INTRODUCTION. — CHAPTERS 1-3.
Ezekiel’s Account of His Call to the Prophetic Office.
1.I — This is personal narration. All critics agree that we have here a genuine account of the spiritual experiences of this ancient prophet written by himself. This book throbs with the intense life of a sensitive and majestic personality. (See Introduction, “IV. Ezekiel’s Personality.”) Literally, 1 And it came to pass in the thirtieth year on the fourth, on the fifth of the month, and I in the midst of the captivity by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 In the fifth of the month; that is, the fifth year of the captivity of king Jehoiachin, 3 Surely came to pass the word of Jehovah unto Ezekiel, son of Buzi the priest, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar. And the hand of Jehovah was upon him there. This is a very difficult passage. It is peculiar that the largest date mentioned by Ezekiel is in the first verse of the book. The other dates given are as follows: Eze_1:2, fifth year; Eze_8:1, sixth year; Eze_20:1, seventh year; Eze_24:1, ninth year; Eze_26:1, eleventh year; Eze_29:1, tenth year; Eze_29:17, twenty-seventh year; Eze_31:1, eleventh year; Eze_32:17, and Eze_33:21, twelfth year; Eze_40:1, twenty-fifth year. Eze_40:1, gives Ezekiel’s ordinary method of reckoning: from the “year of our captivity.” If the text really represents Ezekiel’s introduction to this prophecy, he refers to a thirtieth year which corresponds to “the fifth year of our captivity.” In this case the most natural supposition would be that the thirtieth year would refer to his own age (Kraetzschmar, etc.), although Mr. Wesley, following the Targum, believed the thirtieth year was reckoned from the discovery of the book of the covenant. Some scholars believe, however, that Eze_1:1, and perhaps also Eze_1:2, were originally the introduction to certain prophecies of Ezekiel which are now lost. Josephus seems to have heard that Ezekiel left two books of his prophecies. Ewald supposes Eze_1:2-3 to be a comment added by Ezekiel in his last revision of the book. Cornill regards the first verse as the gloss. But most modern commentators agree that Ezekiel wrote this first verse, and that the “thirtieth year” refers to some Babylonian era, probably that of Nabopolassar, who became king of Babylon 625-624 B.C., just about thirty years previous to this time (594-592 B.C.), while Eze_1:2-3 were comments added by a later editor. Professor John F. Peters (Journal of Biblical Literature, 11:39) offers what seems to be the true explanation of how this gloss arose. The era of the first verse is probably Babylonian, perhaps the era of the independence of Babylon. To use a non-Jewish era was not in accordance with Jewish usage; this peculiarity therefore led some one to write on the margin, between the lines, the date according to the Jewish era, the second verse being merely a comment on the first. This annotation finally crept into the text. The form of these annotations is familiar in the Midrashim, and in Jewish commentaries of all eras, with this very form: היא, that is. Considering Eze_1:2-3, with the exception of the closing phrase, as marginal glosses, we get a very forcible introduction to the book, “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God, and the hand of Jehovah was upon me there.” Ezekiel could never forget the day, which was the fifth day of the mouth Tammuz (June-July).
The captives — There were several deportations of Judah and Israel to the east: 1, by Tiglath-pileser to Assyria (2Ki_15:29), 741 B.C.; 2, by Shalmaneser to “Habor by the rivers of Gozan [Pasture Land], and in the mountains of the Medes” (LXX., 2Ki_17:6); 3, by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon (Jer_25:11-12). Nebuchadnezzar seems first to have carried off Daniel and his companions, afterward Jehoiakim and his court (2Ki_24:1-2; 2Ch_36:6-7; Jer_24:5-6), including Ezekiel (see S. B. A., Eze_15:2). Ezekiel himself tells of later raids upon Palestine and the deportation of its population. No doubt these captives were distributed in various localities. Babylonian records show that there was a “Jewish quarter” in various great cities of Babylonia, and speak also of certain new cities receiving the bulk of their population from foreigners thus transported. These captives were not treated harshly. They could buy, and sell, and build, and have most, if not all, of the privileges of citizens, if they were only willing to forget their native land and be true to the ruling government.
The river of Chebar — Hebrews Kebar, “great.” The Chabor of Mesopotamia (2Ki_17:6) must not be confounded with the Chebar of Babylonia. The distinction is shown in the Hebrew text, though it has been only recently recognized by expositors. The Chebar was supposed by Pliny (vi, 24) to be a branch of the Euphrates, called the Gabaris. Many ingenious conjectures have been offered by modern cuneiform scholars, the general opinion being that the Chebar must have been the technical name of one of the leading canals of Babylonia; even to this day in Egypt the word for canal being bahr, “river.”
This view has been confirmed by the brilliant discovery of Dr. Hilprecht, in 1897, of an inscription of the fifth century B.C., in which this very name Kabari is used of the large navigable canal near Niffer (Nippur). The inscriptions also reveal a large Jewish element in the population of Niffer itself, as is shown by the scores of Jewish names, like Benjamin, Shimeon, Samson, and Zebediah. Local names of Palestinian towns are also of common occurrence; for example, Ashkelon, Heshbon, etc. It is suggestive that these names and their archaic form correspond with remarkable accuracy to those used in Ezra and Nehemiah. It has become almost certain, therefore, that we have at last discovered the very district in which Ezekiel and his friends resided. The traditional tomb of Ezekiel is still shown not far from that place.
Heavens were opened — This was not a dream, it was a manifestation (Mat_3:16; Mat_17:2). Whether these heavenly visions appeared on the Sabbath or not (Wesley), they prove the devout spirit of the seer. It is only to deep contemplative natures that such revelations are given.
I saw — The heavens are always full of glory, but they are not always open to human eyes. The open eye is as necessary to the vision as the open heaven (2Ki_6:17).
Visions of God — This was better than to see the golden streets and the pearly gates of a New Jerusalem. This was the best vision the open heaven could disclose. The quest of the Holy Grail was worth long travel and sorrow; to see God was worth Ezekiel’s trip to Babylon and exile from his Judean home.
Now; literally, and. The use of the conjunction indicates here, as in Jon_1:1, that the narrative that follows links itself on to something that has gone before. In Exo_1:1 and 1Sa_1:1 it may point to a connection with the book that precedes it. Here the sequence is subjective. We may think of Ezekiel as retracing the years of his life till he comes to the thirtieth. Then, as it were, he pulls himself up. That must be the starting point of what he has to say. Our English use of “now” is nearly equivalent to this. In the thirtieth year. I incline, following Origen, Hengstenberg, Smend, and others, to refer the date to the prophet’s own life. That year in Jewish reckoning was the age of full maturity. At that age the earlier Levites (Num_4:23, Num_4:20, Num_4:39, Num_4:43, Num_4:47) had entered on their duties. It is probable, though no written rule is found, that it was the normal age for the functions of the priesthood. In the case of our Lord (Luk_3:23) and of the Baptist it appears to have been recognized as the starting point of a prophet’s work. Jeremiah’s call as a “child” was obviously exceptional. Other theories are:
(1) That the years are reckoned from the era of Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, dating from his throwing off the sovereignty of Assyria, and giving here the date B.C. 595 (Michaelis, Rosenmuller, Ewald, and others); but against this it may be urged
(a) that there is no evidence that that era was in use in Ezekiel’s time, and
(b) that he nowhere else uses a double historical chronology.
(2) That the years are reckoned from the discovery of the book of the Law in the reign of Josiah (2Ki_22:8; 2Ch_34:14), as a turning point or era in the history of Judah (Targum, Theodoret, Jerome, Havernick), which would again bring us to B.C. 595. This view is, however, open to the same objections as (1). We have no proof that the Jews ever reckoned from that event, and Ezekiel did not want, here or elsewhere, another point to reckon from, as far as his people’s history was concerned, than the captivity of Jehoiachin. In the fourth month. Both here and in verse 2 the months are probably reckoned from Abib, or Nisan, the month of the Passover, with which the Jewish year began (Exo_12:2; Neh_2:1; Est_3:7), so that the fourth month, known by later Jews as Tammuz, would bring us to June or July. Among the captives (literally, the captivity) by the river of Chebar. By most earlier commentators the Chebar has been identified with the Chaboras of the Greeks (now the Khabour), which rises in Upper Mesopotamia, at Ras-el-Ain, and falls into the Euphrates at Carcesium, a city which modern geographers distinguish from the Carchemish of the Old Testament. Recent critics, however (Rawlinson, Smend, and others), have urged that this was too far north to be in the “land of the Chaldeans” (verse 3), or Babylon (2Ki_24:16), and have suggested that the Chebar of Ezekiel is the Nahr-Malcha, or Royal Canal of Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of that king’s irrigation works, to which, therefore, the name Chebar (i.e. uniting) would be appropriate. The identification of Chebar with the labor of 2Ki_17:6, to which the ten tribes had been deported (whether, with Rawlinson, we think of that river as identical with the Chaboras, or still further north, near an affluent of the Tigris of the same name), must, for like reasons, be rejected. The two names are, indeed, spelt differently, with initial letters that do not interchange. The heavens were opened. The phrase, not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, appears in Mat_3:16; Joh_1:51; Act_7:56; Act_10:11; Rev_4:1. Visions of God. The words admit of three interpretations:
(1) Great, or wonderful, visions; as in the “mountains of God” (Psa_36:6), the “cedars of God” (Psa_80:10), the “river of God” (Psa_65:9);
(2) visions sent from God; or
(3) actual theophanies or manifestations of the Divine glory, of these (3) is most in harmony with what follows, here and elsewhere, on the phrase (comp. Eze_8:3; Eze_40:2; Eze_43:3). Such a theophany constituted in his ease, as in that of Isaiah (Isa_6:1), Jeremiah (Jer_1:9), Zechariah (Zec_1:8-14), his call to the office of a prophet. The visions may be thought of as manifested to his waking consciousness in an ecstatic state, and are thus distinguished from the dreams of sleep (comp. Joe_2:28 for the distinction between the two—”visions” belonging to the young, and “dreams” to the old). The visions of Balaam, seen in a “trance,” but with his “eyes open” (Num_24:3, Num_24:4), and of St. Paul, “whether in the body or out of the body” he could not tell (2Co_12:2, 2Co_12:3), present suggestive parallels.
The fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity. The date of this deportation stands as B.C. 599 (2Ki_24:8-16; 2Ch_36:9, 2Ch_36:10), and thus brings us to B.C. 595 4 as the time of Ezekiel’s first vision. It was for him and for his fellow exiles a natural starting point to reckon from. It would have been, in one sense, as natural to reckon from the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign, as Jeremiah does (Jer_39:1, Jer_39:2), but Ezekiel does not recognize that prince—who was, as it were, a mere satrap under Nebuchadnezzar—as a true king, and throughout his book systematically adheres to this era (Eze_8:1; Eze_20:1; Eze_24:1, et al.). About this time, but a year before, the false prophets of Judah were prophesying the overthrow of Babylon and the return of Jeconiah within two years (Jer_28:3), and the expectations thus raised were probably shared by many of Ezekiel’s companions in exile, while he himself adhered to the counsels of the leter which Jeremiah had sent (Jer_29:1-23) to the Jews of the Captivity. To one who felt himself thus apart from his brethren, musing over many things, and perhaps perplexed with the conflict of prophetic voices, there was given, in the “visions of God” which he relates, the guidance that he needed. They did not break in, we may well believe, suddenly and without preparation on the normal order of his life. Like other prophets, he felt, even before his call, the burdens of his time. and vexed his soul with the ungodly deeds of these among whom he lived.
Cambridge Bible Davidson
2. fifth year … jehoiachin] Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim and grandson of Josiah, reigned only three months and ten days. He is also styled Jeconiah or Coniah, Jer_22:24 seq., Eze_24:1, Eze_27:20; 2Ki_24:8. His captivity dates b.c. 597, and Ezekiel’s call 592, six years before the fall of Jerusalem.
The word of the Lord came expressly, etc.; literally, coming, there come the word of the Lord; the iteration having (as commonly in this combination in Hebrew) the force of emphasis. The phrase stands, as elsewhere, for the conscious inspiration which made men feel that Jehovah had indeed spoken unto them, and that they had a message from him to deliver. To give parallel passages would be to copy several pages from a concordance, but it may not be without interest to note its first (Gen_15:1) and last (Mal_1:1) occurrences in the Old Testament, and its reappear, race in the New Testament (Luk_3:2). Unto Ezekiel. We note the transition from the first person to the third; but it does not give sufficient ground for rejecting either verse 1 or verse 2, 3 as an interpolation. (For the prophet’s name, which appears only here and in Eze_24:24, see Introduction; and for “land of Chaldeans,” note on Eze_24:1.) The hand of the Lord. Here again we haw a phrase of frequent occurrence, used of Elijah (1Ki_18:46), of Elisha (2Ki_3:15), of Daniel (Dan_8:18; Dan_10:10), of Isaiah (Isa_8:11), of St. John (Rev_1:17). The “hand” of the Lord is the natural symbol of his power, and the phrase seems to be used to add to the consciousness of inspiration, that of a constraining, irresistible power. Ezekiel continually uses it (Eze_3:14, Eze_3:22; Eze_8:1; Eze_33:22; Eze_37:1; Eze_40:1).
As the appearance of the bow. The glorious epiphany was completed, as in Rev_4:3 and Rev_10:1, by the appearance of the rainbow. The symbol of God’s faithfulness, and of the hope that rested on it (Gen_9:13). was seen in the glory of the Divine perfection, even in the midst of the fire of the Divine wrath. Mercy and love are thought of as over arching all the phenomena of the world and its history, attempering the chastisements which are needed for those with whom that love is dealing. The whole complex appearances of Ezekiel’s descriptions, including the arch of prismatic colours, finds its nearest natural analogue, as has been before suggested (note on verse 4), in the phenomena of the Northern Lights. I fell upon my face. As in Eze_3:23; Dan_8:17; Rev_1:17, the prostrate attitude of lowliest adoration, the dread and awe of one who has seen the King, the Lord of hosts, and vet survives, was a preparation for the more direct revelation to his consciousness of the Word and will of Jehovah (comp. Dante ‘Inferno,’ 3:136; 5:142).
Cambridge Bible Davidson
28. The prophet speaks with great reverence. What he saw was the “appearance” of a throne and of one sitting on it and of a rainbow; he does not venture to say that he saw these things themselves. The rainbow is an element borrowed from the theophany in the storm cloud. It expresses the glory surrounding the throne of God. The traditional idea that the rainbow is the token of covenant grace has little to support it. The rainbow in the cloud was a memorial of God’s covenant with nature that he would not again destroy the world with a flood, it had no relation to any covenant of redemption.
the glory of the Lord] probably refers to the particular glory of the appearance sitting on the throne and the rainbow colours around him, not to the whole manifestation embracing the cherubim and wheels. The “glory of the Lord” is described as leaving the cherubim and standing elsewhere, e.g. ch. Eze_9:3, Eze_10:4. At the sight of this glory the prophet fell upon his face.
That which ch. 1 presents is a theophany, a manifestation of God to the prophet. It is not a vision of the cherubim nor of anything else, but of God. The cherubim, wheels, firmament and throne are all subordinate, they have no meaning in themselves, they merely help to suggest what God is who thus manifests himself.
The vision is a composite one, made up of a number of elements drawn from several sources. There is first the idea that God moves and descends to the earth upon the cherubim (Psa_18:10; Psa_104:3); he is borne upon them. It is possible that the storm-cloud on which Jehovah rode and in which his presence was enshrouded became personified into a being, which bore him on its wings. Cf. Isa_19:1. But if this was the origin of the idea of the cherub, the conception of the cherubim as “living creatures” had become established long before the time of this prophet, as appears from Gen_3:24. The cherubim being thus the means of Jehovah’s manifesting himself, that on which he was borne and moved, wherever they were seen Jehovah was known to be present. They were the means and the tokens of his manifestation. Hence two great cherubims were placed by Solomon in the Debîr, or innermost shrine of the temple. On these Jehovah was enthroned: he dwelt or sat upon the cherubim (Psa_99:1; Psa_80:1).
Again in Isaiah’s vision of “the King, the Lord of hosts” (ch. 6) there is naturally a palace and a throne. The palace, though the heavenly one, is the counterpart of the earthly one or temple, and has a hearth or altar fire. Both the fire and the throne reappear in Ezekiel’s vision in an amplified form. The fire is no more a mere hearth from which a hot coal might be taken, it shoots forth flames and thunderbolts. This is a combination of the phenomena of the theophany in the thunderstorm with the representation of Isaiah. Similarly Isaiah’s idea of Jehovah’s throne being in the heavenly temple has been amplified by Ezekiel with various details. There was seen by him the appearance of a firmament like crystal, and above the firmament the appearance of a throne like a sapphire stone. Jehovah in his manifestation carries heaven, the place of his abode with him. Further his throne is surrounded by the glories of the rainbow, another element borrowed from the theophany in nature. In this way there is in the vision a combination of the theophany in nature with Jehovah’s self-manifestation to men among his people in redemption.
And finally according to his manner the prophet has descended to elaborate details in describing the various elements of the manifestation, the cherubim, the wheels and the like. In all the prophet’s symbols throughout his Book the idea is first and the symbol but the expression of it. In the present case, however, the whole phenomenon is a vision of God, and the ideas which the symbols express are ideas in regard to God. This is evident so far as the wheels, the firmament, the throne and the like are concerned. But the same is true of the cherubim. These are hardly yet independent beings, with a significance belonging to themselves. They are still half in the region of symbol, and what meaning they have has to be transferred to God, whose movements they mediate, just as much as that of the wheels or the flashing fire. At a later time the “wheels” were represented as beings and in the Book of Enoch are a class of angels.
It may be assumed that in the prophet’s mind each detail of the symbolism expressed some idea, though it may not be possible now to interpret the details with certainty. The firmament and throne represent Jehovah as God of heaven, God alone over all, the omnipotent. The fourfold character of the living creatures, their wings, and the wheels which moved in all directions, and presented the same face to every quarter, suggest the power of Jehovah to be everywhere present. The wheels, called whirl or whirling thing (ch. Eze_10:13), may have been suggested by the sweeping whirlwind and tempest in which Jehovah moves. The conception of velocity which they express does not differ greatly from that of ubiquity expressed by their number. The eyes of which they and the living creature were full are symbols of life and intelligence. That the faces of each creature are four is but part of the larger general conception that the creatures are four in number. The four faces, that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle or vulture are the highest types of animal life. It is possible that to the prophet’s mind these types represented four different attributes. Probably the cherubim in the temple had the human face, though this is not expressly stated. The prophet represents those carved on the walls of the new temple as having two faces, those of a man and a young lion (ch. Eze_41:18). Jehovah is frequently compared to a lion. He is also called by a name which may be an epithet of the ox. The symbol of the ox was a familiar one, 1Ki_7:25; 1Ki_7:29; 1Ki_7:36; 1Ki_10:19. Ezekiel may have been familiar with the mixed animal forms seen in the Assyrian temples, though it is scarcely necessary to suppose him influenced by these. The multiplication of details in his symbols is so characteristic of him that he may be credited with the creation of the four faces himself, just as of the four hands and four wings of the cherub. Cf. Isa_6:2. The derivation and meaning of the word cherub is uncertain. It has been supposed that the word has been found in Assyrian, but this also is not quite certain. See Schrader KAT on Gen_3:24. Cf. the art. in Encyc. Brit. (Cheyne); Riehm in his Bible Dictionary, and Stud. u. Krit., 1871, also his paper, “De Natura &c. Cheruborum,” 1864. And, Die Lehre des A. Test. über die Cherubim, von J. Nikel, Bres. 1890.
Son of man, etc. It is noticeable that the phrase (ben adam), as addressed to a prophet, occurs only in Ezekiel, in whom we find it not less than eighty times, and in Dan_8:17. As used elsewhere, e.g. in Num_23:19; Psa_8:4; Job_25:6; Isa_51:12; Isa_56:2, and in Ezekiel’s use of it, it is probably connected with the history of Adam, as created from the ground (adamah) in Gen_2:7; Gen_3:19. The prophet is reminded, in the very moment of his highest inspiration, of his Adam nature with all its infirmity and limitations. In the use of a like phrase (bar enosh, instead of ben adam) in Dan_7:13 we have the same truth implied. There one like unto man in all things is called to share the sovereignty of the “Ancient of Days,” the Eternal One. Here the prophet, nothing in himself, is called to be the messenger of God to other sons of men. It is in many ways suggestive that our Lord should have chosen the same formula for constant use when speaking of himself (Mat_8:20, and passim in the Gospels). Stand upon thy feet. The attitude of adoration is changed, by the Divine command, into that of expectant service, that of awe and dread for the courage of a soldier of the Lord of hosts (compare the parallels of Eze_3:24; Eze_43:3, Eze_43:5; Dan_8:18).
1.Son of man — This was a form of address which was very common in Chaldea, especially when the gods were supposed to speak. (Compare Lightfoot.) It vividly calls attention to the contrast between human mortality and weakness and divine eternity and majesty. Yet let it be noticed that when Jehovah — in the likeness of a man upon a throne (Eze_1:26) — wants a messenger to speak to mankind he searches for one who is pre-eminently human. The whole prophecy shows how powerfully Jehovah can use a man to display his glory when he speaks and acts not according to his own will, but Jehovah’s.
I will speak unto thee — “The Hebrew here indicates confidential conversation with the prophets although he may only take part as a listener.” — Orelli.
Stand upon thy feet — The man of flint (Eze_3:9) must rise up and receive his commission standing (Eze_1:28). He must at once be taught obedience and courage, and stand ready to run at the conclusion of the message.
Cambridge Bible Davidson
2. And the spirit] Perhaps, and spirit. It is not said directly to be the spirit of God, though in a sense this is meant. Spirit is strength, or, rather the source of strength and life; a power or energy entered into the prophet and set him on his feet. But this power was external to him and came from God. While God desires man to stand erect before him and be man, it is only spirit from God that enables man to take this right place.
Cambridge Bible Davidson
3. to a rebellious nation] Rather, nations. First the people are called the children of Israel, then described more particularly as “nations,” the reference being either to the two houses of Israel, the north and south, or to the people as a whole considered as consisting of larger divisions (Psa_106:5) as “peoples” is used elsewhere (Hos_10:14; Deu_33:19). There hardly lies in “nations” any suggestion that they were as the “heathen.” The general character of the people is described as “rebellious;” and they had “rebelled” continuously throughout all their history, they and their fathers; cf. ch. Eze_16:23. Israel is a moral person, with an unbroken identity all through its history; and its disposition has been uniformly disobedient—it is a rebellious house.
Cambridge Bible Davidson
4. for they are impudent children] Rather, and the children are impudent and stiffhearted, to whom I send thee. The “children” are the present generation, who are like their fathers. Outwardly they are “impudent,” lit. hard in face, resolute and whose eyes do not quail before one that opposes them; and within they are strong of heart, unyielding and stubborn in will and feeling. The word here used of the face is said of the heart, ch. Eze_3:7, and the term applied to the heart is said of the face and forehead, ch. Eze_3:8. More often the term used of the face is applied to the neck, “stiffnecked” (Exo_33:3). For the idea comp. Isa_48:4, “I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass.”
Thus saith the Lord God] lit. the Lord Jehovah. The word “Jehovah” was pronounced Adonai, “Lord,” and when Adonai, Lord, actually stood in the text, Jehovah was pronounced God, Elohim. In A.V. “God” is then printed in small capitals. This is what the prophet shall say on his part: “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah;” he shall announce himself a prophet from Jehovah, bearing his word. And the people shall eventually know that a prophet has been among them (Eze_2:5). By various omissions LXX. reads Eze_2:3-4 in a shorter form: Son of man I send thee to the house of Israel, who provoke me; who have provoked me they and their fathers unto this day, Eze_2:4 and thou shalt say unto them, &c. This reading certainly reflects a more natural Hebrew sentence than our present text.
Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, etc. The latter word is used in the sense of “cease” or “desist,” as in 1Co_9:6 and Eph_6:9. The same formula meets us in Eph_6:7; Eze_3:11, Eze_3:27. The prophet is warned beforehand of the (at least) probable failure of his mission, wholly or in part. We note the parallelism of thought, though not language, in 2Co_2:15, 2Co_2:16. Such, at all times, has been the condition of the prophet’s work. The expectation is grounded upon the antecedent fact of their being a “rebellious people.” There is the consolation that in the end, partly through the fulfilment of his words, partly, it may be, through the witness of their own conscience, they shall know that there has been a prophet among them (comp. Eze_33:33; Jer_28:9). We note that it is the first time that Ezekiel claims that name for himself.
7.Ye shall know that I am the Lord — See also Eze_6:13. This is to be the result of these terrible chastisements. Both the heathen and Israel will be forced to acknowledge that the one true God is the God who can protect his own honor, preserve those who are his true worshipers, and punish like a mighty God those who scorn and apostatize. He is not a God who is afar off; he is the very present “I am;” a God who is merciful and gracious, but who will not spare the guilty.
8.Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some — A remnant would be saved from their idolatry, though as by fire, and would preserve the true faith to the end of time (Isa_1:9; Isa_10:20; Zep_2:7; Zep_3:13; Jer_43:5). This word only referred to the immediate future, yet it may have a larger application. Although Israel for thousands of years has been a “taunt” and “astonishment” to the whole earth, a people without a country, and exposed to such persecutions as no other nation ever endured, yet a “remnant” has always been preserved. The Assyrians and Phoenicians and all other nations who were neighbors to Israel when this prophecy was written have disappeared, but Jehovah’s people remain unique and separate in every land — a nation still, though “scattered through the countries.”
9.“And they… shall remember me… when I have broken for myself their whorish heart.” — Havernick and Keil. This seems a better reading than that of the R.V., “I have been broken.” Israel went into Babylonian captivity a nation prone to fall constantly into idolatry. It came out of that fiery furnace a purified people with the whorish heart broken and every polytheistic tendency burned out of it. Up to this point their whole history had been a series of national or tribal apostasies from the true God; from this point onward there is not a single instance of this. …
Their eyes — “The eyes that hung wantonly on their idols.” — Kautzsch. “Ears and hearts were both involved in the sin (Eze_20:7-8; Eze_20:24; Num_15:39), and both came under the same chastisement that was to lead them to repentance.” — Plumptre.
Loathe themselves — Literally, loathe their own faces. (Compare Eze_20:43; Eze_36:31.)
I have not said in vain, etc. The thought of that self-loathing and repentance reconciles Ezekiel to his work. To “labour in vain” is the great misery of all workers for God. A time will come when he shall see that God has not sent him to such a work “in vain.” What before was dark will be made clear unto him (comp. Eze_14:23). Ezekiel’s words, “not in vain,” are echoed frequently by St. Paul (1Co_15:14, 1Co_15:58; 2Co_6:1; Php_2:16, et al.). The corresponding phrase, “I have broken their eyes,” sounds strange to us; but, after all, the heart is not literally broken more than the eyes, and figuratively the same words may be applied to either, so that there is no need for supposing, with some critics, that a more appropriate verb has been dropped out. Eyes and heart were alike involved in the sin (Eze_20:7, Eze_20:8, Eze_20:24; Num_15:39), and both came under the same chastisement that was to lead them to repentance.