New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 15:1 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying- See on Ez. 12:1.

Ezekiel 15:2 Son of man, what is the vine plant more than any tree, the vine-branch which is among the trees of the forest?- The false prophets, who are the subject of the previous chapter, had argued that Jerusalem was somehow inviolate, it would be a cauldron protecting them from the fire of Babylonian judgment; and Judah were God's special people whom He would not allow to be totally destroyed. The same misplaced argument is used by some Christians today who seem to think that Israel is indestructible and ultimately inviolate. But the prophetic words of judgment for sin and disbelief did and will come true. The vine, clearly a symbol of Israel, was not of itself better than any of the other Gentile nations, "the trees of the forest". They were chosen by grace alone, and not because of their goodness or peculiar ability to do work for God (:3).

Ezekiel 15:3 Shall wood be taken of it to make any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?- Rom. 3:12 speaks of how there is “none that does good”- the Greek word essentially means profitable, useful. The contrast is with how we are all become “unprofitable”- none is profitable to God. It’s not that nobody ever does any good deed; rather the idea is that we are like the vine tree, not useful of ourselves to God (Ez. 15:2-6) unless He justifies us and makes us useful in His service. The word for "pin" is often used of the pins or nails which held the tabernacle together. Ezra uses the same word for "pin" to describe how the returned exiles were only a "pin" in the sanctuary by utter grace alone (Ezra 9:8). Vine wood of itself is not strong nor reliable. And so we are within God's purpose, His sanctuary. Only by grace and Divine patience are we used, as parents may delegate a task to very small children who likely will not perform it as required.

Ezekiel 15:4 See, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire has devoured both its ends, and its midst is burned. Is it profitable for any work?- The fire of final Babylonian judgment had not yet fully come. The ends of the vine wood nail had been burnt by the previous invasions, and now "its midst", Jerusalem and the temple, were to be burnt. But the judgment had as good as come, so sure is God's word of fulfilment. Vines are not profitable for "work"; only for fruit. And that fruit of the spirit was lacking.

Ezekiel 15:5 Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work. How much less, when the fire has devoured it, and it is burned, shall it yet be of any use!- There in Babylon they the one time dwellers in Jerusalem (:6) were as the vine tree, burned up and fit for no work; and yet, still used to perform God’s work, by grace alone. And these men were truly types of us, saved by grace and not works. It would seem impossible that a charred piece of vine wood could be useful for anything; but this was God's purpose, to use the apparently useless to reestablish His Kingdom in the land. The allusion is to God's manifestation in the burning bush, similar wood to that of the vine tree; and the bush was burnt but not "devoured" (Ex. 3:2 s.w.).

Ezekiel 15:6 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: As the vine plant among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem- The vine wood nail is described as already burnt in :4, so certain was God's word of fulfilment; but here, that final burning is yet future. We need to give due weight to the fact that God's words of judgment are as good as done. The prophetic word in Jeremiah's mouth was like fire, and it was the people who were to be "devoured" by it (Ez. 15:5; s.w. Jer. 5:14; 17:27; 21:14). The amazing grace explained in Ez. 15 was in the fact that the 'devoured by fire' vine twig would be refined in Babylon and still used by God to reestablish His Kingdom.

Ezekiel 15:7 I will set My face against them; they shall go forth from the fire, but the fire shall devour them; and you shall know that I am Yahweh, when I set My face against them- A vine twig or nail would be easily burnt up. The preservation of this charred twig was by grace alone; see on :3. But perhaps the idea is as in the Lord's parable of the vine in Jn. 15. Some fruitless branches were cut off by the vinedresser so that better fruit would be brought forth on other branches. The hope was that the cutting off of Jerusalem would bring forth spiritual fruit in the exiles already in Babylon. But this didn't happen, and so the Lord in Jn. 15 reapplies that figure to all believers in Him who shall bring forth the required fruit.

Ezekiel 15:8 I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, says the Lord Yahweh- And yet by grace, the land was not totally desolated. See on Ez. 5:10; 11:15.