Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
B. SECOND PRINCIPAL PART.—EZEKIEL 33–48
THE PROPHECY OF GOD’S MERCIES TOWARD HIS PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
I. THE RENEWAL OF EZEKIEL’S DIVINE MISSION.—CH 33.
1And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2Son of man, speak to the sons of thy people, and say to them, When I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their borders, and set him for3their watchman; And he sees the sword coming upon the land, and blows4the trumpet, and warns the people; And any one hears the sound of the trumpet, and does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes himaway, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him, since, letting6himself be warned, he would make his soul [his life] escape [would deliver it]. And the watchman, when he sees the sword coming, and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword shall come and take away a soul [a man] from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood7will I require at the watchman’s hand. And thou, son of man, [as a] watch man have I given thee to the house of Israel, and [so] thou hearest the word8out of My mouth, and thou warnest them from Me. If I say to the wicked, Wicked man, thou shalt surely die, and thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, he, the wicked man, in [on account of] his iniquity shall9die, but his blood will I require at thy hand. But if thou dost warn a wicked man of his way, that he turn from it, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in [on account of] his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.10And thou, son of man, say to the house of Israel: Thus ye say, saying, If our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine in [on account of] them,11how shall [can] we then live? Say to them, As I live, saith [sentence of] the Lord Jehovah, if I should have pleasure in the death of the wicked! but in the turning of a wicked man from his way, that he may live. Turn ye, turn ye12from your evil ways; and why will ye die, O house of Israel? And thou, son of man, say to the sons of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and through [in the] wickedness of the wicked shall he [the wicked] not stumble [fall] in the day of his turning from his wickedness; and a righteous man shall not be able to13live thereby [namely, because he is a righteous man] in the day of his sin. When I say of the [to the] righteous, He shall surely live, and he trusts in his righteousness and commits iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered, and in14his iniquity which he does, in it shall he die. And when I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, and he turns from his sin, and does judgment andrighteousness: 15If the wicked shall restore a pledge, shall repay what he had robbed, if he walks in the statutes of life, that he do no iniquity—he shall16surely live, he shall not die! All his sins which he sinned, they shall not be remembered to him; he does judgment and righteousness; he shall surely17live! And the sons of thy people are saying, The way of the Lord is not18right—but they, their way is not right! When a righteous man turns from his19righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die thereby: And when a wicked man turns from his wickedness, and does judgment and righteousness,20thereby shall he live. And ye say: The way of the Lord is not right? Everyone as his ways [are] will I judge you, O house of Israel.—21And it came to pass, in the twelfth year, in the tenth [month], on the fifth of the month of our captivity,22the escaped from Jerusalem came to me, saying, The city is taken. And the hand of Jehovah was upon me [came upon me] in the evening before the coming of the escaped, and He opened my mouth, until he came to me in23the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no longer dumb. Andthe word of Jehovah came to me, saying, 24Son of man, the inhabitants of those ruins on the ground of Israel are saying, Abraham was one, and he got the land for a possession, and we [are] many, and the land is given us for a possession25Therefore say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Ye eat upon [with] the blood, and ye lift your eyes [continually] to your abominable idols, and shedblood, and shall ye possess the land? 26Ye stand upon your sword, ye do abomination, and pollute every one his neighbour’s wife, and shall ye possess27the land? Say thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, As I live, if they who are in the ruins shall not fall by the sword! And him that is in the field will I give to the beasts to be eaten, and they that are in the forts28and in the caves shall die of the pestilence. And I give the land to waste and desolation, and the pride of its strength ceases; and the mountains of29Israel are waste, that no one passes over them. And they know that I [am] Jehovah, when I give the land to waste and desolation, because of all their30abominations which they have done.—And thou, son of man, the sons of thy people talk of thee beside the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one with another, each with his brother, saying, Come now, and hear 31what the word is which proceedeth from Jehovah! And they will come to thee as a people comes, and will be before thee [as] My people, and they hear thy words, and they will not do them; for [but] in their mouth they are prating loves [ever making love-songs, have wanton pieces in their mouth]; their heart goes after32their gain. And lo! thou art to them as a wanton song, beautiful of sound [voice], and one striking the chords well; and they hear thy words, and do33them not. And when it comes—lo! it comes, then they know that a prophet was in the midst of them.
Ezekiel 33:2. Vulg.: de novissimis suis—(licet ex infimis suis, ROSENM, vel de excellentioribus, LYRA).
Ezekiel 33:3. Sept.: ... καὶ σημανη τ.λαῶ,
Ezekiel 33:4. ... και μη φυλαξητχι—et non se observaverit—
Ezekiel 33:12. Sept. ... ἀνομια ἀνομου οὐ μη κακωση αὐτον … δυνησεται σωθηναι—
Ezekiel 33:16. ... ἐν αὐτοις ζησεται
Ezekiel 33:21. Sept. ... ἐν τ. δωδεκατω μηνι—Vulg.: vastata est civitas! (Another read.: בעשתי עשרח, Syr.)
Ezekiel 33:22. ... κ. συνεκλεισθη ἐτι.
Ezekiel 33:25. Another read.: רעיניכם, fully.
Ezekiel 33:26. ... και ἀνηζ τον πλησιον αὐτου ἐμιανατε—(Another read.: עשיתם.)
Ezekiel 33:28. Sept.: ... δια το μη εἰναι διαποζευομενον.
Ezekiel 33:31. ... ὁτι Ψευδος ἐν τ.στοματι αὐτων κ. ὀπισω τ. μιασματων αὐτων—Vulg.: quia in canticum oris sui vertunt illos et avaritiam suam—
Ezekiel 33:32. Και γινμ αυψοις ὡς φωνη Ψαλτηςιου ἡδυφωνου εὐαςμοστου—Vulg.: quasi carmen musicum, quod suavi dulcique sono canitur;—
Ezekiel 33:33. ... ἐςουσιν ’Ιδου ἡκει—
It is a question whether the last division of our book opens with this chapter. Kliefoth denies it from the contents, which point back to what precedes, Ezekiel 3:17 sq., 18:20 sq. The third part must begin with Ezekiel 33:21. In contrast to the foreign nations, Ezekiel 33:2 associates this word of threatening against Israel with the words of threatening against foreign nations previously given, as is done also in Isaiah and Jeremiah. Ezekiel 25:1–32. 32 numbers thirteen words of God; thereto belongs Ezekiel 33:1–20 as a fourteenth, in order to make out the number 2 × 7. The contents, threatenings and warnings, are not suited as an introduction to the promises of the third part; while, on the contrary, they are quite proper as a conclusion to the preceding portions. Hengstenberg also regards Ezekiel 33:1–20 as the author’s conclusion, but to the whole of what precedes, namely, Ezekiel 1–32. The text does not show the impossibility of Ezekiel having delivered a prophecy to his people before the arrival of the escaped; but the admitted résumé out of the preceding is no argument against the supposition of an introduction to the following, as we shall see, just as little as the want of a specification of time. For with reference to the latter point, Hitzig justly points to the historical notice standing in the middle, Ezekiel 33:21, 22. Its importance for the present chapter, in fact, makes any farther indication of time superfluous; as was remarked by Häv., who in this only goes too far, that he makes the revelations on to Ezekiel 39 to have been imparted to the prophet in one night—the portion Ezekiel 33:1–20 forming the somewhat earlier introduction revealed to him, and Ezekiel 33:21–33 attaching itself to the other very closely as a new introduction.
This chapter has first of all its relation to the transition portion, Ezekiel 25–32. In this respect it likewise has a transition character, which on one side gives indication of itself in this, that it, as also Ezekiel 25–27, points back to the earlier part. For as the predictions of judgment upon those without are in some sense an appendage to the repeated, always increasingly definite prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, so Ezekiel 33:2 sq., in what it says of the watchman-agency of Ezekiel, attaches an admonition for Israel to try themselves, in presence of this activity of the prophet, whether Ezekiel had not dealt faithfully with his obligation, or Israel with his warning; but especially as regards the exiled, the verses 10 sq. render conspicuous, in contrast with the despair of these, God’s will and procedure, and verses 17 sq. set forth these as being the right way. If people will not renounce every kind of a connection, for which there is no foundation, they will find—where now what was announced in Ezekiel 24–26 sq. begins to enter—the supposition of a close to the past prophetic activity of Ezekiel, the prophecy of judgment, quite deserving of acceptation. It was a close proceeding out of as well as with that which had preceded. But by reason of the relation of this chapter, as now indicated, primarily to Ezekiel 25–32., is farther expressed its relation to the first main division, Ezekiel 1:–24. On the other side, however, the transition character of the section Ezekiel 25–32. (pp. 11, 12) is proved by that which is contained in these chapters of a preparatory, introductory nature to the second main division of the book. This is the case also with our present chapter. It might already be regarded as a preparation for something new, that at the close with what precedes the call of Ezekiel is formulated out of it, and Israel is challenged to self-examination, as also to an acquittal of the prophet and a justification of God. The in part verbal reference of this chapter to Ezekiel 3 and 18, in Ezekiel 33:2–20, certainly does not (as Keil supposes) set forth the call of Ezekiel for the future, but it contains a renewal of his divine mission. The connecting together of the two halves of the chapter is on no account to be regarded as “merely accidental.” “The two verses 25 and 26, just as Ezekiel 33:15, alike point back to Ezekiel 18; and on the other hand, that Ezekiel 33:10b is in accord with Ezekiel 24:23, cannot be overlooked” (HITZ.). The full-toned charge in Ezekiel 33:2: “Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them,” suits well as a commencement, while Ezekiel 33:24 looks only like a continuation. What Ezekiel must say to the sons of his people (Ezekiel 33:2) prepares for the opening of his mouth (Ezekiel 33:22), and so introduces what is to be said in Ezekiel 33:25. There can be no doubt that what is stated in Ezekiel 33:21, 22 is the fulfilment of Ezekiel 24:26, 27; so that the new, to which the verses 2–20 form the preparation and introduction,—the prophecy of God’s mercies toward His people in the world,—is the second main division of the book. The passage, also, Ezekiel 33:10 sq. explicitly directs the despairing to grace, while in the parallel passage, Ezekiel 33:24 sq., the stout-hearted are, on the contrary, pointed to the judgment; so that the section Ezekiel 33:23 sq. speaks just as much of threatening as of the opposite.
Ezekiel 33:1–20. What kind of a sending of Ezekiel that was which is now renewed.
Ezekiel 33:1. On what occurred in the twelfth year, after the taking of Jerusalem, on the evening or during the night before the escaped made his appearance, comp. at Ezekiel 33:22. The address being to the sons of thy people (Ezekiel 33:2), shows that he was now to turn from foreign nations to Israel again—although עַמְּךָ is still used, not עַמִּי, as at Ezekiel 33:31 for the first time. There is already a preparation made for the great turn which divides the book.—If an application to the fellow-exiles of the prophet is primarily to be understood, there is still a more general one indicated in what follows,—that to the Israel of the captivity the Israel at home were to be added, that Israel generally were to be contemplated. For with this also agrees “the house of Israel” in the application of the similitude (Ezekiel 33:7), according to which the children of the people of the prophet were thought of in common, as those who were entering into one and the same condition(בּוֹא), just as in the similitude itself “land” is spoken of, and אֶרֶץ placed quite absolutely (comp. 14:13).—The idea is first expressed figuratively, Ezekiel 33:2–6, before Israel is put into the frame and hung on the wall (Ezekiel 33:7–9).—אֶרֶץ כִּי־אָבִיא, spoken generally, but not altogether hypothetically; so, however, that the hearers should think of a case before them which had either actually occurred or was in the act of doing so. The enemy was on the way (HITZ., GROT.), was standing at the cross-way (Ezekiel 21:26 , 24:2). The turning of the matter into a similitude is peculiar to our passage, as distinguished from Ezekiel 3:16–21. Peculiar, also, is the trait in a manner necessitating a certain experience on the part of the hearers, that the people of the land in question, the men, were themselves to appoint the watchmen, whence, in case they did not give heed to him, they withstood and strove against themselves, and so should be the more convicted of their guilt and folly.—מִקְצֵיהֶם, singular, but in a plural sense: from the end on all sides, the entire territory of the land; according to the suffix, to be understood of the whole community, with reference to לָקְתוּ and נָתְנוּ׳ לָהֶם(Gen. 19:4; 1 Kings 12:31). Häv., Tuch decide for an ellipsis וְעַד קָצֶה.—On צֹפֶה, comp. on Ezekiel 3:17.
Ezekiel 33:3. Corresponding to the fundamental idea ofוְרָאָה, צֹפֶה.—שׁוֹפָר of the clear resounding tone. That we are to think of a horny sort of instrument, if not one simply of horn, is evident from its being exchanged with קֶרֶץ, in Josh. 6. for example. תָּקַע שׁוֹפָר is distinguished as a signal for the calling together of the people, in Num. 10:6, 7, from the sounding of an alarm at a breaking up. Here it is manifestly applied to the announcement of the enemy, for a warning or advertisement to the people (comp. Ezekiel 3:17, and pp. 72, 73).
Ezekiel 33:4. וְשָׁמַע הַשֹּׁמֵעַ, who hath ears to hear (Rev. 2:7, 11, etc.).—בִזְחָר for נִזְחַר.—And the sword comes, when the sword is a-coming, and what is to be feared cannot be a matter of doubt. EWALD: “so that the sword came and carried him away, then his blood,” etc. According to HENGST.: because people are wont to carry on their heads; according to others, the image is derived from sacrifice, in which the offerer transferred his guilt to his victim by the laying on of his hand (Lev. 1:4, 24:14; Matt. 27:25).
Ezekiel 33:5. The alone self-guiltiness of the individual is here made still more manifest. An explication without any need of the בִּי, for.—בּוֹ, as much as בְּרֹאשׁוֹ, Ezekiel 33:4.—HITZIG: “Because he let himself be warned, he has delivered his soul.” נִזְחָר is here the participle.
Ezekiel 33:6. The similitude has hitherto proceeded on the supposition that the watchman does his duty, because this is really the case in hand. But now the other supposition is made, that he has neglected what belonged to his calling.—הוּא, masculine, referring to נֶפֶשׁ.—Since only the soul which continues in sin is liable to death (Ezekiel 18:4, etc.), a wicked person is presupposed (as at Ezekiel 3:18) as the one that should be carried away; it should be through his guilt, on account of it and in it. But while previously the guilt of his blood was simply his own, the blood-guilt of his disobedience in respect to the intended warning is now, without regard to his guilt otherwise and generally, sought at the hand of the watchman. It is to be observed that for this דָּרַשׁ is used here, while we have בָּקַשׁ at Ezekiel 3:18, 20.—That the case supposed is only a possible, by no means a real one, appears from the application made of it at Ezekiel 33:7 to Ezekiel—for the προτασις the ἀποδοσις(comp. Heb. 13:17). At the same time is his installation as watchman to the house of Israel taken out of human hands,—in that case, when men appoint for themselves a watchman, the last-named possibility (Ezekiel 33:6) might all the more readily take place,—and Jehovah carries back the watchman-office of Ezekiel expressly to Himself (I have given thee).—וְשָׁמַעְתָּ׳, such literally was the expression used of the call given in Ezekiel 3:17, so that we must think of supplying to the words marks of quotation; therefore not importing that the prophet must thereby be instructed with respect to the future.
Ezekiel 33:8. The same as before, only with a still more emphatic address than at Ezekiel 3:18.
Ezekiel 33:9. So here again; comp. at Ezekiel 3:19 (Acts 20:25, 26).
Ezekiel 33:10. Since nothing of the neglect of duty which had taken place is charged upon the prophet, only the original direction given him is again literally repeated: the guilt must be sought among the people, as was really the case, and indeed is clear from their own lips, as stated here.—לֵאמֹר, their saying is set over against that which had been said to the prophet in divine direction, according to which he must speak; their doing also in regard to the Lord, as they had known it from the prophet’s behaviour toward them, set over against his doing and acting.—Of what nature the divine mission of Ezekiel was from the first has been repeated (Ezekiel 33:2–9) in the similitude and its explanation, and now (hence אְֶמֹר׳ repeated in Ezekiel 33:11) there follows in what manner this mission of his is renewed to the prophet. A reference is made back to Ezekiel 18, but the difference between what is said there and here must not be overlooked. While there no consciousness of guilt, no confession of sin, appears (18:2), the predominantly recriminative work of Ezekiel has still produced so much effect that they now say: Our transgressions and our sins are upon us. But this consciousness and this confession tinges in the darkest manner the feeling of despair in regard to life. It is by no means for the purpose of excusing themselves that the people appeal to the passage Lev. 26:39. Consequently, the upon us is not to be understood as meaning: “testify against us” (ROSENM.), but as of a burden under which they are sinking (וּבָם׳ נְנַקִּים, comp. on Ezekiel 24:23, 4:17). Those who represented themselves in Ezekiel 18 as expiatory sufferers for their ancestors, here are pining away under their own burden, and that with reference to the prospect of life, likewise repeatedly opened up in Ezekiel 18. (Ezekiel 33:23, 32). We must, therefore, take into account the pressure, were it only of the evil forebodings, the foreshadows of the event mentioned in Ezekiel 33:21, if not the actual knowledge of the taking of Jerusalem; so that in this also may be seen preparation, an introduction to what was to follow.
Ezekiel 33:11. What for this despair in respect to life (i.e. deliverance, salvation, favour) was the declared mind and will of Jehovah in Ezekiel 18:23, 32, the same is here emphasized in the peculiar protestation: As I live, while there it is only: “Have I any pleasure?” or: “for I have no pleasure”—see there also Ezekiel 18:30, 31.
Ezekiel 33:12. We learn, however, that the question is about conversion: “He combats despair only in so far as it is a hindrance to repentance. To afford mere tranquillity is not the aim of the prophet” (HENGST.). Comp. on Ezekiel 18:20, where in like manner with reference to conversion we have this antithesis: “righteousness of the righteous,” and: “wickedness of the wicked.” Through this antithesis to לֹא תַּצִּילֶנּוּ, the expression לֹא יִכָּשֶׁל becomes clear (Niphal); GESEN.: “he shall not be unfortunate.” His own righteousness no means of deliverance, so soon as he falls into transgression; and wickedness, again, no necessary destruction, so soon as a change to the better comes. (פִּשׁעוֹ is likewise infinitive.) Because presently the case of the righteous was to be spoken of, it is said by way of introduction thereto: And a righteous man, etc. בָּהּ, in, through, on account of his righteousness.
Ezekiel 33:13. To the righteous man who continues such, assurance of life is promised. Confidence in one’s own righteousness (singular, as an actual quality), when one does unrighteousness (Ezekiel 3:20), may be on the one side, but on the other side there will be no remembrance of the earlier righteousnesses. Comp. Ezekiel 18:24, 26.
Ezekiel 33:14. The contrast with the wicked. Here an address to such, because this is what is wished for; comp. Ezekiel 18:21.
Ezekiel 33:15. A lively form of speech, hence without the copula, an exemplification. Comp. in reference to it, Ezekiel 18:7, 12, 16, 21, 28, 20:11.
Ezekiel 33:16. Comp. Ezekiel 18:22.
Ezekiel 33:17. Comp. on Ezekiel 18:24 sq. The immediate occasion for blame is formed here by such a representation of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:14 sq.) who repented, over the righteous who does unrighteousness. The fact alone that “a righteous man” could be spoken of before them in such a manner, more especially that turning, turning, is what they are called to, while they had placed their confidence upon “the righteousness of the righteous” (Ezekiel 33:12)—if not their own, yet that which belonged to them, descended to them as the people of God from their pious forefathers—that is the stone in the way of the Lord which the divine address takes away, in order to throw it to the quarter to which it belongs, namely, to the false way of Israel, which they had chosen for themselves with their outward carnal self-righteousness in such and such religious observances. Ezekiel 33:18, 19, however, do not simply repeat Ezekiel 33:13, 14, but the two cases of the righteous and the wicked return again in the form which is the most appropriate for setting forth clearly and distinctly the way of the Lord, and in which it strikes at first sight, and at the same time with reference to the command given: “Return, return.” Hence not וְהוּא־בָטַח עַל־צִד׳, as at Ezekiel 33:13, but בְשׁוּב־צַדּיק מִצִּדְ׳ (Ezekiel 3:20), and with nothing farther וּמֵת בָּהֶם, namely, by these two parts: turning from his righteousness, which is left unnoticed, and doing unrighteousness. (ROSENM.: עָוֶל, collective.) Comp. Ezekiel 18:24, 26. The wicked throws light on this caricature of turning—a turning it also is, indeed, only to what is evil—by his, on the contrary, turning from his wickedness (in Ezekiel 33:14 it is from “his sin”).
Ezekiel 33:20, as also Ezekiel 18:29, repeats the charge for the purpose of making a suitable close. Comp. Ezekiel 18:30 (Ezekiel 7:27).
Ezekiel 33:21, 22. The fresh turn.
The fact is now an accomplished one—Jerusalem is taken (Ezekiel 24:25); and therewith we have, as had been foretold at the close of Ezekiel 24, not only the arrival of the escaped, but as the main thing the opening of Ezekiel’s mouth, that he might no more be dumb. This historical notice in the middle of the chapter is therefore the kernel of the whole: the renewal of the divine mission of the prophet, over against the completed acts of judgment, now gives to his prophecy the expression of God’s compassions toward His people in the world, with which the second main division of the book is occupied.
The indication of time which was to mark the turning-point for the prophet (for Jerusalem was overcome on the 9th of the 4th month of the 11th year) teaches us to understand the expressions: “in the day,” inch. 24:25, or: “in that day,” Ezekiel 33:26, 27, of what was to take place more than sixteen months afterwards. Hitzig regards it as “very improbable that Ezekiel should first have received in January 586 the report of what had happened to Jerusalem in July 588;” and in place of considering that the text could not mean to speak of the report, he makes the prophet over and above “contradict himself,” inasmuch as, according to Ezekiel 26:1, 2, he had already in the eleventh year heard the report of the matter—which, however, is not necessarily rendered clear by Ezekiel 26.—and then at the close he changes the twelfth year into the eleventh, which is supported by the Syrian translation alone. Hengst. justly remarks that the notice does not refer to the first report concerning the taking of Jerusalem, and then proceeds: “The news of such events spread with amazing rapidity. The intelligence, doubtless, arrived in eight, or at the most fourteen days at the abode of Ezekiel; so that the difficulty is not removed by assuming most arbitrarily an error in the text, and putting the eleventh in place of the twelfth year.” The meaning of what was announced beforehand in Ezekiel 24, and according to our verse had now actually occurred, is that in place of all reports—so fitted to awaken hope, yet traversing the way of the Lord with His people, always again paralysing their necessary conversion—which up to the last had arrived, a certain fugitive shall now speak, and, as an eye-witness, place beyond all dispute what had actually happened. The matter-of-fact voucher given into the hand of the exiled with this escaped one must have removed out of the path of safety what at least the strong walls of Jerusalem threw in the way of their turning to the Lord. For the meaning ascribed to חַפָּלִיט, to make one’s escape, get off through flight (Gen. 14:13), it is not necessary, with Hengstenberg, to suppose an ideal person, a collective, that is, “a band of exiles,” as Ezekiel had already intimated, Ezekiel 14:22, 23, that a whole host of such fugitives would come to the exiles, “so that these by their miserable plight should be a living proclamation of the frightful catastrophe through which they had passed.” Hitzig thinks that “the fugitive may have escaped immediately after the bloodshed at Mizpah from the band of Ishmael (Jer. 41:10); if not, which is improbable, only after the flight which ensued into Egypt.” J. D. Michaelis explains out of the remoteness of Ezekiel’s place of residence the so late arrival of the fugitive, especially considering the frightful disorder that took place.
Ezekiel 33:22. And the hand of Jehovah, etc.; comp. Ezekiel 37:1, 1:3. The effect of it was the opening of the mouth. But this latter can be virtually and actually distinguished. In that respect the opening of the mouth of Ezekiel took place when it was commanded him that he should speak to the sons of his people, in respect to whom he had been dumb from the time indicated in Ezekiel 24. He began to do so at Ezekiel 33:1 of this chapter, to which, therefore, the expression concerning “the hand of Jehovah” brings us back—namely, that this hand had now removed from him his previous dumbness, so that he might henceforth again speak to Israel, and should do so. J. D. Michaelis remarks quite correctly: “the prophet fell into ecstasy,” and the word contained in Ezekiel 33:2–20 was imparted to him. In regard to the time, it is more precisely stated that the divine cause comes into operation on the evening before the coming of the escaped; and parallel therewith was the effect, the opening of the prophet’s mouth, עַד־בֹּא אֵלַי׳, therefore in the interval between the evening and the morning. It was hence independently of the escaped that the prophet got a renewal of his commission, and, indeed, while there was combined with the removal of his previously enforced silence a direct positive revelation and communication. Through a divine movement and working, everything was thus prepared and introduced for that which was going to take place on the fugitive’s arrival. For the circumstance that on his actual arrival Ezekiel’s mouth was opened (וַיִּפָּתַח פִּי is not to be regarded as an emphatic repetition for the purpose of connection with what follows, but in contradistinction to וַיִּפְתַּח אֶת־פִּי), adds to what was done potentia, as it now also took place actu, so that the divine word, Ezekiel 33:2–20, given with this aim, for this particular moment destined, was now also spoken to the people by the prophet; and in proof that he was no more dumb, he immediately proceeded to give the continuation of it (Ezekiel 33:23 sq.). In Ezekiel 24:27 it was said Ezekiel’s mouth should be opened “with” the escaped. In the wider sense, namely, at the same time, about the time, when the escaped should come, it took place in the evening; literally, it took place with him in the morning, and the renewed prophetical mission of Ezekiel began then in fact. [“One may designate the following prophecies as the prophetically represented victorious history of Israel, of the kingdom of God among men. The wonderful, truly great, and divine is set forth here as a contrast to the present. In the presence of death only resurrection and life! The deepest humiliation of the covenant-people, their apparent annihilation is the path to their true greatness, nay, to their eternal glory.”—HÄV.] Hengst. remarks: “On the night before the arrival of the exile-band, which was doubtless announced the day before, took place the opening of the prophet’s mouth, the removal of the seal as it were from it. The impulse to speak to the people again asserted itself. The prophetic activity itself first commenced after the exile-band appeared, the arrival of which was to form the ground for the receiving of the new disclosures. Only after the complete death exhibited before their eyes, the annihilation of all earthly hopes, could the announcement of the joyful resurrection be made.” Comp. besides on Ezekiel 3:26, 27, and 29:21.
Ezekiel 33:23–33. The Renewed Mission of Ezekiel in view of the State of Heart of those in Canaan (Ezekiel 33:23–29), and then of those in the Captivity (Ezekiel 33:30–33).
What sort of a mission that of Ezekiel’s was which was renewed to him, namely, to do the part of a watchman, to warn the people, we have already seen in Ezekiel 33:2–9. Hence in the connection of the following section with Ezekiel 33:1–20 things stand in their proper order, and it entirely corresponds with a continuation of the divine discourse, that such a position of the prophet at the renewal of his divine mission first of all comes to an explanation with those who are still to be warned, to be threatened. The beginning of the divine word made known to Ezekiel corresponds very closely with that contained in Ezekiel 33:8, 9. It is a complete misunderstanding on the part of Kliefoth, when he would not find “the inhabitants of these waste places,” as he renders, in the desolated Jerusalem, or in the desolated cities of Judah, or in the desolated land of Canaan, i.e. in the remnants of the people who still remained there, but drags into the text the exiles in “the certainly not too well cultivated regions on the Chaboras.” חְרָבוֹת with the article implies demolition, ruins of cities and houses. HITZIG: “these wastes,” less Jerusalem itself than the other cities which had been stript of their inhabitants (Jer. 33:13, 10), in which those who were without possessions (Jer. 39:10) shared with the returned fugitives (Jer. 40:12), having all at once come to great wealth of land, and were puffed up. Things were lying in a comfortless state; how do the hearts adjust themselves to the comfortless position of things? “That there were people who still, ever giving themselves up to illusions, thought that the judgment would not inexorably run its course, was proved by the revolt in which Gedaliah, the Chaldean governor, was slain” (HENGST.). Comp. also the representation in Neh. 1. of the desolate condition of things, though an interval of upwards of a century had meanwhile elapsed!—As even in the time of Jesus they were always throwing themselves back on Abraham (for example, John 8, Matt. 3:9), so was it the case here. An argumentum a minori. Since to Abraham, an individual man, in his posterity the land was given for a heritage, the less they conceive could it possibly fail to them—namely, to keep the land; not so properly with HENGST. to receive it again, for they do not give it up as lost—when in point of number they were many, and still more in the feeling of their souls they were without the knowledge of sin and the sense of guilt. In the words of Hengst: “they held themselves to be the true continuation of Abraham’s being, the bearers of the promise given to him” (Gen. 15:7)—the posterity in whom Abraham inherited it, to whom therefore it “was given.” “They overlooked the wide gulf that stood between them and him; if they were Abraham’s children, they would have done his works.” (Comp. at Ezekiel 11:15.)
Ezekiel 33:25. To eat upon the blood is explained by Keil as eating of flesh which has not been cleansed of the blood; comp. Lev. 19:26. “A fundamental law of the theocracy” (HÄV.). The prohibition was given so early as at Gen. 9:4. There with respect to the shedding of blood, as the infliction of death, murder; so that it was aimed against the spirit of murder (HENGST.). TARGUM: “You eat upon innocent blood.” From the blood a transition is made to the eating. In Lev. 19. it appears in connection with the service of idolatry, as also here.—Ezekiel 18:6, 15, Ezekiel 22:3, 4:27.—The question is repeated in Ezekiel 33:26. To stand or place one’s self is=to support one’s self, therefore to place his confidence thereon, which carries farther the shedding of blood.—עֲשִׁיתֶן תּוֹעֵבָה feminine; hence it has been understood of the women, with reference to immodest idolatrous worship. Hengst. points to Ezekiel 13:17 sq. (“The feminine character of the sinner is already indicated in Gen. 4:7, where it appears unmanly to let sin conquer, instead of ruling over it,”) HITZIG: ןstands for ם on account of the ת following. Ezekiel 18:12, 16:50, 5:11. The abomination must, according to Hengst., be adultery; Ezekiel 18:6, 11.—In Ezekiel 33:27, three punishments are placed over against 2 × 3 sins. The parallel to Ezekiel 33:10—here referring to presumption, there to despair—is confirmed by: “As I live” (Ezekiel 33:11).—בֶּחְרָבוֹת (Ezekiel 33:24)בַּחֶרֶב, a play of words.—Ch. 5.17, 14:15, 21; 2 Kings 17:25.—מְצָדוֹת, the mountain-tops, difficult of access; hence asylums, mountain-fastnesses, to which (as deeps to heights) the caves correspond on the other side, and which come into consideration as refuges from the sword and ravenous wild beasts, but not from the pestilence. (1 Sam. 13:6; Jos. Bell. Jud. 1:16. 4) Ezekiel 5:17, 14:21.
Ezekiel 33:28. Ezekiel 6:14.—(Niph.) Ezekiel 30:18, 7:24.—מֵאֵין עוֹבֵר, Ezekiel 14:15. Cleared of men, even of passing travellers.
Ezekiel 33:29. Ezekiel 32:15.
Ezekiel 33:30–33. The reference in the preceding verses to the accomplished fact of Jerusalem’s overthrow is followed in Ezekiel 33:30 by a glance into the immediate surroundings of the prophet, as they stood related to his fresh mission. The position of matters was here full of consolation; the consolatory work of Ezekiel must begin, the announcement of salvation is going to proceed. How do the hearts of the exiles feel in regard to this? The prophet cannot speak comfort by means of Abraham, after the manner in which they comforted themselves in Canaan (Ezekiel 33:24). He is “no servant of sin, but of the living God” (HÄV.). A putting of the prophet right, therefore, with respect to the men, such as that which fell to his lot at the outset of his mission, is entirely suitable also here for the new beginning and for the continuation even to the end.—And thou corresponds to the application, Ezekiel 33:7.—הַנִּדְבָּרִים (“who talk among themselves;” they are presented to the prophet, as it were, with a: See there!—HENGST.). Hitzig makes the matter too pointed when he expounds: “Not who confer together upon thee, but who converse about thee as about a matter that is of no great interest to them.” On the contrary,בְּךָ indicates a continuation of the discourse and a sense of interest, which Häv. thinks cannot be understood otherwise than with a hostile feeling. Still less, however, accords with such an interpretation the regular assembling of the people about the prophet, and above all, the impression which the fulfilment of his predictions will probably have made upon them. He hence forms the beloved standing object of their plaudits—must have done so, we may rather say. אֵצֶל׳, sitting down by the walls(“upon the divan,” HENGST.)—as much as: in secret, or within their houses. (Scarcely, as Häv.: “the sons, etc., who speak against thee in the house, are thy opponents secretly, and in the doors of the houses, in public, there every one acknowledges thee.”) בְּפִתְחֵי, without, namely, standing under the gates or doors of the house. And speak; this continues the action of the previous clause. The full form of expression likewise imports more than Hitzig will concede to them.—The words: Come now, etc., appear also to intimate that they must now expect something new, different from what they had been hitherto always hearing. But is it as at Hos. 6:1? Would they only hear, as they say, and not also obey? not return to the Lord?—The prophet must not deceive himself on this account, that his person is their daily theme within and without, nay, that they come in a manner to the word of the Eternal, as is described in Ezekiel 33:31, namely, “as the coining of people,” that is, like streaming multitudes, in vast crowds (“as on great solemnities,” HÄV.)—to which is parallel עַמִּי, in an emphatic manner designating either: “My people” ironically, those who should be Mine—hear, but do not; or: “as My people,” that is, as if they would be My people, and still are not. EWALD: “as if they were the true community.” Or may it not be as HENGST.: “so respectful, attentive, and apparently earnest and willing”? What they will not do is clear from Ezekiel 33:11; the words of the prophet aim at the heart’s conversion.—כִּי־עֲנָבִים, HITZIG: “for the lovely is according to their taste;” but הֵמָּה עשִֹׁים? and עשִֹׁים is certainly suggested by לֹא יַעֲשֹׁוּ. “Lovely things” were such as they liked, desired, longed for; hence they are only about the doing of that which is pleasant in their mouth, smacks agreeably to them. Gesenius, however, puts it: “For with the mouth they do what is well-pleasing (to God), but their heart goes after their unrighteous gain.” Hengst. declares the meanings of “loveliness” and “well-pleasing” to be without foundation, and renders: “they deal tenderly with their mouth,” properly: “they show ardour, affect in words an ardent love to God and His word, while the real inclination of their heart goes quite another way, is turned to mammon, the god of the Jewish old man.” HÄV.: “for lewdness they follow with their mouth.” עָנַב with Ezekiel (comp. at ch.23.) and Jeremiah unquestionably denotes impure love, passionate desire, especially unchaste fleshly desire, whether as akin to ἀγαπάω, or to “gaping after” (gaffen), looking after, or to “snatching at” (Germ. happen), hoping for, earnestly expecting. So much is clear as to the meaning of the word; all besides is imported, or arbitrarily connected with it. עֲנָבִים (only in the plural), however, occurs not merely in Ezekiel 33:31, but also in Ezekiel 33:32 connected with שִׁיר, song. What else, then, can it signify but “love-songs” (songs of impure love)? To the fact that they do not the words of the prophet, which according to their own confession proceed from Jehovah (Ezekiel 33:30), the עֲגָבִים בְּפִיהֶם הֵמָּה עשִֹׁים form a restriction: certainly they also do, they are at the doing in their mouth: as much as, with words, with the tongue. What is received by the ear, this in the mouth becomes love-songs; the “doing” of that they make out of the words of God spoken by the prophet. Hence, after that in Ezekiel 33:31 the expression עֲנָבִים has been explained, or more exactly defined, the statement: “and they hear thy words,” etc., is again resumed. So that their doing remains in the mouth; the heart does not participate in it, as is presently indicated when it is said that their heart goes after its covetous, fraudulent gain (בֶּצַע from בָּצַע, to make a cut; Ezekiel 22:27, 12). Nay, they take such advantage of the words of God, which Ezekiel announces to them, that they turn them to their own account; whence it is not so much their warm regard for Jehovah, as Jehovah’s for them, which here comes into consideration. In some such way they treat the divine promises as loving declarations of a hot paramour. We are not, however, on this account obliged to interpret עֲגָבִים by: “frivolous jokes,” “words of mockery” (with the Targum), or: “falsehood,” “deceit,” with the older translations. Not that they would “only amuse themselves,” but more, they turn grace into wantonness (Jude 4). With them also, therefore, the matter concerns the substance of things, not so much “the lovely form;” and they were perverting it to excess according to their heart’s lust.
Ezekiel 33:32. According to Hitzig, שִׁיר must signify not song, but “lovely singer.” יְפֵה קוֹל does not necessitate that, for it may be referred to the fine tones of the song. But if it applies to the fine voice of the prophet, then it is to be understood that, after he has in שִׁיר been coupled with his prophecy (to which, however, the reference according to the connection must chiefly be made), he is thought of apart, and מֵטִב נַנֵּן continues the reference to the prophet, without therefore constraining us by this personal reference to understand שִׁיר also directly and simply of him. הֵיטִיב (Hiph. of יָטַב), with נַנֵּן, signifies either to play well, beautifully, or to do so vigorously, bravely. Junius refers what is said to the prophecies of doom upon those who are without (Ezekiel 25–32). Hengst., in a manifestly modern fashion: “they rejoice amid the national impoverishment at the admirable rhetorical gifts of the new classic” (!).
Ezekiel 33:33. This verse joins to the repetition of their not doing the prediction of their unfailing and so different knowledge of the prophet.—And when it comes, in a general sense, what he speaks; not the more special utterance in Ezekiel 33:27–29, which at least does not sound like a song of loves, rather the prophecies which were now going to follow. Thus the tone with which this second main division of the book commences is different; not: they shall know that I am Jehovah, but as at Ezekiel 2:5, where the language employed was still of a general kind. (See there.)—The: behold it comes, points back to the circumstance that the judgment on the people has actually come; and as such a thing has come, so certain also shall the following discourses be seen to be as to their fulfilment. (HITZ.: the matter shall certainly come to pass which is the object of thine address. HÄV.: “And lo! it is already fulfilled; this must signify, Jerusalem is fallen, and the truth of the predictions perfectly established.”) The experience is, however, a painful one, because the people’s impenitence will exclude them from the future salvation. What far-reaching and, at the same time, true prospective vision, even to the days of the Son of man! It had already been declared to them through the prophets in the midst of them; so much the more, when He Himself actually came and spoke to them, did every pretext for their sin fall away, John 15:22.
Compare the Reflections at pp. 72, 73, and on ch 18
1. “Woe is me,” exclaimed the apostle, “if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16.) This is a lesson which belongs to all those who have had the care or oversight of others committed to them. With that is not to be confounded the circumstance, that each individual has his particular gift from God, by means of which he can be profitable to his neighbour. The general love demands that we should seek the salvation of each other, Jude 21–23 (COCCEIUS).
2. In the office, calling, service which belongs to preachers, two things unite,—namely, the appointment through men, that is, in the present case, through the Church, as is implied in the similitude Ezekiel 33:2 sq.; and that the Lord gives preachers to Jerusalem, as is said at Ezekiel 33:7. Where this latter is not regarded, there the other also cannot be considered. If the civil magistrate, hence the State, or private individuals to whom the patronage belongs, will assert for themselves the vocatio ministrorum, they thereby ignore the Christian rights of the Church, just because they do not acknowledge the supreme right of God over His people. For it belongs to the Church to choose and ordain her servants, according to the order of Christ and His apostles; and a particular community, although it may be locally formed, does not at all stand related to the whole Church after the manner that a single commune, as a section of the civic commonwealth, stands related to the State; but it is in respect to constitution the Church itself, which has its representation in the community as regards its full possession of life. Not otherwise appear to us the communities of the Acts of the Apostles and of the apostolic epistles. Hereditary relations might well enough beget a temporary legal right of a historical kind, but really destitute of foundation, in so far as it is at variance with the fundamental rights of the Church, and can be proved to be the remnant of an antagonistic claim of rights, an unjust usurpation. We are not to speak with the Remonstrants of rights conferred upon the Church by the State in the matter of the vocatio ministrorum, since the State has no right to confer, because possessing none. And so the Reformation, if it found itself very much in the position, could not have the right, to erect a throne for the Cæsareo-papal government of the Church, since the Church, having the right to govern itself, renounces itself when it gives up to the State, or to the persons in whom the civil power concentrates itself, rights which are absolutely the Church’s own, which therefore the civil power cannot possess, unless these rights are to be turned to foolishness. In every tyranny exercised on the conscience, foolishness plays its part. But the claim of right, which, since the Reformation, has crept in for the conferring of rights which are against right, is of a piece with that of summus episcopus—whence the Papistical leaven of this title clearly appears. For it is Papistical doctrine in the general to ascribe the right of vocation to the bishops, if the Roman chair should not have granted special exceptions in regard to the election of pastors. When the limits of State-power have been formulated in this way, that it has to do with things circa sacra, but not in sacris, it certainly does look odd enough that “a supreme bishop” should indeed inspect the walls of the sanctuary, but must not tread upon them. The experience of upwards of 300 years, however, has shown much else than the absurdity of the formula in question—has proved the neglected, though oft-repeated and powerfully expressed, warnings of Luther and of the symbolical books, against the intermingling of the spiritual and civil jurisdictions, to have been only too well grounded. And when the Reformed theologian Heidegger, in his Medulla Theologiœ, with the view of smoothing over the folly of that formula, would not have the oversight and power of the State limited to the circa religionem et ecclesiam, but apostrophises the magistrate as ὁμοπιττος et ecclesiœ membrum excellens, thereby giving him to participate in the power which belongs to the Church, and then ascribing to him the obligation of serving Christ and His kingdom, and of advancing this kingdom with the authority lent him by God;—or when Burmann, also a Reformed theologian, enumerates the offices of the magistrate circa sacra, and among these reckons not merely the appointment and ordering of the acts of public worship, so as to secure that all be done according to the word of God, and the providing a safeguard against ecclesiastical arbitrariness, and the interposition on behalf of oppressed fellow-believers, and so forth, but also the suppression of errors, of heretics and heterodox, the reformation of the Church when it has become corrupt, etc.;—in all this we have a glance afforded us into a state of things which has actually existed, but which, and along therewith the alleged ground for such civil interferences, in spite of the so-called “Christian State,” has long since passed away. But what is to be matter of controversy with the State will, above all, have reference to the so-called church patrons, for patronage is really of Romish heathenish origin, and has never at all, in conformity with its proper sense, been Christianized as a juridical advocateship; at least a good part of the Germanic feudal lordship has infused itself into this assumption of a right of private domination. Now if, in opposition to all of this nature that is at variance with the self-government of the Church by means of the organization peculiar to her, a stand is to be made, and, in particular, the choice and calling of pastors are effected in this way through men, there still is, as the other factor, the Lord, whose body the Church of God is, and the right of the Church in its last source is the constitution granted by her sole Head, Christ. In consequence of this regimen principale, all are brethren who serve one another, the Lord alone has the supreme authority (theocracy or Christocracy); so that the Church, in respect to its inner spiritual form, is no democracy, neither is it an aristocracy any more than a hierarchy, but a monarchy in the highest sense of the word. Through the Holy Spirit, and by dint of such supreme invisible sovereignty, was Ezekiel sent to Israel, just as in ordinary circumstances the humblest village pastor is sent from the same quarter, whether it may be for grace or for judgment. For it is God’s good pleasure that through such service on the part of men the divine will in respect to men should be accomplished (Eph. 4:11 sq.); and the calling of a minister in any particular case will be perfect, where the internal through the Spirit corresponds with the external through the Church or its organs.
3. Ewald maintains that “the ultimate ground of all possibility of a true conversion stands in this, that in connection with the divine grace, which is ever working for good, a genuine prophet never fails, who, in perilous times announcing the pure truth, informs and warns all with dauntless, clear words.” Against enthusiasts and Schwenkfeldians it has not, indeed, been denied by the teachers of the Church, that God, if such had been His will, could also immediately as from Himself have converted and saved men; yet still the Church has always held fast the conviction, that the public ministry and vocation to it in the Church is requisite by a hypothetical necessity, namely, with reference to the good pleasure and purpose of God.
4. The prophets are to be reckoned among the “extraordinary ministers.” In the old Reformed theology, the extraordinary vocation was represented as threefold:—(1) When God effect it directly through His voice, as in the case of Abraham, Moses, the prophets under the Law, John the Baptist, and the apostles; (2) when it takes place by announcement through a human instrumentality, as in the case of Aaron and the tribe of Levi, by means of Moses as the mediating agency; (3) when the internal impulse of the Spirit drives in one direction or another, as was the case, for example, with the deacon Philip.
5. Death is the wages of sin, and sin is the destruction of people; and so, by reason of the universal sinfulness, quite apart from particular charges of guilt, an absolutely sinless extinction of life is not to be thought of; only relatively heavier or lighter will the guilt weigh in particular cases. But beside one’s own guilt, that of each individual man, there stands upon the tablet of the Judge, as fellow-partakers thereof, human society in the general (through education, instruction, customs, etc.), and in particular its chiefs, as governors, princes, lords, teachers, etc., who should serve not merely as possessors of the dignity and of office, but also as examples to be looked up to in whatever place they may be.
6. “This is, however, the brightest and most glorious distinction of the prophetic calling, to proclaim the joy of the Creator in connection with the life of the converted sinner” (UMBREIT).
7. We have not on this account to despair of life, because knowing that we are in the midst of death. For this knowledge of death excludes only the thought of life, as that which might still be in ourselves, and could proceed out of us; but such knowledge by no means takes from us, it rather brings nearer, the prospect of life out of ourselves, namely, in the living God. The conversion version from sin to God, as also from all dead works of a simply legal nature, or of self-righteousness, is hence a burying in regard to the life which is merely man’s, while in reality it is the way of that life which God gives, and which He Himself is.
8. “Conversion, internally considered, is the change of a man’s state of mind into conformity with the will of God—a change, therefore, in which his internal feeling cannot be alone operative, but in which that effects his transformation in the power of God, which is the moving impulse from a higher power in respect to what he is going to be. But outwardly it appears as the complete reformation of his behaviour, since he turns from a direction toward the world into a direction toward God. The change which takes place in his state of mind in all the elements conditioning it becomes manifest in the transformation of his life. This change of mind is as to its nature a single decisive and deeply conscious act—the act of the whole inner life; but precisely on this account not the isolated occurrence of a single hour, of a particular frame or deed, though it frequently also comes to its highest manifestation in a particular hour, frame, or deed. It is not an abstract single change, but a revolution resting on a concrete single change, on a definite turning-point, an always renewed and always more deeply penetrating and pervading revolution, which is quite fitly designated by the term conversion. It is the everlasting deed of the man in the power of his God with reference to the old life” (LANGE, Pos. Dogmatik).
9. “Evil ways are not only the bad ways of wicked works, but also the false ways of righteousness. Nay, it is above all important, that whoever will live should turn from his own wisdom and fancied power, as if he could sanctify himself to God, and give Him the glory, and receive from Him justification by grace” (COCC.).
10. Because conversion of heart, sincere conversion, can at any moment savingly interrupt the course of development of sin, which would otherwise run on to its consummation in the judgment of death, so the disobedience of unbelief toward the alluring word of grace must be regarded as the sin unto death.
11. “When it is said that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, it must be understood after this manner, as if He were not inclined to give pardon to the penitent. God does not delight in judgment in such a way as not to delight in the justification of him who repents; as if repentance in faith on the word which promises grace to the sinner were of no account with God, or as if there were no righteousness of God available through which the penitent might obtain salvation. This word very clearly shows that there was no necessity for Israel pining away in their own sins, or in those of others, if they were but themselves in the right way. For whenever they turned from their evil way, life was thenceforth prepared for them. Whence it follows, that for that life neither a temple nor a state was requisite, so that those only should pine away of worldly sorrow who have their glory in these carnal and earthly things; whereas for such as would bend their hearts to believe in God, there should be no wasting away in their own or their fathers’ sins, or in those of the people, but they should have life in hope, and should not feel the want of state-support or temple or priesthood, and carnal things of that sort, but should find all laid up for them in God, who would be mindful of His covenant with Abraham, and provide the Seed in which the Gentiles were to be blessed” (COCC.).
12. “The greatest danger that can arise out of suffering is that a man should misunderstand his Maker; one of the hardest problems for the servants of God is to bring reason into the suffering” (HENGST.).
13. The law in the Old Covenant directed its chief attention upon sin. The knowledge of sin must be for men the result that came out of all those imperatives, “Thou shalt not,” and “Thou shalt.” Hence the prophets in their relation to the law could, in the first instance, pursue no other aim than to set forth men as sinners. Sin remains as the mark of interrogation behind the righteousness of the righteous. As the conflict between the law and the carnality of man is not closed by the law, the doing of what is right according to the law may acquire for any one the predicate of a righteous person, but it will always only in particular cases be done aright according to the law; the righteousness out of the law must be “righteousnesses,” specific ἔργα νόμου—such as, for example, are mentioned in Ezekiel 33:14 sq. (and in contrast therewith Ezekiel 33:25 sq.). So that there is a righteousness of the righteous, Ezekiel 33:12, 13, 18, while still man does not see himself placed through the law in the position of a perfectly happy relation to God, freed from guilt and the curse of the law. It is not, however, knowledge alone of his sins and knowledge of himself as a sinner which the law gives to man, but along therewith the knowledge that the righteousness, the reality of which corresponds to God, which is the righteousness of God, must come as a revelation outside the law from God Himself through grace.
14. That with the completed fact of the overthrow of Jerusalem the silence of Ezekiel should be brought to an end, and he should be no more dumb—this circumstance lent to the fact in question a special character, caused it to appear so much the more in a peculiar light, as a parallel must be provided for it. Accordingly, it not merely seems as if Jerusalem must have fallen, so that salvation might with open mouth be prophesied, as the starry orbs of night disappear before the rising sun, but it was in reality so; and parallel with this first destruction, the last destruction of the Holy City, and the total dispersion of the people throughout the Roman world, on the one hand, made room for the fulness of the Gentiles at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and on the other, caused the gospel salvation to be preached to every creature. Jerusalem became then thoroughly desolate; but John saw a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. The Jews have been scattered abroad everywhere, but the Israel of God are being gathered meanwhile from all the ends of the earth, on the ground of the prophetic word, rendered more certain through the fulfilment certified by the apostles.
15. “Neither danger, or, more correctly, the anxious concern and dread about danger, such as we can well imagine to ourselves, nor any other hindrance, must be permitted to throw itself like an insuperable wall in the way of a servant of God. This is no apology worthy of a prophet, ‘I labour in vain; I preach to deaf ears;’ but in season and out of season is the work to be carried on, and sinners to be admonished. No one must bury his talent (Matt. 25.). And this holds equally with respect to magistrates and heads of families” (LAVATER).
Ezekiel 33:1. “We men are daily and always anew to be reminded of our obligations, for individually and collectively we are slothful and negligent men” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 33:2, 3. “How profitable in dangerous times is the guardian care of watchmen! They must not, however, betray the confidence of the community, and must have open eyes, in order that the people of the Lord may not be taken by surprise. But when the Lord does not keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain, even though he does not fall into sleep” (LUTHER).—“The sword is the judgment, but the trumpet the holy gospel; the man who spies and watches is the bishop, whose part it is to preach and testify of the future judgment” (CLEMENT).—Sollicitudo officium prœlati est, non celsitudo (BERNARD).—“The calling to the office of preacher is twofold—one immediate, the other mediate; the former is from God, the latter from man, Acts 26:15, 16, 6:5” (CR.).—“Who would choose a blind man to be the watchman of a city? How could he see the danger and give warning of it? How unreasonable is it, therefore, to appoint a spiritually blind or unconverted man to be a teacher ! He does not at all see the danger, and how can he give warning? Isa. 56:10, 11; Matt. 15:14” (STARKE).—The office and work, the service and fidelity of a right bishop or overseer of the community.—The profitableness and blessing of fidelity; on the other hand, the injury and curse of unfaithfulness.—“The importance and responsibility of the prophetic calling” (UMBR.).—“Although in the present day ministers are chosen and ordained to church employment by men, yet may such human choice, when it is rightly gone about, be also termed divine. But since it is God who assigns ministers their place, He ought to be entreated to send true and good ministers to His people” (LUTHER).—“What sort of a watchman would he be who should keep silence about the breaking out of a fire, because he would not rouse people out of their sleep? And so, what sort of teacher would he be who should remain silent at the sins of the ungodly, that they might not be disturbed in their sleep of security?” (ST.)—“No blind man, nor dreamer, nor drowsy sleeper, is fit for an office which takes its name from wakefulness” (BERL. BIB.).
Ezekiel 33:4–6. To let one’s self be warned, what a profitable, serious, and yet very much neglected prescription!—“Ask those who have gone to hell; they will in a body give thee for answer, We would not take warning” (STCK.).—The disregarded or despised warnings from youth up.—Men can but warn, they cannot deliver.—The power and the weakness of our love.—“I hear the message well enough, but I want faith.”
Ezekiel 33:6. Of the watching which is enjoined upon ourselves: “Watch, for ye know not,” etc., we are not relieved by the obligation which lies upon the watchman. Hence he who is overtaken unwarned still does not fall guiltless, for his security, carelessness, etc., were the occasion of his fall.—Contempt of danger is therefore no true courage.—Every one must carry his soul as in his hand.—“What a mournful condition is it, when the Church does not watch, the State does not protect, the house does not admonish!” (STCK.)
Ezekiel 33:7–9. “Natural life and soundness of health are indispensably necessary to an ordinary watchman, and not less necessary are life and strength in the inner man to a spiritual watchman, Lam. 2:14” (LANGE). “With a spiritual watchman there must be found a spiritual life, a spiritual light, a spiritual wakefulness, and dutiful fidelity in all parts of his office” (ST.).—As the prophet on the mouth of God, so the preacher is dependent on the word of God. He has by this to prove every word of man; on this last his office has no dependence.—The apostle pleads in the stead of Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20.—“Mark, Christian hearer! For God’s sake, and because God wishes it, thy teacher must warn thee. Therefore be not wroth with him; if thou shouldst be so, then be assured that it is not with him, but with God, that thou art enraged, Gal. 1:6, 10; Deut. 18:19” (ST.).—Sympathy may be cruelty; everything at the right place and at the right time.—Love can cover the sins which are committed against us, but never can call evil good.—Whosoever despises him that is sent, fails in respect also to Him that sent him.—But they are no servants of God who flatter the ungodly.—(Comp. Homiletic Hints on Ezekiel 3:17 sq.) “The warnings which teachers have failed to give afford no justification to the wicked before God, for God warns them Himself in His word, Luke 12:48” (ST.).—“A more intolerable judgment comes upon Chorazin and Bethsaida than upon Tyre and Sidon” (HEIM-HOFF.).—“The position of the servants of God is certainly not a comfortable one, since they have to dwell among those who are called briers and scorpions, and are likened even to lions; whence they do not get off without pricks and wounds” (STCK.).—“But the preaching is not enough which consists simply in the word. An evangelical watchman must teach conscientiously and live holily” (H. H.).—Even when the preacher’s conscience is free from guilt in regard to the ungodly who perish in their sins, what a sorrow does it occasion in the life of the preacher when he has to see the impenitent die in their sins!—The pain connected with the preacher’s office, which the world understands not.—“I would not willingly be saved without you” (AUGUSTINE).
Ezekiel 33:10. All in the end feel sin, but they hate it not.—“The way of the unconverted in this respect is to look rather to the temporal than to the eternal life” (ST.).—To despair, instead of turning to God, is but another form of the pride that is in the human heart.—Despair is another kind of impenitence.—How contrasts touch one another! The godly also are sometimes on the brink of despair—David, Ps. 38, and Cain, Gen. 4—“That punishment should always be heavier to us than sin!” (STCK.)—He who would justify himself would perhaps throw the blame even upon God.—God always deals unfairly with the wicked, as they think.—“When God’s judgments break forth, then men readily remember their sins” (STCK.).—“One must hate sin before one can live” (B. B.).—He whose sin keeps him away from God, loves his sin more than his life. Why will ye die? God, therefore, always asks again.—“We must not despair of God’s compassion, but turn ourselves toward it” (STCK.).—When the Holy One swears, He lets Himself down to the lies, the faithlessness, and fickleness which prevail on the earth. He comes before the judgment-seat of men, and bears His testimony against sinners who would die.—Unbelief must be ashamed and dumb, or be compelled to pass sentence on itself.—“He does not swear by His love, of which the smaller number only have some feeling; but that He lives all know” (B. B.).—Indubitable as the love of God is, yet not the less necessary is conversion for men.—Seek no back-doors, no bribery of the saints, no hushing up of the conscience with pious forms of speech; but go straight into the heavenly kingdom, as the prodigal son made for his father.—“We can think nothing good of ourselves; our whole salvation is hence a divine work” (H. H.).—The living God wills life, and also gives it to those who will; but unless men also wish it, He certainly does not give. To work this will, to lay the will of the flesh to sleep under God’s word—this is the aim of the universal grace, i.e. the grace which God offers to all men through His word. But where the will has been wrought, there will also the performance be made good, according to the good pleasure of God; so that our conversion is not only His requirement, but also His working, although the deed is man’s.
Ezekiel 33:12, 13. (See Homiletic Hints on Ezekiel 18:24, 21 sq., 26, 27 sq.)—Righteousness from works does not preserve and save men.—It is not the righteousness of the righteous that is the question, but the righteousness of God, which is manifested indeed in the law, but does not come out of the law.—The righteous who are such by faith will live, and will live in their faith.—One must begin, but one must also continue to the end.—Unfaithfulness smites its own Lord.—The truly righteous also know of failings, but not of falling away.—Not that we are evil by nature is what finally condemns us, but that we remain evil in spite of the goodness of God, which seeks our conversion.—“No true penitent needs despair on account of his old sins, nor faint because of them, Ps. 25:3; Matt. 9:2” (CR.).—“In true conversion it is not enough that there be a breaking off of some sins, but of all, Isa. 1:16; Jas. 2:10” (STARKE).—“But this is the true life, if one can say with Paul: I live not, but Christ liveth in me, Gal. 2:20” (STCK.).—Trust upon one’s own righteousness is not faith, but trust upon the righteousness of God in Christ. Not assuredly the letter of our righteousness, but the spirit of that imputed to us, brings the assurance that we are children of God, and shall also remain such.
Ezekiel 33:14 sq. The voucher for the reckoning here furnished by means of the thief on the cross.—Conversion of heart, of conduct, of life.—The separation from sin is effected not only by the forgiveness of all our sins and of our sinful state, but also by a walk in all goodness after the Spirit, who now begins His ascendency.—“Man becomes free when in his conscious want of freedom he gives himself up to the free-making God” (LANGE).—The improvement of the life shows that things have become better with a man, that God has taken an interest in his soul, in order that it might not perish.
Ezekiel 33:17 sq. (Homiletic Hints on Ezekiel 18:25–29.) “More than five years intervened [viz. between this and the similar utterance in Ezekiel 18.], and the people had still not got a step farther. Thus God Himself, by His example, teaches all parents, guardians, etc., patience. And we should much more exercise patience when we think of our own sins and of God’s patience with us, but should also not be weary of watching and warning” (SCHMIEDER).—“An honest man has still much more faith in the world than God Himself, Gen. 19:14” (ST.).—God’s way is right even when He, nay, just because He does not allow the righteous to be righteous, and does not leave the sinner to perish.—Let him who thinks that he stands take heed that he do not fall!—Do this, it is ever again said, and thou shalt live.—Good works are productions of God, in consequence of the will having been set free by Him from the doing of evil to the doing of good.—The last day will make it clear that God’s way has been right.
Ezekiel 33:21, 22. “The opened mouth of a servant of God is his frankness, the contrary is trimming and flattering; and it is also distinguished from sarcastic witticisms, evil speaking, and insult. The servants of God should be frank in speech; yet not like insolent fellows, who believe they may say everything because no one can contradict them, at least when in the pulpit” (LUTHER).—God’s word will take effect at last; woe to him who then finds that he is a stricken man, who should have long ago recognised himself to be in that case !—“At last it comes, what men would not believe” (BERL. BIB.).—Our silence and our speaking are both of God.—“In the time of God’s long-suffering which sinners abuse, the righteous must often be silent till the judgments actually take place” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 33:24 sq. The deceitful conclusions of self-love.—The hereditary nobility in its foolish pretensions.—“Of” Abraham matters nothing, but to be like Abraham is what is needed.—Noblesse oblige.—Walls, cities, go to ruin, but a fool will still plant himself on the ruins, Prov. 27:22.—“What is promised to faith, unbelievers will often be found appropriating to themselves” (STCK.).—The hope of the ungodly must come to shame.—When the mask falls from the hypocrites, then will the beast of prey which lay behind become manifest; and we shall all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; then the masquerade will be out.—There have not only been persons bearing merely the name of Jew, but there still are, and always have been, plenty of nominal Christians.—Our life must not belie our profession, else in our claim to the inheritance of the saints we shall reckon without our host.—Holy ruins are relics on which there is no inheritance.
Ezekiel 33:26. The natural man stands upon nothing else than his sword.—“In relation to sin men ought not to be womanish, but women to be manly” (HENGST.).
Ezekiel 33:27. The divine vengeance does not need to rush upon its victim from behind in order to lay hold of him, nor does it require to make a long and laborious search after him; but where he has fled to and fancies himself hidden, whether it be in the heights or in the depths, there the vengeance of God lies in readiness, and has been expecting him to come to it.—In the end we all come to God—alas! that so few should fall into His arms, while so many fall upon His sword!—If the wild beasts of passion do not tear a man, the pestilence of his natural corruption will gradually consume him.
Ezekiel 33:28 sq. Desolate shall it be at last about every ungodly man; for as the heart is, so is the life. First of all sin desolates; then come desolations through death; finally, we pass into the desolation of an eternity without God.—The knowledge of the Eternal many times the most terrible humiliation in what is temporal.
Ezekiel 33:30 sq. “It is suspicious when people praise the fineness of a preacher’s voice, address,” etc. (RIGHT.).—Ezekiel shows that this is what may happen even with earnest and godly preachers, for what is there from which man cannot suck sugar?—“Externally to hear God’s word, men will often encourage themselves, but not through God’s grace to reduce it to practice, Jer. 42:1, 2” (ST.).—Merely to hear, without doing, makes all preaching unprofitable.—How many unwashed mouths wipe themselves clean on the servants of God!—Strange that sermons of rebuke should be more attractive than grace-sermons! It shows that the gospel requires a much greater earnestness of spirit than the law. But men would still always rather be smitten than caressed; they think, perhaps, that in the love there is too much of design. If one has been struck by the cudgel, it is still possible to preserve one’s heart and head; but love leaves nothing to one’s self, it demands all—the whole man, and the whole life.—“Shun the society of mockers, for nothing that is good can come of these” (STCK.).—“They only praise the eloquence, they do not trouble themselves about the matter, unless it be that it does not directly concern them, but the heathen, Ezekiel 25 sq.” (B. B.—A measure for judging of the flocking to mission festivals.—“There will always be hypocrites, who hear, indeed, but do not—yea, do quite differently from what their hearing should lead them to do. But God knows the thoughts of the heart, and looks upon all the ways of all men, and in His own time will avenge the despite done to His servants upon their despisers. Finally, we should not suffer ourselves to be entertained with God’s word as with music. God does not play in His word that we may dance” (LUTHER).—To hear, but also to obey, that is the main thing.—Mere habit as regards the hearing of sermons makes people indifferent, and at last stupid.—The Lord preserve us from empty pews, but still more from stupid hearers, who only wish to show their Sunday clothes, and to have been in church!—How readily may a preacher deceive himself regarding his hearers!—God read here to Ezekiel a lecture on homiletics.—Pious sentimentalism, also, is spiritual adultery.—So must God to-day still be Love, since thus only can the world quietly remain the world, which He has loved so much.—The “dear God” (liebe Gott) the love-song of people of the world.—Satan goes with us into church.—Edification and the capacity for it are two different things.—A true prophet will always leave behind him the impression of a true prophet.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,