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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 9:4

The LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst."


Adam Clarke Commentary

Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh - This is in allusion to the ancient every-where-used custom of setting marks on servants and slaves, to distinguish them from others. It was also common for the worshippers of particular idols to have their idol's mark upon their foreheads, arms, etc. These are called sectarian marks to the present day among the Hindoos and others in India. Hence by this mark we can easily know who is a follower of Vishnoo, who of Siva, who of Bramah, etc. The original words, תו והתוית vehithvitha tau, have been translated by the Vulgate, et signa thau, "and mark thou tau on the foreheads," etc. St. Jerome and many others have thought that the letter tau was that which was ordered to be placed on the foreheads of those mourners; and Jerome says, that this Hebrew letter ת tau was formerly written like a cross. So then the people were to be signed with the sign of the cross! It is certain that on the ancient Samaritan coins, which are yet extant, the letter ת tau is in the form +, which is what we term St. Andrew's cross. The sense derived from this by many commentators is, that God, having ordered those penitents to be marked with this figure, which is the sign of the cross, intimated that there is no redemption nor saving of life but by the cross of Christ, and that this will avail none but the real penitent. All this is true in itself, but it is not true in respect to this place. The Hebrew words signify literally, thou shalt make a mark, or sign a sign, but give no intimation what that mark or sign was. It was intended here to be what the sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb on the lintels and door-posts of the Israelites was, namely, a notice to the destroying angel what house he should spare. As the whole of this matter only passed in vision we are bound to neither letter, nor any other kind of figure. The symbolical action teaches us that God, in general judgments, will make a distinction between the innocent and the guilty, between the penitent and the hardened sinner.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ezekiel-9.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

mercy precedes judgment. So in the case of Sodom Luke 21:18, Luke 21:28; Revelation 7:1. This accords with the eschatological character of the predictions in this chapter (see the introduction of Ezekiel).

A mark - literally, “Tau,” the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The old form of the letter was that of a cross. The Jews have interpreted this sign variously, some considering that “Tau,” being the last of the Hebrew letters, and so closing the alphabet, denoted completeness, and thus the mark indicated the completeness of the sorrow for sin in those upon whom it was placed. Others again observed that “Tau” was the first letter of Torah (“the Law”) and that the foreheads were marked as of men obedient to the Law. Christians, noting the resemblance of this letter in its most ancient form to a cross, have seen herein a reference to the cross with which Christians were signed. The custom for pagan gods and their votaries to bear certain marks furnishes instances, in which God was pleased to employ symbolism, generally in use, to express higher and more divine truth. The sign of the cross in baptism is an outward sign of the designation of God‘s elect, who at the last day shall be exempted from the destruction of the ungodly Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:31.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ezekiel-9.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"And Jehovah said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of men that sigh and that cry over all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof, And to the others he said in my hearing, Go ye through the city after him, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity; slay utterly the old man, the young man and the virgin, and little children and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark: and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began with the old men that were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and smote in the city."

MERCY EXTENDED TO THE FAITHFUL

"A mark upon the foreheads of men ..." (Ezekiel 9:4). This of course was an act of Divine mercy. Although God would indeed destroy the apostate idolaters, he would by no means destroy his faithful worshippers. This placing of a mark upon the ones to be redeemed appears again in Revelation 7:3 and Revelation 14:1, indicating that all of the saved in our own generation indeed bear the "mark of God" in their forehead. As this appears to be the very same thing as the "sealing of God's servants" in Revelation 7:3, which is clearly a reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are entitled to conclude that it is no literal mark of any kind, but a certain characteristic of the human spirit, that would be recognized instantly by supernatural beings. We do not believe that either in this vision or in the current dispensation can it be shown that God brands his people with any kind of a literal mark, such as a rancher would use to brand his cattle.

As Cook noted, "There are eschatological predictions in this chapter."[9] And one of the clearest of these is that the Great Judgment of the last day will be individually and not by races, nations, or groups of any kind. Note too that there are only two classes, the saved and the lost. Another startling fact is that absolutely none shall be spared except those who have received the mark of redemption. This was the way it was in the days of the flood; and that is the way it will be in the final judgment.

"That sigh and cry over all the abominations ..." (Ezekiel 9:4). The truly righteous are always those who grieve over the sins and wickedness of their contemporaries.

We are not impressed at all with some who try to find some reference to the Cross, or the "sign of the Cross" in this passage. This notion is based upon the fact that the word here translated "mark" is in Hebrew the name of tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet; and it is claimed that the early way of making that letter was with a cross; but as Plumptre noted, "There could have been no anticipation of Christian symbols, either in the mind of Ezekiel, or in the minds of his hearers."[10]

"And begin at my sanctuary ..." (Ezekiel 9:6). The very place where one should have been able to find a few faithful believers in God was the holy temple; but here God commanded that the slaughter should begin there. There is indeed a great responsibility upon those persons who know God's word and are responsible for teaching others. An apostle indicated that this principle shall be operative in all of the judgments of God. "For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).

"They began at the old men that were before the house ..." (Ezekiel 9:6) Dummelow identified these as "the sun worshipping priests."[11] "Apparently the directive to begin at the sanctuary was intended to imply that there was the seat of the worst sins."[12] This should certainly be a warning to religious leaders of all generations.

"And he said unto them, Defile the house ..." (Ezekiel 9:7). This was accomplished by their filling the courts with dead bodies. "If to touch a corpse and then to worship without being sprinkled with the water of separation was to defile the tabernacle of the Lord (Numbers 19:13), how much more would the blood of corpses do so."[13]

Speaking of the defilement of the temple, Eichrodt noted that, "Such a stupendous act of judgment left no room for any doubt that the complete liquidation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be carried out in full."[14]


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ezekiel-9.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord said unto him,.... This shows that a divine Person is meant by the glory of the God of Israel:

go through the midst of the city; that is, as it is next explained,

through the midst of Jerusalem; the city the six men had the charge over or against, Ezekiel 9:1;

and set a mark upon the foreheads; not the Hebrew letter ת, as some say, because in the form of a cross, and so signifying salvation by the cross of Christ; for this letter has no such form, neither in the characters used by the Jews, nor by the Samaritans, at least in the present character; though Origen and Jerom on the place say that the letter "tau" had the form of a cross in the letters the Samaritans used in their time; and this is defended by WaltonF20Supplementum de Sicl. Formis, p. 37. 3. Prolegom. 3. de lingua Hebr. sect. 36. , who observes, that Azariah in his Hebrew alphabet gives a double figure, one like that which is in present use, and another in the form of a cross, called St. Andrew's cross, and as it appears in some shekels; and in the Vatican alphabet, which Angelus E Roccha published, the last letter has the form of a cross; as have the Ethiopic and Coptic alphabets, which, it is certain, sprung from the ancient Hebrew; and so Montfaucon saysF21Palaeograph. Graec. l. 2. c. 3. , in some Samaritan coins, the letter "thau" has the form of a cross; which, if Scaliger had met with, he says he would never have opposed the testimonies of Origen and Jerom; though, after all, it seems to be no other than the form of the Greek "x"; and so the Talmudists sayF23T. Bab. Ceritot, c. 1. fol. 5. 2. the high priest, was anointed on his forehead in the same form: some think this letter was the mark, because it is the first letter of the word תורה, "the law"; as if it pointed out such who were obedient to it; or of the word תחיה "thou shall live". It is a Rabbinical fancy, mentioned by KimchiF24Vid. T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 55. 1. , that Gabriel had orders to write the letter ת in ink upon the foreheads of the righteous, and in blood upon the foreheads of the wicked; in the one it signified תחיה, "thou shall live", and in the other תמות, "thou shall die"; but, as Calvin observes, rather, if this letter could be thought to be meant, the reason of it was, because it is the last letter of the alphabet; and so may signify, that the Lord's people marked with it are the last among men, or the faith of the world; or that such who persevere to the end shall be saved: but the word signifies, not a letter, but a mark or sign; and so it is interpreted in the Septuagint version, and by the Targum, Jarchi, Kimchi, and others; and denotes the distinction the Lord had made by his grace between them and others; and now by his power and providence in the protection of them; for the, Lord knows them that are his, and will preserve them. The allusion is either to the marking of servants in their foreheads, by which they were known who they belonged to, Revelation 7:3; or to the sprinkling of the posts of the Israelites' houses with blood, when the firstborn of Egypt were destroyed, Exodus 12:22;

of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof; the abominations were those abominable idolatries mentioned in the preceding chapter, and those dreadful immoralities hinted at in Ezekiel 9:9; all which were grieving and distressing to godly minds, because they were contrary to the nature and will of God; transgressions, of his righteous law; and on account of which his name was dishonoured, and his ways blasphemed and evil spoken of; for these they sighed and groaned in private, and mourned and lamented in public; bearing their testimony against them with bitter expressions of grief and sorrow, by groans, words, and tears; and such as these are taken notice of by the Lord; he comforts those that mourn in Zion, and preserves them.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ezekiel-9.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And the LORD said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that f sigh and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst of it.

(f) He shows what is the manner of God's children, whom he marks for salvation: that is, to mourn and cry out against the wickedness which they see committed against God's glory.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/ezekiel-9.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

city … midst of Jerusalem — This twofold designation marks more emphatically the scene of the divine judgments.

a mark — literally, the Hebrew letter Tau, the last in the alphabet, used as a mark (“my sign,” Job 31:35, Margin); literally, Tau; originally written in the form of a cross, which Tertullian explains as referring to the badge and only means of salvation, the cross of Christ. But nowhere in Scripture are the words which are now employed as names of letters used to denote the letters themselves or their figures [Vitringa]. The noun here is cognate to the verb, “mark a mark.” So in Revelation 7:3 no particular mark is specified. We seal what we wish to guard securely. When all things else on earth are confounded, God will secure His people from the common ruin. God gives the first charge as to their safety before He orders the punishment of the rest (Psalm 31:20; Isaiah 26:20, Isaiah 26:21). So in the case of Lot and Sodom (Genesis 19:22); also the Egyptian first-born were not slain till Israel had time to sprinkle the blood-mark, ensuring their safety (compare Revelation 7:3; Amos 9:9). So the early Christians had Pella provided as a refuge for them, before the destruction of Jerusalem.

upon the foreheads — the most conspicuous part of the person, to imply how their safety would be manifested to all (compare Jeremiah 15:11; Jeremiah 39:11-18). It was customary thus to mark worshippers (Revelation 13:16; Revelation 14:1, Revelation 14:9) and servants. So the Church of England marks the forehead with the sign of the cross in baptizing. At the exodus the mark was on the houses, for then it was families; here, it is on the foreheads, for it is individuals whose safety is guaranteed.

sigh and … cry — similarly sounding verbs in Hebrew, as in English Version, expressing the prolonged sound of their grief. “Sigh” implies their inward grief (“groanings which cannot be uttered,” Romans 8:26); “cry,” the outward expression of it. So Lot (2 Peter 2:7, 2 Peter 2:8). Tenderness should characterize the man of God, not harsh sternness in opposing the ungodly (Psalm 119:53, Psalm 119:136; Jeremiah 13:17; 2 Corinthians 12:21); at the same time zeal for the honor of God (Psalm 69:9, Psalm 69:10; 1 John 5:19).


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ezekiel-9.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

That sigh — Out of grief for other mens sins and sorrows.

Cry — Who dare openly bewail the abominations of this wicked city, and so bear their testimony against it.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ezekiel-9.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/ezekiel-9.html. 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes

set a mark

(See Scofield "Jeremiah 15:21").


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These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.

Bibliography
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Ezekiel 9:4". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/ezekiel-9.html. 1917.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

MARKED MEN!

‘And the Lord said unto him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst therof.’

Ezekiel 9:4

‘What makes a people great and keeps them so,’ says Milton somewhere, ‘is the presence of a religious life amongst them.’ And so the records of these prophets are better guides for ascertaining the causes of national decay than the so-called philosophers who do not bring the spiritual element into account at all.

I. The duty of sorrow over the sins of our city.—I need not go over the things that call upon us for sorrow, you know them all better than I do. But there is one predominant tendency in all our large cities, and that is the engrossment in temporalities, the almost exclusive attention paid to material objects, to the loss of all high and holy aims. The wealth, the prosperity, the greatness of England rest on a stratum, of which we don’t think, and which may at some future time give way, and the whole fabric will fall to pieces. All this deserves the sorrow of every Christian man; sorrow, I say, not contempt, not hatred.

II. The fatal issues of negligence to the neglected city.—I am not going to indulge in exaggerated statements about decline and downfall. Every form of human society not founded upon God carries in itself the seeds of certain destruction. Friends, churches, countries, nations, it equally applies to them all. There are nations on the earth now who in past time cast off the worship and fear of God, but they are dead to all intents and purposes, and the cause is not difficult to find. The story of Babel built without the sanction of the Almighty, and tumbling to pieces like the burnt brick they made use of, is the clue to all who have shared the same fate ever since. The greatness of England does not come from the wisdom of her statesmen or the valour of her soldiers, from the extent of her commerce, or the force of her armaments which whiten every sea with their sails, but from the Christian principles found permeating the mass of the people, and in proportion as this is the case will England stand up high above other nations.

III. The fatal issues of negligence to the negligent church.—The victims of the cities’ sins are not so much responsible as those who, having the Gospel, refuse to impart it. Let the evil fall upon those who ought to have been the salt of the city, but failed in their duty. Negligence will speedily go into the death of a church. The church having ‘nothing but leaves’ is very near being blasted with eternal fruitlessness. Negligence is the cause of disease. There is nothing like good hard work for strengthening the instincts of the Christian life. If you would know the power of the Gospel in your own soul, speak it somewhere, to some people, it matters not whom. Do not let us think that a church is a body that meets for mutual delectation; let us be aggressive; living ourselves, let us seek to impart the life to others. If we are negligent, the blessings we keep exclusively to ourselves will fly away.

Illustration

‘The same rule that applies to plague or pestilence holds good with regard to moral evil; if men neglect sanitary improvements, and the regulations of health, the malady comes, and the rich man is taught that he has to do with it, by having the disease wafted over the wall from the poor man’s house. If you think you have nothing to do with the “dangerous” classes, as they are sometimes called, they will prove, in time, and perhaps in a very fatal manner, that you have to do with them. And, after all, they are very little responsible for the state they find themselves in. You and I, if brought up amid the same circumstances of poverty, vice, and squalid ignorance, would we not have been like them, that herd away down there? Change coats, and we would be like them, and they would be like us. Left to the education of the world, the flesh, and the devil, no wonder at the workings out of these three pernicious agents.’


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Bibliography
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/ezekiel-9.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ezekiel 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

Ver. 4. And the Lord.] That great Imperator, General.

Go through the midst.] Discriminate; make a difference; "take out the precious from the vile." God will sever his saints from others in common calamities, and deliver them, if not from the common destruction, yet from the common distraction.

And set a mark upon the foreheads.] Vulgate, Et signa Thau. Whatever this mark was, it was signum salutare. The letter Tau some think it was, as part of the word Tichieh - i.e., Thou shalt live; according to that, "The just shall live by his faith." Or as part of the word Torah - i.e., The law, to show that these had the law of God written in their hearts, and this made them mourn to see it so little set by. Howsoever, it is not the sign of the cross, as Papists would have it, but rather the blood of the cross, wherewith, when believers are sprinkled from an evil conscience, as the houses of the Israelites in Goshen were with the blood of the paschal lamb, they are sure of safety here and salvation hereafter. The election of God is sure, and hath this seal, "The Lord knoweth who are his," [2 Timothy 2:19] and it shall appear by them. [Psalms 91:1-16] Tau is the basis of the Hebrew alphabet, saith one, and marking by Christ is the basis of all true comfort and sound profession. Tau endeth and closeth up the alphabet, saith another; so he who persevereth to the end shall be saved. The mark here mentioned was not corporal but spiritual, even the merit and spirit of Christ, the value and virtue of his death and sufferings.

Of the men that sigh and cry.] That sigh deeply and cry out bitterly for their own and other men’s sins and miseries, and this out of piety and pity. These are not many, yet some such are found in all ages. [Revelation 11:3] Inter vepres rosa nascitur, et inter feras nonnullae mitescunt. (a) Let us mourn in time of sinning: so shall we be marked in times of punishing.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ezekiel-9.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 9:4. Set a mark This expression alludes to the ancient custom of marking servants in the forehead, to distinguish what they were, and to whom they belonged. See Bishop Newton on Revelation 7:3. The reader is to remember, that all this passed in vision, and only means that God made a distinction, and separated the good from the bad, as really as if he had marked them with some visible sign. This parabolic command, says Bishop Warburton, alludes to the sanction of the Mosaic law; and implies, that virtuous individuals should be distinguished from the wicked in a general calamity.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ezekiel-9.html. 1801-1803.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 1099

DUTY AND BENEFIT OF MOURNING FOR SIN

Ezekiel 9:4. And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

THERE is in the minds of ungodly men an atheistical idea, that God “does not regard” the actions of men; and that, as to any interference in their concerns, “he has forsaken the earth.” This was a common sentiment among the Jews [Note: Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 9:9.]; and it practically obtains to a vast extent amongst us. To imagine that God notices such trifling matters as those which occupy our minds, is supposed to derogate from his honour. But God is omnipresent and omniscient; the minutest as well as the greatest things are all equally present to his all-seeing eye; and every thing is noticed by him with an especial view to a future day of retribution. This is particularly stated in the whole of the preceding chapter. The elders of Israel who were at Jerusalem were given to idolatry; but they were extremely anxious to conceal their practices from the eyes of men: hence they performed their idolatrous rites in some secret chambers of the temple, which they had enclosed with a wall in order to a more effectual concealment. But God in a vision pointed out to his prophet, who was at Babylon, every thing that was transacted in the temple at Jerusalem: and, after having given him many successive and more enlarged views of the abominations that were committed there, issued an order to the angels who had charge over the city, “to go forth and slay” the offenders; but strictly prohibited them from coming near to any person to whom these abominations had been a source of grief, and who had, in consequence of that, been “marked in the forehead” by a person expressly commissioned for that purpose [Note: Read the whole preceding chapter, as connected with the text.].

Though the whole of this was a vision, it was, in fact, a just representation of the distinction which God would make between the persons who were guilty of idolatry, and those who lamented its prevalence among them: and it may serve to shew us, in a very instructive way,

I. The character of the Lord’s people—

Sin is “that abominable thing which God hates:” and, as it prevailed to an awful extent at that day, so abominations of every kind yet prevail—

[They prevail in the world at large. We speak not now of the evils that are visible to all, but of those which are of a more hidden nature. In every order of society there are peculiar and appropriate evils, justified perhaps by those who commit them, yea possibly dignified with the name of virtues, which yet are an utter “abomination in the sight of God.” Were all the intrigues of the ambitious, the wantonness of the licentious, the deceits of the covetous, the characteristic arts of every class of sinners, exposed to view, what a mass of iniquity should we behold! Yet God beholds it all; a mass which infinitely exceeds our highest conceptions, and which none but God himself could endure to behold.

They prevail also, we regret to say it, even in the Church of God. It was amongst those who professed the worship of the true God, that all those abominations were practised in the Temple at Jerusalem: and we know that many lamentable evils were found in the Churches that were planted by the Apostles themselves. Can we wonder, then, if at this time tares be growing up with the wheat? It were vain to deny that there are many who dishonour their holy profession, and give sad occasion to the enemies of religion to blaspheme that name whereby we are named. The pride, intolerance, and overbearing conceit of Diotrephes may yet be found, amidst high professions of superior zeal and sanctity. Who has ever looked into the interior of religious societies, and not seen the same undue preference to some preachers, and contempt of others, as disgraced the Corinthian Church in the days of Paul? Who has not discovered many a Demas, who “loves this present world,” and foregoes his spiritual advantages with a view to increase his gains [Note: 2 Timothy 4:10.]? It would be well if even the base crimes of falsehood, and overreaching, and dishonesty were not sometimes found in the skirts of those who would be thought to have kept their garments clean; yea, if intemperance also and uncleanness did not give the lie to their profession. But the more we inspect the sanctuary of God, the more we shall see occasion for humiliation and grief on account of many, who “have a name to live, but are dead;” and who, through their misconduct, “cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of.” And such may well expect that “judgment shall begin with them [Note: Compare ver. 6. with 1 Peter 4:17.].” We need scarcely add, that evils prevail also in the heart even of true believers. Paul himself confessed, that there was “a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and sometimes bringing him into captivity to the law of sin in his members:” and the more conversant we are with our own hearts, the more we shall bewail our innumerable short-comings and defects. Our impatience, our distrust of God, our unbelief, our obduracy, our sloth, our coldness in duties, our sad mixture of principle even in our better actions; our want of love to the Saviour, our want of compassion for our fellow-creatures, our want of zeal for God; alas! alas! our want of every thing that is good, may well make the very best of us “sigh and cry,” and, like Paul, to account ourselves “less than the least of all saints,” or rather as “the chief of sinners.”]

To bewail these abominations is characteristic of every child of God—

[Hear how Moses lamented them in his day [Note: Deuteronomy 9:18-19.]: how David also [Note: Psalms 119:53; Psalms 119:136.], and Ezra, bewailed them [Note: Ezra 9:3; Ezra 9:5.]: what extreme heaviness the Apostle Paul felt in his soul on this account [Note: Romans 9:1-2.]; and especially in relation to those very evils which we have specified as obtaining amongst the professing people of God [Note: Philippians 3:18-19.]! And where is the saint in all the Bible who did not “groan within himself” on account of the burthen of his own in-dwelling corruptions [Note: Romans 8:23.]? The more any person knows of God and of his own soul, the more disposed he is to say with Job, “Behold, I am vile [Note: Job 40:4.]!”

Before we proceed to the second point for our consideration, let us examine ourselves, whether these things are a burthen to us, yea, our chief burthen [Note: Zephaniah 3:18. Jeremiah 13:17. Romans 7:24.]? — — — We have no pretensions to true religion, any farther than we answer to this character of mourners on account of sin — — —]

From marking thus minutely the character of the Lord’s people, we proceed to notice,

II. Their privilege—

God sets a mark on every one of his people, a mark on their foreheads, whereby they are infallibly known to him, and shall assuredly be screened from the destroying angels. They shall be protected,

1. Here—

[The deliverance of Noah from the Deluge, and of Lot from Sodom, shews not only what deliverances God can vouchsafe to his chosen people, but what may be expected by all who mourn over, and labour to counteract, the abominations that are around them [Note: 2 Peter 2:5-9.]. In Babylon, God interposed to effect a literal accomplishment of this prophetic vision; obtaining liberty for Jeremiah, and others of his believing people, whilst the unbelieving part were visited with the heaviest calamities [Note: Jeremiah 15:11; Jeremiah 39:11-12.]. And at the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the disciples of Christ were rescued, as it were by miracle, from all the horrors of the siege, whilst their unhappy and devoted brethren were left to experience such troubles as never came upon any other nation under heaven.

But, if God do not see fit to exempt his people from the calamities that fall on others, he will so support them under their trials, and so sanctify to them their afflictions, that they shall be constrained to say, “It was good for them to have been afflicted.” He will enable them to “glory in tribulations,” and to “take pleasure in distresses,” as fruits of his paternal love, and as means of furthering in their souls the purposes of his grace.]

2. Hereafter—

[The seal which God has set in their foreheads will distinguish them from all others, as clearly as sheep are distinguished from goats. Nor will there be any danger of mistake in any instance whatever. In Egypt the destroying angel did not smite one house whereon the blood of the Paschal lamb was sprinkled; nor will the judgments of God fall on one individual, who has laid to heart the abominations of Israel. “God has set them apart for himself;” and for him they shall be preserved. No evil shall be “come near to him who has the mark in his forehead.” Whilst “fire and brimstone are rained” down upon all others without distinction, these will be safely lodged in God’s holy mountain, beyond the reach or possibility of harm.]

Address—

1. To those who think lightly of sin—

[By many it is thought a mark of weakness to sigh and cry for the sins of others, or even for our own [Note: See their character drawn: Amos 6:1; Amos 6:3; Amos 6:5-6.]. But let those who have such light thoughts of sin, consider what sin has done, in this world, and especially in the world to come. What innumerable evils have existed, and do yet exist, throughout the world! yet is there not one in the whole creation, which is not the fruit of sin. And if we could obtain one sight of those dreary mansions, where fallen angels, together with all who have perished in their sins, abide; or could hear but one groan of a damned soul; we should no more account sin a light matter: no indeed, it is “fools only, who make a mock at sin.” If this do not suffice, let such an one consider, what has been done to expiate sin. Go, sinner, to Gethsemane, go to Calvary, and contemplate the agonies and death of your incarnate God; and then say, Whether sin be not a tremendous evil, for which no sighs or tears can ever be sufficient? But, without extending our thoughts to subjects so much beyond our reach, let us only observe what have been the feelings of persons when once they were brought to a just sense of their sins: let us hear the bitter lamentations of Peter, or the heart-rending cries of the converts on the day of Pentecost; and we shall no longer doubt what ought to be our views of sin, by whomsoever it may have been committed, whether by ourselves or others. Sure we are, that in the last day there will be no diversity of sentiment respecting this: the glorified saints, and the condemned sinners, will have but one view of this matter, O that now, even now, the judgment of every one amongst us might be rectified; and that, before another day, God might see reason to set his mark upon us, as “mourners in Zion!”]

2. To those who answer to the character described in our text—

[Persons who sigh and cry on account of sin, are apt to yield too much to desponding fears. But they have in reality abundant cause for joy and gratitude: for if, on the one hand, they be greatly burthened on account of sin, they have, on the other hand, reason to rejoice that sin is their burthen. Instead of being in so deplorable a state as they imagine, they are in a state most pleasing to God, and most profitable to themselves. So pleased is God with those “who are poor and of a contrite spirit,” that his eyes are fixed upon them with the utmost complacency and delight [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]: and the Lord Jesus, the Judge of quick and dead, repeatedly declares them blessed [Note: Matthew 5:3-4.]. Let not any one therefore be dejected because of the depths of depravity which he sees within him; but let him rather conclude, that God has discovered to him these hidden abominations; and let him beg of God to give him a clearer and fuller insight into them; that so his humiliation may he more deep, his faith more simple, his gratitude more lively, and his devotedness to God more entire. Nor let any one be afraid of seeing thus the corruptions of his heart: for, if only our self-knowledge drive us to Christ, and endear him to our souls, it will prove a source of every virtue; of contrition, of fear, of dependence on Christ, of love to his name, and of zeal for his glory. A sense of our necessities will make us cry unto him for the gift of his Spirit; and by that Spirit we shall be “sealed unto the day of redemption,” and “rendered meet for our heavenly inheritance.”


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/ezekiel-9.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The Lord said, spake from the midst of that glory, Ezekiel 9:3.

Unto him, the man clothed in linen, i.e. to Christ.

Go through; pass through as men use to go who keep an even, steady pace.

The midst of the city; the chief street of the city.

Set a mark: it is too curious, and as useless, to inquire what mark this was. It is groundless to confine it to the sign of the cross, whatever some discourse of the antique form of the letter Thau. It is sufficient that, after the manner of man’s speaking, the Lord assures us his remnant are safe, as what is under a seal, which none can or dare break open.

Upon the foreheads, as the faithful servants of God, in allusion perhaps to the custom in the East, that servants wore their master’s name in their foreheads, or to let us know that now this deliverance would be not as in Egypt by whole families, but by single and selected persons.

That sigh, out of inward grief for other men’s sins and sorrows.

That cry; express their grief by vocal lamentations, who dare openly bewail the abominations of this wicked city, and so bear their testimony against it.

For all the abominations; not as if these mourners knew every particular abomination, but they mourned for all the kinds of wickedness which they knew of.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/ezekiel-9.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. Set a mark upon the foreheads — Literally, set a tau (T) upon the foreheads. Tau was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which in ancient times had the form of a cross. The cross is one of the simplest and therefore one of the most common “marks” used by ancient peoples. (See Job 31:35, Hebrews) Perhaps this is the only reason why it is commanded to be used here; yet it is a suggestive fact that centuries before Ezekiel’s time the cross had been used as a sacred symbol. The kings and nobles of Egypt covered themselves with long chains of interwoven crosses and held this “symbol of life” ( ) in their dying hands as reverently as any Roman Christian ever cherished his crucifix. Among the Babylonians this same symbol is found. The Hebrews must have known of the symbolic value attached to the cross, and it is just like Ezekiel to express in this striking way the fact that the gift of life had come from God upon all those marked with the mysterious letter which, it may be noticed, was also the initial of the Hebrew word “live.” (Compare Revelation 7:3; Revelation 22:4.) This seal of grace was to be put upon all — men, women, and children (Ezekiel 9:5-6) — who sorrowed over their city’s sin. The cross on the forehead corresponds exactly to the blood upon the doorposts when the destroying angel flew over Egypt. (Compare Galatians 6:17.) Both marks — the blood and the cross — were chosen, not arbitrarily, but because they were “inwardly connected” with the facts indicated (Keil). Neither Moses nor Ezekiel could have known, but Infinite Wisdom foresaw, the peculiar significance and correspondence of these strange symbols. The man with the inkhorn was not to put any mark upon the foreheads of the people but this. It was the sign of the cross that saved them. “This mark was, of course, only visible to the angels.” — Orelli.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ezekiel-9.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Lord instructed this man to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on everyone who expressed grief over the abominations that existed in Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 14:1). The mark distinguished the godly from the wicked (cf. Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:13; Joshua 2). Some expositors believed that this individual was the Angel of the Lord, the preincarnate Christ, because of his prominence among these messengers and because of what he did (cf. Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:6-7). [Note: Ibid.] There is no way to prove or disprove this theory. Most interpreters believe he was an angel.

"There was special significance to the "mark" used for the purpose. The word "mark" is the Hebrew word taw, which is the name of the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It may have been understood as an abbreviation for tam, "blameless." In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. the taw of Paleo-Hebrew script was written like an X or sloped cross." [Note: Cooper, p127.]

" Ezekiel , of course, could not have thought of Christian symbolism nor is the passage a direct prediction of Christ"s cross. It is a remarkable coincidence, however." [Note: Feinberg, p56.]

"This is one of the many examples where the Hebrew prophets spoke better than they knew." [Note: H. L. Ellison, Ezekiel: The Man and His Message, p44. See Block, The Book . . ., pp310-14 , for an extensive discussion of the taw on the forehead.]


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ezekiel-9.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Mark Thau. Thau, or Tau, is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and signifies a sign or a mark: which is the reason why some translators render this place set a mark, or mark a mark, without specifying what this mark was. But St. Jerome, and other interpreters, conclude it was the form of the letter thau, which, in the ancient Hebrew character, was the form of a cross. (Challoner) --- Of this many inscriptions still extant bear witness. (Montfaucon.) --- Some Rabbins allow that the last letter was used but in honour of "the law," Thorah. The cross is supposed to be the hieroglyphic of a future life, (Hist. Rufini. ii. 29.) and found frequently in the pictures or (Haydock) in the tables of Isis. But it rather represents a key. Soldiers who were acquitted received the letter T, and those who were sentenced to die had Greek: Th, (Calmet) alluding to Greek: Thanatos, "death." (Haydock) --- We may, however, suppose that if God designated any letter, it would be some letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and accordingly the last had formerly the figure of †. x. though this text may signify "a sign" in general. The virtuous would be discriminated from the guilty, as if they were marked. (Calmet) --- The door-posts of the Hebrews were stained with blood, in Egypt, to shew that all should be redeemed by that of Christ; and here those who shall be saved, received the mark of his cross. This sign has always been held in veneration among Christians, (Worthington) and used in conferring baptism, consecrating the blessed Eucharist, &c. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lv. in Matthew, and lxxxiv. in John) (St. Augustine, tr. cxviii. in John, and ser. ci. de temp., &c.) --- It appeared to Constantine with this inscription, "In this conquer;" (Eusebius, vit. i. 22.) and again over Jerusalem; (St. Cyril, ep. ad Constantium.) and will be borne before Christ, at his last coming, (Matthew xxiv.) to the joy of those who have performed their baptismal promises, and to the confusion (Worthington) of the enemies of the cross of Christ. (Haydock)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ezekiel-9.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the LORD. Hebrew. Jehovah. App-4.

set a mark. Compare Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 13:16, Revelation 13:17; Revelation 20:4.

mark. Hebrew Occurs elsewhere only in Job 31:35.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/ezekiel-9.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem. This two-fold designation marks more emphatically, the scene of the divine judgments. Set a mark - literally, the Hebrew letter Tau, the last in the alphabet, used as a mark (Job 31:35, margin, 'my sign,' literally, Tau (t)), originally written in the term of a cross which Tertullian explains as referring to the badge and only mean of salvation, the cross of Christ. But nowhere in Scripture are the words which are now employed as names of letters used to denote the letters themselves or their figures (Vitringa). The noun here is cognate to the verb, 'mark a mark.' So in Revelation 7:3 no particular mark is specified. We seal what we wish to guard securely. When all things else on earth are confounded, God will secure His people from the common ruin. God gives the first charge as to their safety, before He orders the punishment of the rest (Psalms 31:20; Isaiah 26:20-21). So in the case of Lot and Sodom (Genesis 19:22); also the Egyptian first-born were not slain until Israel had time to sprinkle the blood-mark, ensuing their safety (cf. Revelation 7:3; Amos 9:9). So the early Christians had Pella provided as a refuge for them, before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Upon the foreheads - the most conspicuous part of the person, to imply how that their safety would be manifested to all (cf. Jeremiah 15:11, "Verily it shall be well With thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction;" fulfilled in the preservation of Jeremiah, Ebed-melech, and the remnant, on the capture of the city, Jeremiah 39:11-18). It was customary thus to mark worshippers (Revelation 13:16; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:9) and servants. So the Church of England marks the forehead with the sign of the cross in baptizing. At the exodus the mark was on the houses, because then it was families; here it is on the foreheads, for it is individuals whose safety is guaranteed.

Of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof - similarly-sounding verbs in the Hebrew, as in the English version, expressing the prolonged sound of their grief [ hane'


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-9.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) Set a mark upon the foreheads.—The word for mark is literally a Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This, in many of the ancient alphabets, and especially in that in use among the Hebrews up to this time, and long retained upon their coins, was in the form of a cross—X or +. Much stress was laid upon this use of the sign of the cross as the mark for the Divine mercy by the older Christian writers, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, and Jerome. This marking was done, it is true, in vision, but the symbolism is taken from such passages as Genesis 4:15; Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:13; Exodus 28:36; and it is used several times in the Apocalypse (Ezekiel 7:3; Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 14:1). Such marks may be necessary for the guidance of the angelic executors of God’s commands, and at all events, the symbolism is of value to the human mind. It is with reference to such Scriptural instances of marking, doubtless, that the Church has provided for the signing of the baptized with the sign of the cross. It is to be observed here that the distinction of the marking has reference wholly and only to character. No regard is paid to birth or position; they and they only are marked who mourned for the prevailing sinfulness, and kept themselves apart from it.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/ezekiel-9.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
set a mark
Heb. mark a mark.
Exodus 12:7,13; Malachi 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 7:2,3; 9:4; Revelation 13:6,7; 14:1; 20:4
that sigh
6:11; 2 Kings 22:13,19,20; Psalms 119:53,136; Isaiah 57:15; Jeremiah 13:17; 2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Peter 2:8,9

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ezekiel-9.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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