Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Sins of Jerusalem and Israel
To the prediction of the judgment in Ezekiel 21 there is appended another description of the sins of Jerusalem and Israel, by which this judgment is occasioned. The chapter contains three words of God, which are connected together both in substance and design, viz., (1) The blood-guiltiness and idolatry of Jerusalem accelerate the coming of the days when the city will be an object of scorn to all the world (vv. 1-16); (2) The house of Israel has become dross, and is to be melted in the fire of tribulation (Eze 22:17-22); (3) All ranks of the kingdom - prophets, priests, princes, and people - are thoroughly corrupt, therefore has the judgment burst upon them (Eze 22:23-31).
Blood-guiltiness of Jerusalem and the burden of its sins. Eze 22:1-5 contain the principal accusation relating to bloodshed and idolatry; and Eze 22:6-16 a further account of the sins of the people and their rulers, with a brief threatening of punishment. - Eze 22:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 22:2. And thou, son of man, wilt thou judge? wilt thou judge the city of blood-guiltiness? then show it all its abominations, Eze 22:3. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, City, which sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols within itself for defilement. Eze 22:4. Through thy blood which thou hast shed hast thou made thyself guilty, and through thine idols which thou hast made hast thou defiled thyself, and hast drawn thy days near, and hast come to thy years; therefore I make thee a scorn to the nations, and ridicule to all lands. Eze 22:5. Those near and those far off from thee shall ridicule thee as defiled in name, rich in confusion. - The expression 'התשׁפּט וגו proves this address to be a continuation of the reproof of Israel's sins, which commenced in Eze 20:4. The epithet city of blood-guiltiness, as in Ezekiel Eze 24:6, Eze 24:9 (compare Nah 3:1), is explained in Eze 22:3. The apodosis commences with והודעתּהּ, and is continued in Eze 22:3 (ואמרתּ). לבוא עתּהּ, that her time, i.e., her time of punishment, may come: עתּהּ, like יומו in Eze 21:30. ועשׂתּה is not a continuation of the infinitive לבוא, but of the participle שׁפכת. עליה, of which different renderings have been given, does not mean "over itself," i.e., as a burden with which it has laden itself (Hvernick); still less "for itself" (Hitzig), a meaning which על never has, but literally "upon," i.e., in itself, covering the city with it, as it were. ותּקריבי, thou hast brought near, brought on thy days, that is to say, the days of judgment, and hast come to, arrived at thy years, sc. the years of visitation and punishment (cf. Jer 11:23). This meaning is readily supplied by the context. טמאת ה, defiled, unclean with regard to the name, i.e., having forfeited the name of a holy city through capital crimes and other sinful abominations. מהוּמה is internal confusion, both moral and religious, as in Amo 3:9 (cf. Psa 55:10-12).
In Eze 22:6-12 there follows an enumeration of a multitude of sins which had been committed in Jerusalem. - Eze 22:6. Behold, the princes of Israel are every one, according to his arm, in thee to shed blood. Eze 22:7. Father and mother they despise in thee; toward the foreigner they act violently in the midst of thee; orphans and widows they oppress in thee. Eze 22:8. Thou despisest my holy things, and desecratest my Sabbaths. Eze 22:9. Slanderers are in thee to shed blood, and they eat upon the mountains in thee; they practise lewdness in thee. Eze 22:10. They uncover the father's nakedness in thee; they ravish the defiled in her uncleanness in thee. Eze 22:11. They take gifts in thee to shed blood; interest and usury thou takest, and overreachest thy neighbours with violence, and thou forgettest me, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - By the repetition of the refrain, to shed blood (Eze 22:6, Eze 22:9, and Eze 22:12), the enumeration is divided into three groups of sins, which are placed in the category of blood-guiltiness by the fact that they are preceded by this sentence and the repetition of it after the form of a refrain. the first group (Eze 22:6-8) embraces sins which are committed in daring opposition to all the laws of morality. By the princes of Israel we are to understand primarily the profligate kings, who caused innocent persons to be put to death, such, for example, as Jehoiakim (Kg2 24:4), Manasseh (Kg2 21:16), and others. The words אישׁ are rendered by Hitzig and Kliefoth, they were ready to help one another; and in support of the rendering they appeal to Psa 83:9. But in that case אישׁ לזרעו would stand for לזרע אישׁ rof dnat, or rather for אישׁ זרוע לאישׁ, - a substitution which cannot be sustained. Nor can they be taken in the sense proposed by Hvernick, every one relying upon his arm, i.e., looking to physical force alone, but simply every one according to his arm, i.e., according to his strength or violence, are they in thee. In this case היוּ does not require anything to be supplied, any more than in the similar combination in Eze 22:9. Followed by למען with an infinitive, it means to be there with the intention of doing anything, or making an attempt, i.e., to direct his efforts to a certain end. In Eze 22:7 it is not the princes who are the subject, but the ungodly in general. הקלּוּ is the opposite of כּבּד (Exo 20:12). In the reproofs which follow, compare Exo 22:20.; Lev 19:13; Deu 24:14. With insolence and violence toward men there is associated contempt of all that is holy. For Eze 22:8, see Eze 20:13. - In the second group, Eze 22:9-11, in addition to slander and idolatry, the crimes of lewdness and incest are the principal sins for which the people are reproved; and here the allusion to Lev 18 and 19 is very obvious. The reproof of slander also points back to the prohibition in Lev 19:16. Slander to shed blood, refers to malicious charges and false testimony in a court of justice (vid., Kg1 21:10-11). For eating upon the mountains, see Eze 18:6. The practice of zimmâh is more specifically described in Eze 22:10 and Eze 22:11. For the thing itself, compare Lev 18:7-8; Lev 19:15 and Lev 19:9. The threefold אישׁ in Eze 22:11 does not mean every one, but one, another, and the third, as the correlative רעהוּ shows. - The third group, Eze 22:12, is composed of sins of covetousness. For the first clause, compare the prohibition in Exo 23:2; for the second, Eze 18:8, Eze 18:13. The reproof finishes with forgetfulness of God, which is closely allied to covetousness.
The Lord is enraged at such abominable doings. He will interfere, and put an end to them by scattering Judah among the heathen. - Eze 22:13. And, behold, I smite my hand because of thy gain which thou hast made, and over thy bloodguiltiness which is in the midst of thee. Eze 22:14. Will thy heart indeed stand firm, or will thy hands be strong for the day when I shall deal with thee? I Jehovah have spoken it, and also do it. Eze 22:15. I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee in the lands, and will utterly remove thine uncleanness from thee. Eze 22:16. And thou wilt be desecrated through thyself before the eyes of the nations, and know that I am Jehovah. - Eze 22:13 is closely connected with the preceding verse. This serves to explain the fact that the only sins mentioned as exciting the wrath of God are covetousness and blood-guiltiness. הכּה , as Kg2 11:12 clearly shows, is a contracted expression for הכּה כּף אל (Eze 21:19), and the smiting of the hands together is a gesture indicative of wrathful indignation. For the form דּמך, contracted from דּמיך, see the comm. on Eze 16:45. - As Eze 22:13 leads on to the threatening of judgment, so does Eze 22:14 point in anticipation to the terrible nature of the judgment itself. The question, "will thy heart stand firm?" involves a warning against security. עמד is the opposite of נמס (cf. Eze 21:12), as standing forms the antithesis to passing away (cf. Psa 102:27). עשׂה אותך, as in Eze 16:59 and Eze 7:27. The Lord will scatter them (cf. Eze 12:15; Eze 20:23), and remove the uncleanness of sin, namely, by purifying the people in exile (cf. Isa 4:4). התם, from תּמם, to cause to cease, with מן, to take completely away. נחלתּ, Niphal of חלל fo lahpiN ,נחלתּ ., connected with לעיני גּוים, as in Eze 20:9, not from נחל, as many of the commentators who follow the Septuagint and Vulgate suppose. בּך, not in te, in thyself, but through thee, i.e., through thy sinful conduct and its consequences.
Refining of Israel in the Furnace of Besieged Jerusalem
Eze 22:17. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 22:18. Son of man, the house of Israel has become to me as dross; they are all brass, and tin, and iron, and lead in the furnace; dross of silver have they become. Eze 22:19. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye have all become dross, therefore, behold, I gather you together in Jerusalem. Eze 22:20. As men gather together silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin into the furnace, to blow the fire upon it for melting, so will I gather (you) together in my anger and my wrath, and put you in and melt you. Eze 22:21. And I will collect you together, and blow the fire of my wrath upon you, that ye may be melted therein. Eze 22:22. As silver is melted in the furnace, so shall ye be melted therein (viz., in Jerusalem), and shall learn that I Jehovah have poured out my wrath upon you. - This second word of God rests no doubt upon the figure in Eze 22:15, of the uncleanness or dirt of sin; but it is not an exposition of the removal of the dirt, as predicted there. For that was to be effected through the dispersion of Israel among the nations, whereas the word of God, from Eze 22:17 onwards, represents the siege awaiting Jerusalem as a melting process, through which God will separate the silver ore contained in Israel from the baser metals mingled with it. In Eze 22:18 it commences with a description of the existing condition of Israel. It has turned to dross. היוּ is clearly a perfect, and is not to be taken as a prophetical future, as Kliefoth proposes. Such a rendering is not only precluded by the clause 'יען היות in Eze 22:19, cut could only be made to yield an admissible sense by taking the middle clause of the verse, "all of them brass and tin," etc., as a statement of what Israel had become, or as a preterite in opposition to all the rules of Hebrew syntax, inasmuch as this clause merely furnishes an explanation of היוּ־לסוּג. סוּג, which only occurs here, for סיג signifies dross, not smelting-ore (Kliefoth), literally, recedanea, the baser ingredients which are mixed with the silver, and separated from it by smelting. This is the meaning here, where it is directly afterwards interpreted as consisting of brass, tin, iron, and lead, and then still further defined as סגּים כּסף, dross of silver, i.e., brass, tin, iron, and lead, with a mixture of silver. Because Israel had turned into silver-dross of this kind, the Lord would gather it together in Jerusalem, to smelt it there as in a smelting furnace; just as men gather together brass, iron, lead, and tin in a furnace to smelt them, or rather to separate the silver contained thereon. קבצת כּסף, literally, a collection of silver, etc., for "like a collection." The כ simil. is probably omitted for the sake of euphony, to avoid the discord occasioned by prefixing it to קבצת. Ezekiel mentions the silver as well, because there is some silver contained in the brass, iron, etc., or the dross is silver-dross. התּוּך, nomen verbale, from נתך in the Hiphil, smelting; literally, as the smelting of silver takes place in the furnace. The smelting is treated here simply as a figurative representation of punishment, and consequently the result of the smelting, namely, the refining of the silver by the removal of the baser ingredients, is not referred to any further, as in the case in Isa 1:22, Isa 1:25; Jer 6:27-30; Mal 3:2-3. This smelting process was experienced by Israel in the last siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans.
The corrupt state of all classes in the kingdom is the immediate cause of its destruction. - Eze 22:23. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 22:24. Son of man, say to it, Thou art a land which is not shined upon, nor rained upon in the day of anger. Eze 22:25. Conspiracy of its prophets is within it; like a roaring lion, which rends in pieces the prey, they devour souls, take possessions and money; they multiply its widows within it. Eze 22:26. Its priests violate my law and profane my holy things; they make no distinction between holy and unholy, and do not teach the difference between clean and unclean, and they hide their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Eze 22:27. Its princes in the midst of it are like wolves, which rend prey in pieces, that they may shed blood, destroy souls, to acquire gain. Eze 22:28. And its prophets plaster it with cement, seeing what is worthless, and diving lies for them, saying, "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah," when Jehovah hath not spoken. Eze 22:29. The common people offer violence and commit theft; they crush the wretched and the poor, and oppress the foreigner against right. Eze 22:30. I seek among them for a man who might build a wall and step into the breach before me on behalf of the land, that I might not destroy it, but I find none. Eze 22:31. Therefore I pour out my anger upon them; I destroy them in the fire of my wrath, I give their way upon their head, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - To show the necessity for the predicted judgment still more clearly, in the third word of God contained in this chapter a description is given of the spread of deep corruption among all classes of the people, and the impossibility of saving the kingdom is plainly shown. The words אמר־להּ, "say unto her," are taken by most of the commentators as referring to Jerusalem, the abominations of which the prophet is commanded to declare. But although the clause, "thou art a land," etc. (Eze 22:24), could unquestionably be made to harmonize with this, yet the words of Eze 22:30, "I sought for a man who might stand in the gap before Jehovah for the land," indicate most unquestionably that this word of God is directed against the land of Judah, and consequently להּ must be taken as referring to ארץ which follows, the pronoun is this case being placed before the noun to which it refers, as in Num 24:17. Any allusion to the city of Jerusalem would therefore be somewhat out of place, inasmuch as in the preceding word of God the object referred to was not the city, but the house of Israel, or the nation generally, from which a transition is here made to the land, or the kingdom of Judah. The meaning of Eze 22:24 is a disputed question. לא מטהרה היא, which is rendered ἡ οὐ βρεχομένηin the Sept., is taken by most of the expositors to mean, "it is not cleansed," the form מטהרה being correctly rendered as a participle Pual of טהר. But this rendering does not furnish any appropriate sense, unless the following words לא גּשׁמהּ are taken as a threat: there shall not be rain, or it shall not be rained upon in the day of wrath. But this view is hardly reconcilable with the form of the word. גּשׁמהּ, according to the Masoretic pointing with Mappik in the ה, is evidently meant to be taken as a noun גּשׁם = גּשׁם. In that case, if the words were intended to contain a threat, יהיה ought not to be omitted. But without a verb the words contain a statement in harmony with what precedes. We regard the Chetib גשׁמה as the perfect Pual גּשׁמהּ. And let it not be objected to this that the Pual of this verb is not met with elsewhere, for the form of the noun גּשׁם with the u sound does not occur anywhere else. As a perfect Pual, לא גּשׁמהּ is a simple continuation of the participial clause לא מטהרה היא, containing like this an affirmation, and cannot possibly be taken as a threat or prediction. But "not cleansed" and "not rained upon" do not agree together, as rain is not a means of purification according to the Hebrew idea. It is true that in the law the withdrawal or suspension of rain is threatened as a punishment from God, and the pouring out of rain is promised as a theocratical blessing. But even if the words are taken in a tropical sense, as denoting a withdrawal of the blessings of divine grace, they will not harmonize with the other clause, "not cleansed." We therefore take מטהרה in the sense of "shined upon by the light," or provided with brightness; a meaning which is sustained by Exo 24:10, where tohar occurs in the sense of splendour, and by the kindred word tzohar, light. In this way we obtain the suitable thought, land which has neither sunlight nor rain in the day of wrath, i.e., does not enjoy a single trace of the divine blessing, but is given up to the curse of barrenness.
The reason for this threat is given in Eze 22:25., where a picture is drawn of the moral corruption of all ranks; viz., of the prophets (Eze 22:25), the priests (Eze 22:26), the princes (Eze 22:27), and the common people (Eze 22:29). There is something very striking in the allusion to the prophets in Eze 22:25, not so much because they are mentioned again in Eze 22:28, - for this may be accounted for on the ground that in the latter passage they are simply introduced as false advisers of the princes, - as on account of the statement made concerning them in Eze 22:25, namely, that, like lions tearing their prey, they devour souls, etc.; a description which is not given either in Ezekiel 13 or elsewhere. Hitzig therefore proposes to alter נביאיה into נשׂיאיה, after the rendering ἀφηγούμενοι given by the lxx. This alteration of the text, which confines itself to a single letter, is rendered very plausible by the fact that almost the same is affirmed of the persons mentioned in Eze 22:25 as of the princes in Eze 22:27, and that in the passage in Zephaniah (Zep 3:3-4), which is so similar to the one before us, that Ezekiel appears to have had it in his mind, the princes (שׂריה) and the judges (שׁפטיה) are called the prophets and the priests. The נשׂיאים here would correspond to the שׂרים of Zephaniah, and the שׂרים to the שׁפטים. According to Eze 22:6, the נשׂיאים would indicate primarily the members of the royal family, possibly including the chief officers of the crown; and the שׂרים eht dna ;n (Eze 22:27) would be the heads of tribes, of families, and of fathers' houses, in whose hands the national administration of justice principally lay (cf. Exo 18:19.; Deu 1:13-18; and my Bibl. Archol. ii. 149). I therefore prefer this conjecture, or correction, to the Masoretic reading, although the latter is supported by ancient witnesses, such as the Chaldee with its rendering ספרהא, scribes, and the version of Jerome. For the statement which the verse contains is not applicable to prophets, and the best explanation given of the Masoretic text - namely, that by Michaelis, "they have made a compact with one another as to what kind of teaching they would or would not give; and in order that their authority may continue undisturbed, they persecute even to blood those who do not act with them, or obey them, but rather contradict" - does not do justice to the words, but weakens their sense. קשׁר is not a predicate to 'נב, "they are (i.e., form) a conspiracy;" but 'נב is a genitive. At the same time, there is no necessity to take קשׁר in the sense of "company," a rendering which cannot be sustained. The fact that in what follows, where the comparison to lions is introduced, the נביאים (נשׂיאים) are the subject, simply proves that in the first clause also these men actually form the prominent idea. There is no ground for supplying המּה to 'כּארי (they are like, etc.); but the simile is to be linked on to the following clause. נפשׁ אכלוּ is to be explained from the comparison to a lion, which devours the prey that it has captured in its blood, in which is the soul, or nephesh (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11.). The thought is this: in their insatiable greed for riches they sacrifice men and put them to death, and thereby multiply the number of victims (for the fact, see Eze 19:5, Eze 19:7). What is stated in Eze 22:26 concerning the priests is simply a further expansion of Zep 3:4, where the first two clauses occur word for word; for קדשׁ in Zephaniah is really equivalent to קדשׁי, holy things and deeds. The desecration of the holy things consisted in the fact that they made no distinction between sacred and profane, clean and unclean. For the fact, compare Lev 10:10-11. Their covering their eyes from the Sabbaths showed itself in their permitting the Sabbaths to be desecrated by the people, without offering any opposition (cf. Jer 17:27).
The comparison of the rulers (sārim) to ravening wolves is taken from Zep 3:3. Destroying souls to acquire gain is perfectly applicable to unjust judges, inasmuch as, according to Exo 18:21, the judges were to hate בּצע. All that is affirmed in Eze 22:28 of the conduct of the false prophets is repeated for the most part verbatim from Eze 13:10,Eze 13:9, and Eze 13:7. By להם, which points back to the three classes of men already mentioned, and not merely to the sārim, the prophets are represented as helpers of those who support the ungodly in their wicked ways, by oracles which assured them of prosperity. עם (Eze 22:29), as distinguished from the spiritual and secular rulers of the nation, signifies the common people. With reference to their sins and wickednesses, see Eze 18:7, Eze 18:12, Eze 18:18; and for the command against oppressing the poor and foreigners, compare Exo 22:20-21; Deu 24:17. - The corruption is so universal, that not a man is to be found who could enter into the gap as a righteous man, or avert the judgment of destruction by his intercession. מהם refers not merely to the prophets, who did not enter into the gap according to Eze 13:5, but to all the classes previously mentioned. At the same time, it does not follow from this, that entering into the gap by means of intercession cannot be the thing intended, as Hitzig supposes. The expression לפני בּעד הארץ clearly refers to intercession. This is apparent from the simple fact that, as Hitzig himself observes, the intercession of Abraham for Sodom (Gen 18:13.) was floating before the mind of Ezekiel, since the concluding words of the verse contain an obvious allusion to Gen 18:28. Because the Lord does not find a single righteous man, who might intercede for the land, He pours out His anger upon it, to destroy the inhabitants thereof. With reference to the fact and the separate words employed, compare Ezekiel 21:36; Eze 7:4; Eze 9:10; Eze 11:21, and Eze 16:43. It does not follow from the word ואשׁפּך, that Ezekiel "is speaking after the catastrophe" (Hitzig). For although ואשׁפּך expresses the consequence of Jehovah's seeking a righteous man and not finding one, it by no means follows from the occurrence of the preterite ולא מצאתי that ואשׁפּך is also a preterite. ואשׁפּך is simply connected with ואבקּשׁ as a consequence; and in both verbs the Vav consec. expresses the sequence of thought, and not of time. The seeking, therefore, with the result of not having found, cannot be understood in a chronological sense, i.e., as an event belonging to the past, for the simple reason that the preceding words do not record the chronological order of events. It merely depicts the existing moral condition of the people, and Eze 22:30 sums up the result of the description in the thought that there was no one to be found who could enter in the gap before God. Consequently we cannot determine from the imperfect with Vav consec. either the time of the seeking and not finding, or that of the pouring out of the wrath.