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God’s Judgments Justified


Certain elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. 2And the word of the L ord came to me: 3Mortal, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and placed their iniquity as a stumbling block before them; shall I let myself be consulted by them? 4Therefore speak to them, and say to them, Thus says the Lord G od: Any of those of the house of Israel who take their idols into their hearts and place their iniquity as a stumbling block before them, and yet come to the prophet—I the L ord will answer those who come with the multitude of their idols, 5in order that I may take hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom are estranged from me through their idols.

6 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord G od: Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7For any of those of the house of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who separate themselves from me, taking their idols into their hearts and placing their iniquity as a stumbling block before them, and yet come to a prophet to inquire of me by him, I the L ord will answer them myself. 8I will set my face against them; I will make them a sign and a byword and cut them off from the midst of my people; and you shall know that I am the L ord.

9 If a prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the L ord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the inquirer and the punishment of the prophet shall be the same— 11so that the house of Israel may no longer go astray from me, nor defile themselves any more with all their transgressions. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God, says the Lord G od.

12 The word of the L ord came to me: 13Mortal, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it, and break its staff of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it human beings and animals, 14even if Noah, Daniel, and Job, these three, were in it, they would save only their own lives by their righteousness, says the Lord G od. 15If I send wild animals through the land to ravage it, so that it is made desolate, and no one may pass through because of the animals; 16even if these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord G od, they would save neither sons nor daughters; they alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate. 17Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, “Let a sword pass through the land,” and I cut off human beings and animals from it; 18though these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord G od, they would save neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be saved. 19Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off humans and animals from it; 20even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord G od, they would save neither son nor daughter; they would save only their own lives by their righteousness.

21 For thus says the Lord G od: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four deadly acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild animals, and pestilence, to cut off humans and animals from it! 22Yet, survivors shall be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; they will come out to you. When you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it. 23They shall console you, when you see their ways and their deeds; and you shall know that it was not without cause that I did all that I have done in it, says the Lord G od.

Here Ezekiel relates an event worthy of notice. For this was not a mere vision, but a real transaction, since some of the elders of Israel came to him for the sake of consultation. He says that he sat, as men who are perplexed and astonished by evils are accustomed to do, when they see no remedy. The gesture then which the Prophet describes was a sign of anxiety and despair. A person wishing for an answer is said to sit before another; but since it is probable that they disputed among themselves about beginning, and did not immediately discover how they should commence, hence they became anxious to consult the Prophet. Ezekiel, indeed, might be touched and softened by pity when he saw them seeking God in this way. For this was a sign of repentance when they turned to the true and faithful servant of God. But since they had no sincerity, the Prophet is warned in time against supposing them to come with cordiality. Hence God instructs his servant not to give way with too much facility when he sees old men coming to be disciples. But he shows their hypocrisy, because superstition still reigned in their hearts; nay, they desired openly to violate God’s law, and they did not disguise this feeling whenever occasion offered. First, he says they have set up idols in their hearts; by which words he means that they were addicted to superstition, so that idols obtained a high rank in their hearts; as Paul exhorts the faithful, that the peace of God which passes all understanding may obtain the rule in their hearts (Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15); so on the other hand the Prophet says that these men had given supreme sway to idols. And again an implied comparison must be remarked between God and idols. For God has erected the seat of his empire in our hearts: but when we set up idols, we necessarily endeavor to overthrow God’s throne, and to reduce his power to nothing. Hence the most heinous crime of sacrilege is here shown in those old men who caused idols to rise above their hearts. For hence it follows that all their senses were drowned in their superstitions.

He adds, they placed the stumblingblock of their iniquity before his face. By this second clause he signifies their hardness and perverseness; as if he had said, although the doctrine of the law was put before their eyes, yet they had no regard for piety, and despised even God’s threats, as if he were not going to be their judge. When, therefore, the sinner is not moved by any admonitions, and is more than convicted of his impiety, and is compelled, whether he will or not, to suffer God’s anger, and yet afterwards despises it, he is said to put the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face. For many slide away by error and thoughtlessness, because they do not think they can attempt anything against God. But here Ezekiel expresses that there was a gross contempt of God in these old men, and even a professed rebellion against him. Now he asks, Shall I by inquiring be inquired of by them? Some translate, Shall I, when consulted or asked, answer them? But this comment seems to me too remote from the mind of the Prophet; and it is probable that they thought this to be the sense, because they could not understand what else the Prophet meant. But God shows that this was like a wonder, since these old men dared to break forth, and to pretend to have some desire to inquire the truth. Hence their impudence is shown here, because they did not hesitate to place themselves before God’s servant, and to pretend a regard for piety when they had none. God says, therefore, can it be done? For this question expresses the absurdity of the thing, and that for the above mentioned purpose, that their wickedness may be the more apparent in their daring to insult the face of God. For what else is it than openly to reproach God when impure men approach him, and wish to become partakers of his counsel? Meanwhile they show by their whole life that they are most inveterate enemies of the whole heavenly doctrine. Afterwards it follows —

Ezekiel 14:4

4. Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;

4. Propterea loquere ad ipsos, et dic illis: sic Dominator Iehovah, vir vir, domo Israel, 3535     That is, “any one of the house of Israel.” — Calvin. ascendere fecerit idola sua super cor suum, et offendiculum iniquitatis suae posuerit coram facie sua: et venerit ad prophetam: ego Iehovah respondebo huic 3636     “It is another word: ענה, gneneh, is properly to answer — I will answer him in his inquiry.” — Calvin. secundum multitudinem idolorum ejus. 3737     “Some think the letter ה to have been substituted for א, and translate it — I will answer him, because he comes in the multitude of his idols. But I follow the simpler sense, because I fear their explanation to be too forced, namely, that God would reply to the impious when they consulted him, but according to the multitude of their idols, that is, as they deserved.” — Calvin.
   The Hebrew word to which Calvin here refers is, בה, beh, which is so entirely Syriac, that Eichhorn says the Masoretes wished to corrupt it to בא, ba. It is wanting in two MSS. Newcombe quotes the authority of Kennicott for reading, בא, ba, though Houbigant treats it as a barbarism. The Chaldee interpretation is perhaps preferable. Rosenmfiner discusses the point fully. See also Cappell. Crit. Sac., volume 1. Edit. Hal.


Here God seems to treat those hypocrites too indulgently who pretend to ask his advice and yet despise his counsel. But God here rather threatens what would be destructive to the wicked than promises anything which they ought to expect. It is indeed a singular testimony of God’s grace when he answers us: for prophecy is an image of God’s paternal anxiety towards us and our salvation. But sometimes prophecy only ends in destruction; and this is but an accident. Although, therefore, God’s word by itself is naturally to be greatly desired, yet when God answers as a judge, and takes away all hope of pardon and pity, no taste of his favor can then be perceived. Thus this passage must be understood. God pronounces that he would answer, but whom? The reprobate, and those who tauntingly inquired of the Prophet what they should do. When he answers them, he only shows himself the avenger of their perfidy; and thus his answer contains nothing else but the fearful judgment which hangs over all the reprobate. For God does not here impose a perpetual law on himself; for he does not always act in the same way towards all the reprobate, but says that those impious ones should feel that they shall not profit by their cunning and artifices, since they shall find the difference between God and Satan: for they were accustomed to lies, and had itching ears; hence they wished to have some pleasing and flattering answer from the servant of God, since the false prophets gratified their inclinations. What then does God say? I will answer them, but far otherwise than they either wish or desire: for I will answer them according to the multitude of their idols: for they bring with them the material for their own condemnation: hence they shall take back nothing from me but the seal of that condemnation which is already placed upon their hearts, and appears on their hands. In fine, God here laughs at the foolish confidence of those who inquire about future events of his prophets; but meanwhile they have their heart bound up with superstitions, so as openly to show their gross impiety: hence he says, that he would answer them, not as they thought, but as they deserved.

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