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ancient versions, wherein with variations We know scarcely anything of Eze- in particular
texts the whole book is sub
An old Jewish trafrom the book that bears his name? Of dition asserts, that the book of Ezekiel the date and authorship of this book the great Council of state ; this Council
was settled and placed in the canon by there has scarcely been any serious ques- by special treaty, had charge over the formed part of the Hebrew canon of the religious and political affairs of the JewOld Testament. Josephus tells us that it Persians from the first year of Artaxerxes
ish nation, under the supremacy of the was one of the twenty-two canonical books. In one passage indeed the Jew- hemiah's mission to Jerusalem. It was
Longimanus (B.C. 444), the time of Neish historian says that Ezekiel wrote two
continued under the Greek supremacy books, and some have thought that this implies that a book of Ezekiel's has been of the Seleucidæ until the death of the
There is lost (Davidson's 'Introduction'). But high-priest Simon (B.C. 196). as we have no trace of any such book however good reason to believe that the and no statement of such a loss, we may times of the Persian supremacy. It was
mentioned pointed to the conclude that Josephus is speaking of two parts of the one book which we pos
not till several hundred years later that sess. This book is found in the most of this book”. (Fürst’s ‘Canon des Alt.
doubt was thrown on the canonicity 1 An apocryphal tradition says that he was · The canon of the Jewish Scriptures was exmardered by one of his fellow-exiles, and in the amined by the Rabbins about the time of the middle ages his tomb was shewn, distant a few destruction of Jerusalem. A question was raised days' journey from Bagdad, to which tomb Jews as to the authenticity of Ezekiel on the grounds from Parthia are said to have made pilgrimages of a supposed discrepancy between passages of (Winer). A legend, current among the Jews his writings and the teaching of the Pentateuch and early Christians (Hävernick), that he was -.g. xviii. 20, Exod. xx. 5, but this was a the son or servant of Jeremiah, arose, no doubt, mere critical discussion, and we are told that R. from the resemblance of his mission to that of Eleazar Ben Hanania solved the difficulty by the earlier prophet, and was perhaps not meant reconciling the passages objected to. (Derento be understood literally.
bourg's 'Palestine,' p. 295.) VOL. VI.
Test.' pp. 21 foll.) In recent times a and if, as is not unlikely, he entered critic has been here and there found to upon this office at the legal age of thirty, endeavour on purely subjective grounds he must have been about fourteen years to discredit the authenticity of one or of age when Josiah died. In this case two passages, but such criticisms have he could not have exercised the priestly been speedily answered on their own functions at Jerusalem ; but as his father grounds, and there is no need to revive was a priest (see on i. 3), he was no them'. We may assume then as an un- doubt brought up in the courts of the questionable fact that we have before temple, and so became familiar with its us the prophecy of Ezekiel as it was services and arrangements. Josephus accepted from the first by the Jewish says that Ezekiel was “a boy” (rais wv) Church; and accordingly we may proceed at the time of his exile, which, however, with confidence to gather, by a study of he by mistake identifies with the capits contents, such introductory informa- tivity of Jehoiakim instead of that of tion as may seem desirable, in reference Jehoiachin (Schroeder). This looks like to the circumstances and condition of confusing Ezekiel with Daniel; but it the prophet and of his countrymen. may mean that he was not at that time
of full age, i.e. not thirty years old.
We know from the book itself that II.
Ezekiel lived in a house of his own, was Ezekiel (Heb. Jechezk-el", God strength- married, and lost his wife in the ninth eneth or hardeneth) was the son of Buzi, year of his exile. Of the rest of his life a priest probably of the family of Zadok, we know nothing. which he mentions in more than one passage (xl. 46, xliii. 19, xliv. 15, 16) as
III. marked out among the sons of Levi to come near to the Lord to minister unto
The period during which Ezekiel proHim. Being one of those who went phesied in Chaldæa was signalized by into exile with Jehoiachin, when Nebu- the miserable reign of Zedekiah, ending chadnezzar carried away the priests and in his imprisonment and death, by the the princes and the mighty of the land destruction of the temple, the sack of Je(2 K. xxiv. 14), he would seem to have rusalem, and the final deportation of its belonged to the higher class, a suppo- inhabitants, by Gedaliah's short regency sition agreeing with the consideration over the poor remnant left behind in the accorded to him by his fellow-exiles (viii. country, his treacherous murder, and the 1, &c.).
flight of the conspirators, conveying JereThe chief scene of his ministry was
miah with them into Egypt, by NebuchadTel-Abib in Northern Mesopotamia, on nezzar's conquests in the neighbouring the river Chebar, along the banks of countries, and especially his prolonged which were the settlements of the exiles;
siege of Tyre. see on i. 3 and iii. 15.
The year in which Ezekiel delivered Of the place and date of Ezekiel's his prophecies against Egypt correbirth we have no record. It is proba- sponds with the first year: of the reign ble that he was born in or near Jerusa- of Pharaoh-Hophra, the Apries of Herolem, where he must certainly have lived
dotus. The accession of this king to many years before he was carried into the Egyptian throne affected very maexile. The date of his entering upon terially the future of the kingdom of the prophetical office is given in i. 1, Judah. Since the first capture of Jeruthe prophetical office is given in i. I, salem by Nebuchadnezzar the Jews had
1 Ewald remarks that the least observation found the service of the Chaldæans a must convince us that every portion of the book hard one, and were ready at any moment really came from Ezekiel's own hand. (Ewald, to rise and shake off the yoke. Zede• Introd.')
kiah, though the creature of the Baby· The name also occurs, in 1 Chro. xxiv. 16, as lonian monarch, shared the burden, and that of the head of one of 24 courses of minis. tering Levites. The Hebrew name there is could not but share the feelings of his identical with that of the prophet, but is expressed in English by Jehezekel.
3 See Note at end of chap. xxix.
subjects. Nor was the character of forced to retreat over the borders, and either people or king such that they offered no further resistance to the capwere likely to be restrained by the re- tor of Jerusalem (Jer. xxxvii. 5–8). It peated oaths of fidelity which they had was at this time that Ezekiel commenced made to Nebuchadnezzar. It was how- the series of prophecies against Egypt ever, clear that there was no hope of (xxix.—xxxii.), which were continued unsuccess from any combinations with til the blow fell upon that country which small neighbouring states enslaved like ended in the ruin and deposition of themselves. Egypt was the only power Pharaoh-Hophra, from which they could hope for effectual support. And Egypt had long been in
IV. active. The power of Necho was broken at Carchemish (Jer. xlvi. 2; 2 K. xxiv.
This book throws much light upon 7). Psammetichus II. (the Psammis of the condition and the feelings of the Herodotus), his son and successor, seems Jews both in the Holy Land and in to have been a feeble prince; he was, exile, and of the relation of the two moreover, occupied in an Ethiopian war parties to each other. during part of his reign (which lasted The seeds of the idolatry with which only seven years), but Hophra was of Manasseh had saturated the land, and a very different stamp. Herodotus tells which Josiah had in vain attempted us (11. 161) that no former king of Egypt thoroughly to root up, yet remained in except his great-grandfather, Psammeti- Jerusalem. Even among the priests and chus, was so prosperous in his under- in the temple the abominable worship of takings as Apries, that he reigned false gods was carried on, though in secret twenty-five years', in the course of which (viii
. 5 foll.). See Int, to Jer. p. 316. To he marched against Sidon and conducted the exiles, too, the hankering after idolan expedition by sea against the king of atry in some degree clung (xiv. 3 foll.), Tyre. It is clear that he was minded to though probably in a less decided degree. recover the ground which his grandfather Mixed up with this unfaithfulness to and father had lost in Palestine and in the true God there was yet prevalent Syria. Rumours of these designs had no a carnal and superstitious confidence in doubt reached the Jews, both in Jerusa- His disposition to protect the city and lem and in captivity, and they were people, once His own. Looking to watching their opportunity to break with nothing beyond outward and material Babylon and ally themselves with Egypt. things, they deemed that Jehovah was, as Against such alliance Ezekiel came for- it were, pledged to uphold His people ; ward to protest. He told his country- and utterly disregarding the conditional men that their hopes of safety lay not character of His promises, and the more in shaking off a yoke, which they could spiritual nature of His blessings, they not do without the grossest perjury, but satisfied themselves that the once gloriin repenting of their sins, and turning ous Jerusalem never would and never to the God of their fathers.
could be overthrown. False prophets The fallacy of the hopes entertained were ever at hand to support these deby the Jews of deliverance through lusions (xiii. 2 foll.), to which the exiles, Egypt was soon made manifest. În as well as those yet unremoved, clung the course of the final siege of Jeru- with a desperate pertinacity, even at the salem Hophra attempted a diversion very moment that Jerusalem was totterwhich proved unsuccessful. Nebuchad- ing to its fall. Hence arose the foolish Dezzar left the siege of Jerusalem to rebellions of Zedekiah, commencing in attack the Egyptians, who, if not de- reckless perjury, and terminating in cafeated in battle (as Josephus says they lamity and disgrace. were, ' Antiq. Jud.' x. 10), were at least Connected with this feeling was
strange reversal of the relative positions
of the exiles and of the Jews at home. 1 Herodotus is mistaken in the number of The great men had been deported, the years of Hophra's reign. Monuments shew this number to have been 19 not 25. See Note at
mean only left behind (2 K. xxiv. 14); end of ch. xxix,
but proud of their occupation of the
seat of material worship and dignity, the glory. He was to raise the drooping Jews at home soon affected to despise spirits of his countrymen by the prospect their exiled countrymen (xi. 13 foll.); and of a restoration, reaching far beyond a in this sentiment even the exiles them- return to their native soil; he was to selves seem to have acquiesced, under point to an inauguration of divine worthe impression that their position in a ship far more solemn than was to be seforeign land shewed them to be outcasts cured by the reconstruction of the city or and aliens in comparison with their more temple on its original site in its original favoured countrymen, yet in possession form, to point, in fact, to that dispensaof their home, and therefore Ezekiel had tion which temple, city and nation were to assure his fellow-exiles that to them intended to foreshadow and introduce. and not to the Jews in Palestine belong- But further, their condition was ined the enduring title of God's people tended, and was calculated, to stir their (xi. 16, 17, 20).
hearts to their very inmost depths, and
to awaken thoughts which must find V.
their answer in the messages charac
teristic of Gospel truth. In the law Though the voice of the prophet may there had been intimations of restorahave sounded back to the country which tion upon repentance (Deut. xxx. Ihe had left, Ezekiel's special mission was 10). But this idea is expanded by Ezeto those among whom he dwelt. He kiel (xviii.), and the operations of the had, in the first place, to convince them Holy Spirit are brought prominently forof God's utter abhorrence of idolatry, ward (xxxvii. 9, 10). A change of heart and of the sure and irrevocable doom viewed as the work of God, and conof those who practised it, and thus to sequent reconciliation with God, these persuade his hearers entirely to cast out are truths which Ezekiel was commisidols from their homes and from their sioned to declare (xxxvi. 26 foll.), and hearts. He had to shew that the Chal- for this reason he may be specially dæans were the instruments of God, described as the Gospel-prophet (see and that therefore resistance to them Note A, on xviii.). was both hopeless and unlawful, and so We must not forget to compare the teach his people to endure with patience mission of Ezekiel with that of his the lot which their own sins had made countryman, Jeremiah, who began his inevitable. He had next to destroy their prophetical office earlier, but continued presumptuous confidence in external it through the best part of the time privileges, and so to open their eyes during which Ezekiel himself laboured. to a truer sense of the nature of the Both had to deliver much the same divine promises, and, lastly, to raise their messages, and there is a marked simidrooping hearts by unfolding to them larity in their utterances, as Calvin has the true character of the divine govern- remarked. “It cannot be in the mere ment, and the end for which it was natural course of events, that the one administered
at Jerusalem, the other in Chaldæa, put The book of Ezekiel may be said in forth their prophecies as from one comthis respect to be the moral of the mon mouth, like two singers who answer captivity. For the captivity was not one another in alternate strains. And simply a divine judgment, but a prepa- never was there harmony sweeter and ration for a better state, an awakening of more complete, than that which we perhigher hopes. The state of exile brought ceive in these two servants of God.” But with it longings for, and expectations of, Jeremiah's mission was incomparably the restoration. These longings and expecta- more mournful one. It was his to cry tions it was Ezekiel's part to direct and aloud in vain, to be despised, rejected, satisfy. It was his to teach the progress and put to death. Ezekiel's task was a of the kingdom of God from the first call bitter one, for he had to denounce destrucof Abraham to the establishment of the tion and ruin upon the people and the kingdom of David, and to shew that this objects nearest to his heart. But permost triumphant period of his people's sonally he soon acquired respect and history was but a shadow of still greater attention, and if at first opposed, was at last listened to if not obeyed. He men. All descendants of Abraham were may have been instrumental, together again being drawn together as one with Daniel, in working that reforma- people, and this was to be effected by tion in the Jewish people, which certain- the separated members gathering again ly was to some extent effected during around the legitimate centre of governthe captivity; at all events he must ment and of worship, under the suprehave seen some symptoms of spiritual macy of Judah. This will account for renovation after the destruction of the the name of Israel being lost in that city, and it was a grateful part of his of Judah, for the decree of Cyrus being ministry that it was so much concerned addressed to the fathers of Judah and in opening the prospect of better times, Benjamin (Ezra i. 5), and for the people's and that his prophetic roll, which com- returning under the name of Jews, while menced with the bitterness of judgment we find in much later days mention of and woe, terminated with the sweetness members of other tribes (Luke ii. 36). of renewed hope and restored glory. St Paul also speaks of the twelve tribes of
Israel, Acts xxvi. 7. (See notes on iv. 3, VI.
xi. I, 15.) The amalgamation of the One of the immediate effects of the exiles of Israel and of Judah is in fact captivity was the reunion of the severed distinctly predicted by Jeremiah (Jer. tribes of Israel. For although the place iii
. 18); a prediction which has been inof Ezekiel's abode may not have been deed referred by some to a reunion yet identical with that of the exiles of the to come, but which had in fact its acten tribes (see on i. 1), still the exile complishment in the restoration of the of the Jews brought them into con- people to their native land by the decree tact with their brethren of the earlier of Cyrus. The same inference may be exile. The political reasons which had drawn from Ezekiel's sign of the two sundered them were at an end; a com- sticks (xxxvii. 16 foll.); for although this mon lot begat sympathy in the sufferers; prophecy had a further and fuller acand those of the ten tribes who even in complishment, yet it need not be suptheir separation had been conscious of posed entirely to overlook a primary a natural unity, and could not but recog- fulfilment in the return from Babylon. nize in the representative of David the Attempts have been made from time true centre of union, would be naturally to time to discover the lost ten tribes, inclined to seek this unity in amalgama- by persons expecting to find, or thinking tion with the exiles of Judah, and would that they have found, them existing still not be unwilling to subordinate them- as a separate community. But according selves to this tribe.
to the foregoing view we need not look In the course of the years' which had forward to any such discovery. The time elapsed since their exile, the numbers of of captivity was the time of reunion. the ten tribes may well have wasted Ezekiel's mission was to the house of away. As their separate constitution Israel, not only to those who came out in their own land had been founded with him from Jerusalem or. Judah, but on idolatry, though in a modified form, to those also of the stock whom he they would be more apt than the men
found residing in a foreign land, where of Judah, the professing servants of the they had been settled for more than true Jehovah and His temple, to be 100 years (xxxvii. 16 and xlviii. 1). absorbed among the heathen who surrounded them, and thus the exiles from
VII. Judah may have far exceeded in number and importance those who yet re- The order and the character of the mained of the exiles of Israel. Accord- prophecies which this book contains ingly we find in Ezekiel the terms Judah are in strict accordance with the proand Israel applied indiscriminately to phet's mission. He is summoned to those among whom the prophet dwelt his office by an extraordinary manifesta(see on xiv. I); and the sins of Israel, tion of the Divine Majesty, appropriate no less than those of Judah, are sum- for one who had long been banished med up in the reproof of his country- from that house which he had hitherto