Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
SECOND DIVISION. CH. 25–48. PROPHECIES OF THE RESTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM
First Section. Ch. 25–32. Prophecies against the Nations
The prophecies of Ezekiel against the nations form a single collection in the Book precisely as the similar oracles of Jeremiah (ch. 46–51) and of Isaiah (ch. 13–27). In the Book of Ezekiel they occupy the proper ideal place, being an introduction to the positive prophecies of Israel’s restoration (ch. 23–39). Israel occupies a place of universal significance in the history of the world, for it is the people of Jehovah, who is God alone. He who is God alone has become God of Israel, and it is through Israel that he is known to the nations, and through Israel and her history that he will fully reveal himself to the peoples of the world. This perfect manifestation of himself will be seen in Israel’s restoration, when his glory shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together (Isaiah 40:5). But this restoration of Israel cannot be without great judgments on the nations who have hitherto harassed her or seduced her. These judgments will awaken the nations to the knowledge who the God of Israel is—they shall know that he is Jehovah; and they will ensure that in the future his people shall not be troubled or led astray. All the prophets have the presentiment of a general judgment upon the world immediately preceding the incoming of the perfect kingdom of the Lord. The idea is shared by Ezekiel, though, as usual, he develops it into much further details than his predecessors had occasion to do.
The place of these prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel is important, because it suggests the place which the judgments on the nations had in his scheme of thought, and his construction of the history of redemption. So far as the prophecies themselves are concerned they belong either to the last years of Israel’s existence as a nation, or to the period immediately following the downfall of the state. The prophecies are seven in number, being against (1) Ammon, (2) Moab, (3) Edom, (4) the Philistines (ch. 25), (5) Tyre (ch. 26–28), (6) Sidon (Ezekiel 28:20-26), (7) Egypt (29–32). Those against the first six countries seem immediately posterior to the destruction of Jerusalem; those against Egypt belong to the time from the 10th to the 12th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, that is, the year before the capture of the city, the year in which it was taken, and the year after, with the exception of the passage ch. Ezekiel 29:17-21 belonging to the 27th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, which is probably a later insertion.
Chastisement overtakes the nations for two sins. First, because of their demeanour towards Israel, the people of Jehovah. Either they bad taken part in Jerusalem’s destruction (Edom, Ezekiel 25:12, the Philistines, Ezekiel 25:15), or had rejoiced over it, whether out of malice (Ammon, Ezekiel 25:3), jealousy (Moab, Ezekiel 25:8), or for selfish reasons (Tyre, Ezekiel 26:2); or else they had been a snare to Israel, inspiring false trust and seducing her from the true God (Egypt, Ezekiel 29:6). And secondly, because of their ungodly pride and self-deification (Tyre, ch. 28, Egypt, Ezekiel 29:3). This conduct of the nations and these feelings bring them into relation with Jehovah, either mediately through Israel the people of the true God, whom they injured or despised or seduced; or immediately and in a wider way in their not recognising him as God,—him who was God alone. Hence in all cases his judgments upon them have this purpose and result—they shall know that I am Jehovah.
The prophet has a very lofty consciousness of God, which he expresses by the word “Jehovah.” To be Jehovah is to be God alone, and all which he who is God alone is. It is from this conception of the God of Israel that the prophet speaks. But he estimates the conduct and feelings of the nations as if they also had or should have the same consciousness of Jehovah, as if they knew him as the prophet himself does. Other prophets speak in the same way, e.g. Isaiah 10:6-7. His way of thinking arises from the fact that the one true God was God of Israel. He whom the nations knew as Jehovah, the God of Israel, was the one living God. And when they did despite to his people, it was not a nationality among other nationalities that they injured, nor a mere tribal god whom they scorned, they were moving in a far higher plane than this, they were doing despite to the people of him who was God alone, and were injurious to the one living God. Again, Jehovah being God over all, pride of heart in the nations or their rulers, and self-deification, as when the prince of Tyre said, I am God (Ezekiel 28:2), or when the Pharaoh said, My river is mine, I have made it (Ezekiel 29:3), was blasphemy against him. This self-exaltation detracted from him who is alone exalted (Isaiah 2:11). This is the prophet’s conception. In a certain way his manner of thinking may do an injustice to the nations, who might not know that Jehovah, God of Israel, was God alone. The question is not quite simple. For this pride and self-deification of rulers and nations was a sin against God, it was on the part of man a lifting-up of himself against what the human mind feels to be above it. And it is not just quite clear that Israel’s neighbours were altogether guiltless in not knowing Jehovah to be God alone. He was in the world, though the world knew him not. The Light had appeared. How far men everywhere are responsible for not coming to the Light when it has anywhere appeared is a question not to be settled just off hand (John 18:37-38). The prophet appears to intimate that the neighbouring nations were not unaware of Israel’s pretensions to be different from themselves (Ezekiel 25:8). The superiority claimed by Israel was a religious one (Deuteronomy 32:31), and when the prophet represents the nations as aware of it, he is not to be thought as speaking merely from his own point of view (Numbers 23:21-23; Lamentations 4:12).
Ch. 25 contains prophecies directed against four peoples: Ezekiel 25:1-7, Ammon; Ezekiel 25:8-11, Moab; Ezekiel 25:12-14, Edom; and Ezekiel 25:15-17, the Philistines.
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,1–7. Prophecy against Ammon
The name of this people is usually the children of Ammon (Beni Ammon). This is the name both of the people and the country (in the latter case construed as fem. Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:10). Ammon was recognised by Israel as a distant member of the same family with themselves (Genesis 19:38). At an early period the people was settled on the E. of the Jordan, between the Arnon and the Jabbok (Jdg 11:13), but before the Exodus they had been dispossessed of this territory by Amorites from the W. of the Jordan, and pushed eastward towards the desert (Numbers 21:21), though they could not forget their ancient claims to their former seat, even when Israel had wrested it from the Amorites (Jdg 11:19; cf. Joshua 13:25). The relations of Ammon to Israel were for the most part unfriendly. In the times of the Judges they harassed the tribes E. of the Jordan, and were crushed by Jephthah (Judges 10-11). Saul signalised his early reign by defeating their king, who had laid siege to Jabesh in Gilead (1 Samuel 11). Owing to the affront offered to his ambassadors David invaded the country and took cruel vengeance on the inhabitants (2 Samuel 10:1; 2 Samuel 11:14; 2 Samuel 12:26). The Ammonites continued when opportunity offered to carry on a savage warfare with the tribes across the Jordan (Amos 1:13); and when these were carried away by the Assyrians they naturally in company with Moab seized the depopulated country (Jeremiah 49:1; Zephaniah 2:8). During the struggle of Judah with Babylon they shewed the old mischievous animosity (2 Kings 24:2), and after the fall of the city the treacherous murder of Gedaliah the Babylonian governor by Ishmael was instigated by their king (Jeremiah 40:14). After the Return Ammonites are again found obstructing the pious aspirations of the restored community (Nehemiah 4:3; cf. Nehemiah 2:10; cf. Nehemiah 2:19), and true to their old instincts they appear on the side of the Syrians in the Maccabean war of independence (1Ma 5:6).
Son of man, set thy face against the Ammonites, and prophesy against them;
And say unto the Ammonites, Hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity;3. when it was desolate] i.e. desolated. For the demeanour of the nations on the destruction of Jerusalem, cf. Ezekiel 21:28; Ezekiel 35:13; Ezekiel 36:20; Obadiah 1:12; Lamentations 2:15-16.
Behold, therefore I will deliver thee to the men of the east for a possession, and they shall set their palaces in thee, and make their dwellings in thee: they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk.4. men of the east] lit. children of the east, the nomad tribes of the Arabian desert, Jdg 6:3.
set their palaces] their encampments, Jdg 6:1-6.
drink thy milk] Ammon, lying toward the desert, was a pastoral country.
And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couchingplace for flocks: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.5. Rabbah a stable] Rabbah, “great city,” was the capital (Amos 1:14); in later times it bore the name of Philadelphia, and its site is probably marked by the ruins called Ammân. The word “stable” is usually rendered habitation, but sheepcote, 2 Samuel 7:8. It may mean a place where animals are housed or where they pasture, cf. Isaiah 5:17; Isaiah 32:14; Jeremiah 33:12; Zephaniah 2:14-15.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel;6. clapped thine hands] A gesture of malicious delight, Lamentations 2:15.
Behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.7. a spoil to the heathen] the nations (the reading baz to be adopted), cf. Ezekiel 26:5, Ezekiel 7:21, Ezekiel 23:46. For people peoples.
know that I am the Lord] The statement is hardly to the effect that the Ammonites shall be converted to the worship of the true God. They shall recognise that there is one Most high, ruling in the kingdom of men (Daniel 4:17), and that it is he who is shaping their history; possibly also that this God is Jehovah, God of Israel. The prophet does not pursue the destinies of the nations beyond this recognition, nor state what it implies. It is to be observed, however, that Israel restored, though occupying only the land west of the Jordan, enjoys profound peace on all sides. The nations that swell the army of Gog (ch. 38) are not Israel’s historical neighbours, but peoples from the uttermost parts of the earth.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen;8. Moab and Seir] LXX. omits and Seir. Ezek. elsewhere always says “mount Seir” (Ezekiel 35:2-3; Ezekiel 35:7; Ezekiel 35:15), and Edom, with which mount Seir is joined (Ezekiel 35:15) has a special prophecy directed against it (Ezekiel 25:12-14). The phrase “like unto all the nations” implies knowledge of some claim to preeminence on the part of Judah. Moab rejoices that these pretensions have received a signal refutation.
8–11. Prophecy against Moab
The Moabites, like the Ammonites, were recognised by Israel as a kindred people (Genesis 19:30). Technically the border of Moab on the N. was the Arnon, but they had pretensions to the district lying beyond this stream at least as far as the head of the Dead Sea, and these pretensions they often asserted. Practically the tribes of Reuben and Gad seem to have been unable to make good their claim to this territory by dispossessing the Moabites. The peoples appear to have mixed together, and frequently Moab is found in possession of the fertile district and the numerous cities which covered it (Mesha’s Inscrip.). The country was subdued by David, and on the division of the kingdom fell as a dependency to northern Israel, to which it paid a yearly tribute of 200,000 fleeces of wool (2 Kings 3:4), though making frequent struggles for independence (2 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 3:5; 2 Kings 13:20). Unlike the Ammonites, who continued a half-nomad people, the Moabites became more a settled nation, and appear to have attained to a considerable degree of civilization. Their language was closely allied to Hebrew, and the art of writing appears familiar as early as the beginning of the 9th century (Mesha’s Inscrip.). After the intervention of the Assyrians in western Asia Moab with the neighbouring peoples became tributary to that power. Hostilities between Israel and Moab were too frequent, and along with Ammon they helped towards the downfall of Judah at the hands of the Chaldeans (2 Kings 24:2; Zephaniah 2:8). Their warfare was characterized by inhuman excesses (Amos 2:1), and the people are stigmatised as proud and boastful (Isaiah 15, 16; Zephaniah 2:8-10). Moab is referred to after the return (Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 13:1; the ref. Isaiah 25:10 is of uncertain date and meaning), and as late as Daniel 11:41.
Therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, Bethjeshimoth, Baalmeon, and Kiriathaim,9. open the side] Lit. the shoulder of Moab, i.e. the border or territory of Moab conceived as looking towards other countries, as “shoulder” has hardly reference to the shape of the Moabite territory (Isaiah 11:14). To open the side is to give invaders access to the country (Nahum 3:13).
from the cities … frontiers] Perhaps: at the cities, at his cities in every quarter. The prep. from seems to indicate position, by or on the cities, i.e. where they are. Others take it in a privative sense: stript of the cities. The three towns named are given as examples of the glory of Moab. Beth-Jeshimoth lay at the N.E. of the head of the Dead Sea, Numbers 33:49; Joshua 12:3; Joshua 13:20; it is supposed to be Suweimeh, at the mouth of the Jordan. Baal-meon, Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:38, more fully Beth-baal-meon (Joshua 13:17), and in another form, Bethmeon (Jeremiah 48:23), lay further inland, a little S. of Heshbon; supposed to be Mâ‘in. Kirjathaim lay somewhat further south (Numbers 32:37; Joshua 13:19; Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 48:23); supposed to be El Kureyat.
Unto the men of the east with the Ammonites, and will give them in possession, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations.10. Read, with full stop at Ezekiel 25:9 : Unto the children of the East will I give it for possession together with the children of Ammon (Ezekiel 25:4). Moab and Ammon alike shall become a possession of the wandering Bedawin. The name of Ammon shall disappear from among the nations, and Moab shall be visited with severe judgments.
And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them;12. hath greatly offended] Israel as the people of the true God was inviolable (Jeremiah 2:3), except when Jehovah employed the nations to chastise it. Too often the nations exceeded their commission, cherishing purposes of their own (Isaiah 10:6 seq.), and themselves incurred guilt by their excess (Isaiah 47:6; Zechariah 1:15).
12–14. Prophecy against Edom
The relations of Edom to Israel were changeful. Subdued by David it shook off the yoke under Jehoram (2 Kings 8:20). Reconquered by Amaziah and Uzziah (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Kings 14:22), it rebelled under Ahaz (2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chronicles 28:17), and from this time was probably independent. Edomites seem to have taken part in the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, or at least to have been active in cutting off the fugitives (Ob. Ezekiel 25:10-14), and for their part in this they incurred the lasting hatred of Israel (Obad., Lamentations 4:21; Isaiah 34:5 seq., Isaiah 63:1-6; Joel 3:19; Psalm 137:7; Malachi 1:2. Cf. Jeremiah 49:7 seq.). During the exile the Edomites took possession of part of the land of Israel (Ezekiel 35:10); and in the time of the Maccabean war of independence, like the Ammonites, they shewed their hereditary enmity to Israel (1Ma 5:3; 1Ma 5:35). John Hyrcanus finally subdued them and incorporated them in the state of Israel. Ultimately, like Moab and Ammon, the name of Edom disappears from history, all the three peoples being known by the general name of Arabs,—Children of the East—as Ezek. had prophesied.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword.13. they of Dedan shall fall] and unto (as far as) Dedan shall they fall. Teman in the N. of Edom (Genesis 36:11; Amos 1:11; Jeremiah 49:7, Obadiah 1:9), and Dedan to the south; the latter probably only bordered on Edom (Genesis 10:7; Isaiah 21:13; Jeremiah 25:23).
And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord GOD.14. the hand of my people] Cf. Obadiah 1:18, “the house of Jacob shall be a fire … and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall burn among them and devour them.” Isaiah 11:14, Zephaniah 2:9.
know my vengeance] that it is I who take vengeance upon them (Ezekiel 25:4); Isaiah 34:8.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred;15–17. Prophecy against the Philistines
15. with a despiteful heart] Lit. with despite in soul, as Ezekiel 25:6, i.e. the deepest despite of heart, chaps. Ezekiel 16:57, Ezekiel 36:5.
destroy it for the old hatred] Rather: to destroy with perpetual hatred, cf. Ezekiel 35:5; Amos 1:11. The power of the Philistines was conclusively broken by David, but references to their rancour and injuriousness when opportunity occurred run through all the literature of Israel, Amos 1:6 seq.; Isaiah 9:12; Zephaniah 2:5; Obadiah 1:19; Joel 3:4; Zechariah 9:5.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast.16. the Cherethims] the Cherethites. The name was given to the inhabitants of the Philistine coast, Zephaniah 2:5, “woe to the inhabitants of the sea-coast, the nation of the Cherethites … the land of the Philistines.” Cf. 1 Samuel 30:14; 2 Samuel 8:18; Jeremiah 47:4.
the remnant] Cf. Amos 1:8; Isaiah 14:30; Zephaniah 1:4.
And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.17. with furious rebukes] Wanting in LXX. No agents are mentioned as the destroyers of the Philistines.