Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Month: the year of the world 3411, August 27. (Usher) — Ezechiel had prophesied in the fourth year; then was silent a year and two months, or 430 days. He opened his mouth again in the sixth year, (chap. viii. 1.) and now in the seventh year he is ordered not to answer. (Worthington) — We know not what the ancients wanted to know; but their design was evil. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Judgest them; or, if thou wilt enter into the cause, and plead against them. (Challoner) — Lay before them the iniquities of their fathers, and their own, which bring on the reprobation of the greatest part. God will form his Church out of a few of them and of the Gentiles. The return of a small number from captivity is also insinuated.
Ver. 6. Excelleth. Hebrew, “is beauty or a desire.” Septuagint, “a honeycomb.” (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Scandals, &c., (offensiones) that is, the abominations or idols, to the worship of which they were allured by their eyes. (Challoner) — Moses found them in this condition in Egypt, and he could not entirely reclaim them. (Calmet) — Many still secreted their idols, chap. xxiii. 1., and Acts vii. 42. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Egypt. Their disorders called for such severity. But God was restrained by the dangers (Calmet) of blasphemy, &c., to which the faithful and idolaters would thus have been exposed. (Haydock) — He saved them as he had promised, though they did not deserve it. (Worthington)
Ver. 10. Brought. Literally, “cast,” (Haydock) as if they had been reluctant.
Ver. 11. Live, and enjoy temporal felicity, which was chiefly promised, though the faithful observers of the law would obtain an eternal reward.
Ver. 12. Sign, as also to promote piety and instruction.
Ver. 13. Sabbaths. We only read of one man gathering sticks, and the people manna once on those days, Exodus xv., and xvi. But Moses does not mention all. (Calmet) — Sabbath often denotes the whole law, which they transgressed; and as long as they retained an affection for idols, they could not observe the sabbaths so as to please God.
Ver. 14. But. Literally, “And I did for,” &c. This motive caused me to spare them. (Haydock) — I punished only the most guilty adorers of the calf, and murmurers, &c., Numbers xiv. 28. (Calmet) — Some were always preserved for a succession, ver. 9, 22. (Worthington)
Ver. 23. Again, or also. (Haydock) — Four times are specified [in] ver. 13, 15, 21., which may allude to the adoration of the calf, the graves of concupiscence, the murmuring, and commerce with the women and idols of Moab, Exodus xxiii., and Numbers x., and xiv., and xxv. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Not good. The laws and ordinances of their enemies: or those imposed upon them by that cruel tyrant the devil, to whose power they were delivered up for their sins; (Challoner) which may be styled the statutes of your fathers, &c., ver. 18. (Haydock) — God is often said to do what he only permits. (Calmet) — He abandoned them to their own perversity. (St. Jerome) (Deuteronomy xxxii. 21, 37.) — If God had spoken of the Decalogue, &c., would he say such laws were not good, after he had testified that the observers shall live in them? ver. 11. He established the ceremonial law, at the same time. See Kimchi; Menochius, &c. Chaldean, “I have given them up to their foolish desires. They have established bad statutes and laws which will not give them life.” This seems the best explanation. (Calmet) — Hebrew, “Have I given….(26) and have I polluted them?” &c. (Manasse Ben. Israel.) The precepts had also a bad effect, and were given in condescension to the weakness of the people, (Origen) particularly the ceremonial part. (St. Just.[St. Justin Martyr?]; St. Chrysostom; St. Jerome, &c.) — They did not justify, (St. Augustine) and were not good, compared with those of the new law. (St. Gregory, mor. xxviii. 9.) — Thus Solon gave the Athenians “the best laws that they would receive,” (Plutarch) though others more perfect might have been devised. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. I polluted them, &c. That is, I gave them up to such blindness, in punishment of their offences, as to pollute themselves with the blood of all their first-born, whom they offered up to their idols in compliance with their wicked devices. (Challoner) (Menochius) (Leviticus xviii. 21., and 4 Kings iii. ultra[last verse], and xxi. 6. (Calmet) — Offered. Protestants, “caused to pass through the fire all,[“] &c., chap. xvi. 21. — For their. Protestants, “that I might make them desolate to the end, that,” &c.
Ver. 29. Called high. Hebrew, “Bamah,” (Haydock) out of contempt. (Calmet) — The Jews were so much attached to the high places, that they called the altar of the Lord by the same name. Thus heretics are convicted by the very names they use, calling sacrifice service, &c. (Worthington)
Ver. 32. Stones. This was the secret intention of the ancients, (ver. 1.; Haydock) and of many in captivity, who were only praise-worthy compared with those at Jerusalem, chap. xi. 15.
Ver. 33. Out. I will not allow you to follow idols with impunity. (Calmet)
Ver. 35. Of people. That is, a desert, in which there are no people; (Challoner) meaning Judea, to which they should return.
Ver. 37. Covenant of the gospel, by the powerful attractions of grace, Luke xiv. 24., John vi. 69., and vii. 46., and 2 Corinthians x. 4.
Ver. 38. Israel. They shall continue in exile; or the rebel Jews who will not believe in Christ, shall be cast off. (Calmet)
Ver. 39. Walk, &c. It is not an allowance, much less a commandment to serve idols; but a figure of speech, by which God would have them to understand, that if they would walk after their idols, they must not pretend to serve him at the same time: for that he would by no means suffer such a mixture of worship. (Challoner) (St. Jerome) — Continue, if you dare, to serve idols. I will still bring you back. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “take away each your devices; and then if you hear me, (Grabe’s copy adds, not) and defile not my,” &c. (Haydock) — God would rather have idolaters leave him wholly, than halt between two, (3 Kings xviii.) neither hot nor cold; (Apocalypse iii.) for such dishonour God’s name the most, Romans ii. 24. (Worthington)
Ver. 40. Mountain. The foregoing verse, to make the sense complete, must be understood so as to condemn and reject that mixture of worship which the Jews then followed. In this verse God promises to the true Israelites, especially to those of the Christian Church, that they should serve him in another manner in his holy mountain, the spiritual Sion, and shall be accepted of by him. (Challoner)
Ver. 43. Committed. This is a picture of the converts to Christianity. (Calmet)
Ver. 46. Of the south. Jerusalem lay towards the south of Babylon, where the prophet then was, and is here called the forest of the south field, and is threatened with utter desolation. (Challoner) See chap. xxi. (Calmet) — In Jerusalem there were good and bad. (Worthington)
Ver. 47. Burned, with war and famine, Jeremias xxi. 14. (Calmet) — North, from Egypt to Mesopotamia. (Theodoret) — Nabuchodonosor invaded those parts. (Haydock)
Ver. 49. Parables. They were easy enough to understand, but the Jews would not comprehend them no more than our Saviour’s words, John x. 24. (Calmet) — Much of this prophecy was so hard, that all seemed to be parables. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
God refuses to answer the ancients of Israel, inquiring by the prophet: but by him setteth his benefits before their eyes, and their heinous sins: threatening yet greater punishments, but still mixt with mercy.
1 And *it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, there came men of the ancients of Israel to inquire of the Lord; and they sat before me.
2 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
3 Son of man, speak to the ancients of Israel, and say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: Are you come to inquire of me? As I live, I will not answer you, saith the Lord God.
4 If thou judgest them, if thou judgest, O son of man, declare to them the abominations of their fathers.
5 And say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up my hand for the race of the house of Jacob: and appeared to them in the land of Egypt, and lifted up my hand for them, saying: I am the Lord your God:
6 In that day I lifted up my hand for them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, into a land which I had provided for them, flowing with milk and honey, which excelleth amongst all lands.
7 And I said to them: Let every man cast away the scandals of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
8 But they provoked me, and would not hearken to me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of his eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: and I said I would pour out my indignation upon them, and accomplish my wrath against them, in the midst of the land of Egypt.
9 But I did otherwise for my name’s sake, that it might not be violated before the nations, in the midst of whom they were, and among whom I made myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
10 Therefore I brought them out from the land of Egypt, and brought them into the desert.
11 *And I gave them my statutes, and I shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them.
12 *Moreover, I gave them also my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them: and that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.
13 But the house of Israel provoked me in the desert: they walked not in my statutes, and they cast away my judgments, which if a man do he shall live in them: and they grievously violated my sabbaths. I said, therefore, that I would pour out my indignation upon them in the desert, and would consume them.
14 But I spared them for the sake of my name, lest it should be profaned before the nations, from which I brought them out in their sight.
15 So I lifted up my hand over them in the desert, not to bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, the best of all lands.
16 Because they cast off my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, and violated my sabbaths: for their heart went after idols.
17 Yet my eye spared them, so that I destroyed them not: neither did I consume them in the desert.
18 And I said to their children in the wilderness: Walk not in the statutes of your fathers, and observe not their judgments, nor be ye defiled with their idols:
19 I am the Lord your God: walk ye in my statutes, and observe my judgments, and do them.
20 And sanctify my sabbaths, that they may be a sign between me and you: and that you may know that I am the Lord your God.
21 But their children provoked me, they walked not in my commandments, nor observed my judgments, to do them, which if a man do, he shall live in them: and they violated my sabbaths: and I threatened to pour out my indignation upon them, and to accomplish my wrath in them in the desert.
22 But I turned away my hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it might not be violated before the nations, out of which I brought them forth in their sight.
23 Again I lifted up my hand upon them in the wilderness, to disperse them among the nations, and scatter them through the countries:
24 Because they had not done my judgments, and had cast off my statutes, and had violated my sabbaths, and their eyes had been after the idols of their fathers.
25 Therefore I also gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments, in which they shall not live.
26 And I polluted them in their own gifts, when they offered all that opened the womb, for their offences: and they shall know that I am the Lord.
27 Wherefore speak to the house of Israel, O son of man, and say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: Moreover, in this also your fathers blasphemed me, when they had despised and contemned me:
28 And I had brought them into the land, for which I lifted up my hand to give it them: they saw every high hill, and every shady tree, and there they sacrificed their victims, and there they presented the provocation of their offerings, and there they set their sweet odours, and poured forth their libations.
29 And I said to them: What meaneth the high place to which you go? and the name thereof was called high-place even to this day.
30 Wherefore say to the house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord God: Verily, you are defiled in the way of your fathers, and you commit fornication with their abominations.
31 And you defile yourselves with all your idols unto this day, in the offering of your gifts, when you make your children pass through the fire: and shall I answer you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not answer you.
32 Neither shall the thought of your mind come to pass, by which you say: We will be as the Gentiles, and as the families of the earth, to worship stocks and stones.
33 As I live, saith the Lord God, I will reign over you with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
34 And I will bring you out from the people, and I will gather you out of the countries, in which you are scattered, I will reign over you with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
36 As I pleaded against your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt: even so will I judge you, saith the Lord God.
37 And I will make you subject to my sceptre, and will bring you into the bands of the covenant.
38 And I will pick out from among you the transgressors, and the wicked, and will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord.
39 And as for you, O house of Israel: thus saith the Lord God: Walk ye every one after your idols, and serve them. But if in this also you hear me not, but defile my holy name any more with your gifts, and with your idols.
40 In my holy mountain, in the high mountain of Israel, saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel serve me: all of them, I say, in the land in which they shall please me, and there will I require your first fruits, and the chief of your tithes, with all your sanctifications.
41 I will accept of you for an odour of sweetness, when I shall have brought you out from the people, and shall have gathered you out of the lands into which you are scattered, and I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations.
42 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have brought you into the land of Israel, into the land for which I lifted up my hand to give it to your fathers.
43 And there you shall remember your ways, and all your wicked doings with which you have been defiled: and you shall be displeased with yourselves in your own sight, for all your wicked deeds which you committed.
44 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have done well by you for my own name’s sake, and not according to your evil ways, nor according to your wicked deeds, O house of Israel, saith the Lord God.
45 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying :
46 Son of man, set thy face against the way of the south, and drop towards the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field.
47 And any to the south forest: Hear the word of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will kindle a fire in thee, and will burn in thee every green tree, and every dry tree: the flame of the fire shall not be quenched: and every face shall be burned in it, from the south even to the north.
48 And all flesh shall see, that I the Lord have kindled it, and it shall not be quenched.
49 And I said: Ah, ah, ah, O Lord God: they say of me: Doth not this man speak by parables?
1: Year of the World 3411.
11: Leviticus xviii. 5.; Romans x. 5.
12: Exodus xx. 8. and xxxi. 13.; Deuteronomy v. 12.