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Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary Keil & Delitzsch
by Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch
The Prophecies of Ezekiel
I. The Person of the Prophet
Ezekiel, יחזקאל (Ezekiel 1:3; 24:24), i.e., יחזק אל , God strengthens, ̓Ιεζεκιήλ (lxx and Book of Sirach, ch. 49:8), in the Vulgate Ezechiel, while Luther, after the example of the lxx, writes the name Hesekiel, was the son of Busi, of priestly descent, and was carried away captive into exile to Babylon in the year 599 b.c. - i.e., in the eleventh year before the destruction of Jerusalem - along with King Jehoiachin, the nobles of the kingdom, many priests, and the better class of the population of Jerusalem and of Judah (Ezekiel 1:2; Ezekiel 40:1; cf. 2 Kings 24:14.; Jeremiah 29:1). He lived there in the northern part of Mesopotamia, on the banks of the Chaboras, married, and in his own house, amidst a colony of banished Jews, in a place called Tel-abib (Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 3:15, Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 24:18). In the fifth year of his banishment, i.e., 595 b.c., he was called to be a prophet of the Lord, and laboured in this official position, as may be shown, twenty-two years; for the latest of his prophecies is dated in the twenty-seventh year of his exile, i.e., 572 b.c. (Ezekiel 29:17). Regarding the other circumstances and events of his life, as also of his death, nothing is known. The apocryphal legends found in the Fathers and in the Rabbinical writings, to the effect that he was put to death by a prince of his own nation for rebuking his idolatry, and was buried in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad, etc. (cf. Carpzov, Introd. ii. p. 203ff.), are without any historical value. So much alone is certain, that he ended his life among the exiles, where God had assigned him his sphere of labour, and did not, like his contemporary Daniel (comp. Daniel 1:21; Daniel 10:1), outlive the termination of the Captivity and the commencement of the redemption of Israel from Babylon, as his prophecies do not contain the slightest allusion to that effect.
II. The Times of the Prophet
Ezekiel, like Daniel, is a prophet of the exile, but in a different fashion from the latter, who had been already carried away prisoner before him to Babylon on the first capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Jehoiakim, and who lived there upwards of seventy years at the Babylonian and Medo-Persian court, and who held from time to time very important offices of State. Daniel was placed by God in this high position, which afforded him a view of the formation and evolution of the world-kingdom, in order that from this standpoint he might be enabled to see the development of the world-kingdoms in the struggle against the kingdom of God, and to predict the indestructible power and glory of the latter kingdom, which overcomes all the powers of the world. Ezekiel, on the other hand, was appointed a watcher over the exiled nation of Israel, and was in this capacity to continue the work of the earlier prophets, especially that of Jeremiah, with whom he in several ways associates himself in his prophecies; to preach to his contemporaries the judgment and salvation of God, in order to convert them to the Lord their God. - Rightly to understand his work as a prophet, the ripe fruit of which lies before us in his prophetic writings, we must not only keep in view the importance of the exile for the development of the kingdom of God, but also form a clear conception of the relations amidst which Ezekiel carried on his labours.
What the Lord had caused to be announced by Moses to the tribes of Israel while they were yet standing on the borders of the Promised Land, and preparing to take possession of it, viz., that if they should persistently transgress His commands, He would not only chastise them with heavy punishments, but would finally drive them out of the land which they were about to occupy, and disperse them among all nations (Lev 26:14-45; Deut 28:15-68) - this threatening, repeated by all the prophets after Moses, had been already executed by the Assyrians upon the ten tribes, who had revolted from the house of David, and was now in process of fulfilment by the Chaldeans upon the kingdom of Judah also. In the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, for the first time invaded Judah, captured Jerusalem, made Jehoiakim tributary, and carried away to Babylon a number of Israelitish youths of noble birth and of the blood-royal, amongst whom was Daniel, along with a portion of the vessels of the temple, in order that these youths might be trained up for the service of his court (Daniel 1:1-7). With this invasion of the Chaldeans begin the seventy years of Chaldean servitude and exile in Babylon, predicted by Jeremiah. As Jehoiakim, so early as three years afterwards, revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, the latter, after a lengthened siege, took Jerusalem a second time, in the third month of the reign of Jehoiachin, and carried away into captivity to Babylon, along with the captive monarch and the members of his court, the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem, a great number of priests, warriors, carpenters, and smiths, leaving behind in the land only the meaner portion of the people, over whom he appointed as his vassal King Mattaniah, the uncle of the banished monarch, whose name he changed to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:10-17; Jeremiah 29:2). By this removal of the heart and strength of the nation the power of the kingdom of Judah was broken; and although Nebuchadnezzar did not at that time destroy it, but still allowed it to remain as a subject kingdom under his sway, yet its existence could not be of any long duration. Judah had fallen too deeply to recognise in the calamities which she had suffered the chastening hand of her God, and to bow herself repentantly under His mighty arm. Instead of listening to the voice of the prophet Jeremiah, and bearing the Chaldean yoke in patience (2 Chronicles 36:12), both monarch and people placed their trust in the assistance of Egypt, and Zedekiah broke the oath of fealty which he had sworn to the king of Babylon. To punish this perfidy, Nebuchadnezzar again marched against Jerusalem, and by the capture and burning of the city and temple in the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign put an end to the kingdom of Judah. Zedekiah, who had fled from the beleaguered city, was taken by the Chaldeans, and brought with his sons to Riblah into the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar, who first caused the sons of Zedekiah to be put to death before the eyes of their father; next, Zedekiah himself to be deprived of sight, and then commanded the blind monarch to be conducted in chains to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer 52:1-30). Many military officers and priests of rank were also put to death at Riblah; while those who had been taken prisoners at Jerusalem, along with the deserters and a great portion of the rest of the people, were led away into exile to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer 52:1-30). By this catastrophe the Old Testament theocracy lost its political existence; the covenant people were now driven out of their own land amongst the heathen, to bear the punishment of their obstinate apostasy from the Lord their God. Nevertheless this dispersion among the heathen was no entire rejection of Israel; it was merely a suspension, and not an annihilation, of the covenant of grace. Man's unfaithfulness cannot destroy the faithfulness of God. “In spite of this terrible judgment, brought down upon them by the heaviest transgressions, Israel was, and remained,” - as Auberlen ( The Prophet Daniel, p. 27, 2nd ed.) well remarks - ”the chosen people, through whom God was still to carry out His intentions towards humanity. His gifts and calling may not be repented of” (Romans 11:29). Even after the Babylonian exile the theocracy was not again restored; the covenant people did not after their return again recover their independence, but remained, with the exception of the short period when under the Maccabees they won for themselves their freedom, in constant dependence upon the heathen world-rulers, until, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, they were completely dispersed among all the nations of the earth. The kingdom of God, however, was not really to perish along with the external theocracy; it was only to pass into a new phase of development, which was intended to be the medium of transition towards its renewal and perfection in that kingdom of God which was to be founded by Christ. To pave the way to this end, and at the same time to serve as a witness to the exiles, that Israel, notwithstanding its dispersion among the heathen, still remained God's people, the Lord raised up in Ezekiel, the son of a priest, a prophet of uncommon power and energy in the midst of the captives, “one who raised his voice aloud, like a trumpet, and showed to Israel its misdeeds - whose whole manifestation furnished the most powerful testimony that the Lord was still amongst His people; who was himself a temple of the Lord, before whom the visible temple, which yet remained standing for a short time at Jerusalem, sank back into its nothingness; a spiritual Samson, who seized with mighty arm the pillars of the idol temple, and dashed it to the ground; a powerful, gigantic nature, which was fitted by that very qualification to effectually subdue the Babylonian spirit of the time, which delighted in powerful, gigantic, and grotesque forms; standing alone, but equal to a hundred of the sons of the prophets” (Hengstenberg's Christol. II. p. 531).
The call of Ezekiel to the prophetic office took place in the fifth year of the reign of Zedekiah, in the fourth month of the year (Ezekiel 1:1-2), at a point of time when, amongst those who had remained behind in the land, as well as amongst those who had been carried to Babylon, the hope of the speedy downfall to the Babylonian monarchy, and of the return of the exiles to their native country, which was then to follow, was very strong, and was powerfully encouraged by the lying statements of false prophets; cf. Jer 29. In the same year and month prophesied Hananiah, a prophet from Gibeon, in the temple at Jerusalem, before the eyes of the priests and the whole people, saying that Jehovah would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, and within two years bring back to Jerusalem all the temple-vessels carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, as well as King Jechoniah and all the captives who had been brought to Babylon, Jeremiah 28:1-4. And the prophet Jeremiah, who with the word of the Lord rebuked and opposed those lying predictions and empty hopes, and foretold that the Babylonian servitude would be of long duration, was violently assailed and persecuted by the lying prophets, even by those of them who were to be found in Babylon; cf. Jeremiah 28:5-17; Jeremiah 29:21-32. This delusion regarding the political condition of affairs, this spirit of resistance to the decree of the Lord, had seized not only upon the people, but also upon the nobles and the king, so that they formed and eagerly carried on conspiracies against the king of Babylon. The meeting of the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon, with Zedekiah in Jerusalem, had no other object than this (Jeremiah 27:3). The embassy, moreover, sent by Zedekiah to Babylon (Jeremiah 24:3), as well as his own journey thither in the fourth year of his reign (Jeremiah 51:59), were intended merely to deceive the king of Babylon, by assurances of devotion and fidelity, in order that the intended revolt might be carried out. But this baseless hope of a speedy liberation from the Babylonian yoke was ignominiously disappointed: in consequence of the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, after a blockade and siege of a year and a half, captured Jerusalem, burnt the city and temple to the ground, and destroyed the kingdom of Judah. By this blow all the supports upon which the God-alienated nation had vainly relied were broken. The delusive statements of the false prophets had proved to be lies; the predictions of the Lord's prophets, on the contrary, had been strikingly justified as divine truth. The destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and the downfall of the kingdom, form accordingly a turning-point for the prophetic labours of Ezekiel. Hitherto, prior to the calamity, he had to announce to the people (animated with the hope of speedy liberation from exile) the judgment of the downfall of Jerusalem and Judah, although such preaching found little acceptance. The time, however, had now arrived when, in order to preserve from despair the nation languishing in exile, and given over to the scorn, contempt, and tyranny of the heathen, he was able to open up the sources of comfort by announcing that the Lord, in requital of the ignominy heaped upon His people, would overwhelm all the heathen nations with destruction, but that, if His people whom they had oppressed would repent and return to Him, He would again gather them out of their dispersion; would make of them a holy nation, walking in His commands and yielding Him a willing service; would conduct them back to their own land; would give them His servant David for a prince, and once more gloriously establish His kingdom.
III. The Book of Ezekiel
The collection of the prophecies placed together in this book, as forming a complete unity, falls into two main divisions: - I. Announcements of judgment upon Israel and the heathen nations, Ezekiel 1-32; II. Announcements of salvation for Israel, Ezekiel 33-48. Each of these main divisions is subdivided into two sections. The first, namely, contains the prophecies of judgment ( a) upon Jerusalem and Israel, Ezekiel 3:22-24; ( b) upon the heathen nations, Ezekiel 25-32. The second main division contains ( c) the predictions of the redemption and restoration of Israel, and the downfall of the heathen world-power, Ezekiel 33-39; ( d) the prophetic picture of the re-formation and exaltation of the kingdom of God, Ezekiel 40-48; and the entire collection opens with the solemn dedication of Ezekiel to the prophetic office, Ezekiel 1:1-3:21. The prophecies of the first, third, and fourth parts are throughout arranged in chronological order; those of the second part - the threatenings predicted against the heathen nations - are disposed according to their actual subject-matter. This is attested by the chronological data in the superscriptions, and confirmed by the contents of the whole of the groups of prophecies in the first three parts. The first part contains the following chronological notices: the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin (Ezekiel 1:2) as the time of Ezekiel's call to the office of prophet, and of the first predictions regarding Jerusalem and Israel; then the sixth (Ezekiel 8:1), seventh (Ezekiel 20:1), and ninth years of the captivity of that monarch (Ezekiel 24:1). The second part contains the predictions against seven foreign nations, of which those against Tyre fall in the eleventh (Ezekiel 26:1), those against Egypt in the tenth (Ezekiel 39:1), twenty-seventh (Ezekiel 29:17), eleventh (Ezekiel 30:20 and Ezekiel 31:1), and twelfth years of the exile. Of the two last parts, each contains only one chronological notice, namely, Ezekiel 33:21, the twelfth year of the captivity, i.e., one year after the destruction of Jerusalem; and Ezekiel 40:1, the twenty-fifth year of the captivity, or the fourteenth after the destruction of Jerusalem. The remaining prophecies, which bear at their head no note of time, connect themselves closely as to their contents with those which are furnished with chronological data, so that they belong to the same period with those. From this it appears that the prophecies of the first part wholly, those of the second part to a great extent, date before the destruction of Jerusalem; those of the third and fourth parts proceed from the time after this catastrophe. This chronological relationship is in favour of the view that the prophecies against foreign nations, Ezekiel 25-32, are not - as the majority of expositors suppose - to be assigned to the second, but rather to the first half of the book. This view is confirmed, on the one hand, by the contents of the prophecies, inasmuch as these, without an exception, announce only the downfall of the heathen nations and kingdoms, making no reference to the future forgiveness and conversion of the residue of these nations, and through this very peculiarity connect themselves closely with the prophecies of threatening against Israel in the first part; on the other hand, by the resemblance which exists between Ezekiel 30:1-20 and Ezekiel 3:16-21, compared with Ezekiel 18:19-32, and which leaves no doubt upon the point that Ezekiel 33:1-20 marks out to the prophet the task which was to occupy his attention after the destruction of Jerusalem, and consequently forms the introduction to the second half of his prophecies. - For further remarks upon the contents and subdivisions of the book, see the expositions in the introductory observations to the individual sections and chapters.
Ezekiel's style of prophetic representation has many peculiarities. In the first place, the clothing of symbol and allegory prevails in him to a greater degree than in all the other prophets; and his symbolism and allegory are not confined to general outlines and pictures, but elaborated in the minutest details, so as to present figures of a boldness surpassing reality, and ideal representations, which produce an impression of imposing grandeur and exuberant fulness. Even the simplest prophetic discourse is rich in imagery, and in bold, partly even strange, comparisons, and branches out into a copiousness which strives to exhaust the subject on all sides, in consequence of which many peculiar expressions and forms are repeated, rendering his language diffuse, and occasionally even clumsy. These peculiarities of his style of representation it has been attempted, on the one hand, to explain by the influence of the Babylonian spirit and taste upon the form of his prophecy; while others, again, would regard them as the result of a literary art, striving to supply the defect of prophetic spirit, and the failing power of the living word, by the aid of learning and an elaborate imitation of actual life. The supposed Babylonian spirit, however, in the forms of our prophet's symbolism, has no existence. The assertion of Hävernick, that “the whole of these symbols has a colossal character, which points in many ways to those powerful impressions experienced by the prophet in a foreign land - Chaldea - and which here are grasped and given out again with a mighty and independent spirit,” remains yet to be proved. For the observation that these symbols, in reference to form and contents, resemble in many respects the symbols of his contemporary Daniel, is not sufficient for the purpose, and cannot in itself be accepted as the truth, by reference to the picture of the eagle, and the comparison of rich men to trees, cedars, in Ezekiel 17, because these pictures already occur in the older prophets, and lions as well as cedars are native in Palestine. Just as little are Babylonian impressions to be recognised in the vision of the field with the dead men's bones, Ezekiel 37, and of the new temple, Ezekiel 40, so that there only remains the representation of the cherubim with four faces, in Ezekiel 1 and 10, which is peculiar to Ezekiel, as presumptive evidence of Chaldean influence. But if we leave out of account that the throne, upon which the Lord appears in human form, indisputably forms the central point of this vision, and this central point has no specific Babylonian impress, then the representation of the cherubim with faces of men, lions, oxen, and eagles, cannot be derived from the contemplation of the Assyrian or Chaldean sculptures of human figures with eagle heads and wings, or winged oxen with human heads, or sphinxes with bodies of animals and female heads, such as are found in the ruins of ancient Nineveh, inasmuch as the cherubim of Ezekiel were not pictures of oxen with lions' manes, eagles' wings, and human countenances furnished with horns - as W. Neumann has still portrayed them in his treatise upon the tabernacle - but had, according to Ezekiel, Ezekiel 1:5, the human form. There are indeed also found, among the Assyrian sculptures, winged human figures; but these Ezekiel had no reason to copy, because the cherubic images in human form, belonging toe Solomon's temple, lay much nearer to his hand. The whole of Ezekiel's symbolism is derived from the Israelitish sanctuary, and is an outcome of Old Testament ideas and views. As the picture of the idea temple in Ezekiel 40ff. is sketched according to the relations of Solomon's temple, which was burnt by the Chaldeans, so the elements for the description of the majestic theophany, in Ezekiel 1 and 10, are contained in the throne of Jehovah, which was above the cherubim, who were over the covering of the ark of the covenant; and in the phenomena amid which was manifested the revelation of the divine glory at the establishment of the covenant on Sinai. On the basis of these facts, Isaiah had already represented to himself the appearance of the Lord, as a vision, in which he beholds Jehovah in the temple, sitting on a high and lofty throne, and, standing around the throne, seraphim with six wings, who began to sing, “Holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:1-13). This symbolism we find modified in Ezekiel, so as to correspond with the aim of his vocation, and elaborated to a greater extent. The manner in which he works out this vision and other symbols certainly gives evidence of his capacity to describe, distinctly and attractively in words, what he had beheld in spirit; although the symbolism itself is, just as little as the vision, a mere product of poetic art, or the subjective framework of a lively fancy, without any real objective foundation; for it rests, in harmony with its contents and form, upon views which are spiritually real, i.e., produced by the Spirit of God in the soul of the prophet, in which the art of the author is reduced to a faithful and distinct reproduction of what had been seen in the spirit.
It is only the abundance of pictures and metaphors, which is in this respect characteristic of Ezekiel, and which betrays a lively imagination, and many-sidedness of his knowledge. These qualities appear not merely in the sketch of the new temple (Ezekiel 40:1), but also in the description of the widespread commerce of Tyre (Ezekiel 27), and of the relations of Egypt (Ezekiel 29 and 31), as well as in the endeavours manifest in all his representations, - not merely in the symbolical descriptions and allegorical portraits (Ezekiel 16 and 23), but also in the simple discourses, in the rebukes of the current vices and sins, and in the threatenings of punishment and judgment, - to follow out the subject treated of into the most special details, to throw light upon it from all sides, to penetrate through it, and not to rest until he has exhausted it, and that without any effort, in so doing, to avoid repetitions. This style of representation, however, has its foundation not merely in the individuality of our prophet, but still more in the relations of his time, and in his attitude towards that generation to whom he had to announce the counsel and will of the Lord. As symbolism and the employment of parables, pictures, and proverbs is, in general, only a means for the purpose of presenting in an attractive light the truths to be delivered, and to strengthen by this attractiveness the impression made by speech and discourse, so also the copiousness and circumstantiality of the picture, and even the repetition of thoughts and expressions under new points of view, serve the same end. The people to whom Ezekiel was not to preach repentance, by announcing the divine judgment and salvation, was “a rebellious race, impudent and hard-hearted” (Ezekiel 3:7-9, Ezekiel 3:26; Ezekiel 12:2, etc.). If he was faithfully and conscientiously to discharge the office, laid upon him by the Lord, of a watcher over the house of Israel, he must not only punish with stern words, and in drastic fashion, the sins of the people, and distinctly paint before their eyes the horrors of the judgment, but he must also set forth, in a style palpable to the senses, that salvation which was to bloom forth for the repentant nation when the judgment was fulfilled.
Closely connected with this is the other peculiarity of Ezekiel's style of prophecy, namely, the marked prominence assigned to the divine origin and contents of his announcements, which distinctly appears in the standing form of address - ”Son of man” - with which God summons the prophet to speech and action; in the continual use of אדני יהוה ; in the formulae כּה אמר יי ' or נאם יי ' ; in the introduction to almost every discourse of God's requirement to him to prophesy or to do this and that; and in the formula which recurs frequently in all the discourses - ”Ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” The standing address, “Son of man,” and the frequent call to speech and action, are likewise regarded by modern critics as a token of the failure of the prophetic spirit-power. Both phrases, however, could only be held to convey so much, if - in conformity with the view of Ewald, who, agreeably to the naturalistic representation of prophecy, assumes it to be a result of high poetic inspiration - they had been selected by Ezekiel of his own free choice, and employed with the intention of expressing the feeling of his own profound distance from God, and of imparting to himself courage to prophesy. If, on the contrary, according to the Scriptural conception of prophecy, God the Lord addressed Ezekiel as “son of man,” and called him, moreover, on each occasion to utter predictions, then the use of the God-given name, as well as the mention of the summons, as proceeding from God only, furnishes an evidence that Ezekiel does not, like the false prophets, utter the thoughts and inspirations of his own heart, but, in all that he says and does, acts under a divine commission and under divine inspiration, and serves to impress the rebellious nation more and more with the conviction that a prophet of the Lord is in their midst (Ezekiel 2:5; Ezekiel 33:33), and that God had not departed with His Spirit from Israel, notwithstanding their banishment among the heathen. In favour of the correctness of this view of the expressions and phrases in question, there speak decisively the manner and fashion in which Ezekiel was called and consecrated to the prophetic office; not only the instruction which God communicates to him for the performance of his calling (Ezekiel 2:1-3:21), - and which, immediately upon the first act of his prophetic activity, He supplements to the effect of enjoining upon him dumbness or entire silence, only then permitting him to open his mouth to speak when He wishes to inspire him with a word to be addressed to the rebellious people (Ezekiel 3:26-27; cf. Ezekiel 24:27 and Ezekiel 33:22), - but also the theophany which inaugurated his call to the prophetic office (Ezekiel 1), which, as will appear to us in the course of the exposition, has unmistakeably the significance of an explanation of a reality, which will not be dissolved and annihilated with the dissolution of the kingdom of Judah, and the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the temple of that covenant of grace which Jehovah had concluded with Israel.
It is usual, moreover, to quote, as a peculiarity of Ezekiel's prophecies, the prominence given to his priestly descent and disposition, especially in the visions, Ezekiel 1, cf. Ezekiel 10, Ezekiel 8-11 and 40-48, and in the individual traits, as Ezekiel 4:13., Ezekiel 20:12., Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 36:24, etc. etc., which Ewald explains as “a result of the one-sided literary conception of antiquity according to mere books and traditions, as well as of the extreme prostration of spirit intensified by the long duration of the exile and bondage of the people;” while de Wette, Gesenius, and others would see in it an intellectual narrowness on the part of the prophet. The one view is as groundless and perverse as the other, because resting upon the superficial opinion that the copious descriptions of the sacred articles in the temple were sketched by Ezekiel only for the purpose of preserving for the future the elevating recollection of the better times of the past (Ewald). When we recognise, on the contrary the symbolical character of these descriptions, we may always say that for the portrayal of the conception of the theophany in Ezekiel 1 and 10, and of the picture of the temple in Ezekiel 40, no individual was so well fitted as a priest, familiar with the institutions of worship. In this symbolism, however, we may not venture to seek for the products of intellectual narrowness, or of sacerdotal ideas, but must rise to the conviction that God the Lord selected a priest, and no other, to be His prophet, and permitted him to behold the future of His kingdom on earth in the significant forms of the sanctuary at Jerusalem, because this form was the symbolical covering which presented the closest correspondence to the same. - Still less to the passages Ezekiel 4:13., Ezekiel 20:12., and others, in which stress is laid upon the ceremonial commands of the law, and where their violation is mentioned as a cause of the judgment that was breaking over Israel, furnish evidence of priestly one-sidedness or narrowness of spirit. Ezekiel takes up towards the Mosaic Law no other position than that which is taken by the older prophets. He finds impressed on the precepts, not only of the Moral, but also of the Ceremonial Law, divine thoughts, essential elements of the divine holiness, attesting itself in and to Israel; and penetrated by a sense of the everlasting importance of the whole law, he urges obedience to its commands. Even the close adherence to the Pentateuch is not at all peculiar to him, but is common to all the prophets, inasmuch as all, without exception, criticize and judge the life of the nation by the standard of the prescriptions in the Mosaic Law. Ezekiel, with his nearest predecessor Jeremiah, is in this respect only distinguished from the earlier prophets, that the verbal references to the Pentateuch in both occur with greater frequency, and receive a greater emphasis. But this has its ground not so much in the descent of both from a priestly family, as rather in the relations of their time, especially in the circumstance that the falling away of the nation from the law had become so great, in consequence of which the penal judgments already threatened in the Pentateuch upon transgressors had fallen upon them, so that the prophets of the Lord were obliged, with all their energy, to hold up before the rebellious race not merely the commandments, but also the threatenings of the law, if they were faithfully to discharge the office to which they had been called.
The language of Ezekiel is distinguished by a great number of words and forms, which do not occur elsewhere, and which, probably, were for the greater part coined by himself (see an enumeration of these in the Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction, §77, Rem. 6), and shows a strong leaning towards the diction of the Pentateuch. It has, however, been unable to resist the influences of the inaccurate popular dialect, and of the Aramaic idiom, so that it betrays, in its many anomalies and corruptions, the decline and commencement of the dying out of the Hebrew tongue (cf. §17, of the Historico-Critical Manual), and reminds us that the prophet's residence was in a foreign country.
The genuineness of Ezekiel's prophecies is, at the present day, unanimously recognised by all critics. There is, moreover, no longer any doubt that the writing down and relation of them in the volume which has been transmitted to us were the work of the prophet himself. Only Ewald and Hitzig, for the purpose of setting aside the predictions which so much offend them, have proposed very artificial hypotheses regarding the manner and way in which the book originated; but it appears unnecessary to enter into a closer examination of these, as their probability and trustworthiness depend only upon the dogmatic views of their authors.
For the exegetical literature, see the Historico-Critical Manual, vol. i. p.353 (new ed. p. 254), where is also to be added, as of very recent date, Das Buch Ezechiels. Uebersetzt und erklärt von Dr. Th. Kleifoth . Zwei Abtheilungen. Rostock, 1864 and 1865.
Review of Ezekiel 40-48
Having now completed our exposition in detail, if we take a survey of the substance of the entire vision in Ezekiel 40-48, on comparing it with the preceding prophecies of the restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 34-37), we obtain the following picture of the new constitution of the kingdom of God: - When the Lord shall gather the sons of Israel from their banishment among the heathen, and bring them back to Canaan, so that they shall dwell therein as a united people under the rule of His servant David, then shall they, on the fresh distribution of the land according to the full extent to which God promised it to the patriarchs, and indicated the boundaries thereof through Moses (Ezekiel 47:15-20), set apart the central portion of it as a heave for the sanctuary and His servants, the priests and Levites, as well as for the capital and its labourers, and also give to the prince a possession of his own on both sides of this heave. In the central point of the heave, which occupies a square space of twenty-five thousand rods in length and breadth, the temple is to stand upon a high mountain, and cover, with its courts, a space of five hundred cubits square; and round about it a space of five hundred rods on every side is to form a boundary between the holy and the common. The glory of Jehovah will enter into the temple and dwell therein for ever; and the temple, in its whole extent, will be most holy (Ezekiel 43:1-12). Round about this the priests receive a tract of land of twenty-five thousand rods in length and ten thousand in breadth to dwell in as a sanctuary for the sanctuary; and by their side, toward the north, the Levites receive an area of similar size for dwelling-places; but toward the south, a tract of land of twenty-five thousand rods in length and five thousand rods in breadth is to be the property of the city; and in the centre of this area, the city, with its open space, is to cover a square of five thousand rods in length and breadth; and the rest of the land on both sides is to be given to the labourers of the city out of all Israel for their maintenance. The land lying on the eastern and western sides of the heave, as far as the Jordan and the Mediterranean, is to be the property of the prince, and to remain the hereditary possession of his sons (Ezekiel 45:1-8; Ezekiel 46:16-18; Ezekiel 48:8-22). After the separation of this heave, which, with the prince's possession, covers about the fifth part of the whole extent of Canaan, the rest of the land on the north and south of the heave is to be divided into equal parts and distributed among the twelve tribes, so that every tribe-territory shall stretch from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, - seven tribes receiving their hereditary portions on the north of the heave and five on the south, whilst the foreigners having their permanent homes among the different tribes are to receive hereditary possessions like the native Israelites (Ezekiel 47:21-48:7, and Ezekiel 48:23-29).
Israel, thus placed once more in possession of the promised land, is to appear with its prince before the Lord in the temple at the yearly feasts, to worship and to offer sacrifices, the provision of which is to devolve upon the prince at all festal seasons, for which purpose the people are to pay to him the sixtieth part of the corn, the hundredth part of the oil, and the two hundredth head from the flock every year as a heave-offering. The sacrificial service at the altar and in the holy place is to be performed by none but priests of the family of Zadok, who kept the charge of the Lord faithfully when the people wandered into idolatry. All the other descendants of Levi are simply to discharge the inferior duties of the temple service, whilst uncircumcised heathen are not to be admitted into the temple any more, that it may not be defiled by them (Ezekiel 43:13 -54:31; 45:8-46:15, and Ezekiel 46:19-24). When Israel shall thus serve the Lord its God, and walk in His commandments and statutes, it will enjoy the richest blessing from God. A spring of living water will issue from the threshold of the temple house, and, swelling after a short course into a mighty river, will flow down to the Jordan valley, empty itself into the Dead Sea, and make the water of that sea so wholesome that it will swarm with living creatures and fishes of every kind; and on the banks of the river fruit-trees will grow with never-withering leaves, which will bear ripe fruit for food every month, whilst the leaves will serve as medicine (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
As to the Messianic character of the substance of this whole vision, Jewish and Christian commentators are generally agreed; and the opinion which, according to Jerome, many of the Jews entertained, and which has been supported by the rationalistic expositors (Dathe, Eichhorn, Herder, Böttcher, and others), after the example of Grotius, - namely, that Ezekiel describes the temple of Solomon destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar as a model for the rebuilding of it after the return of the Jews from the captivity-has not found much favour, inasmuch as, apart from all other objections to which it is exposed, it is upset by the fact that not only are its supporters unable to make anything of the description of the spring which issues from the threshold of the temple, flows through the land, and makes the waters of the Dead Sea sound, but they are also unable to explain the separation of the temple from the city of Jerusalem; as it would never have occurred to any Jewish patriot, apart from divine revelation, much less to a priest like Ezekiel, who claims such important prerogatives for the prince of the family of David in relation to the temple, to remove the house of Jehovah from Mount Zion, the seat of the royal house of David, and out of the bounds and territory of the city of Jerusalem. But even if we lay aside this view, and the one related to it, - viz. that the whole vision contains nothing more than ideal hopes and desires of better things belonging to that age, with regard to the future restoration of the destroyed temple and kingdom, as Ewald and others represent the matter, - as being irreconcilable with the biblical view of prophecy, the commentators, who acknowledge the divine origin of prophecy and the Messianic character of the vision in these chapters, differ very widely from one another with reference to the question how the vision is to be interpreted; some declaring themselves quite as decidedly in favour of the literal explanation of the whole picture as others in favour of the figurative or symbolico-typical view, which they regard as the only correct and scriptural one. - The latter view gained the upper hand at a very early period in the Christian church, so that we find it adopted by Ephraem Syrus, Theodoret, and Jerome;
(Note: Ephraem Syrus, on Ezekiel 41, not only interprets the windows of the temple and even the measuring rod allegorically, but says expressly: “It is evident that the rest of the things shown to the prophet in the building of the new temple pertain to the church of Christ, so that we must hold that the priests of that house were types of the apostles, and the calves slain therein prefigured the sacrifice of Christ.” - Theod. indeed restricts himself throughout to a brief paraphrase of the words, without explaining every particular in a spiritual manner; but he nevertheless says expressly (at Ezekiel 43) that we must ascend from the type to the truth, as God will not dwell for ever in the type; and therefore he repeatedly opposes the Judaeo-literal interpretation of Apollinaris, although he himself appears to take Ezekiel 48 as simply referring to the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple in the time of Zerubbabel. - This explanation is expressly opposed by Jerome, as the opinion of ignorant Jews; and he observes, on the other hand, that “this temple which is now described, with the order of the priesthood and division of the land and its fertility, is much superior to that which Solomon built; whereas the one which was built under Zerubbabel was so small, and so unworthy of comparison with the earlier one, that they who had seen the first temple, and now looked on this, wept,” etc. Under the type of the restoration of the city destroyed by the Babylonians, there is predicted futurae aedificationis veritas .)
and it prevailed so generally, that Lud. Cappellus, for example, in his Trisagion s. templi Hierosol. tripl. delin. (in the apparat. bibl. of Walton, in the first part of the London Polyglot, p. 3), says: “In this passage God designs to show by the prophet that He no more delights in that carnal and legal worship which they have hitherto presented to Him; but that He demands from them another kind of worship very different from that, and more pleasing to Him (a spiritual worship, of which they have a type in the picture and all the rites of this temple, which differ greatly from those of Moses), and that He will establish it among them when He shall have called them to Himself through the Messiah. And that this spiritual worship is set before them in shadows and figures, there is not a Christian who denies; nor any Jew, unless prejudiced and very obdurate, who ventures to deny, seeing that there are so many things in this description of Ezekiel which not even the most shameless Jew has dared to argue that we are to interpret according to the letter,” etc.
The literal interpretation remained for a long time peculiar to the Jews, who expect from the Messiah not only their own restoration to the earthly Canaan, but the rebuilding of the temple and the renewal of the Levitical worship in the manner described by Ezekiel, and the establishment of a political kingdom generally; whereas Christians have founded the expectation of an earthly kingdom of glory in the form of the millennium, more upon the Apocalypse than upon Ezekiel's prophecy. It has only been in the most recent time that certain scientific defenders of chiliasm have not shrunk from carrying out their views so far as to teach not only the restoration of the Jews to Palestine on their conversion to Christ, but, according to their literal explanation of our prophecy, the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and the renewal of the Levitical worship in the millennial kingdom. Auberlen has only hinted at this, so that from his words quoted already, “when once priesthood and monarchy are revived, the, without impairing the Epistle to the Hebrews, the ceremonial and civil law of Moses will unfold its spiritual depths in the worship and in the constitution of the millennial kingdom,” we cannot see how far he assumes that there will be a literal fulfilment of Ezekiel's prophecy. M. Baumgarten (art. “Ezekiel” in Herzog's Cyclopaedia) says, more plainly, that “the restoration of all the outward reality, which Ezekiel saw in vision, will be not so much a repetition of what went before, as a glorification of the outward, which had perished and been condemned,” since this “glorification” will simply consist in “extensions and intensifications” of the earlier precepts of the law. “For,” he adds, in support of this opinion, “when Israel as a nation turns to God, how can, how should it manifest its faith and its obedience in any other way than in the forms and ordinances which Jehovah gave to that people? And is it not obvious (!?) that the whole law, in all its sections and portions, will not receive, till after this conversion, that fulfilment which in all ages it has hitherto sought in vain? And how should temple, priesthood, sacrificial service, Sabbath, and new moon, in themselves be opposed to faith in the perfect and eternal revelation of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?” In consistency with this, Baumgarten is therefore of opinion that eventually even the Gentile community will enter again into the congregation of Israel, and find its national organization in the law of Israel according to the will of God. - Hofmann, on the contrary ( Schriftbeweis, II 2, pp. 577ff.), finds only so much established with certainty in the revelation of Ezekiel, viz., that Israel will serve God again in its own land, and Jehovah will dwell in the midst of it again. He therefore would have the several parts interpreted in relation to the whole; so that what Hengstenberg calls the ideal interpretation of this prophecy remains. But he does not say precisely what his view is concerning the temple, and the Levitical rite of sacrifice to be performed therein. He simply infers, from the fact that a stream of water issuing from the temple-mountain makes the Dead Sea sound and the lower Kedron-valley fruitful, that the land will be different from what it was before; and this alteration Volck calls a glorification of Palestine.
In our discussion of the question concerning the restoration of Israel to Canaan, we have already declared ourselves as opposed to the literal interpretation of the prophecy, and have given the general grounds on which the symbolico-typical view appears to be demanded - namely because the assumption of a restoration of the temple and the Levitical, i.e., bloody, sacrificial worship is opposed to the teaching of Christ and His apostles. We have now to assign further reasons for this. If, then, in the first place, we fix our attention upon the vision in Ezekiel 40-48, we cannot find any conclusive argument against the literal and in favour of the figurative interpretation of the vision in question, either in the fact that Ezekiel does not give any building-plan for the temple, but simply ground arrangements and ground measurements, and does not sway that a temple is ever to be built according to his plan, or give any instructions for the restoration of the Israelitish worship, or in the fact that the division of the land, the bounding off of the terumah and the arranging of the city, cannot be practically realized. The omission of any command to build the temple might be simply accounted for, from the design to let the prophet merely see the restoration of the destroyed temple in a more perfect form, and cause this to be predicted to the people through him, without at present giving any command to build, as that was only to be carried out in the remote future. The absence of elevations and precise directions concerning the construction of the several buildings might be explained from the fact that in these respects the building was to resemble the former temple. And with regard to the distribution of the land among the tribes, and the setting apart of the terumah, it cannot truly be said that “they bear on the face of them their purposelessness and impracticability.” The description of a portion of land of definite size for priests, Levites, city, and prince, which was to reach from the eastern boundary of Canaan to the western, and to be bounded off in a straight line by the tribe-territories immediately adjoining, contains nothing impracticable, provided that we do not think of the boundary line as a straight line upon a chess-board. But we may infer from the Mosaic instructions concerning the districts, which were to be given to the Levites as pasture grounds for their cattle round about the cities assigned to them to dwell in, that the words of the text do not warrant any such idea. They are described as perfect squares of a thousand cubits on every side (Numbers 35:2-5). If, then, these Mosaic instructions could be carried out, the same must be true of those of Ezekiel concerning the terumah, as its dimensions are in harmony with the actual size of the land. And so also the separation of the city from the temple, and the square form of the city with three gates on every side, cannot be regarded in general as either purposeless or impracticable. And, finally, in the statements concerning the territories to be distributed among the twelve tribes, viz., that they were to lie side by side, that they were all to stretch from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, and that they were to be of equal size, there is no ground for supposing that the land was to be cut up with the measuring rod into abstract oblongs of equal measurements, with an entire disregard of all the actual conditions. The only thing which causes any surprise here is the assumption on which the regulation, that one tribe is to receive as much as another, is founded, namely, that all the tribes of Israel will be equal in the number of families they contain. This hypothesis can hardly be reconciled with the assumption that an actual distribution of Palestine among the twelve tribes of Israel returning from exile is contemplated. Even the measuring of a space around the temple for the purpose of forming a separation between the holy and the common, which space was to be five times as large as the extent of the temple with its courts, contains an obvious hint at a symbolical signification of the temple building, inasmuch as with a real temple such an object could have been attained by much simpler means. To this must be added the river issuing from the threshold of the eastern temple gate, with its marvellously increasing flow of water, and the supernatural force of life which it contains; for, as we have already pointed out, this cannot be regarded as an earthly river watering the land, but can only be interpreted figuratively, i.e., in a symbolico-typical sense. But if the stream of water flowing from the temple cannot be regarded as a natural river, the temple also cannot be an earthly temple, and the sacrificial service appointed for this temple cannot be taken as divine service consisting in the slaying and offering of bullocks, goats, and calves; and as the entire description forms a uniform prophetic picture, the distribution of the land among the sons of Israel must also not be interpreted literally.
But as different supporters of the chiliastic view have defended the literal interpretation of the picture of the temple spring by the assumption of a glorification of nature, i.e., of a glorification of Palestine before the new creation of the heaven and the earth, and this assumption is of great importance in relation to the question concerning the fulfilment of this prophecy (Ezekiel 40-48), we must examine somewhat more closely the arguments used in its support.
I. Is the glorification of Canaan before the last judgment taught in the prophecy of the Old Testament? - According to Volck (“Zur Eschatologie,” Dorpat. Zeitschr. vii. pp. 158ff.), the idea of such a glorification is very common throughout the Old Testament prophecy. “When,” he says, “Isaiah (Isaiah 2:2-4) sees the mountain of the house of Jehovah exalted above all the mountains, and the nations flowing to it, to walk in Jehovah's ways; when he prophesies of a time in which the Lord will shelter Israel, now saved and holy in all its members, and fill its land with glory, and Canaan, under the rule of the righteous prince of peace, with its inhabitants once scattered over all the world brought back once more, will be restored to the original, paradisaical state of peace, whilst the world is given up to judgment (Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 9:1-6, and Isaiah 9:11, Isaiah 9:12); - when Jeremiah prophesies that Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and a sprout from the house of David will rule well over his people, upon whose heart Jehovah will write His law (Jeremiah 31:31-40; Jeremiah 33:15); - when Hosea (Hosea 2:16-23) sees the house of Jacob, which has returned home after a period of severe affliction, as a pardoned people to which its God betrothes Himself again; - when Joel (Joel 3:16-21) sees a time break forth after the judgment upon the army of the world of nations, in which the holy land bursts into miraculous fruitfulness; - when Amos (Amos 9:8-15) predicts the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David that has been overthrown, and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom; - when, according to Zechariah (Zechariah 14:8.), Jerusalem is to be the centre of the world, to which the nations flow, to celebrate the feast of tabernacles with Israel: - it is impossible, without introducing unbounded caprice into our exposition, to resist the conclusion, that in all these passages, and others of a similar kind, a time is depicted, when, after the judgment of God upon the power of the world, Israel will dwell in the enjoyment of blissful peace within its own land, now transfigured into paradisaical glory, and will rule over the nations round about.” But that all these passages do not contain clear scriptural statements “concerning a partial glorification of the earth” during that kingdom of glory, is apparent from the fact that it is not till after writing this that Volck himself raises the question, “Are there really, then, any distinct utterances of Scripture upon this point?” and he only cites two passages (Joel 3:18. and Micah 7:9-13) as containing an affirmative answer to the question, to which he also adds in a note Isa 24 as compared with Isaiah 13:9 and Zechariah 14:8-11. But when Joel foretells that, after the judgment of Jehovah upon the army of nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat, the mountains will trickle with new wine, the hills flow with milk, and all the springs of Judah stream with water, while Egypt will become a desolation, and Edom a barren desert, he announces nothing more than that which Isaiah repeats and still further expands in Isaiah 34 and Isaiah 35:1-10; where even Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis, II 2, p. 563) admits that Edom is a symbolical designation, applied to the world of mankind in its estrangement from God. Joel merely mentions Egypt as well as Edom as representatives of the world in its hostility to God. But if Egypt and Edom are types of the world in its estrangement from God or its enmity against Him, Judah is a type of the kingdom of God; and this passage simply teaches that through the judgment the might and glory of the kingdoms of the world at enmity against God will be laid waste and destroyed, and the glory of the kingdom of God established. But in nowise do they teach the glorification of Palestine and the desolation of Idumaea and the country of the Nile; especially if we bear in mind that, as we have already observed, the trickling and flowing of the mountains and hills with new wine and oil cannot possibly be understood literally.
We meet with the very same antithesis in Micah 7:9-13, where the daughter of Zion, presented under the figure of a vineyard, is promised the building of her walls and the flowing into her of numerous peoples from Egypt, Asshur, and the ends of the world, and the desolation of the world is foretold. Micah does not say a word about a partial glorification of the earth, unless the building of the walls of Zion is taken allegorically, and changed into a glorification of Palestine. But if this is the case with passages selected as peculiarly clear, the rest will furnish still less proof of the supposed glorification of the land of Israel. It is true, indeed, that we also find in Isa 24 “the antithesis between Zion, the glorified seat of Jehovah, and the earth laid waste by the judgment” (cf. Isaiah 13:3), and in Zechariah 14:8. the prediction of an exaltation of Jerusalem above the land lying round about; but even if a future glorification of the seat of God in the midst of His people, and, indeed, a transformation of the earthly soil of the kingdom of God, be foretold in these and many other passages, the chiliastic idea of a glorification of Palestine before the universal judgment and the new creation of the heaven and earth is by no means proved thereby, so long as there are no distinct statements of Scripture to confirm the supposition that the future glorification of Zion, Jerusalem, Canaan, predicted by the prophets, will take place before the judgment. Even Volck appears to have felt that the passages already quoted do not furnish a conclusive proof of this, since it is not till after discussing them that he thinks it necessary to raise the question, “Does the Old Testament really speak of a glorification of Canaan in the literal sense of the word?” To reply to this he commences with an examination of the view of the millennium held by Auberlen, who finds nothing more in the statements of the Old Testament than that “even nature will be included in the blessing of the general salvation, the soil endowed with inexhaustible fruitfulness, all hostility and thirst for blood be taken from the animal world, yea, the heavens bound to the earth in corresponding harmony,” so that we should be reminded of the times of the world before the flood, when the powers of nature were still greater than they are now. To this the intimation in Isaiah 65:20-22 alludes, where men a hundred years old are called boys, etc. ( der Prophet Daniel, pp. 402, 403). But Volck objects to the literal interpretation of such passages as Isaiah 65:20, on the ground that “the consequence of this assumption leads to absurdities, inasmuch as such passages as Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 60:17-18; Isaiah 65:25, would then also have to be taken literally, to which certainly no one would be so ready to agree” (see also Luthardt, die Lehre von den letzten Dingen , p. 78). On the other hand, he defends the canon laid down by Hofmann (p. 566), “that in the prophetic description of that time of glory we must distinguish between the thoughts of the prophecy and the means used for expression them; the former we reach by generalizing what is said by way of example, and reducing the figurative expression to the literal one.” The thought lying at the foundation of these prophetic pictures is, in his opinion, no other than that of a blessed, blissful fellowship with God, and a state of peace embracing both the human and the extra-human creation. “To set forth this thought, the prophets seize upon the most manifold figures and colours which the earth offers them.” Thus in Isaiah 65:20-23 we have only a figurative description of what is said in literal words in Isaiah 25:8: He swalloweth up death for ever, and Jehovah wipeth away the tears from every face. So also the figurative expressions in Isaiah 11:6-8; Isaiah 65:25, affirm nothing more “than that the ground will be delivered from the curse which rests upon it for the sake of man, and the extra-human creation will be included in the state of peace enjoyed in the holy seat of God. But where there is no death and no evil, and therefore no more sin, where the glory of the Lord shines without change (Isaiah 60:19-20), not only has the world before the flood with its still greater powers of nature returned, but there is the world of glorification.” We agree with this view in general, and simply add that this furnishes no proof of the glorification of Canaan before the last judgment. Before this can be done, it must be conclusively shown that these prophetic passages treat of the so-called millennial kingdom, and do not depict what is plainly taught in Isaiah 65:17. and Rev 21 and 22, the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem upon the new earth.
Volck also acknowledges this, inasmuch as, after examining these passages, he proposes the question, “Are there really clear passages in the Old Testament prophecy which warrant us in assuming that there will be an intermediate period between the judgment, through which Jehovah glorifies Himself and His people before the eyes of the world, and a last end of all things?” An affirmative answer to this question is said to be furnished by Isaiah 24:21., where the prophet, when depicting the judgment upon the earth, says: “And it will come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will visit the army of the height on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth; and they will be gathered together as a crowd, taken in the pit, and shut up in the prison, and after the expiration of many days will they be visited. And the sun blushes, and the moon turns pale; for Jehovah rules royally upon Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and in the face of His elders is glory.” Here even Hofmann finds (pp. 566, 567) the idea clearly expressed “of a time between the judgment through which Jehovah glorifies Himself and His people before all the world, and a last end of things, such as we must picture to ourselves when we read of a rolling up of the heaven on which all its host falls off, like dry leaves from the vine (Isaiah 34:4), and of a day of retribution upon earth, when the earth falls to rise no more, and a fire devours its inhabitants, which burns for ever” (Isaiah 34:8-9; Isaiah 24:20). But if we observe that the announcement of the judgment upon the earth closes in Isaiah 24:20 with the words, “the earth will fall, and not rise again;” and then Isaiah 24:21. continue as follows: “And it comes to pass in that day, Jehovah will visit,” etc., - it will be evident that the judgment upon the host of the heavens, etc., is assigned to the time when the earth is destroyed, so that by the Mount Zion and Jerusalem, where Jehovah will then reign royally in glory, we can only understand the heavenly Jerusalem. An intermediate time between the judgment upon the world and the last end of things, i.e., the destruction of the heaven and the earth, is not taught here. Nor is it taught in Isaiah 65:17-19, where, according to Hofmann (p. 568), a glorification of Jerusalem before the new creation of the heaven and the earth is said to be foretold; for here even Volck admits that we have a picture of the new world after the destruction of heaven and earth and after the last judgment, and concludes his discussion upon this point (p. 166) with the acknowledgment, “that in the Old Testament prophecy these two phases of the end are not sharply separated from each other, and especially that the manner of transition from the former (the glorification of Jehovah and His church before the world in the so-called thousand years' reign) to the last end of all things, to the life of eternity, does not stand clearly out,” though even in the latter respect there is an indication to be found in Ezekiel 38. If, then, for the present we lay this indication aside, as the question concerning Ezekiel 38 can only be considered in connection with Revelation 20:1-15, the examination of all the passages quoted by the chiliasts in support of the glorification of Palestine, before the new creation of the heavens and the earth, yields rather the result that the two assumed phases of the end are generally not distinguished in the Old Testament prophecy, and that the utterances of the different prophets concerning the final issue of the war of the world-powers against the kingdom of God clearly contain no more than this, that Jehovah will destroy all the enemies of His kingdom by a judgment, overthrow the kingdoms of the world, and establish His kingdom in glory. Isaiah alone rises to a prediction of the destruction of the whole world, and of the new creation of the heaven and the earth. - But what the Old Testament leaves still obscure in this respect, is supposed to be clearly revealed in the New. To this question, therefore, we will now proceed.
II. Does the New Testament teach a glorification of Palestine and a kingdom of glory in the earthly Jerusalem, before the last judgment and the destruction of the heaven and the earth? - In the opinion of most of the representatives of millenarianism, there is no doubt whatever as to either of these. “For, according to Revelation 20:1-15, the overthrow of the world-power and the destruction of Antichrist are immediately followed by the establishment of the kingdom of glory of the glorified church of Jesus Christ for the space of a thousand years, at the expiration of which the war of Gog and Magog against the beloved city takes place, and ends in the overthrow of the hostile army and the creation of the new heaven and the new earth” (Volck, p. 167). But this assumption is by no means so indisputable. Even if we grant in passing, that, according to the millenarian view of the Apocalypse, the events depicted in Revelation 20:1-15 are to be understood chronologically, the assumption that Palestine will be glorified during the millennium is not yet demonstrated. Auberlen, for example, who regards the doctrine of the thousand years' reign as one of the primary articles of the Christian hope, pronounces the following sentence (pp. 454, 455) upon Hofmann's view of the millennial reign, according to which the glorified church is to be thought of, not as in heaven, but as on earth, and, indeed, as united with the equally glorified Israel in the equally glorified Canaan: “It appears obvious to me that the whole of the Old Testament prophecy is irreconcilable with this view, apart from the internal improbability of the thing.” And according to our discussion above, we regard this sentence as perfectly well founded. The prophets of the Old Testament known nothing of a thousand years' kingdom; and a glorification of the earthly Canaan before the end of the world cannot be inferred from the picture of the temple spring, for the simple reason that the resumption of this prophetic figure in Revelation 22:1 and Revelation 22:2 shows that this spring belongs to the heavenly Jerusalem of the new earth. Even in Revelation 20:1-15 we read nothing about a glorification of Palestine of Jerusalem. This has merely been inferred from the fact that, according to the literal interpretation of the chapter, those who rise from the dead at the second coming of Christ will reign with Christ in the “beloved city,” i.e., Jerusalem; but the question has not been taken into consideration, whether a warlike expedition of the heathen from the four corners of the unglorified world against the inhabitants of a glorified city, who are clothed with spiritual bodies, is possible and conceivable, or whether such an assumption does not rather “lead to absurdities.” Nor can it be shown that the doctrine of a glorification of Palestine before the end of the present world is contained in the remaining chapters of the Apocalypse or the other writings of the New Testament. It cannot be inferred from the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:15, viz., that the restoration of the people of Israel, rejected for a time after the entrance of the pleroma of the heathen into the kingdom of God, will be or cause “life from the dead;” since “life from the dead” never really means the new bodily life of glorification beginning with the resurrection of the dead (Meyer), nor the glorification of the world (Volck); and this meaning cannot be deduced from the fact that that παλιγγενεσία (“regeneration,” Matthew 19:28) and the χρόνοι ἀποκαταστάσεως (“times of restitution,” Acts 3:19-21) will follow the “receiving” ( πρόσληψις ) of Israel.
And even for the doctrine of a kingdom of glory in the earthly Jerusalem before the last judgment, we have no conclusive scriptural evidence. The assumption, that by the “beloved city” in Revelation 20:9 we are to understand the earthly Jerusalem, rests upon the hypothesis, that the people of Israel will return to Palestine on or after their conversion to Christ, rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, and well there till the coming of Christ. But, as we have already shown, this hypothesis has no support either in Romans 11:25 or any other unequivocal passages of the New Testament; and the only passages that come into consideration at all are Revelation 7:1-8; Revelation 14:1-5, and Revelation 14:11, Revelation 14:12, in which this doctrine is said to be contained. In Revelation 7:1., John sees how, before the outbreak of the judgment upon the God-opposing world-power, an angel seals “the servants of our God” in their foreheads, and hears that the number of those sealed is a hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes mentioned by name. In Revelation 14:1. he sees the Lamb stand upon Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having the name of his Father written upon their forehead. And in Revelation 11:1. a rod is given to him, and he is commanded to measure the temple of God and the altar, but to cast out the outer court of the temple, and not to measure it, because it is given to the heathen, who will tread under foot the holy city, which has become spiritually a Sodom and an Egypt for forty-two months. From these passages, Hofmann (II 2, p. 703), Luther, Volck, and others conclude that the converted Israelitish church will not only dwell in Palestine, more especially in Jerusalem, before the coming ( parusia) of Christ, but will be alone in outliving the coming of Christ; whilst the rest of Christendom, at all events the whole number of the believers from among the Gentile Christians, will lose their lives in the great tribulation which precedes the parusia, and go through death to God. This conclusion would be indisputable if the premises were well founded, namely, that the passages in question treated only of Jewish Christians and the earthly Jerusalem. For, in the first place, it is evident that the hundred and forty-four thousand whom John sees with the Lamb upon Mount Zion in Revelation 14:1. are identical with the hundred and forty-four thousand who are sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel in Rev 7. The omission of the retrospective article before ἑκατὸν, κ.τ.λ. in Revelation 14:1 is to be explained from the fact that the intention is to give prominence to the antithesis, in which the notice of it stands to what precedes. “Over against the whole multitude of the rest of the world, subject to the beast and his prophet, there stands upon Zion a comparatively limited host of a hundred and forty-four thousand” (Volck). And in the second place, it is quite as evident that in the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are sealed (Rev 7), the total number is contained of all believers, who have been preserved in the great tribulation, and kept from perishing therein; and in Revelation 7:9-17 there is placed in contrast with these, in the innumerable multitude out of all the heathen, and nations, and languages standing before the throne of God clothed in white robes, and carrying palms in their hands, who have come out of the great tribulation, the total number of believers who have lost their temporal lives in the great tribulation, and entered into the everlasting life. The mode in which Christiani (“Uebersichtliche Darstellung des Inhalts der Apokalypse,” Dorpater Zetischr. III p. 53) attempts to evade this conclusion - namely, by affirming that the separate visions never give a complete final account, but only isolated glimpses of it, and that they have mutually to supplement one another - does not suffice. Volck has correctly observed, in answer to the objection that the vision in Revelation 7:9-17 does not set before us the entrance of all the believing Gentile Christians of the last time into heaven through death, that although we simply read of a “great multitude” in Revelation 7:9, this expression does not permit us to infer that there will be a remnant of Gentile Christians, inasmuch as the antithesis upon which all turns is this: “on the one side, this compact number of a hundred and forty-four thousand out of Israel destined to survive the last oppression; on the other, an innumerable multitude out of every nation, who have come to God through death.” Nevertheless, we must support Christiani in his opposition to the assumption, that at the parusia of Christ only Jewish Christians will be living on earth in Jerusalem or upon Mount Zion, and that all the believing Gentile Christians will have perished from the globe; because such a view is irreconcilably opposed not only to Revelation 3:12, but also to all the teaching of the New Testament, especially to the declarations of our Lord concerning His second coming. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, consisting of Gentile and Jewish Christians, ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου : “we who live and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not anticipate those who sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15.), and when he announced as a μυστήριον to the church at Corinth, which was also a mixed church, consisting for the most part of Gentile Christians: “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51), he held the conviction, based upon a word of the Lord, that at the time of Christ's coming there would still be believing Gentile Christians living upon the earth. And when the Lord Himself tells His disciples: “the Son of man will come in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory, and will send His angels with sounding trumpets, and they will gather His elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31), He treats it as an indisputable fact that there will be ἐκλεκτοί , believing Christians, in all the countries of the earth, and that the church existing at His coming will not be limited to the Israel which has become believing in Jerusalem and Palestine.
If, therefore, the Apocalypse is not to stand in direct contradiction to the teaching of Christ and the Apostle Paul in one of the principal articles of the truths of salvation, the exposition in question of Rev 7 and 14 cannot be correct. On the contrary, we are firmly convinced that in the hundred and forty-four thousand who are sealed, the whole body of believing Christians living at the parusia of our Lord is represented; and notwithstanding the fact that they are described as the servants of God “out of all the tribes of the children of Israel,” and are distributed by twelve thousands among the twelve tribes of Israel, and that in Revelation 14:1 they stand with the Lamb upon Mount Zion, we can only regard them, not as Jewish Christians, but as the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), i.e., the church of believers in the last days gathered from both Gentiles and Jews. If the description of the sealed as children of Israel out of all the twelve tribes, and the enumeration of these tribes by name, prove that only Jewish Christians are intended, and preclude our taking the words as referring to believers from both Gentiles and Jews, we must also regard the heavenly Jerusalem of the new earth as a Jewish Christian city, because it has the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel written upon its gates (Revelation 21:12), like the Jerusalem of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 48:31); and as this holy city is called the bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9-10), we must assume that only Jewish Christians will take part in the marriage of the Lamb. Moreover, the Mount Zion upon which John sees the Lamb and the hundred and forty-four thousand standing (Revelation 14:1), cannot be the earthly Mount Zion, as Bengel, Hengstenberg, and others have correctly shown, because those who are standing there hear and learn the song sounding from heaven, which is sung before the throne and the four living creatures and the elders (Revelation 14:3). The Mount Zion in this instance, as in Hebrews 12:22, belongs to the heavenly Jerusalem. There is no foundation for the assertion that this view is at variance with the connection of this group, and is also opposed to the context (Christiani, p. 194, Luther, and others). The excellent remarks of Düsterdieck, with regard to the connection, are a sufficient refutation of the first, which is asserted without any proof: “Just as in Revelation 7:9. an inspiring look at the heavenly glory was granted to such believers as should remain faithful in the great tribulation which had yet to come, before the tribulation itself was displayed; so also in the first part of Revelation 14 (Revelation 14:1-5) a scene is exhibited, which shows the glorious reward of the conquerors (cf. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21) in a certain group of blessed believers (Revelation 14:1: 'a hundred and forty-four thousand;' Revelation 14:4: 'the first-fruits'), who appear with the Lamb upon Mount Zion, and are described as those who have kept themselves pure from all the defilement of the world during their earthly life.” And this assumption would only be opposed to the context if Revelation 14:2-5 formed an antithesis to Revelation 14:1, i.e., if those in heaven mentioned in Revelation 14:2, Revelation 14:3 were distinguished from the hundred and forty-four thousand as being still on earth. But if those who sing the new song are really distinguished from the hundred and forty-four thousand, and are “angelic choirs,” which is still questionable, it by no means follows from this that the hundred and forty-four thousand are upon the earthly Mount Zion, but simply that they have reached the Zion of the heavenly Jerusalem, and stand with the Lamb by the throne of God, serving Him as His attendants, seeing His face, and bearing His name upon their foreheads (Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:3-4), and that they learn the new song sung before the throne.
Still less can we understand by the holy city of Rev 11 the earthly Jerusalem, and by a woman clothed with the sun in Rev 12 the Israelitish church of God, i.e., the Israel of the last days converted to Christ. The Jerusalem of Rev 11 is spiritually a Sodom and Egypt. The Lord is obliged to endow the two witnesses anointed with His Spirit, whom He causes to appear there, with the miraculous power of Elias and Moses, to defend them from their adversaries. And when eventually they are slain by the beast from the abyss, and all the world, seeing their dead bodies lying in the streets of the spiritual Sodom and Egypt, rejoices at their death, He brings them to life again after three days and a half, and causes them to ascend visibly into heaven, and the same hour He destroys the tenth part of the city by an earthquake, through which seven thousand men are slain, so that the rest are alarmed and given glory to the God of heaven. Jerusalem is introduced here in quite as degenerate a state as in the last times before its destruction by the Romans. Nevertheless we cannot think of this ancient Jerusalem, because if John meant this, his prophecy would be at variance with Christ's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. “For, according to the Revelation, there is neither a destruction of the temple in prospect, nor does the church of Jesus flee from the city devoted to destruction” (Hofmann, p. 684). The temple with the altar of burnt-offering is measured and defended, and only the outer court with the city is given up to the nations to be trodden down; and lastly, only the tenth part of the city is laid in ruins. For this reason, according to Honmann and Luther, the Jerusalem of the last days, inhabited by the Israel converted to Christ, is intended. But the difficulty which presses upon this explanation is to be found not so much in the fact that Jerusalem is restored in the period intervening between the conversion of Israel as a nation to Christ and the establishment of the millennial kingdom, and possesses a Jewish temple, as in the fact that the Israel thus converted to Christ, whose restoration, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25, will be “life from the dead” to all Christendom, should again become a spiritual Sodom and Egypt, so that the Lord has to defend His temple with the believers who worship there from being trampled down by means of witnesses endowed with miraculous power, and to destroy the godless city partially by an earthquake for the purpose of terrifying the rest of the inhabitants, so that they may give glory to Him. Such an apostasy of the people of Israel after their final conversion to Christ is thoroughly opposed to the hope expressed by the Apostle Paul of the result of the restoration of Israel after the entrance of the pleroma of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God.
Hofmann and Luther are therefore of opinion that the Israelitish-Christian Jerusalem of the last times is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, because the old Jewish Jerusalem had formerly sunk into a Sodom and Egypt, and that the Christian city is punished by the destruction of its tenth part and the slaying of seven thousand men “as a judgment upon the hostile nationality;” as if God could act so unjustly in the government of Jerusalem as to give up to the heathen the city that had been faithful to Him, and to destroy the tenth part thereof. This realistic Jewish interpretation becomes utterly impossible when Rev 12 is added. According to Hofmann, the woman in the sun is that Israel of which Paul says, “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:2), i.e., the Israelitish church of the saved. Before the birth of the boy who will rule the nations with a sceptre of iron, this church is opposed by the dragon; and after the child born by her has been caught up into heaven, she is hidden by God from the persecution of the dragon in a place in the wilderness for twelve hundred and sixty days, or three times and a half, i.e., during the forty-two months in which Jerusalem as a spiritual Sodom is trodden down of the heathen, and only the temple with those who worship there is protected by God. But even if we overlook the contradiction involved in the supposition that the Israel believing in Christ of Romans 11 has sunk so deep that Jerusalem has to be trodden down by the heathen, and only a small portion of the worshippers of God are protected in the temple, we must nevertheless inquire how it is possible that the Israelitish church of believers in Christ should at the same time be defended in the temple at Jerusalem, and, having fled from Canaan into the wilderness, be concealed “in a place of distress and tribulation.” The Jerusalem of the last times does not stand in the wilderness, and the temple protected by God is not a place of distress and tribulation. And how can the Israelitish church of God, which has given birth to Christ, be concealed in the wilderness after the catching up of Christ into heaven, or His ascension, seeing that the believing portion of Israel entered the Christian church, whilst the unbelieving mass at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem were in part destroyed by sword, famine, and pestilence, and in part thrust out among the Gentiles over all the world? From the destruction of Jerusalem onwards, there is no longer any Israelitish congregation of God outside the Christian church. The branches broken off from the olive tree because of their unbelief, are not a church of God. And Auberlen's objection to this interpretation - namely, that from the birth of Christ in Revelation 12:6 it makes all at once a violent leap into the antichristian times - still retains its force, inasmuch as this leap not only has nothing in the text to indicate it, but is irreconcilable with Revelation 12:5 and Revelation 12:6, according to which the flight of the woman into the wilderness takes place directly after the catching away of the child. Auberlen and Christiani have therefore clearly seen the impossibility of carrying out the realistic Jewish interpretation of these chapters. The latter, indeed, would take the holy city in Rev. 11 in a literal sense, i.e., as signifying the material Jerusalem; whilst he interprets the temple “allegorically” as representing the Christian church, without observing the difficulty in which he thereby entangles himself, inasmuch as if the holy city were the material Jerusalem, the whole of believing Christendom out of all lands would have fled thither for refuge. In the exposition of Rev 12 he follows Auberlen ( Daniel, p. 460), who has correctly interpreted the woman clothed with the sun as signifying primarily the Israelitish church of God, and then passing afterwards into the believing church of Christ, which rises on the foundation of the Israelitish church as its continuation, other branches from the wild olive tree being grafter on in the place of the branches of the good olive that have been broken off (Romans 11:17.). - In Rev 13 and 15-19 there is no further allusion to Judah and Jerusalem.
If, then, we draw the conclusion from the foregoing discussion, the result at which we have arrived is, that even Rev 1-19 furnishes no confirmation of the assumption that the Israel which has come to believe in Christ will dwell in the earthly Jerusalem, and have a temple with bleeding sacrifices. And this takes away all historical ground for the assumption that by the beloved city in Revelation 20:9, against which Satan leads Gog and Magog to war with the heathen from the four corners of the earth, we can only understand the earthly Jerusalem of the last times. If, however, we look more closely at Revelation 20:1-15, there are three events described in Revelation 20:1-10 - viz. (1) the binding of Satan and his confinement in the abyss for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3); (2) the resurrection of the believers, and their reigning with Christ for a thousand years, called the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6); (3) after the termination of the thousand years, the releasing of Satan from his prison, his going out to lead the heathen with Gog and Magog to war against “the camp of the saints and the beloved city,” the destruction of this army by fire from heaven, and the casting of Satan into the lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet already are (Revelation 20:7-10). According to the millenarian exposition of the Apocalypse, these three events will none of them take place till after the fall of Babylon and the casting of the beast into the lake of fire; not merely the final casting of Satan into the lake of fire, but even the binding of Satan and the confining of him in the abyss. The latter is not stated in the text, however, but is merely an inference drawn from the fact that all three events are seen by John and related in his Apocalypse after the fall of Babylon, etc., - an inference for which there is just the same warrant as for the conclusion drawn, for example, by the traditional exposition of the Old Testament by the Jews, that because the death of Terah is related in Gen 11, and the call and migration of Abram to Canaan in Gen 12, therefore Terah died before the migration of Abraham, in opposition to the chronological data of Genesis. All that is stated in the text of the Apocalypse is, that Satan is cast into the lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet are (Revelation 20:10), so that the final overthrow of Satan will not take place till after the fall of Babylon and the overthrow of the beast and the false prophet. That this is not to happen till a thousand years later, cannot be inferred from the position of Revelation 20:10 after Revelation 19:20, Revelation 19:21, but must be gathered from some other source if it is to be determined at all. The assumption that the contents of Revelation 20:1-15 are chronologically posterior to Rev 18 and 19, which the millenarian interpretation of the Apocalypse has adopted from the earlier orthodox exposition, is at variance with the plan of the whole book. It is now admitted by all scientific expositors of the Apocalypse, that the visions contained therein do not form such a continuous series as to present the leading features of the conflict between the powers at enmity against God and the kingdom of God in chronological order, but rather that they are arranged in groups, each rounded off within itself, every one of which reaches to the end or closes with the last judgment, while those which follow go back again and expand more fully the several events which prepare the way for an introduce the last judgment; so that, for example, after the last judgment upon the living and the dead has been announced in Revelation 11:15. by the seventh trumpet, the conflict between Satan and the kingdom of God on the birth and ascension of Christ is not shown to the seer till the following chapter (Rev 12). And the events set forth in the last group commencing with Rev 19 must be interpreted in a manner analogous to this. The contents of this group have been correctly explained by Hofmann (II 2, p. 720) as follows: “The whole series of visions, from Revelation 19:11 onwards, its merely intended to exhibit the victory of Christ over His foes. There is first a victory over Satan, through which the army of the enemies of His people by which he is served is destroyed; secondly, a victory over Satan, by which the possibility of leading the nations astray any more to fight against His church is taken from him; thirdly, a victory over Satan, by which he is deprived of the power to keep those who have died with faith in their Saviour in death any longer; and, fourthly, a victory over Satan, by which his last attack upon the saints of God issues in his final destruction.” That the second and third victories are not to be separated from each other in point of time, is indicated by the sameness in the period assigned to each, viz., “a thousand years.” But the time when these thousand years commence, cannot be determined from the Apocalypse itself; it must be gathered from the teaching of the rest of the New Testament concerning the first resurrection. According to the statements made by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 15, every one will be raised “in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ's at His coming;” then the end, i.e., the resurrection of all the dead, the last judgment, the destruction of the world, and the new creation of heaven and earth. Consequently the first resurrection takes place along with the coming of Christ.
But, according to the teaching of the New Testament, the parusia of Christ is not to be deferred till the last day of the present world, but commences, as the Lord Himself has said, not long after His ascension, so that some of His own contemporaries will not taste of death till they see the Son of man come in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28). The Lord repeats this in Matthew 24:34, in the elaborate discourse concerning His parusia to judgment, with the solemn asseveration: “Verily I say unto you, this generation ( ἡ γενεὰ αυ ) will not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” And, as Hofmann has correctly observed (p. 640), the idea that “this generation” signifies the church of Christ, does not deserve refutation. We therefore understand that the contemporaries of Christ would live to see the things of which He says, “that they will be the heralding tokens of His second appearance;” and, still further (p. 641): “We have already seen, from Matthew 16:28, that the Lord has solemnly affirmed that His own contemporaries will live to see His royal coming.”
(Note: Luthardt also says just the same (pp. 94, 95): “Undoubtedly the age of which the Lord is speaking is not the whole of the present era, nor the nation of Israel, but the generation then existing. And yet the Lord's prophecy goes to the very end, and reaches far beyond the destruction of Jerusalem.... The existing generation was to live to see the beginning of the end, and did live to see it.”)
Concerning this royal coming of the Son of man in the glory of His Father with His angels, which some of His contemporaries live to see (Matthew 16:27 and Matthew 16:28), Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not anticipate them which are asleep; for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, etc., and the dead in Christ will rise first,” etc. Consequently the New Testament teaches quite clearly that the first resurrection commences with the coming of Christ, which began with the judgment executed through the Romans upon the ancient Jerusalem. This was preceded only by the resurrection of Christ as “the first-fruits,” and the resurrection of the “many bodies of the saints which slept,” that arose from the graves at the resurrection of Christ, and appeared to many in the holy city (Matthew 27:52-53), as a practical testimony that through the resurrection of Christ death is deprived of its power, and a resurrection from the grave secured for all believers. - According to this distinct teaching of Christ and the apostles, the popular opinion, that the resurrection of the dead as a whole will not take place till the last day of this world, must be rectified. The New Testament does not teach anywhere that all the dead, even those who have fallen asleep in Christ, will remain in the grave, or in Hades, till the last judgment immediately before the destruction of heaven and earth, and that the souls which have entered heaven at their death will be with Christ till then unclothed and without the body. This traditional view merely rests upon the unscriptural idea of the coming of Christ as not taking place till the end of the ear, and as an act restricted to a single day of twenty-four hours. According to the Scriptures, the parusia takes place on the day of the Lord, , יום יהוה ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου . But this day is not an earthly day of twelve or twenty-four hours; but, as Peter says (2 Peter 3:8), “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (cf. Psalms 90:4). The day on which the Son of man comes in His glory commences with the appearing of the Lord to the judgment upon the hardened Israel at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; continues till His appearing to the last judgment, which is still future and will be visible to all nations; and closes with the day of God, on which the heavens will be dissolved with fire, and the elements will melt with heat, and the new heaven and new earth will be created, for which we wait according to His promise (2 Peter 3:12-13). To show how incorrect is the popular idea of the resurrection of the dead, we may adduce not only the fact of the resurrection of many saints immediately after the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 27:52-53), but also the solemn declaration of the Lord: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live,” - the hour “in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, etc.” (John 5:25, John 5:28); and again the repeated word of Christ, that whosoever believeth on Him hath everlasting life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed from death unto life (John 5:24; John 6:40, John 6:47; John 3:16, John 3:18, John 3:36); and lastly, what was seen by the sacred seer on the opening of the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11), namely, that white robes were given to the souls that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held, and that were crying for the avenging of their blood, inasmuch as the putting on of the white robe involves or presupposes the clothing of the soul with the new body, so that this vision teaches that the deceased martyrs are translated into the state of those who have risen from the dead before the judgment upon Babylon. The word ψυχαί , which is used to designate them, does not prove that disembodied souls are intended (compare, as evidence to the contrary, the ὀκτὼ ψυχαί of 1 Peter 3:20).
But as Revelation 20:1-10 furnishes no information concerning the time of the first resurrection, so also this passage does not teach that they who are exalted to reign with Christ by the first resurrection will live and reign with Christ in the earthly Jerusalem, whether it be glorified or not. The place where the thrones stand, upon which they are seated, is not mentioned either in Revelation 20:4-6 or Revelation 20:1-3. The opinion that this will be in Jerusalem merely rests upon the twofold assumption, for which no evidence can be adduced, viz., (1) that, according to the prophetic utterances of the Old Testament, Jerusalem or the holy land is the site for the appearance of the Lord to the judgment upon the world of nations (Hofmann, pp. 637, 638); and (2) that the beloved city which the heathen, under Gog and Magog, will besiege, according to Revelation 20:8-9, is the earthly Jerusalem, from which it is still further inferred, that the saints besieged in the beloved city cannot be any others than those placed upon thrones through the first resurrection. But the inconceivable nature, not to say the absurdity, of such an assumption as that of a war between earthly men and those who have been raised from the dead and are glorified with spiritual bodies, precludes the identification, which is not expressed in the text, of the saints in Jerusalem with those sitting upon thrones and reigning with Christ, who have obtained eternal life through the resurrection. And as they are reigning with Christ, the Son of God, who has returned to the glory of His heavenly Father, would also be besieged along with them by the hosts of Gog and Magog. But where do the Scriptures teach anything of the kind? The fact that, according to the prophecy of the Old Testament, the Lord comes from Zion to judge the nations furnishes no proof of this, inasmuch as this Zion of the prophets is not the earthly and material, but the heavenly Jerusalem. The angels who come at the ascension of Christ to comfort His disciples with regard to the departure of their Master to the Father, merely say: “This Jesus, who has gone up from you to heaven, will so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go to heaven” (Acts 1:11); but they do not say at what place He will come again. And though the Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the Lord will descend from heaven,” he also says, they that are living then will be caught up together with those that have risen in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so be ever with the Lord. And as here the being caught up in the clouds into the air is not to be understood literally, but simply expresses the thought that those who are glorified will hasten with those who have risen from the dead to meet the Lord, to welcome Him and to be united with Him, and does not assume a permanent abiding in the air; so the expression, “descend from heaven,” does not involve a coming to Jerusalem and remaining upon earth. The words are meant to be understood spiritually, like the rending of the heaven and coming down in Isaiah 64:1. Paul therefore uses the words ἀποκάλυψις ἀπ ̓ούρανοῦ , revelation from heaven, in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, with reference to the same event. The Lord has already descended from heaven to judgment upon the ancient Jerusalem, to take vengeance with flaming fire upon those who would not know God and obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Every manifestation of God which produces an actual effect upon the earth is a coming down from heaven, which does not involve a local abiding of the Lord upon the earth. As the coming of Christ to the judgment upon Jerusalem does not affect His sitting at the right hand of the Father, so we must not picture to ourselves the resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, which commences with this coming, in any other way than that those who rise are received into heaven, and, as the church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, i.e., who have become citizens of heaven (Hebrews 12:23), sit on seats around the throne of God and reign with Christ. - Even the first resurrection is not to be thought of as an act occurring once and ending there; but as the coming of the Lord, which commenced with the judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem, is continued in the long series of judgments through which one hostile power after another is overthrown, until the destruction of the last enemy, so may we also assume, in analogy with this, that the resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ, commencing with that parusia, is continued through the course of centuries; so that they who die in living faith in their Saviour are raised from the dead at the hour appointed by God according to His wisdom, and the souls received into heaven at death, together with those sown as seed-corn in the earth and ripened from corruption to incorruptibility, will be clothed with spiritual bodies, to reign with Christ. The thousand years are not to be reckoned chronologically, but commence with the coming of Christ to the judgment upon Jerusalem, and extend to the final casting of the beast and the false prophet into the lake of fire, perhaps still further. When they will end we cannot tell; for it is not for us to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath reserved in His own power (Acts 1:7).
The chaining and imprisonment of Satan in the abyss during the thousand years can also be brought into harmony with this view of the millennium, provided that the words are not taken in a grossly materialistic sense, and we bear in mind that nearly all the pictures of the Apocalypse are of a very drastic character. The key to the interpretation of Revelation 20:1-3 and Revelation 20:7-10 is to be found in the words of Christ in John 12:31, when just before His passion He is about to bring His addresses to the people to a close, for the purpose of completing the work of the world's redemption by His death and resurrection. When the Lord says, just at this moment, “now is the judgment passing over the world; now will the prince of this world be cast out,” namely, out of the sphere of his dominion, He designates the completion of the work of redemption by His death as a judgment upon the world, through which the rule of Satan in the world is brought to nought, or the kingdom of the devil destroyed. This casting out of the prince of this world, which is accomplished in the establishment and spread of the kingdom of Christ on earth, is shown to the sacred seer in Patmos in the visions of the conflict of Michael with the dragon, which ends in the casting out of Satan into the earth (Revelation 12:7.), and of the chaining and imprisonment of Satan in the abyss for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1.). The conflict of Michael with the dragon, which is called the Devil and Satanas, commences when the dragon begins to persecute the woman clothed with the sun after the birth of her child, and its being caught up into heaven, i.e., after the work of Christ on earth has terminated with His ascension to heaven. John receives an explanation of the way in which the victory of Michael, through which Satan is cast out of heaven upon the earth, is to be interpreted, from the voice, which says in heaven, “Now is come the salvation, and the strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused us day and night before God” (v. 10). With the casting of Satan out of heaven, the kingdom of God and the power of His anointed are established, and Satan is thereby deprived of the power to rule any longer as the prince of the world. It is true that when he sees himself cast from heaven to earth, i.e., hurled from his throne, he persecutes the woman; but the woman receives eagles' wings, so that she flies into the wilderness to the place prepared for her by God, and is there nourished for three times and a half, away from the face of the serpent (Revelation 12:8, Revelation 12:13-14). After the casting out of Satan from heaven, there follow the chaining and shutting up in the abyss, or in hell; so that during this time he is no more able to seduce the heathen to make war upon the camp of the saints (Revelation 20:1-3 and Revelation 20:8). All influence upon earth is not thereby taken from him; he is simply deprived of the power to rule on the earth as ἄρχων among the heathen, and to restore the ἐχουσία wrested from him.
(Note: Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis, II 2, p. 722) understands the binding of Satan in a similar manner, and writes as follows on the subject: “That which is rendered impossible to Satan, through his being bound and imprisoned in the nether world, and therefore through his exclusion from the upper world, where the history of mankind is proceeding, is simply that kind of activity which exerts a determining influence upon the course of history.” And Flacius, in his Glossa to the New Testament, gives this explanation: “But Satan is not then so bound or shut up in hell that he cannot do anything, or cause any injury, more especially disobedience in his children; but simply that he cannot act any more either so powerfully or with such success as before.” He also reckons the thousand years “from the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, when Christ began in the most powerful manner to triumph over devils and ungodly men throughout the world,” etc.)
We may therefore say that the binding of Satan began with the fall of heathenism as the religion of the world, through the elevation of Christianity to be the state-religion of the Roman empire, and that it will last so long as Christianity continues to be the state-religion of the kingdoms which rule the world.
It is impossible, therefore, to prove from Revelation 20:1-15 that there will be a kingdom of the glory in the earthly Jerusalem before the last judgment; and the New Testament generally neither teaches the return of the people of Israel to Palestine on their conversion to Christ, - which will take place according to Romans 11:25., - nor the rebuilding of the temple and restoration of Levitical sacrifices. But if this be the case, then Ezekiel's vision of the new temple and sacrificial worship, and the new division of the land of Canaan, cannot be understood literally, but only in a symbolico-typical sense. The following question, therefore, is the only one that remains to be answered: -
III. How are we to understand the vision of the new kingdom of God in Ezekiel 40-48? - In other words, What opinion are we to form concerning the fulfilment of this prophetic picture? The first reply to be given to this is, that this vision does not depict the coming into existence, or the successive stages in the rise and development, of the new kingdom of God. For Ezekiel sees the temple as a finished building, the component parts of which are so measured before his eyes that he is led about within the building. He sees the glory of Jehovah enter into the temple, and hears the voice of the Lord, who declares this house to be the seat of His throne in the midst of His people; and commands the prophet to make known to the people the form of the house, and its arrangement and ordinances, that they may consider the building, and be ashamed of their evil deeds (Ezekiel 43:4-12). The new order of worship also (Ezekiel 43:14-46:15) does not refer to the building of the temple, but to the service which Israel is to render to God, who is enthroned in this temple. Only the directions concerning the boundaries and the division of the land presuppose that Israel has still to take possession of Canaan, though it has already been brought back out of the heathen lands, and is about to divide it by lot and take possession of it as its own inheritance, to dwell there, and to sustain and delight itself with the fulness of its blessings. It follows from this that the prophetic picture does not furnish a typical exhibition of the church of Christ in its gradual development, but sets forth the kingdom of God established by Christ in its perfect form, and is partly to be regarded as the Old Testament outline of the New Testament picture of the heavenly Jerusalem in Rev 21 and 22. For the river of the water of life is common to both visions. According to Ezekiel, it springs from the threshold of the temple, in which the Lord has ascended His throne, flows through the land to the Arabah, and pours into the Dead Sea, to make the water thereof sound; and according to Revelation 22:1., it proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and flows through the midst of the street of the New Jerusalem. According to Ezekiel 47:7, Ezekiel 47:12, as well as Revelation 22:2, there are trees growing upon its banks which bear edible fruits every month, that is to say, twelve times a year, and the leaves of which serve for the healing of the nations. But Ezekiel's picture of the new kingdom of God comes short of the picture of the New Jerusalem in this respect, that in Ezekiel the city and temple are separated, although the temple stands upon a high mountain in the centre of the holy terumah in the midst of the land of Canaan, and the city of Jerusalem reaches to the holy terumah with the northern side of its territory; whereas the new heavenly Jerusalem has no temple, and, in its perfect cubic form of equal length, breadth, and height, has itself become the holy of holies, in which there stands the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 21:16; Revelation 22:4). Ezekiel could not rise to such an eminence of vision as this. The kingdom of God seen by him has a preponderatingly Old Testament stamp, and is a perfect Israelitish Canaan, answering to the idea of the Old Covenant, in the midst of which Jehovah dwells in His temple, and the water of life flows down from His throne and pours over all the land, to give prosperity to His people. The temple of Ezekiel is simply a new Solomon's temple, built in perfect accordance with the holiness of the house of God, in the courts of which Israel appears before Jehovah to offer burnt-offerings and slain-offerings, and to worship; and although the city of Jerusalem does indeed form a perfect square, with three gates on every side bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, like the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, it has not yet the form of a cube as the stamp of the holy of holies, in which Jehovah the almighty God is enthroned, though its name is, “henceforth Jehovah thither.” Still less does the attack of Gog with his peoples, gathered together from the ends of the earth, apply to the heavenly Jerusalem. It is true that, according to the formal arrangement of our prophet's book, it stands before the vision of the new kingdom of God; but chronologically its proper place is within it, and it does not even fall at the commencement of it, but at the end of the years, after Israel has been gathered out of the nations and brought back into its own land, and has dwelt there for a long time in security (Ezekiel 38:8, Ezekiel 38:16). This attack on the part of the heathen nations is only conceivable as directed against the people of God still dwelling in the earthly Canaan.
How then are we to remove the discrepancy, that on the one hand the river of the water of life proceeding from the temple indicates a glorification of Canaan, and on the other hand the land and people appear to be still unglorified, and the latter are living in circumstances which conform to the earlier condition of Israel? Does not this picture suggest a state of earthly glory on the part of the nation of Israel in its own land, which has passed through a paradisaical transformation before the new creation of the heaven and the earth? Isaiah also predicts a new time, in which the patriarchal length of life of the primeval era shall return, when death shall no more sweep men prematurely away, and not only shall war cease among men, but mutual destruction in the animal world shall also come to an end (Isaiah 65:19-23 compared with Ezekiel 11:6-9). When shall this take place? Delitzsch, who asks this question ( Comm. on Isa. at Isaiah 65:25, transl.), gives the following reply: “Certainly not in the blessed life beyond the grave, to which it would be both impossible and absurd to refer these promises, since they presuppose a continued mixture of sinners with the righteous, and merely a limitation of the power of death, not its destruction.” From this he then draws the conclusion that the description is only applicable to the state of the millennium. But the creation of a new heaven and a new earth precedes this description (Isaiah 65:17-18). Does not this point to the heavenly Jerusalem of the new earth? To this Delitzsch replies that “the Old Testament prophet was not yet able to distinguish from one another the things which the author of the Apocalypse separates into distinct periods. From the Old Testament point of view generally, nothing was known of a state of blessedness beyond the grave.
In the Old Testament prophecy, the idea of the new cosmos is blended with the millennium. It is only in the New Testament that the new creation intervenes as a party wall between this life and the life beyond; whereas the Old Testament prophecy brings the new creation itself into the present life, and knows nothing of any Jerusalem of the blessed life to come, as distinct from the new Jerusalem of the millennium.” But even if there were a better foundation for the chiliastic idea of the millennium (Revelation 20:1-15) than there is according to our discussion of the question above, the passage just quoted would not suffice to remove the difficulty before us. For if Isaiah is describing the Jerusalem of the millennium in Isaiah 65:19-23, he has not merely brought the new creation of heaven and earth into the present life, but he has also transferred the so-called millennium to the new earth, i.e., to the other side of the new creation of heaven and earth. Delitzsch himself acknowledges this on page 517 (transl.), where he observes in his commentary on Isaiah 66:22-24 that “the object of the prophecy” (namely, that from new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh will come to worship before Jehovah, and they will go out to look at the corpses of the men that have rebelled against Him, whose worm will not die, nor their fire be quenched) “is no other than the new Jerusalem of the world to come, and the eternal torment of the damned.” Isaiah “is speaking of the other side, but he speaks of it as on this side.” But if Isaiah is speaking of the other side as on this side in Isa 66, he has done the same in Isaiah 65:19-23; and the Jerusalem depicted in Isa 65 cannot be the Jerusalem of the millennium on this side, but can only be the New Jerusalem of the other side coming down from heaven, as the description is the same in both chapters, and therefore must refer to one and the same object. The description in Isa 65, like that in Isa 66, can be perfectly comprehended from the fact that the prophet is speaking of that which is on the other side as on this side, without there being any necessity for the hypothesis of a thousand years' earthly kingdom of glory. It is quite correct that the Old Testament knows nothing whatever of a blessed state beyond the grave, or rather merely teaches nothing with regard to it, and that the Old Testament prophecy transfers the state beyond to this side, in other words, depicts the eternal life after the last judgment in colours taken from the happiness of the Israelitish life in Canaan. And this is also correct, “that the Old Testament depicts both this life and the life to come as an endless extension of this life; whilst the New Testament depicts it as a continuous line in two halves, the last point in this present finite state being the first point of the infinite state beyond: that the Old Testament preserves the continuity of this life and the life to come, by transferring the outer side, the form, the appearance of this life, to the life to come; the New Testament by making the inner side, the nature, the reality of the life to come, the δυνάμεις μέλλοντος αἰῶνος , immanent in this life.” But it is only to the doctrinal writings of the New Testament that this absolutely applies. Of the prophetical pictures of the New Testament, on the other hand, and especially the Apocalypse, it can only be affirmed with considerable limitations. Not only is the New Jerusalem of Isaiah, which has a new heaven above it and a new earth beneath, simply the old earthly Jerusalem, which has attained to the highest glory and happiness; but in the Apocalypse also, the Jerusalem which has come down from heaven is an earthly city with great walls of jasper and pure gold, founded upon twelve precious stones, with twelve gates consisting of pearls, that are not shut by day, in order that the kings of the earth may bring their glory into the city, into which nothing common and no abomination enter. The whole picture rests upon those of Isaiah and Ezekiel, and merely rises above these Old Testament types by the fact that the most costly minerals of the earth are selected, to indicate the exceeding glory of the heavenly nature of this city of God. What, then, is the heavenly Jerusalem of the new earth? Is it actually a city of the new world, or the capital of the kingdom of heaven? Is it not rather a picture of the many mansions in the Father's house in heaven, which Jesus entered at His ascension to heaven, to prepare a place for us (John 14:2)? Is it not a picture of the heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18), into which all the blessed in that world enter whose names are written in the book of life? And its brilliant glory, is it not a picture of the unspeakable glory of the eternal life, which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and which has not entered into the heart of any man (1 Corinthians 2:9)?
And if the state beyond the grave is transferred to this side, i.e., depicted in colours and imagery drawn from this side, not only in the Old Testament prophecy, but in that of the New Testament also, we must not seek the reason for this prophetic mode of describing the circumstances of the everlasting life, or the world to come, in the fact that the Old Testament knows nothing of a blessed state beyond the grave, is ignorant of a heaven with men that are saved. The reason is rather to be found in the fact, that heavenly things and circumstances lie beyond our idea and comprehension; so that we can only represent to ourselves the kingdom of God after the analogy of earthly circumstances and conditions, just as we are unable to form any other conception of eternal blessedness than as a life without end in heavenly glory and joy, set free from all the imperfections and evils of this earthly world. So long as we are walking here below by faith and not by sight, we must be content with those pictures of the future blessings of eternal life with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom which the Scriptures have borrowed from the divinely ordered form of the Israelitish theocracy, presenting Jerusalem with its temple, and Canaan the abode of the covenant people of the Old Testament as types of the kingdom of heaven, and picturing the glory of the world to come as a city of God coming down from heaven upon the new earth, built of gold, precious stones, and pearls, and illumined with the light of the glory of the Lord. - To this there must no doubt be added, in the case of the Old Testament prophets, the fact that the division of the kingdom of the Messiah into a period of development on this side, and one of full completion on the other, had not yet been so clearly revealed to them as it has been to us by Christ in the New Testament; so that Isaiah is the only prophet who prophesies of the destruction of the present world and the creation of a new heaven and new earth. If we leave out of sight this culminating point of the Old Testament prophecy, all the prophets depict the glorification and completion of the kingdom of God established in Israel by the Messiah, on the one hand, as a continuous extension of His dominion on Zion from Jerusalem outwards over all the earth, through the execution of the judgment upon the heathen nations of the world; and, on the other hand, as a bursting of the land of Canaan into miraculous fruitfulness for the increase of His people's prosperity, and as a glorification of Jerusalem, to which all nations will go on pilgrimage to the house of the Lord on Zion, to worship the Lord and present their treasures to Him as offerings. Thus also in Ezekiel the bringing back of the people of Israel, who have been scattered by the Lord among the heathen on account of their apostasy, to the promised land, the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple, which have been destroyed, and the future blessing of Israel with the most abundant supply of earthly good from the land which has been glorified into paradisaical fruitfulness, form a continuity, in which the small beginnings of the return of the people from Babylon and the deliverance and blessing which are still in the future, lie folded in one another, and the present state and that beyond are blended together. And accordingly he depicts the glory and completion of the restored and renovated kingdom of God under the figure of a new division of Canaan among the twelve tribes of all Israel, united under the sceptre of the second David for ever, and forming one single nation, by which all the incongruities of the former times are removed, and also of a new sanctuary built upon a very high mountain in the centre of Canaan, in which the people walking in the commandments and rights of their God offer sacrifice, and come to worship before the Lord in His courts on the Sabbaths, new moons, and yearly feasts. This blessedness of Israel also is not permanently disturbed through the invasion of the restored land by Gog and his hordes, but rather perfected and everlastingly established by the fact that the Lord God destroys this last enemy, and causes him to perish by self-immolation. But however strongly the Old Testament drapery of the Messianic prophecy stands out even in Ezekiel, there are traits to be met with even in this form, by which we may recognise the fact that the Israelitish theocratical form simply constitutes the clothing in which the New Testament constitution of the kingdom of God is veiled.
(Note: Of all such pictures it may certainly be said that we “cannot see how an Old Testament prophet, when speaking of Canaan, Jerusalem, Zion, and their future glorification, can have thought of anything else than the earthly sites of the Old Testament kingdom of God” (Volck); but this objection proves nothing against their typical explanation, as we know that the prophets of the Old Testament, who prophesied of the grace that was to come to us, inquired and searched diligently what, and what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ that was in them did signify (1 Peter 1:10-11). Even, therefore, if the prophets in their uninspired meditation upon that which they had prophesied, when moved by the Holy Ghost, did not discern the typical meaning of their own utterances, we, who are living in the times of the fulfilment, and are acquainted not only with the commencement of the fulfilment in the coming of our Lord, in His life, sufferings, and death, and His resurrection and ascension to heaven, as well as in His utterances concerning His second coming, but also with a long course of fulfilment in the extension for eighteen hundred years of the kingdom of heaven established by Him on earth, have not so much to inquire what the Old Testament prophets thought in their searching into the prophecies which they were inspired to utter by the Spirit of Christ, even if it were possible to discover what their thoughts really were, but rather, in the light of the fulfilment that has already taken place, to inquire what the Spirit of Christ, which enabled the prophets to see and to predict the coming of His kingdom in pictures drawn from the Old Testament kingdom of God, has foretold and revealed to us through the medium of these figures.)
Among these traits we reckon not only the description given in Ezekiel 40-48, which can only be interpreted in a typical sense, but also the vision of the raising to life of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14, the ultimate fulfilment of which will not take place till the general resurrection, and more especially the prophecy of the restoration not only of Jerusalem, but also of Samaria and Sodom, to their original condition (Ezekiel 16:53.), which, as we have already shown, will not be perfectly fulfilled till the παλιγγενεσία , i.e., the general renovation of the world after the last judgment. From this last-named prophecy, to which the healing of the waters of the Dead Sea in Ezekiel 47:9. supplies a parallel, pointing as it does to the renewal of the earth after the destruction of the present world, it clearly follows that the tribes of Israel which receive Canaan for a perpetual possession are not the Jewish people converted to Christ, but the Israel of God, i.e., the people of God of the new covenant gathered from among both Jews and Gentiles; and that Canaan, in which they are to dwell, is not the earthly Canaan or Palestine between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, but the New Testament Canaan, i.e., the territory of the kingdom of God, whose boundaries reach from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. And the temple upon a very high mountain in the midst of this Canaan, in which the Lord is enthroned, and causes the river of the water of life to flow down from His throne over His kingdom, so that the earth produces the tree of life with leaves as medicine for men, and the Dead Sea is filled with fishes and living creatures, is a figurative representation and type of the gracious presence of the Lord in His church, which is realized in the present period of the earthly development of the kingdom of heaven in the form of the Christian church in a spiritual and invisible manner in the indwelling of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, and in a spiritual and invisible operation in the church, but which will eventually manifest itself when our Lord shall appear in the glory of the Father, to translate His church into the kingdom of glory, in such a manner that we shall see the almighty God and the Lamb with the eyes of our glorified body, and worship before His throne.
This worship is described in our vision (Ezekiel 43:13-46:24) as the offering of sacrifice according to the Israelitish form of divine worship under the Old Testament; and in accordance with the mode peculiar to Ezekiel of carrying out all the pictures in detail, the leading instructions concerning the Levitical sacrifices are repeated and modified in harmony with the new circumstances. As the Mosaic worship after the building of the tabernacle commenced with the consecration of the altar, so Ezekiel's description of the new worship commences with the consecration of the altar of burnt-offering, and then spreads over the entering into and exit from the temple, the things requisite for the service at the altar, the duties and rights of the worshippers at the altar, and the quantity and quality of the sacrifices to be offered on the Sabbaths, new moons, and yearly feasts, as well as every day. From a comparison of the new sacrificial thorah with that of Moses in our exposition of these chapters, we have observed various distinctions which essentially modified the character of the whole service, viz., a thorough alteration in the order and celebration of the feasts, and a complete change in the proportion between the material of the meat-offering and the animal sacrifices. So far as the first distinction is concerned, the daily sacrifice is reduced to a morning burnt-and meat-offering, and the evening sacrifice of the Mosaic law is abolished; on the other hand, the Sabbath offering is more than tripled in quantity; again, in the case of the new-moon offerings, the sin-offering is omitted and the burnt-offering diminished; in the yearly feasts, the offerings prescribed for the seven days of the feast of unleavened bread and of the feast of tabernacles are equalized in quantity and quality, and the daily burnt-and meat-offerings of the feast of unleavened bread are considerably increased; on the other hand, the daily sacrifices of the feast of tabernacles are diminished in proportion to those prescribed by the Mosaic law. Moreover, the feast of weeks, or harvest-feast, and in the seventh month the day of trumpets and the feast of atonement, with its great atoning sacrifices, are dropt. In the place of these, copious sin-offerings are appointed for the first, seventh, and fourteenth days of the first month. To do justice to the meaning of these changes, we must keep in mind the idea of the Mosaic cycle of feasts. (For this, see my Bibl. Archäol. I §76ff.) The ceremonial worship prescribed by the Mosaic law, in addition to the daily sacrifice, consisted of a cycle of feast days and festal seasons regulated according to the number seven, which had its root in the Sabbath, and was organized in accordance with the division of time, based upon the creation, into weeks, months, and years. As the Lord God created the world in six days, and ended the creation on the seventh day by blessing and sanctifying that day through resting from His works, so also were His people to sanctify every seventh day of the week to Him by resting from all work, and by a special burnt-and meat-offering. And, like the seventh day of the week, so also was the seventh month of the year to be sanctified by the keeping of the new moon with sabbatical rest and special sacrifices, and every seventh year to be a sabbatical year. Into this cycle of holy days, arranged according to the number seven, the yearly feasts consecrated to the remembrance of the mighty acts of the Lord for the establishment, preservation, and blessing of His people, were so dovetailed that the number of these yearly feasts amounted to seven-the Passover, feast of unleavened bread, feast of weeks, day of trumpets, day of atonement, feast of tabernacles, and conclusion of this feast, - of which the feasts of unleavened bread and tabernacles were kept for seven days each. These seven feasts formed two festal circles, the first of which with three feasts referred to the raising of Israel into the people of God and to its earthly subsistence; whilst the second, which fell in the seventh month, and was introduced by the day of trumpets, had for its object the preservation of Israel in a state of grace, and its happiness in the full enjoyment of the blessings of salvation, and commenced with the day of atonement, culminated in the feast of tabernacles, and ended with the octave of that feast.
In the festal thorah of Ezekiel, on the other hand, the weekly Sabbath did indeed form the foundation of all the festal seasons, and the keeping of the new moon as the monthly Sabbath corresponds to this; but the number of yearly feasts is reduced to the Passover, the seven days' feast of unleavened bread, and the seven days' feast of the seventh month (the feast of tabernacles). The feast of weeks and the presentation of the sheaf of first-fruits on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread are omitted; and thus the allusion in these two feasts to the harvest, or to their earthly maintenance, is abolished. Of still greater importance are the abolition both of the day of trumpets and of the day of atonement, and the octave of the feast of tabernacles, and the institution of three great sin-offerings in the first month, by which the seventh month is divested of the sabbatical character which it had in the Mosaic thorah. According to the Mosaic order of feasts, Israel was to consecrate its life to the Lord and to His service, by keeping the feast of Passover and the seven days' feast of unleavened bread every year in the month of its deliverance from Egypt as the first month of the year, in commemoration of this act of divine mercy, - by appropriating to itself afresh the sparing of its first-born, and its reception into the covenant with the Lord, in the sacrifice of the paschal lamb and in the paschal meal, - and by renewing its transportation from the old condition in Egypt into the new life of divine grace in the feast of unleavened bread, - then by its receiving every month absolution for the sins of weakness committed in the previous month, by means of a sin-offering presented on the new moon, - and by keeping the seventh month of the year in a sabbatical manner, by observing the new moon with sabbatical rest and the tenth day as a day of atonement, on which it received forgiveness of all the sins that had remained without expiation during the course of the year through the blood of the great sin-offering, and the purification of its sanctuary from all the uncleanness of those who approached it, so that, on the feast of tabernacles which followed, they could not only thank the Lord their God for their gracious preservation in the way through the wilderness, and their introduction into the Canaan so abounding in blessings, but could also taste the happiness of vital fellowship with their God. The yearly feasts of Israel, which commenced with the celebration of the memorial of their reception into the Lord's covenant of grace, culminated in the two high feasts of the seventh month, the great day of atonement, and the joyous feast of tabernacles, to indicate that the people living under the law needed, in addition to the expiation required from month to month, another great and comprehensive expiation in the seventh month of the year, in order to be able to enjoy the blessing consequent upon its introduction into Canaan, the blessedness of the sonship of God. According to Ezekiel's order of feasts and sacrifices, on the other hand, Israel was to begin every new year of its life with a great sin-offering on the first, seventh, and fourteenth days of the first month, and through the blood of these sin-offerings procure for itself forgiveness of all sins, and the removal of all the uncleanness of its sanctuary, before it renewed the covenant of grace with the Lord in the paschal meal, and its transposition into the new life of grace in the days of unleavened bread, and throughout the year consecrated its life to the Lord in the daily burnt-offering, through increased Sabbath-offerings and the regular sacrifices of the new moon; and lastly, through the feast in commemoration of its entrance into Canaan, in order to live before Him a blameless, righteous, and happy life. In the Mosaic order of the feasts and sacrifices the most comprehensive act of expiation, and the most perfect reconciliation of the people to God which the old covenant could offer, lay in the seventh month, the Sabbath month of the year, by which it was indicated that the Sinaitic covenant led the people toward reconciliation, and only offered it to them in the middle of the year; whereas Ezekiel's new order of worship offers to Israel, now returning to its God, reconciliation through the forgiveness of its sins and purification from its uncleannesses at the beginning of the year, so that it can walk before Go din righteousness in the strength of the blood of the atoning sacrifice throughout the year, and rejoice in the blessings of His grace.
Now, inasmuch as the great atoning sacrifice of the day of atonement pointed typically to the eternally availing atoning sacrifice which Christ was to offer in the midst of the years of the world through His death upon the cross on Golgotha, the transposition of the chief atoning sacrifices to the commencement of the year by Ezekiel indicates that, for the Israel of the new covenant, this eternally-availing atoning sacrifice would form the foundation for all its acts of worship and keeping of feasts, as well as for the whole course of its life. It is in this that we find the Messianic feature of Ezekiel's order of sacrifices and feasts, by which it acquires a character more in accordance with the New Testament completion of the sacrificial service, which also presents itself to us in the other and still more deeply penetrating modifications of the Mosaic thorah of sacrifice on the part of Ezekiel, both in the fact that the daily sacrifice is reduced to a morning sacrifice, and also in the fact that the quantities are tripled in the Sabbath-offerings and those of the feast of unleavened bread as compared with the Mosaic institutes, and more especially in the change in the relative proportion of the quantity of the meat-offering to that of the burnt-offering. For example, as the burnt-offering shadows forth the reconciliation and surrender to the Lord of the person offering the sacrifice, whilst the meat-offering shadows forth the fruit of this surrender, the sanctification of the life in good works, the increase in the quantity of the meat-offering connected with the burnt-offering, indicates that the people offering these sacrifices will bring forth more of the fruit of sanctification in good works upon the ground of the reconciliation which it has received. We do not venture to carry out to any greater length the interpretation of the differences between the Mosaic law of sacrifice and that of Ezekiel, or to point out any Messianic allusions either in the number of victims prescribed for the several feast days, or in the fact that a different quantity is prescribed for the meat-offering connected with the daily burnt-offering from that enjoined for the festal sacrifices, or in any other things of a similar nature. These points of detail apparently belong merely to the individualizing of the matter. And so also, in the fact that the provision of the people's sacrifices for the Sabbath, new moon, and feasts devolves upon the prince, and in the appointment of the place where the prince is to stand and worship in the temple, and to hold the sacrificial meal, we are unable to detect any Messianic elements, for the simple reason that the position which David and Solomon assumed in relation to the temple and its ritual furnished Ezekiel with a model for these regulations. And, in a similar manner, the precept concerning the hereditary property of the prince and its transmission to his sons (Ezekiel 46:16.) is to be explained from the fact that the future David is thought of as a king, like the son of Jesse, who will be the prince of Israel for ever, not in his own person, but in his family. The only thing that still appears worthy of consideration is the circumstance that throughout the whole of Ezekiel's order of worship no allusion is made to the high priest, but the same holiness is demanded of all the priests which was required of the high priest in the Mosaic law. This points to the fact that the Israel of the future will answer to its calling to be a holy people of the Lord in a more perfect manner than in past times. In this respect the new temple will also differ from the old temple of Solomon. The very elaborate description of the gates and courts, with their buildings, in the new temple has no other object than to show how the future sanctuary will answer in all its parts to the holiness of the Lord's house, and will be so arranged that no person uncircumcised in heart and flesh will be able to enter it. - But all these things belong to the “shadow of things to come,” which were to pass away when “the body of Christ” appeared (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1). When, therefore, M. Baumgarten, Auberlen, and other millenarians, express the opinion that this shadow-work will be restored after the eventual conversion of Israel to Christ, in support of which Baumgarten even appeals to the authority of the apostle of the Gentiles, they have altogether disregarded the warning of this very apostle: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:20-21).
Lastly, with regard to the prophecy concerning Gog, the prince of Magog, and his expedition against the restored land and people of Israel (Ezekiel 38 and 39), and its relation to the new conformation of the kingdom of God depicted in Ezekiel 40-48, the assumption of Hengstenberg (on Revelation 20:7), “that Gog and Magog represent generally all the future enemies of the kingdom of God, and that we have here embraced in one large picture all that has been developing itself in a long series of events, so that the explanations which take them as referring to the Syrian kings, the Goths and Vandals, or the Turks, are all alike true, and only false in their exclusiveness,” - is not in harmony with the contents of this prophecy, and cannot be reconciled with the position which it occupies in Ezekiel and in the Apocalypse. For the prophecy concerning Gog, though it is indeed essentially different from those which concern themselves with the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, and other smaller or larger nations of the world, has nothing “utopian” about it, which indicates “a thoroughly ideal and comprehensive character.” Even if the name Gog be formed by Ezekiel in the freest manner from Magog, and however remote the peoples led by Gog from the ends of the earth to make war upon Israel, when restored and living in the deepest peace, may be; yet Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Pharaz, Cush, and Phut are not utopian nations, but the names of historical tribes of whose existence there is no doubt, although their settlements lie outside the known civilised world. Whether there be any foundation for the old Jewish interpretation of the name Magog as referring to a great Scythian tribe, or not, we leave undecided; but so much is certain, that Magog was a people settled in the extreme north of the world known to the ancients. Nor will we attempt to decide whether the invasion of Hither Asia by the Scythians forms the historical starting-point or connecting link for Ezekiel's prophecy concerning Gog; but there can be no doubt that this prophecy does not refer to an invasion on the part of the Scythians, but foretells a last great conflict, in which the heathen dwelling on the borders of the globe will engage against the kingdom of God, after the kingdom of the world in its organized national forms, as Asshur, Babel, Javan, shall have been destroyed, and the kingdom of Christ shall have spread over the whole of the civilised world. Gog of Magog is the last hostile phase of the world-power opposed to God, which will wage war on earth against the kingdom of God, and that the rude force of the uncivilised heathen world, which will not rise up and attack the church of Christ till after the fall of the world-power bearing the name of Babylon in the Apocalypse, i.e., till towards the end of the present course of the world, when it will attempt to lay it waste and destroy it, but will be itself annihilated by the Lord by miracles of His almighty power. In the “conglomerate of nations,” which Gog leads against the people of Israel at the end of the years, there is a combination of all that is ungodly in the heathen world, and that has become ripe for casting into the great wine-press of the wrath of God, to be destroyed by the storms of divine judgment (Ezekiel 38:21-22; Ezekiel 39:6). But, as Baumgarten has correctly observed (in Herzog's Cyclopaedia), “inasmuch as the undisguised and final malice of the world of nations against the kingdom of God is exhibited here, Ezekiel could truly say that the prophets of the former times had already prophesied of this enemy (Ezekiel 38:17), and that the day of vengeance upon Gog and Magog is that of which Jehovah has already spoken (Ezekiel 39:8), - that is to say, all that has been stated concerning hostility on the part of the heathen towards the kingdom of Jehovah, and the judgment upon this hostility, finds its ultimate fulfilment in this the last and extremest opposition of all.” This is in harmony not only with the assumption of this prophecy in Revelation 20:1-15, but also with the declaration of the Apocalypse, that it is the Satan released from his prison who leads the heathen to battle against the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and that fire from God out of heaven consumes these enemies, and the devil who has seduced them is cast into the lake of fire to be tormented for ever and ever. - According to all this, the appearing of Gog is still in the future, and the day alone can clearly show what form it will assume.