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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 3

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-3

Call from God (2:1-3:3)

Ezekiel falls prostrate before the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 1:28), only to hear a stem divine command to stand up. The term "son of man," as employed here (Ezekiel 2:1) and throughout the book, does not have the same meaning as it does in the Book of Daniel or in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. It is certainly not the origin of the term as Jesus used it. "Son of man" as employed in this prophetic work means "man" or "human being," in contrast to God. Ezekiel is given a commission to "the people of Israel," who are variously described as stubborn and rebellious (vs. 4). No successful mission is promised to the prophet. Nevertheless, he is not to be discouraged by the people’s words or their looks, although they will be like briers, thorns, and scorpions.

Verse 7 is difficult to understand. The mission of the prophet was not to make his audience hear or believe; his mission was to be the medium of God’s word. Success or failure was left entirely to God. This fact puts in bold relief the firm faith of an ancient prophet who considered God, not man, history’s chief actor. The prophet’s primary task was to proclaim the message, not to get results. It is always so with God’s spokesmen. They must realize that the ultimate outcome of a prophetic mission depends not on prophetic skill but upon God’s Spirit and will.

Verses 2:8-3:3 depict in a dramatic act the substance of what has previously been given verbally. The prophet is given a scroll on which the content of God’s message has been inscribed, and he is told to eat it On it were written "words of lamentation and mourning and woe." Ezekiel obediently consumed the message of God so that it became part of him. Upon completing the strange meal the prophet comments, "It was in my mouth as sweet as honey" (vs. 3), By word and symbol Ezekiel was commissioned to be God’s spokesman to a rebellious house, which included both those people of Judah living in Palestine and those already in exile at Tel-abib.

Verses 4-27

Detailed Instructions (3:4-27)

The prophet is reminded again that he is sent to his own people and not to a people "of foreign speech and a hard language." Even though there is no language barrier, there will be the barrier of willful rebellion because they have "a hard forehead" and "a stubborn heart." Again Ezekiel is promised that God will make him equal to the task: "Like adamant harder than flint have I made your forehead." He is told first to accept the message in his heart and to hear it with his ears. There is in this oracle the plain requirement that the message is to take possession of the messenger before he delivers it to others. Still no success in mission is promised (vs. 11).

Verses 12-13 indicate that the original vision of God is still a present reality for the prophet. For the first time in the book the prophet is transported by God from place to place (vss. 14-15). This is to be understood as having taken place in a vision. In this case he went "in bitterness" to the exiles at Tel-abib and was "overwhelmed" for seven days among them. The prophetic reaction was one of horror at the commission he had been given (compare Isaiah 6). But now, after vision and call, he is among the exiles where his work is to be carried out.

Ezekiel is called to become a watchman for his people (vss. 16-21). The substance of this passage is plain. When the watchman-prophet gives a warning for the People of God, he is relieved of all responsibility for their judgment. But if he fails to warn his people, their blood is on his conscience and he is held responsible. If repentance comes, the prophet is the instrument of salvation. Thus the joint responsibility and privilege of the prophetic office are spelled out.

The prophet who has returned from "the plain," where he had seen the glory of the Lord, to dwell among the exiles at Tel-abib, is told to go back to "the plain" for further instruction. There, overwhelmed, he falls to the ground, but the Spirit sets him upon his feet. He is instructed to shut himself in his house where cords will be placed upon him, where he will be bound and become dumb (vss. 24-26) . "But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth," promises the Lord (vs. 27). This strange experience has been explained in many ways. Some believe that Ezekiel was literally imprisoned and that he was actually dumb, perhaps like the father of John the Baptist. Others understand the occurrence as pure symbolism or vision. It would seem to be explained best in the following manner: Ezekiel played the role of a prisoner in order to underscore his message concerning Jerusalem; moreover, it was only when he spoke on behalf of God that he spoke at all in public.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 3". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-3.html.
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