Matthew Poole's Commentary
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.Ezekiel is made to eat the roll, Ezekiel 3:1-3. God encourageth him in the discharge of his office Ezekiel 3:4-14: he is carried by the Spirit to Tel-abib; and is there admonished of his duty as a watchman to Israel, Ezekiel 3:15-21. God further instructeth him concerning his typical bands, and the shutting and opening of his mouth, Ezekiel 3:22-27.
He who sat on the throne and directed the chariot or cherubims, the Lord Jesus Christ, who also spake to him in the chapter before. Eat: this was done in a vision.
That thou findest, in the hand which was sent to him, Ezekiel 2:9: this explains the former, and being ingeminated, doth require the prophet’s greatest resolution and diligence.
Eat this roll; read attentively, meditate thoroughly, impress the things upon thy soul deeply, for thou must declare them with very great affection and tenderness, with exact faithfulness and fearless courage.
And go, for then art thou fitted for and commissioned to undertake the prophetic function, speak unto the house of Israel; publish to them of the captivity in Babylon what I have declared to them, tell them what they should do, and what I will do.
So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.So, Heb. And; so soon as he had heard he must eat it. I opened my mouth; not to discuss points, but to obey, to show my readiness indeed, and to do what lay on me to do.
He caused me to eat that roll; not by a force compelling me, but by a concurrent help in what the prophet was ready to do.
And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.In this verse is confirmed and explained what was spoken Ezekiel 3:1, which see.
Cause thy belly to eat; the mouth is the proper instrument of eating, but when meat is eaten and digested, the belly is said to eat; the prophet must not just taste, but he must chew, swallow down, retain, and fill his belly with God’s word.
And fill thy bowels: this is the same repeated, unless it add to the other the measure, the fulness of the measure wherewith we should read, meditate, and digest the word of God and his works. And since bowels are the seat of compassion, it is likely the Lord would have his prophet be affected with pity toward that captive people, whose miseries he must foretell, and he foresees they must suffer.
This roll that I give thee: the roll and all that was in it came from God, and Ezekiel must remember this.
Then did I eat it, Heb. And I did eat it.
It was in my mouth as honey for sweetness; upon the palate it was sweet (this done in vision still) as honey. If you wonder that such bitter tidings could be sweet to the prophet, if it be doubted how this could be, since, Ezekiel 2:10, it was full of lamentation, &c..
Answ. It was sweet to receive such things by revelation from God, and so to converse with God; it is sweet to foresee future events, and to foretell God’s just judgments against sinners, and to have prospect of a vindication of the honour of God and credit of the prophet, who seeing all, these things with a well-composed mind, and just zeal for God, could not but approve and be pleased therewith. Or, it was sweet, as usually the first part of the ministerial work is pleasant, but at last wicked men’s opposition and persecution make it bitter, as Ezekiel 3:14 Jeremiah 15:16-18 Revelation 10:10.
And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.Song of Solomon of man: see Ezekiel 3:1, and Ezekiel 2:1. Go; either the first word, go, intimates the awakening and rousing him, and the latter,
get thee, directs him whither to go when on his legs, or else it is an idiom of the Hebrew language, or a hendyadis, an ingemination of the same command.
The house of Israel: see Ezekiel 2:3.
Speak with my words; see Ezekiel 3:1; in my name and authority, so some, but then it would have been in the singular number, not plural. Better and fuller it is by others thus, What things I shall show thee, and in what words I shall declare them to thee, these declare to the captives in Babylon. They perhaps do expect to hear somewhat else, and their flattering false prophets suggest other matters; but look to it, thou goest on my errand, speak therefore in my words, as the Hebrew.
For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;Though the Divine command is reason enough why we should obey readily, yet God is pleased to give the prophet arguments to persuade, and ushers them in here.
A people of a strange speech; who cannot skill of thy speech, nor thou speak (without gift of tongues) to them. Shift not off thy work as if, with Jonah, sent to a people of barbarous tongue, in which are dark and profound idioms, but as horrid to thy ear as deep and dark precipices and gulfs to the eye, as the Hebrew, deep of lip, intimates.
Of an hard language; the same repeated in other words; they will need no interpreter to tell them what thou sayest to them, nor wilt thou need an interpreter to tell thee what answer they give. Thy work will be the easier, neither difficult, as things that lie deep to be digged out, nor as things of great weight and heaviness to be lifted, as both metaphors imply: this is his first argument. Next, implied in it, I send thee to thine own countrymen, whose welfare thou shouldst readily seek, and in their own tongue thou mayst express thy care for them.
To the house of Israel; they still are a family that God owneth he hath not broke up housekeeping, there is further encouragement; and they are Israel’s seed, the posterity of Jacob, and under covenant mercy; go therefore readily, for Israel shall be gathered.
Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.This verse is much what the former, yet strengthens and illustrates what is laid down there.
Many people here may be, according to the comprehensiveness of the Hebrew word, either numerous, whose multitudes would be their pride, and tempt them to deride thee; or, mighty in valour and feats of war and policy, whose might would harden them; or, far off, who would wonder a stranger should come to tell them their destiny; or, divers nations, that thou shouldst need divers tongues, to speak to them all in their own language. This difficult work is reserved to those whom Shiloh will send, it is kept to the times when the Spirit poured forth shall enrich with the gift of tongues in gospel days.
Strange speech; deep lip, &c.: see Ezekiel 3:5.
Whose words thou canst not understand: words are articulate and significant, and when understood they are words to the hearer, but whilst not understood they are but empty and barbarous sounds, as the apostle observes in 1 Corinthians 14.
Surely: in the Hebrew the words occasion difficulty and variety of translations, but all of no great moment. Some would refer it to the Jews, and make this sense, Hadst thou gone in any name but mine they would have heard; so parallel it with John 5:43; but it is better, and more agreeable with the text, to refer it to many nations mentioned, who would have heard what the house of Israel refused to hear, (of which Jonah’s Ninevites are pregnant proofs,) and to them I would have sent thee, (say some,) but that they did not understand thee: this is but a very slender guess, and ill consists with the power of God, which can give the tongue, if he would have sent the message, as he intimated to Moses, unwilling to go. Our version hath well read and referred the words; with that asseveration,
surely, they have expressed what some will have the Hebrew al Ma to be, a form of an oath. God assures the prophet the message is such that any men in their wits would hear; go therefore to thy people, try whether they will act like men and hear, especially when their condition is quite otherwise than that I now suggest of the nations, for the Jews are few, weak, reduced to this by neglecting to hear; in reason, they should now hear, repent, seek me, do my word, and live.
But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.But, Heb. And, put adversatively, is rightly rendered but.
Will not hearken unto thee; have no mind or will. The original is not here, as mostly it is elsewhere, content to express it by the word in the tense which connoteth the event. But the original first points out their want of a will and inclination, they have no propensity to hear, they are obstinate in their refusal; next adds what it was their wills were obstinately averse to, i.e. hearing and obeying.
For they will not hearken unto me: this passage confirms the prediction, and withal forearms the prophet that he stumble not at their scandalous refusal and abusing of him; so they have used their God and his, and no wonder if they consent as little to him as they have to God.
All the house of Israel, i.e. the far greater part, not every particular person; there were of the captives some few like good figs, &c.
Are impudent; have hardened their faces, they are not ashamed, nor can they blush now, as Jeremiah 3:3. Brazenfaced is no new phrase or Anglicism, but as old as Isaiah 48:4, nay, as old as habitual sin.
Hard-hearted: this the root whence the other springs; and what hope from such whose hearts are as far from relenting as their faces from blushing? How can it be expected they will hear, whose hearts are deafer than their ear?
Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.This may be to remove the objection of the prophet, who might plead the softness of his own metal, and pretend shameless sinners will scoff a young prophet out of countenance. Behold, says God, consider.
I have made; given. They have given themselves this impudent countenance; I have given thee true courage, constancy, and manly carriage.
Thy forehead strong; the same answer in words very little varying. God will qualify and gift him for this work among this people, and edge his own tools to cut into the hardest metal. So Isaiah 1:7 Jeremiah 1:18 Micah 3:8.
As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.If their foreheads be hard and cutting as the flint, if they wound the soft and tender, if they sparkle with fire against those of harder metal; yet be not afraid, I have made thee as the adamant, harder than flint, able to cut and to break it. But what if there should be allusion to the Talmudic rabbinical tradition about their supposed worm
shamir, the word here used; if the tradition be as old as Ezekiel’s time, it will carry some probability with it. This
schamir they say was a worm, which by secret virtue would, when applied, cut or form hard stones, and divide the greatest; that Moses used it to prepare the precious stones for the breastplate, and Solomon, they say, used it to fit the stones without hammer for the temple. Well then, Ezekiel, fear not, thou shalt be a
schamir to the Jews in captivity, and fit some of them to be either rich ornaments in the breastplate, or beautiful stones in the temple; go about thy work, it shall not be, though it seem, successless.
Fear them not; let no prevailing fear take thee quite off from thy work; let not any lesser surprises and sudden discomposures of mind, when thou appearest before them, unfit thee for this work I set thee about.
A rebellious house; as a house that is rebellion itself.
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.This verse is a repetition of the charge given to the prophet, to deal faithfully and undauntedly in the delivering his message, to deliver always what God should speak, to speak nothing else, and to speak all that. These repetitions in the abundance of the same words, are from the usage and custom of the people of those countries in which the Jews were now captive.
Receive in thine heart: this explains the visionary eating, of which Ezekiel 3:3. Hearing is first, and receiving into the heart follows; but with the Jews such transpositions are very usual.
And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.See Ezekiel 3:4.
To them of the captivity; of the first captivity under Jeconiah’s reign, who succeeded his father Jehoiakim, slain for his conspiracy with Egypt against Nebuchadnezzar, as 2 Kings 24:1,6,7. These are those good figs, Jeremiah 24:5-7, of whom such good is spoken, and to whom those promises are made.
Thy people; Heb. the sons of thy people. Some will have God speaking here of this people as no more his, but I think it rather is to be interpreted of some that were amidst them who were disowned of God, and were now but children or sons of the people, the apostate idolaters and debauched sinners, which might possibly have embraced the conqueror’s religion and manners.
Speak unto them: here again the command is repeated and doubled.
Thus saith the Lord: see Ezekiel 2:4,5.
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.The spirit; the Spirit of God, which governed the wheels and the living creatures, Ezekiel 8:3.
Took me up; either raised him up to nearer approaches, to see and discern, to hear and learn; or carried him to his countrymen, to whom he was to speak.
Behind me; his face toward the north while he saw the vision, now that he is carried south to his people the voice is behind him. A voice of a great rushing; an articulate sound, and intelligible, but with great commotion, for it was the voice of angels, attended with the rushing noise of the wheels added to the noise of their wings, and a mighty wind which might likely accompany all this.
Blessed be the glory of the Lord; praised and magnified be the gloriously holy and just God, riding on the glorious chariot of his sovereignty in prescribing laws, appointing ordinances, threatening sin, and punishing sinners.
From his place; either coming down from heaven, or departing from his temple. In brief, the glorious angels, and all the saints of God, bless, i.e. praise, admire, and justify God in all the ways of his judgments among the sons of men.
I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing.I heard, added to connect the verses and to make the reading full, hath I think somewhat perplexed the words, and occasioned inquiry after two different sounds or voices; whereas if we read them as in the Hebrew and as the Latin,
And the noise was of the wings, & c., so the 13th verse will explain the 12th, and tell you what was that great rushing which Ezekiel heard behind him.
Touched one another: see Ezekiel 1:9. Over against them: see Ezekiel 1:19,20.
So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.So, Heb. And, or then, at that very time.
The spirit, the Spirit of God, as Ezekiel 3:12, which see.
Lifted me up, either from that prostration which the terrible vision had caused when he fell to the ground; or rather, caught him, who before was on his legs and well come to himself, up into the air.
Took me away; carried me, (as was Philip when carried away from the eunuch,) and brought me to the place where I was to deliver my message, the place where the captive Jews were crowded together.
I went: hitherto nothing appears of the prophet’s concurrence, but the verse seems to speak constraint and force, but now you have his voluntary concurrence with the motion of the Spirit. He went when so moved and assisted.
In bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; Heb. bitter in the heat of my spirit; grieved, sad, and my spirit within me was as all in a heat of anger: either,
1. Enkindled within by the sympathy he had with his countrymen in their sufferings and calamities; or,
2. Because of those wickednesses he saw and reproved in them; or,
3. Because he must be the unwelcome messenger of such unwelcome news; or,
4. Because of the danger he was exposed to among enraged desperadoes: which way soever you explain it, Ezekiel’s weakness and distempered humour will appear in it; Jonas-like, he will be angry. But; for, as some others; and, as the Hebrew. The hand of the Lord was strong upon me; either in general the power of God, which cannot be resisted; or the Spirit of prophecy, which, as a fire shut up, will break forth, as in Jeremiah 20:7-9; indeed both concur.
Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.See Ezekiel 3:11.
Tel-abib; the name of a place in that part of Mesopotamia, which was shut up within Chebar westward, and Saocora eastward. This was divided into superior, called Gozan, and inferior, called here Tel-abib, a low country, and unprofitable, because spoiled by waters, and secure to keep captives in, and so it afforded matter of labour and toil to the captive Jews, and was as a prison to them lest they should escape, and in both pleased the Babylonians.
By the river; on or near to that part of the river Chebar which runs westward of this Tel-abib. Here then is no more contradiction than is in this, if I should name a place between two rivers, and say the place is near one of those rivers.
I sat where they sat; sat sad and astonished, where I found and saw them sitting astonished; for sitting sometimes is a posture of mourning and sadness, as in Lamentations 1:1, and Job’s friends, and Psalm 137:1.
Remained there astonished; either at the sight of that woeful change of the Jews from freedom and honour to servitude and shame; or astonished at foresight of that which the roll contained, or at the Jews’ impenitence and unreformed manner of living under all these afflictions.
Seven days; mourning no doubt all that while, and waiting till the Spirit of prophecy should open his mouth, and till he might know persons, their inclinations, vices, and temper in them, and till he might speak somewhat of personal knowledge against their wickednesses.
And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,This verse gives us sufficient account why the prophet staid these seven days; it was because the particular word he was to speak to them was not yet declared to him. He had a call and commission to be a prophet, and comes in this character to these Jews, but till seven days are ended he receives no particular word, when by his carriage among the Jews it appeared he was more than a common man, that he was full of matter more than ordinary; then came the word of the Lord, saying,
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.See Ezekiel 2:1.
I; the person that appeared to him, Ezekiel 1:26. It is the great and glorious One.
Made thee; appointed by commission; I have qualified by gifts, I have actually sent thee forth, &c.
Watchman; night and day to observe whether the enemy approach, and to give notice on pain of death.
Hear the word at my mouth: see Ezekiel 2:8.
Give them warning; I will give thee notice, thou art then to give warning unto them, and let them know it comes from me, and in mercy, to prevent their final ruin. Be not as a prognosticator, as one that consults the stars, and foretells from the conjunction of them, but own the things thou art to warn them of as from my mouth.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.When I say, either by the, menaces of my law, or by motion of my Spirit stirring thee up to reprove and warn.
The wicked; any wicked one whatever, rich or poor, mean or mighty.
Thou shalt surely die; such courses will certainly end in death, and in damnation if not left.
Givest him not warning; frequently, and with repeated monitions, as the word signifies, and as the apostle, Acts 20:31. This to those that will hearken.
Nor speakest; some will profanely scoff and deride, yet speak to warn them, till it do appear they are such as will turn again and rent you. Or else it is the same thing repeated.
From his way; men must be told of their own sins; these are their dangers. To save his life; that thou mayst preserve his life, his soul, and recall him at once from sin and death.
Shall die in his iniquity; the man who is not warned by thee will certainly die in his sin, the sinner’s ignorance will not be sufficient to prevent his death, but thy not admonishing him will involve thee also in guilt and death. I will punish thee, who possibly mightest have saved by warning, however oughtest to have warned.
Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.His wickedness: this may denote the sinfulness of his mind and heart, which is the spring of all.
His wicked way; his actual sinful courses; the practices of sin and the habits of sin must be left.
He shall die in his iniquity; the punishment of his unrepented sins shall be death, but there is no danger unto the watchman, the prophet and minister, who did his duty, and warned the sinner.
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.What must be done to sinners is said, now for those that have been righteous take thy directions.
A righteous man; either one that hath for some continuance of time professed the way of righteousness, but is now overcome of vices; or who is righteous only in appearance, as Proverbs 18:17 Ezekiel 18:24,26 33:13 Matthew 9:13.
Doth turn from his righteousness; gives just cause to fear he not only hath committed some particular sin, but that he hath changed the course of life, the thoughts and purposes from good to evil, hath forsaken the way of righteousness.
Commit iniquity; gives himself up to a sinful life, wallows in sin.
I lay a stumbling-block; dispose affairs so by a just and punishing providence that what did restrain is taken away, or what will be occasion of greater sinning is not removed, or any other way I give such a one up to his own heart’s lust, so that he continue in sin.
He shall die; shall perish in his sin.
His righteousness; either external, and seeming; or his partial and temporary righteousness, which he himself or others ascribed to him, and thought to be in him; shall not be profitable to him: he that apostatizeth is the worst of men, because he falls from known ways of goodness and holiness. Yet such must be warned, else their blood will be required at the hand of those who were to warn them.
Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.If thou warn; as often as need. The righteous man; the truly and really pious, the regenerate man.
Sin not; deliberately, customarily, habitually.
And he doth not sin; takes warning, and departs further from sin, and keeps better to the ways of God.
Live; be accepted with God and happy; and both warner and warned have delivered their souls.
And the hand of the LORD was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee.See Ezekiel 3:14 Ezekiel 1:3.
There; at Tel-abib.
Go forth into the plain; withdraw from the multitude, and retire into the opener place. Likely it was some spacious level in that low country which lay between the rivers.
Talk with thee; to comfort, encourage, direct, and communicate further of the Divine will and counsels to the prophet.
Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.Then; so soon as commanded.
The glory of the Lord: see Ezekiel 1:28, with foregoing verses.
Stood there; in the plain whither he is now come.
As the glory which I saw by the river; it overpowered him now as then, and he could bear it no more now than before he could.
Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.The spirit: see Ezekiel 2:2.
Shut thyself within thy house: some say this is to be an interrogation, wilt thou, &c.? others add it is an irony, upbraiding him; but I see no ground for either. It is, as we read it, a plain command, which appears, in that with the command God giveth strength to do what is commanded; and he is to shut up himself, to learn of God what he must foretell, to foresignify the shutting up of Jews in Jerusalem.
But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them:Song of Solomon of man: see Ezekiel 2:1. It is not said who shall do this, therefore interpreters guess variously at it. Some say it is figurative, noting the malice of the Jews, who would not suffer him quietly to converse with them, their malice was like bonds. Others understand the words as they sound, and refer,
1. To angels, as if they bound him.
2. To his friends and domestics, who would take his intenseness and earnestness in continued, retired thoughtfulness to be madness; so prophets were mistaken and misreported, 2 Kings 9 Mr 3:21. To the ruder and more violent of the Jews, who on all occasions were ready thus to confine their prophets, when they foretold unwelcome tidings, and to stir up their governors hereto, as 1 Kings 22:27 Jeremiah 32:2 37:15 38:6,7. It is not improbable that the rabble should incense the aicuagotarcai, presidents of the captivity, to do this.
Put bands upon thee; signifying the bonds and chains of their future captivity who were yet at Jerusalem.
Shall bind thee with them: this I suppose denotes the severity with which the conqueror would treat them, he would bind their bonds fast, close, and this will be pain and grief to the bounden.
Thou shalt not go out among them; a Hebraism, thou shalt be denied a free converse.
And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house.Either by forbidding thee to speak, I will make thee as dumb as if thy tongue did cleave to the roof of thy mouth; or possibly God did suspend his influence, and leave the prophet dumb, as one who could not move his tongue, the use whereof is taken away.
A reprover; a man to reprove (as Heb.); shalt tell them as little of their faults and danger as a dumb man can do. God hereby giving the prophet some respite, signifying the future state of the Jews would be such they should no more dare to mutter or whisper; and punishing the refractory deafness of the Jews with taking away their reprover, &c.
A rebellious house: see Ezekiel 2:5,7.
But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.When I speak with thee; whenever I shall reveal any thing to thee; or, when I shall have discovered all to thee which thy people should be informed in; then I will open thy lips, and loose they tongue, and give thee power to speak.
Thou shalt say unto them; in point of duty thou must tell them what I speak, and tell them as from me, who am eternal and sovereign Lord of heaven and earth: and in this style the Lord speaks above eighty times in this prophecy.
Let him hear; it is his duty and safety, and I propose it to his consideration, let him think what he hath to do herein.
Let him forbear; it is at his own peril, thou hast warned him, and now trouble not thyself, neither be grieved much at it. They, a rebellious house, act like themselves in sinning, and thou hast acted like thyself, a faithful admonisher; I will act like myself in punishing and giving them up into the hands of cruel, ravenous, and devouring enemies, who shall destroy them.