There just isn’t a prophet quite like Ezekiel. Isaiah . . . wears Ezekiel pajamas. Ezekiel can kill two stones with one bird. He can order a Big Mac at Burger King . . . and get one.
Okay, well, maybe I’m confusing him with Chuck Norris. But he is sort of the Chuck Norris of prophets.
Last time I started a list of ways Ezekiel gives more of what other prophets do. Ezekiel seems to take the prophetic calling to its maximum intensity. The list is from John Goldingay’s commentary on Ezekiel found in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, ed. Dunn and Rogerson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). I continue now with #’s 8-14:
#8 Recognizing Hashem
Other prophets look for people to recognize the glory and authority of Hashem in their daily lives. With Ezekiel it is a major theme. Goldingay says, “The phrases ‘they/you shall know that I am [Hashem]’ and similar expressions occur over seventy times.”
When God says repeatedly things like, “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord,” the idea is that we will recognize God when his words come to pass. There is something paradoxical about people reading the Lord’s words and being told they will know he is the Lord in some future realization. The idea is that there are levels of knowing. And God will bring us to higher levels of knowing in his time. We will know him like we never have before.
#9 The Disrespected Prophet
Other prophets know they speak to a rebellious people and will not be listened to. In Ezekiel the realization of Israel’s (and humanity’s) complete resistance to the authority of God is understood to the maximum. Ezekiel will speak to the rebellious house and none will listen. Yet he will speak anyway and his words will nonetheless go out and fulfill God’s purpose.
#10 The Pained Prophet
Other prophets pay a price for their tough stand and demands of righteousness directed to a selfish world. Ezekiel will pay more. His wife will die in the plague. He will be bound and mute. And his message will not be listened to in ways that are more extreme than any other prophet.
First, he will tell the exiles from the first deportation to Babylon that things will get worse. These people who have been transported away from their land, friends, and family will not believe it can get worse. Then, as word of the end of the most dear thing in the world, Jerusalem, comes to them, Ezekiel will do the opposite. He will describe a renewal of Israel, a resurrection, and a new Temple, greater than any that had ever been built, in a renewed Jerusalem, surpassing the old one in every way. No one will believe the grim news or the beautiful vision.
#11 The Preacher of Israel’s Prostitution
Other prophets declare indictment and judgment in the name of God’s holiness. Ezekiel not only will take judgment and indictment oracles to the extreme, but will be personally responsible like no prophet before him as a watchman.
Goldingay says that other prophets go on for four verses about judgment against Judah but Ezekiel goes non-stop for four chapters (chs. 8-11). Even more to the extreme, while other prophets will speak of Israel’s idolatry as adultery committed against God, Ezekiel:
. . . turns this betrayal into a late-night mini-series which respectable people hesitate to admit viewing, and after doing so go to bed with a bad taste in their mouth (see chs. 16; 23).
#12 The Foreteller of Future Beauty
In the other direction of extreme, no prophet is as vivid as Ezekiel about the greatness of God’s renewal of Israel and the earth. Goldingay says:
Some of Ezekiel’s most elaborate visions picture the wondrous restoration of Davidic shepherding, the miraculous resuscitation of the people, and especially the laying out of a new temple at the center of a newly allocated land. This last vision is the focus of his most sustained influence on early Christian writers: see Revelation.
#13 Preacher of Lord Hashem’s Authority
Other prophets believe in the sovereign rule of God. Ezekiel calls God over and over Lord Hashem (Adonai followed by God’s name, poorly translated as Lord God in English versions). He not only increases the verbal majesty of God’s name by preceding it with a title of honor, but he insists more than any other prophet that God is involved in all happenings.
Note: Goldingay implies that Ezekiel did not believe in free will. I think he goes too far. Yet it is worth noting, as he does, that Ezekiel implies God’s involvement in the apostasy of the righteous (3:20), the deception of false prophets (14:9), and the reading of deceptive Babylonian omens (21:22-23).
#14 The Chronological Prophet
No other prophet is so careful to document years and seasons as Ezekiel. Goldingay suggests this may be a function of Ezekiel’s training as a priest. It also may be to clarify for later audiences that all Ezekiel’s words came to a specific community at a specific time. The sense of realism in Ezekiel is hard to miss.
The Manly Prophetness of Ezekiel
Goldingay’s list of attributes of this neglected and dreaded book, with its forty-eight long chapters, is hopefully incentive to some other, besides myself, to read the prophet of the exile in Babylon.
Ultimately, I believe that Ezekiel’s prophetic resemblance to Yeshua is under-appreciated. Though by no means identical, I believe there are several areas in which he approached the man of sorrows like no other. As I spend the next half a decade or more researching this fascinating book, such a comparison will always be at the back of my mind. Ezekiel was a sign for Israel, suffering himself the pains of Israel’s exile. And we know the man of sorrows took Israel’s sorrows in a bigger way. May God fill us with a desire to understand.