Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Sword of the Lord and Its Disastrous Effects
Eze 21:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 21:2. Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and trickle over the holy places, and prophesy over the land of Israel, Eze 21:3. And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with thee, and will draw my sword out of its scabbard, and cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked. Eze 21:4. Because I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword to go forth from its scabbard against all flesh from south to north. Eze 21:5. And all flesh shall know that I, Jehovah, have drawn my sword out of its scabbard: it shall not return again. Eze 21:6. And thou, son of man, sigh! so that the hips break; and with bitter pain sigh before their eyes! Eze 21:7. And when they say to thee, Wherefore dost thou sigh? say, Because of a report that it is coming; and every heart will sink, and all hands become powerless, and every spirit will become dull, and all knees turn into water: Behold, it cometh, and will happen, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - In the preceding parable, the expression "forest of the field in the south," or "forest of the south-land," was enigmatical. This is explained to signify Jerusalem with its holy places (מקדּשׁים, see comm. on Eze 7:24), and the land of Israel, i.e., the kingdom of Judah. In accordance with this, the fire kindled by the Lord is interpreted as being the sword of the Lord. It is true that this is a figurative expression; but it is commonly used for war, which brings with it devastation and death, and would be generally intelligible. The sword will cut off both righteous and wicked. This applies to the outer side of the judgment, inasmuch as both good and bad fall in war. This is the only aspect brought into prominence here, since the great purpose was to alarm the sinners, who were boasting of their security; but the distinction between the two, as described in Eze 9:4., is not therefore to be regarded as no longer existing. This sword will not return, sc. into the scabbard, till it has accomplished the result predicted in Eze 21:3 (cf. Sa2 1:22; Isa 55:11). As Tremellius has aptly observed upon this passage, "the last slaughter is contrasted with the former ones, in which, after the people had been chastened fore a time, the sword was returned to its scabbard again." In order to depict the terrors of this judgment before the eyes of the people, the prophet is commanded to groan before their eyes in the most painful way possible (Eze 21:6.). בּשׁברון מתנים, with breaking of the hips, i.e., with pain sufficient to break the hips, the seat of strength in man (compare Nah 2:11; Isa 21:3). מרירוּת, bitterness, i.e., bitter anguish. The reason which he is to assign to the questioners for this sighing is "on account of the report that is coming," - an antiptosis for "on account of the coming report" (cf. Gen 1:4, etc.). the report comes when the substance of it is realized. The reference is to the report of the sword of the Lord, - that is to say, of the approach of the Chaldeans to destroy Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. The impression which this disclosure will make upon the hearers will be perfectly paralyzing (Eze 21:7). All courage and strength for offering resistance will be crippled and broken. נמס כּל־לב (cf. Nah 2:11) is strengthened by כּהתה, every spirit will become dull, so that no one will know what counsel to give. 'כּל־בּרכּים תּלכנה וגו corresponds to רפוּ כּל־ידים (cf. Eze 7:17). The threat is strengthened by the words, "behold, it cometh, and will take place." The subject is שׁמוּעה, the report, i.e., the substance of the report. - This threat is more fully expanded in Eze 21:8-17; Eze 21:8-13 corresponding to Eze 21:1-5, and Eze 21:14-17 to Eze 21:6, Eze 21:7.
The Sword is Sharpened for Slaying
Eze 21:8. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 21:9. Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah, A sword, a sword sharpened and also polished: Eze 21:10. That it may effect a slaughter is it sharpened; that it may flash is it polished: or shall we rejoice (saying), the sceptre of my son despiseth all wood? Eze 21:11. But it has been given to be polished, to take it in the hand; it is sharpened, the sword, and it is polished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. Eze 21:12. Cry and howl, son of man, for it goeth over my people, it goeth over all the princes of Israel: they have fallen by the sword along with my people: therefore smite upon the thigh. Eze 21:13. For the trial is made, and what if the despising sceptre shall not come? is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 21:14. And thou, son of man, prophesy and smite the hands together, and the sword shall double itself into threefold, the sword of the pierced: it is the sword of a pierced one, of the great one, which encircles them. Eze 21:15. That the heart may be dissolved, and stumbling-blocks may be multiplied, I have set the drawing of the sword against all their gates: Alas! it is made into flashing, drawn for slaying. Eze 21:16. Gather thyself up to the right hand, turn to the left, whithersoever thine edge is intended. Eze 21:17. And I also will smite my hands together, and quiet my wrath: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. - The description of the sword is thrown into a lyrical form (Eze 21:8-13), - a kind of sword-song, commemorating the terrible devastation to be effected by the sword of the Lord. The repetition of חרב in Eze 21:9 is emphatic. הוּחדּה is the perfect Hophal of חדד, to sharpen. מרוּטה is the passive participle of מרט, to polish; מרטּה (Eze 21:10), the participle Pual, with מ dropped, and Dagesh euphon. היה, a rare form of the infinitive for היות. The polishing gives to the sword a flashing brilliancy, which renders the sharpness of its edge still more terrible. The very obscure words, 'או נשׂישׂ וגו, I agree with Schmieder and Kliefoth in regarding as a protest, interposed by the prophet in the name of the people against the divine threat of the sword of vengeance, on the ground of the promises which had been given to the tribe of Judah. או, or perhaps; introducing an opposite case, or an exception to what has been said. The words 'שׁבט are to be taken as an objection, so that לאמר is to be supplied in thought. The objection is taken from the promise given in Jacob's blessing to the tribe of Judah: "the sceptre will not depart from Judah" (Gen 49:10). שׁבט בּני points unquestionably to this. בּני is taken from Eze 21:9, where the patriarch addresses Judah, whom he compares to a young lion, as בּני. Consequently the sceptre of my son is the command which the patriarch holds out to view before the tribe of Judah. This sceptre despises all wood, i.e., every other ruler's staff, as bad wood. This view is not rendered a doubtful one by the fact that שׁבט is construed as a feminine here, whereas it is construed as a masculine in every other case; for this construction is unquestionable in Eze 21:7 (12), and has many analogies in its favour. All the other explanations that have been proposed are hardly worth mentioning, to say nothing of refuting, as they amount to nothing more than arbitrary conjectures; whereas the assumption that the words are to be explained from Gen 49:10 is naturally suggested by the unquestionable allusion to the prophecy in that passage, which we find in Eze 21:27 of the present chapter. ויּתּן in Eze 21:11 is to be taken adversatively, "but he gave it (the sword) to be sharpened." The subject to ויּתּן is not Jehovah, but is indefinite, "one" (man, Angl. they), although it is actually God who has prepared the sword for the slaughter of Israel. The train of thought is the following: Do not think we have no reason to fear the sharply-ground sword of Jehovah, because Judah has received the promise that the sceptre shall not depart from it; and this promise will certainly be fulfilled, and Judah be victorious over every hostile power. The promise will not help you in this instance. The sword is given to be ground, not that it may be put into the scabbard, but that it may be taken in the hand by a slayer, and smite all the people and all its princes. In the phrase היא הוּחדּה חרב, חרב is in apposition to the subject היא, and is introduced to give emphasis to the words. It is not till Eze 21:19 that it is stated who the slayer is; but the hearers of the prophecy could be in no doubt. Consequently - this is the connection with Eze 21:12 - there is no ground for rejoicing from a felling of security and pride, but rather an occasion for painful lamentation.
This is the meaning contained in the command to the prophet to cry and howl. For the sword will come upon the nation and its princes. It is the simplest rendering to take היא as referring to הרב, היה ב, to be at a person, to fasten to him, to come upon him, as in Sa1 24:14; Sa2 24:17. מגוּרי, not from גּוּר, but the passive participle of מגר in the Pual, to overthrow, cast down (Psa 89:45): "fallen by the sword have they (the princes) become, along with my people." The perfects are prophetic, representing that which will speedily take place as having already occurred. - Smiting upon the thigh is a sign of alarm and horror (Jer 31:19). בּחן, perfect Pual, is used impersonally: the trial is made. The words allude to the victories gained already by Nebuchadnezzar, which have furnished tests of the sharpness of his sword. The question which follows וּמה contains an aposiopesis: and what? Even if the despising sceptre shall not come, what will be the case then? שׁבט מאסת, according to Eze 21:10, is the sceptre of Judah, which despises all other sceptres as bad wood. יהיה, in this instance, is not "to be," in the sense of to remain, but to become, to happen, to come (come to pass), to enter. The meaning is, if the sceptre of Judah shall not display, or prove itself to possess, the strength expected of it. - With Eze 21:14 the address takes a new start, for the purpose of depicting still further the operations of the sword. Smiting the hands together (smiting hand in hand) is a gesture expressive of violent emotion (cf. Eze 6:11; Num 24:10). The sword is to double, i.e., multiply itself, into threefold (שׁלישׁתה, adverbial), namely, in its strength, or its edge. Of course this is not to be taken arithmetically, as it has been by Hitzig, but is a bold paradoxical statement concerning the terrible effect produced by the sword. It is not even to be understood as referring to three attacks made at different times by the Chaldeans upon Jerusalem, as many of the commentators suppose. The sword is called חבב חללים, sword of pierced ones, because it produces the pierced or slain. The following words are rendered by Hitzig and Kliefoth: the great sword of the slain. But apart from the tautology which this occasions, the rendering can hardly be defended on grammatical grounds. For, in the first place, we cannot see why the singular חלל should have been chosen, when the expression was repeated, instead of the plural חללים; and secondly, חגּדול cannot be an adjective agreeing with חרב, for חרב is a noun of the feminine gender, and is construed here as a feminine, as החדרת clearly shows. הגּדול is in apposition to חלל, "sword of a pierced man, the great one;" and the great man pierced is the king, as Ewald admits, in agreement with Hengstenberg and Hvernick. The words therefore affirm that the sword will not only slay the mass of the people, but pierce the king himself. (See also the comm. on Eze 21:25.) - Eze 21:15 is not dependent upon what precedes, but introduces a new thought, viz., for what purpose the sword is sharpened. God has placed the flashing sword before all the gates of the Israelites, in order that (למען, pleonastic for למען) the heart may dissolve, the inhabitants may lose all their courage for defence, and to multiply offendicula, i.e., occasions to fall by the sword. The ἁπ. λεγ. אבחת signifies the rapid motion or turning about of the sword (cf. Gen 3:24); אבח, related to הפך, in the Mishna אפך. The ἁπ. λεγ. מעטּה, fem. of מעט, does not mean smooth, i.e., sharpened, synonymous with מרט, but, according to the Arabic m̀t, eduxit e vagina gladium, drawn (from the scabbard). In Eze 21:16 the sword is addressed, and commanded to smite right and left. התאחדי, gather thyself up, i.e., turn with all thy might toward the right (Tanchum). To the verb השׂימוּ it is easy to supply פּניך, from the context, "direct thine edge toward the left." אנה, whither, without an interrogative, as in Jos 2:5 and Neh 2:16. מעדות, from יעד, intended, ordered; not, directed, turned. The feminine form may be accounted for from a construction ad sensum, the gender regulating itself according to the חרב addressed in פּניך. The command to the sword is strengthened by the explanation given by Jehovah in Eze 21:17, that He also (like the prophet, Eze 21:14) will smite His hands together and cool His wrath upon them (cf. Eze 5:13).
The sword of the king of Babylon will smite Jerusalem, and then the Ammonites also. - Eze 21:18. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 21:19. And thou, son of man, make to thyself two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come by them; out of one land shall they both come forth, and draw a hand, at the cross road of the city do thou draw it. Eze 21:20. Make a way that the sword may come to Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, and to Judah into fortified Jerusalem. Eze 21:21. For the king of Babylon is stopping at the cross road, at the parting of the two ways, to practise divination. He is shaking the arrows, inquiring of the teraphim, looking at the liver. Eze 21:22. The divination falls to his right: Jerusalem, to set battering-rams, to open the mouth with a death-cry, to lift up the voice with a war-cry, to set battering-rams at the gates, to heap up a rampart, to build siege towers. - After the picture of the terrible devastation which the sword of the Lord will produce, the last word of God in this prophecy answers the questions, in whose hand Jehovah will place His sword, and whom it will smite. The slayer into whose hand the sharpened sword is given (Eze 21:11) is the king of Babylon, and it will smite not only Judah, but the Ammonites also. Jerusalem and Judah will be the first to fall, and then the arch-enemy of the covenant nation, namely Ammon, will succumb to the strokes of the sword of Jehovah, in order that the embittered enemies of the Lord and His people may learn that the fall of Jerusalem is not, as they fancy, a proof of the impotence, but rather of the omnipotence, of its God. In this way does our prophecy expand into a prediction of the judgment which will fall upon the whole of the world in hostility to God. For it is only as the arch-enemies of the kingdom of God that the Ammonites come into consideration here. The parallel between Israel and the sons of Ammon is carried out in such a way as to give constant prominence to the distinction between them. Jerusalem will fall, the ancient theocracy will be destroyed till he shall come who will restore the right (Eze 21:26 and Eze 21:27). Ammon, on the other hand, will perish, and not a trace be left (Eze 21:31, Eze 21:32).
This prediction is exhibited to the eye by means of a sign. The prophet is to make two ways, i.e., to prepare a sketch representing a road leading from a country, viz., Babylon, and dividing at a certain spot into two roads, one of which leads to Rabbath-Ammon, the capital of the kingdom of the Ammonites, the other to Judah, into Jerusalem. He is to draw the ways for the coming (לבוא) of the sword of the king of Babylon. At the fork of the road he is to engrave a hand, יד, i.e., an index. בּרא signifies in the Piel to cut away (Jos 17:15, Jos 17:18), to dig or hew (Eze 23:47), here to engrave written characters in hard material. The selection of this word shows that Ezekiel was to sketch the ways upon some hard material, probably a brick or tile (cf. Eze 4:1). יד does not mean locus spatium, but a hand, i.e., an index. ראשׁ , the beginning of the road, i.e., the fork of the road (Eze 16:25), is explained in Eze 21:21, where it is called אם, mother of the road, inasmuch as the roads start from the point of separation, and ראשׁ שׁני הדּרכים, beginning of the two roads. דּרך עיר, the road to a city. For Rabbath-Ammon, which is preserved in the ruins of Ammn, on the Upper Jabbok (Nahr Ammn), see the comm. on Deu 3:11. The road to Judah is still more precisely defined by בּירוּשׁלים בּצוּרה, into fortified Jerusalem, because the conquest of Jerusalem was the purpose of Nebuchadnezzar's expedition. The omission of the article before בּצוּרה may be explained from the nature of the participle, in which, even in prose, the article may be left out after a definite noun (cf. Ewald, 335a). The drawing is explained in Eze 21:21 and Eze 21:22. The king of Babylon is halting (עמד, to stand still, stop) to consult his oracles, and inquire which of the two roads he is to take. קסם, to take in hand, or practise divination. In order that he may proceed safely, he avails himself of all the means of divination at his command. He shakes the arrows (more strictly, the quiver with the arrows). On the practice itself Jerome writes as follows: "He consults the oracle according to the custom of his nation, putting his arrows into a quiver, and mixing them together, with the names of individuals inscribed or stamped upon them, to see whose arrow will come out, and which state shall be first attacked."
(Note: The arrow-lot (Belomantie) of the ancient Greeks (Homer, Il. iii. 324, vii. 182, 183) was similar to this; also that of the ancient Arabs (vid., Pococke, Specim. hist. Arab. pp. 327ff., and the passages from Nuweiri quoted by Reiske, Samml. einiger Arab. Sprichwrter von den Stecken oder Stben, p. 21). Another kind, in which the lot was obtained by shooting off the arrows, was common according to the Fihrist el Ulum of En-Nedm among the Hananian Ssabians (see Chwolsohn, Ssabier, ii. pp. 26 and 119, 200).)
He consults the Teraphim, or Penates, worshipped as oracular deities and gods of good fortune (see the comm. on Gen 31:19 and my Biblical Archaeology, 90). Nothing is known concerning the way in which these deities were consulted and gave their oracles. He examines the liver. The practice of ἡπατοσκοπία, extispicium, in which signs of good or bad luck, of the success or failure of any enterprise, were obtained from the peculiar condition of the liver of the sacrificial animals, was a species of divination to which great importance was attached by both the Babylonians (vid., Diod. Sic. ii. 29) and the Romans (Cicero, de divin. vi. 13), and of which traces were found, according to Barhebr. Chron. p. 125, as late as the eighth century of the Christian era among the Ssabians of Haran.
The divination resulted in a decision for Jerusalem. בּימינו היה is not to be translated "in his right hand was," but "into his right hand there came." היה: ἐγένετο (lxx), נפיל (Chald.), קסם does not mean lot (Ges.), but soothsaying, divination. ירוּשׁלים is connected with this in the form of a noun in apposition: the divination which indicated Jerusalem. The right hand is the more important of the two. The meaning of the words cannot be more precisely defined, because we are not acquainted with the king of divination referred to; even if we were to take the words as simply relating to the arrow in this sense, that an arrow with the inscription "Jerusalem" came into his right hand, and thus furnished the decision, which was afterwards confirmed by consulting the Teraphim and examining the liver. But the circumstance itself, that is to say, the fact that the divination coincided with the purpose of God, must not be taken, as Hvernick supposes, as suggesting a point of contact between Hebraism and the soothsaying of heathenism, which was peculiar to Ezekiel or to the time of the captivity. All that is proved by this fact is, that even heathenism is subject to the rule and guidance of Almighty God, and is made subservient to the accomplishment of the plans of both His kingdom and His salvation. In the words, to set bettering rams, etc., the substance of the oracle obtained by Nebuchadnezzar is more minutely given. It is a double one, showing what he is to do: viz., (1) to set bettering rams, i.e., to proceed to the siege of Jerusalem, as still further described in the last portion of the verse (Eze 4:2); and (2) to raise the war-cry for storming the city, that is to say, to take it by storm. The two clauses 'לפתּח וגו and 'להרים וגו are synonymous; they are not "pure tautology," however, as Hitzig affirms, but are chosen for the purpose of giving greater emphasis to the thought. The expression בּרצח creates some difficulty, inasmuch as the phrase "ut aperiat os in caede" (Vulg.), to open the mouth in murder or ruin, i.e., to put to death or lay in ruins, is a very striking one, and could hardly be justified as an "energetic expression for the battle-cry" (Hvernick). ב does not mean "to," and cannot indicate the intention, all the less because בּרצח is parallel to בּתרוּעה, where תרועה is that in which the raising of the voice expresses itself. There is nothing left then but to take רצח in the sense of field-or war-cry, and to derive this meaning either from רצח or, per metathesin, from צרח.
This announcement will appear to the Judaeans, indeed, to be a deceptive divination, but nevertheless it will be verified. - Eze 21:23. And it is like deceptive divination in their eyes; sacred oaths are theirs (lit., to them); but he brings the iniquity to remembrance, that they may be taken. Eze 21:24. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye bring your iniquity to remembrance, in that your offences are made manifest, so that your sins appear in all your deeds, because ye are remembered ye shall be taken with the hand. Eze 21:25. And thou pierced one, sinner, prince of Israel, whose day is come at the time of the final transgression, Eze 21:26. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The turban will be removed, the crown taken off. This is not this; the low will be lifted up, and the lofty lowered. Eze 21:27. Overthrown, overthrown, overthrown will I make it; even this shall not be, till He cometh, to whom is the right, to Him do I give it. - In Eze 21:23 (28), להם, which is more precisely defined by בּעיניהם, refers to the Israelites, i.e., the Judaeans. This also applies to the following להם, which cannot possibly be taken as referring to a different subject, say, for example, the Chaldeans. It is evident, therefore, that it is impossible to sustain the rendering given in Gesenius' Thesaurus (s.v.) to the obscure words שׁבעי שׁבעות, viz., qui juramenta jurarunt eis (sc., Chaldaeis), which Maurer has modified and expounded thus: "they will not fear these auguries; they will swear oaths to them (the Chaldeans), that is to say, according to their usual custom, these truce-breakers will take fresh oaths, hoping that the Chaldeans will be conciliated thereby." Moreover, the thought itself is an unsuitable one, inasmuch as "the defiant attitude of confidence with which they looked such awfully threatening danger in the face must have had some other ground than a reliance upon false oaths and Chaldean credulity" (Hvernick). The common explanation, which Rosenmller and Kliefoth uphold, is, "because the Chaldeans are sworn allies, sworn confederates of theirs;" or as Kliefoth explains it, "on account of the oath of fealty or vassalage sworn by Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar, they have sworn confederates in the Chaldeans, and relying upon this, they are confident that they have no hostile attack to fear from them." But this is altogether untenable, not only because it is perfectly arbitrary to supply "the Chaldeans," but still more for the reason adduced by Maurer. "How," he justly asks, "could the Judaeans despise these auguries because the Chaldeans were bound to them by an oath when they themselves had broken faith? When a treaty has been violated by one party, is not the other released from his oath?" We therefore adopt the same explanation as Hvernick: "oaths of oaths are theirs (to them), i.e., the most sacred oaths are (made) to them, namely, by God." They rely upon that which God has solemnly sworn to them, without considering upon what this promise was conditional, namely, upon a faithful observance on their part of the commandments of God. For the fact itself, compare Eze 20:42, and such passages as Psa 105:9., etc. The form שׁבעי by the side of שׁבעות may be explained in a very simple way from the relation of the construct state, i.e., from the endeavour to secure an obvious form for the construct state, and cannot in any case furnish a well-founded argument against the correctness of our explanation. As Ezekiel uses נפשׁים for נפשׁות in Eze 13:20, he may also have formed שׁבעים (שׁבעי) by the side of שׁבעות. - As they rely upon the promises of God without reflecting upon their own breach of covenant, God will bring their sin to remembrance through His judgment. והוּא is Jehovah, upon whose oaths they rely. עון must not be restricted to Zedekiah's breach of covenant, since Eze 21:24 clearly shows that it is the wrong-doing of Judah generally. להתּפשׂ in Eze 21:24 (29) is also to be understood of the whole nation, which is to be taken and punished by the king of Babylon. For Eze 21:24 (29) introduces the reason for the statement made in the last clause of Eze 21:23 (28). God must put the people in remembrance of their iniquity by inflicting punishment, because they have called it to remembrance by sins committed without any shame, and thereby have, so to speak, compelled God to remember them, and to cause the sinners to be grasped by the hand of the slayer. הזכּיר עון is used in Eze 21:24 (29) in a different sense from Eze 21:23 (28), and is therefore explained by 'בּהגּלות. בּכּף, which is indefinite in itself, points back to יד הורג in Eze 21:11 (16), and receives from that its more exact definition.
With Eze 21:25 the address turns to the chief sinner, the godless King Zedekiah, who was bringing the judgment of destruction upon the kingdom by his faithless breach of oath. The words חלל, רשׁע, and 'נשׂיא ישׂ are asyndeta, co-ordinate to one another. חלל does not mean profane or infamous (βέβηλε, lxx), but simply pierced, slain. This meaning is to be retained here. This is demanded not only by the fixed usage of the language, but also by the relation in which חלל stands both to Eze 21:14 and to חללי רשׁעים in Eze 21:29 (34). It is true that Zedekiah was not pierced by the sword either at that time or afterwards, but was simply blinded and led in captivity to Babylon, where he died. But all that follows from this is, that חלל is used here in a figurative sense, given up to the sword, i.e., to death; and Zedekiah is so designated for the purpose of announcing in a more energetic manner the certainty of his fate. The selection of the term חלל is the more natural, because throughout the whole prophecy the description of the judgment takes its character from the figure of the sword of Jehovah. As God does not literally wield a sword, so חלל is no proof of actual slaying with the sword. יומו .dro, his day, is the day of his destruction (cf. Sa1 26:10), or of the judgment upon him. The time of the final transgression is not the time when the transgression reaches its end, i.e., its completion, but the time when the wickedness brings the end, i.e., destruction (cf. Eze 35:5, and for קץ in this sense, Eze 7:2-3). The fact that the end, the destruction, is come, i.e., is close at hand, is announced in Eze 21:26 to the prince, and in his person to the whole nation. If we understand the connection in this way, which is naturally suggested by Eze 21:25, we get rid of the objection, which led Kliefoth to question the fact that it is the king who is addressed in Eze 21:25, and to take the words as collective, "ye slaughtered sinners, princes of Israel," and to understand them as referring to the entire body of rulers, including the priests, - an explanation that is completely upset by the words נשׂיא... אתּה (thou...prince), which are so entirely opposed to the collective view. Again, the remark that "what follows in Eze 21:26, viz., the statement to be made to the נשׂיא, has really nothing to do with him, since the sweeping away of the priesthood did not affect Zedekiah personally" (Kliefoth), is neither correct nor conclusive. For Eze 21:26 contains an announcement not only of the abrogation of the priesthood, but also of the destruction of the kingdom, which did affect Zedekiah both directly and personally. Moreover, we must not isolate the king addressed, even as an individual, from the position which he occupied, or, at any rate, which he ought to have occupied as a theocratic monarch, so as to be able to say that the abrogation of the priesthood did not affect him. The priesthood was one of the fundamental pillars of the theocracy, the removal of which would necessarily be followed by the collapse of the divine state, and therefore by the destruction of the monarchy. Hence it is that the abolition of the priesthood is mentioned first. The infinitives absolute (not imperatives) הסיר and הרים are selected for the purpose of expressing the truth in the most emphatic manner; and the verbs are synonymous. הרים, to lift up, i.e., not to elevate, but to take away, to abolish, as in Isa 57:14; Dan 8:11. מצנפת does not mean the royal diadem, like צניף in Isa 62:3, but the tiara of the high priest, as it does in every instance in the Pentateuch, from which Ezekiel has taken the word. העטרה, the king's crown. The diadem of the priest and the regal crown are the insignia of the offices of high priest and king; and consequently their removal is the abolition of both high-priesthood and monarchy. These words contain the sentence of death upon the theocracy, of which the Aaronic priesthood and the Davidic monarchy constituted the foundations.
They predict not merely a temporary, but a complete abolition of both offices and dignities; and their fulfilment took place when the kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the king of Babylon. The earthly sovereignty of the house of David was not restored again after the captivity; and the high-priesthood of the restoration, like the second temple, was only a shadowy outline of the glory and essential features of the high-priesthood of Aaron. As the ark with the Shechinah, or the gracious presence of God, was wanting in the temple of Zerubbabel; so were the Urim and Thummim wanting to the high-priesthood, and these were the only means by which the high priest could really carry out the mediation between the Lord and the people. זאת לא זאת .el (this is not this) does not refer to the tiara (mitre) and crown. זאת is neuter, and therefore construed with the masculine היה. This (mitre and crown) will not be this (היה is prophetic), i.e., it will not continue, it will be all over with it (Hvernick, Maurer, and Kliefoth). To this there is appended the further thought, that a general inversion of things will take place. This is the meaning of the words - the low will be lifted up, and the lofty lowered. הגבּהּ and השׁפּיל are infinitives, and are chosen in the same sense as in the first hemistich. The form השּׁפלה, with ה without the tone, is masculine; the ־ה probably serving merely to give greater fulness to the form, and to make it correspond more nearly to הגּבהּ.
(Note: Hitzig has given a most preposterous exposition of this verse. Taking the words הסיר and הרים as antithetical, in the sense of removing ad exalting or sustaining in an exalted position, and regarding the clauses as questions signifying, "Shall the high-priesthood be abolished, and the real dignity, on the contrary, remain untouched?" he finds the answer to these questions in the words זאת לא (this, not this). They contain, in his opinion, as affirmation of the former and a negation of the latter. But he does not tell us how זאת לא זאת without a verb can possibly mean, "the former (the abrogation of the high-priesthood) will take place, but the latter (the exaltation of the monarchy) will not occur." And, finally, the last clause, "the low shall be lifted up," etc., is said to contain simply a watchword, which is not for the time being to be followed by any result. Such trifling needs no refutation. We simply observe, therefore, that there is no ground for the assertion, that הרים without מן cannot possibly signify to abolish.)
This general thought is expressed still more definitely in Eze 21:27. עוּה, which is repeated twice to give greater emphasis to the thought, is a noun derived from עוּה, inversion, overthrow; and the suffix in אשׂימנּהּ points back to זאת in Eze 21:26 (31). This, the existing state, the high-priesthood and the monarch, will I make into destruction, or utterly overthrow. But the following זאת cannot also refer to the tiara and crown, as Kliefoth supposes, on account of the גּם which precedes it. This shows that זאת relates to the thing last mentioned. Even this, the overthrow, shall have no durability; or, as Tanch. has correctly expressed it, neque haec conditio erit durabilis. The following עד־בּא attaches itself not so much to this last clause as to the main thought: overthrow upon overthrow will ensue. The thought is this: "nowhere is there rest, nowhere security; all things are in a state of flux till the coming of the great Restorer and Prince of peace" (Hengstenberg). It is generally acknowledged that the words עד־בּא אשׁר־לו המּשׁפּט contain an allusion to Gen 49:10, עד כּי; and it is only by a false interpretation of the preceding clauses, wrung from the words by an arbitrary alteration of the text, that Hitzig is able to set this connection aside. At the same time, אשׁר־לו המּשׁפּט is of course not to be taken as a philological explanation of the word שׁילה, but is simply a theological interpretation of the patriarchal prophecy, with direct reference to the predicted destruction of the existing relations in consequence of the ungodliness and unrighteousness of the leaders of the theocracy up to that time. המּשׁפּט is not the rightful claim to the mitre and crown, but right in an objective sense, as belonging to God (Deu 1:17), and entrusted by God to the earthly government as His representative. He then, to whom this right belongs, and to whom God will give it, is the Messiah, of whom the prophets from the time of David onwards have prophesied as the founder and restorer of perfect right on earth (cf. Ps 72; Isa 9:6; Isa 42:1; Jer 23:5; Jer 33:17). The suffix attached to נתתּיו is not a dative, but an accusative, referring to משׁפּט (cf. Psa 72:1). There was no necessity to mention the person again to whom God would give the right, as He had already been designated in the previous expression אשׁר לו.
Overthrow of the Ammonites
Eze 21:28. And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, concerning the sons of Ammon, and concerning their scorn, sword, sword, drawn to slay, polished, that it may devour, that it may flash! Eze 21:29. While they prophesy deceit to thee, while they divine lying to thee, it shall lay thee by the necks of the sinners slain, whose day cometh at the time of the final transgression. Eze 21:30. Put it in its scabbard again. At the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy birth will I judge thee, Eze 21:31. And pour out my anger upon thee, kindle the fire of my wrath against thee, and give thee into the hand of foolish men, of smiths of destruction. Eze 21:32. Thou shalt be for the fire to devour; thy blood shall remain in the midst of the land; thou shalt be remembered no more; for I Jehovah have spoken it. - As Judah in Jerusalem will fall by the sword of the king of Babylon, contrary to all expectation; so will the Ammonites be punished for their scorn with utter extermination. חרפּה is scorn at the overthrow of Israel (cf. Eze 25:3, Eze 25:6, and Zep 2:8). The sword is already drawn against them. פּתוּחה, taken out of the scabbard, as in Psa 37:14. לטבח is to be connected with פּתוּחה, notwithstanding the accents, and להכיל להכיל with מרוּטה. This is required by the correspondence of the clauses. הכיל is regarded as a derivative of כּוּל by Ewald and others, in the sense of ad sustinendum, according to capacity, i.e., as much as possible. But the adverbial rendering it opposed to the context, and cannot be sustained from Eze 23:32. Moreover, כּוּל, to contain, is applicable enough to goblets and other vessels, but not to a sword. Hitzig therefore explains it from the Arabic kll, to blunt (sc., the eyes), i.e., to blind. But this is open to the objection that the form הכיל points to the verb כּוּל rather than כּלל; and also to a still greater one, - namely, that there is nothing in the Hebrew usage to suggest the use of כלל in such a sense as this, and even if it were used in the sense of blunting, it would be perfectly arbitrary to supply עינים; and lastly, that even the flashing of the sword does not suggest the idea of blinding, but is intended to heighten the terror occasioned by the sharpness of the sword. We therefore adhere to the derivation of הכיל from אכל, and regard it as a defective form for האכיל, like תּמרוּ for תּאמרוּ in Sa2 19:14, יהל as syncopated form for יאהל (Isa 13:20), and watochez ותּחז for ותּאחז in Sa2 20:9; literally, to cause it to eat or devour, i.e., to make it fit for the work of devouring. למען , literally, for the sake of the lightning (flash) that shall issue therefrom (cf. Eze 21:10). - In Eze 21:29 (34), לתת (to lay, or place) is also dependent upon חרב פּתוּחה, drawn to lay thee; so that the first half of the verse is inserted as a parenthesis, either to indicate the occasion for bringing the sword into the land (Hitzig), or to introduce an attendant circumstance, according to the sense in which the ב in בּחזות is taken. The parenthetical clause is understood by most of the commentators as referring to deceptive oracles of Ammonitish soothsayers, which either determined the policy of Ammon, as Hitzig supposes (cf. Jer 27:9-10), or inspired the Ammonites with confidence, that they had nothing to fear from the Chaldeans. Kliefoth, on the other hand, refers the words to the oracles consulted by Nebuchadnezzar, according to Eze 21:23. "These oracles, which directed the king not to march against the Ammonites, but against Jerusalem, proved themselves, according to Eze 21:29, to be deceptive prophesying to the Ammonites, inasmuch as they also afterwards fell by the sword; just as, according to Eze 21:23, they proved themselves to be genuine so far as the Israelites were concerned, inasmuch as they were really the first to be smitten." This view is a very plausible one, if it only answered in any degree to the words. But it is hard to believe that the words, "while it (one) prophesies falsehood to thee," are meant to be equivalent to "while its prophecy proves itself to be false to thee." Moreover, Nebuchadnezzar did not give the Ammonites any oracle, either false or true, by the circumstance that his divination at the cross-road led him to decide in favour of the march to Jerusalem; for all that he did in consequence was to postpone his designs upon the Ammonites, but not to relinquish them. We cannot understand the words in any other sense, therefore, than as relating to oracles, which the Ammonites received from soothsayers of their own.
Hitzig takes offence at the expression, "that it (the sword) may lay thee by (to) the necks of the sinners slain," because colla cannot stand for corpora decollata, and consequently proposes to alter אותך into אותהּ, to put it (the sword) to the necks. But by this conjecture he gets the not less striking thought, that the sword was to be put to the necks of those already slain; a thing which would be perfectly unmeaning, and is therefore not generally done. The sinners slain are the Judaeans who have fallen. The words point back to Eze 21:25, the second half of which is repeated here, and predict the same fate to the Ammonites. It is easy to supply חרב to השׁב אל־תּערהּ: put the sword into its scabbard again. These words can only be addressed to the Ammonites; not to the Chaldeans, as Kliefoth imagines, for the latter does not harmonize in any way with what follows, viz., in the place of thy birth will I judge thee. God does not execute the judgment independently of the Chaldeans, but through the medium of their sword. The difficulties occasioned by taking the words as referring to the Ammonites are not so great as to necessitate an alteration of the text (Hitzig), or to call for the arbitrary explanation: put it now or for the present into the scabbard (Kliefoth). The use of the masculine השׁב (with Patach for השׁב, as in Isa 42:22), if Ammon is addressed by the side of the feminine אותך, may be explained in a very simple way, from the fact that the sword is carried by men, so that here the thought of the people, the warriors, is predominant, and the representation of the kingdom of the Ammonites as a woman falls into the background. The objection that the suffix in תּערהּ can only refer to the sword (of the Chaldean) mentioned in Eze 21:28, is more plausible than conclusive. For inasmuch as the scabbard presupposes a sword, and every sword has a scabbard, the suffix may be fully accounted for from the thing itself, as the words, "put the sword into its scabbard," would lead any hearer to think at once of the sword of the person addressed, without considering whether that particular sword had been mentioned before or not. The meaning of the words is this: every attempt to defend thyself with the sword and avert destruction will be in vain. In thine own land will God judge thee. For מכרותיך, see the comm. on Eze 16:3. This judgment is still further explained in Eze 21:31, where the figure of the sword is dropped, and that of the fire of the wrath of God introduced in its place. אפיח...בּאשׁ, we render: "the fire of my wrath I blow (kindle) against thee," after Isa 54:16, and not "with the fire...do I blow, or snort, against thee," as others have done; because blowing with the fire is an unnatural figure, and the interpretation of the words in accordance with Isa. l.c. is all the more natural, that in the closing words of the verse, חרשׁי משׁחית, the allusion to that passage is indisputable, and it is only from this that the combination of the two words can be accounted for. - Different explanations have been given of בּערים. Some render it ardentes, and in accordance with Isa 30:27 : burning with wrath. But בּער is never used in this sense. Nor can the rendering "scorching men" (Kliefoth) be sustained, for בּער, to burn, only occurs in connection with things which are combustible, e.g., fire, pitch, coals, etc. The word must be explained from Psa 92:7, "brutish," foolish, always bearing in mind that the Hebrew associated the idea of godlessness with folly, and that cruelty naturally follows in its train. - Eze 21:32. Thus will Ammon perish through fire and sword, and even the memory of it be obliterated. For Eze 21:32 compare Eze 15:4. The words, "thy blood will be בּתוך הארץ in the midst of the land," can hardly be understood in any other sense than "thy blood will flow over all the land." For the rendering proposed by Ewald, "remain in the midst of the earth, without thy being mentioned," like that given by Kliefoth, "thy blood will the earth drink," does not harmonize with Eze 24:7, where דּמהּ בּתוכהּ היה is affirmed of blood, which cannot penetrate into the earth, or be covered with dust. For תּזּכרי, see Eze 25:10. Ammon as the enemy of the kingdom of God will utterly perish, leaving no trace behind, and without any such hope of restoration as that held out in Eze 21:27 to the kingdom of Judah or the people of Israel.