The approaching captivity. (1-16) An emblem of the consternation of the Jews. (17-20) Answers to the objections of scoffers. (21-28)
Verses 1-16 By the preparation for removal, and his breaking through the wall of his house at evening, as one desirous to escape from the enemy, the prophet signified the conduct and fate of Zedekiah. When God has delivered us, we must glorify him and edify others, by acknowledging our sins. Those who by afflictions are brought to this, are made to know that God is the Lord, and may help to bring others to know him.
Verses 17-20 The prophet must eat and drink in care and fear, with trembling, that he might express the condition of those in Jerusalem during the siege. When ministers speak of the ruin coming upon sinners, they must speak as those that know the terrors of the Lord. Afflictions are happy ones, however grievous to flesh and blood, that improve us in the knowledge of God.
Verses 21-28 From that forbearance of God, which should have led them to repent, the Jews hardened themselves in sin. It will not serve for an excuse in speaking evil, to plead that it is a common saying. There is but a step between us and an awful eternity; therefore it concerns us to get ready for a future state. No one will be able to put from himself the evil day, unless by seeking peace with the Lord.
Ezekiel 12:1-28 . EZEKIEL'S TYPICAL MOVING TO EXILE: PROPHECY OF ZEDEKIAH'S CAPTIVITY AND PRIVATION OF SIGHT: THE JEWS' UNBELIEVING SURMISE AS TO THE DISTANCE OF THE EVENT REPROVED.
1, 2. eyes to see, and see not, . . . ears to hear, and hear not--fulfilling the prophecy of Deuteronomy 29:4 , here quoted by Ezekiel (compare Isaiah 6:9 , Jeremiah 5:21 ). Ezekiel needed often to be reminded of the people's perversity, lest he should be discouraged by the little effect produced by his prophecies. Their "not seeing" is the result of perversity, not incapacity. They are wilfully blind. The persons most interested in this prophecy were those dwelling at Jerusalem; and it is among them that Ezekiel was transported in spirit, and performed in vision, not outwardly, the typical acts. At the same time, the symbolical prophecy was designed to warn the exiles at Chebar against cherishing hopes, as many did in opposition to God's revealed word, of returning to Jerusalem, as if that city was to stand; externally living afar off, their hearts dwelt in that corrupt and doomed capital.
3. stuff for removing--rather, "an exile's outfit," the articles proper to a person going as an exile, a staff and knapsack, with a supply of food and clothing; so "instruments of captivity," Jeremiah 46:19 , Margin, that is, the needful equipments for it. His simple announcements having failed, he is symbolically to give them an ocular demonstration conveyed by a word-painting of actions performed in vision.
consider--( Deuteronomy 32:29 ).
4. by day--in broad daylight, when all can see thee.
at even--not contradicting the words "by day." The baggage was to be sent before by day, and Ezekiel was to follow at nightfall [GROTIUS]; or, the preparations were to be made by day, the actual departure was to be effected at night [HENDERSON].
as they that go forth into captivity--literally, "as the goings forth of the captivity," that is, of the captive band of exiles, namely, amid the silent darkness: typifying Zedekiah's flight by night on the taking of the city ( Jeremiah 39:4 , 52:7 ).
5. Dig--as Zedekiah was to escape like one digging through a wall, furtively to effect an escape ( Ezekiel 12:12 ).
carry out--namely, "thy stuff" ( Ezekiel 12:4 ).
thereby--by the opening in the wall. Zedekiah escaped "by the gate betwixt the two walls" ( Jeremiah 39:4 ).
6. in . . . twilight--rather, "in the dark." So in Genesis 15:17 , "it" refers to "thy stuff."
cover thy face--as one who muffles his face, afraid of being recognized by anyone meeting him. So the Jews and Zedekiah should make their exit stealthily and afraid to look around, so hurried should be their fight [CALVIN].
sign--rather, "a portent," namely, for evil.
9. What doest thou?--They ask not in a docile spirit, but making a jest of his proceedings.
10. burden--that is, weighty oracle.
the prince--The very man Zedekiah, in whom they trust for safety, is to be the chief sufferer. JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 10.7] reports that Ezekiel sent a copy of this prophecy to Zedekiah. As Jeremiah had sent a letter to the captives at the Chebar, which was the means of calling forth at first the agency of Ezekiel, so it was natural for Ezekiel to send a message to Jerusalem confirming the warnings of Jeremiah. The prince, however, fancying a contradiction between Ezekiel 12:13 ; "he shall not see Babylon," and Jeremiah 24:8 Jeremiah 24:9 , declaring he should be carried to Babylon, believed neither. Seeming discrepancies in Scripture on deeper search prove to be hidden harmonies.
11. sign--portent of evil to come ( Ezekiel 24:27 , Zechariah 3:8 , Margin). Fulfilled ( 2 Kings 25:1-7 , Jeremiah 52:1-11 ).
12. prince . . . among them--literally, "that is in the midst of them," that is, on whom the eyes of all are cast, and "under whose shadow" they hope to live ( Lamentations 4:20 ).
shall bear--namely, his "stuff for removing"; his equipments for his journey.
cover his face, that he see not the the symbol in Ezekiel 12:6 is explained in this verse. He shall muffle his face so as not to be recognized: a humiliation for a king!
13. My net--the Chaldean army. He shall be inextricably entangled in it, as in the meshes of a net. It is God's net ( Job 19:6 ). Babylon was God's instrument ( Isaiah 10:5 ). Called "a net" ( Habakkuk 1:14-16 ).
bring him to Babylon . . . ; yet shall he not see it--because he should be deprived of sight before he arrived there ( Jeremiah 52:11 ).
14. all . . . about him--his satellites: his bodyguard.
bands--literally, "the wings" of an army ( Isaiah 8:8 ).
draw out . . . sword after
16. I will leave a few . . . that they may declare . . . abominations--God's purpose in scattering a remnant of Jews among the Gentiles; namely, not only that they themselves should be weaned from idolatry (see Ezekiel 12:15 ), but that by their own word, as also by their whole state as exiles, they should make God's righteousness manifest among the Gentiles, as vindicated in their punishment for their sins (compare Isaiah 43:10 , Zechariah 8:13 ).
18. Symbolical representation of the famine and fear with which they should eat their scanty morsel, in their exile, and especially at the siege.
19. people of the land--the Jews "in the land" of Chaldea who thought themselves miserable as being exiles and envied the Jews left in Jerusalem as fortunate.
land of Israel--contrasted with "the people in the land" of Chaldea. So far from being fortunate as the exiles in Chaldea regarded them, the Jews in Jerusalem are truly miserable, for the worst is before them, whereas the exiles have escaped the miseries of the coming siege.
land . . . desolate from all that is therein--literally "that the land (namely, Judea) may be despoiled of the fulness thereof"; emptied of the inhabitants and abundance of flocks and corn with which it was filled.
because of . . . violence--( Psalms 107:34 ).
20. the cities--left in Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem.
22. proverb--The infidel scoff, that the threatened judgment was so long in coming, it would not come at all, had by frequent repetition come to be a "proverb" with them. This skeptical habit contemporary prophets testify to ( Jeremiah 17:15 , 20:7 , Zephaniah 1:12 ). Ezekiel, at the Chebar, thus sympathizes with Jeremiah and strengthens his testimony at Jerusalem. The tendency to the same scoff showed itself in earlier times, but had not then developed into a settled "proverb" ( Isaiah 5:19 , Amos 5:18 ). It shall again be the characteristic of the last times, when "faith" shall be regarded as an antiquated thing ( Luke 18:8 ), seeing that it remains stationary, whereas worldly arts and sciences progress, and when the "continuance of all things from creation" will be the argument against the possibility of their being suddenly brought to a standstill by the coming of the Lord ( Isaiah 66:5 , 2 Peter 3:3 2 Peter 3:4 ). The very long-suffering of God, which ought to lead men to repentance, is made an argument against His word ( Ecclesiastes 8:11 , Amos 6:3 ).
days . . . prolonged . . . vision faileth--their twofold argument: (1) The predictions shall not come to pass till long after our time. (2) They shall fail and prove vain shadows. God answers both in Ezekiel 12:23 Ezekiel 12:25 .
23. effect--literally, "the word," namely, fulfilled; that is, the effective fulfilment of whatever the prophets have spoken is at hand.
24. no more . . . vain vision . . . flattering divination--All those false prophets ( Lamentations 2:14 ), who "flattered" the people with promises of peace and safety, shall be detected and confounded by the event itself.
25. word . . . shall come to pass--in opposition to their scoff "the vision faileth" ( Ezekiel 12:22 ). The repetition, "I will speak . . . speak," &c. (or as FAIRBAIRN, "For I, Jehovah, will speak whatever word I shall speak, and it shall be done") implies that whenever God speaks, the effect must follow; for God, who speaks, is not divided in Himself ( Ezekiel 12:28 , Isaiah 55:11 , Daniel 9:12 , Luke 21:33 ).
no more prolonged--in opposition to the scoff ( Ezekiel 12:22 ), "The days are prolonged."
in your days--while you are living (compare Matthew 24:34 ).
27. Not a mere repetition of the scoff ( Ezekiel 12:22 ); there the scoffers asserted that the evil was so often threatened and postponed, it must have no reality; here formalists do not go so far as to deny that a day of evil is coming, but assert it is still far off ( Amos 6:3 ). The transition is easy from this carnal security to the gross infidelity of the former class.