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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezekiel 3:0


Ezekiel's CommissionEzekiel Sent to Rebellious Israel(Ezekiel 1:28-15)The Five Commissions(Ezekiel 1:28-27)God Calls Ezekiel To Be A Prophet(Ezekiel 1:28-15)The Vision of the Scroll(Ezekiel 2:1-15)
Ezekiel 3:1-3Ezekiel 3:1-3Ezekiel 3:1-3Ezekiel 3:1Ezekiel 3:1-3
Ezekiel 3:2-3
Ezekiel 3:4-11Ezekiel 3:4-11Ezekiel 3:4-11Ezekiel 3:4-9Ezekiel 3:4-9
Ezekiel 3:10-11Ezekiel 3:10-11
Ezekiel 3:12-15Ezekiel 3:12-15Ezekiel 3:12-15Ezekiel 3:12-15Ezekiel 3:12-15
Ezekiel As WatchmanThe Lord Appoints Ezekiel As A LookoutThe Prophet As Watchman
Ezekiel 3:16-21Ezekiel 3:16-21Ezekiel 3:16-21Ezekiel 3:16-19Ezekiel 3:16-21
Ezekiel 3:20-21
Ezekiel Will Be Unable to TalkEzekiel Is Struck Dumb
Ezekiel 3:22-27Ezekiel 3:22-27Ezekiel 3:22-27Ezekiel 3:22Ezekiel 3:22-24a
Ezekiel 3:23-27
Ezekiel 3:24-27

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 3:1-3 1Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

Ezekiel 3:1 “Son of man” See note at Ezekiel 2:1.

Chapter 3 closes out the literary unit of 1-3, which is Ezekiel's call to the prophetic ministry. This call involves YHWH addressing him in several commands.

1. “eat,” Ezekiel 3:1 (twice), BDB 37, KB 46, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “go” (lit. “walk”), Ezekiel 3:1, Ezekiel 3:4, Ezekiel 3:11, BDB 229, KB 241, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “speak,” Ezekiel 3:1, BDB 180, KB 210 Piel IMPERATIVE (Piel PERFECT in Ezekiel 3:4)

4. “feed” (lit. “cause to eat,” cf. Ezekiel 3:2), Ezekiel 3:3, BDB 37, KB 46, Hiphil JUSSIVE (Qal stem in Ezekiel 3:2, Ezekiel 3:3; Ezekiel 4:9, Ezekiel 4:10[twice], Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:13, Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 3:16; Ezekiel 5:10[twice])

5. “come,” Ezekiel 3:4, Ezekiel 3:11, Ezekiel 3:24, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERATIVE

6. “take into your heart,” Ezekiel 3:10, BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE

7. “listen closely,” Ezekiel 3:10, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE

8. “get up,” Ezekiel 3:22, BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE

9. “go out,” Ezekiel 3:22, BDB 422, KB 425, Qal IMPERATIVE

10. “shut yourself up in your house,” Ezekiel 3:24, BDB 688, KB 742, Niphal IMPERATIVE

11. “let him hear,” Ezekiel 3:27, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERFECT

12. “let him refuse” (lit. “cease”), Ezekiel 3:27, BDB 292, KB 292, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

Ezekiel 3:3 “Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey to my mouth” This conveys the thought that God's word is significant and meaningful even when it is a message of judgment (cf. Psalms 19:10; Psalms 119:103; Jeremiah 15:16; Revelation 10:9, Revelation 10:10). That the holy creator God would be involved with sinful humanity is amazing! God's judgment is really a sign of His parental discipline (cf. Hebrews 12:5-13).

Verses 4-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 3:4-11 4Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. 5For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, 6nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; 7yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. 8Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.” 10Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. 11Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.'“

Ezekiel 3:4, Ezekiel 3:5 “the house of Israel. . .a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language” Ezekiel's primary ministry was to the Jews in exile. God was not sending him to a foreign people, as He did Jeremiah and Daniel. However, the irony of Ezekiel 3:7 is that they (foreign nations with strange languages) would be willing to listen, but Israel would not.

Ezekiel 3:7 “the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate” See note at Ezekiel 2:4. They will not listen to Moses or the Prophets (i.e., Ezekiel 20:8; Isaiah 6:9-13).

Ezekiel 3:8, Ezekiel 3:9 “hard. . .harder” This word (BDB 305) is a play on the name of Ezekiel (BDB 306), which means “to harden or strengthen.” God will equip Ezekiel to face head on the rebellious house of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 2:5-6; Ezekiel 3:9, Ezekiel 3:26-27; Ezekiel 12:2-3; Ezekiel 44:6).

Ezekiel 3:9

NASB“emery” NKJV, JPSOA“adamant stone” NRSV“the hardest stone” TEV“as firm as rock” NJB“a diamond”

This Hebrew root (BDB 1038) has several meanings.

1. thorns, briars, only in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 7:23, Isaiah 7:24, Isaiah 7:25; Isaiah 9:18; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 27:4; Isaiah 32:13)

2. adamant, flint (i.e., hard stone), Jeremiah 17:1; Ezekiel 3:9; Zechariah 7:12

3. person's name, 1 Chronicles 24:24

4. place name, Joshua 15:48; Judges 10:1, Judges 10:2

Context determines meaning! Only #2 fits. Which hard stone is being referenced is uncertain.

“Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them” See note at Ezekiel 2:6.

Ezekiel 3:10 What an insight into how inspiration worked in this case. The prophet had to listen (cf. Ezekiel 2:8), receive (comprehend), and then speak the message to Israel.

Ezekiel 3:11 “go to the exiles” This is the specific group that Ezekiel is commissioned to speak YHWH's message to.

“whether they listen or not” Some will respond, but others will not. There has always been a spiritual divide within national Israel. Some are covenant people by lineage only, but others are trusting, obeying, and heart-felt covenant followers!

Verses 12-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 3:12-15 12Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a great rumbling sound behind me, “Blessed be the glory of the LORD in His place.” 13And I heard the sound of the wings of the living beings touching one another and the sound of the wheels beside them, even a great rumbling sound. 14So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered in the rage of my spirit, and the hand of the LORD was strong on me. 15Then I came to the exiles who lived beside the river Chebar at Tel-abib, and I sat there seven days where they were living, causing consternation among them.

Ezekiel 3:12 “the Spirit lifted me up” There is some doubt about to whom “spirit” refers in Ezekiel 1:12, Ezekiel 1:20, Ezekiel 1:21, but here and in Ezekiel 2:2 it obviously refers to the active presence of God. It may be true that a full-blown Trinitarian (see Special Topic at Ezekiel 2:2) understanding of God is absent from the OT. There are still texts (such as this one) that point toward a plurality in God.

There are several places in Ezekiel where this phrase is used implying that it is a literary way of introducing revelation (cf. Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1, Ezekiel 11:24; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 43:5). Ezekiel is receiving active, personal revelation in the form of visions and words.

LXX“the voice as of a great earthquake” NASB“a great rumbling” NKJV“a thunderous voice” NRSV“the sound of loud rumbling” TEV“the loud roar of a voice” NJB“a great vibrating sound” JPSOA“a great roaring sound”

This NOUN (BDB 950) can refer to

1. the sound of an earthquake, 1 Kings 19:11-12; Ezekiel 38:19; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5

2. the context of a loud voice, Isaiah 29:6

3. the sound of military action

a. warriors, Isaiah 9:4

b. war chariots, Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 47:3

c. war horses, Job 39:24

4. the shaking of persons, Ezekiel 12:18

5. the VERB is used often of divine comings for judgment or blessing

In this context (cf. Ezekiel 3:13) it was the sound of YHWH's throne chariot lifting up and moving. Somehow the “lifting up” of the Spirit is equated with the lifting up of the throne chariot (cf. Ezekiel 1:12, Ezekiel 1:20-21). With the sound of the movement of the throne chariot was a vocal statement of the attending angelic being, “Blessed by the glory of the LORD in/from His place.” This is similar to the Seraphim of Isaiah 6:3.



Ezekiel 3:14 “and I went embittered in rage of my spirit” This is a very difficult phrase. It has been translated in one of two ways: (1) Ezekiel is upset at having to give a hard message which will be rejected or (2) Ezekiel was filled with the righteous indignation of God at the sin of the Jewish nation (cf. Jeremiah 6:11). I think theory 2 fits the context much better.

“the hand of the LORD” Notice the different ways the presence of YHWH is alluded to.

1. direct speech, Ezekiel 3:1, Ezekiel 3:4, Ezekiel 3:16, Ezekiel 3:24, Ezekiel 3:27

2. the Spirit, Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 3:24

3. the glory of the Lord, Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:23

4. the hand of the Lord, Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 3:22 (see Special Topic: HAND)

The anthropomorphic metaphor denotes the reception of divine revelation (cf. Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 33:22; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1). For anthropomorphic language used of God see Special Topic: God Described As Human (anthropomorphism).

Ezekiel 3:15 “Tel-abib” This is also the name of one of the Canaanite months (see Special Topic: Ancient Near Eastern Calendars), which was the month of the Exodus/Passover. Here it is a settlement by the Grand Canal close to the city of Nippur. The Hebrew word abib (BDB 1) means “green ears of grain.” “Tel” (BDB 1068) means “mound.”

NASB“I sat there seven days where they were living, causing consternation among them” NKJV, PESHITTA“I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days” NRSV, JPSOA“I sat there among them, stunned, for seven days” TEV“I came. . .and for seven days I stayed there, overcome by what I had seen and heard” NJB“I came. . .and there I stayed with them in a stupor for seven days” LXX“I sat there seven days, conversant in the midst of them”

See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture.

The Hebrew VERB (BDB 1030, KB 1563, Hiphil PARTICIPLE) means “appalled,” “awestruck,” “devastated.” But who does it refer to?

1. Ezekiel (i.e., the vision itself), NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA

2. the exiled Israelites of Tel-abib (i.e., the message of Ezekiel), LXX, NASB

Verses 16-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 3:16-21 16At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 17”Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. 18When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die', and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. 20Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself.”

Ezekiel 3:17 “I have appointed you a watchman” This is expanded in Ezekiel 33:0. It is a concept used often in the prophets (cf. Isaiah 56:10; Jeremiah 6:17; Hosea 9:8). Remember the prophets functioned as God's covenant enforcers for the Mosaic covenant. Israel's obedience determined her destiny. The prophets reminded Israel of the consequences of disobedience (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28). How the people responded to the prophets' message (i.e., repentance or hardness) determined their future.

Ezekiel 3:18-19 This is a major theological truth of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which deals with individual responsibility. The full theological discussion is in Ezekiel 18:0 and 33.

Ezekiel 3:18 “You shall surely die” This is a Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a Qal IMPERFECT of the same VERB (BDB 559, KB 562), which denotes emphasis. In this setting it refers to physical death.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

“but his blood I will require at your hand” Being called to serve God is a great honor, but it also carries great responsibilities. If I know God's message and do not speak, it brings spiritual consequences, as does ignoring the message once given (cf. Ezekiel 3:20; Ezekiel 33:6, Ezekiel 33:8).

The term “blood” (BDB 196) is a metaphor of death. The ancients knew that as the blood flowed away, so too, life. Therefore, the life was in the blood (cf. Genesis 9:5-6; Leviticus 17:11, Leviticus 17:14).

Ezekiel 3:20 “a righteous man”


“I place an obstacle before him” God tests all those who belong to Him (cf. Genesis 22:1; Exodus 15:25; Exodus 16:4; Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 13:3; Judges 2:22; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 12:5-13).

Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a stone or obstacle placed on the road (i.e., life's path) as a way of denoting judgment (cf. Jeremiah 6:21). The fact that God tests humans demands that humans have a God-given “free will” (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). If there is no personal responsibility there can be no ethical consequences! The interpersonal relationship desired by God of His human creatures demands a free will.

Ezekiel also emphasizes an individual aspect to faith and obedience that is unique in the prophets who usually address national Israel (cf. Ezekiel 3:20-21; Ezekiel 14:12-20; Ezekiel 18:5-32; Ezekiel 33:12-20).

Verses 22-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 3:22-27 22The hand of the LORD was on me there, and He said to me, “Get up, go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.” 23So I got up and went out to the plain; and behold, the glory of the LORD was standing there, like the glory which I saw by the river Chebar, and I fell on my face. 24The Spirit then entered me and made me stand on my feet, and He spoke with me and said to me, “Go, shut yourself up in your house. 25As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and bind you with them so that you cannot go out among them. 26Moreover, I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be mute and cannot be a man who rebukes them, for they are a rebellious house. 27But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.' He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.”

Ezekiel 3:22 “The hand of the LORD” See notes at Ezekiel 3:14.

This is similar to Ezekiel 2:1. YHWH is initiating contact and preparing to communicate revelation.

1. “Arise,” BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “Go out,” BDB 422, KB 425, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “I will speak to you,” BDB 180, KB 210, Piel IMPERFECT

Ezekiel 3:23 “I got up and went out on the plain and behold the glory of the LORD was standing there” This experience was a major theological revelation. God's glory and presence were not limited to Palestine or the Temple. The exiles needed to know this. First, that God had not abandoned them and second, that God was not limited to the Holy Land!

Notice how “glory” is personified as “standing.” The terms “glory” and “name” both stand for the personal presence of YHWH. See Special Topic: “The Name” of YHWH.

Ezekiel 3:24 “The Spirit then entered me” This is the same “spirit” that controlled the living being of chapter 1 (cf. Ezekiel 1:12, Ezekiel 1:20-21). It is the same “spirit” that entered Ezekiel and caused him to stand in Ezekiel 2:1-2. It is a way of referring to God Himself. Notice “He spoke with me” and the obvious antecedent is “the Spirit.”

The Spirit of God is active in the OT in equipping humans to perform divine tasks or assignments.

1. design and building of the tabernacle, Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31

2. military deliverers, Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14

3. political leaders, 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 23:2

4. prophets, 1 Kings 18:12, 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 2:16; Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:24; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 43:5; Micah 3:5

5. Messianic, Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19

“Go, shut yourself up in your house” Notice how specific God's message is. Ezekiel is claiming that his dramatic acts are direct commands from YHWH.

1. “go,” BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “be shut up,” BDB 688, KB 742, Niphal IMPERATIVE

Ezekiel 3:25 The question is, who does the PRONOUN “they” refer to?

1. other Jewish exiles

2. the Babylonian army besieging Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 4:8)

Whatever the exact meaning, it is clear from the context that there will be opposition to Ezekiel's message (cf. Ezekiel 3:26-27). Ezekiel is declaring the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the exile, which was not a popular message.

Ezekiel 3:26 “I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth” In context this is highly unusual, since God is commanding him to tell the message, but it may communicate the truth that the prophet is only to speak when God speaks. There will be a specific time to speak (cf. Ezekiel 24:27; Ezekiel 33:22). This reference to a divine silence is seen again in chapter Ezekiel 24:27: 29:21; Ezekiel 33:22.

This verse concludes with two commands.

1. “let him hear,” BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

2. “let him refuse” (lit. “cease”), BDB 292, KB 292, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-3.html. 2021.
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