The ruin of Judah under the emblem of a sharp sword. (1-17) The approach of the king of Babylon described. (18-27) The destruction of the Ammonites. (28-32)
Verses 1-17 Here is an explanation of the parable in the last chapter. It is declared that the Lord was about to cut off Jerusalem and the whole land, that all might know it was his decree against a wicked and rebellious people. It behoves those who denounce the awful wrath of God against sinners, to show that they do not desire the woful day. The example of Christ teaches us to lament over those whose ruin we declare. Whatever instruments God uses in executing his judgments, he will strengthen them according to the service they are employed in. The sword glitters to the terror of those against whom it is drawn. It is a sword to others, a rod to the people of the Lord. God is in earnest in pronouncing this sentence, and the prophet must show himself in earnest in publishing it.
Verses 18-27 By the Spirit of prophecy Ezekiel foresaw Nebuchadnezzar's march from Babylon, which he would determine by divination. The Lord would overturn the government of Judah, till the coming of Him whose right it is. This seems to foretell the overturnings of the Jewish nation to the present day, and the troubles of states and kingdoms, which shall make way for establishing the Messiah's kingdom throughout the earth. The Lord secretly leads all to adopt his wise designs. And in the midst of the most tremendous warnings of wrath, we still hear of mercy, and some mention of Him through whom mercy is shown to sinful men.
Verses 28-32 The diviners of the Ammonites made false prophecies of victory. They would never recover their power, but in time would be wholly forgotten. Let us be thankful to be employed as instruments of mercy; let us use our understandings in doing good; and let us stand aloof from men who are only skilful to destroy.
Ezekiel 21:1-32 . PROPHECY AGAINST ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM, AND AGAINST AMMON.
2. the holy places--the three parts of the temple: the courts, the holy place, and the holiest. If "synagogues" existed before the Babylonian captivity, as Psalms 74:8 seems to imply, they and the proseuchæ, or oratories, may be included in the "holy places" here.
3. righteous . . . wicked--not contradictory of Ezekiel 18:4 Ezekiel 18:9 and Genesis 18:23 . Ezekiel here views the mere outward aspect of the indiscriminate universality of the national calamity. But really the same captivity to the "righteous" would prove a blessing as a wholesome discipline, which to the "wicked" would be an unmitigated punishment. The godly were sealed with a mark ( Ezekiel 9:4 ), not for outward exemption from the common calamity, but as marked for the secret interpositions of Providence, overruling even evil to their good. The godly were by comparison so few, that not their salvation but the universality of the judgment is brought into view here.
4. The "sword" did not, literally, slay all; but the judgments of God by the foe swept through the land "from the south to the north."
6. with the breaking of thy loins--as one afflicted with pleurisy; or as a woman, in labor-throes, clasps her loins in pain, and heaves and sighs till the girdle of the loins is broken by the violent action of the body ( Jeremiah 30:6 ).
7. The abrupt sentences and mournful repetitions imply violent emotions.
9. sword--namely, of God ( Deuteronomy 32:41 ). The Chaldeans are His instrument.
10. to make a sore slaughter--literally, "that killing it may kill."
glitter--literally, "glitter as the lightning flash": flashing terror into the foe.
should we . . . make mirth--It is no time for levity when such a calamity is impending ( Isaiah 22:12 Isaiah 22:13 ).
it contemneth the rod of my son, &c.--The sword has no more respect to the trivial "rod" or scepter of Judah ( Genesis 49:10 ) than if it were any common "tree." "Tree" is the image retained from Ezekiel 20:47 ; explained in Ezekiel 21:2 Ezekiel 21:3 . God calls Judah "My son" (compare Exodus 4:22 , Hosea 11:1 ). FAIRBAIRN arbitrarily translates, "Perchance the scepter of My son rejoiceth; it (the sword) despiseth every tree."
11. the slayer--the Babylonian king in this case; in general, all the instruments of God's wrath ( Revelation 19:15 ).
12. terrors by reason of the sword, &c.--rather, "they (the princes of Israel) are delivered up to the sword together with My people" [GLASSIUS].
smite . . . upon . . . thigh--a mark of grief ( Jeremiah 31:19 ).
13. it is a trial--rather, "There is a trial" being made: the sword of the Lord will subject all to the ordeal. "What, then, if it contemn even the rod" (scepter of Judah)? Compare as to a similar scourge of unsparing trial, Job 9:23 .
it shall be no more--the scepter, that is, the state, must necessarily then come to an end. Fulfilled in part at the overthrow of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, but fully at the time of "Shiloh's" (Messiah's) coming ( Genesis 49:10 ), when Judea became a Roman province.
14. smite . . . hands together--( Numbers 24:10 ), indicative of the indignant fury with which God will "smite" the people.
sword . . . doubled the third time--referring to the threefold calamity:--(1) The taking of Zedekiah (to whom the "rod," or scepter, may refer); (2) the taking of the city; (3) the removal of all those who remained with Gedaliah. "Doubled" means "multiplied" or "repeated." The stroke shall be doubled and even trebled.
of the slain--that is, by which many are slain. As the Hebrew is singular, FAIRBAIRN makes it refer to the king, "the sword of the great one that is slain," or "pierced through."
entereth . . . privy chambers--( Jeremiah 9:21 ). The sword shall overtake them, not merely in the open battlefield, but in the chambers whither they flee to hide themselves ( 1 Kings 20:30 , 22:25 ). MAURER translates, "which besieged them"; FAIRBAIRN, "which penetrates to them." English Version is more literal.
15. point--"the whirling glance of the sword" [FAIRBAIRN]. "The naked (bared) sword" [HENDERSON].
ruins--literally, "stumbling-blocks." Their own houses and walls shall be stumbling-blocks in their way, whether they wish to fight or flee.
made bright--made to glitter.
wrapped, &c.--namely, in the hand of him who holds the hilt, or in its scabbard, that the edge may not be blunt when it is presently drawn forth to strike. GESENIUS, translates, "sharpened," &c.
16. Apostrophe to the sword.
Go . . . one way--or, "Concentrate thyself"; "Unite thy forces on the right hand" [GROTIUS]. The sword is commanded to take the nearest route for Jerusalem, "whither their face was set," whether south or north ("right hand or left"), according to where the several parts of the Chaldean host may be.
or other, . . . on the left--rather "set thyself on the left." The verbs are well-chosen. The main "concentration" of forces was to be on "the right hand," or south, the part of Judea in which Jerusalem was, and which lay south in marching from Babylon, whereas the Chaldean forces advancing on Jerusalem from Egypt, of which Jerusalem was north, were fewer, and therefore "set thyself" is the verb used.
17. Jehovah Himself smites His hands together, doing what He had smiting Jerusalem; compare the similar symbolical action ( 2 Kings 13:18 2 Kings 13:19 ).
cause . . . fury to rest--give it full vent, and so satisfy it ( Ezekiel 5:13 ).
19. two ways--The king coming from Babylon is represented in the graphic style of Ezekiel as reaching the point where the road branched off in two ways, one leading by the south, by Tadmor or Palmyra, to Rabbath of Ammon, east of Jordan; the other by the north, by Riblah in Syria, to Jerusalem--and hesitating which way to take. Ezekiel is told to "appoint the two ways" (as in Ezekiel 4:1 ); for Nebuchadnezzar, though knowing no other control but his own will and superstition, had really this path "appointed" for him by the all-ruling God.
out of one land--namely, Babylon.
choose . . . a place--literally "a hand." So it is translated by FAIRBAIRN, "make a finger-post," namely, at the head of the two ways, the hand post pointing Nebuchadnezzar to the way to Jerusalem as the way he should select. But MAURER rightly supports English Version. Ezekiel is told to "choose the place" where Nebuchadnezzar should do as is described in Ezekiel 21:20 Ezekiel 21:21 ; so entirely does God order by the prophet every particular of place and time in the movements of the invader.
20. Rabbath of the Ammonites--distinct from Rabbah in Judah ( 2 Samuel 12:26 ). Rabbath is put first, as it was from her that Jerusalem, that doomed city, had borrowed many of her idols.
to Judah in Jerusalem--instead of simply putting "Jerusalem," to imply the sword was to come not merely to Judah, but to its people within Jerusalem, defended though it was; its defenses on which the Jews relied so much would not keep the foe out.
21. parting--literally, "mother of the way." As "head of the two ways" follows, which seems tautology after "parting of the way," HAVERNICK translates, according to Arabic idiom, "the highway," or principal road. English Version is not tautology, "head of the two ways" defining more accurately "parting of the way."
made . . . bright--rather, "shook," from an Arabic root.
arrows--Divination by arrows is here referred to: they were put into a quiver marked with the names of particular places to be attacked, and then shaken together; whichever came forth first intimated the one selected as the first to be attacked [JEROME]. The same usage existed among the Arabs, and is mentioned in the Koran. In the Nineveh sculptures the king is represented with a cup in his right hand, his left resting on a bow; also with two arrows in the right, and the bow in the left, probably practising divination.
images--Hebrew, "teraphim"; household gods, worshipped as family talismans, to obtain direction as to the future and other blessings. First mentioned in Mesopotamia, whence Rachel brought them ( Genesis 31:19 Genesis 31:34 ); put away by Jacob ( Genesis 35:4 ); set up by Micah as his household gods ( Judges 17:5 ); stigmatized as idolatry ( 1 Samuel 15:23 , Hebrew; Zechariah 10:2 , Margin).
liver--They judged of the success, or failure, of an undertaking by the healthy, or unhealthy, state of the liver and entrails of a sacrifice.
22. Rather, "In his right hand was [is] the divination," that is, he holds up in his right hand the arrow marked with "Jerusalem," to encourage his army to march for it.
captains--The Margin, "battering-rams," adopted by FAIRBAIRN, is less appropriate, for "battering-rams" follow presently after [GROTIUS].
open the mouth in . . . slaughter--that is, commanding slaughter: raising the war cry of death. Not as GESENIUS, "to open the mouth with the war shout."
23. Unto the Jews, though credulous of divinations when in their favor, Nebuchadnezzar's divination "shall be (seen) as false." This gives the reason which makes the Jews fancy themselves safe from the Chaldeans, namely, that they "have sworn" to the latter "oaths" of allegiance, forgetting that they had violated them ( Ezekiel 17:13 Ezekiel 17:15 Ezekiel 17:16 Ezekiel 17:18 ).
but he, &c.--Nebuchadnezzar will remember in consulting his idols that he swore to Zedekiah by them, but that Zedekiah broke the league [GROTIUS]. Rather, God will remember against them ( Revelation 16:19 ) their violating their oath sworn by the true God, whereas Nebuchadnezzar kept his oath sworn by a false god; Ezekiel 21:24 confirms this.
24. Their unfaithfulness to Nebuchadnezzar was a type of their general unfaithfulness to their covenant God.
with the hand--namely, of the king of Babylon.
25. profane--as having desecrated by idolatry and perjury his office as the Lord's anointed. HAVERNICK translates, as in Ezekiel 21:14 , "slain," that is, not literally, but virtually; to Ezekiel's idealizing view Zedekiah was the grand victim "pierced through" by God's sword of judgment, as his sons were slain before his eyes, which were then put out, and he was led a captive in chains to Babylon. English Version is better: so GESENIUS ( 2 Chronicles 36:13 , Jeremiah 52:2 ).
when iniquity shall have an end--( Ezekiel 21:29 ). When thine iniquity, having reached its last stage of guilt, shall be put an end to by judgment ( Ezekiel 35:5 ).
26. diadem--rather, "the miter" of the holy priest ( Exodus 28:4 , Zechariah 3:5 ). His priestly emblem as representative of the priestly people. Both this and "the crown," the emblem of the kingdom, were to be removed, until they should be restored and united in the Mediator, Messiah ( Psalms 110:2 Psalms 110:4 , Zechariah 6:13 ), [FAIRBAIRN]. As, however, King Zedekiah alone, not the high priest also, is referred to in the context, English Version is supported by GESENIUS.
this shall not be the same--The diadem shall not be as it was [ROSENMULLER]. Nothing shall remain what it was [FAIRBAIRN].
exalt . . . low, . . . abase . . . high--not the general truth expressed ( Proverbs 3:34 , Luke 1:52 , 4:6 , 1 Peter 5:5 ); but specially referring to Messiah and Zedekiah contrasted together. The "tender plant . . . out of the dry ground" ( Isaiah 53:2 ) is to be "exalted" in the end ( Ezekiel 21:27 ); the now "high" representative on David's throne, Zedekiah, is to be "abased." The outward relations of things shall be made to change places in just retaliation on the people for having so perverted the moral relations of things [HENGSTENBERG].
27. Literally, "An overturning, overturning, overturning, will I make it." The threefold repetition denotes the awful certainty of the event; not as ROSENMULLER explains, the overthrow of the three, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah; for Zedekiah alone is referred to.
it shall be no more, until he come whose fight it is--strikingly parallel to Genesis 49:10 . Nowhere shall there be rest or permanence; all things shall be in fluctuation until He comes who, as the rightful Heir, shall restore the throne of David that fell with Zedekiah. The Hebrew for "right" is "judgment"; it perhaps includes, besides the right to rule, the idea of His rule being one in righteousness ( Psalms 72:2 , Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:7 , 11:4 , Revelation 19:11 ). Others (Nebuchadnezzar, &c.), who held the rule of the earth delegated to them by God, abused it by unrighteousness, and so forfeited the "right." He both has the truest "right" to the rule, and exercises it in "right." It is true the tribal "scepter" continued with Judah "till Shiloh came" ( Genesis 49:10 ); but there was no kingly scepter till Messiah came, as the spiritual King then ( John 18:36 John 18:37 ); this spiritual kingdom being about to pass into the literal, personal kingdom over Israel at His second coming, when, and not before, this prophecy shall have its exhaustive fulfilment ( Luke 1:32 Luke 1:33 , Jeremiah 3:17 , 10:7 ; "To thee doth it appertain").
28. Lest Ammon should think to escape because Nebuchadnezzar had taken the route to Jerusalem, Ezekiel denounces judgment against Ammon, without the prospect of a restoration such as awaited Israel. Jeremiah 49:6 , it is true, speaks of a "bringing again of its captivity," but this probably refers to its spiritual restoration under Messiah; or, if referring to it politically, must refer to but a partial restoration at the downfall of Babylon under Cyrus.
their reproach--This constituted a leading feature in their guilt; they treated with proud contumely the covenant-people after the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar ( Ezekiel 25:3 Ezekiel 25:6 , Zephaniah 2:9 Zephaniah 2:10 ), and appropriated Israel's territory ( Jeremiah 49:1 , Amos 1:13-15 ).
furbished, to consume--MAURER punctuates thus, "Drawn for the slaughter, it is furbished to devour ('consume'), to glitter." English Version, "to consume because of the glittering," means, "to consume by reason of the lightning, flash-like rapidity with which it falls." Five years after the fall of Jerusalem, Ammon was destroyed for aiding Ishmael in usurping the government of Judea against the will of the king of Babylon ( 2 Kings 25:25 , Jeremiah 41:15 ) [GROTIUS].
29. see vanity . . . divine a lie--Ammon, too, had false diviners who flattered them with assurances of safety; the only result of which will be to "bring Ammon upon the necks," &c., that is, to add the Ammonites to the headless trunks of the slain of Judah, whose bad example Ammon followed, and "whose day" of visitation for their guilt "is come."
when their iniquity shall have an
30. Shall I cause it to return into his sheath--namely, without first destroying Ammon. Certainly not ( Jeremiah 47:6 Jeremiah 47:7 ). Others, as the Margin, less suitably read it imperatively, "Cause it to return," that is, after it has done the work appointed to it.
in the land of thy nativity--Ammon was not to be carried away captive as Judah, but to perish in his own land.
31. blow against thee in, &c.--rather, "blow upon thee with the fire," &c. Image from smelting metals ( Ezekiel 22:20 Ezekiel 22:21 ).
skilful to destroy--literally, "artificers of destruction"; alluding to Isaiah 54:16 .
32. thy blood shall be--that is, shall flow.
be no more remembered--be consigned as a nation to oblivion.