The land shall be delivered from heathen oppressors. (1-15) The people are reminded of former sins, and promised deliverance. (16-24) Also holiness, and gospel blessings. (25-38)
Verses 1-15 Those who put contempt and reproach on God's people, will have them turned on themselves. God promises favour to his Israel. We have no reason to complain, if the more unkind men are, the more kind God is. They shall come again to their own border. It was a type of the heavenly Canaan, of which all God's children are heirs, and into which they all shall be brought together. And when God returns in mercy to a people who return to him in duty, all their grievances will be set right. The full completion of this prophecy must be in some future event.
Verses 16-24 The restoration of that people, being typical of our redemption by Christ, shows that the end aimed at in our salvation is the glory of God. The sin of a people defiles their land; renders it abominable to God, and uncomfortable to themselves. God's holy name is his great name; his holiness is his greatness, nor does any thing else make a man truly great.
Verses 25-38 Water is an emblem of the cleansing our polluted souls from sin. But no water can do more than take away the filth of the flesh. Water seems in general the sacramental sign of the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost; yet this is always connected with the atoning blood of Christ. When the latter is applied by faith to the conscience, to cleanse it from evil works, the former is always applied to the powers of the soul, to purify it from the pollution of sin. All that have an interest in the new covenant, have a new heart and a new spirit, in order to their walking in newness of life. God would give a heart of flesh, a soft and tender heart, complying with his holy will. Renewing grace works as great a change in the soul, as the turning a dead stone into living flesh. God will put his Spirit within, as a Teacher, Guide, and Sanctifier. The promise of God's grace to fit us for our duty, should quicken our constant care and endeavour to do our duty. These are promises to be pleaded by, and will be fulfilled to, all true believers in every age.
Ezekiel 36:1-38 . ISRAEL AVENGED OF HER FOES, AND RESTORED, FIRST TO INWARD HOLINESS, THEN TO OUTWARD PROSPERITY.
The distinction between Israel and the heathen (as Edom) is: Israel has a covenant relation to God ensuring restoration after chastisement, so that the heathen's hope of getting possession of the elect people's inheritance must fail, and they themselves be made desolate ( Ezekiel 36:1-15 ). The reason for the chastisement of Israel was Israel's sin and profanation of God's name ( Ezekiel 36:16-21 ). God has good in store for Israel, for His own name's sake, to revive His people; first, by a spiritual renewal of their hearts, and, next, by an external restoration to prosperity ( Ezekiel 36:22-33 ). The result is that the heathen shall be impressed with the power and goodness of God manifested so palpably towards the restored people ( Ezekiel 36:34-38 ).
1, 2. mountains of Israel--in contrast to "Mount Seir" of the previous prophecy. They are here personified; Israel's elevation is moral, not merely physical, as Edom's. Her hills are "the everlasting hills" of Jacob's prophecy ( Genesis 49:26 ). "The enemy" (Edom, the singled-out representative of all God's foes), with a shout of exultation, "Aha!" had claimed, as the nearest kinsman of Israel (the brother of their father Esau), his vacated inheritance; as much as to say, the so-called "everlasting" inheritance of Israel and of the "hills," which typified the unmoved perpetuity of it ( Psalms 125:1 Psalms 125:2 ), has come to an end, in spite of the promise of God, and has become "ours" (compare Deuteronomy 32:13 , 33:15 ).
3. Literally, "Because, even because."
swallowed you up--literally, "panted after" you, as a beast after its prey; implying the greedy cupidity of Edom as to Israel's inheritance ( Psalms 56:1 Psalms 56:2 ).
lips of talkers--literally, "lips of the tongue," that is, of the slanderer, the man of tongue. Edom slandered Israel because of the connection of the latter with Jehovah, as though He were unable to save them. Deuteronomy 28:37 , and Jeremiah 24:9 had foretold Israel's reproach among the heathen ( Daniel 9:16 ).
4. Inanimate creatures are addressed, to imply that the creature also, as it were, groans for deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God ( Romans 8:19-21 ) [POLANUS]. The completeness of the renewed blessedness of all parts of the land is implied.
derision--( Psalms 79:4 ).
5. to cast it out for a prey--that is, to take the land for a prey, its inhabitants being cast out. Or the land is compared to a prey cast forth to wild beasts. FAIRBAIRN needlessly alters the Hebrew pointing and translates, "that they may plunder its pasturage."
6. the shame of the heathen--namely, the shame with which the heathen cover you ( Psalms 123:3 Psalms 123:4 ).
7. lifted . . . mine hand--in token of an oath ( Ezekiel 20:5 , Genesis 14:22 ).
they shall bear their shame--a perpetual shame; whereas the "shame" which Israel bore from these heathen was only for a time.
8. they are at hand to come--that is the Israelites are soon about to return to their land. This proves that the primary reference of the prophecy is to the return from Babylon, which was "at hand," or comparatively near. But this only in part fulfilled the prediction, the full and final blessing in future, and the restoration from Babylon was an earnest of it.
10. wastes builded-- Isaiah 58:12 , 61:4 , Amos 9:11 Amos 9:12 Amos 9:14 , where, as here ( Ezekiel 34:23 Ezekiel 34:24 ), the names of David, Messiah's type, and Edom, Israel's foe, are introduced in connection with the coming restoration.
11. do better . . . than at your beginnings--as in the case of Job ( Job 42:12 ). Whereas the heathen nations fall irrevocably, Israel shall be more than restored; its last estate shall exceed even its first.
12. to walk upon you--O mountains of Israel ( Ezekiel 36:8 )!
thee . . . thou--change from plural to singular: O hill of Zion, singled out from the other mountains of Israel ( Ezekiel 34:26 ); or land.
thou shall no more . . . bereave them of men--Thou shalt no more provoke God to bereave them of children (so the ellipsis ought to be supplied, as Ezekiel probably alludes to Jeremiah 15:7 , "I will bereave them of children").
13. Thou land devourest up men--alluding to the words of the spies ( Numbers 13:32 ). The land personified is represented as doing that which was done in it. Like an unnatural mother it devoured, that is, it was the grave of its people; of the Canaanites, its former possessors, through mutual wars, and finally by the sword of Israel; and now, of the Jews, through internal and external ills; for example, wars, famine (to which Ezekiel 36:30 , "reproach of famine among the heathen," implies the allusion here is).
14. bereave--so the Keri, or Hebrew Margin reads, to correspond to "bereave" in Ezekiel 36:13 ; but "cause to fall" or "stumble," in the Hebrew text or Chetib, being the more difficult reading, is the one least likely to come from a corrector; also, it forms a good transition to the next subject, namely, the moral cause of the people's calamities, namely, their falls, or stumblings through sin. The latter ceasing, the former also cease. So the same expression follows in Ezekiel 36:15 , "Neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more."
17. removed woman--( Leviticus 15:19 , &c.).
18, 19. The reason for their removal was their sin, which God's holiness could not let pass unpunished; just as a woman's legal uncleanness was the reason for her being separated from the congregation.
20. profaned my holy name, when they--the heathen
said to them--the Israelites.
These, &c.--The Israelites gave a handle of reproach to the heathen against God, who would naturally say, These who take usury, oppress, commit adultery, &c., and who, in such an abject plight, are "gone forth" as exiles "out of His land," are specimens of what Jehovah can or will effect, for His people, and show what kind of a God this so-called holy, omnipotent, covenant-keeping God must be! ( Isaiah 52:5 , Romans 2:24 ).
21. I had pity for mine holy name--that is, I felt pity for it; God's own name, so dishonored, was the primary object of His pitying concern; then His people, secondarily, through His concern for it [FAIRBAIRN].
22. not . . . for your sakes--that is, not for any merit in you; for, on the contrary, on your part, there is everything to call down continued severity (compare Deuteronomy 9:5 Deuteronomy 9:6 ). The sole and sure ground of hope was God's regard to "His own name," as the God of covenant grace ( Psalms 106:45 ), which He must vindicate from the dishonor brought on it by the Jews, before the heathen.
23. sanctify--vindicate and manifest as holy, in opposition to the heathen reproaches of it brought on by the Jews' sins and their
sanctified in you--that is, in respect of you; I shall be regarded in their eyes as the Holy One, and righteous in My dealings towards you ( Ezekiel 20:41 , 28:22 ).
24. Fulfilled primarily in the restoration from Babylon; ultimately to be so in the restoration "from all countries."
25. The external restoration must be preceded by an internal one. The change in their condition must not be superficial, but must be based on a radical renewal of the heart. Then the heathen, understanding from the regenerated lives of God's people how holy God is, would perceive Israel's past troubles to have been only the necessary vindications of His righteousness. Thus God's name would be "sanctified" before the heathen, and God's people be prepared for outward blessings.
sprinkle . . . water--phraseology taken from the law; namely, the water mixed with the ashes of a heifer sprinkled with a hyssop on the unclean ( Numbers 19:9-18 ); the thing signified being the cleansing blood of Christ sprinkled on the conscience and heart ( Hebrews 9:13 Hebrews 9:14 , 10:22 ; compare Jeremiah 33:8 , Ephesians 5:26 ).
from all your idols--Literal idolatry has ceased among the Jews ever since the captivity; so far, the prophecy has been already fulfilled; but "cleansing from all their idols," for example, covetousness, prejudices against Jesus of Nazareth, is yet future.
26. new heart--mind and will.
spirit--motive and principle of action.
stony heart--unimpressible in serious things; like the "stony ground" ( Matthew 13:5 Matthew 13:20 ), unfit for receiving the good seed so as to bring forth fruit.
heart of flesh--not "carnal" in opposition to "spiritual"; but impressible and docile, fit for receiving the good seed. In Ezekiel 18:31 they are commanded, "Make you a new heart, and a new spirit." Here God says, "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Thus the responsibility of man, and the sovereign grace of God, are shown to be coexistent. Man cannot make himself a new heart unless God gives it ( Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:13 ).
27. my spirit--( Ezekiel 11:19 , Jeremiah 32:39 ). The partial reformation at the return from Babylon ( Ezra 10:6 , &c. Nehemiah 8:1-9:38') was an earnest of the full renewal hereafter under Messiah.
28. ye . . . my people, . . . I . . . your God--( Ezekiel 11:20 , Jeremiah 30:22 ).
29. save . . . from all . . . uncleannesses--the province of Jesus, according to the signification of His name ( Matthew 1:21 ). To be specially exercised in behalf of the Jews in the latter days ( Romans 11:26 ).
call for . . . corn--as a master "calls for" a servant; all the powers and productions of nature are the servants of Jehovah ( Psalms 105:16 , Matthew 8:8 Matthew 8:9 ). Compare as to the subordination of all the intermediate agents to the Great First Cause, who will give "corn" and all good things to His people, Hosea 2:21 Hosea 2:22 , Zechariah 8:12 .
30. no more reproach of famine among the heathen--to which their taunt ( Ezekiel 36:13 ), "Thou land devourest up men," in part referred.
31. remember your . . . evil ways--with shame and loathing. The unexpected grace and love of God, manifested in Christ to Israel, shall melt the people into true repentance, which mere legal fear could not ( Ezekiel 16:61 Ezekiel 16:63 , Psalms 130:4 , Zechariah 12:10 ; compare Jeremiah 33:8 Jeremiah 33:9 ).
35. they shall say--The heathen, who once made Israel's desolation a ground of reproach against the name of Jehovah Himself ( Ezekiel 36:20 Ezekiel 36:21 ); but now He so vindicates its sanctity ( Ezekiel 36:22 Ezekiel 36:23 ) that these same heathen are constrained to acknowledge Israel's more than renewed blessedness to be God's own work, and a ground for glorifying His name ( Ezekiel 36:36 ).
Eden--as Tyre (the type of the world powers in general: so Assyria, a cedar "in the garden of God, Eden," Ezekiel 31:8 Ezekiel 31:9 ), in original advantages, had been compared to "Eden, the garden of God" ( Ezekiel 28:13 ), from which she had fallen irrecoverably; so Israel, once desolate, is to be as "the garden of Eden" ( Isaiah 51:3 ), and is to be so unchangeably.
36. Lord . . . spoken . . . do it--( Numbers 23:19 ).
37. I will yet for this be inquired of--so as to grant it. On former occasions He had refused to be inquired of by Israel because the inquirers were not in a fit condition of mind to receive a blessing ( Ezekiel 14:3 , 20:3 ). But hereafter, as in the restoration from Babylon ( Ezekiel 36:26 ) to pray aright for the blessings which He is about to give ( Psalms 102:13-17 Psalms 102:20 , Zechariah 12:10-14 , 13:1 ).
like a flock--resuming the image ( Ezekiel 34:23 Ezekiel 34:31 ).
38. As the holy flock--the great flock of choice animals for sacrifice, brought up to Jerusalem at the three great yearly festivals, the passover, pentecost, and feast of the tabernacles.