He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.Ezekiel 9:1-2. He cried also in mine ears — Namely, the man whom he had seen upon the throne; with a loud voice — This denoted the terribleness of the judgments which were going to be inflicted. Cause them that have charge, &c. — That is, says Lowth, “the angels who had the charge of executing God’s judgments upon the city.” Or it may be intended of the Chaldean army, or of its principal leaders, who had a charge or commission against Jerusalem, to avenge the divine justice of it, because of its heinous provocations. The passage is prophetical of the slaughter which should be made of its inhabitants. And behold, &c. — No sooner was the command given, than these ministers of God’s displeasure appear ready to execute it. Six men — In the vision they appeared as men, and the prophet terms them according to their appearance. From the way of the higher gate — See note on Ezekiel 8:14. Which lieth toward the north — The Babylonians made their inroads into Palestine, as has been more than once observed, from the north, and by this gate it seems, the Chaldeans first entered into the city. And every man a slaughter-weapon in his hand — Prepared for the work to which they were called. And one among them was clothed with linen — A garment proper to the priesthood; and the habit in which the angels often appeared, Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7. This person, at least, seems to have been an angel, who had the charge given him of preserving those that were to be saved amidst the general destruction; with a writer’s inkhorn by his side — That he might set a mark on those who were to be preserved amidst the general slaughter. Thus, Revelation 7:2, St. John in a vision saw an angel with the seal of the living God, and therewith the servants of God were sealed in their foreheads; “in allusion,” says Bishop Newton, “to the ancient custom of marking servants in their foreheads, to distinguish what they were, and to whom they belonged.” The position of the inkhorn, by the side of this writer, may appear strange to a European reader, but according to Olearius, Dr. Shaw, and others, the custom of placing it by the side continues in the East to this day. And they went in and stood beside the brazen altar — To denote that the men ordained to destruction were offered up as so many sacrifices to God’s justice. The destruction of the wicked is elsewhere expressed by the name of a sacrifice: see Ezekiel 39:17; Isaiah 29:2; Isaiah 34:6.
And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.
And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;Ezekiel 9:3-4. And the glory of God was gone to the threshold of the house — Namely, that glorious symbol of the divine presence which had been wont to appear between the cherubim upon the mercy-seat, was departed out of that inner sanctuary to the threshold or door of the temple, to show that God would shortly forsake his house, and withdraw himself from the Jews, because of their idolatries and other sins. The word cherub here stands for cherubim, as Ezekiel 10:2. We must distinguish this apparition of the divine glory, which had its usual residence in the temple, from that which was shown particularly to Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 3:23. And he called to the man clothed with linen — He who sat on the throne, Ezekiel 1:26, namely, the Son of God, gave his commands to the angel; and the Lord (Hebrew, Jehovah) said unto him, Go through the midst of the city — From the one end to the other, or rather through all parts of it; and set a mark, &c. — To signify that distinction which God, by his providence, makes in times of common calamity between some and others, Isaiah 26:20; Jeremiah 39:16; Malachi 3:18. For God in his greatest wrath against his enemies has a reserve of mercies for his people. Upon the foreheads of the men that sigh — Namely, out of grief, or who mourn for the sins and miseries of others; and cry for all the abominations, &c. — Who dare openly bewail the abominations of this wicked city, and so bear their testimony against it. The Vulgate renders the clause, Et signa Thau super frontes virorum gementium, &c.; that is, “mark with the letter Thau the foreheads of the men who grieve, &c.” And it has been a long and prevailing opinion in the Christian Church, that the letter Thau was the mark here intended, namely, in the Samaritan character, supposed to have been used at that time by the Jews, and that the letter was written in the form of a cross, as St. Jerome attests in his commentary on the place. The prevalence of this opinion shows, at least, how early this use of the form of the cross prevailed in the Christian Church, which made way for the superstition and idolatry of the Papists in that particular. It is of more consequence to observe, that whatever this mark was, it was set upon the persons here described to signify that God owned them as his, and would spare and preserve them in the time of this general destruction. Observe, reader, a work of grace in the soul is to God a mark upon the forehead, which he will acknowledge as his mark, and by which he knows them that are his; and those who keep themselves pure in times of common iniquity, God will keep safe in times of common calamity. They that distinguish themselves shall be distinguished; they that cry for other men’s sins, shall not need to cry for their own afflictions; for they shall either be delivered from them, or comforted under them. Observe again: God is more careful of his people than vindictive against his enemies; for he orders the sealing of the mourners before the destruction of the rebels.
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:Ezekiel 9:5-7. To the others he said, Go ye after him and smite — That is, cut off and destroy all that are either guilty of, or accessory to the abominations of Jerusalem, and even all that do not sigh and cry for them, or that are not affected with grief and sorrow on account of them. Let not your eyes spare — You must not save any whom God has doomed to destruction. None needs to be more merciful than God is, and he had said, Ezekiel 8:18, My eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity. Take notice, reader, those that live in sin, and hate to be reformed, shall perish in sin, and deserve not to be pitied; for they might easily have prevented their ruin, but would not. Slay utterly old and young, &c. — Make no distinction of age or sex. This was awfully fulfilled, partly by the sword of the Chaldeans, 2 Chronicles 36:17, and partly by famine and pestilence, each of which calamities swept away multitudes. And begin at my sanctuary — That sanctuary, the horrid profanation of which Ezekiel had seen, as is described in the former chapter; they must begin there, because there the wickedness began which provoked God to send these judgments: the debaucheries of the priests were the poisoning of the springs from which all the corruption of the streams flowed. The wickedness of the sanctuary was of all other the most offensive to God, and therefore there the slaughter must begin. Begin there to try if the people will take warning by the judgments of God upon their priests, and will repent and reform: begin there, that all the world may see and know that the Lord, whose name is Jehovah, is a jealous God, and hates sin most in those that are nearest to him. Indeed when judgments are abroad in the earth, they commonly begin at the house of God, 1 Peter 4:17, because such persons sin against greater light and clearer convictions, and abuse greater privileges than others. You only have I known, and therefore will I punish you, Amos 3:2. God’s temple is a sanctuary, a place of refuge and protection for penitent sinners, but not for any that go on still in their trespasses; neither the sacredness of the place, nor the eminence of any one’s office or station in it, will be their security. But come not near any man upon whom is the mark — Do not harm, nay, do not so much as threaten, or put in fear, any one of these. The sense is, I will so order it by my providence, that none whom I have designed for preservation shall be destroyed. This prediction was remarkably fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar gave particular orders that Jeremiah should be protected, Baruch and Ebed- melech were secured, and it is likely others of Jeremiah’s friends for his sake; God had promised that it should go well with his remnant, and that they should be well treated, Jeremiah 15:11; and we have reason to think that none of the mourning, praying remnant fell by the sword of the Chaldeans, but God found out some way or other to secure them all; as in the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Christians were all secured in a city on the mountains, called Pella, and none of them perished with the unbelieving Jews. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house — Namely, those who committed idolatry in the several courts and apartments belonging to the temple; that is, they strictly observed the orders given them, and began at God’s sanctuary, as they were commanded. And he said, Defile the house, and fill the courts with slain — God, abhorring the temple, as having been polluted with idolatry, here not only declares that he will no longer own it for his place of residence, but delivers up both the inner and outward courts belonging to it to be polluted with blood and slaughter. Let us observe well, that if the servants of God’s house defile it with their sins, God will justly suffer its enemies to defile it with their acts of violence. If the ministers and members of God’s church pollute it with their errors and impieties, God will take away its wall of defence, and expose it to the ravages of persecutors. And they went forth and slew in the city — So it was represented to the prophet in his vision, which was still continued, as a prediction of what should shortly be done in reality.
Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.
And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?Ezekiel 9:8. And while they were slaying, and I was left — Having, as it is to be supposed, the mark of preservation set upon his forehead by the protecting angel. He seems to speak as if he thought he alone was preserved amidst the common destruction, although, certainly, all those who had a mark set upon them were preserved as well as he. I fell upon my face and cried, &c. — I appeared to myself in my vision to do so, namely, to fall down in a posture of supplication, to deprecate God’s anger, (see Numbers 12:5; and Numbers 16:4; Numbers 16:22; Numbers 16:45,) and to beseech him not to make an utter end of those small remains that were left of the Jewish nation, Jerusalem being almost the only place which was not in the enemy’s power.
Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.Ezekiel 9:9-10. Then said he, The iniquity of the house of Israel, &c., is exceeding great — Here we have God’s denial of the prophet’s request for a mitigation of the judgment, and the justification of himself in that denial. 1st, Nothing could be said in extenuation of their guilt. God was as willing to show mercy as the prophet could desire, but here the case would not admit of it: it was such that mercy could not be granted without injuring justice; and it was not fit that one attribute of God should be glorified at the expense of another. Their crimes were so flagrant, that to grant them a reprieve would be a connivance at their sins. The land is full of blood —
Blood unjustly shed, which always cries for vengeance. And the city full of perverseness — All judgment was perverted; in judges, to injustice; in priests, to idolatry; in all, to skepticism, or atheism. For they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth — And hath left us to do what we will in it, and whatever wrong we do, he either knows it not, or will not take cognizance of it. Now how can those expect benefit from the mercy of God who thus bid defiance to his justice? Therefore, 2d, Nothing can be done to mitigate the sentence. Mine eye shall not spare, &c. — I have borne with them as long as it was fit such impudent sinners should be borne with, and therefore I will now recompense their way on their head.
And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.
And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.Ezekiel 9:11. And the man clothed with linen reported the matter — Gave an account of what he had done in pursuance of his commission; he had found out all that mourned in secret for the sins of the land, and cried out against them by a public testimony, and he had marked them in order to their preservation. Lord, I have done as thou hast commanded me — We do not find that those who were commissioned to destroy reported what destruction they had made, but he who was appointed to protect reported his matter; for it would be more pleasing, both to God and the prophet, to hear of those that were saved than of those that perished.