Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ezekiel 2-3 – The Calling of the Son of Man

2:1 – Why should Ezekiel have to stand in order to listen to the LORD? It would seem to be because his calling is to action. Why is he called “son of man” (ben ‘adam)? It is to emphasize his humanity in the presence of the glory of the LORD. Also, it must be noted that Ezekiel in this instance is enabled to do what he does (stand, speak, not speak, go, etc.) only by the Spirit, which places him in relation to the “living creatures” of chapter one. What relation does this have in regard to the relationship between the Spirit and the person filled with the Spirit? Are we to regard those with the Spirit as automatons or is there any sense of participation/rebellion against the Spirit?

2:3 – Why is Israel called “a rebellious nation” (MT – goyim; Syriac – goy; LXX – lacking) and “a rebellious house”? Duguid (NIVAC 68) notes the strikingly reversed contrast between Israel as goyim “nations” and the Gentiles as ‘am “a people”. And who are they in fact rebellious against? The Hebrew term for the LORD’s “sending” of Ezekiel is comparable to the word for Christ’s “sending” the twelve and the seventy. Who has sent Ezekiel? (2:4)

2:5 – The “rebellious” acts of Israel are comparable to the rebellious child of Deut.21:18-21. Why should it matter that a real “prophet” was among them and what does this mean?

2:6 – “Don’t be afraid” – Why should Ezekiel be afraid and why not? The “briars, thorns and scorpions” may actually not refer to Israel, but to divine protection from Israel (see Jer.15:19-21; Block NICOT 121-122).

2:8-10 – “Open your mouth and eat what I give you”? (see Acts 10) He is given a scroll with writing on both sides? What is the significance of both the eating of the scroll and the writing on both sides as well as what is written? Iain Duguid (NIVAC 69-70, 79) has compared and contrasted Adam with the “son of adam” – Ezekiel (set in further contrast to the rebellious “sons of Israel”). He included such things as: the “breath of life” (Gen.2:7) versus the “spirit” (Eze.2:2; 3:12, 14, 24); the test of obedience (Gen.2:17; Eze.2:8); the contrast of what is eaten between the fruit that is considered “good for food, pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom” but leads to judgment (Gen.2:17; 3:6) versus what a scroll covered on both sides with writings of lament, mourning and woe but which may lead to life (Eze.2:10); and finally in both cases disobedience to the command of the LORD concerning eating will result in certain death (Gen.2:17; Eze.3:18).

3:1-3 – Ezekiel eats the scroll. What is the significance of it being sweet? (Psalm 19:10; 119:103; Rev.10:9-10) Also, why should Ezekiel make sure to fill his belly with the scroll?

3:5-6 – It is a shocking thing to note that foreigners (i.e., Gentiles) would have listened to the word of the LORD through Ezekiel as opposed to Israel (see Matt.11:20-24).

3:8-9 – Why would (or should) the LORD “harden” Ezekiel? (note the word-play with his name which means “God hardens”) “The message of God’s spokespersons derives not from private reasoning or logic, or from mystical reflection, but from revelation” (Block NICOT 131).

3:14-15 – What is the prophet’s attitude? Compare his response to Jeremiah 15:17.

3:16-21 – This pronouncement to Ezekiel has the elements of a legal pronouncement, however this message is specifically only for Ezekiel to be reminded of the seriousness of his call to prophecy to Israel no matter what their response will be (see Eze.33; Block NICOT 142-143). Who is the ‘enemy’ Ezekiel as the “watchman” must warn Israel about? Concerning the prophetic “watchman” see Hos.9:8; Jer.6:17; Heb.10:31.

3:18-21 – What constitutes someone being referred to as either “evil” or “righteous” in this context? The basis of judgment is the issue of faithfulness to the covenant (Deut.24:13 – where Torah obedience means “righteousness”).

3:20 – What kind of “stumbling block” did the LORD put in front of the “righteous” who did “evil”? (see Eze.7:19; 14:3-4; 18:30; 44:12; cf. Psalm 119:65) Why would the LORD do this? (Isa.8:14; Jer.6:21)

3:23 – What is Ezekiel’s reaction to another appearance of the glory of the LORD? Has he grown accustomed to this presence? (see Rev.4:1-11)

3:26 – Why would the LORD not allow Ezekiel to speak after giving him a message? The NIV reads “to rebuke” where the Hebrew (’ish mokiah) reads literally “an arbitrating man” (Block NICOT 159; Duguid NIVAC 80); thus implying there can be no intercession for Israel (which is one of the roles of a prophet – see Gen.20:7 concerning Abraham – and priest). What does this say of judgment and mercy in regard to Israel?

The KNP ("corner"): Reflections Related to Ruth 3.9

(NAS) “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.’”
(NET) “He said, ‘Who are you?’ She replied, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Marry your servant, for you are a guardian of the family interests.’”
(NIV) “‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said. ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.’”
(NKJV) “And he said, ‘Who are you?’ So she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, {Or Spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant} for you are a close relative.’”
The Hebrew knp occurs 109 times in the Hebrew Bible in 86 verses in 21 of the books [most of the prophets and writings and each of the books of the Law] but only once in any verbal form [Niphal] in Isaiah 30:20 with the denominative meaning of “hide; enclose; assemble”. (TWOT 446-447)

Most of the uses of knp refer specifically to wing(s). Nearly half (51 times) of the occurrences deal with angelic beings and emphasize the traditional translation of “wing(s)”: primarily the cherubim (in visions [18 times in Ezekiel 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 16, 17, 39] and “covering” the Ark of the Covenant [22 times in I Kings 6:24, 27; 8:6-7; II Chron. 3:11-13; 5:7-8]) and seraphim. Twenty-two actually refer to birds “wing(s)” whether literally or as figurative examples.

Sixteen occurrences pertain to the clothing of a man and are typically translated as “corner; edge; border”. Four of the uses are in the account of David’s cutting off the corner of Saul’s garment as a witness to Saul that he held Saul’s life in his hands (1 Samuel 24:4, 5, 11) and perhaps the reason for this is to be found in the following analysis. Of special note are the two references in the Law to placing tassels ("tzitzith") on the four corners of garments “to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot” (Numbers 15:38-39; and Deuteronomy 22:12). 

This seems to bear out in relation to the NAS95 translational footnote of Matthew 9:20 ("tassle fringe with a blue cord") in reference to Jesus healing of the woman with the issue of blood by her touching the corner of his clothes (the Syriac Peshitta has knp!).  Was she actually reaching out to touch the tassles at the corner? Jesus would certainly have had tassles there indicative of his faithfulness to the covenant and so this seems likely to have been her reason for wanting to touch the knp of Jesus somehow lay hold of this wonder-working covenantly faithful prophet and be healed...even if only by the visible symbol of his covenant faithfulness. 

Nine times knp occurs with God as the reference – three illustratively use wings explicitly (Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalm 91:4). While the other six may in fact refer not necessarily to wings, but simply to his covering (garments?) even in one verse finding the specific comparison to being in his “tent”. Six also very specifically connect the phrase “in the shadow” to God's knp where one may take “refuge”. In Ezekiel 16:8 there is a very noteworthy reference to the LORD’s covenanting with Israel by his throwing his covering over her to declare her as his own.

The Targums primarily understand the meaning to be “that which curves or bends; thus wing(s) or something that covers”. As to the Ruth 2:12 reference, the Rabbis understand knp to refer to the “faith” – that is the true and Jewish faith (Jastrow 651) and this would appear to be with reference to the tassles on the knp as indicative of covenant faithfulness. While Gesenius translates this particular verse in Ruth 3:9 as “throw thy coverlet over thy handmaid” and takes it to mean “take me to thy couch as thy wife” (Gesenius 406). He places it within the framework of the Deuteronomic law (22:30; 27:20; incorporating the prophetic picture of Ezekiel 16:8) of not violating one’s “father’s bed” by “uncovering his father’s coverlet” placing both under the primary definition of “edge, extremity”.

There is considerable ambiguity in translating this particular term as can be seen by the various translations of Ruth 3:9 in the opening paragraph. The vast majority of the time the simple translation of “wing(s)” is to be preferred, but in the context of humanity (and possibly the references to God himself in most of the cases) this translation is untenable. knp in this context of Ruth should therefore be understood in reference to the corner of his clothing with special reference to the covenant reminder of the tassels and the later prophetic claim to God’s covering Israel in “taking her in marriage”.

The use of knp offers great theological insight into Ruth 3:9 over against a simple “covering” of Ruth to keep her warm, she has asked Boaz to enter into the covenant of marriage with her and reminded him to be true to the covenant of the LORD in doing which Boaz assents and follows through in becoming the kinsman-redeemer of Naomi through his marriage of Ruth.

Gesenius, H.W.F. Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Samuel Prideaux Tregelles trans. (Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Book House Co., 2000). Harris, R. Laid, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament “KNP” (2 Vols. Chicago, Moody Publishers, 1980). Jastrow, Marcus (Compiler), A Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (New York,G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 1903).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ezekiel 1 – The Calling and Vision

Yahweh is by definition a God who acts…. Indeed, this collection of prophecies leaves the impression that when Yahweh acts in judgment against his people it is not primarily to punish them but that they and the world might know him (Block NICOT 49).
1:1 – Ezekiel recorded his prophecies which were given after being taken into exile to the Babylonian region of the “Chebar river (or canal)” near Nippur in 599 BC (cf. Psalm 137:1-8). He was the son of Buzi the priest and was from Jerusalem (1:3). The date of his calling by the LORD into the prophetic ministry was July 31, 593 BC. One particularly peculiar thing about the book of Ezekiel is its autobiographical style that is not found in the other prophets on such a wide scale. Perhaps this is related to the obscure mention of the “thirtieth year” which some (beginning with Origen) take to refer to his age when he was taken into exile (Block NICOT 82). Age thirty was age for entering the priesthood according to Numbers 4:30.

1:2 – Ezekiel dates his prophecies (1:2; 33:21; 40:1) according to the exile (in relation to Jehoiachin’s exile) rather than according to Zedekiah the last king of Judah. Why the precise dating of each prophecy? (see 3:16; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 29:17; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1; 33:21; 40:1) It allows for verification of the prophetic message and provides historical notation for context. Why is Jehoiachin’s reign and exile the basis for counting the years, months and days considering he only reigned for three months and ten days (2 Kings 24:8; 2 Chron.36:9)? He was the last acknowledged Davidic king of Judah (see 2 Kings 25:27-30) and he also went into exile in the year Ezekiel went into exile along with many others of Jerusalem.

1:3 – Ezekiel means “May God strengthen or toughen” or “God strengthens or toughens” (Block NICOT 9). Does his name carry significance for the ministry which he would be called to carry out? What are we to make of the “hand of the LORD” being on him? Was this an easy thing or difficult? Was Ezekiel willing or reticent?

1:4 – Ezekiel saw a great windstorm of flashing lightning and brilliant light coming from the “north” or “Zaphon” – which is the name of the mountain of Baal who was the god of storms – what is the significance? If there is any it is not suggested in the text itself other than to signify that the LORD comes and goes wherever He pleases.

1:5-14 – Who or what are the“four living creatures”? (these are explained further in Ezekiel 10) They have four faces: human (Gen.1:28), lion (Gen.49:9), ox (Psalm 106:19-20), and eagle (Deut.28:49); four wings: two touching each of the other living creatures (Exodus 25:18-22) and two covering their bodies; feet like calves but also like burnished bronze; human hands under the wings; human bodies; and they move without turning in any way and without use of either their legs or wings. Their movement is strictly powered by the Spirit (1:12) where they have free movement in any direction. What are we to make of these strange creatures? Daniel Block (NICOT 96) explains the four distinctive faces: “the four-headed cherubim declare that Yahweh has the strength and majesty of the lion, the swiftness and mobility of the eagle, the procreative power of the bull and the wisdom and reason of humankind.”

1:15-18 – What is the “wheel within a wheel”? These wheels are brilliant and sparkling and covered in “eyes”. What are we to make of the wheels within wheels? This implies utterly free movement in any direction. The wheels are associated directly to the living creatures. How should we picture these wheels? The “eyes” may either refer to the all-seeing eyes of God or simply to what appears as eyes but are really just the brilliance of some form of gems in the wheels.

1:19 – The power of movement in the creatures and wheels is the same…the “Spirit of life”. What is the significance for us and for the rest of the prophecies to Ezekiel?

1:24 – The sound of the cherubim’s wings were like “many waters,” the “voice of Shaddai,” and an “army camp” (see Psalm 18:7-15). Why these metaphors and the nature of the divine chariot from heaven?

1:25 – Whose "voice" is heard by Ezekiel? Does it matter?

1:16-28 – On the throne of lapis lazuli sits one “like a man”, but glowing, brilliant and full of fire and compared to a rainbow. He has the appearance of the glory of Yahweh. Who is this one “like a man”? (see Rev.1:12-18) What is Ezekiel’s response?

We should not get lost in the details, but always keep the big picture before us. Daniel Block (NICOT 106-109) helps by offering seven points to this first (difficult) passage: 1-the transcendent glory of God; 2-the transcendent holiness of Yahweh; 3-the sovereignty of Yahweh; 4-the proclamation of Yahweh’s interest in His people; 5-the proclamation of Yahweh’s presence among the exiles; 6-hints of the impending judgment of Yahweh; and 7-that whoever follows God’s calling must know God and have a clear vision of Him. Iain Duguid (NIVAC 59) sees this opening vision (and those that follow) as reminiscent of Genesis and the theme of “creation-uncreation-recreation”.

Block, Daniel I. Ezekiel (New International Commentary on the Old Testament. volumes 1-2. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997 & 1998). Duguid, Iain M. Ezekiel (New International Version Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ode to Artie

Gone is the story-teller,
Norse twinkle in his eyes;
The teller of tales
tales of things long gone by.

He told of last mob-hanging,
of farming and fishing,
when young journeyed west
why new mothers "face south"
with such skillful weaving
we were oft' blessed.

He spoke with a wry grin,
His tales pouring out and
his chew hidden from Mary
(or so he had thought).
But how could she not know
after three-score ten nearly?

His years: ninety plus some
Not many get that
The things seen and done...
How many tales left untold?

We cry, his passing,
We mourn, our loss;
We knew his going
Long struggle now lost.

But alas we are woefully schooled
Grandpas like Artie
Beloved as they are
Someday enter Glory...more tales still to tell.

We love you Grandpa Artie (1916-2010)!

"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up."
"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence."
"I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live." (1 Sam.2:6; Hosea 6:1-2; John 5:25 NIV)

2 Kings 23:30-25:30 – The End is Near or A Glimmer of Hope

23:31 – Jehoahaz – son of Josiah. He reigned for 3 months (609 BC) over Judah and did evil in the sight of the LORD. He surrendered to Pharaoh Neco and was taken to Egypt in chains and Neco placed another of Josiah’s sons (Eliakim/Jehoiakim) on the throne of Judah in order to collect his levies against Judah.

23:34 – Eliakim (Jehoiakim) – son of Josiah. He reigned for 11 years (609-598 BC) over Judah and did evil in the sight of the LORD. Pharaoh Neco placed him on the throne in place of his brother Jehoahaz and changed his throne name from Eliakim to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim paid large levies to Egypt by taxing the leadership of Judah. Jeremiah tells us Jehoiakim also did many oppressive and wicked things to raise money during difficult economic times for building himself a new palace (Jer.22:13-17), threatened and killed true prophets (Jer.26:1-24), and rejected the prophetic word of the LORD best demonstrated by burning a scroll from Jeremiah (Jer.30:20-26). Jeremiah also prophesied as judgment that Jehoiakim would have “the burial of a donkey” (Jer.22:19). Jehoiakim changed allegiance in 605BC from Egypt to Babylon because of a major defeat of the Egyptians by Babylon at Carchemish and in order to placate Babylon who had already taken some exiles from Judah (including Daniel and his friends – Dan.1:1-5). Three years later he rebelled and Babylon enlisted Syria, Ammon and Moab to oppose Judah. He then died and Jehoiachin his son took the throne.

24:2, 4 – What does it mean that “the LORD sent” oppressors against Judah and “was not willing to forgive”?

24:8 – Jehoiachin – son of Jehoiakim. He reigned for 3 months (598-597BC) and 11 days (2 Chron.36:9) over Judah and did evil in the sight of the LORD. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon threatened the destruction of Jerusalem and so Jehoiachin surrendered and was taken into exile to Babylon along with all his officials, all the treasuries and articles of the Temple of the LORD, and all the soldiers and artisans of Jerusalem (including Ezekiel – Eze.1:1-3). Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah king in his place and changed Mattaniah’s throne name to Zedekiah.

24:18 – Zedekiah – son of Josiah. He reigned for 11 years (597-587BC) over Judah and did evil in the sight of the LORD. Jeremiah records that Zedekiah wanted the LORD to deliver Jerusalem from the Babylonians, but was unwilling to worship the LORD (Jer.21:1-1), heard the word of the LORD through prophetic warnings, but would not obey that word (Jer.34:1-22). Zedekiah was convinced by Egypt to rebel against Babylon. This was specifically opposed to the word of the LORD (Jer.27:1-11), but he preferred to listen to the false prophets who spoke of blessing and victory (Jer.5:12; 14:13). Jeremiah was sent by the LORD to make one final plea to Zedekiah to surrender to Babylon and avoid further destruction for Jerusalem, but Zedekiah refused (Jer.38:14-38). In Zedekiah’s 9th year (589 or 588) he was besieged by Babylon and held out for over a year before the food in Jerusalem ran out. Shortly thereafter Babylon breached the walls and Zedekiah fled with his soldiers, but was captured. He was then forced to watch his sons slaughtered in front of him and then his eyes were gouged out and he was taken into exile in chains to Babylon. Afterwards Nebuchadnezzar sent his commander to Jerusalem where he burned down every building of importance including particularly the Temple of the LORD and the king’s palace. Then he carried off everything of value from the Temple and executed the remaining leading officials (religious, military and political) and tore down the walls of the city. Jeremiah was surprisingly spared the killing (Jer.40:1-6).

24:20 – Who was against Judah? Could Judah have possibly defeated the vastly superior military of Babylon? Why couldn’t Judah win?

25:21 – Was it surprising that Judah went into exile? (Dt.28:15-68; 2 Kings 21:10-15; 22:15-20; also see 2 Chron.36:14-16)

25:22 – Gedaliah (a prominent man of Judah) was made governor of Judah by Babylon. He counseled the few remaining leaders to settle down and wait. However, seven months later, Ishmael, one of the leaders, assassinated him and also killed the Babylonian representatives. Ishmael then fled to Egypt because of the influence of Ammon (Jer.40:13-14) taking Jeremiah with them against Jeremiah’s wishes (Jer.42-43).

25:27 – Thirty-seven years into Jehoiachin’s imprisonment and exile he was suddenly favored by the new king of Babylon and released from prison. From then on he was cared for by Evil-Merodach king of Babylon.

25:27-30 – Why does this book end this way? It offers Judah hope and reminds them of the Davidic covenant (Dt.30:1-10; 2 Sam.7:1-17; 1 Kings 8:46-53). Zerubbabel the grandson of Jehoiachin eventually was made governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1). Also, the promise of a king to sit on the throne of David forever is found to be fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (see the genealogy of Matt.1:1-17).