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INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL.
expressions predominate ; at least the prophet elevates himself by poetical colouring much more rarely than before.
“A generally acknowledged character of Ezekiel is, that he minutely distinguishes every thing in its smallest parts. What the more ancient prophets brought together in one single picture, and to which they only alluded, and what they explained with the utmost brevity, . and showed only from one side, that he explains and unfolds formally, and represents from all possible sides.
“Another character, and a principal one, which distinguishes his oracle is, that no other prophet has given so free a course to his imagination. - Almost every thing is dressed in symbolical actions, in fables, narrations, allegories, or in the still higher poetry of visions. And as they are very complicate, there resound from all sides complaints of darkness. Whoever can look on these things with the eye of an eagle, and is not disturbed from the principal object by what is not essential; he alone is able to comprehend the sense of the whole composition, and he scarcely conceives how any one can complain of obscurity. Meanwhile, how different soever the species of composition are which he hazards, they are all worked out in the same general form. What he represents in one image, picture, or vision, in allegory, parable, or narration, is explained in a short speech, which God, who is at his right hand, enables him to pronounce.
“It is evident that he has shown an inexhaustible imagination and power of invention throughout all the pages of his book. He uses all sorts of prophetical poetry to appear always great and magnificent; and it cannot be denied that he has given all kinds, excellent pieces, both in design and execution.' Particularly, he is so used to ecstasies and visions, that he adopts the language proper to these, where he has no visions to describe.
“If the dress of vision fitted any prophet, it was certainly Ezekiel : he was even naturally led to it by his situation, and by the subjects which he was to represent. He was to describe and foretell to his fellow captives several facts which happened in Palestine, in Jerusalem, and in the king's palace. A narration and description in simple prose could not possibly suit a prophet; he must give his object the requisite prophetic dignity, by a particular dress.
“He therefore brought the scene of events nearer. For this purpose he chose highecstasies, such as the Greek and Roman poets prétended to in their flights of enthusiasm; the hand of Jehovah came upon him, and carried him to that place where what he intended to propose to his countrymen in their exile might be seen and considered. All ecstasies in my opinion are nothing but dresses, nothing but poetical fictions ; and a poet of another age, and of another tone, of an inferior imagination and poetical endowments, would have given the same ideas quite another dress.
“ Accustomed to this kind of poetry, he represented the restitution of the Jewish state in a sublime vision. His imagination placed him upon graves, where he stood on the dried bones of the dead. He saw how the graves opened, the bones were clothed with flesh, and the dead came forth by a new creation. , Could there be a more lively fiction for this case Another poet would have represented the restoration of the Jews in simple words; and would only have compared it to a resurrection, or give it some other ornamental delineation. To view this intuitively in an example, compare Ezek. xxxvii. 1-14 and Isa. xxvi, 19.
· Thy dead shall live, their dead bodies shall rise :
And the earth shall cast forth the mighty dead.' “And, however numerous the fictions of Ezekiel are, they all appear in magnificent dress, and each in its peculiar splendid one. Lustre shines in him on every side; and if the poet has here and there overloaded his subject with ornaments, we shall be unable to refuse our admiration to his genius, notwithstanding these defects.
«The first part of his book may be an instance. The barren genius of Moses was gone when God appeared only in a fiery bush in the wilderness, and as the world improved in
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL. cultivation, a more luxuriant one succeeded in his place, which in process of time demanded wonderful figures and giant forms, that the representation of the Divine appearance might please. Isaiah had already appeared in a higher style than Moses. To him God manifested himself in the pomp of an oriental king;, and this piece makes a strong impression by its unity, and gains on us by its elevated simplicity, majesty, and dignity, Isa. vi. But Ezekiel differs widely. Before him stands the chariot-throne of God, with wonderful forms; he summons all the pomp which nature and art can furnish; he abundantly employs fiction and composition to give his Divine appearance dignity, elevation, and majesty; and thus to make a suitable expression. The whole creation must lend him its most noble forms... Men, oxen, lions, and eagles support the throne : the Hebrew history must furnish all its most wonderful scenes, to surround the chariot-throne with the greatest pomp imaginable. I admire the master-hand of the artist, who knew how to compose in such a manner.
I am astonished at the richness of his imagination, that could give dignity to all the exalted scenes, of the Hebrew history, and could combine them in one body. But, notwithstanding this, the scene, in Ezekiel is far from making the same deep and heart-striking impression with that of Isaiah. A short view of the whole in Isaiah does wonders ; in Ezekiel the prospect is dispersed; and as it is not rounded, it astonishes rather than impresses. · In Isaiah there is a majestic silence, which is only interrupted by the heavenly cry of the seraphs, Isa. vi. 3; in Ezekiel, the noise of the restless wheels and moving wings confounds us. In Isaiah, the eye is delighted with artless majesty ; in Ezekiel, it is consumed by the brightness of the fire which shines round about the chariot-throne.
a The author of the Revelation, whose poetry is in the same style with that of Ezekiel, and full of imagination, has for the most part avoided the rocks upon which his predecessor struck; and, happily for the most part, has cut off the wild shoots of a heated imagination. He also has fictions of wonders and giant forms; but he has produced them only so far as to give the reader a full image before his eyes. He does not pursue them minutely, and he does not distract or pain his reader.
“On the contrary, it was a happy invention that his lofty poems are sometimes interrupted by short speeches ;, they are not only useful for the illustration of his symbols, but also for the repose of the mind. By this change, his readers are agreeably entertained ; and their imagination finds resting places, so as to soar more easily after the imagination of the poet.
Ezekiel is a great poet, full of originality; and, in my opinion, whoever censures him as if he were only an imitator of the old prophets, can never have felt his power. He must not in general be compared with Isaiah and the rest of the old prophets. Those are great, Ezekiel is also great ; those in their manner of poetry, Ezekiel in his; which he had invented for himself, if we may form our judgment from the Hebrew monuments still extant.” Thus far a judicious critic, who but indirectly admits the prophet's inspiration.
Bp. Lowth, who has done so much to elucidate the Hebrew poetry, has also given fine critical judgments on the comparative merits of the prophets. Isaiah is his favourite ; and him he places always at the head, and with him all others are compared. · Of Ezekiel, his character is very high and accurately drawn; and my readers will naturally expect that I should produce what he says on this subject, rather than attempt any thing of my own; for this would resemble the attempt to write an Iliad after Homer.
“ Ezekiel," says this learned prelate, “is inferior to Jeremiah in elegance, but is equal to Isaiah in sublimity, though in a different species of the sublime. He is bold, vehement, tragical, and deals very much in amplification. His SENTIMENTS are lofty, animated, poignant, and full of indignation. His IMAGES are fertile, magnificent, and sometimes rather bordering on indelicacy. His Diction is grand, weighty, austere, rough, and sometimes uncultivated. He abounds in repetitions, not for the sake of beauty or grace, but from vehemence and indignation. Whatever his subject be, he keeps it always in his eye, without the least deviation, and is so much taken up with it that he has scarcely any regard
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL.to order or connection. In other things he may be perhaps exceeded by the other prophets, but in that species for which he was particularly turned, that is, force, impetuosity, weight, and grandeur, 'no writer ever equalled him. His diction is clear enough; almost all his obscurity arises from his subjects. His visions are particularly obscure ; which, however, as in Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah, are delivered in a plain historical narration.
“The greater part of the book, particularly the middle of it, is poetical ; whether we regard the matter or the language. . But some passages are so rough and unpolished, that we are frequently at a loss to what species of writing we ought to refer them. As to STYLE, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel may be placed with propriety enough in the same rank among the Hebrews, as Homer, Simonides, and Æschylus among the Greeks.”.
Nothing need be added, and indeed nothing can be added, to this character; it is as fairly as it is fully drawn; and every paragraph in the book will show its propriety. But could we satisfactorily fathom the prophet's. meaning in those places where he is peculiarly obscure, we should feel the force and propriety of the bishop's character still more, as in those very places the prophet is peculiarly sublime. The prophecy was delivered that it might be understood and be profitable ; and no doubt it was fully apprehended by those to whom it was originally given, and for whose sake it was sent from heaven. As to the portions which respect a very remote futurity, they will be understood when the events take place; which will, in such times, be an additional argument in favour of Divine revelation, when it is seen with what precision and accuracy prophets have foreseen and described such very remote and apparently contingent events.
To the general reader the following table, taken from Calmet, may be useful :
A Chronological Table of the Prophecies of Ezekiel. A. M. 3405. Ezekiel is led captive to Babylon with King Jeconiah. From this year the epoch of these prophecies
must be taken. 3409. The first vision by the river Chebar, chap. i. The circumstances which followed Ezekiel's vocation
to the prophetic office, chap. i., ii. He draws upon a tile or bed of clay the plan of Jerusalem, and the siege that it was about to endure:
and he remains lying on this plan, on his left side, three hundred and ninety days, chap. iv. See
under A. M. 3420. 3410. He turns on his right side, and lies forty days, which point out the forty years of the sins of Judah.
To this time chap. V., vi.,,vij. refer.
related chap. viii.. ix., X., xi. 3411, Prophecies and figurative actions by which he points out the flight, capture, and blinding of Zedekiah,
chap. xii. and the seven following. Zedekiah rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, chap. xvii. 15, 17. The prophet charges the elders of Judah with hypocrisy, who came to consult hím, chap. XX., xxi.
xxii., xxii. 3414, The siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This was a sabbatic year, Jer. xxiv. 8, &c. The siege
did not begin till about the middle of the winter, 2 Kings xxv. 1. The prophet's wife dies on the
same day of the siege, and he is forbidden to mourn for her, chap. xxiv. 1, 2. 3415. Predictions against Egypt, chap. xxix. 16. Nebuchadnezzar puts to flight Pharaoh-hophra, and returns
to the siege of Jerusalem three hundred and ninety days before it was taken. 3416. Predictions against Tyre, chap. xxvi. xxviii., the first day of the first month.
In the seventh day of the same month, God shows the prophet the miseries to be brought on Egypt by
Nebuchadnezzar, chap. XXX.
is brought to Riblah, where, after seeing his children slain, his eyes are put out, he is laden with
cies concerning him. 3417. Ezekiel being informed of the taking of Jerusalem the fifth day of the tenth month, he predicts the ruin
of the remnant that was left there under Gedaliah, chap. xxxiv. 21-29. He afterwards foretells the ruin of Egypt, chap. xxxii. I, 16, 32; and that of the Idumeans, chap
XXV, 12. 3419. The commencement of the siege of Tyre, which lasted thirteen years,
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL.
3419. To the same time we must refer the miseries of the Sidonians, the Amalekites, the Moabites, and the
Idumeans, pointed out by Jeremiah, chap. xxvii., xlviii., xlix; Ezek. xxv. 3420. End of the forty years mentioned chap. iv. 5, 6, and of the three hundred and ninety years from the
separation of Israel and Judah. The forty years commence with the renewal of the covenant under
Josiah. 3430. The vision in which God showed the prophet the rebuilding of the city and the temple, and the restora
ration of the kingdom of Israel, chap. xl. I to the end of the book.
This vision took place on the tenth of the first month, fourteen years' after the taking of Jerusalem. 3432. Taking of the city of Tyre, by Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God promises the spoils of Egypt, as a
compensation for the trouble and loss he sustained before Tyre, chap. xxix. 17-20. Nebuchadnezzar enters Egypt. ‘Amasis had - been made king by the Cyrenians, who had rebelled
against Pharaoh-hophra. Herodotus, lib. iv, c. 159, and lib. ii. cc. 161, 162. 3433. The king of Babylon overruns and subdues the whole of Egypt; commits the greatest outrages; and
carries off captives the inhabitants, the Jews, and others whom he found there. See Jer. xliii., xliv.,
xlvi; Ezek. xxix., xxx., xxxi. Nebuchadnezzar leaves Amasis king of Lower Egypt; Hophra, or Apries, having escaped to the
Thebais. 3442. Death of Nebuchadnezzar.
Evil-merodach succeeds him; and sets Jeconiah at liberty, and makes him his companion, 2 Kings xv.
27 and Jer, lii. 31.
Chronological Notes relative to the commencement of Ezekiel's prophesying.
-Year from the Deluge, 1753.--Second year of the forty-sixth Olympiad.—Year from the building of
This chapter contains that extraordinary vision of the Divine glory with which the prophet was favoured
when he received the commission and instructions respecting the discharge of his office, which are contained
A. M. 3409.
c the heavens were 01. XLVI. 2. Tarquinii Prisci, month, in the fifth day of the opened, and I saw
visions of Tarquinii Prisci, R. Roman., 22. month, as I was among the God.
R. Roman., 22.
A. M. 3409.
B. C. 595.
· Heb. captivity:
Ver. 3; chap. iii. 15, 23; x. 15, 20, 22;
.cSo Matt. ii. 16; Acts vii. 56; x. Il; Rev. xix. 11.
NOTES ON CHAP. I.
Abp. Newcome thinks there is an error' in the text, Verse 1. In the thirtieth year] We know not what and that instead of dohva bisheloshim, in the thirtieth, this date refers to, Some think it was the age of the we should read nu'sna bachamishith, in the fifth, as prophet; others think the date is taken from the time in the second verse. “ Now it came to pass in the that Josiah renewed the covenant with the people, 2 fifth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the Kings xxii. 3, from which Usher, Prideaux, and Cal- month,” &c. But this is supported by none of the anmet compute the forty years of Judah's transgression, cient Versions, nor by any MS. The Chaldee paramentioned chap. iv. 6.
phrases the verse, And it came to pass thirty years