Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verse 1. - The absence of any fresh date, and the fact that it is simply tacked on to the previous chapter by the copulative conjunction, shows that what follows belongs to the same group. The use of the phrase, the word of the Lord came unto me, shows, however, that there was an interval of silence, perhaps of meditation, followed by a fresh influx of inspiration; and, so far as we may judge from the more lyrical character of the chapter, a more intense emotion.
Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.
Verse 2. - An end, etc. The iteration of the word once more gives emphasis. The words read like an echo of Amos 8:2. The four corners (Hebrew, "wings") were probably, as with us, the north, east, south, and west. The phrase had been used before in Isaiah 11:12, and the thought meets us again, in the form of the "four winds," in Daniel 11:4; Zechariah 2:6; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27. The "end" in this case is either that of the siege of Jerusalem, or that of the existence of Israel as a nation. It was now drawing nigh - was, as we say, within measurable distance.
Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.
Verse 3. - Now is the end upon thee, etc. We note the repetition of this and ver. 4 in vers. 8, 9, as a kind of refrain in the lamentation. Stress is laid, and for the time laid exclusively, on the unpitying character of the Divine judgments. And this is followed as before, in Ezekiel 6:14, by "Ye shall know that I am the Lord." Fear must teach men the lesson which love had failed to teach.
And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Verse 4. - Thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee, etc. These are, of course, primarily the idolatries of Israel. The people are to reap what they have sown. Their sins should be recognized in their punishment.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come.
Verse 5. - An evil, an only evil, etc. The words imply that the evil would be unique in character, attracting men's notice, not needing repetition. Cornill, however, following Luther, gives "evil after evil," changing one letter m the Hebrew for "one," so as to get the word "after." For is come read, with the Revised Version, it cometh. It is the nearness, not the actual arrival, of the end, that is in the prophet's thoughts. He writes in B.C. 595-4. Jerusalem was not taken till s.c.588
An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come.
Verse 6. - It watcheth for thee; better, with the Revised Version, it awaketh against thee. So the LXX., Vulgate, Luther. The Hebrew presents a paronomasia between the noun and verb - hakketz, hekitz - which cannot be reproduced in English. The destined doom is thought of as rousing itself to its appointed work. The word is cognate with that rendered "awaketh" in Psalm 78:65.
The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains.
Verse 7. - The morning is come unto thee, etc. In the only other passage in which the Hebrew noun occurs (Isaiah 28:5), it is translated "diadem," the meaning being strictly a circular ornament. Here the LXX. gives πλοκὴ, something twirled, out of which may come the meaning of the changes of fortune. Possibly, as in the familiar "wheel of fortune," that thought was involved in the circular form by itself. In the Tahnud it appears as the name of the goddess of fate at Ascalon (Furst). On the whole, I follow the Revised Version, Keil, and Ewald, in giving "thy doom." The "morning" of the Authorized Version probably rises from the thought that the dawn is, as it were, the glory and diadem of the day. The Vulgate gives contritio. The day of trouble; better, with the Revised Version, of tumult. The word is specially used of the noise of war (Isaiah 22:5; Amos 3:9; Zechariah 14:3). Not the sounding again upon the mountains. The first noun is not found in the Old Testament, but a closely allied form appears in Isaiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:30; Jeremiah 48:33, for the song of the vintage. Not that, the prophet says, shall be heard on the mountains, but in its place the cry of battle and the noise of war. The LXX. "not with travail-pangs," and the Vulgate non gloriae montium, show that the word was in both cases a puzzle to the translators.
Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.
Verses 8, 9. - The verses repeat, like the burden of a lyric ode, but end more emphatically, ye shall know that I am Jehovah that smiteth.
And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth.
Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.
Verse 10. - It is come. Read, as before, it cometh; and for morning, doom (see note on ver. 7). The rod hath blossomed, etc. The three verbs imply a climax. The "doom" springs out of the earth; the rod of vengeance blossoms (the word is the same as that which describes the blooming of Aaron's rod (Numbers 17:8), and the phrase was probably suggested by the history); pride (either that of the Chaldean ministers of vengeance, or of Israel as working out its own punishment; I incline to the latter) buds and bears fruit. In Isaiah 27:6 the word follows on "blossom," and therefore seems applicable to the formation of the fruit rather than the flower. (For the image of the rod, comp. Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 10:26; Micah 6:9.)
Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them.
Verse 11. - Violence is risen up, etc. The "violence" admits of the same twofold interpretation as the "pride" of ver. 10. None of them shall remain. The interpolated verb, though grammatically necessary, weakens the force of the Hebrew. "None of them; none of their multitude; none of their wealth." Neither shall there be wailing for them. The noun is not found elsewhere. Taken, as the Authorized Version takes it, the thought, like that of Ezekiel 24:16 and Jeremiah 16:4, is that the usual rites of burial would be neglected, and that there would be "no widows to make lamentation" (Psalm 78:64). The Revised Version "eminency" implies the loss of all that constituted greatness. Cornill and the LXX. ("beauty" or "gaiety") practically agree with this. The Vulgate gives requies, and Furst "a gathering, or tumult of the people." Probably the text is corrupt.
The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.
Verse 12. - Let not the buyer rejoice, etc. We have to read, between the lines, the story of Ezekiel's companions in exile. They belonged, it will be remembered, to the nobler and wealthier class (2 Kings 25:19). They, it would seem, had been compelled to sell their estates at a price which made the "buyer rejoice and the seller mourn." In each case the joy and the sorrow would be but transient. Wrath had gone out against the whole multitude. In Micah 2:2 and Isaiah 5:8 we have parallel instances of the advantage taken by the rich of the distress of the old tree holders. In the story of Jeremiah 32:6-16 we have, though from a very different point of view, the history of a like purchase, while the city was actually surrounded by the Chaldeans. The neglect of the sabbatic year (Jeremiah 34:8-17) makes it probable that the jubilee year also (if, indeed, it had ever been more than an ideal) had fallen into desuetude, and that the buyers comforted themselves with the thought that the land they had got, on cheap terms, weald belong to them and their children forever.
For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.
Verse 13. - For the seller shall not return, etc. At first the thought seems only to add to the sorrow of the seller. He is told that he, at least, shall not return to his old estate. Even though they should be alive at the year of jubilee, their exile had to last its appointed time, Ezekiel's forty (Ezekiel 4:6) and Jeremiah's seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). This, however, did not exclude the return of their children (Jeremiah 32:44), and in the mean time all private sorrow would fall into the background as compared with the great public woe of the destruction of the holy city. The vision is touching, etc. The noun is used as a synonym for prophecy, as elsewhere (Isaiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:1). It may be noted that it is specially characteristic of Ezekiel (seven times) and Daniel (eleven times). For the Authorized Version read with the Revised Version, none shall return, or better (with the Vulgate and Keil), the vision touching the whole multitude shall not return, i.e. shall go straight onward to do its work (comp. Isaiah 55:11). So taken, there is a kind of play upon the iterated word: "The seller shall not turn his footsteps back, neither shall the prophecy." Vestigia nulla retrorsum shall be true of both. I take the other words, with the Revised Version, no man in the iniquity of his life shall strengthen himself, noting the fact that the word for "strengthen" is that which enters into Ezekiel's name. It is as though he said, "God is the only true source of strength to thee, as thy very name bears witness."
They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.
Verse 14. - They have blown the trumpet. The word for "trumpet" is not found elsewhere, but the corresponding verb is used continually in connection with the trumpet of war, and Ezekiel seems to have coined the corresponding substantive, not, perhaps, without a reminiscence of Jeremiah 6:1. There may possibly be an allusion to the trumpet blowing with which the jubilee year (see ver. 13) was ushered in. The trumpet should sound, not for each man's return to his own estate, but for the alarm of war. and even then the consciousness of guilt will hinder men from arming themselves for battle (comp. Leviticus 26:36; Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 32:30).
The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.
Verse 15. - The sword is without (see Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 6:12). Here there seems a more traceable fitness in assigning the pestilence as well as the famine to those who are shut up in the besieged city.
But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.
Verse 16. - They that escape, etc. The sentence is virtually conditional. They that escape shall, it is true, in one sense, escape the immediate doom; but if so, it shall only be to the mountains. These were, in all times (Genesis 19:17; Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6; Psalm 11:1; 1 Macc. 2:28; Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14), the natural refuge for those who fled from danger, but even this should fail those of whom the prophet speaks. They should be like the doves of the mountain gorges, that are fluttered at the appearance of the eagle or the fowler, and seem by note (Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 59:11) and gesture (Nahum 2:7), to be mourning forevermore. There also they shall lie, every man in his iniquity, and wailing for its punishment. We are reminded of Dante's similitudes in 'Inf.,' 5:40, 46, 82.
All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.
Verse 17. - All knees shall be weak as water; literally, shall flow with water. So the Vulgate. The LXX. is yet stronger, shall be defiled, etc. The words may point to the cold sweat of terror which paralyzes men's power to act. The phrase is peculiar to Ezekiel, and meets us again in Ezekiel 21:7. The thought finds a parallel in Isaiah 13:7; Jeremiah 6:24.
They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads.
Verse 18. - They shall also gird, etc. The words become more general, and include those who should remain in the city as well as the fugitives. For both there should be the inward feelings of horror and shame, and their outward symbols of sackcloth (Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31, 32; 2 Kings 6:30; Isaiah 15:3; Jeremiah 4:8, et al.) and baldness (Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12; Amos 8:10).
They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.
Verse 19. - They shall cast their silver, etc. The words remind us of Isaiah 2:20 and Isaiah 30:22, with the difference that here it is the silver and gold as such, and not the idols made of them, that are to be flung away. They had made the actual metal their idol, and their confidence in it should be powerless to deliver them (Zephaniah 1:18). Their gold shall be removed; better, with the Revised Version, as an unclean thing. The word implies the kind of impurity of Ezekiel 18:6; Ezekiel 22:10; Ezekiel 36:17; Isaiah 30:22. Instead of gloating, as they had done, over their money, men should shrink from it, as though its very touch brought pollution. The Vulgate gives in sterquilinium, "to the dunghill." They shall not satisfy their souls. In the horrors of the siege, with everything at famine prices (2 Kings 6:25), and little or nothing to be had for them, their money would not stop the cravings of hunger. It is characteristic that he applies to riches as such the very same epithet, stumbling block of their iniquity, as he had applied before (Ezekiel 3:20) to actual idolatry (comp. Colossians 3:5).
As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.
Verse 20. - As for the beauty of his ornament. The latter word is commonly used of the necklaces, armlets, etc., of women (Exodus 33:4-6; Isaiah 49:18; Jeremiah 2:32; Jeremiah 4:30). So again in Ezekiel 16:7, 11; Ezekiel 23:40. The singular is used of the people collectively, or of each man individually, like German man or French on. He set it in majesty; better, he - or to give the sense they - turned it to pride. Wealth and art had ministered, as in Isaiah 2:16, first to mere pride and pomp; then they made out of their ornaments the idols which they worshipped, and which were now, the same emphatic word being repeated, as a pollution to them.
And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it.
Verse 21. - I will give it. The "it" refers to the silver and gold, the "beauty of the ornaments" thus desecrated in their use. The strangers, i.e. the Chaldean invaders, should in their turn pollute (better, with the Revised Version, profane it) by making it their prey. For them the idols which Israel had worshipped would be simply as booty to be plundered.
My face will I turn also from them, and they shall pollute my secret place: for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it.
Verse 22. - My secret place. The work of the spoiler would not stop at the idols of silver and gold. Jehovah would surrender his own "secret place" (secret treasure in margin of Revised Version), that over which he had watched, sc. the sanctuary of his temple, to the hands of the spoiler. In Psalm 83:4 the same adjective is used of persons, the "hidden" or protected ones of God. In the name of Baal-zephon, "Lord of the secret place," we have possibly a kindred thought. In Psalm 17:14 we have "hid treasure."
Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.
Verse 23. - Make a chain; better, the chain. The word is not found elsewhere, but a kindred form is thus translated in 1 Kings 6:21. Looking to the force of the verbs from which it is formed, its special meaning is that of a coupling chain, such as would be used in the case of captives marched off to their place of exile (Nahum 3:10). All previous sufferings were to culminate in this. The φυρμόν of the LXX. and the fac conclusionem of the Vulgate show that the word perplexed them. Full of bloody crimes. The only passage in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament in which the English noun occurs. Literally, judgments of blood. The words may be equivalent either
(1) to "blood guiltiness" (compare the "judgment" in Jeremiah 51:9), or
(2) to judgment perverted into judicial murder. The latter finds support in Ezekiel 9:9. In either case it is noticeable that Ezekiel points not only to idolatry, but to violence and wrong, as the sins that had cried for punishment (comp. Jeremiah 22:17 as a contemporary witness).
Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled.
Verse 24. - The worst of the heathen; literally, evil ones of the nations - with the superlative implied rather than expressed. For the thought, comp. Deuteronomy 28:50; Lamentations 5:11-13; Jeremiah 6:23. The Chaldeans were probably most prominent in the prophet's thoughts, but ch. 35:5 and Psalm 137:7 suggest that there was a side glance at the Edomites. The pomp of the strong, etc. Another echo of Leviticus 26. (ver. 31). The "pomp" is that of Judah trusting in her strength. The "holy places" find their chief representative in the temple, but, as the word is used also of a non-Jehovistic worship (Ezekiel 28:18; Amos 7:9), may include whatever the people looked on as sanctuaries - the "high places" and the like. The Vulgate gives possidebuut sanctuaria; the Revised Version margin, they that sanctify them; but the Authorized Version is probably right in both cases. Luther renders ihre kirchen, which reminds us of Acts 19:37.
Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.
Verse 25. - They shall seek peace, etc. The noun is probably to be taken in its wider sense as including safety and prosperity, but may also include specific overtures for peace made to the Chaldean generals.
Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.
Verse 26. - Mischief... turnout. The combination reminds us of the "wars and rumours of wars" of Matthew 24:6. The floating uncertain reports of a time of invasion aggravate the actual misery (comp. Isaiah 37:7; Jeremiah 51:46; Obadiah 1:1). They shall seek a vision of the prophet, etc. The words paint a picture of political chaos and confusion. The people turn in their distress to the three representativtes of wisdom - the prophet as the bearer of an immediate message from Jehovah, the priest as the interpreter of his Law (Malachi 2:7), the "ancients" or "elders" as those who had learnt the lessons of experience, - and all alike in vain. (For illustrative facts, see Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 21:2; Jeremiah 23:21-40; Jeremiah 27:9-18; Jeremiah 28:1-9, and generally Micah 3:6; Amos 8:11; 1 Samuel 28:6; Lamentations 2:9.)
The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Verse 27. - The king shall mourn, etc. The picture reminds us of Jehoram in 2 Kings 6:30. The action of Zedekiah in Jeremiah 21:1 and Jeremiah 34:8 makes it probable enough that it was actually reproduced. A solemn litany procession like that of Joel 1:13, 14 and Joel 2:15-17 would have been quite in keeping with his character. The prince shall clothe himself, etc. The noun is specially characteristic of Ezekiel, who uses it thirty-four times. In ch. 12:12 the "prince" seems identified with the "king." Here it may mean either the heir to the throne, or the chief ruler under the king. The people of the land, etc. The phrase is perhaps used, as the Jewish rabbis afterwards used it, with a certain touch of scorn, for the labouring class. All the upper class had been carried away captive with Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:14). Compare Ezekiel's use of it in Ezekiel 33:2; Ezekiel 46:3, 9. I will do unto them, etc. The chapter, or rather the whole section from Ezekiel 1:1 onwards, ends with an iterated assertion of the equity of the Divine judgments. Then also they shall know that I am the Lord, Almighty and all-righteous.