Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
3:1. “Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest, eat
this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.”
This repetition of the command to eat emphasizes the importance of hearing and
obeying God’s words; and the words “that thou findest” implies a diligent
search of what God has written, reminding us that we too are not to be mere
casual readers of Scripture, but rather earnest students, searching it
carefully to find all that God has to say to us, so that we may render a more
complete obedience, and be preserved from committing sins of ignorance.
John also was commanded to figuratively “eat” God’s Word, Re 10:9-10.
Ezekiel’s being told to speak, not just to Judah, but to “the house of Israel”
may mean that he was to speak also to Israel, those of them who had chosen not
to return from Assyria, and those whom Nebuchadnezzar had allowed to remain in
Jerusalem in 586 BC.
The fact that the eating was to be followed by the prophet’s speaking, reminds
us that one of the purposes of Bible study is to equip us to be more effective
witnesses for God.
3:2. “And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me
upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.”
The spirit here is the Holy Spirit, and his entering into the prophet on this
second occasion, continues to emphasize that in the OT age He did not indwell
believers permanently as He does during this present Church age.
Ezekiel’s being set upon his feet has the same meaning here as in 2:1.
3:3. “And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and
fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it
was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.”
Another translation renders “cause thy belly to eat, etc.,” as, “let your
stomach make a meal of it and let your inside be full of this roll,” thus
indicating that the prophet was to eat until he was completely filled and
desired nothing more, the spiritual lesson being that we are to be so filled
with the Word of God that there will be no room in our lives for anything else
except what is of God. The world’s wealth, pleasure, fame, etc., will hold no
attraction for the man who feeds his soul on the written Word.
Its being as sweet as honey is the symbolic announcement of the truth that he
who habitually walks in obedience to God’s Word finds that God’s will is,
“good, and acceptable, and perfect,” Ro 12:2, experience having taught him
that, “All things work together for good to those who love God,” Ro 8:28, the
Lord Himself having told His disciples that love for Him is synonymous with
obedience to His Word, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15, that
truth being emphasized in His further statement in verse 21, “He that hath my
commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me
shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to
Relative to the Lord’s manifesting or revealing Himself, it is to be
remembered that He does it by enabling the obedient believer to see Him in the
Scriptures. For example, when He walked with the two disciples on the road to
Emmaus on the day of His resurrection, we read, “And beginning at Moses and
all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things
concerning himself,” Lk 24:27. Christians rob themselves of much of the
Lord’s revelation of Himself, by failing to see Him in the typological
language of the OT.
3:4. “And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of
Israel, and speak with my words unto them.”
The prophet, having been carefully prepared by God, was then sent as His
messenger to deliver His word to rebel Israel as represented by Judah. It is
painfully apparent that many today who undertake to speak to God’s people have
neither been prepared nor sent by Him: they have neither the necessary
spiritual gift nor the unction of the Holy Spirit, so that the saints are
wearied rather than edified.
Ezekiel’s being sent to the house of Israel indicates that his message
wasn’t only for that generation of that nation: it is as applicable today as
then, not only to Israel, but to the Gentiles also.
3:5. “For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an
hard language, but to the house of Israel;”
Ezekiel wasn’t being sent to a foreign people whose language was
unintelligible to him: he was to speak to his own people, Israel; and one
lesson at least being taught here is that our testimony is to be first to our
own families, that same lesson being reiterated in the NT in Christ’s words to
the healed demoniac of Luke 8 who wanted to go with the Lord, but was told
instead, “Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done
unto thee,” Lk 8:39. It is far easier to present the Gospel to strangers than
to family or acquaintances, but God says that the latter are to be the first
to hear the good news.
3:6. “Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language,
whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they
would have hearkened unto thee.”
God continues to emphasize that Israel must hear the warning, even though He
knew that it would have been given a better reception by the heathen, raising
the question, Why should He have insisted that His own people hear it first?
The answer seems to be that it was to provide a final opportunity for the few
who would repent, to save their souls, while sealing the doom of those who
would refuse to repent.
This foreshadows what is true in these closing days of the age. The vast
majority of Christendom are indifferent to the Gospel, but its proclamation
offers salvation to the few here and there who will receive it and thus save
their souls, while the unbelieving majority are preparing themselves for
destruction in the impending Great Tribulation.
3:7. “But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they
will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and
God’s willingness to present the Gospel to those, who He foreknew, would
reject it, rebuts Calvanism’s false doctrine that some are predestinated to
salvation, and the others to damnation; direct rebuttal being in what is
written in 2 Pe 3:9, “The Lord ... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing
that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” and in the
Lord’s lament, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,”
Its being said, “Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken
unto me,” points up the close identification of the servant with the Master,
an assurance that ought to encourage us to greater faithfulness in the service
we seek to render Him.
“... impudent and hardhearted” is also rendered, “hard of forehead and of a
stiff heart,” or, “stubborn of brow and obstinate in heart,” the reference to
head and heart declaring that Israel’s rebellion was both intellectual and
emotional. They deliberately rejected the truth, and refused to respond to
the appeals made to their emotions; and in this respect they are like our
twenty-first century world. It too is adamant in its rejection of God.
3:8. “Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy
forehead strong against their foreheads.”
Ezekiel would be made as defiant and fearless of them as they were of God and
His servant; and as unyielding in declaring their guilt, as they were in
claiming to be righteous.
That same courage is conspicuously lacking in many professed servants of God
today, the cowardice exhibited having its root all too often in their lack of
biblical knowledge, that lack being itself the result of failure to spend
adequate time in the study of God’s Word, so that they lack the ability to
refute the arguments of the unconverted.
3:9. “As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear
them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious
The forehead continues to speak of the intellect, and in the present context,
of the prophet’s unyielding resolve. It would be as hard as a diamond or a
flint; his knowledge of God and His Word being the secret of His resolute
courage. He who knows God has no fear of man, for he knows what a puny thing
“... neither be dismayed by their looks” translates into the command not to be
intimidated by their scowling faces, and angry threatening looks. How easily
we are intimidated, dread of even a mere scornful look having the power to
silence our presentation of the Gospel!
And God continues to emphasize that Israel was a rebellious nation.
3:10. “Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall
speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.”
The heart speaks of the emotions; and in the present context the ears speak of
the understanding or intellect; and God’s linking them together here declares
the truth that mere cold obedience divorced from a genuine love for Him and
for men and women - saints and sinners alike - is of relatively little value
in His sight. In this connection it is suggested that the reader take a
moment to refresh his mind relative to what is written concerning love in 1
3:11. “And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of
thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God;
whether they will hear or whether they will forbear.”
The first part of this verse is not to be understood as meaning that Ezekiel
was to go from Jerusalem to Babylon to speak to the Jews in captivity there.
He himself was already one of the captives, having been taken there in the
second deportation in 597 BC. The command here was for him to rise up in
their midst and deliver the message God had given him. And he was to do so no
matter whether they accepted or rejected the message.
We are under the same constraint. We live in the midst of those who are in
bondage to sin and Satan, and we have an obligation to warn them of the need
to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, in order to be saved from hell
and fitted for heaven. And we are to continue faithfully preaching the Gospel
no matter whether the hearers receive it or reject it. God won’t hold us
responsible for the results, but He will hold us accountable for our response
to the Lord’s command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to
every creature,” Mk 16:15.
3:12. “Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a
great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place.”
This verse is also translated, “... and I heard behind me a fierce rushing
sound as the glory of the Lord rose from his place,” The New English Bible;
“... as the glory of the Lord arose from its place, I heard behind me the
sound of a great earthquake,” The Revised Standard Version; “... behind
me I could hear a tumultuous shouting, ‘Blessed be the glory of Yahweh in his
dwelling place,’” The Jerusalem Bible.
The explanation of his hearing the voice behind him appears to be that
since no man in his mortal body can see the Divine glory, and live, he was
turned around so that the glory was behind him, his awareness of it being
through the avenue of hearing rather than sight.
3:13. “I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures
that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a
noise of a great rushing.”
The noise was that of a mighty rushing wind which is a symbol of the Holy
Spirit, indicating that He was the power behind the movement of the living
creatures and the wheels, and that He would be also the source of Ezekiel’s
3:14. “So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in
bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon
In the present context “bitterness” is associated with the idea of anger, so
that as the Holy Spirit led him away the prophet was filled with fervent
anger, generated undoubtedly by his contemplation of the very great sinfulness
of the people.
3:15. “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by
the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished
among them seven days.”
The location of Tel-abib is unknown.
“... astonished” means overwhelmed; dumbfounded; distraught; stunned;
stupefied. His agitated state was induced, not only by the sinfulness of
the people, but also by their refusal to recognize their state, and repent.
3:16. “And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of
the Lord came unto me, saying,”
3:17. “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of
Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.”
The work of a watchman is primarily to act as a guard by watching carefully
for signs of approaching danger, and to warn those who have appointed him.
Ezekiel, by God’s appointment, was made such a guard, not just to Judah, but
to all Israel, his work being to listen attentively to all that God had to say
relative to the terrible judgment that must attend the very great sinfulness
of the rebellious people, and to warn them against continuing in their
3:18. “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou
givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way,
to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood
will I require at thine hand.”
Failure on the prophet’s part to warn Judah and Israel that their sin would
bring death, would be sin on his part, resulting in his also incurring God’s
wrath; and the lesson for us is that failure on our part to warn men and women
today that for them to continue in their sin will result in their being cast
first into hell, and then into the eternal torment of the terrible lake of
fire, will make us also the objects of His anger.
3:19. “Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his
wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou
hast delivered thy soul.”
This declares the opposite of the preceding. The unrepentant sinner will die,
but by warning him of that fact, I will deliver myself from incurring God’s
wrath, see Paul’s words recorded in Ac 20:26-27, “Wherefore I take you to
record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not
shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
This doesn’t teach salvation by works; but rather the truth that only born
again believers can warn sinners of the need to repent and be saved by
trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Implicit in this, however, is
the fact that he who professes to be a believer, but who never warns others of
their need of salvation, lays open to question the reality of his own
3:20. “Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness,
and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die:
because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his
righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I
require at thine hand.”
“... righteous” is used here forensically: this man is righteous by legal, not
Divine, standards: he is not a born-again believer.
“... stumblingblock” in the present context is basically a test used by God to
reveal the unreality of the man’s claim that he has spiritual life. His
failure in the test reveals him to be a mere false professor who will die and
go down to hell as a result of not having been warned of his danger, all his
legalistic morality having no value in God’s sight. But Ezekiel would be held
responsible for the man’s death if he failed to warn him of his danger.
We who are believers will similarly incur guilt if we fail to warn the
unconverted of their danger, and of the need to confess themselves sinners,
and to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
3:21. “Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous
sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also
thou hast delivered thy soul.”
If, however, Ezekiel warns the self-righteous man of the worthlessness of good
works as a means of salvation, and teaches him the truth of salvation through
faith apart from works, and the man believes the Gospel, that man, through
faith alone, will have saved his soul.
Relative to the words, “that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin....”
this is not to be construed as teaching either salvation by works, or that
believers live sinless lives. Neither is true. Because believers still have
within them their old sinful nature living side-by-side with their new nature
received at conversion, they do sin when by their own freewill choice they
obey the evil prompting of the old nature rather than the righteous impulses
of the new Divine nature. Such, however, is the efficacy of Christ’s one
perfect sacrifice that it secures the forgiveness, not only of the believer’s
past sins, but of his present and future sins also. What is being
declared in these words is that sin ought to be an accidental and regretted
thing in the believer’s life, not something habitual and enjoyed. The
professed believer whose sin is habitual and enjoyed raises serious doubts as
to the reality of his professed conversion.
“... also thou hast delivered thy soul” means, not that Ezekiel will have
saved his soul from hell, but that he will have delivered himself from being
chastised by God for disobedience.
3:22. “And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and he said unto
me, Arise, go forth into the plain (valley), and I will there talk with thee.”
“... the hand of the Lord” is here synonymous with the Holy Spirit.
Nothing is known of the location of the plain or valley into which Ezekiel was
3:23. “Then I arose, and went forth into the plain (valley): and,
behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the
river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.”
The glory mentioned here is the same as that described in chapter one and
which prostrated the prophet in reverential awe, see chapter two, verse one.
3:24. “Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and
spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.”
The spirit’s entering into him again continues to demonstrate that in the OT
age the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers permanently; and what follows
suggests that he was to shut himself up in his own house as a measure of
protection from the anger of the people to whom God had sent him. It seems
that he was no longer to venture out in public, see verse 25. It may,
however, mean that he was to cease warning the people publicly, and was to
make himself available only to those who might come to him to inquire further
concerning the announced judgment.
3:25. “But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee,
and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them:”
It is generally believed that their imprisonment of the prophet wasn’t
literal, but consisted rather of their refusal to listen to him, that
rejection declaring their bitter hatred of God and His servant, and their
adamant rejection of His word.
3:26. “And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth,
that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a
The rebels had exhausted God’s patience, with the result that He would give
them no further rebuke. His servant would be given no more words of warning
to pass on to them. They were being abandoned to judgment because they were
incorrigible rebels, reminding us of the warning given all men of similar
spirit in Ge 6:3, “My spirit shall not always strive with man,” and again, in
Pr 29:1, “He, who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be
destroyed, and that without remedy.”
3:27. “But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; He that heareth, let him hear
(obey); and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious
God’s final word to them would be, “Let him who hears my Word obey it, and
thus save himself; and let him who refuses to listen to it continue in
rebellion and thus seal his doom.” God foreknew that only a very small
minority would obey, and that the majority would disobey, and therefore
perish. The Lord, incidentally, used virtually the same language in Mt 11:15,
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” and in Mt 13:9; Mk 4:9, and Lk 8:8.
The same principle continues to govern man’s response to the Gospel, as is
declared in the Lord’s reply to the question, “Lord, are there few that be
saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait (narrow) gate,
for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,” Lk
Israel is the mirror in which God bids every man see his own reflection, for
what is true of Israel is true of all men: the whole human race is also a