Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.
Eze 9:1-11. Continuation of the Preceding Vision: The Sealing of the Faithful.
1. cried—contrasted with their "cry" for mercy (Eze 8:18) is the "cry" here for vengeance, showing how vain was the former.
them that have charge—literally, officers; so "officers" (Isa 60:17), having the city in charge, not to guard, but to punish it. The angels who as "watchers" fulfil God's judgments (Da 4:13, 17, 23; 10:20, 21); the "princes" (Jer 39:3) of Nebuchadnezzar's army were under their guidance.
draw near—in the Hebrew intensive, "to draw near quickly."
And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.
2. clothed with linen—(Da 10:5; 12:6, 7). His clothing marked his office as distinct from that of the six officers of vengeance; "linen" characterized the high priest (Le 16:4); emblematic of purity. The same garment is assigned to the angel of the Lord (for whom Michael is but another name) by the contemporary prophet Daniel (Da 10:5; 12:6, 7). Therefore the intercessory High Priest in heaven must be meant (Zec 1:12). The six with Him are His subordinates; therefore He is said to be "among them," literally, "in the midst of them," as their recognized Lord (Heb 1:6). He appears as a "man," implying His incarnation; as "one" (compare 1Ti 2:5). Salvation is peculiarly assigned to Him, and so He bears the "inkhorn" in order to "mark" His elect (Eze 9:4; compare Ex 12:7; Re 7:3; 9:4; 13:16, 17; 20:4), and to write their names in His book of life (Re 13:8). As Oriental scribes suspend their inkhorn at their side in the present day, and as a "scribe of the host is found in Assyrian inscriptions accompanying the host" to number the heads of the slain, so He stands ready for the work before Him. "The higher gate" was probably where now the gate of Damascus is. The six with Him make up the sacred and perfect number, seven (Zec 3:9; Re 5:6). The executors of judgment on the wicked, in Scripture teaching, are good, not bad, angels; the bad have permitted to them the trial of the pious (Job 1:12; 2Co 12:7). The judgment is executed by Him (Eze 10:2, 7; Joh 5:22, 27) through the six (Mt 13:41; 25:31); so beautifully does the Old Testament harmonize with the New Testament. The seven come "from the way of the north"; for it was there the idolatries were seen, and from the same quarter must proceed the judgment (Babylon lying northeast of Judea). So Mt 24:28.
stood—the attitude of waiting reverently for Jehovah's commands.
brazen altar—the altar of burnt offerings, not the altar of incense, which was of gold. They "stood" there to imply reverent obedience; for there God gave His answers to prayer [Calvin]; also as being about to slay victims to God's justice, they stand where sacrifices are usually slain [Grotius], (Eze 39:17; Isa 34:6; Jer 12:3; 46:10).
And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;
3. glory of … God—which had heretofore, as a bright cloud, rested on the mercy seat between the cherubim in the holy of holies (2Sa 6:2; Ps 80:1); its departure was the presage of the temple being given up to ruin; its going from the inner sanctuary to the threshold without, towards the officers standing at the altar outside, was in order to give them the commission of vengeance.
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
4. midst of … city … midst of Jerusalem—This twofold designation marks more emphatically the scene of the divine judgments.
a mark—literally, the Hebrew letter Tau, the last in the alphabet, used as a mark ("my sign," Job 31:35, Margin); literally, Tau; originally written in the form of a cross, which Tertullian explains as referring to the badge and only means of salvation, the cross of Christ. But nowhere in Scripture are the words which are now employed as names of letters used to denote the letters themselves or their figures [Vitringa]. The noun here is cognate to the verb, "mark a mark." So in Re 7:3 no particular mark is specified. We seal what we wish to guard securely. When all things else on earth are confounded, God will secure His people from the common ruin. God gives the first charge as to their safety before He orders the punishment of the rest (Ps 31:20; Isa 26:20, 21). So in the case of Lot and Sodom (Ge 19:22); also the Egyptian first-born were not slain till Israel had time to sprinkle the blood-mark, ensuring their safety (compare Re 7:3; Am 9:9). So the early Christians had Pella provided as a refuge for them, before the destruction of Jerusalem.
upon the foreheads—the most conspicuous part of the person, to imply how their safety would be manifested to all (compare Jer 15:11; 39:11-18). It was customary thus to mark worshippers (Re 13:16; 14:1, 9) and servants. So the Church of England marks the forehead with the sign of the cross in baptizing. At the exodus the mark was on the houses, for then it was families; here, it is on the foreheads, for it is individuals whose safety is guaranteed.
sigh and … cry—similarly sounding verbs in Hebrew, as in English Version, expressing the prolonged sound of their grief. "Sigh" implies their inward grief ("groanings which cannot be uttered," Ro 8:26); "cry," the outward expression of it. So Lot (2Pe 2:7, 8). Tenderness should characterize the man of God, not harsh sternness in opposing the ungodly (Ps 119:53, 136; Jer 13:17; 2Co 12:21); at the same time zeal for the honor of God (Ps 69:9, 10; 1Jo 5:19).
And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:
5. the others—the six officers of judgment (Eze 9:2).
Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
6. come not near any … upon whom … mark—(Re 9:4). It may be objected that Daniel, Jeremiah, and others were carried away, whereas many of the vilest were left in the land. But God does not promise believers exemption from all suffering, but only from what will prove really and lastingly hurtful to them. His sparing the ungodly turns to their destruction and leaves them without excuse [Calvin]. However, the prophecy waits a fuller and final fulfilment, for Re 7:3-8, in ages long after Babylon, foretells, as still future, the same sealing of a remnant (one hundred forty-four thousand) of Israel previous to the final outpouring of wrath on the rest of the nation; the correspondence is exact; the same pouring of fire from the altar follows the marking of the remnant in both (compare Re 8:5, with Eze 10:2). So Zec 13:9; 14:2, distinguish the remnant from the rest of Israel.
begin at … sanctuary—For in it the greatest abominations had been committed; it had lost the reality of consecration by the blood of victims sacrificed to idols; it must, therefore, lose its semblance by the dead bodies of the slain idolaters (Eze 9:7). God's heaviest wrath falls on those who have sinned against the highest privileges; these are made to feel it first (1Pe 4:17, 18). He hates sin most in those nearest to Him; for example, the priests, &c.
ancient men—the seventy elders.
And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.
And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?
8. I was left—literally, "there was left I." So universal seemed the slaughter that Ezekiel thought himself the only one left [Calvin]. He was the only one left of the priests "in the sanctuary."
fell upon my face—to intercede for his countrymen (so Nu 16:22).
all the residue—a plea drawn from God's covenant promise to save the elect remnant.
Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.
9. exceeding—literally, "very, very"; doubled.
perverseness—"apostasy" [Grotius]; or, "wresting aside of justice."
Lord … forsaken … earth … seeth not—The order is reversed from Eze 8:12. There they speak of His neglect of His people in their misery; here they go farther and deny His providence (Ps 10:11), so that they may sin fearlessly. God, in answer to Ezekiel's question (Eze 9:8), leaves the difficulty unsolved; He merely vindicates His justice by showing it did not exceed their sin: He would have us humbly acquiesce in His judgments, and wait and trust.
And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.
10. mine eye—to show them their mistake in saying, "The Lord seeth not."
recompense their way upon their head—(Pr 1:31). Retribution in kind.
And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.
11. I have done as thou hast commanded—The characteristic of Messiah (Joh 17:4). So the angels (Ps 103:21); and the apostles report their fulfilment of their orders (Mr 6:30).