Daniel Block on Inductive Study

Daniel Block offers some basic (but essential) advice to students of Scripture to study the text as primary, rather than turning to other sources first.

“When you are wrestling with biblical texts, wrestle with the texts.”

(see more at Koinonia).

Ezekiel 47-48 – The River And The Land

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47:1-6 – A trickle from the temple becomes a great river.  The location that Ezekiel is shown may indicate where the “sea” was once kept in Solomon’s temple, but there is no mention of such a thing in this temple (1 Kings 7:23-26).  While the directional descriptions are difficult it seems that the trickle flowed through the temple and out the eastern gate that was closed (Ezekiel even uses a Hebrew term that sounds like gurgling from a jug for it coming out the gate).  Again, the man has his measuring rods and begins taking notes.  At 1000 cubits (1500ft.) it was ankle deep, at 3000ft. it was knee-deep, 4500ft. it was waist-deep and at 6000ft from the temple it was already so deep that Ezekiel was forced to swim…and all of this without tributaries and from a trickle!
47:7-12 – The river from the temple brings miraculous life wherever it flows (cf. Gen.2:10-14; Ps.36:8-9; 46:4; Joel 3:17-18; Zech.14:5-11; John 7:38; Rev.22:1-2).  “The scene calls for a miraculous act, the converse of that experienced by the Israelites at the Red Sea.  Instead of creating a dry path through the sea, this holy stream produces a water course through the desert” (Block NICOT II:694).  On the banks are many trees whose leaves will not whither providing “healing” and whose seasons have become months because of the life they receive from the river (cf. Ps.1:1-3;  Rev.22:2).  The river will flow to the Arabah (or the Jordan valley) and into the Salt Sea (the aptly named “Dead” Sea because it sits at 1400 feet below sea level and cannot sustain life) where it will not only turn its waters to fresh water (cf. Exo.15:25; 2 Kings 2:19-22), but will cause its waters to have more life than even the Mediterranean (the Great) Sea.  In fact the whole (“from En Gedi to En Eglaim” refers to the western and eastern shores respectively) of the Sea will be changed to give life, with the exception that the low areas will still produce salt.  Why should they be left?  “It is necessary that salt should be available as an element of covenant consummation” (Duguid NIVAC 533).  It will also serve as a blessing to those who fish and those who harvest. 
47:13-23 – The boundaries of the land of Israel (cf. Num.34:1-15; Josh.15-21).  Why does Joseph get two portions?  Because there must still be twelve (this was also the counting of the tribes) and Levi receives his portion as a priestly portion and because Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh as his own (Gen.48:8-20).  Of particular significance are four things: first that they receive their portions as “inheritance” in the form of gift from a sovereign and not by right, and second that they “are to divide it equally among them”.  This is significant, because this had never been done before.  There was a greater equilibrium to be accomplished in Israel by this act.  As part of this they each had a portion that ran from the Mediterranean inland and was exactly the same distance north-to-south.  Third, all twelve of the tribes were to be reunited into one land again which had not been possible for several hundred years.  Fourth, their boundaries were to exceed anything in their previous history.  It is also notable that Ezekiel mentions the “aliens” (Heb. gēr) as being permitted to receive an inheritance if they settle and have children (cf. Lev.19:33-34; or the “foreigner” in Isa.56:3-8).  In other words, this was not only a promised blessing for ethnic Israel, but for all who would identify themselves with the covenant community.
48:1-29 – The tribal, princely, sacred and city allotments.  The tribes are largely rearranged from their earlier portions and there is no longer any mention of the territories possessed in the Trans-Jordan.  Dan Block notes that in the allotment Bilhah and Ziphah’s sons are furthest out with Benjamin and Judah on both sides of the sacred precinct (cf. Josh.18:28; 1 Sam.9; 2 Sam.5:5-6)—though Judah is on the north and Benjamin the south—and Rachel and Leah’s sons are closest with Ephraim and Manasseh by each other (NICOT II:723-724; for the matronage see Gen.35:22-26).  In the midst of verses 1-8 and 22-29 describing the tribal allotments is the focus of the chapter—the special allotment that is for the prince, the city and the sacred precincts.  We have previously discussed this area in chapter 45 (for more detail see the notes there).  Some of the new things emphasized here pertain to the workers that would be necessary for maintaining the city and the supply of food for all of the tribes as they take their turns in coming to the temple and the city.
48:30-35 – The exits of the city.  There are twelve gates to this city which is considerably more than any normal city not to mention that it would be exceptional that any city should be square to begin with which has sacred connotations.  The city is approximately one mile by one mile (contrast this to the New Jerusalem that is described as a cube-like structure approximately 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles! Rev.21:16).  Interestingly, Levi has a gate and so Joseph has a gate (which would be for both Ephraim and Manasseh). 

Ezekiel 43-44 – The Glory of the LORD and the Temple Torah

43:1-5 – The glory returns.  Why does the glory of the LORD approach from the east? (cf. Eze.11:23)  There is no ignoring the approaching glory which radiates the land and comes with a great tumult of sound.  This vision is likened to the appearing of the glory in chapters 8-11, but also to the appearing in the very beginning of the book.  Note that the reference is to the vision by the Kebar River when the glory had first come to destroy Jerusalem.  Ezekiel’s posture is as it was before when the glory appeared: prostrate.  And just as the Spirit had previously lifted Ezekiel up for action, here the same thing occurs.  Note what the glory of the LORD does. (cf. Isa.6:4)

43:6-12 – The temple torah is given.  Ezekiel hears an undisclosed person’s voice that gives him the temple instructions (torah).  Contrast the presence of the LORD in this temple to the one which Solomon built (1 Kings 8:48-49; Isa.66:1).  It was always the LORD’s design to live with His people Israel.  However, His continuing presence depends upon the holiness with which His people live.  The LORD promises that Israel and her kings will no longer do what they had done before in defiling the temple and rejecting Him.  In particular are the sins of the kings against the sanctity of the temple of the LORD when they set up idols for themselves (NIV’s “their high places” Heb. bāmôtām should likely read Heb. bemôtām “at their death”; see Duguid NIVAC 490fn5) and fornicated themselves.  It is notable that the glory of the God of Israel no longer is enthroned upon the ark of the covenant, but upon Jerusalem itself and His temple (Jer.3:16-17; Block NICOT II:581).  How might the plan of this temple cause Israel to feel shame for their sinfulness?  It would appear that the whole of this temple area is designed for guarding the holiness of the LORD.  The torah of Ezekiel and his function in the process of sanctifying the temple likens him to a second Moses (cf. Exo.29; Block NICOT II:606-7).
43:13-27 – The altars design and sanctifying.  Why might the dimensions of the altar be of significance to Ezekiel’s audience?  This altar area was approximately 1100 sq. ft. while the alter itself was nearly 600 sq. ft. and stood some 15 feet high.  The trench on the outside of the altar could handle nearly 3800 gallons! (see Block NICOT II:601).  This made it actually smaller than the one in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28-29; 8 ½H x 17W x 17L) and much smaller than the one in Herod’s temple (Josephus JW 5.5.6§§222-226; 15H x 50W x 50L).  The steps (against Mosaic instruction in Exo.20:26) to the altar notably face east when traditionally all of the altars had the officiating priest facing east.  The altar still needed dedication through purifying (Heb. hattā’t traditionally read as “sin offering”; see Duguid NIVAC 491fn10) sacrifices and burnt offerings that were supposed to last the course of a week for atonement and then on the eighth day the priests would begin making regular offerings upon it.  The animals were to be salted (cf. Lev.2:13; the “covenant of salt” in Num.18:19; 2 Chron.13:5; and see Mark 9:49-50) and their bodies disposed of outside the sanctity of the temple.  How will the LORD treat this sanctifying work and what will be His response?
44:1-4 – The eastern gate was shut permanently once the glory of the LORD had entered through it.  The prince (Heb. nāsî’) was the only one permitted into the gate to eat a fellowship offering before the LORD, but not through the gate.  While this would offer some special blessing to the prince, he was still excluded (as the rest of Israel) from entering the temple itself and could not enter through the gate which the LORD had entered.  Again, note Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of the LORD as the glory fills the temple.
44:5-9 – The entrances and exits of the temple.  It was not only the priests and the kings of Israel that were responsible for the defiling of the temple, but the whole of the house of Israel.  They were responsible for bringing foreigners into the temple (cf. 2 Kings 11:14-19) when the Levitical priests were supposed to have guarded the sanctity of it (Num.18:7, 21-23).  It was not that foreigners weren’t allowed, it was that these foreigners were not a part of the covenant people of God and had not purified themselves.
44:10-14 – The restoration of the Levites.  While the Levites had sinned they were promised to receive restoration as those responsible for the gates and certain of the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel.  However, their idolatry was not without repercussions.  They would not be given responsibility to actually approach the LORD, but instead would represent the people’s presence in the temple itself.
44:15-31 – The Zadokites priest’s blessings and responsibilities.  It was not because the Zadokites were sinless, but they were more faithful than the Levites in general (cf. 1 Sam.3:11-14; 1 Kings 1:5-8; 2:26-27, 35).  Therefore, they would be given the particular blessing and responsibility of serving directly before the LORD and making the necessary sacrifices.  Their clothing was regulated in order to avoid both contaminating it with sweat (i.e. body fluids; see Deut.23:11-13) and to not “consecrate” the people when they leave the inner court before the LORD.  On holiness as a dangerous contagion see Lev.10:1-3; Num.4:15; 1 Sam.6:19; 2 Sam.6:6-9.  Their hair was never to be either unkempt or shaved off (cf. Lev.21:5, 10; 19:27), they were never to have alcohol when ministering (Lev.10:9), nor were they to marry any woman that might allow for the common Israelites to share in their inheritance.  They were to teach the people, to serve as judges and to celebrate all that the LORD had commanded.  They were to be kept from that which was dead (Lev.21:1-3) and to receive their inheritance in the LORD (Num.18:20) enjoying the sacrifices given by Israel (Exo.22:31; Lev.22:8; Num.15:20-21; 18:8-20).

Ezekiel 40-42 – A New House for the LORD

40:1-4 – A new vision.  The date given in verse one marks the twenty-fifth year of the exile of Jehoiachin and the fourteenth year since the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (April 28, 573BC).  The twenty-five year mark may be given in particular to suggest the turning point towards the fifty year Jubilee (Block NICOT II:512).  The tenth day of the first month (likely Nissan for the religious calendar and not Tishri of the civil calendar) would be the commencement of the Passover festival (Exo.12:3) though Ezekiel curiously does not mention this.  It has been proposed that Ezekiel may be giving a counter to the Babylonian New Year’s celebration (Akk. akītu) which was celebrated on the same day and wherein Marduk their chief deity was annually re-enthroned (see Block NICOT II:513).  Where might “the very high mountain” be located and what does this mountain represent? (cf. Eze.17:22; 20:40; Isa. 2:2-3; Mic.4:1; Rev.21:10)  What does Ezekiel see from the south side of the mountain?  The man who appears to Ezekiel acts as a guide and will reveal to Ezekiel particular dimensions of the visionary temple in order for Ezekiel to share this with Israel.

40:5-27 – The outer gates and the outer court.  What is the purpose of the wall surrounding the temple?  The measurement tool of the visionary guide follows the royal cubit instead of the common cubit and measures approximately 1 and ¾ feet long and so his “rod” is approximately 3 ½ yards (or 10 ½ feet) long.  This would make the wall about 10 feet thick and 10 feet tall (though almost no other height measurements are listed anywhere else).  Why did Ezekiel approach from the east first?  Note the many rooms for guards in the massive gate.  Why would there need to be so many guards and security?  Take note of the many measurements that are multiples of 25 throughout this visionary temple and the very simple carvings.  Who accessed the “outer court”?    Note the dimensions of the gates and the outer court.  Also, the steps from to the gates are seven.
By A. Gaebelein “The Prophet Ezekiel” (1918)
A. The Temple House
B. Altar of Burnt Offering
C. Inner Court
D. Gates to Inner Court
E. Separate Place
F. Hinder Building
G. Priest’s Kitchens
H. Chambers for Priests
I. Chambers
K. People’s Kitchen
L. Gates into Outer Court
M. Pavement
N. Chambers in Outer Court (30)
O. Outer Court

40:28-47 – The inner gates and the inner court.  Note the dimensions and decorations of the inner court and the eight steps which led up into it.  Each of the gates are identical (both outer with each other and the inner with each other respectively).  The furniture of the inner court is specifically only for the various sacrifices – burnt (Heb. ‘ōlâh; cf. Lev.1:3), sin (Heb. hāttā’t; cf. Lev.4:2-3, 13) and guilt (Heb. ’āŝam; cf. Lev.5:6; 6:6; 7:1-2) – whether tables, hooks (?), or utensils.  The guards were apparently Zadokite Levites responsible for all of the temple precincts security and priestly ministry (Block NICOT II:537-9; cf. Num.18:1-7; 2 Sam.8:17; 2 Kings 11:4-7).  Note the place of the altar in relation to the temple proper.

40:48-41:26 – The temple proper.  The temple was again located higher (10 steps up) than the inner court (eight steps up) which had been higher than the outer court (seven steps up) – leading to a total of twenty-five steps.  It is also set up higher so as to protect the holy from the profane and the profane from the holy.  While Ezekiel is taken through much of the wider building(s), he is only informed about the dimensions of the “Most Holy Place” of the temple.  The doors of each level also get progressively smaller and there are fewer and fewer that are permitted beyond each.  The decorations of the temple itself are cherubim and palm trees, which is considerably less ornate than Solomon’s temple or even the tabernacle of Moses.  The wooden table in the holy place just in front of the most holy place was likely for showbread (though there is not specific mention of its purpose here).
42:1-20 – Rooms for the priests of the temple.  Rooms stacked three stories high were built along the north and south sides of the temple proper in order to provide sacred space for the priests to eat the special offerings and to change out of their priestly garments.  Why should they change their clothes or eat in the sacred areas?  What are the dimensions of the whole complex as shown to Ezekiel? 
Some Questions and Comments Concerning This Temple – What does a comparison and contrast of this temple demonstrate with regard to the tabernacle of Moses, the temple of Solomon and the “New Jerusalem” of Revelation 21-22?  Note that while many dimensions are given for this temple of Ezekiel there are no materials mentioned other than with regard to the altars and tables.  Also, while there is great detail provided for dimensions there is no instruction to Ezekiel (or even through Ezekiel to Israel) to build such a temple.  The temple that was constructed under Ezra’s leadership nev
er did fit the description of Ezekiel’s vision, nor does there appear to have been any attempt to even try.  Why is this?  What might this temple point to?  Is this temple representative of something or will it (as according to typical Dispensational beliefs) be built in a millennial reign of Christ?  If it would be built in such a time, why should there be continued sacrifices offered and what does this make of the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Perhaps the best way forward is not to view this temple as prescribed to be built at some future time, but simply as indicative of the utter holiness with which God dwells.  Also, how might we understand this temple in light of Jesus claim of being the “temple” (John
2:19-21) and of Paul’s later comments regarding the individuals of the Church (1 Cor.3:16-17; 6:19) as well as the Church corporately being the “temple” (2 Cor.6:16)?

Ezekiel 38-39 – Gog and Magog

38:1-9 – Who is Gog and what will he do?  It is believed that this is a reference to the recent figure Gyges of Lydia (reigned in approximately the first half of the seventh century BC according to certain Assyrian records) who was a usurper of the Lydian throne and reputed to have first printed coins.  He is recorded here in Ezekiel as being of the land of “Magog” (which may be possibly taken as “land of Gog”) and the “chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (cf. Eze.27:13; 32:26 for their presence in the grave; also Ps.120:5-7).  The names Magog, Meshech and Tubal are all listed in Genesis 10:2 as sons of Japheth.  They appear here to refer to locations in the western Anatolia and thus to be representing those at the fringe of the north for Israelite concerns.  Who is actually bringing Gog and his horde against Israel?  Allied with them are the combined forces of Persia (?), Cush (upper Egypt) and Put (Libya) representing the southern hordes.  From still further north than Lydia (and east), the armies of Gomer and Beth Togarmah (likely the Cimmerians) are gathered as well.  These would serve as representatives of the most wild and vast armies of the world.  They are called to gather at some distantly future time in order to invade a regathered Israel that is finally at peace.

38:10-16 – The thoughts and conversations of Gog.  Who will be responsible for Gog’s plans to conquer Israel?  Also, who intends to benefit from Gog’s plans?  The representative nations are from east (Sheba and Dedan) to west (Tarshish).  This would then entail the peoples from every direction in the plot to destroy the nation that lies at the center of the LORD’s plan for the ages.  “Why would Yahweh bring Gog against his own people after the covenant relationship had been fully restored?  Because an element in the divine agenda, the universal recognition of his person, remains unfulfilled” (Block NICOT II:451).  Is there a distinction between the self-revelation of the LORD and the revelation of the holiness of the LORD?
38:17-23 – The battle between Gog and the LORD.  How should we understand the question in verse seventeen?  Where would such prophecies possibly be found?  Some have suggested a radical changing of Isaiah 14:24-25 and Jeremiah 6:22, however it may be that the question was rhetorical and should receive the answer of “No”.  Gog was not called as the hand of judgment against Israel (as the Assyrians and Babylonians before him had been), but instead is brought against Israel for the judgment of the nations.  At some undefined moment in the future the battle would be engaged, but instead of Israel taking up the fight the LORD Himself would fight on their behalf.  The world will be shaken and made to tremble and radically altered (cf. Isa.24:17-20; Joel 2:10; 3:3-4, 15-16; Hag.2:6-7; Zech.14:4-5; Matt.24:29-30; Rev.16:17-21).  Not only will the LORD bear the sword against the hordes, but they will fight against one another (as at other pivotal moments in Israel’s history).  Divine judgment (as plague, bloodshed, torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur) will be poured out on that great host in order to demonstrate the greatness and holiness of the LORD.
39:1-8 – The slaughtering of Gog and his allies.  Notice that once again the LORD says He will be the one bringing Gog against Israel, but He will also be the one to defeat Gog (particular emphasis upon the weapons of archers for which the northern kingdoms were renowned).  Those who gathered for the battle will be destroyed as well as those who supported the invasion.  Note the reason the LORD gives for this: both for the nations and for Israel.  Though the day is far off from Ezekiel’s pronouncement does this mean that it will not happen?
39:9-16 – Israel must be cleansed.  Those who were living in safety now leave their homes to pick up all of the weaponry (seven types listed) that remains (which is said to last seven years) to use as fuel for their home-fires and to bury all of the dead (which is said to take seven months).  The use of seven seems to suggest completeness as to the destruction and cleansing.  There will be so many to bury that there won’t even be room for travelers through that portion of Israel which is then to be called the Valley of Hamon (“horde of”) Gog – sounding rather like a play on the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem.  What does Ezekiel mean by stating that the cities name will be “Hamonah”?  It may likely be a symbolic name for Jerusalem which had earlier in his prophecies been described as being filled with hāmôn (cf. 5:7; 7:12-14; 23:40-42; and Block NICOT II:471-2).  This would serve as a memorial of what Jerusalem had once been and how the LORD Himself had delivered her.
39:17-21 – The sacrificial feast of the nations.  Ezekiel is told to call all of the carrion creatures of the land and air to gather for a gluttonous and macabre feast upon the armies that were slaughtered (cf. Isa.34:6-8; Zeph.1:7; Rev.19:17-21).  The rulers and great men are referred to by names of animals for divine sacrifice and the parts usually reserved for God are consumed by the creatures of the earth.  What is the point of including such a grotesque description? 
39:22-29 – Israel is returned.  Will Israel be able to take credit for returning from exile?  What significance is given by the LORD’s face having been turned from Israel and what might be the difference between that and His face being turned against Israel?  Is Israel’s blessing (and was their judgment) for themselves or for the nations?  Does the LORD leave any of His people behind?  It is a wonderful thing to know that whereas the LORD had once poured out His wrath (Eze.7:8; 9:8; 30:15; 36:18) in that day He will pour out His Spirit (cf. Joel 2:28-32).

Ezekiel 37 – Sticks and Bones

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37:1-14 – The valley of dry bones.  Once again the “hand of the LORD” was on Ezekiel (cf. 1:3; 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 40:1) and the Spirit (Heb. rûah) of the LORD set him right in the middle of a valley filled with dry bones (note the contrast between this valley of death and the mountains of fruitfulness in the previous chapter).  The bones are strewn everywhere showing that there was no proper burial for those who died and they are described as “dry” because they were well beyond any type of resuscitation.  Why did the LORD ask Ezekiel if these bones could live and what does Ezekiel’s reply signify?  Can the LORD do this work, or better, will the LORD do this?  It demonstrates Ezekiel’s dependence upon the LORD and recognition that everything depends upon His will and doing.  Why should Ezekiel prophesy to the bones?  “Yahweh’s goal in reviving these bones is not simply the biological-chemical reconstition of the body or even the restoration of physical life.  He desires spiritual revival: a new recognition of and relationship with himself” (Block NICOT 376).  What are the contents of his prophesying to the bones? 
Note the emphasis upon the breath (Heb. rûah) of life in order for the bones to live even after being attached with everything else anatomically necessary (cf. Gen.2:7).  What is the point of the LORD’s giving life?  Ezekiel seems surprised by the immediate reaction and sound of the bones being joined to each other and then the tendons, flesh and skin being added.  Note the lack of life because there was no breath (Heb. rûah) in them.  Why might the LORD require Ezekiel to prophesy again before they would be given life?  What does it mean for Ezekiel to prophesy to “breath” (Heb. rûah) and call it from the “four winds” (Heb. rûahot cf. Deut. 28:25-26; Jer.34:17-20) before the “breath” (or “Spirit/spirit” again Heb. rûah) would come into them so that they might live?  The Hebrew term rûah occurs ten times in the first fourteen verses of this chapter with the nuanced meanings as agency of conveyance (vs. 1), direction (vs. 9), and animation (vv. 5-6) (see Block NICOT II:373). 
The bones which were brought to life as people stand up on their feet much like Ezekiel at his commissioning (cf. Ezek.2:2; 3:24).  What do the bones represent? (see vv. 11-14)  Note that the metaphor is no longer of a valley of bones, but of the graves of the whole house of Israel (Judah and Israel) that will be opened (cf. Matt.27:52-53) and from which they will be raised to life by the infusion of the LORD’s Spirit (Heb. rûah) into them.  Why does the LORD state that He will do this?  There are many of the Church Fathers that understood this first section as referring to a general resurrection: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Constantine, Ambrose, Severus and John of Damascus (Zimmerli Hermeneia II:264).
27:15-28 – One king over one nation of Israel.  Ezekiel is told to take two “sticks” (Heb. ‘ēsîm which may also be translated as “writing tablets” which would possibly include the contents of the two part prophecy that makes up the remainder of the chapter – in favor of this interpretation see Block NICOT 398-406, 409) and write on each addressing the two previous nations: Judah and Israel (Ephraim who was the youngest son of Joseph – cf. Gen.48:8-20; 49:22-26; Deut.33:13-17).  Why are the two sticks inscribed and what does holding them together signify? 
Notice in the explanation the LORD gives through Ezekiel that Judah takes the priority before “Ephraim” though they are joined together to form a unity in the LORD’s hand.  This is not only a prophecy of unity, but of a return from exile for all of the tribes of Israel as the one people of God.  What would be the obstacles to accomplishing this and where would the LORD return His people?  There would no longer be any multiplicity of kings, but only one king chosen by the LORD to rule the one nation.  Also, the one kingdom would be holy and no longer continue in sin and depravity, but would be cleansed and enter into the covenant they were always supposed to have with the LORD as their own God and they as His own people.  What does it mean for “David” to be the one king and “shepherd” over the united kingdom of Israel?  (cf. 2 Sam.7)  Does election to be a part of the one people mean there is no requirement for how one lives? 
Note the repetitive use of “forever” and “one” in this extended passage (cf. Gen.28:13-15; 35:9-15).  What is a “covenant of peace” (Heb. bĕrît ŝālôm cf. Eze.34:25-31) that is “an everlasting covenant” (Heb. bĕrît ‘ôlām cf. Isa.24:5; 55:3; 61:8; Jer.32:40; 50:5)?  What does it mean for the LORD’s sanctuary and dwelling place to be among His newly constituted people?  How does His presence make “holy”?
Extra Bibliography
Walther Zimmerli, Ezekiel (trans. R. E. Clements; 2 vols., Hermeneia; Philadelpia, PA: Fortress, 1979).

The Spirit in the Old Testament

Dan Block (whom I have high hopes of doing my Ph.D. studies under) has beaten me to the punch.  He has not only written several articles (JETS 32, 1989; SBJT 1.1 Spring 1997) where he articulates the theology of the Spirit in the Old Testament and its correlation to the New Testament, but has also included an excursus in his magisterial two-volume commentary on Ezekiel (NICOT Chapters 25-48 pp.360-1) on this topic.  A topic which I still hope to work on as part of my Ph.D. dissertation (tentatively titled “A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets”).

And his conclusion is much as mine…the disjunction between the two testaments and the person and work of the Spirit (as has popularly been believed) fails to grapple with the actual evidence of the text.  The Spirit indwelt believers in the OT in much the same manner as the NT, but in the NT this was unbounded by ethnicity and status.  In both testaments the Spirit endows with power for service.  In both, there is an “ecclessiological continuity” (NICOT 360) as evidenced by the requirement for Israel to have circumcised hearts (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4) that would require the indwelling of the Spirit for sanctifying transformation (Eze.11:19; 36:26).  In both, the Spirit is essential for hope of salvation (Ps.51:10-11).

As Block notes in his conclusion, “Ezekiel anticipates the day when the boundaries of physical Israel will finally be coterminous with the borders of the spiritual people of God.  But, as [Eze.] 37:1-14 will demonstrate, this can be achieved only through direct divine intervention, Yahweh’s infusion of his people with life” (NICOT 361).

Ezekiel 35-36 – Two "Mountainous" Prophecies

35:1-9 – A prophecy against Mount SeirWhere is Mount Seir and what does it represent?  It is the primary site for the kingdom of Edom (house “father” was Esau) which lies to the southeast of Israel and Judah.  However, “Edom in Ezekiel 35 is merely one representative of the nations at large who oppose Israel and her God” because “Edom was the arch-type of the non elect the very paragon of a nation raging against the Lord and against his anointed” (Duguid NIVAC 406, 409; cf. Stuart 331).  This is a motif that began with the prophetic word concerning the twins, Jacob and Esau, which Rachel gave birth to (cf. Gen. 25:23). From the beginning there was animosity and this actually continued even to the days of Jesus when Herod, an Idumean (of Edom) tried to kill Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16-18) and the later Herod who actually shared complicity in the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 23:6-12).  What did the LORD promise to do to the Mountain of Seir and what was the end goal?  Why was Edom to be judged (cf. Ps. 137:7; Obadiah) and is there any hope for Edom (cf. Deut. 23:7-8)?  In what sense was this fulfilled or meant to be fulfilled?
35:10-15 – Why it matters what we say?  What did Edom say that the LORD would hold them accountable for?  Who are the “two nations” that Edom looked to take over as their own?  Note that though the LORD removed his people from Israel and Judah that it was still His land and He would not give up His claim to it.  “Yahweh may indeed have left the temple and the city, allowing Nebuchadrezzar, his agent of judgment on his own people, to raze Jerusalem; but this did not mean he had abandoned all interest in the place, nor did it authorize any other nation to seize his land” (Block NICOT II:319).  Also, note that the “mountains of Israel” (as opposed to the traditional term “land of Israel”) were rejoiced over for being made desolate, but the LORD would in fact make Mount Seir (and all it represented; cf. a similar use of “Babylon” in Rev. 17-18) desolate.
36:1-15 – A prophecy to the mountains of Israel.  What did the LORD promise to the mountains and all the desolated regions of Israel?  Why would the LORD promise judgment against those who slandered the land and savagely took possession of it?  Note that it has to do with the LORD’s zeal and jealousy.  What does this tell us about the LORD’s motivation for judgment?  Was it primarily for Israel’s benefit or His (with Israel to benefit as He does)?  What theological significance might be attributed to knowing that “I am concerned for you” reads literally “I will turn to you” (cf. Lev. 26:9) in Eze. 36:9?  Whose people are Israel?  Is the LORD concerned for the land?  Note the promises of fruitfulness in both agriculture and the people of Israel.  Has this prophecy been fulfilled? (see particularly verses 12-15)  What was said about the land concerning its ability to sustain or “devour” a population (cf. Num. 13:32) and how would this be changed?
36:16-23 – What led to the defilement of Israel and why would they be redeemed?  In what way should we understand Israel’s defilement to be like a woman with her monthly period? (cf. Lev. 15:19-24)  It seems to signify that Israel was to be separated from all things sacred and clean and therefore excluded from both the land and the people that have been set apart.  This would explain the LORD’s exiling of His people.  How was the LORD’s name profaned among the nations by the exile?  What role does the LORD’s “name” play in how He acts towards people, both in judgment and redemption?  For whose sake will the LORD return His people to the land and bless them?  Note the emphasis upon what is “holy”.  What significance does this make?
36:24-32 – The gathering of Israel.  Who will gather Israel from the nations? (cf. Deut. 30:4) What will the LORD do as a part of this gathering?  What does it mean for the LORD to “sprinkle clean water” on His people and to? (cf. Lev. 15)  What will the LORD do to redeem His people?  Is it enough to have them outwardly acting the way that they should or is there a necessary inward change? (cf. Deut. 30:6-8) Dan Block sees Jeremiah’s influence in this passage, but notes that what Jeremiah attributes to Torah Ezekiel attributes to “the infusion of the divine rûaḥ” (NICOT 356-7).  Note that the LORD promises the Spirit to redeemed Israel just as the believer in Christ is promised the Spirit.  Will there be any room for personal boasting after the people of Israel are redeemed?  What should and will their response be? 
36:33-36 – The promise of a resettled land.  What is the prerequisite for the resettlement?  Will the land simply be restored to its former state or will the state after redemption be better than the former?  The comparison “like the garden of Eden” is something that other prophets also mention (cf. Isa. 51:3; Joel 2:3) Why does the LORD say that He will do all of this?
36:37-38 – The “flocks” that are heard.  What does it mean for the LORD to finally “yield to the plea of the house of Israel”?  Note that earlier Ezekiel had been denied pleading with the LORD on behalf of Israel, but now the LORD will answer such cries.  Why are the people likened to sheep and what picture does this present?  What is the reason for all of this?
Extra Bibliography
Douglas Stuart, Ezekiel (Dallas, TX: Word 1988).

Ezekiel 29-32 – A Message Against Egypt

29:1-6a – A prophecy against Pharaoh.  The date notice places this prophecy on January 7, 587 BC.  The prophecy against Pharaoh (king of Egypt) is also be connection a prophecy against all of Egypt.  Pharaoh Hophra (Greek—Aphries 589-570 BC; see Jer. 44:30; Her. Hist. 2.161; Jos. Ant. 10.7.3 §§108-110), a Saite of the Delta region, was the great “monster” (Jer. 51:34; Heb. hattannim “jackals” should read as Targ. and Syr. tnyn; cf.  “Rahab” in Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps. 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; and “Leviathon” in Job 41; Ps. 74:14; 89:10; Isa. 27:1) of the Nile (which may refer to a crocodile that is somewhat mythologized).  Though he thinks himself great the LORD will catch him from the streams of the Nile with all the fish and cast him out into the desert as food for others.  What is the point of this judgment?
29:6b-21 – Egypt: a staff of reed (2 Kings 18:21; Isa. 36:6).  Staffs are never made of read because they are both weak and will easily splinter.  Egypt proved to do nothing for the help of the House of Israel (Judah) other than to wound Israel; therefore the LORD promises desolating judgment upon Egypt (cf. Jer. 43-44; 46:13-24) for opposing His plan to judge Israel at the hands of the Babylonians.  The LORD would judge Egypt forty years for pride and opposing His purposes and send them into exile.  After the forty years Egypt would be restored, but not to their former glory and power.  If there was hope for Egypt it would seem to be because at least they (unlike Judah’s neighbors) offered assistance against the Babylonians even if this was against the will of the LORD.  The date notice (vs. 17) means April 26, 571 BC which was nearly 17 years after the previous prophecy.  The LORD would reward Babylon since they did not receive the rewards of conquering Tyre.  Does this mean that the prophecy against Tyre had failed (see Eze. 26-28)?  Is it possible that the lack of the fulfillment was the result of Tyre choosing to submit to Babylon after thirteen years of siege and therefore the LORD relented of the judgment that was promised (much as the judgment of Ninevah was promised by Jonah, but it was actually the LORD’s intention that Ninevah should repent and be spared)? 
30:1-19 – A Lament for Egypt.  Egypt would not only face the “day of the LORD” but also all those who were allied with Egypt.  All of Egypt’s most important cities and allies would be made desolate.  How was this fulfilled historically, by whom (vs. 10), and what was the LORD’s intention (Eze.30:8, 19)?  In 568 BC, Nebuchadnezzar marched against Egypt which had just finished with a civil war that left Hophra dead and Amasis (570-526 BC) as his successor (Block NICOT II:151).
30:20-26 – Pharaoh’s arms will be broken by the LORD.  The date notice places this prophecy on April 29, 587 BC.  The pharaohs as well as their gods were often referred to as the “strong arm/s of Egypt” (cf. the repeated references to the “arm” of the LORD in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt).  The LORD would make sure that there would be no strength left to Egypt and that Babylon instead would receive the strength of the LORD.
31:1-18 – Pharaoh is compared to Assyria (reading ’ šwr “Assyria” instead of t’šwr “Cypress” with MT in verse 3; see Block NICOT II:184-5) and likened to a great cedar.  The date notice refers to June 31, 587 BC which is just two months after the last prophecy.  The description of the tree (cf. Dan. 4:10-12) is splendid.  Its branches provide shelter for all the creatures and it reaches to the heavens.  It is sustained by the waters of the “deep” (Heb. tehom) and so finds no comparison even among the trees of Eden.  However, because of its pride it will be humbled by the LORD by being cut off from the waters of the deep, felled and cast into the “pit” (or the “grave”) along with all others that exalt themselves and were united with that great tree.  Who is the tree declared to be? (see 31:2, 18)
32:1-16 – A “lament” for Pharaoh (Heb. qinah; though once again the qinot of Ezekiel do not follow the typical 3:2 pattern).  The date notice points to March 3, 585 BC nearly two years after the former prophecy.  The Pharaoh is compared to a lion (which is another typical self-designation of the pharaohs as well as other kings of the ancient Near East) and once again a “monster” but this time in the “seas”.  This represents the Pharaoh as a terror to all others, but the LORD declares that he (and Egypt with him) will be captured and cast into the desert where his flesh will feed all the creatures and will be spread far and wide.  Also, there will be a darkening of the heavens in the judgment (cf. Ex. 10:21-23; Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Joel 2:31; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-13; 16:10).  At Egypt’s judgment the nations will be terrified.  The waters and land will no longer be troubled by Egypt but given a reprieve in order to bring Egypt to know the LORD (see Isa. 19:16-25 that speaks of Egypt and Assyria becoming the people of the LORD and being redeemed).
32:17-32 – The descent to the grave (“Sheol”).  The date notice suggests March 18(?), 585 BC which is just two weeks after the qinah prophecy.  Egypt will not be alone in being consigned to Sheol.  Egypt will be among all the “uncircumcised” (used theologically rather than naturally since several of the nations including Egypt were known to practice circumcision; see Duguid NIVAC 375fn.5).  Assyria, Elam, Meshach and Tubal, Edom, the princes of the north and the Sidonians will all be in Sheol in their respective places having been killed by the sword and being among the “uncircumcised” in judgment.  Pharaoh with his army will suffer the same fate.  Why would the LORD command Ezekiel to “wail” for the Egyptians in their judgment? 

Ezekiel 26-28 – A Prophecy Against Tyre

26:1-6 – The date given (while presenting textual difficulties) suggests Feb. 3, 585 BC (Block NICOT II:35).  This would place this prophecy at about the very time that Nebuchadnezzar began his thirteen year siege of Tyre and just one month after the notice of Jerusalem’s fall would have reached the Babylonian exiles.  What is the reason stated for the judgment of Tyre? (26:2) Note that the descriptions which follow of Tyre being in the midst of the sea (and also the metaphor of Tyre the merchandising ship that sinks) pictures the island capital that sat just off the coast of modern Lebanon.  It was an amazing island fortress that would not actually be taken by force until 332BC by Alexander the Great (and even then only by great cost and building a land-bridge to the island to conquer it).  Iaian Duguid notes the prophetic irony of Tyre’s self-seeking and self-promoting ways and their results when he writes, “Does Tyre hope to become the new meeting place for the nations?  The Lord will bring many nations against her (26:3).  Did Tyre rejoice to see Jerusalem’s doors shattered?  Her walls will be destroyed and her towers torn down (26:4).  Did Tyre expect to prosper?  She will become plunder for the nations (26:5)” (NIVAC 334).  What is the stated purpose for the judgment?
26:7-14 – The description of the destruction at the hands Nebuchadnezzar offers explanation for the analogy that was in the previous verses.  What effect does Nebuchadnezzar being called the “king of kings” have in relation to this prophecy?  What significance might be suggested by the silencing of the sounds of the city in verse 13?  How should we understand the absoluteness of the prophecy of Tyre’s destruction in verse 14?
26:15-18 – A brief statement about the reaction of the nations who had benefited from Tyre’s glory days.  The rulers will leave their thrones and royal garments in terror and trembling at the destruction and raise a lament (Heb. qinah).  Tyre seems to be the basis for the descriptions of “Babylon” in Rev. 17:1; 18:9, 12-13, 17.
26:19-21 – The end of Tyre will be destruction.  Tyre is described as descending to the “pit” (that is to death and the grave; on the “land” of the dead cf. Ps. 22:29; Isa. 26:19; Jonah 2:2, 6; Ugaritic texts: CTA 4.8.5-14; 10:2.24-25) where there will never be a recovery (cf. Eze. 27:36; 28:19).  How might this be fulfilled?
27:1-36 – A further lament over Tyre.  Tyre is described as “perfect in beauty” because of the great splendor she has been adorned by.  Ezekiel uses the metaphor of Tyre as a great mercantile vessel that was manufactured of exquisite materials and staffed by the finest of merchants and sailors.  A description of the many lands and wares of Tyre’s trading are laid out in great detail in order to emphasis the greatness of Tyre’s wealth and power.  The Mediterranean nations from furthest west, to the Anatolian, Levant, and Arabian kingdoms as well as Mesopotamian lands are named with all their particular wares.  The LORD declares though that the ship of Tyre will sink to rise no more.  The terror of Tyre’s “sinking” will strike all the nations that had traded with her.
28:1-10 – A prophecy against the ruler (Heb. nagid; and see also the “king”or melek in verse 12) of Tyre.  The ruler that was on the throne of Tyre at that time was Ethbaal III (591-573 BC).  The ruler declared himself to be “a god”, but the LORD reminds him that he is nothing more than “a man” despite his unparalleled wisdom and wealth (cf. the praise of Herod as “a god” by the Tyrians and Sidonians and his judgment in Acts 12:22).  The ruler had become arrogant and self-congratulatory instead of recognizing his dependency upon the LORD. 
28:11-19 – The king of Tyre (which appears to simply be another designation for the ruler mentioned in verses 1-11).  Who does this prophecy refer to?  It seems mistaken to make the metaphor of the king being a “guardian cherub” created in “perfection” (and on blameless in your ways” see Gen. 6:9; 17:1) adorned in many precious stones (which though lacking three specifically are those found in the Israelite High Priest’s chest-piece in Ex. 28:17-20; 39:10-13 though Daniel Block NICOT II:110-2 rejects the specific priestly connection) and living in “Eden” (which is later also applied to Pharaoh in Eze. 31:8-9) to be a reference to Satan.  Ezekiel is certainly using the language of Genesis 1-3, but it seems to be more for rhetorical effect to demonstrate the heights of glory and blessing that the king of Tyre has lost through pride and greed.  What will be the end of the king?
28:20-23 – A prophecy against Sidon.  Sidon (which is north of Tyre along the coast) and Tyre struggled for much of their history against one another and at varying times controlled one another.  “Sidon” was in fact the generic name for “Phoenicians” that was used throughout the Mediterranean region though in this case it would possibly refer to the actual city of Sidon.  There is no specific accusation made against Sidon, but only judgment promised.  What is the intention of the judgments?
28:24-26 – Hope for Israel.  The LORD promises to remove all of Israel’s troubling neighbors that are “painful briars and sharp thorns” (cf. Eze. 2:6).  The LORD Himself will gather His people from among the nations and return them to the land of His covenant with Jacob.  What relation do the people and the land share?  What is the intended goal of the restoration of Israel?