Ezekiel 3:17 MEANING

Ezekiel 3:17
Verse 17. - A watchman unto the house of Israel. The seven days' session of amazement came to an end, but even then there was at first no utterance of a message. The word of the Lord came to his own soul, and told him what his special vocation as a prophet was to be. He was to be a "watchman unto the house of Israel." He was, like the watchman of a city on his tower, to be on the look out to warn men against coming dangers, not to slumber on his post. In 2 Samuel 18:24-27 and 2 Kings 9:17-20 we have vivid pictures of such a work. It had already been used figuratively of the prophet's work by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 6:17). The cognate verb, with the image fully developed, meets us in Habakkuk 2:1. Its use in Hosea 9:8 is doubtful as to meaning, and in Isaiah 52:8 and Isaiah 56:10 it may be, if we accept the theory of a Deutero-Isaiah, an echo from Ezekiel. It is reproduced with special emphasis in Ezekiel 33:2-7. More than any word it describes the special characteristic of Ezekiel's work. He is to watch personally over individual souls. So in a like sense, a corresponding word is used of the Christian ministry in Hebrews 13:17 (compare also for the thought, though the word is not the same, Isaiah 21:11, 12; Isaiah 62:6; Psalm 127:1). A vivid picture of the work of such a watchman is found, it may be noted, in the opening speech of the 'Agamemnon' of AEschylus. Give them warning, etc. It is, I think, a legitimate inference that the prophet acted on the command while he was with the exiles and before the departure of ver. 22, not by harangues or sermons addressed to the whole body of the exiles, but by direct warning to individuals.

3:12-21 This mission made the holy angels rejoice. All this was to convince Ezekiel, that the God who sent him had power to bear him out in his work. He was overwhelmed with grief for the sins and miseries of his people, and overpowered by the glory of the vision he had seen. And however retirement, meditation, and communion with God may be sweet, the servant of the Lord must prepare to serve his generation. The Lord told the prophet he had appointed him a watchman to the house of Israel. If we warn the wicked, we are not chargeable with their ruin. Though such passages refer to the national covenant made with Israel, they are equally to be applied to the final state of all men under every dispensation. We are not only to encourage and comfort those who appear to be righteous, but they are to be warned, for many have grown high-minded and secure, have fallen, and even died in their sins. Surely then the hearers of the gospel should desire warnings, and even reproofs.Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel,.... Not in a civil sense, a watchman of a town or city, or of the whole country, but in an ecclesiastical sense. So the Targum renders it by "a teacher"; whose business it was to instruct the people in divine things, to warn them of their evil ways, and of the danger they exposed them to; such were the prophets of old, and such are the ministers of the New Testament: the office is the same with that of bishops or overseers; and lies in watching over the souls of men, as shepherds over their flocks, that they go into right pastures, and not astray, and so preserves them from beasts of prey; and as watchmen of cities, to give the time of night, and, notice of approaching danger; to the discharge of which office are necessary quick sight, diligence in looking out, sobriety and vigilance, courage, constancy, and faithfulness: and they are "sons of men" that are put into this office, and not angels; sons of fallen Adam, sinful men; men subject to infirmity, weak, frail, mortal men, and oftentimes of a mean and low extraction, and greatly unworthy of so high an honour; but Christ counts them faithful, and puts them into this office; they are not made and constituted watchmen or ministers by themselves or by others, but by him; and they are given by him as such to the church of God: "son of man, I have given thee a watchman" (t), &c. they become watchmen through gifts bestowed upon them, qualifying them for this office; and they themselves are gifts to the churches over whom they are placed, signified by "the house of Israel"; for a church is a house of Christ's building, and where he dwells, and a family named of him, which he takes care of, and consists of Israelites indeed;

therefore hear the word at my mouth; for, as the prophets of old, so the ministers of the Gospel are first to hear what Christ says; and then deliver out his doctrine, called the doctrine of Christ, and the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus. So the Targum,

"and thou shalt receive the word from my Word;''

the word of prophecy, or the word of the Gospel, from Christ the essential Word;

and give them warning from me; in his name and stead, and as from his mouth, to take care of sinning against him, dishonouring his name, and wounding their own souls; that they live soberly, righteously, and godly, and adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour; that they avoid all appearances of evil, and shun the company of wicked men; the house of Israel, or church of God, are to be warned to be careful who they take into their communion, and to exclude such that are bad in principle and practice; to beware of innovations in worship, and of false teachers and false doctrines; and that they do not forsake the word, worship, and ordinances of God's house, but fill up their places, and perform all duties incumbent on them. The Targum is,

"and thou shalt warn them from sinning before me.''

(t) "speculatorem dedi", V. L. Polanus, Cocceius, Starckius. So Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

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