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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Ezekiel 24

 

 

Verses 1-27

12. The Marking down of the Event that has taken place (the Symbolical Discourse and the Virtual Sign) ( Ezekiel 24.)

1And the word of Jehovah came to me in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth [day] of the month, saying, 2Son of Prayer of Manasseh, write [register] thee the name of the day, this same day; the king of Babylon has assailed Jerusalem on this same day 3 And utter a parable against the house of rebelliousness, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Set on a caldron, 4set it on, and also pour water into it. Gather its pieces into it, every good piece, thigh and shoulder; fill [it] with the choice of the bones 5 Take the choice of the flock, and also a wood-pile under it for the bones; let it boil and boil, 6so that its bones be sodden in the midst of it. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to the bloody city ! the caldron in [on] which its rust Isaiah, and whose rust hath not gone out of it! piece for piece bring it out; no lot has fallen upon it 7 For her blood is in the midst of her; on the bare rock she has put it; she poured it not upon the earth, that it might be covered with 8 dust. To make fury to ascend, to execute vengeance, I have put her blood on the bare rock, that it should not be covered 9 Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to the bloody city ! also I will make the pile great 10 Heap on wood, kindle the fire, make ready the flesh, and let the fat be 11 melted, and let the bones be burned up. And set it empty upon its coals, that it may be hot, and its brass glow, and its uncleanness in the midst of it 12 be melted, and that its rust should cease. It has wearied labours, and its much rust went not forth from it; into the fire its rust ! 13In thy filthiness is lewdness; because I purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt no 14 more be purged from thy filthiness until I cause My fury to rest on thee. I, Jehovah, have spoken; it comes, and I do; I will not slacken, nor spare, nor repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy works, they shall Judges 15 thee: sentence of the Lord Jehovah.—And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, 16Son of Prayer of Manasseh, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke; and thou shalt not mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears 17 flow. Groan, be still, make not mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thy head about thee, and put thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not the beard, 18and eat not the bread of men. And I spake to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded 19 And the people said to me, Wilt thou not tell us what this [imports] 20to us that thou doest [it] ? And I said to them, The word of Jehovah came 21 to me, saying, Say to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will profane My sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the desire of your eyes, and the pity of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword 22 And ye shall do as I have done; ye shall not cover the beard, and the bread of men ye shall not eat 23 And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes on your feet; ye shall not mourn nor weep; and ye shall pine away in your iniquities, and sigh one 24 to another. And Ezekiel is unto you for a portent; according to all that he hath done shall ye do; when it cometh, then ye shall know that I am the 25 Lord Jehovah. And thou, son of Prayer of Manasseh, shall it not be, in the day when I take from them their stronghold, the delight of their glory, the desire of their 26 eyes, and the wish of their souls, their sons and their daughters; That in that day he that is escaped shall come to thee, to cause the ears to hear it? 27On that day thy mouth shall be opened [at the same time] with him that is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and shalt be no more dumb; and thou shalt be to them for a portent; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.

Ezekiel 24:4. Sept.: ... ἐκσεσαρκισμενα ἐκ των ὀστεων—Vulg.: … electa et ossibus plena

Ezekiel 24:5. ὑκοκαιε τα ὀστα ὑποκατω αὐτων—compone strues ossium

Ezekiel 24:10. Some codices read: יחדו, adunentur.

Ezekiel 24:12. Vulg.: Multo labore sudalum est … neque per ignem.

Ezekiel 24:13. … κ. τι ἐσται ἐαν μη καθαρισθης ἐτι ἑως—Immunditia tua execrabilis, quia … et non … Sed nec mundaberis prius

Ezekiel 24:14. … Δια τουτο ἐγω κρινω σε κατα τα αἱμκτα σου, κ. κατα τα ἐνθυμηματα σου κρινω σε, ἀκαθκθκρτος, ὀνομαστπ κ. πολλη του παραπικραινειν. All the ancient versions read: שפטתיך.

Eze 24:16. ἐν παραταξει.

Eze 24:17. Στεναγμος αἱματος, ὀσφυος πενθους ἐσται αὑτηἑν τοις ποσιν σου· οὐ μη παρακληθης ἐν χειλεσιν αὐτων—

Eze 24:18. Κ. … το πρωι ὁν τροπον ἐνετειλατο μοι, κ. ἀπεθανεν—

Ezekiel 24:19. ויאמר, Sept.: κ. εἰπεν λαος—For אשר,כי is read.

Eze 24:22. … ἀπο στοματος αὐτων οὐ μη παρακληθησεσθε—

Eze 24:23. … κ. παρακαλεσετε ἑκαστος τ. ἀδελφον—

EXEGETICAL REMARKS

The threatened judgment of Jerusalem and Judah is now a fact. The whole previous preparation for it, and therewith the first part of the book—the prophecy of judgment—close with this chapter. Looking back from this point, the detailed division with respect to the symbolism of numbers which was stated in the Introduction justifies itself1. Under the divine mission of the prophet ( Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:11) there was shown first of all, in the two sections ( Ezekiel 1. and Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 3:11), the mutual opposition between God and the people2. The first carrying out of his divine commission ( Ezekiel 3:12 to Ezekiel 7:27) fell, through the determining influence of the more special relation to God, into the three sections ( Ezekiel 3:12-27; Ezekiel 4:1 to Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 6:7.). 3. The succeeding instances of his fulfilment of his commission ( Ezekiel 8-24), on the other hand, in passing over to the subject of the secularized people, made the number four significant in the first section ( Ezekiel 8-11.), the two of contrast in the second ( Ezekiel 12:1-20), and—as this whole third division, like the second, is also governed by the number three—after prominence had been given to the fact that the people of God had become like the world, and after their opposition to Jehovah had been emphasized afresh, there followed, in the third section of the third division of this first part of the book, twelve sub-sections, according to the number of the tribes of the whole people, with a notification, in the eleventh of these, that Judah and Israel were parted from each other, Ezekiel 12:21 to Ezekiel 24:27.

Ezekiel 24:1-2. The Accomplished Fact

Ezekiel 24:1. To the accomplished fact corresponds the date, with which are to be compared the previously-mentioned dates, Ezekiel 1, 8, 20, and therewith 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 52:4; Jeremiah 39:1; Zechariah 8:19. The synagogue still observes the day as a fast.

Ezekiel 24:2. After formal prominence has been given to the day by Ezekiel’s being required to write down not only its name, but the day itself (עֶצֶם, comp. Ezekiel 2:3), its historical substance, or that which happened in it, is stated as the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. סָמַךְ is: to lie hard upon ( Psalm 88:7), as כָּבַד is used in Psalm 32:4 of the hand of God.

Ezekiel 24:3-14. The Symbolical Discourse

Ezekiel 24:3. As what follows is expressly denoted as a מָשָׁלִ (comp. at Ezekiel 12:22; Ezekiel 17:2), and the caldron is merely that of Ezekiel 11:3, of course no external symbolical action is to be supposed here, but thereby the supposition of such action in the other passages is made all the more probable (comp. Ezekiel 12:4-5.). Comp. besides, Ezekiel 2:5, etc.—The repeated demand, expressing urgent haste, set on, is at the same time sarcastic; fetch their caldron ( Ezekiel 11:3): Nebuchadnezzar has planted himself before their walls; presently it may become apparent how far their proverb was a true word. The “pouring in” of the water will, as it were, prevent a possible oversight by which the caldron could be injured. Don’t forget the water; the next and chief concernment is with the inhabitants. They are the pieces, Ezekiel 24:4. It is possible that there is an allusion in אֱסֹף (“to sweep together,” comp. therewith Ezekiel 22:19) to those who fled before the Chaldeans from the country into the city, and in נָתַח (“to cut in pieces ”) to the sword which hung threateningly over all. The —ָה relates to those who come into consideration ( Ezekiel 21:17) for the caldron (Jerusalem). They are described as the marrow and strength of the population, as the best who are still in the land, as the choice even of the bones. Many interpreters distinguish the people of quality, the wealthy, the princes, the king, as the bones. It is perhaps more correct to regard the expression as hinting at the high opinion of themselves, entertained by the natives of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 11:15).

Ezekiel 24:5 specifies the whole by the choice of the flock, to wit, sheep or goats, of which those pieces are made; and then mentions the fuel, דּוּר, a round piled-up heap, composed of wood (like strues), as is evident from the connection, and especially from Ezekiel 24:10, so that the genitive, as is also immediately explained, betokens the destination; for as the bones likewise (which were even brought for the special purpose) are to be sodden, the wood-pile under the caldron (with reference to the investment of the city round about) must therefore be requisite. [Fairbairn translates the clause in Ezekiel 24:5 : “and also pile the bones under it,” and adds in explanation: “What the prophet means Isaiah, that the best, the fleshiest parts, full of the strongest bones, representing the most exalted and powerful among the people, were to be put within the pot and boiled; but that the rest, the very poorest, were not to escape: these, the mere bones as it were, were to be thrown as a pile beneath, suffering first, and, by increasing the fire, hastening on the destruction of the others. דּוּר is properly a noun, a pile; literally: And also let there be a pile of the bones underneath. The expression cannot signify, with Häv, a pile of wood for the bones; for דּוּר is simply a pile, not a pile of wood, and when coupled with bones can only mean a heap of these.”—W. F.] רֶתַּח, “the boiling,” found here only, and that in a plural form, strengthens the idea of the verb in this interest. בָּשַׁל=“to be cooked.”

Ezekiel 24:6 introduces with לָכֵן the explanation, but at the same time a something additional, a new element. In the previous part of the similitude, the fate of the city is symbolized with regard to those who are present in Jerusalem; the actual fact of the commencement of the siege by the Chaldeans ( Ezekiel 24:2) is also brought into view—therefore woe, etc. ( Ezekiel 16:23)—ch, 22:2. The mention of the blood leads to the new feature in the amplification of the similitude, namely, the rust, חֶלְאָה, by which can be meant a stain made by burning, or, still better, the rust-stain formed on metal by the influence of damp, whereby it is eaten away; comp. James 5:3; the ruddy colour being well adapted to represent blood. [Homer sometimes nods. Who ever heard before of the “ruddy colour” of verdigris !? Schroeder must have forgotten that “the caldron” is a caldron of brass.—W. F.] Thus judgment is motived by the guilt of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The destruction from without merely completed that which had begun long before, from within. That such rust is not done away, means that the shed blood having remained unavenged ( Ezekiel 24:7), punishment must therefore be executed on the inhabitants of Jerusalem as a body ( Deuteronomy 21:7-8).—The siege is not a testing which leads to repentance, so that Ezekiel 11:3 sq. could be fulfilled, but, as Ewald also understands the passage: “the pieces as many as there are pieces,” in other words, the inhabitants without distinction or exception shall be fetched out; and as the blood-rust adheres properly to the inhabitants, and only in the figure to the caldron, which however is also employed figuratively in relation to them, so —ָהּ doubtless refers in point of fact to the inhabitants; but it can be referred, so far as the figure is concerned, to the caldron, i.e. the city, although the most natural method would be to refer it to the rust, with which also harmonises the verb, which is twice used in regard to it—יָצְאָה and הוֹצִיאָהּ. The rust thus goes out of the caldron, only when all the inhabitants go out at the same time, which may either be when they are led captive or when they are destroyed. The statement as to there being no lot only confirms this result; comp. 1 Samuel 14:42; John 1:7. Under Jehoiakim and along with Jehoiachin, the choice of the people had been carried away.

Ezekiel 24:7 passes from the figure to the reality, namely, to the city, as representing the inhabitants, and states to what extent the rust continues unremoved ( Ezekiel 22:13; Ezekiel 23:37). Comp. Lamentations 4:12 sq. Hengst.: Judicial murders perpetrated by the dominant party, e.g. Jeremiah 26:20 sq. צְחִיחַ (צָחַח), from the idea of solidity rather than of dryness, which would have made it drink in that which was poured out; either the smooth and non-porous, or the glancing white rock is meant. [Ew. obscures the simple line of thought by taking the close of Ezekiel 24:6 interrogatively: “Is not the lot fallen upon it, because her blood was in the midst of it?” and still more by reading, with the Sept, the first person: “Upon the sunniest rock have I placed,” etc.] The shed blood is nothing hidden,—nothing which is covered over with dust ( Leviticus 17:13), but, Ezekiel 24:8, notorious wickedness, which is made manifest under the rule of Divine Providence, and which calls down the vengeance of God, Genesis 4:10-11; Job 16:18; Isaiah 26:21. “God would make sin manifest, so that His judgment might be recognised as righteous” (Häv.). Jerusalem was distinguished by the openness and audacity with which it sinned; but the upshot of it all was simply, the bringing near of its judgment. The bold openness of the blood-shedding provoked the fury; the fact of its having remained unpunished provoked the vengeance of God.

Ezekiel 24:9, like Ezekiel 24:6, explanation, and a new, third element. As the prophet in the similitude ( Ezekiel 24:5), so also Jehovah in fact. Or גַּם־ִאנִי now adds to the permitting of guilt to become ripe, the corresponding execution of punishment ( Ezekiel 16:43). As God takes the matter in hand, מְדוּרָה alternates with דּוּר ( Ezekiel 24:5), Isaiah 30:33. But as the similitude is to be carried still farther, the prophet, Ezekiel 24:10, is enjoined to carry out the divine purpose ( Ezekiel 11:6; Ezekiel 21:20). As to the fire, comp. Ezekiel 5:4; Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 15:7.—With הָתֵם, from תָּמַם, comp. Ezekiel 22:15.—רָקַח can mean: “to spice;” Hengst.: “put in the spice” (sarcastic), which, however, fits into the connection with difficulty. The word means properly: to make soft. Keil: to thoroughly boil the broth. Others, from its also meaning: “to make ointment,” translate it by: “stir the mixture.”

Ezekiel 24:11. The new element. We know from Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 1:13, what its coals are. That the caldron, i.e. the city, is also overtaken by the judgment, is a fact so natural, that Keil, in opposition to Hitzig, required to point for proof merely to Ezekiel 23:25; Ezekiel 16:41. The empty caldron, moreover, points back to Ezekiel 24:6, as Ezekiel 24:9 to Ezekiel 24:5, so that with the renewed reference to the rust, the similitude is rounded to a conclusion. Its uncleanness is its rust,—the blood-guilt, in which are especially included the polluting Moloch-offerings, Ezekiel 22:3-4; Ezekiel 22:15; Ezekiel 22:21-22. As that which is before the inhabitants is not a time of testing, so that which the city is to experience is not the burning out of evil, or purification.

[Dutch Annotations: “She hath wearied (me with) vanities, making such a continual stir by her idolatries, heathenish covenants, intestine oppression, lying, hypocrisy, and all manner of wicked devices, whereby she would underprop her ruinous condition and keep off threatened destruction, instead of repenting and turning unto me, whereunto I exhorted them by my prophet with such patience and forbearance, and admonished them so faithfully and frequently with sore threatenings, that I am even grown weary of it, they being not (in the least) bettered, but grown still more obstinate and hardened thereby.”—W. F.] While the much rust is destined for the fire, so that the caldron, in contrast to it, does not come into account, the fate of the caldron at the same time becomes evident.

Ezekiel 24:13, departing from the figure, addresses Jerusalem. Hitz.: “on account of thy unchaste uncleanness.” So also most interpreters. The degeneracy of the people is described as one in which the death-deserving crime of lewdness forms the characteristic element.

[Henderson: “The impurity of the inhabitants of Jerusalem was of the most atrocious character. זִמָּה, crime, deliberate wickedness, is a term employed to denote a criminal Acts, perpetrated on set purpose. Root, זָמַם, to think, devise, purpose; mostly used in a bad sense. Jehovah had used a variety of means, both physical and moral, to restore them to purity, but they had produced no effect. It remained now only for the Chaldeans to do their work. The decree was irrevocable, and the execution inevitable.”—W. F.]

Comp. Ezekiel 23:44; Ezekiel 23:48; Ezekiel 16:27; Ezekiel 16:42, etc. ( Leviticus 18:20.) While they degenerated to such an extent, both politically and religiously, they withdrew themselves from the influence of the efforts made by Jehovah, who by word (promise and threatening) and deed (chastisements and deliverances) was all the while bent on the purifying of Israel. All promulgation of law was designed to effect the separation of the people from the heathen world, and their purification from innate corruption ( 2 Chronicles 36:15). The judgment which has overtaken them brings to an end these fruitless efforts for their purification, and every prospect of their being cleansed. Henceforth—that is the immediate future of Israel—the fury of God rests on them. Comp. at Ezekiel 5:13 ( Jeremiah 13:27; Isaiah 4:4).

Ezekiel 24:14. The close of the symbolical discourse. Comp. Ezekiel 23:34; Ezekiel 5:13.— Ezekiel 21:12.— Ezekiel 17:24.— Ezekiel 7:3; Ezekiel 7:8; Ezekiel 7:27.—פָּרַע, either with reference to persons: to let the guilty go free (Gesen.), or in a neuter sense, which is the preciser idea: to depart from My word through a procedure not conformable to it—( Ezekiel 20:44.) Ezekiel 23:24; Ezekiel 23:45.—The words which are here added by the Sept. (were they following a different version?) are inserted by Hitz. and Ew. as conformable to the text.

ADDITIONAL NOTE ON Ezekiel 24:6-14

[“After having briefly given the ground of the parabolical description, the prophet proceeds, in Ezekiel 24:6-14, to make special and pointed application of it. His leading object is to show that it was the excessive and inveterate wickedness of the people which provoked, and even rendered necessary, the severe dealing to which they were subjected.

“All measures of a less extreme kind had been tried in vain; those were now exhausted: and as the iniquity appeared to be entwined with the whole fabric and constitution of things, nothing remained but to subject all to the crucible of a severe and overwhelming catastrophe. This is represented by keeping the caldron on the fire till its contents were stewed away, and the very bones burnt. And as if even this were not enough, as if something more were necessary to avenge and purge out such scandalous wickedness, the caldron itself must be kept hot and burning till the pollution should be thoroughly consumed out of it. The wicked city must be laid in ruins. It is the very same thought which occurs in Isaiah 4:4, where the filth of the daughters of Zion is said to be washed away, and the blood of Jerusalem to be purged from the midst of it by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning; only, after the manner of our prophet, the image is extended to many minute and particular details. In plain terms, the Lord was no longer going to deal with them by half-measures; their condition called for the greatest degree of severity compatible with their preservation as a distinct and separate people, and so the indignation of the Lord was to rest on them till a separation was effected between them and sin.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp261, 262.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 24:15-27. The Virtual Sign (the Silence of Ezekiel)

Ezekiel 24:16. מַחְמַד׳, what the eyes desire, 1 Kings 20:6, what they rest on with affection.—מַגֵּפָה, from נָגַף, to smite, can be: overthrow, calamity, and means here sudden death. So much the more natural would those gestures and expressions of feeling be which were forbidden to him.

סְפֹּד is almost always used of lamentation for the dead. Even the tears which were so natural (thy), not to speak of “weeping,” were not allowed to him, 1 Corinthians 7:29.

Ezekiel 24:17. The feeling of grief God does not forbid, only its loud, outward expression; the pain felt in regard to a private experience shall be dumb, just as the universal experience symbolized by it must absorb every private sorrow. The opposite of the mourning which was made for the dead (מֵתִים is placed expressively at the beginning of the clause) is described in detail. פְּאֵר is a “head-ornament” ( Isaiah 61:3) in general ( Ezekiel 24:23), not exclusively that of the priest; people laid it aside in times of mourning, and went bareheaded—comp. however, Deuteronomy 14:1; strewed ashes upon their heads, Lamentations 2:10; went barefooted, 2 Samuel 15:30; covered, as did lepers, the lower part of their face, Micah 3:7—the beard, as man’s adornment; obtained food from other people, as from neighbours, who sent it to the house, in contradistinction to the food prepared by themselves at other times, Jeremiah 16:7.

Ezekiel 24:18. As Ezekiel spake to the exiles in the morning, namely, Ezekiel 24:3 sq, and his wife died in the evening, the directions which he received for his behaviour in regard to this event, and which he complied with on the morning after the death, were communicated to him on the same day with the symbolical discourse. [Hengst. refers the “speaking” to the communication of the divine command to the people, and makes the prophet appear before them on the succeeding morning with the intelligence that his wife had died the previous evening, when he acted in the already mentioned symbolical manner.]

Ezekiel 24:19 ( Ezekiel 12:9) assumes that the death of the prophet’s wife has become known to the people, since their question is occasioned by the inconsistency of his behaviour with that fact. As it is inexplicable when considered in relation to himself, the inquiry as to its bearing on them springs to their lips.—כִּי either stands for אֲשֶׁר, or is to be explained thus: For thou doest it for us; in relation to thyself thou wouldst necessarily have acted otherwise. [The expressions which Hengst. has not hesitated to employ may be quoted on account of their singularity: “The prophet appears merely as a holy actor” (!); “We have to do with a mere figure,” with a “fact of the holy phantasy;” Ezekiel may have had “no wife at all,” etc.]

Ezekiel 24:20. The explanation of his conduct follows, as he was divinely commissioned to give it,

Ezekiel 24:21—namely, that what had happened to himself, whereby he is placed before them in a more impressive manner as the representative of the house of Israel, as the exiles’ “companion in tribulation,” was a type of that which was about to happen to them. As the expressions show, the wife of Ezekiel must typify the temple; her death represents especially its desecration, when Jehovah allows it to fall into the hands of the heathen ( Ezekiel 7:22), whereby the symbol of his marriage-relation to Israel, the dwelling together, disappears. If this relation between the wife and the temple is established—comp. Ezekiel 24:16—by the expression: מַחְמַד עֵינֵיכֶם, then the temple on its part symbolizes all the possessions and power of Israel. To its existence in their midst they appealed against their brethren, Ezekiel 11:15; and to this they trusted amid all their wickedness and apostasy, Ezekiel 8:6; Jeremiah 7:4. Pride of your strength,—since they took pride in it as their strength. Comp. Leviticus 26:19.—Note the alliteration in מַחְמַל and מַחְמַד; according to Hengst.: “the sympathy of your soul,” since the soul that is inwardly united with it suffers with it(?); Gesen.: “what your soul desires, loves.” The following would correspond better with its signification elsewhere ( Ezekiel 7:4), namely: that your soul would spare,—pledging life itself for it. (Dutch Trans.: the sparing of your souls.)—In the symbolical significance of Ezekiel’s wife for Israel, next to the special relation to the temple, the people come into consideration,—the sons and daughters; in the symbol, sudden death; as to the people, death by violence. (Hitz.: “On the occasion of the expatriation, many parents may have been obliged to leave their children with relatives, from their being of too tender age to accompany them.” Perhaps also they could be left behind in expectation of better times.)

Ezekiel 24:22. In regard to both the relations referred to, the exiles addressed shall imitate Ezekiel; comp. Ezekiel 24:17.

Ezekiel 24:23. Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:16. The direct application of what has gone before, which is made by the prophet to his companions in exile, gives a symbolical character to what has been said, which becomes all the clearer, as what is exactly meant is immediately expressed, namely: Ye shall pine away in your iniquities, etc. ( Ezekiel 4:17), which, describes a state of inward and personal woe which is destitute of all comfort ( Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 59:2).—נָהַם is the pressing out of the breath in lowing and also in roaring; here it corresponds to what is said of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 24:17,—a sighing with groans, and that of the one to the other, instead of the former mutual interchange of complaints, wishes, and hopes. [Häv. and others understand it as: pain and sorrow on account of sin, which is said neither here nor in Leviticus 26:39; Eich.: dull indifference at the downfall of Jerusalem in consequence of the misery of banishment; Ew.: a stupified, unrepentant state of mind; many: fear and shame before the Chaldeans among whom they dwelt. Hitz. makes them growl one to another like bears, discontentedly seeking the source of their misfortune in others instead of in themselves; Hengst.: despair.] As, in the prophet’s case, the misfortune of his wife’s death disappears in the deep shadows of the overthrow of Jerusalem and Judah, so all the personal feelings of the exiles shall be absorbed in this destruction of the last remnant of the kingdom and city. One and another shall be benumbed with pain, so that no comfort shall come from any quarter; on the contrary, a desolating feeling of guilt shall be general,—such shall be their knowledge of the Lord.

Eze 24:24. Comp. at Eze 12:6.

Ezekiel 24:14.—ָהּ is referred by many to Ezekiel 24:26. The introduction of Ezekiel’s name completes the personal type.

[“It appears to us almost unaccountable how any person of ordinary discernment should understand the prophet here to mean, that those Jews were to receive the coming catastrophe in a callous and indifferent manner, sullenly yielding to their fate, but without any sensible movement of the springs of sorrow and regret. Yet such is the view taken of the passage by some leading commentators abroad (in particular, by Eichhorn, Ewald, Hitzig), although the express declaration at the close, and the whole character of the representation, plainly lead to an opposite conclusion. In the typical part of the delineation, it was not because the prophet was insensible to the loss he sustained by the death of his wife that he was to abstain from the habiliments and usages of mourning; but because there was another source of grief behind, of which this was but the sign and presage, and in itself so much greater and more appalling, that his spirit, instead of venting itself in expressions of sorrow at the immediate and ostensible calamity, was rather to brood in silent agony and concern over the more distressing evil it foreshadowed. And in like manner with the people, when all their fond hopes and visions were finally exploded—when the destruction of their beautiful temple and the slaughter of their sons and daughters came home to them as dreadful realities, they could only refrain from bewailing the loss of what had so deep a hold on their desires and affections, by having come to discern in this the sign of what was still greatly more dreadful and appalling. And what might that be but the blood-stained guilt of their iniquities, which had brought on the catastrophe? Had it been that portion of the people who dwelt at Jerusalem that the prophet here more immediately referred to, there might have been some room for supposing (with Pradus and others) that he pointed merely to the overawing terror of the enemy, and to the breathless horror and astonishment connected with the capture of the city, when he spake of such an arrest being laid on the common outgoings of grief. But it is the captives at Chebar of whom he more immediately speaks, who, he well knew, would be living in outward quiet, far removed from the scene of uproar and destruction. It could not, in their case, be the presence of a Babylonian host, or the turmoil and consternation caused by the success of the Babylonian arms, which should check the customary expressions of grief; it would be the overwhelming sense that should then break in upon them of the iniquities to which they had clung with such fatal perverseness, absorbing their spirits, and turning their moanings into a new and higher direction. The agonies of bereavement would be in a manner lost under the self-inflicted pains of contrition and remorse (comp. Ezekiel 7:16).

“Yet, while this seems obviously the meaning of the prophet’s announcement,—of the not mourning in one way, and still pining away with distress and sorrow in another,—the description must be understood with certain qualifications, and indeed is to be viewed as the somewhat ideal delineation of a state of things that should be found, rather than the exact and literal description of what was actually to take place. The representation would otherwise stand in palpable contrariety, as well with undoubted facts as with statements elsewhere made both by Ezekiel and by his great contemporary in Judea. That many, on the fall of Jerusalem, did really exhibit the usual signs of mourning, and give the fullest vent to their feelings of distress, may be inferred with the utmost certainty from what is written in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, where we read of all the common symptoms and appliances of grief: ‘elders sitting upon the ground, casting dust upon their heads, girding themselves with sackcloth;’ and the prophet himself—though he had been told not to lament or bemoan ( Ezekiel 16:5)—weeping till ‘his eyes failed with tears, and his liver was poured on the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of his people.’ Nay, while Ezekiel here speaks as if all the indications of mourning should be restrained at the destruction of Jerusalem, he had previously spoken of the people being so filled with distress on account of it, that ‘they should gird themselves with sackcloth, and have baldness upon their heads’ ( Ezekiel 7:18), and had himself also been instructed to howl and cry in contemplation of the approaching troubles ( Ezekiel 21:12). There can be no doubt also, on the other side, that the conscience of sin, however powerfully it might work in some bosoms, and absorb other feelings, would be very far from being universally felt as it ought to have been. The prophets were by no means disposed to cherish exaggerated views on the subject. Jeremiah had even spoken of the people carrying their iniquities with them into other lands, and there serving other gods day and night ( Ezekiel 16:13). And Ezekiel himself, in Ezekiel 20, represents them as still needing, after they had been all scattered among the nations, to be brought as into the wilderness, that they might there be dealt with for iniquities not yet forsaken, and purged from still remaining abominations.

“It is clear, therefore, that the description in the passage before us must not be understood in the absolute sense, as if it were intended to portray what was certainly to be realized among the people at large on the taking of Jerusalem. It is what should have been realized in all; but what, in point of fact, was to have its realization only in part. The people should, on the occurrence of such a fearful catastrophe, have sunk under an overpowering sense of their guilt and folly, and, like the prophet, turned the tide of their grief and mourning rather against the gigantic evil that lay behind, seen only in the chambers of imagery, than what outwardly appeared; they should have bewailed the enormous sins that had provoked the righteous displeasure of God, rather than the present troubles in which that displeasure had taken effect. Their sorrow should have chiefly flowed in this more inward and spiritual direction, for it was here pre-eminently that the evil stood. And such, undoubtedly, was the case with the better and more enlightened portion of the people; but many still cleaved to their idols, and would not receive the instruction given them, either by the prophet’s parabolical example, or by the reality of God’s afflicting dispensations.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp266–268.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 24:25. The prominence given to the person of the prophet leads now to the announcement of a sign which is to be given him hereafter, and to the giving of an instruction for his procedure thereupon. And thou, etc. The statement is interrogative in its form, but assumes an affirmative answer. It is equivalent to: I ask thee, shall it, can it be otherwise? The time is expressed as a definite day. A year and a half elapsed before then, Ezekiel 33:21; comp. Jeremiah 52.—The delight of their glory means: that in whose glory they delighted, Ezekiel 24:21.—The wish of their souls, that to which they looked with longing and yearning. According to others: “the burden of their souls,” namely, that which oppresses them. The sons and daughters are named along with the temple, without a connecting word, but as in Ezekiel 24:21.

Ezekiel 24:26. The escaped is a definite person. [According to Hengst.: an ideal person, comprehending in himself the whole host of those carried away; others: a fugitive, one of their number.] As an eyewitness of what had been passed through, he will place the fact before the exiles as one which cannot be doubted.

Ezekiel 24:27. As he (which is also a virtual sign, namely, for the prophet) opens his mouth, Ezekiel does the same, who consequently has had to keep silence up to that time. The opening of the prophet’s mouth at the same time with that of the fugitive takes place in Ezekiel 33; comp. Ezekiel 24:21-22. The word of Jehovah, however, comes to the prophet in the interval, Ezekiel 25-32. As these prophecies are directed against non-Israelites, the silence of the prophet, which is introduced with Ezekiel 24, must be regarded as relative, and be understood in reference to his discourses to Israel only: to them he will not speak in the present period; he will do so only ( Ezekiel 33) when, with the renewal of his divine mission, a “new period for prophetic speech” (Hengst.) shall open, comprehending the second part of his book. Comp. at Ezekiel 29:21. As, now, this second part, containing the prophecies of divine compassion, sets itself over against the first part which contains the prophecies of judgment, and the retrospective reference of Ezekiel 24:27 ( Ezekiel 33:22) to Ezekiel 3:26-27 is unmistakeable (comp. there); so Ezekiel’s becoming dumb can be taken in relation to prophesying of mercy as distinguished from prophesying of judgment, so that the meaning would be: Thou shalt then speak of mercy, and no more of judgment, which has become an accomplished fact. But therewith the prophet’s becoming dumb appears as a becoming silent touching mercy, and as a speaking concerning judgment, just as speaking, of this nature, was characteristic of the first part of the book; so that the dumbness of Ezekiel affects, in the first place, the period up to the appearance of the fugitive from Jerusalem with the news of its downfall; but further, on its close, looks back on the whole period of the first part of the book, which it concludes. Thus it is evidently to be understood as a prophetic dumbness, not as silence in a general sense. The prophet speaks of judgment to foreign peoples, during the time which is to be assumed from our chapter, exactly as in the first part of the book,—the time of his silence as to mercy, he spoke to Israel. Thus his becoming silent is here also a virtual sign to Israel, just as it was so at an earlier time, Ezekiel 3:26-27.—Through all this speech and silence (thus many refer it to the whole activity of the prophet), and in other ways, he is shown to have been a significant symbol to his fellow-countrymen. [Dutch Annotations: In that day, etc.; “As if God should say, Thou hast now sufficiently foretold my people of the miseries that are at hand, be now silent for a while till all things be clearly fulfilled and plain before their eyes; then shalt thou speak to them again for their comfort and instruction, that thou mayest thus be unto them and to My whole church in sundry ways a wonderful token of great things to come.”—W. F.] Hengst.: “When the eye-witnesses report that all has happened as announced by him, he will become to them an object of wonder, they will recognise the Lord behind the son of man.” It is more natural, however, to regard it as a simple repetition of Ezekiel 24:24, as Ezekiel’s dull pain ( Ezekiel 24:17) prefigured not merely the feeling and behaviour of the exiles, but also God’s pain: it could be regarded, if one might so speak, as a striking symbol of the silence of the Judge in regard to Israel, after the sentence had been passed, which is now being executed,—of His still continued silence towards His people concerning mercy.

DOCTRINAL REFLECTIONS

1. With the prediction of our chapter, Comp. Doct. Reflec. on Ezekiel 12. No4. “This discourse is peculiarly important,” says Häv, “owing to the definiteness of its prediction.” “The place on the Chebar where the prophet lived was distant from Jerusalem more than a hundred German miles; it was therefore impossible for Ezekiel to know by human means that the siege of Jerusalem had commenced on that very day; and when it was afterwards ascertained that the prediction had exactly corresponded with fact, it would be regarded as an invincible proof of his divine mission” (J. D. Mich.). Ew. makes the prophet act on that day “in an altogether animated way, as if the siege of the distant city had been set in array against himself.” He supposes also that the anticipation of soon losing his wife by a sudden stroke was a “presentiment.” Umbreit interprets the matter in almost the same way, by regarding the wife of the prophet as “prostrated by a severe illness,” so that he foresaw her speedy death. Hitz. admits that “anything fortuitous is not to be imagined; and all the less, from the fact that we have here nothing to do with premonition, since the certainty of the tone, and the definiteness with which Ezekiel speaks of the subject, must rest on a proper knowledge of the fact.” With his decision in favour of a vaticinium post eventum, not only the prophetic, but also the moral character of Ezekiel falls to the ground.

2. “The earth drinks in the blood which is righteously shed, or covers it, so that it is not avenged on him who shed it; on the other hand, it is said of the blood which is to be avenged, that the earth covers it not, or discloses it in its season, Job 16:18; Isaiah 26:21” (Cocc.).

3. [“As to the principle of dealing, there is no essential difference between what God did then with Israel, and what He still does with those who stand in a similar relation to Him, and pursue a similar course. Where there is the profession of a belief in God’s word, and a regard to God’s authority, though intermingled with much that is false in sentiment, or unrighteous in conduct, there must still be dealings of severity and rebuke, to bring the professor, if possible, to a sense of his sinfulness, and lead him to renounce it; but, failing this, to vindicate concerning him the righteousness of God, and leave him without excuse if his iniquity should prove his ruin. In the case of sincere, God-fearing people, the severity exercised will always be attended with salutary results; for they have the root of the matter in them, and are sure to profit by the chastening of the Lord. But with those who have the profession only, without the principle of true godliness, the iniquity is clung to in spite of all the severity that is exercised, until the wrath falls on them to the uttermost. There is enough in New Testament Scripture, and the experience of men under the present dispensation, to warrant us to expect so far a similarity in God’s method of procedure to the representation here given of His conduct toward Israel. But, on the other hand, a difference may also be expected, in so far as His dealings now, in accordance with the genius of the new dispensation, respect men more as individuals, less as public communities, and bear more immediately upon their inward state and spiritual relations. He who would regard aright the operations of the Lord’s hand, and profit by the corrections of His rod of chastisement, must keep a watchful eye upon the things that concern his own experience and history. There may be signs of the divine displeasure sufficient to startle the tender conscience, and call for deep humiliation of spirit, while nothing appears outwardly wrong, and all may even wear a smiling aspect as far as regards social and public relations. Should there be a restraining of divine grace within, an absence of spiritual refreshment, a felt discomfort of mind, or an obvious withdrawal of spiritual privileges, there is beyond doubt the commencement of a work of judgment; and if such marks of God’s displeasure are slighted, others of a more severe and alarming kind may assuredly be looked for. But as men’s tempers and circumstances in life are infinitely varied, so there is a corresponding variety in the methods employed by God to check the risings of sin, and expel its poison from the heart. And it is the part of spiritual wisdom to seek for the wakeful ear and the discerning eye, which may enable one to catch even the earliest intimations of God’s displeasure, and so improve these as to render unnecessary the heavier visitations of wrath.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp262, 263.—W. F.]

4. Hengst, in denying the reality of the death of Ezekiel’s wife, states the proposition that “a moral relation like marriage cannot be degraded to a mere mode of representation;” as if this would less be the case if we had before us “only a vividly drawn figure!” This death is just as little a “mere mode of representation” as anything else which, ordained by God, happens specially to His children and servants. But the moral significance of the event for Ezekiel was altogether subordinate to the prophet’s significance for the people. That which was merely purifying trial to him was to be punishment to them. “He endures,” says Schmieder, “the pain, like other sufferings of his prophetic office, as the servant and instrument of God for Israel, in order to lead the people to saving repentance.” “God by no means spares His servants, and they endure willingly, because they know that the Lord in His own time makes all things work together for good, and because they are always ready to offer up to Him in love and confidence whatever He requires.” We must not forget that Ezekiel was set as a “portent” for the people; comp. at Ezekiel 4 (Doct. Reflec4), Ezekiel 12. Thus, according to the individuality of his official position, for which his loving sympathy with his people is the psychological medium, he is a type in virtue of a personal symbolical substitution or representation. Ezekiel prefigures, in a most painful domestic experience, the judicial punishment which is ordained of God for the people, with whom he is joined by personal sympathy, as well as by the fact of being equally an exile. It might be said that a Messianic element here makes itself apparent in the prophet. The symbolism of marriage in relation to Christ and the Church ( Ephesians 5:32) harmonizes with this theological explanation of the case. Consider, besides, the reference to Jeremiah 16, on which Hävernick lays stress.

5. The instructions received by Ezekiel in connection with the death of his wife are very remarkable. They suggest various inferences, both as to his own character as the servant of God, and as to the nature of the prophetic office. While the prophet was frequently one of the most gifted, and always one of the most honoured of men, he was at the same time one of the most severely tried. Like all places of honour in the kingdom of God, the position of a prophet involved the bearing of burdens which were exceptionally heavy. The closeness of his fellowship with God had two sides—a dark as well as a bright. For his high degree in the kingdom of God he had to pay a great price, by being preeminently a cross-bearer. He was taught, and often by painful experiences, that it was necessary to “count all things but loss” for God; “to hate father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also,” in order to fulfil the duties of his high office. Only in so far as he had learned this truth did he attain to the character of the ideal prophet. A perpetual spiritual law was enunciated by our Lord, when He said, at least in effect, to the ambitious sons of Zebedee, that drinking of His cup and being baptized with His baptism, were the conditions of occupying places of honour in His kingdom. This law held in the Old Testament period no less than in the New. The man who was distinguished from his fellows by receiving power to inherit all the ages, to dip into the future and comprehend the near and the remote in a single gaze of his divinely opened eye, to understand and proclaim the eternal moral principles according to which God determines the order of world-history, to be, in short, a prophet, was also distinguished from them by profounder experience of sorrow, suffering, and self-abnegation. The words which were spoken by God in reference to Paul, when he was about to be introduced to the apostolic office, might have been applied, with scarcely a verbal change, to Ezekiel, or to any of the ancient prophets, when they were called to their life-work: “He is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; … I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Self-consecration was an essential condition to the proper fulfilment of the duties of the prophetic ministry. The prophet was required to devote to God the energies of his mind and soul, the treasures of his heart,—all that he prized most; for God regarded them as His own, and might use any, or all of them, as instruments for the carrying on of His work. The tasks which God enjoined presupposed this complete surrender on the part of His servants. Their accomplishment would have been impossible otherwise. The prophet was often asked to do things difficult, disagreeable, or even unnatural, in order that effect might be given to his divine message. For, when the spoken word was not regarded as sufficient, it was supplemented by the acted word or the symbol, in the choosing of which, regard was had, not to the comfort, convenience, or private feelings of him whose duty it was to set the symbol forth, but only to its power to teach and impress. Often, indeed, the symbols chosen were of such a kind that the employment of them did not necessarily involve self-denial; but the case was altered, when acts and experiences of the private life of the prophet which touched his deepest feelings, were regulated and controlled so as to transform him into a personal symbol. Thus, for the sake of perfecting him as a teacher by signs, Hosea was commanded to form peculiar domestic ties, to which natural feeling would have disinclined him. And whatever view be held as to the Divine intention in taking away Ezekiel’s wife by a stroke, her death was used as a symbol of a great public calamity, whose character was further symbolized, by the prophet’s deportment under his affliction, in which he was influenced by a regard to his mission only. When he went forth to the people on the morning after his bereavement, he could have said in a double sense, “The burden of the Lord.”

The fact of God imposing upon Ezekiel the command to repress all signs of feeling, and, notwithstanding the suddenness and severity of the stroke, to be calm and self-controlled, proves that the servant of God must lead a life of self-sacrifice, that individual feeling must be merged in the higher claims of duty; while the promptness and perfection of his obedience show how well he had learned to subordinate all things to the fulfilment of his ministry, and how all-absorbing was his desire to arouse his people to a sense of things spiritual and divine. That the affliction which came upon him was most crushing, may be inferred from the nature of the case and from the narrative. To one who could be described as “the desire of thine eyes,” the prophet must have been knit in tenderest love, and he would feel the bereavement all the more because his nature was intense and lonely, his soul, one which dwelt apart. Deep must have been the sense of desolation which filled his heart, when he knew that he was to be for ever deprived of the sympathy which was so grateful because so rare, so helpful because so loving, and so trusted because it had never failed. But the manner in which God communicates His purpose, and the use which He asks the prophet to make of the bereavement, assume his possession of the intensest spirituality of mind and devotion to his prophetic mission. The bereavement is regarded entirely as to its possible bearing on public utility, and not once as to its bearing on private happiness. The prophet’s private feelings are ignored, except in so far as their natural expression is forbidden; God foretells him of his affliction, not so much that he may be prepared to bear, as that he may be prepared to use it for the fulfilment of his ministry. No compensation for the desolation of his human heart is hinted at except this—that he shall enjoy, on account of his affliction, the opportunity of preaching by new symbols of unusual impressiveness—of becoming himself an eloquent symbol. What he suffers as a man may be counterbalanced by what he shall accomplish as a prophet. For the anguish of bereavement, for the pain of self-repression, of abstinence from every expression of grief, from even the sweet solace of tears, he may find some compensation in being enabled, by means of his own circumstances, to place the future before the minds of his people, in a way fitted to make them realize the coming woe, and to arouse them to repentance. His great sorrow hidden in his heart, Ezekiel, the servant of God, proceeds to the work which God gave him to do. The shadows which appeared to rest on his soul proceeded, less from the recollection of his own bereavement, than from foresight of the calamities of his people. His private sorrow seemed to be overlaid by an anticipation of the greater sorrow which was to affect them. His manner seemed to say, “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” As he was a “portent” to Israel, Song of Solomon, by his beautiful, self-forgetting devotion to prophetic duty, which was made possible to him, not merely by the grace of God which accompanied the command of God, but also by the powerful sympathies of his own sanctified nature, Ezekiel is an example to the servants of God in every age.—W. F.]

HOMILETIC HINTS

Ezekiel 24:1 sq. “Ch 24 is to be regarded as a farewell” (Hengst.).—One goes on speaking till the last moment. “As the hour for bringing help to the pious is fixed, so also is the hour for executing God’s vengeance on the wicked” (Stck.).—“This happened in our month of December” (L.).—That which is carried out at Jerusalem is written down at Babylon.—“He who is condemned to death knows not the day, which his Judges, however, knows well” (Stck.).—Our calendar should be a very different one were the days noted according to God’s bidding.

Ezekiel 24:3. “God loves to say to man what He means to say to him by means of intelligible figures; therefore preachers should avoid obscuring His word with ambiguities” (L.).—In the wrath of God, because it is His despised love, as in the love of God, there are intensity and vehemence.—In the time of God’s judgment all the excuses of men will fall to the ground.

Ezekiel 24:4. God is already gathering to His judgment-seat those whom He will judge.

Ezekiel 24:5. Divine punishment overpowers even the strongest.—Even the best is not too good for God’s chastisements.

Ezekiel 24:6 sq. Man’s sentence and God’s sentence upon cities.—A woe follows on shed blood.—The rust on the caldron.—“Sin is the rust which cleaves to us all ” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 24:7. “On account of the blood of Christ, shed at Golgotha, Titus at length burned the city” (à Lap.).

Ezekiel 24:8. God’s leading and governing apparent amid the sins of men.

Ezekiel 24:9 sq. The ascending climax in the judgments of God.—He who will not hear must feel.—“God easily finds wood in abundance” (Stck.).—The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.—“An evil. conscience is a small caldron above a great fire” (à Lap.).—OEzekiel24:12. God’s fruitless efforts, what an awful prelude !—The abuse of divine grace.—“Thus also it was not cleansed by Christ, who had wearied Himself in labours for Jerusalem even to hot tears” (Jerome).

Ezekiel 24:15 sq. God takes away,—this should never be forgotten in any case of bereavement.—The Lord has taken away,—Job’s words, Ezekiel’s experience. “God wills that we should give up, at His command, all that is dear to us in this world” (Tüb. Bib.).—Not lost, but gone before. “Righteous people are often snatched away from the evil to come” (L.).—The children of God are not therefore insensate stones, but they desire to observe the God-appointed limits in their grief.—The Jews laid great stress on pomp in their mourning; and with how many Christians that is the whole or the principal part of mourning !—“No one should do as Ezekiel did unless commanded by God” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 24:18 sq. “In all things, even in what is hard for us, we should obey the divine command” (Tüb. Bib.).—“That which is impossible to our own natural power can become possible through the power of grace. Obey, then, even when it seems impossible to thee, and believe that the needed help will be given thee” (St.).

Ezekiel 24:20 sq. “Oh, the punishment, when God Himself profanes His sanctuary, and takes away the light of true religion!” (Tüb. Bib.)—Sorrow without comfort is great sorrow.

Ezekiel 24:24. “Preachers of repentance must be signs to the unrepentant, and teach them not only with words, but also with their whole life” (Cr.).

Ezekiel 24:26. The lame post from Jerusalem.—“Carnally-secure men believe a human messenger sooner than a messenger of God” (Stck.).—Who believes our preaching?—“Now the thunders of God’s judgment began to speak” (Hengst.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 24:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ezekiel-24.html. 1857-84.

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