P. R. Ackroyd, Exile and Restoration (SCM, 1968).

Increasingly, it is being recognized that Ezek is not simply a priestly intruder in the prophetic line. His work is marked off firstly by an the central reality of the actual destruction of the city and temple. His attention is entirely concentrated on the actuality of the disaster, and he is concerned to show the rightness of God in doing this, in bringing the ‘disaster’ upon Israel. Linked with this (i.e. his recognition of the corruption of the people and their deserving the judgement) is that the promise of restoration is only by divine fiat — it is not because of the righteousness of the exiles, for they too are condemned as a rebellious house.

Ezekiel and the disaster
The first part of the book focuses on Jerusalem and the temple — its destruction under God’s righteous judgement (was there a Palestinian phase to his ministry?). For those in Babylon, the hope that the city might be saved and that they might return to it is shattered. For them, like Ezekiel, their belief that Yahweh is the god of all the earth now is to be tested. They are in an unclean land. Thus although Ezek has a pessimistic view of the people, he still calls for response, on the basis that Yahweh wills life and not death for his people.

Ezekiel and restoration
The hope of restoration is incipient in the early judgement passages (not(e?) the sparing of some in ch 9; and cf 11:14-21). In ch 20, it is presented as the hope for a new Exodus, release from the new bondage in which they find themselves. This paves the way for the more expansive vision of promise that is found in the second half (note how this is true of Isaiah as well). The restoration is in general terms in 33-37, followed by the overthrow of the archetypal evil powers of Gog and Magog in 38-39 and then the detail of the divine salvation in 40-48. Three main themes. Temple A dwelling-place for God is central to the restoration; his presence with his people. (see 37:26-27 and the covenant formula). As God came to Jerusalem to destroy it, and to Babylon to the prophet, so he will come to his restored dwelling place (43:7). The new sanctuary is not erected with human participation; it is an act of God’s will. The temple-as-God’s-dwelling-place is the source of life and for the land and people (cf the image of the river). cultus The details of the priestly organization etc focus on the maintenance of purity; holiness must be preserved. If the temple is to be the source of life-giving power, it must be rightly approached; it must not be defiled, as it was in the past. Strong contrast here with the abominations of ch 8-11. land and people A corollary of this is the purification of the land and people; the old evil rulers will be replaced by an ideal Davidic shepherd-king. The land is purified and made fruitful, in general terms in ch 36 and more specifically in ch 47. Note also the re-allocation of land in ch 47, restored to its ancient splendour but now in right relationship — the geography is spiritualised, with Judah and Benjamin at the centre of a revived tribal structure. Purity also expressed in justice for the people with a new heart. All this is only divine action. Note the theme of all this being done in the sight of the nations so that the might know that Yahweh is God; he has done this to his people because of their iniquity, and he will save them for the sake of his holy name. Yahweh’s name must not be profaned in the sight of the nations. It is set in a world context.

W. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, ch 5 “New Covenant”
The effect of the exile
The exile destroyed the tangible marks of empirical Israel — the Davidic monarchy, the land, the city, the temple, the priesthood/sacrificial system. Was Israel finished? What was true Israel? Would her future have a political shape? Israel existed before the land, before the city, the temple; before it all. These were accoutrements that gave the nation its shape under the Mosaic covenant, but the identity and promise to Israel was prior to all of it. Now her true nature could be seen. It was recognized, e.g. in Ezek, that only by God’s action would Israel have a future.

A theocentric covenant and event; it would all be done by Yahweh. Was it remote future or imminent? Like the NT writers, it was both. They saw the actual return as an ushering in, as a paradigm of the end. If the ideal is not in fact presently realised, that does not invalidate the final purpose of Yahweh. In the anticipated return from Exile, Jeremiah saw the inbreaking of the end. What is new about it? Its lack of mutuality? (No, for all the covenants have been thus). In the revolutionary new age, inrooted human tendencies will be reversed. There is continuity with what has gone before, and yet a radical newness, the introduction of something that has not been part of Israel’s experience to this point. The continuity is indicated by the healing of the breach between Judah and Israel (cf. Ezek 37); a strong stress on the reconstitution of the people of God as one entity. The continuity is seen in the new exodus imagery; the irruption of divine grace will be analogous to what has happened before. What will make it new in the new age is that both partners will keep it, for this is what was wrong with the first covenant — they broke it. Note, Yahweh kept it, and for him it was still in force (he was still a husband). Divine continuity and consistency would continue; the ‘newness’ would consist in the transformation of the people so that they could match the divine faithfulness with their own. Thus new covenant is not ‘promise’ as opposed to ‘law’ — all the covenants had been ‘promise’ with law as the regulatory framework of the relationship. The law in the heart is a familiar OT way of describing the ideal to which the devout should strive; to not externalize the law, but internalize and reflect upon it and obey it ( cf. Deut; Is 51:7; various pss). Here it is not an imperative, however, but an indicative. God will do this. He will change them inwardly, but it is a transformation in line with the intention of Sinai — that the law would be embraced by all in the heart.

In Ezekiel’s version, the link with a new creation is stronger. The resurrection of Israel is portrayed in Edenic terms (breath of life); the Abrahamic promises of multiplication are mentioned, with a resulting witness to the whole world. In 40-48 we see a vision of the new city-temple as world sanctuary. Note the living waters of 47:1-12. throughout 40-48 there is a studied avoidance of the Davidic theme; a rejection of the monarchical traditions which led to Israel’s downfall. The emphasis is on Yahweh’s kingship, on divine rule. (He notes the same emphasis on new Creation in Isa 40-55, the same emphasis on divine kingship and the same relative absence of Davidic Messianic expectation.)

W. Dumbrell, Faith of Israel, ‘Ezekiel’
The prophecy is controlled by three great visions (1-3; 8-11; 40-48) the central concern of each being the temple, and thus the divine kingship of Yahweh.

The call and the First temple vision (1:1-3:15)
Note the similarities to Isaiah’s call (overwhelming vision, ominous judgement, winged creatures, divine throne, context of worship, both sent to unwilling hearers). YHWH is seen to be both ‘locally enthroned and yet omnipresently mobile.’ Like the Babylonians, YHWH comes from the North in a storm of judgement. The book begins with the temple under threat of judgement from the divine king (and concludes with the New Jerusalem with God as king). He is sent nevertheless to a rebellious people, with divine assurances of encouragement. He is then recommissioned as he ‘returns’ to the place of Exile.

Ezekiel’s role and message (3:16-7:11)
He is charged to be a watchman to convey the threat which comes to the exiles/Israel from Yahweh himself. This is the nature of his dumbness — he will only be able to speak as Yahweh gives him utterance, and it will all be lamentation and mourning and woe. Note how his message takes the form of sign actions.

Departure of the divine glory (8-11)
The second cycle of vision-prophetic ministry. He is transported to Jerusalem, to four different points in the temple, to view its abominations and the divine abandonment of the temple. The promises previously associated with the covenant are transferred to the new temple/sanctuary.

The Exile symbolized (12-23)
As with the first cycle, the vision is followed by sign actions, and by further proclamation.

Oracles against foreign nations (24-33)
Falling between references to the siege of Jerusalem; these prophecies function as a necessary prelude to the message of restoration. Israel is being judged, but before her restoration her enemies (who gloated and took advantage of her distress) must be dealt with. Ch 38-39 share this. The watchman returns in ch 33, beginning a new phase in the prophecy with a return to his original commission. Now that Jerusalem has fallen, Ezek need no longer be dumb — the prophecies of hope may commence in earnest.

Divine leadership and restoration (34-36)
The problem of faulty leadership is dealt with by Yahweh’s decisive leadership; the problem of a faulty heart is dealt with by a new heart. The covenant renewed, with a new obedience possible. Through the universal implantation of the Spirit among the people, leadership is democratized.

Valley of Dry bones (37-39)
Restoration from another viewpoint. Resurrection; a newly constituted untied people of God. The threat from Gog/Magog is against this new people.

The New Temple (40-48)
The imagery is drawn from the remote past, from Exodus and conquest rather than from the monarchy. A new beginning in older terms, the terms of divine kingship (is this an implicit criticism of the monarchy?). Having begun with the judgement and destruction of the temple, the hope for the future is cast in terms of a new society which is temple-controlled and theocratically centred. the arrangement of the tribes around the sanctuary is reminiscent of the Numbers situation, not the settled monarchy. All this is clearly not a blueprint for a post-exilic national restoration. If there is to be a future it will be imposed by Yahweh; he will erect this temple; he will rule it and minister in it. In all of this Davidic kingship expectation seems to have a diminished role.