Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.God reproveth those hypocrites, who came to inquire of him with idolatry in their hearts, Ezekiel 14:1-5. They are exhorted to repent, for fear of his judgments, Ezekiel 14:6-11. No intercession shall save the guilty land from God’s judgment of famine, Ezekiel 14:12-14, noisome beasts, Ezekiel 14:15,16, the sword, Ezekiel 14:17,18, the pestilence, Ezekiel 14:19, or from the four judgments together, Ezekiel 14:20,21. A remnant shall be left for the instruction and consolation of others, Ezekiel 14:22,23.
Then, Heb. And, that we need not inquire the precise time of this prophecy.
Certain of the elders; men of note, that were in office and power among the Jews, called here elders, &c.
Of Israel; who were yet in Jerusalem; not the elders who were now, and had been some time, in Babylon.
Sat before me: see Ezekiel 8:1.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?These men; who probably were come from Jerusalem, sent by Zedekiah, and mentioned by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 51:59; some of the courtiers, who, more out of curiosity than religion, give a visit to this famous prophet.
Have set up their idols in their heart; resolved idolaters, their heart was totally addicted to their idolatrous worship and ceremonies, immersed in it.
The stumbling-block of their iniquity; their idols, so expressed, because they were both the object of their sin, and occasion of their ruin. They account these idols to be gods, and worship, fear, trust in, and plead for them; this is their sin, and ere long this shall bring ruin on them. Can these men seriously consult me? Is it fit I should give counsel to obstinate, resolved sinners, who come to inquire, but will not hearken? Should I help them in their distress, who depend on idols which I hate?
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;Mince not the matter, lessen not, neither vary, what I say unto thee, but declare fully and undauntedly
unto them, though great men, and who will compliment with thee.
Every man, without exception, whoever be the man among the Israelites, that hath his heart riveted to idols, and yet comes to the prophet, as if it were to know what were best to be done, and what will be the issue of these times and things, I will answer him but little to his satisfaction or safety; such answer shall such receive, as in seeing they shall not see, &c. I will declare the greatness of their sin and punishment; they multiplied idols, this their sin, I will multiply their sorrows; they first run into darkness of idolatry, I will leave them to the darkness of misery. I will give answer, but in just judgment, and with severe reproofs, and menaces, and commands.
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.That I may convince and pierce their very hearts, or lay open what is in their heart, and discover their hypocrisy and impiety; because they have shamefully followed idols, which now in their distress neither know the cause, or can frame a remedy; and what folly is it to choose such gods! what greater impiety than this, to adhere to idols, and forsake God, the only true God and Saviour?
Estranged from me; minds that increase their averseness to God. Idolatry draws the man more and more from the Lord.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.Unto the house of Israel; to these men the elders, whoever they are, give charge that they repent, and by them send word to the residue of the house of Jacob that they do so too.
Repent; be sorry and testify your sorrow for such sins.
And turn yourselves; renounce them for future, cease to be idolaters, let your visible carriage in reforming all be seen too. Amend heart and ways, let not your heart be towards idols in point of religion, nor your practice in point of outward deportment be vicious and immoral.
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:For every Jew of the seed of Abraham, and every proselyte, who withdraws himself from me, and worships idols, keeps them in his heart to the increase of their own sin and my displeasure, yet forsooth comes to the prophet to inquire how his God resenteth what they do, and what God will do with them, what they should do, what they may expect, yet all this while dote on idols, and resolutely hold on in unjust practices, they shall find by the answer it was not the prophet, but the God of the prophet, that answered them, so dreadful, searching, and astonishing shall my answer be.
And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.My face; my displeased face, my wrath, which none can bear; the phrase Leviticus 17:10 20:3 Ezekiel 15:7.
A sign of Divine vengeance, provoked by sin and executed on the sinner.
A proverb; of whom every body shall speak with taunt and curse, Deu 28:37.
I will cut him off; either by an immediate stroke from heaven, or else in an undeniably vindictive way, Leviticus 20:3.
From the midst of my people; openly, as what is done in the sight of all, or as one separated from God’s people by this dreadfill excommunication, and who shall have no portion with them in this or the next life.
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.The prophet, viz. the prophet who makes this his trade and gain, the false prophet, who speaks all serene and quiet, in hope of reward for his kind answer to those that desired to hear what might please them more than what God commanded, promised, or threatened.
Have deceived; permitted him to err, or. iustly left him in his blindness, that he shall not discern his own self-deceivings; or else when such prophet promiseth good, and thinks concurrence of all second causes tend to it, yet I will disappoint and frustrate, as Isaiah 44:25, if the confederacies to save were in likelihood sufficient, and it were no presumption to hope the best; and if your prophets on this ground promised you success, yet they shall deceive you, for I would defeat and disappoint them and you; so the sense would not carry a moral and culpable deceiving, but a just defeating and disappointing, or disabling, second causes, on which disappointment of hopes will follow. If Egypt’s arms had so weakened the Babylonians, that none but wounded men remained, yet the promise of your escape should fail you, O Israelites, for, Jeremiah 37:10, these should rise up and burn your city.
Stretch out my hand upon him; remarkably punish his falsehood, and in severity destroy him.
And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;There is so great parity in the folly and impiety of both seducing prophets and the seduced people, that it is hard to say whose sin is greatest. Their punishment shall be by the Lord made as like as they made their sin, and both shall be cut off and destroyed.
That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.Afflictions ever tend to a good and necessary effect or end, for God’s glory, and his people’s good, and so it is here.
The house of Israel; which are the seed of Jacob, and my people.
May go no more astray; they have wandered as sheep, which naturally are apt to go out of the way, and much more when seduced and drawn out of the way, but afflictions tend to reduce them from sheepish wanderings.
From me, their only God and Saviour.
Neither be polluted: idolatry is a great pollution, and ever attended with other transgressions and immoralities, which defile also; now by their present calamities God will open their eyes to see and abhor them.
That they may be my people; in name and external profession they were God’s people, but they had forgotten their relation, and the duty of it to Godward; now by these present corrections they shall be disposed to own and love, to obey and walk with, him, as he is their God, and they his people. This effect the rod will have on my own people.
The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:When; at what time soever.
The land, put for the men that dwell in the land.
By trespassing grievously; as a hypocritical, backsliding people, that give fair promises, but perform them not, rather act contrary to their professions, as the Hebrew intimateth.
Upon it; against it. Break the staff of the bread: scarcity and famine are effects of the power of God, which makes that barren for the sins of a people which otherwise would be fruitful.
Will cut off man and beast from it; make the land utterly desolate by famishing the cattle as well as their owners.
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.These three men; most eminent for holy and upright walking with God, very dear to God, exceedingly desirous of the welfare of others, powerful in prayer.
Noah, who it is probable prevailed with God to spare the world for some years, and saved his near relations when the flood came;
Daniel, who prevailed for the life of the wise men of Chaldea; and
Job, who daily offered sacrifice for his children, and at last reconciled God to those that had offended. These should not prevail for any one of this wicked generation; it should suffice them that their righteousness sayeth themselves, this contumacious generation of sinners I would not be entreated for.
If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:Noisome beasts are one of the great plagues or armies that God hath always at his command.
To pass through the land; to range over the land, and spoil their cattle, devour their servants and children, and destroy travellers, and make it as a wilderness.
No man may pass through without much danger, and great guards that may repel the wild ravening beasts.
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.As I live; a form of speech in which God by oath confirms what he speaketh, and it is such an oath as becomes him only, who is life, and cannot die.
Neither sons nor daughters; neither sons that should perpetuate their families, and are the support of houses, nor daughters, the tenderness of whose sex and age does make and keep parents’ affections fervent towards them. No near relation should escape on their account.
Desolate, i.e. most desolate, as the Hebrew use by an abstract to express the superlative degree, Isaiah 1:7 64:10.
Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:He is Lord of hosts, and hath the militia of all the world in his hand, the sword is the right of the King of kings.
Bring a sword; raise war, and send enemies to invade it. That land; what land soever it be.
Go through the land: though inanimate things have not ears to hear, yet God speaks of them sometimes as if they had ears to hear, and understanding to discern; hereby intimating to us his overruling power, wisdom, justice, and sovereignty.
So that I cut off man: men cut off men in war, yet here God takes it to himself, he doth it by men.
And beast: though wars chiefly destroy men, yet the beasts of the field go to wreck too, the beasts that are serviceable in wars are waste, as horses and beasts of burden. The Eastern nations have brought store of camels and many elephants into the wars; beside the slaughter of these in fight, the spoiler wasting his enemy doth often destroy whole herds and flocks.
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.No text from Poole on this verse.
Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:Diseases are sent whenever they come, especially wasting diseases, which empty nations and cities apace.
Pestilence; God’s arrow that flies from God’s bow.
Pour out; not drop or distil on a people in small measures, and by leisure, but in great measures, and hastily, as waters are poured out of a vessel all at once almost.
In blood: sometimes blood does denote war, but here, and in many other places, it denotes death and destruction of men, though not by the sword.
Man and beast; not that beasts die of the same pestilential disease which kills man, but either death of men by pestilence emptieth the nation, that there are not men to take care and provide for the beasts; or rather, because when pestilence wasteth men, murrains and plague of cattle, from the same infected air, and from the hand of God, waste the beasts also.
Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.Their own souls; their person, their life.
By their righteousness; not meriting the deliverance, but yet the justice and mercy of God shall surely keep them from falling in the punishment who were kept from the sin.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?Those three men, with their best interest, should not be able to keep off one of the four, much less able to keep off all four when I commission them all to go at once, as I will, nay, have done, against Jerusalem, to cut off the obstinate, incorrigible ones amidst it.
Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.Therein; in Jerusalem itself, and in the land.
A remnant; some that escape, for though none could prevail with God to prevent the emptying the city and the land, and cutting off the most, yet this was not to extend to the utter cutting off and destruction of all.
Brought forth; by the proud, cruel, and barbarous conqueror bringing them in nakedness, chains, and in contempt more grievous than death itself.
Unto you; those naked, hunger-starved, derided captives, through heats and colds, through sands and tedious travels, shall come, though with great regret to you, to Babylon, whose condition they will either envy, or wish it their own.
Ye shall see; see them, and consider and know their way; what it hath brought them, how sinfully evil it was against God in their own land, and how miserably evil it is and must be with them in the enemies’ land.
Ye shall be comforted; not rejoice in your brethren’s misery, but comforted in remembrance of the good hour you resolved to obey God, in yielding up to the Chaldeans; comforted in the sense of your state much better then theirs, and in the vindication of you from the black aspersions the false prophets and their followers cast on you; and finally, comforted, in that your return, at set time promised, shall in its time be as surely made good as you see the threats are made good. God will be as true in his mercies as he hath been in his judgments; this is matter of great affliction and grief, that of comfort and hope.
And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.They that survive the siege, famine, and ruin of Jerusalem, and are brought to Babylon,
shall comfort you; either confessing their faults in not doing as you had done, justifying the wise course they took who yielded, condemning the folly of hardening themselves against God, his judgments, and his prophets; or be matter of comfort, affording to you just ground of comforting yourselves.
When ye see their ways: understand it in the effects of it upon the ruined Jews; or, in the relation which they will make both of their sins and sufferings in the land of Canaan.
Ye, you of the first captivity, you that obeyed my voice, and submitted to the Babylonian yoke,
shall know, be fully satisfied, that I have had but too much cause, and most just reason, for all that I have done against Jerusalem and its land, and inhabitants of both; you shall know my hand, and as you feel the weight, so you shall see the justice of it too against them, and the mercy of it towards you.