Interpreting the Prophets

By James Luther Mays; Paul J. Achtemeier | Go to book overview

13
Prophecy in
Crisis: The Call
of Ezekiel

ROBERT R. WILSON

Great judgment was leavened by yet greater grace when God called a
prophet and so continued to reach out to a rebellious Israel suffering
under exile, even when Israel refused to accept the prophet's divinely
commissioned words.

Even the casual reader of the Book of Ezekiel is immediately struck by the strangeness of the prophet and the literature which he produced. While books such as Hosea and Jeremiah portray prophets that are thoroughly human, Ezekiel describes a remote figure whose personality is almost completely hidden behind his prophetic message. When he does appear fleetingly as an individual, his behavior is often bizarre, and his mental state seems abnormal when judged by modern standards. He describes for his readers extraordinarily elaborate visions (1—3; 8—11; 37; 40—48), during which he is seized by God's spirit and transported from one location to another. In a similar vein, Ezekiel records that immediately after his call to prophesy (1:1—3:21) he was struck dumb and confined to his house until the final destruction of the city of Jerusalem (33:21-22), a period of about seven years according to the book's own chronology. Yet during this time he is said to have delivered a long series of oracles and performed complicated symbolic actions, some of which appear to be physically impossible (4—7).

The strangeness of the prophet's personality also extends to the literary features of the book itself. In contrast to the oracles recorded in other prophetic books, Ezekiel's oracles are extremely long and detailed and are often repetitious (e.g., 16, 17, 18, 20). The characteristic forms of prophetic speech used by other Israelite prophets rarely appear in the book, but much use is made of allegories and accounts of symbolic acts. Equally prominent are the extensive vision reports: the prophet's call vision (1—3), the vision of the departure of God's glory from Jerusalem and the begining of the destruc-

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