Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

General Editor:—J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.

Bishop of Worcester.










[All Rights reserved.]



The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.


The Book of Ezekiel is less suited than most others to be the subject of merely popular annotation. The state of the Text is such that frequent references to it as well as to the Versions are unavoidable. It was no part of the purpose of the following Notes to construct a Text; the thing aimed at has been to shew the general meaning of the Book, and, if possible, the connexion of its parts with one another; but the readings of the LXX. have generally been adduced when they presented any important deviation from the Hebrew. In the later chapters the MS. of which the Greek is a translation was in many instances more correct than that of which the present Hebrew is a copy.

Such aids as were available have been used, and obligations are acknowledged to a number of works, besides those named at the end of the Introduction. A number of passages in the Text have baffled the ingenuity of the best scholars, and appear to be incurably confused. Other parts of the Book are rendered obscure by allusions not now understood. And altogether the student of the Book must take leave of his task with a certain sense of defeat.



I.   Introduction

Chapter I.  The Book of Ezekiel

Chapter II.  Ezekiel’s History and Prophetic Work

Chapter III.  Jehovah, God of Israel

Chapter IV.  Israel, the People of the Lord

II.  Notes


*** The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible. A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible, published by the Cambridge University Press.



The Book of Ezekiel

The Book of Ezekiel is simpler and more perspicuous in its arrangement than any other of the great prophetical books. It was probably committed to writing late in the prophet’s life, and, unlike the prophecies of Isaiah, which were given out piecemeal, was issued in its complete form at once. The prophecies are disposed upon the whole in chronological order, though the book may contain much that was never actually spoken, and even the prophecies that were orally delivered may have undergone considerable modification under the pen of the prophet when reproducing them. None of the prophets shews any anxiety to record his discourses in the precise form in which he delivered them. The aim of the prophets in their writings was not literary but practical, as it was in their speeches. It was their purpose to influence the minds of the people when they spoke, and this was equally their purpose when they wrote, and, if in the interval the circumstances of the people had to some extent changed, they did not hesitate to accommodate their former discourses to the new situation.

The book of Ezekiel is occupied with two great themes: the destruction of the city and nation; and the reconstitution of the people and their eternal peace. The book thus falls into two equal divisions of 24 chapters each:—

First Division, ch. 1–24, Prophecies of the destruction of the city and nation, its certainty and necessity.

Second Division, ch. 25–48, Prophecies of the restoration of the people, their regeneration and eternal peace as the people of the Lord.

These prophecies are for the most part symbolical actions, of which the explanation is added; or allegories and riddles, the meaning of which is read to the people. Though a good many actual events are referred to, the book contains little that is historical. It is rather a book of general principles. These principles are all but deductions from the prophet’s conception of Jehovah, God of Israel and God over all. In this respect Ezekiel resembles the author of Isaiah 40-66, though he has neither the breadth of sympathy nor the glow of emotion that distinguish the Evangelist of the Old Testament.

First Division, ch. 1–24. Prophecies of the destruction of the nation.

First section, ch. Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:21. The prophet’s consecration to his calling, and first period of his ministry (July 592 b.c.).

(1) Ch. 1. Vision of Jehovah, the God of Israel, who calls and sends him.

(2) Ch. Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 3:9. His mission to Israel as a prophet. His inspiration, under the symbol of eating the roll of a book presented to him in the hand of Jehovah.

(3) Ch. Ezekiel 3:10-21. He goes to the Exiles, and when among them receives a clearer view of his mission, which is to be a watchman to warn every individual person, the wicked that he may turn from his evil, and the righteous lest he fall from his righteousness.

The theophany of ch. 1 is a vision of Jehovah as he is in himself (final note to the Chapter). The appointment of the prophet to be a watchman is not a change on his original appointment to be a prophet, it is a more precise definition of it. The prophet of this age is a watchman, a warner of individual men. For the old order has changed, the state is disappearing, and only individuals remain out of which the new and eternal kingdom of the Lord has to be reconstructed (note on Ezekiel 3:16). On the general meaning of the whole section cf. note on Ezekiel 3:21.

Second section, ch. Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 7:27. Symbolical prophecies of the overthrow of the city and state. (Under foregoing date.)

(1) Ch. Ezekiel 3:22-27. Change in the prophet’s procedure: he is commanded to cease for a time from being a public reprover.

(2) Ch. 4. Symbols of the siege of the city, the terrible scarcity within it, and of the people’s bearing their iniquity in exile.

(3) Ch. 5. Further symbols of the fate of the inhabitants: a third shall die of famine; a third fall by the sword around the city, and a third be scattered among the nations, still pursued by the sword.

(4) Ch. 6. Prophecy of destruction on the mountains, the mountain-land of Israel, where idolatries everywhere prevailed.

(5) Ch. 7. Dirge over the downfall of the city and nation.

Third section, ch. 8–11. More precise symbolical prophecies of the destruction of the city and people at Jehovah’s own hand, because of the idolatrous pollution of his house (Aug. 591 b.c.).

(1) Ch. 8. The multiplied idolatries in the Temple: the image of jealousy in the court; the worshippers in the chambers of imagery; the women wailing for Tammuz; and the sun-worship between the Temple and the altar (cf. final note to the ch.).

(2) Ch. 9. Symbol of the slaughter of the idolatrous people. A messenger from the Lord passes through the city putting a mark on the forehead of all who bewail the evils that prevail, and he is followed by divine executioners who slay all not so sealed.

(3) Ch. 10. Symbol of the destruction of the city by fire from God.

(4) Ch. 11. Symbol of the Lord’s departure from his House, and abandonment of the city to the fury of her enemies.

Fourth section, ch. 12–19. The same theme of the certainty of the destruction of the nation, with proofs of its moral necessity. (Without date, but later than preceding.)

(1) Ch. Ezekiel 12:1-20. The unbelief of the people is such that new signs must be given them. Symbolical prophecy of the attempted escape of the king, and his capture by the Chaldeans.

(2) Ch. Ezekiel 12:21-28. The people’s unbelief is partly due to their observation of the character of prophecy. But the popular imagination that prophecies of evil fail to come true, or refer to the distant future, shall receive a speedy and terrible refutation.

(3) Ch. 13, 14. These delusions of the people are fostered by the false prophets, who prophesy only of prosperity. The prophets who deceive and those who are deceived by them shall perish together.

(4) Ch. 15. But will the Lord destroy the nation of Israel, the vine of his planting?—The nation of Israel among the nations is like the vine branch among the trees. Good for little when whole, what is it good for now when half-burnt in the fire? Only to be flung again into the fire and wholly consumed.

(5) Ch. 16. Parable of the foundling child who became the faithless wife. Let Israel’s history be judged. What has it been but one persistent course of ingratitude and unfaithfulness to Jehovah? Her chastisement cannot be deferred.

(6) Ch. 17. And must not Zedekiah’s perfidy against the king of Babylon, and his breaking the oath of Jehovah be punished? He has brought ruin both on himself and on the kingdom. Yet the Lord will set up a new kingdom on the land of Israel, into which all nations shall be gathered.

(7) Ch. 18. The principles of this kingdom: the righteous shall live in his righteousness and the sinner die in his sin. The Lord hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. None shall perish for the sins of another: neither does any man lie under a ban from his own past life. Therefore let every man repent that he may live (cf. final note to the ch.).

(8) Ch. 19. Lament over Judah and her royal house.

Fifth section, ch. 20–23. Concluding prophecies demonstrating the necessity of Israel’s destruction. (Aug. 590 b.c.)

(1) Ch. 20. That which has preserved Israel from destruction at every stage of her history, and that which has given her a history, has been Jehovah’s regard for his own name—lest it should be profaned among the nations.

(2) Ch. 21. But now his threats uttered long ago must take effect. The sword of the Lord is whetted and furbished against Jerusalem.

(3) Ch. 22. The aggravated sins of all classes of the people: the royal house, the priests, the prophets, and the people of the land.

(4) Ch. 23. New exposure of the life-long immoralities of the two adulterous women, Oholah and Oholibah (Samaria and Jerusalem).

After a silence of several years the military movements of Nebuchadnezzar drew a new and final oracle from the prophet against Jerusalem, Jan. 587 b.c., the time when Nebuchadnezzar began to invest the city.

(5) Ch. 24. Final symbol of the siege and the dispersion of the people, and of their purification from evil amidst the afflictions of the exile. A rusted caldron is set upon the fire that its contents may be seethed and pulled out indiscriminately (the siege and dispersion), and that its brass may glow and its rust and foulness may be molten and purged away.

Second Division, ch. 25–48. Prophecies of the restoration and reconstruction of the nation (25–39); and vision of the final and perfect state of Israel as the people of the Lord (ch. 40 seq.).

First section, ch. 25–32. Prophecies concerning the nations.

These prophecies occupy the place in the prophet’s book proper to their contents. They are an introduction to the positive prophecies of the restoration of Israel. The judgments on the nations prepare the way for the restitution of the people. The purpose and effect of them is to make Jehovah, God of Israel, and God over all, known to the nations, so that they shall no more vex or seduce his people, as they have done in the past (ch. Ezekiel 28:25-26); and no more lift themselves up in pride of heart against the one living God (cf. introductory note to ch. 25). The prophet does not pursue the destiny of the nations further, nor state how much their recognition of Jehovah implies. But cf. final notes, ch. 16.

(1) Ch. 25. Judgment on the smaller nations around Israel, and revelation to them of Jehovah—Ammon, Moab, Edom and the Philistines.

(2) Ch. 26–28:19. Judgment on Tyre for her pride of heart, and on the prince of Tyre, who said, I am God!

(3) Ch. Ezekiel 28:20-26. Judgment on Sidon that it may no more be a pricking briar to the house of Israel.

(4) Ch. 29–32. Judgments on Egypt. It shall be humbled and reduced to be a base kingdom, that it may no more be a delusive stay to the house of Israel, nor seduce them from trust in Jehovah alone.

Second section, ch. 33–39. Positive prophecies of the restoration of the people, and reconstitution of the kingdom of the Lord.

(1) Ch. 33. The place of the prophet in preparing for the kingdom. He is a watchman, warning every individual soul that by repentance and righteousness it may live. The conditions of entering the new kingdom and of life are altogether moral, and each man shall enter it for himself (cf. final note to the ch.).

(2) Ch. 34. The Ruler. The former evil shepherds, who fed themselves and not the flock, shall be removed; Jehovah himself will take in hand the feeding of his flock, and will set up one shepherd over them, even his servant David, to feed them for ever.

(3) Ch. 35–36. The Land. The land of the Lord, rescued from the grasp of Edom and the nations who have usurped it, shall be given again to Israel for ever; it shall be luxuriant in fertility and teem with people.—The principle that moves the Lord to do these things for Israel is regard to his holy name, even that he may reveal himself, as he truly is, to mankind. His forgiveness and regeneration of the people, who shall henceforth be led by his spirit (Ezekiel 36:16-38, cf. final note).

(4) Ch. 37. The People. Thus the nation, now dead, shall be reawakened into life and restored. In the restitution Ephraim and Judah shall no more be divided, but shall have one king, even David, over them for ever.

Thus the restitution of the people is complete, and their holiness as the people of the Lord perfect. Jehovah sanctifies them by dwelling among them; the people know that he is their God, and the nations know that he sanctifies them (Ezekiel 37:28). So far that which is the purpose of all history has been attained: Jehovah has been revealed both to his people and to the nations. The nations, however, who have learned to know Jehovah, whether from his judgments lighting on themselves (25–32), or from their observation of the principles on which he rules his people, are the nations who have long been on the stage of history and played their parts beside Israel. There are far-off peoples lying in the ends of the earth who have not heard Jehovah’s fame nor seen his glory. One great act in the drama of history has still to be performed. He who is God alone is known to the world as the God of Israel, and it is only through Israel that he can reveal himself to all. These distant peoples shall come up from the ends of the earth, and, like other nations, also touch on Israel, and then shall the glory of the Lord be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. History as the prophet conceives it, whether of Israel or of the nations, is Jehovah’s revelation of himself to mankind; every movement of it carries this burden, “Ye shall know that I am the Lord.” The wave of history pauses on the shore when Jehovah’s glory rises on the uttermost ends of the earth.

(5) ch. 38, 39. Invasion of Israel in the latter day by Gog and all the nations lying in the far-off corners of the earth. The Lord’s defence of his people, now that they are holy and true, reveals to the nations not only his power but his nature, and the principles on which he rules his people and the world. He is known to the ends of the earth.

Third section, ch. 40–48. A vision of the final glory and peace of the redeemed people of the Lord.

Preceding prophecies described the redemption and restoration of the people (33–37); the present section gives a picture of the condition of the people thus for ever redeemed. The background of the picture is the whole preceding part of the book. The last words of ch. 1–39 are, “And I will hide my face from them no more; for I have poured out my spirit on the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.” The people are all righteous, led by the spirit of the Lord, and knowing that Jehovah is their God. The passage does not describe how salvation is to be attained, for the salvation is realized and enjoyed; it describes the state and life of the people now that their redemption is come. The fact that the subject of the passage is the final blessedness of the people accounts for the supernatural elements in the picture. But both the natural and the supernatural features of the people’s condition are to be understood literally. The Temple, the services and the like are meant in a real sense, and no less literally meant is the supernatural presence of Jehovah in his House, the transfiguration of nature, the turning of the desert into a garden, and the sweetening of the waters of the Dead Sea (cf. introductory note to ch. 40).

(1) ch. Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 43:27. Account of the Temple buildings. (a) ch. Ezekiel 40:1-27, description of the outer gateway and outer court, (b) ch. Ezekiel 40:28-47, the inner gateway and inner court. (c) ch. Ezekiel 40:48 to Ezekiel 41:26, the house itself with its annexed buildings, (d) ch. 42, other buildings in the inner court, and dimensions of the whole, (e) ch. Ezekiel 43:1-12, entry of Jehovah into his House. (f) ch. Ezekiel 43:13-27, the altar of burnt-offering, and the rites consecrating it.

(2) ch. 44–46. Ordinances regarding the Temple, (a) ch. 44, those who shall minister in the house, priests and Levites. (b) ch. Ezekiel 45:1-17, revenues of priests, Levites and prince; the duties devolving on the prince in upholding the ritual. (c) ch. Ezekiel 45:18 to Ezekiel 46:24, the special and daily services in the Temple; the special offerings of the prince.

(3) ch. 47, 48. The boundaries of the holy land, and new disposition of the tribes within it. (a) ch. 47, the life-giving stream issuing from the Temple; the boundaries of the holy land, (b) ch. 48, disposition of the tribes in the land; dimensions and gates of the holy city.


Ezekiel’s History and Prophetic Work

Ezekiel was the son of Buzi, of whom nothing further is known. This name has some resemblance to the word “to despise,” and a rabbinical fancy interprets it of Jeremiah, “the despised,” making Ezekiel the lineal descendant of this prophet, as he is his child in thought and faith. Ezekiel is styled the priest, and in all probability he was of the family of Zadok. The priests had already in this age attained to great influence; they were the aristocracy, standing next to the royal family (Ezekiel 22:25-26). It is not certain whether Ezekiel had actually been engaged in priestly duties before his captivity, though it is not unlikely, both from the name priest applied to him and from the minute acquaintance which he shews with the Temple, its dimensions and furniture, and with the sacerdotal rites. The passage Ezekiel 4:14 is not certain evidence, as the prohibition to eat carrion was binding on all the people (Exodus 22:31, though some consider this verse a later insertion). The age at which priests undertook their duties is not clearly stated in the Law. Ezekiel began to prophesy five years after the captivity of Jehoiachin (597 b.c.), and he states that this was in the thirtieth year. If this statement referred to his age he would have been grown up to manhood some years before his exile, but the words are obscure (notes on Ezekiel 1:1-3). It is doubtful if the statement of Josephus (Ant. x. 6, 3) that he was carried captive “when a youth” has any ground beyond the historian’s own fancy. The evidence points in a different direction. In several passages the prophet’s “house” is mentioned (Ezekiel 3:24, Ezekiel 12:3 seq.); the “elders” occasionally assemble there (Ezekiel 8:1, Ezekiel 14:1, Ezekiel 20:1), and according to Ezekiel 24:18 he was married. Reuss is hardly right in regarding his wife and her death as fictions; the language used implies that she was a real person and that her death occurred as stated, though, as usual, the prophet employed the incident for didactic purposes, and some of the details may be creations of his idealism; for it is characteristic of him that real events float before his eye in a moral atmosphere, which magnifies them and gives them an outline which is ideal only. The uncompromising attitude taken up by him towards his fellow captives is a thing hardly to be expected from a mere youth (Jeremiah 1:6); and even in the earliest part of his Book his views appear fully formed, and his convictions regarding the impending fate of his country unalterably fixed. The weight due to the last fact, however, may not be so great, because the Book was written at an advanced period of life, and even the earlier parts of it may be coloured with reflections of a later time.

The period at which the prophet’s youth was passed was rich in influences that must have powerfully affected him. Though too young to take part in the reform of Josiah (620), or perhaps to remember it, he grew up in the midst of the changes which it had introduced, and probably learned to estimate previous history from the point of view which it gave him. The tragic events which followed one another closely at this epoch, such as the death of Josiah (608), the exile of Jehoahaz to Egypt and of Jehoiachin to Babylon, made a lasting impression on his mind. The last event formed the chief landmark of his life, and that not solely because his own history was so closely connected with it; and how deeply the fate of the two young princes touched him, and how well he could sympathise with the country’s sorrow over it, a sorrow recorded also by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:10), is seen in his Elegy on the princes of Israel (ch. 19). He has a fondness for historical study, and no history is to him without a moral; and silently the events of this time were writing principles upon his mind to which in after years he was to give forcible enough expression.

It was not, however, merely the silent teaching of events from which Ezekiel learned. He had a master interpreting events to him to whose influence every page of his prophecies bears witness. Jeremiah, indeed, may not have been Ezekiel’s only master; there were other prophets of the time like-minded with him, such as that Urijah whom Jehoiakim dragged from his hiding-place in Egypt and slew with the sword (Jeremiah 26), and perhaps others of whose names no record has been kept, for it is almost an accident, and only because his fate cast light on the history of Jeremiah in a moment of peril, that the name of Urijah has been preserved. There were also priests who cherished the same aspirations as these prophets, and pursued in their own province the same ends. It is not without significance that Jeremiah no less than Ezekiel was of a priestly family, and that too a rural one, for it was not in the capital alone that true religion had its representatives—like Micah Urijah was a prophet of the country, being of Kirjath-jearim (Jeremiah 26:20). And among Ezekiel’s predecessors in the priesthood and also among his contemporaries there were some who, if they had spoken to the world, would have spoken in the same manner as he did, for the favourable judgment which he passes on the Zadokite priests (Ezekiel 44:15) is not altogether due to mere caste prejudice.

Still the teaching and life of Jeremiah was probably the most powerful influence under which the young priest grew up. It would, no doubt, be a mistake to ascribe every idea in Ezekiel which coincides with Jeremiah’s teaching to the influence of that prophet. There is a common circle of thoughts and feelings which even the greatest minds share with those of their own age. Striking out some new conceptions, and opening up some lines of advancement which mark an epoch, the chief elements of their faith and life are common to them with others of their day and have been inherited from the past. The surprise with which we read Jeremiah might be lessened if the means of comparing him with others were not so narrow as the paucity of writers in the century before the exile causes it to be. At any rate his influence upon the language and thought of Ezekiel can readily be observed. It could hardly have been otherwise. For thirty years before Ezekiel’s captivity Jeremiah had been a prophet, speaking in the courts and chambers of the temple and in the streets of Jerusalem, and having such a history as made him the most prominent figure of the day. Ezekiel was familiar with his history and had listened to his words from his infancy. Many of his prophecies had circulated in writing for a number of years previous to the captivity of Jehoiachin which Ezekiel shared, and the constant intercourse between Jerusalem and the exiles kept the prophet of the Chebar well informed regarding the course of events at home, and the views which prominent persons there took of them (Ezekiel 11:2 seq., 17 &c.).

In the year 597 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem and carried into captivity the young king Jehoiachin, the flower of the population including many priests, Ezekiel among them, as well as a multitude of other citizens, particularly craftsmen. Ezekiel with a community of other exiles was settled at Tel-Abib by the river Chebar—not to be identified with the Chabor which falls into the Euphrates near Carchemish, but some stream or canal in Babylonia proper; and five years later he was called to occupy among them the place of a “watchman” (592 b.c.). How large the community was does not appear, nor what kind of place Tel-Abib was, for the references of the prophet to walls (Ezekiel 12:7, Ezekiel 33:30) hardly justify the conclusion that it was a walled town. The community appears to have been left, as was usually the case, to regulate its internal affairs and govern itself according to its own mind. The prophet repeatedly mentions the “elders,” and though he calls them elders of Judah (Ezekiel 8:1) or Israel (Ezekiel 14:1, Ezekiel 20:1), he identifies them with the captivity (Ezekiel 11:25), of which they must have been the heads and representatives. The lot of the exiles might in some cases be hard, but there is no evidence that they were harshly treated by their conquerors or suffered want. When the prophet speaks of famine he refers to Canaan (Ezekiel 36:29-30, Ezekiel 34:27-28), and the phrase “made servants of them” (Ezekiel 34:27) has more a national than an individual reference, like such expressions as “prison houses” in the second part of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:22). The exiles possessed houses (Ezekiel 3:24, Ezekiel 33:30), and there is no allusion to persecution from their heathen neighbours. Cf. Jeremiah 29:5 seq.

The picture, if it can be called so, which the prophet gives of the life of the exiles and their circumstances is singularly colourless. His interests were exclusively religious, and any insight which he affords us is into the religious condition of his fellow-captives, from whose mouth he occasionally quotes an expression very suggestive as to their state of mind (Ezekiel 12:22; Ezekiel 12:27, Ezekiel 18:2; Ezekiel 18:25; Ezekiel 18:29, Ezekiel 20:49, Ezekiel 33:10; Ezekiel 33:30, Ezekiel 37:11). His own mind was occupied with the largest conceptions, and the exiles were to his eye representatives of a larger subject. When bidden go to “them of the captivity” he felt sent to the “house of Israel” (Ezekiel 2:3, Ezekiel 3:4), and while addressing his fellow exiles he fancies before him the people in Canaan or the nation scattered abroad throughout the world. This identification of the exiles with the people as a whole, and this occupation of the prophet’s mind with great national interests, makes it difficult to know how far in his apparent addresses to the exiles he is touching upon their actual practices. Nothing is more likely than that the captives continued the evil courses in which they had grown up at home, so far as this was possible in a foreign land. They certainly shared in the fanaticism or optimism of those left in the country, and heard with incredulity the prophet’s predictions of the speedy downfall of the city (Ezekiel 12:22; Ezekiel 12:26 seq.). It is known from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:8) that there were false prophets among the exiles who confirmed them in their delusive hopes, and Ezekiel might refer to these prophets in such passages as ch. 13, 14. But such language as “ye have not gone up into the breach” (Ezekiel 13:5), “I sought for a man that should stand in the breach before me for the land” (Ezekiel 22:30), shews that it is the circumstances of the nation as a whole and not those of the exiles that occupy the prophet’s attention. The same appears from such expressions as those in Ezekiel 14:7, “every one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that layeth his idols on his heart.” In one passage (Ezekiel 20:32) the people are represented as resolving to adopt the religion of the nations, “We will be as the nations, to serve wood and stone;” and such a spirit might very naturally reveal itself among the exiles surrounded by heathen neighbours. But probable as this is, the chapter is a review of the nation’s history, and the language may be little more than the prophet’s interpretation of the spirit shewn by the people all through its history. It is only on rare occasions that he draws any distinction between the exiles and those remaining in the land. When he does so he shares the feeling of Jeremiah (ch. 24, Ezekiel 29:16 seq.) that the flower of the people had been carried into captivity with Jehoiachin, and that the hope of the nation lay in them (Ezekiel 11:14-21). But usually the exiles are regarded as the representatives of the house of Israel; the “elders” are the elders of Judah or Israel, and when addressing them the prophet desires to speak in the ears of all his countrymen; just as it is the fate of Jerusalem (4–11), the history of the nation (16, 20, 23), and its future destinies (33–37), that form the theme of his discourse. The idea that the prophet’s office was limited to the exiles, among whom he was a sort of pastor, with a cure of souls, is supported by nothing in the Book.

It would be a mistake, however, to press this general bearing of Ezekiel’s mission, and his preoccupation with the destinies of the house of Israel as a whole, so far as to infer from it that he had no actual prophetic ministry among the exiles; that he was a writer simply, unused to the life of men—a solitary theorist, whose “stuff for removing” (Ezekiel 12:4), if he had brought it forth, would have been little more than an inkhorn; and that the form of oral address which he gives his words is a mere literary artifice. It may not be allowable to assume that his operations among the exiles were literally altogether such as he describes them, but, apart from his own representations, several things afford evidence indirectly that he did exercise a ministry of some kind and of some duration. In ch. Ezekiel 20:49 (Heb. 21:5), when commanded to prophesy of the great conflagration which the Lord would kindle in the field of the south, he exclaims, “Ah Lord God! they say of me, Is he not a speaker of parables?” And in Ezekiel 33:30 he is represented as being the subject of conversation among the people: “The children of thy people talk of thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, saying, Come, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord.” These incidental allusions imply that the prophet had a manner which the people had learned to recognise and to discount, and that they were in the habit of meeting to consult him. The frequent assembling of the elders before him implies the same thing. It is true that these elders are very subordinate figures; they are mentioned and then the discourse passes on to the “house of Israel” or even the strangers that sojourn in Israel, but they cannot be wholly fictitious, or (to speak with Reuss) mere “dummies.” Again, though it may be true that the prophet’s book was written as it now is at a late period, and though its present form suggests careful planning, all passages relating to the destruction of Jerusalem and the principles of Jehovah’s government and the attributes of his nature illustrated by it being embraced in the first part, and the second part being devoted to the Restoration and the illustrations of Jehovah’s purposes which it affords, the fact that in the first part there are many promises of restitution is evidence of actual oral communication (Ezekiel 11:14-20, Ezekiel 16:52-63, Ezekiel 17:22-24, Ezekiel 20:39-44). These consolatory passages naturally arise out of the preceding threatenings, as in other prophets, if these were actually spoken, while in an orderly dogmatic treatise they would have been postponed to the second part of the book. The passage Ezekiel 29:17-20 possibly implies that the prophet felt his predictions against Tyre to have received a less literal fulfilment than was expected from them. If so, his retention of the predictions without change affords ground for believing that upon the whole he has reproduced his discourses with fidelity. The severe, even harsh tone pervading the early part of the book is evidence to the same effect. It is scarcely conceivable that the prophet should have adopted such a tone after the fall of the city unless he had been reproducing in the main what he had spoken before it. And in like manner the people’s mind, buoyant and impatient of the prophet’s anticipations of disaster in the first half of the book, appears prostrated and plunged into despair in the second (Ezekiel 33:10). It is beyond belief that so many circumstances, all harmonious if real, should be nothing but elaborate fictions.

It cannot be assumed that the prophet’s exercise of his office was just literally such as it is represented. Circumstances of actual occurrence are idealized by him and made the expressions of general conceptions and principles, and it is not always possible to distinguish between events which were actual but are idealized, and things which are purely creations of the symbolizing imagination (note on Ezekiel 11:13). The prophet appears to have entered on his mission with his convictions in regard to the fate of his country fixed. He clearly foresaw the downfall of the state. But like all the prophets he was assured of the reconstitution of the kingdom of God on a securer basis. It is for this chiefly that he is appointed to labour (ch. 33); and this position suggests to him from the beginning the nature of his prophetic calling, which is to be a “watchman” to warn every individual man (note Ezekiel 3:16). It is probable that the first section of the book (ch. 1–3:21) covers the earliest period of his ministry. After this a change of procedure, occasioned by the incredulity of the people, appears to have been adopted by him; he ceased to be a public reprover, confining himself to the instruction of those who visited him in his house (Ezekiel 3:22-27, note, p. 26). The meaning of this so-called “silence” is obscure; it was only comparative, though it is represented as lasting till tidings arrived of the fall of the city (Ezekiel 24:27, Ezekiel 33:22), when, his anticipations being verified, his mouth was again opened. Little is said of the prophet after this beyond mention of occasional visits from the elders. But, though the book may contain a good deal that was never publicly spoken, and though, being edited after the events foretold had occurred, the predictions in it may even have received in some parts a certain colour from the fulfilment, it may be assumed that the main contents of the oral addresses are faithfully reproduced in it; and the passage Ezekiel 20:49 is warrant for supposing that the more striking peculiarities of the prophet’s manner are truly reflected.

The prophet’s style, though stately and polished, is less elevated and more prosaic than that of the earlier prophets, though he occasionally rises into wild and irregular poetry (ch. 7, 21), and in particular affects the Ḳinah or Lament (ch. 19, Ezekiel 26:17, Ezekiel 32:17). His language begins to shew incorrectness, though some of the faults may be due to the very depraved state of the text; and his diction has a certain luxuriance, which must sometimes be called redundancy, unless we may infer from the more sober text of the LXX. that many of the cumulative phrases are glosses with which the Heb. text has been overgrown (note, Ezekiel 6:6). The frequent recurrence of the same phrases produces a feeling of monotony, though the repetition appears due to mannerism and the ascendancy of certain ideas in the prophet’s mind quite as much as to defective literary skill. The expression “child of man” (Ezekiel 2:1) occurs nearly a hundred times, and others very frequently, such as “idols” (block-gods, Ezekiel 6:4); “the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 6:2 &c.), a phrase found in no other writer (cf. Isaiah 14:25); “appease my fury” (Ezekiel 5:13, &c.); “stumbling-block of iniquity” (Ezekiel 7:19); “rebellious house” (Ezekiel 2:5, and often in ch. 1–24. cf. Ezekiel 44:6); “desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate” (Ezekiel 29:12, Ezekiel 30:7); “the time of the iniquity of the end” (Ezekiel 21:25, &c.); “the Lord Jehovah” (Ezekiel 2:4, and extremely often, though much seldomer in LXX.); “I Jehovah have spoken it” (Ezekiel 5:13, &c.); and the characteristic “they (ye) shall know that I am Jehovah” (Ezekiel 6:7, &c.), language by which Ezekiel expresses his conception of the purpose and issue of all history, whether it be the dispersion and restoration of his own people or the commotions and changes that take place among the nations.

There are three things in particular which are characteristic of the Book: symbolical figures, symbolical actions, and visions. The three seem all due to the same cast of mind, and are related to one another, being all more or less the creations of an imagination or phantasy always grandiose and often beautiful. One of the finest of the ideal symbols appears in the Elegy on the princes of Israel (ch. 19), in which the nation is represented as a mother lioness rearing her whelps, one after another of which when they had learned to catch the prey was taken by the nations in their pit and caged in captivity. There is a touch of pathos, rare in the prophet, when in reference to the captive prince he speaks of the young lion’s voice being no more heard on the mountains of Israel. Of singular beauty also is the representation of the merchant city Tyre, rising out of the waters on her island rock, under the symbol of a gallant ship moored in the seas (ch. 27). Her mast is a cedar of Lebanon, her sail fine byssus of Egypt, her decks of teak inlaid with ivory. All the ships of Tarshish attend on her and pour into her the richest products of the nations to form her cargo. But she is broken by the east wind and founders in the heart of the seas, to the dismay and inconsolable grief of all seafaring men. If the author of the Apocalypse be a purer poet than Ezekiel, the prophet has given him his inspiration and furnished him with materials for his most splendid creations. Again, though marked by a breadth which offends against modern taste, the allegory of the foundling child which became the faithless wife is powerful, and, when the details are forgotten and only the general idea kept in mind, even beautiful as well as true. An outcast infant, exposed in the open field and weltering in her blood, was seen by the pitying eye of a passer by. Rescued and nourished she grew up to the fairest womanhood and became the wife of her benefactor, who heaped on her every gift that could please or elevate. But the ways into which he led her were too lofty to be understood, and the atmosphere around too pure for her to breathe; the old inborn nature (her father was the Amorite and her mother a Hittite) was still there beneath all the refinements for which it had no taste, and at last it asserted itself in shameless depravity and insatiable lewdness. Other figures are the familiar one of Israel as a vine (ch. 15), to which a pathetic turn is given by a studious silence regarding its fruit; that of Egypt as the crocodile, a semi-mythical monster, fouling his waters in his restless energy, but dragged out by the hook of Jehovah and flung upon the land, his carcase filling the valleys and his blood the water-courses; and that of Nebuchadnezzar as a great speckled eagle with long pinions, hovering over Lebanon and cropping its highest branches. It is the prophet’s manner to develop his symbols into a multitude of details, which sometimes has the effect of obscuring the brilliancy of the central conception.

Though scarcely, with Ewald, to be called “learned,” Ezekiel has a knowledge of designing and architecture (ch. 40 seq.), and his acquaintance with foreign lands and their natural and industrial products, is wide. In this respect he comes nearest to the author of Job, though the latter delights rather to dwell on the phenomena of nature, the luxuriant vegetation of the Nile valley, the wild creatures of the desert, and the monstrous creations of the waters, while Ezekiel is more attracted by the precious stones and metals which various lands are famed for, and by the rich fabrics produced by human skill (ch. 27). Naturally, his imagination luxuriates in mythological tradition, especially of a weird kind, such as tales of the “mighty” which were of old (ch. 32), legends of paradise, the garden of God (28), and impressions of the popular mind regarding Sheòl the abode of the dead.

The prophet’s symbolical actions have been variously understood. It is beyond doubt that actions of this kind were occasionally performed by prophets. Zedekiah made him “horns of iron” wherewith to push (1 Kings 22:11). Jeremiah put a yoke upon his own neck, which Hananiah broke from off him (Jeremiah 28:2; Jeremiah 28:10). The symbolical act, ch. Jeremiah 51:59-64, may also have been literally executed, as well as that in Jeremiah 19:10. Whether his act in hiding his girdle (ch. 13) was real or not may be doubtful, and the same doubt exists in regard to Isaiah’s walking naked and barefoot (ch. 21); the fact that the sign was continued for three years rather tells against a literal performance of it; and it may be held certain that Jeremiah did not send yokes to the kings of Edom and Moab (Jeremiah 27:3). It is possible that Ezekiel may in some cases have had recourse to this forcible way of impressing his teaching. Some of the actions described might well have been performed, such as joining two sticks together into one to represent the future union under one king of Judah and Israel (Ezekiel 37:15 seq.). He might also have refrained from all outward mourning on the death of his wife, as a sign of the silent grief under which the people would pine away when tidings reached them of the destruction of the city and the death of all dear to them (Ezekiel 24:15 seq.). But on the other hand how could the prophet “eat his bread with quaking and drink his water with trembling” as a sign to the house of Israel? (Ezekiel 12:18). And can it be seriously supposed that he actually took a sharp sword as a razor and shaved off the hair of his head and beard, burning a third of it in the city (what city?), smiting a third of it with the sword about the walls, and scattering the remaining third to the winds? (Ezekiel 5:1 seq.). Such actions, and others like them, could not have been performed, and this fact casts doubt on the literality even of those which were possible. Even if 190 days be the true reading in Ezekiel 4:5, it is most improbable that the prophet should have lain on his side immoveable for half a year, and it appears impossible when other actions had to be done simultaneously. The hypothesis of Klostermann[1] hardly deserves mention. This writer supposes that the prophet lay on his side because he was a cataleptic and temporarily paralysed, that he prophesied against Jerusalem with outstretched arm because his arm could not be withdrawn, being convulsively rigid, and that he was “dumb” because struck with morbid alalia. It is surprising that some reputable scholars should seem half inclined to accept this explanation[2]. They perhaps have the feeling that such an interpretation is more reverential to Scripture. But we need to remind ourselves, as Job reminded his friends, that superstition is not religion (Job 13:7-12; Job 21:22). The Book itself appears to teach us how to interpret the most of the symbolical actions. In Ezekiel 24:3 the symbol of setting the caldron on the fire is called uttering a parable (cf. Ezekiel 20:49). The act of graving a hand at the parting of the ways (Ezekiel 21:19) must certainly be interpreted in the same way, and, though there may be room for hesitation in regard to some of them, probably the actions as a whole. They were imagined merely. They passed through the prophet’s mind. He lived in this ideal sphere; he went through the actions in his phantasy, and they appeared to him to carry the same effects as if they had been performed[3].

[1] Stud. u. Krit., 1877.

[2] Orelli, Kurzgef. Kommentar; Valeton, Viertal Voorlezingen; Gautier, La Mission du Prophète Ezéchiel. See on the other side Kuenen, Onderzoek, ii. p. 268.

[3] In regard to ch. Ezekiel 4:1-3 Calvin remarks, Hoc fuit puerile spectaculum, nisi a Deo jussus fuisset Propheta sic agere. But that which would be puerile unless commanded by God remains puerile in itself, and the sound sense of men will conclude that God did not command it.

The vision is a mental operation of the same kind, though higher. The simplest and most beautiful of them all is the vision of the dry bones and their resurrection (ch. 37). Three elements are observable in it: first, certain truths and ideas in the prophet’s mind, truths not new but often expressed elsewhere, at least partially, such as the idea of the people’s restoration. Secondly, the operation on these truths of the prophet’s mental genius, giving them a unity, throwing them into a physical form, and making them stand out before the eye of his phantasy as if presented to him from without. And thirdly, there may be a certain literary embellishment. This last element is most conspicuous in the visions of the Cherubim (ch. 1) and of the new Temple (ch. 40 seq.)[4]. But it must be maintained that the second element, the constructive operation of the phantasy, was always present, and that the visions are not mere literary invention. Occasionally, however, the prophet does use the vision, like other things, in an ideal way, bringing considerable stretches of his own prophetic work under the outline of a single vision, as in ch. 1–3:21 and ch. 8–11 (cf. note, Ezekiel 3:21). Ezekiel felt such visions as that in ch. 37 to be a revelation of God. And from whence else could his assurance of the people’s restoration have come? There was nothing in the state of the world and the nations to suggest it, and everything in the past history of the people and their present condition to make it seem impossible (Ezekiel 33:10). The singular struggle between hope and fear revealed in Lamentations 3:21 seq. is typical of the state of mind even of those in whose hearts hope was not dead; and the very energy of the utterance in Isaiah 50:4-8 is evidence of the obstacles which faith had to overcome.

[4] The difference between Isaiah’s knowledge of God and that of Ezekiel, and consequently the greater detail of the latter in ch. 1 compared with Isaiah 6, is very prettily expressed by Abarbanel, who says that Ezekiel was a villager who saw the divine Majesty but rarely and therefore minutely described it, while Isaiah dwelt in the capital and was familiar with the great King.

Between the latest date in ch. 1–39 and the date of ch. 40 seq. there is an interval of thirteen years. Ch. 1–39 may be supposed to have been composed a considerable time before ch. 40 seq. The latter chapters are quite unique in a prophetic book, while the contents of the earlier part do not differ from those of other prophetic writings. The difference of the two parts may have suggested to Josephus (Ant. x. 5, 1) the idea that Ezekiel wrote two books, unless, indeed, the words he uses should apply rather to Jeremiah. Although ch. 1–39 form the background to ch. 40–48, a certain change in the prophet’s view seems to have taken place in the interval, particularly in regard to the rôle of the Prince. The passage Ezekiel 29:17-21 is a later insertion dated two years after ch. 40. After this date (570 b.c.) nothing is known of the prophet. Tradition asserts that he met his death in Babylonia at the hands of a prince of his people whom he had upbraided for his idolatrous practices[5].

[5] For this and other traditions cf. Knobel, Prophetismus, p. 301.

The contention of some scholars that the Book is later than the exile and pseudepigraphic has not met with any wide acceptance. Zunz[6] would place it in the Persian period (c. 440–400 b.c.). The view of Geiger[7] is similar; while Seinecke[8], who identifies Gog with Antiochus Epiphanes, brings the Book as low as the Maccabean age.

[6] Gottesdienst. Vorträge, p. 157, and Zeit. Deut. Morg. Ges., vol. xxvii., p. 676.

[7] Urschrift, p. 23.

[8] Gesch. d. V. Is. i. 138, quoted in Kuen., Onders., ii. 315.

Ezekiel was received into the Canon along with the other prophetical books. The date of the canonising of the Prophets is uncertain, though it must have been prior to 200 b.c. (Prol. to Ecclus., and Ch. 49:8, Daniel 9:2). The differences between the ritual details in ch. 40. seq. and the Law naturally created difficulties, which, however, do not seem to have been widely felt, as no scholar’s name or school is mentioned in connexion with them. Hananiah ben Hezekiah, of blessed memory (a contemporary of Gamaliel the master of St Paul), resolutely grappled with them; he had 300 measures of lamp-oil brought him, and betaking himself to an upper room he sat and reconciled the differences, of which no more was heard[9].

[9] See Buhl, Kanon und Text, p. 30 (Transl., p. 24, 30). Wildeboer, Het Ontstaan van den Kanon, p. 59. Bleek, 4 Ed., p. 551.


Jehovah, God of Israel

Ezekiel’s general doctrine of God does not differ materially from that of other prophets of the same age, such as Jeremiah and Isaiah 40 sq., though the character of his mind causes him to bring some divine attributes into more prominence than others, and his education as a priest leads him to a way of thinking or at least to the use of a kind of phraseology not observed in other prophets.

His conception of Jehovah appears in the “visions of God” which he describes (ch. 1, 8, 10, 43). These visions were all alike, and they reveal his general impression of that which Jehovah is. The fourfold nature of the cherubim, of their faces and wings and of the wheels, all forming a chariot moving in every direction alike, and with the velocity suggested by the wings and wheels, symbolizes the omnipresence of Jehovah, while the eyes of which the whole was full are a token of his omniscience. The throne above the firmament on which he sat indicates that he is King in heaven, God over all, omnipotent. The divine being himself appeared as of human form, while his nature was light, of such brightness that fire fitly represented him only from the loins downwards, from the loins upwards the effulgence was something purer and more dazzling, and he was surrounded by a brightness like that of the rainbow in the day of rain. This “glory,” which contains himself within it (Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18, Ezekiel 43:5-6), is that which is manifested to men (final note, ch. 1).

The name by which the prophet calls the God of Israel is Jehovah, or the Lord Jehovah. Whether the name Lord expresses something judicial or no may be uncertain, it expresses at least something sovereign (Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 6:5); but the other name Jehovah now in Ezekiel’s age expresses the idea of God absolutely. Jehovah has all power: the nations as well as Israel are in his hand. He brought Israel out of Egypt, and gave them the good land of Canaan, and he will disperse them among the nations, delivering them over to the king of Babylon; but yet again he will recover them out of the hand of those who have served themselves of them, and save them with an everlasting salvation. With the same omnipotence he rules among the nations. His judgments fall upon the peoples around Israel, Ammon, Moab and Edom, whose name he causes to perish among the nations; but they light also on Tyre and even upon Egypt, which he gives into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. He breaks the arm of Pharaoh and strikes the sword out of his hand, putting his own sword into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. He brandishes his sword in the eyes of all the nations, while creation shudders and the waters of the great deep stand motionless. He puts his hook in the jaws of Gog, and brings him up from the ends of the earth, revealing himself to the most distant lands and the far-off islands of the sea. He reverses the past, bringing again the captivity of Sodom and her daughters. He sends forth his life-giving spirit, and the nation that was dead and its bones scattered feels the breath of life and rises to its feet a great army. His rule of the nations is the judgment of the nations; and his verdict upon a nation is seen in the last act which it plays upon the stage of history and is eternal (Ezekiel 32:17 sq.).

At the sight of his glory the prophet fell upon his face, but it is not Jehovah’s will that his servants should be overborne by his majesty (Job 9:32-35; Job 13:21), and he says to the prophet “stand upon thy feet that I may speak with thee” (Ezekiel 2:1). Though profoundly devout and but a “child of man” in the presence of Jehovah, the prophet is far from regarding God as a mere transcendent majesty and abstract omnipotence. He is the living God. He has “a likeness as the appearance of a man” (Ezekiel 1:26). He has “a mighty hand and a stretched out arm” (Ezekiel 20:33), a “face” (Ezekiel 7:22, Ezekiel 14:8, Ezekiel 15:7, Ezekiel 39:23-24), a “mouth” (Ezekiel 3:17, cf. Ezekiel 22:21), “eyes” and “ears” (Ezekiel 8:18), his fury comes up into his “nostrils” (Ezekiel 38:18), and the sanctuary is the place of the “soles of his feet” (Ezekiel 43:7; cf. Isaiah 60:13). These representations in Ezekiel mean neither more nor less than they do in other prophets, such as Isaiah 40-66; they are not to be dwelt upon individually but taken together, and when thus combined they express the idea of a living personality possessing all the powers of personal being. Even when the prophet represents Jehovah’s judgments as executed by the mediation of divine messengers (ch. 9), or when he interposes a “man” between God and himself (Ezekiel 40:3 sq.), this is due to his tendency to personify rather than to any feeling of the distance of God from men or the world, as appears from Ezekiel 43:5-7.

Again, Jehovah appears in the prophet endowed with all the attributes and emotions of moral being. He expresses his own consciousness of that which he is by using his own name, as when he says, “Ye shall know that I am Jehovah;” and his sense of himself when injured, as it is when his people worship other gods or when the nations touch that which is his, oppressing his people or usurping his land, reacts and manifests itself as “jealousy.” He pities the outcast infant weltering in its blood and bids it live (Ezekiel 16:6), and the little children passed through the fire to Molech, whom he calls “my children” (Ezekiel 16:21). He has compassion on “his sheep,” broken or lost and scattered on the mountains through the selfishness of hirelings who feed themselves and not the flock, and he binds up that of them which was broken, and strengthens that which was sick (Ezekiel 34:16). His “soul” is “alienated” from his people (Ezekiel 23:18), whose uncleannesses he “loathes” (Ezekiel 36:17). His “anger” is kindled by their ways, he pours out his “fury” upon them and “appeases” it in their punishment. Yet he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; his will is that men should live (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 33:11). He is conscious of being God alone, and directs all history, whether of his people or the nations, towards one goal, the revealing of himself as that which he is to the eyes of mankind. If he sends afflictions on his people it is that he may break their whorish heart and their eyes (Ezekiel 6:9), and when his chastisements fail he forgives for his name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:22; cf. Isaiah 48:9), brings himself near and dwells by his spirit in men’s hearts (Ezekiel 36:27), even tabernacling in a visible form among them for ever, so that the name of the new Jerusalem to all generations is, The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35).

His relation to his people or the prophet is not that of one distant or unapproachable. Being King in Israel,—and he expresses his resolution to be King over them yet in truth (Ezekiel 20:33),—he gives them statutes and judgments. Yet these are “good,” they are “statutes of life” (Ezekiel 33:15), which if a man do he shall live by them (Ezekiel 20:11). In like manner he communicates his word to the prophet, commanding him to receive it and not be rebellious like the rebellious house (Ezekiel 2:8). The prophet represents his inspiration under the symbol of eating the roll of a book, but why this symbol should imply a more “mechanical” idea of inspiration than the language of Jer., “Behold I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9), does not appear. Though the roll was written on the front and on the back with lamentation and woe, it was in the prophet’s mouth “as honey for sweetness” (Jeremiah 3:3). The same joy in Jehovah’s service even amidst persecutions was felt by Jeremiah: “Thy words were found and I did eat them; they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for I am called by thy name” (Jeremiah 15:16). Sympathy with Jehovah in his alienation from the people because of their evil is expressed by both prophets, “I sat alone because of thy hand, for thou hast filled me with indignation” (Jeremiah 15:17, and in a more violent form Ezekiel 6:11; cf. Ezekiel 3:14). Both prophets have such fellowship with Jehovah that they can venture to intercede for the people, though they are repulsed with the answer that the time for intercession has gone by, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me my mind could not be toward this people; cast them out of my sight” (Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel 9:8; Ezekiel 11:13).

Jehovah is God over all, and the self-exaltation of peoples or their rulers in any place of the world, as when the prince of Tyre says, I am God, or when the Pharaoh says, My river is mine, I have made it, is an offence against the majesty of him who is alone exalted. What might be called moral forces are no less subservient to his will and ruled by him than those that are physical. The prophet, indeed, represents Jehovah as the Author of all that occurs, whether on the stage of history or in the minds of men. Even the evil that men do is in many instances ascribed to him, without men, however, being thereby relieved of responsibility for it. In one aspect men’s deeds are their own, in another they are occasioned by God. Jerusalem sets her bloodshed on a bare rock, without covering it; but from another point of view it is the Lord himself who sets it on a bare rock “that it might cause fury to come up, to take vengeance” (Ezekiel 24:7). A prophet allows himself to be enticed, and entering into the purposes of the people—whitewashing the wall which they build—speaks such a prophetic word as fosters their delusive hopes. It is the Lord that deceives this prophet that both he and those whom he deludes may perish together (Ezekiel 14:10). The laws given to the people were “good,” statutes of life. But the people neglected and disobeyed them, they perverted their meaning, extending the law of the offering of the firstborn even to children, whom they burnt in the fire. This perversion was caused by God himself; he gave them laws that were not good, that he might destroy them (Ezekiel 20:25-26). Evil things come into the mind of Gog, he devises an evil device, saying, “I will go up against them that are quiet, to take the spoil, and to take the prey.” It is Jehovah that puts hooks in his jaws and brings him forth; “I will bring thee against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee” (Ezekiel 38:4; Ezekiel 38:10; Ezekiel 38:16).

These representations in Ezekiel are similar to others in Scripture, and, no doubt, raise difficult questions. Perhaps two things may be said in general: first, Jehovah is nowhere represented as causing nations or men to do evil acts, which they are not also represented as doing of their own accord and with evil intent; and secondly, Jehovah is nowhere represented as the author of sin in such a sense that he causes an innocent mind to sin. He adds to the sin of one already sinful for wider purposes which he has in view. The instances of Pharaoh, the Amorites (Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20; cf. Genesis 15:16; Leviticus 18:24-25), Saul (1 Samuel 26:19), Ahab (1 Kings 22:20), Israel (Isaiah 6:9; Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 63:17; cf. Isaiah 64:5-6; Ezekiel 20:25-26), the false prophets (Ezekiel 14:9), Gog (Ezekiel 38.) are all of this kind. They are so clearly of this kind that none of them needs discussion except the case of Saul’s persecution of David. The words of David are, “If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me let him smell an offering.” David’s view appears to be that Saul’s persecution of him is due to an aberration with which the king has been struck by Jehovah. This aberration is a punishment for some previous unwitting offence, and he advises an atoning offering that the offence may be forgiven and the aberration removed. The aphorism quem deus vult perdere prius dementat may have its application in Scripture, but there at least the previous question needs to be carefully raised, Whom does God will to destroy? It is always assumed that they are evil men, either in themselves or as the adversaries of Jehovah or of his people. On broader grounds the propriety or justice of this assumption may in some cases appear to need investigation. But, the assumption being made, God appears as the author of sin only in a secondary and very modified sense. He uses sin already existing, punishes it with delusion and worse sin, laying a stumbling-block before the sinner, over which he falls and perishes (Jeremiah 6:21; Ezekiel 3:20)[10].

[10] The Essay of Dr J. C. Matthes, Oorsprong der Zonde, Theol. Tijds., 1890, p. 225, appears to overlook the previous assumption referred to.

The view has been suggested that to the prophet’s mind the prevailing characteristic of Jehovah is his justice—Jehovah is “the rigidly just one;” and that this conception of Jehovah’s justice is but the reflection of the prophet’s own “scrupulous and precise character.” Jehovah’s punctilious righteousness appears in his way of dealing with different classes of men, ch. Ezekiel 14:12-20; Ezekiel 14:18, Ezekiel 33:10-20; and the prophet’s own scrupulous and somewhat pedantic nature in the way he feels the responsibilities of his office as watchman, ch. Ezekiel 3:16-21, Ezekiel 33:1-9[11]. This representation appears to invert the true order, putting that first which is last. The prophet’s conception of his office is a reflection, if there be reflection in the case, of his idea of the divine method of dealing with men. It is because God will deal with each man individually that the prophet feels he must warn each separately. The reality of his office and of his sense of responsibility in the discharge of it being admitted, his statements about himself are in the main an indirect way of impressing upon men the true nature of their relations to God and of the method in which he will treat them (initial note to 33). And the point of view from which passages like ch. 18 and 33 are to be looked at is scarcely that of the divine rectitude merely (final notes to 18).

[11] Kuenen, Modern Review, Oct. 1884.

There are several expressions used by Ezekiel of interest in connexion with his conceptions of God. They are the words frequently spoken by the Lord, (1) “Ye (they) shall know that I am Jehovah;” (2) “I will be sanctified (shew myself holy) in you (them);” and (3), “I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations.” From the occasional combination of these phrases together it appears that they differ little from one another in meaning; thus: “I will magnify myself and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah” (Ezekiel 38:23). “And my holy name will I make known in the midst of Israel; and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel” (Ezekiel 39:7). “I will be jealous for my holy name” (Ezekiel 39:25). “That the nations may know me when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezekiel 38:16). “And the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall be sanctified in you (Israel) before their eyes” (Ezekiel 36:23).

In the words spoken by the Lord, “Ye shall know that I am Jehovah,” the term “Jehovah” expresses the speaker’s own consciousness of that which he is. The language is frequently used towards the nations: his judgments on them reveal to them that he is Jehovah, or they learn the same truth from observation of his restoration and protection of Israel (the former, Ezekiel 25:5; Ezekiel 25:7; Ezekiel 25:11; Ezekiel 25:17, Ezekiel 26:6, Ezekiel 28:22-23, Ezekiel 29:9, Ezekiel 30:19, Ezekiel 35:9; Ezekiel 35:15, Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 38:23, Ezekiel 39:6-7; and the latter, Ezekiel 36:23; Ezekiel 36:36). The phrase is also addressed to Israel, both in connexion with judgments and in connexion with blessings such as restoration and final peace (the former, Ezekiel 6:7; Ezekiel 6:10; Ezekiel 6:14, Ezekiel 7:4; Ezekiel 7:27, Ezekiel 11:10; Ezekiel 11:12, Ezekiel 12:15-16; Ezekiel 12:20, Ezekiel 13:9; Ezekiel 13:23, Ezekiel 15:7, Ezekiel 20:38, Ezekiel 24:24; and the other, Ezekiel 20:42; Ezekiel 20:44, Ezekiel 28:26, Ezekiel 34:27; Ezekiel 34:30, Ezekiel 36:11; Ezekiel 36:38, Ezekiel 37:13). The words mean more than that those addressed shall learn that it is “Jehovah” who inflicts the judgment or confers the blessing upon them; they mean that they shall learn to know the nature of Him who is dealing with them, or at least his nature on some side of his being. This appears from an occasional variation in the expression: “Ye shall know that I am Jehovah God” (Ezekiel 13:9, Ezekiel 23:49, Ezekiel 24:24, Ezekiel 29:16, cf. Ezekiel 28:26). The term “Jehovah,” however, is not a mere synonym for “God;” it appears always to carry a historical element in it. When addressed to the nations it connotes “the God of Israel;” and when addressed to Israel it carries a reminder of that which they have been told of him by his servants the prophets, or that which they have learned of him from his presence in their history. How much is suggested by the name “Jehovah” must perhaps be learned from each particular passage. When spoken to the nations in general it may suggest his power, and that he will not leave injuries done to his people unrequited; in some cases it may imply that he is God over all, as when the words are spoken in regard to the Pharaoh (Ezekiel 29:9). Indeed, as the language is used now in Ezekiel we should probably not be far wrong in putting into the term “Jehovah” when spoken by the Lord himself the meaning which it would have if used by the prophet, and to him certainly “Jehovah,” the God of Israel, is he who is God alone, and who, in righteousness and power and all other attributes, is that which one who is God alone is—although in each several passage where the word is used some special divine attribute may be more particularly suggested.

The expression “I will be sanctified,” or, “sanctify myself,” or, “shew myself holy” (or, get me sanctifying), does not differ materially from the phrase just discussed. In modern usage the term “holy” has drifted away from its proper sense and lost its original comprehensive meaning. The word is an adj. derived from a neut. verb which probably expressed some physical idea, though the idea is not now recoverable. Whatever the idea was the term “holy” was very early felt to be an appropriate epithet for deity, not as expressing any particular attribute but rather the general notion of godhead. Jehovah swears by his “holiness” or by “himself” without difference of meaning (Amos 4:2; Amos 6:8). The term was so much appropriated to the divine that when coupled with the word “god” or “gods” it became a mere otiose epithet, “the holy gods” meaning nothing more than “the gods” (Daniel 4:8-9; Daniel 4:18; Daniel 5:11; cf. Daniel 5:14; Inscrip. of Eshmunazar). In Israel the epithet is transferred to Jehovah, who is the Holy One of Israel, or, in Israel (Ezekiel 39:7), or the Holy One, or even Holy One, almost as a proper name (Proverbs 30:3; Isaiah 40:25; cf. Joshua 24:19).

It appears to be a secondary use, though also very early, when the term was applied to that which belongs to the sphere of deity, which lies near God’s presence or has come into it (Exodus 3:5; Numbers 16:37-38), or which belongs to him, whether as part of himself or as his property. Hence his arm, his spirit are “holy;” and so his house, city, hill, people, land, and the like; his sabbath, his offerings, and his ministers. Hence the angels, belonging to the sphere of deity, are the “holy ones” (Job 5:1). The word in this sense is applied both to things and men, and expresses primarily not a quality but a relation. But naturally, just as the idea of godhead would always carry some attribute or perhaps several with it, so that which was considered the possession of God or near him, whether things or men, would also be considered to have certain characteristics. These characteristics would be regulated by that which God was thought to be. Things repulsive to his nature could not be his nor come near him, and could not be “holy;” neither could men unlike him in character, or in any physical condition repugnant to his nature. But things and men that were his shared his “holiness” and could be “profaned,” such as his sabbaths or his holy princes (Ezekiel 7:22; Ezekiel 7:24; Ezekiel 20:16; Isaiah 43:28).

The term “holy” applied to Jehovah is very elastic, and may embrace much or little, one thing or another. To call Jehovah “holy” tells nothing in regard to him further than that he is God, with the attributes of God. The idea has to be distinguished from the details brought at different times under it. There might be included under the idea the sole godhead of Jehovah; such natural attributes of deity as power, manifested in the rule of nature (Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:11), or in judgments on the enemies of his people (Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 38:23; Ezekiel 39:7); moral attributes, as punitive righteousness (Isaiah 5:16), or ethical purity (Leviticus 19:2); and finally physical or what might be called æsthetic purity (Leviticus 11:44 seq., Ezekiel 20:25-26; Ezekiel 43:7; Ezekiel 43:9, cf. initial note to 40–48, last par.). When Jehovah reveals himself as that which he is, or in any of his attributes and aspects of that which he is, he “sanctifies” himself. Hence to “magnify” or “glorify” himself or set his glory among the nations are particulars coming under the more general “sanctify” (Ezekiel 38:23, Ezekiel 39:21). In like manner men “sanctify” Jehovah when they recognise that which he is or ascribe to him his true nature (Ezekiel 36:23; Isaiah 8:13). On the other hand when the iniquities of his people constrain him to act in such a way as to disguise any of his great attributes, such as his power, in the eyes of the nations, so that they misinterpret his being, his holy name is “profaned,” as on the contrary he is “sanctified” in the eyes of the nations by the restoration of his people and their defence when restored and righteous (Ezekiel 36:23, Ezekiel 38:16).

The phrase, “I wrought for my name’s sake, lest it should be profaned among the nations,” has a meaning but little different. The expression is chiefly used in reference to Israel and its destinies. It contains the prophet’s philosophy of history. History, particularly that of Israel in the face of the nations, is Jehovah operating for his name’s sake. It is his regard for his name that explains Israel’s history, that, indeed, has given her a history, for otherwise she would many a time have been cut off for her iniquities. The “name” of God here is not the mere word “Jehovah,” neither is it what might be called his “reputation,” though both are included in it. The idea of the prophet is suggested by the fact that he who is God alone and over all is known to the world as Jehovah, God of Israel. He whom the peoples of mankind know as the God of Israel has the consciousness of being true God, and wills to reveal himself to all mankind (Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:8; Isaiah 45:21-24). Within Israel he can reveal himself as he is in himself; to the nations he must reveal himself as that which the God of Israel is. He who knows himself as God alone (Isaiah 44:8) has become historically God of Israel, has begun his revelation of himself to the world thus, and will thus carry it to an end till he is known to all the earth. Therefore he cannot destroy Israel, for this would undo the first steps of his great purpose already taken, and efface from the minds of the nations the knowledge of him which they have received by his redemption of his people in their sight (Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 20:14; Ezekiel 20:22; cf. Deuteronomy 9:28-29; Deuteronomy 32:26-27; Numbers 14:15-16; Exodus 32:11-12). Henceforth his “name,” the name of him who knows himself to be God alone, is inseparably linked with the destinies of Israel. Within Israel his revelation of himself as he is went on, though thwarted by the rebelliousness of the people. Eventually their want of receptiveness was so great that they had to be rejected for a time and cast out of Jehovah’s land. In the world of the nations without this was a retrograde movement. Unable to conceive of a moral rule of his people by Jehovah, the nations concluded that he was without power to protect them (Ezekiel 36:20). Thus his name was profaned; the knowledge which the nations had of him was obscured. It was perhaps not among the nations only that Jehovah’s name had suffered an eclipse: the feet of many in Israel also well-nigh slipped. It took time for them to accommodate themselves to what had happened. It was only when they were enabled to read their past history in a new light, the light shed on it by the prophets, that their minds came to rest. But this new reading both gave them a profounder knowledge of Jehovah and awakened a new enthusiasm for the future. And Jehovah’s recovery of his people from all lands not only restored the prestige of his power among the nations, but taught them the deeper moral principles of his rule (Ezekiel 39:23), as it sealed to Israel the ancient truths which they had heard concerning him (Ezekiel 20:42-44, Ezekiel 36:11; Ezekiel 36:37, Ezekiel 39:28-29).

The prophet’s idea is a large one, and might comprehend more than he fills into it. It is that God’s revelation of himself is historical; that he becomes the God of one people with whose destinies his name is linked; that his rule of this people in their history, its progress and final issues, the way he leads them and that into which at the last he fashions them, is his revelation of himself to the eyes of mankind.

The conception that Jehovah acts only for his own name’s sake, to sanctify his great name, is capable of being set in a repellent light. It seems to make the divine being egoistic, and his own sense of himself the source of all his operations. The way too in which he brings the nations to know that he is Jehovah, through judgments mainly, invests the idea with additional harshness. The conception is not found in the earlier prophets, but is familiar in the age of Ezekiel. Perhaps two things, if considered, would help to explain the prophet’s idea. One is his lofty conception of Jehovah, God alone and over all, and his profound reverence before him. The “child of man” cannot conceive the motive of Jehovah’s operations to be found anywhere but in himself. But that name for whose sake he works is a “great name” (Ezekiel 36:23), and a “holy name” (Ezekiel 39:25), it is that of him who is God. The prophet thinks of Jehovah as one of his predecessors did: “For Jehovah your God, he is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty and the terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh a reward” (Deuteronomy 10:17). And other prophets of his age, very unlike him, move among similar thoughts: “my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 45:23); “for mine own sake will I do it; for how should my name be profaned” (Isaiah 48:11).

And the second thing is this: the conception arose out of the conflicts of the time. There were antagonisms within Israel, and more powerful antagonisms without, between Israel and the nations. These conflicts on the stage of history were but the visible forms taken by a conflict of principles, of religions, of Jehovah God with the idolatries of which the nations of the earth were the embodiments. The prophet could not help drawing up this antagonism into his conception of God; and not unnaturally he reflected his own feeling upon the mind of God, and conceived him thinking of himself as he thought of him. If it was but half a truth, it was perhaps the half needful for the age. When the fulness of time was come the centre of divine motive was shifted, “God so loved the world.” Coming from the bosom of the Father and knowing him, the Son’s mind was altogether absorbed in the positive truth, the stream of which was so broad and deep that all antagonisms were buried beneath it.


Israel, the People of the Lord

The tone of the prophet towards the people in the early part of his book is severe and threatening, though the threats are here and there relieved with consoling promises and a brighter outlook (Ezekiel 11:16 seq., Ezekiel 16:53 seq., Ezekiel 17:22 seq., Ezekiel 21:27). In the second half he adopts a kindlier tone. In both parts his teaching agrees in many things with that of his predecessors, particularly Jeremiah.

It is surprising how much the two prophets have in common. Both enter upon their office with opinions already formed of the people to whom they are sent, and with the expectation of opposition from them (Jeremiah 1:19); those around Ezekiel are thorns and briars and he dwells among scorpions (Ezekiel 2:6); they are impudent and stiffhearted (Ezekiel 2:4). Both receive assurance of divine assistance in their contention with them: “I have made thy face hard against their faces … harder than flint have I made thy forehead” (Ezekiel 3:8-9; Jeremiah 1:8; Jeremiah 1:17-18; Jeremiah 15:20; Isaiah 50:7). Both sympathise with the anger of Jehovah in his controversy with his people and share it, being filled with “indignation” (Ezekiel 3:14; Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 15:17), and keep aloof from the people, refusing to enter into their sorrow or joy, for a doom from heaven hangs over them (Ezekiel 3:26, cf. Ezekiel 24:15-27; Jeremiah 16:5 seq.). Israel is a “rebellious house,” and their rebellion has been continuous throughout their history, “they have rebelled they and their fathers unto this very day” (Ezekiel 2:3, ch. 16, 20); “from the day that your fathers came forth out of Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you my servants the prophets; yet they hearkened not unto me, they did worse than their fathers” (Jeremiah 7:25). Both assert that Jerusalem has outbidden Samaria in wickedness (Ezekiel 16:47; Ezekiel 16:51, Ezekiel 23:11; Jeremiah 3:11; Jeremiah 16:12), and that both peoples have been more perverse than the heathen (Ezekiel 5:6, Ezekiel 16:48; Jeremiah 2:11). The degeneracy has infected all classes and persons, it is in vain to look for a “man” in the streets of Jerusalem: “I sought for a man among them to stand in the gap before me for the land, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30; Jeremiah 5:1).

In one respect Ezekiel appears to exceed his predecessors in the condemnation of his people: he recognises no good time in Israel’s history. To older prophets a halo surrounded Israel’s earliest time, though it soon faded away: “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; but they came to Baal-Peor and consecrated themselves unto the shame, and became abominable like that which they loved” (Hosea 9:10); “I remember of thee the kindness of thy youth, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness” (Jeremiah 2:2). And Isaiah even speaks of Jerusalem as at one time “the faithful city,” though in his own day she had become an harlot (Ezekiel 1:21). Jeremiah appears to date the declension from the settlement in Canaan (Jeremiah 2:5-7; Jeremiah 2:21, cf. Isaiah 5:2; Micah 6:3), and Ezekiel agrees with him that at that time the people sank into deeper degeneracy, seizing the occasion presented by the Canaanite shrines to add to their provocation and blasphemy (Ezekiel 16:15 seq., Ezekiel 20:28; Deuteronomy 12:2). But he goes further, pushing the people’s idolatries back as far as the wilderness (Ezekiel 20:24), and even into an earlier time: “Son of man, there were two women … and they committed whoredoms in Egypt” (Ezekiel 23:2). Jerusalem came of tainted blood: her father was the Amorite, and her mother an Hittite (Ezekiel 16:3). The history of Israel in Egypt is told so briefly in the Pent. that no corroboration of the prophet’s idea is found, which, however, has everything in its favour (on Ezekiel 20:7-8); and for the wilderness the oldest part of the Pent. supports him (Exodus 32, cf. Deuteronomy 9:6, and often). The revelation of Jehovah was not first made to Israel in Egypt, Jacob was his “servant” (Ezekiel 28:25, Ezekiel 37:25), as well as Abraham (Ezekiel 33:24); and the prophet supposes the state of the people in Egypt to be very much their state in his own day: they knew Jehovah, but they had abandoned him for idols which they refused to forsake (Ezekiel 20:5). It is possible that Ezekiel may judge the past history of his people from the point of view of his own attainment in religious knowledge; he may regard the worship at the high places, though meant by the people for service of Jehovah, as nothing better than Canaanitish heathenism; and looking at the darker side of the people’s history and regarding the nation as a moral personality (Ezekiel 20:30-44), he may not advert to much that deserved to be excepted from his sweeping charge of apostasy. The nature of the prophetic discourse has always to be taken into account. Its object was to shew to Jacob his transgressions (Micah 3:8; Jeremiah 28:8). The judgment of the prophets on the people in every age was not a comparative but an absolute one. They condemn the people because they fall short of the ideal which they themselves perceive to be true. They also represent this shortcoming as a declension and forsaking of a position formerly attained. This latter part of the prophetic judgment has been thought by many to be scarcely historical: their own ideal which they contrast with the popular religion is always true, but their verdict on the people, it is thought, would have been fairer if, instead of charging them with declension, they had blamed them for backwardness and slowness of attainment. The written history of Israel is so greatly occupied with external events that it affords little insight into the religious condition of the people before the prophetic age, but the unanimous feeling of the prophets as to the past must have a historical ground. Ezekiel’s judgment on Jerusalem (ch. 16) finds a parallel in a singular passage in Jeremiah 32:30-35 : “For this city hath been to me a provocation of mine anger and my fury from the day that they built it unto this day.”

Further, the two prophets are in agreement on much else, the details of the people’s sin and the issue of it. Both name the chief sin of Israel “whoredom,” as had been common since Hosea, though Isaiah uses the metaphor only once (Ezekiel 1:21); and the figures by which Ezekiel describes it, realistic and repulsive enough though they be, in nothing exceed those used by Jeremiah (Ezekiel 16:25; Ezekiel 16:34, Ezekiel 23:8; Ezekiel 23:17; Ezekiel 23:20; Ezekiel 23:40; Jeremiah 2:23-24; Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 5:7-8; Jeremiah 13:27). Apart from figure, this whoredom or infidelity to Jehovah, includes two things, idolatry and alliances with foreign states, those “lovers” on whom Israel and Judah doted (Ezekiel 23:5; Ezekiel 23:16; Jeremiah 4:30). The idolatry was partly real, a worship of “other gods” (Jeremiah 16:11), the Baals or shame (Ezekiel 11:13), the host of heaven (Jeremiah 19:13; Ezekiel 8:16), and the queen of heaven (Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:17 seq. cf. Ezekiel 8:14). It is not certain to what deities the small shrines were erected which were to be found in every street and at the head of every way (Ezekiel 16:24-25). Jeremiah 11:13 appears to call them altars to the shame or Baal, though it might be inferred from Ezekiel 16:23 that they were dedicated to deities not native to Canaan. Besides this, however, both prophets stigmatise with the same odious name the whole service at the rural altars, on the high hills and under the evergreen trees, with its accessories of images, sun-pillars and asheras (Ezekiel 6:6; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:6). It is not the mere localities nor the number of the altars that arouses their aversion; it is the nature of the worship and its evil memories (Hosea 4:13-14; Amos 2:7), for Ezekiel regards the rural shrines as a survival of Canaanitish paganism (Ezekiel 20:27-28). The images or block-gods (Ezekiel 6:4) standing in these shrines were probably in many instances figures of Jehovah, for since the verdict of Hosea on the calf-image (Ezekiel 8:6), “A workman made it, it is no God,” little if any distinction was drawn between such images and others (Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 17:8; Isaiah 30:22). Both prophets name these objects of worship “abominations,” and represent them as being placed in the house of the Lord to defile it (Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 19:4; Ezekiel 8:3 seq.), and as polluting the land (Jeremiah 16:18). Since Hosea foreign alliances had been stigmatised as “hiring lovers” (Ezekiel 8:9-10), and both the later prophets adopt the phraseology (Ezekiel 16:37, Ezekiel 23:9; Ezekiel 23:22; Jeremiah 30:14; cf. Lamentations 1:19). From the earliest times the prophets regard these alliances as due to a false conception of the nature of the kingdom of the Lord, and as evidence of mistrust in Jehovah (Isaiah 7:9; Isaiah 10:20-21; Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 31:1); and, naturally, they were opposed to them for another reason, because the customs and idolatries of the foreign nations followed in their train (Isaiah 2:6, cf. on Ezekiel 16:23 seq.; initial note to 23, and final note to 16).

In other details the two prophets are in harmony: they both reprobate the “bloodshed” of which Jerusalem is guilty. This “blood” was partly judicial murders (Ezekiel 9:9, Ezekiel 22:6; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 22:3), partly that shed in partizan conflicts within the city (Ezekiel 11:7), but especially the child murder of later days (Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 16:36, Ezekiel 20:26; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35, cf. notes on Ezekiel 16:20, Ezekiel 20:25). Jerusalem is “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 24:6, Ezekiel 22:3-4, &c.); she has set her blood upon a rock and it cries for vengeance (Ezekiel 24:7; Job 16:18). But both prophets enter into greater details regarding the sins of the people than earlier prophets were wont to do, though Jeremiah adheres more to the ancient custom of denouncing civil wrongs (Ezekiel 7:5 seq., Ezekiel 22:1-5), while Ezekiel descends lower and exposes the social abominations of his day (ch. 18, 22, 23, cf. Jeremiah 9:2-9). In these descriptions (e. g. Ezekiel 22:1-13) he shews affinities with some parts of the Law, particularly the small code, Leviticus 17-26, and reveals how deeply the taint of Canaanitish impurity had infected the moral life of Israel, though it may not be easy to say whether what he describes be a recent outbreak of immorality due to the decaying vigour of the national life and the moral paralysis rapidly advancing to its heart, or whether the conscience of the teachers of Israel was only now awakening to the enormity of vices that had long been prevalent.—On the prophet’s moral ideal compared with others cf. on Ezekiel 18:9.

The sin of Israel is universal, infecting all classes, the royal house, the priests, the prophets and the people of the land (Ezekiel 22:23-31). The time for intercession has gone by; the sword of the Lord is whetted for the slaughter (21); Jerusalem, the rusted caldron, must be set upon the fire that its contents may be seethed, and that its brass may glow and its rust be molten away (24). When the catastrophe came, verifying the prophet’s anticipations, his mouth was opened. The people perceived that the view taken of their history by their prophetic teachers, from Amos downwards, was just, and that they were true interpreters of the mind of their God. So the old era was closed. The prophet had now to inaugurate the new.

Like all other prophets Ezekiel, though he sees the destruction of the state to be necessary, believes in its restitution. And this restitution will be the operation of Jehovah. A complete section of his prophecies (33–37) is devoted to this future, in which all its details are set forth; but even in the earlier part of his Book many allusions to it occur. As early as ch. 11 the exiles are consoled with the promise: “I will gather you from the peoples and give you the land of Israel. And I will put a new spirit within you, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 11:17-20). And in Ezekiel 16:60 a new and everlasting covenant is promised to Jerusalem, under which she shall not only be restored herself, but receive her sisters Samaria and Sodom for daughters.

As in other prophets these prophecies of restitution assume a Messianic form, a universal kingdom being promised to the house of David: “I will take of the lofty top of the cedar … in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing” (Ezekiel 17:22-24). In Ezekiel 21:27 the Messiah is alluded to in the words “till he come whose right it is” (the ref. in Ezekiel 29:21 is more general, to the restoration of Israel). The passages Ezekiel 34:23 seq., and Ezekiel 37:24 seq. are even more explicit. In the restitution the two kingdoms shall be reunited, with one shepherd over the two peoples, even the Lord’s servant David (Amos 9:11; Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 33:15). David shall be their prince for ever (Ezekiel 37:24-25; Isaiah 9:7). In these passages “prince” and “king” are used without distinction, and as the Messianic king is called “David” it is probable (Jeremiah 23:5-8) that there is allusion to the Davidic house, though “David” might mean one in the spirit and power of David (cf. on Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 37:25). In all these passages Ezekiel’s representations are quite parallel to those of other prophets. In ch. 40 seq. the “prince” seems to play a more subordinate rôle, though there his functions in the worship of the restored community are specially referred to. Ch. 33–37 describe the reconstitution of the kingdom on all its sides: the culmination of the monarchy in the Messiah (34); the recovery of the land and its transfiguration (35, 36); the regeneration of the people, with the redemptive principles which it illustrates, such as will leave eternal impressions on the people’s mind (36); and the re-awakening of the dead nation into life and the union of all the disjointed members of the north and of the south into one living subject again, as seen in the grandiose vision of the dry bones (37).

The conditions on man’s part of entering this new kingdom appear to be stated in such passages as 18 and 33. The object of the prophet here is scarcely to vindicate the strict retributive righteousness of God or to shew how this righteousness operates at all times. The passages refer more to the future than to the present, more to how God is about to deal with men than to how he has dealt with them; and there is a certain ideal element in the delineation, as there is in all prophetic references to the coming kingdom of the Lord. Of course the general principle is sometimes stated that the righteous will be spared and the wicked perish (9), though in other places the judgment is represented as sweeping away all indiscriminately (Ezekiel 20:45 seq.); and ch. Ezekiel 14:12 seq. depends on Jeremiah 15:1 seq., and is meant to shew that the wicked will no longer be spared for the sake of the righteous rather than to exemplify the strict retributive righteousness of God.

That the reference in these chapters is to the future, a future somewhat indefinite and ideal, is probable both from the parallel passage in Jeremiah and from the prophet’s own language. It is in the ideal times of Israel restored that the proverb, “The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge,” shall no more have currency (Jeremiah 31:27 seq.); and Ezekiel’s language is similar, “As I live, saith the Lord, it shall no longer be permitted to you to use this proverb in Israel” (Ezekiel 18:3). The prophet stands before a new age, and it is its principles that he reveals. His purpose is practical, to meet the conditions of the people’s mind, and to awaken them to a new moral activity, in preparation for the sifting and crisis that shall try every individual mind (Ezekiel 33:1-6). His principles but form the background to his exhortation to repentance. He attaches them to two expressions which he had heard from the mouths of the people: “The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2), and, “Our iniquities be upon us and we pine away in them, how then shall we live?” (Ezekiel 33:10). To the one, which means that men are inexorably involved in the sins of their people or forefathers, he opposes the principle that every individual mind stands in immediate relation to God, and none shall perish for the sins of another, the soul that sinneth shall die; and to the other, which means that the evil past of life is irremediable, he opposes the principle that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, there is place for repentance. The last principle is developed with a certain theoretical completeness, which means no more, however, than that man has moral freedom to do good or evil, that he who is righteous may become a sinner, and that the sinner may turn from his evil, and that men will be judged not according to that which they have been but according to that which they are. The real point upon which the prophet’s mind is operating is the spiritual relation of the individual mind to God; but like others he may not be able to keep this distinct from the external condition of the person, or as he calls it “life” or “death.” At the same time the future and ideal time to which he applies his principles exonerates him from the charge of teaching a doctrine false to everyday experience (cf. notes on 18 and 33).

This emancipation of the individual soul, whether from a doom inherited from a former generation or from one entailed on it by its own evil past, was perhaps the greatest contribution made by Ezekiel to the religious life and thought of his time. He probably reached his individualism by reflection on such events as the downfall of the state, leaving now no place for religion except in the individual mind, and on the sentiments which he heard expressed by men around him. His contemporary Jeremiah reached the same truth from another direction, from his own experience of the inwardness of the relation of God to men. The very nature of this relation required that the religious subject should be the individual mind.

Yet, as in the case of other prophets, Ezekiel no sooner states the conditions on man’s part of entering the new kingdom than he seems to desert them. Jeremiah, after demanding of the people a radical reformation (Ezekiel 4:3), pauses to ask himself, Can the Ethiopian change his skin? and his hope at last is in a divine operation: “I will write my law in their hearts … and their sin will I remember no more” (Ezekiel 21:31-32). The transition in Ezekiel from ch. 33 to ch. 36 is similar. It was the hope of the prophets that the fires of the exile would purify the people, and that they would come out as silver tried in the furnace. They are constrained to confess that this hope has been disappointed: Israel will be saved, but only by Jehovah working for his name’s sake (Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:10-11). Ezekiel perhaps hardly saw so much of the exile as to reason in this way, but his conclusion in Ezekiel 36:24-29 is the same. This remarkable passage has no parallel in the Old Testament, and reads like a fragment of a Pauline epistle (final note on 36). The doctrine of the spirit of God receives fuller development in it than anywhere else in the Old Testament. Only one thing is wanting to complete this doctrine on its practical side, a statement of the means which the spirit shall use in his operations (John 16:14). Of singular beauty are the prophet’s references to the eternal impressions which God’s goodness in their history will leave on the mind of his people (Ezekiel 36:31-32, Ezekiel 16:61; Ezekiel 16:63, Ezekiel 20:42-44, Ezekiel 39:26 seq.). Like that of Hosea and others Ezekiel’s eschatology occupies itself chiefly with the destinies of Israel; the place of the nations in the regenerated world is not dwelt upon. How much is implied in the oft-repeated words, “They shall know that I am Jehovah,” is not clear Profounder conceptions of the relations of Jehovah to the nations are at least touched upon in ch. 16 (final notes); and in one passage it is foretold that the nations will seek refuge under the rule of the Messiah (ch. Ezekiel 17:23).

The final section (40 seq.) is an ideal picture of the perfection and eternal peace of Israel restored. It has been remarked that in these chapters Ezekiel supplies a programme for the subsequent development of Judaism. It is possible that a subsequent generation imposed his ideal of Israel’s final state upon the historical restoration that took place under Zerubbabel and under Ezra. But such a thing was not the prophet’s idea, and never came into his mind. In his view Israel’s development reaches its culmination in the restoration itself, and the regeneration of the people accompanying it (cf. Isaiah 60). The ritual observances which he enjoins are not the “statutes of life” elsewhere spoken of. These statutes are the moral requirements of the decalogue, practically carried out so as to exclude idolatry and the impurities often referred to (ch. 22); and the fulfilment of these statutes is ensured by the moral regeneration wrought by God upon the people (Ezekiel 11:18-20, Ezekiel 16:60-63, Ezekiel 36:25 seq.; cf. initial note to 40 seq.).

The points of contact between Ezekiel and the ritual Law have raised many interesting though complicated questions of criticism, upon which this is not the place to enter. The questions mainly relate to the age of the Law in its present written form as this has to be determined by the antiquity of some of the practices contained in it, e.g. the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16, cf. Ezekiel 45:18-20), the distinction of Priests and Levites within the tribe of Levi (Ezekiel 44, cf. Deuteronomy 18:1; Deuteronomy 18:6-8; 2 Kings 23:8-9), and the High-priesthood (on Ezekiel 44:22). Inferences from comparison of Ezekiel with the Law have to be drawn with caution, for it is evident that the prophet handles with freedom institutions certainly older than his own time. The feast of weeks (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22) forms no element in his calendar; the law of the offering of the firstlings of the flock is dispensed with by him; there is no gilding in his Temple, and no wine in his sacrificial libations. His reconstruction of the courts of the Temple is altogether new; and so is his provision in the “oblation” of land for the maintenance of priests, Levites and prince. On any hypothesis of priority the differences in details between him and the Law may be easiest explained by supposing that, while the sacrifices in general and the ideas which they expressed were fixed and current, the particulars, such as the kind of victims and the number of them, the precise quantity of meal, oil and the like, were held non-essential and alterable when a change would better express the idea. The prince is left to regulate some of these things at his own discretion (Ezekiel 46:7; Ezekiel 46:11). The affinities of Ezekiel with the small code, Leviticus 17-26, are remarkable both in subject and in some parts in phraseology (Leviticus 26). The differences, however, are too important to admit the view that he is the author of this code; and the question whether he had some parts of it at least before him in a written form is a very complicated one.

Of more interest than the question, What amount of the Law was known to Ezekiel in writing? is the other, How much of it was familiar to him in practice? It is evident that the ritual as it appears in his Book had long been a matter of consuetudinary law. He is familiar not only with burnt, peace and meat offerings, but with sin and trespass offerings (Ezekiel 45:17). All these are spoken of as things customary and well understood (Ezekiel 42:13, Ezekiel 44:29-31); even the praxis of the trespass offering is so much a thing familiar that no rules are laid down in regard to it (Ezekiel 46:20). The sin and trespass offerings are little if at all alluded to in the ancient extra-ritual literature, but the argument from silence is a precarious one, for Ezekiel himself, when not precise, uses the comprehensive phraseology “burnt offerings and peace offerings” (Ezekiel 43:27). The people’s dues to the priests are also so much customary that no rules are needful to regulate them (Ezekiel 44:30). Ezekiel is no more a “legislator” than he is the founder of the Temple.

The affinities in language between Ezekiel and the ritual law are scarcely literary, they arise from the fact that the writers move among the same class of conceptions, and, in Ezekiel’s case at least, from the fact that these conceptions have long ago created for themselves a distinct phraseology. The question of interest is, how ancient the conceptions are. In the literature outside the Law little light is cast on the history of the priesthood or ritual or on the class of conceptions prevailing in priestly circles. The prophets, while furnishing abundant evidence of the existence of a sumptuous ritual, shew little sympathy for it, and reveal more the popular perversion of priestly conceptions than their legitimate meaning. Sparse as historical allusions are they suffice to shew the antiquity of the conceptions, e.g. the sacredness of blood (1 Samuel 14:33), the distinctions of clean and unclean (1 Samuel 21:4), and the atoning virtue of sacrifice (1 Samuel 3:14; 1 Samuel 26:19). It is evident that two streams of thought, both issuing from a fountain as high up as the very origin of the nation, ran side by side down the whole history of the people, the prophetic and the priestly. In the one Jehovah is a moral ruler, a righteous king and judge, who punishes iniquity judicially or forgives sins freely of his mercy. In the other he is a person dwelling among his people in a house, a holy being or nature, sensitive to every uncleanness in all that is near him, and requiring its removal by lustrations and atonement. Those cherishing the latter circle of conceptions might be as zealous for the Lord of hosts as the prophets. And the developments of the national history would extend their conceptions and lead to the amplification of practices embodying them just as they extended the conceptions of the prophets. A growth of priestly ideas is quite as probable as a growth of prophetic ideas. That the streams ran apart is no evidence that they were not equally ancient and always contemporaneous, for we see Jeremiah and Ezekiel both flourishing in one age. At one point in the history the prophetic stream was swelled by an inflow from the priestly, as is seen in Deuteronomy, and from the Restoration downwards both streams appear to coalesces[12].

[12] Commentaries referred to in the following notes are, Hävernick, 1843, Hitzig, 1847, Ewald, 1868 (Trans. 1880), Keil, Trans. 1876, Reuss, 1876, Smend, 1880. Cornill, Das Buch des Proph. Ezechiel, 1886, a reconstruction of the Text. Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Test., is referred to as KAT (now translated by Whitehouse). Boettcher, Proben Alttest. Schrifterklärung, 1833, and Aehrenlese, vol. 2, 1864. Besides the valuable discussions in Driver, Introduction, 1891, and in Kuenen, Onderzoek, ii. 1889, the following are contributions to the exposition of Ezekiel: Cornill, Der Prophet Ezechiel, 1882; Kühn, Ezechiel’s Gesicht vom Tempel, 1882; Plumptre, “Ezekiel: an Ideal Biography,” Expositor, 1884; Valeton, Viertal Voorlezingen (third lecture), 1886; Arndt, Die Stellung Ezechiel’s, 1886; Meulenbelt, De Prediking van den Profeet Ezechiel, 1888; Gautier, La Mission du Prophète Ezéchiel, 1891. Horst, Leviticus 17-26 und Hezekiel, 1881 (critical). Also the Essays of Klostermann, Stud. u. Krit., 1877, and Kuenen, Modern Review, 1884.

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