Ezekiel 20
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.
God refuseth to be consulted by the elders of Israel, Ezekiel 20:1-3. He rehearseth the rebellions of their ancestors in Egypt, Ezekiel 20:4-9; in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20:10-26; and in the Promised Land, Ezekiel 20:27-29. He reproacheth the present generation with the like corrupt manners, Ezekiel 20:30-32. He threateneth to rule over them with rigour, but with promise to gather them, to purge out the rebels, and accept the services of the faithful in his church, Ezekiel 20:33-44. The destruction of Jerusalem prophesied under the name of a forest, Ezekiel 20:45-49.

The seventh year of Jeconiah’s captivity and Zedekiah’s reign, two years and five months before Nebuchadnezzar did besiege Jerusalem.

The fifth month; August.

The tenth day; which answers to cur twenty-seventh.

Certain, Heb. men. Some of note among the elders and rulers of Israel. Either some of the captives in Babylon, as most likely they were who, Ezekiel 8:1, came to him, or some of those who were sent from Zedekiah to compliment or carry tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, as most likely they were, Ezekiel 14:1.

Of the elders; not of the priests or Levites, but of the laity, civil magistrates and officers, who might be sent to view the state of Babylon, and to observe what posture things were in, the better to resolve on that Zedekiah and his councils were forming, whether it will be advisable to shake off the yoke of the king of Babylon by a rebellion, or patiently bear it: and I conjecture this might be the main inquiry they made now, which was two years and five months before the siege began, during which two years and five months I suppose the design was resolved on, framed, provision made of all sorts, and at last a rebellion raised.

Came to inquire of the Lord; yet resolved beforehand what they would do, as will appear. Prophets neither did pretend to, nor could they, resolve such inquiries, but the Lord whom the prophets did consult.

Sat before me: whether it speak the quality of the persons, that did not stand as mean persons, or their resolution to wait for answer, or be a phrase proper with the Jews to express the common deportment of the country, I leave you to guess.

Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,
While these men were with Ezekiel God gives him instruction what to say to them.

Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to inquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.
Song of Solomon of man: see Ezekiel 2:3.

Speak unto the elders of Israel; speak plainly, boldly, and to their faces, fear not their frowns; if they are deputies from Zedekiah, yet let not that character make thee mealymouthed.

Thus saith the Lord God: this expression carries enough to encourage him.

Are ye come to inquire of me? are ye in good earnest? Nay, but you act a deep hypocrisy, being already resolved on your own course, and yet now pretend you would know my counsel. It is a sharp reproof of their wickedness, and God utterly refuseth to be inquired of by such.

As I live: see Ezekiel 14:16.

I will not be inquired of by you, profane hypocrites, that abuse my prophet, and tempt his God. They are, as all politicians who have less of religion than worldly wisdom, willing to hear whether the prophet will flatter, and fawn, and encourage them; if so, then he is a wise, able, honest man; else a sot to be slighted.

Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:
Wilt thou judge them? either, Wilt thou judge charitably, and, supposing they are upright and teachable, wilt thou plead with me for them? as Ezekiel 14:3, or as Jeremiah 14:9. Or else thus, Wilt thou argue with them, convince them, and reprove them? This is fittest to be done, and do this, handle them severely as they deserve. It is repeated, to whet the prophet, and quicken him to this work, and to intimate to us the great contumacy of the people.

Cause them to know the abominations of their fathers: tell them somewhat that they may go away wiser than they came. They expect to know what will be their fate, tell them what hath been their fathers’ carriage towards me, which they imitate, nay exceed. Their curiosity and perplexity would be informed what is to come, but their consciences need more to be informed: what their fathers have done they approved, and have outdone; by that let them know what to do, what to expect.

And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God;
In the day; at the time, the season; it speaks not of that precise portion of hours which make up the natural day, but of the time wherein God began to show them his great mercy. When I chose; it includes mercy without merit in them, and it refers to God’s declaring by his kindness to them that he had chosen them; it supposeth the free eternal election, but it expressly refers to a temporal and seasonable selecting them from others; chosen, as Isaiah 14:1; again Deu 7:6,7: or possibly thus, when I went to make them a choice people by refining them from their dross and idolatries contracted in Egypt, so the word Isaiah 48:10, and selecting them.

Israel; not personally considered, but nationally.

Lifted up mine hand; either assuring them by oath that he would now make good his promise, and bring them out of bondage; it is the gesture of one that solemnly sweareth, and scriptures frequently mention it, as Ezekiel 20:15 Deu 32:40: or else, stretched out and made bare my arm, i.e. magnified my power for your deliverance.

The seed of the house of Jacob: this explaineth and tells us who Israel was.

Made myself known unto them, by the miracles which he wrought; for it is not to be understood of making known or discovering his essence and incomprehensible being. It is not unlikely that many of them either were ignorant or forgot God; now by his wonders wrought for their deliverance he brings them to remember him, and look to him. Moses’s question in Exodus 3:13 seems to intimate this ignorance of this people.

In the land of Egypt; as this expressly directs us to the place, so it points out the time too when Israel was chosen, selected.

When I lifted up mine hand unto them; showed my power in performing my oath and promise in what was now to be done, and assuring them of doing what was further promised by him, and expected by them; and to assure them the more, it is doubled.

I am the Lord your God: so Exodus 3:13,16,17. Yours from your progenitors, yours by promise, by covenant, and now am come to be your God by actual and punctual performing my word to you, bringing you out of the land of Egypt by a lifted-up hand and arm.

In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:
After the manner of man God speaks, as if he had been the spy to go from place to place to search out the best, and to appoint it for them; it was his wise and good providence which assigned this land to them. Literally, milk and honey in abundance were in the land of Canaan, and continued till this fruitful land was turned into barrenness, for the sins of its inhabitants. Proverbially, it speaks the choicest, best, the most useful and pleasant, and the plenty and abundance of all these blessings for life, and so to be here taken; and though the whole country in the utmost extent of it, as proposed for Israel, (whose sins kept them out of much of it,) were naturally a fruitful land, yet this great plenty was more from the special favour and blessing of God.

Which is the glory of all lands; makes every country desirable.

Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Then, Heb. And, which connects the words; and though we read it then, this doth not point out the time when God spake this, though it is certain, when he had brought them out of Egypt he gave them his ordinances and laws of worship; nay, it is sufficiently included, in that they were to go out that they might serve the Lord.

Cast ye away every man; let every one of you, man by man, and family by family, cast away with abhorrence and indignation; the word is used Ezekiel 18:31.

The abominations of his eyes; which your eyes should have abhorred, but you rather lifted up your eyes to them, and looked for help from them; and it includes their own voluntary act in this idolatry.

Defile not yourselves with the idols: this explains the former passage.

Of Egypt; which were in veneration among the Egyptians, and with whose worship too many of them had been insnared and polluted while they were in Egypt.

I am the Lord your God; the only true God, and therefore you should worship none other. See Ezekiel 20:6. You are my covenant people, and therefore ought to have no other God as Exodus 20:3. Thus God prepared them, by his mercies and by his law, for himself.

But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
They rebelled against me; so great a sin is idolatry, it is against God, as open hostility is against a sovereign whom subjects fight against. All sin is against God, but idolatry is much more so.

And would not hearken unto me; their wills were alienated from God, they refused to hear and obey in this. They did not forsake the idols of Egypt; it is probable there were some among them that carried with them (as Rachel did her father’s) the idols of Egypt.

Then I said; I was just upon resolving, I was very near saying.

I will pour out, as a storm or mighty shower,

my fury; just and severe wrath.

To accomplish my anger against them; to make an end of them.

In the midst of the land of Egypt; that they should have perished in Egypt, and never come out.

But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.
I wrought, according to my promise, ny infinite mercy, and the hopes of those few that heard and obeyed.

For my name’s sake; for my glory: had you been used as you deserved, you had died slaves in Egypt, and there had been your graves; but the glory of God’s mercy and faithfulness is the motive of him sparing them.

Polluted; reproached, blasphemed, and lessened among the heathen.

The heathen, among whom they were; the Egyptians, amongst whom Israel had sojourned two hundred and fifteen years, in which time many of the children of Israel, no doubt, had discoursed of their hopes of going out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham for them, and were apt to boast of their God, and that country; and, to render the thing credible in the eyes of the Egyptians, would speak of the mercy, power, faithfulness, and wisdom of the Lord to effect this, the glory of which would have been eclipsed, and the heathen blasphemed, if God had not brought them out; when it was thus God wrought for his name’s sake.

Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.
Wherefore, Heb. And.

I caused them to go forth; removed all obstacles, furnished them with all necessaries, went before them, and showed them the way they should go, as is expressed, Exodus 13:17.

And brought them; I brought; it was not Moses’s error, though Pharaoh thought so, Exodus 14:3,4, but the peculiar conduct of God, Exodus 14:2.

Into the wilderness; a barren, sandy part of the country, the borders of Egypt towards the Red Sea; yet having mountains which shut them in on both sides, and frontier garrisons near them: and as he brought them in, so he conducted them out of these straits, though here it is not mentioned.

And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.
I, who spared them in Egypt, had brought them forth, and owned them as the children of Abraham my friend: God gave his law by Moses, and now Israel’s laws are really of Divine origin, when others did but pretend it. Gave them; appointed and commanded by my authority, and communicated out of my love and kindness to them.

My statutes; the law on Mount Sinai, containing their duty.

Showed them; plainly declared, spake so that they might know.

My judgments; not the terrible executions of his wrath, but judgments here are the rules that God gave them to walk by.

If a man do; if any one, without partiality, whosoever should keep these statutes and judgments with God is no respect of persons.

He shall live: not that any ever did or could by sinless keeping the law attain the eternal blessedness; grace gives that; but it surely points out a future prosperity and flourishing state in this life to all that are careful to keep these statutes and judgments as they can; such should not be cut off, nor brought into captivity, but live and rejoice in their own land.

In them; both in the fruit of them already obeyed, and in the continuance to do them for the future.

Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
I gave; both commanded, and also sanctified, those portions of time to be holy rests.

My sabbaths; either the weekly sabbath, which, recurring every seventh day, soon multiplied into many, and was to be the commemoration of God’s rest from his labour, Israel’s delivery out of Egypt, Deu 5:15, and an awakening of their hopes of the eternal rest with God; or it may, as most like it doth, include all the solemn days of God’s worship, every of which was a sabbath, and no work to be done in it.

To be a sign of their being peculiarly my people, select from all other, to walk with me, to rest in me, and receive more grace from me.

That they might know: this was a teaching sign, they might by other ways know, and by this also.

I am the Lord; in this see my authority, and my holiness, who by such means do promote and attain such holy purposes and ends.

That sanctify them; that have withdrawn them from the profane and common herd of the heathen, and made them by this relatively holy; or else, that have changed the heart, and filled it with holy, pure, and gracious inclinations, and so made them really holy.

But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
The house of Israel; not a few, this I might have borne in silence, but most of them; they were, as we are, a rebellious house.

Rebelled against me; provoked me bitterly to indignation by their contumacies, and that frequently, as Exodus 17:7 Numbers 20:24 Deu 1:26,43; a stubborn and rebellious generation, Psalm 78:8, with Ezekiel 20:40.

In the wilderness; where they most needed my care and favour, where the preserving their life from destruction by the noxious creatures, and from famine by the barrenness of the wilderness, was a continued miracle, which required their obedience and dependence.

Walked not in my statutes; made not them the only rule of their religion, and exercise of it, as they should have done, but framed religion to their own or their neighbours’ idolatrous inclinations.

Despised my judgments; slighted first, as of little excellency, refused next, and cast off with disdain and loathing.

Which, the equitable and necessary rules for government of their civil affairs, which were framed to the safety and welfare of a people,

if a man do, he shall even live in them: see Ezekiel 20:11.

Polluted; profained with working what was prohibited, misemploying those days on idols, or on any common ordinary business, as Exodus 16:27 Numbers 15:32 Jeremiah 17:22,23.

Then I said: see Ezekiel 20:8.

To consume them; to cut them off from being a people, as Numbers 16:21.

But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.
See Ezekiel 20:9, where these words are paraphrased.

Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;
Yet also; moreover also, as the same particles are rendered, Ezekiel 20:12.

I lifted up my hand unto them; see Ezekiel 20:5; sware in his wrath against them, Psalm 95:11.

In the wilderness of Paran, where the Israelites pitched and abode in several parts of it many days, during which time they lust for flesh, Numbers 11:4,5, and murmur against the Lord, Moses, and the two faithful spies, who had searched out the land: here it was they would make them a captain and return to Egypt, Numbers 14:4.

That I would not bring them, & c: so it is recorded, Numbers 14:11,12,22,23,28-32; so all the murmuring, disobedient, unbelieving generation was excluded, and their children were brought in; which, well noted, reconcileth the seeming contrariety between the oaths of God.

Them; those rebellious and murmuring ones.

Given them; promised to the seed of Abraham, but not confined to that generation; the promise was made good, though to the next generation.

Flowing with milk and honey: see Ezekiel 20:6.

Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
See the whole former part of this verse explained already, Ezekiel 20:13. Their heart went after their idols; their will and affections, their zeal and resolution, were for their idols which they served in Egypt, and which they had brought with them out of Egypt.

Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.
Nevertheless mine eye spared them; though they did highly provoke God, and deserved to be cut off, yet his eye pitied them: they provoked his wrath, he stirred up his compassions.

Them; not all of them, for many did die in the wilderness, and, among these, some by immediate wrath; but how many soever they were, yet the growing generation was spared, and the nation was not extirpated.

But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:
But, and, or then

I said. The fathers were refractory, and deaf, would not hearken, therefore God turns his advice to children. Though the particular place is not specified, yet among the calamities of that mournful age, and at the funerals of so many as then died, there were some that had piety, zeal, and courage enough to warn the survivors, and Psalm 90:7-11 affords us ground enough to believe Moses did warn and advise. In the wilderness; in that part of it where their fathers murmured, and where some were cut off by the hand of God, and in other parts through which they travelled and suffered.

Walk ye not: it is both counsel, as from love, and a command, as from power;

Live not as your fathers, for they walked contrary to reason, religion, and their own good, as much as they walked contrary to me.

Your fathers; though fathers, they may not command contrary to God’s command, nor be imitated in what they do contrary to God’s law.

Their judgments; it is observable, the prophet forbids them to imitate the customs, rites, and usages of their fathers, included in judgments, and thence passeth to forbid their imitating their fathers in their idolatry. Idolatry is fruitful when it so multiplied in Egyptian bondage, and in the desolate state of a people in the wilderness.

I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;
The Lord; the only God; idols, though your fathers’ idols, are no gods, therefore let them never be that to you which they are not, cannot be in themselves, the object of worship, and trust, and love.

Your God, by covenant, by redemption out of Egypt, by adoption, and giving you the law; therefore own me as such, by keeping mine ordinances and judgments to do them; I am most your Father.

And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.
Hallow my sabbaths; remember to keep them holy, employ them on holy works of God’s solemn and public worship, and cease from servile and worldly businesses.

A sign: see Ezekiel 20:12. As the Friday observed a rest is the sign of a Turk, the seventh day observed is the sign of a Jew, and distinguisheth: so it was of old, so it is now: the Christian sabbath is a sign between Christ and us.

May know more fully, acknowledge it more openly, and in waiting on mine ordinances may know by experience what the almighty grace of your God can do.

Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
These unhappy children do even as their fathers in all points of disobediences to God; are as deaf to his counsel, and as averse to his law, which here is point by point recounted, and is the same with Ezekiel 20:13, where see it explained.

Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.
Nevertheless, Heb. And. God seems to take to himself the posture of one that was just going to smite, yet draws back that he might spare, and act like his own infinite goodness, not suitable to the sin of this generation.

Wrought: this is explained Ezekiel 20:9.

I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries;
On this solemn gesture and signification, see Ezekiel 20:5. Here it is an oath added to a threat, to make it more dreadful to them, and to make it successful in keeping them from the sin threatened.

That I would scatter them; foretold them of a captivity which should come upon them for their sins, which it is probable was often inculcated in their hearing before Moses penned it for them, Deu 32:15 -42 Le 26:31-33, and it is ingeminated to make it pierce the deeper, and affect them the more.

Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.
The whole 24th verse is already explained Ezekiel 4:16, which see.

They, that travelled through the wilderness, had not executed my judgments, in all that forty years, wherein their fathers were to be wasted, and by which their children should have learned, kept, and done God’s judgments, but did them not.

Their fathers’ idols; which their fathers chose in Egypt, and retained with them, and now their children serve the same, even the Egyptian idols.

Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;
Because they did by such perverse obstinacy reject the statutes I did in mercy give them; my good laws and judgments, saith God, they despised; for this cause God proceeds to punish them in a dreadful kind and manner,

Gave them; not by appointing or enjoining, but by permitting them to make such for themselves, much like that Romans 1:24, giving up to a reprobate sense, or that 2 Thessalonians 2:11 Psalm 81:11,12, as a governor or father, after long and fruitless strivings with an obstinate and unruly youth, gives him up at last as hopeless, and casts off the care and guidance of him.

Statutes; orders and rules about their religious worship, which they first invented, next approved, and lastly made their established religion, where all they could love in it was, that it was their own.

Were not good; had nothing in them that was morally good, pious, or suited to the spiritual nature of God; that were unprofitable, and ministered nothing to the edifying and bettering of men, nor could commend the users of them to God; that were indeed pernicious to the users, and increased their sins, being superstitious and idolatrous: so the not good is very bad, inconvenient, and hurtful.

Whereby they should not live: if it be not explicatory of the former, it may, it is possible, refer distinctly to the inconvenient, oppressive, and unsafe courses, decrees, and edicts about civil matters, which were such as they could never thrive under; for however some heathen nations have thrived under an evident blessing from Heaven, though their religion were idolatrous, yet I do not remember that an apostate nation ever retained their good government and civil prosperity under their apostacy from God; thus the judgments given were such they could not live in them; they made grievous and destructive laws for themselves and theirs.

And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.
Polluted them; either I permitted them to pollute themselves, or discovered that they had polluted themselves, or treated them with loathing and abhorrence, as polluted persons.

In their own gifts; either in their gifts which they pretended to bring to me, or rather in their sacrifices they offered to whom, or at least in what manner, they, not I, had chosen; or, which is most likely, gifts are here their first-born, which are more than other children accounted gifts.

Through the fire: see Ezekiel 16:20,21. Most insufferable affront to God, to see those children inhumanly offered to the devil, which, in remembrance of his redeeming the fathers, were consecrated to God! Exodus 13:2; and possibly this was first done when they offered to Baalpeor, Numbers 25:3.

To the end, & c.; to provoke God so to afflict, weaken, and waste by his judgment, till it should undeniably appear that God had by signal displeasure against them for their sins brought them to desolation.

Might know; be convinced, and forced to own, that the Lord is a mighty King in punishing those that might, but would not, have him a gracious King in governing and guiding them.

Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.
Since all this evil and wicked carriage in Egypt and in the wilderness is too true, and cause of a Divine wrath against them, go on; tell what the deportment of those was whom I brought into the land.

Unto the house of Israel; to those elders that were now come to him, that they might tell others at Jerusalem.

Yet; or further yet, beside all the rest, this is added by them.

Blasphemed me; profanely and frowardly lessened my mercy, my law, my worship, cast a reproach upon it all, as less desirable than that of their own; theirs more august and stately, more taking and pleasing: or thus reproached my wisdom, as if it needed their additions to complete religion and Divine worship; or reproached my bounty, as if not I, but their idols, gave them what they enjoyed, as Hosea 2:5,7,8: the word speaks a reproach and blasphemy that comes from a heart full of enmity, as where it is used, Numbers 15:30 2 Kings 19:22 Psalm 44:16 Isaiah 37:23 43:28; they spitefully reproached.

Committed a trespass against me; grievously sinned, as the phrase is rendered, Ezekiel 14:13: what this was in particular the next verse will account to us.

For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink offerings.
When; so soon as settled in the land promised to Abraham and his seed.

Lifted up mine hand: see Ezekiel 20:5,23.

Saw; lookest after them, and, when seen, liked and prepared after the manner of the heathen; though this was forbidden, yet this thou didst, buildedst thy high places, and thou settest up thy groves every where.

There; not where God appointed, but where they listed.

Their sacrifices; either to God, as sometimes some did, or to their own idols, as the most did, which is here called the presenting the provocation of their offering.

Their offering; which being presented to their idol, was a provocation unto God.

Sweet savour; burnt sweet odours to their idols, which did stink in the nostrils of God.

Their drink-offerings; wine was a part of the offering that sacrificers offered, and so did these idolatrous Jews here, they violated the whole law of sacrifice, and did all that to idols they should have done only to God.

Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go? And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.
Then; when they were intent upon this horrid course of sin, God pleaded by his messengers, and prophets, and law, and some faithful priests, What mean you, that ye go to the high place? should you not go to the altar of God, and bring your sacrifices to the temple? Or what God better than Abraham’s do you expect there? What profit by attending upon those sacrifices offered daily? How often have you by such-like means poured contempt on God and his law!

Whereunto ye go; leaving my temple, and the service I prescribed, and in other places, unrequited, doing their supposed duties.

Bamah; high place: the very word tells them their wickedness, that they acted against the express will of God, and framed themselves to idolaters of the nation.

Unto this day; and this they did with obstinacy continue in to the days of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 34:3. Thus far the narrative of their great wickednesses.

Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations?
The house of Israel; those elders that were come to him, as Ezekiel 20:1, which see. They come to make inquiry, and now the prophet inquires of them, that their own conscience might make answer, and tell them what to expect: Your fathers, where are they? What became of some, that bore their iniquity? And what had become of the rest, if God had not withdrawn his hand? And all this hath been no warning to you, but, as they, so you, have polluted yourselves, and been idolaters.

For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.
Your gifts: see Ezekiel 20:26.

All your idols; it seems they took a compendious way to increase sin and wrath; they worshipped many idols at once; and this they did still to Ezekiel’s time, to that very day. Are you fit to come and ask counsel of me, whom you have so shamelessly, so obstinately forsaken and reproached? Can you expect I should answer you? My prophet knew you not to be hypocrites, but his God, who knows you, and all your abominations, hath put the answer into his mouth, which you must be content with. I will answer you as little as you regard me. So God refuseth them.

And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.
God by his prophet, to convince and recover them, tells them what they think and have purposed.

Shall not be at all; shall be quite frustrated.

Ye say; you have consulted and come to a resolution herein.

As the heathen; unite in habitation, covenants, marriages, commerce, and religion too; and then ye shall be more safe among them, thrive with them, and all the displeasure they have against you will cease: these are your imaginations and contrivances of you at the court of Zedekiah in Jerusalem. But I tell you that this shall not be at all. This designed apostacy to Gentilism, if you do act it, shall not prosper with you, or help you, ye blind, hardened, senseless atheists.

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:
As I live: see Ezekiel 20:3.

A mighty hand; so mighty, that you shall never wrest yourselves out of it: you think to revolt, and get out of my hand, but you shall hereby discover your own folly, malice, and weakness.

A stretched out arm, which reacheth every where, whence you can never flee, which shall be most visible.

With fury; in hot, but just indignation.

Poured out; as an inundation from a mighty river, or like a violent storm poured from the clouds, or as a full vessel emptied all at once.

Rule over you; retain my right over you, and exercise it on you, us on combined rebels, since you will refuse my rule, as over-loyal subjects. If you will not be my free subjects, you shall be lettered slaves; the chains of affliction, the restraints of providence crossing you, the execution of my menaces, shall be too sharp and thick a hedge for you to break through; I will make every place where you are a prison for strength to confine you, and I will make it a prison for the sorrows and hardships you shall there endure, and all this in my fury.

And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
From the people; Sidonians, Ammonites, Moabites, &c., whoever they were to whom the house of the apostate Jews betook themselves; where they thought to lurk, God will bring them thence into Babylonish captivity.

Will gather you; the same thing doubled for greater emphasis.

Are scattered; you dispersed yourselves for your supposed safety and welfare.

With a mighty hand: see Ezekiel 20:33. My power and arm shall execute my just displeasure on you.

And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
Bring you; drive you; and since you think of such a course of ease to yourselves by casting me off among the nations, I will bring you among such as you shall be soon weary of.

Into the wilderness; into the most horrid, barbarous, and savage parts of the inhabited world; into the mountainous barren parts of Media, Hyrcania, Iberia, Caspia, and Albania, and Scythia, inhospitable nations, and mortal enemies to strangers.

Plead; debate, pass sentence, and execute it also on you.

Face to face; not, as the rabbins dream, to conceal the dishonour of the Jews, but indeed plainly, openly, and so as my hand shall be seen.

Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.
With your fathers, who died there, and never entered Canaan.

In the wilderness; which lay on the further side of the Red Sea, over against the land of Egypt, and is from it called, as here, though it be Arabia Deserta; in which, within the space of less than forty years, all the rebellious murmurers died.

And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
I will bring you out by number, yet so as you shall either by a voluntary submission own my sceptre and government, or by a conquered subjection yield to my sword and power.

Under the rod; either referring to the manner of shepherds in that country, which did tell their sheep in and out of the fold; or rather, as a king, whose sceptre protects some, and dasheth others, and maintains his own right. I will difference persons and persons, that I may deal with each suitably to their state and carriage.

Will bring you, i.e. the voluntary and obedient, into covenant with myself.

And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Purge out; cull, and pick out, that they may be rejected, as they deserve, or brought forth to shame and punishment.

The rebels, the contumacious sinners, who harden themselves against God; his severe wasting judgments shall find them out in their hiding-places, and drag them out, but not to return them to Canaan, they shall no more return thither.

Ye shall know that I am the Lord; by which it shall appear, that though apostates may change their religion, and deny their God, yet he hath not less power to restrain, nor less right to govern, nor less sovereignty to dispose of them.

As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.
In short, you have done wickedly as you could, and I have done what was sufficient to reclaim you, I have foretold you what will be the final event, O house of Israel, and further I will not strive with you.

Go ye; ironically spoken, or, as is usually said to unreclaimable ones, Take your course, which allows not, nor commands, but threatens the evil course of such a one; or it is a divorce of this adulterous house, an utter casting them off for their idolatry.

Hereafter also: it seems an abrupt, vehement speech, which includes some heavy sentence, but it is suppressed, as too great to be uttered, or to leave room for doing more than the offender expected, Ecclesiastes 11:9 Amos 4:4 Matthew 23:23. You take yours, I will take my course, and see whose word shall stand. But while ye are such idolaters and notorious sinners, forbear to take my name into your lips, bring me none of your gifts and sacrifices to your idols, and pretend you bring them ultimately to me.

For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.
The gifts of idolaters, and all their painted stuff, God rejected in the former verse; now he encourageth the upright, those that feared, and obeyed, and waited on him. Mine holy mountain; Zion, holy hill, Psalm 2:6; holy by designation, and God’s own appointing it for his temple and presence.

The height of Israel: the hypocrites, you have your high places, I abhor them; my church hath its high place, but it is the Mount Zion I have loved and chosen, called the height: it was the glory of Israel, and though lower than many other hills, yet it was above them all for God’s peculiar presence there.

All the house of Israel; redeemed by me, whom I have brought out of Babylon according to promise, the returned captivity.

All of them: it is doubled to insure them.

In the land; their own land, and their fathers’ land.

Serve me; not idols, but the God of their fathers.

Accept them; delight in them, and in their sacrifices.

Require your offerings: when I have brought you into, and blest you in, the land, then I will require your offerings as formerly; your first-fruits, your tithes, in a word, all your holy gifts: you shall see my temple built, Jerusalem filled with inhabitants, the land of Israel planted with seed of man and beast, my worship restored, and you shall go up with joy, carrying your holy things, and I will there accept them.

I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.
The same gracious promise for substance repeated.

Sweet savour; incense of a pure and obedient heart.

From the people; from Babylon, and the parts of that kingdom, where they had been scattered these seventy years. Gather you, by Cyrus’s proclamation, and my secret impulse on the spirits of the faithful and constant Jews, while apostates stay behind.

Sanctified; magnified and praised for the good I do to my people, and on occasion of their love, fear, and obedience to me.

Before the heathen; heathens shall see, and say, as Psalm 126:2, God hath done great things for them; their God is the great, the merciful, and faithful God. who hath remembered his servants.

And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers.
Ye shall know more fully by experience that he is your God, who is the great, good, wise, and faithful God, who performs his word; you shall know, and love, fear, obey, and worship him alone, and according to his will. Of the rest of the verse, see Ezekiel 20:5,23,28, where these passages are spoken to.

And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.
In your restored state, and in your prosperity, in the land whither you are returned, ye shall review your former ways with sorrow; remember, and grieve.

Your ways of your folly, explained by their doings, which defiled them, i.e. all their more notorious sins.

Loathe: see Ezekiel 6:9.

In your own sight; your own heart and conscience shall see what you have done, and they shall take shame, and be humbled, though none else see it.

And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
This 44th verse doth summarily acquaint us that all Goa did for this people was of free, mere mercy, and for his own sake, not theirs.

Ye shall know; experimentally, with affection and obedience. The hypocrite secretly thinks somewhat in himself and works that God had regard to, but an honest, good heart, when God hath wrought, owneth the mercy wrought to be free and undeserved.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
A new prophecy, and which pertains, say some, to the next chapter, which is a large comment on this short prophecy in the three last verses, for the 45th and 46th are introductory.

Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;
He was now in Babylon, north from Jerusalem, and being commanded to look toward the south, it is toward Jerusalem, and the land of Canaan.

Thy face; thy courage and undaunted mind, manifest in prophesying as thou art commissioned.

Drop; let thy word distil, begin with softer words ere thou shower down with the vehemency of a storm; prophesy so, Amos 7:16 Micah 2:6.

The forest of the south field, i.e. Jerusalem, which was become like a forest for multitude of inhabitants, for barrenness, wildness, degeneracy, and sheltering wild beasts; murderers lodged in her.

And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.
Hear; hearken diligently, and consider.

The word of the Lord; what God foretells shall be done.

I will kindle a fire, I will bring an evil like fire, the Chaldean forces, in thee, in the midst of the land.

Every green tree, & c.; all that flourish, and all that are poor.

The flaming flame; it will be a raging and swift fire.

Shall not be quenched; all means that can be used will not avail to quench this fire, till it hath burnt up all.

Faces; persons and orders of men, expressed by faces.

From the south to the north; from one end of the land to the other: the length of Judea did so lie from south to north.

Shall be burnt: with terrors, labours, flight, famine, and sickness, occasioned by this mighty invasion, all persons shall wither, and be as parched, or burnt.

And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.
That is, all the nations round about, near to them, shall clearly see, openly own it, as God’s own work, both kindling this fire, and continuing it till it hath consumed all which God would destroy by it.

Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?
When the prophet had done his duty, and prophesied, and they should have heard and understood, he returns with a complaint of their quarrelling, censuring, flouting, and reproaching him for it: one while they account him mad, out of his wits, taken up with raptures and ecstasies, or else doting and dreaming; thus they fortify themselves in their atheism, infidelity, idolatry, and all other sins, and fear not thy word, but contemn thy servant.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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