Goin' Fishin': A Brief Comment on John 21:11

Fishing in the TiberiasI was asked today why John 21.11 notes there were 153 large fish caught by Jesus’ disciples in this resurrection appearance. Here is my brief answer:

St. Augustine (in his Commentary on Psalm 50) notes that the number 153 refers to completeness of the Law and Spirit: the law being 10 and the Spirit seven(fold) with their sum being 17. If one takes the sum of the numbers 1 through 17 one gets 153. Case closed. 😉
I still contend it was the memory of a fisherman who notes the actualities of this miracle where there were 153 large fish and the net did not break (as it would be prone to do). A bountiful provision well beyond imagination. And Jesus didn’t need any of it to begin cooking them a fish breakfast, though he invites them to bring him some of their catch as well.
While any number of speculations have been offered for the meaning of the number 153 (imagination can be an incredible thing), the text is simply silent about it’s intent. The miracle returns to the super-abounding grace of God given through Christ Jesus as had happened at the wedding at Cana in chapter 2.1-12.
The goodness of God in Christ is more than sufficient to provide more than one could ever imagine or think to need. This drives the faith demanded by this gospel account (20.31): trust in this one as God’s own self-giving who would send the Spirit in super-abundance that He might remain with and in those who were His as a continuing witness to, in, for, and against the world.

Please Don't Prune Me!

Christ the True Vine (Greek Icon 16th C.)
Christ the True Vine (16th C. Greek Icon)

I heard a good message today from John 15:1-11:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples. “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. (CEB)

Essentially it was preached as I have preached this text myself: we must allow God to prune us that we might be more fruitful. However, I was struck today by the following thought: What if this is NOT about personal piety, but about communal life?
Here’s what I mean: Such texts seem readily enough at hand to describe the biblical notion of God purifying for Himself a people. He indeed is sanctifying us through and through as individual members of His Church. However, this text seems more intent on the notion of cleansing the community of all unfruitful members. This community that is God’s vineyard finds itself rooted in Jesus as “the True Vine”. All who will not abide in him are cut off and will be cast out.
Instead of this text being about how our God sanctifies individuals, it appears instead to be about how God creates His community, His people as a people. Israel of the flesh would be excised if they would not obey the commands of God and His Son. That is their abiding: to trust in Jesus as Messiah and as Lord. Any claims to belonging to that community apart from remaining in Jesus would lead to death and removal.
Further the community of those who abide in Jesus will have joy fulfilled and receive what they ask in his name. He will be the center of all existence for this community. Their very being is established in him and this because God will cut off all that is not to be found in Jesus.
While I still think there are notions of personal piety entailed (“You are already trimmed”), I think this still has community intent given those who had left Jesus in John 6 over his words about eating flesh and drinking his blood and then later by Judas at the supper in John 13. They had been pruned. Who would remain?
What do you think? Is this a faithful reading of the text? Has our personal pietistic reading hampered our ability to hear this text for its congregational (community) intent and force?

Blood and Water

Blood and waterI have continued to be more deeply convinced that giving undue historical emphasis in explaining texts leads in a direction not normally intended by the writers of Scripture. A case in point came to mind in a recent conversation with two of my students. One was reading a volume Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (David C. Cook, 2013) by J. Warner Wallace. I have not read this volume so I can make no claims about its contents. It simply spurred the conversation. We were discussing the historical intent of the crucifixion narratives of the various writers and specifically we discussed John’s account of Jesus death and how when the Romans came to him they found he was already dead so instead of breaking his legs (as would be necessary to bring about a quick death due to asphyxiation which might normally take days for the crucified to succumb to under normal conditions) one of them pierced him with a spear and the text says “blood and water flowed out immediately” (John 19:34 NET, emphasis mine).
Why does John emphasize that blood and water flowed from Jesus side? He is after all the only writer of the story of Jesus in the canonical accounts to mention this. John states right afterward that “the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe” (John 19:35 NET). He writes with theological intent to convince his audience to trust in the Lord Jesus and also to know that this particular witness is trustworthy. So why does John tell us that “blood and water” came from Jesus side? Why doesn’t he just say “blood”? Is he trying to saying something more specific about the death of Jesus?
There are numerous accounts I have read and heard where it is proposed that John is simply saying that Jesus was truly dead and this is typically followed by an attempted forensic pathology discussion of how one’s body reacts post-mortem. However, this seems to do an injustice to John’s specific intent. Not that it isn’t John’s intent at all to speak of the certainty of Jesus death (it seems to be a part of it) and therefore the certainty of resurrection, but to treat the account as if this is all it really is saying. John seems to be doing more than simply providing some historical claim to “blood and water”.
The following note found in the New English Translation is helpful in placing John’s comments within their greater Johannine context:

101 sn How is the reference to the blood and water that flowed out from Jesus’ side to be understood? This is probably to be connected with the statements in 1 John 5:6–8. In both passages water, blood, and testimony are mentioned. The Spirit is also mentioned in 1 John 5:7 as the source of the testimony, while here the testimony comes from one of the disciples ( 19:35). The connection between the Spirit and the living water with Jesus’ statement of thirst just before he died in the preceding context has already been noted (see 19:28). For the author, the water which flowed out of Jesus’ side was a symbolic reference to the Holy Spirit who could now be given because Jesus was now glorified (cf. 7:39); Jesus had now departed and returned to that glory which he had with the Father before the creation of the world (cf. 17:5). The mention of blood recalls the motif of the Passover lamb as a sacrificial victim. Later references to sacrificial procedures in the Mishnah appear to support this: m. Pesahim 5:3 and 5:5 state that the blood of the sacrificial animal should not be allowed to congeal but should flow forth freely at the instant of death so that it could be used for sprinkling; m. Tamid 4:2 actually specifies that the priest is to pierce the heart of the sacrificial victim and cause the blood to come forth. (NET)

When we look at a sampling of the Church Fathers on this passage we discover a decidedly unhistorical intent rules their exegesis (or better, a decidedly theological intent rules their exegesis). None of them denies the historicity, but each in turn recognizes a greater theological intent to John’s including this detail.
Tertullian (On Baptism XVI) writes: “For He had come “by means of water and blood,” just as John has written; that He might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us, in like manner, called by water, chosen by blood. These two baptisms He sent out from the wound in His pierced side, in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed with the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood.”
Augustine (Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John): “Three things then we know to have issued from the Body of the Lord when He hung upon the tree: first, the spirit: of which it is written, “And He bowed the head and gave up the spirit:”  then, as His side was pierced by the spear, “blood and water.” Which three things if we look at as they are in themselves, they are in substance several and distinct, and therefore they are not one. But if we will inquire into the things signified by these, there not unreasonably comes into our thoughts the Trinity itself, which is the One, Only, True, Supreme God, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of whom it could most truly be said, “There are Three Witnesses, and the Three are One:” so that by the term Spirit we should understand God the Father to be signified; as indeed it was concerning the worshipping of Him that the Lord was speaking, when He said, “God is a Spirit:” by the term, blood, the Son; because “the Word was made flesh:” and by the term water, the Holy Ghost; as, when Jesus spake of the water which He would give to them that thirst, the evangelist saith, “But this said He of the Spirit which they that believed on Him were to receive.” Moreover, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “Witnesses,” who that believes the Gospel can doubt, when the Son saith, “I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me, He beareth witness of me.” Where, though the Holy Ghost is not mentioned yet He is not to be thought separated from them. Howbeit neither concerning the Spirit hath He kept silence elsewhere, and that He too is a witness hath been sufficiently and openly shown. For in promising Him He said, “He shall bear witness of me.” These are the “Three Witnesses,” and the Three are One, because of one substance. But whereas, the signs by which they were signified came forth from the Body of the Lord, herein they figured the Church preaching the Trinity, that it hath one and the same nature: since these Three in threefold manner signified are One, and the Church that preacheth them is the Body of Christ. In this manner then the three things by which they are signified came out from the Body of the Lord: like as from the Body of the Lord sounded forth the command to “baptize the nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” “In the name:” not, In the names: for “these Three are One,” and One God is these Three. And if in any other way this depth of mystery which we read in John’s epistle can be expounded and understood agreeably with the Catholic faith, which neither confounds nor divides the Trinity, neither believes the substances diverse nor denies that the persons are three, it is on no account to be rejected. For whenever in Holy Scriptures in order to exercise the minds of the faithful any thing is put darkly, it is to be joyfully welcomed if it can be in many ways but not unwisely expounded.”
Cyril (in his Catechetical Letters) writes of baptism (water) and martyrdom (blood) as the referents in this passage. This doesn’t mean he understood it as a non-historical event, but only that he saw in John’s comments something more. In fact, he saw a theological agenda intended to speak to the place of the Church in the sufferings of Christ: identifying with Christ through baptism and martyrdom.
John of Damascus writes in the context of the “water and Spirit” (drawing a link to John 3) that these two (blood and water) refer to “water for our regeneration, and the washing away of sin and corruption; and blood to drink as the hostage of life eternal.” This is a decidedly sacramental (baptism and eucharist) hearing of the text. Again, this is not to suggest that John of Damascus denied the historicity of this event, but to note he hears something more in the words of the Gospel writer.  John of Damascus also places this firmly within the context of the endowment of the Spirit in connection with the washing of the waters of baptism (not identifying Spirit and water baptism, but connecting them as both essential features of the Christian life; perhaps this is a reflection of the later theological gloss in 1 John 5:6-8).
Jerome (A Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed 23): “It is written that when the side of Jesus was pierced “He shed thereout blood and water.” This has a mystical meaning. For Himself had said, “Out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water.” But He shed forth blood also, of which the Jews sought that it might be upon themselves and upon their children. He shed forth water, therefore, which might wash believers; He shed forth blood also which might condemn unbelievers. Yet it might be understood also as prefiguring the twofold grace of baptism, one that which is given by the baptism of water, the other that which is sought through martyrdom in the outpouring of blood, for both are called baptism. But if you ask further why our Lord is said to have poured forth blood and water from His side rather than from any other member, I imagine that by the rib in the side the woman is signified. Since the fountain of sin and death proceeded from the first woman, who was the rib of the first Adam, the fountain of redemption and life is drawn from the rib of the second Adam.”
So I guess what I’m getting at is that there may be a “thicker reading” of the text (see Kevin Van Hoozer’s numerous works on this term) than simply John making a historical claim (which he is). He may be heard to make the claim of Christ’s fullest provision for the sanctification of His Church in the outflow of blood and water from his side. It is these that bear witness to us: the blood and the water.
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Related articles:
Beyond the Historical Grammatical Malaise
On Theological Interpretation and Authorial Intent
Hearing Scripture Together

The Life of a Flower

Yesterday, my eight year old daughter (Cambria) was commenting on the amazing bouquet of flowers beautifully displayed on our table. She got after one of the other kids for knocking some of the babies breath off telling them, “Don’t kill it!” I felt bad breaking the news to her that “The flowers and greenery are already dead.” This brought tears to her eyes as she said, “Can’t we water them?” And I replied, “It won’t make a difference at this point. It will just be slowing the inevitable. They are all dead because they don’t have roots any longer.” Tearfully she continued, “Can’t we get them their roots back?” Again, I sadly replied, “No, sweetheart, once they have been cut from their roots and removed they cannot be returned because their roots are long gone.”
This struck home for me the issue of remaining in Jesus (John 15:1-10). We may look amazing on the outside (even looking like we are alive), but death already has its grip when we no longer remain in Jesus. And, yet, if we remain in him and he in us we are already alive and will not know death (because the sting of death has been taken by the Lord of Life) and everlasting life is ours as we are his.
So I found this amazing video showing the “life of flowers” in sped up time. We watched it several times knowing that life is good and life is what we were made for (John 10:10, 28; 11:25-26).

Teaching the NT in Two Weeks (for 7th Graders)

The New Covenant: The Life of Christ (Matthew-John)

The One Who Comes – The path of the LORD was prepared by the coming of John the Baptizer.  Jesus of Nazareth was born to fulfill the word of the LORD and as such was actually the Word himself.  When John baptized Jesus the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and the Father spoke His blessing from heaven.  (Luke 2:67-79; 3:21-22) DOVE   
The Message – Jesus message was that the kingdom of God was near: the sick were healed, people bothered by demons were set free and those who knew they were sinners could be forgiven.  He not only preached this message, but had lived in the power of the message by his victories over the temptations of the devil.  The message required that anyone who was going to be a part of God’s kingdom must obey God’s word and therefore trust in Jesus.  (Mark 1:12-15; John 5:24)  BROKEN-CHAIN
The Messengers – Jesus specifically chose twelve men to deliver his message to Israel (and later to the world).  One of them he knew would betray him and the others he knew would abandon him at his final hour, but he still chose all of them.  They were to pass on all that Jesus did and said, and to do this in the power of the Spirit.  Others would also share this message as they had received it.  (Matthew 10:1-8; Luke 24:47-49) TWELVE
The Final Week – Jesus was hated for his message because it meant that Jesus is Lord and must be trusted.  This led to him being beaten and crucified by the end of the week of the Jewish Passover.  In Jesus crucifixion, he became the sacrifice for sin for all who would trust in him.  (John 19:16-37; 20:30-31) CROSS
The Resurrection – Jesus truly was dead and remained so for three days in a new tomb.  However, on the third day, just as he had told his disciples, he rose from the dead and taught them over forty days.  He finally ascended to heaven in order to send the Spirit to them ten days later.  (Matthew 16:21; 28:1-10; Luke 24:46-53) EMPTY-TOMB
The New Covenant Community (Acts-Revelation)
Alive with the Spirit (Acts) – Those Jesus sent out received the Spirit for the power necessary to be witnesses about him just as he had promised.  Everywhere they went there were signs and wonders and many people who trusted in Jesus (though many others did not).  Others also joined in the special work of sharing the good news about Jesus in distant places (to the whole world) by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 37-47) FIRE  
Paul and the Churches (Romans-Hebrews) – A man named Saul who had first tried to destroy the Church became a follower of Jesus (changed his name to Paul) and gave his life even while suffering and being imprisoned, to establishing the Church throughout the world because Jesus told him to do so.  As he did this, he would write many letters to the churches, pastors and people he knew to encourage them and to remind them of the things they needed to know and do in following Jesus faithfully as Jesus’ community.  (Titus 1:1-3)  ENVELOPE
James, Peter and Jude – Others also wrote letters to different to remind them of the truth about Jesus and how they were to live because of this.  Two of these are considered brothers of Jesus (James and Jude) and one was among Jesus’ closest disciples.  The call was for right living, but also against false teaching and as a result – sinful living (something which Paul and John also mention regularly).  (James 2:14-24; 2 Peter 1:3-15) ENVELOPES
John (1-3 John, Revelation) – John, the last surviving apostle of Jesus, wrote numerous letters concerning the need for faithfulness to the new covenant in Jesus.  He also received a special revelation of Jesus concerning Jesus coming again in victory and the need to be faithful to the end no matter what comes.  (1 John 2:12-14; Revelation 1:1-8) ‘V’ – (FOR ‘VICTORY’)

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The CAPITAL ITALICS are for picture representations of the respective section.  Each section also has a selective Scripture portion as representative. I taught this over two weeks to our youth following the four weeks through the OT for Seventh Graders HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

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 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 33-34 – The Beginning of the Gospel According to Ezekiel

33:1-6 – The choosing of a watchman.  Who is the one who will bring “a sword”?  What are the duties of a watchman?  What are the consequences for the watchman and the people if the watchman gives warning?  What are the consequences if he fails to give warning?  What does it mean to be “taken away” because of sin?  What does it mean to be “accountable for his blood”?
33:7-9 – Who has been chosen as the watchman of Israel and who has chosen him?  What is Ezekiel’s responsibility toward those who are “wicked”?   On the “watchman” motif for the prophet who gives warning: see Isa. 21:6-9; Jer. 6:17; Eze. 3:16-21; Hab. 2:1.
33:10-11 – What were some of Israel saying while in captivity?  What is the basis upon which the LORD promises that they shall “live” though they feel the crushing burden of their sins weighing upon them?  Does the LORD take pleasure in the death of the wicked?  What is the call to the wicked?
33:12-16 – Are the wicked and righteous locked into their respective consequences?  What is necessary to live?  Is the promise of the LORD to the wicked that they “will surely die” a lie or a conditional promise?  In what practical ways can the wicked indeed to what is righteous and be guaranteed life?  Will sins committed be remembered if righteousness replaces wickedness?
33:17-20 – Are the ways of the LORD just?  What would it mean for us to be just and what does it mean for the LORD to be just?  According to what standard will the LORD judge Israel?
33:21-22 – The first survivor (Heb. pālît) of the destruction of Jerusalem arrives in Babylon as confirmation of the word of the LORD and of the prophet-hood of Ezekiel (cf. Eze. 24:25-27).  The date notice refers to January 8, 585 BC.  This places the following passage approximately five and a half months after the fall of Jerusalem (which is about the proper amount of time for travel between Babylon and Jerusalem).  Note that prior to the survivor’s arrival the “hand of the LORD” was on Ezekiel to open his mouth.  What does it mean that his mouth was opened after ten years?  It seems to mean that he was released from the prophetic silence and could actually cry out to the LORD on behalf of his people since the city and the temple were finally destroyed as prophesied.
33:23-33 – Those remaining in the ruined land of Israel still clung to the promise as if it did not matter how they responded to the covenant.  Were they safe to assume for themselves the promises to Abraham?  What does the LORD accuse them of?  What will be the actual consequences of their lifestyles?  What is the stated purpose of the LORD in further destroying the land and making it desolate?  Note that the LORD regularly says “your countrymen” to Ezekiel.  What is the significance of this?  Who (besides those actually still in Israel) are accused of practicing wickedness despite their outward attentiveness to the word of the LORD given by Ezekiel?  What does it mean that to those in captivity Ezekiel is “nothing more than one who sings love songs”?  What will be the vindication of the ministry of Ezekiel?
34:1-10 – A prophecy against the shepherds of Israel.  How did the shepherds fail to care for the flock?  Isn’t the shepherd allowed to eat from the produce of his flock and does not the flock exist for him?  What would be the reason for the LORD accusing the shepherds in this manner?  (cf. Gen. 31: 38-40; Job 5:23; Isa. 11:6-9; Jer. 23:1-6; Hos. 2:18-23; also concerning the “shepherds” of the Church see Acts 20:28-29; 1 Pet. 5:1-5) What is the consequence of their failures—both to the flock and to the shepherds?  Who are the “shepherds” of Israel?  Who is against the shepherds and who actually owns the flock?
34:11-24 – The LORD Himself promises to care for His sheep (cf. Ps. 23; Eze. 24:26; John 10:1-18; Rev. 7:17).  What does it mean for the LORD to gather His sheep?  In what manner does the LORD promise to shepherd His sheep and also what is the promise concerning the actual land of Israel?  Note that the LORD will judge among his flock and deal with those among them who have cared only for themselves and even troubled the lives of others.  Who are those among the flock that the LORD is referring to here as opposed to the shepherds that were accused earlier of selfish living?  Who will be placed over the LORD’s flock as a shepherd?  What does it mean for “David” to be chosen for this position (since David had been dead for several hundred years?  “God’s solution to a history of bad shepherds is not to replace shepherding with a better system, but to replace the bad shepherds with a good shepherd” (Duguid NIVAC 396; and Duguid Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel 47).
34:25-31 – The LORD will make a “covenant of peace” with His people.  What are the promises of this covenant of peace?  Security, fruitfulness, freedom, and intimate covenantal knowledge of the LORD are all part of the promise.  What does it mean for the LORD to be their God and them to be His people, the sheep of His pasture?  “What does it mean to be a shepherd?  It is a unique combination of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” (Duguid NIVAC 399).
Extra Bibliography
Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994).

Ezekiel 15-16 – R-rated Jerusalem: Useless and Unfaithful

15:1-8 – What use are the clippings of vines? How is Jerusalem like a clipping of a vine? (cf. Ps. 80:8-19) What do the references to fire have to do with Jerusalem? (cf. Eze. 5:2, 4; Rev. 17:16) What does the LORD promise Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to set his “face against” something or someone? Again, what was the stated point of the judgment? (Eze. 15:7) What charge did the LORD make against Jerusalem? The charge of unfaithfulness (and thereby uselessness)! (cf. John 15:1-2, 6)

16:1-5 – The LORD will “confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices”. Take note of the “detestable practices” mentioned throughout the chapter. What does it mean to be from the Canaanites and to have it said that “your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite”? (see Deut. 7:1-5) How was Jerusalem treated by her parents once born? How did the LORD treat her? The significance of this is noted as an adoptive function whereby the LORD makes claims upon Jerusalem. How should have the LORD’s treatment impacted her in light of abandonment by her parents?

16:6-7 – What was the LORD’s response to Jerusalem? Why does He say “Live!” and what happens once He does? What are the possible dangers of Jerusalem’s infantile and then matured (“your breasts were formed and your (pubic) hair grew”) nakedness?

16:8 – Why does the text say the LORD waited until Jerusalem was “old enough for love”? What does it mean for the LORD to “spread the corner of his garment over her”? (cf. Ruth 3:9; Num. 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12; and possibly Matt. 9:20-22) What type of covenant is referred to here? What does it mean for the nature of their relationship?

16:9-14 – What does the LORD claim to have done for Jerusalem? Verse nine possibly refers not to the acts of cleansing just after birth (16:4), but to some form of wedding bath (though otherwise unattested) following virginal bleeding (cf. Deut. 22:13-21). Note that the materials—for adornment and food—were those used for the tabernacle. What does all of this mean? What were the immediate results? (16:13-14)

16:15-19 – Using beauty and fame to whore? What was Jerusalem accused of doing? Also, what might be the connection between the many fine things given by the LORD and their use in prostitution? Who is Jerusalem engaged in prostitution with?

16:22-22 – Whose children were sacrificed to idols? What role should remembering beginnings play? “In her intoxication with her newfound beauty and her insatiable lusts, she suffered from a severe case of amnesia. Instead of remembering her desperate beginnings or celebrating the goodness of Yahweh in rescuing her, she trampled underfoot the grace of God” (Block NICOT 491).

16:23-29 – The “mound” and “lofty shrine”? How did Jerusalem degrade her “beauty”? She literally “spread her legs (Heb. pasaq raglayim) to every passerby” and engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians with the “enlarged flesh” (Heb. gidle basar; and see Block NICOT 466-7 for greater detail). Who all did she whore herself to and what was the result?

16:30-34 – What might this passage teach us about any notion of the freedom of the will? In what way was Jerusalem unlike a prostitute?

16:35-42 – What was the punishment and who would carry it out? What would satisfy the anger of the LORD? How does this account fit into one of God as faithfully merciful? (compare Hosea 2:2-3)

16:43-48 – What were the “other detestable practices” to which lewdness was added? In what way is the proverb true that is cited here? Who did the LORD declare to be the family of Jerusalem and why? (cf. John 8:39-47) Samaria as “older” (Heb. gedola) sister and Sodom as “younger” (Heb. qetanna) sister refers to size and not age (Duguid NIVAC 213; Block NICOT 507fn256). Jerusalem was “more depraved” than Sodom?

16:49-52 – What were the sins of Sodom according to Ezekiel? (cf. Gen. 18:16-19:30; esp. 18:20 and 19:30) What kinds of things did Samaria do (which aren’t listed until chapter 23) and how did this compare to Jerusalem? How wicked would one have to be to make Sodom and Samaria “appear righteous”?

16:53-58 – Was there any hope for redemption? Whose “fortunes” would be restored and what does it mean? Why must the punishment be public?

16:59-63 – Did Jerusalem deserve punishment? What role does the covenant play in judgment and mercy? (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) Who will atone for Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to “remember” His covenant and to what “eternal covenant” does this refer? Once again, what is the stated purpose of all of judgment?

Ezekiel 10-11 – The Glory of the LORD Departs

10:1 – How does this vision compare and contrast with the vision of chapter one?

10:2-8 – The “man dressed in linen” previously marked the righteous of Jerusalem and at this point was told to gather coals of fire from under the divine chariot and scatter them over Jerusalem (for “fire” in Jerusalem see 2 Kings 25:9; 2 Chron. 36:19; for an angel who will use the “fire” from the altar in final judgment see Rev. 8:3-5; and God as a “consuming fire” see Deut. 4:24). Why does a cloud fill the inner court as the coals of fire are taken? Why are the glory of the LORD and the wings of the cherubim moving? What does it mean for a sound to be “like the voice of God Almighty (Heb. El Shadday)”? (Exo. 6:3; cf. Ps. 29:3; Eze. 1:24; Heb. 12:18-19; Rev. 10:3-4)

10:9-17 – What do we make of the further description of the wheels and cherubim? Why are the cherubim suddenly described as covered with “eyes”? Why is the order and description of the cherubim’s faces (10:14) different than in 1:10? Daniel Block thinks because of the different direction Ezekiel is facing in relation to the cherubim affects the different ordering and he also proposes that the bull and cherubim faces are just two ways of describing the same face (NICOT 324-5).

10:18-19 – Why does the glory of the LORD and the chariot rise? Notice that there is a pause while leaving Jerusalem. What is the possible significance of this? Why should it be emphasized that the cherubim (and the wheels) go straight ahead? Also, why repeatedly remind the reader that these are the very same creatures as in chapter one’s vision (10:15, 20, 22)?

11:1-6 – Why does Ezekiel mention Jaazaniah (who is different than the man with the same name in 9:11) son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah among the 25 leaders noticed? Likely because he knew them and the people he was prophesying to knew them and he was specifically exposing their sins (which were plotting evil and giving wicked advice – cf. Micah 2:1). What is the meaning of the “cooking pot”? Why do they think it will soon be time to build houses? “Prophesy against them, prophesy” places particular emphasis upon the demands of the LORD to Ezekiel. What does the Spirit of the LORD say? He knows their hearts and their violence against the people of Jerusalem (see Eze. 22:27).

11:7-12 – The leaders of Jerusalem are “not the meat” in the pot? How is this bad? What does it mean that they are the refuse outside the pot? (refer to the entire prophesy of Eze. 8-11) Note again the reason given repetitively, “You will know that I am the LORD” (11:10, 12) and therefore the covenant responsibilities this places upon them (11:12). How has the pot motif changed in this vision? It was no longer a safe place, but now the place where they have been consuming the people of Jerusalem (cf. Micah 3:1-3). They are the refuse from the pot and as such are going from the frying pan and into the fire. Why is the judgment of them said to occur “at the borders of Israel”? Who should Israel have been conformed to? (11:12)

11:13 – While Ezekiel was prophesying Pelatiah (“the LORD has delivered”) son of Benaiah (“the LORD has built up”) died. According to Daniel Block (NICOT 338), he “symbolized the hope of Jerusalem” and so his death would signal the end of Jerusalem’s hope that they would be delivered. Ezekiel’s exclamation following Pelatiah’s death seems to be the answer to his parallel statement in 9:8.

11:14-15 – “Your brothers, your brothers”? Why is this doubled? It is emphatic about who will be redeemed. “Your blood relatives” is literally “men of your redemption” which is a reference to the next of kin responsible for redeeming you if needed (see the “kinsman-redeemer” of Ruth; Lev. 24:47-55; 25:23-34; Num.35:19-28).

11:16 – What does it mean that the LORD has become “a sanctuary” (Heb. miqdash; cf. 8:6; 9:6 – where it refers to the Temple) for “a little while” (or less likely “of a lesser degree”) for the exiles who have been removed from Jerusalem? (see also John 2:19-22; 3:21-23)

11:17-21 – When was the promise of the exiles returning fulfilled? Who is the promise addressed to – the people of Jerusalem or the exiles? Who will bring Israel back and who exiled them to begin with? What does this say about the LORD’s involvement in the affairs of people? Who was responsible for cleansing the land? Who will give them a new heart and new spirit (but compare Eze. 18:31)? Contrast the new hearts of 11:19 with the hearts of 14:3 and 20:16. What was the heart change expected to accomplish? The key statement here is “They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Exo. 6:7; Lev. 26:12; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:33; Eze. 14:11; 36:28; 37:27; Hosea 2:23; Zech. 13:9; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3).

11:22-25 – Why does the glory of the LORD stop over the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem? Apparently the glory departs for twenty years until Ezekiel 43 speaks of the glory of the LORD returning. Suddenly Ezekiel is returned from the vision to the exiles whom he immediately informs about what he just saw (chapters 8-11). How did they respond? We aren’t told what their immediate response was. Iain Duguid describes the connection between the “glory” of Ezekiel 10-11 and Jesus as mentioned in Matthew 23:37-24:3: “There Jesus laments Jerusalem’s history of hard-heartedness towards the prophets and her refusal to come to him (23:37). As a result, her house will be left desolate (23:38), and Jerusalem will not see Jesus again until they are willing to welcome his coming (23:39). He then prophesies the forthcoming destruction of the temple (24:1) and removes himself to the mount of Olives, leaving behind a magnificent but doomed structure” (NIVAC 153).