Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Attitude of God Towards the Worshippers of Idols, and Certainty of the Judgments
This chapter contains two words of God, which have obviously an internal connection with each other. The first (Ezekiel 14:1-11) announces to the elders, who have come to the prophet to inquire of God, that the Lord will not allow idolaters to inquire of Him, but will answer all who do not turn from idolatry with severe judgments, and will even destroy the prophets who venture to give an answer to such inquirers. The second (Ezekiel 14:12-23) denounces the false hope that God will avert the judgment and spare Jerusalem because of the righteousness of the godly men therein.
Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.The Lord Gives No Answer to the Idolaters
Ezekiel 14:1 narrates the occasion for this and the following words of God: There came to me men of the elders of Israel, and sat down before me. These men were not deputies from the Israelites in Palestine, as Grotius and others suppose, but elders of the exiles among whom Ezekiel had been labouring. They came to visit the prophet (v. 3), evidently with the intention of obtaining, through him, a word of God concerning the future of Jerusalem, or the fate of the kingdom of Judah. But Hvernick is wrong in supposing that we may infer, from either the first or second word of God in this chapter, that they had addressed to the prophet a distinct inquiry of this nature, to which the answer is given in vv. 12-23. For although their coming to the prophet showed that his prophecies had made an impression upon them, it is not stated in v. 1 that they had come to inquire of God, like the elders in Ezekiel 20:1, and there is no allusion to any definite questions in the words of God themselves. The first (Ezekiel 14:2-11) simply assumes that they have come with the intention of asking, and discloses the state of heart which keeps them from coming to inquire; and the second (Ezekiel 14:12-23) points out the worthlessness of their false confidence in the righteousness of certain godly men.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 14:3. Son of man, these men have let their idols rise up in their heart, and have set the stumbling-block to guilt before their face: shall I allow myself to be inquired of by them? Ezekiel 14:4. Therefore speak to them, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Every man of the house of Israel who lifteth up his idols in his heart, and setteth the stumbling-block to his sin before his face, and cometh to the prophet, to him do I, Jehovah, show myself, answering according thereto, according to the multitude of his idols; Ezekiel 14:5. To grasp the house of Israel by their heart, because they have turned away from me, all of them through their idols. - We have not to picture these elders to ourselves as given up to gross idolatry. העלה על לב means, to allow anything to come into the mind, to permit it to rise up in the heart, to be mentally busy therewith. "To set before one's face" is also to be understood, in a spiritual sense, as relating to a thing which a man will not put out of his mind. מכשׁול , stumbling-block to sin and guilt (cf. Ezekiel 7:19), i.e., the idols. Thus the two phrases simply denote the leaning of the heart and spirit towards false gods. God does not suffer those whose heart is attached to idols to seek and find Him. The interrogative clause 'האדּרשׁ וגו contains a strong negation. The emphasis lies in the infinitive absolute אדּרשׁ et placed before the verb, in which the ה is softened into א, to avoid writing ה twice. נדרשׁ, to allow oneself to be sought, involves the finding of God; hence in Isaiah 65:1 we have נדרשׁ as parallel to נמצא. In Ezekiel 14:4, Ezekiel 14:5, there follows a positive declaration of the attitude of God towards those who are devoted to idolatry in their heart. Every such Israelite will be answered by God according to the measure of the multitude of his idols. The Niphal נענה has not the signification of the Kal, and does not mean "to be answerable," as Ewald supposes, or to converse; but is generally used in a passive sense, "to be answered," i.e., to find or obtain a hearing (Job 11:2; Job 19:7). It is employed here in a reflective sense, to hold or show oneself answering. בה, according to the Chetib בהּ, for which the Keri suggests the softer gloss בא, refers to 'בּרב גל which follows; the nominative being anticipated, according to an idiom very common in Aramaean, by a previous pronoun. It is written here for the sake of emphasis, to bring the following object into more striking prominence. ב is used here in the sense of secundum, according to, not because, since this meaning is quite unsuitable for the ב in Ezekiel 14:7, where it occurs in the same connection (בּי). The manner in which God will show Himself answering the idolatry according to their idols, is reserved till Ezekiel 14:8. Here, in Ezekiel 14:5, the design of this procedure on the part of God is given: viz., to grasp Israel by the heart; i.e., not merely to touch and to improve them, but to bring down their heart by judgments (cf. Leviticus 26:41), and thus move them to give up idolatry and return to the living God. נזרוּ, as in Isaiah 1:4, to recede, to draw away from God. כּלּם is an emphatic repetition of the subject belonging to נזרוּ.
Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.In these verses the divine threat, and the summons to repent, are repeated, expanded, and uttered in the clearest words. - Ezekiel 14:6. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Repent, and turn away from your idols; and turn away your face from all your abominations. V.7. For every one of the house of Israel, and of the foreigners who sojourn in Israel, if he estrange himself from me, and let his idols rise up in his heart, and set the stumbling-block to his sin before his face, and come to the prophet to seek me for himself; I will show myself to him, answering in my own way. Ezekiel 14:8. I will direct my face against that man, and will destroy him, for a sign and for proverbs, and will cut him off out of my people; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah. - לכן in Ezekiel 14:6 is co-ordinate with the לכן in Ezekiel 14:4, so far as the thought is concerned, but it is directly attached to Ezekiel 14:5: because they have estranged themselves from God, therefore God requires them to repent and turn. For God will answer with severe judgments every one who would seek God with idols in his heart, whether he be an Israelite, or a foreigner living in the midst of Israel. שׁוּבוּ, turn, be converted, is rendered still more emphatic by the addition of פניכם... השׁיבוּ. This double call to repentance corresponds to the double reproof of their idolatry in Ezekiel 14:3, viz., שׁוּבוּ, to על לב 'העלה גל; and השׁיבוּ פניכם, to their setting the idols נכח פּניהם. השׁיבוּ is not used intransitively, as it apparently is in Ezekiel 18:30, but is to be taken in connection with the object פניכם, which follows at the end of the verse; and it is simply repeated before פניכם for the sake of clearness and emphasis. The reason for the summons to repent and give up idolatry is explained in Ezekiel 14:7, in the threat that God will destroy every Israelite, and every foreigner in Israel, who draws away from God and attaches himself to idols. The phraseology of Ezekiel 14:7 is adopted almost verbatim from Leviticus 17:8, Leviticus 17:10,Leviticus 17:13. On the obligation of foreigners to avoid idolatry and all moral abominations, vid., Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 18:26; Leviticus 17:10; Exodus 12:19, etc. The ו before ינּזר and יעל does not stand for the Vav relat., but simply supposes a case: "should he separate himself from my followers, and let his idols rise up, etc." לדרשׁ־לו בּי does not mean, "to seek counsel of him (the prophet) from me," for לו cannot be taken as referring to the prophet, although דּרשׁ with ל does sometimes mean to seek any one, and ל may therefore indicate the person to whom one goes to make inquiry (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:13; 2 Chronicles 17:4; 2 Chronicles 31:21), because it is Jehovah who is sought in this case; and Hvernick's remark, that "דּרשׁ with ל merely indicates the external object sought by a man, and therefore in this instance the medium or organ through whom God speaks," is proved to be erroneous by the passages just cited. לו is reflective, or to be taken as a dat. commodi, denoting the inquirer or seeker. The person approached for the purpose of inquiring or seeking, i.e., God, is indicated by the preposition בּ, as in 1 Chronicles 10:14 (דּרשׁ ); and also frequently, in the case of idols, when either an oracle or help is sought from them (1 Samuel 28:7; 2 Kings 1:2.). It is only in this way that לו and בּי can be made to correspond to the same words in the apodosis: Whosoever seeks counsel of God, to him will God show Himself answering בּי, in Him, i.e., in accordance with His nature, in His own way, - namely, in the manner described in Ezekiel 14:8. The threat is composed of passages in the law: 'נתתּי and 'הכרתּי וגו, after Leviticus 20:3, Leviticus 20:5-6; and 'וחשׁמותיהוּ וגו, though somewhat freely, after Deuteronomy 28:37 ('היה לשׁמּה למשׁל). There is no doubt, therefore, that השׁמותי is to be derived from שׁמם, and stands for השׁמּותי, in accordance with the custom in later writings of resolving the Dagesh forte into a long vowel. The allusion to Deuteronomy 28:37, compared with היה in v. 46 of the same chapter, is sufficient to set aside the assumption that השׁמותי is to be derived from שׂים, and pointed accordingly; although the lxx, Targ., Syr., and Vulg. have all renderings of שׂים (cf. Psalm 44:16). Moreover, שׂים in the perfect never takes the Hiphil form; and in Ezekiel 20:26 we have אשׁמּם in a similar connection. The expression is a pregnant one: I make him desolate, so that he becomes a sign and proverbs.
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:
And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.No prophet is to give any other answer. - Ezekiel 14:9. But if a prophet allow himself to be persuaded, and give a word, I have persuaded this prophet, and will stretch out my hand against him, and cut him off out of my people Israel. Ezekiel 14:10. They shall bear their guilt: as the guilt of the inquirer, so shall the guilt of the prophet be; Ezekiel 14:11. In order that the house of Israel may no more stray from me, and may no more defile itself with all its transgressions; but they may be my people, and I their God is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The prophet who allows himself to be persuaded is not a prophet מלּבּו (Ezekiel 13:2), but one who really thinks that he has a word of God. פּתּה, to persuade, to entice by friendly words (in a good sense, Hosea 2:16); but generally sensu malo, to lead astray, or seduce to that which is unallowable or evil. "If he allow himself to be persuaded:" not necessarily "with the hope of payment from the hypocrites who consult him" (Michaelis). This weakens the thought. It might sometimes be done from unselfish good-nature. And "the word" itself need not have been a divine oracle of his own invention, or a false prophecy. The allusion is simply to a word of a different character from that contained in Ezekiel 14:6-8, which either demands repentance or denounces judgment upon the impenitent: every word, therefore, which could by any possibility confirm the sinner in his security. - By אני יהוה (Ezekiel 14:9) the apodosis is introduced in an emphatic manner, as in Ezekiel 14:4 and Ezekiel 14:7; but פּתּיתי cannot be taken in a future sense ("I will persuade"). It must be a perfect; since the persuading of the prophet would necessarily precede his allowing himself to be persuaded. The Fathers and earlier Lutheran theologians are wrong in their interpretation of פּתּיתי, which they understand in a permissive sense, meaning simply that God allowed it, and did not prevent their being seduced. Still more wrong are Storr and Schmieder, the former of whom regards it as simply declaratory, "I will declare him to have gone astray from the worship of Jehovah;" the latter, "I will show him to be a fool, by punishing him for his disobedience." The words are rather to be understood in accordance with 1 Kings 22:20., where the persuading (pittâh) is done by a lying spirit, which inspires the prophets of Ahab to predict success to the king, in order that he may fall. As Jehovah sent the spirit in that case, and put it into the mouth of the prophets, so is the persuasion in this instance also effected by God: not merely divine permission, but divine ordination and arrangement; though this does not destroy human freedom, but, like all "persuading," presupposes the possibility of not allowing himself to be persuaded. See the discussion of this question in the commentary on 1 Kings 22:20. The remark of Calvin on the verse before us is correct: "it teaches that neither impostures nor frauds take place apart from the will of God" (nisi Deo volente). But this willing on the part of God, or the persuading of the prophets to the utterance of self-willed words, which have not been inspired by God, only takes place in persons who admit evil into themselves, and is designed to tempt them and lead them to decide whether they will endeavour to resist and conquer the sinful inclinations of their hearts, or will allow them to shape themselves into outward deeds, in which case they will become ripe for judgment. It is in this sense that God persuades such a prophet, in order that He may then cut him off out of His people. But this punishment will not fall upon the prophet only. It will reach the seeker or inquirer also, in order if possible to bring Israel back from its wandering astray, and make it into a people of God purified from sin (Ezekiel 14:10 and Ezekiel 14:11). It was to this end that, in the last times of the kingdom of Judah, God allowed false prophecy to prevail so mightily, - namely, that it might accelerate the process of distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked; and then, by means of the judgment which destroyed the wicked, purify His nation and lead it on to the great end of its calling.
And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;
That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.
The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,The Righteousness of the Godly will not Avert the Judgment
The threat contained in the preceding word of God, that if the idolaters did not repent, God would not answer them in any other way than with an exterminating judgment, left the possibility still open, that He would avert the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem for the sake of the righteous therein, as He had promised the patriarch Abraham that He would do in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:23.). This hope, which might be cherished by the people and by the elders who had come to the prophet, is now to be taken from the people by the word of God which follows, containing as it does the announcement, that if any land should sin so grievously against God by its apostasy, He would be driven to inflict upon it the punishments threatened by Moses against apostate Israel (Leviticus 26:22, Leviticus 26:25-26, and elsewhere), namely, to destroy both man and beast, and make the land a desert; it would be of no advantage to such a land to have certain righteous men, such as Noah, Daniel, and Job, living therein. For although these righteous men would be saved themselves, their righteousness could not possibly secure salvation for the sinners. The manner in which this thought is carried out in Ezekiel 14:13-20 is, that four exterminating punishments are successively supposed to come upon the land and lay it waste; and in the case of every one, the words are repeated, that even righteous men, such as Noah, Daniel, and Job, would only save their own souls, and not one of the sinners. And thus, according to Ezekiel 14:21-23, will the Lord act when He sends His judgments against Jerusalem; and He will execute them in such a manner that the necessity and righteousness of His acts shall be made manifest therein. - This word of God forms a supplementary side-piece to Jeremiah 15:1 -43, where the Lord replies to the intercession of the prophet, that even the intercession of a Moses and a Samuel on behalf of the people would not avert the judgments which were suspended over them.
Ezekiel 14:12. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 14:13. Son of man, if a land sin against me to act treacherously, and I stretch out my hand against it, and break in pieces for it the support of bread, and send famine into it, and cut off from it man and beast: Ezekiel 14:14. And there should be these three men therein, Noah, Daniel, and Job, they would through their righteousness deliver their soul, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 14:15. If I bring evil beasts into the land, so that they make it childless, and it become a desert, so that no one passeth through it because of the beasts: Ezekiel 14:16. These three men therein, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would not deliver sons and daughters; they only would be delivered, but the land would become a desert. Ezekiel 14:17. Or I bring the sword into that land, and say, Let the sword go through the land; and I cut off from it man and beast: Ezekiel 14:18. These three men therein, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would not deliver sons and daughters, but they only would be delivered. Ezekiel 14:19. Or I send pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: Ezekiel 14:20. Verily, Noah, Daniel, and Job, in the midst of it, as I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would only deliver their own soul through their righteousness. - ארץ in Ezekiel 14:13 is intentionally left indefinite, that the thought may be expressed in the most general manner. On the other hand, the sin is very plainly defined as למעל־מעל. מעל, literally, to cover, signifies to act in a secret or treacherous manner, especially towards Jehovah, either by apostasy from Him, in other words, by idolatry, or by withholding what is due to Him (see comm. on Leviticus 5:15). In the passage before us it is the treachery of apostasy from Him by idolatry that is intended. As the epithet used to denote the sin is taken from Leviticus 26:40 and Deuteronomy 32:51, so the four punishments mentioned in the following verses, as well as in Ezekiel 5:17, are also taken from Leviticus 26, - viz. the breaking up of the staff of bread, from v. 26; the evil beasts, from Ezekiel 14:22; and the sword and pestilence, from v. 25. The three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, are named as examples of true righteousness of life, or צדקה (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20); i.e., according to Calvin's correct explanation, quicquid pertinet ad regulam sancte et juste vivendi. Noah is so described in Genesis 6:9; and Job, in the Book of Job 1:1; Job 12:4, etc.; and Daniel, in like manner, is mentioned in Daniel 1:8., Ezekiel 6:11., as faithfully confessing his faith in his life. The fact that Daniel is named before Job does not warrant the conjecture that some other older Daniel is meant, of whom nothing is said in the history, and whose existence is merely postulated. For the enumeration is not intended to be chronological, but is arranged according to the subject-matter; the order being determined by the nature of the deliverance experienced by these men for their righteousness in the midst of great judgments. Consequently, as Hvernick and Kliefoth have shown, we have a climax here: Noah saved his family along with himself; Daniel was able to save his friends (Daniel 2:17-18); but Job, with his righteousness, was not even able to save his children. - The second judgment (Ezekiel 14:15) is introduced with לוּ, which, as a rule, supposes a case that is not expected to occur, or even regarded as possible; here, however, לוּ is used as perfectly synonymous with אם. שׁכּלתה has no Mappik, because the tone is drawn back upon the penultima (see comm. on Amos 1:11). In Ezekiel 14:19, the expression "to pour out my wrath in blood" is a pregnant one, for to pour out my wrath in such a manner that it is manifested in the shedding of blood or the destruction of life, for the life is in the blood. In this sense pestilence and blood were also associated in Ezekiel 5:17.
If we look closely at the four cases enumerated, we find the following difference in the statements concerning the deliverance of the righteous: that, in the first instance, it is simply stated that Noah, Daniel, and Job would save their soul, i.e., their life, by their righteousness; whereas, in the three others, it is declared that as truly as the Lord liveth they would not save either sons or daughters, but they alone would be delivered. The difference is not merely a rhetorical climax or progress in the address by means of asseveration and antithesis, but indicates a distinction in the thought. The first case is only intended to teach that in the approaching judgment the righteous would save their lives, i.e., that God would not sweep away the righteous with the ungodly. The three cases which follow are intended, on the other hand, to exemplify the truth that the righteousness of the righteous will be of no avail to the idolaters and apostates; since even such patterns of righteousness as Noah, Daniel, and Job would only save their own lives, and would not be able to save the lives of others also. This tallies with the omission of the asseveration in Ezekiel 14:14. The first declaration, that God would deliver the righteous in the coming judgments, needed no asseveration, inasmuch as this truth was not called in question; but it was required in the case of the declaration that the righteousness of the righteous would bring no deliverance to the sinful nation, since this was the hope which the ungodly cherished, and it was this hope which was to be taken from them. The other differences which we find in the description given of the several cases are merely formal in their nature, and do not in any way affect the sense; e.g., the use of לא, in Ezekiel 14:18, instead of the particle אם, which is commonly employed in oaths, and which we find in Ezekiel 14:16 and Ezekiel 14:20; the choice of the singular been בּן and בּת, in Ezekiel 14:20, in the place of the plural בּנים וּבנות, used in Ezekiel 14:16 and Ezekiel 14:18; and the variation in the expressions, ינצּלוּ נפשׁם (Ezekiel 14:14), יצּילוּ נפשׁם (Ezekiel 14:20), and המּה לבדּם ינּצלוּ (Ezekiel 14:16 and Ezekiel 14:18), which Hitzig proposes to remove by altering the first two forms into the third, though without the slightest reason. For although the Piel occurs in Exodus 12:36 in the sense of taking away or spoiling, and is not met with anywhere else in the sense of delivering, it may just as well be used in this sense, as the Hiphil has both significations.
Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?The rule expounded in Ezekiel 14:13-20 is here applied to Jerusalem. - Ezekiel 14:21. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, How much more when I send my four evil judgments, sword, and famine, and evil beasts, and pestilence, against Jerusalem, to cut off from it man and beast? Ezekiel 14:22. And, behold, there remain escaped ones in her who will be brought out, sons and daughters; behold, they will go out to you, that ye may see their walk and their works; and console yourselves concerning the evil which I have brought upon Jerusalem. Ezekiel 14:23. And they will console you, when ye see their walk and their works: and ye will see that I have not done without cause all that I have done to her, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - By כּי in Ezekiel 14:21 the application of the general rule to Jerusalem is made in the form of a reason. The meaning, however, is not, that the reason why Jehovah was obliged to act in this unsparing manner was to be found in the corrupt condition of the nation, as Hvernick supposes, - a thought quite foreign to the context; but כּי indicates that the judgments upon Jerusalem will furnish a practical proof of the general truth expressed in Ezekiel 14:13-20, and so confirm it. This כּי is no more an emphatic yea than the following "אף is a forcible introduction to the antithesis formed by the coming fact, to the merely imaginary cases mentioned above" (Hitzig). אף has undoubtedly the force of a climax, but not of an asseveration, "verily" (Hv.); a meaning which this particle never has. It is used here, as in Job 4:19, in the sense of אף כּי; and the כּי which follows אף swollof hcihw in this case is a conditional particle of time, "when." Consequently כי ought properly to be written twice; but it is only used once, as in Ezekiel 15:5; Job 9:14, etc. The thought is this: how much more will this be the case, namely, that even a Noah, Daniel, and Job will not deliver either sons or daughters when I send my judgments upon Jerusalem. The perfect שׁלּחתּי is used, and not the imperfect, as in Ezekiel 14:13, because God has actually resolved upon sending it, and does not merely mention it as a possible case. The number four is significant, symbolizing the universality of the judgment, or the thought that it will fall on all sides, or upon the whole of Jerusalem; whereby it must also be borne in mind that Jerusalem as the capital represents the kingdom of Judah, or the whole of Israel, so far as it was still in Canaan. At the same time, by the fact that the Lord allows sons and daughters to escape death, and to be led away to Babylon, He forces the acknowledgment of the necessity and righteousness of His judgments among those who are in exile. This is in general terms the thought contained in Ezekiel 14:22 and Ezekiel 14:23, to which very different meanings have been assigned by the latest expositors. Hvernick, for example, imagines that, in addition to the four ordinary judgments laid down in the law, Ezekiel 14:22 announces a new and extraordinary one; whereas Hitzig and Kliefoth have found in these two verses the consolatory assurance, that in the time of the judgments a few of the younger generation will be rescued and taken to those already in exile in Babylon, there to excite pity as well as to express it, and to give a visible proof of the magnitude of the judgment which has fallen upon Israel. They differ so far from each other, however, that Hitzig regards those of the younger generation who are saved as צדּיקים, who have saved themselves through their innocence, but not their guilty parents, and who will excite the commiseration of those already in exile through their blameless conduct; whilst Kliefoth imagines that those who are rescued are simply less criminal than the rest, and when they come to Babylon will be pitied by those who have been longer in exile, and will pity them in return.
Neither of these views does justice to the words themselves or to the context. The meaning of. Ezekiel 14:22 is clear enough; and in the main there has been no difference of opinion concerning it. When man and beast are cut off out of Jerusalem by the four judgments, all will not perish; but פּליטה, i.e., persons who have escaped destruction, will be left, and will be led out of the city. These are called sons and daughters, with an allusion to Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18, and Ezekiel 14:20; and consequently we must not take these words as referring to the younger generation in contrast to the older. They will be led out of Jerusalem, not to remain in the land, but to come to "you," i.e., those already in exile, that is to say, to go into exile to Babylon. This does not imply either a modification or a sharpening of the punishment; for the cutting off of man and beast from a town may be effected not only by slaying, but by leading away. The design of God in leaving some to escape, and carrying them to Babylon, is explained in the clauses which follow from וּראיתם onwards, the meaning of which depends partly upon the more precise definition of דּרכּם and עלילותם, and partly upon the explanation to be given of נחמתּם and ונחמוּ אתכם. The ways and works are not to be taken without reserve as good and righteous works, as Kliefoth has correctly shown in his reply to Hitzig. Still less can ways and works denote their experience or fate, which is the explanation given by Kliefoth of the words, when expounding the meaning and connection of Ezekiel 14:21-23. The context certainly points to wicked ways and evil works. And it is only the sight of such works that could lead to the conviction that it was not חנּם, in vain, i.e., without cause, that God had inflicted such severe judgments upon Jerusalem. And in addition to this effect, which is mentioned in Ezekiel 14:23 as produced upon those who were already in exile, by the sight of the conduct of the פּליטה that came to Babylon, the immediate design of God is described in Ezekiel 14:22 as 'ונחמתּם על־הרעה וגו. The verb נחם with על cannot be used here in the sense of to repent of, or be sorry for, a judgment which God has inflicted upon him, but only of evil which he himself has done; and נחם does not mean to pity a person, either when construed in the Piel with an accusative of the person, or in the Niphal c. על, rei. נחמתּם is Niphal, and signifies here to console oneself, as in Genesis 38:12 with על, concerning anything, as in 2 Samuel 13:39; Jeremiah 31:15, etc.; and נחמוּ (Ezekiel 14:23), with the accusative of the person, to comfort any one, as in Genesis 51:21; Job 2:11, etc. But the works and doings of those who came to Babylon could only produce this effect upon those who were already there, from the fact that they were of such a character as to demonstrate the necessity for the judgments which had fallen upon Jerusalem. A conviction of the necessity for the divine judgments would cause them to comfort themselves with regard to the evil inflicted by God; inasmuch as they would see, not only that the punishment endured was a chastisement well deserved, but that God in His righteousness would stay the punishment when it had fulfilled His purpose, and restore the penitent sinner to favour once more. But the consolation which those who were in exile would derive from a sight of the works of the sons and daughters who had escaped from death and come to Babylon, is attributed in Ezekiel 14:23 (נחמוּ אתכם) to the persons themselves. It is in this sense that it is stated that "they will comfort you;" not by expressions of pity, but by the sight of their conduct. This is directly affirmed in the words, "when ye shall see their conduct and their works." Consequently Ezekiel 14:23 does not contain a new thought, but simply the thought already expressed in Ezekiel 14:22, which is repeated in a new form to make it the more emphatic. And the expression את כּל־אשׁר , in Ezekiel 14:22, serves to increase the force; whilst את, in the sense of quoad, serves to place the thought to be repeated in subordination to the whole clause (cf. Ewald, 277a, p. 683).
Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.
And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.