The Burden of Prophecy: Poetic Utterance in the Prophets of the Old Testament

By Albert Cook | Go to book overview

4
"The Vision Is Touching the Whole Multitude" Vision and History in Ezekiel

I N EZEKIEL's PROPHECY, the sharp angle of history as it comes through the predominance of presented vision is couched in a particular mix of prose and poetry. While the prophet's life is close enough to that of Jeremiah to have overlapped it, and while there are echoes between the two prophets, there are large differences between the two in overall organization, in figural conception, and in dynamic posture, as well as in tonality and (to a lesser extent) in theological assumption.1 Jeremiah's first call came in 626 B.C.E. during the long and fruitful reign of Josiah over the Southern Kingdom, a century after the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Sargon of Assyria in 722. He lived his whole life through the constant military pressures on Jerusalem, the defeat at the hands of the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar in 597, and the destruction and general exile of the city in 586.

These circumstances were somewhat different for Ezekiel. Exiled in the first wave of 597, he received his first call in 592 "by the banks of Chebar" in Babylon. From the beginning, he wrote from "among the captives," be tôk ha gôlāh, literally, "in the midst of the exile" (1.1). The disaster had already happened, including what he mentions at once, the exile of the king (1.2). Writing down to 570, the prophet operates under an external condition devoid of the developmental tensions that the earlier prophets reflect. And as though by contrastive compensation, Ezekiel's prose casts itself in the form of a quasi-historical narrative, providing again and again precise dates for his utterances from the very opening of the book. In the statement "They and their fathers have transgressed against me even unto this very day," ad ˓ēṣem ha yôm ha zeh (2.3), the intensive word indicating the precision of the day is an

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