Study of the Prophets: Ezekiel Chapter 11

Ezekiel Chapter 11
1 Moreover the spirit lifted me up and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD’S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.

The prophet was brought, in vision, to the gate of the temple where these 25 princes sat in council upon the present affairs of the city: The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the Lord’s house and behold twenty-five men were there. It should seem, these twenty-five men were not the same as those twenty-five whom we saw at the door of the temple, worshipping towards the east (ch. 8:16); those seem to have been priests or Levites, for they were between the porch and the altar, but these were princes sitting in the gate of the Lord’s house, to try cases (Jer. 26:10), and here they are charged, not with corruptions in worship, but with mal-administration in the government. Two of them are named, because they were the most active leading men, and perhaps because the prophet knew them, though he had been some years absent—Pelatiah and Jaazaniah, not the same as mentioned ch. 8:11, for he was the son of Shaphan, this is the son of Azur. Jerusalem was divided into twenty-four wards, and that these were the governors or aldermen of those wards, with their mayor or president. Now observe,
1. The general character which God gives of these men to the prophet

2 Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:

(v. 2): “These are the men that devise mischief; under pretense of protecting public safety they harden people in their sins, and throw off theirs and the populace’s fear of God’s judgement which they are threatened with by the prophets; they gave wicked counsel in this city, counselling them to restrain and silence the prophets, to rebel against the king of Babylon, and to resolve upon holding the city out to the last extremity.’’ It is bad with a people when the things that belong to their peace are hidden from the eyes of those who are entrusted with their security. I might add be they spiritual or political leaders. G-d knows at whose door to lay it, and, in the day of discovery and recompense, will be sure to lay it at the right door, and will say, These are the men that devised it, though they are great men, and pass for wise men they now must be brought to justice. Where Satan cannot persuade men to look upon the judgement to come as a thing doubtful and uncertain, he gains his point by persuading them to look upon it as a thing at a distance, so that it loses its force: if it be sure, yet it is not near; whereas, in truth, the Judge stands before the door. Now, if the destruction is not near, they conclude, Let us build houses; let us count upon a continuance, for this city is the cauldron and we are the flesh. This seems to be a proverbial expression, signifying no more than is implied, “We are as safe in this city as flesh in a boiling pot; the walls of the city shall be to us as walls of brass, and shall receive no more damage from the besiegers about it than the cauldron does from the fire under it. Those that think to force us out of our city into captivity shall find it to be as much at their peril as it would be to take the flesh out of a boiling pot with their hands.’’ This appears to be the meaning of it, by the answer God gives to it (v. 9): “I will bring you out of the midst of the city, where you think yourselves safe, and then it will appear (v. 11) that this is not your cauldron, neither are you the flesh.’’ Perhaps it has a particular reference to the flesh of the peace-offerings, which was a great offence for the priests themselves to take out of the cauldron while it was in seething (as we find 1 Sam. 2:13, 14), and then it intimates that they thought they were the more secure because Jerusalem was the holy city, and they thought themselves a holy people in it, not to be meddled with. Some think this was a “take off” of Jeremiah, who in one of his first visions saw Jerusalem represented by a seething pot, Jer. 1:13. “Now,” ‘say they, in a way of jest and ridicule,’ “if it be a seething pot, we are as the flesh in it, and who dares meddle with us?” In this way they continued mocking the messengers of the Lord, even while they suffered for so doing; but be you not mockers, lest your bands be made strong. There are hearts who indeed are made more secure by those words of God which were designed for warning to them because they do not believe them or feel they are for another.

3 Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the cauldron, and we be the flesh.

The particular charge exhibited against them in proof of this character is that they are indicted for the very words spoken at their council-board, which he that stands in the congregation of the mighty would take cognizance of (v. 3); they said to this effect, “It is not near; the destruction of our city, that has been so often threatened by the prophets, is not near, not so near as they talk of.’’ They are at such enmity to reformation that they cannot but conclude it will come at last; but they have such an opinion of God’s patience (though they have long abused it) that they are willing to hope it will not come this great while.

4 Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.
5 And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.

The method taken to awaken them out of their security follows. One would think that the providence of God which related to them were enough to startle them; but, to help them to understand and improve those, the word of God is sent to them to give them warning personally (v. 4): Therefore prophesy against them, and try to undeceive them; prophesy, O son of man! upon these dead and dry bones. You know is this day of “feel good,” “non-accountability religion” the greatest kindness ministers can do to secure sinners is to preach against them, and to show them their misery and danger, even though they are not willing to see. Ministers then act most for them when we appear most against them. But the prophet, being at a loss of what to say to men that were hardened in sin, and stood in defiance to the judgments of God, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him, to make him full of power and courage, and said unto him, Speak. When sinners are flattering themselves into their own ruin it is time to speak, and to tell them that they shall have no peace if they go on. Ministers are sometimes to bashful and timid or to concerned about their own welfare and position, and so much at a loss, that they must compelled even against their will to speak, and to speak boldly. G-d commands the prophet to speak and gives him instructions of what to say; and he must address himself to them as the house of Israel (v. 5), for not the princes only, but all the people, were concerned to know the truth, to know the worst of it. They are the house of Israel, and therefore the God of Israel is concerned, in kindness to them, to give them warning; and they are concerned in duty to him to take the warning. And what is it that the must say to them in God’s name?
1. Let them know that the God of heaven takes notice of the vain confidences with which they support themselves (v. 5): “I know the things which come into your minds every one of them, what secret reasons you have for these resolutions, and what you aim at in putting so good a face upon a matter you know to be bad.” God perfectly knows not only the things that come out of our mouths, but the things that come into our minds, not only all we say, but all we think; even those thoughts that are most suddenly darted into our minds, and that as suddenly slip out of them again, so that we ourselves are scarcely aware of them, yet G-d knows them all. He knows us better than we know ourselves; he understands our thoughts afar off. The consideration of this should oblige us to keep our hearts with all diligence, that no vain thoughts come into them or lodge within them.
2. Let them know that those who advised the people to stand it out should be accounted before God the murderers of all who had fallen, or should yet fall, in Jerusalem, by the sword of the Chaldeans; and those slain were the only ones that should remain in the city, as the flesh in the cauldron.

6 Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain.

“You have multiplied your slain in the city, not only those whom you have by the sword of justice unjustly put to death under color of law, but those whom you have by your willfulness and pride unwisely exposed to the sword of war, though you were told by the prophets that you should certainly go by the worst. You, with your stubborn attitudes, have filled the streets of Jerusalem with the slain,’’

7 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the cauldron: but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it.

Those who are either unrighteous or imprudent in beginning or carrying on a war bring upon themselves a great deal of the guilt of blood; and those who are slain in the battles or sieges which they, by such a reasonable peace as the war aimed at, might have prevented, will be called their slain. Now these slain are the only flesh that shall be left in this cauldron, v. 7. There shall none remain to keep possession of the city but those that are buried in it. There shall be no inhabitants of Jerusalem but the inhabitants of the graves there, no freemen of the city but the free among the dead.

8 Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord GOD.
9 And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you.

Let them know that, how impregnable they thought their city to be, they should be forced out of it, either driven to flight or dragged into captivity: I will bring you forth out of the midst of it, whether you will or no, v. 7, 9. They had provoked God to forsake the city, and thought they should do well enough by their own policy and strength when he was gone; but God will make them know that there is no peace to those that have left their God. If they have by their sins driven God from his house, he will soon by his judgments drive them from theirs; and it will be found that those are least safe that are most secure: “This city shall not be your cauldron, neither shall you be the flesh; you shall not soak away in it as you promise yourselves, and die in your nest; you think yourself safe in the midst thereof, but you shall not be long there.’’ 4. Let them know that when God has got them out of the midst of Jerusalem; he will pursue them with his judgments wherever he finds them, the judgments which they thought to shelter themselves from by keeping close in Jerusalem.

10 Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
11 This city shall not be your cauldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; but I will judge you in the border of Israel:

They feared the sword if they should go out to the Chaldeans, and therefore would abide in their cauldron, but, says God, I will bring a sword upon you (v. 8) and you shall fall by the sword, v. 10. Note, The fear of the wicked shall come upon him. And there is no fence against the judgments of God when they come with commission, no, not in walls of brass. They were afraid of trusting to the mercy of strangers. “But,’’ says God, “I will deliver you into the hands of strangers, whose resentments you shall feel, since you were not willing to lie at their mercy.’’ See Jer. 38:17, 18. They thought to escape the judgments of God, but God says that he will execute judgments upon them; and whereas they resolved, if they must be judged, that it should be in Jerusalem, God tells them (v. 10 and again v. 11) that he will judge them in the borders of Israel, which was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar slew all the nobles of Judah at Riblah in the land of Hamath, on the utmost border of the land of Canaan. Note, Those who have taken ever so deep root in the place where they live cannot be sure that in that place they shall die. 5. Let them know that all this is the due punishment of their sin, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God against them: “You shall know that I am the Lord,” v. 10 and again v. 12;” You will die by the sword; I will judge you at the border of Israel; and you will know that I am Adonai. This city will not be your cooking pot, but you will be the meat in it- I will judge you at Israel’s frontier: and you will know that I am Adonai.”

12 And ye shall know that I am the LORD: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.

Those who would not be taught by his word what a hatred he has to sin, and what a fearful thing it is for impenitent sinners to fall into his hands, YHVH Elohim says: I will execute judgments, and then you shall know that I am the Lord, for the Lord is known by the judgments which he executes upon those that have not walked in his statutes. Hereby it is known that he made the law, because he punishes the breach of it. I will execute judgments among you (says God) because you have not executed my judgments, v. 12.

13 And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?

The executing of the judgments of G-d’s Word by us, is a uniform steady course of obedience to his law. It is the only way to prevent the executing of the judgments of his hand upon us in our ruin and confusion. One way or the other G-dd’s judgments will be executed; the law will take place either in its precept or in its penalty. If we do not give honor to G-d by honoring and obeying His Word as he has commanded, he will get him honor upon us by executing his judgments as he has threatened; and thus we shall know that he is the Lord, the sovereign Lord of all, that will not be mocked. And observe, When they cast off G-d’s statutes, and walked not in them, they did after the manners of the heathen that were round about them, and introduced into their worship all their impure, ridiculous, and idolatrous usages. When men leave the settled rule of divine institutions, they wander endlessly, aimlessly and blindly. G-d ordained His commandments so that we and they should keep God’s ordinances, that they might not commit the abominable customs of the heathen, Lev. 18:30.
G-d’s Word here is followed immediately followed by divine action, v. 13. Here we may observe,
With what power Ezekiel prophesied, or, rather, what a divine power went along with it: It came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died.

Ezekiel 11-Part two
14 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 15 Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD: unto us is this land given in possession. 16 Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. 17 Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.

Prophecy was designed to exalt every valley as well as to bring low every mountain and hill (Isa. 40:4), and prophets were to speak not only conviction to the presumptuous and secure, but comfort to the despised and despondent that trembled at God’s word. The prophet Ezekiel, having earlier in this chapter received instructions for the awakening of those that were at ease in Zion, is in these verses furnished with comfortable words for those that mourned in Babylon and by the rivers there sat weeping when they remembered Zion. Observe,
I. First we see how the captives were maligned and insulted by those who continued in Jerusalem, v. 15. God tells the prophet what the inhabitants of Jerusalem said of him and the rest of them that were already carried away to Babylon. God owned these exiles as good figs, and declared it was for their good that he had sent them into Babylon; but the inhabitants of Jerusalem abandoned them, supposing that they, the dispossessed were the sinners while they in fact were the greatest sinners of all that dwelt in Jerusalem.
1. We see how they are described: They are thy brethren (says God to the prophet), whom thou hast a concern and affection for; they are the men of thy kindred (the men of thy redemption), thy next of kin, to whom the right of redeeming the alienated possession belongs. but who are so far from being able to do it they have also gone into captivity. They are the whole house of Israel; God so accounts of them because they only have retained their integrity and are bettered by their captivity. They were not only of the same family and nation with Ezekiel, but of the same spirit; they were his hearers, and he had communion with them in holy ordinances; and perhaps upon that account they are called his brethren and the men of his kindred.
2. 2. How they were disowned by the inhabitants of Jerusalem; they said of them, Get you far from the Lord. Those that were at ease and proud themselves scorned their brethren that were humbled and under humbling Providence.
(1.) They cut them off from being members of their congregation. Because they had separated themselves from their rulers and in compliance with the will of God had surrendered themselves to the king of Babylon, they excommunicated them, and said, “Get you far from the Lord; we will have nothing to do with you.’’ Those that were superstitious were very willing to shake off those that were conscientious and were severe in their condemnation of them and sentences against them, as if they were forsaken and forgotten of the Lord and were cut off from the communion of the faithful.
(2.) (2.) They cut them off from being members of the commonwealth too, as if they had no longer any part or lot in the matter: “Unto us is this land given in possession, and you have forfeited your estates by surrendering to the king of Babylon, and we have thereby become entitled to them.’’ God takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the contempt, which those that are in prosperity put upon their brethren that are in affliction.
II. G-d makes gracious promises to these outcasts due to the insolent conduct of their brethren towards them. Those that hated them and cast them out said, Let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to their joy, Isa. 66:5. God states that His hand had gone out against them, those of Jerusalem, for their attitude toward their brethren.(v. 16): “It is true I have cast them far off among the heathen and scattered them among the countries; they look as if they were an abandoned people, and so mingled with the nations that they will be lost among them; but I have mercy in store for them.’’
Take notice here for G-d takes occasion from the contempts which are put upon his people to speak comfort to them, as David hoped G-d would reward him good for Shimei’s cursing. His time to support his people’s hopes is when their enemies are endeavoring to drive them to despair. Now God promises,
1. That he will make up to them the want of the temple and the privileges of it (v. 16): I will be to them as a little sanctuary, in the countries where they shall come. Those at Jerusalem have the temple, but without G-d; those in Babylon have G-d, though without the temple.
(1.) G-d will be a sanctuary to them; that is, a place of refuge; to him they shall flee, and in him they shall be safe, as he was that took hold on the horns of the altar. Or, rather, they shall have such communion with G-d in the land of their captivity as it was thought could be had nowhere but in the temple. They shall there see G-d’s power and his glory, as they used to see them in the sanctuary; they shall have the tokens of G-d’s presence with them, and his grace in their hearts shall sanctify their prayers and praises, as well as ever the altar sanctified the gift, so that they shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock.
(2.) He will be a little sanctuary, not seen or observed by their enemies, who looked with an evil and an envious eye upon that house at Jerusalem, which was high and great, 1 Ki. 9:8. They were but few and mean, and a little sanctuary was fittest for them. G-d regards the low estate of his people, and suits his favors to their circumstances. Observe the condescension of divine grace. The great G-d will be to his people a little sanctuary. Note, those that are deprived of the benefit of public ordinances, if it be not their own fault, may have the want of them abundantly made up in the immediate communications of divine grace and comforts.
2. That G-d would in due time put an end to their afflictions, bring them out of the land of their captivity, and settle them again, them or their children, in their own land (v. 17): “I will gather even you that are thus dispersed, thus despised, and given over for lost by your own countrymen; I will gather you from the people, distinguish you from those with whom you are mingled, deliver you from those by whom you are held captives, and assemble you in a body out of the countries where you have been scattered; you shall not come back one by one, but all together, which will make your return more honorable, safe, and comfortable; and then I will give you the land of Israel, which now your brethren look upon you as for ever shut out from.’’

Please Note, Men’s severe censures cannot cut us off from G-d’s gracious promises. There are many that will be found to have a place in the holy land whom uncharitable men, by their monopolies of it to themselves, had prohibited the rightful heirs from it. I will give you the land of Israel, give it to you again by a new grant, and they shall come thither. If there be any thing in the change of the person from you to them, it may signify the posterity of those to whom the promise is made. “You shall have the title as the patriarchs had, and those that come after shall have the possession.’’
3. That G-d by his grace would part between them and their sins, v. 18. Their captivity shall effectually cure them of their idolatry: When they come thither to their own land again, they shall take away all the detestable things thereof. Their idols, that had been their delectable things, should now be looked upon with detestation, not only the idols of Babylon, where they were captives, but the idols of Canaan, where they were natives; they should not only not worship them as they had done, but they should not suffer any monuments of them to remain: They shall take all the abominations thereof thence. It is in mercy that we return to a prosperous estate, when we return not to the sins and follies of that state. What have I to do any more with idols?
4. That G-d would powerfully dispose them to their duty; they shall not only cease to do evil, but they shall learn to do well, because there shall be not only an end of their troubles, but a return to their peace.

19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

(1.) G-d will plant good principles in them; he will make the tree good, v. 19. for G-d prepares all for the Kingdom whom he has prepared the Kingdom for. It is promised,
[1.] That G-d will give them one heart, a heart entire for the true G-d and not divided as it had been among many gods, a heart firmly fixed and resolved for G-d and not wavering, steady and uniform, and not inconstant with itself. One heart is a sincere and upright heart, its intentions of a piece with its professions.
[2.] That he will put a new spirit within them, a mind agreeable to the new circumstances into which G-d in his providence would bring them. All that are sanctified have a new spirit, quite different from what it was; they act from new principles, walk by new rules, and aim at new ends. A new name, or a new face, will not serve without a new spirit. If any man be in Messiah, he is a new creature.
[3.] That he will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, out of their corrupt nature. Their hearts shall no longer be, as they have been, dead and dry, and hard and heavy, as a stone, no longer incapable of bearing good fruit, so that the good seed is lost upon it, as it was on the stony ground.
[4.] That he will give them a heart of flesh, not dead or proud flesh, but living flesh; he will make their hearts sensible of spiritual pains and spiritual pleasures, will make them tender, and apt to receive impressions. This is G-d’s work, it is His gift, and His gift by promise; and wonderful and happy is the change wrought by it, from death to life. This is promised to those whom G-d would bring back to their own land; for this change of the condition of the heart must be brought about in all those that shall be brought to the better country, that is, the Kingdom of G-d.
(2.) Their practices shall be consistent with those principles: I will give them a new spirit, not that they may be able to discourse well of religion and to dispute for it, but that they may walk in my statues in their whole conversation or lifestyle, and keep my ordinances in all acts of religious worship, v. 20. These two must go together; and those to whom G-d has given a new heart and a new spirit will make conscience of both; and then they shall be my people and I will be their G-d. The ancient covenant, which seemed to be broken and forgotten, shall be renewed. By their idolatry, it should seem, they had cast G-d off; and by their captivity, it should seem, G-d had cast them off. But when they are cured of their idolatry, and delivered out of their captivity, G-d and his Israel own one another again. G-d, by his good work in them, will make them his people; and then, by the tokens of his good-will towards them, he will show that he is their G-d.

21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.

III. Here is a threatening of wrath against those who hate to be reformed. As, when judgments are threatened, the righteous are distinguished so as not to share in the evil of those judgments, so, when favors are promised, the wicked are distinguished so as not to share in the comfort of those favors; they have no part nor lot in the matter, v. 21. But, as for those that have no grace, what have they to do with peace? Please Observe,
1. Their description. Their heart walks after the heart of their detestable things; they have as great a minds to worship devils as devils have to be worshipped. Or, in opposition to the new heart which God gives his people, which is a heart after his own heart, they have a heart after the heart of their idols; in their temper and practice they conformed to the characters and accounts given them of their idols, and the ideas they had of them, and of them they learned lewdness and cruelty. Here lies the root of all their wickedness, the corruption of the heart; as the root of their reformation is laid in the renovation of the heart. The heart has its walks, and according as those are the man is.
2. Their doom. It carries both justice and terror in it: I will recompense their way upon their own heads; I will deal with them as they deserve. G-d renders unto men according to their ways.

22 Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. 23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. 24 Afterwards the spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. 25 Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.