‘Our imagination is subject to its own fate. I can only imagine the fatal reality of my imagination, which is, that after having created and called up that woman in my imagination, she deceives me. Continuously. Always. With everybody. With every passer by . . . you cannot approach to what I enjoy, what I suffer.’ 1
The day the Temple was destroyed, prophecy was taken from prophets and given to fools and children. 2
Ezekiel by Raphael
A stranger book than the Book of Ezekiel does not appear in the Jewish canon. The author reports being paralyzed, bound and dumb seven days after his call (for 430 days or perhaps for seven and one half years) yet nevertheless prophecies (3:4-6,26; 24:27; 33:22). Is he a speechless prophet? He eats scrolls, excrement, has his hair and beard cut off by a sharp sword or razor, into three separate parts to be burnt in three different places (5:1-2) and he flies from Babylon to Jerusalem (11:1). He writes of gruesome, and bloody events where human-like beings slaughter the people of Jerusalem except those they mark on the forehead as mourners (10:2-7). People die from his look or words (11:1-13) and he resurrects people (37:7-10). He is the only prophet to be ‘transported’ visionary (apparently four times - chapters 8,11, 37 and 43). He occasionally writes obscenely. In fact his prose easily rates as the most sexually explicit descriptions in the Bible.
He writes of bizarre visions, tasting some of his visions. Moshe Greenberg notes that while most of his contemporary Jeremiah’s prophecies materialized while Ezekiel’s did not. 3 Yehezkel Kaufmann said the same. 4 Rashi notes that prophesying on foreign soil is problematic. He is not an unknown prophet, yet, as compared to Jeremiah we are told very little about him. We know enough about his personality to suggest it is in fact very odd. If a prophet is intended to speak God’s words are Ezekiel’s too imaginative? One verse in his book suggests that he was a good entertainer. ‘As far as they are concerned, you are like a love song pleasantly sung to a good musical accompaniment’ (33:32). Or does he envision a different side of God than seen by other prophets? His cherub-like vision may depict four different images of God.
Ezekiel presents some radical theologies. Ezekiel says God gave Israel laws that He knew ‘were not good and judgments they could not live by’ (20:25). That is a shocking statement - and an even more shocking theology. Is Ezekiel saying that some of the laws of Moses were a perversion? 5 Is then Israel’s, Jerusalem and the Temple’s destruction simply God’s will? The Temple he described is different in many ways from that defined in the Pentateuch. Even if one of Ezekiel’s themes is the inscrutability of God this thesis is difficult to maintain.
Ezekiel claims that the people of Israel were depraved during their entire history. His definition of depravity is idolatry defined in sexual terms. Perhaps it is not surprising that he sounds more like a priest than a prophet. 6 Jeremiah, his contemporary prophet did not see the abominations Ezekiel described in the Temple. Ezekiel stands in stark contrast to Jeremiah seeing the fall of Jerusalem as inevitable and certainly different than Isaiah who saw Jerusalem as inviolable. He needed to find a reason for the destruction and a way out. His reason for the destruction was the people of Israel’s totally depravity from the beginning of its history. He describes history in dogmatic terms, not like Jeremiah who questions even God. Having so described Israel Ezekiel needs a way out and it is the development of the first Hebrew apocalypse (the destruction of evil in the form of Gog of Magog) and then a new Messianic Temple. This was the beginning of the Israelite idea of eschatology and utopian messianism. His vision of the chariot of God became (after his death) into the idea of mystical travel to heaven.
Ezekiel describes Israelite history as evil from the beginning of their relationship with God in a way never described by any other prophet. And he uses explicit sexual metaphors also never used before. While as noted before Hosea and then Jeremiah used sexual metaphors the explicit sexuality used by Ezekiel to describe Israel’s evil have never been so described before. As Moshe Greenberg has noted Ezekiel takes ‘the adulterous wife of Hosea and Jeremiah [and gives them] a biography’. 7
It is for these reasons that the sages of the Talmud were more critical of his book than any other book in the Bible.
Ezekiel was a prophet and priest who was exiled from Jerusalem during the first siege of Jerusalem in 597. He may have known of Jeremiah (also a prophet and priest) and may as a young priest indeed have heard Jeremiah Temple speech in 609. He tells us he was thirty years at his call (593) and had been in exile for five years. Thus he was born in 623 and exiled in 598 when the exile began and was five years younger than Jeremiah. He would have been thirteen when Jeremiah made his first speech at the Temple. He was a priest and would likely have been at the Temple. The radicalism of that speech may have radicalized his own visions later. (Neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel make mention of each other.) Twelve years later he was exiled to Babylon.
Fifteen Books of prophets are named after the prophet. In fourteen of these books the prophets name appears in the first verse. Ezekiel’s name is not mentioned until the third verse, and is never mentioned again. Is this to increase the importance of the message as opposed to the messenger? What after all, can one do with such a messenger?
The first we hear of Ezekiel, even before his call as a prophet, is his first vision in July/August 593 (1:1). It is probable that this occurred shortly after Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles and perhaps is a reaction to the words of Jeremiah. For the next five to seven years Ezekiel denounced Israel’s sins (chapters 2-24), then he denounced the foreign nations (chapters 25-32). He began preaching about the restoration shortly after that and continued after the second siege and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (chapters 33-39). This included the first major apocalypse in the Bible, probably after the destruction of Jerusalem. Several years thereafter he experiences a detailed vision of a new Temple (chapters 40-48).
After God speaks of the ‘perpetual desolation and your cities shall not be inhabited’, a formula appears that states ‘then you will know that I am the Lord’ (35:9). This formula appears not only in the punishment of Israel but also for the punishment of the nations. It also occurs when God is to deliver the nations or Israel. This formula according to Paul Joyce occurs fifty four times in its basic form and twenty more times with minor variations in the Book of Ezekiel. 8 What is the theological meaning of the formula? We find the formula in Exodus when Moses says for God ‘by this you shall know that I am the Lord’ (Ex. 7:17). Joyce argues that ‘the focus of attention is invariably YHVH Himself’, both as the destroyer and restorer. 9 Does Israel deserve its deliverance? Is it out of love of undeserving Israel? The God of Ezekiel does not love or give mercy or kindness to Israel. ‘It is not for your sake, O House of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned’ (36:22). Only in Ezekiel is Israel’s entire history described in significant detail as totally black and sinful (see chapters 16, 20 and 23).
Walter Zimmerli points out that the word God appears in this book more often than in any other canonized book; 434 times. In half of these time the name of God is doubled - Adonai YHVH. The doubling only appears sixty six times aside from Ezekiel. 10 (Jeremiah uses the term YHVH ‘Tzvaot’ eighty two times.) This confirms Joyce noting the theo-centricity of the theology of Ezekiel. His God is the punishing God (48 of the 74 times 11). ‘Go on all of you, worship your foul idols, but later we shall see if you don’t listen to me. Then you will stop profaning my holy name’. 12 The word ‘holy’ (‘kadosh’ in Hebrew) occurs 99 times, mostly in the final section, the vision of the New Temple. 13 God means holiness, God is Holiness: ‘And you shall know that I am YHVH, when I deal with you for my name’s sake’ (Ez. 20:44). As Zimmerli noted the Holiness and name of YHVH ‘encloses the unassailable mystery of His singularity and uniqueness’. 14 And Israel was chosen to be holy and thus demonstrate His holiness. But they continually failed; at Sinai by the sin of the Golden Calf and in the Land by worshipping Canaanite idols.
Ezekiel berates the ritual misbehavior of the people as Jeremiah berated the ethical misbehavior of the people. The former involves behavior between God and the people and the latter between man and man. It is not surprising that Ezekiel is also as we will see Temple centric.
Five Symbolic Acts
Five noteworthy symbolic acts in the book tell us about Ezekiel’s calling and is relation to God. Communication in Ezekiel’s society still was primarily oral. ‘Therefore it is not surprising that he made extensive, even exaggerated use of devices associated with oral prophecy: repetition, highly visual images, traditional formulaic language’. 15
1. Eating of the scroll
After Ezekiel’s Glory of God vision God spoke to him and commissioned him as a prophet. He is told that the people will not listen to him nevertheless he is told ‘do not be afraid’. The people of Israel may not listening but ‘he’ must obey God. He found a scroll, written on both sides (‘achor’) in his hand full of lamentations and mourning (2:9-10). The word in Hebrew ‘achor’ also means the evil side or from the end, the scroll comes from the evil side or from the end of the world. God orders (3:2) him to eat the scroll. One would expect the leather scroll to be difficult and unpalatable to eat. Yet he declares ‘It was in my mouth as honey for sweetness’ (3:3). Why does the scroll of lamentations taste sweet? Why does he emphasize the sweetness when God’s promises of sweetness have turned bitter? We know that God told Moses and Jeremiah that He would put words in their mouths, but no other prophet is required to eat a scroll with a text on it. Moses and Jeremiah absorbed God’s words and became living examples of His word - true Men of Faith. Only Ezekiel ingested His words and then spit them out, in his own language - but can one believe that the words are the words of God’s or his? Did Ezekiel believe or did his viewers believe that if he were a false prophet we would surely die?
2. Ezekiel’s Dumbness
Ezekiel is instructed to speak to the people; he then hears the voices of the beasts who had appeared in his vision. He is then told the people will not listen to him; they will bind him and ‘I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, that you shall be dumb’ (3:25). What does it mean for God to initially tell Ezekiel to speak to the people (2:4 and 3:4,11) and then God subsequently render him dumb? ‘I will require his blood from your hands’ (3:18). Ezekiel will be responsible for warning the wicked. The period of silence is to be until the Temple is destroyed. ‘Surely on that day that I take away from them their safe refuge, their splendid joy, the desires of their eyes . . . your mouth shall be opened . . . and you shall speak and shall be dumb no more’ (24:25-27). When Ezekiel becomes aware of the destruction of Jerusalem, his ‘mouth was opened and I was dumb no more (33:22). This occurs seven and a half years after the beginning of his dumbness. Most of Ezekiel’s visions take place before the Temple is destroyed. This makes his dumbness a problem. Moshe Greenberg in his commentary suggests it is a metaphor for his social isolation.
3. Lying on his side - 4:4-8
Ezekiel is instructed to ‘play act’ a siege; he must lie on his left side for 390 days to do penance for the House of Israel and proceed for forty days on his right side for the House of Judah, each day symbolizes a year of sin. The days together add to the number 430 representing the traditional years of the Egyptian exile. Perhaps the number forty is symbolic the years of wandering in the desert. It is unknown why Israel is 390 and Judah forty. Was Ezekiel suggesting that the Kingdom of Israel would come back in 390 years and Judah return from exile in forty years?
4. Food - 4:9-17
He is then instructed to bake bread from inferior ingredients and with an insufficient amount of water. And then he is instructed to bake the bread from human dung. Finally Ezekiel complains about the dung and God allows a change to cow dung. Ezekiel then complains that it will make him ritually unclean because he is a priest.
5. Shaven head and beard - 5:1-4
Ezekiel is instructed ‘to take a sharp knife or razor and shave the hair on your head and beard, divide it into three. Burn a third in the city (Jerusalem) a third hit with a knife and a third scatter in the wind’ (5:2). The shaving of ones head and beard are part of traditional lamentations for a military defeat (Jer. 48:37-38). It is unclear how Ezekiel is to bake and shave given his instructions to lie on the ground for 430 days.
Are these intended as real actions to be perpetuated by the prophet or are they visions? Are these symbolic acts to prefigure the destruction of Jerusalem and if so why are acts of eating a scroll and excrement, cutting his hair in a forbidden way and being catatonic? What kind of person would choose these types of symbolic acts?
The elders of Judah are the audience of Ezekiel’s vision (8:1). They are also the twenty-five sun worshipers who appear later in that same chapter (8:16). These twenty-five are named ‘princes of the people’ in 11:1. Whether they are part of the seventy elders noted in 8:11 is not clear. In chapter 14:4 the Elders are noted as having ‘set up his idols in his heart’. Does this imply that they are actually idol worshipers or they merely imagined such abominations? If they imagined their idols, how could Ezekiel be aware of that? Ezekiel’s asks whether such men can inquire of God. Ezekiel accuses them of thinking about idolatry (11:2). Is thinking a sin? He then declares that they are guilty giving bad counsel. Then he says ‘I know what comes into your mind’ (11:5). In a problematic verse, Ezekiel says to them ‘have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in chambers of his imagery’ (8:12). These men, the elders of Israel, the audience of his visions in chapters 8-11, are accused by Ezekiel of fantasizing. 16 In these visions Ezekiel tells us that ‘the spirit lifted me up between the earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem’ (8:3). Ezekiel ‘sees’ an imaginative vision of abominations, it is unclear whether the sire is in Jerusalem or among his audience in Babylon is unclear.
Was Ezekiel anger with the ‘elders’ in Babylon so rabid that he would fantasize about their idolatry? His explanation to his audience, the exiles in Babylon, is that the unthinkable - the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple will in fact truly transpire. In order to justify this he writes a revisionist history of Israel. The idolatry described by Ezekiel may have happened during the Kingship of Manasseh, but was imagined by Ezekiel. He suggested that the exile would be long and the Temple irrevocably destroyed! Hence he was treated badly and perhaps was regarded as a false prophet, replicating Jeremiah plight in Jerusalem.
In the midst of chapter 8 Ezekiel, we are told, is brought to an ‘opening of the court and looked at one hole in the wall. . . . And I dug in the wall and behold one opening (8:7-8). Ezekiel first saw a hole and then made a hole. The word hole in Hebrew is ‘bor’. The word ‘bor’ is also to be found in the Song of Songs: ‘My beloved put his hand by the hole of the door and my bowels were moved by him’ (5:4). In the latter context there appears to be a double entendre with sexual implications. Is it possible to interpret the current context in a similar vein? Ezekiel continues. He saw ‘all the idols of the house engraved upon the wall’ (8:10). The Hebrew term for engraved on the wall (mechuka al hakir) is repeated later. ‘And she increased her whoredoms for when she saw men engraved upon the wall’ (23:14), where it clearly had a sexual connotation. 17 Ezekiel’s denunciations of women appear in chapters 14, 16, 20 and as well as in 23 where his images of male organs.
We then read that ‘between the vestibule and the altar were twenty-five men, with their backs toward the Temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east. They worshipped the sun toward the east. . . they commit the abominations’ (8:16-17). While this description does not appear sexual the Talmud (in three separate places) see their actions as sexual. ‘What then is conveyed by ‘their backs toward the Temple of the Lord’? They were exposing themselves and ‘committing a nuisance towards God’, 18 which Halpern defines as squirting excrement in God’s direction’. 19 The back or back part implies according to the Talmud means buttocks. (The word in Hebrew ‘achorahem’ is actually never used in the Bible referring a human buttock.) They are not only engaging in Sun worship but also display contempt toward the Lord. Then Ezekiel says ‘they put their branch through their noses’ (8:17). The word branch (zemorah’) is found only four other times in the Bible meaning branch or shoot of the Messiah. A Midrashic text suggests in this context it means penis. 20 Some of the Rabbis of the Talmud state that the noses should be read as nose, the singular, i.e. reading God’s nose. A branch or twig could be seen as a slang word for penis. Could it be that Ezekiel is accusing his audience (the Elders) of committing fellatio to God? As Halperin pointed out this is the reverse of God telling Ezekiel to eat His scroll. 21 If both depictions are hallucinations, Ezekiel is obtaining his revenge on whomever God represents for him.
WOMEN AND THE HISTORY OF JERUSALEM / ISRAEL
In both chapters 16 (the longest chapter in the book – composed of 63 verses) and chapter 23, Ezekiel describes the history of the people of Israel and the abomination of the Temple by means of a using a metaphor of whores (twenty-one occurrences each in chapter 16 and 23). However he begins by giving us a revisionist history of Israel. Israel has rejected God from the beginning - no mention is made of Abraham, David, Hezekiah or Josiah - only unrelieved idolatry. In chapter 20 he declares that only a new Exodus can save the people of Israel.
Before the symbolic use of Israel in chapter 16 and 23 can be analyzed let us look at chapter 20 where Ezekiel makes his revisionist history clear. ‘Son of man . . . will you judge them? Will you judge son of man? (20:4) ‘They rebelled against me’ (20:8,13,21) even in Egypt and in the desert, after settling in the land of Canaan (20:28) and they desecrated my Sabbath (20:20,21,24). Ezekiel says of his God ‘It was I who gave them laws that were not good, statutes by which they could not live. And so I polluted them . . . So that I might devastate them (20:25-26). In exile they will assimilate as ‘the families of the countries’ (20:32). This stands in blatant contradiction to Jeremiah. ‘They shall not enter into the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord (20:38). What God would do state and can Ezekiel then judge them? Even in his most depressed state can anyone imagine Jeremiah’s God uttering such words?
Chapter 16 opens with a baby girl born of Amorite and Hittite parents, abandoned by them and adopted by God. God lavishes beauty on her. The girl is a metaphor for Jerusalem. She trusted in her beauty instead of God and whored on any passers by ‘spreading your legs for anyone who passed by’ (16:15, 25). 22 She takes God’s jewelry makes phallic images of them and masturbates on them (16:17). She is insatiable (16:28) and loves Egyptians with large penises (16:26). By stating that the harlot did not exact payment Ezekiel suggests that Jerusalem is a nymphomaniac, sex for pleasure. You prostituted yourself to Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans even ‘the daughters of the Philistines were ashamed of your perverted behavior’, (16:27) preferring strangers to her husband (16:32). God then states ‘I am gathering all your lovers whom you pleased, all who you loved together with all who you hated; I will gather them against you from every direction, and I will expose your nakedness to them, so that they may see all your nakedness. 23 I will then tear down your shrines, leave you naked, stone you, hack you, burn your houses and impose blood vengeance on you’ (16:37-41). This is a horrendous and erotic definition of punishment. God accuses Jerusalem of being even worse than its older sister Samaria (the Kingdom of Israel) and its younger sister, Sodom. Daughters are like mothers, like sisters, all whores, truly a terrifying testimony of women. The three cities become three sisters and Jerusalem wickedness makes for the lesser wickedness of Samaria and Sodom. ‘The logic is weird’. 24 In this chapter the lovers’ sins are primarily idol worship. At the end of this chapter ‘I shall renew my covenant with you . . . when I forgive you for everything you have done’ (16:62-63). This reinstitution is comparable to Jeremiah’s new covenant (Jer. 31:30).
The abominations are repeated, with variations in chapter 23. In this chapter the allegory of harlots is reappears with two lewd sisters, Ohalah (Samaria - the Kingdom of Israel) and Oholibah (Jerusalem - the Kingdom of Judea).
Both names come from the Hebrew root ‘ohel’ meaning tent. The meaning may be a tent as a sanctuary; the sanctuary was called ‘ohel moed’. A tent can also be used as a metaphor for female genitals.25 Thus Ezekiel is acting as if both kingdoms still existed. (The playing of the harlot representing Israel we first found in Hosea. Jeremiah also uses two evil sisters playing the harlot, one representing Israel and one representing Judea (3:6-10.) They used their breasts to seduce men and lost their virginity (23:3,8). When Ohalah saw her sisters lewdness regarding Egypt, she became even more lewd (23:11). She whored between the Assyrians and Babylonians. She lusted for their services, whose members were like a donkey’s and whose ejaculations are like a horse’ (23:20). 26 The lovers condemn their children to be slain and then eat them (23:37). She herself has her nose and ears cut off and perhaps is burnt alive (23:25). She drinks her sister (‘s blood?) and slices off her breasts (23:32-34).
Earlier on Ezekiel tells of God’s ornaments being turned into abominations. ‘I have made it menstruous for them. I will give it as booty into the hands of strangers as spoil, to the wicked of the earth. They will profane it. I will turn my face away from them, and they will profane my secret place. Violent men will come into her and profane her’ (7:20-22). The ornaments (being the Temple) are used as a metaphor for a menstruating woman. The menstruating woman will be given to strangers who will sexually enjoy them in God’s hidden places, an illusion to female genitals. The ‘violent men’ in Hebrew - ‘parisim’ can mean ‘those who burst through’, another sexual allusion. Ezekiel is assuming the woman will be raped for her sins. 27 While this sexual punishment is an illusion to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, Ezekiel is the only prophet to use this level of explicit sexual language in describing Jerusalem and the Temple. In comparison to Ezekiel language Hosea (2:4-14) and Jeremiah (2:20-25 and 3:1-13) are tame.
At the end of chapters 16 and 23, the women are judged and condemned. They are ‘stoned and chopped into pieces (16:40) by righteous men. They will kill their sons and daughters’ (23:46). (One wonders what happens to individual responsibility discussed extensively in chapter 18 (see below) - are the children not victims.) Women and women’s blood are nowhere else in the Bible described as ‘filthy, socially disruptive, and contaminating . . .[as] associated with death’. Men’s blood in the rite of circumcision purifies as women’s blood contaminates. 28
That the Rabbis were fearful of Ezekiel we have already seen, they were particularly concerned about chapter 16; Rabbi Eliezer stated that it should not read it in the synagogue. When some one did dare read it he responded why do you not ‘proclaim the abominations of your mother?’ 29 Perhaps he saw Ezekiel as finding the ‘female body as defiling’, 30 and if that was the case even your mother was defiling.
There are major differences between the marriage metaphor and the use of women by Ezekiel and the use by Hosea and Jeremiah. In Hosea the metaphor is of a bridegroom with ‘righteousness, in justice, in loving kindness and in compassion . . . and in faithfulness (2:21-22) as enumerated by Moses to God Ex. 34:6). The reader hears an ‘impressionistic [rather] than coherent’ view. 31 In Jeremiah the verses which depict women as adulterous are never presented as one unified statement on women but rather are interspliced into other prophecies about Israel and Judah. In addition there is a romantic element ‘I will remember for you the affection of your youth, and your love. How you followed me into the wilderness’ (Jer. 2:2). Above all Jeremiah creates the image of moving mother figure of Rachel who weeps for her children (31:14-19).
Jeremiah declares ‘For the land has created something new on earth a woman shall ‘Tsovev’ [control or encompass or embrace or court or enfold] a man. 32 Could one imagine Ezekiel making such a statement. Ezekiel gives an entire biography of women from birth to death. The lurid use of language differentiates Ezekiel from Hosea or Jeremiah. In Ezekiel the Temple is intrinsically involved with women’s blood and must be destroyed. For Ezekiel women’s blood begins with child birth continues with menstruation and culminates with the blood guilt in the act of murdering her children. The woman seems to be blamed for being born and ‘wallowing in your blood’ (16:6). After she grows from a child to a woman she still has blood on her, one presumes this is menstrual blood. Is she being blamed again for menstruating? Are women being blamed for being women? ‘All women will be taught the lesson never to commit your debauchery again’ (23:48).
Ezekiel is preoccupied with the pollution and impurity of the Temple and he chooses women as the best metaphor for that impurity. Women arrive in this world with a gory birth and childhood, her love affairs and her punishment are described in obscene descriptions as are the sexual ‘equipment’ of her lovers. For Ezekiel woman’s perversion is without cure.
For Ezekiel women seem to be a source of disorder and chaos. They are symbols of idolatry. Ezekiel accuses his compatriots in Jerusalem of being idolatrous and women as the symbols of this behaviour. Jeremiah, who lived at the same time never accused his compatriots of idolatry;- economic injustice - yes, even political stupidity, but never idolatry (Jer. 7:1-16; 26:1-24). How is it that Jeremiah and Ezekiel can view the Jerusalem of the same time through such different eyes?
If one can conceive of much of this book as Ezekiel’s fantasies (as even some Sages of the Talmud believed) what does this tell us of Ezekiel, the almost anonymous man - only once called by his name every other time called the son of man? Is he supposed to be a representative of Man? One interpretation is that Ezekiel is a pathological misogynist as David Halperin believes. 33 This, however does not explain why the Book was salvaged despite the several specific objections noted in the Talmud.
Whether Ezekiel can be regarded as a prophet at all, has been questioned directly by the great Christian scholar Wellhausen. 34 Even the great Jewish scholar of the Prophets Abraham Joshua Heschel grappled with the same issue. In his two volume work on the Prophets while he has a chapter on Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Second Isaiah; he has no chapter on Ezekiel and no mention of him at all in Volume I where he discusses individual prophets. Did Heschel not consider Ezekiel a prophet? Can Ezekiel be considered as the founder of apocalyptic and merkavah literature rather than as a prophet? Since Ezekiel claims to have delivered only what God described why did the Sages of the Talmud engage in a serious debate as to whether he belonged in the canon? Did they believe as Maimonides did that his visions were imaginary? 35 Given all the criticism of him in the Talmud the question remains why was he canonized? The canonization process ended not only after the destruction of the second Temple and perhaps after the Bar Kokhba war when hope for a new Temple in the near future had expired. Ezekiel is the only prophet to describe a new Messianic Temple. That is a traditional Jewish messianic belief. This is one explanation the author believes he was canonized. The second reason is that Ezekiel is the founder and shaper of merkavah and of apocalyptic literature. Despite the Talmudic fears of merkavah visions, an enormous literature exists of such visions, even some included in the Talmud. Not including the founder of this literature would have been difficult.
It was noted earlier that Ezekiel is named only once in his book; the remaining 88 times he is called ben Adam - son of man. Ezekiel is also the first real apocalyptic writer among Jewish writers. At a later date many authors wrote pseudonymously. Is it possible that a connection exists between Ezekiel being the first prophet writing bizarre apocalyptic visions (and almost unacceptable eroticism) and did so almost anonymously and the fact that later writers of the apocalyptic literature were always written pseudonymous?
Ellen Davis suggests that Ezekiel was a writer of prophecy and not a speaker of prophecy. 36 She suggests that Ezekiel was the real beginning of written prophecy. 37 Jeremiah is the first prophet to write a letter to the Exiles and later to write or dictate a scroll that is then burnt by the King. (He, of course, does not eat the scroll.) He is instructed to eat the word (1:9 and 15:16). At the time of Ezekiel it has become evident that repentance will no longer prevent the destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel is a prophet living in exile, but often addresses his audience in Jerusalem. Apart from his visionary flight to Jerusalem he must address his audience in writing. Thus Ezekiel is writing for posterity and to justify God and no longer expects a change among the sinners. Ezekiel’s writing is the most dated of all prophets. There are fifteen specific dates mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecies. He appears never to speak on his own but to be the messenger of God. He portrays himself as a listener of God.
Ezekiel wife dies in 587 as God informs him of the death of Jerusalem. Is her death meant as a parallel example to Ezekiel; just as your wife dies so does Jerusalem die? God instructs him not to mourn his wife (24:17). Why is Ezekiel instructed not to mourn his wife? Mourning ones wife is a commandment. Is there an implication that the exiles in Babylon should not mourn Jerusalem? Why would God instruct one not to mourn Jerusalem? Jeremiah declared that the exiles were the remnants - he composed the Book of Lamentations for them.
Two years expire between the date of the destruction of Jerusalem and Ezekiel is actually informed of its death. (33:21) This event can be considered the midpoint of his life. He was told that on that day he could resume normal speech (24:27). Hence forth his preaching would focus on restoration - punishment and judgment had already been executed. The name Jerusalem no longer appears in the book and in the last verse the city is renamed ‘the Lord is there’ (48:35).
After Ezekiel realizes that the temple destruction is irrevocable, he, like Jeremiah develops a new theology. This is to be found in Chapter 18; which focuses on the dilemma of individual versus national responsibility. He begins with a well-known proverb: ‘the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children teeth are set on edge’ (18:2). (Jeremiah uses the same proverb. (31:28)) This suggests that both prophets attempted to tackle the problem that Israelites were not assuming personal responsibility for their actions. The bleak picture of Israel’s past is described in chapter 16,17 and then in 19, 20 and 23. Thus the children who suffer for their parents sins to the third and fourth generation (Deut. 5:9), are actually equally sinful. Ezekiel then clearly opposes this believe. He describes a father, son and grandson and makes clear that only he that sins will die and he that is righteous will live (18:4, 9, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22 and 24). He is responding to his audience who shout that ‘the way of the Lord is not fair (18:25,29). Are they being punished for their own sins or those of their ancestors? Are we dealing with individual law or family law? Is the father responsible for the sins of his sons or daughters? Is Ezekiel more concerned with religious law rather than with social law?
If the sinner repents he will be forgiven (18:27,28) only the sinner will die (18:4). In each case noted, an individual is discussed. This personal responsibility seemed to contradict the Pentateuch which emphasizes family and national responsibility (Ex. 32: ) For Ezekiel all who suffered are individually guilt of sinning. Jeremiah conceded that as the Pentateuch stated third and fourth generations may suffer for their ancestors sins. He prays that in the future individuals will suffer for their own sins. It is difficult to reconcile this with the prophecy that Jerusalem, symbolic for all Israel will be destroyed - men, women and children - because of their stony hearts.
For Ezekiel the new covenant was bound up with individual responsibility. 38 Jeremiah understood that personal responsibility was insufficient and corporate responsibility (particularly regarding economic justice - the concern of Jeremiah) was part of the covenant. Jeremiah did not accuse the Jerusalemites of being idol worshippers (the concern of Ezekiel). Ezekiel accused the present day Hebrews of being as guilty as the ancestors to explain the unthinkable tragedy that was to come. Jeremiah’s view of economic injustice would not be a sufficient explanation for Ezekiel.
The second part of this chapter (18:21-32) addresses the issue of repentance. God stating that ‘I do not want the death of anyone’ (18:32). Ezekiel does not disregard the collectivity of the house of Israel. ‘Not for your sake do I act, . . . but rather for the sake of my holy name that you have profaned . . . I will sanctify My great name’ (36:20-22). He does not disregard the collective community, but adds individualism to it.
‘Ezekiel’s success was due to the fact that his view was the only one that could be popularly grasped. For the plain man, only a present, tremendous sin could account for the catastrophe. Nothing else could make life bearable. . . In the acceptance of his version of their past we see what amounts to a conversion - a fundamental altering of the old self image of Israel . . . For the student of religion, Ezekiel’s doctrines and their effects are a striking attestation of the power of faith to bring order into chaos, finding meaning where it is not. 39
This was an additional concern of the Sages of the Talmud; did Ezekiel think he had the right to abrogate the Torah? Can this be understood as individual responsibility is paramount and not national responsibility? Ezekiel’s audience, the exiles, assume they are being punished for the sins of their ancestor’s; the sins of King Manasseh. But Ezekiel is telling them they will be punished only for their own sins. Which sins are delineated by Ezekiel? The traditional sins of idolatry, economic injustice, Sabbath keeping and sexually illicit intercourse especially with menstruating women but the most important for him was Temple uncleanliness. He uses the unusual term for prophets, ‘abomination’ (‘to’ebot’ in Hebrew) more times that any other prophet - forty times. 40
The term ‘impure’ (tamay’ in Hebrew) appears thirty five times compared to eleven times in total among all the other prophets. In defining the role of the priests, he states they are to instruct the people as to ‘the difference between the holy and profane and the difference between pure and impure’ (44:23). He also uses the ‘Khalal’ to profane more often than any other prophet. 41 ‘These themes are central’ to Ezekiel. 42 As compared to Jeremiah, Ezekiel is the prophet of priesthood behavior and not of ethical behavior. Ezekiel is the first and only prophet to emphasize the importance of the Temple after the Day of Judgment. But this chapter also repeatedly stresses the salvation of those who do not sin along with those who repent (18:7, 8, 12, 17, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32). There are optimistic proclamations, ‘I have no pleasure in the death he that dies says the Lord, return and live’ (18:32).
While Ezekiel joins Jeremiah in pleading for repentance, he creates a theology that denies the issues of theodicy as raised by Job and Jeremiah. As noted by Greenberg there is ‘more than mere family resemblance between him and the friends of Job’, 43 the fundamentalist believers in orthodoxy. For Ezekiel the destruction of Jerusalem was justified.
Ezekiel’s new theology encompasses Jeremiah’s idea of a New Heart. The heart of stone (2:4; 11:13,21; 36:26) must be converted. He begins with preaching about restoration and the idea of liberation (chapter 34), fertility (chapter 35) and most importantly of a new heart. He concludes with a metaphor of resurrection (chapter 37) and a new Temple (chapters 40-48). He may have picked that up from Jeremiah the concept of a new heart (11:19-20; 18:31; 36:26-27). Ezekiel added the concept of a new spirit to the new heart. ‘A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances’ (36:26-27). In the earlier version this new heart and new spirit are destined for the exiles in Babylon. Thus Ezekiel makes the distinction between those still in Judah and those exiled; the latter being the recipients of the renewed covenant. In this respect a similarity exists between Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Whether a new heart in fact denotes a renewal of the covenant; or a new covenant is unclear but no mention of the term ’new covenant’ appears in Ezekiel.
In Ezekiel repentance does not appear to be a pre-condition for redemption. Contrition and remorse do not precede, but rather succeed redemption (16:54,63; 20:43; 36:31; 39:26). ‘It cannot be demonstrated that Ezekiel ever prophesied that repentance was a determinative of national destiny. 44 Conversely for Jeremiah repentance is predicted as part of redemption (24:4-7; 29:10-14).
DRY BONES AND TWO STICKS -
Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones which come life is perhaps the most well known of his vision (it is much more easily understood that his image of the chariots of God). His vision is of ‘very’ dry and dead bones which come to life while he prophesized over them. It is a true resurrection, not of the recently dead as in Elijah and Elisha (and Jesus) but a resurrection of those long since dead. They are dead from a long lost military campaign.(37:9-10) and thus represent God’s long term victory over His enemies. God tells him these represent ‘the whole house of Israel’ and God will ‘bring you into the land of Israel’ (37:11-12). This resurrection is an act of God using the hand of Ezekiel. God orders Ezekiel to prophecies and then God commands the winds to breathe upon those slain (37:9). God’s power with Ezekiel raise the dead. Maimonides, among other Jewish commentators believe this is a vision and not an actual event.
The vision continues with Ezekiel being instructed to take two sticks and to write on one Judah and the second Joseph for the house of Israel (Joseph son Ephraim was a leader of Israel). The two sticks are to be placed in one hand and they will fuse. The two nations will become one including the long lost ten tribes of Israel. (Jeremiah also assumes a return of the ten lost tribes (30:3; 31:15ff; 50:4.) David, my servant will rule over them. ‘I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them’
(37:26). Again the question may be asked is this a new covenant - the term ‘I will’ is in the future tense as with the new heart (36:26-27). This is the second time that Ezekiel sees a messianic image. The first time appears in chapter 17 when God defines taking a twig from the highest branch of a high cedar, and replant them on a high mountain, and it will bear fruit and all kinds of fowl will dwell on it (17:22-23).
GOG OF MAGOG
This is the first elaborate depiction of an apocalyptic vision in the Bible, this
ultimate and final battle between God and His enemies. Gog and Magog has become a major element in the Messianic sections Hebrew and Christian Bibles as well in much of Jewish and Christian medieval and modern texts about the end of the world and millennium beliefs. Gog is an historic person but represents the metaphysical abominations and evil Ezekiel has preached against - Gog is their symbol. In the later texts Gog has indeed become a symbol of metaphysical Evil. The battle of God defeating Gog became a staple of apocalyptic literature. God brings against him pestilence, blood against brotherly blood, hailstones, fire and brimstone. Then I ‘will be known . . . I am the Lord’ (38:21-23). The land will go the ‘quiet people’ (38:11; 39:4), the redeemed people of Israel. Once again the knowledge and holiness of the will of God will be known to all nations (39:7, 22-23, 28). (Jeremiah also states this (25:31).) The weapons of God will be recycled into heat and cooking oil (39:10). Gog and his soldiers will be buried for seven months (39:14). The animals will be sacrificed ‘eating the flesh of the might, and drinking the blood of the Princes of the earth (39:18). However, the fate of the ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth remains undefined and is dealt with in latter Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature.
In a perfunctory glance the last section of Ezekiel (chapters 40-48) appear to be quite different the preceded chapters. A new Temple is described where new and different rules preside from the original Temple. But Ezekiel’s great interest is in the priesthood was abundantly clear in earlier chapters. We have converted his theo-centrism to temple-centrism. Does he perceive of himself as a Moses/Aaron combination? He names his mountain Zion, ‘a very high mountain’ as Moses defined Mount Sinai; on the mountain he is given instructions about building a sanctuary and he ordains a priesthood and gives them instructions, about festivals and sacrifices. 45
The vision begins with the return of the Glory of God to the Temple to rule the world. We are told that the vision took place in the tenth day of the New Year. This is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Our tour guide is ‘a man with the appearance shining like bronze’ (40:3). Does Ezekiel conceive of himself as an angel?
Ezekiel then defines the new rules of the Temple. This include new rules for priests, princes and the people as well as new rules for sacrifices. He redefines the geographic territory of each tribe for sake of equality. He defines land for resident aliens. Does Ezekiel (as Jeremiah) consider himself a new Moses? He is the only prophet explicitly to modify the laws as defined by Moses. The Sages of the Talmud question his authority to alter biblical law. 46. That no prophet may change even the smallest detail of the law is noted several times in the Talmud. 47 He even renames Jerusalem to ‘YHVH Shammah’ - the Lord is There.
The term ‘Nasi’ translated in modern day Hebrew as President is used in a new way by Ezekiel. In appears 120 times in the Bible 36 in Ezekiel. In the Pentateuch it denotes a leader like Abraham (23:6) or a foreign leader (34:2). Later in the Prophets it is occasionally refers to a King (1 Kings 11:34). In Ezekiel it is sometimes King-like (21:17) or foreign King such as in verse 38:2. Why does he not call a king ‘melech’ as in the rest of the Bible? No one other than Ezekiel calls the leader of the restored nation - that is the Messianic King - a Nasi. Only Ezra called Sheshbazzar, a nasi (Ezra 1:8), he is the proposed Messianic King of a restored nation. He may have been influenced by Ezekiel.
EZEKIEL’S VISION OF THE GLORY OF GOD
Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of God is discussed toward the conclusion of this chapter because it is undoubtedly the most bizarre description in the Bible. As opposed to other theopanies (Sinai, the tent of meeting in the dessert, Elijah and the Solomonic Temple) his blessing turn into curses 48 Furthermore it allows us to review the major problems with which the Sages of the Talmud grappled with the book of Ezekiel.
Chapter 1 of Ezekiel (a vision that appears again in chapters 8 and 10) is the most commented upon section of the Bible in the Talmud. An entire body of literature called ‘Merkavah’ (chariot) or ‘Hechalot’ (Temple) was created from these descriptions. It was an anthropomorphic and foreign vision greatly feared by the more traditional theologians of the Talmud.
Of all the canonized prophets no other was as disliked by the sages of the Talmud. They compared him very unfavorably with Isaiah. They were very concerned about his audacity in writing of the merkavah vision. In their opinion Isaiah saw the vision but was discrete and did share his vision with others. And the sages stated in a sarcastic tone that even young handmaidens saw more of the Divine glory that Ezekiel. 49
‘I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; his grandeur filled the sanctuary. Above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings; two to cover its face, two to cover its feet and two for flying; and they were shouting these words to each other. ‘Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, holy, holy, holy His glory fills the earth . . . Then one of the serphs flew to me, holding in its hand a live coal which it had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this it touched my lips and said `look, this has touched your lips, your guilt has been forgiven and your sin forgiven’ (Isaiah 6:2-7).
They deeply questioned asked why Ezekiel expounded on his vision? God certainly did not instruct him to write of his vision according to the Talmud. ‘And the man said to me `ben Adam behold with your eyes and hear with your ears and put on your heart all that I show you, for my intent in showing you is for you to declare all this to the house of Israel‘ (Ezekiel 40:4). Despite Ezekiel’s cautious image -he four times uses the term ‘the likeness of’ and seven times the ‘appearance of’ - the Talmudists were staunchly opposed to the use of any image of God - for them God was imageless. They likened Isaiah to a sophisticated city man, while Ezekiel was like an unsophisticated village man unaccustomed to the glory of God. 50
The writers of the Talmud greatly feared the vision. Yochanan ben Zakkai is reputed to have seen and studied the Merkavah surrounded by a heavenly fire so that no one would see (Chagiga 14b). Several accounts appear in the Talmud of people studying the merkavah and they die; a child speculated on the chashmal (a Hebrew term unknown other than in Ezekiel’s vision) and died. 51
What was the basis of this great fear?
Several ancient texts of Ezekiel compare his depiction of the glory of God to the revelation and theophany on Mount Sinai, where Moses came close to seeing the Glory of God. During the celebration of the festival of the Pentecost the reading is of Moses’ vision, the secondary Bible reading (the Haftorah) is Ezekiel’s first vision, chapter 1. The connection of these readings and the public reading of this section was itself greatly debated in the Talmud.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a great mystic and disciple of Rabbi Akiva, lived in a cave with his son for thirteen years (during the Bar Kokhba war) and studied the hidden secrets of the Kabbalah from Elijah. He selected eight disciples to relate what he had learnt (according to Jewish Tradition - the Zohar). When three of his disciples died within one year Rabbi Shimon said "is it possible that we are being punished for revealing that which has been hidden since Moses stood on Mount Sinai.’ 52
This fear continued as can be seen in Maimonides and his discussion of a Mishna (the basic Code of Jewish Law) in his philosophical work The Guide to the Perplexed. The Mishna begins:
"One must not discuss with three students [i.e. No more than 2] intimate relations between men and women, nor the mysteries of creation with two students [i.e. No more than 1] nor the mysteries of the merkavah with just one [i.e. Only alone], unless he is a sage and understands of his own knowledge. [continuing the Mishna says] he who contemplates four things -what is above and what is below, what is before and what is after -would have been better if he had never been born." (Mishna Chagiga 2:1)
Maimonides says that the mystery of creation is about the creation from Genesis, the existence of God and the merkavah from Ezekiel about the essence of God. Maimonides discusses this Mishna philosophically although obliquely and metaphorically. He does it obliquely because he takes seriously the halakhic rule not to discuss the subject unless with a Sage. While he wrote this for his favorite student (Joseph) he had to be oblique. This book composed in Arabic but with Hebrew letters in order to limit the number of readers. However, even within his lifetime it was translated into Hebrew. It also burnt by more traditional Jews.
Maimonides in the introduction to the section on the mysteries of the merkavah says as follows:
‘I shall interpret to you that which was said by Ezekiel the prophet in such a way that anyone who heard that interpretation would think that I do not say anything over and beyond what is indicated by that text . . . on the other hand, if that interpretation is examined with perfect care by him for whom this treatise is composed . . . the whole matter, will become clear to him so that nothing will remain hidden from him . . . After this introduction has preceded, apply your mind to the chapters that will follow concerning this great, noble and sublime subject. which is a stake upon which everything hangs and a pillar upon which everything is supported.’ 53
One major theme of the book of Ezekiel is his vision of the Glory of God. Book one begins in Babylon with the vision of the merkavah in chapter one, even prior to Ezekiel’s call as a prophet. Ezekiel sees four living creatures, glowing creatures with four faces and four wings. Their wings are attached to each other and they move as a unity. Below each waist is a series of wheels covered with eyes. Above them lies an ice-like expanse and above it stands sapphire-like throne and the likeness of a man, fiery with rainbows above it. Each creature had four faces; one of a man, one of a lion, one of an ox and one of an eagle. While parts of this vision can be found in other literature, nothing like the entirety of this vision appears elsewhere in the Bible nor in other ancient literature. The creatures seem like mythical beings carrying a chariot throne. Thus for the next several hundred years Jewish mystical literature was named merkavah (chariot) or hakhalot (Throne) literature. Ezekiel sees a throne of sapphire comparable to Moses’ sapphire pavement. Ezekiel’s God-like figure is more anthropomorphic than that of Moses or Isaiah. Above the Throne there is ‘a likeness of a man’ (Ez. 1:26). Moses could not see God, yet Ezekiel envisages a God-like person. He also sees and hears voices, fire, clouds, glows and lights. He clearly envisions God. He is raised by a holy ‘spirit’ (3:12,14) that moves him about.
The third vision (the second is briefly described in chapter 3) begins in chapter eight and continues into chapter ten; it takes place in Jerusalem. Ezekiel first sees a God like appearance of fire who took him by his hair to the Temple. He sees six destructive men with deadly weapons. God then talks to a man clothed in linen who carries writing instruments. The man enters in a house, clearly the House of God; the Temple. This house – defined by its inner and outer courtyards and eastern gate reappears several times in chapter ten. The man carries fiery coal and drops them around Jerusalem. And God slowly departs from the Temple and Jerusalem.
This vision is spread over four chapters and many additional events transpire in the interim; hence this section is confusing. It begins and ends with the Elders (8:1; 11:24-25),.includes Temple abominations (8:5-18), the judgment of God (9:1-11;11:1-13) and ends with the restoration (11:14-21). In the midst of these tumultuous events the chariot vision appears in 8:2-4; 9:3; 10:1-22; 11:22-23 which is similar to the first vision in 1:1-3:15. (See comparison in the appendix to this chapter.)
It is worth noting that an exact date is stated ‘sixth year, sixth month and fifth day (8:10) which is approximately 10 days short of the 430 days of Ezekiel’s laying on his side. Ezekiel is transported to Jerusalem for this vision by the hand of God.
The abominations begin at the north of the Temple as Ezekiel is touring the Temple. He then goes into a door where he sees abominable beasts and all the idols of the house of Israel and seventy men (8:10-11). These men say ‘the Lord see not; the Lord has forsaken the earth(8:12). The women are worshipping Tammuz. And lastly in the inner court the men turn their back to the Temple and worship the Sun. This chapter and section end with the acceptance of pagan values of violence. A major questions which must be asked is: did Ezekiel see a vision or imagine a vision? Jeremiah never describes the kind of events Ezekiel describes. Jeremiah’s abominations are of social and economic injustice. In the Book of Jeremiah the kind of idolatry described in the Temple does not occur. Jeremiah does describe some idolatry regarding Baal (19:5), Molech (32:35) and in my house (7:30) and again for the Queen of Heaven (7:16-20 and 44:18-19), however the range and extent do not compare to those described by Ezekiel.
The judgment begins with six executioners carrying a weapon of slaughter. An additional man girthed in linen (Ezekiel?) And a scribe goes with them. Their mission is to ruthlessly kill with no pity, men and women, young and old, with the exception of those marked on the foreheads as the righteous (those who cry against the abominations) as a sign of mourning. The massive slaughter begins at the altar, a sanctuary, thus defiling the Temple. These men are called for the first time in the book ‘cherubs’, presumably the holy beast of the first vision. During this slaughter Ezekiel cries to God for pity (9:8). The last section of the judgment (11:1-13) is most problematic. The dead already fill the city. One of the men to whom Ezekiel addresses his word, Pelatiah actually dies while Ezekiel prophesized. Immediately following this is a speech of restoration in the exile appears. They will return to the Land of Israel (11:17). ‘I will give them one heart, . . . a new spirit; I will remove the heart of stone . . . And give them a heart of flesh’ (11:19). This follows Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new or circumcised heart, but no mention is made of a new covenant.
The Lord’s chariot appears in the midst of the slaughter of the city, immediately following chapter 9. The four faces are now composed of a cherub, a man, a lion and an eagle. The cherub has replaced the ox in the first vision. The Glory has departed from the city and Ezekiel is then returned to Babylon where he delivers his vision to the elders.
Ezekiel was a paradoxical prophet. He experiences bizarre visions that read as reality and reality that reads as a vision. For example commentators do not agree whether when the eating of the scroll (2:8) is a reality or a vision. Is he as Ellen Davis claims ‘what he ate’? 54 Often he is central to the vision as subject (in this way he differs from Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah) and sometimes he is outside and sees the vision. Yet he writes of new detailed architecture and laws for the Temple, the calendar and the sacrifices. Does, Ezekiel as did Jeremiah consider himself a new Moses? He is the only prophet to explicitly change the laws in the Torah as defined by Moses. The Sages of the Talmud question his authority to change biblical law. 55 Jeremiah’s complaints against the people of Israel focus primarily on ethical misbehaviour (7:2-15; 26:1-6); Ezekiel’s complaints are about ritual law. If ‘his identity wholly subsumed by the incorporated word . . . the only voice which is heard distinctly, is God’s’, 56 why is his voice so different from that of all other prophets? Jeremiah’s mission is ‘to pluck up and to pull down, to obliterate and to destroy, to build and to plant (Jer. 1:10). Ezekiel’s ingesting the scroll suggests it can no longer can be changed. Dumbness limits oral freedom and what is eaten is fixed and inalterable. 57 God presented Ezekiel with mixed messages. In 3:26 ‘and I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, and you shall become mute,’ yet several verses earlier (3:17) God said to him ‘ben Adam, a sentinel have I appointed you for the family of Israel; and when you hear from me warn them on my behalf.’
During the lifetime of Ezekiel terrible events occurred to Israel as to Jeremiah. The Monarchy was lost forever, the Temple destroyed, the Elders and Elites exiled or killed and the Priesthood destroyed. For Ezekiel being a priest may have been of greater importance than being a Prophet - in this he differed from Jeremiah, who was also a priest-prophet.
The tone of Ezekiel is more pregnant with gloom than Jeremiah. No remnants can save the people not even Noah, Daniel and Job (14:12-20). No righteous persons are found (9:8-10), even the remnants are not righteous (14:21-23). His gloom regarding the present is as black as his revisionist history. One wonders about Ezekiel himself? Jeremiah is however a more credible prophet and therefore his gloom is more credible. Do the inevitability, irrevocability and gloominess of Ezekiel’s judgment negate his consolation and restoration?
Ezekiel’s denunciations of Israel are as harsh as those of Jeremiah’s, that the peoples doom is deserved (5:2,13- 17; 7:23-24; 13:5; 14:12-23 and 36:33). The message is God’s justice must be done (14:23; 18:5-20 and 33:10-20). With freedom comes responsibility and repentance is essential (11:17-20; 18:23,30-32 and 33:11). Ezekiel speaks of a new community from the remnants and new Temple and new Temple laws (in this way he continued his role as a priest) but not of a new covenant. The reader hears of no inward struggles on his part, which is a major part of Jeremiah’s message. Ezekiel seems more content to be the harsh critic. But nonetheless he is very aware of Jeremiah. He uses Jeremiah’s imagery of ‘sour grapes’ (Jer. 31:29) to create his own analogy (18:2), his refusal to mourn his wife from Jeremiah’s .not going into a house of mourners (Jer. 16:5), his use of women as symbolizing an extreme version of Jeremiah’s ‘playing the harlot (3:6-11), ‘dry bones’ from Jeremiah’s vision of ‘bones of priests, princes, prophets and inhabitants of Jerusalem (Jer. 8:1) and Jeremiah’s new covenant (Jer. 24:7; 32:39). 58 In each case he appears to be a much more imaginative and bizarre visionary than Jeremiah and any other prophet. His visions of God, later came to be called ‘merkavah’ visions (1:3-28 and 8:1-3; 10:1-22). 59 He is transported seven times by the spirit of God (3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 37:1; 43:5). He is the first prophet to have a full blown apocalyptic vision.
Whether related to the above comments or not he is the first and only prophet to be called by God ‘ben Adam’ the son of man and he is called by this name 88 times. 60 The term can be construed to mean just a human being as a pronoun for his name. Except Ezekiel is not an ordinary human being, but very exceptional not only as a human being but as visionary and a highly unusual and imaginative prophet.
APPENDIX A – THE CHARIOT VISION OF EZEKIEL
APPENDIX B - IMAGERY
APPENDIX C - CHAPTER TWO - THREE - EATING OF THE SCROLL
APPENDIX D - CHAPTER 37 - DRY BONES
APPENDIX E – EZEKIEL AS IMAGINED BY WILLIAM BLAKE
APPENDIX A – THE CHARIOT VISION OF EZEKIEL
Comparing chapters 1,8,and 10
1:1-3 and 8:3
Thirtieth year - from when? Some have suggested that it is Ezekiel’s age. We are given the exact date of the vision; the fifth day of the fourth month - 4th of Tammuz - five years after the exile; 598 B.C.E. The vision took place on July 31, 593 BCE, in the Gregorian calendar. Thirty years earlier was the last Jubilee year. It was thus the year King Josiah returned to the temple, the priestly rules after the defilement by his grandfather Manasseh. In 598 the exile to Babylonia began. Thus the five years into the exile.
In 573 Ezekiel had the vision of the Temple (chapter 40 -48) a Jubilee year. During Jubilee years all land returns to its original owner. Israel will return to God. This first vision takes place while Ezekiel is in exile, in Babylon and the Temple still exists. In the second vision in chapter 8, Ezekiel is transported to Jerusalem. Flowing water has a spiritual transformative power, like in a ‘Mikva’ (a special purifying bath).
!:4 and 8:3
North from Babylon. All of a sudden the vision appears from the north, from exile and Ezekiel is outside of time and space. The first three verses are in time and space. North also means the ‘sitra ocher’, a mystical term for the other or evil side. An 11th century text called `the secret of the tree of knowledge' calls ‘nogah’ the evil shells from breaking of vessels, a Kabbalistic metaphor on the creation of the world. Ezekiel is seeing evil incarnate but sees the ‘chasmal’ overcoming evil.
The Zohar compares this verse to Genesis 1:2
‘The earth was without form (tohu) and empty (bohu), with darkness (choshech) on the face of the depths (tehom), but God's spirit (ruach Elohim) moved on the face of the waters surface."
Wind is tohu; without form
cloud is bohu; emptiness
flashing fire is choshech, darkness
nogah is tehom; depths
chasmal is ruach Elohim; the spirit of God
"[God said] `go out and stand on the mountain before YHVH' for at that moment YHVV was going by. A mighty hurricane split the mountains and shattered the rocks before YHVH. But YHVH was not in the hurricane. And after the hurricane, an earthquake. but YHVH was in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, fire, but YHVH was not in the fire. And after the fire, a light murmuring sound. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood..."
Another interpretation of the wind, cloud and fire is an illusion to meditation.
Hurricane is wind; earthquake is cloud; fire is fire. Wind - air - breathing the first step in meditation. Cloud - nothingness - like the lights turned out; white noise. Flashing fire - the Hebrew word - mitlakachat - actually means self creating fire; a fire that cleanses itself or a self that cleanses itself.
Chashmal is often translated as amber which comes from the Greek. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the then non-canonized Torah translated Chasmal as amber which means energy. Amber in ancient Greek was also an alloy of gold and silver. In Hebrew ‘chash’ is silent and ‘mal’ is speak; thus the speaking silence. Chashmal in modern Hebrew is electricity. The speaking silence - in the midst of a fire all of a sudden the vision. This mystery definition of the glory of God is a paradox; a speaking silence.
Another interpretation of the speaking silence is a metaphor for the God - man relationship. God, the creator, who created through his speech the universe and the writer of the Torah is the speaker. And man, the reader and listener is in silence; thus the speaking silence.
The word ‘mal’ is also part of the word milah - circumcision. The glory of God and the separation men require for the sign of their lustful nature.
In chapter eight Ezekiel sees perhaps a messianic figure who is part fire and part the Zohar or illumination of God.
In I Enoch a pseudapigrapha book, written after Ezekiel, and part of the merkavah literature, the author has a vision (14:10-19) "and I came into the tongues of the fire and drew near to a great house which was built of white marble, and the inner walls were like mosaics of white marble, the floor of crystal, the ceiling like the path of the stars and lightening between which stood fiery cherubim and their heaven of water, and flaming fire surrounded the walls and its gates were burning with fire. And I entered into the house, which was hot like fire and cold like ice, and there was nothing inside it, so fear covered me and trembling seized me. and as I shook and trembled, I fell upon my face and saw a vision."
Four Chayos. What are Chayos? Usually translated as living beings or creatures? From chai for life, some Kabbalists therefore define them as a metaphor for life force. In medieval Kabbalah the use of light or energy is used as a metaphor for the ein sof.
The image of the four Chayos with four wings each, and with human hands under the wings. And later on we learn that each Chaya has four ophanim attached to their feet. Thus we have sixteen faces, perhaps four wings for each face (16) thus 256 wings, hands and ophanim. We are told that they have calf's feet. As Chayos they may logically have had calf's feet. But there are other ancient legends had about calf's feet and club feet. Those who travel to the world of the dead sometimes come back with an animal foot or a lame food. The word Oedipus in ancient Greek means clubfoot. This is also sometimes seen as the lamb or goat footed Satan.
In Isaiah the Seraphim (angelic Chayot) have six wings. The Talmud (Chagiga 13b) states that after the destruction of the first temple two wings were lost. Perhaps after the destruction of the second temple, they have only two wings or perhaps after the holocaust they are wingless. An intriguing suggestive that the ein sof can be wounded by what we, on earth do.
It is almost inconceivable to imagine these creatures. But perhaps that is the point; they represent something close to God who is inconceivable.
In 3 Enoch 21:1 Metatron tells Rabbi. Ishmael, the high priest, there are four creatures facing the four winds. Each creature would fill the whole world. Each of them has four faces and every single face looks like the sunrise.
In verse 2. Each creature has four wings and every single wing would cover the world.
In verse 3. Each one of them has faces within faces and wings within wings.
In verse 9 there is this strange `their wings were joined to each other as a woman to her sister.' and again in verse 23 there wings were straight out, like a man and his sister.'
A woman to her sister and a man to his sister; a form of platonic love.
1:10,11; 10:14, 15.
In chapter 1 the faces of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle, In chapter the faces are of a Cherub, a man, a lion and an eagle. An ox for a cherub - Cherubs are depicted as young boys. Ezekiel tells us in his second vision that the chayos are cherubim. The Chayos were Cherubim except for the ox becoming a cherub. In a fragment of a Qumran text it is a calf; perhaps the Golden Calf problem of the Sinai theophany is why the ox changes to a man.
What do we know about Cherubs?
The first mention in the Torah of Cherubim is Genesis 3:24
"And He drove out the people, and He stationed, east of the Garden of Eden, the cherubim and the flame of the ever turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life."
Moses sculpted them for the mishkan but they had one face. Samuel tells that they are part of god's throne (1 Sam 4:4). David in his victory hymn tells us that god rode through the air on them (2 Sam 22:11). Solomon made them for the temple. But all these are different, they had one face.
Maimonides tells us these faces are an analogy to the development of a human being. Being an infant, a crawling child, a walking child and an adult. Or different forms that humans being take. While it is unclear to me how Maimonides gets this from the text, he clearly sees the vision as a metaphor and not to be taken as a vision literally.
Ezekiel is also telling us that the glory of God is not only in the Temple but it stays with the Jews in exile. The Cherubim protect the Ark in the Temple but the Glory goes with the Jews even in exile. Perhaps the change from chayos when the Temple was still in existence to cherubim after the destruction signifies that redemption will come; certainly a belief of Ezekiel.
They went were the spirit took them. This refers to them following the will of God.
The Chayos in chapter one looked like coals. The job of the Cherubim was to hold and move coals. The man in white linen could be the high priest who wore white linen on Yom Kippur. Gabriel is also known as sar ha'ash the angel of fire. Throwing coals on the city is the destruction of the city; the city of Jerusalem. The Targum says they are God's messengers who travel with the speed of lightening. It also says that the hands were to throw coals at sinners to destroy them. The Psalms (11:6) tell us "upon the wicked he will cause to rain coals, fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup."
In chapter 9:2 there is also a reference to man clothed in linen is also called a scribe; perhaps like Ezra, the priest who brought the scroll back to Jerusalem and the Jews back into the covenant. Again a redemptive hope. Perhaps this man is the man over the throne in 1:26 "the appearance of a man upon it from above."
Some Talmudists say he is the angel Gabriel. Some that it was the man seen by Daniel (10:5-7) "a single man clothed in linen, his loins girded with fine gold, his body like tarshish , his face like the appearance of lightening, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the surface of burnished copper, and the sound of his words like the sound of a crowd."
Then Daniel sees a vision of the pre-messianic wars with the four kingdoms. After the wars "Michael, the great heavenly prince, who stands in support of the children of your people, ... at that time your people will escape; ... Many of those who sleep in the dusty earth (shoel) shall awaken, those for everlasting life, and those for shame, for everlasting abhorrence. ... and I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, and he lifted his right hand and his left hand heavenward and swore by the life of the world, that in a time, times and a half and upon completion of the fragmenting of the hand of the holy people, all these shall be finished. And as for you, go to the end; you will rest and arise to your lot at the end of the days." (Daniel 12:1-13).
"Then the Cherubim raised their wings and the 6-7 Ophanim opposite them, and the glory of the God of Israel was upon them. So God rose from the city and stood on mountain east of the city. And a wind lifted me and brought me to Chaldea to the exile. It was part of the vision and then the vision left me."
Another creature mentioned is the galgal. Later in 10:13
The Galgal are called Cherubim. But what is Galgal; the Hebrew word has been translated as wheels, transmigration or reincarnation. Reincarnation became an important part of the medieval kabbalah of H’Ari.
This is the first mention of the ophan as part of the Chayos, in both chapters. Each face has an ophan, thus sixteen ophanim. Both chapters refer to the tarshish or a brilliant transparent bluish green stone as the form or appearance of the ophanim.
An ophan is translated as a wheel but what is this wheel. Some have defined them as a different kind of angel. Maimonides sees this whole vision as a three part metaphor. The `appearance of a man' (5), the chayos and the ophanim. The `man' represents god, the chayos represent heaven and the ophanim represent earth; god, the soul (cherubs) and the body. In 3 Enoch 19 metatron describes to Rabbi Ishmael, the High Priest, the chariot: 19:3 how many wheels are there? Eight-two for each direction.
Four winds enclose them in a circle, and these are their names: storm, tempest, hurricane, and gale. Four rivers of fire flow out from beneath them, one on each side. Between them, forming a circle, four clouds stand, opposite their wheels. These are their names: Clouds of fire, clouds of firebrands, clouds of glowing coal, and clouds of brimstone. The feet of the creatures rest on the wheels and between one wheel and another, earthquakes roars and thunder rumbles.
The Chayos and the Cherubim are the same. Both visions note that the creatures are full of eyes. The movement of the creatures who are groups of angels, move collectively because they have the spirit of god within them. The ophanim are not described as opposed to the chayos
Except that they had a single form, were tall and fearsome and had backs full of eyes. Perhaps they could see everything, both the external and the internal parts of man.
The ophanim are within ophanim. In 1:19 -21 and again in 10:16-17 the movement of the combined chayos/ophanim creature is described as being dependant on the chayos, not on the ophanim; the ophanim follow the lead of the chayos. Thus the Chayos have the will.
3 Enoch also has references to eyes.
18:25 the body of the one is full of eyes; the body of the other is full of eyes.
25:6 all the ophanim are full of eyes and full of wings, eyes corresponding to wings and wings corresponding to eyes.
26:6 his body is full of eyes like the stars of heaven, beyond reckoning, without number, and each eye is like the morning star.
The Chayos and the Cherubim are the same.
The job of the Chayos was to hold up the harakiya (the heavenly sky), the Firmament. The firmament is described as resembling awesome ice and then as a sapphire stone (in both visions) as on Sinai when Moses sees a vision of sapphire stone. The reference to El Shaddai is the God who spoke at Sinai (Deut. 5:19) who is leaving the land of Israel. El Shaddai commands the man in white linen to take the coals and presumably throw them upon the city. El Shaddai is the name of God when he told Abraham to circumcise himself and thus is the symbol of the covenant. Again El Shaddai changed Jacob’s name to Israel, thereby making the people of Israel.
In I Enoch 40 Enoch says
I saw them standing, on the four wings of the Lord of the Spirits and saw four other faces among those who do not slumber, and I came to know their names, which the angel who came with me revealed to me; and he also showed me all the hidden things. then I heard the voices of those four faces while they were saying praises before the lord of glory. the first voice was blessing the name of the lord of the spirits. the second voice I heard blessing the elect one and the elect ones who are clinging onto the Lord of the spirits. And the third voice I heard interceding and praying on behalf of those who dwell upon the earth and supplicating in the name of the Lord of the spirits. And the fourth voice I heard expelling the demons and forbidding them from coming to the Lord of the spirits in order to accuse those who dwell upon the earth. And after that, I asked the angel of peace, who was going with me and showed me everything that was hidden, who are the four faces which I have seen and whose voices I have heard and written down? And he said to me. `The first one is the merciful and forbearing Michael; the second one who is set over all disease and every wound of the children of the people is Raphael; the third who is set over all exercise of strength is Gabriel; and the fourth who is set over all actions of repentance unto the hope of those who would Inherit eternal life is Phanuel.' (40:2-9)
The house on fire is the destroyed Temple. The Chasmal is seen both as a "the appearance of the form of a man in verse 26 and as "a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day" in verse 28. That is one of the things the ancients feared. What made the rainbow so fearful to the ancients texts and the talmudists? A rainbow goes from heaven to earth and therefore they saw it as the symbol of the glory of God. It becomes the Chasmal. And of course God created it for Noah as a covenant to all mankind. The Talmud said "everyone who gazes at three things will lose his sight
A rainbow, a prince and the priests.' (Chagiga 16a) it is said of Shimon ben Yochai "all during his lifetime no rainbow appeared in the cloud" (Ber 13d). Because he was so holy that he himself represented the glory of God. Verse 27 has the same man we saw in 8:2; separating the man from thighs or waist in 8:2, into two parts. Here he is clearly stated as part of the Chasmal.
In chapter One verse 28 Ezekiel sees the kavod, the glory and falls on his face. In chapter 10 verse 18-19 the glory went from the Temple and from the and; i.e. The destruction of the Temple and the land.
APPENDIX B – IMAGERY
The image of four elements, four chayos, each with four faces, each with four connected wings, four connected hands and each connected to four wheels or wheel angels each a wheel within a wheel. In chapter one they all come out of the Chasmal, the speaking silence. In chapter ten they are in and around the temple. The image has sixteen faces, and if each face has four wings then 64 wings, and 64 hands and sixty four ophanim. The uniqueness of this image and its almost unimaginable image help explain why so few artists have attempted to paint this image.
The image of the four faces of the chayos became the symbol of the four evangelists in medieval art; Mark - lion, John - eagle, Mathew - man, Luke -Ox. Brother Leo says in referring to the difficulty in writing about Saints they were written by holy apostles. One had his angel, the other his lion, the other his ox and the last his eagle.' (Kazantzakis, St Francis)
Dante's divine comedy, perhaps the greatest poem written in the middle ages, the protagonist travels to the seven heavens, a merkavah vision. Dante specifically refers to Ezekiel, in purgatory canto 29
A chariot led by a creature half lion and half eagle is surrounded by four animals, each has six wings, full of eyes.
"To describe their forms, reader, I do not waste more rhymes, for other outlay so presses on me that I cannot be lavish in this; but read Ezekiel, who depicts them as he saw them come out from the cold parts with the wind and cloud and fire, as you shall find them on his pages such they were here, except that for the wings John is with me and departs from him. "
The John, Dante is referring to is the author of Revelations (chapter 4:)
4:l. Immediately I was in the spirit and behold a throne set in heaven and one sat on the throne
4:6. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and back.
4:7. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature was like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.
4:8. And the four living creatures each had six wings were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night saying `Holy, holy, holy, Lord god almighty, Who was and is and is to Come!'
4:9. Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thank him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever.
Despite Dante's referring to John for the six winged creatures Isaiah mentioned six winged seraphim (6:2), which Dante, of course, knew.
6:1. Then in my vision, I saw the lamb break one of the seven seals, [remember Ingram Bergman’s seventh seal] and I heard one of the four living creatures shout in a voice like thunder. Come!
6:2. Immediately I saw a white horse appear, and its rider was holding a bow; he was given a victor's crown and he went away, to go from victory to victory.
6:3. When he broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature shout, come!
6:4. And out came another horse, bright red, and its rider was given this duty: to take away peace from earth and set people killing each other. He was given a huge sword.
6:5. When he broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature shout, come! Immediately I saw a black horse appear, and its rider was holding a pair of scales; and I seemed to hear a voice shout from among the four creatures and say,
6:6. `A day's wages for a quart of corn, and a day's wages for three quarts of barley, but do not tamper with the oil or the wine.'
6:7. When he broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature shout, come! 6:8.immediatley I saw another horse appear, deathly pale, and its rider was called death, and Hades followed at its heels. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague and through wild beasts.
Were else does this come from.
"I raised my eyes and this is what I saw: four chariots coming out between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot had black horses, the third chariot had white horses and the fourth chariot had vigorous, piebald horses." (Zechariah 6:1-3)
John Milton was also intrigued by the images of these metaphors of the glory of god. Paradise lost, book three, opens with a salute to "holy lights, dark with excess brightness". Then Milton writes:
"Throned inaccessible, but when thou shall
the full blaze of thy beams and through a cloud
drawn round thee like a radiant shrine
dark with excessive bright thy skirts appear
yet dazzle heaven, that brightest seraphim
approach not, but with both wings veil thy eyes."
William Blake, a nineteenth century poet, mystic and lithographer is one of the few who imagined the vision in paintings. Blake drew many religious drawings including the prophets, the book of Job, Dante and Milton.
on each side. Between them, forming a circle, four clouds stand, opposite their wheels. These are their names: Clouds of fire, clouds of firebrands, clouds of glowing coal, and clouds of brimstone. The feet of the creatures rest on the wheels and between one wheel and another, earthquakes roars and thunder rumbles.
1:17-21; 10:12-13, 16-17
Both visions note that the creatures are full of eyes. The movement of the creatures who are groups of angels, move collectively because they have the spirit of god within them. The ophanim are not described as opposed to the chayos
Except that they had a single form, were tall and fearsome and had backs full of eyes. Perhaps they could see everything, both the external and the internal parts of man.
APPENDIX C - CHAPTER TWO - THREE - EATING OF THE SCROLL
2:8-10 "`and you, son of man, hear what I speak to you: be not rebellious, like the rest you are rebellious. Open your mouth and eat what I give to you.' Then I saw, and behold, a hand outstretched to me, and behold in it was a scroll. Then he spread it out before me, and it was written on both sides. In it was inscribed within with lamentations, mourning and woe.
3:1 He said to me, `son of man, what you find eat. Eat this scroll, and go speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll. Then he said `son of man cause your stomach to eat and fill your insides with the scroll which I gave you.' and I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey."
2:10 Both sides; in Hebrew the word is achor. It also means the other or the end. The history of the world from beginning to end. That interpretation is consistent with the book of Ezekiel which foretells the future. In it; in Hebrew the word is aleha. It also means in addition -are lamentations, moaning or mourning and woe. Moaning or mourning; the Hebrew word is vahege is only used in the Bible in Job describing his feelings after the death of his children.
3:1- Eat what you find no matter how unpalatable. It is your job as a prophet. Eat and digest; sounds like it is going to taste bad. Then sweet as honey in his mouth. ?? Because redemption will be a long time in coming or does he take his job lovingly? But in 3:14 Ezekiel says
"A spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went, bitter
In the heat of my spirit, God's hand being mightily upon me."
i.e. Do we see the paradox of Ezekiel again. Clearly there is a fusion of the man and the message.
APPENDIX D - CHAPTER 37 - DRY BONES
Just before chapter 37 God says "I will take you from among the nations; And gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land". (36:24) this statement is inscribed in the main hall of the President's house in Jerusalem. Ezekiel goes to a valley where there are bones, and Ezekiel with God’s spirit resurrects them. Then God tells him of the Messianic age. In Chapter 38 God tells Ezekiel of the war between Israel and Gog of Magog. This war is mentioned in Zechariah, Joel, Daniel and Enoch.
37:1 Possibly the plain of Dura where Jews lost the last battle with Babylon. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 92b) says this day was the twentieth memorial of when Chananya, Mishael and Azarah were saved. Thus the event is to reinforce the belief in the resurrection of the dead, and to connect that death by martyrdom (kiddush hashem).
God tells Ezekiel to prophecy on the bones.
37: 5-6 God tells the bones "I bring spirit into you and bring flesh upon you".
37:7-8 Ezekiel prophecies and flesh come upon the bones, flesh but not spirit.
37:9-11 God tells Ezekiel to prophecy spirit; he does and the spirit enters the fleshed bones. The spirit needs additional incentive. Thus God and Ezekiel do this together in an odd combination.
37:12 God says these bones represent the house of Israel; thus suggesting that this is a parable. Not many Jews believe in the resurrection of the body, but most of us believe in the resurrection of the spirit.
Verse 24 in chapter 36, (the verse in the President's house in Jerusalem) combined with verse 37:11-12 are an extraordinary vision of coming home. But after the holocaust when even our bones were burnt and Dante's vision of abandon hope in front of hell seems more appropriate. The author of Hatikvah knew Ezekiel when he wrote ‘lo avda tikvatenu’ our hope is not lost. However he died in 1909. Would he have written that after the holocaust? Yes if he seen the establishment of the state of Israel.
37:15-22 Ezekiel is told to take tablet and write upon it for Judah and a second write for Joseph's Ephraim and hold the two together. This suggests that in the messianic age the lost tribes which were headed by Ephraim will come together and there will be one nation. It also is the first place that is interpreted as the coming of two messiahs; the Messiah ben Joseph and the Messiah ben David. This is first mentioned in the Talmud Succoth (52a) and then by the Saadia Goan. The Talmud says the Messiah ben Joseph will die fighting perhaps in the apocalyptic war envisioned by Ezekiel in chapter 38.
1 Couperous, L., The Imagined Life, quoted in Rizzuto, pg. 176.
2 BT Baba Batra. Despite the Temple not being destroyed during the lifetime of Hosea, is it possible that the saying could apply anyway?
3 Greenberg, Moshe, Ezekiel, (The Anchor Bible, Doubleday, N.Y., Vol. 1,1983, Vol. 2, 1997).
4 Kaufmann, Y., translated by Moshe Greenberg, The Religion of Israel (Schocken Books, N.Y., 1972) pg. 429.
5 Did Paul, the Gospel writer know of this?
6 Zimmerli calls him a ‘cult prophet’, in Zimmerli, W., Ezekiel, Translated by R.E. Clements, Volume I and II (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1969) Vol. I, pg. 39, 77, also in Carley, K.W., Ezekiel Among the Prophets, (SCM, London, 1975).
7 Green berg, Vol. I, pg. 299.
8 Joyce, Paul, Divine Initiative and Human Response in Ezekiel, (JSOT, vol. 51, Sheffield University Press, Sheffield) pg. 89. Also Zimmerli, Ezekiel, Vol. I, pg. 39.
9 Joyce, pg. 97-98.
10 Zimmerli, Ezekiel, Vol. II, pgs. 556-558.
11 Wells, J.B., God’s Holy People, (JSOT, Vol. 305, Sheffield, 2000) pg. 170.
12 Ezekiel uses the reference ‘for the sake of my holy name’ fourteen times. Wells, God’s Holy People, pg. 170.
13 Wells, ‘God’s Holy People’ Pg. 165 – 167 and see footnotes 17-28.
14 Zimmerli, Ezekiel, pg. 82.
15 Davis, E., Swallowing the Scroll, (JSOT, Vol. 78, Sheffield University Press), and Davis, E., Swallowing Hard in Exum, Signs pg. 225 and pgs. 217-237.
16 Halperin, D.J., Seeking Ezekiel, (Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1993) pgs. 58-64.
17 Halperin, pg. 87.
18 BT Yoma 77a, Sukkah 53b, Kiddushin 72b
19 Quoted in Halperin pg. 130.
20 Pesika de Rabbi Kahana, Zahbor no. 11, quoted in Halperin, pg. 132.
21 Halperin, pg. 133.
22 Galambush, J., Jerusalem In The Book Of Ezekiel, (Scholars Press, Atlanta, GA, 1992) pg. 66.
23 Galambush pg. 67.
24 Becking, B. and Dijkstram, M., Eds. On Reading Prophetic Texts, (E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1996) article by R.D. Carrol, pg. 74.
25 See Halperin, pg. 150-151.
26 Galambush, pg. 73.
27 Halperin, pg. 153.
28 Eilberg-Schwartz, H., The Savage in Judaism, (Indiana Press, Bloomington, 1990) pg. 174-175.
29 Mishna, Megilla 4:10, Tosefot, Megilla 3(4):34, also in PT Megillah 4:12, and BT Megillah 25b, quoted in Halperin, pg. 142.
30 Galambush, pg. 102.
31 Galambush, pg. 79.
32 The Hebrew word ‘tsovav’ has many different translations, but all seem complimentary to woman. See Bernard Anderson, ‘The Land Has Created Something New’ in CBQ, 40, no. 4, 1978.
33 The article by Fokkelein Van Dijk-Hemmes on ‘The Metaphorization of Woman in Prophetic Speech: An Analysis of Ezekiel 23' further defines this position. It should be clear that the Bible as a whole does not endorse the misogynist position. The number of women who are wiser, more courageous or more powerful than the men they compete with include as least the following: 1. Esther vs. Haman (The Book of Esther) ; 2. Shiphrah and Puah vs. The Pharaoh (Ex. 1:15) 3. Tamar vs. Judah (Gen. 38:1- 30); 4. Zipporah (Ex. 4:24-26) 5. Delilah vs. Samson (Jud. 16:4-20); 6. Michel vs. Saul (1 Sam. 19:11-17); 7. Bathsheba vs. David (1 Kings 1:11-21); 8. Jael vs. Sisero (Jud. 4;17-22); 9. an unknown woman vs. Abimelech (Jud. 9:33-35); 10. Rebecca vs. Isaac (Gen. 27:1-29) and the women who are simply wise regardless of men 1. Ruth and Naomi (Book of Ruth); 2. the wise woman of Tekoah; 3. the wise woman of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Sam. 20:14-22); 4. the Judge Prophetess Deborah (Jud. 4:3-10); 5. Rahab (Jud. 2:4-6); 6. Jephthah daughter (Jud. 11:35-39) and many others.
34 Wellhausen, J., History of Ancient Israel, (Peter Smith, Glouster Ma., 1983).
35 Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, Translated by Shlomo Pines, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1963) pgs. 403-407.
36 Davis, Swallowing.
37 It is of note that the Talmud states that of the fifteen prophets only Jeremiah wrote his book. ‘The men of the Great Synagogue wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel and Esther’ BT Baba Bathra 14b-15a. Why they determined that Jeremiah wrote his own book and not Ezekiel is not stated. The author believes it has to do with the conflict over his canonization. One of their many problems with Ezekiel was there concern that prophecy could take place out of the land of Israel. By stating that Jeremiah wrote his own book they were stating that his description of the evils in Jerusalem where he lived was more accurate that Ezekiel’s. Perhaps they believed that a prophet called Ezekiel lived and was describing the Jerusalem of King Manasseh.
38 While most scholars analyze chapter 18 as specifying individual responsibility a few believe that Ezekiel is using individuals to symbolize corporate responsibility, see Joyce noted above and McKeating, H., Ezekiel, (JSOT, Sheffield University Press, 1993) pgs. 83-85.
39 Torrey, C.C., Pseudo-Ezekiel And The Original Prophecy, Prolegemenon, By Moshe Greenberg (Ktav Publishing House, N.Y. 1970), pg. XXVII-XXIX.
40 Mckeating, H., Ezekiel, (JSOT, Sheffield Press, 1993) pg. 86.
41 McKeating pg. 86.
42 McKeating pg. 88.
43 Greenberg, Vol. I, pg. 341. If Job can be seen as the successor of Jeremiah, Ezekiel is the successor of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.
44 Unterman, J., From Repentance to Redemption, (JSOT series #54, Sheffield, ) pg. 169.
45 Mckeating, pg. 101-103.
46 BT Men 45a.
47 B.T. Temurah 16a, Shabbat 104a, Megillah 3a and Yoma 80a.
48 Niehaus, J.J., God at Sinai, Paternoster Press, Carlisle, U.K., pg. 254-254
49 Mechilta to Exodus xv, 2, quoted in the Soncino Ezekiel, Commentary by Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch, (Soncino Press, London, 1970).
50 BT Hagigah 13b. William Blake, the mystical poet and artist of the eighteenth century and one of the very few to illustrate Ezekiel’s vision, wrote in his ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ about a dinner meeting with Isaiah and Ezekiel. Blake asked them about speaking to God. Isaiah responded ‘I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discovered the infinite in everything’. Ezekiel responded ‘Israel taught that the Poetic Genius (as you now call it) was the first principle and all the others merely derivative’. Quoted by Meira Polliack, in ‘Ezekiel and its Role in Subsequent Jewish Mystical Thought and Tradition’, in European Judaism, Vol. 32, No. 1, Spring 1999, pg. 76.
51 BT Hagigah 13a
52 Zohar iii idra rabba pg. 144a.
53 Maimonides, The Guide, pg. 416.
54 Davis, Exum, Signs, pg. 228.
55 BT Men 45a.
56 Davis, Exum, Signs, pg. 228
57 Davis, Exum, Signs, pg. 229-230.
58 McKeating, Ezekiel, pg. 95-96.
59 Other visions include 3:1-3; 11:25; 12:27; 37:1-14; chapters 40:1-4 through (47:1-12) 48.
60 The term becomes important when Daniel sees a ‘ben Enosh’ the Aramaic of ‘son of man’ in the clouds and then when Jesus chooses it as his favorite title for himself.