Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Before, there was a direct commission, now there is a symbolic action. John has the same vision (Rev 10:8 ff), but there that is expressed, which is here left to be inferred, namely, that "as soon as he had eaten it his belly was bitter." The sweetness in the mouth denoted that it was good to be a messenger of the Lord (compare the margin reference), but the bitterness which accompanied it, denoted that the commission brought with it much sorrow.
To many people - To various nations using diverse languages.
Surely - The thought is that expressed by our Saviour Himself (margin reference). Some render it: "but I have sent thee unto these; they can hearken" etc.
I have made ... thy forehead strong - I have given thee a strength superior to theirs; a metaphor taken from horned animals.
Adamant - Or, diamond Jer 17:1, which was employed to cut flint. Ezekiel's firmness being that of a diamond, he should cut a stroke home to the hardened hearts of a rebellious people. For "though" read "for."
Thy people - God's people.
I heard behind me - The commission having been given, and the prophet transported to the place of his ministry, the chariot of the vision passes away with the proper tokens Eze 1:24-25. A voice from above the firmament is now heard proclaiming the divine glory.
From his place - The place where the glory of the Lord had revealed itself in the vision. The words are to be joined to "saying:" put a comma after Lord.
That touched - literally, touching. The living creatures in their flight raised their wings, so as to touch each other.
Lifted me up - We are not to suppose that the prophet was miraculously transported from one place to another in the land of his captivity. Compare Mat 4:1; Act 8:39. He had been in an ecstatic vision Eze 1:1, and now guided by the Spirit he goes forth among his countrymen.
The heat of my spirit - Full of the righteous indignation, which God inspired, against the sin which he was to denounce.
But the hand - and "the hand." The Lord strengthened him for his mission.
Tel-abib - , on the river Chebar was the chief seat of the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. The name "Tel-abib" ("mount of ears of corn") was probably given on account of its fertility.
I sat where they sat - Rather, "And I saw them sitting there and I sat there."
Astonished - Rather, silent, with fixed and determined silence (compare Ezr 9:3-4). "To be silent" was characteristic of mourners Lam 3:28; "to sit" their proper attitude Isa 3:26; Lam 1:1; "seven days" the set time of mourning Job 2:13.
The Lord guards both Ezekiel and his countrymen from dwelling exclusively on the national character of his mission. In the midst of the general visitations, each individual was to stand as it were alone before Him to render account of his doings, and to be judged according to his works.
Watchman - The priests and ministers of the Lord were often so called. Ezekiel is especially distinguished by this title Eze 33:7. The duties of a watchman are twofold,
(1) to wait and watch what God will order,
(2) to watch over and superintend the people.
Isaiah describes and censures unfaithful watchmen Isa 56:10.
This passage anticipates the great moral principle of divine government Ezek. 18 that each man is individually responsible for his own actions, and will be judged according to these and these alone.
I lay a stumblingblock before him - I bring him to trial by placing difficulties and temptations in his way (compare Eze 7:19; Eze 44:12 margin; Eze 14:3-4). It is true that God tempts no man in order to his destruction, but in the course of His Providence He permits men to be tried in order that their faith may be approved, and in this trial some who seem to be righteous fall.
Because thou ... his blood ... - So far as the prophet was concerned, the neglect of his duty is reckoned as the cause of the seemingly righteous man's fall.
His righteousness ... - Or, righteousnesses, i. e. acts of righteousness. The "righteous" man here is one, who had hitherto done the "acts of righteousness" prescribed by the Law, but when trial came was shown to lack the "principle of righteousness."
The repetition of the word "righteous" is to be noted. There seems to be an intimation that sin is alien to the character of a "righteous" man. Compare Jo1 3:7-9.
A fresh revelation of the glory of the Lord, to impress upon Ezekiel another characteristic of his mission. Now he is to learn that there is "a time to be silent" as well as "a time to speak," and that both are appointed by God. This represents forcibly the authoritative character and divine origin of the utterances of the Hebrew prophets.
"Shut" in the privacy of his own chamber he is to receive a message from Yahweh. This "shutting up," however, and the "bands" (Eze 3:25, used figuratively) were signs of the manner in which Ezekiel's countrymen would close their ears, hindering him as far as in them lay from delivering the message of the Lord.
With this verse commences a series of symbolic actions enjoined to the prophet in order to foretell the coming judgments of Jerusalem Ezek. 4; 5. Generally speaking symbolic actions were either literal and public, or figurative and private. In the latter case they impressed upon the prophet's mind the truth which he was to enforce upon others by the description of the action as by a figure. Difficulties have arisen, because interpreters have not chosen to recognize the figurative as well as the literal mode of prophesying. Hence, some, who would have all literal, have had to accept the most strange and unnecessary actions as real; while others, who would have all figurative, have had arbitrarily to explain away the most plain historical statement. There may be a difference of opinion as to which class one or other figure may belong; but after all, the determination is not important, the whole value of the parabolic figure residing in the lesson which it is intended to convey.
And I will make - Rather, Then will I "make." One action is the consequence of the other. Because the people would silence the prophet, God to punish them will close his mouth (compare Isa 6:9; Mat 13:14).
He that heareth ... - The judicial blindness of which Ezekiel speaks had already fallen upon the great body of the nation (Eze 14:4. Compare Rev 2:7; Rev 22:11).