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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 21

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-32

Ezekiel 21:2 . Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places. In the Latin bibles, this chapter begins at 21:45 of the preseding, which preserves unity in the subject. The prophecy is against the land of the south against Israel, which was southward of Mesopotamia, where Ezekiel then exercised his ministry. He must preach against the woods and groves, the seats of idolatry, and of utter ruin to the nation.

Ezekiel 21:3 . I will cut off. Hebrews I will slay in thee, the righteous and the wicked. The LXX read, I will destroy from thee, the righteous and the wicked. How is this reconciled with the divine declaration to Abraham, that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. Genesis 18:23. Answer: in the unsearchable visitations of providence good men may sometimes be involved in temporal deaths with the wicked; yet he watches over his saints. When the Romans burned Jerusalem, the christians, when their army was called away to Egypt, fled beyond the Jordan. Also when Alaric, king of the Goths stormed the city of Rome, the followers of Christ were spared, being found at prayer in their churches. Anno 412, and eleven hundred and ten years after the building of Rome.

Ezekiel 21:5 . I the Lord have drawn forth my sword out of its sheath. The Assyrian power is called the rod of God’s anger; but here it is his sword. This whole passage is a sublime description of the terrors of the invading army, of the sword unsheathed against every green tree and pleasant abode. It was drunk with the fury of the Lord.

Ezekiel 21:8-11 . The word of the Lord came unto me saying, a sword, a sword is sharpened. Should we then make mirth? Nay, on the contrary, should we not howl and cry? A rebel nation exposed to fury: slaughter is diversion. Silent leges inter arma. The laws are silent in war. “It contemneth the rod of my Son as wood, or as every green tree.” By this highest title, my Son, the king of Judah cannot well be understood here, he being impeached and utterly condemned in the strongest language. The question is difficult; quomodo gaudebimus? How shall we rejoice at the intoxicated fury of a bloody sword? Yet some do make it an apostrophe, “And thou, oh sword of Nebuchadnezzar, that takest the sceptre from Judah, my son.” Be it so; but who commissioned and sent the Assyrians? It was the Christ, the Son of God. Isaiah 10:5-6. Therefore, nothing can obstruct our belief of the generally received opinion of christian doctors, that the Father speaks here to the Son, as in the second psalm, when he placed him over the nations, with a rod of iron in his hand. This is the rod which despises every other sceptre, as a sceptre of wood. The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son, and seated him in Zion at his own right hand.

Ezekiel 21:12 . Smite therefore upon thy thigh. Homer makes Achilles to smite on his thigh, when he saw the city of Troy in flames, because he was attached to Polixena, daughter of Priam. It is a custom mentioned by Cicero, and seems much the same as smiting on the breast. It was a somewhat stronger expression of anguish than locking of the hands, mentioned at the fourteenth verse.

Ezekiel 21:14 . Let the sword be doubled the third time. The people were carried to Babylon at three different times. First, when Jehoiakim was taken; secondly, when Jeconiah was taken; but the third time was doubly severe when the city was burnt, and all the poor carried to Babylon.

Ezekiel 21:21 . To use divination. According to Jerome, it was the custom of the heathen, when an attack was proposed on several nations, to write the name of each nation on an arrow. Then they put them in a quiver, and the nation first drawn was the first object of attack. So Nebuchadnezzar, when he came to a place where the road divided, being undecided whether to go against Jerusalem or Rabbah, is here said to do. The second kind of divination here mentioned, was universal among the heathen. He looked in the liver, he inspected the liver of the victims for the altar. These were slain to render the gods propitious to the expedition. “If the liver,” says Dr. Potter, “had a pleasing and natural redness; if it was sound, without spot or blemish; if its head was large; if it had two heads, or there were two livers; then prosperity and success were expected. On the other hand, if there appeared on it any blisters, wheals or ulcers; if there was too much dryness, or a ligament between the parts; if any part was misplaced, or the liver itself altogether wanting, nothing but dangers and disappointments were expected.” The druids were far-famed for inspecting the liver of victims. Thank God, christianity has delivered us from these follies.

Ezekiel 21:25 . Thou profane and wicked prince of Israel. The name of the king is omitted; some respect is due to the diadem, though in gross error. He had patronized the worship of Moloch, attended with infant victims, and had violated the oath he had sworn to Nebuchadnezzar. He had persecuted Jeremiah, and refused to hear him when speaking from the mouth of the Lord. Therefore he lost his crown; and with his crown he lost his kingdom. The Lord, as David said to Solomon, “cast him off for ever.” 2 Chronicles 28:10.

Ezekiel 21:26-27 . Remove the diadem. Let it never more be worn, either by son or brother. Let it revert into his hands, who gave it to David when keeping his father’s sheep. Let him be crowned, WHOSE RIGHT IT IS.

My servant David shall again feed my sheep, and be a prince among them: chap. 34. Yea, Israel in the latter day shall remember and turn unto the Lord. I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen. I will raise up his ruins, and build it as in the days of old. Amos 9:11. Messiah is the horn of salvation in the house of David.

We must remark here, that Ezekiel saw the humble and abject state of the Saviour before his elevation. Exalt him that is low; give him a name above every creature in heaven and earth. We remark also, that Messiah the prince is constituted the judge and ruler of all the nations of the earth. Give the king thy judgments, oh Lord; and thy righteousness to the king’s son. Psalms 72:1. All judgment is committed to the Son, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. John 5:22. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of his government there shall be no end. Oh Zion, this is thy Messiah, without beginning of days or end of life.


The awful subject is here continued. It presents us with a glittering sword brandishing over Jerusalem. It presents the Lord as so indignant with an incorrigible nation, that he utters all the terrors of his secret counsel, and so abhors his polluted sanctuary that he would allow no sinner to remain, and no saint to pray on a spot accursed, for a time, because of its pollutions. The wicked were therefore numbered for the sword, the pestilence, and the captivity, while an interior providence guarded the lives of the faithful few, to instruct their brethren in exile.

It was equally horrible that the wicked should be so far infatuated as to indulge in sports and pleasures, vainly puffed up with the hope that the evil day would never come. To counteract this preposterous joy, the prophet was directed by sighs and gestures to represent the wailings which the survivors of the calamities should be compelled to assume. Let us hence learn, never to give our countenance to the wanton joys of the wicked; on the contrary, let us awe them by our seriousness and recollection.

But the most serious part of the chapter, is the apostrophe to Zedekiah: Thou profane and wicked prince! Here we are told that the diadem should be taken from him, and never more worn temporally by any of David’s house. On the contrary, whether they were governed by Zerubbabel, or any of David’s line, for the Persians; whether they were governed by the highpriest, or by a heathen, God would overturn, overturn, overturn it, by three successive revolutions, till no government remained, that all hope might henceforth be placed in the Messiah, and in him alone. Thus the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom and possess it for ever, yea for ever and ever. Thus joy is reserved for the righteous, while the wicked are covered with eternal gloom.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/ezekiel-21.html. 1835.
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