Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
The chief difficulty with interpreting Ezekiel is the temptation to over-interpret. So, for example, in the first chapter all the details of the visions that Ezekiel describes seem to cry out for interpretation. But the reader should remember that this is a vision. Hence, much of it is not only not to be taken literally, the point of it is to communicate to the reader an impression. Second, the reader should pay attention to the frequent use of terms such as “the likeness of,” “the appearance of,” “like,” and other terms indicating comparison. In some sense this chapter is on extended set of metaphors. Third, the reader should try to grasp the big picture, and not to become lost in the details of the imagery. In other words, the details of the vision are something like the dots of color that make up a pointillist painting. (If the reader doesn't know what pointillism is, the Wikipedia article is sufficient.) The details, to some extent, do not matter in themselves. It is what they bring to the whole that creates the effect intended by Ezekiel’s description.
The chapter divides into four parts: the introduction (1-3), the four living creatures (4-14), the wheels (15-21), and the throne (22-28). The introduction sets us in time and place. The time is the fifth year of the exile of Jeoiachin, fifth day of the fourth month. According to modern chronology, that puts Ezekiel by the River Chebar (pronounced key-bar) on
The opening of the heavens is the idea that Ezekiel is allowed to see into the heavenly realm ordinarily not accessible to us. What he saw, he attempted to describe. But the language that he used indicates that he was operating at the limits of human language to communicate what he saw. Much of the language is clearly metaphorical. So what are we to take from the vision? First, we are to apprehend the completely overwhelming nature of the vision. At the conclusion, Ezekiel fell on his face (vs 28). Second, the reader should note the main themes of the vision. The cherubim (not identified here as such, but specified in 10:1) are human in form, having faces representing the highest of the various created orders: human, domestic animals, wild animals, and birds. Thus the created order magnifies God. The frequent mention of fire carries with it the idea of the judgment of God. Note that the storm came out of the north (1:4), which is the standard direction from which judgment arrives for
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I. Proclaiming judgment against
II. Proclaiming judgment against the nations, chs 25-32
III. Proclaiming restoration for
The book is organized chronologically, beginning in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin (593 BC). The last dated prophecy (571 BC), and the only one out of chronological order, is found in ch 29:17ff. This seems to have been connected thematically to the context, accounting for the date out of order. The vision of the new temple, chs 40-48, concludes the book, being dated to 573 BC. The material from the first 24 chapters all date from the period 593-588 BC. The oracles of judgment on the nations date from 587-571 BC. The prophecies of restoration date from 585-573 BC.
Thematically, the book is organized around Ezekiel’s three visions of the glory of the Lord. The first of these visions is the account of his call to the prophetic office in chs 1-3, in which the glory of the Lord appears to him among the exiles in
Chapter 36:16-32 is a key passage for the book as a whole. In this passage the primary themes of the book appear all together. The first theme is the holiness and transcendence of God, demonstrated by the overwhelming appearance of the glory of the Lord, and the repeated emphasis on God’s concern for his holiness.
The second theme is the sinfulness of the people, and the consequent inevitability of judgment. Obviously, this is presented in terse, summary form in chapter 36, but it takes up the whole of the first half of the book.
The third primary theme is that of God’s gracious restoration. While summarized in 36:22ff, it takes up almost the entirety of the last third of the book.
Additional Bibliographical Note:
When posting the other day, I forgot to mention the exposition of Ezekiel by Patrick Fairbairn, which is still useful. In addition, the section on Ezekiel in O. P. Robertson’s The Christ of the Prophets is probably the best short theological summary in print.