Ezekiel 21
Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Ezekiel prophesieth the sword of the Lord against all flesh in the land of Israel, sighing bitterly for a sign, Ezekiel 21:1-7. Another prophecy of a bright and sharp sword, commissioned to destroy, Ezekiel 21:8-17. The sword of the king of Babylon, in suspense which of two ways to take, by divination is directed the way to Jerusalem, Ezekiel 21:18-24. The fall of the profane prince of Israel and of his kingdom for a time, Ezekiel 21:25-27. The destruction of the Ammonites, Ezekiel 21:28-32.

A command or direction to speak plainly, that none might quarrel with his obscurity.

Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,
Set thy face; put thyself in a posture may bespeak thy going to prophesy.

Toward Jerusalem, or against Jerusalem, called, Ezekiel 20:46, forest of the south field. Drop thy word; of the phrase see Ezekiel 20:46; as rain from heaven, so distil my word.

The holy places; either the temple, and all the parts of it, which were three, the porch, the holy, and holy of holies; or their synagogues, in which they met to worship and read the law, which were burnt up by this fire, Psalm 74:8.

Against the land of Israel; not only against Jerusalem, but the whole land of Israel, from the south thereof to the north; as Ezekiel 20:47.

And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
Publish it to all the people of the land, if any will consider it; it is not the severe and morose conjecture of a disturbed and injured man, let them know God the Lord speaks it. Weigh this, I say it is of great importance. You think yourselves more righteous than those that come against you, that they are heathen, you my peculiar people, that my temple is with you, and that I will be on your side; but be not deceived, for

I am, and I will be, against you.

Will draw forth as an enemy resolved to slay,

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

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

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

And the wicked; profane, ungodly, and vicious ones, who shall be cut off with double destruction.

Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:
I will cut off; it is both my purpose and threat, to do that by the Chaldeans in such manner as that it shall appear I did it.

The righteous, signified by the green tree, Ezekiel 20:47.

The wicked; the dry tree, Ezekiel 20:47. Go forth; have a commission, such as I gave Nebuchadnezzar, as large as is necessary for this work.

All flesh; all the Jews that dwell in the land; it may somewhat reflect upon the nations near about the Jews, as Moab and Ammon.

From the south; as it doth certainly denote the whole of the land of Judea, it may intimate the rise and spring of this evil from the south, i.e. Babylon, and its progress northward.

That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.
That they that smart and suffer may see and own God in their just sufferings, they that see and hear it may confess God’s doings herein.

It shall not return any more: in Ezekiel 20:48 it is expressed thus, it shall not be quenched, for there it was a fire; here, it shall not return into the scabbard till it hath done full execution.

Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.
Sigh; thereby express to them deepest sorrows for what is present, and most piercing fears of what is to come.

With the breaking of thy loins; like a woman in travail, or as one whose griefs are ready to break his heart, Isaiah 21:3.

With bitterness; with all sorts of the most bitter cries and tears.

Before their eyes who were now with him in Babylon, and who, as they easily could, so surely would, send word to them in Jerusalem and Judea.

And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord GOD.
This directs the prophet what account to give them, when they shall, as they certainly will, inquire what he meaneth by such unusual sorrows. Is it any private misery that makes thee sigh thus, or does it bode evil to others, or to us?

For the tidings; the news that is told me from Heaven, for the certain rumour of Nebuchadnezzar’s preparations, and march against you. The saddest news you ever heard is coming, it will most assuredly come. The courage of the stoutest heart shall fail. which shall appear in the feebleness of their hands, dejectedness of their spirit, and their knees not able to support the body; such terrors shall seize them as shall make them unable to shift from, or to make head against, the evils that come against them.

It cometh; none can prevent it.

Shall be brought to pass; it shall have its full effect, nothing shall be wanting to your complete undoing, and then, as I do for a sign to you, so you and yours shall do under the sorrows signified, sigh, and weep, to the breaking your very heart.

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
This I suppose is a further explication of what was said already of the sword God draweth out against them; with a further direction or command how the prophet should note out the nearness of the evil; he is bade to speak plainly, and tell them they may see it.

Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished:
As if he pointed to it, crying out as one that suddenly seeth some dreadful sight. A mighty sword, or many; so the ingemination may imply the forces of Nebuchadnezzar and his confederates.

Sharpened; prepared to wound, slay, and that with greater speed and sureness.

Furbished; to terrify the weaker courage, to dazzle the eyes of such as encounter it: in a word, the danger is as near as if an army come up in array, and their swords in their bends ready to go on and fight.

It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.
To make a sore slaughter; to slay many, and with as little regard as men kill beasts, or to offer whole herds of wicked men in sacrifice to the offended justice of God; much after this style both David, Psalm 44:22, and Isaiah 34:6.

May glitter, and strike a terror into the enemy.

Should we then make mirth? shall we allow ourselves in jollity, in feasts, or dances, or songs? This would be very uncomely.

It contemneth; this great, sharp and glittering sword, appointed to cut off, slights and despiseth all the resistance that can be made against it, and reckons all former chastisements were but as the rod wherewith a son is corrected; but now the sword of an enemy is drawn out, and will cut off all. Or, Nebuchadnezzar despiseth your king, the royal family, and nobles, which are compared to gods, Ezekiel 19:10,11; and would use them as he would every common tree of the wood, as it appears he did, when he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him in chains as a slave.

And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer.
He hath given it; either God, whose sword it is; or Nebuchadnezzar, God’s servant herein. Some refer it to Christ, who is Lord and Sovereign of his church, and Governor of the world.

That it may be handled; be the fitter for use in the hand of the slayer, i.e. the Chaldean.

Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.
Cry, as one in great distress; nay, how unseemly soever it may appear, howl, that they may by this know what sorrows are coming on them, and how they, like wild beasts taken in the toils and girts, shall howl. For the devouring sword of Babylon shall certainly be upon all, high and low.

Terrors; surrounding terrors, out of which no way to escape.

The sword; that sword God will draw against them.

Smite upon thy thigh, in token of thy sense of what they must suffer, and to presignify what their sorrows shall be, when they must express them by signs, because too great for words.

Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord GOD.
It is a sore trial, therefore show all the signs of grief and sorrow; or it may refer to what follows in the verse; thus, since this is the exploration, or trial, which I make in so severe manner to bring them to repentance, mourn for them, lest they should harden themselves.

What if the sword? the addition of sword, which is not in the original, hath perplexed the words in my thoughts. I would read them thus,

and what if the rod contemn? It shall be no more. Then the sense runs thus: But if the king and kingdom of Judah despise this trial, and harden themselves against this sword, both shall be destroyed, and be no more, for nothing but a right use of this last trial could help them. Or else, if we must adhere to our version, what if it amount to this: All this is for probation and trial, not for utterly extirpating Israel, saith God to his prophet; who might propose this, What if the sword contemn those bounds, and despise the king and kingdom, and resolve to destroy them from being a nation? as Isaiah 10:6,7. To this God gives answer thus; This he shall never effect, and in due time this sword shall be no more; Babylon shall be destroyed. In so perplexed a place I rather conjecture than affirm.

Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy chambers.
Smite thine hands together; either in token of amazement and sorrow, or else to signify what pleasure it should be to see justice executed on obstinate rebels; or rather, as Ezekiel 21:17, clap thy hands, to awaken and hearten the Babylonians on to the slaughter.

Let the sword be doubled the third time: perhaps it is too curious to search out what particular calamities are pointed out by this trebled sword; whether,

1. Zedekiah’s captivity with many of the princes. And,

2. Taking of the city.

3. Killing of Gedaliah and those with him: to be sure it speaks both the certainty of the thing, and the greatness of the affliction.

Sword of the slain; wherewith many shall be slain.

The great men; which were princes, and captains, and rulers.

Entereth into their privy chambers; searcheth the most secret rooms, where they slew such as they found hidden in hope to escape.

I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: ah! it is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter.
The Lord hath gathered them together round about Jerusalem, with their swords sharpened and drawn at every gate to slay whosoever attempt to come out, or to slay all they meet with when they take the city.

All their gates; both of meaner cities, of their palaces, and private houses.

That their heart may faint; as what heart can be thought able to retain its courage, when beset with death by an enemy’s sword, which killeth all that come out, and entereth to kill all that stay within?

Multiplied; for number made many, for nature made very great.

Made bright; prepared, brightened, and sharpened.

Wrapped up; and hath been carefully kept in the scabbard, that it might keep its edge, and not be blunted.

Go thee one way or other, either on the right hand, or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set.
O sword, take thy own course; O ye slaughtermen, ye Babylonian soldiers, all is open before you, go which way you will; I have brought you to waste the land from south to north, begin where you will, and proceed as you will, none shall be able to resist you.

I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest: I the LORD have said it.
Smite mine hands together, in token of my approbation and well-pleasedness in those executions which the Chaldeans shall finish against you; those hands, that were used to restrain and check, shall excite and encourage your enemies.

My fury: see Ezekiel 5:13.

The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city.
Appoint; paint, mark out, or describe on the or tablet, as Ezekiel 4:1, two roads, and set it before thy countrymen in Babylon, and let them know that the arms and sword of Nebuchadnezzar are designed for exploits, where those ways lead them. Thus typically Ezekiel foretells the invasion the king of Babylon would make.

Both twain; the ways, though two in the course they lead, as stream that divide and multiply, yet must take their rise from one and the same land, that is, Babylon; there the prophet must begin to mark out the way which is to he drawn out: till it divide into two. And pitch on some convenience place, where thou mayst place Nebuchadnezzar’s army, he and his council of war consulting where this one way divides into two, which was on the edge of the desert of Arabia, as Nebuchadnezzar pursued his march from Babylon.

At the head of the way; either where the way begins, at Babylon; or rather at the head where each distinct way runs out, toward either Rabbath of the Ammonites, of Jerusalem; for there Nebuchadnezzar will cast lots.

Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.
This royal city of the Ammonites, it seems, the king of Babylon had a quarrel with, as well as with Jerusalem, and he was resolved, when he came out of Babylon, to set upon one of them. There were two or three cities of this name Rabba, or Rabbath; one in the tribe of Judah, one in Issachar, one in Moab; but this in the text is distinguished by Rabbath of the Ammonites.

The Ammonites were the children of Lot’s daughter by incestuous mixture.

To Judah i.e. the Jews, the land for the people of the land. In Jerusalem; particularly against Jerusalem, whose fortifications do now as little discourage as they shall ere long hinder Nebuchadnezzar from taking the city and destroying it

For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.
The prophet, by reason of the certainty of the thing, speaketh of what shall be as if it were already; he stood, i.e. he will make a halt, pitch his camp, and consult, on the borders of Arabia the Desert, to which one road brings travellers from Babylon, but henceforward it divides, and be comes two, one leading to Jerusalem, the other to Rabbath

To use divination; to consult with his gods, and to cast lots; and here the prophet foretells what divination he useth.

Made his arrows bright: this, the first kind of divination he used by arrows, (Begouanteia,) either writing on then the names of the cities and countries, then putting then into a quiver, and there mixing them, and thence drawing them out, and concluding according as the names were which were on the arrows, or perhaps by shooting the arrows and judging by the flight, or casting them up in the air and divining by their fall, as beggars are said to go a their staff falls. So then if Jerusalem were on the first arrow drawn out of the quiver, or if the arrows best ties or most fell that way, toward Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar will take that way. The next way of divining was by asking counsel of his idol, or image, which being made artificially by the skill of their juggling priests and conjurers, with little help they could give answers, and the image spake aloud what the sorcerer spake more softly, somewhat like the artificial whispering places which convey the voice, from unseen persons. Or by a Divine permission the devil gave them answers from those images. The third divination is by sacrifice, and judging of future prosperous or unprosperous events by the entrails, and more especially by the liver, its position and colour. All these he used, that with greater confidence of success he might proceed.

At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort.
Either the divination which concerned Jerusalem was managed on his right hand, that way the arrows were thrown, the images stood, and sacrifices were offered; or else the lot drawn with the right hand of the priest came forth for Jerusalem. The promising lot, encouraging tokens, were those which directed this superstitious, idolatrous kin to attack Jerusalem first, and this by the overruling providence of God, who determined by infinite wisdom what seemed to blind men to be the event designed by their divinations.

To appoint; now Nebuchadnezzar sets all in order pursuant to his observance of the diviners.

Captains; the commanders of his forces, and their particular charges in the march and siege; he did, it is probable, assign them by lot, as is ordinary where greatest dangers attend the charges.

To open the mouth; to assault the city where breaches were made, and storm the battered walls, to slay the defenders, and to run the hazard of being slain by them.

With shouting; so all the barbarous, fierce nations did with shouts and hideous noises assault and fight their enemies, and with this they hoped to terrify and amaze them, and so more easily master them; and so these Babylonians did, as may be collected from Psalm 137:7 Jeremiah 51:14, where Babylon shall be repaid her shouts.

Battering rams; engines made to beat down walls; and they had this name from the iron or brass head, which usually was at the end of it, like unto the head of a ram.

Against the gates, which might more easily be broken and beat down.

To cast a mount: in a siege of some length mounts must be raised to offend the besieged by shooting from the tops of them into the city, and to defend the besiegers; and the toil and danger hereof seems here to be cast on both overseers and labourors too by lot.

To build a fort; wooden towers now all these works being thus by lot disposed, the wary tyrant prevents the murmurs of his commanders and soldiers, and insinuates a courage into them by the pretences of assured success, and his idols approving them.

And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.
Unto them; the Jews, who shall either not believe that Nebuchadnezzar did so consult, or else that it is a vain, false, and lying divination, which will delude him that believes it, but never hurt them who deride it.

Them that have sworn oaths; Zedekiah, his princes, and nobles, who swore allegiance to the king of Babylon first, and afterward conspired with Egypt, and by new and contrary oaths perjured themselves, provoked as well as dishonoured God, and enraged Nebuchadnezzar to revenge their perfidiousness; these perjured persons will contemn all predictions of the prophet, and all the preparations of the king of Babylon. But Nebuchadnezzar will think on, and thoroughly weigh, and impart also to his council, as the ground of his war, the great wickedness of their perjury and rebellion; that both Zedekiah, and the Jews with him, may be subdued, taken captives, and the kingdom overthrown, the city burnt, and they sent into Babylon.

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.
Either referring to God, who saw still their wicked perjuries, and other sins which they persisted in, or rather referring to Nebuchadnezzar, and his ministers of state and war, to whose memory all the falsehood of the Jews was still kept fresh by repeated disloyalty, with reproach to God, whose oath the king and inhabitants of Jerusalem had violated.

Your transgressions against God, and against the king of Babylon, whose yoke you submitted to with promised obedience.

Discovered; visibly to all in court, city, and country.

All your doings; public management of matters of the kingdom, and private too; you add sin to sin, and that without blushing for them, or hiding them.

Because; the whole summed up for confirming the threats.

Taken with the hand; as birds or beasts taken in the net, encompassed therein that they cannot get away, are taken with the hand, so shall you, and be carried into Babylon.

And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,
Then; Zedekiah.

Profane; tainted with secret deep irreligious opinions, whence he despised God and his oath, and profaned the name of God. Prince: so much was his royal dignity lessened, that indeed he was rather a prince subject and dependent than a king.

Whose day, day of sorrows, and sufferings, and punishment, is at hand. Iniquity; the irreligion which is spread by thee among thy courtiers shall cease to spread itself, because of thy low estate. Or, when iniquity shall bring the fatal ruin of king and kingdom, and both shall be destroyed, and with the overthrow of your state the opportunities and means of sinning shall end too.

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.
Either God speaks to the prophet to declare the thing, or to Nebuchadnezzar to do the thing, to take away the diadem, the royal tire of the head, which the king did ordinarily and daily wear.

The crown; which was a royal ornament used on solemnities, and more than ordinary occasions; or it may be one thing in doubled expressions of the deposing of Zedekiah.

The same; the kingdom and crown shall never be what it hath been; as we say of one greatly altered, He is not himself, so here, This shall not be the same; it was great, glorious, and flourishing, but hereafter small, dependent, ignoble, and withering.

Exalt him; Jeconiah; it is probable the prophet foretells the advance of this captive king, which came to pass in the 37th year of Jeconiah’s captivity, in the first year of Merodach, 2 Kings 25:27-29 Jeremiah 52:31, who exalted his seat above all the captive kings in Babylon.

That is low; now in captivity in Babylon. Abase him; Zedekiah, That is high; not now on the throne of Judah, strengthened with the confederacy of Egypt, on which he relieth, and exalteth himself, and bears himself high against the prophet, the king of Babylon, and, which is most insolent, against the God of heaven.

I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.
This triplication of the threat speaks the certainty of the event, and also the gradual, successive troubles and overthrows that this kingdom should ever after be afflicted with.

It shall be no more; never recover its former glory and strength, but consume, till the sceptre be quite taken away from Judah, and way be made for the Messiah, who is he that is to come, whose is the dominion, and to whom the Father will give it. So the final desolation of the temporal kingdom of the seed of David, which was most heavy tidings to the carnal Jews, is threatened, and the eternal kingdom of the Messiah, most joyful tidings to the believing Jews, is promised.

And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it is furbished, to consume because of the glittering:
In Ezekiel 21:19,20 you had the mention of Rabbath, chief city of the Ammonites, in equal danger with Jerusalem; but while Jerusalem is threatened, Rabbath is no further minded, till now God directs the prophet to declare the ruin thereof.

The Ammonites; a stout, but proud, injurious, and insulting people.

Their reproach, wherewith they reproached Israel in the day of Israel’s afflictions, as Jeremiah 49:1, and Ezekiel 25:3,5,6, and blasphemed the God of Israel.

The sword; all warlike preparations are made against you.

The sword is drawn; the war is declared, and your enemy hath drawn the sword: see Ezekiel 21:9-11.

For the slaughter; to make waste, by avenging former quarrels and affronts. The Babylonish king comes out with bloody mind against you, O Ammonites! You countenanced Ishmael, who slew Gedaliah, viceroy by Nebuchadnezzar’s appointment, and you would have set Ishmael on the throne; this affront you shall satisfy for with your blood.

Because of the glittering: see Ezekiel 21:9,10.

Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked, whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an end.
War and desolation indeed hasten on thee, though in the mean while thy astrologers and soothsayers promise peace and prosperity, and deceive thee with fair but false divinations, of which Jeremiah warns them, Jeremiah 27:9.

Upon the necks of them that are slain; to bring thee under the sword of the Chaldeans, and to destroy thee as the Jews are, who already are fallen under the destroying sword; to make thee stumble and fall on their necks, as men that fall among a multitude of slain.

Of the wicked, i.e. both Jews and their king, as Ezekiel 21:25.

Their iniquity shall have an end: see Ezekiel 21:25.

Shall I cause it to return into his sheath? I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity.
Some read it without interrogation, as an advice to the Ammonites to put up the sword they had drawn for their defence, as being to no purpose to resist. If it be an interrogation, it is such as more vehemently denieth, God will by no means suffer the sword to be sheathed; in this sense it refers to the sword of the Chaldeans.

Will judge thee; plead, condemn, and execute too.

Where thou wast created; explained by that which follows; though they might boast of their ancient original, and their safe and impregnable strengths, yet God will bring a sword into those very places, and there they should perish.

And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy.
Pour out; as a flood sweeps all away, so God will let out his indignation to overwhelm the Ammonites.

I will blow against thee; as those who melt down metals blow upon the metal in the fire, that the fire might burn the fiercer, and consume the dross.

Deliver thee; or, as there is no hope to one delivered up to barbarous, merciless ruffians, whose trade is to destroy, so will God deal with these Ammonites.

Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I the LORD have spoken it.
Thou; Rabbath, and thy people.

For fuel; which is soon and unavoidably consumed in such a furnace.

Thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt no where be safe, or thy blood shall not be covered, nor thou buried.

Thou shalt be no more remembered; thy name shall perish.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Ezekiel 20
Top of Page
Top of Page