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God answereth idolaters according to their own heart. They are exhorted to repent, for fear of judgments by means of seduced prophets. God's irrevocable sentence of famine, of noisome beasts, of the sword, and of pestilence. A penitent remnant shall be reserved for example to others.
Before Christ 593.
Ezekiel 14:1. Then came certain of the elders— The prophet tells us neither the names nor the intention of these elders of Israel, nor the time when they came to him. But the manner wherein God speaks, gives us to understand, that they came only to tempt him, as the Pharisees came to Christ, and with no design to profit by what they heard, or to correct their faults. See Calmet.
Ezekiel 14:3. These men have set up their idols— They are not only inclined to idolatry in their hearts, but have actually set up idols, and worshipped them. However, the prophet shews plainly, that their idolatries consisted not in intirely deserting, but in polluting the religion of Moses with foreign worship. Div. Leg. vol. 4: p. 47.
Ezekiel 14:4. I the Lord will answer him that cometh— That is, I will take care that the false prophet shall so answer him as his idolatries have deserved. See on Ezekiel 14:9.
Ezekiel 14:5. That I may take the house of Israel, &c.— "That I may deal with them according to their deserts, and thereby convince them that I am a searcher of hearts, and know the inward and secret wickedness of their thoughts."
Ezekiel 14:7. Of the stranger— Of the proselyte who sojourneth in Israel, who estrangeth himself, &c. By myself I Jehovah will answer him, even by myself.
Ezekiel 14:9. If the prophet be deceived— The reader will observe, that Ezekiel, or God by Ezekiel, is here speaking of false prophets or anti-prophets, as described in the foregoing chapter; such as had set themselves up in opposition to the true prophets of God. They were prophets that prophesied out of their own hearts: ch. Ezekiel 13:2; Ezekiel 13:17. They were foolish prophets that followed their own spirit, and saw nothing of truth: Ezekiel 14:3. They were such as had seen vanity and lying divination, pretended to be God's prophets, when the Lord had not sent them: Ezekiel 14:6-26.14.7. They seduced the people, saying, Peace, when there was no peace: Ezekiel 14:10; Ezekiel 14:16. Of one of the prophets of this wicked stamp Ezekiel is here speaking, as may easily be perceived by what is said in this same verse, that God will stretch out his hand upon the prophet, and will destroy him: (see for remarkable instances, Jeremiah 28:15-24.28.17; Jeremiah 29:21; Jer 22:3 l, 32.): and in the next verse it is added; that the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him; which words carry a plain intimation, that the prophet here spoken of is understood to have been as bad as the idolaters who are here supposed to consult him, and to have been as much a false prophet, as they were false worshippers; alike in temper and principles, and therefore also to be punished alike, for encouraging idol-worship under false pretences to inspiration. Having seen then what kind of a prophet the text speaks of, it will now be the easier to explain the rest. God declares that he will deceive,—will disappoint or infatuate such a prophet first, and next destroy him: he will give him up first to strong delusions, and then to destruction. The text may not improperly be rendered thus, If the prophet be infatuated when he speaketh a thing, I the Lord will infatuate that prophet still more. So the sense of the passage may amount nearly to the same with that of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:20. (or however the verb here may bear the like signification as εμωρανε there); God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world; or to that which Isaiah says, ch. Eze 44:25 that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, or lying prophets, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise-men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish. But it is observable, that Isaiah subjoins in the verse immediately following; that confirmeth the word of his servant (Isaiah the true prophet) and performeth the counsel of his messengers. Compare 1Sa 3:19-20 whence it may be perceived how God illuminates the understandings and ratifies the predictions of his own true prophets, while he infatuates the counsels and disappoints the lying confidence of evil men and seducers. See Waterland's Scripture Vindicated, part 3: p. 100.
Ezekiel 14:13-26.14.14. When the land sinneth against me— The design of this and the following verses is, to shew that when the inhabitants of a land have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and God ariseth to execute judgment upon them, the few righteous among them shall not be able to deliver the nation from the judgments determined against it. They shall deliver but their own souls, as we see in the case of Sodom, where there were none righteous except Lot and his family; those just persons were saved, but no intercession could prevail with the Almighty to spare the city. Noah, Daniel, and Job, were eminent for their piety; Noah and his family were saved from the universal deluge, and obtained a promise from the Most High, that he would never again destroy the world by water. Daniel interceded with the Almighty for the whole nation of the Jews, and obtained a promise of their restoration. See Daniel 9:0. And Job was appointed by God himself to make intercession for his three friends: but when the Almighty is finally determined to punish a rebellious nation, even the prayers of such favourites of heaven would be ineffectual to procure its deliverance. The prophet, in this allusion to Abraham's intercession for Sodom, declares from God, that when his judgments come up against the land of Judea, the righteous found in it should only deliver their own souls; which plainly shews a Providence extending to all, but more particularly to the truly pious. See Div. Leg. vol. 4: Lowth, and Calmet. The reader will find in Peters's Dissertation on Job, p. 146 a strong proof of the antiquity of the Book of Job, deduced from this passage. Instead of, when the land, we should read, when a land.
Daniel— He was taken captive in the third year of Jehoiakim, Daniel 1:1. After this, Jehoiakim reigned eight years, 2 Kings 23:36. And this prophesy, as appears from ch. Eze 8:1 was uttered in the sixth year of Jehoiachin's captivity, who succeeded Jehoiakim, and reigned only three months. 2 Kings 6:8. Therefore at this time Daniel had been fourteen years in captivity.
Ezekiel 14:19. In blood— By the pestilence. Houbigant. The Chaldee reads, With great slaughter.
Ezekiel 14:22. Ye shall see their way, &c.— "Their afflictions shall bring them to a due sense of their former iniquities; and, escaping from these sore judgments, they shall humbly confess their own sins, and the sins of those who were consumed in the destruction of their city: whence it will appear, that I have not punished them beyond what their sins deserved." See Lowth and Calmet.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. Certain of the elders of Israel waiting on the prophet with apparent concern about their souls, and solicitude to hear and receive his admonitions. Whether they were of the captivity, or some who had come on business from Jerusalem to Babylon, is uncertain. Note; The face of devotion and seriousness is often put on by those who are utterly destitute of the power of godliness.
2. God let the prophet know what manner of men these were, whose hearts so ill corresponded with their exterior appearance. They have set up their idols in their heart, or caused them to ascend upon their heart; their affections were placed upon them, their hearts the throne of idolatry; and, though at a distance from their images, still slaves to these vanities; such an ascendant had they over them. They put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face, and fall down to the stock and stone: and should such dare inquire of God? what impious effrontery! what answer can be expected, but wrath to the uttermost? Note; (1.) Heart-idols are equally abominable with those that are the work of men's hands; and covetousness, self-love, &c. &c. as much idolatry as the bowing down to gods of gold or silver. (2.) They who put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before them, can expect nothing but to fall into the pit of destruction.
3. The Lord gives him an answer for them. With God there is no respect of persons; whoever draws near to him in hypocrisy, shall bear his burden, and receive an answer according to the multitude of his idols; he will give them up to the delusions which they have chosen, and punish them according to their crimes: That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, exposing their sin and folly, and bringing them to deserved shame and punishment; because they are all estranged from me through their idols, alienated from the service and worship of God by their attachment to these abominations. Note; Our own hearts are naturally our great plague and snare; they seduce us from God to indulge some favourite lust, the idol within, and in spite of the remonstrances of God's word, and our own consciences, hurry us on to our ruin.
4. A solemn warning is given them to repent, on pain of eternal perdition: be they native Israelites, or sojourners among them, they have the same call; they must turn from their idols, and from all their abominations; else, if they continue to separate themselves from God in this hated service, and walk in these iniquities,
God will speak to them in terrible wrath, confound that daring impiety and hypocrisy which leads them to the prophet, pretending to consult him; will make them spectacles of horror, cut them off by sudden death, and by these monuments of vengeance teach others to tremble, and fear to offend that God who is a consuming fire. Note; (1.) The hypocrite shall be detected and confounded, often in this world, at farthest in a judgment-day. (2.) Of all sinners the hypocrite's doom will be most terrible, Matthew 24:51.
5. The doom of the false prophets is read. The deceiver and the deceived shall perish together. Since the people choose their own delusions, God will give up the prophets whom they consulted to a lying spirit, 1Ki 22:22-23 and in just judgment suffer them to be deceived by the devil. He will stretch out his avenging arm, and utterly destroy them from the midst of the people; and both the false prophet, and they who seek to him, shall bear the punishment of their iniquity, dreadful as their aggravated provocations. Mysterious are the ways of God; and, though we are often lost in our inquiries why he permits the evil that we see, the day will come when all his dispensations will be proved, beyond contradiction, to be altogether righteous and true.
6. The judgments executed on the wicked will be a warning to many of the house of Israel, that they go no more astray, beholding the dire effects which arise from such departures from God, and made wise by the sufferings of others: neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions, which would necessarily involve them in the same ruin; but on the contrary learn to love and serve the blessed God, that they may be my people, approving their fidelity to the end, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God, blessing them with all good things here, and their portion and exceeding great reward hereafter. Note; (1.) The punishments of others should deter us from their iniquities. (2.) Sin defiles the soul, and renders it odious in the eyes of a holy God. (3.) They who are, and continue to approve themselves to God, as his faithful people, shall find the present and eternal advantages of his love and favour.
2nd, We have,
1. The heavy judgments threatened on a guilty land. When the measure of their sins is full, wrath to the uttermost will overtake them. Four sore plagues are mentioned; Famine, when the staff of bread is broken, and man and beast perish with hunger. Noisome beasts, so numerous and ravenous, that all travelling must be unsafe, and the land deserted and desolate. The sword, commissioned of God to go through the land, and consume what the famine had left: and pestilence, which depopulates the country, and puts a taint in the blood incurably fatal. These are the arrows bent against wicked nations.
2. All intercession is vain when the decree is gone forth. Though Noah, Job, and Daniel joined as advocates, their piety and prayers could be of no avail. They could not deliver a son or daughter; their own souls only should be given them for a prey. The mention of Job, with Noah and Daniel, clearly proves, that he really lived, and answered the character given him in the book which bears his name; eminent for patience as Noah for his integrity, when all flesh had corrupted their ways; and as Daniel, who, though a young man, had already appeared distinguished by his wisdom, humility, piety, zeal, and prayer. Perhaps some few remained who resembled these holy men, and for their sake a hope might be entertained that Jerusalem would yet be spared, as Sodom might have been if but ten righteous had been found in it. Indeed, if any thing could have averted the threatened wrath, these advocates had prevailed; but her time is come, the measure of her guilt is full, her ruin determined, and the wrath denounced inevitable. Note; (1.) In the worst of times, some few eminent saints are found. (2.) Though they may not prevail to avert the ruin of their land, themselves shall be saved amid the general desolations, sometimes exempted from the common calamity, and wonderfully preserved: at least, if they suffer with others, they shall enjoy divine consolations; and whatever becomes of their bodies, their souls, faithfully resting on Jesus, shall be ever with their Lord.
3. A remnant is reserved from the general ruin, brought forth out of Jerusalem to join their brethren in captivity; and ye shall see their way and their doings; either behold their penitent return to God, humbled and converted by the judgments that they have suffered; or their hardened wickedness, which would convince the captives of the righteous judgment of God upon them; and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem; pleased to see the blessed effects wrought thereby, if it led the sufferers to repentance; or satisfied of the justice of God in his severity upon such transgressors: and they shall comfort you, when ye see their way and their doings; either it would delight them to see the gracious symptoms of their conversion; or, if they persisted in their abominations, they would no longer grieve for their sufferings, but justify God in them; and ye shall know that I have not done without cause, all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God; but that the Lord in all his dispensations is righteous, just, and good. Note; (1.) Nothing will hereafter be matter of greater thankfulness to God's people, than those bitterest afflictions here which have contributed to the good of their souls. (2.) God will be glorified in all his works, and his saints will adore him and delight in them: even the punishment of the wicked shall redound to his honour, and minister matter for their praises.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany