Ezekiel 20:5-8

5. And say unto them, Thus says the Lord God, In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your God;

5. Et dices illis, Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Die quo elegi Israelem, et sustuli manum meam ad semen domus Iacob, et cognitus fui illis in terrae AEgypti, et sustuli manum meam illis dicendo, Ego Iehovah Deus vester;

6. In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing: with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:

6. Die illo sustuii manum meam ad ipsos, ut educerem eos e terra AEgypti in terram quam prospexi illis fluentem lacte et melle, desiderium1 prae omnibus terris:

7. Then said I unto them, Cast you away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

7. Et dixi illis, Quisque spurcitias oculorum suorum projicite et in idolis2 AEgypti ne polluamini: ego Iehovah Deus vester.

8. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man ca., t away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt; then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.

8. Et rebelles fuerunt mihi, et noluerunt audire me, et quae sequuntur.


God confirms what I said before, that the Jews were not to be reproved for beginning lately to sin: it was not sufficient to bring recent offenses before them; but God orders the Prophet to begin with their fathers, as if he had said that the nation was abandoned from the very beginning, as Stephen reproaches them: Uncircumcised in heart, you still resist the Holy Spirit, as your fathers always did. (Acts 7:51.) And Christ had said the same thing before: You fill up the measure of your fathers. (Matthew 23:32.) We know also how frequently rebukes of this kind occur in the Prophets. God therefore says, that from the time when he chose the seed of Israel, he had experienced both the wickedness and obstinacy of the people; for he says that they were not drawn aside by either error or ignorance, but because they were unwilling to hear, when they were over and over again admonished as to their duty. Hence three things are to be marked, namely, that the people were bound to God, since he had gratuitously adopted them; for God here commends his gratuitous election, together with the singular benefits which he had conferred on that people: this is one point. The second is, that he not only took them once to himself, but showed them what was right, so that they could not mistake, except knowingly and willfully: this is the second point. Then the third is, that they rebelled purposely, because they would not listen: for if they had been left at the meeting of two roads, their error had been excusable if they had turned to the left instead of the right. But if God by his law so shone before them, that he was prepared to direct them straight to the mark, and they turned aside; thus their obstinacy and rebellion is plainly detected. This is the sense.

Now as far as words are concerned, he says, that he had chosen Israel. But election, as I have already briefly touched upon, is opposed to all merits: for if anything had been found in the people which should cause them to be preferred to others, it would be improperly said that God had elected them. But since all were in the same condition, as Moses says in his song (Deuteronomy 32:8, 9,) there was scope for God's grace, since he separated them from others of his own accord: for they were just like the rest, and God did not find any difference between them; we see, then, that they were bound to God more sacredly, since he had joined them to himself gratuitously. He now adds, that he lifted up his hand to the seed of Jacob. The lifting up the hand seems to be taken here in different senses. Since it was a customary method of swearing, God is said sometimes to lift up his hand when he swears. That is indeed harsh, since the lifting up the hand does not suit God: for we lift up the hand when we call God to witness; but God swears by himself, and cannot raise his hand above himself. But we know that he uses forms of speech according to the common customs of men: hence there is nothing absurd in this phrase, he lifted up his hand, that is, he swore. Hence, if we may so explain it, this was a confirmation of the covenant, when God by interposing a oath promised himself to be Israel's God. But since he shortly afterwards adds, that he was known, the other sense suits pretty well, since it refers to the benefits which he had conferred upon the people. And truly experimental knowledge is intended, since God really proved himself to be worthy of credit, and thus illustrated his own power in preserving the people. Hence I said that to lift up the hand is to be received variously in this chapter, since, if we read the two clauses conjointly, I lifted up my hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and was made known to them, truly the lifting up the hand will imply a display of power. That also has been said by means of a simile; but shortly afterwards the lifting up of the hand must be taken for to swear, by the figure of rhetoric called catachresis, which is the use of a word in a different signification, and yet there is no absurdity.

I have raised my hand, therefore, to the seed of the house of Jacob, saying, I Jehovah am your God. (Ezekiel 20:5.)

We see, then, that God raised his hand to sanction the covenant which he had made; for when he pronounces himself their God, he binds them to himself, and claims them for his peculiar people, and thus confirms his covenant. But at the same time he had raised his hand or arm by so many miracles performed in freeing the people. He says, in that day I raised my hand to, or towards them, to bring them out. Again, the raising the hand refers to God's power, since he brought them forth by an extended arm from that miserable slavery. Since, therefore, he so raised his hand, he acquired them as his own, that they should no longer be free, but belong altogether to him. He afterwards adds other benefits, since he not only snatched them from the tyranny of Pharaoh, but brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, which he had espied for them. We see how briefly God enlarges upon that remarkable benefit which he had bestowed upon his people. Not only was he their Redeemer, but he looked out for a place of residence for them, not only commodious, but abounding with plenty; for this phrase is common enough with Moses. In that same day in which I led them out of Egypt, I brought them into a land, the desire of all lands; that is, which is desirable and superior to all other lands. It is true, indeed, that other nations were not less fruitful; but God, in thus praising the land of Canaan. considers it, clothed and adorned by his bounty. But there was no region under heaven to be compared with the land of Canaan in one point, namely, God's choosing it as his earthly dwelling place. Since the land of Canaan excelled all others in this respect, it is deservedly called the desire of all lands, or desirable beyond all lands.

Another clause now follows, that God instructed the Jews in piety, and withdrew them from all the idolatries to which they had been devoted. Instruction then went before, which showed them the right way of salvation, and recalled them from their superstitions. The meaning is, that when God adopted the people, he gave them the rule of living piously, that they should not be tossed about hither and thither, but. have an aim, to which they might direct the whole course of their life. I said, therefore, to each of them: this seems more emphatic than if he had spoken to all promiscuously and generally: but this familiar invitation ought to penetrate more into their minds, when he speaks to each individually, just as if he said, let each of you cast away your abominations, and not pollute himself anymore with the idols of Egypt. When therefore God thus attached them to himself, he shows that he could not be rightly worshipped by them unless they bid their idolatries farewell, and formed their whole life according to the rule of his law. He calls their enticements defilements or idols of the eyes: but we know that the Prophet often speaks thus, that unbelievers should consider their idols. Hence it is just as if God recalled them from all the wiles of Satan in which they were enticed, and were so devoted to them as to have their eyes exclusively fixed on them. He speaks by name of the idols of Egypt: whence it easily appears that they were corrupted by depraved desires, so as for the most part to worship the fictitious gods of Egypt. Yet they knew themselves elected by the true God, and boasted in circumcision as a symbol of divorce from all nations. Yet though they wished to be thought illustrious on the one hand, they afterwards prostituted themselves so as to differ in nothing from the Egyptians. We see then that the desire of piety was almost extinct in their hearts, since they had so contaminated themselves with the superstitions of Egypt. That he might retain them the better, he says at the same time that he was their God: for without this principle men are tossed hither and thither, for we know that we are lighter than vanity. Hence the devil will always find us subject to his fallacies unless God restrains us in our duty, until he appears to us and shows himself the only God: we see then the necessity for this remedy, lest men should be carried away by idolatries, namely, the knowledge of the true God. The third clause will follow afterwards, but we shall explain it in its turn.


Grant, Almighty God, since you have once stretched forth your hand to us by your only-begotten Son, and have not only bound thyself to us by an oath, but have sealed your eternal covenant by the blood of the same, thy Son: Grant, I pray thee, that we in return may be faithful to thee, and persevere in the pure worship of thy name, until at length we enjoy the fruit of our faith in thy heavenly kingdom by the same Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Lecture Sixty-First.

In the last lecture I began to explain the eighth verse, where God complains that he was exasperated by the children of Israel when he had begun to extend his hand to free them. He says, then, that they had rejected his grace. But at the same time we see that all pretense of ignorance was removed, because unless Moses had exhorted them to good hope, they would have pretended. to be so deserted through two centuries, that they had hoped for help from God in vain. But since Moses was a witness of their redemption, hence their ingratitude was the more without excuse, since they were unwilling to embrace the message which they had so greatly desired. Nor is the language of Moses vain, that they often cried out in their calamities. Although their clamor was turbulent, yet they doubtless remembered what they had heard from their fathers, that the end of those evils was at hand to which God had fixed an appointed time. But more is expressed in this passage than Moses relates, who simply says, because they saw themselves treated too roughly, that they were worn down and disgusted: hence those expostulations -- You have made our name to stink before Pharaoh: God shall judge between you and us: Judea you gone from us. (Exodus 5:21.) We do not then clearly collect from Moses that they were rebels against God, since they had not cast away their idols and superstitions, but the probable conjecture is that they were, so rooted in their filth, that they repelled God's hand from succoring them. And truly if they had promptly embraced what Moses had promised them in God's name, the accomplishment would have been readier and swifter: but we may understand that their sloth was the hindrance to the exertion of God's hand in their favor and to the real fulfillment of his promises. God ought indeed to contend, with Pharaoh, that his power might be more conspicuous: but the people would not have been so tyrannously afflicted, unless they had closed the door against God's mercy. They were, as we have said, immersed in their defilement's from which God wished to withdraw them. He now accuses them of ingratitude, because they did not cast away their idols, but obstinately persisted in their usual and customary superstitions. He speaks of the time of their captivity in Egypt, and this passage assures us that while there they were infected and polluted by Egyptian defilement's. For the contagion of idolatry is wonderful: for since we are all naturally inclined to it as soon as any example is offered to us, we are snatched in that direction by a violent impulse. It is not surprising then that the children of Israel contracted pollution from the superstitions of Egypt, especially as they lived there as slaves, and were desirous of gratifying the Egyptians: for if they had been treated liberally, they might have lived freely after their custom, but since they were not free and were oppressed as slaves, it happened that they pretended to worship the gods of Egypt according to the will of those by whom they saw themselves oppressed: and not only did they sin by pretending, but it is probable that they were impelled by their own lusts as well as by fear: for it will soon be evident that they were too inclined to impiety of their own accord.

On the whole, Ezekiel here testifies that they were rebels against God, because they did not listen to God by casting away the idols of their eyes, that is, to the worship of which they were too attentive, nor did they desert the idols of Egypt. When he speaks of the idols of their eyes, we gather what I have touched upon, that they were not impelled to idolatry by fear and necessity, but by their own depraved appetites: For unless they had been eagerly devoted to Egyptian superstitions, Ezekiel would not have called them idols of the eyes. Hence by this word he means that they were not only superstitious through obedience to the Egyptians, but were spontaneously inclined towards them. Besides, when he adds the idols of Egypt, he points out as the occasion of their corruption their spending time under that tyranny, and their being compelled to bear many evils, since slavery commonly draws with it dissimulation. It now follows, And I said I would pour forth, that is, I determined to pour forth. God here signifies that he was inflamed by anger, and unless they had respect to his name he would not withdraw his hand from the vengeance to which it was armed and prepared. We know that this does not properly belong to God, but this is, the language of accommodation, since first of all, God is not subject to vengeance, and, secondly, does not decree what he may afterwards retract. But since these things are not in character with God, simile and accommodation are used. As often as the Holy Spirit uses these forms of speech, let us learn that they refer rather to the matter in hand than to the character of God. God determined to pour forth his anger, that is, the Israelites had so deserved it through their crimes, that it was necessary to execute punishment upon them. The Prophet simply means that the people's disposition was sinful, and hence God's wrath would have been poured out, unless he had been held back from some other cause. I have already touched upon the obstacle, because he consulted his honor lest it should be profaned.

I have decreed, therefore, to pour forth my burning fury upon them in the midst of the land of Egypt. Some translate, to consume them, but improperly, for the word, hlk, keleh, signifies to fill up or accomplish, as well as to consume. But although God sometimes says that he consumes all his weapons or scourges in the punishment of men's sins, yet it is not suitable to transfer this to his wrath itself. Hence another sense will suit better, namely, that God decreed to pour out his wrath until he satisfied himself. For here, as we have said, he puts on the character of an angry man, who cannot appease his mind otherwise than by satiating it by the exaction of punishment: for anger is usually inexhaustible. But God on the whole here expresses that such was the atrocity of their wickedness, that the Israelites deserved destruction through the pouring forth of God's wrath and the filling up of the measure of his indignation; and that in the midst of the land of Egypt; because they had shown themselves unworthy of his redemption, and hence it was enough for them to perish in the midst of the land of Egypt. But he afterwards added --

1 That is, "which is a desire, or desirable." -- Calvin.

2 Though it signifies also "foulness or pollution" -Calvin.


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