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Ezekiel 3:4-7

4. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.

4. Et dixit mihi, Fili hominis, vade (ingredere) ad domum Israel, et loquere ad eos in sermonibus reels.

5. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;

5. Quia non ad populum profun-dos 6767     That is, “profound in speech:” it is a collective noun, hence the number is changed: literally. “to a people profound in Up.” — Calvin. labiis et gravem lingua, tu missus es ad domum (Israel scilicet.)

6. Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.

6. Non ad populos multos pro-fundos labio et graves lingua quos non intelliges; 6868     That is. “whose language thou writ not understand. — Calvin. si non ad eos misis-sem to, ipsi audissent to.

7. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.

7. Atqui 6969     The copula here is taken adversatively — but are unwilling to hear thee.” — Calvin domus Israel non volent ad audiendum to, quia si non volunt audire me, quia tota domus Israel duri fronte (vel proefracti) et robusto corde ipsi.

 

Now at greater length God explains why he wished his servant to eat the volume which he held forth in his hand, namely, that when instructed by it he might approach the children of Israel; for he ought not to come empty, and we know that man of himself can bring forward nothing solid: hence Ezekiel must receive from God’s hand what he delivers to the Israelites. Let us then preserve this order, as the volume is first given to the Prophet, and then transferred to the people. God orders him, to offer or speak his own words, which is worthy of remark, as having the same meaning. But if Ezekiel ought to bring forward nothing but what he had received from God, this rule ought to prevail among all God’s servants, that they should not heap up their own comments, but pronounce what God teaches them as if from his mouth: lastly, that passage of Peter (1 Peter 4:11) ought to guide us, he who speaks in the Church ought to speak the words of God. Now he adds, I do not send thee to a people strange in speech and hard in language, but to the house of Israel Stone think that the prophet is here animated to his duty, because God demanded nothing from him which was too difficult. For if he had been sent to remote nations with whom there was no interchange of speech, he might object that a greater burden than he could bear was imposed upon him. The difficulty would then have been a complete obstacle. They think that remote and foreign nations are here compared with the people of Israel, that he may discharge his duty with alacrity, as if it had been said, “I do not send thee to strangers. For neither could they understand thee, and they also would be barbarians to thee, but because thou art familiarly acquainted with thine own people, thou canst not turn thy back when I send thee unto them.” But this opinion does not approve itself to me, because I read these three verses in the same context, as they are united. It is by no means doubtful, that, by this comparison, God aggravates the impiety of the people. For this sentence is first in order, that the Israelites would be deaf, although the Prophet should use among them the common and vernacular language: this is the first point: now he shows the reason, because they were a bitter people Here God signifies, that nothing prevented the Israelites from obeying the doctrine of the Prophet but their malice and impiety. For this reason he says, I do not send thee to a people profound in speech I know not how some have conjectured that this epithet means learned or clever; for it is the same thing for a people to be of a strange speech and of a hard language. For what is a “hard” but a barbarous language? Now we perceive the genuine sense, that the Prophet is not sent to men of an unknown language because he would have been a barbarian to them and they to him. I do not send thee to them, therefore, but to the house of Israel.

Now he adds, not to many peoples Those who translate “many” by “great,” do not understand the Prophet’s meaning, for God had spoken in the singular number concerning all people, but now he uses the plural, as if he had said, I send thee neither to Egyptians, nor to Chaldeans, nor to any other remote nation, since the world is on all sides of thee, inhabited by peoples whose language thou dost not understand: to those therefore I do not send thee. The particle, if not, follows, and Jerome translates, “If I had sent thee unto them,” although the negative particle is interposed, literally, if not, but because this phrase appears harsh, some have supposed אם-לא, am-la, to have the sense of swearing, and interpret it affirmatively for כאמת, cameth, “truly,” or “surely.” But if we receive it so, the passage will be defective; for they understand אם, am, “again,” “afterwards:” for these two words, אם-לא, am-la, have the force of an oath interposed. What sense then shall we extract from the words, “truly I will send thee unto them, and they shall hear thee?” We see then this sense to be too forced. Some explain the passage thus: “If I had not sent thee unto them, they would have heard thee,” as if God here blamed the disposition of the people, because they rather sought vain and foolish prophecies:, than submitted themselves to the truth; just as if he had said, if any impostor should pour darkness upon them, they would immediately embrace his fables and lies, as they are so prone to foolishness. Since, therefore, I send thee, therefore they do not hear. But this explanation does not suit, because a little afterwards we shall see it in its own place. To me therefore this context is most probable, if I had not sent thee to them, these also would have heard thee, as if it had been said, unless a difference of speech had interposed, I had rather have used thine assistance with reference to foreign nations. In this way God signifies his displeasure, when he says, that he would rather send his Prophet hither and thither than to the Israelites, except through the want of a common language; for this difference of language presented the only boundary to the Prophet, so that he was confined to his own people. In this sense there is nothing forced. I do not, therefore, send thee to many peoples, profound in speech and strange in tongue, because thou wouldst not understand their language But if this had not been an obstacle, I would have sent thee, and they would have heard thee. We see then what I have just touched upon, that the Israelites are compared to foreign or uncircumcised tribes, because they rejected the instruction offered them, not through ignorance of the language, but through the hardness of their heart. Isaiah also says, (Isaiah 28:11, 13,) that the word of God would be deep and obscure to even the Jews themselves, but in another sense; he also compares his prophecies to a sealed book, since God had blinded them according to their deserts. Since therefore they were so given over to a reprobate mind, and were destitute of sound understanding, therefore he says, that his teaching would be like a closed and sealed book: then he says, that he would be a barbarian, as if he was using an unknown language. So God in this place clearly shows that the house of Israel were suffering no impediment in profiting by his word, except their own unwillingness to hear. (Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 29:11.) For he says, that the heathen would be obedient, if they could be partakers of such a benefit. Unless therefore the language of the Prophet had been unknown to the profane and uncircumcised heathen, he had there found attentive and obedient disciples, as God testifies. How then comes it to pass that the house of Israel cannot hear! It now follows, But the house of Israel are unwilling to hear, that is, the house of Israel is unwilling to hear thee, because it will not hear me, says he.

Now, therefore, we clearly see the sloth of the people assigned as a reason why they purposely rejected the Word of God, and hardened themselves in obstinacy. He also ascends higher, and says, that the people were not only disobedient to the Prophet but to God himself, as Christ also when he exhorts his disciples to perseverance in teaching. Therefore, says he, they will not hear you, because they will not hear me, and why am I and my teaching hated by them, unless because they do not receive my Father? (John 15:18.) For this stumblingblock is likely to break the spirits of the pious, when they see their teaching so proudly rejected. This reproach alone, therefore, is often accustomed to recall the servants of God from their course: but this admonition is proposed to them in the midst, that God himself is despised. Why then should they take it ill, that they are held in the same estimation as God, who is himself rejected? They think themselves undeserving of such contempt and haughtiness being thrown upon their labor. But is not God worthy of being listened to before all angels? Since, then, they are proud and unbelieving towards God himself, it is not surprising that they do not reverently receive what is proposed to them by mortal man. Now, therefore, we see what the intention of God is when he says, the house of Israel will not hear thee, because they do not hear me: lest it should be vexatious to the Prophet to see his labor profitless, nay, even the children of Israel rising against him: because he ought to bear it patiently, if he should suffer the same obloquy which they did not hesitate to display against the Almighty himself. It follows, Because the whole house of Israel is of a bold or a daring aspect, and of a hard heart He repeats what we saw before, but in other words — namely, that the people’s hardness of heart was untameable, and that they were not only obstinate in heart but brazen in countenance, so that they cast aside all modesty; and lastly, he implies that their obstinacy was desperate, when he joins a brazen countenance with a hard heart.


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