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Judgment on Idolatrous Israel


The word of the L ord came to me: 2O mortal, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, 3and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord G od! Thus says the Lord G od to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: I, I myself will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. 4Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense stands shall be broken; and I will throw down your slain in front of your idols. 5I will lay the corpses of the people of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars. 6Wherever you live, your towns shall be waste and your high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense stands cut down, and your works wiped out. 7The slain shall fall in your midst; then you shall know that I am the L ord.

8 But I will spare some. Some of you shall escape the sword among the nations and be scattered through the countries. 9Those of you who escape shall remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I was crushed by their wanton heart that turned away from me, and their wanton eyes that turned after their idols. Then they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. 10And they shall know that I am the L ord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this disaster upon them.

11 Thus says the Lord G od: Clap your hands and stamp your foot, and say, Alas for all the vile abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. 12Those far off shall die of pestilence; those nearby shall fall by the sword; and any who are left and are spared shall die of famine. Thus I will spend my fury upon them. 13And you shall know that I am the L ord, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountain tops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing odor to all their idols. 14I will stretch out my hand against them, and make the land desolate and waste, throughout all their settlements, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they shall know that I am the L ord.

Ezekiel pursues the same sentiment, but it is necessary to persist with more words in confirmation of his prophecy, because it was somewhat difficult of belief, especially among men so secure, and who had been hardened against God by long habit. This is the reason, then, why he uses so many words about a thing in itself by no means obscure. Now he speaks concerning the extension of God’s hand, which is a Scriptural form of speech sufficiently familiar; for it is said that God extends his hand when he puts forth manifest examples of his wrath. But the phrase is taken from men, who, if they wish to accomplish anything great extend their arm. We know that God accomplishes all things by his nod alone, but because through our sluggishness we do not comprehend his judgment, the Scripture, in compassion to our rudeness represents his hand as extended. But he says, that he will place the land in devastation and stupor The two words, שממה, shemmeh, and שמה, shemeh, are different, though derived from the same root. שמה, shemeh, signifies to destroy and lay waste; also to wonder at: so that the explanation of some is not bad — I will place the land for a desolation and an astonishment. But because the comparison of a desert follows immediately, I willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who translate desolation or solitude, and vacancy or waste: for although these: two words are synonymous, as they say, yet the Prophet properly adds vacancy or solitude to waste, because he does not inculcate the same thing too often, for the sake of explanation, but only that he may confirm what he otherwise knew would not be attended to by the Israelites. Some translate from the desert even to Diblathah; and there are some who think Riblatha should be read instead of Diblathah — and it may happen that an error has crept in, on account of the similarity of the letters ד and ר. But I do not think any change is needed: and besides, I reject as absurd, the explanation from the desert even to Diblathah or Riblatha. But מ is rather a mark of comparison: the land of Israel shall be reduced to desolation more than the desert of Diblathah. For how could the Prophet have said — from the desert even to Diblathah? The threat is against the land of Israel, but Diblathah was in Syria beyond the land, for they think it was Antioch: hence the true sense, according to the Prophet’s intention, could not be elicited from this. But it is most suitable that the desert should be placed before the eyes of the Israelites, because it was not far from their country: Syria was between them and it, but since there was frequent intercourse, that desert was sufficiently known to them. Already had they passed through the desert when they passed into exile, and the difference in the aspect of the country would rather waken up their senses: for the whole of Syria is fertile, and Antioch has an excellent site, as geographers relate. Since, therefore, the Israelites had traversed a pleasant land, and one filled with all opulence, when they came to a desert vast and sorrowful, that appearance, as I have said, would stir them up the more. This, therefore, appears to me the reason why the Prophet says that the desert Diblathah was not so waste, or solitary, or dry, or squalid, as the land of Israel should become.

He says, in all their habitations, that they may know that there would be no corner free from that devastation which he predicts: for it will often happen that some land is partially seized and spoiled, but here the Prophet comprehends all habitations. And they shall know, he says, that I am Jehovah: that is, they shall know that I have spoken by my Prophets. But God announces this with displeasure, because the Prophet’s authority ought to have been sacred and established among the people. For his calling was so marked out that they could not contend against him without being opposed to God. Hence Ezekiel is omitted here, and God comes forward, as if he had spoken himself. They shall know, therefore, he says, both my faithfulness and power. Besides this knowledge is extended to the reprobate who do not profit by God’s chastisements. Although, therefore, experience compels them to acknowledge God as a judge, yet they remain obstinate, as we shall soon see again and again. It follows —

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