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THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET
E Z EK I EL.
EZEKIEL, like Jeremiah, was of the sacerdotal race, and was one of the captives carried away, at the same time with Jehoiachin king of Judah, to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He was stationed with other captives at some place on the river Chebar; and it does not appear that he exercised the prophetic office until he had been removed from his own country. The thirtieth year, which he gives as the date of his first prophecy, is supposed by some to be the year of his own age; it was certainly, as explained in the second verse, equivalent to the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity, which leads Calmet to conjecture that it was rather the thirtieth year from the renewal of the covenant with God in the time of Josiah, as this was just thirty years prior to the time stated in the second and explanatory date. From a comparison of this date with that in chap. xxix. 17, it will appear that Ezekiel continued to prophesy nearly twenty-two years—the first being in the fifth year of his own captivity, and the last in the twenty-seventh. Thus Ezekiel, in Mesopotamia, did, during a very important period, prophesy contemporaneously with Jeremiah in Judæa ; but he began his prophecies later and continued them later than Jeremiah. As the predictions of the prophets, so distant from each other, referred in a very considerable degree to the same events, and were mutually corroborative, it is not unlikely, as Jerome conjectures, that the prophecies of Jeremiah were sent to Mesopotamia, and those of Ezekiel to Judæa, to give encouragement and confidence to the captive Jews, on the one hand, and, on the other, to reprove and leave without excuse those that remained in their own country.
Ezekiel is reputed by the traditionists to have presided in the government of the tribes of Gad and Asher in Assyria ; and among other fabulous miracles, is said to have punished them for idolatry by a visitation of fiery serpents. In addition to these old popular legends, it is alleged that his countrymen were so incensed against him as to put him to a cruel death. In the Lives of the Prophets, falsely ascribed to Epiphanius, it is described as the common belief that his remains were deposited in the same sepulchre with those of Shem and Arphaxad, which was supposed to be situated between the river Euphrates and the Chaboras, and which was much resorted to not only by the Jews, but also by the Medes and Persians, who reverenced the tomb of the prophet with extravagant devotion. The Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, who visited the place in A.D. 1173, gives a curious account of it, and of the synagogue connected with it. “This place is considered holy even to the present day, and is one of those to which people resort from remote countries in order to pray, particularly at the new year and the day of atonement. Great rejoicings take place there about this time, which are attended even by the Prince of the Captivity and the presidents of the colleges of Baghdad. The assembly is so large that their temporary abodes cover twenty-two miles of open ground, and attracts many Arabian merchants, who keep a market or fair. On the day of the atonement the proper lesson for the day is read from a very large manuscript Pentateuch of Ezekiel's handwriting. A lamp burns day and night in the sepulchre of the prophet, and has always been kept burning since the day he lighted it himself. A large house belonging to the sanctuary contains a very numerous collection of books, some of them as ancient as the second, some even coeval with the first, temple, it being the custom that whoever dies childless bequeaths his books to the sanctuary. The inhabitants of the country lead to the sepulchre all foreign Jews who come from Media and Persia, to visit, in consequence of vows which they have taken. The noble Mohammedans also resort thither to pray, because they hold the prophet Ezekiel, upon whom be peace! in great veneration : and they call this place Dar Malicha. The sepulchre is also visited by all devout Arabs. Even in time of war neither Jew nor Mohammedan ventures to spoil or profane the sepulchre of Ezekiel.' The tomb still subsists on the road from Babylon to Meshid Ali. It is a large clumsy building without beauty or ornament, and is still much frequented by Jewish pilgrims.
The principal object of Ezekiel's prophecies, according to their immediate and literal sense, is to rebuke the children of Israel for their idolatries and unbelief, and to announce—as Jeremiah had done before and was then doing the terrible judgments which the Lord would exercise upon
by the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. This is the general subject of the first twenty-four chapters. The eight chapters following embrace prophecies against the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, Tyrians, Sidonians, Egyptians, and Babylonians. These prophecies respecting foreign nations, besides the conclusive evidence which they furnish to all ages of the Divine authority by which the prophets spoke, were, by the speedy accomplishment of many of them, well calculated to assure the Hebrews of the certain fulfilment of those other prophecies in which they were themselves more immediately interested. The remainder of the book, again, relates principally to the Hebrews, who, after proper warnings and reproofs, are assured of their final and happy re-establishment in their own country.
There is a kind of unity in the arrangement of Ezekiel's prophecies which we do not remark in those of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The central point of the whole is the destruction of Jerusalem. Previous to that catastrophe the chief object of the prophet is to call to repentance those who were living in careless security; to warn them against indulging in blind confidence, that, by the help of the Egyptians (Ezek. xvii. 15-17; Jer. xxxvii. 7), the Babylonian yoke would be shaken off'; and to assure them that the destruction of their city and temple was inevitable and fast approaching: After this event his principal care is to console the captives by promises of future deliverance and restoration to their own land, and to encourage them by the assurance of future blessings. The predictions against foreign nations stand between these two great divisions, and were for the most part uttered in the interval of suspense between the divine intimation that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem (ch. xxiv. 2), and the arrival of the news that he had taken it (ch. xxxiii. 21). The predictions are manifestly arranged on a plan corresponding with these the chief subjects of them, and the time of their utterance is so frequently noted that there is little difficulty in arranging their chronological order. This order is followed throughout, except in the middle portion, relating to foreign nations, where it is in some cases departed from to secure greater unity of object. The arrangement is very evidently designed, and was probably made by Ezekiel himself. This is maintained by Hävernick (in the Introduction to his commentary on the book), on the following grounds: 1. The arrangement proceeds throughout on a plan corresponding with the subjects of the predictions. In those against foreign nations, chronological is united with material order, while in those which relate to Israel the order of time is strictly followed. 2. The predictions stand in such connection with each other that every part has reference to what has preceded it. 3. Historical notices are occasionally appended to the predictions, which could scarcely be done by a transcriber ; e.g. the notice respecting himself in chaps. xi., xxiv., XXV., and the close of xix., which Hävernick translates thus: “This is a lamentation, and was for a lamentation.' Gotch’s article EZEKIEL in Kitto's • Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature.'
The visions of Ezekiel, particularly those with which the book opens and terminates, have always been regarded, both by Jews and Christians, as very abstruse and of difficult interpretation,--so much so, indeed, that the former anciently forbade either of them to be read by persons under thirty years
The style and manner of this prophet is marked by a peculiar character of its own, which is easily distinguishable even in a translation. It is thus discriminated by Bishop Lowth :— Ezekiel is much inferior to Jeremiah in elegance; in sublimity he is not even excelled by Isaiah: but his sublimity is of a totally different kind. He is deep, vehement, tragical; the only sensation he affects to excite is the terrible: his sentiments are elevated, fervid, full of fire, indignant; his imagery is crowded, magnificent, terrific, sometimes almost to disgust; his language is pompous, solemn, austere, rough, and at times unpolished : he employs frequent repetitions, not for the sake of grace or elegance, but from the vehemence of passion and indignation. Whatever subject he treats of, that he sedulously pursues, from that he rarely departs, but cleaves as it were to it, whence the connection is in general evident and well preserved. In many respects he is perhaps excelled by the other prophets; but in that species of composition to which he seems by nature adapted, the forcible, the impetuous, the great and solemn, not one of the sacred writers is superior to him. Ilis diction is sufficiently perspicuous, all his obscurity consists in the nature of his subject.' This estimate has been objected to by some writers, and particularly by Michaelis, who can by no means allow that Ezekiel is equal in sublimity to Isaiah : but to such discussions about style and manner, it may be well to append the remark of Archbishop Newcome, that 'the holy prophet is not to be considered merely as a poet, or as a framer of those august and astonishing visions, and of those admirable poetical representations which he committed to writing ; but as an instrument in the hands of God, who vouchsafed to reveal himself through a long succession of ages, not only in divers parts constituting a magnificent and uniform whole, but also in divers manner, as by a voice, by dreams, by inspiration, and by plain or enigmatical vision.'
It is remarkable that there is no explicit reference to this large book or quotation from it in the New Testament. The following texts are indeed adduced by Eichhorn as having an apparent reference to it-Rom. ii. 14 to Ezek. xxxvi. 21; Rom. x. 5 and Gal. iii. 12 to Ezek. xx. 11;
2 Pet. iii. 4 to Ezek. xii. 22 ; but none of these are quotations. The closing visions of Ezekiel are, however, clearly referred to, though not quoted, in the closing chapters of the Apocalypse. The canonicity of the book is, moreover, well established by the testimony of the usual Jewish and Christian authorities. The prophecy of Ezekiel is distinctly referred to by the Son of Sirach (Ecclus. xlix. 8): 'It was Ezekiel who saw the glorious vision, which was shewed him upon the chariot of the cherubims.' Josephus also refers to it (Antiq. x. 5. 1; x. 6. 3; x. 7. 2; 8. 8. 2). It is also mentioned as forming part of the canon in the catalogues of Melito, Origen, Jerome, and the Talmud.
There are Jewish commentaries on the book of Ezekiel by Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Solomon ben Melech. Origen composed a large work on this prophet; but all we have of it are four Homilies translated into Latin by Jerome. Ephræm Syrus, Theodoret, and Jerome have left comnientaries on the book, of which the last is doubtless the best contribution to the knowledge of these important prophecies which the Fathers have bequeathed to us. Of more modern date the following works on this prophet may be named :-Ecolampadii Comment, in Ezechielem, Argent., 1534; Strigelii Ezechiel Propheta, ad Ebraicam veritatem recognitus, et Argumentis atque Scholiis illustratus, Lips., 1564; Calvini Prelectiones in Ezechielis Prophetæ, Genevæ,' 1565; Pinti Comment. in Ezech., Salamant., 1568; Heilbrunner, Ezechielis Prophetæ Vaticinia, etc., 1587; Pradi et Villalpandi in Ezechielem Explanationes, Romæ, 1596 ; Polanus, Comment. in Ezech., Basil, 1601 ; Junii Comment. in Ezech., Genevæ, 1609; Sanctii Comment. in Ezech., Basil, 1621; Greenhill, Exposition of the Prophecy of Ezekiel, Lond., 1649, 4 vols. 4to., reprinted in 1837 in I vol. 8vo.; Cocceii Comment. in Ezech., Lugd., 1668; Starckii Comment. in P. Ezechel, Francf., 1731; Volborth, Ezechiel aufs Neue aus dem Hebräischen übersetzt, etc., Goett., 1787 ; Newcome (Abp.), An Attempt towards an improved Version, a Metrical Arrangement, and an Explanation of the Prophet Ezekiel, Dublin, 1788: this has gone through several editions, and is the most popular separate commentary on the book in the English language; Venema, Lectiones Academicæ ad Ezecheliem, Leovard., 1790; Eichhorn, Ezechielis Vaticinia, Götting., 1818; M*Farlane, A Version of the Prophecies of Ezekiel, Edinb., 1845. [Der Prophet Ezechiel erklärt v. F. Hitzig, 1847; Fairbairn, Exposition of the Book of Ezekiel, 1851.]
year, in the
was about it, and out of the midst thereof as
the colour of amber, out of the midst of the 1 The time of Ezekiel's prophecy at Chebar. 4 His
fire. vision of four cherubims, 15 of the four wheels, 26
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the and of the glory of God.
likeness of four living creatures. And this OW it came
was their appearance; they had the likeness to
of a man. the thirtieth 6 And every one had four faces, and every
one had four wings. fourth month, 7 And their feet were 'straight feet; the in the fifth sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's day of the foot : and they sparkled like the colour of month, as I burnished brass.
among 8 And they had the hands of a man under the 'captives their wings on their four sides; and they four by the river had their faces and their wings. of Chebar, 9 Their wings were joined one to another ;
that the hea- they turned not when they went; they went vens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
every one straight forward. 2 In the fifth day of the month, which was 10 As for the likeness of their faces, they the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity, four had the face of a man, and the face of a
3 The word of the LORD came expressly lion, on the right side : and they four had the unto * Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in face of an ox on the left side ; they four also the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; | had the face of an eagle. and the hand of the LORD was there upon him. 11 Thus were their faces : and their wings
4 1 And I looked, and, behold, a whirl- were 'stretched upward ; two wings of every wind came out of the north, a great cloud, one were joined one to another, and two coand a fire 'infolding itself, and a brightness | vered their bodies. 1 Heb. captirity. 3 Heb. catching itself. 4 Heb. a straight foot. 5 Or, divided above,
? Heb. Jehezkel.
12 And they went every one straight for- up over against them: for the spirit ‘of the ward : whither the spirit was to go, they went; living creature was in the wheels. and they turned not when they went.
22 And the likeness of the firmament upon 13 As for the likeness of the living crea- the heads of the living creature was as the cotures, their appearance was like burning coals lour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth of fire, and like the appearance of lamps : it over their heads above. went up and down among the living creatures ; 23 And under the firmament were their and the fire was bright, and out of the fire wings straight, the one toward the other : went forth lightning
every one had two, which covered on this side, 14 And the living creatures ran and re- and every one had two, which covered on that turned as the appearance of a flash of light- side, their bodies. ning.
24 And when they went, I heard the noise 15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, of their wings, like the noise of great waters, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of creatures, with his four faces.
speech, as the noise of an host : when they 16 The appearance of the wheels and their stood, they let down their wings. work was like unto the colour of a beryl : and 25 And there was a voice from the firmathey four had one likeness: and their appear- ment that was over their heads, when they ance and their work was as it were a wheel in stood, and had let down their wings. the middle of a wheel.
26 T And above the firmament that was 17 When they went, they went upon their over their heads was the likeness of a throne, four sides: and they turned not when they as the appearance of a sapphire stone : and went.
upon the likeness of the throne was the like18 As for their rings, they were so high ness as the appearance of a man above upon it. that they were dreadful; and their frings 27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as were full of
eyes round about them four. the appearance of fire round about within it, 19 And when the living creatures went, froin the appearance of his loins even upward, the wheels went by them: and when the liv- and from the appearance of his loins even ing creatures were lifted up from the earth, downward, I saw as it were the appearance of the wheels were lifted up.
fire, and it had brightness round about. 20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, 28 As the appearance of the bow that is they went, thither was their spirit to go; and in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the apthe wheels were lifted up over against them: pearance of the brightness round about. This for the spirit ’of the living creature was in the was the appearance of the likeness of the glory wheels.
of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon 21. When those went, these went; and when my face, and I heard a voice of one that those stood, these stood; and when those were spake. lifted
7 Or, of life. 8 Or, of life.
6 Or, strakes.
Verse 1. • The river of Chebar.'- This is doubtless the river that still bears the name of Khabur-being the same Oriental name, differently represented in European orthography. It is the ouly stream of note that enters the Euphrates, which it does from Mesopotamia. It is formed by the junction of a number of little brooks, which have their source at Ras-ul-lin (once a considerable town but now in ruins), thirteen fursungs south-west from Merdin. It takes a southerly direction till it receives the waters of another river, equal to itself, when it beuds westward to the Euphrates, which it enters at Kerkesia, the ancient Circessium, which was the extreme boundary of the Roman empire in the time of Julian. This is about 280 miles to the north-west of Babylon. The river which the Khabur receives is the Hermes, or Nahr-el-Hlouali, to which the Greeks gave the name of Mygdonius. It rises in Mount Masius, near Merdin; and after washing the ruined ramparts of Nisibis, encircles the base of the mountain Sinjar, and finally disembogues itself into the Khabur. From this it appears clear that the band of captives to which Ezekiel belonged was settled in the
higher Mesopotamia, at a very considerable distance from Babylon. See Kinneir's Geographical Memoir of the Persian Empire, p. 244.
12. They went every one straight forward...they turned not when they went that is, having four faces, they could proceed towards either of the four cardinal points without turuing their bodies.
16. • Beryl.'--See the note on Exod. xxviii. 20.
16, 17. • A wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.'--It would appear from this that the form of the wheels was spherical, or each composed of two of equal size, and the rim of the one inserted into that of the other at right angles, and so consisting of four equal parts, or half circles. They were accordingly adapted to run either backward or forward, to the right hand or to the left, without any lateral turning; and by this means their motion corresponded to that of the four living creatures to which they were attached. Thus that they turned not when they went,' does not mean that they had not a
revolving or rotatory motion, but that, like the faces, resemblance of the pavement to crystal was not in colour they never forsook a straightforward course.
but in transparency, for the colour, as we see in v. 26, 22. “The firmament upon the heads of the living creature,' was like that of the sapphire stone, or the cerulean azure etc.—This firmament, or expansion,' was, as we see of the real firmament of heaven. Compare Exod. xxiv. from what follows, a splendid level pavement or flooring,
9, 10. of a crystal clearness, resting upon the heads of the living
23. ' And under the firmament were their wings straight, creature.
the one toward the other,' etc.—By this we are to under- The terrible crystal — The xpian nypa hak-kerach
stand that the wings of the whole four being in contact han-nora seems to have been a term of pre-eminence for with each other, formed a kind of curtain beneath the the diamond, for it is indeed an admirable crystal' for incumbent pavement, thus forming a magnificent living its brilliancy and hardness. The diamond is found in chariot. alluvial beds in India and Brazil, and also in the diamond
24. · When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, bed of clay in the former country underneath beds of red
like the noise of great waters...when they stood, they let down or bluish clay. The diamond reflects all the light falling
their wings.'—'The design of the prophet seems to be to on the posterior surface at an angle of incidence greater
shew the perfect obsequiousness of the living creatures to than 24' 13', whence we have the cause of its superior
the word of command, emanating from the throne above, brilliancy. When it is said that the firmament was as
and directing their movements. When the word was the colour of the terrible crystal, we must refer colour to
given to move, their wings were at once expanded, the rethe original, which is j'y?, as the eye' or splendour of the
sounding din was heard, and the glorious vehicle, instinct diamond, which is sometimes yellow, red, or green, but with life, rolled on in amazing majesty. Again, when colouring is not the remarkable feature of this gem, and the counter-mandate was heard, they instantly stayed seems therefore not to have been referred to here. It is themselves in mid-career, and relaxed their wings.—Bush, remarkable that in the Levant the diamond is called the
26. Sapphire. -See the note on Exod. xxiv. 10. eye of purity' (ain yaccut), whence Dr. Shaw also con
Amber,'-See the note on ch. viii. 2. cludes that the diamond is here to be understood. The [Appendix, No. 67.]
6 9 And thou, son of man, be not afraid
of them, neither be afraid of their words, 1 Ezekiel's commission. 6 His instruction. 9 The roll of his heavy prophecy.
though 'briers and thorns be with thee, and
thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.
though they be a rebellious house. 2 And the spirit entered into me when he 7 And thou shalt speak my words unto spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that them, whether they will hear, or whether they I heard him that spake unto me.
will forbear: for they are most rebellious. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send 8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that 'nation that hath rebelled against me: they rebellious house : open thy mouth, and 'eat and their fathers have transgressed against that I give thee. me, even unto this very day.
9 And when I looked, behold, an hand 4 For they are impudent children and stiff- was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book hearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou was therein ; shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. 10 And he spread it before me: and it was
5 And they, whether they will hear, or written within and without: and there was whether they will forbear, (for they are a re- written therein lamentations, and mourning; bellious house,) yet shall know that there hath and woe. been a prophet among them.
2 Heb. hard of face.
3 Or, rebels.
1 Heb. nations.
4 Heb. rcbcllion.
5 Revel. 10. 9.
Verse 10. · Written within and without. —This was not sometimes continued to the required extent on the other a common practice, the rolls which formed the ancient side, being the outer side, of the roll. Therefore that books being usually written on one side only. But when the roll was written on 'within and without,' implies that the matter to be written exceeded the calculation under it was redundantly full of lamentations, and mourning, which the skin was prepared or provided, the writing was and woe.'
that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak
unto the house of Israel.
2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused shutteth and openeth the prophet's mouth.
me to eat that roll.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this