Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
REJECTION OF THE
APPLICATION TO THE
1. seventh year, &c.--namely, from the carrying away of Jeconiah
(Eze 1:2; 8:1).
This computation was calculated to make them cherish the more ardently
the hope of the restoration promised them in seventy years; for, when
prospects are hopeless, years are not computed [CALVIN].
elders . . . came to inquire--The object of their inquiry, as in
is not stated; probably it was to ascertain the cause of the national
calamities and the time of their termination, as their false prophets
assured them of a speedy restoration.
3. The chapter falls into two great parts:
the recital of the people's rebellions during five distinct periods: in
Egypt, the wilderness, on the borders of Canaan when a new generation
arose, in Canaan, and in the time of the prophet.
I will not be inquired of by you--because their moral state precluded
them from capability of knowing the will of God
4. Wilt thou judge? . . . judge--The emphatical repetition expresses,
"Wilt thou not judge? yes, judge them. There is a loud call for
immediate judgment." The Hebrew interrogative here is a command, not a prohibition
[MAURER]. Instead of spending time in teaching
them, tell them of the abomination of their fathers, of which their own
are the complement and counterpart, and which call for judgment.
5, 6. The thrice lifting up of God's hand (the sign of His oath,
Re 10:5, 6;
to which passages the form of words here alludes) implies the solemn
earnestness of God's purpose of grace to them.
made myself known unto them--proving Myself faithful and true by the
actual fulfilment of My promises
(Ex 4:31; 6:3);
revealing Myself as "Jehovah," that is, not that the name was
unknown before, but that then first the force of that name was
manifested in the promises of God then being realized in
6. espied for them--as though God had spied out all other lands, and
chose Canaan as the best of all lands
(De 8:7, 8).
Da 8:9; 11:16, 41,
"the glorious land"; see Margin, "land of delight," or,
ornament"; "the pleasant land," or "land of desire,"
glory of all lands--that is, Canaan was "the beauty of all lands";
the most lovely and delightful land; "milk and honey" are not the
antecedents to "which."
7. Moses gives no formal statement of idolatries practised by Israel
in Egypt. But it is implied in their readiness to worship the golden
calf (resembling the Egyptian ox, Apis)
which makes it likely they had worshipped such idols in Egypt. Also, in
"They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils (literally,
seirim, 'he-goats,' the symbol of the false god, Pan), after whom
they have gone awhoring." The call of God by Moses was as much to them
to separate from idols and follow Jehovah, as it was to Pharaoh to let
them go forth.
Ex 6:6, 7
and Jos 24:14,
expressly mention their idolatry "in Egypt." Hence the need of their
being removed out of the contagion of Egyptian idolatries by the
every man--so universal was the evil.
of his eyes--It was not fear of their Egyptian masters, but their
own lust of the eye that drew them to idols
(Eze 6:9; 18:6).
8, 9. then I said, I will . . . But, &c.--that is, (God speaking in
condescension to human modes of conception) their spiritual degradation
deserved I should destroy them, "but I wrought (namely, the
deliverance 'out of . . . Egypt') for My name's sake"; not for their
merits (a rebuke to their national pride). God's "name" means the
sum-total of His perfections. To manifest these, His gratuitous mercy
abounding above their sins, yet without wrong to His justice, and so to
set forth His glory, was and is the ultimate end of His dealings
(Eze 20:14, 22;
11. which if a man do, he shall . . . five in
them--not "by them," as though they could justify a man,
seeing that man cannot render the faultless obedience required
"By them" is the expression indeed in
but there the design is to show that, if man could obey all
God's laws, he would be justified "by them"
but he cannot; he therefore needs to have justification by "the Lord
then, having thus received life, he "lives," that is, maintains,
enjoys, and exercises this life only in so far as he walks "in"
the laws of God. So
De 30:15, 16.
The Israelites, as a nation, had life already freely given to them by
God's covenant of promise; the laws of God were designed to be the means
of the outward expression of their spiritual life. As the natural life
has its healthy manifestation in the full exercise of its powers, so
their spiritual being as a nation was to be developed in vigor, or else
decay, according as they did, or did not, walk in God's laws.
12. sabbaths, . . . a sign between me and them--a kind
of sacramental pledge of the covenant of adoption between God and His
people. The Sabbath is specified as a sample of the whole law, to show
that the law is not merely precepts, but privileges, of which the
Sabbath is one of the highest. Not that the Sabbath was first
instituted at Sinai, as if it were an exclusively Jewish ordinance
(Ge 2:2, 3),
but it was then more formally enacted, when, owing to the apostasy of
the world from the original revelation, one people was called out
to be the covenant-people of God.
sanctify them--The observance of the Sabbath contemplated by God was
not a mere outward rest, but a spiritual dedication of the day
to the glory of God and the good of man. Otherwise it would not be, as
it is made, the pledge of universal sanctification
Isa 58:13, 14).
Virtually it is said, all sanctity will flourish or decay, according as
this ordinance is observed in its full spirituality or not.
13. in the wilderness--They "rebelled" in the very place where death
and terror were on every side and where they depended on My miraculous
bounty every moment!
15. I swore against them
(Ps 95:11; 106:26)
that I would not permit the generation that came out of Egypt to enter
16. The special reason is stated by Moses
(Nu 13:32, 33; 14:4)
to be that they, through fear arising from the false report of the
spies, wished to return to Egypt; the general reasons are stated
here which lay at the root of their rejection of God's grace; namely,
contempt of God and His laws, and love of idols.
their heart--The fault lay in it
17. Nevertheless--How marvellous that God should spare such sinners!
His everlasting covenant explains it, His long-suffering standing out in
striking contrast to their rebellions
18. I said unto their children--being unwilling to speak any more to
the fathers as being incorrigible.
Walk ye not in . . . statutes of . . . fathers--The traditions of the
fathers are to be carefully weighed, not indiscriminately followed. He
forbids the imitation of not only their gross sins, but even their
plausible statutes [CALVIN].
19. It is an indirect denial of God, and a robbing Him of His due, to
add man's inventions to His precepts.
21. Though warned by the judgment on their fathers, the next generation
also rebelled against God. The "kindness of Israel's youth and love of
her espousals in the wilderness"
(Jer 2:2, 3)
were only comparative (the corruption in later times being more
general), and confined to the minority; as a whole, Israel at no time
fully served God. The "children" it was that fell into the fearful
apostasy on the plains of Moab at the close of the wilderness sojourn
(Nu 25:1, 2;
23. It was to that generation the threat of dispersion was proclaimed
25. I gave them . . . statutes . . . not good--Since they would not
follow My statutes that were good, "I gave them" their own
and their fathers' "which were not good"; statutes spiritually
corrupting, and, finally, as the consequence, destroying them.
proves this view to be correct (compare
Thus on the plains of Moab
in chastisement for the secret unfaithfulness to God in their hearts,
He permitted Baal's worshippers to tempt them to idolatry (the ready
success of the tempters, moreover, proving the inward unsoundness of
the tempted); and this again ended necessarily in punitive
26. I polluted them--not directly; "but I judicially gave
them up to pollute themselves." A just retribution for their
"polluting My sabbaths"
is explanatory of
Their own sin I made their punishment.
caused to pass through the fire--FAIRBAIRN translates, "In their presenting
(literally, 'the causing to pass over') all their first-born," namely,
to the Lord; referring to the command
Margin, where the very same expression is used). The lustration
of children by passing through the fire was a later abomination
The evil here spoken of was the admixture of heathenish practices with
Jehovah's worship, which made Him regard all as "polluted." Here, "to
the Lord" is omitted purposely, to imply, "They kept up the outward
service indeed, but I did not own it as done unto Me, since it was
mingled with such pollutions." But English Version is
supported by the similar phraseology in
They made all their children pass through the fire; but he names
the first-born, in aggravation of their guilt; that is, "I had
willed that the first-born should be redeemed as being Mine, but they
imposed on themselves the cruel rites of offering them to Molech"
might know . . . the Lord--that they may be compelled to know Me as
a powerful Judge, since they were unwilling to know Me as a gracious
27-29. The next period, namely, that which followed the
settlement in Canaan: the fathers of the generation existing in
Ezekiel's time walked in the same steps of apostasy as the generation
in the wilderness.
Yet in this--Not content with past rebellions, and not moved with
gratitude for God's goodness, "yet in this," still further they
blasphemed--"have insulted me" [CALVIN].
Even those who did not
sacrifice to heathen gods have offered "their sacrifices"
in forbidden places.
28. provocation of their offering--an offering as it were purposely
made to provoke God.
sweet savour--What ought to have been sweet became offensive by
their corruptions. He specifies the various kinds of offerings, to show
that in all alike they violated the law.
29. What is the high place whereunto ye go?--What is the meaning of
this name? For My altar is not so called. What excellence do ye see
in it, that ye go there, rather than to My temple, the only lawful place
of sacrificing? The very name, "high place," convicts you of sinning,
not from ignorance but perverse rebellion.
is called . . . unto this day--whereas this name ought to have been
long since laid aside, along with the custom of sacrificing on high
places which it represents, being borrowed from the heathen, who so
called their places of sacrifice (the Greeks, for instance, called
them by a cognate term, Bomoi), whereas I call mine Mizbeaach, "altar." The very name implies the place is not that sanctioned by Me,
and therefore your sacrifices even to ME there (much more those you
offer to idols)
are only a "provocation" to Me
David and others, it is true, sacrificed to God on high places, but it
was under exceptional circumstances, and before the altar was set up on
30. The interrogation implies a strong affirmation, as in
"Are ye not polluted . . . ? Do ye not commit?"
&c. Or, connecting this verse with
"Are ye thus polluted . . . and yet (do ye expect that) I
shall be inquired of by you?"
31. through the fire--As "the fire" is omitted in
FAIRBAIRN represents the generation here referred
to (namely, that of Ezekiel's day) as attaining the climax of guilt
in making their children pass through the fire, which that former
generation did not. The reason, however, for the omission of "the fire"
is, perhaps, that there it is implied the children only "passed
through the fire" for purification, whereas here they are actually
burnt to death before the idol; and therefore "the fire" is
specified in the latter, not in the former case (compare
32. We will be as the heathen--and so escape the odium to which we
are exposed, of having a peculiar God and law of our own. "We shall
live on better terms with them by having a similar worship. Besides, we
get from God nothing but threats and calamities, whereas the heathen,
Chaldeans, &c., get riches and power from their idols." How literally
God's words here ("that . . . shall not be at all") are fulfilled in the
modern Jews! Though the Jews seemed so likely (had Ezekiel spoken as an
uninspired man) to have blended with the rest of mankind and laid aside
their distinctive peculiarities, as was their wish at that time, yet
they have remained for eighteen centuries dispersed among all nations
and without a home, but still distinct: a standing witness for the truth
of the prophecy given so long ago.
33. Here begins the second division of the prophecy. Lest the
covenant people should abandon their distinctive hopes and amalgamate
with the surrounding heathen, He tells them that, as the wilderness
journey from Egypt was made subservient to discipline and also to the
taking from among them the rebellious, so a severe discipline (such as
the Jews are now for long actually undergoing) should be administered
to them during the next exodus for the same purpose
and so to prepare them for the restored possession of their land
(Ho 2:14, 15).
This was only partially fulfilled before, and at the return from
Babylon: its full and final accomplishment is future.
with a mighty hand, . . . will I rule over you--I will assert My right
over you in spite of your resistance
as a master would in the case of his slave, and I will not let you be
wrested from Me, because of My regard to My covenant.
34. The Jews in exile might think themselves set free from the "rule"
therefore, He intimates, He will reassert His right over them by
chastening judgments, and these, with an ultimate view, not to destroy,
but to restore them.
35. wilderness of the people--rather, "peoples," the various
peoples among whom they were to be scattered, and about whom God
"I will bring you out." In contrast to the literal "wilderness of
"the wilderness of the peoples" is their spiritual wilderness
period of trial, discipline, and purification while exiled among the
nations. As the state when they are "brought into the wilderness of the
peoples" and that when they were among the peoples "from" which God was
to "bring them out"
are distinguished, the wilderness state probably answers partially to
the transition period of discipline from the first decree for their
restoration by Cyrus to the time of their complete settlement in their
land, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. But the full and
final fulfilment is future; the wilderness state will comprise not only
the transition period of their restoration, but the beginning of their
occupancy of Palestine, a time in which they shall endure the sorest of
all their chastisements, to "purge out the rebels"
and then the remnant
(Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2, 3)
shall "all serve God in the land"
Thus the wilderness period does not denote locality, but their
state intervening between their rejection and future
plead--bring the matter in debate between us to an issue. Image is
from a plaintiff in a law court meeting the defendant "face to face."
Appropriate, as God in His dealings acts not arbitrarily, but in most
Though God saved them out of Egypt, He afterwards destroyed in the
wilderness them that believed not
so, though He brought the exiles out of Babylon, yet their wilderness
state of chastening discipline continued even after they were again in
37. pass under the rod--metaphor from a shepherd who makes his sheep
pass under his rod in counting them
Whether you will or not, ye shall be counted as Mine, and so shall be
subjected to My chastening discipline
with a view to My ultimate saving of the chosen remnant (compare
bond of . . . covenant--I will constrain you by sore chastisements
to submit yourselves to the covenant to which ye are lastingly
bound, though now you have cast away God's bond from you. Fulfilled
Ne 9:8, 26, 32-38; 10:1-39;
(Isa 54:10-13; 52:1, 2).
(Zec 13:9; 14:2).
purge out--or, "separate." Hebrew, barothi, forming a designed
alliteration with "berith," the covenant; not a promise of
grace, but a threat against those Jews who thought they could in exile
escape the observation and "rule" of God.
land of Israel--Though brought out of the country of their sojourn
or exile (Babylon formerly, and the various lands of their exile
hereafter) into the literal land of Palestine, even it shall be to
them an exile state, "they shall not enter into the land of Israel,"
that is, the spiritual state of restored favor of God to His covenant
people, which shall only be given to the remnant to be saved
(Zec 13:8, 9).
39. Equivalent to, "I would rather have you open idolaters than
hypocrites, fancying you can worship Me and yet at the same time serve
(Am 5:21, 22, 25, 26;
Re 3:15, 16).
Go ye, serve--This is not a command to serve idols, but a judicial
declaration of God's giving up of the half-idol, half-Jehovah
worshippers to utter idolatry, if they will not serve Jehovah alone
hereafter also--God anticipates the same apostasy afterwards, as
40. For--Though ye, the rebellious portion, withdraw from My worship,
others, even the believing remnant, will succeed after you perish, and
will serve Me purely.
in mine holy mountain--
(Isa 2:2, 3).
Zion, or Moriah, "the height of Israel" (pre-eminent above all
mountains because of the manifested presence of God there with
Israel), as opposed to their "high places," the worship on which
was an abomination to God.
all--not merely individuals, such as constitute the elect Church now;
but the whole nation, to be followed by the conversion of the Gentile
with--rather, "in all your holy things"
41. with--that is, in respect to your sweet savor (literally, "savor
of rest," see on
Or, I will accept you (your worship) "as a sweet savor" [MAURER],
God first accepts the person in Messiah, then the
bring . . . out from . . . people, &c.--the same words as in
but there applied to the bringing forth of the hypocrites, as well as
the elect; here restricted to the saved remnant, who alone shall be at
last restored literally and spiritually in the fullest sense.
sanctified in you before . . . heathen--
All the nations will acknowledge My power displayed in restoring you,
and so shall be led to seek Me
43. there--not merely in exile when suffering punishment which makes
even reprobates sorry for sin, but when received into favor
in your own land.
(Eze 16:61, 63).
The humiliation of Judah
is a type of the future penitence of the whole nation
(Ho 5:15; 6:1;
God's goodness realized by the sinner is the only thing that leads to
Lu 7:37, 38).
44. The English Version chapter ought to have ended here,
and the twenty-first chapter begun with "Moreover," &c., as in the
for my name's sake--
Gratuitously; according to My compassion, not your merits. After having
commented on this verse, CALVIN was laid on his
death bed, and his commentary ended.
45-49. An introductory brief description in enigma of the destruction
by fire and sword, detailed more explicitly in
46. south . . . south . . . south--three different Hebrew words,
to express the certainty of the divine displeasure resting on the region
specified. The third term is from a root meaning "dry," referring to
the sun's heat in the south; representing the burning judgments of God
on the southern parts of Judea, of which Jerusalem was the capital.
set thy face--determinately. The prophets used to turn themselves
towards those who were to be the subjects of their prophecies.
drop--as the rain, which flows in a continuous stream, sometimes
Margin), as here.
forest--the densely populated country of Judea; trees representing
47. fire--every kind of judgment
(Eze 19:12; 21:3,
green tree . . . dry--fit and unfit materials for fuel alike; "the
righteous and the wicked," as explained in
Eze 21:3, 4;
Unsparing universality of the judgment!
flaming flame--one continued and unextinguished flame. "The glowing
faces--persons; here the metaphor is merged in the reality.
49. Ezekiel complains that by this parabolic form of prophecy he
only makes himself and it a jest to his countrymen. God therefore in
permits him to express the same prophecy more plainly.