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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 9

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-11

2. The Judgment on the Guilty (Ch. 9)

1And He cried in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Near are the visitations of the city, and every one [has] his weapon of destruction in his hand. 2And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which looketh toward the north, and every one his weapon for breaking in pieces in his hand; and a man in their midst, clothed in linen, and an inkhorn on his loins: and they came and stood beside the brazen altar. 3And the glory of the God of Israel rose up from the cherub, over which it was, to the threshold of the house; and He called to 4the man clothed in linen, which had an inkhorn on his loins. And Jehovah said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a [cross-] mark upon the foreheads of the people that sigh and that groan for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof. 5And to the others He said in mine ears, Go through the city after him, and smite; your eyes shall not 6spare, neither shall ye show pity. Old man, young man, and maiden, and child, and women shall ye slay to destruction, and [yet] no one upon whom is a [cross-] mark shall ye touch; and ye shall begin at My sanctuary. And they began with the men, the elders, who were before the house. 7And He said unto them., Defile the house, and fill the courts with slain; go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. 8And it came to pass, when they had slain, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! destroyest Thou the whole residue of Israel, whilst Thou art pouring out Thy fury 9upon Jerusalem? And He said unto me, The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of wresting of judgment; for they say, Jehovah hath forsaken the land, and Jehovah 10seeth not. And I also, Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I show pity; their way I give upon their head. 11And, behold, the man clothed in linen, which had the inkhorn on his loins, gave answer, saying, I have done as Thou hast commanded me.

Ezekiel 9:1 Anoth. read.: בלי plur., Sept., Syr., Arab. In Ezekiel 9:2, also, the Syr. and some codd. have the plural.

Ezekiel 9:2. ... ἐνδεδυκως ποδηρη, κ. ζωνη σαπφειρου ἐπι της ὀσφυος αὐτου.

Ezekiel 9:4. ... δος το σημειον—Vulg: … et signa Thau super

Ezekiel 9:5. Instead of על anoth. read.: אל.

Ezekiel 9:6. ... κ. ἀπο των ἁγιων μου�.. ... οἱ ἠσαν ἐσω ἐν τ. οἰκω.

Ezekiel 9:7. ... πληρωσατε τ. ὁδους... κ. κοπτετε.

Ezekiel 9:8. Other read.: בהכותם, ונשאר, ואשאר.—ואזעק קול גדול, Syr.

Ezekiel 9:9. (For דמים they read חמס.) Sept.; ... ὀτι ἐπλησθη ἡ γη λαων πολλων, κ. ἡ πολις... ἀδικιας κ. ἀκαθαρσιως.

Ezekiel 9:11. Anoth. read.: בכל אשר (Talmud Babyl., Targ.).


The iniquity (Ezekiel 8:0) is now followed, in accordance with God’s threatening (Ezekiel 8:18), by the punishment as the carrying out of the threatening, and that as regards the execution of judgment on the guilty inhabitants first. But in the midst of destruction there is at the same time preservation.

Ezekiel 9:1. He; the same as in Ezekiel 9:4. With a loud voice, not without allusion to Ezekiel 8:18; just as also: and He cried in mine ears. The loud voice does not correspond to “the greatness of the abominations which cry to God” (Hengst.); rather is “the strength of the emotion” thereby portrayed (Hitz.)—“the loud outburst of indignation” (Jun.)—at the same time an energetic act of the Lord.—קרבו (Ezekiel 12:23), most simply with Hengst. perf. Kal, as in Hosea 9:7 בָּאוּ׳, an announcement meant alike generally and for Ezekiel,—Hengst.: for the special executioners of what has been announced (ואיש׳), viz. that it is now the time. קרב in Kal: to press on, to come near, to be near; in Piel, transitively: to cause to approach, to admit, to offer; intransitively (and at the same time intensively): to be very near, to approach with the greatest haste. (Hitzig reads קִרְבּוּ. Häv., Kl.: imper. Piel intransitively: “hither ye,” etc.)—פקדה, as almost always: penal visitation (Hosea 9:7). The plural is not out of place either as regards the meaning of the word or in the connection. A plurality is implied in Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 5:15 sq. [Hitz.: “authority” for: those who have received orders against the city, so that פקודות is particularized by means of איש. Häv., Kl.: “overseership,” the guard, the heavenly watchers of the city, who, as an authority appointed by God, are to execute the punishment on the ungodly.] Hitzig asks: to whom is the summons addressed? Cocc. answers: not so much to those entrusted with the visitation, as to the watchers of the city, who have hitherto kept off the former. In the meantime, however, no summons at all is issued, but with express reference to the prophet the approaching punishment is proclaimed by God,—as regards the substance of the thing, expressed in general terms, and as respects the form of its execution, in such a way that it is only in Ezekiel 9:2 that a more detailed definition follows. What sort of persons are to be understood by איש may, of course, be conjectured from their equipment: כלי׳, according to the context (comp. also Ezekiel 5:0.): each one his sword; against which Häv.: “no common earthly weapon is suitable in the hands of such a host.” A hint as to who the persons are is contained, perhaps, in the expression: משחתו; comp. Exodus 12:23; 2 Samuel 24:16. [Bunsen: “the judges of the city, the punishing and destroying angels.”]

Ezekiel 9:2. They are men also in Genesis 18:2, but none the less angels. [According to Klief.: men, as such, execute the judgment on Jerusalem; according to Calv.: the Chaldeans; according to Grot.: the generals of Nebuchadnezzar, who from six sides besieged and took the city (?). According to Cocc.: signifying the angelic hosts together with the Babylonian army-corps.] An explanation of the divine judgment makes itself clear (Ezekiel 1:4). The number six, whose interpretation has been attempted even to desperation, needs no explanation, since it is rather the number seven that lies before us with the one man in their midst, etc., the specially sacred number; consequently: how, on the basis of God’s covenant with Israel, punishment and exemption take place. [Hitz.: “the dogma of the seven archangels in germ.”] As Ezekiel is to be supposed in the court of the priests (Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 8:16), the higher gate will be the gate indicated there. Comp. that passage.—מפצו, Jeremiah 51:20 sqq. He who is in the midst of the destroyers proves that in the midst of destruction there is also to be something else. What? His clothing tells us partly, his equipment partly. קסת הספר, only in our chapter, is: a writer’s utensil; not a writing-tablet, but: an inkhorn, such as writers were accustomed to carry hanging in their girdle or on it. From this, however, we are not to infer, with Keil, that he is “a chancellor among the other officials,” for such is not the character of the six; but from that wherewith he is provided we are to infer what he has to do: he is not like those others to destroy, to break in pieces. He has an inkhorn, whereas they have each a sword! [The Sept. read הַסַּפִּיר, and translated: a sapphire girdle.] From the destroyers he is distinguished likewise by his clothing, which is certainly not in conformity with an appointment of that kind. In linens (plural) is explained by Hengst. of the collective linen (Leviticus 16:4; Leviticus 16:23) garments of the high priest, whose antitype is the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the covenant (Malachi 1:3), who, according to Zechariah 1:12, gets from the Lord good comfortable words for the covenant-people, just as the high priest appears in Zechariah 3:0. as the type of Christ, as the figure of the Angel of the Lord. So already Hävernick. Keil, on the other hand, only admits that the one man in relation to the six “stands somewhat like the high priest in relation to the Levites.” According to Hitz. the garment of byssus marks him out as the highest in rank; he appears to be the same in whom, with Zechariah and the author of the Apocalypse, the spirit of prophecy assumes personality, the so-called par excellence Man of God, Gabriel of the book of Daniel and of the Koran; similarly the πνεῦμα in Ezekiel 8:2-3 appears to have assumed angelic form (!). According to Cocc. the Spirit of God is likewise symbolized here, who produces the mark upon the foreheads of believers,—their confession. According to Calvin it is an angel, who is distinguished by the ornamental character of his dress from the men, the remaining six. Keil admits in addition the comparison with Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7 (Revelation 1:13 sqq.), but holds that the view of the Angel of the Lord is not thereby established, inasmuch as “the shining white robe” is peculiar not merely to this angel or Christ, but the seven angels also in Revelation 15:6 appear in shining white linen, and the shining white colour symbolizes in general divine holiness and glory (Revelation 19:8). In the first place, however, by the expression: clothed in linen, nothing at all is said as to brightness of colour, but it is simply the material of the clothing that is given, which, if it points to anything, points to the clothing of the high priest. Now, as the linen garments of the priests (comp. Ezekiel 44:17 sqq.) mark them out “as the mediators of sanctification,” whose “entire calling had for its aim the sanctification of Israel by Jehovah, and the sanctification of Jehovah by Israel” (Bähr, Symb. ii. 89), the in linen is admirably appropriate in our context. The sanctification of Israel is limited here, of course, to the separation of certain parties in order to their being spared, as it is given in commission to the man by Jehovah (Ezekiel 9:4); but the sanctification of Jehovah takes place in the case before us not merely through, but on Israel. Ever and always it is a priestly act, in the midst of destruction, to make the mark on what destruction does not touch (Ezekiel 9:6). If, accordingly, it is not so clear from the clothing and equipment who the party in question is, as what he is to do, for what he is designed, yet it is generally acknowledged that his being in the midst of the six is the place of leader, of chief among them. Only after he has marked or not have they to smite; they go after him (Ezekiel 9:4-5); he answers in their name likewise (Ezekiel 9:11). To a position of such distinction, if the six are angels, the Angel of Jehovah thoroughly corresponds. Comp. Zechariah 1:11 sq.; Joshua 5:14; Genesis 18:0. By their taking up their position at the brazen altar is by no means asserted their taking up their position before Jehovah, i.e. because the glory of God is there, as Keil, Klief.; but the meaning is: where the guilt has reached its climax (Ezekiel 8:16), from that point also the punishment must go forth. [Häv.: as the coming from the north stood in relation to the sin committed there, so now the heavenly beings appear “as it were looking after and protecting the rights of the altar.” “As a heavy accusation, the forsaken and despised brazen altar stood there;” comp. Amos 9:1. Grot.: they stood there as those who would prepare many victims for God! Isaiah 34:6; Jeremiah 12:3; Jeremiah 46:10.] The high-priestly man in linen also corresponds therewith. Comp. besides, Exodus 32:35 sqq. (Hengst.: “the protection of the pious is his privilege; but the work of vengeance also is under his control.” “The angels stand, waiting for God’s beck and command. He whose spiritual eye was opened could only look with deep horror on the people filled with joyful hopes of the future. They appear at the place of transgression, in order to glorify God in the downfall of those who would not glorify Him by their life.”)

Ezekiel 9:3 makes the glory, etc. (which is there conceived of as the Shechinah-cloud) move out of the holy of holies (Häv., Hengst.), and that not merely as far as “the gate of the sanctuary, near which the altar stood” (Hengst.), for, “in order to give commands to His servants,” it is not necessary for Jehovah to go to the place where they are standing; and He called suggests rather a greater distance. As to the house, comp. on Ezekiel 8:14; Ezekiel 8:16. Accordingly, by the threshold of it will not be meant, as Keil supposes, the threshold of the temple porch, through which one entered into the holy place (Ezekiel 8:16), but the outermost point, where the exit was from the court of the people into the city—quite in accordance with the direction which follows in Ezekiel 9:4 sqq. That the glory of Jehovah, according to Ezekiel 8:16, stood over the cherub between the porch and the altar (Keil), is not said in Ezekiel 8:16; and Klief. says at first also merely: “where the vision of God and the prophet had for the moment their station.” We do not forget that the characteristic of Ezekiel is the prophecy of glory (see Introd. to Ezekiel 1:4-28), and that therefore everything comes forth to the prophet always from the glory of Jehovah; but the vision of that glory changes alike as regards the locality and as regards the form of manifestation, so that sometimes this, sometimes that other feature steps into the foreground, and the rest into the background. For this there was a thorough appropriateness in the “variable hieroglyph,” as v. Meyer has happily called the cherub. (Bähr, i. 312.) The word הכרוב appears in Ezekiel for the first time here, and that in reference to the arrangements of the holy of holies, specially of the ark of the covenant. As the chajoth in Ezekiel 1:0. are the same as the plural כרובים, used by Ezekiel also in Ezekiel 10:0., and common elsewhere (הַכְּרוּב collectively, not: for the “ideal unity of the cherubim” (Hengst.), but: for the well-known double ornament of the sacred chest), the converting of the chajoth into cherubim in its application here (Doctrinal Reflections, 12, p. 55) may be looked upon at the same time as a prophetic interpretation of the employment of the cherub in worship, especially over the ark of the covenant, on the basis of the vision in Ezekiel 1:0. As to the disputed etymology, see Ges. Lex. and Thes.; Kurtz, in Herzog, 2.; Lange, Genes, p. 241. For the prophetico-historic employment of the cherub in Ezekiel 10:0. in respect of its movement (p. 40), the conjectural derivation from the converting of רְכוּב (Psalms 104:3; Psalms 18:10) into כְּרוּב commends itself more than any other, as hinting at the passing of the chajoth of Ezekiel 1:0. into the cherub. The chariot-element (as against Kurtz) has in the representation of Ezekiel something essential; and if the form is not carried out perfectly as regards the copy in the tabernacle and temple, yet, as far as the idea is concerned, there can be no hesitation about it, as Jehovah may also remove His abode from the midst of Israel, inasmuch as He (אלהי ישראל) is no national God in the heathen sense. As to the rest, see Doctrinal Reflections.—With Ezekiel 9:3 is still to be compared Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18; Exodus 40:36 sqq.; Numbers 10:11 sq. The rising up of Jehovah already prefigured the abandonment of the temple to the enemies of Israel for judgment on them.—Over which it was, from the setting up of the ark, in accordance with the idea of the symbol, for threatening and promise, not always visible, but (as here) making itself so in a given case (Psalms 80:1).

Ezekiel 9:4. The divine command runs: “Away into the city.” Yet grace shall go before justice. But nothing is said of marking in the temple; and, on the other hand, certainly in Ezekiel 9:6-7 smiting is spoken of. תָּוָה = to make a תָּו, which last letter in the Hebrew was in the ancient Phœnician alphabet, in the Egyptian writing, as also upon the Jewish coins, of the form of a cross (Τ). Hence as in general תוה (1 Samuel 21:13) is “to mark,” and תו “a mark” (Job 31:35), so perhaps here והתוית תו is used on purpose of the marking of this particular mark. “A cross was just as natural for a mark as for a signature” (Hitz.). Häv., who (as also Vitringa) conversely derives תו from תוה, holds the indefiniteness as required by the circumstance, that the mark was not intended for men. But an indefinite thing is certainly no mark, not even for angels, who are conceived of here in human form; and if it was to be a mark of any kind you like, this certainly would be somehow expressed. Klief. (Vulg.): a Tau as mark. The deeper significance, that a cross was to be the mark for sparing, Christian exegesis has perceived from of old (Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Jerome). As to the rest, comp. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 14:1; Exodus 12:0. (Genesis 4:15). “By this mark one is separated from the mass” (Hengst.). Consequently, if the mass is dedicated to destruction, he is preserved. Upon the foreheads, according to most: because there it is most easily seen; according to others: as there slaves bore the names of their masters (inscripti, literati servi). Comp. also Exodus 28:38 (Bähr, ii. 143).—Men, because of what precedes: the city, Jerusalem: inhabitants, citizens. The qualification for the mark is twofold, expressed in words of similar sound. אנח inwardly, אנק also uttering it; consequently those who are not only not like-minded, but also audibly make known their pain. (The Niphal, which commonly stands in the case of reflex influences on the mind.)

Ezekiel 9:5. על, Qeri אל; as also the singular עֵינְכֶם, which is unnecessary. Comp. Exodus 32:27; Ezekiel 8:18; Ezekiel 5:11.

Ezekiel 9:6. Deuteronomy 32:25; Ezekiel 5:16. The command is not merely to knock them down, but to make an utter end of them. Because of Ezekiel 8:0., the beginning (supplementary to Ezekiel 9:5) is made with the sanctuary; and this is immediately explained of the courts, which are before the house in the narrower sense, as men (Ezekiel 8:16), elders (Ezekiel 8:11), women (Ezekiel 8:14) were in them. [Keil, following Klief., supposes: “they were in general old men, well stricken in years, who had come into the court to sacrifice, but yet all the while were liable to the judgment.” Hitz.: it was just the Sabbath! Rosenm.: “at My sanctuary,” i.e. at those who have sinned there. Sept.: as if וּמִמִּקְדָּשַׁי = at My holy ones, the priests. “When the Sept. read: ‘inside the house,’ this is manifestly incorrect,” Ew.] Comp. for this beginning 1 Peter 4:17. (Consequently not like 2 Kings 11:15.)

In Ezekiel 9:7 what has already been done is not approved in the form of a command (Hengst.), because the Go forth is to follow; but as in this way the beginning is called good, so the order is given to continue onwards till the end. Comp. Numbers 19:11 (Leviticus 11:24). The defiling of the house takes place in accordance with Ezekiel 9:6, inasmuch as the courts belonging to it as a whole (which explanation of הבית is given by means of החצרות, so that house here = “sanctuary” in Ezekiel 9:6) are filled with corpses. It is only now they go into the city. He pushes them on, as it were, with military abruptness (Hengst.).

In Ezekiel 9:8 Ezekiel only is left remaining in the court of the priests of the temple, for it is there the prophet is. (Against Kimchi, Hitz., Keil.) Impressive solitude! (1 Kings 19:10.) It is not as being spared that Ezekiel, speaking as he does of his own accord as a mere spectator, comes into consideration, just as also the preserving mark is not made upon him. His objection is meant, therefore, to be read as occurring between the execution in the courts of the temple and that in the city. נֵאשַׁאַר, Rosenm., Hengst.: third pret. Niph. with א epenthetic for the first = “and he remained over,” viz. “I,” where we are to supply in thought אְַשֶׁר. Hengst.: “taking the place of the noun: a he-remained-over.” It is at all events surprising, in order to arrest attention, to emphasize the result. Buxtorf: expressing the consternation and perplexity of the prophet by means of the confused form of the word. Keil, following Hitz.: a “malformation, a blending together of the partic. and the imperf., and manifestly a slip of the pen, to be read as a partic. נִשְׁאָר, and to be connected with כְּהַכּוֹתָם.” See other attempts at explanation in Häv. Ew. reads simply: וָאֶשָׁאֵר Comp. Numbers 16:45; Joshua 7:6. His anguish vents itself in this cry to God (Ezekiel 11:13; 1 Samuel 15:11). For the question, comp. Genesis 18:23 sqq., 20:4. This question is not: “from the soul of those upon whom the judgment has just fallen” (Hengst.), whose representative Ezekiel cannot be, but: from the feeling of his fellow-exiles, of whom therefore no mention is made. That his question is not hindered by his having heard of the pious being spared (Hitz.), shows either his fear in this respect, that in Jerusalem there will be nothing at all to be spared, or that the sparing in comparison with the destruction does not at all come into consideration. Hence כל. The residue of Israel is that which still remains (especially at Jerusalem) of Israel collectively after the previous (the Assyrian and the Chaldean) catastrophes. Comp. besides, Ezekiel 7:8. Here the outpouring of fury, elsewhere the outpouring of the Spirit.

Ezekiel 9:9. As the prophet, on account of the greatness of the destruction, makes no mention of the sparing in his question, in like manner God also does not do so in His answer, because of the greatness (במאד מאד, in a superlative sense) of the guilt alike of Israel and of Judah (Ezekiel 4:4 sqq.). Comp. Genesis 4:13; Lamentations 4:6.—Ezekiel 8:17; Ezekiel 7:23.—ממה, Ew.; perverseness; Hengst.: declension; Hitz.: identical with מומה, Isaiah 58:9. Hoph. of נטה, perhaps (as such testimony in favour of what is right on God’s part is necessary): of the perversion, the setting aside of the right (Deuteronomy 27:19; Amos 5:12). Apostasy from God does not lie in the context, and would also be more definitely expressed (1 Kings 11:9). As in Ezekiel 8:12 their idolatry is explained in this way from their own mouth, so here their moral corruption. Here also the question is not about God’s being and essence, but about His will and acting. The clauses are inverted to correspond with the present context: in Ezekiel 8:12 it is the “not seeing” that is spoken of first, here it is the “having forsaken.” The filling of the land and city with lawless conduct shows how they imagine they have free scope, and fancy that no one is taking the oversight of them. And with the “not seeing” there is connected in Ezekiel 9:10 a partial confirmation of their saying as regards the eye, which, however, on the other hand, so fearfully demonstrates God’s presence in the land by means of righteousness and judgment (aposiopesis). Comp. Ezekiel 9:5, Ezekiel 8:18; Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 7:9. The way is the bent, and in general the manner, of life. But what they suppose they are treading under their feet comes as iniquity to be punished upon their head, (1 Kings 8:32).

Ezekiel 9:11. Already the answer of God gave an affirmative reply to the question of the prophet; but still more is this the case with the announcement of the accomplished fact made by the leader of the mysterious avengers in their name,—an announcement which certainly includes in it also the possible sparing. Comp. on Ezekiel 9:2. Comp. Genesis 37:14; Numbers 13:26. Comp. Luke 14:22; John 17:4. The Qeri כְּכֹל אְַשֶׁר is unnecessary.


1. It is a peculiarity of what our prophet sees in vision, that, however much the vision of glory (Ezekiel 1:0.) remains at the foundation, and however much on this basis the unity of Him who speaks to the prophet and transacts with him is in substance preserved, yet sometimes the one or the other element of the form of manifestation retires into the background, e.g. in Ezekiel 8:2 sqq. the throne-chariot and the chajoth; and that sometimes, as in the chapter before us (Ezekiel 9:3), a change of view takes place, corresponding to the sphere of the revelation, which is here the sanctuary of Jehovah. The thought which is to be expressed at the time supplies of itself the reason of the distinctive form of expression in vision, while at the same time there is no want of retrospective reference showing that it is one and the same thing, so that, as has been said, amid all the diversity the unity continues. In this way it is the same Jehovah who is seen in His glory in Ezekiel 1:0. that lays hold of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8:3, and that everywhere speaks to him and acts as his Guide. And so He who lifts him up, the Spirit (Ezekiel 8:3), certainly controls the movements of the chajoth also in Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:20 sqq. And in the seven men of Ezekiel 9:2 it is merely the glory of Jehovah that is again unfolded.

2. Our chapter also furnishes a prelude to the last day, the “evening of the world” (as Lange calls it at Genesis 18:0), approaching for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus the appearance of angels on the scene is not merely natural by reason of this parallel, but so much the more as the judgment on Jerusalem in Holy Scripture—much more than the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—is a foil, nay, a constituent element for the last judgment.

3. In the vision of glory (Ezekiel 1:0.) we have noticed repeatedly (comp. especially on Ezekiel 1:28), along with a predominantly judicial character on the whole, the bright splendour, the sun-bright element, and lastly the rainbow. Thus the priestly form in white linen in the midst of the avengers cannot surprise us. The “one man” in their midst is a vivid allusion to “the likeness as the appearance of a man” in Ezekiel 1:26.

4. Although conceived of executively in a historical form of expression for the immediate object of the vision in Ezekiel 9:0., yet the group of seven represents substantially the same thing as what Ezekiel 1:0. set before the eyes of the prophet, in reference, first of all, to Israel. Comp. in this connection especially what is held as established as to the Angel of the Lord in relation to the glory of Jehovah (Lange, Genesis, p. 386 [T. & T. Clark], and our Doctrinal Reflections on Ezekiel 1:4-28). The Son of man, when He shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, as it is said in Matthew 25:31, likewise separates (just as here the mark is the dividing element) the assembled nations one from another. Quite in accordance with the difference of times, of the last day from the time when it is called to-day, just as expressly does the judgment devolve upon Him then as does the sparing in our chapter.

5. It is not “Hebrew poetry,” as was the opinion of the ofttimes more æsthetic than theological Herder (Geist der hebr. Poesie, ii.), that is to be credited alike with the priestly element in the angel-leader of Ezekiel, and with the angelic element in the priesthood in general. But neither does the “symbolic cultus,” as Bähr and Umbreit maintain on the other hand, furnish the only ground for it. But it lies in the nature of the calling of the angels (nomen officii) to be the mediating element, mediators of the divine revelations; hence to be in general what constitutes the prophetic office also (Haggai 1:13), but quite specially what belongs to the employment of a priest (Malachi 2:7). If, however, according to Numbers 16:5, the priests are those whom Jehovah permits to come near to Him, are called the קרובים (an explanatory designation having the same letters as the cherubim), and if their proper work is the bringing near of the sacrifices, then their mediation lies especially in the direction from Israel to Jehovah; while, on the other hand, the mediation of the angels has its sphere in the other direction, and that exclusively, viz. from God to man, and so they are called “messengers, ambassadors,” and in accordance therewith a doctrine is framed with regard to them in Hebrews 1:14. The perfection of the idea of mediation, where the two directions met, was brought about through Him in whom the divine sending is a self-manifestation of God, and the priestly character is a self-sacrifice of humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). Now Jehovah appears in His angel κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, just as on the other side the priestly order represents Israel, the nation of priests, and its head, the high priest, represents the Israelitish order of priests. There would thus be a prefiguration in vision of the perfected mediation in the Angel of Jehovah here in priestly office as well as priestly clothing (“the noble white form of peace,” Umbreit).

6. “We must consider this as beforehand probable,” remarks Hengstenberg, “because the Angel of the Lord is represented elsewhere also as the leading personality in the great divine judgments, which are executed in the interests of the kingdom of God. He it was, e.g., who as the destroying angel slew the first-born of Egypt, Exodus 12:23.” “There lies at the foundation the old picture of the Egyptian passover, but transfigured in the prophetic spirit. As there the destroying angel appeared as the Deliverer of the covenant-people, so here he appears as the Shield of the ideal theocracy, of those truly faithful to God among His people (Ezekiel 9:4 sqq.), as the Avenger of ungodliness on the apostate theocracy (Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:7). Both things serve one object, the true welfare of the covenant-people” (Häv.).

7. For the typical allusion to Christ the following points are enumerated by the ancients: (1) The human form, as having respect to the incarnation as well as to His powerful mediation; (2) that He is “one,” 1 Timothy 2:5; (3) that He is found in the midst, as it were as a prince, pointing to the kingly majesty and dignity of Christ; (4) the linen garment, the symbol of innocence, purity, of priesthood, etc.; (5) that He carries no weapon of destruction, but inscribes the elect in the book of life. In reference to the last, Hengstenberg expresses himself as follows: “It admits of question whether the inkhorn serves at the same time for inscribing the names in the book of life, of which mention is first made in Exodus 32:32 (Psalms 69:28; Revelation 20:12). It is, of course, probable, especially taking into account the fundamental passage, Isaiah 4:3. According to this view, the inscribing the names in the book of life is to be looked upon as the primary thing, the marking of the foreheads simply as a consequence.”

8. Bähr (ii. p. 75) explains the priestly linen garment as symbolizing at once salvation and life and righteousness, which appears to suit only the commission to spare (Ezekiel 9:4), just as he explains the garment of purity as referring to those who had kept themselves pure from the defilement of Jerusalem’s trespass.

9. The well-known Shechinah of Jewish tradition is equivalent to the glory of Jehovah (John 1:14). If the former is to be regarded more strictly as a cloud, and the latter more as a brightness of light or fire, yet the latter is to be conceived of in closest connection with the former. That this symbol of the presence of Jehovah was a permanent thing above the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies, as was for the most part the view of the older theology along with the Jewish tradition, cannot be drawn from the Scripture passages referring to the subject. Leviticus 16:2 is not indeed to be explained, with Bähr (i. 395 sq.), Winer, and others, by Leviticus 9:13, but neither does it fix (as Hengst., Keil) such a wonderful manifestation of the divine glory for the great day of atonement, and in fact also for the whole after period of the Solomonic temple; but it is to be understood simply in connection with the cloud of guidance during the journey through the wilderness, Exodus 13:21 sq., 14:24; Numbers 14:14; Nehemiah 9:12; Nehemiah 9:19; Exodus 40:36 sqq., Exodus 33:9; Numbers 12:5; Deuteronomy 31:15; Numbers 9:15 sqq.; Exodus 19:9; Exodus 25:22. The phenomenon on the occasion of the consecration of the tabernacle and of the temple (Exodus 40:0.; 1 Kings 8:0.) was an extraordinary one. Comp. the reasons against a permanence of such a presence of God in Bähr (i. 397). Comp. also Herzog (xiii. p. 476 sq.); and as to the controversy during last century, see the literature in Winer, Realw.; Keil, Archäol. § 21, i. p. 115.

10. The idea which was symbolized by the ark of the covenant in the most holy place is indisputably that of a throne, however much the immediate object was in reality to be an ark (chest) for the law of the covenant. The purpose of the ark was accomplished with the two tables of stone. The idea of the throne was illustrated by the two cherubim. The two cherubic ornaments correspond with the two tables of the law, as these latter, with the capporeth, represent the dualism of the righteousness and mercy of God, which finds in the blood of the sacrifices (Leviticus 17:11) its typical divine institution and promise of adjustment and harmony. The fact of the cherubim being joined in the closest manner to the capporeth strips it of the mere signification of a “cover” for the ark-chest, which already, apart from the destination of the capporeth, receives no countenance from its composition as being a plate wholly of gold. Delitzsch compares with it the heavenly רקיע in Ezekiel 1:22. [כַּפֹּרֶת from Piel כִּפֶּר, in a causative sense: to make to cover (Genesis 6:14), or intensively: to cover entirely, thoroughly, does not signify that the law of God was covered up, which would mean the covering up of God’s rights and righteousness, which are meant to be protected rather, but, as is at once understood of itself: that that sin which becomes manifest through the law finds covering before God, atonement on the capporeth (Leviticus 16:14).] It may certainly be admitted that the view, as it were, of a covering on the ark might have figuratively its point of transition to the idea of atonement. As, then, the ark guards the tables of the law, so the cherubim with their wings protect the capporeth, Exodus 25:20. The manifested presence of Jehovah in righteousness and mercy as holy love is shiningly clear. Understanding the cherubim as the chajoth, as is the case here in Ezekiel, we have in them, in the shape of an ornament, the symbolization of the life of creation (Doctrinal Reflections, 12, p. 55), as it appears in a state of heavenly rest engaged in the worship of God, yet none the less ready always, in the way of active service, to glorify Him alike in judgment and in mercy. In actual fact they acknowledge the heavenly King in Israel, the Holy One of Israel, Jehovah, as the living Elohim of revelation (p. 40), the Most High over all. And when Delitzsch defines the difference thus: that the ark of the covenant as מֶרְכָּבָה (1 Chronicles 28:18) is not so much a moveable, travelling throne, as the throne that is stationary and at rest, with this, of course, accords the circumstance that the double cherub on the capporeth as it were surrounds Him who is enthroned (Exodus 25:22); but yet the circumstance is not to be overlooked, that the staves intended for removing the ark of the covenant were continually to remain in if (Exodus 25:15). As regards the etymology of the word, we must reject that which has been attempted, after the analogy of the root gribh in the Sanscrit, from “greifen” (Eng. to grip, grasp) (Delitzsch: as those who lay hold of and carry forward the divine throne; or Fürst: like the Greek griffins and the Egyptian sphinxes as guardians), because a laying hold of is nowhere ascribed to the cherubim; and the fact that in Genesis 3:24 they have to keep the way to the tree of life, is not to be derived from a peculiar quality as guardians, just as also we cannot, with Kurtz (Herzog, ii. p. 655), deduce therefrom a “task,” according to which paradise was “entrusted” to the cherub, and that he gave it back “into the hands of man, its original possessor,” having also “preserved beyond the flood its proper essence, the paradisiacal powers,” etc. Nothing of this has any place in Holy Scripture. What is said in Revelation 21:22 reminds us (Ezekiel 22:1 (?), 2) in some respects of what belongs to paradise, but is by no means paradise, but the holy city, New Jerusalem, the tabernacle of God with men (Ezekiel 21:2-3), which by new creation (Ezekiel 9:5) comes down from God out of the new heaven to the new earth. The cherubim do not inhabit (Genesis 3:24) paradise, but “on the east of the garden of Eden,” consequently outside of it is found the Shechinah (וַיַּשְׁכֵּן), which exhibits Jehovah Elohim. The meaning of this is, that for man henceforth the glorious presence of God is outside paradise, and hence also the approach to the tree of life in the midst of paradise is denied to man. For Israel, life before God and God’s glorious presence are symbolized, as regards worship in the most holy place, specially by means of the atonement on the capporeth and the double cherub, as well as by means of the cloud during the journey in the wilderness, and on occasion of the dedication of Solomon’s temple. In reality, the life is restored for mankind when He whose body is the temple (John 2:21; John 1:14) could say on that great all-accomplishing day of atonement on Golgotha to the. thief: “Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Moreover, we have to distinguish the historico-symbolic cherub, the cherub of worship, the cherub of prophetic vision, and the rhetorico-prophetic (Ezekiel 28:0.), as well as the cherub of poetry (Psalms 18:0.).

11. If the mark of the cross is the simplest exegesis of the תו, we must not merely say with Schmieder, that “this coincidence in any case remains ever memorable for the thoughtful observer of the ways of God, whose counsel has planned everything beforehand,” but it will also be interesting to mention what is analogous in different quarters. The Egyptian Apis was denoted by a white triangle (or square), the characteristic mark of the power of nature (or of the world). On the brow of the Indian Shiva is the picture of the fertilizing stream of the Ganges. Shiva’s or Vishnu’s mark is made on the brow of the Hindoo who has been cleansed in the holy water. The Japanese pilgrim to the temple of Tensjo Dai Sin gets as a token of indulgence a small square box, on which, in large characters, the name of the god is written, and which he carries home upon his forehead. If, according to the ancients (and the more recent mystics also), the four quarters of heaven, the flying fowl, the praying, the swimming, even the walking man, the rowing ship, the ploughing peasant, etc., the Egyptian key of Isis, the hammer of the god Thor, not to speak of the preparation of the paschal lamb,—if all these furnished a “silent prophecy pointing to Christ,” “the providential element may at all events (says Merz in Herzog, 8.) be acknowledged, that the putting to death of the world’s Redeemer must be accomplished by that very instrument of torture, which is capable, as no other is, of being made, represented, set up, and looked upon as a sign before all the world, and in all the world,” etc.

12. It is not Grotius, as Hengst. erroneously asserts, but Junius, who has already remarked that in Egypt it was the doorposts, here it is the foreheads, and that consequently while in the former ease it was still families, houses, here it is merely single individuals that come into consideration. As contrasted with Egypt, it is Israel which in this crisis of the world stands the test, in virtue of a cleansing by means of blood, of a purification from sin. For if God will impute sin, who shall stand? Here in Jerusalem, on the other hand, the question is as to the Israelite (Deuteronomy 6:8), who is so after the spirit and not after the flesh, as it is not all Israelites who are the true Israel. It is a crisis in a narrower sense, consequently a separation. Hence, also, over against the persons comes the person of the Lamb, just as in Matthew 25:12 the “I know you not” is the decisive element. His mark brings about exemption from punishment in Jerusalem (Joel 2:32), while in Egypt it is the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:7). Whoever has not the Spirit of Christ is none of His. For, finally, the Spirit is the mark wherewith we are sealed, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15; Revelation 14:1).

13. “The marking” (observes Hengst., as already J. H. Mich.) “does not secure against any share in the divine judgment, for this would not correspond with the nature of the divine righteousness, as even the elect are affected in many ways by the prevailing corruption; it is merely a security against their being carried away with the wicked (Psalms 28:3), against an evil death, and everything which would stand opposed to the rule that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God’ (Romans 8:28). Jeremiah is an example.” Comp. also Jeremiah 39:16 sqq., 45:5.

14. One may, with Häv., find in the description of those to be spared (Ezekiel 9:4) a characterizing of fidelity according to its negative side merely. They are the Protestants from the bottom of their hearts in Jerusalem. Moreover, the circumstance that they are described in such a way shows how oppressed they are by the corruption universally prevailing, so that their being spared in the judgment is at the same time a deliverance from the wicked (Psalms 1:4 sqq.; Luke 18:7 sq.).


Ezekiel 9:1. “Each one is to have his weapon in his hand, not merely by his side or on his shoulder, in order that he may strike out on every side immediately. The Chaldeans were as it were the executioners, the Jews the criminals, and the appointed time was come. When they shall say, It is peace! and reckon the evil day far from them, destruction shall come upon them swiftly” (B. B.).—“The visitation of grace brings salvation for the pious (Luke 1:0.), while the visitation in wrath is the portion of the ungodly (Psalms 6:1-2)” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 9:2. “Those who admonish are followed by the executioners, the prophets by the soldiers, the friends by the enemies” (Stck.).—“Although the Lord sends forth His angels of vengeance, yet the Angel of the covenant is with them, who watches over the children of God” (Tüb. B.).—“From this we deduce, in the first place, the effective threatening for the ungodly, that God has always servants who stand ready to obey Him; in the second place, the comfortable conviction, how even the unbelieving Chaldeans wage war under God’s commands, and must act in accordance therewith; and lastly, we see that God spares His elect. This is just God’s secret providence” (C.).—“The small number of believers need not surprise us; they have often been only few” (L.).—Thou seest how the Son of God at all times gathers for Himself by His word and Spirit a church chosen to everlasting life, and protects and upholds it (Heidelberg Cat. Qu. 54).—A contemplation at the altar, which is fitted to alarm us (by reminding us of our sin, by the thought of retributive punishment), which is meant to comfort us (by means of the atonement, by the act of sparing in the midst of the judgment).

Ezekiel 9:1-3. The six and the seventh in their significance for the judgments of God.—The severity and the goodness of God.—Punishment and grace along with one another.

Ezekiel 9:3. “The Jews imagined that God was, as it were, bound to the visible temple; but He shows them and us something different. If we imitate the Jews, our pretence of pure doctrine will likewise avail us nothing” (L.).

Ezekiel 9:4. “The Holy Spirit is properly the true seal and mark wherewith believers are marked by God, and then the cross, so long as they are still in the Church militant” (B. B.).—“In Revelation 13:0. we find also a mark of the beast on the right hand or on the foreheads!” (L.)—How many a man bears his mark on his forehead!—We are not to make ourselves partakers of other men’s sins by our looking on with indifference, or by our silence even.—And yet, what power the example of a corruption that is universal exercises!—“If thou art a person in office, cease not to admonish; if thou art merely a private individual, then show at least thy displeasure at what is evil! Noah and Lot did not follow the fashion” (L.).—Fear of man and desire to please man influence many men.—First the eye looks, then the mouth smiles, then hands and feet act.—O what a characteristic mark the sighing of the heart is, of whose child one is! Comp. Romans 8:22-23; Romans 8:26.—But how is it that here there is no mention of prophesying, of casting out devils, or of mighty signs, no mention of men of singular sanctity? Well, in the case of such it may happen that the Lord does not know them, never has known them, as He knows His own. Mention is made only of souls who are in earnest alarm in such a world as this, or even in a Jerusalem. Let these be comforted.—“When the apostle (2 Peter 2:7-8) commends the patience of Lot, he says that his soul was vexed so long as he lived in Sodom. He could not as a single man, one who was besides still a stranger, bring those who were so thoroughly depraved to be think themselves. He did not, however, himself become hardened amid the shamefulness of so many horrible deeds, but he sighed constantly before God, and was in continual sorrow. On the other hand, it is certainly a proof of great lethargy when we see that the holy name of God is despised, and yet feel no pain. Hence it is no wonder if we are involved in the punishments of those sins which we foster by our connivance. For that admonition is to be considered well, that the zeal of God’s house is to eat us up, arid that the reproaches of those who reproach God fall on us” (C.).—Those who are spared—a picture for the cabinet. Their outward and inward mark, according to Ezekiel 9:4.

Ezekiel 9:5 sqq. Where God’s grace is followed by God’s judgment, and where the former has been turned into lasciviousness, there the discoveries which we must make in ourselves or in others have something exceedingly strict, harsh, severe about them. Neither the remainder of life, the helplessness and weakness of age, nor the blooming freshness of youth in its vigour, nor its grace and beauty, nor even childlike innocence or honourable appearance, is spared.—The unsparing character of God’s judgments on the despisers of His grace, of His word (comp. Ezekiel 9:10).—“The old take precedence of the young in the judgment, because they did not go before those younger ones in good example,” 2 Chronicles 36:17 (B. B.).—But the beginning is made with the temple, which Christ also cleared first, before the Jewish land was cleared of the Jews.—On ministers, princes, lords, the rich, the distinguished, and on those whom foolish people are accustomed to regard with most envy,—on these God’s sword of justice when drawn falls first of all, or even most of all.—To stand near the house of God is a blessed and also a safe position; but it is also the most dangerous position if it is hypocrisy. Certainly in this case religion is no lightning-conductor, but what the tree is in the storm; those who are under it are sure to be struck dead.—A lie in God’s face, or under the name of truth, is a lie of the worst kind, bringing with it eternal death.—Those who go about with fire lose certainly the dread of fire, but so much the more readily perish by the fire.—“Ye shall not touch any one of those who have the mark on them, is certainly no small testimony on God’s part and no small privilege, of which one stands very much in need at the time of visitation in general judgments, or when God in a special way strikes all around us, since the heart very easily becomes desponding and timorous, distrustful and afraid. But believers must not use it for self-exaltation above others, but rather for true humiliation before God, and for joyful confidence toward Him in trouble and death” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 9:7. “In other cases, those who hope to be spared flee for refuge to the temples and places of worship; but here this avails nothing; on the contrary, the slaying just begins there” (L.).—“First the teachers, then the hearers” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 9:8. “Ah, Lord! is the voice of His servants, as they look at rampant ungodliness; at the approach of God’s judgments; while they call to repentance; as they make their daily supplication for the Church” (Stck.).—“However cruel the prophets might appear to the Jews because of their threatenings and rebukes, yet they were anything but their enemies, inasmuch as they not only felt intense solicitude, but also made fervent intercession for their people. Such was the case with Moses, with Samuel, with Jeremiah (Ezekiel 9:0)” (L.).—“So the hearts of believers are full of love, as we see in the case of Paul in Romans 9:0” (C.)

Ezekiel 9:9. “Ungodly men come to know God only after His judgments, but not in the right way of conversion” (Lange).—“God does not answer all his doubts. For God does not free us from all the difficulties in which we are involved, but puts our modesty to the test. We are, however, to learn here not to weigh the judgments of God in our scales, because we Usually extenuate our sins; it is God’s business to sit in judgment on sin” (C.).—“We never sufficiently comprehend the justice of the divine judgments. We always overlook something in God’s judging, however just and right it is. Here the secret providence of God is to be taken into consideration” (L.).—When the cup is full, it runs over.

Ezekiel 9:11. It is also an “It is finished” that closes the priestly as well as the judicial work, John 19:30 (John 4:34).

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/ezekiel-9.html. 1857-84.
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