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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Ezekiel 12

 

 

Verses 1-28

2. The Signs ( Ezekiel 12:1-20)

1. The Sign of the King’s Departure ( Ezekiel 12:1-16)

1And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2Son of Prayer of Manasseh, thou dwellest in the midst of the house of rebelliousness, who have eyes to see, and they see not; and they have ears to hear, and they hear not: for they are an house of 3 rebelliousness. And thou, son of Prayer of Manasseh, make thee [therefore make thee, thou son of man] baggage of the emigrant, and remove by day before their eyes. And thou shalt remove from thy place to another place before their eyes,—perhaps they will 4 see?—for they are an house of rebelliousness. And thou shalt bring forth thy baggage as baggage of the emigrant by day before their eyes. Yet thou shalt 5 go forth at even before their eyes, like the removals of the emigrant. Before 6 their eyes break thee through the wall, and bring forth thereby. Before their eyes shalt thou lift up upon thy shoulder, in the darkness shalt thou bring forth; thou shalt cover thy face, and thou shalt not see the land: for as a wonder-sign have I given thee to the house of Israel 7 And I did so as I was commanded; my baggage brought I forth, as baggage of the emigrant, by day, and at even I dug through with my hand; in the darkness brought I:8 forth, I lifted up upon my shoulder before their eyes. And the word of Jehovah came unto me early in the morning, saying, 9Son of Prayer of Manasseh, said they not unto thee, the house of Israel, the house of rebelliousness, What doest 10 thou? Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: The prince is this lifting up [ Ezekiel 12:7] in Jerusalem, and the whole house of Israel that [are] among them [or, therein]. 11Say, I am your wonder-sign; as I have done, so shall it be done unto them; into banishment, into captivity they shall go 12 And the prince who is in their midst, to his shoulder shall he lift up, in the dark, then shall he go forth; through the wall shall they break to bring forth thereby; he shall cover his face, because he shall not see with his eye, he [shall not see] the 13 land. And I spread My net over him, and he is taken in My snare; and I bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans; and he shall not see it, 14and there shall he die. And all that are round about him, his help and all his forces, will I scatter toward every wind, and a sword will I draw out after 15 them. And they know that I am Jehovah, when I disperse them among the 16 nations, and scatter them in the countries. And I leave over of them men of number, from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence, in order that they may declare all their abominations among the heathen, whither they come; and they know that I am Jehovah.

2. The Sign of Bread and Water ( Ezekiel 12:17-20)

17And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 18Son of Prayer of Manasseh, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and with anxiety 19 And say unto the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of the inhabitants of Jerusalem on the soil of Israel: They shall eat their bread with anxiety, and drink their water in pain, that her land may become waste from its fulness, because of the violence of all the dwellers in it 20 And the cities, the inhabited ones, shall be laid waste, and the land shall become desolate; and ye know that I am Jehovah.

Ezekiel 12:2. Sept.: ... ἐν μεσω των ἀδικιων αὐτων—

Ezekiel 12:3. Sept.: ... ὁπως ἰδωσιν διοτι—

Eze 12:6. …ἐπ̓ ἐμων ἀναληφθηση κ. κεκρυμμενος ἐξελευση—

Eze 12:7. …κ κεκρ. ἐξηλθον, ἐπ̓ ὠμ. ἀνεληφθην

Ezekiel 12:10. Sept.: ... ταδε λεγει... εἰτον τω ἀρχοντι κ. τω ἀφηγουμενω ἐν...κ. παντι οἰκω—

Ezekiel 12:11. ... εἰπον ὁτι ἐγω τερατα τοιω ἐν μεσω αύεης. (Another reading: יעשה לכם, Syr.)

Eze 12:12. …ἐπ̓ ὠμων ἀρθησεται κ. κεκρ. ἐξελευσεται δια τ. τοιχου, κ. διορυξει του ἐξελθειν δἰ αὐτου—

Ezekiel 12:19. For ארצה there is a reading: ארצם and ארץ without the suffix. For ממל׳ there is a reading: ומלאה.

EXEGETICAL REMARKS

The visions in Ezekiel 8-9 have the connection we have seen with the vision in Ezekiel 1. Ch12. now, in the first place, takes up what is said in Ezekiel 2, 3, in order afterwards to give us, in close connection with Ezekiel 4-5, the continuation of the prophet’s discourse in the language of signs. If we take Ezekiel 8 sq. along with Ezekiel 4sq, then we get information about the siege, the taking of Jerusalem, and we are made acquainted, not only generally, but in detail, with the destiny of the inhabitants. The fate of the distinguished popular leaders ( Ezekiel 11) offers the most natural transition to the person of the king in its meaning for the whole. If, moreover, what has hitherto been referred to from Ezekiel 3:24 onwards was transferred inter parietes, then so much the more strikingly does the prophet now step abroad.

Ezekiel 12:2. Comp. on Ezekiel 2:5 sq, Ezekiel 3:26 sq. The description of the state of the exiles is kept in accordance with what they have seen (especially Ezekiel 4:5) and also heard ( Ezekiel 11:25). Thus it is with them at the time, while at another time, which the promise has in view, it is to be as in Ezekiel 11:16 sq. Comp. Isaiah 6:9-10; Jeremiah 5:21. The reason given is the universal and all-pervading rebelliousness (different from Deuteronomy 29:3, 4]). Hence in Ezekiel 12:3, “perhaps they will see;” and because of this possibility, which would not be supposed in the case of hardening in consequence of judgment, Ezekiel is to perform the sign in question before their eyes (repeated). כִּי׳, Isaiah, just because of the parallel close of Ezekiel 12:2, not to be rendered by “that” (Hitz.). The thing meant also is merely “seeing” (i.e. in the sense of hearing how it will happen to them), and not by any means comprehending what they are. We are to think of a question implying doubt, whose doubtful purport, and along with that (or merely in general) the action commanded, is supported by a reason.—גּוֹלָה, “emigration” (Hengst.: “the emigrants,” an ideal gathering into one of the emigrants), consequently utensils such as are usual in a case of the kind,—not simply travelling gear, as hat, staff, bag ( Matthew 10:9-10), but rather vessels for food and drink, household furniture, as distinguished from personal apparatus for a journey. Hence עָשָׂה is not: “to make,” or: “to furnish oneself with” (Klief.), but equivalent to: “to put together” (comp. Ezekiel 12:4). גּוֹלָה ( Jeremiah 46:19) is immediately explained, but, as the more detailed definitions which, follow show, the explanation is kept general. Comp. on Ezekiel 12:6. The emigration is specified as regards its starting point and goal.—In favour of the objective reality of the action to be performed, the remarks made on Ezekiel 4:5, as against Hävern, Hitz, Hengst, have a still more pointed application in the present case.

Ezekiel 12:4. The bringing forth of his household stuff, so far as it can be taken with him, describes more fully the “make thee,” etc. of Ezekiel 12:3; and it becomes clear at the same time how the expression there, וּגְלֵה יוֹמָם, must be understood, viz. of the beginning of the emigration, of the first preparation for it. Lastly, יוֹמָם is explained, by means of בָּעֶרֶב, as meaning the daytime in its most proper sense; and the prophet’s own migrating from his dwelling-place is characterized in the most definite way, in contrast with a mere journey, by the expression כְּמוֹצָאֵי גוֹלָה (comp. on Ezekiel 12:6), a comparison which Hävern. considers applicable to the time of departure alone. Comp. Hengst. on Micah 5:1. His rendering here is: “as emigrants go forth,” in the costume and garb of emigrants, combining, as he does, “bag on shoulder, staff in hand,” with their being “sad, and their heads drooping” ( Numbers 33:2).

Ezekiel 12:5 describes more minutely the bringing forth of the stuff in question ( Ezekiel 12:4). The prophet is to break for himself a hole for the purpose (וְהוֵצאתָ, as in Ezekiel 12:4) in the wall, i.e. of course, of his house, perhaps a clay wall; for were it to be the city wall of Tel-Abib, as Hengstenberg, in the interest of his “subjectivity” of the symbolic action, asserts, thereby throwing into confusion the occurrence and the text, then it must, especially with this detailed description here, have been expressed more definitely. Hengstenberg makes Ezekiel bring his baggage as far as the city wall, and when the darkness came on, break a hole through it, etc. The text, on the other hand, makes the breaking through of a hole in the house wall (instead of the usual exit by the house door), for bringing forth the stuff, take place, like the bringing forth itself ( Ezekiel 12:4), before their eyes, consequently in clear daylight, since the taking up upon the shoulder ( Ezekiel 12:6), though happening also “before their eyes,” has to take place (comp. Ezekiel 12:4) “at even,” both as distinguished from בָּעֲלָטָה (עֲלָטָה, from עָלָט, the restrained light), in thick darkness ( Genesis 15:17). It may be taken for granted that Ezekiel, with this breaking through, for which he is not forbidden to use a tool, will have the whole day to do it. Neither Klief. nor Keil has correctly apprehended the course of the action. As Ezekiel 12:6 portrays sufficiently the departure of Ezekiel himself, when he puts his goods and chattels on his shoulder, there is no need for understanding the Hiphil תּוֹצִיא intransitively, or for supplying נַפְשְׁךָ. Moreover, by the expression is meant the emigration with bag and baggage from his own place to “another” ( Ezekiel 12:3); hence the complete departure, as distinguished from וְהוֹצֵאתָ, like תֵּצֵא and וְהוֹצֵאתָ in Ezekiel 12:4. It corresponds to the darkness about him that he is to cover his face besides; and in this way the expression כְּמוֹצָאֵי גוֹלָה ( Ezekiel 12:4) is explained for us, inasmuch as emigrants’ departures usually take place with shame and sorrow, which do not allow themselves to be seen, and which will no longer cast a look on the home that is to be forsaken ( 2 Samuel 15:30). Yet the land which he is not to see (comp. Ezekiel 12:12-13) is perhaps still more that to which he is going forth. Hence Ezekiel 12:5-6 are two parallel (לְעֵינֵיהֶם—לְעֵינֵיהֶם) and more minutely descriptive statements as regards Ezekiel 12:4.—מוֹפֵת (either from יָפָה, “something shining,” similar to the derivation of the German “Wunder” (miracle), or from an assumed root יָפַת, what is suddenly “turned,” singularly “twisted,” “turned away” from what is usual), therefore, not merely אוֹת, simply a significant sign, but specially a sign of a divine sort, and that, in the sense of our context, equivalent to τύπος, Psalm 71:7. In this word there meet together the superhuman (miraculous) character alike of the purport and of the cause, the surprising character of the spectacle, as well as the manner of working of the astonishment and the typical object in view.

In Ezekiel 12:7 Ezekiel reports as to his execution of the divine command, whose objective reality Keil admits in the case before us. The report of the prophet is a recapitulation, in which the points of time (by day, at even, in the darkness) form the salient points, to which, without keeping up the order of succession as to the rest (since this is certainly contained in the preceding command of God, according to which Ezekiel acted), the detail with reference to the interpretation (of the symbolical action) which follows is attached. As in what follows the double reference—to the people as a whole, and to the prince in particular—comes out, so Ezekiel makes prominent in his report, (1) what is the thing which is impending over them in general (my baggage, etc, as emigrants’ baggage, by day), and (2) in what way the prince personally gets out, viz. by breaking through in the night-time. Accordingly, because of the significance attached to the digging through the wall, which may possibly be indicated even in Ezekiel 12:5 by the expression חַתָר־לךָ, and which becomes complete only when the prophet himself comes through the hole in the wall, he connects his day’s work with his own departure at even. בְּיָד is meant to express in general the idea: with my own hand, as contrasted with the help of others. The emphasis lies on the personal element in the action. As distinguished from: I brought forth … by day, the expression: I brought forth in the darkness, refers to the removing from out of the dwelling-place. לְעֵינֵיהֶם at the close adjusts the execution of the command to the object in view, and at the same time to the explanation which follows; and for this reason the thing which lies nearest and is still visible, although occurring before the complete “darkness” of the departure properly so called, viz. the taking up upon the shoulder at even, is mentioned. The transaction is (and this is also Umbreit’s view) to be conceived of in this way: the elders ( Ezekiel 8.) might have left the house of the prophet. In accordance with what has been remarked at the commencement of the chapter, the impression made by Ezekiel’s disclosures ( Ezekiel 11:25) may have been but slight, or not lasting. Just then a hole is opened in the wall of his house, ever growing wider and wider. It is easily understood how the multitude gathers from curiosity. Perhaps late in the afternoon of the day, what a man can carry of household furniture is brought out through the opening in the wall. At even the prophet himself steps forth, loads himself with the emigrant’s baggage, and takes his departure, with his head covered, in the midst of total darkness, etc, from Tel-Abib for some other place.

Ezekiel 12:8 assigns the divine word of interpretation to the early morning of next day. Comp. 2 Chronicles 36:15.

Ezekiel 12:9. הְַלֹא (as against Klief, who does not admit a question at all) presupposes that they have asked Ezekiel for the meaning of what he has done. By means of the expression: house of Israel, the exiles are put on an equal footing with those in Jerusalem; just as by means of the expression: the house of rebelliousness (see on Ezekiel 12:2), they are at the same time characterized as regards their disposition while putting the question. Therefore Ezekiel Isaiah, in reply to what they have said unto him, in Ezekiel 12:10 to say unto them what Jehovah says. He has answered them the evening before by silence ( Ezekiel 3:27), and has merely done as he was commanded ( Ezekiel 12:7).—הַנָּשִׂיא, either passively: “he who has been lifted up” or: “he who lifts himself up.”—Hengst.: “one on whom something is laid, who is burdened with the government, which he bears, as it were, on his shoulder,” Isaiah 9:6 (?)—as בִּירוּשַָׁלִם shows, the king ( Ezekiel 7:27) Zedekiah. There is an unmistakable play upon the word הַנָּשִׂיא in הַמַּשָּׂא, which (likewise derived from נָשָׂא) means: the lifting up, and, without our being obliged with all the expositors to think of the meaning “sentence” (judicial utterance of God) or “burden” (threatening prediction), as elsewhere, refers simply to the statement ( Ezekiel 12:7): עַל כָּתֵף נָשָׂאתִי, which paves the way for the interpretation. Comp. the Syriac translation. Hence the meaning is: this lifting up on the shoulder of emigrants’ stuff on my part means the prince. The meaning is not (as Hengst.): “prince and burden, as it were, cover each other,” so that he is wholly swallowed up by misfortune, the crushing burden leaves nothing of him remaining; but this: the prince is what the prophet represents by his action. The exalted personage in Jerusalem, still seated on a regal throne, and this lifting up of mere emigrants’ baggage, impressively confront each other. Thus a day, an evening, a night changes everything! [Commonly (and so Eng. Vers.): the prince is the subject of this burden or of this sentence. Hitzig refers to Jeremiah 23:33; but Kliefoth: this burden-bearing, undertaken as a sign, concerns the prince and the house of Israel (as accusatives!). Ewald: “O thou crown-bearer of this burden in Jerusalem, and those of the whole house of Israel who are in its midst!” הַנָּשִׂיא being imagined to be in the construct state to what follows.] Because emigration is to be the common lot, the people are added to the king, and in fact the whole house of Israel (according to the older expositors: those out of the ten tribes who had fled to Jerusalem), among whom, especially as having already emigrated, the fellow-exiles of Ezekiel are included (בְּתוֹכָם, like אְַשֶׁר, referring to the house of Israel); or better, because of what follows, as Hengstenberg does, referring the suffix to Jerusalem or its inhabitants, inasmuch as there was yet another house of Israel; Ezekiel 11:15.—Quite evidently he speaks now of the fate of the whole in Ezekiel 12:11. With the expression: “your wonder-sign,” the exiles (in conformity with Ezekiel 12:6), for whom it is meant in the first place, are addressed; while לָהֶם refers to those at Jerusalem, hence also, perhaps, הֵמָּה in Ezekiel 12:10.—כֵּן יֵעָשֶׂה לָהֶם might also mean: so will it be done by them. In any case it is an explanation of what precedes. בַּגּוֹלָה בַשְּׁבִי, an emphatic asyndeton: it will be no voluntary, but a compulsory emigration.

Ezekiel 12:12. The king specially. אְַשֶׁר בְּתוֹכָם, the reference being undoubted, confirms the interpretation we have preferred of בְתוֹכָם אְַשֶׁר־הֵמָּה. So also אֶל־כָּתֵף יִשּׂא confirms our view of וְיֵצֵא—ּהַנָּשִׂיא הַמַּשָּׂא הַוֶּה, then, etc, lingering over the picture of the moment. Keil, like Klief, against the accents: “he will lift it up in the darkness and will go forth.” יַחְחְרוּ, i.e. the attendants, his suite. (Rosenm.: in order to bring him forth.) The prediction of what is recorded as having happened some years later ( Jeremiah 3952.; 2 Kings 25). As the lifting up upon the shoulder of the baggage does not necessarily indicate any selfish grasping at the valuables, but may symbolize the emigration, so the breaking through the wall does not necessarily mean this in a literal sense but the haste and hurry of the flight by the speediest available route; and just as little have we to prove the covering of his face to be historical. Besides, the latter was among the circumstances, as is understood of itself, suggested by prudence even; pain or shame is not to be thought of at all. Comp. on Ezekiel 12:6. Certainly there was yet another object in view beyond that, which had influence, as is expressed in Ezekiel 12:13. לַעַיִן and the הוּא placed after it draw attention to something peculiar, and אֶת־הָאָרֶץ is the land of the Chaldeans. ( Ezekiel 12:13.) The being taken prisoner,—in addition to the emigration ( Ezekiel 12:11),—which, the prophet had not prefigured, is depicted by means of the figurative mode of speech borrowed from the catching of fish, from the chase ( Isaiah 19:8; Jeremiah 16:16). In spite of his hasty, violent flight, he does not escape his fate; like the darkness of night, the holy penal order of the Judge and Avenger in heaven is laid around him. Umbreit, who views the breaking through the wall as a breaking forth from the city perforated by the enemy, finds in the circumstance that the king shall not see the land of the Chaldeans, his full and complete imprisonment expressed.—To Babylon, etc, is the “other place” of Ezekiel 12:3.—In how far the king would not see the land where he was to die, must remain incomprehensible for so long, until the blinding (a common punishment with the Persians, and probably also with the Babylonians, for the dethroned) of Zedekiah at Riblah, after he had been caught in his nocturnal flight not far from Jericho, by the Chaldeans, made it palpable to the senses.

Ezekiel 12:14. What is round about him may be the attendants fleeing along with the king, and his help may perhaps be the hoped-for Egyptian help. עֶזְרֹה (עְזְרוֹ) is a play upon words with אֲגַפִּים ּאֱזָרֶה, only in the plural, and peculiar to Ezekiel; according to Gesen.: “wings” ( Isaiah 8:8); according to Hitzig: “bands,” the whole military power, with which a king stands or falls. Comp. Jeremiah 40:7; Jeremiah 40:12; Jeremiah 52:8. We may compare besides, Ezekiel 5:2; Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 5:12.

Eze 12:15. Eze 5:13; Eze 6:8.

Ezekiel 12:16. Ezekiel 6:8. Men of number—Hitzig: that may be counted. Few in comparison with Ezekiel 12:14.—Comp. on Ezekiel 5, 6.—Narrators of their guilt with the knowledge gained from experience of the holy punitive justice of God. [Rosenm, Hitzig, and others refer the refrain thus repeated to the heathen! Klief. translates: “count,” that they shall ponder their sins one by one thoroughly!]

The second and connected sign which is introduced in Ezekiel 12:17, like the preceding one in Ezekiel 12:1, but which has along with it its divine interpretation without an introduction, as is the case in Ezekiel 12:8, depicts (with an allusion to Ezekiel 4:16) the misery of the inhabitants, just as the interpretation by the word of Jehovah (similarly to Ezekiel 6:14) announces the misery of the land inhabited by them.

Ezekiel 12:18. Bread and water, not exactly scanty food (Klief.), but merely the food that is necessary. The significant thing, however, is the quaking, trembling, and anxiety which the prophet’s expression of countenance, appearance, and demeanour must have expressed during the carrying out of the divine command (which is not indeed narrated, because understood as a matter of course). The people of the land in Ezekiel 12:19, those addressed, are the poor, wretched Jewish people in Chaldea ( Ezekiel 12:12-13); according to Cocc, the message is meant for the heathen, that these might not ascribe the fate of the Jews to their Bel and the Dragon, inasmuch as Jehovah has caused it to be represented three years before by Ezekiel.—Comp. besides Ezekiel 12:10. The inhabitants of Jerusalem may possibly be (in accordance with Ezekiel 11:15) those who at the time were still there, although in the condition during the impending siege (so Hengst.). But in connection with the preceding sign they are rather the poorest remnants of the people still remaining on the soil of Israel (אֲדָמָה, comp. on Ezekiel 7:2) after the flight of the king and the leading captive of the people, Jeremiah 39:10; Jeremiah 52:16. And such an explanation corresponds also with what follows. לְמַעַן ( Ezekiel 4:17) is meant (according to Hitzig) to be a particle assigning the reason: because their land, stripped of its fulness, will become stiff; that is to say, their torpid amazement mirrors forth the motionless stiffening of the land. Certainly with more correctness, and more in accordance with the context: their misery will cause the land’s also (אַרְצָהּ, i.e. Jerusalem’s), which is the design of Jehovah; they will in their anxiety and anguish content themselves with mere necessaries (bread and water), and not cultivate its fruitfulness, etc. According to the other explanation, the invasion of the enemy will leave the land waste behind them. Comp. besides Ezekiel 7:23; Ezekiel 8:17.

Ezekiel 12:20. Ezekiel 6:6.—Cocc. (comp. above) refers the clause: “and ye know,” etc, to the heathen, the Chaldeans, just as in Ezekiel 12:16.

DOCTRINAL REFLECTIONS

1. When Stephen (according to Acts 7:51) brings the charge against the Jews, that they were always resisting (ἀντιπίπτειν—using this strong and, in the New Testament, unusual expression) the Holy Ghost, that they, like their fathers, were stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, we need not, with the expositors since Hävernick, fall back upon Deuteronomy 29:3 [ Deuteronomy 29:4]; and this the less, as the meaning is certainly somewhat different in this Song of Solomon -called fundamental passage. In Isaiah 6:9-10 it may be made use of as a text; Ezekiel, like Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 5:21 sq.), has to do with the bad national character of the Jewish people. The “perverse will” is brought into special prominence by both prophets, as Hävernick remarks, continuing as follows: “a feature which runs through their whole history, down to the appearance of the Redeemer.” But who will be able to deny that in this way, in the bad character of the Jews as a nation, the corrupt nature of fallen humanity as a whole is portrayed? This people have merely exhibited it carried to its farthest consequences, inasmuch as they were placed in a position, by means of the law and the prophets, and lastly God’s Song of Solomon, where they must either let their wills be broken or ruin themselves. But then, farther, as the Jews are a standing historical decision with respect to natural men, Song of Solomon, on the other hand, in contrast with their national character (here also: “perhaps they will see?”), we have mirrored forth all the riches of divine long-suffering and patience. “Ye would not,”—this on the one hand; but on the other: “how often would I have gathered thy children together!” ( Matthew 23:37.) The mirror of human perversity is at the same time the mirror of divine grace, Romans 5:20.

2. “If any one is so far enlightened that he is able to see and understand what is necessary, then it may be said that he has eyes to see, etc. The natural (unregenerate) man perceiveth not, etc. ( 1 Corinthians 2:14). But any one may also be so far enlightened that he sees much, and by this means he may be brought to see what is necessary to be seen; and especially that he recognises the word which contains the true wisdom as being God’s word. Those who have come this length may, however, neither see nor hear what is necessary to be seen and heard, in so far as they cannot rightly judge of what they see and hear, through the opposition of their fleshly Wisdom of Solomon, which perverts God’s words. Such parties no longer err in the usual way, but are hardened, so that they fancy their error is God’s word. They are also difficult to cure. The cause of one’s not understanding God’s word is disobedience. For fleshly wisdom and the love, of it is in truth disobedience” (Cocc.).

3. From the importance which is attached in the history of the Jews, in a good as well as a bad sense, yea, in the highest sense (i.e. the Messianic), to the king, in asking whom (1Sam.) the people at first expressed their wish to be “like the other nations,” we can understand the express symbolical representation, in this special and preeminent way, of the fate of Zedekiah. “The mass of mischief is concentrated first of all in the king,” for which Hävernick adduces as a farther reason “the existing circumstances,” among which “the political faithlessness and dishonesty of the king, as well as his anti-theocratic conduct, his idolatry, his mockery of all prophetic warnings and threatenings,” were prominent, “although he was in Jerusalem and among the exiles the idol of trust.” Hengst. in this connection designates the king as “the centre of their dreams of the future, which were preventing repentance.”

4. The prediction in our chapter—of which Tholuck (The Prophets and their Predictions, p108) gives the following estimate, that “against the prophetic character of the passage no critical objection is raised from any quarter; the genuineness of the book and the integrity of the passage are beyond a doubt; that divergent interpretations found no place; and that reference is made merely to its fulfilment according to the authentic testimony of history”—ought properly to have been removed from all the attempts at half or wholly naturalistic interpretation, by the repeated divine explanation that it is a “mopheth” (see the explanation of the word at Ezekiel 12:6). Nevertheless, while Eichhorn and Hitzig decree simply a prophecy after the event, and while Ewald makes it out that the prophet had happy presages, correct foresight, Umbreit attempts as far as possible to keep the text free from what might press us to the acceptance of a supernatural prediction. On the other hand, Josephus even (Antiq. x1011) has in his mind our prophetic testimony when he tells us how Zedekiah may not have been able to give credence to Ezekiel, because he said that the king would not see Babylon, whereas Jeremiah had prophesied Jo him that he would be carried captive thither. To Nitzsch, the prediction of occurrences resting on divine communication is neither so impossible as Cicero asserted it, nor so useless or even hurtful as Kant attempted to show. The prediction sustains interest in this way, by announcing a result which could not have been known beforehand by any human means. Even in the case where the foreknowledge is of no use, it may yet awaken a wholesome attention, and, confirmed by the result, it may, by producing a testimony for persons and affairs, come to serve important ends in other directions. J. D. Michaelis holds the view that the exact announcement beforehand was of service against the communis sensus of polytheism at the time, when even among the Jews the faith in one God alone kept its ground only in a sickly way, as being to every one an easily understood and irrefragable confirmation of the true religion. One may have recourse to the genius of great minds, their far- reaching historical glance in certain cases; may lay stress upon the secret power of divination in the human mind, the connection of the human conscience with the judicial steps of the moral order of the world (Herzog, Realencycl. xvii640 sq.); but what Ezekiel here expresses in symbol, he knows he has received from Jehovah’s mouth, and every criticism of this consciousness runs the risk either of accusing the prophet of self-deception, or even of making him a hypocritical deceiver, especially where a chapter like the 13 th follows.

HOMILETIC HINTS

Ezekiel 12:1 sq.: “We ought not, therefore, to allow ourselves to be deterred either by the view that we ourselves and the doctrine which we teach would be rejected, or even by the impression that we would be engaged in something ridiculous” (Calv.).—“Rebelliousness does not spring from weakness, but from wickedness” (Stck.).—“How many there are who are sharpsighted in earthly and temporal things, and who know how to turn everything prudently to their own advantage, but who, on the other hand, in what is spiritual, are found to the last degree blind and stupid, as well as incapable of faith! Hence they have ears likewise to hearken to what pleases the flesh, and to the talk and lies of the false prophets, but they have no ears to hear God’s voice. They hear and hear, but not with obedience and faith” (Berl. Bib.).—“They had ears to hear, because from youth up they were instructed in the law of God, and the threatenings were held up before them by the prophets” (Calv.).—The natural blindness and deafness of man in spiritual things causing God to proclaim His word. The wilful blindness and intentional deafness of him who yields to God with suffering and affliction. The blindness and deafness which God hangs as punishment over the hardened sinner.

Ezekiel 12:3 sq. “Perhaps they will see?” Thus God leaves nothing untried: this is the exercise of His long-suffering and patience.—“When we see that others are falling into misfortune, trouble, adversity, we ought to reflect: This is a sign to me, and ought to apply it to our own improvement, Luke 13:2-3” (Würtemb. Bib.).

Ezekiel 12:5. “What fear can do ! For it no door was high enough or broad enough; in their flight they ofttimes squeeze themselves through the most miserable wretched hole” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 12:6. The earthly mind will see only the earth—nay, such an one will at length become earth; yet, when the eye is darkened, and the gloom of death covers everything, he will no longer see even the earth.

Ezekiel 12:7. “Such things would call to mind the days of Noah and Lot” (Calv.).

Ezekiel 12:8. God’s grace is new every morning. They who seek Him early find Him; and those who ask after Him will be answered by Him.

Ezekiel 12:9. There is something precious about a right question.

Ezekiel 12:10. “Princes are called exalted, but certainly not because they are to exalt themselves; for He that is enthroned in heaven knows how to humble princes even” (Stck.).—“Every ruler, prince, or king, however little he may have taken up upon his shoulders, will at least be compelled to bear the burden of his sins and the wrath of God, which will fall heavily enough upon him, provided the burden of his duties has been sitting easily upon him” (Berl. Bib.).—“God does not overlook the mighty even when they sin, but makes them feel His heavy hand” (Starke).—God’s judgment on a laud embraces prince and people alike, although a people may also have God’s judgment already in their prince, and a prince may have it in his people.

Ezekiel 12:12. “The ungodly walk about with a bold countenance, but in the judgment they will conceal it” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 12:13. First the net of pleasure and vanity, then the net of death and hell.—“He that lives wildly is hunted and taken like the wild beasts” (Stck.).—God a fisher and hunter.

Ezekiel 12:14. “Of what avail to the sinner all his imagined succours and pretended helpers?” (Stck.)—We will by and by withdraw our confidence from all creatures.—The Eternal blew, and the Armada was scattered to all the winds of heaven.—“If God is our enemy, we have no friend in heaven or upon earth” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 12:15. Alas that we should become wise only by injury, and should come to know God only from experience of punishment, instead of tasting and thus seeing how good the Lord is!

Ezekiel 12:16. Thus it is that God receives honour because of His righteousness, when His grace is despised.—“God blesses the chastisements which He sends forth upon His people to unbelievers also” (Starke).

Ezekiel 12:18. “Only those who have their standing in grace can eat their bread without fear and carefulness” (Starke).—It is not in vain that Christ has taught us the petition: Give us this day our daily bread.—“A verse which we may read with profit in the midst of plenty” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 12:19. “That one is able to eat and drink in rest and peace is a great benefit from God, but one that is not known by the thousandth part of men” (Starke).—“Jerusalem and her inhabitants are eloquent orators, and preach with unction” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 12:20. “If one will not learn to know God from His benefits, then he must often do so in the midst of punishment, Daniel 4:30-31” (Starke).—Thus the wilderness was Israel’s school, and became Israel’s judgment.

3. The Near Execution of the Punishment ( Ezekiel 12:21 to Ezekiel 24:27).

1. The Repeated Preliminary Announcement ( Ezekiel 12:21-28)

21And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 22Son of Prayer of Manasseh, what [meaneth] this proverb of yours upon the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged; 23and every vision comes to nought? Say unto them therefore, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel: but speak unto them, The days are at hand, and the word of every vision 24 For there shall be no more any vision 25 of deceit nor flattering divination in the midst of the house of Israel. For I, Jehovah, will speak whatever word I will speak, and it will [shall] come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged, for [but] in your days, O house of rebelliousness, I will speak a word, and perform it: sentence of the Lord Jehovah 26 And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 27Son of Prayer of Manasseh, behold the house of Israel, who say, The vision that he seeth is for many days, and he prophesieth for [of] times afar off 28 Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: There shall none of my words be prolonged any more; the word which I shall speak shall be done: sentence of the Lord Jehovah.

Ezekiel 12:24. Sept.: ... και μαντευομενος τα προς χαριν.—(Another read.: ומקסם חדל, and divination shall cease. בני ישׂ, all the versions.)

EXEGETICAL REMARKS

Announcement of the end as one that is near, and that repeated ( Ezekiel 12:26 sq.). For after the wind-up, as it were, which precedes, with the misery coming upon land and people, there remained only the announcement of the same, preliminary to its near occurrence. Hitherto it has been a going back upon Ezekiel 6, now we have a return to what was said in Ezekiel 7.

Ezekiel 12:22. Derived as it is from a verb meaning: to go before, to lead, to preside,—to represent something, to signify,—to pronounce a sentence, etc, מָשָׁל is equivalent to “maxim,” the form being always that of similitude, proverb, derisive verse ( Isaiah 14:4). Here also not without the derisive element. The common saying, in which the current sentiment among those still dwelling in the land of Israel ( Ezekiel 12:19) had found for itself suitable expression (beati possidentes), derided the Eternal in His prophets by means of the comfort of the time, that the time is passing away, and what was alleged to be seen in vision is passing away with it; as nothing is coming out of it, so neither shall there be anything in it. The days that are being prolonged may refer to Jeremiah’s long ago uttered prediction of ruin; comp. too on Ezekiel 11:3.—לָכֶם combines the prophet with the mockers, as being his people. On such fellowship of the servants of God with their people is based at last in a pre-eminent sense the relation of the incarnate Son of God to the human race ( Exodus 16:28).

Ezekiel 12:23. הִשְׁבַּתִּי, prophetic preterite: “to bring to rest;” after the trouble they give themselves, their inventive labours, comes the Sabbath of Jehovah ( Genesis 2:1 sq.).—Are at hand ( Ezekiel 9:1; Ezekiel 11:3), in contrast with the preceding: “are prolonged,”—וּדְבַר כָּל חָזוֹן, the verbal contents of every vision of His prophets,—the word, and the thing meant by the word. Keil rightly: the days in which every predicted word shall be realized. (Hengst: “as against a merely partial fulfilment, as if the prophets had exaggerated somewhat,” etc.)

Ezekiel 12:24. As there is also a false ( 2 Peter 2:1) prophecy (שָׁוְא),—mere divination (מִקְסָם), which deceives in the way of flattery with its smoothness,—the divinely inspired prophecy is distinguished first of all from it, as the following contrast shows, and as will, of course, be shown still more in Ezekiel 13. There shall be no more, etc, is parallel with: “and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel” ( Ezekiel 12:23): that mocking proverb had taken shape with the help of the false prophecy in Israel. Hence in Ezekiel 12:25 a co-ordinate or resumed כִּי. The disjunctive accent (rebii) over יְהוֹה makes “I Jehovah” a sentence by itself, so that the Author of true prophecy sets Himself face to face with the false. In like manner, pashta at the end of אְַדַבֵּר acts as a disjunctive, while the conjunctive telisha-kethannah with אֵת׳ connects what follows. Jehovah reserves for Himself uncontrolled power to speak, and almighty power to make it good. And with this is joined the statement that there will be no farther delay, no longer postponement (with reference to that proverb): in your days ( Matthew 16:28; Matthew 24:34), therefore with a subjective, personal application. Such a fulfilment of the divine prediction will at the same time be the end of the false divination, which by this very means is covered with disgrace. In some sense also the I Jehovah, as being Messianic, is contrasted with preceding prophecy in general. Comp. besides on Ezekiel 12:2, Ezekiel 11:8.

In Ezekiel 12:27 there follows the more objective application, referring to the matter itself. The statement that if there is a prophecy at all that will yet be fulfilled, it at all events refers to times that are far off ( Daniel 8:26; Daniel 8:17), is rejected by the Lord as regards Ezekiel. Before it was a mockery of Jehovah, here we have a mockery of His prophet rather in the words quoted.

Ezekiel 12:28. See as to the feminine תִּמָּשֵׁךְ here, as in Ezekiel 12:25, Ewald, Gram. § 295a.

DOCTRINAL REFLECTIONS

1. The significance of prophecy and its fulfilment for the divine credibility of the prophetic testimonies, and thus of Holy Scripture generally, has been understood by Apologetics from the beginning. See Keith’s Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion derived from the Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy. Besides, already in Deuteronomy 18:21-22, the fulfilment of what has been predicted is put as a characteristic mark of genuine prophecy.

2. If the absolute and almighty power which God attributes to Himself in the section before us, as contrasted with false divination, is our creed, then the word of prophecy ranks with the word of creation, and what serves as an argument for the divine sovereignty in the latter connection is not less an argument in the former. By the word of the Eternal were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth ( Psalm 33:6). The living God is also the law of prophecy as regards its fulfilment.

3. What is accepted as true of the divine power in Creation comes to be applied for the fulfilment of prophecy still more by faith in Divine Providence, the co-operation and government of God. The Eternal (“Jehovah,” Ezekiel 12:25) is not merely the God of the beginning and the end, of the origin and the goal, but also He who is co-existent with the life of the world and specially of mankind. It is the divine element in and mixed up with the history of the world with which prophecy has to do. But this is not merely the eternal idea, which is continually realizing itself anew, so that what refers to time and place would in comparison with it have to be regarded as the mere form of representation, but this divine element is alike the real which is predicted, and the necessary which is prophesied. As respects the divine decree, which because of sin has developed itself from the world-plan of the Creator into the counsel of salvation in Christ for the world, things small and great may be distinguished; but because both are serviceable in carrying out the decree of God, both alike are divine, and therefore suitable for prophecy.

4. It is of importance, however, as respects the delay, as respects the postponement, e.g. of the realization of the prophecies of judgment, that there is a correspondence between the prolonging of the days and the divine long-suffering and forbearance ( 2 Peter 3:9), as in the case before us in Ezekiel. The prophecy of judgment is besides a preaching of repentance, so that if it produces the repentance which it preaches, the fulfilment of the prophecy may be hindered. But even apart from such conditionality lying in the thing itself, other circumstances, always, however, willed by God, may give to a prophecy the character of perspective foreshortening.

5. “Prophecy was an act of faith; it likewise demanded faith. And as what true prophecy insisted on above all was conversion of heart, it resisted the sinful consciousness and life of unbelief, and was resisted by it ( Amos 6:3). It is the nature of sin to reckon itself to be no sin, and hence as far as possible to break up the connection and separate between sin and punishment” (Häv.).

ADDITIONAL NOTE

[“We cannot but think with wonder, when we look back upon the times of these Old Testament prophets, of the obstinate incredulity and measureless content in which so many of the people seem to have shut themselves up, alike in defiance of the most solemn warnings of God, and in spite of several lowering appearances in Providence, which seemed to give no doubtful indications of a coming storm. … But it is well for us to bear in mind, that the spirit of unbelief and false security, which prevailed so extensively then, is ever springing forth anew, and is plainly announced in New Testament Scripture as destined to form a distinguishing characteristic of the last times. It was a significant question of our Lord, and evidently pointed to the great defect in this respect that should discover itself before the consummation of all things, ‘When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith in the earth?’ Such faith, namely, as He had been speaking of,—faith realizing in firm confidence the certainty of the Lord’s manifestation to put a final end to the evils that afflict His Church, and in this confidence waiting, hoping, praying to the last. The apostle Peter also still more distinctly intimates in his second epistle what might be looked for: ‘There shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and 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 world.’ It will readily be understood that the danger from this source to this faith of God’s elect will always be the greater, the more the time is lengthened out that is to intervene between the first and second coming of the Lord. For time, which is justly said to try all things, in this respect also tries faith, that it silently impairs in men’s minds the foundation on which faith rests—the word of God. In common with other things of meaner value, this, too, seems to wax old as time proceeds, and to become, the longer it is in use, the less in power and value. Even already it is looked upon by many as comparatively antiquated, out of date; the facts of which it testifies are but faintly descried in the distant past; centuries have rolled away since they took place and were put on record; and the record itself has been so long in existence, so frequently handled, and so fully discussed, that, with those to whom nothing is interesting but what possesses the freshness of novelty, the sacred volume, so far from being able to nourish and support a living faith, has itself become stale and dead.

“Thus it is that natural men judge of God’s word, as if, like their own productions, it were subject to wasting and decay. They know not that this word of God, being the expression of His own eternal nature, has in it what lives and abides for ever,—what is as new and fresh to the heart of faith still, as the very moment when, ages ago, it proceeded from the lips of those who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Then, along with a prevailing ignorance or forgetfulness of this great truth, there is the fascinating influence which is apt to be wielded over men’s minds by the onward movements of society in knowledge and civilisation. Here they find an attractive contrast to the stationary character of the ground and objects of faith. For everything in this lower field seems constantly in progress, and big with hope for the future. It is deemed incredible, that while such vital powers are at work, and such a career of advancement is in prospect, God should lay a sudden arrest on the vast machinery, and wind up the affairs of the world by bringing in the fixed and final issues of eternity. Nay, the belief of a personal God, separate from the workmanship of his own hands, and capable of suddenly introducing a state of things altogether new, Isaiah, in many quarters, fast giving way. In a new and peculiarly subtle form, the old carnal and idolatrous tendencies are reviving, impiously commingling the divine and human, identifying the creature with the Creator. And, judging from present appearances, there is too much reason to conclude that, precisely as before Christ came to execute judgment upon Jerusalem, a rage for worldly saviours was one of the reigning delusions of the time, Song of Solomon, as the period draws on for His coming to execute judgment upon the world, a like rage will prevail for a worldly gospel,—one that will seek to confound heaven and earth, God and Prayer of Manasseh, and, in a manner, possibly even more daring and presumptuous than in the Papacy, will dispose man to ‘exalt himself in the temple of God, and show himself that he is God.’ What need, then, for those who would escape the condemnation of the wicked, to look well to the foundation of their faith, and to see that this stands not in the wisdom of Prayer of Manasseh, but in the word of God! How careful should each be to dwell beside the fountain of Israel! For times of trial manifestly are coming, in which they only who are taught of God, and kept by the power of His Spirit, can expect to resist the swelling tide of delusion, and maintain even the appearance of godliness.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp124–126.—W. F.]

HOMILETIC HINTS

Ezekiel 12:22. “God spares the ungodly, and thereby invites them to repentance. But what is it they do? They scoff at the servants of God, and reckon their words to be idle tales” (Heim-Hoff.).—“Thus they despised the riches of divine goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, and instead of allowing themselves to be led thereby to repentance, after their hardness and impenitent heart they treasured up unto themselves wrath, etc, Romans 2:4-5, 2 Peter 3:4” (Cocc.).

Ezekiel 12:23. The Sabbath which awaits the proverbs of the world, when every tongue which has not suffered itself to be hallowed to the Lord shall be hallowed to the Lord by the judgment of condemnation. To be compelled to confess that Jesus is Lord is indeed a terrible Sabbath, if one has not otherwise hallowed Him.—The lying mouths which God’s word cannot stop are removed by God’s deeds.

Ezekiel 12:24. “Prophecy and roughness, these go hand in hand among a sinful people” (Hengst.).—“If Jesus, who came after the Babylonian captivity, had been a false prophet, or His disciples, as the Jews assert, then must the promise of this verse have been false” (Cocc.).—“And so also shall all flattering representations of a flourishing state of the Church, which have sprung from reason and fleshly learning, come to an end” (Berl. Bib.).

Ezekiel 12:27-28 : “What God says we are not to separate’ ‘from its fulfilment, because God who speaks is not in Himself divided; when He opens His mouth, He stretches out His hand at the same time to the work, so that the hand itself is in a manner included in the word” (Calv.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ezekiel-12.html. 1857-84.

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