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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Ezekiel 9

 

 

Verse 1

He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.

He cried ... with a loud voice. Contrasted with their "cry with a loud voice" for mercy (Ezekiel 8:18) is the "cry with a loud voice" here for vengeance, showing how vain was the former.

Cause them that have charge over the city - "them that have charge" - literally, men in office. The same Hebrew [ p


Verse 2

And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.

One man among them was clothed with linen - his clothing marked his office as distinct from that of the six officers of vengeance. "Linen" characterized the high priest (Leviticus 16:4), being emblematic of purity. A linen coat, linen breeches, linen girdle, and linen mitre were worn by the high priest. The same garment is assigned to the angel of the Lord (for which Michael is but another name) in the contemporary prophet Daniel (Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7). Therefore the Intercessory High Priest in heaven must be meant (Zechariah 1:12). The six with Him are His subordinates; therefore He is said to be "among them" - literally, 'in the midst of them,' as their recognized Lord (Hebrews 1:6). He appears as a "man," implying His incarnation; as "ONE" (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5). Salvation is peculiarly assigned to Him, and so He bears the "inkhorn," in order to "mark" His elect (Ezekiel 9:4; compare the blood-mark on the houses of Israel, which saved them, on the night of the Passover, from the destroying angel, Exodus 12:7; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; and contrast the mark of the beast on his deluded from the destroying angel, Exodus 12:7; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; and contrast the mark of the beast on his deluded followers, 13:16-17; 20:4), and to write their names in His book of life (Revelation 13:8).

As Oriental scribes suspend their inkhorn at their side in the present day, and as a "scribe of the host" is found in Assyrian inscriptions accompanying the host to number the heads of the slain, so He stands ready for the work before Him. "The higher gate" was probably where now the gate of Damascus is. The six with Him make up the sacred and perfect number, seven (Zechariah 3:9; Revelation 5:6). The executors of judgment on the wicked, in Scripture teaching, are good, not bad angels; the bad have permitted to them the trial of the pious (Job 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:7). The judgment is executed by Him (Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:7; John 5:22; John 5:27) through the six (Matthew 13:41; Matthew 25:31); so beautifully does the Old Testament harmonize with the New Testament. The seven come "from the way of the north;" for it was there the idolatries were seen (Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 8:14), and from the same quarter must proceed the judgment (Babylon lying northeast of Judea). So Matthew 24:28.

They went in and stood - the attitude of waiting reverently for Yahweh's commands.

Beside the brasen altar - the altar of burnt offerings, not the altar of incense, which was of gold. They "stood" there to imply reverent obedience, because there God gave His answers to prayer (Calvin); also, as being about to kill victims to God's justice, they stand where sacrifices are usually slain (Grotius). (Ezekiel 39:17; Isaiah 34:6; Jeremiah 12:3; Jeremiah 46:10.)


Verse 3

And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;

The glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house - the manifestation of God's glory, which had heretofore, as a bright cloud, rested on the mercy-seat between the cherubim in the holy of holies (2 Samuel 6:2; Psalms 80:1, "Thou that dwellest between the cherubim") now departed. Its departure was the presage of the temple being given up to ruin; its going from the inner sanctuary "to the threshold" without, toward the officers standing at the altar outside, was in order to give them the commission of vengeance. The cherub here is that over the mercy-seat in the temple, and is not to be confounded with the cherubim which Ezekiel saw by the the Chebar.


Verse 4

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem. This two-fold designation marks more emphatically, the scene of the divine judgments. Set a mark - literally, the Hebrew letter Tau, the last in the alphabet, used as a mark (Job 31:35, margin, 'my sign,' literally, Tau (t)), originally written in the term of a cross which Tertullian explains as referring to the badge and only mean of salvation, the cross of Christ. But nowhere in Scripture are the words which are now employed as names of letters used to denote the letters themselves or their figures (Vitringa). The noun here is cognate to the verb, 'mark a mark.' So in Revelation 7:3 no particular mark is specified. We seal what we wish to guard securely. When all things else on earth are confounded, God will secure His people from the common ruin. God gives the first charge as to their safety, before He orders the punishment of the rest (Psalms 31:20; Isaiah 26:20-21). So in the case of Lot and Sodom (Genesis 19:22); also the Egyptian first-born were not slain until Israel had time to sprinkle the blood-mark, ensuing their safety (cf. Revelation 7:3; Amos 9:9). So the early Christians had Pella provided as a refuge for them, before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Upon the foreheads - the most conspicuous part of the person, to imply how that their safety would be manifested to all (cf. Jeremiah 15:11, "Verily it shall be well With thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction;" fulfilled in the preservation of Jeremiah, Ebed-melech, and the remnant, on the capture of the city, Jeremiah 39:11-18). It was customary thus to mark worshippers (Revelation 13:16; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:9) and servants. So the Church of England marks the forehead with the sign of the cross in baptizing. At the exodus the mark was on the houses, because then it was families; here it is on the foreheads, for it is individuals whose safety is guaranteed.

Of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof - similarly-sounding verbs in the Hebrew, as in the English version, expressing the prolonged sound of their grief [ hane'


Verse 5

And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

To the others he said - to the six officers of judgment (Ezekiel 9:2).


Verse 6

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

Come not near any ... upon whom is the mark - (Revelation 9:4). It may be objected that Daniel, Jeremiah, and others were carried away, whereas many of the vilest were left in the land. But God does not promise believers exemption from all suffering, but only from what will prove really and lastingly hurtful to them. His sparing the ungodly turns to their destruction, and leaves them without excuse (Calvin). However, the prophecy waits a fuller and final fulfillment, because Revelation 7:3-8, in ages long after Babylon, foretells as still future the same sealing of a remnant (144,000) of Israel previous to the final outpouring of wrath on the rest of the nation; the correspondence is exact, the same pouring of fire from the altar follows the marking of the remnant in both (cf. Revelation 8:5, with Ezekiel 10:2); so Zechariah 13:9; Zechariah 14:2, distinguishes the remnant from the rest of Israel.

Begin at my sanctuary - for in it the greatest abominations had been committed; it had lost the reality of consecration by the blood of victims sacrificed to idols; it must therefore lose its semblance by being filled and defiled with the dead bodies of the slain idolaters (Ezekiel 9:7). God's heaviest wrath falls on those who have sinned against the highest privileges; these are made to feel it first (1 Peter 4:17-18). He hates sin most in those nearest to him, e.g., in the priests, elders, etc.

They began at the ancient men - the 70 elders, mentioned in Ezekiel 8:11.


Verse 7

And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 8

And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?

While they were slaying them, and I was left - literally, 'there was left I.' So universal scented the slaughter that Ezekiel thought himself the only one left (Calvin). He was the only one left of the priests 'in the sanctuary.'

I fell upon my face - to intercede for my countrymen (so Moses and Aaron "fell upon their faces" to intercede for the general congregation, when God was wroth on account of Korah's sin, Numbers 16:22).

Wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel? - a plea drawn from God's covenant promise to save the elect remnant.


Verse 9

Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.

The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great - literally, very, very; doubled.

The city full of perverseness - `apostasy' (Grotius); or, 'wresting aside of justice.'

For they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not - the order is reversed from Ezekiel 8:12. There they speak of His neglect of His people in their misery, which was their pretext for seeking help elsewhere, namely, from idols; here they go further, and deny His providence, so that they may sin fearlessly (Psalms 10:11, "He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it"). God, in answer to Ezekiel's question (Ezekiel 9:8), leaves the difficulty unsolved; He merely vindicates His justice by showing that, whatever amount of vengeance He might inflict, it did not exceed their sin: He would have us humbly acquiesce in His judgments, and wait and trust.


Verse 10

And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.

As for me also, mine eye shall not spare - to show them their mistake in saying "The Lord seeketh not."

I will recompense their way upon their head - (Proverbs 1:31). Retribution in kind.


Verse 11

And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.

I have done as thou hast commanded me. The characteristic of Messiah (John 17:4). So the angels (Psalms 103:21) and the apostles report their fulfillment of their orders (Mark 6:30). Remarks:

(1) The glory of the God of Israel (Ezekiel 9:3) withdrew at the same time that the angelic watchers ever the city drew near to it with their slaughter weapons in hand. When God departs from a people, or from individuals, their glory and their safety depart.

(2) One stood among the six angels as their acknowledged lord, being distinct from them and above them (Ezekiel 9:2). He was "man," but free from man's sin, as His robe of spotless white "linen" implies. He was "one;" for while others are sons of men, He is the only one who is "the Son of man." It was "because He is the Son of man" that "the Father hath given Him authority to execute judgment" (John 5:27). This judgment He execute through the instrumentality of His attendant angels.

(3) At the same time that He is the judge of the guilty, He bears also the inkhorn by His side, to set His mark upon the foreheads of His elect, that so they may saved while the rest are destroyed (Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 9:6). He writes their names in His book of life (Revelation 13:8). Since He is "one," the peerless One, "the chiefest among ten thousand" (Song of Solomon 5:10), He terms His Church also "one:" "My undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her" (Song of Solomon 6:9). How comforting to believers it is to know that God will do nothing in the way of judgment until He has first sealed and secured their safety! Those who have remained uncontaminated in the midst of abounding sin, God will keep safe amidst abounding calamity. Whatever floods of wrath are about to deluge this ungodly earth, the elect, in the secret of God's presence, shall be kept as the apple of the eye, and hidden under the shadow of His wings ( Psalms 17:8).

(4) Two characteristics of the sealed remnant about to be saved are presented before us: first, faithfulness to God; they are indignant at the dishonour done to His holy name by the abominations perpetrated in Jerusalem: secondly, tenderness of spirit toward man; "they sigh and cry for all the abominations" (Ezekiel 9:4). Uncompromising zeal for the glory of God is consistent with the greatest charity, pity, and tenderness in relation to our fellow-men. They who denounce the divine judgments against ungodly men, should do so with judgment. True humility will remind us what sinners we were, and are, by nature; and that whatever difference there may be between us and those whom we condemn, however justly, is due solely to the grace of God; as Bradford, in seeing a criminal go by to his execution, said, 'There goes by John Bradford, but for the grace of God.' Compassion for our fellow-men, who are rushing on to their own ruin, not repulsive harshness, becomes us, who are such debtors to the divine compassion. At the same time we must beware of the false charity which would call by gentle names, and gloss over, the ungodliness and unbelief of those around us. One chief redeeming quality is recorded of Lot, though otherwise an unsatisfactory character-he was "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; and vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds" (2 Peter 2:7-8). Let us imitate him in this; let us grieve and "sigh" in our spirit inwardly, and "cry," giving outward expression to our sense of the wrong done to the God who is so dear to us: as adelaide Newton said, 'It is like going under a wheel full of spikes to hear unholy things spoken of one so dear as the Lord Jesus.'

(5) The destroying angel "began at the ancient men" of the "sanctuary" (Ezekiel 9:6). God, in His judgments, commences with those who in respect to privileges stand nearest to Him. So far is the possession of means of grace from saving men from wrath, that He abhors sin most in those from whom, by reason of their spiritual opportunities, most good was to have been expected.

(6) The denial of the special providence of God, on the part of those who said, "The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not," is the one feature of guilt in particular specified by God as the source of the iniquity of the doomed, and the great cause for bringing down His terrible judgments. Those who take heed to the signs of the times can hardly but observe the tendency of our age to ignore the God of special providence, saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4). This is the revealed mark of the last age, the times of apostasy of the Gentile Church, to be followed by judgments, beginning at the Lord's sanctuary, the professors of Christianity, more fearful than those which succeeded the apostasy of the Jewish Church when they rejected and crucified their Lord. Let us see that we be found among the few faithful among the faithless.

(7) "The MAN clothed with linen, who had the inkhorn by His side (Ezekiel 9:11), reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me." The Lord Jesus is perfectly faithful to the trust committed to Him by the Father: "Of all which the Father hath given the Son He loses nothing" (John 6:39). Alike in executing judgment on the reprobates, and in saving the sealed elect, He shall at last say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4). Let us adore the grace which has saved us, if we be believers, out of the mess of those who perish by their own perversity. Let us, in all we do, for the glory of Christ's name, follow his example, and "report" every "matter" to our God in prayer and supplication.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-9.html. 1871-8.

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