KEY ELEMENTS TO UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL

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Chapter 3 Key Elements to Understanding the Book of Ezekiel

Introduction

Before I embark on the enquiry (Chapters 4 and 5) of the demarcated texts in Ezekiel, it is necessary to argue some of the key elements that form an understanding of this Old Testament prophetic book. These elements will serve as departure points for this study. The chapter will cover the following headings:
• The historical background of the prophecies in the book of Ezekiel.
• The quest for the historical prophet.
• The composition and final form of the book of Ezekiel.
• The Theological themes of the book.
• The priestly influence on the book.

The historical background

After the death of Solomon the years that followed, especially those years after 933 BCE when the kingdom split into a Northern and a Southern Kingdom, were years of steady decline. This decline was evident in every aspect of their national life. The moral and spiritual decay in the Northern Kingdom reached its pinnacle under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kgs 17:1 – 22:40) who reigned from about 874-853 BCE. But it was only 130 years later that Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, fell to the Assyrians in 722 BCE. Although Samaria was overthrown by the Assyrians, it was in the waning years of the Assyrian world dominance. A new power was rising. They were the Babylonians. The people of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) saw the decline of Assyria as a glimmer of hope pointing to the possibility of former glory. A young king by the name of Josiah was trying to reform Judah and to revive the kingdom spiritually, but also politically. He also tried to restore the former Davidic territory as well as the cultic reforms. He came into power in 640 BCE. His reforms set out to eradicate paganism and to promote YHWH worship. Some came to see him as a “second David” (Eybers 1977:171-177). The prophet Jeremiah (Jer 11; 22; 27-28) however criticized some of the people who were not sincere in their attempts27. The reforms were enacted but were superficial (cf. Cooper 1994:19-21; Drinkard 1996:160; Eybers 1977:172-177 and Hinson 1973:123).
When the “Book of the Covenant” was discovered in the temple in 622 BCE, Josiah used this to emphasize his reforms. This discovery gave momentum to the reforms and when Nineveh fell in 612 BCE, the people of Judah concluded that the reforms of Josiah were working. Unfortunately Josiah died on the battlefield in 609 BCE and with that ended any hope of restoration (cf. Cooper 1994: 22 and Hinson 1973:136). His son Eliakim replaced his brother Jehoahaz after only three months as the king of Judah. Pharaoh Neco took Jehoahaz captive and appointed Eliakim after changing his name to Jehoiakim (Jer 22:10-12; 2 Kgs 23:31-35). When Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Neco he forced Judah to become a vassal state of Babylon. Jehoiakim remained loyal but plotted to break the hold of Babylon and to gain independence again. When Nebuchadnezzar learned of these plans he made his way to Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died before Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Jerusalem. The circumstances surrounding his death are uncertain. He was captured, murdered or he committed suicide. His successor was his eighteen-year old son, Jehoiachin. Like his father, he had hopes of regaining independence from Babylon. He hoped that Egypt could be his ally in that regard. Again Nebuchadnezzar learned of these plans and removed him from the throne and deported a group of captives to Babylon. Among these captives was a soon to be priest by the name of Ezekiel. This was the first exile and happened in 597 BCE. Jehoiachin was replaced by his father’s brother Mattaniah (2 Kgs 24:17), who was given the name Zedekiah. Zedekiah joined in a widely spread rebellion led by Egypt. This also included Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon. Nebuchadnezzar moved quickly on Zedekiah and laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BCE. Zedekiah attempted to flee but was captured. Jerusalem fell in 587/586 BCE. Ezekiel learned of this finality (Ez 33:21) while already in Babylonian exile. This build up and the life in exile that followed, forms the historical background to the prophecies in Ezekiel (cf. Blenkinsopp 1990:10-12, Cooper 1994:22-23, Eybers 1977:180-185, Hinson 1973:136-139 and Mein 2001:54-59).

The quest for the historical prophet

The first verse of the book itself (Ez 1:1) places Ezekiel among a Jewish group of exiles in Babylonia. It reads that, “I was among the exiles by the Kebar River”. This over time has become a matter of debate. Some proposed that a historical figure was not necessary to produce the book. Many however regarded Ezekiel as a historical figure. This according to de Jong (2007:5) is a mistake made on “a priori assumption” that behind every prophetic book there is a historical prophet. He argues:
Surely it is possible that there was a priest called Ezekiel among the exiles of 597 BCE who played some role of importance among the first generation of exiles. The point is, however, that it may not be possible to determine with any plausibility the relation between the Ezekiel in the book and the Ezekiel behind it. Ezekiel in the book is a literary, theological creation, a paradigmatic figure, which functions as a model for the readers (2007:5).
He elaborates on this by seeing Ezekiel as the main narrator of the book. This narrator is set in between dates where he experiences different things. For de Jong (2007:6) the role of Ezekiel is more passive and that YHWH is the one who speaks and acts. As a narrator, Ezekiel’s task is twofold: Firstly he is appointed as a watchman whose task is to announce disaster and to herald the future and secondly he functions as a paradigm28 for the readers. In contrast the audience in the book serves as an anti-paradigm. Ezekiel listens and acts on YHWH’s words while the audience do the opposite. The readers must emulate the actions of Ezekiel rather than those of the audience. He continues to argue this by discussing certain texts (Ez 12:1-6 and 24:15-24) and showing how these roles come together in Chapter 37. In conclusion he holds that the book of Ezekiel uses a prophetic figure “as a way of presenting YHWH’s words and actions, to bestow the highest authority on what the author wants to say to his community” (de Jongh 2007:15).
This is not an entirely new viewpoint, seeing that scholars like Torrey (1934) and van den Born (1954) held this view. They not only felt that prophets like Ezekiel might have been literary figures, but argued that the whole narrative of the exile that we find in Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah were largely figments of romantic imagination. This did not gain a lot of support, especially when archaeological discoveries of Babylonian palace records dispelled most of these assumptions. These records attested to figures like Jehoiachin the king of Judah and his exiles (cf. Vawter & Hoppe 1991:11). For me de Jong’s viewpoint means that we have to disregard the volumes of redaction critical work that has been done on the book. A position like his suggests that one author, in one period, must have produced this literary work. It ignores then the critical consensus that is held and that was stated aptly by McKeating (1993:31-32) when discussing the different positions of authorship in the book of Ezekiel: “So diverse were they that almost the only thing about Ezekiel on which scholars appeared to be agreed was that the book did not bear the stamp of a single mind.”
Most scholars tend to agree on the fact that the book of Ezekiel bears, to a great extent (given later redactions), the legacy of the priest Ezekiel who was among the exiles from 597 BCE (first deportation) up until and after 586 BCE. This deportation included king Jehoiachin and a group of Zadokite priests. Vawter and Hoppe (1991:11) go as far as to say that there is “no doubt there was a prophet Ezekiel. This prophet was active from the time of the first deportation to Babylon.” The real problem that arises is one that the book creates itself. It is a problem of location. This problem of location has led scholars to seek alternative means of understanding the historical prophet. In Ezekiel 1:3; 3:15 and 3:24 the author makes it clear that Ezekiel is called to be a prophet to the exilic community. We are not sure of any travels between Babylon and Jerusalem, but it is clear that Ezekiel has an intimate knowledge of the city and of what was happening in the city. Also many of his oracles are occupied with the city and its inhabitants. A hypothesis of Ezekiel being active in Jerusalem between 597 and 586 BCE and then in Babylon fails to hold its own. This again reduces Ezekiel to partly a fictional character.
The many later redactions that run deep and throughout this book explain this “dual locality” of the prophet. A later redactor, with hindsight, can easily describe the death of Pelatiah, the son of Benaiah, in Jerusalem at the very same time that Ezekiel was prophesying against the temple. It is not necessary to come up with some hypothesis of clairvoyance or to dilute this prophet to a literary figure (Vawter & Hoppe 1991:12).
It is then my assumption that Ezekiel was a historical figure captured and taken into exile in 597 BCE and that his location was in Babylon as he and the book claim. On this matter Scheffler (2008:173) agrees. For him the book of Ezekiel, apart from later redactions, can be accredited to the famous exilic prophet and Zadokite priest that bears its name.

The composition and final form of the book Ezekiel

In general the authorship and composition of the book was not widely challenged for many centuries. Cooper (1994:31-32) gives six reasons:
• As a unit the book is well-organized and balanced, and flows without any uneasy breaks from chapters 1-48.
• There is uniformity in language and style. This is usually the characteristic of a book with a single author. At least forty-seven phrases have been identified that recur throughout the book.
• The book is autobiographical in nature and uses the first person singular (except 1:3, 24:24) throughout. Books like Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea and Zechariah combine first and third person.
• The prophecies are chronological and at least fourteen of them are dated prophecies.
• The book has a structural balance. For example there is a difference in prophecies prior to the news of Jerusalem’s fall (Ez 33:21) and those that followed. The first half contains many prophecies of judgment and concludes with the fall of Jerusalem, while the second half of the book contains prophecies of hope and encouragement and concludes with the realization of a “new Jerusalem”.
• Finally there seems to be consensus that the character and personality of the prophet remains the same throughout the book.
Cooper (1994:34) further holds that although the evidence of editorial overworking is indisputable, that does not change the basic content and plan of the book.
Zimmerli (1979:70) suggested that we have two types of texts in the book. On the one hand you have the original kernel. This he calls the “Grundtext”. This may have been written or even edited by the prophet himself. Nevertheless he does not feel that Ezekiel was the person who was responsible for the final composition of the book. In his opinion the material was continually reworked and supplemented by a school of disciples that had its origin in Ezekiel’s house. This part of the material he calls the “Nachinterpretation”. The meticulous care with which this extant material was arranged attests to the loyalty that these later redactors must have had to the prophet himself. For Greenberg (1983:134)29, the other big contributor to the Ezekiel studies, the book is a product of a single mind and his conclusion is straightforward when he announces: “I could find nothing on the book of Ezekiel that necessitates supposing another hand than that of a prophet of the sixth century.”
It might be fair to say that these positions that have been discussed above and the many others that agree or disagree with either one of them have effectively over the last fifty years cancelled each other out. Leaving the critical view almost as it had been at the turn of the nineteenth century! Cooper (1994:36-37) feels that the work that has been done more recently on the language of Ezekiel also confirms the book as predominantly the work of the prophet Ezekiel himself. These latest contributions that Cooper refers to showed with the help of a detailed analysis that the language of Ezekiel was typical of a language in transition, having characteristics of early biblical Hebrew and some influences of Aramaic. This transition in language patterns also suggests that the book was a product of the sixth century BCE when Ezekiel performed his ministry. It was in this time that the Hebrew language of the book Ezekiel started its transition.
The balanced conclusion on this has to be an “and” rather than an “either or” approach. With this I mean, that rather than suggesting that the book has been the work of one person, or suggesting that the book was a composition of many contributors, this study will assume the following: That the book of Ezekiel is largely the work of the prophet himself and that of later exilic editors. On this position there is agreement amongst many scholars. Among them are: Blenkinsopp (1990), Cooper (1994), Dillard and Longman (1994), and Mein (2001).
The final composition of the book has to be understood the way all prophetic books are understood. Prophecies were in general spoken and heard by the audience and not written and then read by the readers. Literary accounts of prophecies were always something that happened later in much the same way as happened with the Gospel accounts of the New Testament prophet we know as Jesus. For Vawter and Hoppe (1991:5-10) this is also true of Ezekiel. The literary work of the book followed after the actual performance of the prophet himself. Those who wrote it down elaborated and expanded on the original words of the prophet. This left us with the original words of Ezekiel and a complex intertwining of other material in and around it. Again the work of Walter Zimmerli cannot be denied. He (1979:69-77) suggests three stages on how the book took shape:
First stage: Oral stage. From his calling (2:2) till the vision of the new temple (40:4) Ezekiel received orders from YHWH to speak his words. This is detectable in the form of his prophecies. The rhythm and the form were meant for the ear and not the eye. These more rhythmic parts of the book are still evident. It was only in chapter 43:11 that Ezekiel was told by YHWH to write his words down.
His oral communications happened many times in his own home (8:1; 11:25; 14:1; 20:1) where many of the leaders came to visit him.
Second stage: Writing stage. The prophet himself to a lesser extent than his disciples, started to write down these words. It is assumed that a school of disciples met in his home to meditate on his words and to write them down. These disciples added commentary and elaborated on some of the themes. Ezekiel 16:1-6330 is an example of this with verses 44-58 and 59-63 being later additions. These additions did strengthen the original theme, but also adapted it to new realities.
Third stage: This was a longer and more tedious stage, where the editors tried to unify the different units with each other. They started by using catch phrases to unify certain units. For example, phrases like “oath” and “covenant” in 16:59 were used to unify it with chapter 17 where the same catch phrases (17:11-21) appear. Some units were moved in between previous units because they shared the same theme. Chapter 17:1-22 and 19:1-14 was a unit but was split up with the addition of 18:1-32. The chapters 17 and 19 units deal with judgment while chapter 18 explains how one’s choices bring about one’s own judgment. In this stage the visions were arranged in a manner where every vision was followed by a symbolic act. Another example of this late redaction was the addition of a sixth prophecy against Egypt in chapter 29:17-21 and another to move these oracles to the perfect number of seven. Finally, this stage was also responsible for the dating of many of the prophecies to create a chronological flow to the book. The prophet himself might have been involved with this redaction up until 573 BCE, but the final product was completed by his “prophetic school” more or less by the time of the inauguration of the new temple in 515 BCE.
It is difficult to ignore the conclusions of Zimmerli. What is true: His work and benchmark study on the book of Ezekiel was done in such detail that returning to an era that is “pre-Zimmerli” is almost unimaginable.
Another observation needs to be raised. It is the book in its current form that needs study and hermeneutical interpretation. When modern-day communicators are asked to communicate from an Old Testament perspective and in particular with the help of the imaginings of Ezekiel, it is the text in its current form that becomes relevant.
Finally, this thesis tries to build a theory for imagining in a changing modern-day reality from the communications of the prophet Ezekiel. It will look at his words and the effect his words had on his audience during exile. For this reason a good understanding of the theology of the book is necessary.

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The theological themes of the book

The theology of Ezekiel finds its roots in the reality of the exile. It was a time when the faith of Israel was in crisis. A period where the monarchy had failed them and the exilic experience compounded this tragic time in Judah’s history. Over a period stretching from 597 BCE up until 515 BCE the theological themes of the book takes shape, but also evolved and changed. According to Scheffler (2008:174-176) the message of Ezekiel must be understood in four phases. These phases were:
• The time of the first deportation (597-586 BCE). During this phase Ezekiel was mainly a prophet of doom, trying to make it clear that they were experiencing judgment that they brought upon themselves. Unlike his contemporary Jeremiah, who condemned the moral and ethical decay, Ezekiel felt strongly that the ignoring of, and the things that went wrong in their worship, (the things that happened at the temple) were the main reason for their dilemma. In this his priestly influence was evident.
• A pivotal point (mentioned earlier) is evident in the attitude of the prophet after the news that Jerusalem had fallen (586 BCE) and that any hope of rescue had died with some of its inhabitants. His attitude changed from one of judgment, to one of sympathy. It might have something to do with the death of his wife and the fact that his fate depended now solely on his fellow exiles. Nevertheless the prophet’s messages now started to qualify YHWH’s people for salvation and redemption. Important to note here is that this salvation has now moved to the level of the individual. Further, as part of YHWH’s global preparation to save them, the prophet starts to deliver oracles against other nations. These nations were Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt (Ez 25-32).
• By 571 BCE the mood amongst the exiles reached a low point. During this period the prophet more openly and directly started to communicate salvation and liberation. He sees himself as the “watchman” (Ez 33:1-20) and YHWH being the shepherd (34:1-31) that will look after his people.
The rise and restoration of the people is depicted by the vision in “the valley of the dry bones” (37:1-14) and the unification of the former Southern and Northern Kingdom in verses 15-28.
• In the final phase (Ez 40-48) of the book, Ezekiel starts to give the blueprint for this new community that is soon to come out of exile back into their homeland. In this new reality there will be a new vision, a new temple, a new cult and a new land. A new community that functions autonomously from the state and where the temple forms the central point. This temple will be inhabited by YHWH and the priests would play a leading role in the temple and in society. The Zadokites and the Levites would be the elected priests. The Zadokite priests would be responsible for the more important tasks and they would be assisted by the Levites.
More on this priestly influence on the Ezekiel book later.
With this as background I will now look at some of the major theological themes of the book.
The first important theological theme of the book according to Le Roux (1987:189) is YHWH’s uniqueness. This is shown by the mighty opening vision at the beginning of the book. The prophet’s words are insufficient to describe this awesome God. This God is real and has been let down by his people. On this Cooper (1994:44) agrees, as he mentions the reality of God as the first theological theme of the book. This real God is about to judge the infidelity of his people. I would add that, judgment, on the grounds of YHWH’s uniqueness, forms the first major theological theme of the book. One cannot sugar coat the fact that YHWH’s judgment takes centre stage in the first half of the book. Vawter and Hoppe (1991:14) do not agree that YHWH’s uniqueness as such is the departure point for the first theological theme of the book. To them it is the prophet’s own experience of exile. He needed to make sense out of this tragedy. To him this had to be judgment from YHWH for something Israel had done. The finality of this judgment would be the destruction of the nation and the fall of the temple (cf. Drinkard 1996:163). The sins and wrongful deeds of Israel-Judah inevitably become the next major theme of the Ezekiel book. Block (1997:47-60) more or less agrees on this, but put his emphasis on the unique relationship that YHWH holds with his people: “the God that confronts the reader in this book is first and foremost the God of Israel, not only passionate about his relationship with his people but also willing to stake his reputation on their fame and fortune” (:47).
The sins and rebellion of Israel were the reason for their current predicament. Vawter and Hoppe (1991:14) state that “no other prophet pronounces as negative a verdict on all of Israel’s history as does Ezekiel.” The history of Israel’s failure to obey and constant violation of trust is traced extensively in Chapters 16; 20 and 23. These chapters make it clear in no uncertain terms that YHWH’s judgment is justified. The one who has always stayed true in the relation has been betrayed, much like a spouse that was betrayed by a string of affairs. Brueggemann (2003:194) describes this infidelity very vividly:
These are remarkable rereadings of that long history, not only because it is a history of failure, but because the relationship of YHWH and Israel is imagined as an intimate relationship that became erotic, and that in turn became obscene in ways that display all of the distortions and betrayals of which an erotic relationship is capable.
The worst of all Israel’s offences were their cultic offences31. On this Ezekiel elaborates in chapters 6:13; 20:12, 24, 28 and 23:37-38. An important observation is necessary on this theme of sin and rebellion. This observation deals with the metaphor in chapter 18:2:
“What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live, » says the Lord GOD, « you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die. “
The responsibility of the individual enjoys a new perspective in the theology of Ezekiel. For years the tradition was that the punishment for the wrongdoings of the fathers would be visited on the children. Personal accountability becomes a result of a new personal relationship with YHWH. This “new personal relationship with YHWH” becomes part of his message of hope later in the book.
Between judgment and sin on the one side as theological themes and restoration and hope becoming themes later, it would be strange if repentance were not also in amongst the major theological themes of the book. This call to repentance would “not stop the impending judgment, but would lay the foundation for future restoration” (Drinkard 1996:163). This repentance is also an elaboration on the theme of personal accountability that Ezekiel introduced in chapter 18. In relation to this personal accountability, the prophet sees himself as a watchman to his generation (chapters 3 and 33). He will warn them and exhort them and “those who heed his warning and act on his exhortations will be ready to live in the future that God’s power is bringing into existence” (Vawter & Hoppe 1991:15).
It is after the fall of Jerusalem that Ezekiel starts to proclaim a new future and restoration. The first half of the book (before the “Oracles Against the Nations” part) ends with a decisive proclamation: “I am YHWH” (Ez 24:27). For Brueggemann (2003:197) this marks a major hinge in the book. YHWH’s name has been vindicated and restored and the prophet can now turn to newness. Up to now he was only hinting at the idea of a new future and restoration. After dealing with and handing out judgment to the other nations that defiled YHWH and mistreated Israel, Ezekiel starts to proclaim salvation to Israel. Before the prophet gives a blueprint imagination of the new community back in their homeland, he uses a few remarkable passages to establish this new community. Ezekiel 34:1-10 revisits the failed monarchy and uses the metaphor of a “shepherd”. The sum total of this passage’s assessment of the kings is that the self-aggrandizing kings (shepherds) have caused the sheep (Israel) to be scattered (exile) (Brueggemann 2003:199). By 34:11 it turns to hope and the rest of the chapter explains YHWH’s willingness to be the “good shepherd”. In chapter 36 something new is introduced that also shapes this new community. They are gathered and brought into their own land and given a new heart and the spirit of God. YHWH calls them his people and He promises to be their God (36:24-28). This however is not done for their sake or because of what they have done. It is for the sake (vindication) of YHWH’s holy name (36:22, 32). This new community is firstly one of which YHWH himself is the shepherd and secondly a community that will become something on the grounds of what YHWH has done. The third passage that defines this new community is the well-known “valley of the dry bones” text in chapter 37. This metaphor has been studied extensively in the scholarly work done on Ezekiel. It will again be studied in the next chapters. It forms a critical imagination of the desolate and scattered community (Israel in Exile) that it brought together and to life by the breath of YHWH (cf. Brueggemann 2003:199-201 and Dillard & Longmann 1994:325-6).
Chapters 40-48 build on this theological theme of a new future and restoration. It contains what Le Roux (1987:193) calls a “toekomsontwerp” (design for the future). Le Roux explains that it imagines a new Israel with new boundaries. Seven tribes must settle in the north while the other five would settle in the south. Judah that once held an important settlement amongst the southern tribes was now moved to the north. The city of Jerusalem will grow in prominence and within its walls the temple would be central to this new community. Needless to say the monarchy and democracy that disappointed and led them into exile would be replaced by a theocracy. In this newfound theocracy and temple-centred community the priests would play an important part. Two types of priest (as mentioned earlier) would feature: The Zadokites would handle all the important cultic duties while the Levites (of less prominence) would assist them with lesser duties. There would be a ruler in this new community, but his powers would be less than that of his predecessors.
Block (1997:51-55) summarizes the theology of Ezekiel concerning the people of God under three headings: Ezekiel’s perception of Israel’s past, Ezekiel’s perception of Israel’s present, and Ezekiel’s perception of Israel’s future. He illustrates that Ezekiel uses the very themes that he thrashed out in the first part of the book to give them a new hope for the future. These themes would be (1) Israel as a covenant people forever; (2) the land of Canaan as their homeland and territory forever; (3) the presence of YHWH in their midst forever; (4) YHWH’s commitment to his servant David forever.
A somewhat lesser covered theological theme that is found in the book of Ezekiel is that of the leaving and returning dAbK. (glory) of YHWH. This dAbK. leaves the temple (9:3; 10:19 and 11:22) in many of Ezekiel’s first visions, but later returns (43:4-5 and 44:4) to the temple, but also leaves the temple like a river and flows into the community (47:5-12). This phenomenon builds on the fact that YHWH is now God of all and everyone. This is a theme that is proposed by Vawter and Hoppe (1991:15) and is suggested by the formula” … that they (or ‘you’) will know that I am YHWH.”
Although I do not fully agree with some of the themes that Cooper (1994:45-50) suggests, especially his eschatological interpretation of Ezekiel 40-48, I agree with him that Ezekiel’s theology broadly covers the following four areas: The reality of YHWH, the reality of judgment, the reality of restoration and the reality of a new redeemed future (cf. Cooper 1994:44-45). This opinion is also held by Block as suggested above, but Block does not agree with an eschatological interpretation of Ezekiel. He notes that one needs to stick with the interpretation of the prophet’s own understanding of his oracles. An eschatological interpretation is therefore not likely in the mind of Ezekiel (cf. Block 1997:56). Cooper’s interpretation would suggest that Ezekiel’s message is largely an eschatological one. Therefore it needs to be interpreted and applied to the broader eschatological message of the Bible. According to him it then can be interpreted according to four hermeneutical frameworks that dominate the eschatological thinking landscape. They are: Dispensational Premillennialism (Christ’s second coming would mark the beginning of a visible kingdom here on earth), Historic Premillennialism (Christ’s reign has already started in an invisible form and that the Old Testament prophecies are being fulfilled by the church), Postmillennialism (much like Premillennialism, but many of the prophecies of Israel pertain to the church) an Amillennialism (no thousand years, but that Christ’s reign on earth is not an exclusive future event, but in the process of realization).
To me it was never the intention of a prophet like Ezekiel, trapped in exile, to tell tales of the end of the world and the second coming of the Christ. Old Testament texts were created to address the need of the immediate audience, not of those living almost three thousand years later. In no instance was the intention to help this audience figure out the permutations of the end times.
In conclusion the theology of Ezekiel spans a period of eighty-two years (597-515 BCE) and tried to make sense of the realities of exile. His prophecies advocated a theology that suggested that the exile was an instrument in the hands of YHWH to punish them for their wrongdoings. Their punishment was inevitable and those who repented would have part in the restoration process. The restoration imagined a new community that was brought about by YHWH and this community would organize themselves according to this truth.
When examining the theology of the Ezekiel book, the priestly influence is unmistakable. I will turn to this issue now because it forms a key element to understanding the theology of this book.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: OVERVIEW OF STUDY
1.1 Introduction
1.2 The actuality and relevance of the proposed study
1.3 Research Question
1.4 Methodology
1.5 Demarcation of the texts to be studied
1.6 Clarifying thematic words of the study
1.7 Chapters anticipated
CHAPTER 2: HISTORY OF RESEARCH IN EZEKIEL STUDIES
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Overview on Prophetic Criticism
2.3 Ezekiel Criticism as it stands
2.4 Summary
CHAPTER 3: KEY ELEMENTS TO UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The Historical Background
3.3 The Quest for the Historical Prophet
3.4 The composition and final form of the book Ezekiel
3.5 The theological themes of the Book
3.6 The priestly influence on the Book of Ezekiel
3.7 Summary
CHAPTER 4: STUDY OF SELECTED TEXTS FROM THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL PRIOR TO THE FALL OF JERUSALEM: THE JUDGMENT TEXTS.
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Ezekiel 6:1-14
4.3 Ezekiel 7:1-27
4.4 Ezekiel 16: 1-63
4.5 Observations on Ezekiel’s Communication from the Studied texts
4.6 Summary
CHAPTER 5: STUDY OF SELECTED TEXTS FROM THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL, POST THE FALL OF JERUSALEM: IMAGINATIONS OF HOPE.
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Ezekiel 34
5.3 Ezekiel 36:16-38
5.4 Ezekiel 37
5.5 Observations on Ezekiel’s Communication from the studied texts
5.6 Towards the next part of this study
CHAPTER 6: METAPHOR, IMAGINATION, AND PROPHETIC IMAGINATION
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Metaphor
6.3 Imagination
6.4 The work of Walter Brueggemann
6.5 Ezekiel: Prophet of Vivid Imagination
6.6 Summary
CHAPTER 7: EZEKIEL’S COMMUNICATION PROCESS
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Outdated Maps
7.3 Four suggested responses
7.4 Ezekiel’s Communication Process
7.5 Summary
CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSIONS
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Research Problem Addressed
8.3 Strategy employed to address the stated problem anew
8.4 Main Conclusions
8.5 Themes for further research
BIBLIOGRAPHY
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