Ezekiel, Jonah, and Pastoral Epistles by Patrick Fairbairn - Ezekiel

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Ezekiel, Jonah, and Pastoral Epistles by Patrick Fairbairn - Ezekiel


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EZEKIEL AND THE BOOK OF HIS PROPHECY:

An Exposition.



BY

PATRICK FAIRBAIRN, D.D.,

PRINCIPAL OF THE FREE CHURCH COLLEGE, GLASGOW,

AUTHOR OF ‘TYPOLOGY OF SCRIPTURE,’ ETC..

FOURTH EDITION

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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

IT is some time since the first impression of the following Exposition was exhausted; and the opportunity, which the call for a New Edition has presented, of introducing a few alterations and improvements has not been neglected. The changes, however, are not material as regards the substance of the work, or even the interpretation of particular parts. On a very few passages only, and these not of primary moment, has a different view been presented from the one formerly given. But the Exposition has been rendered more uniform by a translation of the whole Book, while in the First Edition this was limited to the more difficult parts; and that has necessarily led to a number of minor changes and re-adjustments. It has also rendered necessary the printing of the translation in a smaller type, as otherwise the size, and consequently the expense of the volume must have been increased beyond what was deemed advisable. An Introduction, besides, has been prefixed, in which certain topics of a preliminary kind, that were not altogether omitted in the former edition, but rather too briefly noticed, have been more fully discussed. These, which constitute the chief alterations in matter and form, it is hoped will be found to have added somewhat to the usefulness of the volume.

The reception it has met with in its first shape has been, for the most part, so favourable and encouraging, that anything beyond the grateful acknowledgments of the author would be here out of place. He did not expect that all would agree with him in the views embodied in his interpretations, or would entirely approve of the form which he has given to his Exposition. Some, he has observed, have sought to account for the latter by supposing it to have been, in the first instance, preached to a congregation. In this, he takes leave to state, they are mistaken; and it is on principle, and from a regard merely to what he thinks should be found in an Exposition of the Word of God, and in particular of the writings of Ezekiel, that he has introduced so much of the spiritual and practical element. But, as this point has been noticed in the Introduction, it is needless to say more on it at present. If the volume shall be made, by the Divine blessing, instrumental in promoting a more exact acquaintance with this portion of Prophecy, or advancing the study of the prophetic Word in general, the great desire of the Author will be fulfilled.

ABERDEEN, May 1855.

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.

THIS New Edition of the Commentary on Ezekiel scarcely calls for any prefatory notice, as it differs in no material respect from the immediately preceding one. Alterations of some moment were introduced into the Second Edition; but the general revision which the work then underwent has rendered unnecessary any marked changes in the edition now issued. The few which have been introduced are chiefly confined to verbal alterations, and some occasional enlargements of the Explanatory Notes. Since the publication of the last edition, no work of any importance, so far as known to me, has appeared on the writings of our Prophet, either in this country or on the Continent; and in regard to productions bearing on particular passages, one or two fresh references comprise all that I have thought requisite. The views previously given on all the more characteristic passages and features of the book remain undisturbed; and I have only to wish for this, as I did for the last edition, that it may, with the Divine blessing, be made instrumental in promoting a more intelligent acquaintance with the prophetic Word in general, and in particular with this somewhat peculiar, but most interesting and instructive portion of it.

GLASGOW, November 1862.





PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

IT is some time since the first impression of the following Exposition was exhausted; and the opportunity, which the call for a New Edition has presented, of introducing a few alterations and improvements has not been neglected. The changes, however, are not material as regards the substance of the work, or even the interpretation of particular parts. On a very few passages only, and these not of primary moment, has a different view been presented from the one formerly given. But the Exposition has been rendered more uniform by a translation of the whole Book, while in the First Edition this was limited to the more difficult parts; and that has necessarily led to a number of minor changes and re-adjustments. It has also rendered necessary the printing of the translation in a smaller type, as otherwise the size, and consequently the expense of the volume must have been increased beyond what was deemed advisable. An Introduction, besides, has been prefixed, in which certain topics of a preliminary kind, that were not altogether omitted in the former edition, but rather too briefly noticed, have been more fully discussed. These, which constitute the chief alterations in matter and form, it is hoped will be found to have added somewhat to the usefulness of the volume.

The reception it has met with in its first shape has been, for the most part, so favourable and encouraging, that anything beyond the grateful acknowledgments of the author would be here out of place. He did not expect that all would agree with him in the views embodied in his interpretations, or would entirely approve of the form which he has given to his Exposition. Some, he has observed, have sought to account for the latter by supposing it to have been, in the first instance, preached to a congregation. In this, he takes leave to state, they are mistaken; and it is on principle, and from a regard merely to what he thinks should be found in an Exposition of the Word of God, and in particular of the writings of Ezekiel, that he has introduced so much of the spiritual and practical element. But, as this point has been noticed in the Introduction, it is needless to say more on it at present. If the volume shall be made, by the Divine blessing, instrumental in promoting a more exact acquaintance with this portion of Prophecy, or advancing the study of the prophetic Word in general, the great desire of the Author will be fulfilled.

ABERDEEN, May 1855.

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.

THIS New Edition of the Commentary on Ezekiel scarcely calls for any prefatory notice, as it differs in no material respect from the immediately preceding one. Alterations of some moment were introduced into the Second Edition; but the general revision which the work then underwent has rendered unnecessary any marked changes in the edition now issued. The few which have been introduced are chiefly confined to verbal alterations, and some occasional enlargements of the Explanatory Notes. Since the publication of the last edition, no work of any importance, so far as known to me, has appeared on the writings of our Prophet, either in this country or on the Continent; and in regard to productions bearing on particular passages, one or two fresh references comprise all that I have thought requisite. The views previously given on all the more characteristic passages and features of the book remain undisturbed; and I have only to wish for this, as I did for the last edition, that it may, with the Divine blessing, be made instrumental in promoting a more intelligent acquaintance with the prophetic Word in general, and in particular with this somewhat peculiar, but most interesting and instructive portion of it.

GLASGOW, November 1862.

INTRODUCTION.

IT will not be necessary to detain our readers long at the threshold, nor would it be proper to go here into discussions which might presuppose and require an intimate acquaintance with the writings of our author. The purposes of a general introduction will be served, if we present a brief but distinct view of the personal position and circumstances of Ezekiel, the more distinctive features of his prophetical character, the nature of his style and diction as a sacred writer, the order and classification of his prophecies, and the literature connected with their interpretation.

I. On the first of these points it is not necessary to say much, for the whole that is known with certainty of Ezekiel is furnished by his own hand, and is so closely interwoven with his discharge of the prophetical office, that it is only by following him through the one we can become properly acquainted with the other. We know nothing of what he was or did as a man, but only of what he saw and spake as a prophet. That he was the son of Buzi, a priest, and entered on his prophetical career by the river Chebar or Chaboras, in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, which was the same also of his own (comp. Eze_1:1, and Eze_33:21), he has expressly informed us; and Josephus transmits the additional information (Ant. x. 6. 3) that he had become a captive when he was still a young man. This, however, has been as often questioned as believed; and among recent commentators, while Ewald sees reason to conclude that the prophet “was pretty young when he was carried into exile,” Hävernick, on the other hand, thinks that “the vigorous priestly spirit which prevails throughout his prophecies furnishes evidence of a greater age, and that he had undoubtedly for some considerable time performed the service of a priest in the temple” before he left Judea. These diversities of opinion show that the precise age of Ezekiel at the period of his exile can at most be only a matter of probability. But from certain considerations that will be adduced on the dates mentioned in the opening verses of his book, there is ground to believe that the probability is mainly on the side of his having been at the time of his removal to Chaldea a comparatively young man—in the twenty-fifth year of his age. And as one of his later prophecies makes mention of the twenty-seventh year of his captivity (Eze_29:17), this, added to the original number of twenty-five, brings him to an advanced stage of life, though still not to the close of his prophetical agency. For some of his later predictions appear to have been uttered at a period subsequent to the time to which the prediction in Ezekiel 29 belongs. There is reason, therefore, to conclude, that Ezekiel’s public life both began early, and was prolonged to the season of mature age.

But of the absolute cessation of his prophetical gift, we have no definite chronological information; nor, except from incidental notices sometimes introduced into his communications, do we learn anything of the experiences and results that attended its exercise. The direct historical notices in his writings, apart from the record of the visions he saw, and the messages of good and evil he received from above, are comparatively few. But in the messages themselves references are not unfrequently made to the circumstances amid which he was placed, and the trials or sorrows connected with his official ministry. From those scattered notices we can easily gather, that as the time was marked by the fearful prevalence of evil in a moral, not less than in an outward and worldly respect, so there was the application, on his part, of an unwearied activity, and the energy of a devoted zeal, striving against gigantic difficulties and vexing discouragements. He had to plead the cause of God in an atmosphere of rebellion; prove himself to be faithful amidst many faithless; and, without palliation or reserve, lay open evils in the condition of his companions in exile, which they sought most anxiously to cover out of sight. Hence, while he appears as one tenderly sympathising with them in their depression and gloom (Eze_3:15), there is nothing to indicate that they ever properly sympathised with him in his contendings for truth and righteousness. They recognise him, indeed, as a prophet of the Most High, and collect around him, from time to time, to hear what message he might have received for their behoof, or to make inquiry through him concerning the mind of God (Eze_8:1, Eze_11:25, Eze_14:1, etc.); but it was never without having a rebuke administered to them on account of the frame of mind in which they appeared, or some intimation given respecting the light and captious humour they were wont to exhibit towards him (Eze_14:1, Eze_18:1, Eze_33:30-33, etc.). So that his official career, we can have no doubt, was connected with much that was trying and painful; and, like too many of our Lord’s prophetical types, he also in no slight degree had to “endure the contradiction of sinners against himself.”

Yet this must not be understood of his connection with the whole band of exiles, nor probably of the later period of his public ministry nearly so much as of the earlier. For amid the prevailing iniquity there are not wanting occasional indications of a better spirit among the captives (Eze_11:16; Jeremiah 24.); and at a period not very distant from the close of his ministrations, a very marked and general amendment had undoubtedly taken place among them. It could not greatly, if it did at all, exceed thirty years from the cessation of his active labours, when the decree was issued for the return of the captives; and notwithstanding the corruptions which still lingered among them, and which soon began to appear in the infant colony, there was a general repudiation of idolatry, and an adherence to the law of Moses, very different from what had existed at the era of the captivity, or for a considerable time previous to it. Nor can there be any doubt, that among the agencies which contributed to effect this beneficial change, a prominent place must be ascribed to the ministry of Ezekiel. Thus by the results that appeared, decisive evidence was borne to the fact, that a prophet had been among them, who had not laboured in vain; and we can scarcely doubt, from the whole circumstances of the case, that the satisfaction was afforded our prophet—a satisfaction which was denied to his great contemporary Jeremiah—of witnessing the commencement of the spiritual renovation for which he so earnestly laboured.

II. It naturally follows, from what has been said of the position and circumstances of Ezekiel, that, in respect to his prophetical agency, one of the leading characteristics was that of active and energetic working. He had, almost single-handed, to begin and direct the process of a general reformation, which no one can do with effect, even now, without force of character and energy of action; and still less could it be done then, when writing and reading were so much less in use, and practical effects on communities were necessarily more dependent upon the instrumentality of the living voice. This consideration is of it self sufficient to disprove the idea entertained by Ewald, and more recently espoused by Hitzig, of the comparatively quiescent and chiefly literary character of Ezekiel as a prophet. “As we see him in his book,” says Ewald, “he appears more as a writer than as a prophet taking part in public life. The writer may have his individual peculiarities of a kind quite foreign to a prophet of the elder sort; and so, in point of fact, Ezekiel as an author surpasses all the earlier prophets, in particular Jeremiah, in finish, beauty, and completeness; but the more the man grows as an author and a cultivator of learning, he loses in the same proportion as a genuine prophet.” He therefore contemplates the great book of Ezekiel as “proceeding almost entirely from the study of a learned retreat;” and Hitzig, following in the same track, and speaking as from the most intimate acquaintance with the facts of the case, tells us that, as Ezekiel was driven from the external world by the badness of the times, he “but cultivated the more the internal world—he flew to his books, and gave himself up to literature, leading a kind of dusky retirement in the law and his own past reminiscences” (Vorbem. § 2). If so, we might certainly affirm, never did an author’s course of life present a greater contrast to the character of his writings, or appear less adapted to the aim he professes to have in view. The work to which he owns himself to have been called, from its very nature, required the most resolute and devoted agency: he was expressly called to do the part of a watchman in the midst of abounding danger and corruption, where success in any degree must have seemed utterly hopeless, excepting as the result of unwearied diligence and self-denying labour. And though, it is true, in his writings, as in those of the prophets generally, we have the record of little else than his direct communications with Heaven, and his more special messages to the people, yet these breathe throughout such a Jiving earnestness and practical vigour, as clearly bespeaks the man of active labour, not the learned leisure and meditative quiet of the recluse.

This moral äåéíï ́ ôçò , or fervent energetic striving after a practical result, is stamped upon the whole of Ezekiel’s writings, although it comes out more palpably in some portions than in others. The book possesses much of a rhetorical character, and has, in a manner, but one aim—that of moral suasion. Hence the more peculiar difficulties connected with its interpretation are not those which attach to the meaning of the words or the construction of sentences, but such rather as inhere in the general form and substance of the prophet’s communications. Though the former are occasionally found, it is the latter which chiefly prevail; and some even of the most profound and enigmatical portions are remarkable for the perfect plainness and simplicity of the style. At the same time, while we thus maintain the essential incorrectness of the view given of Ezekiel’s prophetical character by Ewald and Hitzig, we are not insensible to a difference, in the line indicated by them, between the writings of this prophet and the other prophetical books; this book is characterized in a quite peculiar manner by a tendency to minute, detailed, and, as might seem, elaborate descriptions. But this arose from the native bent of the prophet’s mind—not from the retired and studious character of his life.

For, as another distinctive peculiarity in Ezekiel, there appears a very marked individuality in his cast of mind—such as gives a kind of uniqueness to his writings, and plainly distinguishes them as productions from those of the other prophets. It is true that in the one as well as in the other we have the inspired utterances of men speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. But it is not the less true, that in thus moving them, the Spirit of God had respect to their diverse natural characteristics, and allowed their constitutional peculiarities to give their full impress to the form and method of the messages they delivered. The doctrine of inspiration does not imply, however often it has been so represented, that the persons who were the subjects of it should be wrought upon by the Spirit as a kind of mechanical instruments, whose natural faculties were suspended under the violent and impulsive agency of a higher power. On such a supposition, we could never account for the diversities of manner which characterize the sacred oracles, and which not only shed over them the charm of an instructive and pleasing variety, but also endow them with a manifold adaptation to the different tastes and capacities of men. The Spirit did not suspend, or imperiously control, but most wisely and skilfully used the mental peculiarities and individual relations of his human instruments of working. And as through the employment of these the Divine Author of the communications has sought to find his way more thoroughly to our understandings and our sympathies, so it is by making due account of the same that we must endeavour to find our way to what, in the communications themselves, may be the mind of the Spirit.

In the simply literary department of the religious sphere, we readily concede a full play to the varied idiosyncrasies of mind, and the diversified methods they naturally fall into in the exhibition of Divine truth. A clear and solid judgment, practical wisdom and sagacity, rapt fervour of spirit, logical accuracy, the playful sportings of fancy or the bolder flights of imagination; the direct and the veiled, the homely and the refined, the historical and the allegorical—all find here their peculiar province, and have each their appropriate use. And in reaping the benefit which they are severally fitted to render to the cause of truth, and to minister of personal instruction, every one knows that they must each be treated after their own kind, and judged by their distinctive characteristics of thought and expression. Now there is the same variety in the natural gifts and endowments of the inspired writers; and they must be dealt with in the same manner, if we would catch aright their spirit, and receive just impressions from the discourses they delivered. For example, in the case more immediately before us, in the prophet Ezekiel we have an example of the Spirit’s theopneustic agency in one of the more uncommon and eccentric class of minds,—a mind susceptible of deep emotions, possessed of an aerial fancy, and intensely energetic in its aims and movements; a mind, therefore, strongly realistic in its tendencies, so that it must be ever striving after the living presence or the life-like representation of things, beholding the unseen mirrored in the seen, and arraying the dim perspective of the future in the familiar garniture of the past or present. To such a mind, the distinctions, in a manner, vanish between history and prophecy, symbol and reality, flesh and spirit; the one seems insensibly to merge into the other, or to be related to it only as the exterior form of the life that dwells within. And the Spirit of God, in serving Himself of such a mind, as a channel of Divine communications to the Church, must be understood to have left these marked peculiarities to their native operation, and only to have given them the proper impulse, and furnished them with the necessary materials of working. It was, in truth, precisely such a mind that was needed in the crisis at which the affairs of the covenant-people had then arrived, when, the external framework of the Divine kingdom having fallen to pieces, the interest of God seemed ready to perish, and the very foundations of the faith were tottering to their base. No ordinary man, at such a time, was fitted anew to raise the standard of God’s truth, and rally the prostrate forces of the kingdom. One was needed who should be capable of living alike in the past and the future, and who could see as with open eye, and grasp as with a gaint’s hand, the hidden realities of faith.

The peculiarities, therefore, of Ezekiel’s mental constitution stood in very close connection with his special calling as a prophet; and due account must be made of them by all who would either understand aright his mission to the Church, or read in an intelligent and discerning spirit the book of his prophecy. If we should expect to find there, as in some of the other prophets, fine displays of tender feeling, or descriptions remarkable for their flow of pleasing sentiment and artistic beauty of composition, we shall certainly be disappointed. This is not the field for gems of such a nature. The mind of the prophet was concentrated upon one great object,—to give life and reality, body and freshness, to the objects of faith, so as thereby to reanimate an expiring Church, and recall men’s confidence to an almost forgotten and unknown God. Whatever might serve this purpose, whether in the real or ideal world, in the symbols of religion or in the facts of sacred history, he freely lays under contribution to effect it. Even strange combinations and grotesque forms are often resorted to, when by means of them he can add to the graphic power and moral force of his delineations. And comparatively regardless of the mode, intent mainly on the effect of his communications, he indulges in frequent reiterations, and invests his imagery with such specific and minute details as one naturally connects with a felt and present reality.

The characteristics now noticed in the prophetic agency of Ezekiel seem to call for a species of commentary which shall be more parænetical than exegetical; in other words, which shall rather handle the different communications as doctrinal or practical discourses on particular subjects, than break them up into detached fragments for minute explanatory remarks. There would otherwise be a want of fitting correspondence in form between the text and the kind of interpretation subjoined to it. And this it is our purpose to keep steadily in view, not slurring over difficulties in the text, or refusing any aid we can find for elucidating its import; yet, at the same time, dwelling chiefly on the great principles of truth and duty, to which all that is either more common or more peculiar in the prophet is rendered principally subservient. (We are glad to see that there is a growing recognition of the fitness of this in regard to the exposition of Scripture generally. Hengstenberg, in the preface to his Commentary on the Apocalypse, expresses it as his opinion, that the present times demand a kind of exposition of Scripture which is in accordance with its great doctrinal and practical design. And Stier, in his preface to the 4th vol. of his Reden Jesu, thus vindicates his adoption of such a form of commentary: “Our older expositors, as is well known, gave to their exegesis very much of the same form, in respect to edification; it is only in the present age, in our unhappy divorce between the Church and the professorial chair, that such can appear to be of a mongrel character. Intentionally and on principle I abandon the wholly unpractical manner of the schools, which coldly and stiffly guards itself against the use of any word that might speak from heart to heart, and which must always carry an unnatural and unseemly appearance in every, even the most learned, treatment of the living word of God.”)

It is impossible not to notice, as another distinguishing element in Ezekiel’s prophetical character, his strong priestly feeling. For the most part the prophets belonged either to the priestly or the Levitical order; and sometimes, as in the cases of Samuel and Jeremiah, prominence is given to the fact of their having been by birth connected with those more select portions of the community. But in Ezekiel alone of the later prophets does the priestly element become so peculiarly prominent and pervading as to give a tone and impress to the general character of his ministrations, and to render ever his prophetical labours a kind of priestly service. His thoughts seem perpetually to linger about the temple, and even delight to find in its symbolical materials and forms of worship the channels through which to unfold the truths he was commissioned to declare. This, however, it must be remembered, was less owing to any individual peculiarity or personal choice, than to the circumstances of his position and the nature of his calling. It sprang more immediately from the desire of satisfying the spiritual want occasioned first by the absence, and then by the destruction of the outward temple, which it was of importance to meet by something of a corresponding nature. But of this more will be said under the opening verses.

Still further, the prophetical gift itself possessed and exercised by Ezekiel was of the higher kind. Beyond all question, he belongs to the first rank of those who, under the old covenant, were called to the regular discharge of the prophetical office. As with the prophets generally, his gift was exercised as well in regard to the present as the future; and in both respects it proved itself to be, as Witsius terms it, “incomparable.” (Miscel. Sac. i. p. 243.) It enabled him to form a correct estimate of the existing state of matters, not less than a clear apprehension of what was going to take place. His spiritually enlightened eye takes the true gauge and measure of what was around him; looks through the appearances into the realities of things; so that, with the assured confidence of one who knew the mind of God, he gives forth the judgment of Heaven respecting them. His anticipations of the future are not less remarkable. Even De Wette admits that not only are there here actual predictions, but that “in none of the ancient prophets are there found such definite predictions as in this.” The last part of the statement may certainly be questioned by those who believe in the genuineness of Daniel’s prophecies; yet the predictions of Ezekiel are both of great variety, and singularly minute and faithful in their delineations of coming events. Partly, however, from some of the events referred to in them lying not far remote from the utterance of the predictions, and partly also from the strongly figurative form into which not a few of the others are cast, their apologetical value in the present day, against the adversaries of the faith, is not altogether in proportion to their number or their definiteness. Of many of them it must be said, that they are fitted rather for confirming the faith and strengthening the convictions of those who already believe, than for removing the doubts of such as are still opposed to the truth. Yet we should deem it impossible for any one, in a spirit of candour and sincerity, to peruse the wonderful and discriminating predictions contained in his writings, respecting either the Jews themselves (those, for example, in Eze_5:1, Eze_6:1, Eze_11:1, Eze_17:1, Eze_21:1.), or the neighbouring nations, more particularly those of Tyre and Egypt—predictions which foretold in regard to the subjects of them very different and varying fortunes, and such as necessarily required ages for their accomplishment;—we should conceive it impossible for any one in a proper spirit to examine these, and compare them with the facts of history, without being persuaded that they afford indubitable evidence of a supernatural insight into the far distant future. No spirit of human divination, or mere worldly sagacity, could possibly have enabled him to descry events at once so remote in time, and so different from what might, on many accounts, have been supposed likely to happen.

III. In respect to the style and diction of Ezekiel, different estimates have been formed by different writers, and exaggerated representations, as well of a favourable as of an unfavourable kind, are still to be met with. The comparative estimate of Lowth may certainly be characterized as in some respects overdrawn; but he says, with substantial correctness, “that in his images he is fertile, magnificent, harsh, and sometimes almost deformed; in his diction grand, weighty, austere, rough, and sometimes unpolished; abounding in repetitions, not for the sake of ornament or gracefulness, but through indignation or violence” (Prælec. xxi.). His diction, he adds, is sufficiently perspicuous, almost all his obscurity lying in the matter; and notwithstanding the obvious want of parallelism which pervades the greater part of the book, Lowth is disposed to claim most of it as poetical, although, he admits, “the sentences are often so rude and void of composition, that he was often doubtful what to determine in that respect.” In truth, he was here trying the productions of the prophet by a somewhat mistaken standard. And altogether the view taken and the estimate formed by Ewald are much more correct. The latter says (Propheten, p. 212): “Considered simply as a writer, this prophet exhibits great excellences, especially as living in so dismal a period. His mode of representation, indeed, like that of most of the later writers, has a tendency to length and expansion, with sentences often very much involved, and rhetorical breadth and copiousness; yet it seldom dwindles down like that of Jeremiah, readily recovers itself, and usually makes a fine conclusion. His language has scattered through it several Aramaic and foreign expressions, in which one may perceive the influence of his exiled condition; though, for the most part, it is formed after the elder and better models. His diction, besides, is rich in rare comparisons, often alike attractive and striking, full of varied terms, and commonly wrought out with much beauty (for example, Eze_32:1.). Where the discourse rises higher to the delineation of the sublime visions presented to him (as in Eze_1:1 and Eze_10:1.), it exhibits the vividness of genuine dramatic composition. It has also a certain evenness and repose, a quality which distinguishes this prophet from Jeremiah; he but seldom soars into lyrical strains (Eze_7:1.), or becomes vehemently moved (Ezekiel 21.).” It is added, that the verse is often rough, and the strophe-arrangement much obscured, on account of the tendency to lengthen out the sentences; but they are still regarded as to some extent existing, though they are only to be found in a distinct and regular form in a few select portions, such as Ezekiel 7 and Eze_21:1.

In one respect Ewald also has given an erroneous view of the character of Ezekiel as a writer—representing this as in a certain sense interfering with his character as a prophet. This is done more especially in respect to the symbolical actions and parabolical discourses, which abound so much in his writings. “The writer here,” he says, “overpowers the prophet. The writer seeks for excellent images, similitudes, and enigmas, and the merely literary prophet finds therein the readiest helps and supports to his fancy; and so Ezekiel very commonly sets out from an image, conducts this with all possible varieties of form and embellishments, and then unfolds it in proper discourse; or he draws long delineations marked by genuine poetic beauty: but the point and keenness of the prophetic style suffer much there by,” etc. This line of remark proceeds on the misapprehension already noticed respecting the prophetical character of Ezekiel. It has been well met, as to the particular point now under consideration, by Hävernick, who says: “It is quite correct that a certain amount of skill is discoverable in this mode of representation; but it is to misapprehend the nature of prophecy, when this artistic impulse is viewed as the productive power of such compositions. Prophecy has its root in quite other soil; and were it after this fashion drawn into the mere province of art, it should cease to be genuine prophecy, and should belong to the class of degenerate productions—spurious imitations of the true. The writer’s skill evinces itself here rather in giving forth with the greatest vividness and fidelity his internal perceptions with the full impress of their immediateness and originality. It is the historical skill of the narrator of internal facts, a simply reproductive and not a productive faculty, which must be conceded to the prophet, and in which he shows a perfect mastery” (Comm. p. 24).

We simply add, under this head, that the darkness to a certain extent inseparably connected with our prophet’s delight in the use of parable and symbol, was, when rightly contemplated, by no means at variance with his great design as a prophet. His primary object was impression,—to rouse and stimulate, to awaken spiritual thoughts and feelings in the depths of the soul, and bring it back to a living confidence and faith in God. And for this, while great plainness and force of speech were necessary, mysterious symbols and striking parabolical delineations were also fitted to be of service. They showed the prophet’s mind to be on the stretch to arrest the attention of his people, and lead them to penetrate into the deep things of God. To the great majority of them such things appeared deep, chiefly on account of that superficial habit of mind which rests satisfied with looking at the exterior, and mistakes shadows for realities,—the same habit substantially which has led the modern Jews to magnify to such a height the obscurities of this book of Ezekiel, ordaining that no one should read it till he had passed his thirtieth year, with other foolish and extravagant things of a like nature. Had either the earlier or the later Jews understood it aright, they would have felt that the profound and enigmatical character of some of the visions, especially when viewed in connection with the awful directness and pungency of others, was itself a witness against them, and formed a call to serious consideration and anxious inquiry. And thus in respect to the more peculiar part of the form and clothing, as well as the matter of his revelations, wisdom is here also justified of her children.

IV. The order and classification of his prophecies next demand some notice. And here it ought first of all to be borne in mind, that whatever arrangement may be made respecting them as to their subjects, an order and progression belongs to them as a whole, as well as a homogeneousness of nature, which fits them for mutually throwing light on each other; and in particular, one large portion of them (Ezekiel 1), which is mainly conversant with sin and judgment, in a great degree supplies the key, by which the later announcements—more cheering in their tone, but more remote in their objects—are to be interpreted. There is in this respect a unity in the character of the book which calls for an orderly and progressive perusal of its contents. And should any one, heedless of this characteristic, overleap all the earlier portions of the prophecy, and proceed at once to grapple with some of the later and more peculiar visions, he would only take the course most likely to involve himself in perplexity or disappointment.

A general classification of the contents of the book, as has just been noticed, may be made into those which have respect predominantly to sin and judgment, and those which are more peculiarly appropriated to the revelation of grace and mercy. We can only, however, speak of prevailing, not by any means of exclusive, characteristics of this sort. For in the one part mercy is often found intermingling with the judgment, as in the other judgment occasionally alternates with the mercy. The more specific, and at the same time quite natural divisions are commonly indicated by the prophet himself, in the several dates which he has, at certain intervals, placed as superscriptions to the messages he successively received. These are altogether eight. 1. The first is introductory, containing a description of the first vision, and in connection with it of the call of the prophet—(Ezekiel 1-3, 15). 2. The next portion, embracing the remaining verses in Ezekiel 3, and reaching to the close of Ezekiel 7, is occupied chiefly with a more explicit announcement of the prophet’s commission and charge, and his entrance on the work it devolved upon him, by setting forth the enormous guilt of the people, the certainty of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, with still subsequent calamities, and the prostrate condition of the whole affairs of the kingdom. 3. The next section embraces Ezekiel 8-19, but falls into two parts. The first, including Ezekiel 8-11, contains still further revelations of the people’s sinfulness, especially as connected with the profanation of the temple and the corruption of the priesthood; the determination of God, in consequence, to forsake his sanctuary, with severe executions of vengeance on the wicked, though not without gracious interpositions for the safety of the few who remained faithful; and then, the twofold work of destruction and preservation being (symbolically) done, his actual departure from the temple-mount, that he might go and reveal himself in tenderness and power to an inquiring and afflicted people in exile. In the second part of this division, which includes Eze 12019, the prophet prosecutes in detail his exposure of the sins which were bringing down such inflictions of judgment, and shows how all classes as well as the priests—prophets, princes, and the people generally—had corrupted their ways, and should severally share in the destruction that was impending. 4. In Ezekiel 20-23 the same subject is continued, though, as the time of judgment had approached nearer, there is an increased keenness and severity in the prophet’s tone; he sits, as it were, in judgment upon the people, brings out in full form the Divine indictment against them, and with awful distinctness and frequent reiteration, announces both their consummate guilt and its appropriate judgment. 5. Then comes, in Ezekiel 24, the actual announcement of the end, as regards Jerusalem and its guilty people, with a representation of the behaviour suitable for such as survived the calamity; the prophet himself being required to share in the confusion and silence which were proper at such a time. 6. Ezekiel 25-32 form a group by themselves, containing the announcements respecting sin and judgment, which, during the interval of the prophet’s silence towards his own people, he was commanded to utter against the surrounding nations. The great object of them was to show, that if judgment had begun at the house of God, it would assuredly embrace, and visit with still more overwhelming calamities, the ungodly world. There are various headings in this section; and some of the revelations were given at periods considerably later than others; but they began to be uttered immediately after the doom of Jerusalem, and all manifestly relate to one great theme. 7. In Ezekiel 32-39 we have a series of predictions given to the prophet in the twelfth year of the captivity, after the appearance in Chaldea of the remnant that had escaped from Jerusalem (Eze_23:21); a series which points more particularly to the better times in prospect, and unfolds, with considerable fulness and variety, the revival of God’s cause among the covenant-people, the re-establishment of the Divine kingdom, and its sure and final victory over all the sources of evil, which had prevailed so much against it in the past. 8. Then, after an interval of thirteen years, comes the closing vision, in Ezekiel 40-48, disclosing, under the symbolical representation of a new temple, city, and commonwealth, the restored condition, with the perfect order and beauty, of the people and kingdom of God.

V. All that is necessary for the present time to be said on the literature of the subject may soon be told. Our own country has done comparatively little in relation to it. The bulky and tedious work of Greenhill, reprinted some years ago in a cheap form, is, like most of the Puritan writings, of small account in an exegetical respect; and is rather a collection of commonplaces founded on Ezekiel, with a multitude of parallel passages from other Scriptures, than a commentary in the proper sense. The only English work calling for special notice here is the Translation, with Notes, by Archbishop Newcome, published in 1788. The notes are of a very brief description, chiefly explanatory of the meanings given in the translation; and both the translation and the notes proceed to a large extent on the vicious principle, very prevalent at the time, of getting rid of difficulties in the sense by proposed emendations of the text. This false and superficial style of criticism has now deservedly fallen into discredit; although Ewald, and after him Hitzig, still pursue, to some extent, the same course, and not seldom, like Newcome, would correct the Hebrew text from the Septuagint. How little confidence can be placed in emendations derived from such a source, no one can need to be told who is in the least degree acquainted with the character of the Septuagint translation generally, and, in particular, with its translation of this book. Hitzig himself admits that many of its variations from the true sense have arisen from palpable mistakes; and that, as a whole, it is pervaded by frequent and systematic deviations from the correct import, while the Hebrew text is remarkable for its degree of purity, are among the surest results of a sound biblical criticism. We have, therefore, but rarely paid any regard to the diverse readings derived from the Septuagint, and with the rarest exceptions have adhered to the existing text.

By far the most elaborate work ever published on the prophecies of Ezekiel was the joint production of two Spanish Jesuits, Pradus and Villalpandus, in three huge folios (Rome, 1596). The first volume, which, with a slight exception, was executed by Pradus, and reaches to the close of Ezekiel 28, is the best portion of the work; now, however, chiefly valuable as a repertory of the opinions of the Fathers. The two other volumes are occupied with interminable discussions in reference to the temple, and, as will appear from our preliminary remarks to Ezekiel 40-48, proceed throughout on a wrong principle. The expository discourses of Calvin extend only to the first twenty chapters, and are distinguished by his usual acumen and discrimination, also by his hearty appreciation of the great moral principles exhibited by the prophet; but afford little help in regard to some of the more peculiar difficulties connected with the interpretation of the book. The same also may be said of the commentaries of Rosenmüller and Maurer, though both are deserving of consultation,—the former more especially for the judicious and extensive use it makes of existing materials; the latter (which, as to the sense, very commonly follows Rosenmüller), for its grammatical exactness and acute remarks on particular passages. The translation of Ewald, with its brief notes, forming part of his Hebrew Prophets, though unsatisfactory as a whole, is yet of considerable value, and has frequently been consulted. But a much more valuable contribution to the study of Ezekiel appeared very shortly after it—that of Hävernick, which issued from the press in 1843, a year or two before the lamented death of its author. Though I cannot always adopt the views and conclusions arrived at in this work, yet I gratefully acknowledge my deep obligations to it. The commentary of Hitzig, of still later date (1847), is the production of an accurate scholar, but of a very inferior mind to that of Hävernick; and while it is entitled to an honourable place as regards the grammatical sense and connection, it has added nothing to the general elucidation of the book, or done aught to enhance its value as part of the Inspired Volume. In this respect it is rash and superficial, and partakes of the wonted leanness and spiritual poverty of Rationalism. The few passages of Ezekiel examined by Hengstenberg in his Christology are treated with his usual accuracy and penetration.