He receives his commission to prophesy doom to the Israelites.
There is difficulty understanding the thirtieth year, especially in view of the fifth year (v. 2
), since both dates seem to refer to the same event, i.e. the call of the prophet. The point of reference for both dates seems
to be the capture of Jehoiachin by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in 597 B.C.E. (2 Kgs. 24.10–17
). The first date then becomes 568 B.C.E. and the second 593 B.C.E. Scholars think that the thirtieth year refers either to a second call of the prophet, the one in Babylonia (see Introduction);
or possibly, though less likely, to the date of the compilation of Ezekiel's many messages into a single book. Some conjecture
that the call of another prophet whose work was in some way associated with that of Ezekiel was added. The river Kebar is probably an irrigation canal mentioned in Babylonian records. It flowed from the Euphrates through the old city of Nippur,
where excavations have revealed ancient business contracts with Jewish names. See Ps. 137.1–6
. There were two groups of exiles. The first, referred to here, was taken to Babylonia with King Jehoiachin. The second was deported by Nebuchadnezzar after
his destruction of Jerusalem (
12.11–12; 2 Kgs. 25.3–12
); this date is set by some at 586, by others at 587 B.C.E. Jehoiachin was considered the rightful king, if a restoration were to take place; hence his captivity is the point of departure
for all the dates in the book.
Ezekiel means “God strengthens.” Hand of the LORD
is the symbol for Ezekiel's consciousness that his activity is divinely motivated. Compare
. Chaldaea: southern part of Babylonia.
God's incomprehensible majesty, power, and mobility are conveyed in a visual metaphor that overwhelms the imagination. The
frequent repetition of the words “like” and “appearance” indicates that this vision of God defies description. The vision
is a fitting summary of God's activity in the book.
North: mythological symbol for the dwelling of the gods; see Isa. 14.13
. Wind, cloud, fire are all signs of God's presence as in Exod. 19.16; Ps. 18.10–14
The Spirit is God's purposeful power directing the activity of the universe and of humankind; see 1.20
Wheels are symbols of cosmic mobility, and the eyes all around signify an all-seeing intelligence guiding the movement of the most insensitive elements in the universe which respond to
the same active spirit that moves the prophet, e.g.
The ancients considered the sky a vault (Gen. 1.6
), i.e. a solid roof over the world supporting the flood waters above which God was enthroned Lord over the universe and all
in it. Compare Ps. 29.10
Like … the glory of the LORD
indicates that the description is a subjective vision rather than an objective presence of God such as that experienced at
Sinai by all the people. See Exod. 19.17–20
There are possibly four calls:
1.28b–3.9; 3.10–11; 3.16–21; 3.22–27
, which contain five commissions.
Man, lit. “son of man,” which means “a member of the human race.” This expression is used over ninety times and contrasts human
frailty with God's might and glory. Compare Job 14.1–5
Spirit … stood me, i.e. bridged the distance between God and the prophet, and gave such power to his words and actions that the people will know, i.e. be unable to ignore, the reality of the divine message even though they refuse to listen.
The scroll contains only dirges and words of woe because a prophet preaching well-being is suspect; see 13.10–16
. Eating the scroll signifies assimilating God's message; the sweetness is the sense of fulfillment it brings; compare Pss. 19.9–10; 119.100–103
Ezekiel's boldness is attributed to God because it was acquired in carrying out his commission.
Some interpreters conjecture that this repetition is a second call of Ezekiel; others, that it is the call of another prophet
whose prophecy is added to that of Ezekiel's (see 1.1–2 n.
); still others reason that it is editorial duplication. See Introduction.
Full of exaltation: lit. “bitter in the fury of my spirit,” the ecstasy of a religious experience.
Tel-abib: a Jewish settlement in Babylonia. In
, Ezekiel is already among the exiles when the vision takes place; here he is arriving after the vision. For possible explanation
see vv. 10–12
How the word of the LORD
came to Ezekiel is not clear; it need only imply his conviction that he spoke God's message to the people.
The prophet as watchman has a long tradition in Israel; compare Isa. 21.6–12
. Here it applies Ezekiel's principle of personal responsibility (see 18.1–32
) to the prophetic office.
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