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The land of Israel is comforted, both by the destruction of the heathen, who spitefully used it, and by the blessings of God promised unto it. Israel was rejected for their sin, and shall be restored without their desert. The blessings of Christ's kingdom.
Before Christ 587.
Ezekiel 36:2. Because the enemy hath said— This prophesy is a continuance of that preceding. The Idumeans had made their boast, that they should become masters of the mountainous parts of Judaea, where the ancient fortresses were placed, which commanded all the rest of the country. See Lowth and Calmet.
Ezekiel 36:3. Because they have made you desolate, &c.— Because the residue of the nations, which surround you, gape ever you, since you were laid waste, that you may become their possession; and ye are, &c. Houbigant. The meaning of the last phrase in the verse is, "Your calamities have made you become a proverb and a reproach among the heathen round about you, according to the threatenings of the prophets denounced against you." See Jeremiah 24:9.
Ezekiel 36:6-26.36.7. Behold, &c.— We may point thus: Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury. Because ye have borne the reproach of the nations, therefore, &c.
Ezekiel 36:8. For they are at hand to come— For these things are about to happen in a short time. "The time of the deliverance of my people approacheth." There can be no doubt that, though this prophesy may have an immediate reference to the return of the Jews from Babylon; yet it has a farther reference to the general return of the Israelites, and to the universal reign of the Messiah. See Calmet.
Ezekiel 36:10. And I will multiply men upon you— I will cause that you may abound with a multitude of men from the whole house of Israel; that the cities may be inhabited, and the waste places built. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 36:20. These are the people, &c.— The Lord was with them, yet are they driven out of his land. Houbigant. As much as to say, "See what profligate wretches these are, who call themselves by the name of God's peculiar people; when it is evident that they are not so, by his having expelled them for their crimes out of the country which he has given them." See Houbigant.
Ezekiel 36:21. But I had pity— I will therefore spare, for mine holy name, which the house of Israel hath, &c. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 36:22. I do not this for your sakes— It cannot be denied, that it became the goodness of the God, to preserve the doctrine of the unity amidst an idolatrous world. But this could not have been effected according to God's plan of governing the moral world, but by a separation of one part from the rest; nor could such a separation be made any otherwise, than by bringing that part under God's peculiar protection. The consequences of which were, great temporal blessings. Now, as some one people must needs be selected for this purpose, it seems most agreeable to our ideas of divine wisdom, which commonly effects many ends by the same means, to make the blessings attendant on such a selection the reward of some high-exalted virtue in the progenitors of the chosen people. The separation was made for the sake of mankind in general; though one people became the honoured instruments, in reward of their fathers' virtues. And this is the language of the Scriptures, especially in this passage, where God promises to restore the Israelites after a short dispersion. "Thus saith the Lord, I do not this for your sakes, but for mine holy name's sake."
Ezekiel 36:23. And I will sanctify my great name— "I will give illustrious proofs of my power and goodness, and vindicate my honour from the reproaches wherewith it has been blasphemed among the heathens, because of your evil doings." This refers to the restoration of the Jews from Babylon; and it is observable, that this return was remarked by the heathens as a signal instance of God's providence towards them. Their general conversion will be a much more signal proof of his fulfilling of the promises made to their fathers; and the consequence of it, no doubt, the complete conversion of the Gentile world.
Ezekiel 36:25. Then will I sprinkle clean water, &c.— The prophets generally borrow their images from the ceremonies of the Jewish religion, to convey an idea either of the detestable wickedness of the Jews, or of their amendment, as in this passage. Hence likewise the Jews derived their opinion of the Messiah; that one of his offices should be to sprinkle or baptize. Agreeably to which, when they suspected that John the Baptist was the Messiah, they expressly asked him why he baptized, if he were not the Christ? See Isaiah 52:15. Joh 19:21 and Bishop Chandler's Defence. It is in the church of Christ, says Calmet, that we behold the real and perfect accomplishment of the prophesy in the remaining part of this chapter. But it undoubtedly has also reference to the final restoration of the Jews.
Ezekiel 36:27. And cause you to walk in my statutes— "By preventing you with my grace, and inspiring you with a love for that which is good, which shall enable you to surmount your propensity to that which is evil. I will aid you with the succour of my grace, that you may thereby keep my judgments and do them."
Ezekiel 36:38. As the holy flock— The sheep and the lambs designed for the sacrifice at the three solemn festivals was very numerous, and at the same time the best of their kind. This also refers to Gospel-grace and blessings: and this whole prophesy will be fully accomplished at the general conversion and final restoration of the Jews.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The land of Israel was now desolate and depopulated; but God still thought upon the dust thereof. We have,
1. His compassionate regard towards this miserable country. It was become a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen. Their neighbours insulted them, and every tongue was ready to spread their infamy, to upbraid them with their sins, and mock at their suffering; while the nations around them, the residue, who had survived the judgments threatened, chap. Ezekiel 25-26; each seized that part of Judaea which bordered upon their own country, as their prey.
2. His jealousy for his believing people. Because with spiteful joy their enemies exulted in their miseries, and with daring intrusion entered the inheritance of the Lord, he hath spoken in the fire of his jealousy, and in his fury, that he will severely avenge their wrongs, and cover with shame and confusion these inveterate and malicious foes. Note; They who make God's people the subject of derision, will shortly be themselves exposed to everlasting shame and contempt.
3. God gives his believing people assurance of a happy restoration, and plenty of all good things in their own land; and the time is at hand. The mountains shall yield abundant fruit; though now uncultivated, they shall be tilled and sown; the cities that lie in ruins shall be replenished with inhabitants, and all the house of Israel, even all of it, not the two tribes only, but the ten tribes who went before into captivity, shall settle on their old estates, and see their flocks and herds multiplying under the divine blessing; and God will do better for them than at their beginnings; particularly with regard to the spiritual blessings bestowed in the days of the Messiah. Then should the mountains again become the abode of men, instead of wild beasts which had dwelt therein; the idolatries committed in them should cease, nor provoke God any more to bereave them of inhabitants; and the reproach which had been laid on the mountains of Israel by the heathen, as if they had devoured all who dwelt in them, shall for ever be at an end. Probably this prophesy looks to future times; and whatever fulfilment it received in the return of the Jews from Babylon, the perfect accomplishment of it is yet to come.
2nd, The chief end that God proposes is, the advancement of his own glory.
1. They had, indeed, forfeited all title to favour. By their sins they had dishonoured God, and defiled the land: so totally corrupted were they, that every thing they touched became in some sense unclean. Murder and idolatry marked their way, and provoked God to pour out his fury upon them, and to scatter them for their abominations into heathen lands. Yet even there all their sufferings were still ineffectual; they sinned yet more, and gave the adversaries of the Lord occasion to blaspheme. Their wicked lives brought a scandal on that name which they professed to reverence and serve, and the very heathen treated them with scorn. These are the people of the Lord: they mocked at their pretended relation to him; their conduct gave the lie to their professions; or it implied an insult on their God, as if, notwithstanding all the Jewish boasts, he were unable to save them from the hand of their enemies. Note; The sins of professors are the greatest scandal to religion, and give just occasion to the adversaries of the Lord to blaspheme: but woe unto him by whom the offence cometh!
2. God will glorify his great name and the riches of his grace in their deliverance. They had no reason to expect any thing from him but wrath to the uttermost, their provocations were so aggravated; but then the heathen would blaspheme the more: therefore, not for their sake, but for his own glory, he will interpose, and gather them from among the nations, and bring them to their own land.
3rdly, Whatever accomplishment this prophesy had in the return of the Jewish people from captivity when they were for ever cured of all inclination to idolatry, it seems to have a more especial regard to Gospel times. We have,
1. Many great and precious promises given to God's faithful people. [1.] God will cleanse them from all their sins, by the blood of sprinkling removing their guilt, and by the efficacy of his grace delivering them from the power of their iniquities. [2.] He will give them a new heart, a heart changed by his divine energy from its former state of corruption, hardness, and unbelief; another spirit shall influence and guide them; the stony heart, insensible and obdurate, shall be taken away, and in its stead a heart of flesh shall be given them, tender and susceptible of every gracious impression. [3.] Having made new their hearts, he will make straight paths for their feet, and enable them to walk therein. [4.] He will take them into covenant with himself: Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. [5.] He will give them plenty of all such good things as they need; particularly, what the Jews counted the greatest earthly blessing, they shall return to their own land; have abundance of corn and fruit; shall know no more famine as before; nor be reproached by the heathen, as forced to seek their bread from other countries; when, to the wonder and surprise of the surrounding nations, the land of Judaea, lately so desolate, shall be tilled, and become like the garden of Eden for fruitfulness; and the cities in ruins shall be fortified, and replenished with inhabitants. So soon can God's blessing make a barren land fruitful, as his curse makes the most fruitful land barren.
Many interpreters suppose, that all these promises are yet to receive their accomplishment in the latter day, in the recovery of the Jews from their present state of dispersion.
2. The effect of God's rich grace extended to them would be the unfeigned repentance of multitudes. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and loath yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities, and for your abominations. Nothing brings the soul so soon to true humiliation, and to such a sense of the baseness and ingratitude of sin, as a view of God's pardoning love: then we begin indeed to loath ourselves; sin appears the abominable thing that God hates, and therefore we hate it too: every remembrance of the past covers us with genuine shame; and, though God hath forgiven us, we can never forgive ourselves for having ever offended a God so gracious.
3. God intends his own glory in what he does for them, they being utterly unworthy of the least regard; yet, though it is a matter of pure grace, he expects that they shall seek it in the way of prayer, and be confounded for their former evil ways; and he will give the answer of mercy, increasing them as a flock, the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts, immense numbers of sheep being driven on these occasions to Jerusalem for sacrifice, and vast multitudes of worshippers assembled in the courts of the Lord's house; so numerous and populous should their desolate land and cities become; since he hath spoken it, the accomplishment is sure. Note; (1.) Salvation is of grace; our righteousness and deserts are utterly excluded in regard to merit: God alone must be exalted in mercy. (2.) God's promises do not supersede, but encourage our prayers. They who restrain prayer before God, sin against their own mercies.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 36". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany