Ezekiel, Book of
Ezekiel, Book Of This, both in the Hebrew and Alexandrian canons, is placed next to the writings of Jeremiah.
I. Order of Contents. — The central point of Ezekiel's predictions is the destruction of Jerusalem. Previously to this catastrophe his chief object is to call to repentance those who were living in careless security; to warn them against indulging in blind confidence, that by the help of the Egyptians (Eze 17:15-17; comp. Jer 37:7) the Babylonian yoke would be shaken off; and to assure them that the destruction of their city and Temple was inevitable and fast approaching. After this event his principal care is to console the captives by promises of future deliverance and return to their own land, and to encourage them by assurances of future blessings. His predictions against foreign nations stand between these two great divisions, and were for the most part uttered during the interval of suspense between the divine intimation that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem (Eze 24:2) and the arrival of the news that he had taken it (Eze 33:21). The predictions are evidently arranged on a plan corresponding with these the chief subjects of them, and the time of their utterance is so frequently noted that there is little difficulty in ascertaining their chronological order. This order is followed throughout, except in the middle portion relating to foreign nations, where it is in some instances departed from to secure greater unity of subject (e.g. Eze 29:17). The want of exact chronological order in this portion of the book has led to various hypotheses respecting the manner in which the collection of the separate predictions was originally made. Jaha (Introd. page 356) supposes that the predictions against foreign nations were placed in their present position by some transcriber in the order in which they happened to come into his hands, and that he through forgetfulness omitted chapters 35, 38, and 39. Eichhorn (Einleit. 3:193) thinks it probable that the predictions were written on several greater or smaller rolls, which were put together in their present form without sufficient regard to chronological accuracy. Bertholdt (Einleit. 4:1487, quoted by Havernick) supposes that the collector of the whole book found two smaller collections already in existence (chapters 25-32 and Eze 33:21-33), and that he arranged the other predictions chronologically. All such hypotheses belong, as Havernick remarks, to a former age of criticism.
The arranugement, by whomsoever made, is very evidently intentional, and it seems on many accounts most probable that it was made by Ezekiel himself. This is maintained by Hilvernick out the following grounds:
(1.) The arrangement proceeds throughout on a plan corresponding with the subjects of the predictions. In those against foreign nations chronological is united with material order, whilst in those which relate to Ismael the order of time is strictly followed.
(2.) The predictions stand in such connection with each other that every part has reference to what has preceded it.
(3.) Historical notices are occasionally appended to the predictions, which would scarcely be done by a transcriber; e.g. the notice respecting himself in chapters 11, 24, 25, and the close of chapter 19, which Havernick translates "this is a lamentation and was for a lamentation." The whole book is divided by Havernick into nine sections, as follows:
1. Ezekiel's call to the prophetic office (Eze 2:1-3:15).
2. The generual carrying out of the comnbmission in a series of symbolical representations and particular predictions foretelling the approaching destruction of Judah and Jerusalem (Eze 3:7-16).
3. The rejection of the people because of their idolatrous worship; a series of visions presented to the prophet a year and two months later than the former, in which he is shown the Temple polluted by the worship of Adonis, the consequent judgment on thee inhabitants of Jerusalem and on the priests, and closing with promises of happier times and a purer worship (Ezekiel 8-11).
4. The sins of the people rebuked in detail; a series of reproofs and warnings directed especially against the particular errors and prejudices then prevalent amongst his contemporaries (Ezekiel 12-19).
5. The nature of the judgment, and the guilt which caused it; another series of warnings delivered about a year later, announcing the ncoming judgments to be yet nearer (Ezekiel 20-23).
6. The meaning of the now commencing punishment; predictions uttered two years and five months later, when Jerusalem was besieged, announcing to the captives that very day as the commencement of the siege (comp. 2Ki 25:1), and assuring them of the complete overthrow of the city (chapter 24).
7. God's judgment denounced on seven heathen nations (Ammon, Eze 25:1-7; Moab, 8-11; Edom, 12-14; the Philistines, Eze 15:8; Tyre, 26-28:19;, Sidon, 20-24; Egypt, 29-32).
8. After the destruction of Jerusalem a prophetic representation of the triumph of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth (Ezekiel 33-39).
9. The glorious consummation; a symbolic representation of Messianic times, and of the establishnent and prosperity of the kingdom of God (Ezekiel 40-48). See § 3 below.
II. Genuineness and Completeness. — According to Jewish tradition, doubts were entertained as to the canonicity of the look on the ground of its containing some apparent contradictions to the law, as well as because of the obscurity of many of its visions. These, however, were removed, it is said, by Rabbi Hananias, vheo wrote a commentary on the book, in which all these difficulties were satisfactorily solved (Mischna, ad. Surenhusius, Praef. ad Part. 4; Carpzov, Introd. part 3, page 215); but still, on account of their obscurity, the visions at the beginning and close of the book were forbidden to be read by those who were under thirty years of age (Carpzov, page 212). Some Continental critics of the last century have impugned the canonicity of the last nine chapters, and have attributed them to same Samaritan or Hebrew who had returned in later times to the land of Judnea (Oeder, Freye Untersuchung uber einige Bucher des A.T., Hal. Sax. 1771; Vogel, in his remarks on the above; and Corrodi, Beleuchtunb des Jildisch. und Christl. Bibelkanons, part 1, page 105, quoted by Rose mcther, Schol. in Ezech. ad c. 40). These objections have been fully answered by Eichhorn (Einleitang, 3:203), Juahb (Introd. in Lib. Sac. V.T. page 356), and others. Jahn has also taken notice of and answered some objections raised by an anonymnous writer in the Monthly Magazine (1798), to the canonicity of chapters 25-32, 35, 36, 38, 39. A translation of Jahn's arguments will be found in Horne's Introd. 4:222, old ed. These and similar objections have so little weight or probability that we shall content ourselves with quoting the general remark of Gesenius in reference to the ehoale of Ezekiel's writings: "This book belongs to that not very numerous class, which, from beginning to end, maintains, by means of favorite expressions and peculiar phrases, such a oneness of tone as by that circumstance alone to prevent any suspicion that separate portions of it are not genuine" (Geschichte der Hebrews Spr. page 35). The canonicity of the book of Ezekiel in general is satisfactorily established by Jewish and Christian authorities. There is, indeed, no explicit reference to it, or quotation from it, in the New Testament. Eichhorn (Einleitung, page 218) mentions the following passages as having apparently a reference to this book: Ro 2:24; comp. Eze 36:21: Ro 10:5; Ga 3:12; comp. Eze 20:11: 2Pe 3:4; comp. Eze 12:22; but none of these are quotations. The closing visions of Ezekiel are clearly referred to, though not quoted, in the last chapters of the Apocalypse. The prophet Ezekiel is distinctly referred to by the son of Sirech (Ecclus. 49:8), and by Josephus (Ant. 10:5, 1; 6:3, 7:2, 8:2). The book of Ezekiel is also nentioned as foraming part of the canon in the catalogues of Melito (Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiastes 4:26), Origen (apud Euseb. 1.c. 6:25), Jerome (Prolegus Caleatus), and the Talmud (Eichhorn, 3:218; 1:126-137).
One of the passages of Josephus to which we have referred has occasioned much controversy and many conjectures, because he seems to affirne that Ezekiel had written two books of prophecies (Ant. 10:5, 1). According to the ordinary and, indeed, as it would seem, necessary interpretation of this passage, Ezekiel was the first who wrote two books respecting the Babylonian captivity. The question then arises, Has one of his books been lost, or are the two now joined into one? The former supposition has been maintained by some in order to account for certain professed quotations from the prophet Ezekiel of passages which are not found in his writings at present. Thus Clemens Romanus (1 Ep. ad Cor. c. 8) refers to such a passage, which is given more at length by Clemens Alexand. (Paedagog. 1:10). Thus, again, Tertullian (De carne Christi, c. 23, page 394, ed. Semlea) says, "Legimus apud Ezechielem de vacca illa qune peperit et non peperit." Other instances may be seen in Fabricius (Codex Pseudapigraphus V.T., 2d ed., page 1118), and quoted from hin by Carpzov (Introd. part 3, page 208). Both these critics, however, agree that the neost probable explanation of such references is that they were derived fmom Jewish tradition. The latter hypothesis, that our present book was originally two, the second containing the last nine chapters, has received the support of very miany critics (see Le Moyine, Varnia Sacra, 2:332; Carpzov, Introd. page 208). This view, however, is not without serious difficulties. There is no evidence that the book, as at present existing, was ever considered two; and the testimony of Josepheus himself, that only twenty-two books were received as sacred (Contr. Apion. 1:8), appears quite opposed to such a supposition, since in whatever way the division of the Old Testament into twenty-two books is made there cannot be two out of the number left for Ezekiel. Eichhorn (Einleitung, 3:146) maintains that it is Jeremiah of whom Josephus speaks, a position to which we should at once assent if we could with him consider the words ὅς πρῶτος equivalent to ὁ δέ πρῶτος. If this is what Josephus meant, we must suppose some corruption of his text. Becker omits the ὅς.
III. Interpretation. — The latter part of the book has always been regarded as very obscure. It will be seen, by the brief notices of the contents given above, that Havernick considers the whole to relate to Messianic times. The predictions respecting Gog (chapteres 38, 39) have been referred by some to Antiochus Epiphanes; by others to Cambyses, to the Chaldoeans, the Scythians, the Turks, etc. Mr. Granville Penn has interpreted them of Napoleon and the French (The Prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Gogue, etc., 1815). SEE GOG. The description of the Temple (chapters 40-43) has been thought by many to contain an account of what Solomon's Temple was; by others, of what the second Temple should be. (See Havernick's Commentar uber Erebhiel, Erlangen, 1843.) The best interpretation of these predictions is to be found in that of the similar ones of the Apocalypse. SEE TEMPLE.
We cannot now enter into the difficulties of these or other chapters (for which we must refer to some of the commentaries mentioned below); but we will enumerate, following Fairbairn, the four main lines of interpretation, viz.,
1. The Historico-literal, adopted by Villalpandus, Grotius, Lowth, etc., who make them a prosaic description intended to preserve the memory of Soiomon's Temple.
2. The Historico-ideal (of Eichhorn, Dathe, etc.), which reduces them "to a sort of vague and well-meaning announcement of future good."
3. The Jewish-carnal (of Lightfoot, Hoffunan, etc.), which maintains that their outline was actually adopted by the exiles.
4. The Christian-spiritual (or Messianic), followed by Luther, Calvin, Cocceius, and most modern commentators, which makes them "a grand complicated symbol of the good God had in reserve for his Church." Rosenmuller, who disapproves alike of the literalism of Grotius, and the arbitrary, ambiguous allegorizing of others, remarks (Schol. in 28:26) that it seems a useless task to attempt to refer these prophecies to distinct events, or to refer their poetical descriptions to naked fact. It is most safe to regard them, in accordance with the nature of allegorical representations and visions in general, as having a literal or material basis in the near past or future (i.e., recollections of Solomon's Temple, and provision of hostile powers), which is made the vehicle of a higher and spiritual import setting forth the distant grandeur, glory, and triumph of the kingdom of God. SEE DOUBLE SENSE (OF PROPHECY).
IV. Style. — The depth of Ezekiel's snatter, and the marvelous nature of his visions, make him occasionally obscure. Hence his prophecy was placed by the Jews among the גּנָזַין (treasures), those portions of Scripture which (like the early part of Genesis, and the Canticles) were not allowed to be read till the age of thirty (Jerome, Ep. ad Eustach.; Origen, Proem. hoiuuil. 4, in Cantic.; Hottinger, Thes. Phil. 2:1, 3). Hence Jerome compares the "inextricabilis error" of his writings to Virgil's labyrinth ("Oceanus Scripturarum, mysteriorumque Dei labyrinthus"), and also to the Catacombs. The Jews classed him in the very highest rank of prophets. Gregory Naz. (Or. 23) bestows the loftiest encomiums upon him. Isidore (De vit. et ob. Sanct. 99) makes him a type of Christ from the title "Son of Man," but that is equally applied to Daniel (8:17). Other similar testimonies asre quoted by Carpzov (Instod. 2:193 sq.). The Sanhedrim is said to have hesitated long whether his book should form part of the canon, from the occasional ohescurity, and from the supposed contradiction, of 18:20 to Ex 20:5; Ex 34:7; Jer 32:18. But, in point of fact, these apparent oppositions are the mere expression of truths complementary to each other, as Moses himself might have taught them (De 24:16). Although, generally speaking, comments on this book were forbidden, a certain R. Nananias undertook to reconcile the supposed differences. (Spinoza, Tract Theol. Polait. 2:27, partly from these considerations, infers that the present book is made up of mere ἀποσμασμάτια, but his argument from its commencing with a 1, and from the expression in 1:3 above alluded to, hardly needs refutation.)
That Ezekiel was a poet of no mean order is acknowledged by almost all critics (Lowth, De sacra Poesi Hebraeorum, ed. J.D. Michaelis, Gottingen, 1770, page 431). Michaelis and Dathe are the only critics of any eminence (as far as we know) who think slightingly of his poetical genius. The question is altogether one of taste, and has, we imagine, been decided by common consent against Michaelis. He remarks more truly that Ezekiel lived at a period when the Hebrew language was declining in purity, when the silver age was succeeding to the golden one. It is, indeed, to the matter ratheir than the language of Ezekiel that we are to look for evidence of poetic genius. His style is often sinmply didactic, and he abounds in peculiarities of expression, Aramaisms, and grammatical anomalies which, while they give individuality to his writings, plainly evince the decline of the language in which he wrote. An extended account of such peculiarities is given by Eichhorn (Einlestuaig in das A.T. 3:196) and Gesenius (Geschichte der Heb. Sprache u. Schift, page 35). Among the most splendid passages are chapter 1 (called by the Rabbis מֶרכָּבָה the prophecy against Tyrus (chapters 26-28), that against Assyria's "the noblest monument of Eastern history" (chapter 31), and chapter 8, the account of what he saw in the Temple porch,
"When, by the vision led, His eye surveyed the dark idolatries Of alienated Judah." — Milton, Par. Lost, 1.
V. Commentaries. — The following are special exegetical works on the entire book; the most important have an asterisk (*) prefixed: Origen, Commentarii, etc. (in Opera, 3:351 sq., 406); Ephraem Syrus, Explanatio (in Opera, 5:165); Gregory Nazianzen, Signaficatio (in Opera Spuria, 1:870); Jerome, Commentarii, etc. (in Opera, 5); Theodoret, Interpretatio (in Opera, II, 2; also Rome, 1662, fol.); Gregory the Great, Homiliae (in Opera, 1:1174); Raban, Commentarii (in Opera); Rupert, In Ezech. (in Opera, page 489); (Ecolampadius, Commentarius (Basil. 1534, 4to; 1543, 8vo; Argent. 1634, 4to); Strigel, Scholia (Lips. 1539, 1561, 1575, 1579, 8vo); Calvin, Prelectiones (Geneva, 1565, 8vo, and since in French, Genev. 1565, fol.; in English, Edinb. 1849-50, 2 volumes, 8vo); Junius, Comentaria (Genev. 1609, fol.; 1610, 8vo); Maldonatus, In Ezech. (in his Commentarii. page 542); Selneeker Auslegung (Lips. 1567, 4to); Pinto, Commentarius (Salam. 1568, fol., and later); Lavater, Commentaris (Geneva, 1571, fol.); Serrantus, Counmentarius (Ante. 1572,1607, fol.); Heilbrunner, Quaestiones (Laving. 1587, 8vo); Abraham ben-Moses, Ubersetzung (Prag. 1602, 4to); *Pradus and Villalpandus, Explanationes (Rome, 1605, 3 cols. fo].); Polan, Commentaria (Geneva, 1609, fol, 1610, 8vo); a Lapide, In Ezech. (in his Commentaria) Sanctius, Commentarius (Lugd. 1612, 1619, fol.); Brandmuller, Commentarius (Basil, 1621, 4to); *Greenhill, Exposition (London, 1645-67, 5 volumes, 4to; also 1827-1863, 8vo; in Dutch, Hague, 17392-6, 4 volumes, 4to); Cocceius, Commentarius (Leyd. 1668, 4to; Amst. 1700, fol.); Hennisch Clavis (Ratenburg, 1684; Lips. 1697, 4to); Petersen, Zeugniss (Freft. 1719, 4to); *Lowth, Commentary (London, 1723, 4to); *Starck, Commentarius (Freft. ad M. 1731, 4to); Vogel, Weisagungen (Hal. 1772, 8vo); Volborth, Anmerk. (Gott. 1787, 8vo); Newcome, Explanation (Dub. 1788, 8vo, and since); Venema, Lectionas (Leov. 1790, 4to); *Horsley, Notes (in Bib. Crsiticisme, 2:65); Hanker, Consideration (in Works, 9:719); *Rosenmuller, Scolia (Lpz. 8vo, 1808-10, 2 volumes; also 1826); Rhesa, Observationes (Regiom. 1819, 4to); Stern, יהזקֵאל, etc. (Vienna, 1842, 8vo); *Havernick, Commentar (Erlangen, 1843, 8vo); *Umbreit,
Commentar (Hamb. 1843, 8vo); Macfarlan, Version (London, 1845, 8vo); *Hitzig, Erklarung (in the Kurtz. Exeget. Hdb., Lpz. 1847, 8vo); *Fairbairn, Exposition (Edinb. 1851, 1855, 8vo); *Henderson, Commentary (London, 1855, 8vo) Guthrie, Discourses (Edinb. 1856, 8vo); Shrewsbury, Notes (Manch. 1863, 8vo); Kliefoth, Erklarung (Rost. 1864-5, 8vo); *Hengstenberg, Erlauterung (Brl. 1867 sq., 2 volumes, 8vo; transl. Lond. 1869, 8vo); Cowles, Notes (New York, 1867, 12mo). SEE PROPHETS.