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PREDICTIONS OF JUDGMENTS UPON THE AMMONITES, MOABITES, EDOMITES, AND PHILISTINES. (Chap. 25)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—In chs. 25–32, we come to a new group of prophecies. They are predictions of judgment upon the heathen nations.
“While the prophet’s mouth was to be mute to Israel, the Lord directed him to speak against the heathen nations, and to foretell to them the judgment of destruction, that they might not be lifted up by the fall of the people and kingdom of God, but might recognise in the judgment upon Israel a work of the Omnipotence and righteousness of the Lord, the Judge of the whole earth. There are seven heathen nations whose destruction Ezekiel foretells in this section of his book, viz.,
(4) the Philistines (ch. 25);
(6) Sidon (ch. 26–28); and
(7) Egypt (ch. 29–32). These prophecies are divided into thirteen words of God by the introductory formula, ‘the word of Jehovah came to me,’ the utterances against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and the Philistines, being all comprehended in one word of God whereas there are four separate words of God directed against Tyre, one against Sidon, and seven against Egypt. In the seven nations and the seven words of God directed against Egypt we cannot fail to discover an allusion to the symbolical significance of the number. And in order to make it the more apparent that the number has been chosen on account of its significance, Ezekiel divides his announcement of the judgment upon the seventh people into seven words of God. On the basis of Genesis 1:0, seven is the number denoting the completion of the works of God. When therefore, Ezekiel selects seven nations and utters seven words of God concerning the principal nation, namely Egypt, he evidently intends to indicate thereby that the judgment predicted will be executed and completed upon the heathen world and its peoples through the word and acts of God.”—(Keil).
Ezekiel 25:3. “The Ammonites … Because thou saidst, Aha, against My sanctuary, when it was profaned.” etc. “They were the descendants of Lot, and occupied the territory to the east of the Jordan, beyond that pertaining to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. They formed one of the most powerful of the minor neighbouring states, and were frequently at war with the Hebrews. They were gross idolaters, and had for their national God Moloch or Milcom. On the fall of Jerusalem, to which as auxiliaries they contributed, and the transportation of the inhabitants of Judea to Babylon, they insolently triumphed over them, on which account the present threatening is denounced against them.”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 25:4. “I will deliver thee to the men of the East for a possession.” “The men of the East are the inhabitants of Arabia Deserta, east of the territories immediately bordering on the Jordan and the Dead Sea. On the destruction of the Jewish state by Nebuchadnezzar, the country was to be taken possession of by the nomadic tribes, who should there form their encampments and dwell in their tents, leading the same pastoral life to which they had been accustomed.”—(Henderson.) “Palaces.” The Heb. word never means “palaces,” but only “villages,” or “folds.” These were nomadic encampments, surrounded by mud walls, as is common in the East. “Thy fruit … thy milk.” Besides the produce of the soil, the milk is also mentioned as one of the products of a pastoral life, and the principal food of nomads.
Ezekiel 25:5. “Rabbah.” This was the metropolis of the Ammonites. It is elsewhere called Rabbah of Ammon to distinguish it from a city of that name in the tribe of Judah. Ptolemy rebuilt it and gave it the name of Philadelphia. “A stable for camels.” The city rebuilt by Ptolemy was in ruins in the fourteenth century. These have been visited by modern travellers, who have found remains of a palace, a mausoleum, an ampitheatre, a temple, a church, and a castle, but they could not discover a single inhabited dwelling. Burckhardt found a party of Arabs there, who had stabled their camels among the ruins.
Ezekiel 25:7. “I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee.” “This desolate state of Rabbah must be referred to the three hundred years which intervened between the destruction of Jerusalem and the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, after which it became celebrated among the Greeks and Romans, by whom, no doubt, the splendid buildings, the ruins of which still remain; were erected.”—(Henderson.)
Ezekiel 25:8. “Moab and Seir do say, Behold the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen.” They had forgotten that nine centuries before this a king of Moab had been told by a Gentile seer, that Israel should “dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Numbers 23:9.)
Ezekiel 25:9. “I will open the side of Moab.” The mountain passes would be cleared, which were otherwise closed and fortified. Thus the enemy could easily enter the country and take possession.
Ezekiel 25:12. “Revenged himself upon them.” “The old spirit of revenge, in which he had acted from the olden time, still keeps by his side. While in the more distant relationship of Ammon and Moab, malignant joy is the expression of hostile feeling, with Edom, in his much nearer relationship, the same feeling vents itself in actions of revenge. Hence the charge of sinful procedure as the incurring of guilt.”—(Lange.)
Ezekiel 25:15. “Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge.” “The Philistines are in Ezekiel 25:15 joined by Edom on the side of their doing (Ezekiel 25:12, &c.); to Ammon-Moab on account of their contempt of the people of God. The latter was the inmost feeling, hostility the impelling force, wherein the distinction from Edom lay. “To destroy it for the old hatred.” This is the design, the abiding tendency. The everlasting enmity reached back to the earliest days. A perpetually enduring war is the standing feature of the relation, while fixed hostility was the root of it.”—(Lange.)
Ezekiel 25:16. “I will cut off the Cherethims.” “The name Philistines signifies probably the emigrants, in accordance with the accounts of the books of Moses concerning their migration from the regions on the Black Sea. By the side of this name goes, of substantially like signification for the same people, Kerethim, extirpated—those who were forced to leave their native land. These Kerethim are now become Kerethim a second time; their name shall verify itself anew. The destruction of the remnant points to this, that they shall be destroyed to the last man, as in fact the Philistines have utterly disappeared. It is the great privilege of the people of God, that how heavy soever the judgments of God may be upon them, never will it be said of them, I will destroy the remnant.”—(Hengstenberg.)
THE PROPHECIES AGAINST HEATHEN NATIONS
I. Heathen nations formed the dark background to Israel. In the spiritual darkness in which they dwelt, we may trace different shades. Ammon, Moab, Edom, in their order, represent increasing blackness of darkness, until we come to the full depths of it in the Philistines. These heathen nations were a source of continual danger to the people of God. The Church of God is ever surrounded by the world; a world which exhibits every gradation of evil, coarse, refined; the devil rough and blustering, or as an angel of light. In the case of the three first nations mentioned by the prophet, their guilt was enhanced by their relationship to Israel. “The people of God must undergo the experience which the man of God undergoes (Matthew 10:36, Micah 7:6). Out of his blood-relationships there springs a hostility even to blood. While this revolves around the Spirit that wrought in Israel, it could not but finally array itself against the Messiah, as He has Himself said that we shall be hated for His name’s sake.”—(Lange).
II. Heathen nations had sinned against Israel. Ammon, by profane mocking at their calamities (Ezekiel 25:3-6). Moab, by a false estimate of Israel’s spiritual position. “The house of Israel is like unto all the heathen” (Ezekiel 25:8). They could not understand that it was impossible that Israel should ever become as the heathen (Ezekiel 20:32). Israel would have more responsibility than the rest of the nations, as she would sin against the light. Edom, “by taking vengeance” (Ezekiel 25:12). The Philistines, by an old and deeply-rooted hatred towards Israel (Ezekiel 25:15).
III. Heathen nations have responsibilities towards God. They were not held so strictly responsible as those who had more light and privilege, yet they were not in such total and unrelieved darkness as to render them inexcusable.
1. They were capable of hearing and receiving God’s message. “Hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:3). They had some knowledge of what righteousness was. They had a conscience to which an appeal might be made.
2. They were capable of forming judgments on the subject of religion. We mean religion in the sense of Godliness, and including all duty. The heathen nations knew that Israel was punished for her sins against God. They rejoiced over her fall (Ezekiel 25:3). They thought that all these calamities disproved their claim to be the people of God. A Gentile seer (probably of Edomite extraction) was, long ago, struck with the conviction that the nation was holy (Numbers 23:10). The surrounding heathen nations felt that they were not as Israel when Israel was right with God.
3. They were capable of the knowledge of God. “And they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17). They would be made to know God through His manifest judgments.
IV. God’s treatment of heathen nations shows His purpose of salvation concerning all mankind. It was no true victory that the heathen nations obtained over Israel. Though to all outward seeming Israel was about to be numbered with dead empires, yet she would rise again in a more glorious form, and become the life and light of the nations. Her disasters and failures would serve but to prepare the way for God’s kingdom. The Gentile nations would, in the course of Providence, be made to see that the chosen people were preserved for the salvation of the world.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 25". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25