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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Ezekiel 22

Verse 16

Ezekiel 22:16

Thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself.

Inheritance in thyself

Man, as a moral being, cannot have happiness or misery independently of his inner life. Each man in some sense farms his own nature, and reaps the harvest planted by his own hands. Man is a wealthy proprietor. No lordly acres, no wide domain of forest land can ever equal the enclosure of his own heart.

In a human sense we take our inheritance in ourselves. Most certainly we are inheritors of our past human delinquencies, or of the joy of duties fulfilled. All other inheritances drop off from us; like gathered flowers they fade! These are rooted in our hearts. Men may blame us and be wrong, or praise us and be wrong! But our conscience is a true rest, and happy the man whose smile is as bright, whose voice as cheery, and whose step is as elastic, whether the world crowns him with garlands or stones him with scorn!

In a mental sense we take our inheritance in ourselves. Mind is a most productive soil. Tend it well, and do not hurry the crops, and there is nothing so wonderful in the universe of God. When you enter the British Museum, remember that from year to year every little and every large volume has to be received and registered there. What a registry it is, but it is nothing to the registry of the human brain! How easily it works, how quickly it shelves for future use the rarest thoughts, how wonderfully at call it brings the fact or the illustration, not by some stately messenger, but by the swift telegraphy of its own sensations.

In a moral sense we take our inheritance in ourselves.

1. How true it is of national life. Rome took her inheritance when, ceasing the virtues of simplicity, honour, and home life, she chose luxury, pleasure, and the pomp of war. Greece took her inheritance when, choosing philosophic disquisitions and sophistical debates, she darkened the moral sense by mere casuistry. Jerusalem took her inheritance when, forsaking the sublime simplicity and tender spirituality of her faith, she became rabbinical in her theology, inhuman in her neglect of the needy, and proud in the speciality of her privileges. In each ease the inheritance came: the military strength of the northern armies crushed the power of Rome; the enfeeblement of Epicureanism and refined libertinism seized upon the heart of Greece; and the pride, prejudice, and pernicious formalism of the Pharisees slew the soul of Hebrew piety.

2. We, too--each of us--take the inheritance in ourselves; the harvests of life are either tares or wheat, according to our past sowing. Nor does the Gospel of Jesus Christ interfere with this law. When we become Christians our past sins are forgiven us through the precious blood of Christ., but their influence on our after character and life growth is not hereby destroyed. Old habits, old pursuits, old readings, old companionships are not dead and forgotten in a day. They, too, still will be helping or hindering our progress in the Divine life, and elevating or depressing the spirituality of our minds.

In all these aspects of life we mark the Divine fitness of things. If men tell us that we have no business to occupy our thoughts with moral fitnesses, that God’s yea is yea, and God’s nay is nay, whatever we may judge, we answer that God is more considerate than such critics, for He has condescended to appeal to us, that we may judge between Him and His vineyard; He has permitted the record of those early cries--“This be far from Thee, Lord, to destroy the righteous with the wicked.” “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And he has sanctioned St. Paul’s appeal not to every man’s blind obedience, but to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. Thus we can rest our arguments upon the unimpeachable bases of Scripture and conscience.

In the ministry of Christ we see this great fact recognised. The Divine Lord saw, as we never can, the hearts of men. He not only saw rich publicans and lowly Nazarenes, not only lordly Pharisees and impoverished Samaritans, but He saw the great heart burthens men were everywhere bearing.. Surely He was a Prophet, and more than a Prophet; for prophets came to warn and to condemn, to lift up the cry, “Repent! repent!” But this face was not like one of the old prophets. No! There were touches of tenderness in it such as they had not, womanly almost, yet weak. Out, out, they went to Christ. Surely the voice was strange, for great souls fill words with love as well as thought, and what would not the Divine soul do? Yes! they heard Jesus. Never man spake as He spake. And what was His theme? Ah! it is well that we know it. Come, ye inheritors of shame and woe and ill-gotten wealth, and long-repented lives of sensual sin! Come! you cannot lose your memories of life, you cannot cut off their influence on mind and heart; but the bitter, bitter inheritance of shame and agony and woe and guilt--you, even you, may lose all these! Listen to me: “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

In the future days the inheritance will work itself out. Yes! Thou shalt take it. As a pilgrim of eternity, you take the life burthen with you. He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; and he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. This is in exact harmony with moral law. (W. M. Statham.)

Verse 18

Ezekiel 22:18

Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross.

Sin’s deteriorating power

Stand in fancy in one of the fights of the old civil war. The Royalists are fighting desperately, and are winning apace; but I hear a cry from the other side that Cromwell’s Ironsides are coming. Now we shall see some fighting. Oliver and his men are lions. But lo! I see that the fellows who come up hang fire, and are afraid to rush into the thick of the fight; surely these are not Cromwell’s Ironsides, and yonder captain is not old Nell? I do not believe it; it cannot be. Why, if they were what they profess to be, they would have broken the ranks of those perfumed cavaliers long ago, and have made them fly before them like chaff before the wind. So when I hear men say, “Here is a body of Christians.” What! those Christians? Those cowardly people, who hardly dare speak a word for Jesus! Those covetous people, who give a few cheese parings to His cause! Those inconsistent people, whom you would not know to be Christian professors if they did not label themselves! What! such beings followers of a crucified Saviour! The world sneers at such pretensions, and well it may. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 24

Ezekiel 22:24

Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.

Practical uses of the state of the land of Judah

We propose to speak concerning the special instruction which the prophet received to intimate her state. It was not communicated to him as a secret, or whispered in the ears of a few select friends. A commission is prefixed, by, which he was commanded to proclaim the state of the land in the public ear: “Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained on in the day of indignation.” On several considerations this solemn formality was necessary.

1. It was necessary on account of the stiffness and haughtiness of the people. In the temper of every backsliding church pride is a reigning corruption; but among the peculiar people, it appears at that time to have risen to the highest elevation of vanity and guilt. Blown up by lying divinations, and full of extravagant notions of their own importance, they persuaded themselves that peculiar privileges could not be forfeited, nor an everlasting possession alienated and transferred. But the Lord, having declared by the mouth of Jeremiah that He would mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem, sent fresh instructions unto Ezekiel in Babylon to carry on the approaches, and to invest and storm the stronghold of the national pride.

2. This solemn formality was necessary on account of the depravation of national manners, and the inefficacy of means which had been used to retrieve national honour. Kings, princes, and judges, priests, prophets, and people, despised exhortation and warning, and humbled not themselves under correction and chastisement. In this state of depravation and impurity the day of indignation found the land, and its filthiness increasing, and hardening under the heart, Ezekiel, a little after the delivery of the message sent him in the text, added Ezekiel 24:12-14.

3. This solemn formality was necessary to justify the violent measures that were to be adopted for removing the barrenness and filth of the land. Milder expedients to correct the depravity and recover the glory of the nation being used without effect, violent measures became necessary, and were actually pursued. Lamentations 2:6. Under church and state the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning kindled and devoured together the thorns and the briars in both. These measures of justice and violence were communicated to Ezekiel, in a message which stands recorded before the text (Ezekiel 22:18-22).

4. The solemn formality of a special message concerning the state of the land in the day of indignation was necessary, to contrast the singularity of her mercies with the singularity of her sins. Terms and expressions very uncommon are used concerning their sufferings. Proverb, by-word, derision, scorn, reproach, taunt, hissing, laugh stock, astonishment, curse are bitter expressions which frequently occur, and have a dreadful reality in their history. Now, from the justice and equity of the Lord their God we may infer that people, whom in His wrath He made a derision to the world, had made themselves a scandal and abhorrence to the world by their crimes.

5. This solemn formality was necessary to stop the mouths of that murmuring and gainsaying people, and to cut off occasion of complaining as if they had been surprised or taken unawares. The corrupt and filthy state of the land, which was become a nuisance to the world, had been set forth in the plainest language, and as it resisted ordinary means of cleansing, an example was necessary for the honour of the God of the land, the God of the whole earth; but before He made the example, this instruction is sent to Ezekiel, “Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed,” etc.


1. After hearing the state of the land of Judah described, are ye highly elevated? Believers, the glory of the Most High over all the earth, breaking forth in the execution of judgment upon the land of Judah in the day of His indignation, is the glory of our God. In His glory “our God is a consuming fire”; and in His glory our “God is love”!

2. After reading and hearing the state of the land of Judah in the day of indignation, are ye deeply humbled? Next to Gethsemane and Golgotha, where sin and wrath met upon the Son of God, stand the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah, where iniquity set its throne, and wrath poured itself into the cup of fury full of mixture. About this humbling monument we will walk, and view it on every side, looking upon Him whom we have pierced, and whom “God hath made to be sin or us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

3. After reading and hearing the state of the land of Judah in the day of indignation, are ye rejoicing in hope? With Israelites, Gentiles are now fellow heirs, and of the same body, partakers of the promises of God in Christ by the Gospel, and drink the waters of the river whose streams made Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy. The river of consolation flowing out of the promises of Messiah, the heat of indignation could not dry up. Flowing through the blood and fire and ashes of Jerusalem, it deepened and widened, and filled its course, till at last it run over the mountains of Jerusalem, spread itself into the valleys of the Gentiles, and in deserts and wildernesses poured into families and churches the water of life.

4. After reading and hearing the state of the land of Judah in the day of indignation, are we trembling with fear? To infidels and atheists, to sinners in Zion and hypocrites in heart, wrath is an object of fearful and certain apprehension. Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, it is revealed, and unless they hide themselves in the Saviour, even Jesus who delivered us from the wrath to come, it will fall, either in this or the other world, or in both, in a destroying storm.

5. After reading and hearing the state of the land of Judah in the day of indignation, are ye established in the faith of the providence of God? By the judgment which He executeth the Lord is known, and known not only to live but to reign.

6. After reading and hearing the state of the land of Judah in the day of indignation, are we prepared unto every good work? Exhortations to good works were disregarded by that gainsaying and perverse race of evil-doers. Show yourselves to be men of spirit and business, men full of faith and of good works. If a day of indignation be coming, where should we be found? Under the righteousness of Christ, and at our business. Do ye look for it? what manner of persons ought ye to be in holy conversation and godliness? (A. Shanks.)

Applications from the state of the land of Judah to the present times

Water is a natural mirror, and when men look into it face answereth to face. Scripture is a spiritual mirror, and when we look into it, church answereth to church, and one generation of evil-doers to another.

1. Errors and heresies of the most pernicious quality are appearing amongst us, and perverting and corrupting multitudes from the simplicity that is in Christ. Fools who adore no Creator, believe no providence, and fear no Judge, walk on every side; and against God, in whom they live and move and have their being, utter many blasphemous words. By some who profess to know God, the revelation of His will in the holy Scriptures is rejected; and by others who acknowledge the inspiration of these holy writings, truths revealed in them are denied and misrepresented.

2. Truth, where it is believed and preached, appears to have purifying influence on very few. Where converting and healing doctrine is preached, few appear to be converted and healed; and Holy Scripture itself, which shows unto men the way of salvation, is either neglected by the greatest part who acknowledge its inspiration, or read without faith and love and profit to their souls.

3. Under the dispensations of providence, our principles and manners are not amended. In smiling and frowning dispensations the voice of the Lord is disregarded, and our conduct is becoming worse and worse every day. The goodness of Providence, the calling of the elect out of the world, and the charter of the Son of God to the uttermost parts of the earth, are not evidences that the Lord will not enter into judgment with us for our iniquities, and the iniquities of our fathers together. Britain, like Judah, may be wiped as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. His jealousy for His glory is not extinguished. His indignation against sin is not cooled. The threatenings in His Word are not blotted out, nor is His power to execute these abated. When He shall ride out for bringing forth judgment unto truth, if degenerated churches and sinful kingdoms will not give way by repentance and reformation, they must be crushed under the wheels of His chariot. (A. Shanks.)

Like priests, like people

Manton says: “O ye ministers of the Word, consider well that you are the first sheets from the King’s press; others are printed after your copy. If the first sheet be well set, a thousand more are stamped with ease. See, then, that the power of religion prevail over your own hearts, lest you not only lose your own souls, but cause the ruin of others.” Correcting for the press is work which has to be done with great care, since thousands of copies will be faulty if the proof sheet be not as it should be. So should the minister of a congregation be seriously earnest to be right, because his people will imitate him. Like priest, like people; the sheep will follow the shepherd. What need there is that the pastor should order his steps aright, lest he lead a whole flock astray! If the town clock be wrong, half the watches in the place will be out of time. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Degeneration of the priests

Someone asked Boniface the martyr whether it was lawful to give sacramental wine in a wooden cup. “Time was,” said he, “when there were wooden chalices and golden priests; but now there are golden chalice: and wooden priests.”

No distinction made

Joseph Cook tells that when he was in Halle, Professor Tholuck said to him, with the emphasis of tears in his deep, spiritual eyes, that he regretted nothing so much in the arrangements of the German State churches as that the distinction between the converted and unconverted, which Jonathan Edwards and Whitfield drew so deeply on the mind of New England, was almost unknown to the Church practice of Germany. “We are all mixed pell-mell,” said he; “there is no distinct on made between one who has made a solemn public profession to lead a religious life and one who has not.” (H. O. Mackay.)

Dishonest gain

Most men are sickened of the gaming table by their losses. He (Wilberforce) left it because on one particular night he won £600. The thought that men of straitened means or portionless younger sons might be crippled by his gains preyed upon his sensitive spirit, and he resolved to play no more, that he might be free from the blood-guiltiness of adding to the list of victims whom gambling had hurled from wealth to beggary, and from happiness to suicide. (W. M. Punshon, D. D.)


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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 22". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.