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E are here taught the righteousness of God in his judgments; and that he deals with nations according to their deserts. It is several times repeated in this chapter, I will recompense them according to their ways and all their abominations. He brings different calamities on different nations, according to their character. He judges men for all their conduct, their secret thoughts, and the principles on which they act. How careful then should we be of all our ways, that we never forsake the path of righteousness, never turn aside to any crooked ways. 2. We are here shown the vanity of earthly things. Public troubles may arise ; the buyer therefore should not rejoice, nor the seller mourn; the seller in that case will have less to lose, and the buyer more anxiety and fear; men may be glad to cast away that gold and silver, of which they are so fond, to preserve their lives and assist them in flight and while it is continued, they may be in such circumstances that it will not furnish them with meat and corn. Even in peaceful times such circumstances may arise, that money and estates may be of no benefit, nor afford any comfort: at least a time will certainly come when they cannot profit. Since then the time is short, it becomes those that lose, to mourn as though they lost not; those that buy, to rejoice as though they possessed not; and those that use the world, not to abuse it.
3. How vain is boasting and confidence in the form of godliness, while the power is wanting! The Jews boasted of their magnificent temple, and thought God would never forsake his own palace: but he here declares, v. 22. My face will I also turn from them, and they shall pollute my secret place, for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it. Thus, if men despise or neglect ordinances, God may take them away, and give his professing people to be punished by the heathen, yea, by the worst of the heathen. The Jews, in their trouble, sought comfortable visions from the prophets; but as they would not hear what was said to them in God's name, by way of reproof and exhortation, they should have nothing to say to them by way of encouragement. God's ministers can give no comfort in time of trouble to those who have disregarded their admonitions in time of prosperity. The general lesson from the whole is, that the way of righteousness is the only way of safety, peace, and happiness.
Here begins a section of prophecy, which extends to chap. xii. This contains Ezekiel's vision of jealousy and the chambers of imagery; the scene is at Jerusalem, the time was fourteen months after the first vision; and the design is, to show that the city should not - escape, as the captives hoped, and what abominations were done there in the midst of their afflictions.
ND it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, probably to attend worship in the prophet's house, and receive instruction from God, that the hand of the Lord God fell there upon me. 2 Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber, like the appearance in the first vision, 3 chap. i. 27. And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head: and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the vis ions of God to Jerusalem,* to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north, and that goeth into the court of the priests where [was] the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy; that is, an image or idol set up to rival God in his own temple; thus affronting and provoking him, as 4 the infidelity of a wife does her husband. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel [was] there, to give authority to the vision, and to aggravate Israel's crimes, according to the vision that I saw in the plain.
Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry; it stood by the altar, that the people who came to offer sacrifices to Jehovah 6 might be tempted to offer them to this idol. He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? [even] the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? as if he had said, I appeal to thee and to them, whether this be not enough to provoke me, whether I am not as it were driven away from this place, and whether I can in honour inhabit or defend it any longer? but turn thee yet again, [and] thou shalt see greater abominations, committed by persons of greater note, and nearer the most holy place.
This is a key to other prophecies in this book. He fell into a trance, and had as lively a representation of the following scenes on his mind, as if he had actually seen them; and he related to the people what he saw.
7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I 8 looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me,
Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door; a private back door by which they 9 entered. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here; do not content thyself with looking through the hole, but go in and take a full survey of their 10 wickedness. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts worshipped as gods, and all the idols af the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about: a pantheon, or temple adorned with the im11 ages of all their gods. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, one whom the prophet knew, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up; these elders, who should have known better, and have punished such practices, were the greatest idola12 ters; and all of them acted as priests. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? or in his bed chambers; intimating, that beside the things done in the chapel abovementioned, they had little chambers, in imitation of it, in their own houses: for they say, The LORD seeth us not; The LORD hath forsaken the earth; therefore we are under no obligations to serve him, but may serve those idols whose worshippers are prosperous.
He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, [and] thou 14 shalt see greater abominations that they do. Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD's house which [was] toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz; and who probably prostituted themselves in honour of their god, and gave themselves up to vile affections."
Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen [this,] O son of man? turn thee yet again, [and] thou shalt see greater abom16 inations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house, the court of the priests, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, [were] about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the cast; these were probably priests, who turned their backs on the holy of holies, in contempt of Jehovah, and, like the heathen, worshipped toward the east.
Then he said unto me, Hast thou s en [this,] O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they com
Some suppose Tammuz to be the Osiris of the Egyptians, and the Adonis of the Greeks. Pausanius mentions a chapel in which the women wept for Adonis. Some learned men think that Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis, and Apollo, were all names for the sun; and we have accounts of some feasts celebrated in Greece and Egypt, like this.
mit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger and, lo, they put the branch to their nose; or rather, a branch to my wrath; representing God's wrath as 18 fire, to which they, by their sins, added fuel.* Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice for mercy, [yet] will I not hear them.
E here see that God did not leave his people destitute of the means of grace, even in their captivity. It was an instance of his goodness to them, that prophets were among them, to teach, in their own houses, those who would come there to worship. Though banished from the temple, yet they had religious instructions in Babylon. This showed that the presence of God was not confined to the temple, and proves that divine worship may still be lawfully and profitably celebrated in private houses, where there are not other conveniences; and it will be happy, if men's afflictions teach them to value the word and ordinances of God wherever they are administered.
2. The wickedness of this people is very lamentable. To think of the elders and priests of Israel, amidst the calamities of their country, practising the idolatries of all their neighbours, even in the temple itself, and affronting God in his own house; what can be more monstrous and detestable! How various were the abominations which were here practised, and how just were God's judgments upon them! Let us fear for ourselves. The prophet's vision is too just a description of our own hearts. Some abominations present themselves at first view; but the more narrowly we search, the more and greater we shall discern; which should humble us before God, and make us careful to search out and put away our sins, which are so displeasing to him.
3. The source of iniquity is forgetfulness of the presence and knowledge of God. It is no wonder this people arrived to such a pitch of impiety, when they said, The Lord seeth us not. They did it in the dark, that they might keep their places and preserve their characters; thinking, because men did not see, that God did not. But no darkness nor shadow of death can conceal us from his eye. He revealed what they did to the prophet, though he was at a great distance from them. May we guard against this error; never think God to be such an one as ourselves, but set him always before us; and remember that there is a day coming when his righteous judgment shall be revealed, and he will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil.
Bishop Newcome translates it, Lo, they send forth a scornful noise through their nostrils.
We had the vision of Israel's wickedness in the former chapter; here is the vision of their ruin, and the preservation of the pious
E, the majestic person on the throne, cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, to engage my attention, and to denote how terrible the judgments should be, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, or, those that have a charge are drawing near, that is, those who are appointed to avenge me on Jerusalem, even every man [with] his destroy2 ing weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, from Babylon, (perhaps referring to the Chaldean army, as composed of six nations, for we read of six princes or commanders of it) and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man, or angel, among them [was] clothed with linen, like a priest; with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar, because the Jews were to be slain as so many sacrifices to divine justice, and to avenge the 3 pollution of the altar. And the Shekinah, or glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, or cherubim, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house, or temple, as departing from it, and to meet the messengers of vengeance, and give them their commission. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which [had] the writer's inkhorn by his side; 4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof; of those who sighed in secret and cried before God; to intimate, that Providence would in an extraordinary manner preserve them; some of the pious might be carried captive, some of the wicked might be spared, and perhaps some of the godly might fall; but this was to be the general rule in the conduct of Providence; this therefore was first to be done.
5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite : let not your eye spare, neither 6 have ye pity: Slay utterly old [and] young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom [is] the mark, either to injure or frighten him; and begin at my sanctuary, which had been more especially polluted.* Then they began at the ancient men which [were] before the house; the priests and elders, who worshipped the sun, (see Where judgment is said to begin at the
•There is a reference to this in 1 Pet. iv. 17. house of God. Ε