That crazy Ezekiel!
We are currently reading through Ezekiel in REAP. The Book of Ezekiel is long, politically convoluted and sometimes exegetically obtuse! It is written by what some commentators have described as an “oddball” prophet, Ezekiel. However, Ezekiel is part of God’s word and for that, at the very least, Ezekiel’s voice demands to be heard today.
One of the things you will notice are some of the things God gets Ezekiel to do. These are called sign-acts. Sign-acts refer to the way the prophet embodies and dramatises a particular prophetic message. Ezekiel has some of the best and bizarre sign-acts in all of the Bible. Here are a few (but not all) of them . . .
- Lying on his side for a number of days, then switching to the other side, symbolising the years of exile for both Israel and Judah (4:4-8) – with 390 days on his left side!!!
- Cooking food over human excrement (but later cow manure), symbolising the ‘unclean’ food they’ll eat whilst in exile (4:9-15)
- Shaving, weighing, dividing, chasing around with a sword, and burning his own hair, symbolising the judgement coming against them (5:1-4)
- Packing his luggage, saying bye and digging a hole in the wall to go into exile (12:1-7)
- God takes Ezekiel’s wife and then God commands him not to mourn or weep over his wife’s death, symbolising that God will destroy the temple and also that God will not mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and/or the Temple (24:15-27).
My mind is often drawn to these kinds of interesting (and sometimes humorous) things. However, in order to get the best understanding you can for the book, I recommend that you read it in big chunks (one sitting if that’s possible!). I want encourage you to read it patiently and carefully, being prepared to encounter an unfamiliar world. This is a daunting task but it will put you into a good position to know the flow and purpose of the book as well as how each passage will fit into the wider arc of the book and of the Bible.
Here is a list of books that could help you read Ezekiel better:
- Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24 – NICOT
- Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48 – NICOT
- Ezekiel in Dumbrell’s, Faith of Israel
- Ezekiel in New Bible Dictionary
- Ezekiel in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology