Lamenting Lamentations: A Literary-Theology

lamentationsIn teaching the book of Lamentations, I was (once again) struck by the structure of this little book in its Hebrew form. It seems by its very structure to shape the Hebrew reader/hearer. Of course, any reading of the text that simply notes structural issues and not the text proper would fall short, but I’m offering here only a brief look at these structural elements as one more move toward the theology of Lamentations which seems stated by the text proper (which I bring up to clarify the theological trajectory which cannot properly be stated apart from the text).
The first two chapters have triple bicolon strophes per verse (22 verses each) with each strophe beginning with the next letter of the acrostic acrostic. Chapter 3 (66 verses) has triple bicolons where each bicolon of that strophe begins with that letter of the acrostic and is signified by a new verse number. Chapter four (22 verses) is doubled bicolons per strophe each strophe beginning with the acrostic. And chapter five (22 verses) is a dissolution of any of these patterns: no acrostic, no continuity of bicolons, irregular strophes. It makes the crescendo of the lament at chapter three begin its decline into full breaking of any sense of control by chapter five. This is signified by the heightened use of the acrostic even though the count of bicolons is identical to the first two chapters. It is a move toward greater disorder of a judged people (a sort of return to Genesis 1.2’s tohu-wabohu or being “unfilled and unfruitful”). It functions as the pottery of Jeremiah 18 that is not to the intention of the potter and must be undone from its form.
The soul of the LORD’s people are laid bare. They are undone. Can anything be made of this or is this the end of all?
Taking up the text itself, this places them right where the LORD wanted them in order to bring life from death, hope from despair, and salvation from judgment. The earth might fall into disarray, all order into disorder, but the LORD’s kingdom is established, his reign is life, his rule: restoration.
19 You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
20 Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
    renew our days as of old
22 unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure. (Lam.5.19-22 NIV 2011; bold for emphasis)
TERMS USED
Acrostic in the Scriptures refers to the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet beginning the first word and following in succession to the end of the alphabet.
Bicolon is a two line poetic unit.
Strophe refers to the larger thought unit of any number of smaller units (perhaps also called a “stanza”).
Tricolon is a three line poetic unit.

Daniel 7 – Visions in the Night

This chapter is considered by most to be the most significant chapter of Daniel and also a key chapter of the Old Testament.  There are some who have proposed that Daniel has borrowed from the ancient Near Eastern mythologies around him in this composition (such as the account of Adapa, Enuma Elish, or the Ugaritic Baal Cycle; see Goldingay 150-151), but Daniels dream and its explanation seem just far more likely to belong to the literature of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and to Genesis and Psalms where there has been anything expounded upon, but he seems to simply have his own visions and explanations apart from these others as well as in addition to these others.

Chapter seven closes out the chiastic structure of chapters two through seven (see Goldingay 158) as well as concluding the Aramaic portion of Daniel:
            Ch. 2 – A vision of four kingdoms and their end (Nebuchadnezzar)
                        Ch. 3 – Faithfulness and miraculous rescue (three friends)
                                    Ch. 4 – Judgment presaged and experienced (Nebuchadnezzar)
                                    Ch. 5 – Judgment presaged and experienced (Belshazzar)
                        Ch. 6 – Faithfulness and miraculous rescue (Daniel)
            Ch. 7 – A vision of four kingdoms and their end (Daniel)
“Dan 2 offered world rulers a vision of their position as a God-given calling.  Dan 3-6 has portrayed them inclined to make themselves into God; they are thus also inclined to put mortal pressure on those who are committed to God (chaps. 3; 6), but are themselves on the way to catastrophe (chaps. 4; 5).  These motifs are taken up and taken further in chap. 7.  The tension between the human and the bestial that appeared in chaps. 4 and 6 becomes a key motif: bestiality is now turned on God himself (Barr), but he puts an end to the reign of the beast and gives authority to a humanlike figure (Lacocque).  As the real statue of chap. 3 follows on the dream statue of chap. 2, the dream animals of chap. 7 follow on the real animals of chap. 6.  As people of all races, nations, and languages were called to bow before the statue (3:4; cf. 5:19), so now they honor the human figure of Daniel’s vision (7:14).  Once Nebuchadnezzar testified to God’s lasting power (3:33; 4:31; cf. 6:27); now Daniel’s human figure has this power (7:14).  Once Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation was limited to seven periods of time (4:13); now the humiliation of the heavenly ones will be limited to 3 ½ such periods (7:25).  Once God demonstrated in history that as ruler in the earthly realm he could give royal authority to the most ordinary of human beings (4:14); now he gives it to a humanlike being at the end of the story of earthly kingdoms (7:13-14).  Once Darius took hold of power (6:1); now the heavenly ones do so (7:18).  Once Darius acknowledged that God’s rule would persist until the end (סופא עד) (6:27); now the king symbolized by the small horn has his authority destroyed permanently (סופא עד) (7:26).  Dan 2-6 have affirmed that God controlled times and epochs, his decree being victorious over the decrees of kings (2:9, 13, 15, 21; 6:6, 9, 13, 16); now a king who think to control times set by decree will lose all power (7:25-26).  Chaps. 3-6 indicate why the sequence of earthly regimes is destined to be brought to an end in the way chap. 2 describes.  Chap. 7 combines the thrust of the preceding chapters as a whole, and puts them in a new perspective” (Goldingay 158-159).
7:1 – Daniel had a dream.  The date indicated by Daniel places this dream between chapters four and five.  Daniel states that it was the first year of Belshazzar’s reign: 550-549BC (Goldingay 157), or 553BC (Miller 194; Walvoord 149) or 552-551BC (Baldwin 153).  Chapter eight then follows just two years later (8:1) and chapter nine is dated to between chapters five and six (9:1) with chapters ten to twelve concerning messages that were given sometime around or after the events of chapters six (10:1).  Whereas in chapter two it was king Nebuchadnezzar who dreamed of four kings/kingdoms, here it is Daniel and it was still during the days of the Babylonian empire.  Daniel proceeded to record what he saw and the interpretations he received.
7:2-3 – Four beasts from the great sea.  What might the “four winds” refer to?  Is this a sort of reference to the Spirit of God come from all directions?  Also, what and where is this “great sea”?  While some have proposed that it refers to the Mediterranean (which is the normal meaning of “great sea” in the Old Testament), it seems more likely to refer to the earth…that is to the nations and peoples of the earth according to the interpretation Daniel receives (Dan.7:17; cf. Isa.17:12-13; 57:20; Rev.13:1, 11; 17:1, 15).  Who or what are the “four beasts” of Daniel’s visions?  They are kings and kingdom—there is often overlap between the two where one may indicate the other (Dan.7:17; cf. Rev.13:1-7; 17:8).  They were to be distinguished from one another and to arise in succession.  Further, they would rule in ways not like lesser kingdoms, but as world powers who would act beastly in their rule though called by God to their places.
7:4 – The first beast was like a lion, but with wings like an eagle (or vulture?) until the wings were torn from it.  It was made to be human-like after the wings were torn from it.  What might this refer to?  (Jer.4:7; 49:19, 22; 50:17, 44; Lam.4:19; Eze.17:3; Hab.1:8) Many suggest it refers to the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling in Daniel 4.  There is little question, but that this kingdom is Babylon.  It is beastly: majestic and swift, powerful, but God determined to give it glory as a “man” and to raise it up in a manner that others would not be raised.
7:5 – The second beast was like a bear, but in some manner uneven.  It would be less majestic than the lion-like creature, but still powerful and terrible.  It is unclear what it means for a bear-like creature to be “raised up on one of its sides,” but it appears to refer to Medo-Persia and the unevenness of the dual empire with Persia as predominant.  Also, it remains unclear just wh
at the three “ribs” in its mouth refers to.  Some have proposed the three primary kingdoms Medo-Persia conquered: Babylon (539BC), Lydia (546BC) and Egypt (525BC), but this is really nothing more than conjecture.  It was further given instructions to eat more despite already eating.  The idea would be that it would not be satisfied and look for more to conquer with a voracious appetite.
7:6 – The third beast was like a leopard, but with four wings and four heads.  That it was like a leopard suggests speed and that it included four wings suggests that this speed was increased.  The four heads suggests four kings or kingdoms in some way composing this empire.  This is apparently the Greek empire as under Alexander the Great the empire grew in rapid succession beginning in 334BC until his early death (323BC) whereupon it was divided between his four generals: Antipater over Greece and Macedonia; Lysimachus over Thrace and much of Asia Minor; Seleucus I Nicanor over Syria, Babylon and much of Asia except Palestine that part of Asia Minor controlled by Lysimachus; and Ptolemy I Soter over Egypt and Palestine.
7:7-8 – The fourth beast was beyond description with iron teeth it destroyed everything and crushed underfoot all (for the proposal of what empire this is see below).  This creature was truly terrifying and had ten horns which bothered Daniel enough to make him wonder about them.  As Daniel watched he saw a “little horn” grow up and displace three of the ten previous horns and this little one had eyes like a man and a boastful mouth (cf. Dan.11:36-37; 2 Th.2:3-12; Rev.13:5-6).  The eyes suggest intelligence and the mouth pride.  The horns refer to kings specifically as will be explained later (Dan.7:24). 
7:9-10 – The blazing court in heaven.  While Daniel was bothered deeply by the turbulence of his visions and even the boastfulness and terribleness of this last beast, suddenly he sees the court of heaven convening in the midst of fire and thousands upon thousands standing before the throne.  What are the plural “thrones” referring to?  (cf. Luke 22:30; 1 Cor.6:2; Rev.3:21; 20:4)  How should we understand the name and description of the “Ancient of Days”?  Also, what does it mean for a throne to have “wheels” on it? (Eze.1:15; 10:6)  What are the “books” that were opened?  (Exo.32:32; Isa.65:6; Dan.12:1; Mal.3:16; cf. Luke 10:20; Rev.20:12)
7:11-12 – The judgment.  Daniel is immediately wondering what will happen to the boastful horn given the scene he has just witnessed in heaven.  Note that not only is the “horn” dealt with, but the fourth beast is “slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (cf. Rev.19:20).  Why should the whole of the fourth beast be destroyed and thrown into the fire when it was the “horn” itself that was so boastful?  In what sense can the kingdom and the king truly be separated from one another?  What does this say about those who profess Christ as their king?  What might Daniel mean by his comments about the other three beasts being stripped of their authority but being allowed “to live for a period of time”?
7:13-14 – The vision of the “son of man”.  John Goldingay seems correct when he writes that Daniel 7 “invites us to focus on the humanlike figure’s role rather than on its identity” (172).  However, this should not exclude our asking who is this one “like a son of man” (Aram. kĕbar ’enāš)?  Jesus certainly takes up the language of Daniel here and applies it to himself in the Gospels (Mark 14:64), but the term itself had not been unknown and had before really only referred to being truly “human” (cf. Ezekiel’s regular usage of the term in just this fashion), but did take on great significance in other places in the OT (Eze.1:26; 8:2; and even somewhat in the human significance of the “son” in Psalm 2 and 8:4 among other places in the Psalms).  In what sense is the one only “like” a son of man?  This one is described in divine terms by “coming with clouds of heaven” and receiving worship in the very presence of God.  This one could be none other than God himself…the Son of God as he revealed Himself in the New Testament.  Though Daniel was far from such an explanation in his visions.  Daniel notes that the kingdom and dominion of this one is forever and ever in comparison to those beasts and that whereas they came from below this one was from above.
7:15-28 – The interpretation of the dream.  Daniel was actually bothered by his visions and inquired of one of those (an angel?) who was nearby.  The explanation he received was that the four beasts were four kingdoms though he was not told just who the four kingdoms were.  He was also told that the “saints” would actually receive the “kingdom” forever despite the ferocity of the kingdoms (and particularly the fourth kingdom and the little horn) that would come and go and all they would try to do against the saints.  The only kingdom which Daniel receives explanation of is the fourth one.  This one also receives a further description as having bronze claws.  The “little horn” (one of the ten kings) would destroy and replace three others and make war against the saints of God until the very end of days when the final judgment would commence and the saints receive their reward.  This fourth kingdom was declared to be very different from the others before it and be truly global and utterly destructive.  Part of his agenda will be to “try to change the set times and the laws”.  What does that mean?  Some believe this refers to his abolition of the Jewish calendar and therefore the setting himself in the place of the LORD, but another likely explanation is that he will try to rule history and determine the course of events against the plan and purpose of God’s will (see Dan.2:9, 21).  Daniel is informed that the persecution of the saints will be successful for “a time, times and half a time” which is later connected with approximately 3 ½ years (the 1290 days of Dan.12:11 and the 1335 days of 12:12; the 42 months of the beasts authority in Rev.13:5; the trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles for 42 months in Rev.11:2 and1260 days in Rev.12:14; and the breaking of a covenant in the middle of the seventieth “seven” which points to the mid-point of a seven year period in Dan.9:27; see Miller 215).   In other words, there is a definite limit set to the time for this king and his kingdom and to the suffering of the saints and their endurance. 
One should compare this fourth beast with the beast of the Revelation (Dan.7:7, 11, 19, 23; Rev.13:1-2; 17:3).  They are both opposed to God and blasphemers (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:1, 5-6); both have ten horns (Dan.7:7, 20, 24; Rev.13:1; 17:3, 12, 16); both persecute the saints (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5); both have power for three and a half years (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5); and both are destroyed at the coming and kingdom of Christ (Dan.7:26-27; 2 Th.2:8; Rev.19:19-20).  So just what empire is this?  Some have proposed it was the Seleucids and the “little horn” was fully fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes, but this would be excluded by the NT parallels to this beast and final ruler.  Some have proposed an Islamic Caliphate or a revived Rome (with the latter being the more popular view) – as the first Rome has since passed away and the end has not come.  Certainly Rome fulfilled some of what constituted this final world power
according to certain elements in the NT, yet John in the Revelation speaks of what is still future.  Is there a sense in which this kingdom will be Roman-esque in its severity, but not actually Rome?  That seems likely.  In fact, it seems likely that Rome was only a type pointing ahead to a final world power and ruler that would exalt himself beyond all others and would make all other kingdoms and powers before him seem rather mild in comparison which is why Daniel describes it as peculiarly “different” than all the others he saw (Dan.7:7).
Judgment is certain and the end of that kingdom will be forever.  But better than just the end of all earthly (and beastly kingdoms) is the rule and reign of the Most High and His saints forever and ever.  Why might Daniel be so bothered by his thoughts rather than comforted by the ultimate victory of the LORD?  “The chapter’s ending on this note of perplexity encourages us as we find ourselves in some perplexity over key aspects of it.  If we thought we had a clear and certain understanding of it that would be a sign that we had misunderstood it” (Goldingay 182).

Blessed be the One Who Grabs Babylon's Babies and Smashes Them on a Rock: A Psalm

By the rivers of Babylon we sit down and weep when we remember Zion.
On the poplars in her midst we hang our harps,
for there our captors ask us to compose songs;
those who mock us demand that we be happy, saying: “Sing for us a song about Zion!”
How can we sing a song to the LORD in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand be crippled!
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
and do not give Jerusalem priority over whatever gives me the most joy.
Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
They said, “Tear it down, tear it down, right to its very foundation!”
O daughter Babylon, soon to be devastated!
How blessed will be the one who repays you for what you dished out to us!
How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies and smashes them on a rock!
(Psalm 137:1-9 – NET)

Another psalm of weeping.  But this psalm (unlike my post on Psalm 88) is not about an individual struggle of abandonment.  This is a psalm of retribution while in captivity.  One can almost hear the rhythms of this melancholy tune, cried without instrumentation in low groans, beckoning for the God of the covenant to pay back those who have rejoiced at and participated in the judgment of Israel.  It a psalm of remembrance (zākar).  Remembrance of all that Zion was and all it was meant to be.  A call for the LORD to remember the unrelenting and unmerciful cry of victory from Esau over his brother Jacob (Obadiah 10-14).  It is a reminder of the Deuteronomic filial lex talionis (Deut.19:19; Prov.24:29).  It is a remembrance and call for the blessing of one who will destroy Babylon in the same manner that Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and kill her babies by smashing “them on a rock”.  In the manner which Babylon has treated the LORD’s people…the cry of remembrance goes up in the very heart of the empire…”Blessed (‘ašrê) will be the one…”.  But alas…who will repay Babylon (and Edom) for the actual slaying and destruction of Jerusalem’s children? (2 Kings 25:7; Lam.5:11-15)  Where will he come from?  Who could this one be who is called “happy” in doing the ‘dirty deed’?

It seems only appropriate to ask how we who are in Christ can ever pray such prayers?  Can we not just skip this psalm as belonging to a bygone era of legalistic retribution?  No…never.  We must pray it more sincerely than ever those exiled in Babylon knew how to pray it.  They prayed for justice and retribution according to the very will of the covenant keeping LORD.  We also pray this, but with the knowledge of the very embodiment of the LORD…that is of Christ Jesus.  We know for a certainty that our LORD will repay (Deut.7:10; 32:35; Isa.65:6; Jer.51:56; Rom.12:19; Heb.10:30).  We pray for the destruction of all who will not ultimately yield to the Lordship of Christ…but we also pray that all who would yield will yield before that great and terrible Day of His Coming again! In that Day everyone will receive their reward…whether to everlasting punishment or everlasting blessedness.

We do not consider only the judgment of the now, but that which is eternal.  Will we be found hidden in Christ in that Day where our deeds are found to be Spirit-empowered and lasting, or our faith is wanting and we ourselves are among those who are not even acknowledged by Him?  The dashing of children against the stones would be but a small thing in the light of that ultimate assize that awaits us all if have not trusted ourselves to the Lordship of Christ Jesus.  It is the judgment he bore for us…it is the righteousness he now bears for and in us.  If indeed we are rewarded with life (and we know this because we have received the Spirit of son-ship), we say “Blessed is the one who repays…not according to what we have done…but according to the great riches of his mercy and grace which are in glory!”   Blessed be His Name forever!

Ezekiel 22-23 – Jerusalem Under Judgment

22:1-5 – Jerusalem is named “city of bloodshed” (see the similar naming of Nineveh in Nahum 3:1).  The making of idols and shedding of blood were violations of the two-fold sense of the commandments: love the LORD your God with all heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jerusalem therefore faced judgment at the hands of the LORD and mockery before the other nations.
22:6-12 – The specific sins of the “princes” of Jerusalem.  “Treated father and mother with contempt” (Ex. 20:12; 21:17; Lv. 19:3; 20:9); “oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and widow” (Ex. 22:21-22; Dt. 14:29; 24:17, 19-21); “desecrated the Sabbaths” (Ex. 20:11; Lv. 25:1-7; Dt. 5:15); “slanderous” (Lv. 19:16); “eat at mountain shrines” (Lv. 19:26); “dishonor your father’s bed” (Lv. 18:7-8; 20:11); “violate women during their period” (Lv. 18:19; 20:18); “detestable offense with his neighbor’s wife” (Lv. 18:20; 20:10); “defiles his daughter-in-law” (Lv. 18:15); “violates his sister” (Lv. 18:9; 20:17); “accept bribes” (Ex. 18:21; Dt. 27:25); “take usury and excessive interest” (Lv. 25:36); “unjust gain” (Lv. 19:13).  All of these sins were indicative of the sin of having “forgotten” the LORD (Dt. 4:9, 23; 8:19). 
22:13-16 – Why would the LORD clap his hands against Jerusalem?  Who can stand in the day of God’s judgment?  What is the positive and negative significance of the LORD scattering Israel among the nations as judgment?  What is the LORD’s reason for doing this? (vs. 16)
22:17-22 – The process of silver-smithing as the metaphor for judgment here refers to those who remain in Jerusalem as nothing more than the dross of the process (cf. Prov. 25:4; for specifics of the process see A. Konkel, NIDOTTE “sig”).
22:23-31 – Note the various classes of Israel and their respective failures towards the covenant (cf. Mic. 3:5-12; Zeph. 3:3-4).  What is the significance of no rain? (Lv. 26:19-20; Dt. 28:23-24)  Also, note how the priests are censured here concerning their failure to distinguish between the holy/profane and clean/unclean (Lv. 10:10; 11-15).  “Those who pervert ‘Thy kingdom come’ to ‘my kingdom come’ invite the wrath of God” (Block NICOT 728).  Verse 30 declares that no one was found to be a righteous intermediary on behalf of the people and therefore Jerusalem would be judged.
23:1-4 – A tale of two sisters: Oholah and Oholibah.  Oholah (Samaria) means “her own tent” and Oholibah (Jerusalem) “my tent in her” though the possible reasoning for these names remains rather obscure, the point of the names is to identify the two as indeed sisters belonging to the same family (Block NICOT 735-6).  What might be the significance of the LORD taking two wives who are sisters (cf. Gen. 29; Lv. 18:18).
23:5-10 – What does the spirit of prostitution from Oholah’s days in Egypt refer to?  Her adultery with Assyria seems to refer at least to the alliance King Jehu made with Shalmaneser III of Assyria in 840BC (memorialized on the Black Stele).  What are the consequences of her adulterous seeking after the Assyrians?  Who is declared to suffer for her sins? (vs. 10)
23:11-21 – What was the difference between Oholah and Oholibah?  Notice that Oholibah not only saw what happened to Oholah, but committed the same adultery with Assyria and then still went after Babylon based off of pictures of them on a wall.  The adultery with Assyria seems to refer at least to the seeking of an alliance by King Ahaz with Tiglath-Pileser in 734BC (2 Kings 16:5-7); while the adultery with Babylon seems to refer at least to the attempts by King Hezekiah to allure Merodach-Baladan in 714BC (2 Kings 20:12-13).  Did Oholibah’s fornication lead to either fulfillment or satisfaction?  The lusting after the images of the Babylonians is similar to the idolatry committed by the elders of Jerusalem in the secret room of the wall of the Temple (Eze. 8:9-12).  Had Oholibah ever really been faithful or pure?  What kind of satisfaction was she seeking?
23:22-35 – Who will carry out the judgment?  In verse 23, Pekod means “punishment”; Shoa means “war cry”; Koa means “shriek”.  What sorts of things will Oholibah suffer?  What is the charge laid against her in verse 30?  The “cup” of the LORD’s wrath is described here as elsewhere (Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15-17; 49:12; Lam. 4:21; Matt. 20:22; 26:39; Rev. 14:10).  Again note the charge of having forgotten the LORD.
23:36-49 – The charge of adultery and murder.  How did these apply?  Notice that the children sacrificed were the LORD’s own, and it was His temple that was defiled and His Sabbaths that were violated.  What does the LORD call Oholah and Oholibah for their adulteries?  How did the LORD intend to cleanse the land?  Finally it is once again stated that when all this would be accomplished that they would know the LORD as sovereign.  How does judgment demonstrate this?

Ezekiel 12-13 – Blind and Deaf Leaders

12:1-2 – The key to the following prophecies in Ezekiel is found in these two verses. “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people” (see Isaiah 6:9; 43:8; Jeremiah 5:12; and the same thing stated concerning idols in Psalm 115:57). According to this passage, why can’t Israel see or hear?

12:3-7 – A living sermon “as they watch” – pack an exile bag in the daylight, dig a hole in the wall in the evening, and carry out the belongings with covered face at dawn. What does it all mean? Did they understand what Ezekiel was doing? What might an exile’s bag contain? How is Ezekiel a “sign to the house of Israel”? How does this relate to verse 2? Note that Ezekiel did exactly as he was commanded.

12:8-14 – In the morning Ezekiel is to explain the living sermon of the previous day. Who is the “prince in Jerusalem”? Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18-25:7; 2 Chronicles 36:11-14; Jeremiah 52:1-11) is the “prince” as a semi-derogatory title (rather than “king”). He was the last king of Judah and was rebellious against the LORD and Nebuchadnezzar. He fled Jerusalem when it fell to the Babylonians, but was captured and given a trial where he was punished by slaughtering his sons in front of him and then gouging out his eyes. There is a possible slight allusion to the blinding of Zedekiah by the references to not seeing the land again. The “prince” (as ruler of the people) is also indicative of the people of Judah left in Jerusalem. Who carried out the judgment of the “prince”?

12:15-16 – “They will know that I am the LORD” once the LORD scattered and dispersed Israel among the nations and preserved the remnant for Himself.

12:17-20 – Why did Ezekiel have to eat with trembling and drink with shuddering? What does this signify? Why would Israel eat and drink in fear? Note that violence against others leads to a final violent judgment of the perpetrators.

12:21-28 – Three issues concerning prophecy: 1) All prophecy should not be rejected, 2) it must not be falsely given, and 3) it must be done with the certainty that it is the word of the LORD. The way of removing false prophecy from Israel was to remove the false prophets themselves from Israel. “Flattering (or slippery) divinations” were manipulative and not simply an attempt to discern the will of the LORD (see Block NICOT 390 and 390fn31-32). Is the LORD slow in keeping his promises? (see 2 Peter 3:3-10)

13:1-9 – What does it mean for the LORD to say there were some who “prophecy out of their own imagination”? Does this still go on today? How is this contrasted with the word of the LORD? In what ways are false prophets “like jackals among ruins” (cf. Nehemiah 4:3; Lamentations 5:18)? They don’t repair the breaks in the walls or defend against the enemy, but instead they live only for themselves and prey on the weak and use the breaks for their own advantage. Is “divination” always wrong? What would be the difference between divining the will of God and lying divination? Is there a difference? Does using the LORD’s name give absolute assurance that what we say or pray will be done? What does it mean to not belong to the council of God’s people or not be “listed in the records of the house of Israel”? “The records of the house of Israel” seems to refer to the official records of those who would survive to return to Israel (Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64; see also the books which the LORD keeps in Exodus 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; 20:12; 21:27). Ezekiel was sent to Israel so they would “know that a prophet had bee among them” (Eze.2:5). Where the LORD declares that His “hand will be against them” there is an allusion to inspiration in order to subtly express that “those who never felt the reality of the divine hand in inspiration will now feel it in judgment” (Duguid NIVAC 173fn11).

13:10-16 – What does it mean to be white-washed flimsy walls? The flimsy wall will be exposed and destroyed and the white-wash shown to have been worse than worthless since it was used to simply cover up what should have been repaired as if everything was alright. How is this related to those who were prophesying “peace”? (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3)

13:17-23 – Who are “the daughters of your people”? They were false prophetesses who used magic to control and manipulate. Magic charms were worn on their wrists and (magic?) veils on their heads (or around their necks). These seem to refer to something like a phylactery that functioned as a talisman or charm. Why did they practice their magic? What does the LORD accuse them of doing? They “disheartened the righteous” and “encouraged the wicked”. The false prophet/esses had ensnared the LORD’s people, but the LORD would deliver “his people” and ensure and destroy the false prophet/esses.

Ezekiel 4-5 – Playing God Against Jerusalem

4:1-3 – Why the illustrated sermon? Or is it far more than an illustrated sermon? Does this prophetic play act (“sign-acts” Block NICOT 164-167) effect what is dramatized? Why does Ezekiel make a model of Jerusalem and then lay siege to it?

4:3 – What is the reason for the sign (Heb. ‘ot)? (Eze.12:6, 11; 24:24; cf. Ex.7:5; 9:13-17; Deut.4:32-39) ‘That they may know that I am Yahweh’ (LORD).

4:3-4 – To whom does “House of Israel” refer? To the northern ten tribes or to the whole united kingdom of Israel? It seems most likely it refers (in this section’s context) to refer to the whole with Jerusalem as the only rightful center of the nation (see Eze.4:13; 5:4).

4:4-5 – What does the 390 (LXX “190”) days per year refer to? Likely to the time since Solomon built the Temple of the LORD, the Glory filled it, and shortly thereafter he led the nation into idolatry (1 Ki.11:1-8, 33; 14:21-24; Eze.20:27-29). This would place the beginning at about 976 BC. Did Ezekiel really lay on his side for 390 days or was it only portions of each day? Also, what does it mean that he was to “bear the sins” of Israel and Judah? (see Ex.28:38; Num.18:1) What then does the 40 days refer to? Likely it refers to an exilic generation.

4:6 – For each day being in the place of a year see Num.14:33-35.

4:7 – Why does Ezekiel “bare his arm” against Jerusalem? It was “a military gesture of a warrior preparing for battle” (Block NICOT 180; see a similar statement where the LORD bares His arm in Isa.52:10).

4:8 – Again, what does it mean that the LORD tells Ezekiel to do all these things and yet also tells he will bind him with ropes so he cannot get up? Is Ezekiel responsible or the LORD?

4:9 – What do we make of the strange mixture (grains and legumes) for the bread Ezekiel was supposed to eat for 390 days? “The strange mixture symbolizes a situation where the scarcity was such that no one kind of grain was plentiful enough on its own to make a whole loaf” (Duguid NIVAC 89).

4:10-11 – What is our measurement of how much Ezekiel was allowed to eat and drink each day and what did it signify?

4:12 – Why was the cake “like a barley cake”? It seems this was because the bread of the poor was barley.

4:13-15 – “Use human excrement for fuel”? For the meaning of this (see Eze.4:14; cf. Deut.23:11-13); for Ezekiel’s plea for purity in himself (see Lev.7:18; 19:7; Deut.26:13-15). How should we understand Ezekiel’s plea (intercession?) and the LORD’s relenting? Is he representative of the few among the remnant that would yet remain pure? Why did he not ask for a relenting of the other commands?

4:16-17 – Scarcity is the judgment of the LORD against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant (Lev.26).

5:1 – Using a sword as a barber’s razor? For priestly laws concerning shaving (see Num.6:5; 8:7); for examples of shaving in certain circumstances being wrong and a sign of judgment (see Lev.21:5; Deut.14:1; Isa.7:20; Eze.44:20). Why was Ezekiel to use a scale to weigh the hair? This would seem to be because the LORD was going to be very exacting and deliberate in His judgments of Israel.

5:2-4 – What happened to each portion of hair and what is the significance? (5:12) Who will pursue Israel in judgment? Why were “a few strands of hair” to be kept in the fold of Ezekiel’s garments? Note that 5:4 speaks of removing even some of these kept hairs and also burning them? (Lev.26:36-39)

5:5-7 – Is the LORD’s election of Israel unqualified? (Eze.5:6; cf Luke 12:48; Heb.6:4-12; 10:26-31). According to 5:7, what is the LORD’s charge against Israel?

5:8-10 – What a fearful thing to hear the LORD say, “I myself am against you” (contrast this with “I am with you” in Gen.28:15; 26:3, 24, ; 31:3). What does 5:9 teach us about the LORD’s judgment? In 5:10 we are horrified by a judgment of family cannibalism, but this is the zonsequence of covenantal disobedience (see Lev.26:29; Deut.28:53-57; 2 Ki.6:24-31; Isa.9:19-21; 49:26; Jer.19:9; Zech.11:9; Lam.4:10).

5:11-13 – Is the LORD’s judgment “fair”? How should we understand the LORD swearing by his own life and what does it mean when He says, “I will not look on you with pity”? (see Deut.7:16; 13:8; 19:13, 21; 25:12; but also see the hope of Lev.26:44-45)

5:14-15 – Note the response of the nations around Israel and the judgments comparison to the promised judgments of the Song of Moses (Deut.32:23-25).