New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 2:1 He said to me, son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you- We have just read of the cherubim sounding like a great army, and have noted on Ez. 1:20,21 some connections with the prophecy of Ez. 37, of a great army of Israel who were to stand upon their feet once the Spirit had revived them in captivity. Ezekiel perhaps represents the faithful remnant; he is asked to stand upon his feet, and yet in :2 it is the Spirit which stands him upon his feet. His willingness to be obedient was confirmed by the direct action of the Spirit, just as happens today. See on Ez. 3:2.

Ezekiel 2:2 The spirit entered into me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me- see on Ez. 1:20; 2:1. Ezekiel represents the remnant of the captives who were intended to be filled with the Spirit and stand upon their feet as a great army (Ez. 37:10).

Ezekiel 2:3 He said to me, Son of man, I send you to the children of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me even to this very day- In Ez. 18, the captives seem to reason that they are unjustly suffering because of their fathers' sins. But here it is made clear that they were sinning themselves "to this very day". Most of Israel and Judah didn't want to leave the lands of their exile and return to the land of Judah. They were rebellious against all God's gracious plans for them, just as Israel had 'rebelled' by refusing to enter the land of promise in Num. 14:9  (s.w.). Jehoiakim had 'rebelled' against the king of Babylon, resulting in the earlier Babylonian invasion; and finally Zedekiah also rebelled, leading to the taking of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple (2 Kings 24:1,20; 2 Chron. 36:13; Ez. 17:15 s.w.). Judah are portrayed as most miserable; in rebellion against Yahweh, and also against the king of Babylon. They were unhappy, rebels without a cause; just as are those today who will not totally surrender to God. God's plan at the restoration was to purge out the rebels and save the remnant (Ez. 20:38 s.w.), and Ezekiel was to play a part in this.

Ezekiel 2:4 The children are impudent and stiff-hearted. I am sending you to them; and you shall tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh’- It was a tough ministry- to be sent to people who he was told from the beginning would not be responsive. Ministry work is easy enough when crowds are responding, but not when we know from the start we are working with hard hearts- because the God who alone knows the hearts has told us that they are stuff hearted.

Ezekiel 2:5 They, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear (for they are a rebellious house), will at least know that there has been a prophet among them- As noted on :4, it's a hard ministry to keep witnessing to people whom God has revealed as hard hearted. We might think that they would only realize Ezekiel was a prophet when his predictions began to come true. And yet the return from exile was decades future. So they "knew" that he was a prophet in their consciences. Even those who reject the word and seem hard hearted to it- still have a conscience. And their aggression to us is often exactly because in their conscience, they know the truth of the word preached to them.

Ezekiel 2:6 You, son of man, don’t be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you, and you do dwell among scorpions-
There was active opposition to Ezekiel's witness to the exiles- they persecuted him as with "briars and thorns", behaving as scorpions to him. See on Ez. 3:25. His face had to be hardened against their faces (Ez. 3:8). This was in the very early days of the exile. Jewish tradition has it that Ezekiel was murdered at the command of senior Jews in Babylon (See The Lives And Deaths Of The Prophets in J.H. Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1985). The same book claims that Isaiah was sawn in two by Manasseh, and Jeremiah was stoned to death by the Jews). By the time of Isaiah 66, we see that even well after the restoration had happened, there was still major persecution of the faithful remnant and their prophets.

Don’t be afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house- Jeremiah speaks of how he came to see Israel for who they were: “The Lord made it known to me and I knew; then thou didst show me their evil deeds” (Jer. 11:8). Ezekiel was shown “what the house of Israel is doing in the dark” (Ez. 8:12). To pass through human life with this level of sensitivity must’ve been so hard. Psychologically and nervously, the stress would’ve been awful. It seems to me that the prophets had to be somehow psychologically strengthened by God to endure living that sensitively in this crass and unfeeling world- hence God made Ezekiel and Jeremiah as a wall and “iron pillar” to Israel, hardened their faces, so that they wouldn’t be “dismayed at [the] looks” of those who watched them with anger and consternation (Jer. 1:18; 15:20; Ez. 2:4-6; 3:8,9,27). This psychological strengthening was not aimed at making them insensitive, but rather in strengthening them to live sensitively to sin in a sinful world without cracking up. And He will do the same for us, too.

The allusion is to Dt. 1:17, where the judges of Israel were not to be afraid at the looks or faces (s.w.) of men, "because the judgment is God's".

Ezekiel 2:7 You shall speak My words to them, whether they will hear, or whether they will refuse to hear; for they are most rebellious- Sharing God's word should be done whether or not there is response. Ezekiel was obviously tempted not to speak God's words to them because they weren't listening, but still he is encouraged to continue. This is a timeless principle for all ministry.

Ezekiel 2:8 But you, son of man, hear what I tell you; don’t be rebellious like that rebellious house: open your mouth, and eat that which I give you- By refusing to preach to the rebellious, Ezekiel himself would become like them- "rebellious". We have here a parade example of a sin of omission. It is such sins which are likely our problem rather than cold blooded sins of commission. For how many times have we not shared God's word when we ought to have done, fearing how people might look at us (
:6). But the sin of omission particularly in view here would have been refusing to eat the scroll- refusing to take God's word for others deeply and personally within ourselves.

Ezekiel 2:9 When I looked, behold, a hand was put forth to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was therein- Whether Ezekiel read the words and then later repeated them is unlikely, because the opening rubric for the visions implies he had God's word coming to him, and then spoke it out. The hand was perhaps "put forth" from the cherubim vision. That enormous Spirit activity was in response to God's word, which Ezekiel was to now preach.

Ezekiel 2:10 He spread it before me. It was written within and without; and there were written therein lamentations and mourning and woe- These were the woes to come still upon Jerusalem. Remember Ezekiel went into captivity with the second batch of exiles, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was yet to come. The purpose of sharing this "woe" with the captives in Babylon and perhaps also the Jews left in the land was surely so that they might repent. Just as Jonah announced Nineveh's coming doom in forty days' time... with no mention of repentance. But the very existence of the prophecy elicited repentance, and so the judgment didn't come.