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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Ezekiel 20

Verses 1-4

EZEKIEL - CHAPTER 20

A VINDICATION OF JEHOVAH’S CHASTENING ISRAEL

Verses 1-4:

THE ELDERS BEFORE EZEKIEL

Verse 1 states that on the fifth month of August, and the tenth day of the seventh year, after the deportation of Jeconiah, (Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:1), certain of the elders (of the Jews) came to seek the message of the Lord before or from Ezekiel, as also related Ezekiel 14:1. The object of their inquiry is not specially stated, but is believed to have been regarding the cause of their national calamities and how long they would continue.

Verse 2 is a transitional verse certifying that the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, by which he responded to the elders, 2Pe 20, 21. It was a little more than two years after His call to prophesy, Ezekiel 1:2.

Verse 3 asserts that the Lord directed Ezekiel to respond to the inquiries of the elders of backslidden Judah with words of irony or sarcasm. In essence the Lord said, "you really do not expect me to stoop to converse with you, to impart any knowledge of my purpose to you, do you?" They had already blatantly perverted and disregarded the express law and will of God with which they were entrusted. Note how the Lord responded to Saul in his rebellion, 1 Samuel 28:6. They were morally incapable of receiving knowledge, they had stooped so low, Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 28:19; John 7:17.

Verse 4 calls upon Ezekiel to judge them, as the son of man or His representative; You will judge them, prophecy or announce judgment upon them, will you not? He was to tell them of the abominations of their fathers, then of their own chosen idolatry and abominations for which soon judgment was certain, Numbers 32:23.

Verses 5-9

THE ELECTION OF ISRAEL

Verses 5-9:

Verse 5 reminds Israel that the Lord chose them, as a nation; They did not choose Him, Ephesians 1:11. Just as Jesus chose His church; They did not choose Him, as the bridegroom, John 15:16. He also lifted up His hand on the seed of the house of Jacob, to bless it through which the Redeemer-King was pledged, Genesis 14:22; Genesis 49:10. He made himself known to them in Egypt’s bondage, by the miracles He wrought at the uplifted hand of Moses, their deliverer, to bless and liberate them, declaring that He was their Lord, Exodus 4:31; Exodus 6:3; chapters 7-12.

Verse 6 continues reminding Israel of God’s initiative and liberating blessings which He did in lifting up His hand to bless them and judge Egypt in delivering them from their oppression in the land. He brought them out for something that was better, a land flowing with milk and honey, as promised and recounted Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Jeremiah 32:22. Canaan was given to them as the Land-glory center of the world, v. 15, where they were to worship and honor their all-glorious one God only, Exodus 20:1-5; See also Psalms 48:2; Daniel 8:9; Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41; Zechariah 7:14.

Verse 7 reminds them that His first call to His people was for them to sanctify themselves by putting away all the defiling idols of Egypt, to which they had become attached, so abominably, even as their fathers who made the golden calf, Exodus 32; Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 18:3; See also Exodus 6:6-7; Joshua 24:14. They had become an abomination to the eyes of Jehovah, so that He could not behold it with any further tolerance, without judgment, Deuteronomy 29:16-18. They had substituted visible lifeless gods for the invisible God of heaven, Leviticus 17:7; Ezekiel 20:3.

Verse 8 reviews their father’s rebellion against the voice of God, in holding lustfully to their idol, pagan gods of Egypt. They did not put away their roving, lustful eyes from the abominations of those heathen gods, even the he-goats of Egypt. Such accounts for God’s permitting them to suffer under the fury of His anger, before He led them forth from the gods of Egypt as much as from bondage, Joshua 24:14; Exodus 12:2. Yet, this later generation, then being carried captive into Chaldea, had followed the sins that brought judgment on their people in the past, even through sufferings of oppression and plagues of Egypt, Ex ch. 7-12.

Verse 9 advises that the Lord "wrought (worked) for His name’s sake," for the honor of His name (among the heathen) that the honor and integrity of His name might not be abased, defamed or brought low, v. 14, 22; Ezekiel 36:21-22; Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13; Deuteronomy 9:28. Before those heathen nations He made Himself known in bringing their fathers out of Egypt. This they were always to remember, Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:16.

Verses 10-17

THE SIN OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS - FIRST

GENERATION

Verses 10-17:

Verse 10 summarizes that because of all this mercy, goodness, and grace that God had shown, they of Israel had long been a free people, led out from former bondage, by the one living God, whom all should honor and obey, Exodus 20:1-5. They had been leaf into and through the wilderness of Sinai and secured with food and shelter and a tabernacle to worship by that same grace, Romans 11:6. To Him glory was due, 2 Samuel 7:23-24; Isaiah 63:12; Romans 9:17.

Verse 11 adds that God by grace gave their forefathers sacrificial laws and statutes that did two things, Romans 7:10; Romans 10:5; Deuteronomy 4:1; Matthew 19:17; Exodus 20:12:
1) Pointed them to acknowledge their sins and trust His coming Son-Sacrifice to save them and
2) gave them regulatory laws for civil, moral, and ethical behavior for saved and unsaved in all Israel. Obeying His laws men should live, disobeying them they should be put to death, Deuteronomy 4:8; Nehemiah 9:13-14; Psalms 147:19-20; Leviticus 18:5; Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:12.

Verse 12 reminds that the Lord also gave the sabbaths as holy days of rest and consecration, that they might comprehend that he had sacrificed them, or set them apart, to live separated lives from heathendom and idolatry, as also expressed Exodus 20:8; Exodus 31:13; Exodus 35:2; Deuteronomy 5:12; Nehemiah 9:14. The people or land that disregards this principle of sabbath rest and worship will surely come to decay, Isaiah 58:13-14; Hebrews 10:24-26.

Verse 13 reflects on Israel’s rebellion against God, even while still in the wilderness, after having sacredly pledged to keep His laws, Exodus 19:1-8. For their breach of His laws and statutes, though He fed them and shod them there in the wilderness, He poured out His fury on them to consume them, as He had afore told them He would for their contempt, abominations, and rebellion, Exodus 20:4-5. How they rebelled is recounted Exodus 32:1-6; Numbers 15:1-3; Exodus 16:27; Numbers 15:32.

Verse 14 witnesses that the Lord wrought or made a diligent effort to keep their fathers from polluting His "name," meaning His perfections before the heathen nations round about them, in whose sight He brought them out. There were the Egyptians, Moabites, Amorites, and Philistines, who beheld and received reports on their delivery from the Egyptian bondage by Moses, at the hand of the Lord, Ex ch. 12, 13.

Verse 15 notes, however, that after God lifted His hand, by Divine oath, to lead them out of Egypt with mercy, and cared for them with longsuffering in the wilderness. He turned away for a time from leading them on to the land that flowed with milk and honey, the promised land. This He did because they had first turned away their devotions to other gods, Numbers 14:26-30; Psalms 95:11; Psalms 106:23-28. Because of their unbelief and infidelity, God’s hand of judgment was over them 40 years in the wilderness.

Verse 16 states specifically that God’s judgment was upon their fathers in Egypt because they despised (took lightly) His judgments, showed contempt for His laws, and lusted to return to the idols of Egypt, polluting themselves as if they were heathens themselves; See Numbers 14:22; Numbers 15:39; Psalms 78:37; Amos 5:25-26; Acts 7:42-43.

Verse 17 continues to set forth the fact that God, in mercy, compassion, and much longsuffering, spared them because of His everlasting covenant with Abraham. His fidelity to His covenant stands in stark contrast with their murmuring, whinning, and rebellion, Psalms 78:38; Jeremiah 30:11. He did not destroy or make an end of them in the wilderness, as He might have done, but for the intercession of Moses who "stood in the gap" for them, Psalms 106:23-24; Exodus 32:30-35.

Verses 18-26

SIN OF ISRAEL’S SECOND GENERATION IN THE

WILDERNESS

Verses 18-26:

Verse 18 recounts how the Lord warned the younger generation of Israel, twenty years of age and upward in the wilderness, who were to survive the death of all males 20 years of age and upward, to "walk not" in the idol-worshipping, statute-breaking and defiling, debauching ways that their fathers had yielded to, when only a short time in the wilderness. For they were to be accountable for their sins, Ezekiel 18:1-4.

Verse 19 asserts that the one living God belonged to them; and He called upon them to walk in His statutes (in harmony with them), and guard His judgments, respect them and obey them, Deuteronomy 5:32-33.

Verse 20 adds that they were to hallow, or hold as sacred His sabbaths, that they might exist as a sign between Him and them, that they be preserved from destruction and prospered in spiritual ways, Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 58:13; Jeremiah 17:21-22.

Verses 21, 22 are a reiteration or testament of what God had done in delivering, caring for, instructing, then later punishing His chosen people, who then rebelled against Him to live in idolatry and moral and spiritual pollution, Psalms 78:38. To those who knew to do good, did it not, it was sin for and in which they were severely chastened, James 4:17; 1 Corinthians 1-14; Hebrews 10:26-31; Hebrews 12:5-11. Other examples of their rebellion are: In sabbath breaking, Numbers 15:32; Korah’s rebellion, Nu Ch. 16, 17.

Verses 23, 24 continue to state that it was the Lord’s judgment hand that was lifted up against and upon Israel in the wilderness, and to disperse them among heathen countries, because of their chosen anarchy against Him who had delivered them, Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64; Deuteronomy 29:4; Psalms 106:27; Jeremiah 15:4. This judgment, it is certified, happened because of their despising His statutes, polluting His sabbaths, and their lustful rolling their eyes, turning their heads and following idol gods, to the neglect of administering His judgments, which had been delivered to them, Numbers 16:22; Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64; 1 Peter 1:18.

Verse 25 adds that He gave them statutes or gave them over to follow statutes that were not for their good, v. 39; even as in the plains of Moab, Numbers 25; Psalms 81:12; Romans 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:11. He gave them up, without holy spirit restraint, to have their fill of rebellion, Hosea 8:11.

Verse 26 asserts that the Lord polluted them (gave them up to pollution) in their own gifts, as they had polluted His sabbaths, v. 24; Leviticus 18:21. They mde their children to pass through the fire, burning the firstborn alive, cruelly, in the arms of the false god Moloch, as the Canaanites did, Deuteronomy 28:10. See also 2 Kings 17:17. It was to make them know or recognize that He was the Lord, 2 Corinthians 8:6.

Verses 27-32

ISRAEL’S SINS CONTINUED IN CANAAN

Verses 27-32:

Verse 27 calls upon Ezekiel again as the son of man (God’s prophet), to tell the house of Israel that their fathers had also blasphemed Him, after arriving in the land of Canaan, even as their fathers had done in the wilderness. It was a trespass (breach of His law) that could not go unpunished.

Verse 28 then describes the indictments of God against their fathers who had settled in Canaan, provoking Him to jealousy, Deuteronomy 32:16-17. Upon seeing the high hill and thick trees, their fathers went up there to offer their sacrifices, in forbidden places, pouring out there their sweet savour, and their drink offerings as a provocation before the Lord, Psalms 78:58; Isaiah 57:4-7; Jeremiah 2:7; Jeremiah 3:6; See also Deuteronomy 12:1-14; 1 Kings 11:7-11; 1 Kings 12:25-32.

Verse 29 recounts the Lord’s inquiry of the house of Israel to tell where they were going to do their worship. It was for the record that He asked them to testify, not for His information, you see? The name of the place is declared to be Bamah, a place of provocation "unto this day," the day of Ezekiel’s writing, Deuteronomy 12:1-5. David and others sacrificed on high places, under exceptional circumstances, before the altar was set up on Mt Moriah, 2 Chronicles 3:1; 1 Kings 6:1; 1 Chronicles 21:18-20.

Verse 30 calls upon Ezekiel to question the nation of Israel of his own day, asking them rhetorically, are you not doing the very same sins your fathers did? You are polluting the land with whoredoms and abominations of false gods, are you not? Psalms 115:4-8.

Verse 31 continues to charge them with. these heathen religious practices, even to the point of offering their children as burned human sacrifices, to Moloch, chief god of the Moabites, 2 Kings 3:26-27. While they are doing such the Lord declares that He will not be inquired of or communicate with or respond to their cries, Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:10-12.

Verse 32 warns that what they have resolved to do shall not last forever, 1 Samuel 28:5-6; Proverbs 1:27-28; Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 28:9; Zechariah 7:13. They will not persist in their choice of worshipping idol lifeless gods of wood and stone, when He shall have stretched out His hand in measure of full judgment upon them; See Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36; Psalms 115:1-8; Psalms 135:15-17; Psalms 37:19; Psalms 44:7; Daniel 5:4; Revelation 9:20.

Verses 33-44

THE FUTURE JUDGMENT OF ISRAEL

Verses 33-44:

Verse 33 begins a second division of Ezekiel’s prophecy offer of hope for a future restoration of the Jews to the promised land, lest their long dispersion judgment should cause them to abandon all hope, and to amalgamate racially with the heathen nations, so far as to lose their identity. The Lord declared that He would rule over them with a mighty hand, stretched out arm, and poured out fury. This was to liberate them from among the nations, as He did from the Egyptians, Exodus 6:1; Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:7; Deuteronomy 5:19.

Verse 34 related how God will bring back the dispersed nation of Israel from among the people and countries where they have been scattered. That regathering is to be by His omnipotent (all mighty) outstretched hand and arm of fury, or accompanied with judgment upon them, even to the final "round-up," Jeremiah 21. It is not all over yet; He will yet rule over them, Luke 1:32-33.

Verse 35 declares that the Lord will bring Israel, in her desperation and judgment of fury, into the "wilderness of the people," the masses of the gentile world, not "the wilderness of wild beasts," where they once were judged forty years in the midst of roaring lions, howling wolves and jackals, and scorpions and serpents, Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:10; Isaiah 30:6. God will plead with them there as a plaintiff in court pleads against a defendant, "face to face." For God acts justly in all His acts, Daniel 12:1; Zechariah 13:8-9; Zechariah 14:2-3; Jeremiah 2:9; Micah 6:2.

Verse 36 assures them that as God pled with their fathers, to purify themselves and follow Moses in leaving Egypt behind, with her oppressions and pollutions and abominations of idols; So would He plead in longsuffering toward them in the latter days, Numbers 14:21-23; Numbers 14:28-29; Numbers 20:5; Numbers 21:5; Deuteronomy 8:1. He later destroyed in the wilderness them that believed not Judges 1:8.

Verse 37 explains that He would cause them to "pass under the rod," as a shepherd counts his sheep, Leviticus 27:32. He counts them, examines them, as they pass under the rod, because He cares for them. If any is wounded He cares for it, Jeremiah 33:13. He pledges, even yet, to bring them into the bond of the covenant He made with them, Micah 7:14; Exodus 19:1-8; Hosea 11:4.

Verse 38 asserts that in their dispersion and final regathering to their land God will purge or separate from among them the rebels and repeated transgressors, not permitting them to be in the regathering, v. 33. Then will they recognize that He is the Lord, Numbers 14:30; Jeremiah 44:14; Hebrews 4:6.

Verse 39 challenges them to go and do as they please, as free moral agents, if they think they can do so, and escape His fury; But as long as they worshipped idols, they were charged to pollute His name no more, by using it in association with false gods, Judges 10:14; Psalms 81:12; Amos 4:4. The tone of address is one of irony as found Ecclesiastes 11:9; Revelation 22:11; Psalms 81:12; Proverbs 21:27.

Verse 40 declares that the Lord will be served one day by all of the house of Israel, bringing gifts to Him in the heights of His holy mountain (Mount Zion) Isaiah 2:2. There He will receive from them, at Mt Moriah, all the firstfruits of their oblations and their holy sacrificial things, as they voluntarily bring them to Him with praise and glory, Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 60:7; Zechariah 8:20; Malachi 3:4; Romans 12:1.

Verse 41 further prophecies that the Lord will receive to Himself, in that day of restoration, all Israel with her sweet savour of sacrificial odor, of satisfaction or acceptance, Genesis 8:21; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18. Having gathered Israel from their dispersed scattering among the nations of the earth, He shall be glorified in them upon their return, with heathen nations looking on, Daniel 9:26-27.

Verse 42 affirms that they will then know or comprehend that He is the Lord (the one God), when He has preserved them and brought them back to their homeland, where He lifted up His hand or made a covenant with them, as with Abraham before, Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:1-8; See also Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 34:12; Ezekiel 36:24. See also Jeremiah 24:7; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20.

Verse 43 reminds them that there, in their land, they will come to remember their ways and days of defilement and loathe themselves in their own sight, Ezekiel 16:16; An indication of national repentance, Leviticus 26:39; Ezekiel 6:9; Hosea 5:15.

Verse 44 explains that they will then come to know Him as Lord by His willingness to restore and forgive them for the honor of His name’s sake, or His character, Ezekiel 36:22; Not merely because of His former judgments for their wickedness, Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7.

Verses 45-49

PROPHECY OF JERUSALEM’S DESTRUCTION UNDER PARABLE OF THE SOUTH FIELD

Verses 45-49:

Verses 45, 46 begin a new prophecy of Ezekiel, from the Lord, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem by fire. He was directed to: 1) set his face, 2) drop his words, and 3) prophecy against the forest of the south. Jeremiah was to prophecy against the southern half of the holy land, where Jerusalem the capitol was, where the drought struck hardest. He was to let his words fall like large drops of rain, dropping one truth after and upon another. As rain drops bless when they soak into the ground, sometimes softly, sometimes violently, so do words from the Lord, when they soak into the heart, Deuteronomy 32:3; Amos 7:16; Micah 2:6; Psalms 119:130. As heavy rains may be troublesome and grievous to those who have not prepared, so is the word of God. See Proverbs 27:15; 2 Chronicles 34:25.

Verse 47 calls upon the forest, (mass of people) of the south to hear, heed the word of the Lord, that irresistible judgments, likened to fire, are to surge through the southern half of the land, devouring both the green and dead trees of all Judah, the righteous and the wicked of that day, Ezekiel 21:3-4; Luke 23:31.

Verse 48 asserts that all flesh (living people beholding the judgment), shall see or perceive that the Lord kindled the judgment fire, not to be quenched, thought to be alluded to, Luke 23:31; See also Jeremiah 21:14; Ezekiel 21:3-4.

Verse 49 explains the doubts and skepticism of unbelieving Judah in that day, as they tried to explain away the parabolic meaning upon them, in that day, by their attitude, "he is just beating the air with dark sayings," parables that we can’t accept as true or not true; God then gave to Ezekiel even a more clear explanation of the prophecy ch. 21.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezekiel 20". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezekiel-20.html. 1985.