This chapter continues and concludes the vision; yet its scenes are not to be considered as consecutive with those which have gone before. In Ezekiel 9 all who had not the Divine mark upon their foreheads were slain by the destroying angels; in Ezekiel 10 the city itself was given up to fire; but here the evil-doers are again seen, and again made the subject of the prophetic denunciation. It is, therefore, rather a looking at the same things from another point of view than an account of them in historical sequence. The prophetic vision shifts as in a dream, without any attempt to be consecutive.
The first part of the chapter (Ezekiel 11:1-12) is occupied with judgment upon the sins of the princes, while the latter part (Ezekiel 11:13-21) foretells the Divine blessing upon the repentant and restored remnant of the exiles. At the close (Ezekiel 11:22-25) the glory of the Lord is seen to depart altogether from the city, and the prophet is restored to Chaldæa to communicate the vision to the captives.
Here he sees twenty-five men, the same number whom he had seen worshipping the sun in the inner court. They appear, however, to have been priests, while these seem to be secular leaders. Hence they are generally supposed to be a different set of men. It is nevertheless by no means impossible that they may be the same idolatrous priests, who, by prostituting their holy office to idolatry, gained an ascendancy over a sinful people. Otherwise, the number twenty-five may represent the king, with two princes from each of the twelve tribes; or is possibly a number without any other especial significance than as representing a considerable array of the most prominent people of the nation. Two of these are mentioned by name. If the Jaazaniah here is the same with the Jaazaniah of Ezekiel 8:11, it settles the point that the men here are not to be understood of the priests, since he there represented a different class (see Note on Ezekiel 8:11). The names are significant: Jaazaniah = Jehovah hears, son of Azur = the helper; Pelatiah = God rescues, son of Benaiah =Jehovah builds. Names of this sort were common enough among the Jews, but they seem here intended to bring out the false hopes with which the people beguiled themselves; and in view of this, the sudden death of Pelatiah (verse. 13) was particularly impressive. These princes were active in misleading the people to their destruction.
As a little sanctuary.—Rather, as a sanctuary for a little. The original word is to be taken as an adverb rather than an adjective, and in itself may refer either to time or to amount: either a sanctuary for a little time, or a sanctuary in some degree. The connection points to the former as the true sense; for a little while, during the term of their captivity, God’s presence with them spiritually would be instead of the outward symbolical presence in His Temple. The contrast is striking. God has already said that he would abandon the Temple, and give up Jerusalem to destruction, and cast out its people; but now to the exiles, scattered among the heathen, He would Himself be for a sanctuary.
(19) One heart.—Unity of purpose among the restored exiles was to be at once a consequence and a condition of their improved moral condition. The opposite evil is spoken of as one of the sins of the people in Isaiah 53:6 : We have turned every one to his own way.” Self-will, which leads to division, and submission to God’s will are necessarily contradictory terms. Hence the corresponding promise in Jeremiah 32:39 : “I will give them one heart and one way,” and the blessed realisation of this, described in the first fervency of the early Church (Acts 4:32): “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.”
Stony heart . . . heart of flesh.—This phraseology is peculiar to Ezekiel, but the same thing is often described in other terms. The figure here seems to be that of a stony heart as unnatural, in the higher sense of that word, unfitting, and incongruous; this is to be removed, and in its place is to be substituted “an heart of flesh “—one that can be moved by the Divine appeals, and is suitable to the whole being and condition of the people. (Comp. Ezekiel 36:26.) The effect of this change will be obedience to the Divine will, and consequently a realisation of the covenant relation in a fellowship with God.
The heart of their detestable things, is a figurative expression. Idols in themselves are inanimate things, but the heart of the people was so given to the spirit of idolatry and alienation from God, that the abstract, as usual with this prophet, is represented in this concrete, figurative form.