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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Ezekiel 6

 

 

Verse 1

PROPHECY EXTENDED TO THE WHOLE LAND

In Ezekiel 4 and Ezekiel 5, the prophet pantomimed and prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, and "Now he takes a survey of the whole land."[1]

Ezekiel 6:1-3

"And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy unto them, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places."

"The mountains were mentioned here because they were especially the places where Israel practiced idolatry (Leviticus 26:30-33; Isaiah 65:7; and Jeremiah 3:6)."[2] The same is true of the watercourses and valleys. "The ravines and valleys were the scenes of Baal-worship (Jeremiah 2:23) and of child-sacrifice (Isaiah 57:5)."[3] The sword mentioned in verse 3 is a reference to the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar.

"Set thy face toward the mountains ..." (1). This introduction to a prophecy is quite common in Ezekiel. "We shall encounter it again in Ezekiel 20:46; 21:2; 25:2; 28:21; 29:2; 35:2; and Ezekiel 38:2)."[4]

The mountains of Israel appear again in this prophecy in chapter 36, where blessing and restoration are promised. The prophecy here foretells the final judgment of Israel; and, also, "It is a picture of the future judgment of the world."[5]

"I will destroy your high places ..." (Ezekiel 6:3). The reason for the forthcoming destruction of all the land of Israel is stated here. The hateful, licentious worship of the Baal fertility cults, of Astarte, of Molech, and of the whole pantheon of pagan gods and goddesses had effectively brought about the total moral depravity of the people. God's Chosen People at this point had become even worse than the godless Canaanites whom God had removed from Palestine because of their sins.


Verse 4

"And your altars shall become desolate, and your sun-images shall be broken; and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. And I will lay down the dead bodies of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars. In all your dwelling-places, the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate, that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your sun-images may be hewn down, and your works may be abolished. And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah."

Here is a prophecy of God's total destruction of the system of worship into which apostate Israel had fallen.

"Your slain men before your idols ..." (Ezekiel 6:4). Bruce tells us that the Hebrew word here rendered as idols, "Is a derogatory term frequently found in Ezekiel, meaning something like `dungheaps.'"[6] Feinberg thought that Ezekiel might have coined this word; "He used it 39 times."[7]

"Your sun-images ..." (Ezekiel 6:4). "These were pillars or obelisks connected with the worship of Baal, the sun god, and they were found standing near his altars."[8] Some scholars have identified them as phallic symbols.

"These high places were connected with Canaanite fertility rites, an orgiastic worship embodying drunkenness and cultic prostitution. Associated with such high places were idols, sacred stones, pillars, sacred trees, etc."[9]

The presence of dead bodies and bones around the altars and idols of the high places had two purposes, "(1) It defiled the idols with corpses; and (2) it showed the helplessness of the idols."[10]

"And ye shall know that I am Jehovah ..." (Ezekiel 6:7). This expression is found some sixty times in Ezekiel and was the customary way of concluding an oracle or a section of an oracle throughout the prophecy.[11] One finds it in Exodus 7:5; 14:4,18, again demonstrating the familiarity of Ezekiel with the Book of Moses. "The motive for most of God's actions was to bring about the acknowledgment by the nations of his sole power and deity."[12]


Verse 8

"Yet will I leave a remnant, in that ye shall have some that escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries. And those of you that escape shall remember me among the nations, whither they shall be carried captive, how that I have been broken by their lewd heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which play the harlot after their idols; and they shall loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am Jehovah: I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them."

"Yet will I leave a remnant ..." (Ezekiel 6:8). The arbitrary, unsubstantiated, and reckless view of some critics that, "There is no doctrine of a remnant in Ezekiel,"[13] is effectively refuted by this unequivocal declaration of the sacred text; and we are unwilling to allow evil men to re-write the Bible in order to prove their theories.

As Matthew Henry stated it, "It is a preserved remnant and a penitent remnant";[14] and it was in this small remnant who after the exile would find their way back to Judea that the ancient promises to the patriarchs and the coming of Messiah to redeem mankind would eventually be achieved, according to the eternal purpose of God.

Plumptre noted that the thought here regarding the remnant is the same as that in Isaiah 1:9; 10:20; Zephaniah 2:7; 3:13; and Jeremiah 43:5.[15]

"I have been broken by their lewd heart ..." (Ezekiel 6:9). Many scholars agree with the translation of this clause as, "I have broken their whorish heart which hath departed from me."[16] It is never God who is broken by the sins of men, but men themselves I The reference here is to the heart-breaking punishment of apostate Israel; but out of that crushing of a whole nation, there came at last the small residue of a humbled, contrite people, who repented and turned to God.


Verse 11

"Thus saith the Lord, Jehovah: smite with thy hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas. Because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel; for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. He that is far off shall die by the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my wrath upon them. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, on all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the places where they offered sweet savor to all their idols. And I will stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land desolate and waste, from the wilderness toward Diblah, throughout all their habitations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah."

"Smite with thy hand ..." (Ezekiel 6:11). This refers to what is called "clapping the hands." Cook states that it was a well known method of expressing grief.[17] Some understand the hand clapping and stamping here as expressions of Joy on the part of the prophet for God's punishment of Israel, but we prefer the view that they express grief, concern, and sorrow over the impending destruction. Plumptre notes that they appear to have been used to express both emotions.[18]

"Every high hill ... every green tree ... every thick oak ..." (Ezekiel 6:13). "This verse refers to the fertility goddess of Hosea 4:13."[19] This is exactly what Jeremiah was speaking of in Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6,13.

Ezekiel 6:14 carries God's prophecy of destruction for the total land of the Chosen People.

"Diblah ..." (Ezekiel 6:14). This place is unknown, and scholars have attempted to substitute the word Riblah for it; but actually there is no accurate knowledge of where this place was located. It really makes no difference anyway, for the place is usually held to mean that God would destroy Israel "from one end of the country to the other." Some have compared what is said here to the expression, "From Dan to Beersheba." The meaning is clear enough as is.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 6:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ezekiel-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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