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Ezekiel 12:5-6

5. Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby.

5. In oculis ipsorum perfodies tibi parietem, et educes per ipsum.

6. In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel.

6. In oculis ipsorum super humerum gestabis, in tenebris egredieris; faciem tuam occultabis et non aspicies terram, quia portentum constitui to domui Israel.


Ezekiel is verbose in this narration. But in the beginning of the book we said, that because the teacher was sent to men very slow and stupid, he therefore used a rough style. We added also, that he had acquired it partly from the custom of the region in which he dwelt. For the people declined by degrees from the polish of their language, and hence it happens that the Prophet’s diction is not quite pure, but is intermixed with something foreign. As to the subject itself there is no ambiguity, since God repeats that he should dig through a wall, and bring out his vessels by himself before their eyes Here follows another part of the vision, namely, that there should be no free egress but that the Jews would desire to depart by stealth. First, therefore, it is shown to the Prophet, that the Jews who when secure at Jerusalem boasted that all was well with them, should be exiles; then, that it would not be in their power to go forth when they wished, unless perhaps they stealthily escaped the hands of the enemy through their hiding-place, as thieves escape by digging through a wall. Then the application will follow, but yet it was worth while to state what God intended by this vision. Afterwards everything is embraced. In their sight, says he, thou shalt bear upon thy shoulder, that is, thou shalt be prepared and girt for a journey as a traveler, and this shall be done in the day-time: but in darkness, says he, thou shalt bring them forth: after thy vessels have been prepared, wait for the evening: in the darkness afterwards thou shalt go forth. Here he shows what I have already touched upon, when necessity expelled the Jews from their country, that their departure would not be free, because they would be well off if’ they could snatch themselves away from the sight of their enemies in hiding-places and the darkness of the night.

He adds, thou shalt hide thy face, and the clause, neither shalt thou look upon the earth, means the same thing. Anxiety and trembling is marked by this phrase, as when he says, thou shalt hide thy face, it signifies that the Jews should be so perplexed that they should fear every event which happened. For those who fear everything veil their faces, as is well known. But this trembling is better expressed when he says, thou shaft not look upon the earth. For those who are in haste do not dare to bend down their eyes the least in either one direction or another, but are carried along to the place to which they are going, and press forward with their eyes, because they cannot hasten with their feet as quickly as they desire. Hence they seize their way, as it were, with their eyes. This is the reason why God says, thou shalt not look upon the earth, because I have set thee, says he, for a sign to the house of Israel. Here God meets the petulance of those who otherwise would laugh at what the Prophet was doing: what do you mean by that fictitious emigration? why do you not rest at home? why do you here frighten us with an empty spectacle? God, therefore, that the Jews should not obstinately despise what he shows them, adds, that the Prophet was a sign or a wonder to the house of Israel The word wonder is here taken in its genuine sense, though sometimes it has an unfavorable meaning. We say that anything portentous is disagreeable: but a portentproperly designates any sign of the future. When therefore men predict what is hidden, it is called a portent. And this is the meaning of Isaiah, (Isaiah 8:18,) where he says, Behold me, and the children whom God has given me, for signs and wonders. He puts אתות, athoth, “signs,” in the first place, then מופתים, mophthim, “portents.” Here the Prophet speaks in the singular: I have given thee for a wonder. But since Isaiah treats of the rest of the faithful, he then uses signs and portents; since Isaiah seems to imply something more, namely, that the people were so stupid that they so feared and abhorred God’s servants, as if they had met, with a prodigy. Here, therefore, the depravity of the people is to be marked, because when they saw any pious and sincere worshipper of God they turned away their eyes as from a formidable prodigy. But now the Prophet speaks simply, that he had been placed for a prodigy to the house of Israel: because in truth this action was a presage of that future captivity which the Jews did not fear for themselves, and which was also incredible to the Israelites; whence that penitence and weariness of which I have spoken. But I do not object if any think that the Prophet speaks of a portent, because the Israelites were struck with astonishment; but the former sense is far more apposite. In this way then God distinguishes the action of the Prophet from all empty spectacles, and so vindicates his servant from all opprobrium. Meanwhile he signifies that although the Prophet was despised, yet that he would be true, and at the same time the avenger of contempt. It follows —

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