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by Johann Peter Lange
THEOLOGICALLY AND HOMILETICALLY EXPOUNDED
FR. WILHELM JULIUS SCHRÖDER, B.D.,
Late Pastor Of The Reformed Church At Elberfeld, Prussia
TRANSLATED, ENLARGED, AND EDITED
PATRICK FAIRBAIRN, D.D.,
Late Principal Of The Free Church College, Glasgow,
Rev. WILLIAM FINDLAY, M.A.,
Rev. THOMAS CRERAR, M.A., and Rev. SINCLAIR MANSON, M.A.
VOL. XIII OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: CONTAINING EZEKIEL AND DANIEL
The thirteenth volume of this work embraces the Commentaries on the Prophetical Books of Ezekiel and Daniel.
I. The Commentary on Ezekiel was prepared (1873) by my friend, the Rev. F. W. J. Schröder, Pastor of the First Reformed Church at Elberfeld, a gentleman of thorough theological education, sound views, and great pulpit abilities. He intended to devote himself to art academic career, took the degree of B.D. (Lic. Theol.), in the University of Berlin, and began a Commentary on the Old Testament somewhat similar to that of Lange, issuing a volume on Genesis, which was well received. But when the celebrated Dr. F. W. Krummacher removed from Elberfeld to Berlin (in 1847), Mr. Schröder, on his recommendation, was selected his successor, and continued in this pastoral charge till his death, in February, 1876. He looked forward with great interest to the appearance of the English translation of his work, on which he spent much labor and care.
The English edition was intrusted to the Rev. Dr. Fairbairn, of Glasgow, one of the fathers and founders of the Free Church of Scotland, and himself the author of a valuable Commentary on Ezekiel, as well as other well known theological works.1 His lamented death delayed the work. But he had associated with him his pupil and friend, the Rev. Wm. Findlay, M.A., of Larkhall, Scotland, who, in connection with two other Scotch ministers, the Rev. Thomas Crerar, M.A. of Cardross, and the Rev. Sinclair Manson, M.A., Free Church College, Glasgow, completed the task. The translation has been executed as follows:
Rev. Wm. Findlay, pp. 1–179.
Rev. Thos. Crerar, 180–240.
Rev. Dr. Fairbairn, 241–331, (close of Ezekiel 34:0).
Rev. S. Manson, 331–492.
Many of the additions, which are numerous, have been extracted from Dr. Fairbairn’s Commentary and from his manuscript notes. His forte lay in the development of principles and comprehensive views rather than in critical notes and details. The chief additions are on the English literature of Ezekiel (p. 30), the vision of the Cherubim (pp. 52–54), the symbolical actions (pp. 77–78), the 390 days (p. 81), the abominations in the Temple (pp. 104–106), Noah, Daniel and Job (p. 151), the marriage union of Jehovah and Israel (pp. 161–162), the Jewish Sabbath (p. 197), the Prince of Tyre (pp. 262–263), the Assyrian cedar (p. 284), the image of the Shepherd (p. 318), the divine promises in Ezekiel 34-37 (pp. 352–353), Gog and Magog (pp. 372–373), and especially on the vision of the Temple (pp. 439–444).
II. The Commentary on Daniel is the work of Prof. Zöckler (1870), whom the readers of Lange already know as one of the largest and ablest contributors to the Old Testament part of this Commentary.
The English edition of Daniel is the work of the Rev. Dr. Strong, of Drew Theological Seminary, aided by the Rev. G. Miller, B.D., of Walpach Centre, N. J., who prepared the first draft of the translation. Dr. Strong has inserted the Biblical Text with its emendations and Critical Notes, and has made all the additions to the Commentary. The most extensive of these are the synoptical view of Daniel’s prophecies, in tabular form, given in the Introduction, originally prepared by Dr. Strong for another work, and the excursus on the Seventy Weeks. Dr. Strong has everywhere added the interpretations of later or unnoticed Commentaries, especially those of Dr. Keil and Moses Stuart. He differs from the German author with respect to the genuineness of certain parts of Ezekiel 11:0 (Ezekiel 11:5-25), and hopes he has fully vindicated the complete integrity of the text, as well as cleared up those difficulties which the author has confessedly left unsolved. Dr. Zöckler himself admits, in the Preface, that his doubts concerning Ezekiel 11:0. are purely subjective, (the supposed analogia visionis propheticœ,) and that the external testimonies are all in favor of the integrity of the text.
New York, Oct., 1876
In the following exposition of the Book of Daniel, the undersigned has occupied an exegetical and critical position, the peculiarity of which will probably not be overlooked, on a careful comparison with the views and methods of other recent expositors. While he has held fast to the authenticity of the book as a whole, although it was difficult for him to change his former opinion respecting the composition of the book, that it originated during the Maccabæan age, and to conform it to the results of the thorough investigations of M. v. Niebuhr, Pusey, Zündel, Kranichfeld, Volck, Füller, and others, which demonstrated its composition during the captivity, he is still obliged to retain his former doubts with respect to the greater portion of Ezekiel 11:0. (particularly vs. 5–39). The reasons which determine him to this conclusion, are certainly of an internal character only. They result in the conviction that a particularizing prophecy, embracing the history of centuries, as it is found in that section, forms so marked a contrast to everything in the line of specializing prediction that occurs elsewhere in the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, that only the theory of an interpolating revision of its prophetic contents, imposed on it during the period of the Seleucid persecutions, or soon afterward, seems to afford a really satisfactory explanation of its particulars. Granted, that in the face of the unanimous testimony of all the external witnesses to the integrity of the prophet’s text, the subjective nature of a criticism, such as is involved in this conclusion, may be censured; granted, that it may be termed inconsequent, that the intimate unity of the well-planned, well-adapted, and well-arranged work is thus broken through at but a single point; yet the analogia visionis propheticœ, which furnishes the motive for our decision, appears to us to be no less a certain, objectively admissible, and most weighty criterion in critical questions like the present, than is the analogia fidei in the domain of Scriptural dogmatics. Nor was the solution of the many difficulties that were encountered, as it resulted from the assumption of an ex eventu interpolation at a single point, permitted to restrain us from submitting the progressive results of our investigation to the careful inspection of Biblical scholars belonging to wider circles, so far as the plan and design of the theological and homiletical Bible-work permitted such a course. [The American reviser has taken the liberty of combating the author’s view as to the interpolation of the passage in question.]
In the treatment of a prophetic book like the one before us, it is evident that the homiletic element must occupy a very subordinate place. Nor could it be a principal aim for an exegete to obtain dogmatic results and modes of presenting them, from such a prophet as Daniel. For this reason we have preferred to follow the example of one of our esteemed co-laborers (Dr. Bähr, in his exposition of the Books of Kings), and accordingly we have given the title of “Ethico-fundamental principles related to the history of salvation” to the section ordinarily devoted to that object, and in the same connection we have noticed the apologetic questions that presented themselves, and also have indicated what was suitable for practical and homiletical treatment, in addition to the features designated by that heading.
We have devoted an especially careful attention, as in the case of our former exposition of the Song of Solomon, to the history and literature of the exposition of this prophet, both as a whole and with reference to its principal parts severally. Especially has the history of the exposition of the difficult and important vision of the 70 weeks of years, (Ezekiel 9, 24-27,) been sketched by us as thoroughly as was possible, more thoroughly, we believe, than in any of the recent and latest commentaries on Daniel.
Of the most recent exegetical and critical literature on this prophet, it was unfortunately impossible to notice two works that appeared while this book was in press: the commentary of Keil (in Keil and Delitzsch’s Bible-work on the O. T.), and the monograph by P. Caspari, Zur Einführung in das Buch Daniel (Leipsic, Dörffling und Franke).
May our attempt to add a further new and independent contribution to the exegetical literature on the most mysterious and difficult of all the prophets, which has recently been enriched by somewhat numerous, and in some respects not unimportant treatises, find that tolerant reception, at least on the part of Bible students who share our views in substance, which it may appropriately claim, in view of the unusual difficulty attending the execution of its object.
Greifswald, April, 1869
THE PROPHET EZEKIEL
§ 1. Name Of The Prophet, And Its Meaning
In Hebrew, Jĕchedsĕqçl; according to the Greek translation, Jezeki-el; in Sirach in Grecized form, Jezeki-elos, as Josephus also writes the name; in Latin (Vulgate), Ezechi-el; Luther, Heseki-el.
יְחֶזְקֵאל is a compound either of יֶֽחֶזַק אֵל (Ewald) or of יְחַזֵּק אֵל (Gesenius). In the former case the meaning of the name, according to prevailing linguistic usage, would be the intransitive one: “God is strong (firm)” (Hengstenberg: “or he in relation to whom God becomes strong”); in the other case the name of the prophet would mean: “God strengthens,” i.e. “whom God makes firm (hardens)” (Baumgarten: “whose character is a personal confirmation of the strengthening of God”). The verb חזק may be compared with ἰσχύω (ἰσχύς), “to be strong;” in its radical meaning it has a transitive character (“to straiten,” “to press,” “to make firm,” “to fetter”). Hiller in the Onomasticon sacrum translates the name Ezekiel: Deus prævalebit; and a similar explanation is given by Witsius also (Treatise, De Prophetis in capt. Babyl., Miscell. s. i. 19, 6), J. H. Michaelis, and others.
The names of the prophets have their providential element, so that they may produce the impression of emblems in word. What the character of the time is in the divine judgment and the special task of the prophet, his calling from God, and therefore also his comfort against men, appear to have found expression in the name.
“Like all the names of the canonical prophets, the name of Ezekiel also is not such a name as he had borne from his youth, but an official name which he had assumed at the beginning of his calling” (Hengstenberg).
When passages like Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14 in Ezekiel are quoted for the explanation of his name, we arrive at no further result than something like what may be said distinctively of the prophetic order in general,—this compulsion of the human spirit by the Spirit of God, as a result of superior divine power. The holy men of God were φερόμενοι ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίον, 2 Peter 1:21; God carried them along with Him (Ezekiel 3:14), proved Himself first of all in themselves to be the strong God. But while “the hand of Jehovah was upon him,” and “was strong upon him,” there is besides a distinctive, peculiar element in Ezekiel, as contrasted e.g. with Jeremiah (comp. his first appearance, Jeremiah 1:4-7; Jeremiah 20:7), or even as in the case of Jonah. The interpretation of the name assumes a more individual aspect only when passages like Ezekiel 3:8-9 are also taken into consideration. Hard against hard (חזק) is accordingly the mission of our prophet, the counter-hard he is to be according to God’s will. God stands fast to His purpose, alike as respects judgment and as respects salvation: this is the stamp of the time according to God in the name of Ezekiel, the objective programme of his mission for those to whom he is sent, and let the heathen also know it. And for the accomplishment of such a task God strengthens him (the subjective side), i.e. in conformity with his nature, which is, of course, of another type from that of his parallel Jeremiah (§§ 2, 4). Ezekiel has not the “tender heart” and “soft disposition,” but is “an individuality already endowed by nature with admirable strength of mind” (Hävernick). Where the man is iron, the divine preparation consists in this, that God makes him steel, hardens him,—lends to his natural power and energy the consecration of a sword of God (Isaiah=God (is) salvation, God (is) gracious; Ezekiel=God (is) hard).
Appendix.—“We may suppose that pious parents in those very corrupt times wished to testify their faith and to recommend it to their children by bestowing on them names so significant: that God will support the pious with His might, and carry through the covenant of His grace with His strong hand” (Witsius).—“The name is borrowed from the invincible might of God and our Saviour, and our prophet was able to comfort and fortify himself against all temptations and difficulties in his office by the mere remembrance even of his name and its meaning” (J. H. Michaelis).—“This prophet strengthened and fortified the souls of the Israelites, and on this account he was so named through Divine Providence from his birth; i.e. he was to express the might and strength of God, which He would manifest in the future redemption. For the prophets’ names were by no means given them at the will and pleasure of their parents, but they got such names from above, through Divine Providence, as corresponded with their sphere of activity and their deeds” (Abarbanel). “God, the Strong, imparts power, gives strength and continuance. Thus might, power, strength from the hand which alone is strong; with human impotence nothing is ever done” (W. Neumann).—“Many explain the name of the prophet in this way: ‘he who is strengthened by the Lord;’ others in this way: ‘he who holds fast to God;’ and the man who will discharge his office with success must be strengthened by the Lord, for mere natural strength is too powerless to bear such a burden and to withstand the violence of the enemy. Let a man therefore hold fast to God, in order that he may overcome through the power of the Most High; let him do so with prayer, in order that his work may have a blessed result” (J. F. Starck).
§ 2. His Position Among “the Four Greater Prophets.”
As is well known, the acceptance of four so-called “greater prophets,” including Daniel as such after Ezekiel, in Luther’s translation of the Bible, rests on the precedent of the Vulgate, which in this had been anticipated by the Greek translation of the LXX. and also by Josephus, while the editions and mss. of the Hebrew Bible reckon only three גדולים—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel—and place Daniel among the בחובים.
If the designation of the “greater” prophets has a mere outward reference to the size of their books which have come down to us, a deeper instinct has combined the three, and then also added the fourth. We have here the fourfold Old Testament gospel.
The fact that in the Talmud, as in German and French codices (comp. W. Neumann on Jeremiah, pp. 10 sqq.), Jeremiah is the first, and Ezekiel and Isaiah follow him,—of which Kimchi gives this as the explanation: “As the books of Kings (being those which precede) close with the devastation, and the whole of Jeremiah is occupied with the devastation, and as Ezekiel on the other hand ends with comfort, and Isaiah is wholly comfort,” the Talmudists had joined “devastation with devastation, and comfort with comfort,”—gives no help indeed to a deeper understanding of the connection, but we see, although this order of succession differs from the Rabbinical one of the Masoretic text, in the one case as in the other a prophetic triad, and that consisting of the same persons. The one arrangement is predominantly according to contents, the other is chronological.
The Calwer Handbuch thus expresses itself: “Ezekiel forms with Isaiah and Jeremiah a glorious triad. While Isaiah exhibits the servant of God marching along in exalted greatness, and Jeremiah exhibits him gently admonishing, silently suffering, Ezekiel is the one who, in the first place, breaking in pieces the hard hearts with the hammer of the law, represents the strict inexorable judge, but thereafter, pouring soothing balm into the open wounds, approves himself as the healing physician. Faith, love, hope, would be a suitable inscription over these three prophetic books also.”
Whether, then, we make the ascent from Isaiah with the Rabbins, or to Isaiah with the Talmudists, in either arrangement Ezekiel has Jeremiah as a neighbour; and consequently for his position in the triad this juxtaposition, which is also otherwise confirmed (§ 3), is first of all to be noticed. What Jeremiah’s policy of the kingdom of God is in its melancholy way, in presence of the temple and while still in the holy city, that same is the choleric2 Ezekiel, far from the sanctuary among those already carried away. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in His time,”—so runs the preaching of both, this is their harmonious note; thus an announcement of judgment, of the full measure of punishment; just as Calvin says, that “God has made Jeremiah and Ezekiel the instruments of arraigning the Jews as guilty, and of holding up before them the sentence of condemnation.”3
But if Ezekiel is parallel with Jeremiah, he may also further, like him, be made to approach Isaiah. In a theological point of view, Christ is certainly above all and the beginning of the way of God with sinners, God’s will and purpose from eternity. The “salvation of Jehovah,” therefore, takes the lead among the prophets also, and Isaiah has his place before Jeremiah. Historically, on the other hand, Christ appears as the end of the law; where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; and out of the curse on Israel came the blessing to all nations. This is, as far as the law is concerned, the historical transition, and in fact that from Ezekiel to Isaiah. For, as is included in the meaning of the name Ezekiel, not merely does the judgment stand fast, but the salvation likewise stands fast through God.
“As Isaiah has the calling to bring the word of Jehovah to Israel at the time when the necessity of the judgment of the captivity to be suspended over them had publicly manifested itself, and as Jeremiah discharged the prophetic office when this great and fearful turn of affairs burst forth upon the city of Jerusalem and the house of David, so Ezekiel has the prophetic calling to introduce personally the stiff-necked house of Israel into their thousand years’ school of trial—into the wilderness of the heathen” (Baumgarten). (“As Isaiah proclaims the wrath of God in words of thunder, and Jeremiah wails in deep plaintive tones, so Ezekiel spreads out a multitude of splendid pictures, like banners, under which the scattered people are again to gather and comfort themselves, above all the picture of the ideal temple. With Isaiah, power of intellect predominates; with Jeremiah, depth of feeling; with Ezekiel, fancy.” Wolfg. Menzel.)
If, finally, we add to the position of our prophet in the triad with respect to Jeremiah and with respect to Isaiah his position with respect to Daniel, the fourth and additional greater prophet, then we have again a parallelism. The parallel of Ezekiel with Jeremiah has reference to their labours inwardly among Israel; the parallel of Ezekiel with Daniel has reference to their labours outwardly upon the heathen. What is the case with Daniel in an extraordinary way and in subordination to his official position in the world-empire of Nebuchadnezzar, that is Ezekiel’s ordinary calling and office. “It is not merely the circumstances of the theocracy in itself that Ezekiel keeps in his eye,” says Hävernick, “but also its relation to the heathen world, Ezekiel 25-32. It is meant that we should clearly perceive by means of his word, directed to the mightiest, wisest, and proudest nations of the earth, the relation of that heathenism, which was certainly and for ever sinking, to that theocracy, which was at present indeed in a vanquished condition, but yet was ripening for an everlasting victory over the world.” Comp. the article Prophetenthum des A. T., by Oehler. (Herzog, Encycl. xii. pp. 230 sqq.)—Richter: “Ezekiel encounters the heathen symbolism of Babylon, just as Daniel encounters the heathen magic of the Chaldeans.”
§ 3. The Circumstances Of His Life, Including What Is Traditional
Ezekiel was of priestly extraction, like Jeremiah and Zechariah also. (The name occurs again in 1 Chronicles 24:16 in a priestly-Levitical connection.) His father is called (Ezekiel 1:3) “Buzi the priest,”4 of whom Holy Scripture relates nothing else. Witsius connects the name בוזי, “i.e. my insult,” with the time, which was “full of disgrace and shame.” Jewish curiosity has discovered Jeremiah concealed under that name, who, as is alleged, was called “a despised one,” and was Ezekiel’s father. It passes current generally with the Jews as a rule: that the fathers of the prophets also must have been prophets, if we find them mentioned by name in the Holy Scriptures.
His extraction, and that from “the more respectable priestly families,” is evidenced, according to Hävernick, “also by that closer relation in which the prophet (Ezekiel 11:0.) appears to have stood to the more distinguished members of the priesthood.”—Ewald: “As these, the first of the exiles, were in general only richer or more respectable Israelites: he sprang besides from that branch of Levi to which, in preference to the ordinary Levites, the peculiar priestly dignity belonged, Ezekiel 1:3, viz. the sons of Zadok, Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:10; Ezekiel 44:15; Ezekiel 45:3 sqq., Ezekiel 48:11; comp. 1 Kings 1:0. sqq.”
Born in the kingdom of Judah, in the reign of King Josiah, he lived there till he was carried away into exile. His childhood and youth fall accordingly into the period of the following kings: Josiah (the Pious); Jehoahaz, whom Pharaoh Necho sent captive to Egypt after three short months; Jehoiakim, the ungodly vassal of Egypt; and Jehoiachin, who reigned only three months and ten days. The “captivity of King Jehoiachin” is with Ezekiel from the commencement (Ezekiel 1:2) and throughout an event of such moment,—besides, he designates it expressly (Ezekiel 40:1) as “our captivity,”—that he was without doubt among those who were at that time carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:14 sqq.).
He belonged, accordingly, not to the poor and mean people who remained behind in the land (רלת עם־הארץ). If we take 1 Corinthians 1:26 sqq. as not merely a New Testament point of view, then the choice of Ezekiel as a prophet is certainly interesting. If we fall in with the view, that a certain externality and splendour is proper to the Old Testament everywhere, then the prophet who is to be reckoned with the more distinguished Jews shares this Old Testament peculiarity. Certainly the Chaldeans took not only what had importance as regards rank, influence, property, power, and skill, but, if not “above all,” yet in addition, the more spiritual portion of the nation with them, for which Hengstenberg makes Jeremiah 24:0. pass as a proof. This happened about the year b.c. 599 (Winer, 598; Bunsen, 597).
Josephus, who certainly makes a mistake in the outset in asserting that Ezekiel was already carried away under Jehoiakim, designates him as παῖς ὤν at the time, which Baumgarten (Herzog, Real-Encyclop. iv. p. 297), following the lead of J. H. Michaelis, translates not as “a boy,” but “in his youthful years.” “As it is not till the fifth year after the captivity of Jeconiah that he is called to the prophetic office (Ezekiel 1:2),” this notice has “an internal probability.” On the other hand, Hävernick thinks there is “little probability” that Ezekiel “left his home very young.” In favour of “a more advanced age, testimony is certainly borne by the matured, thorough-going priestly spirit which prevails in his prophecies; unquestionably he had already for a considerable time performed priestly services in the temple, for he betrays the most exact acquaintance with the ancient sanctuary in its separate parts (Ezekiel 8:0, Ezekiel 40-43.); with which also the proportionally brief period of 27 years, being the period of his sojourn in exile (comp. Ezekiel 1:1 with Ezekiel 29:17), corresponds, in so far as it is not exactly probable that the prophet long survived this period.” If Hengstenberg is right on Ezekiel 1:1 (see the exposition),—at all events, this hypothesis of the older expositors also recommends itself in preference to others,—then Ezekiel at the time of his exile was in the 25th year of his age, and we would have to place the birth of our prophet in the last quarter of the 7th century b.c.
When he entered on the prophetic office in the year b.c. 593 at the Chebar, where the exiles had been planted as colonists, Jeremiah had already been acting as a prophet for more than 30 years. According to Bleek, “it cannot indeed be doubted that Ezekiel also had known him personally, had often heard him, and had also read sayings of his.” But certainly we know nothing of it; only he shows evidently that he presupposes the older contemporary as his companion in spirit, quotes him, leans upon him, is conscious to himself, personally and officially, of having a common calling with Jeremiah 5:0 Later tradition has constructed out of such relationship, in express form, the position of an assistant of Jeremiah.
In a case where already in the law (Numbers 8:24, comp. Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:23; Numbers 4:30) an earlier age for service, for the time of the setting up of the tabernacle, was contemplated, and where David had appointed even the 20th year for entrance on the Levitical service (2 Chronicles 30:0; 2 Chronicles 31:17; Ezra 3:8), the emphasis which Hengstenberg has laid upon Ezekiel’s 30th year for the same, as being “a man of priestly family,” appears unsuitable. Before his entrance on the prophetic office in this year, there lie, of course, five years of the exile, in which Ezekiel, far from the sanctuary at Jerusalem, could no more execute the priestly calling to which he was born; but that he performed priestly duty before this time is likewise probable.6 His coming forth as a prophet in his 30th year compensated in an extraordinary way for an incongruity in his life, viz. his compulsory retirement as priest before the time fixed by the law.
Theodoret concludes from Ezekiel 24:0. that Ezekiel was a Nazarite (?). We see from this chapter that he was married; his wife died in the ninth year of his banishment. Passages like Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:1, show him to us settled down in every shape, in possession of a house of his own.
Everything else connected with his life, on the other hand, belongs to that manifold tradition which has become legend, just as “outside his own book there is no further mention. of him in the canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament” (Bleek); the apocryphal Jesus Sirach alone mentions him with commendation (Ezekiel 49.). As to the writings of Ezekiel falsely so called, see Fabricius, Codex pseudep. V. T. I.
Thus there is a fabulous report of a meeting between him and Pythagoras, who, as is well known, is reported to have gone in quest of the temple wisdom of the Egyptians also; he is said to have been a disciple of Ezekiel, nay, to have been Ezekiel himself.—So miracles are attributed to him, such as leading the Jews dryshod across the river Chebar, drowning the Chaldeans therein, and the like.—So he is said to have been murdered by a fellow-exile, a Jewish prince or judge, whose idolatry he reproved—to have died as a martyr. See in the Romish Martyrology at the 10th April, Ezekiel’s day in the calendar.—His corpse is said to have been conveyed into the same sepulchral cavern in which Shem’s and Arphaxad’s bones had been deposited. “In the middle ages there was shown, some days’ journey from Bagdad, his tomb, to which the Jews made pilgrimages from Parthia and Media” (Winer); and down even to the present day it is said to be a place of pious veneration. Comp. Witsius, Misc. s. Ezekiel 1:19; Ezekiel 1:10-11.
Ezekiel prophesied from the seventh year before, up to at least the sixteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem,—22–23 years. He would accordingly have been upwards of fifty years of age. The whole of his active service as a prophet belongs to the exile.
§ 4. The Historical Background And The Labours Of The Prophet
1. The general background as connected with the history of the world. 2. The more special Jewish (Israelitish?) one. 3. The labours of the prophet during the first seven years. 4. His labours after the destruction of Jerusalem.
1. Egypt, at this period no longer mysteriously closed as of old, has opened itself to strangers under Psammetichus, who has attained to power by means of strangers; old Egypt goes to meet its self-dissolution. New Egypt, however, as characterized, for example, by the genial circumnavigation of the whole of Africa under his successor Pharaoh Necho, rather than conquests on the Syrian border and the capture of Jerusalem, is not able to maintain itself; with the defeat at Carchemish (Circesium) b.c. 606, or 605, or 604, the star of the Pharaohs is already near the horizon.
It is in part a period of gigantic downfalls, Ezekiel’s period in the history of the world. The power of the Assyrians, to which the kingdom of Israel and the Syrians had fallen a prey, succumbed to the coalition of the Chaldeans and Medes. Nineveh, stretching three days’ journey along the Tigris, is since then (606, 625?) that range of hills consisting of immense heaps of ruins opposite Mosul, which more recent excavations have made so interesting. Nebuchadnezzar the Conqueror, the Destroyer, remains the leader of fashion for this period in the East.
According to Silberschlag’s Chronology of the World (pp. 81, 83), there emerges already about this period the Heraclide Caranus, the alleged founder of the Macedonian empire, just as the birth of Cyrus is to be noticed.
In Athens, Draco, at the command of the people, wrote (b.c. 622 or 624) his code. The people said it was written with blood. Draco must therefore be followed by a Solon; and his more humane legislation also still belongs to this period. It is the period of the so-called “seven wise men of Greece,” also of the lyric poet Alcæus, and of the greatest poetess of whom Greece boasted, the Lesbian Sappho.—For Rome contemporary chronology notes Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth of those legendary “seven kings” who in succession strengthened and consolidated the city and the state.
2. The more special historic background, on which the labours of our prophet display themselves, consists of the occurrences connected with the Jews, their circumstances and conditions from the time of the captivity of King Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah).
At home in the fatherland there is residing at Jerusalem the last king of the house of David. The Babylonian servitude has already begun under Jehoiakim, when Daniel and his companions were taken along with him to Babylon (Hävernick, Hengstenberg). According to the usual view, it began with the captivity of Jehoiachin. Set up as he was by Nebuchadnezzar, Mattaniah, at the time 21 years of age, the uncle of the captive Jehoiachin, was in truth a servant of Nebuchadnezzar, although he was called king over the worthless remnant left behind after the draining away of the strength of Judah, and had, perhaps under the impression of “Jehovah’s righteousness,” been named Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:17 sqq.; 2 Chronicles 36:10 sqq.; Jeremiah 37:1; Ezekiel 17:13 sqq.). Over-confidence in his own power and tact among the people, as well as with the great ones, the court party,—obstinate defiance throughout as regards the isolated prophetic voice of Jeremiah,—so much the more willing an ear for the allurements of the lying prophets,—incentive on the part of his neighbours, the small kingdoms of Tyrus, Sidon, Edom, Ammon, Moab, turned the head of this king by Nebuchadnezzar’s grace, alike as to the serious oaths which bound his conscience as respects his liege lord (2 Chronicles 36:13), and as to the inevitable consequences which such an act of perjury and treachery must bring with it. If not yet in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah, when the king himself even made a journey as far as Babylon, and did obeisance there, in order to remove any suspicion and for the renewal of his homage, yet certainly his overweening, defiant pride did take shape when Hophra (Wahprahet, Apries) had succeeded Necho’s son on the throne of Egypt. Negotiations with Egypt were entered upon; but even before the Egyptian weapons were at hand, Zedekiah rose up in rebellion for himself in the ninth year (588?), provoking Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath to an open outbreak. Quicker than Egypt’s promised help was the vengeance of the Chaldean, laying waste the defenceless land, before the walls of Jerusalem; and when Hophra, after the city had already for almost a year withstood the besiegers, at length draws near for its relief, he is driven back to Africa without striking a blow. Jerusalem, now surrounded anew, and without any prospect of help, and besides reduced within to the last extremity by famine, can no longer hold out. The enemy has made a breach in the walls. Zedekiah succeeds in making his escape on the following night from the lost city; but the Chaldeans pursuing him, arrest him in his flight, and bring him and those belonging to him before Nebuchadnezzar, who had taken up his headquarters at the northern boundary of Palestine. His children and adherents are slain before his eyes, and his own eyes the infuriated conqueror causes to be put out. Dragged in chains to Babylon, he ends his life there in prison (2 Chronicles 36:0; Jeremiah 39:0; 2 Kings 25:0). The walls of Jerusalem were thrown down by Nebuchadnezzar’s command, the temple burnt, as well as the royal palace and all the other prominent buildings. After most thorough pillage, and after the hand of the executioner had inflicted yet additional judgment at Riblah (Jeremiah 52:0), the remainder of the people, with their wives and children, down to the poor vine-dressers and peasants, were carried into the Babylonian captivity (b.c. 586 or 587–). Over those who still remained in the land a Jewish governor, Gedaliah, was placed, at whose side stood Jeremiah. There gathered also around him those who had escaped captivity by flight. But Gedaliah was murdered, and before the vengeance of the Chaldeans, in spite of the remonstrance of Jeremiah, the last remnant of the people fled to Egypt, where they settled down. The prophet they compelled to go along with them.
Comp. Abriss der Urgeschichte des Orients nach Lenormant, Manuel d’hist. anc. de l’Orient, by M. Busch, i., Duncker, i. p. 829 sqq.
Jeremiah had during this period, while the destinies of the kingdom of Judah were being accomplished, to take his stand not only against the kings and their great ones, but scarcely less against the people also, who oscillated between the madness of heathenish lusts and a hypocritical self-righteousness from their being the people of God. A degenerate priesthood and the false prophets give to the night-picture its demoniac shading. “Made a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls,” the prophet of mourning and of tears stands alone with his God beside the basket full of “figs, which are not to be eaten,” and which are to become a terror and a proverb to all the world, and a curse (Jeremiah 24:0). In prison and scourged, in the pit full of mire, subjected to hunger and deadly peril, as well as when receiving the distinctions of the Chaldean, to whom he was under the necessity of promising the victory, and even upon the ruins of Jerusalem and with the last remnants of Judah, Jeremiah remains the watchman of his native land (Jeremiah 39-40). His occasional relations to the colonists in Babylon (Jeremiah 29-51), as well as the close of his life in Egypt (Jeremiah 42-44), make no essential change in this character. It is only similarly elegiac, tragic, if one will, that as Josiah, the pious king under whom Jeremiah’s prophetic mission began, must fall at Megiddo in conflict with the Egyptians, so it was just in Egypt that Jeremiah also disappeared.
To the occurrences just narrated the labours of Ezekiel bear reference. He supplements and continues those of his parallel Jeremiah.
His visions, discourses, and actings are the accompaniment of the inward and outward corruption of Judah; the final decision there forms the basis of the principal division in the writings of our prophet (§ 5).
The circumstances at the river Chebar were certainly not in general the same with these in the fatherland, which were ever fluctuating, and never properly decided till the destruction of Jerusalem;—they were settled, in so far clear, as they were the circumstances of exile, of Babylonian captivity; although this captivity, as is plain from many a circumstance, in God’s providence has unmistakeable traces of forbearance, of preservation in it. Nebuchadnezzar’s procedure, even with respect to those who remained behind at the very end in their native land, is based upon a secret conviction of their being the people of promise, which reminds one involuntarily of the prophecies of Balaam, who was of course from the Euphrates. However much he feels himself to be a conqueror, he appears to know also that it is given him to execute a judgment of God; he shows, as is quite explicable in this way, many a surprising consideration for those who are the objects of the judgment.
It would be of importance for the history of heathenism to find the connection between Melchizedek and Balaam and Nebuchadnezzar. The strong heathenisms lead us to suppose a strong original consciousness of God.
Thus the exiles were no slaves of the Chaldeans. Probably lands had been let out to them in consideration of a tribute. So far as we know, it did not amount to bond-service, as in Egypt formerly. So much the easier was it to establish a kind of civil commonwealth in the strange land. This people, moreover, are like the cactuses, both as respects the contrast of odd angular forms with splendid blossom, and because when torn away, even on the most barren soil, they also take root again immediately and continue their existence. Even in Egypt what an organic connection had remained unbroken! And so we perceive, in Ezekiel 8:1, “the elders of Judah” assembled around Ezekiel. The whole mode of procedure on such an occasion shows certainly that these Jews have no longer any temple, can no longer offer any sacrifices, looks like the later synagogue worship in its first beginnings. There would also be no want of mockery and derision on the part of the heathen (comp. Daniel 5:0). But yet the permission to hear the will and counsel of Jehovah from the mouth of His prophet exists. Religious persecution found no place, although the tolerance of the Chaldeans might come into stern collision with the exclusive confession of Jehovah (Daniel 3:0). Such was outwardly the condition of the Jews during the exile in civil and in religious respects.
Before we frame for ourselves a picture of the inner condition of the exiles, and thus of the whole of our prophet’s labours and of their peculiar character, there is a preliminary question: Whether and in how far the labours of Ezekiel had respect also to the exiles of the former separate kingdom of Israel, who had been carried into captivity more than a century before? (Comp. J. J. Hess, Geschichte der Regenten con Juda nach d. Exilio, i. p. 3 ff.)
The decision of this question depends, fortunately, not on the mere geographical determination of the “river, Chebar” (Ezekiel 2:3) and Habor (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11). While Umbreit, Hävernick, Winer, Gesenius, Ritter, Bleek, Bunsen identify the two, and understand the sufficiently well-known Mesopotamian Chabôras (Syriac, Chebar or Chabur; Arabic, Chabur; in Strabo, Ἀβόῤῥας), which rises to the north of Ras el Ain at the foot of the Masian Mountains, receives the Mygdonius and falls into the Euphrates at Circesium, by which means, even locally, Ezekiel would be placed at the same time among the exiles of the ten tribes;—Ewald, Delitzsch, Keil, Baumgarten, Bähr (Lange on 2 Kings, p. 183) distinguish “Chebar” and “Habor.” The “river Chebar” is to them the river indicated in Upper Mesopotamia; “Habor,” on the other hand, a tributary of the Tigris, in northern Assyria, which gives very much the impression of what is sought, although it is called Khabur Chasaniæ. (J. Wickelhaus in der deutsch. morgenl. Zeitschr. v. p. 467 sqq.). If one cannot admit the identity of “Chebar” and “Habor,” it agrees at all events much better with the text in 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11, especially if one compares 1 Chronicles 5:26, to take וּבְחָבוֹר along with בַּחֲלַח, and to interpret the one like the other, viz. in both cases as a province, understanding it of the mountainous region “Chaboras” (Ptol. vi. 1) between Media and Assyria—a view which Jewish tradition would support, as it banishes the ten tribes thither. But the relation of the exiles of Israel to those of Judah is not at all affected through a local separation of the two. This rested on quite a different basis from anything that could be denied as a result of geographical investigations, or that could be proved only by means of such. The breaking off of the separate kingdom of Israel was in its very origin almost entirely of a political nature. The God-fearing among the separate tribes had never lost the religio-national unity of the people of God out of their hearts. And so Ezekiel’s representations also (Ezekiel 16-23 etc.) embrace Judah and Israel together as regards the hope, just as in the corruption. With the downfall of the state, both the peculiar court religion—in other words, state religion—of the kingdom of Israel and the whole separation, which had been upheld only with much exertion, came to the ground. Finally, as the exile, which at a later period absorbed Judah also, compensated in outward respects for the wide separation from each other which had existed for a hundred years and upwards, so still more it brought the separated ones inwardly to one another. The same land, the same suffering! The latter had its influence on the better portion at least. For Judah, however, the fruit of the chastisement experienced could not possibly be the mere quickening of her own piety; prophetic prediction certainly (such as Jeremiah 30:3 sqq.) set before her the prospect of Israel also being reunited with her in the restoration! The pious ones of Judah must have awaked to the consciousness of a holy mission, of a task of love with respect to the sheep of the ten tribes which had been torn away from David’s flock. The furtherance, the realization of this consciousness, lay throughout within the sphere of Ezekiel’s labours (comp. Ezekiel 37:16 sqq., Ezekiel 47:13). Whatever of a hindering, resisting element it might possibly have encountered from the other side—say, in the priests, officials, prophets of the Israelitish state religion, or in general in heathenishly inclined individuals of the ten tribes—had already in course of time been removed out of the way, had certainly passed into heathenism. The kernel of Israel yielded themselves to the attempts at approach on the part of Judah, attached themselves to her, ranged themselves under her. In this way is explained the naming of Judah and Benjamin only in the edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1:0), although it was published in the whole of his kingdom, and therefore also where exiles from Israel had their abode; just as in fact the people collectively got the name of Judah. Though it might be the case that the preponderating majority of the Jews were united in doing so, and that at the commencement a proportionally small number of Israelites returned, because these latter, on account of their much longer exile, had more difficulty in getting themselves disentangled; yet Anna (Luke 2:36) was “of the tribe of Asher,” and Paul testifies (Acts 26:7) of his own nation as τὸ δωδεκάφνλον, and the millions of Jews who were at the time of Christ and afterwards in the dispersion can hardly be traced back to Judah and Benjamin merely (comp. Herzog, Real-Encyclopädie, 1. p. 651 sqq., and Hengstenberg’s History of the Kingdom of God, 2. p. 285 sqq. [Clark’s Trans.]).
3. For the position of our prophet among the exiles of Judah, the occurrence of the final decision with respect to Jerusalem, the destruction of the city and the temple, and the downfall of the kingdom of Judah also, is the event from the date of which the prophetic labours of Ezekiel, which had hitherto been related to those of his parallel Jeremiah as supplementary and confirmatory, gain the character of an independent continuation of the same. Comp. Ezekiel 3:12 sqq., Ezekiel 24:26 sqq., Ezekiel 33:21 sqq. With the apparently for ever lost fatherland, the prophet of the fatherland also now steps into the background. All is now exile, and Ezekiel is the prophet of the exile. Hitherto Judah abroad and Judah at home had remained in the closest possible connection, and the co-operation of Ezekiel with Jeremiah had been the prophetic corrective of this relation. Comp. Ezekiel 4-7, etc. The deportation of King Jehoiachin had at the same time laid hold in part of those members of the covenant people who, in an inward and spiritual point of view, come into consideration. On the whole, it was already significant for those carried away captive with Jehoiachin, that they had complied with the counsel of Jeremiah, and his preaching of unconditional submission to the Chaldean power. They are favourably contrasted in this respect alike with those who remained behind until the captivity under Zedekiah (Jeremiah 29:16 sqq.; Ezekiel 14:22 sqq.), and especially with those who fled at last to Egypt, whose description is given in Jeremiah 44:0; comp. Ezekiel 33:23 sqq. But a reaction did not fail when, after Jehoiachin’s captivity, Zedekiah maintained himself in the government for eleven additional years. What a king! what a government! and yet!? Yea, it came to this, that Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to raise the siege of Jerusalem before the actually approaching Egyptian auxiliaries! Had not Jeremiah perhaps taken too gloomy a view of matters, spoken with exaggeration of a seventy years’ bondage under Babylon? Comp. Ezekiel 12:0. Those who remained behind were able, not without the semblance of hope, of a prospect of continuance, to boast of the enjoyment of the holy land, of the possession of the sanctuary at Jerusalem; they boasted of being (Ezekiel 11:15 sqq.), and appeared to be, the patriots, the faithful worshippers of Jehovah; while upon the captives who had given ear to Jeremiah, as upon himself, there might fall the suspicion of being cowards, fugitives,—of being, if not exactly ungodly traitors, at least persons who had been unconsciously misled. In such circumstances there were not wanting for pious hearts even certain hours of severe temptation, when they might be on the verge of despair. What inference, then, may thence be drawn with respect to the rest—the large, more or less fleshly-minded mass of those carried captive with Jehoiachin! They were the children of their fathers in disposition also (comp. Ezekiel 2:3 ff; Ezekiel 3:7 ff.); the foolish imaginations of those still dwelling in Palestine were to them thoroughly congenial, they dreamt similar dreams, the delusive power of Egypt had currency with them also; and false prophets and soothsayers, who corresponded with the anti-Jeremian party at Jerusalem, found only too much acceptance in their midst (Jeremiah 29:8 sqq., 21 sqq.; Ezekiel 13:0). Ezekiel’s labours during this period, during the first seven years of his prophetic office, among those carried captive with Jehoiachin, which are delineated for us more specially in accordance with such circumstances and these inner conditions of the exiles so far as regards their spiritual historical background, accompanied, supported,—as we have said, completed and confirmed the labours of Jeremiah, who on his part, as Jeremiah 29:0 shows, by his word extended his influence to the exiles also.
4. The fall of Jerusalem increased the community of the exile by means of the still more extensive deportation which was decreed for Judah in consequence of this occurrence (Ezekiel 33:31 sqq.). What had hitherto upheld the pride and the frivolity of the majority of the nation, had now come to the ground; the stern reality had followed the hope of which they dreamed; the overweening trust in human help had received a deadly blow. That in the case of many great despondency took the place of great defiance; that with the hope, according to which they dreamed of the future, and according to which they gladly allowed the false prophets to prophesy of it, all hope of every kind disappeared, and that no trust in the Lord won a place for itself, was natural, was in accordance with human nature. Those carried captive with Zedekiah were on the whole desperate, determined men. They were also later of coming into the school of the exile, where this had already been able to exercise a wholesome influence upon their predecessors. Although need and misery in themselves are just as capable of making men worse as of making them better, yet we must take into consideration for the result, whether the one or the other, a rougher state of mind or one more prepared by divine grace. Those who brought along with them from home into the strange land the sympathy for heathenish ways, would the less resist apostasy and a complete passing over into heathenism, where they found themselves in the midst of the heathen world, the more easily they could in this way avoid mockery and contempt on the part of the heathen, and spend a happier, more pleasant life. The 137th Psalm disavows even in the remembrance every weakening of the Jewish patriotic feeling, of the home-sickness for Jerusalem; yet how many a one, especially in so tolerable a condition as existed outwardly during the exile, was fixed down by that plot of ground which he purchased, and whose produce made him comfortable, perhaps much more so than he was before in Palestine! For an influential bearing on the world also (the original divine destination of the Jewish character for the world’s salvation), through preparatory training for its commerce, for enriching business transactions throughout the whole world, the circumstances of the exile, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem, may have had their influence. Meanwhile there lay as a burden upon the pious portion of the exiles the whole pressure not merely of the misery of the strange land, far from the land of their fathers, which was in fact the pledge of all God’s promises, so that for them the exile embodied the question, and made it a standing one: Where is now thy God? but, inasmuch as now that which had been announced from Moses onwards through the prophets had really occurred, there was in addition the much heavier burden on their conscience, that they beheld themselves under a judgment of God, under a punishment long enough held back—that they were suffering from no mere vicissitude of political misfortune. If, in weighing the misfortune of the children and the guilt of the fathers, the righteousness of Jehovah was to be held up, and the way of earnest conversion before self-righteous misconception as before frivolous mockery (comp. Ezekiel 18:0), so, where in the present instance the feeling of guilt on the part of afflicted consciences broke down all courage, and a divine sadness wrestled with despair under the wrath of God, comfort and the promise of salvation above and beyond all misery had their authorized place. If, therefore, up to the fall of Jerusalem, in order to confirm Jeremiah, the work of our prophet had been chiefly a preaching of repentance, not of course without thought of salvation, of forbearance and deliverance (e.g. Ezekiel 6:8 sqq., Ezekiel 9:4 sqq.),—after the destruction of the city and the temple the activity of Ezekiel manifests itself predominantly in the announcement of salvation, although on the ground of the preceding call to that conversion which alone saves, and along with the repetition of the same. Comp. 33:34.
§ 5. Contents And Division Of The Book
1. The work of our prophet, the picture of his prophetic life,—and this is most truly his life-picture,—is furnished us first of all by the contents of his book, according to Umbreit’s description, “as in a prophetic diary carried on by himself.” “Where the work of the prophets was par excellence a spiritual one, consisting in the preaching of the word, there the communication and preservation of this word is itself the portraiture of their activity, in very deed their prophetic biography. The latter is the case with Ezekiel” (Hävernick).
The very first three chapters give as a glimpse as into a programme. Still more as regards the object of the vision in Ezekiel 1:0, with which the book opens, than as regards the divine commission in Ezekiel 2:3, the prophet appears to us at the very beginning as he will be up to the end in the peculiarity of his prophetic work according to the divine appointment. This is not merely that he is to be a prophet in the exile, which is the only thing Calvin makes prominent, but rather that he has to represent the glory of Jehovah in the exile. This is the key to his prophetic labours in their strictest individuality. As regards the divine commission to the prophet in Ezekiel 2:3, what stands opposed on man’s part to the carrying out of the same, partly outside (Ezekiel 2:3 sqq.), partly in himself (Ezekiel 2:8 sqq.), just as what is said with respect to the equipment of Ezekiel on God’s part (Ezekiel 3:4 sqq.), is immediately connected with what is very similar in the case of Jeremiah (see the exposition).
Ezekiel 4:5, however, change the scene entirely to the (§ 4) foresaid parallelism of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, which we found significant as regards the first labours of our prophet: from a fourfold (Ezekiel 4:1-4 sqq., 9 sqq., Ezekiel 5:1 sqq.) symbolical representation of the impending fate of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, the accompanying interpretation of the symbols leads to two almost Jeremian discourses of rebuke against Judah, Ezekiel 6:7.
What was already made prominent in these discourses of rebuke as guilt, the idolatrous apostasy from Jehovah, is represented with the plastic art of heathen worship and a liturgical vividness—by the vision of the abominations in the temple (Ezekiel 8:0), in which from the first the “image of jealousy” and the glory of Jehovah (Ezekiel 1:0) confront each other (Ezekiel 8:3-4), and this latter (Ezekiel 9:3 sqq.) causes the judgment to be carried out inexorably on the guilty, especially on the city (Ezekiel 10:0).
As the 11th chapter, in which the vision closes, once more, and through a striking case of death, brings into prominence the leaders of the people (the demagogues), so the symbolical transaction in Ezekiel 12:0 singles out the lot of the king at Jerusalem, so that with the “bread” and “water” a termination is reached in the meantime of the misery which is to come upon the land and its inhabitants. The only thing remaining is, that the prophet should announce the execution of the punishment as being one that is near, Ezekiel 12:21 sqq.
The circumstance that his repeated (vers. 21 sqq., 26 sqq.) previous announcement of the nearness of the judgment takes the shape in Ezekiel 13:0 of a discourse against the false prophets and prophetesses, cannot (according to Ezekiel 12:24) lie outside the context, and the explanation come to with the idolatrous seekers after oracles in Ezekiel 14:0 easily fits into it; the elders of the people who are guilty of such consultation are just sitting before the prophet, and the guilt, essentially similar to their own, of faithless Jerusalem (Ezekiel 14:12 sqq.) justifies to their consciences the righteousness of the punishment in the one case as in the other, just as such justification will also take place through the remnant from Jerusalem (vers. 22, 23), who will come to be seen by them. But after Jerusalem has been depicted in Ezekiel 15:0. as a vine tree for the burning, especially after she has been depicted in detail as a lewd adulteress in Ezekiel 16:0,—idolatry in that case being adultery and lewdness,—and after the riddle with respect to the royal house of David in Ezekiel 17:0 is followed by the thorough statement of the divine righteousness in Ezekiel 18:0, and lastly by the lamentation in Ezekiel 19:0 over the perishing kingdom of Israel, Ezekiel 20:0 merely contains in addition a survey of the objective as well as subjective guidance of the people from of old, for the purpose in Ezekiel 21:0 of setting forth with the most living distinctness the express announcement of the nearness of the judgment (comp. Ezekiel 21:12), and then alike the punishment and (with equal sharpness) the guilt—Jerusalem’s in particular, and Judah’s and Israel’s in common—are portrayed in Ezekiel 22:23.
In Ezekiel 24:0. the predicted nearness of the judgment is a fact of such a kind, that the prophet must for himself write down the day, that the fact of the death of his wife furnishes the mournful illustration, and that the prophet does not now any longer speak, but is silent respecting Jerusalem.
But during this silence respecting Israel the prophetic word goes forth with loud voice against those without,7 such as Ammon (comp. Ezekiel 21:33 sqq.) and Moab, Edom, the Philistines (Ezekiel 25:0), then Tyrus and Sidon (Ezekiel 26-28), and lastly Egypt (Ezekiel 29-32). There is no passing, as in the case of Paul, from the synagogue to the heathen. Neither is it the joy with Zion’s joy, but the joy in Zion’s suffering, that forms the point of departure. They are therefore predictions of judgment; the downfall of Jerusalem determines the colour and tone of these chapters, which appear like an appendix to what goes before. The judgment begins at the house of God, yet it will not spare the rest of the world. And here the predominating element as regards the carrying out of the judgment and the foreign nations that are named is the connection with Nebuchadnezzar, just as on the other hand the more intimate historical relation to Jerusalem down to the last days of Judah. (As to the chronology, see § 6, and the introductory observations to Ezekiel 25-32)
These predictions rightly form the transition to the predominantly comforting labours of Ezekiel after the destruction of Jerusalem. For the ever repeated closing statement as the judgments are announced, “and ye shall,” or “thou shalt,” or “they shall know that I am the Lord” (comp. Ezekiel 25:5; Ezekiel 25:7; Ezekiel 25:11), necessarily contained for the exiles the consolation, that the malicious delight in Judah’s misery (Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:6; Ezekiel 26:2) is not to issue in contempt for Judah’s God also (Ezekiel 25:8; Ezekiel 28:2; Ezekiel 28:6; Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 29:9), but that their Judge will rather seat Himself in judgment on their false heathen friends also, especially on Egypt (Ezekiel 29:6-7; Ezekiel 29:16). If Jehovah made Himself known in such a way to the heathen, then the judgments over them and their gods, with whom Israel had sinned, to whom they had looked up in trust or in despair, removed at the same time many a stone out of that path which the people had to tread for their salvation. But with their conversion to the only true God—that was the path—the former more negative consolation arising from those judgments on the heathen nations grew into a very positive one for the people of Jehovah. As already, in the previous announcements of Judah’s punishment (comp. Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 11:16 sqq., Ezekiel 16:60 sqq., Ezekiel 17:22 sqq., Ezekiel 20:40 sqq.), prospects of salvation are opened up, so the closing note of the prediction of judgment on Sidon (Ezekiel 28:25 sqq.), on Egypt (Ezekiel 29:21), is express consolation for the exiles. Now what comes in the shape of consolation, as being salvation for the people of God, cannot in the end be accomplished without blessing for the heathen world, in which and for which Israel is placed from the beginning as a mediator of salvation. The judgments on one and another and another of the heathen nations are consummated, of course, in the additional judgment on the heathen world-power antagonistic to the kingdom of God; yet the salvation of the Jews comes to be for the good of the human race. The recovery of the consciousness of her peculiar spiritual calling as a nation must be the highest, the full consolation for Israel, to whom alike her own judgment and that on the heathen shaped themselves into a process of purification for her divine world-task.
The silence of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 24:0) had been accordingly, as the predictions with respect to the other nations have informed us, not merely for judgment on Israel, but at the same time a waiting for the promise of God with respect to His people, and that from among the heathen also. Comp. Ezekiel 47:1 sqq., 22, 23.
As the prophet is now entering again on his labours among the children of his people, it is thus suitable that in Ezekiel 33:0 he again becomes conscious of his prophetic mission from God,8 when this has to take effect in face of the fact now accomplished and in view of the present situation. The promise of Ezekiel 34:0 starts therefore from the shepherds of Israel, under whom the sheep have been scattered; in their stead the Lord Jehovah will interest Himself in the flock, and, when it is again gathered, will make His servant David the one shepherd amid blessings which have as their aim mankind generally. And as the bad shepherds furnish the occasion for the restoration of the Head, so we have for that of the members Edom as a nation (Ezekiel 35:0), in contrast with which Ezekiel 36:0 celebrates the mountains of Israel and the sanctification of the name of Jehovah in His people (Ezekiel 36:23 sqq.), to which prospect so rich in promise a temporary conclusion is furnished in Ezekiel 37:0 by the vision of the resurrection and quickening of the dead bones, as well as by the symbolical action with the one stick out of the two sticks (Ezekiel 37:15 sqq.), which is intended to signify the reuniting of Israel with Judah under the One King David.
The bearing toward what is without, the world-position of the people of God in this connection, as following upon their inward restoration (which has hitherto been the object of promise), is brought into view by Ezekiel 38, 39 against Gog of Magog. In this symbolical and typical representation of the powers hostile to the kingdom of God, the glory of the Lord will be perfected alike in the consuming judgment toward Gog, and in glorifying mercy toward Israel.
The close of the book (Ezekiel 40-48) is devoted to the prophetic portrayal of the divine glory in the glory of His kingdom; the temple and its service (Ezekiel 40-46), the holy land and the holy city “Jehovah Shammah” (Ezekiel 47, 48), furnish the types consecrated from of old for the purpose.
2. The statement of the contents which we have thus attempted, as it has at the same time shown the profound inner connection, the carrying out of the all-dominating idea of the glory of Jehovah, is still further confirmed by the division of the book.
The collection of visions, emblematical actions and facts, of discourses and predictions, of which it is composed, is divided, alike by the downfall of Jerusalem and by the silence of the prophet with respect to his own people, into the two principal parts: (1) Ezekiel 1-24 : The Prophecy of Judgment; (2) Ezekiel 33-48 : The Prophecy of the Mercies of God toward His people in the world.9 A third transition-section is formed by Ezekiel 25-32 : announcements of judgment on the seven heathen nations, i.e. cities.
Hitzig: “The oracles of Ezekiel are put together in an arranged, organic book. Against the sum-total of forty-eight chapters no objection is to be brought; it cannot therefore be regarded as an accident, if at Ezekiel 24:0, exactly with the half, the series of domestic predictions before the fall of Jerusalem comes to an end. This, which is forthwith (Ezekiel 25:2 sqq.) presupposed as having taken place, forms the middle and crowning point of the book. The foreign oracles, words of threatening against seven neighbouring nations, from the commencement and for the most part date from the period after the downfall of Judah, and are occasioned by this very catastrophe; the whole collection was placed suitably at the beginning of the second part, which is in this way just the more sharply contrasted with the first.” Hengstenberg (Christology, 2d edit.) likewise distinguishes two principal parts, but in this way: “Predictions before the destruction (Ezekiel 1-32), and after the destruction (Ezekiel 33-48); in the former the tendency being mainly to counteract the foolish illusions, to call to repentance as the only means of salvation; in the latter to combat despair by portraying that salvation before the eyes of the people, etc.” Similarly also Hävernick: “Two great sections, of which the destruction of Jerusalem forms the turning-point (Ezekiel 1-32, 33-48). In the former period Ezekiel discharges the prophetic office of rebuke, afterwards the office of comforting and of promise.” On the other hand, Kliefoth looks upon “the collection of predictions against foreign nations as a separate part of the book,” and makes this division: “The Introduction, Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:21; the First Part, Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27; the Second Part, Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 33:20; the Third Part, Ezekiel 33:21 to Ezekiel 48:35.” De Wette: “The first part is arranged with perfect accuracy according to the chronology; the foreign oracles in the second part, however, are grouped together in accordance with an arrangement by contents. This collection is, as it were, a supplement or episode, inasmuch as at Ezekiel 24:27 a resting-point is given, or because several of these predictions really belong to the period between Ezekiel 24:27; Ezekiel 33:21, while the others are ranged with them because of the similarity of their contents. With the tidings of the destruction of Jerusalem at Ezekiel 33:21 the prediction advances a step, and the whole of the third part belongs to this period after the destruction.” Neteler distributes each of the three parts of the book into four sections, and each section into four pieces.
The twofold division of the book, as Hitzig makes it, is an example of arithmetical division: 2 into 48 gives 24 chapters to each. As to the details of subdivision, he looks upon each of the principal parts as forming three unequal sections: I. (1) Ezekiel 1-7; (2) Ezekiel 8-19; (3) Ezekiel 20-24 II. (1) Ezekiel 25-32.; (2) Ezekiel 33-39; (3) 40–48. According to Hitzig, the thing aimed at was merely “to incorporate the mass of the oracles.” (!) If this appears to be too little for an “arranged, organic book,” Kliefoth’s principle of division, according to the formula, “And the word of Jehovah came to me thus,” gives the impression of something that is too artificial. Our position must be this: The chronological element cannot be the determining one everywhere, nor even for the most part, as regards the division in detail; for neither are the dates so generally given, nor do they even regulate a separate part, such as Ezekiel 25:0 sqq. More tenable as a division of our book in respect to details—more tenable even than one furnished by the matter-of-fact, historico-material element—is that afforded by the inner substance, a method by which we shall have to look at the fundamental idea of the glory of Jehovah manifesting itself in judament and pitying grace.
SUBDIVISION OF THE PRINCIPAL PARTS
A. First Principal Part: Ch. 1–24
The Prophecy of Judgment
I. The Divine Mission of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:11
1. The Vision of the Glory of Jehovah, Ezekiel 1:0
2. The Division Commission to the Prophet, Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 3:11
II. The First Execution of the Divine Commission: Ezekiel 3:12 to Ezekiel 7:27
1. The Installation and Instructions, Ezekiel 3:12-27
2. The Four Signs and their Interpretation, Ezekiel 4:1 to Ezekiel 5:17
3. The Two Discourses of Rebuke, Ezekiel 6:7
III. The Subsequent Execution of Divine Commissions: Ezekiel 8-24
1. The Vision, Ezekiel 8-11
(1) Of the Abominations in the Temple, Ezekiel 8:0
(2) Of the Judgment on the Guilty, Ezekiel 9:0
(3) In particular of the Coals of Fire on the City, Ezekiel 10:0
(4) Of the Leaders of the People, Ezekiel 11:0
2. The Signs, Ezekiel 12:1-20.
(1) The Sign of the Departure of the King, Ezekiel 12:1-16.
(2) The Sign of Bread and Water, Ezekiel 12:17-20.
3. The Near Execution of the Punishment, Ezekiel 12:21 to Ezekiel 24:27.
(1) The repeated Preliminary Announcement, Ezekiel 12:21-28.
(2) The Discourse against the False Prophets and Prophetesses, Ezekiel 13:0
(3) The Testimony against the Idolatrous Seekers after Oracles, Ezekiel 14:0
(4) The Parable of the Vine Tree for the Burning, Ezekiel 15:0
(5) The Story of the Lewd Adulteress, Ezekiel 16:0
(6) The Riddle about the Royal House of David, Ezekiel 17:0
(7) The Laws of the Divine Punitive Righteousness, Ezekiel 18:0
(8) The Lamentation over the Kings of Israel, Ezekiel 19:0
(9) The Survey of the Leading of the People from of old, Ezekiel 20:0
(10) The Approaching Judgment, Ezekiel 21:0
(11) The Conviction of the Ripeness for Judgment:
a. as well of Jerusalem in particular, Ezekiel 22:0
b. as of Judah and Israel collectively, Ezekiel 23:0
(12) The Marking down of the Event that is taking place, the Discourse in Signs, and the Virtual Sign (the Silence of Ezekiel), Ezekiel 24:0
A—B. Ch. 25–32
The Transition from the Prophecy of Judgment to the Prophecy of Mercy by means of the Predictions against
I. 1. Ammon, Ezekiel 25:0
2. Moab, Ezekiel 25:0
3. Edom, Ezekiel 25:0
4. The Philistines, Ezekiel 25:0
II. 1. Tyrus, Ezekiel 26:1 to Ezekiel 28:19
2. Sidon, Ezekiel 28:20-26.
III. Egypt, Eze 29:-21
B. Second Principal Part: Ch. 33–48
The Prophecy of the Mercies of God toward His People in the World
I. The Renewal of the Divine Mission of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 33:0
1. His office of Watchman in itself, Ezekiel 33:1-20.
2. The same in view of the Event that has taken place (the re-opening of the mouth of Ezekiel), and in face of the state of affairs as well as of hearts, Ezekiel 33:21-33.
II. The Divine Promises.
1. Against the Shepherds of Israel of the Shepherd Mercy of Jehovah toward His Flock, and of His Servant David, Ezekiel 34:0
2. Against Edom with respect to the Mountains of Israel in consequence of the Self-sanctification of the Name of Jehovah, Ezekiel 35, 36
3. (1) In the Vision of the Resurrection and Requickening of the Dead Bones, Ezekiel 37:1-14
(2) By means of the Symbolical Action with the One Stick out of the Two Sticks, along with the Interpretation, Ezekiel 37:15-28.
4. Against Gog of Magog for the Glorification of Jehovah in the World, Ezekiel 38, 39
5. In the Vision of Glory.
(1) Of the Temple and its Services, Ezekiel 40-46
(2) Of the Holy Land and of the Holy City, Ezekiel 47, 48
§ 6. Chronological Sketch According To The Dates In The Book
Ezekiel 24:25 ?
Ezekiel 29:1-16; Ezekiel 30:1; Ezekiel 30:19. ?
Ezekiel 33:0 (Ezekiel 34-39 ?)
It is clear from this chronological sketch, so far as dates in the book make it possible, that several of the predictions of judgment on the heathen encroach on the second principal part of the book. As the prophecy of the divine mercy begins on the ground of the renewed call to conversion, and with repeated earnest accusation of Israel (Ezekiel 33, 34, 36), so the promises of God for His people are accompanied by the tone of judgment on the hostile world-powers, their judgment and downfall—comp. Ezekiel 35, 38, 39—as contrast, background, as well as necessary transition to the glorification of the Lord in His kingdom; and so there belong also to this class the predictions, Ezekiel 32:1-32, Ezekiel 29:17-21; Ezekiel 30:1-19, which thus occupy in the transition section (A—B) a preparatory place.
It is likewise clear from the above table, that many a question will have to be answered just by the detailed exposition of the passages referred to, and perhaps only in accordance with probability.
§ 7. The Characteristics Of Ezekiel’s Prophecy
J. Görres says, in the second volume of his History of the Myths of the Asiatic World (p. 477), of our prophet: “Like a flame from heaven, Ezekiel blazes up darkly glowing, a great strong nature, his imagination a furnace of seething metal, genuinely oriental in his whole character.” Giving prominence to more than the mere natural peculiarity of Ezekiel, Hengstenberg draws the picture in his Christology: “A spiritual Samson, who with strong arm grasped the pillars of the idol temple and dashed it to the ground; a powerful gigantic nature, which by that very circumstance was fitted effectively to combat the Babylonian spirit of the age, which was fond of powerful, gigantic, grotesque forms, standing alone, but equal to a hundred trained in the schools of the prophets.”
We may begin the discussion of the characteristics, as Ezekiel’s book of prophecies exhibits them, by pointing back to the interpretation of his name (§ 1). His prophetic peculiarity and manner of representation is reflected first of all in general, and that throughout, in his name. Comp. also § 2.10
Then, in particular, above other things, emphasis must be laid on the priestly stamp which the prophecy of Ezekiel bears. If Keil (Bibl. Comm. p. 9) appears to have his difficulties in this respect, he is certainly right as against the opposite views brought forward by him; but this predominantly “symbolical and allegorical dress,” which is “carried out into the most minute details,” as it belongs to Ezekiel above “all other prophets,” could with difficulty in the case of a Jew be better obtained than in the Levitical service, than in the temple at Jerusalem, than by means of a priestly education and training,—in short, in a priestly-Levitical way. A Levite lived in the Mosaic worship, a priest lived in the midst of symbolism and allegory; he became accustomed to it (especially if he brought along with him a mind suited for it, and possessed the sanctified imagination of Ezekiel) from his surroundings, from his whole actings, as it were involuntarily as his prevailing mode of expression. Thus “lie the elements,” as Keil, following Hävernick, remarks, for the vision at the very commencement (Ezekiel 1:0), “in the enthronement of Jehovah above the cherubim on the lid of the ark of the covenant,” consequently in what was of necessity the crowning-point of a priest’s life and of priestly contemplation, according to Leviticus 16:0. As the glory of Jehovah is the ruling element in the whole book, its priestly keynote is thus sufficiently indicated; but the closing chapters, with the prophetic description of the new temple, etc., completely reveal the priest-prophet, and are only to be explained from a genuine priestly fancy.11
A further characteristic of the method of Ezekiel’s prophecy is a lofty ideality, a high figurativeness leaving far behind it the usual forms of existence, side by side on the other hand with a severe realism, encountering sensualism sensually. Both elements in their contrasts, in their conflict with one another, give to the prophetic form of Ezekiel an eminently original vivacity.12
His sojourn in exile may be looked upon as contributing to this in a twofold respect: in the first place, in so far as our prophet was thereby withdrawn from the proper scene of events; and in the second place, inasmuch as he was at the same time placed in the midst of the Babylonian world.
If Jeremiah is himself present on the scene of events, is every instant enduring his part in the vicissitude of actual occurrences, has to interfere in the circumstances lying immediately before him, and if therefore he led a more stirring outward life, his style corresponds therewith—that of more popular prophetic discourse; his whole activity takes its complexion from the particular actual occurrence. Ezekiel, on the other hand, far as he was from Judea, standing face to face with the imaginings of the exiles (whatever inner connection these forced with the fatherland), amid the most diverse rumours, dispositions, and feelings, was pointed to the divine communication by means of revelation. It is therefore only fitting if he looks at things as from afar, thus from the divine idea of Jehovah’s self-accomplishing glory. His activity thus ideally conditioned concerns itself with the certain fact chiefly according to its essence, in its necessity and character of fact as such. On the height, it is not so much the ever-recurring gust of wind, the whirling dust, the falling of the heavy raindrops, and anon the first flash of lightning, the rolling of the first thunder, that affects us; it is especially the existence of the thunder-cloud coming from afar that has the power to engross our attention. In the distance from where the event actually occurs as an isolated phenomenon, the prophetic life will be for the most part internal,—a contemplative, ideal one; instead of the separate occurrences, by means of which the fact is accomplished on its theatre, there will meet us here, according to individuality and surroundings, as well as (in the case of a prophet) ever under the special divine impulse (in vision), the separate forms of representation, by means of which the contemplative spirit seeks to put in shape for itself and others the ruling idea of the whole. Hence, to make of Ezekiel a recluse and pedant,—to fancy him, as Ewald does, “a mere literary man confined to his own house and the narrow limits of domestic life” (The Prophets of the Old Covenant, ii. p. 210),—will appear to a believer in an extraordinary divine revelation to be an idea which may be mentioned because of its singularity, not refuted. Only on the standpoint of rationalistic or naturalistic materialism, where one makes the prophets at his own hand (comp. another passage at p. 203), are such conceptions and representations at home. The high position of Ezekiel in God’s fixed purpose—the more so that he has his abode far from the sinking fatherland, among his fellow-captives by the Chebar—explains, in connection with his poetic gift (acknowledged even by Ewald), sufficiently the lofty ideality of his prophetic mode of representation.13
As to what has been maintained on the other side with respect to the “influence of the Babylonian spirit and taste on the form of his prophecy,” viz. in reference to his symbolism, we must agree with Keil in the view, that the admission “of Old Testament ideas and views,” alike for the contents and for the form, in general is sufficient (comp. the work referred to, p. 6 sqq.); on the other hand, as respects the filling up of the picture in detail, the exposition may indeed specify many an Assyro-Babylonian feature.
Thus Ezekiel 40:0 sqq., with their architectural finish and picturesqueness of detail, transport us in a lively way into the midst of the immense architectural labours of Nebuchadnezzar, by means of which, when returned home from his victories, he transformed his metropolis Babylon into the finest14 city of the world, not merely adorning and enlarging it, but fortifying it quite as much, just as, in like manner, in order to preserve the original territory of the kingdom, the land of Shinar, and the capital, from the Medes, he caused the so-called Median wall to be carried across from the Euphrates to the Tigris. The late Professor Hengstenberg said to me long ago, in course of a conversation about the last chapters of Ezekiel, the prophet must certainly have had a “knowledge of building,” just as, e.g., Riggenbach’s treatise also on the tabernacle betrays such knowledge. At all events, the probability is as great of there being a natural substratum for the detailed restoration of the divine visions at the close of his book in what the priest of Judah in Babylonian exile, by means of Nebuchadnezzar’s15 immense buildings in city and country, was able to appropriate from what he saw and understood in this connection. Nay rather, in contrast with the buildings of Nebuchadnezzar, the building of Jehovah rises up in Ezekiel as the architectural antithesis of the kingdom of God to the kingdoms of this world, as these latter are symbolized and typified by the world-empire of Nebuchadnezzar. In this way, face to face with “the dominion of the world-powers,” as Auberlen designates the stadium of the Babylonian captivity “in the history of the development of the kingdom of God,” a significant memento was set up. Our view is, that the impression which the melting and expenditure of brass and of gold necessary for the gigantic buildings of Nebuchadnezzar, and the innumerable brick kilns, were fitted to make, is to be met with in comparisons such as Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:7; Ezekiel 1:13; Ezekiel 1:27; Ezekiel 8:2; Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 22:20; Ezekiel 22:22, etc.
But especially the designedly sensual realism16 of the representation, of the singular mode of expression in chapters like Ezekiel 16:23, seems to have borrowed its colouring from the so notorious gross sensuality of the Babylonian idolatry, in which the most unbridled, most shameless naturalism prevailed. Thus Herodotus relates of the temple of Bel, that in the chapel in the uppermost tower “there is a bed quite prepared,” and that “no one spends the night in it but a woman of the land whom the god appoints.” Bilitta, or Mylitta, the great goddess of nature, who combined the contrasted qualities of the heavenly and the popular Venus, Tauth and Zarpanit, demanded usually of every woman of the land once in her life her prostitution to a stranger as an offering. So Nana or Zarpanit, worshipped at Kutha, bore the surname of Succoth-Benoth, which likewise points to such prostitutions in honour of the goddess. Comp. the apocryphal epistle of Jeremiah, vers. 42, 43.
From the circumstance that our prophet was placed in the midst of the Babylonian world, yet another peculiarity characterizing him and his book is explained, viz. his surprisingly accurate knowledge of foreign nations and their affairs (comp. Ezekiel 26:0 sqq., 38, 39). In this respect he makes the impression of a man who has travelled much and far. Naturally, Ewald finds in this a confirmation of his strange view of Ezekiel sitting over his books, of the “literary and learned man” at the expense of the genuine prophet.17 It is true: “the position and circumstances of the nations and countries of the earth are described by him with a comprehensiveness and a historical vividness such as belongs to no other prophet.” But for this there was no need in the kingdom of Babylon of any far-fetched “learning;” it was enough, with an actual interest and the necessary mental endowments,—which even the mastery of his materials possessed by Ezekiel sufficiently shows,—if there were simply open eyes and ears, for Babylon was one of the centres of eastern commerce (Ezekiel 17:4; Ezekiel 16:29), as its geographical position, where Higher and Lower Asia meet, between two great rivers, which placed it in connection with the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, amply justifies, and as may also be shown in other ways. At this market-place so situated, the caravans of the east and west came together, and the mariners of Africa, Arabia, and India met one another. Here they obtained by barter the products of Babylonian industry, which was employed, down even to the villages, e.g. in woollen and linen weaving, in the manufacture of garments and carpets. Babylonian weapons, furniture, jewellery, and other fancy goods were articles not less desired. On the other hand, there came to Babylon wines from Armenia, precious stones and large dogs from India, as also the finest woollen stuffs from Persia, perfumes, spices, gold, ivory, and ebony from Arabia and Ethiopia. In the city of Babylon the great world-roads converged (comp. Lenormant, p. 35 sqq.). In addition, a powerful navy; Babylonian ships sailed over the Persian Gulf. According to Strabo, there were factories and colonies of Babylonians in distant lands.
One sees that the Babylonian exile had a similar task to that of the sojourn of the people in Egypt in former days; it was only a more advanced secular school for the Jews.
If now we must specify vision and symbolism as being, to a considerable extent, the characteristic of Ezekiel’s prophecy, there is thus expressed a departure from the previous fundamental form of prophecy, viz. inspired popular discourse (which is the peculiarity e.g. of Isaiah, and also of Jeremiah even), and an approach to Daniel’s peculiarity. What steps more into the background with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets (Isaiah 6:0; Jeremiah 24:0), begins to be more prominent in Ezekiel, although “the word of Jehovah” also comes to him repeatedly along with it.18 The lower form of dream is not found in our prophet; but divine revelation comes to him in a waking state, in the higher form of vision (Ezekiel 1:8 sqq., 40 sqq.); and just as in the dream plastic symbolism is the rule, so symbolic representation, figurative and allegorical discourse, parabolic speech, the enigmatic is the seer’s mode of expression in word as in action (Ezekiel 1:15, Ezekiel 1:17, Ezekiel 1:3, Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:5, etc.). Hess: “One might call it pantomimic.” The more that God is unveiled before the prophet, in so much the more veiled a way does he shape his reproduction of what he has seen for the profane multitude. (Comp. in this connection the phenomena in the case of one who has risen from the dead. Auberlen quotes also Matthew 13:10 sqq.19) Only when Ezekiel is to be at the same time an expositor, and he is so almost throughout (Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 4:3; Ezekiel 4:13 sqq., 17),—it is in this way the transition is made in his case to the plain word, to the prophetic popular discourse,—do logical thought and conceptions again make their appearance. That being in the Spirit (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2), as distinguished from this speaking in the Spirit, is the apocalyptic element of Ezekiel. He testifies of it from the beginning (Ezekiel 1:1): that “the heavens were opened,” and “he saw visions of God.” (Comp. the profound remarks of Auberlen on the three forms of Old Testament revelation, Theophany, Prophecy, Apocalypse, in his Daniel and Revelation, p. 70 sqq.20)
We shall also in the case of Ezekiel be able to speak of “a look that is all-embracing” according to Auberlen the one peculiarity of apocalypse, just as we shall meet in our prophet with the other peculiarity remarked by him, “specialty of prediction,” that apocalypse “gives more of the detail of universal history and more eschatological detail than prophecy,” not exactly in the way in which it occurs in Daniel, but yet in similar fashion. Hävernick says: “Rightly did Witsius call the donum prophetiæ of our prophet incomparabile. True indeed, he grasps the future more in its general features,—the most comprehensive possible form of the kingdom of God as a whole,—but along with that there are not wanting also remarkable glimpses into the detail of the future, predictions strictly so called, on which by means of their exact fulfilment the seal of truth and of divine enlightenment on the part of the prophet is impressed, Ezekiel 26:0 sqq., Ezekiel 12:12 sqq., 24; comp. Ezekiel 33:0” (Ezekiel 11:10; comp. with Jeremiah 52:10). Year, month, and day are given us; it is the prophet’s conscious intention to remove every suspicion of a vaticinii post eventum.
But apart from these definite predictions, the general sensuousness, the complete visibility of the prophetic form of Ezekiel is the suitable counterpart of the Chaldean world which so caught the eye, and amid which Israel is in a state of dread; and still more was it, on the other hand, adapted for the comfortless despondency and almost despair of those banished thither, from whom everything visible, which had been to them a pledge of the divine favour,—land, and city, and temple, and the beautiful ordinances of divine worship,—seemed to have vanished for ever, to comfort them against the whole aspect of things visible with something visible from God, and as it were palpably heavenly. For this purpose there lies a security from God in the appearance of Ezekiel, a sacramental character, one might say, to which, equally with the most definite predictions, a number of formulas recurring through the whole book contribute, such as. “and they shall know that I am Jehovah,” or, “they shall know that a prophet is in their midst,” “and the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying,” “the hand of Jehovah came upon me,” or the like, “as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah,” “I, Jehovah, have said it,” etc. (“Thus saith Jehovah the Lord” occurs, according to Kliefoth’s reckoning, 121 times.) To perceive in such formulas (as Ewald does) “as it were an encouraging of themselves on the part of the fainting prophetic order,” or even the boastful, stupid weakness of old age, is to misunderstand the intentional emphasizing of the divine origin and contents, which Ezekiel claims for his announcements. Not less does our prophet over and over again emphasize the divine commission, the divine impulse, to speak this, to do this or that (Ezekiel 6:1; Ezekiel 13:2; Ezekiel 13:17; Ezekiel 16:2; Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 35:2; Ezekiel 36:1; Ezekiel 38:2; Ezekiel 3:1 sqq., Ezekiel 4:4 sqq., Ezekiel 12:1 sqq., Ezekiel 21:24 sqq., etc.). This is the more suitable in confronting his doubting, unbelieving, and rebellious hearers, especially for the opening apocalypse, where, in the case of the visions and symbols, mere human imagination might very greatly deceive itself and impose upon others. But Ezekiel is from the first set by Jehovah to speak and to execute the words of Him who thus commissioned him, and of Him only; his whole book is the fulfilment, and nothing more, of the symbolic procedure in Ezekiel 2:8 sqq.
In connection with this we must also understand the standing address of God to the prophet “son of man,” viz. of one who of himself would be quite incapable of such communications, flesh of flesh, man of man!
As regards the close connection of Ezekiel with the Pentateuch, Keil is perfectly right in asserting that he has this “in common with all the prophets.” “Along with his immediate predecessor Jeremiah, he is distinguished in this respect from the earlier prophets by the fact that the verbal references in both become more frequent and appear more prominent, which is accounted for chiefly by the circumstance, that the apostasy from the law had become so great, in consequence of which the judgments already threatened in the Pentateuch were falling upon them,” etc. Ewald says that Ezekiel “makes use of the Pentateuch as a matter of pure learning” and certainly without genuine “prophetic originality and independence;” but the complete proof to the contrary is already furnished by his mode of understanding—which is not only sensible, but a result of his being filled with the Holy Ghost—this very ceremonial law in an eschatological or Christological respect. In reference to the moral law, we may compare, as against Ewald, Ezekiel 18:0, for example, of which chapter Umbreit remarks that it “brings out in the most splendid manner the ethical character of our priestly prophet.” “If one sees in the ceremonial law narrow and narrowing forms, crippling our mental freedom, then certainly the entering on the same, as Ezekiel does, itself appears as a narrow-mindedness. But the law has a higher significance for the prophet; and with how free a step intellectually—with all his attachment, fidelity, love to the same—he enters on the subject, is shown by the deeper apprehension of the ideas which are enstamped on the ordinances of the law and of the spiritual import of the legal forms, so that, as the very section Ezekiel 40:0 sqq. shows, he stands in a relation of nowise slavish dependence on the law, but has clearly recognised its exact significance for the period of the Old and of the New Covenants, alike in their agreement and in their diversity” (Häv.). How different is Ezekiel’s way of dealing with the law from that of Ezra, also a priest, the scribe! Comp. besides Oehler (Herzog’s Real-Encycl. xii. pp. 227, 229). “The position of Ezekiel among the exiles,” remarks the latter, “is to be compared relatively with that of the prophets in the kingdom of the ten tribes;—among the captives of Israel, where the tendency to idolatry was deeply rooted (Ezekiel 14:3 sqq.), and where also still later (Isaiah 65:0) the apostasy spread mightily, to preserve a religious community, within which the Church of the future might be perpetuated. This object was also served by the maintenance in particular of the sabbath-festival, a salutary fence for the people thrown among the heathen, a protection against the ways of the heathen,” etc.
As to the “literary style” of Ezekiel, Ewald’s judgment is, that his mode of representation “seldom falls away, like that of Jeremiah, easily recovers itself, and as a rule is beautifully rounded off; his language has already, scattered here and there, many an Aramaic and otherwise foreign element, the influx of the exile, yet fortunately it leans most on the older models; the discourse is rich in rare comparisons, often charming, and at the same time striking, full of manifold turnings (which are often beautifully elaborated), and where it rises higher, of genuine dramatic liveliness; it has also a certain evenness and repose, in contrast with Jeremiah,” etc. Comp. Häv. Comm: p. xxiii; Keil, Comm. p. 10; Zunz, Gottesdienstl. Vortr. d. Juden, p. 159, who adduce, besides, the expressions original to Ezekiel, not occurring elsewhere, which perhaps are formed by himself. Schiller (as Richter tells us) read Ezekiel with the greatest pleasure, because of his finished glorious pictures, and wished even yet to learn Hebrew, in order to be able to read him correctly. Herder calls our prophet “the Æschylus and Shakespeare of the Hebrews.”
§ 8. Composition, Collection, Arrangement, Genuineness Of The Book
The book which bears Ezekiel’s name is pervaded throughout by one and the same spirit alike of God and of man. In all its separate parts there meets us, as respects contents and form, mode of representation and language, the same very peculiar stamp of this prophet. Ewald acknowledges: “Even the slightest attention shows, that everything in it really proceeds from his hand.” De Wette: “That Ezekiel, who usually speaks of himself in the first person, has written down everything himself, is a matter of no doubt.” Gesenius: “The book belongs to that not very numerous class, which from beginning to end maintain a unity of tone, which is evinced by favourite expressions and peculiar phrases; and by this circumstance alone every suspicion of spuriousness as regards particular sections might be averted.”
“Groundless doubts,” De Wette calls them (Introd. 7th edit.). Those of some of the Rabbins (comp. H. Witsii, Misc. s. 1.Ezekiel 19:9; Ezekiel 19:9) “were merely dogmatic;” the learned Jew Zunz has lost himself on the same path towards the Persian epoch. Keil, Introd. p. 362 [Clark’s Trans.].
But although, as Keil concludes, “the genuineness of Ezekiel’s prophecies is at present (1868) acknowledged with one voice by all critics, just as also no doubt any longer exists on this point, that the writing down and editing of the same in the book handed down to us has been executed by the prophet himself:” “yet as to the manner in which the whole book originated, its collection and arrangement, a general understanding has by no means been arrived at” (Hävernick).
The “want of arrangement,” which Jahn remarked in his Introduction, because of the interruption of the chronological sequence by the prophecies against foreign nations (Ezekiel 29:17 sqq., Ezekiel 26:1, Ezekiel 29:1, 35, 38, 39),21 may in general be regarded as cleared up by §§ 5 and 6, as to the detail the exposition will have to step forward; to ascribe it to the “copy of the transcriber or collector,” is, from perplexity, to adopt a view which explains nothing.
Eichhorn in his Introduction adopted the supposition of small separate book-rolls, upon one of which, for the sake of economy, often two prophecies of the most diverse periods were written, the collector having shrunk from the trouble of re-transcribing them, and contented himself with the putting together of the separate rolls (!!).
In support of the view which ascribes the collection also to Ezekiel himself, Hävernick in his Comm. urges the following: (1) the systematic arrangement, which throughout corresponds to the contents, and combines strictly chronological sequence with arrangement according to subject-matter (in the prophecies against foreign nations); (2) the closest internal connection in the whole and in the separate parts, where every separate section looks back to the preceding; (3) the occasional closing notices, which in the collection of the whole have been appended most suitably by the prophet himself.
Ewald makes our book “first to have originated gradually from several layers, the mass not to have been written till several years after the destruction of Jerusalem in the leisure of domestic life;” it is “quite possible that Ezekiel began to write down many a thing even before the destruction of Jerusalem” (Ezekiel 17:19; Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 17:20). Comp. said work, p. 213 sqq.
In favour of the written composition by Ezekiel, Ezekiel 2:9-10 is certainly not without significance.22 And where our prophet had not the temple with the people flocking together for oral address before him, where he could approach his auditory, the exiles scattered throughout the Chaldean empire, only by means of written communication, there is no necessity whatever, in support of a speedy written composition of the separate discourses, prophecies, visions, to draw the inference from Jeremiah 29:0 that there was also a more extensive written intercourse between the place of exile and the fatherland. Yet Bleek in his Introd. urges, as an argument for their being originally committed to writing, and that not long after the revelation, the sentences with respect to the Jews in Jerusalem before the destruction of the city and with respect to the foreign nations, whilst he finds a later re-touching not unlikely. If it was “the prophetic custom of this period especially” (Häv.), comp. Daniel 7:1, Jeremiah 36:0, to commit prophecies to writing immediately, then must the view, that in the case of Ezekiel also the written composition of the separate parts preceded the collection and arrangement of the whole by the prophet,—a view which is specially favoured by the very uniform setting of the separate pieces, by the similarity of the inscriptions, where they are found, by the recurring insertion with the formula “and the word of Jehovah came unto me,”—appear so much the more natural. Prophecies like those which form the close of the book, must have been sketched in writing before being orally delivered, and may afterwards have been amplified. The dates of Ezekiel are by no means “kept in so general a form” as Ewald asserts; year, month, and day are given, rather like the deliberate consciousness of the moment, than at random according to a very much later recollection. The peculiar description in detail of our prophet may also certainly be traced back with Hävernick to the strength and freshness of a present revelation and ecstasy, and may be used as an argument for written composition before the preparation of the whole. Comp. besides, Kliefoth, p. 81 sqq.
That “the Masoretic text” is “more faulty than in almost any other book of the Old Testament,” is an exaggeration on the part of Ewald. Just as little was it “still in the hands of the LXX. in a far purer form” (Hitzig). But yet the comparison of the latter, as well as of the Peschito, is interesting for settling, or at least throwing light upon difficult cases. To the Alexandrian Philo the Greek translation of Ezekiel, with whom certainly he had the greatest sympathy, appears not to have been at all accessible. (Frankel, Vorstudien zu der Sept. p. 39.)
§ 9. The Christology Of Ezekiel
“The Old Testament Christology is a result of this circumstance, that the divine promise comes forth from the judgment of God” (Lange); and the fall of Jerusalem may be looked upon as the element which determines the second group of the Messianic prophecies. Comp. Lange, Pos. Dog. p. 674. And so throughout the announcement of future salvation has as its precursor the judicial activity of Jehovah. There there is no rest, till the last extremity has been reached, and the last drops of Judah have been scattered among the heathen. This background of judgment, on which the Christological prophecy of Ezekiel displays itself, is therefore the universal Old Testament one of the prophets,23 just as he occupies it specially in common with Jeremiah.
Thus Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:13) cries with loud voice, that God is making a full end of the remnant of Israel, and receives thereupon the promise (Ezekiel 11:16), that the Eternal Himself will be “as a sanctuary” to the exiles for the short time of their banishment. Out of apparently complete extermination in judgment there rises up what in a certain measure already forms a preparation for the close of the book.
Yet the priestly element can neither on this account, nor on the whole, be regarded as the peculiarity of Ezekiel’s Christology. The utmost we can maintain is, that it is a predominant element in the manner of our prophet’s conception and representation (comp. § 7) in this respect also. For the priestly conception is certainly to be found in Jeremiah too, for example, and just in Ezekiel 3:14-17, where Hävernick finds “Jeremiah’s fundamental idea” of the Messianic salvation expressed. It can also with difficulty be shown, at least in the case of Ezekiel, that, as Lange asserts, “the kingly office of the Messiah steps into the background;” it may be admitted with respect to His prophetic office. For, in accordance with Exodus 19:6,—“the gospel of the Old Testament” (to use the words of Ewald),—the kingdom remains the keynote, and the all-pervading view of the Messiah is that of the King, whether resting on 2 Samuel 7:0, or going back to Genesis 5:9. Not only does Ezekiel share such an expectation with all the prophets, but immediately on his opening up the Messianic prospect, in Ezekiel 17:22-24, we have the planting of the cedar “on the high mountain of Israel,” i.e. the raising up of the Davidic kingdom, to whose protection the nations will submit themselves (comp. besides on Ezekiel 20:33; Ezekiel 20:37). The “coming One” of Ezekiel 21:32, “whose right it is” (“perhaps with allusion to the already Messianically interpreted passage, Genesis 49:10,” remarks Bleek), is at all events a king. And just to the same effect we shall have to interpret Ezekiel 29:21, especially the causing “the horn to bud forth.” But now even in Ezekiel 34:0,—while, with Tholuck, we must admit that “the name of shepherd corresponds to that of ruler in its ethical idea,”—where Jehovah takes upon Himself the care of the flock scattered under the bad shepherds (ver. 11 sqq.), this is to be done by means of His servant David, so that the servant of the Lord is neither the people, nor the true Israel, nor the prophetic order, nor even the Messiah-prophet, but, as ver. 24 expressly says, “the prince.” Comp. in addition, Ezekiel 37:22; Ezekiel 37:24-25 : “My servant David shall be prince over them,” etc., “and David My servant shall be their prince for ever.”
We may accordingly assert rather, that the kingly office is prominent in Ezekiel’s picture of the Messiah, and that, along with the prophetic office, the Messianic priesthood as well remains in the background with our prophet. At Ezekiel 21:31 [26, Eng. vers.] the priestly dignity, which Tholuck holds to be still a matter of controversy, appears at most in union with the kingly. Among the priests of the temple (Ezekiel 40:0 sqq.) the high priest is not named, but a high-priestly mode of acting is made the duty of the priests. These are to become a high-priesthood, just as the whole temple becomes a holy of holies. That “the Lord” is “at the same time the high priest,” is not to be inferred from this circumstance. Undoubtedly “the man” in Ezekiel 43:6 is neither the one nor the other; and when it is there said by the glory of Jehovah, when it enters, with respect to the ark of the covenant, “the place of My throne,” this comes rather from the lips of God as King, than from the lips of a high priest.
On the whole, the peculiarity of Ezekiel in his Christological relations may perhaps be said to attach less to the personality, which, as so circumstanced and clothed with such an office, by this or that other work, mediates the Messianic salvation, than to this salvation itself. As with Jeremiah already expressly the “Jehovah our Righteousness” of the Messiah (Ezekiel 23:6) passes over to the Messianic people (Ezekiel 33:16), so Ezekiel’s prophecy occupies itself peculiarly with the Messianic salvation of the people. That of course is, just as elsewhere also in the prophets, that Judah, and along with Judah Israel also, is to return from the exile. The deliverance from Babylon and that other very different redemption run into one another, just like the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgment in the eschatological discourses of Jesus. Nor can it be looked upon as anything peculiar, that this outward return is conceived of Messianically as an internal one, as conversion to the Lord; for the case is the same with Jeremiah (Ezekiel 24:5 sqq., Ezekiel 31:10 sqq., Ezekiel 30:18 sqq.). But although the subjective side is not forgotten, that the remnant shall remember and loathe themselves (Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 18:31 even, Ezekiel 36:31 sqq.), yet the objective testimony preponderates even in Ezekiel 11:16 : “I will be to them as a sanctuary.” Of course this “Jehovah as a sanctuary” may be looked upon as Ezekiel’s parallel to Jeremiah’s “Jehovah our Righteousness,” and compared with Jeremiah 3:16-17, Ezekiel 20:40 sqq. The fundamental idea of Israel is “a kingdom of priests” “a holy people,” whose head is the King-priest, the Messiah, Ezekiel 37:23; Ezekiel 37:28. If, however, Jeremiah, in describing the Messianic salvation, as it will be accomplished in the people, as they will be put in possession of it, speaks of the “heart,” which God will give, to know Him, of the “new covenant,” where God “puts His law in their inward part and writes it on their heart,” of the “one heart and one way” (Jeremiah 32:39 sqq.), Ezekiel on his part, and that just at Ezekiel 11:19, employs similar language, but the “new spirit,” like “the spirit” occurring before in Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:20 sqq., is characteristic, is something additional (Ezekiel 18:31); comp. besides, Ezekiel 16:60 sqq. The Messianic salvation of the people (quite in harmony with the character of the book, according to Ezekiel 1:0) is described as a sanctifying or glorifying of God in, as well as upon Israel (Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 39:27; comp. John 16:14). Based on this thought there arises the cleansing (Ezekiel 36:22 sqq.; comp. Ezekiel 36:32-33; Ezekiel 37:23), which the Messianic period holds out in prospect (ver. 25), and the gift of a new heart and new spirit (ver. 26), which again (ver. 27) is made to include in it the fact, that God puts His Spirit in their breast. The putting of the Divine Spirit in the whole house of Israel forms the kernel of the very characteristic vision of Ezekiel 37:0 (comp. ver. 14), and is expressly spoken of in Ezekiel 39:29 as the outpouring of the Spirit of Jehovah upon the house of Israel. That and nothing else is the peculiarity of the Christology of Ezekiel; in other words: the development of the Messiah, the Spirit-anointed of God, the Christ, into Christianity in the true Israel. Hence, “the peculiar blessing of the temple” (Ezekiel 40:0 sqq.) is “its water-spring,” Ezekiel 47:0 (Lange), which is at the same time the key to the understanding of these closing chapters of our book (John 7:38-39). Its Christology moves already within the circle of the economy of the Holy Spirit; nay, even Ezekiel 1:0 of our prophet is to be understood in accordance with John 16:14. One might say: ecclesiastically, while Daniel prophesies of the Messiah in His kingdom above all politically, on the side of the world. Comp. besides, the following section.
§ 10. of the use, theological import, and different ways of understanding the book of ezekiel
Starke’s Bibelwerk, v. p. 1703, says at § Ezekiel 14:0 : “Godly readers find in this book profit and edification enough,” to wit, in general: “in distress and trouble comfort and consolation,” as well as “the most delightful instruction as to a God-pleasing walk.” “Everywhere one perceives how earnestly God seeks to awaken men, and to deliver them from the power of darkness, sometimes by promises, sometimes by threatenings, but sometimes also, if words are going to prove of no avail, by means of public calamities.” “But in particular the prophet serves—(1) to give us the knowledge of the divine mercy, righteousness, truth, and power; (2) to give us the knowledge of the hatefulness of sin, for whose sake whole kingdoms are laid waste; (3) he gives us rules as to what every one has to do in his office on the breaking out of God’s judgments; (4) he warns us how we are to be on our guard, etc., against false security, apostasy, presumption, hypocrisy, and the like; (5) and how, in the midst of the greatest corruption and severest oppression of the Church, we ought not to lose heart altogether, but to believe assuredly, that, as God is able to punish and exterminate His enemies, so also He is able to improve, protect, and make His Church glorious.”
Ewald shows how this use for all time connects itself with the immediate aims of Ezekiel in the publication of his book, when he remarks among other things: “For one thing, he had to show that Jerusalem must fall, because it was in itself, and had been for long, in a state of irremediable confusion and perversity, and therein at the same time for the living there lay the right lesson and warning for the future; but, secondly, he must also set forth the certainty of a better future, and of the indestructibility of the true Church, and bring out clearly the genuine hope as opposed to despair, as well as in opposition to hasty and vain expectations; in keeping alive the sacred fire during the long period of the exile this book certainly had no small influence,” etc. Jesus Sirach expresses himself in these terms about our prophet, according to Fritzsche’s translation (Sir 49:8-9): “Ezekiel beheld the vision of glory, which the Lord caused him to see upon the chariot of the cherubim; for he made mention of the enemies in wrath, and did good to those who walked in right ways; but he comforted Jacob, and delivered them by assured hope.”24
As regards the import of Ezekiel theologically considered, we shall the more readily abide by what the son of Sirach makes a starting-point, as the glory of God has already repeatedly been found by us to be of importance in getting at the contents of our book. In this way Ezekiel’s theology is characteristically indicated. If, distinctively, God’s “majesty” expresses His incomparable and immeasurable exaltation above heaven and earth, that unique, absolutely perfect independence of His being, in virtue of which He is God alone, in whom the greatness, power, beauty, continuance, and splendour of life are properly inherent, then Ezekiel makes known to us the glory of Jehovah as being the self-representation of the divine life-form in order to manifestation. As the “majesty” would be the sum of all supramundane divine attributes, so, according to him, the glory is the whole manifestation of God in mundane things. As the divine “majesty”—which by this means is shown to be moral—has as its counterpart the “holiness” of God, in accordance with which God is Himself pure, so the divine glory finds its counterpart in the righteousness of God, in virtue of which God, as Cleanser or Sanctifier, alike in judgment and in mercy, restores as well as displays His glory in the world. The righteousness of God is, next to the glory of God, and in connection therewith, the peculiar theologoumenon of Ezekiel. From this theological standpoint he delineates the downfall of Jerusalem, and likewise the downfall of the heathen nations referred to. Both have refused in free surrender to consecrate themselves to God, but have as much as ever they could in their own case treated God profanely, and made the world on its part unclean. The divine righteousness in judgment, as it is executed on both, adjusts this disorder, this contradiction as regards God’s manifestation in the world, as regards His divine glory, through their being taken away by force, inasmuch as God consecrates to Himself the one as well as the other as a sacrifice, and in this way making atonement for the sin by means of the punishment, cleanses the world also, which is destined to be and to become full of His glory, and thus restores His glory in this respect. From the same theological standpoint mercy and salvation also are conceived of in Ezekiel, and in fact under the presupposition of a substitution. “For the righteousness of God,” says Beck (Lehrsätze, p. 115 sqq.), “is hallowed not merely in punishing, but also in putting again to rights and creating anew, when He puts His law as light and spirit outwardly and inwardly in the life, and sets up with creative power in the world, as its everlasting salvation, the reign of law which had been interrupted by sin.” The self-manifestation of His glory is on this side, in fact, also its restoration through righteousness, but still more its blissful and lovely exhibition. Although a substitutionary suffering of the Servant of God, as in Isaiah 53:0, is not met with in Ezekiel, yet the cleansing of Ezekiel 36:25 is conceived of as one effected by priestly mediation; and the fact that substitution is no strange thought to our prophet, that such a view is with him fundamental, and will therefore also be presupposed by him for the salvation of Israel through the mercy of God, is shown by the tetralogy of recurring passages, Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:16; Ezekiel 14:18; Ezekiel 14:20. As there is no one now among the people, either prophet, or priest, or king, able to step into the breach, a substitution is demanded, by means of which full atonement can be made, by means of which righteousness gains the victory, and the glory of Jehovah in grace and mercy comes to be manifested. (Comp. besides, Oehler’s very suggestive article in Herzog, 9. p. 419.) Hence the word of the prophet ever again just demands conversion to God, with whom all things are possible, while the delusion of a substitutionary suffering of the children for the guilt of their fathers is dismissed in the most energetic and decided way in Ezekiel 18:0. For the righteousness which Ezekiel holds up as a righteousness for man is “to do what is lawful and right,” “to deal truly” (Ezekiel 18:5; Ezekiel 18:9), “to be righteous,” and not to depart from righteousness, therefore also to remain righteous (vers. 24, 26): so that these children can neither know themselves to be guiltless, so as even to be capable of a substitution for their fathers, nor durst they allow themselves to be satisfied with a righteousness of pious pretence (in contrast with one that is personal and actual, and real and abiding);25 but they are to make themselves a new heart and a new spirit (ver. 31). As in particular this closing demand of the 18th chapter, in which the whole discourse about righteousness culminates, lets it be seen that the way of Israel’s thoughts hitherto has been a false one, inasmuch as the matter in hand is more a conversion, will involve the new birth, a new creation, so in this way there rises into view, at the same time, as the true way for every man, the way to God, and therein the way of God, that God who “has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth” (vers. 32, 33, Ezekiel 33:0), as the way of life. Each for himself, so runs with Ezekiel the antithesis to all fancied substitution in the judgment of God, an antithesis which leads to death (ver. 4). But as God wills the life of him who “turns from his way,” the true way of life must offer a better, even a true substitution.
Baumgarten, however, gives less prominence (Herzog’s Real-Encyl. iv. p. 298 sqq.) to such an ethico-theological meaning of our book than to an eschatological one, when he asserts, “that according to Scripture Israel’s state of captivity by no means ceases after the return of a few thousands to Jerusalem under Cyrus, but continues down to the present day, and will last until the general conversion of Israel.” The interpretation attempted from this point of view of the vision in Ezekiel 1:0, of the “prophetic word during the exile,” of the “labours of Ezekiel during Israel’s captivity,”—one may apply to it Baumgarten’s own words—“drags into the passage with one’s own hand the very thing that is to be proved from it.” Here, however, the opportunity presents itself, before we enter on the exposition of the book of Ezekiel, of discussing the different modes of interpreting it. Baumgarten finds in the passage quoted, that in Ezekiel 1-3. (comp. Ezekiel 11:22-23) “it is shown most clearly that a new method of revelation on God’s part is to begin, wherewith there is given in Israel, even without the instrumentality of the sanctuary and the priestly service, a possibility of further development and progress;” and then, in support of this view, he brings forward “as a new (?) beginning of inner development” the “prophetic position and labours of Ezekiel during the exile,” in connection with which reference is made to Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 11:25; Ezekiel 13:23 (Ezekiel 14:1), Ezekiel 20:1, Ezekiel 24:19, Ezekiel 33:31-32, just as the continuation is found “in the ordinance of the synagogue down to the present day.” “What, above all, the meaning of the last third of the book amounts to,” Baumgarten gives as follows, Ezekiel 36:37 : “a resurrection of the dead and buried nation, and an everlasting spring for their frost-bound land, as soon as the spirit of prophecy shall prove mighty enough, in the power of its divine source, to breathe upon and wake up this field of the dead,—which the prophet even is able to do as yet only in type (Ezekiel 37:3; Ezekiel 37:7),—when the spirit of the prophetic word shall have entirely filled the Gentile world, or (?) when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, and by this means shall have the power and the task to wake up the dead people of God (Romans 11:25-26).”—Ezekiel 40-48 : “For when Israel as a nation is converted to their God, how can they, how dare they exhibit their faith and obedience otherwise, than in the forms and ordinances which Jehovah has given to this nation? And is it not plain, that only after this conversion will the whole law in all its parts receive that fulfilment, which it has always hitherto demanded in vain? The Church of God is to find its goal in the condition here seen and described by the prophet of Israel (!). At that goal the Gentiles finally enter again into the community of Israel (!), and find in the law of Israel their national (!) statute-book, according to the will of God. We must accustom ourselves to recognise in these lofty and glorious descriptions not merely the final shape of Israel, but also the ultimate model for the converted and incorporated Gentiles (comp. Ezekiel 47:22?).” This is not the place to enter on a fuller treatment of this extreme development of a view of our prophet, in support of which the Epistle to the Galatians and that to the Hebrews do not appear to have been written, nor Acts 15:0 to have been meant; it must just be left to characterize itself. Tholuck (Die Propheten und ihre Weissag. p. 151 sqq.) says: “Although in scarcely any other department of Scripture has there been the same fluctuation with respect to the hermeneutical principles as in the exposition of the prophets, yet we may take the liberty of saying, that throughout all periods and sections of the Church the typological character of prophecy has been usually taken for granted. In reference alike to Old Testament prophecy in general, and to our prophet also in particular, we shall have to distinguish more exactly the following different modes of interpretation (comp. with Tholuck, the valuable article of Oehler on ‘Prophecy,’ Herzog’s Real-Encycl. xvii. p. 644 sqq.):—1. The allegorical interpretation, which, with a one-sided development, must degenerate into arbitrariness, as the exegesis of the ancient Church shows us. 2. The historical interpretation of the Antiochean school, then of a Grotius, now of the rationalistico-naturalistic criticism. 3. The symbolical (e.g. Häv., Hengst.) and the mystical interpretation (e.g. of the Berlebarg Bible). 4. The typical interpretation, which is combined sometimes with the symbolical, sometimes with the allegorical, sometimes with the historical, just as in general all these interpretations are mixed in the different expositors. If one chooses to call the historical the realistic interpretation, the other interpretations may be contrasted with it as idealistic; and if they are not to escape a certain measure of censure by being designated as “spiritualistic,” as is done by Oehler, then the opposite interpretation might not without reason admit of being designated as a materialistic one. Pietism in former days, just as it revived Jewish legality to the hurt of the ideality of free Christian life, bordered with its chiliasms on a view of the prophetic word, which Jerome (‘down till Lyra and Luther, an authority in the exposition of the prophets.’—Tholuck) had condemned as Judaizing”: “Ut quæ Judæi et nostri, immo non nostri Judaizantes, carnaliter futura contendunt, nos spiritualiter jam transacta doceamus,” sqq. “A comparatively small fraction,” Tholuck calls them, “who, just as recently again most of the English and a number of South German, especially Wurtemberg theologians have done, held themselves bound by the letter to understand literally what is said of the return of Israel, of the taking possession of the lands of the heathen, of the new temple, and sacrificial worship.”
As regards the general view lying at the foundation of the following exposition of the book of Ezekiel, it coincides with Oehler in this, that prophecy is directed to the end, as being at the same time the goal of the history of Israel. There belongs to it, therefore, an eschatological character in general, and inasmuch as the history of Israel is determined essentially and distinctively by the law (Romans 2:17 sqq.), and Christ is the end of the law, the eschatological character of Old Testament prophecy must be, especially in its position towards the law, nay, in the law, to a large degree the Christological one. For “all the prophets and the law (itself) prophesied until John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:13); in Him, therefore, to whom John could point with his finger, this prophecy ceases; it has become fulfilment (2 Corinthians 1:20; Matthew 5:18; Hebrews 1:1; 1 John 2:18; 1 Peter 4:7). The development of such fulfilment of prophecy, as it is given in Christ, embraces, as may be understood, the perfecting of the Church, so that in this sense, and as regards this relation, there occur also eschatological elements in the narrower acceptation of the word in the Old Testament prophets, apocalyptic features in their picture of the Messiah. But as the development of Christ in the perfecting of the Church is that which takes place through the Holy Ghost, for which reason the eschatological tenets of the Christian faith stand rightly in the third article,—the end of the ways of God in this respect is not flesh, but (now that the Word has become flesh) the glorified corporeity, a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (Romans 14:17),—so also nothing can be taken into view, for the eschatology strictly so called, which would result in a national Israel and an establishing of its law, or even in a Jewish-Christian redeemed humanity, especially as in Christ neither Jew nor Greek availeth anything (Galatians 3:28), and the law has come in between merely, and that because of sin, until the Seed of promise should come, unto whom it had to serve as a schoolmaster only (Romans 5:20; Galatians 3:19; Galatians 3:24). “Prophecy contents itself,” says Tholuck in the work referred to, “with setting forth the full realization of the kingdom planted in Israel, and along with that the satisfying of the religio-moral need of redemption on the part of mankind, as the ultimate goal of the earlier history of mankind.” Tholuck, therefore, looks upon “the realization of the pictures in Ezekiel 40:0 sqq., in the spiritual sense, as having already taken place in the Christian Church,” while Oehler again, especially because of Romans 11:26; Romans 11:26 at the same time holds strongly, as an essential element of all prophecy, that of Ezekiel included, the actual “restoration of the covenant people, preserved as they are even in their rejection for the fulfilment of their destiny.” Comp. besides, the reasons which, according to Tholuck (p. 197 sqq.), stand opposed to a “gross realistic” view of the last chapters of Ezekiel. Hävernick (Vorles. über die Theologie des A. T.) expresses himself thus (p. 165): “The closing predictions of Ezekiel have in earlier times been usually understood typically, and referred directly to the person of Christ, the apostles and Christian affairs in general, and in this way the typical system in principle degenerated into a wild allegory. This mode of interpretation has called forth the other extreme, according to which the prophets are permitted to determine nothing else beforehand but the state of things as it was really to take place (but did not take place) after the exile, prophecy being thus transformed into a new legislation. Hence the prophetico-symbolical interpretation is most correct, according to which those representations are to be understood in the sense which they had already for one living under the Old Testament theocracy, viz. as symbols, whose true and full significance is to be realized only in the new Church.”
(On prophecy in general one may compare also the thoughtful and profound statement by Beck, Christl. Lehrwissenschaft, p. 354 sqq.)
Extremely interesting is the view of Ezekiel, to which the unknown painter of the lately rediscovered noteworthy wall-paintings in the remarkable double church of the 12th century, at Schwarz-Rheindorf, opposite Bonn, has given expression. (Comp. Simons, Die Doppelkirche zu Schwarz-Rheindorf; Kugler, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte, ii. 3 Aufl. pp. 96, 180 sqq.; Rheinlands Baudenkmale des Mittelalters, 7 Heft.) Formerly a collegiate church, it left free for the canonesses, whose places were in the upper chapel, the look (through a round opening, with balustrade) at the high altar in the lower church area. From this lower church the wall-paintings taken from the book of Ezekiel rise up, closing with a representation from the Revelation of John, above the altar of the upper church. These lower wall-paintings after Ezekiel place together, e.g. the vision of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:0, and the transfiguration of Christ; the manifold abominations in the temple (Ezekiel 8:0 sqq.), and the expulsion of the buyers and sellers by the Saviour; and opposite one another Ezekiel’s visions of judgment, and the final self-judgment of Israel by the crucifixion of the Messiah. What Kugler (following Hohe) mistakenly interprets as the figure of “a saint,” is the Apostle Paul, marked out as such by his long Roman garment and his youthful form (Acts 7:6-8), as well as by the threefold halo (2 Corinthians 12:2, “up to the third heaven”), to whom, on the other side, corresponds Peter, as he who has the keys of the Church upon earth, the temple of Ezekiel. The whole, down to the minutest details, is a spirited exegesis of our prophet, in the style of the middle ages.
1. Rabbinical—Raschi, as he is usually called, R. Salomon ben Isaaki, incorrectly named “Jarchi,” Latin by Breithaupt, Commentarius Hebr. in proph. majores, etc.; Lat. vers. ed. J. Fr. Breithaupt, 4, Gotha 1713.—David Kimchi (“Radak,” according to Jewish abbreviation) in Buxtorf’s Rabbinical Bible.—Isaac Abarbanel, Amsterdam edition, 1641, fol.—Salomon ben Melech (called “Michlal Jophi”), edition in fol., with Abendana’s additions, Amsterdam, 1685.—Of more recent Jewish expositions, L. Philippson, Israelitische Bibel, 2 Ausg., Leipzig 1858, 2 Theil, was used.
2. Patristic.—Origen, Homiliæ XIV. in Ezechielem, ἐχλογαὶ εἰς τὸν ἰεζεχιήλ.—Gregory Nazianzen, Annotatio de quatuor apud Ezechielem animalibus.—Theodoret, ‘Ερμηνεία τῆς προφητείας τον͂ θείον ἰεζεχιήλ.—Jerome, Explanationes in Ezech., lib. XIV.—Origen, Homiliæ XXVIII in prophetas Jerem. et Ezech.—Gregory the Great, Homiliæ in Ezech. proph.
3. Later, embracing Romish, Reformed, Lutheran.—Rhabanus Maurus, Commentary in his Opera, Cologne edit. 1627, fol.—Rupert von Deutz, in his Commentarius de operibus sanctæ trinitatis, and on the Gospel of Matthew, sub titulo: De gloria et honore filii hominis, Cologne edit. of his works.—C. Sanctius, In Ezech. et Dan., 1612, 1619.—Maldonatus, Comment. in præc. s. scr. libr. V. T., Paris 1643, fol.—Cornelius a Lapide, Comment. in omnes, scr. s. libr., last edit., Venice 1730.—Calmet, Comment. lit. sur tous les livres de l’ancien et du nouv. Test., Latin by Mansi, Würzburg 1792, Part X.—Hier. Pradus, Comment. in Ezech., and Villalpandus, In Ezech. expl. et app. urb., etc., Rome 1596–1604.—Die Propheten Ezechiel und Daniel als Fortsetzung des V. Brentano’ schen. A. T. von. Dereser. Frankf. a M. 1810.
Calvin, Prælectiones in Ezech. proph. viginta capita priora, Amsterdam edit.; see Collective Works, 1667, in the 4th volume.—Ludov. Lavater, Homiliæ seu commentarii in libr. v. prophetiam Ezech., Zurich 1571 (Preface by Beza to Coligny).—Oecolampadius, Comment. in Ezech., Basle 1543, fol.—Conr. Pellicanus, Comment in libr. V. et N. Test., Zurich 1532 sqq., 4th volume.—John Piscator, Analysis, scholia, et observationes in onmes V. et N. T. libr., Herborn 1605 sqq.—Piscator’s Biblework, 4, Herborn 1603, Part 4.—Polanus, Comment. in Ezech., Basle 1607.—Tossani’s Bible, Minden 1716, fol.—The Critici Sacri, tom. 4, pars 1, in which we have: Sebastian Münster, Franciscus Vatablus, Sebastian Castalio, Isidorus Clarius, Joh. Drusius, Hugo Grotius, and Ludovici Capelli excerpta ex Villalpando ad cap. 40–42 et 46 Ezechielis.—Poole, Synopsis criticorum, vol. 3.—Cocceius in his Opera omnia, vol. 3.—Venema, Lectiones academ. ad Ezech. usque ad cap. 21.—Clericus, In prophetas, etc., Amsterdam 1731, fol.—Henry, Exposition of the Old and New T.—W. Newcome, An Attempt towards an Improved Version, a Metrical Arrangement, and an Explanation on the Prophet Ezekiel, Dublin 1788.—Greenhill, Exposition of the Prophecy of Ezekiel.
Luther, Auslegung etlicher Kapitel des Ezechiel und Daniel.—Victor Strigel, Ezechiel pr. ad Hebr., sqq., Leipsic 1597.—Nik. Selneccer, Auslegung Ezechiels latein. und deutsch.—Luc. Osiander, Biblia Lat., etc., Tübingen 1588, fol.—Abr. Calovius, Biblia illustr. q. etiam exhibent et censent annot. H. Grotii, Frankf. 1672, fol.—Joach. Lange, Prophetisches Licht und Recht, Halle 1732.—J. H. Michaelis in his Hebrew Bible with Annotations.—Die Tübinger Bibel, ed. Pfaff, 1729, fol.—Summarien
(so-called Wurtemberg), oder gründliche Ausleg. ff. 3 Aufl., fol., Leipzig 1721.—Joh. Fr. Starck, Comment. in proph. Ezech., Frankfort 1731.—Joh. Georg Starke, Synopsis, etc., Part 5, Leipzig 1747.—Joh. David Michaelis, Ueb. des A. T. mit Anmerkungen für Ungelehrte. The 10th part, which contains Ezekiel and Daniel, Göttingen 1781.—Teller, Das englische Bibelwerk.—Moldenhauer, Uebers. und Erkl. d. h. BB. d. A. T, Quedlinburg 1744.—Hezel, Die Bibel mit Anm., Lemgo 1780.—J. Ch. F. Schulze, Scholia in V. T. (G. L. Bauer), Nurnberg 1783–97.—Dathe, Proph. majores, Exodus 2:0Exodus 2:0, Halle 1785.—Vollborth, Ezechiel übers. mit Anm., Göttingen 1787.—Berleburger Bibel, 3 Theil, 1730.
4. More recent.—J. G. Eichhorn, Die hebr. Propheten, 1 Band, Göttingen 1816.—Dinter, Schullehrer-Bibel, 4 Theil, Neustadt 1828.—Rosenmüller, Scholia in Ezech., ed. 2, 1826, Exodus 2:2 Parts, and the same in comp. red., 1833.—Maurer, Comm. gram. crit. in V. T., Part 2d, Leipsic 1836.—Umbreit, Prakt. Comm. über d. Proph. Ezech., Hamburg 1843.—Hävernick, Comm. über den Proph. Ezech., Erlangen 1843.—Richter, Erkl. Hausbibel, in the 4th vol. p. 523 sqq., Barmen 1837.—V. Gerlach (Schmieder), Bibelwerk, 4 Bd. 1 Abth.—Heim und Hoffmann, Die 4 grossen Proph. aus den Schriften der Reformatoren, Stuttgart 1839.—Ewald, Die Propheten des A. B. im 2 Theil, 2 Ausg., Göttingen 1868.—Hitzig, Der Proph. Ezech. erkl., Leipzig 1847.—Bunsen, Die Bibel, 2 Theil, p. 599 sqq., Leipzig 1860.—Diedrich, Der Proph. Jerem. und Ezech. kurz erkl., Neu-Ruppin 1863.—Kliefoth, Das Buch Ezechiels, 2 Abtheilungen, 1864.—Hengstenberg, Die Weissagungen des Proph. Ezech., 1 Thl. 1867, 2 Theil 1868.—C. Fr. Keil, Bibl Komment. über den Propheten Ezech., Leipzig 1868.—B. Neteler, Die Gliederung des Buches Ezechiels ff., Münster 1870.
For Specialties.—P. Tischinger, Singularia Ezechielis, Schwabach 1743.—Böttcher, Proben altt. Schrifterkl., Leipzig 1833, p. 218 sqq. über Kap. 40 sqq.—W. Neumann, Die Wasser des Lebens, Ezech. 47, Berlin 1849.—Reinke, Die mess. Weiss, Giessen 1859.—Hengstenberg, History of the Kingdom of God, etc. [Clark’s Trans., Edinburgh 1871–72.]—Hoffmann, Das gelobte Land in den Zeiten des getheilten Reiches bis zur babylon. Gefangenschaft, Basel 1871. (Written from a fresh point of view, an attractive lecture.)
[Only two distinct works on the Prophecies of Ezekiel have of late years been issued from the British press: one by Patrick Fairbairn, D.D., the editor of the present translation, in the Lange series, published by the Messrs. Clark of Edinburgh, first edition in 1851, third edition in 1863; and another by the late Dr. E. Henderson in 1855, Hamilton, Adams, & Co., London. The latter work consists only of 219 pages, of which considerably more than the half is occupied by the text.—P. F.]
Dr. Patrick Fairbairn was born in January, 1805, and died August 6, 1874. See the Biographical Sketch by Prof. Douglas, D.D. (his successor), in the “Monthly Record” of the Free Church of Scotland, for Oct. 1, 1874, pp. 217–218, and the Memoir prefixed to Fairbairn’s “Pastoral Epistles,” Edinburgh, 1875.
“The Ezekiel of Michael Angelo on the roof of the Sistine Chapel is correctly described by H. Grimm in his Life of Michael Angelo, “with the upper part of the body eagerly bent forward, the right hand stretched out in the act of demonstration, holding in the left an unrolled parchment; it is as if one saw the thoughts chasing one another in his mind.”
“Umbreit draws a parallel between Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the following way:—“Both of priestly descent, but Jeremiah is only a prophet; Ezekiel does not even in a strange land put off the priestly costume, and roots himself firmly in strictly Levitical ordinance, although he gives it a new form in a free spirit. Jeremiah is more the prophet of the Reformed Church development; Ezekiel represents outwardly the system of priestly continuance of Catholicism.”
“Unless by הכהן (Hengstenberg, Bunsen) Ezekiel himself is to be designated as the “priest among the prophets.”
“And this was no natural coincidence, that they prophesied, the one at Jerusalem, the other in Chaldea, in such a way as from one mouth, like two singers, the one accompanying the other’s voice. For we can wish no better harmony than that which exhibits itself in these two servants of God” (Calvin).
“How he spent his time up till this the greatest turning-point of his life, is not reported to us; but he lived certainly in the exercise of a predominantly priestly-judicial care for his people, studied the law, and read the writings of the prophets who lived before him” (Umbreit).
A similar juxtaposition of predictions respecting the heathen is found both in Jeremiah (Ezekiel 46–51., at the close) and in Isaiah (Ezekiel 13-23). Comp. Delitzsch, Comm. on Isaiah, p. 294 sqq. [Clark’s Trans.]. In Isaiah, as in Ezekiel, it is a provisional temporary silence; in Jeremiah, one that is final respecting Israel.
Especially when the symbolical representation (Ezekiel 2:8 to Ezekiel 3:3) of this mission and of the divine charge to the prophet from the outset made the taste of sweetness follow after the lamentation and woe.
By these two principal parts of the book is Josephus (Antiq. x. 5. 1) perhaps to be explained, who, in speaking of Jeremiah, says further: “But it is not he alone that predicted such things to the people beforehand, but the prophet Ezekiel also, who πςῶτος πεςὶ τον́των δύο βιβλία γςάψας κατέλιπεν” By Hävernick and others the πςῶτος is referred to Jeremiah. Umbreit: “The first large half of his book contains the bitter element of his discourse, the second the sweet element, i. e. the promise of the coming times of redemption; the first begins with the departure of the glory of Jehovah from the old profaned temple, the second closes with the return of the same into the new cleansed sanctuary.”
“Above all others, the prophet is distinguished by an uncommon power and energy. Ezekiel is one of the most imposing organs of the Spirit of God in the Old Covenant, a really gigantic phenomenon. In opposition to the present, he steps forth with all sternness and iron consistency, an inflexible nature, encountering the abomination with an immoveable spirit of boldness, with words full of consuming fire. Unceasingly he holds up the one thing that was needful before the deaf ears and hard hearts of the people. The overpowering element of his eloquence rests on this union in it alike of imposing strength and indefatigable consistency.”—(Hävernick, Comment, p. 14.)
Ewald asserts that in this last great section of his book Ezekiel “begins already to look on what the people regard as sacred and the priesthood of Israel with that timidity and externality which becomes ever more prevalent after his time,” and sees therein “just a consequence of the one-sided literary conception of antiquity according to mere books and traditions, as well as of the depression of intellect increased by the longer duration of the exile and bondage of the people.” The exposition will as decidedly reject the alleged “timidity and externality,” as Hävernick rightly points to this, what “a high spirit” rather, “which, looking away from all the pains and sufferings of the present, lives in the future and the reconstruction of the kingdom of God with fresh enthusiasm, meets us just in the second part of Ezekiel.” If, however, the detailed character of the description were to make the impression of “externality,” then this is a peculiarity of the prophet in the very first chapter of his book, and characterizes his popular addresses no less than his visions. One may look upon this at the same time as the later literary style; but the manner of Ezekiel is once for all to take a penetrating view of his subject on all sides, as he himself wholly lives and moves therein, and to exhaust it as far as possible. The more tranquil outward (public) life of Ezekiel, as compared with Jeremiah, is therefore not yet the “learned” “literary leisure” which Ewald makes it out to be.
In this as in many other respects, Ezekiel may be compared with Tertullian.
“The flame of the divine wrath, the mighty rushing of the Spirit of the Lord, the holy majesty of Jehovah, as the seer has beheld it, is wonderfully reproduced in his discourse” (Hävernick).
For this we have the ocular testimony (thoroughly confirmed by lately discovered inscriptions) of Herodotus, who visited Babylon in course of the fifth century before our era. The city had the form, of a rectangle (comp. Ezekiel 48:30 sqq.). Herodotus describes the wall 200 feet high with its 100 gates (comp. also Ezekiel 40:42.), with posts and thresholds of massive bronze. The deep and swiftly flowing Euphrates (comp. Ezekiel 47:0.) intersected Babylon, discharging itself into the Erythræan Sea. The outer wall served as a work of defence. In the midst of the one half of the city was the royal palace, with large, strongly fortified enclosure; in the midst of the other half of the city was the sanctuary of Bel with its brazen gates (comp. Ezekiel 48:21 sqq.). Herodotus’ description of Babylon reads like a parallel to Ezekiel 40-48. (The circumference of Babylon, as the great outer wall determined it, was, according to the measurements of Oppert, the topographer of the old Chaldean city, seven times that of modern Paris; the inner and more contracted wall embraced still a much larger area than London.) “In symbolical effect,” says Lange on one occasion, “human culture becomes a picture of divine worship.”
Nebuchadnezzar as a builder outstripped all his predecessors (Fr. Lenormant, Manuel, ii. 17 sqq.). He rebuilt almost entirely the royal city of the old Cushite rulers, lying on the eastern bank of the Euphrates; a gigantic new palace rose there at his command, recognizable even at the present day in the hill of rubbish Kasr, one of the largest. An artificial hill was the site of the celebrated “hanging gardens,” which were intended to represent to his Median consort Amytis her beautiful fatherland; terraces rising step by step one above the other, an “Isola Bella” on land, according to Oppert the great rubbish-deposit of Amram. Of the “temple of the foundations of the earth,” called also Bit Saggatu (“the temple which raises its head”), that very ancient terraced pyramid of the royal city, with the alleged tomb of the god Bel-Merodach and an esteemed oracle, Nebuchadnezzar says in an inscription: “Bit Saggatu is the great temple of heaven and earth, the dwelling of the lord of the gods, Merodach. I have restored his sanctuary, the seat of the supreme authority, overlaying it with pure gold.” A second terraced pyramid was erected by him beside it as a temple for the goddess Zarpanit. On the side of the “secular city” (Hallat) on the west bank of the Euphrates, now Hillah, where the captives from the different countries and Jews also were settled, Nebuchadnezzar restored the tower of Babel, and built therein the great temple of Bel, called Bit-Zida, and “the temple of the seven heavenly spheres.” An inscription discovered some years ago, and translated, calls it “the terrace-tower, the everlasting house, the temple of the seven lights of the earth (planets), to which the oldest mention of Borsippa (i.e. ‘the tower of the languages’) is attached, which the first king built, but was not able to finish; men had forsaken it since the days of the flood, expressing their words in confusion. The earthquake and the thunder had shaken the crude brick, and had split the burnt brick of the facing; the crude brick of the foundation-walls had sunk down into hillocks.” Herodotus also gives a description of this building restored as a temple. General Rawlinson has pointed out that the seven storeys with the sanctuary of the god above were painted as with the colours of the seven heavenly bodies; the succession of colours represented at the same time the succession of the days of the week. The cuneiform inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar enumerate other temples besides, which he restored or erected anew, and likewise in the other cities of Chaldea. Those of Kai also, on the Euphrates at Babylon, were finished by him; but just as he cared for “the city of his kingdom” (so he calls it in his inscriptions), so in like manner he cared for the remaining portions of his land: he restored the celebrated royal canal (Naharwalkor), and below Sippara he caused an immense lake to be dug for the purpose of irrigation. It is certainly to be conceded that such activity in building on the part of Nebuchadnezzar will somehow be reflected in the prophetic form of Ezekiel, whose labours were carried on in presence of it.
“As the symbolism and application of similitudes, images, and proverbs is in general only a means to an end, that of illustrating the truths to be brought forward, and of strengthening by means of illustration the effect of the word and the discourse, so the like end is also served by the detail and circumstantiality of the representation, and even by the repetition of thoughts and expressions under new points of view. The people to whom Ezekiel had to preach repentance by the announcement of divine judgment and salvation were a rebellious race, of brazen face and hardened heart. If he wished to exercise towards these faithfully and conscientiously the office of watchman committed to him by the Lord, he must both rebuke the sins of the people with strong words and in drastic fashion, and portray the terrors of the judgment vividly before their eyes, and also set forth in a way that would strike the senses that salvation which was to spring up thereafter for the penitent.”—Keil. “Est atrox, vehemens, tragicus, totus in δεινωσει, in sensibus elatus, fervidus, acerbus, indignabundus. In eo genere, ad quod unice videtur a natura comparatus, nimirum 6, impetu, pondere, granditate, nemo ex omni scriptorum numero eum unquam æquavit.”—Lowth.
And yet Ewald concedes, and in words copiously recognises (pp. 204–206), a public ministry of Ezekiel, and that with “clearest consciousness of his being a genuine prophet,” and “more plainly expressed than in the case of any earlier prophet.”
“We find in the prophet partly a purely didactive mode of discourse tranquilly unfolding itself, similar to what is to be found in the older prophets, Ezekiel 12-19. The style is then the usual one of prophetic rhetoric,” etc. (Häv.).
“That mode of representation, because it introduces us immediately to the inner world of the prophetic spirit, has a mysterious, ofttimes obscure and enigmatic character. The prophet loves this mode of speech so much the more, when it rouses attention and inquiry, and the more impressively a word of such a kind touches men’s hearts. Jerome designates our book as: scripturarum oceanum et mysteriorum Dei labyrinthum” (Häv.). Perhaps, for the idea of Theosophy (comp. the article of Lange in Herzog 16.), the Old Testament point of connection may be got from Ezekiel.
To this category belongs also the significant occurrence of the number seven: thus, seven times prophecy about Egypt (Ezekiel 29:0. sqq.); and so, seven nations against whom judgment is predicted (Ezekiel 25:0. sqq.), by means of an intentional separation of Tyre and Sidon. Kliefoth has shown that, even as respects the whole book, according to the formula, “and the Word of Jehovah came unto me, saying,” it consists of 7 × 7 words of God: “an arrangement according to the number seven,” says he, “which we find in the book of Zechariah and in the Apocalypse, carried out in a different fashion; for what these prophets predict will be fulfilled and accomplished, like God’s work of creation, in seven days.” Comp. besides, on Apocalypse and Prophecy, Lange on Genesis, p. 36.
 De Wette: “Of course Ezekiel 35:0. ought to stand beside Ezekiel 26:0., but it has also a suitable place here (much the same as Isaiah 63:1-6); but Ezekiel 38, 39 have more a home than a foreign reference, and with perfect right are attached to Ezekiel 37:0.”
“It was the more likely for the prophet from the first to commit to writing the contents of the prophetic revelation entrusted to him by Jehovah, inasmuch as the beginning of the discourses which he had to deliver to the people was represented to him in the form of a writing. The inward necessity of writing, however, was much more urgently present as regards that portion of the prophetic announcement which was to be realized after the threatenings should have fulfilled their purpose, than in the case of the threatenings themselves, with which the prophet had to begin.”—Baumgarten.
Tholuck (Die Propheten und ihre Weissagungen, pp. 37 sqq., 78) gathers up “all prophecies under the category of that holy order of retributive justice which bears sway in the history of mankind.” (Zephaniah is in outline this prophetic theodicy of God in history.) “As law and retribution are interchangeable ideas, it was a matter of necessity that legal exhortations should become the prophecy of retribution in the future—for individuals and for wholes nations, closing with the prospect of, the last judgment, by means of which the idea of the theocracy is destined to reach its ultimate fulfilment.” Hävernick (Vorl. über die Theologie d. Alten Testaments, p. 147): “Prophecy keeps in its eye the future of the people, while it, as it were, gives up the present. From the judgment upon the theocracy as chastisement comes forth the salvation. The judgment upon the nations is nothing but the glorification of the theocracy, as a victorious power over heathendom. Every announcement of judgment upon the world is therefore, in reality, Messianic, like that of the theocratic judgment.”
Gregory sets up Ezekiel as a teacher and pattern for preachers.
“The bad sort of mere outward righteousness and sham holiness (says Baumgarten), which was one day to bring blasphemy and bloody persecution on the holy and righteous King of Israel and Him who was demonstrated to be the Son of God, as well as on His Spirit-anointed messengers of peace. Hence, also, Ezekiel’s prophetic labours in word and deed are directed fax more against this deepest and most lasting corruption, than against all else.”
We may be permitted to take this opportunity of casting a glance on this oft-mentioned passage, without attempting (for time would fail us for such a purpose) to defend the following interpretation in view of the context in Romans 9-11. First of all it is to be observed, that in Romans 11:25 the apostle speaks of a μυστν́ςιον τοῦτο, placing the pronoun after the substantive, whereby τοῦτο is made to refer not to what follows, but to what has been already said: “the foresaid mystery.” Let one compare Ephesians 5:32 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 with ver. 26. Then, further, and this is the most important consideration, exegetical tradition must submit to be told, that ἀπὸ μέςους, if one translates it as hitherto: “in part,” is not very appropriate in any of the passages where it occurs elsewhere (Romans 15:15; Romans 15:24; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 2:5). Μέςος (μοῖςα) is the portion that is due (Revelation 21:8), and so ἀπὸ μέςαυς will mean: as is due, in due measure, or: of right. The LXX. give their support to this meaning, and it suits admirably in the New Testament passages in question. The foresaid mystery is that discussed in Romans 9:0. sqq., which is spoken of to the Ephesians also, namely: that Christ hath made in Himself of Jews and Gentiles, these two, one new man (Ephesians 2:15), so that all believers from among Jews as well as Gentiles are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), Israel after the Spirit, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). This mystery we ought to know well, in order that we may not in our self-sufficiency forget, that hardening has happened to the nation of Israel according to desert, of right, which judgment of hardening endures unto the end, until the fulness of the Gentile nations be come in, namely, in Israel’s place as a nation, καὶ οῦτω (ver. 26), i. e. and so (but not: and then), in this way all Israel shall be saved. That is to say: when the silently and continually growing temple of God shall be built up to the last stone (Ephesians 2:21), in this way shall all Israel, i.e. all that belong to it in truth (Romans 9:6), in this way shall all the children of the promise attain to salvation, which would be the ἀπολύτξωσωις τῆς πεςιποίσεως, the full salvation (Ephesians 1:14), the ἀποκάλυψις τῶν υιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ (Romans 8:19). And with this agrees also the Pauline application of the quotation from Isaiah 59:20, viz. not: for Zion (לְצִיוֹן), Sept. ἕνεκεν Σιών, but ἐκ Σιών; thus (οῦτω), when the salvation comes from the Jews to the Gentiles. Comp. Doctrinal Reflections on Deuteronomy 30:0. (Lange’s Com.).
the Second Week of Advent