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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Ezekiel 22

 

 

Verses 1-16

THE SINS OF JERUSALEM AND ISRAEL: THE GENERAL CORRUPTION OF PROPHETS, PRIESTS, PRINCES, AND PEOPLE (Chap. 22)

EXEGETICAL NOTES.—We have here another description of the sins of Jerusalem and Israel; and thus the judgments predicted in the last chapter are clearly justified. Three words of God are here closely connected together in their substance and design, viz.:

(1) The blood-guiltiness and idolatry of Jerusalem hastening the coming of the day of retribution, when the city will be an object of scorn to all nations (Eze ).

(2) The house of Israel has become dross, and is doomed to be melted in the fire of God's righteous anger (Eze ).

(3) All ranks of the kingdom—prophets, priests, princes and people have become utterly corrupt, and therefore the threatened judgments are inevitable.

This chapter may be considered as standing in contrast with Chap. 20. In this latter, the whole of Israel's history was reviewed as revealing a growing corruption which must of necessity bring down God's judgments upon the people. The present chapter describes the existing condition of Jerusalem. In one case the prophet was commanded to "Make them to know the abominations of their fathers" (Eze ); in the other, he is commanded concerning Jerusalem to "Make her to know her abominations" (Eze 22:2).

Eze . "Wilt thou judge the bloody city?" The same expression as in chap. Eze 20:4, denoting that the prophet's reproof still continues. The question implies the idea that judgment can wait no longer, and the prophet must be wakened up to realise fully the great iniquity of his nation.

Eze . "The city sheddeth blood in the midst of it." "On account of the murders committed in Jerusalem and the offering of children in sacrifice to Moloch, she might well be denominated ‘the bloody city.' In this respect she rivalled Nineveh (Nah 3:1), and might justly anticipate the same doom. Instead of deriving any advantage from their idolatries, they were only involved thereby in ruin" (Henderson). "That her time may come." The limit of her probation—the crisis of judgment (Isa 13:22; Eze 30:3). "Maketh idols against herself to defile herself." By her persistence in iniquity still heaping upon herself moral defilement with all its consequences.

Eze . "Thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years." The full term of days and years when the limit of Divine patience shall be reached. "The Jewish commentators distinguish between the ‘days' and the ‘years' here mentioned, interpreting the former of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and the latter of the captivity in Babylon" (Henderson). "A reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries." "Defiled, unclean with regard to the name, i.e. having forfeited the name of a holy city through capital crimes and other sinful abominations."—(Keil.)

Eze . "Those that be near" (Heb.). "The women that be near." The cities of the nations are personified; as in Eze 23:48. "Infamous and much vexed" (Heb.). "Polluted in name, much in vexation. "Her ancient renown had now descended to the dust. She that had been once "great among nations" (Lam 1:1) had now only a pre-eminence in calamity and disgrace. "Formerly Jerusalem had been renowned as ‘the holy city.' Now it had been defiled by every kind of crime. It was also tumultuous, great of confusion, from the seditions and violence which obtained among the inhabitants. To all, both far and near, the Jewish metropolis was to be an object of derision."—(Henderson.)

Eze . "To their power." Heb. "To his own arm." Each man adopted the principle that might was right. With each man the strength of his own arm was his god. "Instead of reigning according to law and justice, the princes of Judah, in the most despotic manner, crushing by the strong arm of power all who were the objects of their personal displeasure."—(Henderson). "To shed blood." "By the repetition of the refrain, to shed blood (Eze 22:6; Eze 22:9; Eze 22:12), the enumeration is divided into three groups of sins, which are placed in the category of blood-guiltiness by the fact that they are preceded by this sentence and the repetition of it after the form of a refrain. The first group (Eze 22:6-8) embraces sins which are committed in daring opposition to all the laws of morality. By the princes of Israel we are to understand primarily the profligate kings who caused innocent persons to be put to death, such for example, Jehoiakim (2Ki 24:4), Manasseh (2Ki 21:16), and others. In the second group (Eze 22:9-11), in addition to slander and idolatry, the crimes of lewdness and incest are the principal sins for which the people are reproved, and here the allusion to Leviticus 18, 19 is very obvious. The third group (Eze 22:12) is composed of sins of covetousness. For the first clause, compare the prohibition in Exo 23:2; for the second, Eze 18:8; Eze 18:13. The reproof finishes with forgetfulness of God, which is closely allied to covetousness.—(Keil).

Eze . "Men that carry tales to shed blood." Heb. "Men of traffic." Describing those who travelled about for the purposes of trade, such as pedlars or wandering merchants. Men of this kind would be likely to become notorious for carrying reports from place to place. Hence the phrase came to be used in the sense of talebearers. In the present instance, the reference is plainly to a class of men whom, in the present day, we should call informers. "They eat upon the mountains." See "Exegetical Notes," (Eze 18:6.)

Eze . "Discovered their father's nakedness." Mother, or step-mother; (Comp. Lev 18:7-8; Lev 20:11; 1 Cor. Eze 22:1.) "Set apart for pollution." "This suggests the idea of a female devoted to prostitution, whereas all that the Hebrew expresses is one that is unclean by reason of the menstrual discharge. The character of the Jews, as here described, is aptly given by Tacitus: ‘projectissima ad libidinem gens, alienarum concubitu abstinent, inter se nihil illicitum' (Hist. lib. v. cap. 5)" (Henderson.)

Eze . "And one hath committed abomination with his neighbour's wife: and another … and another, &c." "There were such cases! Impurity in every form. A specimen of the moral atmosphere as a whole (Eze 18:6; Lev 18:15; Lev 20:12; 2Sa 13:12."—(Lange.)

Eze . "Taken gifts to shed blood." "Gifts,"—the word is here used in the sense of bribes. "Hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord God.""The crowning sin with which the Jews are charged, and that which is strictly speaking the source of all sin, is forgetfulness of God. It is only as God is kept out of view as the omnipresent, omniscient, holy and righteous Governor of the world, that sin can be indulged in"(Henderson.) Two of their prophets describe forgetfulness of God as the root of all their evil (Deu 32:18; Jer 3:21.

Eze . "I have smitten Mine hand at thy dishonest gain." A gesture figuratively describing God's wrathful indignation. "This verse is closely connected with the preceding. This serves to explain the fact that the only sins mentioned as exciting the wrath of God are coveteousness and blood-guiltiness" (Keil).

Eze . "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?" The courage of sinners must fail when the judgment of God reckons with them.

Eze . "And will consume thy filthiness out of thee." "The removal of the uncleanness of Jerusalem is effected by the extirpation of the sinful inhabitants" (Hengstenberg). "The object to be attained by the dispersion of the Jews was their recovery from idolatry and from the polluting influences which followed in its train."—(Henderson).

Eze . "Thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the heathen." "The only translation of these words, which suits the connection, is that given in the margin of the common version: and thou shalt be profaned in thyself. The meaning appears to be: thou shalt be inwardly conscious of thy polluted condition, and shalt loathe thyself on account of thy sins. There, among the heathen, thou shalt learn to appreciate my character as a God of holiness, righteousness, and truth" (Henderson). "Jerusalem has desecrated the sanctuaries of the Lord (Eze 22:8); therefore shall it also be desecrated for a requital (Eze 22:16). It has wickedly insulted the dignity of God; for this it must suffer the loss of its own dignity. ‘In thee,' so that thou must experience in thyself the desecration; whereas before thou didst send it forth from thee. Such things always return to him from whom they proceed."—(Hengstenberg).

HOMILETICS

THE CATALOGUE OF JERUSALEM'S SINS

I. Consider the sins in detail. The prophet is not now speaking of the sins of their forefathers, but of those of his own day. They were all "abominations" in the sight of God (Eze ), corrupting and daring sins which bring down God's judgment swiftly upon nations.

1. Blood guiltiness. Jerusalem is called "The bloody city" (Eze ; Eze 22:6; Eze 22:9; Eze 22:12). To be guilty of another's blood is the highest offence which a man can commit against his fellow. When this crime becomes the characteristic of a nation, that nation sinks into a savage and degraded condition.

2. Idolatry. "Maketh idols against herself to defile herself" (Eze ). In forsaking the worship of the true God they taxed their own powers of invention, and this was a greater wickedness than merely adopting the errors and superstitions which had been handed down to them.

3. Destruction of the fundamental idea of justice. "To their power to shed blood" (Eze ). As the Heb. has it, to his own arm, i.e., each man made his own strength the rule of right, made of his arm a god. The notion that might is right destroys the very foundations of justice.

3. Disregard of parental authority (Eze ). The Family is the oldest institution, the most changeless, and it will outlast all others. When the essential laws of the Family are disregarded, the Nation must decay and perish.

4. Oppression of the suffering and defenceless. The stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Eze ).

5. Profanation of God's ordinances. They profaned the sanctuary and the Sabbath (Eze ).

6. Bearing false witness. "Men that carry tales to shed blood" (Eze ). Base informers and slanderers who scrupled not for their own wicked ends to swear men's lives away. The fact that there were such men in considerable numbers suggests that there must also have been wicked rulers and judges who encouraged such men.

7. Impurity (Eze ). The individual was corrupted, then the family, and, last of all, the state. God sees such sins when man sees them not. Vices of this kind impair the physical energy of nations, and if unchecked must bring them to destruction.

8. Covetousness. This spirit of covetousness led them to take bribes, to become usurers, and extortioners. Thus those in authority became corrupted, and the evil spread fast throughout the whole nation. Jewish tradition ascribes the destruction of Jerusalem to covetousness that being regarded as the root of all evil.

II. Consider these sins in their root-principles.

1. Forgetfulness of God. "And hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord God" (Eze ). Former prophets had reminded them that this forgetfulness of God was the bitter root out of which all their evils grew (Deu 32:18; Jer 3:21). Whatever was good or great in this people arose from their connection with God, so that by forsaking His worship and service they cut themselves off from a glorious past. They who forsake God are bound to follow evil. The morality of a nation cannot be preserved, even by the best rules and resolutions, if the truths of God and immortality are rejected.

"Truth for truth and good for good! Be good. The true, the pure, the just—

Take the charm for ever from them and they crumble into dust."

(Tennyson: "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After.")

2. Selfishness. Having cast off God, each man made himself the centre of all interest, the rule of all duty. Hence covetousness, leading to extortion, oppression, and the taking of bribes, the consequent perversion of justice to the injury of the poor and defenceless. Hence the deification of force—the doctrine that might was right. In such a condition of things each man will regard that which is a benefit to himself as right and good. Whatever a man could get by force would be his, and he would have no right to it longer than he had strength to defend it. Such a doctrine as this would destroy the foundations of morality.

3. Sensuality. This was another root-principle of the nation's evil. The animal nature was let loose without restraint, and sins were committed which sank men lower than the beast. These sins are described (Eze ) by such words as "abomination," "lewdness," "defiling" and "humbling" those whose chastity they were bound in honour to respect.

III. Consider these sins in their punishment. "I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries" (Eze ). This punishment included many afflictions.

1. The sorrows and dangers of exile. They had to leave their beautiful country with all its hallowed asssociations, their homes, their kindred, their religious privileges which had made them great. They would learn to realize the worth of these when once they had lost them.

2. Abandonment of their own evil principles. They were permitted to carry out their own evil principles. They had acted like the heathen, and now they shall learn what heathenism means, in its own proper home. God allows men to work out such experiments for themselves; if haply they may come, at length, to the knowledge of their own helplessness. The discipline of failure prepares the way for the glory of God's salvation. The prodigal in the parable thought that he could better himself elsewhere. He is allowed to make the trial, he gets his portion and departs. By the smart of the experiment he is brought to a better mind. Hard experience taught him those lessons which the sober convictions of duty failed to teach. Those who refuse to learn by God's precepts shall learn by His judgments,

3. They would be a reproach among the heathen. The heathen could only despise them for their folly and inconsistency. They would be "a mocking to all countries" (Eze .) They would witness how great her fall from ancient renown, and point at her the finger of scorn when she had now only the pre-eminence in calamity.

3. The judgments would be severe and effectual. "And will consume thy filthiness out of thee" (Eze ). The trial by fire is the hardest and most searching of all trials. We can, therefore, only understand this threatening to mean the extinction of Jerusalem's polluted inhabitants. The ungodly are to be separated from the righteous. What a suggestion of the final judgment!

4. No human power could avert the judgment, or courage resist it. "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?" (Eze ). When sin is committed men imagine themselves strong and full of courage, but how different their bearing when the time of judgment comes! When God once rises up in judgment against sinners, heart and hand, courage and strength fail. There was now no way of escape for the guilty. He against whom they had sinned had uttered His word, and it must be fulfilled to the utmost in dire judgment; "I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it" (Eze 22:14).

5. The agency of man in the judgment. "Son of man, wilt thou judge the bloody city?" (Eze ). The prophets of old judged the world through the word of the Lord, the apostles through the Holy Spirit convincing the world of sin. St. Paul tells us that "the saints shall judge the world" (1Co 6:2); by which we are to understand, not that they shall sit upon the judgment seat, but rather that they by their righteousness shall condemn those who having the same opportunities yet resisted the grace of God.

(Eze )

1. Sinners are apt to confide in their wisdom, strength, power, riches, or friends. Jerusalem thought that she had wherewith to keep off all judgments or sufficient to enable her to wrestle with them if they came. "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong?" Jerusalem thought so, had confidence that way, else the Lord would not have put these questions to her. "Thou didst trust in thy beauty" (Eze ); in thy wealth, in thy walls, in thy soldiers, in thy counsellors, in thy temple, in thy mountains, which were thy beauty. In Jeremiah's days it is evident that the wise, the rich, and strong men in Jerusalem did too much confide and glory in their wisdom, their riches, and strength (Jer 9:23). Her confidence was in falsehood (Jer 13:25); that was in things which proved false and deceitful: one of this kind was the Egyptian strength (Isa 30:2; Eze 17:17). It is not good to lean on our own wisdom, to rest upon our own strength, or strength of others; whoever makes flesh within, or flesh without, his arm, lies under a curse (Jer 17:5); but he that trusts in the Lord, and in Him only, he hath the blessing (Jer 17:7).

2. God hath His times to reckon with sinners. To make them smart for their evil doings. "In the days that I shall deal with thee." God had His day to deal with Egypt (Eze ), with the Midianites (Isa 9:4). Ahab had his day to do wickedly, and God had His day to deal with him (1Ki 22:34-35). Men sin, and think to hear no more of their sins, but God remembers them, and hath His days to visit for them (Rom 2:6; Rom 2:9).

3. God's judgments discover the vanity and rottenness of human confidences "Can thine heart endure? can thine hands be strong?" In the days when I shall deal with thee, when I shall bring the sword, plague and famine, thy heart will be faint and thy hands feeble. God's judgments are fires which consume man's confidences, and make them see their own weakness. If footmen, horsemen, and the swellings of Jordan weary and sink men, what will the Lord of Hosts do (Jer )? If they cannot bear the lesser judgments, how will they bear the greater? If briars and thorns conceit themselves to be oaks and cedars, can they endure the fire? They will be burnt to ashes (Isa 27:4).

4. The word of the Lord shall take place, whatever men's thoughts are. They thought Nebuchadnezzar would not come, or if he did, that they and the Egyptians should be able to deal with them, and prevent those evils which were threatened by the prophets; but "I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it. "Neither will the Lord revoke what He hath said, and so prevent judgments intended: "He is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back His words" (Isa ). Men often speak, threaten, and then after eat their words, call back their threatenings, saying they were uttered in passion, inconsiderately, and so show their folly; but God when He speaks, it is in wisdom, His words shall stand, and not be removed or called back (Amo 6:11). Hence it is that the Lord saith, "They shall know whose word shall stand, mine or theirs" (Jer 44:28).

5. The Lord by His judgment doth purge out of cities and nations the wicked, and makes them and their wickedness to cease. "I will consume thy filthiness out of thee," i. e., thy filthy ones. God brought the sword, famine, and pestilence upon Jerusalem, and by these did cut off and consume, the filthy ones there (Jer ; Jer 16:4; Eze 8:14). By His judgments the Lord consumes the filthy out of the city and land, and filthiness out of the saints.

6. The wickedness of God's people doth disinterest them in God; it makes God disown them, and leave them to themselves. They might think and say they were still the people, the "inheritance" of God, that they had an interest in Him; but "thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself; "I disclaim thee, I cast thee off as profane, and look upon thee no otherwise than I do upon heathens. Israel had cast off the thing that was good, viz., the worship of God (Hos ); and, therefore, the prophet said, "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off" (Hos 8:5); that is, thy false worship hath made Me to cast thee off, to declare thee to be none of my city, and thy people to be none of mine. The prophet Jeremiah tells us, that the Jews were once very dear to God, even as dear as a wife can be to a husband; but because, like lions, they carried it stoutly against God, and cried out against Him and His prophets, therefore He forsook them, and gave them into the hands of the Babylonians; and because Jerusalem was as a "speckled bird" in the eye of God, through her variety of gods, altars, superstitions and idolatries, therefore God caused the birds of all the nations to hoot at and hate her, even as birds do a speckled bird, inviting them and all the beasts of the field to come and devour her. And all this because they dealt treacherously, they were hypocritical, they were wicked (Jer 12:1-2; Jer 12:4; Jer 12:7-9). The Jews had been a people precious in the sight of God, and honourable (Isa 43:4); Jerusalem His habitation, and the people of it His inheritance and His glory, whom He protected (Isa 4:5); yet, by their sins they provoked God, so that He gave "His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand" (Psa 78:61).

7. That God's judgments bring people to the knowledge of God. God would scatter them, consume them, cast them off, leave them to themselves, and they should know that he is the Lord. "The Lord is known by executing judgments" (Psa ); His power, His justice, and sovereignty are known thereby, and so men are made to fear and stand in awe of Him. When God is silent, and speaks not by His judgments, men think He is like themselves (Psa 50:21); and are emboldened to sin (Ecc 8:11); but when God thunders by His judgments, they have other apprehensions of Him (1Sa 6:19-20).—(Greenhill).


Verses 17-22

(Eze .)

EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Jerusalem besieged by her enemies is the furnace in which God will refine His people Israel.

Eze . "The word of the Lord came unto me." "This second word of God rests, no doubt, upon the figure in Eze 22:15, of the uncleanness or dirt of sin; but it is not an exposition of the removal of the dirt as predicted there. For that was to be effected through the dispersion of Israel among the nations, whereas the word of God, from Eze 22:17 onwards, represents the siege awaiting Jerusalem as a melting process, through which God will separate the ‘silver ore contained in Israel from the baser metals mingled with it."—(Keil.)

Eze . "The house of Israel is to Me become dross; all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver." Some kinds of silver ore contain a large amount of copper, iron, and lead, with other impurities. The inhabitants of Judea are described as a mass of the baser metals intermixed with the impure residue of silver. The good silver had been drained out of Judah by death or exile, and those who remained had altogether become a compound of wickedness.

Eze . "So will I gather you in Mine anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you." "The smelting is treated here simply as a figurative representation of punishment, and consequently the result of the smelting, namely, the refining of the silver by the removal of the baser ingredients, is not referred to any further, as is the case in Isa 1:22; Isa 1:25; Jer 6:27-30; Mal 3:2-3. This smelting process was experienced by Israel in the last siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans."—(Keil). "In the spiritual department, the silver may become altogether dross. The furnace is Jerusalem, according to its destination to serve for a smelting pot. Dross of silver is silver that has become dross. They are all gathered into Jerusalem (Eze 22:19), as the people far and wide, under the pressure of the foe, seek refuge in the fortified city. In the whole section the judgment is regarded not in the light of purification, but in that of destruction, as Ezekiel usually considers the population of Jerusalem as an ungodly multitude doomed to be extirpated."—(Hengstenberg).

Eze . "As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace." "In modern metallurgy, lead is employed for the purpose of purifying silver from other mineral products. The alloy is mixed with lead exposed to fusion upon an earthen vessel, and submitted to a blast of air. By this means the dross is consumed. This process is called the cupelling operation, with which the description in Eze 22:18-22 accurately coincides. The vessel containing the alloy is surrounded by the fire, or placed in the midst of it, and the blowing is not applied to the fire but to the fused metals. And when this is done, nothing but the perfect metals, gold and silver, can resist the scorifying influence. In Jer 6:28-30, we have a perfect description of this process. If we take silver having the impurities in it described in the text, namely, iron, copper and tin, and mix it with lead, and place it in the fire upon a cupell, it soon melts; the lead will oxidize and form a thick, coarse crust upon the surface and thus consume away, but effecting no purifying influence. The alloy remains, if anything, worse than before. The silver is not refined because ‘the bellows were burned,' there existed nothing to blow upon it."—(Smith's Dict. of the Bicle, art. "Lead").

HOMILETICS

God has a threefold smelting furnace.

1. Of sin. In which one can become dross.

2. Of trial. In which furnace the silver is tested.

3. Of judgment. In which even the dross is consumed.—Lange.

1. Churches and states may degenerate from their preciousness and purity, into vileness and profaneness. "It was full of judgment, and righteousness lodged in it" (Isa ), but instead of these, now there was oppression and murder. "Thy silver is become dross, thy wine is mixed with water." Thy money is counterfeit, and thy wine corrupt. Whatever was pure in thee is now corrupted, the law is corrupted with false expositions, the worship is corrupted with idols and human traditions, justice is corrupted with bribery and cruel oppressions, chastity and sobriety are corrupted with lewd and unclean practices. Rome was once a golden city for her faith and holiness (Rom 1:8; Rom 16:19); but now is so corrupt in doctrine, worship, and manners, that she is become "the mother of harlots and abominations" (Rev 17:5). The Seven Churches were once golden candlesticks, but through their corruptions and weaknesses, they soon degenerated into dross.

2. Men professing godliness, and living ungodlily, are not acceptable to God, nor fit materials of a church. "The house of Israel is to Me become dross;" they profess My name, and so judge themselves good silver; but they live wickedly, and to Me they are no better than dross, than brass, tin, iron and lead, too base materials to make a temple for Me to dwell in, or a candlestick for Me to set a prophetical light in. Whatever profession they make, whatever parts or privileges they have, they are no silver, but the dross, the excrements of silver, which defile, disgrace the name, the Church, the ordinances of God, and must be separated from the gold and silver (2Co ). Many that appear silver unto men will be found dross unto God. Hypocrites and wicked ones are dross; only hypocrites are the "dross of silver."

3. The greatest part of professors, when they come to the trial, will be found corrupt and naught. "All they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace." The furnace discovered them to be base metal. The number of sincere and silver-like Christians will be few.

4. Those who degenerate from God and His ways shall meet with fury and fire from the Lord (Eze ). When the church of Ephesus decayed in her first love, that of Pergamos turned aside to the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, that of Thyatira to the teachings and seductions of Jezebel; when Sardis abated in her zeal, and Laodicea became lukewarm, the Lord threatened them severely, and at last brake the candlesticks, and put out the lights (Rev 2:3). God will put away all the wicked of the earth from Him like dross (Psa 119:119).

5. Melting and consuming judgments upon a people are the wrath of God, whoever be the executioners thereof. Nebuchadnezzar should besiege Jerusalem, and make it like a furnace to melt and consume the Jews, and this the Lord owns to be His doing (Eze ). The enemies of Jerusalem were but the vials or vessels by which the fury of God was poured out.—(Greenhill.)


Verses 23-31

(Eze .)

EXEGETICAL NOTES.—The corrupt condition of all ranks of the people as the immediate cause of the destruction of the kingdom.

Eze . "Thou art the land that is not cleansed." The priests, whose office it was to keep the land tree from moral and ceremonial defilement had neglected their duty (Lev 16:19). The whole land had become corrupt, but Jerusalem was to be regarded as a concentration of the iniquity of the whole land. "Nor rained upon in the day of indignation" Heb. "that hath not her rain." The rain which was her proper portion which ought to have fallen upon her. By this rain is signified, the gentle, sanctifying showers of the prophetic word (Deu 32:2). The blame of this desolate state of things is imputed to the prophets who were utterers of vain speeches and lying visions (Eze 22:28). "A land that has no rain in the day of indignation, is a land that in the outburst of the divine judgment finds no grace, and simply, as the connection shows, because its impurity is not removed. The rain in the day of indignation would be a benefit. It would quench the flame of the divine indignation. To the indignation, the full energy of which is here called forth by the uncleanness, may be applied that which is said in the Song of Songs (Eze 8:7) of the fire of love. ‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the rivers drown it.'"—(Hengstenberg).

Eze . "A conspiracy of her prophets." These professed to he the messengers of God, but they were conspiring against Him. They were His enemies, even as roaring lions are the enemies of their prey. "The false prophets are first singled out; on account of the greater influence which they exerted in seducing the people by their impious teachings. Not satisfied with each propagating error within his own sphere, they had formed a complot to oppose the messages of the servants of the Lord. Thus forming a powerful body, they resembled a roaring lion, tearing in pieces his prey. Unconcerned about the well are of the souls of whom they professedly had the cure, and intent only upon their own gain, they had occasioned the death of those who perished in the war with the Chaldeans, and thus increased the number of widows"—(Henderson.)

Eze "Her priests have violated My law, and have profaned Mine holy things." The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and give it out as from a pure fountain (Mal 2:7). But these did violence to God's law, both by breaking it themselves and making it void to others by false interpretations. "They have put no difference between the holy and profane." The priests also knowingly admitted persons to God's sacred ordinances, without any regard or discrimination as to their moral or spiritual fitness for partaking of them. They showed utter indifference to all moral distinctions—right and wrong, pure and impure. Upon them lies the woe pronounced upon those who call evil good, and good evil (Isa 5:20). "Have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths." They neither observe the Sabbath themselves, and shut their eyes to the desecration of it by others. Thus they failed to carry out the chief command and reason of their office, which (as laid down by Moses) was "to teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord had spoken unto them." (Lev 10:11). "The law of the Sabbath is given as an example. This they rob of its deep spiritual import, and limit it to the external rest, as if it were given for animals, and not for men, who are to serve God in spirit. Because they thus let down the commandments of God to the level of man, and make them minister to human inclination, God Himself is desecrated by them. "I am profaned among them." In place of the dread and holy God, who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, appears a lax and sin-favouring god, who creates no one, and is glad if any one will only acknowledge him, and is thankful for every bow that is made to him"—(Hengstenberg).

Eze . "Her princes … like wolves ravening the prey." The term "princes" is applied generally to all the political authorities and officials. These, in their rapacity are compared to wolves, which are noted for their fierceness and cruelty.

Eze . "Her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter." "Them," i.e., the princes. These were prophets who meddled with political matters, and upheld the princes in their iniquity. "The false prophets recur here once more, as abettors of the nobles, to whom they hold out deliverance, and thereby confirm them in their shameful course, instead of vehemently testifying against their sins, and setting before them the judgments of God. In Eze 13:10 we have an example of the manner in which the prophets daubed with this untempered mortar. The building of the wall by the people denotes the political activity whereby they sought to raise themselves up—the effort made by the coalition. The false prophets daubed this wall; they gave to the impious and the ungodly movement of the people, that was condemned by the word of the true prophets, the appearance of a higher sanction, and confirmed them in it. The wall is a spiritual one, and so the absurdity suits it as a spiritual mortar. The attempt to put, instead of the spiritual, a material mortar, has arisen only from the want of capacity in expositors to understand the interchange of figure and reality. Nothing can be more absurd than to announce safety to a people living in sin, and to promise success to counsels that are in open contradiction to the revealed counsels of God" (Hengstenberg). These false prophets assured the princes that the King of Babylon would not take Jerusalem, in direct contradiction to the Word of God.

Eze . "The people of the land." "As placed here immediately after the classification of persons holding office, we are to understand the inhabitants generally without distinction of rank or office. Corruption had spread downwards through the whole mass of the community (Jer 5:1-4). They ‘vexed the poor and needy,' they ‘oppressed the stranger wrongfully.' So far from encouraging, by their kindness and holy example, those foreigners who sojourned among them to devote themselves in spirit and truth to the service of Jehovah, the Jews did everything that was calculated to alienate them from His worship."—(Henderson.)

Eze . "I sought for a man among them … but I found none." "Jeremiah, by his powerful preaching of repentance, presented himself as such a public deliverer; but they despised him, and he could gain no position. The man alone is nothing. The position must be added, and the people must gather around him."—(Hengstenberg.) It was expressly forbidden to Jeremiah to intercede for them (Jer 11:14).

Eze . "Their own way have I recompensed upon their heads." Thus the words of Eze 18:30 are fulfilled. They are punished for their own personal transgressions, and not for those of their fathers.

HOMILETICS

THE CORRUPTION OF THE NATION

I. It was spread through all ranks and classes.

1. Prophets. "They have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof" (Eze ). They were the enemies of God and of the souls which He had made. By their lying prophecies they brought the judgment of the sword upon the city, so that she was rifled of her treasure and her widows were multiplied.

2. Priests. Her priests violated God's law; not only by breaking it themselves, but by putting false interpretations on it for the purpose of their own selfish ends. They were ordained to promote holiness, but they put no difference between the holy and the profane, between the unclean and the clean. They destroyed the very foundations of religion and morality. They profaned the blessed ordinance of the sabbath, which God had given to men for rest and worship, and which was wonderfully suited to nourish the growth of religion by promoting serious thought and meditation (Eze ).

3. Rulers. These no longer ruled by righteousness, but shed blood and destroyed souls to get dishonest gain. And the prophets were linked with them, upholding them in their iniquity (Eze ).

4. People. These could not be expected to be better than their guides. There was not a man to be found among them to stand in the gap, and to save the land by his righteousness (Eze ). We are reminded how when God sent His son, He was rejected by all these classes in succession,—by the religious teachers, then by the rulers, and, last of all, by the people.

II. We can trace the cause and progress of it. The prophets were utterers of lying visions and spurious oracles. Their object was only to flatter the civil authorities for their own selfish purposes. The priests had lost all sense of sacredness.

1. The decay of a nation's life begins when false doctrines are promulgated. The history of the children of Israel was the history of religion. They were what they were because of certain doctrines and ordinances concerning God, and His service, and human duty. These were revealed to them from heaven. They were bound by solemn obligations to obey them. And God's law is violated just as much by putting false interpretations upon it as by actual transgression. False doctrines are not immaterial. They are not mere errors of the head,—harmless speculations having no real influence upon life and duty. For it will be found that what is wrong in doctrine springs from the fountain of an evil heart. False doctrines are on the side of the passions. They are human inventions to justify the errors of heart and life. A right life must have right principles for its foundation. If we examine the errors of Popery, we find that they have their origin in corrupt human nature. They have an eye to political ascendancy, to the supremacy of a priestly class, to gain, to worldly ambitions, and to salve the consciences of men by easy and convenient methods of dealing with sin. True teaching concerning God and human duty can alone promote holiness of heart and life, which is the salt of nations to preserve them from corruption and decay.

2. The decay of a nation's life also sets in when its rulers are no longer governed by conscience. When they set aside God's law of righteousness, and are intent only upon dishonest gain, then they become oppressors of the poor and defenceless, and scruple not to shed innocent blood.

3. The decay of a nation's life is imminent when priests become mere courtiers. When they flatter those in power, with the view only of advancing themselves. Corruptions of this kind soon followed when Rome embraced the Christian religion under Constantine, by which the clergy acquired political importance. The temptation to worldly ambition was strong, and they yielded to it. They sought to please princes in order to promote the temporal interests of the Church and their own wealth and grandeur. And when princes and priests are corrupted it is no marvel that the evil influence at length affects public opinion. When the reigning powers and public opinion are on the side of tyranny and wrong, corruption must find its way even to the seat of justice. Instead of equity we have caprice and irrational and unjust maxims and practices. And corruption in all these departments soon spreads into family life, and thus the last retreat of a nation's strength and purity is invaded.

III. It brought sure judgment. The dire judgments which fell upon the people were inevitable. They happened by a moral necessity God had done everything for His vineyard that could be done in it, and there remained nothing more to be tried.

1. The ministry of the true prophets had failed. The people had been instructed and warned. When God's teaching by the mouth of His holy prophets does no good, then have the people judged themselves. When Jerusalem killed the prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto her, then her house was left unto her desolate. "Your house," said our Lord, as much as to say, My house no longer. They had profaned it, and God departed from His temple.

2. No righteous men were to be found amongst them (Eze ). Abraham's intercession for Sodom teaches us that the presence of a few righteous among a people stays the hand of justice. When those who fear God decline in a land, judgment is coming.

3. In these judgments God was treating them on their own terms. They had punishment in kind as well as in necessary degree. The priests had made no distinction between the holy and the profane. And thus, by their own admission, they were not "a holy nation." Let it be so, then; let them be profaned by being treated as such. Holiness was the very reason of their existence as a nation, and wanting that, there remained only a looking for judgment. The foundation of their national privileges was thus destroyed. They profaned the sanctuary, and they were themselves profaned among the heathen. They despised God, and they were "lightly esteemed" (1Sa ). "Their own way have I recompensed upon their heads saith the Lord God" (Eze 22:31).

(Eze )

1. There are prophets who will flatter wicked princes and rulers in their evil ways. The princes were ravening wolves, shed blood, destroyed souls, to get dishonest gain, and Jerusalem's prophets daubed them with untempered mortar. They applauded their practices, justified their doings, and told them that God did approve of their ways. It was not the nobles, citizens, but the prophets of Jerusalem which did this. Princes and great ones want not false and lying prophets to bolster them up, and to bear them out in their vile and detestable courses. Ahab was a wicked king, and he had a multitude of flattering daubing prophets (2Ch ). There were "flattering divinations" among the false prophets (Eze 12:24); and with these they bedaubed the wicked princes, and strengthened the hands of evil-doers (Jer 23:14). Flattery is evil in any, but worst of all in prophets, and especially when they have to do with wicked princes, whom they harden in their wickedness thereby, and ripen for destruction. Reproof is a precious balm (Psa 141:5); but flattery is a destructive net (Pro 29:5). Let the true prophets abhor it; and so speak the truth, that they may appeal to the consciences of great and small, as Paul doth (1Th 2:5).

2. What false prophets give out is unsavoury, and unsound, weak, and useless. It is untempered mortar: it may stick in men's heads a little, to strengthen them to do wickedly; but it will not stick in their hearts, to strengthen them against the day of evil, and to justify their doings. What is there in vanity and lies which can establish? It is truth, and divine truth, which establisheth) (2Pe ); the vain and lying imaginations of men, do deceive and disappoint. Pashur prophesied lies, the things of his own heart and spirit, which himself and others trusted in; but see how he and they who believed him, were deceived and disappointed (Jer 20:6). The scornful rulers which made lies their refuge, and hid themselves under falsehood saying, "the over-flowing scourge shall not come unto us" (Isa 28:14-15). But, see what the Lord saith (Eze 22:17). The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. False prophecies, false opinions, false confidences are all untempered mortar.

3. The subtlety and impudence of false prophets makes way for their vanity and lies. They say, "thus saith the Lord God, "there is their cunning; and to make God author of their vanities and lies, there is their impudency. They knew that their dreams, visions, vanities, and lies would not take with princes or people if not presented unto them as from God. They did not only abuse men, but they greatly abused God. "They have belied the Lord" (Jer ), and made that to be the word of God which was not; they walked in lies and strengthened the hands of evildoers; which provoked God so bitterly against them, that He saith He would "feed them with wormwood and make them drink the water of gall" (Jer 23:14-15). Many prophets amongst us have belied the Lord, in making some Scriptures speak that to maintain their opinions and tenets which never was the mind of God.—(Greenhill).

(Eze .)

1. God's protection of them. He had a special care of them, being His Church and people, above all others; as the city Jerusalem had a wall about it (Neh ), so God was a wall to the citizens thereof, "a wall of fire round about them" (Zec 2:5; Son 4:12). Lest any should hurt His vineyard, He kept it night and day, watched over it and preserved it.

2. Consider those things which God had given them to be a hedge or wall unto them.

(1.) Sound doctrine. This was a "hedge" to keep out all errors, corrupt and heathenish opinions, which they were in danger of, having the nations round about them. But God had given them good doctrine (Pro ); right words (Psa 33:4); lively oracles (Act 7:38); faithful commands (Psa 119:86); sure testimonies (Psa 93:5); such as they were to try all doctrines and opinions by (Isa 8:20).

(2.) Pure worship. This was a hedge between them and the heathen (Deu ). God had appointed them a pure way of worship, which hedged them in from all false ways of worship, from bringing in aught of their own or of others.

(3.) Good laws. No nation under heaven had such laws to be governed by as the Jews had, and those laws were hedges against all injustice; they might not wrong one another, nor strangers.

(4.) God had given them good prophets, priests, and princes. The prophets were to preserve the doctrine sound, the priests to keep the worship pure, and the princes to see justice impartially executed. Elijah, a good prophet, was the horsemen and chariot of Israel (2Ki ; 2Ki 13:14); the priests were mediators between God and the people (Joe 2:17); the princes were the strength of the land (Pro 29:4). And more briefly, it was the covenant made between God and this people; He had promised to be their God and to protect them; they had promised to be His people, and to walk in His ways. But—

3. The "hedge" which God had given them was broken, and gaps were made in it.

(1). The doctrine was corrupted. There was much chaff mingled with the wheat (Jer ); false prophets gave in that to be divine, which was from their own hearts and heads (Eze 13:2-3); they prophesied lies (Jer 14:14); the providence of God was denied, His justice and omnipresence (Eze 8:12; Eze 18:2; Eze 18:25). They taught the people to swear by a false God, even by Baal (Jer 12:16).

(2). The worship was greatly corrupted. The sanctuary was defiled with detestable things (Eze ). They had brought images and idols into the temple (Ezekiel 8), they had high places and altars in every street (Ezekiel 16.) The statutes of Omri were kept, and the works of the house of Ahah (Mic 6:16); and the fear or worship of God was taught by the precepts of men (Isa 29:13).

(3). The laws were wrested and perverted, so that there was no justice. They abhor judgment, and pervert all equity (Mic ). According to Isaiah, judgment was turned away backward, and justice stood afar off; they thrust them out of doors, out of their gates and cities, and when they pressed hard to come in there was no admission, the doors and gates were locked and bolted upon them, equity could not enter (Isa 59:14); only oppression was let in (Isa 5:7).

(4). The men who should have been as strong stakes to keep up the "hedge" were rotten. The prophets were "lions" (Jer ); the priests corrupters and wicked (Lam 4:13); the princes were rebellious, and companions of thieves (Isa 1:23); and all of them make covenant with God (Eze 16:59).

4. How was the hedge to be made up?

(1.) In public opposing those corruptions which were crept in, and practised amongst them. When of old the Jews had broken down the "hedge" by making a calf, Moses appeared for God against this wickedess; he seized upon the calf, burnt it, and ground it into powder (Exodus 32). When the sons of Levi came to him, he commissioned them to slay the idolators; and this was the beginning of making up the breach. So when Josiah began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, the groves, images, and altars that were therein, then was the "hedge" making up which they had broken down (2Ch ). In Nehemiah's days, when the "hedge" was new-made about them, there were some who began to tread down the "hedge" and to make a "gap" therein, by doing unlawful things on the Lord's day. The zeal of Nehemiah was kindled, so that he contended with the nobles of Judah, who countenanced them, and did violence to the Sabbath themselves (Neh 13:15-18).

(2.) In mourning for such breaches, and deprecating the wrath and judgments due for the same. Moses was affected much with what the people had done, and prays and intercedes for them (Exo ). This act was standing in the breach, and making up the "hedge" (Psa 106:23); it kept out the fury of the Lord from breaking in upon them. The intercession of God's servants is a strong "hedge" and wall to prevent judgments. Therefore, when the Lord was resolved upon the destruction of the Jews, He forbade Jeremiah to pray for them (Jer 7:16).

(3.) In putting things into their primitive condition. When Josiah caused the house of the Lord to be repaired, the covenant with God to be renewed, the law to be read, and the Passover to be kept according to the institution, and all things were brought to their primitive condition (2 Chronicles 34; 2 Chronicles 35), then was the "hedge" made up—then was there a man stood in the gap before the Lord. So, when Jehoshaphat brought back the people from false doctrine, and false worship, to the Lord God of their fathers, then was the "hedge" made up, and God protected them against their enemies.

5. None were found to make up the "hedge." Were there not Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who interceded with God for this people? Were there not many that mourned for the abominations that were among them? (Jer ; Jer 14:11; Eze 9:4; Eze 9:8). It is true Jeremiah did appear for God: he opposed the false prophets, the perverting of justice, the iniquities of priests, princes, and people; but they would not hearken to him (Jer 44:16). They sought to put him to death, and to cast him into prison. And three times God had forbidden him to pray for them. He could prevail with none of them towards making up the "hedge." As for Ezekiel, he was in Babylon, and the Lord looked for a man amongst them in Jerusalem. "I looked for a man among them, "not among you. For the sighers and mourners that were in Jerusalem they did it in secret. They had not spirits to contradict the wicked prophets, priests, and princes; or, if they had, yet they saw there was no good to be done. The times were exceedingly and desperately wicked; a man was made an offender for a word, and a share was laid for him that reproved in the gate (Isa 29:21). It was an evil time, and the time for the prudent to keep silence (Amo 5:12-13). From this subject we learn—

(1) That sin makes breaches and gaps. Their sins brake down the hedge and made those gaps (Isa ). Solomon's sins made such a breach therein that ten tribes were rent therefrom and given to Jeroboam (1Ki 11:31). Sin made the breach between them and other nations, the breach between God and them. Sin makes breaches in churches (1Co 1:11-12), in cities (Luk 19:14), in families (Eze 16:38), in men's names (Pro 6:33), in men's estates (Deu 28:15-16), in men's consciences (Mat 27:3-4; Pro 18:14; Pro 15:4), and between the chiefest friends (Pro 16:28). There are some sins which make such breaches as shake the foundations (Psa 82:5). The laws were their foundations, but the iniquity of the judges moved those foundations out of place, and the state was like a bowing wall and a tottering fence (Psa 62:3).

(2). When breaches and gaps are made by sin, the Lord lets in His judgments thereby. When they made breaches upon the worship, statutes, and Sabbaths of the Lord, He resolved to pour out his fury upon them and consume them (Isa ). Such is the lesson of the parable (Isa 5:6).

(3). When the hedge is down, and gaps are made, the Lord looks for some one to appear, so as to prevent those judgments. "I sought for a man to make up the hedge," &c. God expected that they should have repented, and some at least to have said, What have I done? God was displeased, and now He looked that one or other should have showed a public spirit, opposed the sinful practices, and deprecated judgments. He looks in all the gaps round about, and "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor" (Isa ), none to meet God, to set upon Him by prayer and strong arguments to withhold His judgments.

(4) Making up the hedge, and standing in the gap, is the way to save a land from destruction. Let man oppose the sinful practices in a land and deprecate the judgments of God, then the Lord will spare a sinful nation, a guilty city (Jer ) In such a case one man may do much. Moses stood in the gap, and diverted the wrath of God (Psa 106:22); Aaron, also (Num 16:47-48). We, through infinite mercy, have had some like Moses and Aaron, to make up our hedges, raise up our foundations, to stop some gaps; but all our gaps are not yet stopped. Are there not gaps in the hedge of doctrine? If it were not so, how came in such erroneous, blasphemous, and wild opinions amongst us? Are there not gaps in the worship of God? Do not many tread down all churches, all ordinances; yea, the very Scriptures? Are there not gaps in the hedge of justice, through which the bulls of Bashan enter, which oppress the poor, and crush the needy (Amo 4:1)? Are there not gaps in the hedge of love; is not that bond of perfection broken? Are there not gaps in the hedge of conscience? Is not the peace broken between God and your souls? Doth not Satan come in often at the gap and disturb you?

(5) In times of general corruption in Church and State, it is hard to find a man of public spirit to oppose those corruptions, and to wrestle with God for mercy. The Lord "sought for a man amongst them." The judges and great ones did oppress the people, and none appeared publicly for them, to plead their cause and to reprove their oppressors. Many disliked the carriage of things, but they had no spirit to oppose; they were "not valiant for the truth," as Jeremiah saith (Jer ). God doth not say that there were "none," but "none to help, none to uphold." In common corruptions and calamities few have hearts to appear for the public good, against overspreading evils. Sinful prudence, or fear of crushing, makes them silent and lie hid (Ecc 4:1). The oppressions under the sun were great, the tears of the oppressed many, but there was no comforter, none pitied them, none used any means to relieve them (Greenhill).

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 22:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/ezekiel-22.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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