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Online Text for Ezekiel

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Robert R. Wilson writes: "In Jewish tradition the interpretation of Ezekiel has been particularly difficult because some of the legal material contained in chaps. 40-48 contradicts the laws of the Torah. The Babylonian Talmud reports that this fact caused some rabbis to advocate withdrawing the book from circulation, a fate that was avoided only through the extraordinary efforts of Hananiah son of Hezekiah, who successfully reconciled the contradictions (b. Sabb. 13b; b. Hag. 13a; b. Menah 45a). Equally troublesome to the rabbis was the vision of God's glory described in Ezekiel 1, a passage that they feared might lead to dangerous mystical speculations or even destroy the interpreter who probed too deeply into its mysteries. According to the Talmud, Hananiah son of Hezekiah was again able to persuade his colleagues not to withdraw Ezekiel, although Jerome reports that some rabbis prohibited the reading of the beginning and end of the book by anyone under the age of thirty (b. Hag. 13a)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 652)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "It must be confessed that the Book of Ezekiel is very difficult. Most of us know about it primarily from an American spiritual, 'Ezekiel Saw de Wheels,' or from the celebrated vision of the valley of dry bones in the 37th chapter. It is such a difficult book that I can think of nothing less rewarding for the untrained person than to try to read it in the King James Version without explanatory help. The book consists of forty-eight chapters. Chapters 40-8, at the end of the book, are a description of a vision of what the restored Temple in Jerusalem was to look like. We can set aside this section for later consideration, as well as Chapters 25-32, which consist of denunciations of foreign nations. The remainder, Chapters 1-24, presents a series of visions and predictions, which announce that the ruin of Jerusalem is going to take place, as it did in 586. Chapters 33-9 deal with the future restoration of Israel. One can say, then, that the total book consists of the prophetic call and commission, predictions of the destruction, denunciations of foreign nations, visions of restoration, and, finally, a plan for religious restoration." (The Hebrew Scriptures, pp. 152-153)

Arnold J. Tkacik writes: "The problem on which there is the sharpest disagreement even today is the locale of Ezekiel's ministry and the identity of his audience. Traditionally, Ezekiel was thought to have been deported to Babylon in 597, where he received his call and worked all his life among the exiles. Such, at first sight, is the picture that springs immediately from the text (1:1). The first to question the Babylonian setting of the Prophet's activity was C. C. Torrey, who in 1930 maintained that Ezekiel was created by a 3rd-cent. writer who originally set his ministry in the northern kingdom during Manasseh's reign; such idolatry as Ezekiel condemned fits that age and is not to be found after Josiah's reform. A later editor, writing from the chronicler's theological bias, set the ministry of the Prophet in Babylon; he changed a few dates and revised the text to make it appear that the restored people found its origin in the remnant of the captivity and in the authority of a prophet who also made provisions for a new Temple in Jerusalem, thus nullifying the claims of the Samaritans for their own community and sanctuary. In 1931, J. Smith also maintained that northern Israel was the scene of the Prophet's activity, admitting that he was an historical person taken into captivity in 734 who returned to prophesy in Palestine. In 1932, V. Herntrich (op. cit.) stated the thesis that others have maintained with little variation—i.e., Ezekiel prophesied in Palestine and a disciple edited the work in the Exile, adding not a little to it (esp. chs. 40-48). Other studies followed maintaining the Prophet's activity in Palestine, before either the deportation of 597, or that of 587; in either case, his prophesying continued in Babylon, and a double ministry is postulated. Scholars are divided almost equally among an exclusively Babylonian ministry, an exclusively Palestinian ministry, and a double ministry. Of the recent commentaries on Ezekiel, G. Fohrer and W. Zimmerli hold a Babylonian ministry and H. G. May, P. Auvray, and J. Steinmann hold a double ministry." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 345)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "One particularly striking characteristic of Ezekiel is that the book appears to be in relatively good order—so good, that down to the end of the last century it was presented as a model, apart from a text which in many places is far from easy. It is in fact remarkably simple to make a division: (a) oracles against Judah and Jerslaem in chs. 1-24; (b) oracles against the nations in chs. 25-32; and finally (c) oracles of salvation in chs. 33-48. The last section is subdivided into two parts: the preparation in chs. 33-39 and its programmatic realization in the restoration of the temple and the cult in chs. 40-48. Once again, then, we would seem to have the tripartite scheme which we have also found in other prophetic books, but which we have seen to be almost certainly the work of the redactors. So even in the apparently perfect Ezekiel we have signs of a redaction, and there are in fact many more indications: too often the chronology, which we have seen to be so exact, appears valid essentially for the verses which immediately follow the chronological note, but stops there (and it is worth noting that at this time, from the first tentative indications in Jeremiah, the prophetic oracles begin to be dated, a system left aside by Deutero-Isaiah and then taken up on a large scale by Haggai and Proto-Zechariah); there are a good many contradictions and repetitions, passages edited in the first and the third person, and so on. This has suggested at least two redactions. Others have wanted to make a distinction between passages in poetry and passages in prose, a criterion which, as we have seen, is also followed in the case of Jermeiah, but has been shown to be too simplistic. On the basis of the apocalyptic elements present in the work, yet others have come to view the work as having been written by an anonymous prophet who lived towards the third century BC and who will have projected his work back to the time of the exile in order to make it comply with the criteria established in the first century AD for the place of a book in the canon, namely that it should have been composed at a time earlier than that of Ezra and Nehemiah. In reality these attempts are simply the product of a swing of the pendulum in opposite directions: whereas Ezekiel was first cited as an example of systematic redaction (or what was thought to be systematic redaction), at a later stage the truth seemed to be precisely the opposite, and Ezekiel therefore had to become an artificial work at a stroke, possibly put together with scissors and paste, with a fictitious order and fictitious chronology. Today, however, as with the other prophets, the tendency is to examine each passage in Ezekiel on its merits, deciding on the authenticity, the inauthenticity or the dubious character of each one of them in turn. Thus it is possible to find some interpolations in 27.2-9a, 25-37; in ch. 38 and in chs. 40-48, and in some further cases. We have seen that this situtation also exists for the most part among the prophets who preceded him. It is not possible to establish who has been at work. We do not hear of any disciples whom Ezekiel may have had, but since he regularly received the elders of Judah, a school or at least a circle could (that is, of course, only a possibility) have arisen which transmitted his words and meditated on them. In any case, the inauthentic material is difficult to recognize in Ezekiel because we have fewer external points of reference with him than with others." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 304-305)

James King West writes: "Ezekiel has not without good reason been dubbed 'the father of Judaism.' He perceived, as did Jeremiah, that Israel's future lay with the exiles, and his efforts to influence their thinking pointed the way toward certain of the most characteristic features of the post-Exilic era. His pre-occupation with cult, priesthood, and temple proved to be more than antiquarian musings, as the second temple was destined to achieve an even more central role in Jewish life than its Solomonic counterpart. His priestly concern for purity and separation from defiling influences is reminiscent of later Judaism's scrupulous attention to such matters; and his exclusion of non-Israelites from the restoration community smacks of the exclusivism practiced by post-Exilic Judaism. It is hardly defensible to portray him as the champion of a new individualism, though his principle of the responsibility of each man for his own actions was to provide the starting point for many later questions concerning individual values and personal destiny. Again, he was no apocalypticist; but his bizarre symbols, angelic interpreters, cataclysmic battle with Gog, and vision of the New Jerusalem were to find their way into much of the later apocalyptic literature." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 338)

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