Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentEZEKIEL 14
PROPHECIES AGAINST IDOLATROUS INQUIRERS
Keil divided this chapter into two parts. "God will not allow idolaters to inquire of him (Ezekiel 14:1-13), and the righteousness of the godly will not avert the judgment (Ezekiel 14:14-23)."F1
Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?
Certain of the elders
(Ezekiel 13:1) The prophecies here, although directed to this group of elders actually concerned all of Israel. Their having taken their idols into their heart was no slight violation but a fundamental crime against God.
(Ezekiel 14:3). According to Taylor, this expression, in context, designates them as contemptible.F2
Should I be inquired of at all by them
(Ezekiel 14:3)? In the Hebrew language, a question like this, requires a negative answer;F3 and therefore the meaning here is simply that men with idols in their hearts have no right whatever to seek any information from God.
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Every man of the house of Israel that taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I Jehovah will answer him therein according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Return ye, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
That taketh his idols into his heart
(4). The repeated mention of the idols having been received in the hearts of God's people is exceedingly significant. It means that they had learned to love the pagan gods and goddesses. Their secret devotion belonged to their idols. The licentious ceremonies with which they had worshipped their idols were dear to their hearts, and they strongly desired to renew such practices. God's word they neither believed nor trusted.
I, the Lord will answer him
(Ezekiel 14:4). Eichrodt labeled this as a contradiction of the proposition that idolatrous inquirers would get no answer from God. No, God did not indicate any such refusal to answer the inquiring idolaters; he merely declined to send them any message through a true prophet. They would get an answer, all right, it would be directly from God Himself. This answer would not have any relation at all to the curiosity of the inquirers; there would be no words; it would consist of the execution of a sentence spelled out in Ezek. 14:8.F4
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart
(Ezekiel 14:5). God was here fighting to keep his people; and what is meant here is that, through his judgments against them, he will touch their consciences and bring down their proud hearts. God's purpose was always their restoration and salvation, never their destruction. Still, this is a threat of punishment.F5 After all, to turn to other gods was a crime worthy of death as clearly spelled out in the Law of Moses (Exo. 20:3-5; Lev. 19:4; 26:1; and Deut. 5:8; 12:3; 27:15).F6
Return ye, and turn yourselves from your idols
(Ezekiel 14:6) The infinite mercy of God is here seen in the fact that, while in the very act of pronouncing a sentence of death upon his Chosen People, God here made one last solemn plea for them to forsake the evil idolatrous ways to which their hearts so avidly desired to return, in which guilty state they were already ensnared, and instead to give up all of their evil practices and return wholeheartedly to the Lord.
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that separateth himself from me, and taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet to inquire for himself of me; I Jehovah will answer him by myself: and I will set my face against that man, and will make him an astonishment, for a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I, Jehovah, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
That separateth himself from me
(Ezekiel 14:7). No double minded person can be right in God's sight. The secret love and adoration of idols cut every guilty soul completely off from God. This sin, whether committed by the racial stock of Israel, by sojourners living in Israel under God's protection, was fatal to any satisfactory relationship with God.
I will answer him by myself
(Ezekiel 14:7). This meant that God would answer, not through the words of any true prophet, but by the summary execution of terrible penalties upon the idolater.
I will set my face against that man
(Ezekiel 14:8). Here is spelled out the penalty: (1) spiritual death, (2) being cut off from God's people, and (3) the experiencing of some terrible earthly calamity, of the type that would get public attention and make the victim an astonishment and a proverb. Two examples of this in the New Testament are the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5-11) and the stroke that took away Herod Agrippa II at Caesarea (Acts 12). Nothing could be more terrible for any mortal than the fact of God having set his face against that man.
I have deceived that prophet
(Ezekiel 14:9). As Cooke noted, A statement like this is not intelligible unless we take into consideration the thought patterns of oriental mind.F7 We have the same pattern in the thinking of believers even today. When a loved one is lost, we have all heard it said that, The Lord has called him home. This merely by-passes secondary and subordinate causes and attributes all that happens to the eternal will of God. God's deceiving a false prophet here was in no sense an evil act upon God's part. As a matter of fact the false prophet had brought the deception upon himselfF8 a by his own evil desires and deeds.
What is in view here is God's judicial blinding, hardening, or deception of wicked men. The classical example in the Old Testament is that of Pharaoh. The Lord indeed "hardened Pharaoh's heart"; but that occurred only after the Bible had declared no less than ten times that, "Pharaoh had hardened his own heart." Does the equivalent of such a thing happen today? Most assuredly, it does.
"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:11-12 KJV).
It was possible to say of this self-deceived prophet that God had deceived him, because, "The consequences of his sin,. as well as the moral law of God which he violated were God's ordinances, and because the penalty of deception, was according to God's will, therefore his state of deception could quite properly be attributed to God."F9 This line of reasoning, however, suggests no amelioration of the false prophet's guilt. "No man can possibly become a false prophet without criminal blame upon himself."F10
This passage forbade any true prophet to provide God's Word to idolaters; and, by definition, that meant that any prophet speaking with an idolater was, of course, an evil-doer himself.
It is amazing, as Calvin said, that, "Neither imposters nor frauds take place apart from the will of God." Keil quoted Calvin's remark, and then added that, "This can happen only with persons who have first admitted evil into themselves. Furthermore, the penalty of God's judgment shall fall upon both alike, the deceived prophet, and the idolatrous inquirer."F11
Verses 10, 11
And they shall bear their iniquity: the iniquity of the prophet shall be even as the iniquity of him that seeketh [unto him]; that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither defile themselves any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord Jehovah.
Ezek. 14:11 here returns to the grand theme so frequently mentioned in all of the prophets, the glory of God's people, their blessing from God, their righteousness, and their faithfulness in God's work. The great mistake of Israel was their reliance upon such wonderful promises, "as if they were an unalienable possession bestowed upon them unconditionally; nor did they understand that such glorious conditions would be attainable only upon the condition of their loving and obeying God."F12
The same author noted that, "This verse (Ezekiel 14:11) renews the appeal for repentance given in v. 6, again reminding Israel that the chief purpose of the forthcoming judgments against them was to bring Israel back from her going astray from God, and to cleanse her from the apostasy by which she had become unclean in God's sight and had been cast out of fellowship with Him."F13
The last section of the chapter refutes the false notion that had developed among the Israelites that God's righteousness would not allow him to destroy Jerusalem completely because of the few righteous people whom they supposed to be living there. Apparently, they had picked up this false idea from Gen. 18:32, where it is recorded that God would have spared Sodom if there could have been found as many as ten righteous people in it.
Of course, Israel was wrong about this on several counts: (1) There were not any righteous people in Jerusalem. (2) Even if there had been, God had made no such promise on behalf of Jerusalem, because Jerusalem was even worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. (3) Even if such eminent heroes of righteousness as Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the Jerusalem of Ezekiel's times, and even if they were interceding for the city, even that could not avert the deserved judgment about to fall upon Jerusalem.
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, when a land sinneth against me by committing a trespass, and I stretch out my hand upon it, and break the staff of the bread thereof, and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord Jehovah.
EVEN A RIGHTEOUS REMNANT COULD NOT SAVE JERUSALEM
When a land sinneth. by committing a trespass ..
(Ezekiel 14:13). `Trespass' is far too mild a word for this strong Hebrew term. The root concerns high treason and the crime of `acting treacherously.'F14 It was no ordinary trespass, or sin, that resulted in the kind of destruction God was bringing upon Jerusalem.
These three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job
(Ezekiel 14:14). Even such citizens as these, though living in Jerusalem and interceding for it, could not have averted the richly deserved punishment of Jerusalem.
WHAT DANIEL WAS THIS?
Every Bible student is made aware of the radical critic's efforts to make this mention of Daniel a reference to some alleged Daniel mentioned in the Ras Shamra tablets and who lived about 1,400 B.C.
Arguments by which critics attempt to support this view are: (1) There are two spellings of Daniel, the one in Daniel's prophecy, and the one here in Ezekiel, namely, `Daniel' and `Dan'el.'" The Ezekiel spelling matches that in the Ras Shamra tablets.F15 (2) Only the ancient Dan'el is properly placed if this list of eminent persons is chronological. If the contemporary Daniel had been meant, he would have been listed last. (3) It is very improbable that Ezekiel would have listed a contemporary.F16
None of these arguments has any weight. (1) Variations in the spelling of names are common in scriptures; besides that both variations of the name Daniel mean exactly the same thing, i.e., "God is my judge."F17 (2) The notion that the list of these three ancient worthies was intended to be chronological is false. Both Keil and Leal declare emphatically that the arrangement of the names is "according to subject matter, and not according to chronology."F18
"The true source of the order here derives from the fact that Noah was able to save eight persons, Daniel three persons, and Job, not even his sons and daughters."F19 As Keil noted, this inability of Job to save even his sons and daughters tallies with the repeated mention of the phrase, "save neither sons nor daughters" in the following verses.
(3) The alleged improbability of Ezekiel's mention of a contemporary is nothing at all except the biased opinion of a scholar who had already made up his mind. Canon Cook, one of the greatest scholars of a century, stated that, "The mention of Daniel here shows that by this time Daniel was a very remarkable man; and the introduction of the contemporary Daniel gives force and life to his illustration."F20
The positive reasons that support the identification of this Daniel mentioned by Ezekiel with the author of the prophecy of Daniel are: (1) no other Daniel was known either by Ezekiel or the people who heard his prophecies. The foolish allegation that they knew all about the Ras Shamra tablets and some ancient worthy who allegedly lived in 1,400 B.C. is so unreasonable as to appear preposterous. (2) On the other hand, every Jew on earth knew all about the Daniel who was the esteemed favorite of the king of Babylon, who had survived the Lion's Den, and who had already procured countless blessings for the captive Israelites, and who was, in effect, a royal deputy of the most powerful Nebuchadnezzar. If Ezekiel had meant any other Daniel, he most certainly would have said so. (3) There's not a word about that "other Daniel" in the Old Testament, and if he had been all that famous, it is totally inexplicable how his name got left out of the Bible! (4) a number of top rank scholars have pointed out how worthless is the alleged support for the other Daniel.
There is no shadow of evidence for the view of some commentators that an older Daniel is referred to. Had there been such a person eminent enough to be classed with Noah and Job, there would have been some mention of him in the Old Testament."F21
Also, another current scholar of very great ability gave as his conviction the following.
This reference in Ezekiel is not a reference to an older Daniel, of whom nothing is stated in the Old Testament. Daniel's fame for wisdom and piety was already widespread in Ezekiel's day.F22
Of course, such arguments are unanswerable. How ridiculous it would have been, in the light of the fame which Daniel enjoyed, as the deputy governor of the whole world, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a friend and helper of the Jewish nation, and no doubt as popular as any Hebrew who ever lived --how ridiculous it would have been for Ezekiel to have been referring to any other Daniel except this one! If he had been doing such a thing, would he not have explained it? Certainly.
Of course, it is remembered that in Jer. 15:1-4, that prophet stated that not even the intercession of such righteous persons as Moses or Samuel would be able to avert the deserved judgments against Jerusalem. This is a very similar prophecy here.
If I cause evil beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no man may pass through because of the beasts; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only should be delivered, but the land should be desolate. Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off from it man and beast; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only should be delivered themselves. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my wrath upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast; though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither son nor daughter; they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
In this paragraph, it is clear enough why Ezekiel used Job as the climax of his list of three; it was not due to chronology, but to the fact that Job alone fit the oft repeated expression, "delivered neither sons nor daughters" (Ezekiel 14:16,18,20). Daniel could not qualify, for as a eunuch, he had no posterity. Noah could not qualify, for he saved his sons; but Job was able to save neither sons nor daughters! Therefore, the holy prophet made him the climax of this list. Also, see the comment under Ezek. 16:46.
Notice the fourfold judgments against Jerusalem that are mentioned in this chapter: famine, wild beasts, sword, and pestilence (Ezekiel 14:13,15,17,19). Jeremiah is apparently the first prophet to assemble this quadruple list (Jer. 15:2f). We believe there are overtones in this that reflect the teaching of Amos (Amos 1--2) that, "For three transgressions of Damascus (repeated for a list of eight nations), yea for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, etc." Right here is given the fulfillment of Amos 2:4-8.
"Thus saith Jehovah, For three transgressions of Judah, yea for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have rejected the law of Jehovah, and have not kept his statutes, and their lies have caused them to err, after which their fathers did walk. But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.
"Thus saith Jehovah, For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes -- they that pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek; and a man and his father go in unto the same maiden to profane my holy name: and they lay themselves down by every altar upon clothes taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink the wine of such as have been fined" (Amos 2:4-8).
Bunn also noted the strong resemblance to this business of "three transgressions, yea for four" as used by Amos, adding that its use, "indicated completeness."F23 The prophecy of Amos stressed the fourfold transgressions of God's people; and Ezekiel here stressed the appropriate fourfold judgments which their transgressions merited.
For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the evil beasts, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be carried forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings; and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. And they shall comfort you, when ye see their way and their doings; and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord Jehovah.
There shall be left therein a remnant
(Ezekiel 14:22). This is not the righteous remnant remnant so often mentioned in Isaiah; because this remnant was wicked. These sons and daughters were in no sense saved; but God preserved them as specimens and witnesses of the corrupt Israel that had required God's terminal punishment. Ezekiel pointed out that they would be a source of comfort to those of right mind among the captives, because their ways and their doings (always mentioned by Ezekiel in the sense of wickedness) would enable the captives to see the righteousness of all that God would bring to pass in Jerusalem.
Footnotes for Ezekiel 14
1: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 177.
2: J. B. Thompson, p. 126.
3: Thomas H. Leal in The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (Funk and Wagnalls), p. 144.
4: WE, p. 181.
5: International Critical Commentary, p. 151.
6: WE, p. 182.
7: International Critical Commentary, p. 151.
8: Ibid., p. 152.
10: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 502.
11: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 183.
12: WE, p. 184.
13: Ibid., p. 184.
14: J. B. Thompson, p. 128.
15: G. R. Beasley-Murray in the New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 672.
16: Carl G. Howie in the Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 40.
17: R. D. Wilson in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 782.
18: Thomas H. Leal in The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (Funk and Wagnalls), p. 150, and Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 185.
20: B, p. 335.
21: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 248.
22: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Moody Press), p. 80.
23: John T. Bunn in the Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1871), p. 271.