Ezekiel 21:3
And say to the land of Israel, Thus said the LORD; Behold, I am against you, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3, 4) The righteous and the wicked.—This explains the green tree and the dry of Ezekiel 20:47; and “all flesh” of Ezekiel 21:4-5, corresponds to “all faces” of the same. These expressions are meant to show the universality of the approaching desolation. The actual separation in God’s sight between the righteous and the wicked has already been plainly set forth in 9:4-6. But still in this, as in all national judgments, the innocent must of necessity be involved in the same temporal sufferings with the guilty. The general terms of this prophecy are to be limited by what is elsewhere said of the mercy which shall be shown to a remnant.

21:1-17 Here is an explanation of the parable in the last chapter. It is declared that the Lord was about to cut off Jerusalem and the whole land, that all might know it was his decree against a wicked and rebellious people. It behoves those who denounce the awful wrath of God against sinners, to show that they do not desire the woful day. The example of Christ teaches us to lament over those whose ruin we declare. Whatever instruments God uses in executing his judgments, he will strengthen them according to the service they are employed in. The sword glitters to the terror of those against whom it is drawn. It is a sword to others, a rod to the people of the Lord. God is in earnest in pronouncing this sentence, and the prophet must show himself in earnest in publishing it.The first word of judgment Ezekiel 21:1-7. Ezekiel speaks first to the people of Israel, shows the universality of the coming destructions, and indicates by a sign (that of sighing) the sadness of the calamity.

The words and order of words are identical with Ezekiel 20:45-46, except that for "south," there are substituted:

(1) "Jerusalem;"

(2) "the holy place," i. e., the temple and its various parts;

(3) "the land of Israel."

No subterfuge is left for the people to pretend misunderstanding.

3. righteous … wicked—not contradictory of Eze 18:4, 9 and Ge 18:23. Ezekiel here views the mere outward aspect of the indiscriminate universality of the national calamity. But really the same captivity to the "righteous" would prove a blessing as a wholesome discipline, which to the "wicked" would be an unmitigated punishment. The godly were sealed with a mark (Eze 9:4), not for outward exemption from the common calamity, but as marked for the secret interpositions of Providence, overruling even evil to their good. The godly were by comparison so few, that not their salvation but the universality of the judgment is brought into view here. Publish it to all the people of the land, if any will consider it; it is not the severe and morose conjecture of a disturbed and injured man, let them know God the Lord speaks it. Weigh this, I say it is of great importance. You think yourselves more righteous than those that come against you, that they are heathen, you my peculiar people, that my temple is with you, and that I will be on your side; but be not deceived, for

I am, and I will be, against you.

Will draw forth as an enemy resolved to slay,

my sword, the Chaldean army under captains that are skilful to destroy, out of his sheath; I will bring them out of their land, where they are now quiet and at rest. This army shall not vanish, but effect what it is raised for, it shall make a general havoc.

Will cut off, or take away out of the midst of thee, partly by the sword, and partly by captivity, or by famine.

The righteous; some say here is meant such as seemed to be, but were not, just; but it is no unusual thing that in outward troubles and public calamities those who are indeed righteous should be involved with others, nor does this contradict any places which seem to promise a security to them; they may be chastised, but shall not be condemned.

And the wicked; profane, ungodly, and vicious ones, who shall be cut off with double destruction. And say to the land of Israel,.... The inhabitants of it, signified by the "forest of the south field", Ezekiel 20:47,

thus saith the Lord, behold, I am against thee; and sad it is to have the Lord against a people, a nation, a city, or a family, or a particular person; for there is no contending with him, or standing before him; there is always a reason for it, it is for sin when God is against a people, even his own professing people:

and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath; bring the Chaldean army out of Babylon; which interprets what is meant by the "fire" he would kindle in the land of Israel, Ezekiel 20:47, namely, the sword of the enemy, which he would bring upon it; or war, with all its desolating train of judgments:

and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked; meant by the green and dry tree, Ezekiel 20:47, who, though they shall not perish everlastingly together, yet may fall together in temporal calamities; the one may be chastised, and the other condemned; or the one be carried captive for their good, as Ezekiel and Daniel, &c. and others be cut off by sword and famine; and such as were captives, never the better for their captivity. The Targum is,

"I will remove out of thee thy righteous ones, that I may destroy thy wicked ones.''

Some think that only such who were righteous in appearance, or in their own sight, are here meant. R. Saadiah Gaon, as Kimchi quotes him, interprets them of such as were righteous to Baal, and served him continually, in distinction from such as were wicked to him, and did not serve him continually; and both were wicked before the Lord, and therefore justly cut off.

And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from thee the {b} righteous and the wicked.

(b) That is such which seem to have an outward show of righteousness by observation of the ceremonies of the law.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
The Ultimate Gathering of Israel, and Its Conversion to the Lord

Ezekiel 20:39. Ye then, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Go ye, serve every one his idols! but afterwards - truly ye will hearken to me, and no longer desecrate my holy name with your sacrificial gifts and your idols, Ezekiel 20:40. But upon my holy mountain, upon the high mountain of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, there will all the house of Israel serve me, the whole of it in the land; there will I accept them gladly; there will I ask for your heave-offerings and the first-fruits of your gifts in all that ye make holy. Ezekiel 20:41. As a pleasant odour will I accept you gladly, when I bring you out from the nations, and gather you out of the lands, in which you have been scattered, and sanctify myself in you before the eyes of the heathen nations. Ezekiel 20:42. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I lifted up my hand to give to your fathers; Ezekiel 20:43. And there ye will think of your ways and your deeds, with which ye have defiled yourselves, and will loathe yourselves (lit., experience loathing before yourselves) on account of all your evil deeds. which ye have performed; Ezekiel 20:44. And ye will know that I am Jehovah, when I deal with you for my name's sake, not according to your evil ways and according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, is the saying of Jehovah. - After the Lord has declared to the people that He will prevent its being absorbed into the heathen world, and will exterminate the ungodly by severe judgments, the address passes on, with the direction henceforth to serve idols only, to a prediction of the eventual conversion, and the restoration to Canaan of the purified nation. The direction, "Go ye, serve every one his idols," contains, after what precedes it, a powerful appeal to repent. God thereby gives up the impenitent to do whatever they will, having first of all told them that not one of them will come into the land of Canaan. Their opposition will not frustrate His plan of salvation. The words which follow from ואחר onwards have been interpreted in different ways. It is opposed to the usage of the language to connect ואחר with עבדוּ, serve ye hereafter also (De Wette, etc.), for ו has not the force of the Latin et equals etiam, and still less does it signify "afterwards just as before." Nor is it allowable to connect ואחר closely with what follows, in the sense of "and hereafter also, if ye will hearken to me, profane ye my name no more" (Rosenmller, Maurer). For if תּחלּלוּ were used as an imperative, either it would have to stand at the beginning of the sentence, or it would be preceded by אל instead of לא. Moreover, the antithesis between not being willing to hear and not profaning the name of God, is imported arbitrarily into the text. The name of the Lord is profaned not only by sacrifices offered in external form to Jehovah and in the heart to idols, but also by disobedience to the word and commandments of God. It is much better to take ואחר by itself, and to render the following particle, אם, as the ordinary sign of an oath: "but afterwards (i.e., in the future)...verily, ye will hearken to me;" that is to say, ye will have been converted from your idolatry through the severe judgments that have fallen upon you. The ground for this thought is introduced in Ezekiel 20:40 by a reference to the fact that all Israel will then serve the Lord upon His holy mountain. כּי is not "used emphatically before a direct address" (Hitzig), but has a causal signification. For 'הר מרום ישׂ, see the comm. on Ezekiel 17:23. In the expression "all Israel," which is rendered more emphatic by the addition of כּלּה, there is an allusion to the eventual termination of the severance of the people of God (compare Ezekiel 37:22). Then will the Lord accept with delight both them and their sacrificial gifts. תּרוּמות, heave-offerings (see the comm. on Exodus 25:2 and Leviticus 2:9), used here in the broader sense of all the sacrificial gifts, along with which the gifts of first-fruits are specially named. משׂאות, as applied to holy offerings in the sense of ἀναθήματα, belongs to the later usage of the language. בּכל־קדשׁיכם, consisting of all your consecrated gifts. קדשׁים, as in Leviticus 22:15. This promise includes implicite the bringing back of Israel from its banishment. This is expressly mentioned in Ezekiel 20:41; but even there it is only introduced as self-evident in the subordinate clause, whereas the cheerful acceptance of Israel on the part of God constitutes the leading thought.

בּריח ניחח, as an odour of delight (ב, the so-called Beth essentiae), will God accept His people. ריח ניחח, odour of satisfaction, is the technical expression for the cheerful (well-pleased) acceptance of the sacrifice, or rather of the feelings of the worshipper presenting the sacrifice, which ascend to God in the sacrificial odour (see the comm. on Genesis 8:21). The thought therefore is the following: When God shall eventually gather His people out of their dispersion, He will accept them as a sacrifice well-pleasing to Him, and direct all His good pleasure towards them. ונקדּשׁתּי בכם does not mean, I shall be sanctified through you, and is not to be explained in the same sense as Leviticus 22:32 (Rosenmller), for ב is not equivalent to בּתוך; but it signifies "I will sanctify myself on you," as in Numbers 20:13; Leviticus 10:3, and other passages, where נקדּשׁ is construed with ב pers. (cf. Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 36:23; Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 39:27), in the sense of proving oneself holy, mostly by judgment, but here through having made Israel into a holy nation by the refining judgment, and one to which He can therefore grant the promised inheritance. - Ezekiel 20:42. Then will Israel also recognise its God in His grace, and be ashamed of its former sins. For Ezekiel 20:43, compare Ezekiel 6:9 and Ezekiel 16:61. - With regard to the fulfilment, as Kliefoth has correctly observed, "in the prediction contained in Ezekiel 20:32-38, the whole of the searching judgments, by which God would lead Israel to conversion, are summed up in one, which includes not only the Babylonian captivity, the nearest and the first, but the still more remote judgment, namely, the present dispersion; for it is only in the present dispersion of Israel that God has really taken it into the wilderness of the nations, just as it was only in the rejection of Christ that its rebellious attitude was fully manifested. And as the prophecy of the state of punishment combines in this way both the nearer and more remote; so are both the nearer and more distant combined in what Ezekiel 20:40 to 44 affirm with regard to the ultimate fate of Israel." The gathering of Israel from among the heathen will be fulfilled in its conversion to Christ, and hitherto it has only taken place in very small beginnings. The principal fulfilment is still to come, when Israel, as a nation, shall be converted to Christ. With regard to the bringing back of the people into "the land of Israel," see the comm. on Ezekiel 37, where this promise is more fully expanded.

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