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Archive for September, 2017

An Introduction to Ezekiel 33-39 and an Overview of Ezekiel 33

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 4, 2017

Note: The following is taken from a Protestant reference work, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. It provides a good overview of chapters 33-39. I’ve included a brief list of mostly Catholic resources on Ezekiel at the end.

Ch. 33–39. Prophecies of Israel’s Restoration and Eternal Peace

Only one date appears in connexion with these prophecies, that in Eze 33:21. Though this date does not stand at the beginning of ch. 33 seq., it may be held to indicate the time generally to which the whole seven chapters are to be assigned. There is something suspicious, however, in the date of the arrival of the fugitives—fifth day of tenth month of twelfth year—nearly, a year and a half after the fall of the city. The Syr. read or suggested eleventh year, which would leave about six months for the news of the city’s fall to be carried by messengers to the exiles in Babylon, and this date is now very generally accepted. The various chapters may not all belong to the same period. The dates throughout the book are little else than rubrics of a very general kind, under which, in default of more precise details, a number of discourses, extending over considerable periods, have been grouped. The occupation of part of the country by Edom (35:36) would not take place just close upon the fall of the kingdom; and perhaps the state of despondency of the people and their sense of sinfulness (Eze 33:10) was one which the fall of the country and the confirmation of the predictions of the prophet took some time to create in their minds. The precise dates are of little consequence, it is the general situation alone that is important. The fall of the city is presupposed (Eze 33:21), the overthrow of the royal house (Ezekiel 34), the extinction of the nationality (Ezekiel 37), the dispersion of the people among all nations (Eze 36:16 seq.), the occupation of part of the country by Edom and the neighbouring tribes (35; cf. Jeremiah 41), and the complete prostration of men’s minds under their calamities and the unbearable burden of the sin that had occasioned judgments so unparalleled (Lam 1:12; Lam 2:13; Lam 2:20, &c.). Only the prophet stood erect, while all others were overwhelmed in despair. The greatness of the blow had stunned them, and, as the prophet had foreshewn (Eze 24:23), a stupor had fallen on them. Yet the Lord had not made a full end of Israel. The old era was closed, but a new era was about to open, and a new Israel about to arise. It is of this new era that the prophet has now to speak, and of the hopes of the new Israel and of the conditions of being embraced in it. It is in these chapters that the prophet’s contributions to Old Testament theology are chiefly to be found. The passage contains these general conceptions:—

First, ch. 33. The function of the prophet in preparation for the new age. It is to awaken the moral mind, to create the sense of individual worth and responsibility, and to shew that the conditions of belonging to the new Israel are moral only. This chapter defines the place of the individual human mind, and its duties; the following chapters describe rather the divine operations in bringing in the new and perfect kingdom of the Lord.

Second, ch. 34. The royal house, the shepherds of the people, had destroyed alike themselves and the flock (17, Eze 19:14). The Lord himself will take in hand the gathering of his scattered sheep together, and the feeding of them henceforth; he will appoint his servant David to lead them.

Third, ch. 35–6. The land, the mountains of Israel, usurped by aliens, shall be rescued from their grasp and given again to the people as of old. The reproach of barrenness shall no longer cleave to it; the mountains of Israel shall shoot forth their branches and yield their fruit to the people, and man and beast shall be multiplied.

Fourth, ch. 37. The nation is dead and its bones bleached, but there shall be a resurrection of the dead people and a restoration of them to their own land. Two kingdoms shall no more exist there, but the Lord’s people shall be one, and his servant David shall be prince over them for ever.

Fifth, ch. 38–9. The peace of his people shall be perpetual. The Lord shall be their everlasting defence. When the armies of Gog come up from the uttermost regions of the earth, with all the nations which have not heard God’s fame nor seen his glory, to assail his people, drawn by the hope of boundless plunder, they shall be destroyed by fire out of heaven.

Ch. 33 The function of the Prophet

Though the prophet seems the chief figure in the chapter, he is really but the medium through whom the principles of the new kingdom of God and the conditions of entering it are enunciated. These principles are: (1) that God desires that men should live. (2) The new Israel shall be composed of members who enter it individually. (3) The condition of entering on man’s part is repentance. (4) Man is free to repent—to do good or do evil. The righteous may fall from his righteousness and sin; and the sinner may turn from his evil and do righteousness. He that doeth righteousness shall live; and the soul that sinneth shall die. These principles of the worth and freedom of the individual man, though latent in many parts of the Old Testament, had never been stated so explicitly before. They are no more than what all men will now allow. If pressed indeed and regarded as exhaustive (as everything in this prophet is pressed to his disadvantage), they might seem to ascribe more power to man than he possesses. But in subsequent chapters the prophet lays sufficient emphasis upon the operation of God in regenerating the individual mind and in founding the new kingdom. It would be a novelty indeed if an Old Testament writer were found ascribing too much to man and too little to God. There is a certain vagueness in the prophet’s delineation. It is evident that he is moving among religious principles, and that the enunciation of them is his chief interest; the time and circumstances in which they shall operate are left indefinite. When he says that the righteous shall live and the sinner die, the question, When? naturally occurs. No precise answer is given. But there floats before his view an approaching crisis. The advent of the new era presents itself as a moment of trial and decision; it is like the approach of war upon a people (Eze 33:1-6). The remarkable passage ch. Eze 20:33-44 may be compared in supplement of the present chapter.

The chapter contains these parts:

(1) Eze 33:1-6. Illustration taken from life—the part of the watchman in war. It is his duty to blow the trumpet when danger is coming. If he does so, the fate of those who hear will lie at their own door. If he fails, the blood of those that perish will be on his head.

(2) Eze 33:7-9. Such is the place of the prophet: the same his duties and responsibilities.

(3) Eze 33:10-20. This is the place of the prophet, but the state of the people’s mind is such that his warnings may be addressed to deaf ears. Their calamities have stunned and paralysed the people; they feel lying under an irrevocable doom, entailed upon them by their past history—our sins be upon us, we pine away in them; how, then, shall we live? Nothing is reserved for them but to bear the inexhaustible penalty of their past evil, until, like those in the wilderness, they fall prostrated beneath it. In answer to this stupor of despair comes the voice from heaven with two consoling words: first, that Jehovah has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but desires that all should turn and live; and secondly, it is not by that which men have been that they shall be judged, but by that which they shall become. The past writes no irrevocable doom over men.

(4) Eze 33:21-29. Fugitives from Judaea arrive among the exiles saying, the city is smitten. This confirmation of all the prophet’s past predictions opens his mouth and gives him boldness to address his countrymen. He proceeds to pass judgment on those left in the land, and to state anew that the conditions of inheriting the land are only moral.

(5) Eze 33:30-33. The confirmation which the fall of the city gave to the prophet’s past predictions awakened the interest of his fellow exiles in him and his words.

SUGGESTED RESOURCES:  Titles marked with a “P” refer to Protestant reference works; “E” indicates that the book in question is from an ecumenically oriented series; the author or editor(s) may or may not be Catholic; “O” indicates an Orthodox author or series.

St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study of Ezekiel. Currently in production. See the 2017 archives on the right hand side of the page. The series began in June and is ongoing.

The New Jerusalem Bible With Introduction and Notes. This is not the Readers Edition. The extensive footnotes provide valuable aid.

Navarre Bible Commentary: Major Prophets. Very popular and well received. Provides both theological and spiritual commentary.

“E” Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Ezekiel. A commentary series that seeks to interpret scripture in the light of the Nicene faith. This particular volume was authored by a Lutheran.

“E” Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Ezekiel and Daniel. Extensive quotations from the Fathers of the Church. For a brief summary of the purpose and intentions of this series, see here. Compilers of the individual books provide summaries and overviews but do not seek to interpret the Fathers.

“E” International Theological Commentary: A New Heart: A Commentary on the Book of Ezekiel. By Father Bruce Vawter and Father Leslie J. Hoppe. From the back cover: “The series aims, first, to develop the theological significance of the Old Testament and, second, to emphasize the relevance of each book for the life of the church.”

Ancient Christian Writers Series: Origen: Homilies 1-14 on Ezekiel. From Amazon: “In these homilies Origen endeavors to show his audience in the church of Caesarea how the text of Ezekiel points to and prefigures Jesus Christ and the church. Following in the footsteps of St. Paul (Rom 15.4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction… ) and Hebrews (10.1: For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come… ), Origen looks for the reality of Christ symbolized in the shadowy words of the prophet Ezekiel. The result is a deeply moving, reverent, and edifying exposition of the Old Testament prophet in a manner that doubtless would have been received with pleasure by St. Paul himself. The homilies are of intrinsic interest on important Christian themes such as persecution and martyrdom, purification, justification, progress, Church unity, God s passionate love for humanity, Catholic versus heretical doctrine, and freedom of the will. The present volume offers the first published English translation of the fourteen homilies, along with Jerome s preface.”

Ancient Christian Writers Series: St Jerome: Commentary on Ezekiel.

“P” Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible: Ezekiel.

“E” Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Prophets: Commentary on Ezekiel. Volume 2 of a three part series on Theodoret. Robert Hill was a leading Catholic Patristic scholar.

“O” The Homilies of St Gregory the Great on the Prophet Ezekiel.

“E” T & T Clark’s Approaches to Biblical Studies: An Introduction to the Study of Ezekiel. For the more advanced. From the publisher’s webpage: “These guides have been developed for those taking a course in biblical studies in theological or ministerial education, and are designed to introduce the reader to the various approaches to the study of the bible. The series is ecumenical, and all the writers are professionally engaged in the teaching of biblical studies.”

“E” Interpretation:  A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching: Ezekiel. Joseph Blenkinsopp is a well know Catholic biblical scholar who specializes in the Old Testament.

“E” Yale Anchor Bible Series: Ezekiel. The author is Jewish. The work is in three volumes.

 

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