Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”
“Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea,
thou shalt shew her all her abominations.”
The prophet is not being asked whether he will pass
judgment on the wicked city, Jerusalem: he is being commanded to do so; to
expose all her abominations, i.e., foul misdeeds: detestable impieties;
reminding us of what is written concerning our own lives, “For if we would
judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” 1 Cor 11:31.
Honest self-examination would have enabled Israel
to see how sinful she was, and would have afforded her opportunity to repent
and forsake her sin, thus averting judgment; but she would not, and now, as an
unrepentant transgressor, she must suffer the terrible judgment of God.
“Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord God, The city sheddeth blood in the midst
of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against herself to defile
The blood referred to here was that of those who
were murdered, or executed on false charges, so that the accusers might seize
the victim’s possessions. Some believe that the reference may be also to the
immolation of infants to Molech.
“... that her time may come,” means that her time
of judgment had come: she was about to reap the harvest of her evil sowing,
the defilement incurred by her idolatry bringing down the righteous judgment
of God upon her guilty head.
“Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast defiled
thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to
draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a
reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries.”
The blood mentioned here was that which the guilty
people had shed unjustly so that they might seize the goods and property of
their victims; that guilt being exacerbated by their idolatry which included
the immolation of their own infants to Molech. The result was that their
wickedness had exhausted God’s patience: they themselves had caused their
“days to draw near,” had brought them to “their years,” i.e., had brought them
to the end of their existence: God was about to destroy that evil generation,
that destruction making them a laughing-stock, the butt of ridicule and
mockery of all the surrounding nations.
Some - Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown for
example - understand “days” here to refer to the siege of Jerusalem; and
“their years,” to the seventy-year Babylonian captivity.
“Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee, which
are infamous and much vexed.”
The nations near and far would mock Israel, her
being “infamous and much vexed” being also translated infamous and full of
tumult: turbulent and with a tarnished name: perverse: of foul reputation.
“Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power to shed
Israel’s rulers, each according to the extent of
his power, had been bent on shedding blood wantonly.
“In thee have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of thee have
they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in thee have they vexed the
fatherless and the widow.”
They despised their parents and treated them with
contempt; they oppressed the strangers in their midst; and wronged the orphans
and widows instead of ministering to their needs.
“Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my sabbaths.”
What was sacred to God they had treated with
contemptuous disdain, and had desecrated the sabbaths, the holy days which God
“In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in thee they eat upon the
mountains: in the midst of thee they commit lewdness.”
The first part of the verse refers to informers,
men who brought false accusations against others to bring upon them the
sentence of death so that those who hired them might seize the goods of the
unjustly condemned, while they, the false accusers, earned blood money by
their lying testimony against the hapless victims.
Those who ate upon the mountains and committed
lewdness were the idolaters who participated in the feasts associated with the
idol shrines, those feasts being accompanied by gross immorality.
“In thee have they discovered their fathers’ nakedness: in thee have they
humbled her that was set apart for pollution.”
Amongst them were men who had illicit relations
with their fathers’ wives or concubines, and who had had the same relations
with menstruous women.
“And one hath committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife; and another hath
lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in thee hath humbled his
sister, his father’s daughter.”
There were those who had committed adultery; those
who had had illicit relations with their daughters-in-law; and those who had
committed incest with their own sisters.
“In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and
increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion, and
hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God.”
The judges had accepted bribes to have men falsely
accused and put to death; others had charged exorbitant interest on loans,
while others had defrauded their neighbors by any and every means that their
evil minds could conceive. And in the midst of all their wickedness they had
forgotten God Whose eye beheld all their evil, and Who was about to call them
We are reading this sorry record wrongly if we fail
to see that the very same evils pervade present-day society, and are just as
heinous in God’s sight today as then.
“Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou
hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee.”
Such was God’s displeasure at all their wickedness,
that metaphorically speaking, He had clenched His fists in anger; nor is He
any less displeased with the evil activity of today’s apostate Christendom.
“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I
shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.”
God here asks the very pertinent question whether
their courage would be so unwavering, and their strength so great, that they
would be complacent in the day when He called them to account. Apostate
Christendom would do well to ponder that same question, for it is one thing to
defy an unseen God: quite another to stand in the full blaze of His glory; a
glory before which even the angels veil their faces.
That He will execute judgment is certified by His
assurance, “I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.”
“And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and
disperse thee in the countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee.”
They who had defiled themselves and the land He had
given them, by their idolatry and all its concomitant evil, were to be
scattered amongst the nations, the fire of His judgmental wrath being the
purifying element that would ultimately purge away their sin.
“And thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the heathen,
and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.”
The ambiguity of the KJ version is relieved to some
extent by other translations, e.g., thou shalt be profaned in thyself, in
the sight of the nations: I will take possession of thee in the sight of all
the nations: you will be personally profaned before the nations: I shall be
profaned through you: in you I will allow myself to be profaned in the eyes of
the nations: I shall be dishonored by you in the opinion of the nations;
but the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explanation seems best, “formerly
thou wast mine inheritance; but now, full of guilt, thou art no longer
mine, but thine own inheritance to thyself.”
Through their wickedness He would be dishonored,
but in His ultimate vindication of His holiness, they would learn that He was
the omnipotent One Who had complete control of every circumstance, ordering
all of them for His Own glory.
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”
“Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass,
and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the
dross of silver.”
Silver is the biblical emblem of redemption, and it
is instructive to note that Israel had once been as silver to God, for when
brought out of Egypt she had been “the redeemed of the Lord,” but now she had
become as the dross, which in the crucible is separated by the fire from the
silver. By her wickedness she had made herself the equivalent of dross, i.e.,
worthless, and fit only to be cast on the ash-heap. It is to be noted also
that brass is the first of the inferior metals to which she is likened, for
brass is the biblical emblem of judgment, and Israel had made herself fit only
for God’s judgment.
Tin, iron, and lead are inferior metals, so that as
symbols of Israel they speak of the extent to which her sin had degraded her.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold,
therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.”
“As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst
of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in
mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.”
Jerusalem was to become the crucible into which God
was about to gather Israel, exposing her there to the fires of His judgmental
fury, which would melt down the whole mass, so that He could separate what
answered to the precious silver from the worthless dross. This would occur
when He would bring Babylon to besiege the city.
“Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye
shall be melted in the midst thereof.”
This continues to emphasize that Jerusalem would be
the equivalent of God’s crucible; and His wrath the fire by which Israel would
be melted as is metal by the heat of the furnace.
“As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the
midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon
The figure is still that of silver being assayed in
the furnace; Israel being the metal; and God’s righteous anger, the fire.
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”
“Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained
upon in the day of indignation.”
Here Israel, about to become the object of God’s
judgmental wrath, is likened to a parched land that had been long without
rain, so that the fire of judgment could the more easily kindle upon
everything in it.
“There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring
lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure
and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.”
Some believe that “prophets” here should be
“princes,” but the majority of scholars accept the former as correct.
“Conspiracy” is an unlawful alliance. Israel’s
false prophets were united in their deceit of the people by assuring them of
peace, when God had declared that a dreadful storm of judgment was about to
destroy the wicked nation. The lies of the charlatan prophets made them the
equivalent of ferocious lions tearing the prey, for their lies encouraged the
people to continue in sin, so that they, the lying prophets, were destroying
Their having taken “treasure and precious things,”
is simply another way of saying that they had committed murder in order to
seize the money and goods of others; while their having “made many widows” is
understood by many to refer to the fact that their encouragement of the people
to continue in sin was what would bring the Babylonian invasion of the land,
the ensuing slaughter of Israel’s solders leaving many women widowed.
“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they
have put no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they
shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes
from by sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.”
The priests had blatantly broken God’s laws, and
had polluted the holy things in His temple, making no difference between the
sacred and the secular, between what was ceremonially clean and what was
unclean; and they had refused to keep the sabbaths, with the result that God
was dishonored in the sight of priests and people alike.
Only those whose spiritual sight is impaired will
fail to see that exactly the same state prevails in today’s apostate
“Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed
blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.”
Her rulers were like savage wolves tearing their
prey, killing men in order to seize their houses, lands, and money; not only
taking men’s lives, but by their failure to teach God’s truth, also destroying
“And her prophets have daubed them with untempered mortar, seeing vanity, and
divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord God, when the Lord hath
Like those who whitewash a wall in order to hide
its imperfections, Israel’s false prophets professed to have had visions from
God when He had given them none; and they divined (prophesied), when they had
had no communication from Him.
As already noted, today’s counterpart of the OT
prophet is the teacher, and only the wilfully blind refuse to see that as
Israel swarmed with false prophets so does apostate Christendom swarm with
“The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have
vexed (wronged) the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger
“... oppression” has a wide variety of meanings,
e.g., defraud: violate: deceive: swallow up: do violence: injure: distress:
treat cruelly: be unjust: get wrongfully. All of these wicked things
Israel had done, not only to the wealthy, but also to the poor and needy, and
to the stranger dwelling in their midst.
The very same terms might be used to catalog the
practices of today’s society.
“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand
in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found
The word “sought” implies a careful diligent probe,
but such a search by God failed to produce even one man who could stand before
Him and present a valid reason why He should not desolate the land and destroy
the wicked people. It wasn’t until that day when John the Baptist pointed to
the Lord Jesus Christ, and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the
sin of the world,” John 1:29, and the day when Pilate, pointing to the Lord,
said, “Behold the man,” John 19:5, that God found the Man He sought.
By His vicarious death on the cross the Lord Jesus
Christ has provided God with a reason why He should not destroy believing men
and women: Christ has died in their guilty stead, and by that death has
expiated all their sin, and established a just basis upon which God can acquit
them, and bestow His gift of eternal life.
“Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them
with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads,
saith the Lord God.”
Israel’s wickedness had left God no other option
but to destroy that guilty generation, hence the outpouring of His righteous
wrath upon their guilty heads. Today’s apostate Christendom has likewise left
Him no choice but to destroy them, that destruction about to fall upon them in
the impending Great Tribulation.