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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

The title here given to Ezekiel, as often afterwards, is very observable. God, when he speaks to him, calls him, Son of man (Ezek. 2:1, 3), Son of Adam, Son of the earth. Daniel is once called so (Dan. 8:17) and but once; the compellation is used to no other of the prophets but to Ezekiel all along. We may take it, 1. As a humble diminishing title. Lest Ezekiel should be lifted up with the abundance of the revelations, he is put in mind of this, that sill he is a son of man, a mean, weak, mortal creature. Among other things made known to him, it was necessary he should be made to know this, that he was a son of man, and therefore that it was wonderful condescension in God that he was pleased thus to manifest himself to him. Now he is among the living creatures, the angels; yet he must remember that he is himself a man, a dying creature. What is man, or the son of man, that he should be thus visited, thus dignified? Though God had here a splendid retinue of holy angles about his throne, who were ready to go on his errands, yet he passes them all by, and pitches on Ezekiel, a son of man, to be his messenger to the house of Israel; for we have this treasure in earthen vessels, and God’s messages sent us by men like ourselves, whose terror shall not make us afraid nor their hand be heavy upon us. Ezekiel was a priest, but the priesthood was brought low and the honour of it laid in the dust. It therefore became him, and all of his order, to humble themselves, and to lie low, as sons of men, common men. He was now to be employed as a prophet, God’s ambassador, and a ruler over the kingdoms (Jer. 1:10), a post of great honour, but he must remember that he is a son of man, and, whatever good he did, it was not by any might of his own, for he was a son of man, but in the strength of divine grace, which must therefore have all the glory. Or, 2. We may take it as an honourable dignifying title; for it is one of the titles of the Messiah in the Old Testament (Dan. 7:13; I saw one like the Son of man come with the clouds of heaven), whence Christ borrows the title he often calls himself by, The Son of man. The prophets were types of him, as they had near access to God and great authority among men; and therefore as David the king is called the Lord’s anointed, or Christ, so Ezekiel the prophet is called son of man.

I. Ezekiel is here set up, and made to stand, that he might receive his commission, Ezek. 2:1, 2. He is set up,

1. By a divine command: Son of man, stand upon thy feet. His lying prostrate was a posture of greater reverence, but his standing up would be a posture of greater readiness and fitness for business. Our adorings of God must not hinder, but rather quicken and excite, our actings for God. He fell on his face in a holy fear and awe of God, but he was quickly raised up again; for those that humble themselves shall be exalted. God delights no in the dejections of his servants, but the same that brings them low will raise them up; the same that is a Spirit of bondage will be a Spirit of adoption. Stand, and I will speak to thee. Note, We may expect that God will speak to us when we stand ready to do what he commands us.

2. By a divine power going along with that command, Ezek. 2:2. God bade him stand up; but, because he had not strength of his own to recover his feet nor courage to face the vision, the Spirit entered into him and set him upon his feet. Note, God is graciously pleased to work that in us which he requires of us and raises those whom he bids rise. We must stir up ourselves, and then God will put strength into us; we must work out our salvation, and then God will work in us. He observed that the Spirit entered into him when Christ spoke to him; for Christ conveys his Spirit by his word as the ordinary means and makes the word effectual by the Spirit. The Spirit set the prophet upon his feet, to raise him up from his dejections, for he is the Comforter. Thus, in a similar case, Daniel was strengthened by a divine touch (Dan. 10:18) and John was raised by the right hand of Christ laid upon him, Rev. 1:17. The Spirit set him upon his feet, made him willing and forward to do as he was bidden, and then he heard him that spoke to him. He heard the voice before (Ezek. 1:28), but now he heard it more distinctly and clearly, heard it and submitted to it. The Spirit sets us upon our feet by inclining our will to our duty, and thereby disposes the understanding to receive the knowledge of it.

II. Ezekiel is here sent, and made to go, with a message to the children of Israel (Ezek. 2:3): I send thee to the children of Israel. God had for many ages been sending to them his servants the prophets, rising up betimes and sending them, but to little purpose; they were now sent into captivity for abusing God’s messengers, and yet even there God sends this prophet among them, to try if their ears were open to discipline, now that they were holden in the cords of affliction. As the supports of life, so the means of grace, are continued to us after they have been a thousand times forfeited. Now observe,

1. The rebellion of the people to whom this ambassador is sent; he is sent to reduce them to their allegiance, to bring back the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Let the prophet know that there is occasion for his going on this errand, for they are a rebellious nation (Ezek. 2:3), a rebellious house, Ezek. 2:5. They are called children of Israel; they retain the name of their pious ancestors, but they have wretchedly degenerated, they have become Goim—nations, the word commonly used for the Gentiles. The children of Israel have become as the children of the Ethiopian (Amos 9:7), for they are rebellious; and rebels at home are much more provoking to a prince than enemies abroad. Their idolatries and false worships were the sins which, more than any thing, denominated them a rebellious nation; for thereby they set up another prince in opposition to their rightful Sovereign, and did homage and paid tribute to the usurper, which is the highest degree of rebellion that can be. (1.) They had been all along a rebellious generation and had persisted in their rebellion: They and their fathers have transgressed against me. Note, Those are not always in the right that have antiquity and the fathers on their side; for there are errors and corruptions of long standing: and it is so far from being an excuse for walking in a bad way that our fathers walked in it that it is really an aggravation, for it is justifying the sin of those that have gone before us. They have continued in their rebellion even unto this very day; notwithstanding the various means and methods that have been made use of to reclaim them, to this day, when they are under divine rebukes for their rebellion, they continue rebellious; many among them, like Ahaz, even in their distress, trespass yet more; they are not the better for all the changes that have befallen them, but still remain unchanged. (2.) They were now hardened in their rebellion. They are impudent children, brazen-faced, and cannot blush; they are still-hearted, self-willed, and cannot bend, cannot stoop, neither ashamed nor afraid to sin; they will not be wrought upon by the sense either of honour or duty. We are willing to hope this was not the character of all, but of many, and those perhaps the leading men. Observe, [1.] God knew this concerning them, how inflexible, how incorrigible, they were. Note, God is perfectly acquainted with every man’s true character, whatever his pretensions and professions may be. [2.] He told the prophet this, that he might know the better how to deal with them and what handle to take them by. He must rebuke such men as those sharply, cuttingly, must deal plainly with them, though they call it dealing roughly. God tells him this, that it might be no surprise or stumbling-block to him if he found that his preaching should not make that impression upon them, which he had reason to think it would.

2. The dominion of the prince by whom this ambassador is sent. (1.) He has authority to command him whom he sends: “I do send thee unto them, and therefore thou shalt say thus and thus unto them,” Ezek. 2:4. Note, it is the prerogative of Christ to send prophets and ministers and to enjoin them their work. St. Paul thanked Christ Jesus who put him into the ministry (1 Tim. 1:12); for, as he was sent of the Father, ministers are sent by him; and as he received the Spirit without measure he gives the Spirit by measure, saying, Receive you the Holy Ghost. They are impudent and rebellious, and yet I send thee unto them. Note, Christ gives the means of grace to many who he knows will not make a good use of those means, puts many a price into the hand of fools to get wisdom, who not only have no heart to it, but have their hearts turned against it. Thus he will magnify his own grace, justify his own judgment, leave them inexcusable, and make their condemnation more intolerable. (2.) He has authority by him to command those to whom he sends him: Thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. All he said to them must be spoken in God’s name, enforced by his authority, and delivered as from him. Christ delivered his doctrines as a Son—Verily, verily, I say unto you; the prophets as servants—Thus saith the Lord God, our Master and yours. Note, The writings of the prophets are the word of God, and so are to be regarded by every one of us. (3.) He has authority to call those to an account to whom he sends his ambassadors. Whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, whether they will attend to the word or turn their backs upon it, they shall know that there has been a prophet among them, shall know by experience. [1.] If they hear and obey, they will know by comfortable experience that the word which did them good was brought to them by one that had a commission from God and a divine power going along with him in the execution of it. Thus those who were converted by St. Paul’s preaching are said to be the seals of his apostleship, 1 Cor. 9:2. When men’s hearts are made to burn under the word, and their wills to bow to it, then they know and bear the witness in themselves that it is not the word of men, but of God. [2.] If they forbear, if they turn a deaf ear to the word (as it is to be feared they will, for they are a rebellious house), yet they shall be made to know that he whom they slighted was indeed a prophet, by the reproaches of their own consciences and the just judgments of God upon them for refusing him; they shall know it to their cost, know it to their confusion, know it by sad experience, what a pernicious dangerous thing it is to despise God’s messengers. They shall know by the accomplishment of the threatenings that the prophet who denounced them was sent of God; thus the word will take hold of men, Zech. 1:6. Note, First, Those to whom the word of God is sent are upon their trial whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, and accordingly will their doom be. Secondly, Whether we be edified by the word or no, it is certain that God will be glorified and his word magnified and made honourable. Whether it be a savour of life unto life or of death unto death, either way it will appear to be of divine original.