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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This prophecy Ezekiel 14:1-11 is a reproof of those who consult the false prophets. Some of the chief exiles come to Ezekiel as to one who has authority; but he, endowed with the genuine prophetic spirit, sees deep into their hearts, and finds the idols of self-will and unsubmissiveness set up therein. The prophet warns them that God will not be inquired of in such a spirit as this.
1Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.
Elders of Israel - Some of the fellow-exiles of Ezekiel, among whom he ministered.
2And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
3Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?
4Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
Omit "that cometh."
According to the multitiude of his idols - i. e., I will give him an answer as delusive as the idols which he serves. Compare Micaiah's answer to Ahab 1 Kings 22:15.
5That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
That I may take ... - i. e., that I may take them, as in a snare, deceived by their own heart.
6Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
7For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:
The stranger - They who sojourned among Israel, though they were not of Israel, were bound to abstain from idol-worship Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 20:2.
By myself - Or, as in Ezekiel 14:4, "according to" Myself. He who comes to inquire with a heart full of idolatry shall have his answer,
(1) "according to the multitude of his idols" - in delusion,
(2) "according to the holiness of God" - in punishment.
The inquiry was hypocritical and unreal - but God will answer not by the mouth, but by the hand, not by word but by deed, not by speech but by a scourge.
8And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Will make him - Or, I will make him amazed Ezekiel 32:10; or, astonished, so as to be a sign and a proverb.
9And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
I the Lord hare deceived that prophet - A deep truth lies beneath these words, namely, that evil as well as good is under God's direction. He turns it as He will, employing it to test the sincerity of men, and thus making it ultimately contribute to the purification of His people, to the confirmation of the righteous, to the increase of their glory and felicity. The case of the false prophets who deceived Ahab 1 Kings 22 is a striking representation of this principle. The Lord sends forth an evil spirit to persuade Ahab to his ruin. Toward the close of the kingdom of Judah false prophets were especially rife. The thoughts of men's hearts were revealed, the good separated from the bad, and the remnant of the people purged from the sins by which of late years the whole nation had been defiled.
10And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;
11That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.
"God," it has been said, "punishes sins by means of sins," but the end is the re-establishment of righteousness.
12The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,
Jeremiah 14; 15 is a remarkable parallel to this prophecy. Here, as elsewhere, Ezekiel is commissioned to deliver to the exiles the same message which Jeremiah conveys to the inhabitants of Judaea. The answer discovers the nature of the questions which had been expressed or implied.
(1) Can God cast out a people who are holy unto Himself?
(2) Is it just to punish them with utter desolation?
The prophet answers:
(1) That when a people is so corrupt as to call down national judgment, individual piety shall save none but the individuals themselves.
(2) The corrupt condition of the people shall be made so manifest, that none will question the justice of God in dealing thus severely with them.
Or, "When a land" - the case is first put in a general form, and then ism brought with increased force home to Jerusalem - "sinneth against me by trespassing grievously," and I stretch out "mine hand upon it," and break the staff of bread "thereof," and send famine "upon it and" cut off "man and beast: though these three men" etc.
13Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
14Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
Noah, Daniel, and Job - Three striking instances of men who, for their integrity, were delivered from the ruin which fell upon others. Some have thought it strange that Daniel, a contemporary, and still young, should have been classed with the two ancient worthies. But the account of him Daniel 2 shows, that by this time Daniel was a very remarkable man (compare Ezekiel 28:3), and the introduction of the name of a contemporary gives force and life to the illustration. There is in the order in which the names occur a kind of climax. Noah did not rescue the guilty world, but did carry forth with him his wife, sons, and sons' wives. Daniel raised only a few, but he did raise three of his countrymen with him to honor. To Job was spared neither son nor daughter.
15If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
16Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
17Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:
18Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
19Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
20Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
21For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?
22Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.
Ye shall be comforted ... - By a truer estimate of the dispensations of the Almighty. This visitation will be recognized as inevitable and just.
23And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.