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by Joseph Exell
THE topics requiring to be treated in an introduction to this remarkable writing may be conveniently arranged under two main divisions — the person of the prophet, and the book of his prophecies. Under the first will fall to be noticed the life of the prophet, the characteristics of the times in which he flourished, the special mission with which he was entrusted, and the qualities he exhibited both as a man and as a seer; under the second will arise for investigation the arrangement and contents of the book, its composition, collection, and canonicity, its literary style, and the principle or principles of its interpretation, with a glance at its underlying theology.
1. EZEKIEL — THE PROPHET.
1. The Life of the Prophet.
The sole information available for constructing a biography of Ezekiel is furnished by his own writings. Outside of these he is mentioned only by Josephus ('Ant.,' 10:5, 1; 6:3; 7:2; 8:2), and Sirach's son Jesus (Ecclus. 49:8), neither of whom communicates any item of importance. Whether Ezekiel was the prophet's birth name conferred on him by his parents, or, as Hengstenborg suggests, an official title assumed by himself on commencing his vocation as a seer, cannot be determined, although the former is by far the more probable hypothesis. In either case it can hardly be questioned that the appellation was providentially designed to be symbolic of his character and calling. The Hebrew term יְחֶזְקֵאל — in the LXX. and in Sirach Ιεζεκιηìλ, in the Vulgate Ezechiel, in German Ezechiel, or Hezekiel — is a compound either of זְחַזִּק אֵל. (Gesenius), meaning "whom God will strengthen," or "he whose character is a personal proof of the strengthening of God" (Baumgarten), or of יְחֳזֵק אֵל(Ewald), signifying "God is strong," or "he in relation to whom God is strong" (Hengstenberg). As regards suitability the two interpretations stand upon a level; for while Ezekiel was commissioned to a rebellious house whose children were "stiff-hearted" (יִחִזְקֵז־לֵב) and "of a hard forehead" (חִזְקֵי־מֵצַח), on the other hand he was assured that God had made his face hard (חֲזְקֵים) against their faces, and his forehead hard (חָזָק) against their foreheads (Ezekiel 2:5; Ezekiel 3:7, Ezekiel 3:8). In respect of social rank Ezekiel belonged to the priestly order, being the son of Buzi, of whom nothing further is reported, though it is interesting to note that the name Ezekiel had been borne by one of sacerdotal dignity as far back as the time of David (1 Chronicles 24:16). Unlike Hilkiah's son Jeremiah of Anathoth, who, as a priest of the line of Ithamar, sprang from the lower or middle classes of the community, Ezekiel, as a Zadokite (Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:15, Ezekiel 44:16; 1 Kings 2:35), deriving from the superior line of Eleazar the son of Aaron, was properly a member of the Jerusalem aristocracy — a circumstance which will account for his having been carried off in Jehoiachin's captivity, while Jeremiah was left behind (2 Kings 24:14), as well as explain the readiness with which in one of his visions (Ezekiel 11:1) he recognized two of the princes of the people. How old the prophet was when the doom of exile fell on him and the other magnates of Jerusalem can only be conjecturally ascertained. Josephus affirms that Ezekiel was then a youth (παῖς ὠìν); but, if Hengstenberg be correct in regarding the thirtieth year (Ezekiel 1:1), corresponding to the fifth year of exile, as the thirtieth year of the prophet's life, he must have been twenty-five years of age when he bade farewell to his native land. Other explanations have been offered of the date fixed upon by Ezekiel as the chronological starting point of his prophetical activity. The thirtieth year has been declared to date from Nabopolassar's ascension of the Babylonian throne, which is usually set down at B.C. 625 (Ewald, Smend), or from the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, rendered memorable by the finding of Hilkiah's book of the Law (Havernick), or from the preceding year of jubilee (Calvin, Hitzig); and manifestly if either of these modes of reckoning be adopted, the number thirty will afford no clue whatever to the prophet's age. All of them, however, lie open to objections as strong as those directed against the proposal to count from the prophet's birth, which, to say the least, is as natural a mode of reckoning as either of the others, and in any case may be provisionally adopted (Plumptre), since it practically synchronizes with the so called Babylonian and Jewish eras above named, and harmonizes with indications. given by the prophet's writing, as e.g. with his accurate knowledge of the sanctuary, as well as with his mature priestly spirit, that when he entered on his calling he was no longer a stripling.
The influences in the midst of which Ezekiel's youthful days were spent can readily be imagined. In addition to the solemnizing impressions and quickening impulses which must have been imparted to his opening intelligence and tender heart by the temple services, in which from an early age, in all probability, like another Samuel, he took part, for an earnest and religious soul like his, the strange ferment produced by Hilkiah's book of the Law, whether that was Deuteronomy (Kuenen, Wellhausen), Leviticus (Bertheau, Plumptre), or the whole Pentateuch (Keil, Hiivernick), and the vigorous reformation to which, during Josiah's last years, it led, could not fail to have a powerful fascination. Nor is it likely that he remained insensible to the energetic ministry which, during all the twenty-five years of his residence in Jerusalem, had been exercised by his illustrious predecessor Jeremiah. Rather is there evidence in his obvious leaning on the elder prophet, revealing itself in words and phrases, completed sentences and connected paragraphs, that his whole inner life had been deeply permeated, and in fact effectively moulded, by the spirit of his teacher, and that when the stroke fell upon his country and people as well as on himself, he went away into exile, whither Daniel had a few years before preceded him (Daniel 1:1), inspired with the feelings and brooding on the thoughts he had learnt from the venerated seer he had left behind.
From this time forward the prophet's home was in the land of the Chaldeans, at a city called Tel-Abib (Ezekiel 3:15), or "hill of corn ears," perhaps so named in consequence of the fertility of the surrounding district — a city whose site has not yet been discovered, though Ezekiel himself locates it on the river Chebar. If this stream (כְּבָר) be identified, as it is by Gesenius, Havernick, Keil, and the majority of expositors, with the Habor (חָבוׄר) to which the captive Israelites were carried by Shalmanezer or Sargon (2 Kings 17:6) upwards of a hundred years before, and the Habor be found in the Chaboras of the Greeks and Romans, which, rising at the foot of the Masian Mountains, falls into the Euphrates near Circesium — which is doubtful — then the quarter to which the prophet and his fellow exiles were deported must be looked for in Northern Mesopotamia. Against this, however, Noldeke, Schrader, Diestel, and Smend urge with reason that the two words "Chebar" and "Habor" do not agree in sound; that whereas the Habor was (probably a district) in Assyria, the Chebar is invariably represented as having been a river in the land of the Chaldeans, and that to this land the Judaean exiles are always declared to have been removed. Hence the last-named authorities prefer to look for the Chebar in a tributary stream or canal of the Euphrates, near Babylon, in Southern Mesopotamia. In favour of the former locality may be mentioned that in it the prophet would have found himself established in the midst of the main body of the exiles from both kingdoms, to all of whom ultimately. although immediately to those of Judah, his mission had a reference; yet, inasmuch as the northern exiles might easily enough have been reached by the prophet's words without his residing among them, this consideration cannot be allowed to decide the question.
Unlike Jeremiah, who appears to have remained unmarried, Ezekiel had a wife whom he tenderly cherished as "the desire of his eyes," but who suddenly died in the ninth year of his captivity, or four years after he had entered on his prophetic calling (Ezekiel 24:0.). Whether, like Isaiah, the first of the "greater" prophets, he had children, is not reported. If he had, it is clear that neither wife nor children hindered him any more than they hindered Isaiah from responding to the Divine voice which summoned him to be a watchman to the house of Israel. The summons came to him, as it had come to Isaiah, in the form of a sublime theophany; only not, as in Isaiah's case, while he worshipped in the temple, from which at the moment he was far removed, but as he sat among the exiles (in the midst of the Golah) on the banks of the Chebar. He was then thirty years of age. With few interruptions, he exercised his sacred vocation till his fifty-second year. How long after he lived it is impossible to tell. Not the slightest value can be attached to the tradition preserved by the Fathers and Talmudists that he was put to death by a prince of his own people on account of his prophecies, and was buried in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad.
2. The Times of the Prophet.
When Ezekiel entered on his calling as a prophet in B.C. 595, the northern kingdom of Israel had for upwards of a hundred years ceased to exist, while the final overthrow of Judah, its southern "sister," was rapidly approaching. When Ezekiel was born, in BC. 625, in the eighteenth year of Josiah, it seemed as if bettor days wore about to dawn for both this land and people. Through the labours of Jeremiah, who had five years before been invested with prophetic dignity — in the expressive language of Jehovah, "set over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant" (Jeremiah 1:10) — and of Zephaniah, who probably commenced his work about the same period (Zephaniah 1:1), seconded as these were by the young king's vigorous reformation and Hilkiah's finding of the book of the Law of Jehovah, idolatry had been well nigh purged flora the realm. Yet the moral and religious improvement of the people proved as transient as it had been superficial. With the death of Josiah from a wound received on the fatal field of Megiddo in B.C. 612, and the accession of his second son Shallum under the throne name of Jehoahaz, a violent reaction in favour of heathenism set in. At the end of three months, Shallum having been deposed by Necho II., Josiah's conqueror, who still lay encamped at Riblath, his elder brother Eliakim, under the title of Jehoiakim, was installed in his room as vassal to the King of Egypt. Then followed, in B.C. 605, Necho's defeat at Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:1), with the result that Jehoiakim immediately thereafter transferred his allegiance (if he had not already done so) to the Babylonian sovereign, which, however, he preserved inviolate for not more than three years (2 Kings 24:1), when, to punish his infidelity, Nebuchadnezzar's armies appeared upon the scene and bore off a number of captives, amongst whom were Daniel and his companions, all princes of the blood (Daniel 1:1, Daniel 1:3, Daniel 1:6). Whether Jehoiakim was eventually deported to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6), or how he met his death (Jeremiah 22:19), is not known; but, after eleven years of inglorious reign, he perished, and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin, who proved even a more despicable character and worthless ruler (Ezekiel 19:5-9; Jeremiah 22:24-30) than his father, and in three months' time was forcibly suppressed by his overlord (2 Chronicles 36:9; 2 Kings 23:8). Having, perhaps, found reason to suspect his fidelity, Nebuchadnezzar suddenly descended on Jerusalem, and put an end to his career of vice and violence, idolatry and treachery, conveying him, along with ten thousand of his chief people, among them Ezekiel, to the river Chebar, in the land of the Chaldeans, and setting up ia his room his uncle Mattanias, whose name was, in accordance with custom, changed to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:10-17). This happened in the year B.C. 600. Zedekiah turned out no better than his predecessors. A poor roi faineant (Cheyne), who was quite content to receive a "base" kingdom from the hands of the King of Babylon, and yet wanted honesty honesty to keep his oath and covenant with his superior (Ezekiel 17:13-15), — this wretched "mockery king" had been five years upon the throne when Ezekiel felt divinely impelled to step forth as a watchman to the house of Israel.
The religious and political condition of the times, as well in Jerusalem as on the banks of the Chebar, may be gauged with much exactness from the statements of the two prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who exercised their ministries in these spheres respectively.
(1) As regards the situation in Judah, so far from the stroke of judgment which had fallen on Jerusalem having sobered its idol mad and vice-intoxicated inhabitants, it only plunged them deeper into immorality and superstition. As their fathers from the first had been a rebellious nation, so continued they to be an impudent and stiff-hearted people (Ezekiel 2:4; Ezekiel 3:7), who changed Jehovah's judgments into wickedness, and walked not in his statutes (Ezekiel 5:6, Ezekiel 5:7), but defiled his sanctuary with their detestable things and abominations (Ezekiel 5:11). Nor this alone, but high places, altars, and images were conspicuous "upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak" (Ezekiel 6:13), as from the first it had been with their fathers (Ezekiel 20:28). Whether the picture sketched by Ezekiel of what he saw in the temple at Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:0.), when transported thither in vision, be regarded as a description of real objects that were standing and of actual incidents that were going forward in the sacred edifice at the time of the prophet's visit (Ewald, Havernick), or merely as an outline of ideal scenes and occurrences that were presented to his mind's eye (Keil, Fairbairn, Schroder), the impression it was meant to convey was that of Judah's and Jerusalem's total corruption, of their permanent revolt from Jehovah, of their total abandonment to and complete saturation with the wicked spirits of idolatry, immorality, and infidelity. As much as this was stated by Jehovah himself to the prophet, when he gazed in horror on the six executioners, who, in obedience to Divine command, went forth to "say utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women" — "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not" (Ezekiel 9:9).
As if, moreover, to show that this terrible indictment had not been overdrawn, the sins of Jerusalem were rehearsed by Jehovah in a special communication to the prophet in the seventh year of the captivity, which recounted a catalogue of abominations scarcely to be paralleled in any of the surrounding heathen nations — idolatry, lewdness, oppression, sacrilege, murder, amongst all classes of the population, from the princes and priests to the people of the land (Ezekiel 22:0.). Nor is there ground for hinting that perhaps this was a mere fancy sketch dictated by excited feeling on the part of the prophet, since it is too painfully confirmed by what Jeremiah reports as having been witnessed by himself in the days of Jehoiachin, immediately before the deportation of that monarch and the flower of his nobility: "The land is full of adulterers;... both prophet and priest are profane; in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord ....I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah" (Jeremiah 23:10-14). And that no change for the better was wrought by that terrible visitation upon the hearts of the people that remained behind in Jerusalem and Judah as Zedekiah's subjects, was further revealed to the prophet by the vision of the two baskets of figs, of which those in the one basket, representing Zedekiah's subjects, were so bad that they could not be eaten (Jeremiah 24:8) — a similitude which more than endorses the truth set forth in Ezekiel's parable of the worthless vine (Ezekiel 15:0.). In point of fact, so utterly had Zedekiah's subjects misconstrued the reason and purport of that calamity which had sent their countrymen into exile, that they began mistakenly to flatter themselves that, while their banished brethren had probably been justly enough punished for their iniquities, they, the remnant who had been spared, were the special favourites of Heaven, to whom the land was given for a possession (Ezekiel 11:15) — an hallucination which not even the downfall of their city sufficed to dispel (Ezekiel 33:24). So far from dreading that a time might come when they would be ejected from the land like their expatriated kinsmen, they confidently assured one another they had seen the last of Nebuchadnezzar's armies, and that, even if they had not, their city was impregnable (Ezekiel 11:3). In vain Jeremiah told them their city's fate was sealed — that both they and Zedekiah their king should be delivered up into Nebuchadnezzar's hands (Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 24:8-10; Jeremiah 32:3-5; Jeremiah 34:2-3); their princes and prophets encouraged them in the delusion that they should not serve the King of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:9). In Zedekiah's fourth year, exactly a twelvemonth before Ezekiel's stepping forth as a prophet, one of these false prophets — "lower," or "fallen prophets," as Cheyne prefers to call them, regarding them as "honest though misguided enthusiasts" — Hananiah by name, announced in the temple, before the priests and all the people, as well as in Jeremiah's hearing, that within two full years Jehovah would break the yoke of the King of Babylon from off the neck of all the nations (Jeremiah 28:1-4). To such a vaticination he had probably been moved by the arrival shortly before of an embassy from the Kings of Edom, Moab and the Ammonites, Tyre and Zidon, which had for its object the formation of a league against the eastern conqueror (Jeremiah 27:3), and which seemingly had so far succeeded as to draw into its meshes the weak Judaean sovereign, and to excite among the unreflecting populace wild expectations of a speedy deliverance from the yoke of Babylon. These expectations, however, were doomed to disappointment. So far from Hananiah's vain glorious announcement coming true, was Jeremiah's instantaneous rejoinder, within a brief space the easy yoke of wood the nation then bore would be exchanged for one of iron, which moreover Hananiah himself would not behold, since in that year he should die for having taught rebellion against the Lord (Jeremiah 28:16). Yet the ferment occasioned by Hananiah's prediction did not cease, but spread beyond the bounds of Palestine, till it reached the banks of the Chebar and penetrated to the palace of the king. "The valiant son of Nabopolassar," who seldom dallied with incipient revolt, but usually pounced upon his victims in the midst of their treasonable projects, would speedily have crushed the new alliance, and with it Zedekiah, had not Zedekiah, fearing an evil fate, taken time by the forelock and despatched an embassy to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:3), if he did not afterwards proceed thither himself (Jeremiah 51:59). to give to his offended suzerain assurances of continued loyalty. How much of truth such assurances contained was not long in appearing, as five years later he broke into open revolt against the King of Babylon (2 Kings 24:20), leaguing himself with Tyre and Ammon, and calling in the aid of Hophra, or Apries, of Egypt (Ezekiel 17:15), who promised him "much horses and people." With that rapidity of movement which characterized "the favourite of Merodach," as it has distinguished all great generals, the troops of Babylon were on the march, and stood in front of Jerusalem before the war chariots of Hophra could be mustered; and although for a time, when these latter did arrive, the Chaldean soldiers were compelled to raise the siege, it was only to return after Hophra's defeat or retreat — it is uncertain which — to invest the city with stricter closeness than before. After a siege of eighteen months, the supposed impregnable fortress fell. Zedekiah, who with his court had precipitately fled from the palace, was captured in the plains of Jericho and conducted to the presence of his conqueror at Riblath, who cruelly massacred his sons and his nobles. before his eyes, blinded himself, bound him with chains, and carried him to Babylon, thus unconsciously fulfilling both the word of Jeremiah uttered one year before, that "Zedekiah should speak with the King of Babylon mouth to mouth, and that his eyes should behold the king's eyes" (Jeremiah 32:4), and that of Ezekiel spoken five years before, that Zedekiah should be brought to the land of the Chaldeans, which yet he should not see, though he should die there (Ezekiel 12:13). On the city's fall a massacre of its inhabitants ensued, pitiless and unsparing, realizing all the horrors suggested by Ezekiel's parable of a boiling pot (Ezekiel 24:2-5). A month after, its fortified walls were laid in ruins, its temple, palaces, and mansions, with "all the houses of Jerusalem," being given to the flames, and its population, such of them as had escaped both sword and fire, swept away to swell the company of exiles upon the Chebar, leaving only a handful of the poorest of the poor upon their native soil, to act as its vine dressers and husbandmen, with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam as their governor, and Jeremiah as Jehovah's prophet by his side (2 Kings 25:0; 2 Chronicles 36:0; Jeremiah 39, 40, 52.).
(2) The situation on the Chebar was, in some respects, different from what it was in Jerusalem. From the first, among the exiles there would doubtless be kindred spirits to Ezekiel, pious hearts who recognized in their banishment from Judah the judgment of Heaven upon an apostate people, who mourned over their own and their country's declension, and who, as by the rivers of Babylon they sat down and wept, remembered Zion, and longed for a restoration to its sacred precincts; but just as certainly there would be others, and these probably the larger number, who carried with them their old habits of idolatry, and showed as little disposition to abate their devotion to heathenism as their fathers had done before them (Ezekiel 20:30), or as their brethren were then doing in Jerusalem. Even at the moment when they pretended through their elders to be inquiring at Jehovah's prophet, they were setting up idols in their heart (Ezekiel 14:4); when they listened to the prophet's preaching, whether he denounced their heathen practices and called them to repentance, or prophesied against them Heaven's judgments for their wickedness, they applauded his eloquence (Ezekiel 33:32), and puzzled their heads over his parables (Ezekiel 20:49), but never dreamt of doing as he told them. In the breasts of both sections of the community there kept on slumbering delusive hopes of a speedy deliverance from exile, fostered on the one side by the secret conviction that Jehovah would not prove unfaithful to his chosen city and people, and, on the other side, by the unauthorized utterances of false prophets and prophetesses in their midst, who "saw peace for Jerusalem when there was no peace," and "caused the people to trust in their lies" (Ezekiel 13:16, Ezekiel 13:19). It was to meet and, if possible, to dissipate these baseless hallucinations that Jeremiah's letter was despatched by the hands of Zedekiah's ambassadors, counselling the exiles to settle down quietly in their new country, seek the peace of the city and empire to which they had been carried, and serve the King of Babylon, since not until seventy years rolled by would Jehovah cause them to return to their own land (Jeremiah 29:5-14); and although perhaps both parties in the Golah, the pious and irreligious, had they been left to themselves, might not have felt indisposed to acquiesce in the course recommended by the prophet — the one, prompted by that habit of obedience and submission to the Divine will which was not in them entirely extinguished, and the other, by the comparatively comfortable environment in which they found themselves, materially, socially, politically, and religiously (or rather, irreligiously), in the rich, powerful, pleasure-loving and idol serving empire of Babylon — yet, as a matter of fact, they were not left to themselves, but were injuriously acted on by the false prophets in their midst, one of whom, Shemaiah the Nehelamite, actually went the length of sending back a reply to Jeremiah's communication, suggesting that the Priest Zephaniah should arrest and confine the prophet as a madman (Jeremiah 29:24 Jeremiah 29:29); and so the dream kept on haunting them that the Captivity would not be long. It is even possible that Jeremiah's prophecy of Babylon's ultimate overthrow, which Seraiah had been commissioned to read in Babylon (Jeremiah 51:59-64), may have contributed to keep alive the delusion that after all the "orthodox" prophets had been right, and Jeremiah, the "renegade" and "heretic," in the wrong, and that before long the dreary period of exile would terminate; and when, as the years went by, Zedekiah seemed to be firmly established on his throne, and tidings came from the old country of the stout resistance Tyre was offering to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, as well as of the projected alliance of Tyre and Ammon with Judah against the common oppressor, it was scarcely surprising that this delusion should gather strength, and that a large part of Ezekiel's fulminations should be directed against it. It was manifestly in close connection with Jeremiah's letter to the exiles, and in support of the policy it advised, that Ezekiel, in the fifth year of Zedekiah, stepped forth as a prophet of Jehovah.
3. The Mission of the Prophet.
The special task assigned to the prophet, rather than spontaneously undertaken by him, was in general to act as a watchman unto the house of Israel (Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7), by giving warning to the wicked man of the danger of persevering in his wickedness, and to the righteous man of the peril involved in turning aside from his righteousness. More particularly the prophet's duty should be fourfold — to beat down and dispel forever the foolish hopes that had been excited in the minds of his fellow exiles as to a speedy deliverance from the yoke of Babylon, by proclaiming the absolutely certain and positively near approach of Jerusalem's overthrow; to bring to light and expose the inveterate apostasy and incurable corruption of Judah's capital, and, indeed, of the whole theocratic people, as the all-sufficient justification both of the judgments that had already overtaken them, and of these that were still impending; to awaken in them individually a feeling of sincere repentance, and so to call out from the ruins of the old a new Israel that might inherit all the promises which had been given to the old: and when this was done, to comfort the sorrowing community of pious hearts with a prospect of restoration after the term of seventy years should have been fulfilled. In all these respects the mission of Ezekiel was distinct from the parts which had been assigned to his renowned predecessors, Isaiah and Jeremiah, as well as from that devolved on his illustrious contemporary, Daniel. Whereas Daniel served as a prophet of Jehovah to the mighty world empire in which he was a high and trusted official, Ezekiel exercised the same function towards the exiles from Judah who were planted in the heart of that heathen land; and whereas Isaiah. had been summoned to begin his official labours at the time when the final overthrow of Israel was first clearly made known (Isaiah 10:1-6; Isaiah 39:6, Isaiah 39:7), and Jeremiah saw the outbreak of that awful visitation which the son of Amoz had foretold, to Ezekiel fell the task of "personally introducing the rebellious house of Israel into its thousand years of trial in the waste of the heathen" (Baumgarten, in Herzog's 'Real-Encyclopadie,' art. "Ezechiel"). Or, to express the life problem of Ezekiel more shortly, it was his business to interpret for Israel in exile the stern logic of her past history, and to lead her forth "through repentance unto salvation".
The first of the above-named parts of the prophet's calling he discharged, first by performing a variety of symbolic actions and rehearsing others he had witnessed, in which were represented the siege of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-8; Ezekiel 24:1-14), the miseries to be endured by its inhabitants (Ezekiel 4:9-17; Ezekiel 5:1-11; Ezekiel 9:7-11; Ezekiel 12:17-20), the burning of the city (Ezekiel 10:1, Ezekiel 10:2) from which (Ezekiel 11:23) as already from its temple the glory of Jehovah had departed (Ezekiel 10:18), ending in the exile and captivity of Zedekiah and his subjects (Ezekiel 12:1-13); next, by delivering a number of parabolic or allegorical addresses, in which were depicted Jerusalem's rejection (Ezekiel 15:0.) and Zedekiah's deportation to Babylon (Ezekiel 17:20); and finally, by exhorting them in poetical compositions (Ezekiel 19:1-14; Ezekiel 21:8-17) and spirited narrations (Ezekiel 21:18-27), in which the same melancholy events, the approach of Nebuchadnezzar and the desolation of Jerusalem, were foretold. The second he fulfilled by reporting to the elders who sat before him in his house, the visions Jehovah had caused him to behold of the image of jealousy and of the chambers of imagery in the temple at Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:1-18), as well as of the princes who devised mischief and gave wicked counsel in the city (Ezekiel 11:1-21); by reciting in their hearing the story of Israel's original condition and subsequent apostasy, both in highly figurative (Ezekiel 16:23.) and in plainly prosaic speech (Ezekiel 20:22.); and by reproving both them and the people they represented for their own insincerity and apostasy (Ezekiel 14:0.). The third part of his mission he pursued throughout, never exulting in the lurid pictures he drew, either of Israel's sin or of Israel's overthrow, but always aiming at awakening in the breasts of his hearers a conviction of their guiltiness and a feeling of repentance; and although, while Jerusalem was standing, his endeavours only met with resistance and mostly ended in failure, yet there cannot be a doubt that after the city fell his words gained a readier access to his listeners' hearts, and were more successful in conducting the exiles to a better state of mind. The fourth and last part of his life work, which became possible only when the city had succumbed and the people's hearts had been softened, he carried out by giving them in God's name the promise of a true Shepherd, who should feed them in place of the false shepherds who had neglected and destroyed them (Ezekiel 34:23); by assuring them of the final overthrow of, their old adversary Edom (Ezekiel 35:0.), as well as of any new combinations that might arise against them (Ezekiel 38:0.); by illustrating the possibility of their political and religious resuscitation (Ezekiel 37:1-14) as well as of their ultimate reunion (Ezekiel 37:15-20); and finally, by depicting, in a vision of a re-erected temple, a redivided land, and a reorganized worship (Ezekiel 40-48), the glories of the future, when, at the close of seventy years, Jehovah should turn again their captivity. Into the proper method of interpreting this concluding part of Ezekiel's prophecy it is not necessary at present to enter, further than to say that it does not appear self-evident, as the newer critics, Kuenen ('The Religion of Israel,' 2:114), Wellhausen, Smend, Robertson Smith, and others maintain, that the seer's aim in this part of his book — and, in point of fact, his principal intention as a prophet — was to outline a plan for the second temple and supply a programme for the post-exilic Church. At least, to cite the words of the late Dean Plumptre, "there is no trace in the after history of Israel of any attempt to carry Ezekiel's ideal into execution. No reference is made to it by the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who were the chief teachers of the people at the time of the rebuilding of the temple. There is no record of its having been in the thoughts of Zerubbabel, the Prince of Judah, and Joshua the high priest, as they set about that work. No description of the second temple or of its ritual in Josephus or the rabbinical writings at all tallies with what we and in those chapters".
As for the manner — the times, places, and methods — in which Ezekiel exercised his calling, considerable light is cast on this by the hints scattered throughout his volume. From these it appears that he never spoke or acted prophetically of his own proper motion, but always under the direct impulse of inspiration, either after the word of Jehovah had come to him (Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 6:1; Ezekiel 7:1; Ezekiel 12:1, etc.), or after he had beheld a vision which, from its nature, he understood required to be communicated to the people (Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1-11:25; Ezekiel 40:2, etc.). Nor does it contradict this representation of the source of Ezekiel's predictions that he occasionally gave them first in answer to inquiries from the elders of his people (Ezekiel 20:1), as it does not follow that, though these appear to have made frequent visits to the prophet's presence (Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1), he could have addressed them without first obtaining permission from Jehovah (Ezekiel 3:1-4, Ezekiel 3:25-27; Ezekiel 33:22). Then, while it would seem that for the most part the prophet restricted his prophetic utterances to those who sought him out in his own dwelling (Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1; Ezekiel 24:19), and certainly never undertook journeys to remote colonies of the exiles, it is by no means apparent that such discourses as recite Judah's and Israel's sins (Ezekiel 6:7, Ezekiel 6:13, 16.) or call to repentance (Ezekiel 33, 36.), or justify Jehovah's procedure in dealing with his people (Ezekiel 18, 33.), were not pronounced before public congregations; and if usually his prophecies were first spoken before being written, there is ground for thinking that some deliverances, as e.g. those relative to foreign nations (Ezekiel 25-32) and to the temple (Ezekiel 40-48), were not published orally at all, but only circulated in writing.
In addition to his mission to Judah and Israel, the prophet had a calling to fulfil with reference to the heathen nations by which God's ancient people had been surrounded and not unfrequently opposed, and this he discharged by composing the prophecies comprised in Ezekiel 25-32. Some interpreters regard these predictions as the commencement of the consolation Ezekiel was directed to offer to humbled Israel; as if the prophet's thoughts were that Israel, though overthrown herself, should derive comfort and hope from the fact that, even while punishing her, Jehovah was preparing the way for her recovery by pouring out the vials of his wrath upon her foes. It is, however, doubtful if the prophet did not mean, along with this at least, to sound a note of warning to these foreign peoples who had in times past so often harassed Israel, and were even then exulting in her overthrow, as if the day and hour of their final triumph over her were at hand; that although Jehovah had visited her on account of her iniquities, he certainly did not mean them to escape, but rather intended they should read in Israel's doom the precursor and pledge of their own; for "if judgment had begun at the house of God, what should the end be" of those that did not belong to, but were the enemies, of that house?
4. The Character of the Prophet.
That considered simply as a man Ezekiel was a striking personality, who, had he never been called to prophetic functions, would still have made a powerful impression on his age and contemporaries, will probably not be denied. Endowed by nature with high intellectual capacity, with a clear perception, a lively imagination as well as a faculty of eloquent and arrestive speech, he possessed, it is obvious, in no small degree that education and culture which are indispensable to render natural endowments effective. Though not a scholar in the modern acceptation of the term, he had no slight acquaintance, not merely with the sacred books, institutions, and customs of his own people, as will afterwards be shown, but also with the learning, ideas, habits, and practices of the world generally in the times in which he lived. To appropriate the language of Ewald, without endorsing it in every particular, "he describes the condition and circumstances of the nations and countries of the world with a fulness and historical vividness equalled by no other prophet. In his oracles concerning Tyre and Egypt it is as if he intended to present at the same time, in the shape of learned information, a full and complete account of these kingdoms as regards their position and relations to the world, so exhaustive, at the cost indeed of their artistic effect, are these descriptions designed to be". Or, to cite the words of Smend, "To the predominantly practical tendency of his mind points his extensive material and technical culture. He understands the geography of his day. He possesses accurate knowledge of the markets of Tyre. Especially are precious stones and cloth stuffs known to him. He is a skilled designer and calculator". So accurate, indeed, is his knowledge of surrounding peoples, that Cornill surmises he must have been a diligent as well as observant traveller in his youth. Then, in combination with these well cultivated mental abilities, he owned other qualities which are usually found in men who lead their fellows, whether in the department of thought or in that of action. He was distinguished in a rare degree by energy and decision of character (Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:10), by resolute and patient self-command (Ezekiel 3:15, Ezekiel 3:26; Ezekiel 24:18), by intense moral earnestness (Ezekiel 22:0; Ezekiel 33:0.), and by deep personal humility, which perhaps reflected itself in the frequent appellation "son of man" (Ezekiel 2:1; Ezekiel 3:1; Ezekiel 4:1, et passim); and while without these traits he might have developed into a powerful orator, which indeed he was (Ezekiel 33:32), or into a poet, which he may fairly claim to have been (Ezekiel 15:1-5; 19:14-21; Ezekiel 21:14-21), without aspiring to be the AEschylus or Shakespeare of the Hebrews (Herder), it was his possession of these that fitted him in an eminent degree to fulfil the calling of a prophet. Nor are indications wanting that Ezekiel was not destitute of the softer qualities of the heart. If he lacked the tender sensibilities of Jeremiah which frequently dissolved themselves in tears (Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 22:10), he occasionally manifested warm feeling, as when he deprecated the destruction of his countrymen by the divinely commissioned executioners (Ezekiel 9:8), and again as when he poured forth a threnody over the evil fate of the princes of Judah (Ezekiel 19:0:l, 14). That the bereavement which fell upon him in his thirty-fourth year occasioned him the most poignant grief, and would have evoked from his stricken heart audible and visible expressions of sorrow, had he not been enjoined "neither to mourn nor weep" (Ezekiel 24:15), is not difficult to see. Hence the view that Ezekiel was not so much a flesh and blood personality as a semi-etherealized puppet, which was moved hither and thither in obedience to Divine (or supposed Divine) impulse, must be unhesitatingly rejected.
That regarded as a seer Ezekiel — "the priest in a prophet's mantle," as Wellhausen styles him — was distinguished by scarcely less exalted qualities, becomes immediately apparent. Not only was his spiritual discernment of the highest order (Ezekiel 1:4-28; Ezekiel 2:9; Ezekiel 3:23, etc.), but his soul's instincts were so attuned to the inner harmonies of righteousness and truth, that he had the clearest and most accurate perception of the moral and religious situation both in Judah and on the Chebar, as well as the finest and directest appreciation of what that situation required. The verdict of Smend, that "Ezekiel's judgment of Israel's past was without question wrong, that he interpreted the history according to a priori suppositions of his own, and that for the objective historical truth he had no sense more", will hardly commend itself to those who have no preconceived theory of their own to buttress, and who are anxious only to reach such conclusions as are warranted by the facts of the case. Then it goes without saying that not only had Ezekiel a high conception of the nature and difficulty, responsibility and dignity, of the prophetic calling, but almost more than any other prophet lived, moved, and had his being in it, the prophecies he uttered being so spread throughout his twenty-seven years of active ministry as to leave him scarcely a moment free from its sacred duties and impressions. His fidelity both to Jehovah who appointed him, and to them for whose sakes he had been appointed to his calling, was hardly less conspicuous. That he either failed to understand his countrymen or judged them too severely, because naturally "accustomed to look upon the (lark side of things," or, perhaps out of chagrin and vexation, "because he himself had been the victim of his people's error" (Kuenen, 'The Religion of Israel,' 2:106), is a suggestion as unworthy as it is baseless. If he "showed not the least inclination to excuse the conduct of his contemporaries out of pity for their lot" (ibid.), the reason was that the judgment he expressed, besides being true and therefore impossible to be changed, was likewise Jehovah's judgment, and dared not be tampered with. Accordingly, with these convictions in his soul, it was not surprising that in the discharge of his sacred duties he should evince an invincible fortitude like that possessed by all great prophets, and in particular by his two illustrious contemporaries, Jeremiah in Jerusalem and Daniel in Babylon. Yet can it not be justly alleged that Ezekiel never spoke in accents of love and tenderness, since in addition to the already cited instances of sympathetic feeling which appear in his several discourses, throughout the whole of his book, and more especially the third part, which is devoted to the consolation of the exiled people, there runs a deep undertone of pity for the fallen nation. It was this feeling of pity which fitted him to be, what he was more than any prophet previously had been, a true shepherd of souls. Cornill finely utters this thought when he writes, "Whilst the earlier prophets make the people in their collective capacity the subject of their preaching, Ezekiel turns himself to individual souls; [in him] the prophet becomes a 'carer for souls.' We find in Ezekiel, for the first time in the Old Testament, a clear and definite example of that delivering, seeking love which goes after the erring, and brings back the lost".
2. EZEKIEL — THE BOOK.
1. Arrangement and Contents.
(1) Arrangement. A glance into the Book of Ezekiel shows that the prophetic utterances composing it have not been thrown together at random, but set down in accordance with a well considered plan. As the downfall of Jerusalem formed the middle point of Ezekiel's activity, so has it been made the centre of Ezekiel's book, the prophecies reported in the first twenty-four chapters having all been delivered prior to, while those recorded in the second twenty-four, at least mainly, were uttered after, that event. Again, if regard be had to the destinations of the oracles, two distinct groups emerge — one, a larger, addressed to Israel (Ezekiel 1-24; 33-48), and another, a smaller, directed against foreign nations (Ezekiel 25-32.). Then the prophecies concerning Israel divide themselves into two main sections, both as to the times when they were spoken and as to the subject matters of which they treat; those in Ezekiel 1:24, having been uttered, as already stated, previous to the fall of Jerusalem, and composed of threatenings and judgments, while those in Ezekiel 33-48, were published subsequent to that catastrophe, and held forth comforts and consolations to the stricken people. Hence a threefold division is distinguishable: Ezekiel 1-24, prophecies (of judgment) against Israel; Ezekiel 25-32., prophecies against foreign nations; and Ezekiel 33-48, prophecies (of consolation) for Israel; and this division is for the most part recognized and followed by expositors (De Wette, Ewald, Kliefoth, Smend, Schroder, Wright), although many prefer to reduce the three parts into two principal sections, by either combining the second part with the first as an appendix (Hengstenberg), or connecting it with the third part as a preface (Hitzig, Havernick, Keil, Cornill). One expositor (Bleek) adopts a fourfold division by splitting up the third part into two subsections, Ezekiel 33-39, and 40-48.
The first part (Ezekiel 1-24), consisting of prophecies of judgment concerning Israel, has been variously subdivided. Block ('Introduction to the Old Testament,' 2:106) partitions it into twenty-nine sections corresponding to the number of its separate utterances; Kliefoth, excluding the introduction (Ezekiel 1:0:l-3:21), into seven (Ezekiel 3:12-7:27; Ezekiel 8:1-11:25; Ezekiel 12:1-13:23; Ezekiel 14:1-19:14; Ezekiel 20:0:l- 21:4; 21:5-23:49; 24:1-27); Havernick into six (Ezekiel 1-3:15; Ezekiel 3:16; 8-11; 12-19; 20-23; Ezekiel 24:0.); Smend into five (Ezekiel 1-3:21; Ezekiel 3:22-7:27; 8-11; 12-19; 20-24); Schroder into three (Ezekiel 1-3:11; Ezekiel 3:12-7:27; Ezekiel 8:1-24:27); and Ewald into three (Ezekiel 1-11; 12-20; 21-24.), representing "the three separate periods in which Ezekiel had felt called upon by important events to be more than usually active." Perhaps the simplest division is that adopted by Keil, Hengstenberg, and others, which forms four subsections according to the chronological notes furnished by the prophecies themselves; as thus: Ezekiel 1-7., which began to be spoken in the fifth year, in the fourth month, and on the fifth day; Ezekiel 8-19., dating from the sixth year, the sixth month, and fifth day; Ezekiel 20-23., at the head of which stands the seventh year, the fifth month, and the tenth day; and Ezekiel 24., which was published on the ninth year, in the tenth month, and on the tenth day of the month. These several subsections again are resolvable into component parts, distinguishable by the well known phrase, "And the word of the Lord came unto me," introducing each separate oracle communicated to or delivered by the prophet. In the first subsection the phrase occurs four, or, excluding the introduction (Ezekiel 1:3), three times (Ezekiel 3:16; Ezekiel 6:1; Ezekiel 7:1); in the second, fourteen times (Ezekiel 11:14; Ezekiel 12:1; Ezekiel 12:8; Ezekiel 12:17; Ezekiel 12:21; Ezekiel 12:26; Ezekiel 13:1; Ezekiel 14:2; Ezekiel 14:12; Ezekiel 15:1; Ezekiel 16:1; Ezekiel 17:1; Ezekiel 17:11; Ezekiel 18:1); in the third, nine times (Ezekiel 20:2; Ezekiel 20:45; Ezekiel 21:1; Ezekiel 21:8; Ezekiel 21:18; Ezekiel 22:1; Ezekiel 22:17; Ezekiel 22:23; Ezekiel 23:1); and in the fourth, twice (Ezekiel 24:1; Ezekiel 24:15); in all twenty-nine, or, excluding the introduction, 28 (4 x 7) times.
The second part (Ezekiel 25-32.), comprising oracles relating to foreign nations, divides itself into three subsections according to the subjects with which these deal. In the first subsection (Ezekiel 25:0.) are found prophecies against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and the Philistines, of which the date is uncertain, though they seem to have been spoken at the same time and before the fall of Jerusalem, most likely during the progress of the siege. The second subsection (Ezekiel 26-28) embraces five separate oracles, four against Tyre and one against Zidon, which began to be published on the first day of an unrecorded month in the eleventh year; and though it cannot be affirmed that the several oracles were continuously spoken, yet the probability is they were all uttered about the same period. The third subsection brings together six oracles which at different times were pronounced against Egypt, viz. two (Ezekiel 29:1-16 and [30:1-19) proceeding from the. tenth year, the tenth month, and the twelfth day; a third (Ezekiel 30:20-26) from the seventh clay of the first month of the eleventh year; a fourth (Ezekiel 31:1-18) from the eleventh year, the third month, and the first day; with a fifth (Ezekiel 32:1-16) from the first day and a sixth (Ezekiel 32:17-32) from the fifteenth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year. Thus in this second part thirteen oracles are included, to which Kliefoth, in order to carry out his sevenfold division (14 = 2 x 7) adds the next oracle (Ezekiel 33:1-20), which, however, rather serves as an introduction to the ensuing main division.
The third part (Ezekiel 23-48), consisting of prophecies of restoration for the fallen people, has also been variously divided. Kliefoth makes as many subsections as there are separate oracles or words of God, viz. eight. Ewald distributes the whole into three, setting forth the prosperity of the future,
(1) as to its conditions and basis (Ezekiel 33-36),
(2) as to its progress from the beginning until its consummation (Ezekiel 37-39), and
(3) as to its arrangement and constitution in detail in connection with the restoration of the temple and kingdom (Ezekiel 40-48.). Schroder constructs two groups, which he denominates the renewal of Ezekiel's mission (Ezekiel 33:0), and the Divine promises (Ezekiel 34-48.). Perhaps as natural a mode of division as any is that of Bleek, Havernick, Hengstenberg, Smend, and others, who combine Ewald's first and second subsections into one, and so reduce the number to two, of which the first (Ezekiel 33-39.) was published in the twelfth year, tenth month, and fifth day, and the second (Ezekiel 40-48.) in the twenty-fifth year, first month, and tenth day. If the introductory portion of Part I. (Ezekiel 1-3:21) be set apart as a distinct subsection, then the paragraph (Ezekiel 33:1-20) which introduces Part III. ought in the same fashion to be reckoned as a separate subsection, in which case the number of such subsections in Part III. would be three; but possibly in both cases it is better to include the opening verses in the first subsections. In the third part the number of separate oracles, or" words of Jehovah," as above noted, is seven (Ezekiel 33:1; Ezekiel 33:23; Ezekiel 34:1; Ezekiel 35:1; Ezekiel 36:16; Ezekiel 37:15; Ezekiel 38:1), which harmonizes with Kliefoth's arithmetical scheme of making the number of the oracles in the different parts of the book a multiple of seven, as without question the total number of "Divine words" in the book, 49, is divisible by 7; yet the scheme itself looks too artificial to have been deliberately adopted by the prophet as the ground plan after which his literary material was arranged.
(2) Contents. These, having been already frequently referred to, need not be further detailed than by appending the following table, in which are set forth the several oracles uttered by the prophet, with the dates at which they were spoken, and the subjects to which they allude: —
Concerning Israel: prophecies of judgment. Ezekiel 1-24.
Section First. Ezekiel 1-7.
I. The calling of the prophet: Introductory.
1. The sublime theophany. Ezekiel 1:0.
2. Ezekiel's commission. Ezekiel 2:13:15.
II. The prophet's first activity.
1. Appointed a watchman. Ezekiel 3:16-21.
2. Directed about his work. Ezekiel 3:22-27.
3. The siege of Jerusalem portrayed. Ezekiel 4:1-5:4.
4. The four signs interpreted. Ezekiel 5:5-17.
III. The mountains of Israel denounced. Ezekiel 6:0.
IV. The final overthrow of Israel. Ezekiel 7:0.
Section Second. Ezekiel 8-19.
I. A series of visions.
1. The chambers of imagery, or Jerusalem's corruption. Ezekiel 8:1-18.
2. The six executioners and the man with the ink horn; or, the preservation of the righteous and destruction of the wicked in Jerusalem. Ezekiel 9:1-11,
3. The coals of fire, or the burning of the city. Ezekiel 10:1-2.
4. The whirling wheels, or the departure of Jehovah from the temple, Ezekiel 10:3-22.
5. The five and twenty princes; or the wickedness of the city leaders. Ezekiel 11:1-13.
6. The ascending cherubim; or Jehovah's withdrawal from the city. Ezekiel 11:14-25.
II. Two symbolic actions.
1. Ezekiel's removing; or Zedekiah's captivity. Ezekiel 12:1-16.
2. Ezekiel's trembling; or the terrors of the siege. Ezekiel 12:17-20.
3. The certainty of their fulfilment. Ezekiel 12:21-28.
III. Two threatening discourses.
1. Against false prophets and false prophetesses.Ezekiel 13:0; Ezekiel 13:0.
2. Against the elders of Israel. Ezekiel 14:1-11.
3. The inevitableness of Jehovah's judgments. Ezekiel 14:12-23.
IV. Similitudes and parables.
1. Parable of the vine tree; or the worthlessness of Judah. Ezekiel 15:1-8.
2. Similitude of the outcast infant; or Jerusalem's abominations.Ezekiel 16:1-63; Ezekiel 16:1-63.
3. The allegory of the two eagles and a vine; or the fortunes of the royal house of Judah. Ezekiel 15:1.
4. The proverb concerning sour grapes; or Jehovah's equity defended. Ezekiel 18:0.
5. The lion's whelps and the vine — a lamentation for the princes of Judah Ezekiel 19:0.
Section Third. Ezekiel 20-23.
I. The story of Israel's rebellions. Ezekiel 20:0.
II. A proclamation of approaching judgments.
1. The sword against Israel. Ezekiel 21:1-7.
2. The song of the sword. Ezekiel 21:8-17.
3. The advance of Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel 21:18-27.
4. The sword against Ammon. Ezekiel 21:28-32.
III. The sins of Jerusalem.
1. The wickedness of the princes and people. Ezekiel 22:1-16.
2. Their fearful doom, to be cast into the furnace. Ezekiel 22:17-22,
3. No intercessor. Ezekiel 22:23-31.
IV. The histories of Aholah and Aholibamah. Ezekiel 23:0.
Section Fourth. Ezekiel 24:0.
I. The symbol of the boiling pot. Ezekiel 24:1-14.
II. The death of Ezekiel's wife. Ezekiel 24:15-27.
Concerning foreign nations: prophecies of judgment. Ezekiel 25-32.
I. Against the Ammonites. Ezekiel 25:1-7.
Against the Moabites. Ezekiel 25:8-11.
Against the Edomites. Ezekiel 25:12-14.
Against the Philistines. Ezekiel 25:15-17.
(Date uncertain; probably same as above.)
II. Against Tyre.
1. Her fall predicted. Ezekiel 26:1.
2. Her lamentation sounded. Ezekiel 27:0.
3. Her king bewailed. Ezekiel 28:1-20.
III. Against Zidon. Ezekiel 28:21-26.
IV. Against Egypt.
1. The judgment of Pharaoh — two oracles. Ezekiel 29:0. (Dates: tenth year, tenth month, twelfth day; and twenty-seventh year, first month, first day.)
2. The desolation of Egypt — two oracles. Ezekiel 30:0. (Dates: tenth year, tenth month, twelfth day; and eleventh year, first month, seventh day.)
3. The glory of Pharaoh. Ezekiel 31:0. (Date: eleventh year, third month, first day.)
4. Lamentations for Egypt — two oracles. Ezekiel 32:0.
(Dates: twelfth year, twelfth month, first day; and twelfth year, twelfth month, fifteenth day.)
Concerning Israel — prophecies of mercy. Ezekiel 33-48.
I. Ezekiel's commission renewed. Ezekiel 33:1.
II. The shepherds of Israel reproved. Ezekiel 34:0.
III. Prophecy against Edom. Ezekiel 35:0.
IV. The mountains of Israel comforted. Ezekiel 36:0.
V. The vision of dry bones. Ezekiel 37:1-14.
VI. The union of Israel and Judah. Ezekiel 37:15-28.
VII. Prophecies against Gog and Magog. Ezekiel 38, 39.
VIII. Visions of the future restoration
1. Of the temple. Ezekiel 40-43.
2. Of the worship. Ezekiel 44-46.
3. Of the land. Ezekiel 47, 48.
2. Composition, Collection, and Canonicity.
The genuineness of Ezekiel has never been seriously challenged. The earlier attacks of Gabler, Oeder and Vogel, and Corrodi on its individual portions, equally with the contention of Zunz that, as a whole, it belongs to the Persian age, are dismissed by the best criticism as unworthy of consideration; while De Wette's opinion is endorsed by all competent scholars, that Ezekiel wrote down everything with his own hand. Even Kuenen, who suspects the historicity of several of its paragraphs, admits that "we possess in the Book of Ezekiel a review written by the prophet himself" ('The Religion of Israel,' 2:105); in this agreeing with Bleek, who regards it as "tolerably certain that Ezekiel himself prepared this compilation, and that therefore no utterances are admitted into it which are not Ezekiel's own" ('Introduction to the Old Testament,' 2:117). The only points with reference to which divergence of sentiment exists are the dates at which and the manner in which this compilation was formed — whether its various utterances were written down before or after they were published, and whether all or only some or none were orally delivered.
Examining these points in reverse order, it is probably less wide of the mark, with Bleek, Havernick, Keil, and others, to maintain that Ezekiel's oracles were all orally delivered, than to assert, with Gramberg and Hitzig, that none were. Ewald's conception of the prophet as a literary person sitting in his study and writing "oracles" because of the felt decay of the prophetic spirit ('The Prophets of the Old Testament,' 4:2, 9) cannot be sustained, if by this is intended that Ezekiel did not exercise his calling after the fashion of the older prophets, but restricted his efforts to the preparation of prophetic "fly sheets." That some of his discourses, as e.g. those directed against foreign nations and those relating to the temple, may never have been spoken, but only circulated as written documents, is conceivable, though it is travelling beyond the evidence to allege that anything in either of these collections renders it certain they could not have been, and were not, read to the exiles. Smend, who holds the two parts referred to as free reproductions, and not at all as verbatim reports of what the prophet spoke, nevertheless concedes that the prophet "may have orally expressed the same thoughts" ('Der Prophet Ezechiel,' 32.). As to whether his "oracles" were committed to writing before being read or spoken to the exiles, or were first spoken and afterwards recorded, cannot be ascertained in the absence of the prophet himself, and in defect of information on the subject from his or another's hand; so that the one assumption stands upon the same footing with and is as good as the other. The sole questions of interest are as to whether the "oracles" were penned exactly as spoken or freely reproduced in such a style as to deprive them of all claim to complete accuracy; and whether they were written down at a time when the incidents and experiences, being fresh in the prophet's memory, could be easily and vividly recalled, or at a later period when, his impressions of what had occurred having considerably faded, the reminiscences of the past which floated before his mind's eye required to be touched up by poetic fancy and literary skill. The two questions hang together. The later the period, the less likely the prophet's recollection to have been fresh; the earlier the period, the more difficult to fix upon the prophet a charge of "great carelessness in carrying out of details" (Smend).
(1) With reference to the probable date of composition, the latest fixed upon by Kuenen and Smend is that of the twenty-fifth year of the Captivity; and at this clare all critics agree the passage (Ezekiel 40-48.) must be placed. The only reason discoverable for holding that Ezekiel 1-24, were not composed before that year, or at least not before the destruction of Jerusalem, is the difficulty, on the contrary hypothesis, of getting rid of the supernatural or predictive element in prophecy. "One must allow," writes Smend, "that in Ezekiel 1-24, many a word stands exactly as Ezekiel spoke it; but, on the other hand, it is only literary fiction when Jerusalem's downfall is represented as still future, as in Ezekiel 13:2, etc., and 22:30, etc. The prediction is generally in the strongest way influenced by the fulfilment; step by step there meet us vaticinia ex eventu, as in Ezekiel 11:10 and 12:12. The passage Ezekiel 17:0. is throughout anachronistic, and the section Ezekiel 14:12 generally first thinkable after the destruction of Jerusalem". Nor can it be doubted that this conclusion is unavoidable if the premiss from which it is drawn be admitted, viz. that prediction, in the ordinary acception of that term, vaticinium pro eventu, is impossible. But a fair-minded critic must acknowledge that such a premiss is one to be proved rather than assumed, and that until demonstration is produced it will not be possible to assent to the soundness of the inference that, because certain passages predict the downfall of Jerusalem and the captivity of Zedekiah, they must have been composed after those events. Besides, with what truthfulness could Ezekiel have represented himself as having been commanded by Jehovah to foretell the overthrow of the Judaean capital and the banishment of its king, if in reality Jehovah had given him no such instruction, and if in point of fact he, Ezekiel, had uttered no such predictions? And how could he, Ezekiel, have had the effrontery to state, in the opening of his book, that he had been directed by Jehovah to speak to the people with his (Jehovah's) words, and yet in the body of his book show that he had written with his own? Clearly Ezekiel must in this case have been unmindful of Jehovah's charge, which he professed at least he had received, "Son of man, be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house."
(2) As to the final collection and possible revision of Ezekiel's prophecies, there is no need to call in the assistance of any hand but the prophet's own, the seeming disorder, or "want of arrangement," of which Jahn complained being perfectly explainable without having recourse either to a perplexed "transcriber," or to Eichhorn's amusing supposition of a lazy editor, who, having found two separate prophecies of diverse dates, written by the prophet for the sake of economy upon the same book roll, set them down as he found them in juxtaposition rather than take the trouble to rewrite them. Whatever interruption of strict chronological sequence the book discovers is best accounted for as the handiwork of Ezekiel himself, who at times desired to group his prophecies by the subjects to which they related rather than by the dates at which they were spoken. If the book was first formed in the twenty-fifth year of the Captivity, B.C. 575 (Ezekiel 40:1), it was probably revised two years later, when the brief oracle concerning Nebuchadnezzar was added (Ezekiel 29:17-21).
(3) The canonicity of Ezekiel has seldom been impugned. That it found a place in Nehemiah's collection of "the acts of the kings, and the prophets, and of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts" (2 Macc. 2:13), may be assumed. It appeared in the translation of the LXX. which was issued B.C. 280. Josephus ('Contra Apion,' 1:8) numbers it among the sacred books that in his day were regarded as canonical, though he also speaks ('Ant.,' 10:5. 1) of Ezekiel having written two books instead of one — in this probably blundering, as he does in sending off the prophet to Babylon along with Jehoiachin rather than with Jehoiakim ('Ant.,' 10:6, 3) or confounding together Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the former of whom wrote two books (Havernick); or alluding to the present Book of Ezekiel, which may then have been recognized as consisting of two parts or volumes ('Speaker's Commentary'). The Talmud (trans. 'Baba Bathra,' f. 14:2) recognizes 'Ezekiel' among the books it specifies as constituting the canon. On account of seeming discrepancies between Ezekiel's law giving and that of the Pentateuch, the canonicity of the former was for some time contested among the Jews in the last revision of the Jewish canon, after the destruction of Jerusalem; but, the difficulty having been removed, the book's right to a place in the canon was not disturbed, and was at length formally recognized in the Talmud (trans. 'Baba Bathra,' f. 14:2). In the Christian Church Melito's canon of the Old Testament and Origen's both acknowledge it.
3. Its Style and Literary Characteristics.
The verdict of Ewald will probably not be disputed by persons competent to pronounce an opinion on the subject, that as a writer Ezekiel "excels all former prophets in point of skill, beauty, and perfection of treatment" ('The Prophets of the Old Testament,' 4:9). "It is true," adds the above-named eminent authority, "his style, like that of most writers of this later period, has a certain amount of prolixity, often very involved sentences, a rhetorical copiousness and diffuseness; still it rarely (Ezekiel 20:0.) carries these defects to the same extent as Jeremiah in his later years, but generally collects itself with ease and assumes a finished form ....
Moreover, his style is enriched with uncommon comparisons, is often at the same moment both charming and telling, full of new turns and surprises, and often very beautifully elaborate". It frequently exhibits the most imposing sublimity of thought and expression in close combination with the severest and least ornate narration (Ezekiel 1-3.). At one time it revels in a profusion of images, which seem to pour themselves forth from a highly excited fancy (Ezekiel 27:0.); at another time it condescends to comparatively dry and uninteresting details (Ezekiel 40:6-49). Now it rushes forward as if borne along upon the current of impetuous emotion (Ezekiel 16., Ezekiel 16:39.); again it halts and staggers as if overburdened with its message (Ezekiel 17:0.).
More particularly Ezekiel's style is marked by well defined peculiarities.
(1) The first that arrests attention is its strongly supernaturalistic flavour. The rationalistic conception of prophecy as a sort of superior natural endowment, intellectual and ethical, by which the seer, deeply pondering the past, contemplating the present, and peering out into the future, is able, through applying the eternal laws of righteousness, of which he has a clearer discernment than his less gifted contemporaries, to discover both the Divine will concerning those towards whom he feels impelled to act as a teacher and guide, and to forecast with a precision amounting almost to certainty the destinies alike of individuals and nations, — this conception of prophecy, while not to be overlooked, affording as it does the requisite psychological basis for the exercise of prophetic functions, will not account for the phenomena of which Ezekiel is full. In particular, Ewald's picture of the prophet as "translating himself, by the aid of the most vivid imagination, into all the familiar localities of Jerusalem" (Ezekiel 8:3-18), and repeatedly "turning his prophetic eye to the mountains of Israel, i.e. to his mountainous native land," as "in conformity with ancient prophetic rights bending his watchful prophetic eye upon the whole of Israel," and "discovering" (because it was impossible to do otherwise) "much matter for public treatment in the condition of Jerusalem during the first years of his prophetic labours," and as apprehending "the near or the distant dangers that threatened the chief city, the follies and perversities that prevailed therein, and finally the unavoidable ruin which became more imminent every moment," — this picture, if intended to exclude all idea of direct supernatural assistance, and to reduce Ezekiel, in whom it is asserted the prophetic spirit was declining (!), to the level of an ordinary or even extraordinary man of genius, and his book to that of a composition setting forth his subjective meditations on the religious and political situation of his country and people, his reminiscences of the past, imaginings of the present, and forecastings of the future, — this picture is not one for which material support can be found in the prophet's writing. It is undeniably not the idea Ezekiel himself had of what it was he was setting down in his book. Even conceding that Ezekiel need not be supposed to have indited an exact, verbally correct report of what he preached to the elders and people, it is yet unmistakable that from the beginning to the end of his volume he desires it to be understood that the "visions" he describes, "symbols" he performs, and "oracles" he delivers, are Divine communications of which he has been constituted the transmitting medium. To represent the prophet's talk of "visions," "symbols," and "oracles," as also his repeated references to "ecstasies" and "Divine words," as belonging merely to the literary dressing of his thoughts, is to beg the question at issue.
(2) A second characteristic of Ezekiel's writing is its highly idealistic colouring. This reveals itself chiefly in the frequent introduction of visions, though likewise in the use of allegories, parables, and similitudes. That such a style of writing (and speaking) should have been adopted by the prophet was probably due to a variety of causes; as e.g. to his own poetic temperament, his absence from the Holy Land, to which many of his "oracles" referred, and the suitability of such imaginative discourse for impressing the minds of both hearers and readers. How far in the selection of his symbolism he was affected by Babylonian culture is differently answered by expositors, who guide themselves chiefly by the views they entertain as to the genesis of the prophet's writings and the importance they attach to the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist), which formed his intellectual environment. Havernick regards the whole book as having in its symbols "a colossal character which frequently points to those powerful impressions experienced by the prophet in a foreign land — Chaldea — which are here taken up and given forth again with a mighty and independent spirit". Were this so — and a priori it is neither impossible nor incredible — it would in no degree militate against the authenticity or inspiration of the record, but would simply prove, as Cornill excellently puts it, that Jehovah, in permitting Ezekiel to make use of heathen art and symbolism, "had only constituted the gods of Babylon his servants, as already Babylon's king had been an instrument in his hand". Still, it is far from being conclusively established that Ezekiel was in any perceptible degree influenced in the selection of his imagery by his Babylonian surroundings, although his language, in its frequent Aramaisms, bears unmistakable traces of contact with the East, and although, to use the words of the late Dean Plumptre, "in the land of his exile his eyes must have become familiar with sculptured shapes which presented many points of analogy both to his earlier and later conceptions of the cherubim". Hence the judgment of Keil, that "the whole of Ezekiel's symbolism is derived from the Israelitish sanctuary, and is an outcome of Old Testament ideas and views" ('Commentary on Ezekiel,' vol. 1:11), is deserving of respectful consideration — all the more that this mode of representing thought appears to have been common to the nations of the ancient East, and to have been the exclusive property of no one nation more than another (compare 'Speaker's Commentary,' 4:23).
(3) A third distinctive feature in the writing of the prophet is its eminently cultured diction. In this respect, to which allusion has already been made, Ezekiel stands apart even from his two prophetic compeers, Isaiah and Jeremiah. "As the Prophet Ezekiel sprang from the highest aristocracy of the Israel of the day," writes Cornill, "so has also his style something aristocratic about it, in its carefully selected diction and in its massive and well sustained representation, right in antithesis to Jeremiah, the fiery and direct popular orator, whose careless and plain manner of address, but for all that with an elementary force, lays hold of and kindles [its hearers] as that of the eminently reserved Ezekiel never does." Whether, as Cornill supposes, he had in his youth visited the foreign countries he describes, it is certain his writing exhibits a remarkable acquaintance with them, as already has been pointed out; while his intimate knowledge of the works of his predecessors has arrested the attention of every thoughtful student of his pages. The prophets of the eighth century, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, as well as those of his own time, Zephaniah and Jeremiah, have contributed their respective quotas to enrich his composition. Specially noteworthy is the influence which seems to have been made upon him by the study of the last named of these "men of God." The following brief list of passages from Ezekiel and Jeremiah (taken from a larger list prepared by Smend) wilt reveal the nature and amount of this influence: —
Ezekiel — Jeremiah.
Ezekiel 2:8, Ezekiel 2:9 = Jeremiah 1:9.
Ezekiel 3:3 = Jeremiah 15:16.
Ezekiel 3:8 = Jeremiah 1:8, Jeremiah 1:17; Jeremiah 15:20.
Ezekiel 3:14 = Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 15:17.
Ezekiel 3:17 = Jeremiah 6:17.
Ezekiel 4:3 = Jeremiah 15:12.
Ezekiel. — Jeremiah.
Ezekiel 5:6 = Jeremiah 2:10-13.
Ezekiel 5:11 = Jeremiah 13:14.
Ezekiel 5:12 = Jeremiah 21:7.
Ezekiel 6:5 = Jeremiah 7:32.
Ezekiel 7:7 = Jeremiah 3:23.
Ezekiel 7:26 = Jeremiah 4:20.
A comparison of these passages will show that, while in thought and expression, there is, less or more observable, a correspondence which may indicate, on the part of Ezekiel, an acquaintance with the elder prophet's writings, this correspondence is not so close as to warrant the conclusion that Ezekiel prepared his work by a process of selection from Jeremiah, as by Colenso, Smend, and others, Leviticus 26:0. is declared to be essentially a composition made by culling words and phrases from Ezekiel.
A similar acquaintance of Ezekiel with the Pentateuch can be established, as the following examples will show: —
Ezekiel. — Genesis
Ezekiel 11:22 = Genesis 3:24
Ezekiel 16:11 = Genesis 24:22
Ezekiel 16:38 = Genesis 9:6
Ezekiel 16:46 = Genesis 13:10
Ezekiel 16:48 = Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:5
Ezekiel 16:49 = Genesis 19:24
Ezekiel 16:50 = Genesis 14:16
Ezekiel 16:53 = Genesis 18:25
Ezekiel 18:25 = Genesis 18:25
Ezekiel 21:24 = Genesis 13:13
Ezekiel 21:30 = Genesis 15:14
Ezekiel 22:30 = Genesis 18:23
Ezekiel 23:4 = Genesis 36:2
Ezekiel 25:4 = Genesis 45:18
Ezekiel 27:7 = Genesis 10:4
Ezekiel 27:13 = Genesis 10:2
Ezekiel 27:15 = Genesis 10:7, Genesis 25:3
Ezekiel 27:23 = Genesis 25:3.
Ezekiel 28:13 = Genesis 2:8.
Ezekiel. — Exodus.
Ezekiel 1:26 = Exodus 24:10
Ezekiel 1:28 = Exodus 33:20
Ezekiel 4:14 = Exodus 22:31
Ezekiel 9:4 = Exodus 12:7
Ezekiel 10:4 = Exodus 40:35
Ezekiel 13:17 = Exodus 15:20
Ezekiel 16:7 = Exodus 1:7
Ezekiel 16:8 = Exodus 19:5
Ezekiel 16:38 = Exodus 21:12
Ezekiel 18:10 = Exodus 21:12
Ezekiel 18:13 = Exodus 22:25
Ezekiel 20:5 = Exodus 3:8; Exodus 4:31; Exodus 6:7; Exodus 20:2
Ezekiel 20:9 = Exodus 32:13
Ezekiel 22:12 = Exodus 22:25
Ezekiel 28:14 = Exodus 25:20
Ezekiel 41:22 = Exodus 30:1, Exodus 30:8
Ezekiel 42:13 = Exodus 30:20
Ezekiel. — Leviticus.
Ezekiel 4:14 = Leviticus 11:40; Leviticus 16:15.
Ezekiel 4:17 = Leviticus 26:39.
Ezekiel 5:1 = Leviticus 21:5.
Ezekiel 5:10 = Leviticus 26:29.
Ezekiel 5:12 = Leviticus 26:33.
Ezekiel 6:3, Ezekiel 6:4 = Leviticus 26:30
Ezekiel 9:2 = Leviticus 16:4.
Ezekiel 11:12 = Leviticus 18:3.
Ezekiel 14:8 = Leviticus 17:10 20:3.
Ezekiel 14:20 = Leviticus 18:21.
Ezekiel 16:20 = Leviticus 18:21.
Ezekiel 16:25 = Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:5.
Ezekiel 22:7, Ezekiel 22:8 = Leviticus 19:3; Leviticus 20:9.
Ezekiel 22:26 = Leviticus 20:25.
Ezekiel 34:26 = Leviticus 26:4.
Ezekiel 34:27 = Leviticus 26:4, Leviticus 26:20.
Ezekiel 34:28 = Leviticus 26:6.
Ezekiel 36:13 = Leviticus 26:38.
Ezekiel 42:20 = Leviticus 10:10.
Ezekiel 44:20 = Leviticus 21:5, Leviticus 21:10.
Ezekiel 44:21 = Leviticus 10:9.
Ezekiel 44:25 = Leviticus 21:1-4, Leviticus 21:11.
Ezekiel 45:10 = Leviticus 19:35.
Ezekiel 45:17 = Leviticus 1:4.
Ezekiel 46:17 = Leviticus 25:10.
Ezekiel 46:20 = Leviticus 2:4, Leviticus 2:5, Leviticus 2:7.
Ezekiel 48:14 = Leviticus 27:10, Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:3.
Ezekiel. — Numbers.
Ezekiel 1:28 = Numbers 12:8.
Ezekiel 4:5 = Numbers 14:34.
Ezekiel 6:9 = Numbers 14:39.
Ezekiel 6:14 = Numbers 33:46.
Ezekiel 8:11 = Numbers 16:17.
Ezekiel 9:8 = Numbers 14:5.
Ezekiel 11:10 = Numbers 34:11.
Ezekiel 14:8 = Numbers 26:10.
Ezekiel 14:15 = Numbers 21:6.
Ezekiel 18:4 = Numbers 27:16.
Ezekiel 20:16 = Numbers 15:39
Ezekiel 24:17 = Numbers 20:29.
Ezekiel 36:13 = Numbers 13:32.
Ezekiel 40:45 = Numbers 3:27, Numbers 3:28, Numbers 3:32, Numbers 3:38.
Ezekiel. — Deuteronomy.
Ezekiel 4:14 = Deuteronomy 14:8.
Ezekiel 4:16 = Deuteronomy 28:48.
Ezekiel 5:10 = Deuteronomy 28:53.
Ezekiel 5:10, Ezekiel 5:12 = Deuteronomy 28:64.
Ezekiel 7:15 = Deuteronomy 32:25.
Ezekiel 7:26 = Deuteronomy 32:23.
Ezekiel 8:3 = Deuteronomy 32:16.
Ezekiel 14:8 = Deuteronomy 28:37.
Ezekiel 16:13 = Deuteronomy 32:13.
Ezekiel 16:15 = Deuteronomy 32:15.
Ezekiel 17:5 = Deuteronomy 8:7.
Ezekiel 18:7 = Deuteronomy 24:12.
From these instances, which might be multiplied, it will be seen that between Ezekiel's language and thought and the language and thought of the Pentateuch sufficient points of contact exist to warrant the hypothesis that Ezekiel was at least acquainted with these books, and had made them his study — a very plausible hypothesis, considering who and what Ezekiel was. To go beyond this, and argue, either with Graf and Kayser, that Ezekiel wrote the law of holiness (Heiligkeits-gesetz) of Leviticus (Ezekiel 17-26.), or with Kuenen, Wellhausen, Smend, and others, that the middle portion of the Pentateuch, the so called priest ode (Exodus 25:0-Numbers 36:0, with exceptions), was not composed till after the exile, is to argue from insufficient data. Against the former of these inferences Smend reasons forcibly, pointing out characteristic differences, linguistic and material, between Ezekiel and the portion of Leviticus in question; but the latter inference for which he contends is just as little capable of being placed on a solid foundation. The numerous allusions in Ezekiel to the priest code and the other parts of the Pentateuch are quite as easily explained on the supposition that the whole Pentateuch was written before the exile, as that only parts of it (Deuteronomy and the Jehovistic history book) were written before, and parts of it (the holiness law and the priest code) after.
(4) A fourth distinguishing feature in Ezekiel's style is its well marked originality. This is not to be regarded as in any measure compromised by what has been advanced concerning the prophet's supposed dependence on the Pentateuch and the older prophets. Whatever assistance he may have derived from these compositions, he is not for a moment to be represented as having ransacked them, after the fashion of a modern author, sifting the works of his predecessors for choice quotations wherewith to embellish his own pages, but to have freely reproduced their teachings with the stamp of his own individuality upon them, after having first taken up and absorbed them into his own personality. If his symbolism, as already indicated, was mainly derived from Old Testament ideas and conceptions, those ideas and conceptions were combined in a way which was peculiarly his own. To cite again the words of Cornill, "Whilst in the earlier prophets we find, as it were, only timid attempts, in the Book of Ezekiel there prevails a truly titanic phantasy, which in inexhaustible fulness always creates afresh the most profound symbols, usually bordering on the extremest limits of the conceivable." Nor is the prophet's originality restricted to unusual images and combinations of thought, but, as is more or less characteristic of all powerfully energetic and creative minds, it overflows in the coinage of new words as well as in the employment of phrases and expressions peculiar to itself. Examples of the latter are the designations, "son of man," used by Jehovah in addressing the prophet (Ezekiel 2:1, Ezekiel 2:3, Ezekiel 2:6, Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:1, Ezekiel 3:3, Ezekiel 3:4, et passin), and "rebellious house" applied to Israel (Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 2:6, Ezekiel 2:7, Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:9, Ezekiel 3:26, Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 12:2, Ezekiel 12:3, Ezekiel 12:9; Ezekiel 17:12; Ezekiel 24:3; Ezekiel 44:6); the formulas, "The hand of Jehovah was upon me" (Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1), "The word of Jehovah came unto me" (Ezekiel 3:16; Ezekiel 6:1; Ezekiel 7:1, etc.], "Set thy face against (Ezekiel 4:3, Ezekiel 4:7; Ezekiel 6:2; Ezekiel 13:17; Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 21:2), They shall know that I am Jehovah" (Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 6:10, Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 7:27; Ezekiel 12:15, etc.), "They shall know that a prophet hath been among them" (Ezekiel 2:5; Ezekiel 33:33); and the clauses introducing Jehovah's utterances: "Thus saith Jehovah Elohim" (Ezekiel 2:4; Ezekiel 3:11, Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 5:5, Ezekiel 5:7, Ezekiel 5:8; Ezekiel 6:3, Ezekiel 6:11; Ezekiel 7:2, Ezekiel 7:5, etc.). Instances of the former are hardly less abundant. Keil ('Introduction to the Old Testament,' I., vol. 1:357, Engl. trans.) supplies a list of words peculiar to Ezekiel, of which the appended are a sample:
(i) Verbs: בָּתַק, "to thrust through" (Ezekiel 16:40); דָּלַח, "to trouble" (waters) (Ezekiel 32:2, Ezekiel 32:13); טָעָה, in hiph., "to lead astray" (Ezekiel 13:10); כָּחַל, "to paint" (the eyes) (Ezekiel 23:40); סָחָה, "to sweep away or scrape off" (Ezekiel 26:4); רָסַס, "to sprinkle" (Ezekiel 46:14).
(ii) Nouns: בָּזָק, "flash of lightning" (Ezekiel 1:14); הִי, "lamentation" (Ezekiel 2:10); חַשְׁמַל, "polished brass" (Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:27; Ezekiel 8:2); הֵד, "sounding" (Ezekiel 7:7); חַיִצ, "the wall of a house" (Ezekiel 13:10); יֶקֶב, "a socket for setting a gem" (Ezekiel 28:13).
(5) A last peculiarity that may be claimed for Ezekiel is that of simplicity. Bleek denies this, and speaks of his style as being "very diffuse and redundant" — a complaint which Smend re-echoes, characterizing it, on account of the above-mentioned phrases and formulas, as "monotonous," and even charging it with occasional "carelessness;" but the judgment of a writer in the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' (art. "Ezekiel") will probably commend itself to impartial students as a nearer approximation to the truth, that "Ezekiel's prose is invariably simple and unaffected;" and that "if there be any obscurity at all, it is really caused by his exceeding desire to make it impossible for his readers to misunderstand him."
4. Principles of Interpretation.
That the Book of Ezekiel must be interpreted exactly as other compositions of a mixed prosaic and poetic, historical and prophetical, literal and symbolical, realistic and idealistic character — that is to say, that to each part must be applied its own criteria hermeneutica, its own rules of exegesis or laws of interpretation — is self-evident. And in deciphering those portions of this work which are of a narrative, historical, poetical, or allegorical description, there is ordinarily no difficulty felt. The quaestio vexata is how the "visions," "symbols," and, "predictions" shall be understood, Tholuck distinguishes four different modes of interpretation, which he names the historical, the allegorical, the symbolical, and the typical; or, classing the last three together, the historical and the idealistic; and, so far as the Book of Ezekiel is concerned, the principal matters to be determined are whether its "visions" and "symbolic actions" were actual occurrences or merely transactions in the mind, and whether its predictions were purely "the product of reflective knowledge and thinking" or were traceable to a transcendental origin. The second of these questions, having already been alluded to, may be passed over, and a few words devoted to the first.
As regards the "visions," e.g. of the glory of Jehovah, of the temple at Jerusalem, and of the temple and city of the later times, it can hardly be questioned that what the prophet writes concerning these was based upon actual scenic representations that were present to his mind's eye during the moments of ecstasy he experienced, and were not simply idealistic creations of his own fancy, or rhetorical embellishments employed to set forth his ideas. Whether in any case what he beheld had a materialistic basis is not so easy to determine. Whether, for instance, he actually saw the glory of God or only a likeness of the same, and looked upon the veritable stone and lime building on Mount Moriah or merely an image of the same, seems outside the limits of exegesis to decide. Only the notion that" visions "were intended to "elucidate "the prophet's meaning shatters itself on the rock of their general obscurity.
So opinion is not unanimous whether the symbolic actions reported to have been performed by the prophet — as, for instance, "lying four hundred and thirty days on his right side over against a painted tile," "baking and eating bread of uncleanness," "shaving his head," etc. — should be understood as external (Umbreit, Plumptre, Schroder) or merely internal oecurrences (Staudlin, Bleek, Keil, Hengstenberg, Smend, Calvin, Fairbairn, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Undoubtedly there are circumstances in the accounts given of most of these extraordinary actions which seem to bear out the latter view; but just as surely the former is not without support. Yet in any case it seems absolutely indispensable to hold that there was more in the prophet's symbolism than simply the fruit of his own natural and unas isted imagination (Ewald). If he did not actually perform the actions above referred to in his own house, it at least seemed to him while in the ecstatic or clairvoyant state that he did. In addition to these were symbolic acts which there is no reason to doubt he did perform, such as the carrying out of his stuff from his house (Ezekiel 12:7), and his sighing bitterly before the eyes of his people (Ezekiel 21:6).
5. Theological Standpoints.
Though presumably nothing was further from the prophet's mind than to compose a treatise on dogmatics, it is certain there is no book of the Old Testament in which the theological views of the author shine out with greater clearness than they do in this. So generally is this fact recognized, that Ezekiel has been pronounced the first dogmatic theologian of the Old Testament, and as such compared to Paul, who bears the same character and holds the same position in relation to the New (Cornill). An instructive essay of some dimensions might easily be prepared on the theology of Ezekiel; nothing more can be attempted in the closing paragraphs of this introduction than to outline the teaching it supplies on the subjects of God, the Messiah, man, the kingdom of God, and the end of all things.
(1) God. Whatever view of the Divine Being may have been entertained by Ezekiel's contemperaries in Jerusalem or on the banks of the Chebar, it is clear that to Ezekiel himself Jehovah was no mere local or national divinity, but the supreme and self-existent almighty (Ezekiel 1:24) and oniniscient (Ezekiel 1:18) One, the Possessor of life in himself, and the Source of life to all his creatures, the highest of whom, the cherubim, acted as his throne bearers (Ezekiel 1:22), while the lowest, whirlwinds, storms, clouds, etc., served as his messengers. Infinitely exalted above the earth, clothed with honour and majesty, he was the Lord not alone of the celestial hierarchies, but also of all that dwelt beneath the skies, the supreme Disposer of events on this mundane sphere; the absolute Ruler of men and nations; whom not only Israel and Judah, but Egypt and Babylon, with all other heathen peoples, were bound to obey; who put down one empire and raised up another at his will; who employed a Nebuchadnezzar as his servant with as much facility as he could make use of a David or an Ezekiel. Though not represented, as in Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:3), as receiving the adorations of the cherubim in the midst of which he appeared, he was nevertheless the Holy One of Israel (Ezekiel 39:7), whose name was holy (Ezekiel 36:21, Ezekiel 36:22; Ezekiel 39:25). Perhaps this was symbolized by the "brightness" round about the "cloud" (Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:27) in which the glory of the Lord appeared, but in any case it was proclaimed with awful emphasis by the withdrawal of that glory from the desecrated temple and city (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23), as well as by the terrible denunciations against the wickedness of Israel and Judah which were put into the prophet's mouth. Then, arising out of this, was the inviolable righteousness of God, which by an eternal necessity with the whole fulness of his Godhead, set him apart from and opposed to sin, and demanded even of him that the sinner should be rewarded according to his works. This attribute in Jehovah it was that to Ezekiel's mind rendered the downfall of Jerusalem and the overthrow of her then surrounding nations inevitable. The former had become so degenerate, incurably vile, presumptuously apostate and defiant, while the latter had so persistently arrayed themselves against Jehovah as represented by Israel, that he, by the very necessities of his own nature, was obliged to declare himself against them both (Ezekiel 7:27; Ezekiel 13:20; Ezekiel 16:43; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 26:3; Ezekiel 29:3). The God Ezekiel preached was One who could make no compromise with sin, who could by no means clear the guilty, whether individual or nation, and who would assuredly in the end, without pity, consign to well merited perdition the soul that declined to forsake its sin. Yet was he a God of boundless grace, who had no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11); who, even while threatening judgments against the ungodly, sought to woo them to penitence by promises of clemency (Ezekiel 14:22; Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 20:11), and who found the reason for his gracious acts in himself, and not at all in the objects of his pity (Ezekiel 36:32). In proclaiming such a God, Ezekiel showed himself exactly in line with the clearer and fuller revelations of the gospel.
(2) The Messiah. It has been said that, while the Old Testament prophets were unanimous in regarding Jehovah as the direct first cause which should introduce the Messianic times and set up the Messianic kingdom, they frequently diverged from one another in the view they gave of the instrumentality by which this splendid hope of the future should be realized; and in particular that, whereas in the pre-exilic period, when prophecy was at its height, the personal organ of God in the accomplishment of salvation was the theocratic king (Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Micah 5:2-7; Zechariah 9:9-16), in the post-exilic period, after the downfall of the kingdom, "the Messianic King fails into the background as a subordinate feature in the image of the future painted by Jeremiah and Ezekiel". So far, however, as Ezekiel is concerned, the Kingship of the future Messiah is rather strikingly emphasized. Besides being depicted as a "tender twig" taken from the highest branch of the cedar of Judah's royalty, and planted upon a high mountain, and eminent in the land of Israel (Ezekiel 17:22-24), he is represented as the coming One, to whom the diadem of Israel's sovereignty rightfully belonged, and to whom it should be given after it had been removed from the head of the "profane wicked prince" Zedekiah (Ezekiel 21:27). If not alluded to, as Hengstenberg and Dr. Currey think, in the budding horn of Israel in the day of Egypt's downfall (Ezekiel 29:21), he is expressly named Jehovah's servant David, who should be a Prince amongst Jehovah's restored Israel, and perform towards them all the functions of a true and faithful Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:28, Ezekiel 34:24), ruling over them as King (Ezekiel 37:24), and appearing in Jehovah's presence as their Representative (Ezekiel 44:3). Should it be said that as yet in Ezekiel's Christology there is no idea of Messiah as a sacrificial priest or victim like the suffering Servant of Jehovah in the second portion of Isaiah (Isaiah 53:0), it should at the same time be observed that the ideas of "propitiation," "intercession," "mediation," are by no means foreign to the prophet's mind. If pressure must not be put upon the prince's "eating bread before the Lord" in the east gate of the temple (Ezekiel 44:3), so as to make it signify more than the Messianic David's participation in a sacrificial meal before Jehovah as the representative of his people, it is nevertheless undeniable that the prince's appearing before the Lord is connected with the offering of sacrifice. Then the remarkable expression put into the mouth of Jehovah, that though he sought for he could not find a man who should stand in the gap before him for the land that he should not destroy it (Ezekiel 22:30), and the equally strong asseverations that when once he had determined to cut off a people for its wickedness, though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, should be in the land, yet should they deliver only their own souls (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:20), render it apparent that Ezekiel understood well the thought, if not of vicarious suffering, at least of salvation on the ground of other merits than one's own; and in this again he showed himself a forerunner of the Gospel and Epistle writers of the Christian Church.
(3) Man. If the anthropology of Ezekiel is less developed than either of the two foregoing, it is yet sufficiently pronounced. As to origin and nature, man was and is God's creature and property (Ezekiel 18:4). That Ezekiel believed in and taught the doctrine of man's paradisiacal innocence, seems a reasonable inference from the language he employs in depicting the pristine glory of Tyrus (Ezekiel 28:15, Ezekiel 28:17). The present fallen and corrupt estate of man is distinctly recognized. Man's ways are now evil and require to be abandoned (Ezekiel 18:21-30), while his heart being hard and stony needs to be softened and renewed (Ezekiel 18:31). For his wickedness he is and will be held individually accountable (Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:13, Ezekiel 18:18). On him, as an intelligent personality and free agent, rests the entire responsibility for the reformation of his life and the purification of his heart (Ezekiel 33:11; Ezekiel 43:9). Yet does this not imply that man is able of himself, by his own strength, and without the gracious help of God, to work a saving change upon his soul; and so the very demand which with one breath he makes on man, the demand for a new heart, he in the next proffers as a gift of God, saying in Jehovah's name, "A new heart will I give you" (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Ezekiel 37:23); once more in this anticipating the Pauline doctrines of man's responsibility and inability, and of the consequent need of Divine grace to convert and sanctify the soul.
(4) The kingdom of God. Although this phrase never occurs in Ezekiel in the sense which familiarly belongs to it in the Book of Daniel (7:14, 18, 22, 27) and in the New Testament, in the sense, viz., of God's empire over and in the souls of renewed men, the thought to which it points is by no means absent from his pages. To him, as to the other Old Testament prophets, Israel's vocation had been to be a "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6), and the gravamen of Israel's offence in his eyes was that she had totally revolted from Jehovah, turned aside from serving him, and given her allegiance to other gods — had, in short, become a rebellious house. Yet Ezekiel did not think of Jehovah's kingdom as so inseparably bound up with Israel as a mere world power, that with the downfall of the latter the former should at once cease to exist. On the contrary, he conceived of the inner spiritual kernel of the nation as existing in the lands of its dispersion (Ezekiel 12:17), as growing by the constant addition to it of penitent and obedient hearts (Ezekiel 34:11-19), as swelling out into a new Israel with Messiah as its Prince (Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 37:24), as walking in Jehovah's statutes (Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 16:61; Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 36:27), dwelling in the land of Canaan (Ezekiel 36:33; Ezekiel 37:25), entering into an everlasting covenant with God (Ezekiel 37:26-28), enjoying with him the closest fellowship (Ezekiel 39:29; Ezekiel 46:9), and receiving from him a gracious outpouring of his Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27; Ezekiel 39:27); in all this again foreshadowing the more spiritual conceptions of the New Testament Church.
(5) The end. That the prophecies contained in this book, and especially in its latter half, possess a decidedly eschatologicai character, has long been maintained. Besides having an outlook into the immediate future of Israel's restoration, by the majority of exegetes they have been regarded as extending their gaze as far as to Messianic times, and in particular to the "latter days." Nor is this conjecture destitute of weighty considerations that might be urged in its support. To say the least, it is suggestive that the New Testament Apocalypse, as if it had been deliberately framed upon the model of Ezekiel, begins with a theophany and closes with a vision of a city, through which flows a river of water of life, and in which there is no temple, because of being in itself a temple. Nor is this the whole resemblance between the two writings; but while the latter depicts a figurative and symbolical resurrection, the former describes a resurrection which is real, chants a dirge over Babylon (Revelation 18:11) that reminds one of the Hebrew prophet's lamentation over Tyre (Ezekiel 27:0.), and represents the last struggle between the powers of evil and the Church of Christ (Revelation 20:8) in like terms to those of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 28:0.), as a war of Gog and Magog against the saints of God. Whether, on the ground of Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:0.), it can be inferred that the prophet believed in and taught the doctrine of a future resurrection, or, on the strength of certain statements as to Israel dwelling again upon her own land, it ought to be concluded that the prophet anticipated a final ingathering of the Jews to Palestine, with Christ reigning as their Prince in Jerusalem, it would hardly be safe to affirm; it is much more credible to hold that much of the prophet's language in his last vision points to a condition of things which will be realized on earth first in a millennial period, when the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ (Revelation 11:15), and finally in heaven, when the tabernacle of the Lord shall be with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God (Revelation 21:3).
1. Among the older commentaries on this book may be mentioned the following OEclampadius, 'Comm. in Ezech.,' 1543; Strigel, 'Ezech. Proph. ad Hebrews verit. recogn, et argum, et schol., illustr.,' 1564, 1575, 1579; Casp. 'Sanctius Comm. in Ezech. et Dan.,' 1619; Hieron. Pradus et Jo. Bapt. Villapandus, 'In Ezech. explanatt. et apparatus urbis ac templi Hierosol. Comm., illustr.,' Roman, 1596-1604; Calvin, 'Praelectiones in Ezechielis Prophetae viginti capita priora,' 1617; Venema, 'Lect. acad. ad Ezech.,' 1790.
2. Among the newer, the following may be reckoned the more important: Rosenmuller, 'Scholia,' 2nd edit., 1826; Maurer, 'Commentaries,' vol. 2., 1835; Havernick, 'Comm. uber den Propheten Ezechiel,' 1843; 'Umbreit, 'Prakt. Comm. fiber den Hesekiel,' 1843; Hitzig, 'Der Prophet Ezechiel erklart,' 1847; Patrick Fairbairn, 'Ezekiel and the Book of his Prophecy,' 1st edit., 1851, 2nd edit., 1855, 3rd edit., 1863; Henderson, 'Ezekiel with Comm. Critical,' etc., 1856; Kliefoth, 'Das Buch Ezekiel's ubersetzt und erklart,' 1864; Hengstenberg, 'Die Weissagungen des Prophet Ezechiel,' 1867, 1868; Ewald. 'Die Propheten des Alten Bundes,' vol. 2., 2nd edit., 1868; Keil, 'Commentary on Ezekiel,' Engl. trails., 1868; Schroder, in Lange's Series, 1873; R. Smend, 'Der Prophet Ezechiel,' in 'Kurzg. Ex. Handb.,' 1880; I. Knabenbauer (Roman Catholic), 'Comm. in Ezech.,' Paris, 1890; Dr. Currey, in 'Speaker's Commentary,' 1882; Von Orelli, in Strack und Zockler's 'Comm.,' 1888.
3. Among works which, though not formal expositions, are yet valuable contributions to the literature on Ezekiel, may be placed, W. Neumann, 'Die Wasser des Lebens' (Ezekiel 47:1-12), 1849; Hoffmann, 'Das gelobte Land, etc.,' 1871; Ernst Kfihn, 'Ezechiel's Gesicht von Tempel,' 1882; C.H. Cornill, 'Der Proph. Ezechiel,' 1882; 'Das Buch des Proph. Ezechiel,' 1886; Plumptre, 'Ezekiel: an Ideal Biography,' in Expositor, vols. 7. and 8., 2nd series, 1884.
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17