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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 5

 

 

Verses 1-17

THE END FORETOLD

Ezekiel 4:1-17 - Ezekiel 7:1-27

WITH the fourth chapter we enter on the exposition of the first great division of Ezekiel’s prophecies. The chaps, 4-24, cover a period of about four and a half years, extending from the time of the prophet’s call to the commencement of the siege of Jerusalem. During this time Ezekiel’s thoughts revolved round one great theme-the approaching judgment on the city and the nation. Through contemplation of this fact there was disclosed to him the outline of a comprehensive theory of divine providence, in which the destruction of Israel was seen to be the necessary consequence of her past history and a necessary preliminary to her future restoration. The prophecies may be classified roughly under three heads. In the first class are those which exhibit the judgment itself in ways fitted to impress the prophet and his hearers with a conviction of its certainty; a second class is intended to demolish the illusions and false ideals which possessed the minds of the Israelites and made the announcement of disaster incredible; and a third and very important class expounds the moral principles which were illustrated by the judgment, and which show it to be a divine necessity. In the passage which forms the subject of the present lecture the bare fact and certainty of the judgment are set forth in word and symbol and with a minimum of commentary, although even here the conception which Ezekiel had formed of the moral situation is clearly discernible.

I.

The certainty of the national judgment seems to have been first impressed on Ezekiel’s mind in the form of a singular series of symbolic acts which he conceived himself to be commanded to perform. The peculiarity of these signs is that they represent simultaneously two distinct aspects of the nation’s fate-on the one hand the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, and on the other hand the state of exile which was to follow.

That the destruction of Jerusalem should occupy the first place in the prophet’s picture of national calamity requires no explanation. Jerusalem was the heart and brain of the nation, the centre of its life and its religion, and in the eyes of the prophets the fountain-head of its sin. The strength of her natural situation, the patriotic and religious associations which had gathered round her, and the smallness of her subject province gave to Jerusalem a unique position among the mother-cities of antiquity. And Ezekiel’s hearers knew what he meant when he employed the picture of a beleaguered city to set forth the judgment that was to overtake them. That crowning horror of ancient warfare, the siege of a fortified town, meant in this case something more appalling to the imagination than the ravages of pestilence and famine and sword. The fate of Jerusalem represented the disappearance of everything that had constituted the glory and excellence of Israel’s national existence. That the light of Israel should be extinguished amidst the anguish and bloodshed which must accompany an unsuccessful defence of the capital was the most terrible element in Ezekiel’s message, and here he sets it in the forefront of his prophecy.

The manner in which the prophet seeks to impress this fact on his countrymen illustrates a peculiar vein of realism which runs through all his thinking. [Ezekiel 4:1-3] Being at a distance from Jerusalem, he seems to feel the need of some visible emblem of the doomed city before he can adequately represent the import of his prediction. He is commanded to take a brick and portray upon it a walled city, surrounded by the towers, mounds, and battering-rams which marked the usual operations of a besieging army. Then he is to erect a plate of iron between him and the city. and from behind this, with menacing gestures, he is as it were to press on the siege. The meaning of the symbols is obvious. As the engines of destruction appear on Ezekiel’s diagram, at the bidding of Jehovah, so in due time the Chaldaean army will be seen from the walls of Jerusalem, led by the same unseen rower which now controls the acts of the prophet. In the last act Ezekiel exhibits the attitude of Jehovah Himself, cut off from His people by the iron wall of an inexorable purpose which no prayer could penetrate.

Thus far the prophet’s actions, however strange they may appear to us, have been simple and intelligible. But at this point a second sign is as it were superimposed on the first, in order to symbolise an entirely different set of facts-the hardship and duration of the Exile (Ezekiel 4:4-8). While still engaged in prosecuting the siege of the city, the prophet is supposed to become at the same time the representative of the guilty people and the victim of the divine judgment. He is to "bear their iniquity"-that is, the punishment due to their sin. This is represented by his lying bound on his left side for a number of days equal to the years of Ephraim’s banishment, and then on his right side for a time proportionate to the captivity of Judah. Now the time of Judahs exile is fixed at forty years, dating of course from the fall of the city. The captivity of North Israel exceeds that of Judah by the interval between the destruction of Samaria (722) and the fall of Jerusalem, a period which actually measured about a hundred and thirty-five years. In the Hebrew text, however, the length of Israel’s captivity is given as three hundred and ninety years-that is, it must have lasted for three hundred and fifty years before that of Judah begins. This is obviously quite irreconcilable with the facts of history, and also with the prophet’s intention. He cannot mean that the banishment of the northern tribes was to be protracted for two centuries after that of Judah had come to an end, for he uniformly speaks of the restoration of the two branches of the nation as simultaneous. The text of the Greek translation helps us past this difficulty. The Hebrew manuscript from which that version was made had the reading a "hundred and ninety" instead of "three hundred and ninety" in Ezekiel 4:5. This alone yields a satisfactory sense, and the reading of the Septuagint is now generally accepted as representing what Ezekiel actually wrote. There is still a slight discrepancy between the hundred and thirty-five years of the actual history and the hundred and fifty years expressed by the symbol; but we must remember that Ezekiel is using round numbers throughout, and moreover he has not as yet fixed the precise date of the capture of Jerusalem when the last forty years are to commence.

In the third symbol (Ezekiel 4:9-17) the two aspects of the judgment are again presented in the closest possible combination. The prophet’s food and drink during the days when he is imagined to be lying on his side represents on the one hand, by its being small in quantity and carefully weighed and measured, the rigours of famine in Jerusalem during the siege-"Behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with anxiety; and drink water by measure, and with horror" (Ezekiel 4:16); on the other hand, by its mixed ingredients and by the fuel used in its preparation, it typifies the unclean religious condition of the people when in exile-"Even so shall the children of Israel eat their food unclean among the heathen" (Ezekiel 4:13). The meaning of this threat is best explained by a passage in the book of Hosea. Speaking of the Exile, Hosea says: "They shall not remain in the land of Jehovah; but the children of Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and shall eat unclean food in Assyria. They shall pour out no wine to Jehovah, nor shall they lay out their sacrifices for Him: like the food of mourners shall their food be; all that eat thereof shall be defiled: for their bread shall only satisfy their hunger; it shall not come into the house of Jehovah". [Hosea 9:3-4] The idea is that all food which has not been consecrated by being presented to Jehovah in the sanctuary is necessarily unclean, and those who eat of it contract ceremonial defilement. In the very act of satisfying his natural appetite a man forfeits his religious standing. This was the peculiar hardship of the state of exile, that a man must become unclean, he must eat unconsecrated food unless he renounced his religion and served the gods of the land in which he dwelt. Between the time of Hosea and Ezekiel these ideas may have been somewhat modified by the introduction of the Deuteronomic law, which expressly permits secular slaughter at a distance from the sanctuary. But this did not lessen the importance of a legal sanctuary for the common life of an Israelite. The whole of a man’s flocks and herds, the whole produce of his fields, had to be sanctified by the presentation of firstlings and firstfruits at the Temple before he could enjoy the reward of his industry with the sense of standing in Jehovah’s favour. Hence the destruction of the sanctuary or the permanent exclusion of the worshippers from it reduced the whole life of the people to a condition of uncleanness which was felt to be as great a calamity as was a papal interdict in the Middle Ages. This is the fact which is expressed in the part of Ezekiel’s symbolism now before us. What it meant for his fellow exiles was that the religious disability under which they laboured was to be continued for a generation. The whole life of Israel was to become unclean until its inward state was made worthy of the religious privileges now to be withdrawn. At the same time no one could have felt the penalty more severely than Ezekiel himself, in whom habits of ceremonial purity had become a second nature. The repugnance which he feels at the loathsome manner in which he was at first directed to prepare his food, and the profession of his own practice in exile, as well as the concession made to his scrupulous sense of propriety (Ezekiel 4:14-16), are all characteristic of one whose priestly training had made a defect of ceremonial cleanness almost equivalent to a moral delinquency.

The last of the symbols [Ezekiel 5:1-4] represents the fate of the population of Jerusalem when the city is taken. The shaving of the prophet’s head and beard is a figure for the depopulation of the city and country. By a further series of acts, whose meaning is obvious, he shows how a third of the inhabitants shall die of famine and pestilence during the siege, a third shall be slain by the enemy when the city is captured, while the remaining third shall be dispersed among the nations. Even these shall be pursued by the sword of vengeance until but a few numbered individuals survive, and of them again a part passes through the fire. The passage reminds us of the last verse of the sixth chapter of Isaiah, which was perhaps in Ezekiel’s mind when he wrote: "And if a tenth still remain in it [the land], it shall again pass through the fire: as a terebinth or an oak whose stump is left at their felling: a holy seed shall be the stock thereof." [Isaiah 6:13] At least the conception of a succession of sifting judgments, leaving only a remnant to inherit the promise of the future, is common to both prophets, and the symbol in Ezekiel is noteworthy as the first expression of his steadfast conviction that further punishments were in store for the exiles after the destruction of Jerusalem.

It is clear that these signs could never have been enacted, either in view of the people or in solitude, as they are here described. It may be doubted whether the whole description is not purely ideal, representing a process which passed through the prophet’s mind, or was suggested to him in the visionary state but never actually performed. That will always remain a tenable view. An imaginary symbolic act is as legitimate a literary device as an imaginary conversation. It is absurd to mix up the question of the prophet’s truthfulness with the question whether he did or did not actually do what he conceives himself as doing. The attempt to explain his action by catalepsy would take us but a little way, even if the arguments adduced in favour of it were stronger than they are. Since even a cataleptic patient could not have tied himself down on his side or prepared and eaten his food in that posture, it is necessary in any case to admit that there must be a considerable, though indeterminate, element of literary imagination in the account given of the symbols. It is not impossible that some symbolic representation of the siege of Jerusalem may have actually been the first act in Ezekiel’s ministry. In the interpretation of the vision which immediately follows we shall find that no notice is taken of the features which refer to exile, but only of those which announce the siege of Jerusalem. It may therefore be the case that Ezekiel did some such action as is here described, pointing to the fall of Jerusalem, but that the whole was taken up afterwards in his imagination and made into an ideal representation of the two great facts which formed the burden of his earlier prophecy.

II.

It is a relief to turn from this somewhat fantastic, though for its own purpose effective, exhibition of prophetic ideas to the impassioned oracles in which the doom of the city and the nation is pronounced. The first of these (Ezekiel 5:5-17) is introduced here as the explanation of the signs that have been described, in so far as they bear on the fate of Jerusalem; but it has a unity of its own, and is a characteristic specimen of Ezekiel’s oratorical style. It consists of two parts: the first (Ezekiel 5:5-10) deals chiefly with the reasons for the judgment on Jerusalem, and the second (Ezekiel 5:11-17) with the nature of the judgment itself. The chief thought of the passage is the unexampled severity of the punishment which is in store for Israel, as represented by the fate of the capital. A calamity so unprecedented demands an explanation as unique as itself. Ezekiel finds the ground of it in the signal honour conferred on Jerusalem in her being set in the midst of the nations, in the possession of a religion which expressed the will of the one God, and in the fact that she had proved herself unworthy of her distinction and privileges and tried to live as the nations around. "This is Jerusalem which I have set in the midst of the nations, with the lands round about her. But she rebelled against My judgments wickedly more than the nations, and My statutes more than [other] lands round about her: for they rejected My judgments, and in My statutes they did not walk. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, even I am against you; and I will execute in thy midst judgments before the nations, and will do in thy case what I have not done [heretofore], and what I shall not do the like of any more, according to all thy abominations" (Ezekiel 5:5-9). The central position of Jerusalem is evidently no figure of speech in the mouth of Ezekiel. It means that she is so situated as to fulfil her destiny in the view of all the nations of the world, who can read in her wonderful history the character of the God who is above all gods. Nor can the prophet be fairly accused of provincialism in thus speaking of Jerusalem’s unrivalled physical and moral advantages. The mountain ridge on which she stood lay almost across the great highways of communication between the East and the West, between the hoary seats of civilisation and the lands whither the course of empire took its way. Ezekiel knew that Tyre was the centre of the old world’s commerce, (See chapter 27) but he also knew that Jerusalem occupied a central situation in the civilised world, and in that fact he rightly saw a providential mark of the grandeur and universality of her religious mission. Her calamities, too, were probably such as no other city experienced. The terrible prediction of Ezekiel 5:10, "Fathers shall eat sons in the midst of thee, and sons shall eat fathers," seems to have been literally fulfilled. "The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of My people." [Lamentations 4:10] It is likely enough that the annals of Assyrian conquest cover many a tale of woe which in point of mere physical suffering paralleled the atrocities of the siege of Jerusalem. But no other nation had a conscience so sensitive as Israel, or lost so much by its political annihilation. The humanising influences of a pure religion had made Israel susceptible of a kind of anguish which ruder communities were spared. The sin of Jerusalem is represented after Ezekiel’s manner as on the one hand transgression of the divine commandments, and on the other defilement of the Temple through false worship. These are ideas which we shall frequently meet in the course of the book, and they need not detain us here. The prophet proceeds (Ezekiel 5:11-17) to describe in detail the relentless punishment which the divine vengeance is to inflict on the inhabitants and the city. The jealousy, the wrath, the indignation of Jehovah, which are represented as "satisfied" by the complete destruction of the people, belong to the limitations of the conception of God which Ezekiel had. It was impossible at that time to interpret such an event as the fall of Jerusalem in a religious sense otherwise than as a vehement outburst of Jehovah’s anger, expressing the reaction of His holy nature against the sin of idolatry. There is indeed a great distance between the attitude of Ezekiel towards the hapless city and the yearning pity of Christ’s lament over the sinful Jerusalem of His time. Yet the first was a step towards the second. Ezekiel realised intensely that part of God’s character which it was needful to enforce in order to beget in his countrymen the deep horror at the sin of idolatry which characterised the later Judaism. The best commentary on the latter part of this chapter is found in those parts of the book of Lamentations which speak of the state of the city and the survivors after its overthrow. There we see how quickly the stern judgment produced a more chastened and beautiful type of piety than had ever been prevalent before. Those pathetic utterances, in which patriotism and religion are so finely blended, are like the timid and tentative advances of a child’s heart towards a parent who has ceased to punish but has not begun to caress. This, and much else that is true and ennobling in the later religion of Israel, is rooted in the terrifying sense of the divine anger against sin so powerfully represented in the preaching of Ezekiel.

III.

The next two chapters may be regarded as pendants to the theme which is dealt with in this opening section of the book of Ezekiel. In the fourth and fifth chapters the prophet had mainly the city in his eye as the focus of the nation’s life; in the sixth he turns his eye to the land which had shared the sin, and must suffer the punishment, of the capital. It is, in its first part (Ezekiel 6:2-10), an apostrophe to the mountain land of Israel, which seems to stand out before the exile’s mind with its mountains and hills, its ravines and valleys, in contrast to the monotonous plain of Babylonia which stretched around him. But these mountains were familiar to the prophet as the seats of the rural idolatry in Israel. The word bamah, which means properly "the height," had come to be used as the name of an idolatrous sanctuary. These sanctuaries were probably Canaanitish in origin; and although by Israel they had been consecrated to the worship of Jehovah, yet He was worshipped there in ways which the prophets pronounced hateful to Him. They had been destroyed by Josiah, but must have been restored to their former use during the revival of heathenism which followed his death. It is a lurid picture which rises before the prophet’s imagination as he contemplates the judgment of this provincial idolatry: the altars laid waste, the "sun-pillars" broken, and the idols surrounded by the corpses of men who had fled to their shrines for protection and perished at their feet. This demonstration of the helplessness of the rustic divinities to save their sanctuaries and their worshippers will be the means of breaking the rebellious heart and the whorish eyes that had led Israel so far astray from her true Lord, and will produce in exile the self-loathing which Ezekiel always regards as the beginning of penitence.

But the prophet’s passion rises to a higher pitch. and he hears the command "Clap thy hands, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Aha for the abominations of the house of Israeli." These are gestures and exclamations, not of indignation, but of contempt and triumphant scorn. The same feeling and even the same gestures are ascribed to Jehovah Himself in another passage of highly charged emotion. [Ezekiel 21:17] And it is only fair to remember that it is the anticipation of the victory of Jehovah’s cause that fills the mind of the prophet at such moments and seems to deaden the sense of human sympathy within him. At the same time the victory of Jehovah was the victory of prophecy, and in so far Smend may be right in regarding the words as throwing light on the intensity of the antagonism in which prophecy and the popular religion then stood. The devastation of the land is to be effected by the same instruments as were at work in the destruction of the city: first the sword of the Chaldaeans, then famine and pestilence among those who escape, until the whole of Israel’s ancient territory lies desolate from the southern steppes to Riblah in the north.

Chapter 7 is one of those singled out by Ewald as preserving most faithfully the spirit and language of Ezekiel’s earlier utterances. Both in thought and expression it exhibits a freedom and animation seldom attained in Ezekiel’s writings, and it is evident that it must have been composed under keen emotion. It is comparatively free from those stereotyped phrases which are elsewhere so common, and the style falls at times into the rhythm which is characteristic of Hebrew poetry. Ezekiel hardly perhaps attains to perfect mastery of poetic form, and even here we may be sensible of a lack of power to blend a series of impressions and images into an artistic unity. The vehemence of his feeling hurries him from one conception to another, without giving full expression to any, or indicating clearly the connection that leads from one to the other. This circumstance, and the corrupt condition of the text together, make the chapter in some parts unintelligible, and as a whole one of the most difficult in the book. In its present position it forms a fitting conclusion to the opening section of the book. All the elements of the judgment which have just been foretold are gathered up in one outburst of emotion, producing a song of triumph in which the prophet seems to stand in the uproar of the final catastrophe and exult amid the crash and wreck of the old order which is passing away.

The passage is divided into five stanzas, which may originally have been approximately equal in length, although the first is now nearly twice as long as any of the others.

1. Ezekiel 7:2-9 -The first verse strikes the keynote of the whole poem; it is the inevitableness and the finality of the approaching dissolution. A striking phrase of Amos 8:2 is first taken up and expanded in accordance with the anticipations with which the previous chapters have now familiarised us: "An end is come, the end is come on the four skirts of the land." The poet already hears the tumult and confusion of the battle; the vintage songs of the Judaean peasant are silenced, and with the din and fury of war the day of the Lord draws near.

2. Ezekiel 7:10-13 -The prophet’s thoughts here revert to the present, and he notes the eager interest with which men both in Judah and Babylon are pursuing the ordinary business of life and the vain dreams of political greatness. "The diadem flourishes, the sceptre blossoms, arrogance shoots up." These expressions must refer to the efforts of the new rulers of Jerusalem to restore the fortunes of the nation and the glories of the old kingdom which had been so greatly tarnished by the recent captivity. Things are going bravely, they think; they are surprised at their own success; they hope that the day of small things will grow into the day of things greater than those which are past. The following verse is untranslatable; probably the original words, if we could recover them, would contain some pointed and scornful antithesis to these futile and vainglorious anticipations. The allusion to "buyers and sellers" (Ezekiel 7:12) may possibly be quite general, referring only to the absorbing interest which men continue to take in their possessions, heedless of the impending judgment. {cf. Luke 17:20-30} But the facts that the advantage is assumed to be on the side of the buyer and that the seller expects to return to his heritage make it probable that the prophet is thinking of the forced sales by the expatriated nobles of their estates in Palestine, and to their deeply cherished resolve to right themselves when the time of their exile is over. All such ambitions, says the prophet, are vain-"the seller shall not return to what he sold, and a man shall not by wrong preserve his living." In any case Ezekiel evinces here, as elsewhere, a certain sympathy with the exiled aristocracy, in opposition to the pretensions of the new men who had succeeded to their honours.

3. Ezekiel 7:14-18 -The next scene that rises before the prophet’s vision is the collapse of Judah’s military preparations in the hour of danger. Their army exists but on paper. There is much blowing of trumpets and much organising, but no men to go forth to battle. A blight rests on all their efforts; their hands are paralysed and their hearts unnerved by the sense that "wrath rests on all their pomp." Sword, famine, and pestilence, the ministers of Jehovah’s vengeance, shall devour the inhabitants of the city and the country, until but a few survivors on the tops of the mountains remain to mourn over the universal desolation.

4. Ezekiel 7:19-22 -At present the inhabitants of Jerusalem are proud of the ill-gotten and ill-used wealth stored up within her, and doubtless the exiles cast covetous eyes on the luxury which may still have prevailed amongst the upper classes in the capital. But of what avail will all this treasure be in the evil day now so near at hand? It will but add mockery to their sufferings to be surrounded by gold and silver which can do nothing to allay the pangs of hunger. It will be cast in the streets as refuse, for it cannot save them in the day of Jehovah’s anger. Nay, more, it will become the prize of the most ruthless of the heathen (the Chaldaeans); and when in the eagerness of their lust for gold they ransack the Temple treasury and so desecrate the Holy Place, Jehovah will avert His face and suffer them to work their will. The curse of Jehovah rests on the silver and gold of Jerusalem, which has been used for the making of idolatrous images, and now is made to them an unclean thing.

5. Ezekiel 7:23-27 -The closing strophe contains a powerful description of the dismay and despair that will seize all classes in the state as the day of wrath draws near. Calamity after calamity comes, rumour follows hard on rumour, and the heads of the nation are distracted and cease to exercise the functions of leadership. The recognised guides of the people-the prophets, the priests, and the wise men-have no word of counsel or direction to offer; the prophet’s vision, the priest’s traditional lore, and the wise man’s sagacity are alike at fault. So the king and the grandees are filled with stupefaction; and the common people, deprived of their natural leaders, sit down in helpless dejection. Thus shall Jerusalem be recompensed according to her doings. "The land is full of bloodshed, and the city of violence"; and in the correspondence between desert and retribution men shall be made to acknowledge the operation of the divine righteousness. "They shall know that I am Jehovah."

IV.

It may be useful at this point to note certain theological principles which already begin to appear in this earliest of Ezekiel’s prophecies. Reflection on the nature and purpose of the divine dealings we have seen to be a characteristic of his work; and even those passages which we have considered, although chiefly devoted to an enforcement of the fact of judgment, present some features of the conception of Israel’s history which had been formed in his mind.

1. We observe in the first place that the prophet lays great stress on the world-wide significance of the events which are to befall Israel. This thought is not as yet developed, but it is clearly present. The relation between Jehovah and Israel is so peculiar that He is known to the nations in the first instance only. as Israel’s God, and thus His being and character have to be learned from His dealings with His own people. And since Jehovah is the only true God and must be worshipped as such everywhere, the history of Israel has an interest for the world such as that of no other nation has. She was placed in the centre of the nations in order that the knowledge of God might radiate from her through all the world; and now that she has proved unfaithful to her mission, Jehovah must manifest His power and His character by an unexampled work of judgment. Even the destruction of Israel is a demonstration to the universal conscience of mankind of what true divinity is.

2. But the judgment has of course a purpose and a meaning for Israel herself, and both purposes are summed up in the recurring formula "Ye [they] shall know that I am Jehovah," or "that I, Jehovah, have spoken." These two phrases express precisely the same idea, although from slightly different starting-points. It is assumed that Jehovah’s personality is to be identified by His word spoken through the prophets. He is known to men through the revelation of Himself in the prophet’s utterances. "Ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken" means therefore, Ye shall know that it is I, the God of Israel and the Ruler of the universe, who speak these things. In other words, the harmony between prophecy and providence guarantees the source of the prophet’s message. The shorter phrase "Ye shall know that I am Jehovah" may mean Ye shall know that I who now speak am truly Jehovah, the God of Israel. The prejudices of the people would have led them to deny that the power which dictated Ezekiel’s prophecy could be their God; but this denial, together with the false idea of Jehovah on which it rests, shall be destroyed forever when the prophet’s words come true.

There is of course no doubt that Ezekiel conceived Jehovah as endowed with the plenitude of deity, or that in his view the name expressed all that we mean by the word God. Nevertheless, historically the name Jehovah is a proper name, denoting the God who is the God of Israel. Renan has ventured on the assertion that a deity with a proper name is necessarily a false god. The statement perhaps measures the difference between the God of revealed religion and the god who is an abstraction, an expression of the order of the universe, who exists only in the mind of the man who names him. The God of revelation is a living person, with a character and will of His own, capable of being known by man. It is the distinction of revelation that it dares to regard God as an individual with an inner life and nature of His own, independent of the conception men may form of Him. Applied to such a Being, a personal name may be as true and significant as the name which expresses the character and individuality of a man. Only thus can we understand the historical process by which the God who was first manifested as the deity of a particular nation preserves His personal identity with the God who in Christ is at last revealed as the God of the spirits of all flesh. The knowledge of Jehovah of which Ezekiel speaks is therefore at once a knowledge of the character of the God whom Israel professed to serve, and a knowledge of that which constitutes true and essential divinity.

3. The prophet; in Ezekiel 6:8-10, proceeds one step further in delineating the effect of the judgment on the minds of the survivors. The fascination of idolatry for the Israelites is conceived as produced by that radical perversion of the religious sense which the prophets call "whoredom"-a sensuous delight in the blessings of nature, and an indifference to the moral element which can alone preserve either religion or "human love from corruption. The spell shall at last be broken in the new knowledge of Jehovah which is produced by calamity; and the heart of the people, purified from its delusions, shall turn to Him who has smitten them, as the only true God. When your fugitives from the sword are among the nations, when they are scattered through the lands, then shall your fugitives remember Me amongst the nations whither they have been carried captive, when I break their heart that goes awhoring from Me, and their whorish eyes which went after their idols." When the idolatrous propensity is thus eradicated, the conscience of Israel will turn inwards on itself, and in the light of its new knowledge of God will for the first time read its own history aright. The beginnings of a new spiritual life will be made in the bitter self-condemnation which is one side of the national repentance. "They shall loathe themselves for all the evil that they have committed in all their abominations."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/ezekiel-5.html.

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