Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verses 1, 2. - Moreover, etc. The word connects what follows with the word of the Lord which began in Ezekiel 20:2. That connection is, indeed, sufficiently indicated by the recurrence of the formula, "Wilt thou judge?" (see note on Ezekiel 20:4). In obedience to the commands which that question implied, Ezekiel has once more to go through the catalogue of the sins of Judah and Jerusalem. It is not without significance that he applies the very epithet of bloody city (Hebrew, oily of bloods) which Nahum (Nahum 3:1) had applied to Nineveh.
Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea, thou shalt shew her all her abominations.
Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD, The city sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against herself to defile herself.
Verse 3. - The city sheddeth blood, etc. As in the great indictment of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:15, 21; Isaiah 4:4), the sins of murder and idolatry are grouped together. She sins as if with the purpose "that her time" (i.e. the time of her punishment) "may come."
Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast defiled thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries.
Verse 4. - Thou hast caused thy days to draw near, etc. As in Ver. 3, the days and the years are those of God's judgments. The people had made no effort to avert their doom by repentance. They had, as it were, rushed upon their appointed fate. So, though in another sense, the righteous lives of the faithful are said, in 2 Peter 3:12, to "hasten the coming of the day of God." Exceptional evil and exceptional good alike hasten the approach of the day which is to decide between the two.
Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee, which art infamous and much vexed.
Verse 5. - Those that be near, etc. The Hebrew words are both feminine, and refer to the neighboring and distant cities which took up their proverbs of reproach against the city, once holy and faithful, now infamous (Hebrew, defiled in name) and much vexed. The last words point to another form of punishment. Jerusalem is described as in a state of moral tumult and disorder as the consequence of its guilt (comp. Amos 3:9; Deuteronomy 7:23; Zechariah 14:13, where the same word is rendered by "tumults" and "destruction").
Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power to shed blood.
Verse 6. - Behold, the princes of Judah, etc. For the "bloodshed," which was conspicuous among the sins, comp. Ezekiel 9:9; Ezekiel 16:38; Ezekiel 23:37, 45; and for special instances of that sin among its princes, those of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:16) and Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:4). To their power; Hebrew, each man according to his arm, i.e. his strength. There was no restraint upon the doer of evil other than the limitation of his capacity.
In thee have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in thee have they vexed the fatherless and the widow.
Verse 7. - We pass to sins of another kind. The fifth commandment was trampled underfoot as well as the sixth, and the blessing of continued national existence (Exodus 20:12) was thereby forfeited. The widow and the orphan and the stranger (we note in that last word the width of Ezekiel's sympathies) were oppressed (compare the same grouping in Deuteronomy 27:16, 19).
Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my sabbaths.
Verse 8. - Mine holy things, etc. The words take in the whole range of Divine ordinances as affecting both things and persons. (For "profaning sabbaths," see Ezekiel 20:16.)
In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in thee they eat upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they commit lewdness.
Verse 9. - Men that carry tales, etc. Hebrew, men of slanders (comp. Exodus 23:1; Leviticus 19:16). The sin of the informers, ever ready to lend themselves to plots against the life or character of the innocent, was then, as at all times, the besetting evil of corrupt government in the East. Compare the story of Naboth (1 Kings 21:10) and of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:13). (For eating on the mountains, see note on Ezekiel 18:6; and for lewdness, that on Ezekiel 16:43.) What the lewdness consisted in is stated in the following verses.
In thee have they discovered their fathers' nakedness: in thee have they humbled her that was set apart for pollution.
Verse 10. - This, well-nigh the vilest of all forms of incest, against which the horror naturalis of the heathen, as in the story of Hippolytus, uttered its protest, would seem to have been common among the corruptions of Israel (Amos 2:7; comp. 1 Corinthians 5:1). (For the sin described in the second clause, see notes on Ezekiel 18:6.)
And one hath committed abomination with his neighbour's wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father's daughter.
Verses 11 ,12. - The list of sins follows on the lines of Leviticus 18:9, 15. (For those in Ver. 12, see notes on Ezekiel 18:12.) It is to be remarked, however, that the prophet does not confine himself to the mere enumeration of specific sins. These are traced to their source in that "forgetting God" which was at once the starting-point and the consummation of all forms of evil (comp. Romans 1:28).
In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD.
Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee.
Verse 13. - I have smitten my hand. The gesture, as in Ezekiel 21:14, 17, was one of indignant, and, as it were, impatient command.
Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.
Verse 14. - Can thine heart endure, etc.? The question implies an answer in the negative. Heart would fail and hands wax feeble in the day of the Lord's judgment. The doom of exile and dispersion must come, with all its horrors; but even here, Judah was not, like Ammon to be forgotten (Ezekiel 21:32). Her punishment was to do its work, and to consume her filthiness out of her.
And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee.
And thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the heathen, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
Verse 16. - Thou shalt take thine inheritance, etc.; better, with the Revised Version, Keil, and most other commentators, shalt be profaned in thyself, etc. The prophet is still speaking of punishment, not of restoration.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver.
Verse 18. - The house of Israel is to me become dross, etc. A new parable, based upon Isaiah 1:22, 23 and Jeremiah 6:80, begins, and is carried out with considerable fullness. In Malachi 3:2, 3 we have the same imagery. Baser metals have been mingled with the silver, and must be burnt out, but there is hope, as well as terror, in the parable. Men throw the mixed metals into the smelting-pot in order that the silver may be separated from the dross and come out pure (comp. 1 Peter 1:7). And this was to be the issue of the "fiery trial" through which Jerusalem and its inhabitants were to pass.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.
As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.
Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof.
As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out my fury upon you.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verses 23, 24. - A fresh section opens, and the prophet addresses himself, not to Jerusalem only, but to the whole land. A land that is not cleansed. The words admit of the rendering, not shined upon, and this is adopted by Keil. The land is deprived at once of the sunshine and the rain. which are the conditions of fertility. The LXX. gives "not mined upon," and so the two clauses are parallel and state the same fact. So Ewald. The Vulgate gives immunda, and this is followed both by the Authorized Version and the Revised Version (comp. Isaiah 5:6; Amos 4:7).
Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.
There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
Verse 25. - A conspiracy of prophets. The prophet's thoughts go back to Ezekiel 13:1-16, from which, in Ver. 28, he actually quotes It is probable that, in the interval, fresh tidings had reached him of the evil work which they were doing at Jerusalem. The LXX. ἀφηγούμενοι (equivalent to "princes") suggests that they followed a different text, and this is adopted by Keil and Hitzig. Like a roaring lion (comp. Ezekiel 19:2, 3; 1 Peter 5:8). The word probably points to the loud declamations of the false prophets (compare, as a striking parallel, Zephaniah 3:3, 4).
Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Verse 26. - The sins of the prophets are followed by these of the priests. Their guilt was that they blurred over the distinction between the holy and the profane (Revised Version, "common"), between the clean and the unclean (comp. Ezekiel 44:23; Leviticus 10:10, where the same terms are used), in what we have learnt to call the positive and ceremonial ordinances of the Law, and so blunted their keenness of perception in regard to analogous moral distinctions. Extremes meet, and in our Lord's time the same result was brought about by an exaggerated scrupulosity about the very things the neglect of which was, in Ezekiel's time, the root of the evils which he condemns. This was true generally, conspicuously true in the case of the sabbath. Its neglect was a crying evil in Ezekiel's time, just as its exaggeration was in the later development of Judaism. Though in itself positive rather than moral, to hide the eyes from its holiness was, for these to whom the commandment had been given, an act of immorality.
Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.
Verse 28. - (See Ezekiel 13:10.) The fact that the prophets are addressed here gives some force to the idea that "chiefs" or "judges" were addressed in Ver. 27.
The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.
Verse 29. - From the classes, the prophet turns to the masses. The people of the land, the common people (2 Kings 25:3, 19), come under the same condemnation. Greed of gain, the oppression of the poor and the stranger, were seem everywhere.
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
Verse 30. - And I sought for a man, etc. (For the imagery that follows, see Ezekiel 13:5: Psalm 106:23.) The fact stated, as in Jeremiah 5:1, is that there was no one in all Jerusalem righteous enough to be either a defender or an intercessor, none to be a "repairer of the breach" (Isaiah 58:12). Nothing was left but the righteous punishment proclaimed in Ver. 31.
Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.