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Ezekiel 2:1-3:15

The theme of this text (2:1–3:15) is the faithful communication of Yahweh’s Word to those predisposed to reject it.

Context & Structure
Notice how the vision of ch. 1 returns in 3:12-15, forming a bracket or inclusio around commissioning of the prophet in 2:1–3:11. Also, within the commissioning section itself, two speeches to the prophet enclose a central passage in which the prophet is given a scroll to eat. The second speech repeats and amplifies the content of the first speech. So we have the following structure: Theophany 1:4-28 Commissioning 2:1-3:11 Theophany 3:12-15 Note that the eating of the scroll is the centrepiece of the prophet’s commissioning. The Glory of Yahweh The opening vision of chapter 1 is explicitly said to be a vision of the glory of Yahweh (1:28; cf. 3:12). The same terminology is used for the visions of chs. 8–11 and 40–48. They are all visions of the glory (kabod) of Yahweh. The glory of Yahweh in the OT is his manifested presence—that is, his presence made visible in some way: by fire, cloud, lightning or other means. It is especially associated with Mount Sinai (24:15-16), with the tabernacle (Exod 40:34-38), and with the temple (1 Kgs 8:10-11). All these earlier manifestations of Yahweh’s presence are implicitly recalled in Ezekiel’s visions: the fire and smoke symbolism and the platform or pavement of chapter 1 all recall the Sinai situation (see Exod 24:10). The temple appears in chs. 8–11, and temple and tabernacle imagery are combined in chs. 40–48. Ezekiel’s interest in the glory of Yahweh, particularly in its connection with tabernacle and temple, is in keeping with his priestly background. Allen (1994:14) points out that Yahweh’s appearing in glory is often associated with judgement in the so-called ‘Priestly’ strand of the Pentateuch (Exod 16:10; Num 14:10 etc). But in temple and tabernacle contexts it has a positive significance. The symbolism involved in what happens to Ezekiel and what he is required to do. (i) Death and resurrection (1:28-2:2) The prophet is symbolically slain, and raised to life again. He is slain because he has seen God (Exod 33:20); he is raised to life by the Spirit. This Spirit or ruach has first appeared as a stormy wind in 1-4, then as an energising force animating the living creatures and driving the wheels of the heavenly chariot (1:20). Now [this same] spirit enters the prophet and stands him on his feet (2:2). He is a man taken over, utterly possessed by God. He has been recreated (born again). The same symbolism will reappear in ch. 37, with reference to the nation as a whole. The background is probably Gen 2:7. Compare, in the NT, Rev 1:17-18. (ii) (The eating of the scroll (2:8-3:3) Greenberg (1983:77) contrasts what we have here with Jer 15:16, where ‘eating God’s words’ is a metaphor for inspiration (cf. Pss 19:10; 119:103). Here it is a visionary experience (1:1). It symbolises first of all the prophet’s utter submission to God, in contrast to the rebelliousness of those to whom he is sent (see 2.8). The eating is an act of submission. The features of the scroll (full up, front and back, with lamentation, mourning and woe) indicate that the prophet is to be a prophet of judgement, with no liberty to change or add to this message in any way (cf. 2:7). The expression ‘sweet as honey’ in 3:3 is taken by Kimchi (a medieval Jewish commentator) to indicate Speech 2:1-7 Act 2:8-3:3 Speech 3:4-11

that the scroll was made digestible in his mouth; that is, Ezekiel is supernaturally enabled to eat it. This symbolic act, like Ezekiel’s ‘resurrection’, finds a parallel in the book of Revelation (10:811), and is part of a wider connection between Ezekiel and apocalyptic (cf. notes on Ezek 1). Ezek. 2:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ house) 5 And whether they hear or a rebellious refuse to hear (for they are

they will know that a prophet has

been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.

Ezek. 2:8

“But you, son of man, hear what Be not rebellious like that 9 And when I looked,

I say to you.

rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” behold, a hand was stretched out to me,

and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of

lamentation and mourning and woe. Ezek. 3:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey. as

Ezek. 3:4 And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me. Because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8 Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9 Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” 10 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I in your heart, shall speak to you receive

and hear with your ears. 11 And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”

Ezek. 3:12

Then the Spirit lifted me up,

and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its place!” 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. 14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. 15 And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.

Contribution to the Book
This passage clearly explains the rationale behind and sets the tone for Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry. Like other prophetic call narratives, it emphasizes Ezekiel’s divine calling (i.e. Ezekiel did not take this responsibility on himself). However, by placing particular emphasis on the resistant mindset of his audience, the narrative serves to underline the inevitability of the predicted judgement—a fact further reinforced by the brief description of the message itself (2:10), the anticipated experiences of the messenger (2:6), and the way the commission must be carried out (2:5, 7; 3:11).

Significance in the light of the NT
There are obvious comparisons and contrasts which can be made between Ezekiel and God’s ultimate prophetic messenger, the Lord Jesus, and those to whom he has given the awesome responsibility of carrying out the great commission. If, as is suggested above, Ezekiel’s experience foreshadows the experience of Israel as a nation (death and resurrection), both ultimately foreshadow the experience of the true Israel (Jesus), and God’s new humanity in Christ. Thus understood, there may be much more to the ‘son of man’ title in Ezekiel than simply ‘mortal man’. Ezekiel foreshadows the second Adam, through whose Spirit-anointed ministry will come judgement and salvation in the fullest sense. For other theological implications of this passage, see Block, pp.130-31.