the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
by Thomas Coke
THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET EZEKIEL.
IT is said, that this prophet was carried away a boy into captivity. He was the son of Buzi of the house of Aaron, and was consequently a priest as well as a prophet. He was carried away captive to Babylon with Jechoniah, and was one of those who settled near the river Chebar. He began his prophetic office in the fifth year after his captivity, and continued to prophesy about twenty years; from the year of the world 3409 to 3430. The principal design of his prophesies was to console his brethren of the captivity in Babylon, and to convince them that they were mistaken in imagining that such of their brethren as remained in Judaea, were in happier circumstances than themselves: and for this purpose he describes that terrible scene of calamities which God intended to bring upon Judaea; the final destruction of Jerusalem; the universal apostacy of the inhabitants; the plagues which were to be inflicted upon their enemies; the restoration of the Jews, and the coming of the Messiah. The liberty with which he treats the idolatry of his countrymen, is said to have so highly irritated the chief of them, as to have occasioned his being put to death; and in the time of Epiphanius, it was a current opinion, that his remains were deposited in the same sepulchre with those of Shem and Arphaxad, that his tomb was then to be seen, and that the Jews kept a lamp burning in it; who likewise pretended that they had this prophesy written, by the prophet's own hand, which they read every year on the day of expiation. See Calmet's Preface to this book.
The originality of the writings which we have under the name of Ezekiel has never been doubted; and they have every possible mark of truth and authenticity. Ezekiel, says Bishop Lowth, is inferior to Jeremiah in elegancy, but is equal to Isaiah in sublimity, though in a different species of the sublime. He is bold, vehement, tragical, and deals very much in amplification: his sentiments are lofty, animated, poignant, and full of indignation. His images are fertile and magnificent. His diction is sounding, grave, austere, rough, and sometimes uncultivated. He abounds in repetitions, not for the sake of beauty or grace, but from vehemence and indignation. Whatever his subject be, he keeps it always in his eye, without the least deviation, and is so much taken up with it, that he has scarcely any regard to order or connection. In other things he may perhaps be exceeded by the other prophets; but in that species for which he was particularly turned, that is, in force, impetuosity, weight and grandeur, no writer ever equalled him. His diction is clear enough; almost all his obscurity arises from his subjects. His visions are particularly obscure; which however, as in Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah, are delivered in a plain and historical narration. The greater part of this book, but especially the middle of it, is poetical; whether we regard the matter or the language. But some passages are so rough and unpolished, that we are frequently at a loss to what species of writing we ought to refer them. As to style, continues the Bishop, you may with propriety enough place Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in the same rank among the Hebrews, as Homer, Simonides, and Eschylus hold among the Greeks. See his 21st Prelection, and Michaelis's Notes, p. 110. The Jews did not permit any to read this prophet, at least the beginning of his book, till they were thirty years of age; and they have frequently made great objections to him from the obscurity of his prophesies; which appear rather to have arisen from their own ignorance, than from any other cause. See more concerning him in Calmet, and D'Herbelot's Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 942.