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A.M. 3417. B.C. 587.
In this chapter we have,
(1,) The duty of a spiritual watchman, Ezekiel 33:1-9 .
(2,) A declaration of the safety of penitents, and the destruction of apostates, Ezekiel 33:10-20 .
(3,) A message to those who flattered themselves with hopes of safety, though they repented not, Ezekiel 33:21-29 .
(4,) A reproof of those who approved the word of God, but did not practise it, Ezekiel 33:30-33 .
Ezekiel 33:1-6. Again the word of the Lord came unto me “It is plain that Ezekiel uttered what is contained in this chapter to Ezekiel 33:20, before Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians; but how long before is uncertain.” Bishop Newcome. Son of man, speak to the children of thy people To the Jews, to whom he had not spoken since he declared what is contained in chap. 24. The reader will find in chap. 3., from Ezekiel 33:17-22, the substance of what is repeated in the first ten verses of this chapter. The instruction is the same in both passages; but the subject is here more fully and explicitly illustrated. “When the prophet had confirmed his predictions of evil, both to the Jews and heathen, by exemplifications of the like predictions already fulfilled among the latter, he proceeds to apply home the conclusion arising hence by an expostulation and pathetic address to the hearts and consciences of the Jews. But to what Jews is this addressed? To the Jews who were already in captivity. In order, then, that this address might make the stronger impression on them, and produce its wished-for effect, he immediately subjoins an information, which he here presents, as having been just then received, of the actual capture and destruction of the city of Jerusalem, agreeably to his foregoing prophecies against it: the accomplishment of which prediction against the Jews themselves, joined to his historic narrations before, of the accomplishment of many others against the heathen, both completes his arguments in favour of the credit and veracity of his predictions against Egypt, or other nations, and also proves, by a conspicuous example, the truth of that maxim with which he had concluded his late address to the captive Jews, That God will judge every one after his ways, both Jews and heathen.” Obs. on Books, 2: 196.
When I bring the sword upon a land When an enemy approaches to any land, which never happens without my appointment or permission; if the people of the land take a man of their coast Or, from among them, to which sense the word מקצה , here used, is translated, Genesis 47:2; and set him for their watchman Such watchmen were placed upon the turrets of their city-walls, or upon high mountains near, to give notice of the enemy’s approach: see the margin. If when he seeth the sword come upon the land If, when he spies the enemy marching against it, he blow the trumpet, sound the alarm; and warn the people The sound of the trumpet is a warning, yet it is sometimes necessary to add a warning by word of mouth, and tell the people brought together by the trumpet what he sees. Whosoever heareth, &c., and taketh not warning Considers not, minds not what he hears, nor will be made sensible of the danger, so as to provide for resisting or fleeing from the sword; if the sword come and take him away Destroy him; his blood shall be upon his own head His destruction is owing to himself. He heard the sound of the trumpet He heard as well as others who escaped, and he might have delivered himself as they did who took warning. His blood shall be upon him The guilt and blame of his death cannot be charged on any but himself. But he that taketh warning shall save his soul Shall save his life from the danger that threatens it. In like manner, he that takes warning by the prophet’s admonition shall preserve himself from the judgments threatened against sinners. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet If he neglect his charge, which is to give the alarm; and the people be not warned But are surprised by the enemy; if the sword take any person from among them Cut any one off unexpectedly; he is taken away in his iniquity Punished and cut off by the Lord for his sins formerly committed, and in consequence of the present fault of not watching, a great fault in every one that is guilty of it in time of war. But his blood will I require at the watchman’s hands The guilt of that blood will I charge upon the watchman, and punish him for it, for he sinned in not giving the necessary warning.
Ezekiel 33:7-9. So thou, O son of man The Lord here applies the preceding account of the watchman’s office to the prophet, and shows that his duty is illustrated thereby. As if he had said, If a watchman, appointed by his fellow-citizens, is so highly guilty, if he do not give warning to the city, and shall receive such punishment from my hands; what must not thou expect, who art appointed by me to give warning to thy countrymen of the terrible evils which their sins will bring upon them, if thou neglect to do it? God has never left his people without sufficient means of instruction, but has vouch-safed it to them more or less in every age, from the beginning of the world to this day. He has, from time to time, and at all times, set watchmen over them, raised up good and holy men to instruct, admonish, warn, and reprove. “I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets daily, rising up early and sending them, but you have not hearkened unto me, nor inclined your ear,” Jeremiah 7:25. When I say unto the wicked, &c. See notes on Ezekiel 3:18-19.
Ezekiel 33:10-11. If our transgressions be upon us, &c. If the unpardoned guilt of our sins lie upon us, and we be punished for them in the wasting of our country, the burning of our city, the abolishing the public worship of God, &c.; and we pine away in them Experience their bitter consequences in famine and disease, and in a variety of other calamities; how shall we live? How then can the promises of life belong to us? How can such assurances be true as were given us Eze 18:17-32 ? What ground can we have to hope for a recovery of our former condition? Or, how canst thou promise the continuance or restoration of any mercy to us? How can it be better with us than it is? If thy threatenings be true, it will be worse with us, and not better; and if they be not true, how can we trust thy promises of recovery? These are supposed to be the words of impious persons, who, pretending to despair of God’s mercies, take encouragement from thence to continue in their sins. Say, As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked For an elucidation of this and the following verses to the 20th, compare chap. 18.; and see the notes there.
Ezekiel 33:13. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live When I make him a promise of life, peace, and every blessing which he stands in need of; if he trust to his own righteousness Formerly performed, but now abandoned; or, if he rely upon the good works he hath done, and think the worth of them will overbalance the guilt of his evil deeds; which seems to have been the opinion of the later Jews, who lay it down for a rule in their Mishna, That all Israel shall have a share in the world to come. All his righteousness shall not be remembered, &c. He shall come again under the guilt of all his past sins, and shall be exposed to condemnation and wrath: see notes on Ezekiel 18:24-29. It is evidently signified here, that to trust in our own righteousness, whether internal or external, whether graces or virtues, past or present, or to entertain high thoughts of our own attainments in religion, and to put confidence therein, is one step toward a fall, and generally issues in apostacy.
Ezekiel 33:15. If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed It is a necessary condition of obtaining pardon, that men make restitution of what they have unjustly gotten from others. The law is express to this purpose, Leviticus 6:5, where the offender is required to add a fifth part to the principal, and give it to him to whom it appertaineth; see the note there. To the same purpose is that received rule among the Christian casuists, taken from St. Augustin, Epistle 54., Non dimittitur peccatum, nisi restituatur ablatum. The sin is not forgiven, unless what is taken away be restored. Lord Clarendon’s observations on this subject are peculiarly excellent: “Robbery and violence would be too gainful a trade, if a man might quit all scores by repentance, and detain all he hath gotten; or if the father’s repentance might serve the turn, and the benefit of the transgression be transmitted as an inheritance to the son. If the pledge remained it must be restored; the retaining it is committing a new iniquity, and forfeits any benefit of the promise. If he hath it not, nor is able to procure it, his hearty repentance is enough without reparation: but to enjoy the spoil, and yet to profess repentance, is an affront to God Almighty, and a greater sin than the first act of violence, when he did not pretend to think of God, and so did not think of displeasing him. Whereas now he pretends to reconcile himself to God, and mocks him with repentance, while he retains the fruit of his wickedness. He who is truly penitent restores what he hath left to the person who was deprived of it, and pays the rest in devout sorrow for his trespass.”
Ezekiel 33:21. In the twelfth year of our captivity, &c. According to this reading, the news of the taking and burning of Jerusalem was brought to that part of the Babylonish dominions where the Jewish captives were placed in a year, five months, and twenty-six days after the calamity happened: see Jeremiah 52:12. But eight MSS. having עשׁתי instead of שׂתי , Bishop Newcome, and some others, think the preferable reading is, the eleventh year. If this be adopted, only about six months passed between the taking of Jerusalem and the communication of that event to Ezekiel. One that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me According to what God had foretold to him should be the case, as is mentioned Ezekiel 24:26, and which was to be as a new commission unto him to speak unto the people; from doing which, by the command of God, he had ceased for near three years before; the prophetic influence, or impulse, not coming upon him during that time.
Ezekiel 33:22. Now the hand of the Lord was upon me in the evening I felt a sensible impulse of the prophetic spirit: see Ezekiel 1:3. And had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning Had so influenced my mind, that I found myself disposed and prepared to speak freely and with authority. Not that he had been utterly dumb before: for he had probably “been able to converse with the Jews concerning the predictions formerly delivered to them, and perhaps spake, or delivered in writing to them, the prophecies which he uttered concerning other nations; but he had received no further revelation from God respecting their affairs: in this sense he had been dumb.” Scott. But now the Spirit moved him to speak, and continued so to do till the messenger came, whose information concerning the taking and burning of Jerusalem, which had been repeatedly and clearly foretold by the prophet, would give an indisputable authority and credit to all his predictions, and prepare the people’s minds to receive, with faith and a due regard, every future message which he was commissioned to deliver to them.
Ezekiel 33:24. They that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel They that are left behind in the land, that is now wasted with fire and sword: see the margin. Speak, saying, Abraham was one, and inherited the land Had the privilege of dwelling and feeding his flocks in it; as if he had said, ‘If Abraham, being only a single person, had the whole country of Judea given him, there is much greater reason to conclude, that God will preserve the possession of it to us, who are a numerous part of Abraham’s posterity. These men speak after the vain manner of the Jews, who fondly presume that they have a right to all the promises made to Abraham, without considering the vast difference between them and Abraham, both in faith and practice. The appellation of one is given to Abraham in other parts of Scripture, because he was singled out from the rest of his family, to be the original, or head, of the Jewish nation.” Lowth.
Ezekiel 33:25-26. Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Remove from them this destructive carnal confidence, and show them what they do, and how far they are from being Abraham’s genuine seed. Ye eat with the blood Which was expressly forbidden in the Jewish law, as appears from Leviticus 7:26, as well as that more ancient law ordained to all mankind, Genesis 9:4; and lift up your eyes toward your idols Offer up your prayers unto your fictitious gods; and shed blood That is, commit murders; and shall ye possess the land? When you do not perform the conditions on which the land was given, namely, that of being a holy people, can you think that you shall continue to enjoy it? Ye stand upon your sword You make your strength the law of justice, and, confiding in that, you do whatsoever your inclinations lead you to, whether right or wrong; according to the character given of ungodly men, Wis 2:11 , who say, “Let our strength be the law of justice, for that which is feeble is found to be nothing worthy” &c. Houbigant translates the clause, You stand in your high way, or the corners of your streets, and commit your abominations, considering the words as referring to their public and open profession of idolatry. Dr. Spencer ( De Legib. Hebrew, lib. 2. cap. 11) thinks that the expression alludes to a custom of the heathen, “who put the blood of their sacrifices into a vessel, or pit, in order to call up and consult evil spirits, and then stood with their swords drawn, to keep the demons off from doing them any harm.” Ye defile every one his neighbour’s wife Ye universally commit adultery; and shall ye possess the land? The question implies a peremptory denial. Thus the prophet shows how vain and ill-grounded their expectations were of being continued in the possession of Judea, since they did those things which were contrary to the divine law, and which consequently excluded them from any right to the land.
Ezekiel 33:27. Surely they that are in the wastes They who continue to dwell among the desolations of Jerusalem and Judea; shall fall by the sword This they accordingly did, both through the civil dissensions among them, in the conspiracy formed against Gedaliah, and likewise by the Chaldeans revenging his death. And him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts He shall be a prey to lions and other ravenous beasts, that will multiply in the ruined country. And they that be in the forts and caves Out of the reach of men and beasts; shall die of the pestilence My hand shall reach them, and send among them those destructive disorders which shall sweep them away. These three judgments here mentioned, the sword, destructive beasts, and the pestilence, together with famine, are often threatened as the last and finishing strokes of divine vengeance upon the Jewish nation: see Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 6:12; Ezekiel 14:21; Jeremiah 15:3. By the forts and caves here spoken of, are meant the strong holds formed by nature in the rocks, or cut out in the sides of the mountains. Many of them were so large that men might secure themselves, their families, and their goods in them. So David is said, 1 Samuel 23:14, to abide in strong holds, and remain in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. Such was the cave of Adullam, where David had his residence for some time, and was there resorted to by his relations, (1 Samuel 22:1,) and at another time by his principal officers, 2 Samuel 23:15.
Ezekiel 33:28-29. For I will lay the land most desolate I will make the land destitute of inhabitants, by the destruction which shall be made of them by the sword, by wild beasts, and the pestilence, and by their being carried into captivity. And the pomp of her strength shall cease All that wealth and magnificence wherein they pleased themselves, as that which gave them strength and reputation in the eyes of the world, are taken away: see Ezekiel 7:24. Or the phrase may denote the beauty and glory of the temple, which they looked upon as their chief strength and protection; none shall pass through None shall choose even so much as to pass through the country, on account of its being infested with wild beasts through its desolateness, and because the air of it shall be rendered unwholesome, by means of the effluvia arising from dead and dying bodies, and the pestilential diseases which rage in the country, and sweep away its inhabitants. Then shall they know that I am the Lord That I am their Lord, their righteous governor, and just judge. When I have laid the land most desolate, &c. When I have brought these destructive calamities upon it, because of the sins and abominations of its inhabitants. Observe, reader, those are untractable and unteachable indeed, that are not made to know their dependence upon God when all their creature comforts fail them, and they are made desolate.
Ezekiel 33:30-32. The children of thy people Those of the captivity; still are talking against thee Or rather, of thee, as the LXX. rightly render it; for with their mouths they showed much love, as it follows in the next verse. By the walls and in the doors of their houses Both in their public places of concourse, and in their private meetings. And speak one to another, saying, Come, &c. These were such as drew nigh to God with their mouths, but their hearts were far from him, as Isaiah describes their hypocrisy, Isaiah 29:13; and they come unto thee as the people cometh Or, as disciples flock to their teachers: so the Chaldee paraphrase explains it. They make a profession of great regard to piety and virtue, and express a great esteem for thee, but at the same time they indulge themselves in sin and wickedness. And lo! thou art unto them as a very lovely song, &c. They come to hear thee for their entertainment, not for their edification, in the spirit in which many go to hear noted and eloquent preachers. St. Austin tells us, that he himself was such an auditor of St. Ambrose before he was converted, Confess., 50. 5. c. 12; “I heard him diligently when he discoursed in the congregation, but not with that application of mind which I ought to have done; but I came rather out of curiosity, to know whether his eloquence was answerable to the opinion which the world had of him. I was very attentive to his style, and charmed with the sweetness of his delivery, but had little value or concern for the subjects he treated of.”
Ezekiel 33:33. And when this cometh to pass, ( lo, it will come) Or, rather, lo, it is come; for so the same phrase is translated Ezekiel 6:2; Ezekiel 6:6; Ezekiel 6:10, the verb being in the present tense; when they shall see thy prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem actually fulfilled, and all the events predicted by thee exactly brought to pass; then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them Then shall they be convinced of the truth of thy mission, and of their own inexcusable crime in despising thy prophecies. The words of this verse are evidently spoken by the Lord to his prophet.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 33". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany