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Ezekiel Israel’s Sentry

33

The word of the Lord came to me: 2O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; 3and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; 4then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. 5They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. 6But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel’s hand.

7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

God’s Justice and Mercy

10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” 11Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? 12And you, mortal, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save them when they transgress; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, it shall not make them stumble when they turn from their wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by their righteousness when they sin. 13Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 14Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right— 15if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. 16None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live.

17 Yet your people say, “The way of the Lord is not just,” when it is their own way that is not just. 18When the righteous turn from their righteousness, and commit iniquity, they shall die for it. 19And when the wicked turn from their wickedness, and do what is lawful and right, they shall live by it. 20Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is not just.” O house of Israel, I will judge all of you according to your ways!

The Fall of Jerusalem

21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, someone who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has fallen.” 22Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; but he had opened my mouth by the time the fugitive came to me in the morning; so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer unable to speak.

The Survivors in Judah

23 The word of the Lord came to me: 24Mortal, the inhabitants of these waste places in the land of Israel keep saying, “Abraham was only one man, yet he got possession of the land; but we are many; the land is surely given us to possess.” 25Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: You eat flesh with the blood, and lift up your eyes to your idols, and shed blood; shall you then possess the land? 26You depend on your swords, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife; shall you then possess the land? 27Say this to them, Thus says the Lord God: As I live, surely those who are in the waste places shall fall by the sword; and those who are in the open field I will give to the wild animals to be devoured; and those who are in strongholds and in caves shall die by pestilence. 28I will make the land a desolation and a waste, and its proud might shall come to an end; and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through. 29Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.

30 As for you, mortal, your people who talk together about you by the walls, and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to a neighbor, “Come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.” 31They come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they will not obey them. For flattery is on their lips, but their heart is set on their gain. 32To them you are like a singer of love songs, one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; they hear what you say, but they will not do it. 33When this comes—and come it will!—then they shall know that a prophet has been among them.


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Eze 33:1-33. Renewal of Ezekiel's Commission, Now that He Is Again to Address His Countrymen, and in a New Tone.

Heretofore his functions had been chiefly threatening; from this point, after the evil had got to its worst in the overthrow of Jerusalem, the consolatory element preponderates.

2. to the children of thy people—whom he had been forbidden to address from Eze 24:26, 27, till Jerusalem was overthrown, and the "escaped" came with tidings of the judgment being completed. So now, in Eze 33:21, the tidings of the fact having arrived, he opens his heretofore closed lips to the Jews. In the interval he had prophesied as to foreign nations. The former part of the chapter, at Eze 33:2-20, seems to have been imparted to Ezekiel on the evening previous (Eze 33:22), being a preparation for the latter part (Eze 33:23-33) imparted after the tidings had come. This accounts for the first part standing without intimation of the date, which was properly reserved for the latter part, to which the former was the anticipatory introduction [Fairbairn].

watchmanEze 33:1-9 exhibit Ezekiel's office as a spiritual watchman; so in Eze 3:16-21; only here the duties of the earthly watchman (compare 2Sa 18:24, 25; 2Ki 9:17) are detailed first, and then the application is made to the spiritual watchman's duty (compare Isa 21:6-10; Ho 9:8; Hab 2:1). "A man of their coasts" is a man specially chosen for the office out of their whole number. So Jud 18:2, "five men from their coasts"; also the Hebrew of Ge 47:2; implying the care needed in the choice of the watchman, the spiritual as well as the temporal (Ac 1:21, 22, 24-26; 1Ti 5:22).

3. the sword—invaders. An appropriate illustration at the time of the invasion of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar.

4. blood … upon his own head—metaphor from sacrificial victims, on the heads of which they used to lay their hands, praying that their guilt should be upon the victims.

6. his iniquity—his negligence in not maintaining constant watchfulness, as they who are in warfare ought to do. The thing signified here appears from under the image.

7. I have set thee a watchman—application of the image. Ezekiel's appointment to be a watchman spiritually is far more solemn, as it is derived from God, not from the people.

8. thou shalt surely die—by a violent death, the earnest of everlasting death; the qualification being supposed, "if thou dost not repent."

9. Blood had by this time been shed (Eze 33:21), but Ezekiel was clear.

10. be upon us—that is, their guilt remain on us.

pine away in them—if we suffer the penalty threatened for them in Eze 24:23, according to the law (Le 26:39).

how should we … live?—as Thou dost promise in Eze 33:5 (compare Eze 37:11; Isa 49:14).

11. To meet the Jews' cry of despair in Eze 33:10, Ezekiel here cheers them by the assurance that God has no pleasure in their death, but that they should repent and live (2Pe 3:9). A yearning tenderness manifests itself here, notwithstanding all their past sins; yet with it a holiness that abates nothing of its demands for the honor of God's authority. God's righteousness is vindicated as in Eze 3:18-21 and Eze 18:1-32, by the statement that each should be treated with the closest adaptation of God's justice to his particular case.

12. not fall … in the day that he turneth—(2Ch 7:14; see Eze 3:20; 18:24).

15. give again that he had robbed—(Lu 19:8).

statutes of life—in the obeying of which life is promised (Le 18:5). If the law has failed to give life to man, it has not been the fault of the law, but of man's sinful inability to keep it (Ro 7:10, 12; Ga 3:21). It becomes life-giving through Christ's righteous obedience to it (2Co 3:6).

17. The way of the Lord—The Lord's way of dealing in His moral government.

21. twelfth year … tenth month—a year and a half after the capture of the city (Jer 39:2; 52:5, 6), in the eleventh year and fourth month. The one who escaped (as foretold, Eze 24:26) may have been so long on the road through fear of entering the enemy's country [Henderson]; or, the singular is used for the plural in a collective sense, "the escaped remnant." Compare similar phrases, "the escaped of Moab," Isa 15:9; "He that escapeth of them," Am 9:1. Naturally the reopening of the prophet's mouth for consolation would be deferred till the number of the escaped remnant was complete: the removal of such a large number would easily have occupied seventeen or eighteen months.

22. in the evening—(see on Eze 33:2). Thus the capture of Jerusalem was known to Ezekiel by revelation before the messenger came.

my mouth … no more dumb—that is, to my countrymen; as foretold (Eze 24:27), He spake (Eze 33:2-20) in the evening before the tidings came.

24. they that inhabit … wastes of … Israel—marking the blindness of the fraction of Jews under Gedaliah who, though dwelling amidst regions laid waste by the foe, still cherished hopes of deliverance, and this without repentance.

Abraham was one … but we are many—If God gave the land for an inheritance to Abraham, who was but one (Isa 51:2), much more it is given to us, who, though reduced, are still many. If he, with 318 servants, was able to defend himself amid so many foes, much more shall we, so much more numerous, retain our own. The grant of the land was not for his sole use, but for his numerous posterity.

inherited the land—not actually possessed it (Ac 7:5), but had the right of dwelling and pasturing his flocks in it [Grotius]. The Jews boasted similarly of their Abrahamic descent in Mt 3:9 and Joh 8:39.

25. eat with the blood—in opposition to the law (Le 19:26; compare Ge 9:4). They did so as an idolatrous rite.

26. Ye stand upon your sword—Your dependence is, not on right and equity, but on force and arms.

every one—Scarcely anyone refrains from adultery.

27. shall fall by the sword—The very object of their confidence would be the instrument of their destruction. Thinking to "stand" by it, by it they shall "fall." Just retribution! Some fell by the sword of Ishmael; others by the Chaldeans in revenge for the murder of Gedaliah (Jer 40:1-44:30).

caves—(Jud 6:2; 1Sa 13:6). In the hilly parts of Judea there were caves almost inaccessible, as having only crooked and extremely narrow paths of ascent, with rock in front stretching down into the valleys beneath perpendicularly [Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 1.16.4].

28. most desolate—(Jer 4:27; 12:11).

none … pass through—from fear of wild beasts and pestilence [Grotius].

30. Not only the remnant in Judea, but those at the Chebar, though less flagrantly, betrayed the same unbelieving spirit.

talking against thee—Though going to the prophet to hear the word of the Lord, they criticised, in an unfriendly spirit, his peculiarities of manner and his enigmatical style (Eze 20:49); making these the excuse for their impenitence. Their talking was not directly "against" Ezekiel, for they professed to like his ministrations; but God's word speaks of things as they really are, not as they appear.

by the walls—in the public haunts. In the East groups assemble under the walls of their houses in winter for conversation.

in the doors—privately.

what is the word—Their motive was curiosity, seeking pastime and gratification of the ear (2Ti 4:3); not reformation of the heart. Compare Johanan's consultation of Jeremiah, to hear the word of the Lord without desiring to do it (Jer 42:1-43:13).

31. as the people cometh—that is, in crowds, as disciples flock to their teacher.

sit before thee—on lower seats at thy feet, according to the Jewish custom of pupils (De 33:3; 2Ki 4:38; Lu 10:39; Ac 22:3).

as my people—though they are not.

hear … not do—(Mt 13:20, 21; Jas 1:23, 24).

they show much love—literally, "make love," that is, act the part of lovers. Profess love to the Lord (Mt 7:21). Gesenius translates, according to Arabic idiom, "They do the delights of God," that is, all that is agreeable to God. Vulgate translates, "They turn thy words into a song of their mouths."

heart goeth after … covetousness—the grand rival to the love of God; therefore called "idolatry," and therefore associated with impure carnal love, as both alike transfer the heart's affection from the Creator to the creature (Mt 13:22; Eph 5:5; 1Ti 6:10).

32. very lovely song—literally, a "song of loves": a lover's song. They praise thy eloquence, but care not for the subject of it as a real and personal thing; just as many do in the modern church [Jerome].

play well on an instrument—Hebrew singers accompanied the "voice" with the harp.

33. when this cometh to pass—when My predictions are verified.

lo, it will come—rather, "lo it is come" (see Eze 33:22).

know—experimentally, and to their cost.




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