|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
God will strengthen.
(1.) 1 Chronicles 24:16, "Jehezekel."
(2.) One of the great prophets, the son of Buzi the priest (Ezek. 1:3). He was one of the Jewish exiles who settled at Tel-Abib, on the banks of the Chebar, "in the land of the Chaldeans." He was probably carried away captive with Jehoiachin (1:2; 2 Kings 24:14-16) about B.C. 597. His prophetic call came to him "in the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity" (B.C. 594). He had a house in the place of his exile, where he lost his wife, in the ninth year of his exile, by some sudden and unforeseen stroke (Ezek. 8:1; 24:18). He held a prominent place among the exiles, and was frequently consulted by the elders (8:1; 11:25; 14:1; 20:1). His ministry extended over twenty-three years (29:17), B.C. 595-573, during part of which he was contemporary with Daniel (14:14; 28:3) and Jeremiah, and probably also with Obadiah. The time and manner of his death are unknown. His reputed tomb is pointed out in the neighbourhood of Bagdad, at a place called Keffil.
Ezekiel, Book of
Consists mainly of three groups of prophecies. After an account of his call to the prophetical office (1-3:21), Ezekiel (1) utters words of denunciation against the Jews (3:22-24), warning them of the certain destruction of Jerusalem, in opposition to the words of the false prophets (4:1-3). The symbolical Acts, by which the extremities to which Jerusalem would be reduced are described in ch. 4,5, show his intimate acquaintance with the Levitical legislation. (See Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21; Leviticus 5:2; 7:18, 24; 17:15; 19:7; 22:8, etc.)
(2.) Prophecies against various surrounding nations: against the Ammonites (Ezek. 25:1-7), the Moabites (8-11), the Edomites (12-14), the Philistines (15-17), Tyre and Sidon (26-28), and against Egypt (29-32).
(3.) Prophecies delivered after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar: the triumphs of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth (Ezek. 33-39); Messianic times, and the establishment and prosperity of the kingdom of God (40;48).
The closing visions of this book are referred to in the book of Revelation (Ezek. 38 = Revelation 20:8; Ezek. 47:1-8=Revelation 22:1, 2). Other references to this book are also found in the New Testament. (Comp. Romans 2:24 with Ezek. 36:2; Romans 10:5, Galatians 3:12 with Ezek. 20:11; 2 Peter 3:4 with Ezek. 12:22.)
It may be noted that Daniel, fourteen years after his deportation from Jerusalem, is mentioned by Ezekiel (14:14) along with Noah and Job as distinguished for his righteousness, and some five years later he is spoken of as pre-eminent for his wisdom (28:3).
Ezekiel's prophecies are characterized by symbolical and allegorical representations, "unfolding a rich series of majestic visions and of colossal symbols." There are a great many also of "symbolcal actions embodying vivid conceptions on the part of the prophet" (4:1-4; 5:1-4; 12:3-6; 24:3-5; 37:16, etc.) "The mode of representation, in which symbols and allegories occupy a prominent place, gives a dark, mysterious character to the prophecies of Ezekiel. They are obscure and enigmatical. A cloudy mystery overhangs them which it is almost impossible to penetrate. Jerome calls the book `a labyrith of the mysteries of God.' It was because of this obscurity that the Jews forbade any one to read it till he had attained the age of thirty."
Ezekiel is singular in the frequency with which he refers to the Pentateuch (e.g., Ezek. 27; 28:13; 31:8; 36:11, 34; 47:13, etc.). He shows also an acquaintance with the writings of Hosea (Ezek. 37:22), Isaiah (Ezek. 8:12; 29:6), and especially with those of Jeremiah, his older contemporary (Jeremiah 24:7, 9; 48:37).
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Contents I. THE PROPHET AND HIS BOOK
1. The Person of Ezekiel Name, Captivity and Trials
2. The Book (1) Its Genuineness (2) Its Structure (3) Relation to Jeremiah (4) Fate of the Book and Its Place in the Canon
II. SIGNIFICANCE OF EZEKIEL IN ISRAEL'S RELIGIOUS HISTORY
1. Formal Characteristics of Ezekiel (1) Visions (2) Symbolical Acts (3) Allegories (4) Lamentations
2. Ezekiel and the Levitical System (1) Ezekiel 44:4: Theory That the Distinction of Priests and Levites Was Introduced by Ezekiel (a) The Biblical Facts (b) Modern Interpretation of This Passage (c) Examination of Theory (i) Not Tenable for Pre-exilic Period (ii) Not Sustained by Ezekiel (iii) Not Supported by Development after Ezekiel (d) The True Solution (2) Ezekiel 40-48: Priority Claimed for Ezekiel as against the Priestly Codex (a) Sketch of the Modern View (b) One-Sidedness of This View (c) Impossibility That Ezekiel Preceded P (d) Correct Interpretation of Passage (3) Ezekiel's Leviticism 3. Ezekiel and the Messianic Idea 4. Ezekiel and Apocalyptic Literature 5. Ezekiel's Conception of God =========================================================================
I. The Prophet and His Book.
1. The Person of Ezekiel:
The name yehezqe'l, signifies "God strengthens." The Septuagint employed the form Iezekiel, from which the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) took its "Ezechiel" and Luther "Hesekiel." In Ezekiel 1:3 the prophet is said to be the son of a certain Buzi, and that he was a priest. This combination of the priestly and prophetic offices is not accidental at a time when the priests began to come more and more into the foreground. Thus, too, Jeremiah (1:1) and Zechariah (1:1; compare Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14 Nehemiah 12:4, 16, and my article "Zechariah" in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary) were priests and prophets; and in Zechariah 7:3 a question in reference to fasting is put to both priests and prophets at the same time. And still more than in the case of Zechariah and Jeremiah, the priestly descent makes itself felt in the case of Ezekiel. We here already draw attention to his Levitical tendencies, which appear particularly prominent in Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 46 (see under II, 2 below), and to the high-priestly character of his picture of the Messiah (21:25; 45:22:00; see II, 3 below).
We find Ezekiel in Tel-abib (3:15) at the river Chebar (1:1, 3; 3:15) on a Euphrates canal near Nippur, where the American expedition found the archives of a great business house, "Murashu and Sons." The prophet had been taken into exile in 597 B.C. This event so deeply affected the fate of the people and his personal relations that Ezekiel dates his prophecies from this event. They begin with the 5th year of this date, in which year through the appearance of the Divine glory (compare II, 1 below) he had been consecrated to the prophetic office (1:2) and continued to the 27th year (29:17), i.e. from 593 to 571 B.C. The book gives us an idea of the external conditions of the exiles. The expressions "prison," "bound," which are applied to the exiles, easily create a false impression, or at any rate a one-sided idea. These terms surely to a great extent are used figuratively. Because the Jews had lost their country, their capital city, their temple, their service and their independence as a nation, their condition was under all circumstances lamentable, and could be compared with the fate of prisoners and those in fetters.
The external conditions in themselves, however, seem rather to have been generally tolerable. The people live in their own houses (Jeremiah 29:5). Ezekiel himself is probably the owner of a house (Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:1). They have also retained their organization, for their elders visit the prophet repeatedly (Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1). This makes it clear why later comparatively few made use of the permission to return to their country. The inscriptions found in the business house at Nippur contain also a goodly number of Jewish names, which shows how the Jews are becoming settled and taking part in the business life of the country.
Ezekiel was living in most happy wedlock. Now God reveals to him on a certain night that his wife, "the desire of his eye," is to die through a sudden sickness. On the evening of the following day she is already dead. But he is not permitted to weep or lament over her, for he is to serve as a sign that Jerusalem is to be destroyed without wailing or lamentation (24:15). Thus in his case too, as it was with Hosea, the personal fate of the prophet is most impressively interwoven with his official activity.
The question at what age Ezekiel had left Jerusalem has been answered in different ways. From his intimate acquaintance with the priestly institutions and with the temple service, as this appears particularly in chapters 40 to 48, the conclusion is drawn that he himself must have officiated in the temple. Yet, the knowledge on his part can be amply explained if he only in a general way had been personally acquainted with the temple, with the law and the study of the Torah. We accept that he was already taken into exile at the age of 25 years, and in his 30th year was called to his prophetic office; and in doing this we come close to the statement of Josephus, according to which Ezekiel had come to Babylon in his youth. At any rate the remarkable statement in the beginning of his book, "in the 30th year," by the side of which we find the customary dating, "in the 5th year" (1:1, 2), can still find its best explanation when referred to the age of the prophet. We must also remember that the 30th year had a special significance for the tribe of Levi (Numbers 4:3, 13, 10, 39), and that later on, and surely not accidentally, both Jesus and John the Baptist began their public activity at this age (Luke 3:23).
It is indeed true that the attempt has been made to interpret this statement of Ezekiel on the basis of an era of Nabopolassar, but there is practically nothing further known of this era; and in addition there would be a disagreement here, since Nabopolassar ruled from 625 on, and his 30th year would not harmonize with the year 593 as determined by Ezekiel 1:2. Just as little can be said for explaining these 30 years as so many years after the discovery of the book of the law in 623, in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22 f). For this case too there is not the slightest hint that this event had been made the beginning of a new era, and, in addition, the statement in Ezekiel 1:1, without further reference to this event, would be unthinkable.
As in the case of the majority of the prophets, legends have also grown around the person of Ezekiel. He is reported to have been the teacher of Pythagoras, or a servant of Jeremiah, or a martyr, and is said to have been buried in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad. He indeed did stand in close relationship to Jeremiah (see 2, 3 below). Since the publication of Klostermann's essay in the Studien und Kritiken, 1877, it has been customary, on the basis of Ezekiel 3:14, 26; 4:4; 24:27, to regard Ezekiel as subject to catalepsy (compare the belief often entertained that Paul was an epileptic). Even if his condition, in which he lay speechless or motionless, has some similarity with certain forms of catalepsy or kindred diseases, i.e. a temporary suspension of the power of locomotion or of speech; yet in the case of Ezekiel we never find that he is describing a disease, but his unique condition occurs only at the express command of God (3:24; 24:25); and this on account of the stubbornness of the house of Israel (3:26). This latter expression which occurs with such frequency (compare 2:5; 3:9, 27, etc.) induces to the consideration of the reception which the prophet met at the hand of his contemporaries.
He lives in the midst of briars and thorns and dwells among scorpions (2:6). Israel has a mind harder than a rock, firmer than adamant (3:8). "Is he not a speaker of parables?" is cast up to him by his contemporaries, and he complains to God on this account (20:49); and God in turn sums up the impression which Ezekiel has made on them in the words (33:32): "Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not." They consequently estimate him according to his aesthetic side (compare II, 1, below), but that is all.
2. The Book:
(1) Its Genuineness.
When compared with almost every other prophetic book, we are particularly favorably situated in dealing with the genuineness of the Book of Ezekiel (compare my work, Die messianische Erwartung der vorexilischen Propheten, zugleich ein Protest gegen moderne Textzersplitterung), as this is practically not at all called into question, and efforts to prove a complicated composition of the book are scarcely made.
Both the efforts of Zunz, made long ago (compare Zeitschrift der deutsch-morgenlandishchen Gesellschaft, 1873, and Die gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden), and of Seinecke (Geschichte des Volkes Israel, II, 1) to prove a Persian or even a Greek period as the time of the composition of the book; as also the later attempt of Kroetzmann, in his Commentary on Ezekiel, to show that there are two recensions of the book, have found no favor. The claim that Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 48 were written by a pupil of Ezekiel was made as a timid suggestion by Volz, but, judging from the tendency of criticism, the origin of these chapters will probably yet become the subject of serious debate. But in general the conviction obtains that the book is characterized by such unity that we can only accept or reject it as a whole, but that for its rejection there is not the least substantial ground. This leads us to the contents.
(2) Its Structure.
The parts of the book are in general very transparent. First of all the book is divided into halves by the announcement of the fall of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 33; of which parts the first predominantly deals with punishments and threats; the other with comfort and encouragement. Possibly it is these two parts of the book that Josephus has in mind when he says (Ant., X) that Ezekiel had written two books. That the introduction of prophecies of redemption after those of threats in other prophetical books also is often a matter of importance, and that the right appreciation of this fact is a significant factor in the struggle against the attacks made on the genuineness of these books has been demonstrated by me in my book, Die messianische Erwartung der vorexilischen Prophelen (compare 39-40 for the case of Amos; 62, 136, for the case of Hosea; 197 for Isaiah 7-12 for Micah; see also my article in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary). Down to the time when Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel was compelled to antagonize the hopes, which were supported by false prophets, that God would not suffer this calamity. Over against this, Ezekiel persistently and emphatically points to this fact, that the apostasy had been too great for God not to bring about this catastrophe. There is scarcely a violation of a single command-religious, moral or cultural-which the prophet is not compelled to charge against the people in the three sections, 3:16; 8:1; 20:1, until in 24:1, on the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year (589 B.C.) the destruction of Jerusalem was symbolized by the vision of the boiling pot with the piece of meat in it, and the unlamented destruction of the city was prefigured by the unmourned and sudden death of his wife (see 1 above). After the five sections of this subdivision I, referring to Israel-each one of which subdivisions is introduced by a new dating, and thereby separated from the others and chronologically arranged (1:1, with the consecration of the prophet immediately following it; 3:16; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1)-there follow as a second subdivision the seven oracles against the Ammonites (25:1); the Moabites (25:8); the Edomites (25:12); the Philistines (25:15); Tyre (26:1); Sidon (28:20); Egypt (29:1), evidently arranged from a geographical point of view.
The most extensive are those against Tyre and the group of oracles against Egypt, both provided with separate dates (compare 26:1-29:1; 30:20:00; 31:01:00; 32:1, 17). The supplement in reference to Tyre (29:17) is the latest dated oracle of Ezekiel (from the year 571 B.C.), and is found here, at a suitable place, because it is connected with a threat against Egypt (Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 48 date from the year 573 according to Ezekiel 40:1). The number seven evidently does not occur accidentally, since in other threats of this kind a typical number appears to have been purposely chosen, thus: Isaiah 13-22, i.e. ten; Jeremiah 46; Jeremiah 51, also ten; which fact again under the circumstances is an important argument in repelling attacks on the genuineness of the book.
Probably the five parts of the first subdivision, and the seven of the second, supplement each other, making a total of twelve (compare the analogous structure of Exodus 25:1; Exodus 30:10 under EXODUS, and probably the chiastic structure of Ezekiel 34, with 7 and 5 pieces; see below). The oracles against the foreign countries are not only in point of time to be placed between Ezekiel 24 and 33:21, but also, as concerns contents, help splendidly to solve the difficulty suggested by chapter 24, and in this way satisfactorily fill the gap thus made. The arrival of the news of the fall of Jerusalem, in 586 B.C. (compare 33:21), which had already been foretold in chapter 24, introduced by the mighty watchman's cry to repentance (33:1), and followed by a reproof of the superficial reception of the prophetic word (see 1 above), concludes the first chief part of the book.
The second part also naturally fails into two subdivisions, of which the first contains the development of the nearer and more remote future, as to its inner character and its historical course (Ezekiel 34-39):
(1) the true shepherd of Israel (Ezekiel 34);
(2) the future fate of Edom (Ezekiel 35);
(3) Israel's deliverance from the disgrace of the shameful treatment by the heathen, which falls back upon the latter again (Ezekiel 36:1-15);
(4) the desecration of the name of Yahweh by Israel and the sanctification by Yahweh (Ezekiel 36:15-38);
(5) the revival of the Israelite nation (Ezekiel 37:1-14);
(6) the reunion of the separated kingdoms, Judah and Israel (Ezekiel 37:15-28);
(7) the overthrow of the terrible Gentilepower of the north (Ezekiel 38 f).
The second subdivision (Ezekiel 40-48) contains the reconstruction of the external affairs of the people in a vision, on the birthday of 573, "in the beginning of the year" (beginning of a jubilee year? (Leviticus 25:10); compare also DAY OF ATONEMENT). After the explanatory introduction (Ezekiel 40:1-4), there follow five pericopes:
(1) directions with reference to the temple (compare the subscription Ezekiel 43:12) (Ezekiel 40:5-43:12);
(2) the altar (Ezekiel 43:13-46:24);
(3) the wonderful fountain of the temple, on the banks of which the trees bear fruit every month (Ezekiel 47:1-12);
(4) the boundaries of the land and its division among the twelve tribes of Israel (Ezekiel 47:13-48:29);
(5) the size of the holy city and the names of its twelve gates (Ezekiel 48:30-35).
In (3) to (5) the prominence of the number twelve is clear. Perhaps we can also divide (1) and (2) each into twelve pieces:
(1) would be Ezekiel 40:5, 17, 28, 39, 48; 41:1, 5, 12, 15; 42:1, 15; 43:1; for
(2) it would be 43:13, 18; 44:1, 4, 15; 45:1, 9, 13, 18; 46:1, 16, 19.
At any rate the entire second chief part, Ezekiel 34-48, contains predictions of deliverance. The people down to 586 were confident, so that Ezekiel was compelled to rebuke them. After the taking of Jerusalem a change took place in both respects. Now the people are despairing, and this is just the right time for the prophet to preach deliverance. The most important separate prophecies will be mentioned and examined in another connection (II below).
The transparent structure of the whole book suggests the idea that the author did not extend the composition over a long period, but wrote it, so to say, at one stretch, which of course does not make it impossible that the separate prophecies were put into written form immediately after their reception, but rather presupposes this. When the prophet wrote they were only woven together into a single uniform book (compare also EXODUS, IV, 1, 2).
(3) Relation to Jeremiah.
As Elijah and Elisha, or Amos and Hosea, or Isaiah and Micah, or Haggai and Zechariah, so too Jeremiah and Ezekiel constitute a prophetic couple (compare 1 above); compare e.g. in later time the sending out of the disciples of Jesus, two by two (Luke 10:1), the relation of Peter and John in Acts 3; of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13; of Luther and Melanchthon, Calvin and Zwingli. Both prophets prophesy about the same time; both are of priestly descent (compare 1 above), both witness the overthrow of the Jewish nation, and with their prophecies accompany the fate of the Jewish state down to the catastrophe and beyond that, rebuking, threatening, warning, admonishing, and also comforting and encouraging. In matters of detail, too, these two prophets often show the greatest similarity, as in the threat against the unfaithful shepherds (Ezekiel 34:2 Jeremiah 23:1); in putting into one class the Northern and the Southern Kingdom and condemning both, although the prediction is also made that they shall eventually be united and pardoned (Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 16 Jeremiah 3:6 Ezekiel 37:15 Jeremiah 3:14-18; Jeremiah 23:5; 30 f); in the individualizing of religion (compare the fact that both reject the common saying: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge," Ezekiel 18:2 Jeremiah 31:29); in their inwardness (Ezekiel 36:25 Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 31:27-34; 32:39:00; 33:8); in their comparisons of the coming judgment with a boiling pot (Ezekiel 24:1 Jeremiah 1:13); and finally, in their representation of the Messiah as the priest-king (see 1 above; namely, in Ezekiel 21:25; 45:22:00; compare Jeremiah 30:21; Jeremiah 33:17; see II, 3, and my work Messianische Erwartung, 320, 354). Neither is to be considered independently of the other, since the prophetical writings, apparently, received canonical authority soon after and perhaps immediately after they were written (compare the expression "the former prophets" in Zechariah 1:4; Zechariah 7:7, 12, also the constantly increasing number of citations from earlier prophets in the later prophets, and the understanding of the "exact succession of the prophets" down to Artaxerxes in Josephus, CAp, I, 8), it is possible that Ezekiel, with his waw consecutivum, with which the book begins, is to be understood as desiring to connect with the somewhat older Jeremiah (compare a similar relation of Jonah to Obadiah; see my articles "Canon of the OT" and "Jonah" in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
(4) Fate of the Book and Its Place in the Canon.
With Jeremiah and Ezekiel, many Hebrew manuscripts, especially those of the German and French Jews, begin the series of "later prophets," and thus these books are found before Isaiah; while the Massorah and the manuscripts of the Spanish Jews, according to the age and the size of the books, have the order, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. The text of the book is, in part, quite corrupt, and in this way the interpretation of the book, not easy in itself, is made considerably more difficult. Jerome, Ad Paul., writes that the beginning and the end of the book contained many dark passages; that these parts, like the beginning of Genesis, were not permitted to be read by the Jews before these had reached their 30th year. During the time when the schools of Hillel and Shammai flourished, Ezekiel belonged to those books which some wanted "to hide," the others being Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Esther and Canticles. In these discussions the question at issue was not the reception of the book into the Canon, which was rather presupposed, nor again any effort to exclude them from the Canon again, which thought could not be reconciled with the high estimate in which it is known that Esther was held, but it was the exclusion of these books from public reading in the Divine service, which project failed. The reasons for this proposal are not to be sought in any doubt as to their authenticity, but in reference to their contents (compare my article "Canon of the Old Testament," in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary). Possibly, too, one reason was to be found in the desire to avoid the profanation of the most sacred vision in the beginning of the book, as Zunz suggests. There is no doubt, however, that the difference of this book from the Torah was a reason that made it inadvisable to read it in public. It was hoped that these contradictions would be solved by Elijah when he should return. But finally, rabbinical research, after having used up three hundred cans of oil, succeeded in finding the solution. These contradictions, as a matter of fact, have not yet been removed, and have in modern times contributed to the production of a very radical theory in criticism, as will be shown immediately under II, 2.
II. Significance of Ezekiel in Israel's Religious History.
Under the first head we will consider the formal characteristics and significance of the book; and the examination of its contents will form the subject under the next four divisions.
1. Formal Characteristics of Ezekiel:
It is not correct to regard Ezekiel merely as a writer, as it is becoming more and more customary to do. Passages like 3:10; 14:4; 20:1, 27; 24:18; 43:10 show that just as the other prophets did, he too proclaimed by word of mouth the revelations of God he had received. However, he had access only to a portion of the people. It was indeed for him even more important than it had been for the earlier prophets to provide for the wider circulation and permanent influence of his message by putting it into written form. We will, at this point, examine his book first of all from its formal and its aesthetic side. To do this it is very difficult, in a short sketch, to give even a general impression of the practically inexhaustible riches of the means at his command for the expression of his thoughts.
Thus, a number of visions at once attract our attention. In the beginning of his work there appears to him the Divine throne-chariot, which comes from the north as a storm, as a great cloud and a fire rolled together. This chariot is borne by the four living creatures in the form of men, with the countenances of a man, of a lion, of an ox and of an eagle, representing the whole living creation. It will be remembered that these figures have passed over into the Revelation of John (Revelation 4:7), and later were regarded as the symbols of the four evangelists. In Ezekiel 10 this throne-chariot in the vision leaves the portal of the temple going toward the east, returning again in the prediction of deliverance in Ezekiel 43. Moreover, the entire last nine chapters are to be interpreted as a vision (compare 40:2). We must not forget, finally, the revivification of the Israelite nation in Ezekiel 37, represented in the picture of a field full of dead bones, which are again united, covered with skin, and receive new life through the ruach (word of two meanings, "wind" and "spirit").
As a rule the visions of Ezekiel, like those of Zechariah (compare my article "Zechariah" in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary), are not regarded as actual experiences, but only as literary forms. When it is given as a reason for this that the number of visions are too great and too complicated, and therefore too difficult of presentation, to be real experiences, we must declare this to be an altogether too unsafe, subjective and irrelevant rule to apply in the matter. However, correct the facts mentioned are in themselves they do not compel us to draw this conclusion. Not only is it uncertain how many visions may be experiences (compare eg. the five visions in Amos 7, which are generally regarded as actual experiences), but it is also absolutely impossible to prove such an a priori claim with reference to the impossibility and the unreality of processes which are not accessible to us by our own experience. As these visions, one and all, are, from the religious and ethical sides, up to the standards of Old Testament prophecy, and as, further, they are entirely unique in character, and as, finally, there is nothing to show that they are only literary forms, we must hold to the conviction that the visions are actual experiences.
(2) Symbolical Acts.
Then we find in Ezekiel, also, a large number of symbolical acts. According to Divine command Ezekiel sketches the city of Jerusalem and its siege on a tile (4:1); or he lies bound on his left side, as an atonement, 390 days, and 40 days on his right side, according to the number of years of the guilt of Israel and Judah (4:4). During the 390 days the condition of the people in exile is symbolized by a small quantity of food daily of the weight of only 20 shekels, and unclean, being baked on human or cattle dung, and a small quantity of water, which serves as food and drink of the prophet (4:9).
By means of his beard and the hair of his head, which he shaves off and in part burns, in part strikes with the sword, and in part scatters to the wind, and only the very smallest portion of which he ties together in the hem of his garment, he pictures how the people shall be decimated so that only a small remnant shall remain (Ezekiel 5:1). In Ezekiel 12, he prepares articles necessary for marching and departs in the darkness. Just so Israel will go into captivity and its king will not see the country into which he goes (compare the blinding of Zedekiah, 2 Kings 25:7). In Ezekiel 37:15, he unites two different sticks into one, with inscriptions referring to the two kingdoms, and these picture the future union of Israel and Judah. It is perhaps an open question whether or not some of these symbolical actions, which would be difficult to carry out in actuality, are not perhaps to be interpreted as visions; thus, eg. the distributing the wine of wrath to all the nations, in Jeremiah 25:15, can in all probability not be understood in any other way. But, at any rate, it appears to us that here, too, the acceptance of a mere literary form is both unnecessary and unsatisfactory, and considering the religio-ethical character of Ezekiel, not permissible.
In regard to the numerous allegories, attention need be drawn only to the picture of the two unfaithful sisters, Oholah and Oholibah (i.e. Samaria and Jerusalem), whose relation to Yahweh as well as their infidelity is portrayed in a manner that is actually offensive to over-sensitive minds (Ezekiel 23; compare Ezekiel 16). In Ezekiel 17, Zedekiah is represented under the image of a grapevine, which the great eagle (i.e. the king of Babylon) has appointed, which, however, turns to another great eagle (king of Egypt), and because of this infidelity shall be rooted out, until God, eventually, causes a new tree to grow out of a tender branch.
Of the lamentations, we mention the following: according to Ezekiel 19, a lioness rears young lions, one after the other, but one after the other is caught in a trap and led away by nose-rings. The ones meant are Jehoahaz and certainly Jehoiachin. The lion mother, who before was like a grapevine, is banished (Zedekiah).
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Ezekiel (4 Occurrences)
1 Chronicles 24:16 the nineteenth for Pethahiah, the twentieth for Ezekiel, (DBY)
Jeremiah 33:1 Moreover the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the guard, saying, Ezekiel (WEB)
Ezekiel 1:3 the word of Yahweh came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of Yahweh was there on him. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ezekiel 24:24 Thus Ezekiel shall be a sign to you; according to all that he has done, you will do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)