Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The first word of judgment Eze 21:1-7. Ezekiel speaks first to the people of Israel, shows the universality of the coming destructions, and indicates by a sign (that of sighing) the sadness of the calamity.
The words and order of words are identical with Eze 20:45-46, except that for "south," there are substituted:
(2) "the holy place," i. e., the temple and its various parts;
(3) "the land of Israel."
No subterfuge is left for the people to pretend misunderstanding.
The righteous and the wicked - take the place of "every green tree and every dry tree" Eze 20:47; "all faces" that of "all flesh:" to show the universality of the destructions. National judgment involves the innocent in the temporal ruin of the guilty. The equity of God is vindicated by the ruin being only temporal.
From the south to the north - From one end of the holy land to the other; the seer is in the north, and looks at once on the whole extent of the ruin.
The prophet was directed to let the people see him sighing and prostrate, as a sign of the sorrow and weakness about to come upon the people.
The breaking of thy loins - The prostration of strength; the loins being the seat of strength.
The second word of judgment: the glittering and destroying sword. The passage may be called the "Lay of the Sword;" it is written in the form of Hebrew poetry, with its characteristic parallelism.
It contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree - The rod is the scepter of dominion, assigned to Judah Gen 49:10. The destroying sword of Babylon despises the scepter of Judah; it despises every tree. Others render the verse, "Shall we make mirth" (saying), "the rod of my son," (the rod which corrects my people) "contemneth" (treats with scorn, utterly confounds) "every tree" (every other nation); or, the scepter of my people "contemneth" (proudly despises) every other nation. Proud as the people are, they shall be brought to sorrow.
Terrors - Better as in the margin.
Smite upon thy thigh - A token of mourning (compare the marginal reference note).
For it is put to the proof, and if it contemneth even the rod, What shall not be? saith the Lord
i. e., What horrors will not arise when the sword shall cut down without regard the ruling scepter of Judah!
Doubled the third time - i. e., "thrice doubled" to express its violence and force.
The sword of the slain - The sword whereby men are to be slain.
Of the great men ... - Or, The sword of the mighty slain, which presseth hard upon them.
The point of the sword - The threatening sword or terror; as in Gen 3:24, "the flaming sword."
And their ruins be multiplied - literally, "to the multiplication of stumblingblocks," that is, so that the causes of their fall may be more numerous. Compare Jer 46:16.
Made bright ... - Or,
Ah! It is prepared for a lightning-flash, Drawn for slaughter.
The prophet addresses the sword,
Gather thyself up, O sword, to the right or to the left.
Another rendering is: "Turn thee backwards! get thee to the right! Set thee forwards (?)!get thee to the left! O whither is thy face appointed?
The Lord smites together His hands in anger (marginal reference), man in consternation.
The third word of judgment. The king of Babylon's march upon Judaea and upon the Ammonites. Destruction is to go forth not on Judah only, but also on such neighboring tribes as the Ammonites (compare Jer 27:2-3).
Appoint thee - Set before thee.
Choose thou a place, choose it - Rather, "mark a spot, mark it," as upon a map, at the head of the two roads, one leading to Jerusalem, the other to Ammon. These were the two roads by one or other of which an invading army must march from Babylon to Egypt.
The Chaldaean king is depicted standing at the entrance of the holy land from the north, meditating his campaign, using rites of divination that really belonged to the Akkadians, a primitive race which originally occupied the plains of Mesopotamia. The Accadians and the Etruscans belong through the Finnish family to the Turanian stock; this passage therefore shows a characteristic mode of divination in use among two widely separated nations; and as the Romans acquired their divination from the conquered Etruscans, so the Chaldaeans acquired the same art from the races whose soil they had occupied as conquerors.
He made his arrows briqht - Rather, he shook his arrow; a mode of divination much in practice with the Arabians. It was usual to place in some vessel three arrows, on one of which was written, "My God orders me;" on the other, "My God forbids me;" on the third was no inscription. These three arrows were shaken together until one came out; if it was the first, the thing was to be done; if the second, it was to be avoided; if the third, the arrows were again shaken together, until one of the arrows bearing a decided answer should come forth.
Images - Teraphim (Gen 31:19 note).
He looked in the liver - It was the practice both of the Greeks and the Romans (derived from the Etruscans) to take omens from the inspection of the entrails (especially the liver) of animals offered in sacrifice.
The divination for Jerusalem - The lot fixing the campaign against Jerusalem.
It shalt be unto them - The Jews in their vain confidence shall look upon the hopes gathered from the divinations by the Babylonians as false and groundless.
To them that have sworn oaths - According to some, "oaths of oaths are theirs;" i. e., they have the most solemn oaths sworn by God to His people, in these they trust, forgetful of the sin which broke the condition upon which these promises were given. More probably the allusion is to the oaths which the Jews had sworn to Nebuchadnezzar as vassals Eze 17:18-19; therefore they trust he will not attack them, forgetting how imperfectly they had kept their oaths, and that Nebuchadnezzar knew this.
But he will call to remembrance the iniquity - The king of Babylon will by punishment remind them of their perjury Kg2 25:6-7; Ch2 36:17.
Profane - Rather, "wounded," - not dead but - having a death-wound. The prophet, turning from the general crowd, addresses Zedekiah.
When iniquity shall have an end - i. e., at the time when iniquity shall be closed with punishment. So in Eze 21:29.
The diadem ("the mitre," the unique head-dress of the high priest) shall be removed, and the crown taken off (this shall not be as it is), the low exalted, and the high abased. Glory shall be removed alike from priest and king; the present glory and power attached to the government of God's people shall be quite removed.
It shall be no more - Or, "This also shall not be;" the present state of things shall not continue: all shall be confusion "until He come" to whom the dominion belongs of right. Not Zedekiah but Jeconiah and his descendants were the rightful heirs of David's throne. Through the restoration of the true line was there hope for Judah (compare Gen 49:10), the promised King in whom all power shall rest - the Son of David - Messiah the Prince. Thus the prophecy of destruction ends for Judah in the promise of restoration (as in Eze 20:40 ff).
The burden of the Song of the Sword, also in the form of poetry, is again taken up, directed now against the Ammonites, who, exulting in Judah's destruction, fondly deemed that they were themselves to escape. For Judah there is yet hope, for Ammon irremediable ruin.
Their reproach - The scorn with which they reproach Judah (marginal references).
The sword ... the glittering - Or, "the sword is drawn for the slaughter; it is furbished that it may detour, in order that it may glitter." In the Septuagint (and Vulgate) the sword is addressed; e. g., Septuagint, "Arise that thou mayest shine."
Whiles ... unto thee - A parenthesis. The Ammonites had their false diviners who deluded with vain hopes.
To bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain - To cast thee (Ammon) upon the heap of slaughtered men.
Shall have an end - Shall have its final doom.
Shall I cause it to return ... - Or, Back to its sheath! The work of the sword is over.