Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, and drop your word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,…
I. THE PROPHET'S COMPELLATION, OR TITLE — "Son of man." There are but two persons in Scripture which have eminently this name — the one is our Saviour, the other Ezekiel. For our Saviour, it was not without very good reason — namely, as hereby to discover the truth of His humanity to us — that amongst those many miracles which were wrought by Him, from whence He did appear to be God, He might have somewhat also fastened upon Him declaring Him likewise to be man. Besides, as suitable to His present state of humiliation and future passion, that He might be looked upon according to that view wherein He tendered Himself to the world, and that those which were about Him might be prepared for what should happen unto Him, He thought it fitting thus to be called; in the meantime, likewise, encouraging them, upon these terms, to close with Him, as who having taken their nature upon Him, was not now ashamed to call them brethren. As for Ezekiel, why this name should be put upon him, this is a thing further considerable — especially why upon him rather than upon any other of the prophets, Daniel only excepted, who but once is distinguished by this compellation (Daniel 8:17). It is the general sense of divines, that it was for this reason especially, namely, to humble him in the midst of those many divine visions and revelations which he was partaker of, that though in regard of his work and employment he was a companion of angels, yet, for his condition, he was numbered amongst men. And so, in that respect, had a double disparagement upon him, which served to abase him — both of mortality and sinfulness. But we may add also another reason here in this place for the giving of it; and that was, not only to breed in him an humble spirit, but likewise a pitiful and compassionate. The message which he was now sent about, it was a matter of judgment and terror; it was a threatening, and foretelling of God's wrath and indignation against His people. Now, this did require some bowels and tenderness in him, that he should do it; and therefore "Son of man" was a very fit and proper compellation, that so, being a man himself, he might the more commiserate his brethren.
II. THE PROPHET'S INJUNCTION, OR COMMAND, WHICH IS LAID UPON HIM: and that is, how to carry himself in the denunciations of God's judgments against His people. This is laid forth in three clauses — First, to set his face toward Jerusalem. Secondly, to drop his word towards the holy places. Thirdly, to prophesy against the land of Israel. Where ye have a full enumeration of all kind of places, and conditions, and persons, as the objects of Divine wrath, which is threatened against them. First, the city, expressed in Jerusalem. Secondly, the Church, signified in the holy places. Thirdly, the country, or whole community, implied in the land of Israel. Here is God's judgments extended to all sorts and ranks of men — to the civil State, to the ecclesiastical, and to the popular. We will begin with the civil. "The Lord's voice crieth to the city" (Micah 6:9).
1. The place threatened is Jerusalem, the mother-city in the land of the princes and governors of the nation. This is that which God begins withal in the denunciation of His judgments against His people here in this place. This carries in it God's anger against great ones — the nobles and princes and judges and magistrates of the land; those which were of any eminency amongst them, whether for birth, or place, or power, or wealth; these sinning against the Lord were not without their correction — nay, God thinks fitting to take aim at them first of all: "Set thy face against Jerusalem." Now, there is a very good account which may be given of this dispensation.
(1) Because such places as these are, do abound with greater mercies, and so opportunities of doing good; therefore they, rebelling against the Lord, and provoking Him, do become more obnoxious.
(2) Because the sins of these are more exemplary and scandalous, The more eminent any are in place, the more notorious are their miscarriages — everyone looks upon them as so many patterns to all the rest.
(3) They are populous places, and they are such places wherein the flower and glory of the whole land is gathered together. The strength and riches and state of any nation are in their chief cities. Now, therefore, when God has a mind to stain the pride of all glory, He does especially aim at these.
2. The prophet's gesture which he is required to use to it — and that is, to set his face towards it. "Set thy face towards Jerusalem." The setting of the face, in Scripture, does carry a different notion in it.
(1) It is a note of attention. God would have him to set his face upon it, by way of serious consideration; to take notice of the manifold abominations which were in it. And thus now is it the concernment of ministers in like manner to do — not to shoot their arrows at random, rashly and unadvisedly, they care not how; but as being thoroughly appreciative of the guilt of the persons themselves they deal withal.
(2) It is a note of compassion and commiseration. So we also find it sometimes in Scripture. As our Saviour (Luke 19:41).
(3) It is a note of displeasure and indignation. So it is used sometimes (Jeremiah 21:10; Ezekiel 25:2; Ezekiel 28:21; Ezekiel 29:2).The second is in reference to the Church, or State Ecclesiastical. "And drop thy word towards the holy places."
1. The place is the Church and house of God. Here is God's vengeance threatened against that, as to the destruction of it. This is worse than the former; by how much spirituals are better than temporals, and any prejudice to our souls worse than to our outward estates.
(1) Here is a threatening of the place, the temple itself, which was afterwards verified and made good in the destruction and rendition of that: "Not one stone left upon another." God threatens to take away. that visible token of His presence from amongst them, which was one step of this punishment.
(2) Here is a threatening of the persons, the priests and ministers — there is an heavy judgment belonging to them; forasmuch as they had corrupted themselves, and others with them.
(3) In reference to the performances — the ordinances and ministerial dispensations. God drops upon the sanctuary when He threatens to suspend these, as oftentimes He does when He sends a famine of His word (Amos 8:11) Especially when His ordinances are neglected, when there is no heed or regard unto them: in such cases as these does God remove them, and otherwise bestow them; neither is there anything here which shall stand in the way of His judgments.
2. The carriage and proceeding towards it, and that is expressed here by dropping.
(1) A leisurable proceeding — one thing after another, in a succession. The judgments of God, they are not to be denounced all at once; that were enough to astonish men, and wholly overwhelm them. No, but by steps and degrees. They must first be acquainted with lesser judgments, and then afterwards with greater.
(2) A gentle proceeding — not boisterously, with over-much rigour; but mildly, and with the spirit of meekness.
(3) A constant proceeding. Dropping — it has frequency in it. So should it be with us here: "Precept upon precept, and line upon line" (Isaiah 28:10).The third, and last, in reference to the community and whole nation in general. In these words: "And prophesy against the land of Israel."
1. The place threatened — "the land of Israel." These words do carry two things in them, which might seem, at the first hearing, to plead for exemption from punishment.
(1) Israel, God's own peculiar people.
(2) The land of Israel, that is, a great number of them. Yet it will not do, or serve the turn neither. Though it be Israel, God's own people; though it be the land of Israel, all states and degrees amongst them; yet sinners, they must not shun judgment.
2. The carriage towards it, and that is prophesying. "Prophesy against the land of Israel." This was a very ill message, and very unwelcome, which Ezekiel was sent with; but yet he must carry it, for all that. He must prophesy against them — that is, declare God's punishments upon them for their sins and provocations of Him.
(T. Herren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,