Ezekiel 20


A deputation of the elders of Israel, as usual, in their

distress, came to request Ezekiel to ask counsel of God, 1.

In reply to this, God commands the prophet to put them in mind

of their rebellion and idolatry: In Egypt, 2-9,

in the wilderness, 10-27,

and in Canaan, 28-32.

Notwithstanding which the Lord most graciously promises to

restore them to their own land, after they should be purged

from their dross, 33-44.

The five last verses of this chapter ought to begin the next,

as they are connected with the subject of that chapter, being a

prophecy against Jerusalem, which lay to the south of Chaldea,

where the prophet then was, and which here and elsewhere is

represented under the emblem of a forest doomed to be destroyed

by fire, 45-49.


Verse 1. In the seventh year] Of the captivity of Jeconiah, (see

Eze 8:1,) and

the seventh of the reign of Zedekiah.

The fifth month, the tenth day] That is, according to Abp.

Usher, Monday, August 27, A.M. 3411.

Certain of the elders of Israel] What these came to inquire

about is not known. They were doubtless hypocrites and deceivers,

from the manner in which God commands the prophet to treat them.

It seems to have been such a deputation of elders as those

mentioned Eze 8:1; 14:1.

Verse 3. I will not be inquired of by you.] I will not hear you.

I will have nothing to do with you.

Verse 4. Wilt thou judge them] If thou wilt enter into any

discussion with them, show them the abomination of their fathers.

The whole chapter is a consecutive history of the unfaithfulness

ingratitude, rebellion, and idolatry of the Jews, from the

earliest times to that day; and vindicates the sentence which God

had pronounced against them, and which he was about to execute

more fully in delivering them and the city into the hands of the


Verse 5. I chose Israel] They did not choose me for their God,

till I had chosen them to be my people.

I lifted up mine hand] I bound myself In a covenant to them to

continue to be their God, if they should be faithful, and continue

to be my people. Among the Jews the juror lifted up his right hand

to heaven; which explains Ps 144:8: "Their right hand is a right

hand of falsehood." This is a form used in England, Scotland, and


Verse 6. To bring them forth of the land of Egypt] When they had

been long in a very disgraceful and oppressive bondage.

A land that I had espied for them] God represents himself as

having gone over different countries in order to find a

comfortable residence for these people, whom he considered as his


Flowing with milk and honey] These were the characteristics of a

happy and fruitful country, producing without intense labour all

the necessaries and comforts of life. Of the happiest state and

happiest place, a fine poet gives the following description:-

Ver erat aeternum, placidique tepentibus auris

Mulcebant Zephyri natos sine semine flores.

Mox etiam fruges tellus inarata ferebat:

Nec renovatus ager gravidis canebat aristis.

Flumina jam lactis, jam flumina nectaris ibant:

Flavaque de viridi stillabant ilice mella.

OVID'S Metam. lib. i., 107.

On flowers unsown soft Zephyr spreads his wing,

And time itself was one eternal spring;

Ensuing years the yellow harvest crowned,

The bearded blade sprang from the untilled ground,

And laden, unrenewed, the fields were found.

Floods were with milk, and floods with nectar filled,

And honey from the sweating oaks distilled.

In the flourishing state of Judea every mountain was cultivated

as well as the valleys. Among the very rocks the vines grew


Verse 7. Cast ye away-the abominations] Put away all your idols;

those incentives to idolatry that ye have looked on with delight.

Verse 8. They did not-cast away] They continued attached to the

idolatry of Egypt; so that, had I consulted my justice only, I

should have consumed them even in Egypt itself. This is a

circumstance that Moses has not mentioned, namely, their provoking

God by their idolatry, after he had sent Moses and Aaron to them

in Egypt.

Verse 9. But I wrought for my name's sake] I bare with them and

did not punish them, lest the heathen, who had known my promises

made to them, might suppose that I had either broken them through

some caprice, or was not able to fulfil them.

Verse 10. I caused them to go forth] Though greatly oppressed

and degraded, they were not willing to leave their house of

bondage. I was obliged to force them away.

Verse 11. I gave them my statutes] I showed them what they

should do in order to be safe, comfortable, wise, and happy; and

what they should avoid in order to be uninjured in body, mind, and

possessions. Had they attended to these things, they should have

lived by them. They would have been holy, healthy, and happy.

Verse 12. I gave them my Sabbaths] The religious observance of

the Sabbath was the first statute or command of God to men. This

institution was a sign between God and them, to keep them in

remembrance of the creation of the world, of the rest that he

designed them in Canaan, and of the eternal inheritance among the

saints in light. Of these things the Sabbath was a type and


Verse 13. But the house of Israel rebelled] They acted in the

wilderness just as they had done in Egypt; and he spared them

there for the same reason. See Eze 20:9.

Verse 15. I lifted up my hand] Their provocations in the

wilderness were so great, that I vowed never to bring them into

the promised land. I did not consume them, but I disinherited

them. See Clarke on Eze 20:5.

Verse 18. But I said unto their children] These I chose in their

fathers' stead; and to them I purposed to give the inheritance

which their fathers by disobedience lost.

Verse 22. I withdrew mine hand] I had just lifted it up to crush

them as in a moment; for they also were idolatrous, and walked in

the steps of their fathers.

Verse 25. I gave them also statutes that were not good] What a

foolish noise has been made about this verse by critics, believers

and infidels! How is it that God can be said "to give a people

statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they could not

live?" I answer, in their sense of the words, God never gave any

such, at any time, to any people. Let any man produce an example

of this kind if he can; or show even the fragment of such a law,

sanctioned by the Most High! The simple meaning of this place and

all such places is, that when they had rebelled against the Lord,

despised his statutes, and polluted his Sabbaths-in effect cast

him off, and given themselves wholly to their idols, then he

abandoned them, and they abandoned themselves to the customs and

ordinances of the heathen. That this is the meaning of the words,

requires no proof to them who are the least acquainted with the

genius and idioms of the Hebrew language, in which God is a

thousand times said to do, what in the course of his providence or

justice he only permits to be done.

Verse 26. I polluted them in their own gifts] I permitted them

to pollute themselves by the offerings which they made to their

idols. Causing their children to pass through the fire was one of

those pollutions; but, did God ever give them a statute or

judgment of this kind? No. He ever inveighs against such things,

and they incur his heaviest displeasure and curse. See on

Eze 20:31.

Verse 29. What is the high place] mah habbamah,

"what is the high place?" What is it good for? Its being a high

place shows it to be a place of idolatry. I called it

bamah, to mark it with infamy; but ye continue to frequent it,

even while it is called bamah, to the present day!

Verse 31. Ye pollute yourselves] This shows the sense in which

God says, Eze 20:26, "I polluted them in their own gifts." They

chose to pollute themselves, and I permitted them to do so. See

on Eze 20:25, 26.

Verse 32. And that which cometh into your mind] Ye wish to be

naturalized among idolaters, and make a part of such nations. But

this shall not be at all; you shall be preserved as a distinct

people. Ye shall not be permitted to mingle yourselves with the

people of those countries: even they, idolaters as they are, will

despise and reject you. Besides, I will change your place,

restore your captivity; yet not in mercy, but in fury poured out;

and reserve you for sorer evils, Eze 20:34.

Verse 35. I will bring you into the wilderness of the people] I

will bring you out of your captivity, and bring you into your own

land, which you will find to be a wilderness, the consequence of

your crimes.

There will I plead with you] There I will be your king, and rule

you with a sovereign rule; and the dispensations of my justice and

mercy shall either end you or mend you.

Verse 37. I will cause you to pass under the rod] This alludes

to the custom of tithing the sheep. I take it from the rabbins.

The sheep were all penned; and the shepherd stood at the door of

the fold, where only one sheep could come out at once. He had in

his hand a rod dipped in vermillion; and as they came out, he

counted one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine; and

as the tenth came out, he marked it with the rod, and said, "This

is the tenth;" and that was set apart for the Lord.

I will bring you into the bond of the covenant] You shall be

placed under the same obligations as before, and acknowledge your

selves bound; ye shall feel your obligation, and live according to

its nature.

Verse 38. I will purge out from among you the rebels] The

incorrigibly wicked I will destroy; those who will not receive him

whom I have appointed for this purpose as the Saviour of Israel.

And I will gather you who believe out of all the countries where

you sojourn, and bring you into your own land; but those of you

who will not believe-will not receive the Son of David to reign

over you, shall never enter into the land of Israel, but die in

your dispersions. This is what the contradicting and blaspheming

Jews of the present day have to expect. And thus, both of you

shall know that he is Jehovah, fulfilling his threatenings

against the one, and his promises to the other.

Verse 39. Go ye, serve ye every one his idols] Thus, God gave

them statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they could

not live, by thus permitting them to take their own way, serve

their gods, and follow the maxims and rites of that abominable


Verse 40. For in mine holy mountain] The days shall come in

which all true ISRAELITES shall receive HIM whom I have sent to be

the true sacrifice for the life of the world; and shall bring to

Jerusalem-the pure Christian Church, their offerings, which I will

there accept, for they will give me thanks for my unspeakable


Verse 42. And ye shall know] Shall acknowledge that I am


Verse 43. And there shall ye remember your ways] Ye shall be

ashamed of your past conduct, and of your long opposition to the

Gospel of your salvation.

These promises may, in a certain limited sense, be applied to

the restoration from the Babylonish captivity; but they must have

their proper fulfilment when the Jews shall accept Jesus as their

Saviour, and in consequence be brought back from all their

dispersions to their own land.

Verse 46. Set thy face toward the south] Towards Judea, which

lay south from Babylon, or Mesopotamia, where the prophet then


The forest of the south field] The city of Jerusalem, as full of

inhabitants as the forest is of trees.

Verse 47. I will kindle a fire] I will send war, "and it shall

devour every green tree," the most eminent and substantial of the

inhabitants; and every dry tree, the lowest and meanest also.

The flaming flame shall not be quenched] The fierce ravages of

Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans shall not be stopped till the

whole land is ruined.

All faces from the south to the north shalt be burned] From the

one end of the land to the other there shall be nothing but fear,

dismay, terror, and confusion, occasioned by the wide-wasting

violence of the Chaldeans. Judea lay in length from north to


Verse 48. All flesh] All the people shall see that this war is a

judgment of the Lord.

It shall not be quenched.] Till the whole land shall be utterly


Verse 49. Ah Lord God] O my God, consider my situation; who will

believe what I shall say? They put the evil day far from them.

Doth he not speak parables?] halo memashshel

meshalim hu, "Is not he a maker of parables?" Is it not his custom

to deal in enigmas? His figures are not to be understood; we

should not trouble ourselves with them. We are not obliged to

fathom his meaning; and perhaps after all it does not refer to us,

or will not be accomplished in our time, if it even respect the

land. Thus they turned aside what might have done them good, and

rejected the counsel of God against themselves.

By dividing the word with our neighbour we often lose the

benefit both of threatenings and promises. They voluntarily shut

their own eyes; and then God, in judgment, sealed them up in


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