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Ezekiel 14:21-22

21. For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?

21. Quoniam sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Quanto magis cum quatuor judicia mea mala, gladium, et famem, et bestiam malam, et pestem immisero contra Hierusalem ad excidendum ex ea hominem et animal?

22. Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.

22. Et ecce evasio in ea residua, 5050     That is, “some remnant which shall escape shall remain in it.” — Calvin. evasio egredientium, inquit nempe filii et filiae: ipsi egredientur ad vos: et videbitis vias ipsorum, et opera ipsorum: et consolationem sumetis super malo quod venire fecero super Hierusalem, super omni quod venire fecero super eam.

 

He now reasons, as we said in the beginning, from the less to the greater. Hitherto he has said, If I shall have sent forth only one weapon to take vengeance upon men, no one will oppose my following out my decree: then he enumerated four weapons, one after another. Now he adds, What then, when I shall have heaped together all punishments, and not only shall have sent pestilence or sword or famine, but as it were when I have four armies prepared and drawn up, and shall command them to attack and destroy mankind, how shall even one person escape? If Job, Daniel, and Noah, cannot snatch away even their sons and daughters from a single scourge, how shall they snatch them from four at once! We see, then, that God here cuts away the false and specious hopes by which the false prophets deluded the miserable exiles when they promised them a return to their country, and daily proclaimed how impossible it was that the sacred city, the earthly dwelling-place of God, could be taken by the enemy, and the religion which God had promised should be eternal could perish. Since, therefore, the false prophets so deceived these miserable exiles, here God shows how greatly they erred while they cherished any hope in their minds; because he had not only held one kind of scourge over Jerusalem, but approached it with a whole heap of them to destroy and cut off both man and beast. This then is the full meaning.

Now he says, If I shall have sent my four evil judgments. Here God calls his judgments evils, in the sense in which he says in Isaiah, that he creates good and evil, (Isaiah 45:7,) since immediately afterwards he expresses his meaning by saying life and death. Hence what is against us is here called evil, and so this epithet ought to be referred to our perceptions. For our natural common sense dictates that whatever is desirable and useful to us is good: food and life and peace are good, and whatever is conducive to life, and what we naturally wish for, we call good. So also, on the other hand, death and famine are evils: so are nakedness, want, and shame: why so? since we dread whatever is not useful to us; and because we fly from evils as soon as reason dawns. In fine, evil here is not opposed to justice and right, but, as I have said, to men’s opinion and our natural senses. He now confirms what we before said, namely, that these are God’s judgments when enemies rage against us, pestilence attacks us: poverty assails us, and wild beasts break in upon us. When therefore we suffer under these afflictions, let us learn immediately to descend into ourselves and to discover the cause why God is so angry with us. For if we turn our attention towards the sword, and pestilence, and famine, we are like dogs which gnaw and bite what is thrown at them, and do not regard the hand which threw it, but only vent their rage upon the stone. For such is our stupidity when we complain of famine being injurious to us, wild beasts troublesome, and war horrible. Hence this passage should always be borne in mind that, these are God’s evil judgments, that is, scourges by which he chastises our sins, and thus shows himself hostile and opposed to us.

He now adds, there shall be a remnant in that escape. They explain this verse parenthetically, as if God by way of correction engaged to act more mercifully towards that city, than if he struck any land with only one scourge. They explain it thus: although these four scourges should meet together, yet I will mitigate the rigor of my vengeance, since some shall go out safely, and reach even to you. Almost all agree in this sense; but when I weigh the Prophet’s intention more accurately, I cannot subscribe to it: because God seems to me to confirm what he had said before, that he would be a just avenger of wickedness while he treats the Jews so harshly. To discover the most suitable sense, we must consider the condition of the exiles: it was surely worse than if they had been destroyed by a single death for they were dying daily; and at length, when cast out of the sacred land, they were like the dead. Hence that exile was more sorrowful than death, since it was better to be buried in the holy land than among the profane. Since, then, they had been mixed with dog’s, it was no life to them to protract a wretched existence amidst constant languor; and if the hope of restoration had been taken away, concerning which we are not now treating, and to which not a single syllable applies, exile was by itself like death. Since, then, the Prophet here says, that some should be left, to escape, he does not mean that they should be safe: hence this is not a mitigation of their punishment. For as we saw before, and especially in Jeremiah, those who died quickly were less to be deplored. (Jeremiah 22:10.) Finally, when the Prophet here says that some should come to Babylon, he does not promise them pardon, as if God was propitious to them, or noticed them favorably; no such thing: for he speaks of the reprobate, and of those who bore on their forehead the manifest sign of their impiety, and show by their whole life that they are abandoned, and most worthy of final destruction.

For he says, a departure of those who go forth shall come: sons as well as daughters shall come to you, says he, and you shall see their ways and their work: that is, you shall see that the men are so wicked, that their ungodliness shall compel you to confess the city to be worthy of perishing, and the people deserving destruction. For the word consoling, which the Prophet uses immediately afterwards, refers here to the acknowledgment of their wickedness appeasing the minds of those who formerly roared and murmured against God. Neither does he mean that consolation which, according to the common proverb, has many friends; but only the calm acknowledgment of God’s just vengeance, in which the ten tribes acquiesced. For before they saw the state in which the inhabitants of Jerusalem were, they thought that God was too severe, and hence their outcry and complaint against God. The Prophet, therefore, now says, that the sight of your wickedness will bring you consolation; for you shall see that it could not be otherwise, and that you deserved such punishment: hence, when you have acknowledged your abandoned wickedness, you will regard my justice with peaceful and tranquil minds; and you will so finish and cease your complaints which now agitate your minds in different directions. The rest, to-morrow.


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