Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
COMING ON THE
PEOPLE; BUT A
1. elders--persons holding that dignity among the exiles at the
Chebar. GROTIUS refers this to Seraiah and those
sent with him from Judea
The prophet's reply, first, reflecting on the character of the
inquirers, and, secondly, foretelling the calamities coming on Judea,
may furnish an idea of the subject of their inquiry.
sat before me--not at once able to find a beginning of their speech;
indicative of anxiety and despondency.
3. heart . . . face--The heart is first corrupted, and then the
outward manifestation of idol-worship follows; they set their idols
before their eyes. With all their pretense of consulting God now,
they have not even put away their idols outwardly; implying gross
contempt of God. "Set up," literally, "aloft"; implying that their idols
had gained the supreme ascendancy over them.
stumbling-block of . . . iniquity--See
Pr 3:21, 23,
"Let not them (God's laws) depart from thine eyes, then
. . . thy foot shall not stumble." Instead of God's
law, which (by being kept before their eyes) would have saved them from
stumbling, they set up their idols before their eyes, which proved a
stumbling-block, causing them to stumble
inquired of at all--literally, "should I with inquiry be inquired of"
by such hypocrites as they are?
Pr 15:29; 28:9).
4. and cometh--and yet cometh, reigning himself to be a true
worshipper of Jehovah.
him that cometh--so the Hebrew Margin reads. But the
Hebrew text reading is, "according to it, according to the
multitude of his idols"; the anticipative clause with the pronoun not
being pleonastic, but increasing the emphasis of the following clause
with the noun. "I will answer," literally, reflexively, "I will Myself
(or for Myself) answer him."
according to . . . idols--thus, "answering a fool according to his
folly"; making the sinner's sin his punishment; retributive justice
(Pr 1:31; 26:5).
5. That I may take--that is, unveil and overtake with
punishment the dissimulation and impiety of Israel hid in their
own heart. Or, rather, "That I may punish them by answering them
after their own hearts"; corresponding to "according to the
multitude of his idols" (see on
an instance is given in
God giving them up in wrath to their own lie.
idols--though pretending to "inquire" of Me, "in their hearts" they
are "estranged from Me," and love "idols."
6. Though God so threatened the people for their idolatry
yet He would rather they should avert the calamity by "repentance."
turn yourselves--CALVIN translates, "turn others" (namely,
the stranger proselytes in the land). As ye have been the advisers of
"the stranger that sojourneth in Israel") to idolatry, so bestow at
least as much pains in turning them to the truth; the surest proof of
repentance. But the parallelism to
Eze 14:3, 4
favors English Version. Their sin was twofold: (1) "In their
heart" or inner man; (2) "Put before their face,"
that is, exhibited outwardly. So their repentance is generally
expressed by "repent," and is then divided into: (1) "Turn
yourselves (inwardly) from your idols"; (2) "Turn away your
faces (outwardly) from all your abominations." It is not likely
that an exhortation to convert others should come between the
two affecting themselves.
7. stranger--the proselyte, tolerated in Israel only on condition of
worshipping no God but Jehovah
(Le 17:8, 9).
inquire of him concerning me--that is, concerning My will.
by myself--not by word, but by deed, that is, by
judgments, marking My hand and direct agency; instead of answering
him through the prophet he consults.
FAIRBAIRN translates, as it is the
same Hebrew as in the previous clause, "concerning Me," it is
natural that God should use the same expression in His reply as was
used in the consultation of Him. But the sense, I think, is the
same. The hypocrite inquires of the prophet concerning God; and
God, instead of replying through the prophet, replies for Himself
8. And I will set my face against that
and will make him a sign--literally, "I will destroy him so as to
become a sign"; it will be no ordinary destruction, but such as will
make him be an object pointed at with wonder by all, as Korah, &c.
9. I the Lord have deceived that prophet--not directly, but through
Satan and his ministers; not merely permissively, but by overruling
their evil to serve the purposes of His righteous judgment, to be a
touchstone to separate the precious from the vile, and to "prove" His
2Th 2:11, 12).
Evil comes not from God, though God overrules it to serve His will
This declaration of God is intended to answer their objection,
"Jeremiah and Ezekiel are but two opposed to the many prophets who
announce 'peace' to us." "Nay, deceive not yourselves, those prophets
of yours are deluding you, and I permit them to do so as a righteous
judgment on your wilful blindness."
10. As they dealt deceitfully with God by seeking answers of
peace without repentance, so God would let them be dealt with
deceitfully by the prophets whom they consulted. God would chastise
their sin with a corresponding sin; as they rejected the safe
directions of the true light, He would send the pernicious delusions of
a false one; prophets would be given them who should re-echo the
deceitfulness that already wrought in their own bosom, to their ruin
[FAIRBAIRN]. The people had themselves alone to
blame, for they were long ago forewarned how to discern and to treat a
the very existence of such deceivers among them was a sign of God's
judicial displeasure (compare in Saul's case,
1Sa 16:14; 28:6, 7).
They and the prophet, being dupes of a common delusion, should be
involved in a common ruin.
11. Love was the spring of God's very judgments on His people, who
were incurable by any other process
(Eze 11:20; 37:27).
12. The second part of the chapter: the effect which the presence of
a few righteous persons was to have on the purposes of God (compare
God had told Jeremiah that the guilt of Judah was too great to be
pardoned even for the intercession of Moses and Samuel
Jer 14:2; 15:1),
which had prevailed formerly
implying the extraordinary heinousness of their guilt, since in
ordinary cases "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
(for others) availeth much"
Ezekiel supplements Jeremiah by adding that not only those two once
successful intercessors, but not even the three pre-eminently
righteous men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, could stay God's judgments
by their righteousness.
13. staff of . . . bread--on which man's existence is supported as
on a staff
(Eze 4:16; 5:16;
I will send a famine.
14. Noah, Daniel . . . Job--specified in particular as having been
saved from overwhelming calamities for their personal righteousness.
Noah had the members of his family alone given to him, amidst the
general wreck. Daniel saved from the fury of the king of Babylon the
(Da 2:17, 18, 48, 49).
Though his prophecies mostly were later than those of Ezekiel,
his fame for piety and wisdom was already established, and the
events recorded in
had transpired. The Jews would naturally, in their fallen condition,
pride themselves on one who reflected such glory on his nation at the
heathen capital, and would build vain hopes (here set aside) on his
influence in averting ruin from them. Thus the objection to the
authenticity of Daniel from this passage vanishes. "Job" forms the
climax (and is therefore put out of chronological order), having not
even been left a son or a daughter, and having had himself to pass
through an ordeal of suffering before his final deliverance, and
therefore forming the most simple instance of the righteousness of God,
which would save the righteous themselves alone in the nation, and that
after an ordeal of suffering, but not spare even a son or daughter for
(Eze 14:16, 18, 20;
Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).
deliver . . . souls by . . . righteousness--
not the righteousness of works, but that of grace, a truth less clearly
understood under the law
15-21. The argument is cumulative. He first puts the case of the land
sinning so as to fall under the judgment of a famine
then "the sword"; then, worst of all, "pestilence." The three most
righteous of men should deliver only themselves in these several four
he concentrates the whole in one mass of condemnation. If Noah, Daniel,
Job, could not deliver the land, when deserving only one
judgment, "how much more" when all four judgments combined are
justly to visit the land for sin, shall these three righteous men not
19. in blood--not literally. In Hebrew, "blood" expresses every
premature kind of death.
21. How much more--literally, "Surely shall it be so now, when I send,"
&c. If none could avert the one only judgment incurred,
surely now, when all four are incurred by sin, much more impossible
it will be to deliver the land.
22. Yet . . . a remnant--not of righteous persons, but
some of the guilty who should "come forth" from the destruction of
Jerusalem to Babylon, to lead a life of hopeless exile there. The
reference here is to judgment, not mercy, as
ye shall see their . . . doings; and . . . be comforted--Ye, the
exiles at the Chebar, who now murmur at God's judgment about to be
inflicted on Jerusalem as harsh, when ye shall see the wicked "ways" and
character of the escaped remnant, shall acknowledge that both Jerusalem
and its inhabitants deserved their fate; his recognition of the
righteousness of the judgment will reconcile you to it, and so ye shall
be "comforted" under it [CALVIN].
Then would follow mercy to the elect
remnant, though that is not referred to here, but in
23. they shall comfort you--not in words, but by your recognizing in
their manifest guilt, that God had not been unjustly severe to them and