Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 39’ Category

The Superscription of the Book of Ezekiel   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART I

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Ezekiel 1:1-3

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In 597 B.C.E., Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces invaded Judah.  King Jehoiachin‘s brief reign ended.  His uncle Mattaniah came to the throne as King Zedekiah.  Jehoiachin and many others–members of the Judean elite–became exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The first wave of the Babylonian Exile had begun.

Ezekiel ben Buzi was one of these captives and exiles.  Ezekiel, a priest in the community beside the Chebar Canal (next to the city of Nippur, southeast of the city of Babylon), received his commission as a prophet on the fifth day of Tammuz (on the Gregorian Calendar, in June), 593 B.C.E.  He prophesied until 571 B.C.E.

Robert Alter describes Ezekiel as

surely the strangest of all the prophets

and as

an extreme case.

The Hebrew Bible, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1049

The prophet, whose name meant, “God strengthens,” was, by modern standards, misogynistic, as in Chapters 16 and 23.  He was not unique–certainly not in the company of Biblical authors.  According to Alter, especially in the context of Chapter 16:

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.  The states of disturbance exhibited in his writing led him to a series of remarkable visionary experiences, at least several of which would be deeply inscribed in the Western imagination, engendering profound experiences in later poetry and in mystical literature.  At the same time, there is much in these visions that reminds us of the dangerous dark side of prophecy.  To announce authoritatively that the words one speaks are the words of God is an audacious act.  Inevitably, what is reported as divine speech reaches us through the refracting prism of the prophet’s sensibility and psychology, and the words and images represented as God’s urgent message may be sometimes distorted in eerie ways.

–1051-1052

Biblical scholars from a variety of times, theological orientations, and geographical origins have commented on Ezekiel’s pathological psychology.  The prophet may not have been well-adjusted.  “Touched by the gods” has been an expression for a long time, and for a good reason.

However much one accepts that much or most of the Book of Ezekiel comes from the prophet, a textual difficulty remains.  The book includes evidence of subsequent editing after the Babylonian Exile.  Any given passage, in its final form, may have more to do with Ezra or some other editor than with Ezekiel.  Or that passage may be entirely from Ezeki8el.  Or the editorial touch may be light.

I acknowledge these matters as I commit to my primary purpose in this Hebrew prophetic reading project:  to read these passages in context and to ponder what they say to the world today.  The ancient message, grounded in particular circumstances, continues to speak.

“The hand of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:3) symbolizes divine power.

The Book of Ezekiel breaks down into three sections:

  1. Chapters 1-24, in their original form, date to between the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This section divides into two subsections.  Chapters 1-11 contain visions of divine presence and departure.  Chapters 12-24 offer a rationale for and anticipate the destruction of Jerusalem.
  2. Chapters 25-32 contain oracles against the nations.  The arrangement of these oracles is not chronological.  Such a collection of oracles is also a feature of other prophetic writings, as in Amos 1:3-2:3; Isaiah 13:1-23:19; Jeremiah 46:1-51:64.
  3. Chapters 33-48 contain oracles from after the Fall of Jerusalem.  This section breaks down into two subsections.  Chapters 33-39 offer a rationale for and anticipate the transformation of the LORD’s people.  Chapters 40-48 contain visions of the LORD’s return to the Second Temple (not yet built; dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) in a transformed land.

Tova Ganzel wrote, in the introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014):

Because of the central themes of the Temple, acts of leadership, sins of the people, and divine theophanies appear in both the predestruction and postdestruction oracles (1.3, 13-15, 22-24; 8.2-3; 10.11, 22-23; 40.1-2; 43.1-5), Ezekiel’s oracles merit both sequential and topical study.

–1034

I will study the Book of Ezekiel in a combination of sequential and topical organization of posts.

Major lectionaries ignore most of the Book of Ezekiel.  The Roman Catholic lectionaries for weekdays, Sundays, and major feast days omit Chapters 3-8, 11, 13-15, 19-23, 25-27, 29-42, 44-46, and 48 entirely. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) lists the Book of Ezekiel only five times:

  1. 34:11-16, 20-24 for Christ the King Sunday, Year A;
  2. 36:24-27 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C;
  3. 37:1-14 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C; the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A; and (as an alternative reading), for the Day of Pentecost, Year B.

I understand the benefits and limitations of lectionaries.  Any lectionary–even a narrow, one-year cycle with two readings and a Psalm each Sunday–is superior to ministers focusing on their favorite passages of scripture Sunday after Sunday.  The orderly reading of scripture in communal worship has virtues.  Lectionaries also help people to read the Bible in conversation with itself.  Nevertheless, the parts of the Book of Ezekiel that even three-year cycles overlook are worth hearing and reading, in private, alone, in a study group, and in the context of worship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Limitless Goodness   1 comment

Icon of Ezekiel

Above:   Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Monday)

Ezekiel 39:21-40:4 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 43:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 141 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 23:37-24:14 (Wednesday)

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But my eyes are turned to you, Lord GOD;

in you I take refuge;

do not strip me of my life.

–Psalm 141:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Matthew is apocalyptic and Psalm 141 is also bleak.  These texts come from difficult times.  Oppressed people pray for God to destroy their enemies.  The textual context in Matthew is the impending crucifixion of Jesus.  From the perspective of the composition of the Gospel itself, however, there is wrestling with fading expectations of Christ’s imminent Second Coming.  One also detects echoes of reality for Matthew’s audience, contending with persecution (or the threat thereof) and conflict with non-Christian Jews.

We read of mercy following judgment in Ezekiel 11, 39, 40, and 43.  Punishment for societal sins will ensue, but so will restoration.  In the end, God’s Presence returns to Jerusalem, which it departed in Chapters 10 and 11.

Those sins included not only idolatry but judicial corruption and economic injustice, which, of course, hurt the poor the most.  Not seeking the common good violated the Law of Moses.  Seeking the common good defined the assigned readings from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians.

“Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds up.  No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.

–1 Corinthians 10:23-24, The New American Bible (1991)

We also read, in the context of how we treat each other:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for that Spirit is the seal with which you were marked for the day of final liberation.

–Ephesians 4:30, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Those are fine guiding principles.  Some of the details in their vicinity in the texts might not apply to your circumstances, O reader, but such lists are not comprehensive and some examples are specific to cultures and settings.  Timeless principles transcend circumstances and invite us to apply them when and where we are.  May we live them in love of God and our fellow human beings, daring even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48).  That is a difficult standard to meet, but it is possible via grace.

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

–Matthew 5:48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God With Us, Part III   2 comments

paul

Above:  St. Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 39:7-8, 21-29 (Tuesday)

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (Both Days)

Romans 8:18-24 (Monday)

Romans 8:26-27 (Tuesday)

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May the glory of the Lord endure for eer;

may the Lord rejoice in his works;

He looks on the earth and it trembles;

he touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;

I will make music to my God while I have my being.

–Psalm 104:33-35, Common Worship (2000)

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I have read the Bible sufficiently closely long enough to detect some recurring patterns. Among them is this one: persistent societal sin in Israel or Judah (in a particular circumstance or pericope) leads to consequences of actions—an exile, for example. The prophet Joel interpreted locusts as instruments of divine wrath. After a while, though, divine pity and mercy take center stage. This pattern repeats in Joel and Ezekiel—less cryptically in the former than in the latter. No nation—Hebrew or Gentile—may mock God persistently without facing consequences, Joel and Ezekiel say, but the same deity who judges also extends great mercy to the chosen people. Their status as chosen does not protect them from the consequences of their actions, but a remnant will survive.

That was one way of making sense of suffering. St. Paul the Apostle, in Romans 8, offered a complementary one. His live after his conversion was one filled with suffering—imprisonments, beatings, et cetera. His experience was one with which many of his contemporaries identified. Many Christians today identify with it, in fact.

For I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the glory, as yet unrealized, which is in store for us.

–Romans 8:18, The Revised English Bible

In the meantime, God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, abides with us. We might not even know how to pray, but that does not constitute an impediment between God and us.

All this might feel like “hurry up and wait,” a situation which leads to understandable and predictable frustration and impatience. I resemble that remark, in fact. But at least God is with us. That is wonderful news. May we think and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-pentecost-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Restoration III: Cleansing and Restoration   1 comment

Above:  A Bullseye

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Archery_Target_80cm.svg)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 38:1-23 (January 16)

Ezekiel 39:1-10, 17-29 (January 17)

Psalm 15 (Morning–January 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–January 17)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–January 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–January 17)

Romans 7:1-20 (January 16)

Romans 7:21-8:17 (January 17)

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 7-8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/week-of-proper-24-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/proper-10-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/week-of-proper-24-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/trinity-sunday-year-b/

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…the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want–that is what I do.  But every time I do what I do not want to do, then it is not myself acting, but the sin that lives in me….What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?  God–thanks be to him–through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So it is that I myself with my mind obey the law of God, but in my disordered nature I obey the law of sin.

–Romans 7:19-20, 24-25, The New Jerusalem Bible

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A note on page 1115 of The Jewish Study Bible tells me that Gog, leader of the land of Magog, might have been “Gyses, a 7th-century ruler of Lydia in Asia Minor.”  Anyhow, Ezekiel 38 and 39 (which I have kept united for the sake of clarity; the lectionary splits the passage into two parts over as many days) speaks in apocalyptic terms of the divine defeat of the cleansing of the land of Judea, then the restoration of the Jews in their ancestral homeland.  One must be careful not to use such texts to justify blind Zionism, therefore excusing the abuses which the present State of Israel has perpetrated against the Palestinians; the Golden Rule applies to everyone.  Yet the text does indicate the reliability of divine promises.

The concepts of cleansing and restoration (in a different context, of course), apply also to Romans 7:1-8:17.  We human beings are mixed bags of good and bad.  We are, as the Lutheran confessions tell us, capable only of civic righteousness on our own power; we cannot save ourselves from ourselves.  ”Sin” is not an abstraction; it is “missing the mark.”  And we are naturally inaccurate spiritual archers.   We find God by a combination of grace and free will.  And the existence of the latter is a function of the former, so everything goes back to grace.  Through this grace we have cleansing and restoration.  May we, by grace, cooperate with God so that we may become what God has in mind for us to become.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/devotion-for-january-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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