Commentary on Ezekiel

Ezekiel, an Aaronic priest, was among those whom King Nebuchadnezzar took as captives into exile along with King Jehoiachin, members of the royal family, officials of the realm, warriors, and skilled craftsmen. (2 Kings 24:12-15) In the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin, commonly considered to have been the year 593 BCE, Ezekiel received his commission to serve as YHWH’s prophet. (1:1-3) Verse 3 of Ezekiel chapter 1 says, “The word of YHWH came to Ezekiel the son of Buzi the priest in the land of the Chaldeans.” This wording in the third person could indicate that Ezekiel, like Jeremiah and other prophets, did not personally compile and write the record of his words, visions, and activity.

Like Jeremiah in Jerusalem, so Ezekiel in Babylon declared the word of YHWH that Jerusalem would be besieged and fall before the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. Neither those then living in Jerusalem and the realm of the kingdom of Judah nor the exiles in Babylonia wanted to hear this message, and they refused to repent of their wrongdoing. Prophets of falsehood lulled the people into a false sense of security, proclaiming that Jerusalem would not be conquered and that the exiles in Babylonia would soon be returning. (Jeremiah 5:1-5; 26:1-11; 27:16-18; 28:2-4; 29:20-28; Ezekiel 2:3-7; 3:24-27) The words of Ezekiel 3:25 suggest that the exiles in Babylon did not even want Ezekiel to leave his house. Possibly because the people did not want to hear the message, YHWH directed Ezekiel to perform symbolic actions that vividly portrayed the severe punishment they would experience.

Besides foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and what would befall the people, Ezekiel prophesied against Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Philistines, the city of Tyre and its “leader,” prince, or ruler, and Egypt and its ruler, Pharaoh. (Ezekiel 25:1-32:32; 35:1-15) After the desolation of Jerusalem and the the territory of the kingdom of Judah, the message Ezekiel made known apparently changed. The word of YHWH through Ezekiel pointed forward to the time when the devastated land would be restored and the exiles would be able to return. In the concluding part of the book of Ezekiel (40:1-48:35), a new arrangement for the worship of YHWH is outlined, an arrangement centered in a temple that would be far grander than the one that had been built during the reign of King Solomon. From this new temple, a river would flow that would provide life-imparting water.

Only fragments of the text of Ezekiel survive in six manuscripts from Qumran and one from Masada. With a few insignificant exceptions, the wording that is preserved corresponds to that of the Masoretic Text. Based on the space between the first seven preserved letters of verse 13 of chapter 5 and the next and last four preserved letters in this verse, the text in one scroll fragment (11QEzek) appears to have been shorter than is the Masoretic Text. Another place where the text seems to have been shorter and different is in the wording of verses 16 and 17 in manuscript fragment 4QEzekᵅ. The space that remains for the wording from the five preserved letters of verse 15 and the only preserved word of verse 17 is insufficient to accommodate the intervening words found in verses 16 and 17 of the Masoretic Text.

The Septuagint contains numerous departures from the extant Hebrew text. There is evidence that translations into Greek are based on Hebrew copies that differed in significant ways. The oldest partially preserved Greek text is in P967, considered to date from the third century CE. In this papyrus manuscript, the text is shorter than is contained in manuscripts of the fourth and fifth centuries (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus), and it is arranged differently. The wording of chapters 38 and 39 follows that of chapter 36, then the words of chapter 37 precede those of chapters 40 to 48.

In the commentary that follows, reference is made to the Septuagint and the Targum of Ezekiel. Comments focus on significant differences, including omissions and expansions of the text.

Ezekiel 1:1-28

Ezekiel 2:1-10

Ezekiel 3:1-27

Ezekiel 4:1-17

Ezekiel 5:1-17

Ezekiel 6:1-14

Ezekiel 7:1-27

Ezekiel 8:1-18

Ezekiel 9:1-11

Ezekiel 10:1-22