Exegesis of Ezekiel, Chapter 33 Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1702 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Exegesis of Ezekiel, Chapter

Ezekiel, Chapter 33

Overview?- the Book of Ezekiel is part of the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible, deriving its title from the prophet of the same name, written during the 6th century BC. As Judaic literature, it uses complex poetic language -- symbolic in nature, and is considered by many scholars to have much in common linguistically with the Book of Revelation (Youngblood and Bruce; see Appendix a). The details of Ezekiel's life are of little importance in the material, he is mentioned only twice; once to confirm that he was a priest (1:3) and second the son of Buzi (24:24). Dating of Ezekiel is a bit more certain than some of the other biblical books since archaeological materials buttress the Jewish captivity in Babylon, the Egyptian Period, and the Fall of Jerusalem (Malick).

Content & Historical Analysis -- Ezekiel 33, sometimes known as "the watchman" section, is divided into four parts and deals with Ezekiel's view of the Fall of Jerusalem (21-22) and the validity and fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promises (23-33). The focus is on birthright, land inheritance, and the plan God had for the Israelites to regain a homeland. Chapter 33 is a commentary chapter, falling between a longer account of Babylon and Egypt and just prior to dealing with another set of Israel's enemies (Morse).

The Book of Ezekiel was written specifically in reference to the captured Israelites dwelling in Babylon after the Siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC. From a socio-cultural standpoint, exile advanced several theological challenges: how could the Judeans worship God without a Temple? Was their God available to them while in exile? What was their religious role while being held captive? Unlike the story of Exodus, these Judeans were not socially marginalized while in Babylon. In fact, while Jeremiah told the tribes not to fall under the spell of foreign Gods, he did not tell the people they could not acculturate into Babylonian society. The Babylonians allowed the Judeans to settle into small groups, keep their culture alive, but also encouraged them to open up businesses, ply their trades, and become part of the Babylonian nation. This provided relative security and comfort and, in fact, second and third generation children knew nothing of a homeland and decided to stay (Boccaccini, Chapters 1-2). The Book of Ezekiel speaks to these issues, though, and explains that the Judean exile is a punishment for falling away from God's laws. He offers, however, hope that the exile will be reversed once God is convinced of the piety of the people.

Structural Analysis -- Chapter 33 is the beginning of a more hopeful rhetoric, a more optimistic version of the future, and a portrait of forgiveness, kindness, and love.

1. Oracles of judgment against Israel and reasons (1-24)

a. God's address to Ezekiel (1-20) "Human, speak to your compatriots and say to them…" (2) "Now you, human, are the one I have appointed as watchman for the House of Israel" (7).

b. The charge to Ezekiel (7-9) -- "Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman… whenever you hear a message from my mouth, then you are to warn them from me." The danger is to the House of Israel -- or all the exiles; and death to those who repudiate the covenant.

c. Ezekiel's literative interpretation and speech (10-20): "I find no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in the turning of the wicked from his way so he may live" (11).

2. Oracles against foreign nations (25-32)

a. The dangers of foreign incursion, a contemporary reader might include genetic dilution and certainly loss of culture. "Should you possess the land?

if you: eat meat which the blood has not been drained; pay homage to idols; commit murder; depend on violence; commit abominations and defile each other's wives (27-30).

b. Ezekiel's prophecy is real and should be heeded; the argument being: 1) God exists, 2) God speaks, even in Babylon, and 3) Ezekiel is his spokesman (33-34).

3. Oracles of hope and salvation (33-48) -- what is the path to renewal?

a. Change in God's mood towards the exiles, a way to return home (33-39).

b. The appropriate reward to restoring the homeland and returning to the fold (38-48).

Form Analysis- Prophecy and the passionate concern of Ezekiel for the people in exile forms the structure of the template of the Chapter. One can find five individual parts to the outline of Ezekiel, within the structures mentioned above:

33: 1-9

Sentry/Watchman

God's command

33: 10-20

How Can We Survive?

Ezekiel's Message

33: 21-22

Jerusalem Falls

Brief annotation

33: 23-29

Disputed Claims to Israel

The evil that men do

33: 30-33

Prophecy as Entertainment

What can be done?

The idea, though, of Ezekiel's stories being more than fire and brimstone is an important switch in both form and language. Ezekiel may not initially desire to send a message that provides entertainment, but he also realizes that in order to fulfill his duty as "watchman" he must ensure the people adhere to his warning. This is likely the reason for the change in prose: in tone and timbre, and serves as a rhetorical means of reconnecting the Judeans to their proper place and location (Renz, 101-29).

Word Analysis -- an important unifying thread in this chapter is the phrase "sons of your people" (bene ammeka) which replaces the "house of Israel" or "sons of Israel." Scholars believe this is a purposeful change, designed to solidify a sense of ethnic kinship, a sense of cultural identity, and a sense that the trappings of external culture (e.g. Babylonian economics, etc.) are not at the heart of what makes it important for the Judaic culture to return to its own land (Block, 236).

The phrase "the soil of Israel" (admat yidra'el) occurs eighteen times in Ezekiel, but nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. This use seems to imply far more than simply a cultural and traditional loss, but a tie to the very land and geography of the promise to the people. In addition, the use of the "oracle" motivator is also critical. As part of the tradition of the cultures of the time (Mesoptamian/Near East), oracles were seen throughout as a direct communication with the divine. The use of the word for oracle in Ezekiel asserts the validity of his argument and the notion that it was divinely inspired (Blenkinsopp, 150-1).

Compositional Analysis- the theme of the "watchman" is quite important in both a literary and rabbinical sense. Two realistic, if not probably, scenarios are presented -- an enemy is poised to invade, the watchman sees the enemy and signals the people; the people either ignore the warning and die, or respond and they are delivered. The second scenario has the watchman failing to sound the warning, someone is captured, and the watchman is accountable for that man's death. Both of these literary parables would have been familiar to the audience of the time, and from a careful reading of other Old Testament books (Samuel and Exodus, for example), we know that the watchman was likely chosen by the tribe rather than a volunteer (use of the verb "to take" laquah). Thus, a responsible sentry would call warning at first sight of danger, allowing plenty of time for warriors to prepare a defensive position. If no one responded, the sentry still did his duty; if he did not do his duty, the implication is that he is responsible for the negative consequences (Cooke, 365-72).

For Ezekiel, the meaning is clear, but raises some interesting questions. Ezekiel being called by God (conscripted) to be the watchman means that he must call the warning to the people -- they are in danger if they do not heed Ezekiel's warning. However, if Ezekiel calls the warning and the Judeans refuse to listen (e.g. stay in Babylon), then Ezekiel is not at fault. The timeliness and urgency of the call to warning signal that the relationship with God is in question -- note, too, the hierarchical manner in which God addresses even someone like Ezekiel, a devout prophet; "human," clearly setting up a difference beween heaven and earth.

Contemporary Relevance- the major paradigm of Ezekiel as a whole is the prophet's perspective on God and the relationship God requires of his people. The people are in exile, and Ezekiel believes he knows the reason -- but also the solution to the problem of returning to Jerusalem. A contemporary reader can find hope and optimism in that God did not abandon his people, even with their sin; if God is able to bring inanimate bones to life, then he has the power to regenerate faith. The idea that God is there, and available, even in Babylon suggests that God is always with us, it is man who may choose to turn away. Ezekiel, it seems, is one of our modern visionaries for the potentiality of God and our existence with him (Dunn & Rogerson. 625-7).

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