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Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 15

Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral EpistlesFairbairn's Commentaries

Verses 1-8

CHAPTER 15.

THE GUILT AND CONDEMNATION OF ISRAEL PARABOLICALLY REPRESENTED.

Ezekiel 15:1 . And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying,

Ezekiel 15:2 . Son of man, what is the vine-tree more than any tree (or, the vine-wood more than any wood), the branch that is among the trees of the forest?

Ezekiel 15:3 . Shall wood be taken of it to do any work? or will they take a pin from it to hang thereon any vessel?

Ezekiel 15:4 . Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel; the two ends of it are burnt by the fire; and its middle part is on flame. Is it fit for any work?

Ezekiel 15:5 . Behold, when it was entire, it did not serve for work; how much less when the fire has devoured of it, and it is on flame. Is it still to be taken for any work?

Ezekiel 15:6 . Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, As the vine-wood among the wood of the forest, which I have given for fuel to the fire, so have I given the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 15:7 . And I set my face against them; from the fire they go out, and the fire still devours them; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah when I set my face against them.

Ezekiel 15:8 . And I make the land a desolation, because they have acted most treacherously, saith the Lord Jehovah.

THIS chapter is so closely related to the following, that the one may be regarded as a kind of introduction to the other. It represents briefly, and by way of parable, what Ezekiel 16:0 exhibits at length, and with all the minuteness of historical detail. The subject of both alike is the inveterate and incorrigible wickedness of the covenant-people in its two branches, Israel and Judah, which had defeated the ends of their high calling, and rendered them obnoxious to the severest penalties.

In this introductory chapter the prophet begins with asking, “What is the vine-tree more than any tree the branch that is among the trees of the forest?” The point of comparison lies in the wood belonging respectively to the vine and the forest- trees, what is the vine-wood more than any forest-wood? In this respect it has nothing to entitle it to any pre-eminence above the others, but quite the reverse; it is inferior to them all. Its soft and brittle nature renders it unfit for being made into any useful implements, even of the most common kind; not so much as a pin can be made from it; it is fit only for fuel to the fire. Such were the chosen people of God, if viewed simply as a people of this world, who had no longer any peculiar connection with the higher purposes of the Divine government. They have often been compared to the vine, and sometimes even to vines of the choicest kind (Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 5:0; Psalms 80:0; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1), but always with respect to the fruitful qualities of the vine, as significant of the prolific goodness that ought to have been found in them, as the people whom God had chosen. Destitute of this, what were they better than others? Nay, in respect of those things which constitute the natural greatness of kingdoms, antiquity of origin, extent of territory, abundance of resources, attainments in arts and science, what could they boast of, in comparison of Egypt, Ethiopia, Babylon, and the greater kingdoms of the earth! Their inferiority was palpable; and whenever they lost their distinction as the nation that kept the truth of God, and wrought righteousness in the earth, they were no longer capable of holding a place of power and influence in the destinies of the world. On the contrary, like salt that had lost its savour, they had become fit only to be cast out, or committed as a piece of vine-wood to the fire.

Such is the representation here given of the covenant-people as a whole, considered even in their state of undiminished fulness and noontide glory. But they were far from being in that state when Ezekiel wrote; and in Ezekiel 15:4-5 he modifies this description of the worthless vine, so as exactly to suit their case: “Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel; the fire has consumed both the ends of it, and its middle part is on flame. Is it (viz. the scorched part that still remains) fit for work? Behold, when it was entire, it did not serve for work; how much less when the fire has devoured of it, and it is on flame, shall it still be taken for work!” The allusion is to the impoverished and reduced state of the covenant-people; it was with them as if the two ends were already consumed in the fire, and the middle portion that remained also very severely scorched. The ten tribes had been carried away into Assyria, and the nation, not large or powerful at the best, had been brought to the brink of ruin; they existed only as a brand plucked from the burning, or rather with the fire still kindling around them. Therefore, if incapable on merely natural grounds, and in respect to purposes of an inferior kind, of coping with other kingdoms, they were immeasurably more so now; and it might be evident, even to the most careless and unreflecting, that they were in danger of complete destruction. “And I set my face against them; from the fire they go out, and the fire still devours them; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah when I set my face against them. And I make the land a desolation, because they have acted most treacherously, saith the Lord.”

The parable indicates, in a very striking manner, the strictly moral nature of the ends for which God chooses a people out of the world, and teaches them to expect in immediate connection with these all their security, and power, and glory. It is the same truth, only applied to other times and altered circumstances, which is brought out by John the Baptist, when he says in regard to the approaching work and kingdom of Messiah: “And now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” The same also which our Lord himself taught in the parables of the wicked husbandmen and of the fruitless fig-tree in the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-41; Luke 13:6-9), and which he still further embodied in the parabolical action of the cursing of the fruitless fig-tree by the way-side (Mark 11:12-14). The truth, therefore, is for all times and stages of the Church’s history. It matters not that her members are now intermingled with the world, and not, as of old, placed in a state of visible separation and distance from it. They still are a chosen seed, distinguished with the highest privileges and most elevating hopes, but all for the single end of withdrawing them from the pollutions of the world, and rendering them to God a peculiar people, zealous of good works. If they only pursue after this high end with undeviating purpose and steady aim, they shall be found full of the favour and strong in the might of God; they shall successfully contend with principalities and powers, and will prove themselves the appointed channels of conveying life and blessing to a perishing world. But if they are themselves drawing back to the ways of corruption; if they begin to breathe the spirit of the world, and do its works, as they must be of all men the most guilty, so are they also the most sure to inherit the woes of condemnation. They oppose and frustrate the very end for which they have been called to the enjoyment of such distinguished privileges, and so belong to the unhappy class of whom our Lord has said, that it shall “be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for them.”

Having prepared the way, by the parabolical delineation of the fifteenth chapter, the prophet proceeds, in the long historical detail of the next chapter, to make application of its principles to Israel. In this ideal narrative the covenant-people are personified as a single individual, the daughter Jerusalem, under the image of whose life the most vivid picture is presented of the history of God’s connection with them, and their behaviour toward him.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 15". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/ezekiel-15.html.
 
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