Ezekiel is the Leviticus of the Prophets.
If you read the Bible regularly, you know what I mean. It is one of those books you avoid or skim over quickly. I mean, sure there are choice bits like the New Spirit/New Heart passage in chapter 36 or the Valley of Dry Bones in 37 or the Third Temple in 40-48.
Notice that the bright passages in Ezekiel are mostly at the end, the restoration section of Ezekiel.
I have been told that Rob Bell, the mightily famous pastor in Michigan, started his church a few years back with a sermon series on Leviticus. A thousand people showed up the first Sunday. I’d be lucky if a thousand people read this blog post.
The thing is, Rob Bell took a topic thought of as to-be-avoided-like-salmonella and turned it into an edge-of-your-seat narrative adventure.
I’m wondering if the same thing could happen with Ezekiel. You may be hearing from me about this prophet of the exile from time to time in coming years. Though I change my mind often about things, it seems at this point that Ezekiel studies may be the direction I am going in.
Hey, we all have to specialize in something.
I am beginning my reading in Ezekiel with some Jewish insight before moving on to more academic offerings. I hope to get a lot of Ezekiel reading under my belt before November when I will be at the Ezekiel section of the Society of Biblical Literature in New Orleans soaking up the scholars.
So my first reading is from The Artscroll Tanach Series: Yechezkel with commentary by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann. Here are a few thoughts right from the beginning.
Compare the words of Deuteronomy 4:6-7 with the words of Ezekiel 5:6:
Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say, “Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him? –Deut. 4:6-7, JPS
But she rebelled against My rules and My laws, acting more wickedly than the nations and the countries round about her; she rejected My rules and disobeyed My laws. –Ezekiel 5:6, JPS
Rabbi Eisemann says:
Moses portrayed what could have been; Yechezkel portrayed what was. . . . Israel could have been the parchment upon which God’s word was written. . . . [but instead Israel] continued the process of redemption and exile until the final redemption with the coming of Messiah, may it be speedily in our days.
Eisemann notes that Ezekiel goes on to show in “ten agonizing steps” the withdrawal of God’s glory from the Temple and Jerusalem. And yet, as it says in the Talmud, Ezekiel begins in destruction, but ends in consolation (Bava Bathra 14b). So that by the end we read of God’s glory returning:
The Presence of the Lord entered the Temple by the gate that faced eastward. –Ezekiel 43:4
If Ezekiel hasn’t been on your reading list, and if you don’t currently have a Biblical reading plan which you are actually following, why not add it? You may find it depressing in parts, but the good news does come and it is as filled with glory as it is with sadness.