Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying. As no date is given, the present oracle, extending to the close of Ezekiel 36:15, may be assumed to have been communicated to and delivered by the prophet in immediate succession to the foregoing, with which it has also an intimate connection. Having announced the future restoration of Israel, as Jehovah's flock, to her own land under the leadership of Jehovah's servant David, who should feed them like a shepherd and rule them like a prince (Ezekiel 34:13, Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24), the prophet proceeds to contemplate the existing hindrance to this return in the occupation of Palestine by the Edomites, who had probably been allowed by the Chaldeans to take possession of it in payment of services rendered by them against Judah in the siege of Jerusalem—to predict the entire removal of this hindrance. (Ezekiel 36:1-15), and to administer to Israel the comfort which, as a consequence, would ensue (Ezekiel 36:1-15).
Set thy face against Mount Seir. The mountainous are in between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic Gulf, which formed the original settlement of Esau and his descendants (Genesis 36:9), is here put for the land of Edom, as the land in turn stands for its people (Ezekiel 25:8). Although already the prophet has pronounced a threatening doom against Edom (Ezekiel 25:12-14), he once more directs against, it the judgments of Heaven, on this occasion viewing it as the representative of all those hostile world-powers which from the first had been opposed to Israel as the theocratic nation, and which even then, by their antagonism, hindered her return (cf. Isaiah 63:1-8).
Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against thee (cf. Ezekiel 5:8; Ezekiel 13:8; and contrast Ezekiel 36:9), and I will stretch out mine hand against thee (cf. Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 14:9, Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 25:7, 19; and Exodus 7:5), and I will make thee most desolate; literally, a desolation and an astonishment (cf. Ezekiel 35:7). Against the mountains of Israel had been denounced a similar fate, which the idolatrous remnant that lingered in the laud after the Captivity had commenced began to experience (Ezekiel 33:28, Ezekiel 33:29). The doom, however, connected with the day of Israel's return was to fall upon Edom, whose cities should be emptied of their inhabitants and whose fields should be cursed with barrenness (Ezekiel 25:13; Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:10).
They shall know that I am Jehovah. By this expressive formula Ezekiel intimates the moral effect which should be produced upon the nations of the earth, whether by beholding or by experiencing the Divine judgments (Ezekiel 6:7, Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 7:4, Ezekiel 7:9; Ezekiel 11:10, Ezekiel 11:12; Ezekiel 13:9, Ezekiel 13:14, Ezekiel 13:21, Ezekiel 13:23; Ezekiel 14:8; Ezekiel 15:7, et passim; cf. Exodus 6:7; Exodus 7:1-25 :50 17; Exodus 29:46; Exodus 31:13; all of which passages belong to Wellhausen's grundschrift, which it is supposed had no existence in the time of Ezekiel).
Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred; literally, hatred of old, or eternal enmity (cf. Ezekiel 25:15). This was the first of the two specific grounds upon which Eden should feel the stroke of Divine vengeance. Edom had been Israel's hereditary foe from the days of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:22, sqq.; and Genesis 27:37) downwards. Inspired with unappeasable wrath (Amos 1:11), during the period of the wandering he had refused Israel, "his brother," a passage through his territory (Numbers 20:14-21; 11:17), and in the days of Jehoshaphat had combined with Ammon and Moab to invade Judah (2 Chronicles 20:10, 2 Chronicles 20:11; cf. Psalms 83:1-8). His relentless antipathy to Israel culminated, according to Ezekiel (cf. Obadiah 1:13), in the last days of Jerusalem, in the time of her calamity, when Nebuchadnezzar's armies encompassed her walls, in the time that her iniquity had an end; or, in the time of the iniquity of the end (Revised Version); meaning, according to Keil, "the time of Judah's final transgression;" or, according to Dr. Currey, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' the time when the capture of the city put an end to her iniquity; but, with more probability, according to Hengstenberg, Plumptre, and others, the time of that iniquity which brought on her end (comp. Ezekiel 21:29). Ewald translates, "at the time of her extremest punishment," taking avon in the sense of punishment—a rendering the Revisers have placed in the margin. Then, according to Obadiah (Obadiah 1:11-14), the Edomites had not only stood coolly by, but malevolently exulted when they beheld Jerusalem besieged by the Babylonian warriors; and not only joined with the foreign invaders in the sacking of the city, but occupied its gates and guarded the roads leading into the country, so as to prevent the escape of any of the wretched inhabitants, and even hewed down with the sword such fugitives as they were not able to save alive and deliver up to captivity. To this Ezekiel refers when he accuses Edom of having shed the blood of the children of Israel by the fores of the sword; literally, of having poured the children of Israel upon the hands of the sword; i.e. of having delivered them up to the sword (cf. Psalms 63:11; Jeremiah 18:21).
I will prepare thee unto blood. This peculiar expression was probably selected because of the suggestion of the name Edom ("red") contained in the term dam ("blood")—though Smend doubts this—and designed to intimate that Edom's name would eventually be verified in Edom's fate. And blood shall pursue thee. "As blood-guiltiness invariably pursues a murderer, cries for vengeance, and delivers him up to punishment" (Havernick), so should blood follow in the steps of Edom. The translation of Ewald, who reads מַעַשְׂךָ instead of אֶעֶשְׂךָ, "And because thy inclination is after blood, therefore blood shall pursue thee," is hardly an improvement, and is besides unnecessary. Sith thou hast not hated blood. So render Ewald, Keil, Kliefoth, Havernick, Schroder, Plumptre, and the Revised Version, meaning that Edom had loved bloodshed. Kimchi, Hitzig, Hengstenberg, Smend, and Fairbairn regard אִם־לֹא as a particle of strong affirmation, equivalent to "forsooth," "verily," and understand the prophet to say that 'Edom had hated blood. As to the precise import of this rendering, diversity of sentiment prevails. Some, with Theodoret, explain "blood" as an allusion to the blood-relationship of Esau and Jacob, Edom and Israel, and hold the charge to be that Edom had hated his "brother" Israel. Others, with Hengstenberg, take the blood Edom hated to be the blood he had shed. Hitzig and Fairbairn suppose the sense to be that Edom hated the idea of his own blood being shed. Even—better, therefore (Revised Version)—blood shall pursue thee. A parallel to this expression is supplied by Deuteronomy 28:22, Deuteronomy 28:45. According to the first or commonly accepted exposition of the preceding clause, the sense is that Edom would ultimately fall beneath the great law of retribution, and reap as she had sown—blood for blood; according to the second, the allusion is to the fact that what Edom now most dreaded, the shedding of his own blood, would be that which should ultimately overtake him (cf. Ezekiel 11:8; Job 3:25).
Thus will I make Mount Seir most desolate; literally, desolation and a desolation ( שְׁמֲמָּה וּשְׁמָמָה); or, as in the Revised Version, an astonishment and a desolation; changing שְׁמֲמַה into מְשַׁמָּה, for which, however, there is no sufficient warrant. And I will out off … him that passeth out (or, through) and him that returneth. No more should traders or travelers pass through the land of Edom or go to and return from it (cf. Ezekiel 33:28; Zechariah 7:1-14 :15; Zechariah 9:8, Zechariah 9:10).
And I will fill his mountains with his slain; literally, pierced through; hence mortally wounded. Then Edom's desolation would result from an exterminating war, which should fill its hills, valleys, and rivers, or rather, water-courses, with slaughtered men (cf. Ezekiel 31:12; Ezekiel 32:5). The physical features of Edom here specified by the prophet have often been attested by travelers. "Idumea embraces a section of a broad mountain range, extending in breadth from the valley of the Arabah to the desert plateau of Arabia. The ravines which intersect these sandstone mountains are very remarkable. Take them as a whole, there is nothing like them in the world, especially those near Petra. The deep valleys and the little terraces along the mountain-sides, and the broad downs upon their summits, are covered with rich soil, in which trees, shrubs, and flowers grow luxuriantly" (Porter, in Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia,' art. "Idumea").
Thy cities shall not return, as in Ezekiel 16:55 (Authorized Version after the Keri); or, shall not be inhabited, as in Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 29:11; Ezekiel 36:33 (LXX. and Revised Version, both of which follow the Chethib). Hengstenberg's translation, "Thy cities shall not sit," but lie prostrate, is not extremely happy.
Because thou hast said. The second ground of Edom's punishment lay in this, that she had presumptuously as well as confidently exclaimed, not concerning Idumea and Judah, as Jerome conjectured, but concerning Israel and Judah when she saw them stripped of their inhabitants, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; "it" meaning either the region over which the two countries extended, or, as Schroder suggests, Jerusalem their common capital (see Ezekiel 36:2; and comp. Psalms 83:4-12). And what constituted the gravamen of Edom's offense was that she had so spoken, whereas (or, though) the Lord was there. It is not necessary, with the LXX. and Kliefoth, to read "is there," to guard against the supposition that Ezekiel designed to suggest that, though Jehovah had formerly been in the land, he was there no longer. But, in point of fact, Jehovah had for a time withdrawn his visible presence from the temple and the city (see Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:22, Ezekiel 11:23), though he had by no means renounced his right to the land; and Edom's error lay in not regarding this, but in acting as if Jehovah had departed from Israel for ever (Havernick); or (better, "and") in thinking he could appropriate to himself what really belonged to Jehovah, viz. the territory out of which Israel and Judah had been cast (Hengstenberg).
I will make myself known among them—Israel and Judah; not to thee (LXX; Hitzig, Ewald)—when I have judged thee. Edom's wickedness should be requited by his being made to suffer the indignities he designed to heap on Israel. In him the lextalionis should have full sway. Edom's misconception as to Jehovah's relation to the land and people should be corrected when Jehovah should rise up in judgment against him. Those judgments should in the first instance be a revelation to Israel and Judah, who should discern therefrom that they had not been utterly abandoned by Jehovah (Ezekiel 35:11; cf. Ezekiel 20:5); and in the second instance should open Edom's eyes to perceive that Jehovah had been a silent listener to all the blasphemies she had uttered against the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 35:12), and had reckoned these as blasphemies uttered against himself (Ezekiel 35:13).
When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. By "the whole earth," Fairbairn, Haverniek, and Schroder understand "the whole land of Edom." In this ease the sense is that, as the whole land of Edom had previously exulted with joy, so should it in the future be made completely desolate. Ewald, Hengstenberg, Keil, Kliefoth, Smend, and Plumptre, however, more correctly interpret the phrase as signifying the whole human race, with the exception of Edom. Accordingly, the thought seems to be, not that of Ewald and Smend, that Jehovah would make Edom's devastation a sport or comedy (freudespiel) to the whole world; or that of Kliefoth and Hitzig, that God would make Edom desolate, whilst all the earth rejoiced over her downfall; but that of Keil, Plumptre, and others, that just as Jehovah was preparing for the whole earth of redeemed humanity a glorious future of joy, so certainly would Edom and all whom Edom represented be excluded from participation in that joy.
As thou didst rejoice. כִי is here a particle of comparison; and the import of the passage is that precisely as Edom exulted over the desolation of Israel's inheritance, so would Jehovah cause others to rejoice over the downfall and desolation of Edom. All Idumea. Instead of this Greek term, the Revised Version properly substitutes the usual word Edom. Note: That the prediction here uttered concerning Edom received literal fulfillment, the following extract relative to the present state of the country will show: "Idumea, once so rich in flocks, so strong in its fortresses and rock-hewn cities, so extensive in its commercial relations, so renowned for the architectural splendor of its palaces, is now a deserted and desolate wilderness. Its whole population is contained in some three or four miserable villages. No merchant would now dare to enter its borders; its highways are untrodden, its cities are all in ruins" (J.L. Porter, in Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia,' art. "Idumea").
The desolation of Mount Seir.
I. AN AFTER-THOUGHT OF JUDGMENT. This is a distressing and disappointing passage. We seemed to have done with the weary recital of successive judgments against the several heathen nations. Passing from these painful scenes, we had come to the cheerful picture of the restoration of Israel. Now that picture is rudely torn, and a description of the desolation of Mount Seir inserted in the midst of it. The darkness of this unexpected scene of judgment is the more appalling inasmuch as it is in startling contrast with the preceding and the succeeding brightness of Israel's restoration. This looks like an after-thought of judgment. It is as though Edom, the nation typified by Mount Seir, had been forgotten until suddenly, by an unlucky chance, she came into mind, and then without delay the thread of joyous prophecy is broken and her doom is ruthlessly pronounced. At all events, the solitary and peculiar position of the prophecy against Edom gives to it a striking significance.
1. No impenitent sinners can be always overlooked. There are no exceptions to the law of retribution. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," is a principle of universal application. No single soul can by any rare good fortune ultimately escape from it.
2. God's forbearance does not destroy his justice. He may wait long. But if the soul is finally impenitent, he will surely smite.
3. The goodness of God does not abolish his wrath against sin. Even when the mercy is most fully displayed, this wrath is also seen.
II. THE DOOM OF THOSE WHO ARE NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM. There was one reason why Edom should receive exceptional treatment. She was not only a near neighbor to Israel, she was a blood-relation. Her people were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. Though a foreign nation, her cousinly relationship with Israel was like that of America with England. She could reckon two—the two best—of the patriarchs as her ancestors. Like Israel, she was descended from Abraham and Isaac. Might not she, then, expect the blessings of the patriarchs? Esau had begged for a blessing with bitter tears, and he had received one, but not the best blessing (Genesis 27:38-40). The young man whom Christ loved was "not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). Yet for all we know, he did not enter it. The members of Christians families are favored with great religious privileges. It is much to be able to claim godly ancestors. But these advantages will not serve as substitutes for personal piety. Nay, they will make the guilt of godlessness the greater. We may be like Edom, very near to Israel, yet like Edom we may be cast aside and lost, if we have not really entered ourselves into the Divine covenant.
III. THE PUNISHMENT OF HATRED. Edom was accused of "perpetual hatred" (Ezekiel 35:5)—a hatred which perhaps sprang from original jealousy, still one that had been long cherished. As love is the fulfilling of the Law, so hatred is the most effectual breaking of it. It is hatred that brings war and misery on mankind. This is constituted out of the very venom of hell. It cannot be allowed to remain unchecked. If it is not abandoned and repented of, its curses must come home to roost, and they who harbor it must suffer its doom. So long as a man cherishes hatred in his heart towards a single fellow-creature, he cannot be accepted by God (1 John 4:20).
The end of iniquity.
I. INIQUITY MUST HAVE AN END. God will not permit it to run on forever unchecked and unpunished. The sinner has a long leash, but it is not interminable. God steps in at length and puts a stop to the awful succession of wicked deeds. Wicked cities and nations have had their end. So must it be with sinful lives.
II. THE NATURAL END OF INIQUITY IS DEATH. Sin is the great destroyer. It is a raging fire which will ultimately fade away into dull ashes by consuming all the fuel on which it feeds. The sinner is a suicide. His evil is a slow but sure poison, that eats out the very fiber of his soul. This awful fate does not come on with a sudden shock so that men can be roused by its approach. It is like a creeping paralysis, and its insidious advent is least readily recognized by the very persons in whose experience it is taking place.
III. INIQUITY MAY HAVE AN END IN REPENTANCE. There is an alternative. We are not bound to let the sin run through all its fatal course to the final silence and desolation. We must end the sin or it will end us; but the former may be done. The warnings of the fatal consequences of sin are set before us for the express purpose of urging us to cast off the deadly thing before it has completed its awful work.
IV. CHRIST HAS COME TO PUT AN END TO INIQUITY. He works in common with the fundamental moral law in regard to the ending of sin. No lawgiver could be more stern in the denunciation of sin than the gracious Savior. He gave it no quarter. From the first he declared himself its deadly enemy. He came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). There is no shadow of excuse for the notion that we can find in Christ a shelter from the rigorous requirements of morality, so that we need not be so strictly righteous if we are Christians, as we should need to be it we were not. Christ expects a higher righteousness than that of the Law. (Matthew 5:20) But when we perceive that our sin is our utter undoing, we are prepared to welcome Christ as cur Savior from this chiefly.
V. IT IS WELL TO CONSIDER THE END OF INIQUITY. It has not yet arrived. All is now calm and apparently prosperous. We may say that there is time enough to consider the evil day. But the end may come before we expect it. Its slow and gradual approach leads to our failing to perceive how near it may be. Then the nearer it is the more difficult is it for us to draw back. The descent becomes more steep as it approaches the precipice; the rapids grow swifter as they near the falls; the poison more effectually pervades the system as death comes on. The longer we postpone repentance, the harder it is to repent. But apart from such thoughts of warning, sin that leads to so awful an issue should be accounted hateful in itself. Its present vile character is revealed by its end. With such fruit the plant must be odious.
Edom had taken for granted that she, in conjunction with the allied nations, no doubt, would be able to seize the territories of Israel and Judah. She had calculated her resources and matched her strength against those of her foes. But she had forgotten one essential element in the reckoning—she had failed to take any account of the presence of God. This was a fatal blunder, and it upset the whole scheme. It is very common for people to discuss their prospects with the same mistake in their minds. Worldly reasoning that ignores God is not only irreligious; it is false and foolish. Irreligious thought is bad logic.
I. A SELFISH GREED. Edom covets the fair and fruitful land of Israel. This is the common spirit of national plunder. It is the spirit of the veiled warfare of commerce. Men and nations hunger after their neighbors' property. All selfish persons are robbers at heart, though many are restrained by prudential considerations from carrying out their evil desires. Now, the prevalence of this selfish greed gives a very ugly look to the world, and suggests the thought that the weak must be the prey of the strong. It is only when we can look above the scramble for wealth that we can discern the play of higher influences on man's history and destiny.
II. A NARROW VIEW. Edom sees the weakness of Israel clearly enough; and she makes no mistake in estimating the strength of herself and her allies. But she confines her view to these local and earthly facts. Here is the limitation of all worldliness. Men of the world are keen and clear-headed. They see distinctly their points of advantage, and seize them quickly. But their gaze is confined to earthly things. Thus worldliness is essentially low and narrow. It has a sharp vision, but it is very short-sighted. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in its philosophy.
III. A DIVINE FACT. "The Lord was there." This was a fact, although Edom knew nothing of it, just as God was at Bethel before Jacob recognized his presence.
1. God is in human affairs. It is not simply asserted that God interfered from a distance. He was present. Palestine was a God-haunted land. The difference between Israel and Edom was not merely racial or geographical. It was chiefly this—that God manifested his presence to the one people as he did not to the other.
2. God takes an active part in the world. God was not merely in Palestine as a spectator. He was present to act. Edom's error was in not recognizing a real influence. It is like that of the naturalist who dissects a brain to discover the secret of thought, but takes no account of the mind that once inhabited the brain. God is now present actively in the world, not in Palestine especially, but
IV. A NEEDED CORRECTION. The Divine element must be introduced if the miscalculation is to be corrected. This will make a surprising difference to Edom's reckoning. So it will in individual affairs. The oppressing Pharaoh did not reckon on God's power to save Israel; the rich fool counted up his wealth, but forgot that his life was in God's hand (Luke 12:16-21). Life and death are more dependent on heavenly influences than moat men suppose. We need a new order of reasoning, a fresh arithmetic that shall not fail to give a large place to the influence of God on air things.
Boasting against God.
Edom had ignored the presence of God (Ezekiel 35:10). Now she has gone further, and boasted against God. This is a sign either of heathenish darkness that does not know God, or of willful rebellion that proudly rises up against him, or of both.
I. THE BOAST OF IGNORANCE. Men who forget God boast themselves:
1. In thought. Man looks very big when God is left out of sight. The hill is a grand sight to one who has not seen an Alp. The worship of humanity proceeds on the assumption of the non-existence of Divinity. If, indeed, there be no God, man may be the loftiest existence; in that case, he may stand on the very topmost pinnacle of being.
2. In practice. The same condition will be reflected in practical life when a man ignores the influence of God on his affairs. He feels himself the master of the situation. By science and art he can subdue nature. His powers and opportunities have given him a free hand among his fellow-men. Why, then, should he not dream great dreams and imagine himself to be a very monarch of life? The glorying of irreligion in a successful man seems to be perfectly natural, nay, inevitable.
II. THE BOAST OF OPPOSITION. Edom beasts herself against God. In heathenish ignorance she supposes herself to be stronger than the God of Israel. At all events, she sets herself up in opposition to Jehovah. It is customary for contending powers, when going to war, to keep their courage up by boasting of their own strength and. despising that of their enemy. The same is seen in man's great warfare against God.
1. In intelligence. People act as though they supposed they could outwit God. Though they do not draw out the thought into a clear argument—when it would certainly break down in a great fallacy—they tacitly assume that they are clever enough to elude the consequences of their sins. Other people may blunder into ruin, but they will steer their craft so deftly that, though it runs down the rapids, it will not go over the falls.
2. In will. The stubborn rebellion of man's will asserts itself in opposition to the wise, holy, strong will of God. Men think in their strong-headed sin that they can force their way against the will of God. Because for the time being they have a free hand, they imagine that it will always be so. Now, it certainly does appear that man could assert his self-will in wildest opposition to God. The mistake is in judging of the future issue by present appearances.
III. THE FATAL BOAST. Boasting against God cannot succeed. If there be a God, he must be supreme. He may be too magnanimous to hurl his rebellious creature to sudden destruction. He may even regard the sinful boasting with compassion on account of its helpless folly. But he certainly will not let it ultimately triumph. Boasting is not victory. Boasting does not create strength. It is only "with the mouth"—a mere matter of empty sound. But facts are not changed by words. All the oratory of boasting that was ever practiced will not dissolve one of the hard, stern realities of life. God is still God, though men ignore his presence and resist his will. Therefore to boast against God is fatal to the boaster. He is like one who dashes his head against a wall. He only destroys himself by his vain pretence. Our safety lies in humility, contrition, and submission to our God and Father.
Desolate in the midst of general joyfulness.
I. THERE IS TO BE A SEASON OF GENERAL JOYFULNESS. "When the whole earth rejoiceth"—that is a glimpse of a wonderful future. At present the earth mourns and languishes. Tyranny oppresses nations of slaves. Penury holds multitudes in weary drudgery on the verge of starvation. War devastates fields and towns and countries. Sorrow sighs from the heart of humanity. But this shall not continue forever.
1. There will be joy in a glorious future. The Bible is full of hope. Its golden age always lies before us, not behind us.
2. This joy will be attained through the gospel of Christ. The angels sang for joy at his birth on earth. Gladness comes to the heart in which he is revealed afresh. When the old earth is subject to the rule of Christ, and the sin that is its curse is blotted out, a new Divine joy must take possession of men.
3. This joy will be for the whole earth. At first, only a remnant is to be saved (Romans 9:27). But this remnant does not represent the whole harvest of Divine salvation. It is but the firstfruits. The gospel is for the wide world. All the nations are to enter into the heritage of the future. Christ "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11). No scanty salvage from the huge wreck of humanity could satisfy the great soul of Jesus.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ANY ONE TO BE EXCLUDED FROM THIS GENERAL JOYFULNESS. Edom is to be shut out when the whole earth rejoices.
1. The joy of the whole earth is the joy of its several inhabitants. The sheet of sunshine that lies broadly over meadow and hillside is woven out of innumerable rays of light. The flood of music that fills the valley with melody consists in a succession of distinct notes. The blaze of color that flashes on us in the summer garden comes from the several hues of separate flowers. The general joy is the joy of many hearts. Each must share it individually if all are to display it collectively.
2. The individual participation in the general joy depends on an individual condition of receptiveness. It is supremely the joy of reconciliation. Now, Christ died to make atonement for the whole world. Yet each soul has to be separately reconciled to God. And when the old rebellion of man against God is virtually quelled, if but a single soul held out, that soul must be excluded from the joy which comes in with the great peace.
III. IT IS UNSPEAKABLY DREADFUL TO BE DESOLATE AMIDST GENERAL JOYFULNESS.
1. The perception of contrast is intensely distressing. The one heavy heart is in painful contrast to the many light hearts. Sorrowful people shun merry gatherings, shrinking from them as people with pained eyes shrink from bright lights. It is an acute grief to the desolate soul to be alone in a joyous festivity when all others are of one mind. For a lost soul to be placed in the midst of the blessedness of heaven would be far worse than the torments of hell.
2. The discovery of needless failure is especially grievous. The rejoicing is practically universal. Why, then, should one poor soul be excluded? Nearly all are in when the door is shut, but one miserable creature is left out in the darkness. If salvation were only intended for a few, the many might learn to acquiesce in their dismal lot. But when a man sees that it is intended for the whole world, and yet by his own folly he is excluded, he must torture himself with bitter regrets.
Rejoicing over the ruin of others.
I. THE UGLY FACT. Edom had rejoiced over the ruin of Israel. One would say that such a joy must be impossible. Regarding the world from the high ground of ideal speculation, one would suppose that sympathy for the suffering must spring forth as a natural instinct, or that, if the feelings were callous and selfishness hardened the heart, still there would be no room for joy under such circumstances. But the facts of history and observation show that Edom's joy was no monstrous, impossible experience. People do rejoice in the sufferings of others:
1. In national life. The downfall of rival nations is accepted by their more fortunate neighbors with delight.
2. In amusement. The old, fierce delights of the amphitheatre, which delicate ladies shared with bloodthirsty warriors, were just the joys of cruelty, pleasures got directly out of the sufferings of fellow-creatures. The Emperor Domitian is said to have taken a keen interest in watching the contortions of agony on the face of a dying gladiator. A similar spirit lurks in the present-day popular taste for amusements that involve great risk of life. A Christian spirit should discourage such amusements as feeding on cruelty.
3. In private life. Some People seem to take a spiteful pleasure in the disgrace and ruin of their neighbors. Is not this pleasure at the root of much idle gossip and fascinating scandal?
II. ITS EVIL CAUSES. How comes it that the misery of one man can cause pleasure to his brother, when by the influence of sympathy it should produce an opposite effect? The causes of this gross perversion of the appetite for pleasure are various.
1. Revenge. Israel had been an old enemy of Edom. The commonest pleasure of cruelty is m seeing a foe humiliated. There may be natural elements in this feeling:
Still, the joy is evil and hateful, for it exceeds self-regarding considerations, and it excludes pity; it denies the duty of loving our enemies.
2. Envy. Edom had formerly envied the prosperity of Israel. She afterwards rejoiced in her rival's downfall. This, again, is a sort of reaction from the pain of envy. It is the more powerful if the successful rival has shown scorn for her less fortunate neighbor. Now, the scorn is reversed.
3. A sense of contrast. Sitting at ease, the spectator compares his comforts with the agonies before him, and as all feeling arises from contrasted states, the sharpness of this contrast heightens the relish of a man's present comfort. This is brutally selfish.
4. Malignity. There does seem to be a direct pleasure in seeing others suffer. This is the glee of devils. It may be shared by diabolical men.
III. ITS FATAL EFFECTS. Edom is to be punished and made desolate. God will certainly punish cruelty as a great sin, because it is the direct opposite of man's first duty, which is to love all beings. The evil joy will work mischief in the heart of the man who cherishes it. It is a venom that will rankle in the breast that engenders it We need love and sympathy for our own soul's health. The pleasures of cruelty cut a man off from the bonds of fellowship, even with these who are not themselves its victims, because they destroy the elements on which the spirit of brotherhood lives. Thus a cruel person is inwardly lonely. Selfishness makes the heart desolate. The exclusion of love is the exclusion of the greatest joy of human fellowship. In seeking his own pleasure the man who admits evil passions of revenge or spite into his breast darkens his life with the gloom of spiritual solitude. On the other hand, the deepest joy is found in sacrificing one's self in order to save one's brother.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Ezekiel 35:5, Ezekiel 35:6
Ezekiel returns to his prophecy regarding the inhabitants of Mount Seir. These neighbors of the Israelites were animated by hostility to God's people which was of a peculiarly bitter character. The prophet's mind was deeply affected and sorely pained by the language and the actions of these enemies of Israel. This probably accounts for his reverting to his inspired threats of adversity and even destruction about to overtake these bitter and blasphemous foes of Israel and of Israel's God.
I. THE CHARGE BROUGHT AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF MOUNT SEIR.
1. The offense. They were guilty of violence against Israel and inexcusable bloodshed. A predatory and warlike race, they had turned their arms against their neighbors, instead of allowing them to dwell in security.
2. The motive. This was malice, malignity. A perpetual, unappeasable enmity actuated those of Mount Seir in their repeated incursions into the territory of the Israelites, and the desolation of the land and the destruction of life laid to their charge. Other more excusable motives accounted for the hostilities waged by other peoples; against Mount Seir the charge is brought of acting upon the meanest and basest of motives.
3. The opportunity. This was the time of Israel's calamity and weakness. They took advantage of the circumstances of their neighbors, and attacked them at a conjuncture when they were powerless to defend themselves.
II. THE RETRIBUTION WITH WHICH THE PEOPLE OF MOUNT SEIR WERE THREATENED.
1. The Author of this retribution was none other than the Lord God himself. He ruleth among the nations; "let not the rebellious exalt themselves." His justice is unquestionable and his power is irresistible. "He is terrible in his doings towards the children of men."
2. The nature of it. It is foretold that the cities shall be laid waste, and that the land shall be desolate, that the blood of the inhabitants of Mount Seir shall be shed. "I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee"
3. The law of it. Observe that the judgment and penalty here foretold is not simply retributive; it is of the nature of retaliation. The lex talionis prescribed "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," etc. The punishment matched the offense. Such a correspondence is noticeable between Seir's treatment of Israel and Jehovah's treatment of Seir. They had shed blood, and in recompense their blood should be shed. This is not to be regarded as private, personal revenge, which is forbidden to man, and could never be practiced by a holy God. It is a public measure, a judicial act, a proceeding warranted by justice, and intended to produce a deep and wholesome impression upon all who should witness it. It certainly marks the heinousness of sin in the view of the righteous Ruler, and it exemplifies the inevitable and universal action of the retributive government of the God of nations.—T.
The Lord's identification of himself with Israel.
A careless reader might possibly consider that a passage like this exemplifies prophetic partiality; that Ezekiel, because himself a Jew by birth and by sentiment, was disposed to represent the Supreme as upon his side and against his countrymen's enemies; that the view given of the Eternal is of a Ruler whose government is distinguished by favoritism. But further consideration will show that this is not the case. The cause of Israel was the cause of monotheism in religion, of spirituality in worship, and of purity and righteousness in morals. It is true that the Hebrew people did not actually, as a matter of fact, attain the standard which as a nation they adopted; and for this reason their leaders and thinkers were at this very time enduring the purifying humiliation of the Captivity. But the highest interest and the fairest prospects of mankind were bound up with the preservation of Israel as God's witness concerning himself to the world, and as God's preparation for the advent of the Messiah.
I. THE INIQUITOUS CONDUCT OF SEIR. They were guilty:
1. Of anger and enmity against Israel.
2. Of evil speech, of blasphemy, against Israel.
3. Of rejoicing over the sorrows, calamities, and desolations of Israel.
II. THE LORD'S IDENTIFICATION OF HIMSELF WITH ISRAEL IN THE WRONG THEY SUSTAINED AT THE HAND OF SEIR. The fact is that Israel was his people, and he, Jehovah, was Israel's God. This is said with the recollection that Israel had transgressed his Law, rebelled against his authority, despised the privileges he had bestowed; with the recollection that their God had chastened them sorely, and at this very time was causing them to pass through the furnace of affliction. All this does not interfere with our belief of the close identification between the Lord and the sons of Jacob. It was not for their goodness, but for his purposes, that they were chosen. They were a consecrated nation, i.e. a nation set apart to fulfill a deliberate intention of the most high and holy God. Therefore, in a special manner, the Lord took the part of Israel, resented the wrongs done to them, the indignities put upon them, and the blasphemies uttered concerning them. Therefore the Lord avenged them of their adversaries. Other nations might be destroyed, but it did not consist with God's purposes that Israel should perish. He was against those who were against his people.
III. THE LORD'S AVENGING OF ISRAEL'S WRONGS AS DONE TO HIMSELF.
1. He heard with displeasure all the evil words uttered against those whom he had set apart for himself.
2. He judged with a righteous and severe judgment all who injured his servants.
3. For Mount Seir, as a flagrant offender, was reserved an especial punishment: "When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate." Let it be observed that this was a reversal of what had formerly taken place; for when Israel was desolated, Mount Seir had rejoiced.—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Special punishment of special sin.
Very painful must it be to an intelligent spirit to be the executor of Jehovah's vengeance upon transgressors: the pain is only one remove the less to announce the coming doom. Yet, as we gain broader and clearer views of God's administration, we discover that the suffering of a few brings advantage to the many. The splendor and the rare excellence of God's righteousness are thereby clearly revealed. And gradually we perceive that pain and pleasure are matters vastly inferior to right and wrong. The well-being of heaven is suspended upon just government in the universe. Right must be done, though the stars should fall and the material fabric become a wreck.
I. AN AGGRAVATED NATIONAL OFFENSE.
1. It sprang out of an ancient hatred. The then-existent inhabitants of Israel had done the Edomites no wrong. It was simply an ember of an old fire the Edomites had fanned and kept alive generation after generation. Their duty clearly was to forgive and to forget. Centuries before, the blood-stained hatchet ought to have been buried. Heedlessly the Edomites were doing their own nature a cruel wrong. They were strangling their noblest qualities,
2. Hatred, nursed, soon develops into murder. "They had shed the blood of the children of Israel." Murder may stain the character of a state as much as it stains the character of an individual; and every war, unjustly provoked, is only murder. The lives of a myriad innocent men will be required at some tyrants' hands. And this murderous outrage was an act of basest cowardice. They had plunged the sword into Israel's breast when Israel was prostrate and wounded by other foes. It was as black deed as ever had been done under the eye of the sun.
3. Added to this was an attempted spoliation of Israel's territory. "Because thou hast said, These two nations … shall be mine." Edom had hoped to blot Israel's name completely out of history, and to embrace the sacred territory in the empire of Edom. Their hatred had hatched a purpose to murder and bury a nation—a nation that had been and might again be a blessing to the globe. And the guilt was equally as great as if the vile purpose had succeeded. To the eye of our righteous God there is often a vast volume of crime secreted in a single purpose, in a hidden motive. The quintessence of sin may be found there.
II. CRIME AGAINST A NATION IS SIN AGAINST GOD.
1. God has identified himself with men. This was conspicuous in a marked degree in the case of Israel. Yet this identification with Israel's true welfare is typical of God's fatherly interest in all trustful souls. More or less, God identifies himself with humanity; and no wrong to humanity shall go unpunished. He will champion the interests of the oppressed everywhere.
2. God carefully notes every act of injustice. "I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel." Every whisper of man is heard by God. Such acute hearing staggers our understanding. Yet "he that formed the ear, shall he not hear?" The secrets of imperial councils are all seen and heard by Jehovah. Ultimately, and in the best time, he bathes all wicked designs.
3. Human folly in ignoring God's presence. "Whereas the Lord was there." In every age worldly men concoct their plans as if no God ruled over the affairs of men. Ambitious rulers parcel out a neighbor's territory, totally unmindful that God is in possession. "The earth is the Lord's," and his eye is never absent from his property. The weakest child of man may always summon God to his side—his Helper and Friend.
III. EQUITABLE RETRIBUTION.
1. Divine activity. "I will stretch out mine hand." Hath God, then, a human hand? The language is an accommodation to the understanding of man. God has an adaptation of power more than equivalent to the dexterous strength of the human hand. His almighty hand can reach to the very extremities of the universe. As by a breath of the lips he can create, so by a breath can he desolate cities.
2. Exact retribution. "Sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee." No human judge has ever been able to mete out such exact penalties as God does. A combination of perfect qualities is needed, and this perfect combination no one possesses save Jehovah. It is always a real alleviation if the victim can feel that he has not deserved so much severity; and it is the very core of anguish to realize that the suffering is absolutely just. Conscience itself becomes the executioner of God.
3. The penalty will be set in the light of contrast. "When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate." It is a slight mitigation of suffering when others share it with us. It aggravates our suffering if all around us are bright with joy. The rich man of the parable felt his torment the keener because Lazarus was seen in the repose of blessedness. Isolation in misery is an additional element of woe.
4. The desolation was to be final. No prospect, not the most distant, could be entertained of relief. The stroke was to be, not disciplinary, but utterly penal. It was to be a perpetual desolation. The race was to suffer extirpation from the district.
5. The edict was confirmed by an oath. "As I live, saith the Lord God," this shall be done. This form of speech by God is a further accommodation to men. As an affirmation makes a deeper impression upon the minds of men when accompanied by an oath, by a solemn appeal to the presence of God, so God condescends to speak to men in such manner as shall most powerfully affect them. From God the simplest form of words is enough. "He is not a man, that he should lie." A word from him creates or destroys. But he speaks by way of oath, in order to arrest our thoughts and to convince our judgment.
6. Conviction of God's jurisdiction often comes too late. Men ignore God's presence and God's interference in human affairs, until events force upon them the fact that they are fighting, not simply against their fellows, nor contending against adverse circumstance, but are verily fighting against God. At length, out of the chaos of atheistic thoughts there looms the form and features of the living God. But the knowledge comes too late. They know God as their overpowering Foe, whereas they might have known him as a gracious Friend.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Ezekiel 35:1-9, Ezekiel 35:14, Ezekiel 35:15
Features to be found in penalty.
When God is obliged to be "against" a man or a people, as he was against Edom (Ezekiel 35:2), he (it) may look for these three things in the retribution which impends—
I. AN INFLICTION ANSWERING IN CHARACTER TO THE SIN. "Because thou hast given over … to the power of the sword … therefore … I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee" (Ezekiel 35:5, Ezekiel 35:6). Our Lord also himself tells us that "they who take the sword shall perish with the sword." Violence shown to others commonly brings down violence on its own head. Craft and cunning lead men to great wariness, and even to a corresponding wiliness, in their dealing with the man who endeavors to undermine and to deceive. The man who is much engaged in digging pits for others is very likely to fall into one himself. Miserliness of spirit and behavior always leads to a real impoverishment of soul, and often to an imaginary poverty of circumstance which, though imaginary, is real enough to the man s own mind. There is no one whom the penurious man deprives of so much good and joy as himself. Penalty always answers to wrong-doing in its character. They who sin in the flesh suffer in the flesh, and they who sin in the spirit suffer in the spirit. The man who sins against his family will suffer domestic trouble; he that does not respect himself wrongs himself grievously, if not fatally.
II. AS INFLICTION ANSWERING IN MEASURE TO THE SIN. The severity of Edom's punishment was to answer to the greatness of her crime.
1. Lasting enmity was to be visited with lasting desolation (see Ezekiel 35:5, Ezekiel 35:9).
2. Because they had "hated blood," i.e. had shown such determined malice and cruel hatred towards their own relatives (Theodoret, Jerome, Michaelis), therefore "blood should pursue them;" violence should not only overtake and slay, but should pursue them, should continue to smite them.
3. "According to the joy of the whole land [of Edom], God would make it a desolation" (Ezekiel 35:14; Fairbairn); as it did rejoice in Israel's fall, in like measure would it be the object of derision and of triumph "in the dark hour coming on." As its joy, so its desolation; the height of the one would measure the depth of the other. We cannot always prove that penalty answers in measure to the extent of the wrong that has been wrought; but we can very often see that it does, and we are quite sure that it does so when we cannot recognize the fact. The truth that much sorrow is not penalty at all but discipline and preparation for higher work and a larger life, and the further and deeper truth that a very large and most important part of penalty is found in inward experience and especially in spiritual deterioration, will explain many apparent exceptions to this rule. Fuller knowledge and profounder wisdom will bring their sufficient revelations in good time; meanwhile we may be perfectly assured of the fact that the further we wander from God, from truth, from righteousness, from love, the deeper is the brand that enters into our soul, and the sadder is the destiny we are weaving for ourselves.
III. THE CONSTANTLY RECURRING ELEMENT OF DESOLATION. As the word "desolate," or "desolation," is the prevailing note of this prophecy, and indeed of many others also, so may it be said that loss, diminution, destitution, ruin, is the constantly recurring evil which sin is working in the Soul and in the life of men. They who forsake the God of their fathers and who seek their heritage not in his holy service but in material successes or in the lower affections and delights, will surely find that they are bereaving themselves of all that is best; that they are denuding their life of its highest worth, that they are going down, step by step—sometimes it is by very steep steps, too—to the condition which may be well described in the prophet's words as "a desolation and an astonishment" (Ezekiel 35:3).—C.
The supreme mistake.
The two striking and significant sentences in this passage are in the tenth and thirteenth verses: "And Jehovah was there" (Ezekiel 35:10); "I have heard" (Ezekiel 35:13). They bring out—
I. EDOM'S GREAT MISCALCULATION. No doubt Edom had its princes, its statesmen, its warriors, of whom it was proud, on whose sagacity and prowess it was leaning. But however astute her ministers may have been, they made one great and fatal mistake—they left out of the account one factor, the presence of which made all the difference to the issue. Under their false guidance Edom thought itself more than a match for Israel, which, with its pastoral and agricultural pursuits, was less warlike than itself. And Edom said to itself, "These two nations … shall be mine, and we will inherit it" (Ezekiel 35:10). "And Jehovah was there," interjects the prophet, with burning indignation. Edom, forsooth, going to appropriate Israel, and swallow it up as a dainty morsel, as if it had only to stretch out its hand and take it "And Jehovah was there"—that One in whose presence all Edom, with all its civil and military power, was but the dust of the balance, was nothing and less than nothing and vanity; that Holy One who held Edom responsible for its enmity and its cruelty; that Mighty One at the breath of whose mouth all its proud soldiery would go down as saplings before the storm! What senseless infatuation! what infinite presumption! to remember and to covet Israel's well-watered meadows and well-cultivated fields, and to forget that "Jehovah was there! to resolve to go up and possess its pleasant places, and occupy its strong cities, and plant its flag on Mount Zion without taking into the account that "Jehovah was there!" Edom was entertaining proud, ambitious schemes, and it was making "scornful speeches against the mountains of Israel, saying, A desolation, to us they are given for fire," and was thus "magnifying itself against" the Lord. But what depth of meaning, and what vigor of action, and what certainty of doom lies in those simple words of Jehovah, "I have heard!" Those disdainful words of theirs have entered the Divine ear, and they will move that mighty hand to its work of righteousness and judgment.
II. OUR OWN SUPREME MISTAKE. We never commit so great and so ruinous an error as when we leave out of our account the presence and the handiwork of God. We are never so utterly and so perilously in the wrong as when we lay our plans and make our speeches, forgetful that God is near us, overruling all we do, and hearing every word we speak. We make this supreme mistake:
1. When we think we can sin without his banning. If we lay our schemes to injure our brethren, or if we design to enrich or indulge ourselves in any forbidden way, without smarting for our sin, we shall find, sooner or later, that "Jehovah is there," with his penalty in his hand.
2. When we think we can succeed without his blessing. To succeed without the favoring presence of God and the co-operation of his gracious power is as hopelessly impossible as it is to sin without encountering his Divine displeasure and rebuke. If we prosper in our toil, if we find joy and gladness in our life, it will be only because "Jehovah is there;" because he makes our land to yield its increase, because he fills our soul with the blessedness that abides.
3. When we think we can be wise without his teaching. Neither workman in the field of nature nor student in the realm of truth can leave out of his account the presence and the aid of the Divine. There is nothing sadder than the sight of men seeking and straining after the wisdom that they want for life and for death and for eternity, trying to find their way by the light of the sparks of their own intelligence; this will they have of God—"that they will lie down in sorrow" (Isaiah 1:10, Isaiah 1:11). But blessed are they who take into their account the fact that "Jehovah is there," that God is speaking to us in his Word, by that Son who was and is the Eternal Word of God; for they who are wise in his wisdom shall enter the kingdom of truth, the kingdom of God, and they shall rise up in everlasting life and joy.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 35". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany