A deputation of the elders of Israel, as usual, in their distress, came to request Ezekiel to ask counsel of God, 1. In reply to this, God commands the prophet to put them in mind of their rebellion and idolatry: In Egypt, 2-9, in the wilderness, 10-27, and in Canaan, 28-32. Notwithstanding which the Lord most graciously promises to restore them to their own land, after they should be purged from their dross, 33-44. The five last verses of this chapter ought to begin the next, as they are connected with the subject of that chapter, being a prophecy against Jerusalem, which lay to the south of Chaldea, where the prophet then was, and which here and elsewhere is represented under the emblem of a forest doomed to be destroyed by fire, 45-49.
NOTES ON CHAP. XX
Verse 1. In the seventh year] Of the captivity of Jeconiah, (see ,) and the seventh of the reign of Zedekiah.
The fifth month, the tenth day] That is, according to Abp. Usher, Monday, August 27, A.M. 3411.
Certain of the elders of Israel] What these came to inquire about is not known. They were doubtless hypocrites and deceivers, from the manner in which God commands the prophet to treat them. It seems to have been such a deputation of elders as those mentioned .
4Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:a
4 Verse 4. Wilt thou judge them] If thou wilt enter into any discussion with them, show them the abomination of their fathers. The whole chapter is a consecutive history of the unfaithfulness ingratitude, rebellion, and idolatry of the Jews, from the earliest times to that day; and vindicates the sentence which God had pronounced against them, and which he was about to execute more fully in delivering them and the city into the hands of the Chaldeans.
5 ¶ And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God;b
5 Verse 5. I chose Israel] They did not choose me for their God, till I had chosen them to be my people.
I lifted up mine hand] I bound myself In a covenant to them to continue to be their God, if they should be faithful, and continue to be my people. Among the Jews the juror lifted up his right hand to heaven; which explains : "Their right hand is a right hand of falsehood." This is a form used in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
6In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:
6 Verse 6. To bring them forth of the land of Egypt] When they had been long in a very disgraceful and oppressive bondage.
A land that I had espied for them] God represents himself as having gone over different countries in order to find a comfortable residence for these people, whom he considered as his children.
Flowing with milk and honey] These were the characteristics of a happy and fruitful country, producing without intense labour all the necessaries and comforts of life. Of the happiest state and happiest place, a fine poet gives the following description:-
Ver erat aeternum, placidique tepentibus auris Mulcebant Zephyri natos sine semine flores. Mox etiam fruges tellus inarata ferebat: Nec renovatus ager gravidis canebat aristis. Flumina jam lactis, jam flumina nectaris ibant: Flavaque de viridi stillabant ilice mella. OVID'S Metam. lib. i., 107.
On flowers unsown soft Zephyr spreads his wing, And time itself was one eternal spring; Ensuing years the yellow harvest crowned, The bearded blade sprang from the untilled ground, And laden, unrenewed, the fields were found. Floods were with milk, and floods with nectar filled, And honey from the sweating oaks distilled.
In the flourishing state of Judea every mountain was cultivated as well as the valleys. Among the very rocks the vines grew luxuriantly.
8But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
8 Verse 8. They did not-cast away] They continued attached to the idolatry of Egypt; so that, had I consulted my justice only, I should have consumed them even in Egypt itself. This is a circumstance that Moses has not mentioned, namely, their provoking God by their idolatry, after he had sent Moses and Aaron to them in Egypt.
9But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.
9 Verse 9. But I wrought for my name's sake] I bare with them and did not punish them, lest the heathen, who had known my promises made to them, might suppose that I had either broken them through some caprice, or was not able to fulfil them.
11And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.c
11 Verse 11. I gave them my statutes] I showed them what they should do in order to be safe, comfortable, wise, and happy; and what they should avoid in order to be uninjured in body, mind, and possessions. Had they attended to these things, they should have lived by them. They would have been holy, healthy, and happy.
12Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
12 Verse 12. I gave them my Sabbaths] The religious observance of the Sabbath was the first statute or command of God to men. This institution was a sign between God and them, to keep them in remembrance of the creation of the world, of the rest that he designed them in Canaan, and of the eternal inheritance among the saints in light. Of these things the Sabbath was a type and pledge.
13But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
13 Verse 13. But the house of Israel rebelled] They acted in the wilderness just as they had done in Egypt; and he spared them there for the same reason. See .
21Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
25Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;
25 Verse 25. I gave them also statutes that were not good] What a foolish noise has been made about this verse by critics, believers and infidels! How is it that God can be said "to give a people statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they could not live?" I answer, in their sense of the words, God never gave any such, at any time, to any people. Let any man produce an example of this kind if he can; or show even the fragment of such a law, sanctioned by the Most High! The simple meaning of this place and all such places is, that when they had rebelled against the Lord, despised his statutes, and polluted his Sabbaths-in effect cast him off, and given themselves wholly to their idols, then he abandoned them, and they abandoned themselves to the customs and ordinances of the heathen. That this is the meaning of the words, requires no proof to them who are the least acquainted with the genius and idioms of the Hebrew language, in which God is a thousand times said to do, what in the course of his providence or justice he only permits to be done.
26And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.
26 Verse 26. I polluted them in their own gifts] I permitted them to pollute themselves by the offerings which they made to their idols. Causing their children to pass through the fire was one of those pollutions; but, did God ever give them a statute or judgment of this kind? No. He ever inveighs against such things, and they incur his heaviest displeasure and curse. See on .
28For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink offerings.
29Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go? And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.e
29 Verse 29. What is the high place] mah habbamah, "what is the high place?" What is it good for? Its being a high place shows it to be a place of idolatry. I called it bamah, to mark it with infamy; but ye continue to frequent it, even while it is called bamah, to the present day!
31For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you.
31 Verse 31. Ye pollute yourselves] This shows the sense in which God says, , "I polluted them in their own gifts." They chose to pollute themselves, and I permitted them to do so. See on .
32And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.
32 Verse 32. And that which cometh into your mind] Ye wish to be naturalized among idolaters, and make a part of such nations. But this shall not be at all; you shall be preserved as a distinct people. Ye shall not be permitted to mingle yourselves with the people of those countries: even they, idolaters as they are, will despise and reject you. Besides, I will change your place, restore your captivity; yet not in mercy, but in fury poured out; and reserve you for sorer evils, .
35And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
35 Verse 35. I will bring you into the wilderness of the people] I will bring you out of your captivity, and bring you into your own land, which you will find to be a wilderness, the consequence of your crimes.
There will I plead with you] There I will be your king, and rule you with a sovereign rule; and the dispensations of my justice and mercy shall either end you or mend you.
37And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:f
37 Verse 37. I will cause you to pass under the rod] This alludes to the custom of tithing the sheep. I take it from the rabbins. The sheep were all penned; and the shepherd stood at the door of the fold, where only one sheep could come out at once. He had in his hand a rod dipped in vermillion; and as they came out, he counted one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine; and as the tenth came out, he marked it with the rod, and said, "This is the tenth;" and that was set apart for the Lord.
I will bring you into the bond of the covenant] You shall be placed under the same obligations as before, and acknowledge your selves bound; ye shall feel your obligation, and live according to its nature.
38And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
38 Verse 38. I will purge out from among you the rebels] The incorrigibly wicked I will destroy; those who will not receive him whom I have appointed for this purpose as the Saviour of Israel. And I will gather you who believe out of all the countries where you sojourn, and bring you into your own land; but those of you who will not believe-will not receive the Son of David to reign over you, shall never enter into the land of Israel, but die in your dispersions. This is what the contradicting and blaspheming Jews of the present day have to expect. And thus, both of you shall know that he is Jehovah, fulfilling his threatenings against the one, and his promises to the other.
39As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.
39 Verse 39. Go ye, serve ye every one his idols] Thus, God gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they could not live, by thus permitting them to take their own way, serve their gods, and follow the maxims and rites of that abominable worship.
40For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.g
40 Verse 40. For in mine holy mountain] The days shall come in which all true ISRAELITES shall receive HIM whom I have sent to be the true sacrifice for the life of the world; and shall bring to Jerusalem-the pure Christian Church, their offerings, which I will there accept, for they will give me thanks for my unspeakable gift.
41I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.h
43And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.
43 Verse 43. And there shall ye remember your ways] Ye shall be ashamed of your past conduct, and of your long opposition to the Gospel of your salvation.
These promises may, in a certain limited sense, be applied to the restoration from the Babylonish captivity; but they must have their proper fulfilment when the Jews shall accept Jesus as their Saviour, and in consequence be brought back from all their dispersions to their own land.
44And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
47And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.
47 Verse 47. I will kindle a fire] I will send war, "and it shall devour every green tree," the most eminent and substantial of the inhabitants; and every dry tree, the lowest and meanest also.
The flaming flame shall not be quenched] The fierce ravages of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans shall not be stopped till the whole land is ruined.
All faces from the south to the north shalt be burned] From the one end of the land to the other there shall be nothing but fear, dismay, terror, and confusion, occasioned by the wide-wasting violence of the Chaldeans. Judea lay in length from north to south.
49Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?
49 Verse 49. Ah Lord God] O my God, consider my situation; who will believe what I shall say? They put the evil day far from them.
Doth he not speak parables?] halo memashshel meshalim hu, "Is not he a maker of parables?" Is it not his custom to deal in enigmas? His figures are not to be understood; we should not trouble ourselves with them. We are not obliged to fathom his meaning; and perhaps after all it does not refer to us, or will not be accomplished in our time, if it even respect the land. Thus they turned aside what might have done them good, and rejected the counsel of God against themselves.
By dividing the word with our neighbour we often lose the benefit both of threatenings and promises. They voluntarily shut their own eyes; and then God, in judgment, sealed them up in darkness.