Ezekiel Study: Chapter 3
3:1-7. Eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak. The eating is associated with the command to go and speak the words of G-d to the house of Israel. The L-rd touched Jeremiah’s mouth (Jer.1:9) but gave Ezekiel a scroll to eat. By eating the scroll (G-d’s Torah), Ezekiel assumed the responsibility to share its contents at G-d’s bidding and under His direction.
Compare Jeremiah 20:9: “…in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” which expresses the inner compulsion of the true prophet sent by G-d. In much the same way, Peter and John testified before the Sanhedrin: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
8-10. I have made thy face strong (hard)…As an adamant. As special preparation against the stubbornness of Israel, Ezekiel will be steeled in nerve and courage for whatever opposition he may face. Symbolically, he will be made as hard as adamant. This word means unshakeable or unyielding. This word is also frequently used in Isaiah meaning “thorn-bushes.” In Jeremiah 17:1 it is translated as “diamond” and denotes the point of an engraving tool. It also appears figuratively to describe hardness of heart (Zech. 7:12). Unless we are dealing with two different words, the only connecting link with the present use in that of sharpness, which comes clearly out of Jeremiah 17:1, “with the point of a diamond: it is graven…”
11. Get thee to them of the captivity. Two groups of exiles had already been brought to Babylon; one in 606B.C.E., and the other in 597 B.C.E. Ezekiel was sent to them to show G-d’s justice in their being chastened. The very fact of Ezekiel being sent to them indicates G-d’s love and compassion by pleading with them to repent and turn to Him. He continues to this day, but His pleading will not last forever.
12-14. The Spirit bodily transported Ezekiel to the exiles at Tel-abib on the large irrigation canal at Chebar. His ministry to them was in the form of seven days of complete silence among them. He thereby communicated a message most terrible and awesome to them; it caused great consternation.
After seven days of a ministry in silence, he was told to be a watchman over Israel in moral matters. As such, he was to warn the wicked to turn from their ways and to warn the righteous, but erring, one to turn from his way. These individuals, whether or not warned, would be held individually accountable for their actions. This is because the house of Israel knew G-d’s laws; in reality, they didn’t need to be warned. This was an expression of G-d’s love. The prophet would be cleared of guilt if he warned them of their wicked ways, even if they did not repent. But if he didn’t warn them, their blood would be on his head.
Thereupon, he was commanded to go to the plain, where the L-rd would have further instructions. There he saw a repeat of the vision of the glory of the L-rd seen earlier. He was told to go to his house, where he would be bound, and he was told that he would be dumb. But between intermittent periods of dumbness, he was to speak to the rebellious house of Israel the message that the L-rd would give him.
Spirit took me up (vs.12). Ezekiel appears to have been bodily carried by the Spirit. Even more, while he was being transported, he seems to be aware that he was in the fiery chariot that he had seen previously in connection with the vision of the glory of the L-rd (ch.1). This would be an encouragement to follow through in ministering to his people by means of acting out the sign messages symbolically. The evangelist Philip was similarly carried away by the Spirit (Acts.8:39). But later, Ezekiel seems to have been transported to Jerusalem in vision only, not actually in body (8:3;11:24).
15. I sat where they sat. As Job’s three friends sat in silence with him for seven days (Job 2:13) comforting him, so Ezekiel entered into anguish for his people in view of the calamities that he knew were going to come upon them. They did become greatly aroused, but apparently were not yet told of the coming judgment.
16-19. Watchman. The responsibility of a watchman to warn of a coming enemy was well understood (II Kings 9:17-20), as well as the guilt of manslaughter if he failed to warn his people. In this passage, the same principle is applied to warning of moral issues.
20-27. I lay a stumbling block before him. James 1:13 clearly indicates that G-d never leads an individual into ways of sin or error. However, G-d does permit the evil effects of sin to run their course when an individual persists in Torah disobedience. It should be notes that in this passage, the death of the righteous man is entirely a physical matter, not one of eternal spiritual death. Go, shut thyself within thine house. This was a withdrawal from public life, though individuals were still able to visit him. It may also indicate that the masses were given up to their ways and the emphasis would now be on ministering to concerned individuals. Put bands upon thee. Nowhere in the book do we find evidence of actual physical violence upon Ezekiel, though this is an argument from silence. Some suggest that it may be reference to bands of moral restraint, such as the people’s rejection of the prophet’s warning against their sin and impending judgment. Thou shalt be dumb. The prophet’s dumbness may have a double significance. First, his message would have divine authentication if he could speak only when relaying a message from the L-rd. Secondly, it certainly would remove the temptation any prophet might have to speak flattering words to the people, rather than G-d’s words.
Next week: Ezekiel and Kabbalah
Rabbi Tamah Davis
Ezekiel Study: Chapter 3