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Jehovah Refuses to Answer the Idolaters
v. 1. Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, namely, of the exiles in Chaldea, and sat before me, evidently for the purpose of obtaining some information concerning the fate of Jerusalem and of the Jewish people, their bearing expressive of the anxiety which they felt.
v. 2. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
v. 3. Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, literally, "have caused their filthy gods to go up upon their heart," for the corruption of man begins in his heart, and put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face, for the iniquity of their heart became manifest in their outward actions, their evil thoughts causing them to stumble, Proverbs 3:21-23; should I be enquired of at all by them? Were such transgressors, who were here acting the hypocrites, at all worthy of an answer? The emphatic question of the Lord denies this fact with unmistakable vehemence.
v. 4. Therefore speak unto them and say unto them, in a message every word of which was divinely inspired, as the entire book of prophecies is, Thus saith the Lord God, Every man of the house of Israel, each individual being held responsible for his every act, that setteth up his idols, his filthy gods, in his heart and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face and cometh to the prophet, increasing the guilt of his idolatry by his insolent oracle-seeking: I, the Lord, will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols, in proportion to the idolatry practiced by him,
v. 5. that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, to bend and mold their hearts by means of His judgments, because they are all estranged from Me through their idols. If the present judgments did not succeed in bringing the people to their senses, they would act as fitting punishments for their idolatry.
v. 6. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God, Repent and turn yourselves from your idols, from the filthy gods which they had chosen for themselves, and turn away your faces from all your abominations, with the proper revulsion and loathing.
v. 7. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, associated with the people of God either by birth or by accession in later life, which separateth himself from Me, through idolatry becoming estranged from the true God, whom he once confessed, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, as described above, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning Me, regarding God's will and intentions over against himself and others: I, the Lord, will answer him by Myself, giving him the answer which his apostasy and hypocrisy deserve,
v. 8. and I will set My face against that man, as an implacable enemy, and will make him a sign and a proverb, so that his case would serve as a standing example of warning to men everywhere, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people, Cf Numbers 26:10; Deuteronomy 28:37; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. Nor should the message of any prophet differ from that proclaimed by the Lord.
v. 9. And if the prophet, one who really considers himself a minister of Jehovah, be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, permitting himself, for any reason whatever, to be led astray and to deviate from the clearly expressed will of the Lord, so that his message confirms sinners in their obstinacy, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, permitting a spirit of falsehood to convey to him a message in agreement with the obstinacy of the people; and I will stretch out My hand upon him and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel. One of God's reasons for letting false prophecy gain such headway in the latter years of Judah's existence was to have the process of separation between the true and the false Israelites go forward with the proper vigor and speed.
v. 10. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity, that which they deserved for their willful transgressions; the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him, thereby supporting hypocrisy and deceit,
v. 11. that the house of Israel may go no more astray from Me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions, for the effect of sin is to bring corruption and pollution upon every one that sins, but that they may be My people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God. The purpose of the Lord, even in His severest chastisements, is to gain the sinner, if possible, and to preserve his soul from eternal destruction. Well-deserved as every chastening is, it is still an instrument of mercy in the hands of God, unless the sinner hardens his heart against every influence for good and deliberately invites perdition.
God's Irrevocable Sentence
v. 12. The word of the Lord came again to me, saying,
v. 13. Son of man, when the land sinneth against Me by trespassing grievously, in unfaithfulness and treachery, then will I stretch out Mine hand upon it, to mete out the well-deserved punishment upon its idolatrous inhabitants, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, taking away that upon which man chiefly relies for food, and will send famine upon it and will cut off man and beast from it, Cf.Ezekiel 4:16; 5:16.
v. 14. Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, the fact of whose historical, existence, together with the piety of their lives, is thus established, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God. Each of these three men not only saved his own life by his fear of the Lord, but was instrumental also in delivering others from danger and death. But in this case even their presence in the doomed city would avail nothing, since the guilt of idolatry weighed down too heavily in challenging the wrath of God.
v. 15. If I cause noisome beasts, various reptiles and beasts of prey, to pass through the land, causing them to multiply and increase in an unusual degree, and they spoil it, by making men and beasts their prey, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
v. 16. though these three men were in it, paragons of virtue though they were, as I live, saith the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the world, using the most solemn oath possible for Him, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, it would be impossible for them to ward off the punishment from the land doomed by its own guilt; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
v. 17. Or if I bring a sword upon that land, in a third scourge, and say, Sword, go through the land, the figure being purposely strong in order to emphasize the severity of the Lord's punishment through the slaughter of the battle, so that I cut off man and beast from it:
v. 18. though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
v. 19. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, the usual companion of devastating wars, and pour out My fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
v. 20. though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter, not so much as one child; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. These facts, the prophet says, are generally true; they would be maintained under all conditions.
v. 21. For thus saith the Lord God, How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the four principal scourges of His wrath, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast? The people of God were like the servant who knew his Lord's will and still persisted in going contrary to it; wherefore he was punished with more stripes than another, all four scourges being used at once in this case. "War brings famine into the cities, corpses outside, which attract the beasts; and from all there follows the pestilence. " Note: If Noah, Daniel, and Job, noted for the piety of their lives, could not deliver the land when deserving but one judgment, how much more when all four judgments combined are justly laid upon the land for its sin!
v. 22. Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant, an escaped portion, that shall be brought forth, both Sons and daughters, whom the mercy of the Lord would spare in the general destruction, although the punishment of the exile would strike them; behold, they shall come forth unto you, namely, the exiles of Judea in Chebar, and ye shall see their way and their doings, thereby obtaining the knowledge that corruption of this magnitude fully deserved such destruction; and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, realizing the justice of the Lord's punishments, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.
v. 23. And they shall comfort you, by offering proof for the righteousness of God's acts, when ye see their ways and their doings; and ye shall know that I have not done without cause, in arbitrary cruelty, all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God. This will eventually be true in the case of all those who feel the heavy hand of God upon them for their transgressions; they and others with them will he obliged to acknowledge the justice of God's punishment, as Abraham also reminded the rich man. Cf Luke 16:25.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany