The Pulpit Commentary

Ezekiel 36:1-38 (Ezekiel 36:1-38)

The present chapter is entirely devoted to the consolation of Israel, though its parts are derived from two separate "words" of Jehovah. Ezekiel 36:1-15 belong to the "word" which opened with the first verse of the preceding chapter; Ezekiel 36:16 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.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Ezekiel 36:1-15 (Ezekiel 36:1-15)

The material creation sharing in the fortunes of men.

Man has a many-sided nature. He is linked with the past history of angels and with the past history of the entire universe. His interests and fortunes are interwoven with the material creation and with the dynamic forces of nature. He has an interest in heaven and in hell. The intelligences of the universe are interested in him, and he is interested in them.

I. THE LAND OF CANAAN IS HONORED BY A DIVINE COMMUNICATION . It is a reasonable conclusion that the main interest God felt in the mountains and hills of Palestine arose from their use as a home and storehouse for his people. Yet it is proper that we should regard God as finding a pleasure in the hills and valleys on account of their native beauty. They were the workmanship of his hand, and there is every reason why he should find pleasure in his creations. The long, past history of their internal structure was open to his eye, and the beauty of their clothing was to him a delight. But why should he dispatch to these unconscious mountains a prophetic messenger? Without doubt, this was intended as a rebuke to the people who had grievously disregarded his messages. It was as if he said indirectly to the nation, "It is vain to speak longer to your stony ears. I turn away in sorrow, and address my message to the unconscious earth. The very mountains will give me better audience than you have done. If I speak to the dew, it will obey. If I speak to the fragrant soil, it will yield its fruit. If I speak to the mountains, they will put on verdure and beauty. But, alas! if I speak to the intelligent sons of Jacob, they turn deaf ears and rebellious wills to my gracious voice! O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord!" By such methods of rebuke God endeavors to bring conviction home to the consciences of the people.

II. THE LAND OF CANAAN WAS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN ISRAEL 'S PAST RENOWN . This land had been specially selected by God as the most fitting scene for the training of the Hebrew nation. It was the glory of all lands, the envy of surrounding nations. Compared with the territory north, or east, or south, it was splendidly fertile, while its mountains made it a secure fortress. The diversity of hill and vale gave it peculiar beauty and served to exhilarate the mind. The mountain-peaks drew heavenward men's thoughts. According to the known law, that the physical features of a country mould unconsciously the character of the inhabitants, Canaan had been a benefit to the Jewish tribes. The land was a contrast to the soft, fertile loam of Egypt. The relaxing climate of Lower Egypt, together with the wondrous facility of obtaining large crops, made the people indolent and effeminate—impatient of arduous exertion. In Palestine a totally different condition of things prevailed. For the most part the operations of husbandry were severe. The sides of the hills required to be built in terraces in order to retain the soil. But climate and soil were congenial for almost every kind of fruit. It was a territory in which it was scarcely possible for one to grow rich; it was a territory eminently suitable for the development of hardy and industrious peasants. Especially the land was singularly dependent upon the periodic rainfall. For, devoid of rain and dew, the olives dropped withered and unripe, the vines were blighted, the young corn was shriveled. Hence, in an eminent degree, the people hung in constant dependence on the good will of God. He held in his hand the helm of their prosperity.

III. THE LAND OF CANAAN HAD SHARED IN ISRAEL 'S DISCOMFITURE AND SHAME . Frequent invasions on their borders had made their homes and crops insecure, and, without security for obtaining crops, men will not sow their fields. Frequent absence also, to serve on the battle-field, drew away the young men from quiet husbandry. Such losses in such a country soon became serious. A diminution in their produce left them unable and unwilling to pay tribute to their foreign conquerors, and this resulted in fresh invasion. Step by step the land went out of cultivation. The terraces on the hillsides were neglected. The people forget God, and God withdrew the light of his favor. The mountain-slopes, denuded of soil, soon became bald, bleached rocks. The high reputation for fertility which the land had enjoyed was gone. Its excellence and glory departed. Sharon was no longer a fold for flocks. Carmel laid aside her bridal garments of floral beauty. Jackals and foxes and hyenas infested the land. With the degradation of the elect people came the degradation of the elect land.

IV. THE LAND OF CANAAN WAS ABOUT TO SHARE IN ISRAEL 'S NEW PROSPERITY .

1. In proportion to the infamy the land had endured was to be the fertility again to be enjoyed . The prosperity should not only rise to the former level; it should greatly surpass it. The infallible promise was made directly to every part and branch of the territory. God had a tender regard for every mountain and valley, for every river and plain; each should be enriched and gladdened by his favoring smile. The shame of the heathen should be outbalanced by corresponding reputation and honor. On condition of the faithfulness of the people this revival of prosperity should be enduring.

2. God speaks in language adapted to the age . By any other mode of speech God could not have been understood; and in such a case he may as well not have spoken. As men were stimulated to great exertions by a sentiment of national jealousy, so, in accommodation to imperfect men, God speaks of himself as stirred to activity by the fire of jealousy. Such jealousy was only another form of considerate love. It had no respect to himself. It was a jealous regard for the good of Israel, a jealous desire to fulfill his ancient promises.

3. These pledges of good were redeemed in the centuries which followed Israel ' s restoration . The land was reclaimed from the ravages of wild beasts. Cities and villages were rebuilt. Many parts of Canaan became fertile as a garden. Confessedly, we feel a disappointment that the revival of prosperity was not more complete, nor more abiding. But this was due alone to the folly and guilt of the people. In every promise of God there underlies a moral condition. For him to give unmingled blessing to evil-doers would be a fresh evil and an encouragement to sin. The actual fortunes of Canaan, in the later centuries, prove the faithfulness of God and the fickleness of the people.—D.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Ezekiel 36:1-15 (Ezekiel 36:1-15)

Encouragement in exile.

Israel was in a very deplorable condition. It was away from its native land, in the power and in the service of the enemy; its own "inheritance" was peopled by a poor and weak remnant; it was the prey and the butt of the merciless mocker; its fortunes were low, its heart was sad indeed; it could not sing the Lord's song in such a strange land as that in which it was exiled. But after words of condemnation comes the language of hope. The prophet of God is commissioned to break into their gloom with some beams of promise. Here are gracious words from his mouth; here is a prophecy delivered to "the mountains of Israel," which may well have filled the hearts of the people of God with great joy and gladness. The lessons we glean from the passage ( Ezekiel 36:1-15 ) are—

I. THAT SOMETHING HAS LEFT US WHEN AN ENEMY HAS DONE HIS WORST . As Matthew Henry well remarks, the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, the desolate wastes and the forsaken cities (verse 4) "remained to be spoken to …these the Chaldeans could not carry away with them." They might deport and depopulate, but they could not destroy the land which Jehovah had given to his people. Still the mountains stood, and still the rivers ran, and still the valleys stretched beneath the sun and received the rains of heaven.

1. Our human enemy may do much to harm us, but his power is very limited after all. At the most and the worst, he can but kill the body; after that he hath no more that he can do." He cannot kill the soul; he cannot take away faith, or love, or peace, or hope from the human heart; he cannot rob us of our real inheritance.

2. Or if our spiritual enemy injures us in a more deadly way than the tyrant or the persecutor can do; if he gain dominion over us and rob us of our rectitude, and so of our peace and rest in God; even then there remains a spiritual nature which is capable of redemption; the soil remains, which, sown again with the good seed of the kingdom, may yet bring forth very precious fruit.

II. THAT THE TENDENCY OF SIN IS TO A DANGEROUS EXTREME . Edom and other heathen lands carried their enmity and their cruelty so far that they brought down upon themselves the righteous anger of God. "Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side," etc. (verse 3), "therefore, thus saith the Lord, surely in the fire," etc. (verse 5). These persecuting nations had succeeded only too well; they had filled their hands with spoil, and their souls with spiteful pleasure (verse 5); and the extremity to which they pushed their triumph led to their discomfiture. Such is sin everywhere. It leads to extravagance and excess; to a most guilty and ruinous indulgence; or to a high-handed arrogance and blasphemy which call forth the deep displeasure of the righteous God, and bring down the strong, stern hand of judgment. When we once give way to temptation, of whatever kind it be, we enter a path which leads and lures us on much further than we at first meant to go; and the end of it is condemnation and doom.

III. THAT GOD PITIES HIS PEOPLE , THOUGH THEY SURFER AT his OWN HAND . It was God who caused the children of Israel to lose their heritage and to be carried away as they were. Their sorrows were the penalty of their sin; it was the hand of the Lord that was laid upon them. Yet their distressing condition called forth the Divine compassion. It was in mercy, in true pity, that he saw them "bearing the shame of the heathen' (verse 6; see verse 15). Even though it is in virtue of God's own righteous laws that we "are minished and brought low," that we suffer in the flesh or in the spirit, in circumstance or in soul, as the consequence of our wrongdoing, even then, in our straits and in our misery, in our bondage and in our degradation, we are the objects of Divine compassion. God likes not to see his children suffer and "bear shame" as they do. And he sends the messenger of mercy that bids us rise from our wretchedness and ruin and return unto himself.

IV. THAT EVERYTHING MAY BE RECOVERED WHEN GOD IS ON OUR SIDE . (Verses 8-15.) When God says, "I am for you, and I will turn unto you," what is there that we may not hope for? Then the land of Israel might look to be retilled and resown, to yield its fruit as in the best days that were; to be repeopled by those who had a right to walk upon its hills and to cultivate its villages; it should no longer be a grave for the dead, but a home for the living. And when we turn in penitence and in faith to God, and he turns in mercy and in grace to us, what is there that we may not hope for? What glorious spiritual restoration is within our reach!—the peace which no earthly good can either give or take away: the joy which abides and which blesses while it lasts; the excellency of character and of life which makes us take rank with the children of God everywhere; the hope which is full of immortality.—C.

- The Pulpit Commentary