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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 2

The First Cycle—Chapters 1-7

THE first cycle of the predictions of the prophet embraces ch. Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 7:27. A sublime vision forms the introduction. To this prophetic discourses are appended which serve to explain the vision. At the close in ch. Ezekiel 7 a song.

Verses 1-2

First, a prefatory narrative. Ch. Ezekiel 2:1: “And he said unto me. Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. 2. And the Spirit entered into me when He spake unto me, and set me upon my feet; and I heard Him that spake unto me.”

“Son of man:” so he calls him, remarks Rashi, that his spirit might not be puffed up by this vision. But such an acceptation isolates this passage. “Son of man:” so the Lord customarily addresses our prophet more than eighty times; as an address to the prophets it occurs elsewhere only in Daniel 8:17: and it is manifest that all these passages must be regarded from one point of view. The difficulty of Ezekiel’s commission consisted in this, that he was sent as a child of man to the children of men; so that a multitude of weak objections were raised: “What knowest thou that we do not know?” “Thou boilest also with water,” etc. The address as son of man admits the difficulty; but then we are referred to this, that behind the son of man another stands who possesses all that is wanting to the son of man, so that he dare not despair, nor dare any one gainsay his word, or lay hands upon him. To the present address, “Thou son of man,” correspond the words of Ezekiel 2:4, “And thou shalt say unto them. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah.” When the designation is thus conceived, it necessarily connects itself with the “Son of man” as self-designation of Christ, which occurs especially in expressions that refer to His rejection, humiliation, and sufferings. There is also admitted what lies before the eyes, but at the same time there is a reference to the divine background of his manifestation. In Daniel 7:13 it is said of Christ, “And, behold, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven,”—a man, and yet not a man. This word, “ like a son of man,” applies also in a certain sense to Ezekiel. He has not, like the Messiah, a divine nature along with the human; but yet there is in him, as in every true servant of God, along with the human side of his existence, a divine. He is an angel of the Lord of hosts ( Haggai 1:13): who hears him, hears God; and who is ashamed of him shall receive the judgment of God.

The spirit who sets the prophet upon his feet is the same spirit that was operative in the living creatures and in the wheels (ch. Ezekiel 1:20-21). It is not the “spiritual equipment of the prophet” that is treated of, but only the spirit of life that raises up again him who has fallen down “as dead” ( Revelation 1:7). 1 Kings 10:5 is parallel, where the queen of Sheba was so struck with astonishment at Solomon, that there was no more spirit in her.

Verses 3-7

Ezekiel 2:3-7. The prophet is armed against the contradiction that was to be expected from the people. Ezekiel 2:3. And he said unto me. Son of man, I send thee unto the children of Israel, to heathen nations, to the rebellious, who have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me even unto this very day. 4. And they are children of hard face and stiff heart: I send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah. 5. And they may hear or forbear; for they are a house of stubbornness, and they shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. 6. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, for rebels and thorns are with thee, and thou dwellest among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, because they are a house of stubbornness. 7. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear or forbear; for they are stubbornness itself.

They to whom the prophet is sent are in Ezekiel 2:3 described first according to that which they ought to be—sons of Israel, the man of faith, who wrestled in prayer with God and man and prevailed; then according to that which they in reality are,—a microcosm, as it were, of the whole heathen world, whose religion and manners are reflected in them. “To heathen nations:” this goes beyond even Isaiah 1:21, where degenerate Israel is described as a heathen nation. “Of hard face and stiff heart” ( Ezekiel 2:4): this is in itself no fault; it may be, in certain cases, great praise ( Ezekiel 3:8-9; Isaiah 50:7); it becomes blame only through its connection with Ezekiel 2:3. Accordingly we must think of stedfastness and resolute bearing in rebellion against God. To have a character for ungodliness, to be complete in this, is the very worst reproach, as it is the highest praise to have a character for the fear of God, and to be complete in this. In Ezekiel 2:5 we must supply out of Ezekiel 2:4, “Thou shalt announce to them the word of God.” That this must be supplied, appears also from the definitive repetition of it in Ezekiel 2:7. The words “or forbear” are to be considered as accented. That this latter case also is taken into view, is proved by the words, “for they are a house of stubbornness,” an obstinate company. The words, “and they shall know”—that is, they shall then know “that there hath been a prophet among them”—bring into view what will befall them in the latter case. If they do not give ear to the prophet—which, from the character ascribed to them in Ezekiel 2:4, is very much to be feared—they will perceive his prophetic mission in the fulfilment of his threats of punishment; so that this will in no case be in vain: he will at all events in the long-run receive his due from them. In Ezekiel 2:6 the literal expression “rebels” comes first; then follow two figurative ones, thorns and scorpions. Such conjunction of literal and figurative expressions is very common, e.g. Psalms 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” The scorpions are here a metaphorical designation for evil men; in 1 Kings 12:11, for evil punishments. Prosaic expositors have there substituted for them whips with stings in them. The words, “for they are a house of stubbornness,” do not give a reason for fearlessness, but explain why he is exhorted to it. “They are stubbornness “( Ezekiel 2:7): this is represented as incorporate in them. “Stubbornness “is put emphatically here for the “house of stubbornness” in Ezekiel 2:6; comp. Ezekiel 2:8, Ezekiel 44:6.

Verses 8-10

Ezekiel 2:8 to Ezekiel 3:3. The prophet swallows a book, the archetype, as it were, of the book which is here presented, the seed from which it springs,—related to it as the heavenly archetype of the tabernacle, which Moses is shown upon the mount, to the tabernacle itself. Jeremiah 15:16 forms the groundwork: “I found Thy words, and ate them; and Thy words were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for Thy name was called upon me, O Lord God of hosts.” The idea there only hinted at is here amplified into a symbolic act, in which we are not indeed to think of any outward process of nature, and which in this respect serves as a finger-post to the later symbolic actions of the prophet. The fundamental thought is, that Ezekiel is no prophet out of his own heart. He only publishes what he has received from above. Is the burden peculiarly sorrowful? That is not to be ascribed to the son of man, but it comes from Him who stands behind him. Instead of murmuring against the poor instrument that has received so stern a commission, let them repent. We have here an important passage concerning the relation which the believer has to sustain to holy Scripture—a warning against all capricious treatment of it—an injunction that everything be received as it is given, because what is despised descends on the head of the despiser. As our passage rests upon Jeremiah, so the “book” in Revelation 5:1, and the “little book” in Revelation 10:2, point back to the book before us.

Ch. 2:8. And thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee: Be not thou rebellious like the house of rebellion: open thy mouth, and eat what I give thee. 9. And I looked, and, behold, a hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; [19] 10. And he spread it out before me: and it was written before and behind: and therein were written lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Ch. 3:1. And he said unto me. Son of man, eat what thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2. And I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3. And he said unto me, Son of man, thou shalt cause thy belly to eat this roll which I give thee, and fill thy bowels with it. And I ate; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

[19] Luther, “which had a letter folded up.” The suff. in בו stands for the neut. “therein.” יד is always femin.

The exhortation, “Be not rebellious,” in ch. Ezekiel 2:8 presupposes that the contents of the book have something revolting to the prophet. This finds place in a twofold way. In the first place, he is one of his own people; and the lamentations, and mourning, and woe, in Ezekiel 2:10, strike his own flesh, so that on this account he has “great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart” ( Romans 9:9). Ah, how sorely he wished that the bitter cup might pass away from his people, that the Lord might promise peace to his people! Then, again, he must be prepared for persecution, on account of the mournful burden of his prophecy. The people desire such as cry. Peace, peace, when there is no peace, and prophesy to them of wine and strong drink. Just now they are lulled into fond dreams, and will rise exasperated against him who frightens them out of these, and places the naked reality before their eyes, more especially as he has an inner ally in their conscience hardly hushed to rest. The book is unfolded before the prophet, according to Ezekiel 2:10, before it is handed to him to swallow: he must undertake his mission with a clear consciousness of its difficulty. The roll of the book is written upon before and behind. The fulness of the contents, which are immediately afterwards described as very sorrowful, is so great, that the front side, which was usually alone written upon, does not suffice. “Eat what thou findest” [20] (ch. Ezekiel 3:1): what the Lord says to His disciples with regard to their ordinary food, “Eat what is set before you,” holds good also with regard to the divine revelation. This arbitrary disposition of mind, which instead of the word “what I find” puts “what I may,” is of evil.

[20] According to the fundamental passage in Jeremiah, we must not interpret “attainest.”

The words point to this, that the prophet has arrived at his prediction without his own motion, and that those who on this account rebel against him, who must accept what is presented to him, are on a false track. “And it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” ( Ezekiel 3:3); as the word of the living God, which as such is sweet as honey and the honeycomb Psalms 19:10), even when it is of the most painful import. That this is mainly the ground of the sweetness, appears from the fundamental passage, Jeremiah 15:16: “ for Thy name is called upon me, Jehovah, God of hosts.” It is infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and the spokesman of the Most High. The nature of the words themselves, however, comes next into consideration. Even the most grievous divine truths have to the spiritually-minded man a joyous and refreshing aspect. The proclamation of judgment, even when it falls upon ourselves, carries us into the depths of the divine righteousness, and thus provides nourishment for our soul. Then also grace is hidden behind judgment; athwart the cloud the rainbow gleams. Better to be condemned by God than comforted by the world. For He who smites can also heal, and will heal, if His proclamation of judgment, and the judgment itself, be met by penitence; while, on the other hand, the comfort of the world is vain.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 2". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-2.html.