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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Ezekiel 33

 

 

Verse 1

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Heretofore his functions had been chiefly threatening: from this point, after the evil had gotten to its worst, in the overthrow of Jerusalem, the consolatory element preponderates.


Verse 2

Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:

Speak to the children of thy people - whom he had been forbidden to address, from Ezekiel 24:26-27, until Jerusalem was overthrown, and the "escaped" came with tidings of the judgment being completed. So now, in Ezekiel 33:21, the tidings of the fact having arrived, he opens his heretofore closed lips to the Jews. In the interval he had prophesied as to foreign nations. The former part of the chapter, from Ezekiel 33:2 to Ezekiel 33:20, seems to have been imparted to Ezekiel on the evening previous (Ezekiel 33:22), being a preparation for the latter part (Ezekiel 33:23-33) imparted after the tidings had come. This accounts for the first part standing without intimation of the date, which was properly reserved for the latter part, to which the former was the anticipatory introduction (Fairbairn).

If the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman. The first nine verses exhibit Ezekiel's office as a spiritual watchman; so in Ezekiel 3:16-21 : only here the duties of the earthly watchman are detailed first, and then the application is made to the spiritual watchman's duty (cf. 2 Samuel 18:24-25; 2 Kings 9:17, "There stood a watchman on the tower in Jezreel, and he spied the company of Jehu as he came, and said, I see a company." Then as to the spiritual watchman, see Isaiah 21:6-10; Hosea 9:8; Habakkuk 2:1. "A man of their coasts" is a man specially chosen for the office out of their whole number. So Judges 18:2, "five men from their coasts;" also the Hebrew of Genesis 47:2 [ miqtseeh (Hebrew #7097) 'echaayw (Hebrew #251)]: implying the care needed in the choice of the watchman, the spiritual as well as the temporal (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 1:24-26; 1 Timothy 5:22, "Lay hands suddenly on no man").


Verse 3

If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;

If, when he seeth the sword - invaders. An appropriate illustration at the time of the invasion of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar.


Verse 4

Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. If the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head - metaphor from sacrificial victims, on the heads of which they used to lay their hands, praying that their guilt should be transferred upon the victims.


Verse 5

He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 6

But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.

If the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity - i:e., owing to his negligence in not maintaining constant watchfulness, as they ought to do who are in warfare. The thing signified here appears from under the image.


Verse 7

So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.

I have set thee a watchman - application of the image. The "I" is emphatic: "I have set thee," not as in the case of the earthly watchman, 'the people of the land" (Ezekiel 33:2). Ezekiel's appointment to be a watchman spiritually is far more solemn, as it is derived from God, not from the people.


Verse 8

When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

When I say unto the wicked. O wicked man, thou shalt surely die - by a violent death, the earnest of everlasting death; the qualification being supposed, 'if thou dost not repent.'


Verse 9

Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way ... if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. The blood of the wicked countrymen of the prophet had by this time been shed (Ezekiel 33:21), Jerusalem having been by this time "smitten;" but Ezekiel was clear.


Verse 10

Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?

Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us - i:e., If their guilt remain on us.

And we pine away in them - if we suffer the penalty threatened for them in Ezekiel 24:23 ("Ye shall pine away for your iniquities"), according to the law (Leviticus 26:39).

How should we then live? - as thou dost promise in Ezekiel 33:5 (cf. Ezekiel 37:11; Isaiah 49:14).


Verse 11

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live. To meet the Jews' cry of despair in Ezekiel 33:10, Ezekiel here cheers them by the assurance that God has no pleasure in their death, but that they should repent and live (2 Peter 3:9). A yearning tenderness manifests itself here, notwithstanding all their past sins; yet with it a holiness that abates nothing of its demands for the honour of God's authority. God's righteousness is vindicated, as in Ezekiel 3:18-21 and Ezekiel 18:1-32, by the statement that each should be treated with the closest adaptation of God's justice to his particular case.


Verse 12

Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.

As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness - (2 Chronicles 7:14). On the first clause of the verse:

The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression - see Ezekiel 3:20; Ezekiel 18:24,


Verse 13-14

When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 15

If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.

If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed - (Luke 19:8). Walk in the statutes of life - in the obeying of which life is promised (Leviticus 18:5). If the law has failed to give life to man, it has not been the fault of the law, but of man's sinful inability to keep it (Romans 7:10; Romans 7:12; Galatians 3:21). It becomes life-giving through Christ's righteous obedience to it (2 Corinthians 3:6).


Verse 16

None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 17

Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.

Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal - the Lord's way of dealing in His moral government.


Verses 18-20

When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 21

And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.

In the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month - a year and a half after the capture of the city (Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:5-6), which took place in the 11th year and fourth month. The one who escaped (as foretold Ezekiel 24:26) may have been so long on the road, through fear of entering the enemy's country (Henderson); or the singular is used for the plural in a collective sense, "the escaped remnant." (Compare similar phrases, "Him that escapeth of Moab," Isaiah 15:9; "He that escapeth of them," Amos 9:1.) Naturally the re-opening of the prophet's mouth for consolation would be deferred until the number of the escaped remnant was complete; the removal of such a large number would easily have occupied seventeen or eighteen mouths.


Verse 22

Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.

The hand of the Lord was upon me in the evening - (see note, Ezekiel 33:2). Thus the capture of Jerusalem was known to Ezekiel by revelation, before the messenger came.

And had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning. The force of the "until" [ `ad (Hebrew #5704)] seems to me to be that the Lord had opened Ezekiel's mouth against the time when he that was escaped came in the morning. The English version might be misunderstood as meaning that Ezekiel's mouth was opened from the evening until the escaped came in the morning, and not afterward, which the context following disproves.

My mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb - namely, to my countrymen (as foretold Ezekiel 24:27). He spake the message from God to the people contained in Ezekiel 33:2-20 in the evening before the tidings came.


Verse 23

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 24

Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance.

They that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak. Marking the blindness of the fraction of Jews under Gedaliah, who, though dwelling amidst regions laid waste by the foe, still cherished hopes of deliverance, and this without repentance.

Saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many - if God gave the land for an inheritance to Abraham, who was but one (Isaiah 51:2), much more it is given to us, who, though reduced, are still many. If he, with 318 servants, was able to defend himself amidst so many foes, much more shall we, so much more numerous, retain our own. The grant of the land was not for his sole use, but for his numerous posterity.

He inherited the land - not actually possessed it (Acts 7:5, for "God gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child"); but had the right of dwelling and pasturing his flocks in it (Grotius). The Jews boasted similarly of their Abrahamic descent in Gospel times, though utterly destitute of the faith and works of Abraham (Matthew 3:9; John 8:39, "They answered ... Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham").


Verse 25

Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land?

Ye eat with the blood - in opposition to the law (Leviticus 19:26 : cf. Genesis 9:4). They did so as an idolatrous rite.


Verse 26

Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife: and shall ye possess the land?

Ye stand upon your sword - your dependence is not on right and equity, but on force and arms.

Ye defile every one his neighbour's wife - scarcely any one refrains from adultery.


Verse 27

Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD As I live, surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.

Surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword - the very object of their confidence (Ezekiel 33:25) should be the instrument of their destruction. Thinking to "stand" by it, by it they shall "fall." Just retribution! Some fell by the sword of Ishmael; others by the Chaldeans in revenge for the murder of Gedaliah, (Jeremiah 40:1-16; Jeremiah 41:1-18; Jeremiah 42:1-22; Jeremiah 43:1-13; Jeremiah 44:1-30.)

They that be ... in the caves - (Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6). In the hilly parts of Judea there were caves almost inaccessible, as having only crooked and extremely narrow paths of ascent, with rock in front stretching down into the valleys beneath perpendicularly (Josephus, 'Jewish Wars,' I. 16: 4).


Verse 28

For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.

I will lay the land most desolate - (Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 12:11).

The mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through - from fear of wild beasts and pestilence (Grotius).


Verse 29

Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 30

Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.

Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee - not only the remnant in Judea, but those at the Chebar, though less flagrantly, betrayal the same unbelieving spirit.

Talking against thee - though going to the prophet to hear the word of the Lord, they criticised, in an unfriendly spirit, his peculiarities of manner and his enigmatical style (Ezekiel 20:49), making these the excuse for their impenitence. Their talking was not directly "against" Ezekiel, for they professed to like his ministrations (cf. Ezekiel 33:32); but God's Word speaks of things as they really are, not as they appear.

By the walls - in the public haunts. In the East groups assemble under the walls of their houses in winter for conversation.

And in the doors of the houses - privately.

And speak one to another ... Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. Their motive was curiosity, seeking pastime and gratification of the ear (2 Timothy 4:3); not reformation of the heart. Compare Johanan's consultation of Jeremiah, to hear the word of the Lord without desiring to do it, (Jeremiah 42:1-22; Jeremiah 43:1-13.)


Verse 31

And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

They come unto thee as the people cometh - i:e., in crowds, as disciples flock to their teacher.

They sit before thee - on lower seats at thy feet, according to the Jewish custom of pupils (Deuteronomy 33:3; 2 Kings 4:38; Luke 10:39; Acts 22:3).

As my people - though they are not.

And they hear thy words, but they will not do them - as "he that received the seed into stony places ... he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended" (Matthew 13:20-21; James 1:22-24, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was").

For with their mouth they show much love - literally, make loves; i:e., act the part of lovers: profess love to the Lord (Matthew 7:21). Gesenius translates [ `


Verse 32

And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song - literally, a 'song of loves:' a lover's song. They praise thy eloquence, but care not for the subject of it as a real and personal thing; just as many do in the modern Church (Jerome).

One that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument - Hebrew singers accompanied the "voice" with the harp.


Verse 33

And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.

When this cometh to pass - when thy predictions are verified.

(Lo, it will come) - rather, 'lo, it is come' (see Ezekiel 33:21-22).

Shall they know - experimentally, and to their cost.

Remarks:

(1) The duty of the spiritual watchman is to warn faithfully the impenitent of their imminent danger and of (1) The duty of the spiritual watchman is to warn faithfully the impenitent of their imminent danger, and of the willingness of God to receive them graciously and save them freely, if they will repent. Whosoever hears the watchman's warning, and yet takes no heed to it, shall perish, and his blood shall be upon his own head (Ezekiel 33:2-5; Ezekiel 33:9). But the minister who knows the danger that is before sinners, and yet neglects to sound the faithful note of warning, shall not only be in part the cause of their ruin, but shall also bring on his own head an awful condemnation. They no doubt justly perish on account of their neglect to watch and pray continually; but he incurs at once the guilt of his own and that of their disobedience to God (Ezekiel 33:8). What a heavy account they shall have to render who make excuses for sin, flatter sinners, and promise them pardon and peace without penitence and faith!

(2) Lest, however, the sternness of God's threats against the disobedient should drive to despair those who, like the Jews, are conscious of transgressions and sins (Ezekiel 33:10) which deserve the wrath of God, Ezekiel assures us that God has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked," but that what gives our loving God pleasure is, "that the wicked should turn from his way and live" (Ezekiel 33:11). Nay more, the great God of heaven, so far from desiring that sinners should "pine away" in their iniquities, as the Jews thought (Ezekiel 33:10), actually deigns to plead with the guilty worms of the dust not to destroy themselves, as though He were imploring for some favour for Himself, "Turn ye, turn ye ... for why will ye die?" Oh what infinite compassion, tenderness, and love! Who can harden himself against such an appeal? And how much it will add to the bitterness of the misery of the lost, to remember that they slighted such an invitation!

(3) It is He alone who endureth to the end that shall be saved. Past acts of seeming righteousness will not avail anything to him who backslides into sin, and dies in it (Ezekiel 33:12). Many who made a fair profession, and who seemed to themselves and others saved men, have "trusted in their own righteousness," and presumed upon their own sufficiency, and so have fallen into iniquity which has proved their ruin.

(4) On the other hand, the sinner who has taken heed to the warning of God, and turned from sin to righteousness, and given real evidences of faith and repentance by "walking in the statutes of life" (Ezekiel 33:15), shall surely live, and not die. It was thus that Zaccheus, once guilty of the usual bad practices of Roman tax-collectors, when converted by the grace of Christ, at once gave evidence of a real change of heart by restoring four-fold whatever he had unjustly gained, and so received the immediate assurance of salvation (Luke 19:8-10). Not one of the past sins of believers shall be mentioned against them (Ezekiel 33:16). God "will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Let us therefore never forget, if we be in Christ, that we were "purged from our old sins" (2 Peter 1:9).

(5) When men find fault with the ways of God as "not equal," it is because their own ways are not equal (Ezekiel 33:17). On the other hand, God saith, "Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" (Micah 2:7.) God "meeteth him that worketh righteousness; those that remember God in His ways" (Isaiah 64:5). The cause of sceptical cavils at the ways of divine providence and grace lies in the unbeliever's faulty state of heart, which corrupts the understanding.

(6) At length the fatal stroke so long threatened, but suspended through the long-suffering of God, fell on Jerusalem, and the sad tidings reached the captives at the river Chebar (Ezekiel 33:21). Such was the infatuation of the escaped remnant in the now-wasted lands of Judea (Ezekiel 33:24) that they were even still full of self-sufficient confidence. Had this confidence been resting on the restoration of God's favour, through their repentance, it would have been a reasonable confidence; but it rested on utterly false reasonings as to the relation in which they stood to Abraham. Abraham, they reasoned, obtained from God the inheritance of Canaan (Ezekiel 33:24), and we are his children, and therefore are entitled to succeed to his inheritance: Abraham was but "one" when he obtained the grant of the land, much more shall we retain it as our own who are "many." But they utterly shut their eyes to the fact that Abraham pleased God in all his ways, and was therefore called "the friend of God:" they, on the contrary, displeased God in all their ways by "working abominations," and "standing upon their sword" as if might made right. Therefore, in just retribution "they should fall by the sword" (Ezekiel 33:27), and those who escaped it, and got into "caves" to hide from the foe, should "die of pestilence" there (Ezekiel 33:27); and "the pomp of their strength should cease," and their land be "most desolate" (Ezekiel 33:27-28).

(7) The captive Jews at the Chebar, though not so openly, yet betrayed substantially the same spirit as their unbelieving brethren in Judea. While professing great admiration for Ezekiel's earnestness and eloquence, they talked against him both in their places of public resort and in their private houses ( Ezekiel 33:30). It is true they agreed together to "come and hear what was the word from the Lord;" but God looks to the inward motives, and these were far from being such as God approves. Curiosity and the idle wish to hear some new thing influenced some, as in the case of the Athenians in ages long subsequent (Acts 17:19-21). How many there are in our days who go to places where the Word of God is faithfully preached, from no better motive! "May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is?" Others again go to criticise, as the Jews at the Chebar criticised Ezekiel's manner and enigmatical style in an unfriendly and self-sufficient spirit. They discuss religion as a mere matter of taste, not as a matter of life or death eternal to themselves.

Thus they make some trifling defect in the mode of the preacher their means of parrying off the home-thrust which the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, aims at their conscience. They come, indeed, to the minister of God as if they were the people of God; they sit before him as obedient disciples: but while they hear, they will not do the will of God; for pastime and gratification of the ear, not spiritual profit and renewal of the heart, are what they seek. With all their loud mouth-professions of love to God and His ordinances, the love which reigns in their heart is love of self and love of fame, pleasure, and gain (Ezekiel 33:31). "Covetousness" is a grand rival to the love of God; so that where the love of mammon is, there the love of God is not. An eloquent and holy preacher like Ezekiel may please the fancy of carnal hearers, but their hearts are not reached, because they listen not as if the subject-matter was one in which they are personally and everlastingly interested, but as if they were listening to a piece of vocal and instrumental music (Ezekiel 33:32), in which the melody is the chief thing, and the truth contained in the words a matter of very secondary importance.

But whether men take heed to and obey the Word, or do not, the event will prove the truth of God: and they who will not now know the preciousness of their privileges, by using them aright, shall be made to know it hereafter in their eternal deprivation of them (Ezekiel 33:33). Lord, do thou give us the spiritually hearing ear, the seeing eye, and the understanding heart! (Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 20:12).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 33:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-33.html. 1871-8.

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