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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 24

The Fourth Cycle—Chapter 24

Ezekiel 24. As all the prophecies of Ezekiel are arranged chronologically, this embraces ch. Ezekiel 25 as well as ch. Ezekiel 24. For the next chronological date is found in ch. Ezekiel 26:1. The starting-point is the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem, descried in spirit by Ezekiel: comp. with ch. Ezekiel 24:1-2; Ezekiel 24 : 2 Kings 25:1, Jeremiah 52:4, Jeremiah 39:1 f., Zechariah 8:19. This event first gives occasion to the prophet’s closing threatening against Judah, which is much shorter than the previous one, because the opening thunders of the divine judgment themselves now speak. From the chief criminal Judah, with whom the judgment of God must begin, the prophet then turns to the accomplices, the heathen members of the coalition, where he takes an ideal standpoint, and presupposes as already present what had been predicted, ch. Ezekiel 24, in reference to Judah.

Verses 1-14

The announcement of the judgment on Judah falls into two symbolic actions taking place internally. The first parable, that of the caldron, denotes the destiny of the people; the second, the death of the prophet’s wife, represents how they will be affected thereby, the facts and the disposition called forth thereby.

Ezekiel 24:1-14. And the word of the LORD came unto me in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth of the month, saying, 2. Son of man, write thee the name of the day, this same day: the king of Babylon moves towards Jerusalem this same day. 3. And utter against the house of rebellion a parable; and say unto them. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Set on a pot, set it on, and pour water into it: 4. Gather its pieces into it, every good piece, thigh and shoulder; fill it with the choice of the bones. 5. Take the choice of the flock, and also the wood-pile of the bones under it; let it boil and boil, [141] so that its bones be sodden in the midst of it. 6. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to the city of blood, the pot whose rust is in it, and whose rust is not gone out of it! empty it [142] piece for piece; no lot falls upon it. 7. For her blood is in the midst of her; on the bare rock has she laid it; she poured it not upon the earth, to cover it with dust. 8. That I might raise up fury, take vengeance, I set her blood upon the bare rock, that it should not be covered. 9. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to the city of blood! I will also make the wood-pile great. 10. Heap on wood, kindle the fire, make ready the flesh, and put in the spice, and let the bones be burnt. 11. And set it empty upon its coals, that it may be hot, and its brass may burn, and its impurity in it may be melted, and its rust be finished. 12. She has been wearied with labours, and her much rust went not out of her; her rust into the fire. 13. In thy filthiness is lewdness: because I purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt no more be purged from thy filthiness, until I cause my fury to rest upon thee. 14. I the LORD have spoken: it shall come, and I will do it; I will neither spare nor repent: according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord Jehovah.

[141] Properly, “cook its cookery.”

[142] Properly, “bring it out,” namely according to its flesh pieces, which belong to the consistency of the pot, as the inhabitants denoted by them to that of the city; so that to bring it out is in reality to bring them out.

The prophet is to write down the day ( Ezekiel 24:2), as a man does with remarkable days, in order not to forget the date. The object, to make use of this afterwards in proof of his prophetic office, needed to be more definitely noticed. That he knew in spirit the event of the day, presents itself to the prophet as so natural, that he makes nothing more of it. The action which the prophet is to take is in Ezekiel 24:3 expressly described as a parable,—a description which occurs nowhere of an externally accomplished action. Ezekiel 24:5 also does not permit us to think of such an action, according to which a whole number of sheep are to be put into the caldron. If the first symbolic action belongs to the department of the inner, the same holds good obviously of the second, which is closely connected with the first. A wife of Ezekiel has no more actually died, than he has actually set on a caldron. The caldron is Jerusalem. The flesh and the bones, that are put therein, are the Jews, the ordinary inhabitants of the city, and the fugitives from the country; the fire is the fire of war. Water is poured into the caldron, because in the first place only the inhabitants are regarded, not the city as such. Afterwards, where the caldron only is intended, it is set on empty ( Ezekiel 24:11). The bones, in Ezekiel 24:4, in contradistinction to the pieces of flesh, are those who lend support to the body of the state—the authorities, with the king at their head. The wood-pile of the bones in Ezekiel 24:5 is a wood-pile that is adapted to a cooking process, in which bones also are to be cooked. With Ezekiel 24:6 begins the interpretation of the parable, yet so that with it the further development of it goes hand in hand. The rust in the pot signifies the sin of Jerusalem. The pieces are cast out after they are burned ( Ezekiel 24:10). This destiny, to be burned and then cast out, comes upon all without distinction, and so there is no way, in regard to the pot or its contents, by which a man might go off free. In Ezekiel 24:7 we have the cause of this judgment: deeds of murder are done in Jerusalem boldly and without abhorrence, by which we are to understand the numerous judicial murders which were perpetrated by the party who had at that time seized the helm of the state, the party of the external alliances against which all were indignant, who in the name of the God of Israel raised a protest against this adulterous movement. An example of such judicial murder is the prophet Urijah ( Jeremiah 26:20 f.). She has not covered her sins, therefore will they not be covered by the Lord ( Ezekiel 24:8). Forgiveness of sins is not for the peccata voluntaria—for those which, according to Numbers 15:31, are perpetrated with a high hand, with bold disregard of the covenant and the command of God. They are punished with extinction. The fate of Sodom is a type of this. The address in Ezekiel 24:10 is directed to the prophet. It is intended first of all to represent symbolically, in the region of the purely internal, what was immediately to enter into realization. “Put in the spice,” lay on spice, that the flesh may be savoury for the foe or for the devouring sword. The prophet is once again sarcastic. “And let the bones be burned:” the fire shall be so strong, that even the most powerful cannot resist its violence. On the destruction of the inhabitants, figured by flesh and bones, follows in Ezekiel 24:11 the destruction of the city itself, figured by the caldron. “She has been wearied with labours” ( Ezekiel 24:12): the pot, Jerusalem, is wearied of the severe labour which the true servants of the Lord have undergone, to remove the rust, the sin from her, so that they are compelled to say, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain” ( Isaiah 49:4). Hence the last means must be applied to remove the rust, the fire, by which with the rust the pot also is destroyed. The impurity has increased to lewdness ( Ezekiel 24:13), inasmuch as the earnest endeavours of God to purify Jerusalem, as by the mission of His servant Jeremiah, are rudely repelled: comp. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16. God makes no longer trial, therefore, of such purification, the term of which is run out ( Jeremiah 13:27): He now discharges upon it His fury, that thereby the purification may be effected, which is identical with destruction, and of which Isaiah prophesied, ch. Ezekiel 4:4.

Verses 15-24

Ezekiel 24:15-24. The thought here is, a time of immeasurable sorrow draws nigh to the people. This alone, and not penitence or impenitence, is here spoken of. The prophet will annihilate the last remnant of sanguine hope. Ezekiel 24:15. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 16. Son of man, behold, I take from thee the delight of thine eyes with a stroke; and thou shalt not lament nor weep, neither shall thy tears fall. 17. Groan, be still, [143] make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy beard, and eat not the bread of men. 18. And I spake unto the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded. 19. And the people said to me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us? for thou doest it. 20. And I said unto them, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 21. Say to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes, and the pity of your soul; [144] and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword. 22. And ye shall do as I have done; ye shall not cover your beard, nor eat the bread of men. 23. And your tire shall be on your heads, and shoes on your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; and ye shall pine away in your iniquities, and groan every man to his brother. 24. And Ezekiel is unto you a wonder; according to all that he hath done, shall ye do: when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord.

[143] Luther, “Secretly mayest thou sigh.” But not a concession, but a command, is meant. The passage speaks also not of a secret, but of a low groaning.

[144] The sympathy of the soul,—an object which, when it suffers, draws the soul that is inwardly united with it into a state of sympathy.

On Ezekiel 24:16 it has been erroneously remarked by the older expositors: “The miserable death of the Jewish church Is prefigured, which was, as It were, a spouse of God.” The prophet is the type of the people, the wife the counterpart of all that was dear and precious to the people,—namely, the temple, in which all else was Included. They shall not weep for the downfall of it, because they shall be wholly taken up with the pain of their own misery. There is a degree of suffering where sympathy ceases in those who are not deeply founded in God (and of such It Is here treated), because they are swallowed up with dull and deep despair. “Groan, be still” ( Ezekiel 24:17): the prophet is to groan low, in order to represent the dull pain no longer capable of any lively sensation. “Mourning for the dead”—the solemn mourning, which Is appointed in cases of death. [145] This is the general; the following are the several acts of which mourning usually consisted. The tire is not specially the priestly bonnet, against which Ezekiel 24:23 decides, but the head-dress that was commonly worn. This was taken off in mourning, in order to scatter ashes on the head ( Isaiah 61:3). It belonged to mourning also, that a man should walk barefooted ( 2 Samuel 15:30). The covering of the beard occurs as a sign of mourning in Leviticus 13:45 and Micah 3:7. The beard is thus regarded as an ornament of a man. If a sign were required “that a man wishes not to speak,” the beard would certainly not be mentioned. Bread of men is the ordinary food (In such circumstances, in cases of death). The thought in both verses is, not that the existing public misfortune is so great, that the pain of the individual on account of the heaviest personal loss Is thereby overpowered; but the prophet, as the following clearly shows, appears merely as a holy actor—he prefigures a future state of the people. This confirms to us what we had already concluded from the analogy of the parable of the caldron, that the occurrence is not external, but that we have to do with a mere figure; so that It Is questionable whether Ezekiel had a wife at all: the contrary, at all events, cannot be proved from this occurrence. A moral relation like marriage cannot be degraded to a mere mode of representation. Were Ezekiel’s wife, the delight of his eyes, actually dead, it would be unnatural if he, suppressing all tenderer feeling, had used this occurrence only as an outward representation of the impression which the existing great misfortune should make on the people. It would be strange also, if God had lowered His servant the prophet so far into a mere instrument of His plan, that He took from him his wife on no other ground than to give him occasion for a mimetic representation of the future state of the people. If we have only a vividly drawn figure before us, these thoughts vanish away. If the married relation of the prophet be only a mode of representation, the thoughts fall away that refer to a real marriage. The prophet, according to Ezekiel 24:18, imparts the received divine command immediately on the same morning when he received it, or after the night, to the people. On the following morning he appears with the already announced actions before the people, informing them that in the evening his wife died, which is a fact, but a symbolic fact, belonging to the holy phantasy. Even the manner in which the people, according to Ezekiel 24:19, receive the action of the prophet, scarcely gives rise to the thought of the existence of the actual fact. For otherwise the people would not have been so readily convinced of the symbolic character of his proceeding. The words, “For thou doest it,” express the conviction that the prophet here is regarded purely in his official character, and not as a private individual. To him whom such a calamity has struck as the loss of a beloved wife, no one will so speak, even if he were a prophet. They say not that the action of the prophet is so peculiar, that it transcends his private relations; but they express the conviction that what the prophet does, irrespective of its peculiarity, even because he does it, must be significant for the future of the people. This shows that no event had transpired in which the private character of the prophet came into the foreground. The sanctuary comes into view in Ezekiel 24:21 as the dwelling-place of the whole people. In its profanation is included the dissolving of the whole covenant relation, the removal of everything sublime and glorious, that had flown from that covenant relation, of all that was valuable and dear to the people. The general conception is demanded by the fundamental passage. Leviticus 26:19, where by “the pride of power” is meant all the glory of Israel. Then also by Ezekiel 24:25, where in place of the sanctuary here all that is glorious appears. The sons and the daughters are here related to the sanctuary, as the part to the whole. The sons and the daughters are not those of individuals, but of the people as a whole. The house of Israel, not the exiles in particular, are addressed. In point of fact, it is as much as to say, your countrymen. “Ye shall pine away in your iniquities:” with this comp. ch. Ezekiel 4:17, Leviticus 26:39; what is there threatened to the people in case of rebellion, now passes into terrible fulfilment. “And Ezekiel is unto you a wonder” ( Ezekiel 24:24): the type is designated as a wonder, because it must draw wonder to itself, as the exact representation of the future state of things. “When it cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah,” because by my servant I have placed before your eyes the image of the future in lines so clear and sharp.

[145] מתים is the relative accusative; or we may regard both words as a kind of nomen compositum.

Verses 25-27

Ezekiel 24:25-27, the close of this discourse, and at the same time of the whole national announcement of the prophet before the execution of the judgment. Ezekiel 24:25. And thou, son of man, surely in the day when I take from them their stronghold, their proud joy, the delight of their eyes and the desire of their soul, their sons and their daughters; 26. In that day, he that is escaped shall come unto thee, to cause thine ears to hear. 27. In that day shall thy mouth be opened with him that is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a wonder unto them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

“In the day” ( Ezekiel 24:25) is the same as “at the time.” The “stronghold of the people” is, according to Ezekiel 24:21, the temple, to which the sons and daughters belong as a part to the whole. “From them,” regarded as the whole people. The people lose their all, when they lose their sons and daughters. “He that is escaped” ( Ezekiel 24:26) is, as in Genesis 14:13, an ideal person, and includes in reality a plurality in itself—the whole host of those carried away after the destruction of Jerusalem, who were directed to the dwelling-place of the prophet, or passed it. To gain the foundation for the new appearance of the prophet, the mere rumour of the taking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple was not sufficient: it was necessary that eyewitnesses should come, who by their arrival, and by the vivid report of personal experience, might call forth a profound emotion of the heart. The prophet is dumb ( Ezekiel 24:27), because now nothing more can be done—the die is cast. Ch. Ezekiel 24 is to be regarded as a farewell. Hence its brevity. Formerly Israel might still have been brought to reason. Now Nebuchadnezzar stands before the gates. Formerly sin was active: now the passive history of sin has made its commencement. A new period for prophetic utterance came when the misfortune was realized. This was first to prepare the soil. The prophet can only speak “with him that is escaped,” in accordance with the news which he will bring; comp. ch. Ezekiel 33:21, where that which is here announced is accomplished. Yet the dumbness only refers to domestic relations. In the very time of his silence regarding these, the predictions of the prophet regarding foreign nations are unfolded. “And thou shalt be a wonder unto them.” When the eye-witnesses (the escaped) report that all has happened as the Lord proclaimed by Ezekiel, he will be to them an object of wonder; they will recognise the Lord concealed behind the Son of man, and be seized with the feeling of His real Godhead. This result of the message of the fugitives was a necessary foundation for the new appearance of the prophet.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 24". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-24.html.