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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 21

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-32

10. The Approaching Judgment (Ezekiel 21:0)

1And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2Son of man, set thy face toward the right, and drop toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the field in the south; 3And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am about to kindle in thee a fire, and it will devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree. The flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces shall be scorched in it 4[by it], from the south to the north. And all flesh shall see that I, Jehovah, 5have kindled it; and it shall not be quenched. And I said, Ah! Lord God, 6they say to me [of me], Doth he not speak parables? And the word of 7Jehovah came to me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop toward the holy places, and prophesy toward the land of Israel, 8and say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, and I have drawn My sword out of its scabbard, and will cut off 9from thee the righteous and the wicked. Because I cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall My sword go forth out of 1 Thessalonians 1:0; 1 Thessalonians 1:00scabbard against all flesh from south to north. And all flesh shall know that I, Jehovah, have drawn My sword out of its scabbard, nor shall it return 11again. And thou, son of man, sigh with breaking of loins, and with bitterness 12shalt thou sigh before their eyes. And it shall be, when they say to thee, Wherefore dost thou sigh? that thou shalt say, For the tidings, because it cometh; and every heart melts, and all hands hang down, and every spirit faints [is dulled], and all knees are dissolved into water. Lo, it comes, and has 13happened: sentence of the Lord Jehovah. And the word of Jehovah came 14to me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith Jehovah; say, A 15sword, a sword, sharpened and also furbished [is it]! To kill with slaughter it is sharpened; furbished [is it], that it may glitter as lightning! Or can 16[shall] we rejoice over the staff [sceptre] of My son, despising every tree!? And He gave it [it is given] to be furbished, that it may be taken into the hand; it is a sword sharpened and furbished, that it may be put into the hand of the 17slayer. Cry and howl, son of man, for it shall be upon [against] My people, upon all the princes of Israel; they are given up [thrown] to the sword along 18with My people, therefore smite upon the thigh. For it makes trial [trial is made]. And how?—If also the despising staff [sceptre] shall not be!—Sentence 19of the Lord Jehovah. And thou, son of man, prophesy, and smite hand against hand, and the sword shall be doubled to the third time; it is the sword of the pierced-through, the sword of one pierced through, of the 20mighty, that penetrates to them. In order that the heart may faint, and the stumbling-blocks be multiplied at all their gates, have I given the threatening 21of the sword. Ah! made for flashing, drawn for slaughter! Unite thyself, turn to the right; direct thyself, turn to the left, whither thy face is appointed. 22And I also will strike My hands together, and I will cause My fury to rest.23I, Jehovah, have spoken. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, 24And thou, son of man, set thee two ways for the coming of the sword of the king of Babylon; out of one land shall they both proceed; and make a finger-post 25—at the head of the way of a city make [it]. Thou shalt set a way for the coming of the sword to Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, and to Judah in 26Jerusalem, [the] inaccessible. For the king of Babylon stands at the mother of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; shakes the arrows 27together, inquires at the teraphim, inspects the liver. In his right hand is the divination “Jerusalem,” to place [battering-] rams, to open the mouth in slaughter, to lift up the voice, in the war-cry, to place rams against the gates, 28to cast a mount, to build siege-towers. And it is to them as lying divination in their eyes that have sworn oaths for themselves; and [yet] he remembers iniquity, 29in order to take [them]. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye shall remember [bring to remembrance] your iniquity, since your transgressions are made bare, so that your sins are seen in all your doings, because ye are come 30to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand. And thou, pierced-through, wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day has come at the time of the iniquity 31of the end, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Remove the head-band, take off the crown. This [is] not this. The low is [to be] exalted, and the high [to be] 32brought low. Overturned, overturned, overturned will I make it. Yea, this [also] is not, till He comes to whom the judgment belongs, and I will give it to 33Him. And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah concerning the sons of Ammon, and their reproach; even say, A sword, a 34sword, drawn for slaughter, furbished sufficiently to glitter! While they see vanity for thee, while they divine a lie to thee,—to lay thee upon the necks of the pierced-through, of the wicked, whose day has come at the time 35of the iniquity of the end. Let it return to its sheath. In the place where 36thou wast formed, in the land of thy origin will I judge thee. And I will pour out My indignation upon thee, with the fire of My wrath will I blow upon thee, and will give thee into the hand of consuming men, forgers of 37destruction. Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt not be remembered, for I, Jehovah, have spoken.

Ezekiel 21:7. Another reading: אל מקדשם, ad sanctuarium eorum. Syr. Sept. et Arabs. have the suffix.

Ezekiel 21:14. Sept.: ... ὀξυνου κ. θυμωθητι, (15) ὁπως σφαγια, ὀξυνου ὁπως γενη εἰς στιλβωσιν, ἑτοιμη εἰς παραλυσιν̓ σφαζε, ἐξουδενει, ἀπωθου παν ξυλον.—Vulg.: Qui moves sceptrum … succidisti omne lignum.

Ezekiel 21:17. ... αροτησον ξτι την χειρα σου,—Vulg.: … Israel qui fugerant

Ezekiel 21:18 ὁτι δεδικαιωται. Και τι εἰ και φυλη�;—Vulg.: … quia probatus est. Et hoc cum sceptrum subverterit, et non erit

Ezekiel 21:19. ... ἡ τριτη ῥομφαια τραυματειων ἐστιν, ῥομφαια τραυματειων ἡ μιγαλη, κ. ἐκστησει αὐτους,—ac triplicetur gladius interfectorum: hic est gl. occisionis magnæ, qui obstupescere eos facit,—There is a reading: החרדת, perterrefaciens). Another reading: לכם.

Ezekiel 21:20. ... Κ. πληθυνθωσιν οἱ�. Κ. ταραδεδονται εἰς σφαγια ῥομφαιας, εὐ γαγονεν εἰς σφαγην, εὐ γεγονεν εἰς στιλβωσιν.—et multiplicat ruinas. In omnibus … conturbationem gladii acuti et limati ad … amicti ad cædem.

Ezekiel 21:21. Another reading: התאחרי, retro ito vel: mora, retarda.

Ezekiel 21:24. Et manu capiet conjecturam, in capite … conjiciet.

Ezekiel 21:26. Sept.: ... τ. ὰρχαιαν ὁδον … ἀναβρασαι ῥαβδια κ. ἐπερωτησαι ἐν τοις γλυπτοις—

Ezekiel 21:27 Ἐκ δεξιων αὐτου ἑγενετο … στομα ἐν βοη. Ad dexteram ejus facta est … os in cæde

Ezekiel 21:28. Κ. αὐτος αὐτοις ὡς μαντευομενος μαντειαν ἐνωτιον αὐτων, κ. αὐτος�. Eritque quasi consulens frustra oraculum in oculis corum, et sabbatorum otium imitans; ipse autem recordabitur iniquitatis ad copiendam.

Ezekiel 21:29. For בכל, read וכל.

Ezekiel 21:30. ... βεβηλε, ἀνομε—Vulg.: profane … dies in temp, iniquitatis præfinita.

Ezekiel 21:31. Ἀφειλου … ἐπεθου αὐτη τον στεφανον, οὐ τοιαυτη ἐσται. ἐταπεινωσας το … ὑψωφας.—Vulg.: … nonne hæc est, quæ humilem sublevavit

Ezekiel 21:32. Ἀδικιαν … θησομαι αὐτην, οὐ τοιαυτη ἐσται … ὡ καθηκει—Vulg.: … ponam eam; et hoc non factum est, donec

Ezekiel 21:35. Ἀποστρεφε, μη καταλυσης …

Ezekiel 21:36. ... βαρβαρων—Vulg.: … insipientium.


To join Ezekiel 21:1-5 with Ezekiel 20:0 (as is done in the Eng. Ver.) would be against the connection; while, as the first part of Ezekiel 21:0, it both admirably introduces the whole, and in particular, by Ezekiel 21:5, paves the way for the explanation in Ezekiel 21:6 sq.

Ezekiel 21:1-5 [ch. Ezekiel 20:45-49].—A Picture.

Ezekiel 21:2. Comp. Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 6:2 (Ezekiel 13:17); Luke 9:51. The right, according to Ezekiel 21:7, is Jerusalem. Drop is after Deuteronomy 32:2 a very common expression for prophetic discourse. It is suggested by the rain or the dew, and points to the place of its origin,—above, and also to the beneficial influence which it is intended to exert, and is used even when the discourse does not contain promises merely, but also threatening and judgment, as is the case here exclusively, and to a large extent also in Deuteronomy 32:0. May it not also hint at the concise, abrupt style of composition adopted in the chapter? דָּרוֹם, the bright, sunny south, in Ezekiel 21:7 the expression is: the “holy places.”—נֶגֶב (either “dryness,” or also from “brightness”) defines the forest of the field, more precisely, as situated in the south, pertaining to the south country (Ezekiel 21:3), as Judea is often described. The threefold direction symbolizes perhaps the divine element in his commission. For field, comp. Ezekiel 17:5; “land of Israel” in Ezekiel 21:7 corresponds to it—the fruitful native soil of the whole people; Hengst.: because an agricultural people are here treated of. Forest, figurative for people, on account of the density of the population, but by no means with any reference to the degeneration of the noble vine (Isaiah 5:0) to a wild forest (Umbr.), or the impending reduction of the land to an uncultivated and forest condition, nor yet on account of its forest stretches; just as the southern definition of the direction from the standpoint of the exiled prophet is not to be taken in a precisely geographic sense. Besides, that which is said of the north in Ezekiel 1:4 is here confirmed.

Ezekiel 21:3.Ezekiel 6:3.—The fire suits both the forest-figure and the idea of Jehovah’s avenging wrath. Comp. Ezekiel 1:0. (Ezekiel 15:0) Comp. Ezekiel 17:24. Green and dry become in Ezekiel 21:8 “righteous” and “wicked” (Luke 23:31).—לַהֶבֶת שַׁלְהֶבֶת, assonant ascending climax, to which the result corresponds. Endeavouring, in a far-fetched way, to conform to the figure, Hitzig interprets faces of the outside, as that which the fire first consumes. A similar view is maintained by Schnurrer in a special dissertation on the previous chapter,—“on all sides—out and out.”

Ezekiel 21:4 explains “all faces” by: all flesh—all Israel; and so וְרָאו also can be understood as: seeing to their own hurt (Ezekiel 21:9-10). Hengst. makes the “faces” stand for the persons, as the material which the fire is to consume. Comp. Ezekiel 5:10. [Cocc. refers it to the judgment on Babylon, which was to follow the judgment on Israel.]—All flesh, equivalent to: every man. What does not pass speedily away, but endures to completion,—that which abides, makes on short-lived, fading man the impression of eternal duration.

Ezekiel 21:5. Is it a complaint, owing to experiences following on what has just been propounded, or to his experience generally as a prophet? Perhaps an indirect petition for a less figurative message; as Hitzig, following the Chald.: “accept my petition.”—Comp. Ezekiel 17:2 (2 Corinthians 4:4).—Transition to Ezekiel 21:6 sq.

Ezekiel 21:6-12 [1–7]. The Interpretation (through the Sword)

It is noteworthy that the foregoing figure is explained by another (Matthew 13:10).

Ezekiel 21:7. Comp. Ezekiel 21:2.—Holy places (comp. Ezekiel 7:24). Hengst. refers the plural to the glory of the one sanctuary, and understands it of “the spiritual abode of the people.” Others have thought of the individual buildings of the temple, its two or three parts. [Cocc.: “because many buildings were erected by men in addition to those authorized by God, or because Ezekiel prophesies not only of Solomon’s, but at the same time of Zerubbabel’s temple.”]

Ezekiel 21:8. The land of Israel, equivalent to: “the forest of the south,” Ezekiel 21:3. What follows is also parallel. The explanatory figure is the well-known one (Ezekiel 5:6) of the sword.—The righteous and the wicked (comp. at Ezekiel 3:18 sq.). According to Hengst., not in contradiction to Ezekiel 9:4, “for if two suffer the same, yet it is not the same (Romans 8:28).” The contrast is to be taken like young and old, rich and poor, similarly to Matthew 9:13. Those whom you call righteous and wicked,—all, fall under the power of the sword. With which Ezekiel 21:9 harmonizes; for all flesh, etc., points to the whole extent of the Jewish territory as the field for its exercise. [“As is manifest from the whole nature of the representation, it is the merely external aspect of the visitation which the prophet has in his eye. The sword of the Lord’s judgment, he announced, was to pass through the land, and accomplish such a sweeping overthrow, that all, without exception, would be made to suffer in the fearful catastrophe. This did not prevent, however, but that there might be, in the midst of the outward calamities which were thus to burst like a mighty tempest over the land, a vigilant oversight maintained, and special interpositions of Providence exercised in behalf of the pious remnant who still continued faithful to the covenant of God. It was this distinguishing goodness to some, even amid the horrors of a general desolation, which, as we showed before, was the real object of that sealing of God’s servants on the forehead in a former vision; while here, on the other hand, it is merely the general desolation itself which is contemplated by the prophet. And the very circumstance that he should now have looked so exclusively on the outward scene of carnage and distress, which he descried in the approaching future, seemed to say that this was to be the grand feature of the time, and that the special interpositions which were to be put forth in behalf of the better portion would be so few that they scarcely required to be taken into account.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp. 233, 234.—W. F.]—Others: on the ground of this certain universal destruction in Israel, a still more extensive judgment shall take place, e.g. on the Ammonites. [Cocc. thinks of all wars, etc. up to the subjugation of the nations to Christ.]

Ezekiel 21:10 recalls, however, Ezekiel 21:4. There: “it shall not be quenched,” here: nor shall it return. In other words, a full end. Some see the distinction between this and earlier judgments indicated here.

Ezekiel 21:11. Symbolical description of intensest expression of sorrow. With breaking, etc., when the prophet sinks down like one whose loins are broken, and who is unable to stand upright (Deuteronomy 33:11). [Others: a pain which can break the seat of man’s strength; or as spasmodic pains; or as in travail-pangs; or with girdle burst asunder, etc. Ewald; smiting on the thigh.] Quite conceivable, without any hypocrisy, owing to Ezekiel’s sympathy with his people. Comp. Romans 9:1 sq. In bitterness, the pain at the same time audibly expresses itself. They shall become aware of it (before their eyes).

Ezekiel 21:12.Ezekiel 7:26; Ezekiel 7:2 sq. That which to others is merely tidings, is to the prophet already coming, or it is to him a “thing heard” (Umbr.: a revelation made at an earlier time), which is passing into fulfilment; therefore his pain. But they shall be compelled to experience in themselves what they perceive in him. In all, courage gives place to terror, activity to prostration, counsel to perplexity. No one holds out any longer; as to which comp. Ezekiel 7:17.—It is not merely coming, i.e. on the way, but that which the tidings bode, which they actually are (Ezekiel 21:13 sq.), is as good as already accomplished.

Ezekiel 21:13-22 [8–17]. The Sword

The prophet’s bitter pain (Ezekiel 21:11) is audibly expressed in this sword-song, as it has been called.

Ezekiel 21:14. The subject of the tidings emphatically repeated as a sword.—(הוּחַדָּה, perf. Hophal from מְרוּטָה—.חָדַד, partic, pass.)

Ezekiel 21:15. It shall slay, and even before it proves its sharpness, terrify (הֱיֵה, infinitive). בָּרָק, from its gleaming brightness. (Deuteronomy 32:41) מֹרָטָּה, partic. Pual for מְמֹרָטָה, with the euphonic dag. forte.—The close of the verse is a crux interpretum. The abrupt statement of the contrary to that which was demanded of the prophet by Jehovah in Ezekiel 21:11 is intelligible, and all the more so as an inquiry as to the reason for his exhibition of pain of heart has been already presupposed in Ezekiel 21:12. Or can [shall] we rejoice, etc.? In this case the prophet can associate himself with Jehovah, while “crying,” etc., again (Ezekiel 21:17) remains his occupation alone. The latter is made all the more prominent by the clause: “Can we rejoice?” The staff, in accordance with Ezekiel 19:11 sq., is to be understood of the sceptre, and thus of the kingdom (comp. Ezekiel 16:13). My son must be the same as “My people” in Ezekiel 21:17—namely, Judah; which is all the more appropriate, as there is before us the promise of Genesis 49:8 sq. (see Ezekiel 19:0), which was also confirmed to David, 2 Samuel 7:23. The sceptre of Judah, on account of this promise to bless Israel,—Jehovah regarding it as His own,—is perpetual. Despising every tree, conformably to Ezekiel 17:24,—every other prince and king. (May not, conformably to Ezekiel 21:3, allusion be also made to the man-despising wickedness (Ezekiel 21:30) of the last Jewish kings, so as to yield the very striking sense: Or could we rejoice in the reigning wickedness which the sword makes an end of!?). The construing of the masculine שֵׁבֶט as a feminine (which Rosenm. calls the supreme difficulty of the passage) is sufficiently explained by the underlying idea of lordship. (See Häv. and Rosenm.) Therefore: in respect of the sword, is there room for any feeling but pain? Could there be joy over the kingdom, which shall not depart from Judah, according to the blessing which rests on it, and the promise made to David,—joy that Judah still survives, while the princes of Israel’s kingdom have long since passed away?! Should we be able to rejoice? Even this kingdom is about to fall beneath the sword, etc. Ezekiel 21:17 sq., 19, 30 sq. But doubtless the Messiah will also come, Ezekiel 21:32. The connection decidedly recommends this interpretation. One must remember what the kingdom and the last remnant in Jerusalem were, even in the lament of Jeremiah (Lamentations 5:15). [Other interpretations: “Shall we rejoice, namely, over this sword, which despises the stem (?) of My son Israel, and every tree?” Or שֵׁבֶט is taken as the chastening rod (?) of Israel, which this sword is, and which rod in hardness and solidity surpasses every other wood (Rashi). Hengst.: the punishment hanging over Israel exceeds in rigour all other punishments, according to the law set forth, Luke 12:46. (“We—I and thou—spoken from the soul of the people.”) Hävern. takes או ironically: “or should (נָסִים = נָשִׂישׂ (projecting) with a play on נָשִׂיא) the sceptre of My son be haughty (Exodus 4:21; Hosea 11:1; Genesis 49:9; comp. therewith 1 Kings 22:11; Deuteronomy 33:17), despising every tree (with reference to all other powers)?” Umbr.: “The rod of My Son—that which concerns Him—despises every (feeble) tree, has transformed itself into unbending iron.”1]

Ezekiel 21:16. The most probable subject of וַיִתֵּן is the “son,”—Judah itself prepared the Chaldean sword of vengeance. Comp. Ezekiel 19:14. Or indefinitely: it was given.

Ezekiel 21:17. As the joy was groundless (Ezekiel 21:15), so all the more is the emotion of Ezekiel 21:11 enjoined, Ezekiel 9:8; Ezekiel 11:13.—That which הָיְתָה בְ would say both as to the people and the princes of Israel is expressed by מְגוּרֵי׳ (part. pass. Kal of מָגַר). Others: “Terrors (מְגוּרִים from גוּר) because of (אֶל) the sword being upon (אֶת) My people.” Which, however, says too little in this connection.—Upon the thigh, as women upon the breast; pain, terror.

Ezekiel 21:18. For, resumes what is said in the previous verse.—בֹחַן, proving, trying; or impersonal perf. Pual, trial is made. Häv.: “for there is a proving” in relation to the judgments of God. Too far-fetched. Hengst.: “for (it is) a trial.” A brief statement of the threatening character of the impending period. Phillips.: “for a purification must take place.” Consequently, either of the past (as Rashi), of the sufferings whereby the people have already been tried, or with reference to the future. According to the connection, the trial, if not spoken directly of the sword, must be thought of in relation to its terrible murderous violence, as shown in Ezekiel 21:17.—וּמָה, briefest continuation, but rather an exclamation than a thought. What, in fine, when people and prince are doomed to the sword,—when even the scornful (become inhuman in its arrogance, comp. Ezekiel 21:15) kingdom of Judah shall now be brought to an end? [Rashi: And what will happen to My son when the sword overtakes him? He shall perish. Kimchi: The sword will be for trying. And what if that sword, despising the stem of Israel also, should not smite it? There would be no trial. Häv.: “And how? if the sceptre is still so arrogant, it shall not stand.” Hengst.: “And how? should the despising rod (the punishment that far outstrips all other punishments) not be?” Keil: When even the sceptre of Judah fails to show the might expected from it, what shall then be? Neteler “And how? if also the sceptre of the despiser (Jerusalem) shall not be!”]

Ezekiel 21:19. Comp. at Ezekiel 6:11. The gesture here is the sign of an impending energetic action (Hengst). To say that it expresses lively excitement of feeling is little; rather it arouses the sword to demand redoubled slaughter, which immediately follows. One stroke shall not be enough, but the strokes are repeated. Not that Ezekiel shall call out the following words, repeating them three times; nor yet is threefold doubling (?) nor threefold multiplying meant (as doubling is the thing in question). But once, twice, and yet a third time a double sword-stroke, to wit, with reference to the people, princes, and king, so that what is stated before (Ezekiel 21:17-18) is compressed. [Klief.: For the third time the sword is a slayer, after it had previously come doubled (twice); the number three is symbolical.] It is called the sword of the pierced-through, from the multitudes whom it pierces. Häv.: the sword of the slain.—Sword of one pierced through, of the mighty. The subject is indefinite, but becomes definite in the adjective. “Among the crowd of the slain there is also one pierced through, made altogether like to them, who is the great one” (Häv). As the sword-song throughout keeps the kingdom in view, the king (Ezekiel 21:30) is undoubtedly referred to, to wit, Zedekiah. The fact that his sons were slain before his eyes, that his own eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:7), that he died in bonds in Babylon (Jeremiah 52:11), especially when one considers how the context as well as other passages point, sufficiently justifies the application of the “pierced-through” one to him; so that it is not to be referred to “the great” collectively, nor to the wicked Chaldee king (! ?), nor to “the great sword of the slain which surrounds them.” (Comp. Keil in opposition to Hitzig.) הַחֹדֶרֵת, from חָדַר. Gesen.: to surround, to besiege, “lies in wait for them.” That penetrates to them, with an allusion to חֶדֶר, the inner chamber. The old translations: which puts them in terror.

Ezekiel 21:20. In order that; that which will abundantly come to pass is also abundantly expressed. The intention made prominent by being placed in the forefront. אִבְחַת is found here only = threatening, or quivering, or shaking, or destroying, etc.; or a misprint for טִבְחַת (shambles of the sword). But whatever the precise meaning of the word be, it qualifies the sword, so that by means of it the courage of the people fails, and at all their gates obstructions lie on which they stumble,—either “crowds of corpses hard by the gates where the besieged made their sallies,” or circumstances which exposed them to slaughter. The flashing explains the fainting, etc.; the slaughter points to the stumbling-blocks.—Ezekiel 6:11. Abrupt exclamation of the prophet.—מְעֻטָה, ἁπ. λεγ.; meaning: polished, sharpened (Gesen.); Meier: whetted; Häv.: drawn; others the very opposite: covered, still in the sheath.

Ezekiel 21:21. Address to the sword. Up to this point no more than one sword has been spoken of, so that the one must be summoned to ally itself with all other possible swords. But the concentration of the thrice-repeated double stroke in a single stroke, which would better correspond with Ezekiel 21:19, could be the meaning. Or it is to collect its energies for the directions which are to be presently given it. [Hitzig reads: “turn thyself backwards,” and completes הָשִׂימִי supplying פָּנֶיךָ; “turn thyself forwards,” in order to procure the two additional directions to right and left. Ew.: “Collect thyself southwards, assail northwards, whithersoever thy points are appointed.”] Häv. connects: “Turn thyself with all vigour to the right,” and (corresponding to this): “direct (thy face, thy edge) to the left!” There are, however, four words which depict the activity and rapidity of the individual sword-strokes; perhaps they are also military commands? If הָשִׂימִי and הִתאַחֲדִי correspond, then the rendering must be: “attention,” “to your post!” (Gesen., Hengst.) Besides, it is perhaps preparatively to the following paragraph as to Jerusalem and Ammon that only a twofold direction, “right” and “left,” is specified. The destination whither, etc. concludes the passage. [Cocc. is not amiss in regarding אָנָה as an interrogative; Hitzig does the same.]

Ezekiel 21:22. Comp. Ezekiel 21:19. Jehovah makes the gesture of the prophet His own. Comp. further Ezekiel 16:42; Ezekiel 5:13. What a rest, and, going before it, what an agitation!

Ezekiel 21:23-29. The King of Babylon against Jerusalem

A symbolical action, as in Ezekiel 21:11 (17, 19). Hengst., as always, makes it belong to the internal world; but what would have been the meaning of a command of this sort, were it not to be carried out externally? The whole point lies in its external representation. It is a demonstration ad oculos (Ezekiel 4:1 sq.). Ezekiel is to place before himself on a table or tablet a sketch of the nature mentioned, by means of cutting or engraving, as may be surmised from בָּרֵא, Ezekiel 21:24.—The two ways already point to another reference besides that to Jerusalem.—The sword of the king of Babylon is the “tidings” which come (Ezekiel 21:12); into his murdering “hand” (Ezekiel 21:16) this approaching sword is given.—The one land (or land of one, namely, the Babylonish king) from which both ways shall proceed, owing to the manner in which it is emphasized, leads one already to suppose that both ways were originally one, which at a later point was parted into two.—יָד, the finger-post which here points the way to a (still indefinite) city. At the head of the way, i.e. where the way in question begins, the hand shall be formed.

Ezekiel 21:25. More particular description of the way, according to which it appears as two ways (hence: for the coming of the sword, as in Ezekiel 21:24), with the finger-post for guide. As to Rabbah, the capital city of the Ammonites, see Deuteronomy 3:11. The city at the head of whose way the finger-post stands can properly mean Rabbah only, from the fact of its being first mentioned; and this points it out as the place lying nearest on the way of the coming sword, so that (as Hengst. rightly remarks) the human probability was that the vengeance of the king of Babylon would begin with Ammon, which had provoked it by adhering to the same anti-Chaldean coalition (Jeremiah 27:3). As if less exposed, behind it appears Judah, more precisely defined by Jerusalem; which supports our way of taking Judah-Jerusalem in Ezekiel 19:0. (See Doct. Reflec. there.) In, because Judah exists essentially in Jerusalem; and the way of the sword goes thither, so that the sword rests there. Its strength, its inaccessible elevation, shall be merely nominal (Deuteronomy 28:52).

Ezekiel 21:26. Even the king of Babylon is uncertain which way to choose.—Mother of the way, is immediately explained by: the head of two ways, to be the point whence they branch off like two daughters from the way which had previously been one. [Häv. avails himself of the Arabic idiom, according to which “mother of the way” means the great military road, along (אֶל) which Nebuchadnezzar is about to proceed, which then divides into two ways.]—The tacit contrast between: to use divination, and: to “prophesy” (Ezekiel 21:19; Ezekiel 21:14; Ezekiel 21:7; Ezekiel 21:2) is interesting; they are nevertheless unified by the divine will. (Comp. at Deuteronomy 18:10.) Perhaps on account of this divine element in the background, it is carried out in a threefold manner, according to the symbolism of numbers.—Does the arrow-oracle refer to the significations of קלל, “light,” or “gleaming,” so that the divination is founded on the fact of the one flying more swiftly than the other, as being the lighter, or on the fact of its shining more brightly? It is the simplest way, however, to think of two arrows, the one marked “Rabbah,” the other “Jerusalem,” being put into a vessel, perhaps a helmet, when the decision is made according as the one or the other is first drawn or shaken out; unless the quarter to which the head of the lighter arrow points on falling out, either right or left, be the ground of the decision. Comp. Häv. on the passage.—It is impossible to decide as to the method of consulting the teraphim. See Winer, Realw.; Herzog, Realencycl. Ezekiel 16:32. Israel brought them out of Chaldea, Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:34. According to Häv.: gods of fortune; Hengst.: intermediate gods, serving for the investigation of the future. Häv. supposes a transference of the Hebrew popular faith to Babylonish divinities analogous to Gad and Meni. Hitzig: his household gods, private idols (θέραπες). As to the inspection of the liver, see Hävernick’s Commentary. Such circumstances were taken into account as its condition, size, whether large, with inwardly bent lobes, etc., whether dry, defective, ulcerated, etc.

Ezekiel 21:27. In his light hand is the divination, requires to be understood neither as: into his right hand came, etc., nor yet, with Hitzig, of the arrow-lot in particular, which pointed to Jerusalem, if it be only stated that Jerusalem was designated by the divination ceremony as the object to be attacked,—therefore, the “right hand.” “The right hand is employed; he has the decision spiritually therein; is determined in his actions by the decision given for Jerusalem in its three forms” (Hengst.). Hence there immediately follows: לָשׂוּס׳. Comp. at Ezekiel 4:2. To open the mouth, etc., either: the battle-cry calling and exciting them to destroy, or (with Jun.): to open a mouth (breach) in the wall by destroying and piercing it. [Hengst.: “with slaughter,” which is virtually contained in the slaughter-cry. Häv.: here, the cry of the besiegers according to its intention, afterwards according to its outward expression.] As the siege is the thing in question, the expression: rams, is repeated, with special reference to the gates. As to the rest, comp. at Ezekiel 4:2 (Ezekiel 17:17).

Ezekiel 21:28. While the oracle determines the Chaldeans to proceed in this way, that which the prophet proclaims on the point is, to the Jews, as a lying divination in their eyes, inasmuch as they rely on the visible fact that Jerusalem still stands before their eyes.—שְׁבֻעֵי, שְׁבֻעוֹת, apposition clause: “who have sworn oaths” (Gesen.), and these for themselves (לָהֶם). And this circumstance, owing to their consciousness of infidelity towards the king of Babylon (comp. Ezekiel 17:0), must make the near approach of his unlingering vengeance in the highest degree probable. The latter (and he remembers) therefore assists their faithless memory in an active way (עָוֹן, Ezekiel 18:30), so that they are taken and crushed by punishment (Ezekiel 14:5). [Other interpretations:—Kimchi: Because the Chaldeans had sworn oaths to them (or: the Chaldeans were to them, as the oath of oaths, the most sacred oath), they were bound by oath to them, so that Nebuchadnezzar must first remember their treachery against him. Cocc. refers לָהֶם in both cases to the Babylonians, to whom the oracle appeared delusive, because they remembered the strength of Jerusalem and the fate of Sennacherib; whereupon the Chaldean divines made repeated protestations, and some one then called to mind the guilt of the Jews, who, having fallen away from their God, were given into the hand of the king of Babylon. There is a whole story on the subject, as to which see Targ., Rashi,—namely, that Nebuchadnezzar inquired at the oracle forty-nine times, and always received the answer, Besiege Jerusalem. (Similarly Eich., Schn.) Häv.: “Oaths of oaths are to them,” namely, from God; so that the Jews relied on God’s most holy promises, which were assured to them (!). To which, however, the sin of Judah stood in opposition, which Jehovah, as her husband, would bring to remembrance (Numbers 5:15). Hengst.’s view, who translates similarly, is at all events better: “that which was sworn to them by oath,” so that “the sworn of the oaths” is the announcement of destruction, sworn to them by oath (“as truly as I live”) in various ways, which they repelled as a delusion, while the prophet, behind whom the Almighty stands, makes known to them anew His irrevocable decree. “In this way Judah brings to remembrance (Ezekiel 21:29) the iniquity, which it was its duty to atone for by sincere repentance.” Umbr.: But the inhabitants of the city live on in blind confidence, in spite of the most sacred protestations of God, etc. Yet Jehovah brings guilt to remembrance, so that Jerusalem shall at last be overtaken by punishment. Ewald: “They thought they should have weeks upon weeks,” while He (as their adversary—God) “recalls the (their) guilt (faithlessness towards Him), as a sufficient cause for allowing them to be besieged and taken.”]

Ezekiel 21:29. It seems most appropriate to the previous context to regard them as brought to remembrance, and thus everything else stands in close connection with that fact.—Ezekiel 16:57.—Ezekiel 20:43.—Ewald: “Because ye come to remembrance, ye shall be taken by the hand.” Phillips.: “Because He hath brought sin to your remembrance, since, etc., because they are brought to your remembrance, ye shall be taken by His hand.” Rosenm.: Because ye are remembered—before Me.—בַּכַּף is equivalent to: violently (Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 19:4). Usually it is understood of the minister of divine vengeance (Hengst.).—Nebuchadnezzar, with reference to Ezekiel 21:16.

Ezekiel 21:29 in connection with Ezekiel 21:28 forms the transition—the introduction to the following paragraph.

Ezekiel 21:30-32 [25–27]. The Prince of Israel


[“By a lively and energetic turn in the discourse, the prophet passes from the people at large to address himself immediately to Zedekiah, and styles him not only wicked, but also pierced through, although, it is well known, he was not actually slain in the calamities that ensued. But it is not exactly what was to be done by the external sword of the Babylonians that comes here into view; it is the execution of the Lord’s judgment, under the same form and aspect of severity as that which had been presented in the former part of the vision—the terrors of His drawn sword. The sword is but an image of the judgment itself, precisely as the devouring fire had been in the vision immediately preceding; and it is not the less true that Zedekiah fell under its powerful stroke, though he personally survived the catastrophe. Driven ignominiously from his throne, doomed to see his family slain before his eyes, to have these eyes themselves put out, and to be led as a miserable and helpless captive in chains to Babylon, he might with the most perfect propriety be regarded as the grand victim of the Lord’s sword—already, in a manner, pierced through with it; for, to the strongly idealistic spirit of the prophet, the wickedness and the sword, the sin and its punishment, appear inseparably connected together. The overthrow to which he was destined seemed to the prophet’s eye at once so inevitable and so near, that he could speak of it no otherwise than as a thing already in existence.
“But it was to be no merely personal loss and degradation; the overthrow to be accomplished on Zedekiah was to draw along with it the complete subversion of the present state of things. Therefore, while the prophet represents the day of visitation as coming upon him, he also speaks of it as being at the time when sin generally had reached its consummation, and the completeness of the guilt was to have its parallel in the complete and terminal character of the judgment. All must now be made desolate; the mitre of the high priest (the emblem of his official dignity and honour, as the representative of a consecrated and priestly people), as well as the crown of the king, was to be put away, and everything turned upside down. Such a convulsed and disorganized state of things was approaching, that, as it is said, ‘this should no longer be this;’ in other words, nothing should be allowed to remain what it had been, it should be another thing than formerly; as is presently explained in what follows: ‘The low is exalted and the high is brought down,’—a general revolution, in which the outward relations of things should be made to change places, in just retaliation upon the people for having so grossly perverted the moral relations of things. Yet the agents and participators in these revolutions are warned not to expect any settled condition to come out of them; ‘this also,’ it is said, ‘shall not be,’ it shall not attain to permanence and security; and so, overthrow is to follow overthrow; ‘nowhere shall there be rest, nowhere security; all things shall be in a state of fluctuation, until the appearing of the great Restorer and Prince of Peace.’ ”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp. 242, 243.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 21:30. One is specially singled out and apostrophized (comp. Ezekiel 21:19).—חָלָל is not: “profane,” or “sacrilegious,” as רָשָׁע (we recall the contrast to צַדִּיק in Ezekiel 3:18) stands beside it. The Chaldee gives: “worthy of death.”—Comp. at Ezekiel 12:10.—The day is the time of judgment, of punishment, of overthrow (1 Samuel 26:10; Psalms 37:13; Job 18:20).—The time of the iniquity of the end (Ezekiel 7:2) is when iniquity, (breach of oaths) brings the end (generally). [Schn., Cocc.: The end-guilt as the last and utmost.] In what sense the end is to be taken, how far Zedekiah’s guilt, who is therefore the subject of address, brings it about, Ezekiel 21:31 shows.—The infinitive denotes the mere action, without stating from whom it proceeds (Hengst.), more expressively than the imperative מַצְנֶפֶת, from צָנַף (Isaiah 22:18 : “enwrap”), denotes in the Pentateuch (11 times) the head-band (turban) of the high-priest. As עֲטָרָה, from עָטַר (to surround), denotes the royal crown, and thus stands for the kingdom in contradistinction to the high-priesthood, so הָרִים (from רוּם) could also be taken in as absolute contradistinction to הָסִיר,—as Hitzig interrogatively renders it: “lift,” “raise,” or “maintain in elevation.” But that the kingly dignity should remain untouched, cannot, in the light of the context, be a matter of uncertainty, and even in Hitzig’s opinion Jehovah’s negative to such a question is undoubted. צְנִוֹף מְלוּבה, in Isaiah 62:3, combines the royal and priestly, not merely in a figurative sense, but on the ground of Exodus 19:6. Besides, Ezekiel is speaking of the end as a whole, not of the subversion of the kingdom merely; although it comes to pass specially by means of the iniquity of the king who is apostrophized, and the judgment (Ezekiel 21:32) points to the priesthood as well as the royalty. Thus nothing remains but to interpret הָרִים as synonymous with הָסִיר, even without a מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, which can be easily supplied from the context (Zedekiah is expressly designated “Prince of Israel” in Ezekiel 21:30). Consequently, “sentence of death is pronounced on the theocracy,” according to its existing form, which the history of the people subsequent to the exile confirms. Comp. Keil on the passage. [Cocc. takes both as designating the kingdom as a whole, not merely Zedekiah’s; and then understands the following as referring to the elevation of the Asmonæans, whose crown, however, would not be the Messianic one promised. In reference to this latter, Ewald remarks: “This corrupt earthly kingdom is not this Messianic kingdom which is to come.”]—זוֹת לאֹ־זוֹת (neuter) indicates, according to most interpreters, the complete subversion of the existing state of things (Ezekiel 21:32), so that the low is to be elevated, and the lofty made low, as Ezekiel 21:32 shows, by Jehovah. Israel having abased herself by sin, God thoroughly abases her by punishment. Häv. takes הַשָּׁפָלָה—ָה as: “turned towards the low,” a constructio prœgnans, betokening the condescension of God. Compare at Ezekiel 17:24. Then זאֹת׳ would be understood thus: This (what has just been brought low) is not this, namely, what it should be (according to its ideal), but a “not this.” And with this is connected elevation (ch Ezekiel 17:24), namely, through the Messiah, as is seen in what follows; whereupon the bringing low of the high, which is more forcibly depicted in Ezekiel 21:32, returns again to the existing condition of things under Zedekiah; and “this also,” merely recapitulating = Yea, this cast-down priesthood and royalty is not (namely, according to Ezekiel 21:31) what it should be, and thus in reality is not, and this condition endures till its elevation in the Coming One (till, ideal terminus, like Genesis 49:10).

Ezekiel 21:32. The thrice-repeated overturn (found here only) accords with the well-known symbolism of the divine. Usually taken as emphatic, to denote total destruction. [According to Abarbanel, it refers to the three last kings, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah; according to others, to the three destructions—the Babylonish, the Greek under Antiochus, and the Roman.] Comp. Isaiah 24:0.—־נָה goes back on זאֹת, or means the land (?).—According to most, this also indicates an additional overthrow; it is more natural to regard it as betokening the present overthrow. הָיָה, masculine, being construed with it, shows זאֹת to be neuter. But this inverted state of things is not to be for ever. עַד, according to its root-signification, includes the future, so that the Person in question brings to an end the overthrow, or the abasement to “nothing,” since He completes it, i.e. makes it complete in form; but at the same time, through realization of the idea in the “overthrown” or “brought low,” effects the fulfilment.—The judgment is God’s, Deuteronomy 1:17, therefore here also Jehovah gives it. The expression speaks of a re-establishment of “the judgment” by means which include chastisement; it embraces the royal and priestly office (Exodus 28:29; 1 Kings 3:9 sq.). Comp. besides, Genesis 49:10; Psalms 72:1; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 42:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:17; John 5:22; Acts 7:14.


[“We can have no hesitation in understanding by this person the Messiah, whether we translate, ‘Till he comes to whom the right is,’ or, ‘Till he comes to whom the judgment belongs;’ ‘and I give it to him.’ It is not expressly said what was to be given him, and should stand waiting for its proper possessor till he should come; but the context plainly forbids us to understand anything less than what was taken away—the things represented by the priestly mitre and the royal crown. The true priestly dignity, and the proper regal glory, were to be gone for a time into abeyance; some partial, temporary, and fluctuating possession of them might be regained, but nothing more; the adequate and permanent realization was only to be found in the person of Messiah, because in Him alone was there to be a fitting representation of the divine righteousness. It is true there was something like a restoration of the standing and honour of the priesthood after the return from the Babylonish exile; and if the ideas currently entertained upon the subject were correct, there might appear in that a failure of the prophecy. But there was no right restoration of the priestly, any more than of the regal dignity at the time specified; it was but a shadow of the original glory. For there was no longer the distinctive prerogative of the Urim and Thummim, nor the ark of the covenant, nor the glory over-shadowing the mercy seat; all was in a depressed and mutilated condition, and even that subject to many interferences from the encroachments of foreign powers. So much only was given, both in respect to the priesthood and the kingdom, as to show that the Lord had not forsaken His people, and to serve as pledge of the coming glory. But it was to the still-prospective, rather than the present state of things, that the eye of faith was directed to look for the proper restoration. And lest any should expect otherwise, the prophet Zechariah, after the return from Babylon, took up the matter, as it were, where Ezekiel had left it, and intimated in the plainest manner, that what was then accomplished was scarcely worth taking into account; it was, at the most, but doing in a figure what could only find its real accomplishment in the person and work of Messiah. Especially at Ezekiel 6:14 : ‘And he (the branch) shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory; and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne.’ Thus the mitre and the crown were both to meet in him, and the temple in its noblest sense be built, and the glory be obtained, such as it became the Lord’s Anointed to possess. Meanwhile all was but preparatory and imperfect.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp. 244, 245.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 21:33–37 [Ezekiel 21:28-32]. Against Ammon

As the prince of Israel had his counterpart in the Messiah, so the declaration “against Jerusalem” in Ezekiel 21:21-24 sq. finds its counterpart in this paragraph; hence also the analogous expressions.

Ezekiel 21:33. Reproach is injuring by words: directly,—reviling; or indirectly,—self-glorification. Thereby the mention made of the Ammonites is illustrated. When Babylon first of all inflicted punishment on Jerusalem, Ammon took occasion to boast over the besieged (Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:6; Zephaniah 2:8; Lamentations 1:2; Lamentations 3:61), and to applaud the conquerors. Ammon’s self-exaltation had exhibited itself practically by their seizing a portion of the trans-Jordanic territory of the former kingdom of Israel (Jeremiah 49:1 sq.).—Comp. Ezekiel 21:14; Ezekiel 21:19; Ezekiel 21:15; Ezekiel 21:20. לְהָכִילֹ, according to Gesen., for הַאֲכִיל (from אָכַל), to cause to consume (?). Others: from כּוּל, holding, containing (Ezekiel 23:32); almost adverbially: as much as possible, or (יָכֹל) as much as can be. Hengst.: abundantly. Hitzig: to dazzle; properly: to make the eyes dull of vision. (Oxymoron.)—That it may glitter, Ezekiel 21:15.

Ezekiel 21:34. בְּ, equivalent to: “notwithstanding that,” and to be taken as parenthetic. Even in Ammon, therefore, false prophets and false confidence! Ezekiel 13:6; Ezekiel 7:9; Jeremiah 27:9-10. Klief.: The oracles of Nebuchadnezzar,Ezekiel 21:26; Ezekiel 21:26, while they pointed to Jerusalem, showed Ammon false. See Keil in opposition to this notion.—לָתֵת, Hitz.: the occasion of the sword’s being placed (reading אוֹתָהּ) on the necks. (Of the pierced-through? Wherefore this again?) Others: that I may lay thee; or: that one (the enemy) may lay thee; or, as Ewald (History of the People of Israel): as it is falsely prophesied to thee that thou shalt be laid on the necks of the Jews to destroy them, I will return thee to thy sheath,—namely, the sword of the Ammonites which is addressed. It depends rather on the foregoing verse. The pierced-through of the wicked—from among the Jews; comp. Ezekiel 21:30; Ezekiel 21:19. They have received the death-blow of the sword on their necks, which are brought into prominence for the sake of pictorial description. Thus Ammon is judged like the prostrate Judah, which it mocked. Comp. Ezekiel 21:30.

Ezekiel 21:35. Address to Ammon. The sword, which is to be supplied, is not mentioned, because it does not come into account in contrast to the sword of God’s vengeance against Ammon. The gender (הָשַׁב, with Patach, masc. imper.) alternates with feminines, the sword-bearing men with the nation as a feminine idea. [Ewald, infin. absol. as in Ezekiel 21:31.] Therefore all resistance is vain. (Matthew 26:52!) It receives its sentence from Jehovah,—its end where it originated. Comp. Joseph. Antiq. x. 9. 7.—Ezekiel 16:3.—Ezekiel 11:10. [Should one, with Jerome, in Ezekiel 21:35 (Rashi, Ezekiel 21:34) regard the Babylonians as the persons addressed, so that with the: “against Ammon,” an: “against Babylon” is joined, but which from intelligible reasons is simply implied, then Ezekiel 21:10 would not be opposed to this view. A separation of Jehovah’s sword from that of Babylon, which as such scarcely comes still into account, especially in reference to that which follows, has nothing inconceivable in it; and since Jehovah judges Babylon, His sword would remain drawn. The scabbard does not therefore require to be understood as meaning the land, but the meaning would be, that after the completion of the judgment against both Jerusalem and Ammon, by means of war, Babylon’s sword should be sheathed, and should await the judgment of God in its own land. The execution of it by the Persians would be characteristically depicted in the following verses, while in relation to Ammon the statement seems rather strong; and the supposition of Häv. that Ammon represents heathenism generally, or, according to Hengst., “the world-power hostile to the kingdom of God,” is very suggestive of perplexity.]

Ezekiel 21:36. שָׁפַךְ (Ezekiel 14:19) makes a paronomasia with שָׁפַט, immediately before. עֶבְרָה, “outpouring;” hence used of wrath as poured out. בְּ may also be translated by: blow upon, as, when fire is blown upon or against any one, the fire itself is blown on. Hitzig, however: “with the fire of My fury I will breathe upon thee.” In the end the subject passes over from the sword to the fire, as in the beginning, from the fire to the sword. Consuming men are those who prepare this fire; Hengst.: “burning men are those who are filled with glowing anger.” [In the explanation which points to the Persians, an allusion to their fire-worship!] Häv.: fierce, cruel; Gesen.: foolish, brutish, Psalms 94:8. So also Hitzig, in relation to the language of the Chaldeans, which was unintelligible (stupid) to the Ammonites.

Ezekiel 21:37. Ezekiel 15:4; Ezekiel 15:6.—Thy blood, etc., in which the figures of fire and sword are unified,—in the midst of the land, as in Ezekiel 21:35: “in the place,” etc., “in the land,” etc. It will fall on them in their homes, so that weapons of defence shall be of no service. Contrast to a war of offence. Others: “flowing everywhere in the land” (?). Ewald: “Thy blood shall remain in the midst of the earth, and thou shalt not be made mention of.”—Hengst.: “from the times of the Maccabees, the Ammonites and the Moabites have quite disappeared from history.” Their subversion is complete, while Israel has still something to look forward to.


1. The bitterest and most painful plaint finds expression in poetry. A truly spiritual grief and the poetic form readily combine. This is the psychological truth of the chapter. The unusual forms of expression, the rapid transitions, and the idiomatic difficulties which this chapter presents, are accounted for by its poetic construction. This subjective-logical, abrupt-dithyrambic text has been marred by a Philistine criticism which tramples on psychology and æsthetics.
2. Fire and sword are the two figures in which, divine judgment clothes itself. The latter is, however, more than a picture, if the significance of war in the history of the kingdom of God among men is not overlooked.
3. Every judgment of God keeps in view the establishment of the right on earth, and is unimaginable apart from grace and mercy.
4. It is to be noted as to the Jewish kingdom, now ripe for destruction, that it “despised every tree;” whether that means that which was subject to it, or mankind generally. It thus became inhuman, lost sight of Israel’s essential relation to humanity, and became faithless to the fundamental significance of the people of God.
5a. Justice will be done to the text by regarding the manifold Chaldaic divination as nothing more than a highly dramatic representation of the idea of Providence. Hävernick, indeed, since he makes the agreement of soothsaying and prophecy—brought about, of course, by divine guidance—subservient to the carrying out of God’s will, goes still farther; so far, indeed, as to maintain that there is in Ezekiel, notwithstanding his “otherwise markedly Levitical character,” “a decided recognition of divination.” He finds the occasion in the exile-period, when “Hebraism was so remarkably tinctured with the soothsaying of heathenism;” as appears also in Daniel, etc.

5b. [“What a sublime proof of the overruling providence and controlling agency of Jehovah! The mightiest monarch of the world, travelling at the head of almost unnumbered legions, and himself consciously owning no other direction than that furnished by the instruments of his own blind superstition, yet having his path marked out to him beforehand by this servant of the living God! How strikingly did it show that the greatest potentates on earth, and even the spiritual wickedness in high places, have their bounds appointed to them by the hand of God, and that however majestically they may seem to conduct themselves, still they cannot overstep the prescribed limits, and must be kept in all their operations subservient to the higher purposes of Heaven!”—P. F.—W. F.]

6. In his oft-cited work, The Prophets and their Prophecies, Tholuck calls attention to the distinction between “subordinate” divination, which, “resting upon a natural substratum, divines the future from this” (interpreters of oracles, diviners, augurs, haruspices), and the “higher” method of the “revealer of the future who is immediately impelled by God” (Divination, Prophecy). Plutarch, Vita Homeri, Ezekiel 212; Cicero, De Divin. i. 18. After giving a sketch of the views of the fathers, Tholuck comes to the conclusion: “Whatever we may ascribe to the agency of priestly fraud and superstitious self-deception, it is now universally acknowledged by philologists, and investigators into antiquity, that at the foundation there was a reality.” He then refers more particularly to the insight gained, since the end of last century, into a middle territory between the divine and the non divine agencies of divination (the phenomena of magnetism and somnambulism, which are ranked by medical men and philosophers as physiological and psychological facts).

7. “There is a natural divination,” says Beck, “inasmuch as the course of the world developes itself according to certain original and standing fundamental laws in exact regularity, which we are taught by our conscience to regard as the moral order of the world. As, by means of a definite consciousness of this standing divine order, conscience often gives a man, in relation to his own doing and suffering, very clear indications of his own future, so a living and vigorously aroused conscience can lead him to a perception of how the past and present must have come about in virtue of that moral order, and partly of what must farther emerge from it. Where, however, this prophetic conscience is intensified by especially profound experiences, or earnest investigation of history, the moral connection between past, present, and future may often become clear even to the smallest details. But this divination extends only to the world-bond already existing under the universal government of God, and to the historical bond regulated and limited by internal and eternal moral laws. Into new determinations of the course of the world, which first became manifest by special governmental acts of God which reveal them,—the proper divine order and development of the kingdom,—mere divination cannot penetrate, for it is destitute of the necessary preliminary conditions.”
8. As to the relations between divination and prophecy, see Tholuck in the treatise referred to, § 8, and Herzog’s Realencycl. xvii. p. 641 sq. In regard to the substance of the matter, the difference proves itself to be, that while, at most, room is made for the former by the providence of God as the principle of world-government, redemption, i.e. Christ’s redemption, lifts the latter to its post of elevation. Then also divination must always be estimated in relation to the physical region in which it moves, and according to whose laws it is excited; while prophecy finds its sphere not only in the soul, but also in the spiritual life, and, though dealing in some measure with individual, national, human interests, ever stretches beyond to eternal truth as the object of its supreme interest.

9. It is to be observed that the Davidic king, by whose means the ruin of Israel is brought about, on the other hand also serves here as a medium for the Messiah. Not only did David’s family furnish in point of fact the last “prince (king) of Israel,” but the idea of an everlasting royalty in Israel was bound up by God’s promises with David’s house. The contrast between sin and grace, despair of all and hope for all, death and resurrection, is concentrated in the last representative of David’s family. It is peculiar to our prophet to have so strongly emphasized this contrast, Ezekiel 21:30-32.

10. Israel ought to have been a kingdom of priests to Jehovah. As Israel fell away from this position with the fall of the priesthood and the kingdom, so on the other hand, with the renewed bestowal of priesthood and royalty in the Messiah, Israel is also reinstated in Him as that which it ought to be, 1 Peter 2:9-10.

11. The high-priesthood, indeed, still continued after the exile. But in that period it fared with the priesthood as with the temple. “Both,” says Häv., “bound together in the closest way by divine arrangement, fell short of that which they had been before the exile. There was only a shadow of the ancient glory, as the temple was only a provisional one for an abnormal state of things. This was outwardly apparent, for there was no ark of the covenant in the temple, and the high priest was denied the right of consulting by Urim and Thummim, Ezra 2:63. As, then, the high-priesthood was totally in abeyance so far as the exiles were concerned, and as after the exile only its shadow was provisionally set up, so in the eye of prophecy the exile and the appearance of the Messiah are closely connected facts.”

12. As to the kingdom, Zerubbabel, the leader of the people after the exile, although of David’s line, was no king on David’s throne. But Herod, who becomes king over Israel, is of Edomite origin.
13. “In the remarkable passage of the Tract. Sota, p. 1069, ed. Wagenseil, it is said: The Urim and Thummim, and the king from David’s stem, had ceased with the destruction, and their restoration is to be expected only when the dead are raised up, and the Messiah, David’s Son, appears” (Häv.).

14. The old versions, with great unanimity, have made use of the Messianic passage here in Ezekiel for the explanation of “Shiloh,” Genesis 49:18. Hengst. complains, in his Christology, that instead of an allusion, they have mostly assumed an explanation; to him the relation of Ezekiel to the passage in question seems unrecognisable. But while the prophet supplemen’s Genesis 49:0 from Psalms 72:1-5, where righteousness and judgment are the basis of the peace introduced by the Messiah, we do not find in Ezekiel that which we might expect,—to whom the “peace,” but “to whom the judgment,” belongs. In Ezekiel, however, the peace is also in the background, for the advent of Him whose is the judgment makes an end of destruction. That dangers would threaten the sceptre of Judah before the coming of Shiloh, even Jacob intimated by the stress which he put on: it “shall not depart from Judah till,” etc. Kurtz, however, in his History of the Old Covenant (vol. II. pp. 87, 88, Clark’s Trans.), maintains too much when he asserts that the two passages are entirely different. The completion of the glory of Judah is here, as there, kept in view, and in both cases in a Messianic sense. The distinction is, that what concerns Judah as Judah is taken ideally in Genesis 49:0, and really in Ezekiel. Therefore, here a temporary “is not,” and there a (definitive) “not depart.”

15. Obscurity, ambiguity, and difficulty of interpretation are characteristic of the Messianic prophecies. Comp. 1 Peter 1:10-11.


Ezekiel 21:1 sq. [Ezekiel 20:45 sq.] The sentence of burning; the Judge who pronounces it; the avenger who executes it; the judgment whereby it is accomplished.—The forest in the south—a picture, a history, an example.—“In nature descends now a gentle, now a dashing rain-shower” (St.).—“The word of God is rightly likened to rain. Like rain, it descends from above, and not according to man’s will; it is also, like it, useful and beneficial; as rain flows down from rocks upon the fields, so the word of God upon the godless, and, on the other hand, into pious hearts; and, like the rain, it is not equally acceptable to all,” etc. (Fessel.)—“That which is bitter to the mouth is wholesome to the heart. The word of God, even when it is sharper than a two-edged sword, is like the quickening rain” (Hengst.).

Ezekiel 21:3 [Ezekiel 20:47]. A wood bends beneath the storm of the Almighty, and rustles while it waves; but we men harden ourselves more and more.—“God will turn us from the instruments whom He employs against us to Himself, that we may learn whom we have sinned against, and by whom therefore we are punished” (St.).—The tree, which in spite of everything is unfruitful, is ripe for the fire.—“When the green tree does not stand, how will it go with the dry?” (Stck.)—The fire which is not quenched.

Ezekiel 21:4 [Ezekiel 20:48]. “If we see that all human plans and devices, even the most promising, come to nothing, we are led to the confession that we have to do with personal Omnipotence and Righteousness, against which the battle is unavailing” (Hengst.).—Contemplation of the judgment of God.—God’s judgments permit no malicious or even idle spectators.—Knowledge of the holy and righteous God from His judgments in this world.

Ezekiel 21:5. “The godless never want for excuses: if one preaches by analogies, it is too dark; if by plain statements, it is too simple, blundering, etc., 1 Kings 22:15” (Cr.).—“The world cries out against preachers who touch their conscience; that which is hateful to the world, many are ashamed to confess” (Schm.).—“The sighing of preachers over their hearers.”—The bad style of criticism of preaching.—“Nothing remains but to flee to Him by whom they were sent to preach” (Stck.).—How do so many sermons meet such opposition?—The fault is the hearer’s. Thus many a sermon is a judgment to many people.—“The disciples, Luke 8:0, asked, ‘What might this parable be?’ ” (Stck.)

Ezekiel 21:6 sq. [Ezekiel 21:1 sq.] The sword-word over Judah—a word of God, and a word of destruction.—“Jerusalem,” the address of a sword, and what a sword!

Ezekiel 21:7 [Ezekiel 21:2]. Thither the Jews turned their face when they prayed in war or in a foreign land, 1 Kings 8:44; 1 Kings 8:48 (B. B.).

Ezekiel 21:8 sq. [Ezekiel 21:3 sq.] “In national chastisements the pious suffer along with others” (St.).—But there is a difference even when the suffering is outwardly the same.—“All men are, besides, unrighteous of themselves, and according to their nature have deserved nothing better than the godless. But during judgments they separate from the fellowship of the wicked, from which they may not before have held themselves sufficiently aloof” (L.).—The sword is God’s. God is in the swords, although men bear them.—“Let us learn to judge rightly of war. God oversees it from beginning to end” (L.).—“The sheath in which God’s sword is put is His forbearance” (Theodoret).—“Man’s sword we may escape, but not God’s” (Stck.).—The axe was even then laid unto the root of the trees. The sword of the Romans at last followed that of the Chaldeans.—“So it proceeds till the last Antichrist and his desolation” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 21:11 sq. [Ezekiel 21:6 sq.] “The judgments which hang over the wicked world are so dreadful, that a believer may well sigh over them, Daniel 9:4 sq.” (St.)—“A preacher who wishes to move and teach others must himself feel similar emotions” (Cr.).—The sighing of the servant of God over that which men can and yet will not hear, and over that which they will require to hear and see.—He who will not hear must feel.—“Just as we, when we read that the Saviour wept over Jerusalem, lightly ask why He wept” (Richt.).—“How insolent and confident the godless are in prosperity; in adversity they are equally fainthearted and desolate! Then they are in terror of a falling leaf; much more of a destroying sword” (L.).—“Ah, it is not good when God’s witnesses merely weep in secret (Jeremiah 13:17); much more when God’s messengers and angels of peace weep bitterly (Isaiah 33:7), and are obliged to fulfil their office with sighing (Hebrews 13:7), because it is too much for them; and usually there follows thereupon a mighty outpouring of wrath” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 21:13 sq. [Ezekiel 21:8 sq.] The sacred, terrible sword-song. See Körner’s Song of the Sword.—The prophets doubtless treated politics both on their outward and inward side, but only the politics of the kingdom of God.

Ezekiel 21:14 [Ezekiel 21:9]. “God shows us the sword, and waves it over our heads, so that we should be timeously and profitably alarmed” (Stck.).—“God can use every creature as His sword; it is always prepared to execute His command” (St.).—“War as a divine judgment, therefore for the punishment of evil-doers; but it is also a preaching of repentance, when God sharpens the sword and makes it glitter” (L.).—“He who will not submit to the sword of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12) will be overtaken by the sword of the enemy” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 21:15 [Ezekiel 21:10]. God Himself takes the offering which men will not give Him voluntarily. The personal offering—the free and the constrained.—“He fares as a brute who lives brutishly, Psalms 49:0. Wickedly have I lived, wickedly died, shall be the epitaph of the godless” (Stck.).—There can be joy amid the deepest suffering, but not over another’s suffering, especially when it is punishment for sin.—“But they obey God only who are obliged to slay such offerings for Him” (L.).

Ezekiel 21:16 [Ezekiel 21:11]. “The executioner with whole armies” (B. B.).—The sin of the people presses the sword into the hand for war.—Sin was also interwoven with the conquering chaplets of the victors, as the dew upon these chaplets was innumerable tears and drops of blood.—Which is ever to be remembered amid songs of triumph!—Fortune of war, as men call it, what a sad fortune!—God is the judge, behind and in the conqueror.

Ezekiel 21:17 [Ezekiel 21:12]. Like people, like prince, the sorrow of the prophets.—“Even the great have no privilege to sin” (B. B.).—“Pain, but not murmuring” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 21:18 [Ezekiel 21:13]. “Trial is a terrible word to a people that suffers the deepest calamities. When the trial comes, nothing remains undisclosed, nothing unrequited; every varnish disappears, and all glitter vanishes” (Hengst.).—A tried sword is a dreadful thing when it turns against a people whom God has given up to judgment.—If a king or a people should never have regarded men, they must regard the man who bears God’s sword.—One day an end will be made of all despisers of God and man.—A kingdom’s’ inhumanity its death-sentence. God relieves men from the sceptre of tyrants. Rehoboam had formerly despised Israel, 1 Kings 12:0; Zedekiah regarded neither God nor Nebuchadnezzar in his perjury; Judah had long lightly esteemed God’s prophets.

Ezekiel 21:19 [Ezekiel 21:14]. The history of the world as the fulfilment of prophecy.—Symbolical prophecy.—The emblems of punishment.—Some must prophesy judgment who would so willingly speak of redemption, and redemption alone; men will not have the blessing, and therefore the curse must be exhibited.—“Where sin is doubled, there also is punishment doubled” (Stck.).—God’s sword draws not back from human elevation; it reaches the dwellers in the valley, and those also who sit on lofty seats.—No earthly throne is a protection from the sword of God; the history of the world is filled with proofs of this.—The last mighty pierced-through one is Antichrist.—“Alas, who can hide from the wrath of God!” (B. B.)

Ezekiel 21:20 sq. [15 sq.] Every heart melts under judgment, why not under God’s mercy?—God is always as a stumbling-block to the ungodly. How terrible is judgment in times of peace, but how much worse in times of war! With the severer judgments of God, the ungodliness of the sinner comes wholly to light.—Walls are no defence to sinners, when God is not their defence.—The terror of a servant at the judgment which will certainly overtake the world.—The troubled heart of those who proclaim peace, and say, Be ye reconciled to God!—Those whom nothing amazes will at last be amazed by God’s judgment.—God’s sword on all sides.—“Mountains fall on us,” etc., Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:15 sq.—“God has still a king of Babylon, who shall destroy the false Jerusalem” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 21:22. The fearful hands of God, Hebrews 10:31.

Ezekiel 21:23 sq. [Ezekiel 21:18 sq.] The ways of the sword of God. Its manifestation.—God knows how to find sinners.—Just as Ezekiel sketched to the Jews, as if with chalk on the table, that which was to happen to them.—Everything proceeds according to the divine will, whether we will it or not. When God judges, everything becomes a finger-post to the avengers whom He sends. On many a life-way the finger-post which will direct punishment is already erected.

Ezekiel 21:25 [Ezekiel 21:20]. “By God’s arrangement, judgment shall begin at the house of God” (Hengst.).—“Let us not reckon ourselves guiltless when others are found guilty! God spares us still in His long-suffering” (Stck.).—Sins scale the best fortified cities.

Ezekiel 21:26 [Ezekiel 21:21]. Prophecy and divination in their resemblance and difference.—Divination under the omnipotence and wisdom of God, as to which comp. Matthew 2:0.—The Egyptian enchanters and the Chaldean magi in their significance for the kingdom of God.

Ezekiel 21:27 [Ezekiel 21:22]. To-day, Jerusalem; to-morrow, thou!—“God makes use even of divination for prophesying, but in doubtful circumstances we should apply to Him; His word will direct us and divine for us” (Stck., St.).—“Unbelief is punished in the Ammonites, Ezekiel 21:34” (Richt.).

Ezekiel 21:28 [Ezekiel 21:23]. “Unbelievers always believe that they are far from judgment” (Stck.).—His own evil conscience, and not merely the judgment of God which bursts upon him, ought to lead the unbeliever to belief,—at least that a righteous God lives, and will not be mocked.—“The nearer God’s judgments, the more callous the ungodly are wont to become” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 21:29 [Ezekiel 21:24]. “Their own sins cry out against the ungodly, and call for God’s vengeance, Genesis 4:10” (St.).

Ezekiel 21:30 [Ezekiel 21:25]. “Thus God gives various titles; comp. Psalms 82:6” (W.).—“The ungodly is already judged; a couple of years’ respite, which are still left to him, are not accounted of. Before the eye of faith, the sinner, who is still in reality set on high, lies already in his blood” (Hengst.).—“From whom He will, God can take away, and on whom He will, bestow kingdoms, Daniel 4:29. Therefore stand in awe of this great Lord, ye princes of the people, and serve Him with trembling in the presence of His holy majesty, Psalms 2:10-11” (Tüb. Bib.).—“Unrepentant wickedness, which has been often warned and chastised, which has witnessed many examples of judgment, and been long borne with, is the iniquity of the end” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 21:31 [Ezekiel 21:26]. “In the kingdom of God there are no promises, but such as resemble those streams which alternately flow above and under ground, as surely as all the bearers of the promises are infected with sin” (Hengst.).—The lifting up of Jehoiachin, the casting down of Zedekiah.—“Of this Mary also sang, Luke 1:52” (Stck.).—“David’s line proceeds through Zerubbabel to Christ” (L.).

Ezekiel 21:32 [Ezekiel 21:27]. The royal sinner, and the royal Saviour.—Since royalty and priesthood shall both be given to Him (Psalms 110:0), these can only be spoken of spiritually, as in this sense they pertained to the Anointed with the Spirit. His kingdom was not of this world, and the Epistle to the Hebrews is to be read in reference to His high-priesthood.

Ezekiel 21:33 sq. [Ezekiel 21:28 sq.] There are doubtless race-types, prophetic national physiognomies.—In Ammon there are the manner of Edom and the mocking of Ishmael.—To defer is not to revoke.—Ammon’s mocking of Israel was at the same time a deriding of its true and future King; in other words, of Jehovah and His Anointed, Psalms 2:0.—Jerusalem’s punishment should be traced back, not to God’s impotence to defend them, but to His righteousness, which Ammon also is to experience.—The judgment of sinners never happens for the self-justification of other sinners.

Ezekiel 21:34 [Ezekiel 21:29]. Divination, looking beyond sin and the righteousness of God, is at all times false and deceptive.—But men prefer lies to truth; for the lie flatters, while truth does not spare. We love the joys of the present, and therefore we hate the painfulness of truth.—“Divine punishment has a day, which is not deferred when the measure is full” (W.).—False doctrine is punished as well as an evil life.

Ezekiel 21:35 [Ezekiel 21:30]. The place of the sin is often also the place of punishment; but God knows how to find the guilty everywhere. How can our sweet home become so bitter? Thy own heart is thy judgment.—We all have our sentence of death in Adam.—Besides, it also comes to Babylon’s turn. For the sword continues to be God’s, although it glittered for a while in Babylon’s hand.

Ezekiel 21:36 [Ezekiel 21:31]. How consoling to die in the Lord! How dreadful to be destroyed by God!—The world, men, one’s own heart, can become a hell.—Let me not fall into the hands of men!—The wicked the executioners of the wicked.

Ezekiel 21:37. The memory of the righteous is blessed, and endures, but the name of the ungodly perishes. “Well for him who obtains a new name from God, Proverbs 10:7; Revelation 3:12” (St.).—God’s words of mercy and of judgment are alike sure.


[1]The greater number of Schroeder’s bracketed “other interpretations” have been omitted, as being destitute of probability, and quite unworthy of notice. Dr. Fairbairn’s rendering: “perchance the sceptre of My son rejoiceth,” is grammatically inadmissible, for נָשִׂישׂ is not a participle, but the 1st plur. imperf. But could we not adopt his translation of the last clause and render the passage: “Or shall we rejoice over the rod [sceptre] of My son?” as if it at least were safe, come what will? Nay, that cannot be, for “it (the sword) despiseth every tree [all wood],” the sceptre of Judah not excepted.—W. F.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/ezekiel-21.html. 1857-84.
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