Ezekiel 20:26
And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) To pass through the fire.—The word “fire” here, as in Ezekiel 16:21; Ezekiel 23:37, is not in the original, but is rightly supplied from Ezekiel 20:31. The custom referred to was probably that of consecrating their seed to Moloch, expressly forbidden in Leviticus 20:1-5. (Comp. also Acts 7:43.) The causing children to pass through the fire continued a common sin even to the later days of the monarchy (2Kings 17:17; 2Kings 21:6).

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.To pass through - The word also means to "set apart," as the firstborn to the Lord Exodus 13:12. They were bidden to "set apart" their firstborn males to the Lord. They "caused them to pass through the fire" to Moloch. An instance of their perversion of God's laws. 26. I polluted them—not directly; "but I judicially gave them up to pollute themselves." A just retribution for their "polluting My sabbaths" (Eze 20:24). This Eze 20:26 is explanatory of Eze 20:25. Their own sin I made their punishment.

caused to pass through the fire—Fairbairn translates, "In their presenting (literally, 'the causing to pass over') all their first-born," namely, to the Lord; referring to the command (Ex 13:12, Margin, where the very same expression is used). The lustration of children by passing through the fire was a later abomination (Eze 20:31). The evil here spoken of was the admixture of heathenish practices with Jehovah's worship, which made Him regard all as "polluted." Here, "to the Lord" is omitted purposely, to imply, "They kept up the outward service indeed, but I did not own it as done unto Me, since it was mingled with such pollutions." But English Version is supported by the similar phraseology in Eze 20:31, see on [1052]Eze 20:31. They made all their children pass through the fire; but he names the first-born, in aggravation of their guilt; that is, "I had willed that the first-born should be redeemed as being Mine, but they imposed on themselves the cruel rites of offering them to Molech" (De 18:10).

might know … the Lord—that they may be compelled to know Me as a powerful Judge, since they were unwilling to know Me as a gracious Father.

Polluted them; either I permitted them to pollute themselves, or discovered that they had polluted themselves, or treated them with loathing and abhorrence, as polluted persons.

In their own gifts; either in their gifts which they pretended to bring to me, or rather in their sacrifices they offered to whom, or at least in what manner, they, not I, had chosen; or, which is most likely, gifts are here their first-born, which are more than other children accounted gifts.

Through the fire: see Ezekiel 16:20,21. Most insufferable affront to God, to see those children inhumanly offered to the devil, which, in remembrance of his redeeming the fathers, were consecrated to God! Exodus 13:2; and possibly this was first done when they offered to Baalpeor, Numbers 25:3.

To the end, & c.; to provoke God so to afflict, weaken, and waste by his judgment, till it should undeniably appear that God had by signal displeasure against them for their sins brought them to desolation.

Might know; be convinced, and forced to own, that the Lord is a mighty King in punishing those that might, but would not, have him a gracious King in governing and guiding them.

And one polluted them in their own gifts,.... Suffered them to defile themselves; or declared them to be, and treated them as polluted persons, in the gifts and sacrifices which they offered to idols, particularly their firstborn: as the next clause explains it:

in that they caused to pass though the fire all that openeth the womb; this very likely they did, when they sacrificed to Baalpeor, the same with Molech, Numbers 25:3;

that I might make them desolate; their families, by stripping them of their children, their firstborn, and strength:

to the end that they might know that I am the Lord; a righteous God, in punishing men for sin, in a way it deserves. Some interpret this, not of causing the firstborn to pass through fire to an idol; but of causing them to pass, or of setting them apart, to the Lord, according to the law in Exodus 13:12; where the same word is used as here; and the sense is that God declared them to be impure in or with all their gifts, by commanding them to cause their firstborn to pass to him, which they were obliged to redeem; which sense is approved of by Gussetius (l); and so Abendana, taking the words to refer to both, gives this sense of them,

"I pronounced them impure, and removed them far from me, instead of sanctifying them; because they caused everyone that opens the womb to pass from me, whom I commanded to give to me for holiness, but they have given them to idolatry;''

rather, according to Braunius (m), the words may be understood of God's rejecting and causing the firstborn to pass from him, and not suffering them to offer gifts and sacrifices unto him; which may be meant by pronouncing them impure, or polluting them in their gifts; this was after the worship of the golden calf; when he took Aaron and his sons in their room.

(l) Ebr. Comment. p. 576, 939. (m) Selecta Sacra, l. 4. c. 11. p. 522.

And I polluted them in their own {m} gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all the firstborn, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.

(m) I condemned those things, and counted them as abominable, which they thought had been excellent and to have declared most zeal, Lu 16:15 for that which God required as most excellent they gave to their idols.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. might make them desolate] Or, destroy them; less probably: horrify them (ch. Ezekiel 32:10). The train of thought is the same as that expressed in ch. Ezekiel 14:9. The penalty of sin is further delusion and worse sin, the end of which is death. The last clause “to the end … Lord” is wanting in LXX.

Verse 26. - I polluted them through their own gifts. The noun includes all forms of blessing bestowed on Israel - its corn and wine and oil (see Ezekiel 16:19, 20), even its sons and daughters, the fruit of the womb, as well as the increase of the earth. (For the prevalence of Moloch worship, and for the phrase, "pass through," see notes on Ezekiel 16:21.) The sins were to bring desolation as their punishment, and then men would learn to know Jehovah as indeed he is. Ezekiel 20:26The Generation that Grew Up in the Desert

Ezekiel 20:18. And I spake to their sons in the desert, Walk not in the statutes of your fathers, and keep not their rights, and do not defile yourselves with their idols. Ezekiel 20:19. I am Jehovah your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my rights, and do them, Ezekiel 20:20. And sanctify my Sabbaths, that they may be for a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am Jehovah your God. Ezekiel 20:21. But the sons were rebellious against me; they walked not in my statutes, and did not keep my rights, to do them, which man should do that he may live through them; they profaned my Sabbaths. Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them, to accomplish my anger upon them in the desert. Ezekiel 20:22. But I turned back my hand and did it for my name's sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, before whose eyes I had them out. Ezekiel 20:23. I also lifted my hand to them in the desert, to scatter them among the nations, and to disperse them in the lands; Ezekiel 20:24. Because they did not my rights, and despised my statutes, profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after the idols of their fathers. Ezekiel 20:25. And I also gave them statutes, which were not good, and rights, through which they did not live; Ezekiel 20:26. And defiled them in their sacrificial gifts, in that they caused all that openeth the womb to pass through, that I might fill them with horror, that they might know that I am Jehovah. - The sons acted like their fathers in the wilderness. Historical proofs of this are furnished by the accounts of the Sabbath-breaker (Numbers 15:32.), of the rebellion of the company of Korah, and of the murmuring of the whole congregation against Moses and Aaron after the destruction of Korah's company (Numbers 16 and Numbers 17:1-13). In the last two cases God threatened that He would destroy the whole congregation (cf. Numbers 16:21 and Numbers 17:9-10); and on both occasions the Lord drew back His hand at the intercession of Moses, and his actual intervention (Numbers 16:22 and Numbers 17:11.), and did not destroy the whole nation for His name's sake. The statements in Ezekiel 20:21 and Ezekiel 20:22 rest upon these facts. The words of Ezekiel 20:23 concerning the oath of God, that He would scatter the transgressors among the heathen, are also founded upon the Pentateuch, and not upon an independent tradition, or any special revelation from God. Dispersion among the heathen is threatened in Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 28:64, and there is no force in Kliefoth's argument that "these threats do not refer to the generation in the wilderness, but to a later age." For in both chapters the blessings and curses of the law are set before the people who were then in the desert; and there is not a single word to intimate that either blessing or curse would only be fulfilled upon the generations of later times.

On the contrary, when Moses addressed to the people assembled before him his last discourse concerning the renewal of the covenant (Deuteronomy 29 and 30), he called upon them to enter into the covenant, "which Jehovah maketh with thee this day" (Deuteronomy 29:12), and to keep all the words of this covenant and do them. It is upon this same discourse, in which Moses calls the threatenings of the law אלה, an oath (Deuteronomy 29:13), that "the lifting of the hand of God to swear," mentioned in Ezekiel 20:23 of this chapter, is also founded. Moreover, it is not stated in this verse that God lifted His hand to scatter among the heathen the generation which had grown up in the wilderness, and to disperse them in the lands before their entrance into the land promised to the fathers; but simply that He had lifted His hand in the wilderness to threaten the people with dispersion among the heathen, without in any way defining the period of dispersion. In the blessings and threatenings of the law contained in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-30, the nation is regarded as a united whole; so that no distinction is made between the successive generations, for the purpose of announcing this particular blessing or punishment to either one or the other. And Ezekiel acts in precisely the same way. It is true that he distinguishes the generation which came out of Egypt and was sentenced by God to die in the wilderness from the sons, i.e., the generation which grew up in the wilderness; but the latter, or the sons of those who had fallen, the generation which was brought into the land of Canaan, he regards as one with all the successive generations, and embraces the whole under the common name of "fathers" to the generation living in his day ("your fathers" Ezekiel 20:27), as we may clearly see from the turn given to the sentence which describes the apostasy of those who came into the land of Canaan ('עוד זאת ). In thus embracing the generation which grew up in the wilderness and was led into Canaan, along with the generations which followed and lived in Canaan, Ezekiel adheres very closely to the view prevailing in the Pentateuch, where the nation in all its successive generations is regarded as one united whole. The threat of dispersion among the heathen, which the Lord uttered in the wilderness to the sons of those who were not to see the land, is also not mentioned by Ezekiel as one which God designed to execute upon the people who were wandering in the desert at the time. For if he had understood it in this sense, he would have mentioned its non-fulfilment also, and would have added a 'ואעשׂ למען שׁמי וגו, as he has done in the case of the previous threats (cf. Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:14, and Ezekiel 20:9). But we do not find this either in Ezekiel 20:24 or Ezekiel 20:26. The omission of this turn clearly shows that Ezekiel 20:23 does not refer to a punishment which God designed to inflict, but did not execute for His name's sake; but that the dispersion among the heathen, with which the transgressors of His commandments were threatened by God when in the wilderness, is simply mentioned as a proof that even in the wilderness the people, whom God had determined to lead into Canaan, were threatened with that very punishment which had now actually commenced, because rebellious Israel had obstinately resisted the commandments and rights of its God.

These remarks are equally applicable to Ezekiel 20:25 and Ezekiel 20:26. These verses are not to be restricted to the generation which was born in the wilderness and gathered to its fathers not long after its entrance into Canaan, but refer to their descendants also, that is to say, to the fathers of our prophet's contemporaries, who were born and had died in Canaan. God gave them statutes which were not good, and rights which did not bring them life. It is perfectly self-evident that we are not to understand by these statutes and rights, which were not good, either the Mosaic commandments of the ceremonial law, as some of the Fathers and earlier Protestant commentators supposed, or the threatenings contained in the law; so that this needs no elaborate proof. The ceremonial commandments given by God were good, and had the promise attached to them, that obedience to them would give life; whilst the threats of punishment contained in the law are never called חקּים and משׁפּטים. Those statutes only are called "not good" the fulfilment of which did not bring life or blessings and salvation. The second clause serves as an explanation of the first. The examples quoted in Ezekiel 20:26 show what the words really mean. The defiling in their sacrificial gifts (Ezekiel 20:26), for example, consisted in their causing that which opened the womb to pass through, i.e., in the sacrifice of the first-born. העביר כּל־פּטר points back to Exodus 13:12; only ליהוה, which occurs in that passage, is omitted, because the allusion is not to the commandment given there, but to its perversion into idolatry. This formula is used in the book of Exodus (l.c.) to denote the dedication of the first-born to Jehovah; but in Ezekiel 20:13 this limitation is introduced, that the first-born of man is to be redeemed. העביר signifies a dedication through fire ( equals העביר בּאשׁ, Ezekiel 20:31), and is adopted in the book of Exodus, where it is joined to ליהוה, in marked opposition to the Canaanitish custom of dedicating children of Moloch by februation in fire (see the comm. on ex. EZechariah 13:12). The prophet refers to this Canaanitish custom, and cites it as a striking example of the defilement of the Israelites in their sacrificial gifts (טמּא, to make unclean, not to declare unclean, or treat as unclean). That this custom also made its way among the Israelites, is evident from the repeated prohibition against offering children through the fire to Moloch (Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 18:10). When, therefore, it is affirmed with regard to a statute so sternly prohibited in the law of God, that Jehovah gave it to the Israelites in the wilderness, the word נתן (give) can only be used in the sense of a judicial sentence, and must not be taken merely as indicating divine permission; in other words, it is to be understood, like 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ("God sends them strong delusion") and Acts 7:42 ("God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven"), in the sense of hardening, whereby whoever will not renounce idolatry is so given up to its power, that it draws him deeper and deeper in. This is in perfect keeping with the statement in Ezekiel 20:26 as the design of God in doing this: "that I might fill them with horror;" i.e., might excite such horror and amazement in their minds, that if possible they might be brought to reflect and to return to Jehovah their God.

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