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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 9

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


2. The coming slaughter of the wicked Jerusalemites ch. 9

Verse 1

In his vision Ezekiel heard the Lord (cf. Ezekiel 9:4) cry out loudly for the executioners (guards), who would punish the people of Jerusalem, to draw near to Him with their weapons in hand. The Lord had predicted that the people would cry out to Him for mercy with a loud voice (Ezekiel 8:18), but first He cried out against them in judgment with a loud voice. Though these executioners looked like men, they appear to have been angels in view of what they proceeded to do. Evidently Ezekiel’s position at this time was in the inner temple courtyard, and the Lord spoke from inside the temple structure (cf. Ezekiel 9:3).

Verse 2

Six men entered the inner courtyard from the north (upper; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 8:14) gate each with a lethal weapon in his hand (cf. Jeremiah 51:20). A seventh man dressed in linen also approached with them, and he had a writing kit of the type that scribes used attached to his waist.

"This writing kit usually was made from an animal horn. It had a palette with a slot for pens and a hollow place for two kinds of ink, usually black and red. Professional scribes usually carried this kind of equipment." [Note: Cooper, pp. 126-27. Cf. Allen, p. 147.]

In other passages people who were divine messengers wore linen (cf. Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7; Revelation 15:6), and this was the role of these men. Priests also wore linen (Exodus 28:39-42; 1 Samuel 2:18; 1 Samuel 22:18), and they too were divine messengers. They entered the inner courtyard and stood by the brazen altar. Their number, seven, often signified a complete work of God to the Jews, as in the seven days of creation. These seven would carry out God’s work of judgment completely.

Verse 3

Ezekiel then saw the glory of God (probably personified, cf. Ezekiel 8:2) move from the cherub (probably a collective singular for cherubim, the cherubim in the courtyard, Ezekiel 10:3) to the threshold (main entrance) of the temple building.

"The departure of the glory of the Lord from Israel is one of the basic disclosures of this prophetic book, so Ezekiel traces it very carefully in its different stages (cf. Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18-19; [Ezekiel 11:23;] Ezekiel 43:2-5)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 55.]

Ezekiel also heard the Lord call to the man with the scribe’s inkhorn.

Verse 4

The Lord instructed this man to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on everyone who expressed grief over the abominations that existed in Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 14:1). The mark distinguished the godly from the wicked (cf. Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:13; Joshua 2). Some expositors believed that this individual was the Angel of the Lord, the preincarnate Christ, because of his prominence among these messengers and because of what he did (cf. Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:6-7). [Note: Ibid.] There is no way to prove or disprove this theory. Most interpreters believe he was an angel.

"There was special significance to the ’mark’ used for the purpose. The word ’mark’ is the Hebrew word taw, which is the name of the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It may have been understood as an abbreviation for tam, ’blameless.’ In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. the taw of Paleo-Hebrew script was written like an X or sloped cross." [Note: Cooper, p. 127.]

"Ezekiel, of course, could not have thought of Christian symbolism nor is the passage a direct prediction of Christ’s cross. It is a remarkable coincidence, however." [Note: Feinberg, p. 56.]

"This is one of the many examples where the Hebrew prophets spoke better than they knew." [Note: H. L. Ellison, Ezekiel: The Man and His Message, p. 44. See Block, The Book . . ., pp. 310-14, for an extensive discussion of the taw on the forehead.]

Verses 5-6

Ezekiel also heard the Lord instruct the six other men to go through the city after the man with the writing case and slay everyone who did not have the special mark on him or her. They were to start from the temple and show no mercy to any individual who lacked the mark. So these six men began their assignment with the elders of Jerusalem who were in front of the temple (cf. Ezekiel 8:11). Judgment started with those closest to God, as it typically must (1 Peter 4:17; cf. Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2; Hebrews 13:17).

Verse 7

The Lord directed these executioners to go out into the city. They were even to slay people in the temple courtyards, though by doing so they defiled the temple (made it ritually unclean; cf. Numbers 19:11; 1 Kings 13:2; 2 Kings 23:16). Justice was more important than ritual cleanliness. The six men proceeded to carry out their duty (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:17-19).

Verse 8

Ezekiel saw that these men were slaying everyone in the temple area and that he alone remained alive. So he prostrated himself before the Lord and prayed earnestly for mercy. Would the Lord destroy even the faithful remnant of Israel in His devastating judgment of the city (cf. Genesis 18:22-33; Amos 7:1-6)? Clearly Ezekiel felt deeply for his people, sinful though they were.

Verse 9

The Lord replied that the wickedness of the Israelites was extremely great (cf. Exodus 23:2). Bloodshed and perversion filled the land because the people had concluded that the Lord had abandoned them and would not see and take action regardless of what they did. Awareness that God sees us restrains people from sinning, but belief that He does not see us leads to flagrant sinning.

Verse 10

Yahweh promised to have no pity and to spare none of them from destruction but to bring the consequences of their actions back on their own heads. He had not abandoned His people, but He knew their wickedness and would punish them for it (cf. Ezekiel 8:18). They thought He did not see (Ezekiel 9:9), but His eye was upon them.

Verse 11

The man with the inkhorn returned to the Lord and reported that he had carried out his assignment as instructed. There were some that he was able to mark, and they remained alive. This was the faithful remnant that was a very small group at this time (cf. Romans 9:27-29; Romans 11:4-5).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ezekiel-9.html. 2012.
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