Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 22: Ezekiel, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Moreover, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
1. Et fuit sermo Iehovæ ad me, dicendo,
2. Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.
2. Et tu fili hominis, sic dicit Dominator Iehovah terrae Israel, vel de terra; finis, venit finis super quatuor alas terrae.
Ezekiel seems here too verbose; for he repeats the same sentiments almost in the same words. But the reason which I have brought forward must be marked, if God had only uttered his commands shortly, when the people were not only slow to believe but of a perverse disposition, his message had proved cold and ineffectual. With this design he uses, as we have seen, many words, and now repeats the same: he now changes his expression, because he ought by all means to stimulate that sloth, or rather sluggishness, under which the people labored. Another thing to be noted is, that he came not once only by God’s command to preach to the people, but. that he was often sent to stir up their minds. For if he had included in one context what God had enjoined, the Israelites might for the time have thought of God’s judgment, but a prophecy once uttered would have easily escaped them. Besides, when Ezekiel testifies that he was sent by God, and afterwards returns and affirms that he brings new commands, this was more effectual to influence their minds. Now we see the meaning of the phrase, the word was given by Jehovah For this prophecy is distinguished from the former, and yet the matter is the same, without any difference, as it seems to weave in with the same discourse: this, indeed, is true, but he ought to be sent twice, that the people may understand that not once only, but twice and perpetually, what he heard from God’s mouth was to be repeated: since it was sufficiently clear, that God was anxious for their safety, since he never ceased to exhort them. Thus, therefore, says the Lord Jehovah concerning the land of Israel: an end is coming, an end upon the four corners of the land Here God seems to regard the moderate punishments which he had already inflicted on the kingdom of Israel. For we know that they often felt God’s hand, but when some relaxation was afforded them, they thought themselves escaped, so they forgot their wickedness and went on in it so carelessly that it was very clear that they despised God, unless when he oppressed them with his dreadful power. This seems the meaning of the word end, and it is emphatically repeated: an end is coming, an end upon the four corners of the land He puts, indeed, wings, but intends it metaphorically for four different regions. God, therefore, reproves the Israelites for their obstinacy, because though often chastised they did not cease to transgress, through not supposing that any thing more grievous could happen. He puts therefore the word end, as if he said, hitherto I have treated you moderately. And surely God had displayed a remarkable specimen of clemency in punishing the Israelites so lightly when he might utterly have cut them off. Since, therefore, he had so refrained himself in punishing, the sluggishness of the people was on that account the less tolerable, since they thought all was over as soon as God had withdrawn his hand. An end, says he, an end is come, that is, after this you must not hope for any moderation. I see there is no hope of repentance in you, and so I shall utterly consume you; and he adds, on the four corners of the land, as he had just said, in all your dwellings. Again, therefore, he teaches, that no part of the earth should be free from the slaughter which he predicts. It follows —
3. Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.
3. Nune finis super to: et mittam indignationem meam in to, et judicabo to secundum vias tuas: et ponam super to cunctas abominationes tuas.
He puts the word end a third time, and repeats it even a fourth and a fifth time. Whence we collect, that those miserable ones, although admonished more than enough both by teaching and experience, were yet like brute animals, so that they always promised themselves something to fly to, and were not impressed with the fear with which the Prophet would strike them. They did not think that an end was really coming, but said, Oh! something will remain, some will escape; and this therefore was their pride. Hence the Prophet does not inculcate the same word in vain: now, says he, the end is come When he says the end has come, he signifies that the Israelites vainly and foolishly trusted in the future, because they had not yet experienced extreme rigor. God, as he had said, had been lenient with them as to punishment. What then did they do? When they perceived such forbearance in God they thought, that it would always be so. Hence the Prophet marks the difference between the past and future, as if he should say, that God’s vengeance as they had formerly known it, was moderate, but now nothing else remained but that God should utterly tear them up and consume them. Now, therefore, there is an end concerning thee He had spoken in the third person, but he was directing his discourse to the whole land of Israel, and he had said upon the four corners of the land, now, says he, the end cometh upon thee Then, I will send my indignation upon thee God indeed had given signs of his anger, but he had not been so severe that the Israelites ceased from flattering themselves. When, therefore, he speaks of his own indignation, he doubtless signifies that he was so offended that he would not restrain himself as he had formerly done. This too is the sense of what follows, I will judge thee according to thy ways. They had been judged formerly, but only in part; for God had given them time for repentance had they been curable: but now, when he compares their judgment with their sins, he means, that nothing was wanting to extreme severity. And he explains that more clearly at the end of the verse, I will put upon thee all thine abominations, that is, I will cast thine own burden upon thee. For although God had begun to exact just punishment. for their superstitions, yet they had not suffered a greater burden than they deserved. Hence God now pronounces that all their abominations should come upon their own heads, so that they should be utterly buried. It follows —
4. And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
4. Et non parcet oculus meus super to, et non miserebor: quia vias tuas super to ponam, et abominationes tuae in medio tui erunt: et cognoscetis quod ego Iehovah.
In other words he confines his own sentence, that God will not spare them, nor will he be entreated. For when hypocrites hear the praises of God which are assigned to him in scripture, namely, that he is merciful and long-suffering, (Nu 14:18; Ps 103:8,) they seize upon them and fabricate for themselves the material of foolish and perverse confidence. God here pronounces that his pity would not be accessible to the wicked, who do not cease to repel it far from them. And this is worthy of notice, because nothing is more natural than to be intoxicated with false hope when we hear that God is merciful, unless we know for what purpose he testifies this concerning himself, namely, that sinners may betake themselves to him, and may fearlessly call upon him, and implore his mercy, of which they have such remarkable testimony. But hypocrites always become worse, meanwhile they wish God to be propitious to them. Hence when he says, his eye will not spare, neither would he pity them, his intention must be observed, that. wicked and ungodly men should not think his clemency prepared for them against which they have previously shut the door. Because I will put thy ways upon thee — that is, I will cast thy wickedness against thee. We see then that the people’s sins were placed before them, and as it were lay there as long as God spared them. Now, therefore, he first signifies that they should have no cause of quarrel or complaint, because he will cast against them the iniquities which they had heaped upon him. Then also he silently accuses them of too much security, because they never could be brought to repentance, while God sustained and tolerated their sins. And thy abominations, he says, shall be in the midst of thee They were so from the first as far as their guilt was concerned, but God had not yet poured forth his anger. He says, therefore, thy abominations shall be in the midst of thee, because it should really appear that they were not obstinate against God without punishment. Again he repeats, ye shall know that I am Jehovah It is quite clear, that by their obstinacy they compelled God to speak thus, since they despised Ezekiel. But although they pretended to some piety, it cannot be doubted that they would despise God himself.
Therefore he reproves their impiety so sharply, because they denied that God was God as often as they withdrew their confidence from the teaching of the holy man. It follows —
5. Thus saith the Lord GOD, An evil, an only evil, behold, is come.
5. Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah: Malum, unum 148 malum ecce veniet.
If we read אחת, acheth, or אחר, acher, the sense seems to me the same, an evil, another evil is come: that is, one evil is come from another, or one evil is come and an evil: that is, when one evil is come another will soon follow. Some explain it in way which seems to me harsh and unsatisfactory: one evil is come; this is so severe that at its first impulse it suffices for complete slaughter, so subtilely do they explain it. But it seems to me that the sense of the Prophet flows best thus, one evil shall come upon another — that is, there will be no cessation in God’s heaping evils upon evils until the very name of the whole people shall become extinct. And this appears to me to be said, that the Israelites should not after their manner suppose themselves safe, if God gives them a short respite. For when a slight intermission happens, the impious erect their crests, and keep up their spirits, and think that God is at peace with them. Since, therefore, any intermission is taken by hypocrites, as if they had made their peace with God, therefore the Prophet says, one evil shall come upon another It follow —
6. An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come.
6. Finis venit, venit finis: evigilavit super to, ecce venit.
The whole context has the same meaning, namely, that although the Israelites are deaf, yet they are compelled to attend to God’s continued threats. The Prophet therefore strikes their ears, because he was not immediately attended to, and again he speaks of the end: an end is come, says he, an end is come Here Ezekiel does not affect to use graceful figures of speech, but was rather compelled by necessity to use the repetitions which we see. For the end concerning which he speaks could with difficulty penetrate their minds, for they were always supposing that God could be appeased by various means. Since, therefore, they promised themselves something remaining behind, and put away from them what the Prophet taught about the end, he could not do otherwise than threaten often though he could scarcely persuade them. Hence an end is come, an end is come: it has been watchful against thee: behold it is come When he says it has watched, he signifies haste, not that God had suddenly revenged the wickedness of the ten tribes, but that he regards the torpor of those who indulged in a vain confidence and dream that God’s judgment is far distant. That diabolic proverb — “Le terme vaut l’argent,” 149 is still common in the mouths of many, and such impiety has been rife in all ages. When therefore God suspends his judgments, the reprobate intemperately boast themselves as if they could continue in sin with impunity. For this reason the Prophet says, the end is watching — that is, hastening — because although God had delayed he would no longer refrain from destroying the Israelites. It follows —
7. The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains.
7. Venit mane super to, habitator terrae: venit tempus, propinquus est dies tumultus, 150 et non clamor 151 montium.
Now he uses another word. He says, the morning is come, though some translate kingdom, but erroneously. For although צפירה, tzephireh, is a turban sometimes, or a royal diadem, yet the Prophet’s language is distorted when they say that the kingdom was transferred, or taken over to the Babylonians. But the sentence flows best — the morning cometh By “the morning” he implies what he had said before, namely, the hastening of God’s vengeance. As, therefore, he said the end was watching, since God was hastening to take vengeance, so also he says, the morning is come to them, and then rouses them from that drowsiness in which they had grown torpid. We know that hypocrites commit all their sins as if no eye were upon them; as long as God is silent and at rest they revel without shame or fear. But the chosen remain faithful even in secret; but God’s word always shines before them, as Peter says — ye do well when ye attend to the Prophetic word, as a lamp shining in darkness. (2Pe 1:19.) Although the faithful may be surrounded by darkness, yet they direct their eye to the light of celestial doctrine, so that they are watchful, and are not children of the night and of darkness, as Paul says. (1 Thess. 5:4, 5.) But the impious are, as it were, immersed in darkness, and think they shall enjoy perpetual night. As the rising morning dispels the darkness of night, so also God’s judgment, on its sudden appearance, strikes the reprobate with unexpected terror, but too late.
For this reason, then, the Prophet says, that morning is come to the Israelites, because they had promised themselves perpetual night, as if they were never to be called upon to render an account of their conduct. We see, therefore, that he alludes suitably to that torpor which was the cause of their obstinacy, when they thought themselves safe in their hiding-places. Hence he laughs at their perverse confidence, who promise themselves impunity because they are in night. For the morning, he says, will immediately seize upon you; hence morning is coming upon thee, O inhabitant of the land; afterwards, the time is come: עת, gneth, properly signifies all appointed or determined time. Hence the Prophet meant that the time had come which God had fixed beforehand for his judgment, and thus he takes away from the impious the material for pride, for they always suppose that God is as it were asleep when he does not attack them at the very first moment. He speaks, therefore, of an appointed time, as in other places the Prophets usually do, and frequently of the year of visitation. He signifies the same thing when he says, the day of tumult, or noise, is at hand. This member of the sentence answers to the former. He had said the end was watching; he had said that the judgment was hastening on: now simply and without figure he says, the day is at hand, קרוב, krob, a day, I say, of noise, and not the echo of the mountains, says he; that is, it shall not be an empty resounding, as when a. sound is produced among the mountains a concussion arises, and since the sounds which are uttered there, when taken up by the neighboring mountains, return to their own place, and thus a greater resounding occurs, called echo. The Prophet therefore says, that the clamor of which he speaks should not be an echo, that is, an empty resounding, because all should seriously cry out. Some think הד, hed, means “acclamations,” which is properly הידד, hided; it is, indeed, from the same root, but הר, her, is used in the same sense. But if this explanation seems better, the Prophet will allude to mountains, not lofty, but vine-bearing, as many were in the land of Israel. But the other explanation is preferable, namely, there shall be the sound of a tumult, not on account of the reverberation, as they say, but because every one should cry out, until sorrow and crying should abound on every side. It follows —
8. Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.
8. Nunc e propinquo effundam indignationem meam super to, et complebo iram meam in to, et judicabo to secundum vias tuas: et ponam super to cunctas abominationes tuas.
He repeats here almost the same words. We have explained the intention, namely, that the Israelites should be positively assured that God threatened not for the sake of frightening them, but because the execution of his wrath was prepared. Now, says he, I will shortly pour out my indignation He had said the day was at hand. This refers to the time; for it would be foolish to place together I will shortly pour out my indignation, against thee, and I will fulfill my indignation against thee; this fulfilling explains what he had formerly said concerning the end. For God had formerly executed his vengeance against the Israelites, but not completely. This completion, then, of God’s wrath prevails even as far as their ultimate destruction. Now I have explained those words — I will judge thee according to thy ways, and I will put upon thee all thine abominations
Grant, Almighty God, that we being admonished by such remarkable proofs of thy wrath, may learn to walk anxiously in thy sight, and so to bring ourselves into voluntary obedience to thyself, that the certain testimony to our gratuitous adoption may appear in our life; and grant that we may so prove ourselves to be sons, that we may truly invoke thee the Father, until we arrive at that blessed inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
9. And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth.
9. Et oculus meus non parcet, neque miserebor: secundum vias tuas super to ponam, et abominationes tuae in medio tui erunt: et cognoscetis quod ego Iehovah percutiens.
This verse contains nothing besides a repetition, unless that at last the Prophet more clearly points out what that knowledge was which he formerly mentioned, namely, that they should unwillingly feel God’s power, because they had withdrawn their confidence from the Prophet’s teaching. For he had said two or three times, ye shall know that I am Jehovah: now he adds the participle, and that it is I who smite you This then is the knowledge by which God makes himself known to the reprobate, while they are compelled, whether they will or not, to feel that there is a judge of the world. The faithful indeed profit under God’s chastisements, and they are at times humbled under his hand, because they do not willingly obey his word: but we said that the Prophet here triumphs over the people’s pride who dared to deride all threats as if God were sleeping in heaven. He says therefore at length, that when God strikes them they should feel what they did not believe. It follows —
10. Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.
10. Ecce dies ecce venit: egressum est 152 mane, floruit baculus, germinavit superbia.
Now Ezekiel uses another figure, but to the same purpose. He repeats what he had said before: the day is come, and he adds another part, that the morning had advanced But we said that the impious, when God connives at their sins, exult as it were in darkness without shame or fear. Since therefore they were as wanton as if they had obtained the license of night, the Prophet denounces that morning is at hand, because God would suddenly bring to light what they thought would be always hidden. Since therefore, when God retired, they supposed themselves in complete darkness, the Prophet recalls them to the consideration of the daily order of things: for light emerges immediately from the dawn. Thus he laughs at their folly, because they thought that God had his eyes shut, when for the time he dissembles. This therefore is the reason, as was fully explained yesterday, why the Prophet calls the sudden change morning Therefore the morning has arisen, afterwards, the rod has blossomed, pride has flourished It is not doubtful that he means Nebuchadnezzar by the rod, but interpreters vary on the context; for many refer the following verse to the king of Babylon: but others, in my judgment rightly, take it of the Israelites themselves. As to his saying the rod has blossomed, it refers to God’s forbearance. For when the Israelites had sinned a long while with impunity, they thought, as I said yesterday, that their peace with God would be perpetual. But here Ezekiel pronounces in opposition to this, that God had as it were a hidden root; as he who plants a tree waits for the time, till it rises to a just magnitude. Hence he compares Nebuchadnezzar to a rod which was growing. God could indeed without man’s assistance destroy the Israelites, and could also compel others to obey him: for all creatures are at hand to fulfill his commands; but here Ezekiel commends God’s forbearance, though he had planted the tree, from which the rod was to spring up with which he would smite the Israelites. So he reproves their sloth, because they did not reflect upon the time of their visitation, which God had determined in his secret counsel.
On the whole, in saying the rod has flourished, he refers to those steps which God takes in executing his judgments. For he does not act hastily after the manner of men, but just as a husbandman in sowing and planting. Hence God provides for his own use ministers of vengeance, and permits them to increase and to arrive at maturity. If therefore God does not hasten as we wish, we may know that he still has rods prepared, and if they are not yet grown to maturity, it is because the time which the Almighty has previously fixed is not yet arrived. Now it follows, that pride has budded I have just said that some referred this to the Babylonians, but I rather understand it of the Israelites. Hence God shows how the staff grew in Chaldea by which the Israelites were to be struck, and yet the root was among themselves. For here the noun “pride” is to be taken as usual in a bad sense: it does not denote simply haughtiness or arrogance, but that licentiousness which springs from a contempt of God. But this does not suit the Babylonians as far as God governed them with his hand, when he wished to take vengeance on the Israelites. But in this sense there is nothing forced, that the staff with which the Israelites were to be struck had increased, and yet it had no other origin than their sins, and hence that no other root need be sought for than this. Hence it flourished, but whence did it spring? from pride The seed therefore of this staff was the pride of the Israelites. But this pride is akin to impiety, and we know that they were blinded by their confidence when they despised God, and treated all his threats as vain. Hence the Prophet points out pride as the fountain of all evils. A clearer explanation follows —
11. Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them.
11. Violentia surrexit in baeulum impietatis, non ex ipsis, et non ex opulentia ipsorum, et non ex strepitu ipsorum, et non luctus inter ipsos.
This is an explanation of the words, that pride had budded: now he adds violence to pride, which is its fruit: for contempt of God always begets cruelty and savagery, and rapine, and all injustice. But he speaks, as I have said, concerning the Israelites. He says that violence had risen up into a rod of wickedness Thus he confirms what he had touched upon, that the rod of God’s vengeance was not to be sought elsewhere than among the Israelites. God indeed had stirred up the king of Babylon to punish them: but the rod had grown up from the root of their wickedness by which the Israelites had provoked God’s anger: and so he adds, that nothing should be left of them: nothing, says he, should remain safe, either of themselves or of their opulence: for so I interpret המון, hemon: then, of their noise or multitude; either will do moderately well; and there shall not be wailing for them Jerome reads, נה, neh, and hence translates — there shall not be rest among them: but the Prophet means that there shall be neither sorrow nor lament, because the slaughter of all would be promiscuous. And we saw the same in Jeremiah: when one family has perished, friends and acquaintances assemble, and celebrate the funeral of the deceased; but when a pestilence pervades the whole city, and no house is free from death: nay when fathers are mingled with sons, so that their carcases can scarcely be drawn out for multitude, all sorrow ceases. With this intention then the Prophet says, there shall be no grief nor lamentation. For נהה, neheh, means lamentation. But we have already explained its meaning, namely, that all the Israelites were so destined to destruction that there should be, no survivors to lament the dead, and even should there be any, they should be so astonished amidst the multitude of the dead, that every duty of humanity towards them would perish. Now it follows —
12. The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.
12. Venit tempus statutum, appropinquavit dies, quo emens non lætabitur, et qui vendit non afficietur tristitia; quia indignatio super omnem multitudinem ejus.
The Prophet now uses another kind of speech. Meanwhile he teaches that there should be such a change that all things should be so mixed as if there were no difference between the rich and the poor. Yet such a change does not happen unless God were grievously offended, and so did not exact ordinary vengeance as he had formerly denounced. Paul indeed exhorts all the pious to pass through this world as if they were pilgrims in it, (1 Cor. 7:29, 30, 31,) and thus he says is our faith proved, as with the buyer so with the seller, as with the married so with the single. This general doctrine is prescribed to all the children of God, since the fashion of this world passes away, that they may pass through it, without having their minds fixed on these perishing things. But the meaning of our Prophet is different, because God will so disturb all things among the Israelites, that there shall be no difference between buyer and seller. He who acquires rejoices, and he who is compelled to sell suffers some degree of sorrow; and sometimes the man who is deprived of his lands and possessions tears out as it were his own entrails. It is natural therefore for the buyer to rejoice, and for the seller to lament. Now God shows that the confusion in the kingdom of Israel was so great, that neither poverty nor riches afford the material for sorrow or grief. Now we understand the Prophet’s meaning. He says, the time has come, the day has approached, in which the buyer will not rejoice, and the seller will not lament: because, says he, indignation is upon all this multitude Here that reason of Paul is not brought forward, that the fashion of this world passes away, but a concussion, or rather ruin of that land is pointed out, so that nothing remains safe. For although, whilst we travel through the world, we ought always to erect our minds and senses towards heaven, yet the political faculty remains and flourishes even among the faithful. For the sons of God, though they are poor in spirit, yet possess what God has conferred upon them: they exist, as Paul exhorts them, as it were not possessing but yet enjoying their goods. But the Prophet here signifies, that when the kingdom of Israel shall have been overturned, there will be no use for either money or lands, because all being cast out of their country shall be reduced to want. And he follows up the same sentiment —
13. For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.
13. Quia vendens ad venditionem 153 non revertetur: et adhuc inter vivos vita ipsorum: 154 quia visio super omnem multitudinem ejus: non revertetur, et vir in sua iniquitate animam suam non roborabit. 155
This verse is interpreted variously, but the Prophet’s meaning is by no means obscure: at the beginning he says, that those who sold had no cause of sorrow on account of their not returning to their lands. But this does not seem suitable. But, under one member, the Prophet comprehends what I have lately said — that the disturbance of all things would be so great, that the lands would be deprived of their masters, and those who formerly possessed them would be outcasts and exiles; they would be in want of all things, and be unable to plant their foot on their own soil. Nor is this opinion contrary to Jeremiah’s prophecy. (Jer. 32:7, 8, 9.) When Jeremiah was in prison, he was commanded to buy land from a relation: but that was done that the faithful might hope for their promised restitution with quiet minds. But the discourse is now directed to the reprobate, who were excluded from all hope of freedom. Our Prophet, therefore, only fulminates here in God’s name, and breathes nothing but terrors; there is no mention of favor in the meantime, because they had cast themselves into despair. And this is the reason why he speaks of perpetual slaughter. He says, therefore, they shall not return to the things sold, although their life is among the living This clause is variously explained, but I do not willingly consume time in repeating the errors of others: I shall follow what appears to me to be right. First, this clause must be read adversatively: he says, indeed, and as yet their life is among the living: but the copula ought thus to be resolved — although their life is among the living. The Prophet seems to allude to a custom then common. For there was not a sale of lands in perpetuity among the sons of Abraham; for that was forbidden by the law, because they were only strangers in the land. (Lev. 25:13, 14, 15.) God, therefore, in claiming the dominion of the land, did not permit them to sell their land except for a time — for every fiftieth year they returned to their own possessions. If they sold in the twentieth year, they were restored after thirty years; if in the fortieth, the sale was only for ten years, through the occurrence of the Jubilee. Now therefore the Prophet says, although they remain survivors, yet they shall not return Why? for the captivity will hinder them. Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet’s meaning: those who sold, says he, shall suffer no loss For if they had remained at home, they would have been deprived of their possessions; but this shall not happen, for they shall be dragged to a distant region, and there they shall live and die exiles. But if they should protract their life even to the hundredth year, yet their possession will remain deserted, because the conquerors will not allow them to return to their country. Hence the miserable condition of the exiles is denoted, since, if God were to prolong their life, they would still be compelled to consume it in poverty and want, since they had been driven away from their lands and were unable to return to them.
He adds, because the vision shall not return upon all the multitude of them Here also interpreters differ. For some distinguish this part into two clauses, because the vision was for the whole people, nor had any one been converted or repented. This opinion is plausible, because it contains a useful and fruitful doctrine, which is everywhere met with among the Prophets. For we know that nothing is less tolerable to God, than when men, admonished by Prophets, do not return to a sound mind, but go on in their wickedness. Since, therefore, such obstinacy exceedingly provokes God’s anger, this sense seems to suit well enough — that the vision was for the whole multitude, and yet none repented; that is, that God exhorted all, from the least to the greatest, to repentance; for all were deaf, and, as it were, desperate in their vices. Although, therefore, this exposition seems probable, I do not adopt it: for I doubt not the Prophet’s meaning to be that the vision concerning the whole multitude should not return; that is, be in vain. And thus also Isaiah speaks when he says, thy word shall not return to me void, (Isa 55:11,) for he means that prophecies are always joined with their effects. Some turn this to the fruit of the doctrine, because God will always have some disciples who will embrace the prophetic word. But this is foreign to the purpose. The Prophet rather means that hypocrites will be greatly deceived, while they think God’s word to be an empty sound, by which the air only is struck. Hence he says that God’s word will not want its effect., because God will fulfill whatever he pronounces — whether he promise safety to the faithful, or denounce destruction on the reprobate. As therefore Isaiah says God’s word shall not return to him fruitless, since he will prosper it, so our Prophet denies that God’s word should return after it had been promulgated against the whole multitude. The vision, therefore, is taken here for the prophetic doctrine; but there is no doubt that he restricts the vision to God’s judgment. The vision, therefore, was towards the whole multitude, nor shall it return; that is, it shall be certainly executed. Afterwards he adds, and a man shall not strengthen his soul in his iniquity Others term it — in the iniquity of his soul: but since the relative is double, this opinion cannot stand; but others take it otherwise. But I am unwilling to hold you in suspense here, and it seems to me that nothing is more useful than to investigate the genuine sense of the Prophet. I have no doubt the Prophet here confirms what we have now explained — that it is vain for the despisers of God to hope to escape, because when God executes his vengeance, he will hold them in his grasp. For as to what others say, that they have not fortified their soul on account of iniquity; that is, that they were so bound down to their sinfulness, that they did not lift up their minds and desires to the hope of safety, that sense is too forced. Therefore the Prophet confirms what we now see, namely, that his threats should not return empty, because God would take away all material for confidence from the hypocrites and despisers of his teaching. For the impious wrestle against God, and oppose their own obstinacy and hardness, as if by violence they could break and destroy his word. Since, therefore, the wicked precipitate themselves so boldly, says the Prophet, they shall not fortify themselves by iniquity unto life; that is, they shall strive in vain to obtain life by their iniquity, which is not sufficient for resistance. I do not understand — on account of their iniquity; because he simply denounces that obstinacy should be in vain, which profane men use as a shield against God, and its force be reduced to nothing. They shall not fortify themselves, therefore, in life, or by iniquity, unto life; that is, by that obstinate wickedness by which they think themselves superior. Let us, therefore, from this place learn to tremble at God’s threats, and always to have their effect before our eyes, as the Apostle says — Noah saw by faith the deluge which was hidden, (Heb 11:7,) because, whilst others indulged themselves, he was always reflecting during one hundred and twenty years how horrible that vengeance would be. So, therefore, when God has spoken, may we immediately apprehend his judgment, as if it were clear before our eyes; and let us especially beware of that obstinacy which will assuredly be in vain, because we hear what the Prophet here denounces. It follows —
14. They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.
14. Clanxerunt tuba, pararunt omnia; 156 nemo autem egressus ad proelium: quia indignatio mea super totam multitudinem ejus.
Here the Prophet adds, although the Israelites provide themselves with every aid, and prepare all things for carrying on the war, nay, while they omit nothing for the best fortification, yet when it came to the point, their hopes would be vain, and all the supplies which they prepared for themselves of no avail. However, therefore, they may blow the trumpet, and prepare all things, he says, yet no one goes out to battle The reason must be marked, since God’s indignation was upon the whole multitude of them, that is, because God determined to destroy them all. Now it follows —
15. The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.
15. Gladius foris, pestis et fames e domo: qui in agro erit, gladio morietur: qui autem in urbe, eum fames et pestis in urbe, eum fames et pestis consumet.
He inculcates what we have seen before, although this sentence agrees with the last verse. He had said that God’s anger should be on all the people; now he shows that none were safe when God stretched forth his hand for avenging their sins. Now he says, he had in his hand a sword, and pestilence, and famine. If they went out into the field, says he, a sword shall meet them; if they remain at home in the city, pestilence and famine shall consume them there; as if he said, God could fetch various kinds of destruction from different quarters, because he will arm foreign enemies, who shall devastate the whole land; and if these enemies were at rest, yet there were others, famine and pestilence Here he signifies, that although the Israelites closed their houses, and desired and endeavored to expel every thing injurious, yet God’s wrath could penetrate all hiding-places. It follows —
16. But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.
16. Et evadent evasores ipsorum, 157 et erunt super montes quasi columbae vallium, omnes fremendo, 158 vir 159 in sua iniquitate.
The Prophet seems here to be at variance with himself, because he formerly pronounced them all devoted to destruction. How, then, does he now say that some should come hither and thither, to seek hiding-places in the mountains? But what seem at, variance easily agree, because by these words he means that the life of those who escaped should be more miserable than if they had perished by the sword, or had been consumed by pestilence and famine. And why so? They shall be, says he, in the mountains. By mountains he doubtless understands dry and desert places. But he who seeks hiding-places in the mountains is only anxious about preserving his life, since he expects not to live. So, therefore, the Prophet means, nothing can be more miserable than the exile of those who had escaped, because they would be in dry and desert places, like doves of the valleys, there they will not dare to cry out. He means, also, that they would be so timorous, that even in anxiety, want, and squalidness, and despair of all things, finally, in the heap of their miseries, they would groan as doves, and as doves of the valleys, that is, which hide themselves through fear, and dare not show themselves; unless, perhaps, the contrast increases the evil, as if he had said that they should be much more astonished, because the unaccustomed aspect of the place should strike them with greater fear. Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet’s meaning — if any should escape from the people, yet nothing else would happen through their flight, than that they should miserably protract their life in the greatest anxiety. For we know that this is the last solace in evils, when men complain freely, and unburden themselves by weeping and groaning. But when the wretched one dares not complain, he becomes as it were twice dead among the living. It follows —
17. All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.
17. Omnes manus solventur, et omnia genua ibunt aquae. 160
He confirms the last sentence, that such should be the trembling, that those who were oppressed with all kinds of evil, dare not utter their complaints freely. He says, all hands should be loosened, and all knees should be unstable as water We know that this doctrine frequently occurs with the Prophets, by which God shows that men’s hearts were in his hands. But since profane men are fierce against God, through trusting in their own wealth or fortitude, hence, on the contrary, God pronounces that they should be timorous and anxious, nay, almost vanishing away, and as it were lifeless, as if their knees were flowing away amidst water, and their hands were relaxed. It follows —
18. They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads.
18. Et accingent se saccis, et operiet ipsos formido, et super omnes facies, 161 probrum, 162 et in omnibus capitibus calvitium.
He continues the same sentiment. He says, such was the slaughter of the people that they should all gird themselves with sackcloth. But it seems little in accordance with this, that those who should be astonished should gird themselves with sackcloth, so as not to bewail the dead. But the prophets so vary their discourse because they cannot otherwise affect obstinate minds. Although therefore these things do not seem at first sight to agree, that they should bind themselves in sackcloth, and upon all their heads should be baldness: then that all should perish without grief or sorrow: yet these things suit well enough, because the Prophet does not express what they should do, but what the event should be. Since, therefore, slaughter shall occur on every side, at length God shall consume some by pestilence, others by famine: therefore he adds, there should be material for grief, although in consequence of the multitude of evils they should be lifeless, and torpid, and omit all signs of sorrow. Therefore they shall gird themselves with sackcloth We know that this was a remarkable symbol of penitence, but it is often transferred to common sorrow, and even profane men clothe themselves in sackcloth, although they do not acknowledge God the author of evils. Hence when the Prophet says, all should take sackcloth in which to clothe themselves, he does not mean that they should feel punishments divinely inflicted that they should repent; but he only expresses the common ceremony of grief in distress which is also common to the wicked and to despisers of God, Now he adds, fear shall cover them, and disgrace, or shame, shall be on all faces: then upon all heads shall be baldness This was forbidden by the law, (De 14:1;) since we know that God restrained too much intemperance in sorrow, when he forbids the people to fall upon their face, or to make themselves bald; for that was preposterous affectation. And we know that men are ambitious in grief. Hence that God may impose restraint upon sorrow, he forbids his people to cut the skin, or to produce baldness. Hence we see that the Prophet does not speak of the true sign of repentance, but only marks, as I have said, that God’s vengeance should be so horrible, that dread should cover them, and then that shame and confusion of face should come upon them: then, that they should cut the skin like the Gentiles, and put on sackcloth like men abandoned to destruction,
Grant, Almighty God, since thou hast recalled us to thyself, that we may not grow torpid in our sins, nor yet become hardened by thy chastisements, but prevent in time thy final judgments, and so humble ourselves under thy powerful hand, that we may seriously testify and really prove our repentance, and so study to obey thee, that we may advance in newness of life more and more, until at length we put off all the defilements of the flesh, and arrive at the enjoyment of that eternal rest which thine only-begotten Son has acquired for us by his own blood, — Amen.
19. They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.
19. Et argentum suum per compita projicient, et aurum ipsorum in disjectionem 163 erit: argentum eorum et aurum eorum non poterit ad liber andum ipsos in die excandescentiæ Iehovae: animam suam non satiaunt et viscera sua non replebunt, quia offendiculum iniquitatis ipsorum fuit.
Now the Prophet threatens that the desperation of the people would be so great that they would forget both gold and silver: for we know that men are more anxious about those possessions than about life itself. But gold, unless it be prepared for use, has no value in itself: yet we see that the majority are so inflamed with the desire of gold, that they cast themselves into the certain danger of death. For how many neglect their own life to acquire wealth: hence when men despise gold, they are assuredly astonished by fear and anxiety so as to lose their natural senses. The Prophet means this when he says, they shall cast their gold into the streets, because if they thought they should survive, and if there were any hope of life left, doubtless they would hide their gold and silver. But when gold is cast away, it is certain, as I have said, that all things are full of despair. Their gold, says he, shall be cast away I prefer this interpretation to an unclean thing. נדה, nedeh, signifies pollution, defilement, and separation. If any prefer-the translation “separation,” I do not object, only let us understand that the Jews would treat their gold as valueless, and so willingly separated from it. For we know that men are so attached to their gold and silver that it grieves them to be torn from what they so much love: no less than if you tore away their entrails. But the word “a casting away” is clearer, and will answer to the former member of the sentence better. He adds, their gold and silver will be unable to preserve them in the day of Jehovah’s anger Here the Prophet derides the perverse confidence of those who thought themselves safe, because fortified with great wealth. For when men see themselves protected by guards they fear nothing, and such security is not easily wrested from them. For this cause also, Ezekiel pronounces that gold and silver would be useless to the Jews when God was fierce against them. And at the same time he obliquely reproves their sloth, because they despised God’s judgments since they were spared at the time. Hence he declares — the day of God’s burning wrath shall come: then he says, they shall not satisfy their souls, and they shall not fill their bellies Here he means that the richest even should be famished. When any famine presses upon the people, yet those who have money at home do not suffer; besides, the rich have all kinds of produce in their barns and granaries. But the Prophet says, that the penury shall be such as to involve the rich, so that they should not have food to refresh themselves. Thus the reason is added, because it was the stumblingblock of their iniquity Some take this clause generally, that the Jews should stumble on account of their iniquity, that is, then shall be the time of receiving their reward. For God had seemed to pardon them, and not to notice so many iniquities with which they provoked him. He says therefore, in that day shall be a stumblingblock, if that sense pleases you, but I would rather restrict it to money itself, since silver and gold shall profit nothing, inasmuch as it shall be a stumblingblock of iniquity, that is, it shall be the material or occasion of sinning: and the next verse confirms this sense when it says —
20. As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.
20. Et decus ornamenti sui in superbiam posuit ipsum, et imagines abominationum suarum, et spurcitiarum suarum fecerunt ex illo: propterea posui illis 164 in projectionem.
I doubt not that Ezekiel strengthens what he had just taught by other words, namely, that the people’s silver should be cast away, because it had been unworthily abused for luxury, vain pomps and superstitions. Some explain צבי עדיו, tzebi-gnediu, of the temple; and certainly I confess that the temple was the chief glory of the Jews, so that they might boast of it, if they had rightly and properly worshipped God there. Hence God conveyed great glory to the Jews when he desired a temple to be erected among them to himself, which should be as it were his earthly dwelling-place. But I do not see why we should take these words of the temple, because the Prophet explains his own discourse: for he mentions gold and silver: he said, there should be no use for gold and silver, because every one should cast it into the mud, since they should cast away all hope of life and safety. He now continues the same sentiment; he shows the lawful use of gold and silver: it was, says he, the glory of his ornament For whatever God has given to men is a testimony of his paternal favor: therefore God’s liberality is refulgent in us when he enriches us with his gifts. If therefore riches are a glory and ornament, so also are bodily health, and honors, and things of this kind. Since therefore God wishes his favor to be conspicuous in all his gifts, by which he adorns and marks men out, the Prophet properly says that the Jews were adorned with gold and silver. But he accuses them of ingratitude because they turned such glory to pride. For גאון, gaon, I here take in a bad sense, as in many other places: it sometimes signifies excellence, but I have no doubt that the Prophet here blames the Jews, because they were proud of their wealth, which they took as a testimony of God’s favor. Therefore, says he, he turned the beauty of their ornament, he turned it to pride It follows, and the images of their abominations and of their detestable things, or of their idols, for the Hebrews thus speak sometimes of idols, they made therewith Here ב, is used as if it were מ, as often in other places, and thus it points out the material; for he says, that the Jews made their images, which were so many abominations before God, out of gold and silver This was a second profanation of God’s gifts: the former was in pride, when the Jews through wantonness and abundance began to be insolent against God, thus they profaned the glory with which they had been adorned. But another pollution is also added, namely, that they made their idols of gold and silver, and offered to them gifts and sacrifices: as God complains in Hosea, (Ho 2:8,) that they converted whatever he had conferred upon them into impious worship. I had given, said he, my corn, and wine, and oil: but they adorned their idols: this was forsooth their thanksgiving, that blind to my liberality, they offered sacrifices to their idols of my corn and oil and wine. Of which matter Ezekiel discourses more fully in Ezekiel 16. But he now says: that they made images of their abominations out of that glory by which he had distinguished them And at the end of the verse he confirms what we have lately seen: wherefore, says he, I will appoint it, namely, that beauty, to them for a castaway We see the same sentiment repeated which he had used before: but he here relates the reasons why the Jews should disregard their gold and silver in the day of God’s wrath, since they had unworthily defiled these gifts of God in which his grace and paternal favor shone forth. I will make, therefore says he, their gold or beauty as a castaway: he had said the same thing before, but had not yet expressed the reason of God’s wrath. It follows —
21. And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it.
21. Et ponam 165 ipsum in manum alienorum ad direptionem, et impiorum terrae ad spoliationem, et profanabunt ipsum.
I have said that I do not approve of twisting these words to the sanctuary, as some interpreters do. Hence I do not doubt that the Prophet still speaks of the people. He changed indeed the number in the former verse, for at the beginning he had used the singular number: now he returns again to the singular number, and designates the people. I will deliver it, says he, into the hand of strangers. This was more severe than if they had been oppressed by any domestic tyranny: nor do I doubt that by strangers the Prophet signifies remote and barbarous nations, as we know that those with whom we have no communication are more savage against us. First, therefore, he says, they shall be the slaves of strangers; he adds, the impious of the earth: he means that their enemies should be so cruel and wicked, that no pity or equity was to be expected from them. The sum is, that God’s wrath would be terrible since he had borne the iniquities of the people so long. Hence we gather that wicked and abandoned men are God’s scourges, and are governed by his will and hand. Since it is so, we gather that God so works by them that he is pure from all alliance with their faults, because he so exercises his judgments by means of them, that he appears without blame with regard to them; but they are condemned deservedly, because either their own avarice or ambition, or other lusts destroy them. I shall give them therefore into the hands of strangers to destroy them: then, to the wicked of the earth for a prey, and they shall profane them By this word interpreters have been induced to take this verse with reference to the sanctuary. But we know that חלל, chelel, is taken in another sense — to slay. This word therefore may be explained, that there shall be a general slaughter of the people: because the enemies not content with the booty and spoil, shall also slay the captives when they have obtained the victory. But I willingly retain the sense “profane,” which means the same as “render vile,” because the Prophet seems to me to allude to all kinds of abuse, as when we do not consider for what purpose things are intended, but rashly and thoughtlessly, contemptuously, and even insultingly dissipate them. It means therefore that such should be the insolence of their enemies, that they should waste and lay in ruins not only the people’s substance, but also their persons: although this may be here referred to the substance itself: for a robber is said to prey upon a man when he takes away whatever he has and leaves him naked: in this sense we may conveniently explain what the Prophet now says. But that simple explanation satisfies me, namely, that the enemy shall so disperse the people generally, that there shall be no difference. It follows —
22. My face will I turn also from them, and they shall pollute my secret place: for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it.
22. Et avertam faciem meam ab ipsis, et profanabunt absconditum meum: et ingredientur in illud perruptores, 166 et profanabunt illud.
As to the beginning of the verse there is no ambiguity, for God pronounces that the Jews would be miserable, because he would avert his face from them For in this was situated their happiness, that God, as he had promised, would regard their safety. As long, therefore, as God deigned to look upon them, their safety was certain, so that there was no fear of danger. But when he no longer cared for them, these wretched ones were exposed to all calamities; hence they are said to be deprived of all protection, when alienated from God. This, then, is one clause. As to what follows, expositors interpret it of the sanctuary; and I do not greatly object to this, if any one approves of this sense, but I take it in a wider sense. For God in my view calls the land his hidden place, which was safe under his protection. For he says, that he had extended wings, under which he could hide the people, (Ex 19:4;) and David prays that God would receive him within the hidden place of his tabernacle. (Ps 27:5.) Since, therefore, the people was protected by the power of God, the land is deservedly called God’s hidden place, as an asylum, and it will be proper so to translate it. Devastators, therefore, shall profane my asylum, because they shall enter in there, and shall profane it. He repeats the same word. Those who take it for the sanctuary restrict it to the holy of holies, for so they call the shrine or oracle whence the answers were given; and they call it an oracle, not from praying, but because they enquired there of secret things. But as I have said, that seems to be forced, though I will not quarrel with it, but show what I like better. The meaning is, however God had spared the Jews for a long time, nay, had them hidden, as it were, under his wings, and the land was as it were a sacred asylum, since they were so hidden that they felt no injury from foreign enemies: yet this should profit them nothing, because God would throw down all bulwarks, and give easy access to their enemies, so that they might break through, and then profane and confuse all things. It follows —
23. Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.
23. Fac cathenam: quia terra repleta est judicio sanguinum, et urbs repleta est violentia.
Interpreters refer the Prophet’s being ordered to make a chain to the captivity; for we know that captives are accustomed to be bound with chains and fetters, or manacles. Hence they explain it that God threatens the people with exile. But the Spirit seems rather to allude to criminals, who plead their cause in chains. For the Jews had long reveled in their vices, and the absence of punishment had rendered them very audacious. Now the Prophet says, the time had come in which they were to be brought to the tribunal of God, and there to be dealt with most justly as criminals. Since, therefore, they bound criminals with chains, that they might plead their cause ignominiously — criminals, I say, who were already, as it were, half condemned; hence the Prophet is ordered to make a chain, so that not only the people should be called upon to render all account of their wickedness, but should also be drawn, whether they wished it or not, to God’s judgment-seat. And he explains himself when he says, since the land is full of the judgment of bloods The Hebrews call judgment of bloods the material of death, when the cause is capital, and the criminal is so convicted that he cannot escape final punishment; so any capital conviction is called a judgment of blood. He says, therefore, the earth is full of a judgment of bloods, that is, is guilty of so many crimes, that it cannot escape the final vengeance. And afterwards he adds the city, which, in the general corruption of the land, ought to retain something of its purity; but he says, the city also is so full of violence, under which word are doubtless embraced all unjust oppressions — rapines, pillage, unlawful gains, robberies, and whatever opposes justice and equity. The result is, that the people’s impiety and wickedness had come to such a pitch, that they were no longer endurable by God; and hence God ascends his tribunal to exact punishment from them; and this is the chain of which he speaks. It follows —
24. Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled.
24. Et venire faciam improbos gentium, 167 et possidebunt domos eorum: et cessare faciam superbiam fortium, et polluentur sanctuaria ipsorum.
He repeats what he had said, that enemies would come who should be ministers of God’s vengeance. And again we learn from this place, that even the impious are impelled by the hand and secret direction of God, so that they cannot move a finger but by his will. He had formerly said that he would give the Jews into the hands of strangers; but what now? I will cause them to come, says he, as if he would stretch out his hand to them, and induce them. We see, therefore, that God holds the impious under his guidance, as it were, for executing his judgments; but we must consider the difference which I have lately laid down; for God so works by them, as still to have nothing in common with them. For they are carried on by a depraved impulse; but God has a method, wonderful and incomprehensible by us, which impels them hither and thither, so that he does not involve himself in any alliance with their fault. For he calls them the perverse nation, that the Jews might know that the last slaughter was approaching, since they should have to do with the most cruel enemies. He says, shall possess their homes, and because the pride of the people might seem an obstacle to God’s exacting the deserved penalty, therefore he adds, I will make the pride of the powerful to cease, says he; for as long as the Jews were swollen with haughtiness and self-confidence, the Prophet could not profit them at all. Therefore he says, that God would make their haughtiness to cease, by which they were vainly puffed up as long as God sustained or bore with them. At length he adds, their sanctuaries shall be polluted This passage confirms the opinion which I formerly approved. For Ezekiel speaks of the pollution of the sanctuary as of a new thing. For he here draws away from them the vain hope by which they deceived themselves, when they boasted that they dwelt under God’s guardianship, since the temple protected themselves and the city. Jeremiah reproves them for trusting in lying words, while they declare that they have the Lord’s temple —
“The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord.” (Jer 7:4.)
Our Prophet does not speak openly, but he doubtless shows that their security was false, while they oppose the temple to God, as if the temple were a shield to repel his vengeance. God, indeed, dwelt in the temple, but this condition was added, that he was to be purely worshipped there. But when the temple was polluted, God departed from it, as we shall afterwards see. For this reason the Prophet says, the enemies should come who should pollute and contaminate the holy places of the people Hitherto he had not spoken of the temple, but he now adds, the temple, that the Jews should not rashly boast in the name of God, as if they held him fixed to themselves. It follows —
25. Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.
25. Excidium venit, et quaerent pacem et non. 168
He confirms the same doctrine. He says therefore, destruction is come He now adds, there shall be no peace This confirmation was not in vain. For men always hope they shall obtain some advantage by turning their backs; hence they seize on hiding-places whence God draws them into light. Then they form for themselves many hopes of safety when God holds them bound down. Since, therefore, men are so slippery, and, by catching at refuges, think to elude God and his judgments, the Prophet says, though they seek peace they shall find none, that they may not doubt about that destruction and cutting off which he mentions. It follows —
26. Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.
26. Calamitas super calamitatem veniet, et rumor super rumorem erit: et quærent visionem a propheta, 169 et lex transibit 170 sacerdote, et concilium a senibus.
The Prophet here explains more at length the nature of that slaughter of which he was a herald. And again he deprives the Jews of all ground for hope, and shows that they should look around on all sides in vain, because God would deprive them of all help. This is the meaning of the passage. Hence he says, calamities shall come, and that some shall follow one portion, and others another. In this way he advises the Jews that they should catch at security in vain, as if, at the passing away of one evil, they were already free. For the wicked as soon as God with-draws his hand, think themselves escaped from all trouble, and so despise God more carelessly: for they fancy that God has done with them just like a debtor who has paid a small sum to his creditor, and thus has obtained a relaxation, is careless; so the reprobate harden themselves when God grants them some respite: for they think that they have an agreement with him that he should not trouble them more. But the Prophet denounces that there would be such a heap of evils that one calamity should have many companions, because God would not cease to add evils to evils. He adds, rumor upon rumor This is referred to the object of fear, because rumors of wars and of the cruelty of enemies would be spread abroad. Since, therefore, the Jews are deaf and stupid, the Prophet announces that God would continue exercising his vengeance, so that one calamity should be only the forerunner of another, until they should perish a hundred times rather than that God would suffer them to escape with impunity.
Afterwards he adds, they shall seek a vision Here the Prophet again shows that the Jews should be stripped bare of every help. For although they boldly despised God, yet we know that they wickedly abused his name. For they so threw aside all modesty that. they did not hesitate to ridicule God and all his gifts. Hence their last refuge in their calamities was to seek a vision, that is, to enquire what God was about to do. Hence he says, they shall seek a vision from the Prophet. It seems to me that the expression is too abrupt, that they shall seek a vision from a Prophet, because nothing is added except concerning the priest and elders. מ is sometimes taken negatively when words are united: I know not whether the language will properly bear our saying, they shall seek a vision, but there shall be no Prophet And yet the sense would flow better, if Ezekiel denied there should be any Prophets: for this is a sign of desertion, when no consolation occurs which assists us in our wars. Thus the Church complains in the Psalms, (Ps 76:9,) that it was reduced to the greatest straits, and that no Prophet appeared: we do not see our signs, nor is there a Prophet among us. And, in truth, Ezekiel meant that the Jews would seek a Prophet in vain, because God would take away that gift from them. As far then as the sense is concerned there is no ambiguity, though the diction is, as I have said, rather obscure. The meaning is, when they think God so bound to them that he will never deprive them of visions which are prepared for their comfort, yet they are already deprived of this good, and since they are destitute nothing remains except that utter destruction which he has mentioned. We must leave the rest for to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou hast hitherto deigned to guard us safely by thy power, and hast driven away so many violent assaults from us, and turned away so many perverse counsels of our enemies, and snatched us from numberless evils, — grant that we may so value thy benefits towards us that we may be grateful in return, and so devote ourselves obediently to thee, that thy holy name may be glorified through our whole life in thy only-begotten Son our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture twenty first.
We yesterday began to expound the Prophet’s language when he denounced what the Jews little feared, that a time would come when God would deprive them of their Prophets. Since therefore God was accustomed to rule his people by counselors, and priests, and prophets, hence he says, counsel should perish from the elders, and the law from the priests. As to the Prophets, he says, the Jews would enquire of them in vain the will of God. The result is, since God always governed his people, there would be miserable dispersion, because no more teaching should shine forth, but they would be immersed in the darkness of ignorance. But this was the most grievous threat, because in extreme evils it is no common consolation to have God shining upon us by his word. For by this we are stirred up to patience, then our sorrows are mitigated when we taste some hope of pardon, and God bears witness that he will be propitious to us. But when this comfort is withdrawn, we are easily overwhelmed by even the smallest evils. Yet God sustains us by his word in the deepest afflictions as upon a vast sea, and as long as his teaching remains to us we have as it were a chart of guidance which will bring us safely into harbor. But when God nowhere appears, the lightest trial buries us in the deepest abyss. So this was the sign of God’s fearful vengeance when the gift of prophecy was extinct among the Jews, and the priests and elders had no counsel. For we know how mightily they boasted that were powerful in wisdom. For while Jeremiah blames them, (Jer 18:18,) we see that they rose up against him, relying on this confidence, that the law could not pass away from the priests, nor prudence from the wise men and counselors, nor yet a vision or utterance from the prophets. “Come ye, let us take counsel against Jeremiah, and let us strike him with the tongue; for counsel shall not perish,” etc. Being excited by this diabolical fury they dared to raise their crests against God, and boldly claimed for themselves what God here denounces that he would take from them: for the vision they asserted must remain with the prophets and the teaching of the law with the priests. But we see that God averts that perverse boasting when he denounces that there should be no counsel to the old men, no teaching with the priests, and no vision among the prophets. And hence also we gather that we can this day refute the Papists by the same argument. For in the strength of what weapons do they so proudly rage against the clear and certain doctrine of the law and the gospel? Namely, that they are the representative Church, as if they openly declared to God that his doctrine could not possibly perish from their priests. I omit to notice that this priesthood is not from God, since priests are created for sacrificing Christ, and that without any command. But suppose we grant them to be ordinary pastors of the Church, of what advantage is that title when God deprived of all light of doctrine the Levitical priests, who were created by him and not by human suffrages?
Let us learn therefore from this passage, that the gift of prophecy and all teaching is God’s peculiar gift: let us learn that this gift is withdrawn when God wishes to exact punishment for man’s ingratitude. For if the doctrine is received less reverently than becomes us, and God himself is despised, as is often the case, he throws men into darkness, and causes them to err through blindness, and deprives them of the least spark of light. when the priests themselves forget their office God infatuates them, as we see has happened in the Papacy. Nothing is more to be despised than those beasts, and yet they claim to themselves the spirit of revelation. But God repays them the just reward of their madness, because they have ruled tyrannically, and so have utterly abused the sacred name of pastors: then because they have mingled their fictions with the law and the gospel, and so have corrupted all purity of doctrine by their comments. God therefore has revenged their pride, as we see; but when God shows us the way of life by his servants, and shines upon us with heavenly doctrine, let us not blindly wander in darkness, let us know that this inestimable treasure is not to be despised, lest we should be deprived of it. It follows —
27. The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
27. Rex lugebit, et princeps induetur desolatione: 171 et manus populi terrae turbabuntur: secundum vias ipsorum faciam iis, et pro judiciis ipsorum judicabo ipsos, et cognoscent quod ego Iehovah.
In this verse the Prophet affirms that God’s vengeance should be so common that it should alight equally upon the highest and the lowest. He begins with the king, then he descends to his counselors, then he comprehends the whole people. The king shall lament, he says. But it is his duty to give life to others, and then to devise a remedy for all evils; but when the king has nothing left but grief and sorrow, it is a sign of despair. He metaphorically clothes the elders in a garment of desolation. We know that a garment has two uses; since it fortifies us as a defense against the cold, and then it hides whatever is dishonorable in us. In the opposite sense the Prophet says, shame shall be as a garment to the elders, and then he goes down to the common people. At the same time, he assigns the reason, I, says he, will do to them according to their ways מ is here taken causally, according to their ways, therefore, will I do unto them: and in the same sense he adds, in their judgment will I judge you The word “judgment” is used peculiarly here, and contrary to its ordinary sense. For judgment means the same as righteousness; but it is often transferred to transgressions, as if he had said, they shall feel me a just judge though I avenge their sins. Hence their judgments mean perverse abuses, and comprehend not only superstitions but all kinds of iniquities. By these words God intimates that though he should punish the Jews severely, yet it would not be cruelty, because they deserved such treatment. A confirmation follows in the next vision. The vision is, indeed, separate, but as the Prophet had just asserted in God’s name that the punishment was just under which the Jews would suffer, he confirms this doctrine by the vision which follows, when he was seized by the Spirit of God and transferred to Jerusalem, where he saw the temple filled with various abominations; because there was no corner which they had not defiled and violated with their idols. But let us come to the words.
Some understand אחר, acher, and one evil more. — Calvin.
Meaning — the duration of the sinful pleasure is worth the price paid for it.
Or sound; some translate “of cutting off,” I know not why — Calvin.
Some translate “glory,” as if it had been הד, hed. — Calvin.
Or, “has arisen ” — Calvin.
Or, “to the thing sold.” — Calvin.
That is, “although they are yet alive.” — Calvin.
Or, “shall not strengthen his life.” — Calvin.
Or, “Blow ye the trumpet, and make ready, as others translate, in the imperative mood, but I prefer the perfect tense — they have blown and prepared all things.” — Calvin.
That is, “those who are to escape of them shall escape.” — Calvin.
Or, “murmuring or shouting ” — Calvin.
That is, “each one ” — Calvin.
A mark of similitude must be understood — shall flow like water; for here ‘to go’ is taken for ‘to flow.’
Or, “countenance.” — Calvin.
Or, “shame.” — Calvin.
Some translate, “as an unclean thing.” — Calvin.
Or, “I have appointed to them ” — Calvin.
Or, “I will deliver.” — Calvin.
Or, “devastators.” — Calvin.
That is, “the wicked and perverse among the Gentiles.” — Calvin.
That is, “there shall be no peace.” — Calvin.
Or, “since there is no prophet.” — Calvin.
That is, “shall vanish away.” — Calvin.
Or, “laying waste.” — Calvin.