Ezekiel 21:23
And it shall be to them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) As a false divination in their sight.—The divination of the Babylonians seemed false to the Jews, primarily, because they were determined not to believe it; yet, doubtless, there was mingled with this a secret consciousness of the worthlessness of the idolatries which they themselves practised, and a consequent readiness to cast them aside when opposed to their wishes.

To them that have sworn oaths.—These words have been very variously interpreted, but the simplest meaning seems the best; the resolution of Nebuchadnezzar to attack Jerusalem seemed impossible to the Jews, because they were his vassals, and under oaths of fidelity to him. They must have been conscious of their own violation of those oaths, and yet have persuaded themselves that their intrigues with Egypt were not known to Nebuchadnezzar, and that therefore he would not attack them.

But he will call to remembrance the iniquity.—The pronoun is here understood by many as referring to the Lord, and “iniquity” as expressing the general sinfulness of the people. It is better to refer the pronoun to Nebuchadnezzar, who will call to remembrance and punish the violation of their oaths to him. It is constantly to be remembered that Zedekiah was placed upon the throne by him under a solemn oath of fidelity to himself (2Chronicles 36:10; 2Chronicles 36:13; Jeremiah 52:3; Ezekiel 17:15; Ezekiel 17:18, &c).

Ezekiel 21:23-24. And it shall be as a false divination to them that have sworn oaths — That is, the Jews, when they shall hear of it, shall deride and despise it as a vain, lying divination, and so shall consider themselves as being unconcerned in it; and that though they have sworn homage to the king of Babylon, and afterward perfidiously broken their covenant with him. But he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken — Nebuchadnezzar will remember Zedekiah’s breach of his oath, and all his and his people’s treacheries, and will avenge himself by taking the city, and making him and his subjects prisoners of war. The form of expression seems to imply that the king of Babylon had had it chiefly in his mind to go against Rabbath; but the divinations all signifying that he should go against Jerusalem, caused him to reflect on the perfidious behaviour of the Jewish nation toward him, and so determined him to take the way to Jerusalem, in order severely to punish the inhabitants of it. Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered — Not by yourselves, that it might be repented of, but by me, that it might be punished: because by your open and manifest continuance in your former sinful courses against me, and rebellions against the king of Babylon, you cause both me and him to call your iniquitous conduct to mind, and punish you for it: ye shall be taken by the hand — As birds or beasts, entangled in the net, are easily taken with the hand, so shall you be taken in the easiest manner, and fall into the hands of the king of Babylon, whose anger you have justly provoked.21:18-27 By the Spirit of prophecy Ezekiel foresaw Nebuchadnezzar's march from Babylon, which he would determine by divination. The Lord would overturn the government of Judah, till the coming of Him whose right it is. This seems to foretell the overturnings of the Jewish nation to the present day, and the troubles of states and kingdoms, which shall make way for establishing the Messiah's kingdom throughout the earth. The Lord secretly leads all to adopt his wise designs. And in the midst of the most tremendous warnings of wrath, we still hear of mercy, and some mention of Him through whom mercy is shown to sinful men.It shalt be unto them - The Jews in their vain confidence shall look upon the hopes gathered from the divinations by the Babylonians as false and groundless.

To them that have sworn oaths - According to some, "oaths of oaths are theirs;" i. e., they have the most solemn oaths sworn by God to His people, in these they trust, forgetful of the sin which broke the condition upon which these promises were given. More probably the allusion is to the oaths which the Jews had sworn to Nebuchadnezzar as vassals Ezekiel 17:18-19; therefore they trust he will not attack them, forgetting how imperfectly they had kept their oaths, and that Nebuchadnezzar knew this.

But he will call to remembrance the iniquity - The king of Babylon will by punishment remind them of their perjury 2 Kings 25:6-7; 2 Chronicles 36:17.

23. Unto the Jews, though credulous of divinations when in their favor, Nebuchadnezzar's divination "shall be (seen) as false." This gives the reason which makes the Jews fancy themselves safe from the Chaldeans, namely, that they "have sworn" to the latter "oaths" of allegiance, forgetting that they had violated them (Eze 17:13, 15, 16, 18).

but he, &c.—Nebuchadnezzar will remember in consulting his idols that he swore to Zedekiah by them, but that Zedekiah broke the league [Grotius]. Rather, God will remember against them (Re 16:19) their violating their oath sworn by the true God, whereas Nebuchadnezzar kept his oath sworn by a false god; Eze 21:24 confirms this.

Unto them; the Jews, who shall either not believe that Nebuchadnezzar did so consult, or else that it is a vain, false, and lying divination, which will delude him that believes it, but never hurt them who deride it.

Them that have sworn oaths; Zedekiah, his princes, and nobles, who swore allegiance to the king of Babylon first, and afterward conspired with Egypt, and by new and contrary oaths perjured themselves, provoked as well as dishonoured God, and enraged Nebuchadnezzar to revenge their perfidiousness; these perjured persons will contemn all predictions of the prophet, and all the preparations of the king of Babylon. But Nebuchadnezzar will think on, and thoroughly weigh, and impart also to his council, as the ground of his war, the great wickedness of their perjury and rebellion; that both Zedekiah, and the Jews with him, may be subdued, taken captives, and the kingdom overthrown, the city burnt, and they sent into Babylon. And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight,.... That is, the Jews shall laugh at this divination as a vain thing, as a Heathenish practice, and of which nothing would come; and even at the prophet's account of it, and his prophecy concerning the king of Babylon coming to invade them; they looked upon them all as of a piece, trusting to their false prophets, who assured them that they should not be delivered into his hands:

to them that have sworn oaths; a description of the Jews, who had with their king Zedekiah sworn allegiance to the king of Babylon; which oaths they had violated, taking others to the king of Egypt; or, "because they were bound by oaths to them" (s); meaning either the Egyptians, who had bound themselves by oaths to protect the Jews; and therefore they feared nothing from this pretended divination and prophecy, as they judged them to be, though they had not kept faith with the Chaldeans themselves; or the Jews, because of the Egyptians who had entered into an alliance with them, confirmed by oaths; and this had made them secure, on this they depended. The Targum takes the words as if they signified "seven times seven"; and gives this strange paraphrase of them, accounting for the vain confidence of the Jews;

"and their divinations were lies in their eyes, and the enchantments with which he enchanted them; for they knew not that he had observed forty nine times (i.e. his arrows, images, and liver), and an answer was returned upon the word, till the time came to him in which they should be delivered into his hands:''

but he will call to remembrance the iniquity: that is, Nebuchadnezzar would call to mind the perfidy and perjury of the king of Judah, in breaking covenant with him, and violating his oath. Some think that the Chaldeans that were with Nebuchadnezzar were not satisfied at first that it was a true divination that was made, they being set upon the taking of Rabbath first; but Nebuchadnezzar, remembering and putting them in mind of the treachery of Zedekiah, reconciled them to it, and determined them in the expedition against the Jews:

that they may be taken; as birds in a snare, or beasts in a net, and be carried captive.

(s) "quia obstrieti jurameutis eis suat", Piscator.

And it shall be to them {s} as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: {t} but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.

(s) Because there was a league between the Jews and the Babylonians, they of Jerusalem will think nothing less than that this thing would come to pass.

(t) That is, Nebuchadnezzar will remember the rebellion of Zedekiah, and so come on them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. to them … sworn oaths] The words are obscure and wanting in LXX., and possibly are not original. Whether a gloss or no their purpose appears to be to explain why Israel considered this divination of the king’s to be false, i.e. believed that he would not besiege or at least capture Jerusalem. The natural sense is: they have those who have sworn oaths (to them), i.e. allies, viz, the Egyptians, &c., who will frustrate and falsify Nebuchadnezzar’s divination. Others: inasmuch as they (Israel) have sworn oaths to them (the Chaldeans). The construction is unnatural, and the sense without relevancy, because Israel had just broken its oath, a thing which Neb. came up to punish (ch. 17). Others still would change the pointing: they have weeks of weeks, i.e. weeks upon weeks—abundance of time to prepare for the siege, a sense feeble in the extreme.

he will call to remembrance] Or, calleth. The subject is most naturally Nebuchadnezzar, whose presence is an accusation before God of the king and people because of their breaking their allegiance to him (cf. ch. 17). The consequence of this accusation or bringing guilt to remembrance is that they shall be taken, i.e. captured, the city and people, by the foe. It is certainly possible that the clause “sworn oaths” may have been thrown in to explain this idea.Verse 23. - The whole verse is obscure, and has been very variously interpreted. I follow the translation of the Revised Version, and explain it by inserting words which are needed to bring out its meaning: It (what Nebuchadnezzar has done) shall be as a vain divination in their sight (sc. in that of the men of Jerusalem), which have sworn unto them (sc. have taken oaths of fealty to the Chaldeans, and are ready to take them again), but he (Nebuchadnezzar) brings iniquity to remembrance. The fact represented is that when the people of Jerusalem heard of the divination at the parting of the ways, they still lulled themselves in a false security. They and Zedekiah had sworn obedience, and that oath would protect them. "Not so," rejoins the prophet; "the Chaldean king knows how those oaths have been kept." The LXX. omits all reference to "oaths." The Vulgate. taking the word for "oath" in its ether sense of "sabbath," gives the curious rendering, Eritque quasi consulens frustra oraculum in eorum oculis, et sabbatorum otium imitans. In spite of the reports that reached them, the men of Jerusalem thought themselves as safe as if the Chaldean king were keeping a sabbath day. Ewald partly follows the Vulgate, and renders, They believe they have weeks on weeks, i.e. will not believe that the danger is close at hand. Keil and Havernick: Oaths of oaths are theirs; i.e. they count on the oath of Jehovah, on his promises of protection, but he (Jehovah) brings iniquity to remembrance. That they may be taken; i.e. be seized by the invader and either slain or made prisoners The Sword is Sharpened for Slaying

Ezekiel 21:8. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 21:9. Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah, A sword, a sword sharpened and also polished: Ezekiel 21:10. That it may effect a slaughter is it sharpened; that it may flash is it polished: or shall we rejoice (saying), the sceptre of my son despiseth all wood? Ezekiel 21:11. But it has been given to be polished, to take it in the hand; it is sharpened, the sword, and it is polished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. Ezekiel 21:12. Cry and howl, son of man, for it goeth over my people, it goeth over all the princes of Israel: they have fallen by the sword along with my people: therefore smite upon the thigh. Ezekiel 21:13. For the trial is made, and what if the despising sceptre shall not come? is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 21:14. And thou, son of man, prophesy and smite the hands together, and the sword shall double itself into threefold, the sword of the pierced: it is the sword of a pierced one, of the great one, which encircles them. Ezekiel 21:15. That the heart may be dissolved, and stumbling-blocks may be multiplied, I have set the drawing of the sword against all their gates: Alas! it is made into flashing, drawn for slaying. Ezekiel 21:16. Gather thyself up to the right hand, turn to the left, whithersoever thine edge is intended. Ezekiel 21:17. And I also will smite my hands together, and quiet my wrath: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. - The description of the sword is thrown into a lyrical form (Ezekiel 21:8-13), - a kind of sword-song, commemorating the terrible devastation to be effected by the sword of the Lord. The repetition of חרב in Ezekiel 21:9 is emphatic. הוּחדּה is the perfect Hophal of חדד, to sharpen. מרוּטה is the passive participle of מרט, to polish; מרטּה (Ezekiel 21:10), the participle Pual, with מ dropped, and Dagesh euphon. היה, a rare form of the infinitive for היות. The polishing gives to the sword a flashing brilliancy, which renders the sharpness of its edge still more terrible. The very obscure words, 'או נשׂישׂ וגו, I agree with Schmieder and Kliefoth in regarding as a protest, interposed by the prophet in the name of the people against the divine threat of the sword of vengeance, on the ground of the promises which had been given to the tribe of Judah. או, or perhaps; introducing an opposite case, or an exception to what has been said. The words 'שׁבט are to be taken as an objection, so that לאמר is to be supplied in thought. The objection is taken from the promise given in Jacob's blessing to the tribe of Judah: "the sceptre will not depart from Judah" (Genesis 49:10). שׁבט בּני points unquestionably to this. בּני is taken from Ezekiel 21:9, where the patriarch addresses Judah, whom he compares to a young lion, as בּני. Consequently the sceptre of my son is the command which the patriarch holds out to view before the tribe of Judah. This sceptre despises all wood, i.e., every other ruler's staff, as bad wood. This view is not rendered a doubtful one by the fact that שׁבט is construed as a feminine here, whereas it is construed as a masculine in every other case; for this construction is unquestionable in Ezekiel 21:7 (12), and has many analogies in its favour. All the other explanations that have been proposed are hardly worth mentioning, to say nothing of refuting, as they amount to nothing more than arbitrary conjectures; whereas the assumption that the words are to be explained from Genesis 49:10 is naturally suggested by the unquestionable allusion to the prophecy in that passage, which we find in Ezekiel 21:27 of the present chapter. ויּתּן in Ezekiel 21:11 is to be taken adversatively, "but he gave it (the sword) to be sharpened." The subject to ויּתּן is not Jehovah, but is indefinite, "one" (man, Angl. they), although it is actually God who has prepared the sword for the slaughter of Israel. The train of thought is the following: Do not think we have no reason to fear the sharply-ground sword of Jehovah, because Judah has received the promise that the sceptre shall not depart from it; and this promise will certainly be fulfilled, and Judah be victorious over every hostile power. The promise will not help you in this instance. The sword is given to be ground, not that it may be put into the scabbard, but that it may be taken in the hand by a slayer, and smite all the people and all its princes. In the phrase היא הוּחדּה חרב, חרב is in apposition to the subject היא, and is introduced to give emphasis to the words. It is not till Ezekiel 21:19 that it is stated who the slayer is; but the hearers of the prophecy could be in no doubt. Consequently - this is the connection with Ezekiel 21:12 - there is no ground for rejoicing from a felling of security and pride, but rather an occasion for painful lamentation.

This is the meaning contained in the command to the prophet to cry and howl. For the sword will come upon the nation and its princes. It is the simplest rendering to take היא as referring to הרב, היה ב, to be at a person, to fasten to him, to come upon him, as in 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 24:17. מגוּרי, not from גּוּר, but the passive participle of מגר in the Pual, to overthrow, cast down (Psalm 89:45): "fallen by the sword have they (the princes) become, along with my people." The perfects are prophetic, representing that which will speedily take place as having already occurred. - Smiting upon the thigh is a sign of alarm and horror (Jeremiah 31:19). בּחן, perfect Pual, is used impersonally: the trial is made. The words allude to the victories gained already by Nebuchadnezzar, which have furnished tests of the sharpness of his sword. The question which follows וּמה contains an aposiopesis: and what? Even if the despising sceptre shall not come, what will be the case then? שׁבט מאסת, according to Ezekiel 21:10, is the sceptre of Judah, which despises all other sceptres as bad wood. יהיה, in this instance, is not "to be," in the sense of to remain, but to become, to happen, to come (come to pass), to enter. The meaning is, if the sceptre of Judah shall not display, or prove itself to possess, the strength expected of it. - With Ezekiel 21:14 the address takes a new start, for the purpose of depicting still further the operations of the sword. Smiting the hands together (smiting hand in hand) is a gesture expressive of violent emotion (cf. Ezekiel 6:11; Numbers 24:10). The sword is to double, i.e., multiply itself, into threefold (שׁלישׁתה, adverbial), namely, in its strength, or its edge. Of course this is not to be taken arithmetically, as it has been by Hitzig, but is a bold paradoxical statement concerning the terrible effect produced by the sword. It is not even to be understood as referring to three attacks made at different times by the Chaldeans upon Jerusalem, as many of the commentators suppose. The sword is called חבב חללים, sword of pierced ones, because it produces the pierced or slain. The following words are rendered by Hitzig and Kliefoth: the great sword of the slain. But apart from the tautology which this occasions, the rendering can hardly be defended on grammatical grounds. For, in the first place, we cannot see why the singular חלל should have been chosen, when the expression was repeated, instead of the plural חללים; and secondly, חגּדול cannot be an adjective agreeing with חרב, for חרב is a noun of the feminine gender, and is construed here as a feminine, as החדרת clearly shows. הגּדול is in apposition to חלל, "sword of a pierced man, the great one;" and the great man pierced is the king, as Ewald admits, in agreement with Hengstenberg and Hvernick. The words therefore affirm that the sword will not only slay the mass of the people, but pierce the king himself. (See also the comm. on Ezekiel 21:25.) - Ezekiel 21:15 is not dependent upon what precedes, but introduces a new thought, viz., for what purpose the sword is sharpened. God has placed the flashing sword before all the gates of the Israelites, in order that (למען, pleonastic for למען) the heart may dissolve, the inhabitants may lose all their courage for defence, and to multiply offendicula, i.e., occasions to fall by the sword. The ἁπ. λεγ. אבחת signifies the rapid motion or turning about of the sword (cf. Genesis 3:24); אבח, related to הפך, in the Mishna אפך. The ἁπ. λεγ. מעטּה, fem. of מעט, does not mean smooth, i.e., sharpened, synonymous with מרט, but, according to the Arabic m̀t, eduxit e vagina gladium, drawn (from the scabbard). In Ezekiel 21:16 the sword is addressed, and commanded to smite right and left. התאחדי, gather thyself up, i.e., turn with all thy might toward the right (Tanchum). To the verb השׂימוּ it is easy to supply פּניך, from the context, "direct thine edge toward the left." אנה, whither, without an interrogative, as in Joshua 2:5 and Nehemiah 2:16. מעדות, from יעד, intended, ordered; not, directed, turned. The feminine form may be accounted for from a construction ad sensum, the gender regulating itself according to the חרב addressed in פּניך. The command to the sword is strengthened by the explanation given by Jehovah in Ezekiel 21:17, that He also (like the prophet, Ezekiel 21:14) will smite His hands together and cool His wrath upon them (cf. Ezekiel 5:13).

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