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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 9

 

 

Verse 1

1. Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near — Or, Draw nigh, ye that have the visitation of the city (Peshito and Hebrew differently pointed). This probably refers to the executioners (Davidson).


Verse 2

2. Six men… every man a slaughter weapon in his hand — These were symbolic of the divine executioners. In what form they appeared, other than that they looked like men, is not stated. Did they to the prophet’s eyes appear as the temple butchers, or as angels (Ezekiel 40:3; Ezekiel 43:6), or as Assyrians? The latter actually were the future destroyers of Jerusalem. In any case they were symbolic representatives of supernaturally directed powers. As six was the usual symbol of the world and its satanic acts, and as a marked distinction is made between these and the seventh, it may be that these represented worldly heathen forces overruled and controlled by the heavenly.

From the way of the… gate — Which was the higher or upper gate is not made certain in the context. One thing is positive, however, that the agents of punishment came out of one of the northern gates; either entering the temple through the north gate of the outer court or coming out of the holy place from the northern gate of the sanctuary, thus passing through the very doors which had so recently opened for the abominable idol worshipers (chap. 8). The fact that in Ezekiel’s temple the innermost gate was the highest (Jeremiah 36:10), together with the appropriateness of God’s agents of justice coming from his own holy place, makes it most probable that these ministers of Jehovah first appeared coming from the temple sanctuary.

One… clothed with linen — This man completes the sacred symbolic number of perfection. God’s ministers of justice are seven. No more are needed. This number suggests also the fact that these agents are engaged in holy work. To punish is as divine as to forgive. This seventh man is the divine scribe, who knows the names of all God’s people (Ezekiel 9:4). He is the priestly mediator between God’s justice and human sin. He is the divine executive and evidently chief of the seven (Ezekiel 9:3). Orelli and many others do not hesitate to see in him the “Angel of the Covenant” (Zechariah 1:11; Joshua 5:14; Genesis 17:1). White linen garments are always the symbol of purity. (Compare Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6; Leviticus 16:4; Revelation 15:6.)

Stood beside the brazen altar — This was in the inner court. (Compare Ezekiel 43:13-17.) Coming from the holy of holies, these mysterious messengers of Jehovah pause at the altar for further commands.


Verse 3

3. From the cherub — LXX., cherubim. For a full explanation of these symbolic forms and the differences between Ezekiel’s cherubim and those of Genesis see notes on chap. 10. These strange creatures came out of the same forests with the lions and cats and bulls and dragons of English heraldry. They are closely related to the allegorical forms, so reverenced in Egypt, by which it was sought to explain the mystery of life and the character and attributes of the deities. An Egyptian text of the Mosaic period reads: “The god of this world is in the light over the heaven. His symbols are upon the earth and to them reverence is paid every day” (Ani Papyrus). Professor James Strong (Biblical World, April, 1893) says the cherubim of the tabernacle were “imaginative embodiments of the four leading attributes of Deity in the physical world according to the unscientific, but really profound and correct, notions of the Hebrews; namely, intelligence, power, constancy, and rapidity. Accordingly they are… bearers of Jehovah’s throne; and they correspond essentially to what we term cardinal ‘laws of nature,’ that is, forces acting for a definite purpose, uniformly and instantaneously. In this light the location of the two upon the lid of the sacred ark is pre-eminently fitting as the custodians of the divine law, nature thus corroborating revelation.”

To the threshold of the house — The threshold, like the court and the gate of the court (see note Ezekiel 8:6), from a priestly standpoint probably means the priests’ court. If so, this perfectly explains the expression in Ezekiel 10:5, and it seems far more natural that these priestly sacrificers, pausing at the altar, should receive their orders from the threshold of the priests’ court or the sanctuary rather than that these orders should have been shouted to them from the threshold of the outer court. (See Temple Plan, p. 209). It is also suggestive that from earliest ages the threshold of a sanctuary was a sacred place (Trumbull, Threshold Covenant).


Verse 4

4. Set a mark upon the foreheads — Literally, set a tau (T) upon the foreheads. Tau was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which in ancient times had the form of a cross. The cross is one of the simplest and therefore one of the most common “marks” used by ancient peoples. (See Job 31:35, Hebrews) Perhaps this is the only reason why it is commanded to be used here; yet it is a suggestive fact that centuries before Ezekiel’s time the cross had been used as a sacred symbol. The kings and nobles of Egypt covered themselves with long chains of interwoven crosses and held this “symbol of life” ( ) in their dying hands as reverently as any Roman Christian ever cherished his crucifix. Among the Babylonians this same symbol is found. The Hebrews must have known of the symbolic value attached to the cross, and it is just like Ezekiel to express in this striking way the fact that the gift of life had come from God upon all those marked with the mysterious letter which, it may be noticed, was also the initial of the Hebrew word “live.” (Compare Revelation 7:3; Revelation 22:4.) This seal of grace was to be put upon all — men, women, and children (Ezekiel 9:5-6) — who sorrowed over their city’s sin. The cross on the forehead corresponds exactly to the blood upon the doorposts when the destroying angel flew over Egypt. (Compare Galatians 6:17.) Both marks — the blood and the cross — were chosen, not arbitrarily, but because they were “inwardly connected” with the facts indicated (Keil). Neither Moses nor Ezekiel could have known, but Infinite Wisdom foresaw, the peculiar significance and correspondence of these strange symbols. The man with the inkhorn was not to put any mark upon the foreheads of the people but this. It was the sign of the cross that saved them. “This mark was, of course, only visible to the angels.” — Orelli.


Verse 5

5. Let not your eye spare — See notes Ezekiel 7:4; Ezekiel 8:18.


Verse 6

6. Begin at my sanctuary — Or, consecrated ones (LXX.). It is fitting that the heaviest and speediest judgment fall upon those who have had greatest privileges, and thus have sinned against greatest light (Amos 1:2; 1 Peter 4:17; Matthew 11:21). “Dante and Michael Angelo locate bishops in hell. The cardinal’s hat appears in Fra Angelico’s picture of the prison of lost souls. We shall not escape the punishment of our sins by putting on clerical vestments.” — Adeney.

The ancient men — The elders. (Compare Ezekiel 8:16.)


Verse 7

7. Defile the house — Beginning in the priests’ court, where they stood to receive this command (see note Ezekiel 9:3), they began to slay all who had not the mark of the cross on their foreheads. and continued from court to court until they had passed out of the temple and then continued their work in the streets of the city. The temple, which had ceased to be Jehovah’s, was now defiled by heaps of corpses (Ezekiel 6:5; Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 43:7; Numbers 19:11, etc.). This massacre in the temple, which is here seen only in vision, actually took place in the capture of the city by the Chaldeans.

Go — It matters not whether these six executioners represented the Assyrians or the doubled power of famine, pestilence, and war (Ezekiel 5:12). In either case the presence of a seventh is to be noted. The forces of the heathen and the powers of nature may burn and destroy, but behind these there is supreme Intelligence and Will. Schopenhauer was not altogether wrong when he called gravitation an act of will. Behind all destructive as well as creative and protective providences God standeth in the shadow.


Verse 8

8. Ah Lord God — The executioners have passed on, and the prophet is left in the inner court alone with the dead. It seems to him that the last hope of Israel is gone, and that even the last residue of the nation would now be destroyed. Like Elijah, he believes he alone of all God’s people is to be left (1 Kings 19:10). Like Moses, he cries out in agony pleading for his speechless, unrepentant countrymen (Numbers 11:2; Numbers 14:19; compare Romans 9:1-3).


Verse 9

9. Then said he unto me — Out of the glory upon the threshold of the holy place the answer comes, and Jehovah defends himself.

Full of blood… full of perverseness: for they say — The people, both Israel and Judah, have been guilty of violence even to bloodshed, and of perverseness or “wresting of judgment,” and they have been led to this by their belief that Jehovah has been defeated by strange gods and that moral restraints are therefore binding upon them no longer (Ezekiel 6:11-12; Ezekiel 7:17; Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 22:25). Let the prophet be silent, for even Jehovah has no hope of the possible reformation of such a people!


Verse 10

10. Mine eye shall not spare — How constantly this terrible statement is repeated (Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 7:4; Ezekiel 8:18). Yet it must be remembered that this was only a prophetic vision of calamities that would certainly come if the people remained impenitent, but which might still be averted. Even the prophecies against Nineveh were recalled when the people repented. All these positive declarations, “mine eye shall not pity,” etc., are conditional upon the persistent and obstinate impiety of the nation; are in reality intended to drive back the people from their wickedness, and seem finally, at least in part, to have attained their merciful object. “The surgeon has a steadier hand than the soldier. His knife is more inexorable than the sword of war (Hebrews 12:6)” — Adeney.


Verse 11

11. I have done as thou hast commanded me — As leader of the six, he reports that he has put the divinely appointed mark upon all of God’s true followers in the city and that all others have been slain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ezekiel-9.html. 1874-1909.

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