And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.
Verse 1. - Son of man, etc. It is noticeable that the phrase (ben adam), as addressed to a prophet, occurs only in Ezekiel, in whom we find it not less than eighty times, and in Daniel 8:17. As used elsewhere, e.g. in Numbers 23:19; Psalm 8:4; Job 25:6; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 56:2, and in Ezekiel's use of it, it is probably connected with the history of Adam, as created from the ground (adamah) in Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19. The prophet is reminded, in the very moment of his highest inspiration, of his Adam nature with all its infirmity and limitations. In the use of a like phrase (bar enosh, instead of ben adam) in Daniel 7:13 we have the same truth implied. There one like unto man in all things is called to share the sovereignty of the "Ancient of Days," the Eternal One. Here the prophet, nothing in himself, is called to be the messenger of God to other sons of men. It is in many ways suggestive that our Lord should have chosen the same formula for constant use when speaking of himself (Matthew 8:20, and passim in the Gospels). Stand upon thy feet. The attitude of adoration is changed, by the Divine command, into that of expectant service, that of awe and dread for the courage of a soldier of the Lord of hosts (compare the parallels of Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 43:3, 5; Daniel 8:18).
And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.
Verse 2. - And the Spirit, etc. It scarcely admits of question (though the Hebrew has no article, and so far Luther's Version, "Ich ward wieder erquickt," is tenable) that the word is used in the same sense as in Ezekiel 1:20, 21 (comp. Ezekiel 3:24). The Spirit which moved the "living creatures" and the "wheels" in the mysterious symbol was now in him. Ezekiel finds in that fact the ground of his prophetic inspiration (comp. Numbers 24:2; Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; Isaiah 11:2, etc.)
And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.
Verse 3. - To a rebellious nation; literally, with Revised Version, nations that are rebellious. The Hebrew word (goim) is that used elsewhere for "heathen" and that may be its sense here. As in Ezekiel 28:22. Judah and Israel may be thought of as having fallen to the level of the heathen. Part of Ezekiel's work was actually addressed to the heathen as such (ch. 25-32.). The word may, however, be used in the plural to include both Judah and the remnant of the northern kingdom. They and their fathers. The words anticipate the teaching of ch. 18. The people to whom the prophet was sent could not say that they were suffering for the sins of their fathers. They, in their own persons, had transgressed up to the very day on which the prophet received his mission. They had rebelled as their fathers had done in the days of Moses and Joshua (Numbers 14:9; Joshua 22:18).
For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.
Verse 4. - Impudent children and stiff-hearted; literally, hard of face (i.e. callous to their shame) and stiff of heart. The LXX. gives aptly, σκληροπρόσωποι καὶ σκληροκάρδιοι (compare the "past feeling" of Ephesians 4:19). Thus saith the Lord God. In the Hebrew, Adoaai Jehovah; which the LXX. represents by Κύριος Κύριος, and Luther by "der Herr Herr." The two highest names of the God of Israel were 'used to denote the fulness of the prophet's inspiration. The same formula occurs in Ezekiel 3:11, 27: 13:8; 22:28, and passim. So also in 2 Samuel 7:18, 19, 20, 29; and elsewhere.
And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
Verse 5. - Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, etc. The latter word is used in the sense of "cease" or "desist," as in 1 Corinthians 9:6 and Ephesians 6:9. The same formula meets us in ver. 7; Ezekiel 3:11, 27. The prophet is warned beforehand of the (at least) probable failure of his mission, wholly or in part. We note the parallelism of thought, though not language, in 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16. Such, at all times, has been the condition of the prophet's work. The expectation is grounded upon the antecedent fact of their being a "rebellious people." There is the consolation that in the end, partly through the fulfilment of his words, partly, it may be, through the witness of their own conscience, they shall know that there has been a prophet among them (comp. Ezekiel 33:33; Jeremiah 28:9). We note that it is the first time that Ezekiel claims that name for himself.
And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
Verse 6. - Though briers and thorns be with thee. The two Hebrew nouns are not found elsewhere, and have consequently puzzled translators. The LXX. gives two verbs, παροιστρήσπυσιν καὶ ἐπισυστήσονται ἐπὶ σὲ; the Vulgate, increduli et subversores. The words, however, are formed from roots that imply "pricking" or "burning," and the Authorized Version rendering, followed by the Revised Version, is tenable enough. A cognate form of the first is found in Ezekiel 28:24, and there the LXX. gives σκόλοψ, and the Vulgate, spina. A like figurative use of "scorpions" is found in 1 Kings 12:11 (but here the reference may be to some scorpion like scourge) and Ecclus. 26:7 (compare also our Lord's words in Luke 10:19). Be not afraid Compare the like command in Jeremiah 1:17. The words imply, probably, a past as well as a future experience. Ezekiel had already known what it was to dwell among those whose hearts were venomous as scorpions. The comparison was a sufficiently familiar one among both Eastern and Greek writers.
And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
Verse 7. - Thou shalt speak my words, etc. The words conveyed
(1) a ground of encouragement in the fact that the words would be given by Jehovah (romp. Jeremiah 1:7, 17; Matthew 10:19, 20); and
(2) a warning against the intermingling of lower thoughts and a self-originated message (Ezekiel 13:7; Ezekiel 22:28). They are most rebellious; literally, the Hebrew being a noun, they are rebellion, or stubbornness, itself.
But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.
Verse 8. - Be not thou rebellious, etc. The words convey a warning against the prophet's natural weakness. Instinctively he shrank, as Moses had done (Exodus 3:11; Exodus 4:10-13) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6), from his dread vocation of being a "mortal vessel of the Divine Word." In so shrinking he would identify himself with the very "rebellion" which he was sent to reprove, and would incur its punishment. Eat that I give thee. As in the parallel of Revelation 10:9, the words imply that what was to be given him was no message resting, as it were, on the surface of the soul. It was to enter into the prophet's innermost life, to be the food and nourishment of his soul; to be, in our familiar phrase, "inwardly digested" and incorporated with his very flesh and blood. He was to live "not by bread only" (Deuteronomy 6:3), but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of Jehovah.
And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;
Verse 9. - An hand was sent (put forth, Revised Version) unto me, etc. Apparently the hand was not that of the human form seated on the throne (Ezekiel 1:26), nor of one of the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:8), but one appearing mysteriously by itself, as in the history of Belshazzar's feast (Daniel 5:5). The words connect themselves with the use of the hand stretched out of a cloud as the symbols of the Divine energy both in Jewish and Christian art. The writer has in his possession a Jewish brass tablet, probably of the sixteenth century, commemorating the legend of the miraculous supply of oil at the Feast of the Dedication, in which such a hand appears as pouring oil into the seven-branched candlestick, or lamp, of the temple. Lo, a roll of a book, etc. The words remind us of the volume, or roll, in Psalm 40:7; Jeremiah 36:2; Zechariah 5:1; like those which are still used in Jewish synagogues.
And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.
Verse 10. - It was written within and without. Commonly such rolls, whether of vellum or papyrus, were written on one side only. This, like the tables of stone (Exodus 32:15), was written, as a symbol of the fulness of its message, on both sides. And as he looked at the roll thus "spread before" him, he saw that it was no evangel, no glad tidings, that he had thus to identify with his work, but one from first to last of lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Jeremiah had been known as the prophet of weeping, and was about this time (probably a little later) writing his own Lamentations (the Hebrew title of the book, however, is simply its first words) over the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel's work was to be of a like nature. The word meets us again (Ezekiel 19:1, 14; Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 27:2, 32; Ezekiel 28:12; Ezekiel 32:2, 16) as the keynote of his writings. Out of such a book, though the glad tidings were to come afterwards, his own prophetic work was to be evolved.