Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 3:21. The steps of the prophet’s initiation into his mission by Jehovah who had thus appeared to him
The points touched upon are the character of those to whom he is sent, and the position he is to take in regard to them; and his dependence upon Jehovah for all that he is to speak and in all that he is to do. The passage has these divisions:—
(1) Ch. Ezekiel 2:1-7. The character of those to whom the prophet is sent. They are the rebellious house of Israel, who have rebelled against Jehovah, they and their fathers unto this day. The prophet is not to fear them but speak Jehovah’s words unto them.
(2) Ch. Ezekiel 2:8 to Ezekiel 3:3. Symbolical representation of the communication of Jehovah’s words to the prophet. He is commanded to eat the roll of a book presented to him in Jehovah’s hand.
(3) Ch. Ezekiel 3:4-9. Thus furnished with the words of the Lord, the prophet is commissioned to go to the house of Israel. He is not sent to foreign nations, which would not understand him, but to the house of Israel. They will understand but will not listen.
(4) Ch. Ezekiel 3:10-15. Particularly he is sent to them of the captivity of Tel-abib.
(5) Ch. Ezekiel 3:16-21. Now among the exiles there is brought home to his mind the precise nature of the office he is to fill; he is to be a “watchman,” warning everyone—the sinner that he may turn from his sin, and the righteous lest he fall from his righteousness.
And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.1–7. The rebellious people to whom the prophet is sent
1. Song of Solomon of man] Better, child of man. The phrase is used over ninety times, and expresses the contrast between the prophet, as one of mankind, and the majesty of God, whose glory he had just seen.
stand upon thy feet] At the sight of the great glory of God the prophet had fallen to the ground (ch. Ezekiel 1:28). He is bidden stand on his feet. Not paralysis before him is desired by God, but reasonable service. The prophet’s falling down was natural, yet a condition unfit for God’s purposes, and not desired by him to continue. Those whom he calls to his service are his fellow-workers, who may look upon his face. It is man erect, man in his manhood, with whom God will have fellowship and with whom he will speak—stand upon thy feet “that I may speak with thee.”
And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.2. And the spirit] Perhaps, and spirit. It is not said directly to be the spirit of God, though in a sense this is meant. Spirit is strength, or, rather the source of strength and life; a power or energy entered into the prophet and set him on his feet. But this power was external to him and came from God. While God desires man to stand erect before him and be man, it is only spirit from God that enables man to take this right place.
And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.3. to a rebellious nation] Rather, nations. First the people are called the children of Israel, then described more particularly as “nations,” the reference being either to the two houses of Israel, the north and south, or to the people as a whole considered as consisting of larger divisions (Psalm 106:5) as “peoples” is used elsewhere (Hosea 10:14; Deuteronomy 33:19). There hardly lies in “nations” any suggestion that they were as the “heathen.” The general character of the people is described as “rebellious;” and they had “rebelled” continuously throughout all their history, they and their fathers; cf. ch. Ezekiel 16:23. Israel is a moral person, with an unbroken identity all through its history; and its disposition has been uniformly disobedient—it is a rebellious house.
For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.4. for they are impudent children] Rather, and the children are impudent and stiffhearted, to whom I send thee. The “children” are the present generation, who are like their fathers. Outwardly they are “impudent,” lit. hard in face, resolute and whose eyes do not quail before one that opposes them; and within they are strong of heart, unyielding and stubborn in will and feeling. The word here used of the face is said of the heart, ch. Ezekiel 3:7, and the term applied to the heart is said of the face and forehead, ch. Ezekiel 3:8. More often the term used of the face is applied to the neck, “stiffnecked” (Exodus 33:3). For the idea comp. Isaiah 48:4, “I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass.”
Thus saith the Lord God] lit. the Lord Jehovah. The word “Jehovah” was pronounced Adonai, “Lord,” and when Adonai, Lord, actually stood in the text, Jehovah was pronounced God, Elohim. In A.V. “God” is then printed in small capitals. This is what the prophet shall say on his part: “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah;” he shall announce himself a prophet from Jehovah, bearing his word. And the people shall eventually know that a prophet has been among them (Ezekiel 2:5). By various omissions LXX. reads Ezekiel 2:3-4 in a shorter form: Son of man I send thee to the house of Israel, who provoke me; who have provoked me they and their fathers unto this day, Ezekiel 2:4 and thou shalt say unto them, &c. This reading certainly reflects a more natural Hebrew sentence than our present text.
And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.5. for they are a rebellious house] Whether they hear or whether they forbear—and they will forbear, for they are a rebellious house—yet shall they know that a prophet has been among them. The future shall bring this home to them. They shall see the prophet’s words come to pass, and shall know that a true messenger from the Lord spoke to them. The true prophet, the man who has anything to announce from God, may assure himself that, however he be received when he speaks, in the long run he shall receive his due and be recognized for what he was.
And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.6. Thorns and briars, that pierce and wound, and scorpions, that strike and sting, are figures for intractable and injurious men. The prophet must understand their character and not fear them.
though they be a rebellious] Rather: for they are. Stubborn opposition and injurious words may be expected of them; such conduct has always characterized them, for they are a rebellious house. Be not deceived by them nor dismayed before them, as if they were in the right and not thou; thou art in the right, and thou shalt speak my words to them (Ezekiel 2:7).
And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.8. be not rebellious] In addition to the positive command, “hear what I say unto thee,” the prophet is warned not to refuse and be rebellious like the house of Israel. There was need for this double peremptoriness of the command. The instinctive act of men before any great undertaking of the kind set before the prophet is to shrink from it. Jonah fled that he might escape from the task laid on him; Moses and Jeremiah both entreated that they might be relieved of it. The work was both arduous and painful: painful because it was against his own people that the prophet had to speak; and arduous because leading to opposition and persecution. There is no easy situation in God’s service. Had the prophet refused the great commission he would have rebelled like Israel. And no doubt Israel’s rebellion was also from an arduous and painful commission, whether we regard its task to have been to walk before God as his people, or to be the prophet of Jehovah to the nations, being entrusted as Ezekiel was with his word. In both Israel may be said to all appearance to have failed. Yet not wholly: the Servant of the Lord, the true Israel of God, existing all throughout the history of the outward Israel, could say, “the Lord opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, nor turned away back” (Isaiah 50:5).
The command to hear and not be rebellious is hardly to be confined to the act of eating the Book, but refers rather to the whole ministry of the prophet, although, considering that the Book was a symbol of all God’s words to him, and his eating it a symbol of his receiving them, the sense in either case is the same (cf. Ezekiel 2:10).
The passage suggests: (1) the divine source of that which the prophet was to say and has said—“eat that I give thee” (Ezekiel 2:8), “a hand stretched out and in it a book” (Ezekiel 2:9), “he made me eat that roll of a book” (Ezekiel 3:2). (2) The definiteness of it: it was a roll of a book (Ezekiel 2:9), although its contents were large, the roll being written both in front of the page and on the back. This was unusual, rolls being generally written only on one side. The idea is reproduced, Revelation 5:1. (3) The nature of the contents—“lamentation and mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10). The prophet was made well aware of the nature of the contents as well as of their extent, “he spread the roll before me” (Ezekiel 2:10). (4) The prophet made the Book his own, he “did eat it,” and it “filled” him (Ezekiel 3:3). And having eaten it it was in his mouth as honey for sweetness. The sweetness was not due to this, that, though the Book contained bitter things at the first, at the end it was filled with promises which were sweet, for there was written thereon lamentation and woe; it was due rather to this that the things written were from God, whose bitter word is sweet. “Thy words were found and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart, for I am called by thy name (am thine and thy servant) Jehovah, God of hosts,” Jeremiah 15:16. Cf. Psalm 19:10; Revelation 10:8-11.
The prophet’s idea of what we call his inspiration is perhaps more precise and stringent than that of Isaiah. In the inaugural vision of the latter prophet (ch. 6), “there flew one of the seraphim having a live coal in his hand, … and he laid it on my mouth and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips and thine iniquity is taken away.” Immediately on this an impulse seized the prophet to enter upon the service of God: I said, Here am I, send me. The forgiveness of sin and moral purity, carrying with it sympathy with the great King and the ministering spirits around him, and elevating the man into that exalted sphere of life, seemed enough to Isaiah to constitute him a prophet. There was in him a strength and power of character which needed only the removal of the moral hindrance to set them free. But both Jeremiah and Ezekiel were weaker men. Ezekiel as is usual with him makes Jeremiah his model, and he can hardly be said to go beyond that prophet: “The Lord said unto me, whatsoever I command thee that shalt thou speak. Then the Lord put forth his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold I have put my words in thy mouth,” Jeremiah 1:7-9. Both the later prophets represent themselves as receiving not merely the “word” but the “words” of Jehovah.
8–3:3. The prophet’s inspiration
Being commanded to speak God’s words to the people, the prophet is next assured by a symbol, a book given him to eat, that God’s words shall be given him.
And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;
And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.