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21 The word of the Lord came to me: 2Mortal, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries; prophesy against the land of Israel 3and say to the land of Israel, Thus says the Lord: I am coming against you, and will draw my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked. 4Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north; 5and all flesh shall know that I the Lord have drawn my sword out of its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again. 6Moan therefore, mortal; moan with breaking heart and bitter grief before their eyes. 7And when they say to you, “Why do you moan?” you shall say, “Because of the news that has come. Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water. See, it comes and it will be fulfilled,” says the Lord God. 8 And the word of the Lord came to me: 9Mortal, prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord; Say:
The Drawn Sword of God
The word of the Lord came to me: 2Mortal, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries; prophesy against the land of Israel 3and say to the land of Israel, Thus says the Lord: I am coming against you, and will draw my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked. 4Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north; 5and all flesh shall know that I the Lord have drawn my sword out of its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again. 6Moan therefore, mortal; moan with breaking heart and bitter grief before their eyes. 7And when they say to you, “Why do you moan?” you shall say, “Because of the news that has come. Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water. See, it comes and it will be fulfilled,” says the Lord God.
8 And the word of the Lord came to me: 9Mortal, prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord; Say:
A sword, a sword is sharpened,
it is also polished;
it is sharpened for slaughter,
honed to flash like lightning!
How can we make merry?
You have despised the rod,
and all discipline.
The sword is given to be polished,
to be grasped in the hand;
it is sharpened, the sword is polished,
to be placed in the slayer’s hand.
Cry and wail, O mortal,
for it is against my people;
it is against all Israel’s princes;
they are thrown to the sword,
together with my people.
Ah! Strike the thigh!
13 For consider: What! If you despise the rod, will it not happen? says the Lord God.
And you, mortal, prophesy;
strike hand to hand.
Let the sword fall twice, thrice;
it is a sword for killing.
A sword for great slaughter—
it surrounds them;
therefore hearts melt
and many stumble.
At all their gates I have set
the point of the sword.
Ah! It is made for flashing,
it is polished for slaughter.
Attack to the right!
Engage to the left!
—wherever your edge is directed.
I too will strike hand to hand,
I will satisfy my fury;
I the Lord have spoken.
18 The word of the Lord came to me: 19Mortal, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost, make it for a fork in the road leading to a city; 20mark out the road for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites or to Judah and to Jerusalem the fortified. 21For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the fork in the two roads, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the teraphim, he inspects the liver. 22Into his right hand comes the lot for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to call out for slaughter, for raising the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up ramps, to build siege towers. 23But to them it will seem like a false divination; they have sworn solemn oaths; but he brings their guilt to remembrance, bringing about their capture.
24 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have brought your guilt to remembrance, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand.
As for you, vile, wicked prince of Israel,
you whose day has come,
the time of final punishment,
thus says the Lord God:
Remove the turban, take off the crown;
things shall not remain as they are.
Exalt that which is low,
abase that which is high.
A ruin, a ruin, a ruin—
I will make it!
(Such has never occurred.)
Until he comes whose right it is;
to him I will give it.
28 As for you, mortal, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord God concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; say:
A sword, a sword! Drawn for slaughter,
polished to consume, to flash like lightning.
Offering false visions for you,
divining lies for you,
they place you over the necks
of the vile, wicked ones—
those whose day has come,
the time of final punishment.
Return it to its sheath!
In the place where you were created,
in the land of your origin,
I will judge you.
I will pour out my indignation upon you,
with the fire of my wrath
I will blow upon you.
I will deliver you into brutish hands,
those skillful to destroy.
You shall be fuel for the fire,
your blood shall enter the earth;
you shall be remembered no more,
for I the Lord have spoken.
Eze 21:1-32. Prophecy against Israel and Jerusalem, and against Ammon.
2. the holy places—the three parts of the temple: the courts, the holy place, and the holiest. If "synagogues" existed before the Babylonian captivity, as Ps 74:8 seems to imply, they and the proseuchæ, or oratories, may be included in the "holy places" here.
3. righteous … wicked—not contradictory of Eze 18:4, 9 and Ge 18:23. Ezekiel here views the mere outward aspect of the indiscriminate universality of the national calamity. But really the same captivity to the "righteous" would prove a blessing as a wholesome discipline, which to the "wicked" would be an unmitigated punishment. The godly were sealed with a mark (Eze 9:4), not for outward exemption from the common calamity, but as marked for the secret interpositions of Providence, overruling even evil to their good. The godly were by comparison so few, that not their salvation but the universality of the judgment is brought into view here.
4. The "sword" did not, literally, slay all; but the judgments of God by the foe swept through the land "from the south to the north."
6. with the breaking of thy loins—as one afflicted with pleurisy; or as a woman, in labor-throes, clasps her loins in pain, and heaves and sighs till the girdle of the loins is broken by the violent action of the body (Jer 30:6).
7. The abrupt sentences and mournful repetitions imply violent emotions.
9. sword—namely, of God (De 32:41). The Chaldeans are His instrument.
10. to make a sore slaughter—literally, "that killing it may kill."
glitter—literally, "glitter as the lightning flash": flashing terror into the foe.
it contemneth the rod of my son, &c.—The sword has no more respect to the trivial "rod" or scepter of Judah (Ge 49:10) than if it were any common "tree." "Tree" is the image retained from Eze 20:47; explained in Eze 21:2, 3. God calls Judah "My son" (compare Ex 4:22; Ho 11:1). Fairbairn arbitrarily translates, "Perchance the scepter of My son rejoiceth; it (the sword) despiseth every tree."
11. the slayer—the Babylonian king in this case; in general, all the instruments of God's wrath (Re 19:15).
12. terrors by reason of the sword, &c.—rather, "they (the princes of Israel) are delivered up to the sword together with My people" [Glassius].
smite … upon … thigh—a mark of grief (Jer 31:19).
13. it is a trial—rather, "There is a trial" being made: the sword of the Lord will subject all to the ordeal. "What, then, if it contemn even the rod" (scepter of Judah)? Compare as to a similar scourge of unsparing trial, Job 9:23.
it shall be no more—the scepter, that is, the state, must necessarily then come to an end. Fulfilled in part at the overthrow of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, but fully at the time of "Shiloh's" (Messiah's) coming (Ge 49:10), when Judea became a Roman province.
14. smite … hands together—(Nu 24:10), indicative of the indignant fury with which God will "smite" the people.
sword … doubled the third time—referring to the threefold calamity:—(1) The taking of Zedekiah (to whom the "rod," or scepter, may refer); (2) the taking of the city; (3) the removal of all those who remained with Gedaliah. "Doubled" means "multiplied" or "repeated." The stroke shall be doubled and even trebled.
of the slain—that is, by which many are slain. As the Hebrew is singular, Fairbairn makes it refer to the king, "the sword of the great one that is slain," or "pierced through."
entereth … privy chambers—(Jer 9:21). The sword shall overtake them, not merely in the open battlefield, but in the chambers whither they flee to hide themselves (1Ki 20:30; 22:25). Maurer translates, "which besieged them"; Fairbairn, "which penetrates to them." English Version is more literal.
15. point—"the whirling glance of the sword" [Fairbairn]. "The naked (bared) sword" [Henderson].
ruins—literally, "stumbling-blocks." Their own houses and walls shall be stumbling-blocks in their way, whether they wish to fight or flee.
made bright—made to glitter.
wrapped, &c.—namely, in the hand of him who holds the hilt, or in its scabbard, that the edge may not be blunt when it is presently drawn forth to strike. Gesenius, translates, "sharpened," &c.
16. Apostrophe to the sword.
Go … one way—or, "Concentrate thyself"; "Unite thy forces on the right hand" [Grotius]. The sword is commanded to take the nearest route for Jerusalem, "whither their face was set," whether south or north ("right hand or left"), according to where the several parts of the Chaldean host may be.
or other, … on the left—rather "set thyself on the left." The verbs are well-chosen. The main "concentration" of forces was to be on "the right hand," or south, the part of Judea in which Jerusalem was, and which lay south in marching from Babylon, whereas the Chaldean forces advancing on Jerusalem from Egypt, of which Jerusalem was north, were fewer, and therefore "set thyself" is the verb used.
cause … fury to rest—give it full vent, and so satisfy it (Eze 5:13).
19. two ways—The king coming from Babylon is represented in the graphic style of Ezekiel as reaching the point where the road branched off in two ways, one leading by the south, by Tadmor or Palmyra, to Rabbath of Ammon, east of Jordan; the other by the north, by Riblah in Syria, to Jerusalem—and hesitating which way to take. Ezekiel is told to "appoint the two ways" (as in Eze 4:1); for Nebuchadnezzar, though knowing no other control but his own will and superstition, had really this path "appointed" for him by the all-ruling God.
out of one land—namely, Babylon.
choose … a place—literally, "a hand." So it is translated by Fairbairn, "make a finger-post," namely, at the head of the two ways, the hand post pointing Nebuchadnezzar to the way to Jerusalem as the way he should select. But Maurer rightly supports English Version. Ezekiel is told to "choose the place" where Nebuchadnezzar should do as is described in Eze 21:20, 21; so entirely does God order by the prophet every particular of place and time in the movements of the invader.
20. Rabbath of the Ammonites—distinct from Rabbah in Judah (2Sa 12:26). Rabbath is put first, as it was from her that Jerusalem, that doomed city, had borrowed many of her idols.
to Judah in Jerusalem—instead of simply putting "Jerusalem," to imply the sword was to come not merely to Judah, but to its people within Jerusalem, defended though it was; its defenses on which the Jews relied so much would not keep the foe out.
21. parting—literally, "mother of the way." As "head of the two ways" follows, which seems tautology after "parting of the way," Havernick translates, according to Arabic idiom, "the highway," or principal road. English Version is not tautology, "head of the two ways" defining more accurately "parting of the way."
made … bright—rather, "shook," from an Arabic root.
arrows—Divination by arrows is here referred to: they were put into a quiver marked with the names of particular places to be attacked, and then shaken together; whichever came forth first intimated the one selected as the first to be attacked [Jerome]. The same usage existed among the Arabs, and is mentioned in the Koran. In the Nineveh sculptures the king is represented with a cup in his right hand, his left resting on a bow; also with two arrows in the right, and the bow in the left, probably practising divination.
images—Hebrew, "teraphim"; household gods, worshipped as family talismans, to obtain direction as to the future and other blessings. First mentioned in Mesopotamia, whence Rachel brought them (Ge 31:19, 34); put away by Jacob (Ge 35:4); set up by Micah as his household gods (Jud 17:5); stigmatized as idolatry (1Sa 15:23, Hebrew; Zec 10:2, Margin).
liver—They judged of the success, or failure, of an undertaking by the healthy, or unhealthy, state of the liver and entrails of a sacrifice.
22. Rather, "In his right hand was [is] the divination," that is, he holds up in his right hand the arrow marked with "Jerusalem," to encourage his army to march for it.
captains—The Margin, "battering-rams," adopted by Fairbairn, is less appropriate, for "battering-rams" follow presently after [Grotius].
open the mouth in … slaughter—that is, commanding slaughter: raising the war cry of death. Not as Gesenius, "to open the mouth with the war shout."
23. Unto the Jews, though credulous of divinations when in their favor, Nebuchadnezzar's divination "shall be (seen) as false." This gives the reason which makes the Jews fancy themselves safe from the Chaldeans, namely, that they "have sworn" to the latter "oaths" of allegiance, forgetting that they had violated them (Eze 17:13, 15, 16, 18).
but he, &c.—Nebuchadnezzar will remember in consulting his idols that he swore to Zedekiah by them, but that Zedekiah broke the league [Grotius]. Rather, God will remember against them (Re 16:19) their violating their oath sworn by the true God, whereas Nebuchadnezzar kept his oath sworn by a false god; Eze 21:24 confirms this.
24. Their unfaithfulness to Nebuchadnezzar was a type of their general unfaithfulness to their covenant God.
with the hand—namely, of the king of Babylon.
25. profane—as having desecrated by idolatry and perjury his office as the Lord's anointed. Havernick translates, as in Eze 21:14, "slain," that is, not literally, but virtually; to Ezekiel's idealizing view Zedekiah was the grand victim "pierced through" by God's sword of judgment, as his sons were slain before his eyes, which were then put out, and he was led a captive in chains to Babylon. English Version is better: so Gesenius (2Ch 36:13; Jer 52:2).
26. diadem—rather, "the miter" of the holy priest (Ex 28:4; Zec 3:5). His priestly emblem as representative of the priestly people. Both this and "the crown," the emblem of the kingdom, were to be removed, until they should be restored and united in the Mediator, Messiah (Ps 110:2, 4; Zec 6:13), [Fairbairn]. As, however, King Zedekiah alone, not the high priest also, is referred to in the context, English Version is supported by Gesenius.
this shall not be the same—The diadem shall not be as it was [Rosenmuller]. Nothing shall remain what it was [Fairbairn].
exalt … low, … abase … high—not the general truth expressed (Pr 3:34; Lu 1:52; Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5); but specially referring to Messiah and Zedekiah contrasted together. The "tender plant … out of the dry ground" (Isa 53:2) is to be "exalted" in the end (Eze 21:27); the now "high" representative on David's throne, Zedekiah, is to be "abased." The outward relations of things shall be made to change places in just retaliation on the people for having so perverted the moral relations of things [Hengstenberg].
27. Literally, "An overturning, overturning, overturning, will I make it." The threefold repetition denotes the awful certainty of the event; not as Rosenmuller explains, the overthrow of the three, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah; for Zedekiah alone is referred to.
it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is—strikingly parallel to Ge 49:10. Nowhere shall there be rest or permanence; all things shall be in fluctuation until He comes who, as the rightful Heir, shall restore the throne of David that fell with Zedekiah. The Hebrew for "right" is "judgment"; it perhaps includes, besides the right to rule, the idea of His rule being one in righteousness (Ps 72:2; Isa 9:6, 7; 11:4; Re 19:11). Others (Nebuchadnezzar, &c.), who held the rule of the earth delegated to them by God, abused it by unrighteousness, and so forfeited the "right." He both has the truest "right" to the rule, and exercises it in "right." It is true the tribal "scepter" continued with Judah "till Shiloh came" (Ge 49:10); but there was no kingly scepter till Messiah came, as the spiritual King then (Joh 18:36, 37); this spiritual kingdom being about to pass into the literal, personal kingdom over Israel at His second coming, when, and not before, this prophecy shall have its exhaustive fulfilment (Lu 1:32, 33; Jer 3:17; 10:7; "To thee doth it appertain").
28. Lest Ammon should think to escape because Nebuchadnezzar had taken the route to Jerusalem, Ezekiel denounces judgment against Ammon, without the prospect of a restoration such as awaited Israel. Jer 49:6, it is true, speaks of a "bringing again of its captivity," but this probably refers to its spiritual restoration under Messiah; or, if referring to it politically, must refer to but a partial restoration at the downfall of Babylon under Cyrus.
their reproach—This constituted a leading feature in their guilt; they treated with proud contumely the covenant-people after the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (Eze 25:3, 6; Zep 2:9, 10), and appropriated Israel's territory (Jer 49:1; Am 1:13-15).
furbished, to consume—Maurer punctuates thus, "Drawn for the slaughter, it is furbished to devour ('consume'), to glitter." English Version, "to consume because of the glittering," means, "to consume by reason of the lightning, flash-like rapidity with which it falls." Five years after the fall of Jerusalem, Ammon was destroyed for aiding Ishmael in usurping the government of Judea against the will of the king of Babylon (2Ki 25:25; Jer 41:15) [Grotius].
29. see vanity … divine a lie—Ammon, too, had false diviners who flattered them with assurances of safety; the only result of which will be to "bring Ammon upon the necks," &c., that is, to add the Ammonites to the headless trunks of the slain of Judah, whose bad example Ammon followed, and "whose day" of visitation for their guilt "is come."
when their iniquity shall have an end—See on Eze 21:25.
30. Shall I cause it to return into his sheath—namely, without first destroying Ammon. Certainly not (Jer 47:6, 7). Others, as the Margin, less suitably read it imperatively, "Cause it to return," that is, after it has done the work appointed to it.
in the land of thy nativity—Ammon was not to be carried away captive as Judah, but to perish in his own land.
skilful to destroy—literally, "artificers of destruction"; alluding to Isa 54:16.
32. thy blood shall be—that is, shall flow.
be no more remembered—be consigned as a nation to oblivion.