Ezekiel 20:25
Why I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) Statutes that were not good.—In this verse the general statement is made of which a particular instance is given in the next. The “statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live,” cannot be the same with those described in Ezekiel 20:11 as “judgments which, if a man do, he shall even live in them.” They are not, therefore, to be understood (as many of the fathers took them) of any part of the Mosaic law. Neither is it a sufficient explanation to say that God gave them what was intrinsically good, but it became evil to them through their sins; such a view of the law is emphatically discarded in Romans 7:13. The statutes of the Mosaic law are not intended here at all, as is plain from the particular instance of the consecration of children to Moloch in the next verse. These evil statutes and judgments were those adopted from the heathen whom they had suffered to dwell among them, and from the surrounding nations. But how can the Lord say that He gave these to them? In the same way that it is said in Isaiah 63:17, “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from Thy ways, and hardened our heart from Thy fear?” So also St. Paul says of the heathen (Romans 1:21-28) that God “gave them up to uncleanness,” “unto vile affections,” “to a reprobate mind;” and of certain wicked persons (2Thessalonians 2:11-12) “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth.” And St. Stephen says of these very Israelites at this very time, “God gave them up to worship the host of heaven” (Acts 7:42). It is part of that universal moral government of the world, to which Ezekiel so frequently refers, that the effect of disobedience and neglect of grace is to lead the sinner on to greater sin. The Israelites rebelled against the Divine government, and neglected the grace given them; the natural consequence was that they fell under the influence of the heathen. Comp. Note on Ezekiel 14:9.

Ezekiel 20:25-26. Wherefore I gave them statutes that were not good, &c. — This some understand of the ceremonial law, as if it were given purely to be a check and restraint to that perverse people, consisting of numerous rites and observances, many of which had no intrinsic good in them. “But I conceive,” says Lowth, “the statutes here spoken of to be of a different nature from those mentioned Ezekiel 20:11, because they have a quite contrary character given of them; and therefore I take the words to import, that God, in a just judgment for their disobedience to his own laws, gave them up to a reprobate mind, and suffered them to walk after the idolatrous and impious customs of the heathen around them. And whereas, by obeying the laws and ordinances which he had given them, they might have lived happily, (Ezekiel 20:11,) they became slaves to the vile and cruel practices of the heathen idolatries, so as to offer up their very children in sacrifice to idols, to the utter destruction of themselves and their posterity, Ezekiel 20:26. This will appear to be the sense of the text, if we compare it with Ezekiel 20:39, and with Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36; Jeremiah 16:13; in which texts God threatens them, as a punishment for their neglect of his worship, to disperse them into the heathen countries, and thereby deprive them of an opportunity of serving him in public, and expose them to the peril of being seduced to idols. Just as David complains to Saul of the hardship of his exile, that it laid him open to the temptation of serving the heathen gods, 1 Samuel 26:19.” In the same light Bishop Newcome views the passage, interpreting the sense to be, “I permitted them to observe statutes, or idolatrous rites, of an evil and execrable nature.” And I polluted them in their own gifts — I suffered them to pollute themselves in offering abominable sacrifices. In that they caused to pass through the fire, &c. — In offering their firstborn sons in sacrifice to Moloch. That I might make them desolate — Which occasioned the destruction of great numbers of them, and made a desolation in the land. That they might know that I am the Lord — This I permitted, that they might be made sensible that I am the living and true God, and a being infinitely more excellent than any or all of the idols, to the worship of which they had foolishly addicted themselves: or, that they might be compelled to acknowledge, that I am a mighty king in punishing those that would not have me for a gracious king in governing them.20:10-26. The history of Israel in the wilderness is referred to in the new Testament as well as in the Old, for warning. God did great things for them. He gave them the law, and revived the ancient keeping of the sabbath day. Sabbaths are privileges; they are signs of our being his people. If we do the duty of the day, we shall find, to our comfort, it is the Lord that makes us holy, that is, truly happy, here; and prepares us to be happy, that is, perfectly holy, hereafter. The Israelites rebelled, and were left to the judgments they brought upon themselves. God sometimes makes sin to be its own punishment, yet he is not the Author of sin: there needs no more to make men miserable, than to give them up to their own evil desires and passions.The "judgments whereby they should not live" are those spoken of in Ezekiel 20:18, and are contrasted with the judgments in Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:21, laws other than divine, to which God gives up those whom He afflicts with judicial blindness, because they have willfully closed their eyes, Psalm 81:12; Romans 1:24.25. I gave them … statutes … not good—Since they would not follow My statutes that were good, "I gave them" their own (Eze 20:18) and their fathers' "which were not good"; statutes spiritually corrupting, and, finally, as the consequence, destroying them. Righteous retribution (Ps 81:12; Ho 8:11; Ro 1:24; 2Th 2:11). Eze 20:39 proves this view to be correct (compare Isa 63:17). Thus on the plains of Moab (Nu 25:1-18), in chastisement for the secret unfaithfulness to God in their hearts, He permitted Baal's worshippers to tempt them to idolatry (the ready success of the tempters, moreover, proving the inward unsoundness of the tempted); and this again ended necessarily in punitive judgments. Because they did by such perverse obstinacy reject the statutes I did in mercy give them; my good laws and judgments, saith God, they despised; for this cause God proceeds to punish them in a dreadful kind and manner,

Gave them; not by appointing or enjoining, but by permitting them to make such for themselves, much like that Romans 1:24, giving up to a reprobate sense, or that 2 Thessalonians 2:11 Psalm 81:11,12, as a governor or father, after long and fruitless strivings with an obstinate and unruly youth, gives him up at last as hopeless, and casts off the care and guidance of him.

Statutes; orders and rules about their religious worship, which they first invented, next approved, and lastly made their established religion, where all they could love in it was, that it was their own.

Were not good; had nothing in them that was morally good, pious, or suited to the spiritual nature of God; that were unprofitable, and ministered nothing to the edifying and bettering of men, nor could commend the users of them to God; that were indeed pernicious to the users, and increased their sins, being superstitious and idolatrous: so the not good is very bad, inconvenient, and hurtful.

Whereby they should not live: if it be not explicatory of the former, it may, it is possible, refer distinctly to the inconvenient, oppressive, and unsafe courses, decrees, and edicts about civil matters, which were such as they could never thrive under; for however some heathen nations have thrived under an evident blessing from Heaven, though their religion were idolatrous, yet I do not remember that an apostate nation ever retained their good government and civil prosperity under their apostacy from God; thus the judgments given were such they could not live in them; they made grievous and destructive laws for themselves and theirs. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good,.... Yea, were very bad; not the moral law, and the statutes of it; for that is holy, just, and good, though the killing letter and ministration of condemnation and death to the transgressors of it; indeed those laws were both good and bad to different persons, as Abendana observes; good to those that observed them, but not good to those that transgressed them, the issue of which was death: rather these were the statutes and rites of the ceremonial law, which were not in their own nature good; nor did they arise from the nature and holiness of God, but from his will; and though very good and useful under the legal dispensation, until the Messiah came, especially when attended to by faith, and with a view to him; yet had the sanction of death to many of them, that a man could not live by them: but it may be, the punishments inflicted on them for their sins, by the plague, by fire, and by serpents, are meant; which may be called "statutes" and "judgments", because ordered and appointed by the Lord, and according to justice: or, as many, both Jews and Christians, think, the idolatrous laws, usages, and customs of other nations, the traditions of their fathers, their wicked laws and statutes, and their own; which, being left to a reprobate mind, they were suffered to walk in, to their hurt and ruin; which is sometimes the sense of the word give; and so here, he "gave", that is, he permitted them to observe such statutes; and this sense is countenanced and confirmed by Ezekiel 20:26; to which agrees Jarchi's note,

"I delivered them into the hand of their imagination (or corrupt nature) to stumble at their iniquity;''

see Romans 1:28. Kimchi interprets them of laws, decrees, tribute, and taxes, imposed upon them by their enemies that conquered them. The Targum is,

"and I also, when they rebelled against my word, and would not obey my prophets, cast them far off, and delivered them into the hands of their enemies; and they went after their foolish imagination, and made decrees which were not right:''

and judgments, whereby they should not live; yea, which were deadly and destructive to them; which brought ruin, destruction, and death upon them; for more is designed than is expressed: this was the effect of following the customs of the nations, and of walking in the statutes of their fathers, and of their own; whereas, had they walked according to the judgments and statutes of God, moral and ceremonial, they had lived comfortably and prosperously.

Wherefore I gave {l} them also statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they should not live;

(l) Because they would not obey my laws, I gave them up to themselves that they should obey their own fantasies, as in Eze 20:39, Ro 1:21,24.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. Wherefore I gave … also] Moreover also I gave, see Ezekiel 20:23.

statutes … not good] These statutes are of a kind contrary to those given before (Ezekiel 20:11) which were good. These points seem plain: 1. The practice referred to is that of passing the firstborn male children through the fire as a burnt-offering to the deity. 2. The law in Israel was that all the male firstborn of men and the male firstlings of beasts were the Lord’s. The firstborn of men were to be redeemed, as also the firstlings of unclean animals, but the firstlings of clean animals were to be offered in sacrifice to Jehovah (Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:12-13; Exodus 22:29, cf. Numbers 3:46-47; Numbers 18:15-16). The law requiring the sacrifice of the firstborn had become extended, so as to include children. The practice was one prevailing among the peoples around Israel, and probably it first crept into use in Israel and was then justified by the law or custom relating to cattle, of which it might seem a natural extension; but in Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5 Jehovah vehemently protests that to command it never came into his mind. The question to whom the children were offered, lit. passed over in the fire, is not quite easy to decide. In passages where the practice is condemned it is represented as a sacrifice to “the Molech,” Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10, or to the Baal, Jeremiah 7:31, or generally, to the idols, Ezekiel 16:21; Psalm 106:38 (idols of Canaan). Though the spelling of the name Molech is peculiar, the word probably means “the king” originally, just as the Baal means “the lord,” both names being descriptive of the same deity. In Isaiah 57:9 “the king” has the ordinary spelling. Though borrowing the practice from the Canaanites it is probable that in Israel the sacrifice was offered to Jehovah, particularly as the law under which it was made was considered given by him. On the other hand Jer., though repudiating this popular inference, speaks of the offering as being made to Baal. The name “Baal,” however, from Hosea downwards is used somewhat laxly, including the images of Jehovah, and all heathenish ceremonies in his service are called worship of Baal. 3. This law is described as not good, one by which men could not live. The effect of it was that men were polluted in their gifts (Ezekiel 20:26), and the purpose of it was to destroy them. This evil law, entailing this consequence, was a judicial punishment of them for their former sins, just as the “deception” of the false prophets was, ch. Ezekiel 14:9. Whether the people, familiar with the Baal worship, drew the false inference from the law of the firstborn, or whether false teachers set the idea before them, is uncertain (Jeremiah 8:8 appears to refer to written perversions of the law). The sacrifice of children was a practice that gained ground in the disastrous times before the exile (Hosea 13:2 has another meaning: men who sacrifice kiss calves; it is the irrationality of men kissing calves that the prophet mocks, not the enormity of human sacrifices). Ezekiel appears to regard the practice as ancient, as he connects it with the second generation in the wilderness. The instances noted in early history are transjordanic (Jephthah and king of Moab), and possibly, though the practice became aggravated only at a later period, the prophet may have considered that the people became acquainted with it on the other side of the Jordan.Verse 25. - I gave them also statutes that were not good, etc. The words have sometimes been understood as though Ezekiel applied these terms to the Law itself, either as speaking of what St. Paul calls its "weak and beggarly elements" (Galatians 4:9), or as unable to work out the righteousness which it commanded (Romans 3:20), and the language of Hebrews 7:19 and Hebrews 10:1 has been urged in support of this view. One who has studied Ezekiel with any care will not need many words to show that such a conclusion was not in his thoughts at all. For him the Law was "holy and just and good," and its statutes such that a man who should keep them should even live in them (vers. 13, 21). He is speaking of the time that followed on the second publication of that Law, and what he Says is that the people who rebelled against it were left, as it were, to a law of another kind. The baser, darker forms of idolatry are described by him, with a grave irony, as statutes and judgments of another kind, working, not life, but death. Sin became, by God's appointment, the punishment of sin, that it might be manifest as exceeding sinful. So Stephen says of Israel that "God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven" (Acts 7:42). So St. Paul paints the corruptions of the heathen world as the result of God's giving them up to "vile affections" (Romans 1:24, 25). So in God's future dealings with an apostate form of Christianity, the same apostle declares that "God shall send them strong delusions that they should believe a lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Psalm 81:12 may have been in Ezekiel's thoughts as asserting the same general law. Behaviour of Israel in the Desert

Ezekiel 20:10. And I led them out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the desert; Ezekiel 20:11. And gave them my statutes, and my rights I made known to them, which man is to do that he may live through them. Ezekiel 20:12. I also gave them my Sabbaths, that they might be for a sign between me and them, that they might now that I Jehovah sanctify them. Ezekiel 20:13. But the house of Israel was rebellious against me in the desert: they did not walk in my statutes, and my rights they rejected, which man is to do, that he may live through them, and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned: Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them in the desert to destroy them. Ezekiel 20:14. But I did it for my name's sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, before whose eyes I had led them out. Ezekiel 20:15. I also lifted my hand to them in the desert, not to bring them into the land which I had given (them), which floweth with milk and honey; it is an ornament of all lands, Ezekiel 20:16. Because they rejected my rights, did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths, for their heart went after their idols. Ezekiel 20:17. But my eye looked with pity upon them, so that I did not destroy them, and make an end of them in the desert. - God gave laws at Sinai to the people whom He had brought out of Egypt, through which they were to be sanctified as His own people, that they might live before God. On Ezekiel 20:11 compare Deuteronomy 30:16 and Deuteronomy 30:19. Ezekiel 20:12 is taken almost word for word from Exodus 31:13, where God concludes the directions for His worship by urging upon the people in the most solemn manner the observance of His Sabbaths, and thereby pronounces the keeping of the Sabbath the kernel of all divine worship. And as in that passage we are to understand by the Sabbaths the actual weekly Sabbaths, and not the institutions of worship as a whole, so here we must retain the literal signification of the word. It is only of the Sabbath recurring every week, and not of all the fasts, that it could be said it was a sign between Jehovah and Israel. It was a sign, not as a token, that they who observed it were Israelites, as Hitzig supposes, but to know (that they might know) that Jehovah was sanctifying them, namely, by the Sabbath rest - as a refreshing and elevation of the mind, in which Israel was to have a foretaste of that blessed resting from all works to which the people of God was ultimately to attain (see the comm. on Exodus 20:11). It is from this deeper signification of the Sabbath that the prominence given to the Sabbaths here is to be explained, and not from the outward circumstance that in exile, when the sacrificial worship was necessarily suspended, the keeping of the Sabbath as the only bond which united the Israelites, so far as the worship of God was concerned (Hitzig). Historical examples of the rebellion of Israel against the commandments of God in the desert are given in ex. EZechariah 32:1-6 and Numbers 25:1-3; and of the desecration of the Sabbath, in ex. EZechariah 16:27 and Numbers 15:32. For the threat referred to in Ezekiel 20:13, compare Exodus 32:10; Numbers 14:11-12. - Ezekiel 20:15 and Ezekiel 20:16 are not a repetition of Ezekiel 20:13 (Hitzig); nor do they introduce a limitation of Ezekiel 20:14 (Kliefoth). They simply relate what else God did to put bounds to the rebellion after He had revoked the decree to cut Israel off, at the intercession of Moses (Numbers 14:11-19). He lifted His hand to the oath (Numbers 14:21.), that the generation which had come out of Egypt should not come into the land of Canaan, but should die in the wilderness. Therewith He looked with pity upon the people, so that He did not make an end of them by following up the threat with a promise that the children should enter the land. עשׂה כלה, as in Ezekiel 11:13.

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