Ezekiel 21

CHAPTER XXI

The prophet goes on to denounce the fate of Jerusalem and

Judea; using signs of vehement grief, to denote the greatness

of the calamity, 2-7.

He then changes the emblem to that of a sharp and bright sword,

still denoting the same sad event, 8-17;

and, becoming yet more explicit, he represents the king of

Babylon, who was to be employed by God in this work, as setting

out to take vengeance on both the Jews and the Ammonites, for

joining with Egypt in a confederacy against him. He is

described as standing at the parting of the roads leading to

the respective capitals of the Jews and Ammonites; and doubting

which to attack first, he commits the decision of the matter to

his arts of divination, performed by mingling arrows inscribed

with the names of the different nations or cities, and then

marching against that whose name was written on the arrow first

drawn from the quiver. In this case the name Jerusalem comes

forward; and therefore he proceeds against it, 18-24.

History itself could scarcely be more explicit than this

prophecy. The profane prince Zedekiah as then declared to be

given up by God, and his kingdom devoted to utter destruction,

for that breach of oath of which the prophet foretells he

should be guilty, 25-27.

The remaining verses form a distinct prophecy relating to the

destruction of the Ammonites, which was fulfilled about five

years after the destruction of Jerusalem, 28-32.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXI

Verse 2. Set thy face toward Jerusalem] This is a continuation of

the preceding prophecy; and in this chapter the prophet sets

before them, in the plainest language, what the foregoing

metaphors meant, so that they could not complain of his parables.

Verse 3. Behold, I am against thee] Dismal news! When God is

against us, who can be for us?

And will draw forth my sword] War.

And will cut off from thee] The land of Judea.

The righteous and the wicked.] All shall be removed from thee.

Some shall be cut off-removed by the sword; shall be slain in

battle, or by the pestilence; and some shall be cut off-die by

the famine; and some shall be cut off-removed from the land by

captivity. Now, among the two latter classes there might be many

righteous as well as wicked. And when all the provisions were

consumed, so that there was no more bread in the city, during the

siege by Nebuchadnezzar, the righteous must have suffered as well

as the wicked; for they could not be preserved alive, but by

miracle, when there was no bread; nor was their perishing for want

any loss to them, because the Lord would take them straight to his

glory. And however men in general are unwilling to die, yet there

is no instance, nor can there be, of any man's complaint that he

got to heaven too soon. Again, if God had permitted none to be

carried off captive but the wicked, the case of these would be

utterly hopeless, as there would be none to set a good example, to

preach repentance, to reprove sin, or to show God's willingness to

forgive sinners. But God, in his mercy, permitted many of the

righteous to be carried off also, that the wicked might not be

totally abandoned, or put beyond the reach of being saved. Hence,

both Ezekiel and Daniel, and indeed several others, prophets and

righteous men, were thus cut off from the land, and carried into

captivity. And how much was God's glory and the good of men

promoted by this! What a seed of salvation was sown, even in the

heathen countries, by thus cutting off the righteous with the

wicked! To this we owe, under God, many of the Psalms, the whole

of the Book of Ezekiel, all the prophecies of Daniel, the bright

example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, the decrees

passed in favour of the religion of the true God by

Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius, &c. And to this dispensation of

God's merciful providence we owe the Books and example of Ezra

and Nehemiah. Where then is the injustice, so loudly declaimed

against, of God's thus cutting off from the land of Judea the

righteous with the wicked? The righteous were not cut off for

the crimes of the wicked, (see Eze 18:20, &c.,) nor were these

crimes visited upon them, yet several of them shared in the common

calamity, but none perished. Those that were removed by a violent

death, (and I believe we shall find few such,) got a speedier

entrance into eternal glory.

Verse 4. From the south to the north] The whole land shall be

ravaged from one end to the other.

Verse 5. It shall not return any more.] That is, till all the

work that I have designed for it is done. Nor did it; for

Nebuchadnezzar never rested till he had subdued all the lands from

the south to the north, from the Euphrates to the Nile.

Verse 6. Sigh-with the breaking of thy loins] Let thy mourning

for this sore calamity be like that of a woman in the pains of

travail.

Verse 7. Wherefore sighest thou?] The prophet was a sign unto

them. His sighing and mourning showed them how they should act.

All knees shall be weak as water]

See Clarke on Eze 7:17.

Verse 10. It contemneth the rod of my son] "It," the sword of

Nebuchadnezzar, "contemneth the rod," despises the power and

influence of my son-Israel, the Jewish people: "Out of Egypt have

I called MY SON."

As every tree.] As all the stocks, kindreds, and nations, over

which I have already given him commission. Can the rod of Israel

be spared, when the trees of Assyria, Egypt, &c., have been cut

down?

Verse 11. This sword is sharpened] It is prepared for the

slaughter, it is furbished; from the French, foubir, to polish,

brighten. He shall have splendid victories every where. Some

complain of corruption in the original in this place; but I think

without sufficient reason.

Verse 12. Smite-upon thy thigh.] See on Jer 31:19. So HOMER,

Il. xv. ver. 113:-

ωςεφαταυταραρηςθαλερωπεπληγετομηρω

χερσικαταπρηνεσσολοφυρομενοςδεπροσηυδα

"She spake; and, with expanded arms his thighs

Smiting, thus sorrowful the god exclaimed."

COWPER.

Verse 13. Because it is a trial] This will be a trial of

strength and skill between the Chaldeans and the Jews; and a trial

of faith and patience to the righteous.

And what if the sword, (Nebuchadnezzar,) contemn even the rod?]

Overthrow Zedekiah? It will do so; for the regal government of

Judea shall be no more. Or, it is tried; that is, the sword.

Nebuchadnezzar has already shown himself strong and skilful.

Verse 14. Let the sword be doubled the third time] The sword has

been doubled, and it shall come the third time. Nebuchadnezzar

came against Judea THRICE. 1. Against Jehoiakim. 2. Against

Jeconiah. 3. Against Zedekiah. The sword had already been

doubled; it is to come now the third time, i.e., against

Zedekiah.

The sword of the slain] chereb chalalim, "the sword

of the soldiers," of the Chaldeans. So in the next clause,

hi chereb chalal haggadol, "it is the sword of

that great soldier," that eminent king and conqueror. This is the

meaning of the word chalal, that is so ill rendered in almost

every place of its occurrence, in our Version. See Dr. Kennicott.

Verse 15. Wrapped up] It is not a blunt sword, it is carefully

sharpened and preserved for the slaughter.

Verse 16. Go thee one way or other] Thou shalt prosper, O sword,

whithersoever thou turnest; against Ammon, or Judea, or Egypt.

Verse 19. Appoint thee two ways] Set off from Babylon, and lay

down two ways, either of which thou mayest take; that to the

right, which leads to Jerusalem; or that to the left, which

leads to Rabbath of the Ammonites, Eze 21:20. But why against the

Ammonites? Because both they and the Moabites were united with

Zedekiah against the Chaldeans, (see Jer 27:3,) though they

afterwards fought against Judea, Eze 12:6. ?

Verse 21. For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the

way] He was in doubt which way he should first take; whether to

humble the Ammonites by taking their metropolis, Riblath, or go at

once against Jerusalem. In this case of uncertainty, he made use

of divination. And this was of three kinds: 1. By arrows. 2. By

images or talismans. 3. By inspecting the entrails of a

sacrifice offered on the occasion.

1. He made bright his arrows. This might be after the manner in

which the divination is still practiced among the Arabs. These

arrows were without head or wing. They took three. On one they

wrote, Command me, Lord. On the second, Forbid me, Lord. The third

was blank. These were put in a bag, and the querist put in his

hand and took one out. If it was Command me, he set about the

business immediately; if it was Forbid me, he rested for a whole

year; if it was the blank one, he drew again. On all occasions the

Arabs consulted futurity by such arrows. See D'Herbelot, under the

word ACDAH.

2. As to the images, the Hebrew calls them teraphim.

See Clarke on Ge 31:19.

3. And as to the liver, I believe it was only inspected to see

whether the animal offered in sacrifice were sound and healthy, of

which the state of the liver is the most especial indication. When

the liver is sound, the animal is healthy; and it would have been

a bad omen to any who offered sacrifice, to find that the animal

they had offered to their gods was diseased; as, in that case,

they would have taken for granted that the sacrifice was not

accepted.

Verse 22. At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem] He

had probably written on two arrows; one, Jerusalem; the other,

Riblath; the third, left blank. He drew, and that on which

Jerusalem was written came to his hand; in consequence of which

he marched immediately against that city. It was ripe for

destruction; and had he marched before or after, it would have

fallen; but he never considered himself as sure of the conquest

till now.

Verse 23. To them that have sworn oaths] To Zedekiah and his

ministers, who had bound themselves by the oath of the Lord to

be faithful to the Chaldeans, and to pay them the promised

tribute. The oaths may refer, farther, to the alliances formed

with the Egyptians, Ammonites, and others. They will not believe

that Nebuchadnezzar shall suceeed against them, while they expect

the powerful assistance of the Egyptians.

Verse 25. And thou profane wicked prince of Israel] Zedekiah,

called here profane, because he had broken his oath; and wicked,

because of his opposition to God and his prophet.

Whose day is come] Who in a short time shalt be delivered into

the hands of thy enemies.

Verse 26. Exalt him that is low] Give Gedaliah the government of

Judea.

Abase him that is high] Depose Zedekiah-remove his diadem, and

take off his crown.

Verse 27. I will overturn] I will utterly destroy the Jewish

government. Perverted will I make it. See the margin.

Until he come whose-is] mishpat, the judgment; i.e., till

the coming of the son of David, the Lord Jesus; who, in a mystic

and spiritual sense, shall have the throne of Israel, and whose

right it is. See the famous prophecy, Ge 49:10, and Lu 1:32.

The avah, which we translate overturn, is thrice

repeated here; to point out, say the rabbins, the three conquests

of Jerusalem, in which Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah were

overthrown.

Verse 28. Concerning the Ammonites] They had reproached and

insulted Judea in its low estate, see Eze 25:3, 6. This prophecy

against them was fulfilled about five years after the taking of

Jerusalem. See Joseph. Ant. lib. x. c. 11; and Jer. xxvii.,

xlviii., xlix.; Eze. xxv.

Verse 30. I will judge thee] This seems to refer to

Nebuchadnezzar, who, after his return from Jerusalem, became

insane, and lived like a beast for seven years; but was afterwards

restored, and acknowledged the Lord.

Verse 32. Thou shalt be no more remembered] The empire of the

Chaldeans was destroyed, and the power transferred to the

Persians; the Persian empire was destroyed, and given to the

Greeks; the Grecian empire was destroyed, and given to the

Mohammedans; and the destruction of the Mohammedans is at no

great distance.

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