposed to the context. Ezekiel 3:25 by no means moves in the same line with Ezekiel 3:26; but in Ezekiel 3:26 the transition is made from men to God. Ezekiel 4:8, according to Keil’s own explanation, has no connection with this. Everything depends on whether we are to look upon the binding of the prophet as intended to prevent him leaving his house, which would, indeed, fall in with the shutting himself up in it commanded by God, but which would correspond little with the disposition of the prophet’s countrymen, who do not certainly wish what God wishes, but much rather the contrary! (Hence, perhaps, KIMCHI: Go into thine house, and thou shalt be shut up therein, just as if they had bound thee with bands.) We are not to assert with Keil that a fettering by means of these would be irreconcilable with Ezekiel 4 and 5, since a fettering of this description might take place afterwards, and Ezekiel, meanwhile, might again have become free; and just as little is it to be regarded as a decisive objection to this view, that no trace of such assault is to be discovered elsewhere; our passage itself might contain the missing trace. But ולא תצא בתובם is rather (as also Hengst.) = but thou (ואתה) wilt (shalt) not go forth to them. Instead of hindering him from speaking, his countrymen will, on the contrary, in their curiosity, do everything, will even lay violent hands upon him, that he may come forth and speak to them; they will throw bands over him, will bind him with them, in order the more easily to bring him forth. All that they gain thereby, besides his not going forth himself to them in such a case, will be, that, notwithstanding their efforts, he will not speak to them, since
Ezekiel 3:26—God will hinder it. The shutting himself up in his house is to become something more definite, viz. the shutting of his mouth at the same time, and that as an איש מוביח, which is here equivalent in meaning to “a declaimer against vice,” in an almost exclusively formal respect, since they are a house of rebelliousness (Ezekiel 3:5), and nothing material is to be accomplished among them as a whole. Comp. on Ezekiel 3:18.
Ezekiel 3:27. ובדברי points back to באמרי in Ezekiel 3:18. Thus the silence of Ezekiel is even here already a judgment of God upon Israel; for the opening of his mouth has for its object the communication of the divine revelation to his countrymen. Comp. besides, on Ezekiel 2:4, 3:11, 2:5, 7 (Rev. 2:7, 22:11). The reference of Ezekiel 3:25–27 is primarily to Ezekiel 4, 5; in a less degree it is carried on to Ezekiel 7; but, perhaps Ezekiel 24:27 and Ezekiel 33:22 refer to Ezekiel 3:26, 27. Comp. there. In general, Ezekiel 3:26, 27 express the entire dependence of the prophet, alike in silence and in speaking, on God, and consequently his divine legitimation; in particular, the remaining dumb imposed upon him—but that as regards the other character of his prophetic labours from Ezekiel 34 onwards—may be applied to the period down to the destruction of Jerusalem, as characteristic of this period, and therefore significantly repeated at its close. Comp. besides, on Ezekiel 5:5.
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON EZEKIEL 3:12–27
[This section, which should have formed a separate chapter, records the entrance of Ezekiel on his high vocation, and contains the first message delivered to him respecting it. His former place of abode, it would seem, was not the most advantageously situated for prosecuting with success the work committed to him; and, in consequence, he removed to Tel-abib, which is nowhere else mentioned, but was, in all probability, the best peopled locality, or the chief town of the Jewish colony. When he came and saw the captives dwelling there, in a dejected and mournful condition, he sat down among them for seven days continuously—sitting being the common attitude of grief (Ezra 9:3; Lam. 1:1–3), and seven days being the usual period for the manifestation of the heaviest sorrow (Job 2:13). By thus spending, at the outset, so many days of desolation and sadness, he gave proof of his deep fellow-feeling with his exiled brethren in their depressed condition, and showed how entirely he entered into their state. Thus sorrowing in their sorrow, and breathing the tenderness of a sympathizing spirit toward them, he sought to win their confidence, and secure a favourable hearing for the words of mercy and of judgment which he was from time to time to press upon their notice.
The prophet, however, did not go alone to this mournful field of prophetic agency. He was borne thither under the conscious might of the Spirit of God, and was attended by the symbols of the divine presence and glory. When he rose to proceed on his course, the whole machinery of the heavenly vision began also to move; and amid the crashing or tumultuous noise which broke upon his spiritual ear, he heard the words, “Blessed be the glory of Jehovah from His (or its) place”—certainly a somewhat peculiar utterance, and one not found in any other part of Scripture; yet not materially different from another in frequent use, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The glory of Jehovah here was that manifested glory which had appeared in vision to the prophet, and which was, in other words, a revelation of His glorious name. To pronounce it blessed from its place, was in effect to bless God Himself, as thus and there revealing His adorable perfections and divine will. And as the prophet was going to be the representative and herald of these in a sphere where there was much to damp his spirit, and withstand his faithful agency, it was fit that he should go with the solemn word pealing in his ears, from those ideal ministers of heaven, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord.” As much as to say, Let this above all be magnified; whatever is experienced or done, let nothing interfere with that pure and majestic glory of Jehovah, which has now in emblem been exhibited.
In regard to the message communicated to the prophet after the seven days of sadness had expired, there is also something peculiar in it; for it is only Ezekiel among the prophets who is described as a watchman appointed by God, to give timely and faithful warning to the people. Habakkuk speaks of standing upon his watch-tower (Ezekiel 2:1), but this was only in respect to his eager and anxious outlook for the manifestations he was expecting of divine power and faithfulness. Ezekiel alone is represented as called to do for others the part of a watchman; and in doing it he was most strictly charged, on the one hand, to receive all his instructions from God as to the existence of whatever danger there might be in the condition of the people, and, on the other, to sound a loud and solemn alarm when he might perceive it actually besetting them. That such should have been the distinctive character given to his position and calling, manifestly bespoke the very perilous condition of those to whom he was sent. It indicated that he had something else to do than merely to sympathize with them in their afflicted state, and speak soothing words to their downcast and drooping spirits. It was to be his rather to open their eyes to the profounder evils that encompassed them, to break the spell of inveterate and cherished delusions, and raise the cry of danger where none was suspected. So that the very form of the commission given to him was like the deliverance of a strong and impressive testimony to the people of the latent corruptions and imminent perils with which they were beset.
If we look also to the substance of the communication, or to the particular instructions given to the prophet concerning the discharge of his office, we see at once the grand principle disclosed on which the destiny of Israel was to turn. The question, whether life or death, blessing or cursing, was to be their portion, hung upon another, whether they were to make righteousness or sin their choice? Their return to righteousness was the indispensable condition of their restoration to blessing. If, in despite of this, the wicked should persevere in his evil ways, or even the righteous man should turn aside and practise iniquity, a visitation of wrath must be looked for—the original sentence against sin, to which the language designedly points, that the purpose of God in this respect might be seen to be fixed and unalterable—the sentence, that he who transgresses “shall surely die,” must take effect; for God is unchangeably the same, and what he appointed at first as the wages of sin must continue to be its wages still.
But while this part of the charge cut off all hope from a backsliding and impenitent people, the other part of it held out ample encouragement to such as remained stedfast in the covenant of God, or repented of their evil ways. The man who continued to love the paths of righteousness, and the man also who, after having forsaken, again returned to them, was to be assured of the blessings of life; these should as surely live as the others should die. For the prophet, as God’s watchman, was to represent the mercy as well as the justice of God’s administration; he was to have a wakeful eye upon the good, not less than the evil, that appeared among the people; and was to stretch out the hand of fellowship, and display the banner of divine love and protection, in behalf of all who might be inclined or moved to cleave to the service of Heaven. Thus were they to know from the outset that, for the people as a whole, and for each individual amongst them, this one path lay open for their return to peace and blessing.—FAIRBAIRN’S Ezekiel, pp. 40–43.—W. F.]
1. The revelation of the glory of God, because it is revelation, has always accordingly its special locality (מָקוֹם). If heaven, above all, is reckoned the place from which it beams forth (Deut. 26:15; 2 Chron. 30:27; Isa. 63:15; Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:17; 1 Kings 8:39), yet even of it 1 Kings 8:27 is true; how much more of all places of revelation upon earth! Thus God Himself remains ὁ Θεὸς and ὁπατὴρ τῆς δόξης (Acts 7:2; Eph. 1:17), the independent Possessor and Dispenser of glory, and the self-revelation of God made in Christ is the full revelation of His glory (Luke 2:14); for to Him the angels of God descend, just as from Him also and from no other spot on earth they again ascend (John 1:51). From God, wherever He manifests Himself, on Sinai, in the temple, His praise goes forth accordingly with its destination for the whole world.
2. The praise of God is the glory of God, which is reflected in the blessedness of the creature, especially of man. “It is a momentary celebration beforehand of the eternal perfection, which, momentary though it be, has already an element of eternity in itself,” says Lange with respect to the prayer of the doxology.
3. The servants of God, however mightily, however completely they fulfil their task, so that Ezekiel can speak of the “heat (glow) of his spirit,” yet always remain men, i. e. if חמה signifies the holy wrath of God as distinguished from חרה, the being angry as the effect of passion, yet we shall meet with pain in the prophet’s natural love to his people; just as Jesus the Son of man has tears over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Pain is more active than sorrow, which is more a passive state. We ought to be full of the wrath of God over sin, especially where it has already become punishment, the judgment of hardening; but our feeling towards the sinners can only be pain, because of our love to them as men, as in the case of Ezekiel, or sorrow, if we wish to distinguish the melancholy, sorrowful Jeremiah (comp. Jer. 6:11) in this way from the choleric, energetic Ezekiel. The servant of God, who should not find the latter emotions in himself, according to character and the circle in which he is placed, would need to bethink himself, and to mourn over himself. Wrath without love is of the devil, but not of God; just as a love which cannot be angry may be mere nature, mere human weakness.
4. Even a silent preacher may be a loud and very impressive sermon. In certain circumstances silence may be even more expressive than speaking. “This is the wisdom of him who is truly called,” says Umbreit, “that he is sometimes silent, sometimes speaks; but that when he speaks, he lets the divine word stream forth freely without fear and trembling as to whether it is understood; for the light is not to be put under a bushel; it has a right to shine, because it is light.”
5. The prophetic office of watchman, in accordance with the similitude of one who is posted on a height, or a watch-tower, has a twofold application. Inasmuch as the watchman has, in the first place, to keep a look-out—but what meets the prophetic eye is presented to him in vision, or by means of a revelation in word—the office of watchman is identical with the general designation of the prophets as “seers” (Doct. Reflect. 6 on Ezekiel 1:1–3). Thus it is the circumstance of their descrying or not descrying that makes them “watchmen,” not the circumstance that they have always to speak or to be silent accordingly (HITZ.); for the-former, at least as regards Ezekiel, is still dependent on divine instructions. In Ezekiel’s case, the opening of his mouth by God forms the transition to the second and more definite application and interpretation of the similitude of a watchman, viz. that the watchman has to announce the approaching danger, and therefore to warn against it. As such he is certainly not “the mere watchman, i.e. (as Ew. expresses it) the sharp but quiet, calm observer of men, in order to warn each at the right time.” The whole of the people as such, as well as in their governing heads, is what is entrusted to the watchman. But the application of the figure of the watchman, in the direction of warning, rests on the more general duty of prophecy, to be the controlling power of the national life according to the divine law in all respects. Only the warning of the prophetic watchman is of a more special kind, not as regards the law, but in view of the judgments of God,—an express turning to account of the future which he has seen for the immediate present in its existing state.
6. If we find with Ezekiel—of course, on the basis of the nation as a whole, of the theocratic nationality of Israel—individualization already taking place (comp. Ezekiel 33:1 sqq.), such individualization, in view of the period in the kingdom of God, is a sign of this period, and more than the personification, so frequent elsewhere, of what accords with the law and what is contrary to it, in the ideal picture of the righteous man, just as in his opposite, the רשע. Israel as a whole, in contradiction to its idea, begins to resolve itself into the ὅσοι δὲ of John 1:12. Comp. on Ezekiel 9:4.
7. In times when the axe is laid at the root of a whole nation, the mission of those who were originally destined for the whole becomes of itself the work of saving individuals.
8. The emphasizing (in Ezekiel 18 still more explicit) of the statement as to the personal responsibility of the individual has reference to the theocratic delusion and superstition of the hypocrites, the secure, which the false prophets still flattered, according to which the individual, because a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh, might hold himself assured of belonging to a nationality where, and where alone, a sure salvation was to be found.
9. The illustration of the prophet’s office by means of the sixth commandment, supported by Gen. 9, shows not merely how πνευματικός the νόμος is, but what an idea of life ought to be familiar to the ministers of the word. They are not, as it were, in accordance with the world’s policy, “to live and let live.”
10. The disputed question, as to whether the righteous can fall away, as the Lutheran theology along with that of the Jesuits asserts, and which the Reformed doctrine, on the other hand, denies, demands for its solution that we should make the distinction between law and grace. That the man who is righteous according to the law may apostatize unto death, is the very thing asserted in Ezekiel 3:20; comp. 18:24. Just in the same way, it is denied in Ezekiel 3:21 with respect to him who is justified by faith, and who remains righteous when admonished by the Spirit. Only this distinction must not be applied so as to become a distinction between the Old and New Testament, as is done by Hävernick. For the righteousness of God is one and the same in both (comp. Rom. 4). The legal standpoint, although not in its national form, yet in its externality, runs through the period of the New Covenant, just as the evangelical standpoint is not strange to the period of the Old Covenant, although mediated—not obscured—under the law by means of the symbolism of sacrifice.
11. “As the sinner may turn from his way and be saved, so a righteous man may fall away from his righteousness and become a wicked man. The man who is really and truly righteous cannot do so in such a way as to be lost; but he may fall into heinous transgressions, and appear for the time stripped of his faith, like the sun under a cloud, like fire beneath the ashes (David, Peter). But there are also those who believe for a time (1 John 2:19), who become quite manifest during temptation, and also after it is ended, when it is all over with them.”—LAVATER.
12. If we speak of a snare which God lays for man, this cannot be sin, what is evil, but the position in which God places man with a view to his own personal decision, as well as with a view to the decision regarding him; and, in fact, this cannot be misfortune merely, but also so-called good fortune, the former leading to despair, the latter conducing to hardening in false security. Of course a snare of God in a definite development of sin may also be already punishment, the beginning of divine judgment.
13. Around the warning as neglected or administered by the prophet, four cases group themselves, four types for all time: the wicked man in general, who goes to destruction without warning,—this being the relative and ever-increasing guilt of Christendom; the wicked man in particular, who, in spite of warning, chooses the way of death; the righteous man, who is so merely in form, whether a conscious hypocrite or not,—just as nominal Christians in the mass have fallen away from the Church in critical times of persecution,—he who without warning falls under the judgment, in connection with whose case the Church ought to remember her duty, as opposed to the Pietism of the future, the diplomatic or government Pietism, as well as the “soldierly-pious” element (“militär-fromm”); lastly, the upright and sincere righteous man, who also remains so, who lets himself be warned. Of the four, then, there is one against three. What a conclusion may be drawn from this numerical relation of individuals to the whole!
14. No mere declaimer against vice, still less one who is this in the disguise of a homiletic mask, or who labours thereat as being his profession, is in accordance with God’s word. That man only ought to reprove his brethren who has a commission from God for it, and only when he has that commission. “God does not permit mortal men, according to their mere will and pleasure, to condemn or to absolve. And although He sends forth His servants, yet He does not Himself renounce His authority, in virtue of which the supreme sovereignty remains with Him. He is the One Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy (Jas. 4:12)” (CALV.). The so-called “in virtue of our office” is by no means sufficient for this, but our own conscience must legitimate our doing it.
Ezekiel 3:12. “He had come unto me for the purpose of drawing me out of myself, and taking me into Himself” (B. B.).—“The Holy Spirit lifts us up from the earth towards heaven; and where He rules, the man hastens in willing obedience to God to perform his duties” (STCK.).—“Scripture is full of examples of how God has lifted up rulers of the people and His prophets by His Spirit to higher things. Moses thinks no longer of his sheep, but of the people whom he has to lead forth; David is drawn by the Spirit from the flock to something higher; the apostles openly confess Christ, and conspicuous among them Peter, whom a maid had formerly frightened; even with respect to Saul we read of the elevating influence of the Spirit” (L. L.).—“Lest he should execute his work with fleshly zeal, the Spirit is sent him as a Guide. Hence for a time he is transported out of himself, raised on high beyond the bounds of the lower and merely human mode of representation. In this state he hears the judgments of God again” (HEIM-HOFFMANN).
Ezekiel 3:12, 13. The servants of our God have not merely His praise as a blessed prospect before them, but behind them also the cloud of witnesses which encompasses them resounds with the praise of His glory.—“All creation glorifies God; only the ungodly blaspheme Him” (STCK.).—A contrast to the people, who accused God of unrighteousness and severity, and thereby insulted His honour, just as when they imagined themselves to be the only people that was worthy and capable of knowing the Glorious One (after CALVIN).—“In His glory are comprehended all the perfections of God, which can ever be manifested to man, most of all the glory of His justifying grace (Jer. 23:6; 1 Cor. 1:30). Hence the prophet had formerly seen the divine glory in the likeness of a man upon a throne. The Church wishes this only, that God’s glory should be praised not merely in, but from its place, i.e. throughout the whole world, Mal. 1:5” (COCC.).—God’s praise is the harmony in which heaven and earth, angels and men, all beings, agree.—One note, yet no monotony.—“By all these voices he might be encouraged and stimulated, as soldiers are by the sound of the trumpet and the drum” (L. L.).
Ezekiel 3:14. “How easy it is for God to bring a teacher to any place” (STCK.).—“To those who are younger the preacher’s office appears sweeter than it does when, after due experience, the original sweetness is mingled with bitterness” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 3:15. “The silence of the prophets is tin sign of God’s wrath” (CHRYSOST.).—“Exactly so ought the people to sit in penitent sorrow and humiliation before their God; but their representative, the servant of Jehovah, is, at the same time, a sign of how ungodly the multitude surrounding him are, and how righteous the judgments which are descending upon the people” (Häv.).—“The stillness of a sick-bed is often a means of salvation to ourselves and to others” (RICHT.).
Ezekiel 3:17. “It is a splendid misery to be obliged to stand on a height; those who encamp in the valley are decidedly more comfortable” (STCK.).—“That God has assigned him to that position, and placed him in it, ought to make the matter easy for him, and to make him careful in it” (B. B.).—“Jewels can be more easily watched than souls” (STCK.).—“God’s word remains unspoken, partly from fear of man, partly from sloth, partly from desire to please man” (JEROME).—“The first step in salvation is the knowledge of our sins. Of comfort, the principal thing, nothing is said; the prophet is only to warn, for they became capable of comfort only after they had come to know their sin” (L. L.).—“The passage Ezekiel 3:17–21 is a weighty lesson of doctrinal instruction, given in holy earnestness” (RICHT.).
Ver.18 sqq. “If the prophet neglects his duty, that does not help the wicked; he dies because of his iniquity: hasn’t he got Moses? Where the public ministry does not do its duty, still Holy Scripture is at hand; and it is every one’s own blame if he does not allow himself to be called to repentance by its voice” (H.).—Those murderers who must die by the hangman’s hand are far from being so bad murderers, in God’s sight, as many thoroughly genial and very cultivated men, who look to their office simply as a fat living, and who, by their example, or even merely from their being dumb dogs, allow souls to go to destruction in hell.—The weight of the sin of omission in God’s scale.—“Thou art every moment in danger of becoming a murderer, and of undergoing the judgment of the murderer: this is an effective stimulus for every one who is entrusted with the office of the public ministry” (H.).—God as the sinner’s blood relation and avenger of blood. What an intensity about the divine love!—“The life lost is something lost, the soul lost is everything lost. Oh what folly, when a teacher is silent for the sake of a handful of earth, and over and above brings his own soul into danger!” (ST.)—“Plainly and diligently the warning is to be given, with earnestness and impressiveness, not with flattering words, nor half in joke, nor merely touching the skin, but setting forth the danger most carefully” (B. B.).—“God quickens, by means of grace, His servant through the instrumentality of the word of exhortation; the sinner quickens himself by the acceptance of the word. Without spiritual life and quickening here there is no life in eternity, but there also only death. Faith is spiritual life, and piety the sign of this life” (STCK.).—“We are not forthwith to despair of the salvation of the sinner, for at even also many still go into the vineyard (Matt. 20); the malefactor was not converted till upon the cross. God must declare a man wicked and condemned; otherwise he is not so, although the whole world were to shut him out of heaven” (L. L.).—“For in God’s sight nothing is more precious than our souls” (CALVIN).
Ezekiel 3:19. Every function in his calling is a saving of himself in the case of the servant of God. What need, then, has he to cast a side-look after reward, love, comfort, honours, etc.?—“There are men who do indeed gladly proclaim what God wishes, but who yet, when they see that their words have no entrance and are of no use, are thereby troubled, and, from fear of having deceived themselves, no longer wish to have anything to do with the word. But all who continue to act so are lovers of themselves. An honest servant of God bears the word so long as God will have it, and does not trouble himself about the good result” (B. B.).—That which is demanded of the sinner, viz. return, shows that the prayer finds audience: Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned.—Return is promised by God, but man would rather hold fast what is his own, viz. wickedness and the wicked way.—Progress on the bad road resembles standing still on the good one.
Ezekiel 3:20. “It is not enough to have been pious, but we must also have continued so. Be thou faithful unto death, and he that endureth unto the end shall be saved” (STCK.).—“Then does godliness shine most, when it has the opportunity of sinning, nay, is everywhere enticed thereto, and yet does it not; on the other hand, the man who turns away from what is good and from the way of righteousness is worse, and in a more dangerous condition than the man who has never known it, 2 Pet. 2:21” (B. B.).—“He who does not admonish the sinner,—a duty to which even common love binds every man, when he sees another in danger, and can in any way help him,—is exposed to the judgment, but much more still, if he is specially appointed by God for the purpose, or pretends to be so”. (B. B.).
Ezekiel 3:21. “A faithful teacher must care for converted and unconverted alike; for the latter, that they may awake out of the sleep of false security; for the former, that they may not again fall asleep” (ST.).—“Yea, even where parties are found who are willing to help sinners into the right way, there is still difficulty in finding one to offer his hand to the righteous, in order that they may advance with greater ease in the true way” (B. B.).—“We sin indeed daily, but let us beware of sinning knowingly. The man who hates sin flees from it, shrinks back with dread from it, does not sin” (STCK.).—“If a teacher does not seek with all earnestness the salvation of the hearers entrusted to him, it is a sure sign that he is not very much concerned about his own salvation; for if the latter be the case, he cannot neglect the former” (ST.).
Ezekiel 3:22 sqq. “Isolation is the condition of the receipt of divine communications. God makes Himself known to the mind only when it has been quite withdrawn from worldly influences. We must be in the valley; but we may be in the bustling town, and yet in the valley” (H.).
Ezekiel 3:23. “Although the saved will behold the glory of God eternally in heaven, yet they will never become satiated or wearied of it; for here below even the contemplation of the divine glory fills believers with hunger in all the fulness of enjoyment” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 3:24. “Those are the true children of God who are continually ruled by the Spirit of God, Rom. 8:14” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 3:25. “Bands and trouble is the reward for the faithful labour of an unwearied teacher” (STCK.). Whoever is pleased with such a salary is fit for the kingdom of God.—“The bands wherewith believers are bound are of different sorts: misery, pains, the cross, temptations; but God has arranged it beforehand, and frees us from it” (STCK.).—“To feel at home in the world is to feel well in the midst of danger” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 3:26, 27. “God has His times and seasons. Well for him who gives heed to them” (TÜB. B.).—“It is no good sign God’s hindering His servants when eager to speak, Acts 16:6”(LG.).—“God must give teachers and preachers a joyful opening of the mouth, if they are to teach profitably” (CR.).—To be silent to men and to speak from God is the right kind of preacher.—“How great is God’s mercy, that He causes the sermon to reach dumb ears even!” (STCK.)