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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Ezekiel and the Prophetic Tradition.

1.

Ezekiel shows a number of affinities with earlier prophetic texts. Depiction of the prophet's personal experience most closely parallels descriptions of the early prophets Elijah and Elisha (see Carley 1975 ). In particular his experience of the ‘hand of the Lord’ as a compelling force ( 1:3; 3:22 ; etc.; cf. 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 3:15 ) links him with this earlier tradition, as do reports of being physically transported by the spirit ( 3:12–14; 8:3; cf. 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16 ). Ezekiel's vivid sign-acts lend his persona a dramatic intensity similar to that of Elijah and Elisha, but whereas the earlier prophets' symbolic actions are generally depicted as having immediate, visible effects (e.g. calling fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18:30–9 ), Ezekiel's actions (with the possible exception of 11:13 ) are not transmuted into external events. Ezekiel's sign-acts, while clearly understood as setting in motion the events they portray, often precede their fulfilment by a period of years. Though presumed to be efficacious, Ezekiel's actions are not miraculous in the same sense as the deeds of Elijah and Elisha.

2.

While Ezekiel's experience seems most directly modelled on that of Elijah and Elisha, the content of his prophecy owes more to the prophets of the eighth to the sixth centuries. Thus Ezekiel's announcement in ch. 7 that ‘the end (qēṣ) has come’ depends on Am 8:2 and the smelting of Israel in 22:17–22 reflects Isa 1:22–5 . It is Jeremiah, however, with which Ezekiel is most intimately connected, to the extent that many of Ezekiel's most striking images seem like extended meditations on themes introduced in Jeremiah. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel opens with a vision coming ‘from the north’ ( 1:4; Jer 1:13 ), a vision followed in Ezekiel's case by the eating of a divine scroll ( 3:1–3 ), an action styled on the metaphor of Jer 15:16 . YHWH must then fortify each prophet against Israel's angry resistance to his words (Ezek 3:8–9; Jer 1:18–19 ). Ezekiel's condemnation in ch. 13 of prophets whom YHWH never called seems to draw on Jeremiah's oracles against false prophets in 23:23–40; 29 ; the compelling image in Ezek 16 and 23 of Jerusalem and Samaria as degenerate sister-cities expands on the conceit introduced in Jer 3:6–14 ; the ‘sour grapes’ proverb cited in Jer 31:29 , in Ezek 18 forms the basis for an extended debate over individual responsibility and the possibility of repentance; YHWH's claim in Jer 21:5 to fight with outstretched arm against his own people reappears in Ezek 20:33 ; and the depiction of YHWH as shepherd in Jer 23:1–8 is expanded upon in Ezek 34 . Finally, Ezekiel appropriates Jeremiah's promise of renewal in 31:31–3 , but with a characteristically ironic twist. Whereas Jeremiah shows YHWH inscribing his law onto the people's hearts as if onto so many stone tablets, in Ezek 11:19–20 and 36:26–7 YHWH must remove the people's hard, stony hearts altogether, replacing them with hearts of flesh before endowing them with his spirit. The question of how Ezekiel came to have such extensive knowledge of Jeremiah's words remains unresolved. It is entirely possible that a written edition of Jeremiah's prophecies was available to him in Babylon (cf. Jer 29:24–32 in which Jeremiah counters an exiled prophet's response to his letter), though this raises the further question of why, despite his detailed commentary on the situation in Jerusalem, Ezekiel makes no mention of Jeremiah.

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