Ver. 23.—Have I any pleasure, etc.? Ezekiel’s anticipations of the gospel of Christ take a yet wider range, and we come at last to what had been throughout the suppressed premise of the argument. To him, as afterwards to St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:4) and St. Peter (2 Pet. 3:9), the mind of God was presented as being at once absolutely righteous and absolutely loving. The death of the wicked, the loss, i.e., of true life, for a time, or even for ever, might be the necessary consequence of laws that were righteous in themselves, and were working out the wellbeing of the universe; but that death was not to be thought of as the result of a Divine decree, or contemplated by the Divine mind with any satisfaction. If it were not given to Ezekiel to see, as clearly as Isaiah seems to have seen it, how the Divine philanthropy was to manifest itself, he at least gauged that philanthropy itself, and found it fathomless.
23. He confirms the same sentiment in other words, that God desires nothing more earnestly than that those who were perishing and rushing to destruction should return into the way of safety. And for this reason not only is the Gospel spread abroad in the world, but God wished to bear witness through all ages how inclined he is to pity. For although the heathen were destitute of the law and the prophets, yet they were always endued with some taste of this doctrine. Truly enough they were suffocated by many errors: but we shall always find that they were induced by a secret impulse to seek for pardon, because this sense was in some way born with them, that God is to he appeased by all who seek him. Besides, God bore witness to it more clearly in the law and the prophets. In the Gospel we hear how familiarly he addresses us when he promises us pardon. (Luke 1:78.) And this is the knowledge of salvation, to embrace his mercy which he offers us in Christ. It follows, then, that what the Prophet now says is very true, that God wills not the death of a sinner, because he meets him of his own accord, and is not only prepared to receive all who fly to his pity, but he calls them towards him with a loud voice, when he sees how they are alienated from all hope of safety. But the manner must be noticed in which God wishes all to be saved, namely, when they turn themselves from their ways. God thus does not so wish all men to be saved as to renounce the difference between good and evil; but repentance, as we have said, must precede pardon. How, then, does God wish all men to he saved? By the Spirit’s condemning the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, at this day, by the Gospel, as he did formerly by the law and the prophets. (John 16:8.) God makes manifest to mankind their great misery, that they may betake themselves to him: he wounds that he may cure, and slays that he may give life. We hold, then, that God wills not the death of a sinner, since he calls all equally to repentance, and promises himself prepared to receive them if they only seriously repent. If any one should object—then there is no election of God, by which he has predestinated a fixed number to salvation, the answer is at hand: the Prophet does not here speak of God’s secret counsel, but only recalls miserable men from despair, that they may apprehend the hope of pardon, and repent and embrace the offered salvation. If any one again objects—this is making God act with duplicity, the answer is ready, that God always wishes the same thing, though by different ways, and in a manner inscrutable to us. Although, therefore, God’s will is simple, yet great variety is involved in it, as far as our senses are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot certainly judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted all the reprobate to eternal destruction, and wishes them to perish. While we look now through a glass darkly, we should be content with the measure of our own intelligence. (1 Cor. 13:12.) When we shall be like God, and see him face to face, then what is now obscure will then become plain. But since captious men torture this and similar passages, it will be needful to refute them shortly, since it can be done without trouble.
God is said not to wish the death of a sinner. How so? since he wishes all to be converted. Now we must see how God wishes all to be converted; for repentance is surely his peculiar gift: as it is his office to create men, so it is his province to renew them, and restore his image within them. For this reason we are said to be his workmanship, that is, his fashioning. (Eph. 2:10.) Since, therefore, repentance is a kind of second creation, it follows that it is not in man’s power; and if it is equally in God’s power to convert men as well as to create them, it follows that the reprobate are not converted, because God does not wish their conversion; for if he wished it he could do it: and hence it appears that he does not wish it. But again they argue foolishly, since God does not wish all to be converted, he is himself deceptive, and nothing can be certainly stated concerning his paternal benevolence. But this knot is easily untied; for he does not leave us in suspense when he says, that he wishes all to be saved. Why so? for if no one repents without finding God propitious, then this sentence is filled up. But we must remark that God puts on a twofold character: for he here wishes to be taken at his word. As I have already said, the Prophet does not here dispute with subtlety about his incomprehensible plans, but wishes to keep our attention close to God’s word. Now, what are the contents of this word? The law, the prophets, and the gospel. Now all are called to repentance, and the hope of salvation is promised them when they repent: this is true, since God rejects no returning sinner: he pardons all without exception; meanwhile, this will of God which he sets forth in his word does not prevent him from decreeing before the world was created what he would do with every individual: and as I have now said, the Prophet only shows here, that when we have been converted we need not doubt that God immediately meets us and shows himself propitious. The remainder to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, since we are all lost in ourselves, that we may desire to obtain life where it is laid up for us, and where thou dost manifest it, namely, in thy Son: and grant that we may so embrace the grace which has been exhibited to us in the sacrifice of his death, that we may be regenerated by his Spirit; and thus being born again, may we devote ourselves wholly to thee, and so glorify thy name in this world, that we may at length be partakers of that glory which the same, thine only-begotten Son, has acquired for us.—Amen.
Ver. 23. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?—A summons to repentance:—
If we spare not our sins, but slay them with the sword of the Spirit, God will spare us. The words are uttered by a figurative interrogation, in which there is more evidence and efficacy, more life and convincing force. For it is as if He had said, Know ye not that I have no such desire? or think ye that I have any desire? or dare it enter into your thoughts that I take any pleasure at all in the death of a sinner? When the interrogation is figurative the rule is, that if the question be affirmative, the answer to it must be negative; but if the question be negative, the answer must be affirmative. For example: Who is like unto the Lord? the meaning is, none is like unto the Lord. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? that is, I have none in heaven but Thee. On the other side, when the question is negative, the answer must be affirmative; as: Are not the angels ministering spirits? that is, the angels are ministering spirits; and, Shall the Son of man find faith? that is, the Son of man shall not find faith. Here, then, apply the rule, and shape a negative answer to the first member being affirmative, thus: I have no desire that a sinner should die; and an affirmative answer to the negative member, thus: I have a desire that the wicked should return and live; and ye have the true meaning and natural exposition of this verse. But here some cast a dark mist, which hath caused many to lose their way. How (say they) do we maintain that God desireth not the death of a sinner, who before all time decreed death for sin, and sin for death? This mist in part is dispelled by distinguishing of three sorts of God’s decrees—
- There is an absolute decree and resolute purpose of God, for those things which He determineth shall be.
- There is a decree of mandate, or at least a warrant for those things which He desireth should be.
- There is a decree of permission for such things, as if He powerfully stop them not, will be. Of the first kind of decree or will of God, we are to understand those words of the Psalmist (Psa. 135:6), and of our Saviour (John 17:24). To the second we are to refer those words of the apostle (Rom. 9:19; Ephes. 1:5; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:3; Rom. 12:2). If ye rightly apply these distinctions, ye may without great difficulty loosen the knots above tied: the first whereof was, whether God decreed sin original or actual. Ye may answer according to the former distinctions, that He decreed effectually all the good that is joined with it, or may come by it, or it may occasion; but He decreed permissively only the obliquity or malignity thereof: He neither doth it, nor approveth of it when it is done, but only permitteth it, and taketh advantage of it for the manifestation of His justice. To the second question, which toucheth the apple of the eye of this text, whether God decreeth the death of any? ye may answer briefly, that He doth not decree it any way for itself, as it is the destruction of His creature, or a temporal or eternal torment thereof; but as it is a manifestation of His justice.
- Doth God take no pleasure in the death of the wicked that daily transgresseth His law, ungraciously abuse His mercy, and slightly regard His judgments? Doth He use all good means to reclaim them, and save them from wrath to come? Is the life of every man so precious in His eyes? Doth He esteem of it as a rich jewel engraven with His own image? How careful, then, and chary ought we to be, who are put in trust with it (locked up in the casket of our body), that we lose it not.
- If judges, and all those who sit upon life and death, did enter into a serious consideration thereof, they would not so easily (as sometimes they do) cast away a thing that is so precious, much less receive the price of blood.
- If a malefactor arraigned at the bar of justice should perceive by any speech, gesture, sign, or token, an inclination in the judge to mercy, how would he work upon this advantage?—what suit? what means would he make for his life? how would he importune all his friends to entreat for him? how would he fall down upon his knees and beseech the judge for the mercies of God to be good unto him? Ho, all ye that have guilty consciences, and are privy to yourselves of many capital crimes, though peradventure no other can appeach you! behold, the Judge of all flesh makes an overture of mercy, He bewrayeth more than a propension or inclination, He discovereth a desire to save you! Why do ye not make means unto Him? Why do ye not appeal from the bar of His justice to His throne of grace? Why do ye not fly from Him, as He is a terrible Judge? to Him, as He is a merciful Father? (D. Featly, D.D.)
God and the soul:—
One of the masters of Old Testament theology, a student of singular nobility of mind and penetration of judgment, Dr. A. B. Davidson, has said of this and of the kindred 33rd chapter: “Perhaps there are hardly any more important passages in the Old Testament than those two chapters of Ezekiel.” And why? Because, as he says, “there we may say that we see the birth of the individual mind taking place before our eyes.” It was the first, or one of the first, assertions of the truth that man is more than the circumstances of which he is a part; that in God’s sight he stands single and free. We can best understand the force of this particular chapter if we remember the historical circumstances out of which it came. Nebuchadnezzar, the ruthless conqueror, had laid waste Jerusalem. “He carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, and all the craftsmen, and none remained save the poorest of the people of the land.” That band of exiles, among whom was the young Ezekiel, was carried to Babylon, and there the best of them lay astonished at the crushing blow which God had dealt to them. Jerusalem, the inviolable hill of Jehovah, spoiled and degraded, within eleven years laid waste and desolate, abandoned of God. It seemed to them that they were involved in the punishment of the sins of their fathers. There could be no escape, no penitence in the land of their exile could disentangle their souls from the ruin in which the sins of their forefathers had engulfed them. It was natural that their thoughts should run in such a channel. Hebrew religion tended to merge the individual in the state or family. The covenant of God was made not with the individual so much as with the State. The dealings and punishments of God with His people embraced not only the person, but his whole family, to the third and fourth generation; and so it seemed to them that they could not, for all their anguish, escape the consequences of their fathers’ sins. It was the object of Ezekiel to lift the burden of despair from his fellow exiles. He discerned in the very breaking up of the national life a call to the individual to become deeper and more personal in his obedience and faith. He sought to disentangle the person from the nation and the family, to make him realise his own freedom and separate responsibility in the sight of God. God is sovereign over the dispensations of His own laws. He treats every man, at every moment, precisely as that man is by virtue of his own separate and solitary responsibility. Man is free morally, whatever the chain that may bind him to his ancestors. God is free morally, and judges every man by virtue of that freedom. But the prophet carried the truth a stage further. Among these exiles there were doubtless individual men and women who felt that the chain that bound them, bound them to an irreversible destiny, was not the chain of their fathers’ sins, but of the sins they themselves had committed. They remembered the law of Jehovah which they had despised, the worship of their fathers in the temple, which they had ignored or polluted by their idolatry. It seemed to them that their cup was full; they could not escape the punishment of the sins of the past. They were shut up to the impotence of unavailing remorse. To them the prophet’s message was like that which he gave to his community. He reminded each of them that still, in spite of their sins and shortcomings, there was within a separate life, a freedom which could arise from the past impenitence and return, and that matching that freedom there was also the sovereign grace of Almighty God. That was the prophet’s message to his own day. I wonder if any of you have discerned with what singular force it applies to our own? The place which was taken when Ezekiel wrote, by the customary habits and traditions and principles of Hebrew religion, is taken to-day by the characteristic teaching of modern science. The old words of the covenant of God’s punishment of men to the third and fourth generation have given place to the new words of “heredity” and “environment.” But the principle is the same. Science has been teaching us wonderfully, beautifully, terribly, with what a subtlety and closeness of tie we are bound through our brains and bodies to the ancestors from whom we sprang, the circumstances under which we live, the progeny which we leave behind us; we know that our character is the product of a thousand influences of climate, of scenery, of sights and sounds, of food, of tendencies in the blood, of faculties and perversions of the brain, and we accept the truth. It gives a very wonderful and real, as well as a very solemn, aspect to this universe of which we are part. We build upon it. It is the truth that is the main-spring of all our zeal for education, of all our efforts for social reform; to that truth we turn when we wish to measure the fulness of our social responsibility. But is it the last and only word? Is man nothing but the product of these circumstances, the creature of invisible laws? If it be so, then before long we may come to that feeling of despair which lay upon the breast of these exiles of Jerusalem. We must balance that truth with the other which Ezekiel recovered for his contemporaries—the truth that man’s nature, though it is inwoven by the influences of blood and surroundings, yet has within it a personal life higher than, and apart from, that nature. It is free—it is capable, when aroused, of moulding that nature to its own will. God Himself is something more than an union of irreversible and irresistible laws. He is, He remains, a sovereign moral Personality, caring as a Father for the children that He has made, knowing them as individuals, dealing with them man by man in the separateness of their own single freedom and responsibility. I ask you to consider the basis which Ezekiel is teaching us in its reference to our lives as members of a community and as personal beings.
- First of all, there is a message to us as members of a community. Sometimes the Hebrew took joy from the thought that he was bound with his fathers and children in the bonds of the covenant of the will of God. And sometimes we take joy in the thought that we are bound together by those subtle and intricate ties to the nature which surrounds us, and to our fellow beings in long distances of the past and future. But when the Hebrew realised God’s punishment in the waste of Jerusalem, he was filled with the chill of despair. No doubt, for a time, the thought that man is the product of his circumstances fills us with the energy of reform. It makes us, perhaps, with even greater zest, turn to every effort to improve the condition of the environment of the people. But when we try, how long the task seems, how thick and obstinate the difficulties, how impossible it seems to compass it within the short generation in which the necessities of life permit us to labour. And meanwhile, what have we to say to the individual men, women, and children who are living under these conditions? Think for a moment of those atoms of social waste whom we call the unemployable. You see them as they pass before your eyes, the product, indeed, of circumstances—the sins of their fathers written in the marks of disease, the sins of their own youth written in the furtive glance of the eyes and the shambling gait, the sins, it may be, of the community which has failed to find a place for them, in the hopelessness and futility of every effect that they may make. And yet, what are we to say to them? Are we to say to them with the mere teaching of determinist science: “Your transgressions and your sins are upon you, and you pine away in them, why should you live?” Yet apart from some vast, at present as it seems, inconceivable change of our industrial conditions, are they not hopeless? If science says the last word, surely they are. Yet when you find yourself placed face to face with an individual man of these multitudes, can you use that language? Can you turn to them and say: “You are the doomed product of a bad environment; there is no hope for you. You must stay as you are”? Nay! rather you make it your one object to disentangle the man from the mesh in which he is placed. You seek to find out somewhere the springs of the real man within him. You desire to create some emotion, some motive, some interest, by which that self of his, that manhood of his, may be aroused, re-created, and go forth and be strong. And you can venture upon that effort because you believe, with an instinct that is stronger than a one-sided theory, that somewhere or other in that poor, broken life there remains dormant and hidden the germ of a freedom of his own that he can arouse and use, if only there is sufficient strength and motive power given to him. You try to reach and touch and find the man within him; and that instinct of yours restores the balance of the truth. Science is true. There is this product of the environment. We must work and labour with unremitting toil to change and improve it. But the one inevitable, indispensable factor of social reform is the individual freedom and responsibility of the man. Even when you change his circumstances, this alone will be powerless unless you have changed the whole man’s will so that he co-operates with the change in his circumstances; and therefore every scheme of charity which neglects this truth, which belittles this factor of the man’s own individual freedom and power and responsibility, is a real danger.
- Secondly, the prophet’s message is to the personal life. There were men to whom Ezekiel spoke who felt the burthen upon them, not of the load of their fathers’ sins, but of their own. It may be that among the men to whom I speak there are some who are conscious of the same impotence of remorse. The sins of your body have immeshed your body and mind in the bondage of evil habit. You can think of some mistake that you made, irreversible now, which has spoilt your life. You are tied up in the doom of your destiny. Or, perhaps, there are others, who have not gone so far, but when there comes to them the prompting of some better impulse they meet it with such replies, expressed or unexpressed, as this: “It is no good, it is too late; my nature is made, I cannot change. These heights are for others, I cannot attain unto them. Like Sir Lancelot, the quest is not for me. I am what my life has made me, and it is too late to change.” And so when these better impulses come they are avoided, they are refused. Possibly they gradually die out, and the prison gates begin to close. Now, in this there is a truth which cannot be gainsaid. We cannot escape, not even God Himself can enable us to escape, from the actual consequences of our sins. That is true; we cannot quarrel with the teaching both of science and conscience. But it is not the whole truth. There remains that hidden self, that inner man, and it is free. It has always the power of rising from its past and going forth to a new future. You say it is impossible. With man perhaps it is impossible. But with God all things are possible. For that freedom of mine, however feeble and broken, is not alone; there is another free and sovereign power waiting for it, acknowledging it as His own image, welcoming it, coming down upon it, with His own strength and power. When I use my freedom I meet and touch the freedom of the sovereign grace of God Himself. If only we act upon that impulse which is the sign of the persistence of our better self, we find somehow that that strength comes down upon us. It may be a miracle. Our Lord asks the unanswerable question whether it is easier to say to the sick of the palsy, “Arise and walk,” or to say, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” I know not what mystery may be behind that truth, but truth it is if only we will act upon it; if only that will, broken and feeble as it may be, will emerge from the ruins of its past, and act for itself in the spirit of return. Then it will find that the freedom of God’s grace is at its hand, and will come to it and strengthen it. We must, it is true, continue to bear our sins, but there is all the difference in the world between that and being borne by them. When we bear them, our recovered spirit is master of them. Even remorse can be a continual reminder of the long-suffering of God. The weakness, baffling and humiliating to the end, can be the occasion for the triumph of the strength of God. You have seen sometimes the coast when the tide is far out. It looks a mere barren tract of sand and stone, but somewhere far out in the deep a movement takes place. The tide turns, and soon the water covers the waste land. So my life, when I look back upon it, may be the barren tract of sand, the grave of lost opportunities, strewn with stones of stumbling and rocks of offence. But if only in the great deep, where the Spirit of God touches the spirit of man, my free self can go out to Him, then there is the turning of the tide, and sooner or later that full tide of God’s refreshing and restoring grace will cover the waste places. I am—in my own personal self; God is—in His own sovereign Personality; and on these two truths we can all base the perpetual hope of a new beginning. (Bishop Lang.)
Sin slays the sinner:—
Manton says: “The life of sin and the life of a sinner are like two buckets in a well—if the one goeth up, the other must come down. If sin liveth, the sinner must die.” It is only when sin dies that a man begins truly to live. Yet we cannot persuade our neighbours that it is so, for their hearts are bound up in their sins, and they think themselves most alive when they can give fullest liberty to their desires. They raise up their sins, and so sink themselves. If they could be persuaded of the truth, they would send the bucket of sin to the very bottom that their better selves might rise into eternal salvation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s solemn inquiry of Gospel hearers:—
- The evidence in every Christian country of God’s having no pleasure at all in the death of sinners.
- A true penitent is readily forgiven. Two striking illustrations suggested here: a rebellious father’s repentant son (ver. 14, &c.), and a man once rebellious who amends (vers. 21, 22). In each instance his soul is saved. None can fairly meditate on the promptness of such pardons without perceiving God’s delight in mercy (Mic. 7:18).
- The reason why the righteous God can so promptly pardon (Titus 3:4–7; John 3:16; Rom. 8:32).
- God has appointed a class of men to urge on the unworthy His unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 5:20). Did He wish the destruction of the Ninevites when He sent Jonah to them? He has as little pleasure in the death of the wicked now (Rev. 22:17).
- The one simple duty of hearers is to return (ver. 32).
- With the turning of true repentance, which involves a thorough change of service. Note details of practical love in this chapter (ver. 17), and see conduct of Thess. (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
- With the turning of trust (in the appointed Mediator) for all the needed mercy and grace. (See the description in 1 Pet. 2:24, 25)
- With the turning quickened by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), which should be fostered by prayer (Psa. 80:18, 19).
- With the turning which issues in life; the life of the acquitted and holy (Rom. 5:1, 2), which is a sure earnest of life everlasting (John 6:40). (D. D. Stewart, M.A.)
And not that he should return from his ways, and live?—The best return:—
St. Austin, lying on his death-bed, caused divers verses of the penitential psalms to be written on the walls of his chamber, on which he still cast his eyes, and commented upon them with the fluent rhetoric of his tears. But I could wish of all texts of Scripture that this of the prophet Ezekiel were still before all their eyes who mourn for their sins in private. For nothing can raise the dejected soul but the lifting-up of God’s countenance upon her; nothing can bring peace to an affrighted and troubled conscience but a free pardon of all sins, whereby she hath incurred the sentence of death, which the prophet tendereth in the words of the text. I will endeavour to open two springs in my text—the one a higher, the other a lower; the one ariseth from God and His joy, the other from ourselves and our salvation. That the conversion of a sinner is a joy and delight to God, I need not to produce arguments to prove, or similes to illustrate; He that spake as never man spake, hath represented it unto us by many exquisite emblems (Luke 15:4; Luke 15:8; Luke 15:10; Luke 15:32). Scipio (as Livy writeth) never looked so fresh, nor seemed so beautiful in the eyes of his soldiers, as after his recovery from a dangerous sickness which he took in the camp; neither doth the soul ever seem more beautiful than when she is restored to health after some dangerous malady. The Palladium was in highest esteem both with the Trojans and Romans, not so much for the matter or workmanship, as because it was catched out of the fire when Troy was burnt. And certainly no soul is more precious in the eyes of God and His angels than that which is snatched out of the fire of hell and jaws of death. I have opened the first spring, and we have tasted the waters thereof; I am now to open the second, which is this, That as our repentance is joy unto God and His angels, so it is grace and salvation to ourselves. As repentance is called repentance from dead works, so also repentance unto life. For God pawns His life for the life of the penitent: “As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should return and live.” Pliny writeth of a fountain in Africa, in which torches that are blown out being dipped are kindled again: such is the fountain of tears in the eyes of a penitent sinner; if the light of his faith be extinguished to his sense and all outward appearance, yet dipped in this fountain it is kindled again, and burns more brightly than ever before. The Scripture furnisheth us not with many examples in this kind, lest any should presume; yet some we find that none might despair. To comfort those that are wounded in conscience, the good Samaritan cured him that was wounded between Jerusalem and Jericho, and left half-dead; to comfort them that are sick in soul, He recovered Peter’s wife’s mother lying sick in her bed; to comfort them that have newly, as it were, given up the ghost, He raised Jairus’s daughter; to comfort them that have been sometimes dead in sins and transgressions, He raised the widow’s son; to comfort them that have been so long dead in sins that they begin to putrify, He raised up Lazarus stinking in His grave. Therefore, if we have grievously provoked God’s justice by presumption, let us not more wrong His mercy by despair; but hope even above hope in Him whose mercy is over all His works. Against the number and weight of all our sins, let us lay the infiniteness of God’s mercy, and Christ’s merits, and the certainty of His promise confirmed by oath: “As I live, I desire not the death of a sinner; if he return, he shall live.” It is a most sovereign water which will fetch a sinner again to the life of grace, though never so far gone. It is not well water springing out of the bowels of the earth, nor rain poured out of the clouds of passion, but rather like a dew falling from heaven, which softeneth and moisteneth the heart, and is dried up by the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. “Turn and live.” Should a prisoner led to execution hear the judge or sheriff call to him, and say, Turn back, put in sureties for thy good behaviour hereafter, and live—would he not suddenly leap out of his fetters, embrace the condition, and thank the judge or sheriff upon his knees? And what think ye if God should send a prophet to preach a sermon of repentance to the devils and damned ghosts in hell, and say, Knock off your bolts, shake off your fetters, and turn to the Lord and live? Would not hell be emptied and rid before the prophet should have made an end of his exhortation? This sermon the prophet Ezekiel now maketh unto us all. (D. Featly, D.D.)
23. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?—(1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). If men perish, it is because they will not come to the Lord for salvation, not that the Lord is not willing to save them (John 5:40). They trample on not merely justice, but mercy: what further hope can there be for them when even mercy is against them? (Heb. 10:26–29.) 
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ezekiel (Vol. 1, p. 324). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the First Twenty Chapters of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Vol. 2, pp. 246–249). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Exell, J. S. (1906). The Biblical Illustrator: Ezekiel (pp. 238–243). London: Francis Griffiths.
 Fausset, A. R. (n.d.). A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Jeremiah–Malachi (Vol. IV, p. 267). London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited.