In Ezekiel 22, the prophet enumerates the sins of Israel before describing the Lord’s search for a righteous hedge, which would stand in the gap so that the land not be destroyed. For English Puritan pastor William Greenhill (1591-1671), this hedge is to be understood metaphorically as representing those things which preserve the people of God from those that wish to do them harm. As he builds out his metaphor, he argues that the first protection is sound doctrine, which keeps out error and ensures the truth of all testimonies.

A Hedge

“That should make up a hedge.” The Hebrew is “hedging a hedge.” The words are metaphorical, and the metaphor is taken from vineyards, gardens and places enclosed, which used to have fences and hedges about them to preserve them from everything that might harm them, both people and beasts. The Jews were God’s vineyard (Is 5:1), and he had fenced and hedged them; they were God’s garden, and he had enclosed them (Song 4:12). The fence, “hedge” or wall about this people was God’s protection of them. He had a special care of them, being his church and people, above all others; as the city of Jerusalem had a wall about it (Neh 1:3), so God was a wall to the citizens of it . . .

Those things and means that God had given them to be a hedge or wall for them were the following: (1) Sound doctrine, which was a “hedge” to keep out all errors, corrupt and heathenish opinions, which they were in danger of, having the nations round about them. But God had given them good doctrine (Prov 4:2), right words (Ps 33:4), lively oracles (Acts 7:38), faithful commands (Ps 33:4), sure testimonies (Ps 93:5), such as they were to try all doctrines and opinions (Is 8:20); (2) Pure worship, which was a “hedge” between them and the heathens; (3) Good laws; (4) God had given them good prophets, priests and princes for their safety, to be a “hedge” to them. The prophets were to preserve the doctrine sound, the priests to keep the worship pure, and the princes to see justice impartially executed.

The hedge was broken and gaps were made. The doctrine was corrupted . . . The worship was greatly corrupted. The sanctuary was defiled with detestable things . . . The laws were wrested and perverted, so that there was no justice . . . For the people, who should have been as strong stakes to keep up the “hedge,” they were rotten. The prophets were lions (Jer 23:14), the priests corrupters and wicked (Lam 4:13), the princes were rebellious and companions of thieves (Is 1:23), and all of them broke the covenant with God (Ezek 16:59), so that it is evident the “hedge” was broken and gaps made.

An Exposition of Ezekiel 22.

Ezekiel, Daniel, ed. Carl L. Beckwith. Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT vol. XII, p. 124.

RCS Series: Marks of the Church


Johanes Brenz | Preaching the Word

John Jewel | Administering the Sacraments

William Greenhill | Preserving Sound Doctrine

Martin Bucer | Exercising Discipline

Leupold Scharnschlager | The Gathering of the Church

Wolfgang Musculus | The Nurture of the Church

Johann Spangenberg | The Structure of the Church

John Donne | The Mission of the Church