Here, I. The prophet is ordered to address himself to the Ammonites, in the name of the Lord Jehovah the God of Israel, who is also the God of the whole earth. But what can Chemosh, the god of the children of Ammon, say, in answer to it? He is bidden to set his face against the Ammonites, for he is God’s representative as a prophet, and thus he must signify that God set his face against them, for the face of the Lord is against those that do evil, Ps. 34:16. He must speak with boldness and assurance, as one that knew whose errand he went upon, and that he should be borne out in delivering it. He must therefore set his face as a flint, Isa. 1:7. He must show his displeasure against these proud enemies of Israel, and face them down, though they were very impudent, and thus must show that, though he had prophesied so much and so long against Israel, yet still he was for Israel, and, while he witnessed against their corruptions, he adhered to and gloried in God’s covenant with them. Note, Those are miserable that have the preaching and praying of God’s prophets against them, against whom their faces are set.
II. He is directed what to say to them. Ezekiel is now a captive in Babylon, and has been so many years, and knows little of the state of his own nation, much less of the nations that were about it; but God tells him both what they were doing and what he was about to do with them. And thus by the spirit of prophecy he is enabled to speak as pertinently to their case as if he had been among them.
1. He must upbraid the Ammonites with their insolent and barbarous triumphs over the people of Israel in their calamities, Ezek. 25:3. The Ammonites said, when all went against the Jews, Aha! so would we have it. They were glad to see, (1.) The temple burned, the sanctuary profaned by the victorious Chaldeans. This is put first, to intimate what was the cause of the controversy; they had an enmity to the Jews for the sake of their religion, though it was only some poor remains of the profession of it that were to be found among them. (2.) The nation ruined. They rejoiced when the land of Israel was made desolate, the cities burnt, the country wasted, and both depopulated, and when the house of Judah went into captivity. When they had not power to oppress God’s Israel themselves they were pleased to see the Chaldeans oppress them, partly because they envied their wealth and the good land they enjoyed, partly because they feared their growing power, and partly because they hated their religion and the divine oracles they were favoured with. It is repeated again (Ezek. 25:6): They clapped with their hands, to irritate the rage of the Chaldeans, and to set them on as dogs upon the game; or they clapped their hands in triumph, attended this tragedy with their Plaudite—Give us your applause, thinking it well acted; never was there any thing more diverting or entertaining to them. They stamped with their feet, ready to leap and dance for joy upon this occasion; they not only rejoiced in heart, but they could not forbear showing it, though every one that had any sense of honour and humanity would cry shame upon them for it, especially considering that they rejoiced thus, not for any thing they got by Israel’s fall (if so, they would have been the more excusable: most people are for themselves); but this as purely from a principle of malice and enmity: Thou hast rejoiced in heart with all thy despite (which signifies both scorn and hatred) against the land of Israel. Note, The people of God have always had a great deal of ill-will borne them by this wicked world; and their calamities have been their neighbours’ entertainments. See to what unnatural instances of malice the enmity that is in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman will carry them. The Ammonites, of all people, should not have rejoiced in Jerusalem’s ruin, but should rather have trembled, because they themselves had such a narrow escape at the same time; it was but “cross or pile” [the toss of a halfpenny] which should be besieged first, Rabbath or Jerusalem, Ezek. 21:20. And they had reason to think that the king of Babylon would set upon them next. But thus were their hearts hardened to their ruin, and their insolence against Jerusalem was to them an evident token of perdition, Phil. 1:28. It is a very wicked thing to be glad at the calamities of any, especially of God’s people, and a sin that God will surely reckon for; such delight has God in showing mercy, and so backward is he to punish, that nothing is more pleasing to him than to be stopped in the ways of his judgments by intercessions, not any thing more provoking than to help forward the affliction when he is but a little displeased, Zech. 1:15.
2. He must threaten the Ammonites with utter ruin for this insolence which they were guilty of. God turns away his wrath from Israel against them, as is said, Prov. 24:17, 18. God is jealous for his people’s honour, because his own is so nearly interested in it. And therefore those that touch that shall be made to know that they touch the apple of his eye. He had before predicted the destruction of the Ammonites, Ezek. 21:28. Had they repented, that would have been revoked; but now it is ratified. (1.) A destroying enemy is brought against them: I will deliver thee to the men of the east, first to the Chaldeans, who came from the north-east, and whose army, under the command of Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed the country of the Ammonites, about five years after the destruction of Jerusalem (as Josephus relates, Antiq. 10.181), and then to the Arabians, who were properly the children of the east, who, when the Chaldeans had made the country desolate, and quitted it, came and took possession of it for themselves, probably with the consent of the conquerors. Shepherds’ tents were their palaces; these they set up in the country of the Ammonites; there they made their dwellings, Ezek. 25:4. They enjoyed the products of the country: They shall eat thy fruit and drink thy milk; and the milk from the cattle is the fruit of the ground at second-hand. They made use even of the royal city for their cattle (Ezek. 25:5): I will make Rabbath, that was a nice and splendid city, to be a stable for camels; for its new masters, whose wealth lies all in cattle, will not think they can put the palaces of Rabbath to a better use. Rabbath had been a habitation of brutish men; justly therefore is it now made a stable for camels and the country a couching-lace for flocks, more innocent beasts than those with which it had been before replenished. (2.) God himself acts as an enemy to them (Ezek. 25:7): I will stretch out my hand upon thee, a hand that will reach far and strike home, which there is no resisting the blow of, for it is a mighty hand, nor bearing the weight of, for it is a heavy hand. God’s hand stretched out against the Ammonites will not only deliver them for a spoil to the heathen, so that all their neighbours shall prey upon them, but will cut them off from the people and made them perish out of the countries, so that there shall be no remains of them in that place. Compare with this, Jer. 49:1 What can sound more terrible than that resolution (Ezek. 25:7), I will destroy thee? For the almighty God is able both to save and to destroy, and it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands. Both the threatenings here (Ezek. 25:5, 7) conclude with this, You shall know that I am the Lord. For, [1.] Thus God will maintain his own honour, and will make it appear that he is the God of Israel, though he suffers them for a time to be captives in Babylon. [2.] Thus he will bring those that were strangers to him into an acquaintance with him, and it will be a blessed effect of their calamities. Better know God and be poor than be rich and ignorant of him.