Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Eze 33:1-33. Renewal of Ezekiel's Commission, Now that He Is Again to Address His Countrymen, and in a New Tone.
Heretofore his functions had been chiefly threatening; from this point, after the evil had got to its worst in the overthrow of Jerusalem, the consolatory element preponderates.
Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:
2. to the children of thy people—whom he had been forbidden to address from Eze 24:26, 27, till Jerusalem was overthrown, and the "escaped" came with tidings of the judgment being completed. So now, in Eze 33:21, the tidings of the fact having arrived, he opens his heretofore closed lips to the Jews. In the interval he had prophesied as to foreign nations. The former part of the chapter, at Eze 33:2-20, seems to have been imparted to Ezekiel on the evening previous (Eze 33:22), being a preparation for the latter part (Eze 33:23-33) imparted after the tidings had come. This accounts for the first part standing without intimation of the date, which was properly reserved for the latter part, to which the former was the anticipatory introduction [Fairbairn].
watchman—Eze 33:1-9 exhibit Ezekiel's office as a spiritual watchman; so in Eze 3:16-21; only here the duties of the earthly watchman (compare 2Sa 18:24, 25; 2Ki 9:17) are detailed first, and then the application is made to the spiritual watchman's duty (compare Isa 21:6-10; Ho 9:8; Hab 2:1). "A man of their coasts" is a man specially chosen for the office out of their whole number. So Jud 18:2, "five men from their coasts"; also the Hebrew of Ge 47:2; implying the care needed in the choice of the watchman, the spiritual as well as the temporal (Ac 1:21, 22, 24-26; 1Ti 5:22).
If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
3. the sword—invaders. An appropriate illustration at the time of the invasion of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar.
Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
4. blood … upon his own head—metaphor from sacrificial victims, on the heads of which they used to lay their hands, praying that their guilt should be upon the victims.
He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
6. his iniquity—his negligence in not maintaining constant watchfulness, as they who are in warfare ought to do. The thing signified here appears from under the image.
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
7. I have set thee a watchman—application of the image. Ezekiel's appointment to be a watchman spiritually is far more solemn, as it is derived from God, not from the people.
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
8. thou shalt surely die—by a violent death, the earnest of everlasting death; the qualification being supposed, "if thou dost not repent."
Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
9. Blood had by this time been shed (Eze 33:21), but Ezekiel was clear.
Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
10. be upon us—that is, their guilt remain on us.
pine away in them—if we suffer the penalty threatened for them in Eze 24:23, according to the law (Le 26:39).
how should we … live?—as Thou dost promise in Eze 33:5 (compare Eze 37:11; Isa 49:14).
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
11. To meet the Jews' cry of despair in Eze 33:10, Ezekiel here cheers them by the assurance that God has no pleasure in their death, but that they should repent and live (2Pe 3:9). A yearning tenderness manifests itself here, notwithstanding all their past sins; yet with it a holiness that abates nothing of its demands for the honor of God's authority. God's righteousness is vindicated as in Eze 3:18-21 and Eze 18:1-32, by the statement that each should be treated with the closest adaptation of God's justice to his particular case.
Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.
12. not fall … in the day that he turneth—(2Ch 7:14; see Eze 3:20; 18:24).
When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.
Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;
If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.
15. give again that he had robbed—(Lu 19:8).
statutes of life—in the obeying of which life is promised (Le 18:5). If the law has failed to give life to man, it has not been the fault of the law, but of man's sinful inability to keep it (Ro 7:10, 12; Ga 3:21). It becomes life-giving through Christ's righteous obedience to it (2Co 3:6).
None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.
17. The way of the Lord—The Lord's way of dealing in His moral government.
When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.
21. twelfth year … tenth month—a year and a half after the capture of the city (Jer 39:2; 52:5, 6), in the eleventh year and fourth month. The one who escaped (as foretold, Eze 24:26) may have been so long on the road through fear of entering the enemy's country [Henderson]; or, the singular is used for the plural in a collective sense, "the escaped remnant." Compare similar phrases, "the escaped of Moab," Isa 15:9; "He that escapeth of them," Am 9:1. Naturally the reopening of the prophet's mouth for consolation would be deferred till the number of the escaped remnant was complete: the removal of such a large number would easily have occupied seventeen or eighteen months.
Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.
22. in the evening—(see on Eze 33:2). Thus the capture of Jerusalem was known to Ezekiel by revelation before the messenger came.
my mouth … no more dumb—that is, to my countrymen; as foretold (Eze 24:27), He spake (Eze 33:2-20) in the evening before the tidings came.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance.
24. they that inhabit … wastes of … Israel—marking the blindness of the fraction of Jews under Gedaliah who, though dwelling amidst regions laid waste by the foe, still cherished hopes of deliverance, and this without repentance.
Abraham was one … but we are many—If God gave the land for an inheritance to Abraham, who was but one (Isa 51:2), much more it is given to us, who, though reduced, are still many. If he, with 318 servants, was able to defend himself amid so many foes, much more shall we, so much more numerous, retain our own. The grant of the land was not for his sole use, but for his numerous posterity.
inherited the land—not actually possessed it (Ac 7:5), but had the right of dwelling and pasturing his flocks in it [Grotius]. The Jews boasted similarly of their Abrahamic descent in Mt 3:9 and Joh 8:39.
Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land?
25. eat with the blood—in opposition to the law (Le 19:26; compare Ge 9:4). They did so as an idolatrous rite.
Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife: and shall ye possess the land?
26. Ye stand upon your sword—Your dependence is, not on right and equity, but on force and arms.
every one—Scarcely anyone refrains from adultery.
Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.
27. shall fall by the sword—The very object of their confidence would be the instrument of their destruction. Thinking to "stand" by it, by it they shall "fall." Just retribution! Some fell by the sword of Ishmael; others by the Chaldeans in revenge for the murder of Gedaliah (Jer 40:1-44:30).
caves—(Jud 6:2; 1Sa 13:6). In the hilly parts of Judea there were caves almost inaccessible, as having only crooked and extremely narrow paths of ascent, with rock in front stretching down into the valleys beneath perpendicularly [Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 1.16.4].
For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.
28. most desolate—(Jer 4:27; 12:11).
none … pass through—from fear of wild beasts and pestilence [Grotius].
Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.
30. Not only the remnant in Judea, but those at the Chebar, though less flagrantly, betrayed the same unbelieving spirit.
talking against thee—Though going to the prophet to hear the word of the Lord, they criticised, in an unfriendly spirit, his peculiarities of manner and his enigmatical style (Eze 20:49); making these the excuse for their impenitence. Their talking was not directly "against" Ezekiel, for they professed to like his ministrations; but God's word speaks of things as they really are, not as they appear.
by the walls—in the public haunts. In the East groups assemble under the walls of their houses in winter for conversation.
in the doors—privately.
what is the word—Their motive was curiosity, seeking pastime and gratification of the ear (2Ti 4:3); not reformation of the heart. Compare Johanan's consultation of Jeremiah, to hear the word of the Lord without desiring to do it (Jer 42:1-43:13).
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
31. as the people cometh—that is, in crowds, as disciples flock to their teacher.
sit before thee—on lower seats at thy feet, according to the Jewish custom of pupils (De 33:3; 2Ki 4:38; Lu 10:39; Ac 22:3).
as my people—though they are not.
hear … not do—(Mt 13:20, 21; Jas 1:23, 24).
they show much love—literally, "make love," that is, act the part of lovers. Profess love to the Lord (Mt 7:21). Gesenius translates, according to Arabic idiom, "They do the delights of God," that is, all that is agreeable to God. Vulgate translates, "They turn thy words into a song of their mouths."
heart goeth after … covetousness—the grand rival to the love of God; therefore called "idolatry," and therefore associated with impure carnal love, as both alike transfer the heart's affection from the Creator to the creature (Mt 13:22; Eph 5:5; 1Ti 6:10).
And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
32. very lovely song—literally, a "song of loves": a lover's song. They praise thy eloquence, but care not for the subject of it as a real and personal thing; just as many do in the modern church [Jerome].
play well on an instrument—Hebrew singers accompanied the "voice" with the harp.
And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
33. when this cometh to pass—when My predictions are verified.
lo, it will come—rather, "lo it is come" (see Eze 33:22).
know—experimentally, and to their cost.