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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 11

The Second Cycle—Chapters 8-19

THE second cycle (ch. Ezekiel 8:1 to Ezekiel 19:14) is separated from the first by an interval of a year and two months. The date is here the sixth year after the captivity of Jehoiachin, the sixth month, the fifth day, about five years before the destruction of Jerusalem. A vision here also forms the introduction, a song the close in ch. Ezekiel 19, in the midst of prophetic discourses that elucidate the vision, obviate objections, and form a bridge between it and the mind. The historical starting-point and the tendency also are similar. The prophet here also strives against the political dreams, represents the destruction as inevitable, and points to repentance as the only way of safety.

The vision is here far more comprehensive than in the first cycle. It occupies four whole chapters. It gives a complete representation of the sins of the people; and here accordingly is unfolded what in the first vision is only indicated concerning the punishment. Common to both visions is the delineation of the theophany itself, and in particular the description of the cherubim. The former delineation is supplemented by that here given only in details.

Ch. Ezekiel 8 contains the exposition of the guilt—the delineation of the four abominations of Jerusalem; ch. Ezekiel 9, the first punishment—Jerusalem filled with dead bodies; ch. Ezekiel 10, the second punishment—Jerusalem burnt; ch. Ezekiel 11:1-12, the third—God’s vengeance follows the survivors of the catastrophe. The close consists of comfort for the captives, who are already in exile with Ezekiel, and on whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem proudly look down; of these will God Himself take care, after the total disappointment of all human hopes (vers. Ezekiel 11:13-21). The prophet then sees still (vers. Ezekiel 11:22-23) how the glory of the Lord leaves the temple; and then the ecstasy comes to an end (vers. Ezekiel 11:21, Ezekiel 11:25).

Verses 1-12

Ezekiel 11. In Ezekiel 11:1-12, the third element of the punishment of ungodly Jerusalem,—the vengeance which follows those who save their lives in the taking of the city, especially the ungodly nobles, who by their corrupt counsels had hastened its fall. In Ezekiel 11:13-21, the comfort in face of the threatening destruction, in the background of which stands the admonition not to make common cause with those devoted to inevitable destruction, and thereby involve themselves in their fate. If the present Zion be thus doomed to perish, if all plans are futile which are directed to its preservation, yet is not Zion therefore lost. The Israel of God continues anion ii the exiles. Among them even in their banishment will God’s presence be made known; and in His time He will bring them back to the holy land, restore the sanctuary, and give them, instead of a stony heart, a heart of flesh. In Ezekiel 11:22-25, the close of the vision.

: Ezekiel 11:1-12. And the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the front gate of the Lord’s house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; and I saw in their midst Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. 2. And he said unto me. Son of man, these are the men who devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city; 3. Who say, It is not near to build houses: they are the caldron, and we are the flesh. 4. Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, son of Man_1:5 . And the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and said unto me. Say; Thus saith the Lord, Thus have ye said, O house of Israel; and that which riseth up in your mind I know. 6. Ye have multiplied your slain in the city, and filled its streets with the slain. 7. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and it is the caldron; and one shall bring you forth [58] out of the midst of it. 8. Ye have feared a sword; and a sword will I bring upon you, saith the Lord Jehovah. 9. And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and give you into the hand of strangers, and execute judgments among you. 10. By the sword ye shall fall, in the border of Israel will I judge you; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. 11. This shall not be the caldron for you, and ye shall not be the flesh in the midst of it; in the border of Israel will I judge you. 12. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, who have not walked in my statutes, nor executed my judgments; and ye have done after the judgments of the heathen that are round about you.

[58] הוציא , either infinitive or 3 perf., “one shall bring forth.”

The five and twenty in ch. Ezekiel 8:16 here return; there the transgression, here the punishment. The latter was carried out in ch. Ezekiel 9 only in reference to the seventy of ch. Ezekiel 8:11. An essential element was wanting also in regard to the punishment. The divine vengeance was to come out not merely in the death of the sinful inhabitants within the city, and in the burning of the city; it was to display itself also in those who escaped with life in the taking of the city: comp. ch. Ezekiel 5:2, where it is said, in reference to those who are preserved alive in the catastrophe of the city, “The sword will I draw out after them.” As the representatives of those who suffer punishment in this way appear here the same five and twenty nobles whom the prophet causes to symbolize the sin of the people in ch. Ezekiel 8, the designation of two among the five and twenty, and so indirectly of the whole, as princes of the people in Ezekiel 11:1, shows clearly that priests are not meant, but only respectable citizens. In what follows also they appear as mere statesmen. And the fate which is here predicted for them corresponds exactly with that which, according to history, befell the nobles of the people, the most distinguished officers of Zedekiah. From the east, the region to which they turned in adoration, and whence they had sought help (ch. Ezekiel 8:16), shall the avenging power come. Hence the double designation of the gate—the “front,” and “which looketh eastward.” In the names of the men themselves, and their fathers, we have the concentration of these thoughts: all is full of music with them. God-hears, the son of the helper, and God-helps, the son of God-builds—these are fit names for men who promise salvation without repentance, the direct opposite of that which the name of Jeremiah, God-casts-down, presents. They were probably real nobles of that time, whose counsels had weight with the king; but on account of their significance he gives their names precisely, whereas he might otherwise have named others as well. Jaazaniah is here, by the name of his father, distinguished from him of ch. Ezekiel 8:11. The more threatening the contraction of the political sky, the stronger would be the tendency, by the choice of a name promising salvation for their children, to repel anxiety and soothe the conscience, which presented to view the opposite of this name. “He said” ( Ezekiel 11:2): he who stands so constantly before the eyes of the prophets, that they often introduce him speaking without any previous notice. “The men who devise mischief or evil:” their plans of resistance, formed in perverse opposition to the will of God, so repeatedly and emphatically announced by Jeremiah; their political intrigues, where repentance ought to have been exhibited, bring incalculable death and destruction ( Ezekiel 11:6). “It is not time to build houses” ( Ezekiel 11:3): Jeremiah had written to the exiles excited by political hopes (ch. Jeremiah 29:5), “Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant vineyards, and eat.” This, they think, cannot at all events apply to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They first negative the building of houses which exile implies, and then affirm that they will maintain themselves in their present possession. The words may also be taken interrogatively; and then the princes, in the face of the destruction threatened by the men of God, would say. Is it not nigh to build houses? the time soon comes when Jerusalem shall be extended beyond its present boundary; comp. Isaiah 9:10, where the inhabitants of Samaria, after suffering heavy losses, say, “The bricks are fallen, but we will build with hewn stones.” But it is not the most natural way to view it as a question, and hence the note of interrogation should not in that case have been wanting. The name Benaiah would certainly in that case suit still better. “It is the caldron, and we are the flesh:” this denotes their inseparable connection with the city, from which no man shall sever them, nothing remove them. The interpretation, We shall soon be baked by the fire of war, is refuted by Ezekiel 11:7, according to which the sense can only be, that they expect to remain in the city. Son of man: this comes in Ezekiel 11:4 with a certain irony. The concealed elevation of the prophet is not recognised by the many above his apparent lowliness, but it appears afterwards above the head of these. The pierced, in Ezekiel 11:6, are those about to be slain by the Chaldeans, or, according to the point of view assumed, already slain. They are, by their evil counsels ( Ezekiel 11:2), the authors of their own death. Their word, “It is the caldron, and we are the flesh,” is, according to Ezekiel 11:7, to receive by the sequel a certain but a terrible confirmation. “Your slain, whom ye have laid in the midst of it:” they were the real murderers, because by their impious devices they brought in the Chaldeans. “One shall bring you forth:” this is, in the first place, opposed to their hope of remaining in the city; they shall rather be brought forth. Then in the following words it is added, that this bringing forth takes place not in a friendly sense, but only to prolong their suffering. God’s avenging sword pursues the exiles. Ezekiel 11:8. From fear of the sword (of the king of Babylon), they had kindled the fire of rebellion, and pushed their resistance to the utmost, when he advanced to punish this rebellion; but the very effort they make for fear of the sword will bring the sword upon them, which they would have escaped by humble submission under the mighty hand of God, as Jeremiah had predicted. The king of Egypt will not deliver them, with the whole confederacy that has gathered around him as its centre. On Ezekiel 11:10 we may comp. 2 Kings 25:18-21. After the capture of the city the most distinguished officers and notables were brought to Riblah on the Orontes, at the north end of Coelesyria, before Nebuchadnezzar, and there put to death by his command. The king of Babylon, it is said ( Jeremiah 39:6, Jeremiah 52:10), slew all the princes of Judah at Riblah. Behind the king of Babylon the Lord is concealed, whose servant Jeremiah declares Nebuchadnezzar to be (ch. Jeremiah 25:9). The prophecy cannot be framed after the event: Ezekiel laid his book before his contemporaries, who had the power to control him. And the guarantee for the predictions, which were fulfilled in the lifetime of the prophet, lies in those which were fulfilled long after his death. But the confidence with which Ezekiel predicts the downfall of the confederacy is a sufficient proof that there is a supernatural element in his prophecy; and if this must be admitted, we can make no further objection to the details. To pronounce these to be afterwards introduced by the prophet, is to degrade him into a deceiver. “And ye shall know that I am the Lord” ( Ezekiel 11:12): they know from the fate that befalls them, that He who is called Jehovah is Jehovah in reality, the possessor of true Godhead, because He has announced this fate to them beforehand by His prophets. Had the confederacy taken effect, which was impossible, they would have concluded with justice, that the God in whose name the true prophets spoke, merely arrogated to Himself the Godhead. It is lamentable if we must gain the knowledge of God by our own destruction,—if He in whom we live, and move, and are, is first recognised by the strokes which break our own head. The knowledge has here, moreover, no moral import. It is a mere passive knowledge, forced upon the ungodly, unconnected with repentance.

Verses 13-21

Ezekiel 11:13. And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died: and I fell upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said. Ah Lord Jehovah! dost thou make an end of the remnant of Israel? 14. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 15. Son of man, thy brethren, thy brethren are the men of thy ransom, and all the house of Israel, all of them to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said. Get ye far from the Lord; unto us is this land given for a possession. [59] 16. Therefore say. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Though I have cast them far off among the heathen, and scattered them among the countries, yet I will be to them a sanctuary for a little in the countries whither they come. 17. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will gather you from the nations, and assemble you out of the countries where ye were scattered, and give you the land of Israel. 18. And they shall come thither, and remove all its detestable things, and all its abominations, from it. 19. And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within you; and I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh; 20. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21. And when their heart walks after the heart of their detestable things and abominations, I will lay their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord Jehovah. [60]

[59] Luther, “Thou son of man, thy brothers and near friends, and the whole house of Israel, who still dwell in Jerusalem, say to one another, Those have fled far from the Lord, but we have the land in possession.” The sense of the whole verse is missed.

[60] A fuller elucidation of this section in the Christol. ii. p. 534 f.

The event of Ezekiel 11:13 belongs to the world not of reality, but of vision, and affords the measure for judging of many other events occurring in Ezekiel; for ex., the death of his wife. What was hitherto predicted as future, this now suddenly appears in the form of a fact entering into the present. The transition is the easier, when we reflect that the previous announcement of the future as future does not spring from a subjective foreboding, but rests upon inspiration, and thus bears with it an absolute assurance. That out of the number of the five and twenty men collectively devoted to death, precisely Pelatiah the son of Benaiah must die, to prefigure the fate awaiting all, is explained by his name, according to which with him, as it were, all salvation for Judah fell to the ground. In Pelatiah perished, as the lamentation of the prophet shows, as it were, the remnant of Israel, if, according to the view of the inhabitants, the capital was deemed the proper seat of Israel, and the exiles were regarded as cast-off and withered branches. That this view was false, however, the prophet will teach in the sequel. The prophet, when he falls down and cries, “Ah, Lord, dost Thou make an end of the remnant of Israel?” does not give expression merely to his personal feelings, but changes his place in a strange way (compare a series of similar cases in the prophets; Christol. i. p. 490 f.), and appears as the representative of the current view, to give occasion for its rectification. He himself could not possibly, according to Jeremiah 24, be involved in the view which he here brings to light. He plays the part of the inhabitant of Jerusalem. The brethren of the prophets ( Ezekiel 11:15), true brethren, who are so not merely in the flesh, but also in the spirit, represent the Israelites already carried into exile, whom Jeremiah in ch. Jeremiah 24 had characterized as the better part of the people—as those to whom the future of the kingdom of God belongs; while he announces that those who remained in Jerusalem, notwithstanding their high pretensions, are doomed to destruction. The contrast is naturally such in every particular. If this were not acknowledged, Jeremiah would be no true Israelite. According to ch. Jeremiah 9, even in Jerusalem there is an election, which is the object of the Lord’s sheltering protection, although they cannot prevent the downfall of the corrupt city. And according to ch. Jeremiah 14 there is also much refuse among the exiles. The difference, so far as it exists, is explained by this, that the Chaldeans, who were well acquainted with the internal state of the Jews, had, in the captivity under Jehoiachin, removed chiefly the holders of the Israelitish principle, because they saw in them the national strength of the people. Moreover, the godly met death willingly and joyfully, as it was, according to the announcement of Jeremiah, the portal of life; whereas the ungodly did their utmost to remain in their country, in the hope that things would soon take a turn for the better. “The men of thy ransom”—those whom thou art bound to ransom. This alludes to Leviticus 25:25, where to the relative of an impoverished man the right is given to redeem in his favour his estate that has been sold. In point of fact, the men of his ransom are those for whom the prophet has to be answerable—whom he has to represent with God. The ground on which he is to interest himself only in them is added in the words, “and (they are) all the house of Israel,” from which that rebellious mass in Jerusalem, according to the word of the Mosaic law, “that soul is cut off from his people,” is, notwithstanding its high claims, excluded. We have here the parallel to Psalms 73:1, “God is only good to Israel, to such as are clean of heart,” in opposition to a merely seeming Israel,—the fundamental passage for John 1:47, where Jesus speaks of those who are Israelites indeed, and thus, as Luther says, “divides the people into two parts;” and also for Romans 2:28-29, and Romans 9:6. In the distinction of appearance and reality among God’s people, Jeremiah was before Ezekiel, since in ch. Ezekiel 7:4 he addresses the people in Jerusalem thus: “Trust ye not in lying words, saying. The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these”—the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The temple of the Lord, which comes into account not as an external building, but as the community of the living God ( 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:9), corresponds to Israel here. It is a false pretension of the inhabitant of Jerusalem to be the temple of the Lord: the necessary requisite is wanting in them, the circumcision of the heart, its purification from ungodly movements, which is the indispensable condition of the dwelling of God among His people. The words, “unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said. Get ye far from the Lord, unto us is this land given for a possession,” refer to a strange delusion by which the inhabitants of Jerusalem are held captive. Even those excluded from Israel dispute with the true Israelites every claim to be Israel. This they do, because they estimate the grace of God according to the external event of the moment. The exiles, they think, are condemned of God; but on their way God has impressed His seal, inasmuch as He has left them in their native land, where they expect soon to reach the summit. Thereby they show how inexperienced they are in the ways of God, how far they are from having the heart of true Israelites, how little they deserve that the prophet should take an interest in them. Can they prosper who have severed themselves so decidedly from the brotherhood of the pious? In opposition to this exclusive judgment of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Lord promises the exiles first, that He will Himself be their sanctuary during the comparatively short period of their banishment. [61] The essence of the sanctuary is the presence of the Lord among His people. This is evident even from the name which the external sanctuary bore in its oldest form, “the tent of meeting,” the place where God met with His people. See other proofs on Psalms 73:17, John 2:19. This essence remains also to the exiles, while the citizens of the capital possess only the empty shell of the external sanctuary, to which is wanting the proper substance, the real presence of the Lord, “with His help and grace.” The sanctuary stands in Isaiah 8:14, as here, in a purely spiritual sense. There Jehovah is for a sanctuary to the God-fearing; He gladdens them by His presence in the midst of them. The Lord made Himself known to the exiles as the sanctuary, by furnishing our prophet, for example, with His spirit and His power, so that he could officiate as a true priest, notwithstanding his local separation from the external sanctuary: then by that which took place in and through Daniel, by the circumcision of their heart, etc. But even the inferior privilege of which they are deprived, to which “for a little” points, is not removal for ever: in the near future will they receive again the form in addition to the essence of the sanctuary. The new speech of the Lord in Ezekiel 11:17 begins with and, to represent it as the continuation of the former, to which it would have been immediately annexed, had not this portion of the comforting announcement to be introduced by a new asseveration, which is here the more necessary, as it treats of matters which, estimated by a human standard, were impossible. Ezekiel 11:19 promises, instead of the stony heart, a heart of flesh, soft and susceptible of the impressions of divine grace. The promise is essentially Messianic, although a beginning of its fulfilment is already to be recognised in the period immediately after the return from the exile. With the promise goes ( Ezekiel 11:21) a threatening hand in hand, and in this the whole terminates in a remarkable way; but woe to the hypocrites and rebels among them! Even among the new covenant people is a gloomy declension, a new carcase, which summons again the eagles. Their heart walks after the heart of their idols: the idols are in themselves dead, the mere reflexes and images of the popular spirit; yet even as such they exercise an enormous power over individuals. What power has mammon now as a Jewish national god over Jewish minds, although he is in himself a mere shadow!

[61] As מקדש is the stat. absol., מעט can only be an adverb. It stands, “often of time, a little, a short time.”

Verses 22-25

Ezekiel 11:22-25. And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. 23. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east of the city. 24. And a spirit took me up, and brought me to the Chaldeans, to the captivity in vision by the Spirit of God: and the vision that I had seen went up from me. 25. And I spake to the captivity all the words of the Lord which he showed me.—In Ezekiel 11:22-23, the departure of the glory of the Lord from the temple and the city, that are doomed to ruin. This could only come down upon it when God had withdrawn His presence ( Hosea 5:15, “I will go and return to my place”). Here the glory of the Lord does not immediately betake itself to its place: it stands first on the Mount of Olives, to conduct the approaching siege of Jerusalem, and preside over its destruction. In Zechariah 14:4 also the Mount of Olives appears as a military post, which the Lord as general assumes. On the Mount of Olives the Saviour announces the destruction of Jerusalem ( Matthew 24:3). The Mount of Olives, 2556 feet high, 175 feet higher than Zion, 416 feet higher than the valley of the Kidron, is the master-point in reference to Jerusalem, which is overlooked from it in its whole extent. The vision goes up ( Ezekiel 11:24); it returns, as it were, to Him who gave it: comp. Acts 10:16, where the vessel that had presented itself in the vision of Peter is again received up into heaven.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 11". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-11.html.