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3. Warning to Israel

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

4And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. 5For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; 6Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. 7But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. 8Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. 9As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. 10Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. 11And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. 12Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place. 13 I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. 14So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.

15Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days. 16And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 17Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 18When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. 20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 21Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

22And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee. 23Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face. 24Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house. 25But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them: 26And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house. 27But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.

Now God explains the reason why he wishes the Prophet to cease for a time, and to remain at home as if dumb. They have placed, said he, ropes upon thee with which they may bind thee. The opinion of those who take the passage metaphorically is not unsuitable, as if it had been said, the perverseness of the people hinders Ezekiel in the discharge of his duty, just as if he had been bound with ropes.

To make this clearer, we may call to mind what Paul says to the Corinthians, (2 Corinthians 6:11,) namely, that he was held in bondage, because his teaching could not find access to them, nor penetrate to their souls. “Our mouth,” says he, “is open towards you, O Corinthians! Our heart is enlarged towards you:” that is, as far as lieth in me, I am prepared faithfully to spend my labors upon you: but your bowels are straitened. Since therefore men, by their own depravity, hinder the course of doctrine, by reducing the servants of God to straits, it is quite consistent to represent the malice of those who are not teachable to be like ropes by which faithful teachers are bound, so that they cannot proceed freely in the course of their duty. If any one, however, prefers taking what is here said strictly and literally, the sentence must thus be understood, that the Israelites were not as yet prepared for instruction, because if the Prophet shall utter God’s commands immediately, they would be like the furious who would lay hands upon him and bind him with ropes. This sense also is very appropriate, and hence we may choose freely between them. But as to the general purport, God’s intention is by no means obscure, namely, that the Prophet ought not to take it ill, if he be for a time apparently useless without obtaining either hearers or fit disciples. We see then that this is said for the Prophet’s comfort, that he should not murmur or take it ill that God wishes him ‘to remain shut up at home; because the fit time had not yet come, as if it had been said — “If you hasten now, you will approach furious men who will by and bye rush against you and bind you with ropes. Because, therefore, you see them not yet prepared for learning, wait a while until I prepare their ears for you, that they may attend to you; or at least, that they may be rendered the more excuseless, I will send thee; and meanwhile, although they are as yet perverse, yet they cannot rise violently against thee, but whether they will or not, they shall be compelled to hear the commands which proceed from my mouth.” And he afterwards confirms this at length, as we shall see.


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