|Introduction to the Commentary on Ezekiel
| “First the prophet is recommissioned as a watchman to prepare his people for the new age (Ezekiel 33). A new government under” Yehuveh’s “servant David will supplant the old dynasty, whose wicked shepherds (rulers) scattered the sheep (Ezekiel 34). Israel’s territorial integrity will be assured by the desolation of Mount Seir and other enemies (Ezekiel 35) while Israel will experience both outward [and inward] restoration (Ezekiel 36:16-38). The reintegration of the people into one nation under one king, David, is symbolized by the resurrection of the dry bones and the joining of two sticks (Ezekiel 37). The peace of restored Israel will be perpetual, for” Yehuveh “will protect her miraculously from the threatened invasion of Gog in the latter days (Ezekiel 38; 39).
“IV. A Vision of the Restored Community. Ezekiel 40:1-48:35.
“Ezekiel first treated of the sins which led to Judah’s fall (Ezekiel 1-24), and announced the humbling of her hostile neighbors (Ezekiel 25-32). He then pictured” Yehuveh’s “glorious restoration of His people to their land (Ezekiel 33-39), their regeneration (Ezekiel 36:22-32), and” Yehuveh’s “dwelling in their midst forever (Ezekiel 37:26-28). As a practical seer, under divine direction, the prophet’s next concern was to give attention to the organization of the religious life in the restored community (Ezekiel 40-48).”
The discussion which follows, concerning the difficulties commentators and scholars have had with these last nine chapters, has only been included for perspective on what a challenge these insights provide if the foundation premises are errant. The matter was well summerized by a college professor from whom I took a Hebrew Prophets class. When one of the students asserted that all prophetic Scripture was historically verifyable, the instructor asked, “How do you account for nine chapters in Ezekiel regarding a temple which was never built?” At that time, I pondered; now I simply wait. Israel is to be restored to their land in the Fourth Year of Darius (7 April 2008-26 March 2009) and this temple will be built and completed before the end of the Sixth Year (before 8 February 2011)!
Therefore, read the following comments with reservations: “These closing chapters present vast difficulties. The rabbis of the Talmud (Menahot 45a) remarked that only the prophet Elijah, who will herald the ultimate redemption, will elucidate the discrepancies with the Pentateuchal laws and the terms which do not occur elsewhere. Moreover, said they, had it not been for Rabbi Chanina ben Hezekiah (Babylonian Talmud, Hagiga 13a), who explained away several of these difficulties, the book of Ezekiel would have been excluded from the Canon of Scripture.
“Textual corruptions and the bewildering architectural and ritual details baffle the reader. But the most persistent problem is that of the interpretation of these chapters, on which godly scholars have differed through the years. Were the manifold details of this vision (Ezekiel 40:2) meant to be actualized at some future date? What part will the bloody sacrifices play in any future economy (Ezekiel 40:38-43; 43:18-27; 45:13-17; 46:13-15)? Will the Zadokite priesthood, without a high priest, function again (Ezekiel 40:45, 46; 42:13, 14; 43:18-27; 44:15-31; 45:18-20; 46:19-24)? Who is the prince and who are his sons (Ezekiel 44:3; 45:7-12, 13-17, 21-24; 46:1-8, 12, 16-18)? Who are the downgraded Levites (Ezekiel 44:10-14), the uncircumcised foreigners excluded from the sanctuary (Ezekiel 44:5, 9), and the resident aliens who receive property (Ezekiel 47:22, 23)? How are the geographical problems relating (1) to the stream issuing from the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12) and (2) to the apportionment of the land among the twelve tribes (Ezekiel 47:13-48:29) to be explained?
“The emphasis on ceremonials, forms, and institutions has led to the charge that Ezekiel transformed the ideals of the prophets into laws and dogmas and so became ‘the father of Judaism.’ Ezekiel, it is true, believed that the new age required expression of its religious concepts in external concrete form. The post-Exilic Jewish community still needed the Temple, priests, and sacrifices. It is doubtful whether it would have survived without them. Like the eighth century prophets, Exekiel was interested in righteous living (e.g. Ezekiel 3; 18; 33). The regulations of Ezekiel 40-48 are intended for a regenerated people (cf. Ezekiel 33-37).
Originally Written: 16 August 2007
Latest Update: 23 December 2007
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