The Design and
Themes of Ezekiel's Program
Although Ezekiel's vision of the return and resettlement of Israel in
postexilic times had no effect on subsequent events, his prescriptions
for those events display his lofty conception of a prophet's responsibil-
ity in an age of ruin.
This essay argues two propositions: (1) The last division of the Book of Ezekiel (chaps. 40—48) is arranged according to a design which, while not schulgerecht (“rule-bound” in the sense of nineteenth-century German preaching1), follows principles of composition familiar from other biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature; (2) its topics cohere and serve a single overriding purpose. The inference from these propositions is that it is the product of a single mind (and hand) and that, as carrying forward ideas and values found in the preceding prophecies, it may reasonably be attributed to their author, the priest-prophet Ezekiel. My arguments do not depend on this or that solution to the considerable textual and philological difficulties of these chapters; they rest on clear passages or on what may be (and has been) gathered from unclear ones. (Chapter and verse numbers refer to the Book of Ezekiel unless otherwise attributed.)
Two passages foreshadow the major themes of Ezekiel's program of restoration and show it to be consequential upon his previous oracles:
For in my holy mountain, in the high mountain of Israel… there shall all the
1. On this concept see Alexander Altmann, “The New Style of Preaching in Nineteenth-
Century German Jewry,” in Alexander Altmann, ed., Studies in Nineteenth-Century Jewish
Intellectual History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), pp. 65-116, esp. pp. 65-68.