Divine judgments against the wicked at Jerusalem. (1-13) Divine favour towards those in captivity. (14-21) The Divine presence forsakes the city. (22-25)
Verses 1-13 Where Satan cannot persuade men to look upon the judgment to come as uncertain, he gains his point by persuading them to look upon it as at a distance. These wretched rulers dare to say, We are as safe in this city as flesh in a boiling pot; the walls of the city shall be to us as walls of brass, we shall receive no more damage from the besiegers than the caldron does from the fire. When sinners flatter themselves to their own ruin, it is time to tell them they shall have no peace if they go on. None shall remain in possession of the city but those who are buried in it. Those are least safe who are most secure. God is often pleased to single out some sinners for warning to others. Whether Pelatiah died at that time in Jerusalem, or when the fulfilment of the prophecy drew near, is uncertain. Like Ezekiel, we ought to be much affected with the sudden death of others, and we should still plead with the Lord to have mercy on those who remain.
Verses 14-21 The pious captives in Babylon were insulted by the Jews who continued in Jerusalem; but God made gracious promises to them. It is promised, that God will give them one heart; a heart firmly fixed for God, and not wavering. All who are made holy have a new spirit, a new temper and dispositions; they act from new principles, walk by new rules, and aim at new ends. A new name, or a new face, will not serve without a new spirit. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. The carnal heart, like a stone, cannot be made to feel. Men live among the dead and dying, and are neither concerned nor humbled. He will make their hearts tender and fit to receive impressions: this is God's work, it is his gift by promise; and a wonderful and happy change is wrought by it, from death to life. Their practices shall be agreeable to those principles. These two must and will go together. When the sinner feels his need of these blessings, let him present the promises as prayers in the name of Christ, they will be performed.
Verses 22-25 Here is the departure of God's presence from the city and temple. It was from the Mount of Olives that the vision went up, typifying the ascension of Christ to heaven from that very mountain. Though the Lord will not forsake his people, yet he may be driven away from any part of his visible church by their sins, and woe will be upon them when He withdraws his presence, glory, and protection.
Ezekiel 11:1-25 . PROPHECY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CORRUPT "PRINCES OF THE PEOPLE;" PELATIAH DIES; PROMISE OF GRACE TO THE BELIEVING REMNANT; DEPARTURE OF THE GLORY OF GOD FROM THE CITY; EZEKIEL'S RETURN TO THE CAPTIVES.
1. east gate--to which the glory of God had moved itself ( Ezekiel 10:19 ), the chief entrance of the sanctuary; the portico or porch of Solomon. The Spirit moves the prophet thither, to witness, in the presence of the divine glory, a new scene of destruction.
five and twenty men--The same as the twenty-five (that is, twenty-four heads of courses, and the high priest) sun-worshippers seen in Ezekiel 8:16 . The leading priests were usually called "princes of the sanctuary" ( Isaiah 43:28 ) and "chiefs of the priests" ( 2 Chronicles 36:14 ); but here two of them are called "princes of the people," with irony, as using their priestly influence to be ringleaders of the people in sin ( Ezekiel 11:2 ). Already the wrath of God had visited the people represented by the elders ( Ezekiel 9:6 ); also the glory of the Lord had left its place in the holy of holies, and, like the cherubim and flaming sword in Eden, had occupied the gate into the deserted sanctuary. The judgment on the representatives of the priesthood naturally follows here, just as the sin of the priests had followed in the description ( Ezekiel 8:12 Ezekiel 8:16 ) after the sin of the elders.
Jaazaniah--signifying "God hears."
son of Azur--different from Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan ( Ezekiel 8:11 ). Azur means "help." He and Pelatiah ("God delivers"), son of Benaiah ("God builds"), are singled out as Jaazaniah, son of Shaphan, in the case of the seventy elders ( Ezekiel 8:11 Ezekiel 8:12 ), because their names ought to have reminded them that "God" would have "heard" had they sought His "help" to "deliver" and "build" them up. But, neglecting this, they incurred the heavier judgment by the very relation in which they stood to God [FAIRBAIRN].
2. he--the Lord sitting on the cherubim ( Ezekiel 10:2 ).
wicked counsel--in opposition to the prophets of God ( Ezekiel 11:3 ).
3. It is not near--namely, the destruction of the city; therefore "let us build houses," as if there was no fear. But the Hebrew opposes English Version, which would require the infinitive absolute. Rather, "Not at hand is the building of houses." They sneer at Jeremiah's letter to the captives, among whom Ezekiel lived ( Jeremiah 29:5 ). "Build ye houses, and dwell in them," that is, do not fancy, as many persuade you, that your sojourn in Babylon is to be short; it will be for seventy years ( Jeremiah 25:11 Jeremiah 25:12 , 29:10 ); therefore build houses and settle quietly there. The scorners in Jerusalem reply, Those far off in exile may build if they please, but it is too remote a concern for us to trouble ourselves about [FAIRBAIRN], (Compare Ezekiel 12:22 Ezekiel 12:27 , 2 Peter 3:4 ).
this city . . . caldron . . . we . . . flesh--sneering at Jeremiah 1:13 , when he compared the city to a caldron with its mouth towards the north. "Let Jerusalem be so if you will, and we the flesh, exposed to the raging foe from the north, still its fortifications will secure us from the flame of war outside; the city must stand for our sakes, just as the pot exists for the safety of the flesh in it." In opposition to this God says ( Ezekiel 11:11 ), "This city shall not be your caldron, to defend you in it from the foe outside: nay, ye shall be driven out of your imaginary sanctuary and slain in the border of the land. "But," says God, in Ezekiel 11:7 , "your slain are the flesh, and this city the caldron; but (not as you fancy, shall ye be kept safe inside) I will bring you forth out of the midst of it"; and again, in Ezekiel 24:3 , "Though not a caldron in your sense, Jerusalem shall be so in the sense of its being exposed to a consuming foe, and you yourselves in it and with it."
4. prophesy . . . prophesy--The repetition marks emphatic earnestness.
5. Spirit . . . fell upon me--stronger than "entered into me" ( Ezekiel 2:2 , 3:24 ), implying the zeal of the Spirit of God roused to immediate indignation at the contempt of God shown by the scorners.
I know--( Psalms 139:1-4 ). Your scornful jests at My word escape not My notice.
6. your slain--those on whom you have brought ruin by your wicked counsels. Bloody crimes within the city brought on it a bloody foe from without ( Ezekiel 7:23 Ezekiel 7:24 ). They had made it a caldron in which to boil the flesh of God's people ( Micah 3:1-3 ), and eat it by unrighteous oppression; therefore God will make it a caldron in a different sense, one not wherein they may be safe in their guilt, but "out of the midst of" which they shall be "brought forth" ( Jeremiah 34:4 Jeremiah 34:5 ).
7. The city is a caldron to them, but it shall not be so to you. Ye shall meet your doom on the frontier.
8. The Chaldean sword, to escape which ye abandoned your God, shall be brought on you by God because of that very abandonment of Him.
9. out of the midst thereof--that is, of the city, as captives led into the open plain for judgment.
10. in the border of Israel--on the frontier: at Riblah, in the land of Hamath (compare 2 Kings 25:19-21 , with 1 Kings 8:65 ).
ye shall know that I am the Lord--by the judgments I inflict ( Psalms 9:16 ).
12. ( Deuteronomy 12:30 Deuteronomy 12:31 ).
13. Pelaliah--probably the ringleader of the scorners ( Ezekiel 11:1 ) was an earnest of the destruction of the rest of the twenty-five, as Ezekiel had foretold, as also of the general ruin.
fell . . . upon . . .
wilt thou make a full end of the remnant--Is Pelatiah's destruction to be the token of the destruction of all, even of the remnant? The people regarded Pelatiah as a mainstay of the city. His name (derived from a Hebrew root, "a remnant," or else "God delivers") suggested hope. Is that hope, asks Ezekiel, to be disappointed?
15. thy brethren . . . brethren--The repetition implies, "Thy real brethren" are no longer the priests at Jerusalem with whom thou art connected by the natural ties of blood and common temple service, but thy fellow exiles on the Chebar, and the house of Israel whosoever of them. belong to the remnant to be spared.
men of thy kindred--literally, "of thy redemption," that is, the nearest relatives, whose duty it was to do the part of Goel, or vindicator and redeemer of a forfeited inheritance ( Leviticus 25:25 ). Ezekiel, seeing the priesthood doomed to destruction, as a priest, felt anxious to vindicate their cause, as if they were his nearest kinsmen and he their Goel. But he is told to look for his true kinsmen in those, his fellow exiles, whom his natural kinsmen at Jerusalem despised, and he is to be their vindicator. Spiritual ties, as in the case of Levi ( Deuteronomy 33:9 ), the type of Messiah ( Matthew 12:47-50 ) are to supersede natural ones where the two clash. The hope of better days was to rise from the despised exiles. The gospel principle is shadowed forth here, that the despised of men are often the chosen of God and the highly esteemed among men are often an abomination before Him ( Luke 16:15 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 ). "No door of hope but in the valley of Achor" ("trouble," Hosea 2:15 ), [FAIRBAIRN].
Get you far . . . unto us is this land--the contemptuous words of those left still in the city at the carrying away of Jeconiah to the exiles, "However far ye be outcasts from the Lord and His temple, we are secure in our possession of the land."
16. Although--anticipating the objection of the priests at Jerusalem, that the exiles were "cast far off." Though this be so, and they are far from the outer temple at Jerusalem, I will be their asylum or sanctuary instead ( Psalms 90:1 , 91:9 , Isaiah 8:14 ). My shrine is the humble heart: a preparation for gospel catholicity when the local and material temple should give place to the spiritual ( Isaiah 57:15 , 66:1 , Malachi 1:11 , John 4:21-24 , Acts 7:48 Acts 7:49 ). The trying discipline of the exile was to chasten the outcasts so as to be meet recipients of God's grace, for which the carnal confidence of the priests disqualified them. The dispersion served the end of spiritualizing and enlarging the views even of the better Jews, so as to be able to worship God everywhere without a material temple; and, at the same time, it diffused some knowledge of God among the greatest Gentile nations, thus providing materials for the gathering in of the Christian Church among the Gentiles; so marvellously did God overrule a present evil for an ultimate good. Still more does all this hold good in the present much longer dispersion which is preparing for a more perfect and universal restoration ( Isaiah 2:2-4 , Jeremiah 3:16-18 ). Their long privation of the temple will prepare them for appreciating the more, but without Jewish narrowness, the temple that is to be (Ezekiel 40:1-44:31').
a little--rather, "for a little season"; No matter how long the captivity may be, the seventy years will be but as a little season, compared with their long subsequent settlement in their land. This holds true only partially in the case of the first restoration; but as in a few centuries they were dispersed again, the full and permanent restoration is yet future ( Jeremiah 24:6 ).
17. ( Ezekiel 28:25 , 34:13 , 36:24 ).
18. They have eschewed every vestige of idolatry ever since their return from Babylon. But still the Shekinah glory had departed, the ark was not restored, nor was the second temple strictly inhabited by God until He came who made it more glorious than the first temple ( Haggai 2:9 ); even then His stay was short, and ended in His being rejected; so that the full realization of the promise must still be future.
19. I will give them--lest they should claim to themselves the praise given them in Ezekiel 11:18 , God declares it is to be the free gift of His Spirit.
one heart--not singleness, that is, uprightness, but oneness of heart in all, unanimously seeking Him in contrast to their state at that time, when only single scattered individuals sought God ( Jeremiah 32:39 , Zephaniah 3:9 ) [HENGSTENBERG]. Or, "content with one God," not distracted with "the many detestable things" ( Ezekiel 11:18 , 1 Kings 18:21 , Hosea 10:2 ) [CALVIN].
new spirit--( Psalms 51:10 , Jeremiah 31:33 ). Realized fully in the "new creature" of the New Testament ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ); having new motives, new rules, new aims.
stony heart--like "adamant" ( Zechariah 7:12 ); the natural heart of every man.
heart of flesh--impressible to what is good, tender.
20. walk in my statutes--Regeneration shows itself by its fruits ( Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:25 ).
they . . . my people, . . . I . . . their God--( Ezekiel 14:11 , 36:28 , 37:27 , Jeremiah 24:7 ). In its fullest sense still future ( Zechariah 13:9 ).
21. whose heart . . . after . . . heart of . . . detestable things--The repetition of "heart" is emphatic, signifying that the heart of those who so obstinately clung to idols, impelled itself to fresh superstitions in one continuous tenor [CALVIN]. Perhaps it is implied that they and their idols are much alike in character ( Psalms 115:8 ). The heart walks astray first, the feet follow.
recompense . . . way upon . . . heads--They have abandoned Me, so will I abandon them; they profaned My temple, so will I profane it by the Chaldeans ( Ezekiel 9:10 ).
23. The Shekinah glory now moves from the east gate ( Ezekiel 10:4 Ezekiel 10:19 ) to the Mount of Olives, altogether abandoning the temple. The mount was chosen as being the height whence the missiles of the foe were about to descend on the city. So it was from it that Jesus ascended to heaven when about to send His judgments on the Jews; and from it He predicted its overthrow before His crucifixion ( Matthew 24:3 ). It is also to be the scene of His return in person to deliver His people ( Zechariah 14:4 ), when He shall come by the same way as He went, "the way of the east" ( Ezekiel 43:2 ).
24. brought me in a vision--not in actual fact, but in ecstatic vision. He had been as to the outward world all the time before the elders ( Ezekiel 8:3 ) in Chaldea; he now reports what he had witnessed with the inner eye.
25. things . . . showed me--literally, "words"; an appropriate expression; for the word communicated to him was not simply a word, but one clothed with outward symbols "shown" to him as in the sacrament, which AUGUSTINE terms "the visible word" [CALVIN].