Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The two prophecies contained in Ezekiel 6, 7 are distinct, although both closely connected with the explanation of the symbolism in Ezekiel 5. They were probably uttered at sufficient intervals of time from Ezekiel 5 and from each other to allow of a distinct impression being made by each of them; yet the interval could not have been long, since Ezekiel 8 is dated in the sixth month of the sixth year. There must therefore have been such a following up of one blow after another of prophetic denunciation as was calculated to produce the most profound effect. In the present chapter judgment is denounced upon the idolatrous places and people, although a remnant are to be saved who shall recognise the hand of the Lord, and then the terribleness of the judgment of desolation is enlarged upon. In Ezekiel 7 the quickness and inevitableness of this judgment is the chief thought. In both the judgment is no longer denounced merely against Jerusalem, as representing the people, but is expressly extended to the whole land.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them,(2) Toward the mountains of Israel.—It is not uncommon to address prophetic utterances to inanimate objects as a poetic way of representing the people. (Comp. Ezekiel 36:1; Micah 6:2, &c.) The mountains are especially mentioned as being the chosen places of idolatrous worship. (See Deuteronomy 12:2; 2Kings 17:10-11; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Hosea 4:13.) Baal, the sun-god, was the idol especially worshipped upon the hills.
And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.(3) To the rivers, and to the valleys.—These words stand to each other in the same relation as “mountains and hills,” that is, they are specifications of the same general character. The word frequently occurring, and uniformly translated in Ezekiel rivers, would be better rendered ravines. It is a deep sort of valley, along which, at times, a stream might run. Such places were also favourite places for idolatrous rites (see 2Kings 23:10; Isaiah 57:5-6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35), especially for the worship of the Phoenician Astaroth, the female divinity worshipped in conjunction with Baal. The same putting together of mountains and hills, valleys and ravines, occurs again in Ezekiel 35:8; Ezekiel 36:4; Ezekiel 36:6. By the expression, “I, even I,” strong emphasis is placed on the fact that these judgments are from God. Inasmuch as, like most other events in the world, they were to be wrought out by human instrumentality, the attention might easily be taken up with the secondary causes; but by thus declaring them beforehand, and claiming them as His own work, God would make it evident that all was from Him.
And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain men before your idols.(4) Your images.—The original word indicates, as is shown in the margin, that these were images used in connection with the worship of the sun. The whole verse is taken from Leviticus 26:30. The same woes were there foretold by Moses in the contingency of the people’s disobedience; that contingency had now come to pass, the promised judgments had already begun, and Ezekiel declares that the fulfilment of them was close at hand.
Your slain men before your idols.—Their idols should be worshipped no longer by the living, but by the prostrate bodies of their dead worshippers. In this and the following verse a kind of poetic justice is described. There was nothing so utterly defiling under the Mosaic law as the touch of a dead body. (See Numbers 9:6-10; 2Kings 23:14; 2Kings 23:16.) The Israelites had defiled the land with idols, now the idols themselves should be defiled with their dead bodies.
In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.(6) May be abolished.—The word abolished is a strong one, meaning utterly obliterated, wiped out. This was what Israel should have done to the nations who inhabited Canaan before them; they and their works should have been so utterly blotted out that no temptations from them should have remained. But Israel had failed to observe the Divine command, and now in turn their works, done in imitation of the guilty nations they had supplanted, must be blotted out.
And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.(7) And ye shall know.—As this prophecy began in Ezekiel 6:2 with an address to the mountains, many consider that, by a strong poetic figure, they are still referred to by the pronoun ye. It is better, however, to consider that as the discourse has gone on, the figure has gradually been dropped, and the people are spoken to directly. In the same way, the change of the pronoun from the third to the second person, as in Ezekiel 6:5, is very frequent in Ezekiel.
Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries.(8) Yet will I leave a remnant.—In Ezekiel 6:8-10 the general gloom of this prophecy of judgment is lightened for a moment by the mention of the remnant who shall be brought by their afflictions “to know that I am the Lord” in a far higher and better sense than those mentioned in Ezekiel 6:7. This Divine plan pursued from the beginning, as is shown by St. Paul in Romans 9:6-13, of purifying the people by setting aside the mass, and showing mercy to a remnant, looks far beyond the Babylonish captivity, as is shown by the parallel prophecy of Zechariah, uttered after the return from that captivity, “They shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again” (Zechariah 10:9). Beyond this brief glimpse at the remnant, however, the cloud settles down again upon the prophecy; for the period until the destruction of Jerusalem, now but a few years off, must be almost exclusively a period of the denunciation of judgment.
And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.(9) Because I am broken.—The verb in the Hebrew is passive in form, but it is better to take it, with most modern commentators, as a middle, in a transitive sense, “Because I have broken their whorish heart . . . and their eyes,” the eyes being mentioned as the means by which their hearts had been enticed to evil. Here, as constantly in all parts of Scripture, apostacy from God is described under the figure of unfaithfulness in the marriage relation. “They shall loathe themselves” indicates a true repentance; they shall loathe the sin and themselves for having committed it. Thus their sin has drawn down punishment; punishment has destroyed many, but brought a “remnant” to repentance; and repentance leads to a true knowledge of God, and communion with Him. The Divine word and act has not been “in vain.”
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.(11) Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot.—The prophecy returns again to its heavy tidings of woe. To clap the hands and stamp the feet, either singly (Numbers 24:10; Ezekiel 21:14; Ezekiel 21:17; Ezekiel 22:13) or together (Ezekiel 25:6), is a gesture of strong emotion or earnestness of purpose. The prophet is here directed to use it as indicating God’s unchangeable determination united to a sense of grievous wrong.
He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them.(12) That is far off . . . that is near.—That is, all, wherever they may be, shall be reached and overwhelmed by the coming judgments; yet not in such wise that we are to think of one kind of judgment as especially reserved for one class, and another kind for another. The different forms of punishment shall all fall upon the people; and they that escape one shall fall by another.
Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.(13) Upon every high hill.—The various localities especially selected for idolatrous rites are enumerated one after another, to give more vividness and graphic character to the whole judgment. The words “sweet savour” are constantly applied to the commanded sacrifices to the Lord, and are here used ironically of the idol sacrifices.
So will I stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land desolate, yea, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath, in all their habitations: and they shall know that I am the LORD.(14) More desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath.—The name Diblath does not occur elsewhere; but Diblathaim, the dual form, is mentioned in Numbers 33:46-47, Jeremiah 48:22, as a double city on the eastern border of Moab, beyond which lay the great desert which stretches thence eastward, nearly to the Euphrates. It was customary to call any wilderness by the name of the nearest town. (See 1Samuel 23:14-15; 1Samuel 23:24-25; 1Samuel 25:2, &c.) That wilderness appears from this passage to have been proverbial for its desolation.