Matthew Poole's Commentary
He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.The prophet in the vision seeth a mark set upon some, Ezekiel 9:1-4, and the destruction of all the rest, Ezekiel 9:5-7. God rejecteth his intercession, Ezekiel 9:8-11.
He cried; the man whom he had seen upon the throne, Christ, who is Lord and Sovereign. Or, the glory of God, or the God of glory, or an angel by order from God.
In mine ears; either a Hebraism, he cried so that I distinctly heard; or rather to intimate that Ezekiel only heard what was spoken; the elders who were now with him hearing nothing of what was spoken.
Cause them to draw near; Approach, ye visitations, i.e. ye sore, wasting, unparalleled judgments; so the concrete in the superlative degree is sometimes expressed in the abstract, as it is here: or, these judgments are already near at hand. It may point, at the chief commanders in the Babylonish army,
them that have charge; not those that were now officers under Zedekiah, and commissioned by him, but those whom God hath appointed to destroy the city; angels, say some; the Chaldean commanders, think others.
With his destroying weapon; each of these had a weapon proper for that kind of destruction which he was to effect; and so, some to slay with sword, another with the pestilence, another with famine; each had his proper work herein, and it is called his destruction. In his hand, denoting both readiness unto, expedition in, and strength for the work.
And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.So soon as command was given out, these ministers of God’s just displeasure appear ready to execute.
Six; that was the precise number, neither more nor fewer.
Men. In appearance and vision they were men, and the prophet calls them as he saw them; whether angels in the shape of men, or whether really men, needs not much inquiry; they came without delay.
From the way of the higher gate; either because, being more inward, it is higher than the outward, as in all buildings upon ascents, where you go up by steps from the outward parts towards the inmost building; or because it was built more lofty than the other, enlarged likely by Jotham, 2 Chronicles 27:3.
Toward the north; insinuating whence their destruction should come; from Babylon came that whirlwind, Ezekiel 1:4, which was to overthrow Jerusalem. And this north gate was the weakest, both by their sins there committed, and by its situation, which invited Antiochus and Titus to pitch their tents on that side when they besieged it, and on this side the Chaldeans did first enter.
A slaughter weapon: see Ezekiel 9:1.
One man; not companion, but as one of great authority over them, who are as officers waiting on him on every side.
Linen; a garment proper to the priesthood, whether ordinary priest or high priest, Exodus 28:42,43 Le 6:10: in this habit appeared the angel, Daniel 10:5 12:6,7; and a very fit resemblance of Christ, who is the only Saviour of his elect, whose names he knows as if written by him.
They went in; all the seven, both the six executioners, and the single man clothed in linen, went into the inner court, where they stand waiting till the word be given for execution.
Stood beside the brazen altar; either showing that they were ready to offer up many sacrifices to the just revenge of God; or to show their value, zeal, and constancy to God’s appointment, for they are not where Ahaz’s altar was in the middle of the court, but near the brazen altar of God’s own direction.
And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;The glory; either a glorious brightness, such as some times appeared above the cherubims in the most, holy place, or the glorious God of Israel, who is the Lord that speaks, Ezekiel 9:4, or that glory which the prophet saw, Ezekiel 1:28 3:23 8:4, which see, and which brought him into the temple.
Gone up; withdrawn in part, departing from the place he had so long dwelt in. The cherub, or cherubims; for it is here singular instead of plural.
Whereupon he was either wont to sit and appear, or else on which he was when he appeared unto Ezekiel, as Ezekiel 8:4.
The threshold of the house; of the holy of holies, or of the temple, towards the brazen altar; in token either of his sudden departure from the Jews because of their sins; or that he might come nearer to those seven, to give them orders about wasting the city.
He called with a plain and loud voice, declaring his purpose to proceed to judge and execute his righteous judgment; but yet first providing for the safety of the good.
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.The Lord said, spake from the midst of that glory, Ezekiel 9:3.
Unto him, the man clothed in linen, i.e. to Christ.
Go through; pass through as men use to go who keep an even, steady pace.
The midst of the city; the chief street of the city.
Set a mark: it is too curious, and as useless, to inquire what mark this was. It is groundless to confine it to the sign of the cross, whatever some discourse of the antique form of the letter Thau. It is sufficient that, after the manner of man’s speaking, the Lord assures us his remnant are safe, as what is under a seal, which none can or dare break open.
Upon the foreheads, as the faithful servants of God, in allusion perhaps to the custom in the East, that servants wore their master’s name in their foreheads, or to let us know that now this deliverance would be not as in Egypt by whole families, but by single and selected persons.
That sigh, out of inward grief for other men’s sins and sorrows.
That cry; express their grief by vocal lamentations, who dare openly bewail the abominations of this wicked city, and so bear their testimony against it.
For all the abominations; not as if these mourners knew every particular abomination, but they mourned for all the kinds of wickedness which they knew of.
And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:The others; the six slaughtermen.
He said; the God of glory, or Christ, who appeared in great glory.
In my hearing; a note of certainty of the thing.
Go ye after him; linger not ere you set forward against the wicked, yet still go after, that you destroy none that are to be sealed; so also Revelation 7:3.
Through the city; this order must be observed through the whole city, and through the whole execution. Smite; strike each with his weapon of perdition, so let every one fall by the sword, or famine, &c.
Let not your eye spare; do all with severity, act the Chaldeans’ part indeed, and without remorse execute my just displeasure by your cruelty.
Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.Slay utterly; my purpose is to exterminate and make desolate, therefore slay all that are designed to destruction. Old; whose venerable age, if innocent, might have awed you, whose wisdom might preserve some and themselves.
Young; who should be a seed-plot, or nursery, for posterity, cut them off too. Regard no state or sex, neither the loveliness of the virgin, nor the prettiness of the infant, nor the comeliness and gravity of the matron; spare none: yet in your fervours of revenge look you come not near to any sealed forehead; you may see them; though they blush for their own sins, and for the sins of others, yet they look up to me and wait for me in the way of my judgments, they will lift up their heads, and look you in the faces.
And begin, both the execution and the distinction, at my sanctuary; there are the great sinners, and the abominable sins which have brought this on them; and that all Israel may know nothing but repentance can secure them.
The ancient men; the seventy, or sanhedrim, Ezekiel 8:10,11. Which were before the house; who were governors in the temple and house of God by office, but idolaters by practice and principles.
And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.Defile the house; regard not the holiness of the temple: idolaters, whom you are to slay, have defiled it with the blood of idols, sacrifices, do you defile it with the blood of the idolatrous sacrificers; slay them where you find them, for there they sinned against me.
Fill the courts with the slain; make a great slaughter, let every place be stained with their blood. There were the priests’, the Levites’, and the women’s courts, and there will be found persons of a different character; but unless my mark be upon them, forbear none of them.
Go ye forth; make haste, do not ye, for I do not, delay, nor will I.
They went forth: here, as before, they show their ready obedience.
Slew in the city: this slaughter was visional in the eye of the prophet, and a preface to the saddest butcheries Israel ever bled and groaned under.
And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?And it came to pass: this is a most usual transition, and Scripture phrase.
While; there was some space of time taken up in the execution.
They were slaying; the six slaughtermen; not bodily and actually, but visionally, and in prophetic representation.
Slaying them; those about the sanctuary, and in the city.
I was left; either survived the slaughter, or left alone, now both the sealer and the slayers were gone; or alone sealed of all the priests, the rest being exposed to destruction.
I fell on my face, in most humble and earnest manner addressing to God, as one that would entreat mercy for a ruined state; and
cried, importunately prayed; and the prayer follows.
Ah! an expression of the greatest compounded affection of pity, desire, and zeal for the afflicted; and what follows is a complex of arguments for pity and sparing mercy; from God himself, from his peculiar hand in this, from his people, the remnant of them, and from the sad and mournful state Jerusalem was already in. Must all Israel drink thus of the cup of thine indignation?
The residue of Israel; so called, because many were already in captivity with Jeconiah, and had been so about six or seven years; or else in respect to the electing love of God, who ever reserved a remnant to himself.
Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.Then said he; God gives him a speedy answer.
Of the house of Israel; of those who either joined themselves to the house of David when the ten tribes fell off, or those that escaped when Shalmaneser carried them captive.
Judah; the two tribes; though only one is expressed the other is included.
Exceeding great; grown beyond all measure, that my justice cannot, and my mercy must not, longer forbear. Full of blood; very much innocent blood is spilt, or there are many bloodshedders among them.
Full of perverseness; all judgment is perverted; in judges, to injustice; in priests, to idolatry; in all, to scepticism, or atheism.
They say; they argue and dispute against my concerning myself in the government of the world and the church.
The Lord hath cast off the care of his people, and so they spoil him of his dominion, deny his omniscience, and make him as idols for ignorance, just as Psalm 10:11 94:7.
And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.As for me, my resolution is fixed.
Mine eye, that eye they thought did not see to govern, shall see to punish.
I will recompense; they shall find me a Sovereign to vindicate myself, and do justice against their injustice. See Ezekiel 5:11 7:4.
And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.While God gave the prophet the account of the people’s sins, and of his own resolutions, Christ,
clothed with linen, the innocent one, and our Priest,
reported the matter, as it were came in, or returned from doing that work most delightful to him.
As thou hast commanded me; the Hebrew text is according, or as; but the reading is with all added, according to
all that which thou, O my Father, hast commanded me; as John 14:31.