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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Ezekiel 11

Verse 1

THE DEPARTURE OF GOD'S GLORY

This chapter concludes the section of Ezekiel 8-11 with the departure of God's glory. That momentous event is recorded in the last paragraph of the chapter; and prior to that there are recorded two very important messages: (1) for those remaining in Jerusalem, and (2) for the exiles in Babylon, in Ezekiel 11:1-13, and in Ezekiel 11:14-25 respectively.

Howie expressed a view held by some that, "This is not a continuation of the vision that began in Ezekiel 8, but another vision is included here because of its content."[1] We reject this altogether; because, (1) there has been no record thus far in these chapters of Ezekiel's having been transported back to the Chebar; (2) when he was transported back to the Chebar, the elders were still waiting there for his vision to end and for the explanation of it that Ezekiel then shared with them; and (3) the dramatic double message of these first 21 verses was extremely pertinent to Ezekiel's ability to answer the questions of the elders that had brought them to Ezekiel in the first place.

These reasons, which to us seem unanswerable, entitle us to receive this whole chapter as the concluding section of these four chapters describing Ezekiel's vision-journey to Jerusalem.

The practical divisions of the chapter are:

(1) God's Spirit takes Ezekiel to the outer eastern gate of the temple where he sees a group of twenty-five men, apparently the and governmental leaders of the nation, two of whom are named (Ezekiel 11:1-2);

(2) their light-hearted parable reflecting their false sense of security is turned around upon them and made to reflect a prophecy of their doom (Ezekiel 11:3-12);

(3) Ezekiel's vision is confirmed by the sudden death of Pelatiah (Ezekiel 11:13);

(4) God comforted the exiles with a message of blessing and protection, recognizing them as the "righteous remnant," actually, the "true Israel of God," thus completely negating the claims of the crooked leaders in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 11:14-21);

(5) God's glory is forever separated from the secular temple of Israel (Ezekiel 11:22-23); and

(6) God's Spirit transports Ezekiel back to his residence on the Chebar in Babylon where the elders are still there waiting to hear his message.

Ezekiel 11:1-2

"Moreover the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of Jehovah's house, which looketh eastward: and behold, by the door of the gate five and twenty men; and I saw in the midst of them Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. And he said unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise iniquity, and that give wicked counsel in this city."

The mention of Jaazaniah and Pelatiah in that group of twenty-five men, along with their designation as "princes of the people" leads to the conclusion that all of these men were governmental and leaders of the people. The particular meaning of the four proper names in 1 was given by Plumptre. Jaazaniah means God hearkens; Azzur means The Helper, Pelatiah means God rescues, and Benaiah means God builds.[2] It has been suggested that the reason behind the giving of these names was to show the contrast between what their names meant and the wickedness of their counsel. Jaazaniah is distinguished from other persons with that name. We have no further information about either one of them beyond what is given here.

Verse 3

"They say, the time is not near to build houses: this city is the caldron, and we are the flesh. Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy O son of man."

The understanding of this is difficult. The best versions of the Bible render the verse differently. They say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh (KJV).

Is not the time near to build houses? this city is the caldron and we are the flesh (ASV margin).

We will soon be building houses again. The city is like a cooking pot, and we are like the meat in it, but at least it protects us from the fire (the Good News Bible).

Will it not soon be time to build houses? The city is a cooking pot, and we are the meat (NIV).

Saying, Were not houses lately built? This city is the caldron, and we the flesh (Douay Version).

Houses have been recently rebuilding; all is well! The city is a cauldron, and we are the flesh, safe inside in it. (Moffatt's Translation).

These versions and translations are enough to show how general is the uncertainty about what is actually said here. It will be noticed that some have taken great liberties with the text, even introducing thoughts in no way connected with it.

Beasley-Murray accepted the ASV margin, and accepted the thought as opposed to the prophetic warnings and a support for Jerusalem's false sense of security.[3] Bruce also preferred the ASV marginal rendition, stating that the false leaders here claimed security, normality, and their expectation of a long residency in Jerusalem.[4]

The learned opinions of scholars like Bruce and Beasley-Murray are impressive, but their weakness rests in the fact that the Hebrew text simply does not fit such interpretations; and therefore we favor the view of Keil.

Keil took the view that the `house-building' referred to here is a reference to Jeremiah's instructions (Jeremiah 29:5), making the words here a brazen attempt to contradict Jeremiah's instructions to the exiles. This would give a meaning like this: "House-building in exile is a long way off. It will not come to this; Jerusalem will not fall into the hands of the king of Babylon."[5]

Whatever the false leaders were saying in Jerusalem, we are certain that their policies, their advice to the people and their false sense of security were all extremely wicked.

The meaning of their proverb about the caldron and the flesh in it seems to be clear enough. They fancied themselves to be the meat, preserved and safe in the pot, at the same time falsely imputing to the exiles the status of the excess liquor already poured out of the caldron.

The remaining Jews in Jerusalem at that time, following their wicked leaders looked upon themselves as "the true and only Israel." They alone were in God's land; all others, including the exiles, were out of it for ever. They no longer counted. The Jerusalemites alone had access to the Temple and its sacred services. They detested and despised the exiles, supposing that God no longer cared for them, and they thought that they alone were the heirs of the promises to the patriarchs. It was the horrible unjustness and arrogance of such views that had reached the exiles; and it was that very problem that had brought the elders to the house of Ezekiel at the beginning of this section in chapter 8.

The very next few verses here will present the situation as it really was, namely, that the exiles were the "true Israel," and that the Jerusalemites were doomed to utter destruction, except for a few who would be added to the remnant in Babylon.

Verse 5

"And the Spirit of Jehovah fell upon me, and he said unto me, Speak. Thus saith Jehovah: Thus have ye said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind. Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron; but ye shall be brought forth out of the midst of it. Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring the sword upon you, saith the Lord Jehovah. And I will bring ye forth out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you. Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah; for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither have ye executed mine ordinances, but have done after the ordinances of the nations that are round about you."

"Speak, Thus saith Jehovah ..." (Ezekiel 11:5). We believe that Cooke is correct in his understanding that Ezekiel, "While still in his trance received the inspiration to prophesy the words of this paragraph in the very presence of the elders who were present in Ezekiel's house."[6] In view of the attitude of the Jerusalemites toward their brothers in captivity, the words must have provided great comfort and encouragement to the elders who had sought counsel from Ezekiel.

"Your slain ... they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron ..." (Ezekiel 11:7). "Their proverbial phrase about the flesh and the caldron undergoes a gruesome change in the usage of it here by Ezekiel. It is not the false leaders but their victims who are the real elite of the city and who deserve to be cherished within the holy city."[7] A moment later, the prophet added the words, "This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof" (Ezekiel 11:11). The brutal fact was that all of the citizens who would survive the vengeance of the Babylonians' campaign against Zedekiah would be deported. Their expectancy of a long residency in Jerusalem was a vain and hopeless fantasy.

Taylor interpreted this remark as being the equivalent of a declaration that, "The only good Jerusalemites are the dead Jerusalemites!"[8]

"Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel ... I will judge you in the border of Israel ..." (Ezekiel 11:10-11). The prophecy is doubled for emphasis. Those false leaders of the arrogant Jerusalemites will be slain by the sword, far away from their fancied security in Jerusalem. "Over seventy of those captured with the fall of Zedekiah were judged and executed by Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah (in Hamath) on the far northern border of Israel, where Nebuchadnezzar had set up his headquarters (2 Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 52:24-27)."[9] What a remarkable fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy this proved to be!

Keil commented here that, "The wicked men who boasted of their security in Jerusalem would not find security, either in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel; but they would be led out of the land by their enemies and slaughtered in the border of Palestine."[10]; Jeremiah 52:9-10 records the judgment of those Jerusalem leaders by Nebuchadnezzar, and his slaughter of them at Riblah in Hamath.

Verse 13

"And it came to pass when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord Jehovah! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?"

DEATH OF PELATIAH

Eichrodt has the following perceptive paragraph regarding this startling event.

Ezekiel still in his vision-journey to Jerusalem, and still uttering his inspired prophecy of the doom of the city and of the destruction of its evil leaders, suddenly saw in his vision Pelatiah fall down dead! The simplicity of the wording makes it plain that both the death and the despairing cry that it wrung from the prophet were part of the vision that Ezekiel experienced. It is equally impossible to deny that there would have been no sense in writing an account like this if it had not been verified, not long afterward, when the news came to Tel Abib of Pelatiah's sudden death in Jerusalem, giving staggering proof that the prophet's words were already being fulfilled.[11]

"The narrative here gives us to understand that the death of Pelatiah in Jerusalem occurred at the very moment when Ezekiel (in his vision) saw it happen in Babylon."[12]

"Wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel ..." (Ezekiel 11:13)? The same dreadful thought came to Ezekiel here that had once before come to him in chapter 9:8. Apparently, Ezekiel was still laboring under the delusion that, in spite of all God had already told him, the "righteous remnant" would be found, partially at least, in the city of Jerusalem. Not so. Ezekiel's words here suggest that, "He had forgotten all the grounds of hope, still thinking, perhaps, that the "real Israel" somehow, just had to be in Jerusalem."[13]

Upon this second occasion of Ezekiel's fear that the remnant might perish, "He received comforting assurance that the exiles would be spared and restored, while the people in Jerusalem who had despised them would perish."[14] It should be remembered that the elders of the exiled Israel in Babylon were hearing every word of this.

Verse 14

"And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel, all of them, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from Jehovah; unto us is this land given for a possession. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Whereas I have removed them far off among the nations, and whereas I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them a sanctuary for a little while in the countries where they are come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel."

The mention of Ezekiel's brethren in Ezekiel 11:15 is clarified so as to leave no doubt that the exiles are meant. The true Israel are identified in Ezekiel 11:15 as distinguished from the dwellers in Jerusalem. They are the despised exiles.

"Get you far from Jehovah, this land is given to us for a possession ..." (Ezekiel 11:15). What an arrogant, cruel, selfish people were the Jerusalemites. They were willing to write off as lost forever the deported thousands who had already been removed from Jerusalem. They had preempted for themselves the lands and houses and wealth of the exiles, and are here represented as saying to the exiles, "God is through with you!" How wrong they were.

Ezekiel's temptation to look for the "true Israel" in Jerusalem instead of among the exiles, "Sprang from the common tendency of people to judge God's kingdom upon the basis of externalities. Those in Jerusalem were wealthier; they had tradition on their side; they still had the impressive temple, etc.; and men today, no less than then, are tempted to seek the truth in the same manner, where the externals are most impressive, where wealth and tradition flourish, etc."[15]

"Far from having become outcasts, the exiles had now become the true Israel of God."[16] In the light of this, Ezekiel is here instructed that his principal concern must be with the Babylonian exiles, and not with any events whatsoever in Jerusalem.

"A sanctuary for a little while ..." (Ezekiel 11:16). Cooke is sure that this should be rendered "a sanctuary in small measure, because the reference is to degree, rather than to time."[17]

Israel was indeed restored to Palestine, and a token fulfillment of the glorious promises in the following verses actually occurred; but the complete fulfillment did not take place at all in the secular history of Israel. "The more complete fulfillment appears in the Church of Christ (Galatians 6:16), and in the Jerusalem which is above (Galatians 4:26)."[18]

Verse 18

"And they shall come thither and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord Jehovah."

As already noted, this paragraph was never fully realized by the racial Israel, the ultimate fulfillment of it being achieved in the Messianic kingdom. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel gave definite and reassuring promises of the New Covenant which God would make with Israel "in those days," that is, in the days of the Messiah. "The full realization of what was promised here can only be understood in the light of the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the day of Pentecost."[19]

God's ultimate blessing of the New Israel, exclusively identified with the Church of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, would come under the New Dispensation, in the days of the Messianic kingdom. "Right here in this paragraph is the germ of that ultimate development, which Ezekiel would more fully explain in chapters 40-48."[20]

"I will put a new spirit within you ... I will take the stony heart out ... and will give them a heart of flesh ..." (Ezekiel 11:19). "In Jesus' interview with Nicodemus (John 3), he stated that Nicodemus should have known the truth of the new birth. But where is this truth stated? It is here in Ezekiel 11:19."[21]

"But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of detestable things ..." (Ezekiel 11:21). It should always be remembered that this promise of the exiles' return to Canaan was not given, "as an irrevocable, unconditional promise, but it was contingent upon their obedient behavior."[22]

Verse 22

"Then did the cherubim lift up their wings, and the wheels were beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of Jehovah went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. And the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that Jehovah had showed me."

It is not stated here that the glory of God went to Babylon, but that it stood over the Mount of Olives. The Jews have a tradition that it remained there three years pleading with Israel to repent, which they refused to do, and then departed. At any rate, "The emblem of God's presence left the city, leaving it to its fate."[23] "God had abandoned his sanctuary and his city."[24]

As Taylor noted, "Those elders who had been waiting all this time, during Ezekiel's vision-journey to Jerusalem, now had a lot to listen to."[25] However, we should not forget that they had the privilege of hearing part of Ezekiel's message directly.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 11". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/ezekiel-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.