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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 22

The Third and Fourth Cycles: The Third—Chapters 20-23

WE have here the third cycle. The prophet takes occasion for a new beginning, from the visit of men from the elders of the people. These are here, as in ch. Ezekiel 14:1, representatives, not of the totality of the exiles, but of the great mass of those only externally fearing God, but internally addicted to the spirit of the world and the age. The embassy had probably a special occasion in the circumstances of the time, in a favourable turn which the affairs of the coalition had taken. They wish to obtain confirmation of their joyful hopes from the mouth of the prophet. As long as he remains in the former position, things do not stand well with them. The prominent question is not about salvation in general, but whether there can be salvation without judgment and without repentance—salvation for the people as they now are. They do not consider that a total revolution must take place in them, if they are to be capable of salvation.

The direct answer to the embassy is contained in ch. Ezekiel 20; the further details are given in ch. Ezekiel 21:1 to Ezekiel 23:49. In ch. Ezekiel 20 the prophet sets their sins before Israel till Ezekiel 20:20. The description has four paragraphs: Israel in Egypt—the first station in the wilderness—the second station—Israel in Canaan. With a people so obstinately persevering in their sins, from their origin, through all times down to the present, God must hold a great reckoning, which is at the same time a purification ( Ezekiel 20:30-39). Yet the judgment will be followed by grace for those who are purified thereby ( Ezekiel 20:40-44).

Verses 1-16

Ezekiel 22. In amplification of ch. Ezekiel 21:29, the prophet depicts in three paragraphs the sins of Judah, by which the judgment depicted in the preceding passage is brought on, and thereby confirms the conviction that it is inevitable.

Ezekiel 22:1. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2. And thou, son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the city of blood? and make known to her all her abominations. 3. And say. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, A city that sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that its time may come, and maketh idols over itself for defilement. 4. In thy blood which thou hast shed thou art become guilty; and in thy abominations which thou hast made thou art defiled; and thou hast brought nigh thy days, and art come to thy years: therefore I give thee for a reproach to the heathen, and for a mocking to all lands. 5. They that are nigh, and those that are far from thee, shall mock at thee, thou unclean of name and full of confusion. 6. Behold, the princes of Judah are every one according to his arm in thee, to shed blood. 7. Father and mother they lightly esteem in thee; with the stranger they deal by oppression in thy midst; the widow and the orphan they vex in thee. 8. My sanctuaries thou hast despised, and hast profaned my sabbaths. 9. Men of slander were in thee, to shed blood; and in thee they ate upon the mountains; they committed lewdness in thy midst. 10. In thee one uncovers a father’s nakedness; in thee they humble her that is unclean in her separation. 11. And one commits abomination with his neighbour’s wife; and another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in thee humbleth his sister, his father’s daughter. 12. In thee they take a gift to shed blood; usury and increase thou takest, and overreachest thy neighbour with oppression, and forgettest me, saith the Lord Jehovah. 13. And, behold, I smite my palm at thy gain, which thou hast made, and at thy blood which is in thy midst. 14. “Will thy heart be stedfast or thy hands be strong in the days when I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken, and will do it. 15. And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries, and consume thy filthiness out of thee. 16. And thou shalt be profaned in thee before the eyes of the heathen, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.

The question in Ezekiel 22:2, “Wilt thou judge, judge?” is here, as in ch. Ezekiel 20:4, an expression of the impatience to which the son of man is too slow. “Wilt thou judge?” is, in fact, the same as. Judge thou; and with this agrees the addition “make known.” “Over itself for defilement” ( Ezekiel 22:3): to heap upon itself defilement with its consequences. The days and years in Ezekiel 22:4 are those of decision, of the crisis, which she brings on by her violent dealing: for as a man drives, so it goes. The mocking in Ezekiel 22:5 suits the destiny; and to this refer also the “unclean of name,” on account of her ignominious walk (comp. Ezekiel 23:10), and the “full of confusion,” unrest and tumult, as they are the companions of the accomplished catastrophe. [127] According to Ezekiel 22:6, the arm, not the right, is the measure with the great. The Sabbaths in Ezekiel 22:8 are related to the sanctuaries as the part to the whole. The idea of the sanctuary is as broad as that of the religion of Israel. All that the Holy One has instituted, consecrated, and commanded, is a sanctuary for His people. The moral prescriptions also belong thereto. The despising takes place in many ways. All belongs to this, which in the sequel is enumerated in detail,—every violation of the commands of God, every kind of indifference, every homage to a false religion. The desecration of the Sabbath does not consist merely in breaking the external rest: all sins in thought, word, or deed are a breach of the Sabbath (comp. Isaiah 58:13-14; and here, ch. Ezekiel 20:21). Instead of “men of slander” ( Ezekiel 22:9), it is properly “men of the slanderer.” The slanderer appears as an ideal person, to whom belong the individual slanderers. Malignant slanderers are meant, who bring false charges, by which life is endangered. The eating on the mountains, the seats of idolatry, belongs to the department of the first table. The prophet is prone to interweave with one another the sins against the two tables, and in fact they proceed from one source, and the distinction of religion and morals is a fiction contrary to experience. He that is not true to his God cannot love his neighbour. The lewdness with the stepmother ( Ezekiel 22:10) points to Leviticus 20:11 (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:1). The prophet says not, in Ezekiel 22:11, that the transgressions named are common in Jerusalem, but only that such cases occur there. “Where individuals go so far, the moral atmosphere must be generally corrupt. The hand in Ezekiel 22:13 is the penal one. Along with the gain, it strikes the blood, that is, blood-guiltiness. [128] The heart fails them, the hands sink down powerless by the side ( Ezekiel 22:14), when God’s vengeance for such wickedness comes upon them. The removal of the uncleanness of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 22:15) is effected by the extirpation of the sinful inhabitants. Jerusalem has desecrated the sanctuaries of the Lord ( Ezekiel 22:8); therefore shall it also be desecrated for a requital ( Ezekiel 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.

[127] מהומה , as penal evil, also Deuteronomy 28:20; comp. Deuteronomy 7:23, 2 Chronicles 15:5, and especially here, 7:7.

[128] היו , a plural of quantity: much of which is under thee.

Verses 17-22

Ezekiel 22:17-22. Corrupt Israel must be molten in the fire of the divine judgment. 17. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 18. Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: they are all brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are the dross of silver. 19. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye are all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20. As a man gathereth silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin into the furnace, that he may blow the fire upon it, to melt them; so will I gather in my anger and in my fury, and lay you down and melt you. 21. And I will gather you, and blow upon you the fire of my wrath; and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. 22. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out my fury upon you.

“Dross” ( Ezekiel 22:18), properly waste, inferior metal, which is mingled with the precious. 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 ( Ezekiel 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.

Verses 23-31

Ezekiel 22:23-31. In this third section the judgment is represented as inevitable, because the corruption pervades all ranks of the people. Ezekiel 22:23. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 24. Son of man, say unto her. Thou art a land that is not cleansed, that has no rain in the day of indignation. 25. The conspiracy of her prophets is in her midst, like a roaring lion ravening the prey: they devour souls, they take treasure and precious things, they multiply her widows in her midst. 26. Her priests violate my law, and profane my sanctuaries: they distinguish not between holy and profane, and they discern not between the unclean and the clean, [129] and they hide their eyes from my sabbaths; and I am profaned in their midst. 27. Her princes in her midst are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, to destroy souls, and to make gain. 28. And her prophets daub them with absurdity, seeing vanity and divining a lie unto them, saying. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, when Jehovah hath not spoken. 29. The people of the land exercise oppression and commit robbery, and vex the poor and needy, and oppress the stranger without right. 30. And I sought for a man among them that built up the wall, and stood in the breach before me for the land, that I might not destroy it; and I found none. 31. Therefore I pour out my indignation upon them; I consume them with the fury of my wrath: their own way I lay upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah.

[129] “Know” in a judicial sense, that is, pass sentence.

A land that has no rain in the day of indignation ( Ezekiel 22:24), 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 ( Song of Solomon 8:7) of the fire of love: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the rivers drown it.” The false prophets ( Ezekiel 22:25), who have got the upper hand so far that the true cannot prevail beside them, but that they alone count as prophets, rob the goods and devour the souls, in so far as they stand by to help forward the robbing and murdering acts of the great ( Ezekiel 22:27), and sharpen not, but rather soothe their conscience by saying. Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Thus they are accomplices in the robbing and murdering course of the great, who have them in their pay. They deport themselves as smooth and peaceful men, and present themselves as men of tenderness, in contrast with the rough preachers of repentance, the true prophets; but when examined in the light, they are thieves and murderers. To this they are as it were sworn. That the words are to be so understood, is shown by their relation to Ezekiel 22:27, where the same is said of the nobles, and by repetition in Ezekiel 22:28, which serves to explain the sense. The moral principle that is in keeping with the inclination of the people is charged upon the priests, who endeavour by a violent interpretation to bring it into harmony with the law of God. “And profane my sanctuaries:” these include all that is commanded of God; comp. Ezekiel 22:8. To the distinguishing between holy and profane, clean and unclean, corresponds, in the fundamental passage. Leviticus 10:11, “And to teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them.” 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; comp. on Ezekiel 22:8. 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: 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. The princes Ezekiel 22:27), the political authorities and officials, resemble the wolves in their ravenous blood-thirstiness, for the satisfaction of which the party-spirit of the times affords them a welcome occasion. The false prophets recur once more, in Ezekiel 22:28, 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. On daubing with absurdity, see ch. Ezekiel 13:10. In Ezekiel 22:29, after the three orders of shepherds follow the people. What is meant by building a wall and mounting a breach ( Ezekiel 22:30), we learn from ch. Ezekiel 13:5. 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. One “against whom every man contends” cannot avert the judgment of God; he can only accelerate it.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 22". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-22.html.