Yehezkiel 10-16

Yehezkiel (Ezekiel) 10 returns to the visionary imagery employed in chapter 1: angelic beings executing Hashem’s judgment on Israel.  In my previous post, I postulated that the four faces of these beings (bull, lion, eagle, and man) represented the four powers involved in the story of the Exile (Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, and Persia, respectively), although this imagery is very clearly inspired by Chaldean and Assyrian mythology.

In chapter 10, however, we see these beings more explicitly linked with Assyrian and Chaldean mythological imagery.  Yehezkiel explicitly refers to them as cheruvim.  Cheruvim have their origins in Mesopotamian culture, and were popular symbols for both the Assyrians and Chaldeans.  Although probably rooted in a belief in wind spirits, they were seen as guardians of holy places and representatives of the gods.  Statues of them were often placed on either side of the doors of sacred places.  Interestingly, they were portrayed as having the bodies of lions or bulls, the wings of eagles, and the heads of humans.  How fitting then, is the imagery of representatives of Hashem’s judgment casting out and redeeming an apostate Israel and bearing the symbols of the lion, bull, eagle, and man. 

Chapter 11 opens with the condemnation of Ya’azaniah ben Azzur and Pelatiahu ben Benyahu, both of whom are “ministers” or “leaders” in Israel.  Ya’azaniah is the brother of Hananiah, a false prophet who condemned Yermiyahu (28:1).  We have no other extant information about Pelatiahu or his father Benyahu, unless he is known for descent from Benyahu the Levite (1 D’vrei ha Yomim [1 Chronicles]) or Benyahu the commander (2 Shmuel 8, etc.), who both lived in the time of David.  Most likely, Pelatiyahu is a descendant of Benyahu the Levite, since his death (11:3) is explained in terms of what Hashem will do to Yehezkiel’s brethren (the descendants of Aharon), who have abandoned the Law.  This death is an example of things to come, and the vision ends with Yehezkiel determined to deliver his prophecy of exile to the people.

Chapter 12 continues the prophecy of conquest, exile, and dispersion.  Indeed, Yehezkiel foretells the capture of Zedekiyahu, while tellingly denying him the legitimacy of the title of “king,’ bestowed on him by foreigners.  Instead, Yehezkiel insists on calling him a “prince,” and rightly says that he will be captured by surprise by the Chaldeans while fleeing the city on foot.

Yehezkiel also leaves us in no doubt that his prophecies concern the immediate future:

Tell them therefore: Thus saith the Lord GOD: I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them: The days are at hand, and the word of every vision.

For there shall be no more any vain vision nor smooth divination within the house of Israel.

For I am the LORD; I will speak, what word soever it be that I shall speak, and it shall be performed; it shall be no more delayed; for in your days, O rebellious house, will I speak the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord GOD.’

Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 

‘Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say: The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of times that are far off. 

Therefore say unto them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: There shall none of My words be delayed any more, but the word which I shall speak shall be performed, saith the Lord GOD.’ -Yehezkiel 12:23-28 (emphasis mine)

 Yehezkiel’s prophecies should be viewed as fulfilled.

Chapter 12 addresses Jerusalem’s prophets–false prophets–who have wrongly set the people at ease.  They will be destroyed.  Here, Yehezkiel plays upon Yermiyahu’s encounter with Hananiah ben Azzur:

As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.–Yermiyahu 28:9

He also compares, chapter 13, the false prophet to a bird hunter, who seeks the lives of his prey with snares.  Although the Hebrew word “nefesh” is generally translated here as “soul,” the imagery is much more graphic when “nefesh” is rendered as “throat,” the word’s literal meaning. 

In chapter 14, Hashem returns his attention from false prophets to corrupt leaders, when some of them sought prophecy of Yehezkiel, which indicates that he was, in his own time, acknowledged as a prophet.  Instead of advice, though, these leaders hear that they have been cut off from the nation for their idolatry.  They also hear that, in the coming destruction, Hashem will not spare bloodlines for righteous family members.  He will only spare the righteous, as described in Yermiyahu 31.

Chapter 15 continues the condemnation with a comparison of Jerusalem to a forest vine, drawing on the imagery of the wild grapes in Yesheyahu 5.

Finally, chapter 15 compares Israel to a bastard child who has been exposed and left to die.  Instead of dying, however, Hashem saved her, raised her, and took her as a wife.  Instead of displaying gratitude, though, Israel responded with adultery–both with Assyria and Chaldea–and was worse than Samaria and Sodom.  In short,

I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.-Yehezkiel 16:59

Now that Hashem’s covenant with Beit David is moot, Hashem will deal with Israel as she deserves, but then:

Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.-Yehezkiel 16:60

A covenant that will stand so long as Israel remembers her shame:

that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame; when I have forgiven thee all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.’-Yehezkiel 16:63

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