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message, and concern for the desolations of Israel, and warmed with the favour that God had shown me : but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me; urging and empowering me to execute my commission.
T is desirable that the spirit of God should accompany the word; and we have reason to expect it will if we seek it. Ezekiel was commanded to stand up and hear, and the spirit set him upon his feet. The spirit of God is the source of all our strength and ability, and will enable us to perform what he commands us to do, if we attempt it. Then we may expect that God will speak to our souls, when we are ready to do whatever he commands. Let us therefore hear his word with reverence and a resolution to comply with it; and then he will teach us to profit by it.
2. God's prophets have need of great diligence, courage, and patience, in delivering their messages to men. It is their duty to study the scriptures, to receive and digest them; to turn them first into the nourishment of their own souls, then to explain and inculcate them faithfully and boldly. They will find much difficulty in this work; many rebellious persons among those whom they are to address, who will give them a worse reception than infidels, and try every method to frighten and discourage them. But they must do their duty, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is no wonder that there are many who will not hear them, for they will not hear God himself. But their obedience to difficult commands, and faithful perseverance in their duty, will be attended with such comfort, as will make them abundant amends for their labours, notwithstanding the bitterness and reproach they meet with.
3. How detestable is the character of Israel, as here described, and how careful should we be to avoid it. All who despise the word of God, and will not regard what he says, are really against him; and they are prejudiced against ministers, and do not heed what they say, because they are prejudiced against God and his law. But at length they shall know, to their confusion, that God hath sent them; that they spake in his name, and by his authority; and shall find what a dreadful thing it is to despise his messengers. The word of God, like the prophet's roll, is full of lamentation and mourning and wo, against those who make light of it. May we act a contrary part; hear what God saith, by his word and ministers; esteem his word more than our necessary food, receive it with appetite, meditate upon it, and digest it. Thus shall we be nourished up in the word and doctrine, and at length be permitted to see and enjoy the glory of the Lord in his heavenly place. Amen.
CHAP. III. 15, to the end.
The prophet's glorious vision and general commission we have had before; he is here shown the importance of being faithful; has another vision, and further directions.
HEN I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, a
same river, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days; observing their disposition, and waiting for a revelation from God, and I was astonished at their pride and corruption, 16 and the terrible judgments coming upon the nation. And it came to pass at the end of seven days; probably on their sab17 bath, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me; I appoint thee a centinel to foresee and 18 foretell dangers. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked [man] shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand; he shall die, shall be punished for his sins; the neglect of the prophet shall not be any excuse for him, since he had understanding and warning other ways; but the prophet shall be accountable for the loss of his soul, as a man 19 is for a murder to which he is accessary. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast deliv20 ered thy soul; art clear from guilt. Again, When a righteous [man] doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, a temptation to sin, and particularly to idolatry, which he might have resisted, he shall die because, or, although thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; his former righteousness shall not avert the punishment; but his blood will I re21 quire at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the righteous [man,] that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.
And the hand of the LORD was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee, the place where thou art, not being so proper
• The prophets are often so represented, that foreseeing the evil coming on many, they might warn them of their danger and duty. They were often sent to particular persons; but ministers now can only give general warnings; except where there is sient information to ground a particular address upon
23 for the discoveries now to be made unto thee.
Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of 24 Chebar: and I fell on my face. Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house; probably to de25 note the siege of Jerusalem. But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shalt bind thee with them, 26 and thou shalt not go out among them :* And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover; that is, for some space of time I will withhold revelations from thee: for they 27 [are] a rebellious house. But when I speak with thee, that is, give thee a commission, and I will open thy mouth, thou shalt have free liberty to speak, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear at his peril: for they [are] a rebellious house; and this is the last warning I will give them.
ERE is a description of the difficulty and importance of the ministerial office; it is that of watchmen; a necessary, but a laborious and dangerous office. To observe the state of their people, to give them plain and faithful notice of their danger and duty, whether they be pleased or displeased; this is hard work; the guilty will blame them, if they are faithful, and God will condemn them if they are unfaithful. It will be a satisfaction to them to have done their duty and delivered their own souls; and in many cases this is all the satisfaction they must expect. With this awful passage before them,
2. Ministers should solemnly warn the wicked in the name of God. He saith, the wicked in general shall die in their iniquity. He saith to every wicked man, without distinction, Thou shalt surely die, if thou turnest not from the wickedness of thy way and heart. Yet there is room for repentance; it is intimated, that if he turn, he shall live. This warning I give you; and were I to neglect to do this, it would be no excuse for your wickedness; you will die notwithstanding; for your consciences warn you, the providences of God warn you: therefore turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel?
3. Ministers should warn the righteous against apostacy. It is here plainly supposed, that a righteous man may turn from his righteousness and practise iniquity; and therefore they have great need to be cautious and watchful. Men first leave the
Mr. Henry interprets this, that he should be bound as a criminal or a madman, a disturber of the public peace; but it may be rendered, bonds shall be upon thee;' and may be explained by the next verse.
paths of righteousness, and then commit iniquity; thus they provoke God to lay a stumbling block in their way; to withhold restraining grace, and give them up to their own hearts' lusts. By this means they will lose what they have wrought, and perish in their iniquities; their knowledge, professions, learning, and enjoyments, will but aggravate their condemnation. Take heed therefore, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.
4. Frequent retirement from the world is necessary, in order to our enjoying communion with God. The prophet was to leave his countrymen, and retire into the plain, where God promised to talk with him; to shut up himself in his house, where God visited him. Thus ministers must find time, much time, for study, and give themselves to reading, meditation, and prayer, that they may be fitted for public worship: and their friends who hinder them, by expecting long and unnecessary visits, injure both their ministers, their fellow christians, and themselves. It is the duty of all so to contrive their affairs, that they may have time for religious retirement. Those who have a great deal of worldly business, (more than they need have if they were not earthly minded,) and those who pursue a round of visiting and amusement, can enjoy but little of God, and the comforts of religion; and they lose the noblest pleasures that a rational creature can enjoy upon earth.
5. See how easily and justly God can punish men for their contempt of his word and ministers. The people slighted the prophet and his message, and therefore God silenced him for a while, that he should not reprove them. This intimates, that reproof is adapted to make men better; but that when it has often been given in vain, it is just in God to withhold it. The wicked look upon this as a privilege; but, in the judgment of God, it is a calamity and a punishment. God may see fit to remove or silence those faithful ministers whose services are despised and neglected. And if all their labours and pains are thrown away upon such an insensible people, he may resolve to let them alone, and deprive them of the best means of improvement and happiness. Upon the whole, this is the comfort of faithful ministers, that they are unto God a sweet savour in them that perish, and in them that are saved: to the former they are a savour of death, and to the latter of life unto life: and who is sufficient for these things?
The prophets taught by actions as well as by words; thus Ezekiel delineates Jerusalem, and lays siege to it, as a type of the manner in which the Chaldean army should surround that city. The inhabitants there encouraged the captives to hope for a return; and they did hope for it, as long as Jerusalem was safe; and began to repent of their submitting to the Babylonians. But this vision was designed to overthrow their confidence. I call it a vision, for I have no doubt but it passed in vision, and was afterwards rehearsed to the captives; or if it happened while the prophet was dumb, it was written down and communicated to them.
HOU also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, [even] Je rusalem; draw a picture of a besieged city and enemies sur2 rounding it with warlike engines: And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set [battering] rams against it 3 round about. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, or plate, to show the violence of the attack made by the Chaldeans, and the obstinate resistance of the Jews, and set it [for] a wall of iron between thee and the city and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This [shall be] a sign to the house of Israel.
Lie thou upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: [according] to the number of days 5 that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days, or years, a day being put for a year: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have ap 7 pointed thee each day for a year. Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, look with a stern and angry countenance, and thine arm [shall be] uncovered, to de
By lying in this posture in his own house, some part of every day for three hundred and ninety days, he was to represent how long God would bear with them; or presignify the punishment they should bear for so long iniquity; there being just three hundred and ninety years from the time of Jeroboam's setting up the calves in Dan and Bethel, to the migration of the last gleanings of those tribes in the captivity of Zedekiah: and as their sins and provocations continued so many years, so it seems by this place that the siege of Jerusalem continued about so many days; for to this also do these days refer, as appears by v. 9.
+ It being forty years from the time their covenant was renewed in Josiah's reign, (which was a great aggravation of their sins) to their destruction by the Chaldeans; that is, three hundred and ninety years for the whole house of Israel, the twelve tribes, and forty more for the house of Judah. It is very remarkable that the siege lasted about three hundred and ninety days. It continued indeed for eighteen months, but was raised for five months, by the Egyptians coming to their help; so that there was thirteen months close siege.