Ezekiel 20

Rebellious Israel Purged

1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month on the tenth day, some of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and they sat down in front of me.
2 Then the word of the LORD came to me:
3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Have you come to inquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you inquire of me, declares the Sovereign LORD.’
4 “Will you judge them? Will you judge them, son of man? Then confront them with the detestable practices of their ancestors
5 and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I chose Israel, I swore with uplifted hand to the descendants of Jacob and revealed myself to them in Egypt. With uplifted hand I said to them, “I am the LORD your God.”
6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.
7 And I said to them, “Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
8 “ ‘But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; they did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in Egypt.
9 But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep my name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations among whom they lived and in whose sight I had revealed myself to the Israelites.
10 Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
11 I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live.
12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy.
13 “ ‘Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness.
14 But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.
15 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands—
16 because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For their hearts were devoted to their idols.
17 Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the wilderness.
18 I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols.
19 I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.”
21 “ ‘But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws, of which I said, “The person who obeys them will live by them,” and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness.
22 But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.
23 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries,
24 because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their parents’ idols.
25 So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live;
26 I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.’
27 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In this also your ancestors blasphemed me by being unfaithful to me:
28 When I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices, made offerings that aroused my anger, presented their fragrant incense and poured out their drink offerings.
29 Then I said to them: What is this high place you go to?’ ” (It is called Bamah[a] to this day.)

Rebellious Israel Renewed

30 “Therefore say to the Israelites: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Will you defile yourselves the way your ancestors did and lust after their vile images?
31 When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your children in the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of me, you Israelites? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will not let you inquire of me.
32 “ ‘You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen.
33 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will reign over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.
34 I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered—with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.
35 I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you.
36 As I judged your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign LORD.
37 I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.
38 I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
39 “ ‘As for you, people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterward you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols.
40 For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts,[b] along with all your holy sacrifices.
41 I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight of the nations.
42 Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your ancestors.
43 There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done.
44 You will know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, you people of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ”

Prophecy Against the South

45 The word of the LORD came to me:
46 “Son of man, set your face toward the south; preach against the south and prophesy against the forest of the southland.
47 Say to the southern forest: ‘Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to set fire to you, and it will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it.
48 Everyone will see that I the LORD have kindled it; it will not be quenched.’ ”
49 Then I said, “Sovereign LORD, they are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?’ ”[c]

Ezekiel 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

The elders of Israel are reminded of the idolatry in Egypt. (1-9) In the wilderness. (10-26) In Canaan. (27-32) God promises to pardon and restore them. (33-44) Prophecy against Jerusalem. (45-49)

1-9. Those hearts are wretchedly hardened which ask God leave to go on in sin, and that even when suffering for it; see ver. ( 32 ) . God is justly angry with those who are resolved to go on still in their trespasses. Cause the people to know the evil deeds of their fathers, that they may see how righteous it was with God to cut them off.

10-26. The history of Israel in the wilderness is referred to in the new Testament as well as in the Old, for warning. God did great things for them. He gave them the law, and revived the ancient keeping of the sabbath day. Sabbaths are privileges; they are signs of our being his people. If we do the duty of the day, we shall find, to our comfort, it is the Lord that makes us holy, that is, truly happy, here; and prepares us to be happy, that is, perfectly holy, hereafter. The Israelites rebelled, and were left to the judgments they brought upon themselves. God sometimes makes sin to be its own punishment, yet he is not the Author of sin: there needs no more to make men miserable, than to give them up to their own evil desires and passions.

Verses 27-32 The Jews persisted in rebellion after they settled in the land of Canaan. And these elders seem to have thought of uniting with the heathen. We make nothing by our profession if it be but a profession. There is nothing got by sinful compliances; and the carnal projects of hypocrites will stand them in no stead.

Verses 33-44 The wicked Israelites, notwithstanding they follow the sinful ways of other nations, shall not mingle with them in their prosperity, but shall be separated from them for destruction. There is no shaking off God's dominion; and those who will not yield to the power of his grace, shall sink under the power of his wrath. But not one of God's jewels shall be lost in the lumber of this world. He will bring the jews to the land of Israel again; and will give them true repentance. They will be overcome with his kindness: the more we know of God's holiness, the more we see the hateful nature of sin. Those who remain unaffected amidst means of grace, and would live without Christ, like the world around them, may be sure it is the way to destruction.

Verses 45-49 Judah and Jerusalem had been full of people, as a forest of trees, but empty of fruit. God's word prophesies against those who bring not forth the fruits of righteousness. When He will ruin a nation, who or what can save it? The plainest truths were as parables to the people. It is common for those who will not be wrought upon by the word, to blame it.

Cross References 112

  • 1. S Genesis 25:22
  • 2. Ezekiel 1:1-2; S Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 21:1
  • 3. S Ezekiel 7:26
  • 4. S Genesis 25:22; Ezekiel 14:3
  • 5. S 1 Samuel 28:6; Isaiah 1:15; Amos 8:12; Micah 3:7
  • 6. S Ezekiel 16:2; Ezekiel 22:2; Matthew 23:32
  • 7. S Deuteronomy 7:6
  • 8. S Genesis 14:22; S Numbers 14:30
  • 9. S Leviticus 11:44; Exodus 6:7
  • 10. S Exodus 6:8
  • 11. S Exodus 3:8; Jeremiah 32:22
  • 12. S Deuteronomy 8:7; Psalms 48:2; Daniel 8:9; Daniel 11:41; Malachi 3:12
  • 13. Exodus 20:4
  • 14. S Ezekiel 6:9
  • 15. S Exodus 20:2; Leviticus 18:3; Deuteronomy 29:18
  • 16. S Jeremiah 7:26
  • 17. S Jeremiah 11:10; S Ezekiel 7:8; S Ezekiel 16:26
  • 18. S Exodus 32:7; Deuteronomy 9:7; S Isaiah 63:10
  • 19. S Isaiah 48:11
  • 20. Ezekiel 36:22; Ezekiel 39:7
  • 21. S Exodus 13:18; Exodus 19:1
  • 22. Exodus 20:1-23; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 4:7-8; S Ezekiel 18:9; S Romans 10:5
  • 23. S Exodus 20:10
  • 24. S Exodus 31:13
  • 25. Jeremiah 17:22
  • 26. S Leviticus 20:8
  • 27. Psalms 78:40
  • 28. S Jeremiah 6:19; Jeremiah 11:8
  • 29. ver 24
  • 30. S Deuteronomy 9:8
  • 31. S Exodus 32:10
  • 32. Leviticus 26:15,43; S Numbers 14:29; Psalms 95:8-10; Isaiah 56:6
  • 33. S Isaiah 48:11
  • 34. Ezekiel 36:23
  • 35. S Deuteronomy 1:34
  • 36. Numbers 14:22-23; Psalms 95:11; Psalms 106:26; Hebrews 3:11
  • 37. Jeremiah 11:8; Amos 2:4
  • 38. S Numbers 15:39
  • 39. ver 24; S Ezekiel 6:4; Amos 5:26
  • 40. S Jeremiah 4:27
  • 41. S 2 Chronicles 30:7; Zechariah 1:4
  • 42. S Psalms 106:39
  • 43. S Exodus 20:2
  • 44. Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Deuteronomy 6:1-2; S Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:1; S Deuteronomy 12:1
  • 45. S Exodus 20:10
  • 46. S Exodus 31:13
  • 47. Jeremiah 17:22
  • 48. S Jeremiah 7:26
  • 49. Numbers 25:3
  • 50. S Ezekiel 7:8
  • 51. Psalms 78:38
  • 52. S Isaiah 48:11
  • 53. S Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64; S Psalms 9:11
  • 54. Amos 2:4
  • 55. ver 13
  • 56. S Ezekiel 6:9
  • 57. S ver 16; S Ezekiel 2:3; S Ezekiel 18:6
  • 58. S Psalms 81:12; Romans 1:28
  • 59. Isaiah 66:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:11
  • 60. S Leviticus 18:21
  • 61. Leviticus 20:2-5; 2 Kings 17:17
  • 62. S Psalms 78:57
  • 63. S Numbers 15:30; Romans 2:24
  • 64. S Ezekiel 18:24
  • 65. Nehemiah 9:23; Psalms 78:55,58
  • 66. S Jeremiah 2:7; S Jeremiah 3:6; S Jeremiah 19:13; S Ezekiel 6:13
  • 67. Ezekiel 16:16; Ezekiel 43:7
  • 68. ver 43
  • 69. S Judges 2:16-19; S Jeremiah 16:12
  • 70. S Ezekiel 16:20
  • 71. Psalms 106:37-39; S Jeremiah 7:31; S Ezekiel 14:3; Amos 8:12; Zechariah 7:13
  • 72. S Ezekiel 16:27
  • 73. Jeremiah 21:5; Ezekiel 25:16
  • 74. 2 Corinthians 6:17*
  • 75. S Deuteronomy 30:4; S Psalms 106:47
  • 76. S Isaiah 31:3
  • 77. Isaiah 27:12-13; S Jeremiah 44:6; S Lamentations 2:4; S Ezekiel 6:14
  • 78. S Ezekiel 19:13
  • 79. S 1 Samuel 12:7; S Job 22:4; S Jeremiah 2:35
  • 80. Numbers 11:1-35; Numbers 14:28-30; 1 Corinthians 10:5-10
  • 81. S Leviticus 27:32; Jeremiah 33:13
  • 82. S Ezekiel 16:62
  • 83. Ezekiel 34:17-22; Amos 9:9-10
  • 84. Psalms 95:11; Jeremiah 44:14; S Ezekiel 13:9; Ezekiel 23:49; Hosea 2:14; Zechariah 13:8-9; Malachi 3:3; Malachi 4:1-3; Hebrews 4:3
  • 85. S Jeremiah 44:25
  • 86. S Exodus 20:7; S Ezekiel 13:19
  • 87. Isaiah 1:13; Ezekiel 43:7; Amos 4:4
  • 88. S Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 34:14
  • 89. S Isaiah 60:7
  • 90. S Isaiah 56:7; Malachi 3:4
  • 91. S 2 Corinthians 2:14
  • 92. S Deuteronomy 30:4
  • 93. Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 36:23
  • 94. S Isaiah 5:16; S Ezekiel 11:17; 2 Corinthians 6:17
  • 95. Ezekiel 38:23
  • 96. S Jeremiah 23:8; Ezekiel 34:13; Ezekiel 36:24
  • 97. Jeremiah 30:3; Ezekiel 34:27; Ezekiel 37:21
  • 98. Ezekiel 14:22
  • 99. S Leviticus 26:41
  • 100. S Ezekiel 6:9; S Ezekiel 16:61; Hosea 5:15
  • 101. Psalms 109:21; Isaiah 43:25; Ezekiel 36:22
  • 102. S Ezekiel 16:62; Ezekiel 36:32; Ezekiel 24:24
  • 103. S Ezekiel 4:3; S Ezekiel 13:17
  • 104. Ezekiel 21:2; Amos 7:16
  • 105. Isaiah 30:6; Jeremiah 13:19
  • 106. S 2 Kings 19:23
  • 107. Ezekiel 19:14
  • 108. Ezekiel 21:4
  • 109. Isaiah 9:18-19; S Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 21:14
  • 110. S Jeremiah 7:20; Ezekiel 21:5,32; Ezekiel 23:25
  • 111. S Ezekiel 4:14
  • 112. S Judges 14:12; S Psalms 78:2; S Ezekiel 12:9; Matthew 13:13; S John 16:25

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. "Bamah" means "high place."
  • [b]. Or "and the gifts of your firstfruits"
  • [c]. In Hebrew texts 20:45-49 is numbered 21:1-5.

Chapter Summary


The prophecy in this chapter is occasioned by some of the elders of Israel coming to inquire of the Lord; when the prophet is bid to tell them that he would not be inquired of by them. The reason of which were their abominations he is ordered to make known unto them, Eze 20:1-4; and then proceeds the narration of them; first of what their fathers committed in Egypt; of God's goodness to them, and their ingratitude; how that though he promised and swore that he would bring them from thence, when he charged them to abstain from the idolatry of that people where they were, nevertheless they did not, for which he threatened them with his wrath to consume them; yet such was his goodness as to spare them, and bring them out of that land, Eze 20:5-9; being brought out of Egypt into the wilderness, the Lord gave them statutes and ordinances to observe, particularly sabbaths, as a sign between him and them, but these they despised and broke; wherefore the Lord threatened to consume them in the wilderness, and not bring them into the land of Canaan; yet such was his kindness and mercy to them, that he did not make an utter end of them in the wilderness, Eze 20:10-17; and whereas he exhorted their posterity not to imitate their parents, but to walk in his statutes and judgments, and observe his sabbaths, yet they would not; which drew out his resentment against them, and he threatened to scatter them among the Heathens; but, for his name's sake, that that might not be polluted among the heathen, he spared them, and did not cut them off, only gave them up to do things very pernicious to them, Eze 20:18-26; and even when they were brought into the land of Canaan, they were guilty of blasphemy against God, and of idolatry on every high hill they saw, Eze 20:27-29; but whereas it might be objected, what is all this to the present generation? it is observed, that they imitated their fathers, and were guilty of the same idolatries, and therefore the Lord would not be inquired of by them, Eze 20:30,31; and threatens to rule them with fury, and plead with them, as he had pleaded with their fathers in the wilderness, Eze 20:32-36; nevertheless he suggests that there would be a remnant among them, when he should have purged the rebels and transgressors from them, that he would deal graciously with in a covenant way; who should serve him in his holy mountain, where he would require and accept their sacrifices, in whom he would be sanctified; and who should know him, and loathe themselves, when made sensible of the distinguishing favours bestowed upon them, Eze 20:37-44; and the chapter is closed with a prophecy dropped against Jerusalem, denouncing utter destruction on it, Eze 20:45-49.

reign, and of the captivity of Jeconiah; from whence the dates of Ezekiel's visions and prophecies are taken, Eze 1:2, 8:1; two years, one month, and five days, after Ezekiel began to prophesy, and eleven months and five days after the preceding prophecy:

\\in the fifth [month], the tenth [day] of the month\\; the month Ab, which answers to our July and August; on this day afterwards Jerusalem was twice destroyed, first by the Chaldeans, and then by the Romans:

\\[that] certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord\\; by the prophet; these were either some of the elders that were carried captive, who came to inquire how long they should continue in this state; or what methods they should use to free themselves from it; or what they should do while they were in it; whether it would be advisable that they should conform to the customs of the Heathens among whom they were; or what would be the case of those that were left in Judea: or else these were sent by Zedekiah to pay the king of Babylon his tax, or to negotiate some affair with him relating to the captives; and who took this opportunity of consulting the Lord by the prophet what methods should be taken to throw off the yoke, and to know what was the mind of God in it; but these things are uncertain, as are also the persons the inquirers; though the Jews say {e} they were Ananias, Azarias, and Misael; which is not probable, since they were good men, whereas these seem to be hypocritical persons:

\\and sat before me\\; with great seriousness and devotion seemingly, waiting for an answer.

{e} Seder Olam Rabba apud Abarbinel in loc.


Ezekiel 20 Commentaries

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