Ezekiel 36 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Ezekiel 36
Pulpit Commentary
Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD:
Verses 1-38. - The present chapter is entirely devoted to the consolation of Israel, though its parts are derived from two separate "words" of Jehovah. Vers. 1-15 belong to the "word" which opened with the first verse of the preceding chapter; ver. 16 begins another "word," which only closes at Ezekiel 37:14. The subject of the first part is the comfort offered to Israel in the destruction threatened against the heathen, and in the blessings promised to her land and people. Verse 1. - Prophesy unto the mountains of Israel. This prediction must be read in contrast, first, to that delivered against the mountains of Seir in the last chapter (35.), and, secondly, to that uttered against the mountains of Israel at an earlier stage of Ezekiel's activity (Ezekiel 6.). That "the mountains of Israel" was a familiar expression for the land of Israel, see Ezekiel 6:1; Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 34:14; Ezekiel 37:22; Ezekiel 38:8; and comp. Psalm 121:1; Isaiah 52:7.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession:
Verse 2. - Because the enemy hath said against you. The ground of Jehovah's purposed proceeding against Edom and the surrounding heathen peoples (vers. 3, 5) is expressly declared to be the jubilation over the downfall of Israel, and the eagerness with which they sought to appropriate to themselves her forsaken land. Aha! Exulting over Israel's misfortune (comp. Ezekiel 25:3; Psalm 40:16). The ancient high places, which Israel's enemies fancied had become theirs in possession, were probably "the everlasting hills" of Genesis 49:26 and Deuteronomy 33:15, the principal mountains of Palestine, which, as Havernick finely observes, were "the honorable witnesses and indestructible monuments of that ancient blessing spoken by Israel's ancestor, and still resting on the people;" and to assail which was, in consequence, not only to sin against Jehovah, but to attempt an enterprise foredoomed to failure and shame. At the same time, Plumptre's suggestion ('Ezekiel: an Ideal Biography,' Expositor, vol. 8:284; and Unpublished Notes) is not without plausibility, that, considering the special significance of the term bamoth in Ezekiel, the phrase should be held as referring to the sanctuaries which stood upon those heights - including, of course, the chief sanctuary, or temple (Schroder); in support of which the dean cites the frequency with which the enemies of Israel, as, for instance, the Assyrians and the Moabites, in their inscriptions, boasted that they had captured these sanctuaries (see 'Records of the Past,' 2nd series, tel. 1. p. 107; 2:203).
Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people:
Verse 3. - Therefore. Ewald calls attention to the fivefold repetition of this conjunction, saying, "It repeats itself five times, the reasons [for God's judgments] against these enemies thrusting themselves forward, before the discourse calmly dwells upon the mountains of Israel, of which it is strictly intended to treat." As it were, the prophet's emotion is so strong, and his indignation against Israel's enemies so vehement, that, though he three times in succession begins to prophesy to the mountains of Israel, he on each occasion breaks off before he can get his message told, to expatiate upon the wickedness of Israel's foes. In the prophet's estimation that wickedness was so heinous as to inevitably carry in its bosom appropriate retribution. Because - literally, because and because, or even because, a reduplication for the sake of emphasis, as in Ezekiel 13:10 and Leviticus 26:43 - they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side; literally, wasting of and panting after you (are) round about. Fairbairn, Ewald, and Smend, deriving שַׁמות from נָשַׁם, "to pant," rather than from שָׁמַם, "to lay waste," translate, "because there is snapping and puffing at you round about," which Plumptre thinks "falls in better with the context," since "the prophet's spirit seems to dwell throughout on the derision rather than the desolation to which his country, the mountains of Israel, had been subject." And ye are taken up; literally, ye are made to come, if וַתֵּעֲלוּ be an imperf., niph. of עָלַה, "to go up "(Rosenmüller, Schroder); or, ye are come, if it be imperf., kal of עָלַל, "to press, or go in" (Ewald, Havernick); or, ye are gone up, if it be second pers. kal of עָלַה (Hitzig, Smend). In the lips of talkers; literally, upon the lip of the tongue - the lip being regarded as the instrument or organ with which the tongue speaks. Havernick unnecessarily takes "the tongue" as equivalent to "people" in the parallel clause - a signification לָשׁון has only in Isaiah 66:18; while Kliefoth views it as synonymous with "slander," as in Psalm 140:11, and translates, "upon the lip of slander and of the evil report of the people." Keil sees in "the tongue" a personification for the "tongue-man" or talker of Psalm 140:11; and Gesenius considers the two clauses as tautological.
Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;
Verse 4. - The rivers (or, channels, bottoms, dales) were the water-courses, wadies, or ravines through which mountain streams flowed, as in Ezekiel 35:8; and the residue of the heathen were the surrounding nations that had mocked Israel in her degradation, and were then profiting by her fall (comp. Psalm 79:4).
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.
Verse 5. - Surely. אִם־לא, the particle of adjuration, as in Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:8; Ezekiel 38:19. The fire of my jealousy. Zephaniah (Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 3:8) uses the same phrase. Similar expressions occur in Ezekiel 21:31, "the fire of my wrath;" and Ezekiel 38:19, "in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath" (comp. Deuteronomy 4:24). Against all Idumea. Edom. As in Ezekiel 35:15, so here, it is the wickedness, more especially of the Edomites, that excites the prophet's indignation. They had not only concluded that Israel's territory should be to them for a possession, but they had done so with the joy of all their heart, and with despiteful minds; or, with contempt of soul (comp. Ezekiel 25:6, 15); i.e. with deadly (Ewald) or hearty (Smend) contempt. "The temper of the Edomites," writes Plumptre, "might almost serve as the regulative instance of the form of evil for which Aristotle ('Eth. Nit.,' 2, 7, 15) seems to have coined the word ἐπιχαιρεκακία, the temper which rejoices in the ills that fall on others." The concluding clause, to cast it out for a prey, has been differently rendered.

(1) Regarding מִגְרָשָׁהּ as an infinitive after לְמַעַן, "to spoil it," i.e. the land (Gesenius), "empty out" (Keil) or "drive out" (Ewald, Smend) its inhabitants (so as to get it) for a prey.

(2) Taking מִגְרָשָׁהּ as a noun, "for the sake of its possession for a prey" (Kliefoth), that their suburbs should be a prey" (Hengstenberg) "on account of its pasturage for a prey" (Schroder).

(3) Changing לָבַז into לָבֹז, "in order to plunder its produce" (Hitzig) or "pasturage" (Fairbairn).
Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen:
Verses 6, 7. - Because ye have borne the shame of the heathen (i.e. the shame cast upon you by the heathen, see Ezekiel 34:29)... surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame. Not the shame which should be cast upon them by Israel, which would be retaliation, but their own shame - the shame due to them in virtue of the Divine law of retribution (Ezekiel 16:52), their own curses come home to roost, Ezekiel seeming to distinguish between retaliation and retribution. "The law [of retribution] is demanded by the absolute righteousness of God. The judicial visitations of God cannot possibly be one-sided. Punishment can so much the less strike Israel alone, as precisely in its punishment the deep degradation of heathendom, its apostasy from God and its pride, has set itself forth in the most striking way" (Havernick). The certainty that this law would operate in the case of the heathen no less than in that of Israel, the prophet expresses by representing Jehovah as having lifted up his hand, or sworn that it should be so (comp. Ezekiel 20:5, 6, 15, 23, 28; Ezekiel 47:14; Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Deuteronomy 32:40; and Virgil, 'AEneid,' 12:195, "Teaditque ad sidera dextram").
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.
But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.
Verse 8. - For they are at hand to come. Keil and Plumptre make the subject of the verb the material blessings in which Israel's prosperity is depicted as consisting, viz. the foliage and fruit her mountains were soon to bear for the people of Jehovah. The majority of expositors believe the subject to be the people whose return from exile was in this way declared to be approaching. Nor is there any reason why Ezekiel should not have represented the return from exile as an event soon to take place, since of the seventy years of captivity predicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11) at least twenty years had passed, if its commencement be dated from the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Ezekiel 33:21); and the fulfillment of Jehovah's promise was to the prophet so much a matter of certainty (Ezekiel 11:17) that his fervent imagination conceived it as at hand.
For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
Verse 9. - I am for you. He had previously been against (Ezekiel 5:8; Ezekiel 13:8), but was now for Israel and against Seir (Ezekiel 35:3). This change of dispensation implied no mutation in God, but merely that, as God had previously visited Israel with judgment on account of sin, so henceforth would he visit her with grace on condition of repentance. I will turn unto you. Always it is presupposed that Israel turns unto Jehovah.
And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:
Verses 10, 11. - I will multiply men upon you. Jehovah's promise contemplated a return of both sections of the Golah, the whole house of Israel, Ephraim as well as Judah (comp. Ezekiel 20:40), to the land from which they had been deported, and a restoration of the united kingdom to a condition of prosperity in which its cities should again be inhabited, its ruined homesteads repaired, its fields cultivated, and its flocks and herds multiplied (see Ezekiel 16:55; Isaiah 44:26; Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 61:4) - a condition of prosperity so great that it should surpass any measure or degree of good fortune previously enjoyed (comp. Deuteronomy 30:5; Job 42:12).
And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they say unto you, Thou land devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations;
Therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nations any more, saith the Lord GOD.
Verse 14. - Thou shalt devour men no more. From the middle of ver. 12 the form of address changes from the plural to the singular, the whole country, mountains, and valleys being regarded as one land, as in Deuteronomy 3:25. The charge preferred against the country by her enemies was that she had been a land that devoured men and "bereaved its nations" (or, "nation," Revised Version); literally, an eater-up of men and a bereaver of thy nations; i.e. of Israel and Judah, perhaps also of the Canaanites, their predecessors (Fausset), the image being that of a wild beast which ravages the population and makes them childless, as in Ezekiel 5:17 and Ezekiel 14:15 (Smend), rather than that of an unnatural mother, a Rabenmutter, as in 2 Kings 6:29, who devours her offspring (Ewald). This charge, in which, perhaps, the prophet detected an allusion to Numbers 13:32, had certainly in times past been true; not, however, as Hengstenberg suggests, because the land had been "an apple of discord for the Asiatic and African powers," or, as Ewald explains, because "the tremendous restlessness, the excited push and hurry of such a mentally active city must in any case have used up its inhabitants more rapidly;" but, as Keil, Plumptre, and others interpret, because of the judgments of sword, famine, and pestilence sent upon the land by Jehovah for its sins. These judgments had so destroyed its inhabitants, first the Canaanites, and latterly the two peoples of Israel and Judah, that "those who looked upon it deemed it a fatal land, which brought destruction to all who should occupy it" (Currey). In the golden age to which the prophet looked forward, no such reproach should be possible. Not only should the laud not bereave its nations (according to the Keri, followed by the Authorized and Revised Versions, as well as by Ewald and Smend), but (according to the Chethib, preferred by Keil, Kliefoth, Havernick, Heugstenberg, Schroder, and Plumptre) it should not even cause them (or it) to stumble; i.e. should no more cause its inhabitants to lapse into those sins, amongst which idolatry stood prominent, which entailed on them ruin. Hengstenberg's idea, that "moral stumbling is not to be thought of in this connection," is certainly to be rejected.
Neither will I cause men to hear in thee the shame of the heathen any more, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more, saith the Lord GOD.
Verse 15. - Neither will I cause men to hear in thee - let thee hear, proclaim against thee (Revised Version); or literally, cause to be heard against thee - the shame of the heathen any more; i.e. the contemptuous speech uttered against thee by the heathen, equivalent to the reproach of the people; or, peoples; i.e. the reproach cast upon thee by the nations (see Ezekiel 16:57; Ezekiel 22:4; and comp. Joshua 5:9; Micah 6:16), rather than, as Curtsy suggests, the reproach cast upon thee by thy rightful possessors for want of fertility. This prophecy clearly looked beyond the return from exile under Zerubbabel and Joshua, Ezra and Neherajah, since under these leaders only a portion of the whole house of Israel reestablished themselves in Canaan, while the land was often afterwards subjected to reproach and oppression under heathen powers. At the same time, the homecoming from Babylon and the prosperity that ensued thereupon were partial fulfillments of the blessings here promised.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verse 16. - The oracle, commencing with this verse and extending to Ezekiel 37:14, has an ultimate connection with that which precedes. Having predicted a golden age in the future for Israel, when her people should have returned from banishment her cities should again be inhabited and her fields cultivated, the prophet is directed

(1) to explain that the ground of this would not have in any worthiness Jehovah should behold in Israel, who had rather in the past been punished and dispersed (vers. 16-20), but only in the regard he, Jehovah, should have for his own holy Name or character (vers. 21-24);

(2) to intimate that this glorious period should be accompanied by a moral and spiritual renovation of the people, which, however, could and therefore would be brought about only by God himself giving them a new heart and a new spirit, again for his own Name's sake (vers. 25-32), and which, when attained, should lead to a prosperity so unparalleled as to recall the pristine splendors of earth's paradisiacal condition, and convince the heathen that should then be sharers in Israel's felicity that Jehovah alone was God (vers. 33-38); and

(3) to remove all doubt from the people's minds as to the possibility of this happening by the vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Verses 16-20. - That Israel's restoration should not be brought about on account of Israel's merit, the prophet shows by briefly rehearsing the story of Israel's demerit, as the reason of her exile.
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.
Verse 17. - Their way was before me. Their ways and doings, i.e. their violent deeds and idolatrous practices (ver. 18), were as morally loathsome in Jehovah's sight as the uncleanness of a woman in her separation was materially disgusting. The comparison may have been derived from Isaiah 64:6, but was as likely to have been original, seeing Ezekiel was a priest-prophet, to whom the details of the Levitical Law must have been familiar (comp. Ezekiel 18:6; Leviticus 15:19).
Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it:
And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.
Verse 19. - According to their way and according to their doings I judged them. The language hints at a correspondence between the punishment and the crime. As a woman in her separation was not only defiled, but separated from the congregation Leviticus 15:19), so Israel, having defiled both herself and her land, required to be removed from it (Leviticus 18:28). And she was. Jehovah scattered her among the heathen and dispersed her through the countries.
And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.
Verse 20. - They profaned my holy Name; or, the name of my holiness. According to Kliefoth, the subject of the verb is "the heathen," but expositors generally regard it as "the house of Israel" of ver. 17. Plumptre thinks that "while grammatically the words may refer to either the heathen or the exiles of Israel, possibly the sentence was purposely left vague, so as to describe the fact in which both were sharers," and cites in support of this view similar constructions in Isaiah 55:5 and Romans 2:24. What led to the profanation of Jehovah's Name by the heathen was the arrival among them, not of the news of the calamity which had befallen Israel (Kliefoth, Hengstenberg), but of the house of Israel itself; and the actual profanation lay in this, that, having beheld the exiles, they said, These are the people of the Lord, and they are gone forth out of his land. As the heathen recognized only local divinities, they concluded Jehovah had either behaved capriciously towards his people and east them off (comp. Jeremiah 23:40; Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 33:24), or had proved unequal to the task of protecting them so that they had been driven off (comp. Ezekiel 20:5, etc.; Numbers 14:16; Jeremiah 14:9). In either case, the honor of Jehovah had been lessened in the minds and tarnished by the words of the heathen, and inasmuch as this result had been brought about by Israel's sin, on Israel properly the blame lay.
But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.
Verse 21. - I had pity for mille holy Name. Havernick, after the LXX., wrongly renders, "I spared (them, i.e. Israel) for my holy Name s sake; but the preposition for or "upon" following the verb usually marks the object upon which the action of the verb terminates (see Ezekiel 16:5). Gesenius translates, "I will be sparing of my holy Name;" i.e. I will care for its honor.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
Verse 22. - Not for your sakes... but for mine holy Name's sake. Thus Jehovah repudiates the claim of merit on Israel's part (comp. ver. 32); and if Israel had no claim on Jehovah for deliverance from the Babylonish exile any more than she had at first to be put in possession of Canaan (Deuteronomy 9:6), much less has fallen man a claim on God for salvation from the condemnation and dominion of sin (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-10). As the essential holiness and righteousness of God were the real reason of Israel's exile and dispersion among the nations, so were these qualities in God the ultimate grounds to which Israel's recovery and restoration should be traced.
And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
Verse 23. - I will sanctify my great Name; i.e. the name of my holiness (Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalm 8:1; Malachi 1:11). As Israel's dispersion had caused that Name to be profaned, so Israel's restoration would secure that it should be magnified among the heathen (Ezekiel 38:23), who should learn from this event that their previous ideas of Jehovah, as a feeble and local divinity, had been wrong. The question whether your eyes, as in the Hebrew text, or "their eyes," as in many ancient versions, should be read is debated. The latter reading appears to be demanded by the usus loquendi of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 39:27), and is adopted by both English versions as well as by interpreters of eminence; but other expositors of equal name adhere to the former reading on the ground that the sanctifying of Jehovah's Name in the eyes of Israel was an indispensable preliminary to its sanctification in the eyes of the heathen. Havernick regards "their eyes" as "an obvious emendation to relieve a difficulty," to which in no case should criticism accord the preference; while Keil gives it the preference, though admitting that "your eyes" can be justified.
For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
Verse 24. - I will take you from among the heathen; or, nations. The first step in the sanctification of Jehovah's Name. A promise already given (Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 20:41, 42), and afterwards repeated (Ezekiel 37:21). The mention of "all countries" shows the prophet's gaze to have been directed beyond the present or immediate future. The Israel of Ezekiel's time had not been scattered among and could not be gathered from all, countries; yet in the years that have passed since then Ezekiel's language as to Israel's dispersion has been literally fulfilled. Wherefore the inference is reasonable that the reassembling to which Ezekiel refers is an event that has not yet occurred, at least in its fullest measure and degree, but will only then be realized completely and finally when the scattered members of the house of Israel shall have been received into the Christian Church (Romans 11:25, 26).
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
Verse 25. - Then (literally, and) I will sprinkle clean water upon you. The second step in the sanctification of Jehovah's Name, and one absolutely necessary to render the preceding either permanent or valuable, was the moral renovation of the people; and in this the first stage was the forgiveness of the people's sins. The image under which this is set forth, "sprinkling with clean water," would naturally present itself to a priest-prophet such as Ezekiel. Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, and others suppose the allusion to be to the water of purification prepared by mixing running water with the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19:17-19), and in the account given of this rite the verb for "sprinkle" is that used by Ezekiel, viz. זָרַק. Havernick prefers the rite performed in the consecration of the Levites (Numbers 8:7, 21). Smend, who holds the priest-code had no existence in Ezekiel's day, traces the image to Zechariah 13:1 or Psalm 51:2, though he also cites Numbers 8:19. Hitzig, Kliefoth, and Currey think of the lustrations of the Law in general; and perhaps this best explains the prophet's language, since the element sprinkled is not "blood" or "water mixed with ashes," but "clean water," "the best known means of purification" (Schroder). As to whether legal or moral cleansing were intended by the prophet, possibly Ezekiel drew no sharp distinction between the two, such as the New Testament draws between justification and sanctification; if he did, then the figure in the text must be taken as alluding rather to the former than to the latter - rather to the forgiveness of Israel's sin than to the regeneration of Israel's heart, which is next referred to.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Verses 26, 27. - A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. The third step in the progress of sanctifying Jehovah's Name (comp. Ezekiel 11:19, where a similar promise is made, and Ezekiel 18:31, where the new heart is represented as a thing Israel must make for herself). This antinomy frequently occurs in Scripture, which never shrinks from holding man responsible for the production of that, as e.g. faith, for which he is incompetent without the help of Divine grace. Besides the cleansing of her guilt and her restitution in consequence to Jehovah's favor, Israel is promised such an inward renovation of her moral and spiritual disposition as to secure that she shall in future adhere to the worship and service of Jehovah. This change is described in a fourfold way.

(1) Negatively, as a removal of the old, stony, unsusceptible heart, which had remained impervious to all appeals and insertsible to all higher feelings (Zechariah 7:12).

(2) Positively, as a new heart and a new spirit, called elsewhere "one heart" and "a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19; Jeremiah 32:39), "a heart to know God" (Jeremiah 24:7).

(3) Causally, its existence being traced to the indwelling of God's Spirit, who writes God's Law upon the new heart, and inclines it to a life of obedience thereto (Jeremiah 31:33).

(4) Practically, by its manifestation, walking in God's statutes and keeping God s judgments (Ezekiel 11:20). The account here furnished of the moral and spiritual change proposed to be inwrought on Israel cot-responds exactly with that given in the New Testament of the regeneration of the individual soul (John 3:3-8; Romans 8:2, 5, 9; Galatians 5:22; Titus 3:5, 6; 1 Peter 1:22).
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Verses 28-31 describe the results which should follow in Israel's experience when God should have thus gathered, cleansed, and renewed them. They should then have

(1) permanent occupation of the land (ver. 28);

(2) covenant relationship with God as his people (ver. 28);

(3) protection against future lapsing into idolatry and immorality (ver. 29);

(4) abundant supply for every want (vers. 29, 30); and

(5) a deepening sense of self-humiliation on account of and repentance for past sin (ver. 31). Ver. 28. - Ye shall dwell in the land. As the Jews who returned from Babylon did not permanently dwell in the land, but were again ejected from it, the promise contained in these words must be viewed as having been conditional on the realization of the moral and spiritual purity above described. If, therefore, it be aroused that inasmuch as this promise must be fulfilled (2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 10:23), the Jews must yet be restored to Palestine, the reply is that their return can only take place when they have been converted to Christianity; so that the whole promise must be regarded as receiving its highest fulfillment in the experiences of the Church of Christ. That this view is correct is vouched for by the fact that the words, Ye shall be my people and I will be your God (comp. Ezekiel 11:20: Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 30:22), descriptive of the covenant relationship in which Jehovah stood towards Israel (Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 26:17, 18), have been chosen by New Testament writers to set forth the relationship of God towards the Christian Church, first here on earth (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), and afterwards in the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3).
I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
Verse 29. - From all your uncleannesses. The same word as in ver. 25, though with difference in meaning. From their uncleanness of the past they have already been saved (ver. 25); the present promise guarantees preservation against future lapsing into uncleanness, i.e. the filthiness of idol-service. "With this," writes Plumptre, "the necessity for temporal chastisements as a corrective discipline should cease, and there would be nothing to check the full outpouring of all material as well as spiritual blessings." With the phrase, I will call for the corn, compare the similar expressions in 2 Kings 8:1; Hosea 2:23, etc.; Jeremiah 31:12; Zechariah 9:17.
And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.
Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
Verse 31. - Ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight (comp. Ezekiel 16:61; Ezekiel 42:10). The last result of this enlarged experience of the Divine goodness would be to quicken in the heart of forgiven and renewed Israel a sense of shame and a feeling of repentance (comp. Romans 2:4).
Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
Verse 32 repeats and emphasizes the thought of ver. 22, that the true ground of God's gracious dealing with Israel should be found, not in their merit, but in his grace. So far as their ways were concerned, there was cause only for judgment on his part and self-humiliation on theirs.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
Verses 33-36 describe the effect of Israel's restored prosperity on the surrounding nations.
And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
Verse 35. - This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden. (For the reverse picture, see Joel 2:3.) The thought of the first Paradise (Genesis 2:8), in the historicity of which clearly Ezekiel believed, was one on which his mind often dwelt (Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:9) as an ideal of earthly beauty and fertility which should recur in the closing age of the world - a hope which appears to have been shared by Isaiah (Isaiah 51:3), and taken up by John (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:1-3). In the day when that hope should be realized for Israel, the waste, desolate, and ruined cities, on which the passers-by who visited Palestine gazed, should be fenced and inhabited; literally, inhabited as fortresses. The three predicates, "waste," "desolate," and" ruined," have been distinguished as signifying "stripped of its inhabitants," "untilled in its lands," and "broken down in its buildings;" in contrast with which, in the golden era of the future, the towns should be inhabited, the fields tilled, and the ruined fortresses built.
Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.
Verse 36. - The heathen that are left round about you. The language presupposes that at or before the time of Israel's restoration the judgments pronounced against the nations will have overtaken them, so that only a remnant of them will be then in existence. Kliefoth and Currey view this remnant as those who shall have been converted out of heathendom and become attached to the community of Israel, like "the nations of the saved" in Revelation 21:24; Keil, with more accuracy, regards their conversion as resulting from their recognition of the hand of God in building again the wastes places of Jerusalem.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.
Verse 37. - I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel. On two previous occasions (Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 20:3), Jehovah had declined to be inquired of by the hypocritical and idol-loving elders of Israel, who pretended to consult him through his prophet; now he makes it known that in the future era no barrier of moral and spiritual unfitness on their part will prevent their free approach to his throne, but rather that they will come to him with fervent supplications for the very blessings he has pro-raised. In answer to their prayers, he engages, going back to the language of Ezekiel 34:22, to increase them with men like a flock - incorrectly rendered by Kliefoth to "multiply them so that they shall become the flock of mankind." Thus he meets the despondency of those among the exiles who, fixing their attention on the small number of them who should form the new Israel - those who should return with those, perhaps, who still remained in the land-could not see how Israel's future prosperity was to be secured.
As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Verse 38. - The people who should occupy the land of Israel in the coming age should be as the holy flock - literally, as the flock of holy things, or beasts; i.e. of sacrificial lambs - as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; literally, in her appointed times; i.e. her festal seasons (comp. Micah 2:12), referring to the three well-known annual occasions when the male population of the land came to the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 16:16), and when in consequence the flocks and herds poured into the metropolis were well-nigh past reckoning (see 2 Chronicles 29:33; 2 Chronicles 35:7; and comp. Josephus, 'Wars,' 6:9. 3). Perhaps in addition to the idea of the multiplication of the people, that of their dedication to the service of Jehovah is suggested by the prophet's language.

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