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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 25

Foreign Nations—Chapters 25-32

Chapter 25

Ezekiel 25. We have here the second part of the discourse of the prophet, beginning in ch. Ezekiel 24. All the prophecies of Ezekiel are chronologically determined. Hence the date in ch. Ezekiel 24:1 applies to this also.

What was predicted in ch. Ezekiel 24 regarding the immediate future of Judah is here presupposed as already accomplished; so that the point of view is ideal. Judgment must begin at the house of God, but it does not stop there; it passes over thence to the heathen members of the coalition, especially to the tribes related by race to Judah: Ammon ( Ezekiel 25:1-7), Moab ( Ezekiel 25:1-8), Edom ( Ezekiel 25:12-14)—who will smart for their hostile, mischief-loving demonstrations at the destruction of Judah,—and lastly the Philistines ( Ezekiel 25:15-17). When the prophet has grouped together these small border tribes, he afterwards announces the judgment of God in several predictions to the nations of the world that had taken p art in the coalition—Tyre and Egypt.

The nations threatened with destruction are seven in all. The seven are divided into four and three. The confederate nations besides Judah were properly only six; but to gain the number seven, and consequently the three, the prophet subjoins to the lengthened predictions against Tyre a brief one against Sidon, which indeed is also expressly mentioned along with Tyre in the enumeration of the members of the coalition ( Jeremiah 27:3).

The absence of a prophetic menace against the Chaldeans must surprise us the more, as Jeremiah, Ezekiel’s predecessor, had announced their destruction in the review of the approaching judgments of God in ch. Ezekiel 25 (“And the king of Sheshach,” by a sort of anagram for Babel, “shall drink after them”), and had closed his book with a lengthened proclamation against Babylon. Among the personal relations of Ezekiel, the reason can perhaps only lie in this, that he prophesied in the midst of the Chaldeans. A reason for braving the danger did not present itself. Jeremiah had treated exhaustively of this matter; and Ezekiel, while he took up again the other announcements of his predecessor, as good as pointed expressly to this particular topic. Then the prophecy against Tyre is indirectly at the same time a prophecy against Babylon; and this perhaps explains its comparative fulness. That which is uttered against the city in which the trade of the world culminated, holds good also of the city in which the dominion of the world was centred, which the prophet already in ch. Ezekiel 17:4 had, in reference to Tyre, designated as the city of the merchants—of the political negotiations.

These prophecies against foreign nations serve to extend the range of vision—to give, through the insertion of the special judgment on Judah in the greater whole of the divine judgments, a deeper impression of its import, and to arouse to sincere conversion to God, who walks solemnly along, judging the nations; and who, as He is rich in judgment, must be rich also in mercy—as He is mighty to destroy, must be mighty also to deliver. Whosoever thus received an insight into the whole of the divine judicial acts, must have been thereby powerfully drawn from politics to repentance. Whosoever should not turn with his whole heart to a God who, while His people lie low, walks victoriously over the high places of the earth, and even thereby shows that the humiliation of His people is the merited punishment of their sins, is not a contradiction of His power, but a testimony to it. We have in these prophecies against foreign nations the preparation for the later direct announcement of salvation for Israel, with which the prophet wished then to come forward, when judgment had completed its course. These prophecies present themselves as forerunners of cheering intelligence also, in so far as the downfall of the heathen powers here announced is throughout total and definitive, whereas hope is still left to Israel even in the deepest misery. This view is expressly opened up in ch. Ezekiel 28:25-26. This also is very consolatory to Israel, that among the causes of the divine judgments on the heathen world, the wrong done to Israel occupies so important a place (ch. Ezekiel 25:3, Ezekiel 25:8, Ezekiel 28:12, Ezekiel 28:15). How could God leave a people in misery whose cause He makes His own, even when they pine in misery, and regarding whom He says, “What ye have done to the least of these, ye have done to me?”

From the point of view from which Ezekiel regards the destinies of the nations, it is plain that he turns his attention chiefly to the judicial activity of God in regard to the heathen, and looks away from the future proofs of His mercy and compassion towards them. How rich and deep was Ezekiel’s knowledge of this appears, for ex., from ch. Ezekiel 16.

We have here not perhaps a separate book of the prophecies of Ezekiel against foreign nations; but the chronological principle ruling the whole collection is here also applicable. The prophecies against foreign nations are inserted here simply because they mostly took place at that very time, between the last announcement of the downfall of Judah, with which the beginning of the announcement against the heathen nations in ch. Ezekiel 25 is combined into one prophetic discourse, and the announcement of salvation delivered after the downfall was completed. But with the chronological order is connected an order of nature. The prophecies which refer to one of the two great nations. Tyre and Egypt, are not to be separated from one another, and yet are to be chronologically arranged among themselves. The prophecy against Tyre in ch. Ezekiel 26:1 belongs to a somewhat later point than the first prophecy against Egypt in ch. Ezekiel 29:1. The chief power in the coalition must form the close, and is formally separated from the foregoing by the closing formula in ch. Ezekiel 28:25-26. And to the prophecies against Egypt, which fall between the last threat against Judah and the promise, is added by way of appendix, to bring all that relates to Egypt together, a prophecy in ch. Ezekiel 29:17 f., which was delivered some time after the promise to Judah, and which, in strict adherence to chronological order, would form the last part of the whole book. The two prophecies in ch. Ezekiel 32:1 and Ezekiel 32:17 also are of somewhat later date than the beginning of the predictions of promise (ch. Ezekiel 33:21).

The proclamation of the judgment against the four heathen nations, that were always filled with envy and hatred, around Israel, begins with the three whose guilt was enhanced by their relationship. At the head stand in ch. Ezekiel 25:1-7 the Ammonites. They belonged, with Judah, to the anti-Chaldaic coalition; comp. ch. Ezekiel 21:20 f. The avenging march of the king of Babylon was directed first against Judah, according to the same passage, and now the neighbouring nations were busied in separating their cause from that of Judah ( Lamentations 1:2); and in place of friendship came the old enmity, which, as the prophet, after the example of Obadiah and other prophets, foresees, was to be particularly active in the impending catastrophe of Judah. According to 2 Kings 24:2, Ammonites and Moabites, in fact, took part in the expedition of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem. That the Ammonites here open the series is to be explained either from this, that their hostility against Judah was peculiarly intense, or from the fact that among the combined nations they dwelt nearest the Chaldeans. In ch. Ezekiel 21:19 also, Ammon appears next to Israel as the immediate object of the Chaldean vengeance.

Verses 1-7

Ezekiel 25:1-7. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2. Son of man, set thy face against the sons of Ammon, and prophesy against them; 3. And say unto the sons of Amnion, Hear the word of the Lord Jehovah; Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary, because it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, because it was wasted; and against the house of Judah, because they went into captivity; 4. Therefore, behold, I will deliver thee to the sons of the east for a possession, and they shall set their houses in thee, and make their dwellings in thee: they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk. 5. And I will give Rabbah for a stall for camels, and the sons of Ammon a couching-place of sheep; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. 6. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou clappest the hand, and stampest with the foot, and rejoicest with all thy despite of soul over the land of Israel; 7. Therefore, behold, I will stretch out my hand against thee, and give thee for food [146] to the heathen; and cut thee off from the nations, and destroy thee out of the lands: I will extirpate thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.

[146] Luther, after the Keri, “for a spoil.” For בג the Masoretes wish to read T3) spoil, which, like all the Keris, is a mere conjecture. But בג in Persian, allotted portion, food, is confirmed by J3n3, mouth-portion, Daniel 1:5; Daniel 11:26, and particularly suits Ezekiel 25:4, “They shall eat thy fruit and drink thy milk,” and still better the following, which speaks of total annihilation. The conjecture בז was rendered natural by the fact that בג , probably connected with the Greek φά?γειν , does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament, and also by ch. 26:5, where Tyre becomes a spoil (בג ) for the heathen, which is an intentional variation of our passage. The coincidence in the use of a Persian word not elsewhere occurring in the whole Old Testament, is one of the many indications of the contemporaneousness of Ezekiel and Daniel.

The sons of the east, in Ezekiel 25:4, are not the proper instruments of the judgment. These are, as in Judah, so also in the whole system of prophecies against the foreign nations, the Chaldeans, as surely as all these nations were the members of the anti-Chaldaic coalition, who oppose themselves in vain to the scourge which the Lord has sent upon them. The sons of the east—an old designation borrowed from the books of Moses for the Arabians, who appear under the latter name first in Isaiah 42:20—are rather the vultures that fall upon the carcases of the people, those who always appear where fire and sword have wasted a country, and overspread it with their flocks, in which character they appear also in the passage quoted from Isaiah. The sons of the east do nothing more than take possession of the land that has been already desolated. Among the number of the nations over whom the judgment by the Chaldeans passes, appear the Ammonites already in Jeremiah 25:21, Jeremiah 27:3, Jeremiah 49:1 f. In Ezekiel also (ch. Ezekiel 21) the king of Babylon considers whether he shall direct his avenging activity first against the Ammonites or against Jerusalem; and the decision falling upon the latter refers only to the order of time. That which the prophet first expressly says of Tyre, ch. Ezekiel 26:7, “Behold, I bring Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the north, the king of kings,” refers in reality to all the seven kings of the coalition. That it is first uttered of Tyre, corresponds to the richer unfolding of the prophetic discourse, as it generally appears where the prophet comes to this principal nation, which in its grandeur was best fitted to bring into view the thought of the vanity of human glory. The more exact designation of the instrument of the divine vengeance appears also there first in the development, and indeed at the very commencement of it. In the introduction there (Ezekiel 2-5), the general tenor of the proclamation against the four neighbouring nations continues. The old Ammonitis, the ruin of which began in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and continued thenceforward without interruption, is abandoned to the Bedouin Arabs unto this day. Rabbah ( Ezekiel 25:5) is the old capital of the Ammonites, to whose name, the Populous, the stall for camels forms a melancholy contrast. Camel and wilderness go inseparably together. The clapping of the hands, in Ezekiel 25:6, is the gesture of highly excited feeling. On the stamping with the foot, comp. Ezekiel 6:11.

Verses 8-11

After Ammon follows, in Ezekiel 25:8-11, the brother people Moab. Ezekiel 25:8. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because Moab and Seir say, Behold, like all the heathen is the house of Judah; 9. Therefore, behold, I will open the shoulder of Moab from the cities, from his cities at his end, the beauty of the land, Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon, and unto Kiriathaim, 10. To the sons of the east, with the sons of Ammon; and I will give it for a possession, that the sons of Ammon may be no more remembered among the heathen. 11. And on Moab will I execute judgments, and they shall know that I am the LORD.

Mention is already by anticipation made of Seir and Edom in Ezekiel 25:8, along with Moab (the prophet treats of him fully in Ezekiel 25:12 f.), to guard against the thought that the guilt here mentioned is peculiar to Moab, to indicate that it belongs to Moab only as a part of the surrounding heathendom. The guilt consists in the denial of the true deity of the God of Israel, for only on this ground could Israel be placed on the same level with all other nations. The pretence for this denial they take from the misery of Israel, which they derive not from their guilt, but from the feebleness of their God, and discern therein a palpable proof against His true and full deity. Their God Jehovah, the absolutely pure Being, the primeval ground of all things, the absolutely certain Helper of His people, is a mere fancy: otherwise must they soar above, and not sink beneath. This full deity, against whose historically extant evidences they rashly close their eyes, they must now discover by their own destruction. The transgression is seemingly small; but it is that by which the nations perish even to the present day. As each takes its stand towards God, who is historically revealed in His church, so is its destiny measured out. The lot which fell upon Moab and his confederates, on account of guilt comparatively so light, which it did not enter into his mind to regard as such, is a warning-cry which should not be unheard. The shoulder in Ezekiel 25:9 is named as the place where blows and sword-strokes are most easily applied. It is “opened,” when it is made accessible to these. The “cities” appear as strongholds. In these the opening begins, and then proceeds unhindered to the other parts of the country. The strong forts lie naturally at the “end “of the land, its border. Before “the beauty of the land” “I open” is to be repeated. What follows individualizes the beauty, as the best parts are named. “And unto Kiriathaim:” this was the outermost among the radiant points of the land. Ezekiel 25:10 declares to whom it is opened. “I give it,” both Moab and Ammon, that form together a national unity, in which the Ammonites, as in Judges 11:12 f., form the prominent part; for which reason in the words, “that the sons of Ammon be no more remembered,” these alone are named. According to Ezekiel 25:11, through the judgments under which with Ammon Moab also falls (the latter is connected, as in guilt with Edom, so in punishment with Ammon), it is forced to acknowledge the true deity of Jehovah, which it did not willingly accept.

Verses 12-14

In Ezekiel 25:12-14, Edom. Ezekiel 25:12. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because Edom is busy in taking vengeance on the house of Judah, and they have been guilty and have taken vengeance on them; 13. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will stretch out my hand upon Edom, and cut off from it man and beast, and make it a desert from Teman; and unto Dedan they shall fall by the sword. 14. And I will lay my vengeance on Edom through my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord Jehovah.

Edom is guilty in the Chaldean catastrophe ( Ezekiel 25:12), because he seizes the occasion to avenge himself on Judah for former injustice. This involves the historically established principle, that Edom brought upon himself by his own conduct, what he formerly, particularly under David, suffered from Judah. For only on this supposition was the revenge sinful. “And I will stretch out:” the and connects this with the foregoing threatenings against Amnion and Moab, and points out the proceeding against Edom as one link of a chain. Teman, a district in the southern part of Edom; Dedan in the northern. If the destruction sets out from Teman, and extends to Dedan, it embraces the whole country. “Through my people Israel” ( Ezekiel 25:14): these are the proper authors, the Chaldeans only their instruments; as in the second part of Isaiah, what Cyrus shall do to the Chaldeans is referred to Israel (ch. Isaiah 45:4), and in Jeremiah Nebuchadnezzar appears as the servant of the God who rules in Israel. The immediate instruments of the divine judgments here threatened in all the seven prophecies against foreign nations are the Chaldeans, as the prophet himself had already expressly said in regard to the Ammonites, who stand at their head. But to Israel is the work of vengeance ascribed so much the more, because afterwards, in the time of the appearance of Christ, he was to come forward without a substitute warring and conquering again the heathen world. Comp. Amos 9:11-12; Obadiah 1:17 f.; Jeremiah 49:20, where this final victory of the people of God over the heathen world is, even as here, individually applied to Edom.

Verses 15-17

In Ezekiel 25:15-17, the Philistines. The fundamental passage here is Jeremiah 47. There the Philistines are flooded with a great flood from the north, the symbol of the Asiatic world-power. Ezekiel 25:15. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because the Philistines are busy with vengeance, and avenge themselves with despite of their whole soul, [147] for a destruction of perpetual hatred; 16. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I stretch out my hand upon the Philistines, and cut off the Kerethim, and destroy the remnant at the haven of the sea. 17. And I will take on them great vengeance with rebukes of fury; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon them.

[147] Literally, in soul; so that the soul, the seat of the affections, is active therein; in contrast with a contempt which has its seat prominently only on their lips.

The destruction of perpetual hatred ( Ezekiel 25:15) is that which grows out of perpetual hatred. “And cut off the Kerethim” ( Ezekiel 25:16): the name Philistines signifies probably the emigrants, in accordance with the accounts of the books of Moses concerning their migration from the regions on the Black Sea, from Colchis, and the adjacent Pontic Cappadocia, Kaphtor. By the side of this name goes, of substantially like signification for the same people, Kerethim, extirpated—those who were forced to leave their native land. These Kerethim are now to become Kerethim a second time; their name shall verify itself anew. The destruction of the remnant points to this, that they shall be destroyed to the last man, as in fact the Philistines have utterly disappeared. It is the great privilege of the people of God, that how heavy soever the judgments of God may be upon them, never will it be said of them, I will destroy the remnant.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 25". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-25.html.