Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD…
Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, etc. We have here -
I. GREAT KINDNESS GRACIOUSLY CONFERRED. "I had brought them into the land which I lifted up mine hand to give unto them."
1. The Lord gave Canaan unto them, and brought them into it. "He gave them the lands of the nations; and they took the labour of the peoples in possession" (Psalm 105:44); "And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance" (Acts 13:19). Look at the taking of Jericho as an illustration of this. It was not by human strategy or strength that they obtained the city, but by Divine interposition. And this land was a desirable possession (cf. Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Deuteronomy 11:10-12; and see our notes on Ezekiel 19:10).
2. The Lord brought them into Canaan in fulfilment of his promise. "The land which I lifted up mine hand to give unto them." The lilting up of the hand is the gesture of the oath, or solemn promise. Notwithstanding the rebellions of those to whom the promise was given, and the difficulties in the way of its fulfilment, he made his promise good. His faithfulness and his power guarantee the performance of his word. Here we have ground for confidence in him (cf. Numbers 10:13:19; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25).
3. The Lord brought them into Canaan of his own unmerited favour. Though not expressed, this is clearly implied here (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Deuteronomy 9:4-6). God's kindness to us has been great and undeserved. Who can count the multitude of his mercies, or estimate their preciousness? "The Lord hath dealt bountifully with us."
II. GREAT KINDNESS BASELY REQUITED.
1. By worshipping in prohibited places. "Then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices," etc. (ver. 28). The margin of the Revised Version presents a more striking signification and a darker guilt. "They looked out for every high hill," etc. Their conduct in this respect was a perversion of a Divine law. "When the Israelites first entered Canaan, they were to set up the tabernacle on a high place, and upon this and. upon no other they were to worship Jehovah. This was the high place (1 Samuel 9:12, etc.; 1 Kings 3:4). But the Israelites followed the custom of the country, and set up idol worship on every high hill, and the word 'high place' (bamah), or in the plural 'high places' (bamoth), became a byword (comp. bamoth Baal, Joshua 13:17)" ('Speaker's Commentary'). This was distinctly forbidden to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 12:1-14).
2. .By worshipping prohibited objects. They offered sacrifices to idols. This fact is not explicitly stated in our text; but it is implied in the charge of blasphemy preferred against them, and in the expression," the provocation of their offering."
(1) As to their blasphemy. The attempt "to combine God and idols in one's religion is blasphemy." It involves a fearful disparagement, if not the despising, of the Lord Jehovah.
(2) The expression, "the provocation of their offering," indicates the offerings made to idols whereby they provoked God to anger (cf. Deuteronomy 32:16, 17; 1 Kings 14:22). "It was an aggravation of their guilt that they not only were idolaters, but defiled with their idolatry the land which was given them for their glory." It was perverting the gracious gift of God to his deep dishonour (cf. Jeremiah 2:7). How often have the good gifts of God been thus perverted! Genius and power, rank and riches, have frequently been used for selfish and sinful purposes. And in this and other ways the kindness of God to man is often basely requited still.
III. A SINFUL PEOPLE DIVINELY INTERROGATED. "Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go?" Revised Version, "What meaneth the high place?" etc. This inquiry seems to be designed:
1. To awaken their serious reflection. It was fitted for this. Perhaps it would lead the idolatrous people to ask themselves, "What meaneth the high place whereunto we go?" Earnest interrogation might lead to profitable consideration.
2. To lead to their recognition of their folly. Serious reflection could hardly fail to reveal to them the foolishness of idolatry. What benefit, could they derive from it? What could their idols do for them? How unreasonable that reasonable beings should pay homage to things of wood and stone!
3. To lead to their recognition of their sin. Their idolatry involved the breach of the most sacred and solemn obligations. It was a transgression of an oft-repeated command of God. Great was both the folly and the sin of the Israelites in this (cf. Jeremiah 2:11-13). This inquiry might lead them to perceive and to feel these things. The Most High frequently interrogates sinful men in order to lead them to reflection and reformation (cf. Ezekiel 18:31; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 4:14). "Not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
IV. A SINFUL PEOPLE PERSISTING IN SIN NOTWITHSTANDING DIVINE INTERROGATION. "And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day." The name was continued, and. the people persisted in the practice of idolatry despite the remonstrances of the Lord. Even under the most faithful and godly kings the high places were not taken away until Josiah entered upon his great reformation (2 Chronicles 34:3). It is difficult to eradicate sins in the case of individuals, when the sins have had time to strike their roots deeply in the heart and life. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." It is even more difficult to eradicate the widespread, long continued, deep-rooted sins of a community or a nation.
"Facilis descensus Averni.
Sed revocare gradum, superasque wadire ad auras
Hic labor, hoc opus est."
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: In this moreover have your fathers blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.