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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 21

CHAP. XXI.

Ezekiel prophesieth against Jerusalem with a sign of sighing. The sharp and bright sword, against Jerusalem, against the kingdom, and against the Ammonites.

Before Christ 592.

Verse 2

Ezekiel 21:2. Set thy face toward Jerusalem As if God had said, "Since they deride thee, and call thee a speaker of parables, use not the parable of the southern forest, but speak plainly of Jerusalem and Israel by name." From this series of the discourse, appears more evidently what we have remarked on the 14th verse of the preceding chapter,—that these chapters should not be separated. See Houbigant.

Verse 3

Ezekiel 21:3. And say to the land of Israel The prophet addresses Jerusalem and Judaea, his face turned towards them, and speaks to them as if they were present. Instead of, will cut off from thee, Houbigant reads, will take away or carry off from thee; and he reads the fourth verse thus; Because thou hast taken away the righteous as well as the wicked from thee; therefore, &c. The plain meaning is, that the just as well as the wicked should be involved in the same common calamity, and should be carried away into captivity together; which we know was the case.

Verse 5

Ezekiel 21:5. I—have drawn forth my sword The sword of the Lord was Nebuchadrezzar; who, after having executed the Lord's judgments upon his people, lived above twenty years. The meaning is, that this sword should not return any more into the sheath, till it had executed all God's purposes. It should not return in vain. See Jeremiah 50:9.

Verse 6

Ezekiel 21:6. With the breaking of thy loins With trembling or shivering of loins. The allusion seems to be to the pangs of a woman in child-birth. See Isaiah 21:3.Jeremiah 30:6; Jeremiah 30:6.

Verse 7

Ezekiel 21:7. For the tidings Because tidings shall come, at which every heart, &c. Behold, they draw near, and it shall come to pass, &c. Houbigant.

Verse 10

Ezekiel 21:10. Should we then make mirth Houbigant reads, That it may cast down the sceptre of my son, sparing no wood: that is, "The sword of Nebuchadnezzar shall overthrow, the power of the king of Judah, and shall neither pity nor spare." See Ezekiel 21:19, &c.

Verse 11

Ezekiel 21:11. And he hath given it to be furbished I have given it to be furbished, that he may handle it. This is that sharpened, that furbished sword, to be delivered into the hand of the slayer. Houbigant.

Verse 13

Ezekiel 21:13. Because it is a trial Because [this sword] hath been approved, and the sceptre when it shall not spare it shall be no more, saith the Lord God. God foretels that the sceptre of Israel shall be no more, after the sword of Nebuchadrezzar had smitten it; as it had happened before, when, Jeconiah being driven out, Zedekiah was appointed king. The sceptre here means only the royal sceptre in the house of David, and not that supreme authority which Jacob foretold should not forsake Judah till the coming of the Messiah.

Verse 14

Ezekiel 21:14. And let the sword be doubled Make the sword double, make threefold the sword of the slayers: it is the sword, the sword of the great slaughter, which shall turn them into fear. Houbigant. Kennicott would render the latter part, The sword of the soldiers, [that is to say, of the Babylonians] The sword of the great soldier [namely, of the warlike of Babylon] which, &c. See Ezekiel 21:19.

Verse 15

Ezekiel 21:15. It is wrapped up for the slaughter It is sharpened for the slaughter. Houbigant, and so the Chaldee. God addresses the sword in the next verse.

Verses 19-20

Ezekiel 21:19-20. Appoint thee two ways, &c.— Appoint thee two roads for the king of Babylon's sword to come by: Let both go forth out of one land; and choose thou a way-mark: Choose it at the head of the road towards the city. Ezekiel 21:20. Point out a road for the sword to go to Rabbath, &c. Instead of To Judah in Jerusalem, the defenced; Houbigant reads, To Judah in Jerusalem, that he may besiege it.

Verses 21-22

Ezekiel 21:21-22. For the king of Babylon stood, &c.— For the king of Babylon stands, &c.—He casts lots by, blends or mingles the arrows; he inquires by images, he pours upon or pries into the liver or entrails. Ezekiel 21:22. On his right hand is the lot against Jerusalem, to appoint captains to open the mouth for slaughter. The method of divination by arrows is still in use among the Turks and idolatrous Arabs, and is thus well described by D'Herbelot: "The idolatrous Arabs used a sort of lots, which they called lots by arrows. These arrows were without head or feather, and called in their language Achdah or Azlam. They were three in number, inclosed in a bag, held in the hands of one whom they called Mohaver Hobal, or the diviner; who gave answers for Hobal, an ancient idol in the temple of Mecca before the coming of Mahomet. Upon one of these arrows was written, Command me, Lord. Upon the second, Forbid, or prevent, Lord: the third arrow was blank. When any one wanted to determine upon an action, he went to the diviner with a present; who drew one of the arrows from his bag; and if the arrow of command appeared, the Arab immediately set about the affair; if that of prohibition appeared, he deferred the execution of his enterprize for a whole year: when the blank arrow came out, which was called in the Arabic Minih, he was to draw again. The Arabs consulted these arrows upon all their affairs, and particularly their marriages, the circumcision of their children, their journeys, and expeditions in war; they also made use of them for the dividing of any thing, and particularly the parts of the victim or camel, which they sacrificed upon certain stones, or to certain idols, which were placed round the temple at Mecca. Mahomet in the chapter of the Koran intitled Maidat, or 'of the table,' at the beginning, where he is speaking of things prohibited to the Mussulmen, expressly forbids this practice in these words; Make no division with the arrows of lot." See Bibliotheque Orientale, under the word ACDAH. The authors of the Universal History remark, that this superstitious custom of divining by arrows was used by the ancient Greeks and other nations. The Commentary of St. Jerome on the present passage strikingly agrees with what we are told of the aforesaid custom of the old Arabs; "He shall stand (says he) in the highway, and consult the oracle after the manner of his nation, that he may cast arrows into a quiver, and mix them together, being written upon or marked with the names of each people, that he may see whose arrow will come forth, and which city he ought first to attack." See Potter's Antiquities, vol. 1: p. 334 and Sale's Preliminary Discourse to the Koran, p. 126.

Verse 23

Ezekiel 21:23. It shall be unto them as a false divination Houbigant renders this; But he [Nebuchadrezzar] seems to them [the Jews] as divining vain things, as boasting empty execrations: Nevertheless he shall call to remembrance the impiety [the falsehood and infidelity of their king Zedekiah], that they may be taken. The verse is extremely difficult; and the passage especially, To them that have sworn oaths, has not yet been decidedly understood by any commentator. Archbishop Secker supposes the oaths to have been false oaths which the Jews had sworn to the Chaldeans.

Verse 25

Ezekiel 21:25. And thou, profane wicked prince Thou therefore, pierce that wicked prince of Israel, &c. The address is made to the sword to destroy Zedekiah, whom the prophet calls wicked chiefly with respect to the breach of his oath which he had made to Nebuchadrezzar.

Verse 26

Ezekiel 21:26. This shall not be the same This is not the same which it was; that which was humble hath exalted itself; thou, therefore, abase the exalted. This alludes to ch. Eze 17:14 where it is said, That the kingdom might be base, Zedekiah serving under tribute.

Verse 27

Ezekiel 21:27. And it shall be no more Nor shall this be the same, until he come, &c. "After Zedekiah is deprived of his regal authority, there shall be no more kings of that a family till the coming of the Messiah; the king so often foretold and promised; who in due time shall sit upon the throne of his father David, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end." There is an age to come, as well as a person to come who should begin that age; who is therefore named in Scripture, The Father of the age to come. Sometimes a substantive is joined to this epithet, denoting his dignity. The Hebrew words here are לו אשׁר בא עד ad bo asher lo, &c. which Montanus renders, Until he come who was to come. In all places, however, where this text occurs, the Jews understood the Messiah by him that cometh, and therefore often spoke of the Messiah in our Saviour's days by this circumlocution. When John had a mind to satisfy his disciples, he sent them to Christ with this question, Art thou he that cometh? And it was part of Martha's creed, that Christ was He that was to come. See Bishop Chandler's Defence, p. 37.

Verse 28

Ezekiel 21:28. Thus saith the Lord God concerning the Ammonites Concerning the insults and reproaches which they delivered against the Jews in the time of their oppression and disgrace, compare ch. Eze 25:6 and Zephaniah 2:8. This prophesy against the Ammonites was fulfilled about five years after the taking of Jerusalem. See Jeremiah 48:0; Jeremiah 49:0 and Calmet.

Verse 29

Ezekiel 21:29. Of them that are slain, &c.— Of the wicked who were wounded, whose day, &c. Houbigant. See the note on Ezekiel 21:14.

Verse 31

Ezekiel 21:31. The hand of brutish men The hand of men skilful to kindle a flame, and to bring destruction. Houbigant. Instead of brutish men, the LXX read barbarians; meaning the Medes and Persians, the successors of Nebuchadrezzar.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, That the people might be left without excuse, we have here a clear exposition of the foregoing parable.

1. Against Jerusalem is the prophetic word directed, the forest, where the fire of wrath is about to kindle, and the holy places, the temple and its courts, the profanations of which God will especially avenge. He is against them, and nothing then can protect them from ruin; he threatens to draw the sword of judgment, and cut off the righteous and the wicked, who share often together in national calamities, though God will abundantly make up to his saints in inward consolations, whatever outwardly they suffer in common with others. From the south to the north universal ruin is spread by the Chaldean army; and the sword, once drawn, is no more sheathed, till it has made an utter end of them, agreeably to the foregoing parable, chap. Ezekiel 20:46-48.

2. To affect them with a sense of the terribleness of the threatened ruin, the prophet must himself appear deeply affected with it. He must sigh with such depth and bitterness before them, as if his heart was ready to break; and, as the expression of such vast anguish would make them inquisitive into the cause, he must tell them, that it is for the doleful tidings he is sent to deliver, the certain accomplishment of which approached, when every heart would melt, &c. their courage fail; and so dispirited would they be, as neither to be able to fight nor fly. God hath spoken it, and not one jot or tittle shall fail. Note; (1.) A minister who would affect others with what he speaks, must be affected himself; and a tear dropt over a perishing soul is the most moving admonition. (2.) They who are never so stout-hearted against God's warnings now, will be overwhelmed with terror in the day of their calamity.

2nd, The sword drawn, in the foregoing verses, is sharpened to do terrible execution; glittering and bright, bearing down all before it. The sceptre of Israel's king is as unable to resist its fury, as a rotten stick; or the words may be rendered, it is the rod of my Son, the rod of Christ, executing judgment: It despiseth every tree, resistance is vain when he strikes; for when God contendeth, he will overcome.

1. It is put into the slayer's hand, into the hands of Nebuchadrezzar, and directed against the princes and people of Israel; against all their gates, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied, their city utterly demolished, and they, without power of resistance, faint and disheartened. Whichever way the sword moves, to the right or left, it spreads havock around; and the great men who fly in terrors to their secret chambers, find no protection from it, even there slain in their lurking-places. And a severe trial it will prove to God's people, when they shall see it contemn even the rod, destroy the king, and put an end to the government of David's royal line. It shall be no more, saith the Lord God, none of David's family shall again wield the sceptre till the Messiah comes. Note; (1.) No eminence of station can secure from God's judgment; nay, rather they who have by their ill examples contributed to the seduction of others, shall be most severely punished. (2.) Terrors will seize the guilty in the day of vengeance, from which they cannot flee. (3.) The strongest fortress has no defence, when God is the assailant. (4.) The sword of judgment turns every way; let no sinner hope to escape from it.

2. The prophet is commanded to testify his bitter grief at these desolations, and to call on the people to join his lamentations. He must cry and howl, for the ravages that he foretels; smiting his hands, in the greatest agony, while the third time he redoubles the warning, A sword, a sword, which some refer to the three captivities of Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah; others to the coming of the Chaldeans: first, when they took Jerusalem; secondly, when Nebuzar-adan burnt it: and lastly, when, in the twenty-third year of his reign, Nebuchadrezzar carried away the remnant of the people, Jeremiah 52:5-30. Thus God will cause his fury to rest, when he hath executed vengeance on the devoted land, according to his faithful word; and seeing this must shortly come to pass, the prophet expostulates with them on the unreasonabless of their present jollity: should we then make mirth? when a drawn sword hangs over our heads: rather in the dust of deepest humiliation, with bitter cries and tears, should they seek to avert the impending blow. Note; (1.) They who declare the terrors of the Lord must urge them vehemently, and redouble their warnings. (2.) It is a heart-felt grief to God's ministers, to see sinners unconcerned about their approaching and endless miseries. (3.) God's word will have its accomplishment, however now men slight and despise it.

3rdly, The same subject is farther pursued, and the sword brought to their walls.
1. He is commanded to describe on a tile, or a table, two ways, leading from Babylon: the one to Rabbath, the capital of the Ammonites; the other to Jerusalem, the fortress and metropolis of Judah. Here, at the head of the way, he must represent Nebuchadrezzar halting; and, though resolved to attack both places, uncertain with which to begin, using divination to determine his way; brightening the arrows on which it is supposed the names of the cities were engraven, and determining that the first that was drawn was to be first attacked; consulting the images, and looking into the liver, the methods used by the heathens to obtain direction, and inquire into the success of their enterprizes. And all his divinations directed him to take the right-hand road which led to Jerusalem, to encamp around it, appoint the officers to direct the siege, raise up the hostile mounts, and batter the gates, till at the breach they might enter into the city. Note; (1.) The wisest men are often at a stand; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (2.) Many are doing God's work, who are not at all sensible of him by whose hand they are guided.

2. Both prince and people draw their ruin upon their own heads.
[1.] The people who despise the prophetic warning shall be seized and led captives. The Jews derided the divination as vain, and not to be regarded; and the mention of it by the prophet disturbed not their security; though the oaths that they had sworn and broken might justly alarm them with fears of an avenging God. Or perhaps they depended on the league made with Egypt, and confirmed by mutual oaths, for assistance. But he will call to remembrance the iniquity, the treachery and perjury of Zedekiah and the people, that they may be taken as birds in an evil net. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God who is able to accomplish his purposes, and true to his word, because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered by new transgressions, adding to their past sins, in that your transgressions are discovered, their perfidious conduct exposed openly to the nations around, and to the king of Babylon; so that in all your doings, your sins do appear visible to every eye; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance before God and the king of Babylon, ye shall be taken with the hand, seized as a helpless bird in a net, and led captives for their iniquities. Note; (1.) Sinners often flatter themselves that the warnings of God are false divinations, but they will be found dreadful realities. (2.) The transgressions of the wicked will be discovered and punished; if not before, at farthest at the great day of recompence.

[2.] The prince of Judah has a peculiar burden laid on him, as the chief author of the nation's ruin. He is charged as profane and wicked; and what can be more so than the ingratitude, perjury, treachery, and rebellion of which he was guilty? and kings are not too high to be plainly told their sin and danger. His day is come to be destroyed, when iniquity shall have an end, when the measure shall be filled, and the punishment due to it inflicted. Thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem, and take off the crown, degrade him from his dignity, and depose him from the throne of Judah; this shall not be the same, his kingdom shall not continue: exalt him that is low, Jehoiachin now a captive, Jer 52:31-32 and abase him that is high, Zedekiah, the reigning monarch; or it may signify the changes which the conqueror at his pleasure would make. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, certainly and utterly, and it shall be no more a kingdom under the rule of David's royal posterity, until he come whose right it is, the Messiah, raised up to sit on the throne of David his father, Luk 1:32 and I will give it him, even a throne enduring as the days of eternity, and universal from pole to pole. Note; (1.) Profaneness and wickedness in a prince are doubly criminal, as the evil of his example is more extensively infectious. (2.) The day will come when all who do iniquity, shall receive their righteous doom. (3.) Crowns are precarious possessions; the only unfading diadem must be fought in a better world. (4.) Pride will have a fall, while humility is the way to honour. (5.) The Lord Jesus is the rightful king and heir of all things; whatever enemies oppose his advancement, must finally be overthrown, and all his foes be made his footstool.

4thly, Though Judah be first visited, let not Ammon think to escape.
1. They had provoked God by their reproach, insulting over his Israel, as if he could not save them, chap. 25: Zep 3:8-10 while they flattered themselves, now the king of Babylon was returned thither, that their gods would protect them; and their diviners and soothsayers confirmed them in their delusion. Note; (1.) God is jealous for his people, and will suffer no insult shewn them to go unpunished. (2.) Sinners usually flatter themselves into their ruin.

2. God threatens to pour out his wrath upon them. The sword that was drawn against Judah is still unsheathed, furbished for the slaughter, and whetted to consume them, to bring them on the necks of the slain, of the wicked: they who slew the rebellious Jews when their day was come, and their iniquities ripe for destruction, must perish by the same arm; nor will the sword return to its scabbard, till it has executed God's vengeance upon them in the land of their nativity, the place where they were settled ever since they were formed into a people. Fierce are the flames of wrath kindled against them; their appointed executioners savage in their tempers, and skilful to destroy. As fuel they must be consumed by the devouring fire of their enemies, and their blood be shed in the midst of the land whither the Chaldeans would penetrate; and the ruin they would make should never be repaired; thou shalt be no more remembered, saith the Lord God; all the traces of their nation being quite obliterated. Note; (1.) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of that God who is a consuming fire. (2.) Sinners are fuel for the flames of hell. (3.) They who promise themselves, because they have long been secure, that they shall be always safe, will be dreadfully surprised when their unexpected ruin comes.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 21". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/ezekiel-21.html. 1801-1803.