Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Threatening of Judgment and Promise of Mercy. Conclusion of the Vision - Eze 11:1-13
This chapter contains the concluding portion of the vision; namely, first, the prediction of the destruction of the ungodly rulers (Eze 11:1-13); secondly, the consolatory and closing promise, that the Lord would gather to Himself a people out of those who had been carried away into exile, and would sanctify them by His Holy Spirit (Eze 11:14-21); and, thirdly, the withdrawal of the gracious presence of God from the city of Jerusalem, and the transportation of the prophet back to Chaldea with the termination of his ecstasy (Eze 11:22-25).
Judgment upon the rulers of the nation. - Eze 11:1. And a wind lifted me up, and took me to the eastern gate of the house of Jehovah, which faces towards the east; and behold, at the entrance of the gate were five and twenty men, and I saw among them Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, the chiefs of the nation. Eze 11:2. And he said to me: Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity, and counsel evil counsel in this city; Eze 11:3. Who say, It is not near to build houses; it is the pot, and we are the flesh. Eze 11:4. Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, son of man. - Ezekiel is once more transported from the inner court (Eze 8:16) to the outer entrance of the eastern gate of the temple (תּשּׂא רוּח, as in Eze 8:3), to which, according to Eze 10:19, the vision of God had removed. There he sees twenty-five men, and among them two of the princes of the nation, whose names are given. These twenty-five men are not identical with the twenty-five priests mentioned in Eze 8:16, as Hvernick supposes. This is evident, not only from the difference in the locality, the priests standing between the porch and the altar, whereas the men referred to here stood at the outer eastern entrance to the court of the temple, but from the fact that the two who are mentioned by name are called שׂרי העם (princes of the people), so that we may probably infer from this that all the twenty-five were secular chiefs. Hvernick's opinion, that שׂרי העם is a term that may also be applied to princes among the priests, is as erroneous as his assertion that the priest-princes are called "princes" in Ezr 8:20; Neh 10:1, and Jer 35:4, whereas it is only to national princes that these passages refer. Hvernick is equally incorrect in supposing that these twenty-five men take the place of the seventy mentioned in Eze 8:11; for those seventy represented the whole of the nation, whereas these twenty-five (according to Eze 11:2) were simply the counsellors of the city - not, however, the twenty-four duces of twenty-four divisions of the city, with a prince of the house of Judah, as Prado maintains, on the strength of certain Rabbinical assertions; or twenty-four members of a Sanhedrim, with their president (Rosenmller); but the twelve tribe-princes (princes of the nation) and the twelve royal officers, or military commanders (1 Chron 27), with the king himself, or possibly with the commander-in-chief of the army; so that these twenty-five men represent the civil government of Israel, just as the twenty-four priest-princes, together with the high priest, represent the spiritual authorities of the covenant nation. The reason why two are specially mentioned by name is involved in obscurity, as nothing further is known of either of these persons. The words of God to the prophet in Eze 11:2 concerning them are perfectly applicable to representatives of the civil authorities or temporal rulers, namely, that they devise and give unwholesome and evil counsel. This counsel is described in Eze 11:3 by the words placed in their mouths: "house-building is not near; it (the city) is the caldron, we are the flesh."
These words are difficult, and different interpretations have consequently been given. The rendering, "it (the judgment) is not near, let us build houses," is incorrect; for the infinitive construct בּנות cannot stand for the imperative or the infinitive absolute, but must be the subject of the sentence. It is inadmissible also to take the sentence as a question, "Is not house-building near?" in the sense of "it is certainly near," as Ewald does, after some of the ancient versions. For even if an interrogation is sometimes indicated simply by the tone in an energetic address, as, for example, in Sa2 23:5, this cannot be extended to cases in which the words of another are quoted. Still less can לא בקרוב mean non est tempus, it is not yet time, as Maurer supposes. The only way in which the words can be made to yield a sense in harmony with the context, is by taking them as a tacit allusion to Jer 29:5. Jeremiah had called upon those in exile to build themselves houses in their banishment, and prepare for a lengthened stay in Babylon, and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the words of false prophets, who predicted a speedy return; for severe judgments had yet to fall upon those who had remained behind in the land. This word of Jeremiah the authorities in Jerusalem ridiculed, saying "house-building is not near," i.e., the house-building in exile is still a long way off; it will not come to this, that Jerusalem should fall either permanently or entirely into the hands of the king of Babylon. On the contrary, Jerusalem is the pot, and we, its inhabitants, are the flesh. The point of comparison is this: as the pot protects the flesh from burning, so does the city of Jerusalem protect us from destruction.
(Note: "This city is a pot, our receptacle and defence, and we are the flesh enclosed therein; as flesh is preserved in its caldron till it is perfectly boiled, so shall we continue here till an extreme old age." - Hlsemann in CaloV. Bibl. Illustr.)
On the other hand, there is no foundation for the assumption that the words also contain an allusion to other sayings of Jeremiah, namely, to Jer 1:13, where the judgment about to burst in from the north is represented under the figure of a smoking pot; or to Jer 19:1-15, where Jerusalem is depicted as a pot about to be broken in pieces by God; for the reference in Jer 19:1-15 is simply to an earthen pitcher, not to a meat-caldron; and the words in the verse before us have nothing at all in common with the figure in Jer 1:13. The correctness of our explanation is evident both from Eze 24:3, Eze 24:6, where the figure of pot and flesh is met with again, though differently applied, and from the reply which Ezekiel makes to the saying of these men in the verses that follow (Eze 11:7-11). This saying expresses not only false confidence in the strength of Jerusalem, but also contempt and scorn of the predictions of the prophets sent by God. Ezekiel is therefore to prophesy, as he does in Eze 11:5-12, against this pernicious counsel, which is confirming the people in their sins.
And the Spirit of Jehovah fell upon me, and said to me: Say, Thus saith Jehovah, So ye say, O house of Israel, and what riseth up in your spirit, that I know. Eze 11:6. Ye have increased your slain in this city, and filled its streets with slain. Eze 11:7. Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Your slain, whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and it is the pot; but men will lead you out of it. Eze 11:8. The sword you fear; but the sword shall I bring upon you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 11:9. I shall lead you out of it and give you into the hand of foreigners, and shall execute judgments upon you. Eze 11:10. By the sword shall ye fall: on the frontier of Israel shall I judge you; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah. Eze 11:11. It shall not be as a pot to you, so that you should be flesh therein: on the frontier of Israel shall I judge. Eze 11:12. And ye shall learn that I am Jehovah, in whose statutes ye have not walked, and my judgments ye have not done, but have acted according to the judgments of the heathen who are round about you. - For תּפּל עלי , compare Eze 8:1. Instead of the "hand" (Eze 8:1), the Spirit of Jehovah is mentioned here; because what follows is simply a divine inspiration, and there is no action connected with it. The words of God are directed against the "house of Israel,' whose words and thoughts are discerned by God, because the twenty-five men are the leaders and counsellors of the nation. מעלות, thoughts, suggestions of the mind, may be explained from the phrase עלה על לב, to come into the mind. Their actions furnish the proof of the evil suggestions of their heart. They have filled the city with slain; not "turned the streets of the city into a battle-field," however, by bringing about the capture of Jerusalem in the time of Jeconiah, as Hitzig would explain it. The words are to be understood in a much more general sense, as signifying murder, in both the coarser and the more refined signification of the word.
(Note: Calvin has given the correct explanation, thus: "He does not mean that men had been openly assassinated in the streets of Jerusalem; but under this form of speech he embraces all kinds of injustice. For we know that all who oppressed the poor, deprived men of their possessions, or shed innocent blood, were regarded as murderers in the sight of God.")
מלּאתים is a copyist's error for מלּאתם. Those who have been murdered by you are the flesh in the caldron (Eze 11:7). Ezekiel gives them back their own words, as words which contain an undoubted truth, but in a different sense from that in which they have used them. By their bloodshed they have made the city into a pot in which the flesh of the slain is pickled. Only in this sense is Jerusalem a pot for them; not a pot to protect the flesh from burning while cooking, but a pot into which the flesh of the slaughtered is thrown. Yet even in this sense will Jerusalem not serve as a pot to these worthless counsellors (Eze 11:11). They will lead you out of the city (הוציא, in Eze 11:7, is the 3rd pers. sing. with an indefinite subject). The sword which ye fear, and from which this city is to protect you, will come upon you, and cut you down - not in Jerusalem, but on the frontier of Israel. על־גּבוּל, in Eze 11:10, cannot be taken in the sense of "away over the frontier," as Kliefoth proposes; if only because of the synonym אל־גּבוּל in Eze 11:11. This threat was literally fulfilled in the bloody scenes at Riblah (Jer 52:24-27). It is not therefore a vaticinium ex eventu, but contains the general thought, that the wicked who boasted of security in Jerusalem or in the land of Israel as a whole, but were to be led out of the land, and judged outside. This threat intensifies the punishment, as Calvin has already shown.
(Note: "He threatens a double punishment; first, that God will cast them out of Jerusalem, in which they delight, and where they say that they will still make their abode for a long time to come, so that exile may be the first punishment. He then adds, secondly, that He will not be content with exile, but will send a severer punishment, after they have been cast out, and both home and land have spued them out as a stench which they could not bear. I will judge you at the frontier of Israel, i.e., outside the holy land, so that when one curse shall have become manifest in exile, a severer and more formidable punishment shall still await you.")
In Eze 11:11 the negation (לא) of the first clause is to be supplied in the second, as, for example, in Deu 33:6. For Eze 11:12, compare the remarks on Eze 5:7. The truth and the power of this word are demonstrated at once by what is related in the following verse.
And it came to pass, as I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died: then I fell upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said: Alas! Lord Jehovah, dost Thou make an end of the remnant of Israel? - The sudden death of one of the princes of the nation, while Ezekiel was prophesying, was intended to assure the house of Israel of the certain fulfilment of this word of God. So far, however, as the fact itself is concerned, we must bear in mind, that as it was only in spirit that Ezekiel was at Jerusalem, and prophesied to the men whom he saw in spirit there, so the death of Pelatiah was simply a part of the vision, and in all probability was actually realized by the sudden death of this prince during or immediately after the publication of the vision. But the occurrence, even when the prophet saw it in spirit, made such an impression upon his mind, that with trembling and despair he once more made an importunate appeal to God, as in Eze 9:8, and inquired whether He meant to destroy the whole of the remnant of Israel. עשׂה כלה, to put an end to a thing, with את before the object, as in Zep 1:18 (see the comm. on Nah 1:8). The Lord then gives him the comforting assurance in Eze 11:14-21, that He will preserve a remnant among the exiles, and make them His people once more.
Promise of the Gathering of Israel out of the Nations
Eze 11:14. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 11:15. Son of man, thy brethren, thy brethren are the people of thy proxy, and the whole house of Israel, the whole of it, to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem say, Remain far away from Jehovah; to us the land is given for a possession. Eze 11:16. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Ye, I have sent them far away, and have scattered them in the lands, but I have become to them a sanctuary for a little while in the lands whither they have come. Eze 11:17. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will gather you from the nations, and will collect you together from the lands in which ye are scattered, and will give you the land of Israel. Eze 11:18. And they will come thither, and remove from it all its detestable things, and all its abominations. Eze 11:19. And I will give them one heart, and give a new spirit within you; and will take the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh; Eze 11:20. That they may walk in my statutes, and preserve my rights, and do them: and they will be my people, and I will be their God. Eze 11:21. But those whose heart goeth to the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will give their way upon their head, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The prophet had interceded, first of all for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Eze 9:8), and then for the rulers of the nation, and had asked God whether He would entirely destroy the remnant of Israel. To this God replies that his brethren, in whom he is to interest himself, are not these inhabitants of Jerusalem and these rulers of the nation, but the Israelites carried into exile, who are regarded by these inhabitants at Jerusalem as cut off from the people of God. The nouns in Eze 11:15 are not "accusatives, which are resumed in the suffix to הרחקתּים in Eze 11:16," as Hitzig imagines, but form an independent clause, in which אחיך is the subject, and אנשׁי גאלּתך as well as כּל־בּית ישׂראל sa llew sa the predicates. The repetition of "thy brethren" serves to increase the force of the expression: thy true, real brethren; not in contrast to the priests, who were lineal relations (Hvernick), but in contrast to the Israelites, who had only the name of Israel, and denied its nature.
These brethren are to be the people of his proxy; and toward these he is to exercise גּאלּה. גּאלּה is the business, or the duty and right, of the Gol. According to the law, the Gol was the brother, or the nearest relation, whose duty it was to come to the help of his impoverished brother, not only by redeeming (buying back) his possession, which poverty had compelled him to sell, but to redeem the man himself, if he had been sold to pay his debts (vid., Lev 25:25, Lev 25:48). The Gol therefore became the possessor of the property of which his brother had been unjustly deprived, if it were not restored till after his death (Num 5:8). Consequently he was not only the avenger of blood, but the natural supporter and agent of his brother; and גּאלּה signifies not merely redemption or kindred, but proxy, i.e., both the right and obligation to act as the legal representative, the avenger of blood, the hair, etc., of the brother. The words "and the whole of the house of Israel" are a second predicate to "thy brethren," and affirm that the brethren, for whom Ezekiel can and is to intercede, form the whole of the house of Israel, the term "whole" being rendered more emphatic by the repetition of כּל in כּלּה. A contrast is drawn between this "whole house of Israel" and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who say to those brethren, "Remain far away from Jehovah, to us is the land given for a possession." It follows from this, first of all, that the brethren of Ezekiel, towards whom he was to act as Gol, were those who had been taken away from the land, his companions in exile; and, secondly, that the exiles formed the whole of the house of Israel, that is to say, that they alone would be regarded by God as His people, and not the inhabitants of Jerusalem or those left in the land, who regarded the exiles as no longer a portion of the nation: simply because, in their estrangement from God, they looked upon the mere possession of Jerusalem as a pledge of participation in the grace of God. This shows the prophet where the remnant of the people of God is to be found. To this there is appended in Eze 11:16. a promise of the way in which the Lord will make this remnant His true people. לכן, therefore, viz., because the inhabitants of Jerusalem regard the exiles as rejected by the Lord, Ezekiel is to declare to them that Jehovah is their sanctuary even in their dispersion (v. 16); and because the others deny that they have any share in the possession of the land, the Lord will gather them together again, and give them the land of Israel (Eze 11:17). The two לכן are co-ordinate, and introduce the antithesis to the disparaging sentence pronounced by the inhabitants of Jerusalem upon those who have been carried into exile. The כּי before the two leading clauses in Eze 11:16 does not mean "because," serving to introduce a protasis, to which Eze 11:17 would form the apodosis, as Ewald affirms; but it stands before the direct address in the sense of an assurance, which indicates that there is some truth at the bottom of the judgment pronounced by their opponents, the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The thought is this: the present position of affairs is unquestionably that Jehovah has scattered them (the house of Israel) among the Gentiles; but He has not therefore cast them off. He has become a sanctuary to them in the lands of their dispersion. Migdâsh does not mean either asylum or an object kept sacred (Hitzig), but a sanctuary, more especially the temple. They had, indeed, lost the outward temple (at Jerusalem); but the Lord Himself had become their temple. What made the temple into a sanctuary was the presence of Jehovah, the covenant God, therein. This even the exiles were to enjoy in their banishment, and in this they would possess a substitute for the outward temple. This thought is rendered still more precise by the word מעט, which may refer either to time or measure, and signify "for a short time," or "in some measure." It is difficult to decide between these two renderings. In support of the latter, which Kliefoth prefers (after the lxx and Vulgate), it may be argued that the manifestation of the Lord, both by the mission of prophets and by the outward deliverances and inward consolations which He bestowed upon the faithful, was but a partial substitute to the exile for His gracious presence in the temple and in the holy land. Nevertheless, the context, especially the promise in Eze 11:17, that He will gather them again and lead them back into the land of Israel, appears to favour the former signification, namely, that this substitution was only a provisional one, and was only to last for a short time, although it also implies that this could not and was not meant to be a perfect substitute for the gracious presence of the Lord. For Israel, as the people of God, could not remain scattered abroad; it must possess the inheritance bestowed upon it by the Lord, and have its God in the midst of it in its own land, and that in a manner more real than could possibly be the case in captivity among the Gentiles. This will be fully realized in the heavenly Jerusalem, where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be a temple to the redeemed (Rev 21:22). Therefore will Jehovah gather together the dispersed once more, and lead them back into the land of Israel, i.e., into the land which He designed for Israel; whereas the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who boast of their possession of Canaan (Eze 11:15), will lose what they now possess. Those who are restored will then remove all idolatrous abominations (Eze 11:17), and receive from God a new and feeling heart (Eze 11:19), so that they will walk in the ways of God, and be in truth the people of God (Eze 11:20).
The fulfilment of this promise did, indeed, begin with the return of a portion of the exiles under Zerubbabel; but it was not completed under either Zerubbabel or Ezra, or even in the Maccabean times. Although Israel may have entirely relinquished the practice of gross idolatry after the captivity, it did not then attain to that newness of heart which is predicted in Eze 11:19, Eze 11:20. This only commenced with the Baptist's preaching of repentance, and with the coming of Christ; and it was realized in the children of Israel, who accepted Jesus in faith, and suffered Him to make them children of God. Yet even by Christ this prophecy has not yet been perfectly fulfilled in Israel, but only in part, since the greater portion of Israel has still in its hardness that stony heart which must be removed out of its flesh before it can attain to salvation. The promise in Eze 11:19 has for its basis the prediction in Deu 30:6. "What the circumcision of the heart is there, viz., the removal of all uncleanliness, of which outward circumcision was both the type and pledge, is represented here as the giving of a heart of flesh instead of one of stone" (Hengstenberg). I give them one heart. לב אחד, which Hitzig is wrong in proposing to alter into לב , another heart, after the lxx, is supported and explained by Jer 32:39, "I give them one heart and one way to fear me continually" (cf. Zep 3:9 and Act 4:32). One heart is not an upright, undivided heart (לב ), but a harmonious, united heart, in contrast to the division or plurality of hearts which prevails in the natural state, in which every one follows his own heart and his own mind, turning "every one to his own way" (Isa 53:6). God gives one heart, when He causes all hearts and minds to become one. This can only be effected by His giving a "new spirit," taking away the stone-heart, and giving a heart of flesh instead. For the old spirit fosters nothing but egotism and discord. The heart of stone has no susceptibility to the impressions of the word of God and the drawing of divine grace. In the natural condition, the heart of man is as hard as stone. "The word of God, the external leadings of God, pass by and leave no trace behind. The latter may crush it, and yet not break it. Even the fragments continue hard; yea, the hardness goes on increasing" (Hengstenberg). The heart of flesh is a tender heart, susceptible to the drawing of divine grace (compare Eze 36:26, where these figures, which are peculiar to Ezekiel, recur; and for the substance of the prophecy, Jer 31:33). The fruit of this renewal of heart is walking in the commandments of the Lord; and the consequence of the latter is the perfect realization of the covenant relation, true fellowship with the Lord God. But judgment goes side by side with this renewal. Those who will not forsake their idols become victims to the judgment (Eze 11:21). The first hemistich of Eze 11:21 is a relative clause, in which אשׁר is to be supplied and connected with לבּם: "Whose heart walketh after the heart of their abominations." The heart, which is attributed to the abominations and detestations, i.e., to the idols, is the inclination to idolatry, the disposition and spirit which manifest themselves in the worship of idols. Walking after the heart of the idols forms the antithesis to walking after the heart of God (Sa1 13:14). For 'דּרכּם וגו, "I will give their way," see Eze 9:10.
The promise that the Lord would preserve to Himself a holy seed among those who had been carried away captive, brought to a close the announcement of the judgment that would fall upon the ancient Israel and apostate Jerusalem. All that is now wanting, as a conclusion to the whole vision, is the practical confirmation of the announcement of judgment. This is given in the two following verses. - Eze 11:22. And the cherubim raised their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was up above them. Eze 11:23. And the glory of Jehovah ascended from the midst of the city, and took its stand upon the mountain which is to the east of the city. Eze 11:24. And wind lifted me up, and brought me to Chaldea to the exiles, in the vision, in the Spirit of God; and the vision ascended away from me, which I had seen. Eze 11:25. And I spoke to the exiles all the words of Jehovah, which He had shown to me. - The manifestation of the glory of the Lord had already left the temple, after the announcement of the burning of Jerusalem, and had taken its stand before the entrance of the eastern gate of the outer court, that is to say, in the city itself (Eze 10:19; Eze 11:1). But now, after the announcement had been made to the representatives of the authorities of their removal from the city, the glory of the God of Israel forsook the devoted city also, as a sign that both temple and city had ceased to be the seats of the gracious presence of the Lord. The mountain on the east of the city is the Mount of Olives, which affords a lofty outlook over the city. There the glory of God remained, to execute the judgment upon Jerusalem. Thus, according to Zac 14:4, will Jehovah also appear at the last judgment on the Mount of Olives above Jerusalem, to fight thence against His foes, and prepare a way of escape for those who are to be saved. It was from the Mount of Olives also that the Son of God proclaimed to the degenerate city the second destruction (Luk 19:21; Mat 24:3); and from the same mountain He made His visible ascension to heaven after His resurrection (Luk 24:50; cf. Act 1:12); and, as Grotius has observed, "thus did Christ ascend from this mountain into His kingdom, to execute judgment upon the Jews."
After this vision of the judgments of God upon the ancient people of the covenant and the kingdom of God, Ezekiel was carried back in the spirit into Chaldea, to the river Chaboras. The vision then vanished; and he related to the exiles all that he had seen.