This chapter contains more particular instructions to the prophet. It begins with repeating his appointment to his office, Ezekiel 3:1-3. Ezekiel is then informed that his commission is, at this time, to the house of Israel exclusively, Ezekiel 3:4-6; that his countrymen would pay little regard to him, Ezekiel 3:7; that he must persevere in his duty notwithstanding such great discouragement; and he is endued with extraordinary courage and intrepidity to enable him fearlessly to declare to a disobedient and gainsaying people the whole counsel of God, Ezekiel 3:8-11. The prophet is afterwards carried by the spirit that animated the cherubim and wheels, and by which he received the gift of prophecy, to a colony of his brethren in the neighborhood, where he remained seven days overwhelmed with astonishment, Ezekiel 3:12-15. He is then warned of the awful importance of being faithful in his office, Ezekiel 3:16-21; commanded to go forth into the plain that he may have a visible manifestation of the Divine Presence, Ezekiel 3:22; and is again favored with a vision of that most magnificent set of symbols described in the first chapter, by which the glorious majesty of the God of Israel was in some measure represented, Ezekiel 3:23. See also Isaiah 6:1-13; Daniel 10:5-19; and Revelation 1:10-16; Revelation 4:1-11, for other manifestations of the Divine glory, in all of which some of the imagery is very similar. The prophet receives directions relative to his future conduct, Ezekiel 3:24-27.
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.Eat this roll, and go speak - This must have passed in vision; but the meaning is plain. Receive my word - let it enter into thy Soul; digest it - let it be thy nourishment; and let it be thy meat and drink to do the will of thy Father who is in heaven.
So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.
And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.It was in my mouth as honey - It was joyous to me to receive the Divine message, to be thus let into the secrets of the Divine counsel, and I promised myself much comfort in that intimate acquaintance with which I was favored by the Supreme Being. In Revelation 10:10 we find St. John receiving a little book, which he ate, and found it sweet as honey in his mouth, but after he had eaten it, it made his belly bitter, signifying that a deep consideration of the awful matter contained in God's word against sinners, which multitudes of them will turn to their endless confusion, must deeply afflict those who know any thing of the worth of an immortal spirit.
And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.
For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;Thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech - I neither send thee to thy adversaries, the Chaldeans, nor to the Medes and Persians, their enemies. Even these would more likely have hearkened unto thee than thy own countrymen.
Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.
But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.Impudent and hard-hearted - "Stiff of forehead, and hard of heart." - Margin. The marginal readings on several verses here are very nervous and very correct.
Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.
As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.
And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place.Then the Spirit took me up - This, as Calmet remarks, has been variously understood.
1. An impetuous wind carried him to the place where his brethren sojourned.
2. The Holy Spirit, which filled his heart, transported him in a moment to the place where the captives were.
3. Or, he was so transported with heavenly ardour in his mind, that he ran immediately off, and seemed to fly to the place where God commanded him to go.
The promptitude and impetuosity of his spirit seemed to furnish him with wings on the occasion. However this may be understood, the going to the captives was real.
Blessed be the glory of the Lord - Probably the acclamation of the living creatures: "Let God be blessed from the throne of his glory! He deserves the praises of his creatures in all the dispensations of his mercy and justice, of his providence and grace."
I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing.A great rushing - All the living creatures and the wheels being then in motion.
So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.I went in bitterness - Being filled with indignation at the wickedness and obstinacy of my people, I went, determining to speak the word of God without disguise, and to reprove them sharply for their rebellion; and yet I was greatly distressed because of the heavy message which I was commanded to deliver.
Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.I came to them of the captivity - Because the hand of the Lord was strong upon him and supported him, he soon reached the place.
Tel-abib - תל אביב "a heap of corn." So the Vulgate: acervum novarum frugum, "a heap of new fruits." letola chib, "to the hill Chib," or the hill of grief. - Syriac.
Seven days - Perhaps God kept him all this time without an immediate revelation, that the bitterness and heat of spirit of which he speaks above might be subdued, and that he might speak God's words in God's own Spirit. Had he gone in a better spirit he had probably been employed in his work as soon as he had gained the place of labor.
And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.I have made thee a watchman - The care and welfare of all this people I have laid on thee. Thou must watch for their safety, preach for their edification, and pray for their eternal welfare. And that thou mayest be successful, receive the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
God is particularly jealous lest any words but his own be taught for Divine doctrines. He will not have human creeds, no more than Traditions, taught instead of his own word. No word can be successful in the salvation of sinners but that which comes from God. Every minister of the Gospel should be familiar with his Maker by faith and prayer; God will then hold communion with his spirit; otherwise, what he preaches will be destitute of spirit and life, and his hackneyed texts and sermons, instead of being the bread from heaven, will be like the dry mouldy Gibeonitish crusts.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.Thou shalt surely die - That is, If he turn not from his wickedness, and thou givest him not warning, as above, he shalt die in his iniquity, which he should not have committed; but his blood will I require at thy hand - I will visit thy soul for the loss of his. O how awful is this! Hear it, ye priests, ye preachers, ye ministers of the Gospel; ye, especially, who have entered into the ministry for a living, ye who gather a congregation to yourselves that ye may feed upon their fat, and clothe yourselves with their wool; in whose parishes and in whose congregations souls are dying unconverted from day to day, who have never been solemnly warned by you, and to whom you have never shown the way of salvation, probably because ye know nothing of it yourselves! O what a perdition awaits you! To have the blood of every soul that has died in your parishes or in your congregations unconverted laid at your door! To suffer a common damnation for every soul that perishes through your neglect! How many loads of endless wo must such have to bear! Ye take your tithes, your stipends, or your rents, to the last grain, and the last penny; while the souls over whom you made yourselves watchmen have perished, and are perishing, through your neglect. O worthless and hapless men! better for you had ye never been born! Vain is your boast of apostolical authority, while ye do not the work of apostles! Vain your boast of orthodoxy, while ye neither show nor know the way of salvation! Vain your pretensions to a Divine call, when ye do not the work of evangelists! The state of the most wretched of the human race is enviable to that of such ministers, pastors, teachers, and preachers.
But let not this discourage the faithful minister who teaches every man, and warns every man, in all wisdom, that he may present every man perfect to Christ Jesus. If after such teaching and warning they will sin on, and die in their sins, their blood will be upon themselves; but thou, O man of God, hast delivered thine own soul.
Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness - Which these words plainly state he may do, and commit iniquity and die in his sin; and consequently die eternally, which is also here granted; if he have not been warned, though he die in his sin, the blood - the life and salvation, of this person also will God require at the watchman's hand. Pastor hunc occidit, quia eum tacendo morti tradidit. "This man the pastor kills; for in being silent, he delivers him over to death." - Gregory. From these passages we see that a righteous man may fall from grace, and perish everlastingly. Should it be said that it means the self-righteous, I reply, this is absurd; for self-righteousness is a fall itself, and the sooner a man falls from it the better for himself. Real, genuine righteousness of heart and life is that which is meant. Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.
And I lay a stumbling-block before him - That is, I permit him to be tried, and he fall in the trial. God is repeatedly represented as doing things which he only permits to be done. He lays a stumbling-block, i.e., he permits one to be laid.
Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.
And the hand of the LORD was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee.Arise, go forth into the plain - Into a place remote from observation and noise; a place where the glory of God might have sufficient room to manifest itself, that the prophet might see all its movements distinctly.
Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.
Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.The spirit - said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house - Hide thyself for the present. The reason is immediately subjoined.
But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them:They shall put bands upon thee - Thy countrymen will rise up against thee; and, to prevent thy prophesying, will confine thee.
And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house.I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth - I will not give thee any message to deliver to them. They are so rebellious, it is useless to give them farther warning.
But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.I will open thy mouth - When it is necessary to address them again, thou shalt sum up what thou hast said in this one speech: Thus saith the Lord, "He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear." Let him who feels obedience to the voice of God his interest, be steadfast. Let him who disregards the Divine monition go in his own way, and abide the consequences.