The preparation of the prophet for his work. (1-11) His office, as that of a watchman. (12-2) The restraining and restoring his speech. (22-27)
Verses 1-11 Ezekiel was to receive the truths of God as the food for his soul, and to feed upon them by faith, and he would be strengthened. Gracious souls can receive those truths of God with delight, which speak terror to the wicked. He must speak all that, and that only, which God spake to him. How can we better speak God's mind than with his words? If disappointed as to his people, he must not be offended. The Ninevites were wrought upon by Jonah's preaching, when Israel was unhumbled and unreformed. We must leave this unto the Divine sovereignty, and say, Lord, thy judgments are a great deep. They will not regard the word of the prophet, for they will not regard the rod of God. Christ promises to strengthen him. He must continue earnest in preaching, whatever the success might be.
Verses 12-21 This mission made the holy angels rejoice. All this was to convince Ezekiel, that the God who sent him had power to bear him out in his work. He was overwhelmed with grief for the sins and miseries of his people, and overpowered by the glory of the vision he had seen. And however retirement, meditation, and communion with God may be sweet, the servant of the Lord must prepare to serve his generation. The Lord told the prophet he had appointed him a watchman to the house of Israel. If we warn the wicked, we are not chargeable with their ruin. Though such passages refer to the national covenant made with Israel, they are equally to be applied to the final state of all men under every dispensation. We are not only to encourage and comfort those who appear to be righteous, but they are to be warned, for many have grown high-minded and secure, have fallen, and even died in their sins. Surely then the hearers of the gospel should desire warnings, and even reproofs.
Verses 22-27 Let us own ourselves for ever indebted to the mediation of Christ, for the blessed intercourse between God and man; and a true believer will say, I am never less alone than when thus alone. When the Lord opened Ezekiel's mouth, he was to deliver his message boldly, to place life and death, the blessing and the curse, before the people, and leave them to their choice.
Ezekiel 3:1-27 . EZEKIEL EATS THE ROLL. IS COMMISSIONED TO GO TO THEM OF THE CAPTIVITY AND GOES TO TEL-ABIB BY THE CHEBAR: AGAIN BEHOLDS THE SHEKINAH GLORY: IS TOLD TO RETIRE TO HIS HOUSE, AND ONLY SPEAK WHEN GOD OPENS HIS MOUTH.
1. eat . . . and . . . speak--God's messenger must first inwardly appropriate God's truth himself, before he "speaks" it to others proper, performed outwardly; otherwise, internally and in spiritual vision, the action so narrated making the naked statement more intuitive and impressive by presenting the subject in a concentrated, embodied form.
3. honey for sweetness--Compare Psalms 19:10 , 119:103 , Revelation 10:9 , where, as here in Ezekiel 3:14 , the "sweetness" is followed by "bitterness." The former being due to the painful nature of the message; the latter because it was the Lord's service which he was engaged in; and his eating the roll and finding it sweet, implied that, divesting himself of carnal feeling, he made God's will his will, however painful the message that God might require him to announce. The fact that God would be glorified was his greatest pleasure.
5. See Margin, Hebrew, "deep of lip, and heavy of tongue," that is, men speaking an obscure and unintelligible tongue. Even they would have listened to the prophet; but the Jews, though addressed in their own tongue, will not hear him.
6. many people--It would have increased the difficulty had he been sent, not merely to one, but to "many people" differing in tongues, so that the missionary would have needed to acquire a new tongue for addressing each. The after mission of the apostles to many peoples, and the gift of tongues for that end, are foreshadowed (compare 1 Corinthians 14:21 with Isaiah 28:11 ).
had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened--( Matthew 11:21 Matthew 11:23 ).
7. will not hearken unto thee: for . . . not . . . me--( John 15:20 ). Take patiently their rejection of thee, for I thy Lord bear it along with thee.
8. Ezekiel means one "strengthened by God." Such he was in godly firmness, in spite of his people's opposition, according to the divine command to the priest tribe to which he belonged ( Deuteronomy 33:9 ).
9. As . . . flint--so Messiah the antitype ( Isaiah 50:7 ; compare Jeremiah 1:8 Jeremiah 1:17 ).
10. receive in . . . heart . . . ears--The transposition from the natural order, namely, first receiving with the ears, then in the heart, is designed. The preparation of the heart for God's message should precede the reception of it with the ears (compare Proverbs 16:1 , Psalms 10:17 ).
11. thy people--who ought to be better disposed to hearken to thee, their fellow countryman, than hadst thou been a foreigner ( Ezekiel 3:5 Ezekiel 3:6 ).
12. ( Acts 8:39 ). Ezekiel's abode heretofore had not been the most suitable for his work. He, therefore, is guided by the Spirit to Tel-Abib, the chief town of the Jewish colony of captives: there he sat on the ground, "the throne of the miserable" ( Ezra 9:3 , Lamentations 1:1-3 ), seven days, the usual period for manifesting deep grief ( Job 2:13 ; see Psalms 137:1 ), thus winning their confidence by sympathy in their sorrow. He is accompanied by the cherubim which had been manifested at Chebar ( Ezekiel 1:3 Ezekiel 1:4 ), after their departure from Jerusalem. They now are heard moving with the "voice of a great rushing (compare Acts 2:2 ), saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place," that is, moving from the place in which it had been at Chebar, to accompany Ezekiel to his new destination ( Ezekiel 9:3 ); or, "from His place" may rather mean, in His place and manifested "from" it. Though God may seem to have forsaken His temple, He is still in it and will restore His people to it. His glory is "blessed," in opposition to those Jews who spoke evil of Him, as if He had been unjustly rigorous towards their nation [CALVIN].
13. touched--literally, "kissed," that is, closely embraced.
noise of a great rushing--typical of great disasters impending over the Jews.
14. bitterness--sadness on account of the impending calamities of which I was required to be the unwelcome messenger. But the "hand," or powerful impulse of Jehovah, urged me forward.
15. Tel-Abib--Tel means an "elevation." It is identified by MICHAELIS with Thallaba on the Chabor. Perhaps the name expressed the Jew's hopes of restoration, or else the fertility of the region. Abib means the green ears of corn which appeared in the month Nisan, the pledge of the harvest.
I sat, &c.--This is the Hebrew Margin reading. The text is rather, "I beheld them sitting there" [GESENIUS]; or, "And those that were settled there," namely, the older settlers, as distinguished from the more recent ones alluded to in the previous clause. The ten tribes had been long since settled on the Chabor or Habor ( 2 Kings 17:6 ) [HAVERNICK].
17. watchman--Ezekiel alone, among the prophets, is called a "watchman," not merely to sympathize, but to give timely warning of danger to his people where none was suspected. Habakkuk ( Habakkuk 2:1 ) speaks of standing upon his "watch," but it was only in order to be on the lookout for the manifestation of God's power (so Isaiah 52:8 , 62:6 ); not as Ezekiel, to act as a watchman to others.
18. warning . . . speakest to warn--The repetition implies that it is not enough to warn once in passing, but that the warning is to be inculcated continually ( 2 Timothy 4:2 , "in season, out of season"; Acts 20:31 , "night and day with tears").
save-- Ezekiel 2:5 had seemingly taken away all hope of salvation; but the reference there was to the mass of the people whose case was hopeless; a few individuals, however, were reclaimable.
die in . . . iniquity--( John 8:21 John 8:24 ). Men are not to flatter themselves that their ignorance, owing to the negligence of their teachers, will save them ( Romans 2:12 , "As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law").
19. wickedness . . . wicked way--internal wickedness of heart, and external of the life, respectively.
delivered thy soul--( Isaiah 49:4 Isaiah 49:5 , Acts 20:26 ).
20. righteous . . . turn from . . . righteousness--not one "righteous" as to the root and spirit of regeneration ( Psalms 89:33 , 138:8 , Isaiah 26:12 , 27:3 , John 10:28 , Philippians 1:6 ), but as to its outward appearance and performances. So the "righteous" ( Proverbs 18:17 , Matthew 9:13 ). As in Ezekiel 3:19 the minister is required to lead the wicked to good, so in Ezekiel 3:20 he is to confirm the well-disposed in their duty.
commit iniquity--that is, give himself up wholly to it ( 1 John 3:8 1 John 3:9 ), for even the best often fall, but not wilfully and habitually.
I lay a stumbling-block--not that God tempts to sin ( james 1:13 james 1:14 ), but God gives men over to judicial blindness, and to their own corruptions ( Psalms 9:16 Psalms 9:17 , 94:23 ) when they "like not to retain God in their knowledge" ( Romans 1:24 Romans 1:26 ); just as, on the contrary, God makes "the way of the righteous plain" ( Proverbs 4:11 Proverbs 4:12 , 15:19 ), so that they do "not stumble." CALVIN refers "stumbling-block" not to the guilt, but to its punishment; "I bring ruin on him." The former is best. Ahab, after a kind of righteousness ( 1 Kings 21:27-29 ), relapsed and consulted lying spirits in false prophets; so God permitted one of these to be his "stumbling-block," both to sin and its corresponding punishment ( 1 Kings 22:21-23 ).
his blood will I require--( Hebrews 13:17 ).
22. hand of the Lord--( Ezekiel 1:3 ).
go . . . into the plain--in order that he might there, in a place secluded from unbelieving men, receive a fresh manifestation of the divine glory, to inspirit him for his trying work.
23. glory of the Lord--( Ezekiel 1:28 ).
24. set me upon my feet--having been previously prostrate and unable to rise until raised by the divine power.
shut thyself within . . . house--implying that in the work he had to do, he must look for no sympathy from man but must be often alone with God and draw his strength from Him [FAIRBAIRN]. "Do not go out of thy house till I reveal the future to thee by signs and words," which God does in the following chapters, down to the eleventh. Thus a representation was given of the city shut up by siege [GROTIUS]. Thereby God proved the obedience of His servant, and Ezekiel showed the reality of His call by proceeding, not through rash impulse, but by the directions of God [CALVIN].
25. put bands upon thee--not literally, but spiritually, the binding, depressing influence which their rebellious conduct would exert on his spirit. Their perversity, like bands, would repress his freedom in preaching; as in 2 Corinthians 6:12 , Paul calls himself "straitened" because his teaching did not find easy access to them. Or else, it is said to console the prophet for being shut up; if thou wert now at once to announce God's message, they would rush on thee and bind them with "bands" [CALVIN].
26. I will make my tongue . . . dumb--Israel had rejected the prophets; therefore God deprives Israel of the prophets and of His word--God's sorest judgment ( 1 Samuel 7:2 , Amos 8:11 Amos 8:12 ).
27. when I speak . . . I will open thy mouth--opposed to the silence imposed on the prophet, to punish the people ( Ezekiel 3:26 ). After the interval of silence has awakened their attention to the cause of it, namely, their sins, they may then hearken to the prophecies which they would not do before.
He that heareth, let him hear . . . forbear--that is, thou hast done thy part, whether they hear or forbear. He who shall forbear to hear, it shall be at his own peril; he who hears, it shall be to his own eternal good (compare Revelation 22:11 ).