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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 11

Verse 1


1. The spirit lifted me See notes Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 8:3.

Brought me unto the east gate Jehovah and the chariot of his glory had previously removed to this place (Ezekiel 10:18-19). This was probably the outer gate of the temple and faced the rising sun. The gate in oriental cities was the place of judgment.

Five and twenty men Are these the twenty-five sun worshipers mentioned in Ezekiel 8:16? No; these are not priests. These are the princes, or, literally, “captains,” of the people. The army and laity, as well as the priesthood, are now seen to be involved in rebellion against God. The number twenty-five may represent two from each tribe, or two from each division of the army, or two from each of the twelve regions of the city, led by the king or the general; or, being the usual symbolical number of solidarity, it may merely represent pictorially “the whole house of Israel” (Ezekiel 11:5).

Jaazaniah… and Pelatiah Jaazaniah is a different man from the one mentioned in Ezekiel 8:11. These were no doubt men well known in Jerusalem and also to the exiles. Their names make the allusion peculiarly striking: Jaazaniah “Jehovah listens” son of Azur, “the helper”; Pelatiah “God delivers” son of Benaiah, “Jehovah builds”! No wonder Ezekiel became unpopular when he pointed out by name the chief leaders of Israel and exposed their wickedness. These men were probably regarded by many as the leaders of the patriotic party in Jerusalem. They believed the holy city could never be captured, and advised rebellion against Babylon and alliance with Egypt. (See chap. 17.) Ezekiel and Jeremiah and all others who prophesied the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon were called false prophets (Jeremiah 18:18; Micah 3:11), and were no doubt declared to be in the pay of the Babylonian court.

Verse 3

3. It is not near; let us build houses Rather, the time to build houses is not near. The meaning is obscure, but seems to be this: It is no time now for peaceful occupations (Ezekiel 28:26; Isaiah 65:21; Jeremiah 29:5; Jeremiah 29:28). Jeremiah had called Jerusalem a seething “pot” the same word as caldron in Hebrew (Jeremiah 1:13) and so it might become if they did not arouse from their lethargy. But even the walls of an iron pot protect the flesh within it, and it was the part of patriots to strengthen their defenses rather than to give up to despair or leap into the Babylonian fires; therefore they will stay behind the walls, and, if they must die, they will die there. This was the answer of the war party to the prophets who counseled submission to Babylon, and it struck a popular chord.

Verse 5

5. I know the things that come into your mind The plots they are hatching are known to Jehovah and to his prophets. These whisperings of rebellion against Babylon and of alliance with Egypt are no longer secrets.

Verse 6

6. Ye have multiplied your slain This shows how the captains and leaders of the war party had been accustomed to deal with those whose opinions differed from theirs (Ezekiel 7:23; Ezekiel 22:25).

Verse 7

7. They are the flesh, etc. The only ones who will be left within the safe walls of the iron pot will be the slain. The dreams of escape from God’s judgment will fail. All of Jerusalem’s living population will be hurried into captivity. Jehovah had spoken it, and the city, if it remained unrepentant (see notes Ezekiel 9:10), was doomed. The city should be a caldron whose walls would inclose none but the dead, and these captains of the people should not even lie among those heroes slain in the battle, but should fly from behind the strong walls in which they had boasted only to meet their death “in the border of Israel” (Ezekiel 11:10).

Verse 8

8. Ye have feared the sword;… I will bring a sword With all their bravado there is a note of despair in Ezekiel 11:3. The very fact that they felt the need of an Egyptian alliance shows that they feared the avenging sword of Babylon. But God says that it will not be Nebuchadnezzar’s sword, but his own, that will cut them down. It is not rebellion against the king of Babylon, but against the King of heaven which brings these calamities and delivers the people into Babylonian hands (Ezekiel 11:9).

Verse 10

10. In [literally, upon ] the border of Israel This was literally fulfilled. These captains and chief rulers of Israel were not put to death within the walls of the city, but on the northern frontier. The strong walls of the iron pot could not protect them (Ezekiel 11:11; Jeremiah 52:9; Jeremiah 52:26-27; Numbers 34:11; 2 Kings 25:18-21).

Verses 11-12

11, 12. These verses are not in the ancient Greek translation and may not have been in the original Hebrew text. They repeat thoughts previously expressed (Ezekiel 11:7; Ezekiel 11:10; chap. 8).

Verse 13

13. Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died At the very time when the prophet in vision is crying out against these wicked counselors (Ezekiel 11:7) he sees the chief conspirator fall dead. He thinks the end has at last come and God’s extremest punishment has begun, and once again he utters the wail which had before broken from his heart (Ezekiel 9:8). He had all along, it seems, hoped that repentance would follow these plain warnings, and forgiveness would be granted; but he now fears that the total destruction has commenced of which he had so long prophesied.

Verse 15

15. The men of thy kindred, etc. The verse is very difficult, but should probably be translated: “Son of man, [behold] thy brethren! thy brethren, then, men of thy redemption and the whole house of Israel, the whole of it, even they, of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, They are from the Lord: unto us is the land given in possession.” The word “kindred” is literally “redemption,” and the “men of thy redemption” would mean the men who could be delivered by his intercessory prayers. The LXX. and the Peshito give, however, another reading, “the men of thy captivity;” that is, fellow-exiles. Jehovah, in his answer to Ezekiel’s cry of protest against making a full end of the house of Israel, assures the prophet that even if all the population of Jerusalem is destroyed, there will still be a “remnant” left. The real house of Israel can no longer be found in the holy city. The Jerusalemites boast that they are the true Israel, since they have the temple and the Lord of the temple with them (Ezekiel 33:24), but the fact is that the Lord of the temple has gone with the captives into Babylon and will himself be to them both Lord and sanctuary.

Verse 16

16. Yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary R.V., “and have been to them a sanctuary for a little while.” For a time Ezekiel and the exiles were to find the presence of Jehovah manifested as in the vision of Chebar (Ezekiel 1:4-28), or felt spiritually, and this would make the spot where they found themselves as fully a holy place as the temple had been. There also they would have a “house of God.” But this was not to be their permanent lot. There was to be a restoration to the “land of Israel” (Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 37:21), to the visible sanctuary, to a sacred temple no longer desecrated by the pollutions that had defiled the first. “The thought that it is the presence of Jehovah that makes the sanctuary, not the sanctuary that secures the presence, Ezekiel may have learned from the fate of Shiloh (Psalms 78:60). In the fact that in John’s vision of the heavenly Jerusalem there is no temple, but the presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22), we find the crowning development of Ezekiel’s thought.” Plumptre.

Where’er they seek Thee Thou art found,

And every place is hallowed ground.

The above explanation seems better than that which would translate this difficult phrase, “and have been to them for a sanctuary but little,” and would thus minimize the privileges given to the exiles (Kautzsch, Davidson, etc.).

Verse 17

17. I will even gather you from the people The history of the Jewish captives was peculiar. They alone, of all the nations carried to Babylon and then scattered into many countries, preserved their national characteristics intact and went back to their old home a strong, united people. “Nor were it, perhaps, too much to say, having respect to the issues of things, that the dispersion of the Israelites among the nations was fraught with as much blessing for the Church and the world as even their original settlement in Canaan.” Fairbairn.

I will give you the land of Israel Not those remaining in Jerusalem, who trusted to the external forms of the temple sacrifices, or to their idols, or to Egypt for help, but those who were carried away from the temple, and developed a purer and more spiritual faith amid the penitential fires of captivity, should ultimately possess the holy land. The Jerusalemites scorned the exiles (Ezekiel 11:15), and would not listen to their counsels or pay any attention to their prophets; but, in fact, these exiles represented the true Israel. They were the remnant which should finally be saved and to whom Jehovah would give the land, from which they would remove all detestable idol images ( 1Ki 11:5 ; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13), and their abominable accompaniments (Ezekiel 11:18).

Verse 19

19. I will give them one heart They shall finally be a united people, for the idolaters shall be destroyed and those who return from captivity shall be a unit in their monotheism (Jeremiah 32:36-39). This was literally fulfilled. Cyrus gave the Jews leave to return, but Jehovah gave them a heart to return and great unity (Wesley). The LXX. reads, “another heart,” and the Peshito reads, “a new heart” (as Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26).

A new spirit The whole history of the nation shows how new this spirit was. Before the captivity it had been constantly falling into all manner of idolatries; after the captivity there was not a trace of this.

Stony heart… heart of flesh “The fires of captivity will melt that hard, implacable, undutiful, incorrigible disposition” (Wesley), and those who return will become warm and human in heart and sensitive to his presence and will (Ezekiel 11:20; compare Ezekiel 3:7; Zechariah 7:12).

Verse 20

20. They shall be my people, and I will be their God This tender phrase, which had become endeared to the people from its use by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:38), again and again vibrates through Ezekiel’s prophesy (Ezekiel 14:11; Ezekiel 37:27).

Verse 21

21. Whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things Better, as Vulgate, whose heart goeth after their detestable things (Ezekiel 20:16). As for the Jerusalemites whose hearts cleave impenitently to their idols,

I will recompense their way upon their own heads the prophet’s intercession cannot avert that judgment (Ezekiel 11:13).

Verse 22


22. The cherubim See notes, chaps. 1 and 10.

Verse 23

23. Went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain The glory of the Lord, which had been at the eastern gate of the temple (x, 19), now abandoned the temple entirely, passed through the city, and paused on Mount Olivet, as if to take one last sorrowful farewell of the doomed temple. This scene reminds one irresistibly of the fact that it was from this same spot that Jesus near the end of his ministry wept over this same city, crying, “O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41-42). It was also from this spot that he ascended to take his place as judge at the right hand of the Father (Luke 24:50-51).


It would seem that Ezekiel also accompanied the Shekinah to the Mount of Olives, for in the same way as before (Ezekiel 8:3) he is conducted “in the Spirit of God” back to Tel-abib. The vision of glory departs, and awakening from his spiritual ecstasy he tells what he has seen.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.