OT3 Theology Dave Rogers Ezekiel – Summary of Block’s Theology section9/02/2008 - 9/02/2008


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Focused on Israel • The universalism & cosmic interest of Isaiah stand in sharpest contrast to the parochialism of Ezekiel. From beginning to end, the God that confronts the reader in this book is first & foremost the God of Israel, not only passionate about his relationship with his people but also willing to stake his reputation on their fate or fortune. • He does indeed sit as cosmic king on his throne in the heavens, and through his heavenly chariot his rule extends to the farthest corners of the earth (1:1-28); but his chosen residence is in Jerusalem, in the land of Canaan/Israel (chs. 4-8), among his own people (48:35). Even in the exercise of his sovereignty over the nations, his agenda is focused on Israel. • He is indeed concerned that all the world recognizes his person and his presence in their affairs, but his agenda is always focused on Israel. Yahweh’s Holiness • Second, although Ezekiel avoids the title “Holy One of Israel” so common in Isaiah, the attribute of Yahweh’s holiness is high in his mind. • His disposition toward his people in particular is driven by passion for the reputation of his holy name. He must visit them with his judgment because their idolatry and other abominable actions have defiled: • his temple (5:11; 8:5-18: 23:38-39) • his land (36:16-18) • his people (20:7, 31. 43) • his Sabbaths (20:13, 21, 24) • his name • Because of his passion for his holy name he has not utterly destroyed his people in the past (20:9, 14, 22, 44), & for this reason he must restore his people to himself and to his land in the future (20:44; 36:20-32). • Overlooking the human causation, the international observers to this calamity conclude either that Yahweh is unable to care for his people or he has willfully abandoned them. In either case, his sacred name has been defiled. Accordingly, after the judgment. when he deals with Israel’s enemies regathers his people, restores them to their hereditary homeland, and revitalizes them by the infusion of his Spirit, he acts not in accordance with their desert but in defense of his holy name, that he might be sanctified through his people among the nations (20:41-42; 28:22, 25; 36:16-32; 3816, 23; 39:7, 27). Gracious Covenant God • Yahweh is the gracious covenant-making & covenant-keeping God of Israel. The covenantal basis for his relationship with the nation is evident not only in the prophet’s designation of Israel as ‘‘my people,” but also in citations of & allusions to the covenant formula “I will be your God, & you shall be my people” (11:20; 14:11; 34:24, 30-31; 36:28; 37:23) & explicit references to the covenant itself. • Because his compatriots treated Yahweh’s covenant promises to Israel as unconditional guarantees of security, the prophet spends chs. 1-24 seeking to debunk this illusory conviction. • However, the furious outpouring of the covenant curses that Ezekiel predicts in his judgment oracles should not blind the reader to the prophet’s fundamentally positive disposition toward the covenant. Ch. 16 presents Yahweh as gracious & compassionate, who not only rescued Jerusalem, an abandoned infant, from certain death; when she had grown he rescues her a second time & marries her, & with unrestrained expressions of love he elevates her to the status of queen (16:1-14). All that Israel has & is she owes to his generosity. According to Ezekiel, Yahweh’s present & imminent judgment of the nation should not be interpreted as abandonment of the covenant, but as strict adherence to its fine print. Israel has brought on herself the covenant curses by trampling underfoot the covenant grace of Yahweh (16:15-43). But Yahweh will not & cannot abandon his fundamental commitment to his people. Ezekiel’s prophecies of hope & restoration are based on the eternality of the covenant, & on Yahweh’s undying passion for the well-being of his people. The God who acts • According to a specific form of the divine self-introductory formula, “I am Yahweh, I have spoken & I will act” (36:36; 37:14), Yahweh is by definition a God who acts. • As in the events associated with Israel’s original exodus (Ex. 1-15), knowledge of his person & character is gained by observing his performance. His primary goal in bringing down foreign powers is not to destroy the enemies of Israel but to manifest his greatness, glory, & holiness. Similarly, his aim in restoring Israel is to demonstrate his holiness (36:16-32). Ezekiel is a prophet of the Spirit

OT3 Theology Dave Rogers Ezekiel – Summary of Block’s Theology section9/02/2008 - 9/02/2008

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More than any other prophet, Ezekiel is a prophet of the Spirit. Exploiting the word ruah, “spirit, wind, breath,” to its full, he presents the Spirit of Yahweh as the signature of divine presence in many different contexts: • as agency of conveyance; • as agency of animation; • as agency of prophetic inspiration; • as the sign of divine ownership. But Ezekiel not only spoke of the power of the Spirit; he embodied the Spirit’s power in his own person.

God is on the side of life • As a corollary theological observation, despite the morbid tone of much of Ezekiel’s preaching, God is on the side of life, not death. Yahweh’s fundamental disposition is in the interests of life, even for the rebellious among the exiles, if only they will repent of their sin and turn to him (18:30-32). This is his desire for all humankind. B. EZEKIEL VISION OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD ’S 1. Ezekiel’s perception of Israel’s past • In ch. 16 Ezekiel’s historical survey is cast in the form of an extended allegory. 1-15 highlight the role of Yahweh in lsrael’s history, which begins in Canaan. Jerusalem (functioning metonymically for the nation) was a helpless infant, abandoned by her parents & left to die until Yahweh came by & rescued her, calling her to life. When she had grown up & matured as a woman Yahweh came upon her a second time & married her. Not only did he enter into a covenant relationship with her, but he also lavished his affection on her with unrestrained generosity, elevating her to the status of queen (1-15). The point is clear: all that Israel is & has is attributable to God’s grace. • In ch. 20 Israel’s history is divided into seven eras, each of which is characterized by Yahweh’s gracious actions on Israel’s behalf and Israel’s rejection of his covenant. From Ezekiel’s perspective the past is represented by the first three phases. • In the first phase (5-9) Ezekiel traces the origins of the nation to Egypt, where Yahweh chose Israel, made himself known & committed himself on oath to be the nation’s God, & promised on oath to take them out of Egypt & bring them to the most glorious of all lands, which he had personally “spied out” for them. In response to these gracious acts he demanded that they abandon their abominable behavior & give up their Egyptian gods (5-7). But they refused on both counts, inciting his fury. Nevertheless, for the sake of his holy name, Yahweh restrained himself, & in a gracious act of deliverance from Egypt, he revealed himself to the nations. • In the second phase (10-17), Yahweh brought Israel into the desert, where he revealed his specific will, promising them life in return for obedience, & gave them the Sabbaths as a sign of his covenantal commitment. But they profaned his name by rejecting the covenant, so Yahweh refused to bring them to the promised land. Nonetheless, his concern for his holy name prevented him from destroying them in the desert. • In phase three (18-26), he chose to begin again with the next generation, to whom he revealed new ordinances intended to yield life for them. Again they refused, inciting his wrath. However, acting for the sake of his reputation, instead of destroying the nation, he determined to scatter them among the nations and replace their life-giving laws with regulations that would lead to death. • Acting again for the sake of his name, in the fourth phase (27-29) Yahweh finally brought Israel to the land he had promised them. They still rejected his grace, breaking faith with all kinds of idolatrous abominations. This picture of Israel’s response to Yahweh in the land is consistent with Yahweh’s description of the nation as a house in revolt from the beginning in his first commissioning speech for the prophet (2:3), & the prophet’s first series of sign acts, according to which Israel has been committing iniquities for 390 yrs. • In sum, Yahweh’s relationship with Israel began as a sheer act of grace: • By grace he chose them to be his people. • By grace he established his covenant with them. • By grace he revealed to them his Torah. • By grace he gave them the land of Canaan as their possession. • Although the maintenance of this deity-nation-land relationship was clearly motivated by Yahweh’s concern for his sacred name, Ezekiel offers little information on Yahweh’s motivation for the election of Israel in the first place. • Under the gaze of the surrounding nations, Israel’s charge was to honor the name of Yahweh by accepting his divine lordship & faithfully adhering to his covenant, a response that would be rewarded with divine blessing & protection. Through the prosperity & well-being of the people of God, the positive reputation of the divine patron would be acknowledged among the nations. Conversely, when the people rebel against God, & the blessings of covenant relationship are withheld & replaced with the covenant curses, the name of Yahweh is defiled.

OT3 Theology Dave Rogers Ezekiel – Summary of Block’s Theology section9/02/2008 - 9/02/2008
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Herein one may recognize several enduring principles regarding the relationship between God & his people. The people of God are rendered such by the sovereign choice and gracious redemption of God. The call to be his people is not based on prior qualifications or desert; it is often contrary to natural human dispositions. The people must respond to God’s gracious call to covenant relationship with grateful undeserved devotion to the covenant Lord and unrestrained obedience to his will God stakes his reputation among the broader public on the health and well-being of his people. Ezekiel’s perception of Israel’s present

A People in Revolt • Despite their claims to the contrary (18:1-2), in Ezekiel’s estimation Israel is a household in revolt (2:3; 5:6). Like their ancestors, the people have compromised their status as the people of Yahweh by worshiping other gods (6:1-14; 8:5-17; 14:3-5; 16:15-22; 20:30-31), patterning their conduct after the customs of the pagans (indeed, their wickedness exceeds that of the pagans — 5:6-7; 16:44-52), and relying on foreign powers for satisfaction and security (16:23-29; 23:5-21) Complacency • All the while they are claiming a right to divine protection, based on the immutable promises of God. But Ezekiel is uncompromising in his exposure of the nation’s hypocrisy. The covenant promises of blessing are not unconditional guarantees of divine favor; security and well-being are contingent on the acceptance of Yahweh’s exclusive claims to their allegiance and uncompromising obedience to his will. Since they have failed in, both, the present generation stands under the threat of the covenant curses. At the same time, Yahweh has not abandoned his promises or his people absolutely. On the contrary, ironically, the future lies with the exiles, those who have been presently removed from the land and prevented access to the temple. • Like the period of the flood, the time of exile represents an incubation period, from which will emerge a new community of faith. • From these observations the reader may draw some “fundamental” theological conclusions regarding the relationship between God and his people (DJR’s editorial note: while these 2 pts are correct, they are wrongly premised on a directly analogous relationship of Old and New covenants): • Christians have no right to claim the promises of God if that claim is not matched by exclusive devotion to him & faithful obedience to his will. • The enjoyment of divine favour does not depend on direct physical access to God’s house or his land. It depends, rather, on the worship of God in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24), and on grateful adherence to his moral and ethical demands. 3. Ezekiel’s perception of Israel’s future • According to his seven-part scheme in ch. 20, the present (5th) period of exile (30-31) will be followed by a sixth, in which the people find themselves in the “desert of the people,” where Yahweh purges them of their sinners & brings them “into the bond of covenant” (32-38). • But this history of the nation climaxes in a seventh era when the fortunes of the nation are fully restored. While the prophet has sketched out the main features of this new day in several earlier oracles, following the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. the theme of the nation’s restoration will play a major part in his preaching (chs. 34-39). • Ezekiel paints a picture of Israel in which all the wrongs of the past are redressed & the nation finally lives up to the potential promised in Yahweh’s original covenant. As it turns out, Yahweh’s promises are eternal: • Israel is his covenant people forever; • the land of Canaan has been given to them as their territorial homeland forever; • Yahweh will dwell in the midst of his people forever; • Yahweh’s commitment to his servant David endures forever Yahweh will not go back on his word - “I am Yahweh; I have spoken; I will perform.” • The main features of Yahweh’s future activity on Israel’s behalf are readily recognized: • Regather - In a new exodus, Yahweh will regather the scattered people (11:16-17a; 20:41; 34:1113a, 16; 36:24a; 37:21a); • Return - Yahweh will bring them back to their hereditary homeland, which has been cleansed of its defilement (11:1 7b- 18; 20:42; 34:13b-15; 36:24b; 37:21b); • Renewal - Yahweh will revitalize his people spiritually, renewing his covenant with them, giving them a new heart, and infusing them with his Spirit, so they walk in his ways (11:19-20; 16:62; 34:30-31; 36:25-28; 37:23-24). • Restoration - Yahweh will restore the dynasty of his servant David as an agent of well-being and a symbol of unity for the nation (34:23-24: 37:22-25)

OT3 Theology Dave Rogers Ezekiel – Summary of Block’s Theology section9/02/2008 - 9/02/2008
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Security - Yahweh will bless Israel with unprecedented prosperity and guarantee the security of the nation in their own land (34:25-29; 36:29-30; 37:26; 38:1-39:29); Residence - Yahweh will establish his permanent residence in their midst and reorder the worship of the nation (37:26b-28; 40:1-48:35).

(DJR’s editorial note: as seen from next 2 pts, Block appears to be a pre-millennialist  see Barry Webb’s handout on chs 36-37). From ch. 34-48 his prophecies of hope become increasingly abstract & ‘ideational’. It’s not difficult to envision the regathering & revitalization of the nation as described in ch. 34 & 36:16-38, & main elements should be taken seriously (similarly 37:15-28). However, 37:1-14 is cast as a vision, with the dry bones functioning symbolically for Israel; the GogMagog oracle (chs. 38-39) reads like a literary cartoon, with many unreal & bizarre features: the final temple vision is quite ideological, with many idealistic & fantastic elements that are difficult to reconcile with geographical & cultural realities. While Ezekiel undoubtedly envisages a real return of Israel to their hereditary homeland, the land of Palestine, the appointment of a Davidic Messiah, & a protracted period of peace & prosperity for the nation, his vision remains narrowly nationalistic. Apart from Yahweh’s guarantee of protection, Ezekiel has little to say about the cosmic implications of the new order. Since he does not offer a clear chronology of latter-day occurrences, one is cautioned against using the details in his descriptions to construct a sequential calendar of eschatological events. EZEKIEL'S VISION OF THE MESSIAH Overt references to the Messiah are remarkably few. Apart from the vague allusions in the topmost crown of the cedar, identified as a “sprig, shoot,” in 7:22, and the horn in 29:21 explicitly messianic statements occur only in two contexts, 34:23-24 and 37:22-25. Only by inference can the nasi of chs. 40-48 be identified as a Davidide, & his role is described in other than royal terms. It is evident from 34:23-24 & 37:22-25 that Ezekiel’s messianic hope involves the inverse of his pronouncements of judgment upon the house of David in the first half of the book. Whereas the messianic visions of other prophets tended to be inclusivistic. Incorporating peoples and lands beyond Israel, Ezekiel’s Messiah is a national ruler, whose principal features are reflected in the titles and role designations he bears: • As David he is heir to the eternal dynastic promises made by Yahweh to Israel’s greatest king through the prophet Samuel. • As “my servant,” he enjoys a special relationship with Yahweh. In this fundamentally religious role, he derives his authority by divine appointment rather than personal acumen or democratic election. • As nasi, “prince, chieftain,” he stands at the head of his people, not as a tyrannical ruler but as one who has been called from their ranks to represent them. • As melek he is a royal figure, symbolizing the nation’s new unity. All other pretenders to the throne have been dismissed that Israel may be “one nation” under “one king” occupying the land of Israel. • As “one shepherd,” he will seek the welfare of the flock, protecting and nurturing them after the pattern of Yahweh himself (ch. 34), and in fulfillment of the ancient Mosaic charter for kingship (Deut. 17:14-20). In all these roles, Ezekiel’s Messiah symbolizes the realities of the new age: • Remarkably, he plays no part in the restoration of the nation. He neither gathers the people nor leads them back to their homeland. • Furthermore, unlike other prophets, Ezekiel makes no mention of the Messiah as an agent of peace or righteousness. These he attributes to the direct activity of God. • But the Messiah’s personal presence symbolizes the reign of Yahweh in the glorious new age.

C. •

Concluding Vision & the nasi • The nasi in Ezekiel’s concluding vision (chs. 40-48) is enigmatic. He is clearly an exalted figure, far more important than the “princes” of the premonarchic period. But the vision account is silent on the Davidic connection, and Zion/Jerusalem seems to be out of the picture as well. Indeed, the prince and his land are deliberately separated from the city bearing the name “Yahweh is there” (48:35) and from the temple, Yahweh’s true residence. • One of the keys to interpreting the significance of the nasi in chs. 40-48 is to recognize the shift in genre between the earlier restoration oracles & the idealistic final vision. Whereas the former are closely tied to history, anticipating a wholesale reversal of the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, the latter is contrived, ideational, symbolic, & many of its features are unimaginable. • Contrary to popular opinion, the description of the temple is not presented as a blueprint for some future building to be constructed with human hands. This vision picks up the theme of divine presence announced in 37:26-27 & describes the spiritual reality in concrete terms, employing the familiar

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cultural idioms of temple, altar, sacrifices, nasi & land. In presenting this theological constitution for the new Israel, Yahweh announces the righting of all old wrongs & the establishment of permanent healthy deity-nation-land relationships. Ezekiel’s final vision presents a lofty ideal: where God is, there is Zion. Where God is, there is also order and the fulfillment of all his promises. Furthermore, the primary concern in this vision is not political but cultic. The central issue is not the return of David but the presence of Yahweh. The nasi’s role is facilitative, not regally symbolic. Unlike past kings, who perverted the worship of Yahweh for selfish ends and sponsored the worship of other gods. this nasi’s charge is to promote the worship of Yahweh in spirit & in truth. In this vision with its radically theocentric portrayal of Israel’s future, the nasi emerges as a religious functionary, serving the holy community of faith, which itself is focused on the worship of the God who dwells in their midst. The nasi is not responsible for the administration of the cult. Not only does he not participate actively in the ritual; he does not build the temple, design the worship, or appoint the priests; these prerogatives belong to Yahweh. This agrees with the image of the nasi in 34:23-24, who is installed as undershepherd by Yahweh only after the latter has personally rescued Israel. In this ideological presentation the nasi functions as Yahweh’s appointed lay patron & sponsor of the cult, whose activity ensures the continuance of shalom b/w deity & subjects.

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