EZEKIEL

Introduction and Chapters 1-5

Introduction

    In Jewish tradition, Ezekiel is said to have received Torah instruction from Jeremiah, and one Medieval commentator, David Kimkhi, even posited that Ezekiel was Jeremiah's son. 1 In the Book of Ezekiel, he is said to have been the son of Buzi, but some authorities claim that Buzi was a nickname for Jeremiah, because it means “despised,” and that certainly describes Jeremiah. In any case, Ezekiel was, like Jeremiah, of a priestly family from Anathoth, and, like Jeremiah, was said to have descended from Rahab. He may have been born around 622 BC, His first prophecy may be the one in chapter 2 of the book, which is said to have come to him in Babylon, and which is dated to five years after the exile of Jehoiachin, which would be around the year 592 BC. On the other hand, Rashi believed that his first prophecy is that which is recorded in chapter 17 of the book. 2 This position, however, was doubtless influenced by the Jewish teaching that no prophet can receive revelation outside of the land of Israel, unless he first received revelation in the land of Israel.
    Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel is concerned with the imminent destruction of Judah in general, and Jerusalem in particular. But it is significant that Ezekiel is also very aware of the fact that the Lord will ultimately gather them – not just the Jews, but all of Israel; and this is communicated forcefully as he repeated addresses the whole house of Israel, not just the “house of Judah.” 3
Footnotes
1. In his commentary to Ezek. 1:3.
2. See Rashi's commentary to Jer. 1:3.
3. Ezek. 33:10-11 is but one example of this.


Chapter 1

Ezekiel’s vision of a strange machine

    1. And it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth (month), on the fifth day of the month, that I was in the midst of the exile by the Chebar 1 River. The heavens opened and I saw visions of God.
    2. On the fifth of the month, which was in the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin.
    3. The word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, the priest in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar, and the hand of Yahweh was upon him there.
    4. And I saw, and behold, a storm-wind from the north, a large cloud and flaming fire, and a brightness all around it; and from its midst it was like the sparkle of electrum 2 from the midst of the fire. 5. And from its midst was the likeness of four creatures, and this was their appearance, they had the likeness of a man.
    6. And each one had four faces, and each one of them had four wings.
    7. And their legs were (each one) a straight leg, and the soles of their feet were like a round foot, and sparkling like burnished copper.
    8. And the hands of a man were beneath their wings on their four sides, and their faces and their wings were (similar) to all four of them.
    9. Their wings were joined one to another; they did not turn when they went, each one went in the direction he was facing. 3
    10. And the likeness of their faces (was that of) a man, and the face of a lion on the right, for the four of them, and the face of an ox on the left, for the four of them, and the face of an eagle, for the four of them.
    11. And (those were) their faces, and their wings were extended above. Each one had two wings joined to (another) man; and two were covering their bodies.
    12. And each one followed his face, to wherever the wind 4 was going he went; he did not turn around 5 while going.
    13. And the image of the creatures, their appearance, was like coals of burning fire, like the appearance of torches, it was going among the creatures, and the fire had a brightness, and lightening was going forth from the fire.
    14. And the creatures were running back and forth, like the appearance of a lightning flash.
    15. And I saw the creatures, and behold, one wheel was on the ground beside the creatures for its four faces.
    16. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like the sparkle of yellow topaz; 6 and there was one likeness for the four of them, and their appearance and workings were as though a wheel would be within a wheel.
    17. When they went, they went on their four sides; they did not turn around 7when they went.
    18. And they had high backs, and they were awesome, and their backs 8 were full of eyes round about the four of them.
    19. And when the creatures were going, the wheels went beside them; and when the creatures were lifted up from off the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
    20. Wherever the wind was going, 9 the wheels went there; they were lifted beside them, for the wind 10 was in the wheels.
    21. When (the creatures) were going, (the wheels) would go, and when (the creatures) were standing, (the wheels) would stand; and when (the creatures) were lifted from off the ground, the wheels were lifted beside them, for the wind of the creature was in the wheels.
    22. And (there was) an image on the heads of the creature, an expanse like the gleam of the dreadful ice spread over their heads from above.
    23. And under the expanse their wings were straight, each one (toward) the other. Each (creature) had two covering this side, and each one had two covering that side, of their bodies.
    24. And I heard the sound of their wings, like the sound of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, when they were going; the sound of stirring like the sound of a camp. When they stood, they would let down their wings.
    25. And there was a sound above the expanse that was over their heads when they were standing they (and) would let down their wings.
    26. And above the expanse which was over their heads, like the appearance of sapphire stone, was the image of a throne, and upon the image of the throne was the image like the appearance of a man upon it from above.
    27. And I saw (something) like the sparkle of electrum, like the appearance of fire within it (and) round about, from the appearance of his hips, and upward, and from the appearance of his hips and downward, I saw (something) like the appearance of fire, and it had a brightness around it.
    28. Like the appearance of the rainbow that is in the cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness around it, it was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh, and I saw it and fell on my face, and I heard a voice speaking.
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1. This is the Khabur river, which is a river that originates in Turkey and then flows southward into Syria, where it eventually joins the Euphrates.
2. This is an amalgam of silver and gold.
3. Rashi does not think this limited their ability to go in different directions. He believes that they were essentially facing all directions, because they had faces on every side.
4. This word could also be translated “spirit,” and that was Greenberg's choice, arguing in his commentary (Greenberg 1983:45f.) that the proof that “spirit” was meant instead of “wind” was to be found in the expression ruaḫ haḫayya in verse 21, which would then be translated as “the spirit of the creature.” But I would argue that Ezekiel might have been trying to describe some sort of propulsion system, and therefore literally meant “wind.”
5. Or “rotate.”
6. The word tarshish seems to refer to some kind of stone, and writers have guessed such things as chrysolite and jasper, but the HAL suggests topaz.
7. Or “rotate.”
8. Regarding a suggestion to read this word as “rims” see DBD גב entry 6. sub גבב.
9. In the MT there are the words שמה הרוח ללכת at this point in the verse, but the Peshitta omits that phrase, and if we follow the assumption in the footnotes of the BHS that the Syriac is thus indicating that those words represent a dittography, the verse then makes better sense. I have therefore ignored those three words, because otherwise the Hebrew is very awkward. Without those words, the verse reads much more smoothly, so I think they were a scribal error.
10. The word ruah can mean either “wind” or “spirit.” In these verses “wind” seems much more likely, as we can imagine something like the wind generated by modern machines like airplanes and helicopters.
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Chapter 2

Ezekiel receives a call to testify to the children of Israel

    1. And he said to me, Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak to you.
    2. And the spirit came into me when he spoke to me, and stood me upon my feet, and I heard him who was speaking to me.
    3. And he said to me, Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to the rebellious nations 1 which have rebelled against me; they and their fathers transgressed against me until this very day.
    4. And the children are stubborn and hard-hearted. I am sending you to them, and you will say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh:
    5. And they, whether they listen or whether they cease (to listen) – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet was in their midst.
    6. But you, Oh son of man, do not fear them, nor fear their words, for they are rebellious and (will be like) thorns with you, 2 and you will be sitting on scorpions. Do not fear their words nor be dismayed by them, for they are a rebellious house.
    7. And you will speak my words to them, whether they listen or whether they cease (to listen), for they are rebellious.
    8. But you, Oh son of man, hear what I say to you; do not be rebellious like the rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.
    9. And I saw, and behold, a hand stretched forth to me, and behold, in it was the scroll of a book.
    10. And he spread it out before me, and it was inscribed on both sides, and written upon it were an elegy, and mourning and wailing.
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1. Presumably referring to the two nations of Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah.
2. This phrase may also be translated as “for they are resisting and despising you . . .” See BDB sub סלון.
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Chapter 3

Ezekiel’s experiences by the river Chebar

    1. And he said to me, Son of man, that which you find, eat. Eat this scroll, and go (and) speak to the house of Israel.
    2. And I opened my mouth, and he made me eat that scroll.
    3. And he said to me, Son of man, cause your belly to eat, and fill your bowels with this scroll that I give you; and I ate it, and it became as sweet as honey in my mouth.
    4. And he said to me, Son of man, go, go to the house of Israel, and you will speak my words to them.
    5. For you are not sent to a people of unintelligible speech or of a heavy tongue, (but) to the house of Israel.
    6. Not too many nations of unintelligible speech or of a heavy tongue whose words you will not understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you.
    7. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me. For all the house of Israel are stubborn and hard-hearted.
    8. Behold, I have made your face hard, corresponding to their faces; and your forehead hard, corresponding to their foreheads.
    9. I have made your forehead like flint, harder than rock. Do not fear them, and do not be dismayed by them, for they are a rebellious house.
    10. And he said to me, Son of man, all the words which I say to you, receive them in your heart, and hear (them) with your ears.
    11. And go, go to those in captivity, to the children of your people, and speak to them, and say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh! Whether they listen, or whether they cease (to listen).
    12. And the Spirit 1 lifted me up, and I heard behind me the sound of a great quaking from his place: Blessed be the glory of Yahweh!
    13. And the sound of the wings of the creatures, each one gently touching the other, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great quaking.
    14. And the Spirit lifted me up and took me, and I went in bitterness, in the wrath of my spirit, but the hand of Yahweh was strong upon me.
    15. And I went to (those in) captivity at Tel Aviv, sitting by the river Chebar, 2 where they were sitting, and I sat there in their midst seven days, showing horror. 3
    16. And it came to pass, at the end of seven days, that the word of Yahweh came to me, saying:
    17. Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel, and you will hear a word from my mouth, and you will warn them from me.
    18. When I say to the wicked, You will surely die! and you have not spoken to warn the wicked from his evil ways, to save him, that wicked man will die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at your hand.
    19. But if you have warned the wicked man, but he does not repent from his wickedness, and from his wicked ways, he will die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your soul.
    20. But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does iniquity, I will put a stumbling block before him (and) he will die, for you have not warned him. He will die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered, and his blood I will require at your hand.
    21. But you, if you have warned the righteous man, so that the righteous man not sin, and he does not sin. he will surely live, for he has been warned, and you will have saved your soul.
    22. And the hand of Yahweh came upon me there, and he said to me; Arise, go to the valley, and there I will speak with you.
    23. And I arose and went out to the valley, and behold, there was the glory of Yahweh standing, like the glory which I had seen by the River Chebar, and I fell on my face.
    24. And a spirit entered me and made me stand on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me; Come, shut yourself up in your house.
    25. And you, son of man, behold, they have placed ropes upon you and have bound you with them, and you will not go out in their midst.
    26. And I will cause your tongue to cleave to the roof of your mouth, and you will become mute, and you will not be to them a man who reproves, for they are a rebellious house.
    27. And when I speak with you, I will open your mouth and you will say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh. Let him who hears hear, and he who ceases (to hear), let him cease, for they are a rebellious house.
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1. In Hebrew, the subject is simply ruah, i.e. without a definite article. Therefore, it could be translated as “a wind” lifted me up etc. However, if he is talking about the Spirit of God, meaning the Holy Spirit, then it seems appropriate to use a definite article in the translation. The same will hold true in verse 14. But remember that he could be saying that a “wind” lifted him up, and that he is not talking about the Holy Spirit at all. The Hebrew would allow either interpretation.
2. It is now called Khabur.
3. For this interpretation of משמים see the BDB sub שמם, Hif'il. Presumably, this means that he was showing them the horrors to come.
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Chapter 4

Ezekiel creates a model of the siege of Jerusalem

    1. And you, Oh son of man, take yourself a brick, and put it before you, and inscribe upon it a city, Jerusalem.
    2. And you will lay siege upon it and you will build a siege-wall against it, and you will cast up a mound against it, and you will place camps against it, and put battering-rams around it.
    3. And you, take for yourself an iron skillet, and make it a wall of iron between you and the city, and direct your face toward it, and it will be under siege, and you will besiege it. This is a sign to the house of Israel.
    4. And you, lie on your left side, and place the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. The number of days which you shall like upon it, you will bear their iniquity.
    5. And I have given you the years of their iniquity by the number of days, three hundred and ninety days, 1 and you will bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.
    6. And (when) you complete these, then you will lie on your right side as well, and you will bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year I have given you. 2
    7. And you will direct your face and your bare arm to the siege of Jerusalem, and you will prophesy about it.
    8. And behold, I have placed ropes upon you, and you will not turn from side to side until you have completed the days of your siege.
    9. And you, take yourself wheat and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet and spelt. And place them in one vessel, and make them for yourself for food. The number of days which you will be lying on your side, three hundred and ninety days you will eat it.
    10. And you food which you will eat (will be) by weight – twenty shekels a day. You will eat it from time to time.
    11. And you will drink water by measure – a sixth of a hin. 3 You will drink it from time to time.
    12. And you will eat it as barley cakes, and they will be baked with human dung 4 before their eyes.
    13. And Yahweh said, So will the children of Israel eat their bread defiled among the nations to which I will drive them.
    14. And I said, Oh my Lord Yahweh, behold, my soul has not been defiled, and since my youth until now I have never eaten a carcass 5 or animal torn (by beasts), nor has any foul thing entered my mouth.
    15. And he said to me, See, I have given you the dung of cattle 6 instead of the dung of humans, and you will prepare your bread upon it.
    16. And he said to me, Son of man, behold, I am breaking the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they will eat bread by weight, and with worry, and they will drink water by the measure, and in horror.
    17. Because they will lack bread and water, and they will be appalled, each man and his brother, and they will pine away in their iniquity.
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1. Rashi gives the calculations to show that the house of Israel did indeed sin for 390 years from the time that they took possession of the land until the final exile, but it will not be necessary to reproduce that here.
2. Rashi says that this represents the forty years that Judah sinned from the time that the Ten Tribes were exiled until Jerusalem was destroyed: 22 of Manasseh, 2 of Amon, 11 of Jehoiakim, and this prophecy was given to Ezekiel in the 5th year of Zedekiah, making a total of 40 years.
3. The Hebrew hin was 6.06 liters.
4. As we progress with Ezekiel, the reader will become aware that Ezekiel is the most graphic of the prophets we have dealt with. The literal translation of the Hebrew phrase here would be “turds of human feces.”
5. The Hebrew word here refers specifically to the corpse of an animal that died by itself, meaning it was not slaughtered, but was just found dead somewhere. A rough equivalent today would be “road kill.”
6. Dried manure can indeed be burned as fuel, just as “buffalo chips” were used by early pioneers.
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Chapter 5

Pestilence, famine and war to destroy Jerusalem

    1. And you, son of man, take yourself a sharp sword; take yourself a barber's razor, and pass it over your head and over your beard, and take yourself a scale and divide them.
    2. You will surely burn one third of it in the midst of the city 1 at the end of the siege, 2 and you will take a third and strike around it with a sword, 3 and scatter one third of it to the wind; 4 and after that I will unsheathe a sword.
    3. And you will take from there a few in number and bind them in the extremities of your (outer) garments. 5
    4. And you will take some more of them and cast them into the middle of the fire and burn them in the fire. From that a fire will go forth to all the house of Israel. 6
    5. Thus says the Lord Yahweh, This is Jerusalem. I have placed it in the midst of the nations, and there are lands around it.
    6. But she rebelled against my judgments in favor of wickedness, more than the (other) nations, and (rebelled against) my statutes more than the lands which are around her, for she rejected my judgments and as for my statutes, she did not walk in them.
    7. Therefore, thus says The Lord Yahweh, Because you have rebelled 7 against me more than the nations which are around you – you did not walk in my statutes, and you did not perform my judgments, and you did not do according to the judgments of the nations which are around you;
    8. Therefore, thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold, I am also against you, and I will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the (other) nations.
    9. And I will do to you what I have not done, and the likes of which I will not do again, because of all your abominations.
    10. Therefore fathers will eat children in your midst, and children will eat their fathers, and I will execute judgments upon you, and I will scatter all the remnants in all directions.
    11. Therefore, as I live, says the Lord Yahweh, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, I will also diminish (you), and my eye will not look (upon you) with compassion, nor will I have pity.
    12. One third of you will die in the plague, and they will perish in your midst through famine, and one third will fall around you by the sword, and one third I will scatter to all the winds, and I will unsheathe a sword after them.
    13. And my anger will end, and I will cause my fury against them to subside, and I will be comforted; and they will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken in my zeal, when my fury against them came to an end.
    14. And I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations which are around you, in the sight of everyone who passes by.
    15. And she will be a reproach and a taunt, and an astonishment to the nations which are around you when I execute judgments upon you in my anger and fury, and in furious rebukes. I, Yahweh, have spoken.
    16. When I send the evil arrows of the famine against them, which became a destroyer, which I will send to destroy you; and I will add famine upon you, and I will break your staff of bread.
    17. And I will send upon you a famine, and evil beasts, and they will bereave you, and pestilence and blood will pass among you, and I will bring a sword against you. I, Yahweh, have spoken.
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1. Rashi believes that Ezekiel is to burn part of the shaved hair, not in the midst of the actual city of Jerusalem, but rather on the picture of the city that he had inscribed on the brick (Ezek. 4:1).
2. According to Rashi, this symbolizes that one third will perish from starvation during the siege.
3. Rashi believes that this represents those who flee from the city, and that the Chaldeans will overtake them and kill them near Jerusalem.
4. Rashi says that this represents the exiles who will go to Egypt, viz. Johanan, the son of Kareah, and his associates. For Nebuchadnezzar went after them and destroyed them.
5. Rashi believes this refers to the few people who will be exiled to Babylon but survive.
6. Rashi believes this represents Ahab, the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah, the son of Maaseiah, whom the king of Babylon burned with fire (Jer. 29:21f.).
7. The Hebrew word is written המנכם, but in the BDB sub המן, and also in the footnotes of the BHS the suggestion appears that it should be read המרותכם (from the root מרה).
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