Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 22: Ezekiel, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
1. Et fuit sermo Iehovæ ad me dicendo,
2. Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them,
2. Fili hominis, pone faciem tuam ad 125 montes Israel, et prophetiza ad eos,
3. And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold, I even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.
3. Et dic, Montes Israel audite sermonem Dominatoris Iehovæ: sic dicit Dominator Iehovah montibus et collibus, rivis 126 et vallibus: ecce ego adducem contra vos gladium, et perdam excelsa vestra.
The Prophet now turns himself to the kingdom of Israel, since he had formerly spoken concerning the Jews alone. He says that he was divinely sent to the mountains of Israel. The first question may arise about the time; for the kingdom of Israel had been cut off, and the ten tribes dragged into exile- and the kingdom had come to an end in Ezekiel’s time. The time, therefore, does not seem to accord with the denunciation of the Prophet as to what had happened many years previously. But nothing will appear out of place, if we say that it was partly prophecy and partly doctrine, so that the Israelites might understand why they were driven out of their country, and dispersed among the nations. I say that God’s plans were partly explained to the exiles, that they might know why God had driven them to distant lands: for this punishment would not have been useful had not God convinced them of its cause. But although the kingdom had fallen, it is probable that some of the people were remaining: for the Assyrian did not carry off so many thousand men, and his kingdom would have been burdened by such a multitude. Doubtless he collected the flower of the people, and permitted the commonalty to remain there: for he sent from his own kingdom inhabitants for the deserted soil. But the change was great and ruinous to the king himself, and vexatious to all alike. Although, therefore, the kingdom did not exist any longer — nay, even the name of Israel was almost extinct, because there was no mass of people, and they dwelt in their country like foreigners and guests, yet there was still some portion of them left. Now, we collect from the words of the Prophet that they were obstinate, because they were not induced by either the exile of their brethren, or their own calamity, to leave their own superstitions, and embrace the true and pure worship of God.
Since, therefore, this chastisement did not profit them, hence the Prophet is ordered to preach against them It is ascertained from the first chapter that Ezekiel received this command after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, (Ezek. 1:1, 2) for he said that he was divinely stirred up in the thirtieth year after the jubilee, and in the fifth year of the captivity of Jechoniah or Joachim. It is evident, therefore, that the Prophet spake against the land of Israel after the ten tribes had been dispersed. Hence we may elicit that there were still many people there, because it would have been difficult for the Assyrians to receive all the people, and those who remained alive in the country went on in their own abominations, so that it became necessary for some other judgment to be denounced against them, on which we are about to enter. Now, therefore, this principle is established, that the Prophet so treats the slaughter of the kingdom of Israel, that he predicts as about to come to pass what those left in the country by no means feared; for they were persuaded that. they were free from all dangers. But the Prophet shows that God’s wrath was not yet complete, but that their former calamities were only a prelude, and that heavier woes were at hand, because they had so hardened themselves against the power of God. The prophecy, too, has greater weight when the Prophet addressed the mountains than when his discourse was directed to men. So that Ezekiel is not ordered to exhort the Israelites to penitence, and to threaten them with the punishment which still remained, but he is ordered to turn his discourse to hills, and mountains, and valleys Thus God obliquely signifies, first, that the Israelites were deaf, and then unworthy of the trouble which Ezekiel would spend in teaching them. Thus the Prophet sent to Jeroboam did not design to address him, but turning to the altar —
“O altar, altar,” says he, “thus saith Jehovah, Behold a son shall be born to the family of David, by name Josiah, and he shall slay upon thee the priests of the high places, and shall burn upon thee the bones of the dead.” (1Ki 13:2.)
The king was burning incense on the altar, the prophet does not regard him, but as I have just said, directs his discourse to the altar: that was far more vehement than if he had reproved the king sharply. For that was no common reproof, to pass by the king as if he had been only the shadow of a man, and to admonish the dead altar concerning a future event: so also in this place: Son of man, set thy face against the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them The Prophet might object that the mountains had no ears, and hence that it was only child’s play. But he understood God’s intention, and so obeyed cheerfully, because he saw the people despised and rejected by God because they were deaf and incurable, and meanwhile he knew that his labor would not be lost although he addressed the mountains. For we know that the earth was created for the use of man, and hence God proposes to us examples of his wrath in brutes, trees, the atmosphere, and the heavens, that we may know that admonitions belonging to us are engraven there, although in every other way God turns away his eyes and his face. This, therefore, is a sign of his wrath, when God shows his judgments on all sides, and yet is silent towards us, because we gather from this that we are unworthy of any trouble for our improvement, and this was doubtless the Prophet’s conclusion.
Now a clearer expression follows in the third verse: Thou shalt say, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord. Here an audience is required of the mountains which they could not give, but that has respect to mankind, as I have just said. God, therefore, requires the mountains to listen, so that men may understand that an inanimate thing may be endued with sense, if their stupidity is considered. For at length God enforced his judgments against the mountains of Israel. Although, therefore, they could not hear the Prophet speaking, yet they took up his instruction, because it was efficacious in them, and God at length in reality proved that he had not spoken in vain. The event, therefore, openly made the mountains in some way attentive. Neither could they escape the judgment which had been openly denounced. Now he adds, Thus saith Jehovah to the mountains and the hills Ezekiel now addresses not mountains only, as he had been commanded: hence he seems to exceed the prescribed command, for he had been sent to mountains and hills only, but now he says, hear ye mountains, hear ye hills, hear ye valleys. But we said yesterday that prophets sometimes speak briefly, and sometimes explain more fully what they had uttered but shortly. God, therefore, at the beginning spoke only of mountains, but he doubtless comprehended valleys, and the flowing down of rivers, because the Prophet only explains what he had said in one word: hence he speaks to mountains and hills, and then to the pouring down of waters or torrents Jerome translates it rocks, and the Hebrews call whatever is violent אפיק, aphik, hence when there is any violent course they use this word; and so we may understand in this place either rocks or flowing down of waters or torrents, no matter which. But since he afterwards adds valleys, this explanation is to me probable, that the Prophet indeed understands either torrents or the rushing down of waters. Here we must also remark, that those parts are marked out where the Israelites had erected perverse and adulterous worship: for we know that mountains were filled with superstitions, and so also valleys, though the reason was different: for when they erected their altars on the mountains they thought themselves near God, but when they descended into the valleys, their rites were thus performed in shade and obscurity, and thus they thought themselves in this way hidden as it were in a sanctuary. It is sufficiently known that they exercised their idolatries in the mountains as well as the valleys. This, therefore, is the reason why the Prophet here shows that the whole land of Israel was polluted with defilement. Behold, says he, I bring a sword against you. Hence we infer that when the Prophet addresses the mountains, yet he speaks for the sake of man. For the sword could not injure the mountains: for one stone would break a hundred, nay a thousand swords, and yet remain entire. God, therefore, had threatened the mountains with slaughter in vain, nay, when mention is made of the sword, we know that death is understood: for the cause is put for the effect. Hence God addresses men indirectly, but when he directs his discourse to the mountains he shows that men themselves are deaf, and therefore turns away his face from them, and addresses mute elements and inanimate things: and I will destroy, says he, your lofty things He now explains what I have taught before, that mountains, and hills, and valleys, and descending waters are named, because perverse and impure worship flourished there. For by “lofty things,” the Spirit doubtless intends whatever the Israelites had mixed of their own imaginations to corrupt the worship of God. They properly call altars lofty, because they were erected in high and conspicuous places. But the species is here put for the genus. Meanwhile, God signifies that he so abominates all fictitious worship that he cannot bear the sight of the places. The stones indeed of which the altars were built we know to be harmless: for places are not polluted by idolatry of their own will; for as far as the world was created by God it always retains its own nature, but as far as man is concerned, the places themselves were polluted, and the contagion renders them hateful to God. Hence this is put for the detestation of idolatry. He continues the same sentiment, and first denounces that altars should be laid waste. Now it follows —
4. And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain men before your idols.
4. Et desolabuntur altaria vestra, et conterentur idola vestra, et cadere faciam 127 occisos coram idolis vestris.
Hence it appears how greatly obedience pleases God, and how true it is that it is better than sacrifices. (1Sa 15:22; I Kings 12.) For it is certain that the Israelites extolled their own fictions exorbitantly, as if they were worshipping God correctly In the beginning, indeed, Jeroboam cunningly devised those new rites, that he might alienate the ten tribes from the family of David, and at length the error spread, so that they thought that God approved that impious worship. But we see that God abominates them. We should always hold this principle, that although men think that they obey God when they thrust in their own fictions, yet they produce no other effect than to provoke the wrath of God against them. This vengeance, therefore, had not been taken against altars, unless God had been greatly offended with the impious mixture. Your altars, therefore, shall come to ruin and destruction, and then your idols shall be destroyed. Here some understand the idols of the sun, as the noun is taken from heat, which is afterwards repeated: but this divination seems to be too contracted Hence I do not doubt that the idols are so called on account of the mad love with which the worshippers were seized: for throughout the Prophets they are said to be like adulterers, and our Prophet also uses the same language. Idols therefore may very properly derive their name from heat, because their superstitious worshippers inflame themselves with love, and like adulterers run after harlots, as we shall again see. He afterwards uses another word, when he says, I will lay prostrate your slain before your idols: for they call idols גלולים, gelolim, on account of their foulness, nay even filth. We see then in the first place that the fury with which the Israelites were inflamed is condemned by the Prophet, since they perverted the pure and lawful worship of God: then he reproves their enormity because they willingly remained in filth and defilement. But here also we are taught how mightily God is angry with all superstitions, when he not only cites mankind to his tribunal because they profane true piety, but is angry with external instruments — as stones and wood, and, as it were, involves these instruments of idolatry with their authors. It follows —
5. And I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars.
5. Et ponam cadavera filiorum Israel coram idolis vestris, et spargam coram idolis suis: 128 spargam ossa vestra 129 In circuitu altarium vestrorum
By these words the Prophet signifies that God’s wrath would be manifest, because he impresses certain marks by which it may be judged that the Israelites had provoked his anger; because they had departed from the pure and genuine order of the law. He says, therefore, I will place the carcases of the sons of Israel before their idols, when the carcases were so mingled with the idols, hence it appeared that God was greatly offended. For we know that it was detestable in all sacrifices that either human bones or carcases should be joined with the victims: so that the religion of the Israelites was openly condemned by this sign, so that unless they had been utterly blind, they would acknowledge all their worship to have been abominable. We understand, therefore, the design of God when he says, that he would cast the carcases of the sons of Israel before their idols: as if he had said, I will defile all your rites which seem to you sacred, and I will make them stink even before the unbelievers. But how? for the altar is polluted by contact with a carcase; but the carcases shall be cast there, that the contagion may spread to the altars. And I will sprinkle, says he, your bones around your altars Lastly, he signifies that he would profane those sacred rites which the Israelites had fabricated for themselves with their carcases: by which he understands that they would be doubly disgraced whilst they defiled by their pollutions what they had thought beautiful. The Prophets constantly proclaimed that these rites were folly and an abomination, but still those who were attached to those superstitions pleased themselves. When, therefore, God’s servants effected nothing by their sacred admonitions, at length a real and actual proof was added, when their altars were polluted, and that, too, with their own defilement. For in this God’s remarkable vengeance appeared, as I have formerly said.
6. In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.
6. In omnibus habitationibus vestris urbes desolabuntur: 130 et excelsa in vastitatem redigentur, ut vastentur et desolentur 131 altaria vestra, et conterantur, et cessent 132 idola vestra, et excidantur idola vestra, et deleantur opera vestra.
In other words, the Prophet signifies that God would take vengeance on the superstitions of the ten tribes in all places; whence it is clear, that no corner was free from corruption. For, while he names all habitations, he means that they had defiled every habitable place. Wheresoever they dwelt they had erected their altars and strange worship, as another Prophet reproves them; according to the number of your cities were your Gods. (Jer 2:28; Jer 11:13.) He addresses the Jews there, but the meaning is the same. Hence the Prophet signifies, that it was not a single part only that was polluted with their idolatries, but their filth was spread abroad through the whole land wherever there were any inhabitants. In all your habitations, therefore, the cities shall be deserted When he threatens destruction and desolation to the cities, he means what I have just said, that those places were corrupted by impious superstitions. He adds, and thy high places shall be destroyed or made desolate. Here he explains himself more clearly, that the cities should be reduced to solitude, because their religion was corrupt, and the inhabitants were given up to their own fictions and idolatries. He adds therefore high places to cities, that he may point out the reason of the cities perishing. He adds, that they may be desolate or reduced to a desert: it is again the word חרב, chereb, and your altars may perish. He confirms the same doctrine, namely, that he was so hostile to the cities of Israel because they were all polluted with profane and strange altars. For, as we have said, God had chosen that land to himself, and so all its cities were dedicated to his glory. This, then, might move us to wonder why he threatened them with destruction; for we might readily answer this by saying his counsel was changed. But the Prophet shows, that although the cities themselves were pleasing to God, yet they were hated by him through the corruptions by which they were polluted. Hence he joins high places to altars. Hence a probable conjecture is elicited, that the Israelites did not sacrifice wherever they had erected high places. They had then their own high places when they worshipped false gods, and also their own altars. And since the worship of God was vitiated in both ways, the Prophet, as I have said, here joins them both.
At length he adds, and your idols shall be broken up and cease, or be abolished. Again he uses that reproachful word which I have said is taken from the stench of dung. (Lu 16:15.) But it signifies that which is highly esteemed among men is abominated by God, especially when it is worshipped. And your idols, says he, shall be cut off. I have said that this word is derived from heat. It means, that the idols were the cause of their madness, since the Israelites were so corrupted with impure love that they deserted God and looked only at the idols: but he compares the zeal with which idolaters are maddened to impure and brutal lust. At length he adds, your works shall be destroyed. Here he uses a general name, and significantly points out the difference between the pure worship of God and all corruptions. There is no need of a long discussion if we desire to know how God is to be worshipped. For he rejects and excludes our works. If, therefore, we do not obtrude our works, but only follow what God demands, our worship will be pure, but if we add anything of our own, it is an abomination. We see, therefore, that useful instruction can be collected from one word, namely, that all worship is perverse and disapproved by God when men bring anything forward of themselves. For by works he does not here understand idols made of either wood, or stone, or brass, or gold, or silver, but it comprehends likewise whatever men have fashioned, and whatever can be ascribed to them, because they have not taken them from the mouth of God and the commands of his law.
7. And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
7. Et cadet interfectus in medio vestri: et cognoscetis quod Ego Iejovah.
Here the Prophet adds a small clause to his former threats, namely, that God would so consume the whole people with slaughter, that they would be compelled to acknowledge him as Jehovah. The slain, therefore, shall fall in the midst of thee, that is, the enemy shall arise who shall cause slaughter everywhere through the midst of the land. As to the phrase, I am Jehovah, it refers to the prophecy; for the Israelites did not openly deny God, but because they had no faith in the words of the Prophet, hence God appears and confirms and establishes the authority of the prophetic teaching, when he shows that an avenger was at hand if it was despised, as we know it was despised; and this he will soon explain a little more clearly. It follows now —
8. Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries.
8. Et residuum faciam, 133 ut sint vobis qui evadant gladium in gentibus, cum dispersi fueritis per terras.
Yet here another promise is added, which may temper the bitterness of so sorrowful a prophecy. For hitherto God shows that he burns with indignation against the land of Israel, so that he determined to destroy it, since it was polluted everywhere, and at all corners. Nothing could therefore be hoped for, if Ezekiel had spoken precisely; therefore a promise is added in mitigation — I will leave a remnant, says he, that you may have some who escape the sword; that is, that some of you may survive. But how? God does not promise simple pardon, that he may leave the Israelites quiet and safe in the land, but he says that their safety shall be in exile. Hence therefore we collect that they were so depraved that they were unable to obtain pardon, because God says that his patience was their scorn and aversion. Although, therefore, he gives the Israelites some hope of favor, yet he also admonishes them that they could not obtain safety in any other way, except by a kind of death, namely exile. I will leave a remnant, says he, of you, who shall escape the sword; but how? whom shall the enemy have spared so that they do not change their place? nay, he says, when ye shall be dispersed among the Gentiles He promises them life, therefore, but a wretched one, because it was united with exile. But God’s favor cannot be sufficiently estimated from these words, unless what follows immediately is added.
9. And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.
9. Et recordabuntur qui ex vobis evaserint mei in gentibus, apud quas captivi fuerint illic 134 quia frangar ad cor ipsorum quod fornicatur, 135 a quod recessit a me, et ad oculos ipsorum scortantes 136 post idola sua, et pudifient coram facie sua super malis quae fecerunt in omnibus abominationibus suis.
I see that I cannot finish, and I think the time is advancing.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou desirest a continual memorial of thy former remarkable judgments on thy people, that we may this day restrict ourselves to thy pure worship — grant, I say, that we may be teachable by thee, and never attempt to adulterate thy worship by our devices; and since thou hast clearly manifested thy will to us, through thine only-begotten Son, that we may remain in obedience to him, and may so invoke Thee the Father, in his name, while we are pilgrims in the world, until at length we arrive at that blessed inheritance which is laid up for us in heaven by the same, our Lord. — Amen.
In the last lecture I only recited the ninth verse, but did not explain it; for the Lord says, he would afterwards make some part of Israel a remnant, since he hoped they would profit by the chastisement: then, says he, the remnant will remember me. By these words he obliquely reproves the sluggishness of the ten tribes, who could never be brought to any sense of God’s anger, unless by experiencing it. For there is an opposition between remembrance and forgetfulness, since he says they would remember after they were afflicted, he signifies that during their prosperity they were drowned in negligence and contempt. We may learn from this that God’s chastisements are very useful to us, because when he indulges us we abuse his kindness, and flatter ourselves so as to become hardened in sin. It is necessary, therefore, nay, even useful, that those who indulge themselves in their vices, should be chastised, and although the Lord can recall us to himself in other ways, yet our weakness is so great that we always grow torpid in our sins, until his chastisements draw us back to life. Besides, we must also observe, that; all are not permitted to become wise again, even when chastised by God. And the Prophet does not speak generally, but marks out the survivors, or those who shall have been preserved. פליטיכם, phlitikem, says he, that is, those of you who shall be saved; but this was only a small portion, as we have seen. Now as the difference is sought for between the few permitted to escape, and the multitude which perished, none other will be found, except because it pleased God to preserve a seed. All were worthy of death; he consumed almost the whole body of the people; he wished a small number to remain safe. We see, therefore, that the safety of those of whom the Prophet now speaks flowed from the mere mercy of God. Besides, what I have said must be borne in mind — that none repented but those to whom it was given; whence it follows, that repentance is a singular gift of God. And we see that many plunge into a worse state, nay, even rage against God when he chastises them: first they roar, then they are outrageous, then they rush on to unbridled madness, so that they would be prepared to wage war with God, if they could penetrate as far as the heavens. Since therefore chastisements are common to the elect and the reprobate, and yet some go on to rage more and more against God, it follows that it is not permitted to all to repent when God admonishes them, cites them to his tribunal, and demands punishment for their sins when they displease him.
This therefore is the reason why the Prophet restricts this promise to those who should be saved out of the whole people. He had said they should be preserved, because God was unwilling to extinguish the whole Church, that he might not destroy his covenant, which ought to be perpetual and inviolable. He says among the Gentiles, among whom, or where, they were captives Here also the Prophet signifies that exile would be useful to the Israelites, because as long as God suffered them to possess the Holy Land, they provoked him as if on purpose. Since, therefore, they so polluted God’s worship in the Holy Land, he ought long ago to have destroyed them. And the Prophet signifies this when he says, among the nations where they were captives they would then return to a sound mind, though they had been obstinate in the region assigned them by God. It follows that he was broken down, or worn down, through their heart There may be a double sense of the words. The first is, that God was at length conquered by their wickedness, after he had found that he did not profit by bearing them patiently. For when he sees that his favor becomes a laughing-stock, he is the more angry, and deservedly so. Thus, therefore, this passage may be conveniently explained, that God was broken on account of the adulterous heart of the Israelites; because when he had long suffered them to sin with impunity, yet when he saw no end to it, being conquered, as it were, by their obstinacy, he descends to punish them. But we may also refer this to pardon, because they will acknowledge that God is broken through their heart, because he wishes to pardon them. For he is said to be broken who voluntarily forgives injuries; and since there are many tender and kind, who willingly pardon their enemies for even the greatest crimes. And this explanation is in some degree suitable, because the sinner cannot really remember God, without perceiving some taste of his goodness, so that he hopes he will be propitious to him. Yet the first sense seems more suitable, that the Israelites will begin to remember when they were dragged into exile, that just punishment awaited them, because God had borne with them patiently, and had not treated them at once with the utmost rigor, but when compelled, he descended at length to take vengeance, after he was broken down or worn down by their desperate wickedness. Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet’s intention. Hence also we gather, that those who seriously repent do not acknowledge their fault lightly, but think within themselves in what ways, and how long, and how perversely, they have provoked God’s wrath. The Prophet expresses this by the word breaking. God, therefore, did not treat the Israelites so harshly, while he was offended by their wickedness, but at length he was broken by their hardness.
He says, Through their adulterous heart which departed from me, and through their adulterous eyes after their idols This image occurs everywhere throughout the Prophets; and because I have often explained it, I now pass it slightly by. For the superstitious are said to commit whoredom with their idols, that all idolatry may be rendered more detestable. For those who adulterate the worship of God by their fictions, yet think that they offer an acceptable obedience. Since, therefore, the blind and unbelieving so please themselves by their corruptions, hence Scripture compares them to adulterers. The name of devotion among the Papists is at this time so plausible that it buries all the light of sound doctrine. For by this one word they reject whatever is offered them in the law and the gospel: and so also concerning “good intentions” as they call them. Since, therefore, the incredulous so intoxicate themselves with their own comments, God distinctly mentions fornicators, and says, that all who recede from the pure rule of the law contaminate themselves with debaucheries. At the same time, as I have often said, the prophets allude to a sacred and spiritual marriage in which God has bound himself to his Church. For chastity of soul means the pure worship of God. When, therefore, men fall off from that sincerity, it is just as if a woman should desert her husband and follow adulterers. Now that the Prophet may express this mad desire more clearly, he adds eyes to the heart. By these words he understands furious lust, not only because they were devoted to their idols with all their heart, but they were drawn that way by their eyes, as if their eyes had been torches to inflame their mind. He retains, however, his own image, because adulterers by their wandering glances generate the flames of lust, and so their heart is set on fire. For this reason therefore he says, they were adulterous both in eye and heart
Afterwards he adds, and they shall become ashamed, or shall be cut off in their faces, that is, before their face: others translate, they shall feel nausea, which seems rather too rough. But because the word קט, ket, signifies to spew out, those who use a word of abomination render the Prophet’s sense faithfully. They shall be therefore, says he, an abomination to themselves Those who translate it, “They shall be cut off,” also receive the word metaphorically; for he who suffers so much shame that he scarcely dares to look on heaven and men, is said to be cut off. But others translate, they shall contend or quarrel before their eyes. But since that signification is rarer, I scarcely dare subscribe to their opinion, especially when the best sense is, that they should be abominable to themselves. Therefore, they shall be rejected before their face, that is, they shall not wait till men condemn them or until others reprove their perverse worship, but they shall willingly abominate themselves. Now the Prophet shows that their penitence is real, because it may happen that a person may feel that he has some dealing with God, and yet not be truly humbled: just as Cain was compelled to tremble at the sight of God, yet was always like himself. (Ge 4:9.) So it usually happens to all the wicked. The acknowledgment of this judgment of God is indeed some portion of repentance, but only half: wherefore the Prophet, that he may show the Israelites that they would remember God not without fruits when his hand was upon them, adds, that they should be abominable to themselves. This displeasure is then the second part of repentance. He says, for the evils which they have done in all their abominations The Prophet expresses more clearly, that the veil by which the eyes of the Israelites had been so long covered should be removed when they returned to God. For escape from punishment causes men to connive at their sins, as if a veil had been placed over their eyes, and they imagine that what God not only rejects but even detests is honorable. But when God by the infliction of punishment forces the wretched to perceive this, and no longer to put light for darkness and darkness for light, then they begin to be displeased with themselves. Now it follows —
10. And they shall know that I am the LORD, and that I have not said in vain that I will do this evil unto them.
10. Et cognoscent quod ego Iehovah non frustra locutus fuerim ad faciendum ipsis malum hoc. 137
He now mentions the fruit of their repentance, because the Israelites were beginning at length to attribute just honor to his prophecies. For we know that they trifled carelessly while the Prophets were threatening them. Because, therefore, they were in the habit of destroying confidence in all the servants of God, and of reducing as it were their truth to nothing, the Prophet says, that when they repented they would then perceive that God had not spoken in vain. While they were despising his threats, they did not perceive that they ought therefore to be considered despisers of God. For listening only to men, when they heard Jeremiah or Ezekiel, they thought that they were contending with them only, and could do so with impunity against mere mortals. God therefore, in opposition to this, testifies that he was the chief author. For as error springs from error, they proudly rejected whatever the Prophets said, when they treated it as frivolous and vain. God therefore says: They shall then know that I have not spoken in vain, when I bring upon them this evil This knowledge, which is produced by real dissatisfaction with self, is very useful. I have said that it is the fruit of repentance, but at the same time it profits the miserable, to humble themselves seriously before God, and to call to memory their own ingratitude: then they perceive what they had never admitted before, that God is trustworthy as well in his threats as in his promises. Hence it happens that they reverently embrace his word which they had formerly despised. He pronounced the same thing previously concerning the reprobate, who, as we have already said, feel God’s hand without producing fruit. But because he now speaks of those very few whose conversion he had previously praised, he doubtless comprehends the fear of God under recognition or perception of him. For if all God’s threats had been buried, the people could not be thought to have returned into the right way, nor could their conversion have any existence before God. We know that contempt is not free from impious sacrilege, which is now treated of. Therefore, that the sinner may submit himself sincerely to God, this acknowledgment is required, that he should weigh within himself how unworthily and wickedly he had formerly either repudiated or neglected the word of God. In the meantime the Prophet triumphs over the arrogance of those who had wantonly despised the teaching of all God’s servants, when he says, they shall feel (or acknowledge) that I Jehovah have not spoken in vain Since, therefore, the Prophet here depicts as in a painting their late repentance, let us learn to tremble in time at God’s threats. Although indeed God does not yet execute his vengeance upon us, yet let us be sure that he does not speak in vain, and let us be alarmed as soon as he shows any sign of his indignation. God indeed testifies that he would be propitious to the Israelites, although their repentance was tardy; but as far as we are concerned, let us repent in time, as I have already admonished, and as soon as God utters his threats, let it be to us just as if their execution were at hand. It follows —
11. Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.
11. Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Percute manu tua 138 et divarica pedes tuos, 139 et dic Hei 140 super omnes abominationes mahas domus Israel: quia gladio, fame et peste cadent.
This confirms what we have formerly seen concerning the slaughter of the ten tribes. The kingdom of Israel had been indeed afflicted, but because those remaining in their own country thought themselves free from further calamity, and gave themselves up to their idolatries more and more, it was on this account necessary that final destruction should be denounced against them. Since, then, words moved them but little, God adds a sign, according to his custom in obstinate cases. He orders the Prophet, by clapping of hands, and by extending his legs and feet, to show that the land was cursed. Divide, therefore, thy feet; for thus men are accustomed to do when they denounce anything gravely, or burn with indignation: they extend their legs in opposite directions; so I have rendered it verbally separate thy feet: the clapping of the hands has the same object. God wishes by this gesture that his word should be confirmed, not for the Prophets sake, but for the sake of the obstinacy of those who were deaf to all words, as we have said. Hence we truly comprehend how great was the stupidity of men, who, when God was thundering from heaven, yet remain secure, and do not cease to follow after their own desires: even when God inspires terror, they do nothing but laugh — this is monstrous. And yet we see it was an old disease, and I wish we of this day were free from what Ezekiel experienced.
Lastly, it is just as if he had been commanded to bring the Israelites into his presence When, therefore, he was commanded to cry alas! or, oh! upon all the abominations of the house of Israel, there is no doubt that his gesture as well as his exclamation ought to be efficacious. The reason also is added — that all shall perish by sword, pestilence, and famine We have said that these three kinds of punishment are always proposed, not because God strikes the despisers of his law with pestilence, the sword, and famine only, but because this method is more known and more common. God has innumerable hidden methods of punishing transgressors; but since, as I have said, this scourge is more used, hence the Prophets more frequently mention it.
The result is, that destruction to the kingdom of Israel was at hand, which they had never thought of; because God avenges the wickedness of his people not only by war, but by pestilence and famine. Sometimes by the figure, a part for the whole, it comprehends other punishments. And we know with how many miseries war is replete; for when once men begin to take up arms, the gate is opened to robberies and rapines, burnings, slaughters, debaucheries, and all violence; and in war all humanity and equity is buried. Then as to famine, we know that it usually renders men ravenous. But in pestilence the husband will desert the wife, every family is invaded by death, orphanhood afflicts one, and widowhood another. Since, therefore, these scourges of God draw with them infinite miseries, it is not to be wondered at if the Prophets use war, pestilence, and famine, for shortness, when they signify that those who provoke God too long shall perish. Now follows a clearer explanation —
12. He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them.
12. Qui procul erit, peste morietur; et qui prope erit, gladio cadet, 141 et qui relictus fuerit, et obsessus fame morietur: et complebo Indignationem 142 meam in ipsis.
Now the Prophet explains himself how the Israelites were to be destroyed by famine, the sword, and pestilence, namely, those who shall be far off shall die by pestilence; that is, after they think themselves hidden in secret places, so that no danger nor inconvenience can overtake them, they shall die there by pestilence. For when they were dragged into distant exile, they thought themselves altogether remote from all harm. But pestilence, he says, shall attack them although the sword shall cease. Then those who shall be at hand, that is, those who remain at home, the sword shall consume. Now the remnant, he says, who had been besieged and hemmed in, shall die by famine. And so he confirms what we formerly saw, that there should be no cause why the Israelites should sleep amidst their sins when God spared them: because if they do not all perish by the sword, God has other means of punishing them; for he has pestilence and famine in his hand, so that he can extinguish those who are far off, since pestilence will pursue them even there; then if any are left, they shall perish — even in the midst of peace — nevertheless, because God will destroy them by famine and want. Then he adds, I will fulfill my burning wrath against them: by which words God signifies that he had borne with that impious people thus far, but if at any time he pleased to exercise rigor, that he had not yet exacted sufficient punishment for their wickedness. Hence God blames them, though he had borne with them thus far, and although he had sometimes stricken them with his rods, yet he was not a rigid judge, but admonishes them as a father to return to the right way. But since they had so obstinately abused God’s forbearance, he here pronounces that his last act was approaching, and for this reason he speaks of the fulfilling of his burning anger: thus the Prophet turns away all envy from God, that the Israelites should not charge him with cruelty; thus he shows them that whatever evils they suffered were only a prelude to a horrible slaughter which was overhanging them, and which they still despised. It follows —
13. Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.
13. Et cognoscetis quod ego Iehovah, cure vulnerati eorum 143 in medio idolorum ipsorum 144 in circuitu altarium ipsorum, super omnem collem excelsum, in omnibus capitibus 145 montium, et sub omni arbore frondosa, et sub omni quercu densa, 146 in loco ubi obtulerint suffitum bonae fragrantiae omnibus idolis suis.
Now he again announces that they shall know what they have long neglected. But here a different knowledge from the former seems to be marked; for he has lately said that they should so remember as to be ashamed, and acknowledge that the slaughters predicted by the Prophets had not been in vain: but here he mentions nothing of this kind, but only speaks of that experimental knowledge which is common to the ungodly. And, in truth, this doctrine seems to be extended promiscuously to all the commonalty. For although for the most part they did not profit by it, yet all perceived that God was a judge, because so clear and conspicuous was the proof of his vengeance, that they were compelled to feel, whether they would or not, that their punishment was just. We may perceive, then, that the Prophet intends the phrase — then ye shall know, etc., in a wide sense, because he addresses all the Israelites without exception, even those who should perish. For, we said, such was the character of that knowledge, that it only frightened them, and did not bend them to humility. And, truly, the words which follow show only the terrible vengeance of God, when they shall be slain, says he, that is, shall fall, near their idols But we have said that they would more clearly acknowledge the vengeance of God from this — that he rendered their false gods an object of ridicule. But, as I have said before, the Prophet uses an opprobrious name when speaking of idols. Since, therefore, they so fell near their idols, under the confidence and protection of which they thought that they would always be safe; and although the idols themselves were thus involved in the condemnation, this made God’s vengeance more manifest. And this is the reason, as I have before suggested, why the Prophet enters into these details. What follows is to the same purpose — by the circuit of all their altars This, then, was profanation of all altars, to be defiled by carcases being drawn over them, and then sprinkled with human blood. But he also points out the places where they worshipped false gods; for we have said that lofty places were chosen for them, but here he puts lofty hills, and then the tops of the mountains But as idol-worshippers heaped to themselves various and numerous games, when they were satiated with their high places, they had shady valleys, for their altars were under trees, where they offered incense. The Prophet therefore pronounces that there was no place which God did not condemn with infamy. When, therefore, he says that the incense had a pleasing smell, the opposite is doubtless intended, since this incense was foul before God: as when an immodest woman desires to please an adulterer, it moves the wrath of her husband, so here God silently complains that he was provoked by that foul incense with which the Israelites wished and desired to gratify their idols.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou not only proposest to us this day the ancient examples of thine anger, by which we may be restrained within thy pure and perfect worship, but also hast so clearly manifested thyself to us, through thine only-begotten Son, that we cannot err unless we are insane, — grant, I say, that we may be not only docile and moral, but attentive to that doctrine which is contained in thy gospel, so that we may be directed by this perfect light, until we arrive at length at the full and solid alliance with the Sun of righteousness, Christ, thy Son. — Amen.
14. So will I stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land desolate, yea, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath, in all their habitations: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
14. Et extendam manum meam super eos, et ponam terram vastitatem, et derelictionem 147 prae deserto Diblathah in omnibus habitationibus eorum: et cognoscent quod ego Iehovah.
Ezekiel pursues the same sentiment, but it is necessary to persist with more words in confirmation of his prophecy, because it was somewhat difficult of belief, especially among men so secure, and who had been hardened against God by long habit. This is the reason, then, why he uses so many words about a thing in itself by no means obscure. Now he speaks concerning the extension of God’s hand, which is a Scriptural form of speech sufficiently familiar; for it is said that God extends his hand when he puts forth manifest examples of his wrath. But the phrase is taken from men, who, if they wish to accomplish anything great extend their arm. We know that God accomplishes all things by his nod alone, but because through our sluggishness we do not comprehend his judgment, the Scripture, in compassion to our rudeness represents his hand as extended. But he says, that he will place the land in devastation and stupor The two words, שממה, shemmeh, and שמה, shemeh, are different, though derived from the same root. שמה, shemeh, signifies to destroy and lay waste; also to wonder at: so that the explanation of some is not bad — I will place the land for a desolation and an astonishment. But because the comparison of a desert follows immediately, I willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who translate desolation or solitude, and vacancy or waste: for although these: two words are synonymous, as they say, yet the Prophet properly adds vacancy or solitude to waste, because he does not. inculcate the same thing too often, for the sake of explanation, but only that he may confirm what he otherwise knew would not be attended to by the Israelites. Some translate from the desert even to Diblathah; and there are some who think Riblatha should be read instead of Diblathah — and it may happen that an error has crept in, on account of the similarity of the letters ד and ר. But I do not think any change is needed: and besides, I reject as absurd, the explanation from the desert even to Diblathah or Riblatha. But מ is rather a mark of comparison: the land of Israel shall be reduced to desolation more than the desert of Diblathah. For how could the Prophet have said — from the desert even to Diblathah? The threat is against the land of Israel, but Diblathah was in Syria beyond the land, for they think it was Antioch: hence the true sense, according to the Prophet’s intention, could not be elicited from this. But it is most suitable that the desert should be placed before the eyes of the Israelites, because it was not far from their country: Syria was between them and it, but since there was frequent intercourse, that desert was sufficiently known to them. Already had they passed through the desert when they passed into exile, and the difference in the aspect of the country would rather waken up their senses: for the whole of Syria is fertile, and Antioch has an excellent site, as geographers relate. Since, therefore, the Israelites had traversed a pleasant land, and one filled with all opulence, when they came to a desert vast and sorrowful, that appearance, as I have said, would stir them up the more. This, therefore, appears to me the reason why the Prophet says that the desert Diblathah was not so waste, or solitary, or dry, or squalid, as the land of Israel should become.
He says, in all their habitations, that they may know that there would be no corner free from that devastation which he predicts: for it will often happen that some land is partially seized and spoiled, but here the Prophet comprehends all habitations. And they shall know, he says, that I am Jehovah: that is, they shall know that I have spoken by my Prophets. But God announces this with displeasure, because the Prophet’s authority ought to have been sacred and established among the people. For his calling was so marked out that they could not contend against him without being opposed to God. Hence Ezekiel is omitted here, and God comes forward, as if he had spoken himself. They shall know, therefore, he says, both my faithfulness and power. Besides this knowledge is extended to the reprobate who do not profit by God’s chastisements. Although, therefore, experience compels them to acknowledge God as a judge, yet they remain obstinate, as we shall soon see again and again. It follows —
Or, “against.” — Calvin.
“Some translate ‘torrents;’ others, ‘the rushing down of waters;’ others, ‘rocks.’” — Calvin.
Or, “I will lay prostrate ” — Calvin.
“The relation is in the third person.” — Calvin.
“He returns again to the second person ” — Calvin.
That is, “in every habitable region they will be deserted.” This word we have illustrated before — Calvin.
Or,” shall be destroyed and perish.” — Calvin.
Or, “abolished,” the same word for idols which is derived from heat. — Calvin.
“It is one word — ‘I will leave remaining.’” — Calvin.
“The adverb of place is redundant ” — Calvin.
“That is, which burns with adultery.” — Calvin.
“Or full of lust ” — Calvin.
“That is, in making them bear this evil, or slaughter, or penalty: for ‘evil’ is not to be taken here for unjust violence, but only for adversity.” — Calvin.
That is, “clap thy hands.” — Calvin.
Or, “extend;” verbally, “extend in thy foot.” — Calvin.
Or, “heus, alas!” — Calvin.
“Some translate ‘shall fall on the sword,’ but too harshly. Already, in the last verse, the Prophet used the same word in a different sense, therefore I change nothing: he who is near shall fall by the sword.” — Calvin.
Or, “burning ” — Calvin.
Or, “slain.” — Calvin.
“The person is here changed, but this does not obscure the sense.” — Calvin.
That is, “the tops ” — Calvin.
“Some translate ‘elm,’ but it is also oak.” — Calvin.
“Or, stupor: for שמה, shemeh, as we have seen, signifies this also.” — Calvin