Ezekiel's duty as a watchman. (1-9) He is to vindicate the Divine government. (10-20) The desolation of Judea. (21-29) Judgments on the mockers of the prophets. (30-33)
Verses 1-9 The prophet is a watchman to the house of Israel. His business is to warn sinners of their misery and danger. He must warn the wicked to turn from their way, that they may live. If souls perish through his neglect of duty, he brings guilt upon himself. See what those have to answer for, who make excuses for sin, flatter sinners, and encourage them to believe they shall have peace, though they go on. How much wiser are men in their temporal than in their spiritual concerns! They set watchmen to guard their houses, and sentinels to warn of the enemies' approach, but where the everlasting happiness or misery of the soul is at stake, they are offended if ministers obey their Master's command, and give a faithful warning; they would rather perish, listening to smooth things.
Verses 10-20 Those who despaired of finding mercy with God, are answered with a solemn declaration of God's readiness to show mercy. The ruin of the city and state was determined, but that did not relate to the final state of persons. God says to the righteous, that he shall surely live. But many who have made profession, have been ruined by proud confidence in themselves. Man trusts to his own righteousness, and presuming on his own sufficiency, he is brought to commit iniquity. If those who have lived a wicked life repent and forsake their wicked ways, they shall be saved. Many such amazing and blessed changes have been wrought by the power of Divine grace. When there is a settled separation between a man and sin, there shall no longer be a separation between him and God.
Verses 21-29 Those are unteachable indeed, who do not learn their dependence upon God, when all creature-comforts fail. Many claim an interest in the peculiar blessings to true believers, while their conduct proves them enemies of God. They call this groundless presumption strong faith, when God's testimony declares them entitled to his threatenings, and nothing else.
Verses 30-33 Unworthy and corrupt motives often lead men to the places where the word of God is faithfully preached. Many come to find somewhat to oppose: far more come of curiosity or mere habit. Men may have their hearts changed. But whether men hear or forbear, they will know by the event that a servant of God has been among them. All who will not know the worth of mercies by the improvement of them, will justly be made to know their worth by the want of them.
Ezekiel 33:1-33 . RENEWAL OF EZEKIEL'S COMMISSION, NOW THAT HE IS AGAIN TO ADDRESS HIS COUNTRYMEN, AND IN A NEW TONE.
Heretofore his functions had been chiefly threatening; from this point, after the evil had got to its worst in the overthrow of Jerusalem, the consolatory element preponderates.
2. to the children of thy people--whom he had been forbidden to address from Ezekiel 24:26 Ezekiel 24:27 , till Jerusalem was overthrown, and the "escaped" came with tidings of the judgment being completed. So now, in Ezekiel 33:21 , the tidings of the fact having arrived, he opens his heretofore closed lips to the Jews. In the interval he had prophesied as to foreign nations. The former part of the chapter, at Ezekiel 33:2-20 , seems to have been imparted to Ezekiel on the evening previous ( Ezekiel 33:22 ), being a preparation for the latter part ( Ezekiel 33:23-33 ) imparted after the tidings had come. This accounts for the first part standing without intimation of the date, which was properly reserved for the latter part, to which the former was the anticipatory introduction [FAIRBAIRN].
watchman-- Ezekiel 33:1-9 exhibit Ezekiel's office as a spiritual watchman; so in Ezekiel 3:16-21 ; only here the duties of the earthly watchman (compare 2 Samuel 18:24 2 Samuel 18:25 , 2 Kings 9:17 ) are detailed first, and then the application is made to the spiritual watchman's duty (compare Isaiah 21:6-10 , Hosea 9:8 , Habakkuk 2:1 ). "A man of their coasts" is a man specially chosen for the office out of their whole number. So Judges 18:2 , "five men from their coasts"; also the Hebrew of Genesis 47:2 ; implying the care needed in the choice of the watchman, the spiritual as well as the temporal ( Acts 1:21 Acts 1:22 Acts 1:24-26 , 1 Timothy 5:22 ).
3. the sword--invaders. An appropriate illustration at the time of the invasion of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar.
4. blood . . . upon his own head--metaphor from sacrificial victims, on the heads of which they used to lay their hands, praying that their guilt should be upon the victims.
6. his iniquity--his negligence in not maintaining constant watchfulness, as they who are in warfare ought to do. The thing signified here appears from under the image.
7. I have set thee a watchman--application of the image. Ezekiel's appointment to be a watchman spiritually is far more solemn, as it is derived from God, not from the people.
8. thou shalt surely die--by a violent death, the earnest of everlasting death; the qualification being supposed, "if thou dost not repent."
9. Blood had by this time been shed ( Ezekiel 33:21 ), but Ezekiel was clear.
10. be upon us--that is, their guilt remain on us.
pine away in them--if we suffer the penalty threatened for them in Ezekiel 24:23 , according to the law ( Leviticus 26:39 ).
how should we . . . live?--as Thou dost promise in Ezekiel 33:5 (compare Ezekiel 37:11 , Isaiah 49:14 ).
11. To meet the Jews' cry of despair in Ezekiel 33:10 , Ezekiel here cheers them by the assurance that God has no pleasure in their death, but that they should repent and live ( 2 Peter 3:9 ). A yearning tenderness manifests itself here, notwithstanding all their past sins; yet with it a holiness that abates nothing of its demands for the honor of God's authority. God's righteousness is vindicated as in Ezekiel 3:18-21 and Ezekiel 18:1-32 , by the statement that each should be treated with the closest adaptation of God's justice to his particular case.
12. not fall . . . in the day that he turneth--( 2 Chronicles 7:14 ; see Ezekiel 3:20 , 18:24 ).
15. give again that he had robbed--( Luke 19:8 ).
statutes of life--in the obeying of which life is promised ( Leviticus 18:5 ). If the law has failed to give life to man, it has not been the fault of the law, but of man's sinful inability to keep it ( Romans 7:10 Romans 7:12 , Galatians 3:21 ). It becomes life-giving through Christ's righteous obedience to it ( 2 Corinthians 3:6 ).
17. The way of the Lord--The Lord's way of dealing in His moral government.
21. twelfth year . . . tenth month--a year and a half after the capture of the city ( Jeremiah 39:2 , Jeremiah 52:5 Jeremiah 52:6 ), in the eleventh year and fourth month. The one who escaped (as foretold, Ezekiel 24:26 ) may have been so long on the road through fear of entering the enemy's country [HENDERSON]; or, the singular is used for the plural in a collective sense, "the escaped remnant." Compare similar phrases, "the escaped of Moab," Isaiah 15:9 ; "He that escapeth of them," Amos 9:1 . Naturally the reopening of the prophet's mouth for consolation would be deferred till the number of the escaped remnant was complete: the removal of such a large number would easily have occupied seventeen or eighteen months.
Jerusalem was known to Ezekiel by revelation before the messenger came. my mouth . . . no more dumb
--that is, to my countrymen; as foretold ( Ezekiel 24:27
), He spake ( Ezekiel 33:2-20
) in the evening before the tidings came.
24. they that inhabit . . . wastes of . . . Israel--marking the blindness of the fraction of Jews under Gedaliah who, though dwelling amidst regions laid waste by the foe, still cherished hopes of deliverance, and this without repentance.
Abraham was one . . . but we are many--If God gave the land for an inheritance to Abraham, who was but one ( Isaiah 51:2 ), much more it is given to us, who, though reduced, are still many. If he, with 318 servants, was able to defend himself amid so many foes, much more shall we, so much more numerous, retain our own. The grant of the land was not for his sole use, but for his numerous posterity.
inherited the land--not actually possessed it ( Acts 7:5 ), but had the right of dwelling and pasturing his flocks in it [GROTIUS]. The Jews boasted similarly of their Abrahamic descent in Matthew 3:9 and John 8:39 .
25. eat with the blood--in opposition to the law ( Leviticus 19:26 ; compare Genesis 9:4 ). They did so as an idolatrous rite.
26. Ye stand upon your sword--Your dependence is, not on right and equity, but on force and arms.
every one--Scarcely anyone refrains from adultery.
27. shall fall by the sword--The very object of their confidence would be the instrument of their destruction. Thinking to "stand" by it, by it they shall "fall." Just retribution! Some fell by the sword of Ishmael; others by the Chaldeans in revenge for the murder of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:1-44:30').
caves--( Judges 6:2 , 1 Samuel 13:6 ). In the hilly parts of Judea there were caves almost inaccessible, as having only crooked and extremely narrow paths of ascent, with rock in front stretching down into the valleys beneath perpendicularly [JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, 1.16.4].
28. most desolate--( Jeremiah 4:27 , 12:11 ).
none . . . pass through--from fear of wild beasts and pestilence [GROTIUS].
30. Not only the remnant in Judea, but those at the Chebar, though less flagrantly, betrayed the same unbelieving spirit.
talking against thee--Though going to the prophet to hear the word of the Lord, they criticised, in an unfriendly spirit, his peculiarities of manner and his enigmatical style ( Ezekiel 20:49 ); making these the excuse for their impenitence. Their talking was not directly "against" Ezekiel, for they professed to like his ministrations; but God's word speaks of things as they really are, not as they appear.
by the walls--in the public haunts. In the East groups assemble under the walls of their houses in winter for conversation.
in the doors--privately.
what is the word--Their motive was curiosity, seeking pastime and gratification of the ear ( 2 Timothy 4:3 ); not reformation of the heart. Compare Johanan's consultation of Jeremiah, to hear the word of the Lord without desiring to do it (Jeremiah 42:1-43:13').
31. as the people cometh--that is, in crowds, as disciples flock to their teacher.
sit before thee--on lower seats at thy feet, according to the Jewish custom of pupils ( Deuteronomy 33:3 , 2 Kings 4:38 , Luke 10:39 , Acts 22:3 ).
as my people--though they are not.
hear . . . not do--( Matthew 13:20 Matthew 13:21 , James 1:23 James 1:24 ).
they show much love--literally, "make love," that is, act the part of lovers. Profess love to the Lord ( Matthew 7:21 ). GESENIUS translates, according to Arabic idiom, "They do the delights of God," that is, all that is agreeable to God. Vulgate translates, "They turn thy words into a song of their mouths."
heart goeth after . . . covetousness--the grand rival to the love of God; therefore called "idolatry," and therefore associated with impure carnal love, as both alike transfer the heart's affection from the Creator to the creature ( Matthew 13:22 , Ephesians 5:5 , 1 Timothy 6:10 ).
32. very lovely song--literally, a "song of loves": a lover's song. They praise thy eloquence, but care not for the subject of it as a real and personal thing; just as many do in the modern church [JEROME].
play well on an instrument--Hebrew singers accompanied the "voice" with the harp.
33. when this cometh to pass--when My predictions are verified.
lo, it will come--rather, "lo it is come" (see Ezekiel 33:22 ).
know--experimentally, and to their cost.