Among the captives.--i.e., in the midst of the region where they were settled. The vision which follows was seen by Ezekiel only, and was probably vouchsafed to him in solitudes" The captives," or rather, the captivity, as it is in the original, is the same word as is used of Jehoiachin in the next verse, and yet must be somewhat differently understood in the two cases. Jehoiachin was actually in prison for many years; his people, within certain limits, were free. They were more than exiles, but less than prisoners. (On "the heavens were opened," comp. Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56.)
Visions of God.--Not merely great visions, as the Divine name is often added in Scripture to express greatness or intensity (see Genesis 10:9; Psalm 36:6, marg., Psalm 80:10, marg.; Jonah 3:3, marg.; Acts 7:20, marg.), but Divine visions, visions sent from God, as in Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2.
"and it was in the thirtieth year after Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the law, in the house of the sanctuary, in the court under the porch, in the middle of the night, after the moon was down, in the days of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah;''
or, according to Jerom (t), from the time of the prophet's birth, who was now thirty years of age, and was just entered into his priestly office; or rather it was the thirtieth year of Nabopolassar, or the father of Nebuchadnezzar: this was the twelfth year of the captivity, reckoning from the third of Jehoiakim, which was the first captivity, and from whence the seventy years are to be reckoned, and also the twelfth of Nebuchadnezzar's reign; and if two years are taken, as Vitringa (u) observes, from the twenty one years, which are given to Nabopolassar in Ptolemy's canon, in which Nebuchadnezzar his son reigned with him, there will be found thirty years from the beginning of Nabopolassar's reign to the fifth of Jeconiah's captivity, when Ezekiel began his prophecy, and which, as Bishop Usher (w), Mr. Bedford (x), Mr. Whiston (y), and the authors of the Universal History (z), place in the year 593, before the birth of Christ:
in the fourth month; the month Tammuz, as the Targum expresses it; which answers to part of June, and part of July:
in the fifth day of the month; which some take to be on a sabbath day; because, seven days after, the word of the Lord came to him again Ezekiel 3:16; just as John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, Revelation 1:10; between one of whose visions and this there is a very great likeness, as will be seen hereafter:
as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar; which is another agreement in circumstance between Ezekiel and John, when they had their visions: John was an exile in Patrons, and Ezekiel among the captives by the river Chebar in Chaldea. Some think this is the same river which is called by Ptolemy (a) Chaboras; and is said by him to pass through Mesopotamia: others say it was a river that was drawn off from the river Euphrates, by the order of one Cobaris, or Gobaris, a governor, from whence it had its name; that the river Euphrates might not, by its rapid course, hurt the city of Babylon; and by the Assyrians it was called Armalchar, or Narmalcha (b), the king's river; though it seems to be no other than Euphrates itself; and Kimchi observes, that in some copies of the Targum on this place it is interpreted of the river Euphrates; and he says their Rabbins of blessed memory say, that Chebar is Euphrates; and so Abarbinel; see Psalm 137:1. Monsieur Thevenot (c) speaks of a river called Chabur, which is less than Alchabour, another mentioned by him; and has its source below Mosul, and on the left hand to those that go down the Tigris, and at Bagdad loses itself in the Tigris which he takes to be the same as here:
that the heavens were opened; as at our Lord's baptism, and at the stoning of Stephen; and so when John had his vision which corresponds with the following, a door was opened in heaven Revelation 4:1;
and I saw the visions of God; which God showed unto him, and which were great and excellent; as excellent things are called things of God, as mountains of God, and cedars of God, Psalm 36:6; and indeed he had a vision of a divine Person, in a human form; to which agrees the Targum,
"and I saw in the vision of prophecy, which abode on me, the vision of the glory of the majesty of the Lord.''
The Arabic and Syriac versions read, "the vision of God".
(r) Apud R. D. Kimchi in loc. (s) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 26. (t) Preafat. in Ezek. tom. 3. fol. 9. D. (u) Typus Doctrin. Prophetic. sect. 7. p. 41. Vid. Witsii Miscel. Sacr. tom. 1. l. 1. c. 19. (w) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3409. p. 127. (x) Scripture Chronology, p. 681. (y) Chronological Tables, cent. 10. (z) Vol. 21. p. 61. (a) Geograph. l. 5. c. 18. (b) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26. (c) Travels, par. 2. B. 1. ch. 10. p. 46.