Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Ezekiel 2, 3 record the call of the prophet to his office and the instructions given him for his work. As far as Ezekiel 3:13, this seems to have been still in the presence of the vision of Ezekiel 1; then he was directed to go to another place, where he remains silent among the captives for seven days (Ezekiel 3:14-15). At the end of that time he receives fresh instructions (Ezekiel 3:16-21), and then he is told to go forth into the plain (Ezekiel 3:22), where the same vision reappears to him (Ezekiel 3:23), producing upon him again the same overpowering effect; he is again made to stand up, and further instructed.
The full time occupied by these things is not expressly mentioned, but it was apparently just eight days from the first to the second appearance of the vision—from the beginning to the completion of his prophetic consecration. This period, corresponding to the period of the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8:33 to Leviticus 9:4), must have been peculiarly impressive to the priestly Ezekiel, and have added its own power of association to the other solemnities of his call. Since the time of Moses there had been no other prophet whose call had been accompanied by such manifestations of the Divine glory, and perhaps no time in which the condition of the Church had made them so important.
And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.(1) Son of man.—The voice that now came to Ezekiel was articulate, and spoke to him in words which he could understand. It is not said who it was that spoke, but the “He” in connection with the vision before him could be none other than the Most High, whose glory that vision was given to reveal. The phrase “son of man” is common enough throughout the Scriptures, as meaning simply man, but is never used in an address to a prophet, except to Ezekiel and Daniel. To Daniel it is used only once (Daniel 8:17), while to Ezekiel it is used above ninety times. The reason is, doubtless, that since he was the prophet of the captivity he was addressed in the common terms of the language where he lived. “Son of man” for “man” is so common in the Aramaic languages that it is even used of Adam himself in the Syriac version of 1Corinthians 15:45-47. The address to Ezekiel here as “man,” just as under similar circumstances to Daniel when he had fallen upon his face through awe of the supernatural presence (Daniel 8:17), is doubtless in compassion to his weakness. And then comes the strengthening command, “Stand upon thy feet,” that he may be able to receive the communication God is about to make to him.
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 entered into me.—Always Divine strength is vouchsafed to the prophets when thus overcome by the glory of their visions. (Comp. Isaiah 6:5-7; Daniel 8:18; Daniel 10:15-19; Revelation 1:17.) There can be no doubt, therefore, that the spirit is here the Spirit of God, and not merely the prophet’s own human vigour and courage; and this is made still more plain in Ezekiel 3:24. It was this which “set him upon his feet,” and enabled him amid such surroundings of awe to receive the word spoken to him; for while the revelation by vision still remained before him (see Ezekiel 3:12-13), he was now to be instructed also by the clearer revelation of the direct voice from heaven. We are not to think of any physical force exerted upon the prophet, but of all these things as still taking place in vision.
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) I send thee to the children of Israel.—Here properly begins the distinct commission of the prophet. After the captivity of the ten tribes, the two forming the kingdom of Judah, with such remnants of the others as had been induced by Hezekiah and others to cast in their lot with them, are constantly spoken of as “Israel.” (See Ezra 2:2.) The continuity of the whole nation was considered as preserved in the remnant, and hence this same mode of expression passed into the New Testament. (See Acts 26:7.) It is only when there is especial occasion to distinguish between the two parts of the nation, as in Ezekiel 4:5-6, that the name of Israel is used in contrast with that of Judah.
A rebellious nation.—Literally, as in the margin, rebellious nations, the word being the same as that commonly used distinctively for the heathen, so that the children of Israel are here spoken of as “rebellious heathen.” There could be no epithet which would carry home more forcibly to the mind of an Israelite the state of antagonism in which he had placed himself against his God. (Comp. the “Lo-ammi” of Hosea 1:9, and also the discourse of our Lord in John 8:39.) Yet still, the God from whom they had turned aside was even now sending to them His prophet, and seeking to win them back to His love and obedience, in true correspondence to the vision of the bow in the cloud about the majesty on high.
The following verses enlarge, with a variety of epithets and repetitions, upon the hard-heartedness and perverseness of the people. This had always been the character of the Israelites from the time of Moses (see Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5, &c), and continued to be to the end (see Acts 7:51); so entirely without ground is the allegation that they were chosen as a people peculiarly inclined to the right. It is to such a people that Ezekiel is to be sent, and he needed to be prepared and encouraged for his work.
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) Impudent children.—Literally, as in margin, hard of face. The epithet is repeated in Ezekiel 3:7, and it is with reference to this that in Ezekiel 3:7-8 the prophet’s face is to be made strong, and his forehead “harder than flint.” “The Lord God” is in the original “the Lord Jehovah,” the second name taking the pointing of, and being translated “God,” because of the word “Lord” preceding.
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) Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.—Comp. Ezekiel 3:11. God’s word remains the same whatever reception man may accord to it; it cannot return unto Him void, but must accomplish that which He pleases (Isaiah 55:11); just as the Apostles remained “unto God a sweet savour of Christ” alike “in them that are saved and in them that perish” (2Corinthians 2:15-16). But while the mighty power of the Divine word must thus produce its effect, the character of the effect depends upon those to whom it comes; “to the one we are a savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life.” So it would be among the captives by the Chebar: some would be brought back to their allegiance to their God, and would constitute the remnant through whom He would bless His people and the world; and some, resisting the offered grace, would be thus made more obdurate than ever. In either case, they could not remain as before. Whether for gain or for loss, they should “know that there hath been a prophet among them,” by the change his ministrations should produce among them. The offer of grace, imposing the responsibility of accepting or rejecting it, ever becomes thus “a great and terrible day of the Lord.” (See Joel 2:31; Malachi 4:5, compared with Matthew 17:12; Acts 2:16-22.)
A rebellious house.—Literally, a house of rebellion. This phrase, used in Ezekiel about eleven times, seems to be more than a simple epithet; it is a significant substitute for the name in which they gloried. Instead of “house of Israel, the prince of God,” they had come to be the “house of rebellion.”
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) Briers and thorns.—These words occur only here, but their meaning is sufficiently plain. Briers, indeed, might admit of the marginal translation, rebels, but both words should be taken together, either as adjectives or nouns, and the latter is more in accordance with the following “scorpions,” and with the general strongly figurative style of Ezekiel.
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) Eat that I give thee.—This is to be understood, like all that has gone before, as done in vision, as in the case of the book eaten by St. John in Revelation 10:9-10. The figure of eating for receiving into the heart, so as to be thoroughly possessed by what is communicated, is not an uncommon one. (Comp. Jeremiah 15:16; John 6:53-58.)
And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;(9) Was sent unto me.—Better, was put forth, as the same word is translated in Genesis 3:22; Genesis 19:10; Ezekiel 8:3. In Ezekiel 10:7 it is rendered stretched forth, with the marginal sent forth, and the corresponding Chaldee word in Daniel 5:24 is translated “sent.” It is not that a hand by itself containing the roll was sent to the prophet, but a hand, either of one of the cherubim,. or from the throne above, was stretched forth to him. In the corresponding vision in Revelation 10:8-9, it is handed to the seer by the angel.
A roll of a book.—Books were anciently written upon skins sewed together, or upon papyrus in long strips, which were rolled up, one hand unrolling and the other rolling up from the other end as the contents were read. These were ordinarily written on one side only, as it would have been inconvenient to read the other; but in this case it was written on both sides,” within and without,” to denote the fullness of the message.
And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.(10) He spread it before me.—The roll was given to the prophet open, as the book in Revelation 10:8, that he might first see it all as a whole, before becoming thoroughly possessed with it in detail. What he saw was “lamentations, and mourning, and woe;” in other words, this was the whole character of the message he was commissioned to bear until the great judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple should be fulfilled, when, after Ezekiel 33, his prophecies assume a consolatory character. (See Introduction, VI)